Petersburg He Did Not Quite Explain Himself

As he flew into Likhutin’s small study, Nikolai Apollonovich’s heels crashed on the floor at full weight; this impact was transmitted to the back of his head; the tendons shook; he involuntarily fell to his knees, ramming the unpleasantly slippery parquetry with dark green cloth; and – bruised himself.

Fell and … –

– at once leapt to his feet, breathing heavily and limping, rushed in fright to the heavy oakwood armchair, cutting a clumsy and rather ridiculous figure with a trembling jaw, manifestly trembling fingers, a single instinctive urge – to get there in time: to get to the armchair in time and grasp it, so that were he to be attacked from behind he could quickly run round the armchair, flying hither and thither away from his hither-and-thither-flying, merciless adversary, all of whose movements resembled the convulsions of a rabies sufferer; to get to the armchair in time, and to grasp it!

Or else, arming himself with that armchair, to knock his adversary down and, as the latter began to struggle under the heavy oakwood legs, to rush to the window as fast as possible (better to crash from the second floor down to the street, smashing the window-panes, then remain alone with … with …) …

Breathing heavily and limping, he rushed towards the oakwood armchair.

Scarcely had he reached it, however, than the second lieutenant’s hot breath burned his neck; turning round, he managed to glimpse a pale, twisted mouth and a five-fingered hand, ready to fall on his shoulder: a face crimson with rabid fury, the face of an avenger, stared at him with swollen veins and eyes of stone; in that hideous face no one would have recognized the second lieutenant’s soft face, steadily emitting ‘fifi’ after ‘fifi’. The five-fingered paw – it was not a hand – would certainly have fallen on Ableukhov’s shoulder, breaking it; but he jumped over the armchair in time.

The five-fingered paw fell on the armchair.

And the armchair cracked; the armchair crashed to the floor; in his ears there resounded – a unique, inhuman sound, the like of which had never yet been heard:

‘Because here a human soul is doomed to perish!’

And the angular body flew after the small figure that darted away; from an oral orifice that sprayed spittle there escaped, bubbled and burst in a bundle of cracking wheezes the tones of a cockerel – voiceless and somehow red …

‘Because … I … have got involved … do you understand? In all this affair … This … affair … Do you understand? … This affair is the kind of affair that … does not concern me … Or rather, no: it does concern me … Now do you understand? …’

And the crazed second lieutenant, catching up with his victim, raised above the small figure that was cringing in expectation of three deaths, waiting for the blow, two trembling palms (the small figure was still endeavouring to protect its sweaty head beneath its stooping back), nervously clenched his fists, hanging with his whole torso over the little lump of muscles that was fidgeting beneath his hands; while the little lump twisted and bowed with a cowardly, grinning mouth, repeating all the rhythms of the hands and trying to protect his right cheek with his palm:

‘I understand, I understand … Sergei Sergeich, please calm yourself,’ the little lump squeaked, ‘and be quieter, quieter, I beseech you: my dear fellow, I beseech you …’

This little lump of body (Nikolai Apollonovich was backing away, bent unnaturally) – this little lump of body went mincing away on two crooked legs; and not towards the window, but away from the window (the window was cut off by the second lieutenant); at the same time the little lump saw in the window – (though it may seem strange, this was still Nikolai Apollonovich) – the funnel of a steamboat sticking up; on the other side of the canal he saw – the wet roof of a house; above the roof was an enormous, cold emptiness …

He backed away to the corner and – imagine: the leaden five-fingered paws fell on his shoulders (one hand, slipping across his neck, burned his neck with a forty-degree fever); so that he sank – squatting into the corner, bathed in a perspiration as cold as ice.

He was already preparing to screw up his eyes, to stop his ears, in order not to see the mad, crimson countenance and not to hear the crowings of the cockerel-like, voiceless voice:

‘Aaa … An affair … where any decent man, where … aaa … any decent man … What did I say? Yes – decent … must get involved, without regard for propriety or social position …’

It was strange to listen to the incoherent alternation of none the less intelligent words accompanied by the absurdity of every feature, every movement; Nikolai Apollonovich thought:

‘Should I not shout, should I not summon?’

No, what would he shout; and whom would he summon; no – it was too late; he must close his eyes, his ears; a moment – and all would be ended; bang: a first struck the wall above Ableukhov’s head.

Here he opened his eyes for a moment.

Before him he saw: two legs were placed wide apart (he was squatting, after all); a dizzying thought – and: without debating the consequences, his mouth open in a cowardly grin that seemed like a laugh, with dishevelled, flaxen-white hair Nikolai Apollonovich swiftly crawled between the two legs that were set wide apart; leapt to his feet, – and without further thought, rushed straight towards the door (the pewter edge of the roof flickered in the window), but … the five-fingered paws, burning with contact, seized him shamefully by the tail of his frock-coat; tugged: and the expensive material began to tear.

A piece of the torn-off tail flew away to the side somewhere.

‘Wait … Wait … I … I … I … am not … going to kill you … Stop … You are not threatened with violence …’

And Nikolai Apollonovich was rudely thrown aside; his back struck the corner; he stood there in the corner, breathing heavily, almost weeping with the painful outrage of what had taken place; and it seemed that his hair was not hair, but some kind of bright radiance on the crimson background of the study’s soot-grimed wallpaper; and his eyes that were usually a dark cornflower blue now seemed black with enormous, cold fright, because he had realized: the person who was raving above him was not Likhutin, not the officer he had insulted, not even an enemy, choking with vengeful fury, but … a violent madman, with whom it was impossible to talk; this violent madman, who was possessed of colossal muscular strength, was not at present throwing himself at him; but was probably about to do so.

And this violent madman, turning his back (now would have been the time to clap him one), moved on tiptoe to the door; and – the door clicked: on the other side of the door sounds were heard – something between a weeping and a shuffling of slippers. And – all was quiet. Retreat was cut off: there remained the window.

In the closed-up little room they both began to breathe in silence: the father-murderer and the lunatic.

The room with the collapsed plaster was empty; in front of the slammed door lay a soft broad-brimmed hat, while from the small couch hung the wing of a fantastic cape; but when the armchair was overturned with a hollow crash in the little study, the door on the opposite side, the door to Sofya Petrovna’s room, flew open with a creak; and from there Sofya Petrovna came pattering in her slippers in a cascade of black hair that fell behind her back; a transparent silk scarf that resembled a flowing radiance trailed after her; on Sofya Petrovna’s little forehead a frown was quite manifestly visible.

She crept up to the keyhole; she squatted down by the door; she looked and saw: only two pairs of shifting legs and two … trouser straps; the legs thudded into the corner; the feet could not be discerned anywhere, but from the corner, bubbling, burst quiet wheezings and a throat seemed to gurgle: a unique, cockerel-like, inhuman whisper. And the legs thudded again; right next to Sonya Petrovna’s eye, on the other side of the door, the metallic sound of the lock being clicked shut was heard.

Sofya Petrovna began to weep, jumped away from the door and saw – an apron and a bonnet: behind her back Mavrushka was covering her face with a clean, snow-white apron; and – Mavrushka was weeping:

‘What is going on? … My dear barynya? …’

‘I don’t know … I don’t know anything … What is going on? … What are they doing in there, Mavrushka?’

It is half past two in the afternoon.

In its lonely study the bald head, that had lain on a hard palm, raises itself above the stern oak desk; and – looks sullenly to where in the fireplace the cornflowers of coal gas flow in a playful flock above the red-hot pile of crackling coals, and where they escape, explode and burst – the red cockerels’ combs – pungent, light, flying swiftly up the chimney, in order to merge above the roofs with the fumes and the poisoned soot, and to hang there permanently in a suffocating, corroding gloom.

The bald head raises itself – the pale, Mephistophelean mouth smiles senilely at the flashes; the flashes turn its face crimson; and yet the eyes are still on fire; and yet the eyes are still made of stone: blue – and in green hollows! From them peered a cold, enormous emptiness; it adhered to them, looked out of them, never tearing itself away from the dark things; like a dark thing this world spread itself before it.

A cold, astonished gaze; and – empty, empty: the seasons, the sun and the light have been kindled by dark things; from the ages history has run right up to the moment when –

– the bald head, that has lain on a hard palm, has raised itself above the stern oak desk; and – looks sullenly to where in the fireplace the cornflowers of coal gas flow in a playful flock above the red-hot pile of crackling coals. The circle has closed.

What was this?

Apollon Apollonovich remembered where he was, what had happened between two instants of thought; between two movements of his fingers with the little pencil that had turned in them; the acutely sharpened pencil – there it danced in his fingers.

‘It’s not important … It doesn’t matter …’

And the sharpened pencil falls on the paper with flocks of question marks.

Muttering God knows what, the madman still continued to lunge about; muttering God knows what, he continued to stamp: continued to stride in a diagonal through the small, airless study. Nikolai Apollonovich, spread-eagled against the wall, in the shadowy corner over there, continued to observe the movements of the poor madman, who was none the less capable of becoming a wild beast.

Every time a hand or an elbow lunged out with a sharp movement, he shuddered; and the madman – ceased to stamp, paused, lunged out of his fatal diagonal: two paces from Nikolai Apollonovich a dry and menacing palm began to sway again. Here Nikolai Apollonovich threw himself back: the palm touched the corner – drummed on the corner wall.

But the second lieutenant who had gone mad (pathetically rather than fiercely) was no longer pursuing him; turning his back, he dug his elbows into his knees: this made his back bend, and his head withdrew into his shoulders; he sighed deeply; he reflected deeply.

What escaped was:


And again, the groan:

‘Save and have mercy!’

Nikolai Apollonovich cautiously took advantage of his lull in the raving.

Quietly he got up and, trying still not to make any sound, he – straightened up; the second lieutenant’s head did not turn, but then it did nothing but turn and turn, risking – yes, truly! – becoming unscrewed from his neck; a furious paroxysm had evidently broken out; and – now it waned; then Nikolai Apollonovich, limping somewhat, hobbled soundlessly to the desk, trying not to let his shoes creak, trying not to let the floorboard creak – hobbled, cutting a rather ridiculous figure in his elegant uniform jacket … with its torn-off tail, in new rubber galoshes and the muffler he had not removed from his neck.

He crept forward: paused by the little desk, listening to the beating of his heart and the quiet, muttered prayers of the sick man who was now calming down: and with an inaudible movement, his hand stretched out to the paperweight; but there was the rub: a little stack of writing paper lay on top of the paperweight.

If only his sleeve did not get caught on the paper!

Unfortunately his sleeve did catch on the little stack; there was a tell-tale rustle, and the little stack of paper scattered on the desk; this swish of paper awoke the second lieutenant, who had withdrawn, to life again; the paroxysm that had broken out and was now calming down broke out again with renewed vigour; the head turned and saw Nikolai Apollonovich standing with arm outstretched, armed with the paperweight; Nikolai Apollonovich’s heart sank: he leapt away from the desk, while the paperweight remained in his fist – for the sake of precaution.

In a leap and a bound, Sergei Sergeich Likhutin flew up to him, threw his hand on his shoulder and began to press it: in a word – he took up his old refrain:

‘I must ask forgiveness … Forgive me: I lost my temper …’

‘Calm down …’

‘All this is most unusual … Only, please – do me a favour and don’t be afraid … Well, why are you trembling? … I seem to inspire you with fear? I … I … I … tore off the tail of your coat: I … I … couldn’t help that, because you, Nikolai Apollonovich, manifested the intention of avoiding an explanation … But you must understand that it’s impossible for you to leave me without an explanation …’

‘But I’m not trying to avoid it,’ Nikolai Apollonovich implored at this point, still clutching the paperweight in his hand. ‘I myself began to tell you about the domino cape when we were down in the entrance porch: I myself seek an explanation; it is you, Sergei Sergeyevich, it is you who are delaying: you are not giving me a chance to give you an explanation.’

‘Mm … yes, yes …’

‘Would you believe it, the domino is explained by nervous exhaustion; and it is in no way the breaking of a promise: I did not stand in the entrance porch voluntarily …’

‘So forgive me for the coattail,’ Likhutin said, interrupting him again, and merely proving that he really was crazy (he was for the present leaving Ableukhov’s shoulder in peace) … ‘Yours shall be sewn back on; if you like, I myself … I have needles and thread …’

‘This is all that was needed,’ flickered through Ableukhov’s head: he was studying the second lieutenant with astonishment, trying to make sure by visual means that the paroxysm really had passed.

‘But that is not what it’s all about: not needles and thread …

‘Sergei Sergeyevich, in essence … That is nonsense …’

‘Yes, yes: nonsense …’

‘Nonsense with regard to the principal subject of our explanation: with regard to your standing in the entrance porch …’

‘But it’s got nothing to do with my standing in the entrance porch!’ the second lieutenant said, with a vexed wave of his hand, proceeding to stride in the same direction as before: in a diagonal through the small, airless study.

‘Well, is it about Sofya Petrovna, then …’ said Ableukhov, coming out of the corner, now noticeably bolder.

‘No … no … it’s not about Sofya Petrovna …’ the second lieutenant shouted at him: ‘you haven’t understood me at all! …’

‘Then what is it about?’

‘This is all nonsense, sir! … Or rather, not nonsense, but nonsense with regard to the subject of our conversation …’

‘But what is the subject?’

‘Look – the subject,’ said the second lieutenant and, coming to a standstill before him, brought his bloodshot eyes up to Ableukhov’s eyes that were wide with fright … ‘Look, the essence of it is all to do with the fact that you are locked in …’

‘But … Why am I locked in?’ And the paperweight was again clutched in his fist.

‘Why have I locked you in? Why have I dragged you in here, so to speak, by semi-forcible means? … Ha-ha-ha: this has absolutely nothing to do with either the domino cape or Sofya Petrovna …’

‘He really has gone mad: he has forgotten all the reasons, his brain is subject only to morbid associations: and me he is actually planning to …’ flashed through Nikolai Apollonovich’s head, but Sergei Sergeyevich, as though he knew what he was thinking, hurried to reassure him, something that seemed more like mockery and cruel taunting:

‘I repeat, you are safe here … There is only the coattail …’

‘You are taunting me,’ thought Nikolai Apollonovich, and through his brain shot a thought that was also, in its own way, mad: to whack the second lieutenant on the head with the paperweight; having stunned him, to tie his hands, and by this violent act save his own life, which he needed even if only because … the bomb … in the desk … was ticking! …

‘Look: you’re not going to leave here … And I … I am going to leave here with a letter dictated by me – with your signature … I’ll go to your place, to your room, where I was this morning, but where no one noticed me … I shall turn all your things upside down; if my search proves completely fruitless, I shall warn your father …, because’ – he wiped his forehead – ‘it’s not a question of your father; it’s a question of you: yes, yes, yes, sir – of you alone, Nikolai Apollonovich!’

He rammed a hard finger into Nikolai Apollonovich’s chest, and now stood with raised eyebrow (only one eyebrow).

‘This will not happen, do you hear? This will not happen, Nikolai Apollonovich – it will not happen, ever!’

And on the shaven, crimson face played:




An utter madman!

But it was a strange thing: Nikolai Apollonovich listened closely to this utter raving; and something inside him quivered: was this really raving? It was rather hints, incoherently uttered; but hints – at what? Were they hints at … at … at …?

Yes, yes, yes …

‘Sergei Sergeyevich, what is all this about?’

And his heart sank: Nikolai Apollonovich felt that his skin did not enwrap his body, but … a heap of cobblestones; instead of a brain he had a cobblestone; and there was a cobblestone in his stomach.

‘What is it about? … Why, the bomb, of course …’ – Sergei Sergeyevich retreated two paces, astonished in the extreme.

The paperweight fell from Ableukhov’s unclenched fist; an instant before, it had seemed to Nikolai Apollonovich that his skin wrapped not his body, but – a heap of cobblestones; but now the horrors passed all bounds; he felt something cutting into the heavy masses of quintillions (between the zeros and the unit); the unit remained.

While the quintillion became – zero.

The heavy masses suddenly burst into flames: the cobblestones that crammed his body, becoming gases, spurted in the twinkling of an eye through the orifices of all the pores of his skin, and wound again the spirals of events, but wound them in reverse order; they twisted his body itself into a receding spiral; thus the very sense of his body became – a zero sensation; the contours of his features were traced sharply and acquired an incredible degree of meaning, revealing in the young man the face of a patriarch in his sixties; were sharply traced, acquired meaning, became as if carved; the face – white, pale white – became a luminescent countenance, bathed in luminescent boiling water; while, on the other hand: the face of the second lieutenant turned a bright carrot colour; his shavenness made him look even more stupid, while his little too-tight jacket became even smaller and tighter …

‘Sergei Sergeyevich, I am surprised at you … How could you believe that I, that I … ascribe to me consent to an act of dreadful villainy … While I am – not a villain … I, Sergei Sergeyevich – do not think I am yet an out-and-out scoundrel …’

Nikolai Apollonovich was evidently unable to continue; and he – turned away; having turned away, he turned round again …

Out of the shadowy corner, as though it had swarmed into shape, emerged the proud, bent and round-shouldered figure that consisted, or so it appeared to the second lieutenant, of nothing but flowing radiances – with a martyred, grinning mouth, with eyes of cornflower hue; his flaxen-white hair, bathed in light, formed a transparent, almost halo-like circle above his gleaming, ultra-high brow; he stood with his palms raised aloft, indignant, insulted, magnificent, somehow raised on the blood-red background of the wallpaper: the wallpaper was red.

He stood – his muffler dangling from his neck and only one coattail: the other had – alas – been torn off …

Thus he stood: from the enormous hollows of his eyes a cold, enormous emptiness stared incessantly at the second lieutenant; adhered and chilled to ice; here second lieutenant Likhutin somehow felt that for all his physical strength and health (he thought he was healthy) and, moreover, his nobleness of character – he was only a looming phantom; so that Ableukhov had only to approach the second lieutenant with that scintillant aspect, and the second lieutenant, Sergei Sergeyevich, began manifestly to retreat from him.

‘But I believe you, I believe you,’ he said, beginning to flap his hands in bewilderment.

‘Look, you see’ – now he was really embarrassed – ‘I was never in any doubt … Actually, I feel ashamed … I am agitated … My wife told me … She had this note slipped into her hands … She read it – of course, she opened it by mistake,’ he lied for some reason, and blushed, and lowered his eyes …

‘Once the note was opened, and I could read it’ – the senator’s son seized maliciously on this opportunity – ‘then …’ he shrugged his shoulders, ‘then Sofya Petrovna was, of course, entitled (here there was a note of irony) to tell you, as her husband, its contents’ – Nikolai Apollonovich muttered in a most haughty manner; and – continued to advance.

‘I … I … lost my temper,’ said Likhutin in self-defence: his gaze fell on the ill-fated coattail, and he seized hold of the coattail.

‘Don’t worry about this coattail: I will sew it back on myself …’

But Nikolai Apollonovich, his mouth just, just barely smiling – luminescent, elegant – reproachfully continued to shake his hands in the air:

‘You knew not what you did.’

His dark cornflower, dark blue eyes and light-bathed hair expressed a dim, unutterable sadness:

‘Then go: inform on me, do not believe me! …’

And turned away …

The broad shoulders began to move jerkily … Nikolai Apollonovich wept unrestrainedly; at the same time: Nikolai Apollonovich, freed from his rude, animal fear, became altogether fearless; and what was more: at that moment he even wanted to suffer; thus at least did he feel at that moment: felt like a hero given up to torment, suffering publicly and shamefully; his body was in its sensations a tortured body; while his feelings were as torn as his very ‘I’ was torn; but from the tearing of his ‘I’ – so he expected – a blinding torch would flash and a familiar voice would speak to him from there, as always – speak within him: for him alone:

‘You have suffered for me: I am standing over you.’

But there was no voice. Nor was there any torch. There was – darkness. The feeling itself had probably arisen from the fact that only now had he understood: from the encounter on the Neva until this most recent moment he had been undeservedly insulted; he had been brought here by force, been hauled – dragged into the little study; and here, in the little study, the tail had been torn off his frock-coat; why, even as it was, he had suffered ceaselessly for twenty-four hours: so why on top of that must he experience terror in the face of insults inflicted by action? Why was there no reconciling voice saying ‘You have suffered for me’? Because he had not suffered for anyone: had suffered for himself … Had, so to speak, reaped the consequences of the mess he himself had made from outrageous events. That was why there was no voice. And why there was no torch. In the place of his former ‘I’ there was darkness. That he could not endure: his broad shoulders began to move jerkily.

He turned away: he wept.

‘Truly,’ he heard behind his back, in a tone both reconciling and meek, ‘I was mistaken, did not understand …’

There was in this voice none the less a shade of vexation: of shame and … vexation: and Sergei Sergeyevich stood painfully biting his lip; perhaps the newly reconciled Likhutin was now regretting that he had been mistaken, that now he could not strike his enemy dead: neither with his fist, nor with nobility; precisely thus does a mad bull, teased by a red handkerchief, rush at his adversary and – attack the iron bars of the cage: and stand, and bellow, and not know what to do. The second lieutenant’s face displayed the struggle of unpleasant memories (the domino, of course) and most noble feelings; while his adversary, still with his back turned and weeping, kept saying unpleasantly, over and over again:

‘Taking advantage of your physical superiority, you have … dragged me in the presence of a lady, like … like …’

The rush of most noble feelings got the upper hand; Sergei Sergeich Likhutin crossed the little study with outstretched hand; but Nikolai Apollonovich, turning (a tear trembled on his eyelid), in a voice that was choked by the frenzy that had seized him and – alas! – by a self-respect that had arrived too late, articulated jerkily:

‘Like … like … a chicken in the yard …’

Had Nikolai Apollonovich stretched out his hand to him, Sergei Sergeich would have considered himself the happiest of men: complete contentment would have played over his face; but the rush of noble feeling, just like the rush of frenzy, was immediately corked up within his soul; the rush of noble feeling fell into empty darkness.

‘Did you want to make sure, Sergei Sergeyevich? … That I am not a father-murderer? … No, Sergei Sergeyevich, no: you should have thought of it earlier … You just hauled me like … like a chicken in the yard. And – tore off my coattail …’

‘The coattail can be sewn back on again!’

And before Ableukhov had time to regain his wits, Sergei Sergeyevich rushed to the door:

‘Mavrushka! … Black thread! … A needle …’

But the opened door very nearly struck Sofya Petrovna, who was just then eavesdropping on the other side of it; caught in the act, she jumped aside, but – too late: caught in the act, and red as a peony, she had nowhere to run; and at them – at them both – she threw an indignant, annihilating gaze.

Between the three of them lay the tail of the frock-coat.

‘What? … Sonechka …’

‘Sofya Petrovna! …’

‘Have I disturbed you? …’

‘Just imagine … Nikolai Apollonovich … You know … tore off his coattail … He ought to …’

‘No, don’t trouble yourself, Sergei Sergeich; Sofya Petrovna – please …’

‘He ought to have it sewn back on.’

But Nikolai Apollonovich, his mouth twisted because of the stupid situation, wiping the tell-tale eyelashes with his sleeve and still limping on one leg, had already made his appearance in the room with the Fujiyamas … in a torn frock-coat, with one dangling tail; lifting up his Italian cloak, he raised his head and, seeing the damage that had been done to the ceiling, turned his twisted mouth, for the sake of propriety, towards Sofya Petrovna.

‘Tell me, Sofya Petrovna, there seems to be some kind of change in your flat: in your ceiling there is some kind of … Some kind of disrepair: have painters been working?’

But Sergei Sergeyevich interrupted:

‘That was me, Nikolai Apollonovich … I … was mending the ceiling …’

But all the while he was thinking:

‘What? how do you like that: last night I didn’t hang myself properly; and now I haven’t explained myself properly …’

Nikolai Apollonovich, leaving, limped across the hall; falling from his shoulder, his fantastic cape trailed after him like a black train.

From behind the nota benes, the exclamation marks, the section marks, the dashes, from behind what was now the final work the bald head raised itself; and – fell back again. The fire-breathing heap – crimson, golden – began to seethe and snort, giving off seething cracklings and gleamings; the logs were scattered with coals, – and the bald head rose towards the fireplace with a sardonically smiling mouth and screwed-up eyes; suddenly the lips straightened in alarm.

What was this?

In all directions red, seething torches unwound – throbbing lights and streaming deer’s antlers: they began to branch out and lick from every side – tree-like, golden, transparent; they were hurled one by one out of the red crater of the fireplace; were hurled at the walls: the fireplace fleeted and expanded, turning into a stone, dungeon-like sack, where they froze (now stood up, now died away), all the flowing radiances, the flames, the dark-cornflower-coloured carbon gases and combs: in light made transparent – there a figure swarmed together, raised slightly beneath the receding vault and stoopingly extended; the red, five-pawed hands stretched out – scorching with the touch of the fire.

What was this?

– Here was the martyred, grinning mouth, here were the eyes of cornflower hue, here was the hair bathed in light: enwrapped in the fury of the fire, with arms spread wide, nailed by sparks in the air, with palms upturned in the air – palms, that were pierced through, –

Nikolai Apollonovich, spread out in the shape of a cross, was suffering there out of the radiance of the light and indicating with his eyes the red sores on his palms; while from the sundered heavens the cool, broad-winged archangel poured dew for him – into the red-hot furnace …

‘He knows not what he does …’

Suddenly … a dizzying crack, a hissing, a snorting: the bright radiances, suddenly hesitating, exploded into pieces, sweeping the martyred figure away in cascades of sparks.

A quarter of an hour later he gave instructions for the horses to be harnessed; forty minutes later he strode forth into the carriage (this we saw in the previous chapter); an hour later the carriage stood amidst the festive crowd; and – was it only festive? …

Something had happened here.

A space of less than an inch, or the wall of the carriage, separated Apollon Apollonovich from the rebellious crowed; the horses snorted, and through the panes of the carriage Apollon Apollonovich could see nothing but heads: bowlers, service caps and, above all, Manchurian fur hats; saw a pair of staring, indignant eyes fixed on him; saw too the contorted mouth of a ragged fellow; a singing mouth (they were singing). Seeing Ableukhov, the ragged fellow shouted coarsely:

‘Get out, hey, look: you can’t drive through here.’

The voices of other ragged fellows joined the ragged fellow’s voice.

Then Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov, in order to avoid unpleasantness, was obliged by the crowd to open the door of his carriage; the ragged fellows caught sight of the old man climbing out with lip a-tremble, holding on to the edge of his top hat with his glove: Apollon Apollonovich saw before him bawling mouths and a tall flagstaff: tearing themselves away from the wooden staff like crests in the air, lightly-whistling blades of red calico cloth exploded, fluttered and tore – splashing into the void;

‘Hey, you, take your hat off!’

Apollon Apollonovich removed his top hat and quickly began to squeeze his way towards the pavement, abandoning carriage and driver; soon he was mincing in a contrary direction to the swarming mass; here small black figures flowed one by one out of the shops, the courtyards, the side prospects, the inns; Apollon Apollonovich strained himself to the point of exhaustion: and – found his way into the empty side prospects, from which … flew … Cossacks …

Now the detachment of Cossacks flew past; the place became empty; one could see the backs of the Cossacks rushing towards the red cloth; and one could also see, swiftly running, the back of a little old man in a very tall top hat.