The Possessed, or, The Devils
A Novel In Three Parts
Translated From The Russian By Constance Garnett
CHAPTER I. THE FETE—FIRST PART
CHAPTER II. THE END OF THE FETE
CHAPTER III. A ROMANCE ENDED
CHAPTER IV. THE LAST RESOLUTION
CHAPTER V. A WANDERER
CHAPTER VI. A BUSY NIGHT
CHAPTER VII. STEPAN TROFIMOVITCH'S LAST
CHAPTER VIII. CONCLUSION
CHAPTER I. THE FETE—FIRST PART
The fête took place in spite of all the perplexities of the preceding
"Shpigulin" day. I believe that even if Lembke had died the previous
night, the fête would still have taken place next morning—so peculiar
was the significance Yulia Mihailovna attached to it. Alas! up to the
last moment she was blind and had no inkling of the state of public
feeling. No one believed at last that the festive day would pass without
some tremendous scandal, some "catastrophe" as some people expressed it,
rubbing their hands in anticipation. Many people, it is true, tried to
assume a frowning and diplomatic countenance; but, speaking generally,
every Russian is inordinately delighted at any public scandal and
disorder. It is true that we did feel something much more serious
than the mere craving for a scandal: there was a general feeling
of irritation, a feeling of implacable resentment; every one seemed
thoroughly disgusted with everything. A kind of bewildered cynicism, a
forced, as it were, strained cynicism was predominant in every one. The
only people who were free from bewilderment were the ladies, and they
were clear on only one point: their remorseless detestation of Yulia
Mihailovna. Ladies of all shades of opinion were agreed in this. And
she, poor dear, had no suspicion; up to the last hour she was persuaded
that she was "surrounded by followers," and that they were still
"fanatically devoted to her."
I have already hinted that some low fellows of different sorts had
made their appearance amongst us. In turbulent times of upheaval or
transition low characters always come to the front everywhere. I am
not speaking now of the so-called "advanced" people who are always in a
hurry to be in advance of every one else (their absorbing anxiety) and
who always have some more or less definite, though often very stupid,
aim. No, I am speaking only of the riff-raff. In every period of
transition this riff-raff, which exists in every society, rises to the
surface, and is not only without any aim but has not even a symptom of
an idea, and merely does its utmost to give expression to uneasiness and
impatience. Moreover, this riff-raff almost always falls unconsciously
under the control of the little group of "advanced people" who do act
with a definite aim, and this little group can direct all this rabble
as it pleases, if only it does not itself consist of absolute idiots,
which, however, is sometimes the case. It is said among us now that it
is all over, that Pyotr Stepanovitch was directed by the Internationale,
and Yulia Mihailovna by Pyotr Stepanovitch, while she controlled, under
his rule, a rabble of all sorts. The more sober minds amongst us wonder
at themselves now, and can't understand how they came to be so foolish
at the time.
What constituted the turbulence of our time and what transition it was
we were passing through I don't know, nor I think does anyone, unless
it were some of those visitors of ours. Yet the most worthless fellows
suddenly gained predominant influence, began loudly criticising
everything sacred, though till then they had not dared to open their
mouths, while the leading people, who had till then so satisfactorily
kept the upper hand, began listening to them and holding their peace,
some even simpered approval in a most shameless way. People like
Lyamshin and Telyatnikov, like Gogol's Tentyotnikov, drivelling
home-bred editions of Radishtchev, wretched little Jews with a mournful
but haughty smile, guffawing foreigners, poets of advanced tendencies
from the capital, poets who made up with peasant coats and tarred boots
for the lack of tendencies or talents, majors and colonels who ridiculed
the senselessness of the service, and who would have been ready for an
extra rouble to unbuckle their swords, and take jobs as railway clerks;
generals who had abandoned their duties to become lawyers; advanced
mediators, advancing merchants, innumerable divinity students, women
who were the embodiment of the woman question—all these suddenly gained
complete sway among us and over whom? Over the club, the venerable
officials, over generals with wooden legs, over the very strict and
inaccessible ladies of our local society. Since even Varvara Petrovna
was almost at the beck and call of this rabble, right up to the time
of the catastrophe with her son, our other local Minervas may well be
pardoned for their temporary aberration. Now all this is attributed,
as I have mentioned already, to the Internationale. This idea has taken
such root that it is given as the explanation to visitors from other
parts. Only lately councillor Kubrikov, a man of sixty-two, with the
Stanislav Order on his breast, came forward uninvited and confessed in
a voice full of feeling that he had beyond a shadow of doubt been for
fully three months under the influence of the Internationale. When with
every deference for his years and services he was invited to be more
definite, he stuck firmly to his original statement, though he could
produce no evidence except that "he had felt it in all his feelings," so
that they cross-examined him no further.
I repeat again, there was still even among us a small group who held
themselves aloof from the beginning, and even locked themselves up. But
what lock can stand against a law of nature? Daughters will grow up even
in the most careful families, and it is essential for grown-up daughters
And so all these people, too, ended by subscribing to the governesses'
The ball was assumed to be an entertainment so brilliant, so
unprecedented; marvels were told about it; there were rumours of princes
from a distance with lorgnettes; of ten stewards, all young dandies,
with rosettes on their left shoulder; of some Petersburg people who
were setting the thing going; there was a rumour that Karmazinov had
consented to increase the subscriptions to the fund by reading his Merci
in the costume of the governesses of the district; that there would be
a literary quadrille all in costume, and every costume would symbolise
some special line of thought; and finally that "honest Russian thought"
would dance in costume—which would certainly be a complete novelty in
itself. Who could resist subscribing? Every one subscribed.
The programme of the fête was divided into two parts: the literary
matinée from midday till four o'clock, and afterwards a ball from ten
o'clock onwards through the night. But in this very programme there lay
concealed germs of disorder. In the first place, from the very beginning
a rumour had gained ground among the public concerning a luncheon
immediately after the literary matinée, or even while it was going
on, during an interval arranged expressly for it—a free luncheon, of
course, which would form part of the programme and be accompanied by
champagne. The immense price of the tickets (three roubles) tended to
confirm this rumour. "As though one would subscribe for nothing? The
fête is arranged for twenty-four hours, so food must be provided. People
will get hungry." This was how people reasoned in the town. I must admit
that Yulia Mihailovna did much to confirm this disastrous rumour by her
own heedlessness. A month earlier, under the first spell of the great
project, she would babble about it to anyone she met; and even sent a
paragraph to one of the Petersburg papers about the toasts and speeches
arranged for her fête. What fascinated her most at that time was
the idea of these toasts; she wanted to propose them herself and was
continually composing them in anticipation. They were to make clear what
was their banner (what was it? I don't mind betting that the poor dear
composed nothing after all), they were to get into the Petersburg and
Moscow papers, to touch and fascinate the higher powers and then to
spread the idea over all the provinces of Russia, rousing people to
wonder and imitation.
But for toasts, champagne was essential, and as champagne can't be
drunk on an empty stomach, it followed that a lunch was essential too.
Afterwards, when by her efforts a committee had been formed and had
attacked the subject more seriously, it was proved clearly to her at
once that if they were going to dream of banquets there would be very
little left for the governesses, however well people subscribed. There
were two ways out of the difficulty: either Belshazzar's feast with
toasts and speeches, and ninety roubles for the governesses, or a
considerable sum of money with the fête only as a matter of form to
raise it. The committee, however, only wanted to scare her, and had of
course worked out a third course of action, which was reasonable and
combined the advantages of both, that is, a very decent fête in every
respect only without champagne, and so yielding a very respectable sum,
much more than ninety roubles. But Yulia Mihailovna would not agree to
it: her proud spirit revolted from paltry compromise. She decided at
once that if the original idea could not be carried out they should rush
to the opposite extreme, that is, raise an enormous subscription that
would be the envy of other provinces. "The public must understand,"
she said at the end of her flaming speech to the committee, "that
the attainment of an object of universal human interest is infinitely
loftier than the corporeal enjoyments of the passing moment, that the
fête in its essence is only the proclamation of a great idea, and so we
ought to be content with the most frugal German ball simply as a symbol,
that is, if we can't dispense with this detestable ball altogether,"
so great was the aversion she suddenly conceived for it. But she was
pacified at last. It was then that "the literary quadrille" and the
other æsthetic items were invented and proposed as substitutes for the
corporeal enjoyments. It was then that Karmazinov finally consented to
read Merci (until then he had only tantalised them by his hesitation) and
so eradicate the very idea of victuals from the minds of our incontinent
public. So the ball was once more to be a magnificent function, though
in a different style. And not to be too ethereal it was decided that tea
with lemon and round biscuits should be served at the beginning of the
ball, and later on "orchade" and lemonade and at the end even ices—but
nothing else. For those who always and everywhere are hungry and, still
more, thirsty, they might open a buffet in the farthest of the suite of
rooms and put it in charge of Prohorovitch, the head cook of the club,
who would, subject to the strict supervision of the committee, serve
whatever was wanted, at a fixed charge, and a notice should be put up
on the door of the hall that refreshments were extra. But on the morning
they decided not to open the buffet at all for fear of disturbing the
reading, though the buffet would have been five rooms off the White Hall
in which Karmazinov had consented to read Merci.
It is remarkable that the committee, and even the most practical people
in it, attached enormous consequence to this reading. As for people
of poetical tendencies, the marshal's wife, for instance, informed
Karmazinov that after the reading she would immediately order a marble
slab to be put up in the wall of the White Hall with an inscription
in gold letters, that on such a day and year, here, in this place, the
great writer of Russia and of Europe had read Merci on laying aside his
pen, and so had for the first time taken leave of the Russian public
represented by the leading citizens of our town, and that this
inscription would be read by all at the ball, that is, only five hours
after Merci had been read. I know for a fact that Karmazinov it was who
insisted that there should be no buffet in the morning on any account,
while he was reading, in spite of some protests from members of the
committee that this was rather opposed to our way of doing things.
This was the position of affairs, while in the town people were still
reckoning on a Belshazzar feast, that is, on refreshments provided by
the committee; they believed in this to the last hour. Even the young
ladies were dreaming of masses of sweets and preserves, and something
more beyond their imagination. Every one knew that the subscriptions had
reached a huge sum, that all the town was struggling to go, that people
were driving in from the surrounding districts, and that there were
not tickets enough. It was known, too, that there had been some large
subscriptions apart from the price paid for tickets: Varvara Petrovna,
for instance, had paid three hundred roubles for her ticket and had
given almost all the flowers from her conservatory to decorate the room.
The marshal's wife, who was a member of the committee, provided the
house and the lighting; the club furnished the music, the attendants,
and gave up Prohorovitch for the whole day. There were other
contributions as well, though lesser ones, so much so indeed that the
idea was mooted of cutting down the price of tickets from three roubles
to two. Indeed, the committee were afraid at first that three roubles
would be too much for young ladies to pay, and suggested that they might
have family tickets, so that every family should pay for one daughter
only, while the other young ladies of the family, even if there were a
dozen specimens, should be admitted free. But all their apprehensions
turned out to be groundless: it was just the young ladies who did come.
Even the poorest clerks brought their girls, and it was quite evident
that if they had had no girls it would never have occurred to them to
subscribe for tickets. One insignificant little secretary brought all
his seven daughters, to say nothing of his wife and a niece into the
bargain, and every one of these persons held in her hand an entrance
ticket that cost three roubles.
It may be imagined what an upheaval it made in the town! One has only to
remember that as the fête was divided into two parts every lady needed
two costumes for the occasion—a morning one for the matinée and a
ball dress for the evening. Many middle-class people, as it appeared
afterwards, had pawned everything they had for that day, even the family
linen, even the sheets, and possibly the mattresses, to the Jews, who
had been settling in our town in great numbers during the previous two
years and who became more and more numerous as time went on. Almost all
the officials had asked for their salary in advance, and some of the
landowners sold beasts they could ill spare, and all simply to bring
their ladies got up as marchionesses, and to be as good as anybody. The
magnificence of dresses on this occasion was something unheard of in our
neighbourhood. For a fortnight beforehand the town was overflowing with
funny stories which were all brought by our wits to Yulia Mihailovna's
court. Caricatures were passed from hand to hand. I have seen some
drawings of the sort myself, in Yulia Mihailovna's album. All this
reached the ears of the families who were the source of the jokes; I
believe this was the cause of the general hatred of Yulia Mihailovna
which had grown so strong in the town. People swear and gnash their
teeth when they think of it now. But it was evident, even at the time,
that if the committee were to displease them in anything, or if anything
went wrong at the ball, the outburst of indignation would be something
surprising. That's why every one was secretly expecting a scandal; and
if it was so confidently expected, how could it fail to come to pass?
The orchestra struck up punctually at midday. Being one of the stewards,
that is, one of the twelve "young men with a rosette," I saw with my own
eyes how this day of ignominious memory began. It began with an enormous
crush at the doors. How was it that everything, including the police,
went wrong that day? I don't blame the genuine public: the fathers of
families did not crowd, nor did they push against anyone, in spite of
their position. On the contrary, I am told that they were disconcerted
even in the street, at the sight of the crowd shoving in a way unheard
of in our town, besieging the entry and taking it by assault, instead
of simply going in. Meanwhile the carriages kept driving up, and at last
blocked the street. Now, at the time I write, I have good grounds for
affirming that some of the lowest rabble of our town were brought in
without tickets by Lyamshin and Liputin, possibly, too, by other people
who were stewards like me. Anyway, some complete strangers, who had come
from the surrounding districts and elsewhere, were present. As soon as
these savages entered the hall they began asking where the buffet was,
as though they had been put up to it beforehand, and learning that
there was no buffet they began swearing with brutal directness, and an
unprecedented insolence; some of them, it is true, were drunk when they
came. Some of them were dazed like savages at the splendour of the
hall, as they had never seen anything like it, and subsided for a minute
gazing at it open-mouthed. This great White Hall really was magnificent,
though the building was falling into decay: it was of immense size, with
two rows of windows, with an old-fashioned ceiling covered with gilt
carving, with a gallery with mirrors on the walls, red and white
draperies, marble statues (nondescript but still statues) with heavy old
furniture of the Napoleonic period, white and gold, upholstered in red
velvet. At the moment I am describing, a high platform had been put
up for the literary gentlemen who were to read, and the whole hall was
filled with chairs like the parterre of a theatre with wide aisles for
But after the first moments of surprise the most senseless questions and
protests followed. "Perhaps we don't care for a reading.... We've paid
our money.... The audience has been impudently swindled.... This is our
entertainment, not the Lembkes!" They seemed, in fact, to have been
let in for this purpose. I remember specially an encounter in which the
princeling with the stand-up collar and the face of a Dutch doll, whom I
had met the morning before at Yulia Mihailovna's, distinguished himself.
He had, at her urgent request, consented to pin a rosette on his left
shoulder and to become one of our stewards. It turned out that this dumb
wax figure could act after a fashion of his own, if he could not talk.
When a colossal pockmarked captain, supported by a herd of rabble
following at his heels, pestered him by asking "which way to the
buffet?" he made a sign to a police sergeant. His hint was promptly
acted upon, and in spite of the drunken captain's abuse he was
dragged out of the hall. Meantime the genuine public began to make its
appearance, and stretched in three long files between the chairs. The
disorderly elements began to subside, but the public, even the most
"respectable" among them, had a dissatisfied and perplexed air; some of
the ladies looked positively scared.
At last all were seated; the music ceased. People began blowing their
noses and looking about them. They waited with too solemn an air—which
is always a bad sign. But nothing was to be seen yet of the Lembkes.
Silks, velvets, diamonds glowed and sparkled on every side; whiffs of
fragrance filled the air. The men were wearing all their decorations,
and the old men were even in uniform. At last the marshal's wife came in
with Liza. Liza had never been so dazzlingly charming or so splendidly
dressed as that morning. Her hair was done up in curls, her eyes
sparkled, a smile beamed on her face. She made an unmistakable
sensation: people scrutinised her and whispered about her. They said
that she was looking for Stavrogin, but neither Stavrogin nor Varvara
Petrovna were there. At the time I did not understand the expression
of her face: why was there so much happiness, such joy, such energy and
strength in that face? I remembered what had happened the day before and
could not make it out.
But still the Lembkes did not come. This was distinctly a blunder. I
learned that Yulia Mihailovna waited till the last minute for Pyotr
Stepanovitch, without whom she could not stir a step, though she never
admitted it to herself. I must mention, in parenthesis, that on the
previous day Pyotr Stepanovitch had at the last meeting of the committee
declined to wear the rosette of a steward, which had disappointed her
dreadfully, even to the point of tears. To her surprise and, later on,
her extreme discomfiture (to anticipate things) he vanished for the
whole morning and did not make his appearance at the literary matinée at
all, so that no one met him till evening. At last the audience began
to manifest unmistakable signs of impatience. No one appeared on the
platform either. The back rows began applauding, as in a theatre. The
elderly gentlemen and the ladies frowned. "The Lembkes are really giving
themselves unbearable airs." Even among the better part of the audience
an absurd whisper began to gain ground that perhaps there would not be a
fête at all, that Lembke perhaps was really unwell, and so on and so
on. But, thank God, the Lembkes at last appeared, she was leaning on
his arm; I must confess I was in great apprehension myself about
their appearance. But the legends were disproved, and the truth
was triumphant. The audience seemed relieved. Lembke himself seemed
perfectly well. Every one, I remember, was of that opinion, for it
can be imagined how many eyes were turned on him. I may mention,
as characteristic of our society, that there were very few of the
better-class people who saw reason to suppose that there was anything
wrong with him; his conduct seemed to them perfectly normal, and so much
so that the action he had taken in the square the morning before was
accepted and approved.
"That's how it should have been from the first," the higher officials
declared. "If a man begins as a philanthropist he has to come to the
same thing in the end, though he does not see that it was necessary
from the point of view of philanthropy itself"—that, at least, was the
opinion at the club. They only blamed him for having lost his temper.
"It ought to have been done more coolly, but there, he is a new man,"
said the authorities.
All eyes turned with equal eagerness to Yulia Mihailovna. Of course no
one has the right to expect from me an exact account in regard to one
point: that is a mysterious, a feminine question. But I only know one
thing: on the evening of the previous day she had gone into Andrey
Antonovitch's study and was there with him till long after midnight.
Andrey Antonovitch was comforted and forgiven. The husband and wife came
to a complete understanding, everything was forgotten, and when at
the end of the interview Lembke went down on his knees, recalling with
horror the final incident of the previous night, the exquisite hand,
and after it the lips of his wife, checked the fervent flow of penitent
phrases of the chivalrously delicate gentleman who was limp with
emotion. Every one could see the happiness in her face. She walked in
with an open-hearted air, wearing a magnificent dress. She seemed to
be at the very pinnacle of her heart's desires, the fête—the goal and
crown of her diplomacy—was an accomplished fact. As they walked
to their seats in front of the platform, the Lembkes bowed in all
directions and responded to greetings. They were at once surrounded. The
marshal's wife got up to meet them.
But at that point a horrid misunderstanding occurred; the orchestra,
apropos of nothing, struck up a flourish, not a triumphal march of any
kind, but a simple flourish such as was played at the club when some
one's health was drunk at an official dinner. I know now that Lyamshin,
in his capacity of steward, had arranged this, as though in honour of
the Lembkes' entrance. Of course he could always excuse it as a blunder
or excessive zeal.... Alas! I did not know at the time that they no
longer cared even to find excuses, and that all such considerations were
from that day a thing of the past. But the flourish was not the end of
it: in the midst of the vexatious astonishment and the smiles of the
audience there was a sudden "hurrah" from the end of the hall and from
the gallery also, apparently in Lembke's honour. The hurrahs were few,
but I must confess they lasted for some time. Yulia Mihailovna flushed,
her eyes flashed. Lembke stood still at his chair, and turning towards
the voices sternly and majestically scanned the audience.... They
hastened to make him sit down. I noticed with dismay the same dangerous
smile on his face as he had worn the morning before, in his wife's
drawing-room, when he stared at Stepan Trofimovitch before going up to
him. It seemed to me that now, too, there was an ominous, and, worst of
all, a rather comic expression on his countenance, the expression of a
man resigned to sacrifice himself to satisfy his wife's lofty aims....
Yulia Mihailovna beckoned to me hurriedly, and whispered to me to run
to Karmazinov and entreat him to begin. And no sooner had I turned away
than another disgraceful incident, much more unpleasant than the first,
On the platform, the empty platform, on which till that moment all eyes
and all expectations were fastened, and where nothing was to be seen but
a small table, a chair in front of it, and on the table a glass of water
on a silver salver—on the empty platform there suddenly appeared the
colossal figure of Captain Lebyadkin wearing a dress-coat and a white
tie. I was so astounded I could not believe my eyes. The captain seemed
confused and remained standing at the back of the platform. Suddenly
there was a shout in the audience, "Lebyadkin! You?" The captain's
stupid red face (he was hopelessly drunk) expanded in a broad vacant
grin at this greeting. He raised his hand, rubbed his forehead with it,
shook his shaggy head and, as though making up his mind to go through
with it, took two steps forward and suddenly went off into a series
of prolonged, blissful, gurgling, but not loud guffaws, which made him
screw up his eyes and set all his bulky person heaving. This spectacle
set almost half the audience laughing, twenty people applauded. The
serious part of the audience looked at one another gloomily; it all
lasted only half a minute, however. Liputin, wearing his steward's
rosette, ran on to the platform with two servants; they carefully took
the captain by both arms, while Liputin whispered something to him.
The captain scowled, muttered "Ah, well, if that's it!" waved his hand,
turned his huge back to the public and vanished with his escort. But a
minute later Liputin skipped on to the platform again. He was wearing
the sweetest of his invariable smiles, which usually suggested vinegar
and sugar, and carried in his hands a sheet of note-paper. With tiny but
rapid steps he came forward to the edge of the platform.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, addressing the public, "through our
inadvertency there has arisen a comical misunderstanding which has been
removed; but I've hopefully undertaken to do something at the earnest
and most respectful request of one of our local poets. Deeply touched by
the humane and lofty object... in spite of his appearance... the object
which has brought us all together... to wipe away the tears of the poor
but well-educated girls of our province... this gentleman, I mean this
local poet... although desirous of preserving his incognito, would
gladly have heard his poem read at the beginning of the ball... that is,
I mean, of the matinée. Though this poem is not in the programme...
for it has only been received half an hour ago... yet it has seemed to
us"—(Us? Whom did he mean by us? I report his confused and incoherent
speech word for word)—"that through its remarkable naïveté of feeling,
together with its equally remarkable gaiety, the poem might well be
read, that is, not as something serious, but as something appropriate to
the occasion, that is to the idea... especially as some lines... And I
wanted to ask the kind permission of the audience."
"Read it!" boomed a voice at the back of the hall.
"Then I am to read it?"
"Read it, read it!" cried many voices.
"With the permission of the audience I will read it," Liputin minced
again, still with the same sugary smile. He still seemed to hesitate,
and I even thought that he was rather excited. These people are
sometimes nervous in spite of their impudence. A divinity student would
have carried it through without winking, but Liputin did, after all,
belong to the last generation.
"I must say, that is, I have the honour to say by way of preface, that
it is not precisely an ode such as used to be written for fêtes, but is
rather, so to say, a jest, but full of undoubted feeling, together with
playful humour, and, so to say, the most realistic truthfulness."
"Read it, read it!"
He unfolded the paper. No one of course was in time to stop him.
Besides, he was wearing his steward's badge. In a ringing voice he
"To the local governesses of the Fatherland from the poet at the fête:
"Governesses all, good morrow,
Triumph on this festive day.
Retrograde or vowed George-Sander—
Never mind, just frisk away!"
"But that's Lebyadkin's! Lebyadkin's!" cried several voices. There was
laughter and even applause, though not from very many.
"Teaching French to wet-nosed children,
You are glad enough to think
You can catch a worn-out sexton—
Even he is worth a wink!"
"But in these great days of progress,
Ladies, to your sorrow know,
You can't even catch a sexton,
If you have not got a 'dot'."
"To be sure, to be sure, that's realism. You can't hook a husband
without a 'dot'!"
"But, henceforth, since through our feasting
Capital has flowed from all,
And we send you forth to conquest
Dancing, dowried from this hall—
Retrograde or vowed George-Sander,
Never mind, rejoice you may,
You're a governess with a dowry,
Spit on all and frisk away!"
I must confess I could not believe my ears. The insolence of it was so
unmistakable that there was no possibility of excusing Liputin on
the ground of stupidity. Besides, Liputin was by no means stupid. The
intention was obvious, to me, anyway; they seemed in a hurry to create
disorder. Some lines in these idiotic verses, for instance the last,
were such that no stupidity could have let them pass. Liputin himself
seemed to feel that he had undertaken too much; when he had achieved
his exploit he was so overcome by his own impudence that he did not even
leave the platform but remained standing, as though there were something
more he wanted to say. He had probably imagined that it would somehow
produce a different effect; but even the group of ruffians who had
applauded during the reading suddenly sank into silence, as though they,
too, were overcome. What was silliest of all, many of them took the
whole episode seriously, that is, did not regard the verses as a lampoon
but actually thought it realistic and true as regards the governesses—a
poem with a tendency, in fact. But the excessive freedom of the verses
struck even them at last; as for the general public they were not only
scandalised but obviously offended. I am sure I am not mistaken as to
the impression. Yulia Mihailovna said afterwards that in another moment
she would have fallen into a-swoon. One of the most respectable old
gentlemen helped his old wife on to her feet, and they walked out of the
hall accompanied by the agitated glances of the audience. Who knows,
the example might have infected others if Karmazinov himself, wearing a
dress-coat and a white tie and carrying a manuscript, in his hand, had
not appeared on the platform at that moment. Yulia Mihailovna turned
an ecstatic gaze at him as on her deliverer.... But I was by that time
behind the scenes. I was in quest of Liputin.
"You did that on purpose!" I said, seizing him indignantly by the arm.
"I assure you I never thought..." he began, cringing and lying at once,
pretending to be unhappy. "The verses had only just been brought and I
thought that as an amusing pleasantry...."
"You did not think anything of the sort. You can't really think that
stupid rubbish an amusing pleasantry?"
"Yes, I do."
"You are simply lying, and it wasn't brought to you just now. You helped
Lebyadkin to compose it yourself, yesterday very likely, to create a
scandal. The last verse must have been yours, the part about the sexton
too. Why did he come on in a dress-coat? You must have meant him to read
it, too, if he had not been drunk?"
Liputin looked at me coldly and ironically.
"What business is it of yours?" he asked suddenly with strange calm.
"What business is it of mine? You are wearing the steward's badge,
too.... Where is Pyotr Stepanovitch?"
"I don't know, somewhere here; why do you ask?"
"Because now I see through it. It's simply a plot against Yulia
Mihailovna so as to ruin the day by a scandal...."
Liputin looked at me askance again.
"But what is it to you?" he said, grinning. He shrugged his shoulders
and walked away.
It came over me with a rush. All my suspicions were confirmed. Till
then, I had been hoping I was mistaken! What was I to do? I was on the
point of asking the advice of Stepan Trofimovitch, but he was standing
before the looking-glass, trying on different smiles, and continually
consulting a piece of paper on which he had notes. He had to go
on immediately after Karmazinov, and was not in a fit state for
conversation. Should I run to Yulia Mihailovna? But it was too soon
to go to her: she needed a much sterner lesson to cure her of
her conviction that she had "a following," and that every one was
"fanatically devoted" to her. She would not have believed me, and would
have thought I was dreaming. Besides, what help could she be? "Eh," I
thought, "after all, what business is it of mine? I'll take off my
badge and go home when it begins." That was my mental phrase, "when it
begins"; I remember it.
But I had to go and listen to Karmazinov. Taking a last look round
behind the scenes, I noticed that a good number of outsiders, even women
among them, were flitting about, going in and out. "Behind the scenes"
was rather a narrow space completely screened from the audience by a
curtain and communicating with other rooms by means of a passage. Here
our readers were awaiting their turns. But I was struck at that moment
by the reader who was to follow Stepan Trofimovitch. He, too, was some
sort of professor (I don't know to this day exactly what he was) who had
voluntarily left some educational institution after a disturbance among
the students, and had arrived in the town only a few days before. He,
too, had been recommended to Yulia Mihailovna, and she had received him
with reverence. I know now that he had only spent one evening in her
company before the reading; he had not spoken all that evening, had
listened with an equivocal smile to the jests and the general tone of
the company surrounding Yulia Mihailovna, and had made an unpleasant
impression on every one by his air of haughtiness, and at the same
time almost timorous readiness to take offence. It was Yulia Mihailovna
herself who had enlisted his services. Now he was walking from corner to
corner, and, like Stepan Trofimovitch, was muttering to himself, though
he looked on the ground instead of in the looking-glass. He was not
trying on smiles, though he often smiled rapaciously. It was obvious
that it was useless to speak to him either. He looked about forty, was
short and bald, had a greyish beard, and was decently dressed. But what
was most interesting about him was that at every turn he took he threw
up his right fist, brandished it above his head and suddenly brought it
down again as though crushing an antagonist to atoms. He went—through
this by-play every moment. It made me uncomfortable. I hastened away to
listen to Karmazinov.
There was a feeling in the hall that something was wrong again. Let me
state to begin with that I have the deepest reverence for genius, but
why do our geniuses in the decline of their illustrious years behave
sometimes exactly like little boys? What though he was Karmazinov, and
came forward with as much dignity as five Kammerherrs rolled into one?
How could he expect to keep an audience like ours listening for a whole
hour to a single paper? I have observed, in fact, that however big a
genius a man may be, he can't monopolise the attention of an audience at
a frivolous literary matinée for more than twenty minutes with impunity.
The entrance of the great writer was received, indeed, with the utmost
respect: even the severest elderly men showed signs of approval and
interest, and the ladies even displayed some enthusiasm. The applause
was brief, however, and somehow uncertain and not unanimous. Yet there
was no unseemly behaviour in the back rows, till Karmazinov began to
speak, not that anything very bad followed then, but only a sort of
misunderstanding. I have mentioned already that he had rather a shrill
voice, almost feminine in fact, and at the same time a genuinely
aristocratic lisp. He had hardly articulated a few words when some one
had the effrontery to laugh aloud—probably some ignorant simpleton who
knew nothing of the world, and was congenitally disposed to laughter.
But there was nothing like a hostile demonstration; on the contrary
people said "sh-h!" and the offender was crushed. But Mr. Karmazinov,
with an affected air and intonation, announced that "at first he had
declined absolutely to read." (Much need there was to mention it!)
"There are some lines which come so deeply from the heart that it is
impossible to utter them aloud, so that these holy things cannot be laid
before, the public"—(Why lay them then?)—"but as he had been begged
to do so, he was doing so, and as he was, moreover, laying down his
pen for ever, and had sworn to write no more, he had written this last
farewell; and as he had sworn never, on any inducement, to read anything
in public," and so on, and so on, all in that style.
But all that would not have mattered; every one knows what authors'
prefaces are like, though, I may observe, that considering the lack of
culture of our audience and the irritability of the back rows, all this
may have had an influence. Surely it would have been better to have
read a little story, a short tale such as he had written in the
past—over-elaborate, that is, and affected, but sometimes witty. It
would have saved the situation. No, this was quite another story! It was
a regular oration! Good heavens, what wasn't there in it! I am positive
that it would have reduced to rigidity even a Petersburg audience, let
alone ours. Imagine an article that would have filled some thirty pages
of print of the most affected, aimless prattle; and to make matters
worse, the gentleman read it with a sort of melancholy condescension
as though it were a favour, so that it was almost insulting to the
audience. The subject.... Who could make it out? It was a sort of
description of certain impressions and reminiscences. But of what? And
about what? Though the leading intellects of the province did their
utmost during the first half of the reading, they could make nothing
of it, and they listened to the second part simply out of politeness.
A great deal was said about love, indeed, of the love of the genius for
some person, but I must admit it made rather an awkward impression. For
the great writer to tell us about his first kiss seemed to my mind a
little incongruous with his short and fat little figure... Another thing
that was offensive; these kisses did not occur as they do with the rest
of mankind. There had to be a framework of gorse (it had to be gorse or
some such plant that one must look up in a flora) and there had to be a
tint of purple in the sky, such as no mortal had ever observed before,
or if some people had seen it, they had never noticed it, but he seemed
to say, "I have seen it and am describing it to you, fools, as if it
were a most ordinary thing." The tree under which the interesting couple
sat had of course to be of an orange colour. They were sitting somewhere
in Germany. Suddenly they see Pompey or Cassius on the eve of a battle,
and both are penetrated by a thrill of ecstasy. Some wood-nymph squeaked
in the bushes. Gluck played the violin among the reeds. The title of the
piece he was playing was given in full, but no one knew it, so that one
would have had to look it up in a musical dictionary. Meanwhile a fog
came on, such a fog, such a fog, that it was more like a million pillows
than a fog. And suddenly everything disappears and the great genius is
crossing the frozen Volga in a thaw. Two and a half pages are filled
with the crossing, and yet he falls through the ice. The genius is
drowning—you imagine he was drowned? Not a bit of it; this was simply
in order that when he was drowning and at his last gasp, he might catch
sight of a bit of ice, the size of a pea, but pure and crystal "as a
frozen tear," and in that tear was reflected Germany, or more accurately
the sky of Germany, and its iridescent sparkle recalled to his mind the
very tear which "dost thou remember, fell from thine eyes when we were
sitting under that emerald tree, and thou didst cry out joyfully: 'There
is no crime!' 'No,' I said through my tears, 'but if that is so, there
are no righteous either.' We sobbed and parted for ever." She went off
somewhere to the sea coast, while he went to visit some caves, and then
he descends and descends and descends for three years under Suharev
Tower in Moscow, and suddenly in the very bowels of the earth, he finds
in a cave a lamp, and before the lamp a hermit. The hermit is praying.
The genius leans against a little barred window, and suddenly hears a
sigh. Do you suppose it was the hermit sighing? Much he cares about the
hermit! Not a bit of it, this sigh simply reminds him of her first sigh,
thirty-seven years before, "in Germany, when, dost thou remember, we sat
under an agate tree and thou didst say to me, 'Why love? See ochra is
growing all around and I love thee; but the ochra will cease to grow,
and I shall cease to love.'" Then the fog comes on again, Hoffman
appears on the scene, the wood-nymph whistles a tune from Chopin, and
suddenly out of the fog appears Ancus Marcius over the roofs of Rome,
wearing a laurel wreath. "A chill of ecstasy ran down our backs and we
parted for ever"—and so on and so on.
Perhaps I am not reporting it quite right and don't know how to report
it, but the drift of the babble was something of that sort. And after
all, how disgraceful this passion of our great intellects for jesting in
a superior way really is! The great European philosopher, the great man
of science, the inventor, the martyr—all these who labour and are heavy
laden, are to the great Russian genius no more than so many cooks in his
kitchen. He is the master and they come to him, cap in hand, awaiting
orders. It is true he jeers superciliously at Russia too, and there
is nothing he likes better than exhibiting the bankruptcy of Russia in
every relation before the great minds of Europe, but as regards himself,
no, he is at a higher level than all the great minds of Europe; they are
only material for his jests. He takes another man's idea, tacks on to it
its antithesis, and the epigram is made. There is such a thing as crime,
there is no such thing as crime; there is no such thing as justice,
there are no just men; atheism, Darwinism, the Moscow bells.... But
alas, he no longer believes in the Moscow bells; Rome, laurels.... But
he has no belief in laurels even.... We have a conventional attack of
Byronic spleen, a grimace from Heine, something of Petchorin—and the
machine goes on rolling, whistling, at full speed. "But you may praise
me, you may praise me, that I like extremely; it's only in a manner of
speaking that I lay down the pen; I shall bore you three hundred times
more, you'll grow weary of reading me...."
Of course it did not end without trouble; but the worst of it was that
it was his own doing. People had for some time begun shuffling their
feet, blowing their noses, coughing, and doing everything that people
do when a lecturer, whoever he may be, keeps an audience for longer than
twenty minutes at a literary matinée. But the genius noticed nothing of
all this. He went on lisping and mumbling, without giving a thought to
the audience, so that every one began to wonder. Suddenly in a back row
a solitary but loud voice was heard:
"Good Lord, what nonsense!"
The exclamation escaped involuntarily, and I am sure was not intended
as a demonstration. The man was simply worn out. But Mr. Karmazinov
stopped, looked sarcastically at the audience, and suddenly lisped with
the deportment of an aggrieved kammerherr.
"I'm afraid I've been boring you dreadfully, gentlemen?"
That was his blunder, that he was the first to speak; for provoking an
answer in this way he gave an opening for the rabble to speak, too, and
even legitimately, so to say, while if he had restrained himself, people
would have gone on blowing their noses and it would have passed off
somehow. Perhaps he expected applause in response to his question, but
there was no sound of applause; on the contrary, every one seemed to
subside and shrink back in dismay.
"You never did see Ancus Marcius, that's all brag," cried a voice that
sounded full of irritation and even nervous exhaustion.
"Just so," another voice agreed at once. "There are no such things as
ghosts nowadays, nothing but natural science. Look it up in a scientific
"Gentlemen, there was nothing I expected less than such objections,"
said Karmazinov, extremely surprised. The great genius had completely
lost touch with his Fatherland in Karlsruhe.
"Nowadays it's outrageous to say that the world stands on three fishes,"
a young lady snapped out suddenly. "You can't have gone down to the
hermit's cave, Karmazinov. And who talks about hermits nowadays?"
"Gentlemen, what surprises me most of all is that you take it all so
seriously. However... however, you are perfectly right. No one has
greater respect for truth and realism than I have...."
Though he smiled ironically he was tremendously overcome. His face
seemed to express: "I am not the sort of man you think, I am on your
side, only praise me, praise me more, as much as possible, I like it
"Gentlemen," he cried, completely mortified at last, "I see that my poor
poem is quite out of place here. And, indeed, I am out of place here
myself, I think."
"You threw at the crow and you hit the cow," some fool, probably drunk,
shouted at the top of his voice, and of course no notice ought to
have been taken of him. It is true there was a sound of disrespectful
"A cow, you say?" Karmazinov caught it up at once, his voice grew
shriller and shriller. "As for crows and cows, gentlemen, I will
refrain. I've too much respect for any audience to permit myself
comparisons, however harmless; but I did think..."
"You'd better be careful, sir," some one shouted from a back row.
"But I had supposed that laying aside my pen and saying farewell to my
readers, I should be heard..."
"No, no, we want to hear you, we want to," a few voices from the front
row plucked up spirit to exclaim at last.
"Read, read!" several enthusiastic ladies' voices chimed in, and at last
there was an outburst of applause, sparse and feeble, it is true.
"Believe me, Karmazinov, every one looks on it as an honour..." the
marshal's wife herself could not resist saying.
"Mr. Karmazinov!" cried a fresh young voice in the back of the hall
suddenly. It was the voice of a very young teacher from the district
school who had only lately come among us, an excellent young man, quiet
and gentlemanly. He stood up in his place. "Mr. Karmazinov, if I had
the happiness to fall in love as you have described to us, I really
shouldn't refer to my love in an article intended for public
reading...." He flushed red all over.
"Ladies and gentlemen," cried Karmazinov, "I have finished. I will omit
the end and withdraw. Only allow me to read the six last lines:
"Yes, dear reader, farewell!" he began at once from the manuscript
without sitting down again in his chair. "Farewell, reader; I do not
greatly insist on our parting friends; what need to trouble you,
indeed. You may abuse me, abuse me as you will if it affords you any
satisfaction. But best of all if we forget one another for ever. And
if you all, readers, were suddenly so kind as to fall on your knees and
begin begging me with tears, 'Write, oh, write for us, Karmazinov—for
the sake of Russia, for the sake of posterity, to win laurels,' even
then I would answer you, thanking you, of course, with every courtesy,
'No, we've had enough of one another, dear fellow-countrymen, merci!
It's time we took our separate ways!' Merci, merci, merci!"
Karmazinov bowed ceremoniously, and, as red as though he had been
cooked, retired behind the scenes.
"Nobody would go down on their knees; a wild idea!"
"That's only humour," some one more reasonable suggested.
"Spare me your humour."
"I call it impudence, gentlemen!"
"Well, he's finished now, anyway!"
"Ech, what a dull show!"
But all these ignorant exclamations in the back rows (though they were
confined to the back rows) were drowned in applause from the other half
of the audience. They called for Karmazinov. Several ladies with Yulia
Mihailovna and the marshal's wife crowded round the platform. In Yulia
Mihailovna's hands was a gorgeous laurel wreath resting on another
wreath of living roses on a white velvet cushion.
"Laurels!" Karmazinov pronounced with a subtle and rather sarcastic
smile. "I am touched, of course, and accept with real emotion this
wreath prepared beforehand, but still fresh and unwithered, but I assure
you, mesdames, that I have suddenly become so realistic that I feel
laurels would in this age be far more appropriate in the hands of a
skilful cook than in mine...."
"Well, a cook is more useful," cried the divinity student, who had been
at the "meeting" at Virginsky's.
There was some disorder. In many rows people jumped up to get a better
view of the presentation of the laurel wreath.
"I'd give another three roubles for a cook this minute," another voice
assented loudly, too loudly; insistently, in fact.
"So would I."
"Is it possible there's no buffet?..."
"Gentlemen, it's simply a swindle...."
It must be admitted, however, that all these unbridled gentlemen still
stood in awe of our higher officials and of the police superintendent,
who was present in the hall. Ten minutes later all had somehow got back
into their places, but there was not the same good order as before.
And it was into this incipient chaos that poor Stepan Trofimovitch was
I ran out to him behind the scenes once more, and had time to warn him
excitedly that in my opinion the game was up, that he had better not
appear at all, but had better go home at once on the excuse of his usual
ailment, for instance, and I would take off my badge and come with him.
At that instant he was on his way to the platform; he stopped suddenly,
and haughtily looking me up and down he pronounced solemnly:
"What grounds have you, sir, for thinking me capable of such baseness?"
I drew back. I was as sure as twice two make four that he would not get
off without a catastrophe. Meanwhile, as I stood utterly dejected, I saw
moving before me again the figure of the professor, whose turn it was to
appear after Stepan Trofimovitch, and who kept lifting up his fist
and bringing it down again with a swing. He kept walking up and down,
absorbed in himself and muttering something to himself with a diabolical
but triumphant smile. I somehow almost unintentionally went up to him.
I don't know what induced me to meddle again. "Do you know," I said,
"judging from many examples, if a lecturer keeps an audience for more
than twenty minutes it won't go on listening. No celebrity is able to
hold his own for half an hour."
He stopped short and seemed almost quivering with resentment. Infinite
disdain was expressed in his countenance.
"Don't trouble yourself," he muttered contemptuously and walked on. At
that moment Stepan Trofimovitch's voice rang out in the hall.
"Oh, hang you all," I thought, and ran to the hall.
Stepan Trofimovitch took his seat in the lecturer's chair in the midst
of the still persisting disorder. He was greeted by the first rows with
looks which were evidently not over-friendly. (Of late, at the club,
people almost seemed not to like him, and treated him with much less
respect than formerly.) But it was something to the good that he was not
hissed. I had had a strange idea in my head ever since the previous
day: I kept fancying that he would be received with hisses as soon as
he appeared. They scarcely noticed him, however, in the disorder. What
could that man hope for if Karmazinov was treated like this? He was
pale; it was ten years since he had appeared before an audience. From
his excitement and from all that I knew so well in him, it was clear to
me that he, too, regarded his present appearance on the platform as a
turning-point of his fate, or something of the kind. That was just what
I was afraid of. The man was dear to me. And what were my feelings when
he opened his lips and I heard his first phrase?
"Ladies and gentlemen," he pronounced suddenly, as though resolved to
venture everything, though in an almost breaking voice. "Ladies and
gentlemen! Only this morning there lay before me one of the illegal
leaflets that have been distributed here lately, and I asked myself for
the hundredth time, 'Wherein lies its secret?'"
The whole hall became instantly still, all looks were turned to him,
some with positive alarm. There was no denying, he knew how to secure
their interest from the first word. Heads were thrust out from behind
the scenes; Liputin and Lyamshin listened greedily. Yulia Mihailovna
waved to me again.
"Stop him, whatever happens, stop him," she whispered in agitation.
I could only shrug my shoulders: how could one stop a man resolved to
venture everything? Alas, I understood what was in Stepan Trofimovitch's
"Ha ha, the manifestoes!" was whispered in the audience; the whole hall
"Ladies and gentlemen, I've solved the whole mystery. The whole secret
of their effect lies in their stupidity." (His eyes flashed.) "Yes.
gentlemen, if this stupidity were intentional, pretended and calculated,
oh, that would be a stroke of genius! But we must do them justice:
they don't pretend anything. It's the barest, most simple-hearted,
most shallow stupidity. C'est la bêtise dans son essence la plus pure,
quelque chose comme un simple chimique. If it were expressed ever so
little more cleverly, every one would see at once the poverty of this
shallow stupidity. But as it is, every one is left wondering: no one
can believe that it is such elementary stupidity. 'It's impossible that
there's nothing more in it,' every one says to himself and tries to
find the secret of it, sees a mystery in it, tries to read between the
lines—the effect is attained! Oh, never has stupidity been so solemnly
rewarded, though it has so often deserved it.... For, en parenthese,
stupidity is of as much service to humanity as the loftiest genius... ."
"Epigram of 1840" was commented, in a very modest voice, however, but it
was followed by a general outbreak of noise and uproar.
"Ladies and gentlemen, hurrah! I propose a toast to stupidity!" cried
Stepan Trofimovitch, defying the audience in a perfect frenzy.
I ran up on the pretext of pouring out some water for him.
"Stepan Trofimovitch, leave off, Yulia Mihailovna entreats you to."
"No, you leave me alone, idle young man," he cried out at me at the top
of his voice. I ran away. "Messieurs," he went on, "why this excitement,
why the outcries of indignation I hear? I have come forward with an
olive branch. I bring you the last word, for in this business I have the
last word—and we shall be reconciled."
"Down with him!" shouted some.
"Hush, let him speak, let him have his say!" yelled another section. The
young teacher was particularly excited; having once brought himself to
speak he seemed now unable to be silent.
"Messieurs, the last word in this business—is forgiveness. I, an old
man at the end of my life, I solemnly declare that the spirit of life
breathes in us still, and there is still a living strength in the young
generation. The enthusiasm of the youth of today is as pure and bright
as in our age. All that has happened is a change of aim, the replacing
of one beauty by another! The whole difficulty lies in the question
which is more beautiful, Shakespeare or boots, Raphael or petroleum?"
"It's treachery!" growled some.
"But I maintain," Stepan Trofimovitch shrilled at the utmost pitch of
excitement, "I maintain that Shakespeare and Raphael are more precious
than the emancipation of the serfs, more precious than Nationalism, more
precious than Socialism, more precious than the young generation, more
precious than chemistry, more precious than almost all humanity because
they are the fruit, the real fruit of all humanity and perhaps the
highest fruit that can be. A form of beauty already attained, but for
the attaining of which I would not perhaps consent to live.... Oh,
heavens!" he cried, clasping his hands, "ten years ago I said the same
thing from the platform in Petersburg, exactly the same thing, in the
same words, and in just the same way they did not understand it, they
laughed and hissed as now; shallow people, what is lacking in you that
you cannot understand? But let me tell you, let me tell you, without the
English, life is still possible for humanity, without Germany, life is
possible, without the Russians it is only too possible, without science,
without bread, life is possible—only without beauty it is impossible,
for there will be nothing left in the world. That's the secret at the
bottom of everything, that's what history teaches! Even science would
not exist a moment without beauty—do you know that, you who laugh—it
will sink into bondage, you won't invent a nail even!... I won't yield an
inch!" he shouted absurdly in confusion, and with all his might banged
his fist on the table.
But all the while that he was shrieking senselessly and incoherently,
the disorder in the hall increased. Many people jumped up from their
seats, some dashed forward, nearer to the platform. It all happened much
more quickly than I describe it, and there was no time to take steps,
perhaps no wish to, either.
"It's all right for you, with everything found for you, you pampered
creatures!" the same divinity student bellowed at the foot of the
platform, grinning with relish at Stepan Trofimovitch, who noticed it
and darted to the very edge of the platform.
"Haven't I, haven't I just declared that the enthusiasm of the young
generation is as pure and bright as it was, and that it is coming to
grief through being deceived only in the forms of beauty! Isn't that
enough for you? And if you consider that he who proclaims this is a
father crushed and insulted, can one—oh, shallow hearts—can one
rise to greater heights of impartiality and fairness?... Ungrateful...
unjust.... Why, why can't you be reconciled!"
And he burst into hysterical sobs. He wiped away his dropping tears with
his fingers. His shoulders and breast were heaving with sobs. He was
lost to everything in the world.
A perfect panic came over the audience, almost all got up from their
seats. Yulia Mihailovna, too, jumped up quickly, seizing her husband by
the arm and pulling him up too.... The scene was beyond all belief.
"Stepan Trofimovitch!" the divinity student roared gleefully. "There's
Fedka the convict wandering about the town and the neighbourhood,
escaped from prison. He is a robber and has recently committed another
murder. Allow me to ask you: if you had not sold him as a recruit
fifteen years ago to pay a gambling debt, that is, more simply, lost
him at cards, tell me, would he have got into prison? Would he have cut
men's throats now, in his struggle for existence? What do you say, Mr.
I decline to describe the scene that followed. To begin with there was a
furious volley of applause. The applause did not come from all—probably
from some fifth part of the audience—but they applauded furiously. The
rest of the public made for the exit, but as the applauding part of the
audience kept pressing forward towards the platform, there was a regular
block. The ladies screamed, some of the girls began to cry and asked to
go home. Lembke, standing up by his chair, kept gazing wildly about him.
Yulia Mihailovna completely lost her head—for the first time during her
career amongst us. As for Stepan Trofimovitch, for the first moment
he seemed literally crushed by the divinity student's words, but he
suddenly raised his arms as though holding them out above the public and
"I shake the dust from off my feet and I curse you.... It's the end, the
And turning, he ran behind the scenes, waving his hands menacingly.
"He has insulted the audience!... Verhovensky!" the angry section
roared. They even wanted to rush in pursuit of him. It was impossible to
appease them, at the moment, any way, and—a final catastrophe broke
like a bomb on the assembly and exploded in its midst: the third reader,
the maniac who kept waving his fist behind the scenes, suddenly ran
on to the platform. He looked like a perfect madman. With a broad,
triumphant smile, full of boundless self-confidence, he looked round at
the agitated hall and he seemed to be delighted at the disorder. He was
not in the least disconcerted at having to speak in such an uproar, on
the contrary, he was obviously delighted. This was so obvious that it
attracted attention at once.
"What's this now?" people were heard asking. "Who is this? Sh-h! What
does he want to say?"
"Ladies and gentlemen," the maniac shouted with all his might, standing
at the very edge of the platform and speaking with almost as shrill,
feminine a voice as Karmazinov's, but without the aristocratic lisp.
"Ladies and gentlemen! Twenty years ago, on the eve of war with half
Europe, Russia was regarded as an ideal country by officials of all
ranks! Literature was in the service of the censorship; military drill
was all that was taught at the universities; the troops were trained
like a ballet, and the peasants paid the taxes and were mute under the
lash of serfdom. Patriotism meant the wringing of bribes from the quick
and the dead. Those who did not take bribes were looked upon as rebels
because they disturbed the general harmony. The birch copses were
extirpated in support of discipline. Europe trembled.... But never in
the thousand years of its senseless existence had Russia sunk to such
He raised his fist, waved it ecstatically and menacingly over his head
and suddenly brought it down furiously, as though pounding an adversary
to powder. A frantic yell rose from the whole hall, there was a
deafening roar of applause; almost half the audience was applauding:
their enthusiasm was excusable. Russia was being put to shame publicly,
before every one. Who could fail to roar with delight?
"This is the real thing! Come, this is something like! Hurrah! Yes, this
is none of your æsthetics!"
The maniac went on ecstatically:
"Twenty years have passed since then. Universities have been opened and
multiplied. Military drill has passed into a legend; officers are too
few by thousands, the railways have eaten up all the capital and have
covered Russia as with a spider's web, so that in another fifteen years
one will perhaps get somewhere. Bridges are rarely on fire, and fires in
towns occur only at regular intervals, in turn, at the proper season.
In the law courts judgments are as wise as Solomon's, and the jury only
take bribes through the struggle for existence, to escape starvation.
The serfs are free, and flog one another instead of being flogged by
the land-owners. Seas and oceans of vodka are consumed to support the
budget, and in Novgorod, opposite the ancient and useless St. Sophia,
there has been solemnly put up a colossal bronze globe to celebrate a
thousand years of disorder and confusion; Europe scowls and begins to
be uneasy again.... Fifteen years of reforms! And yet never even in the
most grotesque periods of its madness has Russia sunk..."
The last words could not be heard in the roar of the crowd. One could
see him again raise his arm and bring it down triumphantly again.
Enthusiasm was beyond all bounds: people yelled, clapped their hands,
even some of the ladies shouted: "Enough, you can't beat that!" Some
might have been drunk. The orator scanned them all and seemed revelling
in his own triumph. I caught a glimpse of Lembke in indescribable
excitement, pointing something out to somebody. Yulia Mihailovna, with a
pale face, said something in haste to the prince, who had run up to her.
But at that moment a group of six men, officials more or less, burst on
to the platform, seized the orator and dragged him behind the scenes. I
can't understand how he managed to tear himself away from them, but he
did escape, darted up to the edge of the platform again and succeeded in
shouting again, at the top of his voice, waving his fist: "But never has
But he was dragged away again. I saw some fifteen men dash behind the
scenes to rescue him, not crossing the platform but breaking down the
light screen at the side of it.... I saw afterwards, though I could
hardly believe my eyes, the girl student (Virginsky's sister) leap on
to the platform with the same roll under her arm, dressed as before,
as plump and rosy as ever, surrounded by two or three women and two or
three men, and accompanied by her mortal enemy, the schoolboy. I even
caught the phrase:
"Ladies and gentlemen, I've come to call attention to the I sufferings
of poor students and to rouse them to a general protest..."
But I ran away. Hiding my badge in my pocket I made my way from the
house into the street by back passages which I knew of. First of all, of
course, I went to Stepan Trofimovitch's.
CHAPTER II. THE END OF THE FETE
HE WOULD NOT SEE ME. He had shut himself up and was writing. At my
repeated knocks and appeals he answered through the door:
"My friend, I have finished everything. Who can ask anything more of
"You haven't finished anything, you've only helped to make a mess of the
whole thing. For God's sake, no epigrams, Stepan Trofimovitch! Open the
door. We must take steps; they may still come and insult you...."
I thought myself entitled to be particularly severe and even rigorous.
I was afraid he might be going to do something still more mad. But to my
surprise I met an extraordinary firmness.
"Don't be the first to insult me then. I thank you for the past, but
I repeat I've done with all men, good and bad. I am writing to Darya
Pavlovna, whom I've forgotten so unpardonably till now. You may take it
to her to-morrow, if you like, now merci."
"Stepan Trofimovitch, I assure you that the matter is more serious
than you think. Do you think that you've crushed some one there? You've
pulverised no one, but have broken yourself to pieces like an empty
bottle." (Oh, I was coarse and discourteous, I remember it with
regret.) "You've absolutely no reason to write to Darya Pavlovna... and
what will you do with yourself without me? What do you understand about
practical life? I expect you are plotting something else? You'll simply
come to grief again if you go plotting something more...."
He rose and came close up to the door.
"You've not been long with them, but you've caught the infection of
their tone and language. Dieu vous pardonne, mon ami, et Dieu vous
garde. But I've always seen in you the germs of delicate feeling, and
you will get over it perhaps—après le temps, of course, like all of us
Russians. As for what you say about my impracticability, I'll remind you
of a recent idea of mine: a whole mass of people in Russia do nothing
whatever but attack other people's impracticability with the utmost fury
and with the tiresome persistence of flies in the summer, accusing every
one of it except themselves. Cher, remember that I am excited, and
don't distress me. Once more merci for everything, and let us part like
Karmazinov and the public; that is, let us forget each other with as
much generosity as we can. He was posing in begging his former readers
so earnestly to forget him; quant à moi, I am not so conceited, and I
rest my hopes on the youth of your inexperienced heart. How should you
remember a useless old man for long? 'Live more,' my friend, as Nastasya
wished me on my last name-day (ces pauvres gens ont quelquefois des
mots charmants et pleins de philosophie). I do not wish you much
happiness—it will bore you. I do not wish you trouble either, but,
following the philosophy of the peasant, I will repeat simply 'live
more' and try not to be much bored; this useless wish I add from myself.
Well, good-bye, and good-bye for good. Don't stand at my door, I will
not open it."
He went away and I could get nothing more out of him. In spite of his
"excitement," he spoke smoothly, deliberately, with weight, obviously
trying to be impressive. Of course he was rather vexed with me and was
avenging himself indirectly, possibly even for the yesterday's "prison
carts" and "floors that give way." His tears in public that morning, in
spite of a triumph of a sort, had put him, he knew, in rather a comic
position, and there never was a man more solicitous of dignity and
punctilio in his relations with his friends than Stepan Trofimovitch.
Oh, I don't blame him. But this fastidiousness and irony which he
preserved in spite of all shocks reassured me at the time. A man who was
so little different from his ordinary self was, of course, not in the
mood at that moment for anything tragic or extraordinary. So I reasoned
at the time, and, heavens, what a mistake I made! I left too much out of
In anticipation of events I will quote the few first lines of the letter
to Darya Pavlovna, which she actually received the following day:
"Mon enfant, my hand trembles, but I've done with everything. You were
not present at my last struggle: you did not come to that matinée, and
you did well to stay away. But you will be told that in our Russia,
which has grown so poor in men of character, one man had the courage to
stand up and, in spite of deadly menaces showered on him from all
sides, to tell the fools the truth, that is, that they are fools. Oh,
ce sont—des pauvres petits vauriens et rien de plus, des
petits—fools—voilà le mot! The die is cast; I am going from this town
for ever and I know not whither. Every one I loved has turned from me.
But you, you are a pure and naïve creature; you, a gentle being whose
life has been all but linked with mine at the will of a capricious and
imperious heart; you who looked at me perhaps with contempt when I shed
weak tears on the eve of our frustrated marriage; you, who cannot in any
case look on me except as a comic figure—for you, for you is the last
cry of my heart, for you my last duty, for you alone! I cannot leave
you for ever thinking of me as an ungrateful fool, a churlish egoist, as
probably a cruel and ungrateful heart—whom, alas, I cannot forget—is
every day describing me to you...."
And so on and so on, four large pages.
Answering his "I won't open" with three bangs with my fist on the door,
and shouting after him that I was sure he would send Nastasya for me
three times that day, but I would not come, I gave him up and ran off to
There I was the witness of a revolting scene: the poor woman was
deceived to her face, and I could do nothing. Indeed, what could I say
to her? I had had time to reconsider things a little and reflect that
I had nothing to go upon but certain feelings and suspicious
presentiments. I found her in tears, almost in hysterics, with
compresses of eau-de-Cologne and a glass of water. Before her stood
Pyotr Stepanovitch, who talked without stopping, and the prince, who
held his tongue as though it had been under a lock. With tears and
lamentations she reproached Pyotr Stepanovitch for his "desertion." I
was struck at once by the fact that she ascribed the whole failure,
the whole ignominy of the matinée, everything in fact, to Pyotr
In him I observed an important change: he seemed a shade too anxious,
almost serious. As a rule he never seemed serious; he was always
laughing, even when he was angry, and he was often angry. Oh, he was
angry now! He was speaking coarsely, carelessly, with vexation and
impatience. He said that he had been taken ill at Gaganov's lodging,
where he had happened to go early in the morning. Alas, the poor woman
was so anxious to be deceived again! The chief question which I found
being discussed was whether the ball, that is, the whole second half of
the fête, should or should not take place. Yulia Mihailovna could not be
induced to appear at the ball "after the insults she had received that
morning"; in other words, her heart was set on being compelled to do so,
and by him, by Pyotr Stepanovitch. She looked upon him as an oracle, and
I believe if he had gone away she would have taken to her bed at once.
But he did not want to go away; he was desperately anxious that the ball
should take place and that Yulia Mihailovna should be present at it.
"Come, what is there to cry about? Are you set on having a scene? On
venting your anger on somebody? Well, vent it on me; only make haste
about it, for the time is passing and you must make up your mind. We
made a mess of it with the matinée; we'll pick up on the ball. Here, the
prince thinks as I do. Yes, if it hadn't been for the prince, how would
things have ended there?"
The prince had been at first opposed to the ball (that is, opposed to
Yulia Mihailovna's appearing at it; the ball was bound to go on in any
case), but after two or three such references to his opinion he began
little by little to grunt his acquiescence.
I was surprised too at the extraordinary rudeness of Pyotr
Stepanovitch's tone. Oh, I scout with indignation the contemptible
slander which was spread later of some supposed liaison between Yulia
Mihailovna and Pyotr Stepanovitch. There was no such thing, nor could
there be. He gained his ascendency over her from the first only by
encouraging her in her dreams of influence in society and in the
ministry, by entering into her plans, by inventing them for her, and
working upon her with the grossest flattery. He had got her completely
into his toils and had become as necessary to her as the air she
breathed. Seeing me, she cried, with flashing eyes:
"Here, ask him. He kept by my side all the while, just like the prince
did. Tell me, isn't it plain that it was all a preconcerted plot, a
base, designing plot to damage Andrey Antonovitch and me as much as
possible? Oh, they had arranged it beforehand. They had a plan! It's a
party, a regular party."
"You are exaggerating as usual. You've always some romantic notion in
your head. But I am glad to see Mr...." (He pretended to have forgotten
my name.) "He'll give us his opinion."
"My opinion," I hastened to put in, "is the same as Yulia Mihailovna's.
The plot is only too evident. I have brought you these ribbons, Yulia
Mihailovna. Whether the ball is to take place or not is not my business,
for it's not in my power to decide; but my part as steward is over.
Forgive my warmth, but I can't act against the dictates of common sense
and my own convictions."
"You hear! You hear!" She clasped her hands.
"I hear, and I tell you this." He turned to me. "I think you must
have eaten something which has made you all delirious. To my thinking,
nothing has happened, absolutely nothing but what has happened before
and is always liable to happen in this town. A plot, indeed! It was an
ugly failure, disgracefully stupid. But where's the plot? A plot against
Yulia Mihailovna, who has spoiled them and protected them and fondly
forgiven them all their schoolboy pranks! Yulia Mihailovna! What have I
been hammering into you for the last month continually? What did I warn
you? What did you want with all these people—what did you want with
them? What induced you to mix yourself up with these fellows? What was
the motive, what was the object of it? To unite society? But, mercy on
us! will they ever be united?"
"When did you warn me? On the contrary, you approved of it, you even
insisted on it.... I confess I am so surprised.... You brought all sorts
of strange people to see me yourself."
"On the contrary, I opposed you; I did not approve of it. As for
bringing them to see you, I certainly did, but only after they'd got
in by dozens and only of late to make up 'the literary quadrille'—we
couldn't get on without these rogues. Only I don't mind betting that a
dozen or two more of the same sort were let in without tickets to-day."
"Not a doubt of it," I agreed.
"There, you see, you are agreeing already. Think what the tone has been
lately here—I mean in this wretched town. It's nothing but insolence,
impudence; it's been a crying scandal all the time. And who's been
encouraging it? Who's screened it by her authority? Who's upset them
all? Who has made all the small fry huffy? All their family secrets are
caricatured in your album. Didn't you pat them on the back, your poets
and caricaturists? Didn't you let Lyamshin kiss your hand? Didn't a
divinity student abuse an actual state councillor in your presence and
spoil his daughter's dress with his tarred boots? Now, can you wonder
that the public is set against you?"
"But that's all your doing, yours! Oh, my goodness!"
"No, I warned you. We quarrelled. Do you hear, we quarrelled?"
"Why, you are lying to my face!"
"Of course it's easy for you to say that. You need a victim to vent your
wrath on. Well, vent it on me as I've said already. I'd better appeal to
you, Mr...." (He was still unable to recall my name.) "We'll reckon
on our fingers. I maintain that, apart from Liputin, there was nothing
preconcerted, nothing! I will prove it, but first let us analyse
Liputin. He came forward with that fool Lebyadkin's verses. Do you
maintain that that was a plot? But do you know it might simply have
struck Liputin as a clever thing to do. Seriously, seriously. He simply
came forward with the idea of making every one laugh and entertaining
them—his protectress Yulia Mihailovna first of all. That was all. Don't
you believe it? Isn't that in keeping with all that has been going
on here for the last month? Do you want me to tell the whole truth? I
declare that under other circumstances it might have gone off all right.
It was a coarse joke—well, a bit strong, perhaps; but it was amusing,
you know, wasn't it?"
"What! You think what Liputin did was clever?" Yulia Mihailovna cried
in intense indignation. "Such stupidity, such tactlessness, so
contemptible, so mean! It was intentional! Oh, you are saying it on
purpose! I believe after that you are in the plot with them yourself."
"Of course I was behind the scenes, I was in hiding, I set it all going.
But if I were in the plot—understand that, anyway—it wouldn't have
ended with Liputin. So according to you I had arranged with my papa too
that he should cause such a scene on purpose? Well, whose fault is it
that my papa was allowed to read? Who tried only yesterday to prevent
you from allowing it, only yesterday?"
"Oh, hier il avait tant d'esprit, I was so reckoning on him; and then he
has such manners. I thought with him and Karmazinov... Only think!
"Yes, only think. But in spite of tant d'esprit papa has made things
worse, and if I'd known beforehand that he'd make such a mess of it, I
should certainly not have persuaded you yesterday to keep the goat
out of the kitchen garden, should I—since I am taking part in this
conspiracy against your fête that you are so positive about? And yet I
did try to dissuade you yesterday; I tried to because I foresaw it. To
foresee everything was, of course, impossible; he probably did not know
himself a minute before what he would fire off—these nervous old men
can't be reckoned on like other people. But you can still save
the situation: to satisfy the public, send to him to-morrow by
administrative order, and with all the ceremonies, two doctors to
inquire into his health. Even to-day, in fact, and take him straight to
the hospital and apply cold compresses. Every one would laugh, anyway,
and see that there was nothing to take offence at. I'll tell people
about it in the evening at the ball, as I am his son. Karmazinov is
another story. He was a perfect ass and dragged out his article for a
whole hour. He certainly must have been in the plot with me! 'I'll make
a mess of it too,' he thought, 'to damage Yulia Mihailovna.'"
"Oh, Karmazinov! Quelle honte! I was burning, burning with shame for his
"Well, I shouldn't have burnt, but have cooked him instead. The audience
was right, you know. Who was to blame for Karmazinov, again? Did I foist
him upon you? Was I one of his worshippers? Well, hang him! But the
third maniac, the political—that's a different matter. That was every
one's blunder, not only my plot."
"Ah, don't speak of it! That was awful, awful! That was my fault,
entirely my fault!"
"Of course it was, but I don't blame you for that. No one can control
them, these candid souls! You can't always be safe from them, even in
Petersburg. He was recommended to you, and in what terms too! So you
will admit that you are bound to appear at the ball to-night. It's an
important business. It was you put him on to the platform. You must make
it plain now to the public that you are not in league with him, that
the fellow is in the hands of the police, and that you were in some
inexplicable way deceived. You ought to declare with indignation that
you were the victim of a madman. Because he is a madman and nothing
more. That's how you must put it about him. I can't endure these people
who bite. I say worse things perhaps, but not from the platform, you
know. And they are talking about a senator too."
"What senator? Who's talking?"
"I don't understand it myself, you know. Do you know anything about a
senator, Yulia Mihailovna?"
"You see, they are convinced that a senator has been appointed to be
governor here, and that you are being superseded from Petersburg. I've
heard it from lots of people."
"I've heard it too," I put in.
"Who said so?" asked Yulia Mihailovna, flushing all over.
"You mean, who said so first? How can I tell? But there it is, people
say so. Masses of people are saying so. They were saying so yesterday
particularly. They are all very serious about it, though I can't make it
out. Of course the more intelligent and competent don't talk, but even
some of those listen."
"How mean! And... how stupid!"
"Well, that's just why you must make your appearance, to show these
"I confess I feel myself that it's my duty, but... what if there's
another disgrace in store for us? What if people don't come? No one will
come, you know, no one!"
"How hot you are! They not come! What about the new clothes? What about
the girls' dresses? I give you up as a woman after that! Is that your
knowledge of human nature?"
"The marshal's wife won't come, she won't."
"But, after all, what has happened? Why won't they come?" he cried at
last with angry impatience.
"Ignominy, disgrace—that's what's happened. I don't know what to call
it, but after it I can't face people."
"Why? How are you to blame for it, after all? Why do you take the blame
of it on yourself? Isn't it rather the fault of the audience, of
your respectable residents, your patresfamilias? They ought to have
controlled the roughs and the rowdies—for it was all the work of roughs
and rowdies, nothing serious. You can never manage things with the
police alone in any society, anywhere. Among us every one asks for
a special policeman to protect him wherever he goes. People don't
understand that society must protect itself. And what do our
patresfamilias, the officials, the wives and daughters, do in such
cases? They sit quiet and sulk. In fact there's not enough social
initiative to keep the disorderly in check."
"Ah, that's the simple truth! They sit quiet, sulk and... gaze about
"And if it's the truth, you ought to say so aloud, proudly, sternly,
just to show that you are not defeated, to those respectable residents
and mothers of families. Oh, you can do it; you have the gift when your
head is clear. You will gather them round you and say it aloud. And
then a paragraph in the Voice and the Financial News. Wait a bit, I'll
undertake it myself, I'll arrange it all for you. Of course there must
be more superintendence: you must look after the buffet; you must ask
the prince, you must ask Mr.... You must not desert us, monsieur, just
when we have to begin all over again. And finally, you must appear
arm-in-arm with Andrey Antonovitch.... How is Andrey Antonovitch?"
"Oh, how unjustly, how untruly, how cruelly you have always judged that
angelic man!" Yulia Mihailovna cried in a sudden, outburst, almost with
tears, putting her handkerchief to her eyes.
Pyotr Stepanovitch was positively taken aback for the moment. "Good
heavens! I.... What have I said? I've always..."
"You never have, never! You have never done him justice."
"There's no understanding a woman," grumbled Pyotr Stepanovitch, with a
"He is the most sincere, the most delicate, the most angelic of men! The
most kind-hearted of men!"
"Well, really, as for kind-heartedness... I've always done him
"Never! But let us drop it. I am too awkward in my defence of him.
This morning that little Jesuit, the marshal's wife, also dropped some
sarcastic hints about what happened yesterday."
"Oh, she has no thoughts to spare for yesterday now, she is full of
to-day. And why are you so upset at her not coming to the ball to-night?
Of course, she won't come after getting mixed up in such a scandal.
Perhaps it's not her fault, but still her reputation... her hands are
"What do you mean; I don't understand? Why are her hands soiled?" Yulia
Mihailovna looked at him in perplexity.
"I don't vouch for the truth of it, but the town is ringing with the
story that it was she brought them together."
"What do you mean? Brought whom together?"
"What, do you mean to say you don't know?" he exclaimed with
well-simulated wonder. "Why Stavrogin and Lizaveta Nikolaevna."
"What? How?" we all cried out at once.
"Is it possible you don't know? Phew! Why, it is quite a tragic romance:
Lizaveta Nikolaevna was pleased to get out of that lady's carriage
and get straight into Stavrogin's carriage, and slipped off with 'the
latter' to Skvoreshniki in full daylight. Only an hour ago, hardly an
We were flabbergasted. Of course we fell to questioning him, but to our
wonder, although he "happened" to be a witness of the scene himself,
he could give us no detailed account of it. The thing seemed to have
happened like this: when the marshal's wife was driving Liza and Mavriky
Nikolaevitch from the matinée to the house of Praskovya Ivanovna (whose
legs were still bad) they saw a carriage waiting a short distance, about
twenty-five paces, to one side of the front door. When Liza jumped out,
she ran straight to this carriage; the door was flung open and shut
again; Liza called to Mavriky Nikolaevitch, "Spare me," and the carriage
drove off at full speed to Skvoreshniki. To our hurried questions
whether it was by arrangement? Who was in the carriage? Pyotr
Stepanovitch answered that he knew nothing about it; no doubt it had
been arranged, but that he did not see Stavrogin himself; possibly the
old butler, Alexey Yegorytch, might have been in the carriage. To the
question "How did he come to be there, and how did he know for a fact
that she had driven to Skvoreshniki?" he answered that he happened to be
passing and, at seeing Liza, he had run up to the carriage (and yet he
could not make out who was in it, an inquisitive man like him!) and
that Mavriky Nikolaevitch, far from setting off in pursuit, had not
even tried to stop Liza, and had even laid a restraining hand on the
marshal's wife, who was shouting at the top of her voice: "She is going
to Stavrogin, to Stavrogin." At this point I lost patience, and cried
furiously to Pyotr Stepanovitch:
"It's all your doing, you rascal! This was what you were doing this
morning. You helped Stavrogin, you came in the carriage, you helped her
into it... it was you, you, you! Yulia Mihailovna, he is your enemy; he
will be your ruin too! Beware of him!"
And I ran headlong out of the house. I wonder myself and cannot make out
to this day how I came to say that to him. But I guessed quite right:
it had all happened almost exactly as I said, as appeared later. What
struck me most was the obviously artificial way in which he broke
the news. He had not told it at once on entering the house as an
extraordinary piece of news, but pretended that we knew without his
telling us which was impossible in so short a time. And if we had known
it, we could not possibly have refrained from mentioning it till he
introduced the subject. Besides, he could not have heard yet that the
town was "ringing with gossip" about the marshal's wife in so short a
time. Besides, he had once or twice given a vulgar, frivolous smile
as he told the story, probably considering that we were fools and
completely taken in.
But I had no thought to spare for him; the central fact I believed, and
ran from Yulia Mihailovna's, beside myself. The catastrophe cut me
to the heart. I was wounded almost to tears; perhaps I did shed
some indeed. I was at a complete loss what to do. I rushed to Stepan
Trofimovitch's, but the vexatious man still refused to open the door.
Nastasya informed me, in a reverent whisper, that he had gone to bed,
but I did not believe it. At Liza's house I succeeded in questioning the
servants. They confirmed the story of the elopement, but knew nothing
themselves. There was great commotion in the house; their mistress had
been attacked by fainting fits, and Mavriky Nikolaevitch was with her.
I did not feel it possible to ask for Mavriky Nikolaevitch. To my
inquiries about Pyotr Stepanovitch they told me that he had been in and
out continually of late, sometimes twice in the day. The servants were
sad, and showed particular respectfulness in speaking of Liza; they were
fond of her. That she was ruined, utterly ruined, I did not doubt;
but the psychological aspect of the matter I was utterly unable to
understand, especially after her scene with Stavrogin the previous day.
To run about the town and inquire at the houses of acquaintances, who
would, of course, by now have heard the news and be rejoicing at it,
seemed to me revolting, besides being humiliating for Liza. But, strange
to say, I ran to see Darya Pavlovna, though I was not admitted (no one
had been admitted into the house since the previous morning). I don't
know what I could have said to her and what made me run to her. From her
I went to her brother's. Shatov listened sullenly and in silence. I may
observe that I found him more gloomy than I had ever seen him before; he
was awfully preoccupied and seemed only to listen to me with an effort.
He said scarcely anything and began walking up and down his cell from
corner to corner, treading more noisily than usual. As I was going down
the stairs he shouted after me to go to Liputin's: "There you'll hear
everything." Yet I did not go to Liputin's, but after I'd gone a good
way towards home I turned back to Shatov's again, and, half opening the
door without going in, suggested to him laconically and with no kind of
explanation, "Won't you go to Marya Timofyevna to-day?" At this Shatov
swore at me, and I went away. I note here that I may not forget it that
he did purposely go that evening to the other end of the town to see
Marya Timofyevna, whom he had not seen for some time. He found her in
excellent health and spirits and Lebyadkin dead drunk, asleep on the
sofa in the first room. This was at nine o'clock. He told me so himself
next day when we met for a moment in the street. Before ten o'clock I
made up my mind to go to the ball, but not in the capacity of a steward
(besides my rosette had been left at Yulia Mihailovna's). I was tempted
by irresistible curiosity to listen, without asking any questions,
to what people were saying in the town about all that had happened. I
wanted, too, to have a look at Yulia Mihailovna, if only at a distance.
I reproached myself greatly that I had left her so abruptly that
All that night, with its almost grotesque incidents, and the terrible
dénouement that followed in the early morning, still seems to me like a
hideous nightmare, and is, for me at least, the most painful chapter
in my chronicle. I was late for the ball, and it was destined to end
so quickly that I arrived not long before it was over. It was eleven
o'clock when I reached the entrance of the marshal's house, where the
same White Hall in which the matinée had taken place had, in spite of
the short interval between, been cleared and made ready to serve as the
chief ballroom for the whole town, as we expected, to dance in. But far
as I had been that morning from expecting the ball to be a success, I
had had no presentiment of the full truth. Not one family of the
higher circles appeared; even the subordinate officials of rather more
consequence were absent—and this was a very striking fact. As for
ladies and girls, Pyotr Stepanovitch's arguments (the duplicity of which
was obvious now) turned out to be utterly incorrect: exceedingly few
had come; to four men there was scarcely one lady—and what ladies
they were! Regimental ladies of a sort, three doctors' wives with
their daughters, two or three poor ladies from the country, the seven
daughters and the niece of the secretary whom I have mentioned already,
some wives of tradesmen, of post-office clerks and other small fry—was
this what Yulia Mihailovna expected? Half the tradespeople even were
absent. As for the men, in spite of the complete absence of all persons
of consequence, there was still a crowd of them, but they made a
doubtful and suspicious impression. There were, of course, some quiet
and respectful officers with their wives, some of the most docile
fathers of families, like that secretary, for instance, the father of
his seven daughters. All these humble, insignificant people had come, as
one of these gentlemen expressed it, because it was "inevitable." But,
on the other hand, the mass of free-and-easy people and the mass too of
those whom Pyotr Stepanovitch and I had suspected of coming in without
tickets, seemed even bigger than in the afternoon. So far they were all
sitting in the refreshment bar, and had gone straight there on arriving,
as though it were the meeting-place they had agreed upon. So at least it
seemed to me. The refreshment bar had been placed in a large room,
the last of several opening out of one another. Here Prohoritch was
installed with all the attractions of the club cuisine and with a
tempting display of drinks and dainties. I noticed several persons whose
coats were almost in rags and whose get-up was altogether suspicious and
utterly unsuitable for a ball. They had evidently been with great pains
brought to a state of partial sobriety which would not last long; and
goodness knows where they had been brought from, they were not local
people. I knew, of course, that it was part of Yulia Mihailovna's idea
that the ball should be of the most democratic character, and that "even
working people and shopmen should not be excluded if any one of that
class chanced to pay for a ticket." She could bravely utter such words
in her committee with absolute security that none of the working people
of our town, who all lived in extreme poverty, would dream of taking a
ticket. But in spite of the democratic sentiments of the committee, I
could hardly believe that such sinister-looking and shabby people could
have been admitted in the regular way. But who could have admitted them,
and with what object? Lyamshin and Liputin had already been deprived of
their steward's rosettes, though they were present at the ball, as they
were taking part in the "literary quadrille." But, to my amazement,
Liputin's place was taken by the divinity student, who had caused
the greatest scandal at the matinée by his skirmish with Stepan
Trofimovitch; and Lyamshin's was taken by Pyotr Stepanovitch himself.
What was to be looked for under the circumstances?
I tried to listen to the conversation. I was struck by the wildness
of some ideas I heard expressed. It was maintained in one group, for
instance, that Yulia Mihailovna had arranged Liza's elopement with
Stavrogin and had been paid by the latter for doing so. Even the sum
paid was mentioned. It was asserted that she had arranged the whole fête
with a view to it, and that that was the reason why half the town had
not turned up at the ball, and that Lembke himself was so upset about it
that "his mind had given way," and that, crazy as he was, "she had got
him in tow." There was a great deal of laughter too, hoarse, wild
and significant. Every one was criticising the ball, too, with great
severity, and abusing Yulia Mihailovna without ceremony. In fact it was
disorderly, incoherent, drunken and excited babble, so it was difficult
to put it together and make anything of it. At the same time there were
simple-hearted people enjoying themselves at the refreshment-bar; there
were even some ladies of the sort who are surprised and frightened at
nothing, very genial and festive, chiefly military ladies with their
husbands. They made parties at the little tables, were drinking tea, and
were very merry. The refreshment-bar made a snug refuge for almost half
of the guests. Yet in a little time all this mass of people must stream
into the ballroom. It was horrible to think of it!
Meanwhile the prince had succeeded in arranging three skimpy quadrilles
in the White Hall. The young ladies were dancing, while their parents
were enjoying watching them. But many of these respectable persons had
already begun to think how they could, after giving their girls a treat,
get off in good time before "the trouble began." Absolutely every one
was convinced that it certainly would begin. It would be difficult for
me to describe Yulia Mihailovna's state of mind. I did not talk to her
though I went close up to her. She did not respond to the bow I made her
on entering; she did not notice me (really did not notice). There was a
painful look in her face and a contemptuous and haughty though restless
and agitated expression in her eyes. She controlled herself with evident
suffering—for whose sake, with what object? She certainly ought to have
gone away, still more to have got her husband away, and she remained!
From her face one could see that her eyes were "fully opened," and
that it was useless for her to expect any thing more. She did not even
summon Pyotr Stepanovitch (he seemed to avoid her; I saw him in the
refreshment-room, he was extremely lively). But she remained at the ball
and did not let Andrey Antonovitch leave her side for a moment. Oh, up
to the very last moment, even that morning she would have repudiated any
hint about his health with genuine indignation. But now her eyes were
to be opened on this subject too. As for me, I thought from the first
glance that Andrey Antonovitch looked worse than he had done in the
morning. He seemed to be plunged into a sort of oblivion and hardly
to know where he was. Sometimes he looked about him with unexpected
severity—at me, for instance, twice. Once he tried to say something;
he began loudly and audibly but did not finish the sentence, throwing
a modest old clerk who happened to be near him almost into a panic. But
even this humble section of the assembly held sullenly and timidly
aloof from Yulia Mihailovna and at the same time turned upon her husband
exceedingly strange glances, open and staring, quite out of keeping with
their habitually submissive demeanour.
"Yes, that struck me, and I suddenly began to guess about Andrey
Antonovitch," Yulia Mihailovna confessed to me afterwards.
Yes, she was to blame again! Probably when after my departure she had
settled with Pyotr Stepanovitch that there should be a ball and that
she should be present she must have gone again to the study where Andrey
Antonovitch was sitting, utterly "shattered" by the matinée; must again
have used all her fascinations to persuade him to come with her. But
what misery she must have been in now! And yet she did not go away.
Whether it was pride or simply she lost her head, I do not know. In
spite of her haughtiness, she attempted with smiles and humiliation
to enter into conversation with some ladies, but they were confused,
confined themselves to distrustful monosyllables, "Yes" and "No," and
evidently avoided her.
The only person of undoubted consequence who was present at the ball was
that distinguished general whom I have described already, the one who
after Stavrogin's duel with Gaganov opened the door to public impatience
at the marshal's wife's. He walked with an air of dignity through the
rooms, looked about, and listened, and tried to appear as though he had
come rather for the sake of observation than for the sake of enjoying
himself.... He ended by establishing himself beside Yulia Mihailovna
and not moving a step away from her, evidently trying to keep up her
spirits, and reassure her. He certainly was a most kind-hearted man,
of very high rank, and so old that even compassion from him was not
wounding. But to admit to herself that this old gossip was venturing to
pity her and almost to protect her, knowing that he was doing her honour
by his presence, was very vexatious. The general stayed by her and never
"They say a town can't go on without seven righteous men... seven, I
think it is, I am not sure of the number fixed.... I don't know how many
of these seven, the certified righteous of the town... have the honour
of being present at your ball. Yet in spite of their presence I begin
to feel unsafe. Vous me pardonnez, charmante dame, n'est-ce pas? I speak
allegorically, but I went into the refreshment-room and I am glad I
escaped alive.... Our priceless Prohoritch is not in his place there,
and I believe his bar will be destroyed before morning. But I am
laughing. I am only waiting to see what the 'literary quadrille' is
going to be like, and then home to bed. You must excuse a gouty old
fellow. I go early to bed, and I would advise you too to go 'by-by,' as
they say aux enfants. I've come, you know, to have a look at the pretty
girls... whom, of course, I could meet nowhere in such profusion as
here. They all live beyond the river and I don't drive out so far.
There's a wife of an officer... in the chasseurs I believe he is...
who is distinctly pretty, distinctly, and... she knows it herself. I've
talked to the sly puss; she is a sprightly one... and the girls too are
fresh-looking; but that's all, there's nothing but freshness. Still,
it's a pleasure to look at them. There are some rosebuds, but their
lips are thick. As a rule there's an irregularity about female beauty
in Russia, and... they are a little like buns.... vous me pardonnez,
n'est-ce pas?... with good eyes, however, laughing eyes.... These
rose buds are charming for two years when they are young... even for
three... then they broaden out and are spoilt for ever... producing
in their husbands that deplorable indifference which does so much to
promote the woman movement... that is, if I understand it correctly....
H'm! It's a fine hall; the rooms are not badly decorated. It might be
worse. The music might be much worse.... I don't say it ought to have
been. What makes a bad impression is that there are so few ladies. I say
nothing about the dresses. It's bad that that chap in the grey trousers
should dare to dance the cancan so openly. I can forgive him if he does
it in the gaiety of his heart, and since he is the local chemist....
Still, eleven o'clock is a bit early even for chemists. There were two
fellows fighting in the refreshment-bar and they weren't turned out. At
eleven o'clock people ought to be turned out for fighting, whatever the
standard of manners.... Three o'clock is a different matter; then one
has to make concessions to public opinion—if only this ball survives
till three o'clock. Varvara Petrovna has not kept her word, though, and
hasn't sent flowers. H'm! She has no thoughts for flowers, pauvre mère!
And poor Liza! Have you heard? They say it's a mysterious story...
and Stavrogin is to the front again.... H'm! I would have gone home
to bed... I can hardly keep my eyes open. But when is this 'literary
quadrille' coming on?"
At last the "literary quadrille" began. Whenever of late there had been
conversation in the town on the ball it had invariably turned on this
literary quadrille, and as no one could imagine what it would be like,
it aroused extraordinary curiosity. Nothing could be more unfavourable
to its chance of success, and great was the disappointment.
The side doors of the White Hall were thrown open and several masked
figures appeared. The public surrounded them eagerly. All the occupants
of the refreshment-bar trooped to the last man into the hall. The masked
figures took their places for the dance. I succeeded in making my way to
the front and installed myself just behind Yulia Mihailovna, Von Lembke,
and the general. At this point Pyotr Stepanovitch, who had kept away
till that time, skipped up to Yulia Mihailovna.
"I've been in the refreshment-room all this time, watching," he
whispered, with the air of a guilty schoolboy, which he, however,
assumed on purpose to irritate her even more. She turned crimson with
"You might give up trying to deceive me now at least, insolent man!"
broke from her almost aloud, so that it was heard by other people. Pyotr
Stepanovitch skipped away extremely well satisfied with himself.
It would be difficult to imagine a more pitiful, vulgar, dull and
insipid allegory than this "literary quadrille." Nothing could be
imagined less appropriate to our local society. Yet they say it was
Karmazinov's idea. It was Liputin indeed who arranged it with the help
of the lame teacher who had been at the meeting at Virginsky's. But
Karmazinov had given the idea and had, it was said, meant to dress up
and to take a special and prominent part in it. The quadrille was
made up of six couples of masked figures, who were not in fancy dress
exactly, for their clothes were like every one else's. Thus, for
instance, one short and elderly gentleman wearing a dress-coat—in fact,
dressed like every one else—wore a venerable grey beard, tied on (and this
constituted his disguise). As he danced he pounded up and down, taking
tiny and rapid steps on the same spot with a stolid expression of
countenance. He gave vent to sounds in a subdued but husky bass, and
this huskiness was meant to suggest one of the well-known papers.
Opposite this figure danced two giants, X and Z, and these letters were
pinned on their coats, but what the letters meant remained unexplained.
"Honest Russian thought" was represented by a middle-aged gentleman in
spectacles, dress-coat and gloves, and wearing fetters (real fetters).
Under his arm he had a portfolio containing papers relating to some
"case." To convince the sceptical, a letter from abroad testifying to
the honesty of "honest Russian thought" peeped out of his pocket. All
this was explained by the stewards, as the letter which peeped out of
his pocket could not be read. "Honest Russian thought" had his right
hand raised and in it held a glass as though he wanted to propose a
toast. In a line with him on each side tripped a crop-headed Nihilist
girl; while vis-à-vis danced another elderly gentleman in a dress-coat
with a heavy cudgel in his hand. He was meant to represent a formidable
periodical (not a Petersburg one), and seemed to be saying, "I'll
pound you to a jelly." But in spite of his cudgel he could not bear the
spectacles of "honest Russian thought" fixed upon him and tried to look
away, and when he did the pas de deux, he twisted, turned, and did not
know what to do with himself—so terrible, probably, were the stings
of his conscience! I don't remember all the absurd tricks they played,
however; it was all in the same style, so that I felt at last painfully
ashamed. And this same expression, as it were, of shame was reflected in
the whole public, even on the most sullen figures that had come out of
the refreshment-room. For some time all were silent and gazed with angry
perplexity. When a man is ashamed he generally begins to get angry and
is disposed to be cynical. By degrees a murmur arose in the audience.
"What's the meaning of it?" a man who had come in from the
refreshment-room muttered in one of the groups.
"It's something literary. It's a criticism of the Voice."
"What's that to me?"
From another group:
"No, they are not asses; it's we who are the asses."
"Why are you an ass?"
"I am not an ass."
"Well, if you are not, I am certainly not."
From a third group:
"We ought to give them a good smacking and send them flying."
"Pull down the hall!"
From a fourth group:
"I wonder the Lembkes are not ashamed to look on!"
"Why should they be ashamed? You are not."
"Yes, I am ashamed, and he is the governor."
"And you are a pig."
"I've never seen such a commonplace ball in my life," a lady observed
viciously, quite close to Yulia Mihailovna, obviously with the intention
of being overheard. She was a stout lady of forty with rouge on her
cheeks, wearing a bright-coloured silk dress. Almost every one in the
town knew her, but no one received her. She was the widow of a civil
councillor, who had left her a wooden house and a small pension; but
she lived well and kept horses. Two months previously she had called on
Yulia Mihailovna, but the latter had not received her.
"That might have been foreseen," she added, looking insolently into
Yulia Mihailovna's face.
"If you could foresee it, why did you come?" Yulia Mihailovna could not
"Because I was too simple," the sprightly lady answered instantly, up in
arms and eager for the fray; but the general intervened.
"Chère dame"—he bent over to Yulia Mihailovna—"you'd really better be
going. We are only in their way and they'll enjoy themselves thoroughly
without us. You've done your part, you've opened the ball, now leave
them in peace. And Andrey Antonovitch doesn't seem to be feeling quite
satisfactorily.... To avoid trouble."
But it was too late.
All through the quadrille Andrey Antonovitch gazed at the dancers with a
sort of angry perplexity, and when he heard the comments of the audience
he began looking about him uneasily. Then for the first time he caught
sight of some of the persons who had come from the refreshment-room;
there was an expression of extreme wonder in his face. Suddenly there
was a loud roar of laughter at a caper that was cut in the quadrille.
The editor of the "menacing periodical, not a Petersburg one," who was
dancing with the cudgel in his hands, felt utterly unable to endure
the spectacled gaze of "honest Russian thought," and not knowing how to
escape it, suddenly in the last figure advanced to meet him standing on
his head, which was meant, by the way, to typify the continual turning
upside down of common sense by the menacing non-Petersburg gazette. As
Lyamshin was the only one who could walk standing on his head, he had
undertaken to represent the editor with the cudgel. Yulia Mihailovna had
had no idea that anyone was going to walk on his head. "They concealed
that from me, they concealed it," she repeated to me afterwards in
despair and indignation. The laughter from the crowd was, of course,
provoked not by the allegory, which interested no one, but simply by
a man's walking on his head in a swallow-tail coat. Lembke flew into a
rage and shook with fury.
"Rascal!" he cried, pointing to Lyamshin, "take hold of the scoundrel,
turn him over... turn his legs... his head... so that his head's up...
Lyamshin jumped on to his feet. The laughter grew louder.
"Turn out all the scoundrels who are laughing!" Lembke prescribed
There was an angry roar and laughter in the crowd.
"You can't do like that, your Excellency."
"You mustn't abuse the public."
"You are a fool yourself!" a voice cried suddenly from a corner.
"Filibusters!" shouted some one from the other end of the room.
Lembke looked round quickly at the shout and turned pale. A vacant smile
came on to his lips, as though he suddenly understood and remembered
"Gentlemen," said Yulia Mihailovna, addressing the crowd which was
pressing round them, as she drew her husband away—"gentlemen, excuse
Andrey Antonovitch. Andrey Antonovitch is unwell... excuse... forgive
I positively heard her say "forgive him." It all happened very quickly.
But I remember for a fact that a section of the public rushed out of
the hall immediately after those words of Yulia Mihailovna's as though
panic-stricken. I remember one hysterical, tearful feminine shriek:
"Ach, the same thing again!"
And in the retreat of the guests, which was almost becoming a crush,
another bomb exploded exactly as in the afternoon.
"Fire! All the riverside quarter is on fire!"
I don't remember where this terrible cry rose first, whether it was
first raised in the hall, or whether some one ran upstairs from the
entry, but it was followed by such alarm that I can't attempt to
describe it. More than half the guests at the ball came from the quarter
beyond the river, and were owners or occupiers of wooden houses in that
district. They rushed to the windows, pulled back the curtains in a
flash, and tore down the blinds. The riverside was in flames. The fire,
it is true, was only beginning, but it was in flames in three separate
places—and that was what was alarming.
"Arson! The Shpigulin men!" roared the crowd.
I remember some very characteristic exclamations:
"I've had a presentiment in my heart that there'd be arson, I've had a
presentiment of it these last few days!"
"The Shpigulin men, the Shpigulin men, no one else!"
"We were all lured here on purpose to set fire to it!"
This last most amazing exclamation came from a woman; it was an
unintentional involuntary shriek of a housewife whose goods were
burning. Every one rushed for the door. I won't describe the crush in
the vestibule over sorting out cloaks, shawls, and pelisses, the shrieks
of the frightened women, the weeping of the young ladies. I doubt
whether there was any theft, but it was no wonder that in such disorder
some went away without their wraps because they were unable to find
them, and this grew into a legend with many additions, long preserved in
the town. Lembke and Yulia Mihailovna were almost crushed by the crowd
at the doors.
"Stop, every one! Don't let anyone out!" yelled Lembke, stretching out
his arms menacingly towards the crowding people.
"Every one without exception to be strictly searched at once!"
A storm of violent oaths rose from the crowd.
"Andrey Antonovitch! Andrey Antonovitch!" cried Yulia Mihailovna in
"Arrest her first!" shouted her husband, pointing his finger at her
threateningly. "Search her first! The ball was arranged with a view to
She screamed and fell into a swoon. (Oh, there was no doubt of its being
a real one.) The general, the prince, and I rushed to her assistance;
there were others, even among the ladies, who helped us at that
difficult moment. We carried the unhappy woman out of this hell to her
carriage, but she only regained consciousness as she reached the house,
and her first utterance was about Andrey Antonovitch again. With the
destruction of all her fancies, the only thing left in her mind was
Andrey Antonovitch. They sent for a doctor. I remained with her for a
whole hour; the prince did so too. The general, in an access of generous
feeling (though he had been terribly scared), meant to remain all night
"by the bedside of the unhappy lady," but within ten minutes he fell
asleep in an arm-chair in the drawing-room while waiting for the doctor,
and there we left him.
The chief of the police, who had hurried from the ball to the fire, had
succeeded in getting Andrey Antonovitch out of the hall after us, and
attempted to put him into Yulia Mihailovna's carriage, trying all he
could to persuade his Excellency "to seek repose." But I don't know
why he did not insist. Andrey Antonovitch, of course, would not hear of
repose, and was set on going to the fire; but that was not a sufficient
reason. It ended in his taking him to the fire in his droshky. He told
us afterwards that Lembke was gesticulating all the way and "shouting
orders that it was impossible to obey owing to their unusualness." It
was officially reported later on that his Excellency had at that time
been in a delirious condition "owing to a sudden fright."
There is no need to describe how the ball ended. A few dozen rowdy
fellows, and with them some ladies, remained in the hall. There were
no police present. They would not let the orchestra go, and beat
the musicians who attempted to leave. By morning they had pulled all
Prohoritch's stall to pieces, had drunk themselves senseless, danced the
Kamarinsky in its unexpurgated form, made the rooms in a shocking mess,
and only towards daybreak part of this hopelessly drunken rabble reached
the scene of the fire to make fresh disturbances there. The other part
spent the night in the rooms dead drunk, with disastrous consequences
to the velvet sofas and the floor. Next morning, at the earliest
possibility, they were dragged out by their legs into the street. So
ended the fête for the benefit of the governesses of our province.
The fire frightened the inhabitants of the riverside just because it
was evidently a case of arson. It was curious that at the first cry of
"fire" another cry was raised that the Shpigulin men had done it. It
is now well known that three Shpigulin men really did have a share in
setting fire to the town, but that was all; all the other factory
hands were completely acquitted, not only officially but also by public
opinion. Besides those three rascals (of whom one has been caught and
confessed and the other two have so far escaped), Fedka the convict
undoubtedly had a hand in the arson. That is all that is known for
certain about the fire till now; but when it comes to conjectures it's
a very different matter. What had led these three rascals to do it? Had
they been instigated by anyone? It is very difficult to answer all these
questions even now.
Owing to the strong wind, the fact that the houses at the riverside were
almost all wooden, and that they had been set fire to in three
places, the fire spread quickly and enveloped the whole quarter with
extraordinary rapidity. (The fire burnt, however, only at two ends;
at the third spot it was extinguished almost as soon as it began to
burn—of which later.) But the Petersburg and Moscow papers exaggerated
our calamity. Not more than a quarter, roughly speaking, of the
riverside district was burnt down; possibly less indeed. Our fire
brigade, though it was hardly adequate to the size and population of the
town, worked with great promptitude and devotion. But it would not
have been of much avail, even with the zealous co-operation of the
inhabitants, if the wind had not suddenly dropped towards morning. When
an hour after our flight from the ball I made my way to the riverside,
the fire was at its height. A whole street parallel with the river was
in flames. It was as light as day. I won't describe the fire; every one
in Russia knows what it looks like. The bustle and crush was immense in
the lanes adjoining the burning street. The inhabitants, fully expecting
the fire to reach their houses, were hauling out their belongings, but
had not yet left their dwellings, and were waiting meanwhile sitting
on their boxes and feather beds under their windows. Part of the male
population were hard at work ruthlessly chopping down fences and even
whole huts which were near the fire and on the windward side. None
were crying except the children, who had been waked out of their sleep,
though the women who had dragged out their chattels were lamenting
in sing-song voices. Those who had not finished their task were still
silent, busily carrying out their goods. Sparks and embers were carried
a long way in all directions. People put them out as best they could.
Some helped to put the fire out while others stood about, admiring it. A
great fire at night always has a thrilling and exhilarating effect.
This is what explains the attraction of fireworks. But in that case the
artistic regularity with which the fire is presented and the complete
lack of danger give an impression of lightness and playfulness like the
effect of a glass of champagne. A real conflagration is a very different
matter. Then the horror and a certain sense of personal danger,
together with the exhilarating effect of a fire at night, produce on the
spectator (though of course not in the householder whose goods are being
burnt) a certain concussion of the brain and, as it were, a challenge to
those destructive instincts which, alas, lie hidden in every heart, even
that of the mildest and most domestic little clerk.... This sinister
sensation is almost always fascinating. "I really don't know whether one
can look at a fire without a certain pleasure." This is word for word
what Stepan Trofimovitch said to me one night on returning home after he
had happened to witness a fire and was still under the influence of the
spectacle. Of course, the very man who enjoys the spectacle will rush
into the fire himself to save a child or an old woman; but that is
altogether a different matter.
Following in the wake of the crowd of sightseers, I succeeded, without
asking questions, in reaching the chief centre of danger, where at last
I saw Lembke, whom I was seeking at Yulia Mihailovna's request. His
position was strange and extraordinary. He was standing on the ruins of
a fence. Thirty paces to the left of him rose the black skeleton of a
two-storied house which had almost burnt out. It had holes instead of
windows at each story, its roof had fallen in, and the flames were still
here and there creeping among the charred beams. At the farther end
of the courtyard, twenty paces away, the lodge, also a two-storied
building, was beginning to burn, and the firemen were doing their utmost
to save it. On the right the firemen and the people were trying to save
a rather large wooden building which was not actually burning, though
it had caught fire several times and was inevitably bound to be burnt in
the end. Lembke stood facing the lodge, shouting and gesticulating. He
was giving orders which no one attempted to carry out. It seemed to me
that every one had given him up as hopeless and left him. Anyway,
though every one in the vast crowd of all classes, among whom there
were gentlemen, and even the cathedral priest, was listening to him
with curiosity and wonder, no one spoke to him or tried to get him away.
Lembke, with a pale face and glittering eyes, was uttering the most
amazing things. To complete the picture, he had lost his hat and was
"It's all incendiarism! It's nihilism! If anything is burning, it's
nihilism!" I heard almost with horror; and though there was nothing to
be surprised at, yet actual madness, when one sees it, always gives one
"Your Excellency," said a policeman, coming up to him, "what if you were
to try the repose of home?... It's dangerous for your Excellency even to
This policeman, as I heard afterwards, had been told off by the chief
of police to watch over Andrey Antonovitch, to do his utmost to get him
home, and in case of danger even to use force—a task evidently beyond
the man's power.
"They will wipe away the tears of the people whose houses have been
burnt, but they will burn down the town. It's all the work of four
scoundrels, four and a half! Arrest the scoundrel! He worms himself into
the honour of families. They made use of the governesses to burn down
the houses. It's vile, vile! Aie, what's he about?" he shouted, suddenly
noticing a fireman at the top of the burning lodge, under whom the roof
had almost burnt away and round whom the flames were beginning to flare
up. "Pull him down! Pull him down! He will fall, he will catch fire, put
him out!... What is he doing there?"
"He is putting the fire out, your Excellency."
"Not likely. The fire is in the minds of men and not in the roofs of
houses. Pull him down and give it up! Better give it up, much better!
Let it put itself out. Aie, who is crying now? An old woman! It's an old
woman shouting. Why have they forgotten the old woman?"
There actually was an old woman crying on the ground floor of the
burning lodge. She was an old creature of eighty, a relation of the
shopkeeper who owned the house. But she had not been forgotten; she had
gone back to the burning house while it was still possible, with the
insane idea of rescuing her feather bed from a corner room which was
still untouched. Choking with the smoke and screaming with the heat, for
the room was on fire by the time she reached it, she was still trying
with her decrepit hands to squeeze her feather bed through a broken
window pane. Lembke rushed to her assistance. Every one saw him run up
to the window, catch hold of one corner of the feather bed and try with
all his might to pull it out. As ill luck would have it, a board fell at
that moment from the roof and hit the unhappy governor. It did not
kill him, it merely grazed him on the neck as it fell, but Andrey
Antonovitch's career was over, among us at least; the blow knocked him
off his feet and he sank on the ground unconscious.
The day dawned at last, gloomy and sullen. The fire was abating; the
wind was followed by a sudden calm, and then a fine drizzling rain fell.
I was by that time in another part, some distance from where Lembke had
fallen, and here I overheard very strange conversations in the crowd. A
strange fact had come to light. On the very outskirts of the quarter,
on a piece of waste land beyond the kitchen gardens, not less than fifty
paces from any other buildings, there stood a little wooden house which
had only lately been built, and this solitary house had been on fire at
the very beginning, almost before any other. Even had it burnt down, it
was so far from other houses that no other building in the town could
have caught fire from it, and, vice versa, if the whole riverside
had been burnt to the ground, that house might have remained intact,
whatever the wind had been. It followed that it had caught fire
separately and independently and therefore not accidentally. But the
chief point was that it was not burnt to the ground, and at daybreak
strange things were discovered within it. The owner of this new house,
who lived in the neighbourhood, rushed up as soon as he saw it in flames
and with the help of his neighbours pulled apart a pile of faggots which
had been heaped up by the side wall and set fire to. In this way he
saved the house. But there were lodgers in the house—the captain, who
was well known in the town, his sister, and their elderly servant, and
these three persons—the captain, his sister, and their servant—had
been murdered and apparently robbed in the night. (It was here that the
chief of police had gone while Lembke was rescuing the feather bed.)
By morning the news had spread and an immense crowd of all classes, even
the riverside people who had been burnt out had flocked to the waste
land where the new house stood. It was difficult to get there, so dense
was the crowd. I was told at once that the captain had been found lying
dressed on the bench with his throat cut, and that he must have been
dead drunk when he was killed, so that he had felt nothing, and he had
"bled like a bull"; that his sister Marya Timofeyevna had been "stabbed
all over" with a knife and she was lying on the floor in the doorway, so
that probably she had been awake and had fought and struggled with the
murderer. The servant, who had also probably been awake, had her skull
broken. The owner of the house said that the captain had come to see him
the morning before, and that in his drunken bragging he had shown him a
lot of money, as much as two hundred roubles. The captain's shabby old
green pocket-book was found empty on the floor, but Marya Timofeyevna's
box had not been touched, and the silver setting of the ikon had not
been removed either; the captain's clothes, too, had not been disturbed.
It was evident that the thief had been in a hurry and was a man familiar
with the captain's circumstances, who had come only for money and knew
where it was kept. If the owner of the house had not run up at that
moment the burning faggot stack would certainly have set fire to the
house and "it would have been difficult to find out from the charred
corpses how they had died."
So the story was told. One other fact was added: that the person who
had taken this house for the Lebyadkins was no other than Mr. Stavrogin,
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, the son of Varvara Petrovna. He had come
himself to take it and had had much ado to persuade the owner to let
it, as the latter had intended to use it as a tavern; but Nikolay
Vsyevolodovitch was ready to give any rent he asked and had paid for six
months in advance.
"The fire wasn't an accident," I heard said in the crowd.
But the majority said nothing. People's faces were sullen, but I did
not see signs of much indignation. People persisted, however, in
gossiping about Stavrogin, saying that the murdered woman was his wife;
that on the previous day he had "dishonourably" abducted a young lady
belonging to the best family in the place, the daughter of Madame
Drozdov, and that a complaint was to be lodged against him in
Petersburg; and that his wife had been murdered evidently that he might
marry the young lady. Skvoreshniki was not more than a mile and a half
away, and I remember I wondered whether I should not let them know the
position of affairs. I did not notice, however, that there was anyone
egging the crowd on and I don't want to accuse people falsely, though I
did see and recognised at once in the crowd at the fire two or three
of the rowdy lot I had seen in the refreshment-room. I particularly
remember one thin, tall fellow, a cabinet-maker, as I found out later,
with an emaciated face and a curly head, black as though grimed with
soot. He was not drunk, but in contrast to the gloomy passivity of the
crowd seemed beside himself with excitement. He kept addressing the
people, though I don't remember his words; nothing coherent that he said
was longer than "I say, lads, what do you say to this? Are things to go
on like this?" and so saying he waved his arms.
CHAPTER III. A ROMANCE ENDED
FROM THE LARGE BALLROOM of Skvoreshniki (the room in which the last
interview with Varvara Petrovna and Stepan Trofimovitch had taken place)
the fire could be plainly seen. At daybreak, soon after five in the
morning, Liza was standing at the farthest window on the right looking
intently at the fading glow. She was alone in the room. She was wearing
the dress she had worn the day before at the matinée—a very smart light
green dress covered with lace, but crushed and put on carelessly and
with haste. Suddenly noticing that some of the hooks were undone in
front she flushed, hurriedly set it right, snatched up from a chair the
red shawl she had flung down when she came in the day before, and put
it round her neck. Some locks of her luxuriant hair had come loose and
showed below the shawl on her right shoulder. Her face looked weary and
careworn, but her eyes glowed under her frowning brows. She went up to
the window again and pressed her burning forehead against the cold pane.
The door opened and Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch came in.
"I've sent a messenger on horseback," he said. "In ten minutes we shall
hear all about it, meantime the servants say that part of the riverside
quarter has been burnt down, on the right side of the bridge near the
quay. It's been burning since eleven o'clock; now the fire is going
He did not go near the window, but stood three steps behind her; she did
not turn towards him.
"It ought to have been light an hour ago by the calendar, and it's still
almost night," she said irritably.
"'Calendars always tell lies,'" he observed with a polite smile, but,
a little ashamed; he made haste to add: "It's dull to live by the
And he relapsed into silence, vexed at the ineptitude of the second
sentence. Liza gave a wry smile.
"You are in such a melancholy mood that you cannot even find words to
speak to me. But you need not trouble, there's a point in what you said.
I always live by the calendar. Every step I take is regulated by the
calendar. Does that surprise you?"
She turned quickly from the window and sat down in a low chair.
"You sit down, too, please. We haven't long to be together and I want to
say anything I like.... Why shouldn't you, too, say anything you like?"
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch sat beside her and softly, almost timidly took
"What's the meaning of this tone, Liza? Where has it suddenly sprung
from? What do you mean by 'we haven't long to be together'? That's the
second mysterious phrase since you waked, half an hour ago."
"You are beginning to reckon up my mysterious phrases!" she laughed.
"Do you remember I told you I was a dead woman when I came in yesterday?
That you thought fit to forget. To forget or not to notice."
"I don't remember, Liza. Why dead? You must live."
"And is that all? You've quite lost your flow of words. I've lived my
hour and that's enough. Do you remember Christopher Ivanovitch?"
"No I don't," he answered, frowning.
"Christopher Ivanovitch at Lausanne? He bored you dreadfully. He always
used to open the door and say, 'I've come for one minute,' and then stay
the whole day. I don't want to be like Christopher Ivanovitch and stay
the whole day." A look of pain came into his face.
"Liza, it grieves me, this unnatural language. This affectation must
hurt you, too. What's it for? What's the object of it?"
His eyes glowed.
"Liza," he cried, "I swear I love you now more than yesterday when you
came to me!"
"What a strange declaration! Why bring in yesterday and to-day and these
"You won't leave me," he went on, almost with despair; "we will go away
together, to-day, won't we? Won't we?"
"Aie, don't squeeze my hand so painfully! Where could we go together
to-day? To 'rise again' somewhere? No, we've made experiments enough...
and it's too slow for me; and I am not fit for it; it's too exalted
for me. If we are to go, let it be to Moscow, to pay visits and
entertain—that's my ideal you know; even in Switzerland I didn't
disguise from you what I was like. As we can't go to Moscow and pay
visits since you are married, it's no use talking of that."
"Liza! What happened yesterday!"
"What happened is over!"
"That's impossible! That's cruel!"
"What if it is cruel? You must bear it if it is cruel."
"You are avenging yourself on me for yesterday's caprice," he muttered
with an angry smile. Liza flushed.
"What a mean thought!"
"Why then did you bestow on me... so great a happiness? Have I the right
"No, you must manage without rights; don't aggravate the meanness of
your supposition by stupidity. You are not lucky to-day. By the way, you
surely can't be afraid of public opinion and that you will be blamed
for this 'great happiness'? If that's it, for God's sake don't alarm
yourself. It's not your doing at all and you are not responsible to
anyone. When I opened your door yesterday, you didn't even know who was
coming in. It was simply my caprice, as you expressed it just now,
and nothing more! You can look every one in the face boldly and
"Your words, that laugh, have been making me feel cold with horror for
the last hour. That 'happiness' of which you speak frantically is
worth... everything to me. How can I lose you now? I swear I loved you
less yesterday. Why are you taking everything from me to-day? Do you
know what it has cost me, this new hope? I've paid for it with life."
"Your own life or another's?"
He got up quickly.
"What does that mean?" he brought out, looking at her steadily.
"Have you paid for it with your life or with mine? is what I mean. Or
have you lost all power of understanding?" cried Liza, flushing. "Why
did you start up so suddenly? Why do you stare at me with such a look?
You frighten me. What is it you are afraid of all the time? I noticed
some time ago that you were afraid and you are now, this very minute...
Good heavens, how pale you are!"
"If you know anything, Liza, I swear I don't... and I wasn't talking of
that just now when I said that I had paid for it with life...."
"I don't understand you," she brought out, faltering apprehensively.
At last a slow brooding smile came on to his lips. He slowly sat down,
put his elbows on his knees, and covered his face with his hands.
"A bad dream and delirium.... We were talking of two different things."
"I don't know what you were talking about.... Do you mean to say you did
not know yesterday that I should leave you to-day, did you know or not?
Don't tell a lie, did you or not?"
"I did," he said softly.
"Well then, what would you have? You knew and yet you accepted 'that
moment' for yourself. Aren't we quits?"
"Tell me the whole truth," he cried in intense distress. "When you
opened my door yesterday, did you know yourself that it was only for one
She looked at him with hatred.
"Really, the most sensible person can ask most amazing questions. And
why are you so uneasy? Can it be vanity that a woman should leave you
first instead of your leaving her? Do you know, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch,
since I've been with you I've discovered that you are very generous to
me, and it's just that I can't endure from you."
He got up from his seat and took a few steps about the room.
"Very well, perhaps it was bound to end so.... But how can it all have
"That's a question to worry about! Especially as you know the answer
yourself perfectly well, and understand it better than anyone on earth,
and were counting on it yourself. I am a young lady, my heart has been
trained on the opera, that's how it all began, that's the solution."
"There is nothing in it to fret your vanity. It is all the absolute
truth. It began with a fine moment which was too much for me to bear.
The day before yesterday, when I 'insulted' you before every one and you
answered me so chivalrously, I went home and guessed at once that
you were running away from me because you were married, and not from
contempt for me which, as a fashionable young lady, I dreaded more than
anything. I understood that it was for my sake, for me, mad as I was,
that you ran away. You see how I appreciate your generosity. Then Pyotr
Stepanovitch skipped up to me and explained it all to me at once. He
revealed to me that you were dominated by a 'great idea,' before which
he and I were as nothing, but yet that I was a stumbling-block in your
path. He brought himself in, he insisted that we three should work
together, and said the most fantastic things about a boat and about
maple-wood oars out of some Russian song. I complimented him and told
him he was a poet, which he swallowed as the real thing. And as apart
from him I had known long before that I had not the strength to do
anything for long, I made up my mind on the spot. Well, that's all and
quite enough, and please let us have no more explanations. We might
quarrel. Don't be afraid of anyone, I take it all on myself. I am horrid
and capricious, I was fascinated by that operatic boat, I am a young
lady... but you know I did think that you were dreadfully in love
with me. Don't despise the poor fool, and don't laugh at the tear that
dropped just now. I am awfully given to crying with self-pity. Come,
that's enough, that's enough. I am no good for anything and you are
no good for anything; it's as bad for both of us, so let's comfort
ourselves with that. Anyway, it eases our vanity."
"Dream and delirium," cried Stavrogin, wringing his hands, and pacing
about the room. "Liza, poor child, what have you done to yourself?"
"I've burnt myself in a candle, nothing more. Surely you are not crying,
too? You should show less feeling and better breeding...."
"Why, why did you come to me?"
"Don't you understand what a ludicrous position you put yourself in in
the eyes of the world by asking such questions?"
"Why have you ruined yourself, so grotesquely and so stupidly, and
what's to be done now?"
"And this is Stavrogin, 'the vampire Stavrogin,' as you are called by a
lady here who is in love with you! Listen! I have told you already, I've
put all my life into one hour and I am at peace. Do the same with
yours... though you've no need to: you have plenty of 'hours' and
'moments' of all sorts before you."
"As many as you; I give you my solemn word, not one hour more than you!"
He was still walking up and down and did not see the rapid penetrating
glance she turned upon him, in which there seemed a dawning hope. But
the light died away at the same moment.
"If you knew what it costs me that I can't be sincere at this moment,
Liza, if I could only tell you..."
"Tell me? You want to tell me something, to me? God save me from your
secrets!" she broke in almost in terror. He stopped and waited uneasily.
"I ought to confess that ever since those days in Switzerland I have
had a strong feeling that you have something awful, loathsome, some
bloodshed on your conscience... and yet something that would make you
look very ridiculous. Beware of telling me, if it's true: I shall laugh
you to scorn. I shall laugh at you for the rest of your life.... Aie,
you are turning pale again? I won't, I won't, I'll go at once." She
jumped up from her chair with a movement of disgust and contempt.
"Torture me, punish me, vent your spite on me," he cried in despair.
"You have the full right. I knew I did not love you and yet I ruined
you! Yes, I accepted the moment for my own; I had a hope... I've had
it a long time... my last hope.... I could not resist the radiance that
flooded my heart when you came in to me yesterday, of yourself, alone,
of your own accord. I suddenly believed.... Perhaps I have faith in it
"I will repay such noble frankness by being as frank. I don't want to be
a Sister of Mercy for you. Perhaps I really may become a nurse unless I
happen appropriately to die to-day; but if I do I won't be your nurse,
though, of course, you need one as much as any crippled creature. I
always fancied that you would take me to some place where there was a
huge wicked spider, big as a man, and we should spend our lives looking
at it and being afraid of it. That's how our love would spend itself.
Appeal to Dashenka; she will go with you anywhere you like."
"Can't you help thinking of her even now?"
"Poor little spaniel! Give her my greetings. Does she know that even in
Switzerland you had fixed on her for your old age? What prudence! What
foresight! Aie, who's that?"
At the farther end of the room a door opened a crack; a head was thrust
in and vanished again hurriedly.
"Is that you, Alexey Yegorytch?" asked Stavrogin.
"No, it's only I." Pyotr Stepanovitch thrust himself half in again.
"How do you do, Lizaveta Nikolaevna? Good morning, anyway. I guessed I
should find you both in this room. I have come for one moment literally,
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. I was anxious to have a couple of words with
you at all costs... absolutely necessary... only a few words!"
Stavrogin moved towards him but turned back to Liza at the third step.
"If you hear anything directly, Liza, let me tell you I am to blame for
She started and looked at him in dismay; but he hurriedly went out.
The room from which Pyotr Stepanovitch had peeped in was a large
oval vestibule. Alexey Yegorytch had been sitting there before Pyotr
Stepanovitch came in, but the latter sent him away. Stavrogin closed the
door after him and stood expectant. Pyotr Stepanovitch looked rapidly
and searchingly at him.
"If you know already," said Pyotr Stepanovitch hurriedly, his eyes
looking as though they would dive into Stavrogin's soul, "then, of
course, we are none of us to blame, above all not you, for it's such a
concatenation... such a coincidence of events... in brief, you can't be
legally implicated and I've rushed here to tell you so beforehand."
"Have they been burnt? murdered?"
"Murdered but not burnt, that's the trouble, but I give you my word of
honour that it's not been my fault, however much you may suspect me,
eh? Do you want the whole truth: you see the idea really did cross my
mind—you hinted it yourself, not seriously, but teasing me (for, of
course, you would not hint it seriously), but I couldn't bring myself
to it, and wouldn't bring myself to it for anything, not for a hundred
roubles—and what was there to be gained by it, I mean for me, for
me...." (He was in desperate haste and his talk was like the clacking of a
rattle.) "But what a coincidence of circumstances: I gave that drunken
fool Lebyadkin two hundred and thirty roubles of my own money (do you
hear, my own money, there wasn't a rouble of yours and, what's more, you
know it yourself) the day before yesterday, in the evening—do you hear,
not yesterday after the matinée, but the day before yesterday, make a
note of it: it's a very important coincidence for I did not know for
certain at that time whether Lizaveta Nikolaevna would come to you or
not; I gave my own money simply because you distinguished yourself by
taking it into your head to betray your secret to every one. Well, I
won't go into that... that's your affair... your chivalry, but I must
own I was amazed, it was a knock-down blow. And forasmuch as I was
exceeding weary of these tragic stories—and let me tell you, I talk
seriously though I do use Biblical language—as it was all upsetting
my plans in fact, I made up my mind at any cost, and without your
knowledge, to pack the Lebyadkins off to Petersburg, especially as he
was set on going himself. I made one mistake: I gave the money in your
name;—was it a mistake or not? Perhaps it wasn't a mistake, eh? Listen
now, listen how it has all turned out...."
In the heat of his talk he went close up to Stavrogin and took hold of
the revers of his coat (really, it may have been on purpose). With a
violent movement Stavrogin struck him on the arm.
"Come, what is it... give over... you'll break my arm... what matters
is the way things have turned out," he rattled on, not in the least
surprised at the blow. "I forked out the money in the evening on
condition that his sister and he should set off early next morning; I
trusted that rascal Liputin with the job of getting them into the train
and seeing them off. But that beast Liputin wanted to play his schoolboy
pranks on the public—perhaps you heard? At the matinée? Listen, listen:
they both got drunk, made up verses of which half are Liputin's; he
rigged Lebyadkin out in a dress-coat, assuring me meanwhile that he had
packed him off that morning, but he kept him shut somewhere in a back
room, till he thrust him on the platform at the matinée. But Lebyadkin
got drunk quickly and unexpectedly. Then came the scandalous scene you
know of, and then they got him home more dead than alive, and Liputin
filched away the two hundred roubles, leaving him only small change. But
it appears unluckily that already that morning Lebyadkin had taken that
two hundred roubles out of his pocket, boasted of it and shown it in
undesirable quarters. And as that was just what Fedka was expecting, and
as he had heard something at Kirillov's (do you remember, your hint?) he
made up his mind to take advantage of it. That's the whole truth. I
am glad, anyway, that Fedka did not find the money, the rascal was
reckoning on a thousand, you know! He was in a hurry and seems to have
been frightened by the fire himself.... Would you believe it, that fire
came as a thunderbolt for me. Devil only knows what to make of it! It is
taking things into their own hands.... You see, as I expect so much of
you I will hide nothing from you: I've long been hatching this idea of a
fire because it suits the national and popular taste; but I was keeping
it for a critical moment, for that precious time when we should all rise
up and... And they suddenly took it into their heads to do it, on their
own initiative, without orders, now at the very moment when we ought to
be lying low and keeping quiet! Such presumption!... The fact is, I've
not got to the bottom of it yet, they talk about two Shpigulin men, but
if there are any of our fellows in it, if any one of them has had a hand
in it—so much the worse for him! You see what comes of letting people
get ever so little out of hand! No, this democratic rabble, with
its quintets, is a poor foundation; what we want is one magnificent,
despotic will, like an idol, resting on something fundamental and
external.... Then the quintets will cringe into obedience and be
obsequiously ready on occasion. But, anyway, though, they are all crying
out now that Stavrogin wanted his wife to be burnt and that that's what
caused the fire in the town, but..."
"Why, are they all saying that?"
"Well, not yet, and I must confess I have heard nothing of the sort, but
what one can do with people, especially when they've been burnt out! Vox
populi vox Dei. A stupid rumour is soon set going. But you really have
nothing to be afraid of. From the legal point of view you are all right,
and with your conscience also. For you didn't want it done, did you?
There's no clue, nothing but the coincidence.... The only thing is Fedka
may remember what you said that night at Kirillov's (and what made you
say it?) but that proves nothing and we shall stop Fedka's mouth. I
shall stop it to-day...."
"And weren't the bodies burnt at all?"
"Not a bit; that ruffian could not manage anything properly. But I am
glad, anyway, that you are so calm... for though you are not in any way
to blame, even in thought, but all the same.... And you must admit that
all this settles your difficulties capitally: you are suddenly free and
a widower and can marry a charming girl this minute with a lot of money,
who is already yours, into the bargain. See what can be done by crude,
"Are you threatening me, you fool?"
"Come, leave off, leave off! Here you are, calling me a fool, and what
a tone to use! You ought to be glad, yet you... I rushed here on purpose
to let you know in good time.... Besides, how could I threaten you?
As if I cared for what I could get by threats! I want you to help from
goodwill and not from fear. You are the light and the sun.... It's
I who am terribly afraid of you, not you of me! I am not Mavriky
Nikolaevitch.... And only fancy, as I flew here in a racing droshky I
saw Mavriky Nikolaevitch by the fence at the farthest corner of your
garden... in his greatcoat, drenched through, he must have been sitting
there all night! Queer goings on! How mad people can be!"
"Mavriky Nikolaevitch? Is that true?"
"Yes, yes. He is sitting by the garden fence. About three hundred paces
from here, I think. I made haste to pass him, but he saw me. Didn't you
know? In that case I am glad I didn't forget to tell you. A man like
that is more dangerous than anyone if he happens to have a revolver
about him, and then the night, the sleet, or natural irritability—for
after all he is in a nice position, ha ha! What do you think? Why is he
"He is waiting for Lizaveta Nikolaevna, of course."
"Well! Why should she go out to him? And... in such rain too... what a
"She is just going out to him!"
"Eh! That's a piece of news! So then... But listen, her position is
completely changed now. What does she want with Mavriky now? You
are free, a widower, and can marry her to-morrow. She doesn't know
yet—leave it to me and I'll arrange it all for you. Where is she? We
must relieve her mind too."
"Relieve her mind?"
"Rather! Let's go."
"And do you suppose she won't guess what those dead bodies mean?" said
Stavrogin, screwing up his eyes in a peculiar way.
"Of course she won't," said Pyotr Stepanovitch with all the confidence
of a perfect simpleton, "for legally... Ech, what a man you are! What
if she did guess? Women are so clever at shutting their eyes to such
things, you don't understand women! Apart from it's being altogether
to her interest to marry you now, because there's no denying she's
disgraced herself; apart from that, I talked to her of 'the boat' and I
saw that one could affect her by it, so that shows you what the girl is
made of. Don't be uneasy, she will step over those dead bodies without
turning a hair—especially as you are not to blame for them; not in the
least, are you? She will only keep them in reserve to use them against
you when you've been married two or three years. Every woman saves up
something of the sort out of her husband's past when she gets married,
but by that time... what may not happen in a year? Ha ha!"
"If you've come in a racing droshky, take her to Mavriky Nikolaevitch
now. She said just now that she could not endure me and would leave me,
and she certainly will not accept my carriage."
"What! Can she really be leaving? How can this have come about?" said
Pyotr Stepanovitch, staring stupidly at him.
"She's guessed somehow during this night that I don't love her... which
she knew all along, indeed."
"But don't you love her?" said Pyotr Stepanovitch, with an expression
of extreme surprise. "If so, why did you keep her when she came to you
yesterday, instead of telling her plainly like an honourable man that
you didn't care for her? That was horribly shabby on your part; and how
mean you make me look in her eyes!"
Stavrogin suddenly laughed.
"I am laughing at my monkey," he explained at once.
"Ah! You saw that I was putting it on!" cried Pyotr Stepanovitch,
laughing too, with great enjoyment. "I did it to amuse you! Only fancy,
as soon as you came out to me I guessed from your face that you'd been
'unlucky.' A complete fiasco, perhaps. Eh? There! I'll bet anything,"
he cried, almost gasping with delight, "that you've been sitting side by
side in the drawing-room all night wasting your precious time discussing
something lofty and elevated.... There, forgive me, forgive me; it's not
my business. I felt sure yesterday that it would all end in foolishness.
I brought her to you simply to amuse you, and to show you that you
wouldn't have a dull time with me. I shall be of use to you a hundred
times in that way. I always like pleasing people. If you don't want her
now, which was what I was reckoning on when I came, then..."
"So you brought her simply for my amusement?"
"Why, what else?"
"Not to make me kill my wife?"
"Come. You've not killed her? What a tragic fellow you are!
"It's just the same; you killed her."
"I didn't kill her! I tell you I had no hand in it.... You are beginning
to make me uneasy, though...."
"Go on. You said, 'if you don't want her now, then... '"
"Then, leave it to me, of course. I can quite easily marry her off to
Mavriky Nikolaevitch, though I didn't make him sit down by the fence.
Don't take that notion into your head. I am afraid of him, now. You talk
about my droshky, but I simply dashed by.... What if he has a revolver?
It's a good thing I brought mine. Here it is." He brought a revolver out
of his pocket, showed it, and hid it again at once. "I took it as I
was coming such a long way.... But I'll arrange all that for you in a
twinkling: her little heart is aching at this moment for Mavriky; it
should be, anyway.... And, do you know, I am really rather sorry for
her? If I take her to Mavriky she will begin about you directly; she
will praise you to him and abuse him to his face. You know the heart of
woman! There you are, laughing again! I am awfully glad that you are so
cheerful now. Come, let's go. I'll begin with Mavriky right away, and
about them... those who've been murdered... hadn't we better keep quiet
now? She'll hear later on, anyway."
"What will she hear? Who's been murdered? What were you saying about
Mavriky Nikolaevitch?" said Liza, suddenly opening the door.
"Ah! You've been listening?"
"What were you saying just now about Mavriky Nikolaevitch? Has he been
"Ah! Then you didn't hear? Don't distress yourself, Mavriky Nikolaevitch
is alive and well, and you can satisfy yourself of it in an instant,
for he is here by the wayside, by the garden fence... and I believe he's
been sitting there all night. He is drenched through in his greatcoat!
He saw me as I drove past."
"That's not true. You said 'murdered.'... Who's been murdered?" she
insisted with agonising mistrust.
"The only people who have been murdered are my wife, her brother
Lebyadkin, and their servant," Stavrogin brought out firmly.
Liza trembled and turned terribly pale.
"A strange brutal outrage, Lizaveta Nikolaevna. A simple case of
robbery," Pyotr Stepanovitch rattled off at once "Simply robbery, under
cover of the fire. The crime was committed by Fedka the convict, and it
was all that fool Lebyadkin's fault for showing every one his
money.... I rushed here with the news... it fell on me like a
thunderbolt. Stavrogin could hardly stand when I told him. We were
deliberating here whether to tell you at once or not?"
"Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, is he telling the truth?" Liza articulated
"No; it's false."
"False?" said Pyotr Stepanovitch, starting. "What do you mean by that?"
"Heavens! I shall go mad!" cried Liza.
"Do you understand, anyway, that he is mad now!" Pyotr Stepanovitch
cried at the top of his voice. "After all, his wife has just been
murdered. You see how white he is.... Why, he has been with you the
whole night. He hasn't left your side a minute. How can you suspect
"Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, tell me, as before God, are you guilty or not,
and I swear I'll believe your word as though it were God's, and I'll
follow you to the end of the earth. Yes, I will. I'll follow you like a
"Why are you tormenting her, you fantastic creature?" cried Pyotr
Stepanovitch in exasperation. "Lizaveta Nikolaevna, upon my oath, you
can crush me into powder, but he is not guilty. On the contrary, it has
crushed him, and he is raving, you see that. He is not to blame in
any way, not in any way, not even in thought!... It's all the work of
robbers who will probably be found within a week and flogged.... It's
all the work of Fedka the convict, and some Shpigulin men, all the town
is agog with it. That's why I say so too."
"Is that right? Is that right?" Liza waited trembling for her final
"I did not kill them, and I was against it, but I knew they were
going to be killed and I did not stop the murderers. Leave me, Liza,"
Stavrogin brought out, and he walked into the drawing-room.
Liza hid her face in her hands and walked out of the house. Pyotr
Stepanovitch was rushing after her, but at once hurried back and went
into the drawing-room.
"So that's your line? That's your line? So there's nothing you are
afraid of?" He flew at Stavrogin in an absolute fury, muttering
incoherently, scarcely able to find words and foaming at the mouth.
Stavrogin stood in the middle of the room and did not answer a word.
He clutched a lock of his hair in his left hand and smiled helplessly.
Pyotr Stepanovitch pulled him violently by the sleeve.
"Is it all over with you? So that's the line you are taking? You'll
inform against all of us, and go to a monastery yourself, or to the
devil.... But I'll do for you, though you are not afraid of me!"
"Ah! That's you chattering!" said Stavrogin, noticing him at last.
"Run," he said, coming to himself suddenly, "run after her, order the
carriage, don't leave her.... Run, run! Take her home so that no one
may know... and that she mayn't go there... to the bodies... to the
bodies.... Force her to get into the carriage... Alexey Yegorytch!
"Stay, don't shout! By now she is in Mavriky's arms.... Mavriky won't
put her into your carriage.... Stay! There's something more important
than the carriage!"
He seized his revolver again. Stavrogin looked at him gravely.
"Very well, kill me," he said softly, almost conciliatorily.
"Foo. Damn it! What a maze of false sentiment a man can get into!" said
Pyotr Stepanovitch, shaking with rage. "Yes, really, you ought to be
killed! She ought simply to spit at you! Fine sort of 'magic boat,'
you are; you are a broken-down, leaky old hulk!... You ought to pull
yourself together if only from spite! Ech! Why, what difference would it
make to you since you ask for a bullet through your brains yourself?"
Stavrogin smiled strangely.
"If you were not such a buffoon I might perhaps have said yes now.... If
you had only a grain of sense..."
"I am a buffoon, but I don't want you, my better half, to be one! Do you
Stavrogin did understand, though perhaps no one else did. Shatov, for
instance, was astonished when Stavrogin told him that Pyotr Stepanovitch
"Go to the devil now, and to-morrow perhaps I may wring something out of
myself. Come to-morrow."
"How can I tell?... Go to hell. Go to hell." And he walked out of the
"Perhaps, after all, it may be for the best," Pyotr Stepanovitch
muttered to himself as he hid the revolver.
He rushed off to overtake Lizaveta Nikolaevna. She had not got far
away, only a few steps, from the house. She had been detained by Alexey
Yegorytch, who was following a step behind her, in a tail coat, and
without a hat; his head was bowed respectfully. He was persistently
entreating her to wait for a carriage; the old man was alarmed and
almost in tears.
"Go along. Your master is asking for tea, and there's no one to give it
to him," said Pyotr Stepanovitch, pushing him away. He took Liza's arm.
She did not pull her arm away, but she seemed hardly to know what she
was doing; she was still dazed.
"To begin with, you are going the wrong way," babbled Pyotr
Stepanovitch. "We ought to go this way, and not by the garden, and,
secondly, walking is impossible in any case. It's over two miles, and
you are not properly dressed. If you would wait a second, I came in a
droshky; the horse is in the yard. I'll get it instantly, put you in,
and get you home so that no one sees you."
"How kind you are," said Liza graciously.
"Oh, not at all. Any humane man in my position would do the same...."
Liza looked at him, and was surprised.
"Good heavens! Why I thought it was that old man here still."
"Listen. I am awfully glad that you take it like this, because it's
all such a frightfully stupid convention, and since it's come to that,
hadn't I better tell the old man to get the carriage at once. It's only
a matter of ten minutes and we'll turn back and wait in the porch, eh?"
"I want first... where are those murdered people?"
"Ah! What next? That was what I was afraid of.... No, we'd better leave
those wretched creatures alone; it's no use your looking at them."
"I know where they are. I know that house."
"Well? What if you do know it? Come; it's raining, and there's a fog.
(A nice job this sacred duty I've taken upon myself.) Listen, Lizaveta
Nikolaevna! It's one of two alternatives. Either you come with me in the
droshky—in that case wait here, and don't take another step, for if we
go another twenty steps we must be seen by Mavriky Nikolaevitch."
"Mavriky Nikolaevitch! Where? Where?"
"Well, if you want to go with him, I'll take you a little farther, if
you like, and show you where he sits, but I don't care to go up to him
just now. No, thank you."
"He is waiting for me. Good God!" she suddenly stopped, and a flush of
colour flooded her face.
"Oh! Come now. If he is an unconventional man! You know, Lizaveta
Nikolaevna, it's none of my business. I am a complete outsider, and you
know that yourself. But, still, I wish you well.... If your 'fairy boat'
has failed you, if it has turned out to be nothing more than a rotten
old hulk, only fit to be chopped up..."
"Ah! That's fine, that's lovely," cried Liza.
"Lovely, and yet your tears are falling. You must have spirit. You must
be as good as a man in every way. In our age, when woman.... Foo, hang
it," Pyotr Stepanovitch was on the point of spitting. "And the chief
point is that there is nothing to regret. It may all turn out for the
best. Mavriky Nikolaevitch is a man.... In fact, he is a man of feeling
though not talkative, but that's a good thing, too, as long as he has no
conventional notions, of course...."
"Lovely, lovely!" Liza laughed hysterically.
"Well, hang it all... Lizaveta Nikolaevna," said Pyotr Stepanovitch
suddenly piqued. "I am simply here on your account.... It's nothing to
me.... I helped you yesterday when you wanted it yourself. To-day ...
well, you can see Mavriky Nikolaevitch from here; there he's sitting; he
doesn't see us. I say, Lizaveta Nikolaevna, have you ever read 'Polenka
"It's the name of a novel, 'Polenka Saxe.' I read it when I was a
student.... In it a very wealthy official of some sort, Saxe, arrested
his wife at a summer villa for infidelity.... But, hang it; it's no
consequence! You'll see, Mavriky Nikolaevitch will make you an offer
before you get home. He doesn't see us yet."
"Ach! Don't let him see us!" Liza cried suddenly, like a mad creature.
"Come away, come away! To the woods, to the fields!"
And she ran back.
"Lizaveta Nikolaevna, this is such cowardice," cried Pyotr Stepanovitch,
running after her. "And why don't you want him to see you? On the
contrary, you must look him straight in the face, with pride.... If it's
some feeling about that... some maidenly... that's such a prejudice, so
out of date... But where are you going? Where are you going? Ech! she is
running! Better go back to Stavrogin's and take my droshky.... Where are
you going? That's the way to the fields! There! She's fallen down!..."
He stopped. Liza was flying along like a bird, not conscious where she
was going, and Pyotr Stepanovitch was already fifty paces behind her.
She stumbled over a mound of earth and fell down. At the same moment
there was the sound of a terrible shout from behind. It came from
Mavriky Nikolaevitch, who had seen her flight and her fall, and was
running to her across the field. In a flash Pyotr Stepanovitch had
retired into Stavrogin's gateway to make haste and get into his droshky.
Mavriky Nikolaevitch was already standing in terrible alarm by Liza, who
had risen to her feet; he was bending over her and holding her hands in
both of his. All the incredible surroundings of this meeting overwhelmed
him, and tears were rolling down his cheeks. He saw the woman for whom
he had such reverent devotion running madly across the fields, at such
an hour, in such weather, with nothing over her dress, the gay dress she
wore the day before now crumpled and muddy from her fall.... He could
not utter a word; he took off his greatcoat, and with trembling hands
put it round her shoulders. Suddenly he uttered a cry, feeling that she
had pressed her lips to his hand.
"Liza," he cried, "I am no good for anything, but don't drive me away
"Oh, no! Let us make haste away from here. Don't leave me!" and, seizing
his hand, she drew him after her. "Mavriky Nikolaevitch," she suddenly
dropped her voice timidly, "I kept a bold face there all the time, but
now I am afraid of death. I shall die soon, very soon, but I am afraid,
I am afraid to die...." she whispered, pressing his hand tight.
"Oh, if there were some one," he looked round in despair. "Some
passer-by! You will get your feet wet, you... will lose your reason!"
"It's all right; it's all right," she tried to reassure him. "That's
right. I am not so frightened with you. Hold my hand, lead me.... Where
are we going now? Home? No! I want first to see the people who have been
murdered. His wife has been murdered they say, and he says he killed
her himself. But that's not true, is it? I want to see for myself those
three who've been killed... on my account... it's because of them his
love for me has grown cold since last night.... I shall see and find out
everything. Make haste, make haste, I know the house... there's a fire
there.... Mavriky Nikolaevitch, my dear one, don't forgive me in my
shame! Why forgive me? Why are you crying? Give me a blow and kill me
here in the field, like a dog!"
"No one is your judge now," Mavriky Nikolaevitch pronounced firmly. "God
forgive you. I least of all can be your judge."
But it would be strange to describe their conversation. And meanwhile
they walked hand in hand quickly, hurrying as though they were crazy.
They were going straight towards the fire. Mavriky Nikolaevitch still
had hopes of meeting a cart at least, but no one came that way. A mist
of fine, drizzling rain enveloped the whole country, swallowing up every
ray of light, every gleam of colour, and transforming everything into
one smoky, leaden, indistinguishable mass. It had long been daylight,
yet it seemed as though it were still night. And suddenly in this cold
foggy mist there appeared coming towards them a strange and absurd
figure. Picturing it now I think I should not have believed my eyes if
I had been in Lizaveta Nikolaevna's place, yet she uttered a cry of
joy, and recognised the approaching figure at once. It was Stepan
Trofimovitch. How he had gone off, how the insane, impracticable idea
of his flight came to be carried out, of that later. I will only mention
that he was in a fever that morning, yet even illness did not prevent
his starting. He was walking resolutely on the damp ground. It was
evident that he had planned the enterprise to the best of his ability,
alone with his inexperience and lack of practical sense. He wore
"travelling dress," that is, a greatcoat with a wide patent-leather
belt, fastened with a buckle and a pair of new high boots pulled over
his trousers. Probably he had for some time past pictured a traveller as
looking like this, and the belt and the high boots with the shining tops
like a hussar's, in which he could hardly walk, had been ready some time
before. A broad-brimmed hat, a knitted scarf, twisted close round his
neck, a stick in his right hand, and an exceedingly small but extremely
tightly packed bag in his left, completed his get-up. He had, besides,
in the same right hand, an open umbrella. These three objects—the
umbrella, the stick, and the bag—had been very awkward to carry for the
first mile, and had begun to be heavy by the second.
"Can it really be you?" cried Liza, looking at him with distressed
wonder, after her first rush of instinctive gladness.
"Lise," cried Stepan Trofimovitch, rushing to her almost in delirium too.
"Chère, chère.... Can you be out, too... in such a fog? You see the glow
of fire. Vous êtes malheureuse, n'est-ce pas? I see, I see. Don't tell
me, but don't question me either. Nous sommes tous malheureux mais il
faut les pardonner tous. Pardonnons, Lise, and let us be free for ever.
To be quit of the world and be completely free. Il faut pardonner,
pardonner, et pardonner!"
"But why are you kneeling down?"
"Because, taking leave of the world, I want to take leave of all my past
in your person!" He wept and raised both her hands to his tear-stained
eyes. "I kneel to all that was beautiful in my life. I kiss and give
thanks! Now I've torn myself in half; left behind a mad visionary who
dreamed of soaring to the sky. Vingt-deux ans, here. A shattered, frozen
old man. A tutor chez ce marchand, s'il existe pourtant ce
marchand.... But how drenched you are, Lise!" he cried, jumping on to
his feet, feeling that his knees too were soaked by the wet earth. "And
how is it possible... you are in such a dress... and on foot, and in
these fields?... You are crying! Vous êtes malheureuse. Bah, I did hear
something.... But where have you come from now?" He asked hurried
questions with an uneasy air, looking in extreme bewilderment at Mavriky
Nikolaevitch. "Mais savez-vous l'heure qu'il est?"
"Stepan Trofimovitch, have you heard anything about the people who've
been murdered?... Is it true? Is it true?"
"These people! I saw the glow of their work all night. They were bound
to end in this...." His eyes flashed again. "I am fleeing away from
madness, from a delirious dream. I am fleeing away to seek for Russia.
Existe-t-elle, la Russie? Bah! C'est vous, cher capitaine!
I've never doubted that I should meet you somewhere on some high
adventure.... But take my umbrella, and—why must you be on foot? For
God's sake, do at least take my umbrella, for I shall hire a carriage
somewhere in any case. I am on foot because Stasie (I mean, Nastasya)
would have shouted for the benefit of the whole street if she'd found out
I was going away. So I slipped away as far as possible incognito. I don't
know; in the Voice they write of there being brigands everywhere, but I
thought surely I shouldn't meet a brigand the moment I came out on the
road. Chère Lise, I thought you said something of some one's being
murdered. Oh, mon Dieu! You are ill!"
"Come along, come along!" cried Liza, almost in hysterics, drawing
Mavriky Nikolaevitch after her again. "Wait a minute, Stepan
Trofimovitch!" she came back suddenly to him. "Stay, poor darling, let
me sign you with the cross. Perhaps, it would be better to put you under
control, but I'd rather make the sign of the cross over you. You, too,
pray for 'poor' Liza—just a little, don't bother too much about it.
Mavriky Nikolaevitch, give that baby back his umbrella. You must give it
him. That's right.... Come, let us go, let us go!"
They reached the fatal house at the very moment when the huge crowd,
which had gathered round it, had already heard a good deal of Stavrogin,
and of how much it was to his interest to murder his wife. Yet, I
repeat, the immense majority went on listening without moving or
uttering a word. The only people who were excited were bawling drunkards
and excitable individuals of the same sort as the gesticulatory
cabinet-maker. Every one knew the latter as a man really of mild
disposition, but he was liable on occasion to get excited and to fly off
at a tangent if anything struck him in a certain way. I did not see
Liza and Mavriky Nikolaevitch arrive. Petrified with amazement, I first
noticed Liza some distance away in the crowd, and I did not at once
catch sight of Mavriky Nikolaevitch. I fancy there was a moment when
he fell two or three steps behind her or was pressed back by the crush.
Liza, forcing her way through the crowd, seeing and noticing nothing
round her, like one in a delirium, like a patient escaped from a
hospital, attracted attention only too quickly, of course. There arose
a hubbub of loud talking and at last sudden shouts. Some one bawled out,
"It's Stavrogin's woman!" And on the other side, "It's not enough to
murder them, she wants to look at them!" All at once I saw an arm raised
above her head from behind and suddenly brought down upon it. Liza fell
to the ground. We heard a fearful scream from Mavriky Nikolaevitch as
he dashed to her assistance and struck with all his strength the man who
stood between him and Liza. But at that instant the same cabinetmaker
seized him with both arms from behind. For some minutes nothing could be
distinguished in the scrimmage that followed. I believe Liza got up but
was knocked down by another blow. Suddenly the crowd parted and a
small space was left empty round Liza's prostrate figure, and Mavriky
Nikolaevitch, frantic with grief and covered with blood, was standing
over her, screaming, weeping, and wringing his hands. I don't remember
exactly what followed after; I only remember that they began to carry
Liza away. I ran after her. She was still alive and perhaps still
conscious. The cabinet-maker and three other men in the crowd were
seized. These three still deny having taken any part in the dastardly
deed, stubbornly maintaining that they have been arrested by mistake.
Perhaps it's the truth. Though the evidence against the cabinet-maker
is clear, he is so irrational that he is still unable to explain what
happened coherently. I too, as a spectator, though at some distance,
had to give evidence at the inquest. I declared that it had all happened
entirely accidentally through the action of men perhaps moved by
ill-feeling, yet scarcely conscious of what they were doing—drunk and
irresponsible. I am of that opinion to this day.
CHAPTER IV. THE LAST RESOLUTION
THAT MORNING MANY people saw Pyotr Stepanovitch. All who saw him
remembered that he was in a particularly excited state. At two o'clock
he went to see Gaganov, who had arrived from the country only the day
before, and whose house was full of visitors hotly discussing the events
of the previous day. Pyotr Stepanovitch talked more than anyone and made
them listen to him. He was always considered among us as a "chatterbox
of a student with a screw loose," but now he talked of Yulia Mihailovna,
and in the general excitement the theme was an enthralling one. As one
who had recently been her intimate and confidential friend, he disclosed
many new and unexpected details concerning her; incidentally (and of
course unguardedly) he repeated some of her own remarks about persons
known to all in the town, and thereby piqued their vanity. He dropped
it all in a vague and rambling way, like a man free from guile driven
by his sense of honour to the painful necessity of clearing up a perfect
mountain of misunderstandings, and so simple-hearted that he hardly knew
where to begin and where to leave off. He let slip in a rather unguarded
way, too, that Yulia Mihailovna knew the whole secret of Stavrogin and
that she had been at the bottom of the whole intrigue. She had taken
him in too, for he, Pyotr Stepanovitch, had also been in love with this
unhappy Liza, yet he had been so hoodwinked that he had almost taken her
to Stavrogin himself in the carriage. "Yes, yes, it's all very well
for you to laugh, gentlemen, but if only I'd known, if I'd known how it
would end!" he concluded. To various excited inquiries about Stavrogin
he bluntly replied that in his opinion the catastrophe to the Lebyadkins
was a pure coincidence, and that it was all Lebyadkin's own fault for
displaying his money. He explained this particularly well. One of his
listeners observed that it was no good his "pretending"; that he had
eaten and drunk and almost slept at Yulia Mihailovna's, yet now he was
the first to blacken her character, and that this was by no means such
a fine thing to do as he supposed. But Pyotr Stepanovitch immediately
"I ate and drank there not because I had no money, and it's not my fault
that I was invited there. Allow me to judge for myself how far I need to
be grateful for that."
The general impression was in his favour. "He may be rather absurd, and
of course he is a nonsensical fellow, yet still he is not responsible
for Yulia Mihailovna's foolishness. On the contrary, it appears that he
tried to stop her."
About two o'clock the news suddenly came that Stavrogin, about whom
there was so much talk, had suddenly left for Petersburg by the midday
train. This interested people immensely; many of them frowned. Pyotr
Stepanovitch was so much struck that I was told he turned quite pale and
cried out strangely, "Why, how could they have let him go?" He hurried
away from Gaganov's forthwith, yet he was seen in two or three other
Towards dusk he succeeded in getting in to see Yulia Mihailovna though
he had the greatest pains to do so, as she had absolutely refused to see
him. I heard of this from the lady herself only three weeks afterwards,
just before her departure for Petersburg. She gave me no details, but
observed with a shudder that "he had on that occasion astounded her
beyond all belief." I imagine that all he did was to terrify her
by threatening to charge her with being an accomplice if she "said
anything." The necessity for this intimidation arose from his plans at
the moment, of which she, of course, knew nothing; and only later,
five days afterwards, she guessed why he had been so doubtful of her
reticence and so afraid of a new outburst of indignation on her part.
Between seven and eight o'clock, when it was dark, all the five members
of the quintet met together at Ensign Erkel's lodgings in a little
crooked house at the end of the town. The meeting had been fixed by
Pyotr Stepanovitch himself, but he was unpardonably late, and the
members waited over an hour for him. This Ensign Erkel was that young
officer who had sat the whole evening at Virginsky's with a pencil in
his hand and a notebook before him. He had not long been in the town;
he lodged alone with two old women, sisters, in a secluded by-street and
was shortly to leave the town; a meeting at his house was less likely
to attract notice than anywhere. This strange boy was distinguished by
extreme taciturnity: he was capable of sitting for a dozen evenings in
succession in noisy company, with the most extraordinary conversation
going on around him, without uttering a word, though he listened with
extreme attention, watching the speakers with his childlike eyes. His
face was very pretty and even had a certain look of cleverness. He did
not belong to the quintet; it was supposed that he had some special job
of a purely practical character. It is known now that he had nothing of
the sort and probably did not understand his position himself. It was
simply that he was filled with hero-worship for Pyotr Stepanovitch,
whom he had only lately met. If he had met a monster of iniquity who had
incited him to found a band of brigands on the pretext of some romantic
and socialistic object, and as a test had bidden him rob and murder the
first peasant he met, he would certainly have obeyed and done it. He had
an invalid mother to whom he sent half of his scanty pay—and how
she must have kissed that poor little flaxen head, how she must have
trembled and prayed over it! I go into these details about him because I
feel very sorry for him.
"Our fellows" were excited. The events of the previous night had made a
great impression on them, and I fancy they were in a panic. The simple
disorderliness in which they had so zealously and systematically taken
part had ended in a way they had not expected. The fire in the night,
the murder of the Lebyadkins, the savage brutality of the crowd with
Liza, had been a series of surprises which they had not anticipated in
their programme. They hotly accused the hand that had guided them of
despotism and duplicity. In fact, while they were waiting for Pyotr
Stepanovitch they worked each other up to such a point that they
resolved again to ask him for a definite explanation, and if he evaded
again, as he had done before, to dissolve the quintet and to found
instead a new secret society "for the propaganda of ideas" and on
their own initiative on the basis of democracy and equality. Liputin,
Shigalov, and the authority on the peasantry supported this plan;
Lyamshin said nothing, though he looked approving. Virginsky hesitated
and wanted to hear Pyotr Stepanovitch first. It was decided to hear
Pyotr Stepanovitch, but still he did not come; such casualness added
fuel to the flames. Erkel was absolutely silent and did nothing but
order the tea, which he brought from his landladies in glasses on a
tray, not bringing in the samovar nor allowing the servant to enter.
Pyotr Stepanovitch did not turn up till half-past eight. With rapid
steps he went up to the circular table before the sofa round which the
company were seated; he kept his cap in his hand and refused tea. He
looked angry, severe, and supercilious. He must have observed at once
from their faces that they were "mutinous."
"Before I open my mouth, you've got something hidden; out with it."
Liputin began "in the name of all," and declared in a voice quivering
with resentment "that if things were going on like that they might as
well blow their brains out." Oh, they were not at all afraid to blow
their brains out, they were quite ready to, in fact, but only to serve
the common cause (a general movement of approbation). So he must be more
open with them so that they might always know beforehand, "or else what
would things be coming to?" (Again a stir and some guttural sounds.) To
behave like this was humiliating and dangerous. "We don't say so because
we are afraid, but if one acts and the rest are only pawns, then one
would blunder and all would be lost." (Exclamations. "Yes, yes." General
"Damn it all, what do you want?"
"What connection is there between the common cause and the petty
intrigues of Mr. Stavrogin?" cried Liputin, boiling over. "Suppose he
is in some mysterious relation to the centre, if that legendary centre
really exists at all, it's no concern of ours. And meantime a murder has
been committed, the police have been roused; if they follow the thread
they may find what it starts from."
"If Stavrogin and you are caught, we shall be caught too," added the
authority on the peasantry.
"And to no good purpose for the common cause," Virginsky concluded
"What nonsense! The murder is a chance crime; it was committed by Fedka
for the sake of robbery."
"H'm! Strange coincidence, though," said Liputin, wriggling.
"And if you will have it, it's all through you."
"In the first place, you, Liputin, had a share in the intrigue yourself;
and the second chief point is, you were ordered to get Lebyadkin away
and given money to do it; and what did you do? If you'd got him away
nothing would have happened."
"But wasn't it you yourself who suggested the idea that it would be a
good thing to set him on to read his verses?"
"An idea is not a command. The command was to get him away."
"Command! Rather a queer word.... On the contrary, your orders were to
delay sending him off."
"You made a mistake and showed your foolishness and self-will. The
murder was the work of Fedka, and he carried it out alone for the sake
of robbery. You heard the gossip and believed it. You were scared.
Stavrogin is not such a fool, and the proof of that is he left the town
at twelve o'clock after an interview with the vice-governor; if there
were anything in it they would not let him go to Petersburg in broad
"But we are not making out that Mr. Stavrogin committed the murder
himself," Liputin rejoined spitefully and unceremoniously. "He may have
known nothing about it, like me; and you know very well that I knew
nothing about it, though I am mixed up in it like mutton in a hash."
"Whom are you accusing?" said Pyotr Stepanovitch, looking at him darkly.
"Those whose interest it is to burn down towns."
"You make matters worse by wriggling out of it. However, won't you read
this and pass it to the others, simply as a fact of interest?"
He pulled out of his pocket Lebyadkin's anonymous letter to Lembke and
handed it to Liputin. The latter read it, was evidently surprised, and
passed it thoughtfully to his neighbour; the letter quickly went the
"Is that really Lebyadkin's handwriting?" observed Shigalov.
"It is," answered Liputin and Tolkatchenko (the authority on the
"I simply brought it as a fact of interest and because I knew you were
so sentimental over Lebyadkin," repeated Pyotr Stepanovitch, taking the
letter back. "So it turns out, gentlemen, that a stray Fedka relieves us
quite by chance of a dangerous man. That's what chance does sometimes!
It's instructive, isn't it?"
The members exchanged rapid glances.
"And now, gentlemen, it's my turn to ask questions," said Pyotr
Stepanovitch, assuming an air of dignity. "Let me know what business you
had to set fire to the town without permission."
"What's this! We, we set fire to the town? That is laying the blame on
others!" they exclaimed.
"I quite understand that you carried the game too far," Pyotr
Stepanovitch persisted stubbornly, "but it's not a matter of petty
scandals with Yulia Mihailovna. I've brought you here gentlemen,
to explain to you the greatness of the danger you have so stupidly
incurred, which is a menace to much besides yourselves."
"Excuse me, we, on the contrary, were intending just now to point out
to you the greatness of the despotism and unfairness you have shown
in taking such a serious and also strange step without consulting the
members," Virginsky, who had been hitherto silent, protested, almost
"And so you deny it? But I maintain that you set fire to the town, you
and none but you. Gentlemen, don't tell lies! I have good evidence. By
your rashness you exposed the common cause to danger. You are only one
knot in an endless network of knots—and your duty is blind obedience to
the centre. Yet three men of you incited the Shpigulin men to set fire
to the town without the least instruction to do so, and the fire has
"What three? What three of us?"
"The day before yesterday, at three o'clock in the night, you,
Tolkatchenko, were inciting Fomka Zavyalov at the 'Forget-me-not.'"
"Upon my word!" cried the latter, jumping up, "I scarcely said a word
to him, and what I did say was without intention, simply because he had
been flogged that morning. And I dropped it at once; I saw he was too
drunk. If you had not referred to it I should not have thought of it
again. A word could not set the place on fire."
"You are like a man who should be surprised that a tiny spark could blow
a whole powder magazine into the air."
"I spoke in a whisper in his ear, in a corner; how could you have heard
Tolkatchenko reflected suddenly.
"I was sitting there under the table. Don't disturb yourselves,
gentlemen; I know every step you take. You smile sarcastically, Mr.
Liputin? But I know, for instance, that you pinched your wife black and
blue at midnight, three days ago, in your bedroom as you were going to
Liputin's mouth fell open and he turned pale. (It was afterwards found
out that he knew of this exploit of Liputin's from Agafya, Liputin's
servant, whom he had paid from the beginning to spy on him; this only
came out later.)
"May I state a fact?" said Shigalov, getting up.
Shigalov sat down and pulled himself together.
"So far as I understand—and it's impossible not to understand it—you
yourself at first and a second time later, drew with great eloquence,
but too theoretically, a picture of Russia covered with an endless
network of knots. Each of these centres of activity, proselytising
and ramifying endlessly, aims by systematic denunciation to injure the
prestige of local authority, to reduce the villages to confusion,
to spread cynicism and scandals, together with complete disbelief in
everything and an eagerness for something better, and finally, by means
of fires, as a pre-eminently national method, to reduce the country at
a given moment, if need be, to desperation. Are those your words which
I tried to remember accurately? Is that the programme you gave us as the
authorised representative of the central committee, which is to this day
utterly unknown to us and almost like a myth?"
"It's correct, only you are very tedious."
"Every one has a right to express himself in his own way. Giving us
to understand that the separate knots of the general network already
covering Russia number by now several hundred, and propounding the
theory that if every one does his work successfully, all Russia at a
given moment, at a signal..."
"Ah, damn it all, I have enough to do without you!" cried Pyotr
Stepanovitch, twisting in his chair.
"Very well, I'll cut it short and I'll end simply by asking if we've
seen the disorderly scenes, we've seen the discontent of the people,
we've seen and taken part in the downfall of local administration, and
finally, we've seen with our own eyes the town on fire? What do you find
amiss? Isn't that your programme? What can you blame us for?"
"Acting on your own initiative!" Pyotr Stepanovitch cried furiously.
"While I am here you ought not to have dared to act without my
permission. Enough. We are on the eve of betrayal, and perhaps to-morrow
or to-night you'll be seized. So there. I have authentic information."
At this all were agape with astonishment.
"You will be arrested not only as the instigators of the fire, but as a
quintet. The traitor knows the whole secret of the network. So you see
what a mess you've made of it!"
"Stavrogin, no doubt," cried Liputin.
"What... why Stavrogin?" Pyotr Stepanovitch seemed suddenly taken aback.
"Hang it all," he cried, pulling himself together at once, "it's Shatov!
I believe you all know now that Shatov in his time was one of the
society. I must tell you that, watching him through persons he does
not suspect, I found out to my amazement that he knows all about the
organisation of the network and... everything, in fact. To save
himself from being charged with having formerly belonged, he will give
information against all. He has been hesitating up till now and I have
spared him. Your fire has decided him: he is shaken and will hesitate
no longer. To-morrow we shall be arrested as incendiaries and political
"Is it true? How does Shatov know?" The excitement was indescribable.
"It's all perfectly true. I have no right to reveal the source from
which I learnt it or how I discovered it, but I tell you what I can
do for you meanwhile: through one person I can act on Shatov so that
without his suspecting it he will put off giving information, but not
more than for twenty-four hours." All were silent.
"We really must send him to the devil!" Tolkatchenko was the first to
"It ought to have been done long ago," Lyamshin put in malignantly,
striking the table with his fist.
"But how is it to be done?" muttered Liputin. Pyotr Stepanovitch at once
took up the question and unfolded his plan. The plan was the following
day at nightfall to draw Shatov away to a secluded spot to hand over
the secret printing press which had been in his keeping and was buried
there, and there "to settle things." He went into various essential
details which we will omit here, and explained minutely Shatov's present
ambiguous attitude to the central society, of which the reader knows
"That's all very well," Liputin observed irresolutely, "but since it
will be another adventure... of the same sort... it will make too great
"No doubt," assented Pyotr Stepanovitch, "but I've provided against
that. We have the means of averting suspicion completely."
And with the same minuteness he told them about Kirillov, of his
intention to shoot himself, and of his promise to wait for a signal from
them and to leave a letter behind him taking on himself anything they
dictated to him (all of which the reader knows already).
"His determination to take his own life—a philosophic, or as I should
call it, insane decision—has become known there" Pyotr Stepanovitch
went on to explain. "There not a thread, not a grain of dust is
overlooked; everything is turned to the service of the cause. Foreseeing
how useful it might be and satisfying themselves that his intention was
quite serious, they had offered him the means to come to Russia (he was
set for some reason on dying in Russia), gave him a commission which he
promised to carry out (and he had done so), and had, moreover, bound him
by a promise, as you already know, to commit suicide only when he was
told to. He promised everything. You must note that he belongs to the
organisation on a particular footing and is anxious to be of service;
more than that I can't tell you. To-morrow, after Shatov's affair, I'll
dictate a note to him saying that he is responsible for his death. That
will seem very plausible: they were friends and travelled together to
America, there they quarrelled; and it will all be explained in the
letter... and... and perhaps, if it seems feasible, we might dictate
something more to Kirillov—something about the manifestoes, for
instance, and even perhaps about the fire. But I'll think about
that. You needn't worry yourselves, he has no prejudices; he'll sign
There were expressions of doubt. It sounded a fantastic story. But they
had all heard more or less about Kirillov; Liputin more than all.
"He may change his mind and not want to," said Shigalov; "he is a madman
anyway, so he is not much to build upon."
"Don't be uneasy, gentlemen, he will want to," Pyotr Stepanovitch
snapped out. "I am obliged by our agreement to give him warning the day
before, so it must be to-day. I invite Liputin to go with me at once to
see him and make certain, and he will tell you, gentlemen, when he comes
back—to-day if need be—whether what I say is true. However," he broke
off suddenly with intense exasperation, as though he suddenly felt he
was doing people like them too much honour by wasting time in persuading
them, "however, do as you please. If you don't decide to do it,
the union is broken up—but solely through your insubordination and
treachery. In that case we are all independent from this moment. But
under those circumstances, besides the unpleasantness of Shatov's
betrayal and its consequences, you will have brought upon yourselves
another little unpleasantness of which you were definitely warned when
the union was formed. As far as I am concerned, I am not much afraid of
you, gentlemen.... Don't imagine that I am so involved with you.... But
that's no matter."
"Yes, we decide to do it," Liputin pronounced.
"There's no other way out of it," muttered Tolkatchenko, "and if only
Liputin confirms about Kirillov, then...
"I am against it; with all my soul and strength I protest against such a
murderous decision," said Virginsky, standing up.
"But?" asked Pyotr Stepanovitch....
"You said but... and I am waiting."
"I don't think I did say but... I only meant to say that if you decide
to do it, then..."
Virginsky did not answer.
"I think that one is at liberty to neglect danger to one's own life,"
said Erkel, suddenly opening his mouth, "but if it may injure the cause,
then I consider one ought not to dare to neglect danger to one's
He broke off in confusion, blushing. Absorbed as they all were in their
own ideas, they all looked at him in amazement—it was such a surprise
that he too could speak.
"I am for the cause," Virginsky pronounced suddenly.
Every one got up. It was decided to communicate once more and make final
arrangements at midday on the morrow, though without meeting. The place
where the printing press was hidden was announced and each was assigned
his part and his duty. Liputin and Pyotr Stepanovitch promptly set off
together to Kirillov.
All our fellows believed that Shatov was going to betray them; but they
also believed that Pyotr Stepanovitch was playing with them like pawns.
And yet they knew, too, that in any case they would all meet on the spot
next day and that Shatov's fate was sealed. They suddenly felt like
flies caught in a web by a huge spider; they were furious, but they were
trembling with terror.
Pyotr Stepanovitch, of course, had treated them badly; it might all have
gone off far more harmoniously and easily if he had taken the trouble
to embellish the facts ever so little. Instead of putting the facts in a
decorous light, as an exploit worthy of ancient Rome or something of the
sort, he simply appealed to their animal fears and laid stress on the
danger to their own skins, which was simply insulting; of course there
was a struggle for existence in everything and there was no other
principle in nature, they all knew that, but still....
But Pyotr Stepanovitch had no time to trot out the Romans; he was
completely thrown out of his reckoning. Stavrogin's flight had astounded
and crushed him. It was a lie when he said that Stavrogin had seen the
vice-governor; what worried Pyotr Stepanovitch was that Stavrogin had
gone off without seeing anyone, even his mother—and it was certainly
strange that he had been allowed to leave without hindrance.
(The authorities were called to account for it afterwards.) Pyotr
Stepanovitch had been making inquiries all day, but so far had found out
nothing, and he had never been so upset. And how could he, how could he
give up Stavrogin all at once like this! That was why he could not
be very tender with the quintet. Besides, they tied his hands: he had
already decided to gallop after Stavrogin at once; and meanwhile he was
detained by Shatov; he had to cement the quintet together once for all,
in case of emergency. "Pity to waste them, they might be of use." That,
I imagine, was his way of reasoning.
As for Shatov, Pyotr Stepanovitch was firmly convinced that he would
betray them. All that he had told the others about it was a lie: he had
never seen the document nor heard of it, but he thought it as certain as
that twice two makes four. It seemed to him that what had happened—the
death of Liza, the death of Marya Timofyevna—would be too much for
Shatov, and that he would make up his mind at once. Who knows? perhaps
he had grounds for supposing it. It is known, too, that he hated Shatov
personally; there had at some time been a quarrel between them, and
Pyotr Stepanovitch never forgave an offence. I am convinced, indeed,
that this was his leading motive.
We have narrow brick pavements in our town, and in some streets only
raised wooden planks instead of a pavement. Pyotr Stepanovitch walked
in the middle of the pavement, taking up the whole of it, utterly
regardless of Liputin, who had no room to walk beside him and so had to
hurry a step behind or run in the muddy road if he wanted to speak to
him. Pyotr Stepanovitch suddenly remembered how he had lately splashed
through the mud to keep pace with Stavrogin, who had walked, as he was
doing now, taking up the whole pavement. He recalled the whole scene,
and rage choked him.
But Liputin, too, was choking with resentment. Pyotr Stepanovitch might
treat the others as he liked, but him! Why, he knew more than all the
rest, was in closer touch with the work and taking more intimate part
in it than anyone, and hitherto his services had been continual, though
indirect. Oh, he knew that even now Pyotr Stepanovitch might ruin him if
it came to the worst. But he had long hated Pyotr Stepanovitch, and not
because he was a danger but because of his overbearing manner. Now, when
he had to make up his mind to such a deed, he raged inwardly more than
all the rest put together. Alas! he knew that next day "like a slave"
he would be the first on the spot and would bring the others, and if
he could somehow have murdered Pyotr Stepanovitch before the morrow,
without ruining himself, of course, he would certainly have murdered
Absorbed in his sensations, he trudged dejectedly after his tormentor,
who seemed to have forgotten his existence, though he gave him a
rude and careless shove with his elbow now and then. Suddenly Pyotr
Stepanovitch halted in one of the principal thoroughfares and went into
"What are you doing?" cried Liputin, boiling over. "This is a
"I want a beefsteak."
"Upon my word! It is always full of people."
"What if it is?"
"But... we shall be late. It's ten o'clock already."
"You can't be too late to go there."
"But I shall be late! They are expecting me back."
"Well, let them; but it would be stupid of you to go to them. With all
your bobbery I've had no dinner. And the later you go to Kirillov's the
more sure you are to find him."
Pyotr Stepanovitch went to a room apart. Liputin sat in an easy chair on
one side, angry and resentful, and watched him eating. Half an hour
and more passed. Pyotr Stepanovitch did not hurry himself; he ate with
relish, rang the bell, asked for a different kind of mustard, then for
beer, without saying a word to Liputin. He was pondering deeply. He was
capable of doing two things at once—eating with relish and pondering
deeply. Liputin loathed him so intensely at last that he could not tear
himself away. It was like a nervous obsession. He counted every morsel
of beefsteak that Pyotr Stepanovitch put into his mouth; he loathed him
for the way he opened it, for the way he chewed, for the way he smacked
his lips over the fat morsels, he loathed the steak itself. At last
things began to swim before his eyes; he began to feel slightly giddy;
he felt hot and cold run down his spine by turns.
"You are doing nothing; read that," said Pyotr Stepanovitch suddenly,
throwing him a sheet of paper. Liputin went nearer to the candle. The
paper was closely covered with bad handwriting, with corrections in
every line. By the time he had mastered it Pyotr Stepanovitch had paid
his bill and was ready to go. When they were on the pavement Liputin
handed him back the paper.
"Keep it; I'll tell you afterwards.... What do you say to it, though?"
Liputin shuddered all over.
"In my opinion... such a manifesto... is nothing but a ridiculous
His anger broke out; he felt as though he were being caught up and
"If we decide to distribute such manifestoes," he said, quivering
all over, "we'll make ourselves, contemptible by our stupidity and
"H'm! I think differently," said Pyotr Stepanovitch, walking on
"So do I; surely it isn't your work?"
"That's not your business."
"I think too that doggerel, 'A Noble Personality,' is the most utter
trash possible, and it couldn't have been written by Herzen."
"You are talking nonsense; it's a good poem."
"I am surprised, too, for instance," said Liputin, still dashing along
with desperate leaps, "that it is suggested that we should act so as
to bring everything to the ground. It's natural in Europe to wish to
destroy everything because there's a proletariat there, but we are only
amateurs here and in my opinion are only showing off."
"I thought you were a Fourierist."
"Fourier says something quite different, quite different."
"I know it's nonsense."
"No, Fourier isn't nonsense.... Excuse me, I can't believe that there
will be a rising in May."
Liputin positively unbuttoned his coat, he was so hot.
"Well, that's enough; but now, that I mayn't forget it," said Pyotr
Stepanovitch, passing with extraordinary coolness to another subject,
"you will have to print this manifesto with your own hands. We're going
to dig up Shatov's printing press, and you will take it to-morrow. As
quickly as possible you must print as many copies as you can, and then
distribute them all the winter. The means will be provided. You must
do as many copies as possible, for you'll be asked for them from other
"No, excuse me; I can't undertake such a... I decline."
"You'll take it all the same. I am acting on the instructions of the
central committee, and you are bound to obey."
"And I consider that our centres abroad have forgotten what Russia is
like and have lost all touch, and that's why they talk such
nonsense.... I even think that instead of many hundreds of quintets in
Russia, we are the only one that exists, and there is no network at
all," Liputin gasped finally.
"The more contemptible of you, then, to run after the cause without
believing in it... and you are running after me now like a mean little
"No, I'm not. We have a full right to break off and found a new
"Fool!" Pyotr Stepanovitch boomed at him threateningly all of a sudden,
with flashing eyes.
They stood facing one another for some time. Pyotr Stepanovitch turned
and pursued his way confidently.
The idea flashed through Liputin's mind, "Turn and go back; if I don't
turn now I shall never go back." He pondered this for ten steps, but at
the eleventh a new and desperate idea flashed into his mind: he did not
turn and did not go back.
They were approaching Filipov's house, but before reaching it they
turned down a side street, or, to be more accurate, an inconspicuous
path under a fence, so that for some time they had to walk along a steep
slope above a ditch where they could not keep their footing without
holding the fence. At a dark corner in the slanting fence Pyotr
Stepanovitch took out a plank, leaving a gap, through which he promptly
scrambled. Liputin was surprised, but he crawled through after him; then
they replaced the plank after them. This was the secret way by which
Fedka used to visit Kirillov.
"Shatov mustn't know that we are here," Pyotr Stepanovitch whispered
sternly to Liputin.
Kirillov was sitting on his leather sofa drinking tea, as he always was
at that hour. He did not get up to meet them, but gave a sort of start
and looked at the new-comers anxiously.
"You are not mistaken," said Pyotr Stepanovitch, "it's just that I've
"No, no, to-morrow... about this time." And he hurriedly sat down at
the table, watching Kirillov's agitation with some uneasiness. But the
latter had already regained his composure and looked as usual.
"These people still refuse to believe in you. You are not vexed at my
"To-day I am not vexed; to-morrow I want to be alone."
"But not before I come, and therefore in my presence."
"I should prefer not in your presence."
"You remember you promised to write and to sign all I dictated."
"I don't care. And now will you be here long?"
"I have to see one man and to remain half an hour, so whatever you say I
shall stay that half-hour."
Kirillov did not speak. Liputin meanwhile sat down on one side under the
portrait of the bishop. That last desperate idea gained more and more
possession of him. Kirillov scarcely noticed him. Liputin had heard
of Kirillov's theory before and always laughed at him; but now he was
silent and looked gloomily round him.
"I've no objection to some tea," said Pyotr Stepanovitch, moving up.
"I've just had some steak and was reckoning on getting tea with you."
"Drink it. You can have some if you like."
"You used to offer it to me," observed Pyotr Stepanovitch sourly.
"That's no matter. Let Liputin have some too."
"No, I... can't."
"Don't want to or can't?" said Pyotr Stepanovitch, turning quickly to
"I am not going to here," Liputin said expressively.
Pyotr Stepanovitch frowned.
"There's a flavour of mysticism about that; goodness knows what to make
of you people!"
No one answered; there was a full minute of silence.
"But I know one thing," he added abruptly, "that no superstition will
prevent any one of us from doing his duty."
"Has Stavrogin gone?" asked Kirillov.
"He's done well."
Pyotr Stepanovitch's eyes gleamed, but he restrained himself.
"I don't care what you think as long as every one keeps his word."
"I'll keep my word."
"I always knew that you would do your duty like an independent and
"You are an absurd fellow."
"That may be; I am very glad to amuse you. I am always glad if I can
give people pleasure."
"You are very anxious I should shoot myself and are afraid I might
"Well, you see, it was your own doing—connecting your plan with our
work. Reckoning on your plan we have already done something, so that you
couldn't refuse now because you've let us in for it."
"You've no claim at all."
"I understand, I understand; you are perfectly free, and we don't come
in so long as your free intention is carried out."
"And am I to take on myself all the nasty things you've done?"
"Listen, Kirillov, are you afraid? If you want to cry off, say so at
"I am not afraid."
"I ask because you are making so many inquiries."
"Are you going soon?"
"Asking questions again?"
Kirillov scanned him contemptuously.
"You see," Pyotr Stepanovitch went on, getting angrier and angrier, and
unable to take the right tone, "you want me to go away, to be alone, to
concentrate yourself, but all that's a bad sign for you—for you above
all. You want to think a great deal. To my mind you'd better not think.
And really you make me uneasy."
"There's only one thing I hate, that at such a moment I should have a
reptile like you beside me."
"Oh, that doesn't matter. I'll go away at the time and stand on the
steps if you like. If you are so concerned about trifles when it comes
to dying, then... it's all a very bad sign. I'll go out on to the
steps and you can imagine I know nothing about it, and that I am a man
infinitely below you."
"No, not infinitely; you've got abilities, but there's a lot you don't
understand because you are a low man."
"Delighted, delighted. I told you already I am delighted to provide
entertainment... at such a moment."
"You don't understand anything."
"That is, I... well, I listen with respect, anyway."
"You can do nothing; even now you can't hide your petty spite, though
it's not to your interest to show it. You'll make me cross, and then I
may want another six months." Pyotr Stepanovitch looked at his watch.
"I never understood your theory, but I know you didn't invent it for our
sakes, so I suppose you would carry it out apart from us. And I know too
that you haven't mastered the idea but the idea has mastered you, so you
won't put it off."
"What? The idea has mastered me?"
"And not I mastered the idea? That's good. You have a little sense. Only
you tease me and I am proud."
"That's a good thing, that's a good thing. Just what you need, to be
"Enough. You've drunk your tea; go away."
"Damn it all, I suppose I must"—Pyotr Stepanovitch got up—"though
it's early. Listen, Kirillov. Shall I find that man—you know whom I
mean—at Myasnitchiha's? Or has she too been lying?"
"You won't find him, because he is here and not there."
"Here! Damn it all, where?"
"Sitting in the kitchen, eating and drinking."
"How dared he?" cried Pyotr Stepanovitch, flushing angrily. "It was his
duty to wait... what nonsense! He has no passport, no money!"
"I don't know. He came to say good-bye; he is dressed and ready. He
is going away and won't come back. He says you are a scoundrel and he
doesn't want to wait for your money."
"Ha ha! He is afraid that I'll... But even now I can... if... Where is
he, in the kitchen?"
Kirillov opened a side door into a tiny dark room; from this room three
steps led straight to the part of the kitchen where the cook's bed was
usually put, behind the partition. Here, in the corner under the ikons,
Fedka was sitting now, at a bare deal table. Before him stood a
pint bottle, a plate of bread, and some cold beef and potatoes on an
earthenware dish. He was eating in a leisurely way and was already half
drunk, but he was wearing his sheep-skin coat and was evidently ready
for a journey. A samovar was boiling the other side of the screen, but
it was not for Fedka, who had every night for a week or more zealously
blown it up and got it ready for "Alexey Nilitch, for he's such a habit
of drinking tea at nights." I am strongly disposed to believe that,
as Kirillov had not a cook, he had cooked the beef and potatoes that
morning with his own hands for Fedka.
"What notion is this?" cried Pyotr Stepanovitch, whisking into the room.
"Why didn't you wait where you were ordered?"
And swinging his fist, he brought it down heavily on the table.
Fedka assumed an air of dignity.
"You wait a bit, Pyotr Stepanovitch, you wait a bit," he began, with a
swaggering emphasis on each word, "it's your first duty to understand
here that you are on a polite visit to Mr. Kirillov, Alexey Nilitch,
whose boots you might clean any day, because beside you he is a man of
culture and you are only—foo!"
And he made a jaunty show of spitting to one side. Haughtiness and
determination were evident in his manner, and a certain very threatening
assumption of argumentative calm that suggested an outburst to follow.
But Pyotr Stepanovitch had no time to realise the danger, and it did not
fit in with his preconceived ideas. The incidents and disasters of the
day had quite turned his head. Liputin, at the top of the three steps,
stared inquisitively down from the little dark room.
"Do you or don't you want a trustworthy passport and good money to go
where you've been told? Yes or no?"
"D'you see, Pyotr Stepanovitch, you've been deceiving me from the first,
and so you've been a regular scoundrel to me. For all the world like a
filthy human louse—that's how I look on you. You've promised me a lot
of money for shedding innocent blood and swore it was for Mr. Stavrogin,
though it turns out to be nothing but your want of breeding. I didn't
get a farthing out of it, let alone fifteen hundred, and Mr. Stavrogin
hit you in the face, which has come to our ears. Now you are threatening
me again and promising me money—what for, you don't say. And I
shouldn't wonder if you are sending me to Petersburg to plot some
revenge in your spite against Mr. Stavrogin, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch,
reckoning on my simplicity. And that proves you are the chief murderer.
And do you know what you deserve for the very fact that in the depravity
of your heart you've given up believing in God Himself, the true
Creator? You are no better than an idolater and are on a level with
the Tatar and the Mordva. Alexey Nilitch, who is a philosopher, has
expounded the true God, the Creator, many a time to you, as well as the
creation of the world and the fate that's to come and the transformation
of every sort of creature and every sort of beast out of the Apocalypse,
but you've persisted like a senseless idol in your deafness and your
dumbness and have brought Ensign Erkel to the same, like the veriest
evil seducer and so-called atheist...."
"Ah, you drunken dog! He strips the ikons of their setting and then
preaches about God!"
"D'you see, Pyotr Stepanovitch, I tell you truly that I have stripped
the ikons, but I only took out the pearls; and how do you know? Perhaps
my own tear was transformed into a pearl in the furnace of the Most High
to make up for my sufferings, seeing I am just that very orphan, having
no daily refuge. Do you know from the books that once, in ancient times,
a merchant with just such tearful sighs and prayers stole a pearl from
the halo of the Mother of God, and afterwards, in the face of all the
people, laid the whole price of it at her feet, and the Holy Mother
sheltered him with her mantle before all the people, so that it was a
miracle, and the command was given through the authorities to write it
all down word for word in the Imperial books. And you let a mouse in,
so you insulted the very throne of God. And if you were not my natural
master, whom I dandled in my arms when I was a stripling, I would have
done for you now, without budging from this place!"
Pyotr Stepanovitch flew into a violent rage.
"Tell me, have you seen Stavrogin to-day?"
"Don't you dare to question me. Mr. Stavrogin is fairly amazed at you,
and he had no share in it even in wish, let alone instructions or giving
money. You've presumed with me."
"You'll get the money and you'll get another two thousand in Petersburg,
when you get there, in a lump sum, and you'll get more."
"You are lying, my fine gentleman, and it makes me laugh to see how
easily you are taken in. Mr. Stavrogin stands at the top of the ladder
above you, and you yelp at him from below like a silly puppy dog, while
he thinks it would be doing you an honour to spit at you."
"But do you know," cried Pyotr Stepanovitch in a rage, "that I won't
let you stir a step from here, you scoundrel, and I'll hand you straight
over to the police."
Fedka leapt on to his feet and his eyes gleamed with fury. Pyotr
Stepanovitch pulled out his revolver. Then followed a rapid and
revolting scene: before Pyotr Stepanovitch could take aim, Fedka swung
round and in a flash struck him on the cheek with all his might. Then
there was the thud of a second blow, a third, then a fourth, all on the
cheek. Pyotr Stepanovitch was dazed; with his eyes starting out of his
head, he muttered something, and suddenly crashed full length to the
"There you are; take him," shouted Fedka with a triumphant swagger; he
instantly took up his cap, his bag from under the bench, and was gone.
Pyotr Stepanovitch lay gasping and unconscious. Liputin even imagined
that he had been murdered. Kirillov ran headlong into the kitchen.
"Water!" he cried, and ladling some water in an iron dipper from a
bucket, he poured it over the injured man's head. Pyotr Stepanovitch
stirred, raised his head, sat up, and looked blankly about him.
"Well, how are you?" asked Kirillov. Pyotr Stepanovitch looked at him
intently, still not recognising him; but seeing Liputin peeping in from
the kitchen, he smiled his hateful smile and suddenly got up, picking up
his revolver from the floor.
"If you take it into your head to run away to-morrow like that scoundrel
Stavrogin," he cried, pouncing furiously on Kirillov, pale, stammering,
and hardly able to articulate his words, "I'll hang you... like a
fly... or crush you... if it's at the other end of the world... do you
And he held the revolver straight at Kirillov's head; but almost at the
same minute, coming completely to himself, he drew back his hand, thrust
the revolver into his pocket, and without saying another word ran out of
the house. Liputin followed him. They clambered through the same gap and
again walked along the slope holding to the fence. Pyotr Stepanovitch
strode rapidly down the street so that Liputin could scarcely keep up
with him. At the first crossing he suddenly stopped.
"Well?" He turned to Liputin with a challenge.
Liputin remembered the revolver and was still trembling all over after
the scene he had witnessed; but the answer seemed to come of itself
irresistibly from his tongue:
"I think... I think that..."
"Did you see what Fedka was drinking in the kitchen?"
"What he was drinking? He was drinking vodka."
"Well then, let me tell you it's the last time in his life he will drink
vodka. I recommend you to remember that and reflect on it. And now go to
hell; you are not wanted till to-morrow. But mind now, don't be a fool!"
Liputin rushed home full speed.
He had long had a passport in readiness made out in a false name. It
seems a wild idea that this prudent little man, the petty despot of
his family, who was, above all things, a sharp man of business and a
capitalist, and who was an official too (though he was a Fourierist),
should long before have conceived the fantastic project of procuring
this passport in case of emergency, that he might escape abroad by means
of it if... he did admit the possibility of this if, though no doubt he
was never able himself to formulate what this if might mean.
But now it suddenly formulated itself, and in a most unexpected way.
That desperate idea with which he had gone to Kirillov's after that
"fool" he had heard from Pyotr Stepanovitch on the pavement, had been
to abandon everything at dawn next day and to emigrate abroad. If anyone
doubts that such fantastic incidents occur in everyday Russian life,
even now, let him look into the biographies of all the Russian exiles
abroad. Not one of them escaped with more wisdom or real justification.
It has always been the unrestrained domination of phantoms and nothing
Running home, he began by locking himself in, getting out his travelling
bag, and feverishly beginning to pack. His chief anxiety was the
question of money, and how much he could rescue from the impending
ruin—and by what means. He thought of it as "rescuing," for it seemed
to him that he could not linger an hour, and that by daylight he must
be on the high road. He did not know where to take the train either; he
vaguely determined to take it at the second or third big station from
the town, and to make his way there on foot, if necessary. In that way,
instinctively and mechanically he busied himself in his packing with a
perfect whirl of ideas in his head—and suddenly stopped short, gave it
all up, and with a deep groan stretched himself on the sofa.
He felt clearly, and suddenly realised that he might escape, but that
he was by now utterly incapable of deciding whether he ought to make off
before or after Shatov's death; that he was simply a lifeless body, a
crude inert mass; that he was being moved by an awful outside power; and
that, though he had a passport to go abroad, that though he could run
away from Shatov (otherwise what need was there of such haste?), yet he
would run away, not from Shatov, not before his murder, but after it,
and that that was determined, signed, and sealed.
In insufferable distress, trembling every instant and wondering at
himself, alternately groaning aloud and numb with terror, he managed to
exist till eleven o'clock next morning locked in and lying on the sofa;
then came the shock he was awaiting, and it at once determined him. When
he unlocked his door and went out to his household at eleven o'clock
they told him that the runaway convict and brigand, Fedka, who was a
terror to every one, who had pillaged churches and only lately been
guilty of murder and arson, who was being pursued and could not be
captured by our police, had been found at daybreak murdered, five miles
from the town, at a turning off the high road, and that the whole town
was talking of it already. He rushed headlong out of the house at once
to find out further details, and learned, to begin with, that Fedka, who
had been found with his skull broken, had apparently been robbed and,
secondly, that the police already had strong suspicion and even good
grounds for believing that the murderer was one of the Shpigulin men
called Fomka, the very one who had been his accomplice in murdering the
Lebyadkins and setting fire to their house, and that there had been a
quarrel between them on the road about a large sum of money stolen from
Lebyadkin, which Fedka was supposed to have hidden. Liputin ran to Pyotr
Stepanovitch's lodgings and succeeded in learning at the back door, on
the sly, that though Pyotr Stepanovitch had not returned home till about
one o'clock at night, he had slept there quietly all night till eight
o'clock next morning. Of course, there could be no doubt that there was
nothing extraordinary about Fedka's death, and that such careers usually
have such an ending; but the coincidence of the fatal words that "it was
the last time Fedka would drink vodka," with the prompt fulfilment of
the prediction, was so remarkable that Liputin no longer hesitated. The
shock had been given; it was as though a stone had fallen upon him and
crushed him for ever. Returning home, he thrust his travelling-bag under
the bed without a word, and in the evening at the hour fixed he was the
first to appear at the appointed spot to meet Shatov, though it's true
he still had his passport in his pocket.
CHAPTER V. A WANDERER
THE CATASTROPHE WITH Liza and the death of Marya Timofyevna made an
overwhelming impression on Shatov. I have already mentioned that that
morning I met him in passing; he seemed to me not himself. He told me
among other things that on the evening before at nine o'clock (that
is, three hours before the fire had broken out) he had been at Marya
Timofyevna's. He went in the morning to look at the corpses, but as far
as I know gave no evidence of any sort that morning. Meanwhile, towards
the end of the day there was a perfect tempest in his soul, and... I
think I can say with certainty that there was a moment at dusk when he
wanted to get up, go out and tell everything. What that everything was,
no one but he could say. Of course he would have achieved nothing, and
would have simply betrayed himself. He had no proofs whatever with which
to convict the perpetrators of the crime, and, indeed, he had nothing
but vague conjectures to go upon, though to him they amounted to
complete certainty. But he was ready to ruin himself if he could only
"crush the scoundrels"—his own words. Pyotr Stepanovitch had guessed
fairly correctly at this impulse in him, and he knew himself that he
was risking a great deal in putting off the execution of his new
awful project till next day. On his side there was, as usual, great
self-confidence and contempt for all these "wretched creatures" and for
Shatov in particular. He had for years despised Shatov for his "whining
idiocy," as he had expressed it in former days abroad, and he was
absolutely confident that he could deal with such a guileless creature,
that is, keep an eye on him all that day, and put a check on him at the
first sign of danger. Yet what saved "the scoundrels" for a short time
was something quite unexpected which they had not foreseen....
Towards eight o'clock in the evening (at the very time when the quintet
was meeting at Erkel's, and waiting in indignation and excitement for
Pyotr Stepanovitch) Shatov was lying in the dark on his bed with a
headache and a slight chill; he was tortured by uncertainty, he was
angry, he kept making up his mind, and could not make it up finally, and
felt, with a curse, that it would all lead to nothing. Gradually he sank
into a brief doze and had something like a nightmare. He dreamt that
he was lying on his bed, tied up with cords and unable to stir, and
meantime he heard a terrible banging that echoed all over the house, a
banging on the fence, at the gate, at his door, in Kirillov's lodge,
so that the whole house was shaking, and a far-away familiar voice that
wrung his heart was calling to him piteously. He suddenly woke and sat
up in bed. To his surprise the banging at the gate went on, though
not nearly so violent as it had seemed in his dream. The knocks were
repeated and persistent, and the strange voice "that wrung his heart"
could still be heard below at the gate, though not piteously but angrily
and impatiently, alternating with another voice, more restrained and
ordinary. He jumped up, opened the casement pane and put his head out.
"Who's there?" he called, literally numb with terror.
"If you are Shatov," the answer came harshly and resolutely from below,
"be so good as to tell me straight out and honestly whether you agree to
let me in or not?"
It was true: he recognised the voice!
"Marie!... Is it you?"
"Yes, yes, Marya Shatov, and I assure you I can't keep the driver a
"This minute... I'll get a candle," Shatov cried faintly. Then he rushed
to look for the matches. The matches, as always happens at such moments,
could not be found. He dropped the candlestick and the candle on the
floor and as soon as he heard the impatient voice from below again, he
abandoned the search and dashed down the steep stairs to open the gate.
"Be so good as to hold the bag while I settle with this blockhead," was
how Madame Marya Shatov greeted him below, and she thrust into his hands
a rather light cheap canvas handbag studded with brass nails, of Dresden
manufacture. She attacked the driver with exasperation.
"Allow me to tell you, you are asking too much. If you've been driving
me for an extra hour through these filthy streets, that's your fault,
because it seems you didn't know where to find this stupid street and
imbecile house. Take your thirty kopecks and make up your mind that
you'll get nothing more."
"Ech, lady, you told me yourself Voznesensky Street and this is
Bogoyavlensky; Voznesensky is ever so far away. You've simply put the
horse into a steam."
"Voznesensky, Bogoyavlensky—you ought to know all those stupid names
better than I do, as you are an inhabitant; besides, you are unfair, I
told you first of all Filipov's house and you declared you knew it. In
any case you can have me up to-morrow in the local court, but now I beg
you to let me alone."
"Here, here's another five kopecks." With eager haste Shatov pulled a
five-kopeck piece out of his pocket and gave it to the driver.
"Do me a favour, I beg you, don't dare to do that!" Madame Shatov flared
up, but the driver drove off and Shatov, taking her hand, drew her
through the gate.
"Make haste, Marie, make haste... that's no matter, and... you are wet
through. Take care, we go up here—how sorry I am there's no light—the
stairs are steep, hold tight, hold tight! Well, this is my room. Excuse
my having no light... One minute!"
He picked up the candlestick but it was a long time before the matches
were found. Madame Shatov stood waiting in the middle of the room,
silent and motionless.
"Thank God, here they are at last!" he cried joyfully, lighting up the
room. Marya Shatov took a cursory survey of his abode.
"They told me you lived in a poor way, but I didn't expect it to be
as bad as this," she pronounced with an air of disgust, and she moved
towards the bed.
"Oh, I am tired!" she sat down on the hard bed, with an exhausted air.
"Please put down the bag and sit down on the chair yourself. Just as you
like though; you are in the way standing there. I have come to you for
a time, till I can get work, because I know nothing of this place and I
have no money. But if I shall be in your way I beg you again, be so good
as to tell me so at once, as you are bound to do if you are an honest
man. I could sell something to-morrow and pay for a room at an hotel,
but you must take me to the hotel yourself.... Oh, but I am tired!"
Shatov was all of a tremor.
"You mustn't, Marie, you mustn't go to an hotel! An hotel! What for?
He clasped his hands imploringly....
"Well, if I can get on without the hotel... I must, any way, explain the
position. Remember, Shatov, that we lived in Geneva as man and wife for
a fortnight and a few days; it's three years since we parted, without
any particular quarrel though. But don't imagine that I've come back
to renew any of the foolishness of the past. I've come back to look for
work, and that I've come straight to this town is just because it's all
the same to me. I've not come to say I am sorry for anything; please
don't imagine anything so stupid as that."
"Oh, Marie! This is unnecessary, quite unnecessary," Shatov muttered
"If so, if you are so far developed as to be able to understand that, I
may allow myself to add, that if I've come straight to you now and am
in your lodging, it's partly because I always thought you were far
from being a scoundrel and were perhaps much better than other...
Her eyes flashed. She must have had to bear a great deal at the hands of
"And please believe me, I wasn't laughing at you just now when I told
you you were good. I spoke plainly, without fine phrases and I can't
endure them. But that's all nonsense. I always hoped you would have
sense enough not to pester me.... Enough, I am tired."
And she bent on him a long, harassed and weary gaze. Shatov stood
facing her at the other end of the room, which was five paces away, and
listened to her timidly with a look of new life and unwonted radiance
on his face. This strong, rugged man, all bristles on the surface,
was suddenly all softness and shining gladness. There was a thrill
of extraordinary and unexpected feeling in his soul. Three years of
separation, three years of the broken marriage had effaced nothing from
his heart. And perhaps every day during those three years he had dreamed
of her, of that beloved being who had once said to him, "I love you."
Knowing Shatov I can say with certainty that he could never have allowed
himself even to dream that a woman might say to him, "I love you."
He was savagely modest and chaste, he looked on himself as a perfect
monster, detested his own face as well as his character, compared
himself to some freak only fit to be exhibited at fairs. Consequently
he valued honesty above everything and was fanatically devoted to his
convictions; he was gloomy, proud, easily moved to wrath, and sparing
of words. But here was the one being who had loved him for a fortnight
(that he had never doubted, never!), a being he had always considered
immeasurably above him in spite of his perfectly sober understanding of
her errors; a being to whom he could forgive everything, everything (of
that there could be no question; indeed it was quite the other way, his
idea was that he was entirely to blame); this woman, this Marya Shatov,
was in his house, in his presence again... it was almost inconceivable!
He was so overcome, there was so much that was terrible and at the same
time so much happiness in this event that he could not, perhaps would
not—perhaps was afraid to—realise the position. It was a dream. But
when she looked at him with that harassed gaze he suddenly understood
that this woman he loved so dearly was suffering, perhaps had been
wronged. His heart went cold. He looked at her features with anguish:
the first bloom of youth had long faded from this exhausted face. It's
true that she was still good-looking—in his eyes a beauty, as she had
always been. In reality she was a woman of twenty-five, rather strongly
built, above the medium height (taller than Shatov), with abundant dark
brown hair, a pale oval face, and large dark eyes now glittering with
feverish brilliance. But the light-hearted, naïve and good-natured
energy he had known so well in the past was replaced now by a sullen
irritability and disillusionment, a sort of cynicism which was not yet
habitual to her herself, and which weighed upon her. But the chief thing
was that she was ill, that he could see clearly. In spite of the awe in
which he stood of her he suddenly went up to her and took her by both
"Marie... you know... you are very tired, perhaps, for God's sake, don't
be angry.... If you'd consent to have some tea, for instance, eh? Tea
picks one up so, doesn't it? If you'd consent!"
"Why talk about consenting! Of course I consent, what a baby you are
still. Get me some if you can. How cramped you are here. How cold it
"Oh, I'll get some logs for the fire directly, some logs... I've got
logs." Shatov was all astir. "Logs... that is... but I'll get tea
directly," he waved his hand as though with desperate determination and
snatched up his cap.
"Where are you going? So you've no tea in the house?"
"There shall be, there shall be, there shall be, there shall be
everything directly.... I..." he took his revolver from the shelf, "I'll
sell this revolver directly... or pawn it...."
"What foolishness and what a time that will take! Take my money if
you've nothing, there's eighty kopecks here, I think; that's all I have.
This is like a madhouse."
"I don't want your money, I don't want it I'll be here directly, in one
instant. I can manage without the revolver...."
And he rushed straight to Kirillov's. This was probably two hours before
the visit of Pyotr Stepanovitch and Liputin to Kirillov. Though Shatov
and Kirillov lived in the same yard they hardly ever saw each other, and
when they met they did not nod or speak: they had been too long "lying
side by side" in America....
"Kirillov, you always have tea; have you got tea and a samovar?"
Kirillov, who was walking up and down the room, as he was in the habit
of doing all night, stopped and looked intently at his hurried visitor,
though without much surprise.
"I've got tea and sugar and a samovar. But there's no need of the
samovar, the tea is hot. Sit down and simply drink it."
"Kirillov, we lay side by side in America.... My wife has come to me ...
I... give me the tea.... I shall want the samovar."
"If your wife is here you want the samovar. But take it later. I've
two. And now take the teapot from the table. It's hot, boiling hot. Take
everything, take the sugar, all of it. Bread... there's plenty of bread;
all of it. There's some veal. I've a rouble."
"Give it me, friend, I'll pay it back to-morrow! Ach, Kirillov!"
"Is it the same wife who was in Switzerland? That's a good thing. And
your running in like this, that's a good thing too."
"Kirillov!" cried Shatov, taking the teapot under his arm and carrying
the bread and sugar in both hands. "Kirillov, if... if you could get rid
of your dreadful fancies and give up your atheistic ravings... oh, what
a man you'd be, Kirillov!"
"One can see you love your wife after Switzerland. It's a good thing you
do—after Switzerland. When you want tea, come again. You can come all
night, I don't sleep at all. There'll be a samovar. Take the rouble,
here it is. Go to your wife, I'll stay here and think about you and your
Marya Shatov was unmistakably pleased at her husband's haste and fell
upon the tea almost greedily, but there was no need to run for the
samovar; she drank only half a cup and swallowed a tiny piece of bread.
The veal she refused with disgust and irritation.
"You are ill, Marie, all this is a sign of illness," Shatov remarked
timidly as he waited upon her.
"Of course I'm ill, please sit down. Where did you get the tea if you
Shatov told her about Kirillov briefly. She had heard something of him.
"I know he is mad; say no more, please; there are plenty of fools. So
you've been in America? I heard, you wrote."
"Yes, I... I wrote to you in Paris."
"Enough, please talk of something else. Are you a Slavophil in your
"I... I am not exactly.... Since I cannot be a Russian, I became a
Slavophil." He smiled a wry smile with the effort of one who feels he
has made a strained and inappropriate jest.
"Why, aren't you a Russian?"
"No, I'm not."
"Well, that's all foolishness. Do sit down, I entreat you. Why are you
all over the place? Do you think I am lightheaded? Perhaps I shall be.
You say there are only you two in the house."
"And both such clever people. What is there downstairs? You said
"Why nothing? I want to know."
"I only meant to say that now we are only two in the yard, but that the
Lebyadkins used to live downstairs...."
"That woman who was murdered last night?" she started suddenly. "I heard
of it. I heard of it as soon as I arrived. There was a fire here, wasn't
"Yes, Marie, yes, and perhaps I am doing a scoundrelly thing this moment
in forgiving the scoundrels...." He stood up suddenly and paced about
the room, raising his arms as though in a frenzy.
But Marie had not quite understood him. She heard his answers
inattentively; she asked questions but did not listen.
"Fine things are being done among you! Oh, how contemptible it all is!
What scoundrels men all are! But do sit down, I beg you, oh, how you
exasperate me!" and she let her head sink on the pillow, exhausted.
"Marie, I won't.... Perhaps you'll lie down, Marie?" She made no answer
and closed her eyes helplessly. Her pale face looked death-like. She
fell asleep almost instantly. Shatov looked round, snuffed the candle,
looked uneasily at her face once, more, pressed his hands tight in front
of him and walked on tiptoe out of the room into the passage. At the
top of the stairs he stood in the corner with his face to the wall and
remained so for ten minutes without sound or movement. He would have
stood there longer, but he suddenly caught the sound of soft cautious
steps below. Some one was coming up the stairs. Shatov remembered he had
forgotten to fasten the gate.
"Who's there?" he asked in a whisper. The unknown visitor went on slowly
mounting the stairs without answering. When he reached the top he stood
still; it was impossible to see his face in the dark; suddenly Shatov
heard the cautious question:
Shatov said who he was, but at once held out his hand to check his
advance. The latter took his hand, and Shatov shuddered as though he had
touched some terrible reptile.
"Stand here," he whispered quickly. "Don't go in, I can't receive you
just now. My wife has come back. I'll fetch the candle."
When he returned with the candle he found a young officer standing
there; he did not know his name but he had seen him before.
"Erkel," said the lad, introducing himself. "You've seen me at
"I remember; you sat writing. Listen," said Shatov in sudden excitement,
going up to him frantically, but still talking in a whisper. "You gave
me a sign just now when you took my hand. But you know I can treat all
these signals with contempt! I don't acknowledge them.... I don't want
them.... I can throw you downstairs this minute, do you know that?"
"No, I know nothing about that and I don't know what you are in such a
rage about," the visitor answered without malice and almost ingenuously.
"I have only to give you a message, and that's what I've come for, being
particularly anxious not to lose time. You have a printing press which
does not belong to you, and of which you are bound to give an account,
as you know yourself. I have received instructions to request you to
give it up to-morrow at seven o'clock in the evening to Liputin. I have
been instructed to tell you also that nothing more will be asked of
"Absolutely nothing. Your request is granted, and you are struck off our
list. I was instructed to tell you that positively."
"Who instructed you to tell me?"
"Those who told me the sign."
"Have you come from abroad?"
"I... I think that's no matter to you."
"Oh, hang it! Why didn't you come before if you were told to?"
"I followed certain instructions and was not alone."
"I understand, I understand that you were not alone. Eh... hang it! But
why didn't Liputin come himself?"
"So I shall come for you to-morrow at exactly six o'clock in the
evening, and we'll go there on foot. There will be no one there but us
"Will Verhovensky be there?"
"No, he won't. Verhovensky is leaving the town at eleven o'clock
"Just what I thought!" Shatov whispered furiously, and he struck his
fist on his hip. "He's run off, the sneak!"
He sank into agitated reflection. Erkel looked intently at him and
waited in silence.
"But how will you take it? You can't simply pick it up in your hands and
"There will be no need to. You'll simply point out the place and we'll
just make sure that it really is buried there. We only know whereabouts
the place is, we don't know the place itself. And have you pointed the
place out to anyone else yet?"
Shatov looked at him.
"You, you, a chit of a boy like you, a silly boy like you, you too have
got caught in that net like a sheep? Yes, that's just the young blood
they want! Well, go along. E-ech! that scoundrel's taken you all in and
Erkel looked at him serenely and calmly but did not seem to understand.
"Verhovensky, Verhovensky has run away!" Shatov growled fiercely.
"But he is still here, he is not gone away. He is not going till
to-morrow," Erkel observed softly and persuasively. "I particularly
begged him to be present as a witness; my instructions all referred to
him (he explained frankly like a young and inexperienced boy). But I
regret to say he did not agree on the ground of his departure, and he
really is in a hurry."
Shatov glanced compassionately at the simple youth again, but suddenly
gave a gesture of despair as though he thought "they are not worth
"All right, I'll come," he cut him short. "And now get away, be off."
"So I'll come for you at six o'clock punctually." Erkel made a courteous
bow and walked deliberately downstairs.
"Little fool!" Shatov could not help shouting after him from the top.
"What is it?" responded the lad from the bottom.
"Nothing, you can go."
"I thought you said something."
Erkel was a "little fool" who was only lacking in the higher form
of reason, the ruling power of the intellect; but of the lesser, the
subordinate reasoning faculties, he had plenty—even to the point of
cunning. Fanatically, childishly devoted to "the cause" or rather in
reality to Pyotr Verhovensky, he acted on the instructions given to him
when at the meeting of the quintet they had agreed and had distributed
the various duties for the next day. When Pyotr Stepanovitch gave him
the job of messenger, he succeeded in talking to him aside for ten
A craving for active service was characteristic of this shallow,
unreflecting nature, which was for ever yearning to follow the lead
of another man's will, of course for the good of "the common" or "the
great" cause. Not that that made any difference, for little fanatics
like Erkel can never imagine serving a cause except by identifying
it with the person who, to their minds, is the expression of it. The
sensitive, affectionate and kind-hearted Erkel was perhaps the most
callous of Shatov's would-be murderers, and, though he had no personal
spite against him, he would have been present at his murder without the
quiver of an eyelid. He had been instructed; for instance, to have a
good look at Shatov's surroundings while carrying out his commission,
and when Shatov, receiving him at the top of the stairs, blurted out to
him, probably unaware in the heat of the moment, that his wife had come
back to him—Erkel had the instinctive cunning to avoid displaying the
slightest curiosity, though the idea flashed through his mind that the
fact of his wife's return was of great importance for the success of
And so it was in reality; it was only that fact that saved the
"scoundrels" from Shatov's carrying out his intention, and at the same
time helped them "to get rid of him." To begin with, it agitated Shatov,
threw him out of his regular routine, and deprived him of his usual
clear-sightedness and caution. Any idea of his own danger would be the
last thing to enter his head at this moment when he was absorbed with
such different considerations. On the contrary, he eagerly believed that
Pyotr Verhovensky was running away the next day: it fell in exactly with
his suspicions! Returning to the room he sat down again in a corner,
leaned his elbows on his knees and hid his face in his hands. Bitter
thoughts tormented him....
Then he would raise his head again and go on tiptoe to look at her.
"Good God! she will be in a fever by to-morrow morning; perhaps it's
begun already! She must have caught cold. She is not accustomed to this
awful climate, and then a third-class carriage, the storm, the rain, and
she has such a thin little pelisse, no wrap at all.... And to leave
her like this, to abandon her in her helplessness! Her bag, too, her
bag—what a tiny, light thing, all crumpled up, scarcely weighs ten
pounds! Poor thing, how worn out she is, how much she's been through!
She is proud, that's why she won't complain. But she is irritable, very
irritable. It's illness; an angel will grow irritable in illness. What
a dry forehead, it must be hot—how dark she is under the eyes,
and... and yet how beautiful the oval of her face is and her rich hair,
And he made haste to turn away his eyes, to walk away as though he were
frightened at the very idea of seeing in her anything but an unhappy,
exhausted fellow-creature who needed help—"how could he think of
hopes, oh, how mean, how base is man!" And he would go back to his
corner, sit down, hide his face in his hands and again sink into dreams
and reminiscences... and again he was haunted by hopes.
"Oh, I am tired, I am tired," he remembered her exclamations, her
weak broken voice. "Good God! Abandon her now, and she has only eighty
kopecks; she held out her purse, a tiny old thing! She's come to look
for a job. What does she know about jobs? What do they know about
Russia? Why, they are like naughty children, they've nothing but their
own fancies made up by themselves, and she is angry, poor thing,
that Russia is not like their foreign dreams! The luckless, innocent
creatures!... It's really cold here, though."
He remembered that she had complained, that he had promised to heat the
stove. "There are logs here, I can fetch them if only I don't wake her.
But I can do it without waking her. But what shall I do about the veal?
When she gets up perhaps she will be hungry.... Well, that will do
later: Kirillov doesn't go to bed all night. What could I cover her
with, she is sleeping so soundly, but she must be cold, ah, she must be
cold!" And once more he went to look at her; her dress had worked up
a little and her right leg was half uncovered to the knee. He suddenly
turned away almost in dismay, took off his warm overcoat, and, remaining
in his wretched old jacket, covered it up, trying not to look at it.
A great deal of time was spent in righting the fire, stepping about
on tiptoe, looking at the sleeping woman, dreaming in the corner, then
looking at her again. Two or three hours had passed. During that time
Verhovensky and Liputin had been at Kirillov's. At last he, too, began
to doze in the corner. He heard her groan; she waked up and called him;
he jumped up like a criminal.
"Marie, I was dropping asleep.... Ah, what a wretch I am, Marie!"
She sat up, looking about her with wonder, seeming not to recognise
where she was, and suddenly leapt up in indignation and anger.
"I've taken your bed, I fell asleep so tired I didn't know what I was
doing; how dared you not wake me? How could you dare imagine I meant to
be a burden to you?"
"How could I wake you, Marie?"
"You could, you ought to have! You've no other bed here, and I've taken
yours. You had no business to put me into a false position. Or do you
suppose that I've come to take advantage of your charity? Kindly get
into your bed at once and I'll lie down in the corner on some chairs."
"Marie, there aren't chairs enough, and there's nothing to put on them."
"Then simply oil the floor. Or you'll have to lie on the floor yourself.
I want to lie on the floor at once, at once!"
She stood up, tried to take a step, but suddenly a violent spasm of pain
deprived her of all power and all determination, and with a loud groan
she fell back on the bed. Shatov ran up, but Marie, hiding her face in
the pillow, seized his hand and gripped and squeezed it with all her
might. This lasted a minute.
"Marie darling, there's a doctor Frenzel living here, a friend of
mine.... I could run for him."
"What do you mean by nonsense? Tell me, Marie, what is it hurting you?
For we might try fomentations... on the stomach for instance.... I can
do that without a doctor.... Or else mustard poultices."
"What's this," she asked strangely, raising her head and looking at him
"What's what, Marie?" said Shatov, not understanding. "What are you
asking about? Good heavens! I am quite bewildered, excuse my not
"Ach, let me alone; it's not your business to understand. And it would
be too absurd..." she said with a bitter smile. "Talk to me about
something. Walk about the room and talk. Don't stand over me and don't
look at me, I particularly ask you that for the five-hundredth time!"
Shatov began walking up and down the room, looking at the floor, and
doing his utmost not to glance at her.
"There's—don't be angry, Marie, I entreat you—there's some veal here,
and there's tea not far off.... You had so little before."
She made an angry gesture of disgust. Shatov bit his tongue in despair.
"Listen, I intend to open a bookbinding business here, on rational
co-operative principles. Since you live here what do you think of it,
would it be successful?"
"Ech, Marie, people don't read books here, and there are none here at
all. And are they likely to begin binding them!"
"Who are they?"
"The local readers and inhabitants generally, Marie."
"Well, then, speak more clearly. They indeed, and one doesn't know who
they are. You don't know grammar!"
"It's in the spirit of the language," Shatov muttered.
"Oh, get along with your spirit, you bore me. Why shouldn't the local
inhabitant or reader have his books bound?"
"Because reading books and having them bound are two different stages of
development, and there's a vast gulf between them. To begin with, a man
gradually gets used to reading, in the course of ages of course, but
takes no care of his books and throws them about, not thinking them
worth attention. But binding implies respect for books, and implies
that not only he has grown fond of reading, but that he looks upon it as
something of value. That period has not been reached anywhere in Russia
yet. In Europe books have been bound for a long while."
"Though that's pedantic, anyway, it's not stupid, and reminds me of the
time three years ago; you used to be rather clever sometimes three years
She said this as disdainfully as her other capricious remarks.
"Marie, Marie," said Shatov, turning to her, much moved, "oh, Marie!
If you only knew how much has happened in those three years! I heard
afterwards that you despised me for changing my convictions. But what
are the men I've broken with? The enemies of all true life, out-of-date
Liberals who are afraid of their own independence, the flunkeys
of thought, the enemies of individuality and freedom, the decrepit
advocates of deadness and rottenness! All they have to offer is
senility, a glorious mediocrity of the most bourgeois kind, contemptible
shallowness, a jealous equality, equality without individual dignity,
equality as it's understood by flunkeys or by the French in '93. And
the worst of it is there are swarms of scoundrels among them, swarms of
"Yes, there are a lot of scoundrels," she brought out abruptly with
painful effort. She lay stretched out, motionless, as though afraid
to move, with her head thrown back on the pillow, rather on one side,
staring at the ceiling with exhausted but glowing eyes. Her face was
pale, her lips were dry and hot.
"You recognise it, Marie, you recognise it," cried Shatov. She tried to
shake her head, and suddenly the same spasm came over her again. Again
she hid her face in the pillow, and again for a full minute she squeezed
Shatov's hand till it hurt. He had run up, beside himself with alarm.
"Marie, Marie! But it may be very serious, Marie!"
"Be quiet... I won't have it, I won't have it," she screamed almost
furiously, turning her face upwards again. "Don't dare to look at me
with your sympathy! Walk about the room, say something, talk...."
Shatov began muttering something again, like one distraught.
"What do you do here?" she asked, interrupting him with contemptuous
"I work in a merchant's office. I could get a fair amount of money even
here if I cared to, Marie."
"So much the better for you...."
"Oh, don't suppose I meant anything, Marie. I said it without thinking."
"And what do you do besides? What are you preaching? You can't exist
without preaching, that's your character!"
"I am preaching God, Marie."
"In whom you don't believe yourself. I never could see the idea of that."
"Let's leave that, Marie; we'll talk of that later."
"What sort of person was this Marya Timofyevna here?"
"We'll talk of that later too, Marie."
"Don't dare to say such things to me! Is it true that her death may have
been caused by... the wickedness... of these people?"
"Not a doubt of it," growled Shatov.
Marie suddenly raised her head and cried out painfully:
"Don't dare speak of that to me again, don't dare to, never, never!"
And she fell back in bed again, overcome by the same convulsive agony;
it was the third time, but this time her groans were louder, in fact she
"Oh, you insufferable man! Oh, you unbearable man," she cried, tossing
about recklessly, and pushing away Shatov as he bent over her.
"Marie, I'll do anything you like.... I'll walk about and talk...."
"Surely you must see that it has begun!"
"What's begun, Marie?"
"How can I tell! Do I know anything about it?... I curse myself! Oh,
curse it all from the beginning!"
"Marie, if you'd tell me what's beginning... or else I... if you don't,
what am I to make of it?"
"You are a useless, theoretical babbler. Oh, curse everything on earth!"
"Marie, Marie!" He seriously thought that she was beginning to go mad.
"Surely you must see that I am in the agonies of childbirth," she said,
sitting up and gazing at him with a terrible, hysterical vindictiveness
that distorted her whole face. "I curse him before he is born, this
"Marie," cried Shatov, realising at last what it meant. "Marie... but
why didn't you tell me before." He pulled himself together at once and
seized his cap with an air of vigorous determination.
"How could I tell when I came in here? Should I have come to you if I'd
known? I was told it would be another ten days! Where are you going?...
Where are you going? You mustn't dare!"
"To fetch a midwife! I'll sell the revolver. We must get money before
anything else now."
"Don't dare to do anything, don't dare to fetch a midwife! Bring a
peasant woman, any old woman, I've eighty kopecks in my purse....
Peasant women have babies without midwives.... And if I die, so much the
"You shall have a midwife and an old woman too. But how am I to leave
you alone, Marie!"
But reflecting that it was better to leave her alone now in spite of
her desperate state than to leave her without help later, he paid
no attention to her groans, nor her angry exclamations, but rushed
downstairs, hurrying all he could.
First of all he went to Kirillov. It was by now about one o'clock in the
night. Kirillov was standing in the middle of the room.
"Kirillov, my wife is in childbirth."
"How do you mean?"
"Childbirth, bearing a child!"
"You... are not mistaken?"
"Oh, no, no, she is in agonies! I want a woman, any old woman, I must
have one at once.... Can you get one now? You used to have a lot of old
"Very sorry that I am no good at childbearing," Kirillov answered
thoughtfully; "that is, not at childbearing, but at doing anything for
childbearing... or... no, I don't know how to say it."
"You mean you can't assist at a confinement yourself? But that's not
what I've come for. An old woman, I want a woman, a nurse, a servant!"
"You shall have an old woman, but not directly, perhaps... If you like
I'll come instead...."
"Oh, impossible; I am running to Madame Virginsky, the midwife, now."
"A horrid woman!"
"Oh, yes, Kirillov, yes, but she is the best of them all. Yes, it'll all
be without reverence, without gladness, with contempt, with abuse, with
blasphemy in the presence of so great a mystery, the coming of a new
creature! Oh, she is cursing it already!"
"If you like I'll..."
"No, no, but while I'm running (oh, I'll make Madame Virginsky come),
will you go to the foot of my staircase and quietly listen? But don't
venture to go in, you'll frighten her; don't go in on any account, you
must only listen... in case anything dreadful happens. If anything very
bad happens, then run in."
"I understand. I've another rouble. Here it is. I meant to have a fowl
to-morrow, but now I don't want to, make haste, run with all your might.
There's a samovar all the night."
Kirillov knew nothing of the present design against Shatov, nor had he
had any idea in the past of the degree of danger that threatened him.
He only knew that Shatov had some old scores with "those people,"
and although he was to some extent involved with them himself through
instructions he had received from abroad (not that these were of
much consequence, however, for he had never taken any direct share in
anything), yet of late he had given it all up, having left off doing
anything especially for the "cause," and devoted himself entirely to a
life of contemplation. Although Pyotr Stepanovitch had at the meeting
invited Liputin to go with him to Kirillov's to make sure that the
latter would take upon himself, at a given moment, the responsibility
for the "Shatov business," yet in his interview with Kirillov he had
said no word about Shatov nor alluded to him in any way—probably
considering it impolitic to do so, and thinking that Kirillov could
not be relied upon. He put off speaking about it till next day, when it
would be all over and would therefore not matter to Kirillov; such at
least was Pyotr Stepanovitch's judgment of him. Liputin, too, was
struck by the fact that Shatov was not mentioned in spite of what Pyotr
Stepanovitch had promised, but he was too much agitated to protest.
Shatov ran like a hurricane to Virginsky's house, cursing the distance
and feeling it endless.
He had to knock a long time at Virginsky's; every one had been asleep a
long while. But Shatov did not scruple to bang at the shutters with
all his might. The dog chained up in the yard dashed about barking
furiously. The dogs caught it up all along the street, and there was a
regular babel of barking.
"Why are you knocking and what do you want?" Shatov heard at the window
at last Virginsky's gentle voice, betraying none of the resentment
appropriate to the "outrage." The shutter was pushed back a little and
the casement was opened.
"Who's there, what scoundrel is it?" shrilled a female voice which
betrayed all the resentment appropriate to the "outrage." It was the old
maid, Virginsky's relation.
"I am Shatov, my wife has come back to me and she is just confined...."
"Well, let her be, get along."
"I've come for Arina Prohorovna; I won't go without Arina Prohorovna!"
"She can't attend to every one. Practice at night is a special line.
Take yourself off to Maksheyev's and don't dare to make that din,"
rattled the exasperated female voice. He could hear Virginsky checking
her; but the old maid pushed him away and would not desist.
"I am not going away!" Shatov cried again.
"Wait a little, wait a little," Virginsky cried at last, overpowering
the lady. "I beg you to wait five minutes, Shatov. I'll wake Arina
Prohorovna. Please don't knock and don't shout.... Oh, how awful it all
After five endless minutes, Arina Prohorovna made her appearance.
"Has your wife come?" Shatov heard her voice at the window, and to his
surprise it was not at all ill-tempered, only as usual peremptory, but
Arina Prohorovna could not speak except in a peremptory tone.
"Yes, my wife, and she is in labour."
"Yes, Marya Ignatyevna. Of course it's Marya Ignatyevna."
A silence followed. Shatov waited. He heard a whispering in the house.
"Has she been here long?" Madame Virginsky asked again.
"She came this evening at eight o'clock. Please make haste."
Again he heard whispering, as though they were consulting. "Listen, you
are not making a mistake? Did she send you for me herself?"
"No, she didn't send for you, she wants a peasant woman, so as not to
burden me with expense, but don't be afraid, I'll pay you."
"Very good, I'll come, whether you pay or not. I always thought highly
of Marya Ignatyevna for the independence of her sentiments, though
perhaps she won't remember me. Have you got the most necessary things?"
"I've nothing, but I'll get everything, everything."
"There is something generous even in these people," Shatov reflected,
as he set off to Lyamshin's. "The convictions and the man are two very
different things, very likely I've been very unfair to them!... We are
all to blame, we are all to blame... and if only all were convinced of
He had not to knock long at Lyamshin's; the latter, to Shatov's
surprise, opened his casement at once, jumping out of bed, barefoot
and in his night-clothes at the risk of catching cold; and he was
hypochondriacal and always anxious about his health. But there was
a special cause for such alertness and haste: Lyamshin had been in a
tremor all the evening, and had not been able to sleep for excitement
after the meeting of the quintet; he was haunted by the dread
of uninvited and undesired visitors. The news of Shatov's giving
information tormented him more than anything.... And suddenly there
was this terrible loud knocking at the window as though to justify his
He was so frightened at seeing Shatov that he at once slammed the
casement and jumped back into bed. Shatov began furiously knocking and
"How dare you knock like that in the middle of the night?" shouted
Lyamshin, in a threatening voice, though he was numb with fear, when at
least two minutes later he ventured to open the casement again, and was
at last convinced that Shatov had come alone.
"Here's your revolver for you; take it back, give me fifteen roubles."
"What's the matter, are you drunk? This is outrageous, I shall simply
catch cold. Wait a minute, I'll just throw my rug over me."
"Give me fifteen roubles at once. If you don't give it me, I'll knock
and shout till daybreak; I'll break your window-frame."
"And I'll shout police and you'll be taken to the lock-up."
"And am I dumb? Can't I shout 'police' too? Which of us has most reason
to be afraid of the police, you or I?"
"And you can hold such contemptible opinions! I know what you are
hinting at.... Stop, stop, for God's sake don't go on knocking! Upon my
word, who has money at night? What do you want money for, unless you are
"My wife has come back. I've taken ten roubles off the price, I haven't
fired it once; take the revolver, take it this minute!"
Lyamshin mechanically put his hand out of the casement and took the
revolver; he waited a little, and suddenly thrusting his head out of the
casement, and with a shiver running down his spine, faltered as though
he were beside himself.
"You are lying, your wife hasn't come back to you.... It's... it's
simply that you want to run away."
"You are a fool. Where should I run to? It's for your Pyotr Verhovensky
to run away, not for me. I've just been to the midwife, Madame
Virginsky, and she consented at once to come to me. You can ask them. My
wife is in agony; I need the money; give it me!"
A swarm of ideas flared up in Lyamshin's crafty mind like a shower of
fireworks. It all suddenly took a different colour, though still panic
prevented him from reflecting.
"But how... you are not living with your wife?"
"I'll break your skull for questions like that."
"Oh dear, I understand, forgive me, I was struck all of a heap.... But I
understand, I understand... is Arina Prohorovna really coming? You said
just now that she had gone? You know, that's not true. You see, you see,
you see what lies you tell at every step."
"By now, she must be with my wife... don't keep me... it's not my fault
you are a fool."
"That's a lie, I am not a fool. Excuse me, I really can't..."
And utterly distraught he began shutting the casement again for the
third time, but Shatov gave such a yell that he put his head out again.
"But this is simply an unprovoked assault! What do you want of me, what
is it, what is it, formulate it? And think, only think, it's the middle
of the night!"
"I want fifteen roubles, you sheep's-head!"
"But perhaps I don't care to take back the revolver. You have no right
to force me. You bought the thing and the matter is settled, and you've
no right.... I can't give you a sum like that in the night, anyhow.
Where am I to get a sum like that?"
"You always have money. I've taken ten roubles off the price, but every
one knows you are a skinflint."
"Come the day after to-morrow, do you hear, the day after to-morrow at
twelve o'clock, and I'll give you the whole of it, that will do, won't
Shatov knocked furiously at the window-frame for the third time.
"Give me ten roubles, and to-morrow early the other five."
"No, the day after to-morrow the other five, to-morrow I swear I shan't
have it. You'd better not come, you'd better not come."
"Give me ten, you scoundrel!"
"Why are you so abusive. Wait a minute, I must light a candle; you've
broken the window.... Nobody swears like that at night. Here you are!"
He held a note to him out of the window.
Shatov seized it—it was a note for five roubles.
"On my honour I can't do more, if you were to murder me, I couldn't; the
day after to-morrow I can give you it all, but now I can do nothing."
"I am not going away!" roared Shatov.
"Very well, take it, here's some more, see, here's some more, and I
won't give more. You can shout at the top of your voice, but I won't
give more, I won't, whatever happens, I won't, I won't."
He was in a perfect frenzy, desperate and perspiring. The two notes
he had just given him were each for a rouble. Shatov had seven roubles
"Well, damn you, then, I'll come to-morrow. I'll thrash you, Lyamshin,
if you don't give me the other eight."
"You won't find me at home, you fool!" Lyamshin reflected quickly.
"Stay, stay!" he shouted frantically after Shatov, who was already
running off. "Stay, come back. Tell me please, is it true what you said
that your wife has come back?"
"Fool!" cried Shatov, with a gesture of disgust, and ran home as hard as
I may mention that Anna Prohorovna knew nothing of the resolutions
that had been taken at the meeting the day before. On returning home
overwhelmed and exhausted, Virginsky had not ventured to tell her of the
decision that had been taken, yet he could not refrain from telling her
half—that is, all that Verhovensky had told them of the certainty of
Shatov's intention to betray them; but he added at the same time that
he did not quite believe it. Arina Prohorovna was terribly alarmed. This
was why she decided at once to go when Shatov came to fetch her, though
she was tired out, as she had been hard at work at a confinement all the
night before. She had always been convinced that "a wretched creature
like Shatov was capable of any political baseness," but the arrival of
Marya Ignatyevna put things in a different light. Shatov's alarm, the
despairing tone of his entreaties, the way he begged for help, clearly
showed a complete change of feeling in the traitor: a man who was ready
to betray himself merely for the sake of ruining others would, she
thought, have had a different air and tone. In short, Arina Prohorovna
resolved to look into the matter for herself, with her own eyes.
Virginsky was very glad of her decision, he felt as though a
hundredweight had been lifted off him! He even began to feel
hopeful: Shatov's appearance seemed to him utterly incompatible with
Shatov was not mistaken: on getting home he found Arina Prohorovna
already with Marie. She had just arrived, had contemptuously dismissed
Kirillov, whom she found hanging about the foot of the stairs, had
hastily introduced herself to Marie, who had not recognised her as
her former acquaintance, found her in "a very bad way," that is
ill-tempered, irritable and in "a state of cowardly despair," and within
five minutes had completely silenced all her protests.
"Why do you keep on that you don't want an expensive midwife?" she was
saying at the moment when Shatov came in. "That's perfect nonsense,
it's a false idea arising from the abnormality of your condition. In the
hands of some ordinary old woman, some peasant midwife, you'd have fifty
chances of going wrong and then you'd have more bother and expense than
with a regular midwife. How do you know I am an expensive midwife? You
can pay afterwards; I won't charge you much and I answer for my success;
you won't die in my hands, I've seen worse cases than yours. And I can
send the baby to a foundling asylum to-morrow, if you like, and then to
be brought up in the country, and that's all it will mean. And meantime
you'll grow strong again, take up some rational work, and in a very
short time you'll repay Shatov for sheltering you and for the expense,
which will not be so great."
"It's not that... I've no right to be a burden...."
"Rational feelings and worthy of a citizen, but you can take my word for
it, Shatov will spend scarcely anything, if he is willing to become ever
so little a man of sound ideas instead of the fantastic person he is.
He has only not to do anything stupid, not to raise an alarm, not to run
about the town with his tongue out. If we don't restrain him he will be
knocking up all the doctors of the town before the morning; he waked
all the dogs in my street. There's no need of doctors I've said already.
I'll answer for everything. You can hire an old woman if you like
to wait on you, that won't cost much. Though he too can do something
besides the silly things he's been doing. He's got hands and feet, he
can run to the chemist's without offending your feelings by being too
benevolent. As though it were a case of benevolence! Hasn't he brought
you into this position? Didn't he make you break with the family in
which you were a governess, with the egoistic object of marrying you? We
heard of it, you know... though he did run for me like one possessed and
yell so all the street could hear. I won't force myself upon anyone and
have come only for your sake, on the principle that all of us are bound
to hold together! And I told him so before I left the house. If you
think I am in the way, good-bye, I only hope you won't have trouble
which might so easily be averted."
And she positively got up from the chair. Marie was so helpless, in such
pain, and—the truth must be confessed—so frightened of what was before
her that she dared not let her go. But this woman was suddenly hateful
to her, what she said was not what she wanted, there was something quite
different in Marie's soul. Yet the prediction that she might possibly
die in the hands of an inexperienced peasant woman overcame her
aversion. But she made up for it by being more exacting and more
ruthless than ever with Shatov. She ended by forbidding him not only to
look at her but even to stand facing her. Her pains became more violent.
Her curses, her abuse became more and more frantic.
"Ech, we'll send him away," Arina Prohorovna rapped out. "I don't know
what he looks like, he is simply frightening you; he is as white as a
corpse! What is it to you, tell me please, you absurd fellow? What a
Shatov made no reply, he made up his mind to say nothing. "I've seen
many a foolish father, half crazy in such cases. But they, at any
"Be quiet or leave me to die! Don't say another word! I won't have it, I
won't have it!" screamed Marie.
"It's impossible not to say another word, if you are not out of your
mind, as I think you are in your condition. We must talk of what we
want, anyway: tell me, have you anything ready? You answer, Shatov, she
"Tell me what's needed?"
"That means you've nothing ready." She reckoned up all that was quite
necessary, and one must do her the justice to say she only asked for
what was absolutely indispensable, the barest necessaries. Some things
Shatov had. Marie took out her key and held it out to him, for him to
look in her bag. As his hands shook he was longer than he should have
been opening the unfamiliar lock. Marie flew into a rage, but when Arina
Prohorovna rushed up to take the key from him, she would not allow her
on any account to look into her bag and with peevish cries and tears
insisted that no one should open the bag but Shatov.
Some things he had to fetch from Kirillov's. No sooner had Shatov turned
to go for them than she began frantically calling him back and was only
quieted when Shatov had rushed impetuously back from the stairs, and
explained that he should only be gone a minute to fetch something
indispensable and would be back at once.
"Well, my lady, it's hard to please you," laughed Arina Prohorovna, "one
minute he must stand with his face to the wall and not dare to look at
you, and the next he mustn't be gone for a minute, or you begin crying.
He may begin to imagine something. Come, come, don't be silly, don't
blubber, I was laughing, you know."
"He won't dare to imagine anything."
"Tut, tut, tut, if he didn't love you like a sheep he wouldn't run about
the streets with his tongue out and wouldn't have roused all the dogs in
the town. He broke my window-frame."
He found Kirillov still pacing up and down his room so preoccupied that
he had forgotten the arrival of Shatov's wife, and heard what he said
without understanding him.
"Oh, yes!" he recollected suddenly, as though tearing himself with an
effort and only for an instant from some absorbing idea, "yes... an
old woman.... A wife or an old woman? Stay a minute: a wife and an old
woman, is that it? I remember. I've been, the old woman will come, only
not just now. Take the pillow. Is there anything else? Yes.... Stay, do
you have moments of the eternal harmony, Shatov?"
"You know, Kirillov, you mustn't go on staying up every night."
Kirillov came out of his reverie and, strange to say, spoke far more
coherently than he usually did; it was clear that he had formulated it
long ago and perhaps written it down.
"There are seconds—they come five or six at a time—when you suddenly
feel the presence of the eternal harmony perfectly attained. It's
something not earthly—I don't mean in the sense that it's heavenly—but
in that sense that man cannot endure it in his earthly aspect. He must
be physically changed or die. This feeling is clear and unmistakable;
it's as though you apprehend all nature and suddenly say, 'Yes, that's
right.' God, when He created the world, said at the end of each day
of creation, 'Yes, it's right, it's good.' It... it's not being deeply
moved, but simply joy. You don't forgive anything because there is no
more need of forgiveness. It's not that you love—oh, there's something
in it higher than love—what's most awful is that it's terribly clear
and such joy. If it lasted more than five seconds, the soul could
not endure it and must perish. In those five seconds I live through a
lifetime, and I'd give my whole life for them, because they are worth
it. To endure ten seconds one must be physically changed. I think man
ought to give up having children—what's the use of children, what's the
use of evolution when the goal has been attained? In the gospel it is
written that there will be no child-bearing in the resurrection, but
that men will be like the angels of the Lord. That's a hint. Is your
wife bearing a child?"
"Kirillov, does this often happen?"
"Once in three days, or once a week."
"Don't you have fits, perhaps?"
"Well, you will. Be careful, Kirillov. I've heard that's just how fits
begin. An epileptic described exactly that sensation before a fit, word
for word as you've done. He mentioned five seconds, too, and said that
more could not be endured. Remember Mahomet's pitcher from which no drop
of water was spilt while he circled Paradise on his horse. That was a
case of five seconds too; that's too much like your eternal harmony, and
Mahomet was an epileptic. Be careful, Kirillov, it's epilepsy!"
"It won't have time," Kirillov smiled gently.
The night was passing. Shatov was sent hither and thither, abused,
called back. Marie was reduced to the most abject terror for life. She
screamed that she wanted to live, that "she must, she must," and was
afraid to die. "I don't want to, I don't want to!" she repeated. If
Arina Prohorovna had not been there, things would have gone very badly.
By degrees she gained complete control of the patient—who began to obey
every word, every order from her like a child. Arina Prohorovna ruled by
sternness not by kindness, but she was first-rate at her work. It began
to get light... Arina Prohorovna suddenly imagined that Shatov had just
run out on to the stairs to say his prayers and began laughing. Marie
laughed too, spitefully, malignantly, as though such laughter relieved
her. At last they drove Shatov away altogether. A damp, cold morning
dawned. He pressed his face to the wall in the corner just as he had
done the evening before when Erkel came. He was trembling like a leaf,
afraid to think, but his mind caught at every thought as it does in
He was continually being carried away by day-dreams, which snapped off
short like a rotten thread. From the room came no longer groans but
awful animal cries, unendurable, incredible. He tried to stop up his
ears, but could not, and he fell on his knees, repeating unconsciously,
"Marie, Marie!" Then suddenly he heard a cry, a new cry, which made
Shatov start and jump up from his knees, the cry of a baby, a weak
discordant cry. He crossed himself and rushed into the room. Arina
Prohorovna held in her hands a little red wrinkled creature, screaming,
and moving its little arms and legs, fearfully helpless, and looking
as though it could be blown away by a puff of wind, but screaming and
seeming to assert its full right to live. Marie was lying as though
insensible, but a minute later she opened her eyes, and bent a strange,
strange look on Shatov: it was something quite new, that look. What it
meant exactly he was not able to understand yet, but he had never known
such a look on her face before.
"Is it a boy? Is it a boy?" she asked Arina Prohorovna in an exhausted
"It is a boy," the latter shouted in reply, as she bound up the child.
When she had bound him up and was about to lay him across the bed
between the two pillows, she gave him to Shatov for a minute to hold.
Marie signed to him on the sly as though afraid of Arina Prohorovna. He
understood at once and brought the baby to show her.
"How... pretty he is," she whispered weakly with a smile.
"Foo, what does he look like," Arina Prohorovna laughed gaily in
triumph, glancing at Shatov's face. "What a funny face!"
"You may be merry, Arina Prohorovna.... It's a great joy," Shatov
faltered with an expression of idiotic bliss, radiant at the phrase
Marie had uttered about the child.
"Where does the great joy come in?" said Arina Prohorovna
good-humouredly, bustling about, clearing up, and working like a
"The mysterious coming of a new creature, a great and inexplicable
mystery; and what a pity it is, Arina Prohorovna, that you don't
Shatov spoke in an incoherent, stupefied and ecstatic way. Something
seemed to be tottering in his head and welling up from his soul apart
from his own will.
"There were two and now there's a third human being, a new spirit,
finished and complete, unlike the handiwork of man; a new thought and a
new love... it's positively frightening.... And there's nothing grander
in the world."
"Ech, what nonsense he talks! It's simply a further development of
the organism, and there's nothing else in it, no mystery," said Arina
Prohorovna with genuine and good-humoured laughter. "If you talk like
that, every fly is a mystery. But I tell you what: superfluous people
ought not to be born. We must first remould everything so that they
won't be superfluous and then bring them into the world. As it is, we
shall have to take him to the Foundling, the day after to-morrow....
Though that's as it should be."
"I will never let him go to the Foundling," Shatov pronounced
resolutely, staring at the floor.
"You adopt him as your son?"
"He is my son."
"Of course he is a Shatov, legally he is a Shatov, and there's no need
for you to pose as a humanitarian. Men can't get on without fine words.
There, there, it's all right, but look here, my friends," she added,
having finished clearing up at last, "it's time for me to go. I'll come
again this morning, and again in the evening if necessary, but now,
since everything has gone off so well, I must run off to my other
patients, they've been expecting me long ago. I believe you got an old
woman somewhere, Shatov; an old woman is all very well, but don't you,
her tender husband, desert her; sit beside her, you may be of use; Marya
Ignatyevna won't drive you away, I fancy.... There, there, I was only
At the gate, to which Shatov accompanied her, she added to him alone.
"You've given me something to laugh at for the rest of my life; I shan't
charge you anything; I shall laugh at you in my sleep! I have never seen
anything funnier than you last night."
She went off very well satisfied. Shatov's appearance and conversation
made it as clear as daylight that this man "was going in for being a
father and was a ninny." She ran home on purpose to tell Virginsky about
it, though it was shorter and more direct to go to another patient.
"Marie, she told you not to go to sleep for a little time, though, I
see, it's very hard for you," Shatov began timidly. "I'll sit here by
the window and take care of you, shall I?"
And he sat down, by the window behind the sofa so that she could not see
him. But before a minute had passed she called him and fretfully asked
him to arrange the pillow. He began arranging it. She looked angrily at
"That's not right, that's not right.... What hands!"
Shatov did it again.
"Stoop down to me," she said wildly, trying hard not to look at him.
He started but stooped down.
"More... not so... nearer," and suddenly her left arm was impulsively
thrown round his neck and he felt her warm moist kiss on his forehead.
Her lips were quivering, she was struggling with herself, but suddenly
she raised herself and said with flashing eyes:
"Nikolay Stavrogin is a scoundrel!" And she fell back helplessly with
her face in the pillow, sobbing hysterically, and tightly squeezing
Shatov's hand in hers.
From that moment she would not let him leave her; she insisted on his
sitting by her pillow. She could not talk much but she kept gazing at
him and smiling blissfully. She seemed suddenly to have become a silly
girl. Everything seemed transformed. Shatov cried like a boy, then
talked of God knows what, wildly, crazily, with inspiration, kissed
her hands; she listened entranced, perhaps not understanding him, but
caressingly ruffling his hair with her weak hand, smoothing it and
admiring it. He talked about Kirillov, of how they would now begin "a
new life" for good, of the existence of God, of the goodness of all men.
... She took out the child again to gaze at it rapturously.
"Marie," he cried, as he held the child in his arms, "all the old
madness, shame, and deadness is over, isn't it? Let us work hard and
begin a new life, the three of us, yes, yes!... Oh, by the way, what
shall we call him, Marie?"
"What shall we call him?" she repeated with surprise, and there was a
sudden look of terrible grief in her face.
She clasped her hands, looked reproachfully at Shatov and hid her face
in the pillow.
"Marie, what is it?" he cried with painful alarm.
"How could you, how could you... Oh, you ungrateful man!"
"Marie, forgive me, Marie... I only asked you what his name should be. I
"Ivan, Ivan." She raised her flushed and tear-stained face. "How could
you suppose we should call him by another horrible name?"
"Marie, calm yourself; oh, what a nervous state you are in!"
"That's rude again, putting it down to my nerves. I bet that if I'd said
his name was to be that other... horrible name, you'd have agreed
at once and not have noticed it even! Oh, men, the mean ungrateful
creatures, they are all alike!"
A minute later, of course, they were reconciled. Shatov persuaded her to
have a nap. She fell asleep but still kept his hand in hers; she waked
up frequently, looked at him, as though afraid he would go away, and
dropped asleep again.
Kirillov sent an old woman "to congratulate them," as well as some hot
tea, some freshly cooked cutlets, and some broth and white bread for
Marya Ignatyevna. The patient sipped the broth greedily, the old woman
undid the baby's wrappings and swaddled it afresh, Marie made Shatov
have a cutlet too.
Time was passing. Shatov, exhausted, fell asleep himself in his chair,
with his head on Marie's pillow. So they were found by Arina Prohorovna,
who kept her word. She waked them up gaily, asked Marie some necessary
questions, examined the baby, and again forbade Shatov to leave her.
Then, jesting at the "happy couple," with a shade of contempt and
superciliousness she went away as well satisfied as before.
It was quite dark when Shatov waked up. He made haste to light the
candle and ran for the old woman; but he had hardly begun to go down the
stairs when he was struck by the sound of the soft, deliberate steps of
some one coming up towards him. Erkel came in.
"Don't come in," whispered Shatov, and impulsively seizing him by the
hand he drew him back towards the gate. "Wait here, I'll come directly,
I'd completely forgotten you, completely! Oh, how you brought it back!"
He was in such haste that he did not even run in to Kirillov's, but
only called the old woman. Marie was in despair and indignation that "he
could dream of leaving her alone."
"But," he cried ecstatically, "this is the very last step! And then for
a new life and we'll never, never think of the old horrors again!"
He somehow appeased her and promised to be back at nine o'clock; he
kissed her warmly, kissed the baby and ran down quickly to Erkel.
They set off together to Stavrogin's park at Skvoreshniki, where, in a
secluded place at the very edge of the park where it adjoined the pine
wood, he had, eighteen months before, buried the printing press which
had been entrusted to him. It was a wild and deserted place, quite
hidden and at some distance from the Stavrogins' house. It was two or
perhaps three miles from Filipov's house.
"Are we going to walk all the way? I'll take a cab."
"I particularly beg you not to," replied Erkel.
They insisted on that. A cabman would be a witness.
"Well... bother! I don't care, only to make an end of it."
They walked very fast.
"Erkel, you little boy," cried Shatov, "have you ever been happy?"
"You seem to be very happy just now," observed Erkel with curiosity.
CHAPTER VI. A BUSY NIGHT
During that day Virginsky had spent two hours in running round to
see the members of the quintet and to inform them that Shatov would
certainly not give information, because his wife had come back and given
birth to a child, and no one "who knew anything of human nature" could
suppose that Shatov could be a danger at this moment. But to his
discomfiture he found none of them at home except Erkel and Lyamshin.
Erkel listened in silence, looking candidly into his eyes, and in answer
to the direct question "Would he go at six o'clock or not?" he replied
with the brightest of smiles that "of course he would go."
Lyamshin was in bed, seriously ill, as it seemed, with his head covered
with a quilt. He was alarmed at Virginsky's coming in, and as soon as
the latter began speaking he waved him off from under the bedclothes,
entreating him to let him alone. He listened to all he said about
Shatov, however, and seemed for some reason extremely struck by the news
that Virginsky had found no one at home. It seemed that Lyamshin
knew already (through Liputin) of Fedka's death, and hurriedly and
incoherently told Virginsky about it, at which the latter seemed struck
in his turn. To Virginsky's direct question, "Should they go or not?" he
began suddenly waving his hands again, entreating him to let him alone,
and saying that it was not his business, and that he knew nothing about
Virginsky returned home dejected and greatly alarmed. It weighed upon
him that he had to hide it from his family; he was accustomed to tell
his wife everything; and if his feverish brain had not hatched a new
idea at that moment, a new plan of conciliation for further action, he
might have taken to his bed like Lyamshin. But this new idea sustained
him; what's more, he began impatiently awaiting the hour fixed, and set
off for the appointed spot earlier than was necessary. It was a very
gloomy place at the end of the huge park. I went there afterwards on
purpose to look at it. How sinister it must have looked on that chill
autumn evening! It was at the edge of an old wood belonging to the
Crown. Huge ancient pines stood out as vague sombre blurs in the
darkness. It was so dark that they could hardly see each other two paces
off, but Pyotr Stepanovitch, Liputin, and afterwards Erkel, brought
lanterns with them. At some unrecorded date in the past a rather
absurd-looking grotto had for some reason been built here of rough
unhewn stones. The table and benches in the grotto had long ago decayed
and fallen. Two hundred paces to the right was the bank of the third
pond of the park. These three ponds stretched one after another for
a mile from the house to the very end of the park. One could scarcely
imagine that any noise, a scream, or even a shot, could reach the
inhabitants of the Stavrogins' deserted house. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch's
departure the previous day and Alexey Yegorytch's absence left only five
or six people in the house, all more or less invalided, so to speak. In
any case it might be assumed with perfect confidence that if cries or
shouts for help were heard by any of the inhabitants of the isolated
house they would only have excited terror; no one would have moved from
his warm stove or snug shelf to give assistance.
By twenty past six almost all of them except Erkel, who had been told
off to fetch Shatov, had turned up at the trysting-place. This time
Pyotr Stepanovitch was not late; he came with Tolkatchenko. Tolkatchenko
looked frowning and anxious; all his assumed determination and insolent
bravado had vanished. He scarcely left Pyotr Stepanovitch's side, and
seemed to have become all at once immensely devoted to him. He was
continually thrusting himself forward to whisper fussily to him, but the
latter scarcely answered him, or muttered something irritably to get rid
Shigalov and Virginsky had arrived rather before Pyotr Stepanovitch, and
as soon as he came they drew a little apart in profound and obviously
intentional silence. Pyotr Stepanovitch raised his lantern and examined
them with unceremonious and insulting minuteness. "They mean to speak,"
flashed through his mind.
"Isn't Lyamshin here?" he asked Virginsky. "Who said he was ill?"
"I am here," responded Lyamshin, suddenly coming from behind a tree.
He was in a warm greatcoat and thickly muffled in a rug, so that it was
difficult to make out his face even with a lantern.
"So Liputin is the only one not here?"
Liputin too came out of the grotto without speaking. Pyotr Stepanovitch
raised the lantern again.
"Why were you hiding in there? Why didn't you come out?"
"I imagine we still keep the right of freedom... of our actions,"
Liputin muttered, though probably he hardly knew what he wanted to
"Gentlemen," said Pyotr Stepanovitch, raising his voice for the first
time above a whisper, which produced an effect, "I think you fully
understand that it's useless to go over things again. Everything
was said and fully thrashed out yesterday, openly and directly.
But perhaps—as I see from your faces—some one wants to make some
statement; in that case I beg you to make haste. Damn it all! there's
not much time, and Erkel may bring him in a minute...."
"He is sure to bring him," Tolkatchenko put in for some reason.
"If I am not mistaken, the printing press will be handed over, to begin
with?" inquired Liputin, though again he seemed hardly to understand why
he asked the question.
"Of course. Why should we lose it?" said Pyotr Stepanovitch, lifting the
lantern to his face. "But, you see, we all agreed yesterday that it was
not really necessary to take it. He need only show you the exact spot
where it's buried; we can dig it up afterwards for ourselves. I know
that it's somewhere ten paces from a corner of this grotto. But, damn
it all! how could you have forgotten, Liputin? It was agreed that you
should meet him alone and that we should come out afterwards.... It's
strange that you should ask—or didn't you mean what you said?"
Liputin kept gloomily silent. All were silent. The wind shook the tops
of the pine-trees.
"I trust, however, gentlemen, that every one will do his duty," Pyotr
Stepanovitch rapped out impatiently.
"I know that Shatov's wife has come back and has given birth to a
child," Virginsky said suddenly, excited and gesticulating and scarcely
able to speak distinctly. "Knowing what human nature is, we can be sure
that now he won't give information... because he is happy.... So I
went to every one this morning and found no one at home, so perhaps now
nothing need be done...."
He stopped short with a catch in his breath.
"If you suddenly became happy, Mr. Virginsky," said Pyotr Stepanovitch,
stepping up to him, "would you abandon—not giving information; there's
no question of that—but any perilous public action which you had
planned before you were happy and which you regarded as a duty and
obligation in spite of the risk and loss of happiness?"
"No, I wouldn't abandon it! I wouldn't on any account!" said Virginsky
with absurd warmth, twitching all over.
"You would rather be unhappy again than be a scoundrel?"
"Yes, yes.... Quite the contrary.... I'd rather be a complete
scoundrel... that is no... not a scoundrel at all, but on the contrary
completely unhappy rather than a scoundrel."
"Well then, let me tell you that Shatov looks on this betrayal as a
public duty. It's his most cherished conviction, and the proof of it is
that he runs some risk himself; though, of course, they will pardon him
a great deal for giving information. A man like that will never give up
the idea. No sort of happiness would overcome him. In another day he'll
go back on it, reproach himself, and will go straight to the police.
What's more, I don't see any happiness in the fact that his wife
has come back after three years' absence to bear him a child of
"But no one has seen Shatov's letter," Shigalov brought out all at once,
"I've seen it," cried Pyotr Stepanovitch. "It exists, and all this is
awfully stupid, gentlemen."
"And I protest..." Virginsky cried, boiling over suddenly: "I protest
with all my might.... I want... this is what I want. I suggest that when
he arrives we all come out and question him, and if it's true, we induce
him to repent of it; and if he gives us his word of honour, let him
go. In any case we must have a trial; it must be done after trial. We
mustn't lie in wait for him and then fall upon him."
"Risk the cause on his word of honour—that's the acme of stupidity!
Damnation, how stupid it all is now, gentlemen! And a pretty part you
are choosing to play at the moment of danger!"
"I protest, I protest!" Virginsky persisted.
"Don't bawl, anyway; we shan't hear the signal. Shatov, gentlemen....
(Damnation, how stupid this is now!) I've told you already that Shatov
is a Slavophil, that is, one of the stupidest set of people.... But,
damn it all, never mind, that's no matter! You put me out!... Shatov is
an embittered man, gentlemen, and since he has belonged to the party,
anyway, whether he wanted to or no, I had hoped till the last minute
that he might have been of service to the cause and might have been
made use of as an embittered man. I spared him and was keeping him
in reserve, in spite of most exact instructions.... I've spared him a
hundred times more than he deserved! But he's ended by betraying
us.... But, hang it all, I don't care! You'd better try running away
now, any of you! No one of you has the right to give up the job! You can
kiss him if you like, but you haven't the right to stake the cause on
his word of honour! That's acting like swine and spies in government
"Who's a spy in government pay here?" Liputin filtered out.
"You, perhaps. You'd better hold your tongue, Liputin; you talk for the
sake of talking, as you always do. All men are spies, gentlemen, who
funk their duty at the moment of danger. There will always be some fools
who'll run in a panic at the last moment and cry out, 'Aie, forgive
me, and I'll give them all away!' But let me tell you, gentlemen,
no betrayal would win you a pardon now. Even if your sentence were
mitigated it would mean Siberia; and, what's more, there's no escaping
the weapons of the other side—and their weapons are sharper than the
Pyotr Stepanovitch was furious and said more than he meant to. With a
resolute air Shigalov took three steps towards him. "Since yesterday
evening I've thought over the question," he began, speaking with his
usual pedantry and assurance. (I believe that if the earth had given way
under his feet he would not have raised his voice nor have varied one
tone in his methodical exposition.) "Thinking the matter over, I've come
to the conclusion that the projected murder is not merely a waste of
precious time which might be employed in a more suitable and befitting
manner, but presents, moreover, that deplorable deviation from the
normal method which has always been most prejudicial to the cause
and has delayed its triumph for scores of years, under the guidance of
shallow thinkers and pre-eminently of men of political instead of purely
socialistic leanings. I have come here solely to protest against the
projected enterprise, for the general edification, intending then
to withdraw at the actual moment, which you, for some reason I don't
understand, speak of as a moment of danger to you. I am going—not from
fear of that danger nor from a sentimental feeling for Shatov, whom I
have no inclination to kiss, but solely because all this business from
beginning to end is in direct contradiction to my programme. As for my
betraying you and my being in the pay of the government, you can set
your mind completely at rest. I shall not betray you."
He turned and walked away.
"Damn it all, he'll meet them and warn Shatov!" cried Pyotr
Stepanovitch, pulling out his revolver. They heard the click of the
"You may be confident," said Shigalov, turning once more, "that if I
meet Shatov on the way I may bow to him, but I shall not warn him."
"But do you know, you may have to pay for this, Mr. Fourier?"
"I beg you to observe that I am not Fourier. If you mix me up with that
mawkish theoretical twaddler you simply prove that you know nothing of
my manuscript, though it has been in your hands. As for your vengeance,
let me tell you that it's a mistake to cock your pistol: that's
absolutely against your interests at the present moment. But if you
threaten to shoot me to-morrow, or the day after, you'll gain nothing by
it but unnecessary trouble. You may kill me, but sooner or later you'll
come to my system all the same. Good-bye."
At that instant a whistle was heard in the park, two hundred paces away
from the direction of the pond. Liputin at once answered, whistling also
as had been agreed the evening before. (As he had lost several teeth and
distrusted his own powers, he had this morning bought for a farthing
in the market a child's clay whistle for the purpose.) Erkel had warned
Shatov on the way that they would whistle as a signal, so that the
latter felt no uneasiness.
"Don't be uneasy, I'll avoid them and they won't notice me at all,"
Shigalov declared in an impressive whisper; and thereupon deliberately
and without haste he walked home through the dark park.
Everything, to the smallest detail of this terrible affair, is now fully
known. To begin with, Liputin met Erkel and Shatov at the entrance
to the grotto. Shatov did not bow or offer him his hand, but at once
pronounced hurriedly in a loud voice:
"Well, where have you put the spade, and haven't you another lantern?
You needn't be afraid, there's absolutely no one here, and they wouldn't
hear at Skvoreshniki now if we fired a cannon here. This is the place,
here this very spot."
And he stamped with his foot ten paces from the end of the grotto
towards the wood. At that moment Tolkatchenko rushed out from behind
a tree and sprang at him from behind, while Erkel seized him by the
elbows. Liputin attacked him from the front. The three of them at once
knocked him down and pinned him to the ground. At this point Pyotr
Stepanovitch darted up with his revolver. It is said that Shatov had
time to turn his head and was able to see and recognise him. Three
lanterns lighted up the scene. Shatov suddenly uttered a short and
desperate scream. But they did not let him go on screaming. Pyotr
Stepanovitch firmly and accurately put his revolver to Shatov's
forehead, pressed it to it, and pulled the trigger. The shot seems not
to have been loud; nothing was heard at Skvoreshniki, anyway. Shigalov,
who was scarcely three paces away, of course heard it—he heard the
shout and the shot, but, as he testified afterwards, he did not turn nor
even stop. Death was almost instantaneous. Pyotr Stepanovitch was the
only one who preserved all his faculties, but I don't think he was quite
cool. Squatting on his heels, he searched the murdered man's pockets
hastily, though with steady hand. No money was found (his purse had been
left under Marya Ignatyevna's pillow). Two or three scraps of paper
of no importance were found: a note from his office, the title of some
book, and an old bill from a restaurant abroad which had been preserved,
goodness knows why, for two years in his pocket. Pyotr Stepanovitch
transferred these scraps of paper to his own pocket, and suddenly
noticing that they had all gathered round, were gazing at the corpse and
doing nothing, he began rudely and angrily abusing them and urging them
on. Tolkatchenko and Erkel recovered themselves, and running to the
grotto brought instantly from it two stones which they had got ready
there that morning. These stones, which weighed about twenty pounds
each, were securely tied with cord. As they intended to throw the body
in the nearest of the three ponds, they proceeded to tie the stones to
the head and feet respectively. Pyotr Stepanovitch fastened the stones
while Tolkatchenko and Erkel only held and passed them. Erkel was
foremost, and while Pyotr Stepanovitch, grumbling and swearing, tied the
dead man's feet together with the cord and fastened the stone to them—a
rather lengthy operation—Tolkatchenko stood holding the other stone
at arm's-length, his whole person bending forward, as it were,
deferentially, to be in readiness to hand it without delay. It never
once occurred to him to lay his burden on the ground in the interval.
When at last both stones were tied on and Pyotr Stepanovitch got up from
the ground to scrutinise the faces of his companions, something strange
happened, utterly unexpected and surprising to almost every one.
As I have said already, all except perhaps Tolkatchenko and Erkel were
standing still doing nothing. Though Virginsky had rushed up to Shatov
with the others he had not seized him or helped to hold him. Lyamshin
had joined the group after the shot had been fired. Afterwards,
while Pyotr Stepanovitch was busy with the corpse—for perhaps ten
minutes—none of them seemed to have been fully conscious. They grouped
themselves around and seemed to have felt amazement rather than anxiety
or alarm. Liputin stood foremost, close to the corpse. Virginsky stood
behind him, peeping over his shoulder with a peculiar, as it were
unconcerned, curiosity; he even stood on tiptoe to get a better view.
Lyamshin hid behind Virginsky. He took an apprehensive peep from time to
time and slipped behind him again at once. When the stones had been tied
on and Pyotr Stepanovitch had risen to his feet, Virginsky began faintly
shuddering all over, clasped his hands, and cried out bitterly at the
top of his voice:
"It's not the right thing, it's not, it's not at all!" He would perhaps
have added something more to his belated exclamation, but Lyamshin did
not let him finish: he suddenly seized him from behind and squeezed him
with all his might, uttering an unnatural shriek. There are moments of
violent emotion, of terror, for instance, when a man will cry out in a
voice not his own, unlike anything one could have anticipated from him,
and this has sometimes a very terrible effect. Lyamshin gave vent to a
scream more animal than human. Squeezing Virginsky from behind more and
more tightly and convulsively, he went on shrieking without a pause,
his mouth wide open and his eyes starting out of his head, keeping up
a continual patter with his feet, as though he were beating a drum.
Virginsky was so scared that he too screamed out like a madman, and
with a ferocity, a vindictiveness that one could never have expected of
Virginsky. He tried to pull himself away from Lyamshin, scratching and
punching him as far as he could with his arms behind him. Erkel at last
helped to pull Lyamshin away. But when, in his terror, Virginsky had
skipped ten paces away from him, Lyamshin, catching sight of Pyotr
Stepanovitch, began yelling again and flew at him. Stumbling over
the corpse, he fell upon Pyotr Stepanovitch, pressing his head to
the latter's chest and gripping him so tightly in his arms that Pyotr
Stepanovitch, Tolkatchenko, and Liputin could all of them do nothing
at the first moment. Pyotr Stepanovitch shouted, swore, beat him on
the head with his fists. At last, wrenching himself away, he drew his
revolver and put it in the open mouth of Lyamshin, who was still yelling
and was by now tightly held by Tolkatchenko, Erkel, and Liputin. But
Lyamshin went on shrieking in spite of the revolver. At last Erkel,
crushing his silk handkerchief into a ball, deftly thrust it into his
mouth and the shriek ceased. Meantime Tolkatchenko tied his hands with
what was left of the rope.
"It's very strange," said Pyotr Stepanovitch, scrutinising the madman
with uneasy wonder. He was evidently struck. "I expected something very
different from him," he added thoughtfully.
They left Erkel in charge of him for a time. They had to make haste to
get rid of the corpse: there had been so much noise that some one might
have heard. Tolkatchenko and Pyotr Stepanovitch took up the lanterns
and lifted the corpse by the head, while Liputin and Virginsky took the
feet, and so they carried it away. With the two stones it was a heavy
burden, and the distance was more than two hundred paces. Tolkatchenko
was the strongest of them. He advised them to keep in step, but no one
answered him and they all walked anyhow. Pyotr Stepanovitch walked
on the right and, bending forward, carried the dead man's head on
his shoulder while with the left hand he supported the stone. As
Tolkatchenko walked more than half the way without thinking of helping
him with the stone, Pyotr Stepanovitch at last shouted at him with an
oath. It was a single, sudden shout. They all went on carrying the body
in silence, and it was only when they reached the pond that Virginsky,
stooping under his burden and seeming to be exhausted by the weight of
it, cried out again in the same loud and wailing voice:
"It's not the right thing, no, no, it's not the right thing!"
The place to which they carried the dead man at the extreme end of the
rather large pond, which was the farthest of the three from the house,
was one of the most solitary and unfrequented spots in the park,
especially at this late season of the year. At that end the pond was
overgrown with weeds by the banks. They put down the lantern, swung the
corpse and threw it into the pond. They heard a muffled and prolonged
splash. Pyotr Stepanovitch raised the lantern and every one followed his
example, peering curiously to see the body sink, but nothing could
be seen: weighted with the two stones, the body sank at once. The big
ripples spread over the surface of the water and quickly passed away. It
Virginsky went off with Erkel, who before giving up Lyamshin to
Tolkatchenko brought him to Pyotr Stepanovitch, reporting to the
latter that Lyamshin had come to his senses, was penitent and begged
forgiveness, and indeed had no recollection of what had happened to him.
Pyotr Stepanovitch walked off alone, going round by the farther side of
the pond, skirting the park. This was the longest way. To his surprise
Liputin overtook him before he got half-way home.
"Pyotr Stepanovitch! Pyotr Stepanovitch! Lyamshin will give
"No, he will come to his senses and realise that he will be the first to
go to Siberia if he did. No one will betray us now. Even you won't."
"What about you?"
"No fear! I'll get you all out of the way the minute you attempt to turn
traitors, and you know that. But you won't turn traitors. Have you run a
mile and a half to tell me that?"
"Pyotr Stepanovitch, Pyotr Stepanovitch, perhaps we shall never meet
"What's put that into your head?"
"Only tell me one thing."
"Well, what? Though I want you to take yourself off."
"One question, but answer it truly: are we the only quintet in the
world, or is it true that there are hundreds of others? It's a question
of the utmost importance to me, Pyotr Stepanovitch."
"I see that from the frantic state you are in. But do you know, Liputin,
you are more dangerous than Lyamshin?"
"I know, I know; but the answer, your answer!"
"You are a stupid fellow! I should have thought it could make no
difference to you now whether it's the only quintet or one of a
"That means it's the only one! I was sure of it..." cried Liputin.
"I always knew it was the only one, I knew it all along." And without
waiting for any reply he turned and quickly vanished into the darkness.
Pyotr Stepanovitch pondered a little.
"No, no one will turn traitor," he concluded with decision, "but the
group must remain a group and obey, or I'll... What a wretched set they
He first went home, and carefully, without haste, packed his trunk. At
six o'clock in the morning there was a special train from the town.
This early morning express only ran once a week, and was only a recent
experiment. Though Pyotr Stepanovitch had told the members of the
quintet that he was only going to be away for a short time in the
neighbourhood, his intentions, as appeared later, were in reality
very different. Having finished packing, he settled accounts with his
landlady to whom he had previously given notice of his departure, and
drove in a cab to Erkel's lodgings, near the station. And then just upon
one o'clock at night he walked to Kirillov's, approaching as before by
Fedka's secret way.
Pyotr Stepanovitch was in a painful state of mind. Apart from other
extremely grave reasons for dissatisfaction (he was still unable to
learn anything of Stavrogin), he had, it seems—for I cannot assert
it for a fact—received in the course of that day, probably from
Petersburg, secret information of a danger awaiting him in the immediate
future. There are, of course, many legends in the town relating to this
period; but if any facts were known, it was only to those immediately
concerned. I can only surmise as my own conjecture that Pyotr
Stepanovitch may well have had affairs going on in other neighbourhoods
as well as in our town, so that he really may have received such a
warning. I am convinced, indeed, in spite of Liputin's cynical and
despairing doubts, that he really had two or three other quintets;
for instance, in Petersburg and Moscow, and if not quintets at least
colleagues and correspondents, and possibly was in very curious
relations with them. Not more than three days after his departure an
order for his immediate arrest arrived from Petersburg—whether in
connection with what had happened among us, or elsewhere, I don't know.
This order only served to increase the overwhelming, almost panic terror
which suddenly came upon our local authorities and the society of
the town, till then so persistently frivolous in its attitude, on
the discovery of the mysterious and portentous murder of the student
Shatov—the climax of the long series of senseless actions in
our midst—as well as the extremely mysterious circumstances that
accompanied that murder. But the order came too late: Pyotr Stepanovitch
was already in Petersburg, living under another name, and, learning
what was going on, he made haste to make his escape abroad.... But I am
anticipating in a shocking way.
He went in to Kirillov, looking ill-humoured and quarrelsome. Apart from
the real task before him, he felt, as it were, tempted to satisfy some
personal grudge, to avenge himself on Kirillov for something. Kirillov
seemed pleased to see him; he had evidently been expecting him a long
time with painful impatience. His face was paler than usual; there was a
fixed and heavy look in his black eyes.
"I thought you weren't coming," he brought out drearily from his corner
of the sofa, from which he had not, however, moved to greet him.
Pyotr Stepanovitch stood before him and, before uttering a word, looked
intently at his face.
"Everything is in order, then, and we are not drawing back from our
resolution. Bravo!" He smiled an offensively patronising smile. "But,
after all," he added with unpleasant jocosity, "if I am behind my time,
it's not for you to complain: I made you a present of three hours."
"I don't want extra hours as a present from you, and you can't make me a
present... you fool!"
"What?" Pyotr Stepanovitch was startled, but instantly controlled
himself. "What huffiness! So we are in a savage temper?" he rapped
out, still with the same offensive superciliousness. "At such a moment
composure is what you need. The best thing you can do is to consider
yourself a Columbus and me a mouse, and not to take offence at anything
I say. I gave you that advice yesterday."
"I don't want to look upon you as a mouse."
"What's that, a compliment? But the tea is cold—and that shows that
everything is topsy-turvy. Bah! But I see something in the window, on a
plate." He went to the window. "Oh oh, boiled chicken and rice!... But
why haven't you begun upon it yet? So we are in such a state of mind
that even chicken..."
"I've dined, and it's not your business. Hold your tongue!"
"Oh, of course; besides, it's no consequence—though for me at the
moment it is of consequence. Only fancy, I scarcely had any dinner, and
so if, as I suppose, that chicken is not wanted now... eh?"
"Eat it if you can."
"Thank you, and then I'll have tea."
He instantly settled himself at the other end of the sofa and fell upon
the chicken with extraordinary greediness; at the same time he kept a
constant watch on his victim. Kirillov looked at him fixedly with angry
aversion, as though unable to tear himself away.
"I say, though," Pyotr Stepanovitch fired off suddenly, while he still
went on eating, "what about our business? We are not crying off, are we?
How about that document?"
"I've decided in the night that it's nothing to me. I'll write it. About
"Yes, about the manifestoes too. But I'll dictate it. Of course, that's
nothing to you. Can you possibly mind what's in the letter at such a
"That's not your business."
"It's not mine, of course. It need only be a few lines, though: that you
and Shatov distributed the manifestoes and with the help of Fedka, who
hid in your lodgings. This last point about Fedka and your lodgings is
very important—the most important of all, indeed. You see, I am talking
to you quite openly."
"Shatov? Why Shatov? I won't mention Shatov for anything."
"What next! What is it to you? You can't hurt him now."
"His wife has come back to him. She has waked up and has sent to ask me
where he is."
"She has sent to ask you where he is? H'm... that's unfortunate. She may
send again; no one ought to know I am here."
Pyotr Stepanovitch was uneasy.
"She won't know, she's gone to sleep again. There's a midwife with her,
"So that's how it was.... She won't overhear, I suppose? I say, you'd
better shut the front door."
"She won't overhear anything. And if Shatov comes I'll hide you in
"Shatov won't come; and you must write that you quarrelled with him
because he turned traitor and informed the police... this evening...
and caused his death."
"He is dead!" cried Kirillov, jumping up from the sofa.
"He died at seven o'clock this evening, or rather, at seven o'clock
yesterday evening, and now it's one o'clock."
"You have killed him!... And I foresaw it yesterday!"
"No doubt you did! With this revolver here." (He drew out his revolver
as though to show it, but did not put it back again and still held it in
his right hand as though in readiness.) "You are a strange man, though,
Kirillov; you knew yourself that the stupid fellow was bound to end
like this. What was there to foresee in that? I made that as plain as
possible over and over again. Shatov was meaning to betray us; I was
watching him, and it could not be left like that. And you too had
instructions to watch him; you told me so yourself three weeks ago...."
"Hold your tongue! You've done this because he spat in your face in
"For that and for other things too—for many other things; not from
spite, however. Why do you jump up? Why look like that? Oh oh, so that's
it, is it?"
He jumped up and held out his revolver before him. Kirillov had suddenly
snatched up from the window his revolver, which had been loaded and put
ready since the morning. Pyotr Stepanovitch took up his position and
aimed his weapon at Kirillov. The latter laughed angrily.
"Confess, you scoundrel, that you brought your revolver because I might
shoot you.... But I shan't shoot you... though... though..."
And again he turned his revolver upon Pyotr Stepanovitch, as it were
rehearsing, as though unable to deny himself the pleasure of imagining
how he would shoot him. Pyotr Stepanovitch, holding his ground, waited
for him, waited for him till the last minute without pulling the
trigger, at the risk of being the first to get a bullet in his head: it
might well be expected of "the maniac." But at last "the maniac" dropped
his hand, gasping and trembling and unable to speak.
"You've played your little game and that's enough." Pyotr Stepanovitch,
too, dropped his weapon. "I knew it was only a game; only you ran a
risk, let me tell you: I might have fired."
And he sat down on the sofa with a fair show of composure and poured
himself out some tea, though his hand trembled a little. Kirillov laid
his revolver on the table and began walking up and down.
"I won't write that I killed Shatov... and I won't write anything now.
You won't have a document!"
"No, you won't."
"What meanness and what stupidity!" Pyotr Stepanovitch turned green with
resentment. "I foresaw it, though. You've not taken me by surprise, let
me tell you. As you please, however. If I could make you do it by force,
I would. You are a scoundrel, though." Pyotr Stepanovitch was more and
more carried away and unable to restrain himself. "You asked us for
money out there and promised us no end of things.... I won't go away
with nothing, however: I'll see you put the bullet through your brains
"I want you to go away at once." Kirillov stood firmly before him.
"No, that's impossible." Pyotr Stepanovitch took up his revolver again.
"Now in your spite and cowardice you may think fit to put it off and to
turn traitor to-morrow, so as to get money again; they'll pay you for
that, of course. Damn it all, fellows like you are capable of anything!
Only don't trouble yourself; I've provided for all contingencies: I am
not going till I've dashed your brains out with this revolver, as I did
to that scoundrel Shatov, if you are afraid to do it yourself and put
off your intention, damn you!"
"You are set on seeing my blood, too?"
"I am not acting from spite; let me tell you, it's nothing to me. I am
doing it to be at ease about the cause. One can't rely on men; you see
that for yourself. I don't understand what fancy possesses you to put
yourself to death. It wasn't my idea; you thought of it yourself before
I appeared, and talked of your intention to the committee abroad before
you said anything to me. And you know, no one has forced it out of you;
no one of them knew you, but you came to confide in them yourself, from
sentimentalism. And what's to be done if a plan of action here, which
can't be altered now, was founded upon that with your consent and upon
your suggestion?... your suggestion, mind that! You have put yourself
in a position in which you know too much. If you are an ass and go off
to-morrow to inform the police, that would be rather a disadvantage to
us; what do you think about it? Yes, you've bound yourself; you've given
your word, you've taken money. That you can't deny...."
Pyotr Stepanovitch was much excited, but for some time past Kirillov
had not been listening. He paced up and down the room, lost in thought
"I am sorry for Shatov," he said, stopping before Pyotr Stepanovitch
"Why so? I am sorry, if that's all, and do you suppose..."
"Hold your tongue, you scoundrel," roared Kirillov, making an alarming
and unmistakable movement; "I'll kill you."
"There, there, there! I told a lie, I admit it; I am not sorry at all.
Come, that's enough, that's enough." Pyotr Stepanovitch started up
apprehensively, putting out his hand.
Kirillov subsided and began walking up and down again.
"I won't put it off; I want to kill myself now: all are scoundrels."
"Well, that's an idea; of course all are scoundrels; and since life is a
beastly thing for a decent man..."
"Fool, I am just such a scoundrel as you, as all, not a decent man.
There's never been a decent man anywhere."
"He's guessed the truth at last! Can you, Kirillov, with your sense,
have failed to see till now that all men are alike, that there are none
better or worse, only some are stupider, than others, and that if all
are scoundrels (which is nonsense, though) there oughtn't to be any
people that are not?"
"Ah! Why, you are really in earnest?" Kirillov looked at him with some
wonder. "You speak with heat and simply.... Can it be that even fellows
like you have convictions?"
"Kirillov, I've never been able to understand why you mean to kill
yourself. I only know it's from conviction... strong conviction. But
if you feel a yearning to express yourself, so to say, I am at your
service.... Only you must think of the time."
"What time is it?"
"Oh oh, just two." Pyotr Stepanovitch looked at his watch and lighted a
"It seems we can come to terms after all," he reflected.
"I've nothing to say to you," muttered Kirillov.
"I remember that something about God comes into it... you explained it
to me once—twice, in fact. If you stopped yourself, you become God;
that's it, isn't it?"
"Yes, I become God."
Pyotr Stepanovitch did not even smile; he waited. Kirillov looked at him
"You are a political impostor and intriguer. You want to lead me on into
philosophy and enthusiasm and to bring about a reconciliation so as to
disperse my anger, and then, when I am reconciled with you, beg from me
a note to say I killed Shatov."
Pyotr Stepanovitch answered with almost natural frankness.
"Well, supposing I am such a scoundrel. But at the last moments does
that matter to you, Kirillov? What are we quarrelling about? Tell me,
please. You are one sort of man and I am another—what of it? And what's
more, we are both of us..."
"Yes, scoundrels if you like. But you know that that's only words."
"All my life I wanted it not to be only words. I lived because I did not
want it to be. Even now every day I want it to be not words."
"Well, every one seeks to be where he is best off. The fish... that is,
every one seeks his own comfort, that's all. That's been a commonplace
for ages and ages."
"Comfort, do you say?"
"Oh, it's not worth while quarrelling over words."
"No, you were right in what you said; let it be comfort. God is
necessary and so must exist."
"Well, that's all right, then."
"But I know He doesn't and can't."
"That's more likely."
"Surely you must understand that a man with two such ideas can't go on
"Must shoot himself, you mean?"
"Surely you must understand that one might shoot oneself for that
alone? You don't understand that there may be a man, one man out of your
thousands of millions, one man who won't bear it and does not want to."
"All I understand is that you seem to be hesitating.... That's very
"Stavrogin, too, is consumed by an idea," Kirillov said gloomily, pacing
up and down the room. He had not noticed the previous remark.
"What?" Pyotr Stepanovitch pricked up his ears. "What idea? Did he tell
you something himself?"
"No, I guessed it myself: if Stavrogin has faith, he does not believe
that he has faith. If he hasn't faith, he does not believe that he
"Well, Stavrogin has got something else worse than that in his head,"
Pyotr Stepanovitch muttered peevishly, uneasily watching the turn the
conversation had taken and the pallor of Kirillov.
"Damn it all, he won't shoot himself!" he was thinking. "I always
suspected it; it's a maggot in the brain and nothing more; what a rotten
lot of people!"
"You are the last to be with me; I shouldn't like to part on bad terms
with you," Kirillov vouchsafed suddenly.
Pyotr Stepanovitch did not answer at once. "Damn it all, what is it
now?" he thought again.
"I assure you, Kirillov, I have nothing against you personally as a man,
"You are a scoundrel and a false intellect. But I am just the same as
you are, and I will shoot myself while you will remain living."
"You mean to say, I am so abject that I want to go on living."
He could not make up his mind whether it was judicious to keep up such
a conversation at such a moment or not, and resolved "to be guided by
circumstances." But the tone of superiority and of contempt for him,
which Kirillov had never disguised, had always irritated him, and
now for some reason it irritated him more than ever—possibly because
Kirillov, who was to die within an hour or so (Pyotr Stepanovitch still
reckoned upon this), seemed to him, as it were, already only half a man,
some creature whom he could not allow to be haughty.
"You seem to be boasting to me of your shooting yourself."
"I've always been surprised at every one's going on living," said
Kirillov, not hearing his remark.
"H'm! Admitting that's an idea, but..."
"You ape, you assent to get the better of me. Hold your tongue; you
won't understand anything. If there is no God, then I am God."
"There, I could never understand that point of yours: why are you God?"
"If God exists, all is His will and from His will I cannot escape. If
not, it's all my will and I am bound to show self-will."
"Self-will? But why are you bound?"
"Because all will has become mine. Can it be that no one in the whole
planet, after making an end of God and believing in his own will, will
dare to express his self-will on the most vital point? It's like a
beggar inheriting a fortune and being afraid of it and not daring to
approach the bag of gold, thinking himself too weak to own it. I want to
manifest my self-will. I may be the only one, but I'll do it."
"Do it by all means."
"I am bound to shoot myself because the highest point of my self-will is
to kill myself with my own hands."
"But you won't be the only one to kill yourself; there are lots of
"With good cause. But to do it without any cause at all, simply for
self-will, I am the only one."
"He won't shoot himself," flashed across Pyotr Stepanovitch's mind
"Do you know," he observed irritably, "if I were in your place I should
kill some one else to show my self-will, not myself. You might be of
use. I'll tell you whom, if you are not afraid. Then you needn't shoot
yourself to-day, perhaps. We may come to terms."
"To kill some one would be the lowest point of self-will, and you show
your whole soul in that. I am not you: I want the highest point and I'll
"He's come to it of himself," Pyotr Stepanovitch muttered malignantly.
"I am bound to show my unbelief," said Kirillov, walking about the room.
"I have no higher idea than disbelief in God. I have all the history of
mankind on my side. Man has done nothing but invent God so as to go on
living, and not kill himself; that's the whole of universal history up
till now. I am the first one in the whole history of mankind who would
not invent God. Let them know it once for all."
"He won't shoot himself," Pyotr Stepanovitch thought anxiously.
"Let whom know it?" he said, egging him on. "It's only you and me here;
you mean Liputin?"
"Let every one know; all will know. There is nothing secret that will
not be made known. He said so."
And he pointed with feverish enthusiasm to the image of the Saviour,
before which a lamp was burning. Pyotr Stepanovitch lost his temper
"So you still believe in Him, and you've lighted the lamp; 'to be on the
safe side,' I suppose?"
The other did not speak.
"Do you know, to my thinking, you believe perhaps more thoroughly than
"Believe in whom? In Him? Listen." Kirillov stood still, gazing before
him with fixed and ecstatic look. "Listen to a great idea: there was a
day on earth, and in the midst of the earth there stood three crosses.
One on the Cross had such faith that he said to another, 'To-day thou
shalt be with me in Paradise.' The day ended; both died and passed away
and found neither Paradise nor resurrection. His words did not come
true. Listen: that Man was the loftiest of all on earth, He was that
which gave meaning to life. The whole planet, with everything on it, is
mere madness without that Man. There has never been any like Him before
or since, never, up to a miracle. For that is the miracle, that there
never was or never will be another like Him. And if that is so, if
the laws of nature did not spare even Him, have not spared even their
miracle and made even Him live in a lie and die for a lie, then all the
planet is a lie and rests on a lie and on mockery. So then, the very
laws of the planet are a lie and the vaudeville of devils. What is there
to live for? Answer, if you are a man."
"That's a different matter. It seems to me you've mixed up two different
causes, and that's a very unsafe thing to do. But excuse me, if you are
God? If the lie were ended and if you realised that all the falsity
comes from the belief in that former God?"
"So at last you understand!" cried Kirillov rapturously. "So it can be
understood if even a fellow like you understands. Do you understand now
that the salvation for all consists in proving this idea to every one?
Who will prove it? I! I can't understand how an atheist could know that
there is no God and not kill himself on the spot. To recognise that
there is no God and not to recognise at the same instant that one is God
oneself is an absurdity, else one would certainly kill oneself. If you
recognise it you are sovereign, and then you won't kill yourself but
will live in the greatest glory. But one, the first, must kill himself,
for else who will begin and prove it? So I must certainly kill myself,
to begin and prove it. Now I am only a god against my will and I am
unhappy, because I am bound to assert my will. All are unhappy because
all are afraid to express their will. Man has hitherto been so unhappy
and so poor because he has been afraid to assert his will in the
highest point and has shown his self-will only in little things, like a
schoolboy. I am awfully unhappy, for I'm awfully afraid. Terror is the
curse of man.... But I will assert my will, I am bound to believe that
I don't believe. I will begin and will make an end of it and open the
door, and will save. That's the only thing that will save mankind and
will re-create the next generation physically; for with his present
physical nature man can't get on without his former God, I believe. For
three years I've been seeking for the attribute of my godhead and I've
found it; the attribute of my godhead is self-will! That's all I can
do to prove in the highest point my independence and my new terrible
freedom. For it is very terrible. I am killing myself to prove my
independence and my new terrible freedom."
His face was unnaturally pale, and there was a terribly heavy look in
his eyes. He was like a man in delirium. Pyotr Stepanovitch thought he
would drop on to the floor.
"Give me the pen!" Kirillov cried suddenly, quite unexpectedly, in a
positive frenzy. "Dictate; I'll sign anything. I'll sign that I killed
Shatov even. Dictate while it amuses me. I am not afraid of what the
haughty slaves will think! You will see for yourself that all that is
secret shall be made manifest! And you will be crushed.... I believe, I
Pyotr Stepanoviteh jumped up from his seat and instantly handed him an
inkstand and paper, and began dictating, seizing the moment, quivering
"I, Alexey Kirillov, declare..."
"Stay; I won't! To whom am I declaring it?"
Kirillov was shaking as though he were in a fever. This declaration and
the sudden strange idea of it seemed to absorb him entirely, as though
it were a means of escape by which his tortured spirit strove for a
"To whom am I declaring it? I want to know to whom?"
"To no one, every one, the first person who reads it. Why define it? The
"The whole world! Bravo! And I won't have any repentance. I don't want
penitence and I don't want it for the police!"
"No, of course, there's no need of it, damn the police! Write, if you
are in earnest!" Pyotr Stepanovitch cried hysterically.
"Stay! I want to put at the top a face with the tongue out."
"Ech, what nonsense," cried Pyotr Stepanovitch crossly, "you can express
all that without the drawing, by—the tone."
"By the tone? That's true. Yes, by the tone, by the tone of it. Dictate,
"I, Alexey Kirillov," Pyotr Stepanovitch dictated firmly and
peremptorily, bending over Kirillov's shoulder and following every
letter which the latter formed with a hand trembling with excitement,
"I, Kirillov, declare that to-day, the —th October, at about eight
o'clock in the evening, I killed the student Shatov in the park for
turning traitor and giving information of the manifestoes and of Fedka,
who has been lodging with us for ten days in Filipov's house. I am
shooting myself to-day with my revolver, not because I repent and am
afraid of you, but because when I was abroad I made up my mind to put an
end to my life."
"Is that all?" cried Kirillov with surprise and indignation.
another word," cried Pyotr Stepanovitch, waving his hand, attempting to
snatch the document from him.
"Stay." Kirillov put his hand firmly on the paper. "Stay, it's nonsense!
I want to say with whom I killed him. Why Fedka? And what about the
fire? I want it all and I want to be abusive in tone, too, in tone!"
"Enough, Kirillov, I assure you it's enough," cried Pyotr Stepanovitch
almost imploringly, trembling lest he should tear up the paper; "that
they may believe you, you must say it as obscurely as possible, just
like that, simply in hints. You must only give them a peep of the truth,
just enough to tantalise them. They'll tell a story better than ours,
and of course they'll believe themselves more than they would us; and
you know, it's better than anything—better than anything! Let me have
it, it's splendid as it is; give it to me, give it to me!"
And he kept trying to snatch the paper. Kirillov listened open-eyed and
appeared to be trying to reflect, but he seemed beyond understanding
"Damn it all," Pyotr Stepanovitch cried all at once, ill-humouredly, "he
hasn't signed it! Why are you staring like that? Sign!"
"I want to abuse them," muttered Kirillov. He took the pen, however, and
signed. "I want to abuse them."
"Write 'Vive la république,' and that will be enough."
"Bravo!" Kirillov almost bellowed with delight. "'Vive la république
démocratique sociale et universelle ou la mort!' No, no, that's not it.
'Liberté, égalité, fraternité ou la mort.' There, that's better, that's
better." He wrote it gleefully under his signature.
"Enough, enough," repeated Pyotr Stepanovitch.
"Stay, a little more. I'll sign it again in French, you know. 'De
Kirillov, gentilhomme russe et citoyen du monde.' Ha ha!" He went off
in a peal of laughter. "No, no, no; stay. I've found something better
than all. Eureka! 'Gentilhomme, séminariste russe et citoyen du monde
civilisé!' That's better than any...." He jumped up from the sofa
and suddenly, with a rapid gesture, snatched up the revolver from the
window, ran with it into the next room, and closed the door behind him.
Pyotr Stepanovitch stood for a moment, pondering and gazing at the door.
"If he does it at once, perhaps he'll do it, but if he begins thinking,
nothing will come of it."
Meanwhile he took up the paper, sat down, and looked at it again. The
wording of the document pleased him again.
"What's needed for the moment? What's wanted is to throw them all off
the scent and keep them busy for a time. The park? There's no park in
the town and they'll guess its Skvoreshniki of themselves. But while
they are arriving at that, time will be passing; then the search will
take time too; then when they find the body it will prove that the story
is true, and it will follow that's it all true, that it's true about
Fedka too. And Fedka explains the fire, the Lebyadkins; so that it was
all being hatched here, at Filipov's, while they overlooked it and saw
nothing—that will quite turn their heads! They will never think of
the quintet; Shatov and Kirillov and Fedka and Lebyadkin, and why they
killed each other—that will be another question for them. Oh, damn it
all, I don't hear the shot!"
Though he had been reading and admiring the wording of it, he had been
listening anxiously all the time, and he suddenly flew into a rage. He
looked anxiously at his watch; it was getting late and it was fully ten
minutes since Kirillov had gone out.... Snatching up the candle, he went
to the door of the room where Kirillov had shut himself up. He was just
at the door when the thought struck him that the candle had burnt out,
that it would not last another twenty minutes, and that there was no
other in the room. He took hold of the handle and listened warily; he
did not hear the slightest sound. He suddenly opened the door and lifted
up the candle: something uttered a roar and rushed at him. He slammed
the door with all his might and pressed his weight against it; but all
sounds died away and again there was deathlike stillness.
He stood for a long while irresolute, with the candle in his hand. He
had been able to see very little in the second he held the door open,
but he had caught a glimpse of the face of Kirillov standing at the
other end of the room by the window, and the savage fury with which the
latter had rushed upon him. Pyotr Stepanovitch started, rapidly set the
candle on the table, made ready his revolver, and retreated on tiptoe to
the farthest corner of the room, so that if Kirillov opened the door and
rushed up to the table with the revolver he would still have time to be
the first to aim and fire.
Pyotr Stepanovitch had by now lost all faith in the suicide. "He was
standing in the middle of the room, thinking," flashed like a whirlwind
through Pyotr Stepanovitch's mind, "and the room was dark and horrible
too.... He roared and rushed at me. There are two possibilities: either
I interrupted him at the very second when he was pulling the trigger
or... or he was standing planning how to kill me. Yes, that's it, he was
planning it.... He knows I won't go away without killing him if he funks
it himself—so that he would have to kill me first to prevent my killing
him.... And again, again there is silence. I am really frightened: he
may open the door all of a sudden.... The nuisance of it is that he
believes in God like any priest.... He won't shoot himself for
anything! There are lots of these people nowadays 'who've come to it of
themselves.' A rotten lot! Oh, damn it, the candle, the candle! It'll go
out within a quarter of an hour for certain.... I must put a stop to it;
come what may, I must put a stop to it.... Now I can kill him.... With
that document here no one would think of my killing him. I can put him
in such an attitude on the floor with an unloaded revolver in his hand
that they'd be certain he'd done it himself.... Ach, damn it! how is one
to kill him? If I open the door he'll rush out again and shoot me first.
Damn it all, he'll be sure to miss!"
He was in agonies, trembling at the necessity of action and his own
indecision. At last he took up the candle and again approached the door
with the revolver held up in readiness; he put his left hand, in which
he held the candle, on the doorhandle. But he managed awkwardly:
the handle clanked, there was a rattle and a creak. "He will fire
straightway," flashed through Pyotr Stepanovitch's mind. With his foot
he flung the door open violently, raised the candle, and held out the
revolver; but no shot nor cry came from within.... There was no one in
He started. The room led nowhere. There was no exit, no means of
escape from it. He lifted the candle higher and looked about him more
attentively: there was certainly no one. He called Kirillov's name in a
low voice, then again louder; no one answered.
"Can he have got out by the window?" The casement in one window was, in
fact, open. "Absurd! He couldn't have got away through the casement."
Pyotr Stepanovitch crossed the room and went up to the window. "He
couldn't possibly." All at once he turned round quickly and was aghast
at something extraordinary.
Against the wall facing the windows on the right of the door stood a
cupboard. On the right side of this cupboard, in the corner formed by
the cupboard and the wall, stood Kirillov, and he was standing in a very
strange way; motionless, perfectly erect, with his arms held stiffly at
his sides, his head raised and pressed tightly back against the wall in
the very corner, he seemed to be trying to conceal and efface himself.
Everything seemed to show that he was hiding, yet somehow it was not
easy to believe it. Pyotr Stepanovitch was standing a little sideways
to the corner, and could only see the projecting parts of the figure.
He could not bring himself to move to the left to get a full view of
Kirillov and solve the mystery. His heart began beating violently, and
he felt a sudden rush of blind fury: he started from where he stood,
and, shouting and stamping with his feet, he rushed to the horrible
But when he reached Kirillov he stopped short again, still more
overcome, horror-stricken. What struck him most was that, in spite of
his shout and his furious rush, the figure did not stir, did not move
in a single limb—as though it were of stone or of wax. The pallor of
the face was unnatural, the black eyes were quite unmoving and were
staring away at a point in the distance. Pyotr Stepanovitch lowered the
candle and raised it again, lighting up the figure from all points of
view and scrutinising it. He suddenly noticed that, although Kirillov
was looking straight before him, he could see him and was perhaps
watching him out of the corner of his eye. Then the idea occurred to him
to hold the candle right up to the wretch's face, to scorch him and see
what he would do. He suddenly fancied that Kirillov's chin twitched and
that something like a mocking smile passed over his lips—as though
he had guessed Pyotr Stepanovitch's thought. He shuddered and, beside
himself, clutched violently at Kirillov's shoulder.
Then something happened so hideous and so soon over that Pyotr
Stepanovitch could never afterwards recover a coherent impression of
it. He had hardly touched Kirillov when the latter bent down quickly and
with his head knocked the candle out of Pyotr Stepanovitch's hand; the
candlestick fell with a clang on the ground and the candle went out. At
the same moment he was conscious of a fearful pain in the little finger
of his left hand. He cried out, and all that he could remember was that,
beside himself, he hit out with all his might and struck three blows
with the revolver on the head of Kirillov, who had bent down to him
and had bitten his finger. At last he tore away his finger and rushed
headlong to get out of the house, feeling his way in the dark. He was
pursued by terrible shouts from the room.
"Directly, directly, directly, directly." Ten times. But he still ran
on, and was running into the porch when he suddenly heard a loud shot.
Then he stopped short in the dark porch and stood deliberating for five
minutes; at last he made his way back into the house. But he had to
get the candle. He had only to feel on the floor on the right of the
cupboard for the candlestick; but how was he to light the candle? There
suddenly came into his mind a vague recollection: he recalled that
when he had run into the kitchen the day before to attack Fedka he had
noticed in passing a large red box of matches in a corner on a shelf.
Feeling with his hands, he made his way to the door on the left leading
to the kitchen, found it, crossed the passage, and went down the steps.
On the shelf, on the very spot where he had just recalled seeing it, he
felt in the dark a full unopened box of matches. He hurriedly went up
the steps again without striking a light, and it was only when he was
near the cupboard, at the spot where he had struck Kirillov with the
revolver and been bitten by him, that he remembered his bitten finger,
and at the same instant was conscious that it was unbearably painful.
Clenching his teeth, he managed somehow to light the candle-end, set it
in the candlestick again, and looked about him: near the open casement,
with his feet towards the right-hand corner, lay the dead body of
Kirillov. The shot had been fired at the right temple and the bullet
had come out at the top on the left, shattering the skull. There were
splashes of blood and brains. The revolver was still in the suicide's
hand on the floor. Death must have been instantaneous. After a careful
look round, Pyotr Stepanovitch got up and went out on tiptoe, closed the
door, left the candle on the table in the outer room, thought a moment,
and resolved not to put it out, reflecting that it could not possibly
set fire to anything. Looking once more at the document left on the
table, he smiled mechanically and then went out of the house, still for
some reason walking on tiptoe. He crept through Fedka's hole again and
carefully replaced the posts after him.
Precisely at ten minutes to six Pyotr Stepanovitch and Erkel were
walking up and down the platform at the railway-station beside a rather
long train. Pyotr Stepanovitch was setting off and Erkel was saying
good-bye to him. The luggage was in, and his bag was in the seat he had
taken in a second-class carriage. The first bell had rung already; they
were waiting for the second. Pyotr Stepanovitch looked about him, openly
watching the passengers as they got into the train. But he did not meet
anyone he knew well; only twice he nodded to acquaintances—a merchant
whom he knew slightly, and then a young village priest who was going
to his parish two stations away. Erkel evidently wanted to speak of
something of importance in the last moments, though possibly he did not
himself know exactly of what, but he could not bring himself to begin!
He kept fancying that Pyotr Stepanovitch seemed anxious to get rid of
him and was impatient for the last bell.
"You look at every one so openly," he observed with some timidity, as
though he would have warned him.
"Why not? It would not do for me to conceal myself at present. It's too
soon. Don't be uneasy. All I am afraid of is that the devil might send
Liputin this way; he might scent me out and race off here."
"Pyotr Stepanovitch, they are not to be trusted," Erkel brought out
"None of them, Pyotr Stepanovitch."
"Nonsense! they are all bound by what happened yesterday. There isn't
one who would turn traitor. People won't go to certain destruction
unless they've lost their reason."
"Pyotr Stepanovitch, but they will lose their reason." Evidently that
idea had already occurred to Pyotr Stepanovitch too, and so Erkel's
observation irritated him the more.
"You are not in a funk too, are you, Erkel? I rely on you more than on
any of them. I've seen now what each of them is worth. Tell them to-day
all I've told you. I leave them in your charge. Go round to each of them
this morning. Read them my written instructions to-morrow, or the day
after, when you are all together and they are capable of listening
again... and believe me, they will be by to-morrow, for they'll be in an
awful funk, and that will make them as soft as wax.... The great thing
is that you shouldn't be downhearted."
"Ach, Pyotr Stepanovitch, it would be better if you weren't going away."
"But I am only going for a few days; I shall be back in no time."
"Pyotr Stepanovitch," Erkel brought out warily but resolutely, "what if
you were going to Petersburg? Of course, I understand that you are only
doing what's necessary for the cause."
"I expected as much from you, Erkel. If you have guessed that I am going
to Petersburg you can realise that I couldn't tell them yesterday, at
that moment, that I was going so far for fear of frightening them. You
saw for yourself what a state they were in. But you understand that I
am going for the cause, for work of the first importance, for the common
cause, and not to save my skin, as Liputin imagines."
"Pyotr Stepanovitch, what if you were going abroad? I should
understand... I should understand that you must be careful of yourself
because you are everything and we are nothing. I shall understand, Pyotr
Stepanovitch." The poor boy's voice actually quivered.
"Thank you, Erkel.... Aie, you've touched my bad finger." (Erkel had
pressed his hand awkwardly; the bad finger was discreetly bound up
in black silk.) "But I tell you positively again that I am going to
Petersburg only to sniff round, and perhaps shall only be there for
twenty-four hours and then back here again at once. When I come back I
shall stay at Gaganov's country place for the sake of appearances. If
there is any notion of danger, I should be the first to take the lead
and share it. If I stay longer in Petersburg I'll let you know at once
... in the way we've arranged, and you'll tell them." The second bell
"Ah, then there's only five minutes before the train starts. I don't
want the group here to break up, you know. I am not afraid; don't be
anxious about me. I have plenty of such centres, and it's not much
consequence; but there's no harm in having as many centres as possible.
But I am quite at ease about you, though I am leaving you almost alone
with those idiots. Don't be uneasy; they won't turn traitor, they won't
have the pluck.... Ha ha, you going to-day too?" he cried suddenly in a
quite different, cheerful voice to a very young man, who came up gaily
to greet him. "I didn't know you were going by the express too. Where
are you off to... your mother's?"
The mother of the young man was a very wealthy landowner in a
neighbouring province, and the young man was a distant relation of Yulia
Mihailovna's and had been staying about a fortnight in our town.
"No, I am going farther, to R——. I've eight hours to live through in
the train. Off to Petersburg?" laughed the young man.
"What makes you suppose I must be going to Petersburg?" said Pyotr
Stepanovitch, laughing even more openly.
The young man shook his gloved finger at him.
"Well, you've guessed right," Pyotr Stepanovitch whispered to him
mysteriously. "I am going with letters from Yulia Mihailovna and have to
call on three or four personages, as you can imagine—bother them all,
to speak candidly. It's a beastly job!"
"But why is she in such a panic? Tell me," the young man whispered too.
"She wouldn't see even me yesterday. I don't think she has anything to
fear for her husband, quite the contrary; he fell down so creditably at
the fire—ready to sacrifice his life, so to speak."
"Well, there it is," laughed Pyotr Stepanovitch. "You see, she is
afraid that people may have written from here already... that is, some
gentlemen.... The fact is, Stavrogin is at the bottom of it, or rather
Prince K.... Ech, it's a long story; I'll tell you something about it on
the journey if you like—as far as my chivalrous feelings will allow
me, at least.... This is my relation, Lieutenant Erkel, who lives down
The young man, who had been stealthily glancing at Erkel, touched his
hat; Erkel made a bow.
"But I say, Verhovensky, eight hours in the train is an awful ordeal.
Berestov, the colonel, an awfully funny fellow, is travelling with me in
the first class. He is a neighbour of ours in the country, and his wife
is a Garin (née de Garine), and you know he is a very decent fellow.
He's got ideas too. He's only been here a couple of days. He's
passionately fond of whist; couldn't we get up a game, eh? I've already
fixed on a fourth—Pripuhlov, our merchant from T——with a beard, a
millionaire—I mean it, a real millionaire; you can take my word for
it.... I'll introduce you; he is a very interesting money-bag. We shall
have a laugh."
"I shall be delighted, and I am awfully fond of cards in the train, but
I am going second class."
"Nonsense, that's no matter. Get in with us. I'll tell them directly to
move you to the first class. The chief guard would do anything I tell
him. What have you got?... a bag? a rug?"
"First-rate. Come along!"
Pyotr Stepanovitch took his bag, his rug, and his book, and at once and
with alacrity transferred himself to the first class. Erkel helped him.
The third bell rang.
"Well, Erkel." Hurriedly, and with a preoccupied air, Pyotr Stepanovitch
held out his hand from the window for the last time. "You see, I am
sitting down to cards with them."
"Why explain, Pyotr Stepanovitch? I understand, I understand it all!"
"Well, au revoir," Pyotr Stepanovitch turned away suddenly on his
name being called by the young man, who wanted to introduce him to his
partners. And Erkel saw nothing more of Pyotr Stepanovitch.
He returned home very sad. Not that he was alarmed at Pyotr
Stepanovitch's leaving them so suddenly, but... he had turned away from
him so quickly when that young swell had called to him and... he might
have said something different to him, not "Au revoir," or... or at
least have pressed his hand more warmly. That last was bitterest of all.
Something else was beginning to gnaw in his poor little heart, something
which he could not understand himself yet, something connected with the
CHAPTER VII. STEPAN TROFIMOVITCH'S LAST WANDERING
I am persuaded that Stepan Trofimovitch was terribly frightened as
he felt the time fixed for his insane enterprise drawing near. I am
convinced that he suffered dreadfully from terror, especially on the
night before he started—that awful night. Nastasya mentioned afterwards
that he had gone to bed late and fallen asleep. But that proves nothing;
men sentenced to death sleep very soundly, they say, even the night
before their execution. Though he set off by daylight, when a nervous
man is always a little more confident (and the major, Virginsky's
relative, used to give up believing in God every morning when the night
was over), yet I am convinced he could never, without horror, have
imagined himself alone on the high road in such a position. No doubt
a certain desperation in his feelings softened at first the terrible
sensation of sudden solitude in which he at once found himself as soon
as he had left Nastasya, and the corner in which he had been warm and
snug for twenty years. But it made no difference; even with the clearest
recognition of all the horrors awaiting him he would have gone out to
the high road and walked along it! There was something proud in the
undertaking which allured him in spite of everything. Oh, he might have
accepted Varvara Petrovna's luxurious provision and have remained living
on her charity, "comme un humble dependent." But he had not accepted her
charity and was not remaining! And here he was leaving her of himself,
and holding aloft the "standard of a great idea, and going to die for it
on the open road." That is how he must have been feeling; that's how his
action must have appeared to him.
Another question presented itself to me more than once. Why did he run
away, that is, literally run away on foot, rather than simply drive
away? I put it down at first to the impracticability of fifty years and
the fantastic bent of his mind under the influence of strong emotion.
I imagined that the thought of posting tickets and horses (even if
they had bells) would have seemed too simple and prosaic to him; a
pilgrimage, on the other hand, even under an umbrella, was ever so much
more picturesque and in character with love and resentment. But now that
everything is over, I am inclined to think that it all came about in a
much simpler way. To begin with, he was afraid to hire horses because
Varvara Petrovna might have heard of it and prevented him from going by
force; which she certainly would have done, and he certainly would have
given in, and then farewell to the great idea for ever. Besides, to take
tickets for anywhere he must have known at least where he was going. But
to think about that was the greatest agony to him at that moment; he
was utterly unable to fix upon a place. For if he had to fix on any
particular town his enterprise would at once have seemed in his own eyes
absurd and impossible; he felt that very strongly. What should he do in
that particular town rather than in any other? Look out for ce marchand?
But what marchand? At that point his second and most terrible question
cropped up. In reality there was nothing he dreaded more than ce
marchand, whom he had rushed off to seek so recklessly, though, of
course, he was terribly afraid of finding him. No, better simply the
high road, better simply to set off for it, and walk along it and to
think of nothing so long as he could put off thinking. The high road is
something very very long, of which one cannot see the end—like human
life, like human dreams. There is an idea in the open road, but what
sort of idea is there in travelling with posting tickets? Posting
tickets mean an end to ideas. Vive la grande route and then as God
After the sudden and unexpected interview with Liza which I have
described, he rushed on, more lost in forgetfulness than ever. The high
road passed half a mile from Skvoreshniki and, strange to say, he was
not at first aware that he was on it. Logical reasoning or even distinct
consciousness was unbearable to him at this moment. A fine rain kept
drizzling, ceasing, and drizzling again; but he did not even notice
the rain. He did not even notice either how he threw his bag over his
shoulder, nor how much more comfortably he walked with it so. He must
have walked like that for nearly a mile or so when he suddenly stood
still and looked round. The old road, black, marked with wheel-ruts
and planted with willows on each side, ran before him like an endless
thread; on the right hand were bare plains from which the harvest had
long ago been carried; on the left there were bushes and in the distance
beyond them a copse.
And far, far away a scarcely perceptible line of the railway, running
aslant, and on it the smoke of a train, but no sound was heard. Stepan
Trofimovitch felt a little timid, but only for a moment. He heaved a
vague sigh, put down his bag beside a willow, and sat down to rest.
As he moved to sit down he was conscious of being chilly and wrapped
himself in his rug; noticing at the same time that it was raining, he
put up his umbrella. He sat like that for some time, moving his lips
from time to time and firmly grasping the umbrella handle. Images of all
sorts passed in feverish procession before him, rapidly succeeding one
another in his mind.
"Lise, Lise," he thought, "and with her ce Maurice.... Strange
people.... But what was the strange fire, and what were they talking
about, and who were murdered? I fancy Nastasya has not found out yet and
is still waiting for me with my coffee... cards? Did I really lose men
at cards? H'm! Among us in Russia in the times of serfdom, so called....
My God, yes—Fedka!"
He started all over with terror and looked about him. "What if that
Fedka is in hiding somewhere behind the bushes? They say he has a
regular band of robbers here on the high road. Oh, mercy, I... I'll
tell him the whole truth then, that I was to blame... and that I've
been miserable about him for ten years. More miserable than he was as
a soldier, and... I'll give him my purse. H'm! J'ai en tout quarante
roubles; il prendra les roubles et il me tuera tout de même."
In his panic he for some reason shut up the umbrella and laid it down
beside him. A cart came into sight on the high road in the distance
coming from the town.
"Grace à Dieu, that's a cart and it's coming at a walking pace; that
can't be dangerous. The wretched little horses here... I always said
that breed... It was Pyotr Ilyitch though, he talked at the club
about horse-breeding and I trumped him, et puis... but what's that
behind?... I believe there's a woman in the cart. A peasant and a woman,
cela commence à être rassurant. The woman behind and the man in front—
c'est très rassurant. There's a cow behind the cart tied by the horns,
c'est rassurant au plus haut degré."
The cart reached him; it was a fairly solid peasant cart. The woman was
sitting on a tightly stuffed sack and the man on the front of the cart
with his legs hanging over towards Stepan Trofimovitch. A red cow was,
in fact, shambling behind, tied by the horns to the cart. The man
and the woman gazed open-eyed at Stepan Trofimovitch, and Stepan
Trofimovitch gazed back at them with equal wonder, but after he had let
them pass twenty paces, he got up hurriedly all of a sudden and walked
after them. In the proximity of the cart it was natural that he
should feel safer, but when he had overtaken it he became oblivious
of everything again and sank back into his disconnected thoughts and
fancies. He stepped along with no suspicion, of course, that for the
two peasants he was at that instant the most mysterious and interesting
object that one could meet on the high road.
"What sort may you be, pray, if it's not uncivil to ask?" the woman
could not resist asking at last when Stepan Trofimovitch glanced
absent-mindedly at her. She was a woman of about seven and twenty,
sturdily built, with black eyebrows, rosy cheeks, and a friendly smile
on her red lips, between which gleamed white even teeth.
"You... you are addressing me?" muttered Stepan Trofimovitch with
"A merchant, for sure," the peasant observed confidently. He was a
well-grown man of forty with a broad and intelligent face, framed in a
"No, I am not exactly a merchant, I... I... moi c'est autre chose."
Stepan Trofimovitch parried the question somehow, and to be on the safe
side he dropped back a little from the cart, so that he was walking on a
level with the cow.
"Must be a gentleman," the man decided, hearing words not Russian, and
he gave a tug at the horse.
"That's what set us wondering. You are out for a walk seemingly?" the
woman asked inquisitively again.
"You... you ask me?"
"Foreigners come from other parts sometimes by the train; your boots
don't seem to be from hereabouts...."
"They are army boots," the man put in complacently and significantly.
"No, I am not precisely in the army, I..."
"What an inquisitive woman!" Stepan Trofimovitch mused with vexation.
"And how they stare at me... mais enfin. In fact, it's strange that I
feel, as it were, conscience-stricken before them, and yet I've done
them no harm."
The woman was whispering to the man.
"If it's no offence, we'd give you a lift if so be it's agreeable."
Stepan Trofimovitch suddenly roused himself.
"Yes, yes, my friends, I accept it with pleasure, for I'm very tired;
but how am I to get in?"
"How wonderful it is," he thought to himself, "that I've been walking
so long beside that cow and it never entered my head to ask them for a
lift. This 'real life' has something very original about it."
But the peasant had not, however, pulled up the horse.
"But where are you bound for?" he asked with some mistrustfulness.
Stepan Trofimovitch did not understand him at once.
"To Hatovo, I suppose?"
"Hatov? No, not to Hatov's exactly... And I don't know him though I've
heard of him."
"The village of Hatovo, the village, seven miles from here."
"A village? C'est charmant, to be sure I've heard of it...."
Stepan Trofimovitch was still walking, they had not yet taken him into
the cart. A guess that was a stroke of genius flashed through his mind.
"You think perhaps that I am... I've got a passport and I am a
professor, that is, if you like, a teacher... but a head teacher. I am a
head teacher. Oui, c'est comme ça qu'on peut traduire. I should be very
glad of a lift and I'll buy you... I'll buy you a quart of vodka for
"It'll be half a rouble, sir; it's a bad road."
"Or it wouldn't be fair to ourselves," put in the woman.
"Half a rouble? Very good then, half a rouble. C'est encore mieux; j'ai
en tout quarante roubles mais..."
The peasant stopped the horse and by their united efforts Stepan
Trofimovitch was dragged into the cart, and seated on the sack by the
woman. He was still pursued by the same whirl of ideas. Sometimes he was
aware himself that he was terribly absent-minded, and that he was not
thinking of what he ought to be thinking of and wondered at it. This
consciousness of abnormal weakness of mind became at moments very
painful and even humiliating to him.
"How... how is this you've got a cow behind?" he suddenly asked the
"What do you mean, sir, as though you'd never seen one," laughed the
"We bought it in the town," the peasant put in. "Our cattle died last
spring... the plague. All the beasts have died round us, all of them.
There aren't half of them left, it's heartbreaking."
And again he lashed the horse, which had got stuck in a rut.
"Yes, that does happen among you in Russia... in general we Russians. ..
Well, yes, it happens," Stepan Trofimovitch broke off.
"If you are a teacher, what are you going to Hatovo for? Maybe you are
going on farther."
"I... I'm not going farther precisely.... C'est-à-dire, I'm going to a
"To Spasov, I suppose?"
"Yes, yes, to Spasov. But that's no matter."
"If you are going to Spasov and on foot, it will take you a week in your
boots," laughed the woman.
"I dare say, I dare say, no matter, mes amis, no matter." Stepan
Trofimovitch cut her short impatiently.
"Awfully inquisitive people; but the woman speaks better than he does,
and I notice that since February 19,* their language has altered a
little, and... and what business is it of mine whether I'm going to
Spasov or not? Besides, I'll pay them, so why do they pester me."
*February 19, 1861, the day of the Emancipation of the Serfs, is
"If you are going to Spasov, you must take the steamer," the peasant
"That's true indeed," the woman put in with animation, "for if you
drive along the bank it's twenty-five miles out of the way."
"You'll just catch the steamer at Ustyevo at two o'clock tomorrow," the
woman decided finally. But Stepan Trofimovitch was obstinately silent.
His questioners, too, sank into silence. The peasant tugged at his horse
at rare intervals; the peasant woman exchanged brief remarks with him.
Stepan Trofimovitch fell into a doze. He was tremendously surprised when
the woman, laughing, gave him a poke and he found himself in a rather
large village at the door of a cottage with three windows.
"You've had a nap, sir?"
"What is it? Where am I? Ah, yes! Well... never mind," sighed Stepan
Trofimovitch, and he got out of the cart.
He looked about him mournfully; the village scene seemed strange to him
and somehow terribly remote.
"And the half-rouble, I was forgetting it!" he said to the peasant,
turning to him with an excessively hurried gesture; he was evidently by
now afraid to part from them.
"We'll settle indoors, walk in," the peasant invited him.
"It's comfortable inside," the woman said reassuringly.
Stepan Trofimovitch mounted the shaky steps. "How can it be?" he
murmured in profound and apprehensive perplexity. He went into the
cottage, however. "Elle l'a voulu" he felt a stab at his heart and again
he became oblivious of everything, even of the fact that he had gone
into the cottage.
It was a light and fairly clean peasant's cottage, with three windows
and two rooms; not exactly an inn, but a cottage at which people
who knew the place were accustomed to stop on their way through the
village. Stepan Trofimovitch, quite unembarrassed, went to the foremost
corner; forgot to greet anyone, sat down and sank into thought.
Meanwhile a sensation of warmth, extremely agreeable after three hours
of travelling in the damp, was suddenly diffused throughout his person.
Even the slight shivers that spasmodically ran down his spine—such as
always occur in particularly nervous people when they are feverish and
have suddenly come into a warm room from the cold—became all at once
strangely agreeable. He raised his head and the delicious fragrance of
the hot pancakes with which the woman of the house was busy at the stove
tickled his nostrils. With a childlike smile he leaned towards the woman
and suddenly said:
"What's that? Are they pancakes? Mais... c'est charmant."
"Would you like some, sir?" the woman politely offered him at once.
"I should like some, I certainly should, and... may I ask you for some
tea too," said Stepan Trofimovitch, reviving.
"Get the samovar? With the greatest pleasure."
On a large plate with a big blue pattern on it were served the
pancakes—regular peasant pancakes, thin, made half of wheat, covered
with fresh hot butter, most delicious pancakes. Stepan Trofimovitch
tasted them with relish.
"How rich they are and how good! And if one could only have un doigt
d'eau de vie."
"It's a drop of vodka you would like, sir, isn't it?"
"Just so, just so, a little, un tout petit rien."
"Five farthings' worth, I suppose?"
"Five, yes, five, five, five, un tout petit rien," Stepan Trofimovitch
assented with a blissful smile.
Ask a peasant to do anything for you, and if he can, and will, he
will serve you with care and friendliness; but ask him to fetch you
vodka—and his habitual serenity and friendliness will pass at once into
a sort of joyful haste and alacrity; he will be as keen in your
interest as though you were one of his family. The peasant who fetches
vodka—even though you are going to drink it and not he and he knows
that beforehand—seems, as it were, to be enjoying part of your future
gratification. Within three minutes (the tavern was only two paces
away), a bottle and a large greenish wineglass were set on the table
before Stepan Trofimovitch.
"Is that all for me!" He was extremely surprised. "I've always had vodka
but I never knew you could get so much for five farthings."
He filled the wineglass, got up and with a certain solemnity crossed the
room to the other corner where his fellow-traveller, the black-browed
peasant woman, who had shared the sack with him and bothered him with
her questions, had ensconced herself. The woman was taken aback, and
began to decline, but after having said all that was prescribed by
politeness, she stood up and drank it decorously in three sips, as women
do, and, with an expression of intense suffering on her face, gave back
the wineglass and bowed to Stepan Trofimovitch. He returned the bow with
dignity and returned to the table with an expression of positive pride
on his countenance.
All this was done on the inspiration of the moment: a second before he
had no idea that he would go and treat the peasant woman.
"I know how to get on with peasants to perfection, to perfection, and
I've always told them so," he thought complacently, pouring out the rest
of the vodka; though there was less than a glass left, it warmed and
revived him, and even went a little to his head.
"Je suis malade tout à fait, mais ce n'est pas trop mauvais d'être
"Would you care to purchase?" a gentle feminine voice asked close by
He raised his eyes and to his surprise saw a lady—une dame et elle en
avait l'air, somewhat over thirty, very modest in appearance, dressed not
like a peasant, in a dark gown with a grey shawl on her shoulders.
There was something very kindly in her face which attracted Stepan
Trofimovitch immediately. She had only just come back to the cottage,
where her things had been left on a bench close by the place where
Stepan Trofimovitch had seated himself. Among them was a portfolio,
at which he remembered he had looked with curiosity on going in, and a
pack, not very large, of American leather. From this pack she took out
two nicely bound books with a cross engraved on the cover, and offered
them to Stepan Trofimovitch.
"Et... mais je crois que c'est l'Evangile... with the greatest
pleasure.... Ah, now I understand.... Vous êtes ce qu'on appelle a
gospel-woman; I've read more than once.... Half a rouble?"
"Thirty-five kopecks," answered the gospel-woman. "With the greatest
pleasure. Je n'ai rien contre l'Evangile, and I've been wanting to
re-read it for a long time...."
The idea occurred to him at the moment that he had not read the gospel
for thirty years at least, and at most had recalled some passages of it,
seven years before, when reading Renan's "Vie de Jésus." As he had no
small change he pulled out his four ten-rouble notes—all that he
had. The woman of the house undertook to get change, and only then
he noticed, looking round, that a good many people had come into the
cottage, and that they had all been watching him for some time past, and
seemed to be talking about him. They were talking too of the fire in the
town, especially the owner of the cart who had only just returned from
the town with the cow. They talked of arson, of the Shpigulin men.
"He said nothing to me about the fire when he brought me along, although
he talked of everything," struck Stepan Trofimovitch for some reason.
"Master, Stepan Trofimovitch, sir, is it you I see? Well, I never should
have thought it!... Don't you know me?" exclaimed a middle-aged man who
looked like an old-fashioned house-serf, wearing no beard and dressed
in an overcoat with a wide turn-down collar. Stepan Trofimovitch was
alarmed at hearing his own name.
"Excuse me," he muttered, "I don't quite remember you."
"You don't remember me. I am Anisim, Anisim Ivanov. I used to be in the
service of the late Mr. Gaganov, and many's the time I've seen you, sir,
with Varvara Petrovna at the late Avdotya Sergyevna's. I used to go to
you with books from her, and twice I brought you Petersburg sweets from
"Why, yes, I remember you, Anisim," said Stepan Trofimovitch, smiling.
"Do you live here?"
"I live near Spasov, close to the V—— Monastery, in the service
of Marta Sergyevna, Avdotya Sergyevna's sister. Perhaps your honour
remembers her; she broke her leg falling out of her carriage on her
way to a ball. Now her honour lives near the monastery, and I am in her
service. And now as your honour sees, I am on my way to the town to see
"Quite so, quite so."
"I felt so pleased when I saw you, you used to be so kind to me,"
Anisim smiled delightedly. "But where are you travelling to, sir, all by
yourself as it seems.... You've never been a journey alone, I fancy?"
Stepan Trofimovitch looked at him in alarm.
"You are going, maybe, to our parts, to Spasov?"
"Yes, I am going to Spasov. Il me semble que tout le monde va à
"You don't say it's to Fyodor Matveyevitch's? They will be pleased to
see you. He had such a respect for you in old days; he often speaks of
"Yes, yes, to Fyodor Matveyevitch's."
"To be sure, to be sure. The peasants here are wondering; they make out
they met you, sir, walking on the high road. They are a foolish lot."
"I... I... Yes, you know, Anisim, I made a wager, you know, like an
Englishman, that I would go on foot and I..."
The perspiration came out on his forehead.
"To be sure, to be sure." Anisim listened with merciless curiosity. But
Stepan Trofimovitch could bear it no longer. He was so disconcerted that
he was on the point of getting up and going out of the cottage. But the
samovar was brought in, and at the same moment the gospel-woman, who
had been out of the room, returned. With the air of a man clutching at a
straw he turned to her and offered her tea. Anisim submitted and walked
The peasants certainly had begun to feel perplexed: "What sort of person
is he? He was found walking on the high road, he says he is a teacher,
he is dressed like a foreigner, and has no more sense than a little
child; he answers queerly as though he had run away from some one, and
he's got money!" An idea was beginning to gain ground that information
must be given to the authorities, "especially as things weren't quite
right in the town." But Anisim set all that right in a minute. Going
into the passage he explained to every one who cared to listen that
Stepan Trofimovitch was not exactly a teacher but "a very learned man
and busy with very learned studies, and was a landowner of the district
himself, and had been living for twenty-two years with her excellency,
the general's widow, the stout Madame Stavrogin, and was by way of being
the most important person in her house, and was held in the greatest
respect by every one in the town. He used to lose by fifties and
hundreds in an evening at the club of the nobility, and in rank he was
a councillor, which was equal to a lieutenant-colonel in the army, which
was next door to being a colonel. As for his having money, he had
so much from the stout Madame Stavrogin that there was no reckoning
it"—and so on and so on.
"Mais c'est une dame et très comme il faut," thought Stepan
Trofimovitch, as he recovered from Anisim's attack, gazing with
agreeable curiosity at his neighbour, the gospel pedlar, who was,
however, drinking the tea from a saucer and nibbling at a piece of
sugar. "Ce petit morceau de sucre, ce n'est rien.... There is something
noble and independent about her, and at the same time—gentle. Le comme
il faut tout pur, but rather in a different style."
He soon learned from her that her name was Sofya Matveyevna Ulitin and
she lived at K——, that she had a sister there, a widow; that she was a
widow too, and that her husband, who was a sub-lieutenant risen from the
ranks, had been killed at Sevastopol.
"But you are still so young, vous n'avez pas trente ans."
"Thirty-four," said Sofya Matveyevna, smiling.
"What, you understand French?"
"A little. I lived for four years after that in a gentleman's family,
and there I picked it up from the children."
She told him that being left a widow at eighteen she was for some time
in Sevastopol as a nurse, and had afterwards lived in various places,
and now she travelled about selling the gospel.
"Mais, mon Dieu, wasn't it you who had a strange adventure in our town,
a very strange adventure?"
She flushed; it turned out that it had been she.
"Ces vauriens, ces malheureux," he began in a voice quivering with
indignation; miserable and hateful recollections stirred painfully in
his heart. For a minute he seemed to sink into oblivion.
"Bah, but she's gone away again," he thought, with a start, noticing
that she was not by his side. "She keeps going out and is busy about
something; I notice that she seems upset too.... Bah, je deviens
He raised his eyes and saw Anisim again, but this time in the most
menacing surroundings. The whole cottage was full of peasants, and it
was evidently Anisim who had brought them all in. Among them were the
master of the house, and the peasant with the cow, two other peasants
(they turned out to be cab-drivers), another little man, half drunk,
dressed like a peasant but clean-shaven, who seemed like a townsman
ruined by drink and talked more than any of them. And they were all
discussing him, Stepan Trofimovitch. The peasant with the cow insisted
on his point that to go round by the lake would be thirty-five miles out
of the way, and that he certainly must go by steamer. The half-drunken
man and the man of the house warmly retorted:
"Seeing that, though of course it will be nearer for his honour on
the steamer over the lake; that's true enough, but maybe according to
present arrangements the steamer doesn't go there, brother."
"It does go, it does, it will go for another week," cried Anisim, more
excited than any of them.
"That's true enough, but it doesn't arrive punctually, seeing it's late
in the season, and sometimes it'll stay three days together at Ustyevo."
"It'll be there to-morrow at two o'clock punctually. You'll be at Spasov
punctually by the evening," cried Anisim, eager to do his best for
"Mais qu'est-ce qu'il a cet homme," thought Stepan Trofimovitch,
trembling and waiting in terror for what was in store for him.
The cab-drivers, too, came forward and began bargaining with him; they
asked three roubles to Ustyevo. The others shouted that that was not too
much, that that was the fare, and that they had been driving from here
to Ustyevo all the summer for that fare.
"But... it's nice here too.... And I don't want..." Stepan Trofimovitch
mumbled in protest.
"Nice it is, sir, you are right there, it's wonderfully nice at Spasov
now and Fyodor Matveyevitch will be so pleased to see you."
"Mon Dieu, mes amis, all this is such a surprise to me."
At last Sofya Matveyevna came back. But she sat down on the bench
looking dejected and mournful.
"I can't get to Spasov!" she said to the woman of the cottage.
"Why, you are bound to Spasov, too, then?" cried Stepan Trofimovitch,
It appeared that a lady had the day before told her to wait at Hatovo
and had promised to take her to Spasov, and now this lady had not turned
up after all.
"What am I to do now?" repeated Sofya Matveyevna.
"Mais, ma chère et nouvelle amie, I can take you just as well as the
lady to that village, whatever it is, to which I've hired horses, and
to-morrow—well, to-morrow, we'll go on together to Spasov."
"Why, are you going to Spasov too?"
"Mais que faire, et je suis enchanté! I shall take you with the greatest
pleasure; you see they want to take me, I've engaged them already.
Which of you did I engage?" Stepan Trofimovitch suddenly felt an intense
desire to go to Spasov.
Within a quarter of an hour they were getting into a covered trap, he
very lively and quite satisfied, she with her pack beside him, with a
grateful smile on her face. Anisim helped them in.
"A good journey to you, sir," said he, bustling officiously round the
trap, "it has been a treat to see you."
"Good-bye, good-bye, my friend, good-bye."
"You'll see Fyodor Matveyevitch, sir..."
"Yes, my friend, yes... Fyodor Petrovitch... only good-bye."
"You see, my friend... you'll allow me to call myself your friend,
n'est-ce pas?" Stepan Trofimovitch began hurriedly as soon as the trap
started. "You see I... J'aime le peuple, c'est indispensable, mais il me
semble que je ne m'avais jamais vu de près. Stasie... cela va sans dire
qu'elle est aussi du peuple, mais le vrai peuple, that is, the real
ones, who are on the high road, it seems to me they care for nothing,
but where exactly I am going... But let bygones be bygones. I fancy I am
talking at, random, but I believe it's from being flustered."
"You don't seem quite well." Sofya Matveyevna watched him keenly though
"No, no, I must only wrap myself up, besides there's a fresh wind, very
fresh in fact, but... let us forget that. That's not what I really meant
to say. Chère et incomparable amie, I feel that I am almost happy, and
it's your doing. Happiness is not good for me for it makes me rush to
forgive all my enemies at once...."
"Why, that's a very good thing, sir."
"Not always, chère innocente. L'Evangile... voyez-vous, désormais nous
prêcherons ensemble and I will gladly sell your beautiful little books.
Yes, I feel that that perhaps is an idea, quelque chose de très nouveau
dans ce genre. The peasants are religious, c'est admis, but they don't
yet know the gospel. I will expound it to them.... By verbal explanation
one might correct the mistakes in that remarkable book, which I am of
course prepared to treat with the utmost respect. I will be of service
even on the high road. I've always been of use, I always told them so et
à cette chère ingrate.... Oh, we will forgive, we will forgive, first
of all we will forgive all and always.... We will hope that we too shall
be forgiven. Yes, for all, every one of us, have wronged one another,
all are guilty!"
"That's a very good saying, I think, sir."
"Yes, yes.... I feel that I am speaking well. I shall speak to them very
well, but what was the chief thing I meant to say? I keep losing the
thread and forgetting.... Will you allow me to remain with you? I
feel that the look in your eyes and... I am surprised in fact at your
manners. You are simple-hearted, you call me 'sir,' and turn your cup
upside down on your saucer... and that horrid lump of sugar; but there's
something charming about you, and I see from your features.... Oh,
don't blush and don't be afraid of me as a man. Chère et incomparable,
pour moi une femme c'est tout. I can't live without a woman, but only
at her side, only at her side... I am awfully muddled, awfully. I can't
remember what I meant to say. Oh, blessed is he to whom God always sends
a woman and... and I fancy, indeed, that I am in a sort of ecstasy.
There's a lofty idea in the open road too! That's what I meant to say,
that's it—about the idea. Now I've remembered it, but I kept losing it
before. And why have they taken us farther. It was nice there too, but
here—cela devien trop froid. A propos, j'ai en tout quarante roubles
et voilà cet argent, take it, take it, I can't take care of it, I shall
lose it or it will be taken away from me.... I seem to be sleepy, I've
a giddiness in my head. Yes, I am giddy, I am giddy, I am giddy. Oh, how
kind you are, what's that you are wrapping me up in?"
"You are certainly in a regular fever and I've covered you with my rug;
only about the money, I'd rather."
"Oh, for God's sake, n'en parlons plus parce que cela me fait mal. Oh,
how kind you are!"
He ceased speaking, and with strange suddenness dropped into a feverish
shivery sleep. The road by which they drove the twelve miles was not a
smooth one, and their carriage jolted cruelly. Stepan Trofimovitch woke
up frequently, quickly raised his head from the little pillow which
Sofya Matveyevna had slipped under it, clutched her by the hand and
asked "Are you here?" as though he were afraid she had left him. He told
her, too, that he had dreamed of gaping jaws full of teeth, and that he
had very much disliked it. Sofya Matveyevna was in great anxiety about
They were driven straight up to a large cottage with a frontage of
four windows and other rooms in the yard. Stepan Trofimovitch waked up,
hurriedly went in and walked straight into the second room, which was
the largest and best in the house. An expression of fussiness came into
his sleepy face. He spoke at once to the landlady, a tall, thick-set
woman of forty with very dark hair and a slight moustache, and explained
that he required the whole room for himself, and that the door was to be
shut and no one else was to be admitted, "parce que nous avons à parler.
Oui, j'ai beaucoup a vous dire, chère amie. I'll pay you, I'll pay you,"
he said with a wave of dismissal to the landlady.
Though he was in a hurry, he seemed to articulate with difficulty. The
landlady listened grimly, and was silent in token of consent, but there
was a feeling of something menacing about her silence. He did not notice
this, and hurriedly (he was in a terrible hurry) insisted on her going
away and bringing them their dinner as quickly as possible, without a
At that point the moustached woman could contain herself no longer.
"This is not an inn, sir; we don't provide dinners for travellers. We
can boil you some crayfish or set the samovar, but we've nothing more.
There won't be fresh fish till to-morrow."
But Stepan Trofimovitch waved his hands, repeating with wrathful
impatience: "I'll pay, only make haste, make haste."
They settled on fish, soup, and roast fowl; the landlady declared that
fowl was not to be procured in the whole village; she agreed, however,
to go in search of one, but with the air of doing him an immense favour.
As soon as she had gone Stepan Trofimovitch instantly sat down on the
sofa and made Sofya Matveyevna sit down beside him. There were several
arm-chairs as well as a sofa in the room, but they were of a most
uninviting appearance. The room was rather a large one, with a corner,
in which there was a bed, partitioned off. It was covered with old and
tattered yellow paper, and had horrible lithographs of mythological
subjects on the walls; in the corner facing the door there was a long
row of painted ikons and several sets of brass ones. The whole room with
its strangely ill-assorted furniture was an unattractive mixture of the
town element and of peasant traditions. But he did not even glance at it
all, nor look out of the window at the vast lake, the edge of which was
only seventy feet from the cottage.
"At last we are by ourselves and we will admit no one! I want to tell
you everything, everything from the very beginning."
Sofya Matveyevna checked him with great uneasiness.
"Are you aware, Stepan Trofimovitch?..."
"Comment, vous savez déjà mon nom?" He smiled with delight.
"I heard it this morning from Anisim Ivanovitch when you were talking to
him. But I venture to tell you for my part..."
And she whispered hurriedly to him, looking nervously at the closed
door for fear anyone should overhear—that here in this village, it was
dreadful. That though all the peasants were fishermen, they made their
living chiefly by charging travellers every summer whatever they
thought fit. The village was not on the high road but an out-of-the-way
one, and people only called there because the steamers stopped there,
and that when the steamer did not call—and if the weather was in the
least unfavourable, it would not—then numbers of travellers would be
waiting there for several days, and all the cottages in the village
would be occupied, and that was just the villagers' opportunity, for
they charged three times its value for everything—and their landlord
here was proud and stuck up because he was, for these parts, very rich;
he had a net which had cost a thousand roubles.
Stepan Trofimovitch looked almost reproachfully at Sofya Matveyevna's
extremely excited face, and several times he made a motion to stop her.
But she persisted and said all she had to say: she said she had been
there before already in the summer "with a very genteel lady from the
town," and stayed there too for two whole days till the steamer came,
and what they had to put up with did not bear thinking of. "Here, Stepan
Trofimovitch, you've been pleased to ask for this room for yourself
alone.... I only speak to warn you.... In the other room there are
travellers already. An elderly man and a young man and a lady with
children, and by to-morrow before two o'clock the whole house will be
filled up, for since the steamer hasn't been here for two days it will
be sure to come to-morrow. So for a room apart and for ordering dinner,
and for putting out the other travellers, they'll charge you a price
unheard of even in the capital...."
But he was in distress, in real distress. "Assez, mon enfant, I beseech
you, nous avons notre argent—et après, le bon Dieu. And I am surprised
that, with the loftiness of your ideas, you... Assez, assez, vous me
tourmentez," he articulated hysterically, "we have all our future before
us, and you... you fill me with alarm for the future."
He proceeded at once to unfold his whole story with such haste that at
first it was difficult to understand him. It went on for a long time.
The soup was served, the fowl was brought in, followed at last by the
samovar, and still he talked on. He told it somewhat strangely and
hysterically, and indeed he was ill. It was a sudden, extreme effort
of his intellectual faculties, which was bound in his overstrained
condition, of course—Sofya Matveyevna foresaw it with distress all
the time he was talking—to result immediately afterwards in extreme
exhaustion. He began his story almost with his childhood, when, "with
fresh heart, he ran about the meadows; it was an hour before he reached
his two marriages and his life in Berlin. I dare not laugh, however. It
really was for him a matter of the utmost importance, and to adopt the
modern jargon, almost a question of struggling for existence." He saw
before him the woman whom he had already elected to share his new life,
and was in haste to consecrate her, so to speak. His genius must not be
hidden from her.... Perhaps he had formed a very exaggerated estimate
of Sofya Matveyevna, but he had already chosen her. He could not exist
without a woman. He saw clearly from her face that she hardly understood
him, and could not grasp even the most essential part. "Ce n'est rien,
nous attendrons, and meanwhile she can feel it intuitively.... My
friend, I need nothing but your heart!" he exclaimed, interrupting his
narrative, "and that sweet enchanting look with which you are gazing at
me now. Oh, don't blush! I've told you already..." The poor woman who
had fallen into his hands found much that was obscure, especially when
his autobiography almost passed into a complete dissertation on the fact
that no one had been ever able to understand Stepan Trofimovitch,
and that "men of genius are wasted in Russia." It was all "so very
intellectual," she reported afterwards dejectedly. She listened in
evident misery, rather round-eyed. When Stepan Trofimovitch fell into
a humorous vein and threw off witty sarcasms at the expense of our
advanced and governing classes, she twice made grievous efforts to laugh
in response to his laughter, but the result was worse than tears, so
that Stepan Trofimovitch was at last embarrassed by it himself and
attacked "the nihilists and modern people" with all the greater wrath
and zest. At this point he simply alarmed her, and it was not until he
began upon the romance of his life that she felt some slight relief,
though that too was deceptive. A woman is always a woman even if she is
a nun. She smiled, shook her head and then blushed crimson and dropped
her eyes, which roused Stepan Trofimovitch to absolute ecstasy and
inspiration so much that he began fibbing freely. Varvara Petrovna
appeared in his story as an enchanting brunette (who had been the rage
of Petersburg and many European capitals) and her husband "had been
struck down on the field of Sevastopol" simply because he had felt
unworthy of her love, and had yielded her to his rival, that is, Stepan
Trofimovitch...."Don't be shocked, my gentle one, my Christian," he
exclaimed to Sofya Matveyevna, almost believing himself in all that he
was telling, "it was something so lofty, so subtle, that we never spoke
of it to one another all our lives." As the story went on, the cause
of this position of affairs appeared to be a blonde lady (if not Darya
Pavlovna I don't know of whom Stepan Trofimovitch could have been
thinking), this blonde owed everything to the brunette, and had grown up
in her house, being a distant relation. The brunette observing at last
the love of the blonde girl to Stepan Trofimovitch, kept her feelings
locked up in her heart. The blonde girl, noticing on her part the love
of the brunette to Stepan Trofimovitch, also locked her feelings in her
own heart. And all three, pining with mutual magnanimity, kept silent in
this way for twenty years, locking their feelings in their hearts. "Oh,
what a passion that was, what a passion that was!" he exclaimed with a
stifled sob of genuine ecstasy. "I saw the full blooming of her beauty"
(of the brunette's, that is), "I saw daily with an ache in my heart
how she passed by me as though ashamed she was so fair" (once he said
"ashamed she was so fat"). At last he had run away, casting off all this
feverish dream of twenty years—vingt ans—and now here he was on the
Then in a sort of delirium be began explaining to Sofya Matveyevna the
significance of their meeting that day, "so chance an encounter and
so fateful for all eternity." Sofya Matveyevna got up from the sofa in
terrible confusion at last. He had positively made an attempt to drop on
his knees before her, which made her cry. It was beginning to get dark.
They had been for some hours shut up in the room....
"No, you'd better let me go into the other room," she faltered, "or else
there's no knowing what people may think...."
She tore herself away at last; he let her go, promising her to go to bed
at once. As they parted he complained that he had a bad headache. Sofya
Matveyevna had on entering the cottage left her bag and things in the
first room, meaning to spend the night with the people of the house; but
she got no rest.
In the night Stepan Trofimovitch was attacked by the malady with which
I and all his friends were so familiar—the summer cholera, which was
always the outcome of any nervous strain or moral shock with him. Poor
Sofya Matveyevna did not sleep all night. As in waiting on the invalid
she was obliged pretty often to go in and out of the cottage through the
landlady's room, the latter, as well as the travellers who were sleeping
there, grumbled and even began swearing when towards morning she set
about preparing the samovar. Stepan Trofimovitch was half unconscious
all through the attack; at times he had a vision of the samovar being
set, of some one giving him something to drink (raspberry tea), and
putting something warm to his stomach and his chest. But he felt almost
every instant that she was here, beside him; that it was she going out
and coming in, lifting him off the bed and settling him in it again.
Towards three o'clock in the morning he began to be easier; he sat up,
put his legs out of bed and thinking of nothing he fell on the floor
at her feet. This was a very different matter from the kneeling of the
evening; he simply bowed down at her feet and kissed the hem of her
"Don't, sir, I am not worth it," she faltered, trying to get him back on
to the bed.
"My saviour," he cried, clasping his hands reverently before her. "Vous
êtes noble comme une marquise! I—I am a wretch. Oh, I've been dishonest
all my life...."
"Calm yourself!" Sofya Matveyevna implored him.
"It was all lies that I told you this evening—to glorify myself, to
make it splendid, from pure wantonness—all, all, every word, oh, I am a
wretch, I am a wretch!"
The first attack was succeeded in this way by a second—an attack
of hysterical remorse. I have mentioned these attacks already when I
described his letters to Varvara Petrovna. He suddenly recalled Lise
and their meeting the previous morning. "It was so awful, and there must
have been some disaster and I didn't ask, didn't find out! I thought
only of myself. Oh, what's the matter with her? Do you know what's the
matter with her?" he besought Sofya Matveyevna.
Then he swore that "he would never change," that he would go back to
her (that is, Varvara Petrovna). "We" (that is, he and Sofya Matveyevna)
"will go to her steps every day when she is getting into her carriage
for her morning drive, and we will watch her in secret.... Oh, I wish
her to smite me on the other cheek; it's a joy to wish it! I shall turn
her my other cheek comme dans votre livre! Only now for the first time
I understand what is meant by... turning the other cheek. I never
The two days that followed were among the most terrible in Sofya
Matveyevna's life; she remembers them with a shudder to this day. Stepan
Trofimovitch became so seriously ill that he could not go on board the
steamer, which on this occasion arrived punctually at two o'clock in the
afternoon. She could not bring herself to leave him alone, so she
did not leave for Spasov either. From her account he was positively
delighted at the steamer's going without him.
"Well, that's a good thing, that's capital!" he muttered in his bed.
"I've been afraid all the time that we should go. Here it's so nice,
better than anywhere.... You won't leave me? Oh, you have not left me!"
It was by no means so nice "here" however. He did not care to hear of
her difficulties; his head was full of fancies and nothing else. He
looked upon his illness as something transitory, a trifling ailment, and
did not think about it at all; he though of nothing but how they would
go and sell "these books." He asked her to read him the gospel.
"I haven't read it for a long time... in the original. Some one may ask
me about it and I shall make a mistake; I ought to prepare myself after
She sat down beside him and opened the book.
"You read beautifully," he interrupted her after the first line. "I see,
I see I was not mistaken," he added obscurely but ecstatically. He was,
in fact, in a continual state of enthusiasm. She read the Sermon on the
"Assez, assez, mon enfant, enough.... Don't you think that that is
And he closed his eyes helplessly. He was very weak, but had not yet
lost consciousness. Sofya Matveyevna was getting up, thinking that he
wanted to sleep. But he stopped her.
"My friend, I've been telling lies all my life. Even when I told the
truth I never spoke for the sake of the truth, but always for my own
sake. I knew it before, but I only see it now.... Oh, where are those
friends whom I have insulted with my friendship all my life? And all,
all! Savez-vous... perhaps I am telling lies now; no doubt I am telling
lies now. The worst of it is that I believe myself when I am lying. The
hardest thing in life is to live without telling lies... and without
believing in one's lies. Yes, yes, that's just it.... But wait a bit,
that can all come afterwards.... We'll be together, together," he added
"Stepan Trofimovitch," Sofya Matveyevna asked timidly, "hadn't I better
send to the town for the doctor?"
He was tremendously taken aback.
"What for? Est-ce que je suis si malade? Mais rien de sérieux. What need
have we of outsiders? They may find, besides—and what will happen then?
No, no, no outsiders and we'll be together."
"Do you know," he said after a pause, "read me something more, just the
first thing you come across."
Sofya Matveyevna opened the Testament and began reading.
"Wherever it opens, wherever it happens to open," he repeated.
"'And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans...'"
"What's that? What is it? Where is that from?"
"It's from the Revelation."
"Oh, je m'en souviens, oui, l'Apocalypse. Lisez, lisez, I am trying our
future fortunes by the book. I want to know what has turned up. Read on
"'And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things
saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the
creation of God;
"'I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot;
I would thou wert cold or hot.
"'So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,
I will spue thee out of my mouth.
"'Because thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods,
and have need of nothing: and thou knowest not that thou art wretched,
and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.'"
"That too... and that's in your book too!" he exclaimed, with flashing
eyes and raising his head from the pillow. "I never knew that grand
passage! You hear, better be cold, better be cold than lukewarm, than
only lukewarm. Oh, I'll prove it! Only don't leave me, don't leave me
alone! We'll prove it, we'll prove it!"
"I won't leave you, Stepan Trofimovitch. I'll never leave you!" She took
his hand, pressed it in both of hers, and laid it against her heart,
looking at him with tears in her eyes. ("I felt very sorry for him at
that moment," she said, describing it afterwards.)
His lips twitched convulsively.
"But, Stepan Trofimovitch, what are we to do though? Oughtn't we to let
some of your friends know, or perhaps your relations?"
But at that he was so dismayed that she was very sorry that she had
spoken of it again. Trembling and shaking, he besought her to fetch no
one, not to do anything. He kept insisting, "No one, no one! We'll be
alone, by ourselves, alone, nous partirons ensemble."
Another difficulty was that the people of the house too began to be
uneasy; they grumbled, and kept pestering Sofya Matveyevna. She paid
them and managed to let them see her money. This softened them for the
time, but the man insisted on seeing Stepan Trofimovitch's "papers."
The invalid pointed with a supercilious smile to his little bag. Sofya
Matveyevna found in it the certificate of his having resigned his post
at the university, or something of the kind, which had served him as
a passport all his life. The man persisted, and said that "he must be
taken somewhere, because their house wasn't a hospital, and if he were
to die there might be a bother. We should have no end of trouble." Sofya
Matveyevna tried to speak to him of the doctor, but it appeared that
sending to the town would cost so much that she had to give up all
idea of the doctor. She returned in distress to her invalid. Stepan
Trofimovitch was getting weaker and weaker.
"Now read me another passage.... About the pigs," he said suddenly.
"What?" asked Sofya Matveyevna, very much alarmed.
"About the pigs... that's there too... ces cochons. I remember the
devils entered into swine and they all were drowned. You must read me
that; I'll tell you why afterwards. I want to remember it word for word.
I want it word for word."
Sofya Matveyevna knew the gospel well and at once found the passage in
St. Luke which I have chosen as the motto of my record. I quote it here
"'And there was there one herd of many swine feeding on the mountain;
and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And
he suffered them.
"'Then went the devils out of the man and entered into the swine;
and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were
"'When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and
told it in the city and in the country.
"'Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus and found
the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of
Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind; and they were afraid.'"
"My friend," said Stepan Trofimovitch in great excitement "savez-vous,
that wonderful and... extraordinary passage has been a stumbling-block
to me all my life... dans ce livre.... so much so that I remembered
those verses from childhood. Now an idea has occurred to me; une
comparaison. A great number of ideas keep coming into my mind now. You
see, that's exactly like our Russia, those devils that come out of the
sick man and enter into the swine. They are all the sores, all the foul
contagions, all the impurities, all the devils great and small that have
multiplied in that great invalid, our beloved Russia, in the course of
ages and ages. Oui, cette Russie que j'aimais toujours. But a great
idea and a great Will will encompass it from on high, as with that
lunatic possessed of devils... and all those devils will come forth, all
the impurity, all the rottenness that was putrefying on the surface ...
and they will beg of themselves to enter into swine; and indeed maybe
they have entered into them already! They are we, we and those... and
Petrusha and les autres avec lui... and I perhaps at the head of them,
and we shall cast ourselves down, possessed and raving, from the rocks
into the sea, and we shall all be drowned—and a good thing too, for
that is all we are fit for. But the sick man will be healed and
'will sit at the feet of Jesus,' and all will look upon him with
astonishment.... My dear, vous comprendrez après, but now it excites me
very much.... Vous comprendrez après. Nous comprendrons ensemble."
He sank into delirium and at last lost consciousness. So it went on all
the following day. Sofya Matveyevna sat beside him, crying. She scarcely
slept at all for three nights, and avoided seeing the people of the
house, who were, she felt, beginning to take some steps. Deliverance
only came on the third day. In the morning Stepan Trofimovitch returned
to consciousness, recognised her, and held out his hand to her. She
crossed herself hopefully. He wanted to look out of the window. "Tiens,
un lac!" he said. "Good heavens, I had not seen it before!..." At that
moment there was the rumble of a carriage at the cottage door and a
great hubbub in the house followed.
It was Varvara Petrovna herself. She had arrived, with Darya Pavlovna,
in a closed carriage drawn by four horses, with two footmen. The marvel
had happened in the simplest way: Anisim, dying of curiosity, went to
Varvara Petrovna's the day after he reached the town and gossiped to
the servants, telling them he had met Stepan Trofimovitch alone in a
village, that the latter had been seen by peasants walking by himself
on the high road, and that he had set off for Spasov by way of Ustyevo
accompanied by Sofya Matveyevna. As Varvara Petrovna was, for her
part, in terrible anxiety and had done everything she could to find her
fugitive friend, she was at once told about Anisim. When she had heard
his story, especially the details of the departure for Ustyevo in a cart
in the company of some Sofya Matveyevna, she instantly got ready and set
off post-haste for Ustyevo herself.
Her stern and peremptory voice resounded through the cottage; even the
landlord and his wife were intimidated. She had only stopped to question
them and make inquiries, being persuaded that Stepan Trofimovitch must
have reached Spasov long before. Learning that he was still here and
ill, she entered the cottage in great agitation.
"Well, where is he? Ah, that's you!" she cried, seeing Sofya Matveyevna,
who appeared at that very instant in the doorway of the next room. "I
can guess from your shameless face that it's you. Go away, you vile
hussy! Don't let me find a trace of her in the house! Turn her out, or
else, my girl, I'll get you locked up for good. Keep her safe for a time
in another house. She's been in prison once already in the town; she can
go back there again. And you, my good man, don't dare to let anyone in
while I am here, I beg of you. I am Madame Stavrogin, and I'll take the
whole house. As for you, my dear, you'll have to give me a full account
of it all."
The familiar sounds overwhelmed Stepan Trofimovitch. He began to
tremble. But she had already stepped behind the screen. With flashing
eyes she drew up a chair with her foot, and, sinking back in it, she
shouted to Dasha:
"Go away for a time! Stay in the other room. Why are you so inquisitive?
And shut the door properly after you."
For some time she gazed in silence with a sort of predatory look into
his frightened face.
"Well, how are you getting on, Stepan Trofimovitch? So you've been
enjoying yourself?" broke from her with ferocious irony.
"Chère," Stepan Trofimovitch faltered, not knowing what he was saying,
"I've learnt to know real life in Russia... et je prêcherai l'Evangile."
"Oh, shameless, ungrateful man!" she wailed suddenly, clasping her
hands. "As though you had not disgraced me enough, you've taken up
with... oh, you shameless old reprobate!"
"Chère..." His voice failed him and he could not articulate a syllable
but simply gazed with eyes wide with horror.
"Who is she?"
"C'est un ange; c'était plus qu'un ange pour moi. She's been all
night... Oh, don't shout, don't frighten her, chère, chère..."
With a loud noise, Varvara Petrovna pushed back her chair, uttering a
loud cry of alarm.
Though he returned to consciousness, she was still shaking with terror,
and, with pale cheeks, looked at his distorted face. It was only then,
for the first time, that she guessed the seriousness of his illness.
"Darya," she whispered suddenly to Darya Pavlovna, "send at once for the
doctor, for Salzfish; let Yegorytch go at once. Let him hire horses here
and get another carriage from the town. He must be here by night."
Dasha flew to do her bidding. Stepan Trofimovitch still gazed at her
with the same wide-open, frightened eyes; his blanched lips quivered.
"Wait a bit, Stepan Trofimovitch, wait a bit, my dear!" she said,
coaxing him like a child. "There, there, wait a bit! Darya will come
back and... My goodness, the landlady, the landlady, you come, anyway,
my good woman!"
In her impatience she ran herself to the landlady.
"Fetch that woman back at once, this minute. Bring her back, bring her
Fortunately Sofya Matveyevna had not yet had time to get away and was
only just going out of the gate with her pack and her bag. She was
brought back. She was so panic-stricken that she was trembling in every
limb. Varvara Petrovna pounced on her like a hawk on a chicken, seized
her by the hand and dragged her impulsively to Stepan Trofimovitch.
"Here, here she is, then. I've not eaten her. You thought I'd eaten
Stepan Trofimovitch clutched Varvara Petrovna's hand, raised it to his
eyes, and burst into tears, sobbing violently and convulsively.
"There, calm yourself, there, there, my dear, there, poor dear man!
Ach, mercy on us! Calm yourself, will you?" she shouted frantically.
"Oh, you bane of my life!"
"My dear," Stepan Trofimovitch murmured at last, addressing Sofya
Matveyevna, "stay out there, my dear, I want to say something here...."
Sofya Matveyevna hurried out at once.
"Chérie... chérie..." he gasped.
"Don't talk for a bit, Stepan Trofimovitch, wait a little till you've
rested. Here's some water. Do wait, will you!"
She sat down on the chair again. Stepan Trofimovitch held her hand
tight. For a long while she would not allow him to speak. He raised her
hand to his lips and fell to kissing it. She set her teeth and looked
away into the corner of the room.
"Je vous aimais," broke from him at last. She had never heard such words
from him, uttered in such a voice.
"H'm!" she growled in response.
"Je vous aimais toute ma vie... vingt ans!"
She remained silent for two or three minutes.
"And when you were getting yourself up for Dasha you sprinkled yourself
with scent," she said suddenly, in a terrible whisper.
Stepan Trofimovitch was dumbfounded.
"You put on a new tie..."
Again silence for two minutes.
"Do you remember the cigar?"
"My friend," he faltered, overcome with horror.
"That cigar at the window in the evening... the moon was shining...
after the arbour... at Skvoreshniki? Do you remember, do you remember?"
She jumped up from her place, seized his pillow by the corners and shook
it with his head on it. "Do you remember, you worthless, worthless,
ignoble, cowardly, worthless man, always worthless!" she hissed in her
furious whisper, restraining herself from speaking loudly. At last
she left him and sank on the chair, covering her face with her hands.
"Enough!" she snapped out, drawing herself up. "Twenty years have
passed, there's no calling them back. I am a fool too."
"Je vous aimais." He clasped his hands again.
"Why do you keep on with your aimais and aimais? Enough!" she cried,
leaping up again. "And if you don't go to sleep at once I'll... You need
rest; go to sleep, go to sleep at once, shut your eyes. Ach, mercy on
us, perhaps he wants some lunch! What do you eat? What does he eat? Ach,
mercy on us! Where is that woman? Where is she?"
There was a general bustle again. But Stepan Trofimovitch faltered in a
weak voice that he really would like to go to sleep une heure, and then
un bouillon, un thé.... enfin il est si heureux. He lay back and really
did seem to go to sleep (he probably pretended to). Varvara Petrovna
waited a little, and stole out on tiptoe from behind the partition.
She settled herself in the landlady's room, turned out the landlady and
her husband, and told Dasha to bring her that woman. There followed an
examination in earnest.
"Tell me all about it, my good girl. Sit down beside me; that's right.
"I met Stepan Trofimovitch..."
"Stay, hold your tongue! I warn you that if you tell lies or conceal
anything, I'll ferret it out. Well?"
"Stepan Trofimovitch and I... as soon as I came to Hatovo..." Sofya
Matveyevna began almost breathlessly.
"Stay, hold your tongue, wait a bit! Why do you gabble like that? To
begin with, what sort of creature are you?"
Sofya Matveyevna told her after a fashion, giving a very brief account
of herself, however, beginning with Sevastopol. Varvara Petrovna
listened in silence, sitting up erect in her chair, looking sternly
straight into the speaker's eyes.
"Why are you so frightened? Why do you look at the ground? I like people
who look me straight in the face and hold their own with me. Go on."
She told of their meeting, of her books, of how Stepan Trofimovitch had
regaled the peasant woman with vodka... "That's right, that's right,
don't leave out the slightest detail," Varvara Petrovna encouraged her.
At last she described how they had set off, and how Stepan Trofimovitch
had gone on talking, "really ill by that time," and here had given an
account of his life from the very beginning, talking for some hours.
"Tell me about his life."
Sofya Matveyevna suddenly stopped and was completely nonplussed.
"I can't tell you anything about that, madam," she brought out, almost
crying; "besides, I could hardly understand a word of it."
"Nonsense! You must have understood something."
"He told a long time about a distinguished lady with black hair." Sofya
Matveyevna flushed terribly though she noticed Varvara Petrovna's fair
hair and her complete dissimilarity with the "brunette" of the story.
"Black-haired? What exactly? Come, speak!"
"How this grand lady was deeply in love with his honour all her life
long and for twenty years, but never dared to speak, and was shamefaced
before him because she was a very stout lady...."
"The fool!" Varvara Petrovna rapped out thoughtfully but resolutely.
Sofya Matveyevna was in tears by now.
"I don't know how to tell any of it properly, madam, because I was in a
great fright over his honour; and I couldn't understand, as he is such
an intellectual gentleman."
"It's not for a goose like you to judge of his intellect. Did he offer
you his hand?"
The speaker trembled.
"Did he fall in love with you? Speak! Did he offer you his hand?"
Varvara Petrovna shouted peremptorily.
"That was pretty much how it was," she murmured tearfully. "But I took
it all to mean nothing, because of his illness," she added firmly,
raising her eyes.
"What is your name?"
"Sofya Matveyevna, madam."
"Well, then, let me tell you, Sofya Matveyevna, that he is a wretched
and worthless little man.... Good Lord! Do you look upon me as a wicked
Sofya Matveyevna gazed open-eyed.
"A wicked woman, a tyrant? Who has ruined his life?"
"How can that be when you are crying yourself, madam?"
Varvara Petrovna actually had tears in her eyes.
"Well, sit down, sit down, don't be frightened. Look me straight in the
face again. Why are you blushing? Dasha, come here. Look at her. What do
you think of her? Her heart is pure...."
And to the amazement and perhaps still greater alarm of Sofya
Matveyevna, she suddenly patted her on the cheek.
"It's only a pity she is a fool. Too great a fool for her age. That's
all right, my dear, I'll look after you. I see that it's all nonsense.
Stay near here for the time. A room shall be taken for you and you shall
have food and everything else from me... till I ask for you."
Sofya Matveyevna stammered in alarm that she must hurry on.
"You've no need to hurry. I'll buy all your books, and meantime you stay
here. Hold your tongue; don't make excuses. If I hadn't come you would
have stayed with him all the same, wouldn't you?"
"I wouldn't have left him on any account," Sofya Matveyevna brought out
softly and firmly, wiping her tears.
It was late at night when Doctor Salzfish was brought. He was a very
respectable old man and a practitioner of fairly wide experience who had
recently lost his post in the service in consequence of some quarrel
on a point of honour with his superiors. Varvara Petrovna instantly
and actively took him under her protection. He examined the patient
attentively, questioned him, and cautiously pronounced to Varvara
Petrovna that "the sufferer's" condition was highly dubious in
consequence of complications, and that they must be prepared "even for
the worst." Varvara Petrovna, who had during twenty years got
accustomed to expecting nothing serious or decisive to come from Stepan
Trofimovitch, was deeply moved and even turned pale. "Is there really no
"Can there ever be said to be absolutely no hope? But..." She did not go
to bed all night, and felt that the morning would never come. As soon
as the patient opened his eyes and returned to consciousness (he was
conscious all the time, however, though he was growing weaker every
hour), she went up to him with a very resolute air.
"Stepan Trofimovitch, one must be prepared for anything. I've sent for a
priest. You must do what is right...."
Knowing his convictions, she was terribly afraid of his refusing. He
looked at her with surprise.
"Nonsense, nonsense!" she vociferated, thinking he was already refusing.
"This is no time for whims. You have played the fool enough."
"But... am I really so ill, then?"
He agreed thoughtfully. And indeed I was much surprised to learn from
Varvara Petrovna afterwards that he showed no fear of death at all.
Possibly it was that he simply did not believe it, and still looked upon
his illness as a trifling one.
He confessed and took the sacrament very readily. Every one, Sofya
Matveyevna, and even the servants, came to congratulate him on taking
the sacrament. They were all moved to tears looking at his sunken and
exhausted face and his blanched and quivering lips.
"Oui, mes amis, and I only wonder that you... take so much trouble. I
shall most likely get up to-morrow, and we will... set off.... Toute
cette cérémonie... for which, of course, I feel every proper respect...
"I beg you, father, to remain with the invalid," said Varvara Petrovna
hurriedly, stopping the priest, who had already taken off his vestments.
"As soon as tea has been handed, I beg you to begin to speak of
religion, to support his faith."
The priest spoke; every one was standing or sitting round the sick-bed.
"In our sinful days," the priest began smoothly, with a cup of tea in
his hand, "faith in the Most High is the sole refuge of the race of man
in all the trials and tribulations of life, as well as its hope for that
eternal bliss promised to the righteous."
Stepan Trofimovitch seemed to revive, a subtle smile strayed on his
"Mon père, je vous remercie et vous êtes bien bon, mais..."
"No mais about it, no mais at all!" exclaimed Varvara Petrovna,
bounding up from her chair. "Father," she said, addressing the priest,
"he is a man who... he is a man who... You will have to confess him
again in another hour! That's the sort of man he is."
Stepan Trofimovitch smiled faintly.
"My friends," he said, "God is necessary to me, if only because He is
the only being whom one can love eternally."
Whether he was really converted, or whether the stately ceremony of
the administration of the sacrament had impressed him and stirred the
artistic responsiveness of his temperament or not, he firmly and, I
am told, with great feeling uttered some words which were in flat
contradiction with many of his former convictions.
"My immortality is necessary if only because God will not be guilty
of injustice and extinguish altogether the flame of love for Him once
kindled in my heart. And what is more precious than love? Love is higher
than existence, love is the crown of existence; and how is it possible
that existence should not be under its dominance? If I have once loved
Him and rejoiced in my love, is it possible that He should extinguish me
and my joy and bring me to nothingness again? If there is a God, then I
am immortal. Voilà ma profession de foi."
"There is a God, Stepan Trofimovitch, I assure you there is," Varvara
Petrovna implored him. "Give it up, drop all your foolishness for once
in your life!" (I think she had not quite understood his profession de
"My friend," he said, growing more and more animated, though his voice
broke frequently, "as soon as I understood... that turning of the cheek,
I... understood something else as well. J'ai menti toute ma vie, all my
life, all! I should like... but that will do to-morrow.... To-morrow we
will all set out."
Varvara Petrovna burst into tears. He was looking about for some one.
"Here she is, she is here!" She seized Sofya Matveyevna by the hand and
led her to him. He smiled tenderly.
"Oh, I should dearly like to live again!" he exclaimed with an
extraordinary rush of energy. "Every minute, every instant of life ought
to be a blessing to man... they ought to be, they certainly ought to be!
It's the duty of man to make it so; that's the law of his nature, which
always exists even if hidden.... Oh, I wish I could see Petrusha... and
all of them... Shatov..."
I may remark that as yet no one had heard of Shatov's fate—not Varvara
Petrovna nor Darya Pavlovna, nor even Salzfish, who was the last to come
from the town.
Stepan Trofimovitch became more and more excited, feverishly so, beyond
"The mere fact of the ever present idea that there exists something
infinitely more just and more happy than I am fills me through and
through with tender ecstasy—and glorifies me—oh, whoever I may be,
whatever I have done! What is far more essential for man than personal
happiness is to know and to believe at every instant that there is
somewhere a perfect and serene happiness for all men and for
everything.... The one essential condition of human existence is that
man should always be able to bow down before something infinitely great.
If men are deprived of the infinitely great they will not go on living
and will die of despair. The Infinite and the Eternal are as essential
for man as the little planet on which he dwells. My friends, all, all:
hail to the Great Idea! The Eternal, Infinite Idea! It is essential to
every man, whoever he may be, to bow down before what is the Great Idea.
Even the stupidest man needs something great. Petrusha... oh, how I want
to see them all again! They don't know, they don't know that that same
Eternal, Grand Idea lies in them all!"
Doctor Salzfish was not present at the ceremony. Coming in suddenly, he
was horrified, and cleared the room, insisting that the patient must not
Stepan Trofimovitch died three days later, but by that time he was
completely unconscious. He quietly went out like a candle that is burnt
down. After having the funeral service performed, Varvara Petrovna
took the body of her poor friend to Skvoreshniki. His grave is in the
precincts of the church and is already covered with a marble slab. The
inscription and the railing will be added in the spring.
Varvara Petrovna's absence from town had lasted eight days. Sofya
Matveyevna arrived in the carriage with her and seems to have settled
with her for good. I may mention that as soon as Stepan Trofimovitch
lost consciousness (the morning that he received the sacrament) Varvara
Petrovna promptly asked Sofya Matveyevna to leave the cottage again, and
waited on the invalid herself unassisted to the end, but she sent for
her at once when he had breathed his last. Sofya Matveyevna was terribly
alarmed by Varvara Petrovna's proposition, or rather command, that she
should settle for good at Skvoreshniki, but the latter refused to listen
to her protests.
"That's all nonsense! I will go with you to sell the gospel. I have no
one in the world now."
"You have a son, however," Salzfish observed.
"I have no son!" Varvara Petrovna snapped out—and it was like a
CHAPTER VIII. CONCLUSION
ALL THE CRIMES AND VILLAINIES THAT had been perpetrated were discovered
with extraordinary rapidity, much more quickly than Pyotr Stepanovitch
had expected. To begin with, the luckless Marya Ignatyevna waked up
before daybreak on the night of her husband's murder, missed him and
flew into indescribable agitation, not seeing him beside her. The woman
who had been hired by Anna Prohorovna, and was there for the night,
could not succeed in calming her, and as soon as it was daylight ran
to fetch Arina Prohorovna herself, assuring the invalid that the latter
knew where her husband was, and when he would be back. Meantime Arina
Prohorovna was in some anxiety too; she had already heard from her
husband of the deed perpetrated that night at Skvoreshniki. He had
returned home about eleven o'clock in a terrible state of mind and
body; wringing his hands, he flung himself face downwards on his bed and
shaking with convulsive sobs kept repeating, "It's not right, it's not
right, it's not right at all!" He ended, of course, by confessing it all
to Arina Prohorovna—but to no one else in the house. She left him on
his bed, sternly impressing upon him that "if he must blubber he must do
it in his pillow so as not to be overheard, and that he would be a fool
if he showed any traces of it next day." She felt somewhat anxious,
however, and began at once to clear things up in case of emergency;
she succeeded in hiding or completely destroying all suspicious papers,
books, manifestoes perhaps. At the same time she reflected that she, her
sister, her aunt, her sister-in-law the student, and perhaps even her
long-eared brother had really nothing much to be afraid of. When the
nurse ran to her in the morning she went without a second thought to
Marya Ignatyevna's. She was desperately anxious, moreover, to find out
whether what her husband had told her that night in a terrified and
frantic whisper, that was almost like delirium, was true—that is,
whether Pyotr Stepanovitch had been right in his reckoning that Kirillov
would sacrifice himself for the general benefit.
But she arrived at Marya Ignatyevna's too late: when the latter had sent
off the woman and was left alone, she was unable to bear the suspense;
she got out of bed, and throwing round her the first garment she could
find, something very light and unsuitable for the weather, I believe,
she ran down to Kirillov's lodge herself, thinking that he perhaps would
be better able than anyone to tell her something about her husband. The
terrible effect on her of what she saw there may well be imagined. It
is remarkable that she did not read Kirillov's last letter, which lay
conspicuously on the table, overlooking it, of course, in her fright.
She ran back to her room, snatched up her baby, and went with it out of
the house into the street. It was a damp morning, there was a fog.
She met no passers-by in such an out-of-the-way street. She ran on
breathless through the wet, cold mud, and at last began knocking at the
doors of the houses. In the first house no one came to the door, in the
second they were so long in coming that she gave it up impatiently and
began knocking at a third door. This was the house of a merchant called
Titov. Here she wailed and kept declaring incoherently that her husband
was murdered, causing a great flutter in the house. Something was
known about Shatov and his story in the Titov household; they were
horror-stricken that she should be running about the streets in such
attire and in such cold with the baby scarcely covered in her arms,
when, according to her story, she had only been confined the day before.
They thought at first that she was delirious, especially as they could
not make out whether it was Kirillov who was murdered or her husband.
Seeing that they did not believe her she would have run on farther,
but they kept her by force, and I am told she screamed and struggled
terribly. They went to Filipov's, and within two hours Kirillov's
suicide and the letter he had left were known to the whole town. The
police came to question Marya Ignatyevna, who was still conscious, and
it appeared at once that she had not read Kirillov's letter, and they
could not find out from her what had led her to conclude that her
husband had been murdered. She only screamed that if Kirillov was
murdered, then her husband was murdered, they were together. Towards
midday she sank into a state of unconsciousness from which she never
recovered, and she died three days later. The baby had caught cold and
died before her.
Arina Prohorovna not finding Marya Ignatyevna and the baby, and guessing
something was wrong, was about to run home, but she checked herself at
the gate and sent the nurse to inquire of the gentleman at the lodge
whether Marya Ignatyevna was not there and whether he knew anything
about her. The woman came back screaming frantically. Persuading her not
to scream and not to tell anyone by the time-honoured argument that "she
would get into trouble," she stole out of the yard.
It goes without saying that she was questioned the same morning as
having acted as midwife to Marya Ignatyevna; but they did not get much
out of her. She gave a very cool and sensible account of all she had
herself heard and seen at Shatov's, but as to what had happened she
declared that she knew nothing, and could not understand it.
It may well be imagined what an uproar there was in the town. A new
"sensation," another murder! But there was another element in this
case: it was clear that a secret society of murderers, incendiaries, and
revolutionists did exist, did actually exist. Liza's terrible death, the
murder of Stavrogin's wife, Stavrogin himself, the fire, the ball for
the benefit of the governesses, the laxity of manners and morals in
Yulia Mihailovna's circle.... Even in the disappearance of Stepan
Trofimovitch people insisted on scenting a mystery. All sorts of things
were whispered about Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. By the end of the day
people knew of Pyotr Stepanovitch's absence too, and, strange to say,
less was said of him than of anyone. What was talked of most all that
day was "the senator." There was a crowd almost all day at Filipov's
house. The police certainly were led astray by Kirillov's letter. They
believed that Kirillov had murdered Shatov and had himself committed
suicide. Yet, though the authorities were thrown into perplexity,
they were not altogether hoodwinked. The word "park," for instance, so
vaguely inserted in Kirillov's letter, did not puzzle anyone as Pyotr
Stepanovitch had expected it would. The police at once made a rush
for Skvoreshniki, not simply because it was the only park in the
neighbourhood but also led thither by a sort of instinct because all the
horrors of the last few days were connected directly or indirectly with
Skvoreshniki. That at least is my theory. (I may remark that
Varvara Petrovna had driven off early that morning in chase of Stepan
Trofimovitch, and knew nothing of what had happened in the town.)
The body was found in the pond that evening. What led to the discovery
of it was the finding of Shatov's cap at the scene of the murder, where
it had been with extraordinary carelessness overlooked by the murderers.
The appearance of the body, the medical examination and certain
deductions from it roused immediate suspicions that Kirillov must have
had accomplices. It became evident that a secret society really did
exist of which Shatov and Kirillov were members and which was connected
with the manifestoes. Who were these accomplices? No one even thought of
any member of the quintet that day. It was ascertained that Kirillov
had lived like a hermit, and in so complete a seclusion that it had been
possible, as stated in the letter, for Fedka to lodge with him for so
many days, even while an active search was being made for him. The chief
thing that worried every one was the impossibility of discovering a
connecting-link in this chaos.
There is no saying what conclusions and what disconnected theories our
panic-stricken townspeople would have reached, if the whole mystery had
not been suddenly solved next day, thanks to Lyamshin.
He broke down. He behaved as even Pyotr Stepanovitch had towards the end
begun to fear he would. Left in charge of Tolkatchenko, and afterwards
of Erkel, he spent all the following day lying in his bed with his face
turned to the wall, apparently calm, not uttering a word, and scarcely
answering when he was spoken to. This is how it was that he heard
nothing all day of what was happening in the town. But Tolkatchenko,
who was very well informed about everything, took into his head by
the evening to throw up the task of watching Lyamshin which Pyotr
Stepanovitch had laid upon him, and left the town, that is, to put it
plainly, made his escape; the fact is, they lost their heads as Erkel
had predicted they would. I may mention, by the way, that Liputin had
disappeared the same day before twelve o'clock. But things fell out so
that his disappearance did not become known to the authorities till
the evening of the following day, when, the police went to question his
family, who were panic-stricken at his absence but kept quiet from fear
of consequences. But to return to Lyamshin: as soon as he was left alone
(Erkel had gone home earlier, relying on Tolkatchenko) he ran out of
his house, and, of course, very soon learned the position of affairs.
Without even returning home he too tried to run away without knowing
where he was going. But the night was so dark and to escape was so
terrible and difficult, that after going through two or three streets,
he returned home and locked himself up for the whole night. I believe
that towards morning he attempted to commit suicide but did not succeed.
He remained locked up till midday—and then suddenly he ran to the
authorities. He is said to have crawled on his knees, to have sobbed and
shrieked, to have kissed the floor crying out that he was not worthy to
kiss the boots of the officials standing before him. They soothed him,
were positively affable to him. His examination lasted, I am told, for
three hours. He confessed everything, everything, told every detail,
everything he knew, every point, anticipating their questions, hurried
to make a clean breast of it all, volunteering unnecessary information
without being asked. It turned out that he knew enough, and presented
things in a fairly true light: the tragedy of Shatov and Kirillov, the
fire, the death of the Lebyadkins, and the rest of it were relegated
to the background. Pyotr Stepanovitch, the secret society, the
organisation, and the network were put in the first place. When asked
what was the object of so many murders and scandals and dastardly
outrages, he answered with feverish haste that "it was with the idea of
systematically undermining the foundations, systematically destroying
society and all principles; with the idea of nonplussing every one and
making hay of everything, and then, when society was tottering, sick
and out of joint, cynical and sceptical though filled with an intense
eagerness for self-preservation and for some guiding idea, suddenly to
seize it in their hands, raising the standard of revolt and relying on a
complete network of quintets, which were actively, meanwhile, gathering
recruits and seeking out the weak spots which could be attacked."
In conclusion, he said that here in our town Pyotr Stepanovitch had
organised only the first experiment in such systematic disorder, so to
speak as a programme for further activity, and for all the quintets—and
that this was his own (Lyamshin's) idea, his own theory, "and that he
hoped they would remember it and bear in mind how openly and properly
he had given his information, and therefore might be of use hereafter."
Being asked definitely how many quintets there were, he answered that
there were immense numbers of them, that all Russia was overspread with
a network, and although he brought forward no proofs, I believe his
answer was perfectly sincere. He produced only the programme of the
society, printed abroad, and the plan for developing a system of future
activity roughly sketched in Pyotr Stepanovitch's own handwriting. It
appeared that Lyamshin had quoted the phrase about "undermining the
foundation," word for word from this document, not omitting a single
stop or comma, though he had declared that it was all his own theory.
Of Yulia Mihailovna he very funnily and quite without provocation
volunteered the remark, that "she was innocent and had been made a
fool of." But, strange to say, he exonerated Nikolay Stavrogin from
all share in the secret society, from any collaboration with Pyotr
Stepanovitch. (Lyamshin had no conception of the secret and very absurd
hopes that Pyotr Stepanovitch was resting on Stavrogin.) According to
his story Nikolay Stavrogin had nothing whatever to do with the death of
the Lebyadkins, which had been planned by Pyotr Stepanovitch alone
and with the subtle aim of implicating the former in the crime, and
therefore making him dependent on Pyotr Stepanovitch; but instead of
the gratitude on which Pyotr Stepanovitch had reckoned with shallow
confidence, he had roused nothing but indignation and even despair in
"the generous heart of Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch." He wound up, by a hint,
evidently intentional, volunteered hastily, that Stavrogin was perhaps
a very important personage, but that there was some secret about that,
that he had been living among us, so to say, incognito, that he had some
commission, and that very possibly he would come back to us again
from Petersburg. (Lyamshin was convinced that Stavrogin had gone
to Petersburg), but in quite a different capacity and in different
surroundings, in the suite of persons of whom perhaps we should soon
hear, and that all this he had heard from Pyotr Stepanovitch, "Nikolay
Vsyevolodovitch's secret enemy."
Here I will note that two months later, Lyamshin admitted that he had
exonerated Stavrogin on purpose, hoping that he would protect him and
would obtain for him a mitigation in the second degree of his sentence,
and that he would provide him with money and letters of introduction
in Siberia. From this confession it is evident that he had an
extraordinarily exaggerated conception of Stavrogin's powers.
On the same day, of course, the police arrested Virginsky and in their
zeal took his whole family too. (Arina Prohorovna, her sister, aunt, and
even the girl student were released long ago; they say that Shigalov too
will be set free very shortly because he cannot be classed with any of
the other prisoners. But all that is so far only gossip.) Virginsky at
once pleaded guilty. He was lying ill with fever when he was arrested.
I am told that he seemed almost relieved; "it was a load off his heart,"
he is reported to have said. It is rumoured that he is giving his
evidence without reservation, but with a certain dignity, and has not
given up any of his "bright hopes," though at the same time he curses
the political method (as opposed to the Socialist one), in which he
had been unwittingly and heedlessly carried "by the vortex of combined
circumstances." His conduct at the time of the murder has been put in
a favourable light, and I imagine that he too may reckon on some
mitigation of his sentence. That at least is what is asserted in the
But I doubt whether there is any hope for mercy in Erkel's case. Ever
since his arrest he has been obstinately silent, or has misrepresented
the facts as far as he could. Not one word of regret has been wrung
from him so far. Yet even the sternest of the judges trying him has
been moved to some compassion by his youth, by his helplessness, by the
unmistakable evidence that he is nothing but a fanatical victim of a
political impostor, and, most of all, by his conduct to his mother,
to whom, as it appears, he used to send almost the half of his small
salary. His mother is now in the town; she is a delicate and ailing
woman, aged beyond her years; she weeps and positively grovels on the
ground imploring mercy for her son. Whatever may happen, many among us
feel sorry for Erkel.
Liputin was arrested in Petersburg, where he had been living for a
fortnight. His conduct there sounds almost incredible and is difficult
to explain. He is said to have had a passport in a forged name and quite
a large sum of money upon him, and had every possibility of escaping
abroad, yet instead of going he remained in Petersburg. He spent some
time hunting for Stavrogin and Pyotr Stepanovitch. Suddenly he took to
drinking and gave himself up to a debauchery that exceeded all bounds,
like a man who had lost all reason and understanding of his position. He
was arrested in Petersburg drunk in a brothel. There is a rumour that he
has not by any means lost heart, that he tells lies in his evidence and
is preparing for the approaching trial hopefully (?) and, as it
were, triumphantly. He even intends to make a speech at the trial.
Tolkatchenko, who was arrested in the neighbourhood ten days after his
flight, behaves with incomparably more decorum; he does not shuffle
or tell lies, he tells all he knows, does not justify himself, blames
himself with all modesty, though he, too, has a weakness for rhetoric;
he tells readily what he knows, and when knowledge of the peasantry and
the revolutionary elements among them is touched upon, he positively
attitudinises and is eager to produce an effect. He, too, is meaning, I
am told, to make a speech at the trial. Neither he nor Liputin seem very
much afraid, curious as it seems.
I repeat that the case is not yet over. Now, three months afterwards,
local society has had time to rest, has recovered, has got over it, has
an opinion of its own, so much so that some people positively look
upon Pyotr Stepanovitch as a genius or at least as possessed of "some
characteristics of a genius." "Organisation!" they say at the club,
holding up a finger. But all this is very innocent and there are not
many people who talk like that. Others, on the other hand, do not deny
his acuteness, but point out that he was utterly ignorant of real life,
that he was terribly theoretical, grotesquely and stupidly one-sided,
and consequently shallow in the extreme. As for his moral qualities all
are agreed; about that there are no two opinions.
I do not know whom to mention next so as not to forget anyone. Mavriky
Nikolaevitch has gone away for good, I don't know where. Old Madame
Drozdov has sunk into dotage.... I have still one very gloomy story to
tell, however. I will confine myself to the bare facts.
On her return from Ustyevo, Varvara Petrovna stayed at her town house.
All the accumulated news broke upon her at once and gave her a terrible
shock. She shut herself up alone. It was evening; every one was tired
and went to bed early.
In the morning a maid with a mysterious air handed a note to Darya
Pavlovna. The note had, so she said, arrived the evening before, but
late, when all had gone to bed, so that she had not ventured to wake
her. It had not come by post, but had been put in Alexey Yegorytch's
hand in Skvoreshniki by some unknown person. And Alexey Yegorytch had
immediately set off and put it into her hands himself and had then
returned to Skvoreshniki.
For a long while Darya Pavlovna gazed at the letter with a beating
heart, and dared not open it. She knew from whom it came: the writer was
Nikolay Stavrogin. She read what was written on the envelope: "To Alexey
Yegorytch, to be given secretly to Darya Pavlovna."
Here is the letter word for word, without the slightest correction of
the defects in style of a Russian aristocrat who had never mastered the
Russian grammar in spite of his European education.
"Dear Darya Pavlovna,—At one time you expressed a wish to be my nurse
and made me promise to send for you when I wanted you. I am going away
in two days and shall not come back. Will you go with me?
"Last year, like Herzen, I was naturalised as a citizen of the canton
of Uri, and that nobody knows. There I've already bought a little house.
I've still twelve thousand roubles left; we'll go and live there for
ever. I don't want to go anywhere else ever.
"It's a very dull place, a narrow valley, the mountains restrict both
vision and thought. It's very gloomy. I chose the place because there
was a little house to be sold. If you don't like it I'll sell it and buy
another in some other place.
"I am not well, but I hope to get rid of hallucinations in that air.
It's physical, and as for the moral you know everything; but do you know
"I've told you a great deal of my life, but not all. Even to you!
Not all. By the way, I repeat that in my conscience I feel myself
responsible for my wife's death. I haven't seen you since then, that's
why I repeat it. I feel guilty about Lizaveta Nikolaevna too; but you
know about that; you foretold almost all that.
"Better not come to me. My asking you to is a horrible meanness. And why
should you bury your life with me? You are dear to me, and when I was
miserable it was good to be beside you; only with you I could speak
of myself aloud. But that proves nothing. You defined it yourself, 'a
nurse'—it's your own expression; why sacrifice so much? Grasp this,
too, that I have no pity for you since I ask you, and no respect for
you since I reckon on you. And yet I ask you and I reckon on you. In
any case I need your answer for I must set off very soon. In that case I
shall go alone.
"I expect nothing of Uri; I am simply going. I have not chosen a gloomy
place on purpose. I have no ties in Russia—everything is as alien to
me there as everywhere. It's true that I dislike living there more than
anywhere; but I can't hate anything even there!
"I've tried my strength everywhere. You advised me to do this 'that I
might learn to know myself.' As long as I was experimenting for myself
and for others it seemed infinite, as it has all my life. Before your
eyes I endured a blow from your brother; I acknowledged my marriage in
public. But to what to apply my strength, that is what I've never seen,
and do not see now in spite of all your praises in Switzerland, which
I believed in. I am still capable, as I always was, of desiring to do
something good, and of feeling pleasure from it; at the same time I
desire evil and feel pleasure from that too. But both feelings are
always too petty, and are never very strong. My desires are too weak;
they are not enough to guide me. On a log one may cross a river but not
on a chip. I say this that you may not believe that I am going to Uri
with hopes of any sort.
"As always I blame no one. I've tried the depths of debauchery and
wasted my strength over it. But I don't like vice and I didn't want it.
You have been watching me of late. Do you know that I looked upon our
iconoclasts with spite, from envy of their hopes? But you had no need to
be afraid. I could not have been one of them for I never shared anything
with them. And to do it for fun, from spite I could not either, not
because I am afraid of the ridiculous—I cannot be afraid of the
ridiculous—but because I have, after all, the habits of a gentleman and
it disgusted me. But if I had felt more spite and envy of them I might
perhaps have joined them. You can judge how hard it has been for me, and
how I've struggled from one thing to another.
"Dear friend! Great and tender heart which I divined! Perhaps you dream
of giving me so much love and lavishing on me so much that is beautiful
from your beautiful soul, that you hope to set up some aim for me at
last by it? No, it's better for you to be more cautious, my love will
be as petty as I am myself and you will be unhappy. Your brother told me
that the man who loses connection with his country loses his gods, that
is, all his aims. One may argue about everything endlessly, but from me
nothing has come but negation, with no greatness of soul, no force.
Even negation has not come from me. Everything has always been petty and
spiritless. Kirillov, in the greatness of his soul, could not compromise
with an idea, and shot himself; but I see, of course, that he was
great-souled because he had lost his reason. I can never lose my reason,
and I can never believe in an idea to such a degree as he did. I cannot
even be interested in an idea to such a degree. I can never, never shoot
"I know I ought to kill myself, to brush myself off the earth like a
nasty insect; but I am afraid of suicide, for I am afraid of showing
greatness of soul. I know that it will be another sham again—the last
deception in an endless series of deceptions. What good is there in
deceiving oneself? Simply to play at greatness of soul? Indignation and
shame I can never feel, therefore not despair.
"Forgive me for writing so much. I wrote without noticing. A hundred
pages would be too little and ten lines would be enough. Ten lines would
be enough to ask you to be a nurse. Since I left Skvoreshniki I've been
living at the sixth station on the line, at the stationmaster's. I got
to know him in the time of debauchery five years ago in Petersburg. No
one knows I am living there. Write to him. I enclose the address.
Darya Pavlovna went at once and showed the letter to Varvara Petrovna.
She read it and asked Dasha to go out of the room so that she might read
it again alone; but she called her back very quickly.
"Are you going?" she asked almost timidly.
"I am going," answered Dasha.
"Get ready! We'll go together."
Dasha looked at her inquiringly.
"What is there left for me to do here? What difficulty will it make?
I'll be naturalised in Uri, too, and live in the valley.... Don't be
uneasy, I won't be in the way."
They began packing quickly to be in time to catch the midday train.
But in less than half an hour's time Alexey Yegorytch arrived from
Skvoreshniki. He announced that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had suddenly
arrived that morning by the early train, and was now at Skvoreshniki but
"in such a state that his honour did not answer any questions, walked
through all the rooms and shut himself up in his own wing...."
"Though I received no orders I thought it best to come and inform you,"
Alexey Yegorytch concluded with a very significant expression.
Varvara Petrovna looked at him searchingly and did not question him. The
carriage was got ready instantly. Varvara Petrovna set off with Dasha.
They say that she kept crossing herself on the journey.
In Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch's wing of the house all the doors were open
and he was nowhere to be seen.
"Wouldn't he be upstairs?" Fomushka ventured.
It was remarkable that several servants followed Varvara Petrovna while
the others all stood waiting in the drawing-room. They would never have
dared to commit such a breach of etiquette before. Varvara Petrovna saw
it and said nothing.
They went upstairs. There there were three rooms; but they found no one
"Wouldn't his honour have gone up there?" some one suggested, pointing
to the door of the loft. And in-fact, the door of the loft which was
always closed had been opened and was standing ajar. The loft was right
under the roof and was reached by a long, very steep and narrow wooden
ladder. There was a sort of little room up there too.
"I am not going up there. Why should he go up there?" said Varvara
Petrovna, turning terribly pale as she looked at the servants. They
gazed back at her and said nothing. Dasha was trembling.
Varvara Petrovna rushed up the ladder; Dasha followed, but she had
hardly entered the loft when she uttered a scream and fell senseless.
The citizen of the canton of Uri was hanging there behind the door. On
the table lay a piece of paper with the words in pencil: "No one is to
blame, I did it myself." Beside it on the table lay a hammer, a piece
of soap, and a large nail—obviously an extra one in case of need. The
strong silk cord upon which Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had hanged himself
had evidently been chosen and prepared beforehand and was thickly
smeared with soap. Everything proved that there had been premeditation
and consciousness up to the last moment.
At the inquest our doctors absolutely and emphatically rejected all idea