Petersburg The Writing Desk Stood There

Apollon Apollonovich was taking aim at the current working day; in the twinkling of an eye there arose before him: reports from yesterday; he envisaged clearly the folded documents on his desk, their sequence, and on those documents the markings he had made, the form of the letters of those markings, the pencil with which carelessly in the margins had been entered: a blue ‘set in motion’, with a little tail on the final n; a red ‘inquiry’ with a flourish on the y.

In a brief moment, Apollon Apollonovich transferred the centre of his consciousness by willpower from the departmental staircase to the doors of his office; all his cerebral games retreated to the edge of his field of vision, as did those whitish patterns over there on the white background of the wallpaper: a little heap of parallel-placed dossiers was transferred to the centre of that field, as was that portrait that had just fallen into the centre.

And – the portrait? That is: –

And he is not – and Rus he has abandoned …35

Who is ‘he’? The senator? Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov? But no: Vyacheslav Konstantinovich …36 But what about him, Apollon Apollonovich?

And it now seems – my turn has come,

My Delvig dear doth summon me …37

Order – order: by turn –

And o’er the earth new thunderclouds have gathered

And the hurricane them …38

An idle cerebral game!

The little heap of papers leapt up to the surface: Apollon Apollonovich, having taken aim at the current working day, addressed the clerk:

‘German Germanovich, please be so good as to prepare a dossier for me – that one, what is it called? …’

‘The dossier on deacon Zrakov with the enclosure of material evidence in the form of a tuft of beard?’

‘No, not that one …’

‘The one on the landowner Puzov and the hotel room? …’

‘No: the dossier about the potholes of Ukhtomsk …’

No sooner was he about to open the door to his office than he remembered (he had almost completely forgotten): yes, yes – the eyes: they widened, were astonished, grew enraged – the eyes of the raznochinets … And why, why had there been that zigzag of his hand? … It had been most unpleasant. And he thought he had seen the raznochinets – somewhere, at some time: perhaps nowhere, never …

Apollon Apollonovich opened the door of his office.

The writing desk stood in its place with the little heap of case documents: in the corner the fireplace crackled its logs; preparing to immerse himself in work, Apollon Apollonovich warmed his frozen hands at the fireplace, while the cerebral game, restricting the senator’s field of vision, continued to erect there its misty planes.