Mr. Prohartchin; a Story

  The Christmas Tree and the Wedding

  The Heavenly Christmas Tree

  The Crocodile; an Extraordinary Incident





  Bobok; From Somebody’s Diary

  A Gentle Spirit


    Part I

      Chapter I. Who I was and who she was

      Chapter II. The offer of marriage

      Chapter III. The Noblest Of Men, Though I don’t believe it myself

      Chapter IV. Plans and Plans

      Chapter V. A Gentle Spirit in Revolt

      Chapter VI. A Terrible Reminiscence

    Part II

      Chapter I. The Dream of Pride

      Chapter II. The Veil Suddenly Falls

      Chapter III. I Understand Too Well

      Chapter IV. I Was Only Five Minutes Too Late

  The Dream of a Ridiculous Man






  The Peasant Marey

  The Little Orphan





  A Faint Heart

  White Nights; a Sentimental Story From the Diary of a Dreamer

    First Night

    Second Night

    Third Night

    Fourth Night



  A Little Hero

  The Honest Thief

  A Novel in Nine Letters










  The Landlady; a Story


    Part I

      Chapter I

      Chapter II

      Chapter III

    Part II

      Chapter I

      Chapter II

      Chapter III

  An Unpleasant Predicament

  Another Man’s Wife or, the Husband Under the Bed; an Extraordinary Adventure



  The Grand Inquisitor

Mr. Prohartchin; a Story

In the darkest and humblest corner of Ustinya Fyodorovna’s flat lived Semyon Ivanovitch Prohartchin, a well-meaning elderly man, who did not drink. Since Mr. Prohartchin was of a very humble grade in the service, and received a salary strictly proportionate to his official capacity, Ustinya Fyodorovna could not get more than five roubles a month from him for his lodging. Some people said that she had her own reasons for accepting him as a lodger; but, be that as it may, as though in despite of all his detractors, Mr. Prohartchin actually became her favourite, in an honourable and virtuous sense, of course. It must be observed that Ustinya Fyodorovna, a very respectable woman, who had a special partiality for meat and coffee, and found it difficult to keep the fasts, let rooms to several other boarders who paid twice as much as Semyon Ivanovitch, yet not being quiet lodgers, but on the contrary all of them “spiteful scoffers” at her feminine ways and her forlorn helplessness, stood very low in her good opinion, so that if it had not been for the rent they paid, she would not have cared to let them stay, nor indeed to see them in her flat at all. Semyon Ivanovitch had become her favourite from the day when a retired, or, perhaps more correctly speaking, discharged clerk, with a weakness for strong drink, was carried to his last resting-place in Volkovo. Though this gentleman had only one eye, having had the other knocked out owing, in his own words, to his valiant behaviour; and only one leg, the other having been broken in the same way owing to his valour; yet he had succeeded in winning all the kindly feeling of which Ustinya Fyodorovna was capable, and took the fullest advantage of it, and would probably have gone on for years living as her devoted satellite and toady if he had not finally drunk himself to death in the most pitiable way. All this had happened at Peski, where Ustinya Fyodorovna only had three lodgers, of whom, when she moved into a new flat and set up on a larger scale, letting to about a dozen new boarders, Mr. Prohartchin was the only one who remained.

Whether Mr. Prohartchin had certain incorrigible defects, or whether his companions were, every one of them, to blame, there seemed to be misunderstandings on both sides from the first. We must observe here that all Ustinya Fyodorovna’s new lodgers without exception got on together like brothers; some of them were in the same office; each one of them by turns lost all his money to the others at faro, preference and bixe; they all liked in a merry hour to enjoy what they called the fizzing moments of life in a crowd together; they were fond, too, at times of discussing lofty subjects, and though in the end things rarely passed off without a dispute, yet as all prejudices were banished from the whole party the general harmony was not in the least disturbed thereby. The most remarkable among the lodgers were Mark Ivanovitch, an intelligent and well-read man; then Oplevaniev; then Prepolovenko, also a nice and modest person; then there was a certain Zinovy Prokofyevitch, whose object in life was to get into aristocratic society; then there was Okeanov, the copying clerk, who had in his time almost wrested the distinction of prime favourite from Semyon Ivanovitch; then another copying clerk called Sudbin; the plebeian Kantarev; there were others too. But to all these people Semyon Ivanovitch was, as it were, not one of themselves. No one wished him harm, of course, for all had from the very first done Prohartchin justice, and had decided in Mark Ivanovitch’s words that he, Prohartchin, was a good and harmless fellow, though by no means a man of the world, trustworthy, and not a flatterer, who had, of course, his failings; but that if he were sometimes unhappy it was due to nothing else but lack of imagination. What is more, Mr. Prohartchin, though deprived in this way of imagination, could never have made a particularly favourable impression from his figure or manners (upon which scoffers are fond of fastening), yet his figure did not put people against him. Mark Ivanovitch, who was an intelligent person, formally undertook Semyon Ivanovitch’s defence, and declared in rather happy and flowery language that Prohartchin was an elderly and respectable man, who had long, long ago passed the age of romance. And so, if Semyon Ivanovitch did not know how to get on with people, it must have been entirely his own fault.

The first thing they noticed was the unmistakable parsimony and niggardliness of Semyon Ivanovitch. That was at once observed and noted, for Semyon Ivanovitch would never lend any one his teapot, even for a moment; and that was the more unjust as he himself hardly ever drank tea, but when he wanted anything drank, as a rule, rather a pleasant decoction of wild flowers and certain medicinal herbs, of which he always had a considerable store. His meals, too, were quite different from the other lodgers’. He never, for instance, permitted himself to partake of the whole dinner, provided daily by Ustinya Fyodorovna for the other boarders. The dinner cost half a rouble; Semyon Ivanovitch paid only twenty-five kopecks in copper, and never exceeded it, and so took either a plate of soup with pie, or a plate of beef; most frequently he ate neither soup nor beef, but he partook in moderation of white bread with onion, curd, salted cucumber, or something similar, which was a great deal cheaper, and he would only go back to his half rouble dinner when he could stand it no longer....

Here the biographer confesses that nothing would have induced him to allude to such realistic and low details, positively shocking and offensive to some lovers of the heroic style, if it were not that these details exhibit one peculiarity, one characteristic, in the hero of this story; for Mr. Prohartchin was by no means so poor as to be unable to have regular and sufficient meals, though he sometimes made out that he was. But he acted as he did regardless of obloquy and people’s prejudices, simply to satisfy his strange whims, and from frugality and excessive carefulness: all this, however, will be much clearer later on. But we will beware of boring the reader with the description of all Semyon Ivanovitch’s whims, and will omit, for instance, the curious and very amusing description of his attire; and, in fact, if it were not for Ustinya Fyodorovna’s own reference to it we should hardly have alluded even to the fact that Semyon Ivanovitch never could make up his mind to send his linen to the wash, or if he ever did so it was so rarely that in the intervals one might have completely forgotten the existence of linen on Semyon Ivanovitch. From the landlady’s evidence it appeared that “Semyon Ivanovitch, bless his soul, poor lamb, for twenty years had been tucked away in his corner, without caring what folks thought, for all the days of his life on earth he was a stranger to socks, handkerchiefs, and all such things,” and what is more, Ustinya Fyodorovna had seen with her own eyes, thanks to the decrepitude of the screen, that the poor dear man sometimes had had nothing to cover his bare skin.

Such were the rumours in circulation after Semyon Ivanovitch’s death. But in his lifetime (and this was one of the most frequent occasions of dissension) he could not endure it if any one, even somebody on friendly terms with him, poked his inquisitive nose uninvited into his corner, even through an aperture in the decrepit screen. He was a taciturn man difficult to deal with and prone to ill health. He did not like people to give him advice, he did not care for people who put themselves forward either, and if any one jeered at him or gave him advice unasked, he would fall foul of him at once, put him to shame, and settle his business. “You are a puppy, you are a featherhead, you are not one to give advice, so there — you mind your own business, sir. You’d better count the stitches in your own socks, sir, so there!”

Semyon Ivanovitch was a plain man, and never used the formal mode of address to any one. He could not bear it either when some one who knew his little ways would begin from pure sport pestering him with questions, such as what he had in his little trunk.... Semyon Ivanovitch had one little trunk. It stood under his bed, and was guarded like the apple of his eye; and though every one knew that there was nothing in it except old rags, two or three pairs of damaged boots and all sorts of rubbish, yet Mr. Prohartchin prized his property very highly, and they used even to hear him at one time express dissatisfaction with his old, but still sound, lock, and talk of getting a new one of a special German pattern with a secret spring and various complications. When on one occasion Zinovy Prokofyevitch, carried away by the thoughtlessness of youth, gave expression to the very coarse and unseemly idea, that Semyon Ivanovitch was probably hiding and treasuring something in his box to leave to his descendants, every one who happened to be by was stupefied at the extraordinary effects of Zinovy Prokofyevitch’s sally. At first Mr. Prohartchin could not find suitable terms for such a crude and coarse idea. For a long time words dropped from his lips quite incoherently, and it was only after a while they made out that Semyon Ivanovitch was reproaching Zinovy Prokofyevitch for some shabby action in the remote past; then they realized that Semyon Ivanovitch was predicting that Zinovy Prokofyevitch would never get into aristocratic society, and that the tailor to whom he owed a bill for his suits would beat him — would certainly beat him — because the puppy had not paid him for so long; and finally, “You puppy, you,” Semyon Ivanovitch added, “here you want to get into the hussars, but you won’t, I tell you, you’ll make a fool of yourself. And I tell you what, you puppy, when your superiors know all about it they will take and make you a copying clerk; so that will be the end of it! Do you hear, puppy?” Then Semyon Ivanovitch subsided, but after lying down for five hours, to the intense astonishment of every one he seemed to have reached a decision, and began suddenly reproaching and abusing the young man again, at first to himself and afterwards addressing Zinovy Prokofyevitch. But the matter did not end there, and in the evening, when Mark Ivanovitch and Prepolovenko made tea and asked Okeanov to drink it with them, Semyon Ivanovitch got up from his bed, purposely joined them, subscribing his fifteen or twenty kopecks, and on the pretext of a sudden desire for a cup of tea began at great length going into the subject, and explaining that he was a poor man, nothing but a poor man, and that a poor man like him had nothing to save. Mr. Prohartchin confessed that he was a poor man on this occasion, he said, simply because the subject had come up; that the day before yesterday he had meant to borrow a rouble from that impudent fellow, but now he should not borrow it for fear the puppy should brag, that that was the fact of the matter, and that his salary was such that one could not buy enough to eat, and that finally, a poor man, as you see, he sent his sister-in-law in Tver five roubles every month, that if he did not send his sister-in-law in Tver five roubles every month his sister-in-law would die, and if his sister-in-law, who was dependent on him, were dead, he, Semyon Ivanovitch, would long ago have bought himself a new suit.... And Semyon Ivanovitch went on talking in this way at great length about being a poor man, about his sister-in-law and about roubles, and kept repeating the same thing over and over again to impress it on his audience till he got into a regular muddle and relapsed into silence. Only three days later, when they had all forgotten about him, and no one was thinking of attacking him, he added something in conclusion to the effect that when Zinovy Prokofyevitch went into the hussars the impudent fellow would have his leg cut off in the war, and then he would come with a wooden leg and say; “Semyon Ivanovitch, kind friend, give me something to eat!” and then Semyon Ivanovitch would not give him something to eat, and would not look at the insolent fellow; and that’s how it would be, and he could just make the best of it.

All this naturally seemed very curious and at the same time fearfully amusing. Without much reflection, all the lodgers joined together for further investigation, and simply from curiosity determined to make a final onslaught on Semyon Ivanovitch en masse. And as Mr. Prohartchin, too, had of late — that is, ever since he had begun living in the same flat with them — been very fond of finding out everything about them and asking inquisitive questions, probably for private reasons of his own, relations sprang up between the opposed parties without any preparation or effort on either side, as it were by chance and of itself. To get into relations Semyon Ivanovitch always had in reserve his peculiar, rather sly, and very ingenuous manœuvre, of which the reader has learned something already. He would get off his bed about tea-time, and if he saw the others gathered together in a group to make tea he would go up to them like a quiet, sensible, and friendly person, hand over his twenty kopecks, as he was entitled to do, and announce that he wished to join them. Then the young men would wink at one another, and so indicating that they were in league together against Semyon Ivanovitch, would begin a conversation, at first strictly proper and decorous. Then one of the wittier of the party would, à propos of nothing, fall to telling them news consisting most usually of entirely false and quite incredible details. He would say, for instance, that some one had heard His Excellency that day telling Demid Vassilyevitch that in his opinion married clerks were more trustworthy than unmarried, and more suitable for promotion; for they were steady, and that their capacities were considerably improved by marriage, and that therefore he — that is, the speaker — in order to improve and be better fitted for promotion, was doing his utmost to enter the bonds of matrimony as soon as possible with a certain Fevronya Prokofyevna. Or he would say that it had more than once been remarked about certain of his colleagues that they were entirely devoid of social graces and of well-bred, agreeable manners, and consequently unable to please ladies in good society, and that, therefore, to eradicate this defect it would be suitable to deduct something from their salary, and with the sum so obtained, to hire a hall, where they could learn to dance, acquire the outward signs of gentlemanliness and good-breeding, courtesy, respect for their seniors, strength of will, a good and grateful heart and various agreeable qualities. Or he would say that it was being arranged that some of the clerks, beginning with the most elderly, were to be put through an examination in all sorts of subjects to raise their standard of culture, and in that way, the speaker would add, all sorts of things would come to light, and certain gentlemen would have to lay their cards on the table — in short, thousands of similar very absurd rumours were discussed. To keep it up, every one believed the story at once, showed interest in it, asked questions, applied it to themselves; and some of them, assuming a despondent air, began shaking their heads and asking every one’s advice, saying what were they to do if they were to come under it? It need hardly be said that a man far less credulous and simple-hearted than Mr. Prohartchin would have been puzzled and carried away by a rumour so unanimously believed. Moreover, from all appearances, it might be safely concluded that Semyon Ivanovitch was exceedingly stupid and slow to grasp any new unusual idea, and that when he heard anything new, he had always first, as it were, to chew it over and digest it, to find out the meaning, and struggling with it in bewilderment, at last perhaps to overcome it, though even then in a quite special manner peculiar to himself alone....

In this way curious and hitherto unexpected qualities began to show themselves in Semyon Ivanovitch.... Talk and tittle-tattle followed, and by devious ways it all reached the office at last, with additions. What increased the sensation was the fact that Mr. Prohartchin, who had looked almost exactly the same from time immemorial, suddenly, à propos of nothing, wore quite a different countenance. His face was uneasy, his eyes were timid and had a scared and rather suspicious expression. He took to walking softly, starting and listening, and to put the finishing touch to his new characteristics developed a passion for investigating the truth. He carried his love of truth at last to such a pitch as to venture, on two occasions, to inquire of Demid Vassilyevitch himself concerning the credibility of the strange rumours that reached him daily by dozens, and if we say nothing here of the consequence of the action of Semyon Ivanovitch, it is for no other reason but a sensitive regard for his reputation. It was in this way people came to consider him as misanthropic and regardless of the proprieties. Then they began to discover that there was a great deal that was fantastical about him, and in this they were not altogether mistaken, for it was observed on more than one occasion that Semyon Ivanovitch completely forgot himself, and sitting in his seat with his mouth open and his pen in the air, as though frozen or petrified, looked more like the shadow of a rational being than that rational being itself. It sometimes happened that some innocently gaping gentleman, on suddenly catching his straying, lustreless, questioning eyes, was scared and all of a tremor, and at once inserted into some important document either a smudge or some quite inappropriate word. The impropriety of Semyon Ivanovitch’s behaviour embarrassed and annoyed all really well-bred people.... At last no one could feel any doubt of the eccentricity of Semyon Ivanovitch’s mind, when one fine morning the rumour was all over the office that Mr. Prohartchin had actually frightened Demid Vassilyevitch himself, for, meeting him in the corridor, Semyon Ivanovitch had been so strange and peculiar that he had forced his superior to beat a retreat.... The news of Semyon Ivanovitch’s behaviour reached him himself at last. Hearing of it he got up at once, made his way carefully between the chairs and tables, reached the entry, took down his overcoat with his own hand, put it on, went out, and disappeared for an indefinite period. Whether he was led into this by alarm or some other impulse we cannot say, but no trace was seen of him for a time either at home or at the office....

We will not attribute Semyon Ivanovitch’s fate simply to his eccentricity, yet we must observe to the reader that our hero was a very retiring man, unaccustomed to society, and had, until he made the acquaintance of the new lodgers, lived in complete unbroken solitude, and had been marked by his quietness and even a certain mysteriousness; for he had spent all the time that he lodged at Peski lying on his bed behind the screen, without talking or having any sort of relations with any one. Both his old fellow-lodgers lived exactly as he did: they, too were, somehow mysterious people and spent fifteen years lying behind their screens. The happy, drowsy hours and days trailed by, one after the other, in patriarchal stagnation, and as everything around them went its way in the same happy fashion, neither Semyon Ivanovitch nor Ustinya Fyodorovna could remember exactly when fate had brought them together.

“It may be ten years, it may be twenty, it may be even twenty-five altogether,” she would say at times to her new lodgers, “since he settled with me, poor dear man, bless his heart!” And so it was very natural that the hero of our story, being so unaccustomed to society was disagreeably surprised when, a year before, he, a respectable and modest man, had found himself, suddenly in the midst of a noisy and boisterous crew, consisting of a dozen young fellows, his colleagues at the office, and his new house-mates.

The disappearance of Semyon Ivanovitch made no little stir in the lodgings. One thing was that he was the favourite; another, that his passport, which had been in the landlady’s keeping, appeared to have been accidentally mislaid. Ustinya Fyodorovna raised a howl, as was her invariable habit on all critical occasions. She spent two days in abusing and upbraiding the lodgers. She wailed that they had chased away her lodger like a chicken, and all those spiteful scoffers had been the ruin of him; and on the third day she sent them all out to hunt for the fugitive and at all costs to bring him back, dead or alive. Towards evening Sudbin first came back with the news that traces had been discovered, that he had himself seen the runaway in Tolkutchy Market and other places, had followed and stood close to him, but had not dared to speak to him; he had been near him in a crowd watching a house on fire in Crooked Lane. Half an hour later Okeanov and Kantarev came in and confirmed Sudbin’s story, word for word; they, too, had stood near, had followed him quite close, had stood not more than ten paces from him, but they also had not ventured to speak to him, but both observed that Semyon Ivanovitch was walking with a drunken cadger. The other lodgers were all back and together at last, and after listening attentively they made up their minds that Prohartchin could not be far off and would not be long in returning; but they said that they had all known beforehand that he was about with a drunken cadger. This drunken cadger was a thoroughly bad lot, insolent and cringing, and it seemed evident that he had got round Semyon Ivanovitch in some way. He had turned up just a week before Semyon Ivanovitch’s disappearance in company with Remnev, had spent a little time in the flat telling them that he had suffered in the cause of justice, that he had formerly been in the service in the provinces, that an inspector had come down on them, that he and his associates had somehow suffered in a good cause, that he had come to Petersburg and fallen at the feet of Porfiry Grigoryevitch, that he had been got, by interest, into a department; but through the cruel persecution of fate he had been discharged from there too, and that afterwards through reorganization the office itself had ceased to exist, and that he had not been included in the new revised staff of clerks owing as much to direct incapacity for official work as to capacity for something else quite irrelevant — all this mixed up with his passion for justice and of course the trickery of his enemies. After finishing his story, in the course of which Mr. Zimoveykin more than once kissed his sullen and unshaven friend Remnev, he bowed down to all in the room in turn, not forgetting Avdotya the servant, called them all his benefactors, and explained that he was an undeserving, troublesome, mean, insolent and stupid man, and that good people must not be hard on his pitiful plight and simplicity. After begging for their kind protection Mr. Zimoveykin showed his livelier side, grew very cheerful, kissed Ustinya Fyodorovna’s hands, in spite of her modest protests that her hand was coarse and not like a lady’s; and towards evening promised to show the company his talent in a remarkable character dance. But next day his visit ended in a lamentable dénouement. Either because there had been too much character in the character-dance, or because he had, in Ustinya Fyodorovna’s own words, somehow “insulted her and treated her as no lady, though she was on friendly terms with Yaroslav Ilyitch himself, and if she liked might long ago have been an officer’s wife,” Zimoveykin had to steer for home next day. He went away, came back again, was again turned out with ignominy, then wormed his way into Semyon Ivanovitch’s good graces, robbed him incidentally of his new breeches, and now it appeared he had led Semyon Ivanovitch astray.

As soon as the landlady knew that Semyon Ivanovitch was alive and well, and that there was no need to hunt for his passport, she promptly left off grieving and was pacified. Meanwhile some of the lodgers determined to give the runaway a triumphal reception; they broke the bolt and moved away the screen from Mr. Prohartchin’s bed, rumpled up the bed a little, took the famous box, put it at the foot of the bed; and on the bed laid the sister-in-law, that is, a dummy made up of an old kerchief, a cap and a mantle of the landlady’s, such an exact counterfeit of a sister-in-law that it might have been mistaken for one. Having finished their work they waited for Semyon Ivanovitch to return, meaning to tell him that his sister-in-law had arrived from the country and was there behind his screen, poor thing! But they waited and waited.

Already, while they waited, Mark Ivanovitch had staked and lost half a month’s salary to Prepolovenko and Kantarev; already Okeanov’s nose had grown red and swollen playing “flips on the nose” and “three cards;” already Avdotya the servant had almost had her sleep out and had twice been on the point of getting up to fetch the wood and light the stove, and Zinovy Prokofyevitch, who kept running out every minute to see whether Semyon Ivanovitch were coming, was wet to the skin; but there was no sign of any one yet — neither Semyon Ivanovitch nor the drunken cadger. At last every one went to bed, leaving the sister-in-law behind the screen in readiness for any emergency; and it was not till four o’clock that a knock was heard at the gate, but when it did come it was so loud that it quite made up to the expectant lodgers for all the wearisome trouble they had been through. It was he — he himself — Semyon Ivanovitch, Mr. Prohartchin, but in such a condition that they all cried out in dismay, and no one thought about the sister-in-law. The lost man was unconscious. He was brought in, or more correctly carried in, by a sopping and tattered night-cabman. To the landlady’s question where the poor dear man had got so groggy, the cabman answered: “Why, he is not drunk and has not had a drop, that I can tell you, for sure; but seemingly a faintness has come over him, or some sort of a fit, or maybe he’s been knocked down by a blow.”

They began examining him, propping the culprit against the stove to do so more conveniently, and saw that it really was not a case of drunkenness, nor had he had a blow, but that something else was wrong, for Semyon Ivanovitch could not utter a word, but seemed twitching in a sort of convulsion, and only blinked, fixing his eyes in bewilderment first on one and then on another of the spectators, who were all attired in night array. Then they began questioning the cabman, asking where he had got him from. “Why, from folks out Kolomna way,” he answered. “Deuce knows what they are, not exactly gentry, but merry, rollicking gentlemen; so he was like this when they gave him to me; whether they had been fighting, or whether he was in some sort of a fit, goodness knows what it was; but they were nice, jolly gentlemen!”

Semyon Ivanovitch was taken, lifted high on the shoulders of two or three sturdy fellows, and carried to his bed. When Semyon Ivanovitch on being put in bed felt the sister-in-law, and put his feet on his sacred box, he cried out at the top of his voice, squatted up almost on his heels, and trembling and shaking all over, with his hands and his body he cleared a space as far as he could in his bed, while gazing with a tremulous but strangely resolute look at those present, he seemed as it were to protest that he would sooner die than give up the hundredth part of his poor belongings to any one....

Semyon Ivanovitch lay for two or three days closely barricaded by the screen, and so cut off from all the world and all its vain anxieties. Next morning, of course, every one had forgotten about him; time, meanwhile, flew by as usual, hour followed hour and day followed day. The sick man’s heavy, feverish brain was plunged in something between sleep and delirium; but he lay quietly and did not moan or complain; on the contrary he kept still and silent and controlled himself, lying low in his bed, just as the hare lies close to the earth when it hears the hunter. At times a long depressing stillness prevailed in the flat, a sign that the lodgers had all gone to the office, and Semyon Ivanovitch, waking up, could relieve his depression by listening to the bustle in the kitchen, where the landlady was busy close by; or to the regular flop of Avdotya’s down-trodden slippers as, sighing and moaning, she cleared away, rubbed and polished, tidying all the rooms in the flat. Whole hours passed by in that way, drowsy, languid, sleepy, wearisome, like the water that dripped with a regular sound from the locker into the basin in the kitchen. At last the lodgers would arrive, one by one or in groups, and Semyon Ivanovitch could very conveniently hear them abusing the weather, saying they were hungry, making a noise, smoking, quarrelling, and making friends, playing cards, and clattering the cups as they got ready for tea. Semyon Ivanovitch mechanically made an effort to get up and join them, as he had a right to do at tea; but he at once sank back into drowsiness, and dreamed that he had been sitting a long time at the tea-table, having tea with them and talking, and that Zinovy Prokofyevitch had already seized the opportunity to introduce into the conversation some scheme concerning sisters-in-law and the moral relation of various worthy people to them. At this point Semyon Ivanovitch was in haste to defend himself and reply. But the mighty formula that flew from every tongue— “It has more than once been observed” — cut short all his objections, and Semyon Ivanovitch could do nothing better than begin dreaming again that to-day was the first of the month and that he was receiving money in his office.

Undoing the paper round it on the stairs, he looked about him quickly, and made haste as fast as he could to subtract half of the lawful wages he had received and conceal it in his boot. Then on the spot, on the stairs, quite regardless of the fact that he was in bed and asleep, he made up his mind when he reached home to give his landlady what was due for board and lodging; then to buy certain necessities, and to show any one it might concern, as it were casually and unintentionally, that some of his salary had been deducted, that now he had nothing left to send his sister-in-law; then to speak with commiseration of his sister-in-law, to say a great deal about her the next day and the day after, and ten days later to say something casually again about her poverty, that his companions might not forget. Making this determination he observed that Andrey Efimovitch, that everlastingly silent, bald little man who sat in the office three rooms from where Semyon Ivanovitch sat, and hadn’t said a word to him for twenty years, was standing on the stairs, that he, too, was counting his silver roubles, and shaking his head, he said to him: “Money!”

“If there’s no money there will be no porridge,” he added grimly as he went down the stairs, and just at the door he ended: “And I have seven children, sir.” Then the little bald man, probably equally unconscious that he was acting as a phantom and not as a substantial reality, held up his hand about thirty inches from the floor, and waving it vertically, muttered that the eldest was going to school, then glancing with indignation at Semyon Ivanovitch, as though it were Mr. Prohartchin’s fault that he was the father of seven, pulled his old hat down over his eyes, and with a whisk of his overcoat he turned to the left and disappeared. Semyon Ivanovitch was quite frightened, and though he was fully convinced of his own innocence in regard to the unpleasant accumulation of seven under one roof, yet it seemed to appear that in fact no one else was to blame but Semyon Ivanovitch. Panic-stricken he set off running, for it seemed to him that the bald gentleman had turned back, was running after him, and meant to search him and take away all his salary, insisting upon the indisputable number seven, and resolutely denying any possible claim of any sort of sisters-in-law upon Semyon Ivanovitch. Prohartchin ran and ran, gasping for breath.... Beside him was running, too, an immense number of people, and all of them were jingling their money in the tailpockets of their skimpy little dress-coats; at last every one ran up, there was the noise of fire engines, and whole masses of people carried him almost on their shoulders up to that same house on fire which he had watched last time in company with the drunken cadger. The drunken cadger — alias Mr. Zimoveykin — was there now, too, he met Semyon Ivanovitch, made a fearful fuss, took him by the arm, and led him into the thickest part of the crowd. Just as then in reality, all about them was the noise and uproar of an immense crowd of people, flooding the whole of Fontanka Embankment between the two bridges, as well as all the surrounding streets and alleys; just as then, Semyon Ivanovitch, in company with the drunken cadger, was carried along behind a fence, where they were squeezed as though in pincers in a huge timber-yard full of spectators who had gathered from the street, from Tolkutchy Market and from all the surrounding houses, taverns, and restaurants. Semyon Ivanovitch saw all this and felt as he had done at the time; in the whirl of fever and delirium all sorts of strange figures began flitting before him. He remembered some of them. One of them was a gentleman who had impressed every one extremely, a man seven feet high, with whiskers half a yard long, who had been standing behind Semyon Ivanovitch’s back during the fire, and had given him encouragement from behind, when our hero had felt something like ecstasy and had stamped as though intending thereby to applaud the gallant work of the firemen, from which he had an excellent view from his elevated position. Another was the sturdy lad from whom our hero had received a shove by way of a lift on to another fence, when he had been disposed to climb over it, possibly to save some one. He had a glimpse, too, of the figure of the old man with a sickly face, in an old wadded dressing-gown, tied round the waist, who had made his appearance before the fire in a little shop buying sugar and tobacco for his lodger, and who now, with a milk-can and a quart pot in his hands, made his way through the crowd to the house in which his wife and daughter were burning together with thirteen and a half roubles in the corner under the bed. But most distinct of all was the poor, sinful woman of whom he had dreamed more than once during his illness — she stood before him now as she had done then, in wretched bark shoes and rags, with a crutch and a wicker-basket on her back. She was shouting more loudly than the firemen or the crowd, waving her crutch and her arms, saying that her own children had turned her out and that she had lost two coppers in consequence. The children and the coppers, the coppers and the children, were mingled together in an utterly incomprehensible muddle, from which every one withdrew baffled, after vain efforts to understand. But the woman would not desist, she kept wailing, shouting, and waving her arms, seeming to pay no attention either to the fire up to which she had been carried by the crowd from the street or to the people about her, or to the misfortune of strangers, or even to the sparks and red-hot embers which were beginning to fall in showers on the crowd standing near. At last Mr. Prohartchin felt that a feeling of terror was coming upon him; for he saw clearly that all this was not, so to say, an accident, and that he would not get off scot-free. And, indeed, upon the woodstack, close to him, was a peasant, in a torn smock that hung loose about him, with his hair and beard singed, and he began stirring up all the people against Semyon Ivanovitch. The crowd pressed closer and closer, the peasant shouted, and foaming at the mouth with horror, Mr. Prohartchin suddenly realized that this peasant was a cabman whom he had cheated five years before in the most inhuman way, slipping away from him without paying through a side gate and jerking up his heels as he ran as though he were barefoot on hot bricks. In despair Mr. Prohartchin tried to speak, to scream, but his voice failed him. He felt that the infuriated crowd was twining round him like a many-coloured snake, strangling him, crushing him. He made an incredible effort and awoke. Then he saw that he was on fire, that all his corner was on fire, that his screen was on fire, that the whole flat was on fire, together with Ustinya Fyodorovna and all her lodgers, that his bed was burning, his pillow, his quilt, his box, and last of all, his precious mattress. Semyon Ivanovitch jumped up, clutched at the mattress and ran dragging it after him. But in the landlady’s room into which, regardless of decorum, our hero ran just as he was, barefoot and in his shirt, he was seized, held tight, and triumphantly carried back behind the screen, which meanwhile was not on fire — it seemed that it was rather Semyon Ivanovitch’s head that was on fire — and was put back to bed. It was just as some tattered, unshaven, ill-humoured organ-grinder puts away in his travelling box the Punch who has been making an upset, drubbing all the other puppets, selling his soul to the devil, and who at last ends his existence, till the next performance, in the same box with the devil, the negroes, the Pierrot, and Mademoiselle Katerina with her fortunate lover, the captain.

Immediately every one, old and young, surrounded Semyon Ivanovitch, standing in a row round his bed and fastening eyes full of expectation on the invalid. Meantime he had come to himself, but from shame or some other feeling, began pulling up the quilt over him, apparently wishing to hide himself under it from the attention of his sympathetic friends. At last Mark Ivanovitch was the first to break silence, and as a sensible man he began saying in a very friendly way that Semyon Ivanovitch must keep calm, that it was too bad and a shame to be ill, that only little children behaved like that, that he must get well and go to the office. Mark Ivanovitch ended by a little joke, saying that no regular salary had yet been fixed for invalids, and as he knew for a fact that their grade would be very low in the service, to his thinking anyway, their calling or condition did not promise great and substantial advantages. In fact, it was evident that they were all taking genuine interest in Semyon Ivanovitch’s fate and were very sympathetic. But with incomprehensible rudeness, Semyon Ivanovitch persisted in lying in bed in silence, and obstinately pulling the quilt higher and higher over his head. Mark Ivanovitch, however, would not be gainsaid, and restraining his feelings, said something very honeyed to Semyon Ivanovitch again, knowing that that was how he ought to treat a sick man. But Semyon Ivanovitch would not feel this: on the contrary he muttered something between his teeth with the most distrustful air, and suddenly began glancing askance from right to left in a hostile way, as though he would have reduced his sympathetic friends to ashes with his eyes. It was no use letting it stop there. Mark Ivanovitch lost patience, and seeing that the man was offended and completely exasperated, and had simply made up his mind to be obstinate, told him straight out, without any softening suavity, that it was time to get up, that it was no use lying there, that shouting day and night about houses on fire, sisters-in-law, drunken cadgers, locks, boxes and goodness knows what, was all stupid, improper, and degrading, for if Semyon Ivanovitch did not want to sleep himself he should not hinder other people, and please would he bear it in mind.

This speech produced its effects, for Semyon Ivanovitch, turning promptly to the orator, articulated firmly, though in a hoarse voice, “You hold your tongue, puppy! You idle speaker, you foul-mouthed man! Do you hear, young dandy? Are you a prince, eh? Do you understand what I say?”

Hearing such insults, Mark Ivanovitch fired up, but realizing that he had to deal with a sick man, magnanimously overcame his resentment and tried to shame him out of his humour, but was cut short in that too; for Semyon Ivanovitch observed at once that he would not allow people to play with him for all that Mark Ivanovitch wrote poetry. Then followed a silence of two minutes; at last recovering from his amazement Mark Ivanovitch, plainly, clearly, in well-chosen language, but with firmness, declared that Semyon Ivanovitch ought to understand that he was among gentlemen, and “you ought to understand, sir, how to behave with gentlemen.”

Mark Ivanovitch could on occasion speak effectively and liked to impress his hearers, but, probably from the habit of years of silence, Semyon Ivanovitch talked and acted somewhat abruptly; and, moreover, when he did on occasion begin a long sentence, as he got further into it every word seemed to lead to another word, that other word to a third word, that third to a fourth and so on, so that his mouth seemed brimming over; he began stuttering, and the crowding words took to flying out in picturesque disorder. That was why Semyon Ivanovitch, who was a sensible man, sometimes talked terrible nonsense. “You are lying,” he said now. “You booby, you loose fellow! You’ll come to want — you’ll go begging, you seditious fellow, you — you loafer. Take that, you poet!”

“Why, you are still raving, aren’t you, Semyon Ivanovitch?”

“I tell you what,” answered Semyon Ivanovitch, “fools rave, drunkards rave, dogs rave, but a wise man acts sensibly. I tell you, you don’t know your own business, you loafer, you educated gentleman, you learned book! Here, you’ll get on fire and not notice your head’s burning off. What do you think of that?”

“Why ... you mean.... How do you mean, burn my head off, Semyon Ivanovitch?”

Mark Ivanovitch said no more, for every one saw clearly that Semyon Ivanovitch was not yet in his sober senses, but delirious.

But the landlady could not resist remarking at this point that the house in Crooked Lane had been burnt owing to a bald wench; that there was a bald-headed wench living there, that she had lighted a candle and set fire to the lumber room; but nothing would happen in her place, and everything would be all right in the flats.

“But look here, Semyon Ivanovitch,” cried Zinovy Prokofyevitch, losing patience and interrupting the landlady, “you old fogey, you old crock, you silly fellow — are they making jokes with you now about your sister-in-law or examinations in dancing? Is that it? Is that what you think?”

“Now, I tell you what,” answered our hero, sitting up in bed and making a last effort in a paroxysm of fury with his sympathetic friends. “Who’s the fool? You are the fool, a dog is a fool, you joking gentleman. But I am not going to make jokes to please you, sir; do you hear, puppy? I am not your servant, sir.”

Semyon Ivanovitch would have said something more, but he fell back in bed helpless. His sympathetic friends were left gaping in perplexity, for they understood now what was wrong with Semyon Ivanovitch and did not know how to begin. Suddenly the kitchen door creaked and opened, and the drunken cadger — alias Mr. Zimoveykin — timidly thrust in his head, cautiously sniffing round the place as his habit was. It seemed as though he had been expected, every one waved to him at once to come quickly, and Zimoveykin, highly delighted, with the utmost readiness and haste jostled his way to Semyon Ivanovitch’s bedside.

It was evident that Zimoveykin had spent the whole night in vigil and in great exertions of some sort. The right side of his face was plastered up; his swollen eyelids were wet from his running eyes, his coat and all his clothes were torn, while the whole left side of his attire was bespattered with something extremely nasty, possibly mud from a puddle. Under his arm was somebody’s violin, which he had been taking somewhere to sell. Apparently they had not made a mistake in summoning him to their assistance, for seeing the position of affairs, he addressed the delinquent at once, and with the air of a man who knows what he is about and feels that he has the upper hand, said: “What are you thinking about? Get up, Senka. What are you doing, a clever chap like you? Be sensible, or I shall pull you out of bed if you are obstreperous. Don’t be obstreperous!”

This brief but forcible speech surprised them all; still more were they surprised when they noticed that Semyon Ivanovitch, hearing all this and seeing this person before him, was so flustered and reduced to such confusion and dismay that he could scarcely mutter through his teeth in a whisper the inevitable protest.

“Go away, you wretch,” he said. “You are a wretched creature — you are a thief! Do you hear? Do you understand? You are a great swell, my fine gentleman, you regular swell.”

“No, my boy,” Zimoveykin answered emphatically, retaining all his presence of mind, “you’re wrong there, you wise fellow, you regular Prohartchin,” Zimoveykin went on, parodying Semyon Ivanovitch and looking round gleefully. “Don’t be obstreperous! Behave yourself, Senka, behave yourself, or I’ll give you away, I’ll tell them all about it, my lad, do you understand?”

Apparently Semyon Ivanovitch did understand, for he started when he heard the conclusion of the speech, and began looking rapidly about him with an utterly desperate air.

Satisfied with the effect, Mr. Zimoveykin would have continued, but Mark Ivanovitch checked his zeal, and waiting till Semyon Ivanovitch was still and almost calm again began judiciously impressing on the uneasy invalid at great length that, “to harbour ideas such as he now had in his head was, first, useless, and secondly, not only useless, but harmful; and, in fact, not so much harmful as positively immoral; and the cause of it all was that Semyon Ivanovitch was not only a bad example, but led them all into temptation.”

Every one expected satisfactory results from this speech. Moreover by now Semyon Ivanovitch was quite quiet and replied in measured terms. A quiet discussion followed. They appealed to him in a friendly way, inquiring what he was so frightened of. Semyon Ivanovitch answered, but his answers were irrelevant. They answered him, he answered them. There were one or two more observations on both sides and then every one rushed into discussion, for suddenly such a strange and amazing subject cropped up, that they did not know how to express themselves. The argument at last led to impatience, impatience led to shouting, and shouting even to tears; and Mark Ivanovitch went away at last foaming at the mouth and declaring that he had never known such a blockhead. Oplevaniev spat in disgust, Okeanov was frightened, Zinovy Prokofyevitch became tearful, while Ustinya Fyodorovna positively howled, wailing that her lodger was leaving them and had gone off his head, that he would die, poor dear man, without a passport and without telling any one, while she was a lone, lorn woman and that she would be dragged from pillar to post. In fact, they all saw clearly at last that the seed they had sown had yielded a hundred-fold, that the soil had been too productive, and that in their company, Semyon Ivanovitch had succeeded in overstraining his wits completely and in the most irrevocable manner. Every one subsided into silence, for though they saw that Semyon Ivanovitch was frightened, the sympathetic friends were frightened too.

“What?” cried Mark Ivanovitch; “but what are you afraid of? What have you gone off your head about? Who’s thinking about you, my good sir? Have you the right to be afraid? Who are you? What are you? Nothing, sir. A round nought, sir, that is what you are. What are you making a fuss about? A woman has been run over in the street, so are you going to be run over? Some drunkard did not take care of his pocket, but is that any reason why your coat-tails should be cut off? A house is burnt down, so your head is to be burnt off, is it? Is that it, sir, is that it?”

“You ... you ... you stupid!” muttered Semyon Ivanovitch, “if your nose were cut off you would eat it up with a bit of bread and not notice it.”

“I may be a dandy,” shouted Mark Ivanovitch, not listening; “I may be a regular dandy, but I have not to pass an examination to get married — to learn dancing; the ground is firm under me, sir. Why, my good man, haven’t you room enough? Is the floor giving way under your feet, or what?”

“Well, they won’t ask you, will they? They’ll shut one up and that will be the end of it?”

“The end of it? That’s what’s up? What’s your idea now, eh?”

“Why, they kicked out the drunken cadger.”

“Yes; but you see that was a drunkard, and you are a man, and so am I.”

“Yes, I am a man. It’s there all right one day and then it’s gone.”

“Gone! But what do you mean by it?”

“Why, the office! The off — off — ice!”

“Yes, you blessed man, but of course the office is wanted and necessary.”

“It is wanted, I tell you; it’s wanted to-day and it’s wanted to-morrow, but the day after to-morrow it will not be wanted. You have heard what happened?”

“Why, but they’ll pay you your salary for the year, you doubting Thomas, you man of little faith. They’ll put you into another job on account of your age.”

“Salary? But what if I have spent my salary, if thieves come and take my money? And I have a sister-in-law, do you hear? A sister-in-law! You battering-ram....”

“A sister-in-law! You are a man....”

“Yes, I am; I am a man. But you are a well-read gentleman and a fool, do you hear? — you battering-ram — you regular battering-ram! That’s what you are! I am not talking about your jokes; but there are jobs such that all of a sudden they are done away with. And Demid — do you hear? — Demid Vassilyevitch says that the post will be done away with....”

“Ah, bless you, with your Demid! You sinner, why, you know....”

“In a twinkling of an eye you’ll be left without a post, then you’ll just have to make the best of it.”

“Why, you are simply raving, or clean off your head! Tell us plainly, what have you done? Own up if you have done something wrong! It’s no use being ashamed! Are you off your head, my good man, eh?”

“He’s off his head! He’s gone off his head!” they all cried, and wrung their hands in despair, while the landlady threw both her arms round Mark Ivanovitch for fear he should tear Semyon Ivanovitch to pieces.

“You heathen, you heathenish soul, you wise man!” Zimoveykin besought him. “Senka, you are not a man to take offence, you are a polite, prepossessing man. You are simple, you are good ... do you hear? It all comes from your goodness. Here I am a ruffian and a fool, I am a beggar; but good people haven’t abandoned me, no fear; you see they treat me with respect, I thank them and the landlady. Here, you see, I bow down to the ground to them; here, see, see, I am paying what is due to you, landlady!” At this point Zimoveykin swung off with pedantic dignity a low bow right down to the ground.

After that Semyon Ivanovitch would have gone on talking; but this time they would not let him, they all intervened, began entreating him, assuring him, comforting him, and succeeded in making Semyon Ivanovitch thoroughly ashamed of himself, and at last, in a faint voice, he asked leave to explain himself.

“Very well, then,” he said, “I am prepossessing, I am quiet, I am good, faithful and devoted; to the last drop of my blood you know ... do you hear, you puppy, you swell? ... granted the job is going on, but you see I am poor. And what if they take it? do you hear, you swell? Hold your tongue and try to understand! They’ll take it and that’s all about it ... it’s going on, brother, and then not going on ... do you understand? And I shall go begging my bread, do you hear?”

“Senka,” Zimoveykin bawled frantically, drowning the general hubbub with his voice. “You are seditious! I’ll inform against you! What are you saying? Who are you? Are you a rebel, you sheep’s head? A rowdy, stupid man they would turn off without a character. But what are you?”

“Well, that’s just it.”


“Well, there it is.”

“How do you mean?”

“Why, I am free, he’s free, and here one lies and thinks....”


“What if they say I’m seditious?”

“Se — di — tious? Senka, you seditious!”

“Stay,” cried Mr. Prohartchin, waving his hand and interrupting the rising uproar, “that’s not what I mean. Try to understand, only try to understand, you sheep. I am law-abiding. I am law-abiding to-day, I am law-abiding to-morrow, and then all of a sudden they kick me out and call me seditious.”

“What are you saying?” Mark Ivanovitch thundered at last, jumping up from the chair on which he had sat down to rest, running up to the bed and in a frenzy shaking with vexation and fury. “What do you mean? You sheep! You’ve nothing to call your own. Why, are you the only person in the world? Was the world made for you, do you suppose? Are you a Napoleon? What are you? Who are you? Are you a Napoleon, eh? Tell me, are you a Napoleon?”

But Mr. Prohartchin did not answer this question. Not because he was overcome with shame at being a Napoleon, and was afraid of taking upon himself such a responsibility — no, he was incapable of disputing further, or saying anything.... His illness had reached a crisis. Tiny teardrops gushed suddenly from his glittering, feverish, grey eyes. He hid his burning head in his bony hands that were wasted by illness, sat up in bed, and sobbing, began to say that he was quite poor, that he was a simple, unlucky man, that he was foolish and unlearned, he begged kind folks to forgive him, to take care of him, to protect him, to give him food and drink, not to leave him in want, and goodness knows what else Semyon Ivanovitch said. As he uttered this appeal he looked about him in wild terror, as though he were expecting the ceiling to fall or the floor to give way. Every one felt his heart soften and move to pity as he looked at the poor fellow. The landlady, sobbing and wailing like a peasant woman at her forlorn condition, laid the invalid back in bed with her own hands. Mark Ivanovitch, seeing the uselessness of touching upon the memory of Napoleon, instantly relapsed into kindliness and came to her assistance. The others, in order to do something, suggested raspberry tea, saying that it always did good at once and that the invalid would like it very much; but Zimoveykin contradicted them all, saying there was nothing better than a good dose of camomile or something of the sort. As for Zinovy Prokofyevitch, having a good heart, he sobbed and shed tears in his remorse, for having frightened Semyon Ivanovitch with all sorts of absurdities, and gathering from the invalid’s last words that he was quite poor and needing assistance, he proceeded to get up a subscription for him, confining it for a time to the tenants of the flat. Every one was sighing and moaning, every one felt sorry and grieved, and yet all wondered how it was a man could be so completely panic-stricken. And what was he frightened about? It would have been all very well if he had had a good post, had had a wife, a lot of children; it would have been excusable if he were being hauled up before the court on some charge or other; but he was a man utterly insignificant, with nothing but a trunk and a German lock; he had been lying more than twenty years behind his screen, saying nothing, knowing nothing of the world nor of trouble, saving his half-pence, and now at a frivolous, idle word the man had actually gone off his head, was utterly panic-stricken at the thought he might have a hard time of it.... And it never occurred to him that every one has a hard time of it! “If he would only take that into consideration,” Okeanov said afterwards, “that we all have a hard time, then the man would have kept his head, would have given up his antics and would have put up with things, one way or another.”

All day long nothing was talked of but Semyon Ivanovitch. They went up to him, inquired after him, tried to comfort him; but by the evening he was beyond that. The poor fellow began to be delirious, feverish. He sank into unconsciousness, so that they almost thought of sending for a doctor; the lodgers all agreed together and undertook to watch over Semyon Ivanovitch and soothe him by turns through the night, and if anything happened to wake all the rest immediately. With the object of keeping awake, they sat down to cards, setting beside the invalid his friend, the drunken cadger, who had spent the whole day in the flat and had asked leave to stay the night. As the game was played on credit and was not at all interesting they soon got bored. They gave up the game, then got into an argument about something, then began to be loud and noisy, finally dispersed to their various corners, went on for a long time angrily shouting and wrangling, and as all of them felt suddenly ill-humoured they no longer cared to sit up, so went to sleep. Soon it was as still in the flat as in an empty cellar, and it was the more like one because it was horribly cold. The last to fall asleep was Okeanov. “And it was between sleeping and waking,” as he said afterwards, “I fancied just before morning two men kept talking close by me.” Okeanov said that he recognized Zimoveykin, and that Zimoveykin began waking his old friend Remnev just beside him, that they talked for a long time in a whisper; then Zimoveykin went away and could be heard trying to unlock the door into the kitchen. The key, the landlady declared afterwards, was lying under her pillow and was lost that night. Finally — Okeanov testified — he had fancied he had heard them go behind the screen to the invalid and light a candle there, “and I know nothing more,” he said, “I fell asleep, and woke up,” as everybody else did, when every one in the flat jumped out of bed at the sound behind the screen of a shriek that would have roused the dead, and it seemed to many of them that a candle went out at that moment. A great hubbub arose, every one’s heart stood still; they rushed pell-mell at the shriek, but at that moment there was a scuffle, with shouting, swearing, and fighting. They struck a light and saw that Zimoveykin and Remnev were fighting together, that they were swearing and abusing one another, and as they turned the light on them, one of them shouted: “It’s not me, it’s this ruffian,” and the other who was Zimoveykin, was shouting: “Don’t touch me, I’ve done nothing! I’ll take my oath any minute!” Both of them looked hardly like human beings; but for the first minute they had no attention to spare for them; the invalid was not where he had been behind the screen. They immediately parted the combatants and dragged them away, and saw that Mr. Prohartchin was lying under the bed; he must, while completely unconscious, have dragged the quilt and pillow after him so that there was nothing left on the bedstead but the bare mattress, old and greasy (he never had sheets). They pulled Semyon Ivanovitch out, stretched him on the mattress, but soon realized that there was no need to make trouble over him, that he was completely done for; his arms were stiff, and he seemed all to pieces. They stood over him, he still faintly shuddered and trembled all over, made an effort to do something with his arms, could not utter a word, but blinked his eyes as they say heads do when still warm and bleeding, after being just chopped off by the executioner.

At last the body grew more and more still; the last faint convulsions died away. Mr. Prohartchin had set off with his good deeds and his sins. Whether Semyon Ivanovitch had been frightened by something, whether he had had a dream, as Remnev maintained afterwards, or there had been some other mischief — nobody knew; all that can be said is, that if the head clerk had made his appearance at that moment in the flat and had announced that Semyon Ivanovitch was dismissed for sedition, insubordination, and drunkenness; if some old draggle-tailed beggar woman had come in at the door, calling herself Semyon Ivanovitch’s sister-in-law; or if Semyon Ivanovitch had just received two hundred roubles as a reward; or if the house had caught fire and Semyon Ivanovitch’s head had been really burning — he would in all probability not have deigned to stir a finger in any of these eventualities. While the first stupefaction was passing over, while all present were regaining their powers of speech, were working themselves up into a fever of excitement, shouting and flying to conjectures and suppositions; while Ustinya Fyodorovna was pulling the box from under his bed, was rummaging in a fluster under the mattress and even in Semyon Ivanovitch’s boots; while they cross-questioned Remnev and Zimoveykin, Okeanov, who had hitherto been the quietest, humblest, and least original of the lodgers, suddenly plucked up all his presence of mind and displayed all his latent talents, by taking up his hat and under cover of the general uproar slipping out of the flat. And just when the horrors of disorder and anarchy had reached their height in the agitated flat, till then so tranquil, the door opened and suddenly there descended upon them, like snow upon their heads, a personage of gentlemanly appearance, with a severe and displeased-looking face, behind him Yaroslav Ilyitch, behind Yaroslav Ilyitch his subordinates and the functionaries whose duty it is to be present on such occasions, and behind them all, much embarrassed, Mr. Okeanov. The severe-looking personage of gentlemanly appearance went straight up to Semyon Ivanovitch, examined him, made a wry face, shrugged his shoulders and announced what everybody knew, that is, that the dead man was dead, only adding that the same thing had happened a day or two ago to a gentleman of consequence, highly respected, who had died suddenly in his sleep. Then the personage of gentlemanly, but displeased-looking, appearance walked away saying that they had troubled him for nothing, and took himself off. His place was at once filled (while Remnev and Zimoveykin were handed over to the custody of the proper functionaries), by Yaroslav Ilyitch, who questioned some one, adroitly took possession of the box, which the landlady was already trying to open, put the boots back in their proper place, observing that they were all in holes and no use, asked for the pillow to be put back, called up Okeanov, asked for the key of the box which was found in the pocket of the drunken cadger, and solemnly, in the presence of the proper officials, unlocked Semyon Ivanovitch’s property. Everything was displayed: two rags, a pair of socks, half a handkerchief, an old hat, several buttons, some old soles, and the uppers of a pair of boots, that is, all sorts of odds and ends, scraps, rubbish, trash, which had a stale smell. The only thing of any value was the German lock. They called up Okeanov and cross-questioned him sternly; but Okeanov was ready to take his oath. They asked for the pillow, they examined it; it was extremely dirty, but in other respects it was like all other pillows. They attacked the mattress, they were about to lift it up, but stopped for a moment’s consideration, when suddenly and quite unexpectedly something heavy fell with a clink on the floor. They bent down and saw on the floor a screw of paper and in the screw some dozen roubles. “A-hey!” said Yaroslav Ilyitch, pointing to a slit in the mattress from which hair and stuffing were sticking out. They examined the slit and found that it had only just been made with a knife and was half a yard in length; they thrust hands into the gap and pulled out a kitchen knife, probably hurriedly thrust in there after slitting the mattress. Before Yaroslav Ilyitch had time to pull the knife out of the slit and to say “A-hey!” again, another screw of money fell out, and after it, one at a time, two half roubles, a quarter rouble, then some small change, and an old-fashioned, solid five-kopeck piece — all this was seized upon. At this point it was realized that it would not be amiss to cut up the whole mattress with scissors. They asked for scissors.

Meanwhile, the guttering candle lighted up a scene that would have been extremely curious to a spectator. About a dozen lodgers were grouped round the bed in the most picturesque costumes, all unbrushed, unshaven, unwashed, sleepy-looking, just as they had gone to bed. Some were quite pale, while others had drops of sweat upon their brows: some were shuddering, while others looked feverish. The landlady, utterly stupefied, was standing quietly with her hands folded waiting for Yaroslav Ilyitch’s good pleasure. From the stove above, the heads of Avdotya, the servant, and the landlady’s favourite cat looked down with frightened curiosity. The torn and broken screen lay cast on the floor, the open box displayed its uninviting contents, the quilt and pillow lay tossed at random, covered with fluff from the mattress, and on the three-legged wooden table gleamed the steadily growing heap of silver and other coins. Only Semyon Ivanovitch preserved his composure, lying calmly on the bed and seeming to have no foreboding of his ruin. When the scissors had been brought and Yaroslav Ilyitch’s assistant, wishing to be of service, shook the mattress rather impatiently to ease it from under the back of its owner, Semyon Ivanovitch with his habitual civility made room a little, rolling on his side with his back to the searchers; then at a second shake he turned on his face, finally gave way still further, and as the last slat in the bedstead was missing, he suddenly and quite unexpectedly plunged head downward, leaving in view only two bony, thin, blue legs, which stuck upwards like two branches of a charred tree. As this was the second time that morning that Mr. Prohartchin had poked his head under his bed it at once aroused suspicion, and some of the lodgers, headed by Zinovy Prokofyevitch, crept under it, with the intention of seeing whether there were something hidden there too. But they knocked their heads together for nothing, and as Yaroslav Ilyitch shouted to them, bidding them release Semyon Ivanovitch at once from his unpleasant position, two of the more sensible seized each a leg, dragged the unsuspected capitalist into the light of day and laid him across the bed. Meanwhile the hair and flock were flying about, the heap of silver grew — and, my goodness, what a lot there was!... Noble silver roubles, stout solid rouble and a half pieces, pretty half rouble coins, plebeian quarter roubles, twenty kopeck pieces, even the unpromising old crone’s small fry of ten and five kopeck silver pieces — all done up in separate bits of paper in the most methodical and systematic way; there were curiosities also, two counters of some sort, one napoléon d’or, one very rare coin of some unknown kind.... Some of the roubles were of the greatest antiquity, they were rubbed and hacked coins of Elizabeth, German kreutzers, coins of Peter, of Catherine; there were, for instance, old fifteen-kopeck pieces, now very rare, pierced for wearing as earrings, all much worn, yet with the requisite number of dots ... there was even copper, but all of that was green and tarnished.... They found one red note, but no more. At last, when the dissection was quite over and the mattress case had been shaken more than once without a clink, they piled all the money on the table and set to work to count it. At the first glance one might well have been deceived and have estimated it at a million, it was such an immense heap. But it was not a million, though it did turn out to be a very considerable sum — exactly 2497 roubles and a half — so that if Zinovy Prokofyevitch’s subscription had been raised the day before there would perhaps have been just 2500 roubles. They took the money, they put a seal on the dead man’s box, they listened to the landlady’s complaints, and informed her when and where she ought to lodge information in regard to the dead man’s little debt to her. A receipt was taken from the proper person. At that point hints were dropped in regard to the sister-in-law; but being persuaded that in a certain sense the sister-in-law was a myth, that is, a product of the defective imagination with which they had more than once reproached Semyon Ivanovitch — they abandoned the idea as useless, mischievous and disadvantageous to the good name of Mr. Prohartchin, and so the matter ended.

When the first shock was over, when the lodgers had recovered themselves and realized the sort of person their late companion had been, they all subsided, relapsed into silence and began looking distrustfully at one another. Some seemed to take Semyon Ivanovitch’s behaviour very much to heart, and even to feel affronted by it. What a fortune! So the man had saved up like this! Not losing his composure, Mark Ivanovitch proceeded to explain why Semyon Ivanovitch had been so suddenly panic-stricken; but they did not listen to him. Zinovy Prokofyevitch was very thoughtful, Okeanov had had a little to drink, the others seemed rather crestfallen, while a little man called Kantarev, with a nose like a sparrow’s beak, left the flat that evening after very carefully packing up and cording all his boxes and bags, and coldly explaining to the curious that times were hard and that the terms here were beyond his means. The landlady wailed without ceasing, lamenting for Semyon Ivanovitch, and cursing him for having taken advantage of her lone, lorn state. Mark Ivanovitch was asked why the dead man had not taken his money to the bank. “He was too simple, my good soul, he hadn’t enough imagination,” answered Mark Ivanovitch.

“Yes, and you have been too simple, too, my good woman,” Okeanov put in. “For twenty years the man kept himself close here in your flat, and here he’s been knocked down by a feather — while you went on cooking cabbage-soup and had no time to notice it.... Ah-ah, my good woman!”

“Oh, the poor dear,” the landlady went on, “what need of a bank! If he’d brought me his pile and said to me: ‘Take it, Ustinyushka, poor dear, here is all I have, keep and board me in my helplessness, so long as I am on earth,’ then, by the holy ikon I would have fed him, I would have given him drink, I would have looked after him. Ah, the sinner! ah, the deceiver! He deceived me, he cheated me, a poor lone woman!”

They went up to the bed again. Semyon Ivanovitch was lying properly now, dressed in his best, though, indeed, it was his only suit, hiding his rigid chin behind a cravat which was tied rather awkwardly, washed, brushed, but not quite shaven, because there was no razor in the flat; the only one, which had belonged to Zinovy Prokofyevitch, had lost its edge a year ago and had been very profitably sold at Tolkutchy Market; the others used to go to the barber’s.

They had not yet had time to clear up the disorder. The broken screen lay as before, and exposing Semyon Ivanovitch’s seclusion, seemed like an emblem of the fact that death tears away the veil from all our secrets, our shifty dodges and intrigues. The stuffing from the mattress lay about in heaps. The whole room, suddenly so still, might well have been compared by a poet to the ruined nest of a swallow, broken down and torn to pieces by the storm, the nestlings and their mother killed, and their warm little bed of fluff, feather and flock scattered about them.... Semyon Ivanovitch, however, looked more like a conceited, thievish old cock-sparrow. He kept quite quiet now, seemed to be lying low, as though he were not guilty, as though he had had nothing to do with the shameless, conscienceless, and unseemly duping and deception of all these good people. He did not heed now the sobs and wailing of his bereaved and wounded landlady. On the contrary, like a wary, callous capitalist, anxious not to waste a minute in idleness even in the coffin, he seemed to be wrapped up in some speculative calculation. There was a look of deep reflection in his face, while his lips were drawn together with a significant air, of which Semyon Ivanovitch during his lifetime had not been suspected of being capable. He seemed, as it were, to have grown shrewder, his right eye was, as it were, slyly screwed up. Semyon Ivanovitch seemed wanting to say something, to make some very important communication and explanation and without loss of time, because things were complicated and there was not a minute to lose.... And it seemed as though they could hear him.

“What is it? Give over, do you hear, you stupid woman? Don’t whine! Go to bed and sleep it off, my good woman, do you hear? I am dead; there’s no need of a fuss now. What’s the use of it, really? It’s nice to lie here.... Though I don’t mean that, do you hear? You are a fine lady, you are a regular fine lady. Understand that; here I am dead now, but look here, what if — that is, perhaps it can’t be so — but I say what if I’m not dead, what if I get up, do you hear? What would happen then?”

The Christmas Tree and the Wedding

The other day I saw a wedding... But no! I would rather tell you about a Christmas tree. The wedding was superb. I liked it immensely. But the other incident was still finer. I don’t know why it is that the sight of the wedding reminded me of the Christmas tree. This is the way it happened:

Exactly five years ago, on New Year’s Eve, I was invited to a children’s ball by a man high up in the business world, who had his connections, his circle of acquaintances, and his intrigues. So it seemed as though the children’s ball was merely a pretext for the parents to come together and discuss matters of interest to themselves, quite innocently and casually.

I was an outsider, and, as I had no special matters to air, I was able to spend the evening independently of the others. There was another gentleman present who like myself had just stumbled upon this affair of domestic bliss. He was the first to attract my attention. His appearance was not that of a man of birth or high family. He was tall, rather thin, very serious, and well dressed. Apparently he had no heart for the family festivities. The instant he went off into a corner by himself the smile disappeared from his face, and his thick dark brows knitted into a frown. He knew no one except the host and showed every sign of being bored to death, though bravely sustaining the role of thorough enjoyment to the end. Later I learned that he was a provincial, had come to the capital on some important, brain-racking business, had brought a letter of recommendation to our host, and our host had taken him under his protection, not at all con amore. It was merely out of politeness that he had invited him to the children’s ball.

They did not play cards with him, they did not offer him cigars. No one entered into conversation with him. Possibly they recognised the bird by its feathers from a distance. Thus, my gentleman, not knowing what to do with his hands, was compelled to spend the evening stroking his whiskers. His whiskers were really fine, but he stroked them so assiduously that one got the feeling that the whiskers had come into the world first and afterwards the man in order to stroke them.

There was another guest who interested me. But he was of quite a different order. He was a personage. They called him Julian Mastakovich. At first glance one could tell he was an honoured guest and stood in the same relation to the host as the host to the gentleman of the whiskers. The host and hostess said no end of amiable things to him, were most attentive, wining him, hovering over him, bringing guests up to be introduced, but never leading him to any one else. I noticed tears glisten in our host’s eyes when Julian Mastakovich remarked that he had rarely spent such a pleasant evening. Somehow I began to feel uncomfortable in this personage’s presence. So, after amusing myself with the children, five of whom, remarkably well-fed young persons, were our host’s, I went into a little sitting-room, entirely unoccupied, and seated myself at the end that was a conservatory and took up almost half the room.

The children were charming. They absolutely refused to resemble their elders, notwithstanding the efforts of mothers and governesses. In a jiffy they had denuded the Christmas tree down to the very last sweet and had already succeeded in breaking half of their playthings before they even found out which belonged to whom.

One of them was a particularly handsome little lad, dark-eyed, curly-haired, who stubbornly persisted in aiming at me with his wooden gun. But the child that attracted the greatest attention was his sister, a girl of about eleven, lovely as a Cupid. She was quiet and thoughtful, with large, full, dreamy eyes. The children had somehow offended her, and she left them and walked into the same room that I had withdrawn into. There she seated herself with her doll in a corner.

“Her father is an immensely wealthy business man,” the guests informed each other in tones of awe. “Three hundred thousand rubles set aside for her dowry already.”

As I turned to look at the group from which I heard this news item issuing, my glance met Julian Mastakovich’s. He stood listening to the insipid chatter in an attitude of concentrated attention, with his hands behind his back and his head inclined to one side.

All the while I was quite lost in admiration of the shrewdness our host displayed in the dispensing of the gifts. The little maid of the many-rubied dowry received the handsomest doll, and the rest of the gifts were graded in value according to the diminishing scale of the parents’ stations in life. The last child, a tiny chap of ten, thin, red-haired, freckled, came into possession of a small book of nature stories without illustrations or even head and tail pieces. He was the governess’s child. She was a poor widow, and her little boy, clad in a sorry-looking little nankeen jacket, looked thoroughly crushed and intimidated. He took the book of nature stories and circled slowly about the children’s toys. He would have given anything to play with them. But he did not dare to. You could tell he already knew his place.

I like to observe children. It is fascinating to watch the individuality in them struggling for self-assertion. I could see that the other children’s things had tremendous charm for the red-haired boy, especially a toy theatre, in which he was so anxious to take a part that he resolved to fawn upon the other children. He smiled and began to play with them. His one and only apple he handed over to a puffy urchin whose pockets were already crammed with sweets, and he even carried another youngster pickaback — all simply that he might be allowed to stay with the theatre.

But in a few moments an impudent young person fell on him and gave him a pummelling. He did not dare even to cry. The governess came and told him to leave off interfering with the other children’s games, and he crept away to the same room the little girl and I were in. She let him sit down beside her, and the two set themselves busily dressing the expensive doll.

Almost half an hour passed, and I was nearly dozing off, as I sat there in the conservatory half listening to the chatter of the red-haired boy and the dowered beauty, when Julian Mastakovich entered suddenly. He had slipped out of the drawing-room under cover of a noisy scene among the children. From my secluded corner it had not escaped my notice that a few moments before he had been eagerly conversing with the rich girl’s father, to whom he had only just been introduced.

He stood still for a while reflecting and mumbling to himself, as if counting something on his fingers.

“Three hundred — three hundred — eleven — twelve — thirteen — sixteen — in five years! Let’s say four per cent — five times twelve — sixty, and on these sixty — . Let us assume that in five years it will amount to — well, four hundred. Hm — hm! But the shrewd old fox isn’t likely to be satisfied with four per cent. He gets eight or even ten, perhaps. Let’s suppose five hundred, five hundred thousand, at least, that’s sure. Anything above that for pocket money — hm—”

He blew his nose and was about to leave the room when he spied the girl and stood still. I, behind the plants, escaped his notice. He seemed to me to be quivering with excitement. It must have been his calculations that upset him so. He rubbed his hands and danced from place to place, and kept getting more and more excited. Finally, however, he conquered his emotions and came to a standstill. He cast a determined look at the future bride and wanted to move toward her, but glanced about first. Then, as if with a guilty conscience, he stepped over to the child on tip-toe, smiling, and bent down and kissed her head.

His coming was so unexpected that she uttered a shriek of alarm.

“What are you doing here, dear child?” he whispered, looking around and pinching her cheek.

“We’re playing.”

“What, with him?” said Julian Mastakovich with a look askance at the governess’s child. “You should go into the drawing-room, my lad,” he said to him.

The boy remained silent and looked up at the man with wide-open eyes. Julian Mastakovich glanced round again cautiously and bent down over the girl.

“What have you got, a doll, my dear?”

“Yes, sir.” The child quailed a little, and her brow wrinkled.

“A doll? And do you know, my dear, what dolls are made of?”

“No, sir,” she said weakly, and lowered her head.

“Out of rags, my dear. You, boy, you go back to the drawing-room, to the children,” said Julian Mastakovich looking at the boy sternly.

The two children frowned. They caught hold of each other and would not part.

“And do you know why they gave you the doll?” asked Julian Mastakovich, dropping his voice lower and lower.


“Because you were a good, very good little girl the whole week.”

Saying which, Julian Mastakovich was seized with a paroxysm of agitation. He looked round and said in a tone faint, almost inaudible with excitement and impatience:

“If I come to visit your parents will you love me, my dear?”

He tried to kiss the sweet little creature, but the red-haired boy saw that she was on the verge of tears, and he caught her hand and sobbed out loud in sympathy. That enraged the man.

“Go away! Go away! Go back to the other room, to your playmates.”

“I don’t want him to. I don’t want him to! You go away!” cried the girl. “Let him alone! Let him alone!” She was almost weeping.

There was a sound of footsteps in the doorway. Julian Mastakovich started and straightened up his respectable body. The red-haired boy was even more alarmed. He let go the girl’s hand, sidled along the wall, and escaped through the drawing-room into the dining-room.

Not to attract attention, Julian Mastakovich also made for the dining-room. He was red as a lobster. The sight of himself in a mirror seemed to embarrass him. Presumably he was annoyed at his own ardour and impatience. Without due respect to his importance and dignity, his calculations had lured and pricked him to the greedy eagerness of a boy, who makes straight for his object — though this was not as yet an object; it only would be so in five years’ time. I followed the worthy man into the dining-room, where I witnessed a remarkable play.

Julian Mastakovich, all flushed with vexation, venom in his look, began to threaten the red-haired boy. The red-haired boy retreated farther and farther until there was no place left for him to retreat to, and he did not know where to turn in his fright.

“Get out of here! What are you doing here? Get out, I say, you good-for-nothing! Stealing fruit, are you? Oh, so, stealing fruit! Get out, you freckle face, go to your likes!”

The frightened child, as a last desperate resort, crawled quickly under the table. His persecutor, completely infuriated, pulled out his large linen handkerchief and used it as a lash to drive the boy out of his position.

Here I must remark that Julian Mastakovich was a somewhat corpulent man, heavy, well-fed, puffy-cheeked, with a paunch and ankles as round as nuts. He perspired and puffed and panted. So strong was his dislike (or was it jealousy?) of the child that he actually began to carry on like a madman.

I laughed heartily. Julian Mastakovich turned. He was utterly confused and for a moment, apparently, quite oblivious of his immense importance. At that moment our host appeared in the doorway opposite. The boy crawled out from under the table and wiped his knees and elbows. Julian Mastakovich hastened to carry his handkerchief, which he had been dangling by the corner, to his nose. Our host looked at the three of us rather suspiciously. But, like a man who knows the world and can readily adjust himself, he seized upon the opportunity to lay hold of his very valuable guest and get what he wanted out of him.

“Here’s the boy I was talking to you about,” he said, indicating the red-haired child. “I took the liberty of presuming on your goodness in his behalf.”

“Oh,” replied Julian Mastakovich, still not quite master of himself.

“He’s my governess’s son,” our host continued in a beseeching tone. “She’s a poor creature, the widow of an honest official. That’s why, if it were possible for you.”

“Impossible, impossible!” Julian Mastakovich cried hastily. “You must excuse me, Philip Alexeyevich, I really cannot. I’ve made inquiries. There are no vacancies, and there is a waiting list of ten who have a greater right — I’m sorry.”

“Too bad,” said our host. “He’s a quiet, unobtrusive child.”

“A very naughty little rascal, I should say,” said Julian Mastakovich, wryly. “Go away, boy. Why are you here still? Be off with you to the other children.”

Unable to control himself, he gave me a sidelong glance. Nor could I control myself. I laughed straight in his face. He turned away and asked our host, in tones quite audible to me, who that odd young fellow was. They whispered to each other and left the room, disregarding me.

I shook with laughter. Then I, too, went to the drawing-room. There the great man, already surrounded by the fathers and mothers and the host and the hostess, had begun to talk eagerly with a lady to whom he had just been introduced. The lady held the rich little girl’s hand. Julian Mastakovich went into fulsome praise of her. He waxed ecstatic over the dear child’s beauty, her talents, her grace, her excellent breeding, plainly laying himself out to flatter the mother, who listened scarcely able to restrain tears of joy, while the father showed his delight by a gratified smile.

The joy was contagious. Everybody shared in it. Even the children were obliged to stop playing so as not to disturb the conversation. The atmosphere was surcharged with awe. I heard the mother of the important little girl, touched to her profoundest depths, ask Julian Mastakovich in the choicest language of courtesy, whether he would honour them by coming to see them. I heard Julian Mastakovich accept the invitation with unfeigned enthusiasm. Then the guests scattered decorously to different parts of the room, and I heard them, with veneration in their tones, extol the business man, the business man’s wife, the business man’s daughter, and, especially, Julian Mastakovich.

“Is he married?” I asked out loud of an acquaintance of mine standing beside Julian Mastakovich.

Julian Mastakovich gave me a venomous look.

“No,” answered my acquaintance, profoundly shocked by my — intentional — indiscretion.

* * * * *

Not long ago I passed the Church of — . I was struck by the concourse of people gathered there to witness a wedding. It was a dreary day. A drizzling rain was beginning to come down. I made my way through the throng into the church. The bridegroom was a round, well-fed, pot-bellied little man, very much dressed up. He ran and fussed about and gave orders and arranged things. Finally word was passed that the bride was coming. I pushed through the crowd, and I beheld a marvellous beauty whose first spring was scarcely commencing. But the beauty was pale and sad. She looked distracted. It seemed to me even that her eyes were red from recent weeping. The classic severity of every line of her face imparted a peculiar significance and solemnity to her beauty. But through that severity and solemnity, through the sadness, shone the innocence of a child. There was something inexpressibly naïve, unsettled and young in her features, which, without words, seemed to plead for mercy.

They said she was just sixteen years old. I looked at the bridegroom carefully. Suddenly I recognised Julian Mastakovich, whom I had not seen again in all those five years. Then I looked at the bride again. — Good God! I made my way, as quickly as I could, out of the church. I heard gossiping in the crowd about the bride’s wealth — about her dowry of five hundred thousand rubles — so and so much for pocket money.

“Then his calculations were correct,” I thought, as I pressed out into the street.


The Heavenly Christmas Tree

I am a novelist, and I suppose I have made up this story. I write “I suppose,” though I know for a fact that I have made it up, but yet I keep fancying that it must have happened somewhere at some time, that it must have happened on Christmas Eve in some great town in a time of terrible frost.

I have a vision of a boy, a little boy, six years old or even younger. This boy woke up that morning in a cold damp cellar. He was dressed in a sort of little dressing-gown and was shivering with cold. There was a cloud of white steam from his breath, and sitting on a box in the corner, he blew the steam out of his mouth and amused himself in his dullness watching it float away. But he was terribly hungry. Several times that morning he went up to the plank bed where his sick mother was lying on a mattress as thin as a pancake, with some sort of bundle under her head for a pillow. How had she come here? She must have come with her boy from some other town and suddenly fallen ill. The landlady who let the “corners” had been taken two days before to the police station, the lodgers were out and about as the holiday was so near, and the only one left had been lying for the last twenty-four hours dead drunk, not having waited for Christmas. In another corner of the room a wretched old woman of eighty, who had once been a children’s nurse but was now left to die friendless, was moaning and groaning with rheumatism, scolding and grumbling at the boy so that he was afraid to go near her corner. He had got a drink of water in the outer room, but could not find a crust anywhere, and had been on the point of waking his mother a dozen times. He felt frightened at last in the darkness: it had long been dusk, but no light was kindled. Touching his mother’s face, he was surprised that she did not move at all, and that she was as cold as the wall. “It is very cold here,” he thought. He stood a little, unconsciously letting his hands rest on the dead woman’s shoulders, then he breathed on his fingers to warm them, and then quietly fumbling for his cap on the bed, he went out of the cellar. He would have gone earlier, but was afraid of the big dog which had been howling all day at the neighbour’s door at the top of the stairs. But the dog was not there now, and he went out into the street.

Mercy on us, what a town! He had never seen anything like it before. In the town from which he had come, it was always such black darkness at night. There was one lamp for the whole street, the little, low-pitched, wooden houses were closed up with shutters, there was no one to be seen in the street after dusk, all the people shut themselves up in their houses, and there was nothing but the howling of packs of dogs, hundreds and thousands of them barking and howling all night. But there it was so warm and he was given food, while here — oh, dear, if he only had something to eat! And what a noise and rattle here, what light and what people, horses and carriages, and what a frost! The frozen steam hung in clouds over the horses, over their warmly breathing mouths; their hoofs clanged against the stones through the powdery snow, and every one pushed so, and — oh, dear, how he longed for some morsel to eat, and how wretched he suddenly felt. A policeman walked by and turned away to avoid seeing the boy.

Here was another street — oh, what a wide one, here he would be run over for certain; how everyone was shouting, racing and driving along, and the light, the light! And what was this? A huge glass window, and through the window a tree reaching up to the ceiling; it was a fir tree, and on it were ever so many lights, gold papers and apples and little dolls and horses; and there were children clean and dressed in their best running about the room, laughing and playing and eating and drinking something. And then a little girl began dancing with one of the boys, what a pretty little girl! And he could hear the music through the window. The boy looked and wondered and laughed, though his toes were aching with the cold and his fingers were red and stiff so that it hurt him to move them. And all at once the boy remembered how his toes and fingers hurt him, and began crying, and ran on; and again through another window-pane he saw another Christmas tree, and on a table cakes of all sorts — almond cakes, red cakes and yellow cakes, and three grand young ladies were sitting there, and they gave the cakes to any one who went up to them, and the door kept opening, lots of gentlemen and ladies went in from the street. The boy crept up, suddenly opened the door and went in. Oh, how they shouted at him and waved him back! One lady went up to him hurriedly and slipped a kopeck into his hand, and with her own hands opened the door into the street for him! How frightened he was. And the kopeck rolled away and clinked upon the steps; he could not bend his red fingers to hold it tight. The boy ran away and went on, where he did not know. He was ready to cry again but he was afraid, and ran on and on and blew his fingers. And he was miserable because he felt suddenly so lonely and terrified, and all at once, mercy on us! What was this again? People were standing in a crowd admiring. Behind a glass window there were three little dolls, dressed in red and green dresses, and exactly, exactly as though they were alive. One was a little old man sitting and playing a big violin, the two others were standing close by and playing little violins and nodding in time, and looking at one another, and their lips moved, they were speaking, actually speaking, only one couldn’t hear through the glass. And at first the boy thought they were alive, and when he grasped that they were dolls he laughed. He had never seen such dolls before, and had no idea there were such dolls! And he wanted to cry, but he felt amused, amused by the dolls. All at once he fancied that some one caught at his smock behind: a wicked big boy was standing beside him and suddenly hit him on the head, snatched off his cap and tripped him up. The boy fell down on the ground, at once there was a shout, he was numb with fright, he jumped up and ran away. He ran, and not knowing where he was going, ran in at the gate of some one’s courtyard, and sat down behind a stack of wood: “They won’t find me here, besides it’s dark!”

He sat huddled up and was breathless from fright, and all at once, quite suddenly, he felt so happy: his hands and feet suddenly left off aching and grew so warm, as warm as though he were on a stove; then he shivered all over, then he gave a start, why, he must have been asleep. How nice to have a sleep here! “I’ll sit here a little and go and look at the dolls again,” said the boy, and smiled thinking of them. “Just as though they were alive!...” And suddenly he heard his mother singing over him. “Mammy, I am asleep; how nice it is to sleep here!”

“Come to my Christmas tree, little one,” a soft voice suddenly whispered over his head.

He thought that this was still his mother, but no, it was not she. Who it was calling him, he could not see, but some one bent over and embraced him in the darkness; and he stretched out his hands to him, and ... and all at once — oh, what a bright light! Oh, what a Christmas tree! And yet it was not a fir tree, he had never seen a tree like that! Where was he now? Everything was bright and shining, and all round him were dolls; but no, they were not dolls, they were little boys and girls, only so bright and shining. They all came flying round him, they all kissed him, took him and carried him along with them, and he was flying himself, and he saw that his mother was looking at him and laughing joyfully. “Mammy, Mammy; oh, how nice it is here, Mammy!” And again he kissed the children and wanted to tell them at once of those dolls in the shop window. “Who are you, boys? Who are you, girls?” he asked, laughing and admiring them.

“This is Christ’s Christmas tree,” they answered. “Christ always has a Christmas tree on this day, for the little children who have no tree of their own....” And he found out that all these little boys and girls were children just like himself; that some had been frozen in the baskets in which they had as babies been laid on the doorsteps of well-to-do Petersburg people, others had been boarded out with Finnish women by the Foundling and had been suffocated, others had died at their starved mother’s breasts (in the Samara famine), others had died in the third-class railway carriages from the foul air; and yet they were all here, they were all like angels about Christ, and He was in the midst of them and held out His hands to them and blessed them and their sinful mothers.... And the mothers of these children stood on one side weeping; each one knew her boy or girl, and the children flew up to them and kissed them and wiped away their tears with their little hands, and begged them not to weep because they were so happy.

And down below in the morning the porter found the little dead body of the frozen child on the woodstack; they sought out his mother too.... She had died before him. They met before the Lord God in heaven.

Why have I made up such a story, so out of keeping with an ordinary diary, and a writer’s above all? And I promised two stories dealing with real events! But that is just it, I keep fancying that all this may have happened really — that is, what took place in the cellar and on the woodstack; but as for Christ’s Christmas tree, I cannot tell you whether that could have happened or not.

The Crocodile; an Extraordinary Incident

A true story of how a gentleman of a certain age and of respectable appearance was swallowed alive by the crocodile in the Arcade, and of the consequences that followed.

Ohé Lambert! Où est Lambert? As tu vu Lambert?


On the thirteenth of January of this present year, 1865, at half-past twelve in the day, Elena Ivanovna, the wife of my cultured friend Ivan Matveitch, who is a colleague in the same department, and may be said to be a distant relation of mine, too, expressed the desire to see the crocodile now on view at a fixed charge in the Arcade. As Ivan Matveitch had already in his pocket his ticket for a tour abroad (not so much for the sake of his health as for the improvement of his mind), and was consequently free from his official duties and had nothing whatever to do that morning, he offered no objection to his wife’s irresistible fancy, but was positively aflame with curiosity himself.

“A capital idea!” he said, with the utmost satisfaction. “We’ll have a look at the crocodile! On the eve of visiting Europe it is as well to acquaint ourselves on the spot with its indigenous inhabitants.” And with these words, taking his wife’s arm, he set off with her at once for the Arcade. I joined them, as I usually do, being an intimate friend of the family. I have never seen Ivan Matveitch in a more agreeable frame of mind than he was on that memorable morning — how true it is that we know not beforehand the fate that awaits us! On entering the Arcade he was at once full of admiration for the splendours of the building, and when we reached the shop in which the monster lately arrived in Petersburg was being exhibited, he volunteered to pay the quarter-rouble for me to the crocodile owner — a thing which had never happened before. Walking into a little room, we observed that besides the crocodile there were in it parrots of the species known as cockatoo, and also a group of monkeys in a special case in a recess. Near the entrance, along the left wall stood a big tin tank that looked like a bath covered with a thin iron grating, filled with water to the depth of two inches. In this shallow pool was kept a huge crocodile, which lay like a log absolutely motionless and apparently deprived of all its faculties by our damp climate, so inhospitable to foreign visitors. This monster at first aroused no special interest in any one of us.

“So this is the crocodile!” said Elena Ivanovna, with a pathetic cadence of regret. “Why, I thought it was ... something different.”

Most probably she thought it was made of diamonds. The owner of the crocodile, a German, came out and looked at us with an air of extraordinary pride.

“He has a right to be,” Ivan Matveitch whispered to me, “he knows he is the only man in Russia exhibiting a crocodile.”

This quite nonsensical observation I ascribe also to the extremely good-humoured mood which had overtaken Ivan Matveitch, who was on other occasions of rather envious disposition.

“I fancy your crocodile is not alive,” said Elena Ivanovna, piqued by the irresponsive stolidity of the proprietor, and addressing him with a charming smile in order to soften his churlishness — a manœuvre so typically feminine.

“Oh, no, madam,” the latter replied in broken Russian; and instantly moving the grating half off the tank, he poked the monster’s head with a stick.

Then the treacherous monster, to show that it was alive, faintly stirred its paws and tail, raised its snout and emitted something like a prolonged snuffle.

“Come, don’t be cross, Karlchen,” said the German caressingly, gratified in his vanity.

“How horrid that crocodile is! I am really frightened,” Elena Ivanovna twittered, still more coquettishly. “I know I shall dream of him now.”

“But he won’t bite you if you do dream of him,” the German retorted gallantly, and was the first to laugh at his own jest, but none of us responded.

“Come, Semyon Semyonitch,” said Elena Ivanovna, addressing me exclusively, “let us go and look at the monkeys. I am awfully fond of monkeys; they are such darlings ... and the crocodile is horrid.”

“Oh, don’t be afraid, my dear!” Ivan Matveitch called after us, gallantly displaying his manly courage to his wife. “This drowsy denison of the realms of the Pharaohs will do us no harm.” And he remained by the tank. What is more, he took his glove and began tickling the crocodile’s nose with it, wishing, as he said afterwards, to induce him to snort. The proprietor showed his politeness to a lady by following Elena Ivanovna to the case of monkeys.

So everything was going well, and nothing could have been foreseen. Elena Ivanovna was quite skittish in her raptures over the monkeys, and seemed completely taken up with them. With shrieks of delight she was continually turning to me, as though determined not to notice the proprietor, and kept gushing with laughter at the resemblance she detected between these monkeys and her intimate friends and acquaintances. I, too, was amused, for the resemblance was unmistakable. The German did not know whether to laugh or not, and so at last was reduced to frowning. And it was at that moment that a terrible, I may say unnatural, scream set the room vibrating. Not knowing what to think, for the first moment I stood still, numb with horror, but noticing that Elena Ivanovna was screaming too, I quickly turned round — and what did I behold! I saw — oh, heavens! — I saw the luckless Ivan Matveitch in the terrible jaws of the crocodile, held by them round the waist, lifted horizontally in the air and desperately kicking. Then — one moment, and no trace remained of him. But I must describe it in detail, for I stood all the while motionless, and had time to watch the whole process taking place before me with an attention and interest such as I never remember to have felt before. “What,” I thought at that critical moment, “what if all that had happened to me instead of to Ivan Matveitch — how unpleasant it would have been for me!”

But to return to my story. The crocodile began by turning the unhappy Ivan Matveitch in his terrible jaws so that he could swallow his legs first; then bringing up Ivan Matveitch, who kept trying to jump out and clutching at the sides of the tank, sucked him down again as far as his waist. Then bringing him up again, gulped him down, and so again and again. In this way Ivan Matveitch was visibly disappearing before our eyes. At last, with a final gulp, the crocodile swallowed my cultured friend entirely, this time leaving no trace of him. From the outside of the crocodile we could see the protuberances of Ivan Matveitch’s figure as he passed down the inside of the monster. I was on the point of screaming again when destiny played another treacherous trick upon us. The crocodile made a tremendous effort, probably oppressed by the magnitude of the object he had swallowed, once more opened his terrible jaws, and with a final hiccup he suddenly let the head of Ivan Matveitch pop out for a second, with an expression of despair on his face. In that brief instant the spectacles dropped off his nose to the bottom of the tank. It seemed as though that despairing countenance had only popped out to cast one last look on the objects around it, to take its last farewell of all earthly pleasures. But it had not time to carry out its intention; the crocodile made another effort, gave a gulp and instantly it vanished again — this time for ever. This appearance and disappearance of a still living human head was so horrible, but at the same — either from its rapidity and unexpectedness or from the dropping of the spectacles — there was something so comic about it that I suddenly quite unexpectedly exploded with laughter. But pulling myself together and realising that to laugh at such a moment was not the thing for an old family friend, I turned at once to Elena Ivanovna and said with a sympathetic air:

“Now it’s all over with our friend Ivan Matveitch!”

I cannot even attempt to describe how violent was the agitation of Elena Ivanovna during the whole process. After the first scream she seemed rooted to the spot, and stared at the catastrophe with apparent indifference, though her eyes looked as though they were starting out of her head; then she suddenly went off into a heart-rending wail, but I seized her hands. At this instant the proprietor, too, who had at first been also petrified by horror, suddenly clasped his hands and cried, gazing upwards:

“Oh my crocodile! Oh mein allerliebster Karlchen! Mutter, Mutter, Mutter!”

A door at the rear of the room opened at this cry, and the Mutter, a rosy-cheeked, elderly but dishevelled woman in a cap made her appearance, and rushed with a shriek to her German.

A perfect Bedlam followed. Elena Ivanovna kept shrieking out the same phrase, as though in a frenzy, “Flay him! flay him!” apparently entreating them — probably in a moment of oblivion — to flay somebody for something. The proprietor and Mutter took no notice whatever of either of us; they were both bellowing like calves over the crocodile.

“He did for himself! He will burst himself at once, for he did swallow a ganz official!” cried the proprietor.

“Unser Karlchen, unser allerliebster Karlchen wird sterben,” howled his wife.

“We are bereaved and without bread!” chimed in the proprietor.

“Flay him! flay him! flay him!” clamoured Elena Ivanovna, clutching at the German’s coat.

“He did tease the crocodile. For what did your man tease the crocodile?” cried the German, pulling away from her. “You will if Karlchen wird burst, therefore pay, das war mein Sohn, das war mein einziger Sohn.”

I must own I was intensely indignant at the sight of such egoism in the German and the cold-heartedness of his dishevelled Mutter; at the same time Elena Ivanovna’s reiterated shriek of “Flay him! flay him!” troubled me even more and absorbed at last my whole attention, positively alarming me. I may as well say straight off that I entirely misunderstood this strange exclamation: it seemed to me that Elena Ivanovna had for the moment taken leave of her senses, but nevertheless wishing to avenge the loss of her beloved Ivan Matveitch, was demanding by way of compensation that the crocodile should be severely thrashed, while she was meaning something quite different. Looking round at the door, not without embarrassment, I began to entreat Elena Ivanovna to calm herself, and above all not to use the shocking word “flay.” For such a reactionary desire here, in the midst of the Arcade and of the most cultured society, not two paces from the hall where at this very minute Mr. Lavrov was perhaps delivering a public lecture, was not only impossible but unthinkable, and might at any moment bring upon us the hisses of culture and the caricatures of Mr. Stepanov. To my horror I was immediately proved to be correct in my alarmed suspicions: the curtain that divided the crocodile room from the little entry where the quarter-roubles were taken suddenly parted, and in the opening there appeared a figure with moustaches and beard, carrying a cap, with the upper part of its body bent a long way forward, though the feet were scrupulously held beyond the threshold of the crocodile room in order to avoid the necessity of paying the entrance money.

“Such a reactionary desire, madam,” said the stranger, trying to avoid falling over in our direction and to remain standing outside the room, “does no credit to your development, and is conditioned by lack of phosphorus in your brain. You will be promptly held up to shame in the Chronicle of Progress and in our satirical prints....”

But he could not complete his remarks; the proprietor coming to himself, and seeing with horror that a man was talking in the crocodile room without having paid entrance money, rushed furiously at the progressive stranger and turned him out with a punch from each fist. For a moment both vanished from our sight behind a curtain, and only then I grasped that the whole uproar was about nothing. Elena Ivanovna turned out quite innocent; she had, as I have mentioned already, no idea whatever of subjecting the crocodile to a degrading corporal punishment, and had simply expressed the desire that he should be opened and her husband released from his interior.

“What! You wish that my crocodile be perished!” the proprietor yelled, running in again. “No! let your husband be perished first, before my crocodile!... Mein Vater showed crocodile, mein Grossvater showed crocodile, mein Sohn will show crocodile, and I will show crocodile! All will show crocodile! I am known to ganz Europa, and you are not known to ganz Europa, and you must pay me a strafe!”

“Ja, ja,” put in the vindictive German woman, “we shall not let you go. Strafe, since Karlchen is burst!”

“And, indeed, it’s useless to flay the creature,” I added calmly, anxious to get Elena Ivanovna away home as quickly as possible, “as our dear Ivan Matveitch is by now probably soaring somewhere in the empyrean.”

“My dear” — we suddenly heard, to our intense amazement, the voice of Ivan Matveitch— “my dear, my advice is to apply direct to the superintendent’s office, as without the assistance of the police the German will never be made to see reason.”

These words, uttered with firmness and aplomb, and expressing an exceptional presence of mind, for the first minute so astounded us that we could not believe our ears. But, of course, we ran at once to the crocodile’s tank, and with equal reverence and incredulity listened to the unhappy captive. His voice was muffled, thin and even squeaky, as though it came from a considerable distance. It reminded one of a jocose person who, covering his mouth with a pillow, shouts from an adjoining room, trying to mimic the sound of two peasants calling to one another in a deserted plain or across a wide ravine — a performance to which I once had the pleasure of listening in a friend’s house at Christmas.

“Ivan Matveitch, my dear, and so you are alive!” faltered Elena Ivanovna.

“Alive and well,” answered Ivan Matveitch, “and, thanks to the Almighty, swallowed without any damage whatever. I am only uneasy as to the view my superiors may take of the incident; for after getting a permit to go abroad I’ve got into a crocodile, which seems anything but clever.”

“But, my dear, don’t trouble your head about being clever; first of all we must somehow excavate you from where you are,” Elena Ivanovna interrupted.

“Excavate!” cried the proprietor. “I will not let my crocodile be excavated. Now the publicum will come many more, and I will fünfzig kopecks ask and Karlchen will cease to burst.”

“Gott sei dank!” put in his wife.

“They are right,” Ivan Matveitch observed tranquilly; “the principles of economics before everything.”

“My dear! I will fly at once to the authorities and lodge a complaint, for I feel that we cannot settle this mess by ourselves.”

“I think so too,” observed Ivan Matveitch; “but in our age of industrial crisis it is not easy to rip open the belly of a crocodile without economic compensation, and meanwhile the inevitable question presents itself: What will the German take for his crocodile? And with it another: How will it be paid? For, as you know, I have no means....”

“Perhaps out of your salary....” I observed timidly, but the proprietor interrupted me at once.

“I will not the crocodile sell; I will for three thousand the crocodile sell! I will for four thousand the crocodile sell! Now the publicum will come very many. I will for five thousand the crocodile sell!”

In fact he gave himself insufferable airs. Covetousness and a revolting greed gleamed joyfully in his eyes.

“I am going!” I cried indignantly.

“And I! I too! I shall go to Andrey Osipitch himself. I will soften him with my tears,” whined Elena Ivanovna.

“Don’t do that, my dear,” Ivan Matveitch hastened to interpose. He had long been jealous of Andrey Osipitch on his wife’s account, and he knew she would enjoy going to weep before a gentleman of refinement, for tears suited her. “And I don’t advise you to do so either, my friend,” he added, addressing me. “It’s no good plunging headlong in that slap-dash way; there’s no knowing what it may lead to. You had much better go to-day to Timofey Semyonitch, as though to pay an ordinary visit; he is an old-fashioned and by no means brilliant man, but he is trustworthy, and what matters most of all, he is straightforward. Give him my greetings and describe the circumstances of the case. And since I owe him seven roubles over our last game of cards, take the opportunity to pay him the money; that will soften the stern old man. In any case his advice may serve as a guide for us. And meanwhile take Elena Ivanovna home.... Calm yourself, my dear,” he continued, addressing her. “I am weary of these outcries and feminine squabblings, and should like a nap. It’s soft and warm in here, though I have hardly had time to look round in this unexpected haven.”

“Look round! Why, is it light in there?” cried Elena Ivanovna in a tone of relief.

“I am surrounded by impenetrable night,” answered the poor captive; “but I can feel and, so to speak, have a look round with my hands.... Good-bye; set your mind at rest and don’t deny yourself recreation and diversion. Till to-morrow! And you, Semyon Semyonitch, come to me in the evening, and as you are absent-minded and may forget it, tie a knot in your handkerchief.”

I confess I was glad to get away, for I was overtired and somewhat bored. Hastening to offer my arm to the disconsolate Elena Ivanovna, whose charms were only enhanced by her agitation, I hurriedly led her out of the crocodile room.

“The charge will be another quarter-rouble in the evening,” the proprietor called after us.

“Oh, dear, how greedy they are!” said Elena Ivanovna, looking at herself in every mirror on the walls of the Arcade, and evidently aware that she was looking prettier than usual.

“The principles of economics,” I answered with some emotion, proud that passers-by should see the lady on my arm.

“The principles of economics,” she drawled in a touching little voice. “I did not in the least understand what Ivan Matveitch said about those horrid economics just now.”

“I will explain to you,” I answered, and began at once telling her of the beneficial effects of the introduction of foreign capital into our country, upon which I had read an article in the Petersburg News and the Voice that morning.

“How strange it is,” she interrupted, after listening for some time. “But do leave off, you horrid man. What nonsense you are talking.... Tell me, do I look purple?”

“You look perfect, and not purple!” I observed, seizing the opportunity to pay her a compliment.

“Naughty man!” she said complacently. “Poor Ivan Matveitch,” she added a minute later, putting her little head on one side coquettishly. “I am really sorry for him. Oh, dear!” she cried suddenly, “how is he going to have his dinner ... and ... and ... what will he do ... if he wants anything?”

“An unforeseen question,” I answered, perplexed in my turn. To tell the truth, it had not entered my head, so much more practical are women than we men in the solution of the problems of daily life!

“Poor dear! how could he have got into such a mess ... nothing to amuse him, and in the dark.... How vexing it is that I have no photograph of him.... And so now I am a sort of widow,” she added, with a seductive smile, evidently interested in her new position. “Hm!... I am sorry for him, though.”

It was, in short, the expression of the very natural and intelligible grief of a young and interesting wife for the loss of her husband. I took her home at last, soothed her, and after dining with her and drinking a cup of aromatic coffee, set off at six o’clock to Timofey Semyonitch, calculating that at that hour all married people of settled habits would be sitting or lying down at home.

Having written this first chapter in a style appropriate to the incident recorded, I intend to proceed in a language more natural though less elevated, and I beg to forewarn the reader of the fact.


The venerable Timofey Semyonitch met me rather nervously, as though somewhat embarrassed. He led me to his tiny study and shut the door carefully, “that the children may not hinder us,” he added with evident uneasiness. There he made me sit down on a chair by the writing-table, sat down himself in an easy chair, wrapped round him the skirts of his old wadded dressing-gown, and assumed an official and even severe air, in readiness for anything, though he was not my chief nor Ivan Matveitch’s, and had hitherto been reckoned as a colleague and even a friend.

“First of all,” he said, “take note that I am not a person in authority, but just such a subordinate official as you and Ivan Matveitch.... I have nothing to do with it, and do not intend to mix myself up in the affair.”

I was surprised to find that he apparently knew all about it already. In spite of that I told him the whole story over in detail. I spoke with positive excitement, for I was at that moment fulfilling the obligations of a true friend. He listened without special surprise, but with evident signs of suspicion.

“Only fancy,” he said, “I always believed that this would be sure to happen to him.”

“Why, Timofey Semyonitch? It is a very unusual incident in itself....”

“I admit it. But Ivan Matveitch’s whole career in the service was leading up to this end. He was flighty — conceited indeed. It was always ‘progress’ and ideas of all sorts, and this is what progress brings people to!”

“But this is a most unusual incident and cannot possibly serve as a general rule for all progressives.”

“Yes, indeed it can. You see, it’s the effect of over-education, I assure you. For over-education leads people to poke their noses into all sorts of places, especially where they are not invited. Though perhaps you know best,” he added, as though offended. “I am an old man and not of much education. I began as a soldier’s son, and this year has been the jubilee of my service.”

“Oh, no, Timofey Semyonitch, not at all. On the contrary, Ivan Matveitch is eager for your advice; he is eager for your guidance. He implores it, so to say, with tears.”

“So to say, with tears! Hm! Those are crocodile’s tears and one cannot quite believe in them. Tell me, what possessed him to want to go abroad? And how could he afford to go? Why, he has no private means!”

“He had saved the money from his last bonus,” I answered plaintively. “He only wanted to go for three months — to Switzerland ... to the land of William Tell.”

“William Tell? Hm!”

“He wanted to meet the spring at Naples, to see the museums, the customs, the animals....”

“Hm! The animals! I think it was simply from pride. What animals? Animals, indeed! Haven’t we animals enough? We have museums, menageries, camels. There are bears quite close to Petersburg! And here he’s got inside a crocodile himself....”

“Oh, come, Timofey Semyonitch! The man is in trouble, the man appeals to you as to a friend, as to an older relation, craves for advice — and you reproach him. Have pity at least on the unfortunate Elena Ivanovna!”

“You are speaking of his wife? A charming little lady,” said Timofey Semyonitch, visibly softening and taking a pinch of snuff with relish. “Particularly prepossessing. And so plump, and always putting her pretty little head on one side.... Very agreeable. Andrey Osipitch was speaking of her only the other day.”

“Speaking of her?”

“Yes, and in very flattering terms. Such a bust, he said, such eyes, such hair.... A sugar-plum, he said, not a lady — and then he laughed. He is still a young man, of course.” Timofey Semyonitch blew his nose with a loud noise. “And yet, young though he is, what a career he is making for himself.”

“That’s quite a different thing, Timofey Semyonitch.”

“Of course, of course.”

“Well, what do you say then, Timofey Semyonitch?”

“Why, what can I do?”

“Give advice, guidance, as a man of experience, a relative! What are we to do? What steps are we to take? Go to the authorities and ...”

“To the authorities? Certainly not,” Timofey Semyonitch replied hurriedly. “If you ask my advice, you had better, above all, hush the matter up and act, so to speak, as a private person. It is a suspicious incident, quite unheard of. Unheard of, above all; there is no precedent for it, and it is far from creditable.... And so discretion above all.... Let him lie there a bit. We must wait and see....”

“But how can we wait and see, Timofey Semyonitch? What if he is stifled there?”

“Why should he be? I think you told me that he made himself fairly comfortable there?”

I told him the whole story over again. Timofey Semyonitch pondered.

“Hm!” he said, twisting his snuff-box in his hands. “To my mind it’s really a good thing he should lie there a bit, instead of going abroad. Let him reflect at his leisure. Of course he mustn’t be stifled, and so he must take measures to preserve his health, avoiding a cough, for instance, and so on.... And as for the German, it’s my personal opinion he is within his rights, and even more so than the other side, because it was the other party who got into his crocodile without asking permission, and not he who got into Ivan Matveitch’s crocodile without asking permission, though, so far as I recollect, the latter has no crocodile. And a crocodile is private property, and so it is impossible to slit him open without compensation.”

“For the saving of human life, Timofey Semyonitch.”

“Oh, well, that’s a matter for the police. You must go to them.”

“But Ivan Matveitch may be needed in the department. He may be asked for.”

“Ivan Matveitch needed? Ha-ha! Besides, he is on leave, so that we may ignore him — let him inspect the countries of Europe! It will be a different matter if he doesn’t turn up when his leave is over. Then we shall ask for him and make inquiries.”

“Three months! Timofey Semyonitch, for pity’s sake!”

“It’s his own fault. Nobody thrust him there. At this rate we should have to get a nurse to look after him at government expense, and that is not allowed for in the regulations. But the chief point is that the crocodile is private property, so that the principles of economics apply in this question. And the principles of economics are paramount. Only the other evening, at Luka Andreitch’s, Ignaty Prokofyitch was saying so. Do you know Ignaty Prokofyitch? A capitalist, in a big way of business, and he speaks so fluently. ‘We need industrial development,’ he said; ‘there is very little development among us. We must create it. We must create capital, so we must create a middle-class, the so-called bourgeoisie. And as we haven’t capital we must attract it from abroad. We must, in the first place, give facilities to foreign companies to buy up lands in Russia as is done now abroad. The communal holding of land is poison, is ruin.’ And, you know, he spoke with such heat; well, that’s all right for him — a wealthy man, and not in the service. ‘With the communal system,’ he said, ‘there will be no improvement in industrial development or agriculture. Foreign companies,’ he said, ‘must as far as possible buy up the whole of our land in big lots, and then split it up, split it up, split it up, in the smallest parts possible’ — and do you know he pronounced the words ‘split it up’ with such determination—’and then sell it as private property. Or rather, not sell it, but simply let it. When,’ he said, ‘all the land is in the hands of foreign companies they can fix any rent they like. And so the peasant will work three times as much for his daily bread and he can be turned out at pleasure. So that he will feel it, will be submissive and industrious, and will work three times as much for the same wages. But as it is, with the commune, what does he care? He knows he won’t die of hunger, so he is lazy and drunken. And meanwhile money will be attracted into Russia, capital will be created and the bourgeoisie will spring up. The English political and literary paper, The Times, in an article the other day on our finances stated that the reason our financial position was so unsatisfactory was that we had no middle-class, no big fortunes, no accommodating proletariat.’ Ignaty Prokofyitch speaks well. He is an orator. He wants to lay a report on the subject before the authorities, and then to get it published in the News. That’s something very different from verses like Ivan Matveitch’s....”

“But how about Ivan Matveitch?” I put in, after letting the old man babble on.

Timofey Semyonitch was sometimes fond of talking and showing that he was not behind the times, but knew all about things.

“How about Ivan Matveitch? Why, I am coming to that. Here we are, anxious to bring foreign capital into the country — and only consider: as soon as the capital of a foreigner, who has been attracted to Petersburg, has been doubled through Ivan Matveitch, instead of protecting the foreign capitalist, we are proposing to rip open the belly of his original capital — the crocodile. Is it consistent? To my mind, Ivan Matveitch, as the true son of his fatherland, ought to rejoice and to be proud that through him the value of a foreign crocodile has been doubled and possibly even trebled. That’s just what is wanted to attract capital. If one man succeeds, mind you, another will come with a crocodile, and a third will bring two or three of them at once, and capital will grow up about them — there you have a bourgeoisie. It must be encouraged.”

“Upon my word, Timofey Semyonitch!” I cried, “you are demanding almost supernatural self-sacrifice from poor Ivan Matveitch.”

“I demand nothing, and I beg you, before everything — as I have said already — to remember that I am not a person in authority and so cannot demand anything of any one. I am speaking as a son of the fatherland, that is, not as the Son of the Fatherland, but as a son of the fatherland. Again, what possessed him to get into the crocodile? A respectable man, a man of good grade in the service, lawfully married — and then to behave like that! Is it consistent?”

“But it was an accident.”

“Who knows? And where is the money to compensate the owner to come from?”

“Perhaps out of his salary, Timofey Semyonitch?”

“Would that be enough?”

“No, it wouldn’t, Timofey Semyonitch,” I answered sadly. “The proprietor was at first alarmed that the crocodile would burst, but as soon as he was sure that it was all right, he began to bluster and was delighted to think that he could double the charge for entry.”

“Treble and quadruple perhaps! The public will simply stampede the place now, and crocodile owners are smart people. Besides, it’s not Lent yet, and people are keen on diversions, and so I say again, the great thing is that Ivan Matveitch should preserve his incognito, don’t let him be in a hurry. Let everybody know, perhaps, that he is in the crocodile, but don’t let them be officially informed of it. Ivan Matveitch is in particularly favourable circumstances for that, for he is reckoned to be abroad. It will be said he is in the crocodile, and we will refuse to believe it. That is how it can be managed. The great thing is that he should wait; and why should he be in a hurry?”

“Well, but if ...”

“Don’t worry, he has a good constitution....”

“Well, and afterwards, when he has waited?”

“Well, I won’t conceal from you that the case is exceptional in the highest degree. One doesn’t know what to think of it, and the worst of it is there is no precedent. If we had a precedent we might have something to go by. But as it is, what is one to say? It will certainly take time to settle it.”

A happy thought flashed upon my mind.

“Cannot we arrange,” I said, “that if he is destined to remain in the entrails of the monster and it is the will of Providence that he should remain alive, that he should send in a petition to be reckoned as still serving?”

“Hm!... Possibly as on leave and without salary....”

“But couldn’t it be with salary?”

“On what grounds?”

“As sent on a special commission.”

“What commission and where?”

“Why, into the entrails, the entrails of the crocodile.... So to speak, for exploration, for investigation of the facts on the spot. It would, of course, be a novelty, but that is progressive and would at the same time show zeal for enlightenment.”

Timofey Semyonitch thought a little.

“To send a special official,” he said at last, “to the inside of a crocodile to conduct a special inquiry is, in my personal opinion, an absurdity. It is not in the regulations. And what sort of special inquiry could there be there?”

“The scientific study of nature on the spot, in the living subject. The natural sciences are all the fashion nowadays, botany.... He could live there and report his observations.... For instance, concerning digestion or simply habits. For the sake of accumulating facts.”

“You mean as statistics. Well, I am no great authority on that subject, indeed I am no philosopher at all. You say ‘facts’ — we are overwhelmed with facts as it is, and don’t know what to do with them. Besides, statistics are a danger.”

“In what way?”

“They are a danger. Moreover, you will admit he will report facts, so to speak, lying like a log. And, can one do one’s official duties lying like a log? That would be another novelty and a dangerous one; and again, there is no precedent for it. If we had any sort of precedent for it, then, to my thinking, he might have been given the job.”

“But no live crocodiles have been brought over hitherto, Timofey Semyonitch.”

“Hm ... yes,” he reflected again. “Your objection is a just one, if you like, and might indeed serve as a ground for carrying the matter further; but consider again, that if with the arrival of living crocodiles government clerks begin to disappear, and then on the ground that they are warm and comfortable there, expect to receive the official sanction for their position, and then take their ease there ... you must admit it would be a bad example. We should have every one trying to go the same way to get a salary for nothing.”

“Do your best for him, Timofey Semyonitch. By the way, Ivan Matveitch asked me to give you seven roubles he had lost to you at cards.”

“Ah, he lost that the other day at Nikifor Nikiforitch’s. I remember. And how gay and amusing he was — and now!”

The old man was genuinely touched.

“Intercede for him, Timofey Semyonitch!”

“I will do my best. I will speak in my own name, as a private person, as though I were asking for information. And meanwhile, you find out indirectly, unofficially, how much would the proprietor consent to take for his crocodile?”

Timofey Semyonitch was visibly more friendly.

“Certainly,” I answered. “And I will come back to you at once to report.”

“And his wife ... is she alone now? Is she depressed?”

“You should call on her, Timofey Semyonitch.”

“I will. I thought of doing so before; it’s a good opportunity.... And what on earth possessed him to go and look at the crocodile? Though, indeed, I should like to see it myself.”

“Go and see the poor fellow, Timofey Semyonitch.”

“I will. Of course, I don’t want to raise his hopes by doing so. I shall go as a private person.... Well, good-bye, I am going to Nikifor Nikiforitch’s again: shall you be there?”

“No, I am going to see the poor prisoner.”

“Yes, now he is a prisoner!... Ah, that’s what comes of thoughtlessness!”

I said good-bye to the old man. Ideas of all kinds were straying through my mind. A good-natured and most honest man, Timofey Semyonitch, yet, as I left him, I felt pleased at the thought that he had celebrated his fiftieth year of service, and that Timofey Semyonitchs are now a rarity among us. I flew at once, of course, to the Arcade to tell poor Ivan Matveitch all the news. And, indeed, I was moved by curiosity to know how he was getting on in the crocodile and how it was possible to live in a crocodile. And, indeed, was it possible to live in a crocodile at all? At times it really seemed to me as though it were all an outlandish, monstrous dream, especially as an outlandish monster was the chief figure in it.


And yet it was not a dream, but actual, indubitable fact. Should I be telling the story if it were not? But to continue.

It was late, about nine o’clock, before I reached the Arcade, and I had to go into the crocodile room by the back entrance, for the German had closed the shop earlier than usual that evening. Now in the seclusion of domesticity he was walking about in a greasy old frock-coat, but he seemed three times as pleased as he had been in the morning. It was evidently that he had no apprehensions now, and that the public had been coming “many more.” The Mutter came out later, evidently to keep an eye on me. The German and the Mutter frequently whispered together. Although the shop was closed he charged me a quarter-rouble! What unnecessary exactitude!

“You will every time pay; the public will one rouble, and you one quarter pay; for you are the good friend of your good friend; and I a friend respect....”

“Are you alive, are you alive, my cultured friend?” I cried, as I approached the crocodile, expecting my words to reach Ivan Matveitch from a distance and to flatter his vanity.

“Alive and well,” he answered, as though from a long way off or from under the bed, though I was standing close beside him. “Alive and well; but of that later.... How are things going?”

As though purposely not hearing the question, I was just beginning with sympathetic haste to question him how he was, what it was like in the crocodile, and what, in fact, there was inside a crocodile. Both friendship and common civility demanded this. But with capricious annoyance he interrupted me.

“How are things going?” he shouted, in a shrill and on this occasion particularly revolting voice, addressing me peremptorily as usual.

I described to him my whole conversation with Timofey Semyonitch down to the smallest detail. As I told my story I tried to show my resentment in my voice.

“The old man is right,” Ivan Matveitch pronounced as abruptly as usual in his conversation with me. “I like practical people, and can’t endure sentimental milk-sops. I am ready to admit, however, that your idea about a special commission is not altogether absurd. I certainly have a great deal to report, both from a scientific and from an ethical point of view. But now all this has taken a new and unexpected aspect, and it is not worth while to trouble about mere salary. Listen attentively. Are you sitting down?”

“No, I am standing up.”

“Sit down on the floor if there is nothing else, and listen attentively.”

Resentfully I took a chair and put it down on the floor with a bang, in my anger.

“Listen,” he began dictatorially. “The public came to-day in masses. There was no room left in the evening, and the police came in to keep order. At eight o’clock, that is, earlier than usual, the proprietor thought it necessary to close the shop and end the exhibition to count the money he had taken and prepare for to-morrow more conveniently. So I know there will be a regular fair to-morrow. So we may assume that all the most cultivated people in the capital, the ladies of the best society, the foreign ambassadors, the leading lawyers and so on, will all be present. What’s more, people will be flowing here from the remotest provinces of our vast and interesting empire. The upshot of it is that I am the cynosure of all eyes, and though hidden to sight, I am eminent. I shall teach the idle crowd. Taught by experience, I shall be an example of greatness and resignation to fate! I shall be, so to say, a pulpit from which to instruct mankind. The mere biological details I can furnish about the monster I am inhabiting are of priceless value. And so, far from repining at what has happened, I confidently hope for the most brilliant of careers.”

“You won’t find it wearisome?” I asked sarcastically.

What irritated me more than anything was the extreme pomposity of his language. Nevertheless, it all rather disconcerted me. “What on earth, what, can this frivolous blockhead find to be so cocky about?” I muttered to myself. “He ought to be crying instead of being cocky.”

“No!” he answered my observation sharply, “for I am full of great ideas, only now can I at leisure ponder over the amelioration of the lot of humanity. Truth and light will come forth now from the crocodile. I shall certainly develop a new economic theory of my own and I shall be proud of it — which I have hitherto been prevented from doing by my official duties and by trivial distractions. I shall refute everything and be a new Fourier. By the way, did you give Timofey Semyonitch the seven roubles?”

“Yes, out of my own pocket,” I answered, trying to emphasise that fact in my voice.

“We will settle it,” he answered superciliously. “I confidently expect my salary to be raised, for who should get a raise if not I? I am of the utmost service now. But to business. My wife?”

“You are, I suppose, inquiring after Elena Ivanovna?”

“My wife?” he shouted, this time in a positive squeal.

There was no help for it! Meekly, though gnashing my teeth, I told him how I had left Elena Ivanovna. He did not even hear me out.

“I have special plans in regard to her,” he began impatiently. “If I am celebrated here, I wish her to be celebrated there. Savants, poets, philosophers, foreign mineralogists, statesmen, after conversing in the morning with me, will visit her salon in the evening. From next week onwards she must have an ‘At Home’ every evening. With my salary doubled, we shall have the means for entertaining, and as the entertainment must not go beyond tea and hired footmen — that’s settled. Both here and there they will talk of me. I have long thirsted for an opportunity for being talked about, but could not attain it, fettered by my humble position and low grade in the service. And now all this has been attained by a simple gulp on the part of the crocodile. Every word of mine will be listened to, every utterance will be thought over, repeated, printed. And I’ll teach them what I am worth! They shall understand at last what abilities they have allowed to vanish in the entrails of a monster. ‘This man might have been Foreign Minister or might have ruled a kingdom,’ some will say. ‘And that man did not rule a kingdom,’ others will say. In what way am I inferior to a Garnier-Pagesishky or whatever they are called? My wife must be a worthy second — I have brains, she has beauty and charm. ‘She is beautiful, and that is why she is his wife,’ some will say. ‘She is beautiful because she is his wife,’ others will amend. To be ready for anything let Elena Ivanovna buy to-morrow the Encyclopædia edited by Andrey Kraevsky, that she may be able to converse on any topic. Above all, let her be sure to read the political leader in the Petersburg News, comparing it every day with the Voice. I imagine that the proprietor will consent to take me sometimes with the crocodile to my wife’s brilliant salon. I will be in a tank in the middle of the magnificent drawing-room, and I will scintillate with witticisms which I will prepare in the morning. To the statesmen I will impart my projects; to the poet I will speak in rhyme; with the ladies I can be amusing and charming without impropriety, since I shall be no danger to their husbands’ peace of mind. To all the rest I shall serve as a pattern of resignation to fate and the will of Providence. I shall make my wife a brilliant literary lady; I shall bring her forward and explain her to the public; as my wife she must be full of the most striking virtues; and if they are right in calling Andrey Alexandrovitch our Russian Alfred de Musset, they will be still more right in calling her our Russian Yevgenia Tour.”

I must confess that although this wild nonsense was rather in Ivan Matveitch’s habitual style, it did occur to me that he was in a fever and delirious. It was the same, everyday Ivan Matveitch, but magnified twenty times.

“My friend,” I asked him, “are you hoping for a long life? Tell me, in fact, are you well? How do you eat, how do you sleep, how do you breathe? I am your friend, and you must admit that the incident is most unnatural, and consequently my curiosity is most natural.”

“Idle curiosity and nothing else,” he pronounced sententiously, “but you shall be satisfied. You ask how I am managing in the entrails of the monster? To begin with, the crocodile, to my amusement, turns out to be perfectly empty. His inside consists of a sort of huge empty sack made of gutta-percha, like the elastic goods sold in the Gorohovy Street, in the Morskaya, and, if I am not mistaken, in the Voznesensky Prospect. Otherwise, if you think of it, how could I find room?”

“Is it possible?” I cried, in a surprise that may well be understood. “Can the crocodile be perfectly empty?”

“Perfectly,” Ivan Matveitch maintained sternly and impressively. “And in all probability, it is so constructed by the laws of Nature. The crocodile possesses nothing but jaws furnished with sharp teeth, and besides the jaws, a tail of considerable length — that is all, properly speaking. The middle part between these two extremities is an empty space enclosed by something of the nature of gutta-percha, probably really gutta-percha.”

“But the ribs, the stomach, the intestines, the liver, the heart?” I interrupted quite angrily.

“There is nothing, absolutely nothing of all that, and probably there never has been. All that is the idle fancy of frivolous travellers. As one inflates an air-cushion, I am now with my person inflating the crocodile. He is incredibly elastic. Indeed, you might, as the friend of the family, get in with me if you were generous and self-sacrificing enough — and even with you here there would be room to spare. I even think that in the last resort I might send for Elena Ivanovna. However, this void, hollow formation of the crocodile is quite in keeping with the teachings of natural science. If, for instance, one had to construct a new crocodile, the question would naturally present itself. What is the fundamental characteristic of the crocodile? The answer is clear: to swallow human beings. How is one, in constructing the crocodile, to secure that he should swallow people? The answer is clearer still: construct him hollow. It was settled by physics long ago that Nature abhors a vacuum. Hence the inside of the crocodile must be hollow so that it may abhor the vacuum, and consequently swallow and so fill itself with anything it can come across. And that is the sole rational cause why every crocodile swallows men. It is not the same in the constitution of man: the emptier a man’s head is, for instance, the less he feels the thirst to fill it, and that is the one exception to the general rule. It is all as clear as day to me now. I have deduced it by my own observation and experience, being, so to say, in the very bowels of Nature, in its retort, listening to the throbbing of its pulse. Even etymology supports me, for the very word crocodile means voracity. Crocodile — crocodillo — is evidently an Italian word, dating perhaps from the Egyptian Pharaohs, and evidently derived from the French verb croquer, which means to eat, to devour, in general to absorb nourishment. All these remarks I intend to deliver as my first lecture in Elena Ivanovna’s salon when they take me there in the tank.”

“My friend, oughtn’t you at least to take some purgative?” I cried involuntarily.

“He is in a fever, a fever, he is feverish!” I repeated to myself in alarm.

“Nonsense!” he answered contemptuously. “Besides, in my present position it would be most inconvenient. I knew, though, you would be sure to talk of taking medicine.”

“But, my friend, how ... how do you take food now? Have you dined to-day?”

“No, but I am not hungry, and most likely I shall never take food again. And that, too, is quite natural; filling the whole interior of the crocodile I make him feel always full. Now he need not be fed for some years. On the other hand, nourished by me, he will naturally impart to me all the vital juices of his body; it is the same as with some accomplished coquettes who embed themselves and their whole persons for the night in raw steak, and then, after their morning bath, are fresh, supple, buxom and fascinating. In that way nourishing the crocodile, I myself obtain nourishment from him, consequently we mutually nourish one another. But as it is difficult even for a crocodile to digest a man like me, he must, no doubt, be conscious of a certain weight in his stomach — an organ which he does not, however, possess — and that is why, to avoid causing the creature suffering, I do not often turn over, and although I could turn over I do not do so from humanitarian motives. This is the one drawback of my present position, and in an allegorical sense Timofey Semyonitch was right in saying I was lying like a log. But I will prove that even lying like a log — nay, that only lying like a log — one can revolutionise the lot of mankind. All the great ideas and movements of our newspapers and magazines have evidently been the work of men who were lying like logs; that is why they call them divorced from the realities of life — but what does it matter, their saying that! I am constructing now a complete system of my own, and you wouldn’t believe how easy it is! You have only to creep into a secluded corner or into a crocodile, to shut your eyes, and you immediately devise a perfect millennium for mankind. When you went away this afternoon I set to work at once and have already invented three systems, now I am preparing the fourth. It is true that at first one must refute everything that has gone before, but from the crocodile it is so easy to refute it; besides, it all becomes clearer, seen from the inside of the crocodile.... There are some drawbacks, though small ones, in my position, however; it is somewhat damp here and covered with a sort of slime; moreover, there is a smell of india-rubber like the smell of my old galoshes. That is all, there are no other drawbacks.”

“Ivan Matveitch,” I interrupted, “all this is a miracle in which I can scarcely believe. And can you, can you intend never to dine again?”

“What trivial nonsense you are troubling about, you thoughtless, frivolous creature! I talk to you about great ideas, and you.... Understand that I am sufficiently nourished by the great ideas which light up the darkness in which I am enveloped. The good-natured proprietor has, however, after consulting the kindly Mutter, decided with her that they will every morning insert into the monster’s jaws a bent metal tube, something like a whistle pipe, by means of which I can absorb coffee or broth with bread soaked in it. The pipe has already been bespoken in the neighbourhood, but I think this is superfluous luxury. I hope to live at least a thousand years, if it is true that crocodiles live so long, which, by the way — good thing I thought of it — you had better look up in some natural history to-morrow and tell me, for I may have been mistaken and have mixed it up with some excavated monster. There is only one reflection rather troubles me: as I am dressed in cloth and have boots on, the crocodile can obviously not digest me. Besides, I am alive, and so am opposing the process of digestion with my whole will power; for you can understand that I do not wish to be turned into what all nourishment turns into, for that would be too humiliating for me. But there is one thing I am afraid of: in a thousand years the cloth of my coat, unfortunately of Russian make, may decay, and then, left without clothing, I might perhaps, in spite of my indignation, begin to be digested; and though by day nothing would induce me to allow it, at night, in my sleep, when a man’s will deserts him, I may be overtaken by the humiliating destiny of a potato, a pancake, or veal. Such an idea reduces me to fury. This alone is an argument for the revision of the tariff and the encouragement of the importation of English cloth, which is stronger and so will withstand Nature longer when one is swallowed by a crocodile. At the first opportunity I will impart this idea to some statesman and at the same time to the political writers on our Petersburg dailies. Let them publish it abroad. I trust this will not be the only idea they will borrow from me. I foresee that every morning a regular crowd of them, provided with quarter-roubles from the editorial office, will be flocking round me to seize my ideas on the telegrams of the previous day. In brief, the future presents itself to me in the rosiest light.”

“Fever, fever!” I whispered to myself.

“My friend, and freedom?” I asked, wishing to learn his views thoroughly. “You are, so to speak, in prison, while every man has a right to the enjoyment of freedom.”

“You are a fool,” he answered. “Savages love independence, wise men love order; and if there is no order....”

“Ivan Matveitch, spare me, please!”

“Hold your tongue and listen!” he squealed, vexed at my interrupting him. “Never has my spirit soared as now. In my narrow refuge there is only one thing that I dread — the literary criticisms of the monthlies and the hiss of our satirical papers. I am afraid that thoughtless visitors, stupid and envious people and nihilists in general, may turn me into ridicule. But I will take measures. I am impatiently awaiting the response of the public to-morrow, and especially the opinion of the newspapers. You must tell me about the papers to-morrow.”

“Very good; to-morrow I will bring a perfect pile of papers with me.”

“To-morrow it is too soon to expect reports in the newspapers, for it will take four days for it to be advertised. But from to-day come to me every evening by the back way through the yard. I am intending to employ you as my secretary. You shall read the newspapers and magazines to me, and I will dictate to you my ideas and give you commissions. Be particularly careful not to forget the foreign telegrams. Let all the European telegrams be here every day. But enough; most likely you are sleepy by now. Go home, and do not think of what I said just now about criticisms: I am not afraid of it, for the critics themselves are in a critical position. One has only to be wise and virtuous and one will certainly get on to a pedestal. If not Socrates, then Diogenes, or perhaps both of them together — that is my future rôle among mankind.”

So frivolously and boastfully did Ivan Matveitch hasten to express himself before me, like feverish weak-willed women who, as we are told by the proverb, cannot keep a secret. All that he told me about the crocodile struck me as most suspicious. How was it possible that the crocodile was absolutely hollow? I don’t mind betting that he was bragging from vanity and partly to humiliate me. It is true that he was an invalid and one must make allowances for invalids; but I must frankly confess, I never could endure Ivan Matveitch. I have been trying all my life, from a child up, to escape from his tutelage and have not been able to! A thousand times over I have been tempted to break with him altogether, and every time I have been drawn to him again, as though I were still hoping to prove something to him or to revenge myself on him. A strange thing, this friendship! I can positively assert that nine-tenths of my friendship for him was made up of malice. On this occasion, however, we parted with genuine feeling.

“Your friend a very clever man!” the German said to me in an undertone as he moved to see me out; he had been listening all the time attentively to our conversation.

“À propos,” I said, “while I think of it: how much would you ask for your crocodile in case any one wanted to buy it?”

Ivan Matveitch, who heard the question, was waiting with curiosity for the answer; it was evident that he did not want the German to ask too little; anyway, he cleared his throat in a peculiar way on hearing my question.

At first the German would not listen — was positively angry.

“No one will dare my own crocodile to buy!” he cried furiously, and turned as red as a boiled lobster. “Me not want to sell the crocodile! I would not for the crocodile a million thalers take. I took a hundred and thirty thalers from the public to-day, and I shall to-morrow ten thousand take, and then a hundred thousand every day I shall take. I will not him sell.”

Ivan Matveitch positively chuckled with satisfaction. Controlling myself — for I felt it was a duty to my friend — I hinted coolly and reasonably to the crazy German that his calculations were not quite correct, that if he makes a hundred thousand every day, all Petersburg will have visited him in four days, and then there will be no one left to bring him roubles, that life and death are in God’s hands, that the crocodile may burst or Ivan Matveitch may fall ill and die, and so on and so on.

The German grew pensive.

“I will him drops from the chemist’s get,” he said, after pondering, “and will save your friend that he die not.”

“Drops are all very well,” I answered, “but consider, too, that the thing may get into the law courts. Ivan Matveitch’s wife may demand the restitution of her lawful spouse. You are intending to get rich, but do you intend to give Elena Ivanovna a pension?”

“No, me not intend,” said the German in stern decision.

“No, we not intend,” said the Mutter, with positive malignancy.

“And so would it not be better for you to accept something now, at once, a secure and solid though moderate sum, than to leave things to chance? I ought to tell you that I am inquiring simply from curiosity.”

The German drew the Mutter aside to consult with her in a corner where there stood a case with the largest and ugliest monkey of his collection.

“Well, you will see!” said Ivan Matveitch.

As for me, I was at that moment burning with the desire, first, to give the German a thrashing, next, to give the Mutter an even sounder one, and, thirdly, to give Ivan Matveitch the soundest thrashing of all for his boundless vanity. But all this paled beside the answer of the rapacious German.

After consultation with the Mutter he demanded for his crocodile fifty thousand roubles in bonds of the last Russian loan with lottery voucher attached, a brick house in Gorohovy Street with a chemist’s shop attached, and in addition the rank of Russian colonel.

“You see!” Ivan Matveitch cried triumphantly. “I told you so! Apart from this last senseless desire for the rank of a colonel, he is perfectly right, for he fully understands the present value of the monster he is exhibiting. The economic principle before everything!”

“Upon my word!” I cried furiously to the German. “But what should you be made a colonel for? What exploit have you performed? What service have you done? In what way have you gained military glory? You are really crazy!”

“Crazy!” cried the German, offended. “No, a person very sensible, but you very stupid! I have a colonel deserved for that I have a crocodile shown and in him a live hofrath sitting! And a Russian can a crocodile not show and a live hofrath in him sitting! Me extremely clever man and much wish colonel to be!”

“Well, good-bye, then, Ivan Matveitch!” I cried, shaking with fury, and I went out of the crocodile room almost at a run.

I felt that in another minute I could not have answered for myself. The unnatural expectations of these two block-heads were insupportable. The cold air refreshed me and somewhat moderated my indignation. At last, after spitting vigorously fifteen times on each side, I took a cab, got home, undressed and flung myself into bed. What vexed me more than anything was my having become his secretary. Now I was to die of boredom there every evening, doing the duty of a true friend! I was ready to beat myself for it, and I did, in fact, after putting out the candle and pulling up the bedclothes, punch myself several times on the head and various parts of my body. That somewhat relieved me, and at last I fell asleep fairly soundly, in fact, for I was very tired. All night long I could dream of nothing but monkeys, but towards morning I dreamt of Elena Ivanovna.


The monkeys I dreamed about, I surmise, because they were shut up in the case at the German’s; but Elena Ivanovna was a different story.

I may as well say at once, I loved the lady, but I make haste — post-haste — to make a qualification. I loved her as a father, neither more nor less. I judge that because I often felt an irresistible desire to kiss her little head or her rosy cheek. And though I never carried out this inclination, I would not have refused even to kiss her lips. And not merely her lips, but her teeth, which always gleamed so charmingly like two rows of pretty, well-matched pearls when she laughed. She laughed extraordinarily often. Ivan Matveitch in demonstrative moments used to call her his “darling absurdity” — a name extremely happy and appropriate. She was a perfect sugar-plum, and that was all one could say of her. Therefore I am utterly at a loss to understand what possessed Ivan Matveitch to imagine his wife as a Russian Yevgenia Tour? Anyway, my dream, with the exception of the monkeys, left a most pleasant impression upon me, and going over all the incidents of the previous day as I drank my morning cup of tea, I resolved to go and see Elena Ivanovna at once on my way to the office — which, indeed, I was bound to do as the friend of the family.

In a tiny little room out of the bedroom — the so-called little drawing-room, though their big drawing-room was little too — Elena Ivanovna was sitting, in some half-transparent morning wrapper, on a smart little sofa before a little tea-table, drinking coffee out of a little cup in which she was dipping a minute biscuit. She was ravishingly pretty, but struck me as being at the same time rather pensive.

“Ah, that’s you, naughty man!” she said, greeting me with an absent-minded smile. “Sit down, feather-head, have some coffee. Well, what were you doing yesterday? Were you at the masquerade?”

“Why, were you? I don’t go, you know. Besides, yesterday I was visiting our captive....” I sighed and assumed a pious expression as I took the coffee.

“Whom?... What captive?... Oh, yes! Poor fellow! Well, how is he — bored? Do you know ... I wanted to ask you.... I suppose I can ask for a divorce now?”

“A divorce!” I cried in indignation and almost spilled the coffee. “It’s that swarthy fellow,” I thought to myself bitterly.

There was a certain swarthy gentleman with little moustaches who was something in the architectural line, and who came far too often to see them, and was extremely skilful in amusing Elena Ivanovna. I must confess I hated him and there was no doubt that he had succeeded in seeing Elena Ivanovna yesterday either at the masquerade or even here, and putting all sorts of nonsense into her head.

“Why,” Elena Ivanovna rattled off hurriedly, as though it were a lesson she had learnt, “if he is going to stay on in the crocodile, perhaps not come back all his life, while I sit waiting for him here! A husband ought to live at home, and not in a crocodile....”

“But this was an unforeseen occurrence,” I was beginning, in very comprehensible agitation.

“Oh, no, don’t talk to me, I won’t listen, I won’t listen,” she cried, suddenly getting quite cross. “You are always against me, you wretch! There’s no doing anything with you, you will never give me any advice! Other people tell me that I can get a divorce because Ivan Matveitch will not get his salary now.”

“Elena Ivanovna! is it you I hear!” I exclaimed pathetically. “What villain could have put such an idea into your head? And divorce on such a trivial ground as a salary is quite impossible. And poor Ivan Matveitch, poor Ivan Matveitch is, so to speak, burning with love for you even in the bowels of the monster. What’s more, he is melting away with love like a lump of sugar. Yesterday while you were enjoying yourself at the masquerade, he was saying that he might in the last resort send for you as his lawful spouse to join him in the entrails of the monster, especially as it appears the crocodile is exceedingly roomy, not only able to accommodate two but even three persons....”

And then I told her all that interesting part of my conversation the night before with Ivan Matveitch.

“What, what!” she cried, in surprise. “You want me to get into the monster too, to be with Ivan Matveitch? What an idea! And how am I to get in there, in my hat and crinoline? Heavens, what foolishness! And what should I look like while I was getting into it, and very likely there would be some one there to see me! It’s absurd! And what should I have to eat there? And ... and ... and what should I do there when.... Oh, my goodness, what will they think of next?... And what should I have to amuse me there?... You say there’s a smell of gutta-percha? And what should I do if we quarrelled — should we have to go on staying there side by side? Foo, how horrid!”

“I agree, I agree with all those arguments, my sweet Elena Ivanovna,” I interrupted, striving to express myself with that natural enthusiasm which always overtakes a man when he feels the truth is on his side. “But one thing you have not appreciated in all this, you have not realised that he cannot live without you if he is inviting you there; that is a proof of love, passionate, faithful, ardent love.... You have thought too little of his love, dear Elena Ivanovna!”

“I won’t, I won’t, I won’t hear anything about it!” waving me off with her pretty little hand with glistening pink nails that had just been washed and polished. “Horrid man! You will reduce me to tears! Get into it yourself, if you like the prospect. You are his friend, get in and keep him company, and spend your life discussing some tedious science....”

“You are wrong to laugh at this suggestion” — I checked the frivolous woman with dignity— “Ivan Matveitch has invited me as it is. You, of course, are summoned there by duty; for me, it would be an act of generosity. But when Ivan Matveitch described to me last night the elasticity of the crocodile, he hinted very plainly that there would be room not only for you two, but for me also as a friend of the family, especially if I wished to join you, and therefore....”

“How so, the three of us?” cried Elena Ivanovna, looking at me in surprise. “Why, how should we ... are we going to be all three there together? Ha-ha-ha! How silly you both are! Ha-ha-ha! I shall certainly pinch you all the time, you wretch! Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha!”

And falling back on the sofa, she laughed till she cried. All this — the tears and the laughter — were so fascinating that I could not resist rushing eagerly to kiss her hand, which she did not oppose, though she did pinch my ears lightly as a sign of reconciliation.

Then we both grew very cheerful, and I described to her in detail all Ivan Matveitch’s plans. The thought of her evening receptions and her salon pleased her very much.

“Only I should need a great many new dresses,” she observed, “and so Ivan Matveitch must send me as much of his salary as possible and as soon as possible. Only ... only I don’t know about that,” she added thoughtfully. “How can he be brought here in the tank? That’s very absurd. I don’t want my husband to be carried about in a tank. I should feel quite ashamed for my visitors to see it.... I don’t want that, no, I don’t.”

“By the way, while I think of it, was Timofey Semyonitch here yesterday?”

“Oh, yes, he was; he came to comfort me, and do you know, we played cards all the time. He played for sweet-meats, and if I lost he was to kiss my hands. What a wretch he is! And only fancy, he almost came to the masquerade with me, really!”

“He was carried away by his feelings!” I observed. “And who would not be with you, you charmer?”

“Oh, get along with your compliments! Stay, I’ll give you a pinch as a parting present. I’ve learnt to pinch awfully well lately. Well, what do you say to that? By the way, you say Ivan Matveitch spoke several times of me yesterday?”

“N-no, not exactly.... I must say he is thinking more now of the fate of humanity, and wants....”

“Oh, let him! You needn’t go on! I am sure it’s fearfully boring. I’ll go and see him some time. I shall certainly go to-morrow. Only not to-day; I’ve got a headache, and besides, there will be such a lot of people there to-day.... They’ll say, ‘That’s his wife,’ and I shall feel ashamed.... Good-bye. You will be ... there this evening, won’t you?”

“To see him, yes. He asked me to go and take him the papers.”

“That’s capital. Go and read to him. But don’t come and see me to-day. I am not well, and perhaps I may go and see some one. Good-bye, you naughty man.”

“It’s that swarthy fellow is going to see her this evening,” I thought.

At the office, of course, I gave no sign of being consumed by these cares and anxieties. But soon I noticed some of the most progressive papers seemed to be passing particularly rapidly from hand to hand among my colleagues, and were being read with an extremely serious expression of face. The first one that reached me was the News-sheet, a paper of no particular party but humanitarian in general, for which it was regarded with contempt among us, though it was read. Not without surprise I read in it the following paragraph:

“Yesterday strange rumours were circulating among the spacious ways and sumptuous buildings of our vast metropolis. A certain well-known bon-vivant of the highest society, probably weary of the cuisine at Borel’s and at the X. Club, went into the Arcade, into the place where an immense crocodile recently brought to the metropolis is being exhibited, and insisted on its being prepared for his dinner. After bargaining with the proprietor he at once set to work to devour him (that is, not the proprietor, a very meek and punctilious German, but his crocodile), cutting juicy morsels with his penknife from the living animal, and swallowing them with extraordinary rapidity. By degrees the whole crocodile disappeared into the vast recesses of his stomach, so that he was even on the point of attacking an ichneumon, a constant companion of the crocodile, probably imagining that the latter would be as savoury. We are by no means opposed to that new article of diet with which foreign gourmands have long been familiar. We have, indeed, predicted that it would come. English lords and travellers make up regular parties for catching crocodiles in Egypt, and consume the back of the monster cooked like beefsteak, with mustard, onions and potatoes. The French who followed in the train of Lesseps prefer the paws baked-in hot ashes, which they do, however, in opposition to the English, who laugh at them. Probably both ways would be appreciated among us. For our part, we are delighted at a new branch of industry, of which our great and varied fatherland stands pre-eminently in need. Probably before a year is out crocodiles will be brought in hundreds to replace this first one, lost in the stomach of a Petersburg gourmand. And why should not the crocodile be acclimatised among us in Russia? If the water of the Neva is too cold for these interesting strangers, there are ponds in the capital and rivers and lakes outside it. Why not breed crocodiles at Pargolovo, for instance, or at Pavlovsk, in the Presnensky Ponds and in Samoteka in Moscow? While providing agreeable, wholesome nourishment for our fastidious gourmands, they might at the same time entertain the ladies who walk about these ponds and instruct the children in natural history. The crocodile skin might be used for making jewel-cases, boxes, cigar-cases, pocket-books, and possibly more than one thousand saved up in the greasy notes that are peculiarly beloved of merchants might be laid by in crocodile skin. We hope to return more than once to this interesting topic.”

Though I had foreseen something of the sort, yet the reckless inaccuracy of the paragraph overwhelmed me. Finding no one with whom to share my impression, I turned to Prohor Savvitch who was sitting opposite to me, and noticed that the latter had been watching me for some time, while in his hand he held the Voice as though he were on the point of passing it to me. Without a word he took the News-sheet from me, and as he handed me the Voice he drew a line with his nail against an article to which he probably wished to call my attention. This Prohor Savvitch was a very queer man: a taciturn old bachelor, he was not on intimate terms with any of us, scarcely spoke to any one in the office, always had an opinion of his own about everything, but could not bear to import it to any one. He lived alone. Hardly any one among us had ever been in his lodging.

This was what I read in the Voice.

“Every one knows that we are progressive and humanitarian and want to be on a level with Europe in this respect. But in spite of all our exertions and the efforts of our paper we are still far from maturity, as may be judged from the shocking incident which took place yesterday in the Arcade and which we predicted long ago. A foreigner arrives in the capital bringing with him a crocodile which he begins exhibiting in the Arcade. We immediately hasten to welcome a new branch of useful industry such as our powerful and varied fatherland stands in great need of. Suddenly yesterday at four o’clock in the afternoon a gentleman of exceptional stoutness enters the foreigner’s shop in an intoxicated condition, pays his entrance money, and immediately without any warning leaps into the jaws of the crocodile, who was forced, of course, to swallow him, if only from an instinct of self-preservation, to avoid being crushed. Tumbling into the inside of the crocodile, the stranger at once dropped asleep. Neither the shouts of the foreign proprietor, nor the lamentations of his terrified family, nor threats to send for the police made the slightest impression. Within the crocodile was heard nothing but laughter and a promise to flay him (sic), though the poor mammal, compelled to swallow such a mass, was vainly shedding tears. An uninvited guest is worse than a Tartar. But in spite of the proverb the insolent visitor would not leave. We do not know how to explain such barbarous incidents which prove our lack of culture and disgrace us in the eyes of foreigners. The recklessness of the Russian temperament has found a fresh outlet. It may be asked what was the object of the uninvited visitor? A warm and comfortable abode? But there are many excellent houses in the capital with very cheap and comfortable lodgings, with the Neva water laid on, and a staircase lighted by gas, frequently with a hall-porter maintained by the proprietor. We would call our readers’ attention to the barbarous treatment of domestic animals: it is difficult, of course, for the crocodile to digest such a mass all at once, and now he lies swollen out to the size of a mountain, awaiting death in insufferable agonies. In Europe persons guilty of inhumanity towards domestic animals have long been punished by law. But in spite of our European enlightenment, in spite of our European pavements, in spite of the European architecture of our houses, we are still far from shaking off our time-honoured traditions.

“Though the houses are new, the conventions are old.”

And, indeed, the houses are not new, at least the staircases in them are not. We have more than once in our paper alluded to the fact that in the Petersburg Side in the house of the merchant Lukyanov the steps of the wooden staircase have decayed, fallen away, and have long been a danger for Afimya Skapidarov, a soldier’s wife who works in the house, and is often obliged to go up the stairs with water or armfuls of wood. At last our predictions have come true: yesterday evening at half-past eight Afimya Skapidarov fell down with a basin of soup and broke her leg. We do not know whether Lukyanov will mend his staircase now, Russians are often wise after the event, but the victim of Russian carelessness has by now been taken to the hospital. In the same way we shall never cease to maintain that the house-porters who clear away the mud from the wooden pavement in the Viborgsky Side ought not to spatter the legs of passers-by, but should throw the mud up into heaps as is done in Europe,” and so on, and so on.

“What’s this?” I asked in some perplexity, looking at Prohor Savvitch. “What’s the meaning of it?”

“How do you mean?”

“Why, upon my word! Instead of pitying Ivan Matveitch, they pity the crocodile!”

“What of it? They have pity even for a beast, a mammal. We must be up to Europe, mustn’t we? They have a very warm feeling for crocodiles there too. He-he-he!”

Saying this, queer old Prohor Savvitch dived into his papers and would not utter another word.

I stuffed the Voice and the News-sheet into my pocket and collected as many old copies of the newspapers as I could find for Ivan Matveitch’s diversion in the evening, and though the evening was far off, yet on this occasion I slipped away from the office early to go to the Arcade and look, if only from a distance, at what was going on there, and to listen to the various remarks and currents of opinion. I foresaw that there would be a regular crush there, and turned up the collar of my coat to meet it. I somehow felt rather shy — so unaccustomed are we to publicity. But I feel that I have no right to report my own prosaic feelings when faced with this remarkable and original incident.

Bobok; From Somebody’s Diary

Semyon Ardalyonovitch said to me all of a sudden the day before yesterday: “Why, will you ever be sober, Ivan Ivanovitch? Tell me that, pray.”

A strange requirement. I did not resent it, I am a timid man; but here they have actually made me out mad. An artist painted my portrait as it happened: “After all, you are a literary man,” he said. I submitted, he exhibited it. I read: “Go and look at that morbid face suggesting insanity.”

It may be so, but think of putting it so bluntly into print. In print everything ought to be decorous; there ought to be ideals, while instead of that....

Say it indirectly, at least; that’s what you have style for. But no, he doesn’t care to do it indirectly. Nowadays humour and a fine style have disappeared, and abuse is accepted as wit. I do not resent it: but God knows I am not enough of a literary man to go out of my mind. I have written a novel, it has not been published. I have written articles — they have been refused. Those articles I took about from one editor to another; everywhere they refused them: you have no salt they told me. “What sort of salt do you want?” I asked with a jeer. “Attic salt?”

They did not even understand. For the most part I translate from the French for the booksellers. I write advertisements for shopkeepers too: “Unique opportunity! Fine tea, from our own plantations ...” I made a nice little sum over a panegyric on his deceased excellency Pyotr Matveyitch. I compiled the “Art of pleasing the ladies,” a commission from a bookseller. I have brought out some six little works of this kind in the course of my life. I am thinking of making a collection of the bon mots of Voltaire, but am afraid it may seem a little flat to our people. Voltaire’s no good now; nowadays we want a cudgel, not Voltaire. We knock each other’s last teeth out nowadays. Well, so that’s the whole extent of my literary activity. Though indeed I do send round letters to the editors gratis and fully signed. I give them all sorts of counsels and admonitions, criticise and point out the true path. The letter I sent last week to an editor’s office was the fortieth I had sent in the last two years. I have wasted four roubles over stamps alone for them. My temper is at the bottom of it all.

I believe that the artist who painted me did so not for the sake of literature, but for the sake of two symmetrical warts on my forehead, a natural phenomenon, he would say. They have no ideas, so now they are out for phenomena. And didn’t he succeed in getting my warts in his portrait — to the life. That is what they call realism.

And as to madness, a great many people were put down as mad among us last year. And in such language! “With such original talent” ... “and yet, after all, it appears” ... “however, one ought to have foreseen it long ago.” That is rather artful; so that from the point of view of pure art one may really commend it. Well, but after all, these so-called madmen have turned out cleverer than ever. So it seems the critics can call them mad, but they cannot produce any one better.

The wisest of all, in my opinion, is he who can, if only once a month, call himself a fool — a faculty unheard of nowadays. In old days, once a year at any rate a fool would recognise that he was a fool, but nowadays not a bit of it. And they have so muddled things up that there is no telling a fool from a wise man. They have done that on purpose.

I remember a witty Spaniard saying when, two hundred and fifty years ago, the French built their first madhouses: “They have shut up all their fools in a house apart, to make sure that they are wise men themselves.” Just so: you don’t show your own wisdom by shutting some one else in a madhouse. “K. has gone out of his mind, means that we are sane now.” No, it doesn’t mean that yet.

Hang it though, why am I maundering on? I go on grumbling and grumbling. Even my maidservant is sick of me. Yesterday a friend came to see me. “Your style is changing,” he said; “it is choppy: you chop and chop — and then a parenthesis, then a parenthesis in the parenthesis, then you stick in something else in brackets, then you begin chopping and chopping again.”

The friend is right. Something strange is happening to me. My character is changing and my head aches. I am beginning to see and hear strange things, not voices exactly, but as though some one beside me were muttering, “bobok, bobok, bobok!”

What’s the meaning of this bobok? I must divert my mind.

I went out in search of diversion, I hit upon a funeral. A distant relation — a collegiate counsellor, however. A widow and five daughters, all marriageable young ladies. What must it come to even to keep them in slippers. Their father managed it, but now there is only a little pension. They will have to eat humble pie. They have always received me ungraciously. And indeed I should not have gone to the funeral now had it not been for a peculiar circumstance. I followed the procession to the cemetery with the rest; they were stuck-up and held aloof from me. My uniform was certainly rather shabby. It’s five-and-twenty years, I believe, since I was at the cemetery; what a wretched place!

To begin with the smell. There were fifteen hearses, with palls varying in expensiveness; there were actually two catafalques. One was a general’s and one some lady’s. There were many mourners, a great deal of feigned mourning and a great deal of open gaiety. The clergy have nothing to complain of; it brings them a good income. But the smell, the smell. I should not like to be one of the clergy here.

I kept glancing at the faces of the dead cautiously, distrusting my impressionability. Some had a mild expression, some looked unpleasant. As a rule the smiles were disagreeable, and in some cases very much so. I don’t like them; they haunt one’s dreams.

During the service I went out of the church into the air: it was a grey day, but dry. It was cold too, but then it was October. I walked about among the tombs. They are of different grades. The third grade cost thirty roubles; it’s decent and not so very dear. The first two grades are tombs in the church and under the porch; they cost a pretty penny. On this occasion they were burying in tombs of the third grade six persons, among them the general and the lady.

I looked into the graves — and it was horrible: water and such water! Absolutely green, and ... but there, why talk of it! The gravedigger was baling it out every minute. I went out while the service was going on and strolled outside the gates. Close by was an almshouse, and a little further off there was a restaurant. It was not a bad little restaurant: there was lunch and everything. There were lots of the mourners here. I noticed a great deal of gaiety and genuine heartiness. I had something to eat and drink.

Then I took part in the bearing of the coffin from the church to the grave. Why is it that corpses in their coffins are so heavy? They say it is due to some sort of inertia, that the body is no longer directed by its owner ... or some nonsense of that sort, in opposition to the laws of mechanics and common sense. I don’t like to hear people who have nothing but a general education venture to solve the problems that require special knowledge; and with us that’s done continually. Civilians love to pass opinions about subjects that are the province of the soldier and even of the field-marshal; while men who have been educated as engineers prefer discussing philosophy and political economy.

I did not go to the requiem service. I have some pride, and if I am only received owing to some special necessity, why force myself on their dinners, even if it be a funeral dinner. The only thing I don’t understand is why I stayed at the cemetery; I sat on a tombstone and sank into appropriate reflections.

I began with the Moscow exhibition and ended with reflecting upon astonishment in the abstract. My deductions about astonishment were these:

“To be surprised at everything is stupid of course, and to be astonished at nothing is a great deal more becoming and for some reason accepted as good form. But that is not really true. To my mind to be astonished at nothing is much more stupid than to be astonished at everything. And, moreover, to be astonished at nothing is almost the same as feeling respect for nothing. And indeed a stupid man is incapable of feeling respect.”

“But what I desire most of all is to feel respect. I thirst to feel respect,” one of my acquaintances said to me the other day.

He thirsts to feel respect! Goodness, I thought, what would happen to you if you dared to print that nowadays?

At that point I sank into forgetfulness. I don’t like reading the epitaphs of tombstones: they are everlastingly the same. An unfinished sandwich was lying on the tombstone near me; stupid and inappropriate. I threw it on the ground, as it was not bread but only a sandwich. Though I believe it is not a sin to throw bread on the earth, but only on the floor. I must look it up in Suvorin’s calendar.

I suppose I sat there a long time — too long a time, in fact; I must have lain down on a long stone which was of the shape of a marble coffin. And how it happened I don’t know, but I began to hear things of all sorts being said. At first I did not pay attention to it, but treated it with contempt. But the conversation went on. I heard muffled sounds as though the speakers’ mouths were covered with a pillow, and at the same time they were distinct and very near. I came to myself, sat up and began listening attentively.

“Your Excellency, it’s utterly impossible. You led hearts, I return your lead, and here you play the seven of diamonds. You ought to have given me a hint about diamonds.”

“What, play by hard and fast rules? Where is the charm of that?”

“You must, your Excellency. One can’t do anything without something to go upon. We must play with dummy, let one hand not be turned up.”

“Well, you won’t find a dummy here.”

What conceited words! And it was queer and unexpected. One was such a ponderous, dignified voice, the other softly suave; I should not have believed it if I had not heard it myself. I had not been to the requiem dinner, I believe. And yet how could they be playing preference here and what general was this? That the sounds came from under the tombstones of that there could be no doubt. I bent down and read on the tomb:

“Here lies the body of Major-General Pervoyedov ... a cavalier of such and such orders.” Hm! “Passed away in August of this year ... fifty-seven.... Rest, beloved ashes, till the joyful dawn!”

Hm, dash it, it really is a general! There was no monument on the grave from which the obsequious voice came, there was only a tombstone. He must have been a fresh arrival. From his voice he was a lower court councillor.

“Oh-ho-ho-ho!” I heard in a new voice a dozen yards from the general’s resting-place, coming from quite a fresh grave. The voice belonged to a man and a plebeian, mawkish with its affectation of religious fervour. “Oh-ho-ho-ho!”

“Oh, here he is hiccupping again!” cried the haughty and disdainful voice of an irritated lady, apparently of the highest society. “It is an affliction to be by this shopkeeper!”

“I didn’t hiccup; why, I’ve had nothing to eat. It’s simply my nature. Really, madam, you don’t seem able to get rid of your caprices here.”

“Then why did you come and lie down here?”

“They put me here, my wife and little children put me here, I did not lie down here of myself. The mystery of death! And I would not have lain down beside you not for any money; I lie here as befitting my fortune, judging by the price. For we can always do that — pay for a tomb of the third grade.”

“You made money, I suppose? You fleeced people?”

“Fleece you, indeed! We haven’t seen the colour of your money since January. There’s a little bill against you at the shop.”

“Well, that’s really stupid; to try and recover debts here is too stupid, to my thinking! Go to the surface. Ask my niece — she is my heiress.”

“There’s no asking any one now, and no going anywhere. We have both reached our limit and, before the judgment-seat of God, are equal in our sins.”

“In our sins,” the lady mimicked him contemptuously. “Don’t dare to speak to me.”


“You see, the shopkeeper obeys the lady, your Excellency.”

“Why shouldn’t he?”

“Why, your Excellency, because, as we all know, things are different here.”

“Different? How?”

“We are dead, so to speak, your Excellency.”

“Oh, yes! But still....”

Well, this is an entertainment, it is a fine show, I must say! If it has come to this down here, what can one expect on the surface? But what a queer business! I went on listening, however, though with extreme indignation.

“Yes, I should like a taste of life! Yes, you know ... I should like a taste of life.” I heard a new voice suddenly somewhere in the space between the general and the irritable lady.

“Do you hear, your Excellency, our friend is at the same game again. For three days at a time he says nothing, and then he bursts out with ‘I should like a taste of life, yes, a taste of life!’ And with such appetite, he-he!”

“And such frivolity.”

“It gets hold of him, your Excellency, and do you know, he is growing sleepy, quite sleepy — he has been here since April; and then all of a sudden ‘I should like a taste of life!’”

“It is rather dull, though,” observed his Excellency.

“It is, your Excellency. Shall we tease Avdotya Ignatyevna again, he-he?”

“No, spare me, please. I can’t endure that quarrelsome virago.”

“And I can’t endure either of you,” cried the virago disdainfully. “You are both of you bores and can’t tell me anything ideal. I know one little story about you, your Excellency — don’t turn up your nose, please — how a man-servant swept you out from under a married couple’s bed one morning.”

“Nasty woman,” the general muttered through his teeth.

“Avdotya Ignatyevna, ma’am,” the shopkeeper wailed suddenly again, “my dear lady, don’t be angry, but tell me, am I going through the ordeal by torment now, or is it something else?”

“Ah, he is at it again, as I expected! For there’s a smell from him which means he is turning round!”

“I am not turning round, ma’am, and there’s no particular smell from me, for I’ve kept my body whole as it should be, while you’re regularly high. For the smell is really horrible even for a place like this. I don’t speak of it, merely from politeness.”

“Ah, you horrid, insulting wretch! He positively stinks and talks about me.”

“Oh-ho-ho-ho! If only the time for my requiem would come quickly: I should hear their tearful voices over my head, my wife’s lament and my children’s soft weeping!...”

“Well, that’s a thing to fret for! They’ll stuff themselves with funeral rice and go home.... Oh, I wish somebody would wake up!”

“Avdotya Ignatyevna,” said the insinuating government clerk, “wait a bit, the new arrivals will speak.”

“And are there any young people among them?”

“Yes, there are, Avdotya Ignatyevna. There are some not more than lads.”

“Oh, how welcome that would be!”

“Haven’t they begun yet?” inquired his Excellency.

“Even those who came the day before yesterday haven’t awakened yet, your Excellency. As you know, they sometimes don’t speak for a week. It’s a good job that to-day and yesterday and the day before they brought a whole lot. As it is, they are all last year’s for seventy feet round.”

“Yes, it will be interesting.”

“Yes, your Excellency, they buried Tarasevitch, the privy councillor, to-day. I knew it from the voices. I know his nephew, he helped to lower the coffin just now.”

“Hm, where is he, then?”

“Five steps from you, your Excellency, on the left.... Almost at your feet. You should make his acquaintance, your Excellency.”

“Hm, no — it’s not for me to make advances.”

“Oh, he will begin of himself, your Excellency. He will be flattered. Leave it to me, your Excellency, and I....”

“Oh, oh! ... What is happening to me?” croaked the frightened voice of a new arrival.

“A new arrival, your Excellency, a new arrival, thank God! And how quick he’s been! Sometimes they don’t say a word for a week.”

“Oh, I believe it’s a young man!” Avdotya Ignatyevna cried shrilly.

“I ... I ... it was a complication, and so sudden!” faltered the young man again. “Only the evening before, Schultz said to me, ‘There’s a complication,’ and I died suddenly before morning. Oh! oh!”

“Well, there’s no help for it, young man,” the general observed graciously, evidently pleased at a new arrival. “You must be comforted. You are kindly welcome to our Vale of Jehoshaphat, so to call it. We are kind-hearted people, you will come to know us and appreciate us. Major-General Vassili Vassilitch Pervoyedov, at your service.”

“Oh, no, no! Certainly not! I was at Schultz’s; I had a complication, you know, at first it was my chest and a cough, and then I caught a cold: my lungs and influenza ... and all of a sudden, quite unexpectedly ... the worst of all was its being so unexpected.”

“You say it began with the chest,” the government clerk put in suavely, as though he wished to reassure the new arrival.

“Yes, my chest and catarrh and then no catarrh, but still the chest, and I couldn’t breathe ... and you know....”

“I know, I know. But if it was the chest you ought to have gone to Ecke and not to Schultz.”

“You know, I kept meaning to go to Botkin’s, and all at once....”

“Botkin is quite prohibitive,” observed the general.

“Oh, no, he is not forbidding at all; I’ve heard he is so attentive and foretells everything beforehand.”

“His Excellency was referring to his fees,” the government clerk corrected him.

“Oh, not at all, he only asks three roubles, and he makes such an examination, and gives you a prescription ... and I was very anxious to see him, for I have been told.... Well, gentlemen, had I better go to Ecke or to Botkin?”

“What? To whom?” The general’s corpse shook with agreeable laughter. The government clerk echoed it in falsetto.

“Dear boy, dear, delightful boy, how I love you!” Avdotya Ignatyevna squealed ecstatically. “I wish they had put some one like you next to me.”

No, that was too much! And these were the dead of our times! Still, I ought to listen to more and not be in too great a hurry to draw conclusions. That snivelling new arrival — I remember him just now in his coffin — had the expression of a frightened chicken, the most revolting expression in the world! However, let us wait and see.

But what happened next was such a Bedlam that I could not keep it all in my memory. For a great many woke up at once; an official — a civil councillor — woke up, and began discussing at once the project of a new sub-committee in a government department and of the probable transfer of various functionaries in connection with the sub-committee — which very greatly interested the general. I must confess I learnt a great deal that was new myself, so much so that I marvelled at the channels by which one may sometimes in the metropolis learn government news. Then an engineer half woke up, but for a long time muttered absolute nonsense, so that our friends left off worrying him and let him lie till he was ready. At last the distinguished lady who had been buried in the morning under the catafalque showed symptoms of the reanimation of the tomb. Lebeziatnikov (for the obsequious lower court councillor whom I detested and who lay beside General Pervoyedov was called, it appears, Lebeziatnikov) became much excited, and surprised that they were all waking up so soon this time. I must own I was surprised too; though some of those who woke had been buried for three days, as, for instance, a very young girl of sixteen who kept giggling ... giggling in a horrible and predatory way.

“Your Excellency, privy councillor Tarasevitch is waking!” Lebeziatnikov announced with extreme fussiness.

“Eh? What?” the privy councillor, waking up suddenly, mumbled, with a lisp of disgust. There was a note of ill-humoured peremptoriness in the sound of his voice.

I listened with curiosity — for during the last few days I had heard something about Tarasevitch — shocking and upsetting in the extreme.

“It’s I, your Excellency, so far only I.”

“What is your petition? What do you want?”

“Merely to inquire after your Excellency’s health; in these unaccustomed surroundings every one feels at first, as it were, oppressed.... General Pervoyedov wishes to have the honour of making your Excellency’s acquaintance, and hopes....”

“I’ve never heard of him.”

“Surely, your Excellency! General Pervoyedov, Vassili Vassilitch....”

“Are you General Pervoyedov?”

“No, your Excellency, I am only the lower court councillor Lebeziatnikov, at your service, but General Pervoyedov....”

“Nonsense! And I beg you to leave me alone.”

“Let him be.” General Pervoyedov at last himself checked with dignity the disgusting officiousness of his sycophant in the grave.

“He is not fully awake, your Excellency, you must consider that; it’s the novelty of it all. When he is fully awake he will take it differently.”

“Let him be,” repeated the general.

“Vassili Vassilitch! Hey, your Excellency!” a perfectly new voice shouted loudly and aggressively from close beside Avdotya Ignatyevna. It was a voice of gentlemanly insolence, with the languid pronunciation now fashionable and an arrogant drawl. “I’ve been watching you all for the last two hours. Do you remember me, Vassili Vassilitch? My name is Klinevitch, we met at the Volokonskys’ where you, too, were received as a guest, I am sure I don’t know why.”

“What, Count Pyotr Petrovitch?... Can it be really you ... and at such an early age? How sorry I am to hear it.”

“Oh, I am sorry myself, though I really don’t mind, and I want to amuse myself as far as I can everywhere. And I am not a count but a baron, only a baron. We are only a set of scurvy barons, risen from being flunkeys, but why I don’t know and I don’t care. I am only a scoundrel of the pseudo-aristocratic society, and I am regarded as ‘a charming polis-son.’ My father is a wretched little general, and my mother was at one time received en haut lieu. With the help of the Jew Zifel I forged fifty thousand rouble notes last year and then I informed against him, while Julie Charpentier de Lusignan carried off the money to Bordeaux. And only fancy, I was engaged to be married — to a girl still at school, three months under sixteen, with a dowry of ninety thousand. Avdotya Ignatyevna, do you remember how you seduced me fifteen years ago when I was a boy of fourteen in the Corps des Pages?”

“Ah, that’s you, you rascal! Well, you are a godsend, anyway, for here....”

“You were mistaken in suspecting your neighbour, the business gentleman, of unpleasant fragrance.... I said nothing, but I laughed. The stench came from me: they had to bury me in a nailed-up coffin.”

“Ugh, you horrid creature! Still, I am glad you are here; you can’t imagine the lack of life and wit here.”

“Quite so, quite so, and I intend to start here something original. Your Excellency — I don’t mean you, Pervoyedov — your Excellency the other one, Tarasevitch, the privy councillor! Answer! I am Klinevitch, who took you to Mlle. Furie in Lent, do you hear?”

“I do, Klinevitch, and I am delighted, and trust me....”

“I wouldn’t trust you with a halfpenny, and I don’t care. I simply want to kiss you, dear old man, but luckily I can’t. Do you know, gentlemen, what this grand-père’s little game was? He died three or four days ago, and would you believe it, he left a deficit of four hundred thousand government money from the fund for widows and orphans. He was the sole person in control of it for some reason, so that his accounts were not audited for the last eight years. I can fancy what long faces they all have now, and what they call him. It’s a delectable thought, isn’t it? I have been wondering for the last year how a wretched old man of seventy, gouty and rheumatic, succeeded in preserving the physical energy for his debaucheries — and now the riddle is solved! Those widows and orphans — the very thought of them must have egged him on! I knew about it long ago, I was the only one who did know; it was Julie told me, and as soon as I discovered it, I attacked him in a friendly way at once in Easter week: ‘Give me twenty-five thousand, if you don’t they’ll look into your accounts to-morrow.’ And just fancy, he had only thirteen thousand left then, so it seems it was very apropos his dying now. Grand-père, grand-père, do you hear?”

“Cher Klinevitch, I quite agree with you, and there was no need for you ... to go into such details. Life is so full of suffering and torment and so little to make up for it ... that I wanted at last to be at rest, and so far as I can see I hope to get all I can from here too.”

“I bet that he has already sniffed Katiche Berestov!”

“Who? What Katiche?” There was a rapacious quiver in the old man’s voice.

“A-ah, what Katiche? Why, here on the left, five paces from me and ten from you. She has been here for five days, and if only you knew, grand-père, what a little wretch she is! Of good family and breeding and a monster, a regular monster! I did not introduce her to any one there, I was the only one who knew her.... Katiche, answer!”

“He-he-he!” the girl responded with a jangling laugh, in which there was a note of something as sharp as the prick of a needle. “He-he-he!”

“And a little blonde?” the grand-père faltered, drawling out the syllables.


“I ... have long ... I have long,” the old man faltered breathlessly, “cherished the dream of a little fair thing of fifteen and just in such surroundings.”

“Ach, the monster!” cried Avdotya Ignatyevna.

“Enough!” Klinevitch decided. “I see there is excellent material. We shall soon arrange things better. The great thing is to spend the rest of our time cheerfully; but what time? Hey, you, government clerk, Lebeziatnikov or whatever it is, I hear that’s your name!”

“Semyon Yevseitch Lebeziatnikov, lower court councillor, at your service, very, very, very much delighted to meet you.”

“I don’t care whether you are delighted or not, but you seem to know everything here. Tell me first of all how it is we can talk? I’ve been wondering ever since yesterday. We are dead and yet we are talking and seem to be moving — and yet we are not talking and not moving. What jugglery is this?”

“If you want an explanation, baron, Platon Nikolaevitch could give you one better than I.”

“What Platon Nikolaevitch is that? To the point. Don’t beat about the bush.”

“Platon Nikolaevitch is our home-grown philosopher, scientist and Master of Arts. He has brought out several philosophical works, but for the last three months he has been getting quite drowsy, and there is no stirring him up now. Once a week he mutters something utterly irrelevant.”

“To the point, to the point!”

“He explains all this by the simplest fact, namely, that when we were living on the surface we mistakenly thought that death there was death. The body revives, as it were, here, the remains of life are concentrated, but only in consciousness. I don’t know how to express it, but life goes on, as it were, by inertia. In his opinion everything is concentrated somewhere in consciousness and goes on for two or three months ... sometimes even for half a year.... There is one here, for instance, who is almost completely decomposed, but once every six weeks he suddenly utters one word, quite senseless of course, about some bobok, ‘Bobok, bobok,’ but you see that an imperceptible speck of life is still warm within him.”

i. e. small bean.

“It’s rather stupid. Well, and how is it I have no sense of smell and yet I feel there’s a stench?”

“That ... he-he.... Well, on that point our philosopher is a bit foggy. It’s apropos of smell, he said, that the stench one perceives here is, so to speak, moral — he-he! It’s the stench of the soul, he says, that in these two or three months it may have time to recover itself ... and this is, so to speak, the last mercy.... Only, I think, baron, that these are mystic ravings very excusable in his position....”

“Enough; all the rest of it, I am sure, is nonsense. The great thing is that we have two or three months more of life and then — bobok! I propose to spend these two months as agreeably as possible, and so to arrange everything on a new basis. Gentlemen! I propose to cast aside all shame.”

“Ah, let us cast aside all shame, let us!” many voices could be heard saying; and strange to say, several new voices were audible, which must have belonged to others newly awakened. The engineer, now fully awake, boomed out his agreement with peculiar delight. The girl Katiche giggled gleefully.

“Oh, how I long to cast off all shame!” Avdotya Ignatyevna exclaimed rapturously.

“I say, if Avdotya Ignatyevna wants to cast off all shame....”

“No, no, no, Klinevitch, I was ashamed up there all the same, but here I should like to cast off shame, I should like it awfully.”

“I understand, Klinevitch,” boomed the engineer, “that you want to rearrange life here on new and rational principles.”

“Oh, I don’t care a hang about that! For that we’ll wait for Kudeyarov who was brought here yesterday. When he wakes he’ll tell you all about it. He is such a personality, such a titanic personality! To-morrow they’ll bring along another natural scientist, I believe, an officer for certain, and three or four days later a journalist, and, I believe, his editor with him. But deuce take them all, there will be a little group of us anyway, and things will arrange themselves. Though meanwhile I don’t want us to be telling lies. That’s all I care about, for that is one thing that matters. One cannot exist on the surface without lying, for life and lying are synonymous, but here we will amuse ourselves by not lying. Hang it all, the grave has some value after all! We’ll all tell our stories aloud, and we won’t be ashamed of anything. First of all I’ll tell you about myself. I am one of the predatory kind, you know. All that was bound and held in check by rotten cords up there on the surface. Away with cords and let us spend these two months in shameless truthfulness! Let us strip and be naked!”

“Let us be naked, let us be naked!” cried all the voices.

“I long to be naked, I long to be,” Avdotya Ignatyevna shrilled.

“Ah ... ah, I see we shall have fun here; I don’t want Ecke after all.”

“No, I tell you. Give me a taste of life!”

“He-he-he!” giggled Katiche.

“The great thing is that no one can interfere with us, and though I see Pervoyedov is in a temper, he can’t reach me with his hand. Grand-père, do you agree?”

“I fully agree, fully, and with the utmost satisfaction, but on condition that Katiche is the first to give us her biography.”

“I protest! I protest with all my heart!” General Pervoyedov brought out firmly.

“Your Excellency!” the scoundrel Lebeziatnikov persuaded him in a murmur of fussy excitement, “your Excellency, it will be to our advantage to agree. Here, you see, there’s this girl’s ... and all their little affairs.”

“There’s the girl, it’s true, but....”

“It’s to our advantage, your Excellency, upon my word it is! If only as an experiment, let us try it....”

“Even in the grave they won’t let us rest in peace.”

“In the first place, General, you were playing preference in the grave, and in the second we don’t care a hang about you,” drawled Klinevitch.

“Sir, I beg you not to forget yourself.”

“What? Why, you can’t get at me, and I can tease you from here as though you were Julie’s lapdog. And another thing, gentlemen, how is he a general here? He was a general there, but here is mere refuse.”

“No, not mere refuse.... Even here....”

“Here you will rot in the grave and six brass buttons will be all that will be left of you.”

“Bravo, Klinevitch, ha-ha-ha!” roared voices.

“I have served my sovereign.... I have the sword....”

“Your sword is only fit to prick mice, and you never drew it even for that.”

“That makes no difference; I formed a part of the whole.”

“There are all sorts of parts in a whole.”

“Bravo, Klinevitch, bravo! Ha-ha-ha!”

“I don’t understand what the sword stands for,” boomed the engineer.

“We shall run away from the Prussians like mice, they’ll crush us to powder!” cried a voice in the distance that was unfamiliar to me, that was positively spluttering with glee.

“The sword, sir, is an honour,” the general cried, but only I heard him. There arose a prolonged and furious roar, clamour, and hubbub, and only the hysterically impatient squeals of Avdotya Ignatyevna were audible.

“But do let us make haste! Ah, when are we going to begin to cast off all shame!”

“Oh-ho-ho!... The soul does in truth pass through torments!” exclaimed the voice of the plebeian, “and ...”

And here I suddenly sneezed. It happened suddenly and unintentionally, but the effect was striking: all became as silent as one expects it to be in a churchyard, it all vanished like a dream. A real silence of the tomb set in. I don’t believe they were ashamed on account of my presence: they had made up their minds to cast off all shame! I waited five minutes — not a word, not a sound. It cannot be supposed that they were afraid of my informing the police; for what could the police do to them? I must conclude that they had some secret unknown to the living, which they carefully concealed from every mortal.

“Well, my dears,” I thought, “I shall visit you again.” And with those words, I left the cemetery.

No, that I cannot admit; no, I really cannot! The bobok case does not trouble me (so that is what that bobok signified!)

Depravity in such a place, depravity of the last aspirations, depravity of sodden and rotten corpses — and not even sparing the last moments of consciousness! Those moments have been granted, vouchsafed to them, and ... and, worst of all, in such a place! No, that I cannot admit.

I shall go to other tombs, I shall listen everywhere. Certainly one ought to listen everywhere and not merely at one spot in order to form an idea. Perhaps one may come across something reassuring.

But I shall certainly go back to those. They promised their biographies and anecdotes of all sorts. Tfoo! But I shall go, I shall certainly go; it is a question of conscience!

I shall take it to the Citizen; the editor there has had his portrait exhibited too. Maybe he will print it.

A Gentle Spirit


  • Part I

  • Chapter I. Who I was and who she was

  • Chapter II. The offer of marriage

  • Chapter III. The Noblest Of Men, Though I don’t believe it myself

  • Chapter IV. Plans and Plans

  • Chapter V. A Gentle Spirit in Revolt

  • Chapter VI. A Terrible Reminiscence

  • Part II

  • Chapter I. The Dream of Pride

  • Chapter II. The Veil Suddenly Falls

  • Chapter III. I Understand Too Well

  • Chapter IV. I Was Only Five Minutes Too Late

Part I

Chapter I. Who I was and who she was

Oh, while she is still here, it is still all right; I go up and look at her every minute; but tomorrow they will take her away - and how shall I be left alone? Now she is on the table in the drawing-room, they put two card tables together, the coffin will be here tomorrow - white, pure white “gros de Naples” - but that’s not it . . .

I keep walking about, trying to explain it to myself. I have been trying for the last six hours to get it clear, but still I can’t think of it all as a whole.

The fact is I walk to and fro, and to and fro.

This is how it was. I will simply tell it in order. (Order!)

Gentlemen, I am far from being a literary man and you will see that; but no matter, I’ll tell it as I understand it myself. The horror of it for me is that I understand it all!

It was, if you care to know, that is to take it from the beginning, that she used to come to me simply to pawn things, to pay for advertising in the VOICE to the effect that a governess was quite willing to travel, to give lessons at home, and so on, and so on. That was at the very beginning, and I, of course, made no difference between her and the others: “She comes,” I thought, “like any one else,” and so on.

But afterwards I began to see a difference. She was such a slender, fair little thing, rather tall, always a little awkward with me, as though embarrassed (I fancy she was the same with all strangers, and in her eyes, of course, I was exactly like anybody else - that is, not as a pawnbroker but as a man).

As soon as she received the money she would turn round at once and go away. And always in silence. Other women argue so, entreat, haggle for me to give them more; this one did not ask for more. . . .

I believe I am muddling it up.

Yes; I was struck first of all by the things she brought: poor little silver gilt earrings, a trashy little locket, things not worth sixpence. She knew herself that they were worth next to nothing, but I could see from her face that they were treasures to her, and I found out afterwards as a fact that they were all that was left her belonging to her father and mother.

Only once I allowed myself to scoff at her things. You see I never allow myself to behave like that. I keep up a gentlemanly tone with my clients: few words, politeness and severity. “Severity, severity!”

But once she ventured to bring her last rag, that is, literally the remains of an old hareskin jacket, and I could not resist saying something by way of a joke. My goodness! how she flared up! Her eyes were large, blue and dreamy but - how they blazed. But she did not drop one word; picking up her “rags” she walked out.

It was then for the first time I noticed her particularly, and thought something of the kind about her - that it, something of a particular kind. Yes, I remember another impression - that is, if you will have it, perhaps the chief impression, that summed up everything. It was that she was terribly young, so young that she looked just fourteen. And yet she was within three months of sixteen. I didn’t mean that, though, that wasn’t what summed it all up. Next day she came again. I found out later that she had been to Dobranravov’s and to Mozer’s with that jacket, but they take nothing but gold and would have nothing to say to it. I once took some stones from her (rubbishy little ones) and, thinking it over afterwards, I wondered: I, too, only lend on gold and silver, yet from her I accepted stones. That was my second thought about her then; that I remember. That time, that is when she came from Mozer’s, she brought an amber cigar-holder. It was a connoisseur’s article, not bad, but again, of no value to us, because we only deal in gold. As it was the day after her “mutiny”, I received her sternly. Sternness with me takes the form of dryness. As I gave her two roubles, however, I could not resist saying, with a certain irritation, “I only do it for you, of course; Mozer wouldn’t take such a thing.”

The word “for you” I emphasised particularly, and with a particular implication.

I was spiteful. She flushed up again when she heard that “for you”, but she did not say a word, she did not refuse the money, she took it - that is poverty! But how hotly she flushed! I saw I had stung her. And when she had gone out, I suddenly asked myself whether my triumph over her was worth two roubles. He! He!! He!!! I remember I put that question to myself twice over, “was is worth it? was it worth it?”

And, laughing, I inwardly answered it in the affirmative. And I felt very much elated. But that was not an evil feeling; I said it with design, with a motive; I wanted to test her, because certain ideas with regard to her had suddenly come into my mind. That was the third thing I thought particularly about her. . . . Well, it was from that time it all began. Of course, I tried at once to find out all her circumstances indirectly, and awaited her coming with a special impatience. I had a presentiment that she would come soon. When she came, I entered into affable conversation with her, speaking with unusual politeness. I have not been badly brought up and have manners. H’m. It was then I guessed that she was soft-hearted and gentle.

The gentle and soft-hearted do not resist long, and though they are by no means very ready to reveal themselves, they do not know how to escape from a conversation; they are niggardly in their answers, but they do answer, and the more readily the longer you go on. Only, on your side you must not flag, if you want them to talk. I need hardly say that she did not explain anything to me then. About the Voice and all that I found out afterwards. She was at that time spending her last farthing on advertising, haughtily at first, of course. “A governess prepared to travel and will send terms on application,” but, later on: “willing to do anything, to teach, to be a companion, to be a housekeeper, to wait on an invalid, plain sewing, and so on, and so on”, the usual thing! Of course, all this was added to the advertisement a bit at a time and finally, when she was reduced to despair, it came to: “without salary in return for board.” No, she could not find a situation. I made up my mind then to test her for the last time. I suddenly took up the Voice of the day and showed her an advertisement. “A young person, without friends and relations, seeks a situation as a governess to young children, preferably in the family of a middle-aged widower. Might be a comfort in the home.”

“Look here how this lady has advertised this morning, and by the evening she will certainly have found a situation. That’s the way to advertise.”

Again she flushed crimson and her eyes blazed, she turned round and went straight out. I was very much pleased, though by that time I felt sure of everything and had no apprehensions; nobody will take her cigar-holders, I thought. Besides, she has got rid of them all. And so it was, two days later, she came in again, such a pale little creature, all agitation - I saw that something had happened to her at home, and something really had. I will explain directly what had happened, but now I only want to recall how I did something chic, and rose in her opinion. I suddenly decided to do it. The fact is she was pawning the ikon (she had brought herself to pawn it!) . . Ah! listen! listen! This is the beginning now, I’ve been in a muddle. You see I want to recall all this, every detail, every little point. I want to bring them all together and look at them as a whole and - I cannot . . . It’s these little things, these little things. . . . It was an ikon of the Madonna. A Madonna with the Babe, and old-fashioned, homely one, and the setting was silver gilt, worth - well, six roubles perhaps. I could see the ikon was precious to her; she was pawning it whole, not taking it out of the setting. I said to her -

“You had better take it out of the setting, and take the ikon home; for it’s not the thing to pawn.”

“Why, are you forbidden to take them?”

“No, it’s not that we are forbidden, but you might, perhaps, yourself . . .”

“Well, take it out.”

“I tell you what. I will not take it out, but I’ll set it here in the shrine with the other ikons,” I said, on reflection. “Under the little lamp” (I always had the lamp burning as soon as the shop was opened), “and you simply take ten roubles.”

“Don’t give me ten roubles. I only want five; I shall certainly redeem it.”

“You don’t want ten? The ikon’s worth it,” I added noticing that her eyes flashed again.

She was silent. I brought out five roubles.

“Don’t despise any one; I’ve been in such straits myself; and worse too, and that you see me here in this business . . . is owing to what I’ve been through in the past. . . .”

“You’re revenging yourself on the world? Yes?” she interrupted suddenly with rather sarcastic mockery, which, however, was to a great extent innocent (that is, it was general, because certainly at that time she did not distinguish me from others, so that she said it almost without malice).

“Aha,” thought I; “so that’s what you’re like. You’ve got character; you belong to the new movement.”

“You see!” I remarked at once, half-jestingly, half-mysteriously, “I am part of that part of the Whole that seeks to do ill, but does good. . . .”

Quickly and with great curiosity, in which , however, there was something very childlike, she looked at me.

“Stay . . . what’s that idea? Where does it come from? I’ve heard it somewhere . . .”

“Don’t rack your brains. In those words Mephistopheles introduces himself to Faust. Have you read Faust?”

“Not . . . not attentively.”

“That is, you have not read it at all. You must read it. But I see an ironical look in your face again. Please don’t imagine that I’ve so little taste as to try to use Mephistopheles to commend myself to you and grace the role of pawnbroker. A pawnbroker will still be a pawnbroker. We know.”

“You’re so strange . . . I didn’t mean to say anything of that sort.”

She meant to say: “I didn’t expect to find you were an educated man”; but she didn’t say it; I knew, though, that she thought that. I had pleased her very much.

“You see,” I observed, “One may do good in any calling - I’m not speaking of myself, of course. Let us grant that I’m doing nothing but harm, yet . . .”

“Of course, one can do good in every position,” she said, glancing at me with a rapid, profound look. “Yes, in any position,” she added suddenly.

Oh, I remember, I remember all those moments! And I want to add, too, that when such young creatures, such sweet young creatures want to say something so clever and profound, they show at once so truthfully and naively in their faces, “Here I am saying something clever and profound now” - and that is not from vanity, as it is with any one like me, but one sees that she appreciates it awfully herself, and believes in it, and thinks a lot of it, and imagines that you think a lot of all that, just as she does. Oh, truthfulness! it’s by that they conquer us. How exquisite it was in her!

I remember it, I have forgotten nothing! As soon as she had gone, I made up my mind. That same day I made my last investigations and found out every detail of her position at the moment; every detail of her past I had learned already from Lukerya, at that time a servant in the family, whom I had bribed a few days before. This position was so awful that I can’t understand how she could laugh as she had done that day and feel interest in the words of Mephistopheles, when she was in such horrible straits. But - that’s youth! That is just what I thought about her at the time with pride and joy; for, you know, there’s a greatness of soul in it - to be able to say, “Though I am on the edge of the abyss, yet Goethe’s grand words are radiant with light.” Youth always has some greatness of soul, if its only a spark and that distorted. Though it’s of her I am speaking, of her alone. And, above all, I looked upon her then as mine and did not doubt of my power. You know, that’s a voluptuous idea when you feel no doubt of it.

But what is the matter with me? If I go on like this, when shall I put it all together and look at it as a whole. I must make haste, make haste - that is not what matters, oh, my God!

Chapter II. The offer of marriage

The “details” I learned about her I will tell in one word: her father and mother were dead, they had died three years before, and she had been left with two disreputable aunts: though it is saying too little to call them disreputable. One aunt was a widow with a large family (six children, one smaller than another), the other a horrid old maid. Both were horrid. Her father was in the service, but only as a copying clerk, and was only a gentleman by courtesy; in fact, everything was in my favour. I came as though from a higher world; I was anyway a retired lieutenant of a brilliant regiment, a gentleman by birth, independent and all the rest of it, and as for my pawnbroker’s shop, her aunts could only have looked on that with respect. She had been living in slavery at her aunts’ for those three years: yet she had managed to pass an examination somewhere - she managed to pass it, she wrung the time for it, weighed down as a she was by the pitiless burden of daily drudgery, and that proved something in the way of striving for what was higher and better on her part! Why, what made me want to marry her? Never mind me, though; of that later on . . . As though that mattered! - She taught her aunt’s children; she made their clothes; and towards the end not only washed the clothes, but with her weak chest even scrubbed the floors. To put it plainly, they used to beat her, and taunt her with eating their bread. It ended by their scheming to sell her. Tfoo! I omit the filthy details. She told me all about it afterwards.

All this had been watched for a whole year by a neighbour, a fat shopkeeper, and not a humble one but the owner of two grocer’s shops. He had ill-treated two wives and now he was looking for a third, and so he cast his eye on her. “She’s a quiet one,” he thought; “she’s grown up in poverty, and I am marrying for the sake of my motherless children.”

He really had children. He began trying to make the match and negotiating with the aunts. He was fifty years old, besides. She was aghast with horror. It was then she began coming so often to me to advertise in the Voice. At last she began begging the aunts to give her just a little time to think it over. They granted her that little time, but would not let her have more; they were always at her: “We don’t know where to turn to find food for ourselves, without an extra mouth to feed.”

I had found all this out already, and the same day, after what had happened in the morning, I made up my mind. That evening the shopkeeper came, bringing with him a pound of sweets from the shop; she was sitting with him, and I called Lukerya out of the kitchen and told her to go and whisper to her that I was at the gate and wanted to say something to her without delay. I felt pleased with myself. And altogether I felt awfully pleased all that day.

On the spot, at the gate, in the presence of Lukerya, before she had recovered from her amazement at my sending for her, I informed her that I should look upon it as an honour and happiness . . . telling her, in the next place, not to be surprised at the manner of my declaration and at my speaking at the gate, saying that I was a straightforward man and had learned the position of affairs. And I was not lying when I said I was straightforward. Well, hang it all. I did not only speak with propriety - that is, showing I was a man of decent breeding, but I spoke with originality and that was the chief thing. After all, is there any harm in admitting it? I want to judge myself and am judging myself. I must speak pro and contra, and I do. I remembered afterwards with enjoyment, though it was stupid, that I frankly declared, without the least embarrassment, that, in the first place, I was not particularly talented, not particularly intelligent, not particularly good-natured, rather a cheap egoist (I remember that expression, I thought of it on the way and was pleased with it) and that very probably there was a great deal that was disagreeable in me in other respects. All this was said with a special sort of pride - we all know how that sort of thing is said. Of course, I had good taste enough not to proceed to enlarge on my virtues after honourably enumerating my defects, not to say “to make up for that I have this and that and the other.” I saw that she was still horrible frightened I purposely exaggerated. I told her straight out that she would have enough to eat, but that fine clothes, theatres, balls - she would have none of, at any rate not till later on, when I had attained my object. this severe tone was a positive delight to me. I added as cursorily as possible, that in adopting such a calling - that is, in keeping a pawnbroker’s shop, I had one object, hinting there was a special circumstance . . . but I really had a right to say so: I really had such an aim and there really was such a circumstance. Wait a minute, gentlemen; I have always been the first to hate this pawnbroking business, but in reality, though it is absurd to talk about oneself in such mysterious phrases, yet, you know, I was “revenging myself on society,” I really was, I was, I was! So that her gibe that morning at the idea of my revenging myself was unjust. that is, do you see, if I had said to her straight out in words: “yes, I am revenging myself on society,” she would have laughed as she did that morning, and it would, in fact have been absurd. But by indirect hints, but dropping mysterious phrases, it appeared that it was possible to work upon her imagination. Besides, I had no fears then: I knew that the fat shopkeeper was anyway more repulsive to her than I was, and that I, standing at the gate, had appeared as a deliverer. I understood that, of course. Oh, what is base a man understands particularly well! But was it base? How can a man judge? Didn’t I love her even then?

Wait a bit: of course, I didn’t breathe a word to her of doing her a benefit; the opposite, oh, quite the opposite; I made out that it was I that would be under an obligation to her, not she to me. Indeed, I said as much - I couldn’t resist saying it - and it sounded stupid, perhaps, for I noticed a shade flit across her face. But altogether I won the day completely. Wait a bit, if I am to recall all that vileness, then I will tell of that worst beastliness. As I stood there what was stirring in my mind was, “You are tall, a good figure, educated and - speaking without conceit - good-looking.” That is what was at work in my mind. I need hardly say that, on the spot, out there at the gate she said “yes.” But . . . but I ought to add: that out there by the gate she thought a long time before she said “yes.” She pondered for so long that I said to her, “Well?” - and could not even refrain from asking it with a certain swagger.

“Wait a little. I’m thinking.”

And her little face was so serious, so serious that even then I might have read it! And I was mortified: “Can she be choosing between me and the grocer!” I thought. Oh, I did not understand then! I did not understand anything, anything, then! I did not understand till today! I remember Lukerya ran after me as I was going away, stopped me on the road and said, breathlessly: “God will reward you, sir, for taking our dear young lady; only don’t speak of that to her - she’s proud.”

Proud, is she! “I like proud people,” I thought. Proud people are particularly nice when . . . well, when one has no doubt of one’s power over them, eh? Oh, base, tactless man! Oh, how pleased I was! You know, when she was standing there at the gate, hesitating whether to say “yes” to me, and I was wondering at it, you know, she may have had some such thought as this: “If it is to be misery either way, isn’t it best to choose the very worst” - that is, let the fat grocer beat her to death when he was drunk! Eh! what do you think, could there have been a thought like that?

And, indeed, I don’t understand it now, I don’t understand it at all, even now. I have only just said that she may have had that thought: of two evils choose the worst - that is the grocer. But which was the worst for her then - the grocer or I? The grocer or the pawnbroker who quoted Goethe? That’s another question! What a question! And even that you don’t understand: the answer is lying on the table and you call it a question! Never mind me, though. It’s not a question of me at all . . . and, by the way, what is there left for me now - whether it’s a question of me or whether it is not? That’s what I am utterly unable to answer. I had better go to bed. My head aches. . . .

Chapter III. The Noblest Of Men, Though I don’t believe it myself

I could not sleep. And how should I? There is a pulse throbbing in my head. One longs to master it all, all that degradation. Oh, the degradation! Oh, what degradation I dragged her out of then! Of course, she must have realized that, she must have appreciated my action! I was pleased, too, by various thoughts - for instance, the reflection that I was forty-one and she was only sixteen. that fascinated me, that feeling of inequality was very sweet, was very sweet.

I wanted, for instance, to have a wedding a l’anglaise, that is only the two of us, with just te two necessary witnesses, one of them Lukerya, and from the wedding straight to the train to Moscow (I happened to have business there, by the way), and then a fortnight at the hotel. She opposed it, she would not have it, and I had to visit her aunts and treat them with respect as though they were relations from whom I was taking her. I gave way, and all befitting respect was paid the aunts. I even made the creatures a present of a hundred roubles each and promised them more - not telling her anything about it, of course, that I might not make her feel humiliated by the lowness of her surroundings. the aunts were as soft as silk at once. There was a wrangle about the trousseau too; she had nothing, almost literally, but she did not want to have anything. I succeeded in proving to her, though, that she must have something, and I made up the trousseau, for who would have given her anything? But there, enough of me. I did, however, succeed in communicating some of my ideas to her then, so that she knew them anyway. I was in too great a hurry, perhaps. the best of it was that, from the very beginning, she rushed to meet me with love, greeted me with rapture, when I went to see her in the evening, told me in her chatter (the enchanting chatter of innocence) all about her childhood and girlhood, her old home, her father and mother. But I poured cold water upon all that at once. that was my idea. I met her enthusiasm with silence, friendly silence, of course . . . but, all the same, she could quickly see that we were different and that I was - an enigma. And being an enigma was what I made a point of most of all! Why, it was just for the sake of being an enigma, perhaps - that I have been guilty of all this stupidity. The first thing was sternness - it was with an air of sternness that I took her into my house. In fact, as I went about then feeling satisfied, I framed a complete system. Oh, it came of itself without any effort. And it could not have been otherwise. I was bound to create that system owing to one inevitable fact - why should I libel myself indeed! The system was a genuine one. yes, listen; if you must judge a man, better judge him knowing all about it . . . listen.

How am I to begin this, for it is very difficult. When you begin to justify yourself - then it is difficult. You see, for instance, young people despise money - I made money of importance at once; I laid special stress on money. And laid such stress on it that she became more and more silent. She opened her eyes wide, listened, gazed and said nothing. you see, the young are heroic, that is the good among them are heroic and impulsive, but they have little tolerance; if the least thing is not quite right they are full of contempt. And I wanted breadth, I wanted to instil breadth into her very heart, to make it part of her inmost feeling, did I not? I’ll take a trivial example: how should I explain my pawnbroker’s shop to a character like that? Of course, I did not speak of it directly, or it would have appeared that I was apologizing, and I, so to speak, worked it through with pride, I almost spoke without words, and I am masterly at speaking without words. all my life I have spoken without words, and I have passed through whole tragedies on my own account without words. Why, I, too, have been unhappy! I was abandoned by every one, abandoned and forgotten, and no one, no one knew it! And all at once this sixteen-year-old girl picked up details about me from vulgar people and thought she knew all about me, and, meanwhile, what was precious remained hidden in this heart! I went on being silent, with her especially I was silent, with her especially, right up to yesterday - why was I silent? Because I was proud. I wanted her to find out for herself, without my help, and not from the tales of low people; I wanted her to divine of herself what manner of man I was and to understand me! Taking her into my house I wanted all her respect, I wanted her to be standing before me in homage for the sake of my sufferings - and I deserved it. Oh, I have always been proud, I always wanted all or nothing! You see it was just because I am not one who will accept half a happiness, but always wanted all, that I was forced to act like that then: it was a much as to say, “See into me for yourself and appreciate me!” For you must see that if I had begun explaining myself to her and prompting her, ingratiating myself and asking for her respect - it would have been as good as asking for charity . . . But . . . but why am I talking of that!

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid! I explained to her than, in two words, directly, ruthlessly (and I emphasize the fact that it was ruthlessly) that the heroism of youth was charming, but - not worth a farthing. Why not? Because it costs them so little, because it is not gained through life; it is, so to say, merely “first impressions of existence,” but just let us see you at work! Cheap heroism is always easy, and even to sacrifice life is easy too; because it is only a case of hot blood and an overflow of energy, and there is such a longing for what is beautiful! No, take the deed of heroism that is labourious, obscure, without noise or flourish, slandered, in which there is a great deal of sacrifice and not one grain of glory - in which you, a splendid man, are made to look like a scoundrel before every one, though you might be the most honest man in the world - you try that sort of heroism and you’ll soon give it up! While I - have been bearing the burden of that all my life. At first she argued - ough, how she argued - but afterwards she began to be silent, completely silent, in fact, only opened her eyes wide as she listened, such big, big eyes, so attentive. And . . . and what is more, I suddenly saw a smile, mistrustful, silent, an evil smile. Well, it was with that smile on her face I brought her into my house. It is true that she had nowhere to go.

Chapter IV. Plans and Plans

Which of us began it first?

Neither. It began of itself from the very first. I have said that with sternness i brought her into the house. From the first step, however, I softened it. Before she was married it was explained to her that she would have to take pledges and pay out money, and she said nothing at the time (note that). What is more, she set to work with positive zeal. Well, of course, my lodging, my furniture all remained as before. My lodging consisted of two rooms, a large room from which the shop was partitioned off, and a second one, also large, our living room and bedroom. My furniture is scanty: even her aunts had better things. My shrine of ikons with the lamp was in the outer room where the shop is; in the inner room my bookcase with a few books in and a trunk of which I keep the key; married I told her that one rouble a day and not more, was to be spent on our board - that is, on food for me, her and Lukerya whom I had enticed to come to us. “I must have thirty thousand in three years,” said I, “and we can’t save the money if we spend more.” She fell in with this, but I raised the sum by thirty kopecks a day. It was the same with the theatre. I told her before marriage that she would not go to the theatre, and yet I decided once a month to go to he theatre, and in a decent way, to the stalls. We went together. We went three times and saw The Hunt after Happiness, and Singing Birds, I believe. (Oh, what does it matter!) We went in silence and in silence we returned. Why, why, from the very beginning, did we take to being silent? From the very first, you know, we had no quarrels, but always the same silence. She was always, I remember, watching me stealthily in those days; as soon as I noticed it I became more silent that before. It is true that it was I insisted on the silence, not she. On her part there were one or two outbursts, she rushed to embrace me; but as these outbursts were hysterical, painful, and I wanted secure happiness, with respect from her, I received them coldly. And indeed, I was right; each time the outburst was followed next day by a quarrel.

Though, again, there were no quarrels, but there was silence and - and on her side a more and more defiant air. “Rebellion and independence,” that’s what it was, only she didn’t know how to show it. yes, that gentle creature was becoming more and more defiant. Would you believe it, I was becoming revolting to her? I learned that. And there could be no doubt that she was moved to frenzy at times. think, for instance, of her beginning to sniff at our poverty, after her coming from such sordidness and destitution - from scrubbing the floors! you see, there was no poverty; there was frugality, but there was abundance of what was necessary, of linen, for instance, and the greatest cleanliness. I always used to dream that cleanliness in a husband attracts a wife. It was not our poverty she was scornful of, but my supposed miserliness in the housekeeping: “he has his objects,” she seemed to say, “he is showing his strength of will.” She suddenly refused to go to the theatre. And more and more often an ironical look. . . . And I was more silent, more and more silent.

I could not begin justifying myself, could I? What was at the bottom of all this was the pawnbroking business. Allow me, I knew that a woman, above all at sixteen, must be in complete subordination to a man. Women have no originality. That - that is an axiom; even now, even now, for me it is an axiom! What does it prove that she is lying there in the outer room? Truth is truth, and even Mill is no use against it! And a woman who loves, oh, a woman who loves idealizes even the vices, even the villainies of the man she loves. He would not himself even succeed in finding such justification for his villanies as she will find for him. that is generous but not original. it is the lack of originality alone that has been the ruin of women. and, I repeat, what is the use of your point to that table? Why, what is there original in her being on that table? O - O - Oh!

Listen. I was convinced of her love at that time. Why, she used to throw herself on my neck in those days. She loved me; that is, more accurately, she wanted to love. Yes, that’s just what it was, she wanted to love; she was trying to love. And the point was that in this case there were no villanies for which she had to find justification. you will say, I’m a pawnbroker; and every one says the same. But what if I am a pawnbroker? It follows that there must be reasons since the most generous of men had become a pawnbroker. You see, gentlemen, there are ideas . . . that is, if one expresses some ideas, utters them in words, the effect is very stupid. The effect is to make one ashamed. For what reason? For no reason. Because we are all wretched creatures and cannot hear the truth, or I do not know why. I said just now, “the most generous of men” - that is absurd, and yet that is how it was. It’s the truth, that is, the absolute, absolute truth! Yes, I had the right to want to make myself secure and open that pawnbroker’s shop: “You have rejected me, you - people, I mean - you have cast me out with contemptuous silence. My passionate yearning towards you you have met with insult all my life. Now I have the right to put up a wall against you, to save up that thirty thousand roubles and end my life somewhere in the Crimea, on the south coast, among the mountains and vineyards, on my own estate bought with that thirty thousand, and above everything, far away from you all, living without malice against you, with an ideal in my soul, with a beloved woman at my heart, and a family, if God sends one, and - helping the inhabitants all around.”

Of course, it is quite right that I say this to myself now, but what could have been more stupid than describing all that aloud to her? That was the cause of my proud silence, that’s why we sat in silence. For what could she have understood? Sixteen years old, the earliest youth - yes, what could she have understood of my justification, of my sufferings? Undeviating straightness, ignorance of life, the cheap convictions of youth, the hen-like blindness of those “noble hearts,” and what stood for most was - the pawnbroker’s shop and - enough! (And was I a villain in the pawnbroker’s shop? Did not she see how I acted? Did I extort too much?)

Oh, how awful is truth on earth! That exquisite creature, that gentle spirit, that heaven - she was a tyrant, she was the insufferable tyrant and torture of my soul! I should be unfair to myself if I didn’t say so! You imagine I didn’t love her? Who can say that I did not love her! Do you see, it was a case of irony, the malignant irony of fate and nature! We were under a curse, the life of men in general is under a curse! (mine in particular). Of course, I understand now that I made some mistake! Something went wrong. Everything was clear, my plan was clear as daylight: “Austere and proud, asking for no moral comfort, but suffering in silence.” And that was how it was. I was not lying, I was not lying! “She will see for herself, later on, that it was heroic, only that she had not known how to see it, and when, some day, she divines, it she will prize me ten times more and will abase herself in the dust and fold her hands in homage” - that was my plan. But I forgot something or lost sight of it. There was something I failed to manage. But, enough, enough! And whose forgiveness am I to ask now? What is done is done. By bolder, man, and have some pride! It is not your fault! . . .

Well, I will tell the truth, I am not afraid to face the truth; it was her fault, her fault!

Chapter V. A Gentle Spirit in Revolt

Quarrels began from her suddenly beginning to pay out loans on her own account, to price things above their worth, and even, on two occasions, she deigned to enter into a dispute about it with me. I did not agree. But then the captain’s widow turned up.

This old widow brought a medallion - a present from her dead husband, a souvenir, of course. I lent her thirty roubles on it. She fell to complaining, begged me to keep the thing for her - of course we do keep things. Well, in short, she came again to exchange it for a bracelet that was not worth eight roubles; I, of course, refused. She must have guessed something from my wife’s eyes, anyway she came again when I was not there and my wife changed it for the medallion.

Discovering it the same day, I spoke mildly but firmly and reasonably. She was sitting on the bed, looking at the ground and tapping with her right foot on the carpet (her characteristic movement); there was an ugly smile on her lips. Then, without raising my voice in the least, I explained calmly that the money was mine, that I had a right to look at life with my own eyes and - and that when I had offered to take her into my house, I had hidden nothing from her.

She suddenly leapt up, suddenly began shaking all over and - what do you think - she suddenly stamped her foot at me; it was a wild animal, it was a frenzy, it was the frenzy of a wild animal. I was petrified with astonishment; I had never expected such an outburst. But I did not lose my head. I made no movement even, and again, in the same calm voice, I announced plainly that from that time forth I should deprive her of the part she took in my work. She laughed in my face, and walked out of the house.

The fact is, she had not the right to walk out of the house. Nowhere without me, such was the agreement before she was married. In the evening she returned; I did not utter a word.

The next day, too, she went out in the morning, and the day after again. I shut the shop and went off to her aunts. I had cut off all relations with them from the time of the wedding - I would not have them to see me, and I would not go to see them. But it turned out that she had not been with them. They listened to me with curiosity and laughed in my face: “It serves you right,” they said. But I expected their laughter. At that point, then I bought over the younger aunt, the unmarried one, for a hundred roubles, giving her twenty-five in advance. Two days later she came to me: “There’s an officer called Efimovitch mixed up in this,” she said; “a lieutenant who was a comrade of yours in the regiment.”

I was greatly amazed. That Efimovitch had done me more harm than any one in the regiment, and about a month ago, being a shameless fellow, he once or twice came into the shop with a pretence of pawning something, and I remember, began laughing with my wife. I went up at the time and told him not to dare to come to me, recalling our relations; but there was no thought of anything in my head, I simply thought that he was insolent. Now the aunt suddenly informed me that she had already appointed to see him and that the whole business had been arranged by a former friend of the aunt’s, the widow of a colonel, called Yulia Samsonovna. “It’s to her,” she said, “your wife goes now.”

I will cut the story short. The business cost me three hundred roubles, but in a couple of days it had been arranged that I should stand in an adjoining room, behind closed doors, and listen to the first rendezvous between my wife and Efimovitch, tete-a-tete. Meanwhile, the evening before, a scene, brief but very memorable for me, took place between us.

She returned towards evening, sat down on the bed, looked at me sarcastically, and tapped on the carpet with her foot. Looking at her, the idea suddenly came into my mind that for the whole of the last month, or rather, the last fortnight, her character had not been her own; one might even say that it had been the opposite of her own; she had suddenly shown herself a mutinous, aggressive creature; I cannot say shameless, but regardless of decorum and eager for trouble. She went out of her way to stir up trouble. Her gentleness hindered her, though. When a girl like that rebels, however outrageously she may behave, one can always see that she is forcing herself to do it, that she is driving herself to do it, and that it is impossible for her to master and overcome her own modesty and shamefacedness. That is why such people go such lengths at times, so that one can hardly believe one’s eyes. One who is accustomed to depravity, on the contrary, always softens things, acts more disgustingly, but with a show of decorum and seemliness by which she claims to be superior to you.

“Is it true that you were turned out of the regiment because you were afraid to fight a duel?” she asked suddenly, apropos of nothing - and her eyes flashed.

“It is true that by the sentence of the officers I was asked to give up my commission, though, as a fact, I had sent in my papers before that.”

“You were turned out as a coward?”

“Yes, they sentenced me as a coward. But I refused to fight a duel, not from cowardice, but because I would not submit to their tyrannical decision and send a challenge when I did not consider myself insulted. You know,” I could not refrain from adding, “that to resist such tyranny and to accept the consequences meant showing far more manliness than fighting any kind of duel.”

I could not resist it. I dropped the phrase, as it were, in self-defence, and that was all she wanted, this fresh humiliation for me.

She laughed maliciously.

“And is it true that for three years afterwards you wandered about the streets of Petersburg like a tramp, begging for coppers and spending your nights in billiard-rooms?”

“I even spent the night in Vyazemsky’s House in the Haymarket. Yes, it is true; there was much disgrace and degradation in my life after I left the regiment, but not moral degradation, because even at the time I hated what I did more than any one. It was only the degradation of my will and my mind, and it was only caused by the desperateness of my position. But that is over. . . .”

“Oh, now you are a personage - a financier!”

A hint at the pawnbroker’s shop. But by then I had succeeded in recovering my mastery of myself. I saw that she was thirsting for explanations that be humiliating to me and - I did not give them. A customer rang the bell very opportunely, and I went out into the shop. An hour later, when she was dressed to go out, she stood still, facing me, and said -

“You didn’t tell me anything about that, though, before our marriage?”

I made no answer and she went away.

And so next day I was standing in that room, the other side of the door, listening to hear how my fate was being decided, and in my pocket I had a revolver. She was dressed better than usual and sitting at a the table, and Efimovitch was showing off before her. And after all, it turned out exactly (I say it to my credit) as I had foreseen and had assumed it would, though I was not conscious of having foreseen and assumed it. I do not know whether I express myself intelligibly.

This is what happened.

I listened for a whole hour. For a whole hour I was present at a duel between a noble, lofty woman and a worldly, corrupt, dense man with a crawling soul. And how, I wondered in amazement, how could that naive, gentle, silent girl have come to know all that? The wittiest author of a society comedy could not have created such a scene of mockery, of naive laughter, and of the holy contempt of virtue for vice. And how brilliant her sayings, her little phrases were: what wit there was in her rapid answers, what truths in her condemnation. And, at the same time, what almost girlish simplicity. She laughed in his face at his declarations of love, at his gestures, at his proposals. Coming coarsely to the point at once, and not expecting to meet with opposition, he was utterly nonplussed. At first I might have imagined that it was simply coquetry on her part - “the coquetry of a witty, though depraved creature to enhance her own value.” But no, the truth shone out like the sun, and to doubt was impossible. It was only an exaggerated and impulsive hatred for me that had led her, in her inexperience, to arrange this interview, but, when it came off - her eyes were opened at once. She was simply in desperate haste to mortify me, come what might, but though she had brought herself to do something so low she could not endure unseemliness. And could she, so pure and sinless, with an ideal in her heart, have been seduced by Efimovitch or any worthless snob? On the contrary, she was only moved to laughter by him. All her goodness rose up from her soul and her indignation roused her to sarcasm. I repeat, the buffoon was completely nonplussed at last and sat frowning, scarcely answering, so much so that I began to be afraid that he might insult her, from a mean desire for revenge. And I repeat again: to my credit, I listened to that scene almost without surprise. I met, as it were, nothing but what I knew well. I had gone, as it were, on purpose to meet it, believing not a word of it, not a word said against her, though I did take the revolver in my pocket - that is the truth. And could I have imagined her different? For what did I love her, for what did I prize her, for what had I married her? Oh, of course, I was quite convinced of her hate for me, but at the same time I was quite convinced of her sinlessness. I suddenly cut short the scene by opening the door. Efimovitch leapt up. I took her by the hand and suggested she should go home with me. Efimovitch recovered himself and suddenly burst into loud peals of laughter.

“Oh, to sacred conjugal rights I offer no opposition; take her away, take her away! And you know,” he shouted after me, “though no decent man could fight you, yet from respect to your lady I am at your service . . . If you are ready to risk yourself.”

“Do you hear?” I said, stopping her for a second in the doorway.

After which not a word was said all the way home. I led her by the arm and she did not resist. On the contrary, she was greatly impressed, and this lasted after she got home. On reaching home she sat down in a chair and fixed her eyes upon me. She was extremely pale; though her lips were compressed ironically yet she looked at me with solemn nd austere defiance and seemed convinced in earnest, for the minute, that I should kill her with the revolver. But I took the revolver from my pocket without a word and laid it on the table! She looked at me and at the revolver (note that the revolver was already an object familiar to her. I had kept one loaded ever since I opened the shop. I made up my mind when I set up the shop that I would not keep a huge dog or a strong manservant, as Mozer does, for instance. My cook opens the doors to my visitors. But in our trade it is impossible to be without means of self-defence in case of emergency, and I kept a loaded revolver. In early days, when first she was living in my house, she took great interest in that revolver, and asked questions about it, and I even explained its construction and working; I even persuaded her once to fire at a target. Note all that). Taking no notice of her frightened eyes, I lay down on the bed, half-undressed. I felt very much exhausted; it was by then about eleven o’clock. She went on sitting in the same place, not stirring, for another hour. Then she put out the candle and she, too, without undressing, lay down on the sofa near the wall. For the first time she did not sleep with me - note that too. . . .

Chapter VI. A Terrible Reminiscence

Now for a terrible reminiscence. . . .

I woke up, I believe, before eight o’clock, and it was very nearly broad daylight. I woke up completely to full consciousness and opened my eyes. She was standing at the table holding the revolver in her hand. She did not see that I had woken up and was looking at her. And suddenly I saw that she had begun moving towards me with the revolver in her hand. I quickly closed my eyes and pretended to be still asleep.

She came up to the bed and stood over me. I heard everything; though a dead silence had fallen I heard that silence. All at once there was a convulsive movement and, irresistibly, against my will, I suddenly opened my eyes. She was looking straight at me, straight into my eyes, and the revolver was at my temple. Our eyes met. But we looked at each other for no more than a moment. With an effort I shut my eyes again, and at the same instant I resolved that I would not stir and would not open my eyes, whatever might be awaiting me.

It does sometimes happen that people who are sound asleep suddenly open their eyes, even raise their heads for a second and look about the room, then, a moment later, they lay their heads again on the pillow unconscious, and fall asleep without understanding anything. When meeting her eyes and feeling the revolver on my forehead, I closed my eyes and remained motionless, as though in a deep sleep - she certainly might have supposed that I really was asleep, and that I had seen nothing, especially as it was utterly improbable that, after seeing what I had seen, I should shut my eyes again at such a moment.

Yes, it was improbable. But she might guess the truth all the same - that thought flashed upon my mind at once, all at the same instant. Oh, what a whirl of thoughts and sensations rushed into my mind in less than a minute. Hurrah for the electric speed of thought! In that case (so I felt), if she guessed the truth and knew that I was awake, I should crush her by my readiness to accept death, and her hand might tremble. Her determination might be shaken by a new, overwhelming impression. They say that people standing on a height have an impulse to throw themselves down. I imagine that many suicides and murders have been committed simply because the revolver has been in the hand. It is like a precipice, with an incline of an angle of forty-five degrees, down which you cannot help sliding, and something impels you irresistibly to pull the trigger. But the knowledge that I had seen, that I knew it all, and was waiting for death at her hands without a word - might hold her back on the incline.

The stillness was prolonged, and all at once I felt on my temple, on my hair, the cold contact of iron. You will ask: did I confidently expect to escape? I will answer you as God is my judge: I had no hope of it, except one chance in a hundred. Why did I accept death? But I will ask, what use was life to me after that revolver had been raised against me by the being I adored? Besides, I knew with the whole strength of my being that there was a struggle going on between us, a fearful duel for life and death, the duel fought be the coward of yesterday, rejected by his comrades for cowardice. I knew that and she knew it, if only she guessed the truth that I was not asleep.

Perhaps that was not so, perhaps I did not think that then, but yet it must have been so, even without conscious thought, because I’ve done nothing but think of it every hour of my life since.

But you will ask me again: why did you not save her from such wickedness? Oh! I’ve asked myself that question a thousand times since - every time that, with a shiver down my back, I recall that second. But at that moment my soul was plunged in dark despair! I was lost, I myself was lost - how could I save any one? And how do you know whether I wanted to save any one then? How can one tell what I could be feeling then?

My mind was in a ferment, though; the seconds passed; she still stood over me - and suddenly I shuddered with hope! I quickly opened my eyes. She was no longer in the room: I got out of bed: I had conquered - and she was conquered for ever!

I went to the samovar. We always had the samovar brought into the outer room and she always poured out the tea. I sat down at the table without a word and took a glass of tea from her. Five minutes later I looked at her. She was fearfully pale, even paler than the day before, and she looked at me. And suddenly . . . and suddenly, seeing that I was looking at her, she gave a pale smile with her pale lips, with a timid question in her eyes. “So she still doubts and is asking herself: does he know or doesn’t he know; did he see or didn’t he?” I turned my eyes away indifferently. After tea I close the shop, went to the market and bought an iron bedstead and a screen. Returning home, I directed that the bed should be put in the front room and shut off with a screen. It was a bed for her, but I did not say a word to her. She understood without words, through that bedstead, that I “had seen and knew all,” and that all doubt was over. At night I left the revolver on the table, as I always did. At night she got into her new bed without a word: our marriage bond was broken, “she was conquered but not forgiven.” At night she began to be delirious, and in the morning she had brain-fever. She was in bed for six weeks.

Part II

Chapter I. The Dream of Pride

Lukerya has just announced that she can’t go on living here and that she is going away as soon as her lady is buried. I knelt down and prayed for five minutes. I wanted to pray for an hour, but I keep thinking and thinking, and always sick thoughts, and my head aches - what is the use of praying? - it’s only a sin! It is strange, too, that I am not sleepy: in great, too great sorrow, after the first outbursts one is always sleepy. Men condemned to death, they say, sleep very soundly on the last night. And so it must be, it si the law of nature, otherwise their strength would not hold out . . . I lay down on the sofa but I did not sleep. . . .

. . . For the six weeks of her illness we were looking after her day and night - Lukerya and I together with a trained nurse whom I had engaged from the hospital. I spared no expense - in fact, I was eager to spend my money for her. I called in Dr. Shreder and paid him ten roubles a visit. When she began to get better I did not show myself so much. But why am I describing it? When she got up again, she sat quietly and silently in my room at a special table, which I had bought for her, too, about that time. . . . Yes, that’s the truth, we were absolutely silent; that is, we began talking afterwards, but only of the daily routine. I purposely avoided expressing myself, but I noticed that she, too, was glad not to have to say a word more than was necessary. It seemed to me that this was perfectly normal on her part: “She is too much shattered, too completely conquered,” I thought, “and I must let her forget and grow used to it.” In this way we were silent, but every minute I was preparing myself for the future. I thought that she was too, and it was fearfully interesting to me to guess what she was thinking about to herself then. I will say more: oh! of course, no one knows what I went through, moaning over her in her illness. But I stifled my moans in my own heart, even from Lukerya. I could not imagine, could not even conceive of her dying without knowing the whole truth. When she was out of danger and began to regain her health, I very quickly and completely, I remember, recovered my tranquillity. What is more, I made up my mind to defer out future as long as possible, and meanwhile to leave things just as they were. Yes, something strange and peculiar happened to me then, I cannot call it anything else: I had triumphed, and the mere consciousness of that was enough for me. So the whole winter passes. Oh! I was satisfied as I had never been before, and it lasted the whole winter.

You see, there had been a terrible external circumstance in my life which, up till then - that is, up to the catastrophe with my wife - had weighed upon me every day and every hour. I mean the loss of my reputation and my leaving the regiment. In two words, I was treated with tyrannical injustice. It is true my comrades did not love me because of my difficult character, and perhaps because of my absurd character, though it often happens that what is exalted, precious and of value to one, for some reason amuses the herd of one’s companions. Oh, I was never liked, not even at school! I was always and everywhere disliked. Even Lukerya cannot like me. What happened in the regiment, though it was the result of their dislike to me, was in a sense accidental. I mention this because nothing is more mortifying and insufferable than to be ruined by an accident, which might have happened or not have happened, from an unfortunate accumulation of circumstances which might have passed over like a cloud. For an intelligent being it is humiliating. This is what happened.

In an interval, at a theatre, I went out to the refreshment bar. A hussar called A —— — came in and began, before all the officers present and the public, loudly talking to two other hussars, telling them that Captain Bezumtsev, of our regiment, was making a disgraceful scene in the passage and was, “he believed, drunk.” The conversation did not go further and, indeed, it was a mistake, for Captain Bezumtsev was not drunk and the “disgraceful scene” was not really disgraceful. The hussars began talking of something else, and the matter ended there, but the next day the story reached our regiment, and then they began saying at once that I was the only officer of our regiment in the refreshment bar at the time, and that when A —— the hussar, had spoken insolently of Captain Bezumtsev, I had not gone up to A —— and stopped him by remonstrating. But on what grounds could I have done so? If he had a grudge against Bezumtsev, it was their personal affair and why should I interfere? Meanwhile, the officers began to declare that it was not a personal affair, but that it concerned the regiment, and as I was the only officer of the regiment present I had thereby shown all the officers and other people in the refreshment bar that there could be officers in our regiment who were not over-sensitive on the score of their own honour and the honour of their regiment. I could not agree with this view. they let me know that I could set everything right if I were willing, even now, late as it was, to demand a formal explanation from A —— . I was not willing to do this, and as I was irritated I refused with pride. And thereupon I forthwith resigned my commission - that is the whole story. I left the regiment, proud but crushed in spirit. I was depressed in will and mind. Just then it was that my sister’s husband in Moscow squandered all our little property and my portion of it, which was tiny enough, but the loss of it left me homeless, without a farthing. I might have taken a job in a private business, but I did not. After wearing a distinguished uniform I could not take work in a railway office. And so - if it must be shame, let it be shame; if it must be disgrace, let it be disgrace; if it must be degradation, let it be degradation - (the worse it is, the better) that was my choice. Then followed three years of gloomy memories, and even Vyazemsky’s House. A year and a half ago my godmother, a wealthy old lady, died in Moscow, and to my surprise left me three thousand in her will. I thought a little and immediately decided on my course of action. I determined on setting up as a pawnbroker, without apologizing to any one: money, then a home, as far as possible from memories of the past, that was my plan. Nevertheless, the gloomy past and my ruined reputation fretted me every day, every hour. But then I married. Whether it was by chance or not I don’t know. but when I brought her into my home I thought I was bringing a friend, and I needed a friend so much. But I saw clearly that the friend must be trained, schooled, even conquered. Could I have explained myself straight off to a girl of sixteen with her prejudices? How, for instance, could I, without the chance help of the horrible incident with the revolver, have made her believe I was not a coward, and that I had been unjustly accused of cowardice in the regiment? But that terrible incident came just in the nick of time. Standing the test of the revolver, I scored off all my gloomy past. And though no one knew about it, she knew, and for me that was everything, because she was everything for me, all the hope of the future that I cherished in my dreams! She was the one person I had prepared for myself, and I needed no one else - and here she knew everything; she knew, at any rate, that she had been in haste to join my enemies against me unjustly. That thought enchanted me. In her eyes I could not be a scoundrel now, but at most a strange person, and that thought after all that had happened was by no means displeasing to me; strangeness is not a vice - on the contrary, it sometimes attracts the feminine heart. In fact, I purposely deferred the climax: what had happened was meanwhile, enough for my peace of mind and provided a great number of pictures and materials for my dreams. That is what is wrong, that I am a dreamer: I had enough material for my dreams, and about her, I thought she could wait.

So the whole winter passed in a sort of expectation. I liked looking at her on the sly, when she was sitting at her little table. She was busy at her needlework, and sometimes in the evening she read books taken from my bookcase. The choice of books in the bookcase must have had an influence in my favour too. She hardly ever went out. Just before dusk, after dinner, I used to take her out every day for a walk. We took a constitutional, but we were not absolutely silent, as we used to be. I tried, in fact, to make a show of our not being silent, but talking harmoniously, but as I have said already, we both avoided letting ourselves go. I did it purposely, I thought it was essential to “give her time.” Of course, it was strange that almost till the end of the winter it did not once strike me that, though I love to watch her stealthily, I had never once, all the winter, caught her glancing at me! I thought it was timidity in her. Besides, she had an air of such timid gentleness, such weakness after her illness. Yes, better to wait and - “she will come to you all at once of herself. . . .”

That thought fascinated me beyond all words. I will add one thing; sometimes, as it were purposely, I worked myself up and brought my mind and spirit to the point of believing she had injured me. And so it went on for some time. But my anger could never be very real or violent. And I felt myself as though it were only acting. And though I had broken off out marriage by buying that bedstead and screen, I could never, never look upon her as a criminal. And not that I took a frivolous view of her crime, but because I had the sense to forgive her completely, from the very first day, even before I bought the bedstead. In fact, it is strange on my part, for I am strict in moral questions. On the contrary, in my eyes, she was so conquered, so humiliated, so crushed, that sometimes I felt agonies of pity for her, though sometimes the thought of her humiliation was actually pleasing to me. The thought of our inequality pleased me. . . .

I intentionally performed several acts of kindness that winter. I excused two debts, I have one poor woman money without any pledge. And I said nothing to my wife about it, and I didn’t do it in order that she should know; but the woman came to thank me, almost on her knees. And in that way it became public property; it seemed to me that she heard about the woman with pleasure.

But spring was coming, it was mid-April, we took out the double windows and the sun began lighting up our silent room with its bright beams. but there was, as it were, a veil before my eyes and a blindness over my mind. A fatal, terrible veil! How did it happen that the scales suddenly fell from my eyes, and I suddenly saw and understood? Was it a chance, or had the hour come, or did the ray of sunshine kindle a thought, a conjecture, in my dull mind? No, it was not a thought, not a conjecture. But a chord suddenly vibrated, a feeling that had long been dead was stirred and came to life, flooding all my darkened soul and devilish pride with light. It was as though I had suddenly leaped up from my place. And, indeed, it happened suddenly and abruptly. It happened towards evening, at five o’clock, after dinner. . . .

Chapter II. The Veil Suddenly Falls

Two words first. A month ago I noticed a strange melancholy in her, not simply silence, but melancholy. That, too, I noticed suddenly. She was sitting at her work, her head bent over her sewing, and she did not see that I was looking at her. And it suddenly struck me that she had grown so delicate-looking, so thin, that her face was pale, her lips were white. All this, together with her melancholy, struck me all at once. I had already heard a little dry cough, especially at night. I got up at once and went off to ask Shreder to come, saying nothing to her.

Shreder came next day. She was very much surprised and looked first at Shreder and then at me.

“But I am well,” she said, with an uncertain smile.

Shreder did not examine her very carefully (these doctors are sometimes superciliously careless), he only said to me in the other room, that it was just the result of her illness, and that it wouldn’t be amiss to go for a trip to the sea in the spring, or, if that were impossible to take a cottage out of town for the summer. In fact, he said nothing except that there was weakness, or something of that sort. When Shreder had gone, she said again, looking at me very earnestly -

“I am quite well, quite well.”

But as she said this she suddenly flushed, apparently from shame. Apparently it was shame. Oh! now I understand: she was ashamed that I was still her husband, that I was looking after her still as though I were a real husband. But at the time I did not understand and put down her blush to humility (the veil!).

And so, a month later, in April, at five o’clock on a bright sunny day, I was sitting in the shop making up my accounts. Suddenly I heard her, sitting in our room, at work at her table, begin softly, softly . . . singing. This novelty made an overwhelming impression upon me, and to this day I don’t understand it. Till then I had hardly ever heard her sing, unless, perhaps, in those first days, when we were still able to be playful and practise shooting at a target. Then her voice was rather strong, resonant; though not quit true it was very sweet and healthy. now her little song was so faint - it was not that it was melancholy (it was some sort of ballad), but in her voice there was something jangled, broken, as though her voice were not equal to it, as though the song itself were sick. She sang in an undertone, and suddenly, as her voice rose, it broke - such a poor little voice, it broke so pitifully; she cleared her throat and again began softly, softly singing. . . .

My emotions will be ridiculed, but no one will understand why I was so moved! No, I was still not sorry for her, it was still something quite different. At the beginning, for the first minute, at any rate, I was filled with sudden perplexity and terrible amazement - a terrible and strange, painful and almost vindictive amazement: “She is singing, and before me; has she forgotten about me?”

Completely overwhelmed, I remained where I was, then I suddenly got up, took my hat and went out, as it were, without thinking. At least I don’t know why or where I was going. Lukerya began giving me my overcoat.

“She is singing?” I said to Lukerya involuntarily. She did not understand, and looked at me still without understanding; and, indeed, I was really unintelligible.

“Is it the first time she is singing?”

“No, she sometimes does sing when you are out,” answered Lukerya.

I remember everything. I went downstairs, went out into the street and walked along at random. I walked to the corner and began looking into the distance. People were passing by, the pushed against me. I did not feel it. I called a cab and told the man, I don’t know why, to drive to Politseysky Bridge. Then suddenly changed my mind and gave him twenty kopecks.

“That’s for my having troubled you,” I said, with a meaningless laugh, but a sort of ecstasy was suddenly shining within me.

I returned home, quickening my steps. The poor little jangled, broken note was ringing in my heart again. My breath failed me. The veil was falling, was falling from my eyes! Since she sang before me, she had forgotten me - that is what was clear and terrible. My heart felt it. But rapture was glowing in my soul and it overcame my terror.

Oh! the irony of fate! Why, there had been nothing else, and could have been nothing else but that rapture in my soul all the winter, but where had I been myself all the winter? Had I been there together with my soul? I ran up the stairs in great haste, I don’t know whether I went in timidly. I only remember that the whole floor seemed to be rocking and I felt as though I were floating on a river. I went into the room. She was sitting in the same place as before, with her head cursorily and without interest at me; it was hardly a look but just a habitual and indifferent movement upon somebody’s coming into the room.

I went straight up and sat down beside her in a chair abruptly, as though I were mad. She looked at me quickly, seeming frightened; I took her hand and I don’t remember what I said to her - that is, tried to say, for I could not even speak properly. My voice broke and would not obey me and I did not know what to say. I could only gasp for breath.

“Let us talk . . . you know . . . tell me something!” I muttered something stupid. Oh! how could I help being stupid? She started again and drew back in great alarm, looking at my face, but suddenly there was an expression of stern surprise in her eyes. Yes, surprise and stern. She looked at me with wide-open eyes. That sternness, that stern surprise shattered me at once: “So you still expect love? Love?” that surprise seemed to be asking, though she said nothing. But I read it all, I read it all. Everything within me seemed quivering, and I simply fell down at her feet. Yes, I grovelled at her feet. She jumped up quickly, but I held her forcibly by both hands.

And I fully understood my despair - I understood it! But, would you believe it? ecstasy was surging up in my head so violently that I thought I should die. I kissed her feet in delirium and rapture. Yes, in immense, infinite rapture, and that, in spite of understanding all the hopelessness of my despair. I wept, said something, but could not speak. Her alarm and amazement were followed by some uneasy misgiving, some grave question, and she looked at me strangely, wildly even; she wanted to understand something quickly and she smiled. She was horribly ashamed at my kissing her feet and she drew them back. But I kissed the place on the floor where her foot had rested. She saw it and suddenly began laughing with shame (you know how it is when people laugh with shame). She became hysterical, I saw that her hands trembled - I did not think about that but went on muttering that I loved her, that I would not get up. “Let me kiss your dress . . . and worship you like this all my life.” . . . I don’t know, I don’t remember - but suddenly she broke into sobs and trembled all over. A terrible fit of hysterics followed. I had frightened her.

I carried her to the bed. When the attack had passed off, sitting on the edge of the bed, with a terribly exhausted look, she took my two hands and begged me to calm myself: “Come, come, don’t distress yourself, be calm!” and she began crying again. All that evening I did not leave her side. I kept telling her I should take her to Boulogne to bathe in the sea now, at once, in a fortnight, that she had such a broken voice, I had heard it that afternoon, that I would shut up the shop, that I would sell it Dobronravov, that everything should begin afresh and, above all, Boulogne, Boulogne! She listened and was still afraid. She grew more and more afraid. But that was not what mattered most for me: what mattered most to me was the more and more irresistible longing to fall at her feet again, and again to kiss and kiss the spot where her foot had rested, and to worship her; and - “I ask nothing, nothing more of you,” I kept repeating, “do not answer me, take no notice of me, only let me watch you from my corner, treat me as your dog, your thing. . . .” She was crying.

“I thought you would let me go on like that,” suddenly broke from her unconsciously, so unconsciously that, perhaps, she did not notice what she had said, and yet - oh, that was the most significant, momentous phrase she uttered that evening, the easiest for me to understand, and it stabbed my heart as though with a knife! It explained everything to me, everything, but while she was beside me, before my eyes, I could not help hoping and was fearfully happy. Oh, I exhausted her fearfully that evening. I understood that, but I kept thinking that I should alter everything directly. At last, towards night, she utterly exhausted. I persuaded her to go to sleep and she fell sound asleep at once. I expected her to be delirious, she was a little delirious, but very slightly. I kept getting up every minute in the night and going softly in my slippers to look at her. I wrung my hands over her, looking at that frail creature in that wretched little iron bedstead which I had bought for three roubles. I knelt down, but did not dare to kiss her feet in her sleep (without her consent). I began praying but leapt up again. Lukerya kept watch over me and came in and out from the kitchen. I went in to her, and told her to go to bed, and that to-morrow “things would be quite different.”

And I believed in this, blindly, madly.

Oh, I was brimming over with rapture, rapture! I was eager for the next day. Above all, I did not believe that anything could go wrong, in spite of the symptoms. Reason had not altogether come back to me, though the veil had fallen from my eyes, and for a long, long time it did not come back - not till today, not till this very day! Yes, and how could it have come back then: why, she was still alive then; why, she was here before my eyes, and I was before her eyes: “Tomorrow she will wake up and I will tell her all this, and she will see it all.” That was how I reasoned then, simply and clearly, because I was in an ecstasy! My great idea was the trip to Boulogne. I kept thinking for some reason that Boulogne would be everything, that there was something final and decisive about Boulogne. “To Boulogne, to Boulogne!” . . . I waited frantically for the morning.

Chapter III. I Understand Too Well

But you know that was only a few days ago, five days, only five days ago, last Tuesday! Yes, yes, if there had only been a little longer, if she had only waited a little - and I would have dissipated the darkness! - It was not as though she had not recovered her calmness. The very next day she listened to me with a smile, in spite of her confusion. . . . All this time, all these five days, she was either confused or ashamed. She was afraid, too, very much afraid. I don’t dispute it, I am not so mad as to deny it. It was terror, but how could she help being frightened? We had so long been strangers to one another, had grown so alienated from one another, and suddenly all this. . . . But I did not look at her terror. I was dazzled by the new life beginning! . . . It is true, it is undoubtedly true that I made a mistake. There were even, perhaps, many mistakes. When I woke up next day, the first thing in the morning (that was on Wednesday), I made a mistake: I suddenly made her my friend. I was in too great a hurry, but a confession was necessary, inevitable - more than a confession! I did not even hide what I had hidden from myself all my life. I told her straight out that the whole winter I had been doing nothing but brood over the certainty of her love. I made clear to her that my money-lending had been simply the degradation of my will and my mind, my personal idea of self-castigation and self-exaltation. I explained to her that I really had been cowardly that time in the refreshment bar, that it was owing to my temperament, to my self-consciousness. I was impressed by the surroundings, by the theatre: I was doubtful how I should succeed and whether it would be stupid. I was not afraid of a duel, but of its being stupid . . . and afterwards I would not own it and tormented every one and had tormented her for it, and had married her so as to torment her for it. In fact, for the most part I talked as though in delirium. She herself took my hands and made me leave off. “You are exaggerating . . . you are distressing yourself,” ad again there were tears, again almost hysterics! She kept begging me not to say all this, not to recall it.

I took no notice of her entreaties, or hardly noticed them: “Spring, Boulogne! There there would be sunshine, there our new sunshine,” I kept saying that! I shut up the shop and transferred it to Dobronravov. I suddenly suggested to her giving all our money to the poor except the three thousand left me by my godmother, which we would spend on going to Boulogne, and then we would come back and begin a new life of real work. So we decided, for she said nothing. . . . She only smiled. And I believe she smiled chiefly from delicacy, for fear of disappointing me. I saw, of course, that I was burdensome to her, don’t imagine I was so stupid or egoistic as not to see it. I saw it all, all, to the smallest detail, I saw better than any one; all the hopelessness of my position stood revealed.

I told her everything about myself and about her. And about Lukerya. I told her that I had wept. . . . Oh, of course, I changed the conversation. I tried, too, not to say a word more about certain things. And, indeed, she did revive once or twice - I remember it, I remember it! Why do you say I looked at her and saw nothing? And if only this had not happened, everything would have come to life again. Why, only the day before yesterday, when we were talking of reading and what she had been reading that winter, she told me something herself, and laughed as she told me, recalling the scene of Gil Blas and the Archbishop of Granada. And with that sweet, childish laughter, just as in old days when we were eager (one instant! one instant!); how glad I was! I was awfully struck, though, by the story of the Archbishop; so she had found peace of mind and happiness enough to laugh at that literary masterpiece while she was sitting there in the winter. So then she had begun to be fully at rest, had begun to believe confidently “that I should leave her like that. I thought you would leave me like that,” those were the word she uttered then on Tuesday! Oh! the thought of a child of ten! And you know she believed it, she believed that really everything would remain like that: she at her table and I at mine, and we both should go on like that till we were sixty. And all at once - I come forward, her husband, and the husband wants love! Oh, the delusion! Oh, my blindness!

It was a mistake, too, that I looked at her with rapture; I ought to have controlled myself, as it was my rapture frightened her. But, indeed, I did control myself, I did not kiss her feet again. I never made a sign of . . . well, that I was her husband - oh, there was no thought of that in my mind, I only worshipped her! But, you know, I couldn’t be quite silent, I could not refrain from speaking altogether! I suddenly said to her frankly, that I enjoyed her conversation and that I thought her incomparably more cultured and developed than I. She flushed crimson and said in confusion that I exaggerated. Then, like a fool, I could not resist telling her how delighted I had been when I had stood behind the door listening to her duel, the duel of innocence with that low cad, and how I had enjoyed her cleverness, the brilliance of her wit, and, at the same time, her childlike simplicity. She seemed to shudder all over, was murmuring again that I exaggerated, but suddenly her whole face darkened, she hit it in her hands and broke into sobs. . . . Then I could not restrain myself: again I fell at her feet, again I began kissing her feet, and again it ended in a fit of hysterics, just as on Tuesday. That was yesterday evening - and - in the morning. . . .

In the morning! Madman! why, that morning was today, just now, only just now!

Listen and try to understand: why, when we met by the samovar (it was after yesterday’s hysterics), I was actually struck by her calmness, that is the actual fact! And all night I had been trembling with terror over what happened yesterday. But suddenly she came up to me and, clasping her hands (this morning, this morning!) began telling me that she was a criminal, that she knew it, that her crime had been torturing her all the winter, was torturing her now. . . . That she appreciated my generosity. . . . “I will be your faithful wife, I will respect you . . .”

Then I leapt up and embraced her like a madman. I kissed her, kissed her face, kissed her lips like a husband for the first time after a long separation. And why did I go out this morning, only two hours . . . our passports for abroad. . . . Oh, God! if only I had come back five minutes, only five minutes earlier! . . . That crowd at our gates, those eyes all fixed upon me. Oh, God!

Lukerya says (oh! I will not let Lukerya go now for anything. She knows all about it, she has been here all the winter, she will tell me everything!), she says that when I had gone out of the house and only about twenty minutes before I came back - she suddenly went into our room to her mistress to ask her something, I don’t remember what, and saw that her ikon (that same ikon of the Mother of God) had been taken down and was standing before her on the table, and her mistress seemed to have only just been praying before it. “What are you doing, mistress?” “Nothing, Lukerya, run along.” “Wait a minute, Lukerya.” “She came up and kissed me.” “Are you happy, mistress?” I said. “Yes, Lukerya,” and she smiled, but so strangely. So strangely that Lukerya went back ten minutes later to have a look at her.

“She was standing by the wall, close to the window, she had laid her arm against the wall, and her head was pressed on her arm, she was standing like that thinking. And she was standing so deep in thought that she did not hear me come and look at her from the other room. She seemed to be smiling - standing, thinking and smiling. I looked at her, turned softly and went out wondering to myself, and suddenly I heard the window opened. I went in at once to say: ‘It’s fresh, mistress; mind you don’t catch cold,’ and suddenly I saw she had got on the window and was standing there, her full height, in the open window, with her back to me, holding the ikon in her hand. My heart sank on the spot. I cried, ‘Mistress, mistress.’ She heard, made a movement to turn back to me, but, instead of turning back, took a step forward, pressed the ikon to her bosom, and flung herself out of window.”

I only remember that when I went in at the gate she was still warm. The worst of it was they were all looking at me. At first they shouted and then suddenly they were silent, and then all of them moved away from me . . . and she was lying there with the ikon. I remember, as it were, in a darkness, that I went up to her in silence and looked at her a long while. But all came round me and said something to me. Lukerya was there too, but I did not see her. She says she said something to me. I only remember that workman. He kept shouting to me that, “Only a handful of blood came from her mouth, a handful, a handful!” and he pointed to the blood on a stone. I believe I touched the blood with my finger, I smeared my finger, I looked at my finger (that I remember), and he kept repeating: “a handful, a handful!”

“What do you mean by a handful?” I yelled with all my might, I am told, and I lifted up my hands and rushed at him.

Oh, wild! wild! Delusion! Monstrous! Impossible!

Chapter IV. I Was Only Five Minutes Too Late

Is it not so? Is it likely? Can one really say it was possible? What for, why did this woman die?

Oh, believe me, I understand, but why she dies is still a question. She was frightened of my love, asked herself seriously whether to accept it or not, could not bear the question and preferred to die. I know, I know, no need to rack my brains: she had made too many promises, she was afraid she could not keep them - it is clear. There are circumstances about it quite awful.

For why did she die? That is still a question, after all. The question hammers, hammers at my brain. I would have left her like that if she had wanted to remain like that. She did not believe it, that’s what it was! No - no. I am talking nonsense, it was not that at all. It was simply because with me she had to be honest - if she loved me, she would have had to love me altogether, and not as she would have loved the grocer. And as she was too chaste, too pure, to consent to such love as the grocer wanted she did not want to deceive me. Did not want to deceive me with half love, counterfeiting love, or a quarter love. They are honest, too honest, that is what it is! I wanted to instil breadth of heart in her, in those days, do you remember? A strange idea.

It is awfully interesting to know: did she respect me or not? I don’t know whether she despised me or not. I don’t believe she did despise me. It is awfully strange: why did it never once enter my head all the winter that she despised me? I was absolutely convinced of the contrary up to that moment when she looked at me with stern surprise. Stern it was. I understood once for all, for ever! Ah, let her, let her despise me all her life even, only let her be living! Only yesterday she was walking about, talking. I simply can’t understand how she threw herself out of window! And how could I have imagined it five minutes before? I have called Lukerya. I won’t let Lukerya go now for anything!

Oh, we might still have understood each other! We had simply become terribly estranged from one another during the winter, but couldn’t we have grown used to each other again? Why, why, couldn’t we have come together again and begun a new life again? I am generous, she was too - that was a point in common! Only a few more words, another two days - no more, and she would have understood everything.

What is most mortifying of all is that it is chance - simply a barbarous, lagging chance. that is what is mortifying! Five minutes, only five minutes too late! Had I come five minutes earlier, the moment would have passed away like a cloud, and it would never have entered her head again. And it would have ended by her understanding it all. But now again empty rooms, and me alone. Here the pendulum is ticking; it does not care, it has no pity. . . . There is no one - that’s the misery of it!

I keep walking about, I keep walking about. I know, I know, you need not tell me; it amuses you, you think it absurd that I complain of chance and those five minutes. But it is evident. Consider one thing: she did not even leave a note, to say, “Blame no one for my death,” as people always do. Might she not have thought that Lukerya might get into trouble. “She was alone with her,” might have been said, “and pushed her out.” In any case she would have been taken up by the police if it had not happened that four people, from the windows, from the lodge, and from the yard, had seen her stand with the ikon in her hands and jump out of herself. But that, too, was a chance, that te people were standing there and saw her. No, it was all a moment, only an irresponsible moment. A sudden impulse, a fantasy! What if she did pray before the ikon? It does not follow that she was facing death. The whole impulse lasted, perhaps, only some ten minutes; it was all decided, perhaps, while she stood against the wall with her head on her arm, smiling. The idea darted into her brain, she turned giddy and - and could not resist it.

Say what you will, it was clearly misunderstanding. It could have been possible to live with me. And what if it were anaemia? Was it simply from poorness of blood, from the flagging of vital energy? She had grown tired during the winter, that was what it was. . . .

I was too late ! ! !

How thin she is in her coffin, how sharp her nose has grown! Her eyelashes lie straight as arrows. And, you know, when she fell, nothing was crushed, nothing was broken! Nothing but that “handful of blood.” A dessertspoonful, that is. From internal injury. A strange thought: if only it were possible not to bury her? For if they take her away, then . . . oh, no, it is almost incredible that they take her away! I am not mad and I am not raving - on the contrary, my mind was never so lucid - but what shall I do when again there is no one, only the two rooms, and me alone with the pledges? Madness, madness, madness! I worried her to death, that is what it is!

What are your laws to me now? What do I car for your customs, your morals, your life, your state, your faith! Let your judge judge me, let me be brought before your court, let me be tried by jury, and I shall say that I admit nothing. the judge will shout, “Be silent, officer.” And I will shout to him, “What power have you now that I will obey? Why did blind, inert force destroy that which was dearest of all? What are your laws to me now? They are nothing to me.” Oh, I don’t care!

She was blind, blind! She is dead, she does not hear! You do not know with what paradise I would have surrounded you. There was paradise in my soul, I would have made it blossom around you! Well, you wouldn’t have loved me - so be it, what of it? Things should still have been like that, everything should have remained like that. You should only have talked to me as a friend - we could have rejoiced and laughed with joy looking at one another. And so we should have lived. And if you had loved another - well, so be it, so be it! You should have walked with him laughing, and I should have watched you from the other side of the street. . . . Oh, anything, anything, if only she would open her eyes just once! For one instant, only one! If she would look at me as she did this morning, when she stood before me and made a vow to be a faithful wife! Oh, in one look she would have understood it all!

Oh, blind force! Oh, nature! Men are alone on earth - that is what is dreadful! “Is there a living man in the country?” cried the Russian hero. I cry the same, though I am not a hero, and no one answers my cry. They say the sun gives life to the universe. The sun is rising and - look at it, is it not dead? Everything is dead and everywhere there are dead. Men are alone - around them is silence - that is the earth! “Men, love one another” - who said that? Whose commandment is that? The pendulum ticks callously, heartlessly. Two o’clock at night. Her little shoes are standing by the little bed, as though waiting for her. . . . No, seriously, when they take her away tomorrow, what will become of me?


The Dream of a Ridiculous Man


I am a ridiculous person. Now they call me a madman. That would be a promotion if it were not that I remain as ridiculous in their eyes as before. But now I do not resent it, they are all dear to me now, even when they laugh at me — and, indeed, it is just then that they are particularly dear to me. I could join in their laughter — not exactly at myself, but through affection for them, if I did not feel so sad as I look at them. Sad because they do not know the truth and I do know it. Oh, how hard it is to be the only one who knows the truth! But they won’t understand that. No, they won’t understand it.

In old days I used to be miserable at seeming ridiculous. Not seeming, but being. I have always been ridiculous, and I have known it, perhaps, from the hour I was born. Perhaps from the time I was seven years old I knew I was ridiculous. Afterwards I went to school, studied at the university, and, do you know, the more I learned, the more thoroughly I understood that I was ridiculous. So that it seemed in the end as though all the sciences I studied at the university existed only to prove and make evident to me as I went more deeply into them that I was ridiculous. It was the same with life as it was with science. With every year the same consciousness of the ridiculous figure I cut in every relation grew and strengthened. Every one always laughed at me. But not one of them knew or guessed that if there were one man on earth who knew better than anybody else that I was absurd, it was myself, and what I resented most of all was that they did not know that. But that was my own fault; I was so proud that nothing would have ever induced me to tell it to any one. This pride grew in me with the years; and if it had happened that I allowed myself to confess to any one that I was ridiculous, I believe that I should have blown out my brains the same evening. Oh, how I suffered in my early youth from the fear that I might give way and confess it to my schoolfellows. But since I grew to manhood, I have for some unknown reason become calmer, though I realised my awful characteristic more fully every year. I say “unknown,” for to this day I cannot tell why it was. Perhaps it was owing to the terrible misery that was growing in my soul through something which was of more consequence than anything else about me: that something was the conviction that had come upon me that nothing in the world mattered. I had long had an inkling of it, but the full realisation came last year almost suddenly. I suddenly felt that it was all the same to me whether the world existed or whether there had never been anything at all: I began to feel with all my being that there was nothing existing. At first I fancied that many things had existed in the past, but afterwards I guessed that there never had been anything in the past either, but that it had only seemed so for some reason. Little by little I guessed that there would be nothing in the future either. Then I left off being angry with people and almost ceased to notice them. Indeed this showed itself even in the pettiest trifles: I used, for instance, to knock against people in the street. And not so much from being lost in thought: what had I to think about? I had almost given up thinking by that time; nothing mattered to me. If at least I had solved my problems! Oh, I had not settled one of them, and how many they were! But I gave up caring about anything, and all the problems disappeared.

And it was after that that I found out the truth. I learnt the truth last November — on the third of November, to be precise — and I remember every instant since. It was a gloomy evening, one of the gloomiest possible evenings. I was going home at about eleven o’clock, and I remember that I thought that the evening could not be gloomier. Even physically. Rain had been falling all day, and it had been a cold, gloomy, almost menacing rain, with, I remember, an unmistakable spite against mankind. Suddenly between ten and eleven it had stopped, and was followed by a horrible dampness, colder and damper than the rain, and a sort of steam was rising from everything, from every stone in the street, and from every by-lane if one looked down it as far as one could. A thought suddenly occurred to me, that if all the street lamps had been put out it would have been less cheerless, that the gas made one’s heart sadder because it lighted it all up. I had had scarcely any dinner that day, and had been spending the evening with an engineer, and two other friends had been there also. I sat silent — I fancy I bored them. They talked of something rousing and suddenly they got excited over it. But they did not really care, I could see that, and only made a show of being excited. I suddenly said as much to them. “My friends,” I said, “you really do not care one way or the other.” They were not offended, but they all laughed at me. That was because I spoke without any note of reproach, simply because it did not matter to me. They saw it did not, and it amused them.

As I was thinking about the gas lamps in the street I looked up at the sky. The sky was horribly dark, but one could distinctly see tattered clouds, and between them fathomless black patches. Suddenly I noticed in one of these patches a star, and began watching it intently. That was because that star gave me an idea: I decided to kill myself that night. I had firmly determined to do so two months before, and poor as I was, I bought a splendid revolver that very day, and loaded it. But two months had passed and it was still lying in my drawer; I was so utterly indifferent that I wanted to seize a moment when I would not be so indifferent — why, I don’t know. And so for two months every night that I came home I thought I would shoot myself. I kept waiting for the right moment. And so now this star gave me a thought. I made up my mind that it should certainly be that night. And why the star gave me the thought I don’t know.

And just as I was looking at the sky, this little girl took me by the elbow. The street was empty, and there was scarcely any one to be seen. A cabman was sleeping in the distance in his cab. It was a child of eight with a kerchief on her head, wearing nothing but a wretched little dress all soaked with rain, but I noticed particularly her wet broken shoes and I recall them now. They caught my eye particularly. She suddenly pulled me by the elbow and called me. She was not weeping, but was spasmodically crying out some words which she could not utter properly, because she was shivering and shuddering all over. She was in terror about something, and kept crying, “Mammy, mammy!” I turned facing her, I did not say a word and went on; but she ran, pulling at me, and there was that note in her voice which in frightened children means despair. I know that sound. Though she did not articulate the words, I understood that her mother was dying, or that something of the sort was happening to them, and that she had run out to call some one, to find something to help her mother. I did not go with her; on the contrary, I had an impulse to drive her away. I told her first to go to a policeman. But clasping her hands, she ran beside me sobbing and gasping, and would not leave me. Then I stamped my foot, and shouted at her. She called out “Sir! sir!..,” but suddenly abandoned me and rushed headlong across the road. Some other passer-by appeared there, and she evidently flew from me to him.

I mounted up to my fifth storey. I have a room in a flat where there are other lodgers. My room is small and poor, with a garret window in the shape of a semicircle. I have a sofa covered with American leather, a table with books on it, two chairs and a comfortable arm-chair, as old as old can be, but of the good old-fashioned shape. I sat down, lighted the candle, and began thinking. In the room next to mine, through the partition wall, a perfect Bedlam was going on. It had been going on for the last three days. A retired captain lived there, and he had half a dozen visitors, gentlemen of doubtful reputation, drinking vodka and playing stoss with old cards. The night before there had been a fight, and I know that two of them had been for a long time engaged in dragging each other about by the hair. The landlady wanted to complain, but she was in abject terror of the captain. There was only one other lodger in the flat, a thin little regimental lady, on a visit to Petersburg, with three little children who had been taken ill since they came into the lodgings. Both she and her children were in mortal fear of the captain, and lay trembling and crossing themselves all night, and the youngest child had a sort of fit from fright. That captain, I know for a fact, sometimes stops people in the Nevsky Prospect and begs. They won’t take him into the service, but strange to say (that’s why I am telling this), all this month that the captain has been here his behaviour has caused me no annoyance. I have, of course, tried to avoid his acquaintance from the very beginning, and he, too, was bored with me from the first; but I never care how much they shout the other side of the partition nor how many of them there are in there: I sit up all night and forget them so completely that I do not even hear them. I stay awake till daybreak, and have been going on like that for the last year. I sit up all night in my arm-chair at the table, doing nothing. I only read by day. I sit — don’t even think; ideas of a sort wander through my mind and I let them come and go as they will. A whole candle is burnt every night. I sat down quietly at the table, took out the revolver and put it down before me. When I had put it down I asked myself, I remember, “Is that so?” and answered with complete conviction, “It is.” That is, I shall shoot myself. I knew that I should shoot myself that night for certain, but how much longer I should go on sitting at the table I did not know. And no doubt I should have shot myself if it had not been for that little girl.


You see, though nothing mattered to me, I could feel pain, for instance. If any one had struck me it would have hurt me. It was the same morally: if anything very pathetic happened, I should have felt pity just as I used to do in old days when there were things in life that did matter to me. I had felt pity that evening. I should have certainly helped a child. Why, then, had I not helped the little girl? Because of an idea that occurred to me at the time: when she was calling and pulling at me, a question suddenly arose before me and I could not settle it. The question was an idle one, but I was vexed. I was vexed at the reflection that if I were going to make an end of myself that night, nothing in life ought to have mattered to me. Why was it that all at once I did not feel that nothing mattered and was sorry for the little girl? I remember that I was very sorry for her, so much so that I felt a strange pang, quite incongruous in my position. Really I do not know better how to convey my fleeting sensation at the moment, but the sensation persisted at home when I was sitting at the table, and I was very much irritated as I had not been for a long time past. One reflection followed another. I saw clearly that so long as I was still a human being and not nothingness, I was alive and so could suffer, be angry and feel shame at my actions. So be it. But if I am going to kill myself, in two hours, say, what is the little girl to me and what have I to do with shame or with anything else in the world? I shall turn into nothing, absolutely nothing. And can it really be true that the consciousness that I shall completely cease to exist immediately and so everything else will cease to exist, does not in the least affect my feeling of pity for the child nor the feeling of shame after a contemptible action? I stamped and shouted at the unhappy child as though to say — not only I feel no pity, but even if I behave inhumanly and contemptibly, I am free to, for in another two hours everything will be extinguished. Do you believe that that was why I shouted that? I am almost convinced of it now. It seemed clear to me that life and the world somehow depended upon me now. I may almost say that the world now seemed created for me alone: if I shot myself the world would cease to be at least for me. I say nothing of its being likely that nothing will exist for any one when I am gone, and that as soon as my consciousness is extinguished the whole world will vanish too and become void like a phantom, as a mere appurtenance of my consciousness, for possibly all this world and all these people are only me myself. I remember that as I sat and reflected, I turned all these new questions that swarmed one after another quite the other way, and thought of something quite new. For instance, a strange reflection suddenly occurred to me, that if I had lived before on the moon or on Mars and there had committed the most disgraceful and dishonourable action and had there been put to such shame and ignominy as one can only conceive and realise in dreams, in nightmares, and if, finding myself afterwards on earth, I were able to retain the memory of what I had done on the other planet and at the same time knew that I should never, under any circumstances, return there, then looking from the earth to the moon — should I care or not? Should I feel shame for that action or not? These were idle and superfluous questions for the revolver was already lying before me, and I knew in every fibre of my being that it would happen for certain, but they excited me and I raged. I could not die now without having first settled something. In short, the child had saved me, for I put off my pistol shot for the sake of these questions. Meanwhile the clamour had begun to subside in the captain’s room: they had finished their game, were settling down to sleep, and meanwhile were grumbling and languidly winding up their quarrels. At that point I suddenly fell asleep in my chair at the table — a thing which had never happened to me before. I dropped asleep quite unawares.

Dreams, as we all know, are very queer things: some parts are presented with appalling vividness, with details worked up with the elaborate finish of jewellery, while others one gallops through, as it were, without noticing them at all, as, for instance, through space and time. Dreams seem to be spurred on not by reason but by desire, not by the head but by the heart, and yet what complicated tricks my reason has played sometimes in dreams, what utterly incomprehensible things happen to it! My brother died five years ago, for instance. I sometimes dream of him; he takes part in my affairs, we are very much interested, and yet all through my dream I quite know and remember that my brother is dead and buried. How is it that I am not surprised that, though he is dead, he is here beside me and working with me? Why is it that my reason fully accepts it? But enough. I will begin about my dream. Yes, I dreamed a dream, my dream of the third of November. They tease me now, telling me it was only a dream. But does it matter whether it was a dream or reality, if the dream made known to me the truth? If once one has recognised the truth and seen it, you know that it is the truth and that there is no other and there cannot be, whether you are asleep or awake. Let it be a dream, so be it, but that real life of which you make so much I had meant to extinguish by suicide, and my dream, my dream — oh, it revealed to me a different life, renewed, grand and full of power!



I have mentioned that I dropped asleep unawares and even seemed to be still reflecting on the same subjects. I suddenly dreamt that I picked up the revolver and aimed it straight at my heart — my heart, and not my head; and I had determined beforehand to fire at my head, at my right temple. After aiming at my chest I waited a second or two, and suddenly my candle, my table, and the wall in front of me began moving and heaving. I made haste to pull the trigger.

In dreams you sometimes fall from a height, or are stabbed, or beaten, but you never feel pain unless, perhaps, you really bruise yourself against the bedstead, then you feel pain and almost always wake up from it. It was the same in my dream. I did not feel any pain, but it seemed as though with my shot everything within me was shaken and everything was suddenly dimmed, and it grew horribly black around me. I seemed to be blinded and benumbed, and I was lying on something hard, stretched on my back; I saw nothing, and could not make the slightest movement. People were walking and shouting around me, the captain bawled, the landlady shrieked — and suddenly another break and I was being carried in a closed coffin. And I felt how the coffin was shaking and reflected upon it, and for the first time the idea struck me that I was dead, utterly dead, I knew it and had no doubt of it, I could neither see nor move and yet I was feeling and reflecting. But I was soon reconciled to the position, and as one usually does in a dream, accepted the facts without disputing them.

And now I was buried in the earth. They all went away, I was left alone, utterly alone. I did not move. Whenever before I had imagined being buried the one sensation I associated with the grave was that of damp and cold. So now I felt that I was very cold, especially the tips of my toes, but I felt nothing else.

I lay still, strange to say I expected nothing, accepting without dispute that a dead man had nothing to expect. But it was damp. I don’t know how long a time passed — whether an hour, or several days, or many days. But all at once a drop of water fell on my closed left eye, making its way through a coffin lid; it was followed a minute later by a second, then a minute later by a third — and so on, regularly every minute. There was a sudden glow of profound indignation in my heart, and I suddenly felt in it a pang of physical pain. “That’s my wound,” I thought; “that’s the bullet....” And drop after drop every minute kept falling on my closed eyelid. And all at once, not with my voice, but with my whole being, I called upon the power that was responsible for all that was happening to me:

“Whoever you may be, if you exist, and if anything more rational than what is happening here is possible, suffer it to be here now. But if you are revenging yourself upon me for my senseless suicide by the hideousness and absurdity of this subsequent existence, then let me tell you that no torture could ever equal the contempt which I shall go on dumbly feeling, though my martyrdom may last a million years!”

I made this appeal and held my peace. There was a full minute of unbroken silence and again another drop fell, but I knew with infinite unshakable certainty that everything would change immediately. And behold my grave suddenly was rent asunder, that is, I don’t know whether it was opened or dug up, but I was caught up by some dark and unknown being and we found ourselves in space. I suddenly regained my sight. It was the dead of night, and never, never had there been such darkness. We were flying through space far away from the earth. I did not question the being who was taking me; I was proud and waited. I assured myself that I was not afraid, and was thrilled with ecstasy at the thought that I was not afraid. I do not know how long we were flying, I cannot imagine; it happened as it always does in dreams when you skip over space and time, and the laws of thought and existence, and only pause upon the points for which the heart yearns. I remember that I suddenly saw in the darkness a star. “Is that Sirius?” I asked impulsively, though I had not meant to ask any questions.

“No, that is the star you saw between the clouds when you were coming home,” the being who was carrying me replied.

I knew that it had something like a human face. Strange to say, I did not like that being, in fact I felt an intense aversion for it. I had expected complete non-existence, and that was why I had put a bullet through my heart. And here I was in the hands of a creature not human, of course, but yet living, existing. “And so there is life beyond the grave,” I thought with the strange frivolity one has in dreams. But in its inmost depth my heart remained unchanged. “And if I have got to exist again,” I thought, “and live once more under the control of some irresistible power, I won’t be vanquished and humiliated.”

“You know that I am afraid of you and despise me for that,” I said suddenly to my companion, unable to refrain from the humiliating question which implied a confession, and feeling my humiliation stab my heart as with a pin. He did not answer my question, but all at once I felt that he was not even despising me, but was laughing at me and had no compassion for me, and that our journey had an unknown and mysterious object that concerned me only. Fear was growing in my heart. Something was mutely and painfully communicated to me from my silent companion, and permeated my whole being. We were flying through dark, unknown space. I had for some time lost sight of the constellations familiar to my eyes. I knew that there were stars in the heavenly spaces the light of which took thousands or millions of years to reach the earth. Perhaps we were already flying through those spaces. I expected something with a terrible anguish that tortured my heart. And suddenly I was thrilled by a familiar feeling that stirred me to the depths: I suddenly caught sight of our sun! I knew that it could not be our sun, that gave life to our earth, and that we were an infinite distance from our sun, but for some reason I knew in my whole being that it was a sun exactly like ours, a duplicate of it. A sweet, thrilling feeling resounded with ecstasy in my heart: the kindred power of the same light which had given me light stirred an echo in my heart and awakened it, and I had a sensation of life, the old life of the past for the first time since I had been in the grave.

“But if that is the sun, if that is exactly the same as our sun,” I cried, “where is the earth?”

And my companion pointed to a star twinkling in the distance with an emerald light. We were flying straight towards it.

“And are such repetitions possible in the universe? Can that be the law of Nature?... And if that is an earth there, can it be just the same earth as ours ... just the same, as poor, as unhappy, but precious and beloved for ever, arousing in the most ungrateful of her children the same poignant love for her that we feel for our earth?” I cried out, shaken by irresistible, ecstatic love for the old familiar earth which I had left. The image of the poor child whom I had repulsed flashed through my mind.

“You shall see it all,” answered my companion, and there was a note of sorrow in his voice.

But we were rapidly approaching the planet. It was growing before my eyes; I could already distinguish the ocean, the outline of Europe; and suddenly a feeling of a great and holy jealousy glowed in my heart.

“How can it be repeated and what for? I love and can love only that earth which I have left, stained with my blood, when, in my ingratitude, I quenched my life with a bullet in my heart. But I have never, never ceased to love that earth, and perhaps on the very night I parted from it I loved it more than ever. Is there suffering upon this new earth? On our earth we can only love with suffering and through suffering. We cannot love otherwise, and we know of no other sort of love. I want suffering in order to love. I long, I thirst, this very instant, to kiss with tears the earth that I have left, and I don’t want, I won’t accept life on any other!”

But my companion had already left me. I suddenly, quite without noticing how, found myself on this other earth, in the bright light of a sunny day, fair as paradise. I believe I was standing on one of the islands that make up on our globe the Greek archipelago, or on the coast of the mainland facing that archipelago. Oh, everything was exactly as it is with us, only everything seemed to have a festive radiance, the splendour of some great, holy triumph attained at last. The caressing sea, green as emerald, splashed softly upon the shore and kissed it with manifest, almost conscious love. The tall, lovely trees stood in all the glory of their blossom, and their innumerable leaves greeted me, I am certain, with their soft, caressing rustle and seemed to articulate words of love. The grass glowed with bright and fragrant flowers. Birds were flying in flocks in the air, and perched fearlessly on my shoulders and arms and joyfully struck me with their darling, fluttering wings. And at last I saw and knew the people of this happy land. They came to me of themselves, they surrounded me, kissed me. The children of the sun, the children of their sun — oh, how beautiful they were! Never had I seen on our own earth such beauty in mankind. Only perhaps in our children, in their earliest years, one might find some remote, faint reflection of this beauty. The eyes of these happy people shone with a clear brightness. Their faces were radiant with the light of reason and fullness of a serenity that comes of perfect understanding, but those faces were gay; in their words and voices there was a note of childlike joy. Oh, from the first moment, from the first glance at them, I understood it all! It was the earth untarnished by the Fall; on it lived people who had not sinned. They lived just in such a paradise as that in which, according to all the legends of mankind, our first parents lived before they sinned; the only difference was that all this earth was the same paradise. These people, laughing joyfully, thronged round me and caressed me; they took me home with them, and each of them tried to reassure me. Oh, they asked me no questions, but they seemed, I fancied, to know everything without asking, and they wanted to make haste and smoothe away the signs of suffering from my face.


And do you know what? Well, granted that it was only a dream, yet the sensation of the love of those innocent and beautiful people has remained with me for ever, and I feel as though their love is still flowing out to me from over there. I have seen them myself, have known them and been convinced; I loved them, I suffered for them afterwards. Oh, I understood at once even at the time that in many things I could not understand them at all; as an up-to-date Russian progressive and contemptible Petersburger, it struck me as inexplicable that, knowing so much, they had, for instance, no science like ours. But I soon realised that their knowledge was gained and fostered by intuitions different from those of us on earth, and that their aspirations, too, were quite different. They desired nothing and were at peace; they did not aspire to knowledge of life as we aspire to understand it, because their lives were full. But their knowledge was higher and deeper than ours; for our science seeks to explain what life is, aspires to understand it in order to teach others how to live, while they without science knew how to live; and that I understood, but I could not understand their knowledge. They showed me their trees, and I could not understand the intense love with which they looked at them; it was as though they were talking with creatures like themselves. And perhaps I shall not be mistaken if I say that they conversed with them. Yes, they had found their language, and I am convinced that the trees understood them. They looked at all Nature like that — at the animals who lived in peace with them and did not attack them, but loved them, conquered by their love. They pointed to the stars and told me something about them which I could not understand, but I am convinced that they were somehow in touch with the stars, not only in thought, but by some living channel. Oh, these people did not persist in trying to make me understand them, they loved me without that, but I knew that they would never understand me, and so I hardly spoke to them about our earth. I only kissed in their presence the earth on which they lived and mutely worshipped them themselves. And they saw that and let me worship them without being abashed at my adoration, for they themselves loved much. They were not unhappy on my account when at times I kissed their feet with tears, joyfully conscious of the love with which they would respond to mine. At times I asked myself with wonder how it was they were able never to offend a creature like me, and never once to arouse a feeling of jealousy or envy in me? Often I wondered how it could be that, boastful and untruthful as I was, I never talked to them of what I knew — of which, of course, they had no notion — that I was never tempted to do so by a desire to astonish or even to benefit them.

They were as gay and sportive as children. They wandered about their lovely woods and copses, they sang their lovely songs; their fare was light — the fruits of their trees, the honey from their woods, and the milk of the animals who loved them. The work they did for food and raiment was brief and not laborious. They loved and begot children, but I never noticed in them the impulse of that cruel sensuality which overcomes almost every man on this earth, all and each, and is the source of almost every sin of mankind on earth. They rejoiced at the arrival of children as new beings to share their happiness. There was no quarrelling, no jealousy among them, and they did not even know what the words meant. Their children were the children of all, for they all made up one family. There was scarcely any illness among them, though there was death; but their old people died peacefully, as though falling asleep, giving blessings and smiles to those who surrounded them to take their last farewell with bright and loving smiles. I never saw grief or tears on those occasions, but only love, which reached the point of ecstasy, but a calm ecstasy, made perfect and contemplative. One might think that they were still in contact with the departed after death, and that their earthly union was not cut short by death. They scarcely understood me when I questioned them about immortality, but evidently they were so convinced of it without reasoning that it was not for them a question at all. They had no temples, but they had a real living and uninterrupted sense of oneness with the whole of the universe; they had no creed, but they had a certain knowledge that when their earthly joy had reached the limits of earthly nature, then there would come for them, for the living and for the dead, a still greater fullness of contact with the whole of the universe. They looked forward to that moment with joy, but without haste, not pining for it, but seeming to have a foretaste of it in their hearts, of which they talked to one another.

In the evening before going to sleep they liked singing in musical and harmonious chorus. In those songs they expressed all the sensations that the parting day had given them, sang its glories and took leave of it. They sang the praises of nature, of the sea, of the woods. They liked making songs about one another, and praised each other like children; they were the simplest songs, but they sprang from their hearts and went to one’s heart. And not only in their songs but in all their lives they seemed to do nothing but admire one another. It was like being in love with each other, but an all-embracing, universal feeling.

Some of their songs, solemn and rapturous, I scarcely understood at all. Though I understood the words I could never fathom their full significance. It remained, as it were, beyond the grasp of my mind, yet my heart unconsciously absorbed it more and more. I often told them that I had had a presentiment of it long before, that this joy and glory had come to me on our earth in the form of a yearning melancholy that at times approached insufferable sorrow; that I had had a foreknowledge of them all and of their glory in the dreams of my heart and the visions of my mind; that often on our earth I could not look at the setting sun without tears ... that in my hatred for the men of our earth there was always a yearning anguish: why could I not hate them without loving them? why could I not help forgiving them? and in my love for them there was a yearning grief: why could I not love them without hating them? They listened to me, and I saw they could not conceive what I was saying, but I did not regret that I had spoken to them of it: I knew that they understood the intensity of my yearning anguish over those whom I had left. But when they looked at me with their sweet eyes full of love, when I felt that in their presence my heart, too, became as innocent and just as theirs, the feeling of the fullness of life took my breath away, and I worshipped them in silence.

Oh, every one laughs in my face now, and assures me that one cannot dream of such details as I am telling now, that I only dreamed or felt one sensation that arose in my heart in delirium and made up the details myself when I woke up. And when I told them that perhaps it really was so, my God, how they shouted with laughter in my face, and what mirth I caused! Oh, yes, of course I was overcome by the mere sensation of my dream, and that was all that was preserved in my cruelly wounded heart; but the actual forms and images of my dream, that is, the very ones I really saw at the very time of my dream, were filled with such harmony, were so lovely and enchanting and were so actual, that on awakening I was, of course, incapable of clothing them in our poor language, so that they were bound to become blurred in my mind; and so perhaps I really was forced afterwards to make up the details, and so of course to distort them in my passionate desire to convey some at least of them as quickly as I could. But on the other hand, how can I help believing that it was all true? It was perhaps a thousand times brighter, happier and more joyful than I describe it. Granted that I dreamed it, yet it must have been real. You know, I will tell you a secret: perhaps it was not a dream at all! For then something happened so awful, something so horribly true, that it could not have been imagined in a dream. My heart may have originated the dream, but would my heart alone have been capable of originating the awful event which happened to me afterwards? How could I alone have invented it or imagined it in my dream? Could my petty heart and my fickle, trivial mind have risen to such a revelation of truth? Oh, judge for yourselves: hitherto I have concealed it, but now I will tell the truth. The fact is that I ... corrupted them all!


Yes, yes, it ended in my corrupting them all! How it could come to pass I do not know, but I remember it clearly. The dream embraced thousands of years and left in me only a sense of the whole. I only know that I was the cause of their sin and downfall. Like a vile trichina, like a germ of the plague infecting whole kingdoms, so I contaminated all this earth, so happy and sinless before my coming. They learnt to lie, grew fond of lying, and discovered the charm of falsehood. Oh, at first perhaps it began innocently, with a jest, coquetry, with amorous play, perhaps indeed with a germ, but that germ of falsity made its way into their hearts and pleased them. Then sensuality was soon begotten, sensuality begot jealousy, jealousy — cruelty.... Oh, I don’t know, I don’t remember; but soon, very soon the first blood was shed. They marvelled and were horrified, and began to be split up and divided. They formed into unions, but it was against one another. Reproaches, upbraidings followed. They came to know shame, and shame brought them to virtue. The conception of honour sprang up, and every union began waving its flags. They began torturing animals, and the animals withdrew from them into the forests and became hostile to them. They began to struggle for separation, for isolation, for individuality, for mine and thine. They began to talk in different languages. They became acquainted with sorrow and loved sorrow; they thirsted for suffering, and said that truth could only be attained through suffering. Then science appeared. As they became wicked they began talking of brotherhood and humanitarianism, and understood those ideas. As they became criminal, they invented justice and drew up whole legal codes in order to observe it, and to ensure their being kept, set up a guillotine. They hardly remembered what they had lost, in fact refused to believe that they had ever been happy and innocent. They even laughed at the possibility of this happiness in the past, and called it a dream. They could not even imagine it in definite form and shape, but, strange and wonderful to relate, though they lost all faith in their past happiness and called it a legend, they so longed to be happy and innocent once more that they succumbed to this desire like children, made an idol of it, set up temples and worshipped their own idea, their own desire; though at the same time they fully believed that it was unattainable and could not be realised, yet they bowed down to it and adored it with tears! Nevertheless, if it could have happened that they had returned to the innocent and happy condition which they had lost, and if some one had shown it to them again and had asked them whether they wanted to go back to it, they would certainly have refused. They answered me:

“We may be deceitful, wicked and unjust, we know it and weep over it, we grieve over it; we torment and punish ourselves more perhaps than that merciful Judge Who will judge us and whose Name we know not. But we have science, and by means of it we shall find the truth and we shall arrive at it consciously. Knowledge is higher than feeling, the consciousness of life is higher than life. Science will give us wisdom, wisdom will reveal the laws, and the knowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness.”

That is what they said, and after saying such things every one began to love himself better than any one else, and indeed they could not do otherwise. All became so jealous of the rights of their own personality that they did their very utmost to curtail and destroy them in others, and made that the chief thing in their lives. Slavery followed, even voluntary slavery; the weak eagerly submitted to the strong, on condition that the latter aided them to subdue the still weaker. Then there were saints who came to these people, weeping, and talked to them of their pride, of their loss of harmony and due proportion, of their loss of shame. They were laughed at or pelted with stones. Holy blood was shed on the threshold of the temples. Then there arose men who began to think how to bring all people together again, so that everybody, while still loving himself best of all, might not interfere with others, and all might live together in something like a harmonious society. Regular wars sprang up over this idea. All the combatants at the same time firmly believed that science, wisdom and the instinct of self-preservation would force men at last to unite into a harmonious and rational society; and so, meanwhile, to hasten matters, “the wise” endeavoured to exterminate as rapidly as possible all who were “not wise” and did not understand their idea, that the latter might not hinder its triumph. But the instinct of self-preservation grew rapidly weaker; there arose men, haughty and sensual, who demanded all or nothing. In order to obtain everything they resorted to crime, and if they did not succeed — to suicide. There arose religions with a cult of non-existence and self-destruction for the sake of the everlasting peace of annihilation. At last these people grew weary of their meaningless toil, and signs of suffering came into their faces, and then they proclaimed that suffering was a beauty, for in suffering alone was there meaning. They glorified suffering in their songs. I moved about among them, wringing my hands and weeping over them, but I loved them perhaps more than in old days when there was no suffering in their faces and when they were innocent and so lovely. I loved the earth they had polluted even more than when it had been a paradise, if only because sorrow had come to it. Alas! I always loved sorrow and tribulation, but only for myself, for myself; but I wept over them, pitying them. I stretched out my hands to them in despair, blaming, cursing and despising myself. I told them that all this was my doing, mine alone; that it was I had brought them corruption, contamination and falsity. I besought them to crucify me, I taught them how to make a cross. I could not kill myself, I had not the strength, but I wanted to suffer at their hands. I yearned for suffering, I longed that my blood should be drained to the last drop in these agonies. But they only laughed at me, and began at last to look upon me as crazy. They justified me, they declared that they had only got what they wanted themselves, and that all that now was could not have been otherwise. At last they declared to me that I was becoming dangerous and that they should lock me up in a madhouse if I did not hold my tongue. Then such grief took possession of my soul that my heart was wrung, and I felt as though I were dying; and then ... then I awoke.

It was morning, that is, it was not yet daylight, but about six o’clock. I woke up in the same arm-chair; my candle had burnt out; every one was asleep in the captain’s room, and there was a stillness all round, rare in our flat. First of all I leapt up in great amazement: nothing like this had ever happened to me before, not even in the most trivial detail; I had never, for instance, fallen asleep like this in my arm-chair. While I was standing and coming to myself I suddenly caught sight of my revolver lying loaded, ready — but instantly I thrust it away! Oh, now, life, life! I lifted up my hands and called upon eternal truth, not with words but with tears; ecstasy, immeasurable ecstasy flooded my soul. Yes, life and spreading the good tidings! Oh, I at that moment resolved to spread the tidings, and resolved it, of course, for my whole life. I go to spread the tidings, I want to spread the tidings — of what? Of the truth, for I have seen it, have seen it with my own eyes, have seen it in all its glory.

And since then I have been preaching! Moreover I love all those who laugh at me more than any of the rest. Why that is so I do not know and cannot explain, but so be it. I am told that I am vague and confused, and if I am vague and confused now, what shall I be later on? It is true indeed: I am vague and confused, and perhaps as time goes on I shall be more so. And of course I shall make many blunders before I find out how to preach, that is, find out what words to say, what things to do, for it is a very difficult task. I see all that as clear as daylight, but, listen, who does not make mistakes? And yet, you know, all are making for the same goal, all are striving in the same direction anyway, from the sage to the lowest robber, only by different roads. It is an old truth, but this is what is new: I cannot go far wrong. For I have seen the truth; I have seen and I know that people can be beautiful and happy without losing the power of living on earth. I will not and cannot believe that evil is the normal condition of mankind. And it is just this faith of mine that they laugh at. But how can I help believing it? I have seen the truth — it is not as though I had invented it with my mind, I have seen it, seen it, and the living image of it has filled my soul for ever. I have seen it in such full perfection that I cannot believe that it is impossible for people to have it. And so how can I go wrong? I shall make some slips no doubt, and shall perhaps talk in second-hand language, but not for long: the living image of what I saw will always be with me and will always correct and guide me. Oh, I am full of courage and freshness, and I will go on and on if it were for a thousand years! Do you know, at first I meant to conceal the fact that I corrupted them, but that was a mistake — that was my first mistake! But truth whispered to me that I was lying, and preserved me and corrected me. But how establish paradise — I don’t know, because I do not know how to put it into words. After my dream I lost command of words. All the chief words, anyway, the most necessary ones. But never mind, I shall go and I shall keep talking, I won’t leave off, for anyway I have seen it with my own eyes, though I cannot describe what I saw. But the scoffers do not understand that. It was a dream, they say, delirium, hallucination. Oh! As though that meant so much! And they are so proud! A dream! What is a dream? And is not our life a dream? I will say more. Suppose that this paradise will never come to pass (that I understand), yet I shall go on preaching it. And yet how simple it is: in one day, in one hour everything could be arranged at once! The chief thing is to love others like yourself, that’s the great thing, and that’s everything; nothing else is wanted — you will find out at once how to arrange it all. And yet it’s an old truth which has been told and retold a billion times — but it has not formed part of our lives! The consciousness of life is higher than life, the knowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness — that is what one must contend against. And I shall. If only every one wants it, it can all be arranged at once.

And I tracked out that little girl ... and I shall go on and on!


The Peasant Marey

It was the second day in Easter week. The air was warm, the sky was blue, the sun was high, warm, bright, but my soul was very gloomy. I sauntered behind the prison barracks. I stared at the palings of the stout prison fence, counting the movers; but I had no inclination to count them, though it was my habit to do so. This was the second day of the “holidays” in the prison; the convicts were not taken out to work, there were numbers of men drunk, loud abuse and quarrelling was springing up continually in every corner. There were hideous, disgusting songs and card-parties installed beside the platform-beds. Several of the convicts who had been sentenced by their comrades, for special violence, to be beaten till they were half dead, were lying on the platform-bed, covered with sheepskins till they should recover and come to themselves again; knives had already been drawn several times. For these two days of holiday all this had been torturing me till it made me ill. And indeed I could never endure without repulsion the noise and disorder of drunken people, and especially in this place. On these days even the prison officials did not look into the prison, made no searches, did not look for vodka, understanding that they must allow even these outcasts to enjoy themselves once a year, and that things would be even worse if they did not. At last a sudden fury flamed up in my heart. A political prisoner called M. met me; he looked at me gloomily, his eyes flashed and his lips quivered. “Je haïs ces brigands!” he hissed to me through his teeth, and walked on. I returned to the prison ward, though only a quarter of an hour before I had rushed out of it, as though I were crazy, when six stalwart fellows had all together flung themselves upon the drunken Tatar Gazin to suppress him and had begun beating him; they beat him stupidly, a camel might have been killed by such blows, but they knew that this Hercules was not easy to kill, and so they beat him without uneasiness. Now on returning I noticed on the bed in the furthest corner of the room Gazin lying unconscious, almost without sign of life. He lay covered with a sheepskin, and every one walked round him, without speaking; though they confidently hoped that he would come to himself next morning, yet if luck was against him, maybe from a beating like that, the man would die. I made my way to my own place opposite the window with the iron grating, and lay on my back with my hands behind my head and my eyes shut. I liked to lie like that; a sleeping man is not molested, and meanwhile one can dream and think. But I could not dream, my heart was beating uneasily, and M.’s words, “Je haïs ces brigands!” were echoing in my ears. But why describe my impressions; I sometimes dream even now of those times at night, and I have no dreams more agonising. Perhaps it will be noticed that even to this day I have scarcely once spoken in print of my life in prison. The House of the Dead I wrote fifteen years ago in the character of an imaginary person, a criminal who had killed his wife. I may add by the way that since then, very many persons have supposed, and even now maintain, that I was sent to penal servitude for the murder of my wife.

Gradually I sank into forgetfulness and by degrees was lost in memories. During the whole course of my four years in prison I was continually recalling all my past, and seemed to live over again the whole of my life in recollection. These memories rose up of themselves, it was not often that of my own will I summoned them. It would begin from some point, some little thing, at times unnoticed, and then by degrees there would rise up a complete picture, some vivid and complete impression. I used to analyse these impressions, give new features to what had happened long ago, and best of all, I used to correct it, correct it continually, that was my great amusement. On this occasion, I suddenly for some reason remembered an unnoticed moment in my early childhood when I was only nine years old — a moment which I should have thought I had utterly forgotten; but at that time I was particularly fond of memories of my early childhood. I remembered the month of August in our country house: a dry bright day but rather cold and windy; summer was waning and soon we should have to go to Moscow to be bored all the winter over French lessons, and I was so sorry to leave the country. I walked past the threshing-floor and, going down the ravine, I went up to the dense thicket of bushes that covered the further side of the ravine as far as the copse. And I plunged right into the midst of the bushes, and heard a peasant ploughing alone on the clearing about thirty paces away. I knew that he was ploughing up the steep hill and the horse was moving with effort, and from time to time the peasant’s call “come up!” floated upwards to me. I knew almost all our peasants, but I did not know which it was ploughing now, and I did not care who it was, I was absorbed in my own affairs. I was busy, too; I was breaking off switches from the nut trees to whip the frogs with. Nut sticks make such fine whips, but they do not last; while birch twigs are just the opposite. I was interested, too, in beetles and other insects; I used to collect them, some were very ornamental. I was very fond, too, of the little nimble red and yellow lizards with black spots on them, but I was afraid of snakes. Snakes, however, were much more rare than lizards. There were not many mushrooms there. To get mushrooms one had to go to the birch wood, and I was about to set off there. And there was nothing in the world that I loved so much as the wood with its mushrooms and wild berries, with its beetles and its birds, its hedgehogs and squirrels, with its damp smell of dead leaves which I loved so much, and even as I write I smell the fragrance of our birch wood: these impressions will remain for my whole life. Suddenly in the midst of the profound stillness I heard a clear and distinct shout, “Wolf!” I shrieked and, beside myself with terror, calling out at the top of my voice, ran out into the clearing and straight to the peasant who was ploughing.

It was our peasant Marey. I don’t know if there is such a name, but every one called him Marey — a thick-set, rather well-grown peasant of fifty, with a good many grey hairs in his dark brown, spreading beard. I knew him, but had scarcely ever happened to speak to him till then. He stopped his horse on hearing my cry, and when, breathless, I caught with one hand at his plough and with the other at his sleeve, he saw how frightened I was.

“There is a wolf!” I cried, panting.

He flung up his head, and could not help looking round for an instant, almost believing me.

“Where is the wolf?”

“A shout ... some one shouted: ‘wolf’ ...” I faltered out.

“Nonsense, nonsense! A wolf? Why, it was your fancy! How could there be a wolf?” he muttered, reassuring me. But I was trembling all over, and still kept tight hold of his smock frock, and I must have been quite pale. He looked at me with an uneasy smile, evidently anxious and troubled over me.

“Why, you have had a fright, aïe, aïe!” He shook his head. “There, dear.... Come, little one, aïe!”

He stretched out his hand, and all at once stroked my cheek.

“Come, come, there; Christ be with you! Cross yourself!”

But I did not cross myself. The corners of my mouth were twitching, and I think that struck him particularly. He put out his thick, black-nailed, earth-stained finger and softly touched my twitching lips.

“Aïe, there, there,” he said to me with a slow, almost motherly smile. “Dear, dear, what is the matter? There; come, come!”

I grasped at last that there was no wolf, and that the shout that I had heard was my fancy. Yet that shout had been so clear and distinct, but such shouts (not only about wolves) I had imagined once or twice before, and I was aware of that. (These hallucinations passed away later as I grew older.)

“Well, I will go then,” I said, looking at him timidly and inquiringly.

“Well, do, and I’ll keep watch on you as you go. I won’t let the wolf get at you,” he added, still smiling at me with the same motherly expression. “Well, Christ be with you! Come, run along then,” and he made the sign of the cross over me and then over himself. I walked away, looking back almost at every tenth step. Marey stood still with his mare as I walked away, and looked after me and nodded to me every time I looked round. I must own I felt a little ashamed at having let him see me so frightened, but I was still very much afraid of the wolf as I walked away, until I reached the first barn half-way up the slope of the ravine; there my fright vanished completely, and all at once our yard-dog Voltchok flew to meet me. With Voltchok I felt quite safe, and I turned round to Marey for the last time; I could not see his face distinctly, but I felt that he was still nodding and smiling affectionately to me. I waved to him; he waved back to me and started his little mare. “Come up!” I heard his call in the distance again, and the little mare pulled at the plough again.

All this I recalled all at once, I don’t know why, but with extraordinary minuteness of detail. I suddenly roused myself and sat up on the platform-bed, and, I remember, found myself still smiling quietly at my memories. I brooded over them for another minute.

When I got home that day I told no one of my “adventure” with Marey. And indeed it was hardly an adventure. And in fact I soon forgot Marey. When I met him now and then afterwards, I never even spoke to him about the wolf or anything else; and all at once now, twenty years afterwards in Siberia, I remembered this meeting with such distinctness to the smallest detail. So it must have lain hidden in my soul, though I knew nothing of it, and rose suddenly to my memory when it was wanted; I remembered the soft motherly smile of the poor serf, the way he signed me with the cross and shook his head. “There, there, you have had a fright, little one!” And I remembered particularly the thick earth-stained finger with which he softly and with timid tenderness touched my quivering lips. Of course any one would have reassured a child, but something quite different seemed to have happened in that solitary meeting; and if I had been his own son, he could not have looked at me with eyes shining with greater love. And what made him like that? He was our serf and I was his little master, after all. No one would know that he had been kind to me and reward him for it. Was he, perhaps, very fond of little children? Some people are. It was a solitary meeting in the deserted fields, and only God, perhaps, may have seen from above with what deep and humane civilised feeling, and with what delicate, almost feminine tenderness, the heart of a coarse, brutally ignorant Russian serf, who had as yet no expectation, no idea even of his freedom, may be filled. Was not this, perhaps, what Konstantin Aksakov meant when he spoke of the high degree of culture of our peasantry?

And when I got down off the bed and looked around me, I remember I suddenly felt that I could look at these unhappy creatures with quite different eyes, and that suddenly by some miracle all hatred and anger had vanished utterly from my heart. I walked about, looking into the faces that I met. That shaven peasant, branded on his face as a criminal, bawling his hoarse, drunken song, may be that very Marey; I cannot look into his heart.

I met M. again that evening. Poor fellow! he could have no memories of Russian peasants, and no other view of these people but: “Je haïs ces brigands!” Yes, the Polish prisoners had more to bear than I.

The Little Orphan


IN a large city, on Christmas eve in the biting cold, I see a young child, still quite young, six years old, perhaps even less; yet too young to be sent on the street begging, but assuredly destined to be sent in a year or two.

This child awakes one morning in a damp and frosty cellar. He is wrapped in a kind of squalid dressing-gown and is shivering. His breath issues from between his lips in white vapor; he is seated on a trunk; to pass the time he blows the breath from his mouth, and amuses himself in seeing it escape. But he is very hungry. Several times since morning he has drawn near the bed covered with a straw mattress as thin as gauze, where his mother lies sick, her head resting on a bundle of rags instead of a pillow.

How did she come there? She came probably from a strange city and has fallen ill. The proprietress of the miserable lodging was arrested two days ago, and carried to the police station; it is a holiday to-day, and the other tenants have gone out. However, one of them has remained in bed for the last twenty-four hours, stupid with drink, not having waited for the holiday.

From another corner issue the complaints of an old woman of eighty years, laid up with rheumatism. This old woman was formerly a children’s nurse somewhere; now she is dying all alone. She whines, moans, and growls at the little boy, who begins to be afraid to come near the corner where she lies with the death rattle in her throat. He has found something to drink in the hallway, but he has not been able to lay his hand on the smallest crust of bread, and for the tenth time he comes to wake his mother. He finishes by getting frightened in this darkness.

The evening is already late, and no one comes to kindle the fire. He finds, by feeling around, his mother’s face, and is astonished that she no longer moves and that she has become as cold as the wall.

“It is so cold!” he thinks.

He remains some time without moving, his hand resting on the shoulder of the corpse. Then he begins to blow in his fingers to warm them, and, happening to find his little cap on the bed, he looks softly for the door, and issues forth from the underground lodging.

He would have gone out sooner had he not been afraid of the big dog that barks all the day up there on the landing before their neighbor’s door.

Oh! what a city! never before had he seen anything like it. Down yonder from where he came, the nights are much darker. There is only one lamp for the whole street; little low wooden houses, closed with shutters; in the street from the time it grows dark, no one; every one shut up at home: only a crowd of dogs that howl, hundreds, thousands of dogs, that howl and bark all the night. But then, it used to be so warm there! And he got something to eat. Here, ah! how good it would be to have something to eat! What a noise here, what an uproar! What a great light, and what a crowd of people! What horses, and what carriages! And the cold, the cold! The bodies of the tired horses smoke with frost and their burning nostrils puff white clouds; their shoes ring on the pavement through the soft snow. And how every body hustles every body else! “Ah! how I would like to eat a little piece of something. That is what makes my fingers ache so.”


A POLICEMAN just passes by, and turns his head so as not to see the child.

“Here is another street. Oh! how wide it is! I shall be crushed to death here, I know; how they all shout, how they run, how they roll along! And the light, and the light! And that, what is that? Oh! what a big window pane! And behind the pane, a room, and in the room a tree that goes up to the ceiling; it is the Christmas tree. And what lights under the tree! Such papers of gold, and such apples! And all around dolls and little hobby-horses. There are little children well-dressed, nice, and clean; they are laughing and playing, eating and drinking things. There is a little girl going to dance with the little boy. How pretty she is! And there is music. I can hear it through the glass.”

The child looks, admires, and even laughs. He feels no longer any pain in his fingers or feet. The fingers of his hand have become all red, he cannot bend them any more, and it hurts him to move them. But all at once, he feels that his fingers ache; he begins to cry, and goes away. He perceives through another window another room, and again trees and cakes of all sorts on the table, red almonds and yellow ones. Four beautiful ladies are sitting down, and when any body comes he is given some cake: and the door opens every minute, and many gentlemen enter. The little fellow crept forward, opened the door of a sudden, and went in. Oh! what a noise was made when they saw him, what confusion! Immediately a lady arose, put a kopeck in his hand, and opened herself the street door for him. How frightened he was!


THE kopeck has fallen from his hands, and rings on the steps of the stairs. He was not able to tighten his little fingers enough to hold the coin. The child went out running, and walked fast, fast. Where was he going? He did not know. And he runs, runs, and blows in his hands. He is troubled. He feels so lonely, so frightened! And suddenly, what is that again! A crowd of people stand there and admire.

“A window! behind the pane, three pretty dolls attired in wee red and yellow dresses, and just exactly as though they were alive! And that little old man sitting down, who seems to play the fiddle. There are two others, too, standing up, who play on tiny violins, keeping time with their heads to the music. They look at each other and their lips move. And they really speak? Only they cannot be heard through the glass.”

And the child first thinks that they are living, and when he comprehends that they are only dolls, he begins to laugh. Never had he seen such dolls before, and he didn’t know that there were any like that! He would like to cry, but those dolls are just too funny!


SUDDENLY he feels himself seized by the coat. A big rough boy stands near him, who gives him a blow of his fist on the head, snatches his cap, and trips him up.

The child falls. At the same time there is a shout; he remains a moment paralyzed with fear. Then he springs up with a bound and runs, runs, darts under a gateway somewhere and hides himself in a court-yard behind a pile of wood. He cowers and shivers in his fright; he can hardly breathe.

And suddenly he feels quite comfortable. His little hands and feet don’t hurt any more; he is warm, warm as though near a stove, and all his body trembles.

“Ah! I am going asleep! how nice it is to have a sleep! I shall stay a little while and then I will go and see the dolls again,” thought the little fellow, and he smiled at the recollection of the dolls. “They looked just as though they were alive!”

Then he hears his mother’s song. “Mamma, I am going to sleep. Ah! how nice it is here for sleeping!”

“Come to my house, little boy, to see the Christmas tree,” said a soft voice.

He thought at first it was his mother; but no, it was not she.

Then who is calling him? He does not see. But some one stoops over him, and folds him in his arms in the darkness: and he stretches out his hand and — all at once — oh! what light! Oh! what a Christmas tree! No, it is not a Christmas tree; he has never seen the like of it!

Where is he now? All is resplendent, all is radiant, and dolls all around; but no, not dolls, little boys, little girls; only they are very bright. All of them circle round him; they fly. They hug him, they take him and carry him away, and he is flying too. And he sees his mother looking at him and laughing joyfully.

“Mamma! mamma! ah! how nice it is here!” cries her little boy to her.

And again he embraces the children, and would like very much to tell them about the dolls behind the window pane. “Who are you, little girls?” he asks, laughing and fondling them.

It is the Christmas tree at Jesus’s.

At Jesus’s, that day, there is always a Christmas tree for little children that have none themselves.

And he learned that all these little boys and girls were children like himself, who had died like him. Some had died of cold in the baskets abandoned at the doors of the public functionaries of St. Petersburg; others had died out at nurse in the foul hovels of the Tchaukhnas; others of hunger at the dry breasts of their mothers during the famine. All were here now, all little angels now, all with Jesus, and He Himself among them, spreading his hands over them, blessing them and their sinful mothers.

And the mothers of these children are there too, apart, weeping; each recognizes her son or her daughter, and the children fly towards them, embrace them, wipe away the tears with their little hands, and beg them not to weep.

And below on the earth, the concierge in the morning found the wee corpse of the child, who had taken refuge in the courtyard. Stiff and frozen behind the pile of wood it lay.

The mother was found too. She died before him; both are reunited in Heaven in the Lord’s house.

A Faint Heart

UNDER the same roof in the same flat on the same fourth storey lived two young men, colleagues in the service, Arkady Ivanovitch Nefedevitch and Vasya Shumkov. . . . The author of course, feels the necessity of explaining to the reader why one is given his full title, while the other’s name is abbreviated, if only that such a mode of expression may not be regarded as unseemly and rather familiar. But, to do so, it would first be necessary to explain and describe the rank and years and calling and duty in the service, and even, indeed, the characters of the persons concerned; and since there are so many writers who begin in that way the author of the proposed story, solely in order to be unlike them (that is, some people will perhaps say, entirely on account of his boundless vanity), decides to begin straightaway with action. Having completed this introduction, he begins.

Towards six o’clock on New Year’s Eve Shumkov returned home. Arkady Ivanovitch, who was lying on the bed, woke up and looked at his friend with half-closed eyes. He saw that Vasya had on his very best trousers and a very clean shirt front. That, of course, struck him. “Where had Vasya to go like that? And he had not dined at home either!” Meanwhile, Shumkov had lighted a candle, and Arkady Ivanovitch guessed immediately that his friend was intending to wake him accidentally. Vasya did, in fact, clear his throat twice, walked twice up and down the room, and at last, quite accidentally, let the pipe, which he had begun filling in the corner by the stove, slip out of his hands. Arkady Ivanovitch laughed to himself.

“Vasya, give over pretending!” he said.

“Arkasha, you are not asleep?”

“I really cannot say for certain; it seems to me I am not.”

“Oh, Arkasha! How are you, dear boy? Well, brother! Well, brother! . . . You don’t know what I have to tell you!”

“I certainly don’t know; come here.”

As though expecting this, Vasya went up to him at once, not at all anticipating, however, treachery from Arkady Ivanovitch. The other seized him very adroitly by the arms, turned him over, held him down, and began, as it is called, “strangling” his victim, and apparently this proceeding afforded the light-hearted Arkady Ivanovitch great satisfaction.

“Caught!” he cried. “Caught!”

“Arkasha, Arkasha, what are you about? Let me go. For goodness sake, let me go, I shall crumple my dress coat!”

“As though that mattered! What do you want with a dress coat? Why were you so confiding as to put yourself in my hands? Tell me, where have you been? Where have you dined?”

“Arkasha, for goodness sake, let me go!”

“Where have you dined?”

“Why, it’s about that I want to tell you.”

“Tell away, then.”

“But first let me go.”

“Not a bit of it, I won’t let you go till you tell me!”

“Arkasha! Arkasha! But do you understand, I can’t it is utterly impossible!” cried Vasya, helplessly wriggling out of his friend’s powerful clutches, “you know there are subjects!”

“How subjects?” . . .

“Why, subjects that you can’t talk about in such a position without losing your dignity; it’s utterly impossible; it would make it ridiculous, and this is not a ridiculous matter, it is important.”

“Here, he’s going in for being important! That’s a new idea! You tell me so as to make me laugh, that’s how you must tell me; I don’t want anything important; or else you are no true friend of mine. Do you call yourself a friend? Eh?”

“Arkasha, I really can’t!”

“Well, I don’t want to hear. . . .”

“Well, Arkasha! “ began Vasya, lying across the bed and doing his utmost to put all the dignity possible into his words.” Arkasha! If you like, I will tell you; only . . .”

“Well, what? . . .”

“Well, I am engaged to be married!”

Without uttering another word Arkady Ivanovitch took Vasya up in his arms like a baby, though the latter was by no means short, but rather long and thin, and began dexterously carrying him up and down the room, pretending that he was hushing him to sleep.

“I’ll put you in your swaddling clothes, Master Bridegroom,” he kept saying. But seeing that Vasya lay in his arms, not stirring or uttering a word, he thought better of it at once, and reflecting that the joke had gone too far, set him down in the middle of the room and kissed him on the cheek in the most genuine and friendly way.

“Vasya, you are not angry?”

“Arkasha, listen. ...”

“Come, it’s New Year’s Eve.”

“Oh, I’m all right; but why are you such a madman, such a scatterbrain? How many times I have told you: Arkasha, it’s really not funny, not funny at all!”

“Oh, well, you are not angry?”

“Oh, I’m all right; am I ever angry with any one! But you have wounded me, do you understand?”

“But how have I wounded you? In what way?”

“I come to you as to a friend, with a full heart, to pour out my soul to you, to tell you of my happiness . . .”

“What happiness? Why don’t you speak? . . .”

“Oh, well, I am going to get married!” Vasya answered with vexation, for he really was a little exasperated.

“You! You are going to get married! So you really mean it?” Arkasha cried at the top of his voice.” No, no ... but what’s this? He talks like this and his tears are flowing. . . . Vasya, my little Vasya, don’t, my little son! Is it true, really?”

And Arkady Ivanovitch flew to hug him again.

“Well, do you see, how it is now?” said Vasya. “You are kind, of course, you are a friend, I know that. I come to you with such joy, such rapture, and all of a sudden I have to disclose all the joy of my heart, all my rapture struggling across the bed, in an undignified way. . . . You understand, Arkasha,” Vasya went on, half laughing. “You see, it made it seem comic: and in a sense I did not belong to myself at that minute. I could not let this be slighted. . . What’s more, if you had asked me her name, I swear, I would sooner you killed me than have answered you.”

“But, Vasya, why did you not speak! You should have told me all about it sooner and I would not have played the fool!” cried Arkady Ivanovitch in genuine despair.

“Come, that’s enough, that’s enough! Of course, that’s how it is. . . . You know what it all comes from from my having a good heart. What vexes me is, that I could not tell you as I wanted to, making you glad and happy, telling you nicely and initiating you into my secret properly. . . . Really, Arkasha, I love you so much that I believe if it were not for you I shouldn’t be getting married, and, in fact, I shouldn’t be living in this world at all!”

Arkady Ivanovitch, who was excessively sentimental, cried and laughed at once as he listened to Vasya. Vasya did the same. Both flew to embrace one another again and forgot the past.

“How is it how is it? Tell me all about it, Vasya! I am astonished, excuse me, brother, but I am utterly astonished; it’s a perfect thunderbolt, by Jove! Nonsense, nonsense, brother, you have made it up, you’ve really made it up, you are telling fibs!” cried Arkady Ivanovitch, and he actually looked into Vasya’s face with genuine uncertainty, but seeing in it the radiant confirmation of a positive intention of being married as soon as possible, threw himself on the bed and began rolling from side to side in ecstasy till the walls shook.

“Vasya, sit here,” he said at last, sitting down on the bed.

“I really don’t know, brother, where to begin!”

They looked at one another in joyful excitement.

“Who is she, Vasya?”

“The Artemyevs! . . .” Vasya pronounced, in a voice weak with emotion.


“Well, I did buzz into your ears about them at first, and then I shut up, and you noticed nothing. Ah, Arkasha, if you knew how hard it was to keep it from you; but I was afraid, afraid to speak! I thought it would all go wrong, and you know I was in love, Arkasha! My God! My God! You see this was the trouble,” he began, pausing continually from agitation, “she had a suitor a year ago, but he was suddenly ordered somewhere; I knew him he was a fellow, bless him! Well, he did not write at all, he simply vanished. They waited and waited, wondering what it meant. . . . Four months ago he suddenly came back married, and has never set foot within their doors! It was coarse, shabby! And they had no one to stand up for them. She cried and cried, poor girl, and I fell in love with her . . . indeed, I had been in love with her long before, all the time! I began comforting her, and was always going there. . . . Well, and I really don’t know how it has all come about, only she came to love me; a week ago I could not restrain myself, I cried, I sobbed, and told her everything well, that I love her everything, in fact !... ‘! am ready to love you, too, Vassily Petrovitch, only I am a poor girl, don’t make a mock of me; I don’t dare to love any one.’ Well, brother, you understand! You understand? . . . On that we got engaged on the spot . I kept thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking, I said to her, ‘How are we to tell your mother?’ She said, ‘It will be hard, wait a little; she’s afraid, and now maybe she would not let you have me; she keeps crying, too.’ Without telling her I blurted it out to her mother today. Lizanka fell on her knees before her, I did the same . . . well, she gave us her blessing. Arkasha, Arkasha! My dear fellow! We will live together. No, I won’t part from you for anything.”

“Vasya, look at you as I may, I can’t believe it. I don’t believe it, I swear. I keep feeling as though. . . . Listen, how can you be engaged to be married? . . . How is it I didn’t know, eh? Do you know, Vasya, I will confess it to you now. I was thinking of getting married myself; but now since you are going to be married, it is just as good! Be happy, be happy! . . .”

“Brother, I feel so lighthearted now, there is such sweetness in my soul ..,” said Vasya, getting up and pacing about the room excitedly. “Don’t you feel the same? We shall be poor, of course, but we shall be happy; and you know it is not a wild fancy; our happiness is not a fairy tale; we shall be happy in reality! . . .”

“Vasya, Vasya, listen!”

“What?” said Vasya, standing before Arkady Ivanovitch.

“The idea occurs to me; I am really afraid to say it to you. . . . Forgive me, and settle my doubts. What are you going to live on? You know I am delighted that you are going to be married, of course, I am delighted, and I don’t know what to do with myself, but what are you going to live on? Eh?”

“Oh, good Heavens! What a fellow you are, Arkasha!” said Vasya, looking at Nefedevitch in profound astonishment. “What do you mean? Even her old mother, even she did not think of that for two minutes when I put it all clearly before her. You had better ask what they are living on! They have five hundred roubles a year between the three of them: the pension, which is all they have, since the father died. She and her old mother and her little brother, whose schooling is paid for out of that income too — that is how they live! It’s you and I are the capitalists! Some good years it works out to as much as seven hundred for me.”

“I say, Vasya, excuse me; I really . . . you know I ... I am only thinking how to prevent things going wrong. How do you mean, seven hundred? It’s only three hundred . . .”

“Three hundred! . . . And Yulian Mastakovitch? Have you forgotten him?”

“Yulian Mastakovitch? But you know that’s uncertain, brother; that’s not the same thing as three hundred roubles of secure salary, where every rouble is a friend you can trust. Yulian Mastakovitch, of course, he’s a great man, in fact, I respect him, I understand him, though he is so far above us; and, by Jove, I love him, because he likes you and gives you something for your work, though he might not pay you, but simply order a clerk to work for him but you will agree, Vasya. . . . Let me tell you, too, I am not talking nonsense. I admit in all Petersburg you won’t find a handwriting like your handwriting, I am ready to allow that to you,” Nefedevitch concluded, not without enthusiasm. “But, God forbid! you may displease him all at once, you may not satisfy him, your work with him may stop, he may take another clerk all sorts of things may happen, in fact! You know, Yulian Mastakovitch may be here to-day and gone to-morrow . . .”

“Well, Arkasha, the ceiling might fall on our heads this minute.”

“Oh, of course, of course, I mean nothing.”

“But listen, hear what I have got to say you know, I don’t see how he can part with me. . . . No, hear what I have to say! Hear what I have to say! You see, I perform all my duties punctually; you know how kind he is, you know, Arkasha, he gave me fifty roubles in silver today!”

“Did he really, Vasya? A bonus for you?”

“Bonus, indeed, it was out of his own pocket. He said: ‘Why, you have had no money for five months, brother, take some if you want it; thank you, I am satisfied with you.’ . . . Yes, really! ‘Yes, you don’t work for me for nothing,’ said he. He did, indeed, that’s what he said. It brought tears into my eyes, Arkasha. Good Heavens, yes!”

“I say, Vasya, have you finished copying those papers? . . .”

“No. ... I haven’t finished them yet.”

“Vas . . . ya ! My angel ! What have you been doing?”

“Listen, Arkasha, it doesn’t matter, they are not wanted for another two days, I have time enough. ...”

“How is it you have not done them?”

That’ s all right, that’s all right. You look so horror-stricken that you turn me inside out and make my heart ache! You are always going on at me like this! He’s for ever crying out: Oh, oh, oh ! ! ! Only consider, what does it matter? Why, I shall finish it, of course I shall finish it. . . .”

“What if you don’t finish it?” cried Arkady, jumping up, “and he has made you a present to-day! And you going to be married. . . . Tut, tut, tut! . . .”

“It’s all right, it’s all right,” cried Shumkov, “I shall sit down directly, I shall sit down this minute.”

“How did you come to leave it, Vasya?”

“Oh, Arkasha! How could I sit down to work! Have I been in a fit state? Why, even at the office I could scarcely sit still, I could scarcely bear the beating of my heart. . . . Oh! oh ! Now I shall work all night, and I shall work all to-morrow night, and the night after, too and I shall finish it.”

“Is there a great deal left?”

“Don’t hinder me, for goodness’ sake, don’t hinder me; hold your tongue.”

Arkady Ivanovitch went on tip-toe to the bed and sat down, then suddenly wanted to get up, but was obliged to sit down again, remembering that he might interrupt him, though he could not sit still for excitement: it was evident that the news had thoroughly upset him, and the first thrill of delight had not yet passed off. He glanced at Shumkov; the latter glanced at him, smiled, and shook his finger at him, then, frowning severely (as though all his energy and the success of his work depended upon it), fixed his eyes on the papers.

It seemed that he, too, could not yet master his emotion; he kept changing his pen, fidgeting in his chair, re-arranging things, and setting to work again, but his hand trembled and refused to move.

“Arkasha, I’ve talked to them about you,” he cried suddenly, as though he had just remembered it.

“Yes,” cried Arkasha, “I was just wanting to ask you that. Well?”

“Well, I’ll tell you everything afterwards. Of course, it is my own fault, but it quite went out of my head that I didn’t mean to say anything till I had written four pages, but I thought of you and of them. I really can’t write, brother, I keep thinking about you. ...”

Vasya smiled.

A silence followed.

“Phew! What a horrid pen,” cried Shumkov, flinging it on the table in vexation. He took another.

“Vasya! listen! one word ...”

“Well, make haste, and for the last time.”

“Have you a great deal left to do?”

“Ah, brother!” Vasya frowned, as though there could be nothing more terrible and murderous in the whole world than such a question. “A lot, a fearful lot.”

“Do you know, I have an idea.”


“Oh, never mind, never mind; go on writing.”

“Why, what? What!”

“It’s past six, Vasya.”

Here Nefedevitch smiled and winked slyly at Vasya, though with a certain timidity, not knowing how Vasya would take it.

“Well, what is it?” said Vasya, throwing down his pen, looking him straight in the face and actually turning pale with excitement.

“Do you know what?”

“For goodness sake, what is it?”

“I tell you what, you are excited, you won’t get much done. . . . Stop, stop, stop! I have it, I have it listen,” said Nefedevitch, jumping up from the bed in delight, preventing Vasya from speaking and doing his utmost to ward off all objections; “ first of all you must get calm, you must pull yourself together, mustn’t you?”

“Arkasha, Arkasha!” cried Vasya, jumping up from his chair, “I will work all night, I will, really.”

“Of course, of course, you won’t go to bed till morning.”

“I won’t go to bed, I won’t go to bed at all.”

“No, that won’t do, that won’t do: you must sleep, go to bed at five. I will call you at eight. Tomorrow is a holiday; you can sit and scribble away all day long. . . . Then the night and — but have you a great deal left to do?”

“Yes, look, look!”

Vasya, quivering with excitement and suspense, showed the manuscript: “Look!”

“I say, brother, that’s not much.”

“My dear fellow, there’s some more of it,” said Vasya, looking very timidly at Nefedevitch, as though the decision whether he was to go or not depended upon the latter.

“How much?”

“Two signatures.”

“Well, what’s that? Come, I tell you what. We shall have time to finish it, by Jove, we shall!”


“Vasya, listen! To-night, on New Year’s Eve, every one is at home with his family. You and I are the only ones without a home or relations. . . . Oh, Vasya!”

Nefedevitch clutched Vasya and hugged him in his leonine arms.

“Arkasha, it’s settled.”

“Vasya, boy, I only wanted to say this. You see, Vasya listen, bandy-legs, listen! . . .”

Arkady stopped, with his mouth open, because he could not speak for delight. Vasya held him by the shoulders, gazed into his face and moved his lips, as though he wanted to speak for him.

“Well,” he brought out at last. “Introduce me to them to-day.”

“Arkady, let us go to tea there. I tell you what, I tell you what. We won’t even stay to see in the New Year, we’ll come away earlier,” cried Vasya, with genuine inspiration.

“That is, we’ll go for two hours, neither more nor less . . . .”

“And then separation till I have finished. ...”

“Vasya, boy!”


Three minutes later Arkady was dressed In his best. Vasya did nothing but brush himself, because he had been in such haste to work that he had not changed his trousers.

They hurried out into the street, each more pleased than the other. Their way lay from the Petersburg Side to Kolomna. Arkady Ivanovitch stepped out boldly and vigorously, so that from his walk alone one could see how glad he was at the good fortune of his friend, who was more and more radiant with happiness. Vasya trotted along with shorter steps, though his deportment was none the less dignified. Arkady Ivanovitch, in fact, had never seen him before to such advantage. At that moment he actually felt more respect for him, and Vasya’s physical defect, of which the reader is not yet aware (Vasya was slightly deformed), which always called forth a feeling of loving sympathy in Arkady Ivanovitch’s kind heart, contributed to the deep tenderness the latter felt for him at this moment, a tenderness of which Vasya was in every way worthy. Arkady Ivanovitch felt ready to weep with happiness, but he restrained himself.

“Where are you going, where are you going, Vasya? It is nearer this way,” he cried, seeing that Vasya was making in the direction of Voznesenky.

“Hold your tongue, Arkasha.”

“It really is nearer, Vasya.”

“Do you know what, Arkasha?” Vasya began mysteriously, in a voice quivering with joy, “I tell you what, I want to take Lizanka a little present.”

“What sort of present?”

“At the corner here, brother, is Madame Leroux’s, a wonderful shop.”


“A cap, my dear, a cap; I saw such a charming little cap to-day. I inquired, I was told it was the fag on Manon Lescaut — a delightful thing. Cherry-coloured ribbons, and if it is not dear . . . Arkasha, even if it is dear. . . .”

“I think you are superior to any of the poets. Vasya. Come along.”

They ran along, and two minutes later went into the shop. They were met by a black-eyed Frenchwoman with curls, who, from the first glance at her customers, became as joyous and happy as they, even happier, if one may say so. Vasya was ready to kiss Madame Leroux in his delight. . . .

“Arkasha,” he said in an undertone, casting a casual glance at all the grand and beautiful things on little wooden stands on the huge table, “lovely things! What’s that? What’s this? This one, for instance, this little sweet, do you see?” Vasya whispered, pointing to a charming cap further away, which was not the one he meant to buy, because he had already from afar descried and fixed his eyes upon the real, famous one, standing at the other end. He looked at it in such a way that one might have supposed some one was going to steal it, or as though the cap itself might take wings and fly into the air just to prevent Vasya from obtaining it.

“Look,” said Arkady Ivanovitch, pointing to one, “I think that’s better.”

“Well, Arkasha, that does you credit; I begin to respect you for your taste,” said Vasya, resorting to cunning with Arkasha in the tenderness of his heart, “your cap is charming, but come this way.”

“Where is there a better one, brother?”

“Look; this way.”

“That,” said Arkady, doubtfully.

But when Vasya, incapable of restraining himself any longer, took it from the stand from which it seemed to fly spontaneously, as though delighted at falling at last into the hands of so good a customer, and they heard the rustle of its ribbons, ruches and lace, an unexpected cry of delight broke from the powerful chest of Arkady Ivanovitch. Even Madame Leroux, while maintaining her incontestable dignity and pre-eminence in matters of taste, and remaining mute from condescension, rewarded Vasya with a smile of complete approbation, everything in her glance, gesture and smile saying at once: “Yes, you have chosen rightly, and are worthy of the happiness which awaits you.”

“It has been dangling its charms in coy seclusion,” cried Vasya, transferring his tender feelings to the charming cap. “You have been hiding on purpose, you sly little pet!” And he kissed it, that is the air surrounding it, for he was afraid to touch his treasure.

“Retiring as true worth and virtue,” Arkady added enthusiastically, quoting humorously from a comic paper he had read that morning. “Well, Vasya?”

“Hurrah, Arkasha! You are witty to-day. I predict you will make a sensation, as women say. Madame Leroux, Madame Leroux!”

“What is your pleasure?”

“Dear Madame Leroux.”

Madame Leroux looked at Arkady Ivanovitch and smiled condescendingly. “You wouldn’t believe how I adore you at this moment. . . . Allow me to give you a kiss. ...” And Vasya kissed the shopkeeper.

She certainly at that moment needed all her dignity to maintain her position with such a madcap. But I contend that the innate, spontaneous courtesy and grace with which Madame Leroux received Vasya’s enthusiasm, was equally befitting. She forgave him, and how tactfully, how graciously, she knew how to behave in the circumstances. How could she have been angry with Vasya?

“Madame Leroux, how much?”

“Five roubles in silver,” she answered, straightening herself with a new smile.

“And this one, Madame Leroux?” said Arkady Ivanovitch, pointing to his choice.

“That one is eight roubles.”

“There, you see there, you see! Come, Madame Leroux, tell me which is nicer, more graceful, more charming, which of them suits you best?”

“The second is richer, but your choice c’est plus coquet.”

“Then we will take it.”

Madame Leroux took a sheet of very delicate paper, pinned it up, and the paper with the cap wrapped in it seemed even lighter than the paper alone. Vasya took it carefully, almost holding his breath, bowed to Madame Leroux, said something else very polite to her and left the shop.

“I am a lady’s man, I was born to be a lady’s man,” said Vasya, laughing a little noiseless, nervous laugh and dodging the passers-by, whom he suspected of designs for crushing his precious cap.

“Listen, Arkady, brother,” he began a minute later, and there was a note of triumph, of infinite affection in his voice. “Arkady, I am so happy, I am so happy!”

“Vasya! how glad I am, dear boy!”

“No, Arkasha, no. I know that there is no limit to your affection for me; but you cannot be feeling one-hundredth part of what I am feeling at this moment. My heart is so full, so full! Arkasha, I am not worthy of such happiness. I feel that, I am conscious of it. Why has it come to me?” he said, his voice full of stifled sobs. “What have I done to deserve it? Tell me. Look what lots of people, what lots of tears, what sorrow, what work-a-day life without a holiday, while I, I am loved by a girl like that, I.... But you will see her yourself immediately, you will appreciate her noble heart. I was born in a humble station, now I have a grade in the service and an independent income — my salary. I was born with a physical defect, I am a little deformed. See, she loves me as I am. Yulian Mastakovitch was so kind, so attentive, so gracious to-day; he does not often talk to me; he came up to me: ‘Well, how goes it, Vasya’ (yes, really, he called me Vasya), ‘are you going to have a good time for the holiday, eh?’ he laughed.

“‘Well, the fact is, Your Excellency, I have work to do,’ but then I plucked up courage and said: ‘and maybe I shall have a good time, too, Your Excellency.’ I really said it. He gave me the money, on the spot, then he said a couple of words more to me. Tears came into my eyes, brother, I actually cried, and he, too, seemed touched, he patted me on the shoulder, and said: ‘Feel always, Vasya, as you feel this now.

Vasya paused for an instant. Arkady Ivanovitch turned away, and he, too, wiped away a tear with his fist.

“And, and . . .” Vasya went on, “I have never spoken to you of this, Arkady. . . Arkady, you make me so happy with your affection, without you I could not live, no, no, don’t say anything, Arkady, let me squeeze your hand, let me . . tha . . . ank . . . you ...” Again Vasya could not finish.

Arkady Ivanovitch longed to throw himself on Vasya’s neck, but as they were crossing the road and heard almost in their ears a shrill: “Hi! there!” they ran frightened and excited to the pavement.

Arkady Ivanovitch was positively relieved. He set down Vasya’s outburst of gratitude to the exceptional circumstances of the moment. He was vexed. He felt that he had done so little for Vasya hitherto. He felt actually ashamed of himself when Vasya began thanking him for so little. But they had all their lives before them, and Arkady Ivanovitch breathed more freely.

The Artemyevs had quite given up expecting them. The proof of it was that they had already sat down to tea! And the old, it seems, are sometimes more clear-sighted than the young, even when the young are so exceptional. Lizanka had very earnestly maintained, “He isn’t coming, he isn’t coming, Mamma; I feel in my heart he is not coming;” while her mother on the contrary declared “that she had a feeling that he would certainly come, that he would not stay away, that he would run round, that he could have no office work now, on New Year’s Eve. Even as Lizanka opened the door she did not in the least expect to see them, and greeted them breathlessly, with her heart throbbing like a captured bird’s, flushing and turning as red as a cherry, a fruit which she wonderfully resembled. Good Heavens, what a surprise it was! What a joyful “Oh!” broke from her lips. “Deceiver! My darling!” she cried, throwing her arms round Vasya’s neck. But imagine her amazement, her sudden confusion: just behind Vasya, as though trying to hide behind his back, stood Arkady Ivanovitch, a trifle out of countenance. It must be admitted that he was awkward in the company of women, very awkward indeed, in fact on one occasion something occurred . . . but of that later. You must put yourself in his place, however. There was nothing to laugh at; he was standing in the entry, in his goloshes and overcoat, and in a cap with flaps over the ears, which he would have hastened to pull off, but he had, all twisted round in a hideous way, a yellow knitted scarf, which, to make things worse, was knotted at the back. He had to disentangle all this, to take it off as quickly as possible, to show himself to more advantage, for there is no one who does not prefer to show himself to advantage. And then Vasya, vexatious insufferable Vasya, of course always the same dear kind Vasya, but now insufferable, ruthless Vasya. “ Here,” he shouted, “Lizanka, I have brought you my Arkady? What do you think of him? He is my best friend, embrace him, kiss him, Lizanka, give him a kiss in advance; afterwards you will know him better — you can take it back again.”

Well, what, I ask you, was Arkady Ivanovitch to do? And he had only untwisted half of the scarf so far. I really am sometimes ashamed of Vasya’s excess of enthusiasm; it is, of course, the sign of a good heart, but . . . it’s awkward, not nice!

At last both went in. ... The mother was unutterably delighted to make Arkady Ivanovitch’s acquaintance, “she had heard so much about him, she had ...” But she did not finish. A joyful “Oh!” ringing musically through the room interrupted her in the middle of a sentence. Good Heavens! Lizanka was standing before the cap which had suddenly been unfolded before her gaze; she clasped her hands with the utmost simplicity, smiling such a smile.... Oh, Heavens! Why had not Madame Leroux an even lovelier cap?

Oh, Heavens! but where could you find a lovelier cap? It was quite first-rate. Where could you get a better one? I mean it seriously. This ingratitude on the part of lovers moves me, in fact, to indignation and even wounds me a little. Why, look at it for yourself, reader, look, what could be more beautiful than this little love of a cap? Come, look at it. ... But, no, no, my strictures are uncalled for; they had by now all agreed with me; it had been a momentary aberration; the blindness, the delirium of feeling; I am ready to forgive them. . . . But then you must look . . . You must excuse me, kind reader, I am still talking about the cap: made of tulle, light as a feather, a broad cherry-coloured ribbon covered with lace passing between the tulle and the ruche, and at the back two wide long ribbons they would fall down a little below the nape of the neck. . . . All that the cap needed was to be tilted a little to the back of the head; come, look at it; I ask you, after that . . . but I see you are not looking . . . you think it does not matter. You are looking in a different direction. . . . You are looking at two big tears, big as pearls, that rose in two jet black eyes, quivered for one instant on the eye lashes, and then dropped on the ethereal tulle of which Madame Leroux’s artistic masterpiece was composed. . . . And again I feel vexed, those two tears were scarcely a tribute to the cap. . . . No, to my mind, such a gift should be given in cool blood, as only then can its full worth be appreciated. I am, I confess, dear reader, entirely on the side of the cap.

They sat down Vasya with Lizanka and the old mother with Arkady Ivanovitch; they began to talk, and Arkady Ivanovitch did himself credit, I am glad to say that for him. One would hardly, indeed, have expected it of him. After a couple of words about Vasya he most successfully turned the conversation to Yulian Mastakovitch, his patron. And he talked so cleverly, so cleverly that the subject was not exhausted for an hour. You ought to have seen with what dexterity, what tact, Arkady Ivanovitch touched upon certain peculiarities of Yulian Mastakovitch which directly or indirectly affected Vasya. The mother was fascinated, genuinely fascinated; she admitted it herself; she purposely called Vasya aside, and said to him that his friend was a most excellent and charming young man, and, what was of most account, such a serious, steady young man. Vasya almost laughed aloud with delight. He remembered how the serious Arkady had tumbled him on his bed for a quarter of an hour. Then the mother signed to Vasya to follow her quietly and cautiously into the next room. It must be admitted that she treated Lizanka rather unfairly: she behaved treacherously to her daughter, in the fullness of her heart, of course, and showed Vasya on the sly the present Lizanka was preparing to give him for the New Year. It was a paper-case, embroidered in beads and gold in a very choice design: on one side was depicted a stag, absolutely lifelike, running swiftly, and so well done! On the other side was the portrait of a celebrated General, also an excellent likeness. I cannot describe Vasya’s raptures. Meanwhile, time was not being wasted in the parlour. Lizanka went straight up to Arkady Ivanovitch. She took his hand, she thanked him for something, and Arkady Ivanovitch gathered that she was referring to her precious Vasya. Lizanka was, indeed, deeply touched: she had heard that Arkady Ivanovitch was such a true friend of her betrothed, so loved him, so watched over him, guiding him at every step with helpful advice, that she, Lizanka, could hardly help thanking him, could not refrain from feeling grateful, and hoping that Arkady Ivanovitch might like her, if only half as well as Vasya. Then she began questioning him as to whether Vasya was careful of his health, expressed some apprehensions in regard to his marked impulsiveness of character, and his lack of knowledge of men and practical life; she said that she would in time watch over him religiously, that she would take care of and cherish his lot, and finally, she hoped that Arkady Ivanovitch would not leave them, but would live with them.

“We three shall live like one,” she cried, with extremely naive enthusiasm.

But it was time to go. They tried, of course, to keep them, but Vasya answered point blank that it was impossible. Arkady Ivanovitch said the same. The reason was, of course, inquired into, and it came out at once that there was work to be done — entrusted to Vasya by Yulian Mastakovitch, urgent, necessary, dreadful work, which must be handed in on the morning of the next day but one, and that it was not only unfinished, but had been completely laid aside. The mamma sighed when she heard of this, while Lizanka was positively scared, and hurried Vasya off in alarm. The last kiss lost nothing from this haste; though brief and hurried it was only the more warm and ardent. At last they parted and the two friends set off home.

Both began at once confiding to each other their impressions as soon as they found themselves in the street. And could they help it? Indeed, Arkady Ivanovitch was in love, desperately in love, with Lizanka. And to whom could he better confide his feelings than to Vasya, the happy man himself. And so he did; he was not bashful, but confessed everything at once to Vasya. Vasya laughed heartily and was immensely delighted, and even observed that this was all that was needed to make them greater friends than ever. “You have guessed my feelings, Vasya,” said Arkady Ivanovitch. “Yes, I love her as I love you; she will be my good angel as well as yours, for the radiance of your happiness will be shed on me, too, and I can bask in its warmth. She will keep house for me too, Vasya; my happiness will be in her hands. Let her keep house for me as she will for you. Yes, friendship for you is friendship for her; you are not separable for me now, only I shall have two beings like you instead of one. ...” Arkady paused in the fullness of his feelings, while Vasya was shaken to the depths of his being by his friend’s words. The fact is, he had never expected anything of the sort from Arkady. Arkady Ivanovitch was not very great at talking as a rule, he was not fond of dreaming, either; now he gave way to the liveliest, freshest, rainbow-tinted day-dreams. “How I will protect and cherish you both,” he began again. “To begin with, Vasya, I will be godfather to all your children, every one of them; and secondly, Vasya, we must bestir ourselves about the future. We must buy furniture, and take a lodging so that you and she and I can each have a little room to ourselves. Do you know, Vasya, I’ll run about to-morrow and look at the notices, on the gates! Three . . . no, two rooms, we should not need more. I really believe, Vasya, I talked nonsense this morning, there will be money enough; why, as soon as I glanced into her eyes I calculated at once that there would be enough to live on. It will all be for her. Oh, how we will work! Now, Vasya, we might venture up to twenty-five roubles for rent. A lodging is everything, brother. Nice rooms . . . and at once a man is cheerful, and his dreams are of the brightest hues. And, besides, Lizanka will keep the purse for both of us: not a farthing will be wasted. Do you suppose I would go to a restaurant? What do you take me for? Not on any account. And then we shall get a bonus and reward, for we shall be zealous in the service — oh! how we shall work, like oxen toiling in the fields. . . . Only fancy,” and Arkady Ivanovitch’s voice was faint with pleasure, “all at once and quite unexpected, twenty-five or thirty roubles. . . . Whenever there’s an extra, there’ll be a cap or a scarf or a pair of little stockings. She must knit me a scarf; look what a horrid one I’ve got, the nasty yellow thing, it did me a bad turn to-day! And you wore a nice one, Vasya, to introduce me while I had my head in a halter. . . . Though never mind that now. And look here, I undertake all the silver. I am bound to give you some little present, that will be an honour, that will flatter my vanity. . . . My bonuses won’t fail me, surely; you don’t suppose they would give them to Skorohodov? No fear, they won’t be landed in that person’s pocket. I’ll buy you silver spoons, brother, good knives not silver knives, but thoroughly good ones; and a waistcoat, that is a waistcoat for myself. I shall be best man, of course, Only now, brother, you must keep at it, you must keep at it. I shall stand over you with a stick, brother, to-day and to-morrow and all night; I shall worry you to work. Finish, make haste and finish, brother. And then again to spend the evening, and then again both of us happy; we will go in for loto. We will spend the evening there oh, it’s jolly! Oh, the devil! How, vexing it Is I can’t help you. I should like to take It and write it all for you. . . . Why is it our handwriting is not alike?”

“Yes,” answered Vasya.” Yes, I must make haste. I think it must be eleven o’clock; we must make haste.... To work!” And saying this, Vasya, who had been all the time alternately smiling and trying to interrupt with some enthusiastic rejoinder the flow of his friend’s feelings, and had, in short, been showing the most cordial response, suddenly subsided, sank into silence, and almost ran along the street. It seemed as though some burdensome idea had suddenly chilled his feverish head; he seemed all at once dispirited.

Arkady Ivanovitch felt quite uneasy; he scarcely got an answer to his hurried questions from Vasya, who confined himself to a word or two, sometimes an irrelevant exclamation.

“Why, what is the matter with you, Vasya!” he cried at last, hardly able to keep up with him.” Can you really be so uneasy?”

“Oh, brother, that’s enough chatter!” Vasya answered, with vexation.

“Don’t be depressed, Vasya come, come,” Arkady interposed. “ Why, I have known you write much more in a shorter time! What’s the matter? You’ve simply a talent for it! You can write quickly in an emergency; they are not going to lithograph your copy. You’ve plenty of time! . . . The only thing is that you are excited now, and preoccupied, and the work won’t go so easily.”

Vasya made no reply, or muttered something to himself, and they both ran home in genuine anxiety.

Vasya sat down to the papers at once. Arkady Ivanovitch was quiet and silent; he noiselessly undressed and went to bed, keeping his eyes fixed on Vasya. ... A sort of panic came over him. . . . “What is the matter with him?” he thought to himself, looking at Vasya’s face that grew whiter and whiter, at his feverish eyes, at the anxiety that was betrayed in every movement he made, “ why, his hand is shaking . . . what a stupid! Why did I not advise him to sleep for a couple of hours, till he had slept off his nervous excitement, any way.” Vasya had just finished a page, he raised his eyes, glanced casually at Arkady and at once, looking down, took up his pen again.

“Listen, Vasya,” Arkady Ivanovitch began suddenly, “ wouldn’t it be best to sleep a little now? Look, you are in a regular fever.”

Vasya glanced at Arkady with vexation, almost with anger, and made no answer.

“Listen, Vasya, you’ll make yourself ill.”

Vasya at once changed his mind. “How would it be to have tea, Arkady?” he said.

“How so? Why?”

“It will do me good. I am not sleepy, I’m not going to bed! I am going on writing. But now I should like to rest and have a cup of tea, and the worst moment will be over.”

“First-rate, brother Vasya, delightful! Just so. I was wanting to propose it myself. And I can’t think why it did not occur to me to do so. But I say, Mavra won’t get up, she won’t wake for anything. ...”


“That’s no matter, though,” cried Arkady Ivanovitch, leaping out of bed. “ I will set the samovar myself. It won’t be the first time.” Arkady Ivanovitch ran to the kitchen and set to work to get the samovar; Vasya meanwhile went on writing. Arkady Ivanovitch, moreover, dressed and ran out to the baker’s, so that Vasya might have something to sustain him for the night. A quarter of an hour later the samovar was on the table. They began drinking tea, but conversation flagged. Vasya still seemed preoccupied.

“To-morrow,” he said at last, as though he had just thought of it, “I shall have to take my congratulations for the New Year . . .”

“You need not go at all.”

“Oh yes, brother, I must,” said Vasya.

“Why, I will sign the visitors’ book for you everywhere. . . . How can you? You work to-rnorrow. You must work tonight, till five o’clock in the morning, as I said, and then get to bed. Or else you will be good for nothing to-morrow. I’ll wake you at eight o’clock, punctually.”

“But will it be all right, your signing for me?” said Vasya, half assenting.

“Why, what could be better? Everyone does it.”

“I am really afraid.”

“Why, why?”

“It’s all right, you know, with other people, but Yulian Mastakovitch ... he has been so kind to me, you know, Arkasha, and when he notices it’s not my own signature ...”

“Notices! why, what a fellow you are, really, Vasya! How could he notice? . . . Come, you know I can imitate your signature awfully well, and make just the same flourish to it, upon my word I can. What nonsense! Who would notice?”

Vasya, made no reply, but emptied his glass hurriedly. Then he shook his head doubtfully.

“Vasya, dear boy! Ah, if only we succeed! Vasya, what’s the matter with you, you quite frighten me! Do you know, Vasya, I am not going to bed now, I am not going to sleep! Show me, have you a great deal left?”

Vasya gave Arkady such a look that his heart sank, and his tongue failed him.

“Vasya, what is the matter? What are you thinking? Why do you look like that?”

“Arkady, I really must go to-morrow to wish Yulian Mastakovitch a happy New Year.”

“Well, go then! “ said Arkady, gazing at him open-eyed, in uneasy expectation. “I say, Vasya, do write faster; I am advising you for your good, I really am! How often Yulian Mastakovitch himself has said that what he likes particularly about your writing is its legibility. Why, it is all that Skoroplehin cares for, that writing should bo good and distinct like a copy, so as afterwards to pocket the paper and take it home for his children to copy; he can’t buy copybooks, the blockhead! Yulian Mastakovitch is always saying, always insisting: ‘Legible, legible, legible!’ . . . What is the matter? Vasya, I really don’t know how to talk to you ... it quite frightens me . . . you crush me with your depression.”

“It’s all right, it’s all right,” said Vasya, and he fell back in his chair as though fainting. Arkady was alarmed.

“Will you have some water? Vasya! Vasya!”

“Don’t, don’t,” said Vasya, pressing his hand. “I am all right, I only feel sad, I can’t tell why. Better talk of something else; let me forget it.”

“Calm yourself, for goodness’ sake, calm yourself, Vasya. You will finish it all right, on my honour, you will. And even if you don’t finish, what will it matter? You talk as though it were a crime!”

“Arkady,” said Vasya, looking at his friend with such meaning that Arkady was quite frightened, for Vasya had never been so agitated before. . . . “If I were alone, as I used to be. . . . No! I don’t mean that. I keep wanting to tell you as a friend, to confide in you. . . . But why worry you, though? . . . You see, Arkady, to some much is given, others do a little thing as I do. Well, if gratitude, appreciation, is expected of you, . . . and you can’t give it?”

“Vasya, I don’t understand you in the least.”

“I have never been ungrateful,” Vasya went on softly, as though speaking to himself, “ but if I am incapable of expressing all I feel, it seems as though ... it seems, Arkady, as though I am really ungrateful, and that’s killing me.”

“What next, what next ! As though gratitude meant nothing more than your finishing that copy in time? Just think what you are saying, Vasya? Is that the whole expression of gratitude?”

Vasya sank into silence at once, and looked open-eyed at Arkady, as though his unexpected argument had settled all his doubts. He even smiled, but the same melancholy expression came back to his face at once. Arkady, taking this smile as a sign that all his uneasiness was over, and the look that succeeded it as an indication that he was determined to do better, was greatly relieved.

“Well, brother Arkasha, you will wake up,” said Vasya, “keep an eye on me; if I fall asleep it will be dreadful. I’ll set to work now. . . . Arkasha?”


“Oh, it’s nothing, I only ... I meant. . . .”

Vasya settled himself, and said no more, Arkady got into bed. Neither of them said one word about their friends, the Artemyevs. Perhaps both of them felt that they had been a little to blame, and that they ought not to have gone for their jaunt when they did. Arkady soon fell asleep, still worried about Vasya. To his own surprise he woke up exactly at eight o’clock in the morning. Vasya was asleep in his chair with the pen in his hand, pale and exhausted; the candle had burnt out. Mavra was busy getting the samovar ready in the kitchen.

“Vasya, Vasya!” Arkady cried in alarm, “when did you fall asleep?”

Vasya opened his eyes and jumped up from his chair.

“Oh!” he cried, “I must have fallen asleep. . . .”

He flew to the papers — everything was right; all were in order; there was not a blot of ink, nor spot of grease from the candle on them.

“I think I must have fallen asleep about six o’clock,” said Vasya. “How cold it is in the night! Let us have tea, and I will go on again. ...”

“Do you feel better?”

“Yes, yes, I’m all right, I’m all right now.”

“A happy New Year to you, brother Vasya.”

“And to you too, brother, the same to you, dear boy.”

They embraced each other. Vasya’s chin was quivering and his eyes were moist. Arkady Ivanovitch was silent, he felt sad. They drank their tea hastily.

“Arkady, I’ve made up my mind, I am going myself to Yulian Mastakovitch.”

“Why, he wouldn’t notice.”

“But my conscience feels ill at ease, brother.”

“But you know it’s for his sake you are sitting here; it’s for his sake you are wearing yourself out.”


“Do you know what, brother, I’ll go round and see. . . .”

“Whom?” asked Vasya.

“The Artemyevs. I’ll take them your good wishes for the New Year as well as mine.”

“My dear fellow! Well, I’ll stay here; and I see it’s a good idea of yours; I shall be working here, I shan’t waste my time. Wait one minute, I’ll write a note.”

“Yes, do brother, do, there’s plenty of time. I’ve still to wash and shave and to brush my best coat. Well, Vasya, we are going to be contented and happy. Embrace me, Vasya.”

“Ah, if only we may, brother. ...”

“Does Mr. Shumkov live here?” they heard a child’s voice on the stairs.

“Yes, my dear, yes,” said Mavra, showing the visitor in.

“What’s that? What is it? “ cried Vasya, leaping up from the table and rushing to the entry, “ Petinka, you?”

“Good morning, I have the honour to wish you a happy New Year, Vassily Petrovitch,” said a pretty boy of ten years old with curly black hair. “Sister sends you her love, and so does Mamma, and Sister told me to give you a kiss for her.”

Vasya caught the messenger up in the air and printed a long, enthusiastic kiss on his lips, which were very much like Lizanka’s.

“Kiss him, Arkady,” he said handing Petya to him, and without touching the ground the boy was transferred to Arkady Ivanovitch’s powerful and eager arms.

“Will you have some breakfast, dear?”

“Thank-you, very much. We have had it already, we got up early to-day, the others have gone to church. Sister was two hours curling my hair, and pomading it, washing me and mending my trousers, for I tore them yesterday, playing with Sashka in the street, we were snowballing.”

“Well, well, well!”

“So she dressed me up to come and see you, and then pomaded my head and then gave me a regular kissing. She said : ‘Go to Vasya, wish him a happy New Year, and ask whether they are happy, whether they had a good night, and . . .’ to ask something else, oh yes! whether you had finished the work you spoke of yesterday . . . when you were there. Oh, I’ve got it all written down,” said the boy, reading from a slip of paper which he took out of his pocket. “ Yes, they were uneasy.”

“It will be finished! It will be! Tell her that it will be. I shall finish it, on my word of honour!”

“And something else. . . . Oh yes, I forgot. Sister sent a little note and a present, and I was forgetting it ! . . .”

“My goodness! Oh, you little darling! Where is it? where is it? That’s it, oh! Look, brother, see what she writes. The darling, the precious! You know I saw there yesterday a paper-case for me; it’s not finished, so she says, ‘I am sending you a lock of my hair, and the other will come later.’ Look, brother, look!”

And overwhelmed with rapture he showed Arkady Ivanovitch a curl of luxuriant, jet-black hair; then he kissed it fervently and put it in his breast pocket, nearest his heart.

“Vasya, I shall get you a locket for that curl,” Arkady Ivanovitch said resolutely at last.

“And we are going to have hot veal, and to-morrow brains. Mamma wants to make cakes . . . but we are not going to have millet porridge,” said the boy, after a moment’s thought, to wind up his budget of interesting items.

“Oh! what a pretty boy,” cried Arkady Ivanovitch. “Vasya, you are the happiest of mortals.”

The boy finished his tea, took from Vasya a note, a thousand kisses, and went out happy and frolicsome as before.

“Well, brother,” began Arkady Ivanovitch, highly delighted, you see how splendid it all is; you see. Everything is going well, don’t be downcast, don’t be uneasy. Go ahead! Get it done, Vasya, get it done. I’ll be home at two o’clock. I’ll go round to them, and then to Yulian Mastakovitch.”

“Well, good-bye, brother; good-bye ... Oh! if only. . . . Very good, you go, very good,” said Vasya, “then I really won’t go to Yulian Mastakovitch.”


“Stay, brother, stay, tell them . . . well, whatever you think fit. Kiss her. . . and give me a full account of everything afterwards.”

“Come, come of course, I know all about it. This happiness has upset you. The suddenness of it all; you’ve not been yourself since yesterday. You have not got over the excitement of yesterday. Well, it’s settled. Now try and get over it, Vasya. Good-bye, good-bye!”

At last the friends parted. All the morning Arkady Ivanovitch was preoccupied, and could think of nothing but Vasya. He knew his weak, highly nervous character. “Yes, this happiness has upset him, I was right there,” he said to himself. “Upon my word, he has made me quite depressed, too, that man will make a tragedy of anything! What a feverish creature! Oh, I must save him! I must save him!” said Arkady, not noticing that he himself was exaggerating into something serious a slight trouble, in reality quite trivial. Only at eleven o’clock he reached the porter’s lodge of Yulian Mastakovitch’s house, to add his modest name to the long list of illustrious persons who had written their names on a sheet of blotted and scribbled paper in the porter’s lodge. What was his surprise when he saw just above his own the signature of Vasya Shumkov! It amazed him. “What’s the matter with him?” he thought. Arkady Ivanovitch, who had just been so buoyant with hope, came out feeling upset. There was certainly going to be trouble, but how? And in what form? He reached the Artemyevs with gloomy forebodings; he seemed absent-minded from the first, and after talking a little with Lizanka went away with tears in his eyes; he was really anxious about Vasya. He went home running, and on the Neva came full tilt upon Vasya himself. The latter, too, was uneasy.

“Where are you going!” cried Arkady Ivanovitch.

Vasya stopped as though he had been caught in a crime.

“Oh, it’s nothing, brother, I wanted to go for a walk.”

“You could not stand it, and have been to the Artemyevs? Oh, Vasya, Vasya! Why did you go to Yulian Mastakovitch?”

Vasya did not answer, but then with a wave of his hand, he said: “ Arkady, I don’t know what is the matter with me. I. . . .”

“Come, come, Vasya. I know what it is. Calm yourself. You’ve been excited, and overwrought ever since yesterday. Only think, it’s not much to bear. Everybody’s fond of you, everybody’s ready to do anything for you; your work is getting on all right; you will get it done, you will certainly get it done. I know that you have been imagining something, you have had apprehensions about something. ...”

“No, it’s all right, it’s all right. . . .”

“Do you remember, Vasya, do you remember it was the same with you once before; do you remember, when you got your promotion, in your joy and thankfulness you were so zealous that you spoilt all your work for a week? It is just the same with you now.”

“Yes, yes, Arkady; but now it is different, it is not that at all.”

“How is it different? And very likely the work is not urgent at all, while you are killing yourself. . . .”

“It’s nothing, it’s nothing. I am all right, it’s nothing. Well, come along!”

“Why, are you going home, and not to them?”

“Yes, brother, how could I have the face to turn up there? . . . I have changed my mind. It was only that I could not stay on alone without you; now you are coming back with me — I’ll sit down to write again. Let us go!”

They walked along and for some time were silent. Vasya was in haste.

“Why don’t you ask me about them?” said Arkady Ivanovitch.

“Oh, yes! Well, Arkasha, what about them?”

“Vasya, you are not like yourself.”

“Oh, I am all right, I am all right. Tell me everything, Arkasha,” said Vasya, in an imploring voice, as though to avoid further explanations. Arkady Ivanovitch sighed. He felt utterly at a loss, looking at Vasya.

His account of their friends roused Vasya. He even grew talkative. They had dinner together. Lizanka’s mother had filled Arkady Ivanovitch’s pockets with little cakes, and eating them the friends grew more cheerful. After dinner Vasya promised to take a nap, so as to sit up all night. He did, in fact lie down. In the morning, some one whom it was impossible to refuse had invited Arkady Ivanovitch to tea. The friends parted. Arkady promised to come back as soon as he could, by eight o’clock if possible. The three hours of separation seemed to him like three years. At last he got away and rushed back to Vasya. When he went into the room, he found it in darkness. Vasya was not at home. He asked Mavra. Mavra said that he had been writing all the time, and had not slept at all, then he had paced up and down the room, and after that, an hour before, he had run out, saying he would be back in half -an -hour; “and when, says he, Arkady Ivanovitch comes in, tell him, old woman, says he,” Mavra told him in conclusion, “ that I have gone out for a walk,” and he repeated the order three or four times.

“He is at the Artemyevs,” thought Arkady Ivanovitch, and he shook his head.

A minute later he jumped up with renewed hope.

“He has simply finished,” he thought, “that’s all it is; he couldn’t wait, but ran off there. But, no! he would have waited for me. . . . Let’s have a peep what he has there.”

He lighted a candle, and ran to Vasya’s writing-table: the work had made progress and it looked as though there were not much left to do. Arkady Ivanovitch was about to investigate further, when Vasya himself walked in. . . .

“Oh, you are here?” he cried, with a start of dismay.

Arkady Ivanovitch was silent. He was afraid to question Vasya. The latter dropped his eyes and remained silent too, as he began sorting the papers. At last their eyes met. The look in Vasya’s was so beseeching, imploring, and broken, that Arkady shuddered when he saw it. His heart quivered and was full.

“Vasya, my dear boy, what is it? What’s wrong?” he cried, rushing to him and squeezing him in his arms. “Explain to me, I don’t understand you, and your depression. What is the matter with you, my poor, tormented boy? What is it? Tell me all about it, without hiding anything. It can’t be only this.”

Vasya held him tight and could say nothing. He could scarcely breathe.

“Don’t, Vasya, don’t ! Well, if you don’t finish it, what then? I don’t understand you; tell me your trouble. You see it is for your sake I ... Oh dear! oh dear!” he said, walking up and down the room and clutching at everything he came across, as though seeking at once some remedy for Vasya. “I will go to Yulian Mastakovitch instead of you to-morrow. I will ask him — entreat him to let you have another day. I will explain it all to him, anything, if it worries you so. . . .”

“God forbid!” cried Vasya, and turned as white as the wall. He could scarcely stand on his feet.

“Vasya! Vasya!”

Vasya pulled himself together. His lips were quivering; he tried to say something, but could only convulsively squeeze Arkady’s hand in silence. His hand was cold. Arkady stood facing him, full of anxious and miserable suspense. Vasya raised his eyes again.

“Vasya, God bless you, Vasya! You wring my heart, my dear boy, my friend.”

Tears gushed from Vasya’s eyes; he flung himself on Arkady’s bosom.

“I have deceived you, Arkady,” he said. “I have deceived you. Forgive me, forgive me! I have been faithless to your friendship ...”

“What is it, Vasya? What is the matter? “ asked Arkady, in real alarm.


And with a gesture of despair Vasya tossed out of the drawer on to the table six thick manuscripts, similar to the one he had copied.

“What’s this?”

“What I have to get through by the day after to-morrow. I haven’t done a quarter! Don’t ask me, don’t ask me how it has happened,” Vasya went on, speaking at once of what was distressing him so terribly. “Arkady, dear friend, I don’t know myself what came over me. I feel as though I were coming out of a dream. I have wasted three weeks doing nothing. I kept ... I ... kept going to see her. . . . My heart was aching, I was tormented by ... the uncertainty ... I could not write. I did not even think about it. Only now, when happiness is at hand for me, I have come to my senses.”

“Vasya,” began Arkady Ivanovitch resolutely, “Vasya, I will save you. I understand it all. It’s a serious matter; I will save you. Listen! listen to me: I will go to Yulian Mastakovitch to-morrow. . . . Don’t shake your head; no, listen! I will tell him exactly how it has all been; let me do that . . . I will explain to him. ... I will go into everything. I will tell him how crushed you are, how you are worrying yourself.”

“Do you know that you are killing me now? “ Vasya brought out, turning cold with horror.

Arkady Ivanovitch turned pale, but at once controlling himself, laughed.

“Is that all? Is that all?” he said. “Upon my word, Vasya, upon my word ! Aren’t you ashamed ? Come, listen! I see that I am grieving you. You see I understand you; I know what is passing in your heart. Why, we have been living together for five years, thank God! You are such a kind, soft-hearted fellow, but weak, unpardonably weak. Why, even Lizaveta Mikalovna has noticed it. And you are a dreamer, and that’s a bad thing, too; you may go from bad to worse, brother. I tell you, I know what you want! You would like Yulian Mastakovitch, for instance, to be beside himself and, maybe, to give a ball, too, from joy, because you are going to get married. . . . Stop, stop! you are frowning. You see that at one word from me you are offended on Yulian Mastakovitch’s account. Let him alone. You know I respect him just as much as you do. But argue as you may, you can’t prevent my thinking that you would like there to be no one unhappy in the whole world when you are getting married. . . . Yes, brother, you must admit that you would like me, for instance, your best friend, to come in for a fortune of a hundred thousand all of a sudden, you would like all the enemies in the world to be suddenly, for no rhyme or reason, reconciled, so that in their joy they might all embrace one another in the middle of the street, and then, perhaps, come here to call on you. Vasya, my dear boy, I am not laughing; it is true; you’ve said as much to me long ago, in different ways. Because you are happy, you want every one, absolutely every one, to become happy at once. It hurts you and troubles you to be happy alone. And so you want at once to do your utmost to be worthy of that happiness, and maybe to do some great deed to satisfy your conscience. Oh! I understand how ready you are to distress yourself for having suddenly been remiss just where you ought to have shown your zeal, your capacity . . . well, maybe your gratitude, as you say. It is very bitter for you to think that Yulian Mastakovitch may frown and even be angry when he sees that you have not justified the expectations he had of you. It hurts you to think that you may hear reproaches from the man you look upon as your benefactor and at such a moment! when your heart is full of joy and you don’t know on whom to lavish your gratitude. . . . Isn’t that true? It is, isn’t it?”

Arkady Ivanovitch, whose voice was trembling, paused, and drew a deep breath.

Vasya looked affectionately at his friend. A smile passed over his lips. His face even lighted up, as though with a gleam of hope.

“Well, listen, then,” Arkady Ivanovitch began again, growing more hopeful, “there’s no necessity that you should forfeit Yulian Mastakovitch ‘s favour. . . Is there, dear boy? Is there any question of it? And since it is so,” said Arkady, jumping up, “I shall sacrifice myself forlfyou. I am going to-morrow to Yulian Mastakovitch, and don’t oppose me. You magnify your failure to a crime, Vasya. Yulian Mastakovitch is a magnanimous and merciful, and, what is more, he is not like you. He will listen to you and me, and get us out of our trouble, brother Vasya. Well, are you calmer?”

Vasya pressed his friend’s hands with tears in his eyes.

“Hush, hush, Arkady,” he said, “the thing is settled. I haven’t finished, so very well; if I haven’t finished, I haven’t finished, and there’s no need for you to go. I will tell him all about it, I will go myself. I am calmer now, I am perfectly calm; only you mustn’t go. ... But listen ...”

“Vasya, my dear boy,” Arkady Ivanovitch cried joyfully, “I judged from what you said. I am glad that you have thought better of things and have recovered yourself. But whatever may befall you, whatever happens, I am with you, remember that. I see that it worries you to think of my speaking toYulian Mastakovitch and I won’t say a word, not a word, you shall tell him yourself. You see, you shall go to-morrow. . . . Oh no, you had better not go, you’ll go on writing here, you see, and I’ll find out about this work, whether it is very urgent or not, whether it must be done by the time or not, and if you don’t finish it in time what will come of it. Then I will run back to you. Do you see, do you see! There is still hope; suppose the work is not urgent it may be all right. Yulian Mastakovitch may not remember, then all is saved.”

Vasya shook his head doubtfully. But his grateful eyes never left his friend’s face.

“Come, that’s enough, I am so weak, so tired,” he said, sighing. “I don’t want to think about it. Let us talk of something else. I won’t write either now; do you know I’ll only finish two short pages just to get to the end of a passage. Listen ... I have long wanted to ask you, how is it you know me so well?”

Tears dropped from Vasya’s eyes on Arkady’s hand.

“If you knew, Vasya, how fond I am of you, you would not ask that yes!”

“Yes, yes, Arkady, I don’t know that, because I don’t know why you are so fond of me. Yes, Arkady, do you know, even your love has been killing me? Do you know, ever so many times, particularly when I am thinking of you in bed (for I always think of you when I am falling asleep), I shed tears, and my heart throbs at -the thought ... at the thought. . . . Well, at the thought that you are so fond of me, while I can do nothing to relieve my heart, can do nothing to repay you.”

“You see, Vasya, you see what a fellow you are! Why, how upset you are now,” said Arkady, whose heart ached at that moment and who remembered the scene in the street the day before.

“Nonsense, you want me to be calm, but I never have been calm and happy ! Do you know. . . . Listen, I want to tell you all about it, but I am afraid of wounding you. . . . You keep scolding me and being vexed; and I am afraid. . . . See how I am trembling now, I don’t know why. You see, this is what I want to say. I feel as though I had never known myself before — yes! Yes, I only began to understand other people too, yesterday. I did not feel or appreciate things fully, brother. My heart . . . was hard. . . . Listen how has it happened, that I have never done good to any one, any one in the world, because I couldn’t — I am not even pleasant to look at. ... But everybody does me good ! You, to begin with: do you suppose I don’t see that? Only I said nothing; only I said nothing.”

“Hush, Vasya!”

“Oh, Arkasha! . . . it’s all right,” Vasya interrupted, hardly able to articulate for tears. “I talked to you yesterday about Yulian Mastakovitch. And you know yourself how stern and severe he is, even you have come in for a reprimand from him; yet he deigned to jest with me yesterday, to show his affection, and kind-heartedness, which he prudently conceals from every one. . . .”

“Come, Vasya, that only shows you deserve your good fortune.”

“Oh, Arkasha! How I longed to finish all this. . . . No, I shall ruin my good luck! I feel that! Oh no, not through that,” Vasya added, seeing that Arkady glanced at the heap of urgent work lying on the table, “that’s nothing, that’s only paper covered with writing . . . it’s nonsense! That matter’s settled. ... I went to see them to-day, Arkasha; I did not go in. I felt depressed and sad. I simply stood at the door. She was playing the piano, I listened. You see, Arkady,” he went on, dropping his voice, “I did not dare to go in.”

“I say, Vasya what is the matter with you? You look at one so strangely.”

“Oh, it’s nothing, I feel a little sick; my legs are trembling; it’s because I sat up last night. Yes ! Everything looks green before my eyes. It’s here, here—” He pointed to his heart. He fainted. When he came to himself Arkady tried to take forcible measures. He tried to compel him to go to bed. Nothing would induce Vasya to consent. He shed tears, wrung his hands, wanted to write, was absolutely set on finishing his two pages. To avoid exciting him Arkady let him sit down to the work.

“Do you know,” said Vasya, as he settled himself in his place, “an idea has occurred to me? There is hope.”

He smiled to Arkady, and his pale face lighted up with a gleam of hope. “I will take him what is done the day after to-morrow. About the rest I will tell a lie. I will say it has been burnt, that it has been sopped in water, that I have lost it. ... That, in fact, I have not finished it; I cannot lie. I will explain, do you know, what? I’ll explain to him all about it. I will tell him how it was that I could not. I’ll tell him about my love; he has got married himself just lately, he’ll understand me. I will do it all, of course, respectfully, quietly; he will see my tears and be touched by them. ...”

“Yes, of course, you must go, you must go and explain to him. . . . But there’s no need of tears! Tears for what? Really, Vasya, you quite scare me.”

“Yes, I’ll go, I’ll go. But now let me write, let me write, Kasha. I am not interfering with any one, let me write!”

Arkady flung himself on the bed. He had no confidence in Vasya, no confidence at all. Vasya was capable of anything, but to ask forgiveness for what? how? That was not the point. The point was, that Vasya had not carried out his obligations, that Vasya felt guilty in his own eyes, felt that he was ungrateful to destiny, that Vasya was crushed, overwhelmed by happiness and thought himself unworthy of it; that, in fact, he was simply trying to find an excuse to go off his head on that point, and that he had not recovered from the unexpectedness of what had happened the day before; that’s what it is,” thought Arkady Ivanovitch. “I must save him. I must reconcile him to himself. He will be his own ruin.” He thought and thought, and resolved to go at once next day to Yulian Mastakovitch, and to tell him all about it.

Vasya was sitting writing. Arkady Ivanovitch, worn out, lay down to think things over again, and only woke at daybreak.

“Damnation! Again!” he cried, looking at Vasya; the latter was still sitting writing.

Arkady rushed up to him, seized him and forcibly put him to bed. Vasya was smiling : his eyes were closing with sleep. He could hardly speak.

“I wanted to go to bed,” he said. “Do you know, Arkady, I have an idea; I shall finish. I made my pen go faster! I could not have sat at it any longer; wake me at eight o’clock.”

Without finishing his sentence, he dropped asleep and slept like the dead.

“Mavra,” said Arkady Ivanovitch to Mavra, who came in with the tea, “he asked to be waked in an hour. Don’t wake him on any account! Let him sleep ten hours, if he can. Do you understand?”

“I understand, sir.”

“Don’t get the dinner, don’t bring in the wood, don’t make a noise or it will be the worse for you. If he asks for me, tell him I have gone to the office do you understand?”

“I understand, bless you, sir; let him sleep and welcome! I am glad my gentlemen should sleep well, and I take good care of their things. And about that cup that was broken, and you blamed me, your honour, it wasn’t me, it was poor pussy broke it, I ought to have kept an eye on her. ‘ S-sh, you confounded thing,’ I said.”

“Hush, be quiet, be quiet!”

Arkady Ivanovitch followed Mavra out into the kitchen, asked for the key and locked her up there. Then he went to the office. On the way he considered how he could present himself before Yulian Mastakovitch, and whether it would be appropriate and not impertinent. He went into the office timidly, and timidly inquired whether His Excellency were there; receiving the answer that he was not and would not be, Arkady Ivanovitch instantly thought of going to his flat, but reflected very prudently that if Yulian Mastakovitch had not come to the office he would certainly be busy at home. He remained. The hours seemed to him endless. Indirectly he inquired about the work entrusted to Shumkov, but no one knew anything about this. All that was known was that Yulian Mastakovitch did employ him on special jobs, but what they were no one could say. At last it struck three o’clock, and Arkady Ivanovitch rushed out, eager to get home. In the vestibule he was met by a clerk, who told him that Vassily Petrovitch Shumkov had come about one o’clock and asked, the clerk added, “whether you were here, and whether Yulian Mastakovitch had been here.” Hearing this Arkady Ivanovitch took a sledge and hastened home beside himself with alarm.

Shumkov was at home. He was walking about the room in violent excitement. Glancing at Arkady Ivanovitch, he immediately controlled himself, reflected, and hastened to conceal his emotion. He sat down to his papers without a word. He seemed to avoid his friend’s questions, seemed to be bothered by them, to be pondering to himself on some plan, and deciding to conceal his decision, because he could not reckon further on his friend’s affection. This struck Arkady, and his heart ached with a poignant and oppressive pain. He sat on the bed and began turning over the leaves of some book, the only one he had in his possession, keeping his eye on poor Vasya. But Vasya remained obstinately silent, writing, and not raising his head. So passed several hours, and Arkady’s misery reached an extreme point. At last, at eleven o’clock, Vasya lifted his head and looked with a fixed, vacant stare at Arkady. Arkady waited. Two or three minutes passed; Vasya did not speak.

“Vasya!” cried Arkady.

Vasya made no answer.

“Vasya!” he repeated, jumping up from the bed, “ Vasya, what is the matter with you? What is it? “ he cried, running up to him.

Vasya raised his eyes and again looked at him with the same vacant, fixed stare.

“He’s in a trance!” thought Arkady, trembling all over with fear. He seized a bottle of water, raised Vasya, poured some water on his head, moistened his temples, rubbed his hands in his own and Vasya came to himself. “Vasya, Vasya!” cried Arkady, unable to restrain his tears. “Vasya, save yourself, rouse yourself, rouse yourself ! . . .” He could say no more, but held him tight in his arms. A look as of some oppressive sensation passed over Vasya’s face; he rubbed his forehead and clutched at his head, as though he were afraid it would burst.

“I don’t know what is the matter with me,” he added, at last. “I feel torn to pieces. Come, it’s all right, it’s all right! Give over, Arkady; don’t grieve,” he repeated, looking at him with sad, exhausted eyes. “Why be so anxious? Come!”

“You, you comforting me!” cried Arkady, whose heart was torn. “Vasya,” he said at last, “lie down and have a little nap, won’t you? Don’t wear yourself out for nothing. You’ll set to work better afterwards.”

“Yes, yes,” said Vasya, “by all means, I’ll lie down, very good. Yes! you see I meant to finish, but now I’ve changed my mind, yes. . . .”

And Arkady led him to the bed.

“Listen, Vasya,” he said firmly, “we must settle this matter finally. Tell me what were you thinking about?”

“Oh!” said Vasya, with a flourish of his weak hand turning over on the other side.

“Come, Vasya, come, make up your mind. I don’t want to hurt you. I can’t be silent any longer. You won’t sleep till you’ve made up your mind, I know.”

“As you like, as you like,” Vasya repeated enigmatically.

“He will give in,” thought Arkady Ivanovitch.

“Attend to me, Vasya,” he said, “remember what I say, and I will save you to-morrow; to-morrow I will decide your fate! What am I saying, your fate? You have so frightened me, Vasya, that I am using your own words. Fate, indeed! It’s simply nonsense, rubbish! You don’t want to lose Yulian Mastakovitch’s favour affection, if you like. No! And you won’t lose it, you will see.”

Arkady Ivanovitch would have said more, but Vasya interrupted him. He sat up in bed, put both arms round Arkady Ivanovitch’s neck and kissed him.

“Enough,” he said in a weak voice, “enough! Say no more about that!”

And again he turned his face to the wall.

“My goodness!” thought Arkady, “my goodness! What is the matter with him? He is utterly lost. What has he in his mind! He will be his own undoing.”

Arkady looked at him in despair.

“If he were to fall ill,” thought Arkady, “perhaps it would be better. His trouble would pass off with illness, and that might be the best way of settling the whole business. But what nonsense I am talking. Oh, my God!”

Meanwhile Vasya seemed to be asleep. Arkady Ivanovitch was relieved. “A good sign,” he thought. He made up his mind to sit beside him all night. But Vasya was restless; he kept twitching and tossing about on the bed, and opening his eyes for an instant. At last exhaustion got the upper hand, he slept like the dead. It was about two o’clock in the morning, Arkady Ivanovitch began to doze in the chair with his elbow on the table!

He had a strange and agitated dream. He kept fancying that he was not asleep, and that Vasya was still lying on the bed. But strange to say, he fancied that Vasya was pretending, that he was deceiving him, that he was getting up, stealthily watching him out of the corner of his eye, and was stealing up to the writing table. Arkady felt a scalding pain at his heart; he felt vexed and sad and oppressed to see Vasya not trusting him, hiding and concealing himself from him. He tried to catch hold of him, to call out, to carry him to the bed. Then Vasya kept shrieking in his arms, and he laid on the bed a lifeless corpse. He opened his eyes and woke up; Vasya was sitting before him at the table, writing.

Hardly able to believe his senses, Arkady glanced at the bed; Vasya was not there. Arkady jumped up in a panic, still under the influence of his dream. Vasya did not stir; he went on writing. All at once Arkady noticed with horror that Vasya was moving a dry pen over the paper, was turning over perfectly blank pages, and hurrying, hurrying to fill up the paper as though he were doing his work in a most thorough and efficient way. “No, this is not a trance,” thought Arkady Ivanovitch, and he trembled all over.

“Vasya, Vasya, speak to me,” he cried, clutching him by the shoulder. But Vasya did not speak; he went on as before, scribbling with a dry pen over the paper.

“At last I have made the pen go faster,” he said, without looking up at Arkady.

Arkady seized his hand and snatched away the pen.

A moan broke from Vasya. He dropped his hand and raised his eyes to Arkady; then with an air of misery and exhaustion he passed his hand over his forehead as though he wanted to shake off some leaden weight that was pressing upon his whole being, and slowly, as though lost in thought, he let his head sink on his breast.

“Vasya, Vasya!” cried Arkady in despair. “Vasya!”

A minute later Vasya looked at him, tears stood in his large blue eyes, and his pale, mild face wore a look of infinite suffering. He whispered something.

“What, what is it? “ cried Arkady, bending down to him.

“What for, why are they doing it to me?” whispered Vasya. “What for? What have I done?”

“Vasya, what is it? What are you afraid of? What is it?” cried Arkady, wringing his hands in despair.

“Why are they sending me for a soldier?” said Vasya, looking his friend straight in the face.” Why is it? What have I done?”

Arkady’s hair stood on end with horror; he refused to believe his ears. He stood over him, half dead.

A minute later he pulled himself together. “It’s nothing, it’s only for the minute,” he said to himself, with pale face and blue, quivering lips, and he hastened to put on his outdoor things. He meant to run straight for a doctor. All at once Vasya called to him. Arkady rushed to him and clasped him in his arms like a mother whose child is being torn from her.

“Arkady, Arkady, don’t tell any one! Don’t tell any one, do you hear? It is my trouble, I must bear it alone.”

“What is it what is it? Rouse yourself, Vasya, rouse yourself!”

Vasya sighed, and slow tears trickled down his cheeks.

“Why kill her? How is she to blame?” he muttered in an agonized, heartrending voice. “The sin is mine — the sin is mine!”

He was silent for a moment.

“Farewell, my love! Farewell, my love!” he whispered, shaking his luckless head. Arkady started, pulled himself together and would have rushed for the doctor. “ Let us go, it is time,” cried Vasya. carried away by Arkady’s last movement. “Let us go, brother, let us go; I am ready. You lead the way!” He paused and looked at Arkady with a downcast and mistrustful face.

“Vasya, for goodness’ sake, don’t follow me! Wait for me here. I will come back to you directly, directly,” said Arkady Ivanovitch, losing his head and snatching up his cap to run for a doctor. Vasya sat down at once, he was quiet and docile; but there was a gleam of some desperate resolution in his eye. Arkady turned back, snatched up from the table an open pen-knife, looked at the poor fellow for the last time, and ran out of the flat.

It was eight o’clock. It had been broad daylight for some time in the room.

He found no one. He was running about for a full hour.

All the doctors whose addresses he had got from the house porter when he inquired of the latter whether there were no doctor living in the building, had gone out, either to their work or on their private affairs. There was one who saw patients. This one questioned at length and in detail the servant who announced that Nefedevitch had called, asking him who it was, from whom he came, what was the matter, and concluded by saying that he could not go, that he had a great deal to do, and that patients of that kind ought to be taken to a hospital.

Then Arkady, exhausted, agitated, and utterly taken aback by this turn of affairs, cursed all the doctors on earth, and rushed home in the utmost alarm about Vasya. He ran into the flat. Mavra, as though there were nothing the matter, went on scrubbing the floor, breaking up wood and preparing to light the stove. He went into the room; there was no trace of Vasya, he had gone out.

“Which way? Where? Where will the poor fellow be off too?” thought Arkady, frozen with terror. He began questioning Mavra. She knew nothing, had neither seen nor heard him go out, God bless him! Nefedevitch rushed off to the Artemyevs’. It occurred to him for some reason that he must be there.

It was ten o’clock by the time he arrived. They did not expect him, knew nothing and had heard nothing. He stood before them frightened, distressed, and asked where was Vasya? The mother’s legs gave way under her; she sank back on the sofa. Lizanka, trembling with alarm, began asking what had happened. What could he say? Arkady Ivanovitch got out of it as best he could, invented some tale which of course was not believed, and fled, leaving them distressed and anxious. He flew to his department that he might not be too late there, and he let them know that steps might be taken at once. On the way it occurred to him that Vasya would be at Yulian Mastakovitch’s. That was more likely than anything: Arkady had thought of that first of all, even before the Artemyevs’. As he drove by His Excellency’s door, he thought of stopping, but at once told the driver to go straight on. He made up his mind to try and find out whether anything had happened at the office, and if he were not there to go to His Excellency, ostensibly to report on Vasya. Some one must be informed of it.

As soon as he got into the waiting-room he was surrounded by fellow-clerks, for the most part young men of his own standing in the service. With one voice they began asking him what had happened to Vasya? At the same time they all told him that Vasya had gone out of his mind, and thought that he was to be sent for a soldier as a punishment for having neglected his work. Arkady Ivanovitch, answering them in all directions, or rather avoiding giving a direct answer to any one, rushed into the inner room. On the way he learned that Vasya was in Yulian Mastakovitch’s private room, that every one had been there and that Esper Ivanovitch had gone in there too. He was stopped on the way. One of the senior clerks asked him who he was and what he wanted? Without distinguishing the person he said something about Vasya and went straight into the room. He heard Yulian Mastakovitch’s voice from within. “Where are you going?” some one asked him at the very door. Arkady Ivanovitch was almost in despair; he was on the point of turning back, but through the open door he saw his poor Vasya. He pushed the door and squeezed his way into the room. Every one seemed to be in confusion and perplexity, because Yulian Mastakovitch was apparently much chagrined. All the more important personages were standing about him talking, and coming to no decision. At a little distance stood Vasya. Arkady’s heart sank when he looked at him. Vasya was standing, pale, with his head up, stiffly erect, like a recruit before a new officer, with his feet together and his hands held rigidly at his sides. He was looking Yulian Mastakovitch straight in the face. Arkady was noticed at once, and some one who knew that they lodged together mentioned the fact to His Excellency. Arkady was led up to him. He tried to make some answer to the questions put to him, glanced at Yulian Mastakovitch and seeing on his face a look of genuine compassion, began trembling and sobbing like a child. He even did more, he snatched His Excellency’s hand and held it to his eyes, wetting it with his tears, so that Yulian Mastakovitch was obliged to draw it hastily aw r ay, and waving it in the air, said, “Come, my dear fellow, come! I see you have a good heart.” Arkady sobbed and turned an imploring look on every one. It seemed to him that they were all brothers of his dear Vasya, that they were all worried and weeping about him. “How, how has it happened? how has it happened?” asked Yulian Mastakovitch. “What has sent him out of his mind?”

“Gra — gra — gratitude!” was all Arkady Ivanovitch could articulate.

Every one heard his answer with amazement, and it seemed strange and incredible to every one that a man could go out of his mind from gratitude. Arkady explained as best he could.

“Good Heavens! what a pity!” said Yulian Mastakovitch at last. “And the work entrusted to him was not important, and not urgent in the least. It was not worth while for a man to kill himself over it! Well, take him away!” . . .At this point Yulian Mastakovitch turned to Arkady Ivanovitch again, and began questioning him once more. “He begs,” he said, pointing to Vasya, “that some girl should not be told of this. Who is she — his betrothed, I suppose?”

Arkady began to explain. Meanwhile Vasya seemed to be thinking of something, as though he were straining his memory to the utmost to recall some important, necessary matter, which was particularly wanted at this moment. From time to time he looked round with a distressed face, as though hoping some one would remind him of what he had forgotten. He fastened his eyes on Arkady. All of a sudden there was a gleam of hope in his eyes; he moved with the left leg forward, took three steps as smartly as he could, clicking with his right boot as soldiers do when they move forward at the call from their officer. Every one was waiting to see what would happen.

“I have a physical defect and am small and weak, and I am not fit for military service, Your Excellency,” he said abruptly.

At that every one in the room felt a pang at his heart, and firm as was Yulian Mastakovitch ‘s character, tears trickled from his eyes.

“Take him away,” he said, with a wave of his hands.

“Present!” said Vasya in an undertone; he wheeled round to the left and marched out of the room. All who were interested in his fate followed him out. Arkady pushed his way out behind the others. They made Vasya sit down in the waiting-room till the carriage came which had been ordered to take him to the hospital. He sat down in silence and seemed in great anxiety. He nodded to any one he recognized as though saying good-bye. He looked round towards the door every minute, and prepared himself to set off when he should be told it was time. People crowded in a close circle round him; they were all shaking their heads and lamenting. Many of them were much impressed by his story, which had suddenly become known. Some discussed his illness, while others expressed their pity and high opinion of Vasya, saying that he was such a quiet, modest young man, that he had been so promising; people described what efforts he had made to learn, how eager he was for knowledge, how he had worked to educate himself. “ He had risen by his own efforts from a humble position,” some one observed. They spoke with emotion of His Excellency’s affection for him. Some of them fell to explaining why Vasya was possessed by the idea that he was being sent for a soldier, because he had not finished his work. They said that the poor fellow had so lately belonged to the class liable for military service and had only received his first grade through the good offices of Yulian Mastakovitch, who had had the cleverness to discover his talent, his docility, and the rare mildness of his disposition. In fact, there was a great number of views and theories.

A very short fellow-clerk of Vasya’s was conspicuous as being particularly distressed. He was not very young, probably about thirty. He was pale as a sheet, trembling all over and smiling queerly, perhaps because any scandalous affair or terrible scene both frightens, and at the same time somewhat rejoices the outside spectator. He kept running round the circle that surrounded Vasya, and as he was so short, stood on tiptoe and caught at the button of every one that is, of those with whom he felt entitled to take such a liberty and kept saying that he knew how it had all happened, that it was not so simple, but a very important matter, that it couldn’t be left without further inquiry; then stood on tiptoe again, whispered in some one’s ear, nodded his head again two or three times, and ran round again. At last everything was over. The porter made his appearance, and an attendant from the hospital went up to Vasya and told him it was time to start. Vasya jumped up in a flutter and went with them, looking about him. He was looking about for some one.

“Vasya, Vasya!” cried Arkady Ivanovitch, sobbing. Vasya stopped, and Arkady squeezed his way up to him. They flung themselves into each other’s arms in a last bitter embrace. It was sad to see them. What monstrous calamity was wringing the tears from their eyes! What were they weeping for? What was their trouble? Why did they not understand one another?

“Here, here, take it! Take care of it,” said Shumkov, thrusting a paper of some kind into Arkady’s hand. “They will take it away from me. Bring it me later on; bring it ... take care of it. . . .” Vasya could not finish, they called to him. He ran hurriedly downstairs, nodding to every one, saying good-bye to every one. There was despair in his face. At last he was put in the carriage and taken away. Arkady made haste to open the paper: it was Liza’s curl of black hair, from which Vasya had never parted. Hot tears gushed from Arkady’s eyes: oh, poor Liza!

When office hours were over, he went to the Artemyevs’. There is no need to describe what happened there! Even Petya, little Petya, though he could not quite understand what had happened to dear Vasya, went into a corner, hid his face in his little hands, and sobbed in the fullness of his childish heart. It was quite dusk when Arkady returned home. When he reached the Neva he stood still for a minute and turned a keen glance up the river into the smoky frozen thickness of the distance, which was suddenly flushed crimson with the last purple and blood -red glow of sunset, still smouldering on the misty horizon. . . . Night lay over the city, and the wide plain of the Neva, swollen with frozen snow, was shining in the last gleams of the sun with myriads of sparks of gleaming hoar frost. There was a frost of twenty degrees. A cloud of frozen steam hung about the overdriven horses and the hurrying people. The condensed atmosphere quivered at the slightest sound, and from all the roofs on both sides of the river, columns of smoke rose up like giants and floated across the cold sky, intertwining and untwining as they went, so that it seemed new buildings were rising up above the old, a new town was taking shape in the air. ... It seemed as if all that world, with all its inhabitants, strong and weak, with all their habitations, the refuges of the poor, or the gilded palaces for the comfort of the powerful of this world was at that twilight hour like a fantastic vision of fairy-land, like a dream which in its turn would vanish and pass away like vapour into the dark blue sky. A strange thought came to poor Vasya’s forlorn friend. He started, and his heart seemed at that instant flooded with a hot rush of blood kindled by a powerful, overwhelming sensation he had never known before. He seemed only now to understand all the trouble, and to know why his poor Vasya had gone out of his mind, unable to bear his happiness. His lips twitched, his eyes lighted up, he turned pale, and as it were had a clear vision into something new.

He became gloomy and depressed, and lost all his gaiety. His old lodging grew hateful to him he took a new room. He did not care to visit the Artemyevs, and indeed he could not. Two years later he met Lizanka in church. She was by then married; beside her walked a wet nurse with a tiny baby. They greeted each other, and for a long time avoided all mention of the past. Liza said that, thank God, she was happy, that she was not badly off, that her husband was a kind man and that she was fond of him. . . . But suddenly in the middle of a sentence her eyes filled with tears, her voice failed, she turned away, and bowed down to the church pavement to hide her grief.

White Nights; a Sentimental Story From the Diary of a Dreamer







First Night

It was a wonderful night, such a night as is only possible when we are young, dear reader. The sky was so starry, so bright that, looking at it, one could not help asking oneself whether ill-humoured and capricious people could live under such a sky. That is a youthful question too, dear reader, very youthful, but may the Lord put it more frequently into your heart!... Speaking of capricious and ill-humoured people, I cannot help recalling my moral condition all that day. From early morning I had been oppressed by a strange despondency. It suddenly seemed to me that I was lonely, that every one was forsaking me and going away from me. Of course, any one is entitled to ask who “every one” was. For though I had been living almost eight years in Petersburg I had hardly an acquaintance. But what did I want with acquaintances? I was acquainted with all Petersburg as it was; that was why I felt as though they were all deserting me when all Petersburg packed up and went to its summer villa. I felt afraid of being left alone, and for three whole days I wandered about the town in profound dejection, not knowing what to do with myself. Whether I walked in the Nevsky, went to the Gardens or sauntered on the embankment, there was not one face of those I had been accustomed to meet at the same time and place all the year. They, of course, do not know me, but I know them. I know them intimately, I have almost made a study of their faces, and am delighted when they are gay, and downcast when they are under a cloud. I have almost struck up a friendship with one old man whom I meet every blessed day, at the same hour in Fontanka. Such a grave, pensive countenance; he is always whispering to himself and brandishing his left arm, while in his right hand he holds a long gnarled stick with a gold knob. He even notices me and takes a warm interest in me. If I happen not to be at a certain time in the same spot in Fontanka, I am certain he feels disappointed. That is how it is that we almost bow to each other, especially when we are both in good humour. The other day, when we had not seen each other for two days and met on the third, we were actually touching our hats, but, realizing in time, dropped our hands and passed each other with a look of interest.

I know the houses too. As I walk along they seem to run forward in the streets to look out at me from every window, and almost to say: “Good-morning! How do you do? I am quite well, thank God, and I am to have a new storey in May,” or, “How are you? I am being redecorated to-morrow;” or, “I was almost burnt down and had such a fright,” and so on. I have my favourites among them, some are dear friends; one of them intends to be treated by the architect this summer. I shall go every day on purpose to see that the operation is not a failure. God forbid! But I shall never forget an incident with a very pretty little house of a light pink colour. It was such a charming little brick house, it looked so hospitably at me, and so proudly at its ungainly neighbours, that my heart rejoiced whenever I happened to pass it. Suddenly last week I walked along the street, and when I looked at my friend I heard a plaintive, “They are painting me yellow!” The villains! The barbarians! They had spared nothing, neither columns, nor cornices, and my poor little friend was as yellow as a canary. It almost made me bilious. And to this day I have not had the courage to visit my poor disfigured friend, painted the colour of the Celestial Empire.

So now you understand, reader, in what sense I am acquainted with all Petersburg.

I have mentioned already that I had felt worried for three whole days before I guessed the cause of my uneasiness. And I felt ill at ease in the street — this one had gone and that one had gone, and what had become of the other? — and at home I did not feel like myself either. For two evenings I was puzzling my brains to think what was amiss in my corner; why I felt so uncomfortable in it. And in perplexity I scanned my grimy green walls, my ceiling covered with a spider’s web, the growth of which Matrona has so successfully encouraged. I looked over all my furniture, examined every chair, wondering whether the trouble lay there (for if one chair is not standing in the same position as it stood the day before, I am not myself). I looked at the window, but it was all in vain ... I was not a bit the better for it! I even bethought me to send for Matrona, and was giving her some fatherly admonitions in regard to the spider’s web and sluttishness in general; but she simply stared at me in amazement and went away without saying a word, so that the spider’s web is comfortably hanging in its place to this day. I only at last this morning realized what was wrong. Aie! Why, they are giving me the slip and making off to their summer villas! Forgive the triviality of the expression, but I am in no mood for fine language ... for everything that had been in Petersburg had gone or was going away for the holidays; for every respectable gentleman of dignified appearance who took a cab was at once transformed, in my eyes, into a respectable head of a household who after his daily duties were over, was making his way to the bosom of his family, to the summer villa; for all the passers-by had now quite a peculiar air which seemed to say to every one they met: “We are only here for the moment, gentlemen, and in another two hours we shall be going off to the summer villa.” If a window opened after delicate fingers, white as snow, had tapped upon the pane, and the head of a pretty girl was thrust out, calling to a street-seller with pots of flowers — at once on the spot I fancied that those flowers were being bought not simply in order to enjoy the flowers and the spring in stuffy town lodgings, but because they would all be very soon moving into the country and could take the flowers with them. What is more, I made such progress in my new peculiar sort of investigation that I could distinguish correctly from the mere air of each in what summer villa he was living. The inhabitants of Kamenny and Aptekarsky Islands or of the Peterhof Road were marked by the studied elegance of their manner, their fashionable summer suits, and the fine carriages in which they drove to town. Visitors to Pargolovo and places further away impressed one at first sight by their reasonable and dignified air; the tripper to Krestovsky Island could be recognized by his look of irrepressible gaiety. If I chanced to meet a long procession of waggoners walking lazily with the reins in their hands beside waggons loaded with regular mountains of furniture, tables, chairs, ottomans and sofas and domestic utensils of all sorts, frequently with a decrepit cook sitting on the top of it all, guarding her master’s property as though it were the apple of her eye; or if I saw boats heavily loaded with household goods crawling along the Neva or Fontanka to the Black River or the Islands — the waggons and the boats were multiplied tenfold, a hundredfold, in my eyes. I fancied that everything was astir and moving, everything was going in regular caravans to the summer villas. It seemed as though Petersburg threatened to become a wilderness, so that at last I felt ashamed, mortified and sad that I had nowhere to go for the holidays and no reason to go away. I was ready to go away with every waggon, to drive off with every gentleman of respectable appearance who took a cab; but no one — absolutely no one — invited me; it seemed they had forgotten me, as though really I were a stranger to them!

I took long walks, succeeding, as I usually did, in quite forgetting where I was, when I suddenly found myself at the city gates. Instantly I felt lighthearted, and I passed the barrier and walked between cultivated fields and meadows, unconscious of fatigue, and feeling only all over as though a burden were falling off my soul. All the passers-by gave me such friendly looks that they seemed almost greeting me, they all seemed so pleased at something. They were all smoking cigars, every one of them. And I felt pleased as I never had before. It was as though I had suddenly found myself in Italy — so strong was the effect of nature upon a half-sick townsman like me, almost stifling between city walls.

There is something inexpressibly touching in nature round Petersburg, when at the approach of spring she puts forth all her might, all the powers bestowed on her by Heaven, when she breaks into leaf, decks herself out and spangles herself with flowers.... Somehow I cannot help being reminded of a frail, consumptive girl, at whom one sometimes looks with compassion, sometimes with sympathetic love, whom sometimes one simply does not notice; though suddenly in one instant she becomes, as though by chance, inexplicably lovely and exquisite, and, impressed and intoxicated, one cannot help asking oneself what power made those sad, pensive eyes flash with such fire? What summoned the blood to those pale, wan cheeks? What bathed with passion those soft features? What set that bosom heaving? What so suddenly called strength, life and beauty into the poor girl’s face, making it gleam with such a smile, kindle with such bright, sparkling laughter? You look round, you seek for some one, you conjecture.... But the moment passes, and next day you meet, maybe, the same pensive and preoccupied look as before, the same pale face, the same meek and timid movements, and even signs of remorse, traces of a mortal anguish and regret for the fleeting distraction.... And you grieve that the momentary beauty has faded so soon never to return, that it flashed upon you so treacherously, so vainly, grieve because you had not even time to love her....

And yet my night was better than my day! This was how it happened.

I came back to the town very late, and it had struck ten as I was going towards my lodgings. My way lay along the canal embankment, where at that hour you never meet a soul. It is true that I live in a very remote part of the town. I walked along singing, for when I am happy I am always humming to myself like every happy man who has no friend or acquaintance with whom to share his joy. Suddenly I had a most unexpected adventure.

Leaning on the canal railing stood a woman with her elbows on the rail, she was apparently looking with great attention at the muddy water of the canal. She was wearing a very charming yellow hat and a jaunty little black mantle. “She’s a girl, and I am sure she is dark,” I thought. She did not seem to hear my footsteps, and did not even stir when I passed by with bated breath and loudly throbbing heart.

“Strange,” I thought; “she must be deeply absorbed in something,” and all at once I stopped as though petrified. I heard a muffled sob. Yes! I was not mistaken, the girl was crying, and a minute later I heard sob after sob. Good Heavens! My heart sank. And timid as I was with women, yet this was such a moment!... I turned, took a step towards her, and should certainly have pronounced the word “Madam!” if I had not known that that exclamation has been uttered a thousand times in every Russian society novel. It was only that reflection stopped me. But while I was seeking for a word, the girl came to herself, looked round, started, cast down her eyes and slipped by me along the embankment. I at once followed her; but she, divining this, left the embankment, crossed the road and walked along the pavement. I dared not cross the street after her. My heart was fluttering like a captured bird. All at once a chance came to my aid.

Along the same side of the pavement there suddenly came into sight, not far from the girl, a gentleman in evening dress, of dignified years, though by no means of dignified carriage; he was staggering and cautiously leaning against the wall. The girl flew straight as an arrow, with the timid haste one sees in all girls who do not want any one to volunteer to accompany them home at night, and no doubt the staggering gentleman would not have pursued her, if my good luck had not prompted him.

Suddenly, without a word to any one, the gentleman set off and flew full speed in pursuit of my unknown lady. She was racing like the wind, but the staggering gentleman was overtaking — overtook her. The girl uttered a shriek, and ... I bless my luck for the excellent knotted stick, which happened on that occasion to be in my right hand. In a flash I was on the other side of the street; in a flash the obtrusive gentleman had taken in the position, had grasped the irresistible argument, fallen back without a word, and only when we were very far away protested against my action in rather vigorous language. But his words hardly reached us.

“Give me your arm,” I said to the girl. “And he won’t dare to annoy us further.”

She took my arm without a word, still trembling with excitement and terror. Oh, obtrusive gentleman! How I blessed you at that moment! I stole a glance at her, she was very charming and dark — I had guessed right.

On her black eyelashes there still glistened a tear — from her recent terror or her former grief — I don’t know. But there was already a gleam of a smile on her lips. She too stole a glance at me, faintly blushed and looked down.

“There, you see; why did you drive me away? If I had been here, nothing would have happened....”

“But I did not know you; I thought that you too....”

“Why, do you know me now?”

“A little! Here, for instance, why are you trembling?”

“Oh, you are right at the first guess!” I answered, delighted that my girl had intelligence; that is never out of place in company with beauty. “Yes, from the first glance you have guessed the sort of man you have to do with. Precisely; I am shy with women, I am agitated, I don’t deny it, as much so as you were a minute ago when that gentleman alarmed you. I am in some alarm now. It’s like a dream, and I never guessed even in my sleep that I should ever talk with any woman.”

“What? Really?...”

“Yes; if my arm trembles, it is because it has never been held by a pretty little hand like yours. I am a complete stranger to women; that is, I have never been used to them. You see, I am alone.... I don’t even know how to talk to them. Here, I don’t know now whether I have not said something silly to you! Tell me frankly; I assure you beforehand that I am not quick to take offence?...”

“No, nothing, nothing, quite the contrary. And if you insist on my speaking frankly, I will tell you that women like such timidity; and if you want to know more, I like it too, and I won’t drive you away till I get home.”

“You will make me,” I said, breathless with delight, “lose my timidity, and then farewell to all my chances....”

“Chances! What chances — of what? That’s not so nice.”

“I beg your pardon, I am sorry, it was a slip of the tongue; but how can you expect one at such a moment to have no desire....”

“To be liked, eh?”

“Well, yes; but do, for goodness’ sake, be kind. Think what I am! Here, I am twenty-six and I have never seen any one. How can I speak well, tactfully, and to the point? It will seem better to you when I have told you everything openly.... I don’t know how to be silent when my heart is speaking. Well, never mind.... Believe me, not one woman, never, never! No acquaintance of any sort! And I do nothing but dream every day that at last I shall meet some one. Oh, if only you knew how often I have been in love in that way....”

“How? With whom?...”

“Why, with no one, with an ideal, with the one I dream of in my sleep. I make up regular romances in my dreams. Ah, you don’t know me! It’s true, of course, I have met two or three women, but what sort of women were they? They were all landladies, that.... But I shall make you laugh if I tell you that I have several times thought of speaking, just simply speaking, to some aristocratic lady in the street, when she is alone, I need hardly say; speaking to her, of course, timidly, respectfully, passionately; telling her that I am perishing in solitude, begging her not to send me away; saying that I have no chance of making the acquaintance of any woman; impressing upon her that it is a positive duty for a woman not to repulse so timid a prayer from such a luckless man as me. That, in fact, all I ask is, that she should say two or three sisterly words with sympathy, should not repulse me at first sight; should take me on trust and listen to what I say; should laugh at me if she likes, encourage me, say two words to me, only two words, even though we never meet again afterwards!... But you are laughing; however, that is why I am telling you....”

“Don’t be vexed; I am only laughing at your being your own enemy, and if you had tried you would have succeeded, perhaps, even though it had been in the street; the simpler the better.... No kind-hearted woman, unless she were stupid or, still more, vexed about something at the moment, could bring herself to send you away without those two words which you ask for so timidly.... But what am I saying? Of course she would take you for a madman. I was judging by myself; I know a good deal about other people’s lives.”

“Oh, thank you,” I cried; “you don’t know what you have done for me now!”

“I am glad! I am glad! But tell me how did you find out that I was the sort of woman with whom ... well, whom you think worthy ... of attention and friendship ... in fact, not a landlady as you say? What made you decide to come up to me?”

“What made me?... But you were alone; that gentleman was too insolent; it’s night. You must admit that it was a duty....”

“No, no; I mean before, on the other side — you know you meant to come up to me.”

“On the other side? Really I don’t know how to answer; I am afraid to.... Do you know I have been happy to-day? I walked along singing; I went out into the country; I have never had such happy moments. You ... perhaps it was my fancy.... Forgive me for referring to it; I fancied you were crying, and I ... could not bear to hear it ... it made my heart ache.... Oh, my goodness! Surely I might be troubled about you? Surely there was no harm in feeling brotherly compassion for you.... I beg your pardon, I said compassion.... Well, in short, surely you would not be offended at my involuntary impulse to go up to you?...”

“Stop, that’s enough, don’t talk of it,” said the girl, looking down, and pressing my hand. “It’s my fault for having spoken of it; but I am glad I was not mistaken in you.... But here I am home; I must go down this turning, it’s two steps from here.... Good-bye, thank you!...”

“Surely ... surely you don’t mean ... that we shall never see each other again?... Surely this is not to be the end?”

“You see,” said the girl, laughing, “at first you only wanted two words, and now.... However, I won’t say anything ... perhaps we shall meet....”

“I shall come here to-morrow,” I said. “Oh, forgive me, I am already making demands....”

“Yes, you are not very patient ... you are almost insisting.”

“Listen, listen!” I interrupted her. “Forgive me if I tell you something else.... I tell you what, I can’t help coming here to-morrow, I am a dreamer; I have so little real life that I look upon such moments as this now, as so rare, that I cannot help going over such moments again in my dreams. I shall be dreaming of you all night, a whole week, a whole year. I shall certainly come here to-morrow, just here to this place, just at the same hour, and I shall be happy remembering to-day. This place is dear to me already. I have already two or three such places in Petersburg. I once shed tears over memories ... like you.... Who knows, perhaps you were weeping ten minutes ago over some memory.... But, forgive me, I have forgotten myself again; perhaps you have once been particularly happy here....”

“Very good,” said the girl, “perhaps I will come here to-morrow, too, at ten o’clock. I see that I can’t forbid you.... The fact is, I have to be here; don’t imagine that I am making an appointment with you; I tell you beforehand that I have to be here on my own account. But ... well, I tell you straight out, I don’t mind if you do come. To begin with, something unpleasant might happen as it did to-day, but never mind that.... In short, I should simply like to see you ... to say two words to you. Only, mind, you must not think the worse of me now! Don’t think I make appointments so lightly.... I shouldn’t make it except that.... But let that be my secret! Only a compact beforehand....”

“A compact! Speak, tell me, tell me all beforehand; I agree to anything, I am ready for anything,” I cried delighted. “I answer for myself, I will be obedient, respectful ... you know me....”

“It’s just because I do know you that I ask you to come to-morrow,” said the girl, laughing. “I know you perfectly. But mind you will come on the condition, in the first place (only be good, do what I ask — you see, I speak frankly), you won’t fall in love with me.... That’s impossible, I assure you. I am ready for friendship; here’s my hand.... But you mustn’t fall in love with me, I beg you!”

“I swear,” I cried, gripping her hand....

“Hush, don’t swear, I know you are ready to flare up like gunpowder. Don’t think ill of me for saying so. If only you knew.... I, too, have no one to whom I can say a word, whose advice I can ask. Of course, one does not look for an adviser in the street; but you are an exception. I know you as though we had been friends for twenty years.... You won’t deceive me, will you?...”

“You will see ... the only thing is, I don’t know how I am going to survive the next twenty-four hours.”

“Sleep soundly. Good-night, and remember that I have trusted you already. But you exclaimed so nicely just now, ‘Surely one can’t be held responsible for every feeling, even for brotherly sympathy!’ Do you know, that was so nicely said, that the idea struck me at once, that I might confide in you?”

“For God’s sake do; but about what? What is it?”

“Wait till to-morrow. Meanwhile, let that be a secret. So much the better for you; it will give it a faint flavour of romance. Perhaps I will tell you to-morrow, and perhaps not.... I will talk to you a little more beforehand; we will get to know each other better....”

“Oh yes, I will tell you all about myself to-morrow! But what has happened? It is as though a miracle had befallen me.... My God, where am I? Come, tell me aren’t you glad that you were not angry and did not drive me away at the first moment, as any other woman would have done? In two minutes you have made me happy for ever. Yes, happy; who knows, perhaps, you have reconciled me with myself, solved my doubts!... Perhaps such moments come upon me.... But there I will tell you all about it to-morrow, you shall know everything, everything....”

“Very well, I consent; you shall begin....”


“Good-bye till to-morrow!”

“Till to-morrow!”

And we parted. I walked about all night; I could not make up my mind to go home. I was so happy.... To-morrow!

Second Night

“Well, so you have survived!” she said, pressing both my hands.

“I’ve been here for the last two hours; you don’t know what a state I have been in all day.”

“I know, I know. But to business. Do you know why I have come? Not to talk nonsense, as I did yesterday. I tell you what, we must behave more sensibly in future. I thought a great deal about it last night.”

“In what way — in what must we be more sensible? I am ready for my part; but, really, nothing more sensible has happened to me in my life than this, now.”

“Really? In the first place, I beg you not to squeeze my hands so; secondly, I must tell you that I spent a long time thinking about you and feeling doubtful to-day.”

“And how did it end?”

“How did it end? The upshot of it is that we must begin all over again, because the conclusion I reached to-day was that I don’t know you at all; that I behaved like a baby last night, like a little girl; and, of course, the fact of it is, that it’s my soft heart that is to blame — that is, I sang my own praises, as one always does in the end when one analyses one’s conduct. And therefore to correct my mistake, I’ve made up my mind to find out all about you minutely. But as I have no one from whom I can find out anything, you must tell me everything fully yourself. Well, what sort of man are you? Come, make haste — begin — tell me your whole history.”

“My history!” I cried in alarm. “My history! But who has told you I have a history? I have no history....”

“Then how have you lived, if you have no history?” she interrupted, laughing.

“Absolutely without any history! I have lived, as they say, keeping myself to myself, that is, utterly alone — alone, entirely alone. Do you know what it means to be alone?”

“But how alone? Do you mean you never saw any one?”

“Oh no, I see people, of course; but still I am alone.”

“Why, do you never talk to any one?”

“Strictly speaking, with no one.”

“Who are you then? Explain yourself! Stay, I guess: most likely, like me you have a grandmother. She is blind and will never let me go anywhere, so that I have almost forgotten how to talk; and when I played some pranks two years ago, and she saw there was no holding me in, she called me up and pinned my dress to hers, and ever since we sit like that for days together; she knits a stocking, though she’s blind, and I sit beside her, sew or read aloud to her — it’s such a queer habit, here for two years I’ve been pinned to her....”

“Good Heavens! what misery! But no, I haven’t a grandmother like that.”

“Well, if you haven’t why do you sit at home?...”

“Listen, do you want to know the sort of man I am?”

“Yes, yes!”

“In the strict sense of the word?”

“In the very strictest sense of the word.”

“Very well, I am a type!”

“Type, type! What sort of type?” cried the girl, laughing, as though she had not had a chance of laughing for a whole year. “Yes, it’s very amusing talking to you. Look, here’s a seat, let us sit down. No one is passing here, no one will hear us, and — begin your history. For it’s no good your telling me, I know you have a history; only you are concealing it. To begin with, what is a type?”

“A type? A type is an original, it’s an absurd person!” I said, infected by her childish laughter. “It’s a character. Listen; do you know what is meant by a dreamer?”

“A dreamer! Indeed I should think I do know. I am a dreamer myself. Sometimes, as I sit by grandmother, all sorts of things come into my head. Why, when one begins dreaming one lets one’s fancy run away with one — why, I marry a Chinese Prince!... Though sometimes it is a good thing to dream! But, goodness knows! Especially when one has something to think of apart from dreams,” added the girl, this time rather seriously.

“Excellent! If you have been married to a Chinese Emperor, you will quite understand me. Come, listen.... But one minute, I don’t know your name yet.”

“At last! You have been in no hurry to think of it!”

“Oh, my goodness! It never entered my head, I felt quite happy as it was....”

“My name is Nastenka.”

“Nastenka! And nothing else?”

“Nothing else! Why, is not that enough for you, you insatiable person?”

“Not enough? On the contrary, it’s a great deal, a very great deal, Nastenka; you kind girl, if you are Nastenka for me from the first.”

“Quite so! Well?”

“Well, listen, Nastenka, now for this absurd history.”

I sat down beside her, assumed a pedantically serious attitude, and began as though reading from a manuscript: —

“There are, Nastenka, though you may not know it, strange nooks in Petersburg. It seems as though the same sun as shines for all Petersburg people does not peep into those spots, but some other different new one, bespoken expressly for those nooks, and it throws a different light on everything. In these corners, dear Nastenka, quite a different life is lived, quite unlike the life that is surging round us, but such as perhaps exists in some unknown realm, not among us in our serious, over-serious, time. Well, that life is a mixture of something purely fantastic, fervently ideal, with something (alas! Nastenka) dingily prosaic and ordinary, not to say incredibly vulgar.”

“Foo! Good Heavens! What a preface! What do I hear?”

“Listen, Nastenka. (It seems to me I shall never be tired of calling you Nastenka.) Let me tell you that in these corners live strange people — dreamers. The dreamer — if you want an exact definition — is not a human being, but a creature of an intermediate sort. For the most part he settles in some inaccessible corner, as though hiding from the light of day; once he slips into his corner, he grows to it like a snail, or, anyway, he is in that respect very much like that remarkable creature, which is an animal and a house both at once, and is called a tortoise. Why do you suppose he is so fond of his four walls, which are invariably painted green, grimy, dismal and reeking unpardonably of tobacco smoke? Why is it that when this absurd gentleman is visited by one of his few acquaintances (and he ends by getting rid of all his friends), why does this absurd person meet him with such embarrassment, changing countenance and overcome with confusion, as though he had only just committed some crime within his four walls; as though he had been forging counterfeit notes, or as though he were writing verses to be sent to a journal with an anonymous letter, in which he states that the real poet is dead, and that his friend thinks it his sacred duty to publish his things? Why, tell me, Nastenka, why is it conversation is not easy between the two friends? Why is there no laughter? Why does no lively word fly from the tongue of the perplexed newcomer, who at other times may be very fond of laughter, lively words, conversation about the fair sex, and other cheerful subjects? And why does this friend, probably a new friend and on his first visit — for there will hardly be a second, and the friend will never come again — why is the friend himself so confused, so tongue-tied, in spite of his wit (if he has any), as he looks at the downcast face of his host, who in his turn becomes utterly helpless and at his wits’ end after gigantic but fruitless efforts to smooth things over and enliven the conversation, to show his knowledge of polite society, to talk, too, of the fair sex, and by such humble endeavour, to please the poor man, who like a fish out of water has mistakenly come to visit him? Why does the gentleman, all at once remembering some very necessary business which never existed, suddenly seize his hat and hurriedly make off, snatching away his hand from the warm grip of his host, who was trying his utmost to show his regret and retrieve the lost position? Why does the friend chuckle as he goes out of the door, and swear never to come and see this queer creature again, though the queer creature is really a very good fellow, and at the same time he cannot refuse his imagination the little diversion of comparing the queer fellow’s countenance during their conversation with the expression of an unhappy kitten treacherously captured, roughly handled, frightened and subjected to all sorts of indignities by children, till, utterly crestfallen, it hides away from them under a chair in the dark, and there must needs at its leisure bristle up, spit, and wash its insulted face with both paws, and long afterwards look angrily at life and nature, and even at the bits saved from the master’s dinner for it by the sympathetic housekeeper?”

“Listen,” interrupted Nastenka, who had listened to me all the time in amazement, opening her eyes and her little mouth. “Listen; I don’t know in the least why it happened and why you ask me such absurd questions; all I know is, that this adventure must have happened word for word to you.”

“Doubtless,” I answered, with the gravest face.

“Well, since there is no doubt about it, go on,” said Nastenka, “because I want very much to know how it will end.”

“You want to know, Nastenka, what our hero, that is I — for the hero of the whole business was my humble self — did in his corner? You want to know why I lost my head and was upset for the whole day by the unexpected visit of a friend? You want to know why I was so startled, why I blushed when the door of my room was opened, why I was not able to entertain my visitor, and why I was crushed under the weight of my own hospitality?”

“Why, yes, yes,” answered Nastenka, “that’s the point. Listen. You describe it all splendidly, but couldn’t you perhaps describe it a little less splendidly? You talk as though you were reading it out of a book.”

“Nastenka,” I answered in a stern and dignified voice, hardly able to keep from laughing, “dear Nastenka, I know I describe splendidly, but, excuse me, I don’t know how else to do it. At this moment, dear Nastenka, at this moment I am like the spirit of King Solomon when, after lying a thousand years under seven seals in his urn, those seven seals were at last taken off. At this moment, Nastenka, when we have met at last after such a long separation — for I have known you for ages, Nastenka, because I have been looking for some one for ages, and that is a sign that it was you I was looking for, and it was ordained that we should meet now — at this moment a thousand valves have opened in my head, and I must let myself flow in a river of words, or I shall choke. And so I beg you not to interrupt me, Nastenka, but listen humbly and obediently, or I will be silent.”

“No, no, no! Not at all. Go on! I won’t say a word!”

“I will continue. There is, my friend Nastenka, one hour in my day which I like extremely. That is the hour when almost all business, work and duties are over, and every one is hurrying home to dinner, to lie down, to rest, and on the way all are cogitating on other more cheerful subjects relating to their evenings, their nights, and all the rest of their free time. At that hour our hero — for allow me, Nastenka, to tell my story in the third person, for one feels awfully ashamed to tell it in the first person — and so at that hour our hero, who had his work too, was pacing along after the others. But a strange feeling of pleasure set his pale, rather crumpled-looking face working. He looked not with indifference on the evening glow which was slowly fading on the cold Petersburg sky. When I say he looked, I am lying: he did not look at it, but saw it as it were without realizing, as though tired or preoccupied with some other more interesting subject, so that he could scarcely spare a glance for anything about him. He was pleased because till next day he was released from business irksome to him, and happy as a schoolboy let out from the class-room to his games and mischief. Take a look at him, Nastenka; you will see at once that joyful emotion has already had an effect on his weak nerves and morbidly excited fancy. You see he is thinking of something.... Of dinner, do you imagine? Of the evening? What is he looking at like that? Is it at that gentleman of dignified appearance who is bowing so picturesquely to the lady who rolls by in a carriage drawn by prancing horses? No, Nastenka; what are all those trivialities to him now! He is rich now with his own individual life; he has suddenly become rich, and it is not for nothing that the fading sunset sheds its farewell gleams so gaily before him, and calls forth a swarm of impressions from his warmed heart. Now he hardly notices the road, on which the tiniest details at other times would strike him. Now ‘the Goddess of Fancy’ (if you have read Zhukovsky, dear Nastenka) has already with fantastic hand spun her golden warp and begun weaving upon it patterns of marvellous magic life — and who knows, maybe, her fantastic hand has borne him to the seventh crystal heaven far from the excellent granite pavement on which he was walking his way? Try stopping him now, ask him suddenly where he is standing now, through what streets he is going — he will, probably remember nothing, neither where he is going nor where he is standing now, and flushing with vexation he will certainly tell some lie to save appearances. That is why he starts, almost cries out, and looks round with horror when a respectable old lady stops him politely in the middle of the pavement and asks her way. Frowning with vexation he strides on, scarcely noticing that more than one passer-by smiles and turns round to look after him, and that a little girl, moving out of his way in alarm, laughs aloud, gazing open-eyed at his broad meditative smile and gesticulations. But fancy catches up in its playful flight the old woman, the curious passers-by, and the laughing child, and the peasants spending their nights in their barges on Fontanka (our hero, let us suppose, is walking along the canal-side at that moment), and capriciously weaves every one and everything into the canvas like a fly in a spider’s web. And it is only after the queer fellow has returned to his comfortable den with fresh stores for his mind to work on, has sat down and finished his dinner, that he comes to himself, when Matrona who waits upon him — always thoughtful and depressed — clears the table and gives him his pipe; he comes to himself then and recalls with surprise that he has dined, though he has absolutely no notion how it has happened. It has grown dark in the room; his soul is sad and empty; the whole kingdom of fancies drops to pieces about him, drops to pieces without a trace, without a sound, floats away like a dream, and he cannot himself remember what he was dreaming. But a vague sensation faintly stirs his heart and sets it aching, some new desire temptingly tickles and excites his fancy, and imperceptibly evokes a swarm of fresh phantoms. Stillness reigns in the little room; imagination is fostered by solitude and idleness; it is faintly smouldering, faintly simmering, like the water with which old Matrona is making her coffee as she moves quietly about in the kitchen close by. Now it breaks out spasmodically; and the book, picked up aimlessly and at random, drops from my dreamer’s hand before he has reached the third page. His imagination is again stirred and at work, and again a new world, a new fascinating life opens vistas before him. A fresh dream — fresh happiness! A fresh rush of delicate, voluptuous poison! What is real life to him! To his corrupted eyes we live, you and I, Nastenka, so torpidly, slowly, insipidly; in his eyes we are all so dissatisfied with our fate, so exhausted by our life! And, truly, see how at first sight everything is cold, morose, as though ill-humoured among us.... Poor things! thinks our dreamer. And it is no wonder that he thinks it! Look at these magic phantasms, which so enchantingly, so whimsically, so carelessly and freely group before him in such a magic, animated picture, in which the most prominent figure in the foreground is of course himself, our dreamer, in his precious person. See what varied adventures, what an endless swarm of ecstatic dreams. You ask, perhaps, what he is dreaming of. Why ask that? — why, of everything ... of the lot of the poet, first unrecognized, then crowned with laurels; of friendship with Hoffmann, St. Bartholomew’s Night, of Diana Vernon, of playing the hero at the taking of Kazan by Ivan Vassilyevitch, of Clara Mowbray, of Effie Deans, of the council of the prelates and Huss before them, of the rising of the dead in ‘Robert the Devil’ (do you remember the music, it smells of the churchyard!), of Minna and Brenda, of the battle of Berezina, of the reading of a poem at Countess V. D.’s, of Danton, of Cleopatra ei suoi amanti, of a little house in Kolomna, of a little home of one’s own and beside one a dear creature who listens to one on a winter’s evening, opening her little mouth and eyes as you are listening to me now, my angel.... No, Nastenka, what is there, what is there for him, voluptuous sluggard, in this life, for which you and I have such a longing? He thinks that this is a poor pitiful life, not foreseeing that for him too, maybe, sometime the mournful hour may strike, when for one day of that pitiful life he would give all his years of phantasy, and would give them not only for joy and for happiness, but without caring to make distinctions in that hour of sadness, remorse and unchecked grief. But so far that threatening has not arrived — he desires nothing, because he is superior to all desire, because he has everything, because he is satiated, because he is the artist of his own life, and creates it for himself every hour to suit his latest whim. And you know this fantastic world of fairyland is so easily, so naturally created! As though it were not a delusion! Indeed, he is ready to believe at some moments that all this life is not suggested by feeling, is not mirage, not a delusion of the imagination, but that it is concrete, real, substantial! Why is it, Nastenka, why is it at such moments one holds one’s breath? Why, by what sorcery, through what incomprehensible caprice, is the pulse quickened, does a tear start from the dreamer’s eye, while his pale moist cheeks glow, while his whole being is suffused with an inexpressible sense of consolation? Why is it that whole sleepless nights pass like a flash in inexhaustible gladness and happiness, and when the dawn gleams rosy at the window and daybreak floods the gloomy room with uncertain, fantastic light, as in Petersburg, our dreamer, worn out and exhausted, flings himself on his bed and drops asleep with thrills of delight in his morbidly overwrought spirit, and with a weary sweet ache in his heart? Yes, Nastenka, one deceives oneself and unconsciously believes that real true passion is stirring one’s soul; one unconsciously believes that there is something living, tangible in one’s immaterial dreams! And is it delusion? Here love, for instance, is bound up with all its fathomless joy, all its torturing agonies in his bosom.... Only look at him, and you will be convinced! Would you believe, looking at him, dear Nastenka, that he has never known her whom he loves in his ecstatic dreams? Can it be that he has only seen her in seductive visions, and that this passion has been nothing but a dream? Surely they must have spent years hand in hand together — alone the two of them, casting off all the world and each uniting his or her life with the other’s? Surely when the hour of parting came she must have lain sobbing and grieving on his bosom, heedless of the tempest raging under the sullen sky, heedless of the wind which snatches and bears away the tears from her black eyelashes? Can all of that have been a dream — and that garden, dejected, forsaken, run wild, with its little moss-grown paths, solitary, gloomy, where they used to walk so happily together, where they hoped, grieved, loved, loved each other so long, “so long and so fondly?” And that queer ancestral house where she spent so many years lonely and sad with her morose old husband, always silent and splenetic, who frightened them, while timid as children they hid their love from each other? What torments they suffered, what agonies of terror, how innocent, how pure was their love, and how (I need hardly say, Nastenka) malicious people were! And, good Heavens! surely he met her afterwards, far from their native shores, under alien skies, in the hot south in the divinely eternal city, in the dazzling splendour of the ball to the crash of music, in a palazzo (it must be in a palazzo), drowned in a sea of lights, on the balcony, wreathed in myrtle and roses, where, recognizing him, she hurriedly removes her mask and whispering, ‘I am free,’ flings herself trembling into his arms, and with a cry of rapture, clinging to one another, in one instant they forget their sorrow and their parting and all their agonies, and the gloomy house and the old man and the dismal garden in that distant land, and the seat on which with a last passionate kiss she tore herself away from his arms numb with anguish and despair.... Oh, Nastenka, you must admit that one would start, betray confusion, and blush like a schoolboy who has just stuffed in his pocket an apple stolen from a neighbour’s garden, when your uninvited visitor, some stalwart, lanky fellow, a festive soul fond of a joke, opens your door and shouts out as though nothing were happening: ‘My dear boy, I have this minute come from Pavlovsk.’ My goodness! the old count is dead, unutterable happiness is close at hand — and people arrive from Pavlovsk!”

Finishing my pathetic appeal, I paused pathetically. I remembered that I had an intense desire to force myself to laugh, for I was already feeling that a malignant demon was stirring within me, that there was a lump in my throat, that my chin was beginning to twitch, and that my eyes were growing more and more moist.

I expected Nastenka, who listened to me opening her clever eyes, would break into her childish, irrepressible laugh; and I was already regretting that I had gone so far, that I had unnecessarily described what had long been simmering in my heart, about which I could speak as though from a written account of it, because I had long ago passed judgment on myself and now could not resist reading it, making my confession, without expecting to be understood; but to my surprise she was silent, waiting a little, then she faintly pressed my hand and with timid sympathy asked —

“Surely you haven’t lived like that all your life?”

“All my life, Nastenka,” I answered; “all my life, and it seems to me I shall go on so to the end.”

“No, that won’t do,” she said uneasily, “that must not be; and so, maybe, I shall spend all my life beside grandmother. Do you know, it is not at all good to live like that?”

“I know, Nastenka, I know!” I cried, unable to restrain my feelings longer. “And I realize now, more than ever, that I have lost all my best years! And now I know it and feel it more painfully from recognizing that God has sent me you, my good angel, to tell me that and show it. Now that I sit beside you and talk to you it is strange for me to think of the future, for in the future — there is loneliness again, again this musty, useless life; and what shall I have to dream of when I have been so happy in reality beside you! Oh, may you be blessed, dear girl, for not having repulsed me at first, for enabling me to say that for two evenings, at least, I have lived.”

“Oh, no, no!” cried Nastenka and tears glistened in her eyes. “No, it mustn’t be so any more; we must not part like that! what are two evenings?”

“Oh, Nastenka, Nastenka! Do you know how far you have reconciled me to myself? Do you know now that I shall not think so ill of myself, as I have at some moments? Do you know that, maybe, I shall leave off grieving over the crime and sin of my life? for such a life is a crime and a sin. And do not imagine that I have been exaggerating anything — for goodness’ sake don’t think that, Nastenka: for at times such misery comes over me, such misery.... Because it begins to seem to me at such times that I am incapable of beginning a life in real life, because it has seemed to me that I have lost all touch, all instinct for the actual, the real; because at last I have cursed myself; because after my fantastic nights I have moments of returning sobriety, which are awful! Meanwhile, you hear the whirl and roar of the crowd in the vortex of life around you; you hear, you see, men living in reality; you see that life for them is not forbidden, that their life does not float away like a dream, like a vision; that their life is being eternally renewed, eternally youthful, and not one hour of it is the same as another; while fancy is so spiritless, monotonous to vulgarity and easily scared, the slave of shadows, of the idea, the slave of the first cloud that shrouds the sun, and overcasts with depression the true Petersburg heart so devoted to the sun — and what is fancy in depression! One feels that this inexhaustible fancy is weary at last and worn out with continual exercise, because one is growing into manhood, outgrowing one’s old ideals: they are being shattered into fragments, into dust; if there is no other life one must build one up from the fragments. And meanwhile the soul longs and craves for something else! And in vain the dreamer rakes over his old dreams, as though seeking a spark among the embers, to fan them into flame, to warm his chilled heart by the rekindled fire, and to rouse up in it again all that was so sweet, that touched his heart, that set his blood boiling, drew tears from his eyes, and so luxuriously deceived him! Do you know, Nastenka, the point I have reached? Do you know that I am forced now to celebrate the anniversary of my own sensations, the anniversary of that which was once so sweet, which never existed in reality — for this anniversary is kept in memory of those same foolish, shadowy dreams — and to do this because those foolish dreams are no more, because I have nothing to earn them with; you know even dreams do not come for nothing! Do you know that I love now to recall and visit at certain dates the places where I was once happy in my own way? I love to build up my present in harmony with the irrevocable past, and I often wander like a shadow, aimless, sad and dejected, about the streets and crooked lanes of Petersburg. What memories they are! To remember, for instance, that here just a year ago, just at this time, at this hour, on this pavement, I wandered just as lonely, just as dejected as to-day. And one remembers that then one’s dreams were sad, and though the past was no better one feels as though it had somehow been better, and that life was more peaceful, that one was free from the black thoughts that haunt one now; that one was free from the gnawing of conscience — the gloomy, sullen gnawing which now gives me no rest by day or by night. And one asks oneself where are one’s dreams. And one shakes one’s head and says how rapidly the years fly by! And again one asks oneself what has one done with one’s years. Where have you buried your best days? Have you lived or not? Look, one says to oneself, look how cold the world is growing. Some more years will pass, and after them will come gloomy solitude; then will come old age trembling on its crutch, and after it misery and desolation. Your fantastic world will grow pale, your dreams will fade and die and will fall like the yellow leaves from the trees.... Oh, Nastenka! you know it will be sad to be left alone, utterly alone, and to have not even anything to regret — nothing, absolutely nothing ... for all that you have lost, all that, all was nothing, stupid, simple nullity, there has been nothing but dreams!”

“Come, don’t work on my feelings any more,” said Nastenka, wiping away a tear which was trickling down her cheek. “Now it’s over! Now we shall be two together. Now, whatever happens to me, we will never part. Listen; I am a simple girl, I have not had much education, though grandmother did get a teacher for me, but truly I understand you, for all that you have described I have been through myself, when grandmother pinned me to her dress. Of course, I should not have described it so well as you have; I am not educated,” she added timidly, for she was still feeling a sort of respect for my pathetic eloquence and lofty style; “but I am very glad that you have been quite open with me. Now I know you thoroughly, all of you. And do you know what? I want to tell you my history too, all without concealment, and after that you must give me advice. You are a very clever man; will you promise to give me advice?”

“Ah, Nastenka,” I cried, “though I have never given advice, still less sensible advice, yet I see now that if we always go on like this that it will be very sensible, and that each of us will give the other a great deal of sensible advice! Well, my pretty Nastenka, what sort of advice do you want? Tell me frankly; at this moment I am so gay and happy, so bold and sensible, that it won’t be difficult for me to find words.”

“No, no!” Nastenka interrupted, laughing. “I don’t only want sensible advice, I want warm brotherly advice, as though you had been fond of me all your life!”

“Agreed, Nastenka, agreed!” I cried delighted; “and if I had been fond of you for twenty years, I couldn’t have been fonder of you than I am now.”

“Your hand,” said Nastenka.

“Here it is,” said I, giving her my hand.

“And so let us begin my history!”

Nastenka’s History

“Half my story you know already — that is, you know that I have an old grandmother....”

“If the other half is as brief as that ...” I interrupted, laughing.

“Be quiet and listen. First of all you must agree not to interrupt me, or else, perhaps I shall get in a muddle! Come, listen quietly.

“I have an old grandmother. I came into her hands when I was quite a little girl, for my father and mother are dead. It must be supposed that grandmother was once richer, for now she recalls better days. She taught me French, and then got a teacher for me. When I was fifteen (and now I am seventeen) we gave up having lessons. It was at that time that I got into mischief; what I did I won’t tell you; it’s enough to say that it wasn’t very important. But grandmother called me to her one morning and said that as she was blind she could not look after me; she took a pin and pinned my dress to hers, and said that we should sit like that for the rest of our lives if, of course, I did not become a better girl. In fact, at first it was impossible to get away from her: I had to work, to read and to study all beside grandmother. I tried to deceive her once, and persuaded Fekla to sit in my place. Fekla is our charwoman, she is deaf. Fekla sat there instead of me; grandmother was asleep in her armchair at the time, and I went off to see a friend close by. Well, it ended in trouble. Grandmother woke up while I was out, and asked some questions; she thought I was still sitting quietly in my place. Fekla saw that grandmother was asking her something, but could not tell what it was; she wondered what to do, undid the pin and ran away....”

At this point Nastenka stopped and began laughing. I laughed with her. She left off at once.

“I tell you what, don’t you laugh at grandmother. I laugh because it’s funny.... What can I do, since grandmother is like that; but yet I am fond of her in a way. Oh, well, I did catch it that time. I had to sit down in my place at once, and after that I was not allowed to stir.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you that our house belongs to us, that is to grandmother; it is a little wooden house with three windows as old as grandmother herself, with a little upper storey; well, there moved into our upper storey a new lodger.”

“Then you had an old lodger,” I observed casually.

“Yes, of course,” answered Nastenka, “and one who knew how to hold his tongue better than you do. In fact, he hardly ever used his tongue at all. He was a dumb, blind, lame, dried-up little old man, so that at last he could not go on living, he died; so then we had to find a new lodger, for we could not live without a lodger — the rent, together with grandmother’s pension, is almost all we have. But the new lodger, as luck would have it, was a young man, a stranger not of these parts. As he did not haggle over the rent, grandmother accepted him, and only afterwards she asked me: ‘Tell me, Nastenka, what is our lodger like — is he young or old?’ I did not want to lie, so I told grandmother that he wasn’t exactly young and that he wasn’t old.

“‘And is he pleasant looking?’ asked grandmother.

“Again I did not want to tell a lie: ‘Yes, he is pleasant looking, grandmother,’ I said. And grandmother said: ‘Oh, what a nuisance, what a nuisance! I tell you this, grandchild, that you may not be looking after him. What times these are! Why a paltry lodger like this, and he must be pleasant looking too; it was very different in the old days!’”

“Grandmother was always regretting the old days — she was younger in old days, and the sun was warmer in old days, and cream did not turn so sour in old days — it was always the old days! I would sit still and hold my tongue and think to myself: why did grandmother suggest it to me? Why did she ask whether the lodger was young and good-looking? But that was all, I just thought it, began counting my stitches again, went on knitting my stocking, and forgot all about it.

“Well, one morning the lodger came in to see us; he asked about a promise to paper his rooms. One thing led to another. Grandmother was talkative, and she said: ‘Go, Nastenka, into my bedroom and bring me my reckoner.’ I jumped up at once; I blushed all over, I don’t know why, and forgot I was sitting pinned to grandmother; instead of quietly undoing the pin, so that the lodger should not see — I jumped so that grandmother’s chair moved. When I saw that the lodger knew all about me now, I blushed, stood still as though I had been shot, and suddenly began to cry — I felt so ashamed and miserable at that minute, that I didn’t know where to look! Grandmother called out, ‘What are you waiting for?’ and I went on worse than ever. When the lodger saw, saw that I was ashamed on his account, he bowed and went away at once!

“After that I felt ready to die at the least sound in the passage. ‘It’s the lodger,’ I kept thinking; I stealthily undid the pin in case. But it always turned out not to be, he never came. A fortnight passed; the lodger sent word through Fyokla that he had a great number of French books, and that they were all good books that I might read, so would not grandmother like me to read them that I might not be dull? Grandmother agreed with gratitude, but kept asking if they were moral books, for if the books were immoral it would be out of the question, one would learn evil from them.”

“‘And what should I learn, grandmother? What is there written in them?’

“‘Ah,’ she said, ‘what’s described in them, is how young men seduce virtuous girls; how, on the excuse that they want to marry them, they carry them off from their parents’ houses; how afterwards they leave these unhappy girls to their fate, and they perish in the most pitiful way. I read a great many books,’ said grandmother, ‘and it is all so well described that one sits up all night and reads them on the sly. So mind you don’t read them, Nastenka,’ said she. ‘What books has he sent?’

“‘They are all Walter Scott’s novels, grandmother.’

“‘Walter Scott’s novels! But stay, isn’t there some trick about it? Look, hasn’t he stuck a love-letter among them?’

“‘No, grandmother,’ I said, ‘there isn’t a love-letter.’

“‘But look under the binding; they sometimes stuff it under the bindings, the rascals!’

“‘No, grandmother, there is nothing under the binding.’

“‘Well, that’s all right.’

“So we began reading Walter Scott, and in a month or so we had read almost half. Then he sent us more and more. He sent us Pushkin, too; so that at last I could not get on without a book and left off dreaming of how fine it would be to marry a Chinese Prince.

“That’s how things were when I chanced one day to meet our lodger on the stairs. Grandmother had sent me to fetch something. He stopped, I blushed and he blushed; he laughed, though, said good-morning to me, asked after grandmother, and said, ‘Well, have you read the books?’ I answered that I had. ‘Which did you like best?’ he asked. I said, ‘Ivanhoe, and Pushkin best of all,’ and so our talk ended for that time.

“A week later I met him again on the stairs. That time grandmother had not sent me, I wanted to get something for myself. It was past two, and the lodger used to come home at that time. ‘Good-afternoon,’ said he. I said good-afternoon, too.

“‘Aren’t you dull,’ he said, ‘sitting all day with your grandmother?’

“When he asked that, I blushed, I don’t know why; I felt ashamed, and again I felt offended — I suppose because other people had begun to ask me about that. I wanted to go away without answering, but I hadn’t the strength.

“‘Listen,’ he said, ‘you are a good girl. Excuse my speaking to you like that, but I assure you that I wish for your welfare quite as much as your grandmother. Have you no friends that you could go and visit?’

“I told him I hadn’t any, that I had had no friend but Mashenka, and she had gone away to Pskov.

“‘Listen,’ he said, ‘would you like to go to the theatre with me?’

“‘To the theatre. What about grandmother?’

“‘But you must go without your grandmother’s knowing it,’ he said.

“‘No,’ I said, ‘I don’t want to deceive grandmother. Good-bye.’

“‘Well, good-bye,’ he answered, and said nothing more.

“Only after dinner he came to see us; sat a long time talking to grandmother; asked her whether she ever went out anywhere, whether she had acquaintances, and suddenly said: ‘I have taken a box at the opera for this evening; they are giving The Barber of Seville. My friends meant to go, but afterwards refused, so the ticket is left on my hands.’ ‘The Barber of Seville,’ cried grandmother; ‘why, the same they used to act in old days?’

“‘Yes, it’s the same barber,’ he said, and glanced at me. I saw what it meant and turned crimson, and my heart began throbbing with suspense.

“‘To be sure, I know it,’ said grandmother; ‘why, I took the part of Rosina myself in old days, at a private performance!’

“‘So wouldn’t you like to go to-day?’ said the lodger. ‘Or my ticket will be wasted.’

“‘By all means let us go,’ said grandmother; why shouldn’t we? And my Nastenka here has never been to the theatre.’

“My goodness, what joy! We got ready at once, put on our best clothes, and set off. Though grandmother was blind, still she wanted to hear the music; besides, she is a kind old soul, what she cared most for was to amuse me, we should never have gone of ourselves.

“What my impressions of The Barber of Seville were I won’t tell you; but all that evening our lodger looked at me so nicely, talked so nicely, that I saw at once that he had meant to test me in the morning when he proposed that I should go with him alone. Well, it was joy! I went to bed so proud, so gay, my heart beat so that I was a little feverish, and all night I was raving about The Barber of Seville.

“I expected that he would come and see us more and more often after that, but it wasn’t so at all. He almost entirely gave up coming. He would just come in about once a month, and then only to invite us to the theatre. We went twice again. Only I wasn’t at all pleased with that; I saw that he was simply sorry for me because I was so hardly treated by grandmother, and that was all. As time went on, I grew more and more restless, I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t work; sometimes I laughed and did something to annoy grandmother, at another time I would cry. At last I grew thin and was very nearly ill. The opera season was over, and our lodger had quite given up coming to see us; whenever we met — always on the same staircase, of course — he would bow so silently, so gravely, as though he did not want to speak, and go down to the front door, while I went on standing in the middle of the stairs, as red as a cherry, for all the blood rushed to my head at the sight of him.

“Now the end is near. Just a year ago, in May, the lodger came to us and said to grandmother that he had finished his business here, and that he must go back to Moscow for a year. When I heard that, I sank into a chair half dead; grandmother did not notice anything; and having informed us that he should be leaving us, he bowed and went away.

“What was I to do? I thought and thought and fretted and fretted, and at last I made up my mind. Next day he was to go away, and I made up my mind to end it all that evening when grandmother went to bed. And so it happened. I made up all my clothes in a parcel — all the linen I needed — and with the parcel in my hand, more dead than alive, went upstairs to our lodger. I believe I must have stayed an hour on the staircase. When I opened his door he cried out as he looked at me. He thought I was a ghost, and rushed to give me some water, for I could hardly stand up. My heart beat so violently that my head ached, and I did not know what I was doing. When I recovered I began by laying my parcel on his bed, sat down beside it, hid my face in my hands and went into floods of tears. I think he understood it all at once, and looked at me so sadly that my heart was torn.

“‘Listen,’ he began, ‘listen, Nastenka, I can’t do anything; I am a poor man, for I have nothing, not even a decent berth. How could we live, if I were to marry you?’

“We talked a long time; but at last I got quite frantic, I said I could not go on living with grandmother, that I should run away from her, that I did not want to be pinned to her, and that I would go to Moscow if he liked, because I could not live without him. Shame and pride and love were all clamouring in me at once, and I fell on the bed almost in convulsions, I was so afraid of a refusal.

“He sat for some minutes in silence, then got up, came up to me and took me by the hand.

“‘Listen, my dear good Nastenka, listen; I swear to you that if I am ever in a position to marry, you shall make my happiness. I assure you that now you are the only one who could make me happy. Listen, I am going to Moscow and shall be there just a year; I hope to establish my position. When I come back, if you still love me, I swear that we will be happy. Now it is impossible, I am not able, I have not the right to promise anything. Well, I repeat, if it is not within a year it will certainly be some time; that is, of course, if you do not prefer any one else, for I cannot and dare not bind you by any sort of promise.’

“That was what he said to me, and next day he went away. We agreed together not to say a word to grandmother: that was his wish. Well, my history is nearly finished now. Just a year has past. He has arrived; he has been here three days, and, and

“And what?” I cried, impatient to hear the end.

“And up to now has not shown himself!” answered Nastenka, as though screwing up all her courage. “There’s no sign or sound of him.”

Here she stopped, paused for a minute, bent her head, and covering her face with her hands broke into such sobs that it sent a pang to my heart to hear them. I had not in the least expected such a dénouement.

“Nastenka,” I began timidly in an ingratiating voice, “Nastenka! For goodness’ sake don’t cry! How do you know? Perhaps he is not here yet....”

“He is, he is,” Nastenka repeated. “He is here, and I know it. We made an agreement at the time, that evening, before he went away: when we said all that I have told you, and had come to an understanding, then we came out here for a walk on this embankment. It was ten o’clock; we sat on this seat. I was not crying then; it was sweet to me to hear what he said.... And he said that he would come to us directly he arrived, and if I did not refuse him, then we would tell grandmother about it all. Now he is here, I know it, and yet he does not come!”

And again she burst into tears.

“Good God, can I do nothing to help you in your sorrow?” I cried jumping up from the seat in utter despair. “Tell me, Nastenka, wouldn’t it be possible for me to go to him?”

“Would that be possible?” she asked suddenly, raising her head.

“No, of course not,” I said pulling myself up; “but I tell you what, write a letter.”

“No, that’s impossible, I can’t do that,” she answered with decision, bending her head and not looking at me.

“How impossible — why is it impossible?” I went on, clinging to my idea. “But, Nastenka, it depends what sort of letter; there are letters and letters and.... Ah, Nastenka, I am right; trust to me, trust to me, I will not give you bad advice. It can all be arranged! You took the first step — why not now?”

“I can’t. I can’t! It would seem as though I were forcing myself on him....”

“Ah, my good little Nastenka,” I said, hardly able to conceal a smile; “no, no, you have a right to, in fact, because he made you a promise. Besides, I can see from everything that he is a man of delicate feeling; that he behaved very well,” I went on, more and more carried away by the logic of my own arguments and convictions. “How did he behave? He bound himself by a promise: he said that if he married at all he would marry no one but you; he gave you full liberty to refuse him at once.... Under such circumstances you may take the first step; you have the right; you are in the privileged position — if, for instance, you wanted to free him from his promise....”

“Listen; how would you write?”

“Write what?”

“This letter.”

“I tell you how I would write: ‘Dear Sir.’...”

“Must I really begin like that, ‘Dear Sir’?”

“You certainly must! Though, after all, I don’t know, I imagine....”

“Well, well, what next?”

“‘Dear Sir, — I must apologize for — —’ But, no, there’s no need to apologize; the fact itself justifies everything. Write simply: —

“‘I am writing to you. Forgive me my impatience; but I have been happy for a whole year in hope; am I to blame for being unable to endure a day of doubt now? Now that you have come, perhaps you have changed your mind. If so, this letter is to tell you that I do not repine, nor blame you. I do not blame you because I have no power over your heart, such is my fate!

“‘You are an honourable man. You will not smile or be vexed at these impatient lines. Remember they are written by a poor girl; that she is alone; that she has no one to direct her, no one to advise her, and that she herself could never control her heart. But forgive me that a doubt has stolen — if only for one instant — into my heart. You are not capable of insulting, even in thought, her who so loved and so loves you.’”

“Yes, yes; that’s exactly what I was thinking!” cried Nastenka, and her eyes beamed with delight. “Oh, you have solved my difficulties: God has sent you to me! Thank you, thank you!”

“What for? What for? For God’s sending me?” I answered, looking delighted at her joyful little face. “Why, yes; for that too.”

“Ah, Nastenka! Why, one thanks some people for being alive at the same time with one; I thank you for having met me, for my being able to remember you all my life!”

“Well, enough, enough! But now I tell you what, listen: we made an agreement then that as soon as he arrived he would let me know, by leaving a letter with some good simple people of my acquaintance who know nothing about it; or, if it were impossible to write a letter to me, for a letter does not always tell everything, he would be here at ten o’clock on the day he arrived, where we had arranged to meet. I know he has arrived already; but now it’s the third day, and there’s no sign of him and no letter. It’s impossible for me to get away from grandmother in the morning. Give my letter to-morrow to those kind people I spoke to you about: they will send it on to him, and if there is an answer you bring it to-morrow at ten o’clock.”

“But the letter, the letter! You see, you must write the letter first! So perhaps it must all be the day after to-morrow.”

“The letter ..,” said Nastenka, a little confused, “the letter ... but....”

But she did not finish. At first she turned her little face away from me, flushed like a rose, and suddenly I felt in my hand a letter which had evidently been written long before, all ready and sealed up. A familiar sweet and charming reminiscence floated through my mind.

“R, o — Ro; s, i — si; n, a — na,” I began.

“Rosina!” we both hummed together; I almost embracing her with delight, while she blushed as only she could blush, and laughed through the tears which gleamed like pearls on her black eyelashes.

“Come, enough, enough! Good-bye now,” she said speaking rapidly. “Here is the letter, here is the address to which you are to take it. Good-bye, till we meet again! Till to-morrow!”

She pressed both my hands warmly, nodded her head, and flew like an arrow down her side street. I stood still for a long time following her with my eyes.

“Till to-morrow! till to-morrow!” was ringing in my ears as she vanished from my sight.

Third Night

To-day was a gloomy, rainy day without a glimmer of sunlight, like the old age before me. I am oppressed by such strange thoughts, such gloomy sensations; questions still so obscure to me are crowding into my brain — and I seem to have neither power nor will to settle them. It’s not for me to settle all this!

To-day we shall not meet. Yesterday, when we said good-bye, the clouds began gathering over the sky and a mist rose. I said that to-morrow it would be a bad day; she made no answer, she did not want to speak against her wishes; for her that day was bright and clear, not one cloud should obscure her happiness.

“If it rains we shall not see each other,” she said, “I shall not come.”

I thought that she would not notice to-day’s rain, and yet she has not come.

Yesterday was our third interview, our third white night....

But how fine joy and happiness makes any one! How brimming over with love the heart is! One seems longing to pour out one’s whole heart; one wants everything to be gay, everything to be laughing. And how infectious that joy is! There was such a softness in her words, such a kindly feeling in her heart towards me yesterday.... How solicitous and friendly she was; how tenderly she tried to give me courage! Oh, the coquetry of happiness! While I ... I took it all for the genuine thing, I thought that she....

But, my God, how could I have thought it? How could I have been so blind, when everything had been taken by another already, when nothing was mine; when, in fact, her very tenderness to me, her anxiety, her love ... yes, love for me, was nothing else but joy at the thought of seeing another man so soon, desire to include me, too, in her happiness?... When he did not come, when we waited in vain, she frowned, she grew timid and discouraged. Her movements, her words, were no longer so light, so playful, so gay; and, strange to say, she redoubled her attentiveness to me, as though instinctively desiring to lavish on me what she desired for herself so anxiously, if her wishes were not accomplished. My Nastenka was so downcast, so dismayed, that I think she realized at last that I loved her, and was sorry for my poor love. So when we are unhappy we feel the unhappiness of others more; feeling is not destroyed but concentrated....

I went to meet her with a full heart, and was all impatience. I had no presentiment that I should feel as I do now, that it would not all end happily. She was beaming with pleasure; she was expecting an answer. The answer was himself. He was to come, to run at her call. She arrived a whole hour before I did. At first she giggled at everything, laughed at every word I said. I began talking, but relapsed into silence.

“Do you know why I am so glad,” she said, “so glad to look at you? — why I like you so much to-day?”

“Well?” I asked, and my heart began throbbing.

“I like you because you have not fallen in love with me. You know that some men in your place would have been pestering and worrying me, would have been sighing and miserable, while you are so nice!”

Then she wrung my hand so hard that I almost cried out. She laughed.

“Goodness, what a friend you are!” she began gravely a minute later. “God sent you to me. What would have happened to me if you had not been with me now? How disinterested you are! How truly you care for me! When I am married we will be great friends, more than brother and sister; I shall care almost as I do for him....”

I felt horribly sad at that moment, yet something like laughter was stirring in my soul.

“You are very much upset,” I said; “you are frightened; you think he won’t come.”

“Oh dear!” she answered; “if I were less happy, I believe I should cry at your lack of faith, at your reproaches. However, you have made me think and have given me a lot to think about; but I shall think later, and now I will own that you are right. Yes, I am somehow not myself; I am all suspense, and feel everything as it were too lightly. But hush! that’s enough about feelings....”

At that moment we heard footsteps, and in the darkness we saw a figure coming towards us. We both started; she almost cried out; I dropped her hand and made a movement as though to walk away. But we were mistaken, it was not he.

“What are you afraid of? Why did you let go of my hand?” she said, giving it to me again. “Come, what is it? We will meet him together; I want him to see how fond we are of each other.”

“How fond we are of each other!” I cried. (“Oh, Nastenka, Nastenka,” I thought, “how much you have told me in that saying! Such fondness at certain moments makes the heart cold and the soul heavy. Your hand is cold, mine burns like fire. How blind you are, Nastenka!... Oh, how unbearable a happy person is sometimes! But I could not be angry with you!”)

At last my heart was too full.

“Listen, Nastenka!” I cried. “Do you know how it has been with me all day.”

“Why, how, how? Tell me quickly! Why have you said nothing all this time?”

“To begin with, Nastenka, when I had carried out all your commissions, given the letter, gone to see your good friends, then ... then I went home and went to bed.”

“Is that all?” she interrupted, laughing.

“Yes, almost all,” I answered restraining myself, for foolish tears were already starting into my eyes. “I woke an hour before our appointment, and yet, as it were, I had not been asleep. I don’t know what happened to me. I came to tell you all about it, feeling as though time were standing still, feeling as though one sensation, one feeling must remain with me from that time for ever; feeling as though one minute must go on for all eternity, and as though all life had come to a standstill for me.... When I woke up it seemed as though some musical motive long familiar, heard somewhere in the past, forgotten and voluptuously sweet, had come back to me now. It seemed to me that it had been clamouring at my heart all my life, and only now....”

“Oh my goodness, my goodness,” Nastenka interrupted, “what does all that mean? I don’t understand a word.”

“Ah, Nastenka, I wanted somehow to convey to you that strange impression....” I began in a plaintive voice, in which there still lay hid a hope, though a very faint one.

“Leave off. Hush!” she said, and in one instant the sly puss had guessed.

Suddenly she became extraordinarily talkative, gay, mischievous; she took my arm, laughed, wanted me to laugh too, and every confused word I uttered evoked from her prolonged ringing laughter.... I began to feel angry, she had suddenly begun flirting.

“Do you know,” she began, “I feel a little vexed that you are not in love with me? There’s no understanding human nature! But all the same, Mr. Unapproachable, you cannot blame me for being so simple; I tell you everything, everything, whatever foolish thought comes into my head.”

“Listen! That’s eleven, I believe,” I said as the slow chime of a bell rang out from a distant tower. She suddenly stopped, left off laughing and began to count.

“Yes, it’s eleven,” she said at last in a timid, uncertain voice.

I regretted at once that I had frightened her, making her count the strokes, and I cursed myself for my spiteful impulse; I felt sorry for her, and did not know how to atone for what I had done.

I began comforting her, seeking for reasons for his not coming, advancing various arguments, proofs. No one could have been easier to deceive than she was at that moment; and, indeed, any one at such a moment listens gladly to any consolation, whatever it may be, and is overjoyed if a shadow of excuse can be found.

“And indeed it’s an absurd thing,” I began, warming to my task and admiring the extraordinary clearness of my argument, “why, he could not have come; you have muddled and confused me, Nastenka, so that I too, have lost count of the time.... Only think: he can scarcely have received the letter; suppose he is not able to come, suppose he is going to answer the letter, could not come before to-morrow. I will go for it as soon as it’s light to-morrow and let you know at once. Consider, there are thousands of possibilities; perhaps he was not at home when the letter came, and may not have read it even now! Anything may happen, you know.”

“Yes, yes!” said Nastenka. “I did not think of that. Of course anything may happen?” she went on in a tone that offered no opposition, though some other far-away thought could be heard like a vexatious discord in it. “I tell you what you must do,” she said, “you go as early as possible to-morrow morning, and if you get anything let me know at once. You know where I live, don’t you?”

And she began repeating her address to me.

Then she suddenly became so tender, so solicitous with me. She seemed to listen attentively to what I told her; but when I asked her some question she was silent, was confused, and turned her head away. I looked into her eyes — yes, she was crying.

“How can you? How can you? Oh, what a baby you are! what childishness!... Come, come!”

She tried to smile, to calm herself, but her chin was quivering and her bosom was still heaving.

“I was thinking about you,” she said after a minute’s silence. “You are so kind that I should be a stone if I did not feel it. Do you know what has occurred to me now? I was comparing you two. Why isn’t he you? Why isn’t he like you? He is not as good as you, though I love him more than you.”

I made no answer. She seemed to expect me to say something.

“Of course, it may be that I don’t understand him fully yet. You know I was always as it were afraid of him; he was always so grave, as it were so proud. Of course I know it’s only that he seems like that, I know there is more tenderness in his heart than in mine.... I remember how he looked at me when I went in to him — do you remember? — with my bundle; but yet I respect him too much, and doesn’t that show that we are not equals?”

“No, Nastenka, no,” I answered, “it shows that you love him more than anything in the world, and far more than yourself.”

“Yes, supposing that is so,” answered Nastenka naïvely. “But do you know what strikes me now? Only I am not talking about him now, but speaking generally; all this came into my mind some time ago. Tell me, how is it that we can’t all be like brothers together? Why is it that even the best of men always seem to hide something from other people and to keep something back? Why not say straight out what is in one’s heart, when one knows that one is not speaking idly? As it is every one seems harsher than he really is, as though all were afraid of doing injustice to their feelings, by being too quick to express them.”

“Oh, Nastenka, what you say is true; but there are many reasons for that,” I broke in suppressing my own feelings at that moment more than ever.

“No, no!” she answered with deep feeling. “Here you, for instance, are not like other people! I really don’t know how to tell you what I feel; but it seems to me that you, for instance ... at the present moment ... it seems to me that you are sacrificing something for me,” she added timidly, with a fleeting glance at me. “Forgive me for saying so, I am a simple girl you know. I have seen very little of life, and I really sometimes don’t know how to say things,” she added in a voice that quivered with some hidden feeling, while she tried to smile; “but I only wanted to tell you that I am grateful, that I feel it all too.... Oh, may God give you happiness for it! What you told me about your dreamer is quite untrue now — that is, I mean, it’s not true of you. You are recovering, you are quite a different man from what you described. If you ever fall in love with some one, God give you happiness with her! I won’t wish anything for her, for she will be happy with you. I know, I am a woman myself, so you must believe me when I tell you so.”

She ceased speaking, and pressed my hand warmly. I too could not speak without emotion. Some minutes passed.

“Yes, it’s clear he won’t come to-night,” she said at last raising her head. “It’s late.”

“He will come to-morrow,” I said in the most firm and convincing tone.

“Yes,” she added with no sign of her former depression. “I see for myself now that he could not come till to-morrow. Well, good-bye, till to-morrow. If it rains perhaps I shall not come. But the day after to-morrow, I shall come. I shall come for certain, whatever happens; be sure to be here, I want to see you, I will tell you everything.”

And then when we parted she gave me her hand and said, looking at me candidly: “We shall always be together, shan’t we?”

Oh, Nastenka, Nastenka! If only you knew how lonely I am now!

As soon as it struck nine o’clock I could not stay indoors, but put on my things, and went out in spite of the weather. I was there, sitting on our seat. I went to her street, but I felt ashamed, and turned back without looking at their windows, when I was two steps from her door. I went home more depressed than I had ever been before. What a damp, dreary day! If it had been fine I should have walked about all night....

But to-morrow, to-morrow! To-morrow she will tell me everything. The letter has not come to-day, however. But that was to be expected. They are together by now....

Fourth Night

My God, how it has all ended! What it has all ended in! I arrived at nine o’clock. She was already there. I noticed her a good way off; she was standing as she had been that first time, with her elbows on the railing, and she did not hear me coming up to her.

“Nastenka!” I called to her, suppressing my agitation with an effort.

She turned to me quickly.

“Well?” she said. “Well? Make haste!”

I looked at her in perplexity.

“Well, where is the letter? Have you brought the letter?” she repeated clutching at the railing.

“No, there is no letter,” I said at last. “Hasn’t he been to you yet?” She turned fearfully pale and looked at me for a long time without moving. I had shattered her last hope.

“Well, God be with him,” she said at last in a breaking voice; “God be with him if he leaves me like that.”

She dropped her eyes, then tried to look at me and could not. For several minutes she was struggling with her emotion. All at once she turned away, leaning her elbows against the railing and burst into tears.

“Oh don’t, don’t!” I began; but looking at her I had not the heart to go on, and what was I to say to her?

“Don’t try and comfort me,” she said; “don’t talk about him; don’t tell me that he will come, that he has not cast me off so cruelly and so inhumanly as he has. What for — what for? Can there have been something in my letter, that unlucky letter?”

At that point sobs stifled her voice; my heart was torn as I looked at her.

“Oh, how inhumanly cruel it is!” she began again. “And not a line, not a line! He might at least have written that he does not want me, that he rejects me — but not a line for three days! How easy it is for him to wound, to insult a poor, defenceless girl, whose only fault is that she loves him! Oh, what I’ve suffered during these three days! Oh, dear! When I think that I was the first to go to him, that I humbled myself before him, cried, that I begged of him a little love!... and after that! Listen,” she said, turning to me, and her black eyes flashed, “it isn’t so! It can’t be so; it isn’t natural. Either you are mistaken or I; perhaps he has not received the letter? Perhaps he still knows nothing about it? How could any one — judge for yourself, tell me, for goodness’ sake explain it to me, I can’t understand it — how could any one behave with such barbarous coarseness as he has behaved to me? Not one word! Why, the lowest creature on earth is treated more compassionately. Perhaps he has heard something, perhaps some one has told him something about me,” she cried, turning to me inquiringly: “What do you think?”

“Listen, Nastenka, I shall go to him to-morrow in your name.”


“I will question him about everything; I will tell him everything.”

“Yes, yes?”

“You write a letter. Don’t say no, Nastenka, don’t say no! I will make him respect your action, he shall hear all about it, and if — —”

“No, my friend, no,” she interrupted. “Enough! Not another word, not another line from me — enough! I don’t know him; I don’t love him any more. I will ... forget him.”

She could not go on.

“Calm yourself, calm yourself! Sit here, Nastenka,” I said, making her sit down on the seat.

“I am calm. Don’t trouble. It’s nothing! It’s only tears, they will soon dry. Why, do you imagine I shall do away with myself, that I shall throw myself into the river?”

My heart was full: I tried to speak, but I could not.

“Listen,” she said taking my hand. “Tell me: you wouldn’t have behaved like this, would you? You would not have abandoned a girl who had come to you of herself, you would not have thrown into her face a shameless taunt at her weak foolish heart? You would have taken care of her? You would have realized that she was alone, that she did not know how to look after herself, that she could not guard herself from loving you, that it was not her fault, not her fault — that she had done nothing.... Oh dear, oh dear!”

“Nastenka!” I cried at last, unable to control my emotion. “Nastenka, you torture me! You wound my heart, you are killing me, Nastenka! I cannot be silent! I must speak at last, give utterance to what is surging in my heart!”

As I said this I got up from the seat. She took my hand and looked at me in surprise.

“What is the matter with you?” she said at last.

“Listen,” I said resolutely. “Listen to me, Nastenka! What I am going to say to you now is all nonsense, all impossible, all stupid! I know that this can never be, but I cannot be silent. For the sake of what you are suffering now, I beg you beforehand to forgive me!”

“What is it? What is it?” she said drying her tears and looking at me intently, while a strange curiosity gleamed in her astonished eyes. “What is the matter?”

“It’s impossible, but I love you, Nastenka! There it is! Now everything is told,” I said with a wave of my hand. “Now you will see whether you can go on talking to me as you did just now, whether you can listen to what I am going to say to you.”...

“Well, what then?” Nastenka interrupted me. “What of it? I knew you loved me long ago, only I always thought that you simply liked me very much.... Oh dear, oh dear!”

“At first it was simply liking, Nastenka, but now, now! I am just in the same position as you were when you went to him with your bundle. In a worse position than you, Nastenka, because he cared for no one else as you do.”

“What are you saying to me! I don’t understand you in the least. But tell me, what’s this for; I don’t mean what for, but why are you ... so suddenly.... Oh dear, I am talking nonsense! But you....”

And Nastenka broke off in confusion. Her cheeks flamed; she dropped her eyes.

“What’s to be done, Nastenka, what am I to do? I am to blame. I have abused your.... But no, no, I am not to blame, Nastenka; I feel that, I know that, because my heart tells me I am right, for I cannot hurt you in any way, I cannot wound you! I was your friend, but I am still your friend, I have betrayed no trust. Here my tears are falling, Nastenka. Let them flow, let them flow — they don’t hurt anybody. They will dry, Nastenka.”

“Sit down, sit down,” she said, making me sit down on the seat. “Oh, my God!”

“No, Nastenka, I won’t sit down; I cannot stay here any longer, you cannot see me again; I will tell you everything and go away. I only want to say that you would never have found out that I loved you. I should have kept my secret. I would not have worried you at such a moment with my egoism. No! But I could not resist it now; you spoke of it yourself, it is your fault, your fault and not mine. You cannot drive me away from you.”...

“No, no, I don’t drive you away, no!” said Nastenka, concealing her confusion as best she could, poor child.

“You don’t drive me away? No! But I meant to run from you myself. I will go away, but first I will tell you all, for when you were crying here I could not sit unmoved, when you wept, when you were in torture at being — at being — I will speak of it, Nastenka — at being forsaken, at your love being repulsed, I felt that in my heart there was so much love for you, Nastenka, so much love! And it seemed so bitter that I could not help you with my love, that my heart was breaking and I ... I could not be silent, I had to speak, Nastenka, I had to speak!”

“Yes, yes! tell me, talk to me,” said Nastenka with an indescribable gesture. “Perhaps you think it strange that I talk to you like this, but ... speak! I will tell you afterwards! I will tell you everything.”

“You are sorry for me, Nastenka, you are simply sorry for me, my dear little friend! What’s done can’t be mended. What is said cannot be taken back. Isn’t that so? Well, now you know. That’s the starting-point. Very well. Now it’s all right, only listen. When you were sitting crying I thought to myself (oh, let me tell you what I was thinking!), I thought, that (of course it cannot be, Nastenka), I thought that you ... I thought that you somehow ... quite apart from me, had ceased to love him. Then — I thought that yesterday and the day before yesterday, Nastenka — then I would — I certainly would — have succeeded in making you love me; you know, you said yourself, Nastenka, that you almost loved me. Well, what next? Well, that’s nearly all I wanted to tell you; all that is left to say is how it would be if you loved me, only that, nothing more! Listen, my friend — for any way you are my friend — I am, of course, a poor, humble man, of no great consequence; but that’s not the point (I don’t seem to be able to say what I mean, Nastenka, I am so confused), only I would love you, I would love you so, that even if you still loved him, even if you went on loving the man I don’t know, you would never feel that my love was a burden to you. You would only feel every minute that at your side was beating a grateful, grateful heart, a warm heart ready for your sake.... Oh Nastenka, Nastenka! What have you done to me?”

“Don’t cry; I don’t want you to cry,” said Nastenka getting up quickly from the seat. “Come along, get up, come with me, don’t cry, don’t cry,” she said, drying her tears with her handkerchief; “let us go now; maybe I will tell you something.... If he has forsaken me now, if he has forgotten me, though I still love him (I do not want to deceive you) ... but listen, answer me. If I were to love you, for instance, that is, if I only.... Oh my friend, my friend! To think, to think how I wounded you, when I laughed at your love, when I praised you for not falling in love with me. Oh dear! How was it I did not foresee this, how was it I did not foresee this, how could I have been so stupid? But.... Well, I have made up my mind, I will tell you.”

“Look here, Nastenka, do you know what? I’ll go away, that’s what I’ll do. I am simply tormenting you. Here you are remorseful for having laughed at me, and I won’t have you ... in addition to your sorrow.... Of course it is my fault, Nastenka, but good-bye!”

“Stay, listen to me: can you wait?”

“What for? How?”

“I love him; but I shall get over it, I must get over it, I cannot fail to get over it; I am getting over it, I feel that.... Who knows? Perhaps it will all end to-day, for I hate him, for he has been laughing at me, while you have been weeping here with me, for you have not repulsed me as he has, for you love me while he has never loved me, for in fact, I love you myself.... Yes, I love you! I love you as you love me; I have told you so before, you heard it yourself — I love you because you are better than he is, because you are nobler than he is, because, because he — —”

The poor girl’s emotion was so violent that she could not say more; she laid her head upon my shoulder, then upon my bosom, and wept bitterly. I comforted her, I persuaded her, but she could not stop crying; she kept pressing my hand, and saying between her sobs: “Wait, wait, it will be over in a minute! I want to tell you ... you mustn’t think that these tears — it’s nothing, it’s weakness, wait till it’s over.”... At last she left off crying, dried her eyes and we walked on again. I wanted to speak, but she still begged me to wait. We were silent.... At last she plucked up courage and began to speak.

“It’s like this,” she began in a weak and quivering voice, in which, however, there was a note that pierced my heart with a sweet pang; “don’t think that I am so light and inconstant, don’t think that I can forget and change so quickly. I have loved him for a whole year, and I swear by God that I have never, never, even in thought, been unfaithful to him.... He has despised me, he has been laughing at me — God forgive him! But he has insulted me and wounded my heart. I ... I do not love him, for I can only love what is magnanimous, what understands me, what is generous; for I am like that myself and he is not worthy of me — well, that’s enough of him. He has done better than if he had deceived my expectations later, and shown me later what he was.... Well, it’s over! But who knows, my dear friend,” she went on pressing my hand, “who knows, perhaps my whole love was a mistaken feeling, a delusion — perhaps it began in mischief, in nonsense, because I was kept so strictly by grandmother? Perhaps I ought to love another man, not him, a different man, who would have pity on me and ... and.... But don’t let us say any more about that,” Nastenka broke off, breathless with emotion, “I only wanted to tell you ... I wanted to tell you that if, although I love him (no, did love him), if, in spite of this you still say.... If you feel that your love is so great that it may at last drive from my heart my old feeling — if you will have pity on me — if you do not want to leave me alone to my fate, without hope, without consolation — if you are ready to love me always as you do now — I swear to you that gratitude ... that my love will be at last worthy of your love.... Will you take my hand?”

“Nastenka!” I cried breathless with sobs. “Nastenka, oh Nastenka!”

“Enough, enough! Well, now it’s quite enough,” she said, hardly able to control herself. “Well, now all has been said, hasn’t it! Hasn’t it? You are happy — I am happy too. Not another word about it, wait; spare me ... talk of something else, for God’s sake.”

“Yes, Nastenka, yes! Enough about that, now I am happy. I —— Yes, Nastenka, yes, let us talk of other things, let us make haste and talk. Yes! I am ready.”

And we did not know what to say: we laughed, we wept, we said thousands of things meaningless and incoherent; at one moment we walked along the pavement, then suddenly turned back and crossed the road; then we stopped and went back again to the embankment; we were like children.

“I am living alone now, Nastenka,” I began, “but to-morrow! Of course you know, Nastenka, I am poor, I have only got twelve hundred roubles, but that doesn’t matter.”

“Of course not, and granny has her pension, so she will be no burden. We must take granny.”

“Of course we must take granny. But there’s Matrona.”

“Yes, and we’ve got Fyokla too!”

“Matrona is a good woman, but she has one fault: she has no imagination, Nastenka, absolutely none; but that doesn’t matter.”

“That’s all right — they can live together; only you must move to us to-morrow.”

“To you? How so? All right, I am ready.”

“Yes, hire a room from us. We have a top floor, it’s empty. We had an old lady lodging there, but she has gone away; and I know granny would like to have a young man. I said to her, ‘Why a young man?’ And she said, ‘Oh, because I am old; only don’t you fancy, Nastenka, that I want him as a husband for you.’ So I guessed it was with that idea.”

“Oh, Nastenka!”

And we both laughed.

“Come, that’s enough, that’s enough. But where do you live? I’ve forgotten.”

“Over that way, near X bridge, Barannikov’s Buildings.”

“It’s that big house?”

“Yes, that big house.”

“Oh, I know, a nice house; only you know you had better give it up and come to us as soon as possible.”

“To-morrow, Nastenka, to-morrow; I owe a little for my rent there but that doesn’t matter. I shall soon get my salary.”

“And do you know I will perhaps give lessons; I will learn something myself and then give lessons.”

“Capital! And I shall soon get a bonus.”

“So by to-morrow you will be my lodger.”

“And we will go to The Barber of Seville, for they are soon going to give it again.”

“Yes, we’ll go,” said Nastenka, “but better see something else and not The Barber of Seville.”

“Very well, something else. Of course that will be better, I did not think — —”

As we talked like this we walked along in a sort of delirium, a sort of intoxication, as though we did not know what was happening to us. At one moment we stopped and talked for a long time at the same place; then we went on again, and goodness knows where we went; and again tears and again laughter. All of a sudden Nastenka would want to go home, and I would not dare to detain her but would want to see her to the house; we set off, and in a quarter of an hour found ourselves at the embankment by our seat. Then she would sigh, and tears would come into her eyes again; I would turn chill with dismay.... But she would press my hand and force me to walk, to talk, to chatter as before.

“It’s time I was home at last; I think it must be very late,” Nastenka said at last. “We must give over being childish.”

“Yes, Nastenka, only I shan’t sleep to-night; I am not going home.”

“I don’t think I shall sleep either; only see me home.”

“I should think so!”

“Only this time we really must get to the house.”

“We must, we must.”

“Honour bright? For you know one must go home some time!”

“Honour bright,” I answered laughing.

“Well, come along!”

“Come along! Look at the sky, Nastenka. Look! To-morrow it will be a lovely day; what a blue sky, what a moon! Look; that yellow cloud is covering it now, look, look! No, it has passed by. Look, look!”

But Nastenka did not look at the cloud; she stood mute as though turned to stone; a minute later she huddled timidly close up to me. Her hand trembled in my hand; I looked at her. She pressed still more closely to me.

At that moment a young man passed by us. He suddenly stopped, looked at us intently, and then again took a few steps on. My heart began throbbing.

“Who is it, Nastenka?” I said in an undertone.

“It’s he,” she answered in a whisper, huddling up to me, still more closely, still more tremulously.... I could hardly stand on my feet.

“Nastenka, Nastenka! It’s you!” I heard a voice behind us and at the same moment the young man took several steps towards us.

My God, how she cried out! How she started! How she tore herself out of my arms and rushed to meet him! I stood and looked at them, utterly crushed. But she had hardly given him her hand, had hardly flung herself into his arms, when she turned to me again, was beside me again in a flash, and before I knew where I was she threw both arms round my neck and gave me a warm, tender kiss. Then, without saying a word to me, she rushed back to him again, took his hand, and drew him after her.

I stood a long time looking after them. At last the two vanished from my sight.


My night ended with the morning. It was a wet day. The rain was falling and beating disconsolately upon my window pane; it was dark in the room and grey outside. My head ached and I was giddy; fever was stealing over my limbs.

“There’s a letter for you, sir; the postman brought it,” Matrona said stooping over me.

“A letter? From whom?” I cried jumping up from my chair.

“I don’t know, sir, better look — maybe it is written there whom it is from.”

I broke the seal. It was from her!

* * * * *

“Oh, forgive me, forgive me! I beg you on my knees to forgive me! I deceived you and myself. It was a dream, a mirage.... My heart aches for you to-day; forgive me, forgive me!

“Don’t blame me, for I have not changed to you in the least. I told you that I would love you, I love you now, I more than love you. Oh, my God! If only I could love you both at once! Oh, if only you were he!”

[“Oh, if only he were you,” echoed in my mind. I remembered your words, Nastenka!]

“God knows what I would do for you now! I know that you are sad and dreary. I have wounded you, but you know when one loves a wrong is soon forgotten. And you love me.

“Thank you, yes, thank you for that love! For it will live in my memory like a sweet dream which lingers long after awakening; for I shall remember for ever that instant when you opened your heart to me like a brother and so generously accepted the gift of my shattered heart to care for it, nurse it, and heal it.... If you forgive me, the memory of you will be exalted by a feeling of everlasting gratitude which will never be effaced from my soul.... I will treasure that memory: I will be true to it, I will not betray it, I will not betray my heart: it is too constant. It returned so quickly yesterday to him to whom it has always belonged.

“We shall meet, you will come to us, you will not leave us, you will be for ever a friend, a brother to me. And when you see me you will give me your hand ... yes? You will give it to me, you have forgiven me, haven’t you? You love me as before?

“Oh, love me, do not forsake me, because I love you so at this moment, because I am worthy of your love, because I will deserve it ... my dear! Next week I am to be married to him. He has come back in love, he has never forgotten me. You will not be angry at my writing about him. But I want to come and see you with him; you will like him, won’t you?

“Forgive me, remember and love your


* * * * *

I read that letter over and over again for a long time; tears gushed to my eyes. At last it fell from my hands and I hid my face.

“Dearie! I say, dearie — —” Matrona began.

“What is it, Matrona?”

“I have taken all the cobwebs off the ceiling; you can have a wedding or give a party.”

I looked at Matrona. She was still a hearty, youngish old woman, but I don’t know why all at once I suddenly pictured her with lustreless eyes, a wrinkled face, bent, decrepit.... I don’t know why I suddenly pictured my room grown old like Matrona. The walls and the floors looked discoloured, everything seemed dingy; the spiders’ webs were thicker than ever. I don’t know why, but when I looked out of the window it seemed to me that the house opposite had grown old and dingy too, that the stucco on the columns was peeling off and crumbling, that the cornices were cracked and blackened, and that the walls, of a vivid deep yellow, were patchy.

Either the sunbeams suddenly peeping out from the clouds for a moment were hidden again behind a veil of rain, and everything had grown dingy again before my eyes; or perhaps the whole vista of my future flashed before me so sad and forbidding, and I saw myself just as I was now, fifteen years hence, older, in the same room, just as solitary, with the same Matrona grown no cleverer for those fifteen years.

But to imagine that I should bear you a grudge, Nastenka! That I should cast a dark cloud over your serene, untroubled happiness; that by my bitter reproaches I should cause distress to your heart, should poison it with secret remorse and should force it to throb with anguish at the moment of bliss; that I should crush a single one of those tender blossoms which you have twined in your dark tresses when you go with him to the altar.... Oh never, never! May your sky be clear, may your sweet smile be bright and untroubled, and may you be blessed for that moment of blissful happiness which you gave to another, lonely and grateful heart!

My God, a whole moment of happiness! Is that too little for the whole of a man’s life?


I began to scrutinize the man closely. Even in his exterior there was something so peculiar that it compelled one, however far away one’s thoughts might be, to fix one’s eyes upon him and go off into the most irrepressible roar of laughter. That is what happened to me. I must observe that the little man’s eyes were so mobile, or perhaps he was so sensitive to the magnetism of every eye fixed upon him, that he almost by instinct guessed that he was being observed, turned at once to the observer and anxiously analysed his expression. His continual mobility, his turning and twisting, made him look strikingly like a dancing doll. It was strange! He seemed afraid of jeers, in spite of the fact that he was almost getting his living by being a buffoon for all the world, and exposed himself to every buffet in a moral sense and even in a physical one, judging from the company he was in. Voluntary buffoons are not even to be pitied. But I noticed at once that this strange creature, this ridiculous man, was by no means a buffoon by profession. There was still something gentlemanly in him. His very uneasiness, his continual apprehensiveness about himself, were actually a testimony in his favour. It seemed to me that his desire to be obliging was due more to kindness of heart than to mercenary considerations. He readily allowed them to laugh their loudest at him and in the most unseemly way, to his face, but at the same time — and I am ready to take my oath on it — his heart ached and was sore at the thought that his listeners were so caddishly brutal as to be capable of laughing, not at anything said or done, but at him, at his whole being, at his heart, at his head, at his appearance, at his whole body, flesh and blood. I am convinced that he felt at that moment all the foolishness of his position; but the protest died away in his heart at once, though it invariably sprang up again in the most heroic way. I am convinced that all this was due to nothing else but a kind heart, and not to fear of the inconvenience of being kicked out and being unable to borrow money from some one. This gentleman was for ever borrowing money, that is, he asked for alms in that form, when after playing the fool and entertaining them at his expense he felt in a certain sense entitled to borrow money from them. But, good heavens! what a business the borrowing was! And with what a countenance he asked for the loan! I could not have imagined that on such a small space as the wrinkled, angular face of that little man room could be found, at one and the same time, for so many different grimaces, for such strange, variously characteristic shades of feeling, such absolutely killing expressions. Everything was there — shame and an assumption of insolence, and vexation at the sudden flushing of his face, and anger and fear of failure, and entreaty to be forgiven for having dared to pester, and a sense of his own dignity, and a still greater sense of his own abjectness — all this passed over his face like lightning. For six whole years he had struggled along in God’s world in this way, and so far had been unable to take up a fitting attitude at the interesting moment of borrowing money! I need not say that he never could grow callous and completely abject. His heart was too sensitive, too passionate! I will say more, indeed: in my opinion, he was one of the most honest and honourable men in the world, but with a little weakness: of being ready to do anything abject at any one’s bidding, good-naturedly and disinterestedly, simply to oblige a fellow-creature. In short, he was what is called “a rag” in the fullest sense of the word. The most absurd thing was, that he was dressed like any one else, neither worse nor better, tidily, even with a certain elaborateness, and actually had pretentions to respectability and personal dignity. This external equality and internal inequality, his uneasiness about himself and at the same time his continual self-depreciation — all this was strikingly incongruous and provocative of laughter and pity. If he had been convinced in his heart (and in spite of his experience it did happen to him at moments to believe this) that his audience were the most good-natured people in the world, who were simply laughing at something amusing, and not at the sacrifice of his personal dignity, he would most readily have taken off his coat, put it on wrong side outwards, and have walked about the streets in that attire for the diversion of others and his own gratification. But equality he could never anyhow attain. Another trait: the queer fellow was proud, and even, by fits and starts, when it was not too risky, generous. It was worth seeing and hearing how he could sometimes, not sparing himself, consequently with pluck, almost with heroism, dispose of one of his patrons who had infuriated him to madness. But that was at moments.... In short, he was a martyr in the fullest sense of the word, but the most useless and consequently the most comic martyr.

There was a general discussion going on among the guests. All at once I saw our queer friend jump upon his chair, and call out at the top of his voice, anxious for the exclusive attention of the company.

“Listen,” the master of the house whispered to me. “He sometimes tells the most curious stories.... Does he interest you?”

I nodded and squeezed myself into the group. The sight of a well-dressed gentleman jumping upon his chair and shouting at the top of his voice did, in fact, draw the attention of all. Many who did not know the queer fellow looked at one another in perplexity, the others roared with laughter.

“I knew Fedosey Nikolaitch. I ought to know Fedosey Nikolaitch better than any one!” cried the queer fellow from his elevation. “Gentlemen, allow me to tell you something. I can tell you a good story about Fedosey Nikolaitch! I know a story — exquisite!”

“Tell it, Osip Mihalitch, tell it.”

“Tell it.”


“Listen, listen.”

“I begin; but, gentlemen, this is a peculiar story....”

“Very good, very good.”

“It’s a comic story.”

“Very good, excellent, splendid. Get on!”

“It is an episode in the private life of your humble....”

“But why do you trouble yourself to announce that it’s comic?”

“And even somewhat tragic!”


“In short, the story which it will afford you all pleasure to hear me now relate, gentlemen — the story, in consequence of which I have come into company so interesting and profitable....”

“No puns!”

“This story.”

“In short the story — make haste and finish the introduction. The story, which has its value,” a fair-haired young man with moustaches pronounced in a husky voice, dropping his hand into his coat pocket and, as though by chance, pulling out a purse instead of his handkerchief.

“The story, my dear sirs, after which I should like to see many of you in my place. And, finally, the story, in consequence of which I have not married.”

“Married! A wife! Polzunkov tried to get married!!”

“I confess I should like to see Madame Polzunkov.”

“Allow me to inquire the name of the would-be Madame Polzunkov,” piped a youth, making his way up to the storyteller.

“And so for the first chapter, gentlemen. It was just six years ago, in spring, the thirty-first of March — note the date, gentlemen — on the eve....”

“Of the first of April!” cried a young man with ringlets.

“You are extraordinarily quick at guessing. It was evening. Twilight was gathering over the district town of N., the moon was about to float out ... everything in proper style, in fact. And so in the very late twilight I, too, floated out of my poor lodging on the sly — after taking leave of my restricted granny, now dead. Excuse me, gentlemen, for making use of such a fashionable expression, which I heard for the last time from Nikolay Nikolaitch. But my granny was indeed restricted: she was blind, dumb, deaf, stupid — everything you please.... I confess I was in a tremor, I was prepared for great deeds; my heart was beating like a kitten’s when some bony hand clutches it by the scruff of the neck.”

“Excuse me, Monsieur Polzunkov.”

“What do you want?”

“Tell it more simply; don’t over-exert yourself, please!”

“All right,” said Osip Mihalitch, a little taken aback. “I went into the house of Fedosey Nikolaitch (the house that he had bought). Fedosey Nikolaitch, as you know, is not a mere colleague, but the full-blown head of a department. I was announced, and was at once shown into the study. I can see it now; the room was dark, almost dark, but candles were not brought. Behold, Fedosey Nikolaitch walks in. There he and I were left in the darkness....”

“Whatever happened to you?” asked an officer.

“What do you suppose?” asked Polzunkov, turning promptly, with a convulsively working face, to the young man with ringlets. “Well, gentlemen, a strange circumstance occurred, though indeed there was nothing strange in it: it was what is called an everyday affair — I simply took out of my pocket a roll of paper ... and he a roll of paper.”

“Paper notes?”

“Paper notes; and we exchanged.”

“I don’t mind betting that there’s a flavour of bribery about it,” observed a respectably dressed, closely cropped young gentleman.

“Bribery!” Polzunkov caught him up.

“‘Oh, may I be a Liberal, Such as many I have seen!’

If you, too, when it is your lot to serve in the provinces, do not warm your hands at your country’s hearth.... For as an author said: ‘Even the smoke of our native land is sweet to us.’ She is our Mother, gentlemen, our Mother Russia; we are her babes, and so we suck her!”

There was a roar of laughter.

“Only would you believe it, gentlemen, I have never taken bribes?” said Polzunkov, looking round at the whole company distrustfully.

A prolonged burst of Homeric laughter drowned Polzunkov’s words in guffaws.

“It really is so, gentlemen....”

But here he stopped, still looking round at every one with a strange expression of face; perhaps — who knows? — at that moment the thought came into his mind that he was more honest than many of all that honourable company.... Anyway, the serious expression of his face did not pass away till the general merriment was quite over.

“And so,” Polzunkov began again when all was still, “though I never did take bribes, yet that time I transgressed; I put in my pocket a bribe ... from a bribe-taker ... that is, there were certain papers in my hands which, if I had cared to send to a certain person, it would have gone ill with Fedosey Nikolaitch.”

“So then he bought them from you?”

“He did.”

“Did he give much?”

“He gave as much as many a man nowadays would sell his conscience for complete, with all its variations ... if only he could get anything for it. But I felt as though I were scalded when I put the money in my pocket. I really don’t understand what always comes over me, gentlemen — but I was more dead than alive, my lips twitched and my legs trembled; well, I was to blame, to blame, entirely to blame. I was utterly conscience-stricken; I was ready to beg Fedosey Nikolaitch’s forgiveness.”

“Well, what did he do — did he forgive you?”

“But I didn’t ask his forgiveness.... I only mean that that is how I felt. Then I have a sensitive heart, you know. I saw he was looking me straight in the face. ‘Have you no fear of God, Osip Mihailitch?’ said he. Well, what could I do? From a feeling of propriety I put my head on one side and I flung up my hands. ‘In what way,’ said I, ‘have I no fear of God, Fedosey Nikolaitch?’ But I just said that from a feeling of propriety.... I was ready to sink into the earth. ‘After being so long a friend of our family, after being, I may say, like a son — and who knows what Heaven had in store for us, Osip Mihailitch? — and all of a sudden to inform against me — to think of that now!... What am I to think of mankind after that, Osip Mihailitch?’ Yes, gentlemen, he did read me a lecture! ‘Come,’ he said, ‘you tell me what I am to think of mankind after that, Osip Mihailitch.’ ‘What is he to think?’ I thought; and do you know, there was a lump in my throat, and my voice was quivering, and knowing my hateful weakness, I snatched up my hat. ‘Where are you off to, Osip Mihailitch? Surely on the eve of such a day you cannot bear malice against me? What wrong have I done you?...’ ‘Fedosey Nikolaitch,’ I said, ‘Fedosey Nikolaitch....’ In fact, I melted, gentlemen, I melted like a sugar-stick. And the roll of notes that was lying in my pocket, that, too, seemed screaming out: ‘You ungrateful brigand, you accursed thief!’ It seemed to weigh a hundredweight ... (if only it had weighed a hundredweight!).... ‘I see,’ says Fedosey Nikolaitch, ‘I see your penitence ... you know to-morrow....’ ‘St. Mary of Egypt’s day....’ ‘Well, don’t weep,’ said Fedosey Nikolaitch, ‘that’s enough: you’ve erred, and you are penitent! Come along! Maybe I may succeed in bringing you back again into the true path,’ says he ... ‘maybe, my modest Penates’ (yes,’Penates,’ I remember he used that expression, the rascal) ‘will warm,’ says he, ‘your harden ... I will not say hardened, but erring heart....’ He took me by the arm, gentlemen, and led me to his family circle. A cold shiver ran down my back; I shuddered! I thought with what eyes shall I present myself — you must know, gentlemen ... eh, what shall I say? — a delicate position had arisen here.”

“Not Madame Polzunkov?”

“Marya Fedosyevna, only she was not destined, you know, to bear the name you have given her; she did not attain that honour. Fedosey Nikolaitch was right, you see, when he said that I was almost looked upon as a son in the house; it had been so, indeed, six months before, when a certain retired junker called Mihailo Maximitch Dvigailov, was still living. But by God’s will he died, and he put off settling his affairs till death settled his business for him.”


“Well, never mind, gentlemen, forgive me, it was a slip of the tongue. It’s a bad pun, but it doesn’t matter it’s being bad — what happened was far worse, when I was left, so to say, with nothing in prospect but a bullet through the brain, for that junker, though he would not admit me into his house (he lived in grand style, for he had always known how to feather his nest), yet perhaps correctly he believed me to be his son.”


“Yes, that was how it was! So they began to cold-shoulder me at Fedosey Nikolaitch’s. I noticed things, I kept quiet; but all at once, unluckily for me (or perhaps luckily!), a cavalry officer galloped into our little town like snow on our head. His business — buying horses for the army — was light and active, in cavalry style, but he settled himself solidly at Fedosey Nikolaitch’s, as though he were laying siege to it! I approached the subject in a roundabout way, as my nasty habit is; I said one thing and another, asking him what I had done to be treated so, saying that I was almost like a son to him, and when might I expect him to behave more like a father.... Well, he began answering me. And when he begins to speak you are in for a regular epic in twelve cantos, and all you can do is to listen, lick your lips and throw up your hands in delight. And not a ha’p’orth of sense, at least there’s no making out the sense. You stand puzzled like a fool — he puts you in a fog, he twists about like an eel and wriggles away from you. It’s a special gift, a real gift — it’s enough to frighten people even if it is no concern of theirs. I tried one thing and another, and went hither and thither. I took the lady songs and presented her with sweets and thought of witty things to say to her. I tried sighing and groaning. ‘My heart aches,’ I said, ‘it aches from love.’ And I went in for tears and secret explanations. Man is foolish, you know.... I never reminded myself that I was thirty ... not a bit of it! I tried all my arts. It was no go. It was a failure, and I gained nothing but jeers and gibes. I was indignant, I was choking with anger. I slunk off and would not set foot in the house. I thought and thought and made up my mind to denounce him. Well, of course, it was a shabby thing — I meant to give away a friend, I confess. I had heaps of material and splendid material — a grand case. It brought me fifteen hundred roubles when I changed it and my report on it for bank notes!”

“Ah, so that was the bribe!”

“Yes, sir, that was the bribe — and it was a bribe-taker who had to pay it — and I didn’t do wrong, I can assure you! Well, now I will go on: he drew me, if you will kindly remember, more dead than alive into the room where they were having tea. They all met me, seeming as it were offended, that is, not exactly offended, but hurt — so hurt that it was simply.... They seemed shattered, absolutely shattered, and at the same time there was a look of becoming dignity on their faces, a gravity in their expression, something fatherly, parental ... the prodigal son had come back to them — that’s what it had come to! They made me sit down to tea, but there was no need to do that: I felt as though a samovar was toiling in my bosom and my feet were like ice. I was humbled, I was cowed. Marya Fominishna, his wife, addressed me familiarly from the first word.

“‘How is it you have grown so thin, my boy?’

“‘I’ve not been very well, Marya Fominishna,’ I said. My wretched voice shook.

“And then quite suddenly — she must have been waiting for a chance to get a dig at me, the old snake — she said —

“‘I suppose your conscience felt ill at ease, Osip Mihalitch, my dear! Our fatherly hospitality was a reproach to you! You have been punished for the tears I have shed.’

“Yes, upon my word, she really said that — she had the conscience to say it. Why, that was nothing to her, she was a terror! She did nothing but sit there and pour out tea. But if you were in the market, my darling, I thought you’d shout louder than any fishwife there.... That’s the kind of woman she was. And then, to my undoing, the daughter, Marya Fedosyevna, came in, in all her innocence, a little pale and her eyes red as though she had been weeping. I was bowled over on the spot like a fool. But it turned out afterwards that the tears were a tribute to the cavalry officer. He had made tracks for home and taken his hook for good and all; for you know it was high time for him to be off — I may as well mention the fact here; not that his leave was up precisely, but you see.... It was only later that the loving parents grasped the position and had found out all that had happened.... What could they do? They hushed their trouble up — an addition to the family!

“Well, I could not help it — as soon as I looked at her I was done for; I stole a glance at my hat, I wanted to get up and make off. But there was no chance of that, they took away my hat.... I must confess, I did think of getting off without it. ‘Well!’ I thought — but no, they latched the doors. There followed friendly jokes, winking, little airs and graces. I was overcome with embarrassment, said something stupid, talked nonsense, about love. My charmer sat down to the piano and with an air of wounded feeling sang the song about the hussar who leaned upon the sword — that finished me off!

“‘Well,’ said Fedosey Nikolaitch, ‘all is forgotten, come to my arms!’

“I fell just as I was, with my face on his waistcoat.

“‘My benefactor! You are a father to me!’ said I. And I shed floods of hot tears. Lord, have mercy on us, what a to-do there was! He cried, his good lady cried, Mashenka cried ... there was a flaxen-headed creature there, she cried too.... That wasn’t enough: the younger children crept out of all the corners (the Lord had filled their quiver full) and they howled too.... Such tears, such emotion, such joy! They found their prodigal, it was like a soldier’s return to his home. Then followed refreshments, we played forfeits, and ‘I have a pain’—’Where is it?’—’In my heart’—’Who gave it you?’ My charmer blushed. The old man and I had some punch — they won me over and did for me completely.

“I returned to my grandmother with my head in a whirl. I was laughing all the way home; for full two hours I paced up and down our little room. I waked up my old granny and told her of my happiness.

“‘But did he give you any money, the brigand?’

“‘He did, granny, he did, my dear — luck has come to us all of a heap: we’ve only to open our hand and take it.’

“I waked up Sofron.

“‘Sofron,’ I said, ‘take off my boots.’

“Sofron pulled off my boots.

“‘Come, Sofron, congratulate me now, give me a kiss! I am going to get married, my lad, I am going to get married. You can get jolly drunk to-morrow, you can have a spree, my dear soul — your master is getting married.’

“My heart was full of jokes and laughter. I was beginning to drop off to sleep, but something made me get up again. I sat in thought: to-morrow is the first of April, a bright and playful day — what should I do? And I thought of something. Why, gentlemen, I got out of bed, lighted a candle, and sat down to the writing-table just as I was. I was in a fever of excitement, quite carried away — you know, gentlemen, what it is when a man is quite carried away? I wallowed joyfully in the mud, my dear friends. You see what I am like; they take something from you, and you give them something else as well and say, ‘Take that, too.’ They strike you on the cheek and in your joy you offer them your whole back. Then they try to lure you like a dog with a bun, and you embrace them with your foolish paws and fall to kissing them with all your heart and soul. Why, see what I am doing now, gentlemen! You are laughing and whispering — I see it! After I have told you all my story you will begin to turn me into ridicule, you will begin to attack me, but yet I go on talking and talking and talking! And who tells me to? Who drives me to do it? Who is standing behind my back whispering to me, ‘Speak, speak and tell them’? And yet I do talk, I go on telling you, I try to please you as though you were my brothers, all my dearest friends.... Ech!”

The laughter which had sprung up by degrees on all sides completely drowned at last the voice of the speaker, who really seemed worked up into a sort of ecstasy. He paused, for several minutes his eyes strayed about the company, then suddenly, as though carried away by a whirlwind, he waved his hand, burst out laughing himself, as though he really found his position amusing, and fell to telling his story again.

“I scarcely slept all night, gentlemen. I was scribbling all night: you see, I thought of a trick. Ech, gentlemen, the very thought of it makes me ashamed. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it all had been done at night — I might have been drunk, blundered, been silly and talked nonsense — but not a bit of it! I woke up in the morning as soon as it was light, I hadn’t slept more than an hour or two, and was in the same mind. I dressed, I washed, I curled and pomaded my hair, put on my new dress coat and went straight off to spend the holiday with Fedosey Nikolaitch, and I kept the joke I had written in my hat. He met me again with open arms, and invited me again to his fatherly waistcoat. But I assumed an air of dignity. I had the joke I thought of the night before in my mind. I drew a step back.

“‘No, Fedosey Nikolaitch, but will you please read this letter,’ and I gave it him together with my daily report. And do you know what was in it? Why, ‘for such and such reasons the aforesaid Osip Mihalitch asks to be discharged,’ and under my petition I signed my full rank! Just think what a notion! Good Lord, it was the cleverest thing I could think of! As to-day was the first of April, I was pretending, for the sake of a joke, that my resentment was not over, that I had changed my mind in the night and was grumpy, and more offended than ever, as though to say, ‘My dear benefactor, I don’t want to know you nor your daughter either. I put the money in my pocket yesterday, so I am secure — so here’s my petition for a transfer to be discharged. I don’t care to serve under such a chief as Fedosey Nikolaitch. I want to go into a different office and then, maybe, I’ll inform.’ I pretended to be a regular scoundrel, I wanted to frighten them. And a nice way of frightening them, wasn’t it? A pretty thing, gentlemen, wasn’t it? You see, my heart had grown tender towards them since the day before, so I thought I would have a little joke at the family — I would tease the fatherly heart of Fedosey Nikolaitch.

“As soon as he took my letter and opened it, I saw his whole countenance change.

“‘What’s the meaning of this, Osip Mihalitch?’

“And like a little fool I said —

“‘The first of April! Many happy returns of the day, Fedosey Nikolaitch!’ just like a silly school-boy who hides behind his grandmother’s arm-chair and then shouts ‘oof’ into her ear suddenly at the top of his voice, meaning to frighten her. Yes ... yes, I feel quite ashamed to talk about it, gentlemen! No, I won’t tell you.”

“Nonsense! What happened then?”

“Nonsense, nonsense! Tell us! Yes, do,” rose on all sides.

“There was an outcry and a hullabaloo, my dear friends! Such exclamations of surprise! And ‘you mischievous fellow, you naughty man,’ and what a fright I had given them — and all so sweet that I felt ashamed and wondered how such a holy place could be profaned by a sinner like me.

“‘Well, my dear boy,’ piped the mamma, ‘you gave me such a fright that my legs are all of a tremble still, I can hardly stand on my feet! I ran to Masha as though I were crazy: “Mashenka,” I said, “what will become of us! See how your friend has turned out!” and I was unjust to you, my dear boy. You must forgive an old woman like me, I was taken in! Well, I thought, when he got home last night, he got home late, he began thinking and perhaps he fancied that we sent for him on purpose, yesterday, that we wanted to get hold of him. I turned cold at the thought! Give over, Mashenka, don’t go on winking at me — Osip Mihalitch isn’t a stranger! I am your mother, I am not likely to say any harm! Thank God, I am not twenty, but turned forty-five.’

“Well, gentlemen, I almost flopped at her feet on the spot. Again there were tears, again there were kisses. Jokes began. Fedosey Nikolaitch, too, thought he would make April fools of us. He told us the fiery bird had flown up with a letter in her diamond beak! He tried to take us in, too — didn’t we laugh? weren’t we touched? Foo! I feel ashamed to talk about it.

“Well, my good friends, the end is not far off now. One day passed, two, three, a week; I was regularly engaged to her. I should think so! The wedding rings were ordered, the day was fixed, only they did not want to make it public for a time — they wanted to wait for the Inspector’s visit to be over. I was all impatience for the Inspector’s arrival — my happiness depended upon him. I was in a hurry to get his visit over. And in the excitement and rejoicing Fedosey Nikolaitch threw all the work upon me: writing up the accounts, making up the reports, checking the books, balancing the totals. I found things in terrible disorder — everything had been neglected, there were muddles and irregularities everywhere. Well, I thought, I must do my best for my father-in-law! And he was ailing all the time, he was taken ill, it appears; he seemed to get worse day by day. And, indeed, I grew as thin as a rake myself, I was afraid I would break down. However, I finished the work grandly. I got things straight for him in time.

“Suddenly they sent a messenger for me. I ran headlong — what could it be? I saw my Fedosey Nikolaitch, his head bandaged up in a vinegar compress, frowning, sighing, and moaning.

“‘My dear boy, my son,’ he said, ‘if I die, to whom shall I leave you, my darlings?’

“His wife trailed in with all his children; Mashenka was in tears and I blubbered, too.

“‘Oh no,’ he said. ‘God will be merciful, He will not visit my transgressions on you.’

“Then he dismissed them all, told me to shut the door after them, and we were left alone, tête-à-tête.

“‘I have a favour to ask of you.’

“‘What favour?’

“‘Well, my dear boy, there is no rest for me even on my deathbed. I am in want.’

“‘How so?’ I positively flushed crimson, I could hardly speak.

“‘Why, I had to pay some of my own money into the Treasury. I grudge nothing for the public weal, my boy! I don’t grudge my life. Don’t you imagine any ill. I am sad to think that slanderers have blackened my name to you.... You were mistaken, my hair has gone white from grief. The Inspector is coming down upon us and Matveyev is seven thousand roubles short, and I shall have to answer for it.... Who else? It will be visited upon me, my boy: where were my eyes? And how can we get it from Matveyev? He has had trouble enough already: why should I bring the poor fellow to ruin?’

“‘Holy saints!’ I thought, ‘what a just man! What a heart!’

“‘And I don’t want to take my daughter’s money, which has been set aside for her dowry: that sum is sacred. I have money of my own, it’s true, but I have lent it all to friends — how is one to collect it all in a minute?’

“I simply fell on my knees before him. ‘My benefactor!’ I cried, ‘I’ve wronged you, I have injured you; it was slanderers who wrote against you; don’t break my heart, take back your money!’

“He looked at me and there were tears in his eyes. ‘That was just what I expected from you, my son. Get up! I forgave you at the time for the sake of my daughter’s tears — now my heart forgives you freely! You have healed my wounds. I bless you for all time!’

“Well, when he blessed me, gentlemen, I scurried home as soon as I could. I got the money:

“‘Here, father, here’s the money. I’ve only spent fifty roubles.’

“‘Well, that’s all right,’ he said. ‘But now every trifle may count; the time is short, write a report dated some days ago that you were short of money and had taken fifty roubles on account. I’ll tell the authorities you had it in advance.’

“Well, gentlemen, what do you think? I did write that report, too!”

“Well, what then? What happened? How did it end?”

“As soon as I had written the report, gentlemen, this is how it ended. The next day, in the early morning, an envelope with a government seal arrived. I looked at it and what had I got? The sack! That is, instructions to hand over my work, to deliver the accounts — and to go about my business!”

“How so?”

“That’s just what I cried at the top of my voice, ‘How so?’ Gentlemen, there was a ringing in my ears. I thought there was no special reason for it — but no, the Inspector had arrived in the town. My heart sank. ‘It’s not for nothing,’ I thought. And just as I was I rushed off to Fedosey Nikolaitch.

“‘How is this?’ I said.

“‘What do you mean?’ he said.

“‘Why, I am dismissed.’

“‘Dismissed? how?’

“‘Why, look at this!’

“‘Well, what of it?’

“‘Why, but I didn’t ask for it!’

“‘Yes, you did — you sent in your papers on the first of — April.’ (I had never taken that letter back!)

“‘Fedosey Nikolaitch! I can’t believe my ears, I can’t believe my eyes! Is this you?’

“‘It is me, why?’

“‘My God!’

“‘I am sorry, sir. I am very sorry that you made up your mind to retire from the service so early. A young man ought to be in the service, and you’ve begun to be a little light-headed of late. And as for your character, set your mind at rest: I’ll see to that! Your behaviour has always been so exemplary!’

“‘But that was a little joke, Fedosey Nikolaitch! I didn’t mean it, I just gave you the letter for your fatherly ... that’s all.’

“‘That’s all? A queer joke, sir! Does one jest with documents like that? Why, you are sometimes sent to Siberia for such jokes. Now, good-bye. I am busy. We have the Inspector here — the duties of the service before everything; you can kick up your heels, but we have to sit here at work. But I’ll get you a character —— Oh, another thing: I’ve just bought a house from Matveyev. We are moving in in a day or two. So I expect I shall not have the pleasure of seeing you at our new residence. Bon voyage!’

“I ran home.

“‘We are lost, granny!’

“She wailed, poor dear, and then I saw the page from Fedosey Nikolaitch’s running up with a note and a bird-cage, and in the cage there was a starling. In the fullness of my heart I had given her the starling. And in the note there were the words: ‘April 1st,’ and nothing more. What do you think of that, gentlemen?”

“What happened then? What happened then?”

“What then! I met Fedosey Nikolaitch once, I meant to tell him to his face he was a scoundrel.”


“But somehow I couldn’t bring myself to it, gentlemen.”

A Little Hero

At that time I was nearly eleven, I had been sent in July to spend the holiday in a village near Moscow with a relation of mine called T., whose house was full of guests, fifty, or perhaps more.... I don’t remember, I didn’t count. The house was full of noise and gaiety. It seemed as though it were a continual holiday, which would never end. It seemed as though our host had taken a vow to squander all his vast fortune as rapidly as possible, and he did indeed succeed, not long ago, in justifying this surmise, that is, in making a clean sweep of it all to the last stick.

Fresh visitors used to drive up every minute. Moscow was close by, in sight, so that those who drove away only made room for others, and the everlasting holiday went on its course. Festivities succeeded one another, and there was no end in sight to the entertainments. There were riding parties about the environs; excursions to the forest or the river; picnics, dinners in the open air; suppers on the great terrace of the house, bordered with three rows of gorgeous flowers that flooded with their fragrance the fresh night air, and illuminated the brilliant lights which made our ladies, who were almost every one of them pretty at all times, seem still more charming, with their faces excited by the impressions of the day, with their sparkling eyes, with their interchange of spritely conversation, their peals of ringing laughter; dancing, music, singing; if the sky were overcast tableaux vivants, charades, proverbs were arranged, private theatricals were got up. There were good talkers, story-tellers, wits.

Certain persons were prominent in the foreground. Of course backbiting and slander ran their course, as without them the world could not get on, and millions of persons would perish of boredom, like flies. But as I was at that time eleven I was absorbed by very different interests, and either failed to observe these people, or if I noticed anything, did not see it all. It was only afterwards that some things came back to my mind. My childish eyes could only see the brilliant side of the picture, and the general animation, splendour, and bustle — all that, seen and heard for the first time, made such an impression upon me that for the first few days, I was completely bewildered and my little head was in a whirl.

I keep speaking of my age, and of course I was a child, nothing more than a child. Many of these lovely ladies petted me without dreaming of considering my age. But strange to say, a sensation which I did not myself understand already had possession of me; something was already whispering in my heart, of which till then it had had no knowledge, no conception, and for some reason it began all at once to burn and throb, and often my face glowed with a sudden flush. At times I felt as it were abashed, and even resentful of the various privileges of my childish years. At other times a sort of wonder overwhelmed me, and I would go off into some corner where I could sit unseen, as though to take breath and remember something — something which it seemed to me I had remembered perfectly till then, and now had suddenly forgotten, something without which I could not show myself anywhere, and could not exist at all.

At last it seemed to me as though I were hiding something from every one. But nothing would have induced me to speak of it to any one, because, small boy that I was, I was ready to weep with shame. Soon in the midst of the vortex around me I was conscious of a certain loneliness. There were other children, but all were either much older or younger than I; besides, I was in no mood for them. Of course nothing would have happened to me if I had not been in an exceptional position. In the eyes of those charming ladies I was still the little unformed creature whom they at once liked to pet, and with whom they could play as though he were a little doll. One of them particularly, a fascinating, fair woman, with very thick luxuriant hair, such as I had never seen before and probably shall never see again, seemed to have taken a vow never to leave me in peace. I was confused, while she was amused by the laughter which she continually provoked from all around us by her wild, giddy pranks with me, and this apparently gave her immense enjoyment. At school among her schoolfellows she was probably nicknamed the Tease. She was wonderfully good-looking, and there was something in her beauty which drew one’s eyes from the first moment. And certainly she had nothing in common with the ordinary modest little fair girls, white as down and soft as white mice, or pastors’ daughters. She was not very tall, and was rather plump, but had soft, delicate, exquisitely cut features. There was something quick as lightning in her face, and indeed she was like fire all over, light, swift, alive. Her big open eyes seemed to flash sparks; they glittered like diamonds, and I would never exchange such blue sparkling eyes for any black ones, were they blacker than any Andalusian orb. And, indeed, my blonde was fully a match for the famous brunette whose praises were sung by a great and well-known poet, who, in a superb poem, vowed by all Castille that he was ready to break his bones to be permitted only to touch the mantle of his divinity with the tip of his finger. Add to that, that my charmer was the merriest in the world, the wildest giggler, playful as a child, although she had been married for the last five years. There was a continual laugh upon her lips, fresh as the morning rose that, with the first ray of sunshine, opens its fragrant crimson bud with the cool dewdrops still hanging heavy upon it.

I remember that the day after my arrival private theatricals were being got up. The drawing-room was, as they say, packed to overflowing; there was not a seat empty, and as I was somehow late I had to enjoy the performance standing. But the amusing play attracted me to move forwarder and forwarder, and unconsciously I made my way to the first row, where I stood at last leaning my elbows on the back of an armchair, in which a lady was sitting. It was my blonde divinity, but we had not yet made acquaintance. And I gazed, as it happened, at her marvellous, fascinating shoulders, plump and white as milk, though it did not matter to me in the least whether I stared at a woman’s exquisite shoulders or at the cap with flaming ribbons that covered the grey locks of a venerable lady in the front row. Near my blonde divinity sat a spinster lady not in her first youth, one of those who, as I chanced to observe later, always take refuge in the immediate neighbourhood of young and pretty women, selecting such as are not fond of cold-shouldering young men. But that is not the point, only this lady, noting my fixed gaze, bent down to her neighbour and with a simper whispered something in her ear. The blonde lady turned at once, and I remember that her glowing eyes so flashed upon me in the half dark, that, not prepared to meet them, I started as though I were scalded. The beauty smiled.

“Do you like what they are acting?” she asked, looking into my face with a shy and mocking expression.

“Yes,” I answered, still gazing at her with a sort of wonder that evidently pleased her.

“But why are you standing? You’ll get tired. Can’t you find a seat?”

“That’s just it, I can’t,” I answered, more occupied with my grievance than with the beauty’s sparkling eyes, and rejoicing in earnest at having found a kind heart to whom I could confide my troubles. “I have looked everywhere, but all the chairs are taken,” I added, as though complaining to her that all the chairs were taken.

“Come here,” she said briskly, quick to act on every decision, and, indeed, on every mad idea that flashed on her giddy brain, “come here, and sit on my knee.”

“On your knee,” I repeated, taken aback. I have mentioned already that I had begun to resent the privileges of childhood and to be ashamed of them in earnest. This lady, as though in derision, had gone ever so much further than the others. Moreover, I had always been a shy and bashful boy, and of late had begun to be particularly shy with women.

“Why yes, on my knee. Why don’t you want to sit on my knee?” she persisted, beginning to laugh more and more, so that at last she was simply giggling, goodness knows at what, perhaps at her freak, or perhaps at my confusion. But that was just what she wanted.

I flushed, and in my confusion looked round trying to find where to escape; but seeing my intention she managed to catch hold of my hand to prevent me from going away, and pulling it towards her, suddenly, quite unexpectedly, to my intense astonishment, squeezed it in her mischievous warm fingers, and began to pinch my fingers till they hurt so much that I had to do my very utmost not to cry out, and in my effort to control myself made the most absurd grimaces. I was, besides, moved to the greatest amazement, perplexity, and even horror, at the discovery that there were ladies so absurd and spiteful as to talk nonsense to boys, and even pinch their fingers, for no earthly reason and before everybody. Probably my unhappy face reflected my bewilderment, for the mischievous creature laughed in my face, as though she were crazy, and meantime she was pinching my fingers more and more vigorously. She was highly delighted in playing such a mischievous prank and completely mystifying and embarrassing a poor boy. My position was desperate. In the first place I was hot with shame, because almost every one near had turned round to look at us, some in wonder, others with laughter, grasping at once that the beauty was up to some mischief. I dreadfully wanted to scream, too, for she was wringing my fingers with positive fury just because I didn’t scream; while I, like a Spartan, made up my mind to endure the agony, afraid by crying out of causing a general fuss, which was more than I could face. In utter despair I began at last struggling with her, trying with all my might to pull away my hand, but my persecutor was much stronger than I was. At last I could bear it no longer, and uttered a shriek — that was all she was waiting for! Instantly she let me go, and turned away as though nothing had happened, as though it was not she who had played the trick but some one else, exactly like some schoolboy who, as soon as the master’s back is turned, plays some trick on some one near him, pinches some small weak boy, gives him a flip, a kick, or a nudge with his elbows, and instantly turns again, buries himself in his book and begins repeating his lesson, and so makes a fool of the infuriated teacher who flies down like a hawk at the noise.

But luckily for me the general attention was distracted at the moment by the masterly acting of our host, who was playing the chief part in the performance, some comedy of Scribe’s. Every one began to applaud; under cover of the noise I stole away and hurried to the furthest end of the room, from which, concealed behind a column, I looked with horror towards the place where the treacherous beauty was sitting. She was still laughing, holding her handkerchief to her lips. And for a long time she was continually turning round, looking for me in every direction, probably regretting that our silly tussle was so soon over, and hatching some other trick to play on me.

That was the beginning of our acquaintance, and from that evening she would never let me alone. She persecuted me without consideration or conscience, she became my tyrant and tormentor. The whole absurdity of her jokes with me lay in the fact that she pretended to be head over ears in love with me, and teased me before every one. Of course for a wild creature as I was all this was so tiresome and vexatious that it almost reduced me to tears, and I was sometimes put in such a difficult position that I was on the point of fighting with my treacherous admirer. My naïve confusion, my desperate distress, seemed to egg her on to persecute me more; she knew no mercy, while I did not know how to get away from her. The laughter which always accompanied us, and which she knew so well how to excite, roused her to fresh pranks. But at last people began to think that she went a little too far in her jests. And, indeed, as I remember now, she did take outrageous liberties with a child such as I was.

But that was her character; she was a spoilt child in every respect. I heard afterwards that her husband, a very short, very fat, and very red-faced man, very rich and apparently very much occupied with business, spoilt her more than any one. Always busy and flying round, he could not stay two hours in one place. Every day he drove into Moscow, sometimes twice in the day, and always, as he declared himself, on business. It would be hard to find a livelier and more good-natured face than his facetious but always well-bred countenance. He not only loved his wife to the point of weakness, softness: he simply worshipped her like an idol.

He did not restrain her in anything. She had masses of friends, male and female. In the first place, almost everybody liked her; and secondly, the feather-headed creature was not herself over particular in the choice of her friends, though there was a much more serious foundation to her character than might be supposed from what I have just said about her. But of all her friends she liked best of all one young lady, a distant relation, who was also of our party now. There existed between them a tender and subtle affection, one of those attachments which sometimes spring up at the meeting of two dispositions often the very opposite of each other, of which one is deeper, purer and more austere, while the other, with lofty humility, and generous self-criticism, lovingly gives way to the other, conscious of the friend’s superiority and cherishing the friendship as a happiness. Then begins that tender and noble subtlety in the relations of such characters, love and infinite indulgence on the one side, on the other love and respect — a respect approaching awe, approaching anxiety as to the impression made on the friend so highly prized, and an eager, jealous desire to get closer and closer to that friend’s heart in every step in life.

These two friends were of the same age, but there was an immense difference between them in everything — in looks, to begin with. Madame M. was also very handsome, but there was something special in her beauty that strikingly distinguished her from the crowd of pretty women; there was something in her face that at once drew the affection of all to her, or rather, which aroused a generous and lofty feeling of kindliness in every one who met her. There are such happy faces. At her side everyone grew as it were better, freer, more cordial; and yet her big mournful eyes, full of fire and vigour, had a timid and anxious look, as though every minute dreading something antagonistic and menacing, and this strange timidity at times cast so mournful a shade over her mild, gentle features which recalled the serene faces of Italian Madonnas, that looking at her one soon became oneself sad, as though for some trouble of one’s own. The pale, thin face, in which, through the irreproachable beauty of the pure, regular lines and the mournful severity of some mute hidden grief, there often flitted the clear looks of early childhood, telling of trustful years and perhaps simple-hearted happiness in the recent past, the gentle but diffident, hesitating smile, all aroused such unaccountable sympathy for her that every heart was unconsciously stirred with a sweet and warm anxiety that powerfully interceded on her behalf even at a distance, and made even strangers feel akin to her. But the lovely creature seemed silent and reserved, though no one could have been more attentive and loving if any one needed sympathy. There are women who are like sisters of mercy in life. Nothing can be hidden from them, nothing, at least, that is a sore or wound of the heart. Any one who is suffering may go boldly and hopefully to them without fear of being a burden, for few men know the infinite patience of love, compassion and forgiveness that may be found in some women’s hearts. Perfect treasures of sympathy, consolation and hope are laid up in these pure hearts, so often full of suffering of their own — for a heart which loves much grieves much — though their wounds are carefully hidden from the curious eye, for deep sadness is most often mute and concealed. They are not dismayed by the depth of the wound, nor by its foulness and its stench; any one who comes to them is deserving of help; they are, as it were, born for heroism.... Mme. M. was tall, supple and graceful, but rather thin. All her movements seemed somehow irregular, at times slow, smooth, and even dignified, at times childishly hasty; and yet, at the same time, there was a sort of timid humility in her gestures, something tremulous and defenceless, though it neither desired nor asked for protection.

I have mentioned already that the outrageous teasing of the treacherous fair lady abashed me, flabbergasted me, and wounded me to the quick. But there was for that another secret, strange and foolish reason, which I concealed, at which I shuddered as at a skeleton. At the very thought of it, brooding, utterly alone and overwhelmed, in some dark mysterious corner to which the inquisitorial mocking eye of the blue-eyed rogue could not penetrate, I almost gasped with confusion, shame and fear — in short, I was in love; that perhaps is nonsense, that could hardly have been. But why was it, of all the faces surrounding me, only her face caught my attention? Why was it that it was only she whom I cared to follow with my eyes, though I certainly had no inclination in those days to watch ladies and seek their acquaintance? This happened most frequently on the evenings when we were all kept indoors by bad weather, and when, lonely, hiding in some corner of the big drawing-room, I stared about me aimlessly, unable to find anything to do, for except my teasing ladies, few people ever addressed me, and I was insufferably bored on such evenings. Then I stared at the people round me, listened to the conversation, of which I often did not understand one word, and at that time the mild eyes, the gentle smile and lovely face of Mme. M. (for she was the object of my passion) for some reason caught my fascinated attention; and the strange vague, but unutterably sweet impression remained with me. Often for hours together I could not tear myself away from her; I studied every gesture, every movement she made, listened to every vibration of her rich, silvery, but rather muffled voice; but strange to say, as the result of all my observations, I felt, mixed with a sweet and timid impression, a feeling of intense curiosity. It seemed as though I were on the verge of some mystery.

Nothing distressed me so much as being mocked at in the presence of Mme. M. This mockery and humorous persecution, as I thought, humiliated me. And when there was a general burst of laughter at my expense, in which Mme. M. sometimes could not help joining, in despair, beside myself with misery, I used to tear myself from my tormentor and run away upstairs, where I remained in solitude the rest of the day, not daring to show my face in the drawing-room. I did not yet, however, understand my shame nor my agitation; the whole process went on in me unconsciously. I had hardly said two words to Mme. M., and indeed I should not have dared to. But one evening after an unbearable day I turned back from an expedition with the rest of the company. I was horribly tired and made my way home across the garden. On a seat in a secluded avenue I saw Mme. M. She was sitting quite alone, as though she had purposely chosen this solitary spot, her head was drooping and she was mechanically twisting her handkerchief. She was so lost in thought that she did not hear me till I reached her.

Noticing me, she got up quickly from her seat, turned round, and I saw her hurriedly wipe her eyes with her handkerchief. She was crying. Drying her eyes, she smiled to me and walked back with me to the house. I don’t remember what we talked about; but she frequently sent me off on one pretext or another, to pick a flower, or to see who was riding in the next avenue. And when I walked away from her, she at once put her handkerchief to her eyes again and wiped away rebellious tears, which would persist in rising again and again from her heart and dropping from her poor eyes. I realized that I was very much in her way when she sent me off so often, and, indeed, she saw herself that I noticed it all, but yet could not control herself, and that made my heart ache more and more for her. I raged at myself at that moment and was almost in despair; cursed myself for my awkwardness and lack of resource, and at the same time did not know how to leave her tactfully, without betraying that I had noticed her distress, but walked beside her in mournful bewilderment, almost in alarm, utterly at a loss and unable to find a single word to keep up our scanty conversation.

This meeting made such an impression on me that I stealthily watched Mme. M. the whole evening with eager curiosity, and never took my eyes off her. But it happened that she twice caught me unawares watching her, and on the second occasion, noticing me, she gave me a smile. It was the only time she smiled that evening. The look of sadness had not left her face, which was now very pale. She spent the whole evening talking to an ill-natured and quarrelsome old lady, whom nobody liked owing to her spying and backbiting habits, but of whom every one was afraid, and consequently every one felt obliged to be polite to her....

At ten o’clock Mme. M.’s husband arrived. Till that moment I watched her very attentively, never taking my eyes off her mournful face; now at the unexpected entrance of her husband I saw her start, and her pale face turned suddenly as white as a handkerchief. It was so noticeable that other people observed it. I overheard a fragmentary conversation from which I guessed that Mme. M. was not quite happy; they said her husband was as jealous as an Arab, not from love, but from vanity. He was before all things a European, a modern man, who sampled the newest ideas and prided himself upon them. In appearance he was a tall, dark-haired, particularly thick-set man, with European whiskers, with a self-satisfied, red face, with teeth white as sugar, and with an irreproachably gentlemanly deportment. He was called a clever man. Such is the name given in certain circles to a peculiar species of mankind which grows fat at other people’s expense, which does absolutely nothing and has no desire to do anything, and whose heart has turned into a lump of fat from everlasting slothfulness and idleness. You continually hear from such men that there is nothing they can do owing to certain very complicated and hostile circumstances, which “thwart their genius,” and that it was “sad to see the waste of their talents.” This is a fine phrase of theirs, their mot d’ordre, their watchword, a phrase which these well-fed, fat friends of ours bring out at every minute, so that it has long ago bored us as an arrant Tartuffism, an empty form of words. Some, however, of these amusing creatures, who cannot succeed in finding anything to do — though, indeed, they never seek it — try to make every one believe that they have not a lump of fat for a heart, but on the contrary, something very deep, though what precisely the greatest surgeon would hardly venture to decide — from civility, of course. These gentlemen make their way in the world through the fact that all their instincts are bent in the direction of coarse sneering, short-sighted censure and immense conceit. Since they have nothing else to do but note and emphasize the mistakes and weaknesses of others, and as they have precisely as much good feeling as an oyster, it is not difficult for them with such powers of self-preservation to get on with people fairly successfully. They pride themselves extremely upon that. They are, for instance, as good as persuaded that almost the whole world owes them something; that it is theirs, like an oyster which they keep in reserve; that all are fools except themselves; that every one is like an orange or a sponge, which they will squeeze as soon as they want the juice; that they are the masters everywhere, and that all this acceptable state of affairs is solely due to the fact that they are people of so much intellect and character. In their measureless conceit they do not admit any defects in themselves, they are like that species of practical rogues, innate Tartuffes and Falstaffs, who are such thorough rogues that at last they have come to believe that that is as it should be, that is, that they should spend their lives in knavishness; they have so often assured every one that they are honest men, that they have come to believe that they are honest men, and that their roguery is honesty. They are never capable of inner judgment before their conscience, of generous self-criticism; for some things they are too fat. Their own priceless personality, their Baal and Moloch, their magnificent ego is always in their foreground everywhere. All nature, the whole world for them is no more than a splendid mirror created for the little god to admire himself continually in it, and to see no one and nothing behind himself; so it is not strange that he sees everything in the world in such a hideous light. He has a phrase in readiness for everything and — the acme of ingenuity on his part — the most fashionable phrase. It is just these people, indeed, who help to make the fashion, proclaiming at every cross-road an idea in which they scent success. A fine nose is just what they have for sniffing a fashionable phrase and making it their own before other people get hold of it, so that it seems to have originated with them. They have a particular store of phrases for proclaiming their profound sympathy for humanity, for defining what is the most correct and rational form of philanthropy, and continually attacking romanticism, in other words, everything fine and true, each atom of which is more precious than all their mollusc tribe. But they are too coarse to recognize the truth in an indirect, roundabout and unfinished form, and they reject everything that is immature, still fermenting and unstable. The well-nourished man has spent all his life in merry-making, with everything provided, has done nothing himself and does not know how hard every sort of work is, and so woe betide you if you jar upon his fat feelings by any sort of roughness; he’ll never forgive you for that, he will always remember it and will gladly avenge it. The long and short of it is, that my hero is neither more nor less than a gigantic, incredibly swollen bag, full of sentences, fashionable phrases, and labels of all sorts and kinds.

M. M., however, had a speciality and was a very remarkable man; he was a wit, good talker and story-teller, and there was always a circle round him in every drawing-room. That evening he was particularly successful in making an impression. He took possession of the conversation; he was in his best form, gay, pleased at something, and he compelled the attention of all; but Mme. M. looked all the time as though she were ill; her face was so sad that I fancied every minute that tears would begin quivering on her long eyelashes. All this, as I have said, impressed me extremely and made me wonder. I went away with a feeling of strange curiosity, and dreamed all night of M. M., though till then I had rarely had dreams.

Next day, early in the morning, I was summoned to a rehearsal of some tableaux vivants in which I had to take part. The tableaux vivants, theatricals, and afterwards a dance were all fixed for the same evening, five days later — the birthday of our host’s younger daughter. To this entertainment, which was almost improvised, another hundred guests were invited from Moscow and from surrounding villas, so that there was a great deal of fuss, bustle and commotion. The rehearsal, or rather review of the costumes, was fixed so early in the morning because our manager, a well-known artist, a friend of our host’s, who had consented through affection for him to undertake the arrangement of the tableaux and the training of us for them, was in haste now to get to Moscow to purchase properties and to make final preparations for the fête, as there was no time to lose. I took part in one tableau with Mme. M. It was a scene from mediæval life and was called “The Lady of the Castle and Her Page.”

I felt unutterably confused on meeting Mme. M. at the rehearsal. I kept feeling that she would at once read in my eyes all the reflections, the doubts, the surmises, that had arisen in my mind since the previous day. I fancied, too, that I was, as it were, to blame in regard to her, for having come upon her tears the day before and hindered her grieving, so that she could hardly help looking at me askance, as an unpleasant witness and unforgiven sharer of her secret. But, thank goodness, it went off without any great trouble; I was simply not noticed. I think she had no thoughts to spare for me or for the rehearsal; she was absent-minded, sad and gloomily thoughtful; it was evident that she was worried by some great anxiety. As soon as my part was over I ran away to change my clothes, and ten minutes later came out on the verandah into the garden. Almost at the same time Mme. M. came out by another door, and immediately afterwards coming towards us appeared her self-satisfied husband, who was returning from the garden, after just escorting into it quite a crowd of ladies and there handing them over to a competent cavaliere servente. The meeting of the husband and wife was evidently unexpected. Mme. M., I don’t know why, grew suddenly confused, and a faint trace of vexation was betrayed in her impatient movement. The husband, who had been carelessly whistling an air and with an air of profundity stroking his whiskers, now, on meeting his wife, frowned and scrutinized her, as I remember now, with a markedly inquisitorial stare.

“You are going into the garden?” he asked, noticing the parasol and book in her hand.

“No, into the copse,” she said, with a slight flush.


“With him,” said Mme. M., pointing to me. “I always go a walk alone in the morning,” she added, speaking in an uncertain, hesitating voice, as people do when they tell their first lie.

“H’m ... and I have just taken the whole party there. They have all met there together in the flower arbour to see N. off. He is going away, you know.... Something has gone wrong in Odessa. Your cousin” (he meant the fair beauty) “is laughing and crying at the same time; there is no making her out. She says, though, that you are angry with N. about something and so wouldn’t go and see him off. Nonsense, of course?”

“She’s laughing,” said Mme. M., coming down the verandah steps.

“So this is your daily cavaliere servente,” added M. M., with a wry smile, turning his lorgnette upon me.

“Page!” I cried, angered by the lorgnette and the jeer; and laughing straight in his face I jumped down the three steps of the verandah at one bound.

“A pleasant walk,” muttered M. M., and went on his way.

Of course, I immediately joined Mme. M. as soon as she indicated me to her husband, and looked as though she had invited me to do so an hour before, and as though I had been accompanying her on her walks every morning for the last month. But I could not make out why she was so confused, so embarrassed, and what was in her mind when she brought herself to have recourse to her little lie? Why had she not simply said that she was going alone? I did not know how to look at her, but overwhelmed with wonder I began by degrees very naïvely peeping into her face; but just as an hour before at the rehearsal she did not notice either my looks or my mute question. The same anxiety, only more intense and more distinct, was apparent in her face, in her agitation, in her walk. She was in haste, and walked more and more quickly and kept looking uneasily down every avenue, down every path in the wood that led in the direction of the garden. And I, too, was expecting something. Suddenly there was the sound of horses’ hoofs behind us. It was the whole party of ladies and gentlemen on horseback escorting N., the gentleman who was so suddenly deserting us.

Among the ladies was my fair tormentor, of whom M. M. had told us that she was in tears. But characteristically she was laughing like a child, and was galloping briskly on a splendid bay horse. On reaching us N. took off his hat, but did not stop, nor say one word to Mme. M. Soon all the cavalcade disappeared from our sight. I glanced at Mme. M. and almost cried out in wonder; she was standing as white as a handkerchief and big tears were gushing from her eyes. By chance our eyes met: Mme. M. suddenly flushed and turned away for an instant, and a distinct look of uneasiness and vexation flitted across her face. I was in the way, worse even than last time, that was clearer than day, but how was I to get away?

And, as though guessing my difficulty, Mme. M. opened the book which she had in her hand, and colouring and evidently trying not to look at me she said, as though she had only suddenly realized it —

“Ah! It is the second part. I’ve made a mistake; please bring me the first.”

I could not but understand. My part was over, and I could not have been more directly dismissed.

I ran off with her book and did not come back. The first part lay undisturbed on the table that morning....

But I was not myself; in my heart there was a sort of haunting terror. I did my utmost not to meet Mme. M. But I looked with wild curiosity at the self-satisfied person of M. M., as though there must be something special about him now. I don’t understand what was the meaning of my absurd curiosity. I only remember that I was strangely perplexed by all that I had chanced to see that morning. But the day was only just beginning and it was fruitful in events for me.

Dinner was very early that day. An expedition to a neighbouring hamlet to see a village festival that was taking place there had been fixed for the evening, and so it was necessary to be in time to get ready. I had been dreaming for the last three days of this excursion, anticipating all sorts of delights. Almost all the company gathered together on the verandah for coffee. I cautiously followed the others and concealed myself behind the third row of chairs. I was attracted by curiosity, and yet I was very anxious not to be seen by Mme. M. But as luck would have it I was not far from my fair tormentor. Something miraculous and incredible was happening to her that day; she looked twice as handsome. I don’t know how and why this happens, but such miracles are by no means rare with women. There was with us at this moment a new guest, a tall, pale-faced young man, the official admirer of our fair beauty, who had just arrived from Moscow as though on purpose to replace N., of whom rumour said that he was desperately in love with the same lady. As for the newly arrived guest, he had for a long time past been on the same terms as Benedick with Beatrice, in Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing. In short, the fair beauty was in her very best form that day. Her chatter and her jests were so full of grace, so trustfully naïve, so innocently careless, she was persuaded of the general enthusiasm with such graceful self-confidence that she really was all the time the centre of peculiar adoration. A throng of surprised and admiring listeners was continually round her, and she had never been so fascinating. Every word she uttered was marvellous and seductive, was caught up and handed round in the circle, and not one word, one jest, one sally was lost. I fancy no one had expected from her such taste, such brilliance, such wit. Her best qualities were, as a rule, buried under the most harum-scarum wilfulness, the most schoolboyish pranks, almost verging on buffoonery; they were rarely noticed, and, when they were, were hardly believed in, so that now her extraordinary brilliancy was accompanied by an eager whisper of amazement among all. There was, however, one peculiar and rather delicate circumstance, judging at least by the part in it played by Mme. M.’s husband, which contributed to her success. The madcap ventured — and I must add to the satisfaction of almost every one or, at any rate, to the satisfaction of all the young people — to make a furious attack upon him, owing to many causes, probably of great consequence in her eyes. She carried on with him a regular cross-fire of witticisms, of mocking and sarcastic sallies, of that most illusive and treacherous kind that, smoothly wrapped up on the surface, hit the mark without giving the victim anything to lay hold of, and exhaust him in fruitless efforts to repel the attack, reducing him to fury and comic despair.

I don’t know for certain, but I fancy the whole proceeding was not improvised but premeditated. This desperate duel had begun earlier, at dinner. I call it desperate because M. M. was not quick to surrender. He had to call upon all his presence of mind, all his sharp wit and rare resourcefulness not to be completely covered with ignominy. The conflict was accompanied by the continual and irrepressible laughter of all who witnessed and took part in it. That day was for him very different from the day before. It was noticeable that Mme. M. several times did her utmost to stop her indiscreet friend, who was certainly trying to depict the jealous husband in the most grotesque and absurd guise, in the guise of “a bluebeard” it must be supposed, judging from all probabilities, from what has remained in my memory and finally from the part which I myself was destined to play in the affair.

I was drawn into it in a most absurd manner, quite unexpectedly. And as ill-luck would have it at that moment I was standing where I could be seen, suspecting no evil and actually forgetting the precautions I had so long practised. Suddenly I was brought into the foreground as a sworn foe and natural rival of M. M., as desperately in love with his wife, of which my persecutress vowed and swore that she had proofs, saying that only that morning she had seen in the copse....

But before she had time to finish I broke in at the most desperate minute. That minute was so diabolically calculated, was so treacherously prepared to lead up to its finale, its ludicrous dénouement, and was brought out with such killing humour that a perfect outburst of irrepressible mirth saluted this last sally. And though even at the time I guessed that mine was not the most unpleasant part in the performance, yet I was so confused, so irritated and alarmed that, full of misery and despair, gasping with shame and tears, I dashed through two rows of chairs, stepped forward, and addressing my tormentor, cried, in a voice broken with tears and indignation:

“Aren’t you ashamed ... aloud ... before all the ladies ... to tell such a wicked ... lie?... Like a small child ... before all these men.... What will they say?... A big girl like you ... and married!...”

But I could not go on, there was a deafening roar of applause. My outburst created a perfect furore. My naïve gesture, my tears, and especially the fact that I seemed to be defending M. M., all this provoked such fiendish laughter, that even now I cannot help laughing at the mere recollection of it. I was overcome with confusion, senseless with horror and, burning with shame, hiding my face in my hands rushed away, knocked a tray out of the hands of a footman who was coming in at the door, and flew upstairs to my own room. I pulled out the key, which was on the outside of the door, and locked myself in. I did well, for there was a hue and cry after me. Before a minute had passed my door was besieged by a mob of the prettiest ladies. I heard their ringing laughter, their incessant chatter, their trilling voices; they were all twittering at once, like swallows. All of them, every one of them, begged and besought me to open the door, if only for a moment; swore that no harm should come to me, only that they wanted to smother me with kisses. But ... what could be more horrible than this novel threat? I simply burned with shame the other side of the door, hiding my face in the pillows and did not open, did not even respond. The ladies kept up their knocking for a long time, but I was deaf and obdurate as only a boy of eleven could be.

But what could I do now? Everything was laid bare, everything had been exposed, everything I had so jealously guarded and concealed!... Everlasting disgrace and shame had fallen on me! But it is true that I could not myself have said why I was frightened and what I wanted to hide; yet I was frightened of something and had trembled like a leaf at the thought of that something’s being discovered. Only till that minute I had not known what it was: whether it was good or bad, splendid or shameful, praiseworthy or reprehensible? Now in my distress, in the misery that had been forced upon me, I learned that it was absurd and shameful. Instinctively I felt at the same time that this verdict was false, inhuman, and coarse; but I was crushed, annihilated; consciousness seemed checked in me and thrown into confusion; I could not stand up against that verdict, nor criticize it properly. I was befogged; I only felt that my heart had been inhumanly and shamelessly wounded, and was brimming over with impotent tears. I was irritated; but I was boiling with indignation and hate such as I had never felt before, for it was the first time in my life that I had known real sorrow, insult, and injury — and it was truly that, without any exaggeration. The first untried, unformed feeling had been so coarsely handled in me, a child. The first fragrant, virginal modesty had been so soon exposed and insulted, and the first and perhaps very real and æsthetic impression had been so outraged. Of course there was much my persecutors did not know and did not divine in my sufferings. One circumstance, which I had not succeeded in analysing till then, of which I had been as it were afraid, partly entered into it. I went on lying on my bed in despair and misery, hiding my face in my pillow, and I was alternately feverish and shivery. I was tormented by two questions: first, what had the wretched fair beauty seen, and, in fact, what could she have seen that morning in the copse between Mme. M. and me? And secondly, how could I now look Mme. M. in the face without dying on the spot of shame and despair?

An extraordinary noise in the yard roused me at last from the state of semi-consciousness into which I had fallen. I got up and went to the window. The whole yard was packed with carriages, saddle-horses, and bustling servants. It seemed that they were all setting off; some of the gentlemen had already mounted their horses, others were taking their places in the carriages.... Then I remembered the expedition to the village fête, and little by little an uneasiness came over me; I began anxiously looking for my pony in the yard; but there was no pony there, so they must have forgotten me. I could not restrain myself, and rushed headlong downstairs, thinking no more of unpleasant meetings or my recent ignominy....

Terrible news awaited me. There was neither a horse nor seat in any of the carriages to spare for me; everything had been arranged, all the seats were taken, and I was forced to give place to others. Overwhelmed by this fresh blow, I stood on the steps and looked mournfully at the long rows of coaches, carriages, and chaises, in which there was not the tiniest corner left for me, and at the smartly dressed ladies, whose horses were restlessly curvetting.

One of the gentlemen was late. They were only waiting for his arrival to set off. His horse was standing at the door, champing the bit, pawing the earth with his hoofs, and at every moment starting and rearing. Two stable-boys were carefully holding him by the bridle, and every one else apprehensively stood at a respectful distance from him.

A most vexatious circumstance had occurred, which prevented my going. In addition to the fact that new visitors had arrived, filling up all the seats, two of the horses had fallen ill, one of them being my pony. But I was not the only person to suffer: it appeared that there was no horse for our new visitor, the pale-faced young man of whom I have spoken already. To get over this difficulty our host had been obliged to have recourse to the extreme step of offering his fiery unbroken stallion, adding, to satisfy his conscience, that it was impossible to ride him, and that they had long intended to sell the beast for its vicious character, if only a purchaser could be found.

But, in spite of his warning, the visitor declared that he was a good horseman, and in any case ready to mount anything rather than not go. Our host said no more, but now I fancied that a sly and ambiguous smile was straying on his lips. He waited for the gentleman who had spoken so well of his own horsemanship, and stood, without mounting his horse, impatiently rubbing his hands and continually glancing towards the door; some similar feeling seemed shared by the two stable-boys, who were holding the stallion, almost breathless with pride at seeing themselves before the whole company in charge of a horse which might any minute kill a man for no reason whatever. Something akin to their master’s sly smile gleamed, too, in their eyes, which were round with expectation, and fixed upon the door from which the bold visitor was to appear. The horse himself, too, behaved as though he were in league with our host and the stable-boys. He bore himself proudly and haughtily, as though he felt that he were being watched by several dozen curious eyes and were glorying in his evil reputation exactly as some incorrigible rogue might glory in his criminal exploits. He seemed to be defying the bold man who would venture to curb his independence.

That bold man did at last make his appearance. Conscience-stricken at having kept every one waiting, hurriedly drawing on his gloves, he came forward without looking at anything, ran down the steps, and only raised his eyes as he stretched out his hand to seize the mane of the waiting horse. But he was at once disconcerted by his frantic rearing and a warning scream from the frightened spectators. The young man stepped back and looked in perplexity at the vicious horse, which was quivering all over, snorting with anger, and rolling his bloodshot eyes ferociously, continually rearing on his hind legs and flinging up his fore legs as though he meant to bolt into the air and carry the two stable-boys with him. For a minute the young man stood completely nonplussed; then, flushing slightly with some embarrassment, he raised his eyes and looked at the frightened ladies.

“A very fine horse!” he said, as though to himself, “and to my thinking it ought to be a great pleasure to ride him; but ... but do you know, I think I won’t go?” he concluded, turning to our host with the broad, good-natured smile which so suited his kind and clever face.

“Yet I consider you are an excellent horseman, I assure you,” answered the owner of the unapproachable horse, delighted, and he warmly and even gratefully pressed the young man’s hand, “just because from the first moment you saw the sort of brute you had to deal with,” he added with dignity. “Would you believe me, though I have served twenty-three years in the hussars, yet I’ve had the pleasure of being laid on the ground three times, thanks to that beast, that is, as often as I mounted the useless animal. Tancred, my boy, there’s no one here fit for you! Your rider, it seems, must be some Ilya Muromets, and he must be sitting quiet now in the village of Kapatcharovo, waiting for your teeth to fall out. Come, take him away, he has frightened people enough. It was a waste of time to bring him out,” he cried, rubbing his hands complacently.

It must be observed that Tancred was no sort of use to his master and simply ate corn for nothing; moreover, the old hussar had lost his reputation for a knowledge of horseflesh by paying a fabulous sum for the worthless beast, which he had purchased only for his beauty ... yet he was delighted now that Tancred had kept up his reputation, had disposed of another rider, and so had drawn closer on himself fresh senseless laurels.

“So you are not going?” cried the blonde beauty, who was particularly anxious that her cavaliere servente should be in attendance on this occasion. “Surely you are not frightened?”

“Upon my word I am,” answered the young man.

“Are you in earnest?”

“Why, do you want me to break my neck?”

“Then make haste and get on my horse; don’t be afraid, it is very quiet. We won’t delay them, they can change the saddles in a minute! I’ll try to take yours. Surely Tancred can’t always be so unruly.”

No sooner said than done, the madcap leaped out of the saddle and was standing before us as she finished the last sentence.

“You don’t know Tancred, if you think he will allow your wretched side-saddle to be put on him! Besides, I would not let you break your neck, it would be a pity!” said our host, at that moment of inward gratification affecting, as his habit was, a studied brusqueness and even coarseness of speech which he thought in keeping with a jolly good fellow and an old soldier, and which he imagined to be particularly attractive to the ladies. This was one of his favourite fancies, his favourite whim, with which we were all familiar.

“Well, cry-baby, wouldn’t you like to have a try? You wanted so much to go?” said the valiant horsewoman, noticing me and pointing tauntingly at Tancred, because I had been so imprudent as to catch her eye, and she would not let me go without a biting word, that she might not have dismounted from her horse absolutely for nothing.

“I expect you are not such a —— We all know you are a hero and would be ashamed to be afraid; especially when you will be looked at, you fine page,” she added, with a fleeting glance at Mme. M., whose carriage was the nearest to the entrance.

A rush of hatred and vengeance had flooded my heart, when the fair Amazon had approached us with the intention of mounting Tancred.... But I cannot describe what I felt at this unexpected challenge from the madcap. Everything was dark before my eyes when I saw her glance at Mme. M. For an instant an idea flashed through my mind ... but it was only a moment, less than a moment, like a flash of gunpowder; perhaps it was the last straw, and I suddenly now was moved to rage as my spirit rose, so that I longed to put all my enemies to utter confusion, and to revenge myself on all of them and before everyone, by showing the sort of person I was. Or whether by some miracle, some prompting from mediæval history, of which I had known nothing till then, sent whirling through my giddy brain, images of tournaments, paladins, heroes, lovely ladies, the clash of swords, shouts and the applause of the crowd, and amidst those shouts the timid cry of a frightened heart, which moves the proud soul more sweetly than victory and fame — I don’t know whether all this romantic nonsense was in my head at the time, or whether, more likely, only the first dawning of the inevitable nonsense that was in store for me in the future, anyway, I felt that my hour had come. My heart leaped and shuddered, and I don’t remember how, at one bound, I was down the steps and beside Tancred.

“You think I am afraid?” I cried, boldly and proudly, in such a fever that I could hardly see, breathless with excitement, and flushing till the tears scalded my cheeks. “Well, you shall see!” And clutching at Tancred’s mane I put my foot in the stirrup before they had time to make a movement to stop me; but at that instant Tancred reared, jerked his head, and with a mighty bound forward wrenched himself out of the hands of the petrified stable-boys, and dashed off like a hurricane, while every one cried out in horror.

Goodness knows how I got my other leg over the horse while it was in full gallop; I can’t imagine, either, how I did not lose hold of the reins. Tancred bore me beyond the trellis gate, turned sharply to the right and flew along beside the fence regardless of the road. Only at that moment I heard behind me a shout from fifty voices, and that shout was echoed in my swooning heart with such a feeling of pride and pleasure that I shall never forget that mad moment of my boyhood. All the blood rushed to my head, bewildering me and overpowering my fears. I was beside myself. There certainly was, as I remember it now, something of the knight-errant about the exploit.

My knightly exploits, however, were all over in an instant or it would have gone badly with the knight. And, indeed, I do not know how I escaped as it was. I did know how to ride, I had been taught. But my pony was more like a sheep than a riding horse. No doubt I should have been thrown off Tancred if he had had time to throw me, but after galloping fifty paces he suddenly took fright at a huge stone which lay across the road and bolted back. He turned sharply, galloping at full speed, so that it is a puzzle to me even now that I was not sent spinning out of the saddle and flying like a ball for twenty feet, that I was not dashed to pieces, and that Tancred did not dislocate his leg by such a sudden turn. He rushed back to the gate, tossing his head furiously, bounding from side to side as though drunk with rage, flinging his legs at random in the air, and at every leap trying to shake me off his back as though a tiger had leaped on him and were thrusting its teeth and claws into his back.

In another instant I should have flown off; I was falling; but several gentlemen flew to my rescue. Two of them intercepted the way into the open country, two others galloped up, closing in upon Tancred so that their horses’ sides almost crushed my legs, and both of them caught him by the bridle. A few seconds later we were back at the steps.

They lifted me down from the horse, pale and scarcely breathing. I was shaking like a blade of grass in the wind; it was the same with Tancred, who was standing, his hoofs as it were thrust into the earth and his whole body thrown back, puffing his fiery breath from red and streaming nostrils, twitching and quivering all over, seeming overwhelmed with wounded pride and anger at a child’s being so bold with impunity. All around me I heard cries of bewilderment, surprise, and alarm.

At that moment my straying eyes caught those of Mme. M., who looked pale and agitated, and — I can never forget that moment — in one instant my face was flooded with colour, glowed and burned like fire; I don’t know what happened to me, but confused and frightened by my own feelings I timidly dropped my eyes to the ground. But my glance was noticed, it was caught, it was stolen from me. All eyes turned on Mme. M., and finding herself unawares the centre of attention, she, too, flushed like a child from some naïve and involuntary feeling and made an unsuccessful effort to cover her confusion by laughing....

All this, of course, was very absurd-looking from outside, but at that moment an extremely naïve and unexpected circumstance saved me from being laughed at by every one, and gave a special colour to the whole adventure. The lovely persecutor who was the instigator of the whole escapade, and who till then had been my irreconcileable foe, suddenly rushed up to embrace and kiss me. She had hardly been able to believe her eyes when she saw me dare to accept her challenge, and pick up the gauntlet she had flung at me by glancing at Mme. M. She had almost died of terror and self-reproach when I had flown off on Tancred; now, when it was all over, and particularly when she caught the glance at Mme. M., my confusion and my sudden flush of colour, when the romantic strain in her frivolous little head had given a new secret, unspoken significance to the moment — she was moved to such enthusiasm over my “knightliness,” that touched, joyful and proud of me, she rushed up and pressed me to her bosom. She lifted the most naïve, stern-looking little face, on which there quivered and gleamed two little crystal tears, and gazing at the crowd that thronged about her said in a grave, earnest voice, such as they had never heard her use before, pointing to me: “Mais c’est très sérieux, messieurs, ne riez pas!” She did not notice that all were standing, as though fascinated, admiring her bright enthusiasm. Her swift, unexpected action, her earnest little face, the simple-hearted naïveté, the unexpected feeling betrayed by the tears that welled in her invariably laughter-loving eyes, were such a surprise that every one stood before her as though electrified by her expression, her rapid, fiery words and gestures. It seemed as though no one could take his eyes off her for fear of missing that rare moment in her enthusiastic face. Even our host flushed crimson as a tulip, and people declared that they heard him confess afterwards that “to his shame” he had been in love for a whole minute with his charming guest. Well, of course, after this I was a knight, a hero.

“De Lorge! Toggenburg!” was heard in the crowd.

There was a sound of applause.

“Hurrah for the rising generation!” added the host.

“But he is coming with us, he certainly must come with us,” said the beauty; “we will find him a place, we must find him a place. He shall sit beside me, on my knee ... but no, no! That’s a mistake!..,” she corrected herself, laughing, unable to restrain her mirth at our first encounter. But as she laughed she stroked my hand tenderly, doing all she could to soften me, that I might not be offended.

“Of course, of course,” several voices chimed in; “he must go, he has won his place.”

The matter was settled in a trice. The same old maid who had brought about my acquaintance with the blonde beauty was at once besieged with entreaties from all the younger people to remain at home and let me have her seat. She was forced to consent, to her intense vexation, with a smile and a stealthy hiss of anger. Her protectress, who was her usual refuge, my former foe and new friend, called to her as she galloped off on her spirited horse, laughing like a child, that she envied her and would have been glad to stay at home herself, for it was just going to rain and we should all get soaked.

And she was right in predicting rain. A regular downpour came on within an hour and the expedition was done for. We had to take shelter for some hours in the huts of the village, and had to return home between nine and ten in the evening in the damp mist that followed the rain. I began to be a little feverish. At the minute when I was starting, Mme. M. came up to me and expressed surprise that my neck was uncovered and that I had nothing on over my jacket. I answered that I had not had time to get my coat. She took out a pin and pinned up the turned down collar of my shirt, took off her own neck a crimson gauze kerchief, and put it round my neck that I might not get a sore throat. She did this so hurriedly that I had not time even to thank her.

But when we got home I found her in the little drawing-room with the blonde beauty and the pale-faced young man who had gained glory for horsemanship that day by refusing to ride Tancred. I went up to thank her and give back the scarf. But now, after all my adventures, I felt somehow ashamed. I wanted to make haste and get upstairs, there at my leisure to reflect and consider. I was brimming over with impressions. As I gave back the kerchief I blushed up to my ears, as usual.

“I bet he would like to keep the kerchief,” said the young man laughing. “One can see that he is sorry to part with your scarf.”

“That’s it, that’s it!” the fair lady put in. “What a boy! Oh!” she said, shaking her head with obvious vexation, but she stopped in time at a grave glance from Mme. M., who did not want to carry the jest too far.

I made haste to get away.

“Well, you are a boy,” said the madcap, overtaking me in the next room and affectionately taking me by both hands, “why, you should have simply not returned the kerchief if you wanted so much to have it. You should have said you put it down somewhere, and that would have been the end of it. What a simpleton! Couldn’t even do that! What a funny boy!”

And she tapped me on the chin with her finger, laughing at my having flushed as red as a poppy.

“I am your friend now, you know; am I not? Our enmity is over, isn’t it? Yes or no?”

I laughed and pressed her fingers without a word.

“Oh, why are you so ... why are you so pale and shivering? Have you caught a chill?”

“Yes, I don’t feel well.”

“Ah, poor fellow! That’s the result of over-excitement. Do you know what? You had better go to bed without sitting up for supper, and you will be all right in the morning. Come along.”

She took me upstairs, and there was no end to the care she lavished on me. Leaving me to undress she ran downstairs, got me some tea, and brought it up herself when I was in bed. She brought me up a warm quilt as well. I was much impressed and touched by all the care and attention lavished on me; or perhaps I was affected by the whole day, the expedition and feverishness. As I said good-night to her I hugged her warmly, as though she were my dearest and nearest friend, and in my exhausted state all the emotions of the day came back to me in a rush; I almost shed tears as I nestled to her bosom. She noticed my overwrought condition, and I believe my madcap herself was a little touched.

“You are a very good boy,” she said, looking at me with gentle eyes, “please don’t be angry with me. You won’t, will you?”

In fact, we became the warmest and truest of friends.

It was rather early when I woke up, but the sun was already flooding the whole room with brilliant light. I jumped out of bed feeling perfectly well and strong, as though I had had no fever the day before; indeed, I felt now unutterably joyful. I recalled the previous day and felt that I would have given any happiness if I could at that minute have embraced my new friend, the fair-haired beauty, again, as I had the night before; but it was very early and every one was still asleep. Hurriedly dressing I went out into the garden and from there into the copse. I made my way where the leaves were thickest, where the fragrance of the trees was more resinous, and where the sun peeped in most gaily, rejoicing that it could penetrate the dense darkness of the foliage. It was a lovely morning.

Going on further and further, before I was aware of it I had reached the further end of the copse and came out on the river Moskva. It flowed at the bottom of the hill two hundred paces below. On the opposite bank of the river they were mowing. I watched whole rows of sharp scythes gleam all together in the sunlight at every swing of the mower and then vanish again like little fiery snakes going into hiding; I watched the cut grass flying on one side in dense rich swathes and being laid in long straight lines. I don’t know how long I spent in contemplation. At last I was roused from my reverie by hearing a horse snorting and impatiently pawing the ground twenty paces from me, in the track which ran from the high road to the manor house. I don’t know whether I heard this horse as soon as the rider rode up and stopped there, or whether the sound had long been in my ears without rousing me from my dreaming. Moved by curiosity I went into the copse, and before I had gone many steps I caught the sound of voices speaking rapidly, though in subdued tones. I went up closer, carefully parting the branches of the bushes that edged the path, and at once sprang back in amazement. I caught a glimpse of a familiar white dress and a soft feminine voice resounded like music in my heart. It was Mme. M. She was standing beside a man on horseback who, stooping down from the saddle, was hurriedly talking to her, and to my amazement I recognized him as N., the young man who had gone away the morning before and over whose departure M. M. had been so busy. But people had said at the time that he was going far away to somewhere in the South of Russia, and so I was very much surprised at seeing him with us again so early, and alone with Mme. M.

She was moved and agitated as I had never seen her before, and tears were glistening on her cheeks. The young man was holding her hand and stooping down to kiss it. I had come upon them at the moment of parting. They seemed to be in haste. At last he took out of his pocket a sealed envelope, gave it to Mme. M., put one arm round her, still not dismounting, and gave her a long, fervent kiss. A minute later he lashed his horse and flew past me like an arrow. Mme. M. looked after him for some moments, then pensively and disconsolately turned homewards. But after going a few steps along the track she seemed suddenly to recollect herself, hurriedly parted the bushes and walked on through the copse.

I followed her, surprised and perplexed by all that I had seen. My heart was beating violently, as though from terror. I was, as it were, benumbed and befogged; my ideas were shattered and turned upside down; but I remember I was, for some reason, very sad. I got glimpses from time to time through the green foliage of her white dress before me: I followed her mechanically, never losing sight of her, though I trembled at the thought that she might notice me. At last she came out on the little path that led to the house. After waiting half a minute I, too, emerged from the bushes; but what was my amazement when I saw lying on the red sand of the path a sealed packet, which I recognized, from the first glance, as the one that had been given to Mme. M. ten minutes before.

I picked it up. On both sides the paper was blank, there was no address on it. The envelope was not large, but it was fat and heavy, as though there were three or more sheets of notepaper in it.

What was the meaning of this envelope? No doubt it would explain the whole mystery. Perhaps in it there was said all that N. had scarcely hoped to express in their brief, hurried interview. He had not even dismounted.... Whether he had been in haste or whether he had been afraid of being false to himself at the hour of parting — God only knows....

I stopped, without coming out on the path, threw the envelope in the most conspicuous place on it, and kept my eyes upon it, supposing that Mme. M. would notice the loss and come back and look for it. But after waiting four minutes I could stand it no longer, I picked up my find again, put it in my pocket, and set off to overtake Mme. M. I came upon her in the big avenue in the garden. She was walking straight towards the house with a swift and hurried step, though she was lost in thought, and her eyes were on the ground. I did not know what to do. Go up to her, give it her? That would be as good as saying that I knew everything, that I had seen it all. I should betray myself at the first word. And how should I look, at her? How would she look at me. I kept expecting that she would discover her loss and return on her tracks. Then I could, unnoticed, have flung the envelope on the path and she would have found it. But no! We were approaching the house; she had already been noticed....

As ill-luck would have it every one had got up very early that day, because, after the unsuccessful expedition of the evening before, they had arranged something new, of which I had heard nothing. All were preparing to set off, and were having breakfast in the verandah. I waited for ten minutes, that I might not be seen with Mme. M., and making a circuit of the garden approached the house from the other side a long time after her. She was walking up and down the verandah with her arms folded, looking pale and agitated, and was obviously trying her utmost to suppress the agonizing, despairing misery which could be plainly discerned in her eyes, her walk, her every movement. Sometimes she went down the verandah steps and walked a few paces among the flower-beds in the direction of the garden; her eyes were impatiently, greedily, even incautiously, seeking something on the sand of the path and on the floor of the verandah. There could be no doubt she had discovered her loss and imagined she had dropped the letter somewhere here, near the house — yes, that must be so, she was convinced of it.

Some one noticed that she was pale and agitated, and others made the same remark. She was besieged with questions about her health and condolences. She had to laugh, to jest, to appear lively. From time to time she looked at her husband, who was standing at the end of the terrace talking to two ladies, and the poor woman was overcome by the same shudder, the same embarrassment, as on the day of his first arrival. Thrusting my hand into my pocket and holding the letter tight in it, I stood at a little distance from them all, praying to fate that Mme. M. should notice me. I longed to cheer her up, to relieve her anxiety if only by a glance; to say a word to her on the sly. But when she did chance to look at me I dropped my eyes.

I saw her distress and I was not mistaken. To this day I don’t know her secret. I know nothing but what I saw and what I have just described. The intrigue was not such, perhaps, as one might suppose at the first glance. Perhaps that kiss was the kiss of farewell, perhaps it was the last slight reward for the sacrifice made to her peace and honour. N. was going away, he was leaving her, perhaps for ever. Even that letter I was holding in my hand — who can tell what it contained! How can one judge? and who can condemn? And yet there is no doubt that the sudden discovery of her secret would have been terrible — would have been a fatal blow for her. I still remember her face at that minute, it could not have shown more suffering. To feel, to know, to be convinced, to expect, as though it were one’s execution, that in a quarter of an hour, in a minute perhaps, all might be discovered, the letter might be found by some one, picked up; there was no address on it, it might be opened, and then.... What then? What torture could be worse than what was awaiting her? She moved about among those who would be her judges. In another minute their smiling flattering faces would be menacing and merciless. She would read mockery, malice and icy contempt on those faces, and then her life would be plunged in everlasting darkness, with no dawn to follow.... Yes, I did not understand it then as I understand it now. I could only have vague suspicions and misgivings, and a heart-ache at the thought of her danger, which I could not fully understand. But whatever lay hidden in her secret, much was expiated, if expiation were needed, by those moments of anguish of which I was witness and which I shall never forget.

But then came a cheerful summons to set off; immediately every one was bustling about gaily; laughter and lively chatter were heard on all sides. Within two minutes the verandah was deserted. Mme. M. declined to join the party, acknowledging at last that she was not well. But, thank God, all the others set off, every one was in haste, and there was no time to worry her with commiseration, inquiries, and advice. A few remained at home. Her husband said a few words to her; she answered that she would be all right directly, that he need not be uneasy, that there was no occasion for her to lie down, that she would go into the garden, alone ... with me ... here she glanced at me. Nothing could be more fortunate! I flushed with pleasure, with delight; a minute later we were on the way.

She walked along the same avenues and paths by which she had returned from the copse, instinctively remembering the way she had come, gazing before her with her eyes fixed on the ground, looking about intently without answering me, possibly forgetting that I was walking beside her.

But when we had already reached the place where I had picked up the letter, and the path ended, Mme. M. suddenly stopped, and in a voice faint and weak with misery said that she felt worse, and that she would go home. But when she reached the garden fence she stopped again and thought a minute; a smile of despair came on her lips, and utterly worn out and exhausted, resigned, and making up her mind to the worst, she turned without a word and retraced her steps, even forgetting to tell me of her intention.

My heart was torn with sympathy, and I did not know what to do.

We went, or rather I led her, to the place from which an hour before I had heard the tramp of a horse and their conversation. Here, close to a shady elm tree, was a seat hewn out of one huge stone, about which grew ivy, wild jasmine, and dog-rose; the whole wood was dotted with little bridges, arbours, grottoes, and similar surprises. Mme. M. sat down on the bench and glanced unconsciously at the marvellous view that lay open before us. A minute later she opened her book, and fixed her eyes upon it without reading, without turning the pages, almost unconscious of what she was doing. It was about half-past nine. The sun was already high and was floating gloriously in the deep, dark blue sky, as though melting away in its own light. The mowers were by now far away; they were scarcely visible from our side of the river; endless ridges of mown grass crept after them in unbroken succession, and from time to time the faintly stirring breeze wafted their fragrance to us. The never ceasing concert of those who “sow not, neither do they reap” and are free as the air they cleave with their sportive wings was all about us. It seemed as though at that moment every flower, every blade of grass was exhaling the aroma of sacrifice, was saying to its Creator, “Father, I am blessed and happy.”

I glanced at the poor woman, who alone was like one dead amidst all this joyous life; two big tears hung motionless on her lashes, wrung from her heart by bitter grief. It was in my power to relieve and console this poor, fainting heart, only I did not know how to approach the subject, how to take the first step. I was in agonies. A hundred times I was on the point of going up to her, but every time my face glowed like fire.

Suddenly a bright idea dawned upon me. I had found a way of doing it; I revived.

“Would you like me to pick you a nosegay?” I said, in such a joyful voice that Mme M. immediately raised her head and looked at me intently.

“Yes, do,” she said at last in a weak voice, with a faint smile, at once dropping her eyes on the book again.

“Or soon they will be mowing the grass here and there will be no flowers,” I cried, eagerly setting to work.

I had soon picked my nosegay, a poor, simple one, I should have been ashamed to take it indoors; but how light my heart was as I picked the flowers and tied them up! The dog-rose and the wild jasmine I picked closer to the seat, I knew that not far off there was a field of rye, not yet ripe. I ran there for cornflowers; I mixed them with tall ears of rye, picking out the finest and most golden. Close by I came upon a perfect nest of forget-me-nots, and my nosegay was almost complete. Farther away in the meadow there were dark-blue campanulas and wild pinks, and I ran down to the very edge of the river to get yellow water-lilies. At last, making my way back, and going for an instant into the wood to get some bright green fan-shaped leaves of the maple to put round the nosegay, I happened to come across a whole family of pansies, close to which, luckily for me, the fragrant scent of violets betrayed the little flower hiding in the thick lush grass and still glistening with drops of dew. The nosegay was complete. I bound it round with fine long grass which twisted into a rope, and I carefully lay the letter in the centre, hiding it with the flowers, but in such a way that it could be very easily noticed if the slightest attention were bestowed upon my nosegay.

I carried it to Mme. M.

On the way it seemed to me that the letter was lying too much in view: I hid it a little more. As I got nearer I thrust it still further in the flowers; and finally, when I was on the spot, I suddenly poked it so deeply into the centre of the nosegay that it could not be noticed at all from outside. My cheeks were positively flaming. I wanted to hide my face in my hands and run away at once, but she glanced at my flowers as though she had completely forgotten that I had gathered them. Mechanically, almost without looking, she held out her hand and took my present; but at once laid it on the seat as though I had handed it to her for that purpose and dropped her eyes to her book again, seeming lost in thought. I was ready to cry at this mischance. “If only my nosegay were close to her,” I thought; “if only she had not forgotten it!” I lay down on the grass not far off, put my right arm under my head, and closed my eyes as though I were overcome by drowsiness. But I waited, keeping my eyes fixed on her.

Ten minutes passed, it seemed to me that she was getting paler and paler ... fortunately a blessed chance came to my aid.

This was a big, golden bee, brought by a kindly breeze, luckily for me. It first buzzed over my head, and then flew up to Mme. M. She waved it off once or twice, but the bee grew more and more persistent. At last Mme. M. snatched up my nosegay and waved it before my face. At that instant the letter dropped out from among the flowers and fell straight upon the open book. I started. For some time Mme. M., mute with amazement, stared first at the letter and then at the flowers which she was holding in her hands, and she seemed unable to believe her eyes. All at once she flushed, started, and glanced at me. But I caught her movement and I shut my eyes tight, pretending to be asleep. Nothing would have induced me to look her straight in the face at that moment. My heart was throbbing and leaping like a bird in the grasp of some village boy. I don’t remember how long I lay with my eyes shut, two or three minutes. At last I ventured to open them. Mme. M. was greedily reading the letter, and from her glowing cheeks, her sparkling, tearful eyes, her bright face, every feature of which was quivering with joyful emotion, I guessed that there was happiness in the letter and all her misery was dispersed like smoke. An agonizing, sweet feeling gnawed at my heart, it was hard for me to go on pretending....

I shall never forget that minute!

Suddenly, a long way off, we heard voices —

“Mme. M.! Natalie! Natalie!”

Mme. M. did not answer, but she got up quickly from the seat, came up to me and bent over me. I felt that she was looking straight into my face. My eyelashes quivered, but I controlled myself and did not open my eyes. I tried to breathe more evenly and quietly, but my heart smothered me with its violent throbbing. Her burning breath scorched my cheeks; she bent close down to my face as though trying to make sure. At last a kiss and tears fell on my hand, the one which was lying on my breast.

“Natalie! Natalie! where are you,” we heard again, this time quite close.

“Coming,” said Mme. M., in her mellow, silvery voice, which was so choked and quivering with tears and so subdued that no one but I could hear that, “Coming!”

But at that instant my heart at last betrayed me and seemed to send all my blood rushing to my face. At that instant a swift, burning kiss scalded my lips. I uttered a faint cry. I opened my eyes, but at once the same gauze kerchief fell upon them, as though she meant to screen me from the sun. An instant later she was gone. I heard nothing but the sound of rapidly retreating steps. I was alone....

I pulled off her kerchief and kissed it, beside myself with rapture; for some moments I was almost frantic.... Hardly able to breathe, leaning on my elbow on the grass, I stared unconsciously before me at the surrounding slopes, streaked with cornfields, at the river that flowed twisting and winding far away, as far as the eye could see, between fresh hills and villages that gleamed like dots all over the sunlit distance — at the dark-blue, hardly visible forests, which seemed as though smoking at the edge of the burning sky, and a sweet stillness inspired by the triumphant peacefulness of the picture gradually brought calm to my troubled heart. I felt more at ease and breathed more freely, but my whole soul was full of a dumb, sweet yearning, as though a veil had been drawn from my eyes as though at a foretaste of something. My frightened heart, faintly quivering with expectation, was groping timidly and joyfully towards some conjecture ... and all at once my bosom heaved, began aching as though something had pierced it, and tears, sweet tears, gushed from my eyes. I hid my face in my hands, and quivering like a blade of grass, gave myself up to the first consciousness and revelation of my heart, the first vague glimpse of my nature. My childhood was over from that moment.

* * * * *

When two hours later I returned home I did not find Mme. M. Through some sudden chance she had gone back to Moscow with her husband. I never saw her again.

The Honest Thief

One morning, just as I was about to set off to my office, Agrafena, my cook, washerwoman and housekeeper, came in to me and, to my surprise, entered into conversation.

She had always been such a silent, simple creature that, except her daily inquiry about dinner, she had not uttered a word for the last six years. I, at least, had heard nothing else from her.

“Here I have come in to have a word with you, sir,” she began abruptly; “you really ought to let the little room.”

“Which little room?”

“Why, the one next the kitchen, to be sure.”

“What for?”

“What for? Why because folks do take in lodgers, to be sure.”

“But who would take it?”

“Who would take it? Why, a lodger would take it, to be sure.”

“But, my good woman, one could not put a bedstead in it; there wouldn’t be room to move! Who could live in it?”

“Who wants to live there! As long as he has a place to sleep in. Why, he would live in the window.”

“In what window?”

“In what window! As though you didn’t know! The one in the passage, to be sure. He would sit there, sewing or doing anything else. Maybe he would sit on a chair, too. He’s got a chair; and he has a table, too; he’s got everything.”

“Who is ‘he’ then?”

“Oh, a good man, a man of experience. I will cook for him. And I’ll ask him three roubles a month for his board and lodging.”

After prolonged efforts I succeeded at last in learning from Agrafena that an elderly man had somehow managed to persuade her to admit him into the kitchen as a lodger and boarder. Any notion Agrafena took into her head had to be carried out; if not, I knew she would give me no peace. When anything was not to her liking, she at once began to brood, and sank into a deep dejection that would last for a fortnight or three weeks. During that period my dinners were spoiled, my linen was mislaid, my floors went unscrubbed; in short, I had a great deal to put up with. I had observed long ago that this inarticulate woman was incapable of conceiving a project, of originating an idea of her own. But if anything like a notion or a project was by some means put into her feeble brain, to prevent its being carried out meant, for a time, her moral assassination. And so, as I cared more for my peace of mind than for anything else, I consented forthwith.

“Has he a passport anyway, or something of the sort?”

“To be sure, he has. He is a good man, a man of experience; three roubles he’s promised to pay.”

The very next day the new lodger made his appearance in my modest bachelor quarters; but I was not put out by this, indeed I was inwardly pleased. I lead as a rule a very lonely hermit’s existence. I have scarcely any friends; I hardly ever go anywhere. As I had spent ten years never coming out of my shell, I had, of course, grown used to solitude. But another ten or fifteen years or more of the same solitary existence, with the same Agrafena, in the same bachelor quarters, was in truth a somewhat cheerless prospect. And therefore a new inmate, if well-behaved, was a heaven-sent blessing.

Agrafena had spoken truly: my lodger was certainly a man of experience. From his passport it appeared that he was an old soldier, a fact which I should have known indeed from his face. An old soldier is easily recognised. Astafy Ivanovitch was a favourable specimen of his class. We got on very well together. What was best of all, Astafy Ivanovitch would sometimes tell a story, describing some incident in his own life. In the perpetual boredom of my existence such a story-teller was a veritable treasure. One day he told me one of these stories. It made an impression on me. The following event was what led to it.

I was left alone in the flat; both Astafy and Agrafena were out on business of their own. All of a sudden I heard from the inner room somebody — I fancied a stranger — come in; I went out; there actually was a stranger in the passage, a short fellow wearing no overcoat in spite of the cold autumn weather.

“What do you want?”

“Does a clerk called Alexandrov live here?”

“Nobody of that name here, brother. Good-bye.”

“Why, the dvornik told me it was here,” said my visitor, cautiously retiring towards the door.

“Be off, be off, brother, get along.”

Next day after dinner, while Astafy Ivanovitch was fitting on a coat which he was altering for me, again some one came into the passage. I half opened the door.

Before my very eyes my yesterday’s visitor, with perfect composure, took my wadded greatcoat from the peg and, stuffing it under his arm, darted out of the flat. Agrafena stood all the time staring at him, agape with astonishment and doing nothing for the protection of my property. Astafy Ivanovitch flew in pursuit of the thief and ten minutes later came back out of breath and empty-handed. He had vanished completely.

“Well, there’s a piece of luck, Astafy Ivanovitch!”

“It’s a good job your cloak is left! Or he would have put you in a plight, the thief!”

But the whole incident had so impressed Astafy Ivanovitch that I forgot the theft as I looked at him. He could not get over it. Every minute or two he would drop the work upon which he was engaged, and would describe over again how it had all happened, how he had been standing, how the greatcoat had been taken down before his very eyes, not a yard away, and how it had come to pass that he could not catch the thief. Then he would sit down to his work again, then leave it once more, and at last I saw him go down to the dvornik to tell him all about it, and to upbraid him for letting such a thing happen in his domain. Then he came back and began scolding Agrafena. Then he sat down to his work again, and long afterwards he was still muttering to himself how it had all happened, how he stood there and I was here, how before our eyes, not a yard away, the thief took the coat off the peg, and so on. In short, though Astafy Ivanovitch understood his business, he was a terrible slow-coach and busy-body.

“He’s made fools of us, Astafy Ivanovitch,” I said to him in the evening, as I gave him a glass of tea. I wanted to while away the time by recalling the story of the lost greatcoat, the frequent repetition of which, together with the great earnestness of the speaker, was beginning to become very amusing.

“Fools, indeed, sir! Even though it is no business of mine, I am put out. It makes me angry though it is not my coat that was lost. To my thinking there is no vermin in the world worse than a thief. Another takes what you can spare, but a thief steals the work of your hands, the sweat of your brow, your time ... Ugh, it’s nasty! One can’t speak of it! it’s too vexing. How is it you don’t feel the loss of your property, sir?”

“Yes, you are right, Astafy Ivanovitch, better if the thing had been burnt; it’s annoying to let the thief have it, it’s disagreeable.”

“Disagreeable! I should think so! Yet, to be sure, there are thieves and thieves. And I have happened, sir, to come across an honest thief.”

“An honest thief? But how can a thief be honest, Astafy Ivanovitch?”

“There you are right indeed, sir. How can a thief be honest? There are none such. I only meant to say that he was an honest man, sure enough, and yet he stole. I was simply sorry for him.”

“Why, how was that, Astafy Ivanovitch?”

“It was about two years ago, sir. I had been nearly a year out of a place, and just before I lost my place I made the acquaintance of a poor lost creature. We got acquainted in a public-house. He was a drunkard, a vagrant, a beggar, he had been in a situation of some sort, but from his drinking habits he had lost his work. Such a ne’er-do-weel! God only knows what he had on! Often you wouldn’t be sure if he’d a shirt under his coat; everything he could lay his hands upon he would drink away. But he was not one to quarrel; he was a quiet fellow. A soft, good-natured chap. And he’d never ask, he was ashamed; but you could see for yourself the poor fellow wanted a drink, and you would stand it him. And so we got friendly, that’s to say, he stuck to me.... It was all one to me. And what a man he was, to be sure! Like a little dog he would follow me; wherever I went there he would be; and all that after our first meeting, and he as thin as a thread-paper! At first it was ‘let me stay the night’; well, I let him stay.

“I looked at his passport, too; the man was all right.

“Well, the next day it was the same story, and then the third day he came again and sat all day in the window and stayed the night. Well, thinks I, he is sticking to me; give him food and drink and shelter at night, too — here am I, a poor man, and a hanger-on to keep as well! And before he came to me, he used to go in the same way to a government clerk’s; he attached himself to him; they were always drinking together; but he, through trouble of some sort, drank himself into the grave. My man was called Emelyan Ilyitch. I pondered and pondered what I was to do with him. To drive him away I was ashamed. I was sorry for him; such a pitiful, God-forsaken creature I never did set eyes on. And not a word said either; he does not ask, but just sits there and looks into your eyes like a dog. To think what drinking will bring a man down to!

“I keep asking myself how am I to say to him: ‘You must be moving, Emelyanoushka, there’s nothing for you here, you’ve come to the wrong place; I shall soon not have a bite for myself, how am I to keep you too?’

“I sat and wondered what he’d do when I said that to him. And I seemed to see how he’d stare at me, if he were to hear me say that, how long he would sit and not understand a word of it. And when it did get home to him at last, how he would get up from the window, would take up his bundle — I can see it now, the red-check handkerchief full of holes, with God knows what wrapped up in it, which he had always with him, and then how he would set his shabby old coat to rights, so that it would look decent and keep him warm, so that no holes would be seen — he was a man of delicate feelings! And how he’d open the door and go out with tears in his eyes. Well, there’s no letting a man go to ruin like that.... One’s sorry for him.

“And then again, I think, how am I off myself? Wait a bit, Emelyanoushka, says I to myself, you’ve not long to feast with me: I shall soon be going away and then you will not find me.

“Well, sir, our family made a move; and Alexandr Filimonovitch, my master (now deceased, God rest his soul), said, ‘I am thoroughly satisfied with you, Astafy Ivanovitch; when we come back from the country we will take you on again.’ I had been butler with them; a nice gentleman he was, but he died that same year. Well, after seeing him off, I took my belongings, what little money I had, and I thought I’d have a rest for a time, so I went to an old woman I knew, and I took a corner in her room. There was only one corner free in it. She had been a nurse, so now she had a pension and a room of her own. Well, now good-bye, Emelyanoushka, thinks I, you won’t find me now, my boy.

“And what do you think, sir? I had gone out to see a man I knew, and when I came back in the evening, the first thing I saw was Emelyanoushka! There he was, sitting on my box and his check bundle beside him; he was sitting in his ragged old coat, waiting for me. And to while away the time he had borrowed a church book from the old lady, and was holding it wrong side upwards. He’d scented me out! My heart sank. Well, thinks I, there’s no help for it — why didn’t I turn him out at first? So I asked him straight off: Have you brought your passport, Emelyanoushka?’

“I sat down on the spot, sir, and began to ponder: will a vagabond like that be very much trouble to me? And on thinking it over it seemed he would not be much trouble. He must be fed, I thought. Well, a bit of bread in the morning, and to make it go down better I’ll buy him an onion. At midday I should have to give him another bit of bread and an onion; and in the evening, onion again with kvass, with some more bread if he wanted it. And if some cabbage soup were to come our way, then we should both have had our fill. I am no great eater myself, and a drinking man, as we all know, never eats; all he wants is herb-brandy or green vodka. He’ll ruin me with his drinking, I thought, but then another idea came into my head, sir, and took great hold on me. So much so that if Emelyanoushka had gone away I should have felt that I had nothing to live for, I do believe.... I determined on the spot to be a father and guardian to him. I’ll keep him from ruin, I thought, I’ll wean him from the glass! You wait a bit, thought I; very well, Emelyanoushka, you may stay, only you must behave yourself; you must obey orders.

“Well, thinks I to myself, I’ll begin by training him to work of some sort, but not all at once; let him enjoy himself a little first, and I’ll look round and find something you are fit for, Emelyanoushka. For every sort of work a man needs a special ability, you know, sir. And I began to watch him on the quiet; I soon saw Emelyanoushka was a desperate character. I began, sir, with a word of advice: I said this and that to him. ‘Emelyanoushka,’ said I, ‘you ought to take a thought and mend your ways. Have done with drinking! Just look what rags you go about in: that old coat of yours, if I may make bold to say so, is fit for nothing but a sieve. A pretty state of things! It’s time to draw the line, sure enough.’ Emelyanoushka sat and listened to me with his head hanging down. Would you believe it, sir? It had come to such a pass with him, he’d lost his tongue through drink and could not speak a word of sense. Talk to him of cucumbers and he’d answer back about beans! He would listen and listen to me and then heave such a sigh. ‘What are you sighing for, Emelyan Ilyitch?’ I asked him.

“‘Oh, nothing; don’t you mind me, Astafy Ivanovitch. Do you know there were two women fighting in the street to-day, Astafy Ivanovitch? One upset the other woman’s basket of cranberries by accident.’

“‘Well, what of that?’

“‘And the second one upset the other’s cranberries on purpose and trampled them under foot, too.’

“‘Well, and what of it, Emelyan Ilyitch?’

“‘Why, nothing, Astafy Ivanovitch, I just mentioned it.’

“‘“Nothing, I just mentioned it!” Emelyanoushka, my boy, I thought, you’ve squandered and drunk away your brains!’

“‘And do you know, a gentleman dropped a money-note on the pavement in Gorohovy Street, no, it was Sadovy Street. And a peasant saw it and said, “That’s my luck”; and at the same time another man saw it and said, “No, it’s my bit of luck. I saw it before you did.”’

“‘Well, Emelyan Ilyitch?’

“‘And the fellows had a fight over it, Astafy Ivanovitch. But a policeman came up, took away the note, gave it back to the gentleman and threatened to take up both the men.’

“‘Well, but what of that? What is there edifying about it, Emelyanoushka?’

“‘Why, nothing, to be sure. Folks laughed, Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“‘Ach, Emelyanoushka! What do the folks matter? You’ve sold your soul for a brass farthing! But do you know what I have to tell you, Emelyan Ilyitch?’

“‘What, Astafy Ivanovitch?’

“‘Take a job of some sort, that’s what you must do. For the hundredth time I say to you, set to work, have some mercy on yourself!’

“‘What could I set to, Astafy Ivanovitch? I don’t know what job I could set to, and there is no one who will take me on, Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“‘That’s how you came to be turned off, Emelyanoushka, you drinking man!’

“‘And do you know Vlass, the waiter, was sent for to the office to-day, Astafy Ivanovitch?’

“‘Why did they send for him, Emelyanoushka?’ I asked.

“‘I could not say why, Astafy Ivanovitch. I suppose they wanted him there, and that’s why they sent for him.’

“A-ach, thought I, we are in a bad way, poor Emelyanoushka! The Lord is chastising us for our sins. Well, sir, what is one to do with such a man?

“But a cunning fellow he was, and no mistake. He’d listen and listen to me, but at last I suppose he got sick of it. As soon as he sees I am beginning to get angry, he’d pick up his old coat and out he’d slip and leave no trace. He’d wander about all day and come back at night drunk. Where he got the money from, the Lord only knows; I had no hand in that.

“‘No,’ said I, ‘Emelyan Ilyitch, you’ll come to a bad end. Give over drinking, mind what I say now, give it up! Next time you come home in liquor, you can spend the night on the stairs. I won’t let you in!’

“After hearing that threat, Emelyanoushka sat at home that day and the next; but on the third he slipped off again. I waited and waited; he didn’t come back. Well, at least I don’t mind owning, I was in a fright, and I felt for the man too. What have I done to him? I thought. I’ve scared him away. Where’s the poor fellow gone to now? He’ll get lost maybe. Lord have mercy upon us!

“Night came on, he did not come. In the morning I went out into the porch; I looked, and if he hadn’t gone to sleep in the porch! There he was with his head on the step, and chilled to the marrow of his bones.

“‘What next, Emelyanoushka, God have mercy on you! Where will you get to next!’

“‘Why, you were — sort of — angry with me, Astafy Ivanovitch, the other day, you were vexed and promised to put me to sleep in the porch, so I didn’t — sort of — venture to come in, Astafy Ivanovitch, and so I lay down here....’

“I did feel angry and sorry too.

“‘Surely you might undertake some other duty, Emelyanoushka, instead of lying here guarding the steps,’ I said.

“‘Why, what other duty, Astafy Ivanovitch?’

“‘You lost soul’ — I was in such a rage, I called him that—’if you could but learn tailoring work! Look at your old rag of a coat! It’s not enough to have it in tatters, here you are sweeping the steps with it! You might take a needle and boggle up your rags, as decency demands. Ah, you drunken man!’

“What do you think, sir? He actually did take a needle. Of course I said it in jest, but he was so scared he set to work. He took off his coat and began threading the needle. I watched him; as you may well guess, his eyes were all red and bleary, and his hands were all of a shake. He kept shoving and shoving the thread and could not get it through the eye of the needle; he kept screwing his eyes up and wetting the thread and twisting it in his fingers — it was no good! He gave it up and looked at me.

“‘Well,’ said I, ‘this is a nice way to treat me! If there had been folks by to see, I don’t know what I should have done! Why, you simple fellow, I said it you in joke, as a reproach. Give over your nonsense, God bless you! Sit quiet and don’t put me to shame, don’t sleep on my stairs and make a laughing-stock of me.’

“‘Why, what am I to do, Astafy Ivanovitch? I know very well I am a drunkard and good for nothing! I can do nothing but vex you, my bene — bene — factor....’

“And at that his blue lips began all of a sudden to quiver, and a tear ran down his white cheek and trembled on his stubbly chin, and then poor Emelyanoushka burst into a regular flood of tears. Mercy on us! I felt as though a knife were thrust into my heart! The sensitive creature! I’d never have expected it. Who could have guessed it? No, Emelyanoushka, thought I, I shall give you up altogether. You can go your way like the rubbish you are.

“Well, sir, why make a long story of it? And the whole affair is so trifling; it’s not worth wasting words upon. Why, you, for instance, sir, would not have given a thought to it, but I would have given a great deal — if I had a great deal to give — that it never should have happened at all.

“I had a pair of riding breeches by me, sir, deuce take them, fine, first-rate riding breeches they were too, blue with a check on it. They’d been ordered by a gentleman from the country, but he would not have them after all; said they were not full enough, so they were left on my hands. It struck me they were worth something. At the second-hand dealer’s I ought to get five silver roubles for them, or if not I could turn them into two pairs of trousers for Petersburg gentlemen and have a piece over for a waistcoat for myself. Of course for poor people like us everything comes in. And it happened just then that Emelyanoushka was having a sad time of it. There he sat day after day: he did not drink, not a drop passed his lips, but he sat and moped like an owl. It was sad to see him — he just sat and brooded. Well, thought I, either you’ve not got a copper to spend, my lad, or else you’re turning over a new leaf of yourself, you’ve given it up, you’ve listened to reason. Well, sir, that’s how it was with us; and just then came a holiday. I went to vespers; when I came home I found Emelyanoushka sitting in the window, drunk and rocking to and fro.

“Ah! so that’s what you’ve been up to, my lad! And I went to get something out of my chest. And when I looked in, the breeches were not there.... I rummaged here and there; they’d vanished. When I’d ransacked everywhere and saw they were not there, something seemed to stab me to the heart. I ran first to the old dame and began accusing her; of Emelyanoushka I’d not the faintest suspicion, though there was cause for it in his sitting there drunk.

“‘No,’ said the old body, ‘God be with you, my fine gentleman, what good are riding breeches to me? Am I going to wear such things? Why, a skirt I had I lost the other day through a fellow of your sort ... I know nothing; I can tell you nothing about it,’ she said.

“‘Who has been here, who has been in?’ I asked.

“‘Why, nobody has been, my good sir,’ says she; ‘I’ve been here all the while; Emelyan Ilyitch went out and came back again; there he sits, ask him.’

“‘Emelyanoushka,’ said I, ‘have you taken those new riding breeches for anything; you remember the pair I made for that gentleman from the country?’

“‘No, Astafy Ivanovitch,’ said he; ‘I’ve not — sort of — touched them.’

“I was in a state! I hunted high and low for them — they were nowhere to be found. And Emelyanoushka sits there rocking himself to and fro. I was squatting on my heels facing him and bending over the chest, and all at once I stole a glance at him.... Alack, I thought; my heart suddenly grew hot within me and I felt myself flushing up too. And suddenly Emelyanoushka looked at me.

“‘No, Astafy Ivanovitch,’ said he, ‘those riding breeches of yours, maybe, you are thinking, maybe, I took them, but I never touched them.’

“‘But what can have become of them, Emelyan Ilyitch?’

“‘No, Astafy Ivanovitch,’ said he, ‘I’ve never seen them.’

“‘Why, Emelyan Ilyitch, I suppose they’ve run off of themselves, eh?’

“‘Maybe they have, Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“When I heard him say that, I got up at once, went up to him, lighted the lamp and sat down to work to my sewing. I was altering a waistcoat for a clerk who lived below us. And wasn’t there a burning pain and ache in my breast! I shouldn’t have minded so much if I had put all the clothes I had in the fire. Emelyanoushka seemed to have an inkling of what a rage I was in. When a man is guilty, you know, sir, he scents trouble far off, like the birds of the air before a storm.

“‘Do you know what, Astafy Ivanovitch,’ Emelyanoushka began, and his poor old voice was shaking as he said the words, ‘Antip Prohoritch, the apothecary, married the coachman’s wife this morning, who died the other day — —’

“I did give him a look, sir, a nasty look it was; Emelyanoushka understood it too. I saw him get up, go to the bed, and begin to rummage there for something. I waited — he was busy there a long time and kept muttering all the while, ‘No, not there, where can the blessed things have got to!’ I waited to see what he’d do; I saw him creep under the bed on all fours. I couldn’t bear it any longer. ‘What are you crawling about under the bed for, Emelyan Ilyitch?’ said I.

“‘Looking for the breeches, Astafy Ivanovitch. Maybe they’ve dropped down there somewhere.’

“‘Why should you try to help a poor simple man like me,’ said I, ‘crawling on your knees for nothing, sir?’ — I called him that in my vexation.

“‘Oh, never mind, Astafy Ivanovitch, I’ll just look. They’ll turn up, maybe, somewhere.’

“‘H’m,’ said I, ‘look here, Emelyan Ilyitch!’

“‘What is it, Astafy Ivanovitch?’ said he.

“‘Haven’t you simply stolen them from me like a thief and a robber, in return for the bread and salt you’ve eaten here?’ said I.

“I felt so angry, sir, at seeing him fooling about on his knees before me.

“‘No, Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“And he stayed lying as he was on his face under the bed. A long time he lay there and then at last crept out. I looked at him and the man was as white as a sheet. He stood up, and sat down near me in the window and sat so for some ten minutes.

“‘No, Astafy Ivanovitch,’ he said, and all at once he stood up and came towards me, and I can see him now; he looked dreadful. ‘No, Astafy Ivanovitch,’ said he, ‘I never — sort of — touched your breeches.’

“He was all of a shake, poking himself in the chest with a trembling finger, and his poor old voice shook so that I was frightened, sir, and sat as though I was rooted to the window-seat.

“‘Well, Emelyan Ilyitch,’ said I, ‘as you will, forgive me if I, in my foolishness, have accused you unjustly. As for the breeches, let them go hang; we can live without them. We’ve still our hands, thank God; we need not go thieving or begging from some other poor man; we’ll earn our bread.’

“Emelyanoushka heard me out and went on standing there before me. I looked up, and he had sat down. And there he sat all the evening without stirring. At last I lay down to sleep. Emelyanoushka went on sitting in the same place. When I looked out in the morning, he was lying curled up in his old coat on the bare floor; he felt too crushed even to come to bed. Well, sir, I felt no more liking for the fellow from that day, in fact for the first few days I hated him. I felt as one may say as though my own son had robbed me, and done me a deadly hurt. Ach, thought I, Emelyanoushka, Emelyanoushka! And Emelyanoushka, sir, went on drinking for a whole fortnight without stopping. He was drunk all the time, and regularly besotted. He went out in the morning and came back late at night, and for a whole fortnight I didn’t get a word out of him. It was as though grief was gnawing at his heart, or as though he wanted to do for himself completely. At last he stopped; he must have come to the end of all he’d got, and then he sat in the window again. I remember he sat there without speaking for three days and three nights; all of a sudden I saw that he was crying. He was just sitting there, sir, and crying like anything; a perfect stream, as though he didn’t know how his tears were flowing. And it’s a sad thing, sir, to see a grown-up man and an old man, too, crying from woe and grief.

“‘What’s the matter, Emelyanoushka?’ said I.

“He began to tremble so that he shook all over. I spoke to him for the first time since that evening.

“‘Nothing, Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“‘God be with you, Emelyanoushka, what’s lost is lost. Why are you moping about like this?’ I felt sorry for him.

“‘Oh, nothing, Astafy Ivanovitch, it’s no matter. I want to find some work to do, Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“‘And what sort of work, pray, Emelyanoushka?’

“‘Why, any sort; perhaps I could find a situation such as I used to have. I’ve been already to ask Fedosay Ivanitch. I don’t like to be a burden on you, Astafy Ivanovitch. If I can find a situation, Astafy Ivanovitch, then I’ll pay it you all back, and make you a return for all your hospitality.’

“‘Enough, Emelyanoushka, enough; let bygones be bygones — and no more to be said about it. Let us go on as we used to do before.’

“‘No, Astafy Ivanovitch, you, maybe, think — but I never touched your riding breeches.’

“‘Well, have it your own way; God be with you, Emelyanoushka.’

“‘No, Astafy Ivanovitch, I can’t go on living with you, that’s clear. You must excuse me, Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“‘Why, God bless you, Emelyan Ilyitch, who’s offending you and driving you out of the place — am I doing it?’

“‘No, it’s not the proper thing for me to live with you like this, Astafy Ivanovitch. I’d better be going.’

“He was so hurt, it seemed, he stuck to his point. I looked at him, and sure enough, up he got and pulled his old coat over his shoulders.

“‘But where are you going, Emelyan Ilyitch? Listen to reason: what are you about? Where are you off to?’

“‘No, good-bye, Astafy Ivanovitch, don’t keep me now’ — and he was blubbering again—’I’d better be going. You’re not the same now.’

“‘Not the same as what? I am the same. But you’ll be lost by yourself like a poor helpless babe, Emelyan Ilyitch.’

“‘No, Astafy Ivanovitch, when you go out now, you lock up your chest and it makes me cry to see it, Astafy Ivanovitch. You’d better let me go, Astafy Ivanovitch, and forgive me all the trouble I’ve given you while I’ve been living with you.’

“Well, sir, the man went away. I waited for a day; I expected he’d be back in the evening — no. Next day no sign of him, nor the third day either. I began to get frightened; I was so worried, I couldn’t drink, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. The fellow had quite disarmed me. On the fourth day I went out to look for him; I peeped into all the taverns, to inquire for him — but no, Emelyanoushka was lost. ‘Have you managed to keep yourself alive, Emelyanoushka?’ I wondered. ‘Perhaps he is lying dead under some hedge, poor drunkard, like a sodden log.’ I went home more dead than alive. Next day I went out to look for him again. And I kept cursing myself that I’d been such a fool as to let the man go off by himself. On the fifth day it was a holiday — in the early morning I heard the door creak. I looked up and there was my Emelyanoushka coming in. His face was blue and his hair was covered with dirt as though he’d been sleeping in the street; he was as thin as a match. He took off his old coat, sat down on the chest and looked at me. I was delighted to see him, but I felt more upset about him than ever. For you see, sir, if I’d been overtaken in some sin, as true as I am here, sir, I’d have died like a dog before I’d have come back. But Emelyanoushka did come back. And a sad thing it was, sure enough, to see a man sunk so low. I began to look after him, to talk kindly to him, to comfort him.

“‘Well, Emelyanoushka,’ said I, ‘I am glad you’ve come back. Had you been away much longer I should have gone to look for you in the taverns again to-day. Are you hungry?’

“‘No, Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“‘Come, now, aren’t you really? Here, brother, is some cabbage soup left over from yesterday; there was meat in it; it is good stuff. And here is some bread and onion. Come, eat it, it’ll do you no harm.’

“I made him eat it, and I saw at once that the man had not tasted food for maybe three days — he was as hungry as a wolf. So it was hunger that had driven him to me. My heart was melted looking at the poor dear. ‘Let me run to the tavern,’ thought I, ‘I’ll get something to ease his heart, and then we’ll make an end of it. I’ve no more anger in my heart against you, Emelyanoushka!’ I brought him some vodka. ‘Here, Emelyan Ilyitch, let us have a drink for the holiday. Like a drink? And it will do you good.’ He held out his hand, held it out greedily; he was just taking it, and then he stopped himself. But a minute after I saw him take it, and lift it to his mouth, spilling it on his sleeve. But though he got it to his lips he set it down on the table again.

“‘What is it, Emelyanoushka?’

“‘Nothing, Astafy Ivanovitch, I — sort of — —’

“‘Won’t you drink it?’

“‘Well, Astafy Ivanovitch, I’m not — sort of — going to drink any more, Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“‘Do you mean you’ve given it up altogether, Emelyanoushka, or are you only not going to drink to-day?’

“He did not answer. A minute later I saw him rest his head on his hand.

“‘What’s the matter, Emelyanoushka, are you ill?’

“‘Why, yes, Astafy Ivanovitch, I don’t feel well.’

“I took him and laid him down on the bed. I saw that he really was ill: his head was burning hot and he was shivering with fever. I sat by him all day; towards night he was worse. I mixed him some oil and onion and kvass and bread broken up.

“‘Come, eat some of this,’ said I, ‘and perhaps you’ll be better.’ He shook his head. ‘No,’ said he, ‘I won’t have any dinner to-day, Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“I made some tea for him, I quite flustered our old woman — he was no better. Well, thinks I, it’s a bad look-out! The third morning I went for a medical gentleman. There was one I knew living close by, Kostopravov by name. I’d made his acquaintance when I was in service with the Bosomyagins; he’d attended me. The doctor come and looked at him. ‘He’s in a bad way,’ said he, ‘it was no use sending for me. But if you like I can give him a powder.’ Well, I didn’t give him a powder, I thought that’s just the doctor’s little game; and then the fifth day came.

“He lay, sir, dying before my eyes. I sat in the window with my work in my hands. The old woman was heating the stove. We were all silent. My heart was simply breaking over him, the good-for-nothing fellow; I felt as if it were a son of my own I was losing. I knew that Emelyanoushka was looking at me. I’d seen the man all the day long making up his mind to say something and not daring to.

“At last I looked up at him; I saw such misery in the poor fellow’s eyes. He had kept them fixed on me, but when he saw that I was looking at him, he looked down at once.

“‘Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“‘What is it, Emelyanoushka?’

“‘If you were to take my old coat to a second-hand dealer’s, how much do you think they’d give you for it, Astafy Ivanovitch?’

“‘There’s no knowing how much they’d give. Maybe they would give me a rouble for it, Emelyan Ilyitch.’

“But if I had taken it they wouldn’t have given a farthing for it, but would have laughed in my face for bringing such a trumpery thing. I simply said that to comfort the poor fellow, knowing the simpleton he was.

“‘But I was thinking, Astafy Ivanovitch, they might give you three roubles for it; it’s made of cloth, Astafy Ivanovitch. How could they only give one rouble for a cloth coat?’

“‘I don’t know, Emelyan Ilyitch,’ said I, ‘if you are thinking of taking it you should certainly ask three roubles to begin with.’

“Emelyanoushka was silent for a time, and then he addressed me again —

“‘Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“‘What is it, Emelyanoushka?’ I asked.

“‘Sell my coat when I die, and don’t bury me in it. I can lie as well without it; and it’s a thing of some value — it might come in useful.’

“I can’t tell you how it made my heart ache to hear him. I saw that the death agony was coming on him. We were silent again for a bit. So an hour passed by. I looked at him again: he was still staring at me, and when he met my eyes he looked down again.

“‘Do you want some water to drink, Emelyan Ilyitch?’ I asked.

“‘Give me some, God bless you, Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“I gave him a drink.

“‘Thank you, Astafy Ivanovitch,’ said he.

“‘Is there anything else you would like, Emelyanoushka?’

“‘No, Astafy Ivanovitch, there’s nothing I want, but I — sort of — —’


“‘I only — —’

“‘What is it, Emelyanoushka?’

“‘Those riding breeches —— it was —— sort of —— I who took them —— Astafy Ivanovitch.’

“‘Well, God forgive you, Emelyanoushka,’ said I, ‘you poor, sorrowful creature. Depart in peace.’

“And I was choking myself, sir, and the tears were in my eyes. I turned aside for a moment.

“‘Astafy Ivanovitch — —’

“I saw Emelyanoushka wanted to tell me something; he was trying to sit up, trying to speak, and mumbling something. He flushed red all over suddenly, looked at me ... then I saw him turn white again, whiter and whiter, and he seemed to sink away all in a minute. His head fell back, he drew one breath and gave up his soul to God.”

A Novel in Nine Letters


(From Pyotr Ivanitch To Ivan Petrovitch)

Dear Sir and Most Precious Friend, Ivan Petrovitch,

For the last two days I have been, I may say, in pursuit of you, my friend, having to talk over most urgent business with you, and I cannot come across you anywhere. Yesterday, while we were at Semyon Alexeyitch’s, my wife made a very good joke about you, saying that Tatyana Petrovna and you were a pair of birds always on the wing. You have not been married three months and you already neglect your domestic hearth. We all laughed heartily — from our genuine kindly feeling for you, of course — but, joking apart, my precious friend, you have given me a lot of trouble. Semyon Alexeyitch said to me that you might be going to the ball at the Social Union’s club! Leaving my wife with Semyon Alexeyitch’s good lady, I flew off to the Social Union. It was funny and tragic! Fancy my position! Me at the ball — and alone, without my wife! Ivan Andreyitch meeting me in the porter’s lodge and seeing me alone, at once concluded (the rascal!) that I had a passion for dances, and taking me by the arm, wanted to drag me off by force to a dancing class, saying that it was too crowded at the Social Union, that an ardent spirit had not room to turn, and that his head ached from the patchouli and mignonette. I found neither you, nor Tatyana Petrovna. Ivan Andreyitch vowed and declared that you would be at Woe from Wit, at the Alexandrinsky theatre.

I flew off to the Alexandrinsky theatre: you were not there either. This morning I expected to find you at Tchistoganov’s — no sign of you there. Tchistoganov sent to the Perepalkins’ — the same thing there. In fact, I am quite worn out; you can judge how much trouble I have taken! Now I am writing to you (there is nothing else I can do). My business is by no means a literary one (you understand me?); it would be better to meet face to face, it is extremely necessary to discuss something with you and as quickly as possible, and so I beg you to come to us to-day with Tatyana Petrovna to tea and for a chat in the evening. My Anna Mihalovna will be extremely pleased to see you. You will truly, as they say, oblige me to my dying day. By the way, my precious friend — since I have taken up my pen I’ll go into all I have against you — I have a slight complaint I must make; in fact, I must reproach you, my worthy friend, for an apparently very innocent little trick which you have played at my expense.... You are a rascal, a man without conscience. About the middle of last month, you brought into my house an acquaintance of yours, Yevgeny Nikolaitch; you vouched for him by your friendly and, for me, of course, sacred recommendation; I rejoiced at the opportunity of receiving the young man with open arms, and when I did so I put my head in a noose. A noose it hardly is, but it has turned out a pretty business. I have not time now to explain, and indeed it is an awkward thing to do in writing, only a very humble request to you, my malicious friend: could you not somehow very delicately, in passing, drop a hint into the young man’s ear that there are a great many houses in the metropolis besides ours? It’s more than I can stand, my dear fellow! We fall at your feet, as our friend Semyonovitch says. I will tell you all about it when we meet. I don’t mean to say that the young man has sinned against good manners, or is lacking in spiritual qualities, or is not up to the mark in some other way. On the contrary, he is an amiable and pleasant fellow; but wait, we shall meet; meanwhile if you see him, for goodness’ sake whisper a hint to him, my good friend. I would do it myself, but you know what I am, I simply can’t, and that’s all about it. You introduced him. But I will explain myself more fully this evening, anyway. Now good-bye. I remain, etc.

P.S. — My little boy has been ailing for the last week, and gets worse and worse every day; he is cutting his poor little teeth. My wife is nursing him all the time, and is depressed, poor thing. Be sure to come, you will give us real pleasure, my precious friend.


(From Ivan Petrovitch to Pyotr Ivanitch)

Dear Sir, Pyotr Ivanitch!

I got your letter yesterday, I read it and was perplexed. You looked for me, goodness knows where, and I was simply at home. Till ten o’clock I was expecting Ivan Ivanitch Tolokonov. At once on getting your letter I set out with my wife, I went to the expense of taking a cab, and reached your house about half-past six. You were not at home, but we were met by your wife. I waited to see you till half-past ten, I could not stay later. I set off with my wife, went to the expense of a cab again, saw her home, and went on myself to the Perepalkins’, thinking I might meet you there, but again I was out in my reckoning. When I get home I did not sleep all night, I felt uneasy; in the morning I drove round to you three times, at nine, at ten and at eleven; three times I went to the expense of a cab, and again you left me in the lurch.

I read your letter and was amazed. You write about Yevgeny Nikolaitch, beg me to whisper some hint, and do not tell me what about. I commend your caution, but all letters are not alike, and I don’t give documents of importance to my wife for curl-papers. I am puzzled, in fact, to know with what motive you wrote all this to me. However, if it comes to that, why should I meddle in the matter? I don’t poke my nose into other people’s business. You can be not at home to him; I only see that I must have a brief and decisive explanation with you, and, moreover, time is passing. And I am in straits and don’t know what to do if you are going to neglect the terms of our agreement. A journey for nothing; a journey costs something, too, and my wife’s whining for me to get her a velvet mantle of the latest fashion. About Yevgeny Nikolaitch I hasten to mention that when I was at Pavel Semyonovitch Perepalkin’s yesterday I made inquiries without loss of time. He has five hundred serfs in the province of Yaroslav, and he has expectations from his grandmother of an estate of three hundred serfs near Moscow. How much money he has I cannot tell; I think you ought to know that better. I beg you once for all to appoint a place where I can meet you. You met Ivan Andreyitch yesterday, and you write that he told you that I was at the Alexandrinsky theatre with my wife. I write, that he is a liar, and it shows how little he is to be trusted in such cases, that only the day before yesterday he did his grandmother out of eight hundred roubles. I have the honour to remain, etc.

P.S. — My wife is going to have a baby; she is nervous about it and feels depressed at times. At the theatre they sometimes have fire-arms going off and sham thunderstorms. And so for fear of a shock to my wife’s nerves I do not take her to the theatre. I have no great partiality for the theatre myself.


(From Pyotr Ivanitch to Ivan Petrovitch)

My Precious Friend, Ivan Petrovitch,

I am to blame, to blame, a thousand times to blame, but I hasten to defend myself. Between five and six yesterday, just as we were talking of you with the warmest affection, a messenger from Uncle Stepan Alexeyitch galloped up with the news that my aunt was very bad. Being afraid of alarming my wife, I did not say a word of this to her, but on the pretext of other urgent business I drove off to my aunt’s house. I found her almost dying. Just at five o’clock she had had a stroke, the third she has had in the last two years. Karl Fyodoritch, their family doctor, told us that she might not live through the night. You can judge of my position, dearest friend. We were on our legs all night in grief and anxiety. It was not till morning that, utterly exhausted and overcome by moral and physical weakness, I lay down on the sofa; I forgot to tell them to wake me, and only woke at half-past eleven. My aunt was better. I drove home to my wife. She, poor thing, was quite worn out expecting me. I snatched a bite of something, embraced my little boy, reassured my wife and set off to call on you. You were not at home. At your flat I found Yevgeny Nikolaitch. When I got home I took up a pen, and here I am writing to you. Don’t grumble and be cross to me, my true friend. Beat me, chop my guilty head off my shoulders, but don’t deprive me of your affection. From your wife I learned that you will be at the Slavyanovs’ this evening. I will certainly be there. I look forward with the greatest impatience to seeing you.

· I remain, etc.

P.S. — We are in perfect despair about our little boy. Karl Fyodoritch prescribes rhubarb. He moans. Yesterday he did not know any one. This morning he did know us, and began lisping papa, mamma, boo.... My wife was in tears the whole morning.


(From Ivan Petrovitch to Pyotr Ivanitch)

My Dear Sir, Pyotr Ivanitch!

I am writing to you, in your room, at your bureau; and before taking up my pen, I have been waiting for more than two and a half hours for you. Now allow me to tell you straight out, Pyotr Ivanitch, my frank opinion about this shabby incident. From your last letter I gathered that you were expected at the Slavyanovs’, that you were inviting me to go there; I turned up, I stayed for five hours and there was no sign of you. Why, am I to be made a laughing-stock to people, do you suppose? Excuse me, my dear sir ... I came to you this morning, I hoped to find you, not imitating certain deceitful persons who look for people, God knows where, when they can be found at home at any suitably chosen time. There is no sign of you at home. I don’t know what restrains me from telling you now the whole harsh truth. I will only say that I see you seem to be going back on your bargain regarding our agreement. And only now reflecting on the whole affair, I cannot but confess that I am absolutely astounded at the artful workings of your mind. I see clearly now that you have been cherishing your unfriendly design for a long time. This supposition of mine is confirmed by the fact that last week in an almost unpardonable way you took possession of that letter of yours addressed to me, in which you laid down yourself, though rather vaguely and incoherently, the terms of our agreement in regard to a circumstance of which I need not remind you. You are afraid of documents, you destroy them, and you try to make a fool of me. But I won’t allow myself to be made a fool of, for no one has ever considered me one hitherto, and every one has thought well of me in that respect. I am opening my eyes. You try and put me off, confuse me with talk of Yevgeny Nikolaitch, and when with your letter of the seventh of this month, which I am still at a loss to understand, I seek a personal explanation from you, you make humbugging appointments, while you keep out of the way. Surely you do not suppose, sir, that I am not equal to noticing all this? You promised to reward me for my services, of which you are very well aware, in the way of introducing various persons, and at the same time, and I don’t know how you do it, you contrive to borrow money from me in considerable sums without giving a receipt, as happened no longer ago than last week. Now, having got the money, you keep out of the way, and what’s more, you repudiate the service I have done you in regard to Yevgeny Nikolaitch. You are probably reckoning on my speedy departure to Simbirsk, and hoping I may not have time to settle your business. But I assure you solemnly and testify on my word of honour that if it comes to that, I am prepared to spend two more months in Petersburg expressly to carry through my business, to attain my objects, and to get hold of you. For I, too, on occasion know how to get the better of people. In conclusion, I beg to inform you that if you do not give me a satisfactory explanation to-day, first in writing, and then personally face to face, and do not make a fresh statement in your letter of the chief points of the agreement existing between us, and do not explain fully your views in regard to Yevgeny Nikolaitch, I shall be compelled to have recourse to measures that will be highly unpleasant to you, and indeed repugnant to me also.

Allow me to remain, etc.



November 11.

My Dear and Honoured Friend, Ivan Petrovitch!

I was cut to the heart by your letter. I wonder you were not ashamed, my dear but unjust friend, to behave like this to one of your most devoted friends. Why be in such a hurry, and without explaining things fully, wound me with such insulting suspicions? But I hasten to reply to your charges. You did not find me yesterday, Ivan Petrovitch, because I was suddenly and quite unexpectedly called away to a death-bed. My aunt, Yefimya Nikolaevna, passed away yesterday evening at eleven o’clock in the night. By the general consent of the relatives I was selected to make the arrangements for the sad and sorrowful ceremony. I had so much to do that I had not time to see you this morning, nor even to send you a line. I am grieved to the heart at the misunderstanding which has arisen between us. My words about Yevgeny Nikolaitch uttered casually and in jest you have taken in quite a wrong sense, and have ascribed to them a meaning deeply offensive to me. You refer to money and express your anxiety about it. But without wasting words I am ready to satisfy all your claims and demands, though I must remind you that the three hundred and fifty roubles I had from you last week were in accordance with a certain agreement and not by way of a loan. In the latter case there would certainly have been a receipt. I will not condescend to discuss the other points mentioned in your letter. I see that it is a misunderstanding. I see it is your habitual hastiness, hot temper and obstinacy. I know that your goodheartedness and open character will not allow doubts to persist in your heart, and that you will be, in fact, the first to hold out your hand to me. You are mistaken, Ivan Petrovitch, you are greatly mistaken!

Although your letter has deeply wounded me, I should be prepared even to-day to come to you and apologise, but I have been since yesterday in such a rush and flurry that I am utterly exhausted and can scarcely stand on my feet. To complete my troubles, my wife is laid up; I am afraid she is seriously ill. Our little boy, thank God, is better; but I must lay down my pen, I have a mass of things to do and they are urgent. Allow me, my dear friend, to remain, etc.


(From Ivan Petrovitch to Pyotr Ivanitch)

November 14.

Dear Sir, Pyotr Ivanitch!

I have been waiting for three days, I tried to make a profitable use of them — meanwhile I feel that politeness and good manners are the greatest of ornaments for every one. Since my last letter of the tenth of this month, I have neither by word nor deed reminded you of my existence, partly in order to allow you undisturbed to perform the duty of a Christian in regard to your aunt, partly because I needed the time for certain considerations and investigations in regard to a business you know of. Now I hasten to explain myself to you in the most thoroughgoing and decisive manner.

I frankly confess that on reading your first two letters I seriously supposed that you did not understand what I wanted; that was how it was that I rather sought an interview with you and explanations face to face. I was afraid of writing, and blamed myself for lack of clearness in the expression of my thoughts on paper. You are aware that I have not the advantages of education and good manners, and that I shun a hollow show of gentility because I have learned from bitter experience how misleading appearances often are, and that a snake sometimes lies hidden under flowers. But you understood me; you did not answer me as you should have done because, in the treachery of your heart, you had planned beforehand to be faithless to your word of honour and to the friendly relations existing between us. You have proved this absolutely by your abominable conduct towards me of late, which is fatal to my interests, which I did not expect and which I refused to believe till the present moment. From the very beginning of our acquaintance you captivated me by your clever manners, by the subtlety of your behaviour, your knowledge of affairs and the advantages to be gained by association with you. I imagined that I had found a true friend and well-wisher. Now I recognise clearly that there are many people who under a flattering and brilliant exterior hide venom in their hearts, who use their cleverness to weave snares for their neighbour and for unpardonable deception, and so are afraid of pen and paper, and at the same time use their fine language not for the benefit of their neighbour and their country, but to drug and bewitch the reason of those who have entered into business relations of any sort with them. Your treachery to me, my dear sir, can be clearly seen from what follows.

In the first place, when, in the clear and distinct terms of my letter, I described my position, sir, and at the same time asked you in my first letter what you meant by certain expressions and intentions of yours, principally in regard to Yevgeny Nikolaitch, you tried for the most part to avoid answering, and confounding me by doubts and suspicions, you calmly put the subject aside. Then after treating me in a way which cannot be described by any seemly word, you began writing that you were wounded. Pray, what am I to call that, sir? Then when every minute was precious to me and when you had set me running after you all over the town, you wrote, pretending personal friendship, letters in which, intentionally avoiding all mention of business, you spoke of utterly irrelevant matters; to wit, of the illnesses of your good lady for whom I have, in any case, every respect, and of how your baby had been dosed with rhubarb and was cutting a tooth. All this you alluded to in every letter with a disgusting regularity that was insulting to me. Of course I am prepared to admit that a father’s heart may be torn by the sufferings of his babe, but why make mention of this when something different, far more important and interesting, was needed? I endured it in silence, but now when time has elapsed I think it my duty to explain myself. Finally, treacherously deceiving me several times by making humbugging appointments, you tried, it seems, to make me play the part of a fool and a laughing-stock for you, which I never intend to be. Then after first inviting me and thoroughly deceiving me, you informed me that you were called away to your suffering aunt who had had a stroke, precisely at five o’clock as you stated with shameful exactitude. Luckily for me, sir, in the course of these three days I have succeeded in making inquiries and have learnt from them that your aunt had a stroke on the day before the seventh not long before midnight. From this fact I see that you have made use of sacred family relations in order to deceive persons in no way concerned with them. Finally, in your last letter you mention the death of your relatives as though it had taken place precisely at the time when I was to have visited you to consult about various business matters. But here the vileness of your arts and calculations exceeds all belief, for from trustworthy information which I was able by a lucky chance to obtain just in the nick of time, I have found out that your aunt died twenty-four hours later than the time you so impiously fixed for her decease in your letter. I shall never have done if I enumerate all the signs by which I have discovered your treachery in regard to me. It is sufficient, indeed, for any impartial observer that in every letter you style me, your true friend, and call me all sorts of polite names, which you do, to the best of my belief, for no other object than to put my conscience to sleep.

I have come now to your principal act of deceit and treachery in regard to me, to wit, your continual silence of late in regard to everything concerning our common interests, in regard to your wicked theft of the letter in which you stated, though in language somewhat obscure and not perfectly intelligible to me, our mutual agreements, your barbarous forcible loan of three hundred and fifty roubles which you borrowed from me as your partner without giving any receipt, and finally, your abominable slanders of our common acquaintance, Yevgeny Nikolaitch. I see clearly now that you meant to show me that he was, if you will allow me to say so, like a billy-goat, good for neither milk nor wool, that he was neither one thing nor the other, neither fish nor flesh, which you put down as a vice in him in your letter of the sixth instant. I knew Yevgeny Nikolaitch as a modest and well-behaved young man, whereby he may well attract, gain and deserve respect in society. I know also that every evening for the last fortnight you’ve put into your pocket dozens and sometimes even hundreds of roubles, playing games of chance with Yevgeny Nikolaitch. Now you disavow all this, and not only refuse to compensate me for what I have suffered, but have even appropriated money belonging to me, tempting me by suggestions that I should be partner in the affair, and luring me with various advantages which were to accrue. After having appropriated, in a most illegal way, money of mine and of Yevgeny Nikolaitch’s, you decline to compensate me, resorting for that object to calumny with which you have unjustifiably blackened in my eyes a man whom I, by my efforts and exertions, introduced into your house. While on the contrary, from what I hear from your friends, you are still almost slobbering over him, and give out to the whole world that he is your dearest friend, though there is no one in the world such a fool as not to guess at once what your designs are aiming at and what your friendly relations really mean. I should say that they mean deceit, treachery, forgetfulness of human duties and proprieties, contrary to the law of God and vicious in every way. I take myself as a proof and example. In what way have I offended you and why have you treated me in this godless fashion?

I will end my letter. I have explained myself. Now in conclusion. If, sir, you do not in the shortest possible time after receiving this letter return me in full, first, the three hundred and fifty roubles I gave you, and, secondly, all the sums that should come to me according to your promise, I will have recourse to every possible means to compel you to return it, even to open force, secondly to the protection of the laws, and finally I beg to inform you that I am in possession of facts, which, if they remain in the hands of your humble servant, may ruin and disgrace your name in the eyes of all the world. Allow me to remain, etc.


(From Pyotr Ivanitch to Ivan Petrovitch)

November 15.

Ivan Petrovitch!

When I received your vulgar and at the same time queer letter, my impulse for the first minute was to tear it into shreds, but I have preserved it as a curiosity. I do, however, sincerely regret our misunderstandings and unpleasant relations. I did not mean to answer you. But I am compelled by necessity. I must in these lines inform you that it would be very unpleasant for me to see you in my house at any time; my wife feels the same: she is in delicate health and the smell of tar upsets her. My wife sends your wife the book, Don Quixote de la Mancha, with her sincere thanks. As for the galoshes you say you left behind here on your last visit, I must regretfully inform you that they are nowhere to be found. They are still being looked for; but if they do not turn up, then I will buy you a new pair.

I have the honour to remain your sincere friend,


On the sixteenth of November, Pyotr Ivanitch received by post two letters addressed to him. Opening the first envelope, he took out a carefully folded note on pale pink paper. The handwriting was his wife’s. It was addressed to Yevgeny Nikolaitch and dated November the second. There was nothing else in the envelope. Pyotr Ivanitch read:

Dear Eugène,

Yesterday was utterly impossible. My husband was at home the whole evening. Be sure to come to-morrow punctually at eleven. At half-past ten my husband is going to Tsarskoe and not coming back till evening. I was in a rage all night. Thank you for sending me the information and the correspondence. What a lot of paper. Did she really write all that? She has style though; many thanks, dear; I see that you love me. Don’t be angry, but, for goodness sake, come to-morrow.


Pyotr Ivanitch tore open the other letter:

Pyotr Ivanitch,

I should never have set foot again in your house anyway; you need not have troubled to soil paper about it.

Next week I am going to Simbirsk. Yevgany Nikolaitch remains your precious and beloved friend. I wish you luck, and don’t trouble about the galoshes.


On the seventeenth of November Ivan Petrovitch received by post two letters addressed to him. Opening the first letter, he took out a hasty and carelessly written note. The handwriting was his wife’s; it was addressed to Yevgeny Nikolaitch, and dated August the fourth. There was nothing else in the envelope. Ivan Petrovitch read:

Good-bye, good-bye, Yevgeny Nikolaitch! The Lord reward you for this too. May you be happy, but my lot is bitter, terribly bitter! It is your choice. If it had not been for my aunt I should not have put such trust in you. Do not laugh at me nor at my aunt. To-morrow is our wedding. Aunt is relieved that a good man has been found, and that he will take me without a dowry. I took a good look at him for the first time to-day. He seems good-natured. They are hurrying me. Farewell, farewell.... My darling!! Think of me sometimes; I shall never forget you. Farewell! I sign this last like my first letter, do you remember?


The second letter was as follows:

Ivan Petrovitch,

To-morrow you will receive a new pair of galoshes. It is not my habit to filch from other men’s pockets, and I am not fond of picking up all sorts of rubbish in the streets.

Yevgeny Nikolaitch is going to Simbirsk in a day or two on his grandfather’s business, and he has asked me to find a travelling companion for him; wouldn’t you like to take him with you?

The Landlady; a Story


  • PART I








Part I

Chapter I

ORDYNOV had made up his mind at last to change his lodgings. The landlady with whom he lodged, the poor and elderly widow of a petty functionary, was leaving Petersburg, for some reason or other, and setting off to a remote province to live with relations, before the first of the month when his time at the lodging was up. Staying on till his time was up the young man thought regretfully of his old quarters and felt vexed at having to leave them; he was poor and lodgings were dear. The day after his landlady went away, he took his cap and went out to wander about the back streets of Petersburg, looking at all the bills stuck up on the gates of the houses, and choosing by preference the dingiest and most populous blocks of buildings, where there was always more chance of finding a corner in some poor tenant’s flat.

He had been looking for a long time, very carefully, but soon he was visited by new, almost unknown, sensations. He looked about him at first carelessly and absent-mindedly, then with attention, and finally with intense curiosity. The crowd and bustle of the street, the noise, the movement, the novelty of objects and the novelty of his position, all the paltry, everyday triviality of town fife so wearisome to a busy Petersburger spending his whole life in the fruitless effort to gain by toil, by sweat and by various other means a snug little home, in which to rest in peace and quiet — all this vulgar prose and dreariness aroused in Ordynov, on the contrary, a sensation of gentle gladness and serenity. His pale cheeks began to be suffused with a faint flush, his eyes began to shine as though with new hope, and he drew deep and eager breaths of the cold fresh air. He felt unusually lighthearted.

He always led a quiet and absolutely solitary life. Three years before, after taking his degree and becoming to a great extent his own master, he went to see an old man whom he had known only at second-hand, and was kept waiting a long while before the liveried servants consented to take his name in a second time. Then he walked into a dark, lofty, and deserted room, one of those dreary-looking rooms still to be found in old-fashioned family mansions that have been spared by time, and saw in it a grey-headed old man, hung with orders of distinction, who had been the friend and colleague of his father, and was his guardian. The old man handed him a tiny screw of notes. It turned out to be a very small sum: it was all that was left of his ancestral estates, which had been sold by auction to pay the family debts. Ordynov accepted his inheritance unconcernedly, took leave for ever of his guardian, and went out into the street. It was a cold, gloomy, autumn evening; the young man was dreamy and his heart was tom with a sort of unconscious sadness. There was a glow of fire in his eyes; he felt feverish, and was hot and chilly by turns. He calculated on the way that on his money he could live for two or three years, or even on half rations for four years. It grew dusk and began to drizzle with rain. He had taken the first corner he came across, and within an hour had moved into it. There he shut himself up as though he were in a monastery, as though he had renounced the world. Within two years he had become a complete recluse.

He had grown shy and unsociable without being aware of the fact; meanwhile, it never occurred to him that there was another sort of life — full of noise and uproar, of continual excitement, of continual variety, which was inviting him and was sooner or later inevitable. It is true that he could not avoid hearing of it, but he had never known it or sought to know it: from childhood his life had been exceptional; and now it was more exceptional than ever. He was devoured by the deepest and most insatiable passion, which absorbs a man’s whole life and does not, for beings like Ordynov, provide any niche in the domain of practical daily activity. This passion was science. Meanwhile it was consuming his youth, marring his rest at nights with its slow, intoxicating poison, robbing him of wholesome food and of fresh air which never penetrated to his stifling comer. Yet, intoxicated by his passion, Ordynov refused to notice it. He was young and, so far, asked for nothing more. His passion made him a babe as regards external existence and totally incapable of forcing other people to stand aside when needful to make some sort of place for himself among them. Some clever people’s science is a capital in their hands; for Ordynov it was a weapon turned against himself.

He was prompted rather by an instinctive impulse than by a logical, clearly defined motive for studying and knowing, and it was the same in every other work he had done hitherto, even the most trivial. Even as a child he had been thought queer and unlike his schoolfellows. He had never known his parents; he had to put up with coarse and brutal treatment from his schoolfellows, provoked by his odd and unsociable disposition, and that made him really unsociable and morose, and little by little he grew more and more secluded in his habits. But there never had been and was not even now any order and system in his solitary studies; even now he had only the first ecstasy, the first fever, the first delirium of the artist. He was creating a system for himself, it was being evolved in him by the years; land the dim, vague, but marvellously soothing image of an idea, embodied in a new, clarified form, was gradually emerging in his soul. And this form craved expression, fretting his soul; he was still timidly aware of its originality, its truth, its independence: creative genius was already showing, it was gathering strength and taking shape. But the moment of embodiment and creation was still far off, perhaps very far off, perhaps altogether impossible!

Now he walked about the streets like a recluse, like a hermit who has suddenly come from his dumb wilderness into the noisy, roaring city. Everything seemed to him new and strange. But he was so remote from all the world that was surging and clattering around him that he did not wonder at his own strange sensation. He seemed unconscious of his own aloofness; on the contrary, there was springing up in his heart a joyful feeling, a sort of intoxication, like the ecstasy of a hungry man who has meat and drink set before him after a long fast; though, of course, it was strange that such a trivial novelty as a change of lodgings could excite and thrill any inhabitant of Petersburg, even Ordynov; but the truth is that it had scarcely ever happened to him to go out with a practical object.

He enjoyed wandering about the streets more and more. He stared about at everything like a flâneur.

But, even now, inconsequent as ever, he was reading significance in the picture that lay so brightly before him, as though between the lines of a book. Everything struck him; he did not miss a single impression, and looked with thoughtful eyes into the faces of passing people, watched the characteristic aspect of everything around him and listened lovingly to the speech of the people as though verifying in everything the conclusions that had been formed in the stillness of solitary nights. Often some trifle impressed him, gave rise to an idea, and for the first time he felt vexed that he had so buried himself alive in his cell. Here everything moved more swiftly, his pulse was full and rapid, his mind, which had been oppressed by solitude and had been stirred and uplifted only by strained, exalted activity, worked now swiftly, calmly and boldly. Moreover, he had an unconscious longing to squeeze himself somehow into this life which was so strange to him, of which he had hitherto known — or rather correctly divined — only by the instinct of the artist. His heart began instinctively throbbing with a yearning for love and sympathy. He looked more attentively at the people who passed by him; but they were strangers, preoccupied and absorbed in thought, and by degrees Ordynov’s careless lightheartedness began unconsciously to pass away; reality began to weigh upon him, and to inspire in him a sort of unconscious dread and awe. He began to be weary from the surfeit of new impressions, like an invalid who for the first time joyfully gets up from his sick bed, and sinks down giddy and stupefied by the movement and exhausted by the light, the glare, the whirl of life, the noise and medley of colours in the crowd that flutters by him. He began to feel dejected and miserable, he began to be full of dread for his whole life, for his work, and even for the future. A new idea destroyed his peace. A thought suddenly occurred to him that all his life he had been solitary and no one had loved him — and, indeed, he had succeeded in loving no one either. Some of the passers-by, with whom he had chanced to enter into conversation at the beginning of his walk, had looked at him rudely and strangely. He saw that they took him for a madman or a very original, eccentric fellow, which was, indeed, perfectly correct. He remembered that everyone was always somewhat ill at ease in his presence, that even in his childhood everyone had avoided him on account of his dreamy, obstinate character, that sympathy for people had always been difficult and oppressive to him, and had been unnoticed by others, for though it existed in him there was no moral equality perceptible in it, a fact which had worried him even as a child, when he was utterly unlike other children of his own age. Now he remembered and reflected that always, at all times, he had been left out and passed over by everyone.

Without noticing it, he had come into an end of Petersburg remote from the centre of the town. Dining after a fashion in a solitary restaurant, he went out to wander about again. Again he passed through many streets and squares. After them stretched long fences, grey and yellow; he began to come across quite dilapidated little cottages, instead of wealthy houses, and mingled with them colossal factories, monstrous, soot-begrimed, red buildings, with long chimneys. All round it was deserted and desolate, everything looked grim and forbidding, so at least it seemed to Ordynov. It was by now evening. He came out of a long side-street into a square where there stood a parish church.

He went into it without thinking. The service was just over, the church was almost empty, only two old women were kneeling near the entrance. The verger, a grey-headed old man, was putting out the candles. The rays of the setting sun were streaming down from above through a narrow window in the cupola and flooding one of the chapels with a sea of brilliant light, but it grew fainter and fainter, and the blacker the darkness that gathered under the vaulted roof, the more brilliantly glittered in places the gilt ikons, reflecting the flickering glow of the lamps and the lights. In an access of profound depression and some stifled feeling Ordynov leaned against the wall in the darkest corner of the church, and for an instant sank into forgetfulness. He came to himself when the even, hollow sound of the footsteps of two persons resounded in the building. He raised his eyes and an indescribable curiosity took possession of him at the sight of the two advancing figures. They were an old man and a young woman. The old man was tall, still upright and hale-looking, but thin and of a sickly pallor. From his appearance he might have been taken for a merchant from some distant province. He was wearing a long black full-skirted coat trimmed with fur, evidently a holiday dress, and he wore it unbuttoned; under it could be seen some other long-skirted Russian garment, buttoned closely from top to bottom. His bare neck was covered with a bright red handkerchief carelessly knotted; in his hands he held a fur cap. His thin, long, grizzled beard fell down to his chest, and fiery, feverishly glowing eyes flashed a haughty, prolonged stare from under his frowning, overhanging brows. The woman was about twenty and wonderfully beautiful. She wore a splendid blue, fur-trimmed jacket, and her head was covered with a white satin kerchief tied under her chin. She walked with her eyes cast down, and a sort of melancholy dignity pervaded her whole figure and was vividly and mournfully reflected in the sweet contours of the childishly soft, mild lines of her face. There was something strange in this surprising couple.

The old man stood still in the middle of the church, and bowed to all the four points of the compass, though the church was quite empty; his companion did the same. Then he took her by the hand and led her up to the big ikon of the Virgin, to whom the church was dedicated. It was shining on the altar, with the dazzling light of the candles reflected on the gold and precious stones of the setting. The church verger, the last one remaining in the church, bowed respectfully to the old man; the latter nodded to him. The woman fell on her face, before the ikon. The old man took the hem of the veil that hung at the pedestal of the ikon and covered her head.

A muffled sob echoed through the church.

Ordynov was impressed by the solemnity of this scene and waited in impatience for its conclusion. Two minutes later the woman raised her head and again the bright light of the lamp fell on her charming face. Ordynov started and took a step forward. She had already given her hand to the old man and they both walked quietly out of the church. Tears were welling up from her dark blue eyes under the long eyelashes that glistened against the milky pallor of her face, and were rolling down her pale cheeks. There was a glimpse of a smile on her lips; but there were traces in her face of some childlike fear and mysterious horror. She pressed timidly close to the old man and it could be seen that she was trembling from emotion.

Overwhelmed, tormented by a sweet and persistent feeling that was novel to him, Ordynov followed them quickly and overtook them in the church porch. The old man looked at him with unfriendly churlishness; she glanced at him, too, but absent-mindedly, without curiosity, as though her mind were absorbed by some far-away thought. Ordynov followed them without understanding his own action. By now it had grown quite dark; he followed at a little distance. The old man and the young woman turned into a long, wide, dirty street full of hucksters’ booths, com chandlers’ shops and taverns, leading straight to the city gates, and turned from it into a long narrow lane, with long fences on each side of it, running alongside the huge, blackened wall of a four-storeyed block of buildings, by the gates of which one could pass into another street also big and crowded. They were approaching the house; suddenly the old man turned round and looked with impatience at Ordynov. The young man stood still as though he had been shot; he felt himself how strange his impulsive conduct was. The old man looked round once more, as though he wanted to assure himself that his menacing gaze had produced its effect, and then the two of them, he and the young woman, went in at the narrow gate of the courtyard. Ordynov turned back.

He was in the most discontented humour and was vexed with himself, reflecting that he had wasted his day, that he had tired himself for nothing, and had ended foolishly by magnifying into an adventure an incident that was absolutely ordinary.

However severe he had been with himself in the morning for his recluse habits, yet it was instinctive with him to shun anything that might distract him, impress and shock him in his external, not in his internal, artistic worlds Now he thought mournfully and regretfully of his sheltered corner; then he was overcome by depression and anxiety about his unsettled position and the exertions before him. At last, exhausted and incapable of putting two ideas together, he made his way late at night to his lodging and realised with amazement that he had been about to pass the house in which he lived. Dumb-founded, he shook his head, and put down his absentmindedness to fatigue and, going up the stairs, at last reached his garret under the roof. There he lighted a candle — and a minute later the image of the weeping woman rose vividly before his imagination. So glowing, so intense was the impression, so longingly did his heart reproduce those mild, gentle features, quivering with mysterious emotion and horror, and bathed in tears of ecstasy or childish penitence, that there was a mist before his eyes and a thrill of fire seemed to run through all his limbs. But the vision did not last long. After enthusiasm, after ecstasy came reflection, then vexation, then impotent anger; without undressing he threw himself on his hard bed...

Ordynov woke up rather late in the morning, in a nervous, timid and oppressed state of mind. He hurriedly got ready, almost forcing himself to concentrate his mind on the practical problems before him, and set off in the opposite direction from that he had taken on his pilgrimage the day before. At last he found a lodging, a little room in the flat of a poor German called Schpies, who lived alone with a daughter called Tinchen. On receiving a deposit Schpies instantly took down the notice that was nailed on the gate to attract lodgers, complimented Ordynov on his devotion to science, and promised to work with him zealously himself. Ordynov said that he would move in in the evening. From there he was going home, but changed his mind and turned off in the other direction; his self-confidence had returned and he smiled at his own curiosity. In his impatience the way seemed very long to him. At last he reached the church in which he had been the evening before. Evening service was going on. He chose a place from which he could see almost all the congregation; but the figures he was looking for were not there. After waiting a long time he went away, blushing. Resolutely suppressing in himself an involuntary feeling, he tried obstinately to force himself, to change the current of his thoughts. Reflecting on everyday practical matters, he remembered he had not had dinner and, feeling that he was hungry, he went into the same tavern in which he had dined the day before. Unconsciously he sauntered a long time about the streets, through crowded and deserted alleys, and at last came out into a desolate region where the town ended in a vista of fields that were turning yellow; he came to himself when the deathlike silence struck him by its strangeness and unfamiliarity. It was a dry and frosty day such as are frequent in Petersburg in October. Not far away was a cottage; and near it stood two haystacks; a little horse with prominent ribs was standing unharnessed, with drooping head and lip thrust out, beside a little two-wheeled gig, and seemed to be pondering over something. A watch-dog, growling, gnawed a bone beside a broken wheel, and a child of three who, with nothing on but his shirt, was engaged in combing his shaggy white head, stared in wonder at the solitary stranger from the town. Behind the cottage there was a stretch of field and cottage garden. There was a dark patch of forest against the blue sky on the horizon, and on the opposite side were thick snow-clouds, which seemed chasing before them a flock of flying birds moving noiselessly one after another across the sky. All was still and, as it were, solemnly melancholy, full of a palpitating, hidden suspense... Ordynov was walking on farther and farther, but the desolation weighed upon him. He turned back to the town, from which there suddenly floated the deep clamour of bells, ringing for evening service; he redoubled his pace and within a short time he was again entering the church that had been so familiar to him since the day before.

The unknown woman was there already. She was kneeling at the very entrance, among the crowd of worshippers. Ordynov forced his way through the dense mass of beggars, old women in rags, sick people and cripples, who were waiting for alms at the church door, and knelt down beside the stranger. His clothes touched her clothes and he heard the breath, that came irregularly from her lips as she whispered a fervent prayer. As before, her features were quivering with a feeling of boundless devotion, and tears again were falling and drying on her burning cheeks, as though washing away I some fearful crime. It was quite dark in the place where they were both kneeling, and only from time to time the dim flame of the lamp, flickering in the draught from the narrow open window pane, threw a quivering glimmer on her face, every feature of which printed itself on the young man’s memory, making his eyes swim, and rending his heart with a vague, insufferable pain. But this torment had a peculiar, intense ecstasy of its own. At last he could not endure it; his breast began shuddering and aching all in one instant with a sweet and unfamiliar yearning, and, bursting into sobs, he bowed down with his feverish head to the cold pavement of the church. He saw nothing and felt nothing but the ache in his heart, which thrilled with sweet anguish.

This extreme impressionability, sensitiveness, and lack of resisting power may have been developed by solitude, or this impulsiveness of heart may have been evolved in the exhausting, suffocating and hopeless silence of long, sleepless nights, in the midst of unconscious yearnings and impatient stirrings of spirit, till it was ready at last to explode and find an outlet, or it may have been simply that the time for that solemn moment had suddenly arrived and it was as inevitable as when on a sullen, stifling day the whole sky grows suddenly black and a storm pours rain and fire on the parched earth, hangs pearly drops on the emerald twigs, beats down the grass, the crops, crushes to the earth the tender cups of the flowers, in order that afterwards, at the first rays of the sun, everything, reviving again, may shine and rise to meet it, and triumphantly lift to the sky its sweet, luxuriant incense, glad and rejoicing in its new life...

But Ordynov could not think now what was the matter with him. He was scarcely conscious.

He hardly noticed how the service ended, and only recovered his senses as he threaded his way after his unknown lady through the crowd that thronged the entrance. At times he met her clear and wondering eyes. Stopped every minute by the people passing out, she turned round to him more than once; he could see that her surprise grew greater and greater, and all at once she flushed a fiery red. At that minute the same old man came forward again out of the crowd and took her by the arm. Ordynov met his morose and sarcastic stare again, and a strange anger suddenly gripped his heart. At last he lost sight of them in the darkness; then, with a superhuman effort, he pushed forward and got out of the church. But the fresh evening air could not restore him; his breathing felt oppressed and stifled, and his heart began throbbing slowly and violently as though it would have burst his breast. At last he saw that he really had lost his strangers — they were neither in the main street nor in the alley. But already a thought had come to Ordynov, and in his mind was forming one of those strange, decisive projects, which almost always succeed when they are carried out, in spite of their wildness. At eight o’clock next morning he went to the house from the side of the alley and walked into a narrow, filthy, and unclean backyard which was like an open cesspool in a house. The porter, who was doing something in the yard, stood still, leaned with his chin on the handle of his spade, looked Ordynov up and down and asked him what he wanted. The porter was a little fellow about five and twenty, a Tatar with an extremely old-looking face, covered with wrinkles.

“I’m looking for a lodging,” Ordynov answered impatiently.

“Which?” asked the porter, with a grin. He looked at Ordynov as if he knew all about him.

“I want a furnished room in a flat,” answered Ordynov.

“There’s none in that yard,” the porter answered enigmatically.

“And here?”

“None here, either.” The porter took up his spade again.

“Perhaps they will let me have one,” said Ordynov, giving the porter ten kopecks.

The Tatar glanced at Ordynov, took the ten kopecks, then took up his spade again, and after a brief silence announced that: “No, there was no lodging.” But the young man did not hear him; he walked along the rotten, shaking planks that lay in the pool towards the one entrance from that yard into the lodge of the house, a black, filthy, muddy entrance that looked as though it were drowning in the pool. In the lower storey lived a poor coffin-maker. Passing by his cheering workshop, Ordynov clambered by a half-broken, slippery, spiral staircase to the upper storey, felt in the darkness a heavy, clumsy door covered with rags of sacking, found the latch and opened it. He was not mistaken. Before him stood the same old man, looking at him intently with extreme surprise.

“What do you want?” he asked abruptly and almost in a whisper.

“Is there a room to let?” asked Ordynov, almost forgetting everything he had meant to say. He saw over the old man’s shoulder the young woman.

The old man began silently closing the door, shutting Ordynov out.

“We have a lodging to let,” the young woman’s friendly voice said suddenly.

The old man let go of the door.

“I want a comer,” said Ordynov, hurriedly entering the room and addressing himself to the beautiful woman.

But he stopped in amazement as though petrified, looking at his future landlord and landlady; before his eyes a mute and amazing scene was taking place. The old man was as pale as death, as though on the point of losing consciousness. He looked at the woman with a leaden, fixed, searching gaze. She too grew pale at first; then blood rushed to her face and her eyes flashed strangely. She led Ordynov into another little room.

The whole flat consisted of one rather large room, divided into three by two partitions. From the outer room they went straight into a narrow dark passage; directly opposite was the door, evidently leading to a bedroom the other side of the partition. On the right, the other side of the passage, they went into the room which was to let; it was narrow and pokey, squeezed in between the partition and two low windows; it was blocked up with the objects necessary for daily life; it was poor and cramped but passably clean. The furniture consisted of a plain white table, two plain chairs and a locker that ran both sides of the wall. A big, old-fashioned ikon in a gilt wreath stood over a shelf in a corner and a lamp was burning before it. There was a huge, clumsy Russian stove partly in this room and partly in the passage. It was clear that it was impossible for three people to live in such a flat.

They began discussing terms, but incoherently and hardly understanding one another. Two paces away from her, Ordynov could hear the beating of her heart; he saw she was trembling with emotion and, it seemed, with fear. At last they came to an agreement of some sort. The young man announced that he should move in at once and glanced at his landlord. The old man was standing at the door, still pale, but a quiet, even dreamy smile had stolen on to his lips. Meeting Ordynov’s eyes he frowned again.

“Have you a passport?” he asked suddenly, in a loud and abrupt voice, opening the door into the passage for him.

“Yes,” answered Ordynov, suddenly taken aback.

“Who are you?”

“Vassily Ordynov, nobleman, not in the service, engaged in private work,” he answered, falling into the old man’s tone.

“So am I,” answered the old man. “I’m Ilya Murin, artisan. Is that enough for you? You can go..

An hour later Ordynov was in his new lodging, to the surprise of himself and of his German, who, together with his dutiful Tinchen, was beginning to suspect that his new lodger had deceived him.

Ordynov did not understand how it had all happened, and he did not want to understand....

Chapter II

HIS heart was beating so violently that he was giddy, and everything was green before his eyes; mechanically he busied himself arranging his scanty belongings in his new lodgings: he undid the bag containing various necessary possessions, opened the box containing his books and began laying them out on the table; but soon all this work dropped from his hands. Every minute there rose before his eyes the image of the woman, the meeting with whom had so troubled and disturbed his whole existence, who had filled his heart with such irresistible, violent ecstasy — and such happiness seemed at once flooding his starved life that his thoughts grew dizzy and his soul swooned in anguish and perplexity.

He took his passport and carried it to the landlord in the hope of getting a glance at her. But Murin scarcely opened the door; he took the paper from him, said, “Good; live in peace,” and closed the door again. An unpleasant feeling came over Ordynov. He did not know why, but it was irksome for him to look at the old man. There was something spiteful and contemptuous in his eyes. But the unpleasant impression quickly passed off. For the last three days Ordynov had, in comparison with his former stagnation, been living in a whirl of life; but he could not reflect, he was, indeed, afraid to. His whole existence was in a state of upheaval and chaos; he dimly felt as though his life had been broken in half; one yearning, one expectation possessed him, and no other thoughts troubled him.

In perplexity he went back to his room. There by the stove in which the cooking was done a little humpbacked old woman was busily at work, so filthy and clothed in such rags that she was a pitiful sight. She seemed very ill-humoured and grumbled to herself at times, mumbling with her Ups. She was his landlord’s servant. Ordynov tried to talk to her, but she would not speak, evidently from ill-humour. At last dinnertime arrived. The old woman took cabbage soup, pies and beef out of the oven, and took them to her master and mistress. She gave some of the same to Ordynov. After dinner there was a death-like silence in the flat.

Ordynov took up a book and spent a long time turning over its pages, trying to follow the meaning of what he had read often before. Losing patience, he threw down the book and began again putting his room to rights; at last he took up his cap, put on his coat and went out into the street. Walking at hazard, without seeing the road, he still tried as far as he could to concentrate his mind, to collect his scattered thoughts and to reflect a little upon his position. But the effort only reduced him to misery, to torture. He was attacked by fever and chills alternately, and at times his heart beat so violently that he had to support himself against the wall. “No, better death,” he thought; “better death,” he whispered with feverish, trembling lips, hardly thinking of what he was saying. He walked for a very long time; at last, feeling that he was soaked to the skin and noticing for the first time that it was pouring with rain, he returned home. Not far from home he saw his porter. He fancied that the Tatar stared at him for some time with curiosity, and then went his way when he noticed that he had been seen.

“Good-morning,” said Ordynov, overtaking him. “What are you called?”

“Folks call me porter,” he answered, grinning.

“Have you been porter here long?”


“Is my landlord an artisan?”

“Yes, if he says so.”

“What does he do?”

“He’s ill, lives, prays to God. That’s all.”

“Is that his wife?”

“What wife?”

“Who lives with him.”

“Ye-es, if he says so. Good-bye, sir.”

The Tatar touched his cap and went off to his den. Ordynov went to his room. The old woman, mumbling and grumbling to herself, opened the door to him, fastened it again with the latch, and again climbed on the stove where she spent her life. It was already getting dark. Ordynov was going to get a light, when he noticed that the door to the landlord’s room was locked. He called the old woman, who, propping herself on her elbow, looked sharply at him from the stove, as though wondering what he wanted with the landlord’s lock; she threw him a box of matches without a word. He went back into his room and again, for the hundredth time, tried to busy himself with his books and things. But, little by little, without understanding what he was doing, he sat down on the locker, and it seemed to him that he fell asleep. At times he came to himself and realised that his sleep was not sleep but the agonising unconsciousness of illness. He heard a knock at the door, heard it opened, and guessed that it was the landlord and landlady returning from evening service. At that point it occurred to him that he must go in to them for something. He stood up, and it seemed to him that he was already going to them, but stumbled and fell over a heap of firewood which the old woman had flung down in the middle of the floor. At that point he lost consciousness completely, and opening his eyes after a long, long time, noticed with surprise that he was lying on the same locker, just as he was, in his clothes, and that over him there bent with tender solicitude a woman’s face, divinely, beautiful and, it seemed, drenched with gentle, motherly tears. He felt her put a pillow under his head and lay something warm over him, and some tender hand was laid on his feverish brow. He wanted to say “Thank you,” he wanted to take that hand, to press it to his parched lips, to wet it with his tears, to kiss, to kiss it to all eternity. He wanted to say a great deal, but what he did not know himself; he would have been glad to die at that instant. But his arms felt like lead and would not move; he was as it were numb, and felt nothing but the blood pulsing through his veins, with throbs which seemed to lift him up as he lay in bed. Somebody gave him water.... At last he fell into unconsciousness.

He woke up at eight o’clock in the morning. The sunshine was pouring through the green, mouldy windows in a sheaf of golden rays; a feeling of comfort relaxed the sick man’s limbs. He was quiet and calm, infinitely happy. It seemed to him that someone had just been by his pillow. He woke up, looking anxiously around him for that unseen being; he so longed to embrace his friend and for the first time in his life to say, “A happy day to you, my dear one.”

“What a long time you have been asleep!” said a woman’s gentle voice.

Ordynov looked round, and the face of his beautiful landlady was bending over him with a friendly smile as clear as sunlight.

“How long you have been ill!” she said. “It’s enough; get up. Why keep yourself in bondage? Freedom is sweeter than bread, fairer than sunshine. Get up, my dove, get up.”

Ordynov seized her hand and pressed it warmly. It seemed to him that he was still dreaming.

“Wait; I’ve made tea for you. Do you want some tea? You had better have some; you’ll be better. I’ve been ill myself and I know.”

“Yes, give me something to drink,” said Ordynov in a faint voice, and he got up on his feet. He was still very weak. A chill ran down his spine, all his limbs ached and felt as though they were broken. But there was a radiance in his heart, and the sunlight seemed to warm him with a sort of solemn, serene joy. He felt that a new, intense, incredible life was beginning for him. His head was in a slight whirl.

“Your name is Vassily?” she asked. “Either I have made a mistake, or I fancy the master called you that yesterday.”

“Yes, it is. And what is your name?” said Ordynov, going nearer to her and hardly able to stand on his feet. He staggered.

She caught him by the arm, and laughed.

“My name is Katerina,” she said, looking into his face with her large, clear blue eyes. They were holding each other by the hands.

“You want to say something to me,” she said at last.

“I don’t know,” answered Ordynov; everything was dark before his eyes.

“See what a state you’re in. There, my dove, there; don’t grieve, don’t pine; sit here at the table in the sun; sit quiet, and don’t follow me,” she added, seeing that the young man made a movement as though to keep her. “I will be with you again at once; you have plenty of time to see as much as you want of me.” A minute later she brought in the tea, put it on the table, and sat down opposite him.

“Come, drink it up,” she said. “Does your head ache?”

“No, now it doesn’t ache,” he said. “I don’t know, perhaps it does.... I don’t want any... enough, enough!... I don’t know what’s the matter with me,” he said, breathless, and finding her hand at last. “Stay here, don’t go away from me; give me your hand again.... It’s all dark before my eyes; I look at you as though you were the sun,” he said, as it were tearing the words out of his heart, and almost swooning with ecstasy as he uttered them. His throat was choking with sobs.

“Poor fellow! It seems you have not lived with anyone kind. You are all lonely and forlorn. Haven’t you any relations?”

“No, no one; I am alone... never mind, it’s no matter! Now it’s better; I am all right now,” said Ordynov, as though in delirium. The room seemed to him to be going round.

“I, too, have not seen my people for many years. You look at me as..,” she said, after a minute’s silence.

“Well... what?”

“You look at me as though my eyes were warming you! You know, when you love anyone... I took you to my heart from the first word. If you are ill I will look after you again. Only don’t you be ill; no. When you get up we will live like brother and sister. Will you? You know it’s difficult to get a sister if God has not given you one.”

“Who are you? Where do you come from?” said Ordynov in a weak voice.

“I am not of these parts.... You know the folks tell how twelve brothers lived in a dark forest, and how a fair maiden lost her way in that forest. She went to them and tidied everything in the house for them, and put her love into everything.

The brothers came home, and learned that the sister had spent the day there. They began calling her; she came out to them. They all called her sister, gave her freedom, and she was equal with all. Do you know the fairy tale?”

“I know it,” whispered Ordynov.

“Life is sweet; is it sweet to you to live in the world?”

“Yes, yes; to live for a long time, to live for ages,” answered Ordynov.

“I don’t know,” said Katerina dreamily. “I should like death, too. Is life sweet? To love, and to love good people, yes.... Look, you’ve turned as white as flour again.”

“Yes, my head’s going round....”

“Stay, I will bring you my bedclothes and another pillow; I will make up the bed here. Sleep, and dream of me; your weakness will pass. Our old woman is ill, too.”

While she talked she began making the bed, from time to time looking at Ordynov with a smile.

“What a lot of books you’ve got!” she said, moving away a box.

She went up to him, took him by the right arm, led him to the bed, tucked him up and covered him with the quilt.

“They say books spoil a man,” she said, shaking her head thoughtfully. “Do you like reading?”

“Yes,” answered Ordynov, not knowing whether he were asleep or awake, and pressing Katerina’s hand tight to assure himself that he was awake.

“My master has a lot of books; you should see! He says they are religious books. He’s always reading to me out of them. I will show you afterwards; you shall tell me afterwards what he reads to me out of them.”

“Tell me,” whispered Ordynov, keeping his eyes fixed on her.

“Are you fond of praying?” she said to him after a moment’s silence. “Do you know. I’m afraid, I am always afraid...”

She did not finish; she seemed to be meditating. At last Ordynov raised her hand to his lips.

“Why are you kissing my hand?” (and her cheeks flushed faintly crimson). “Here, kiss them,” she said, laughing and holding out both hands to him; then she took one away and laid it on his burning forehead; then she began to stroke and arrange his hair. She flushed more and more; at last she sat down on the floor by his bedside and laid her cheek against his cheek; her warm, damp breath tickled his face.... At last Ordynov felt a gush of hot tears fall from her eyes like molten lead on his cheeks. He felt weaker and weaker; he was too faint to move a hand. At that moment there was a knock at the door, followed by the grating of the bolt. Ordynov could hear the old man, his landlord, come in from the other side of the partition. Then he heard Katerina get up, without haste and without listening, take her books; he felt her make the sign of the cross over him as she went out; he closed his eyes. Suddenly a long, burning kiss scorched his feverish lips; it was like a knife thrust into his heart. He uttered a faint shriek and sank into unconsciousness....

Then a strange life began for him.

In moments when his mind was not clear, the thought flashed upon him that he was condemned to live in a long, unending dream, full of strange, fruitless agitations, struggles and sufferings. In terror he tried to resist the disastrous fatalism that weighed upon him, and at a moment of tense and desperate conflict some unknown force struck him again and he felt clearly that he was once more losing memory, that an impassable, bottomless abyss was opening before him and he was flinging himself into it with a wail of anguish and despair. At times he had moments of insufferable, devastating happiness, when the life force quickens convulsively in the whole organism, when the past shines clear, when the present glad moment resounds with triumph and one dreams, awake, of a future beyond all ken; when a hope beyond words falls with life-giving dew on the soul; when one wants to scream with ecstasy; when one feels that the flesh is too weak for such a mass of impressions, that the whole thread of existence is breaking, and yet, at the same time, one greets all one’s life with hope and renewal. At times he sank into lethargy, and then everything that had happened to him the last few days was repeated again, and passed across his mind in a swarm of broken, vague images; but his visions came in strange and enigmatic form. At times the sick man forgot what had happened to him, and wondered that he was not in his old lodging with his old landlady. He could not understand why the old woman did not come as she always used at the twilight hour to the stove, which from time to time flooded the whole dark corner of the room with a faint, flickering glow, to warm her trembling, bony hands at the dying embers before the fire went out, always talking and whispering to herself, and sometimes looking at him, her strange lodger, who had, she thought, grown mad by sitting so long over his books.

Another time he would remember that he had moved into another lodging; but how it had happened, what was the matter with him, and why he had to move he did not know, though his whole soul was swooning in continual, irresistible yearning.... But to what end, what led him on and tortured him, and who had kindled this terrible flame that stifled him and consumed his blood, again he did not know and could not remember. Often he greedily clutched at some shadow, often he heard the rustle of light footsteps near his bed, and a whisper, sweet as music, of tender, caressing words. Someone’s moist and uneven breathing passed over his face, thrilling his whole being with love; hot tears dropped upon his feverish cheeks, and suddenly a long, tender kiss was printed on his lips; then his life lay languishing in unquenchable torture; all existence, the whole world, seemed standing still, seemed to be dying for ages around him, and everything seemed shrouded in a long night of a thousand years....

Then the tender, calmly flowing years of early childhood seemed coming back to him again with serene joy, with the inextinguishable happiness, the first sweet wonder of life, with the swarms of bright spirits that fluttered under every flower he picked, that sported with him on the luxuriant green meadow before the little house among the acacias, that smiled at him from the immense crystal lake beside which he would sit for hours together, listening to the plashing of the waves, and that rustled about him with their wings, lovingly scattering bright rainbow dreams upon his little cot, while his mother, bending over him, made the sign of the cross, kissed him, and sang him sweet lullabies in the long, peaceful nights. But then a being suddenly began to appear who overwhelmed him with a childlike terror, first bringing into his life the slow poison of sorrow and tears; he dimly felt that an unknown old man held all his future years in thrall, and, trembling, he could not turn his eyes away from him. The wicked old man followed him about everywhere. He peeped out and treacherously nodded to the boy from under every bush in the copse, laughed and mocked at him, took the shape of every doll, grimacing and laughing in his hands, like a spiteful evil gnome: he set every one of the child’s inhuman schoolfellows against him, or, sitting with the little ones on the school bench, peeped out, grimacing, from every letter of his grammar. Then when he was asleep the evil old man sat by his pillow... he drove away the bright spirits whose gold and sapphire wings rustled about his cot, carried off his poor mother from him for ever, and began whispering to him every night long, wonderful fairy tales, unintelligible to his childish imagination, but thrilling and tormenting him with terror and unchildlike passion. But the wicked old man did not heed his sobs and entreaties, and would I go on talking to him till he sank into numbness, into unconsciousness. Then the child suddenly woke up a man; the years passed over him unseen, unheeded. He suddenly became aware of his real position. He understood all at once that he was alone, an alien to all the world, alone in a corner not his own, among mysterious and suspicious people, among enemies who were always gathering together and whispering in the comers of his dark room, and nodding to the old woman squatting on her heels near the fire, warming her bony old hands, and pointing to him. He sank into perplexity and uneasiness; he wanted to know who these people were, why they were here, why he was himself in this room, and guessed that he had strayed into some dark den of miscreants, drawn on by some powerful but incomprehensible force, without having first found out who and what the tenants were and who his landlord was. He began to be tortured by suspicion — and suddenly, in the stillness of the night, again there began a long, whispered story, and some old some old woman, mournfully nodding her white, grizzle head before the dying fire, was muttering it softly, hardly audibly to herself. But — and again he was overcome with horror — the story took shape before him in forms and faces. He saw everything, from his dim, childish visions upwards: all his thoughts and dreams, all his experiences in life, all he had read in books, things he had forgotten long ago, all were coming to life, all were being put together, taking shape and rising up before him in colossal forms and images, moving and swarming about him; he saw spread out before him magnificent, enchanted gardens, a whole town built up and demolished before his eyes, a whole churchyard giving up its dead, who began living over again; whole races and peoples came into being and passed away before his eyes; finally, every one of his thoughts, every immaterial fancy, now took bodily shape around his sick-bed; took bodily shape almost at the moment of its conception: at last he saw himself thinking not in immaterial ideas, but in whole worlds, whole, creations, saw himself borne along like an atom in this infinite, strange world from which there was no escape, and all this life in its mutinous independence crushing and oppressing him and pursuing him with eternal, infinite irony; he felt that he was dying, dissolving into dust and ashes for ever, and even without hope of resurrection, he tried to flee, but there was no corner in all the universe to hide him At last, in an access of despair, he made an intense effort, uttered a shriek and woke up.

He woke up, bathed in a chill, icy sweat. About him was a deadly silence; it was the dead of night. But still it seemed to him that somewhere the wonderful fairy tale was going on, that some hoarse voice was really telling a long story of something that seemed familiar to him. He heard talk of dark forests, of bold brigands, of some daring bravoes, maybe of Stenka Razin himself, of merry drunken bargemen, of some fair maiden, and of Mother Volga. Was it not a fairy tale? Was he really hearing it? For a whole hour he lay, open-eyed, without stirring a muscle, in agonising numbness. At last he got up carefully, and joyfully felt that his strength had come back to him after his severe illness. The delirium was over and reality was beginning. He noticed that he was dressed exactly as he had been during his talk with Katerina, so that it could not have been long since the morning she had left him. The fire of resolution ran through his veins. Mechanically he felt with his hand for a big nail for some reason driven into the top of the partition near which stood his bed, seized it, and hanging his whole weight upon it, succeeded in pulling himself up to the crevice from which a hardly perceptible light stole into his room. He put his eye to the opening and, almost breathless with excitement, began peeping in.

There was a bed in the corner of the landlord’s room; before it was a table covered with a cloth and piled up with books of old-fashioned shape, looking from their bindings like devotional books. In the corner was an ikon of the same old-fashioned pattern as in his room; a lamp was burning before it. On the bed lay the old man, Murin, sick, worn out with suffering and pale as a sheet, covered with a fur rag. On his knees was an open book. On a bench beside the bed lay Katerina, with her arm about the old man’s chest and her head bent on his shoulder. She was looking at him with attentive, childishly wondering eyes, and seemed, breathless with expectation, to be listening with insatiable curiosity to what Murin was telling her. From time to time the speaker’s voice rose higher, there was a shade of animation on his pale face; he frowned, his eyes began to flash, and Katerina seemed to turn pale with dread and expectation. Then something like a smile came into the old man’s face and Katerina began laughing softly: Sometimes tears came into her eyes; then the old man tenderly stroked her on the head like a child, and she embraced him more tightly than ever with her bare arm that gleamed like snow, and nestled even more lovingly to his bosom.

At times Ordynov still thought this was part of his dream; in fact, he was convinced of it; but the blood rushed to his head and the veins throbbed painfully in his temples. He let go of the nail, got off the bed, and staggering, feeling his way like a lunatic, without understanding the impulse that flamed up like fire in his blood, he went to the door and pushed violently; the rusty bolt flew open at once, and with a bang and a crash he suddenly found himself in the middle of the landlord’s bedroom. He saw Katerina start and tremble, saw the old man’s eyes flash angrily under his lowering brows, and his whole face contorted with sudden fury. He saw the old man, still keeping close watch upon him, feel hurriedly with fumbling hand for a gun that hung upon the wall; then he saw the barrel of the gun flash, aimed straight at his breast with an uncertain hand that trembled with fury.... There was the sound of a shot, then a wild, almost unhuman, scream, and when the smoke parted, a terrible sight met Ordynov’s eyes. Trembling all over, he bent over the old man. Murin was lying on the floor; he was writhing in convulsions, his face was contorted in agony, and there was foam upon his working lips. Ordynov guessed that the unhappy man was in a severe epileptic fit. He flew, together with Katerina, to help him...

Chapter III

THE whole night was spent in agitation. Next day Ordynov went out early in the morning, in spite of his weakness and the fever that still hung about him. In the yard he met the porter again. This time the Tartar lifted his cap to him from a distance and looked at him with curiosity. Then, as though pilling himself together, he set to work with his broom, glancing askance at Ordynov as the latter slowly approached him.

“Well, did you hear nothing in the night?” asked Ordynov.

“Yes, I heard.”

“What sort of man is he? Who is he?”

“Self took lodgings, self should know; me stranger.”

“Will you ever speak?” cried Ordynov, beside himself with an access of morbid irritability.

“What did me do? Your fault — you frightened the tenants. Below lives the coffin-maker, he deaf, but heard it all, and his wife deaf, but she heard, and in the next yard, far away, they heard. I go to the overseer.”

“I am going to him myself,” answered Ordynov; and he went to the gate.

“As you will; self took the room.... Master, master, stay.” Ordynov looked round; the porter touched his hat from politeness.


“If you go, I go to the landlord.”


“Better move.”

“You’re stupid,” said Ordynov, and was going on again. “Master, master, stay.” The porter touched his hat again and grinned. “Listen, master: be not wrathful; why persecute a poor man? It’s a sin to persecute a poor man. It is not God’s law — do you hear?”

“You listen, too: here, take that. Come, what is he?”

“What is he?”


“I’ll tell you without money.”

At this point the porter took up his broom, brandished it once or twice, then stopped and looked intently, with an air of importance, at Ordynov.

“You’re a nice gentleman. If you don’t want to live with a good man, do as you like; that’s what I say.”

Then the Tatar looked at him still more expressively, and fell to sweeping furiously again.

Making a show of having finished something at last, he went up to Ordynov mysteriously, and with a very expressive gesture pronounced —

“This is how it is.”

“How — what?”

“No sense.”


“Has flown away. Yes! Has flown away!” he repeated in a still more mysterious tone. “He is ill. He used to have a barge, a big one, and a second and a third, used to be on the Volga, and me from the Volga myself. He had a factory, too, but it was burnt down, and he is off his head.”

“He is mad?”

“Nay!... Nay!..,” the Tatar answered emphatically. “Not mad. He is a clever man. He knows everything; he has read many books, many, many; he has read everything, and tells others the truth. Some bring two roubles, three roubles, forty roubles, as much as you please; he looks in a book, sees and tells the whole truth. And the money’s on the table at once — nothing without money!”

At this point the Tatar positively laughed with glee, throwing himself into Murin’s interests with extreme zest.

“Why, does he tell fortunes, prophesy?”

“H’m!..,” muttered the porter, wagging his head quickly. “He tells the truth. He prays, prays a great deal. It’s just that way, comes upon him.”

Then the Tatar made his expressive gesture again.

At that moment someone called the porter from the other yard, and then a little, bent, grey-headed man in a sheepskin appeared. He walked, stumbling and looking at the ground, groaning and muttering to himself. He looked as though he were in his dotage.

“The master, the master!” the porter whispered in a fluster, with a hurried nod to Ordynov, and taking off his cap, he ran to meet the old man, whose face looked familiar to Ordynov; he had anyway met him somewhere just lately.

Reflecting, however, that there was nothing remarkable in that, he walked out of the yard. The porter struck him as an out-and-out rogue and an impudent fellow.

“The scoundrel was practically bargaining with me!” he thought. “Goodness knows what it means!”

He had reached the street as he said this.

By degrees he began to be absorbed in other thoughts. The impression was unpleasant, the day was grey and cold; flakes of snow were flying. The young man felt overcome by a feverish shiver again; he felt, too, as though the earth were shaking under Him All at once an unpleasantly sweet, familiar voice wished him good-morning in a broken tenor.

“Yaroslav Ilyitch,” said Ordynov.

Before him stood a short, sturdy, red-cheeked man, apparently about thirty, with oily grey eyes and a little smile, dressed... as Yaroslav Ilyitch always was dressed. He was holding out his hand to him in a very amicable way. Ordynov had made the acquaintance of Yaroslav Ilyitch just a year before in quite a casual way, almost in the street. They had so easily become acquainted, partly by chance and partly through Yaroslav Ilyitch’s extraordinary propensity for picking up everywhere good-natured, well-bred people, and his preference for friends of good education whose talents and elegance of behaviour made them worthy at least of belonging to good society. Though Yaroslav Ilyitch had an extremely sweet tenor, yet even in conversation with his dearest friends there was something extraordinarily clear, powerful and dominating in the tone of his voice that would put up with no evasions; it was perhaps merely due to habit.

“How on earth...?” exclaimed Yaroslav Ilyitch, with an expression of the most genuine, ecstatic pleasure.

“I am living here.”

“Have you lived here long?” Yaroslav Ilyitch continued on an ascending note. “And I did not know it! Why, we are neighbours! I am in this quarter now. I came back from the Ryazan province a month ago. I’ve caught you, my old and noble friend!” and Yaroslav Ilyitch laughed in a most good-natured way. “Sergeyev!” he cried impressively, “wait for me at Tarasov’s, and don’t let them touch a sack without me. And stir up the Olsufyev porter; tell him to come to the office at once. I shall be there in an hour....”

Hurriedly giving someone this order, the refined Yaroslav Ilyitch took Ordynov’s arm and led him to the nearest restaurant.

“I shall not be satisfied till we have had a couple of words alone after such a long separation. Well, what of your doings?” he pronounced almost reverently, dropping his voice mysteriously. “Working at science, as ever?”

“Yes, as before,” answered Ordynov, struck by a bright idea.

“Splendid, Vassily Mihalitch, splendid!” At this point Yaroslav Ilyitch pressed Ordynov’s hand warmly. “You will be a credit to the community. God give you luck in your career.... Goodness! how glad I am I met you! How often I have thought of you, how often I have said: ‘Where is he, our good, noble-hearted, witty Vassily Mihalitch?’”

They engaged a private room. Yaroslav Ilyitch ordered lunch, asked for vodka, and looked feelingly at Ordynov.

“I have read a great deal since I saw you,” he began in a timid and somewhat insinuating voice. “I have read all Pushkin...”

Ordynov looked at him absent-mindedly.

“A marvellous understanding of human passion. But first of all, let me express my gratitude. You have done so much for me by nobly instilling into me a right way of thinking.”

“Upon my word...”

“No, let me speak; I always like to pay honour where honour is due, and I am proud that this feeling at least has found expression.”

“Really, you are unfair to yourself, and I, indeed...”

“No, I am quite fair,” Yaroslav Ilyitch replied, with extraordinary warmth. “What am I in comparison with you?”

“Good Heavens!”


Then followed silence.

“Following your advice, I have dropped many low acquaintances and have, to some extent, softened the coarseness of my manners,” Yaroslav Ilyitch began again in a somewhat timid and insinuating voice. “In the time when I am free from my duties I sit for the most part at home; in the evenings I read some improving book and... I have only one desire, Vassily Mihalitch: to be of some little use to the fatherland....”

“I have always thought you a very high-minded man, Yaroslav Ilyitch.”

“You always bring balm to my spirit... you generous young man....”

Yaroslav Ilyitch pressed Ordynov’s hand warmly.

“You are drinking nothing?” he said, his enthusiasm subsiding a little.

“I can’t; I’m ill.”

“Ill? Yes, are you really? How long — in what way — did you come to be ill? If you like I’ll speak... What doctor is treating you? If you like I’ll speak to our parish doctor. I’ll run round to him myself. He’s a very skilful man!” Yaroslav Ilyitch was already picking up his hat.

“Thank you very much. I don’t go in for being doctored. I don’t like doctors.”

“You don’t say so? One can’t go on like that. But he’s a very clever man,” Yaroslav Ilyitch went on imploringly. “The other day — do allow me to tell you this, dear Vassily Mihalitch — the other day a poor carpenter came. ‘Here,’ said he, Ί hurt my hand with a tool; cure it for me....’ Semyon Pafnutyitch, seeing that the poor fellow was in danger of gangrene, set to work to cut off the wounded hand; he did this in my presence, but it was done in such a gener... that is, in such a superb way, that I confess if it had not been for compassion for suffering humanity, it would have been a pleasure to look on, simply from curiosity. But where and how did you fall ill?”

“In moving from my lodging... I’ve only just got up.”

“But you are still very unwell and you ought not to be out. So you are not living where you were before? But what induced you to move?”

“My landlady was leaving Petersburg.”

“Domna Savishna? Really?... A thoroughly estimable, good-hearted woman! Do you know? I had almost a son’s respect for her. That life, so near its end, had something of the serene dignity of our forefathers, and looking at her, one seemed to see the incarnation of our hoary-headed, stately old traditions... I mean of that... something in it so poetical!” Yaroslav Ilyitch concluded, completely overcome with shyness and blushing to his ears.

“Yes, she was a nice woman.”

“But allow me to ask you where you are settled now.”

“Not far from here, in Koshmarov’s Buildings.”

“I know him. A grand old man! I am, I may say, almost a real friend of his. A fine old veteran!”

Yaroslav Ilyitch’s lips almost quivered with enthusiasm. He asked for another glass of vodka and a pipe.

“Have you taken a flat?”

“No, a furnished room in a flat.”

“Who is your landlord? Perhaps I know him, too.”

“Murin, an artisan; a tall old man...”

“Murin, Murin; yes, in the back court, over the coffin-maker’s, allow me to ask?”

“Yes, yes, in the back court.”

“H’m! are you comfortable there?”

“Yes; I’ve only just moved in.”

“H’m!... I only meant to say, h’m!... have you noticed nothing special?”


“That is... I am sure you will be all right there if you are satisfied with your quarters.... I did not mean that; I am ready to warn you... but, knowing your character... How did that old artisan strike you?”

“He seems to be quite an invalid.”

“Yes, he’s a great sufferer.... But have you noticed nothing? Have you talked to him?”

“Very little; he is so morose and unsociable.”

“H’m!.. Yaroslav Ilyitch mused. “He’s an unfortunate man,” he said dreamily.

“Is he?”

“Yes, unfortunate, and at the same time an incredibly strange and interesting person. However, if he does not worry you... Excuse my dwelling upon such a subject, but I was curious...”

“And you have really roused my curiosity, too.... I should very much like to know what sort of a man he is. Besides, I am living with him...

“You know, they say the man was once very rich. He traded, as most likely you have heard. But through various unfortunate circumstances he was reduced to poverty; many of his barges were wrecked in a storm and lost, together with their cargo. His factory, which was, I believe, in the charge of a near and dear relation, was equally unlucky and was burnt down, and the relation himself perished in the flames. It must be admitted it was a terrible loss! Then, so they say, Murin sank into tearful despondency; they began to be afraid he would lose his reason, and, indeed, in a quarrel with another merchant, also an owner of barges plying on the Volga, he suddenly showed himself in such a strange an unexpected light that the whole incident could only be accounted for on the supposition that he was quite mad, which I am prepared to believe. I have heard in detail of some of his queer ways; there suddenly happened at last a very strange, so to say momentous, circumstance which can only be attributed to the malign influence of wrathful destiny.”

“What was it?” asked Ordynov.

“They say that in a fit of madness he made an attempt on the life of a young merchant, of whom he had before been very fond. He was so upset when he recovered from the attack that he was on the point of taking his own life; so at least they say. I don’t know what happened after that, but it is known that he was several years doing penance.... But what is the matter with you, Vassily Mihalitch? Am I fatiguing you with my artless tale?”

“Oh no, for goodness’ sake... You say that he has been doing penance; but he is not alone.”

“I don’t know. I am told he was alone. Anyway, no one else was mixed up in that affair. However, I have not heard what followed; I only know...”


“I only know — that is, I had nothing special in my mind to add... I only want to say, if you find anything strange or out of the ordinary in him, all that is merely the result of the misfortunes that have descended upon him one after the other....”

“Yes, he is so devout, so sanctimonious.”

“I don’t think so, Vassily Mihalitch; he has suffered so much; I believe he is quite sincere.”

“But now, of course, he is not mad; he is all right.”

“Oh, yes, yes; I can answer for that, I am ready to take my oath on it; he is in full possession of all his faculties. He is only, as you have justly observed, extremely strange and devout. He is a very sensible man, in fact. He speaks smartly, boldly and very subtly. The traces of his stormy life in the past are still visible on his face. He’s a curious man, and very well read.”

“He seems to be always reading religious books.”

“Yes, he is a mystic.”


“A mystic. But I tell you that as a secret. I will tell you, as a secret, too, that a very careful watch was kept on him for a time. The man had a great influence on people who used to go to him.”

“What sort of influence?”

“But you’ll never believe it; you see, in those days he did not live in this building; Alexandr Ignatyevitch, a respectable citizen, a man of standing, held in universal esteem, went to see him with a lieutenant out of curiosity. They arrive and are received, and the strange man begins by looking into their faces. He usually looks into people’s faces if he consents to be of use to them; if not, he sends people away, and even very uncivilly, I’m told. He asks them, ‘What do you want, gentlemen?’

‘Well,’ answers Alexandr Ignatyevitch, ‘your gift can tell you that, without our saying.’

‘Come with me into the next room,’ he says; then he signified which of them it was who needed his services. Alexandr Ignatyevitch did not say what happened to him afterwards, but he came out from him as white as a sheet. The same thing happened to a well-known lady of high rank; she, too, came out from seeing him as white as a sheet, bathed in tears and overcome with his predictions and his sayings.”

“Strange. But now does he still do the same?”

“It’s strictly prohibited. There have been marvellous instances. A young comet, the hope and joy of a distinguished family, mocked at him. ‘What are you laughing at?’ said the old man, angered. ‘In three days’ time you will be like this!’ and he crossed his arms over his bosom to signify a corpse.”


“I don’t venture to believe it, but they say his prediction came true. He has a gift, Vassily Mihalitch.... You are pleased to smile at my guileless story. I know that you are greatly ahead of me in culture; but I believe in him; he’s not a charlatan. Pushkin himself mentions a similar case in his works.”

“H’m! I don’t want to contradict you. I think you said he’s not living alone?”

“I don’t know... I believe his daughter is with him.”


“Yes, or perhaps his wife; I know there is some woman with him. I have had a passing glimpse of her, but I did not notice.”

“H’m! Strange...”

The young man fell to musing, Yaroslav Ilyitch to tender contemplation of him. He was touched both at seeing an old friend and at having satisfactorily told him something very interesting. He sat sucking his pipe with his eyes fixed on Vassily Mihalitch; but suddenly he jumped up in a fluster.

“A whole hour has passed and I forgot the time! Dear Vassily Mihalitch, once more I thank the lucky chance that brought us together, but it is time for me to be off. Will you allow me to visit you in your learned retreat?”

“Please do, I shall be delighted. I will come and see you, too, when I have a chance.”

“That’s almost too pleasant to believe. You gratify me, you gratify me unutterably! You would not believe how you have delighted me!”

They went out of the restaurant. Sergeyev was already flying to meet them and to report in a hurried sentence that Vilyam Emelyanovitch was pleased to be driving out. A pair of spirited roans in a smart light gig did, in fact, come into sight. The trace horse was particularly fine. Yaroslav Ilyitch pressed his best friend’s hand as though in a vice, touched his hat and set off to meet the flying gig. On the way he turned round once or twice to nod farewells to Ordynov.

Ordynov felt so tired, so exhausted in every limb, that he could scarcely move his legs. He managed somehow to crawl home. At the gate he was met again by the porter, who had been diligently watching his parting from Yaroslav Ilyitch, and beckoning him from a distance. But the young man passed him by. At the door of his flat he ran full tilt against a little grey-headed figure coming out from Murin’s room, looking on the ground.

“Lord forgive my transgressions!” whispered the figure, skipping on one side with the springiness of a cork.

“Did I hurt you?”

“No, I humbly thank you for your civility.... Oh, Lord, Lord!”

The meek little man, groaning and moaning and muttering something edifying to himself, went cautiously down the stairs. This was the “master” of the house, of whom the porter stood in such awe. Only then Ordynov remembered that he had seen him for the first time, here at Murin’s, when he was moving into the lodging.

He felt unhinged and shaken; he knew that his imagination and impressionability were strained to the utmost pitch, and resolved not to trust himself. By degrees he sank into a sort of apathy. A heavy oppressive feeling weighed upon his chest. His heart ached as though it were sore all over, and his whole soul was full of dumb, comfortless tears.

He fell again upon the bed which she had made Mm, and began listening again. He heard two breathings: one the heavy broken breathing of a sick man, the other soft but uneven, as though also stirred by emotion, as though that heart was beating with the same yearning, with the same passion. At times he heard the rustle of her dress the faint stir of her soft light steps, and even that faint stir of her feet echoed with a vague but agonisingly sweet pang in his heart. At last he seemed to distinguish sobs, rebellious sighs, and at last, praying again. He knew that she was kneeling before the ikon, wringing her hands in a frenzy of despair!... Who was she? For whom was she praying? By what desperate passion was her heart torn? Why did it ache and grieve and pour itself out in such hot and hopeless tears?

He began to recall her words. All that she had said to him was still ringing in his ears like music, and his heart lovingly responded with a vague heavy throb at every recollection, every word of hers as he devoutly repeated it.... For an instant a thought flashed through his mind that he had dreamed all this. But at the same moment his whole being ached in swooning anguish as the impression of her hot breath, her words, her kiss rose vividly again in his imagination. He closed his eyes and sank into oblivion. A clock struck somewhere; it was getting late; twilight was falling. It suddenly seemed to him that she was bending over him again, that she was looking into his eyes with her exquisitely clear eyes, wet with sparkling tears of serene, happy joy, soft and bright as the infinite turquoise vault of heaven at hot midday. Her face beamed with such triumphant peace; her smile was warm with such solemnity of infinite bliss; she leaned with such sympathy, with such childlike impulsiveness on his shoulder that a moan of joy broke from his exhausted bosom. She tried to tell him something, caressingly she confided something to him. Again it was as though heartrending music smote upon his hearing. Greedily he drank in the air, warm, electrified by her near breathing. In anguish he stretched out his arms, sighed, opened his eyes.... She stood before him, bending down to his face, all pale as from fear, all in tears, all quivering with emotion. She was saying something to him, entreating him with half-bare arms, clasping and wringing her hands; he folded her in his arms, she quivered on his bosom...

Part II

Chapter I

WHAT is it? What is the matter with you?” said Ordynov, waking up completely, still pressing her in his strong, warm embrace. “What is the matter with you, Katerina? What is it, my love?”

She sobbed softly with downcast eyes, hiding her flushed face on his breast. For a long while she could not speak and kept trembling as though in terror.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” she said at last, in a hardly audible voice, gasping for breath, and scarcely able to articulate. “I don’t know how I came here.. She clasped him even more tightly, with even more intensity, and in a violent irrepressible rush of feeling, kissed his shoulder, his hands, his chest; at last, as though in despair, she hid her face in her hands, fell on her knees, and buried her head in his knees. When Ordynov, in inexpressible anguish, lifted her up impatiently and made her sit down beside him, her whole face glowed with a full flush of shame, her weeping eyes sought forgiveness, and the smile that, in spite of herself, played on her lip could scarcely subdue the violence of her new feeling. Now she seemed again frightened, mistrustfully she pushed away his hand, and, with drooping head, answered his hurried questions in a fearful whisper.

“Perhaps you have had a terrible dream?” said Ordynov. “Perhaps you have seen some vision... Yes? Perhaps he has frightened you.... He is delirious and unconscious. Perhaps he has said something that was not for you to hear? Did you hear something? Yes?”

“No, I have not been asleep,” answered Katerina, stifling her emotion with an effort. “Sleep did not come to me, he has been silent all the while and only once he called me. I went up, called his name, spoke to him; I was frightened; he did not wake and did not hear me. He is terribly sick; the Lord succour him! Then misery came upon my heart, bitter misery! I prayed and prayed and then this came upon me.”

“Hush, Katerina, hush, my life, hush! You were frightened yesterday....”

“No, I was not frightened yesterday!...”

“Has it ever been like this with you at other times?”

“Yes.” And again she trembled all over and huddled up to him like a child. “You see,” she said, repressing her sobs, “it was not for nothing that I have come to you, it was not for nothing that I could not bear to stay alone,” she repeated, gratefully pressing his hands. “Enough, enough shedding tears over other people’s sorrows! Save them for a dark day when you are lonely and cast down and there is no one with you!... Listen, have you ever had a love?”

“No.... I never knew a love before you...

“Before me?... You call me your love?”

She suddenly looked at him as though surprised, would have said something, but then was silent and looked down. By degrees her whole face suddenly flushed again a glowing crimson; her eyes shone more brightly through the forgotten tears still warm on her eyelashes, and it could be seen that some question was hovering on her lips. With bashful shyness she looked at him once or twice and then looked down again.

“No, it is not for me to be your first love,” she said. “No, no,” she said, shaking her head thoughtfully, while the smile stole gently again over her face. “No,” she said, at last, laughing; “it’s not for me, my own, to be your love.”

At that point she glanced at him, but there was suddenly such sadness reflected in her face, such hopeless sorrow suddenly overshadowed all her features, such despair all at once surged up from within, from her heart, that Ordynov was overwhelmed by an unaccountable, painful feeling of compassion for her mysterious grief and looked at her with indescribable distress. —

“Listen to what I say to you,” she said in a voice that wrung his heart, pressing his hands in hers, struggling to stifle her sobs. “Heed me well, listen, my joy! You calm your heart and do not love me as you love me now. It will be better for you, your heart will be lighter and gladder, and you will guard yourself from a fell foe and will win a sister fond. I will come and see you as you please, fondle you and take no shame upon myself for making friends with you. I was with you for two days when you lay in that cruel sickness! Get to know your sister! It is not for nothing that we have sworn to be brother and sister, it is not for nothing that I prayed and wept to the Holy Mother for you! You won’t get another sister! You may go all round the world, you may get to know the whole earth and not find another love like mine, if it is love your heart wants. I will love you warmly, I will always love you as I do now, and I will love you because your soul is pure and clean and can be seen through; because when first I glanced at you, at once I knew you were the guest of my house, the longed-for guest, and it was not for nothing that you wanted to come to us; I love you because when you look at me your eyes are full of love and speak for your heart, and when they say anything, at once I know of all that is within you and long to give my life for your love, my freedom, because it is sweet to be even a slave to the man whose heart I have found.... But my life is not mine but another’s... and my freedom is bound! Take me for a sister and be a brother to me and take me to your heart when misery, when cruel weakness falls upon me; only do so that I have no shame to come to you and sit through the long night with you as now.

Do you hear me? Is your heart opened to me? Do you understand what I have been saying to you?...”

She tried to say something more, glanced at him, laid her hand on his shoulder and at last sank helpless on his bosom. Her voice died away in convulsive, passionate sobbing, her bosom heaved, and her face flushed like an evening sunset.

“My life,” whispered Ordynov; everything was dark before his eyes and he could hardly breathe. “My joy,” he said, not knowing what he was saying, not understanding himself, trembling lest a breath should break the spell, should destroy everything that was happening, which he took rather for a vision than reality: so misty was everything around him! “I don’t know, I don’t understand you, I don’t remember what you have just said to me, my mind is darkened, my heart aches, my queen!”

At this point his voice broke with emotion. She clung more tightly, more warmly, more fervently to him. He got up, no longer able to restrain himself; shattered, exhausted by ecstasy, he fell on his knees. Convulsive sobs broke agonisingly from his breast at last, and the voice that came straight from his heart quivered like a harp-string, from the fulness of unfathomable ecstasy and bliss.

“Who are you, who are you, my own? Where do you come from, my darling?” he said, trying to stifle his sobs. “From what heaven did you fly into my sphere? It’s like a dream about me, I cannot believe in you. Don’t check me, let me speak, let me tell you all, all! I have long wanted to speak... Who are you, who are you, my joy? How did you find my heart? Tell me; have you long been my sister?... Tell me everything about yourself, where you have been till now. Tell me what the place was called where you lived; what did you love there at first? what rejoiced you? what grieved you?

.... Was the air warm? was the sky clear?... Who were dear to you? who loved you before me? to whom did your soul yearn first?... Had you a mother? did she pet you as a child, or did you look round upon life as solitary as I did? Tell me, were you always like this? What were your dreams? what were your visions of the future? what was fulfilled and what was unfulfilled with you? — tell me everything.... For whom did your maiden heart yearn first, and for what did you give it? Tell me, what must I give you for it? what must I give you for yourself?... Tell me, my darling, my light, my sister; tell me, how am I to win your heart?..

Then his voice broke again, and he bowed his head. But when he raised his eyes, dumb horror froze his heart and the hair stood up on his head.

Katerina was sitting pale as a sheet. She was looking with a fixed stare into the air, her lips were blue as a corpse’s and her eyes were dimmed by a mute, agonising woe. She stood up slowly, took two steps forward and, with a piercing wail, flung herself down before the ikon.... Jerky, incoherent words’ broke from her throat. She lost consciousness. Shaken with horror Ordynov lifted her up and carried her to his bed; he stood over her, frantic. A minute later she opened her eyes, sat up in the bed, looked about her and seized his hand. She drew him towards her, tried to whisper something with her lips that were still pale, but her voice would not obey her. At last she burst into a flood of tears; the hot drops scalded Ordynov’s chilly hand.

“It’s hard for me, it’s hard for me now; my last hour is at hand!” she said at last in desperate anguish.

She tried to say something else, but her faltering tongue could not utter a word. She looked in despair at Ordynov, who did not understand her. He bent closer to her and listened.... At last he heard her whisper distinctly:

“I am corrupted — they have corrupted me, they have ruined me!”

Ordynov lifted his head and looked at her in wild amazement. Some hideous thought flashed across his mind. Katerina saw the convulsive workings of his face.

“Yes! Corrupted,” she went on; “a wicked man corrupted me. It is he who has ruined me!... I have sold my soul to him. Why, why did you speak of my mother? Why did you want to torture me? God, God be your judge!...”

A minute later she was softly weeping; Ordynov’s heart was beating and aching in mortal anguish.

“He says,” she whispered in a restrained, mysterious voice, “that when he dies he will come and fetch my sinful soul....

I am his, I have sold my soul to him. He tortures me, he reads to me in his books. Here, look at his book! here is his book, He says I have committed the unpardonable sin. Look, look...” —

And she showed him a book. Ordynov did not notice where it had come from. He took it mechanically — it was all in manuscript like the old heretical books which he had happened to see before, but now he was incapable of looking or concentrating his attention on anything else. The book fell out of his hands. He softly embraced Katerina, trying to bring her to reason. “Hush, hush,” he said; “they have frightened you. I am with you; rest with me, my own, my love, my light.”

“You know nothing, nothing,” she said, warmly pressing his hand. “I am always like this! I am always afraid.... I’ve tortured you enough, enough!...”

“I go to him then,” she began a minute later, taking a breath; “sometimes he simply comforts me with his words, sometimes he takes his book, the biggest, and reads it over me — he always reads such grim, threatening things! I don’t know what, and don’t understand every word; but fear comes upon me; and when I listen to his voice, it is as though it were not he speaking, but someone else, someone evil, someone you could not soften anyhow, could not entreat, and one’s heart grows so heavy and burns.... Heavier than when this misery comes upon me!”

“Don’t go to him. Why do you go to him?” said Ordynov, hardly conscious of his own words.

“Why have I come to you? If you ask — I don’t know either.... But he keeps saying to me, ‘Pray, pray!’ Sometimes I get up in the dark night and for a long time, for hours together, I pray; sometimes sleep overtakes me, but fear always wakes me, always wakes me and then I always fancy that a storm is gathering round me, that harm is coming to me, that evil things will tear me to pieces and torment me, that my prayers will not reach the saints, and that they will not save me from cruel grief. My soul is being tom, my whole body seems breaking to pieces through crying.... Then I begin praying again, and pray and pray until the Holy Mother looks down on me from the ikon, more lovingly. Then I get up and go away to sleep, utterly shattered; sometimes I wake up on the floor, on my knees before the ikon. Then sometimes he wakes, calls me, begins to soothe me, caress me, comfort me, and then I feel better, and if any trouble comes I am not afraid with him. He is powerful! His word is mighty!”

“But what trouble, what sort of trouble have you?”... And Ordynov wrung his hands in despair.

Katerina turned fearfully pale. She looked at him like one condemned to death, without hope of pardon.

“Me? I am under a curse, I’m a murderess; my mother cursed me! I was the ruin of my own mother!...” Ordynov embraced her without a word. She nestled tremulously to him. He felt a convulsive shiver pass all over her, and it seemed as though her soul were parting from her body.

“I hid her in the damp earth,” she said, overwhelmed by the horror of her recollections, and lost in visions of her irrevocable past. “I have long wanted to tell it; he always forbade me with supplications, upbraidings, and angry words, and at times he himself will arouse all my anguish at though he were my enemy and adversary. At night, even as now — it all comes into my mind. Listen, listen! It was long ago, very long ago.

I don’t remember when, but it is all before me as though it had been yesterday, like a dream of yesterday, devouring my heart all night. Misery makes the time twice as long. Sit here, sit here beside me; I will tell you all my sorrow; may I be struck” down, accursed as I am, by a mother’s curse.... I am putting my life into your hands...”

Ordynov tried to stop her, but she folded her hands, beseeching his love to attend, and then, with even greater agitation began to speak. Her story was incoherent, the turmoil of her spirit could be felt in her words, but Ordynov understood it all, because her life had become his life, her grief his grief, and because her foe stood visible before him, taking shape and growing up before him with every word she uttered and, as it were, with inexhaustible strength crushing his heart and cursing him malignantly. His blood was in a turmoil, it flooded his heart and obscured his reason. The wicked old man of his dream (Ordynov believed this) was living before him.

“Well, it was a night like this,” Katerina began, “only stormier, and the wind in our forest howled as I had never heard it before... it was in that night that my ruin began! An oak was broken before our window, and an old grey-headed beggar came to our door, and he said that he remembered that oak as a little child, and that it was the same then as when the wind blew it down.... That night — as I remember now — my father’s barge was wrecked on the river by a storm, and though he was afflicted with illness, he drove to the place as soon as the fishermen ran to us at the factory. Mother and I were sitting alone. I was asleep. She was sad about something and weeping bitterly... and I knew what about! She had just been ill, she was still pale and kept telling me to get ready her shroud.

... Suddenly, at midnight, we heard a knock at the gate; I jumped up, the blood rushed to my heart; mother cried out.... I did not look at her, I was afraid. I took a lantern and went myself to open the gate.... It was he! I felt frightened, because I was always frightened when he came, and it was so with me from childhood ever since I remembered anything! At that time he had not white hair; his beard was black as pitch, his eyes burnt like coals; until that time he had never once looked at me kindly. He asked me, ‘Is your mother at home?’ Shutting the little gate, I answered that ‘Father was not at home.’ He said, ‘I know,’ and suddenly looked at me, looked at me in such a way... it was the first time he had looked at me like that. I went on, but he still stood. ‘Why don’t you come in?’

‘I am thinking.’ By then we were going up to the room. ‘Why did you say that father was not at home when I asked you whether mother was at home?’ I said nothing.... Mother was terror-stricken — she rushed to him.... He scarcely glanced at her. I saw it all. He was all wet and shivering; the storm had driven him fifteen miles, but whence he came and where he lived neither mother nor I ever knew; we had not seen him for nine weeks.... He threw down his cap, pulled off his gloves — did not pray to the ikon, nor bow to his hostess — he sat down by the fire...” Katerina passed her hand over her face, as though something were weighing upon her and oppressing her, but a minute later she raised her head and began again:

“He began talking in Tatar to mother. Mother knew it, I don’t understand a word. Other times when he came, they sent me away; but this time mother dared not say a word to her own child. The unclean spirit gained possession of my soul and I looked at my mother, exalting myself in my heart. I saw they were looking at me, they were talking about me; she began crying. I saw him clutch at his knife and more than once of late I had seen him clutch at the knife when he was talking with mother. I jumped up and caught at his belt, tried to tear the evil knife away from him. He clenched his teeth, cried out and tried to beat me back; he struck me in the breast but did not shake me off. I thought I should die on the spot, there was a mist before my eyes. I fell on the floor, but did not cry out. Though I could hardly see, I saw him. He took off his belt, tucked up his sleeve, with the hand with which he had struck me took out the knife and gave it to me. ‘Here, cut it away, amuse yourself over it, even as I insulted you, while I, proud girl, will bow down to the earth to you for it.’ I laid aside the knife; the blood began to stifle me, I did not look at him. I remember I laughed without opening my lips and looked threateningly straight into mother’s mournful eyes, and the shameless laugh never left my lips, while mother sat pale, deathlike..

With strained attention Ordynov listened to her incoherent story. By degrees her agitation subsided after the first outburst; her words grew calmer. The poor creature was completely carried away by her memories and her misery was spread over their limitless expanse.

“He took his cap without bowing. I took the lantern again to see him out instead of mother, who, though she was ill, would have followed him. We reached the gates. I opened the little gate to him, drove away the dogs in silence. I see him take off his cap and bow to me, I see him feel in his bosom, take out a red morocco box, open the catch. I look in — big pearls, an offering to me. Ί have a beauty,’ says he, ‘in the town. I got it to offer to her, but I did not take it to her; take it, fair maiden, cherish your beauty; take them, though you crush them under foot.’ I took them, but I did not want to stamp on them, I did not want to do them too much honour, but I took them like a viper, not saying a word. I came in and set them on the table before mother — it was for that I took them. Mother was silent for a minute, all white as a handkerchief. She speaks to me as though she fears me. ‘What is this, Katya?’ and I answer, ‘The merchant brought them for you, my own — I know nothing.’ I see the tears stream from her eyes. I see her gasp for breath. ‘Not for me, Katya, not for me, wicked daughter, not for me.’ I remember she said it so bitterly, so bitterly, as though she were weeping out her whole soul. I raised my eyes, I wanted to throw myself at her feet, but suddenly the evil one prompted me. ‘Well, if not to you, most likely to father; I will give them to him when he comes back; I will say the merchants have been, they have forgotten their wares...’ Then how she wept, my own.... ‘I will tell him myself what merchants have been, and for what wares they came.... I will tell him whose daughter you are, whose bastard child! You are not my daughter now, you serpent’s fry! You are my accursed child!’ I say nothing, tears do not come me to me.... I went up to my room and all night I listened to the storm, while I fitted my thoughts to its raging.

“Meanwhile, five days passed by. Towards evening after five days, father came in, surly and menacing, and he had been stricken by illness on the way. I saw his arm was bound up, I guessed that his enemy had waylaid him upon the road, his enemy had worn him out and brought sickness upon him. I knew, too, who was his enemy, I knew it all. He did not say a word to mother, he did not ask about me. He called together all the workmen, made them leave the factory, and guard the house from the evil eye. I felt in my heart, in that hour, that all was not well with the house. We waited, the night came, another stormy, snowy one, and dread came over my soul. I opened the window; my face was hot, my eyes were weeping, my restless heart was burning; I was on fire. I longed to be away from that room, far away to the land of light, where the thunder and lightning are born. My maiden heart was beating and beating.... Suddenly, in the dead of night, I was dozing, or a mist had fallen over my soul, and confounded it all of a sudden — I hear a knock at the window: Open!’ I look, there was a man at the window, he had climbed up by a rope. I knew at once who the visitor was, I opened the window and let him into my lonely room. It was he! Without taking off his hat, he sat down on the bench, he panted and drew his breath as though he had been pursued. I stood in the corner and knew myself that I turned white all over. ‘Is your father at home?’

‘He is.’

‘And your mother?’

‘Mother is at home, too.’

‘Be silent now; do you hear?’

‘I hear.’


‘A whistle under the window!’

‘Well, fair maid, do you want to cut your foe’s head off? Call your father, take my life? I am at your maiden mercy; here is the cord, tie it, if your heart bids you; avenge yourself for your insult.’ I am silent. ‘Well? Speak, my joy.’

‘What do you want?’

‘I want my enemy to be gone, to take leave for good and all of the old love, and to lay my heart at the feet of a new one, a fair maid like you....’ I laughed; and I don’t know how his evil words went to my heart. ‘Let me, fair maid, walk downstairs, test my courage, pay homage to my hosts.’ I trembled all over, my teeth knocked together, but my heart was like a red-hot iron. I went. I opened the door to him, I let him into the house, only on the threshold with an effort I brought out, ‘Here, take your pearls and never give me a gift again,’ and I threw the box after him.”

Here Katerina stopped to take breath. At one moment she was pale and trembling like a leaf, at the next the blood rushed to her head, and now, when she stopped, her cheeks glowed with fire, her eyes flashed through her tears, and her bosom heaved with her laboured, uneven breathing. But suddenly she I turned pale again and her voice sank with a mournful and tremulous quiver.

“Then I was left alone and the storm seemed to wrap me about. All at once I hear a shout, I hear workmen run across the yard to the factory, I hear them say, ‘The factory is on fire.’ I kept in hiding; all ran out of the house; I was left with mother; I knew that she was parting from life, that she had been lying for the last three days on her death-bed. I knew it, accursed daughter!... All at once a cry under my room, a faint cry like a child when it is frightened in its sleep, and then all was silent. I blew out the candle, I was as chill as ice, I hid my face in my hands, I was afraid to look. Suddenly I hear a shout close by, I hear the men running from the factory. I hung out of the window, I see them bearing my dead father, I hear them saying among themselves, ‘He stumbled, he fell down the stairs into a red-hot cauldron; so the devil must have pushed him down.’ I fell upon my bed; I waited, all numb with terror, and I do not know for whom or what I waited, only I was overwhelmed with woe in that hour. I don’t remember how long I waited; I remember that suddenly everything began rocking, my head grew heavy, my eyes were smarting with smoke and I was glad that my end was near. Suddenly I felt someone lift me by the shoulders. I looked as best I could; he was singed all over and his kaftan, hot to the touch, was smoking.

“‘I’ve come for you, fair maid; lead me away from trouble as before you led me into trouble; I have lost my soul for your sake, no prayers of mine can undo this accursed night! Maybe we will pray together!’ He laughed, the wicked man. ‘Show me,’ said he, ‘how to get out without passing people!’ I took his hand and led him after me. We went through the corridor — the keys were with me — I opened the door to the store-room and pointed to the window. The window looked into the garden, he seized me in his powerful arms, embraced me and leapt with me out of the window. We ran together, hand-in-hand, we ran together for a long time. We looked, we were in a thick, dark forest. He began listening: ‘There’s a chase after us, Katya! There’s a chase after us, fair maid, but it is not for us in this hour to lay down our lives! Kiss me, fair maid, for love and everlasting happiness!’

‘Why are your hands covered with blood?’

‘My hands covered with blood, my own? I stabbed your dogs; they barked too loud at a late guest. Come along!’

“We ran on again; we saw in the path my father’s horse, he had broken his bridle and run out of the stable; so he did not want to be burnt. ‘Get on it, Katya, with me; God has sent us help.’ I was silent. ‘Won’t you? I am not a heathen, not an unclean pagan; here, I will cross myself if you like,’ and here he made the sign of the cross. I got on the horse, huddled up to him and forgot everything on his bosom, as though a dream had come over me, and when I woke I saw that we were standing by a broad, broad river. He got off the horse, lifted me down and went off to the reeds where his boat was hidden. We were getting in. ‘Well, farewell, good horse; go to a new master, the old masters all forsake you!’ I ran to father’s horse and embraced him warmly at parting. Then we got in, he took the oars and in an instant we lost sight of the shore. And when we could not see the shore, I saw him lay down the oars and look about him, all over the water.

“‘Hail,’ he said, ‘stormy river-mother, who giveth drink to God’s people and food to me! Say, hast thou guarded my goods, are my wares safe, while I’ve been away?’ I sat mute, I cast down my eyes to my bosom; my face burned with shame as with a flame. And he: ‘Thou art welcome to take all, stormy and insatiable river, only let me keep my vow and cherish my priceless pearl! Drop but one word, fair maid, send a ray of sunshine into the storm, scatter the dark night with light!’

“He laughed as he spoke, his heart was burning for me, but I could not bear his jeers for shame; I longed to say a word, but was afraid and sat dumb. ‘Well, then, be it so!’ he answered to my timid thought; he spoke as though in sorrow, as though grief had come upon him, too. ‘So one can take nothing by force. God be with you, you proud one, my dove, my fair maid! It seems, strong is your hatred for me, or I do not find favour in your clear eyes! ‘ I listened and was seized by spite, seized by spite and love; I steeled my heart. I said: ‘Pleasing or not pleasing you came to me; it is not for me to know that, but for another senseless, shameless girl who shamed her maiden room in the dark night, who sold her soul for mortal sin and could not school her frantic heart; and for my sorrowing tears to know it, and for him who, like a thief, brags of another’s woe and jeers at a maiden’s heart!’ I said it, and I could bear no more. I wept.... He said nothing; looked at me so that I trembled like a leaf. ‘Listen to me,’ said he, ‘fair maid,’ and his eyes burned strangely. ‘It is not a vain word I say, I make you a solemn vow. As much happiness as you give me, so much will I be a gentleman, and if ever you do not love me — do not speak, do not drop a word, do not trouble, but stir only your sable eyebrow, turn your black eye, stir only your little finger and I will give you back your love with golden freedom; only, my proud, haughty beauty, then there will be an end to my life too.’ And then all my flesh laughed at his words....

At this point Katerina’s story was interrupted by deep emotion; she took breath, smiled at her new fancy and would have gone on, but suddenly her sparkling eyes met Ordynov’s feverish gaze fixed on her. She started, would have said something, but the blood flooded her face.... She hid her face in her hands and fell upon the pillow at though in a swoon. Ordynov was quivering all over! An agonising feeling, an unbearable, unaccountable agitation ran like poison through all his veins and grew with every word of Katerina’s story; a hopeless yearning, a greedy and unendurable passion took possession of his imagination and troubled his feelings, but at the same time his heart was more and more oppressed by bitter, infinite sadness. At moments he longed to shriek to Katerina to be silent, longed to fling himself at her feet and beseech her by his tears to give him back his former agonies of love, his former pure, unquestioning yearning, and he regretted the tears that had long dried on his cheeks. There was an ache at his heart which was painfully oppressed by fever and could not give his tortured soul the relief of tears. He did not understand what Katerina was telling him, and his love was frightened of the feeling that excited the poor woman. He cursed his passion at that moment; it smothered him, it exhausted him, and he felt as though molten lead were running in his veins instead of blood.

“Ach, that is not my grief,” said Katerina, suddenly raising her head. “What I have told you just now is not my sorrow,” she went on in a voice that rang like copper from a sudden new feeling, while her heart was rent with secret, unshed tears. “That is not my grief, that is not my anguish, not my woe! What, what do I care for my mother, though I shall never have another mother in this world! What do I care that she cursed me in her last terrible hour? What do I care for my old golden life, for my warm room, for my maiden freedom? What do I care that I have sold myself to the evil one and abandoned my soul to the destroyer, that for the sake of happiness I have committed the unpardonable sin? Ach, that is not my grief, though in that great is my ruin! But what is bitter to me and rends my heart is that I am his shameless slave, that my shame and disgrace are dear to me, shameless as I am, but it is dear to my greedy heart to remember my sorrow as though it were joy and happiness that is my grief, that there is no strength in it and no anger for my wrongs!...”

The poor creature gasped for breath and a convulsive, hysterical sob cut short her words, her hot, laboured breath burned her lips, her bosom heaved and sank and her eyes flashed with incomprehensible indignation. But her face was radiant with such fascination at that moment, every line, every muscle quivered with such a passionate flood of feeling, such insufferable, incredible beauty that Ordynov’s black thoughts died away at once and the pure sadness in his soul was silenced. And his heart burned to be pressed to her heart and to be lost with it in frenzied emotion, to throb in harmony with the same storm, the same rush of infinite passion, and even to swoon with it. Katerina met Ordynov’s troubled eyes and smiled so that his heart burned with redoubled fire. He scarcely knew what he was doing.

“Spare me, have pity on me,” he whispered, controlling his trembling voice, bending down to her, leaning with his hand on her shoulder and looking close in her eyes, so close that their breathing was mingled in one. “You are killing me. I do not know your sorrow and my soul is troubled.... What is it to me what your heart is weeping over! Tell me what you want — I will do it. Come with me, let me go; do not kill me, do not murder me!..

Katerina looked at him immovably, the tears dried on her burning cheek. She wanted to interrupt him, to take his hand, tried to say something, but could not find the words. A strange smile came upon her lips, as though laughter were breaking through that smile.

“I have not told you all, then,” she said at last in a broken voice; “only will you hear me, will you hear me, hot heart? Listen to your sister. You have learned little of her bitter grief. I would have told you how I lived a year with him, but I will not.... A year passed, he went away with his comrades down the river, and I was left with one he called his mother to wait for him in the harbour. I waited for him one month, two, and I met a young merchant, and I glanced at him and thought of my golden years gone by. ‘Sister, darling,’ said he, when he had spoken two words to me, ‘I am Alyosha, your destined betrothed; the old folks betrothed us as children; you have forgotten me — think, I am from your parts.’

‘And what do they say of me in your parts? “Folk’s gossip says that you behaved dishonourably, forgot your maiden modesty, made friends with a brigand, a murderer,’ Alyosha said, laughing. ‘And what did you say of me?’

‘I meant to say many things when I came here’ — and his heart was troubled. ‘I meant to say many things, but now that I have seen you my heart is dead within me, you have slain me,’ he said. ‘Buy my soul, too, take it, though you mock at my heart and my love, fair maiden. I am an orphan now, my own master, and my soul is my own, not another’s. I have not sold it to anyone, like somebody who has blotted out her memory; it’s not enough to buy the heart, I give it for nothing, and it is clear it is a good bargain.’ I laughed, and more than once, more than twice he talked to me; a whole month he lived on the place, gave up his merchandise, forsook his people and was all alone. I was sorry for his lonely tears. So I said to him one morning, “Wait for me, Alyosha, lower down the harbour, as night comes on; I will go with you to your home, I am weary of my life, forlorn.’ So night came on, I tied up a bundle and my soul ached and worked within me. Behold, my master walks in without a word or warning. ‘Good-day, let us go, there will be a storm on the river and the time will not wait.’ I followed him; we came to the river and it was far to reach his mates. We look: a boat and one we knew rowing in it as though waiting for someone. ‘Good-day, Alyosha; God be your help. Why, are you belated at the harbour, are you in haste to meet your vessels? Row me, good man, with the mistress, to our mates, to our place. I have let my boat go and I don’t know how to swim.’

‘Get in,’ said Alyosha, and my whole soul swooned when I heard his voice. ‘Get in with the mistress, too, the wind is for all, and in my bower there will be room for you, too.’ We got in; it was a dark night, the stars were in hiding, the wind howled, the waves rose high and we rowed out a mile from shore — all three were silent.

“‘It’s a storm,’ said my master, ‘and it is a storm that bodes no good! I have never seen such a storm on the river in my life as is raging now! It is too much for our boat, it will not bear three!’

‘No, it will not,’ answered Alyosha, ‘and one of us, it seems, turns out to be one too many,’ he says, and his voice quivers like a harp-string. ‘Well, Alyosha, I knew you as a little child, your father was my mate, we ate at each other’s boards — tell me, Alyosha, can you reach the shore without the boat or will you perish for nothing, will you lose your life?’

‘I cannot reach it. And you, too, good man, if it is your luck to have a drink of water, will you reach the shore or not?’

‘I cannot reach it, it is the end for my soul. I cannot hold out against the stormy river! Listen, Katerina, my precious pearl! I remember such a night, but the waves were not tossing, the stars were shining, and the moon was bright.... I simply want to ask you, have you forgotten?’

‘I remember,’ said I. ‘Well, since you have not forgotten it, well, you have not forgotten the compact when a bold man told a fair maiden to take back her freedom from one unloved — eh?’

‘No, I have not forgotten that either,’ I said, more dead than alive. ‘Ah, you have not forgotten! Well, now we are in hard case in the boat. Has not his hour come for one of us? Tell me, my own, tell me, my dove, coo to us like a dove your tender word...’”

“I did not say my word then,” whispered Katerina, turning pale....

“Katerina!” A hoarse, hollow voice resounded above them. Ordynov started. In the doorway stood Murin. He was barely covered with a fur rug, pale as death, and he was gazing at them with almost senseless eyes. Katerina turned paler and paler and she, too, gazed fixedly at him, as though spellbound.

“Come to me, Katerina,” whispered the sick man, in a voice hardly audible, and went out of the room. Katerina still gazed fixedly into the air, as though the old man had still been standing before her. But suddenly the blood rushed glowing into her pale cheek and she slowly got up from the bed. Ordynov remembered their first meeting.

“Till to-morrow then, my tears!” she said, laughing strangely; “till to-morrow! Remember at what point I stopped: ‘Choose between the two; which is dear or not dear to you, fair maid!’ Will you remember, will you wait for one night?” she repeated, laying her hand on his shoulder and looking at him tenderly.

“Katerina, do not go, do not go to your ruin! He is mad,” whispered Ordynov, trembling for her.

“Katerina!” he heard through the partition.

“What? Will he murder me? no fear!” Katerina answered, laughing: “Good-night to you, my precious heart, my warm dove, my brother!” she said, tenderly pressing his head to her bosom, while tears bedewed her face. “Those are my last tears.

Sleep away your sorrow, my darling, wake to-morrow to joy.” And she kissed him passionately.

“Katerina, Katerina!” whispered Ordynov, falling on his knees before her and trying to stop her. “Katerina!”

She turned round, nodded to him, smiling, and went out of the room. Ordynov heard her go in to Murin; he held his breath, listening, but heard not a sound more. The old man was silent or perhaps unconscious again.... He would have gone in to her there, but his legs staggered under him.... He sank exhausted on the bed....

Chapter II

FOR a long while he could not find out what the time was when he woke. Whether it was the twilight of dawn or of evening, it was still dark in his room. He could not decide how long he had slept, but felt that his sleep was not healthy sleep. Coming to himself, he passed his hand over his face as though shaking off sleep and the visions of the night. But when he tried to step on the floor he felt as though his whole body were shattered, and his exhausted limbs refused to obey him. His head ached and was going round, and he was alternately shivering and feverish. Memory returned with consciousness and his heart quivered when in one instant he lived through, in memory, the whole of the past night. His heart beat as violently in response to his thoughts, his sensations were as burning, as fresh, as though not a night, not long hours, but one minute had passed since Katerina had gone away. He felt as though his eyes were still wet with tears — or were they new, fresh tears that rushed like a spring from his burning soul? And, strange to say, his agonies were even sweet to him, though he dimly felt all over that he could not endure such violence of feeling again. There was a moment when he was almost conscious of death, and was ready to meet it as a welcome guest; his sensations were so overstrained, his passion surged up with such violence on waking, such ecstasy took possession of his soul that life, quickened by its intensity, seemed on the point of breaking, of being shattered, of flickering out in one minute and being quenched for ever. Almost at that instant, as though in answer to his anguish, in answer to his quivering heart, the familiar mellow, silvery voice of Katerina rang out — like that inner music known to man’s soul in hours of joy, in hours of tranquil happiness. Close beside him, almost over his pillow, began a song, at first soft and melancholy... her voice rose and fell, dying away abruptly as though hiding in itself, and tenderly crooning over its anguish of unsatisfied, smothered desire hopelessly concealed in the grieving heart; then again it flowed into a nightingale’s trills and, quivering and glowing with unrestrained passion, melted into a perfect sea of ecstasy, a sea of mighty, boundless sound, like the first moment of the bliss of love.

Ordynov distinguished the words, too. They were simple, sincere, composed long ago with direct, calm, pure, clear feeling, but he forgot them, he heard only the sounds. Through the simple, naïve verses of the song flashed other words resounding with all the yearning that filled his bosom, responding to the most secret subtleties of his passion, which he could not comprehend though they echoed to him clearly with full consciousness of it. And at one moment he heard the last moan of a heart swooning helplessly in passion, then he heard the joy of a will and a spirit breaking its chains and rushing brightly and freely into the boundless ocean of unfettered love. Then he heard the first vow of the beloved, with fragrant shame at the first blush on her face, with prayers, with tears, with mysterious timid murmuring; then the passion of the Bacchante, proud and rejoicing in its strength, unveiled, undisguised, turning her drunken eyes about her with a ringing laugh...

Ordynov could not endure the end of the song, and he got up from the bed. The song at once died away.

“Good-morning and good-day are over, my beloved,” Katerina’s voice rang out, “Good-evening to you; get up, come in to us, wake up to bright joy; we expect you. I and the master, both good people, your willing servants, quench hatred with love, if your heart is still resentful. Say a friendly word!”...

Ordynov had already gone out of his room at her first call and scarcely realised that he was going into the landlord’s bedroom. The door opened before him and, bright as sunshine, the golden smile of his strange landlady flashed upon him. At that instant, he saw, he heard no one but her. In one moment his whole life, his whole joy, melted into one thing in his heart — the bright image of his Katerina.

“Two dawns have passed,” she said, giving him her hands, “since we said farewell; the second is dying now — look out of the window. Like the two dawns in the soul of a maiden,”

Katerina added, laughing. “The one that flushes her face with its first shame, when first her lonely maiden heart speaks in her bosom, while the other, when a maiden forgets her first shame, glows like fire, stifles her maiden heart, and drives the red blood to her face.... Come, come into our home, good young man! Why do you stand in the doorway? Honour and love to you, and a greeting from the master!”

With a laugh ringing like music, she took Ordynov’s hand and led him into the room. His heart was overwhelmed with timidity. All the fever, all the fire raging in his bosom was quenched and died down in one instant, and for one instant he dropped his eyes in confusion and was afraid to look at her. He felt that she was so marvellously beautiful that his heart could not endure her burning eyes. He had never seen his Katerina like this. For the first time laughter and gaiety were sparkling on her face, and drying the mournful tears on her black eyelashes. His hand trembled in her hand. And if he had raised his eyes he would have seen that Katerina, with a triumphant smile, had fastened her clear eyes on his face, which was clouded with confusion and passion.

“Get up, old man,” she said at last, as though waking up; “say a word of welcome to our guest, a guest who is like a brother! Get up, you proud, unbending old man; get up, now, take your guest by his white hand and make him sit down to the table.”

Ordynov raised his eyes and seemed only then to come to himself. Only then he thought of Murin. The old man’s eyes, looking as though dimmed by the approach of death, were staring at him fixedly; and with a pang in his heart he remembered those eyes glittering at him last time from black overhanging brows contracted as now with pain and anger. There was a slight dizziness in his head. He looked round him and only then realised everything clearly and distinctly. Murin was still lying on the bed, but he was partly dressed and had already been up and out that morning. As before, he had a red kerchief tied round his neck, he had slippers on his feet. His attack was evidently over, only his face was terribly pale and yellow. Katerina was standing by his bed, her hand leaning on the table, watching them both intently. But the smile of welcome did not leave her face. It seemed as though everything had been done at a sign from her.

“Yes! it’s you,” said Murin, raising himself up and sitting on the bed. “You are my lodger. I must beg your pardon, sir; I have sinned and wronged you all unknowingly, playing tricks with my gun the other day. Who could tell that you, too, were stricken by grievous sickness? It happens to me at times,” he added in a hoarse, ailing voice, frowning and unconsciously looking away from Ordynov. “My trouble comes upon me like a thief in the night without knocking at the gate! I almost thrust a knife into her bosom the other day...”he brought out, nodding towards Katerina. “I am ill, a fit comes, seizes me — well, that’s enough. Sit down — you will be our guest.”

Ordynov was still staring at him intently.

“Sit down, sit down!” the old man shouted impatiently; “sit down, if that will please her! So you are brother and sister, born of the same mother! You are as fond of one another as lovers!”

Ordynov sat down.

“You see what a fine sister you’ve got,” the old man went on, laughing, and he showed two rows of white, perfectly sound teeth. “Be fond of one another, my dears. Is your sister beautiful, sir? Tell me, answer! Come, look how her cheeks are burning; come, look round, sing the praises of her beauty to all the world, show that your heart is aching for her.”

Ordynov frowned and looked angrily at the old man, who flinched under his eyes. A blind fury surged up in Ordynov’s heart. By some animal instinct he felt near him a mortal foe. He could not understand what was happening to him, his reason refused to serve him.

“Don’t look,” said a voice behind him.

Ordynov looked round.

“Don’t look, don’t look, I tell you, if the devil is tempting you; have pity on your love,” said Katerina, laughing, and suddenly from behind she covered his eyes with her hands; then at once took away her hands and hid her own face in them. But the colour in her face seemed to show through her fingers. She removed her hands and, still glowing like fire, tried to meet their laughter and inquisitive eyes brightly and without a tremor. But both looked at her in silence — Ordynov with the stupefaction of love, as though it were the first time such terrible beauty had stabbed his heart; the old man coldly and attentively. Nothing was to be seen in his pale face, except that his lips turned blue and quivered faintly.

Katerina went up to the old man, no longer laughing, and began clearing away the books, papers, inkstand, everything that was on the table and putting them all on the window-sill.

Her breathing was hurried and uneven, and from time to time she drew an eager breath as though her heart were oppressed. Her full bosom heaved and fell like a wave on the seashore. She dropped her eyes and her pitch-black eyelashes gleamed on her bright cheeks like sharp needles....

“A maiden queen,” said the old man.

“My sovereign!” whispered Ordynov, quivering all over. He came to his senses, feeling the old man’s eyes upon him — his glance flashed upon him for an instant like lightning — greedily spiteful, coldly contemptuous. Ordynov would have got up from his seat but some unseen power seemed to fetter his legs. He sat down again. At times he pinched his hand as though not believing in reality. He felt as though he were being strangled by a nightmare, and as though his eyes were still closed in a miserable feverish sleep. But, strange to say, he did not want to wake up!

Katerina took the old cloth off the table, then opened a chest, took out of it a sumptuous cloth embroidered in gold and bright silks and put it on the table; then she took out of the cupboard an old-fashioned ancestral-looking casket, set it in the middle of the table and took out of it three silver goblets — one for the master, one for the visitor, and one for herself; then with a grave, almost pensive air, she looked at the old man and at the visitor.

“Is one of us dear to someone, or not dear,” she said. “If anyone is not dear to someone he is dear to me, and shall drink my goblet with me. Each of you is dear to me as my own brother: so let us all drink to love and concord.”

“Drink and drown dark fancies in the wine,” said the old man, in a changed voice. “Pour it out, Katerina.”

“Do you bid me pour?” asked Katerina, looking at Ordynov.

Ordynov held out his goblet in silence.

“Stay! If one has a secret and a fancy, may his wishes come true!” said the old man, raising his goblet.

All clinked their goblets and drank.

“Let me drink now with you, old man,” said Katerina, turning to the landlord. “Let us drink if your heart is kindly to me! Let us drink to past happiness, let us send a greeting to the years we have spent, let us celebrate our happiness with heart and with love. Bid me fill your goblet if your heart is warm to me.”

“Your wine is strong, my love, but you scarcely wet your lips!” said the old man, laughing and holding out his goblet again.

“Well, I will sip it, but you drink it to the bottom... why live, old man, brooding on gloomy thoughts; gloomy thoughts only make the heart ache! Thought calls for sorrow; with happiness one can live without thinking; drink, old man,” she went on; “drown your thoughts.”

“A great deal of sorrow must have fermented within you, since you arm yourself against it like this! So you want to make an end of it all at once, my white dove. I drink with you, Katya! And have you a sorrow, sir, if you allow me to ask?”

“If I have, I keep it to myself,” muttered Ordynov, keeping his eyes fixed on Katerina.

“Do you hear, old man? For a long while I did not know myself, did not remember; but the time came, I remembered all and recalled it; all that has passed I have passed through again in my unsatisfied soul.”

“Yes, it is grievous if one begins looking into the past only,” said the old man dreamily. “What is past is like wine that is drunk! What happiness is there in the past? The coat is worn out, and away with it.”

“One must get a new one,” Katerina chimed in with a strained laugh, while two big tears like diamonds hung on her eyelashes. “One cannot live down a lifetime in one minute, and a girl’s heart is eager for life — there is no keeping pace with it. Do you understand, old man? Look. I have buried my tear in your goblet.”

“And did you buy much happiness with your sorrow?” said Ordynov — and his voice quivered with emotion.

“So you must have a great deal of your own for sale,” answered the old man, “that you put your spoke in unasked,” and he laughed a spiteful, noiseless laugh, looking insolently at Ordynov.

“What I have sold it for, I have had,” answered Katerina I in a voice that sounded vexed and offended. “One thinks it much, another little. One wants to give all to take nothing, another promises nothing and yet the submissive heart follows him! Do not you reproach anyone,” she went on, looking sadly at Ordynov. “One man is like this, and another is different, and as though one knew why the soul yearns towards anyone! Fill your goblet, old man. Drink to the happiness of your dear daughter, your meek, obedient slave, as I was when first I knew you. Raise your goblet!”

“So be it! Fill yours, too!” said the old man, taking the wine.

“Stay, old man! Put off drinking, and let us say a word first!..

Katerina put her elbows on the table and looked intently, with passionate, kindling eyes, at the old man. A strange determination gleamed in her eyes. But all her movements were calm, her gestures were abrupt, unexpected, rapid. She was all as if on fire, and it was marvellous; but her beauty seemed to grow with her emotion, her animation; her hurried breath slightly inflating her nostrils, floated from her lips, half opened in a smile which showed two rows of teeth white and even as pearls. Her bosom heaved, her coil of hair, twisted three times round her head, fell carelessly over her left ear and covered part of her glowing cheek, drops of sweat came out on her temples.

“Tell my fortune, old man; tell my fortune, my father, before you drown your mind in drink. Here is my white palm for you — not for nothing do the folks call you a wizard. You have studied by the book and know all of the black art! Look, old man, tell me all my pitiful fate; only mind you don’t tell a lie. Come, tell me as you know it — will there be happiness for your daughter, or will you not forgive her, but call down upon her path an evil, sorrowful fate? Tell me whether I shall have a warm corner for my home, or, like a bird of passage, shall be seeking among good people for a home — a lonely orphan all my life. Tell me who is my enemy, who is preparing love for me, who is plotting against me; tell me, will my warm young heart open its life in solitude and languish to the end, or will it find itself a mate and beat joyfully in tune with it till new sorrow comes! Tell me for once, old man, in what blue sky, beyond far seas and forests, my bright falcon lives. And is he keenly searching for his mate, and is he waiting lovingly, and will he love me fondly; will he soon be tired of me, will he deceive me or not deceive me, and, once for all and altogether, tell me for the last time, old man, am I long to while away the time with you, to sit in a comfortless comer, to read dark books; and when am I, old man, to bow low to you, to say farewell for good and all, to thank you for your bread and salt, for giving me to drink and eat, for telling me your tales?... But mind, tell all the truth, do not He. The time has come, stand up for yourself.”

Her excitement grew greater and greater up to the last word, when suddenly her voice broke with emotion as though her heart were carried away by some inner tempest. Her eyes flashed, and her upper lip faintly quivered. A spiteful jeer could be heard hiding like a snake under every word, but yet there was the ring of tears in her laughter. She bent across the table to the old man and gazed with eager intentness into his lustreless eyes. Ordynov heard her heart suddenly begin beating when she finished; he cried out with ecstasy when he glanced at her, and was getting up from the bench. But a flitting momentary glance from the old man riveted him to his seat again. A strange mingling of contempt, mocking, impatient, angry uneasiness and at the same time sly, spiteful curiosity gleamed in his passing momentary glance, which every time made Ordynov shudder and filled his heart with annoyance, vexation and helpless anger.

Thoughtfully and with a sort of mournful curiosity the old man looked at his Katerina. His heart was stung, words had been uttered. But not an eyebrow stirred upon his face! He only smiled when she finished.

“You want to know a great deal at once, my full-fledged nestling, my fluttering bird! Better fill me a deep goblet and let us drink first to peace and goodwill; or I may spoil my forecast, through someone’s black evil eye. Mighty is the devil! Sin is never far off!”

He raised his goblet and drank. The more wine he drank, the paler he grew. His eyes burned like red coals. Evidently the feverish light of them and the sudden deathlike blueness of his face were signs that another fit was imminent. The wine was strong, so that after emptying one goblet Ordynov’s sight grew more and more blurred. His feverishly inflamed blood could bear no more: it rushed to his heart, troubled and dimmed his reason. His uneasiness grew more and more intense. To relieve his growing excitement, he filled his goblet and sipped it again, without knowing what he was doing, and the blood raced even more rapidly through his veins. He was as though in delirium, and, straining his attention to the utmost, he could hardly follow what was passing between his strange landlord and landlady.

The old man knocked his goblet with a ringing sound against the table.

“Fill it, Katerina!” he cried, “fill it again, bad daughter, fill it to the brim! Lay the old man in peace, and have done with him! That’s it, pour out more, pour it out, my beauty! Let us drink together! Why have you drunk so little? Or have my eyes deceived me?..

Katerina made him some answer, but Ordynov could not hear quite what she said: the old man did not let her finish; he caught hold of her hand as though he were incapable of restraining all that was weighing on his heart. His face was pale, his eyes at one moment were dim, at the next were flashing with fire; his lips quivered and turned white, and in an uneven, troubled voice, in which at moments there was a flash of strange ecstasy, he said to her —

“Give me your little hand, my beauty! Let me tell your fortune. I will tell the whole truth: I am truly a wizard; so you are not mistaken, Katerina! Your golden heart said truly that I alone am its wizard, and will not hide the truth from it, the simple, girlish heart! But one thing you don’t see: it’s not for me, a wizard, to teach you wisdom! Wisdom is not what a maiden wants, and she hears the whole truth, yet seems not to know, not to understand! Her head is a subtle serpent, though her heart is melting in tears. She will find out for herself, will thread her way between troubles, will keep her cunning will! Something she can win by sense, and where she cannot win by sense she will dazzle by beauty, will intoxicate men’s minds with her black eye — beauty conquers strength, even the heart of iron will be rent asunder! Will you have grief and sorrow? Heavy is the sorrow of man! but trouble is not for the weak heart, trouble is close friends with the strong heart; stealthily it sheds a bloody tear, but does not go begging to good people for shameful comfort: your grief, girl, is like a print in the sand — the rain washes it away, the sun dries it, the stormy wind lifts it and blows it away. Let me tell you more, let me tell your fortune. Whoever loves you, you will be a slave to him, you will bind your freedom yourself, you will give yourself in pledge and will not take yourself back, you will not know how to cease to love in due time, you will sow a grain and your destroyer will take back a whole ear! My tender child, my little golden head, you buried your pearl of a tear in my goblet, but you could not be content with that — at once you shed a hundred; you uttered no more sweet words, and boasted of your sad life! And there was no need for you to grieve over it — the tear, the dew of heaven! It will come back to you with interest, your pearly tear, in the woeful night when cruel sorrow, evil fancies will gnaw your heart — then for that same tear another’s tear will drop upon your warm heart — not a warm tear but a tear of blood, like molten lead; it will turn your white bosom to blood, and until the dreary, heavy morning that comes on gloomy days, you will toss in your little bed, shedding your heart’s blood and will not heal your fresh wound till another dawn. Fill my goblet, Katerina, fill it again, my dove; fill it for my sage counsel, and no need to waste more words.” His voice grew weak and trembling, sobs seemed on the point of breaking from his bosom, he poured out the wine and greedily drained another goblet. Then he brought the goblet down on the table again with a bang. His dim eyes once more gleamed with flame.

“Ah! Live as you may!” he shouted; “what’s past is gone and done with. Fill up the heavy goblet, fill it up, that it may smite the rebellious head from its shoulders, that the whole soul may be dead with it! Lay me out for the long night that has no morning and let my memory vanish altogether. What is drunk is lived and done with. So the merchant’s wares have grown stale, have lain by too long, he must give them away for nothing! but the merchant would not of his free will have sold it below its price. The blood of his foe should be spilt and the innocent blood should be shed too, and that customer should have laid down his lost soul into the bargain! Fill my goblet, fill it again, Katerina.”

But the hand that held the goblet seemed to stiffen and did not move; his breathing was laboured and difficult, his head sank back. For the last time he fixed his lustreless eyes on Ordynov, but his eyes, too, grew dim at last, and his eyelids dropped as though they were made of lead. A deadly pallor overspread his face... For some time his lips twitched and quivered as though still trying to articulate — and suddenly a big hot tear hung on his eyelash, broke and slowly ran down his pale cheek....

Ordynov could bear no more. He got up and, reeling, took a step forward, went up to Katerina and clutched her hand. But she seemed not to notice him and did not even glance at him, as though she did not recognise him....

She, too, seemed to have lost consciousness, as though one thought, one fixed idea had entirely absorbed her. She sank on the bosom of the sleeping old man, twined her white arm round his neck, and gazed with glowing, feverish eyes as though they were riveted on him. She did not seem to feel Ordynov taking her hand. At last she turned her head towards him, and bent upon him a prolonged searching gaze. It seemed as though at last she understood, and a bitter, astonished smile came wearily, as it were painfully, on her lips....

“Go away, go away,” she whispered; “you are drunk and wicked, you are not a guest for me..,” then she turned again to the old man and riveted her eyes upon him.

She seemed as it were gloating over every breath he took and soothing his slumber with her eyes. She seemed afraid to breathe, checking her full throbbing heart, and there was such frenzied admiration in her face that at once despair, fury and insatiable anger seized Ordynov’s spirit....

“Katerina! Katerina!” he called, seizing her hand as though in a vice.

A look of pain passed over her face; she raised her head again, and looked at him with such mockery, with such contemptuous haughtiness, that he could scarcely stand upon his feet. Then she pointed to the sleeping old man and — as though all his enemy’s mockery had passed into her eyes, she bent again a taunting glance at Ordynov that sent an icy shiver to his heart.

“What? He will murder me, I suppose?” said Ordynov, beside himself with fury. Some demon seemed to whisper in his ear that he understood her... and his whole heart laughed at Katerina’s fixed idea.

“I will buy you, my beauty, from your merchant, if you want my soul; no fear, he won’t kill me!.. A fixed laugh, that froze Ordynov’s whole being, remained upon Katerina’s face. Its boundless irony rent his heart. Not knowing what he was doing, hardly conscious, he leaned against the wall and took from a nail the old man’s expensive old-fashioned knife. A look of amazement seemed to come into Katerina’s face, but at the same time anger and contempt were reflected with the same force in her eyes. Ordynov turned sick, looking at her... he felt as though someone were thrusting, urging his frenzied hand to madness. He drew out the knife... Katerina watched him, motionless, holding her breath....

He glanced at the old man.

At that moment he fancied that one of the old man’s eyes opened and looked at him, laughing. Their eyes met. For some minutes Ordynov gazed at him fixedly.... Suddenly he fancied that the old man’s whole face began laughing and that a diabolical, soul-freezing chuckle resounded at last through the room. A hideous, dark thought crawled like a snake into his head. He shuddered; the knife fell from his hands and dropped with a clang upon the floor. Katerina uttered a shriek as though awaking from oblivion, from a nightmare, from a heavy, immovable vision.... The old man, very pale, slowly got up from the bed and angrily kicked the knife into the corner of the room; Katerina stood pale, deathlike, immovable; her eyelids were closing; her face was convulsed by a vague, insufferable pain; she hid her face in her hands and, with a shriek that rent the heart, sank almost breathless at the old man’s feet....

“Alyosha, Alyosha!” broke from her gasping bosom.

The old man seized her in his powerful arms and almost crushed her on his breast. But when she hid her head upon his heart, every feature in the old man’s face worked with such undisguised, shameless laughter that Ordynov’s whole soul was overwhelmed with horror. Deception, calculation, cold, jealous tyranny and horror at the poor broken heart — that was what he read in that laugh, that shamelessly threw off all disguise.

“She is mad!” he whispered, quivering like a leaf, and, numb with terror, he ran out of the flat.

Chapter III

WHEN, at eight o’clock next morning, Ordynov, pale and agitated and still dazed from the excitement of that day, opened Yaroslav Ilyitch’s door (he went to see him though he could not have said why) he staggered back in amazement and stood petrified in the doorway on seeing Murin in the room. The old man, even paler than Ordynov, seemed almost too ill to stand up; he would not sit down, however, though Yaroslav Ilyitch, highly delighted at the visit, invited him to do so. Yaroslav Ilyitch, too, cried out in surprise at seeing Ordynov, but almost at once his delight died away, and he was quite suddenly overtaken by embarrassment half-way between the table and the chair next it. It was evident that he did not know what to say or to do, and was fully conscious of the impropriety of sucking at his pipe and of leaving his visitor to his own devices at such a difficult moment. And yet (such was his confusion) he did go on pulling at his pipe with all his might and indeed with a sort of enthusiasm. Ordynov went into the room at last. He flung a cursory glance at Murin, a look flitted over the old man’s face, something like the malicious smile of the day before, which even now set Ordynov shuddering with indignation. All hostility, however, vanished at once and was smoothed away, and the old man’s face assumed a perfectly unapproachable and reserved air. He dropped a very low bow to his lodger.... The scene brought Ordynov to a sense of reality at last. Eager to understand the position of affairs, he looked intently at Yaroslav Ilyitch, who began to be uneasy and flustered.

“Come in, come in,” he brought out at last. “Come in, most precious Vassily Mihalitch; honour me with your presence, and put a stamp of... on all these ordinary objects..,” said Yaroslav Ilyitch, pointing towards a corner of the room, flushing like a crimson rose; confused and angry that even his most exalted sentences floundered and missed fire, he moved the chair with a loud noise into the very middle of the room.

“I hope I’m not hindering you, Yaroslav Ilyitch,” said Ordynov. “I wanted... for two minutes...”

“Upon my word! As though you could hinder me, Vassily Mihalitch; but let me offer you a cup of tea. Hey, servant.... I am sure you, too, will not refuse a cup!”

Murin nodded, signifying thereby that he would not. Yaroslav Ilyitch shouted to the servant who came in, sternly demanded another three glasses, then sat down beside Ordynov. For some time he turned his head like a plaster kitten to right and to left, from Murin to Ordynov, and from Ordynov to Murin. His position was extremely unpleasant. He evidently wanted to say something, to his notions extremely delicate, for one side at any rate. But for all his efforts he was totally unable to utter a word... Ordynov, too, seemed in perplexity. There was a moment when both began speaking at once.... Murin, silent, watching them both with curiosity, slowly opened his mouth and showed all his teeth....

“I’ve come to tell you,” Ordynov said suddenly, “that, owing to a most unpleasant circumstance, I am obliged to leave my lodging, and...”

“Fancy, what a strange circumstance!” Yaroslav Ilyitch interrupted suddenly. “I confess I was utterly astounded when this worthy old man told me this morning of your intention. But...”

“He told you,” said Ordynov, looking at Murin with surprise. —

Murin stroked his beard and laughed in his sleeve.

“Yes,” Yaroslav Ilyitch rejoined; “though I may have made a mistake. But I venture to say for you — I can answer for it on my honour that there was not a shadow of anything derogatory to you in this worthy old man’s words....”

Here Yaroslav Ilyitch blushed and controlled his emotion with an effort. Murin, after enjoying to his heart’s content the discomfiture of the other two men, took a step forward.

“It is like this, your honour,” he began, bowing politely to Ordynov: “His honour made bold to take a little trouble on your behalf. As it seems, sir — you know yourself — the mistress and I, that is, we would be glad, freely and heartily, and we would not have made bold to say a word... but the way I live, you know yourself, you see for yourself, sir! Of a truth, the Lord barely keeps us alive, for which we pray His holy will; else you see yourself, sir, whether it is for me to make lamentation.” Here Murin again wiped his beard with his sleeve.

Ordynov almost turned sick.

“Yes, yes, I told you about him, myself; he is ill, that is this malheur. I should like to express myself in French but, excuse me, I don’t speak French quite easily; that is...”

“Quite so...”

“Quite so, that is...”

Ordynov and Yaroslav Ilyitch made each other a half bow, each a little on one side of his chair, and both covered their confusion with an apologetic laugh. The practical Yaroslav Ilyitch recovered at once.

“I have been questioning this honest man minutely,” he began. “He has been telling me that the illness of this woman....” Here the delicate Yaroslav Ilyitch, probably wishing to conceal a slight embarrassment that showed itself in his face, hurriedly looked at Murin with inquiry.

“Yes, of our mistress...”

The refined Yaroslav Ilyitch did not insist further.

“The mistress, that is, your former landlady; I don’t know how... but there! She is an afflicted woman, you see... She says that she is hindering you... in your studies, and he himself... you concealed from me one important circumstance, Vassily Mihalitch!”


“About the gun,” Yaroslav Ilyitch brought out, almost whispering in the most indulgent tone with the millionth fraction of reproach softly ringing in his friendly tenor.

“But,” he added hurriedly, “he has told me all about it.

And you acted nobly in overlooking his involuntary wrong to you. I swear I saw tears in his eyes.”

Yaroslav Ilyitch flushed again, his eyes shone and he shifted in his chair with emotion.

“I, that is, we, sir, that is, your honour, I, to be sure, and my mistress remember you in our prayers,” began Murin, addressing Ordynov and looking at him while Yaroslav Ilyitch overcame his habitual agitation; “and you know yourself, sir, she is a sick, foolish woman; my legs will hardly support me...”

“Yes, I am ready,” Ordynov said impatiently; “please, that’s enough, I am going directly...”

“No, that is, sir, we are very grateful for your kindness” (Murin made a very low bow); “that is not what I meant to tell you, sir; I wanted to say a word — you see, sir, she came to me almost from her home, that is from far, as the saying is, beyond the seventh water — do not scorn our humble talk, sir, we are ignorant folk — and from a tiny child she has been like this! A sick brain, hasty, she grew up in the forest, grew up a peasant, all among bargemen and factory hands; and then their house must burn down; her mother, sir, was burnt, her father burnt to death — I daresay there is no knowing what she’ll tell you... I don’t meddle, but the Chir — chir-urgi-cal Council examined her at Moscow. You see, sir, she’s quite incurable, that’s what it is. I am all that’s left her, and she lives with me. We live, we pray to God and trust in the Almighty; I never cross her in anything.”

Ordynov’s face changed. Yaroslav Ilyitch looked first at one, then at the other.

“But, that is not what I wanted to say... no!” Murin corrected himself, shaking his head gravely. “She is, so to say, such a featherhead, such a whirligig, such a loving, headstrong creature, she’s always wanting a sweetheart — if you will pardon my saying so — and someone to love; it’s on that she’s mad. I amuse her with fairy tales, I do my best at it. I saw, sir, how she — forgive my foolish words, sir,” Murin went on, bowing and wiping his beard with his sleeve— “how she made friends with you; you, so to say, your excellency, were desirous to approach her with a view to love.”

Yaroslav Ilyitch flushed crimson, and looked reproachfully at Murin. Ordynov could scarcely sit still in his seat.

“No... that is not it, sir... I speak simply, sir, I am a peasant, I am at your service.... Of course, we are ignorant folk, we are your servants, sir,” he brought out, bowing low; “and my wife and I will pray with all our hearts for your honour.... What do we need? To be strong and have enough to eat — we do not repine; but what am I to do, sir; put my head in the noose? You know yourself, sir, what life is and will have pity on us; but what will it be like, sir, if she has a lover, too!... Forgive my rough words, sir; I am a peasant, sir, and you are a gentleman.... You’re a young man, your excellency, proud and hasty, and she, you know yourself, sir, is a little child with no sense — it’s easy for her to fall into sin. She’s a buxom lass, rosy and sweet, while I am an old man always ailing. Well, the devil, it seems, has tempted your honour. I always flatter her with fairy tales, I do indeed; I flatter her; and how we will pray, my wife and I, for your honour! How we will pray! And what is she to you, your excellency, if she is pretty? Still she is a simple woman, an unwashed peasant woman, a foolish rustic maid, a match for a peasant like me. It is not for a gentleman like you, sir, to be friends with peasants! But she and I will pray to God for your honour; how we will pray!”

Here Murin bowed very low and for a long while remained with his back bent, continually wiping his beard with his sleeve.

Yaroslav Ilyitch did not know where he was standing.

“Yes, this good man,” he observed in conclusion, “spoke to me of some undesirable incidents; I did not venture to believe him, Vassily Mihalitch, I heard that you were still ill,” he interrupted hurriedly, looking at Ordynov in extreme embarrassment, with eyes full of tears of emotion.

“Yes, how much do I owe you?” Ordynov asked Murin hurriedly.

“What are you saying, your honour? Give over. Why, we are not Judases. Why, you are insulting us, sir, we should be ashamed, sir. Have I and my good woman offended you?”

“But this is really strange, my good man; why, his honour took the room from you; don’t you feel that you are insulting him by refusing?” Yaroslav Ilyitch interposed, thinking it his duty to show Murin the strangeness and indelicacy of his conduct.

“But upon my word, sir! What do you mean, sir? What did we not do to please your honour? Why, we tried our very best, we did our utmost, upon my word! Give over, sir, give over, your honour. Christ have mercy upon you! Why, are we infidels or what? You might have lived, you might have eaten our humble fare with us and welcome; you might have lain there — we’d have said nothing against it, and we wouldn’t have dropped a word; but the evil one tempted you. I am an afflicted man and my mistress is afflicted — what is one to do? There was no one to wait on you, or we would have been glad, glad from our hearts. And how the mistress and I will pray for your honour, how we will pray for you!”

Murin bowed down from the waist. Tears came into Yaroslav Uyitch’s delighted eyes. He looked with enthusiasm at Ordynov.

“What a generous trait, isn’t it! What sacred hospitality is to be found in the Russian people.”

Ordynov looked wildly at Yaroslav Ilyitch.

He was almost terrified and scrutinised him from head to foot.

“Yes, indeed, sir, we do honour hospitality; we do honour it indeed, sir,” Murin asserted, covering his beard with his whole sleeve. “Yes, indeed, the thought just came to me; we’d have welcomed you as a guest, sir, by God! we would,” he went on, approaching Ordynov; “and I had nothing against it; another day I would have said nothing, nothing at all; but sin is a sore snare and my mistress is ill. Ah, if it were not for the mistress! Here, if I had been alone, for instance; how glad I would have been of your honour, how I would have waited upon you, wouldn’t I have waited upon you! Whom should we respect if not your honour? I’d have healed you of your sickness, I know the art....You should have been our guest, upon my word you should, that is a great word with us!..

“Yes, really; is there such an art?” observed Yaroslav Ilyitch... and broke off.

Ordynov had done Yaroslav Ilyitch injustice when, just before, he had looked him up and down with wild amazement.

He was, of course, a very honest and honourable person, but now he understood everything and it must be owned his position was a very difficult one. He wanted to explode, as it is called, with laughter! If he had been alone with Ordynov — two such friends — Yaroslav Ilyitch would, of course, have given way to an immoderate outburst of gaiety without attempting to control himself. He would, however, have done this in a gentlemanly way. He would after laughing have pressed Ordynov’s hand with feeling, would genuinely and justly have assured him that he felt double respect for him and that he could make allowances in every case... and, of course, would have made no reference to his youth. But as it was, with his habitual delicacy of feeling, he was in a most difficult position and scarcely knew what to do with himself....

“Arts, that is decoctions,” Murin added. A quiver passed over his face at Yaroslav Ilyitch’s tactless exclamation. “What I should say, sir, in my peasant foolishness,” he went on, taking another step forward, “you’ve read too many books, sir; as the Russian saying is among us peasants, ‘Wit has overstepped wisdom...”

“Enough,” said Yaroslav Ilyitch sternly.

“I am going,” said Ordynov. “I thank you, Yaroslav Ilyitch. I will come, I will certainly come and see you,” he said in answer to the redoubled civilities of Yaroslav Ilyitch, who was unable to detain him further. “Good-bye, good-bye.”

“Good-bye, your honour, good-bye, sir; do not forget us, visit us, poor sinners.”

Ordynov heard nothing more — he went out like one distraught. He could bear no more, he felt shattered, his mind was numb, he dimly felt that he was overcome by illness, but cold despair reigned in his soul, and he was only conscious of a vague pain crushing, wearing, gnawing at his breast; he longed to die at that minute. His legs were giving way under him and he sat down by the fence, taking no notice of the passing people, nor of the crowd that began to collect around him, nor of the questions, nor the exclamations of the curious. But, suddenly, in the multitude of voices, he heard the voice of Murin above him. Ordynov raised his head. The old man really was standing before him, his pale face was thoughtful and dignified, he was quite a different man from the one who had played the coarse farce at Yaroslav Ilyitch’s. Ordynov got up. Murin took his arm and led him out of the crowd. “You want to get your belongings,” he said, looking sideways at Ordynov. “Don’t grieve, sir,” cried Murin. “You are young, why grieve?...”

Ordynov made no reply.

“Are you offended, sir?... To be sure you are very angry now... but you have no cause; every man guards his own goods!”

“I don’t know you,” said Ordynov; “I don’t want to know your secrets. But she, she!..,” he brought out, and the tears rushed in streams from his eyes. The wind blew them one after another from his cheeks... Ordynov wiped them with his hand; his gesture, his eyes, the involuntary movement of his blue lips all looked like madness.

“I’ve told you already,” said Murin, knitting his brows, “that she is crazy! What crazed her?... Why need you know? But to me, even so, she is dear! I’ve loved her more than my life and I’ll give her up to no one. Do you understand now?”

There was a momentary gleam of fire in Ordynov’s eyes.

“But why have I...? Why have I as good as lost my life? Why does my heart ache? Why did I know Katerina?”

“Why?” Murin laughed and pondered. “Why, I don’t know why,” he brought out at last. “A woman’s heart is not as deep as the sea; you can get to know it, but it is cunning, persistent, full of life! What she wants she must have at once! You may as well know, sir, she wanted to leave me and go away with you; she was sick of the old man, she had lived through everything that she could live with him. You took her fancy, it seems, from the first, though it made no matter whether you or another... I don’t cross her in anything — if she asks for bird’s milk I’ll get her bird’s milk. I’ll make up a bird if there is no such bird; she’s set on her will though she doesn’t know herself what her heart is mad after. So it has turned out that it is better in the old way! Ah, sir! you are very young, your heart is still hot like a girl forsaken, drying her tears on her sleeve! Let me tell you, sir, a weak man cannot stand alone. Give him everything, he will come of himself and give it all back; give him half the kingdoms of the world to possess, try it and what do you think? He will hide himself in your slipper at once — he will make himself so small. Give a weak man his freedom — he will bind it himself and give it back to you. To a foolish heart freedom is no use! One can’t get on with ways like that. I just tell you all this, you are very young! What are you to me? You’ve come and gone — you or another, it’s all the same. I knew from the first it would be the same thing; one can’t cross her, one can’t say a word to cross her if one wants to keep one’s happiness; only, you know, sir” — Murin went on with his reflections— “as the saying is, anything may happen; one snatches a knife in one’s anger, or an unarmed man will fall on you like a sheep, with his bare hands, and tear his enemy’s throat with his teeth; but let them put the knife in your hands and your enemy bare his chest before you — no fear, you’ll step back.”

They went into the yard. The Tatar saw Murin from a distance, took off his cap to him and stared slyly at Ordynov.

“Where’s your mother? At home?” Murin shouted to him.


“Tell her to help him move his things, and you get away, run along!”

They went up the stairs. The old servant, who appeared to be really the porter’s mother, was getting together their lodger’s belongings and peevishly putting them in a big bundle.

“Wait a minute; I’ll bring you something else of yours; it’s left in there....”

Murin went into his room. A minute later he came back and gave Ordynov a sumptuous cushion, covered with embroidery in silks and braid, the one that Katerina had put under his head when he was ill.

“She sends you this,” said Murin. “And now go for good and good luck to you; and mind now, don’t hang about,” he added in a fatherly tone, dropping his voice, “or harm will come of it.”

It was evident that he did not want to offend his lodger, but when he cast a last look at him, a gleam of intense malice was unconsciously apparent in his face. Almost with repulsion he closed the door after Ordynov.

Within two hours Ordynov had moved into the rooms of Schpies the German. Tinchen was horrified when she saw him. She at once asked after his health and, when she learned what was wrong, at once did her best to nurse him.

The old German showed his lodger complacently how he had just been going down to paste a new placard on the gate, because the rent Ordynov had paid in advance had run out, that very day, to the last farthing. The old man did not lose the opportunity of commending, in a roundabout way, the accuracy and honesty of Germans. The same day Ordynov was taken ill, and it was three months before he could leave his bed.

Little by little he got better and began to go out. Daily life in the German’s lodgings was tranquil and monotonous. The old man had no special characteristics: pretty Tinchen, within the limits of propriety, was all that could be desired. But life seemed to have lost its colour for Ordynov for ever! He became dreamy and irritable; his impressionability took a morbid form and he sank imperceptibly into dull, angry hypochondria. His books were sometimes not opened for weeks together. The future was closed for him, his money was being spent, and he gave up all effort, he did not even think of the future. Sometimes his old feverish zeal for science, his old fervour, the old visions of his own creation, rose up vividly from the past, but they only oppressed and stifled his spiritual energy. His mind would not get to work. His creative force was at a standstill. It seemed as though all those visionary images had grown up to giants in his imagination on purpose to mock at the impotence of their creator. At melancholy moments he could not help comparing himself with the magician’s pupil who, learning by stealth his master’s magic word, bade the broom bring him water and choked himself drinking it, as he had forgotten how to say, “Stop.” Possibly a complete, original, independent idea really did exist within him. Perhaps he had been destined to be the artist in science. So at least he himself had believed in the past. Genuine faith is the pledge of the future. But now at some moments he laughed himself at his blind conviction, and — and did not take a step forward.

Six months before, he had worked out, created and jotted down on paper a sketch of a work upon which (as he was so young) in non-creative moments he had built his most solid hopes. It was a work relating to the history of the church, and his warmest, most fervent convictions were to find expression in it. Now he read over that plan, made changes in it, thought it over, read it again, looked things up and at last rejected the idea without constructing anything fresh on its ruins. But something akin to mysticism, to fatalism and a belief in the mysterious began to make its way into his mind. The luckless fellow felt his sufferings and besought God to heal him. The German’s servant, a devout old Russian woman, used to describe with relish how her meek lodger prayed and how he would lie for hours together as though unconscious on the church pavement...

He never spoke to anyone of what had happened to him. But at times, especially at the hour when the church bells brought back to him the moment when first his heart ached and quivered with a feeling new to him, when he knelt beside her in the house of God, forgetting everything, and hearing nothing but the beating of her timid heart, when with tears of ecstasy and joy he watered the new, radiant hopes that had sprang up in his lonely life — then a storm broke in his soul that was wounded for ever; then his soul shuddered, and again the anguish of love glowed in his bosom with scorching fire; then his heart ached with sorrow and passion and his love seemed to grow with his grief. Often for hours together, forgetting himself and his daily life, forgetting everything in the world, he would sit in the same place, solitary, disconsolate; would shake his head hopelessly and, dropping silent tears, would whisper to himself:

“Katerina, my precious dove, my one loved sister!”

A hideous idea began to torment him more and more, it haunted him more and more vividly, and every day took more probable, more actual shape before him. He fancied — and at last he believed it fully — he fancied that Katerina’s reason was sound, but that Murin was right when he called her “a weak heart”. He fancied that some mystery, some secret, bound her to the old man, and that Katerina, though innocent of crime as a pure dove, had got into his power. Who were they? He did not know, but he had constant visions of an immense, overpowering despotism over a poor, defenceless creature, and his heart raged and trembled in impotent indignation. He fancied that before the frightened eyes of her suddenly awakened soul the idea of its degradation had been craftily presented, that the poor weak heart had been craftily tortured, that the truth had been twisted and contorted to her, that she had, with a purpose, been kept blind when necessary, that the inexperienced inclinations of her troubled passionate heart had been subtly flattered, and by degrees the free soul had been clipt of its wings till it was incapable at last of resistance or of a free movement towards free life...

By degrees Ordynov grew more and more unsociable and, to do them justice, his Germans did not hinder him in the tendency.

He was fond of walking aimlessly about the streets. He preferred the hour of twilight, and, by choice, remote, secluded and unfrequented places. On one rainy, unhealthy spring evening, in one of his favourite back-lanes he met Yaroslav Ilyitch.

Yaroslav Ilyitch was perceptibly thinner. His friendly eyes looked dim and he looked altogether disappointed. He was racing off full speed on some business of the utmost urgency, he was wet through and muddy and, all the evening, a drop of rain had in an almost fantastic way been hanging on his highly decorous but now blue nose. He had, moreover, grown whiskers.

These whiskers and the fact that Yaroslav Ilyitch glanced at him as though trying to avoid a meeting with an old friend almost startled Ordynov. Strange to say, it even wounded his heart, which had till then felt no need for sympathy. He preferred, in fact, the man as he had been — simple, kindly, naïve; speaking candidly, a little stupid, but free from all pretensions to disillusionment and common sense. It is unpleasant when a foolish man whom we have once liked, just on account of his foolishness, suddenly becomes sensible; it is decidedly disagreeable. However, the distrust with which he looked at Ordynov was quickly effaced.

In spite of his disillusionment he still retained his old manners, which, as we all know, accompany a man to the grave, and even now he eagerly tried to win Ordynov’s confidence. First of all he observed that he was very busy, and then that they had not seen each other for a long time; but all at once the conversation took a strange turn.

Yaroslav Ilyitch began talking of the deceitfulness of mankind in general. Of the transitoriness of the blessings of this world, of the vanity of vanities; he even made a passing allusion to Pushkin with more than indifference, referred with some cynicism to his acquaintances and, in conclusion, even hinted at the deceitfulness and treachery of those who are called friends, though there is no such thing in the world as real friendship and never has been; in short, Yaroslav Ilyitch had grown wise.

Ordynov did not contradict him, but he felt unutterably sad, as though he had buried his best friend.

“Ah! fancy, I was forgetting to tell you,” Yaroslav Ilyitch began suddenly, as though recalling something very interesting. “There’s a piece of news! I’ll tell you as a secret. Do you remember the house where you lodged?”

Ordynov started and turned pale.

“Well, only fancy, just lately a whole gang of thieves was discovered in that house; that is, would you believe me, a regular band of brigands; smugglers, robbers of all sorts, goodness knows what. Some have been caught but others are still being looked for; the sternest orders have been given. And, can you believe it! do you remember the master of the house, that pious, respectable, worthy-looking old man?”


“What is one to think of mankind? He was the chief of their gang, the leader. Isn’t it absurd?”

Yaroslav Ilyitch spoke with feeling and judged of all mankind from one example, because Yaroslav Ilyitch could not do otherwise, it was his character.

“And they? Murin?” Ordynov articulated in a whisper. “Ah! Murin, Murin! no, he was a worthy old man, quite respectable... but, excuse me, you throw a new light...’ “Why? Was he, too, in the gang?”

Ordynov’s heart was ready to burst with impatience. “However, as you say..,” added Yaroslav Ilyitch, fixing his pewtery eyes on Ordynov — a sign that he was reflecting— “Murin could not have been one of them. Just three weeks ago he went home with his wife to their own parts... I learned it from the porter, that little Tatar, do you remember?


An Unpleasant Predicament

This unpleasant business occurred at the epoch when the regeneration of our beloved fatherland and the struggle of her valiant sons towards new hopes and destinies was beginning with irresistible force and with a touchingly naïve impetuosity. One winter evening in that period, between eleven and twelve o’clock, three highly respectable gentlemen were sitting in a comfortable and even luxuriously furnished room in a handsome house of two storeys on the Petersburg Side, and were engaged in a staid and edifying conversation on a very interesting subject. These three gentlemen were all of generals’ rank. They were sitting round a little table, each in a soft and handsome arm-chair, and as they talked, they quietly and luxuriously sipped champagne. The bottle stood on the table on a silver stand with ice round it. The fact was that the host, a privy councillor called Stepan Nikiforovitch Nikiforov, an old bachelor of sixty-five, was celebrating his removal into a house he had just bought, and as it happened, also his birthday, which he had never kept before. The festivity, however, was not on a very grand scale; as we have seen already, there were only two guests, both of them former colleagues and former subordinates of Mr. Nikiforov; that is, an actual civil councillor called Semyon Ivanovitch Shipulenko, and another actual civil councillor, Ivan Ilyitch Pralinsky. They had arrived to tea at nine o’clock, then had begun upon the wine, and knew that at exactly half-past eleven they would have to set off home. Their host had all his life been fond of regularity. A few words about him.

He had begun his career as a petty clerk with nothing to back him, had quietly plodded on for forty-five years, knew very well what to work towards, had no ambition to draw the stars down from heaven, though he had two stars already, and particularly disliked expressing his own opinion on any subject. He was honest, too, that is, it had not happened to him to do anything particularly dishonest; he was a bachelor because he was an egoist; he had plenty of brains, but he could not bear showing his intelligence; he particularly disliked slovenliness and enthusiasm, regarding it as moral slovenliness; and towards the end of his life had become completely absorbed in a voluptuous, indolent comfort and systematic solitude. Though he sometimes visited people of a rather higher rank than his own, yet from his youth up he could never endure entertaining visitors himself; and of late he had, if he did not play a game of patience, been satisfied with the society of his dining-room clock, and would spend the whole evening dozing in his arm-chair, listening placidly to its ticking under its glass case on the chimney-piece. In appearance he was closely shaven and extremely proper-looking, he was well-preserved, looking younger than his age; he promised to go on living many years longer, and closely followed the rules of the highest good breeding. His post was a fairly comfortable one: he had to preside somewhere and to sign something. In short, he was regarded as a first-rate man. He had only one passion, or more accurately, one keen desire: that was, to have his own house, and a house built like a gentleman’s residence, not a commercial investment. His desire was at last realised: he looked out and bought a house on the Petersburg Side, a good way off, it is true, but it had a garden and was an elegant house. The new owner decided that it was better for being a good way off: he did not like entertaining at home, and for driving to see any one or to the office he had a handsome carriage of a chocolate hue, a coachman, Mihey, and two little but strong and handsome horses. All this was honourably acquired by the careful frugality of forty years, so that his heart rejoiced over it.

This was how it was that Stepan Nikiforovitch felt such pleasure in his placid heart that he actually invited two friends to see him on his birthday, which he had hitherto carefully concealed from his most intimate acquaintances. He had special designs on one of these visitors. He lived in the upper storey of his new house, and he wanted a tenant for the lower half, which was built and arranged in exactly the same way. Stepan Nikiforovitch was reckoning upon Semyon Ivanovitch Shipulenko, and had twice that evening broached the subject in the course of conversation. But Semyon Ivanovitch made no response. The latter, too, was a man who had doggedly made a way for himself in the course of long years. He had black hair and whiskers, and a face that always had a shade of jaundice. He was a married man of morose disposition who liked to stay at home; he ruled his household with a rod of iron; in his official duties he had the greatest self-confidence. He, too, knew perfectly well what goal he was making for, and better still, what he never would reach. He was in a good position, and he was sitting tight there. Though he looked upon the new reforms with a certain distaste, he was not particularly agitated about them: he was extremely self-confident, and listened with a shade of ironical malice to Ivan Ilyitch Pralinsky expatiating on new themes. All of them had been drinking rather freely, however, so that Stepan Nikiforovitch himself condescended to take part in a slight discussion with Mr. Pralinsky concerning the latest reforms. But we must say a few words about his Excellency, Mr. Pralinsky, especially as he is the chief hero of the present story.

The actual civil councillor Ivan Ilyitch Pralinsky had only been “his Excellency” for four months; in short, he was a young general. He was young in years, too — only forty-three, no more — and he looked and liked to look even younger. He was a tall, handsome man, he was smart in his dress, and prided himself on its solid, dignified character; with great aplomb he displayed an order of some consequence on his breast. From his earliest childhood he had known how to acquire the airs and graces of aristocratic society, and being a bachelor, dreamed of a wealthy and even aristocratic bride. He dreamed of many other things, though he was far from being stupid. At times he was a great talker, and even liked to assume a parliamentary pose. He came of a good family. He was the son of a general, and brought up in the lap of luxury; in his tender childhood he had been dressed in velvet and fine linen, had been educated at an aristocratic school, and though he acquired very little learning there he was successful in the service, and had worked his way up to being a general. The authorities looked upon him as a capable man, and even expected great things from him in the future. Stepan Nikiforovitch, under whom Ivan Ilyitch had begun his career in the service, and under whom he had remained until he was made a general, had never considered him a good business man and had no expectations of him whatever. What he liked in him was that he belonged to a good family, had property — that is, a big block of buildings, let out in flats, in charge of an overseer — was connected with persons of consequence, and what was more, had a majestic bearing. Stepan Nikiforovitch blamed him inwardly for excess of imagination and instability. Ivan Ilyitch himself felt at times that he had too much amour-propre and even sensitiveness. Strange to say, he had attacks from time to time of morbid tenderness of conscience and even a kind of faint remorse. With bitterness and a secret soreness of heart he recognised now and again that he did not fly so high as he imagined. At such moments he sank into despondency, especially when he was suffering from hæmorrhoids, called his life une existence manquée, and ceased — privately, of course — to believe even in his parliamentary capacities, calling himself a talker, a maker of phrases; and though all that, of course, did him great credit, it did not in the least prevent him from raising his head again half an hour later, and growing even more obstinately, even more conceitedly self-confident, and assuring himself that he would yet succeed in making his mark, and that he would be not only a great official, but a statesman whom Russia would long remember. He actually dreamed at times of monuments. From this it will be seen that Ivan Ilyitch aimed high, though he hid his vague hopes and dreams deep in his heart, even with a certain trepidation. In short, he was a good-natured man and a poet at heart. Of late years these morbid moments of disillusionment had begun to be more frequent. He had become peculiarly irritable, ready to take offence, and was apt to take any contradiction as an affront. But reformed Russia gave him great hopes. His promotion to general was the finishing touch. He was roused; he held his head up. He suddenly began talking freely and eloquently. He talked about the new ideas, which he very quickly and unexpectedly made his own and professed with vehemence. He sought opportunities for speaking, drove about the town, and in many places succeeded in gaining the reputation of a desperate Liberal, which flattered him greatly. That evening, after drinking four glasses, he was particularly exuberant. He wanted on every point to confute Stepan Nikiforovitch, whom he had not seen for some time past, and whom he had hitherto always respected and even obeyed. He considered him for some reason reactionary, and fell upon him with exceptional heat. Stepan Nikiforovitch hardly answered him, but only listened slyly, though the subject interested him. Ivan Ilyitch got hot, and in the heat of the discussion sipped his glass more often than he ought to have done. Then Stepan Nikiforovitch took the bottle and at once filled his glass again, which for some reason seemed to offend Ivan Ilyitch, especially as Semyon Ivanovitch Shipulenko, whom he particularly despised and indeed feared on account of his cynicism and ill-nature, preserved a treacherous silence and smiled more frequently than was necessary. “They seem to take me for a schoolboy,” flashed across Ivan Ilyitch’s mind.

“No, it was time, high time,” he went on hotly. “We have put it off too long, and to my thinking humanity is the first consideration, humanity with our inferiors, remembering that they, too, are men. Humanity will save everything and bring out all that is....”

“He-he-he-he!” was heard from the direction of Semyon Ivanovitch.

“But why are you giving us such a talking to?” Stepan Nikiforovitch protested at last, with an affable smile. “I must own, Ivan Ilyitch, I have not been able to make out, so far, what you are maintaining. You advocate humanity. That is love of your fellow-creatures, isn’t it?”

“Yes, if you like. I....”

“Allow me! As far as I can see, that’s not the only thing. Love of one’s fellow-creatures has always been fitting. The reform movement is not confined to that. All sorts of questions have arisen relating to the peasantry, the law courts, economics, government contracts, morals and ... and ... and those questions are endless, and all together may give rise to great upheavals, so to say. That is what we have been anxious about, and not simply humanity....”

“Yes, the thing is a bit deeper than that,” observed Semyon Ivanovitch.

“I quite understand, and allow me to observe, Semyon Ivanovitch, that I can’t agree to being inferior to you in depth of understanding,” Ivan Ilyitch observed sarcastically and with excessive sharpness. “However, I will make so bold as to assert, Stepan Nikiforovitch, that you have not understood me either....”

“No, I haven’t.”

“And yet I maintain and everywhere advance the idea that humanity and nothing else with one’s subordinates, from the official in one’s department down to the copying clerk, from the copying clerk down to the house serf, from the servant down to the peasant — humanity, I say, may serve, so to speak, as the corner-stone of the coming reforms and the reformation of things in general. Why? Because. Take a syllogism. I am human, consequently I am loved. I am loved, so confidence is felt in me. There is a feeling of confidence, and so there is trust. There is trust, and so there is love ... that is, no, I mean to say that if they trust me they will believe in the reforms, they will understand, so to speak, the essential nature of them, will, so to speak, embrace each other in a moral sense, and will settle the whole business in a friendly way, fundamentally. What are you laughing at, Semyon Ivanovitch? Can’t you understand?”

Stepan Nikiforovitch raised his eyebrows without speaking; he was surprised.

“I fancy I have drunk a little too much,” said Semyon Ivanovitch sarcastically, “and so I am a little slow of comprehension. Not quite all my wits about me.”

Ivan Ilyitch winced.

“We should break down,” Stepan Nikiforovitch pronounced suddenly, after a slight pause of hesitation.

“How do you mean we should break down?” asked Ivan Ilyitch, surprised at Stepan Nikiforovitch’s abrupt remark.

“Why, we should break under the strain.” Stepan Nikiforovitch evidently did not care to explain further.

“I suppose you are thinking of new wine in old bottles?” Ivan Ilyitch replied, not without irony. “Well, I can answer for myself, anyway.”

At that moment the clock struck half-past eleven.

“One sits on and on, but one must go at last,” said Semyon Ivanovitch, getting up. But Ivan Ilyitch was before him; he got up from the table and took his sable cap from the chimney-piece. He looked as though he had been insulted.

“So how is it to be, Semyon Ivanovitch? Will you think it over?” said Stepan Nikiforovitch, as he saw the visitors out.

“About the flat, you mean? I’ll think it over, I’ll think it over.”

“Well, when you have made up your mind, let me know as soon as possible.”

“Still on business?” Mr. Pralinsky observed affably, in a slightly ingratiating tone, playing with his hat. It seemed to him as though they were forgetting him.

Stepan Nikiforovitch raised his eyebrows and remained mute, as a sign that he would not detain his visitors. Semyon Ivanovitch made haste to bow himself out.

“Well ... after that what is one to expect ... if you don’t understand the simple rules of good manners....” Mr. Pralinsky reflected to himself, and held out his hand to Stepan Nikiforovitch in a particularly offhand way.

In the hall Ivan Ilyitch wrapped himself up in his light, expensive fur coat; he tried for some reason not to notice Semyon Ivanovitch’s shabby raccoon, and they both began descending the stairs.

“The old man seemed offended,” said Ivan Ilyitch to the silent Semyon Ivanovitch.

“No, why?” answered the latter with cool composure.

“Servile flunkey,” Ivan Ilyitch thought to himself.

They went out at the front door. Semyon Ivanovitch’s sledge with a grey ugly horse drove up.

“What the devil! What has Trifon done with my carriage?” cried Ivan Ilyitch, not seeing his carriage.

The carriage was nowhere to be seen. Stepan Nikiforovitch’s servant knew nothing about it. They appealed to Varlam, Semyon Ivanovitch’s coachman, and received the answer that he had been standing there all the time and that the carriage had been there, but now there was no sign of it.

“An unpleasant predicament,” Mr. Shipulenko pronounced. “Shall I take you home?”

“Scoundrelly people!” Mr. Pralinsky cried with fury. “He asked me, the rascal, to let him go to a wedding close here in the Petersburg Side; some crony of his was getting married, deuce take her! I sternly forbade him to absent himself, and now I’ll bet he has gone off there.”

“He certainly has gone there, sir,” observed Varlam; “but he promised to be back in a minute, to be here in time, that is.”

“Well, there it is! I had a presentiment that this would happen! I’ll give it to him!”

“You’d better give him a good flogging once or twice at the police station, then he will do what you tell him,” said Semyon Ivanovitch, as he wrapped the rug round him.

“Please don’t you trouble, Semyon Ivanovitch!”

“Well, won’t you let me take you along?”

“Merci, bon voyage.”

Semyon Ivanovitch drove off, while Ivan Ilyitch set off on foot along the wooden pavement, conscious of a rather acute irritation.

“Yes, indeed I’ll give it to you now, you rogue! I am going on foot on purpose to make you feel it, to frighten you! He will come back and hear that his master has gone off on foot ... the blackguard!”

Ivan Ilyitch had never abused any one like this, but he was greatly angered, and besides, there was a buzzing in his head. He was not given to drink, so five or six glasses soon affected him. But the night was enchanting. There was a frost, but it was remarkably still and there was no wind. There was a clear, starry sky. The full moon was bathing the earth in soft silver light. It was so lovely that after walking some fifty paces Ivan Ilyitch almost forgot his troubles. He felt particularly pleased. People quickly change from one mood to another when they are a little drunk. He was even pleased with the ugly little wooden houses of the deserted street.

“It’s really a capital thing that I am walking,” he thought; “it’s a lesson to Trifon and a pleasure to me. I really ought to walk oftener. And I shall soon pick up a sledge on the Great Prospect. It’s a glorious night. What little houses they all are! I suppose small fry live here, clerks, tradesmen, perhaps.... That Stepan Nikiforovitch! What reactionaries they all are, those old fogies! Fogies, yes, c’est le mot. He is a sensible man, though; he has that bon sens, sober, practical understanding of things. But they are old, old. There is a lack of ... what is it? There is a lack of something.... ‘We shall break down.’ What did he mean by that? He actually pondered when he said it. He didn’t understand me a bit. And yet how could he help understanding? It was more difficult not to understand it than to understand it. The chief thing is that I am convinced, convinced in my soul. Humanity ... the love of one’s kind. Restore a man to himself, revive his personal dignity, and then ... when the ground is prepared, get to work. I believe that’s clear? Yes! Allow me, your Excellency; take a syllogism, for instance: we meet, for instance, a clerk, a poor, downtrodden clerk. ‘Well ... who are you?’ Answer: ‘A clerk.’ Very good, a clerk; further: ‘What sort of clerk are you?’ Answer: ‘I am such and such a clerk,’ he says. ‘Are you in the service?’ ‘I am.’ ‘Do you want to be happy?’ ‘I do.’ ‘What do you need for happiness?’ ‘This and that.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because....’ and there the man understands me with a couple of words, the man’s mine, the man is caught, so to speak, in a net, and I can do what I like with him, that is, for his good. Horrid man that Semyon Ivanovitch! And what a nasty phiz he has!... ‘Flog him in the police station,’ he said that on purpose. No, you are talking rubbish; you can flog, but I’m not going to; I shall punish Trifon with words, I shall punish him with reproaches, he will feel it. As for flogging, h’m! ... it is an open question, h’m!... What about going to Emerance? Oh, damnation take it, the cursed pavement!” he cried out, suddenly tripping up. “And this is the capital. Enlightenment! One might break one’s leg. H’m! I detest that Semyon Ivanovitch; a most revolting phiz. He was chuckling at me just now when I said they would embrace each other in a moral sense. Well, and they will embrace each other, and what’s that to do with you? I am not going to embrace you; I’d rather embrace a peasant.... If I meet a peasant, I shall talk to him. I was drunk, though, and perhaps did not express myself properly. Possibly I am not expressing myself rightly now.... H’m! I shall never touch wine again. In the evening you babble, and next morning you are sorry for it. After all, I am walking quite steadily.... But they are all scoundrels, anyhow!”

So Ivan Ilyitch meditated incoherently and by snatches, as he went on striding along the pavement. The fresh air began to affect him, set his mind working. Five minutes later he would have felt soothed and sleepy. But all at once, scarcely two paces from the Great Prospect, he heard music. He looked round. On the other side of the street, in a very tumble-down-looking long wooden house of one storey, there was a great fête, there was the scraping of violins, and the droning of a double bass, and the squeaky tooting of a flute playing a very gay quadrille tune. Under the windows stood an audience, mainly of women in wadded pelisses with kerchiefs on their heads; they were straining every effort to see something through a crack in the shutters. Evidently there was a gay party within. The sound of the thud of dancing feet reached the other side of the street. Ivan Ilyitch saw a policeman standing not far off, and went up to him.

“Whose house is that, brother?” he asked, flinging his expensive fur coat open, just far enough to allow the policeman to see the imposing decoration on his breast.

“It belongs to the registration clerk Pseldonimov,” answered the policeman, drawing himself up instantly, discerning the decoration.

“Pseldonimov? Bah! Pseldonimov! What is he up to? Getting married?”

“Yes, your Honour, to a daughter of a titular councillor, Mlekopitaev, a titular councillor ... used to serve in the municipal department. That house goes with the bride.”

“So that now the house is Pseldonimov’s and not Mlekopitaev’s?”

“Yes, Pseldonimov’s, your Honour. It was Mlekopitaev’s, but now it is Pseldonimov’s.”

“H’m! I am asking you, my man, because I am his chief. I am a general in the same office in which Pseldonimov serves.”

“Just so, your Excellency.”

The policeman drew himself up more stiffly than ever, while Ivan Ilyitch seemed to ponder. He stood still and meditated....

Yes, Pseldonimov really was in his department and in his own office; he remembered that. He was a little clerk with a salary of ten roubles a month. As Mr. Pralinsky had received his department very lately he might not have remembered precisely all his subordinates, but Pseldonimov he remembered just because of his surname. It had caught his eye from the very first, so that at the time he had had the curiosity to look with special attention at the possessor of such a surname. He remembered now a very young man with a long hooked nose, with tufts of flaxen hair, lean and ill-nourished, in an impossible uniform, and with unmentionables so impossible as to be actually unseemly; he remembered how the thought had flashed through his mind at the time: shouldn’t he give the poor fellow ten roubles for Christmas, to spend on his wardrobe? But as the poor fellow’s face was too austere, and his expression extremely unprepossessing, even exciting repulsion, the good-natured idea somehow faded away of itself, so Pseldonimov did not get his tip. He had been the more surprised when this same Pseldonimov had not more than a week before asked for leave to be married. Ivan Ilyitch remembered that he had somehow not had time to go into the matter, so that the matter of the marriage had been settled offhand, in haste. But yet he did remember exactly that Pseldonimov was receiving a wooden house and four hundred roubles in cash as dowry with his bride. The circumstance had surprised him at the time; he remembered that he had made a slight jest over the juxtaposition of the names Pseldonimov and Mlekopitaev. He remembered all that clearly.

He recalled it, and grew more and more pensive. It is well known that whole trains of thought sometimes pass through our brains instantaneously as though they were sensations without being translated into human speech, still less into literary language. But we will try to translate these sensations of our hero’s, and present to the reader at least the kernel of them, so to say, what was most essential and nearest to reality in them. For many of our sensations when translated into ordinary language seem absolutely unreal. That is why they never find expression, though every one has them. Of course Ivan Ilyitch’s sensations and thoughts were a little incoherent. But you know the reason.

“Why,” flashed through his mind, “here we all talk and talk, but when it comes to action — it all ends in nothing. Here, for instance, take this Pseldonimov: he has just come from his wedding full of hope and excitement, looking forward to his wedding feast.... This is one of the most blissful days of his life.... Now he is busy with his guests, is giving a banquet, a modest one, poor, but gay and full of genuine gladness.... What if he knew that at this very moment I, I, his superior, his chief, am standing by his house listening to the music? Yes, really how would he feel? No, what would he feel if I suddenly walked in? H’m!... Of course at first he would be frightened, he would be dumb with embarrassment.... I should be in his way, and perhaps should upset everything. Yes, that would be so if any other general went in, but not I.... That’s a fact, any one else, but not I....

“Yes, Stepan Nikiforovitch! You did not understand me just now, but here is an example ready for you.

“Yes, we all make an outcry about acting humanely, but we are not capable of heroism, of fine actions.

“What sort of heroism? This sort. Consider: in the existing relations of the various members of society, for me, for me, after midnight to go in to the wedding of my subordinate, a registration clerk, at ten roubles the month — why, it would mean embarrassment, a revolution, the last days of Pompeii, a nonsensical folly. No one would understand it. Stepan Nikiforovitch would die before he understood it. Why, he said we should break down. Yes, but that’s you old people, inert, paralytic people; but I shan’t break down, I will transform the last day of Pompeii to a day of the utmost sweetness for my subordinate, and a wild action to an action normal, patriarchal, lofty and moral. How? Like this. Kindly listen....

“Here ... I go in, suppose; they are amazed, leave off dancing, look wildly at me, draw back. Quite so, but at once I speak out: I go straight up to the frightened Pseldonimov, and with a most cordial, affable smile, in the simplest words, I say: ‘This is how it is, I have been at his Excellency Stepan Nikiforovitch’s. I expect you know, close here in the neighbourhood....’ Well, then, lightly, in a laughing way, I shall tell him of my adventure with Trifon. From Trifon I shall pass on to saying how I walked here on foot.... ‘Well, I heard music, I inquired of a policeman, and learned, brother, that it was your wedding. Let me go in, I thought, to my subordinate’s; let me see how my clerks enjoy themselves and ... celebrate their wedding. I suppose you won’t turn me out?’ Turn me out! What a word for a subordinate! How the devil could he dream of turning me out! I fancy that he would be half crazy, that he would rush headlong to seat me in an arm-chair, would be trembling with delight, would hardly know what he was doing for the first minute!

“Why, what can be simpler, more elegant than such an action? Why did I go in? That’s another question! That is, so to say, the moral aspect of the question. That’s the pith.

“H’m, what was I thinking about, yes!

“Well, of course they will make me sit down with the most important guest, some titular councillor or a relation who’s a retired captain with a red nose. Gogol describes these eccentrics so capitally. Well, I shall make acquaintance, of course, with the bride, I shall compliment her, I shall encourage the guests. I shall beg them not to stand on ceremony. To enjoy themselves, to go on dancing. I shall make jokes, I shall laugh; in fact, I shall be affable and charming. I am always affable and charming when I am pleased with myself.... H’m ... the point is that I believe I am still a little, well, not drunk exactly, but ...

“Of course, as a gentleman I shall be quite on an equality with them, and shall not expect any especial marks of.... But morally, morally, it is a different matter; they will understand and appreciate it.... My actions will evoke their nobler feelings.... Well, I shall stay for half an hour ... even for an hour; I shall leave, of course, before supper; but they will be bustling about, baking and roasting, they will be making low bows, but I will only drink a glass, congratulate them and refuse supper. I shall say—’business.’ And as soon as I pronounce the word ‘business,’ all of them will at once have sternly respectful faces. By that I shall delicately remind them that there is a difference between them and me. The earth and the sky. It is not that I want to impress that on them, but it must be done ... it’s even essential in a moral sense, when all is said and done. I shall smile at once, however, I shall even laugh, and then they will all pluck up courage again.... I shall jest a little again with the bride; h’m!... I may even hint that I shall come again in just nine months to stand godfather, he-he! And she will be sure to be brought to bed by then. They multiply, you know, like rabbits. And they will all roar with laughter and the bride will blush; I shall kiss her feelingly on the forehead, even give her my blessing ... and next day my exploit will be known at the office. Next day I shall be stern again, next day I shall be exacting again, even implacable, but they will all know what I am like. They will know my heart, they will know my essential nature: ‘He is stern as chief, but as a man he is an angel!’ And I shall have conquered them; I shall have captured them by one little act which would never have entered your head; they would be mine; I should be their father, they would be my children.... Come now, your Excellency Stepan Nikiforovitch, go and do likewise....

“But do you know, do you understand, that Pseldonimov will tell his children how the General himself feasted and even drank at his wedding! Why you know those children would tell their children, and those would tell their grandchildren as a most sacred story that a grand gentleman, a statesman (and I shall be all that by then) did them the honour, and so on, and so on. Why, I am morally elevating the humiliated, I restore him to himself.... Why, he gets a salary of ten roubles a month!... If I repeat this five or ten times, or something of the sort, I shall gain popularity all over the place.... My name will be printed on the hearts of all, and the devil only knows what will come of that popularity!...”

These, or something like these, were Ivan Ilyitch’s reflections, (a man says all sorts of things sometimes to himself, gentlemen, especially when he is in rather an eccentric condition). All these meditations passed through his mind in something like half a minute, and of course he might have confined himself to these dreams and, after mentally putting Stepan Nikiforovitch to shame, have gone very peacefully home and to bed. And he would have done well. But the trouble of it was that the moment was an eccentric one.

As ill-luck would have it, at that very instant the self-satisfied faces of Stepan Nikiforovitch and Semyon Ivanovitch suddenly rose before his heated imagination.

“We shall break down!” repeated Stepan Nikiforovitch, smiling disdainfully.

“He-he-he,” Semyon Ivanovitch seconded him with his nastiest smile.

“Well, we’ll see whether we do break down!” Ivan Ilyitch said resolutely, with a rush of heat to his face.

He stepped down from the pavement and with resolute steps went straight across the street towards the house of his registration clerk Pseldonimov.

His star carried him away. He walked confidently in at the open gate and contemptuously thrust aside with his foot the shaggy, husky little sheep-dog who flew at his legs with a hoarse bark, more as a matter of form than with any real intention. Along a wooden plank he went to the covered porch which led like a sentry box to the yard, and by three decaying wooden steps he went up to the tiny entry. Here, though a tallow candle or something in the way of a night-light was burning somewhere in a corner, it did not prevent Ivan Ilyitch from putting his left foot just as it was, in its galosh, into a galantine which had been stood out there to cool. Ivan Ilyitch bent down, and looking with curiosity, he saw that there were two other dishes of some sort of jelly and also two shapes apparently of blancmange. The squashed galantine embarrassed him, and for one brief instant the thought flashed through his mind, whether he should not slink away at once. But he considered this too low. Reflecting that no one would have seen him, and that they would never think he had done it, he hurriedly wiped his galosh to conceal all traces, fumbled for the felt-covered door, opened it and found himself in a very little ante-room. Half of it was literally piled up with greatcoats, wadded jackets, cloaks, capes, scarves and galoshes. In the other half the musicians had been installed; two violins, a flute, and a double bass, a band of four, picked up, of course, in the street. They were sitting at an unpainted wooden table, lighted by a single tallow candle, and with the utmost vigour were sawing out the last figure of the quadrille. From the open door into the drawing-room one could see the dancers in the midst of dust, tobacco smoke and fumes. There was a frenzy of gaiety. There were sounds of laughter, shouts and shrieks from the ladies. The gentlemen stamped like a squadron of horses. Above all the Bedlam there rang out words of command from the leader of the dance, probably an extremely free and easy, and even unbuttoned gentleman: “Gentlemen advance, ladies’ chain, set to partners!” and so on, and so on. Ivan Ilyitch in some excitement cast off his coat and galoshes, and with his cap in his hand went into the room. He was no longer reflecting, however.

For the first minute nobody noticed him; all were absorbed in dancing the quadrille to the end. Ivan Ilyitch stood as though entranced, and could make out nothing definite in the chaos. He caught glimpses of ladies’ dresses, of gentlemen with cigarettes between their teeth. He caught a glimpse of a lady’s pale blue scarf which flicked him on the nose. After the wearer a medical student, with his hair blown in all directions on his head, pranced by in wild delight and jostled violently against him on the way. He caught a glimpse, too, of an officer of some description, who looked half a mile high. Some one in an unnaturally shrill voice shouted, “O-o-oh, Pseldonimov!” as the speaker flew by stamping. It was sticky under Ivan Ilyitch’s feet; evidently the floor had been waxed. In the room, which was a very small one, there were about thirty people.

But a minute later the quadrille was over, and almost at once the very thing Ivan Ilyitch had pictured when he was dreaming on the pavement took place.

A stifled murmur, a strange whisper passed over the whole company, including the dancers, who had not yet had time to take breath and wipe their perspiring faces. All eyes, all faces began quickly turning towards the newly arrived guest. Then they all seemed to draw back a little and beat a retreat. Those who had not noticed him were pulled by their coats or dresses and informed. They looked round and at once beat a retreat with the others. Ivan Ilyitch was still standing at the door without moving a step forward, and between him and the company there stretched an ever widening empty space of floor strewn with countless sweet-meat wrappings, bits of paper and cigarette ends. All at once a young man in a uniform, with a shock of flaxen hair and a hooked nose, stepped timidly out into that empty space. He moved forward, hunched up, and looked at the unexpected visitor exactly with the expression with which a dog looks at its master when the latter has called him up and is going to kick him.

“Good evening, Pseldonimov, do you know me?” said Ivan Ilyitch, and felt at the same minute that he had said this very awkwardly; he felt, too, that he was perhaps doing something horribly stupid at that moment.

“You-our Ex-cel-len-cy!” muttered Pseldonimov.

“To be sure.... I have called in to see you quite by chance, my friend, as you can probably imagine....”

But evidently Pseldonimov could imagine nothing. He stood with staring eyes in the utmost perplexity.

“You won’t turn me out, I suppose.... Pleased or not, you must make a visitor welcome....” Ivan Ilyitch went on, feeling that he was confused to a point of unseemly feebleness; that he was trying to smile and was utterly unable; that the humorous reference to Stepan Nikiforovitch and Trifon was becoming more and more impossible. But as ill luck would have it, Pseldonimov did not recover from his stupefaction, and still gazed at him with a perfectly idiotic air. Ivan Ilyitch winced, he felt that in another minute something incredibly foolish would happen.

“I am not in the way, am I?... I’ll go away,” he faintly articulated, and there was a tremor at the right corner of his mouth.

But Pseldonimov had recovered himself.

“Good heavens, your Excellency ... the honour...,” he muttered, bowing hurriedly. “Graciously sit down, your Excellency....” And recovering himself still further, he motioned him with both hands to a sofa before which a table had been moved away to make room for the dancing.

Ivan Ilyitch felt relieved and sank on the sofa; at once some one flew to move the table up to him. He took a cursory look round and saw that he was the only person sitting down, all the others were standing, even the ladies. A bad sign. But it was not yet time to reassure and encourage them. The company still held back, while before him, bending double, stood Pseldonimov, utterly alone, still completely at a loss and very far from smiling. It was horrid; in short, our hero endured such misery at that moment that his Haroun al-Raschid-like descent upon his subordinates for the sake of principle might well have been reckoned an heroic action. But suddenly a little figure made its appearance beside Pseldonimov, and began bowing. To his inexpressible pleasure and even happiness, Ivan Ilyitch at once recognised him as the head clerk of his office, Akim Petrovitch Zubikov, and though, of course, he was not acquainted with him, he knew him to be a businesslike and exemplary clerk. He got up at once and held out his hand to Akim Petrovitch — his whole hand, not two fingers. The latter took it in both of his with the deepest respect. The general was triumphant, the situation was saved.

And now indeed Pseldonimov was no longer, so to say, the second person, but the third. It was possible to address his remarks to the head clerk in his necessity, taking him for an acquaintance and even an intimate one, and Pseldonimov meanwhile could only be silent and be in a tremor of reverence. So that the proprieties were observed. And some explanation was essential, Ivan Ilyitch felt that; he saw that all the guests were expecting something, that the whole household was gathered together in the doorway, almost creeping, climbing over one another in their anxiety to see and hear him. What was horrid was that the head clerk in his foolishness remained standing.

“Why are you standing?” said Ivan Ilyitch, awkwardly motioning him to a seat on the sofa beside him.

“Oh, don’t trouble.... I’ll sit here.” And Akim Petrovitch hurriedly sat down on a chair, almost as it was being put for him by Pseldonimov, who remained obstinately standing.

“Can you imagine what happened,” addressing himself exclusively to Akim Petrovitch in a rather quavering, though free and easy voice. He even drawled out his words, with special emphasis on some syllables, pronounced the vowel ah like eh; in short, felt and was conscious that he was being affected but could not control himself: some external force was at work. He was painfully conscious of many things at that moment.

“Can you imagine, I have only just come from Stepan Nikiforovitch Nikiforov’s, you have heard of him perhaps, the privy councillor. You know ... on that special committee....”

Akim Petrovitch bent his whole person forward respectfully: as much as to say, “Of course we have heard of him.”

“He is your neighbor now,” Ivan Ilyitch went on, for one instant for the sake of ease and good manners addressing Pseldonimov, but he quickly turned away again, on seeing from the latter’s eyes that it made absolutely no difference to him.

“The old fellow, as you know, has been dreaming all his life of buying himself a house.... Well, and he has bought it. And a very pretty house too. Yes.... And to-day was his birthday and he had never celebrated it before, he used even to keep it secret from us, he was too stingy to keep it, he-he. But now he is so delighted over his new house, that he invited Semyon Ivanovitch Shipulenko and me, you know.”

Akim Petrovitch bent forward again. He bent forward zealously. Ivan Ilyitch felt somewhat comforted. It had struck him, indeed, that the head clerk possibly was guessing that he was an indispensable point d’appui for his Excellency at that moment. That would have been more horrid than anything.

“So we sat together, the three of us, he gave us champagne, we talked about problems ... even dis-pu-ted.... He-he!”

Akim Petrovitch raised his eyebrows respectfully.

“Only that is not the point. When I take leave of him at last — he is a punctual old fellow, goes to bed early, you know, in his old age — I go out.... My Trifon is nowhere to be seen! I am anxious, I make inquiries. ‘What has Trifon done with the carriage?’ It comes out that hoping I should stay on, he had gone off to the wedding of some friend of his, or sister maybe.... Goodness only knows. Somewhere here on the Petersburg Side. And took the carriage with him while he was about it.”

Again for the sake of good manners the general glanced in the direction of Pseldonimov. The latter promptly gave a wriggle, but not at all the sort of wriggle the general would have liked. “He has no sympathy, no heart,” flashed through his brain.

“You don’t say so!” said Akim Petrovitch, greatly impressed. A faint murmur of surprise ran through all the crowd.

“Can you fancy my position....” (Ivan Ilyitch glanced at them all.) “There was nothing for it, I set off on foot, I thought I would trudge to the Great Prospect, and there find some cabby ... he-he!”

“He-he-he!” Akim Petrovitch echoed. Again a murmur, but this time on a more cheerful note, passed through the crowd. At that moment the chimney of a lamp on the wall broke with a crash. Some one rushed zealously to see to it. Pseldonimov started and looked sternly at the lamp, but the general took no notice of it, and all was serene again.

“I walked ... and the night was so lovely, so still. All at once I heard a band, stamping, dancing. I inquired of a policeman; it is Pseldonimov’s wedding. Why, you are giving a ball to all Petersburg Side, my friend. Ha-ha.” He turned to Pseldonimov again.

“He-he-he! To be sure,” Akim Petrovitch responded. There was a stir among the guests again, but what was most foolish was that Pseldonimov, though he bowed, did not even now smile, but seemed as though he were made of wood. “Is he a fool or what?” thought Ivan Ilyitch. “He ought to have smiled at that point, the ass, and everything would have run easily.” There was a fury of impatience in his heart.

“I thought I would go in to see my clerk. He won’t turn me out I expect ... pleased or not, one must welcome a guest. You must please excuse me, my dear fellow. If I am in the way, I will go ... I only came in to have a look....”

But little by little a general stir was beginning.

Akim Petrovitch looked at him with a mawkishly sweet expression as though to say, “How could your Excellency be in the way?” all the guests stirred and began to display the first symptoms of being at their ease. Almost all the ladies sat down. A good sign and a reassuring one. The boldest spirits among them fanned themselves with their handkerchiefs. One of them in a shabby velvet dress said something with intentional loudness. The officer addressed by her would have liked to answer her as loudly, but seeing that they were the only ones speaking aloud, he subsided. The men, for the most part government clerks, with two or three students among them, looked at one another as though egging each other on to unbend, cleared their throats, and began to move a few steps in different directions. No one, however, was particularly timid, but they were all restive, and almost all of them looked with a hostile expression at the personage who had burst in upon them, to destroy their gaiety. The officer, ashamed of his cowardice, began to edge up to the table.

“But I say, my friend, allow me to ask you your name,” Ivan Ilyitch asked Pseldonimov.

“Porfiry Petrovitch, your Excellency,” answered the latter, with staring eyes as though on parade.

“Introduce me, Porfiry Petrovitch, to your bride.... Take me to her ... I....”

And he showed signs of a desire to get up. But Pseldonimov ran full speed to the drawing-room. The bride, however, was standing close by at the door, but as soon as she heard herself mentioned, she hid. A minute later Pseldonimov led her up by the hand. The guests all moved aside to make way for them. Ivan Ilyitch got up solemnly and addressed himself to her with a most affable smile.

“Very, very much pleased to make your acquaintance,” he pronounced with a most aristocratic half-bow, “especially on such a day....”

He gave a meaning smile. There was an agreeable flutter among the ladies.

“Charmé,” the lady in the velvet dress pronounced, almost aloud.

The bride was a match for Pseldonimov. She was a thin little lady not more than seventeen, pale, with a very small face and a sharp little nose. Her quick, active little eyes were not at all embarrassed; on the contrary, they looked at him steadily and even with a shade of resentment. Evidently Pseldonimov was marrying her for her beauty. She was dressed in a white muslin dress over a pink slip. Her neck was thin, and she had a figure like a chicken’s with the bones all sticking out. She was not equal to making any response to the general’s affability.

“But she is very pretty,” he went on, in an undertone, as though addressing Pseldonimov only, though intentionally speaking so that the bride could hear.

But on this occasion, too, Pseldonimov again answered absolutely nothing, and did not even wriggle. Ivan Ilyitch fancied that there was something cold, suppressed in his eyes, as though he had something peculiarly malignant in his mind. And yet he had at all costs to wring some sensibility out of him. Why, that was the object of his coming.

“They are a couple, though!” he thought.

And he turned again to the bride, who had seated herself beside him on the sofa, but in answer to his two or three questions he got nothing but “yes” or “no,” and hardly that.

“If only she had been overcome with confusion,” he thought to himself, “then I should have begun to banter her. But as it is, my position is impossible.”

And as ill-luck would have it, Akim Petrovitch, too, was mute; though this was only due to his foolishness, it was still unpardonable.

“My friends! Haven’t I perhaps interfered with your enjoyment?” he said, addressing the whole company.

He felt that the very palms of his hands were perspiring.

“No ... don’t trouble, your Excellency; we are beginning directly, but now ... we are getting cool,” answered the officer.

The bride looked at him with pleasure; the officer was not old, and wore the uniform of some branch of the service. Pseldonimov was still standing in the same place, bending forward, and it seemed as though his hooked nose stood out further than ever. He looked and listened like a footman standing with the greatcoat on his arm, waiting for the end of his master’s farewell conversation. Ivan Ilyitch made this comparison himself. He was losing his head; he felt that he was in an awkward position, that the ground was giving way under his feet, that he had got in somewhere and could not find his way out, as though he were in the dark.

Suddenly the guests all moved aside, and a short, thick-set, middle-aged woman made her appearance, dressed plainly though she was in her best, with a big shawl on her shoulders, pinned at her throat, and on her head a cap to which she was evidently unaccustomed. In her hands she carried a small round tray on which stood a full but uncorked bottle of champagne and two glasses, neither more nor less. Evidently the bottle was intended for only two guests.

The middle-aged lady approached the general.

“Don’t look down on us, your Excellency,” she said, bowing. “Since you have deigned to do my son the honour of coming to his wedding, we beg you graciously to drink to the health of the young people. Do not disdain us; do us the honour.”

Ivan Ilyitch clutched at her as though she were his salvation. She was by no means an old woman — forty-five or forty-six, not more; but she had such a good-natured, rosy-cheeked, such a round and candid Russian face, she smiled so good-humouredly, bowed so simply, that Ivan Ilyitch was almost comforted and began to hope again.

“So you are the mo-other of your so-on?” he said, getting up from the sofa.

“Yes, my mother, your Excellency,” mumbled Pseldonimov, craning his long neck and thrusting forward his long nose again.

“Ah! I am delighted — de-ligh-ted to make your acquaintance.”

“Do not refuse us, your Excellency.”

“With the greatest pleasure.”

The tray was put down. Pseldonimov dashed forward to pour out the wine. Ivan Ilyitch, still standing, took the glass.

“I am particularly, particularly glad on this occasion, that I can ..,” he began, “that I can ... testify before all of you.... In short, as your chief ... I wish you, madam” (he turned to the bride), “and you, friend Porfiry, I wish you the fullest, completest happiness for many long years.”

And he positively drained the glass with feeling, the seventh he had drunk that evening. Pseldonimov looked at him gravely and even sullenly. The general was beginning to feel an agonising hatred of him.

“And that scarecrow” (he looked at the officer) “keeps obtruding himself. He might at least have shouted ‘hurrah!’ and it would have gone off, it would have gone off....”

“And you too, Akim Petrovitch, drink a glass to their health,” added the mother, addressing the head clerk. “You are his superior, he is under you. Look after my boy, I beg you as a mother. And don’t forget us in the future, our good, kind friend, Akim Petrovitch.”

“How nice these old Russian women are,” thought Ivan Ilyitch. “She has livened us all up. I have always loved the democracy....”

At that moment another tray was brought to the table; it was brought in by a maid wearing a crackling cotton dress that had never been washed, and a crinoline. She could hardly grasp the tray in both hands, it was so big. On it there were numbers of plates of apples, sweets, fruit meringues and fruit cheeses, walnuts and so on, and so on. The tray had been till then in the drawing-room for the delectation of all the guests, and especially the ladies. But now it was brought to the general alone.

“Do not disdain our humble fare, your Excellency. What we have we are pleased to offer,” the old lady repeated, bowing.

“Delighted!” said Ivan Ilyitch, and with real pleasure took a walnut and cracked it between his fingers. He had made up his mind to win popularity at all costs.

Meantime the bride suddenly giggled.

“What is it?” asked Ivan Ilyitch with a smile, encouraged by this sign of life.

“Ivan Kostenkinitch, here, makes me laugh,” she answered, looking down.

The general distinguished, indeed, a flaxen-headed young man, exceedingly good-looking, who was sitting on a chair at the other end of the sofa, whispering something to Madame Pseldonimov. The young man stood up. He was apparently very young and very shy.

“I was telling the lady about a ‘dream book,’ your Excellency,” he muttered as though apologising.

“About what sort of ‘dream book’?” asked Ivan Ilyitch condescendingly.

“There is a new ‘dream book,’ a literary one. I was telling the lady that to dream of Mr. Panaev means spilling coffee on one’s shirt front.”

“What innocence!” thought Ivan Ilyitch, with positive annoyance.

Though the young man flushed very red as he said it, he was incredibly delighted that he had said this about Mr. Panaev.

“To be sure, I have heard of it...,” responded his Excellency.

“No, there is something better than that,” said a voice quite close to Ivan Ilyitch. “There is a new encyclopædia being published, and they say Mr. Kraevsky will write articles... and satirical literature.”

This was said by a young man who was by no means embarrassed, but rather free and easy. He was wearing gloves and a white waistcoat, and carried a hat in his hand. He did not dance, and looked condescending, for he was on the staff of a satirical paper called The Firebrand, and gave himself airs accordingly. He had come casually to the wedding, invited as an honoured guest of the Pseldonimovs’, with whom he was on intimate terms and with whom only a year before he had lived in very poor lodgings, kept by a German woman. He drank vodka, however, and for that purpose had more than once withdrawn to a snug little back room to which all the guests knew their way. The general disliked him extremely.

“And the reason that’s funny,” broke in joyfully the flaxen-headed young man, who had talked of the shirt front and at whom the young man on the comic paper looked with hatred in consequence, “it’s funny, your Excellency, because it is supposed by the writer that Mr. Kraevsky does not know how to spell, and thinks that ‘satirical’ ought to be written with a ‘y’ instead of an ‘i.’”

But the poor young man scarcely finished his sentence; he could see from his eyes that the general knew all this long ago, for the general himself looked embarrassed, and evidently because he knew it. The young man seemed inconceivably ashamed. He succeeded in effacing himself completely, and remained very melancholy all the rest of the evening.

But to make up for that the young man on the staff of the Firebrand came up nearer, and seemed to be intending to sit down somewhere close by. Such free and easy manners struck Ivan Ilyitch as rather shocking.

“Tell me, please, Porfiry,” he began, in order to say something, “why — I have always wanted to ask you about it in person — why you are called Pseldonimov instead of Pseudonimov? Your name surely must be Pseudonimov.”

“I cannot inform you exactly, your Excellency,” said Pseldonimov.

“It must have been that when his father went into the service they made a mistake in his papers, so that he has remained now Pseldonimov,” put in Akim Petrovitch. “That does happen.”

“Un-doubted-ly,” the general said with warmth, “un-doubted-ly; for only think, Pseudonimov comes from the literary word pseudonym, while Pseldonimov means nothing.”

“Due to foolishness,” added Akim Petrovitch.

“You mean what is due to foolishness?”

“The Russian common people in their foolishness often alter letters, and sometimes pronounce them in their own way. For instance, they say nevalid instead of invalid.”

“Oh, yes, nevalid, he-he-he....”

“Mumber, too, they say, your Excellency,” boomed out the tall officer, who had long been itching to distinguish himself in some way.

“What do you mean by mumber?”

“Mumber instead of number, your Excellency.”

“Oh, yes, mumber ... instead of number.... To be sure, to be sure.... He-he-he!” Ivan Ilyitch had to do a chuckle for the benefit of the officer too.

The officer straightened his tie.

“Another thing they say is nigh by,” the young man on the comic paper put in. But his Excellency tried not to hear this. His chuckles were not at everybody’s disposal.

“Nigh by, instead of near,” the young man on the comic paper persisted, in evident irritation.

Ivan Ilyitch looked at him sternly.

“Come, why persist?” Pseldonimov whispered to him.

“Why, I was talking. Mayn’t one speak?” the latter protested in a whisper; but he said no more and with secret fury walked out of the room.

He made his way straight to the attractive little back room where, for the benefit of the dancing gentlemen, vodka of two sorts, salt fish, caviare into slices and a bottle of very strong sherry of Russian make had been set early in the evening on a little table, covered with a Yaroslav cloth. With anger in his heart he was pouring himself out a glass of vodka, when suddenly the medical student with the dishevelled locks, the foremost dancer and cutter of capers at Pseldonimov’s ball, rushed in. He fell on the decanter with greedy haste.

“They are just going to begin!” he said rapidly, helping himself. “Come and look, I am going to dance a solo on my head; after supper I shall risk the fish dance. It is just the thing for the wedding. So to speak, a friendly hint to Pseldonimov. She’s a jolly creature that Kleopatra Semyonovna, you can venture on anything you like with her.”

“He’s a reactionary,” said the young man on the comic paper gloomily, as he tossed off his vodka.

“Who is a reactionary?”

“Why, the personage before whom they set those sweet-meats. He’s