prejudiced judge of them. Shrewd he might be; yet in 1940 he had opposed the Nazis, not for any personal advantage — unless internment and oblivion were advantages — but because he had thought it right to do so. Ambitious he might be; yet he had organized the Committee of National Unity, not for the risk of dying a martyr’s death at the hands of the Gestapo, but because he thought it right to do so. But now, with his power increasing daily and that word ‘Papa’ fastened to his name, he was no longer sure of himself. The whole climate of his thought and feeling seemed to be changing. If he were held in affection, trusted, he must be worthy. His conscience told him that he was not.

‘Yordan is a self-torturer,’ his wife had said.

A terrible conflict now began within him; and the battleground chosen was the question of the election promise.

Reason and experience told him that the Provisional Government was the best that could be devised for the country in the present situation and that elections might well mean the accession of the People’s Party to power. He believed that would be a disaster for the country. Reasoning, a lawyer’s reasoning, told him, too, that the promise had been one of free elections and that the essential condition of freedom was not at present obtainable.

Yet the other voice, the cruel, accusing, contemptuous, punishing voice that haunted him, offered arguments, of a different kind. ‘Why are you so anxious?’ it enquired. ‘Why do you hesitate? Is it because you know in your heart that you have become corrupt and that these reasons you invent for keeping the power in your hands are mere devices to conceal the fact? Is it? You dictators are all the same! You whine that what you do is for the people’s good and that they love and trust you. But when there is a chance that you may have to put that love and trust to the test, you find reasons — oh, excellent reasons! — why you should not do so. And the reasons are always to the same tune. It is for the people’s good, you cry. That, my friend, is the spiral of corruption you are ascending. Government by consent of the governed! You know the phrase? Who are you to determine what government they shall consent to? Your power and their trust in you give you a responsibility above your party interests. You see now the distinction between a statesman and a politician. The statesman has courage. Did you speak? Ah no! not the courage of his convictions. (How you twist and turn, my friend, to avoid the truth!) The statesman has the courage to be impartial — even at the risk of his own destruction.’

He told no one until after it was over, and then he told his wife.

‘My hands are clean,’ he said. It was as though by violating all his own beliefs and interests, as well as those of other honest men, he had performed an act of absolution for some unnameable sin.

‘Last reel,’ said the cutter who was supervising the running. ‘Judges’ summing up and sentence.’

I looked at the screen again. I looked at the tired shell of a man who had been Yordan Deltchev and at the Presiding Judge delivering the sentence of death by hanging, which had since been carried out.

There was silence in the courtroom after the sentence. Probably the spectators were expecting him to say something. But there was nothing. He nodded his head slightly and turned to go. The guards stepped forward. Then he climbed down from the dock and walked slowly away between them.

I recalled another departure he had made from the courtroom and the parallel I had attempted to draw from the trial of Socrates. My memory of it was better now. There were words more apt than the others I had chosen.

‘ But, sirs, it may be that the difficulty is not to flee from death, but from guilt. Guilt is swifter than death.’

‘That’s the lot,’ said the cutter. ‘Would you like to see the assassination of Brankovitch? I’ve got it here.’

‘No, thanks,’ I said. ‘I’ve seen it.’

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