“That, Mr. Razumov,” he said with great earnestness, “is as it may be. God alone knows the future. But you may rest assured that I never thought of having you watched. You are a young man of great independence. Yes. You are going away free as air, but you shall end by coming back to us.”

“I! I!” Razumov exclaimed in an appalled murmur of protest “What for?” he added feebly.

“Yes! You yourself, Kirylo Sidorovitch,” the high police functionary insisted in a low, severe tone of conviction. “You shall be coming back to us. Some of our greatest minds had to do that in the end.”

“Our greatest minds,” repeated Razumov in a dazed voice.

“Yes, indeed! Our greatest minds.… Good-bye.”

Razumov, shown out of the room, walked away from the door. But before he got to the end of the passage he heard heavy footsteps, and a voice calling upon him to stop. He turned his head and was startled to see Councillor Mikulin pursuing him in person. The high functionary hurried up, very simple, slightly out of breath.

“One minute. As to what we were talking about just now, it shall be as God wills it. But I may have occasion to require you again. You look surprised, Kirylo Sidorovitch. Yes, again… to clear up any further point that may turn up.”

“But I don’t know anything,” stammered out Razumov. “I couldn’t possibly know anything.”

“Who can tell? Things are ordered in a wonderful manner. Who can tell what may become disclosed to you before this day is out? You have been already the instrument of Providence. You smile, Kirylo Sidorovitch; you are an esprit fort.” (Razumov was not conscious of having smiled.) “But I believe firmly in Providence. Such a confession on the lips of an old hardened official like me may sound to you funny. But you yourself yet some day shall recognize… Or else what happened to you cannot be accounted for at all. Yes, decidedly I shall have occasion to see you again, but not here. This wouldn’t be quite—h’m… Some convenient place shall be made known to you. And even the written communications between us in that respect or in any other had better pass through the intermediacy of our—if I may express myself so—common friend, Prince K——. Now I beg you, Kirylo Sidorovitch—don’t! I am certain he’ll consent. You must give me the credit of being aware of what I am saying. You have no better friend than Prince K——, and as to myself it is a long time now since I’ve been honoured by his…”

He glanced down his beard.

“I won’t detain you any longer. We live in difficult times, in times of monstrous chimeras and evil dreams and criminal follies. We shall certainly meet once more. It may be some little time, though, before we do. Till then may Heaven send you fruitful reflections!”

Once in the street, Razumov started off rapidly, without caring for the direction. At first he thought of nothing; but in a little while the consciousness of his position presented itself to him as something so ugly, dangerous, and absurd, the difficulty of ever freeing himself from the toils of that complication so insoluble, that the idea of going back and, as he termed it to himself, confessing to Councillor Mikulin flashed through his mind.

Go back! What for? Confess! To what? “I have been speaking to him with the greatest openness,” he said to himself with perfect truth. “What else could I tell him? That I have undertaken to carry a message to that brute Ziemianitch? Establish a false complicity and destroy what chance of safety I have won for nothing—what folly!”

Yet he could not defend himself from fancying that Councillor Mikulin was, perhaps, the only man in the world able to understand his conduct. To be understood appeared extremely fascinating.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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