Three Portraits by Ivan Turgenev
'Neighbours' constitute one of the most serious drawbacks of
life in the country. I knew a country gentleman of the
Vologodsky district, who used on every suitable occasion to
repeat the following words, 'Thank God, I have no
neighbours,' and I confess I could not help envying that
happy mortal. My own little place is situated in one of the
most thickly peopled provinces of Russia. I am surrounded by
a vast number of dear neighbours, from highly respectable and
highly respected country gentlemen, attired in ample
frockcoats and still more ample waistcoats, down to regular
loafers, wearing jackets with long sleeves and a so-called
shooting-bag on their back. In this crowd of gentlefolks I
chanced, however, to discover one very pleasant fellow. He
had served in the army, had retired and settled for good and
all in the country. According to his story, he had served for
two years in the B——— regiment. But I am
totally unable to comprehend how that man could have
performed any sort of duty, not merely for two years, but
even for two days. He was born 'for a life of peace and
country calm,' that is to say, for lazy, careless vegetation,
which, I note parenthetically, is not without great and
inexhaustible charms. He possessed a very fair property, and
without giving too much thought to its management, spent
about ten thousand roubles a year, had obtained an excellent
cook—my friend was fond of good fare—and ordered
too from Moscow all the newest French books and magazines. In
Russian he read nothing but the reports of his bailiff, and
that with great difficulty. He used, when he did not go out
shooting, to wear a dressing-gown from morning till
dinner-time and at dinner. He would look through plans of
some sort, or go round to the stables or to the threshing
barn, and joke with the peasant women, who, to be sure, in
his presence wielded their flails in leisurely fashion. After
dinner my friend would dress very carefully before the
looking-glass, and drive off to see some neighbour possessed
of two or three pretty daughters. He would flirt serenely and
unconcernedly with one of them, play blind-man's-buff with
them, return home rather late and promptly fall into a heroic
sleep. He could never be bored, for he never gave himself up
to complete inactivity; and in the choice of occupations he
was not difficult to please, and was amused like a child with
the smallest trifle. On the other hand, he cherished no
particular attachment to life, and at times, when he chanced
to get a glimpse of the track of a wolf or a fox, he would
let his horse go at full gallop over such ravines that to
this day I cannot understand how it was he did not break his
neck a hundred times over. He belonged to that class of
persons who inspire in one the idea that they do not know
their own value, that under their appearance of indifference
strong and violent passions lie concealed. But he would have
laughed in one's face if he could have guessed that one
cherished such an opinion of him. And indeed I must own I
believe myself that even supposing my friend had had in youth
some strong impulse, however vague, towards what is so
sweetly called 'higher things,' that impulse had long, long
ago died out. He was rather stout and enjoyed superb health.
In our day one cannot help liking people who think little
about themselves, because they are exceedingly rare... and my
friend had almost forgotten his own personality. I fancy,
though, that I have said too much about him already, and my
prolixity is the more uncalled for as he is not the hero of
my story. His name was Piotr Fedorovitch Lutchinov.
One autumn day there were five of us, ardent sportsmen,
gathered together at Piotr Fedorovitch's. We had spent the
whole morning out, had run down a couple of foxes and a
number of hares, and had returned home in that supremely
agreeable frame of mind which comes over every well-regulated
person after a successful day's shooting. It grew dusk. The
wind was frolicking over the dark fields and noisily swinging
the bare tops of the birches and lime-trees round Lutchinov's
house. We reached the house, got off our horses.... On the
steps I stood still and looked round: long storm-clouds were
creeping heavily over the grey sky; a dark-brown bush was
writhing in the wind, and murmuring plaintively; the yellow
grass helplessly and forlornly bowed down to the earth;
flocks of thrushes were fluttering in the mountain-ashes
among the bright, flame-coloured clusters of berries. Among
the light brittle twigs of the birch-trees blue-tits hopped
whistling. In the village there was the hoarse barking of
dogs. I felt melancholy... but it was with a genuine sense of
comfort that I walked into the dining-room. The shutters were
closed; on a round table, covered with a tablecloth of
dazzling whiteness, amid cut-glass decanters of red wine,
there were eight lighted candles in silver candlesticks; a
fire glowed cheerfully on the hearth, and an old and very
stately-looking butler, with a huge bald head, wearing an
English dress, stood before another table on which was
pleasingly conspicuous a large soup-tureen, encircled by
light savoury-smelling steam. In the hall we passed by
another venerable man, engaged in icing
champagne—'according to the strictest rules of the
art.' The dinner was, as is usual in such cases, exceedingly
pleasant. We laughed and talked of the incidents of the day's
shooting, and recalled with enthusiasm two glorious 'runs.'
After dining pretty heartily, we settled comfortably into
ample arm-chairs round the fire; a huge silver bowl made its
appearance on the table, and in a few minutes the white flame
of the burning rum announced our host's agreeable intention
'to concoct a punch.' Piotr Fedoritch was a man of some
taste; he was aware, for instance, that nothing has so fatal
an influence on the fancy as the cold, steady, pedantic light
of a lamp, and so he gave orders that only two candles should
be left in the room. Strange half-shadows quivered on the
walls, thrown by the fanciful play of the fire in the hearth
and the flame of the punch... a soft, exceedingly agreeable
sense of soothing comfort replaced in our hearts the somewhat
boisterous gaiety that had reigned at dinner.
Conversations have their destinies, like books, as the Latin
proverb says, like everything in the world. Our conversation
that evening was particularly many-sided and lively. From
details it passed to rather serious general questions, and
lightly and casually came back to the daily incidents of
life.... After chatting a good deal, we suddenly all sank
into silence. At such times they say an angel of peace is
I cannot say why my companions were silent, but I held my
tongue because my eyes had suddenly come to rest on three
dusty portraits in black wooden frames. The colours were
rubbed and cracked in places, but one could still make out
the faces. The portrait in the centre was that of a young
woman in a white gown with lace ruffles, her hair done up
high, in the style of the eighties of last century. On her
right, upon a perfectly black background, there stood out the
full, round face of a good-natured country gentleman of
five-and-twenty, with a broad, low brow, a thick nose, and a
good-humoured smile. The French powdered coiffure was utterly
out of keeping with the expression of his Slavonic face. The
artist had portrayed him wearing a long loose coat of crimson
colour with large paste buttons; in his hand he was holding
some unlikely-looking flower. The third portrait, which was
the work of some other more skilful hand, represented a man
of thirty, in the green uniform, with red facings, of the
time of Catherine, in a white shirt, with a fine cambric
cravat. One hand leaned on a gold-headed cane, the other lay
on his shirt front. His dark, thinnish face was full of
insolent haughtiness. The fine long eyebrows almost grew
together over the pitch-black eyes, about the thin, scarcely
discernible lips played an evil smile.
'Why do you keep staring at those faces?' Piotr Fedoritch
'Oh, I don't know!' I answered, looking at him.
'Would you care to hear a whole story about those three
'Oh, please tell it,' we all responded with one voice.
Piotr Fedoritch got up, took a candle, carried it to the
portraits, and in the tone of a showman at a wild beast show,
'Gentlemen!' he boomed, 'this lady was the adopted child of
my great-grandfather, Olga Ivanovna N.N., called Lutchinov,
who died forty years ago unmarried. This gentleman,' he
pointed to the portrait of a man in uniform, 'served as a
lieutenant in the Guards, Vassily Ivanovitch Lutchinov,
expired by the will of God in the year seventeen hundred and
ninety. And this gentleman, to whom I have not the honour of
being related, is a certain Pavel Afanasiitch Rogatchov,
serving nowhere, as far as I'm aware.... Kindly take note of
the hole in his breast, just on the spot where the heart
should be. That hole, you see, a regular three-sided hole,
would be hardly likely to have come there by chance.... Now,
'he went on in his usual voice, 'kindly seat yourselves, arm
yourselves with patience, and listen.'
Gentlemen! (he began) I come of a rather old family. I am not
proud of my descent, seeing that my ancestors were all
fearful prodigals. Though that reproach cannot indeed be made
against my great-grandfather, Ivan Andreevitch Lutchinov; on
the contrary, he had the character of being excessively
careful, even miserly—at any rate, in the latter years
of his life. He spent his youth in Petersburg, and lived
through the reign of Elizabeth. In Petersburg he married, and
had by his wife, my great-grandmother, four children, three
sons, Vassily, Ivan, and Pavel, my grandfather, and one
daughter, Natalia. In addition, Ivan Andreevitch took into
his family the daughter of a distant relation, a nameless and
destitute orphan—Olga Ivanovna, of whom I spoke just
now. My great-grandfather's serfs were probably aware of his
existence, for they used (when nothing particularly unlucky
occurred) to send him a trifling rent, but they had never
seen his face. The village of Lutchinovka, deprived of the
bodily presence of its lord, was flourishing exceedingly,
when all of a sudden one fine morning a cumbrous old family
coach drove into the village and stopped before the elder's
hut. The peasants, alarmed at such an unheard-of occurrence,
ran up and saw their master and mistress and all their young
ones, except the eldest, Vassily, who was left behind in
Petersburg. From that memorable day down to the very day of
his death, Ivan Andreevitch never left Lutchinovka. He built
himself a house, the very house in which I have the pleasure
of conversing with you at this moment. He built a church too,
and began living the life of a country gentleman. Ivan
Andreevitch was a man of immense height, thin, silent, and
very deliberate in all his movements. He never wore a
dressing-gown, and no one but his valet had ever seen him
without powder. Ivan Andreevitch usually walked with his
hands clasped behind his back, turning his head at each step.
Every day he used to walk in a long avenue of lime-trees,
which he had planted with his own hand; and before his death
he had the pleasure of enjoying the shade of those trees.
Ivan Andreevitch was exceedingly sparing of his words; a
proof of his taciturnity is to be found in the remarkable
fact that in the course of twenty years he had not said a
single word to his wife, Anna Pavlovna. His relations with
Anna Pavlovna altogether were of a very curious sort. She
directed the whole management of the household; at dinner she
always sat beside her husband—he would mercilessly have
chastised any one who had dared to say a disrespectful word
to her—and yet he never spoke to her, never touched her
hand. Anna Pavlovna was a pale, broken-spirited woman,
completely crushed. She prayed every day on her knees in
church, and she never smiled. There was a rumour that they
had formerly, that is, before they came into the country,
lived on very cordial terms with one another. They did say
too that Anna Pavlovna had been untrue to her matrimonial
vows; that her conduct had come to her husband's
knowledge.... Be that as it may, any way Ivan Andreevitch,
even when dying, was not reconciled to her. During his last
illness, she never left him; but he seemed not to notice her.
One night, Anna Pavlovna was sitting in Ivan Andreevitch's
bedroom—he suffered from sleeplessness—a lamp was
burning before the holy picture. My grandfather's servant,
Yuditch, of whom I shall have to say a few words later, went
out of the room. Anna Pavlovna got up, crossed the room, and
sobbing flung herself on her knees at her husband's bedside,
tried to say something—stretched out her hands... Ivan
Andreevitch looked at her, and in a faint voice, but
resolutely, called, 'Boy!' The servant went in; Anna Pavlovna
hurriedly rose, and went back, tottering, to her place.
Ivan Andreevitch's children were exceedingly afraid of him.
They grew up in the country, and were witnesses of Ivan
Andreevitch's strange treatment of his wife. They all loved
Anna Pavlovna passionately, but did not dare to show their
love. She seemed of herself to hold aloof from them.... You
remember my grandfather, gentlemen; to the day of his death
he always walked on tiptoe, and spoke in a whisper... such is
the force of habit! My grandfather and his brother, Ivan
Ivanovitch, were simple, good-hearted people, quiet and
depressed. My grand'tante Natalia married, as you are aware,
a coarse, dull-witted man, and all her life she cherished an
unutterable, slavish, sheep-like passion for him. But their
brother Vassily was not of that sort. I believe I said that
Ivan Andreevitch had left him in Petersburg. He was then
twelve. His father confided him to the care of a distant
kinsman, a man no longer young, a bachelor, and a terrible
Vassily grew up and went into the army. He was not tall, but
was well-built and exceedingly elegant; he spoke French
excellently, and was renowned for his skilful swordsmanship.
He was considered one of the most brilliant young men of the
beginning of the reign of Catherine. My father used often to
tell me that he had known more than one old lady who could
not refer to Vassily Ivanovitch Lutchinov without heartfelt
emotion. Picture to yourselves a man endowed with exceptional
strength of will, passionate and calculating, persevering and
daring, reserved in the extreme, and—according to the
testimony of all his contemporaries—fascinatingly,
captivatingly attractive. He had no conscience, no heart, no
principle, though no one could have called him positively a
bad-hearted man. He was vain, but knew how to disguise his
vanity, and passionately cherished his independence. When
Vassily Ivanovitch would half close his black eyes, smiling
affectionately, when he wanted to fascinate any one, they say
it was impossible to resist him; and even people, thoroughly
convinced of the coldness and hardness of his heart, were
more than once vanquished by the bewitching power of his
personal influence. He served his own interests devotedly,
and made other people, too, work for his advantage; and he
was always successful in everything, because he never lost
his head, never disdained using flattery as a means, and well
understood how to use it.
Ten years after Ivan Andreevitch had settled in the country,
he came for a four months' visit to Lutchinovka, a brilliant
officer of the Guards, and in that time succeeded positively
in turning the head of the grim old man, his father. Strange
to say, Ivan Andreevitch listened with enjoyment to his son's
stories of some of his conquests. His brothers were
speechless in his presence, and admired him as a being of a
higher order. And Anna Pavlovna herself became almost fonder
of him than any of her other children who were so sincerely
devoted to her.
Vassily Ivanovitch had come down into the country primarily
to visit his people, but also with the second object of
getting as much money as possible from his father. He lived
sumptuously in the glare of publicity in Petersburg, and had
made a mass of debts. He had no easy task to get round his
father's miserliness, and though Ivan Andreevitch gave him on
this one visit probably far more money than he gave all his
other children together during twenty years spent under his
roof, Vassily followed the well-known Russian rule, 'Get what
Ivan Andreevitch had a servant called Yuditch, just such
another tall, thin, taciturn person as his master. They say
that this man Yuditch was partly responsible for Ivan
Andreevitch's strange behaviour with Anna Pavlovna; they say
he discovered my great-grandmother's guilty intrigue with one
of my great-grandfather's dearest friends. Most likely
Yuditch deeply regretted his ill-timed jealousy, for it would
be difficult to conceive a more kind-hearted man. His memory
is held in veneration by all my house-serfs to this day. My
great-grandfather put unbounded confidence in Yuditch. In
those days landowners used to have money, but did not put it
into the keeping of banks, they kept it themselves in chests,
under their floors, and so on. Ivan Andreevitch kept all his
money in a great wrought-iron coffer, which stood under the
head of his bed. The key of this coffer was intrusted to
Yuditch. Every evening as he went to bed Ivan Andreevitch
used to bid him open the coffer in his presence, used to tap
in turn each of the tightly filled bags with a stick, and
every Saturday he would untie the bags with Yuditch, and
carefully count over the money. Vassily heard of all these
doings, and burned with eagerness to overhaul the sacred
coffer. In the course of five or six days he had
softened Yuditch, that is, he had worked on the old
man till, as they say, he worshipped the ground his young
master trod on. Having thus duly prepared him, Vassily put on
a careworn and gloomy air, for a long while refused to answer
Yuditch's questions, and at last told him that he had lost at
play, and should make an end of himself if he could not get
money somehow. Yuditch broke into sobs, flung himself on his
knees before him, begged him to think of God, not to be his
own ruin. Vassily locked himself in his room without uttering
a word. A little while after he heard some one cautiously
knocking at his door; he opened it, and saw in the doorway
Yuditch pale and trembling, with the key in his hand. Vassily
took in the whole position at a glance. At first, for a long
while, he refused to take it. With tears Yuditch repeated,
'Take it, your honour, graciously take it!'... Vassily at
last agreed. This took place on Monday. The idea occurred to
Vassily to replace the money taken out with broken bits of
crockery. He reckoned on Ivan Andreevitch's tapping the bags
with his stick, and not noticing the hardly perceptible
difference in the sound, and by Saturday he hoped to obtain
and to replace the sum in the coffer. As he planned, so he
did. His father did not, in fact, notice anything. But by
Saturday Vassily had not procured the money; he had hoped to
win the sum from a rich neighbour at cards, and instead of
that, he lost it all. Meantime, Saturday had come; it came at
last to the turn of the bags filled with broken crocks.
Picture, gentlemen, the amazement of Ivan Andreevitch!
'What does this mean?' he thundered. Yuditch was silent.
'You stole the money?'
'Then some one took the key from you?'
'I didn't give the key to any one.'
'Not to any one? Well then, you are the thief. Confess!'
'I am not a thief, Ivan Andreevitch.'
'Where the devil did these potsherds come from then? So
you're deceiving me! For the last time I tell
you—confess!' Yuditch bowed his head and folded his
hands behind his back.
'Hi, lads!' shrieked Ivan Andreevitch in a voice of frenzy.
'What, beat... me?' murmured Yuditch.
'Yes, indeed! Are you any better than the rest? You are a
thief! O Yuditch! I never expected such dishonesty of you!'
'I have grown grey in your service, Ivan Andreevitch,'
Yuditch articulated with effort.
'What have I to do with your grey hairs? Damn you and your
The servants came in.
'Take him, do, and give it him thoroughly.' Ivan
Andreevitch's lips were white and twitching. He walked up and
down the room like a wild beast in a small cage.
The servants did not dare to carry out his orders.
'Why are you standing still, children of Ham? Am I to
undertake him myself, eh?'
Yuditch was moving towards the door....
'Stay!' screamed Ivan Andreevitch. 'Yuditch, for the last
time I tell you, I beg you, Yuditch, confess!'
'I can't!' moaned Yuditch.
'Then take him, the sly old fox! Flog him to death! His blood
be on my head!' thundered the infuriated old man. The
flogging began.... The door suddenly opened, and Vassily came
in. He was almost paler than his father, his hands were
shaking, his upper lip was lifted, and laid bare a row of
even, white teeth.
'I am to blame,' he said in a thick but resolute voice. 'I
took the money.'
The servants stopped.
'You! what? you, Vaska! without Yuditch's consent?'
'No!' said Yuditch, 'with my consent. I gave Vassily
Ivanovitch the key of my own accord. Your honour, Vassily
Ivanovitch! why does your honour trouble?'
'So this is the thief!' shrieked Ivan Andreevitch. 'Thanks,
Vassily, thanks! But, Yuditch, I'm not going to forgive you
anyway. Why didn't you tell me all about it directly? Hey,
you there! why are you standing still? do you too resist my
authority? Ah, I'll settle things with you, my pretty
gentleman!' he added, turning to Vassily.
The servants were again laying hands on Yuditch....
'Don't touch him!' murmured Vassily through his teeth. The
men did not heed him. 'Back!' he shrieked and rushed upon
them.... They stepped back.
'Ah! mutiny!' moaned Ivan Andreevitch, and, raising his
stick, he approached his son. Vassily leaped back, snatched
at the handle of his sword, and bared it to half its length.
Every one was trembling. Anna Pavlovna, attracted by the
noise, showed herself at the door, pale and scared.
A terrible change passed over the face of Ivan Andreevitch.
He tottered, dropped the stick, and sank heavily into an
arm-chair, hiding his face in both hands. No one stirred, all
stood rooted to the spot, Vassily like the rest. He clutched
the steel sword-handle convulsively, and his eyes glittered
with a weary, evil light....
'Go, all of you... all, out,' Ivan Andreevitch brought out in
a low voice, not taking his hands from his face.
The whole crowd went out. Vassily stood still in the doorway,
then suddenly tossed his head, embraced Yuditch, kissed his
mother's hand... and two hours later he had left the place.
He went back to Petersburg.
In the evening of the same day Yuditch was sitting on the
steps of the house serfs' hut. The servants were all round
him, sympathising with him and bitterly reproaching their
'That's enough, lads,' he said to them at last, 'give over...
why do you abuse him? He himself, the young master, I dare
say is not very happy at his audacity....'
In consequence of this incident, Vassily never saw his father
again. Ivan Andreevitch died without him, and died probably
with such a load of sorrow on his heart as God grant none of
us may ever know. Vassily Ivanovitch, meanwhile, went into
the world, enjoyed himself in his own way, and squandered
money recklessly. How he got hold of the money, I cannot tell
for certain. He had obtained a French servant, a very smart
and intelligent fellow, Bourcier, by name. This man was
passionately attached to him and aided him in all his
numerous manoeuvres. I do not intend to relate in detail all
the exploits of my grand-uncle; he was possessed of such
unbounded daring, such serpent-like resource, such
inconceivable wiliness, such a fine and ready wit, that I
must own I can understand the complete sway that unprincipled
person exercised even over the noblest natures.
Soon after his father's death, in spite of his wiliness,
Vassily Ivanovitch was challenged by an injured husband. He
fought a duel, seriously wounded his opponent, and was forced
to leave the capital; he was banished to his estate, and
forbidden to leave it. Vassily Ivanovitch was thirty years
old. You may easily imagine, gentlemen, with what feelings he
left the brilliant life in the capital that he was used to,
and came into the country. They say that he got out of the
hooded cart several times on the road, flung himself face
downwards in the snow and cried. No one in Lutchinovka would
have known him as the gay and charming Vassily Ivanovitch
they had seen before. He did not talk to any one; went out
shooting from morning to night; endured his mother's timid
caresses with undisguised impatience, and was merciless in
his ridicule of his brothers, and of their wives (they were
both married by that time)....
I have not so far, I think, told you anything about Olga
Ivanovna. She had been brought as a tiny baby to Lutchinovka;
she all but died on the road. Olga Ivanovna was brought up,
as they say, in the fear of God and her betters. It must be
admitted that Ivan Andreevitch and Anna Pavlovna both treated
her as a daughter. But there lay hid in her soul a faint
spark of that fire which burned so fiercely in Vassily
Ivanovitch. While Ivan Andreevitch's own children did not
dare even to wonder about the cause of the strange, dumb feud
between their parents, Olga was from her earliest years
disturbed and tormented by Anna Pavlovna's position. Like
Vassily, she loved independence; any restriction fretted her.
She was devoted with her whole soul to her benefactress; old
Lutchinov she detested, and more than once, sitting at table,
she shot such black looks at him, that even the servant
handing the dishes felt uncomfortable. Ivan Andreevitch never
noticed these glances, for he never took the slightest notice
of his family.
At first Anna Pavlovna had tried to eradicate this hatred,
but some bold questions of Olga's forced her to complete
silence. The children of Ivan Andreevitch adored Olga, and
the old lady too was fond of her, but not with a very ardent
Long continued grieving had crushed all cheerfulness and
every strong feeling in that poor woman; nothing is so clear
a proof of Vassily's captivating charm as that he had made
even his mother love him passionately. Demonstrations of
tenderness on the part of children were not in the spirit of
the age, and so it is not to be wondered at that Olga did not
dare to express her devotion, though she always kissed Anna
Pavlovna's hand with special reverence, when she said
good-night to her. Twenty years later, Russian girls began to
read romances of the class of The Adventures of Marquis
Glagol, Fanfan and Lolotta, Alexey or the Cottage in the
Forest; they began to play the clavichord and to sing
songs in the style of the once very well-known:
'Men like butterflies in sunshine
Flutter round us opening blossoms,' etc.
But in the seventies of last century (Olga Ivanovna was born
in 1757) our country beauties had no notion of such
accomplishments. It is difficult for us now to form a clear
conception of the Russian miss of those days. We can indeed
judge from our grandmothers of the degree of culture of girls
of noble family in the time of Catherine; but how is one to
distinguish what they had gradually gained in the course of
their long lives from what they were in the days of their
Olga Ivanovna spoke French a little, but with a strong
Russian accent: in her day there was as yet no talk of French
emigrants. In fact, with all her fine qualities, she was
still pretty much of a savage, and I dare say in the
simplicity of her heart, she had more than once chastised
some luckless servant girl with her own hands....
Some time before Vassily Ivanovitch's arrival, Olga Ivanovna
had been betrothed to a neighbour, Pavel Afanasievitch
Rogatchov, a very good-natured and straightforward fellow.
Nature had forgotten to put any spice of ill-temper into his
composition. His own serfs did not obey him, and would
sometimes all go off, down to the least of them, and leave
poor Rogatchov without any dinner... but nothing could
trouble the peace of his soul. From his childhood he had been
stout and indolent, had never been in the government service,
and was fond of going to church and singing in the choir.
Look, gentlemen, at this round, good-natured face; glance at
this mild, beaming smile... don't you really feel it
reassuring, yourselves? His father used at long intervals to
drive over to Lutchinovka, and on holidays used to bring with
him his Pavlusha, whom the little Lutchinovs teased in every
possible way. Pavlusha grew up, began driving over to call on
Ivan Andreevitch on his own account, fell in love with Olga
Ivanovna, and offered her his hand and heart—not to her
personally, but to her benefactors. Her benefactors gave
their consent. They never even thought of asking Olga
Ivanovna whether she liked Rogatchov. In those days, in the
words of my grandmother, 'such refinements were not the
thing.' Olga soon got used to her betrothed, however; it was
impossible not to feel fond of such a gentle and amiable
creature. Rogatchov had received no education whatever; his
French consisted of the one word bonjour, and he
secretly considered even that word improper. But some jocose
person had taught him the following lines, as a French song:
'Sonitchka, Sonitchka! Ke-voole-voo-de-mwa—I adore
you—me-je-ne-pyoo-pa....' This supposed song he always
used to hum to himself when he felt in good spirits. His
father was also a man of incredible good-nature, always wore
a long nankin coat, and whatever was said to him he responded
with a smile. From the time of Pavel Afanasievitch's
betrothal, both the Rogatchovs, father and son, had been
tremendously busy. They had been having their house entirely
transformed adding various 'galleries,' talking in a friendly
way with the workmen, encouraging them with drinks. They had
not yet completed all these additions by the winter; they put
off the wedding till the summer. In the summer Ivan
Andreevitch died; the wedding was deferred till the following
spring. In the winter Vassily Ivanovitch arrived. Rogatchov
was presented to him; he received him coldly and
contemptuously, and as time went on, he, so alarmed him by
his haughty behaviour that poor Rogatchov trembled like a
leaf at the very sight of him, was tongue-tied and smiled
nervously. Vassily once almost annihilated him
altogether—by making him a bet, that he, Rogatchov, was
not able to stop smiling. Poor Pavel Afanasievitch almost
cried with, embarrassment, but—actually!—a smile,
a stupid, nervous smile refused to leave his perspiring face!
Vassily toyed deliberately with the ends of his neckerchief,
and looked at him with supreme contempt. Pavel
Afanasievitch's father heard too of Vassily's presence, and
after an interval of a few days—'for the sake of
greater formality'—he sallied off to Lutchinovka with
the object of 'felicitating our honoured guest on his advent
to the halls of his ancestors.' Afanasey Lukitch was famed
all over the countryside for his eloquence—that is to
say, for his capacity for enunciating without faltering a
rather long and complicated speech, with a sprinkling of
bookish phrases in it. Alas! on this occasion he did not
sustain his reputation; he was even more disconcerted than
his son, Pavel Afanasievitch; he mumbled something quite
inarticulate, and though he had never been used to taking
vodka, he at once drained a glass 'to carry things
off'—he found Vassily at lunch,—tried at least to
clear his throat with some dignity, and did not succeed in
making the slightest sound. On their way home, Pavel
Afanasievitch whispered to his parent, 'Well, father?'
Afanasey Lukitch responded angrily also in a whisper, 'Don't
speak of it!'
The Rogatchovs began to be less frequent visitors at
Lutchinovka. Though indeed they were not the only people
intimidated by Vassily; he awakened in his own brothers, in
their wives, in Anna Pavlovna herself, an instinctive feeling
of uneasiness and discomfort... they tried to avoid him in
every way they could. Vassily must have noticed this, but
apparently had no intention of altering his behaviour to
them. Suddenly, at the beginning of the spring, he became
once more the charming, attractive person they had known of
The first symptom of this sudden transformation was Vassily's
unexpected visit to the Rogatchovs. Afanasey Lukitch, in
particular, was fairly disconcerted at the sight of
Lutchinov's carriage, but his dismay very quickly vanished.
Never had Vassily been more courteous and delightful. He took
young Rogatchov by the arm, went with him to look at the new
buildings, talked to the carpenters, made some suggestions,
with his own hands chopped a few chips off with the axe,
asked to be shown Afanasey Lukitch's stud horses, himself
trotted them out on a halter, and altogether so affected the
good-hearted children of the steppes by his gracious
affability that they both embraced him more than once. At
home, too, Vassily managed, in the course of a few days, to
turn every one's head just as before. He contrived all sorts
of laughable games, got hold of musicians, invited the ladies
and gentlemen of the neighbourhood, told the old ladies the
scandals of the town in the most amusing way, flirted a
little with the young ones, invented unheard-of diversions,
fireworks and such things, in short, he put life into every
thing and every one. The melancholy, gloomy house of the
Lutchinovs was suddenly converted into a noisy, brilliant,
enchanted palace of which the whole countryside was talking.
This sudden transformation surprised many and delighted all.
All sorts of rumours began to be whispered about. Sagacious
persons opined that Vassily Ivanovitch had till then been
crushed under the weight of some secret trouble, that he saw
chances of returning to the capital... but the true cause of
Vassily Ivanovitch's metamorphosis was guessed by no one.
Olga Ivanovna, gentlemen, was rather pretty; though her
beauty consisted rather in the extraordinary softness and
freshness of her shape, in the quiet grace of her movements
than in the strict regularity of her features. Nature had
bestowed on her a certain independence; her bringing
up—she had grown up without father or mother—had
developed in her reserve and determination. Olga did not
belong to the class of quiet and tame-spirited young ladies;
but only one feeling had reached its full possibilities in
her as yet—hatred for her benefactor. Other more
feminine passions might indeed flare up in Olga Ivanovna's
heart with abnormal and painful violence... but she had not
the cold pride, nor the intense strength of will, nor the
self-centred egoism, without which any passion passes quickly
The first rush of feeling in such half-active, half-passive
natures is sometimes extremely violent; but they give way
very quickly, especially when it is a question of relentless
conformity with accepted principles; they are afraid of
consequences.... And yet, gentlemen, I will frankly confess,
women of that sort always make the strongest impression on
me. ... (At these words the speaker drank a glass of water.
Rubbish! rubbish! thought I, looking at his round chin;
nothing in the world makes a strong impression on you, my
Piotr Fedoritch resumed: Gentlemen, I believe in blood, in
race. Olga Ivanovna had more blood than, for instance, her
foster sister, Natalia. How did this blood show itself, do
you ask? Why, in everything; in the lines of her hands, in
her lips, in the sound of her voice, in her glance, in her
carriage, in her hair, in the very folds of her gown. In all
these trifles there lay hid something special, though I am
bound to admit that the—how can one express
it?—la distinction, which had fallen to Olga
Pavlovna's share would not have attracted Vassily's notice
had he met her in Petersburg. But in the country, in the
wilds, she not only caught his attention, she was positively
the sole cause of the transformation of which I have just
Consider the position. Vassily Ivanovitch liked to enjoy
life; he could not but be bored in the country; his brothers
were good-natured fellows, but extremely limited people: he
had nothing in common with them. His sister, Natalia, with
the assistance of her husband, had brought into the world in
the course of three years no less than four babies; between
her and Vassily was a perfect gulf.... Anna Pavlovna went to
church, prayed, fasted, and was preparing herself for death.
There remained only Olga—a fresh, shy, pretty girl....
Vassily did not notice her at first... indeed, who does
notice a dependant, an orphan girl kept from charity in the
house?... One day, at the very beginning of spring, Vassily
was walking about the garden, and with his cane slashing off
the heads of the dandelions, those stupid yellow flowers,
which come out first in such numbers in the meadows, as soon
as they begin to grow green. He was walking in the garden in
front of the house; he lifted his head, and caught sight of
She was sitting sideways at the window, dreamily stroking a
tabby kitten, who, purring and blinking, nestled on her lap,
and with great satisfaction held up her little nose into the
rather hot spring sunshine. Olga Ivanovna was wearing a white
morning gown, with short sleeves; her bare, pale-pink,
girlish shoulders and arms were a picture of freshness and
health. A little red cap discreetly restrained her thick,
soft, silky curls. Her face was a little flushed; she was
only just awake. Her slender, flexible neck bent forward so
charmingly; there was such seductive negligence, such modesty
in the restful pose of her figure, free from corsets, that
Vassily Ivanovitch (a great connoisseur!) halted
involuntarily and peeped in. It suddenly occurred to him that
Olga Ivanovna ought not to be left in her primitive
ignorance; that she might with time be turned into a very
sweet and charming woman. He stole up to the window,
stretched up on tiptoe, and imprinted a silent kiss on Olga
Ivanovna's smooth, white arm, a little below the elbow.
Olga shrieked and jumped up, the kitten put its tail in the
air and leaped into the garden. Vassily Ivanovitch with a
smile kept her by the arm.... Olga flushed all over, to her
ears; he began to rally her on her alarm... invited her to
come a walk with him. But Olga Ivanovna became suddenly
conscious of the negligence of her attire, and 'swifter than
the swift red deer' she slipped away into the next room.
The very same day Vassily set off to the Rogatchovs. He was
suddenly happy and light-hearted. Vassily was not in love
with Olga, no! the word 'love' is not to be used lightly....
He had found an occupation, had set himself a task, and
rejoiced with the delight of a man of action. He did not even
remember that she was his mother's ward, and another man's
betrothed. He never for one instant deceived himself; he was
fully aware that it was not for her to be his wife....
Possibly there was passion to excuse him—not a very
elevated nor noble passion, truly, but still a fairly strong
and tormenting passion. Of course he was not in love like a
boy; he did not give way to vague ecstasies; he knew very
well what he wanted and what he was striving for.
Vassily was a perfect master of the art of winning over, in
the shortest time, any one however shy or prejudiced against
him. Olga soon ceased to be shy with him. Vassily Ivanovitch
led her into a new world. He ordered a clavichord for her,
gave her music lessons (he himself played fairly well on the
flute), read books aloud to her, had long conversations with
her.... The poor child of the steppes soon had her head
turned completely. Vassily dominated her entirely. He knew
how to tell her of what had been till then unknown to her,
and to tell her in a language she could understand. Olga
little by little gained courage to express all her feelings
to him: he came to her aid, helped her out with the words she
could not find, did not alarm her, at one moment kept her
back, at another encouraged her confidences.... Vassily
busied himself with her education from no disinterested
desire to awaken and develop her talents. He simply wanted to
draw her a little closer to himself; and he knew too that an
innocent, shy, but vain young girl is more easily seduced
through the mind than the heart. Even if Olga had been an
exceptional being, Vassily would never have perceived it, for
he treated her like a child. But as you are aware, gentlemen,
there was nothing specially remarkable in Olga. Vassily tried
all he could to work on her imagination, and often in the
evening she left his side with such a whirl of new images,
phrases and ideas in her head that she could not sleep all
night, but lay breathing uneasily and turning her burning
cheeks from side to side on the cool pillows, or got up, went
to the window and gazed fearfully and eagerly into the dark
distance. Vassily filled every moment of her life; she could
not think of any one else. As for Rogatchov, she soon
positively ceased to notice his existence. Vassily had the
tact and shrewdness not to talk to Olga in his presence; but
he either made him laugh till he was ready to cry, or
arranged some noisy entertainment, a riding expedition, a
boating party by night with torches and music—he did
not in fact let Pavel Afanasievitch have a chance to think
But in spite of all Vassily Ivanovitch's tact, Rogatchov
dimly felt that he, Olga's betrothed and future husband, had
somehow become as it were an outsider to her... but in the
boundless goodness of his heart, he was afraid of wounding
her by reproaches, though he sincerely loved her and prized
her affection. When left alone with her, he did not know what
to say, and only tried all he could to follow her wishes. Two
months passed by. Every trace of self-reliance, of will,
disappeared at last in Olga. Rogatchov, feeble and
tongue-tied, could be no support to her. She had no wish even
to resist the enchantment, and with a sinking heart she
surrendered unconditionally to Vassily....
Olga Ivanovna may very likely then have known something of
the bliss of love; but it was not for long. Though
Vassily—for lack of other occupation—did not drop
her, and even attached himself to her and looked after her
fondly, Olga herself was so utterly distraught that she found
no happiness even in love and yet could not tear herself away
from Vassily. She began to be frightened at everything, did
not dare to think, could talk of nothing, gave up reading,
and was devoured by misery. Sometimes Vassily succeeded in
carrying her along with him and making her forget everything
and every one. But the very next day he would find her pale,
speechless, with icy hands, and a fixed smile on her lips....
There followed a time of some difficulty for Vassily; but no
difficulties could dismay him. He concentrated himself like a
skilled gambler. He could not in the least rely upon Olga
Ivanovna; she was continually betraying herself, turning
pale, blushing, weeping... her new part was utterly beyond
her powers. Vassily toiled for two: in his restless and
boisterous gaiety, only an experienced observer could have
detected something strained and feverish. He played his
brothers, sisters, the Rogatchovs, the neighbours, like pawns
at chess. He was everlastingly on the alert. Not a single
glance, a single movement, was lost on him, yet he appeared
the most heedless of men. Every morning he faced the fray,
and every evening he scored a victory. He was not the least
oppressed by such a fearful strain of activity. He slept four
hours out of the twenty-four, ate very little, and was
healthy, fresh, and good-humoured.
Meantime the wedding-day was approaching. Vassily succeeded
in persuading Pavel Afanasievitch himself of the necessity of
delay. Then he despatched him to Moscow to make various
purchases, while he was himself in correspondence with
friends in Petersburg. He took all this trouble, not so much
from sympathy for Olga Ivanovna, as from a natural bent and
liking for bustle and agitation.... Besides, he was beginning
to be sick of Olga Ivanovna, and more than once after a
violent outbreak of passion for her, he would look at her, as
he sometimes did at Rogatchov. Lutchinov always remained a
riddle to every one. In the coldness of his relentless soul
you felt the presence of a strange almost southern fire, and
even in the wildest glow of passion a breath of icy chill
seemed to come from the man.
Before other people he supported Olga Ivanovna as before. But
when they were alone, he played with her like a cat with a
mouse, or frightened her with sophistries, or was wearily,
malignantly bored, or again flung himself at her feet, swept
her away, like a straw in a hurricane... and there was no
feigning at such moments in his passion... he really was
One day, rather late in the evening, Vassily was sitting
alone in his room, attentively reading over the last letters
he had received from Petersburg, when suddenly he heard a
faint creak at the door, and Olga Ivanovna's maid, Palashka,
'What do you want?' Vassily asked her rather crossly.
'My mistress begs you to come to her.'
'I can't just now. Go along.... Well what are you standing
there for?' he went on, seeing that Palashka did not go away.
'My mistress told me to say that she very particularly wants
to see you,' she said.
'Why, what's the matter?'
'Would your honour please to see for yourself....'
Vassily got up, angrily flung the letters into a drawer, and
went in to Olga Ivanovna. She was sitting alone in a corner,
pale and passive.
'What do you want?' he asked her, not quite politely.
Olga looked at him and closed her eyes.
'What's the matter? what is it, Olga?'
He took her hand.... Olga Ivanovna's hand was cold as ice...
She tried to speak... and her voice died away. The poor woman
had no possible doubt of her condition left her.
Vassily was a little disconcerted. Olga Ivanovna's room was a
couple of steps from Anna Pavlovna's bedroom. Vassily
cautiously sat down by Olga, kissed and chafed her hands,
comforted her in whispers. She listened to him, and silently,
faintly, shuddered. In the doorway stood Palashka, stealthily
wiping her eyes. In the next room they heard the heavy, even
ticking of the clock, and the breathing of some one asleep.
Olga Ivanovna's numbness dissolved at last into tears and
stifled sobs. Tears are like a storm; after them one is
always calmer. When Olga Ivanovna had quieted down a little,
and only sobbed convulsively at intervals, like a child,
Vassily knelt before her with caresses and tender promises,
soothed her completely, gave her something to drink, put her
to bed, and went away. He did not undress all night; wrote
two or three letters, burnt two or three papers, took out a
gold locket containing the portrait of a black-browed,
black-eyed woman with a bold, voluptuous face, scrutinised
her features slowly, and walked up and down the room
Next day, at breakfast, he saw with extreme displeasure poor
Olga's red and swollen eyes and pale, agitated face. After
breakfast he proposed a stroll in the garden to her. Olga
followed Vassily, like a submissive sheep. When two hours
afterwards she came in from the garden she quite broke down;
she told Anna Pavlovna she was unwell, and went to lie down
on her bed. During their walk Vassily had, with a suitable
show of remorse, informed her that he was secretly
married—he was really as much a bachelor as I am. Olga
Ivanovna did not fall into a swoon—people don't fall
into swoons except on the stage—but she turned all at
once stony, though she herself was so far from hoping to
marry Vassily Ivanovitch that she was even afraid to think
about it. Vassily had begun to explain to her the
inevitableness of her parting from him and marrying
Rogatchov. Olga Ivanovna looked at him in dumb horror.
Vassily talked in a cool, business-like, practical way,
blamed himself, expressed his regret, but concluded all his
remarks with the following words: 'There's no going back on
the past; we've got to act.'
Olga was utterly overwhelmed; she was filled with terror and
shame; a dull, heavy despair came upon her; she longed for
death, and waited in agony for Vassily's decision.
'We must confess everything to my mother,' he said to her at
Olga turned deadly pale; her knees shook under her.
'Don't be afraid, don't be afraid,' repeated Vassily, 'trust
to me, I won't desert you... I will make everything right...
rely upon me.'
The poor woman looked at him with love... yes, with love, and
deep, but hopeless devotion.
'I will arrange everything, everything,' Vassily said to her
at parting... and for the last time he kissed her chilly
Next morning—Olga Ivanovna had only just risen from her
bed—her door opened... and Anna Pavlovna appeared in
the doorway. She was supported by Vassily. In silence she got
as far as an arm-chair, and in silence she sat down. Vassily
stood at her side. He looked composed; his brows were knitted
and his lips slightly parted. Anna Pavlovna, pale, indignant,
angry, tried to speak, but her voice failed her. Olga
Ivanovna glanced in horror from her benefactress to her
lover, with a terrible sinking at her heart... she fell on
her knees with a shriek in the middle of the room, and hid
her face in her hands.
'Then it's true... is it true?' murmured Anna Pavlovna, and
bent down to her.... 'Answer!' she went on harshly, clutching
Olga by the arm.
'Mother!' rang out Vassily's brazen voice, 'you promised me
not to be hard on her.'
'I want... confess... confess... is it true? is it true?'
'Mother... remember...' Vassily began deliberately.
This one word moved Anna Pavlovna greatly. She leaned back in
her chair, and burst into sobs.
Olga Ivanovna softly raised her head, and would have flung
herself at the old lady's feet, but Vassily kept her back,
raised her from the ground, and led her to another arm-chair.
Anna Pavlovna went on weeping and muttering disconnected
'Come, mother,' began Vassily, 'don't torment yourself, the
trouble may yet be set right.... If Rogatchov...'
Olga Ivanovna shuddered, and drew herself up.
'If Rogatchov,' pursued Vassily, with a meaning glance at
Olga Ivanovna, 'imagines that he can disgrace an honourable
family with impunity...'
Olga Ivanovna was overcome with horror.
'In my house,' moaned Anna Pavlovna.
'Calm yourself, mother. He took advantage of her innocence,
her youth, he—you wish to say something'—he broke
off, seeing that Olga made a movement towards him....
Olga Ivanovna sank back in her chair.
'I will go at once to Rogatchov. I will make him marry her
this very day. You may be sure I will not let him make a
laughing-stock of us....'
'But... Vassily Ivanovitch... you...' whispered Olga.
He gave her a prolonged, cold stare. She sank into silence
'Mother, give me your word not to worry her before I return.
Look, she is half dead. And you, too, must rest. Rely upon
me; I answer for everything; in any case, wait till I return.
I tell you again, don't torture her, or yourself, and trust
He went to the door and stopped. 'Mother,' said he, 'come
with me, leave her alone, I beg of you.'
Anna Pavlovna got up, went up to the holy picture, bowed down
to the ground, and slowly followed her son. Olga Ivanovna,
without a word or a movement, looked after them.
Vassily turned back quickly, snatched her hand, whispered in
her ear, 'Rely on me, and don't betray us,' and at once
withdrew.... 'Bourcier!' he called, running swiftly down the
A quarter of an hour later he was sitting in his carriage
with his valet.
That day the elder Rogatchov was not at home. He had gone to
the district town to buy cloth for the liveries of his
servants. Pavel Afanasievitch was sitting in his own room,
looking through a collection of faded butterflies. With
lifted eyebrows and protruding lips, he was carefully, with a
pin, turning over the fragile wings of a 'night sphinx' moth,
when he was suddenly aware of a small but heavy hand on his
shoulder. He looked round. Vassily stood before him.
'Good-morning, Vassily Ivanovitch,' he said in some
Vassily looked at him, and sat down on a chair facing him.
Pavel Afanasievitch was about to smile... but he glanced at
Vassily, and subsided with his mouth open and his hands
'Tell me, Pavel Afanasievitch,' said Vassily suddenly, 'are
you meaning to dance at your wedding soon?'
'I?... soon... of course... for my part... though as you and
your sister ... I, for my part, am ready to-morrow even.'
'Very good, very good. You're a very impatient person, Pavel
'Let me tell you,' pursued Vassily Ivanovitch, getting up, 'I
know all; you understand me, and I order you without delay
to-morrow to marry Olga.'
'Excuse me, excuse me,' objected Rogatchov, not rising from
his seat; 'you order me. I sought Olga Ivanovna's hand of
myself and there's no need to give me orders.... I confess,
Vassily Ivanovitch, I don't quite understand you.'
'You don't understand me?'
'No, really, I don't understand you.'
'Do you give me your word to marry her to-morrow?'
'Why, mercy on us, Vassily Ivanovitch... haven't you yourself
put off our wedding more than once? Except for you it would
have taken place long ago. And now I have no idea of breaking
it off. What is the meaning of your threats, your
Pavel Afanasievitch wiped the sweat off his face.
'Do you give me your word? Say yes or no!' Vassily repeated
'Excuse me... I will... but...'
'Very good. Remember then... She has confessed everything.'
'Who has confessed?'
'Why, what has she confessed?'
'Why, what are you pretending to me for, Pavel Afanasievitch?
I'm not a stranger to you.'
'What am I pretending? I don't understand you, I don't, I
positively don't understand a word. What could Olga Ivanovna
'What? You are really too much! You know what.'
'May God slay me...'
'No, I'll slay you, if you don't marry her... do you
'What!...' Pavel Afanasievitch jumped up and stood facing
Vassily. 'Olga Ivanovna... you tell me...'
'You're a clever fellow, you are, I must own'—Vassily
with a smile patted him on the shoulder—'though you do
look so innocent.'
'Good God!... You'll send me out of my mind.... What do you
mean, explain, for God's sake!'
Vassily bent down and whispered something in his ear.
Rogatchov cried out, 'What!...!?'
'Olga Ivanovna? Olga?...'
'Yes... your betrothed...'
'My betrothed... Vassily Ivanovitch... she... she... Why, I
never wish to see her again,' cried Pavel Afanasievitch.
'Good-bye to her for ever! What do you take me for? I'm being
duped... I'm being duped... Olga Ivanovna, how wrong of you,
have you no shame?...' (Tears gushed from his eyes.) 'Thanks,
Vassily Ivanovitch, thanks very much... I never wish to see
her again now! no! no! don't speak of her.... Ah, merciful
Heavens! to think I have lived to see this! Oh, very well,
'That's enough nonsense,' Vassily Ivanovitch observed coldly.
'Remember, you've given me your word: the wedding's
'No, that it won't be! Enough of that, Vassily Ivanovitch. I
say again, what do you take me for? You do me too much
honour. I'm humbly obliged. Excuse me.'
'As you please!' retorted Vassily. 'Get your sword.'
'Sword... what for?'
'What for?... I'll show you what for.'
Vassily drew out his fine, flexible French sword and bent it
a little against the floor.
'You want... to fight... me?'
'But, Vassily Ivanovitch, put yourself in my place! How can
I, only think, after what you have just told me.... I'm a man
of honour, Vassily Ivanovitch, a nobleman.'
'You're a nobleman, you're a man of honour, so you'll be so
good as to fight with me.'
'You are frightened, I think, Mr. Rogatchov.'
'I'm not in the least frightened, Vassily Ivanovitch. You
thought you would frighten me, Vassily Ivanovitch. I'll scare
him, you thought, he's a coward, and he'll agree to anything
directly... No, Vassily Ivanovitch, I am a nobleman as much
as you are, though I've not had city breeding, and you won't
succeed in frightening me into anything, excuse me.'
'Very good,' retorted Vassily; 'where is your sword then?'
'Eroshka!' shouted Pavel Afanasievitch. A servant came in.
'Get me the sword—there—you know, in the loft...
Eroshka went out. Pavel Afanasievitch suddenly became
exceedingly pale, hurriedly took off his dressing-gown, put
on a reddish coat with big paste buttons... twisted a cravat
round his neck... Vassily looked at him, and twiddled the
fingers of his right hand.
'Well, are we to fight then, Pavel Afanasievitch?'
'Let's fight, if we must fight,' replied Rogatchov, and
hurriedly buttoned up his shirt.
'Ay, Pavel Afanasievitch, you take my advice, marry her...
what is it to you... And believe me, I'll...'
'No, Vassily Ivanovitch,' Rogatchov interrupted him. 'You'll
kill me or maim me, I know, but I'm not going to lose my
honour; if I'm to die then I must die.'
Eroshka came in, and trembling, gave Rogatchov a wretched old
sword in a torn leather scabbard. In those days all noblemen
wore swords with powder, but in the steppes they only put on
powder twice a year. Eroshka moved away to the door and burst
out crying. Pavel Afanasievitch pushed him out of the room.
'But, Vassily Ivanovitch,' he observed with some
embarrassment, 'I can't fight with you on the spot: allow me
to put off our duel till to-morrow. My father is not at home,
and it would be as well for me to put my affairs in order
to—to be ready for anything.'
'I see you're beginning to feel frightened again, sir.'
'No, no, Vassily Ivanovitch; but consider yourself...'
'Listen!' shouted Lutchinov, 'you drive me out of
patience.... Either give me your word to marry her at once,
or fight...or I'll thrash you with my cane like a
coward,—do you understand?'
'Come into the garden,' Rogatchov answered through his teeth.
But all at once the door opened, and the old nurse, Efimovna,
utterly distracted, broke into the room, fell on her knees
before Rogatchov, and clasped his legs....
'My little master!' she wailed, 'my nursling... what is it
you are about? Will you be the death of us poor wretches,
your honour? Sure, he'll kill you, darling! Only you say the
word, you say the word, and we'll make an end of him, the
insolent fellow.... Pavel Afanasievitch, my baby-boy, for the
love of God!'
A number of pale, excited faces showed in the door...there
was even the red beard of the village elder...
'Let me go, Efimovna, let me go!' muttered Rogatchov.
'I won't, my own, I won't. What are you about, sir, what are
you about? What'll Afanasey Lukitch say? Why, he'll drive us
all out of the light of day.... Why are you fellows standing
still? Take the uninvited guest in hand and show him out of
the house, so that not a trace be left of him.'
'Rogatchov!' Vassily Ivanovitch shouted menacingly.
'You are crazy, Efimovna, you are shaming me, come, come...'
said Pavel Afanasievitch. 'Go away, go away, in God's name,
and you others, off with you, do you hear?...'
Vassily Ivanovitch moved swiftly to the open window, took out
a small silver whistle, blew lightly... Bourcier answered
from close by. Lutchinov turned at once to Pavel
'What's to be the end of this farce?'
'Vassily Ivanovitch, I will come to you to-morrow. What can I
do with this crazy old woman?...'
'Oh, I see it's no good wasting words on you,' said Vassily,
and he swiftly raised his cane...
Pavel Afanasievitch broke loose, pushed Efimovna away,
snatched up the sword, and rushed through another door into
Vassily dashed after him. They ran into a wooden summerhouse,
painted cunningly after the Chinese fashion, shut themselves
in, and drew their swords. Rogatchov had once taken lessons
in fencing, but now he was scarcely capable of drawing a
sword properly. The blades crossed. Vassily was obviously
playing with Rogatchov's sword. Pavel Afanasievitch was
breathless and pale, and gazed in consternation into
Meanwhile, screams were heard in the garden; a crowd of
people were running to the summerhouse. Suddenly Rogatchov
heard the heart-rending wail of old age...he recognised the
voice of his father. Afanasey Lukitch, bare-headed, with
dishevelled hair, was running in front of them all,
frantically waving his hands....
With a violent and unexpected turn of the blade Vassily sent
the sword flying out of Pavel Afanasievitch's hand.
'Marry her, my boy,' he said to him: 'give over this
'I won't marry her,' whispered Rogatchov, and he shut his
eyes, and shook all over.
Afanasey Lukitch began banging at the door of the
'You won't?' shouted Vassily.
Rogatchov shook his head.
'Well, damn you, then!'
Poor Pavel Afanasievitch fell dead: Lutchinov's sword stabbed
him to the heart... The door gave way; old Rogatchov burst
into the summerhouse, but Vassily had already jumped out of
Two hours later he went into Olga Ivanovna's room... She
rushed in terror to meet him... He bowed to her in silence;
took out his sword and pierced Pavel Afanasievitch's portrait
in the place of the heart. Olga shrieked and fell unconscious
on the floor... Vassily went in to Anna Pavlovna. He found
her in the oratory. 'Mother,' said he, 'we are avenged.' The
poor old woman shuddered and went on praying.
Within a week Vassily had returned to Petersburg, and two
years later he came back stricken with
paralysis—tongue-tied. He found neither Anna Pavlovna
nor Olga living, and soon after died himself in the arms of
Yuditch, who fed him like a child, and was the only one who
could understand his incoherent stuttering.