Petersburg He Had Seen the Raznochinets

Nikolai Apollonovich …

At this point, Apollon Apollonovich …

‘No, sir: wait.’

‘? …’

‘What the devil?’

Apollon Apollonovich stopped outside the door, because – how could it be otherwise?

His innocent cerebral game again spontaneously rose into his brain, that is, into the pile of documents and petitions: Apollon Apollonovich would have considered as a cerebral game the wallpaper of the room within whose confines the projects ripened; Apollon Apollonovich treated the spontaneity of mental combinations as a plane surface: this plane surface, however, moving apart at times, let through a surprise into the centre of his intellectual life (as, for example, just now).

Apollon Apollonovich remembered: he had once seen the raznochinets.

He had once seen the raznochinets – imagine – in his own home.

He remembered: one day he had been coming down the stairs, going in the direction of the exit; on the stairs Nikolai Apollonovich, leaning over the banisters, had been talking to someone animatedly: the statesman did not consider himself within his rights to inquire about Nikolai Apollonovich’s acquaintances; a sense of tact then naturally prevented him from asking straight out: ‘Kolenka, tell me, who is it who visits you, my dear fellow?’

Nikolai Apollonovich would have lowered his eyes.

‘Oh, it’s nothing, Papa, I just receive visits from people …’

And the conversation would have been broken off.

That was why Apollon Apollonovich was not in the slightest interested in the identity of the raznochinets who was looking out of the hallway in his dark topcoat; the stranger had that same small black moustache and those same striking eyes (you would have encountered just such eyes at night in the Moscow chapel of the Great Martyr Panteleimon,39 by the Nikolsky Gate: – the chapel is famed for the curing of those possessed by devils; you would encounter just such eyes in the portrait appended to the biography of a great man; and, what is more: in a neuropathic clinic and even in a psychiatric one).

On that occasion, too, the eyes had; widened, begun to glitter, gleamed; in other words: that had happened once, and, perhaps, that would be repeated.

‘About everything – yes sir, yes sir …’

‘It will be necessary to …’

‘Obtain the most detailed information …’

The man of state received his most detailed information not by a direct, but by a circuitous route.

Apollon Apollonovich looked out of his office door: writing desks, writing desks! Piles of dossiers! Heads inclined over the dossiers! Squeaking of pens! Rustling of pages being turned! What a seething and mighty production of papers!

Apollon Apollonovich calmed down and immersed himself in work.