THE JEW AND OTHER STORIES
BY IVAN TURGENEV
Translated from the Russian
By CONSTANCE GARNETT
TO THE MEMORY OF STEPNIAK
WHOSE LOVE OF TURGENEV
SUGGESTED THIS TRANSLATION
In studying the Russian novel it is amusing to note the
childish attitude of certain English men of letters to the
novel in general, their depreciation of its influence and of
the public's 'inordinate' love of fiction. Many men of
letters to-day look on the novel as a mere story-book, as a
series of light-coloured, amusing pictures for their 'idle
hours,' and on memoirs, biographies, histories, criticism,
and poetry as the age's serious contribution to
literature. Whereas the reverse is the case. The most serious
and significant of all literary forms the modern world has
evolved is the novel; and brought to its highest development,
the novel shares with poetry to-day the honour of being the
supreme instrument of the great artist's literary skill.
To survey the field of the novel as a mere pleasure-garden
marked out for the crowd's diversion—a field of
recreation adorned here and there by the masterpieces of a
few great men—argues in the modern critic either an
academical attitude to literature and life, or a one-eyed
obtuseness, or merely the usual insensitive taste. The drama
in all but two countries has been willy-nilly abandoned by
artists as a coarse playground for the great public's romps
and frolics, but the novel can be preserved exactly so long
as the critics understand that to exercise a delicate art is
the one serious duty of the artistic life. It is no
more an argument against the vital significance of the novel
that tens of thousands of people—that everybody, in
fact—should to-day essay that form of art, than it is
an argument against poetry that for all the centuries droves
and flocks of versifiers and scribblers and rhymesters have
succeeded in making the name of poet a little foolish in
worldly eyes. The true function of poetry! That can only be
vindicated in common opinion by the severity and enthusiasm
of critics in stripping bare the false, and in hailing as the
true all that is animated by the living breath of beauty. The
true function of the novel! That can only be supported by
those who understand that the adequate representation and
criticism of human life would be impossible for modern men
were the novel to go the way of the drama, and be abandoned
to the mass of vulgar standards. That the novel is the most
insidious means of mirroring human society Cervantes in his
great classic revealed to seventeenth-century Europe.
Richardson and Fielding and Sterne in their turn, as great
realists and impressionists, proved to the eighteenth century
that the novel is as flexible as life itself. And from their
days to the days of Henry James the form of the novel has
been adapted by European genius to the exact needs, outlook,
and attitude to life of each successive generation. To the
French, especially to Flaubert and Maupassant, must be given
the credit of so perfecting the novel's technique that it has
become the great means of cosmopolitan culture. It was,
however, reserved for the youngest of European literatures,
for the Russian school, to raise the novel to being the
absolute and triumphant expression by the national genius of
the national soul.
Turgenev's place in modern European literature is best
defined by saying that while he stands as a great classic in
the ranks of the great novelists, along with Richardson,
Fielding, Scott, Balzac, Dickens, Thackeray, Meredith,
Tolstoi, Flaubert, Maupassant, he is the greatest of them
all, in the sense that he is the supreme artist. As has been
recognised by the best French critics, Turgenev's art is both
wider in its range and more beautiful in its form than the
work of any modern European artist. The novel modelled by
Turgenev's hands, the Russian novel, became the great
modern instrument for showing 'the very age and body of the
time his form and pressure.' To reproduce human life in all
its subtlety as it moves and breathes before us, and at the
same time to assess its values by the great poetic insight
that reveals man's relations to the universe around
him,—that is an art only transcended by Shakespeare's
own in its unique creation of a universe of great human
types. And, comparing Turgenev with the European masters, we
see that if he has made the novel both more delicate and more
powerful than their example shows it, it is because as the
supreme artist he filled it with the breath of poetry where
others in general spoke the word of prose. Turgenev's horizon
always broadens before our eyes: where Fielding and
Richardson speak for the country and the town, Turgenev
speaks for the nation. While Balzac makes defile before us an
endless stream of human figures, Turgenev's characters reveal
themselves as wider apart in the range of their spirit, as
more mysteriously alive in their inevitable essence, than do
Meredith's or Flaubert's, than do Thackeray's or
Maupassant's. Where Tolstoi uses an immense canvas in
and Peace, wherein Europe may see the march of a whole
generation, Turgenev in Fathers and Children
concentrates in the few words of a single character, Bazarov,
the essence of modern science's attitude to life, that
scientific spirit which has transformed both European life
and thought. It is, however, superfluous to draw further
parallels between Turgenev and his great rivals. In England
alone, perhaps, is it necessary to say to the young novelist
that the novel can become anything, can be anything,
according to the hands that use it. In its application to
life, its future development can by no means be gauged. It is
the most complex of all literary instruments, the chief
method to-day of analysing the complexities of modern life.
If you love your art, if you would exalt it, treat it
absolutely seriously. If you would study it in its highest
form, the form the greatest artist of our time has
AN UNHAPPY GIRL
...'Tell us a story, colonel,' we said at last to Nikolai
The colonel smiled, puffed out a coil of tobacco smoke
between his moustaches, passed his hand over his grey hair,
looked at us and considered. We all had the greatest liking
and respect for Nikolai Ilyitch, for his good-heartedness,
common sense, and kindly indulgence to us young fellows. He
was a tall, broad-shouldered, stoutly-built man; his dark
face, 'one of the splendid Russian faces,' [Footnote:
Lermontov in the Treasurer's Wife.—AUTHOR'S
NOTE.] straight-forward, clever glance, gentle smile, manly
and mellow voice—everything about him pleased and
'All right, listen then,' he began.
It happened in 1813, before Dantzig. I was then in the
E—— regiment of cuirassiers, and had just, I
recollect, been promoted to be a cornet. It is an
exhilarating occupation—fighting; and marching too is
good enough in its way, but it is fearfully slow in a
besieging army. There one sits the whole blessed day within
some sort of entrenchment, under a tent, on mud or straw,
playing cards from morning till night. Perhaps, from simple
boredom, one goes out to watch the bombs and redhot bullets
At first the French kept us amused with sorties, but they
quickly subsided. We soon got sick of foraging expeditions
too; we were overcome, in fact, by such deadly dulness that
we were ready to howl for sheer ennui. I was not more
than nineteen then; I was a healthy young fellow, fresh as a
daisy, thought of nothing but getting all the fun I could out
of the French... and in other ways too... you understand what
I mean... and this is what happened. Having nothing to do, I
fell to gambling. All of a sudden, after dreadful losses, my
luck turned, and towards morning (we used to play at night) I
had won an immense amount. Exhausted and sleepy, I came out
into the fresh air, and sat down on a mound. It was a
splendid, calm morning; the long lines of our fortifications
were lost in the mist; I gazed till I was weary, and then
began to doze where I was sitting.
A discreet cough waked me: I opened my eyes, and saw standing
before me a Jew, a man of forty, wearing a long-skirted grey
wrapper, slippers, and a black smoking-cap. This Jew, whose
name was Girshel, was continually hanging about our camp,
offering his services as an agent, getting us wine,
provisions, and other such trifles. He was a thinnish,
red-haired, little man, marked with smallpox; he blinked
incessantly with his diminutive little eyes, which were
reddish too; he had a long crooked nose, and was always
He began fidgeting about me, bowing obsequiously.
'Well, what do you want?' I asked him at last.
'Oh, I only—I've only come, sir, to know if I can't be
of use to your honour in some way...'
'I don't want you; you can go.'
'At your honour's service, as you desire.... I thought there
might be, sir, something....'
'You bother me; go along, I tell you.'
'Certainly, sir, certainly. But your honour must permit me to
congratulate you on your success....'
'Why, how did you know?'
'Oh, I know, to be sure I do.... An immense sum...
immense....Oh! how immense....'
Girshel spread out his fingers and wagged his head.
'But what's the use of talking,' I said peevishly; 'what the
devil's the good of money here?'
'Oh! don't say that, your honour; ay, ay, don't say so.
Money's a capital thing; always of use; you can get anything
for money, your honour; anything! anything! Only say the word
to the agent, he'll get you anything, your honour, anything!
'Don't tell lies, Jew.'
'Ay! ay!' repeated Girshel, shaking his side-locks. 'Your
honour doesn't believe me.... Ay... ay....' The Jew closed
his eyes and slowly wagged his head to right and to left....
'Oh, I know what his honour the officer would like.... I
know,... to be sure I do!'
The Jew assumed an exceedingly knowing leer.
The Jew glanced round timorously, then bent over to me.
'Such a lovely creature, your honour, lovely!...' Girshel
again closed his eyes and shot out his lips.
'Your honour, you've only to say the word... you shall see
for yourself... whatever I say now, you'll hear... but you
won't believe... better tell me to show you... that's the
thing, that's the thing!'
I did not speak; I gazed at the Jew.
'Well, all right then; well then, very good; so I'll show you
Thereupon Girshel laughed and slapped me lightly on the
shoulder, but skipped back at once as though he had been
'But, your honour, how about a trifle in advance?'
'But you 're taking me in, and will show me some scarecrow?'
'Ay, ay, what a thing to say!' the Jew pronounced with
unusual warmth, waving his hands about. 'How can you! Why...
if so, your honour, you order me to be given five hundred...
four hundred and fifty lashes,' he added hurriedly....' You
At that moment one of my comrades lifted the edge of his tent
and called me by name. I got up hurriedly and flung the Jew a
'This evening, this evening,' he muttered after me.
I must confess, my friends, I looked forward to the evening
with some impatience. That very day the French made a sortie;
our regiment marched to the attack. The evening came on; we
sat round the fires... the soldiers cooked porridge. My
comrades talked. I lay on my cloak, drank tea, and listened
to my comrades' stories. They suggested a game of
cards—I refused to take part in it. I felt excited.
Gradually the officers dispersed to their tents; the fires
began to die down; the soldiers too dispersed, or went to
sleep on the spot; everything was still. I did not get up. My
orderly squatted on his heels before the fire, and was
beginning to nod. I sent him away. Soon the whole camp was
hushed. The sentries were relieved. I still lay there, as it
were waiting for something. The stars peeped out. The night
came on. A long while I watched the dying flame.... The last
fire went out. 'The damned Jew was taking me in,' I thought
angrily, and was just going to get up.
'Your honour,'... a trembling voice whispered close to my
I looked round: Girshel. He was very pale, he stammered, and
'Let's go to your tent, sir.' I got up and followed him. The
Jew shrank into himself, and stepped warily over the short,
damp grass. I observed on one side a motionless, muffled-up
figure. The Jew beckoned to her—she went up to him. He
whispered to her, turned to me, nodded his head several
times, and we all three went into the tent. Ridiculous to
relate, I was breathless.
'You see, your honour,' the Jew whispered with an effort,
'you see. She's a little frightened at the moment, she's
frightened; but I've told her his honour the officer's a good
man, a splendid man.... Don't be frightened, don't be
frightened,' he went on—'don't be frightened....'
The muffled-up figure did not stir. I was myself in a state
of dreadful confusion, and didn't know what to say. Girshel
too was fidgeting restlessly, and gesticulating in a strange
'Any way,' I said to him, 'you get out....' Unwillingly, as
it seemed, Girshel obeyed.
I went up to the muffled-up figure, and gently took the dark
hood off her head. There was a conflagration in Dantzig: by
the faint, reddish, flickering glow of the distant fire I saw
the pale face of a young Jewess. Her beauty astounded me. I
stood facing her, and gazed at her in silence. She did not
raise her eyes. A slight rustle made me look round. Girshel
was cautiously poking his head in under the edge of the tent.
I waved my hand at him angrily,... he vanished.
'What's your name?' I said at last.
'Sara,' she answered, and for one instant I caught in the
darkness the gleam of the whites of her large, long-shaped
eyes and little, even, flashing teeth.
I snatched up two leather cushions, flung them on the ground,
and asked her to sit down. She slipped off her shawl, and sat
down. She was wearing a short Cossack jacket, open in front,
with round, chased silver buttons, and full sleeves. Her
thick black hair was coiled twice round her little head. I
sat down beside her and took her dark, slender hand. She
resisted a little, but seemed afraid to look at me, and there
was a catch in her breath. I admired her Oriental profile,
and timidly pressed her cold, shaking fingers.
'Do you know Russian?'
'Yes... a little.'
'And do you like Russians?'
'Yes, I like them.'
'Then, you like me too?'
'Yes, I like you.'
I tried to put my arm round her, but she moved away
'No, no, please, sir, please...'
'Oh, all right; look at me, any way.'
She let her black, piercing eyes rest upon me, and at once
turned away with a smile, and blushed.
I kissed her hand ardently. She peeped at me from under her
eyelids and softly laughed.
'What is it?'
She hid her face in her sleeve and laughed more than before.
Girshel showed himself at the entrance of the tent and shook
his finger at her. She ceased laughing.
'Go away!' I whispered to him through my teeth; 'you make me
Girshel did not go away.
I took a handful of gold pieces out of my trunk, stuffed them
in his hand and pushed him out.
'Your honour, me too....' she said.
I dropped several gold coins on her lap; she pounced on them
like a cat.
'Well, now I must have a kiss.'
'No, please, please,' she faltered in a frightened and
'What are you frightened of?'
She looked timidly at me, put her head a little on one side
and clasped her hands. I let her alone.
'If you like... here,' she said after a brief silence, and
she raised her hand to my lips. With no great eagerness, I
kissed it. Sara laughed again.
My blood was boiling. I was annoyed with myself and did not
know what to do. Really, I thought at last, what a fool I am.
I turned to her again.
'Sara, listen, I'm in love with you.'
'You know? And you're not angry? And do you like me too?'
Sara shook her head.
'No, answer me properly.'
'Well, show yourself,' she said.
I bent down to her. Sara laid her hands on my shoulders,
began scrutinising my face, frowned, smiled.... I could not
contain myself, and gave her a rapid kiss on her cheek. She
jumped up and in one bound was at the entrance of the tent.
'Come, what a shy thing you are!'
She did not speak and did not stir.
'Come here to me....'
'No, sir, good-bye. Another time.'
Girshel again thrust in his curly head, and said a couple of
words to her; she bent down and glided away, like a snake.
I ran out of the tent in pursuit of her, but could not get
another glimpse of her nor of Girshel.
The whole night long I could not sleep a wink.
The next night we were sitting in the tent of our captain; I
was playing, but with no great zest. My orderly came in.
'Some one's asking for you, your honour.'
'Who is it?'
'Can it be Girshel?' I wondered. I waited till the end of the
rubber, got up and went out. Yes, it was so; I saw Girshel.
'Well,' he questioned me with an ingratiating smile, 'your
honour, are you satisfied?'
'Ah, you———!' (Here the colonel glanced
round. 'No ladies present, I believe.... Well, never mind,
any way.') 'Ah, bless you!' I responded, 'so you're making
fun of me, are you?'
'How so, indeed! What a question!'
'Ay, ay, your honour, you 're too bad,' Girshel said
reproachfully, but never ceasing smiling. 'The girl is young
and modest.... You frightened her, indeed, you did.'
'Queer sort of modesty! why did she take money, then?'
'Why, what then? If one's given money, why not take it, sir?'
'I say, Girshel, let her come again, and I '11 let you off...
only, please, don't show your stupid phiz inside my tent, and
leave us in peace; do you hear?'
Girshel's eyes sparkled.
'What do you say? You like her?'
'She's a lovely creature! there's not another such anywhere.
And have you something for me now?'
'Yes, here, only listen; fair play is better than gold. Bring
her and then go to the devil. I'll escort her home myself.'
'Oh, no, sir, no, that's impossible, sir,' the Jew rejoined
hurriedly. 'Ay, ay, that's impossible. I'll walk about near
the tent, your honour, if you like; I'll... I'll go away,
your honour, if you like, a little.... I'm ready to do your
honour a service.... I'll move away... to be sure, I will.'
'Well, mind you do.... And bring her, do you hear?'
'Eh, but she's a beauty, your honour, eh? your honour, a
Girshel bent down and peeped into my eyes.
'Well, then, give me another gold piece.'
I threw him a coin; we parted.
The day passed at last. The night came on. I had been sitting
for a long while alone in my tent. It was dark outside. It
struck two in the town. I was beginning to curse the Jew....
Suddenly Sara came in, alone. I jumped up took her in my
arms... put my lips to her face.... It was cold as ice. I
could scarcely distinguish her features.... I made her sit
down, knelt down before her, took her hands, touched her
waist.... She did not speak, did not stir, and suddenly she
broke into loud, convulsive sobbing. I tried in vain to
soothe her, to persuade her.... She wept in torrents.... I
caressed her, wiped her tears; as before, she did not resist,
made no answer to my questions and wept—wept, like a
waterfall. I felt a pang at my heart; I got up and went out
of the tent.
Girshel seemed to pop up out of the earth before me.
'Girshel,' I said to him, 'here's the money I promised you.
Take Sara away.'
The Jew at once rushed up to her. She left off weeping, and
clutched hold of him.
'Good-bye, Sara,'I said to her. 'God bless you, good-bye.
We'll see each other again some other time.'
Girshel was silent and bowed humbly. Sara bent down, took my
hand and pressed it to her lips; I turned away....
For five or six days, my friends, I kept thinking of my
Jewess. Girshel did not make his appearance, and no one had
seen him in the camp. I slept rather badly at nights; I was
continually haunted by wet, black eyes, and long eyelashes;
my lips could not forget the touch of her cheek, smooth and
fresh as a downy plum. I was sent out with a foraging party
to a village some distance away. While my soldiers were
ransacking the houses, I remained in the street, and did not
dismount from my horse. Suddenly some one caught hold of my
'Mercy on us, Sara!'
She was pale and excited.
'Your honour... help us, save us, your soldiers are insulting
us.... Your honour....'
She recognised me and flushed red.
'Why, do you live here?'
Sara pointed to a little, old house. I set spurs to my horse
and galloped up. In the yard of the little house an ugly and
tattered Jewess was trying to tear out of the hands of my
long sergeant, Siliavka, three hens and a duck. He was
holding his booty above his head, laughing; the hens clucked
and the duck quacked.... Two other cuirassiers were loading
their horses with hay, straw, and sacks of flour. Inside the
house I heard shouts and oaths in Little-Russian.... I called
to my men and told them to leave the Jews alone, not to take
anything from them. The soldiers obeyed, the sergeant got on
his grey mare, Proserpina, or, as he called her,
'Prozherpila,' and rode after me into the street.
'Well,' I said to Sara, 'are you pleased with me?'
She looked at me with a smile.
'What has become of you all this time?'
She dropped her eyes.
'I will come to you to-morrow.'
'In the evening?'
'No, sir, in the morning.'
'Mind you do, don't deceive me.'
'No... no, I won't.'
I looked greedily at her. By daylight she seemed to me
handsomer than ever. I remember I was particularly struck by
the even, amber tint of her face and the bluish lights in her
black hair.... I bent down from my horse and warmly pressed
her little hand.
'Good-bye, Sara... mind you come.'
She went home; I told the sergeant to follow me with the
party, and galloped off.
The next day I got up very early, dressed, and went out of
the tent. It was a glorious morning; the sun had just risen
and every blade of grass was sparkling in the dew and the
crimson glow. I clambered on to a high breastwork, and sat
down on the edge of an embrasure. Below me a stout, cast-iron
cannon stuck out its black muzzle towards the open country. I
looked carelessly about me... and all at once caught sight of
a bent figure in a grey wrapper, a hundred paces from me. I
recognised Girshel. He stood without moving for a long while
in one place, then suddenly ran a little on one side, looked
hurriedly and furtively round... uttered a cry, squatted
down, cautiously craned his neck and began looking round
again and listening. I could see all his actions very
clearly. He put his hand into his bosom, took out a scrap of
paper and a pencil, and began writing or drawing something.
Girshel continually stopped, started like a hare, attentively
scrutinised everything around him, and seemed to be sketching
our camp. More than once he hid his scrap of paper, half
closed his eyes, sniffed at the air, and again set to work.
At last, the Jew squatted down on the grass, took off his
slipper, and stuffed the paper in it; but he had not time to
regain his legs, when suddenly, ten steps from him, there
appeared from behind the slope of an earthwork the whiskered
countenance of the sergeant Siliavka, and gradually the whole
of his long clumsy figure rose up from the ground. The Jew
stood with his back to him. Siliavka went quickly up to him
and laid his heavy paw on his shoulder. Girshel seemed to
shrink into himself. He shook like a leaf and uttered a
feeble cry, like a hare's. Siliavka addressed him
threateningly, and seized him by the collar. I could not hear
their conversation, but from the despairing gestures of the
Jew, and his supplicating appearance, I began to guess what
it was. The Jew twice flung himself at the sergeant's feet,
put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a torn check
handkerchief, untied a knot, and took out gold coins....
Siliavka took his offering with great dignity, but did not
leave off dragging the Jew by the collar. Girshel made a
sudden bound and rushed away; the sergeant sped after him in
pursuit. The Jew ran exceedingly well; his legs, clad in blue
stockings, flashed by, really very rapidly; but Siliavka
after a short run caught the crouching Jew, made him stand
up, and carried him in his arms straight to the camp. I got
up and went to meet him.
'Ah! your honour!' bawled Siliavka,—'it's a spy I'm
bringing you—a spy!...' The sturdy Little-Russian was
streaming with perspiration. 'Stop that wriggling, devilish
Jew—now then... you wretch! you'd better look out, I'll
The luckless Girshel was feebly prodding his elbows into
Siliavka's chest, and feebly kicking.... His eyes were
'What's the matter?' I questioned Siliavka.
'If your honour'll be so good as to take the slipper off his
right foot,—I can't get at it.' He was still holding
the Jew in his arms.
I took off the slipper, took out of it a carefully folded
piece of paper, unfolded it, and found an accurate map of our
camp. On the margin were a number of notes written in a fine
hand in the Jews' language.
Meanwhile Siliavka had set Girshel on his legs. The Jew
opened his eyes, saw me, and flung himself on his knees
Without speaking, I showed him the paper.
'It's—-nothing, your honour. I was only....' His voice
'Are you a spy?'
He did not understand me, muttered disconnected words,
pressed my knees in terror....
'Are you a spy?'
'I!' he cried faintly, and shook his head. 'How could I? I
never did; I'm not at all. It's not possible; utterly
impossible. I'm ready—I'll—this minute—I've
money to give... I'll pay for it,' he whispered, and closed
The smoking-cap had slipped back on to his neck; his reddish
hair was soaked with cold sweat, and hung in tails; his lips
were blue, and working convulsively; his brows were
contracted painfully; his face was drawn....
Soldiers came up round us. I had at first meant to give
Girshel a good fright, and to tell Siliavka to hold his
tongue, but now the affair had become public, and could not
escape 'the cognisance of the authorities.'
'Take him to the general,' I said to the sergeant.
'Your honour, your honour!' the Jew shrieked in a voice of
despair. 'I am not guilty... not guilty.... Tell him to let
me go, tell him...'
'His Excellency will decide about that,' said Siliavka. 'Come
'Your honour!' the Jew shrieked after me—'tell him!
His shriek tortured me; I hastened my pace. Our general was a
man of German extraction, honest and good-hearted, but strict
in his adherence to military discipline. I went into the
little house that had been hastily put up for him, and in a
few words explained the reason of my visit. I knew the
severity of the military regulations, and so I did not even
pronounce the word 'spy,' but tried to put the whole affair
before him as something quite trifling and not worth
attention. But, unhappily for Girshel, the general put doing
his duty higher than pity.
'You, young man,' he said to me in his broken Russian,
'inexperienced are. You in military matters yet inexperienced
are. The matter, of which you to me reported have, is
important, very important.... And where is this man who taken
was? this Jew? where is he?'
I went out and told them to bring in the Jew. They brought in
the Jew. The wretched creature could scarcely stand up.
'Yes,' pronounced the general, turning to me; 'and where's
the plan which on this man found was?'
I handed him the paper. The general opened it, turned away
again, screwed up his eyes, frowned....
'This is most as-ton-ish-ing...' he said slowly. 'Who
'I, your Excellency!' Siliavka jerked out sharply.
'Ah! good! good!... Well, my good man, what do you say in
'Your... your... your Excellency,' stammered Girshel, 'I...
indeed,... your Excellency... I'm not guilty... your
Excellency; ask his honour the officer.... I'm an agent, your
Excellency, an honest agent.'
'He ought to be cross-examined,' the general murmured in an
undertone, wagging his head gravely. 'Come, how do you
explain this, my friend?' 'I'm not guilty, your Excellency,
I'm not guilty.'
'That is not probable, however. You were—how is it said
in Russian?—taken on the fact, that is, in the very
'Hear me, your Excellency; I am not guilty.'
'You drew the plan? you are a spy of the enemy?'
'It wasn't me!' Girshel shrieked suddenly; 'not I, your
The general looked at Siliavka.
'Why, he's raving, your Excellency. His honour the officer
here took the plan out of his slipper.'
The general looked at me. I was obliged to nod assent.
'You are a spy from the enemy, my good man....'
'Not I... not I...' whispered the distracted Jew.
'You have the enemy with similar information before provided?
'How could I?'
'You will not deceive me, my good man. Are you a spy?'
The Jew closed his eyes, shook his head, and lifted the
skirts of his gown.
'Hang him,' the general pronounced expressively after a brief
silence,'according to the law. Where is Mr. Fiodor
They ran to fetch Schliekelmann, the general's adjutant.
Girshel began to turn greenish, his mouth fell open, his eyes
seemed starting out of his head. The adjutant came in. The
general gave him the requisite instructions. The secretary
showed his sickly, pock-marked face for an instant. Two or
three officers peeped into the room inquisitively.
'Have pity, your Excellency,' I said to the general in German
as best I could; 'let him off....'
'You, young man,' he answered me in Russian, 'I was saying to
you, are inexperienced, and therefore I beg you silent to be,
and me no more to trouble.'
Girshel with a shriek dropped at the general's feet.
'Your Excellency, have mercy; I will never again, I will not,
your Excellency; I have a wife... your Excellency, a
daughter... have mercy....'
'It's no use!'
'Truly, your Excellency, I am guilty... it's the first time,
your Excellency, the first time, believe me!'
'You furnished no other documents?'
'The first time, your Excellency,... my wife... my
children... have mercy....'
'But you are a spy.'
'My wife... your Excellency... my children....'
The general felt a twinge, but there was no getting out of
'According to the law, hang the Hebrew,' he said
constrainedly, with the air of a man forced to do violence to
his heart, and sacrifice his better feelings to inexorable
duty—'hang him! Fiodor Karlitch, I beg you to draw up a
report of the occurrence....'
A horrible change suddenly came over Girshel. Instead of the
ordinary timorous alarm peculiar to the Jewish nature, in his
face was reflected the horrible agony that comes before
death. He writhed like a wild beast trapped, his mouth stood
open, there was a hoarse rattle in his throat, he positively
leapt up and down, convulsively moving his elbows. He had on
only one slipper; they had forgotten to put the other on
again... his gown fell open... his cap had fallen off....
We all shuddered; the general stopped speaking.
'Your Excellency,' I began again, 'pardon this wretched
'Impossible! It is the law,' the general replied abruptly,
and not without emotion, 'for a warning to others.'
'For pity's sake....'
'Mr. Cornet, be so good as to return to your post,' said the
general, and he motioned me imperiously to the door.
I bowed and went out. But seeing that in reality I had no
post anywhere, I remained at no great distance from the
Two minutes later Girshel made his appearance, conducted by
Siliavka and three soldiers. The poor Jew was in a state of
stupefaction, and could hardly move his legs. Siliavka went
by me to the camp, and soon returned with a rope in his
hands. His coarse but not ill-natured face wore a look of
strange, exasperated commiseration. At the sight of the rope
the Jew flung up his arms, sat down, and burst into sobs. The
soldiers stood silently about him, and stared grimly at the
earth. I went up to Girshel, addressed him; he sobbed like a
baby, and did not even look at me. With a hopeless gesture I
went to my tent, flung myself on a rug, and closed my
Suddenly some one ran hastily and noisily into my tent. I
raised my head and saw Sara; she looked beside herself. She
rushed up to me, and clutched at my hands.
'Come along, come along,' she insisted breathlessly.
'Where? what for? let us stop here.'
'To father, to father, quick... save him... save him!'
'To what father?'
'My father; they are going to hang him....'
'What! is Girshel...?'
'My father... I '11 tell you all about it later,' she added,
wringing her hands in despair: 'only come... come....'
We ran out of the tent. In the open ground, on the way to a
solitary birch-tree, we could see a group of soldiers....
Sara pointed to them without speaking....
'Stop,' I said to her suddenly: 'where are we running to? The
soldiers won't obey me.'
Sara still pulled me after her.... I must confess, my head
was going round.
'But listen, Sara,' I said to her; 'what sense is there in
running here? It would be better for me to go to the general
again; let's go together; who knows, we may persuade him.'
Sara suddenly stood still and gazed at me, as though she were
'Understand me, Sara, for God's sake. I can't do anything for
your father, but the general can. Let's go to him.'
'But meanwhile they'll hang him,' she moaned....
I looked round. The secretary was standing not far off.
'Ivanov,' I called to him; 'run, please, over there to them,
tell them to wait a little, say I've gone to petition the
Ivanov ran off.
We were not admitted to the general's presence. In vain I
begged, persuaded, swore even, at last... in vain, poor Sara
tore her hair and rushed at the sentinels; they would not let
Sara looked wildly round, clutched her head in both hands,
and ran at breakneck pace towards the open country, to her
father. I followed her. Every one stared at us, wondering.
We ran up to the soldiers. They were standing in a ring, and
picture it, gentlemen! they were laughing, laughing at poor
Girshel. I flew into a rage and shouted at them. The Jew saw
us and fell on his daughter's neck. Sara clung to him
The poor wretch imagined he was pardoned.... He was just
beginning to thank me... I turned away.
'Your honour,' he shrieked and wrung his hands; 'I'm not
I did not speak.
'Your honour,' he began muttering; 'look, your honour,
look... she, this girl, see—you know—she's my
'I know,' I answered, and turned away again.
'Your honour,' he shrieked, 'I never went away from the tent!
I wouldn't for anything...'
He stopped, and closed his eyes for an instant.... 'I wanted
your money, your honour, I must own... but not for
I was silent. Girshel was loathsome to me, and she too, his
'But now, if you save me,' the Jew articulated in a whisper,
'I'll command her... I... do you understand?... everything...
I'll go to every length....'
He was trembling like a leaf, and looking about him
hurriedly. Sara silently and passionately embraced him.
The adjutant came up to us.
'Cornet,' he said to me; 'his Excellency has given me orders
to place you under arrest. And you...' he motioned the
soldiers to the Jew... 'quickly.'
Siliavka went up to the Jew.
'Fiodor Karlitch,' I said to the adjutant (five soldiers had
come with him); 'tell them, at least, to take away that poor
'Of course. Certainly.'
The unhappy girl was scarcely conscious. Girshel was
muttering something to her in Yiddish....
The soldiers with difficulty freed Sara from her father's
arms, and carefully carried her twenty steps away. But all at
once she broke from their arms and rushed towards Girshel....
Siliavka stopped her. Sara pushed him away; her face was
covered with a faint flush, her eyes flashed, she stretched
out her arms.
'So may you be accursed,' she screamed in German; 'accursed,
thrice accursed, you and all the hateful breed of you, with
the curse of Dathan and Abiram, the curse of poverty and
sterility and violent, shameful death! May the earth open
under your feet, godless, pitiless, bloodthirsty dogs....'
Her head dropped back... she fell to the ground.... They
lifted her up and carried her away.
The soldiers took Girshel under his arms. I saw then why it
was they had been laughing at the Jew when I ran up from the
camp with Sara. He was really ludicrous, in spite of all the
horror of his position. The intense anguish of parting with
life, his daughter, his family, showed itself in the Jew in
such strange and grotesque gesticulations, shrieks, and
wriggles that we all could not help smiling, though it was
horrible—intensely horrible to us too. The poor wretch
was half dead with terror....
'Oy! oy! oy!' he shrieked: 'oy... wait! I've something to
tell you... a lot to tell you. Mr. Under-sergeant, you know
me. I'm an agent, an honest agent. Don't hold me; wait a
minute, a little minute, a tiny minute—wait! Let me go;
I'm a poor Hebrew. Sara... where is Sara? Oh, I know, she's
at his honour the quarter-lieutenant's.' (God knows why he
bestowed such an unheard-of grade upon me.) 'Your honour the
quarter-lieutenant, I'm not going away from the tent.' (The
soldiers were taking hold of Girshel... he uttered a
deafening shriek, and wriggled out of their hands.) 'Your
Excellency, have pity on the unhappy father of a family. I'll
give you ten golden pieces, fifteen I'll give, your
Excellency!...' (They dragged him to the birch-tree.) 'Spare
me! have mercy! your honour the quarter-lieutenant! your
Excellency, the general and commander-in-chief!'
They put the noose on the Jew.... I shut my eyes and rushed
I remained for a fortnight under arrest. I was told that the
widow of the luckless Girshel came to fetch away the clothes
of the deceased. The general ordered a hundred roubles to be
given to her. Sara I never saw again. I was wounded; I was
taken to the hospital, and by the time I was well again,
Dantzig had surrendered, and I joined my regiment on the
banks of the Rhine.
AN UNHAPPY GIRL
Yes, yes, began Piotr Gavrilovitch; those were painful
days... and I would rather not recall them.... But I have
made you a promise; I shall have to tell you the whole story.
I was living at that time (the winter of 1835) in Moscow, in
the house of my aunt, the sister of my dead mother. I was
eighteen; I had only just passed from the second into the
third course in the faculty 'of Language' (that was what it
was called in those days) in the Moscow University. My aunt
was a gentle, quiet woman—a widow. She lived in a big,
wooden house in Ostozhonka, one of those warm, cosy houses
such as, I fancy, one can find nowhere else but in Moscow.
She saw hardly any one, sat from morning till night in the
drawing-room with two companions, drank the choicest tea,
played patience, and was continually requesting that the room
should be fumigated. Thereupon her companions ran into the
hall; a few minutes later an old servant in livery would
bring in a copper pan with a bunch of mint on a hot brick,
and stepping hurriedly upon the narrow strips of carpet, he
would sprinkle the mint with vinegar. White fumes always
puffed up about his wrinkled face, and he frowned and turned
away, while the canaries in the dining-room chirped their
hardest, exasperated by the hissing of the smouldering mint.
I was fatherless and motherless, and my aunt spoiled me. She
placed the whole of the ground floor at my complete disposal.
My rooms were furnished very elegantly, not at all like a
student's rooms in fact: there were pink curtains in the
bedroom, and a muslin canopy, adorned with blue rosettes,
towered over my bed. Those rosettes were, I'll own, rather an
annoyance to me; to my thinking, such 'effeminacies' were
calculated to lower me in the eyes of my companions. As it
was, they nicknamed me 'the boarding-school miss.' I could
never succeed in forcing myself to smoke. I studied—why
conceal my shortcomings?—very lazily, especially at the
beginning of the course. I went out a great deal. My aunt had
bestowed on me a wide sledge, fit for a general, with a pair
of sleek horses. At the houses of 'the gentry' my visits were
rare, but at the theatre I was quite at home, and I consumed
masses of tarts at the restaurants. For all that, I permitted
myself no breach of decorum, and behaved very discreetly,
en jeune homme de bonne maison. I would not for
anything in the world have pained my kind aunt; and besides I
was naturally of a rather cool temperament.
From my earliest years I had been fond of chess; I had no
idea of the science of the game, but I didn't play badly. One
day in a café, I was the spectator of a prolonged
contest at chess, between two players, of whom one, a
fair-haired young man of about five-and-twenty, struck me as
playing well. The game ended in his favour; I offered to play
a match with him. He agreed,... and in the course of an hour,
beat me easily, three times running.
'You have a natural gift for the game,' he pronounced in a
courteous tone, noticing probably that my vanity was
suffering; 'but you don't know the openings. You ought to
study a chess-book—Allgacir or Petrov.'
'Do you think so? But where can I get such a book?'
'Come to me; I will give you one.'
He gave me his name, and told me where he was living. Next
day I went to see him, and a week later we were almost
My new acquaintance was called Alexander Davidovitch Fustov.
He lived with his mother, a rather wealthy woman, the widow
of a privy councillor, but he occupied a little lodge apart
and lived quite independently, just as I did at my aunt's. He
had a post in the department of Court affairs. I became
genuinely attached to him. I had never in my life met a young
man more 'sympathetic.' Everything about him was charming and
attractive: his graceful figure, his bearing, his voice, and
especially his small, delicate face with the golden-blue
eyes, the elegant, as it were coquettishly moulded little
nose, the unchanging amiable smile on the crimson lips, the
light curls of soft hair over the rather narrow, snow-white
brow. Fustov's character was remarkable for exceptional
serenity, and a sort of amiable, restrained affability; he
was never pre-occupied, and was always satisfied with
everything; but on the other hand he was never ecstatic over
anything. Every excess, even in a good feeling, jarred upon
him; 'that's savage, savage,' he would say with a faint
shrug, half closing his golden eyes. Marvellous were those
eyes of Fustov's! They invariably expressed sympathy,
good-will, even devotion. It was only at a later period that
I noticed that the expression of his eyes resulted solely
from their setting, that it never changed, even when he was
sipping his soup or smoking a cigar. His preciseness became a
byword between us. His grandmother, indeed, had been a
German. Nature had endowed him with all sorts of talents. He
danced capitally, was a dashing horseman, and a first-rate
swimmer; did carpentering, carving and joinery, bound books
and cut out silhouettes, painted in watercolours nosegays of
flowers or Napoleon in profile in a blue uniform; played the
zither with feeling; knew a number of tricks, with cards and
without; and had a fair knowledge of mechanics, physics, and
chemistry; but everything only up to a certain point. Only
for languages he had no great facility: even French he spoke
rather badly. He spoke in general little, and his share in
our students' discussions was mostly limited to the bright
sympathy of his glance and smile. To the fair sex Fustov was
attractive, undoubtedly, but on this subject, of such
importance among young people, he did not care to enlarge,
and fully deserved the nickname given him by his comrades,
'the discreet Don Juan.' I was not dazzled by Fustov; there
was nothing in him to dazzle, but I prized his affection,
though in reality it was only manifested by his never
refusing to see me when I called. To my mind Fustov was the
happiest man in the world. His life ran so very smoothly. His
mother, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles all adored him,
he was on exceptionally good terms with all of them, and
enjoyed the reputation of a paragon in his family.
One day I went round to him rather early and did not find him
in his study. He called to me from the next room; sounds of
panting and splashing reached me from there. Every morning
Fustov took a cold shower-bath and afterwards for a quarter
of an hour practised gymnastic exercises, in which he had
attained remarkable proficiency. Excessive anxiety about
one's physical health he did not approve of, but he did not
neglect necessary care. ('Don't neglect yourself, don't
over-excite yourself, work in moderation,' was his precept.)
Fustov had not yet made his appearance, when the outer door
of the room where I was waiting flew wide open, and there
walked in a man about fifty, wearing a bluish uniform. He was
a stout, squarely-built man with milky-whitish eyes in a
dark-red face and a perfect cap of thick, grey, curly hair.
This person stopped short, looked at me, opened his mouth
wide, and with a metallic chuckle, he gave himself a smart
slap on his haunch, kicking his leg up in front as he did so.
'Ivan Demianitch?' my friend inquired through the door.
'The same, at your service,' the new comer responded. 'What
are you up to? At your toilette? That's right! that's right!'
(The voice of the man addressed as Ivan Demianitch had the
same harsh, metallic note as his laugh.) 'I've trudged all
this way to give your little brother his lesson; and he's got
a cold, you know, and does nothing but sneeze. He can't do
his work. So I've looked in on you for a bit to warm myself.'
Ivan Demianitch laughed again the same strange guffaw, again
dealt himself a sounding smack on the leg, and pulling a
check handkerchief out of his pocket, blew his nose noisily,
ferociously rolling his eyes, spat into the handkerchief, and
ejaculated with the whole force of his lungs: 'Tfoo-o-o!'
Fustov came into the room, and shaking hands with both of us,
asked us if we were acquainted.
'Not a bit of it!' Ivan Demianitch boomed at once: 'the
veteran of the year twelve has not that honour!'
Fustov mentioned my name first, then, indicating the 'veteran
of the year twelve,' he pronounced: 'Ivan Demianitch Ratsch,
professor of... various subjects.'
'Precisely so, various they are, precisely,' Mr. Ratsch
chimed in. 'Come to think of it, what is there I haven't
taught, and that I'm not teaching now, for that matter!
Mathematics and geography and statistics and Italian
book-keeping, ha-ha ha-ha! and music! You doubt it, my dear
sir?'—he pounced suddenly upon me—'ask Alexander
Daviditch if I'm not first-rate on the bassoon. I should be a
poor sort of Bohemian—Czech, I should say—if I
weren't! Yes, sir, I'm a Czech, and my native place is
ancient Prague! By the way, Alexander Daviditch, why haven't
we seen you for so long! We ought to have a little duet...
'I was at your place the day before yesterday, Ivan
Demianitch,' replied Fustov.
'But I call that a long while, ha-ha!'
When Mr. Ratsch laughed, his white eyes shifted from side to
side in a strange, restless way.
'You're surprised, young man, I see, at my behaviour,' he
addressed me again. 'But that's because you don't understand
my temperament. You must just ask our good friend here,
Alexander Daviditch, to tell you about me. What'll he tell
you? He'll tell you old Ratsch is a simple, good-hearted
chap, a regular Russian, in heart, if not in origin, ha-ha!
At his christening named Johann Dietrich, but always called
Ivan Demianitch! What's in my mind pops out on my tongue; I
wear my heart, as they say, on my sleeve. Ceremony of all
sorts I know naught about and don't want to neither! Can't
bear it! You drop in on me one day of an evening, and you'll
see for yourself. My good woman—my wife, that
is—has no nonsense about her either; she'll cook and
bake you... something wonderful! Alexander Daviditch, isn't
it the truth I'm telling?'
Fustov only smiled, and I remained silent.
'Don't look down on the old fellow, but come round,' pursued
Mr. Ratsch. 'But now...' (he pulled a fat silver watch out of
his pocket and put it up to one of his goggle eyes)'I'd
better be toddling on, I suppose. I've another chick
expecting me.... Devil knows what I'm teaching him,...
mythology, by God! And he lives a long way off, the rascal,
at the Red Gate! No matter; I'll toddle off on foot. Thanks
to your brother's cutting his lesson, I shall be the fifteen
kopecks for sledge hire to the good! Ha-ha! A very good day
to you, gentlemen, till we meet again!... Eh?... We must have
a little duet!' Mr. Ratsch bawled from the passage putting on
his goloshes noisily, and for the last time we heard his
'What a strange man!' I said, turning to Fustov, who had
already set to work at his turning-lathe. 'Can he be a
foreigner? He speaks Russian so fluently.'
'He is a foreigner; only he's been thirty years in Russia. As
long ago as 1802, some prince or other brought him from
abroad... in the capacity of secretary... more likely, valet,
one would suppose. He does speak Russian fluently,
'With such go, such far-fetched turns and phrases,' I put in.
'Well, yes. Only very unnaturally too. They're all like that,
these Russianised Germans.'
'But he's a Czech, isn't he?'
'I don't know; may be. He talks German with his wife.'
'And why does he call himself a veteran of the year twelve?
Was he in the militia, or what?'
'In the militia! indeed! At the time of the fire he remained
in Moscow and lost all his property.... That was all he did.'
'But what did he stay in Moscow for?'
Fustov still went on with his turning.
'The Lord knows. I have heard that he was a spy on our side;
but that must be nonsense. But it's a fact that he received
compensation from the treasury for his losses.'
'He wears some sort of uniform.... I suppose he's in
government service then?'
'Yes. Professor in the cadet's corps. He has the rank of a
'What's his wife like?'
'A German settled here, daughter of a sausagemaker... or
'And do you often go to see him?'
'What, is it pleasant there?'
'Has he any children?'
'Yes. Three by the German, and a son and daughter by his
'And how old is the eldest daughter?'
I fancied Fustov bent lower over his lathe, and the wheel
turned more rapidly, and hummed under the even strokes of his
'Is she good-looking?'
'That's a matter of taste. She has a remarkable face, and
she's altogether... a remarkable person.'
'Aha!' thought I. Fustov continued his work with special
earnestness, and to my next question he only responded by a
'I must make her acquaintance,' I decided.
A few days later, Fustov and I set off to Mr. Ratsch's to
spend the evening. He lived in a wooden house with a big yard
and garden, in Krivoy Place near the Pretchistensky
boulevard. He came out into the passage, and meeting us with
his characteristic jarring guffaw and noise, led us at once
into the drawing-room, where he presented me to a stout lady
in a skimpy canvas gown, Eleonora Karpovna, his wife.
Eleonora Karpovna had most likely in her first youth been
possessed of what the French for some unknown reason call
beauté du diable, that is to say, freshness;
but when I made her acquaintance, she suggested involuntarily
to the mind a good-sized piece of meat, freshly laid by the
butcher on a clean marble table. Designedly I used the word
'clean'; not only our hostess herself seemed a model of
cleanliness, but everything about her, everything in the
house positively shone, and glittered; everything had been
scoured, and polished, and washed: the samovar on the round
table flashed like fire; the curtains before the windows, the
table-napkins were crisp with starch, as were also the little
frocks and shirts of Mr. Ratsch's four children sitting
there, stout, chubby little creatures, exceedingly like their
mother, with coarsely moulded, sturdy faces, curls on their
foreheads, and red, shapeless fingers. All the four of them
had rather flat noses, large, swollen-looking lips, and tiny,
'Here's my squadron!' cried Mr. Ratsch, laying his heavy hand
on the children's heads one after another. 'Kolia, Olga,
Sashka and Mashka! This one's eight, this one's seven, that
one's four, and this one's only two! Ha! ha! ha! As you can
see, my wife and I haven't wasted our time! Eh, Eleonora
'You always say things like that,' observed Eleonora Karpovna
and she turned away.
'And she's bestowed such Russian names on her squallers!' Mr.
Ratsch pursued. 'The next thing, she'll have them all
baptized into the Orthodox Church! Yes, by Jove! She's so
Slavonic in her sympathies, 'pon my soul, she is, though she
is of German blood! Eleonora Karpovna, are you Slavonic?'
Eleonora Karpovna lost her temper.
'I'm a petty councillor's wife, that's what I am! And so I'm
a Russian lady and all you may say....'
'There, the way she loves Russia, it's simply awful!' broke
in Ivan Demianitch. 'A perfect volcano, ho, ho!'
'Well, and what of it?' pursued Eleonora Karpovna. 'To be
sure I love Russia, for where else could I obtain noble rank?
And my children too are nobly born, you know. Kolia, sitze
ruhig mit den Füssen!'
Ratsch waved his hand to her.
'There, there, princess, don't excite yourself! But where's
the nobly born Viktor? To be sure, he's always gadding about!
He'll come across the inspector one of these fine days! He'll
give him a talking-to! Das ist ein Bummler, Fiktor!'
'Dem Fiktov kann ich nicht kommandiren, Ivan Demianitch. Sie
wissen wohl!' grumbled Eleonora Karpovna.
I looked at Fustov, as though wishing finally to arrive at
what induced him to visit such people... but at that instant
there came into the room a tall girl in a black dress, the
elder daughter of Mr. Ratsch, to whom Fustov had referred....
I perceived the explanation of my friend's frequent visits.
There is somewhere, I remember, in Shakespeare, something
about 'a white dove in a flock of black crows'; that was just
the impression made on me by the girl, who entered the room.
Between the world surrounding her and herself there seemed to
be too little in common; she herself seemed secretly
bewildered and wondering how she had come there. All the
members of Mr. Ratsch's family looked self-satisfied,
simple-hearted, healthy creatures; her beautiful, but already
careworn, face bore the traces of depression, pride and
morbidity. The others, unmistakable plebeians, were
unconstrained in their manners, coarse perhaps, but simple;
but a painful uneasiness was manifest in all her indubitably
aristocratic nature. In her very exterior there was no trace
of the type characteristic of the German race; she recalled
rather the children of the south. The excessively thick,
lustreless black hair, the hollow, black, lifeless but
beautiful eyes, the low, prominent brow, the aquiline nose,
the livid pallor of the smooth skin, a certain tragic line
near the delicate lips, and in the slightly sunken cheeks,
something abrupt, and at the same time helpless in the
movements, elegance without gracefulness... in Italy all this
would not have struck me as exceptional, but in Moscow, near
the Pretchistensky boulevard, it simply astonished me! I got
up from my seat on her entrance; she flung me a swift, uneasy
glance, and dropping her black eyelashes, sat down near the
window 'like Tatiana.' (Pushkin's Oniegin was then
fresh in every one's mind.) I glanced at Fustov, but my
friend was standing with his back to me, taking a cup of tea
from the plump hands of Eleonora Karpovna. I noticed further
that the girl as she came in seemed to bring with her a
breath of slight physical chillness.... 'What a statue!' was
'Piotr Gavrilitch,' thundered Mr. Ratsch, turning to me, 'let
me introduce you to my... to my... my number one, ha, ha, ha!
to Susanna Ivanovna!'
I bowed in silence, and thought at once: 'Why, the name too
is not the same sort as the others,' while Susanna rose
slightly, without smiling or loosening her tightly clasped
'And how about the duet?' Ivan Demianitch pursued: 'Alexander
Daviditch? eh? benefactor! Your zither was left with us, and
I've got the bassoon out of its case already. Let us make
sweet music for the honourable company!' (Mr. Ratsch liked to
display his Russian; he was continually bursting out with
expressions, such as those which are strewn broadcast about
the ultra-national poems of Prince Viazemsky.) 'What do you
say? Carried?' cried Ivan Demianitch, seeing Fustov made no
objection. 'Kolka, march into the study, and look sharp with
the music-stand! Olga, this way with the zither! And oblige
us with candles for the stands, better-half!' (Mr. Ratsch
turned round and round in the room like a top.) 'Piotr
Gavrilitch, you like music, hey? If you don't care for it,
you must amuse yourself with conversation, only mind, not
above a whisper! Ha, ha ha! But what ever's become of that
silly chap, Viktor? He ought to be here to listen too! You
spoil him completely, Eleonora Karpovna.'
Eleonora Karpovna fired up angrily.
'Aber was kann ich denn, Ivan Demianitch...'
'All right, all right, don't squabble! Bleibe ruhig, hast
verstanden? Alexander Daviditch! at your service, sir!'
The children had promptly done as their father had told them.
The music-stands were set up, the music began. I have already
mentioned that Fustov played the zither extremely well, but
that instrument has always produced the most distressing
impression upon me. I have always fancied, and I fancy still,
that there is imprisoned in the zither the soul of a decrepit
Jew money-lender, and that it emits nasal whines and
complaints against the merciless musician who forces it to
utter sounds. Mr. Ratsch's performance, too, was not
calculated to give me much pleasure; moreover, his face
became suddenly purple, and assumed a malignant expression,
while his whitish eyes rolled viciously, as though he were
just about to murder some one with his bassoon, and were
swearing and threatening by way of preliminary, puffing out
chokingly husky, coarse notes one after another. I placed
myself near Susanna, and waiting for a momentary pause, I
asked her if she were as fond of music as her papa.
She turned away, as though I had given her a shove, and
pronounced abruptly, 'Who?'
'Your father,' I repeated,'Mr. Ratsch.'
'Mr. Ratsch is not my father.'
'Not your father! I beg your pardon... I must have
misunderstood... But I remember, Alexander Daviditch...'
Susanna looked at me intently and shyly.
'You misunderstood Mr. Fustov. Mr. Ratsch is my stepfather.'
I was silent for a while.
'And you don't care for music?' I began again.
Susanna glanced at me again. Undoubtedly there was something
suggesting a wild creature in her eyes. She obviously had not
expected nor desired the continuation of our conversation.
'I did not say that,' she brought out slowly.
'Troo-too-too-too-too-oo-oo...' the bassoon growled with
startling fury, executing the final flourishes. I turned
round, caught sight of the red neck of Mr. Ratsch, swollen
like a boa-constrictor's, beneath his projecting ears, and
very disgusting I thought him.
'But that... instrument you surely do not care for,' I said
in an undertone.
'No... I don't care for it,' she responded, as though
catching my secret hint.
'Oho!' thought I, and felt, as it were, delighted at
'Susanna Ivanovna,' Eleonora Karpovna announced suddenly in
her German Russian, 'music greatly loves, and herself very
beautifully plays the piano, only she likes not to play the
piano when she is greatly pressed to play.'
Susanna made Eleonora Karpovna no reply—she did not
even look at her—only there was a faint movement of her
eyes, under their dropped lids, in her direction. From this
movement alone—this movement of her pupils—I
could perceive what was the nature of the feeling Susanna
cherished for the second wife of her stepfather.... And again
I was delighted at something.
Meanwhile the duet was over. Fustov got up and with
hesitating footsteps approached the window, near which
Susanna and I were sitting, and asked her if she had received
from Lengold's the music that he had promised to order her
'Selections from Robert le Diable,' he added, turning
to me, 'from that new opera that every one's making such a
'No, I haven't got it yet,' answered Susanna, and turning
round with her face to the window she whispered hurriedly.
'Please, Alexander Daviditch, I entreat you, don't make me
play to-day. I don't feel in the mood a bit.'
'What's that? Robert le Diable of Meyer-beer?' bellowed Ivan
Demianitch, coming up to us: 'I don't mind betting it's a
first-class article! He's a Jew, and all Jews, like all
Czechs, are born musicians. Especially Jews. That's right,
isn't it, Susanna Ivanovna? Hey? Ha, ha, ha, ha!'
In Mr. Ratsch's last words, and this time even in his guffaw,
there could be heard something more than his usual bantering
tone—the desire to wound was evident. So, at least, I
fancied, and so Susanna understood him. She started
instinctively, flushed red, and bit her lower lip. A spot of
light, like the gleam of a tear, flashed on her eyelash, and
rising quickly, she went out of the room.
'Where are you off to, Susanna Ivanovna?' Mr. Ratsch bawled
'Let her be, Ivan Demianitch, 'put in Eleonora Karpovna.
'Wenn sie einmal so et was im Kopfe hat...'
'A nervous temperament,'Ratsch pronounced, rotating on his
heels, and slapping himself on the haunch, 'suffers with the
plexus solaris. Oh! you needn't look at me like that,
Piotr Gavrilitch! I've had a go at anatomy too, ha, ha! I'm
even a bit of a doctor! You ask Eleonora Karpovna... I cure
all her little ailments! Oh, I'm a famous hand at that!'
'You must for ever be joking, Ivan Demianitch,' the latter
responded with displeasure, while Fustov, laughing and
gracefully swaying to and fro, looked at the husband and
'And why not be joking, mein Mütterchen?' retorted Ivan
Demianitch. 'Life's given us for use, and still more for
beauty, as some celebrated poet has observed. Kolka, wipe
your nose, little savage!'
'I was put in a very awkward position this evening through
your doing,' I said the same evening to Fustov, on the way
home with him. 'You told me that that girl—what's her
name?—Susanna, was the daughter of Mr. Ratsch, but
she's his stepdaughter.'
'Really! Did I tell you she was his daughter? But... isn't it
all the same?'
'That Ratsch,' I went on.... 'O Alexander, how I detest him!
Did you notice the peculiar sneer with which he spoke of Jews
before her? Is she... a Jewess?'
Fustov walked ahead, swinging his arms; it was cold, the snow
was crisp, like salt, under our feet.
'Yes, I recollect, I did hear something of the sort,' he
observed at last.... 'Her mother, I fancy, was of Jewish
'Then Mr. Ratsch must have married a widow the first time?'
'H'm!... And that Viktor, who didn't come in this evening, is
his stepson too?'
'No... he's his real son. But, as you know, I don't enter
into other people's affairs, and I don't like asking
questions. I'm not inquisitive.'
I bit my tongue. Fustov still pushed on ahead. As we got near
home, I overtook him and peeped into his face.
'Oh!' I queried, 'is Susanna really so musical?'
'She plays the piano well, 'he said between his teeth. 'Only
she's very shy, I warn you!' he added with a slight grimace.
He seemed to be regretting having made me acquainted with
I said nothing and we parted.
Next morning I set off again to Fustov's. To spend my
mornings at his rooms had become a necessity for me. He
received me cordially, as usual, but of our visit of the
previous evening—not a word! As though he had taken
water into his mouth, as they say. I began turning over the
pages of the last number of the Telescope.
A person, unknown to me, came into the room. It turned out to
be Mr. Ratsch's son, the Viktor whose absence had been
censured by his father the evening before.
He was a young man, about eighteen, but already looked
dissipated and unhealthy, with a mawkishly insolent grin on
his unclean face, and an expression of fatigue in his swollen
eyes. He was like his father, only his features were smaller
and not without a certain prettiness. But in this very
prettiness there was something offensive. He was dressed in a
very slovenly way; there were buttons off his undergraduate's
coat, one of his boots had a hole in it, and he fairly reeked
'How d'ye do,' he said in a sleepy voice, with those peculiar
twitchings of the head and shoulders which I have always
noticed in spoilt and conceited young men. 'I meant to go to
the University, but here I am. Sort of oppression on my
chest. Give us a cigar.' He walked right across the room,
listlessly dragging his feet, and keeping his hands in his
trouser-pockets, and sank heavily upon the sofa.
'Have you caught cold?' asked Fustov, and he introduced us to
each other. We were both students, but were in different
'No!... Likely! Yesterday, I must own...' (here Ratsch junior
smiled, again not without a certain prettiness, though he
showed a set of bad teeth) 'I was drunk, awfully drunk.
Yes'—he lighted a cigar and cleared his
throat—'Obihodov's farewell supper.'
'Where's he going?'
'To the Caucasus, and taking his young lady with him. You
know the black-eyed girl, with the freckles. Silly fool!'
'Your father was asking after you yesterday,' observed
Viktor spat aside. 'Yes, I heard about it. You were at our
den yesterday. Well, music, eh?'
'And she... with a new visitor' (here he pointed with
his head in my direction) 'she gave herself airs, I'll be
bound. Wouldn't play, eh?'
'Of whom are you speaking?' Fustov asked.
'Why, of the most honoured Susanna Ivanovna, of course!'
Viktor lolled still more comfortably, put his arm up round
his head, gazed at his own hand, and cleared his throat
I glanced at Fustov. He merely shrugged his shoulders, as
though giving me to understand that it was no use talking to
such a dolt.
Viktor, staring at the ceiling, fell to talking, deliberately
and through his nose, of the theatre, of two actors he knew,
of a certain Serafrina Serafrinovna, who had 'made a fool' of
him, of the new professor, R., whom he called a brute.
'Because, only fancy, what a monstrous notion! Every lecture
he begins with calling over the students' names, and he's
reckoned a liberal too! I'd have all your liberals locked up
in custody!' and turning at last his full face and whole body
towards Fustov, he brought out in a half-plaintive,
half-ironical voice: 'I wanted to ask you something,
Alexander Daviditch.... Couldn't you talk my governor round
somehow?... You play duets with him, you know.... Here he
gives me five miserable blue notes a month.... What's the use
of that! Not enough for tobacco. And then he goes on about my
not making debts! I should like to put him in my place, and
then we should see! I don't come in for pensions, not like
some people.' (Viktor pronounced these last words with
peculiar emphasis.) 'But he's got a lot of tin, I know! It's
no use his whining about hard times, there's no taking me in.
No fear! He's made a snug little pile!'
Fustov looked dubiously at Victor.
'If you like,' he began, 'I'll speak to your father. Or, if
you like... meanwhile... a trifling sum....'
'Oh, no! Better get round the governor... Though,' added
Viktor, scratching his nose with all his fingers at once,
'you might hand over five-and-twenty roubles, if it's the
same to you.... What's the blessed total I owe you?'
'You've borrowed eighty-five roubles of me.'
'Yes.... Well, that's all right, then... make it a hundred
and ten. I'll pay it all in a lump.'
Fustov went into the next room, brought back a
twenty-five-rouble note and handed it in silence to Viktor.
The latter took it, yawned with his mouth wide open, grumbled
thanks, and, shrugging and stretching, got up from the sofa.
'Foo! though... I'm bored,' he muttered, 'might as well turn
in to the "Italie."'
He moved towards the door.
Fustov looked after him. He seemed to be struggling with
'What pension were you alluding to just now, Viktor
Ivanitch?' he asked at last.
Viktor stopped in the doorway and put on his cap.
'Oh, don't you know? Susanna Ivanovna's pension.... She gets
one. An awfully curious story, I can tell you! I'll tell it
you one of these days. Quite an affair, 'pon my soul, a queer
affair. But, I say, the governor, you won't forget about the
governor, please! His hide is thick, of course—German,
and it's had a Russian tanning too, still you can get through
it. Only, mind my step-mother Elenorka's nowhere about! Dad's
afraid of her, and she wants to keep everything for her
brats! But there, you know your way about! Good-bye!'
'Ugh, what a low beast that boy is!' cried Fustov, as soon as
the door had slammed-to.
His face was burning, as though from the fire, and he turned
away from me. I did not question him, and soon retired.
All that day I spent in speculating about Fustov, about
Susanna, and about her relations. I had a vague feeling of
something like a family drama. As far as I could judge, my
friend was not indifferent to Susanna. But she? Did she care
for him? Why did she seem so unhappy? And altogether, what
sort of creature was she? These questions were continually
recurring to my mind. An obscure but strong conviction told
me that it would be no use to apply to Fustov for the
solution of them. It ended in my setting off the next day
alone to Mr. Ratsch's house.
I felt all at once very uncomfortable and confused directly I
found myself in the dark little passage. 'She won't appear
even, very likely,' flashed into my mind. 'I shall have to
stop with the repulsive veteran and his cook of a wife....
And indeed, even if she does show herself, what of it? She
won't even take part in the conversation.... She was anything
but warm in her manner to me the other day. Why ever did I
come?' While I was making these reflections, the little page
ran to announce my presence, and in the adjoining room, after
two or three wondering 'Who is it? Who, do you say?' I heard
the heavy shuffling of slippers, the folding-door was
slightly opened, and in the crack between its two halves was
thrust the face of Ivan Demianitch, an unkempt and
grim-looking face. It stared at me and its expression did not
immediately change.... Evidently, Mr. Ratsch did not at once
recognise me; but suddenly his cheeks grew rounder, his eyes
narrower, and from his opening mouth, there burst, together
with a guffaw, the exclamation: 'Ah! my dear sir! Is it you?
Pray walk in!'
I followed him all the more unwillingly, because it seemed to
me that this affable, good-humoured Mr. Ratsch was inwardly
wishing me at the devil. There was nothing to be done,
however. He led me into the drawing-room, and in the
drawing-room who should be sitting but Susanna, bending over
an account-book? She glanced at me with her melancholy eyes,
and very slightly bit the finger-nails of her left hand....
It was a habit of hers, I noticed, a habit peculiar to
nervous people. There was no one else in the room.
'You see, sir,' began Mr. Ratsch, dealing himself a smack on
the haunch, 'what you've found Susanna Ivanovna and me busy
upon: we're at our accounts. My spouse has no great head for
arithmetic, and I, I must own, try to spare my eyes. I can't
read without spectacles, what am I to do? Let the young
people exert themselves, ha-ha! That's the proper thing. But
there's no need of haste.... More haste, worse speed in
catching fleas, he-he!'
Susanna closed the book, and was about to leave the room.
'Wait a bit, wait a bit,' began Mr. Ratsch. 'It's no great
matter if you're not in your best dress....' (Susanna was
wearing a very old, almost childish, frock with short
sleeves.) 'Our dear guest is not a stickler for ceremony, and
I should like just to clear up last week.... You don't
mind?'—he addressed me. 'We needn't stand on ceremony
with you, eh?'
'Please don't put yourself out on my account!' I cried.
'To be sure, my good friend. As you're aware, the late Tsar
Alexey Nikolavitch Romanoff used to say, "Time is for
business, but a minute for recreation!" We'll devote one
minute only to that same business... ha-ha! What about that
thirteen roubles and thirty kopecks?' he added in a low
voice, turning his back on me.
'Viktor took it from Eleonora Karpovna; he said that it was
with your leave,' Susanna replied, also in a low voice.
'He said... he said... my leave...' growled Ivan Demianitch.
'I'm on the spot myself, I fancy. Might be asked. And who's
had that seventeen roubles?'
'Oh... the upholsterer. What's that for?' 'His bill.'
'His bill. Show me!' He pulled the book away from Susanna,
and planting a pair of round spectacles with silver rims on
his nose, he began passing his finger along the lines. 'The
upholsterer,.. the upholsterer... You'd chuck all the money
out of doors! Nothing pleases you better!... Wie die Croaten!
A bill indeed! But, after all,' he added aloud, and he turned
round facing me again, and pulled the spectacles off his
nose, 'why do this now? I can go into these wretched details
later. Susanna Ivanovna, be so good as to put away that
account-book, and come back to us and enchant our kind
guest's ears with your musical accomplishments, to wit,
playing on the pianoforte... Eh?'
Susanna turned away her head.
'I should be very happy,' I hastily observed; 'it would be a
great pleasure for me to hear Susanna Ivanovna play. But I
would not for anything in the world be a trouble...'
'Trouble, indeed, what nonsense! Now then, Susanna Ivanovna,
eins, zwei, drei!'
Susanna made no response, and went out.
I had not expected her to come back; but she quickly
reappeared. She had not even changed her dress, and sitting
down in a corner, she looked twice intently at me. Whether it
was that she was conscious in my manner to her of the
involuntary respect, inexplicable to myself, which, more than
curiosity, more even than sympathy, she aroused in me, or
whether she was in a softened frame of mind that day, any
way, she suddenly went to the piano, and laying her hand
irresolutely on the keys, and turning her head a little over
her shoulder towards me, she asked what I would like her to
play. Before I had time to answer she had seated herself,
taken up some music, hurriedly opened it, and begun to play.
I loved music from childhood, but at that time I had but
little comprehension of it, and very slight knowledge of the
works of the great masters, and if Mr. Ratsch had not
grumbled with some dissatisfaction, 'Aha! wieder dieser
Beethoven!' I should not have guessed what Susanna had
chosen. It was, as I found out afterwards, the celebrated
sonata in F minor, opus 57. Susanna's playing impressed me
more than I can say; I had not expected such force, such
fire, such bold execution. At the very first bars of the
intensely passionate allegro, the beginning of the sonata, I
felt that numbness, that chill and sweet terror of ecstasy,
which instantaneously enwrap the soul when beauty bursts with
sudden flight upon it. I did not stir a limb till the very
end. I kept, wanting—and not daring—to sigh. I
was sitting behind Susanna; I could not see her face; I saw
only from time to time her long dark hair tossed up and down
on her shoulders, her figure swaying impulsively, and her
delicate arms and bare elbows swiftly, and rather angularly,
moving. The last notes died away. I sighed at last. Susanna
still sat before the piano.
'Ja, ja,' observed Mr. Ratsch, who had also, however,
listened with attention; 'romantische Musik! That's all the
fashion nowadays. Only, why not play correctly? Eh? Put your
finger on two notes at once—what's that for? Eh? To be
sure, all we care for is to go quickly, quickly! Turns it out
hotter, eh? Hot pancakes!' he bawled like a street seller.
Susanna turned slightly towards Mr. Ratsch. I caught sight of
her face in profile. The delicate eyebrow rose high above the
downcast eyelid, an unsteady flush overspread the cheek, the
little ear was red under the lock pushed behind it.
'I have heard all the best performers with my own ears,'
pursued Mr. Ratsch, suddenly frowning, 'and compared with the
late Field they were all—tfoo! nil! zero!! Das war ein
Kerl! Und ein so reines Spiel! And his own compositions the
finest things! But all those now "tloo-too-too," and
"tra-ta-ta," are written, I suppose, more for beginners. Da
braucht man keine Delicatesse! Bang the keys anyhow... no
matter! It'll turn out some how! Janitscharen Musik! Pugh!'
(Ivan Demianitch wiped his forehead with his handkerchief.)
'But I don't say that for you, Susanna Ivanovna; you played
well, and oughtn't to be hurt by my remarks.'
'Every one has his own taste,' Susanna said in a low voice,
and her lips were trembling; 'but your remarks, Ivan
Demianitch, you know, cannot hurt me.'
'Oh! of course not! Only don't you imagine'—Mr. Ratsch
turned to me—'don't you imagine, my young friend, that
that comes from our excessive good-nature and meekness of
spirit; it's simply that we fancy ourselves so highly exalted
that—oo-oo!—we can't keep our cap on our head, as
the Russian proverb says, and, of course, no criticism can
touch us. The conceit, my dear sir, the conceit!'
I listened in surprise to Mr. Ratsch. Spite, the bitterest
spite, seemed as it were boiling over in every word he
uttered.... And long it must have been rankling! It choked
him. He tried to conclude his tirade with his usual laugh,
and fell into a husky, broken cough instead. Susanna did not
let drop a syllable in reply to him, only she shook her head,
raised her face, and clasping her elbows with her hands,
stared straight at him. In the depths of her fixed, wide-open
eyes the hatred of long years lay smouldering with dim,
unquenchable fire. I felt ill at ease.
'You belong to two different musical generations,' I began,
with an effort at lightness, wishing by this lightness to
suggest that I noticed nothing, 'and so it is not surprising
that you do not agree in your opinions.... But, Ivan
Demianitch, you must allow me to take rather... the side of
the younger generation. I'm an outsider, of course; but I
must confess nothing in music has ever made such an
impression on me as the... as what Susanna Ivanovna has just
Ratsch pounced at once upon me.
'And what makes you suppose,' he roared, still purple from
the fit of coughing, 'that we want to enlist you on our side?
We don't want that at all! Freedom for the free, salvation
for the saved! But as to the two generations, that's right
enough; we old folks find it hard to get on with you young
people, very hard! Our ideas don't agree in anything: neither
in art, nor in life, nor even in morals; do they, Susanna
Susanna smiled a contemptuous smile.
'Especially in regard to morals, as you say, our ideas do not
agree, and cannot agree,' she responded, and something
menacing seemed to flit over her brows, while her lips were
faintly trembling as before.
'Of course! of course!' Ratsch broke in, 'I'm not a
philosopher! I'm not capable of... rising so superior! I'm a
plain man, swayed by prejudices—oh yes!'
Susanna smiled again.
'I think, Ivan Demianitch, you too have sometimes been able
to place yourself above what are called prejudices.'
'Wie so? How so, I mean? I don't know what you mean.'
'You don't know what I mean? Your memory's so bad!'
Mr. Ratsch seemed utterly taken aback.
'I... I...' he repeated, 'I...'
'Yes, you, Mr. Ratsch.'
There followed a brief silence.
'Really, upon my word...' Mr. Ratsch was beginning; 'how dare
you... such insolence...'
Susanna all at once drew herself up to her full height, and
still holding her elbows, squeezing them tight, drumming on
them with her fingers, she stood still facing Ratsch. She
seemed to challenge him to conflict, to stand up to meet him.
Her face was changed; it became suddenly, in one instant,
extraordinarily beautiful, and terrible too; a sort of
bright, cold brilliance—the brilliance of
steel—gleamed in her lustreless eyes; the lips that had
been quivering were compressed in one straight, mercilessly
stern line. Susanna challenged Ratsch, but he gazed blankly,
and suddenly subsiding into silence, all of a heap, so to
say, drew his head in, even stepped back a pace. The veteran
of the year twelve was afraid; there could be no mistake
Susanna slowly turned her eyes from him to me, as though
calling upon me to witness her victory, and the humiliation
of her foe, and, smiling once more, she walked out of the
The veteran remained a little while motionless in his
arm-chair; at last, as though recollecting a forgotten part,
he roused himself, got up, and, slapping me on the shoulder,
laughed his noisy guffaw.
'There, 'pon my soul! fancy now, it's over ten years I've
been living with that young lady, and yet she never can see
when I'm joking, and when I'm in earnest! And you too, my
young friend, are a little puzzled, I do believe....
Ha-ha-ha! That's because you don't know old Ratsch!'
'No.... I do know you now,' I thought, not without a feeling
of some alarm and disgust.
'You don't know the old fellow, you don't know him,' he
repeated, stroking himself on the stomach, as he accompanied
me into the passage. 'I may be a tiresome person, knocked
about by life, ha-ha! But I'm a good-hearted fellow, 'pon my
soul, I am!'
I rushed headlong from the stairs into the street. I longed
with all speed to get away from that good-hearted fellow.
'They hate one another, that's clear,' I thought, as I
returned homewards; 'there's no doubt either that he's a
wretch of a man, and she's a good girl. But what has there
been between them? What is the reason of this continual
exasperation? What was the meaning of those hints? And how
suddenly it broke out! On such a trivial pretext!'
Next day Fustov and I had arranged to go to the theatre, to
see Shtchepkin in 'Woe from Wit.' Griboyedov's comedy had
only just been licensed for performance after being first
disfigured by the censors' mutilations. We warmly applauded
Famusov and Skalozub. I don't remember what actor took the
part of Tchatsky, but I well remember that he was
indescribably bad. He made his first appearance in a
Hungarian jacket, and boots with tassels, and came on later
in a frockcoat of the colour 'flamme du punch,' then in
fashion, and the frockcoat looked about as suitable as it
would have done on our old butler. I recollect too that we
were all in ecstasies over the ball in the third act. Though,
probably, no one ever executed such steps in reality, it was
accepted as correct and I believe it is acted in just the
same way to-day. One of the guests hopped excessively high,
while his wig flew from side to side, and the public roared
with laughter. As we were coming out of the theatre, we
jostled against Viktor in a corridor.
'You were in the theatre!' he cried, flinging his arms about.
'How was it I didn't see you? I'm awfully glad I met you. You
must come and have supper with me. Come on; I'll stand the
Young Ratsch seemed in an excited, almost ecstatic, frame of
mind. His little eyes darted to and fro; he was grinning, and
there were spots of red on his face.
'Why this gleefulness?' asked Fustov.
'Why? Wouldn't you like to know, eh?' Viktor drew us a little
aside, and pulling out of his trouser-pocket a whole bundle
of the red and blue notes then in use waved them in the air.
Fustov was surprised.
'Has your governor been so liberal?'
'He liberal! You just try it on!... This morning, relying on
your intercession, I asked him for cash. What do you suppose
the old skinflint answered? "I'll pay your debts," says he,
"if you like. Up to twenty-five roubles inclusive!" Do you
hear, inclusive! No, sir, this was a gift from God in my
destitution. A lucky chance.'
'Been robbing someone?' Fustov hazarded carelessly.
'Robbing, no indeed! I won it, won it from an officer, a
guardsman. He only arrived from Petersburg yesterday. Such a
chain of circumstances! It's worth telling... only this isn't
the place. Come along to Yar's; not a couple of steps. I'll
stand the show, as I said!'
We ought, perhaps, to have refused; but we followed without
making any objection.
At Yar's we were shown into a private room; supper was
served, champagne was brought. Viktor related to us, omitting
no detail, how he had in a certain 'gay' house met this
officer of the guards, a very nice chap and of good family,
only without a hap'orth of brains; how they had made friends,
how he, the officer that is, had suggested as a joke a game
of 'fools' with Viktor with some old cards, for next to
nothing, and with the condition that the officer's winnings
should go to the benefit of Wilhelmina, but Viktor's to his
own benefit; how afterwards they had got on to betting on the
'And I, and I,' cried Viktor, and he jumped up and clapped
his hands, 'I hadn't more than six roubles in my pocket all
the while. Fancy! And at first I was completely cleaned
out.... A nice position! Only then—in answer to whose
prayers I can't say—fortune smiled. The other fellow
began to get hot and kept showing all his cards.... In no
time he'd lost seven hundred and fifty roubles! He began
begging me to go on playing, but I'm not quite a fool, I
fancy; no, one mustn't abuse such luck; I popped on my hat
and cut away. So now I've no need to eat humble pie with the
governor, and can treat my friends.... Hi waiter! Another
bottle! Gentlemen, let's clink glasses!'
We did clink glasses with Viktor, and continued drinking and
laughing with him, though his story was by no means to our
liking, nor was his society a source of any great
satisfaction to us either. He began being very affable,
playing the buffoon, unbending, in fact, and was more
loathsome than ever. Viktor noticed at last the impression he
was making on us, and began to get sulky; his remarks became
more disconnected and his looks gloomier. He began yawning,
announced that he was sleepy, and after swearing with his
characteristic coarseness at the waiter for a badly cleaned
pipe, he suddenly accosted Fustov, with a challenging
expression on his distorted face.
'I say, Alexander Daviditch,' said he, 'you tell me, if you
please, what do you look down on me for?'
'How so?' My friend was momentarily at a loss for a reply.
'I'll tell you how.... I'm very well aware that you look down
on me, and that person does too' (he pointed at me with his
finger), 'so there! As though you were yourself remarkable
for such high and exalted principles, and weren't just as
much a sinner as the rest of us. Worse even. Still waters...
you know the proverb?'
Fustov turned rather red.
'What do you mean by that?' he asked.
'Why, I mean that I'm not blind yet, and I see very clearly
everything that's going on under my nose.... And I have
nothing against it: first it's not my principle to interfere,
and secondly, my sister Susanna Ivanovna hasn't always been
so exemplary herself.... Only, why look down on me?'
'You don't understand what you're babbling there yourself!
You're drunk,' said Fustov, taking his overcoat from the
wall. 'He's swindled some fool of his money, and now he's
telling all sorts of lies!'
Viktor continued reclining on the sofa, and merely swung his
legs, which were hanging over its arm.
'Swindled! Why did you drink the wine, then? It was paid for
with the money I won, you know. As for lies, I've no need for
lying. It's not my fault that in her past Susanna
'Hold your tongue!' Fustov shouted at him, 'hold your
'You'll find out what. Come along, Piotr.'
'Aha!' pursued Viktor; 'our noble-hearted knight takes refuge
in flight. He doesn't care to hear the truth, that's evident!
It stings—the truth does, it seems!'
'Come along, Piotr,' Fustov repeated, completely losing his
habitual coolness and self-possession.
'Let's leave this wretch of a boy!'
'The boy's not afraid of you, do you hear,' Viktor shouted
after us, 'he despises you, the boy does! Do you hear!'
Fustov walked so quickly along the street that I had
difficulty in keeping up with him. All at once he stopped
short and turned sharply back.
'Where are you going?' I asked.
'Oh, I must find out what the idiot.... He's drunk, no doubt,
God knows what.... Only don't you follow me... we shall see
each other to-morrow. Good-bye!'
And hurriedly pressing my hand, Fustov set off towards Yar's
Next day I missed seeing Fustov; and on the day after that,
on going to his rooms, I learned that he had gone into the
country to his uncle's, near Moscow. I inquired if he had
left no note for me, but no note was forth-coming. Then I
asked the servant whether he knew how long Alexander
Daviditch would be away in the country. 'A fortnight, or a
little more, probably,' replied the man. I took at any rate
Fustov's exact address, and sauntered home, meditating
deeply. This unexpected absence from Moscow, in the winter,
completed my utter perplexity. My good aunt observed to me at
dinner that I seemed continually expecting something, and
gazed at the cabbage pie as though I were beholding it for
the first time in my life. 'Pierre, vous n'êtes pas
amoureux?' she cried at last, having previously got rid of
her companions. But I reassured her: no, I was not in love.
Three days passed. I had a secret prompting to go to the
Ratschs'. I fancied that in their house I should be sure to
find a solution of all that absorbed my mind, that I could
not make out.... But I should have had to meet the
veteran.... That thought pulled me up. One tempestuous
evening—the February wind was howling angrily outside,
the frozen snow tapped at the window from time to time like
coarse sand flung by a mighty hand—I was sitting in my
room, trying to read. My servant came, and, with a mysterious
air, announced that a lady wished to see me. I was
surprised... ladies did not visit me, especially at such a
late hour; however, I told him to show her in. The door
opened and with swift step there walked in a woman, muffled
up in a light summer cloak and a yellow shawl. Abruptly she
cast off the cloak and the shawl, which were covered with
snow, and I saw standing before me Susanna. I was so
astonished that I did not utter a word, while she went up to
the window, and leaning her shoulder against the wall,
remained motionless; only her bosom heaved convulsively and
her eyes moved restlessly, and the breath came with a faint
moan from her white lips. I realised that it was no slight
trouble that had brought her to me; I realised, for all my
youth and shallowness, that at that instant before my eyes
the fate of a whole life was being decided—a bitter and
'Susanna Ivanovna,' I began, 'how...'
She suddenly clutched my hand in her icy fingers, but her
voice failed her. She gave a broken sigh and looked down. Her
heavy coils of black hair fell about her face.... The snow
had not melted from off it.
'Please, calm yourself, sit down,' I began again, 'see here,
on the sofa. What has happened? Sit down, I entreat you.'
'No,' she articulated, scarcely audibly, and she sank on to
the window-seat. 'I am all right here.... Let me be.... You
could not expect... but if you knew... if I could... if...'
She tried to control herself, but the tears flowed from her
eyes with a violence that shook her, and sobs, hurried,
devouring sobs, filled the room. I felt a tightness at my
heart.... I was utterly stupefied. I had seen Susanna only
twice; I had conjectured that she had a hard life, but I had
regarded her as a proud girl, of strong character, and all at
once these violent, despairing tears.... Mercy! Why, one only
weeps like that in the presence of death!
I stood like one condemned to death myself.
'Excuse me,' she said at last, several times, almost angrily,
wiping first one eye, then the other. 'It'll soon be over.
I've come to you....' She was still sobbing, but without
tears. 'I've come.... You know that Alexander Daviditch has
In this single question Susanna revealed everything, and she
glanced at me, as though she would say: 'You understand, of
course, you will have pity, won't you?' Unhappy girl! There
was no other course left her then!
I did not know what answer to make....
'He has gone away, he has gone away... he believed him!'
Susanna was saying meanwhile. 'He did not care even to
question me; he thought I should not tell him all the truth,
he could think that of me! As though I had ever deceived
She bit her lower lip, and bending a little, began to scratch
with her nail the patterns of ice that covered the
window-pane. I went hastily into the next room, and sending
my servant away, came back at once and lighted another
candle. I had no clear idea why I was doing all this.... I
was greatly overcome. Susanna was sitting as before on the
window-seat, and it was at this moment that I noticed how
lightly she was dressed: a grey gown with white buttons and a
broad leather belt, that was all. I went up to her, but she
did not take any notice of me.
'He believed it,... he believed it,' she whispered, swaying
softly from side to side. 'He did not hesitate, he dealt me
this last... last blow!' She turned suddenly to me. 'You know
'Yes, Susanna Ivanovna.. I learnt it from his servants... at
his house. He told me nothing of his intention; I had not
seen him for two days—went to inquire and he had
already left Moscow.'
'You know his address?' she repeated. 'Well, write to him
then that he has killed me. You are a good man, I know. He
did not talk to you of me, I dare say, but he talked to me
about you. Write... ah, write to him to come back quickly, if
he wants to find me alive!... No! He will not find me!...'
Susanna's voice grew quieter at each word, and she was
quieter altogether. But this calm seemed to me more awful
than the previous sobs.
'He believed him,...' she said again, and rested her chin on
her clasped hands.
A sudden squall of wind beat upon the window with a sharp
whistle and a thud of snow. A cold draught passed over the
room.... The candles flickered.... Susanna shivered. Again I
begged her to sit on the sofa.
'No, no, let me be,' she answered, 'I am all right here.
Please.' She huddled up to the frozen pane, as though she had
found herself a refuge in the recesses of the window.
'But you're shivering, you're frozen,' I cried, 'Look, your
shoes are soaked.'
'Let me be... please...' she whispered,. and closed her eyes.
A panic seized me.
'Susanna Ivanovna!' I almost screamed: 'do rouse yourself, I
entreat you! What is the matter with you? Why such despair?
You will see, every thing will be cleared up, some
misunderstanding... some unlooked-for chance.... You will
see, he will soon be back. I will let him know.... I will
write to him to-day.... But I will not repeat your words....
Is it possible!'
'He will not find me,' Susanna murmured, still in the same
subdued voice. 'Do you suppose I would have come here, to
you, to a stranger, if I had not known I should not long be
living? Ah, all my past has been swept away beyond return!
You see, I could not bear to die so, in solitude, in silence,
without saying to some one, "I've lost every thing... and I'm
She drew back into her cold little corner.... Never shall I
forget that head, those fixed eyes with their deep, burnt-out
look, those dark, disordered tresses against the pale
window-pane, even the grey, narrow gown, under every fold of
which throbbed such young, passionate life!
Unconsciously I flung up my hands.
'You... you die, Susanna Ivanovna! You have only to live....
You must live!'
She looked at me.... My words seemed to surprise her.
'Ah, you don't know,' she began, and she softly dropped both
her hands. 'I cannot live, Too much, too much I have had to
suffer, too much! I lived through it.... I hoped... but
now... when even this is shattered... when...'
She raised her eyes to the ceiling and seemed to sink into
thought. The tragic line, which I had once noticed about her
lips, came out now still more clearly; it seemed to spread
across her whole face. It seemed as though some relentless
hand had drawn it immutably, had set a mark for ever on this
She was still silent.
'Susanna Ivanovna,' I said, to break that awful silence with
anything; 'he will come back, I assure you!'
Susanna looked at me again.
'What do you say?' she enunciated with visible effort.
'He will come back, Susanna Ivanovna, Alexander will come
'He will come back?' she repeated. 'But even if he did come
back, I cannot forgive him this humiliation, this lack of
She clutched at her head.
'My God! my God! what am I saying, and why am I here? What is
it all? What... what did I come to ask... and whom? Ah, I am
Her eyes came to a rest.
'You wanted to ask me to write to Alexander,' I made haste to
'Yes, write, write to him... what you like.... And here...'
She hurriedly fumbled in her pocket and brought out a little
manuscript book. 'This I was writing for him... before he ran
away.... But he believed... he believed him!'
I understood that her words referred to Viktor; Susanna would
not mention him, would not utter his detested name.
'But, Susanna Ivanovna, excuse me,' I began, 'what makes you
suppose that Alexander Daviditch had any conversation... with
'What? Why, he himself came to me and told me all about it,
and bragged of it... and laughed just as his father laughs!
Here, here, take it,' she went on, thrusting the manuscript
into my hand, 'read it, send it to him, burn it, throw it
away, do what you like, as you please.... But I can't die
like this with no one knowing.... Now it is time.... I must
She got up from the window-seat.... I stopped her.
'Where are you going, Susanna Ivanovna, mercy on us! Listen,
what a storm is raging! You are so lightly dressed.... And
your home is not near here. Let me at least go for a
carriage, for a sledge....'
'No, no, I want nothing,' she said resolutely, repelling me
and taking up her cloak and shawl. 'Don't keep me, for God's
sake! or... I can't answer for anything! I feel an abyss, a
dark abyss under my feet.... Don't come near me, don't touch
me!' With feverish haste she put on her cloak, arranged her
shawl.... 'Good-bye... good-bye.... Oh, my unhappy people,
for ever strangers, a curse lies upon us! No one has ever
cared for me, was it likely he...' She suddenly ceased. 'No;
one man loved me,' she began again, wringing her hands, 'but
death is all about me, death and no escape! Now it is my
turn.... Don't come after me,' she cried shrilly. 'Don't
come! don't come!'
I was petrified, while she rushed out; and an instant later,
I heard the slam downstairs of the heavy street door, and the
window panes shook again under the violent onslaught of the
I could not quickly recover myself. I was only beginning life
in those days: I had had no experience of passion nor of
suffering, and had rarely witnessed any manifestation of
strong feeling in others.... But the sincerity of this
suffering, of this passion, impressed me. If it had not been
for the manuscript in my hands, I might have thought that I
had dreamed it all—it was all so unlikely, and swooped
by like a passing storm. I was till midnight reading the
manuscript. It consisted of several sheets of letter-paper,
closely covered with a large, irregular writing, almost
without an erasure. Not a single line was quite straight, and
one seemed in every one of them to feel the excited trembling
of the hand that held the pen. Here follows what was in the
manuscript. I have kept it to this day.
I am this year twenty-eight years old. Here are my earliest
recollections; I was living in the Tambov province, in the
country house of a rich landowner, Ivan Matveitch Koltovsky,
in a small room on the second storey. With me lived my
mother, a Jewess, daughter of a dead painter, who had come
from abroad, a woman always ailing, with an extraordinarily
beautiful face, pale as wax, and such mournful eyes, that
sometimes when she gazed long at me, even without looking at
her, I was aware of her sorrowful, sorrowful eyes, and I
would burst into tears and rush to embrace her. I had tutors
come to me; I had music lessons, and was called 'miss.' I
dined at the master's table together with my mother. Mr.
Koltovsky was a tall, handsome old man with a stately manner;
he always smelt of ambre. I stood in mortal terror of
him, though he called me Suzon and gave me his dry, sinewy
hand to kiss under its lace-ruffles. With my mother he was
elaborately courteous, but he talked little even with her. He
would say two or three affable words, to which she promptly
made a hurried answer; and he would be silent and sit looking
about him with dignity, and slowly picking up a pinch of
Spanish snuff from his round, golden snuff-box with the arms
of the Empress Catherine on it.
My ninth year has always remained vivid in my memory.... I
learnt then, from the maids in the servants' room, that Ivan
Matveitch Koltovsky was my father, and almost on the same
day, my mother, by his command, was married to Mr. Ratsch,
who was something like a steward to him. I was utterly unable
to comprehend the possibility of such a thing, I was
bewildered, I was almost ill, my brain suffered under the
strain, my mind was overclouded. 'Is it true, is it true,
mamma,' I asked her, 'that scented bogey' (that was my name
for Ivan Matveitch) 'is my father?' My mother was terribly
scared, she shut my mouth.... 'Never speak to any one of
that, do you hear, Susanna, do you hear, not a word!'... she
repeated in a shaking voice, pressing my head to her
bosom.... And I never did speak to any one of it.... That
prohibition of my mother's I understood.... I understood that
I must be silent, that my mother begged my forgiveness!
My unhappiness began from that day. Mr. Ratsch did not love
my mother, and she did not love him. He married her for
money, and she was obliged to submit. Mr. Koltovsky probably
considered that in this way everything had been arranged for
the best, la position était
régularisée. I remember the day before the
marriage my mother and I—both locked in each other's
arms—wept almost the whole morning—bitterly,
bitterly—and silently. It is not strange that she was
silent.... What could she say to me? But that I did not
question her shows that unhappy children learn wisdom sooner
than happy ones... to their cost.
Mr. Koltovsky continued to interest himself in my education,
and even by degrees put me on a more intimate footing. He did
not talk to me... but morning and evening, after flicking the
snuff from his jabot with two fingers, he would with the same
two fingers—always icy cold—pat me on the cheek
and give me some sort of dark-coloured sweetmeats, also
smelling of ambre, which I never ate. At twelve years
old I became his reader—-sa petite lectrice. I
read him French books of the last century, the memoirs of
Saint Simon, of Mably, Renal, Helvetius, Voltaire's
correspondence, the encyclopedists, of course without
understanding a word, even when, with a smile and a grimace,
he ordered me, 'relire ce dernier paragraphe, qui est bien
remarquable!' Ivan Matveitch was completely a Frenchman. He
had lived in Paris till the Revolution, remembered Marie
Antoinette, and had received an invitation to Trianon to see
her. He had also seen Mirabeau, who, according to his
account, wore very large
buttons—exagéré en tout, and was
altogether a man of mauvais ton, en dépit de sa
naissance! Ivan Matveitch, however, rarely talked of that
time; but two or three times a year, addressing himself to
the crooked old emigrant whom he had taken into his house,
and called for some unknown reason 'M. le Commandeur,' he
recited in his deliberate, nasal voice, the impromptu he had
once delivered at a soiree of the Duchesse de Polignac. I
remember only the first two lines.... It had reference to a
comparison between the Russians and the French:
'L'aigle se plait aux regions austères
Ou le ramier ne saurait habiter...'
'Digne de M. de Saint Aulaire!' M. le Commandeur would every
Ivan Matveitch looked youngish up to the time of his death:
his cheeks were rosy, his teeth white, his eyebrows thick and
immobile, his eyes agreeable and expressive, clear, black
eyes, perfect agate. He was not at all unreasonable, and was
very courteous with every one, even with the servants....
But, my God! how wretched I was with him, with what joy I
always left him, what evil thoughts confounded me in his
presence! Ah, I was not to blame for them!... I was not to
blame for what they had made of me....
Mr. Ratsch was, after his marriage, assigned a lodge not far
from the big house. I lived there with my mother. It was a
cheerless life I led there. She soon gave birth to a son,
Viktor, this same Viktor whom I have every right to think and
to call my enemy. From the time of his birth my mother never
regained her health, which had always been weak. Mr. Ratsch
did not think fit in those days to keep up such a show of
good spirits as he maintains now: he always wore a morose air
and tried to pass for a busy, hard-working person. To me he
was cruel and rude. I felt relief when I retired from Ivan
Matveitch's presence; but my own home too I was glad to
leave.... Unhappy was my youth! For ever tossed from one
shore to the other, with no desire to anchor at either! I
would run across the courtyard in winter, through the deep
snow, in a thin frock—run to the big house to read to
Ivan Matveitch, and as it were be glad to go.... But when I
was there, when I saw those great cheerless rooms, the
bright-coloured, upholstered furniture, that courteous and
heartless old man in the open silk wadded jacket, in the
white jabot and white cravat, with lace ruffles falling over
his fingers, with a soupçon of powder (so his
valet expressed it) on his combed-back hair, I felt choked by
the stifling scent of ambre, and my heart sank. Ivan
Matveitch usually sat in a large low chair; on the wall
behind his head hung a picture, representing a young woman,
with a bright and bold expression of face, dressed in a
sumptuous Hebrew costume, and simply covered with precious
stones, with diamonds.... I often stole a glance at this
picture, but only later on I learned that it was the portrait
of my mother, painted by her father at Ivan Matveitch's
request. She had changed indeed since those days! Well had he
succeeded in subduing and crushing her! 'And she loved him!
Loved that old man!' was my thought.... 'How could it be!
Love him!' And yet, when I recalled some of my mother's
glances, some half-uttered phrases and unconscious
gestures.... 'Yes, yes, she did love him!' I repeated with
horror. Ah, God, spare others from knowing aught of such
Every day I read to Ivan Matveitch, sometimes for three or
four hours together.... So much reading in such a loud voice
was harmful to me. Our doctor was anxious about my lungs and
even once communicated his fears to Ivan Matveitch. But the
old man only smiled—no; he never smiled, but somehow
sharpened and moved forward his lips—and told him:
'Vous ne savez pas ce qu'il y a de ressources dans cette
jeunesse.' 'In former years, however, M. le Commandeur,'...
the doctor ventured to observe. Ivan Matveitch smiled as
before. 'Vous rêvez, mon cher,' he interposed: 'le
commandeur n'a plus de dents, et il crache à chaque
mot. J'aime les voix jeunes.'
And I still went on reading, though my cough was very
troublesome in the mornings and at night.... Sometimes Ivan
Matveitch made me play the piano. But music always had a
soporific influence on his nerves. His eyes closed at once,
his head nodded in time, and only rarely I heard, 'C'est du
Steibelt, n'est-ce pas? Jouez-moi du Steibelt!' Ivan
Matveitch looked upon Steibelt as a great genius, who had
succeeded in overcoming in himself 'la grossière
lourdeur des Allemands,' and only found fault with him for
one thing: 'trop de fougue! trop d'imagination!'... When Ivan
Matveitch noticed that I was tired from playing he would
offer me 'du cachou de Bologne.' So day after day slipped
And then one night—a night never to be
forgotten!—a terrible calamity fell upon me. My mother
died almost suddenly. I was only just fifteen. Oh, what a
sorrow that was, with what cruel violence it swooped down
upon me! How terrified I was at that first meeting with
death! My poor mother! Strange were our relations; we
passionately loved each other... passionately and hopelessly;
we both as it were treasured up and hid from each other our
common secret, kept obstinately silent about it, though we
knew all that was passing at the bottom of our hearts! Even
of the past, of her own early past, my mother never spoke to
me, and she never complained in words, though her whole being
was nothing but one dumb complaint. We avoided all
conversation of any seriousness. Alas! I kept hoping that the
hour would come, and she would open her heart at last, and I
too should speak out, and both of us would be more at
ease.... But the daily little cares, her irresolute,
shrinking temper, illnesses, the presence of Mr. Ratsch, and
most of all the eternal question,—what is the use? and
the relentless, unbroken flowing away of time, of life....
All was ended as though by a clap of thunder, and the words
which would have loosed us from the burden of our
secret—even the last dying words of
leave-taking—I was not destined to hear from my mother!
All that is left in my memory is Mr. Ratsch's calling,
'Susanna Ivanovna, go, please, your mother wishes to give you
her blessing!' and then the pale hand stretched out from the
heavy counterpane, the agonised breathing, the dying eyes....
Oh, enough! enough!
With what horror, with what indignation and piteous curiosity
I looked next day, and on the day of the funeral, into the
face of my father... yes, my father! In my dead mother's
writing-case were found his letters. I fancied he looked a
little pale and drawn... but no! Nothing was stirring in that
heart of stone. Exactly as before, he summoned me to his
room, a week later; exactly in the same voice he asked me to
read: 'Si vous le voulez bien, les observations sur
l'histoire de France de Mably, à la page 74...
là où nous avons ètè
interrompus.' And he had not even had my mother's portrait
moved! On dismissing me, he did indeed call me to him, and
giving me his hand to kiss a second time, he observed:
'Suzanne, la mort de votre mère vous a privée
de votre appui naturel; mais vous pourrez toujours compter
sur ma protection,' but with the other hand he gave me at
once a slight push on the shoulder, and, with the sharpening
of the corners of the mouth habitual with him, he added,
'Allez, mon enfant.' I longed to shriek at him: 'Why, but you
know you're my father!' but I said nothing and left the room.
Next morning, early, I went to the graveyard. May had come in
all its glory of flowers and leaves, and a long while I sat
on the new grave. I did not weep, nor grieve; one thought was
filling my brain: 'Do you hear, mother? He means to extend
his protection to me, too!' And it seemed to me that my
mother ought not to be wounded by the smile which it
instinctively called up on my lips.
At times I wonder what made me so persistently desire to
wring—not a confession... no, indeed! but, at least,
one warm word of kinship from Ivan Matveitch? Didn't I know
what he was, and how little he was like all that I pictured
in my dreams as a father!... But I was so lonely, so
alone on earth! And then, that thought, ever recurring, gave
me no rest: 'Did not she love him? She must have loved him
Three years more slipped by. Nothing changed in the
monotonous round of life, marked out and arranged for us.
Viktor was growing into a boy. I was eight years older and
would gladly have looked after him, but Mr. Ratsch opposed my
doing so. He gave him a nurse, who had orders to keep strict
watch that the child was not 'spoilt,' that is, not to allow
me to go near him. And Viktor himself fought shy of me. One
day Mr. Ratsch came into my room, perturbed, excited, and
angry. On the previous evening unpleasant rumours had reached
me about my stepfather; the servants were talking of his
having been caught embezzling a considerable sum of money,
and taking bribes from a merchant.
'You can assist me,' he began, tapping impatiently on the
table with his fingers. 'Go and speak for me to Ivan
'Speak for you? On what ground? What about?'
'Intercede for me.... I'm not like a stranger any way... I'm
accused... well, the fact is, I may be left without bread to
eat, and you, too.'
'But how can I go to him? How can I disturb him?'
'What next! You have a right to disturb him!'
'What right, Ivan Demianitch?'
'Come, no humbug.... He cannot refuse you, for many reasons.
Do you mean to tell me you don't understand that?'
He looked insolently into my eyes, and I felt my cheeks
simply burning. Hatred, contempt, rose up within me, surged
in a rush upon me, drowning me.
'Yes, I understand you, Ivan Demianitch,' I answered at
last—my own voice seemed strange to me—'and I am
not going to Ivan Matveitch, and I will not ask him for
anything. Bread, or no bread!'
Mr. Ratsch shivered, ground his teeth, and clenched his
'All right, wait a bit, your highness!' he muttered huskily.
'I won't forget it!' That same day, Ivan Matveitch sent for
him, and, I was told, shook his cane at him, the very cane
which he had once exchanged with the Due de la Rochefoucauld,
and cried, 'You be a scoundrel and extortioner! I put you
outside!' Ivan Matveitch could hardly speak Russian at all,
and despised our 'coarse jargon,' ce jargon vulgaire et
rude. Some one once said before him, 'That same's
self-understood.' Ivan Matveitch was quite indignant, and
often afterwards quoted the phrase as an example of the
senselessness and absurdity of the Russian tongue. 'What does
it mean, that same's self-understood?' he would ask in
Russian, with emphasis on each syllable. 'Why not simply
that's understood, and why same and self?'
Ivan Matveitch did not, however, dismiss Mr. Ratsch, he did
not even deprive him of his position. But my stepfather kept
his word: he never forgot it.
I began to notice a change in Ivan Matveitch. He was
low-spirited, depressed, his health broke down a little. His
fresh, rosy face grew yellow and wrinkled; he lost a front
tooth. He quite ceased going out, and gave up the
reception-days he had established for the peasants, without
the assistance of the priest, sans le concours du
clergé. On such days Ivan Matveitch had been in
the habit of going in to the peasants in the hall or on the
balcony, with a rose in his buttonhole, and putting his lips
to a silver goblet of vodka, he would make them a speech
something like this: 'You are content with my actions, even
as I am content with your zeal, whereat I rejoice truly. We
are all brothers; at our birth we are equal; I drink
your health!' He bowed to them, and the peasants bowed to
him, but only from the waist, no prostrating themselves to
the ground, that was strictly forbidden. The peasants were
entertained with good cheer as before, but Ivan Matveitch no
longer showed himself to his subjects. Sometimes he
interrupted my reading with exclamations: 'La machine se
détraque! Cela se gâte!' Even his
eyes—those bright, stony eyes—began to grow dim
and, as it were, smaller; he dozed oftener than ever and
breathed hard in his sleep. His manner with me was unchanged;
only a shade of chivalrous deference began to be perceptible
in it. He never failed to get up—though with
difficulty—from his chair when I came in, conducted me
to the door, supporting me with his hand under my elbow, and
instead of Suzon began to call me sometimes, 'ma chère
demoiselle,' sometimes, 'mon Antigone.' M. le Commandeur died
two years after my mother's death; his death seemed to affect
Ivan Matveitch far more deeply. A contemporary had
disappeared: that was what distressed him. And yet in later
years M. le Commandeur's sole service had consisted in
crying, 'Bien joué, mal réussi!' every time
Ivan Matveitch missed a stroke, playing billiards with Mr.
Ratsch; though, indeed, too, when Ivan Matveitch addressed
him at table with some such question as: 'N'est-ce pas, M. le
Commandeur, c'est Montesquieu qui a dit cela dans ses
Lettres Persanes?' he had still, sometimes dropping a
spoonful of soup on his ruffle, responded profoundly: 'Ah,
Monsieur de Montesquieu? Un grand écrivain, monsieur,
un grand écrivain!' Only once, when Ivan Matveitch
told him that 'les théophilanthropes ont eu pourtant
du bon!' the old man cried in an excited voice, 'Monsieur de
Kolontouskoi' (he hadn't succeeded in the course of twenty
years in learning to pronounce his patron's name correctly),
'Monsieur de Kolontouskoi! Leur fondateur, l'instigateur de
cette secte, ce La Reveillère Lepeaux était un
bonnet rouge!' 'Non, non,' said Ivan Matveitch, smiling and
rolling together a pinch of snuff: 'des fleurs, des jeunes
vierges, le culte de la Nature... ils out eu du bon, ils out
eu du bon!'...I was always surprised at the extent of Ivan
Matveitch's knowledge, and at the uselessness of his
knowledge to himself.
Ivan Matveitch was perceptibly failing, but he still put a
good face on it. One day, three weeks before his death, he
had a violent attack of giddiness just after dinner. He sank
into thought, said, 'C'est la fin,' and pulling himself
together with a sigh, he wrote a letter to Petersburg to his
sole heir, a brother with whom he had had no intercourse for
twenty years. Hearing that Ivan Matveitch was unwell, a
neighbour paid him a visit—a German, a
Catholic—once a distinguished physician, who was living
in retirement in his little place in the country. He was very
rarely at Ivan Matveitch's, but the latter always received
him with special deference, and in fact had a great respect
for him. He was almost the only person in the world he did
respect. The old man advised Ivan Matveitch to send for a
priest, but Ivan Matveitch responded that 'ces messieurs et
moi, nous n'avons rien à nous dire,' and begged him to
change the subject. On the neighbour's departure, he gave his
valet orders to admit no one in future.
Then he sent for me. I was frightened when I saw him; there
were blue patches under his eyes, his face looked drawn and
stiff, his jaw hung down. 'Vous voila grande, Suzon,' he
said, with difficulty articulating the consonants, but still
trying to smile (I was then nineteen), 'vous allez
peut-être bientót rester seule. Soyez toujours
sage et vertueuse. C'est la dernière
récommandation d'un'—he coughed—'d'un
vieillard qui vous veut du bien. Je vous ai recommandé
à mon frère et je ne doute pas qu'il ne
respecte mes volontés....' He coughed again, and
anxiously felt his chest. 'Du reste, j'esèpre encore
pouvoir faire quelque chose pour vous... dans mon testament.'
This last phrase cut me to the heart, like a knife. Ah, it
was really too... too contemptuous and insulting! Ivan
Matveitch probably ascribed to some other feeling—to a
feeling of grief or gratitude—what was expressed in my
face, and as though wishing to comfort me, he patted me on
the shoulder, at the same time, as usual, gently repelling
me, and observed: 'Voyons, mon enfant, du courage! Nous
sommes tous mortels! Et puis il n'y a pas encore de danger.
Ce n'est qu'une précaution que j'ai cru devoir
Again, just as when he had summoned me after my mother's
death, I longed to shriek at him, 'But I'm your daughter!
your daughter!' But I thought in those words, in that cry of
the heart, he would doubtless hear nothing but a desire to
assert my rights, my claims on his property, on his money....
Oh, no, for nothing in the world would I say a word to this
man, who had not once mentioned my mother's name to me, in
whose eyes I was of so little account that he did not even
trouble himself to ascertain whether I was aware of my
parentage! Or, perhaps, he suspected, even knew it, and did
not wish 'to raise a dust' (a favourite saying of his, almost
the only Russian expression he ever used), did not care to
deprive himself of a good reader with a young voice! No! no!
Let him go on wronging his daughter, as he had wronged her
mother! Let him carry both sins to the grave! I swore it, I
swore he should not hear from my lips the word which must
have something of a sweet and holy sound in every ear! I
would not say to him father! I would not forgive him for my
mother and myself! He felt no need of that forgiveness, of
that name.... It could not be, it could not be that he felt
no need of it! But he should not have forgiveness, he should
not, he should not!
God knows whether I should have kept my vow, and whether my
heart would not have softened, whether I should not have
overcome my shyness, my shame, and my pride... but it
happened with Ivan Matveitch just as with my mother. Death
carried him off suddenly, and also in the night. It was again
Mr. Ratsch who waked me, and ran with me to the big house, to
Ivan Matveitch's bedroom.... But I found not even the last
dying gestures, which had left such a vivid impression on my
memory at my mother's bedside. On the embroidered, lace-edged
pillows lay a sort of withered, dark-coloured doll, with
sharp nose and ruffled grey eyebrows.... I shrieked with
horror, with loathing, rushed away, stumbled in doorways
against bearded peasants in smocks with holiday red sashes,
and found myself, I don't remember how, in the fresh air....
I was told afterwards that when the valet ran into the
bedroom, at a violent ring of the bell, he found Ivan
Matveitch not in the bed, but a few feet from it. And that he
was sitting huddled up on the floor, and that twice over he
repeated, 'Well, granny, here's a pretty holiday for you!'
And that these were his last words. But I cannot believe
that. Was it likely he would speak Russian at such a moment,
and such a homely old Russian saying too!
For a whole fortnight afterwards we were awaiting the arrival
of the new master, Semyon Matveitch Koltovsky. He sent orders
that nothing was to be touched, no one was to be discharged,
till he had looked into everything in person. All the doors,
all the furniture, drawers, tables—all were locked and
sealed up. All the servants were downcast and apprehensive. I
became suddenly one of the most important persons in the
house, perhaps the most important. I had been spoken of as
'the young lady' before; but now this expression seemed to
take a new significance, and was pronounced with a peculiar
emphasis. It began to be whispered that 'the old master had
died suddenly, and hadn't time to send for a priest, indeed
and he hadn't been at confession for many a long day; but
still, a will doesn't take long to make.'
Mr. Ratsch, too, thought well to change his mode of action.
He did not affect good-nature and friendliness; he knew he
would not impose upon me, but his face wore an expression of
sulky resignation. 'You see, I give in,' he seemed to say.
Every one showed me deference, and tried to please me...
while I did not know what to do or how to behave, and could
only marvel that people failed to perceive how they were
hurting me. At last Semyon Matveitch arrived.
Semyon Matveitch was ten years younger than Ivan Matveitch,
and his whole life had taken a completely different turn. He
was a government official in Petersburg, filling an important
position.... He had married and been left early a widower; he
had one son. In face Semyon Matveitch was like his brother,
only he was shorter and stouter, and had a round bald head,
bright black eyes, like Ivan Matveitch's, only more
prominent, and full red lips. Unlike his brother, whom he
spoke of even after his death as a French philosopher, and
sometimes bluntly as a queer fish, Semyon Matveitch almost
invariably talked Russian, loudly and fluently, and he was
constantly laughing, completely closing his eyes as he did so
and shaking all over in an unpleasant way, as though he were
shaking with rage. He looked after things very sharply, went
into everything himself, exacted the strictest account from
every one. The very first day of his arrival he ordered a
service with holy water, and sprinkled everything with water,
all the rooms in the house, even the lofts and the cellars,
in order, as he put it, 'radically to expel the Voltairean
and Jacobin spirit.' In the first week several of Ivan
Matveitch's favourites were sent to the right-about, one was
even banished to a settlement, corporal punishment was
inflicted on others; the old valet—he was a Turk, knew
French, and had been given to Ivan Matveitch by the late
field-marshal Kamensky—received his freedom, indeed,
but with it a command to be gone within twenty-four hours,
'as an example to others.' Semyon Matveitch turned out to be
a harsh master; many probably regretted the late owner.
'With the old master, Ivan Matveitch,' a butler, decrepit
with age, wailed in my presence, 'our only trouble was to see
that the linen put out was clean, and that the rooms smelt
sweet, and that the servants' voices weren't heard in the
passages—God forbid! For the rest, you might do as you
pleased. The old master never hurt a fly in his life! Ah,
it's hard times now! It's time to die!'
Rapid, too, was the change in my position, that is to say in
the position in which I had been placed for a few days
against my own will.... No sort of will was found among Ivan
Matveitch's papers, not a line written for my benefit. At
once every one seemed in haste to avoid me.... I am not
speaking of Mr. Ratsch... every one else, too, was angry with
me, and tried to show their anger, as though I had deceived
One Sunday after matins, in which he invariably officiated at
the altar, Semyon Matveitch sent for me. Till that day I had
seen him by glimpses, and he seemed not to have noticed me.
He received me in his study, standing at the window. He was
wearing an official uniform with two stars. I stood still,
near the door; my heart was beating violently from fear and
from another feeling, vague as yet, but still oppressive. 'I
wish to see you, young lady,' began Semyon Matveitch,
glancing first at my feet, and then suddenly into my eyes.
The look was like a slap in the face. 'I wished to see you to
inform you of my decision, and to assure you of my
unhesitating inclination to be of service to you.' He raised
his voice. 'Claims, of course, you have none, but as... my
brother's reader you may always reckon on my... my
consideration. I am... of course convinced of your good sense
and of your principles. Mr. Ratsch, your stepfather, has
already received from me the necessary instructions. To which
I must add that your attractive exterior seems to me a pledge
of the excellence of your sentiments.' Semyon Matveitch went
off into a thin chuckle, while I... I was not offended
exactly... but I suddenly felt very sorry for myself... and
at that moment I fully realised how utterly forsaken and
alone I was. Semyon Matveitch went with short, firm steps to
the table, took a roll of notes out of the drawer, and
putting it in my hand, he added: 'Here is a small sum from me
for pocket-money. I won't forget you in future, my pretty;
but good-bye for the present, and be a good girl.' I took the
roll mechanically: I should have taken anything he had
offered me, and going back to my own room, a long while I
wept, sitting on my bed. I did not notice that I had dropped
the roll of notes on the floor. Mr. Ratsch found it and
picked it up, and, asking me what I meant to do with it, kept
it for himself.
An important change had taken place in his fortunes too in
those days. After a few conversations with Semyon Matveitch,
he became a great favourite, and soon after received the
position of head steward. From that time dates his
cheerfulness, that eternal laugh of his; at first it was an
effort to adapt himself to his patron... in the end it became
a habit. It was then, too, that he became a Russian patriot.
Semyon Matveitch was an admirer of everything national, he
called himself 'a true Russian bear,' and ridiculed the
European dress, which he wore however. He sent away to a
remote village a cook, on whose training Ivan Matveitch had
spent vast sums: he sent him away because he had not known
how to prepare pickled giblets.
Semyon Matveitch used to stand at the altar and join in the
responses with the deacons, and when the serf-girls were
brought together to dance and sing choruses, he would join in
their songs too, and beat time with his feet, and pinch their
cheeks.... But he soon went back to Petersburg, leaving my
stepfather practically in complete control of the whole
Bitter days began for me.... My one consolation was music,
and I gave myself up to it with my whole soul. Fortunately
Mr. Ratsch was very fully occupied, but he took every
opportunity to make me feel his hostility; as he had
promised, he 'did not forget' my refusal. He ill-treated me,
made me copy his long and lying reports to Semyon Matveitch,
and correct for him the mistakes in spelling. I was forced to
obey him absolutely, and I did obey him. He announced that he
meant to tame me, to make me as soft as silk. 'What do you
mean by those mutinous eyes?' he shouted sometimes at dinner,
drinking his beer, and slapping the table with his hand. 'You
think, maybe, you're as silent as a sheep, so you must be all
right.... Oh, no! You'll please look at me like a sheep too!'
My position became a torture, insufferable,... my heart was
growing bitter. Something dangerous began more and more
frequently to stir within it. I passed nights without sleep
and without a light, thinking, thinking incessantly; and in
the darkness without and the gloom within, a fearful
determination began to shape itself. The arrival of Semyon
Matveitch gave another turn to my thoughts.
No one had expected him. It turned out that he was retiring
in unpleasant circumstances; he had hoped to receive the
Alexander ribbon, and they had presented him with a
snuff-box. Discontented with the government, which had failed
to appreciate his talents, and with Petersburg society, which
had shown him little sympathy, and did not share his
indignation, he determined to settle in the country, and
devote himself to the management of his property. He arrived
alone. His son, Mihail Semyonitch, arrived later, in the
holidays for the New Year. My stepfather was scarcely ever
out of Semyon Matveitch's room; he still stood high in his
good graces. He left me in peace; he had no time for me
then... Semyon Matveitch had taken it into his head to start
a paper factory. Mr. Ratsch had no knowledge whatever of
manufacturing work, and Semyon Matveitch was aware of the
fact; but then my stepfather was an active man (the favourite
expression just then), an 'Araktcheev!' That was just what
Semyon Matveitch used to call him—'my Araktcheev!'
'That's all I want,' Semyon Matveitch maintained; 'if there
is zeal, I myself will direct it.' In the midst of his
numerous occupations—he had to superintend the factory,
the estate, the foundation of a counting-house, the drawing
up of counting-house regulations, the creation of new offices
and duties—Semyon Matveitch still had time to attend to
I was summoned one evening to the drawing-room, and set to
play the piano. Semyon Matveitch cared for music even less
than his brother; he praised and thanked me, however, and
next day I was invited to dine at the master's table. After
dinner Semyon Matveitch had rather a long conversation with
me, asked me questions, laughed at some of my replies, though
there was, I remember, nothing amusing in them, and stared at
me so strangely... I felt uncomfortable. I did not like his
eyes, I did not like their open expression, their clear
glance.... It always seemed to me that this very openness
concealed something evil, that under that clear brilliance it
was dark within in his soul. 'You shall not be my reader,'
Semyon Matveitch announced to me at last, prinking and
setting himself to rights in a repulsive way. 'I am, thank
God, not blind yet, and can read myself; but coffee will
taste better to me from your little hands, and I shall listen
to your playing with pleasure.' From that day I always went
over to the big house to dinner, and sometimes remained in
the drawing-room till evening. I too, like my stepfather, was
in favour: it was not a source of joy for me. Semyon
Matveitch, I am bound to own, showed me a certain respect,
but in the man there was, I felt it, something that repelled
and alarmed me. And that 'something' showed itself not in
words, but in his eyes, in those wicked eyes, and in his
laugh. He never spoke to me of my father, of his brother, and
it seemed to me that he avoided the subject, not because he
did not want to excite ambitious ideas or pretensions in me,
but from another cause, to which I could not give a definite
shape, but which made me blush and feel bewildered....
Towards Christmas came his son, Mihail Semyonitch.
Ah, I feel I cannot go on as I have begun; these memories are
too painful. Especially now I cannot tell my story calmly....
But what is the use of concealment? I loved Michel, and he
How it came to pass—I am not going to describe that
either. From the very evening when he came into the
drawing-room—I was at the piano, playing a sonata of
Weber's when he came in—handsome and slender, in a
velvet coat lined with sheepskin and high gaiters, just as he
was, straight from the frost outside, and shaking his
snow-sprinkled, sable cap, before he had greeted his father,
glanced swiftly at me, and wondered—I knew that from
that evening I could never forget him—I could never
forget that good, young face. He began to speak... and his
voice went straight to my heart.... A manly and soft voice,
and in every sound such a true, honest nature!
Semyon Matveitch was delighted at his son's arrival, embraced
him, but at once asked, 'For a fortnight, eh? On leave, eh?'
and sent me away.
I sat a long while at my window, and gazed at the lights
flitting to and fro in the rooms of the big house. I watched
them, I listened to the new, unfamiliar voices; I was
attracted by the cheerful commotion, and something new,
unfamiliar, bright, flitted into my soul too.... The next day
before dinner I had my first conversation with him. He had
come across to see my stepfather with some message from
Semyon Matveitch, and he found me in our little sitting-room.
I was getting up to go; he detained me. He was very lively
and unconstrained in all his movements and words, but of
superciliousness or arrogance, of the tone of Petersburg
superiority, there was not a trace in him, and nothing of the
officer, of the guardsman.... On the contrary, in the very
freedom of his manner there was something appealing, almost
shamefaced, as though he were begging you to overlook
something. Some people's eyes are never laughing, even at the
moment of laughter; with him it was the lips that
almost never changed their beautiful line, while his eyes
were almost always smiling. So we chatted for about an
hour... what about I don't remember; I remember only that I
looked him straight in the face all the while, and oh, how
delightfully at ease I felt with him!
In the evening I played on the piano. He was very fond of
music, and he sat down in a low chair, and laying his curly
head on his arm, he listened intently. He did not once praise
me, but I felt that he liked my playing, and I played with
ardour. Semyon Matveitch, who was sitting near his son,
looking through some plans, suddenly frowned. 'Come, madam,'
he said, smoothing himself down and buttoning himself up, as
his manner was, 'that's enough; why are you trilling away
like a canary? It's enough to make one's head ache. For us
old folks you wouldn't exert yourself so, no fear...' he
added in an undertone, and again he sent me away. Michel
followed me to the door with his eyes, and got up from his
seat. 'Where are you off to? Where are you off to?' cried
Semyon Matveitch, and he suddenly laughed, and then said
something more... I could not catch his words; but Mr.
Ratsch, who was present, sitting in a corner of the
drawing-room (he was always 'present,' and that time he had
brought in the plans), laughed, and his laugh reached my
ears.... The same thing, or almost the same thing, was
repeated the following evening... Semyon Matveitch grew
suddenly cooler to me.
Four days later I met Michel in the corridor that divided the
big house in two. He took me by the hand, and led me to a
room near the dining-room, which was called the portrait
gallery. I followed him, not without emotion, but with
perfect confidence. Even then, I believe, I would have
followed him to the end of the world, though I had as yet no
suspicion of all that he was to me. Alas, I loved him with
all the passion, all the despair of a young creature who not
only has no one to love, but feels herself an uninvited and
unnecessary guest among strangers, among enemies!... Michel
said to me—and it was strange! I looked boldly,
directly in his face, while he did not look at me, and
flushed slightly—he said to me that he understood my
position, and sympathised with me, and begged me to forgive
his father.... 'As far as I'm concerned,' he added, 'I
beseech you always to trust me, and believe me, to me you 're
a sister—yes, a sister.' Here he pressed my hand
warmly. I was confused, it was my turn to look down; I had
somehow expected something else, some other word. I began to
thank him. 'No, please,'—he cut me short—'don't
talk like that.... But remember, it's a brother's duty to
defend his sister, and if you ever need protection, against
any one whatever, rely upon me. I have not been here long,
but I have seen a good deal already... and among other
things, I see through your stepfather.' He squeezed my hand
again, and left me.
I found out later that Michel had felt an aversion for Mr.
Ratsch from his very first meeting with him. Mr. Ratsch tried
to ingratiate himself with him too, but becoming convinced of
the uselessness of his efforts, promptly took up himself an
attitude of hostility to him, and not only did not disguise
it from Semyon Matveitch, but, on the contrary, lost no
opportunity of showing it, expressing, at the same time, his
regret that he had been so unlucky as to displease the young
heir. Mr. Ratsch had carefully studied Semyon Matveitch's
character; his calculations did not lead him astray. 'This
man's devotion to me admits of no doubt, for the very reason
that after I am gone he will be ruined; my heir cannot endure
him.'... This idea grew and strengthened in the old man's
head. They say all persons in power, as they grow old, are
readily caught by that bait, the bait of exclusive personal
Semyon Matveitch had good reason to call Mr. Ratsch his
Araktcheev.... He might well have called him another name
too. 'You're not one to make difficulties,' he used to say to
him. He had begun in this condescendingly familiar tone with
him from the very first, and my stepfather would gaze fondly
at Semyon Matveitch, let his head droop deprecatingly on one
side, and laugh with good-humoured simplicity, as though to
say, 'Here I am, entirely in your hands.'
Ah, I feel my hands shaking, and my heart's thumping against
the table on which I write at this moment. It's terrible for
me to recall those days, and my blood boils.... But I will
tell everything to the end... to the end!
A new element had come into Mr. Ratsch's treatment of me
during my brief period of favour. He began to be deferential
to me, to be respectfully familiar with me, as though I had
grown sensible, and become more on a level with him. 'You've
done with your airs and graces,' he said to me one day, as we
were going back from the big house to the lodge. 'Quite right
too! All those fine principles and delicate
sentiments—moral precepts in fact—are not for us,
young lady, they're not for poor folks.'
When I had fallen out of favour, and Michel did not think it
necessary to disguise his contempt for Mr. Ratsch and his
sympathy with me, the latter suddenly redoubled his severity
with me; he was continually following me about, as though I
were capable of any crime, and must be sharply looked after.
'You mind what I say,' he shouted, bursting without knocking
into my room, in muddy boots and with his cap on his head; 'I
won't put up with such goings on! I won't stand your stuck-up
airs! You're not going to impose on me. I'll break your proud
And accordingly, one morning he informed me that the decree
had gone forth from Semyon Matveitch that I was not to appear
at the dinner-table for the future without special
invitation.... I don't know how all this would have ended if
it had not been for an event which was the final
turning-point of my destiny....
Michel was passionately fond of horses. He took it into his
head to break in a young horse, which went well for a while,
then began kicking and flung him out of the sledge.... He was
brought home unconscious, with a broken arm and bruises on
his chest. His father was panic-stricken; he sent for the
best doctors from the town. They did a great deal for Michel;
but he had to lie down for a month. He did not play cards,
the doctor forbade him to talk, and it was awkward for him to
read, holding the book up in one hand all the while. It ended
by Semyon Matveitch sending me in to his son, in my old
capacity of reader.
Then followed hours I can never forget! I used to go in to
Michel directly after dinner, and sit at a little round table
in the half-darkened window. He used to be lying down in a
little room out of the drawing-room, at the further end, on a
broad leather sofa in the Empire style, with a gold
bas-relief on its high, straight back. The bas-relief
represented a marriage procession among the ancients.
Michel's head, thrown a little back on the pillow, always
moved at once, and his pale face turned towards me: he
smiled, his whole face brightened, he flung back his soft,
damp curls, and said to me softly, 'Good-morning, my kind
sweet girl.' I took up the book—Walter Scott's novels
were at the height of their fame in those days—the
reading of Ivanhoe has left a particularly vivid recollection
in my mind.... I could not help my voice thrilling and
quivering as I gave utterance to Rebecca's speeches. I, too,
had Jewish blood, and was not my lot like hers? Was I not,
like Rebecca, waiting on a sick man, dear to me? Every time I
removed my eyes from the page and lifted them to him, I met
his eyes with the same soft, bright smile over all his face.
We talked very little; the door into the drawing-room was
invariably open and some one was always sitting there; but
whenever it was quiet there, I used, I don't know why, to
cease reading and look intently at Michel, and he looked at
me, and we both felt happy then and, as it were, glad and
shamefaced, and everything, everything we told each other
then without a gesture or a word! Alas! our hearts came
together, ran to meet each other, as underground streams flow
together, unseen, unheard... and irresistibly.
'Can you play chess or draughts?' he asked me one day.
'I can play chess a little,' I answered.
'That's good. Tell them to bring a chess-board and push up
I sat down beside the sofa, my heart was throbbing, I did not
dare glance at Michel,... Yet from the window, across the
room, how freely I had gazed at him!
I began to set the chessmen... My fingers shook.
'I suggested it... not for the game,'... Michel said in an
undertone, also setting the pieces, 'but to have you nearer
I made no answer, but, without asking which should begin,
moved a pawn... Michel did not move in reply... I looked at
him. His head was stretched a little forward; pale all over,
with imploring eyes he signed towards my hand...
Whether I understood him... I don't remember, but something
instantaneously whirled into my head.... Hesitating, scarcely
breathing, I took up the knight and moved it right across the
board. Michel bent down swiftly, and catching my fingers with
his lips, and pressing them against the board, he began
noiselessly and passionately kissing them.... I had no power,
I had no wish to draw them back; with my other hand I hid my
face, and tears, as I remember now, cold but blissful... oh,
what blissful tears!... dropped one by one on the table. Ah,
I knew, with my whole heart I felt at that moment, all that
he was who held my hand in his power! I knew that he was not
a boy, carried away by a momentary impulse, not a Don Juan,
not a military Lovelace, but one of the noblest, the best of
men... and he loved me!
'Oh, my Susanna!' I heard Michel whisper, 'I will never make
you shed other tears than these.'
He was wrong... he did.
But what use is there in dwelling on such memories...
especially, especially now?
Michel and I swore to belong to each other. He knew that
Semyon Matveitch would never let him marry me, and he did not
conceal it from me. I had no doubt about it myself and I
rejoiced, not that he did not deceive me—he
not deceive—but that he did not try to delude
himself. For myself I asked for nothing, and would have
followed where and how he chose. 'You shall be my wife,' he
repeated to me. 'I am not Ivanhoe; I know that happiness is
not with Lady Rowena.'
Michel soon regained his health. I could not continue going
to see him, but everything was decided between us. I was
already entirely absorbed in the future; I saw nothing of
what was passing around me, as though I were floating on a
glorious, calm, but rushing river, hidden in mist. But we
were watched, we were being spied upon. Once or twice I
noticed my stepfather's malignant eyes, and heard his
loathsome laugh.... But that laugh, those eyes as it were
emerged for an instant from the mist... I shuddered, but
forgot it directly, and surrendered myself again to the
glorious, swift river...
On the day before the departure of Michel—we had
planned together that he was to turn back secretly on the way
and fetch me—I received from him through his trusted
valet a note, in which he asked me to meet him at half-past
nine in the summer billiard-room, a large, low-pitched room,
built on to the big house in the garden. He wrote to me that
he absolutely must speak with me and arrange things. I had
twice already met Michel in the billiard-room... I had the
key of the outer door. As soon as it struck half-past nine I
threw a warm wrap over my shoulders, stepped quietly out of
the lodge, and made my way successfully over the crackling
snow to the billiard-room. The moon, wrapped in vapour, stood
a dim blur just over the ridge of the roof, and the wind
whistled shrilly round the corner of the wall. A shiver
passed over me, but I put the key into the lock, went into
the room, closed the door behind me, turned round... A dark
figure became visible against one of the walls, took a couple
of steps forward, stopped...
'Michel,' I whispered.
'Michel is locked up by my orders, and this is I!' answered a
voice, which seemed to rend my heart...
Before me stood Semyon Matveitch!
I was rushing to escape, but he clutched at my arm.
'Where are you off to, vile hussy?' he hissed. 'You 're quite
equal to stolen interviews with young fools, so you'll have
to be equal to the consequences.'
I was numb with horror, but still struggled towards the
door... In vain! Like iron hooks the ringers of Semyon
Matveitch held me tight.
'Let me go, let me go,' I implored at last.
'I tell you you shan't stir!'
Semyon Matveitch forced me to sit down. In the half-darkness
I could not distinguish his face. I had turned away from him
too, but I heard him breathing hard and grinding his teeth. I
felt neither fear nor despair, but a sort of senseless
amazement... A captured bird, I suppose, is numb like that in
the claws of the kite... and Semyon Matveitch's hand, which
still held me as fast, crushed me like some wild, ferocious
'Aha!' he repeated; 'aha! So this is how it is... so it's
come to this... Ah, wait a bit!'
I tried to get up, but he shook me with such violence that I
almost shrieked with pain, and a stream of abuse, insult, and
menace burst upon me...
'Michel, Michel, where are you? save me,' I moaned.
Semyon Matveitch shook me again... That time I could not
control myself... I screamed.
That seemed to have some effect on him. He became a little
quieter, let go my arm, but remained where he was, two steps
from me, between me and the door.
A few minutes passed... I did not stir; he breathed heavily
'Sit still,' he began at last, 'and answer me. Let me see
that your morals are not yet utterly corrupt, and that you
are still capable of listening to the voice of reason.
Impulsive folly I can overlook, but stubborn
obstinacy—never! My son...' there was a catch in his
breath... 'Mihail Semyonitch has promised to marry you?
Hasn't he? Answer me! Has he promised, eh?'
I answered, of course, nothing. Semyon Matveitch was almost
flying into fury again.
'I take your silence as a sign of assent,' he went on, after
a brief pause. 'And so you were plotting to be my
daughter-in-law? A pretty notion! But you're not a child of
four years old, and you must be fully aware that young
boobies are never sparing of the wildest promises, if only
they can gain their ends... but to say nothing of that, could
you suppose that I—a noble gentleman of ancient family,
Semyon Matveitch Koltovsky—would ever give my consent
to such a marriage? Or did you mean to dispense with the
parental blessing?... Did you mean to run away, get married
in secret, and then come back, go through a nice little
farce, throw yourself at my feet, in the hope that the old
man will be touched.... Answer me, damn you!'
I only bent my head. He could kill me, but to force me to
speak—that was not in his power.
He walked up and down a little.
'Come, listen to me,' he began in a calmer voice. 'You
mustn't think... don't imagine... I see one must talk to you
in a different manner. Listen; I understand your position.
You are frightened, upset.... Pull yourself together. At this
moment I must seem to you a monster... a despot. But put
yourself in my position too; how could I help being
indignant, saying too much? And for all that I have shown you
that I am not a monster, that I too have a heart. Remember
how I treated you on my arrival here and afterwards till...
till lately... till the illness of Mihail Semyonitch. I don't
wish to boast of my beneficence, but I should have thought
simple gratitude ought to have held you back from the
slippery path on which you were determined to enter!'
Semyon Matveitch walked to and fro again, and standing still
patted me lightly on the arm, on the very arm which still
ached from his violence, and was for long after marked with
'To be sure,' he began again, 'we're headstrong... just a
little headstrong! We don't care to take the trouble to
think, we don't care to consider what our advantage consists
in and where we ought to seek it. You ask me: where that
advantage lies? You've no need to look far.... It's, maybe,
close at hand.... Here am I now. As a father, as head of the
family I am bound to be particular.... It's my duty. But I'm
a man at the same time, and you know that very well.
Undoubtedly I'm a practical person and of course cannot
tolerate any sentimental nonsense; expectations that are
quite inconsistent with everything, you must of course
dismiss from your mind for really what sense is there in
them?—not to speak of the immorality of such a
proceeding.... You will assuredly realise all this yourself,
when you have thought it over a little. And I say, simply and
straightforwardly, I wouldn't confine myself to what I have
done for you. I have always been prepared—and I am
still prepared—to put your welfare on a sound footing,
to guarantee you a secure position, because I know your
value, I do justice to your talents, and your intelligence,
and in fact... (here Semyon Matveitch stooped down to me a
little)... you have such eyes that, I confess... though I am
not a young man, yet to see them quite unmoved... I
understand... is not an easy matter, not at all an easy
These words sent a chill through me. I could scarcely believe
my ears. For the first minute I fancied that Semyon Matveitch
meant to bribe me to break with Michel, to pay me
'compensation.'... But what was he saying? My eyes had begun
to get used to the darkness and I could make out Semyon
Matveitch's face. It was smiling, that old face, and he was
walking to and fro with little steps, fidgeting restlessly
'Well, what do you say,' he asked at last, 'does my offer
'Offer?'... I repeated unconsciously,... I simply did not
understand a word.
Semyon Matveitch laughed... actually laughed his revolting
'To be sure,' he cried, 'you're all alike you young
women'—he corrected himself—'young ladies...
young ladies... you all dream of nothing else... you must
have young men! You can't live without love! Of course not.
Well, well! Youth's all very well! But do you suppose that
it's only young men that can love?... There are some older
men, whose hearts are warmer... and when once an old man does
take a fancy to any one, well—he's simply like a rock!
It's for ever! Not like these beardless, feather-brained
young fools! Yes, yes; you mustn't look down on old men! They
can do so much! You've only to take them the right way!
Yes... yes! And as for kissing, old men know all about that
too, he-he-he...' Semyon Matveitch laughed again. 'Come,
please... your little hand... just as a proof... that's
I jumped up from the chair, and with all my force I gave him
a blow in the chest. He tottered, he uttered a sort of
decrepit, scared sound, he almost fell down. There are no
words in human language to express how loathsome and
infinitely vile he seemed to me. Every vestige of fear had
'Get away, despicable old man,' broke from my lips; 'get
away, Mr. Koltovsky, you noble gentleman of ancient family!
I, too, am of your blood, the blood of the Koltovskys, and I
curse the day and the hour when I was born of that ancient
'What!... What are you saying!... What!' stammered Semyon
Matveitch, gasping for breath. 'You dare... at the very
minute when I've caught you... when you came to meet Misha...
eh? eh? eh?'
But I could not stop myself.... Something relentless,
desperate was roused up within me.
'And you, you, the brother... of your brother, you had the
insolence, you dared... What did you take me for? Can you be
so blind as not to have seen long ago the loathing you arouse
in me?... You dare use the word offer!... Let me out at once,
I moved towards the door.
'Oh, indeed! oh, oh! so this is what she says!' Semyon
Matveitch piped shrilly, in a fit of violent fury, but
obviously not able to make up his mind to come near me....
'Wait a bit, Mr. Ratsch, Ivan Demianitch, come here!'
The door of the billiard-room opposite the one I was near
flew wide open, and my stepfather appeared, with a lighted
candelabrum in each hand. His round, red face, lighted up on
both sides, was beaming with the triumph of satisfied
revenge, and slavish delight at having rendered valuable
service.... Oh, those loathsome white eyes! when shall I
cease to behold them?
'Be so good as to take this girl at once,' cried Semyon
Matveitch, turning to my stepfather and imperiously pointing
to me with a shaking hand. 'Be so good as to take her home
and put her under lock and key... so that she... can't stir a
finger, so that not a fly can get in to her! Till further
orders from me! Board up the windows if need be! You'll
answer for her with your head!'
Mr. Ratsch set the candelabra on the billiard-table, made
Semyon Matveitch a low bow, and with a slight swagger and a
malignant smile, moved towards me. A cat, I imagine,
approaches a mouse who has no chance of escape in that way.
All my daring left me in an instant. I knew the man was
capable of... beating me. I began to tremble; yes; oh, shame!
oh ignominy! I shivered.
'Now, then, madam,' said Mr. Ratsch, 'kindly come along.'
He took me, without haste, by the arm above the elbow.... He
saw that I should not resist. Of my own accord I pushed
forward towards the door; at that instant I had but one
thought in my mind, to escape as quickly as possible from the
presence of Semyon Matveitch.
But the loathsome old man darted up to us from behind, and
Ratsch stopped me and turned me round face to face with his
'Ah!' the latter shouted, shaking his fist; 'ah! So I'm the
brother... of my brother, am I? Ties of blood! eh? But a
cousin, a first cousin you could marry? You could? eh? Take
her, you!' he turned to my stepfather. 'And remember, keep a
sharp look-out! The slightest communication with
her—and no punishment will be too severe.... Take her!'
Mr. Ratsch conducted me to my room. Crossing the courtyard,
he said nothing, but kept laughing noiselessly to himself. He
closed the shutters and the doors, and then, as he was
finally returning, he bowed low to me as he had to Semyon
Matveitch, and went off into a ponderous, triumphant guffaw!
'Good-night to your highness,' he gasped out, choking: 'she
didn't catch her fairy prince! What a pity! It wasn't a bad
idea in its way! It's a lesson for the future: not to keep up
correspondence! Ho-ho-ho! How capitally it has all turned out
though!' He went out, and all of a sudden poked his head in
at the door. 'Well? I didn't forget you, did I? Hey? I kept
my promise, didn't I? Ho-ho!' The key creaked in the lock. I
breathed freely. I had been afraid he would tie my hands...
but they were my own, they were free! I instantly wrenched
the silken cord off my dressing-gown, made a noose, and was
putting it on my neck, but I flung the cord aside again at
once. 'I won't please you!' I said aloud. 'What madness,
really! Can I dispose of my life without Michel's leave, my
life, which I have surrendered into his keeping? No, cruel
wretches! No! You have not won your game yet! He will save
me, he will tear me out of this hell, he... my Michel!'
But then I remembered that he was shut up just as I was, and
I flung myself, face downwards, on my bed, and sobbed... and
sobbed.... And only the thought that my tormentor was perhaps
at the door, listening and triumphing, only that thought
forced me to swallow my tears....
I am worn out. I have been writing since morning, and now it
is evening; if once I tear myself from this sheet of paper, I
shall not be capable of taking up the pen again.... I must
hasten, hasten to the finish! And besides, to dwell on the
hideous things that followed that dreadful day is beyond my
Twenty-four hours later I was taken in a closed cart to an
isolated hut, surrounded by peasants, who were to watch me,
and kept shut up for six whole weeks! I was not for one
instant alone.... Later on I learnt that my stepfather had
set spies to watch both Michel and me ever since his arrival,
that he had bribed the servant, who had given me Michel's
note. I ascertained too that an awful, heart-rending scene
had taken place the next morning between the son and the
father.... The father had cursed him. Michel for his part had
sworn he would never set foot in his father's house again,
and had set off to Petersburg. But the blow aimed at me by my
stepfather rebounded upon himself. Semyon Matveitch announced
that he could not have him remaining there, and managing the
estate any longer. Awkward service, it seems, is an
unpardonable offence, and some one must be fixed upon to bear
the brunt of the scandal. Semyon Matveitch recompensed
Mr. Ratsch liberally, however: he gave him the necessary
means to move to Moscow and to establish himself there.
Before the departure for Moscow, I was brought back to the
lodge, but kept as before under the strictest guard. The loss
of the 'snug little berth,' of which he was being deprived
'thanks to me,' increased my stepfather's vindictive rage
against me more than ever.
'Why did you make such a fuss?' he would say, almost snorting
with indignation; 'upon my word! The old chap, of course, got
a little too hot, was a little too much in a hurry, and so he
made a mess of it; now, of course, his vanity's hurt, there's
no setting the mischief right again now! If you'd only waited
a day or two, it'd all have been right as a trivet; you
wouldn't have been kept on dry bread, and I should have
stayed what I was! Ah, well, women's hair is long... but
their wit is short! Never mind; I'll be even with you yet,
and that pretty young gentleman shall smart for it too!'
I had, of course, to bear all these insults in silence.
Semyon Matveitch I did not once see again. The separation
from his son had been a shock to him too. Whether he felt
remorse or—which is far more likely—wished to
bind me for ever to my home, to my family—my
family!—anyway, he assigned me a pension, which was to
be paid into my stepfather's hands, and to be given to me
till I married.... This humiliating alms, this pension I
still receive... that is to say, Mr. Ratsch receives it for
We settled in Moscow. I swear by the memory of my poor
mother, I would not have remained two days, not two hours,
with my stepfather, after once reaching the town... I would
have gone away, not knowing where... to the police; I would
have flung myself at the feet of the governor-general, of the
senators; I don't know what I would have done, if it had not
happened, at the very moment of our starting from the
country, that the girl who had been our maid managed to give
me a letter from Michel! Oh, that letter! How many times I
read over each line, how many times I covered it with kisses!
Michel besought me not to lose heart, to go on hoping, to
believe in his unchanging love; he swore that he would never
belong to any one but me; he called me his wife, he promised
to overcome all hindrances, he drew a picture of our future,
he asked of me only one thing, to be patient, to wait a
And I resolved to wait and be patient. Alas! what would I not
have agreed to, what would I not have borne, simply to do his
will! That letter became my holy thing, my guiding star, my
anchor. Sometimes when my stepfather would begin abusing and
insulting me, I would softly lay my hand on my bosom (I wore
Michel's letter sewed into an amulet) and only smile. And the
more violent and abusive was Mr. Ratsch, the easier, lighter,
and sweeter was the heart within me.... I used to see, at
last, by his eyes, that he began to wonder whether I was
going out of my mind.... Following on this first letter came
a second, still more full of hope.... It spoke of our meeting
Alas! instead of that meeting there came a morning... I can
see Mr. Ratsch coming in—and triumph again, malignant
triumph, in his face—and in his hands a page of the
Invalid, and there the announcement of the death of
the Captain of the Guards—Mihail Koltovsky.
What can I add? I remained alive, and went on living in Mr.
Ratsch's house. He hated me as before—more than
before—he had unmasked his black soul too much before
me, he could not pardon me that. But that was of no
consequence to me. I became, as it were, without feeling; my
own fate no longer interested me. To think of him, to think
of him! I had no interest, no joy, but that. My poor Michel
died with my name on his lips.... I was told so by a servant,
devoted to him, who had been with him when he came into the
country. The same year my stepfather married Eleonora
Karpovna. Semyon Matveitch died shortly after. In his will he
secured to me and increased the pension he had allowed me....
In the event of my death, it was to pass to Mr. Ratsch....
Two—three—years passed... six years, seven
years.... Life has been passing, ebbing away... while I
merely watched how it was ebbing. As in childhood, on some
river's edge one makes a little pond and dams it up, and
tries in all sorts of ways to keep the water from soaking
through, from breaking in. But at last the water breaks in,
and then you abandon all your vain efforts, and you are glad
instead to watch all that you had guarded ebbing away to the
So I lived, so I existed, till at last a new, unhoped-for ray
of warmth and light....'
The manuscript broke off at this word; the following leaves
had been torn off, and several lines completing the sentence
had been crossed through and blotted out.
The reading of this manuscript so upset me, the impression
made by Susanna's visit was so great, that I could not sleep
all night, and early in the morning I sent an express
messenger to Fustov with a letter, in which I besought him to
come to Moscow as soon as possible, as his absence might have
the most terrible results. I mentioned also my interview with
Susanna, and the manuscript she had left in my hands. After
having sent off the letter, I did not go out of the house all
day, and pondered all the time on what might be happening at
the Ratsches'. I could not make up my mind to go there
myself. I could not help noticing though that my aunt was in
a continual fidget; she ordered pastilles to be burnt every
minute, and dealt the game of patience, known as 'the
traveller,' which is noted as a game in which one can never
succeed. The visit of an unknown lady, and at such a late
hour, had not been kept secret from her: her imagination at
once pictured a yawning abyss on the edge of which I was
standing, and she was continually sighing and moaning and
murmuring French sentences, quoted from a little manuscript
book entitled Extraits de Lecture. In the evening I
found on the little table at my bedside the treatise of De
Girando, laid open at the chapter: On the evil influence of
the passions. This book had been put in my room, at my aunt's
instigation of course, by the elder of her companions, who
was called in the household Amishka, from her resemblance to
a little poodle of that name, and was a very sentimental, not
to say romantic, though elderly, maiden lady. All the
following day was spent in anxious expectation of Fustov's
coming, of a letter from him, of news from the Ratsches'
house... though on what ground could they have sent to me?
Susanna would be more likely to expect me to visit her....
But I positively could not pluck up courage to see her
without first talking to Fustov. I recalled every expression
in my letter to him.... I thought it was strong enough; at
last, late in the evening, he appeared.
He came into my room with his habitual, rapid, but deliberate
step. His face struck me as pale, and though it showed traces
of the fatigue of the journey, there was an expression of
astonishment, curiosity, and dissatisfaction—emotions
of which he had little experience as a rule. I rushed up to
him, embraced him, warmly thanked him for obeying me, and
after briefly describing my conversation with Susanna, handed
him the manuscript. He went off to the window, to the very
window in which Susanna had sat two days before, and without
a word to me, he fell to reading it. I at once retired to the
opposite corner of the room, and for appearance' sake took up
a book; but I must own I was stealthily looking over the edge
of the cover all the while at Fustov. At first he read rather
calmly, and kept pulling with his left hand at the down on
his lip; then he let his hand drop, bent forward and did not
stir again. His eyes seemed to fly along the lines and his
mouth slightly opened. At last he finished the manuscript,
turned it over, looked round, thought a little, and began
reading it all through a second time from beginning to end.
Then he got up, put the manuscript in his pocket and moved
towards the door; but he turned round and stopped in the
middle of the room.
'Well, what do you think?' I began, not waiting for him to
'I have acted wrongly towards her,' Fustov declared thickly.
'I have behaved... rashly, unpardonably, cruelly. I believed
'What!' I cried; 'that Viktor whom you despise so! But what
could he say to you?'
Fustov crossed his arms and stood obliquely to me. He was
ashamed, I saw that.
'Do you remember,' he said with some effort, 'that... Viktor
alluded to... a pension. That unfortunate word stuck in my
head. It's the cause of everything. I began questioning
him.... Well, and he—'
'What did he say?'
'He told me that the old man... what's his name?...
Koltovsky, had allowed Susanna that pension because... on
account of... well, in fact, by way of damages.'
I flung up my hands.
'And you believed him?'
'Yes! I believed him.... He said, too, that with the young
one... In fact, my behaviour is unjustifiable.'
'And you went away so as to break everything off?'
'Yes; that's the best way... in such cases. I acted savagely,
savagely,' he repeated.
We were both silent. Each of us felt that the other was
ashamed; but it was easier for me; I was not ashamed of
'I would break every bone in that Viktor's body now,' pursued
Fustov, clenching his teeth, 'if I didn't recognise that I'm
in fault. I see now what the whole trick was contrived for,
with Susanna's marriage they would lose the pension....
I took his hand.
'Alexander,' I asked him, 'have you been to her?'
'No; I came straight to you on arriving. I'll go to-morrow...
early to-morrow. Things can't be left so. On no account!'
'But you... love her, Alexander?'
Fustov seemed offended.
'Of course I love her. I am very much attached to her.'
'She's a splendid, true-hearted girl!' I cried.
Fustov stamped impatiently.
'Well, what notion have you got in your head? I was prepared
to marry her—she's been baptized—I'm ready to
marry her even now, I'd been thinking of it, though she's
older than I am.'
At that instant I suddenly fancied that a pale woman's figure
was seated in the window, leaning on her arms. The lights had
burnt down; it was dark in the room. I shivered, looked more
intently, and saw nothing, of course, in the window seat; but
a strange feeling, a mixture of horror, anguish and pity,
came over me.
'Alexander!' I began with sudden intensity, 'I beg you, I
implore you, go at once to the Ratsches', don't put it off
till to-morrow! An inner voice tells me that you really ought
to see Susanna to-day!'
Fustov shrugged his shoulders.
'What are you talking about, really! It's eleven o'clock now,
most likely they're all in bed.'
'No matter.... Do go, for goodness' sake! I have a
presentiment.... Please do as I say! Go at once, take a
'Come, what nonsense!' Fustov responded coolly; 'how could I
go now? To-morrow morning I will be there, and everything
will be cleared up.'
'But, Alexander, remember, she said that she was dying, that
you would not find her... And if you had seen her face! Only
think, imagine, to make up her mind to come to me... what it
must have cost her....'
'She's a little high-flown,' observed Fustov, who had
apparently regained his self-possession completely. 'All
girls are like that... at first. I repeat, everything will be
all right to-morrow. Meanwhile, good-bye. I'm tired, and
you're sleepy too.'
He took his cap, and went out of the room.
'But you promise to come here at once, and tell me all about
it?' I called after him.
'I promise.... Good-bye!'
I went to bed, but in my heart I was uneasy, and I felt vexed
with my friend. I fell asleep late and dreamed that I was
wandering with Susanna along underground, damp passages of
some sort, and crawling along narrow, steep staircases, and
continually going deeper and deeper down, though we were
trying to get higher up out into the air. Some one was all
the while incessantly calling us in monotonous, plaintive
Some one's hand lay on my shoulder and pushed it several
times.... I opened my eyes and in the faint light of the
solitary candle, I saw Fustov standing before me. He
frightened me. He was staggering; his face was yellow, almost
the same colour as his hair; his lips seemed hanging down,
his muddy eyes were staring senselessly away. What had become
of his invariably amiable, sympathetic expression? I had a
cousin who from epilepsy was sinking into idiocy.... Fustov
looked like him at that moment.
I sat up hurriedly.
'What is it? What is the matter? Heavens!'
He made no answer.
'Why, what has happened? Fustov! Do speak! Susanna?...'
Fustov gave a slight start.
'She...' he began in a hoarse voice, and broke off.
'What of her? Have you seen her?'
He stared at me.
'She's no more.'
'No. She is dead.'
I jumped out of bed.
'Dead? Susanna? Dead?'
Fustov turned his eyes away again.
'Yes; she is dead; she died at midnight.'
'He's raving!' crossed my mind.
'At midnight! And what's the time now?'
'It's eight o'clock in the morning now.
They sent to tell me. She is to be buried to-morrow.'
I seized him by the hand.
'Alexander, you're not delirious? Are you in your senses?'
'I am in my senses,' he answered. 'Directly I heard it, I
came straight to you.'
My heart turned sick and numb, as always happens on realising
an irrevocable misfortune.
'My God! my God! Dead!' I repeated. 'How is it possible? So
suddenly! Or perhaps she took her own life?'
'I don't know,' said Fustov, 'I know nothing. They told me
she died at midnight. And to-morrow she will be buried.'
'At midnight!' I thought.... 'Then she was still alive
yesterday when I fancied I saw her in the window, when I
entreated him to hasten to her....'
'She was still alive yesterday, when you wanted to send me to
Ivan Demianitch's,' said Fustov, as though guessing my
'How little he knew her!' I thought again. 'How little we
both knew her! "High-flown," said he, "all girls are like
that."... And at that very minute, perhaps, she was putting
to her lips... Can one love any one and be so grossly
mistaken in them?'
Fustov stood stockstill before my bed, his hands hanging,
like a guilty man.
I dressed hurriedly.
'What do you mean to do now, Alexander?' I asked.
He gazed at me in bewilderment, as though marvelling at the
absurdity of my question. And indeed what was there to do?
'You simply must go to them, though,' I began. 'You're bound
to ascertain how it happened; there is, possibly, a crime
concealed. One may expect anything of those people.... It is
all to be thoroughly investigated. Remember the statement in
her manuscript, the pension was to cease on her marriage, but
in event of her death it was to pass to Ratsch. In any case,
one must render her the last duty, pay homage to her
I talked to Fustov like a preceptor, like an elder brother.
In the midst of all that horror, grief, bewilderment, a sort
of unconscious feeling of superiority over Fustov had
suddenly come to the surface in me.... Whether from seeing
him crushed by the consciousness of his fault, distracted,
shattered, whether that a misfortune befalling a man almost
always humiliates him, lowers him in the opinion of others,
'you can't be much,' is felt, 'if you hadn't the wit to come
off better than that!' God knows! Any way, Fustov seemed to
me almost like a child, and I felt pity for him, and saw the
necessity of severity. I held out a helping hand to him,
stooping down to him from above. Only a woman's sympathy is
free from condescension.
But Fustov continued to gaze with wild and stupid eyes at
me—my authoritative tone obviously had no effect on
him, and to my second question, 'You're going to them, I
suppose?' he replied—
'No, I'm not going.'
'What do you mean, really? Don't you want to ascertain for
yourself, to investigate, how, and what? Perhaps, she has
left a letter... a document of some sort....'
Fustov shook his head.
'I can't go there,' he said. 'That's what I came to you for,
to ask you to go... for me... I can't... I can't....'
Fustov suddenly sat down to the table, hid his face in both
hands, and sobbed bitterly.
'Alas, alas!' he kept repeating through his tears; 'alas,
poor girl... poor girl... I loved... I loved her... alas!'
I stood near him, and I am bound to confess, not the
slightest sympathy was excited in me by those incontestably
sincere sobs. I simply marvelled that Fustov could cry
like that, and it seemed to me that
now I knew
what a small person he was, and that I should, in his place,
have acted quite differently. What's one to make of it? If
Fustov had remained quite unmoved, I should perhaps have
hated him, have conceived an aversion for him, but he would
not have sunk in my esteem.... He would have kept his
prestige. Don Juan would have remained Don Juan! Very late in
life, and only after many experiences, does a man learn, at
the sight of a fellow-creature's real failing or weakness, to
sympathise with him, and help him without a secret
self-congratulation at his own virtue and strength, but on
the contrary, with every humility and comprehension of the
naturalness, almost the inevitableness, of sin.
I was very bold and resolute in sending Fustov to the
Ratsches'; but when I set out there myself at twelve o'clock
(nothing would induce Fustov to go with me, he only begged me
to give him an exact account of everything), when round the
corner of the street their house glared at me in the distance
with a yellowish blur from the coffin candles at one of the
windows, an indescribable panic made me hold my breath, and I
would gladly have turned back.... I mastered myself, however,
and went into the passage. It smelt of incense and wax; the
pink cover of the coffin, edged with silver lace, stood in a
corner, leaning against the wall. In one of the adjoining
rooms, the dining-room, the monotonous muttering of the
deacon droned like the buzzing of a bee. From the
drawing-room peeped out the sleepy face of a servant girl,
who murmured in a subdued voice, 'Come to do homage to the
dead?' She indicated the door of the dining-room. I went in.
The coffin stood with the head towards the door; the black
hair of Susanna under the white wreath, above the raised lace
of the pillow, first caught my eyes. I went up sidewards,
crossed myself, bowed down to the ground, glanced... Merciful
God! what a face of agony! Unhappy girl! even death had no
pity on her, had denied her—beauty, that would be
little—even that peace, that tender and impressive
peace which is often seen on the faces of the newly dead. The
little, dark, almost brown, face of Susanna recalled the
visages on old, old holy pictures. And the expression on that
face! It looked as though she were on the point of
shrieking—a shriek of despair—and had died so,
uttering no sound... even the line between the brows was not
smoothed out, and the fingers on the hands were bent back and
clenched. I turned away my eyes involuntarily; but, after a
brief interval, I forced myself to look, to look long and
attentively at her. Pity filled my soul, and not pity alone.
'That girl died by violence,' I decided inwardly; 'that's
beyond doubt.' While I was standing looking at the dead girl,
the deacon, who on my entrance had raised his voice and
uttered a few disconnected sounds, relapsed into droning
again, and yawned twice. I bowed to the ground a second time,
and went out into the passage.
In the doorway of the drawing-room Mr. Ratsch was already on
the look-out for me, dressed in a gay-coloured dressing-gown.
Beckoning to me with his hand, he led me to his own
room—I had almost said, to his lair. The room, dark and
close, soaked through and through with the sour smell of
stale tobacco, suggested a comparison with the lair of a wolf
or a fox.
'Rupture! rupture of the external... of the external
covering.... You understand.., the envelopes of the heart!'
said Mr. Ratsch, directly the door closed. 'Such a
misfortune! Only yesterday evening there was nothing to
notice, and all of a sudden, all in a minute, all was over!
It's a true saying, "heute roth, morgen todt!" It's true;
it's what was to be expected. I always expected it. At Tambov
the regimental doctor, Galimbovsky, Vikenty Kasimirovitch....
you've probably heard of him... a first-rate medical man, a
'It's the first time I've heard the name,' I observed.
'Well, no matter; any way he was always,' pursued Mr. Ratsch,
at first in a low voice, and then louder and louder, and, to
my surprise, with a perceptible German accent, 'he was always
warning me: "Ay, Ivan Demianitch! ay! my dear boy, you must
be careful! Your stepdaughter has an organic defect in the
heart—hypertrophia cordialis! The least thing and
there'll be trouble! She must avoid all exciting emotions
above all.... You must appeal to her reason."... But, upon my
word, with a young lady... can one appeal to reason? Ha...
Mr. Ratsch was, through long habit, on the point of laughing,
but he recollected himself in time, and changed the incipient
guffaw into a cough.
And this was what Mr. Ratsch said! After all that I had found
out about him!... I thought it my duty, however, to ask him
whether a doctor was called in.
Mr. Ratsch positively bounced into the air.
'To be sure there was.... Two were summoned, but it was
already over—abgemacht! And only fancy, both, as though
they were agreeing' (Mr. Ratsch probably meant, as though
they had agreed), 'rupture! rupture of the heart! That's
what, with one voice, they cried out. They proposed a
post-mortem; but I... you understand, did not consent to
'And the funeral's to-morrow?' I queried.
'Yes, yes, to-morrow, to-morrow we bury our dear one! The
procession will leave the house precisely at eleven o'clock
in the morning.... From here to the church of St. Nicholas on
Hen's Legs... what strange names your Russian churches do
have, you know! Then to the last resting-place in mother
earth. You will come! We have not been long acquainted, but I
make bold to say, the amiability of your character and the
elevation of your sentiments!...'
I made haste to nod my head.
'Yes, yes, yes,' sighed Mr. Ratsch. 'It... it really has
been, as they say, a thunderbolt from a clear sky! Ein Blitz
aus heiterem Himmel!'
'And Susanna Ivanovna said nothing before her death, left
'Nothing, positively! Not a scrap of anything! Not a bit of
paper! Only fancy, when they called me to her, when they
waked me up—she was stiff already! Very distressing it
was for me; she has grieved us all terribly! Alexander
Daviditch will be sorry too, I dare say, when he knows....
They say he is not in Moscow.'
'He did leave town for a few days...' I began.
'Viktor Ivanovitch is complaining they're so long getting his
sledge harnessed,' interrupted a servant girl coming
in—the same girl I had seen in the passage. Her face,
still looking half-awake, struck me this time by the
expression of coarse insolence to be seen in servants when
they know that their masters are in their power, and that
they do not dare to find fault or be exacting with them.
'Directly, directly,' Ivan Demianitch responded nervously.
'Eleonora Karpovna! Leonora! Lenchen! come here!'
There was a sound of something ponderous moving the other
side of the door, and at the same instant I heard Viktor's
imperious call: 'Why on earth don't they put the horses in?
You don't catch me trudging off to the police on foot!'
'Directly, directly,' Ivan Demianitch faltered again.
'Eleonora Karpovna, come here!'
'But, Ivan Demianitch,' I heard her voice, 'ich habe keine
'Macht nichts. Komm herein!'
Eleonora Karpovna came in, holding a kerchief over her neck
with two fingers. She had on a morning wrapper, not buttoned
up, and had not yet done her hair. Ivan Demianitch flew up to
'You hear, Viktor's calling for the horses,' he said,
hurriedly pointing his finger first to the door, then to the
window. 'Please, do see to it, as quick as possible! Der Kerl
'Der Viktor schreit immer, Ivan Demianitch, Sie wissen wohl,'
responded Eleonora Karpovna, 'and I have spoken to the
coachman myself, but he's taken it into his head to give the
horses oats. Fancy, what a calamity to happen so suddenly,'
she added, turning to me; 'who could have expected such a
thing of Susanna Ivanovna?'
'I was always expecting it, always!' cried Ratsch, and threw
up his arms, his dressing-gown flying up in front as he did
so, and displaying most repulsive unmentionables of chamois
leather, with buckles on the belt. 'Rupture of the heart!
rupture of the external membrane! Hypertrophy!'
'To be sure,' Eleonora Karpovna repeated after him, 'hyper...
Well, so it is. Only it's a terrible, terrible grief to me, I
say again...' And her coarse-featured face worked a little,
her eyebrows rose into the shape of triangles, and a tiny
tear rolled over her round cheek, that looked varnished like
a doll's.... 'I'm very sorry that such a young person who
ought to have lived and enjoyed everything... everything...
And to fall into despair so suddenly!'
'Na! gut, gut... geh, alte!' Mr. Ratsch cut her short.
'Geh' schon, geh' schon,' muttered Eleonora Karpovna, and she
went away, still holding the kerchief with her fingers, and
And I followed her. In the passage stood Viktor in a
student's coat with a beaver collar and a cap stuck jauntily
on one side. He barely glanced at me over his shoulder, shook
his collar up, and did not nod to me, for which I mentally
I went back to Fustov.
I found my friend sitting in a corner of his room with
downcast head and arms folded across his breast. He had sunk
into a state of numbness, and he gazed around him with the
slow, bewildered look of a man who has slept very heavily and
has only just been waked. I told him all about my visit to
Ratsch's, repeated the veteran's remarks and those of his
wife, described the impression they had made on me and
informed him of my conviction that the unhappy girl had taken
her own life.... Fustov listened to me with no change of
expression, and looked about him with the same bewildered
'Did you see her?' he asked me at last.
'In the coffin?'
Fustov seemed to doubt whether Susanna were really dead.
'In the coffin.'
Fustov's face twitched and he dropped his eyes and softly
rubbed his hands.
'Are you cold?' I asked him.
'Yes, old man, I'm cold,' he answered hesitatingly, and he
shook his head stupidly.
I began to explain my reasons for thinking that Susanna had
poisoned herself or perhaps had been poisoned, and that the
matter could not be left so....
Fustov stared at me.
'Why, what is there to be done?' he said, slowly opening his
eyes wide and slowly closing them. 'Why, it'll be worse... if
it's known about. They won't bury her. We must let things...
This idea, simple as it was, had never entered my head. My
friend's practical sense had not deserted him.
'When is... her funeral?' he went on.
'Are you going?'
'To the house or straight to the church?'
'To the house and to the church too; and from there to the
'But I shan't go... I can't, I can't!' whispered Fustov and
began crying. It was at these same words that he had broken
into sobs in the morning. I have noticed that it is often so
with weeping; as though to certain words, for the most of no
great meaning,—but just to these words and to no
others—it is given to open the fount of tears in a man,
to break him down, and to excite in him the feeling of pity
for others and himself... I remember a peasant woman was once
describing before me the sudden death of her daughter, and
she fairly dissolved and could not go on with her tale as
soon as she uttered the phrase, 'I said to her, Fekla. And
she says, "Mother, where have you put the salt... the salt...
sa-alt?"' The word 'salt' overpowered her.
But again, as in the morning, I was but little moved by
Fustov's tears. I could not conceive how it was he did not
ask me if Susanna had not left something for him. Altogether
their love for one another was a riddle to me; and a riddle
it remained to me.
After weeping for ten minutes Fustov got up, lay down on the
sofa, turned his face to the wall, and remained motionless. I
waited a little, but seeing that he did not stir, and made no
answer to my questions, I made up my mind to leave him. I am
perhaps doing him injustice, but I almost believe he was
asleep. Though indeed that would be no proof that he did not
feel sorrow... only his nature was so constituted as to be
unable to support painful emotions for long... His nature was
too awfully well-balanced!
The next day exactly at eleven o'clock I was at the place.
Fine hail was falling from the low-hanging sky, there was a
slight frost, a thaw was close at hand, but there were
cutting, disagreeable gusts of wind flitting across in the
air.... It was the most thoroughly Lenten, cold-catching
weather. I found Mr. Ratsch on the steps of his house. In a
black frock-coat adorned with crape, with no hat on his head,
he fussed about, waved his arms, smote himself on the thighs,
shouted up to the house, and then down into the street, in
the direction of the funeral car with a white catafalque,
already standing there with two hired carriages. Near it four
garrison soldiers, with mourning capes over their old coats,
and mourning hats pulled over their screwed-up eyes, were
pensively scratching in the crumbling snow with the long
stems of their unlighted torches. The grey shock of hair
positively stood up straight above the red face of Mr.
Ratsch, and his voice, that brazen voice, was cracking from
the strain he was putting on it. 'Where are the pine
branches? pine branches! this way! the branches of pine!' he
yelled. 'They'll be bearing out the coffin directly! The
pine! Hand over those pine branches! Look alive!' he cried
once more, and dashed into the house. It appeared that in
spite of my punctuality, I was late: Mr. Ratsch had thought
fit to hurry things forward. The service in the house was
already over; the priests—of whom one wore a calotte,
and the other, rather younger, had most carefully combed and
oiled his hair—appeared with all their retinue on the
steps. The coffin too appeared soon after, carried by a
coachman, two door-keepers, and a water-carrier. Mr. Ratsch
walked behind, with the tips of his fingers on the coffin
lid, continually repeating, 'Easy, easy!' Behind him waddled
Eleonora Karpovna in a black dress, also adorned with crape,
surrounded by her whole family; after all of them, Viktor
stepped out in a new uniform with a sword with crape round
the handle. The coffin-bearers, grumbling and altercating
among themselves, laid the coffin on the hearse; the garrison
soldiers lighted their torches, which at once began crackling
and smoking; a stray old woman, who had joined herself on to
the party, raised a wail; the deacons began to chant, the
fine snow suddenly fell faster and whirled round like 'white
flies.' Mr. Ratsch bawled, 'In God's name! start!' and the
procession started. Besides Mr. Ratsch's family, there were
in all five men accompanying the hearse: a retired and
extremely shabby officer of roads and highways, with a faded
Stanislas ribbon—not improbably hired—on his
neck; the police superintendent's assistant, a diminutive man
with a meek face and greedy eyes; a little old man in a
fustian smock; an extremely fat fishmonger in a tradesman's
bluejacket, smelling strongly of his calling, and I. The
absence of the female sex (for one could hardly count as such
two aunts of Eleonora Karpovna, sisters of the sausagemaker,
and a hunchback old maiden lady with blue spectacles on her
blue nose), the absence of girl friends and acquaintances
struck me at first; but on thinking it over I realised that
Susanna, with her character, her education, her memories,
could not have made friends in the circle in which she was
living. In the church there were a good many people
assembled, more outsiders than acquaintances, as one could
see by the expression of their faces. The service did not
last long. What surprised me was that Mr. Ratsch crossed
himself with great fervour, quite as though he were of the
orthodox faith, and even chimed in with the deacons in the
responses, though only with the notes not with the words.
When at last it came to taking leave of the dead, I bowed
low, but did not give the last kiss. Mr. Ratsch, on the
contrary, went through this terrible ordeal with the utmost
composure, and with a deferential inclination of his person
invited the officer of the Stanislas ribbon to the coffin, as
though offering him entertainment, and picking his children
up under the arms swung them up in turn and held them up to
the body. Eleonora Karpovna, on taking farewell of Susanna,
suddenly broke into a roar that filled the church; but she
was soon soothed and continually asked in an exasperated
whisper, 'But where's my reticule?' Viktor held himself
aloof, and seemed to be trying by his whole demeanour to
convey that he was out of sympathy with all such customs and
was only performing a social duty. The person who showed the
most sympathy was the little old man in the smock, who had
been, fifteen years before, a land surveyor in the Tambov
province, and had not seen Ratsch since then. He did not know
Susanna at all, but had drunk a couple of glasses of spirits
at the sideboard before starting. My aunt had also come to
the church. She had somehow or other found out that the
deceased woman was the very lady who had paid me a visit, and
had been thrown into a state of indescribable agitation! She
could not bring herself to suspect me of any sort of
misconduct, but neither could she explain such a strange
chain of circumstances.... Not improbably she imagined that
Susanna had been led by love for me to commit suicide, and
attired in her darkest garments, with an aching heart and
tears, she prayed on her knees for the peace of the soul of
the departed, and put a rouble candle before the picture of
the Consolation of Sorrow.... 'Amishka' had come with her
too, and she too prayed, but was for the most part gazing at
me, horror-stricken.... That elderly spinster, alas! did not
regard me with indifference. On leaving the church, my aunt
distributed all her money, more than ten roubles, among the
At last the farewell was over. They began closing the coffin.
During the whole service I had not courage to look straight
at the poor girl's distorted face; but every time that my
eyes passed by it—'he did not come, he did not come,'
it seemed to me that it wanted to say. They were just going
to lower the lid upon the coffin. I could not restrain
myself: I turned a rapid glance on to the dead woman. 'Why
did you do it?' I was unconsciously asking.... 'He did not
come!' I fancied for the last time.... The hammer was
knocking in the nails, and all was over.
We followed the hearse towards the cemetery. We were forty in
number, of all sorts and conditions, nothing else really than
an idle crowd. The wearisome journey lasted more than an
hour. The weather became worse and worse. Halfway there
Viktor got into a carriage, but Mr. Ratsch stepped gallantly
on through the sloppy snow; just so must he have stepped
through the snow when, after the fateful interview with
Semyon Matveitch, he led home with him in triumph the girl
whose life he had ruined for ever. The 'veteran's' hair and
eyebrows were edged with snow; he kept blowing and uttering
exclamations, or manfully drawing deep breaths and puffing
out his round, dark-red cheeks.... One really might have
thought he was laughing. 'On my death the pension was to pass
to Ivan Demianitch'; these words from Susanna's manuscript
recurred again to my mind. We reached the cemetery at last;
we moved up to a freshly dug grave. The last ceremony was
quickly performed; all were chilled through, all were in
haste. The coffin slid on cords into the yawning hole; they
began to throw earth on it. Mr. Ratsch here too showed the
energy of his spirit, so rapidly, with such force and vigour,
did he fling clods of earth on to the coffin lid, throwing
himself into an heroic pose, with one leg planted firmly
before him... he could not have shown more energy if he had
been stoning his bitterest foe. Viktor, as before, held
himself aloof; he kept muffling himself up in his coat, and
rubbing his chin in the fur of his collar. Mr. Ratsch's other
children eagerly imitated their father. Flinging sand and
earth was a source of great enjoyment to them, for which, of
course, they were in no way to blame. A mound began to rise
up where the hole had been; we were on the point of
separating, when Mr. Ratsch, wheeling round to the left in
soldierly fashion, and slapping himself on the thigh,
announced to all of us 'gentlemen present,' that he invited
us, and also the 'reverend clergy,' to a 'funeral banquet,'
which had been arranged at no great distance from the
cemetery, in the chief saloon of an extremely superior
restaurant, 'thanks to the kind offices of our honoured
friend Sigismund Sigismundovitch.'... At these words he
indicated the assistant of the police superintendent, and
added that for all his grief and his Lutheran faith, he, Ivan
Demianitch Ratsch, as a genuine Russian, put the old Russian
usages before everything. 'My spouse,' he cried, 'with the
ladies that have accompanied her, may go home, while we
gentlemen commemorate in a modest repast the shade of Thy
departed servant!' Mr. Ratsch's proposal was received with
genuine sympathy; 'the reverend clergy' exchanged expressive
glances with one another, while the officer of roads and
highways slapped Ivan Demianitch on the shoulder, and called
him a patriot and the soul of the company.
We set off all together to the restaurant. In the restaurant,
in the middle of a long, wide, and quite empty room on the
first storey, stood two tables laid for dinner, covered with
bottles and eatables, and surrounded by chairs. The smell of
whitewash, mingled with the odours of spirits and salad oil,
was stifling and oppressive. The police superintendent's
assistant, as the organiser of the banquet, placed the clergy
in the seats of honour, near which the Lenten dishes were
crowded together conspicuously; after the priests the other
guests took their seats; the banquet began. I would not have
used such a festive word as banquet by choice, but no other
word would have corresponded with the real character of the
thing. At first the proceedings were fairly quiet, even
slightly mournful; jaws munched busily, and glasses were
emptied, but sighs too were audible—possibly sighs of
digestion, but possibly also of feeling. There were
references to death, allusions to the brevity of human life,
and the fleeting nature of earthly hopes. The officer of
roads and highways related a military but still edifying
anecdote. The priest in the calotte expressed his approval,
and himself contributed an interesting fact from the life of
the saint, Ivan the Warrior. The priest with the superbly
arranged hair, though his attention was chiefly engrossed by
the edibles, gave utterance to something improving on the
subject of chastity. But little by little all this changed.
Faces grew redder, and voices grew louder, and laughter
reasserted itself; one began to hear disconnected
exclamations, caressing appellations, after the manner of
'dear old boy,' 'dear heart alive,' 'old cock,' and even 'a
pig like that'—everything, in fact, of which the
Russian nature is so lavish, when, as they say, 'it comes
unbuttoned.' By the time that the corks of home-made
champagne were popping, the party had become noisy; some one
even crowed like a cock, while another guest was offering to
bite up and swallow the glass out of which he had just been
drinking. Mr. Ratsch, no longer red but purple, suddenly rose
from his seat; he had been guffawing and making a great noise
before, but now he asked leave to make a speech. 'Speak! Out
with it!' every one roared; the old man in the smock even
bawled 'bravo!' and clapped his hands... but he was already
sitting on the floor. Mr. Ratsch lifted his glass high above
his head, and announced that he proposed in brief but
'impressionable' phrases to refer to the qualities of the
noble soul which,'leaving here, so to say, its earthly husk
(die irdische Hülle) has soared to heaven, and
plunged...' Mr. Ratsch corrected himself: 'and plashed....'
He again corrected himself: 'and plunged...'
'Father deacon! Reverend sir! My good soul!' we heard a
subdued but insistent whisper, 'they say you've a devilish
good voice; honour us with a song, strike up: "We live among
'Sh! sh!... Shut up there!' passed over the lips of the
...'Plunged all her devoted family,' pursued Mr. Ratsch,
turning a severe glance in the direction of the lover of
music, 'plunged all her family into the most irreplaceable
grief! Yes!' cried Ivan Demianitch, 'well may the Russian
proverb say, "Fate spares not the rod."...'
'Stop! Gentlemen!' shouted a hoarse voice at the end of the
table, 'my purse has just been stolen!...'
'Ah, the swindler!' piped another voice, and slap! went a box
on the ear.
Heavens! What followed then! It was as though the wild beast,
till then only growling and faintly stirring within us, had
suddenly broken from its chains and reared up, ruffled and
fierce in all its hideousness. It seemed as though every one
had been secretly expecting 'a scandal,' as the natural
outcome and sequel of a banquet, and all, as it were, rushed
to welcome it, to support it.... Plates, glasses clattered
and rolled about, chairs were upset, a deafening din arose,
hands were waving in the air, coat-tails were flying, and a
fight began in earnest.
'Give it him! give it him!' roared like mad my neighbour, the
fishmonger, who had till that instant seemed to be the most
peaceable person in the world; it is true he had been
silently drinking some dozen glasses of spirits. 'Thrash
Who was to be thrashed, and what he was to be thrashed for,
he had no idea, but he bellowed furiously.
The police superintendent's assistant, the officer of roads
and highways, and Mr. Ratsch, who had probably not expected
such a speedy termination to his eloquence, tried to restore
order... but their efforts were unavailing. My neighbour, the
fishmonger, even fell foul of Mr. Ratsch himself.
'He's murdered the young woman, the blasted German,' he
yelled at him, shaking his fists; 'he's bought over the
police, and here he's crowing over it!!'
At this point the waiters ran in.... What happened further I
don't know; I snatched up my cap in all haste, and made off
as fast as my legs would carry me! All I remember is a
fearful crash; I recall, too, the remains of a herring in the
hair of the old man in the smock, a priest's hat flying right
across the room, the pale face of Viktor huddled up in a
corner, and a red beard in the grasp of a muscular hand....
Such were the last impressions I carried away of the
'memorial banquet,' arranged by the excellent Sigismund
Sigismundovitch in honour of poor Susanna.
After resting a little, I set off to see Fustov, and told him
all of which I had been a witness during that day. He
listened to me, sitting still, and not raising his head, and
putting both hands under his legs, he murmured again, 'Ah! my
poor girl, my poor girl!' and again lay down on the sofa and
turned his back on me.
A week later he seemed to have quite got over it, and took up
his life as before. I asked him for Susanna's manuscript as a
keepsake: he gave it me without raising any objection.
Several years passed by. My aunt was dead; I had left Moscow
and settled in Petersburg. Fustov too had moved to
Petersburg. He had entered the department of the Ministry of
Finance, but we rarely met and I saw nothing much in him
then. An official like every one else, and nothing more! If
he is still living and not married, he is, most likely,
unchanged to this day; he carves and carpenters and uses
dumb-bells, and is as much a lady-killer as ever, and
sketches Napoleon in a blue uniform in the albums of his lady
friends. It happened that I had to go to Moscow on business.
In Moscow I learned, with considerable surprise, that the
fortunes of my former acquaintance, Mr. Ratsch, had taken an
adverse turn. His wife had, indeed, presented him with twins,
two boys, whom as a true Russian he had christened
Briacheslav and Viacheslav, but his house had been burnt
down, he had been forced to retire from his position, and
worst of all, his eldest son, Viktor, had become practically
a permanent inmate of the debtors' prison. During my stay in
Moscow, among a company at a friendly gathering, I chanced to
hear an allusion made to Susanna, and a most slighting, most
insulting allusion! I did all I could to defend the memory of
the unhappy girl, to whom fate had denied even the charity of
oblivion, but my arguments did not make much impression on my
audience. One of them, a young student poet, was, however, a
little moved by my words. He sent me next day a poem, which I
have forgotten, but which ended in the following four lines:
'Her tomb lies cold, forlorn, but even death
Her gentle spirit's memory cannot save
From the sly voice of slander whispering on,
Withering the flowers on her forsaken tomb....'
I read these lines and unconsciously sank into musing.
Susanna's image rose before me; once more I seemed to see the
frozen window in my room; I recalled that evening and the
blustering snowstorm, and those words, those sobs.... I began
to ponder how it was possible to explain Susanna's love for
Fustov, and why she had so quickly, so impulsively given way
to despair, as soon as she saw herself forsaken. How was it
she had had no desire to wait a little, to hear the bitter
truth from the lips of the man she loved, to write to him,
even? How could she fling herself at once headlong into the
abyss? Because she was passionately in love with Fustov, I
shall be told; because she could not bear the slightest doubt
of his devotion, of his respect for her. Perhaps; or perhaps
because she was not at all so passionately in love with
Fustov; that she did not deceive herself about him, but
simply rested her last hopes on him, and could not get over
the thought that even this man had at once, at the first
breath of slander, turned away from her with contempt! Who
can say what killed her; wounded pride, or the wretchedness
of her helpless position, or the very memory of that first,
noble, true-hearted nature to whom she had so joyfully
pledged herself in the morning of her early days, who had so
deeply trusted her, and so honoured her? Who knows; perhaps
at the very instant when I fancied that her dead lips were
murmuring, 'he did not come!' her soul was rejoicing that she
had gone herself to him, to her Michel? The secrets of human
life are great, and love itself, the most impenetrable of
those secrets.... Anyway, to this day, whenever the image of
Susanna rises before me, I cannot overcome a feeling of pity
for her, and of angry reproach against fate, and my lips
whisper instinctively, 'Unhappy girl! unhappy girl!'
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.
'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.
A FRAGMENT FROM THE NOTE-BOOK OF A DEAD ARTIST
'Enough,' I said to myself as I moved with lagging steps over
the steep mountainside down to the quiet little brook.
'Enough,' I said again, as I drank in the resinous fragrance
of the pinewood, strong and pungent in the freshness of
falling evening. 'Enough,' I said once more, as I sat on the
mossy mound above the little brook and gazed into its dark,
lingering waters, over which the sturdy reeds thrust up their
pale green blades.... 'Enough.'
No more struggle, no more strain, time to draw in, time to
keep firm hold of the head and to bid the heart be silent. No
more to brood over the voluptuous sweetness of vague,
seductive ecstasy, no more to run after each fresh form of
beauty, no more to hang over every tremour of her delicate,
All has been felt, all has been gone through... I am weary.
What to me now that at this moment, larger, fiercer than
ever, the sunset floods the heavens as though aflame with
some triumphant passion? What to me that, amid the soft peace
and glow of evening, suddenly, two paces hence, hidden in a
thick bush's dewy stillness, a nightingale has sung his heart
out in notes magical as though no nightingale had been on
earth before him, and he first sang the first song of first
love? All this was, has been, has been again, and is a
thousand times repeated—and to think that it will last
on so to all eternity—as though decreed,
ordained—it stirs one's wrath! Yes... wrath!
Ah, I am grown old! Such thoughts would never have come to me
once—in those happy days of old, when I too was aflame
like the sunset and my heart sang like the nightingale.
There is no hiding it—everything has faded about me,
all life has paled. The light that gives life's colours depth
and meaning—the light that comes out of the heart of
man—is dead within me.... No, not dead yet—it
feebly smoulders on, giving no light, no warmth.
Once, late in the night in Moscow, I remember I went up to
the grating window of an old church, and leaned against the
faulty pane. It was dark under the low arched roof—a
forgotten lamp shed a dull red light upon the ancient
picture; dimly could be discerned the lips only of the sacred
face—stern and sorrowful. The sullen darkness gathered
about it, ready it seemed to crush under its dead weight the
feeble ray of impotent light.... Such now in my heart is the
light; and such the darkness.
And this I write to thee, to thee, my one never forgotten
friend, to thee, my dear companion, whom I have left for
ever, but shall not cease to love till my life's end....
Alas! thou knowest what parted us. But that I have no wish to
speak of now. I have left thee... but even here, in these
wilds, in this far-off exile, I am all filled through and
through with thee; as of old I am in thy power, as of old I
feel the sweet burden of thy hand on my bent head!
For the last time I drag myself from out the grave of silence
in which I am lying now. I turn a brief and softened gaze on
all my past... our past.... No hope and no return; but no
bitterness is in my heart and no regret, and clearer than the
blue of heaven, purer than the first snow on mountain tops,
fair memories rise up before me like the forms of departed
gods.... They come, not thronging in crowds, in slow
procession they follow one another like those draped Athenian
figures we admired so much—dost thou remember?—in
the ancient bas-reliefs in the Vatican.
I have spoken of the light that comes from the heart of man,
and sheds brightness on all around him... I long to talk with
thee of the time when in my heart too that light burned
bright with blessing... Listen... and I will fancy thee
sitting before me, gazing up at me with those eyes—so
fond yet stern almost in their intentness. O eyes, never to
be forgotten! On whom are they fastened now? Who folds in his
heart thy glance—that glance that seems to flow from
depths unknown even as mysterious springs—like ye, both
clear and dark—that gush out into some narrow, deep
ravine under the frowning cliffs.... Listen.
It was at the end of March before Annunciation, soon after I
had seen thee for the first time and—not yet dreaming
of what thou wouldst be to me—already, silently,
secretly, I bore thee in my heart. I chanced to cross one of
the great rivers of Russia. The ice had not yet broken up,
but looked swollen and dark; it was the fourth day of thaw.
The snow was melting everywhere—steadily but slowly;
there was the running of water on all sides; a noiseless wind
strayed in the soft air. Earth and sky alike were steeped in
one unvarying milky hue; there was not fog nor was there
light; not one object stood out clear in the general
whiteness, everything looked both close and indistinct. I
left my cart far behind and walked swiftly over the ice of
the river, and except the muffled thud of my own steps heard
not a sound. I went on enfolded on all sides by the first
breath, the first thrill, of early spring... and gradually
gaining force with every step, with every movement forwards,
a glad tremour sprang up and grew, all uncomprehended within
me... it drew me on, it hastened me, and so strong was the
flood of gladness within me, that I stood still at last and
with questioning eyes looked round me, as I would seek some
outer cause of my mood of rapture.... All was soft, white,
slumbering, but I lifted my eyes; high in the heavens floated
a flock of birds flying back to us.... 'Spring! welcome
spring!' I shouted aloud: 'welcome, life and love and
happiness!' And at that instance, with sweetly troubling
shock, suddenly like a cactus flower thy image blossomed
aflame within me, blossomed and grew, bewilderingly fair and
radiant, and I knew that I love thee, thee only—that I
am all filled full of thee....
I think of thee... and many other memories, other pictures
float before me with thee everywhere, at every turn of my
life I meet thee. Now an old Russian garden rises up before
me on the slope of a hillside, lighted up by the last rays of
the summer sun. Behind the silver poplars peeps out the
wooden roof of the manor-house with a thin curl of reddish
smoke above the white chimney, and in the fence a little gate
stands just ajar, as though some one had drawn it to with
faltering hand; and I stand and wait and gaze at that gate
and the sand of the garden path—wonder and rapture in
my heart. All that I behold seems new and different; over all
a breath of some glad, brooding mystery, and already I catch
the swift rustle of steps, and I stand intent and alert as a
bird with wings folded ready to take flight anew, and my
heart burns and shudders in joyous dread before the
approaching, the alighting rapture....
Then I see an ancient cathedral in a beautiful, far-off land.
In rows kneel the close packed people; a breath of prayerful
chill, of something grave and melancholy is wafted from the
high, bare roof, from the huge, branching columns. Thou
standest at my side, mute, apart, as though knowing me not.
Each fold of thy dark cloak hangs motionless as carved in
stone. Motionless, too, lie the bright patches cast by the
stained windows at thy feet on the worn flags. And lo,
violently thrilling the incense-clouded air, thrilling us
within, rolled out the mighty flood of the organ's notes...
and I saw thee paler, rigid—thy glance caressed me,
glided higher and rose heavenwards—while to me it
seemed none but an immortal soul could look so, with such
Another picture comes back to me.
No old-world temple subdues us with its stern magnificence;
the low walls of a little snug room shut us off from the
whole world. What am I saying? We are alone, alone in the
whole world; except us two there is nothing
living—outside these friendly walls darkness and death
and emptiness... It is not the wind that howls without, not
the rain streaming in floods; without, Chaos wails and moans,
his sightless eyes are weeping. But with us all is peaceful
and light and warm and welcoming; something droll, something
of childish innocence, like a butterfly—isn't it
so?—flutters about us. We nestle close to one another,
we lean our heads together and both read a favourite book. I
feel the delicate vein beating in thy soft forehead; I hear
that thou livest, thou hearest that I am living, thy smile is
born on my face before it is on thine, thou makest mute
answer to my mute question, thy thoughts, my thoughts are
like the two wings of one bird, lost in the infinite blue...
the last barriers have fallen—and so soothed, so
deepened is our love, so utterly has all apartness vanished
that we have no need for word or look to pass between us....
Only to breathe, to breathe together is all we want, to be
together and scarcely to be conscious that we are
Or last of all, there comes before me that bright September
when we walked through the deserted, still flowering garden
of a forsaken palace on the bank of a great river—not
Russian—under the soft brilliance of the cloudless sky.
Oh, how put into words what we felt! The endlessly flowing
river, the solitude and peace and bliss, and a kind of
voluptuous melancholy, and the thrill of rapture, the
unfamiliar monotonous town, the autumn cries of the jackdaws
in the high sun-lit treetops, and the tender words and smiles
and looks, long, soft, piercing to the very in-most soul, and
the beauty, beauty in our lives, about us, on all
sides—it is above words. Oh, the bench on which we sat
in silence with heads bowed down under the weight of
feeling—I cannot forget it till the hour I die! How
delicious were those few strangers passing us with brief
greetings and kind faces, and the great quiet boats floating
by (in one—dost thou remember?—stood a horse
pensively gazing at the gliding water), the baby prattle of
the tiny ripples by the bank, and the very bark of the
distant dogs across the water, the very shouts of the fat
officer drilling the red-faced recruits yonder, with
outspread arms and knees crooked like grasshoppers!... We
both felt that better than those moments nothing in the world
had been or would be for us, that all else... But why
compare? Enough... enough... Alas! yes: enough.
For the last time I give myself up to those memories and bid
them farewell for ever. So a miser gloating over his hoard,
his gold, his bright treasure, covers it over in the damp,
grey earth; so the wick of a smouldering lamp flickers up in
a last bright flare and sinks into cold ash. The wild
creature has peeped out from its hole for the last time at
the velvet grass, the sweet sun, the blue, kindly waters, and
has huddled back into the depths, curled up, and gone to
sleep. Will he have glimpses even in sleep of the sweet sun
and the grass and the blue kindly water?...
Sternly, remorselessly, fate leads each of us, and only at
the first, absorbed in details of all sorts, in trifles, in
ourselves, we are not aware of her harsh hand. While one can
be deceived and has no shame in lying, one can live and there
is no shame in hoping. Truth, not the full truth, of that,
indeed, we cannot speak, but even that little we can reach
locks up our lips at once, ties our hands, leads us to 'the
No.' Then one way is left a man to keep his feet, not to fall
to pieces, not to sink into the mire of self-forgetfulness...
of self-contempt,—calmly to turn away from all, to say
'enough!' and folding impotent arms upon the empty breast, to
save the last, the sole honour he can attain to, the dignity
of knowing his own nothingness; that dignity at which Pascal
hints when calling man a thinking reed he says that if the
whole universe crushed him, he, that reed, would be higher
than the universe, because he would know it was crushing him,
and it would know it not. A poor dignity! A sorry
consolation! Try your utmost to be penetrated by it, to have
faith in it, you, whoever you may be, my poor brother, and
there's no refuting those words of menace:
'Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
I quoted these lines from Macbeth, and there came back
to my mind the witches, phantoms, apparitions.... Alas! no
ghosts, no fantastic, unearthly powers are terrible; there
are no terrors in the Hoffmann world, in whatever form it
appears.... What is terrible is that there is nothing
terrible, that the very essence of life is petty,
uninteresting and degradingly inane. Once one is soaked
through and through with that knowledge, once one has tasted
of that bitter, no honey more seems sweet, and even the
highest, sweetest bliss, the bliss of love, of perfect
nearness, of complete devotion—even that loses all its
magic; all its dignity is destroyed by its own pettiness, its
brevity. Yes; a man loved, glowed with passion, murmured of
eternal bliss, of undying raptures, and lo, no trace is left
of the very worm that devoured the last relic of his withered
tongue. So, on a frosty day in late autumn, when all is
lifeless and dumb in the bleached grey grass, on the bare
forest edge, if the sun but come out for an instant from the
fog and turn one steady glance on the frozen earth, at once
the gnats swarm up on all sides; they sport in the warm rays,
bustle, flutter up and down, circle round one another... The
sun is hidden—the gnats fall in a feeble shower, and
there is the end of their momentary life.
But are there no great conceptions, no great words of
consolation: patriotism, right, freedom, humanity, art? Yes;
those words there are, and many men live by them and for
them. And yet it seems to me that if Shakespeare could be
born again he would have no cause to retract his Hamlet, his
Lear. His searching glance would discover nothing new in
human life: still the same motley picture—in reality so
little complex—would unroll before him in its
terrifying sameness. The same credulity and the same cruelty,
the same lust of blood, of gold, of filth, the same vulgar
pleasures, the same senseless sufferings in the name... why,
in the name of the very same shams that Aristophanes jeered
at two thousand years ago, the same coarse snares in which
the many-headed beast, the multitude, is caught so easily,
the same workings of power, the same traditions of
slavishness, the same innateness of falsehood—in a
word, the same busy squirrel's turning in the same old
unchanged wheel.... Again Shakespeare would set Lear
repeating his cruel: 'None doth offend,' which in other words
means: 'None is without offence.' and he too would say
'enough!' he too would turn away. One thing perhaps, may be:
in contrast to the gloomy tragic tyrant Richard, the great
poet's ironic genius would want to paint a newer type, the
tyrant of to-day, who is almost ready to believe in his own
virtue, and sleeps well of nights, or finds fault with too
sumptuous a dinner at the very time when his half-crushed
victims try to find comfort in picturing him, like Richard,
haunted by the phantoms of those he has ruined...
But to what end?
Why prove—picking out, too, and weighing words,
smoothing and rounding off phrases—why prove to gnats
that they are really gnats?
But art?... beauty?... Yes, these are words of power; they
are more powerful, may be, than those I have spoken before.
Venus of Milo is, may be, more real than Roman law or the
principles of 1789. It may be objected—how many times
has the retort been heard!—that beauty itself is
relative; that by the Chinese it is conceived as quite other
than the European's ideal.... But it is not the relativity of
art confounds me; its transitoriness, again its brevity, its
dust and ashes—that is what robs me of faith and
courage. Art at a given moment is more powerful, may be, than
nature; for in nature is no symphony of Beethoven, no picture
of Ruysdäel, no poem of Goethe, and only dull-witted
pedants or disingenuous chatterers can yet maintain that art
is the imitation of nature. But at the end of all, nature is
inexorable; she has no need to hurry, and sooner or later she
takes her own. Unconsciously and inflexibly obedient to laws,
she knows not art, as she knows not freedom, as she knows not
good; from all ages moving, from all ages changing, she
suffers nothing immortal, nothing unchanging.... Man is her
child; but man's work—art—is hostile to her, just
because it strives to be unchanging and immortal. Man is the
child of nature; but she is the universal mother, and she has
no preferences; all that exists in her lap has arisen only at
the cost of something else, and must in its time yield its
place to something else. She creates destroying, and she
cares not whether she creates or she destroys—so long
as life be not exterminated, so long as death fall not short
of his dues.... And so just as serenely she hides in mould
the god-like shape of Phidias's Zeus as the simplest pebble,
and gives the vile worm for food the priceless verse of
Sophokles. Mankind, 'tis true, jealously aid her in her work
of of slaughter; but is it not the same elemental force, the
force of nature, that finds vent in the fist of the barbarian
recklessly smashing the radiant brow of Apollo, in the savage
yells with which he casts in the fire the picture of Apelles?
How are we, poor folks, poor artists to be a match for this
deaf, dumb, blind force who triumphs not even in her
conquests, but goes onward, onward, devouring all things? How
stand against those coarse and mighty waves, endlessly,
unceasingly moving upward? How have faith in the value and
dignity of the fleeting images, that in the dark, on the edge
of the abyss, we shape out of dust for an instant?
All this is true,... but only the transient is beautiful,
said Schiller; and nature in the incessant play of her
rising, vanishing forms is not averse to beauty. Does not she
carefully deck the most fleeting of her children—the
petals of the flowers, the wings of the butterfly—in
the fairest hues, does she not give them the most exquisite
lines? Beauty needs not to live for ever to be
eternal—one instant is enough for her. Yes; that may be
is true—but only there where personality is not, where
man is not, where freedom is not; the butterfly's wing
spoiled appears again and again for a thousand years as the
same wing of the same butterfly; there sternly, fairly,
impersonally necessity completes her circle... but man is not
repeated like the butterfly, and the work of his hands, his
art, his spontaneous creation once destroyed is lost for
ever.... To him alone is it vouchsafed to create... but
strange and dreadful it is to pronounce: we are creators...
for one hour—as there was, in the tale, a caliph for an
hour. In this is our pre-eminence—and our curse; each
of those 'creators' himself, even he and no other, even this
I is, as it were, constructed with certain aim, on
lines laid down beforehand; each more or less dimly is aware
of his significance, is aware that he is innately something
noble, eternal—and lives, and must live in the moment
and for the moment. Sit in the mud, my friend, and aspire
to the skies! The greatest among us are just those who more
deeply than all others have felt this rooted contradiction;
though if so, it may be asked, can such words be used as
[Footnote 1: One cannot help recalling here Mephistopheles's
words to Faust:—
'Er (Gott) findet sich in einem ewgen Glanze,
Uns hat er in die Finsterniss gebracht—
Und euch taugt einzig Tag und Nacht.'
What is to be said of those to whom, with all goodwill, one
cannot apply such terms, even in the sense given them by the
feeble tongue of man? What can one say of the ordinary,
common, second-rate, third-rate toilers—whatsoever they
may be—statesmen, men of science, artists—above
all, artists? How conjure them to shake off their numb
indolence, their weary stupor, how draw them back to the
field of battle, if once the conception has stolen into their
brains of the nullity of everything human, of every sort of
effort that sets before itself a higher aim than the mere
winning of bread? By what crowns can they be lured for whom
laurels and thorns alike are valueless? For what end will
they again face the laughter of 'the unfeeling crowd' or 'the
judgment of the fool'—of the old fool who cannot
forgive them from turning away from the old bogies—of
the young fool who would force them to kneel with him, to
grovel with him before the new, lately discovered idols? Why
should they go back again into that jostling crowd of
phantoms, to that market-place where seller and buyer cheat
each other alike, where is noise and clamour, and all is
paltry and worthless? Why 'with impotence in their bones'
should they struggle back into that world where the peoples,
like peasant boys on a holiday, are tussling in the mire for
handfuls of empty nutshells, or gape in open-mouthed
adoration before sorry tinsel-decked pictures, into that
world where only that is living which has no right to live,
and each, stifling self with his own shouting, hurries
feverishly to an unknown, uncomprehended goal? No... no....
Enough... enough... enough!
...The rest is silence. [Footnote: English in the