Almost winter. Petersburg, however, remains smooth like soap. Dreams thin the upper class, confounded as they are. With the failing, making exceptions is a very costly effort.
Mortified, the first of the violent-they of the evening-are out.
Literary hundreds immediately gather. Without their after-words, being their friend means a life of never-seen men. The incredible made secret, as if it were a principle.
It was judged "drunk out" by all, and it seemed a new grace discovered just that day.
Snowy men appeared, quite free of possessions.
All that had been written had been discovered not to be important. So many abused by words and writers proud of it. Doubt was, to be sure, exactly what would have been needed had there been more novelists and fewer abuses.
Darkness soon wormed its way into the circle of the self-directed. Stiff, just learning to walk, they reached out to a devil of a man, though none denied they had already heard him express what he thought of the idea of them. So few of them prevailed, and too late-twice as many sank into the white sea of crowd. These very, even exceedingly, well-behaved others were a little afraid, but still others were clear as to what they had to do.
Two of the former possessors also appeared before me. It happened that something in the way the pair had gone about maintaining themselves had refined them. Her real, indubitable beauty, his curiosity, voracious as the mice of winter, hung in the air, a lantern to rabble like me who favor the shamelessly guilty. I offered to guide.
First luck: they were not seized at the meetings of snowy roads. Anywhere they appeared the rabble's first response was the traditional one-dimensional public ovation-it was always of great volume and lasted minutes. It registered a nine on the localized Richter scale, though it was really not of the nature of gratitude. To that crowd, I'm sure, I was one forever linked to them-branded, as if she told no one but me her secrets. After that not one in ten would admit he knew me-too dangerous a thing!
It was remarkable that through all that adulation he, for his part, displayed such an acute sense of loyalty to what he termed his clearly-defined platform of "excitement time." This and other statements meant, so the crowd thought (as he himself did), that he did in fact possess an intelligence also rating a nine on some scale-and I, at any rate, knew it was certainly high enough that he understood they would recall him both with a cheer and an equal measure of resentment.
We made two collective mistakes, first in allowing him to speak for himself as plainly he did-we had to seek cover. Second, we should not have told ourselves the Petersburg snow was a sign warning against action-too easy an excuse.
Though we all three knew the ways of men, we at the time thought some would remember their duty to her and not join in the derision. But they were too used to living in bitterness and thought it was time something new began.
She, of course, was all business with strangers, but without them around all manner of hysterical with us-characteristic of this particular young woman when all the worst expected things happen. Every evening we talked about a route out, but I could see that while they talked action she preferred still illusion.
When they finally found us, she loudly tried to hide: volunteered the abolition of censorship, promised reform and the substitution of the Roman alphabet; every Russian exile to have a return day, some to be paraded down the arcade, she even spoke of the advisability of burning maps, of a federal course laying out a different Russia, of the abolition of the army and navy, the restoration of dignity as an answer to the agrarian proliferation of pamphlets, but her words were like the Petersburg snow, blinded her until she lost her way, both forgot and revealed herself, advocating the abolition of family, of the rights of one's house, words no one was able to forgive-and, on words like an avalanche, she was carried forth.