The Duellist by Ivan Turgenev
A regiment of cuirassiers was quartered in 1829 in the
village of Kirilovo, in the K—- province. That village,
with its huts and hay-stacks, its green hemp-patches, and
gaunt willows, looked from a distance like an island in a
boundless sea of ploughed, black-earth fields. In the middle
of the village was a small pond, invariably covered with
goose feathers, with muddy, indented banks; a hundred paces
from the pond, on the other side of the road, rose the wooden
manor-house, long, empty, and mournfully slanting on one
side. Behind the house stretched the deserted garden; in the
garden grew old apple-trees that bore no fruit, and tall
birch-trees, full of rooks' nests. At the end of the
principal garden-walk, in a little house, once the
bath-house, lived a decrepit old steward. Every morning,
gasping and groaning, he would, from years of habit, drag
himself across the garden to the seignorial apartments,
though there was nothing to take care of in them except a
dozen white arm-chairs, upholstered in faded stuff, two podgy
chests on carved legs with copper handles, four pictures with
holes in them, and one black alabaster Arab with a broken
nose. The owner of the house, a careless young man, lived
partly at Petersburg, partly abroad, and had completely
forgotten his estate. It had come to him eight years before,
from a very old uncle, once noted all over the countryside
for his excellent liqueurs. The empty, dark-green bottles are
to this day lying about in the storeroom, in company with
rubbish of all sorts, old manuscript books in parti-coloured
covers, scantily filled with writing, old-fashioned glass
lustres, a nobleman's uniform of the Catherine period, a
rusty sabre with a steel handle and so forth. In one of the
lodges of the great house the colonel himself took up his
abode. He was a married man, tall, sparing of his words, grim
and sleepy. In another lodge lived the regimental adjutant,
an emotional person of fine sentiments and many perfumes,
fond of flowers and female society. The social life of the
officers of this regiment did not differ from any other kind
of society. Among their number were good people and bad,
clever and silly.... One of them, a certain Avdey Ivanovitch
Lutchkov, staff captain, had a reputation as a duellist.
Lutchkov was a short and not thick-set man; he had a small,
yellowish, dry face, lank, black hair, unnoticeable features,
and dark, little eyes. He had early been left an orphan, and
had grown up among privations and hardships. For weeks
together he would be quiet enough,... and then all at
once—as though he were possessed by some devil—he
would let no one alone, annoying everybody, staring every one
insolently in the face; trying, in fact, to pick a quarrel.
Avdey Ivanovitch did not, however, hold aloof from
intercourse with his comrades, but he was not on intimate
terms with any one but the perfumed adjutant. He did not play
cards, and did not drink spirits.
In the May of 1829, not long before the beginning of the
manoeuvres, there joined the regiment a young cornet, Fyodor
Fedorovitch Kister, a Russian nobleman of German extraction,
very fair-haired and very modest, cultivated and well read.
He had lived up to his twentieth year in the home of his
fathers, under the wings of his mother, his grandmother, and
his two aunts. He was going into the army in deference solely
to the wishes of his grandmother, who even in her old age
could not see a white plumed helmet without emotion.... He
served with no special enthusiasm but with energy, as it were
conscientiously doing his duty. He was not a dandy, but was
always cleanly dressed and in good taste. On the day of his
arrival Fyodor Fedoritch paid his respects to his superior
officers, and then proceeded to arrange his quarters. He had
brought with him some cheap furniture, rugs, shelves, and so
forth. He papered all the walls and the doors, put up some
screens, had the yard cleaned, fixed up a stable, and a
kitchen, even arranged a place for a bath.... For a whole
week he was busily at work; but it was a pleasure afterwards
to go into his room. Before the window stood a neat table,
covered with various little things; in one corner was a set
of shelves for books, with busts of Schiller and Goethe; on
the walls hung maps, four Grevedon heads, and guns; near the
table was an elegant row of pipes with clean mouthpieces;
there was a rug in the outer room; all the doors shut and
locked; the windows were hung with curtains. Everything in
Fyodor Fedoritch's room had a look of cleanliness and order.
It was quite a different thing in his comrades' quarters.
Often one could scarcely make one's way across the muddy
yard; in the outer room, behind a canvas screen, with its
covering peeling off it, would lie stretched the snoring
orderly; on the floor rotten straw; on the stove, boots and a
broken jam-pot full of blacking; in the room itself a warped
card-table, marked with chalk; on the table, glasses,
half-full of cold, dark-brown tea; against the wall, a wide,
rickety, greasy sofa; on the window-sills, tobacco-ash.... In
a podgy, clumsy arm-chair one would find the master of the
place in a grass-green dressing-gown with crimson plush
facings and an embroidered smoking-cap of Asiatic extraction,
and a hideously fat, unpleasant dog in a stinking brass
collar would be snoring at his side.... All the doors always
Fyodor Fedoritch made a favourable impression on his new
comrades. They liked him for his good-nature, modesty,
warm-heartedness, and natural inclination for everything
beautiful, for everything, in fact, which in another officer
they might, very likely, have thought out of place. They
called Kister a young lady, and were kind and gentle in their
manners with him. Avdey Ivanovitch was the only one who eyed
him dubiously. One day after drill Lutchkov went up to him,
slightly pursing up his lips and inflating his nostrils:
'Good-morning, Mr. Knaster.'
Kister looked at him in some perplexity.
'A very good day to you, Mr. Knaster,' repeated Lutchkov.
'My name's Kister, sir.'
'You don't say so, Mr. Knaster.'
Fyodor Fedoritch turned his back on him and went homewards.
Lutchkov looked after him with a grin.
Next day, directly after drill he went up to Kister again.
'Well, how are you getting on, Mr. Kinderbalsam?'
Kister was angry, and looked him straight in the face. Avdey
Ivanovitch's little bilious eyes were gleaming with malignant
'I'm addressing you, Mr. Kinderbalsam!'
'Sir,' Fyodor Fedoritch replied, 'I consider your joke stupid
and ill-bred—do you hear?—stupid and ill-bred.'
'When shall we fight?' Lutchkov responded composedly.
'When you like,... to-morrow.'
Next morning they fought a duel. Lutchkov wounded Kister
slightly, and to the extreme astonishment of the seconds went
up to the wounded man, took him by the hand and begged his
pardon. Kister had to keep indoors for a fortnight. Avdey
Ivanovitch came several times to ask after him and on Fyodor
Fedoritch's recovery made friends with him. Whether he was
pleased by the young officer's pluck, or whether a feeling
akin to remorse was roused in his soul—it's hard to
say... but from the time of his duel with Kister, Avdey
Ivanovitch scarcely left his side, and called him first
Fyodor, and afterwards simply Fedya. In his presence he
became quite another man and—strange to say!—the
change was not in his favour. It did not suit him to be
gentle and soft. Sympathy he could not call forth in any one
anyhow; such was his destiny! He belonged to that class of
persons to whom has somehow been granted the privilege of
authority over others; but nature had denied him the gifts
essential for the justification of such a privilege. Having
received no education, not being distinguished by
intelligence, he ought not to have revealed himself; possibly
his malignancy had its origin in his consciousness of the
defects of his bringing up, in the desire to conceal himself
altogether under one unchanging mask. Avdey Ivanovitch had at
first forced himself to despise people, then he began to
notice that it was not a difficult matter to intimidate them,
and he began to despise them in reality. Lutchkov enjoyed
cutting short by his very approach all but the most vulgar
conversation. 'I know nothing, and have learned nothing, and
I have no talents,' he said to himself; 'and so you too shall
know nothing and not show off your talents before me....'
Kister, perhaps, had made Lutchkov abandon the part he had
taken up—just because before his acquaintance with him,
the bully had never met any one genuinely idealistic, that is
to say, unselfishly and simple-heartedly absorbed in dreams,
and so, indulgent to others, and not full of himself.
Avdey Ivanovitch would come sometimes to Kister, light a pipe
and quietly sit down in an arm-chair. Lutchkov was not in
Kister's company abashed by his own ignorance; he
relied—and with good reason—on his German
'Well,' he would begin, 'what did you do yesterday? Been
reading, I'll bet, eh?'
'Yes, I read....'
'Well, and what did you read? Come, tell away, old man, tell
away.' Avdey Ivanovitch kept up his bantering tone to the
'I read Kleist's Idyll. Ah, what a fine thing it is!
If you don't mind, I'll translate you a few lines....' And
Kister translated with fervour, while Lutchkov, wrinkling up
his forehead and compressing his lips, listened
attentively.... 'Yes, yes,' he would repeat hurriedly, with a
disagreeable smile,'it's fine... very fine... I remember,
I've read it... very fine.'
'Tell me, please,' he added affectedly, and as it were
reluctantly, 'what's your view of Louis the Fourteenth?'
And Kister would proceed to discourse upon Louis the
Fourteenth, while Lutchkov listened, totally failing to
understand a great deal, misunderstanding a part... and at
last venturing to make a remark.... This threw him into a
cold sweat; 'now, if I'm making a fool of myself,' he
thought. And as a fact he often did make a fool of himself.
But Kister was never off-hand in his replies; the
good-hearted youth was inwardly rejoicing that, as he
thought, the desire for enlightenment was awakened in a
fellow-creature. Alas! it was from no desire for
enlightenment that Avdey Ivanovitch questioned Kister; God
knows why he did! Possibly he wished to ascertain for himself
what sort of head he, Lutchkov, had, whether it was really
dull, or simply untrained. 'So I really am stupid,' he said
to himself more than once with a bitter smile; and he would
draw himself up instantly and look rudely and insolently
about him, and smile malignantly to himself if he caught some
comrade dropping his eyes before his glance. 'All right, my
man, you're so learned and well educated,...' he would mutter
between his teeth. 'I'll show you... that's all....'
The officers did not long discuss the sudden friendship of
Kister and Lutchkov; they were used to the duellist's queer
ways. 'The devil's made friends with the baby,' they said....
Kister was warm in his praises of his friend on all hands; no
one disputed his opinion, because they were afraid of
Lutchkov; Lutchkov himself never mentioned Kister's name
before the others, but he dropped his intimacy with the
The landowners of the South of Russia are very keen on giving
balls, inviting officers to their houses, and marrying off
About seven miles from the village of Kirilovo lived just
such a country gentleman, a Mr. Perekatov, the owner of four
hundred souls, and a fairly spacious house. He had a daughter
of eighteen, Mashenka, and a wife, Nenila Makarievna. Mr.
Perekatov had once been an officer in the cavalry, but from
love of a country life and from indolence he had retired and
had begun to live peaceably and quietly, as landowners of the
middling sort do live. Nenila Makarievna owed her existence
in a not perfectly legitimate manner to a distinguished
gentleman of Moscow.
Her protector had educated his little Nenila very carefully,
as it is called, in his own house, but got her off his hands
rather hurriedly, at the first offer, as a not very
marketable article. Nenila Makarievna was ugly; the
distinguished gentleman was giving her no more than ten
thousand as dowry; she snatched eagerly at Mr. Perekatov. To
Mr. Perekatov it seemed extremely gratifying to marry a
highly educated, intellectual young lady... who was, after
all, so closely related to so illustrious a personage. This
illustrious personage extended his patronage to the young
people even after the marriage, that is to say, he accepted
presents of salted quails from them and called Perekatov 'my
dear boy,' and sometimes simply, 'boy.' Nenila Makarievna
took complete possession of her husband, managed everything,
and looked after the whole property—very sensibly,
indeed; far better, any way, than Mr. Perekatov could have
done. She did not hamper her partner's liberty too much; but
she kept him well in hand, ordered his clothes herself, and
dressed him in the English style, as is fitting and proper
for a country gentleman. By her instructions, Mr. Perekatov
grew a little Napoleonic beard on his chin, to cover a large
wart, which looked like an over-ripe raspberry. Nenila
Makarievna, for her part, used to inform visitors that her
husband played the flute, and that all flute-players always
let the beard grow under the lower lip; they could hold their
instrument more comfortably. Mr. Perekatov always, even in
the early morning, wore a high, clean stock, and was well
combed and washed. He was, moreover, well content with his
lot; he dined very well, did as he liked, and slept all he
could. Nenila Makarievna had introduced into her household
'foreign ways,' as the neighbours used to say; she kept few
servants, and had them neatly dressed. She was fretted by
ambition; she wanted at least to be the wife of the marshal
of the nobility of the district; but the gentry of the
district, though they dined at her house to their hearts'
content, did not choose her husband, but first the retired
premier-major Burkolts, and then the retired second major
Burundukov. Mr. Perekatov seemed to them too extreme a
product of the capital.
Mr. Perekatov's daughter, Mashenka, was in face like her
father. Nenila Makarievna had taken the greatest pains with
her education. She spoke French well, and played the piano
fairly. She was of medium height, rather plump and white; her
rather full face was lighted up by a kindly and merry smile;
her flaxen, not over-abundant hair, her hazel eyes, her
pleasant voice—everything about her was gently
pleasing, and that was all. On the other hand the absence of
all affectation and conventionality, an amount of culture
exceptional in a country girl, the freedom of her
expressions, the quiet simplicity of her words and looks
could not but be striking in her. She had developed at her
own free will; Nenila Makarievna did not keep her in
One morning at twelve o'clock the whole family of the
Perekatovs were in the drawing-room. The husband in a round
green coat, a high check cravat, and pea-green trousers with
straps, was standing at the window, very busily engaged in
catching flies. The daughter was sitting at her embroidery
frame; her small dimpled little hand rose and fell slowly and
gracefully over the canvas. Nenila Makarievna was sitting on
the sofa, gazing in silence at the floor.
'Did you send an invitation to the regiment at Kirilovo,
Sergei Sergeitch?' she asked her husband.
'For this evening? To be sure I did, ma chère.' (He
was under the strictest orders not to call her 'little
mother.') 'To be sure!'
'There are positively no gentlemen,' pursued Nenila
Makarievna. 'Nobody for the girls to dance with.'
Her husband sighed, as though crushed by the absence of
'Mamma,' Masha began all at once, 'is Monsieur Lutchkov
'He's an officer too. They say he's a very interesting
'Oh, he's not good-looking and he's not young, but every
one's afraid of him. He's a dreadful duellist.' (Mamma
frowned a little.) 'I should so like to see him.'
Sergei Sergeitch interrupted his daughter.
'What is there to see in him, my darling? Do you suppose he
must look like Lord Byron?' (At that time we were only just
beginning to talk about Lord Byron.) 'Nonsense! Why, I
declare, my dear, there was a time when I had a terrible
character as a fighting man.'
Masha looked wonderingly at her parent, laughed, then jumped
up and kissed him on the cheek. His wife smiled a little,
too... but Sergei Sergeitch had spoken the truth.
'I don't know if that gentleman is coming,' observed Nenila
Makarievna. 'Possibly he may come too.'
The daughter sighed.
'Mind you don't go and fall in love with him,' remarked
Sergei Sergeitch. 'I know you girls are all like that
nowadays—so—what shall I say?—romantic...'
'No,' Masha responded simply.
Nenila Makarievna looked coldly at her husband. Sergei
Sergeitch played with his watch-chain in some embarrassment,
then took his wide-brimmed, English hat from the table, and
set off to see after things on the estate.
His dog timidly and meekly followed him. As an intelligent
animal, she was well aware that her master was not a person
of very great authority in the house, and behaved herself
accordingly with modesty and circumspection.
Nenila Makarievna went up to her daughter, gently raised her
head, and looked affectionately into her eyes. 'Will you tell
me when you fall in love?' she asked.
Masha kissed her mother's hand, smiling, and nodded her head
several times in the affirmative.
'Mind you do,' observed Nenila Makarievna, stroking her
cheek, and she went out after her husband. Masha leaned back
in her chair, dropped her head on her bosom, interlaced her
fingers, and looked long out of window, screwing up her
eyes... A slight flush passed over her fresh cheeks; with a
sigh she drew herself up, was setting to work again, but
dropped her needle, leaned her face on her hand, and biting
the tips of her nails, fell to dreaming... then glanced at
her own shoulder, at her outstretched hand, got up, went to
the window, laughed, put on her hat and went out into the
That evening at eight o'clock, the guests began to arrive.
Madame Perekatov with great affability received and
'entertained' the ladies, Mashenka the girls; Sergei
Sergeitch talked about the crops with the gentlemen and
continually glanced towards his wife. Soon there arrived the
young dandies, the officers, intentionally a little late; at
last the colonel himself, accompanied by his adjutants,
Kister and Lutchkov. He presented them to the lady of the
house. Lutchkov bowed without speaking, Kister muttered the
customary 'extremely delighted'... Mr. Perekatov went up to
the colonel, pressed his hand warmly and looked him in the
face with great cordiality. The colonel promptly looked
forbidding. The dancing began. Kister asked Mashenka for a
dance. At that time the Ecossaise was still
'Do tell me, please,' Masha said to him, when, after
galloping twenty times to the end of the room, they stood at
last, the first couple, 'why isn't your friend dancing?'
Masha pointed with the tip of her fan at Lutchkov.
'He never dances,' answered Kister.
'Why did he come then?'
Kister was a little disconcerted. 'He wished to have the
Mashenka interrupted him. 'You've not long been transferred
into our regiment, I think?'
'Into your regiment,' observed Kister, with a smile: 'no, not
'Aren't you dull here?'
'Oh no... I find such delightful society here... and the
scenery!'... Kister launched into eulogies of the scenery.
Masha listened to him, without raising her head. Avdey
Ivanovitch was standing in a corner, looking indifferently at
'How old is Mr. Lutchkov?' she asked suddenly.
'Oh... thirty-five, I fancy,' answered Kister.
'They say he's a dangerous man... hot-tempered,' Masha added
'He is a little hasty... but still, he's a very fine man.'
'They say every one's afraid of him.'
'I'm a friend of his.'
'Your turn, your turn,' was shrieked at them from all sides.
They started and began galloping again right across the room.
'Well, I congratulate you,' Kister said to Lutchkov, going up
to him after the dance; 'the daughter of the house does
nothing but ask questions about you.'
'Really?' Lutchkov responded scornfully.
'On my honour! And you know she's extremely nice-looking;
only look at her.'
'Which of them is she?'
Kister pointed out Masha.
'Ah, not bad.' And Lutchkov yawned.
'Cold-hearted person!' cried Kister, and he ran off to ask
another girl to dance.
Avdey Ivanovitch was extremely delighted at the fact Kister
had mentioned to him, though he did yawn, and even yawned
loudly. To arouse curiosity flattered his vanity intensely:
love he despised—in words—but inwardly he was
himself aware that it would be a hard and difficult task for
him to win love.... A hard and difficult task for him to win
love, but easy and simple enough to wear a mask of
indifference, of silent haughtiness. Avdey Ivanovitch was
unattractive and no longer young; but on the other hand he
enjoyed a terrible reputation—and consequently he had
every right to pose. He was used to the bitter, unspoken
enjoyment of grim loneliness. It was not the first time he
had attracted the attention of women; some had even tried to
get upon more friendly terms with him, but he repelled their
advances with exasperated obstinacy; he knew that sentiment
was not in his line (during tender interviews, avowals, he
first became awkward and vulgar, and, through anger, rude to
the point of grossness, of insult); he remembered that the
two or three women with whom he had at different times been
on a friendly footing had rapidly grown cool to him after the
first moment of closer intimacy, and had of their own impulse
made haste to get away from him... and so he had at last
schooled himself to remain an enigma, and to scorn what
destiny had denied him.... This is, I fancy, the only sort of
scorn people in general do feel. No sort of frank,
spontaneous, that is to say good, demonstration of passion
suited Lutchkov; he was bound to keep a continual check on
himself, even when he was angry. Kister was the only person
who was not disgusted when Lutchkov broke into laughter; the
kind-hearted German's eyes shone with the generous delight of
sympathy, when he read Avdey his favourite passages from
Schiller, while the bully would sit facing him with lowering
looks, like a wolf.... Kister danced till he was worn out,
Lutchkov never left his corner, scowled, glanced stealthily
at Masha, and meeting her eyes, at once threw an expression
of indifference into his own. Masha danced three times with
Kister. The enthusiastic youth inspired her with confidence.
She chatted with him gaily enough, but at heart she was not
at ease. Lutchkov engrossed her thoughts.
A mazurka tune struck up. The officers fell to bounding up
and down, tapping with their heels, and tossing the
epaulettes on their shoulders; the civilians tapped with
their heels too. Lutchkov still did not stir from his place,
and slowly followed the couples with his eyes, as they
whirled by. Some one touched his sleeve... he looked round;
his neighbour pointed him out Masha. She was standing before
him with downcast eyes, holding out her hand to him. Lutchkov
for the first moment gazed at her in perplexity, then he
carelessly took off his sword, threw his hat on the floor,
picked his way awkwardly among the arm-chairs, took Masha by
the hand, and went round the circle, with no capering up and
down nor stamping, as it were unwillingly performing an
unpleasant duty.... Masha's heart beat violently.
'Why don't you dance?' she asked him at last.
'I don't care for it,' answered Lutchkov.
'Where's your place?'
Lutchkov conducted Masha to her chair, coolly bowed to her
and coolly returned to his corner... but there was an
agreeable stirring of the spleen within him.
Kister asked Masha for a dance.
'What a strange person your friend is!'
'He does interest you...' said Fyodor Fedoritch, with a sly
twinkle of his blue and kindly eyes.
'Yes... he must be very unhappy.'
'He unhappy? What makes you suppose so?' And Fyodor Fedoritch
'You don't know... you don't know...' Masha solemnly shook
her head with an important air.
'Me not know? How's that?'...
Masha shook her head again and glanced towards Lutchkov.
Avdey Ivanovitch noticed the glance, shrugged his shoulders
imperceptibly, and walked away into the other room.
Several months had passed since that evening. Lutchkov had
not once been at the Perekatovs'. But Kister visited them
pretty often. Nenila Makarievna had taken a fancy to him, but
it was not she that attracted Fyodor Fedoritch. He liked
Masha. Being an inexperienced person who had not yet talked
himself out, he derived great pleasure from the interchange
of ideas and feelings, and he had a simple-hearted faith in
the possibility of a calm and exalted friendship between a
young man and a young girl.
One day his three well-fed and skittish horses whirled him
rapidly along to Mr. Perekatov's house. It was a summer day,
close and sultry. Not a cloud anywhere. The blue of the sky
was so thick and dark on the horizon that the eye mistook it
for storm-cloud. The house Mr. Perekatov had erected for a
summer residence had been, with the foresight usual in the
steppes, built with every window directly facing the sun.
Nenila Makarievna had every shutter closed from early
morning. Kister walked into the cool, half-dark drawing-room.
The light lay in long lines on the floor and in short, close
streaks on the walls. The Perekatov family gave Fyodor
Fedoritch a friendly reception. After dinner Nenila
Makarievna went away to her own room to lie down; Mr.
Perekatov settled himself on the sofa in the drawing-room;
Masha sat near the window at her embroidery frame, Kister
facing her. Masha, without opening her frame, leaned lightly
over it, with her head in her hands. Kister began telling her
something; she listened inattentively, as though waiting for
something, looked from time to time towards her father, and
all at once stretched out her hand.
'Listen, Fyodor Fedoritch... only speak a little more
softly... papa's asleep.'
Mr. Perekatov had indeed as usual dropped asleep on the sofa,
with his head hanging and his mouth a little open.
'What is it?' Kister inquired with curiosity.
'You will laugh at me.'
'Oh, no, really!...'
Masha let her head sink till only the upper part of her face
remained uncovered by her hands and in a half whisper, not
without hesitation, asked Kister why it was he never brought
Mr. Lutchkov with him. It was not the first time Masha had
mentioned him since the ball.... Kister did not speak. Masha
glanced timorously over her interlaced fingers.
'May I tell you frankly what I think?' Kister asked her.
'Oh, why not? of course.'
'It seems to me that Lutchkov has made a great impression on
'No!' answered Masha, and she bent over, as though wishing to
examine the pattern more closely; a narrow golden streak of
light lay on her hair; 'no... but...'
'Well, but?' said Kister, smiling.
'Well, don't you see,' said Masha, and she suddenly lifted
her head, so that the streak of light fell straight in her
eyes; 'don't you see... he...'
'He interests you....'
'Well... yes...' Masha said slowly; she flushed a little,
turned her head a little away and in that position went on
talking. 'There is something about him so... There, you're
laughing at me,' she added suddenly, glancing swiftly at
Fyodor Fedoritch smiled the gentlest smile imaginable.
'I tell you everything, whatever comes into my head,' Masha
went on: 'I know that you are a very'... (she nearly said
great) 'good friend of mine.'
Kister bowed. Masha ceased speaking, and shyly held out her
hand to him; Fyodor Fedoritch pressed the tips of her fingers
'He must be a very queer person!' observed Masha, and again
she propped her elbows on the frame.
'Of course; he interests me just because he is queer!' Masha
'Lutchkov is a noble, a remarkable man,' Kister rejoined
solemnly. 'They don't know him in our regiment, they don't
appreciate him, they only see his external side. He's
embittered, of course, and strange and impatient, but his
heart is good.'
Masha listened greedily to Fyodor Fedoritch.
'I will bring him to see you, I'll tell him there's no need
to be afraid of you, that it's absurd for him to be so shy...
I'll tell him... Oh! yes, I know what to say... Only you
mustn't suppose, though, that I would...' (Kister was
embarrassed, Masha too was embarrassed.)... 'Besides, after
all, of course you only... like him....'
'Of course, just as I like lots of people.'
Kister looked mischievously at her.
'All right, all right,' he said with a satisfied air; 'I'll
bring him to you....'
'All right, I tell you it will be all right.... I'll arrange
'You are so...' Masha began with a smile, and she shook her
finger at him. Mr. Perekatov yawned and opened his eyes.
'Why, I almost think I've been asleep,' he muttered with
surprise. This doubt and this surprise were repeated daily.
Masha and Kister began discussing Schiller.
Fyodor Fedoritch was not however quite at ease; he felt
something like a stir of envy within him... and was
generously indignant with himself. Nenila Makarievna came
down into the drawing-room. Tea was brought in. Mr. Perekatov
made his dog jump several times over a stick, and then
explained he had taught it everything himself, while the dog
wagged its tail deferentially, licked itself and blinked.
When at last the great heat began to lessen, and an evening
breeze blew up, the whole family went out for a walk in the
birch copse. Fyodor Fedoritch was continually glancing at
Masha, as though giving her to understand that he would carry
out her behests; Masha felt at once vexed with herself, and
happy and uncomfortable. Kister suddenly, apropos of nothing,
plunged into a rather high-flown discourse upon love in the
abstract, and upon friendship... but catching Nenila
Makarievna's bright and vigilant eye he, as abruptly, changed
the subject. The sunset was brilliant and glowing. A broad,
level meadow lay outstretched before the birch copse. Masha
took it into her head to start a game of 'catch-catch.'
Maid-servants and footmen came out; Mr. Perekatov stood with
his wife, Kister with Masha. The maids ran with deferential
little shrieks; Mr. Perekatov's valet had the temerity to
separate Nenila Makarievna from her spouse; one of the
servant-girls respectfully paired off with her master; Fyodor
Fedoritch was not parted from Masha. Every time as he
regained his place, he said two or three words to her; Masha,
all flushed with running, listened to him with a smile,
passing her hand over her hair. After supper, Kister took
It was a still, starlight night. Kister took off his cap. He
was excited; there was a lump in his throat. 'Yes,' he said
at last, almost aloud; 'she loves him: I will bring them
together; I will justify her confidence in me.' Though there
was as yet nothing to prove a definite passion for Lutchkov
on Masha's part, though, according to her own account, he
only excited her curiosity, Kister had by this time made up a
complete romance, and worked out his own duty in the matter.
He resolved to sacrifice his feelings—the more readily
as 'so far I have no other sentiment for her but sincere
devotion,' thought he. Kister really was capable of
sacrificing himself to friendship, to a recognised duty. He
had read a great deal, and so fancied himself a person of
experience and even of penetration; he had no doubt of the
truth of his suppositions; he did not suspect that life is
endlessly varied, and never repeats itself. Little by little,
Fyodor Fedoritch worked himself into a state of ecstasy. He
began musing with emotion on his mission. To be the mediator
between a shy, loving girl and a man possibly embittered only
because he had never once in his life loved and been loved;
to bring them together; to reveal their own feelings to them,
and then to withdraw, letting no one know the greatness of
his sacrifice, what a splendid feat! In spite of the coolness
of the night, the simple-hearted dreamer's face burned....
Next day he went round to Lutchkov early in the morning.
Avdey Ivanovitch was, as usual, lying on the sofa, smoking a
pipe. Kister greeted him.
'I was at the Perekatovs yesterday,' he said with some
'Ah!' Lutchkov responded indifferently, and he yawned.
'Yes. They are splendid people.'
'We talked about you.'
'Much obliged; with which of them was that?'
'With the old people... and the daughter too.'
'Ah! that... little fat thing?'
'She's a splendid girl, Lutchkov.'
'To be sure, they're all splendid.'
'No, Lutchkov, you don't know her. I have never met such a
clever, sweet and sensitive girl.'
Lutchkov began humming through his nose:
'In the Hamburg Gazette,
You've read, I dare say,
How the year before last,
Munich gained the day....'
'But I assure you....'
'You 're in love with her, Fedya,' Lutchkov remarked
'Not at all. I never even thought of it.'
'Fedya, you're in love with her!'
'What nonsense! As if one couldn't...'
'You're in love with her, friend of my heart, beetle on my
hearth,' Avdey Ivanovitch chanted drawling.
'Ah, Avdey, you really ought to be ashamed!' Kister said with
With any one else Lutchkov would thereupon have kept on more
than before; Kister he did not tease. 'Well, well, sprechen
Sie deutsch, Ivan Andreitch,' he muttered in an undertone,
'don't be angry.'
'Listen, Avdey,' Kister began warmly, and he sat down beside
him. 'You know I care for you.' (Lutchkov made a wry face.)
'But there's one thing, I'll own, I don't like about you...
it's just that you won't make friends with any one, that you
will stick at home, and refuse all intercourse with nice
people. Why, there are nice people in the world, hang it all!
Suppose you have been deceived in life, have been embittered,
what of it; there's no need to rush into people's arms, of
course, but why turn your back on everybody? Why, you'll cast
me off some day, at that rate, I suppose.'
Lutchkov went on smoking coolly.
'That's how it is no one knows you... except me; goodness
knows what some people think of you... Avdey!' added Kister
after a brief silence; 'do you disbelieve in virtue, Avdey?'
'Disbelieve... no, I believe in it,'... muttered Lutchkov.
Kister pressed his hand feelingly.
'I want,' he went on in a voice full of emotion, 'to
reconcile you with life. You will grow happier, blossom
out... yes, blossom out. How I shall rejoice then! Only you
must let me dispose of you now and then, of your time. To-day
it's—what? Monday... to-morrow's Tuesday... on
Wednesday, yes, on Wednesday we'll go together to the
Perekatovs'. They will be so glad to see you... and we shall
have such a jolly time there... and now let me have a pipe.'
Avdey Ivanovitch lay without budging on the sofa, staring at
the ceiling. Kister lighted a pipe, went to the window, and
began drumming on the panes with his fingers.
'So they've been talking about me?' Avdey asked suddenly.
'They have,' Kister responded with meaning.
'What did they say?'
'Oh, they talked. There're very anxious to make your
'Which of them's that?'
'I say, what curiosity!'
Avdey called his servant, and ordered his horse to be
'Where are you off to?'
'Well, good-bye. So we're going to the Perekatovs', eh?'
'All right, if you like,' Lutchkov said lazily, stretching.
'Bravo, old man!' cried Kister, and he went out into the
street, pondered, and sighed deeply.
Masha was just approaching the drawing-room door when the
arrival of Kister and Lutchkov was announced. She promptly
returned to her own room, and went up to the
looking-glass.... Her heart was throbbing violently. A girl
came to summon her to the drawing-room. Masha drank a little
water, stopped twice on the stairs, and at last went down.
Mr. Perekatov was not at home. Nenila Makarievna was sitting
on the sofa; Lutchkov was sitting in an easy-chair, wearing
his uniform, with his hat on his knees; Kister was near him.
They both got up on Masha's entrance—Kister with his
usual friendly smile, Lutchkov with a solemn and constrained
air. She bowed to them in confusion, and went up to her
mother. The first ten minutes passed off favourably. Masha
recovered herself, and gradually began to watch Lutchkov. To
the questions addressed to him by the lady of the house, he
answered briefly, but uneasily; he was shy, like all egoistic
people. Nenila Makarievna suggested a stroll in the garden to
her guests, but did not herself go beyond the balcony. She
did not consider it essential never to lose sight of her
daughter, and to be constantly hobbling after her with a fat
reticule in her hands, after the fashion of many mothers in
the steppes. The stroll lasted rather a long while. Masha
talked more with Kister, but did not dare to look either at
him or at Lutchkov. Avdey Ivanovitch did not address a remark
to her; Kister's voice showed agitation. He laughed and
chattered a little over-much.... They reached the stream. A
couple of yards or so from the bank there was a water-lily,
which seemed to rest on the smooth surface of the water,
encircled by its broad, round leaves.
'What a beautiful flower!' observed Masha.
She had hardly uttered these words when Lutchkov pulled out
his sword, clutched with one hand at the frail twigs of a
willow, and, bending his whole body over the water, cut off
the head of the flower. 'It's deep here, take care!' Masha
cried in terror. Lutchkov with the tip of his sword brought
the flower to the bank, at her very feet. She bent down,
picked up the flower, and gazed with tender, delighted
amazement at Avdey. 'Bravo!' cried Kister. 'And I can't
swim...' Lutchkov observed abruptly. Masha did not like that
remark. 'What made him say that?' she wondered.
Lutchkov and Kister remained at Mr. Perekatov's till the
evening. Something new and unknown was passing in Masha's
soul; a dreamy perplexity was reflected more than once in her
face. She moved somehow more slowly, she did not flush on
meeting her mother's eyes—on the contrary, she seemed
to seek them, as though she would question her. During the
whole evening, Lutchkov paid her a sort of awkward attention;
but even this awkwardness gratified her innocent vanity. When
they had both taken leave, with a promise to come again in a
few days, she quietly went off to her own room, and for a
long while, as it were, in bewilderment she looked about her.
Nenila Makarievna came to her, kissed and embraced her as
usual. Masha opened her lips, tried to say
something—and did not utter a word. She wanted to
confess—-she did not know what. Her soul was gently
wandering in dreams. On the little table by her bedside the
flower Lutchkov had picked lay in water in a clean glass.
Masha, already in bed, sat up cautiously, leaned on her
elbow, and her maiden lips softly touched the fresh white
'Well,' Kister questioned his friend next day, 'do you like
the Perekatovs? Was I right? eh? Tell me.'
Lutchkov did not answer.
'No, do tell me, do tell me!'
'Really, I don't know.'
'Nonsense, come now!'
'That... what's her name... Mashenka's all right; not
'There, you see...' said Kister—and he said no more.
Five days later Lutchkov of his own accord suggested that
they should call on the Perekatovs.
Alone he would not have gone to see them; in Fyodor
Fedoritch's absence he would have had to keep up a
conversation, and that he could not do, and as far as
On the second visit of the two friends, Masha was much more
at her ease. She was by now secretly glad that she had not
disturbed her mamma by an uninvited avowal. Before dinner,
Avdey had offered to try a young horse, not yet broken in,
and, in spite of its frantic rearing, he mastered it
completely. In the evening he thawed, and fell into joking
and laughing—and though he soon pulled himself up, yet
he had succeeded in making a momentary unpleasant impression
on Masha. She could not yet be sure herself what the feeling
exactly was that Lutchkov excited in her, but everything she
did not like in him she set down to the influence of
misfortune, of loneliness.
The friends began to pay frequent visits to the Perekatovs'.
Kister's position became more and more painful. He did not
regret his action... no, but he desired at least to cut short
the time of his trial. His devotion to Masha increased daily;
she too felt warmly towards him; but to be nothing more than
a go-between, a confidant, a friend even—it's a dreary,
thankless business! Coldly idealistic people talk a great
deal about the sacredness of suffering, the bliss of
suffering... but to Kister's warm and simple heart his
sufferings were not a source of any bliss whatever. At last,
one day, when Lutchkov, ready dressed, came to fetch him, and
the carriage was waiting at the steps, Fyodor Fedoritch, to
the astonishment of his friend, announced point-blank that he
should stay at home. Lutchkov entreated him, was vexed and
angry... Kister pleaded a headache. Lutchkov set off alone.
The bully had changed in many ways of late. He left his
comrades in peace, did not annoy the novices, and though his
spirit had not 'blossomed out,' as Kister had foretold, yet
he certainly had toned down a little. He could not have been
called 'disillusioned' before—he had seen and
experienced almost nothing—and so it is not surprising
that Masha engrossed his thoughts. His heart was not touched
though; only his spleen was satisfied. Masha's feelings for
him were of a strange kind. She almost never looked him
straight in the face; she could not talk to him.... When they
happened to be left alone together, Masha felt horribly
awkward. She took him for an exceptional man, and felt
overawed by him and agitated in his presence, fancied she did
not understand him, and was unworthy of his confidence;
miserably, drearily—but continually—she thought
of him. Kister's society, on the contrary, soothed her and
put her in a good humour, though it neither overjoyed nor
excited her. With him she could chatter away for hours
together, leaning on his arm, as though he were her brother,
looking affectionately into his face, and laughing with his
laughter—and she rarely thought of him. In Lutchkov
there was something enigmatic for the young girl; she felt
that his soul was 'dark as a forest,' and strained every
effort to penetrate into that mysterious gloom.... So
children stare a long while into a deep well, till at last
they make out at the very bottom the still, black water.
On Lutchkov's coming into the drawing-room alone, Masha was
at first scared... but then she felt delighted. She had more
than once fancied that there existed some sort of
misunderstanding between Lutchkov and her, that he had not
hitherto had a chance of revealing himself. Lutchkov
mentioned the cause of Kister's absence; the parents
expressed their regret, but Masha looked incredulously at
Avdey, and felt faint with expectation. After dinner they
were left alone; Masha did not know what to say, she sat down
to the piano; her fingers flitted hurriedly and tremblingly
over the keys; she was continually stopping and waiting for
the first word... Lutchkov did not understand nor care for
music. Masha began talking to him about Rossini (Rossini was
at that time just coming into fashion) and about Mozart....
Avdey Ivanovitch responded: 'Quite so,' 'by no means,'
'beautiful,' 'indeed,' and that was all. Masha played some
brilliant variations on one of Rossini's airs. Lutchkov
listened and listened... and when at last she turned to him,
his face expressed such unfeigned boredom, that Masha jumped
up at once and closed the piano. She went up to the window,
and for a long while stared into the garden; Lutchkov did not
stir from his seat, and still remained silent. Impatience
began to take the place of timidity in Masha's soul. 'What is
it?' she wondered, 'won't you... or can't you?' It was
Lutchkov's turn to feel shy. He was conscious again of his
miserable, overwhelming diffidence; already he was raging!...
'It was the devil's own notion to have anything to do with
the wretched girl,' he muttered to himself.... And all the
while how easy it was to touch Masha's heart at that instant!
Whatever had been said by such an extraordinary though
eccentric man, as she imagined Lutchkov, she would have
understood everything, have excused anything, have believed
anything.... But this burdensome, stupid silence! Tears of
vexation were standing in her eyes. 'If he doesn't want to be
open, if I am really not worthy of his confidence, why does
he go on coming to see us? Or perhaps it is that I don't set
the right way to work to make him reveal himself?'... And she
turned swiftly round, and glanced so inquiringly, so
searchingly at him, that he could not fail to understand her
glance, and could not keep silence any longer....
'Marya Sergievna,' he pronounced falteringly; 'I... I've... I
ought to tell you something....'
'Speak,' Masha responded rapidly.
Lutchkov looked round him irresolutely.
'I can't now...'
'I should like to speak to you... alone....'
'Why, we are alone now.'
'Yes... but... here in the house....'
Masha was at her wits' end.... 'If I refuse,' she thought,
'it's all over.'... Curiosity was the ruin of Eve....
'I agree,' she said at last.
'When then? Where?'
Masha's breathing came quickly and unevenly.
'To-morrow... in the evening. You know the copse above the
'Behind the mill?'
She could not bring out another word; her voice broke... she
turned pale and went quickly out of the room.
A quarter of an hour later, Mr. Perekatov, with his
characteristic politeness, conducted Lutchkov to the hall,
pressed his hand feelingly, and begged him 'not to forget
them'; then, having let out his guest, he observed with
dignity to the footman that it would be as well for him to
shave, and without awaiting a reply, returned with a careworn
air to his own room, with the same careworn air sat down on
the sofa, and guilelessly dropped asleep on the spot.
'You're a little pale to-day,' Nenila Makarievna said to her
daughter, on the evening of the same day. 'Are you quite
Nenila Makarievna set straight the kerchief on the girl's
'You are very pale; look at me,' she went on, with that
motherly solicitude in which there is none the less audible a
note of parental authority: 'there, now, your eyes look heavy
too. You're not well, Masha.'
'My head does ache a little,' said Masha, to find some way of
'There, I knew it.' Nenila Makarievna put some scent on
Masha's forehead. 'You're not feverish, though.'
Masha stooped down, and picked a thread off the floor.
Nenila Makarievna's arms lay softly round Masha's slender
'It seems to me you have something you want to tell me,' she
said caressingly, not loosing her hands.
Masha shuddered inwardly.
'I? Oh, no, mamma.'
Masha's momentary confusion did not escape her mother's
'Oh, yes, you do.... Think a little.'
But Masha had had time to regain her self-possession, and
instead of answering, she kissed her mother's hand with a
'And so you've nothing to tell me?'
'No, really, nothing.'
'I believe you,' responded Nenila Makarievna, after a short
silence. 'I know you keep nothing secret from me.... That's
true, isn't it?'
'Of course, mamma.'
Masha could not help blushing a little, though.
'You do quite rightly. It would be wrong of you to keep
anything from me.... You know how I love you, Masha.'
'Oh yes, mamma.'
And Masha hugged her.
'There, there, that's enough.' (Nenila Makarievna walked
about the room.) 'Oh tell me,' she went on in the voice of
one who feels that the question asked is of no special
importance; 'what were you talking about with Avdey
'With Avdey Ivanovitch?' Masha repeated serenely. 'Oh, all
sorts of things....'
'Do you like him?'
'Oh yes, I like him.'
'Do you remember how anxious you were to get to know him, how
excited you were?'
Masha turned away and laughed.
'What a strange person he is!' Nenila Makarievna observed
Masha felt an inclination to defend Lutchkov, but she held
'Yes, of course,' she said rather carelessly; 'he is a queer
fish, but still he's a nice man!'
'Oh, yes!... Why didn't Fyodor Fedoritch come?'
'He was unwell, I suppose. Ah! by the way, Fyodor Fedoritch
wanted to make me a present of a puppy.... Will you let me?'
'What? Accept his present?'
'Oh, thank you!' said Masha, 'thank you, thank you!'
Nenila Makarievna got as far as the door and suddenly turned
'Do you remember your promise, Masha?'
'You were going to tell me when you fall in love.'
'Well... hasn't the time come yet?' (Masha laughed
musically.) 'Look into my eyes.'
Masha looked brightly and boldly at her mother.
'It can't be!' thought Nenila Makarievna, and she felt
reassured. 'As if she could deceive me!... How could I think
of such a thing!... She's still a perfect baby....'
She went away....
'But this is really wicked,' thought Masha.
Kister had already gone to bed when Lutchkov came into his
room. The bully's face never expressed one feeling; so
it was now: feigned indifference, coarse delight,
consciousness of his own superiority... a number of different
emotions were playing over his features.
'Well, how was it? how was it?' Kister made haste to question
'Oh! I went. They sent you greetings.'
'Well? Are they all well?'
'Of course, why not?'
'Did they ask why I didn't come?'
'Yes, I think so.'
Lutchkov stared at the ceiling and hummed out of tune. Kister
looked down and mused.
'But, look here,' Lutchkov brought out in a husky, jarring
voice, 'you're a clever fellow, I dare say, you're a cultured
fellow, but you're a good bit out in your ideas sometimes for
all that, if I may venture to say so.'
'How do you mean?'
'Why, look here. About women, for instance. How you're always
cracking them up! You're never tired of singing their
praises! To listen to you, they're all angels.... Nice sort
'I like and respect women, but———'
'Oh, of course, of course,' Avdey cut him short. 'I am not
going to argue with you. That's quite beyond me! I'm a plain
'I was going to say that... But why just to-day... just
now,... are you talking about women?'
'Oh, nothing!' Avdey smiled with great meaning. 'Nothing!'
Kister looked searchingly at his friend. He imagined (simple
heart!) that Masha had been treating him badly; had been
torturing him, perhaps, as only women can....
'You are feeling hurt, my poor Avdey; tell me...'
Lutchkov went off into a chuckle.
'Oh, well, I don't fancy I've much to feel hurt about,' he
said, in a drawling tone, complacently stroking his
moustaches. 'No, only, look here, Fedya,' he went on with the
manner of a preceptor, 'I was only going to point out that
you're altogether out of it about women, my lad. You believe
me, Fedya, they 're all alike. One's only got to take a
little trouble, hang about them a bit, and you've got things
in your own hands. Look at Masha Perekatov now....'
Lutchkov tapped his foot on the floor and shook his head.
'Is there anything so specially attractive about me, hey? I
shouldn't have thought there was anything. There isn't
anything, is there? And here, I've a clandestine appointment
Kister sat up, leaned on his elbow, and stared in amazement
'For the evening, in a wood...' Avdey Ivanovitch continued
serenely. 'Only don't you go and imagine it means much. It's
only a bit of fun. It's slow here, don't you know. A pretty
little girl,... well, says I, why not? Marriage, of course,
I'm not going in for... but there, I like to recall my young
days. I don't care for hanging about petticoats—but I
may as well humour the baggage. We can listen to the
nightingales together. Of course, it's really more in your
line; but the wench has no eyes, you see. I should have
thought I wasn't worth looking at beside you.'
Lutchkov talked on a long while. But Kister did not hear him.
His head was going round. He turned pale and passed his hand
over his face. Lutchkov swayed up and down in his low chair,
screwed up his eyes, stretched, and putting down Kister's
emotion to jealousy, was almost gasping with delight. But it
was not jealousy that was torturing Kister; he was wounded,
not by the fact itself, but by Avdey's coarse carelessness,
his indifferent and contemptuous references to Masha. He was
still staring intently at the bully, and it seemed as if for
the first time he was thoroughly seeing his face. So this it
was he had been scheming for! This for which he had
sacrificed his own inclinations! Here it was, the blessed
influence of love.
'Avdey... do you mean to say you don't care for her?' he
muttered at last.
'O innocence! O Arcadia!' responded Avdey, with a malignant
Kister in the goodness of his heart did not give in even
then; perhaps, thought he, Avdey is in a bad temper and is
'humbugging' from old habit... he has not yet found a new
language to express new feelings. And was there not in
himself some other feeling lurking under his indignation? Did
not Lutchkov's avowal strike him so unpleasantly simply
because it concerned Masha? How could one tell, perhaps
Lutchkov really was in love with her.... Oh, no! no! a
thousand times no! That man in love?... That man was
loathsome with his bilious, yellow face, his nervous,
cat-like movements, crowing with conceit... loathsome! No,
not in such words would Kister have uttered to a devoted
friend the secret of his love.... In overflowing happiness,
in dumb rapture, with bright, blissful tears in his eyes
would he have flung himself on his bosom....
'Well, old man,' queried Avdey, 'own up now you didn't expect
it, and now you feel put out. Eh? jealous? Own up, Fedya. Eh?
Kister was about to speak out, but he turned with his face to
the wall. 'Speak openly... to him? Not for anything!' he
whispered to himself. 'He wouldn't understand me... so be it!
He supposes none but evil feelings in me—so be it!...'
Avdey got up.
'I see you're sleepy,' he said with assumed sympathy: 'I
don't want to be in your way. Pleasant dreams, my boy...
And Lutchkov went away, very well satisfied with himself.
Kister could not get to sleep before the morning. With
feverish persistence he turned over and over and thought over
and over the same single idea—an occupation only too
well known to unhappy lovers.
'Even if Lutchkov doesn't care for her,' he mused, 'if she
has flung herself at his head, anyway he ought not even with
me, with his friend, to speak so disrespectfully, so
offensively of her! In what way is she to blame? How could
any one have no feeling for a poor, inexperienced girl?
'But can she really have a secret appointment with him? She
has—yes, she certainly has. Avdey's not a liar, he
never tells a lie. But perhaps it means nothing, a mere
'But she does not know him.... He is capable, I dare say, of
insulting her. After to-day, I wouldn't answer for
anything.... And wasn't it I myself that praised him up and
exalted him? Wasn't it I who excited her curiosity?... But
who could have known this? Who could have foreseen it?...
'Foreseen what? Has he so long ceased to be my friend?...
But, after all, was he ever my friend? What a disenchantment!
What a lesson!'
All the past turned round and round before Kister's eyes.
'Yes, I did like him,' he whispered at last. 'Why has my
liking cooled so suddenly?... And do I dislike him? No, why
did I ever like him? I alone?'
Kister's loving heart had attached itself to Avdey for the
very reason that all the rest avoided him. But the
good-hearted youth did not know himself how great his
'My duty,' he went on, 'is to warn Marya Sergievna. But how?
What right have I to interfere in other people's affairs, in
other people's love? How do I know the nature of that love?
Perhaps even in Lutchkov.... No, no!' he said aloud, with
irritation, almost with tears, smoothing out his pillow,
'that man's stone....
'It is my own fault... I have lost a friend.... A precious
friend, indeed! And she's not worth much either!... What a
sickening egoist I am! No, no! from the bottom of my soul I
wish them happiness.... Happiness! but he is laughing at
her!... And why does he dye his moustaches? I do, really,
believe he does.... Ah, how ridiculous I am!' he repeated, as
he fell asleep.
The next morning Kister went to call on the Perekatovs. When
they met, Kister noticed a great change in Masha, and Masha,
too, found a change in him, but neither spoke of it. The
whole morning they both, contrary to their habit, felt
uncomfortable. Kister had prepared at home a number of hints
and phrases of double meaning and friendly counsels... but
all this previous preparation turned out to be quite thrown
away. Masha was vaguely aware that Kister was watching her;
she fancied that he pronounced some words with intentional
significance; but she was conscious, too, of her own
excitement, and did not trust her own observations. 'If only
he doesn't mean to stay till evening!' was what she was
thinking incessantly, and she tried to make him realise that
he was not wanted. Kister, for his part, took her awkwardness
and her uneasiness for obvious signs of love, and the more
afraid he was for her the more impossible he found it to
speak of Lutchkov; while Masha obstinately refrained from
uttering his name. It was a painful experience for poor
Fyodor Fedoritch. He began at last to understand his own
feelings. Never had Masha seemed to him more charming. She
had, to all appearances, not slept the whole night. A faint
flush stood in patches on her pale face; her figure was
faintly drooping; an unconscious, weary smile never left her
lips; now and then a shiver ran over her white shoulders; a
soft light glowed suddenly in her eyes, and quickly faded
away. Nenila Makarievna came in and sat with them, and
possibly with intention mentioned Avdey Ivanovitch. But in
her mother's presence Masha was armed jusqu'aux dents,
as the French say, and she did not betray herself at all. So
passed the whole morning.
'You will dine with us?' Nenila Makarievna asked Kister.
Masha turned away.
'No,' Kister said hurriedly, and he glanced towards Masha.
'Excuse me... duties of the service...'
Nenila Makarievna duly expressed her regret. Mr. Perekatov,
following her lead, also expressed something or other. 'I
don't want to be in the way,' Kister wanted to say to Masha,
as he passed her, but he bowed down and whispered instead:
'Be happy... farewell... take care of yourself...' and was
Masha heaved a sigh from the bottom of her heart, and then
felt panic-stricken at his departure. What was it fretting
her? Love or curiosity? God knows; but, we repeat, curiosity
alone was enough to ruin Eve.
Long Meadow was the name of a wide, level stretch of ground
on the right of the little stream Sniezhinka, nearly a mile
from the Perekatovs' property. The left bank, completely
covered by thick young oak bushes, rose steeply up over the
stream, which was almost overgrown with willow bushes, except
for some small 'breeding-places,' the haunts of wild ducks.
Half a mile from the stream, on the right side of Long
Meadow, began the sloping, undulating uplands, studded here
and there with old birch-trees, nut bushes, and
The sun was setting. The mill rumbled and clattered in the
distance, sounding louder or softer according to the wind.
The seignorial drove of horses was lazily wandering about the
meadows; a shepherd walked, humming a tune, after a flock of
greedy and timorous sheep; the sheepdogs, from boredom, were
running after the crows. Lutchkov walked up and down in the
copse, with his arms folded. His horse, tied up near by, more
than once whinnied in response to the sonorous neighing of
the mares and fillies in the meadow. Avdey was ill-tempered
and shy, as usual. Not yet convinced of Masha's love, he felt
wrathful with her and annoyed with himself... but his
excitement smothered his annoyance. He stopped at last before
a large nut bush, and began with his riding-whip switching
off the leaves at the ends of the twigs....
He heard a light rustle... he raised his head.... Ten paces
from him stood Masha, all flushed from her rapid walk, in a
hat, but with no gloves, in a white dress, with a hastily
tied kerchief round her neck. She dropped her eyes instantly,
and softly nodded....
Avdey went awkwardly up to her with a forced smile.
'How happy I am...' he was beginning, scarcely audibly.
'I am very glad... to meet you...' Masha interrupted
breathlessly. 'I usually walk here in the evening... and
But Lutchkov had not the sense even to spare her modesty, to
keep up her innocent deception.
'I believe, Marya Sergievna,' he pronounced with dignity,
'you yourself suggested...'
'Yes... yes...' rejoined Masha hurriedly. 'You wished to see
me, you wanted...' Her voice died away.
Lutchkov did not speak. Masha timidly raised her eyes.
'Excuse me,' he began, not looking at her, 'I'm a plain man,
and not used to talking freely... to ladies... I... I wished
to tell you... but, I fancy, you 're not in the humour to
listen to me....'
'Since you tell me to... well, then, I tell you frankly that
for a long while now, ever since I had the honour of making
Avdey stopped. Masha waited for the conclusion of his
'I don't know, though, what I'm telling you all this for....
There's no changing one's destiny...'
'How can one know?...'
'I know!' responded Avdey gloomily. 'I am used to facing its
It struck Masha that this was not exactly the befitting
moment for Lutchkov to rail against destiny.
'There are kind-hearted people in the world,' she observed
with a smile; 'some even too kind....'
'I understand you, Marya Sergievna, and believe me, I
appreciate your friendliness... I... I... You won't be
'No.... What do you want to say?'
'I want to say... that I think you charming... Marya
Sergievna, awfully charming....'
'I am very grateful to you,' Masha interrupted him; her heart
was aching with anticipation and terror. 'Ah, do look, Mr.
Lutchkov,' she went on—'look, what a view!'
She pointed to the meadow, streaked with long, evening
shadows, and flushed red with the sunset.
Inwardly overjoyed at the abrupt change in the conversation,
Lutchkov began admiring the view. He was standing near
'You love nature?' she asked suddenly, with a rapid turn of
her little head, looking at him with that friendly,
inquisitive, soft glance, which is a gift only vouchsafed to
'Yes... nature... of course...' muttered Avdey. 'Of course...
a stroll's pleasant in the evening, though, I confess, I'm a
soldier, and fine sentiments are not in my line.'
Lutchkov often repeated that he 'was a soldier.' A brief
silence followed. Masha was still looking at the meadow.
'How about getting away?' thought Avdey. 'What rot it is,
though! Come, more pluck!... Marya Sergievna...' he began, in
a fairly resolute voice.
Masha turned to him.
'Excuse me,' he began, as though in joke, 'but let me on my
side know what you think of me, whether you feel at all... so
to say,... amiably disposed towards my person?'
'Mercy on us, how uncouth he is!' Masha said to herself. 'Do
you know, Mr. Lutchkov,' she answered him with a smile, 'it's
not always easy to give a direct answer to a direct
'But what is it to you?'
'Oh, really now, I want to know...'
'But... Is it true that you are a great duellist? Tell me, is
it true?' said Masha, with shy curiosity. 'They do say you
have killed more than one man?'
'It has happened so,' Avdey responded indifferently, and he
stroked his moustaches.
Masha looked intently at him.
'This hand then...' she murmured. Meanwhile Lutchkov's blood
had caught fire. For more than a quarter of an hour a young
and pretty girl had been moving before his eyes.
'Marya Sergievna,' he began again, in a sharp and strange
voice, 'you know my feelings now, you know what I wanted to
see you for.... You've been so kind.... You tell me, too, at
last what I may hope for....'
Masha twisted a wildflower in her hands.... She glanced
sideways at Lutchkov, flushed, smiled, said,' What nonsense
you do talk,' and gave him the flower.
Avdey seized her hand.
'And so you love me!' he cried.
Masha turned cold all over with horror. She had not had the
slightest idea of making a declaration of love to Avdey: she
was not even sure herself as yet whether she did care for
him, and here he was forestalling her, forcing her to speak
out—he must be misunderstanding her then.... This idea
flashed quicker than lightning into Masha's head. She had
never expected such a speedy dénouement....
Masha, like an inquisitive child, had been asking herself all
day: 'Can it be that Lutchkov cares for me?' She had dreamed
of a delightful evening walk, a respectful and tender
dialogue; she had fancied how she would flirt with him, make
the wild creature feel at home with her, permit him at
parting to kiss her hand... and instead of that...
Instead of that, she was suddenly aware of Avdey's rough
moustaches on her cheek....
'Let us be happy,' he was whispering: 'there's no other
happiness on earth!'
Masha shuddered, darted horror-stricken on one side, and pale
all over, stopped short, one hand leaning on a birch-tree.
Avdey was terribly confused.
'Excuse me,' he muttered, approaching her, 'I didn't expect
Masha gazed at him, wide-eyed and speechless... A
disagreeable smile twisted his lips... patches of red came
out on his face....
'What are you afraid of?' he went on; 'it's no such great
matter.... Why, we understand each other... and so....'
Masha did not speak.
'Come, stop that!... that's all nonsense! it's nothing
but...' Lutchkov stretched out his hand to her.
Masha recollected Kister, his 'take care of yourself,' and,
sinking with terror, in a rather shrill voice screamed,
From behind a nutbush emerged the round face of her maid....
Avdey was completely disconcerted. Reassured by the presence
of her hand-maiden, Masha did not stir. But the bully was
shaking all over with rage; his eyes were half closed; he
clenched his fists and laughed nervously.
'Bravo! bravo! Clever trick—no denying that!' he cried
Masha was petrified.
'So you took every care, I see, to be on the safe side, Marya
Sergievna! Prudence is never thrown away, eh? Upon my word!
Nowadays young ladies see further than old men. So this is
all your love amounts to!'
'I don't know, Mr. Lutchkov, who has given you any right to
speak about love... what love?'
'Who? Why, you yourself!' Lutchkov cut her short: 'what
next!' He felt he was ship-wrecking the whole business, but
he could not restrain himself.
'I have acted thoughtlessly,' said Masha.... 'I yielded to
your request, relying upon your délicatesse...
but you don't know French... on your courtesy, I mean....'
Avdey turned pale. Masha had stung him to the quick.
'I don't know French... may be; but I know... I know very
well that you have been amusing yourself at my expense.'
'Not at all, Avdey Ivanovitch... indeed, I'm very sorry...'
'Oh, please, don't talk about being sorry for me,' Avdey cut
her short peremptorily; 'spare me that, anyway!'
'Oh, you needn't put on those grand-duchess airs... It's
trouble thrown away! you don't impress me.'
Masha stepped back a pace, turned swiftly round and walked
'Won't you give me a message for your friend, your shepherd
lad, your tender sweet-heart, Kister,' Avdey shouted after
her. He had lost his head. 'Isn't he the happy man?'...
Masha made him no reply, and hurriedly, gladly retreated. She
felt light at heart, in spite of her fright and excitement.
She felt as though she had waked up from a troubled sleep,
had stepped out of a dark room into air and sunshine....
Avdey glared about him like a madman; in speechless frenzy he
broke a young tree, jumped on to his mare, and so viciously
drove the spurs into her, so mercilessly pulled and tugged at
the reins that the wretched beast galloped six miles in a
quarter of an hour and almost expired the same night.
Kister waited for Lutchkov in vain till midnight, and next
morning he went round himself to see him. The orderly
informed Fyodor Fedoritch that his master was lying down and
had given orders that he would see no one. 'He won't see me
even?'. 'Not even your honour.' Kister walked twice up and
down the street, tortured by the keenest apprehensions, and
then went home again. His servant handed him a note.
'From the Perekatovs. Artiomka the postillion brought it.'
Kister's hands began to tremble.
'He had orders to give you their greetings. He had orders to
wait for your answer. Am I to give Artiomka some vodka?'
Kister slowly unfolded the note, and read as follows:
'DEAR GOOD FYODOR FEDORITCH,—I want very, very much to
see you. Come to-day, if you can. Don't refuse my request, I
entreat you, for the sake of our old friendship. If only you
knew... but you shall know everything. Good-bye for a little
'P.S.—Be sure to come to-morrow.'
'So your honour, am I to give Artiomka some vodka?'
Kister turned a long, bewildered stare at his servant's
countenance, and went out without uttering a word.
'The master has told me to get you some vodka, and to have a
drink with you,' said Kister's servant to Artiomka the
Masha came with such a bright and grateful face to meet
Kister, when he came into the drawing-room, she pressed his
hand so warmly and affectionately, that his heart throbbed
with delight, and a weight seemed rolled from his mind. Masha
did not, however, say a single word, and she promptly left
the room. Sergei Sergeitch was sitting on the sofa, playing
patience. Conversation sprang up. Sergei Sergeitch had not
yet succeeded with his usual skill in bringing the
conversation round from all extraneous topics to his dog,
when Masha reappeared, wearing a plaid silk sash, Kister's
favourite sash. Nenila Makarievna came in and gave Fyodor
Fedoritch a friendly greeting. At dinner they were all
laughing and making jokes; even Sergei Sergeitch plucked up
spirit and described one of the merriest pranks of his
youthful days, hiding his head from his wife like an ostrich,
as he told the story.
'Let us go for a walk, Fyodor Fedoritch,' Masha said to
Kister after dinner with that note of affectionate authority
in her voice which is, as it were, conscious that you will
gladly submit to it. 'I want to talk to you about something
very, very important,' she added with enchanting solemnity,
as she put on her suede gloves. 'Are you coming with us,
'No,' answered Nenila Makarievna.
'But we are not going into the garden.'
'To Long Meadow, to the copse.'
'Take Taniusha with you.'
'Taniusha, Taniusha!' Masha cried musically, flitting lightly
as a bird from the room.
A quarter of an hour later Masha walked with Kister into the
Long Meadow. As she passed the cattle, she gave a piece of
bread to her favourite cow, patted it on the head and made
Kister stroke it. Masha was in great good humour and chatted
merrily. Kister responded willingly, though he awaited
explanations with impatience.... Taniusha walked behind at a
respectful distance, only from time to time stealing a sly
glance at her young lady.
'You're not angry with me, Fyodor Fedoritch?' queried Masha.
'With you, Marya Sergievna? Why, whatever for?'
'The day before yesterday... don't you remember?'
'You were out of humour... that was all.'
'What are we walking in single file for? Give me your arm.
That's right.... You were out of humour too.'
'Yes, I was too.'
'But to-day I'm in good humour, eh?'
'Yes, I think so, to-day...'
'And do you know why? Because...'
Masha nodded her head gravely. 'Well, I know why.... Because
I am with you,' she added, not looking at Kister.
Kister softly pressed her hand.
'But why don't you question me?...' Masha murmured in an
'Oh, don't pretend... about my letter.'
'I was waiting for...'
'That's just why I am happy with you,' Masha interrupted him
impulsively: 'because you are a gentle, good-hearted person,
because you are incapable... parceque vous avez de la
délicatesse. One can say that to you: you
Kister did understand French, but he did not in the least
'Pick me that flower, that one... how pretty it is!' Masha
admired it, and suddenly, swiftly withdrawing her hand from
his arm, with an anxious smile she began carefully sticking
the tender stalk in the buttonhole of Kister's coat. Her
slender fingers almost touched his lips. He looked at the
fingers and then at her. She nodded her head to him as though
to say 'you may.'... Kister bent down and kissed the tips of
Meanwhile they drew near the already familiar copse. Masha
became suddenly more thoughtful, and at last kept silent
altogether. They came to the very place where Lutchkov had
waited for her. The trampled grass had not yet grown straight
again; the broken sapling had not yet withered, its little
leaves were only just beginning to curl up and fade. Masha
stared about her, and turned quickly to Kister.
'Do you know why I have brought you here?'
'No, I don't.'
'Don't you know? Why is it you haven't told me anything about
your friend Lutchkov to-day? You always praise him so...'
Kister dropped his eyes, and did not speak.
'Do you know,' Masha brought out with some effort, 'that I
made... an appointment... to meet him here... yesterday?'
'I know that,' Kister rejoined hurriedly.
'You know it?... Ah! now I see why the day before
yesterday... Mr. Lutchkov was in a hurry it seems to boast of
Kister was about to answer....
'Don't speak, don't say anything in opposition.... I know
he's your friend. You are capable of taking his part. You
knew, Kister, you knew.... How was it you didn't prevent me
from acting so stupidly? Why didn't you box my ears, as if I
were a child? You knew... and didn't you care?'
'But what right had I...'
'What right!... the right of a friend. But he too is your
friend.... I'm ashamed, Kister.... He your friend.... That
man behaved to me yesterday, as if...'
Masha turned away. Kister's eyes flamed; he turned pale.
'Oh, never mind, don't be angry.... Listen, Fyodor Fedoritch,
don't be angry. It's all for the best. I am very glad of
yesterday's explanation... yes, that's just what it was,'
added Masha. 'What do you suppose I am telling you about it
for? To complain of Mr. Lutchkov? Nonsense! I've forgotten
about him. But I have done you a wrong, my good friend.... I
want to speak openly to you, to ask your forgiveness... your
advice. You have accustomed me to frankness; I am at ease
with you.... You are not a Mr. Lutchkov!'
'Lutchkov is clumsy and coarse,' Kister brought out with
'Why but? Aren't you ashamed to say
but? He is
coarse, and clumsy,
conceited.... Do you hear?—and, not
'You are speaking under the influence of anger, Marya
Sergievna,' Kister observed mournfully.
'Anger? A strange sort of anger! Look at me; are people like
this when they 're angry? Listen,' pursued Masha; 'you may
think what you like of me... but if you imagine I am flirting
with you to-day from pique, well... well...' (tears stood in
her eyes)'I shall be angry in earnest.'
'Do be open with me, Marya Sergievna...'
'O, silly fellow! how slow you are! Why, look at me, am I not
open with you, don't you see right through me?'
'Oh, very well... yes; I believe you,' Kister said with a
smile, seeing with what anxious insistence she tried to catch
his eyes. 'But tell me, what induced you to arrange to meet
'What induced me? I really don't know. He wanted to speak to
me alone. I fancied he had never had time, never had an
opportunity to speak freely. He has spoken freely now! Do you
know, he may be an extraordinary man, but he's a fool,
really.... He doesn't know how to put two words together.
He's simply an ignoramus. Though, indeed, I don't blame him
much... he might suppose I was a giddy, mad, worthless girl.
I hardly ever talked to him.... He did excite my curiosity,
certainly, but I imagined that a man who was worthy of being
'Don't, please, speak of him as my friend,' Kister
'No, no, I don't want to separate you.'
'Oh, my God, for you I'm ready to sacrifice more than a
friend.... Everything is over between me and Mr. Lutchkov,'
Kister added hurriedly.
Masha looked intently into his face.
'Well, enough of him,' she said. 'Don't let us talk of him.
It's a lesson to me for the future. It's I that am to blame.
For several months past I have almost every day seen a man
who is good, clever, bright, friendly who...' (Masha was
confused, and stammered) 'who, I think, cared... a little...
for me too... and I like a fool,' she went on quickly,
'preferred to him... no, no, I didn't prefer him, but...'
She drooped her head, and ceased speaking in confusion.
Kister was in a sort of terror. 'It can't be!' he kept
repeating to himself.
'Marya Sergievna!' he began at last.
Masha lifted her head, and turned upon him eyes heavy with
'You don't guess of whom I am speaking?' she asked.
Scarcely daring to breathe, Kister held out his hand. Masha
at once clutched it warmly.
'You are my friend as before, aren't you?... Why don't you
'I am your friend, you know that,' he murmured.
'And you are not hard on me? You forgive me?... You
understand me? You're not laughing at a girl who made an
appointment only yesterday with one man, and to-day is
talking to another, as I am talking to you.... You're not
laughing at me, are you?...' Masha's face glowed crimson, she
clung with both hands to Kister's hand....
'Laugh at you,' answered Kister: 'I... I... why, I love
you... I love you,' he cried.
Masha hid her face.
'Surely you've long known that I love you, Marya Sergievna?'
Three weeks after this interview, Kister was sitting alone in
his room, writing the following letter to his mother:—
Dearest Mother!—I make haste to share my great
happiness with you; I am going to get married. This news will
probably only surprise you from my not having, in my previous
letters, even hinted at so important a change in my
life—and you know that I am used to sharing all my
feelings, my joys and my sorrows, with you. My reasons for
silence are not easy to explain to you. To begin with, I did
not know till lately that I was loved; and on my own side
too, it is only lately that I have realised myself all the
strength of my own feeling. In one of my first letters from
here, I wrote to you of our neighbours, the Perekatovs; I am
engaged to their only daughter, Marya. I am thoroughly
convinced that we shall both be happy. My feeling for her is
not a fleeting passion, but a deep and genuine emotion, in
which friendship is mingled with love. Her bright, gentle
disposition is in perfect harmony with my tastes. She is
well-educated, clever, plays the piano splendidly.... If you
could only see her! I enclose her portrait sketched by me. I
need hardly say she is a hundred times better-looking than
her portrait. Masha loves you already, like a daughter, and
is eagerly looking forward to seeing you. I mean to retire,
to settle in the country, and to go in for farming. Mr.
Perekatov has a property of four hundred serfs in excellent
condition. You see that even from the material point of view,
you cannot but approve of my plans. I will get leave and come
to Moscow and to you. Expect me in a fortnight, not later. My
own dearest mother, how happy I am!... Kiss me...' and so on.
Kister folded and sealed the letter, got up, went to the
window, lighted a pipe, thought a little, and returned to the
table. He took out a small sheet of notepaper, carefully
dipped his pen into the ink, but for a long while he did not
begin to write, knitted his brows, lifted his eyes to the
ceiling, bit the end of his pen.... At last he made up his
mind, and in the course of a quarter of an hour he had
composed the following:
'Dear Avdey Ivanovitch,—Since the day of your last
visit (that is, for three weeks) you have sent me no message,
have not said a word to me, and have seemed to avoid meeting
me. Every one is, undoubtedly, free to act as he pleases; you
have chosen to break off our acquaintance, and I do not,
believe me, in addressing you intend to reproach you in any
way. It is not my intention or my habit to force myself upon
any one whatever; it is enough for me to feel that I am not
to blame in the matter. I am writing to you now from a
feeling of duty. I have made an offer to Marya Sergievna
Perekatov, and have been accepted by her, and also by her
parents. I inform you of this fact—directly and
immediately—to avoid any kind of misapprehension or
suspicion. I frankly confess, sir, that I am unable to feel
great concern about the good opinion of a man who himself
shows so little concern for the opinions and feelings of
other people, and I am writing to you solely because I do not
care in this matter even to appear to have acted or to be
acting underhandedly. I make bold to say, you know me, and
will not ascribe my present action to any other lower motive.
Addressing you for the last time, I cannot, for the sake of
our old friendship, refrain from wishing you all good things
possible on earth.—I remain, sincerely, your obedient
servant, Fyodor Kister.'
Fyodor Fedoritch despatched this note to the address, changed
his uniform, and ordered his carriage to be got ready.
Light-hearted and happy, he walked up and down his little
room humming, even gave two little skips in the air, twisted
a book of songs into a roll, and was tying it up with blue
ribbon.... The door opened, and Lutchkov, in a coat without
epaulettes, with a cap on his head, came into the room.
Kister, astounded, stood still in the middle of the room,
without finishing the bow he was tying.
'So you're marrying the Perekatov girl?' queried Avdey in a
Kister fired up.
'Sir,' he began; 'decent people take off their caps and say
good-morning when they come into another man's room.'
'Beg pardon,' the bully jerked out; and he took off his cap.
'Good-morning, Mr. Lutchkov. You ask me if I am about to
marry Miss Perekatov? Haven't you read my letter, then?'
'I have read your letter. You're going to get married. I
'I accept your congratulation, and thank you for it. But I
must be starting.'
'I should like to have a few words of explanation with you,
'By all means, with pleasure,' responded the good-natured
fellow. 'I must own I was expecting such an explanation. Your
behaviour to me has been so strange, and I think, on my side,
I have not deserved... at least, I had no reason to expect...
But won't you sit down? Wouldn't you like a pipe?'
Lutchkov sat down. There was a certain weariness perceptible
in his movements. He stroked his moustaches and lifted his
'I say, Fyodor Fedoritch,' he began at last; 'why did you
keep it up with me so long?...'
'How do you mean?'
'Why did you pose as such... a disinterested being, when you
were just such another as all the rest of us sinners all the
'I don't understand you.... Can I have wounded you in some
'You don't understand me... all right. I'll try and speak
more plainly. Just tell me, for instance, openly, Have you
had a liking for the Perekatov girl all along, or is it a
case of sudden passion?'
'I should prefer, Avdey Ivanitch, not to discuss with you my
relations with Marya Sergievna,' Kister responded coldly.
'Oh, indeed! As you please. Only you'll kindly allow me to
believe that you've been humbugging me.'
Avdey spoke very deliberately and emphatically.
'You can't believe that, Avdey Ivanitch; you know me.'
'I know you?... who knows you? The heart of another is a dark
forest, and the best side of goods is always turned
uppermost. I know you read German poetry with great feeling
and even with tears in your eyes; I know that you've hung
various maps on your walls; I know you keep your person
clean; that I know,... but beyond that, I know nothing...'
Kister began to lose his temper.
'Allow me to inquire,' he asked at last, 'what is the object
of your visit? You have sent no message to me for three
weeks, and now you come to me, apparently with the intention
of jeering at me. I am not a boy, sir, and I do not allow any
'Mercy on us,' Lutchkov interrupted him; 'mercy on us, Fyodor
Fedoritch, who would venture to jeer at you? It's quite the
other way; I've come to you with a most humble request, that
is, that you'd do me the favour to explain your behaviour to
me. Allow me to ask you, wasn't it you who forced me to make
the acquaintance of the Perekatov family? Didn't you assure
your humble servant that it would make his soul blossom into
flower? And lastly, didn't you throw me with the virtuous
Marya Sergievna? Why am I not to presume that it's to
you I'm indebted for that final agreeable scene, of
which you have doubtless been informed in befitting fashion?
An engaged girl, of course, tells her betrothed of
everything, especially of her innocent indiscretions.
How can I help supposing that it's thanks to you I've been
made such a terrific fool of? You took such a mighty interest
in my "blossoming out," you know!'
Kister walked up and down the room.
'Look here, Lutchkov,' he said at last; 'if you
really—joking apart—are convinced of what you
say, which I confess I don't believe, then let me tell you,
it's shameful and wicked of you to put such an insulting
construction on my conduct and intentions. I don't want to
justify myself... I appeal to your own conscience, to your
'Yes; I remember you were continually whispering with Marya
Sergievna. Besides that, let me ask you another question:
Weren't you at the Perekatovs' after a certain conversation
with me, after that evening when I like a fool chattered to
you, thinking you my greatest friend, of the meeting she'd
'What! you suspect me...'
'I suspect other people of nothing,' Avdey cut him short with
cutting iciness, 'of which I would not suspect myself; but I
have the weakness to suppose that other men are no better
than I am.'
'You are mistaken,' Kister retorted emphatically; 'other men
are better than you.'
'I congratulate them upon it,' Lutchkov dropped carelessly;
'But remember,' broke in Kister, now in his turn thoroughly
infuriated, 'in what terms you spoke of... of that meeting...
of... But these explanations are leading to nothing, I
see.... Think what you choose of me, and act as you think
'Come, that's better,' observed Avdey. 'At last you're
beginning to speak plainly.'
'As you think best,' repeated Kister.
'I understand your position, Fyodor Fedoritch,' Avdey went on
with an affectation of sympathy; 'it's disagreeable,
certainly. A man has been acting, acting a part, and no one
has recognised him as a humbug; and all of a sudden...'
'If I could believe,' Kister interrupted, setting his teeth,
'that it was wounded love that makes you talk like this, I
should feel sorry for you; I could excuse you.... But in your
abuse, in your false charges, I hear nothing but the shriek
of mortified pride... and I feel no sympathy for you.... You
have deserved what you've got.'
'Ugh, mercy on us, how the fellow talks!' Avdey murmured.
'Pride,' he went on; 'may be; yes, yes, my pride, as you say,
has been mortified intensely and insufferably. But who isn't
proud? Aren't you? Yes, I'm proud, and for instance, I permit
no one to feel sorry for me....'
'You don't permit it!' Kister retorted haughtily. 'What an
expression, sir! Don't forget, the tie between us you
yourself have broken. I must beg you to behave with me as
with a complete outsider.'
'Broken! Broken the tie between us!' repeated Avdey.
'Understand me; I have sent you no message, and have not been
to see you because I was sorry for you; you must allow me to
be sorry for you, since you 're sorry for me!... I didn't
want to put you in a false position, to make your conscience
prick.... You talk of a tie between us... as though you could
remain my friend as before your marriage! Rubbish! Why, you
were only friendly with me before to gloat over your fancied
Avdey's duplicity overwhelmed, confounded Kister.
'Let us end this unpleasant conversation!' he cried at last.
'I must own I don't see why you've been pleased to come to
'You don't see what I've come to you for?' Avdey asked
'I certainly don't see why.'
'No, I tell you...'
'Astonishing!... This is astonishing! Who'd have thought it
of a fellow of your intelligence!'
'Come, speak plainly...'
'I have come, Mr. Kister,' said Avdey, slowly rising to his
feet, 'I have come to challenge you to a duel. Do you
understand now? I want to fight you. Ah! you thought you
could get rid of me like that! Why, didn't you know the sort
of man you have to do with? As if I'd allow...'
'Very good,' Kister cut in coldly and abruptly. 'I accept
your challenge. Kindly send me your second.'
'Yes, yes,' pursued Avdey, who, like a cat, could not bear to
let his victim go so soon: 'it'll give me great pleasure I'll
own to put a bullet into your fair and idealistic countenance
'You are abusive after a challenge, it seems,' Kister
rejoined contemptuously. 'Be so good as to go. I'm ashamed of
'Oh, to be sure, délicatesse!... Ah, Marya
Sergievna, I don't know French!' growled Avdey, as he put on
his cap. 'Till we meet again, Fyodor Fedoritch!'
He bowed and walked out.
Kister paced several times up and down the room. His face
burned, his breast heaved violently. He felt neither fear nor
anger; but it sickened him to think what this man really was
that he had once looked upon as a friend. The idea of the
duel with Lutchkov was almost pleasant to him.... Once get
free from the past, leap over this rock in his path, and then
to float on an untroubled tide... 'Good,' he thought, 'I
shall be fighting to win my happiness.' Masha's image seemed
to smile to him, to promise him success. 'I'm not going to be
killed! not I!' he repeated with a serene smile. On the table
lay the letter to his mother.... He felt a momentary pang at
his heart. He resolved any way to defer sending it off. There
was in Kister that quickening of the vital energies of which
a man is aware in face of danger. He calmly thought over all
the possible results of the duel, mentally placed Masha and
himself in all the agonies of misery and parting, and looked
forward to the future with hope. He swore to himself not to
kill Lutchkov... He felt irresistibly drawn to Masha. He
paused a second, hurriedly arranged things, and directly
after dinner set off to the Perekatovs. All the evening
Kister was in good spirits, perhaps in too good spirits.
Masha played a great deal on the piano, felt no foreboding of
evil, and flirted charmingly with him. At first her
unconsciousness wounded him, then he took Masha's very
unconsciousness as a happy omen, and was rejoiced and
reassured by it. She had grown fonder and fonder of him every
day; happiness was for her a much more urgent need than
passion. Besides, Avdey had turned her from all exaggerated
desires, and she renounced them joyfully and for ever. Nenila
Makarievna loved Kister like a son. Sergei Sergeitch as usual
followed his wife's lead.
'Till we meet,' Masha said to Kister, following him into the
hall and gazing at him with a soft smile, as he slowly and
tenderly kissed her hands.
'Till we meet,' Fyodor Fedoritch repeated confidently; 'till
But when he had driven half a mile from the Perekatovs'
house, he stood up in the carriage, and with vague uneasiness
began looking for the lighted windows.... All in the house
was dark as in the tomb.
Next day at eleven o'clock in the morning Kister's second, an
old major of tried merit, came for him. The good old man
growled to himself, bit his grey moustaches, and wished Avdey
Ivanovitch everything unpleasant.... The carriage was brought
to the door. Kister handed the major two letters, one for his
mother, the other for Masha.
'What's this for?'
'Well, one can never tell...'
'Nonsense! we'll shoot him like a partridge...'
'Any way it's better...'
The major with vexation stuffed the two letters in the side
pocket of his coat.
'Let us start.'
They set off. In a small copse, a mile and a half from the
village of Kirilovo, Lutchkov was awaiting them with his
former friend, the perfumed adjutant. It was lovely weather,
the birds were twittering peacefully; not far from the copse
a peasant was tilling the ground. While the seconds were
marking out the distance, fixing the barrier, examining and
loading the pistols, the opponents did not even glance at one
another.... Kister walked to and fro with a careless air,
swinging a flower he had gathered; Avdey stood motionless,
with folded arms and scowling brow. The decisive moment
arrived. 'Begin, gentlemen!' Kister went rapidly towards the
barrier, but he had not gone five steps before Avdey fired,
Kister started, made one more step forward, staggered. His
head sank... His knees bent under him... He fell like a sack
on the grass. The major rushed up to him.... 'Is it
possible?' whispered the dying man.
Avdey went up to the man he had killed. On his gloomy and
sunken face was a look of savage, exasperated regret.... He
looked at the adjutant and the major, bent his head like a
guilty man, got on his horse without a word, and rode slowly
straight to the colonel's quarters.
Masha... is living to this day.