Sergei Sergeich, the officer, inserting into his merry jokes perhaps:
‘Oh, I’ve just been out walking with Nikolai Apollonovich Ableukhov …’
Apollon Apollonovich Remembered
Yes, Apollon Apollonovich remembered: he had recently heard a certain good-natured joke about himself:
The civil servants said:
‘Our Bat 41 (Apollon Apollonovich’s nickname in the Institution), when he shakes the hands of petitioners, behaves not at all like one of Gogol’s civil servants; when he shakes the hands of petitioners, he certainly does not run the gamut of handshakes from complete contempt, through inattention, to non-contempt: from collegiate registrar 42 to state …’
And to this they observed:
‘He plays only one note: contempt …’
Here defenders intervened:
‘Gentlemen, please stop: it’s caused by haemorrhoids …’
And everyone agreed.
The door flew open: Apollon Apollonovich came in.The joke was timidly curtailed (thus does a young, quick-moving mouse swiftly fly into a crack as soon as you enter the room).But Apollon Apollonovich did not take offence at jokes; and, moreover, there was a degree of truth in the assertion: he did suffer from haemorrhoids.
Apollon Apollonovich went over to the window: two children’s heads in the windows of the house that stood there saw opposite them behind the pane of the house that stood there the facial stain of an unknown little old man.
And the heads over there in the windows disappeared.
Here, in the office of the lofty Institution, Apollon Apollonovich was truly growing into a kind of centre: into a series of government institutions, studies and green tables (only more modestly furnished).Here he was a point of radiating energy, an intersection of forces and an impulse of numerous, multi-constituent manipulations.Here Apollon Apollonovich was a force in the Newtonian sense; and a force in the Newtonian sense is, as you probably do not know, an occult force.
Here he was the final authority – in reports, petitions and telegrams.
He did not relate this authority in the state organism to himself, but to the centre he contained within himself – his consciousness.
Here consciousness detached itself from valiant personality, spilling around between the walls, growing incredibly clear, concentrating with such great force in a single point (between the eyes and the forehead) that it seemed an invisible, white light, flaring up between the eyes and the forehead, scattered around sheaves of serpentine lightnings; the lightning thoughts flew asunder like serpents from his bald head; and if a clairvoyant had stood at that moment before the face of the venerable statesman, he would without doubt have seen the head of the Gorgon Medusa.
And Apollon Apollonovich would have seized him with Medusan horror.
Here consciousness detached itself from valiant personality: while personality, with an abyss of all possible kinds of agitations (that incidental consequence of the soul’s existence), presented itself to the senator’s soul as a cranium, an empty, at the present moment voided, container.
At the Institution Apollon Apollonovich spent hours in the review of the document factory: from the radiant centre (between the eyes and the forehead) flew out all the circulars to the heads of the subordinate institutions.And in so far as he, from this armchair, cut across his life by means of his consciousness, so far did his circulars, from this place, cut the patchwork field of everyday life.
Apollon Apollonovich liked to compare this life with a sexual, vegetable or any other need (for example, the need for a quick trip through the St Petersburg prospects).
When he emerged from the cold-permeated walls, Apollon Apollonovich suddenly became an ordinary man in the street.
Only from here did he tower up and madly hover over Russia, in his enemies evoking a fateful comparison (with a bat).Theseenemies were – all to a man – ordinary folk; this enemy without the walls was