I looked at her calm face and her animated eyes.
Of course the will must be awakened, inspired, concentrated, she went on. That is the true task of real agitators. One has got to give up ones life to it. The degradation of servitude, the absolutist lies must be uprooted and swept out. Reform is impossible. There is nothing to reform. There is no legality, there are no institutions. There are only arbitrary decrees. There is only a handful of cruelperhaps blindofficials against a nation.
The letter rustled slightly in her hand. I glanced down at the flimsy blackened pages whose very handwriting seemed cabalistic, incomprehensible to the experience of Western Europe.
Stated like this, I confessed, the problem seems simple enough. But I fear I shall not see it solved. And if you go back to Russia I know that I shall not see you again. Yet once more I say: go back! Dont suppose that I am thinking of your preservation. No! I know that you will not be returning to personal safety. But I had much rather think of you in danger there than see you exposed to what may be met here.
I tell you what, said Miss Haldin, after a moment of reflection. I believe that you hate revolution; you fancy its not quite honest. You belong to a people which has made a bargain with fate and wouldnt like to be rude to it. But we have made no bargain. It was never offered to usso much liberty for so much hard cash. You shrink from the idea of revolutionary action for those you think well of as if it were somethinghow shall I say itnot quite decent.
I bowed my head.
You are quite right, I said. I think very highly of you.
Dont suppose I do not know it, she began hurriedly. Your friendship has been very valuable.
I have done little else but look on.
She was a little flushed under the eyes.
There is a way of looking on which is valuable. I have felt less lonely because of it. Its difficult to explain.
Really? Well, I too have felt less lonely. Thats easy to explain, though. But it wont go on much longer. The last thing I want to tell you is this: in a real revolutionnot a simple dynastic change or a mere reform of institutionsin a real revolution the best characters do not come to the front. A violent revolution falls into the hands of narrow-minded fanatics and of tyrannical hypocrites at first. Afterwards comes the turn of all the pretentious intellectual failures of the time. Such are the chiefs and the leaders. You will notice that I have left out the mere rogues. The scrupulous and the just, the noble, humane, and devoted natures; the unselfish and the intelligent may begin a movementbut it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of a revolution. They are its victims: the victims of disgust, of disenchantmentoften of remorse. Hopes grotesquely betrayed, ideals caricaturedthat is the definition of revolutionary success. There have been in every revolution hearts broken by such successes. But enough of that. My meaning is that I dont want you to be a victim.
If I could believe all you have said I still wouldnt think of myself, protested Miss Haldin. I would take liberty from any hand as a hungry man would snatch at a piece of bread. The true progress must begin after. And for that the right men shall be found. They are already amongst us. One comes upon them in their obscurity, unknown, preparing themselves.
She spread out the letter she had kept in her hand all the time, and looking down at it
Yes! One comes upon such men! she repeated, and then read out the words, Unstained, lofty, and solitary existences.
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