The murderer admits he never would have believed he could kill someone, and he still hardly believes that he has done it now. Elegant was “like a brother” to him, but the murderer felt he had no choice but to kill Elegant because Elegant was endangering “the entire society of miniaturists.” The murderer walks through the streets of Istanbul, disdainful of the belief of most people in their own innocence. He goes to the coffeehouse, looks at the picture of the dog hanging on the wall, and laughs at the storyteller’s impersonation of the dog along with the rest of the audience. He suspects that the man sitting next to him is also a murderer, and that the Erzurumis will raid his house. It is cold, and at night the snow-covered streets are completely dark. He thinks he sees a ghost, and he listens to the sounds of people whom he imagines to be fighting and screaming inside their houses. He goes to the coffeehouse several nights in a row and notes that most miniaturists go there every night. He sketches a picture of the storyteller and notes that the other members of the audience are jealous of the murderer’s skill as a painter, which he claims surpasses all others.
The murderer struggles with many moral dilemmas. There’s the moral conundrum of the murder he has committed, but other aspects of his life as a miniaturist in Istanbul are morally fraught, too. Even before he killed Elegant, the murderer took part in activities deemed sinful by the Erzurumis and other strict Muslims, from attending the coffeehouse to drawing pictures to boastfulness over his ability as an artist. The dark and snow-covered streets of Istanbul come to represent the murderer’s internal sense of horror and moral nihilism. Whereas Black perceived the streets of Istanbul as prosperous and bustling, the murderer feels that they are desolate and haunted, filled with the sights and sounds of misery.
While the murderer is on a walk, he passes “one of our most pure and innocent religious countrymen,” and he is paranoid that if he is thinking about the murder, the man will be able to “read” it on his face. He admits that he is purposefully withholding details about the murder in order to keep his identity a secret. He then brings up the question of whether miniaturists each have a distinctive style. He considers the example of a 90-year-old book by Bihzad, who was a miniaturist in the famed Herat school. The book tells the story of Hüsrev and Shirin, which ends with Hüsrev being stabbed to death in the night while he sleeps next to Shirin. The murderer admits that one of his great fears is being killed in this way, and he describes how the beauty of the illustration of Hüsrev’s death makes it even more horrifying. Bihzad was so talented, and his style so well-known, that he did not even need to sign the picture. The murderer, meanwhile, returns to the spot of the murder every night to ensure no trace of his “style” remains by which he could be identified. He concludes that the snow covering the spot means Allah is on his side.
In this passage, there is a strong parallel drawn between the act of murder and the act of artistic creation. Both are condemned by conservative Muslims, such as the man the murderer encounters during his walk. His paranoia about being discovered seems to suggest that—although he denies it—the murderer is coming to feel that “murderer” is as much a part of his public identity as “miniaturist.” The parallel is further emphasized in the discussion of Bihzad’s book, which is an artistic representation of a murder. The fact that Bihzad did not need to sign his work is a testament to his skill and the honor of artistic anonymity, which is seen as virtuous. The murderer’s anonymity, on the other hand, makes his sin even worse because it is deception.
It was snowing on the night of the murder. The murderer told Elegant that he had been hiding money, and that if Elegant kept everything a secret, he would be rewarded. Elegant asked if the murderer knew the picture he was creating was “a desecration” and “a sacrilege,” and Elegant told the murderer that he would go to hell. The murderer began to feel nervous. He knew that rumors were circulating about Enishte and the book, and that Master Osman, the Head Illuminator, hated Enishte. The murderer realized with horror that Elegant was “prepared to confess everything to everyone.”
The murderer has just insisted on the importance of not revealing the details of the murder, yet now he reveals these details anyway. He introduces the reasons for murdering Elegant but only half-explains those reasons, which increases the mystery and suspense surrounding the events that night.
The murderer told Elegant that Enishte asked him to draw a horse from his own imagination, and that it took hours to figure out what this would look like. He showed Elegant the sketch of the horses he completed in this manner. The murderer adds that the old masters used to say that it would take an illuminator fifty years to draw a horse as Allah would see it, and that the illuminator would go blind in the process.
This short passage articulates three different methods of painting: using one’s eyes (painting from life), using one’s imagination, and copying the horses that were made by the old masters. However, it is not necessarily clear which style is the closest approximation to the vision of Allah.
The murderer tells Elegant that miniaturists simply follow the instructions of their patrons, but Elegant insists that miniaturists bear responsibility for the morality of their art because Allah has given them free will. The murderer asks Elegant if he realizes that the Sultan is “behind” Enishte’s work, and Elegant says nothing. The murderer asks Elegant to count twelve paces and dig, and he promises that he will tell Enishte to destroy the pictures and will reward Elegant with money. Elegant, who the murderer notes is greedy, immediately begins counting the steps. In a panic, the murderer picks up a rock and strikes Elegant over the head. After, he thinks that the murder did not “in the least befit the grace of a miniaturist.”
Elegant at first appears to be a have stricter moral and religious convictions than the murderer. However, the murderer’s comment about Elegant’s greed suggests that, in reality, Elegant is no more righteous than the rest of the miniaturists. Rather, Elegant simply has a different vice. The murderer’s final statement about the murder not fitting “the grace of a miniaturist” is both sinister and comic, and it underlines the parallel between artistic creation and murder.