In the end he overcame his sceptical vanity, and going into his wife's room he said in a hollow voice: "Zina, call up Fedyukov!" The spiritualistic lady was delighted; she sent for a sheet of cardboard and a saucer, made her husband sit down beside her, and began upon the magic rites. Fedyukov did not keep them waiting long. . . . "What do you want?" asked Navagin. "Repent," answered the saucer.
I am convinced that this Fedyukov is a spirit who has a sympathy for you . . . If I were you, I would call him up and ask him what he wants." "Nonsense, nonsense!" Navagin was free from superstitions, but the phenomenon which interested him was so mysterious that all sorts of uncanny devilry intruded into his mind against his will.
He touched the curtain over the door, three times waved his hands like a jeune premier in a ballet when he sees her, gave a whistle and a meaningless smile, and pointed with his finger into space. "So I will send off the article at once, your Excellency," said the secretary. These words roused Navagin from his stupour.
"It's positively ludicrous. A man has been signing his name here for thirteen years and you can't find out who he is. Perhaps it's a joke? Perhaps some clerk writes that name as well as his own for fun." And Navagin began examining Fedyukov's signature. The bold, florid signature in the old-fashioned style with twirls and flourishes was utterly unlike the handwriting of the other signatures.
Will you send someone to the church to-morrow before evening service? I shall be there. Bid him ask for Fedyukov. I am always there. . . ." "What!" cried the general, turning pale. "Fedyukov." "You, . . . you are Fedyukov?" asked Navagin, looking at him with wide-open eyes. "Just so, Fedyukov." "You. . . . you signed your name in my hall?"
At his instigation all his clerks took up spiritualism, too, and with such ardour that the old managing clerk went out of his mind and one day sent a telegram: "Hell. Government House. I feel that I am turning into an evil spirit. What's to be done? Reply paid. Vassily Krinolinsky." After reading several hundreds of treatises on spiritualism Navagin had a strong desire to write something himself.
All night Navagin dreamed of a gaunt old clerk in a shabby uniform, with a face as yellow as a lemon, hair that stood up like a brush, and pewtery eyes; the clerk said something in a sepulchral voice and shook a bony finger at him. And Navagin almost had an attack of inflammation of the brain. For a fortnight he was silent and gloomy and kept walking up and down and thinking.
"Give me in charge, I've killed her!" he said to the maidservant who ran in, a minute later. The jury acquitted him. ON the evening of Easter Sunday the actual Civil Councillor, Navagin, on his return from paying calls, picked up the sheet of paper on which visitors had inscribed their names in the hall, and went with it into his study.
Navagin remembers that on that never-to-be-forgotten day the secretary who had made a fair copy of his article and the sacristan of the parish who had been sent for on business were in his study. Nayagin's face was beaming.
Madame Navagin was a spiritualist, and so for all phenomena in nature, comprehensible or incomprehensible, she had a very simple explanation. "There's nothing extraordinary about it," she said. "You don't believe it, of course, but I have said it already and I say it again: there is a great deal in the world that is supernatural, which our feeble intellect can never grasp.