A Faint Heart by Fyodor
Under the same roof in the same flat on the same fourth
storey lived two young men, colleagues in the service, Arkady Ivanovitch
Nefedevitch and Vasya Shumkov.... The author of course, feels the
necessity of explaining to the reader why one is given his full title,
while the other's name is abbreviated, if only that such a mode of
expression may not be regarded as unseemly and rather familiar. But, to
do so, it would first be necessary to explain and describe the rank and
years and calling and duty in the service, and even, indeed, the
characters of the persons concerned; and since there are so many writers
who begin in that way, the author of the proposed story, solely in order
to be unlike them (that is, some people will perhaps say, entirely on
account of his boundless vanity), decides to begin straightaway with
action. Having completed this introduction, he begins.
Towards six o'clock on New Year's Eve Shumkov returned home. Arkady
Ivanovitch, who was lying on the bed, woke up and looked at his friend
with half-closed eyes. He saw that Vasya had on his very best trousers
and a very clean shirt front. That, of course, struck him. "Where had
Vasya to go like that? And he had not dined at home either!" Meanwhile,
Shumkov had lighted a candle, and Arkady Ivanovitch guessed immediately
that his friend was intending to wake him accidentally. Vasya did, in
fact, clear his throat twice, walked twice up and down the room, and at
last, quite accidentally, let the pipe, which he had begun filling in
the corner by the stove, slip out of his hands. Arkady Ivanovitch
laughed to himself.
"Vasya, give over pretending!" he said.
"Arkasha, you are not asleep?"
"I really cannot say for certain; it seems to me I am not."
"Oh, Arkasha! How are you, dear boy? Well, brother! Well, brother!...
You don't know what I have to tell you!"
"I certainly don't know; come here."
As though expecting this, Vasya went up to him at once, not at all
anticipating, however, treachery from Arkady Ivanovitch. The other
seized him very adroitly by the arms, turned him over, held him down,
and began, as it is called, "strangling" his victim, and apparently this
proceeding afforded the lighthearted Arkady Ivanovitch great
"Caught!" he cried. "Caught!"
"Arkasha, Arkasha, what are you about? Let me go. For goodness sake,
let me go, I shall crumple my dress coat!"
"As though that mattered! What do you want with a dress coat? Why
were you so confiding as to put yourself in my hands? Tell me, where
have you been? Where have you dined?"
"Arkasha, for goodness sake, let me go!"
"Where have you dined?"
"Why, it's about that I want to tell you."
"Tell away, then."
"But first let me go."
"Not a bit of it, I won't let you go till you tell me!"
"Arkasha! Arkasha! But do you understand, I can't—it is utterly
impossible!" cried Vasya, helplessly wriggling out of his friend's
powerful clutches, "you know there are subjects!"
"Why, subjects that you can't talk about in such a position without
losing your dignity; it's utterly impossible; it would make it
ridiculous, and this is not a ridiculous matter, it is important."
"Here, he's going in for being important! That's a new idea! You tell
me so as to make me laugh, that's how you must tell me; I don't want
anything important; or else you are no true friend of mine. Do you call
yourself a friend? Eh?"
"Arkasha, I really can't!"
"Well, I don't want to hear...."
"Well, Arkasha!" began Vasya, lying across the bed and doing his
utmost to put all the dignity possible into his words. "Arkasha! If you
like, I will tell you; only...."
"Well, I am engaged to be married!"
Without uttering another word Arkady Ivanovitch took Vasya up in his
arms like a baby, though the latter was by no means short, but rather
long and thin, and began dexterously carrying him up and down the room,
pretending that he was hushing him to sleep.
"I'll put you in your swaddling clothes, Master Bridegroom," he kept
saying. But seeing that Vasya lay in his arms, not stirring or uttering
a word, he thought better of it at once, and reflecting that the joke
had gone too far, set him down in the middle of the room and kissed him
on the cheek in the most genuine and friendly way.
"Vasya, you are not angry?"
"Come, it's New Year's Eve."
"Oh, I'm all right; but why are you such a madman, such a
scatterbrain? How many times I have told you: Arkasha, it's really not
funny, not funny at all!"
"Oh, well, you are not angry?"
"Oh, I'm all right; am I ever angry with any one! But you have
wounded me, do you understand?"
"But how have I wounded you? In what way?"
"I come to you as to a friend, with a full heart, to pour out my soul
to you, to tell you of my happiness...."
"What happiness? Why don't you speak?..."
"Oh, well, I am going to get married!" Vasya answered with vexation,
for he really was a little exasperated.
"You! You are going to get married! So you really mean it?" Arkasha
cried at the top of his voice. "No, no ... but what's this? He talks
like this and his tears are flowing.... Vasya, my little Vasya, don't,
my little son! Is it true, really?" And Arkady Ivanovitch flew to hug
"Well, do you see, how it is now?" said Vasya. "You are kind, of
course, you are a friend, I know that. I come to you with such joy, such
rapture, and all of a sudden I have to disclose all the joy of my heart,
all my rapture struggling across the bed, in an undignified way.... You
understand, Arkasha," Vasya went on, half laughing. "You see, it made it
seem comic: and in a sense I did not belong to myself at that minute. I
could not let this be slighted.... What's more, if you had asked me her
name, I swear, I would sooner you killed me than have answered you."
"But, Vasya, why did you not speak! You should have told me all about
it sooner and I would not have played the fool!" cried Arkady Ivanovitch
in genuine despair.
"Come, that's enough, that's enough! Of course, that's how it is....
You know what it all comes from—from my having a good heart. What
vexes me is, that I could not tell you as I wanted to, making you glad
and happy, telling you nicely and initiating you into my secret
properly.... Really, Arkasha, I love you so much that I believe if it
were not for you I shouldn't be getting married, and, in fact, I
shouldn't be living in this world at all!"
Arkady Ivanovitch, who was excessively sentimental, cried and laughed
at once as he listened to Vasya. Vasya did the same. Both flew to
embrace one another again and forgot the past.
"How is it—how is it? Tell me all about it, Vasya! I am
astonished, excuse me, brother, but I am utterly astonished; it's a
perfect thunderbolt, by Jove! Nonsense, nonsense, brother, you have made
it up, you've really made it up, you are telling fibs!" cried Arkady
Ivanovitch, and he actually looked into Vasya's face with genuine
uncertainty, but seeing in it the radiant confirmation of a positive
intention of being married as soon as possible, threw himself on the bed
and began rolling from side to side in ecstasy till the walls shook.
"Vasya, sit here," he said at last, sitting down on the bed.
"I really don't know, brother, where to begin!"
They looked at one another in joyful excitement.
"Who is she, Vasya?"
"The Artemyevs!..." Vasya pronounced, in a voice weak with
"Well, I did buzz into your ears about them at first, and then I shut
up, and you noticed nothing. Ah, Arkasha, if you knew how hard it was to
keep it from you; but I was afraid, afraid to speak! I thought it would
all go wrong, and you know I was in love, Arkasha! My God! my God! You
see this was the trouble," he began, pausing continually from agitation,
"she had a suitor a year ago, but he was suddenly ordered somewhere; I
knew him—he was a fellow, bless him! Well, he did not write at
all, he simply vanished. They waited and waited, wondering what it
meant.... Four months ago he suddenly came back married, and has never
set foot within their doors! It was coarse—shabby! And they had no
one to stand up for them. She cried and cried, poor girl, and I fell in
love with her ... indeed, I had been in love with her long before, all
the time! I began comforting her, and was always going there.... Well,
and I really don't know how it has all come about, only she came to love
me; a week ago I could not restrain myself, I cried, I sobbed, and told
her everything—well, that I love her—everything, in fact!...
'I am ready to love you, too, Vassily Petrovitch, only I am a poor girl,
don't make a mock of me; I don't dare to love any one.' Well, brother,
you understand! You understand?... On that we got engaged on the spot. I
kept thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking, I said to her,
'How are we to tell your mother?' She said, 'It will be hard, wait a
little; she's afraid, and now maybe she would not let you have me; she
keeps crying, too.' Without telling her I blurted it out to her mother
to-day. Lizanka fell on her knees before her, I did the same ... well,
she gave us her blessing. Arkasha, Arkasha! My dear fellow! We will live
together. No, I won't part from you for anything."
"Vasya, look at you as I may, I can't believe it. I don't believe it,
I swear. I keep feeling as though.... Listen, how can you be engaged to
be married?... How is it I didn't know, eh? Do you know, Vasya, I will
confess it to you now. I was thinking of getting married myself; but now
since you are going to be married, it is just as good! Be happy, be
"Brother, I feel so lighthearted now, there is such sweetness in my
soul ..." said Vasya, getting up and pacing about the room excitedly.
"Don't you feel the same? We shall be poor, of course, but we shall be
happy; and you know it is not a wild fancy; our happiness is not a fairy
tale; we shall be happy in reality!..."
"Vasya, Vasya, listen!"
"What?" said Vasya, standing before Arkady Ivanovitch.
"The idea occurs to me; I am really afraid to say it to you....
Forgive me, and settle my doubts. What are you going to live on? You
know I am delighted that you are going to be married, of course, I am
delighted, and I don't know what to do with myself, but—what are
you going to live on? Eh?"
"Oh, good Heavens! What a fellow you are, Arkasha!" said Vasya,
looking at Nefedevitch in profound astonishment. "What do you mean? Even
her old mother, even she did not think of that for two minutes when I
put it all clearly before her. You had better ask what they are living
on! They have five hundred roubles a year between the three of them: the
pension, which is all they have, since the father died. She and her old
mother and her little brother, whose schooling is paid for out of that
income too—that is how they live! It's you and I are the
capitalists! Some good years it works out to as much as seven hundred
"I say, Vasya, excuse me; I really ... you know I ... I am only
thinking how to prevent things going wrong. How do you mean, seven
hundred? It's only three hundred...."
"Three hundred!... And Yulian Mastakovitch? Have you forgotten
"Yulian Mastakovitch? But you know that's uncertain, brother; that's
not the same thing as three hundred roubles of secure salary, where
every rouble is a friend you can trust. Yulian Mastakovitch, of course,
he's a great man, in fact, I respect him, I understand him, though he is
so far above us; and, by Jove, I love him, because he likes you and
gives you something for your work, though he might not pay you, but
simply order a clerk to work for him—but you will agree, Vasya....
Let me tell you, too, I am not talking nonsense. I admit in all
Petersburg you won't find a handwriting like your handwriting, I am
ready to allow that to you," Nefedevitch concluded, not without
enthusiasm. "But, God forbid! you may displease him all at once, you may
not satisfy him, your work with him may stop, he may take another
clerk—all sorts of things may happen, in fact! You know, Yulian
Mastakovitch may be here to-day and gone to-morrow...."
"Well, Arkasha, the ceiling might fall on our heads this minute."
"Oh, of course, of course, I mean nothing."
"But listen, hear what I have got to say—you know, I don't see
how he can part with me.... No, hear what I have to say! hear what I
have to say! You see, I perform all my duties punctually; you know how
kind he is, you know, Arkasha, he gave me fifty roubles in silver
"Did he really, Vasya? A bonus for you?"
"Bonus, indeed, it was out of his own pocket. He said: 'Why, you have
had no money for five months, brother, take some if you want it; thank
you, I am satisfied with you.'... Yes, really! 'Yes, you don't work for
me for nothing,' said he. He did, indeed, that's what he said. It
brought tears into my eyes, Arkasha. Good Heavens, yes!"
"I say, Vasya, have you finished copying those papers?..."
"No.... I haven't finished them yet."
"Vas...ya! My angel! What have you been doing?"
"Listen, Arkasha, it doesn't matter, they are not wanted for another
two days, I have time enough...."
"How is it you have not done them?"
"That's all right, that's all right. You look so horror-stricken that
you turn me inside out and make my heart ache! You are always going on
at me like this! He's for ever crying out: Oh, oh, oh!!! Only consider,
what does it matter? Why, I shall finish it, of course I shall finish
"What if you don't finish it?" cried Arkady, jumping up, "and he has
made you a present to-day! And you going to be married.... Tut, tut,
"It's all right, it's all right," cried Shumkov, "I shall sit down
directly, I shall sit down this minute."
"How did you come to leave it, Vasya?"
"Oh, Arkasha! How could I sit down to work! Have I been in a fit
state? Why, even at the office I could scarcely sit still, I could
scarcely bear the beating of my heart.... Oh! oh! Now I shall work all
night, and I shall work all to-morrow night, and the night after,
too—and I shall finish it."
"Is there a great deal left?"
"Don't hinder me, for goodness' sake, don't hinder me; hold your
Arkady Ivanovitch went on tip-toe to the bed and sat down, then
suddenly wanted to get up, but was obliged to sit down again,
remembering that he might interrupt him, though he could not sit still
for excitement: it was evident that the news had thoroughly upset him,
and the first thrill of delight had not yet passed off. He glanced at
Shumkov; the latter glanced at him, smiled, and shook his finger at him,
then, frowning severely (as though all his energy and the success of his
work depended upon it), fixed his eyes on the papers.
It seemed that he, too, could not yet master his emotion; he kept
changing his pen, fidgeting in his chair, re-arranging things, and
setting to work again, but his hand trembled and refused to move.
"Arkasha, I've talked to them about you," he cried suddenly, as
though he had just remembered it.
"Yes," cried Arkasha, "I was just wanting to ask you that. Well?"
"Well, I'll tell you everything afterwards. Of course, it is my own
fault, but it quite went out of my head that I didn't mean to say
anything till I had written four pages, but I thought of you and of
them. I really can't write, brother, I keep thinking about you...."
A silence followed.
"Phew! What a horrid pen," cried Shumkov, flinging it on the table in
vexation. He took another.
"Vasya! listen! one word...."
"Well, make haste, and for the last time."
"Have you a great deal left to do?"
"Ah, brother!" Vasya frowned, as though there could be nothing more
terrible and murderous in the whole world than such a question. "A lot,
a fearful lot."
"Do you know, I have an idea——"
"Oh, never mind, never mind; go on writing."
"Why, what? what?"
"It's past six, Vasya."
Here Nefedevitch smiled and winked slyly at Vasya, though with a
certain timidity, not knowing how Vasya would take it.
"Well, what is it?" said Vasya, throwing down his pen, looking him
straight in the face and actually turning pale with excitement.
"Do you know what?"
"For goodness sake, what is it?"
"I tell you what, you are excited, you won't get much done.... Stop,
stop, stop! I have it, I have it—listen," said Nefedevitch,
jumping up from the bed in delight, preventing Vasya from speaking and
doing his utmost to ward off all objections; "first of all you must get
calm, you must pull yourself together, mustn't you?"
"Arkasha, Arkasha!" cried Vasya, jumping up from his chair, "I will
work all night, I will, really."
"Of course, of course, you won't go to bed till morning."
"I won't go to bed, I won't go to bed at all."
"No, that won't do, that won't do: you must sleep, go to bed at five.
I will call you at eight. To-morrow is a holiday; you can sit and
scribble away all day long.... Then the night and—but have you a
great deal left to do?"
"Yes, look, look!"
Vasya, quivering with excitement and suspense, showed the manuscript:
"I say, brother, that's not much."
"My dear fellow, there's some more of it," said Vasya, looking very
timidly at Nefedevitch, as though the decision whether he was to go or
not depended upon the latter.
"Well, what's that? Come, I tell you what. We shall have time to
finish it, by Jove, we shall!"
"Vasya, listen! To-night, on New Year's Eve, every one is at home
with his family. You and I are the only ones without a home or
relations.... Oh, Vasya!"
Nefedevitch clutched Vasya and hugged him in his leonine arms.
"Arkasha, it's settled."
"Vasya, boy, I only wanted to say this. You see, Vasya—listen,
Arkady stopped, with his mouth open, because he could not speak for
delight. Vasya held him by the shoulders, gazed into his face and moved
his lips, as though he wanted to speak for him.
"Well," he brought out at last.
"Introduce me to them to-day."
"Arkady, let us go to tea there. I tell you what, I tell you what. We
won't even stay to see in the New Year, we'll come away earlier," cried
Vasya, with genuine inspiration.
"That is, we'll go for two hours, neither more nor less...."
"And then separation till I have finished...."
Three minutes later Arkady was dressed in his best. Vasya did nothing
but brush himself, because he had been in such haste to work that he had
not changed his trousers.
They hurried out into the street, each more pleased than the other.
Their way lay from the Petersburg Side to Kolomna. Arkady Ivanovitch
stepped out boldly and vigorously, so that from his walk alone one could
see how glad he was at the good fortune of his friend, who was more and
more radiant with happiness. Vasya trotted along with shorter steps,
though his deportment was none the less dignified. Arkady Ivanovitch, in
fact, had never seen him before to such advantage. At that moment he
actually felt more respect for him, and Vasya's physical defect, of
which the reader is not yet aware (Vasya was slightly deformed), which
always called forth a feeling of loving sympathy in Arkady Ivanovitch's
kind heart, contributed to the deep tenderness the latter felt for him
at this moment, a tenderness of which Vasya was in every way worthy.
Arkady Ivanovitch felt ready to weep with happiness, but he restrained
"Where are you going, where are you going, Vasya? It is nearer this
way," he cried, seeing that Vasya was making in the direction of
"Hold your tongue, Arkasha."
"It really is nearer, Vasya."
"Do you know what, Arkasha?" Vasya began mysteriously, in a voice
quivering with joy, "I tell you what, I want to take Lizanka a little
"What sort of present?"
"At the corner here, brother, is Madame Leroux's, a wonderful
"A cap, my dear, a cap; I saw such a charming little cap to-day. I
inquired, I was told it was the fašon Manon Lescaut—a
delightful thing. Cherry-coloured ribbons, and if it is not dear ...
Arkasha, even if it is dear...."
"I think you are superior to any of the poets, Vasya. Come
They ran along, and two minutes later went into the shop. They were
met by a black-eyed Frenchwoman with curls, who, from the first glance
at her customers, became as joyous and happy as they, even happier, if
one may say so. Vasya was ready to kiss Madame Leroux in his
"Arkasha," he said in an undertone, casting a casual glance at all
the grand and beautiful things on little wooden stands on the huge
table, "lovely things! What's that? What's this? This one, for instance,
this little sweet, do you see?" Vasya whispered, pointing to a charming
cap further away, which was not the one he meant to buy, because he had
already from afar descried and fixed his eyes upon the real, famous one,
standing at the other end. He looked at it in such a way that one might
have supposed some one was going to steal it, or as though the cap
itself might take wings and fly into the air just to prevent Vasya from
"Look," said Arkady Ivanovitch, pointing to one, "I think that's
"Well, Arkasha, that does you credit; I begin to respect you for your
taste," said Vasya, resorting to cunning with Arkasha in the tenderness
of his heart, "your cap is charming, but come this way."
"Where is there a better one, brother?"
"Look; this way."
"That," said Arkady, doubtfully.
But when Vasya, incapable of restraining himself any longer, took it
from the stand from which it seemed to fly spontaneously, as though
delighted at falling at last into the hands of so good a customer, and
they heard the rustle of its ribbons, ruches and lace, an unexpected cry
of delight broke from the powerful chest of Arkady Ivanovitch. Even
Madame Leroux, while maintaining her incontestable dignity and
pre-eminence in matters of taste, and remaining mute from condescension,
rewarded Vasya with a smile of complete approbation, everything in her
glance, gesture and smile saying at once: "Yes, you have chosen rightly,
and are worthy of the happiness which awaits you."
"It has been dangling its charms in coy seclusion," cried Vasya,
transferring his tender feelings to the charming cap. "You have been
hiding on purpose, you sly little pet!" And he kissed it, that is the
air surrounding it, for he was afraid to touch his treasure.
"Retiring as true worth and virtue," Arkady added enthusiastically,
quoting humorously from a comic paper he had read that morning. "Well,
"Hurrah, Arkasha! You are witty to-day. I predict you will make a
sensation, as women say. Madame Leroux, Madame Leroux!"
"What is your pleasure?"
"Dear Madame Leroux."
Madame Leroux looked at Arkady Ivanovitch and smiled
"You wouldn't believe how I adore you at this moment.... Allow me to
give you a kiss...." And Vasya kissed the shopkeeper.
She certainly at that moment needed all her dignity to maintain her
position with such a madcap. But I contend that the innate, spontaneous
courtesy and grace with which Madame Leroux received Vasya's enthusiasm,
was equally befitting. She forgave him, and how tactfully, how
graciously, she knew how to behave in the circumstances. How could she
have been angry with Vasya?
"Madame Leroux, how much?"
"Five roubles in silver," she answered, straightening herself with a
"And this one, Madame Leroux?" said Arkady Ivanovitch, pointing to
"That one is eight roubles."
"There, you see—there, you see! Come, Madame Leroux, tell me
which is nicer, more graceful, more charming, which of them suits you
"The second is richer, but your choice c'est plus coquet."
"Then we will take it."
Madame Leroux took a sheet of very delicate paper, pinned it up, and
the paper with the cap wrapped in it seemed even lighter than the paper
alone. Vasya took it carefully, almost holding his breath, bowed to
Madame Leroux, said something else very polite to her and left the
"I am a lady's man, I was born to be a lady's man," said Vasya,
laughing a little noiseless, nervous laugh and dodging the passers-by,
whom he suspected of designs for crushing his precious cap.
"Listen, Arkady, brother," he began a minute later, and there was a
note of triumph, of infinite affection in his voice. "Arkady, I am so
happy, I am so happy!"
"Vasya! how glad I am, dear boy!"
"No, Arkasha, no. I know that there is no limit to your affection for
me; but you cannot be feeling one-hundredth part of what I am feeling at
this moment. My heart is so full, so full! Arkasha, I am not worthy of
such happiness. I feel that, I am conscious of it. Why has it come to
me?" he said, his voice full of stifled sobs. "What have I done to
deserve it? Tell me. Look what lots of people, what lots of tears, what
sorrow, what work-a-day life without a holiday, while I, I am loved by a
girl like that, I.... But you will see her yourself immediately, you
will appreciate her noble heart. I was born in a humble station, now I
have a grade in the service and an independent income—my salary. I
was born with a physical defect, I am a little deformed. See, she loves
me as I am. Yulian Mastakovitch was so kind, so attentive, so gracious
to-day; he does not often talk to me; he came up to me: 'Well, how goes
it, Vasya' (yes, really, he called me Vasya), 'are you going to have a
good time for the holiday, eh?' he laughed.
"'Well, the fact is, Your Excellency, I have work to do,' but then I
plucked up courage and said: 'and maybe I shall have a good time, too,
Your Excellency.' I really said it. He gave me the money, on the spot,
then he said a couple of words more to me. Tears came into my eyes,
brother, I actually cried, and he, too, seemed touched, he patted me on
the shoulder, and said: 'Feel always, Vasya, as you feel this now.'"
Vasya paused for an instant. Arkady Ivanovitch turned away, and he,
too, wiped away a tear with his fist.
"And, and ..." Vasya went on, "I have never spoken to you of this,
Arkady.... Arkady, you make me so happy with your affection, without you
I could not live,—no, no, don't say anything, Arkady, let me
squeeze your hand, let me ... tha...ank ... you...." Again Vasya could
Arkady Ivanovitch longed to throw himself on Vasya's neck, but as
they were crossing the road and heard almost in their ears a shrill:
"Hi! there!" they ran frightened and excited to the pavement.
Arkady Ivanovitch was positively relieved. He set down Vasya's
outburst of gratitude to the exceptional circumstances of the moment. He
was vexed. He felt that he had done so little for Vasya hitherto. He
felt actually ashamed of himself when Vasya began thanking him for so
little. But they had all their lives before them, and Arkady Ivanovitch
breathed more freely.
The Artemyevs had quite given up expecting them. The proof of it was
that they had already sat down to tea! And the old, it seems, are
sometimes more clear-sighted than the young, even when the young are so
exceptional. Lizanka had very earnestly maintained, "He isn't coming, he
isn't coming, Mamma; I feel in my heart he is not coming;" while her
mother on the contrary declared "that she had a feeling that he would
certainly come, that he would not stay away, that he would run round,
that he could have no office work now, on New Year's Eve." Even as
Lizanka opened the door she did not in the least expect to see them, and
greeted them breathlessly, with her heart throbbing like a captured
bird's, flushing and turning as red as a cherry, a fruit which she
wonderfully resembled. Good Heavens, what a surprise it was! What a
joyful "Oh!" broke from her lips. "Deceiver! My darling!" she cried,
throwing her arms round Vasya's neck. But imagine her amazement, her
sudden confusion: just behind Vasya, as though trying to hide behind his
back, stood Arkady Ivanovitch, a trifle out of countenance. It must be
admitted that he was awkward in the company of women, very awkward
indeed, in fact on one occasion something occurred ... but of that
later. You must put yourself in his place, however. There was nothing to
laugh at; he was standing in the entry, in his goloshes and overcoat,
and in a cap with flaps over the ears, which he would have hastened to
pull off, but he had, all twisted round in a hideous way, a yellow
knitted scarf, which, to make things worse, was knotted at the back. He
had to disentangle all this, to take it off as quickly as possible, to
show himself to more advantage, for there is no one who does not prefer
to show himself to advantage. And then Vasya, vexatious insufferable
Vasya, of course always the same dear kind Vasya, but now insufferable,
ruthless Vasya. "Here," he shouted, "Lizanka, I have brought you my
Arkady? What do you think of him? He is my best friend, embrace him,
kiss him, Lizanka, give him a kiss in advance; afterwards—you will
know him better—you can take it back again."
Well, what, I ask you, was Arkady Ivanovitch to do? And he had only
untwisted half of the scarf so far. I really am sometimes ashamed of
Vasya's excess of enthusiasm; it is, of course, the sign of a good
heart, but ... it's awkward, not nice!
At last both went in.... The mother was unutterably delighted to make
Arkady Ivanovitch's acquaintance, "she had heard so much about him, she
had...." But she did not finish. A joyful "Oh!" ringing musically
through the room interrupted her in the middle of a sentence. Good
Heavens! Lizanka was standing before the cap which had suddenly been
unfolded before her gaze; she clasped her hands with the utmost
simplicity, smiling such a smile.... Oh, Heavens! why had not Madame
Leroux an even lovelier cap?
Oh, Heavens! but where could you find a lovelier cap? It was quite
first-rate. Where could you get a better one? I mean it seriously. This
ingratitude on the part of lovers moves me, in fact, to indignation and
even wounds me a little. Why, look at it for yourself, reader, look,
what could be more beautiful than this little love of a cap? Come, look
at it.... But, no, no, my strictures are uncalled for; they had by now
all agreed with me; it had been a momentary aberration; the blindness,
the delirium of feeling; I am ready to forgive them.... But then you
must look.... You must excuse me, kind reader, I am still talking about
the cap: made of tulle, light as a feather, a broad cherry-coloured
ribbon covered with lace passing between the tulle and the ruche, and at
the back two wide long ribbons—they would fall down a little below
the nape of the neck.... All that the cap needed was to be tilted a
little to the back of the head; come, look at it; I ask you, after that
... but I see you are not looking ... you think it does not matter. You
are looking in a different direction.... You are looking at two big
tears, big as pearls, that rose in two jet black eyes, quivered for one
instant on the eyelashes, and then dropped on the ethereal tulle of
which Madame Leroux's artistic masterpiece was composed.... And again I
feel vexed, those two tears were scarcely a tribute to the cap.... No,
to my mind, such a gift should be given in cool blood, as only then can
its full worth be appreciated. I am, I confess, dear reader, entirely on
the side of the cap.
They sat down—Vasya with Lizanka and the old mother with Arkady
Ivanovitch; they began to talk, and Arkady Ivanovitch did himself
credit, I am glad to say that for him. One would hardly, indeed, have
expected it of him. After a couple of words about Vasya he most
successfully turned the conversation to Yulian Mastakovitch, his patron.
And he talked so cleverly, so cleverly that the subject was not
exhausted for an hour. You ought to have seen with what dexterity, what
tact, Arkady Ivanovitch touched upon certain peculiarities of Yulian
Mastakovitch which directly or indirectly affected Vasya. The mother was
fascinated, genuinely fascinated; she admitted it herself; she purposely
called Vasya aside, and said to him that his friend was a most excellent
and charming young man, and, what was of most account, such a serious,
steady young man. Vasya almost laughed aloud with delight. He remembered
how the serious Arkady had tumbled him on his bed for a quarter of an
hour. Then the mother signed to Vasya to follow her quietly and
cautiously into the next room. It must be admitted that she treated
Lizanka rather unfairly: she behaved treacherously to her daughter, in
the fullness of her heart, of course, and showed Vasya on the sly the
present Lizanka was preparing to give him for the New Year. It was a
paper-case, embroidered in beads and gold in a very choice design: on
one side was depicted a stag, absolutely lifelike, running swiftly, and
so well done! On the other side was the portrait of a celebrated
General, also an excellent likeness. I cannot describe Vasya's raptures.
Meanwhile, time was not being wasted in the parlour. Lizanka went
straight up to Arkady Ivanovitch. She took his hand, she thanked him for
something, and Arkady Ivanovitch gathered that she was referring to her
precious Vasya. Lizanka was, indeed, deeply touched: she had heard that
Arkady Ivanovitch was such a true friend of her betrothed, so loved him,
so watched over him, guiding him at every step with helpful advice, that
she, Lizanka, could hardly help thanking him, could not refrain from
feeling grateful, and hoping that Arkady Ivanovitch might like her, if
only half as well as Vasya. Then she began questioning him as to whether
Vasya was careful of his health, expressed some apprehensions in regard
to his marked impulsiveness of character, and his lack of knowledge of
men and practical life; she said that she would in time watch over him
religiously, that she would take care of and cherish his lot, and
finally, she hoped that Arkady Ivanovitch would not leave them, but
would live with them.
"We three shall live like one," she cried, with extremely na´ve
But it was time to go. They tried, of course, to keep them, but Vasya
answered point blank that it was impossible. Arkady Ivanovitch said the
same. The reason was, of course, inquired into, and it came out at once
that there was work to be done entrusted to Vasya by Yulian
Mastakovitch, urgent, necessary, dreadful work, which must be handed in
on the morning of the next day but one, and that it was not only
unfinished, but had been completely laid aside. The mamma sighed when
she heard of this, while Lizanka was positively scared, and hurried
Vasya off in alarm. The last kiss lost nothing from this haste; though
brief and hurried it was only the more warm and ardent. At last they
parted and the two friends set off home.
Both began at once confiding to each other their impressions as soon
as they found themselves in the street. And could they help it? Indeed,
Arkady Ivanovitch was in love, desperately in love, with Lizanka. And to
whom could he better confide his feelings than to Vasya, the happy man
himself. And so he did; he was not bashful, but confessed everything at
once to Vasya. Vasya laughed heartily and was immensely delighted, and
even observed that this was all that was needed to make them greater
friends than ever. "You have guessed my feelings, Vasya," said Arkady
Ivanovitch. "Yes, I love her as I love you; she will be my good angel as
well as yours, for the radiance of your happiness will be shed on me,
too, and I can bask in its warmth. She will keep house for me too,
Vasya; my happiness will be in her hands. Let her keep house for me as
she will for you. Yes, friendship for you is friendship for her; you are
not separable for me now, only I shall have two beings like you instead
of one...." Arkady paused in the fullness of his feelings, while Vasya
was shaken to the depths of his being by his friend's words. The fact
is, he had never expected anything of the sort from Arkady. Arkady
Ivanovitch was not very great at talking as a rule, he was not fond of
dreaming, either; now he gave way to the liveliest, freshest,
rainbow-tinted day-dreams. "How I will protect and cherish you both," he
began again. "To begin with, Vasya, I will be godfather to all your
children, every one of them; and secondly, Vasya, we must bestir
ourselves about the future. We must buy furniture, and take a lodging so
that you and she and I can each have a little room to ourselves. Do you
know, Vasya, I'll run about to-morrow and look at the notices, on the
gates! Three ... no, two rooms, we should not need more. I really
believe, Vasya, I talked nonsense this morning, there will be money
enough; why, as soon as I glanced into her eyes I calculated at once
that there would be enough to live on. It will all be for her. Oh, how
we will work! Now, Vasya, we might venture up to twenty-five roubles for
rent. A lodging is everything, brother. Nice rooms ... and at once a man
is cheerful, and his dreams are of the brightest hues. And, besides,
Lizanka will keep the purse for both of us: not a farthing will be
wasted. Do you suppose I would go to a restaurant? What do you take me
for? Not on any account. And then we shall get a bonus and reward, for
we shall be zealous in the service—oh! how we shall work, like
oxen toiling in the fields.... Only fancy," and Arkady Ivanovitch's
voice was faint with pleasure, "all at once and quite unexpected,
twenty-five or thirty roubles.... Whenever there's an extra, there'll be
a cap or a scarf or a pair of little stockings. She must knit me a
scarf; look what a horrid one I've got, the nasty yellow thing, it did
me a bad turn to-day! And you wore a nice one, Vasya, to introduce me
while I had my head in a halter.... Though never mind that now. And look
here, I undertake all the silver. I am bound to give you some little
present,—that will be an honour, that will flatter my vanity....
My bonuses won't fail me, surely; you don't suppose they would give them
to Skorohodov? No fear, they won't be landed in that person's pocket.
I'll buy you silver spoons, brother, good knives—not silver
knives, but thoroughly good ones; and a waistcoat, that is a waistcoat
for myself. I shall be best man, of course. Only now, brother, you must
keep at it, you must keep at it. I shall stand over you with a stick,
brother, to-day and to-morrow and all night; I shall worry you to work.
Finish, make haste and finish, brother. And then again to spend the
evening, and then again both of us happy; we will go in for loto. We
will spend the evening there—oh, it's jolly! Oh, the devil! How,
vexing it is I can't help you. I should like to take it and write it all
for you.... Why is it our handwriting is not alike?"
"Yes," answered Vasya. "Yes, I must make haste. I think it must be
eleven o'clock; we must make haste.... To work!" And saying this, Vasya,
who had been all the time alternately smiling and trying to interrupt
with some enthusiastic rejoinder the flow of his friend's feelings, and
had, in short, been showing the most cordial response, suddenly
subsided, sank into silence, and almost ran along the street. It seemed
as though some burdensome idea had suddenly chilled his feverish head;
he seemed all at once dispirited.
Arkady Ivanovitch felt quite uneasy; he scarcely got an answer to his
hurried questions from Vasya, who confined himself to a word or two,
sometimes an irrelevant exclamation.
"Why, what is the matter with you, Vasya?" he cried at last, hardly
able to keep up with him. "Can you really be so uneasy?"
"Oh, brother, that's enough chatter!" Vasya answered, with
"Don't be depressed, Vasya—come, come," Arkady interposed.
"Why, I have known you write much more in a shorter time! What's the
matter? You've simply a talent for it! You can write quickly in an
emergency; they are not going to lithograph your copy. You've plenty of
time!... The only thing is that you are excited now, and preoccupied,
and the work won't go so easily."
Vasya made no reply, or muttered something to himself, and they both
ran home in genuine anxiety.
Vasya sat down to the papers at once. Arkady Ivanovitch was quiet and
silent; he noiselessly undressed and went to bed, keeping his eyes fixed
on Vasya.... A sort of panic came over him.... "What is the matter with
him?" he thought to himself, looking at Vasya's face that grew whiter
and whiter, at his feverish eyes, at the anxiety that was betrayed in
every movement he made, "why, his hand is shaking ... what a stupid! Why
did I not advise him to sleep for a couple of hours, till he had slept
off his nervous excitement, any way." Vasya had just finished a page, he
raised his eyes, glanced casually at Arkady and at once, looking down,
took up his pen again.
"Listen, Vasya," Arkady Ivanovitch began suddenly, "wouldn't it be
best to sleep a little now? Look, you are in a regular fever."
Vasya glanced at Arkady with vexation, almost with anger, and made no
"Listen, Vasya, you'll make yourself ill."
Vasya at once changed his mind. "How would it be to have tea,
Arkady?" he said.
"How so? Why?"
"It will do me good. I am not sleepy, I'm not going to bed! I am
going on writing. But now I should like to rest and have a cup of tea,
and the worst moment will be over."
"First-rate, brother Vasya, delightful! Just so. I was wanting to
propose it myself. And I can't think why it did not occur to me to do
so. But I say, Mavra won't get up, she won't wake for anything...."
"That's no matter, though," cried Arkady Ivanovitch, leaping out of
bed. "I will set the samovar myself. It won't be the first time...."
Arkady Ivanovitch ran to the kitchen and set to work to get the
samovar; Vasya meanwhile went on writing. Arkady Ivanovitch, moreover,
dressed and ran out to the baker's, so that Vasya might have something
to sustain him for the night. A quarter of an hour later the samovar was
on the table. They began drinking tea, but conversation flagged. Vasya
still seemed preoccupied.
"To-morrow," he said at last, as though he had just thought of it, "I
shall have to take my congratulations for the New Year...."
"You need not go at all."
"Oh yes, brother, I must," said Vasya.
"Why, I will sign the visitors' book for you everywhere.... How can
you? You work to-morrow. You must work to-night, till five o'clock in
the morning, as I said, and then get to bed. Or else you will be good
for nothing to-morrow. I'll wake you at eight o'clock, punctually."
"But will it be all right, your signing for me?" said Vasya, half
"Why, what could be better? Everyone does it."
"I am really afraid."
"It's all right, you know, with other people, but Yulian Mastakovitch
... he has been so kind to me, you know, Arkasha, and when he notices
it's not my own signature——"
"Notices! why, what a fellow you are, really, Vasya! How could he
notice?... Come, you know I can imitate your signature awfully well, and
make just the same flourish to it, upon my word I can. What nonsense!
Who would notice?"
Vasya, made no reply, but emptied his glass hurriedly.... Then he
shook his head doubtfully.
"Vasya, dear boy! Ah, if only we succeed! Vasya, what's the matter
with you, you quite frighten me! Do you know, Vasya, I am not going to
bed now, I am not going to sleep! Show me, have you a great deal
Vasya gave Arkady such a look that his heart sank, and his tongue
"Vasya, what is the matter? What are you thinking? Why do you look
"Arkady, I really must go to-morrow to wish Yulian Mastakovitch a
happy New Year."
"Well, go then!" said Arkady, gazing at him open-eyed, in uneasy
expectation. "I say, Vasya, do write faster; I am advising you for your
good, I really am! How often Yulian Mastakovitch himself has said that
what he likes particularly about your writing is its legibility. Why, it
is all that Skoroplehin cares for, that writing should be good and
distinct like a copy, so as afterwards to pocket the paper and take it
home for his children to copy; he can't buy copybooks, the blockhead!
Yulian Mastakovitch is always saying, always insisting: 'Legible,
legible, legible!'... What is the matter? Vasya, I really don't know
how to talk to you ... it quite frightens me ... you crush me with your
"It's all right, it's all right," said Vasya, and he fell back in his
chair as though fainting. Arkady was alarmed.
"Will you have some water? Vasya! Vasya!"
"Don't, don't," said Vasya, pressing his hand. "I am all right, I
only feel sad, I can't tell why. Better talk of something else; let me
"Calm yourself, for goodness' sake, calm yourself, Vasya. You will
finish it all right, on my honour, you will. And even if you don't
finish, what will it matter? You talk as though it were a crime!"
"Arkady," said Vasya, looking at his friend with such meaning that
Arkady was quite frightened, for Vasya had never been so agitated
before.... "If I were alone, as I used to be.... No! I don't mean that.
I keep wanting to tell you as a friend, to confide in you.... But why
worry you, though?... You see, Arkady, to some much is given, others do
a little thing as I do. Well, if gratitude, appreciation, is expected of
you ... and you can't give it?"
"Vasya, I don't understand you in the least."
"I have never been ungrateful," Vasya went on softly, as though
speaking to himself, "but if I am incapable of expressing all I feel, it
seems as though ... it seems, Arkady, as though I am really ungrateful,
and that's killing me."
"What next, what next! As though gratitude meant nothing more than
your finishing that copy in time? Just think what you are saying, Vasya?
Is that the whole expression of gratitude?"
Vasya sank into silence at once, and looked open-eyed at Arkady, as
though his unexpected argument had settled all his doubts. He even
smiled, but the same melancholy expression came back to his face at
once. Arkady, taking this smile as a sign that all his uneasiness was
over, and the look that succeeded it as an indication that he was
determined to do better, was greatly relieved.
"Well, brother Arkasha, you will wake up," said Vasya, "keep an eye
on me; if I fall asleep it will be dreadful. I'll set to work now....
"Oh, it's nothing, I only ... I meant...."
Vasya settled himself, and said no more, Arkady got into bed. Neither
of them said one word about their friends, the Artemyevs. Perhaps both
of them felt that they had been a little to blame, and that they ought
not to have gone for their jaunt when they did. Arkady soon fell asleep,
still worried about Vasya. To his own surprise he woke up exactly at
eight o'clock in the morning. Vasya was asleep in his chair with the pen
in his hand, pale and exhausted; the candle had burnt out. Mavra was
busy getting the samovar ready in the kitchen.
"Vasya, Vasya!" Arkady cried in alarm, "when did you fall
Vasya opened his eyes and jumped up from his chair.
"Oh!" he cried, "I must have fallen asleep...."
He flew to the papers—everything was right; all were in order;
there was not a blot of ink, nor spot of grease from the candle on
"I think I must have fallen asleep about six o'clock," said Vasya.
"How cold it is in the night! Let us have tea, and I will go on
"Do you feel better?"
"Yes, yes, I'm all right, I'm all right now."
"A happy New Year to you, brother Vasya."
"And to you too, brother, the same to you, dear boy."
They embraced each other. Vasya's chin was quivering and his eyes
were moist. Arkady Ivanovitch was silent, he felt sad. They drank their
"Arkady, I've made up my mind, I am going myself to Yulian
"Why, he wouldn't notice——"
"But my conscience feels ill at ease, brother."
"But you know it's for his sake you are sitting here; it's for his
sake you are wearing yourself out."
"Do you know what, brother, I'll go round and see...."
"Whom?" asked Vasya.
"The Artemyevs. I'll take them your good wishes for the New Year as
well as mine."
"My dear fellow! Well, I'll stay here; and I see it's a good idea of
yours; I shall be working here, I shan't waste my time. Wait one minute,
I'll write a note."
"Yes, do brother, do, there's plenty of time. I've still to wash and
shave and to brush my best coat. Well, Vasya, we are going to be
contented and happy. Embrace me, Vasya."
"Ah, if only we may, brother...."
"Does Mr. Shumkov live here?" they heard a child's voice on the
"Yes, my dear, yes," said Mavra, showing the visitor in.
"What's that? What is it?" cried Vasya, leaping up from the table and
rushing to the entry, "Petinka, you?"
"Good morning, I have the honour to wish you a happy New Year,
Vassily Petrovitch," said a pretty boy of ten years old with curly black
hair. "Sister sends you her love, and so does Mamma, and Sister told me
to give you a kiss for her."
Vasya caught the messenger up in the air and printed a long,
enthusiastic kiss on his lips, which were very much like Lizanka's.
"Kiss him, Arkady," he said handing Petya to him, and without
touching the ground the boy was transferred to Arkady Ivanovitch's
powerful and eager arms.
"Will you have some breakfast, dear?"
"Thank-you, very much. We have had it already, we got up early
to-day, the others have gone to church. Sister was two hours curling my
hair, and pomading it, washing me and mending my trousers, for I tore
them yesterday, playing with Sashka in the street, we were
"Well, well, well!"
"So she dressed me up to come and see you, and then pomaded my head
and then gave me a regular kissing. She said: 'Go to Vasya, wish him a
happy New Year, and ask whether they are happy, whether they had a good
night, and ...' to ask something else,—oh yes! whether you had
finished the work you spoke of yesterday ... when you were there. Oh,
I've got it all written down," said the boy, reading from a slip of
paper which he took out of his pocket. "Yes, they were uneasy."
"It will be finished! It will be! Tell her that it will be. I shall
finish it, on my word of honour!"
"And something else.... Oh yes, I forgot. Sister sent a little note
and a present, and I was forgetting it!..."
"My goodness! Oh, you little darling! Where is it? where is it?
That's it, oh! Look, brother, see what she writes. The dar—ling,
the precious! You know I saw there yesterday a paper-case for me; it's
not finished, so she says, 'I am sending you a lock of my hair, and the
other will come later.' Look, brother, look!"
And overwhelmed with rapture he showed Arkady Ivanovitch a curl of
luxuriant, jet-black hair; then he kissed it fervently and put it in his
breast pocket, nearest his heart.
"Vasya, I shall get you a locket for that curl," Arkady Ivanovitch
said resolutely at last.
"And we are going to have hot veal, and to-morrow brains. Mamma wants
to make cakes ... but we are not going to have millet porridge," said
the boy, after a moment's thought, to wind up his budget of interesting
"Oh! what a pretty boy," cried Arkady Ivanovitch. "Vasya, you are the
happiest of mortals."
The boy finished his tea, took from Vasya a note, a thousand kisses,
and went out happy and frolicsome as before.
"Well, brother," began Arkady Ivanovitch, highly delighted, "you see
how splendid it all is; you see. Everything is going well, don't be
downcast, don't be uneasy. Go ahead! Get it done, Vasya, get it done.
I'll be home at two o'clock. I'll go round to them, and then to Yulian
"Well, good-bye, brother; good-bye.... Oh! if only.... Very good, you
go, very good," said Vasya, "then I really won't go to Yulian
"Stay, brother, stay, tell them ... well, whatever you think fit.
Kiss her ... and give me a full account of everything afterwards."
"Come, come—of course, I know all about it. This happiness has
upset you. The suddenness of it all; you've not been yourself since
yesterday. You have not got over the excitement of yesterday. Well, it's
settled. Now try and get over it, Vasya. Good-bye, good-bye!"
At last the friends parted. All the morning Arkady Ivanovitch was
preoccupied, and could think of nothing but Vasya. He knew his weak,
highly nervous character. "Yes, this happiness has upset him, I was
right there," he said to himself. "Upon my word, he has made me quite
depressed, too, that man will make a tragedy of anything! What a
feverish creature! Oh, I must save him! I must save him!" said Arkady,
not noticing that he himself was exaggerating into something serious a
slight trouble, in reality quite trivial. Only at eleven o'clock he
reached the porter's lodge of Yulian Mastakovitch's house, to add his
modest name to the long list of illustrious persons who had written
their names on a sheet of blotted and scribbled paper in the porter's
lodge. What was his surprise when he saw just above his own the
signature of Vasya Shumkov! It amazed him. "What's the matter with him?"
he thought. Arkady Ivanovitch, who had just been so buoyant with hope,
came out feeling upset. There was certainly going to be trouble, but
how? And in what form?
He reached the Artemyevs with gloomy forebodings; he seemed
absent-minded from the first, and after talking a little with Lizanka
went away with tears in his eyes; he was really anxious about Vasya. He
went home running, and on the Neva came full tilt upon Vasya himself.
The latter, too, was uneasy.
"Where are you going?" cried Arkady Ivanovitch.
Vasya stopped as though he had been caught in a crime.
"Oh, it's nothing, brother, I wanted to go for a walk."
"You could not stand it, and have been to the Artemyevs? Oh, Vasya,
Vasya! Why did you go to Yulian Mastakovitch?"
Vasya did not answer, but then with a wave of his hand, he said:
"Arkady, I don't know what is the matter with me. I...."
"Come, come, Vasya. I know what it is. Calm yourself. You've been
excited, and overwrought ever since yesterday. Only think, it's not much
to bear. Everybody's fond of you, everybody's ready to do anything for
you; your work is getting on all right; you will get it done, you will
certainly get it done. I know that you have been imagining something,
you have had apprehensions about something...."
"No, it's all right, it's all right...."
"Do you remember, Vasya, do you remember it was the same with you
once before; do you remember, when you got your promotion, in your joy
and thankfulness you were so zealous that you spoilt all your work for a
week? It is just the same with you now."
"Yes, yes, Arkady; but now it is different, it is not that at
"How is it different? And very likely the work is not urgent at all,
while you are killing yourself...."
"It's nothing, it's nothing. I am all right, it's nothing. Well, come
"Why, are you going home, and not to them?"
"Yes, brother, how could I have the face to turn up there?... I have
changed my mind. It was only that I could not stay on alone without you;
now you are coming back with me I'll sit down to write again. Let us
They walked along and for some time were silent. Vasya was in
"Why don't you ask me about them?" said Arkady Ivanovitch.
"Oh, yes! Well, Arkasha, what about them?"
"Vasya, you are not like yourself."
"Oh, I am all right, I am all right. Tell me everything, Arkasha,"
said Vasya, in an imploring voice, as though to avoid further
explanations. Arkady Ivanovitch sighed. He felt utterly at a loss,
looking at Vasya.
His account of their friends roused Vasya. He even grew talkative.
They had dinner together. Lizanka's mother had filled Arkady
Ivanovitch's pockets with little cakes, and eating them the friends grew
more cheerful. After dinner Vasya promised to take a nap, so as to sit
up all night. He did, in fact, lie down. In the morning, some one whom
it was impossible to refuse had invited Arkady Ivanovitch to tea. The
friends parted. Arkady promised to come back as soon as he could, by
eight o'clock if possible. The three hours of separation seemed to him
like three years. At last he got away and rushed back to Vasya. When he
went into the room, he found it in darkness. Vasya was not at home. He
asked Mavra. Mavra said that he had been writing all the time, and had
not slept at all, then he had paced up and down the room, and after
that, an hour before, he had run out, saying he would be back in
half-an-hour; "and when, says he, Arkady Ivanovitch comes in, tell him,
old woman, says he," Mavra told him in conclusion, "that I have gone out
for a walk," and he repeated the order three or four times.
"He is at the Artemyevs," thought Arkady Ivanovitch, and he shook his
A minute later he jumped up with renewed hope.
"He has simply finished," he thought, "that's all it is; he couldn't
wait, but ran off there. But, no! he would have waited for me.... Let's
have a peep what he has there."
He lighted a candle, and ran to Vasya's writing-table: the work had
made progress and it looked as though there were not much left to do.
Arkady Ivanovitch was about to investigate further, when Vasya himself
"Oh, you are here?" he cried, with a start of dismay.
Arkady Ivanovitch was silent. He was afraid to question Vasya. The
latter dropped his eyes and remained silent too, as he began sorting the
papers. At last their eyes met. The look in Vasya's was so beseeching,
imploring, and broken, that Arkady shuddered when he saw it. His heart
quivered and was full.
"Vasya, my dear boy, what is it? What's wrong?" he cried, rushing to
him and squeezing him in his arms. "Explain to me, I don't understand
you, and your depression. What is the matter with you, my poor,
tormented boy? What is it? Tell me all about it, without hiding
anything. It can't be only this——"
Vasya held him tight and could say nothing. He could scarcely
"Don't, Vasya, don't! Well, if you don't finish it, what then? I
don't understand you; tell me your trouble. You see it is for your sake
I.... Oh dear! oh dear!" he said, walking up and down the room and
clutching at everything he came across, as though seeking at once some
remedy for Vasya. "I will go to Yulian Mastakovitch instead of you
to-morrow. I will ask him—entreat him—to let you have
another day. I will explain it all to him, anything, if it worries you
"God forbid!" cried Vasya, and turned as white as the wall. He could
scarcely stand on his feet.
Vasya pulled himself together. His lips were quivering; he tried to
say something, but could only convulsively squeeze Arkady's hand in
silence. His hand was cold. Arkady stood facing him, full of anxious and
miserable suspense. Vasya raised his eyes again.
"Vasya, God bless you, Vasya! You wring my heart, my dear boy, my
Tears gushed from Vasya's eyes; he flung himself on Arkady's
"I have deceived you, Arkady," he said. "I have deceived you. Forgive
me, forgive me! I have been faithless to your friendship...."
"What is it, Vasya? What is the matter?" asked Arkady, in real
And with a gesture of despair Vasya tossed out of the drawer on to
the table six thick manuscripts, similar to the one he had copied.
"What I have to get through by the day after to-morrow. I haven't
done a quarter! Don't ask me, don't ask me how it has happened," Vasya
went on, speaking at once of what was distressing him so terribly.
"Arkady, dear friend, I don't know myself what came over me. I feel as
though I were coming out of a dream. I have wasted three weeks doing
nothing. I kept ... I ... kept going to see her.... My heart was aching,
I was tormented by ... the uncertainty ... I could not write. I did not
even think about it. Only now, when happiness is at hand for me, I have
come to my senses."
"Vasya," began Arkady Ivanovitch resolutely, "Vasya, I will save you.
I understand it all. It's a serious matter; I will save you. Listen!
listen to me: I will go to Yulian Mastakovitch to-morrow.... Don't shake
your head; no, listen! I will tell him exactly how it has all been; let
me do that ... I will explain to him.... I will go into everything. I
will tell him how crushed you are, how you are worrying yourself."
"Do you know that you are killing me now?" Vasya brought out, turning
cold with horror.
Arkady Ivanovitch turned pale, but at once controlling himself,
"Is that all? Is that all?" he said. "Upon my word, Vasya, upon my
word! Aren't you ashamed? Come, listen! I see that I am grieving you.
You see I understand you; I know what is passing in your heart. Why, we
have been living together for five years, thank God! You are such a
kind, soft-hearted fellow, but weak, unpardonably weak. Why, even
Lizaveta Mikalovna has noticed it. And you are a dreamer, and that's a
bad thing, too; you may go from bad to worse, brother. I tell you, I
know what you want! You would like Yulian Mastakovitch, for instance, to
be beside himself and, maybe, to give a ball, too, from joy, because you
are going to get married.... Stop, stop! you are frowning. You see that
at one word from me you are offended on Yulian Mastakovitch's account.
I'll let him alone. You know I respect him just as much as you do. But
argue as you may, you can't prevent my thinking that you would like
there to be no one unhappy in the whole world when you are getting
married.... Yes, brother, you must admit that you would like me, for
instance, your best friend, to come in for a fortune of a hundred
thousand all of a sudden, you would like all the enemies in the world to
be suddenly, for no rhyme or reason, reconciled, so that in their joy
they might all embrace one another in the middle of the street, and
then, perhaps, come here to call on you. Vasya, my dear boy, I am not
laughing; it is true; you've said as much to me long ago, in different
ways. Because you are happy, you want every one, absolutely every one,
to become happy at once. It hurts you and troubles you to be happy
alone. And so you want at once to do your utmost to be worthy of that
happiness, and maybe to do some great deed to satisfy your conscience.
Oh! I understand how ready you are to distress yourself for having
suddenly been remiss just where you ought to have shown your zeal, your
capacity ... well, maybe your gratitude, as you say. It is very bitter
for you to think that Yulian Mastakovitch may frown and even be angry
when he sees that you have not justified the expectations he had of you.
It hurts you to think that you may hear reproaches from the man you look
upon as your benefactor—and at such a moment! when your heart is
full of joy and you don't know on whom to lavish your gratitude....
Isn't that true? It is, isn't it?"
Arkady Ivanovitch, whose voice was trembling, paused, and drew a deep
Vasya looked affectionately at his friend. A smile passed over his
lips. His face even lighted up, as though with a gleam of hope.
"Well, listen, then," Arkady Ivanovitch began again, growing more
hopeful, "there's no necessity that you should forfeit Yulian
Mastakovitch's favour.... Is there, dear boy? Is there any question of
it? And since it is so," said Arkady, jumping up, "I shall sacrifice
myself for you. I am going to-morrow to Yulian Mastakovitch, and don't
oppose me. You magnify your failure to a crime, Vasya. Yulian
Mastakovitch is magnanimous and merciful, and, what is more, he is not
like you. He will listen to you and me, and get us out of our trouble,
brother Vasya. Well, are you calmer?"
Vasya pressed his friend's hands with tears in his eyes.
"Hush, hush, Arkady," he said, "the thing is settled. I haven't
finished, so very well; if I haven't finished, I haven't finished, and
there's no need for you to go. I will tell him all about it, I will go
myself. I am calmer now, I am perfectly calm; only you mustn't go....
"Vasya, my dear boy," Arkady Ivanovitch cried joyfully, "I judged
from what you said. I am glad that you have thought better of things and
have recovered yourself. But whatever may befall you, whatever happens,
I am with you, remember that. I see that it worries you to think of my
speaking to Yulian Mastakovitch—and I won't say a word, not a
word, you shall tell him yourself. You see, you shall go to-morrow....
Oh no, you had better not go, you'll go on writing here, you see, and
I'll find out about this work, whether it is very urgent or not, whether
it must be done by the time or not, and if you don't finish it in time
what will come of it. Then I will run back to you. Do you see, do you
see! There is still hope; suppose the work is not urgent—it may be
all right. Yulian Mastakovitch may not remember, then all is saved."
Vasya shook his head doubtfully. But his grateful eyes never left his
"Come, that's enough, I am so weak, so tired," he said, sighing. "I
don't want to think about it. Let us talk of something else. I won't
write either now; do you know I'll only finish two short pages just to
get to the end of a passage. Listen ... I have long wanted to ask you,
how is it you know me so well?"
Tears dropped from Vasya's eyes on Arkady's hand.
"If you knew, Vasya, how fond I am of you, you would not ask
"Yes, yes, Arkady, I don't know that, because I don't know why you
are so fond of me. Yes, Arkady, do you know, even your love has been
killing me? Do you know, ever so many times, particularly when I am
thinking of you in bed (for I always think of you when I am falling
asleep), I shed tears, and my heart throbs at the thought ... at the
thought.... Well, at the thought that you are so fond of me, while I can
do nothing to relieve my heart, can do nothing to repay you."
"You see, Vasya, you see what a fellow you are! Why, how upset you
are now," said Arkady, whose heart ached at that moment and who
remembered the scene in the street the day before.
"Nonsense, you want me to be calm, but I never have been so calm and
happy! Do you know.... Listen, I want to tell you all about it, but I am
afraid of wounding you.... You keep scolding me and being vexed; and I
am afraid.... See how I am trembling now, I don't know why. You see,
this is what I want to say. I feel as though I had never known myself
before—yes! Yes, I only began to understand other people too,
yesterday. I did not feel or appreciate things fully, brother. My heart
... was hard.... Listen how has it happened, that I have never done good
to any one, any one in the world, because I couldn't—I am not even
pleasant to look at.... But everybody does me good! You, to begin with:
do you suppose I don't see that? Only I said nothing; only I said
"Oh, Arkasha! ... it's all right," Vasya interrupted, hardly able to
articulate for tears. "I talked to you yesterday about Yulian
Mastakovitch. And you know yourself how stern and severe he is, even you
have come in for a reprimand from him; yet he deigned to jest with me
yesterday, to show his affection, and kind-heartedness, which he
prudently conceals from every one...."
"Come, Vasya, that only shows you deserve your good fortune."
"Oh, Arkasha! How I longed to finish all this.... No, I shall ruin my
good luck! I feel that! Oh no, not through that," Vasya added, seeing
that Arkady glanced at the heap of urgent work lying on the table,
"that's nothing, that's only paper covered with writing ... it's
nonsense! That matter's settled.... I went to see them to-day, Arkasha;
I did not go in. I felt depressed and sad. I simply stood at the door.
She was playing the piano, I listened. You see, Arkady," he went on,
dropping his voice, "I did not dare to go in."
"I say, Vasya—what is the matter with you? You look at one so
"Oh, it's nothing, I feel a little sick; my legs are trembling; it's
because I sat up last night. Yes! Everything looks green before my eyes.
It's here, here——"
He pointed to his heart. He fainted. When he came to himself Arkady
tried to take forcible measures. He tried to compel him to go to bed.
Nothing would induce Vasya to consent. He shed tears, wrung his hands,
wanted to write, was absolutely set on finishing his two pages. To avoid
exciting him Arkady let him sit down to the work.
"Do you know," said Vasya, as he settled himself in his place, "an
idea has occurred to me? There is hope."
He smiled to Arkady, and his pale face lighted up with a gleam of
"I will take him what is done the day after to-morrow. About the rest
I will tell a lie. I will say it has been burnt, that it has been sopped
in water, that I have lost it.... That, in fact, I have not finished it;
I cannot lie. I will explain, do you know, what? I'll explain to him all
about it. I will tell him how it was that I could not. I'll tell him
about my love; he has got married himself just lately, he'll understand
me. I will do it all, of course, respectfully, quietly; he will see my
tears and be touched by them...."
"Yes, of course, you must go, you must go and explain to him.... But
there's no need of tears! Tears for what? Really, Vasya, you quite scare
"Yes, I'll go, I'll go. But now let me write, let me write, Arkasha.
I am not interfering with any one, let me write!"
Arkady flung himself on the bed. He had no confidence in Vasya, no
confidence at all.
Vasya was capable of anything, but to ask forgiveness
for what? how? That was not the point. The point was, that Vasya had not
carried out his obligations, that Vasya felt guilty in his own
eyes, felt that he was ungrateful to destiny, that Vasya was
crushed, overwhelmed by happiness and thought himself unworthy of it;
that, in fact, he was simply trying to find an excuse to go off his head
on that point, and that he had not recovered from the unexpectedness of
what had happened the day before; that's what it is," thought Arkady
Ivanovitch. "I must save him. I must reconcile him to himself. He will
be his own ruin." He thought and thought, and resolved to go at once
next day to Yulian Mastakovitch, and to tell him all about it.
Vasya was sitting writing. Arkady Ivanovitch, worn out, lay down to
think things over again, and only woke at daybreak.
"Damnation! Again!" he cried, looking at Vasya; the latter was still
Arkady rushed up to him, seized him and forcibly put him to bed.
Vasya was smiling: his eyes were closing with sleep. He could hardly
"I wanted to go to bed," he said. "Do you know, Arkady, I have an
idea; I shall finish. I made my pen go faster! I could not have sat at
it any longer; wake me at eight o'clock."
Without finishing his sentence, he dropped asleep and slept like the
"Mavra," said Arkady Ivanovitch to Mavra, who came in with the tea,
"he asked to be waked in an hour. Don't wake him on any account! Let him
sleep ten hours, if he can. Do you understand?"
"I understand, sir."
"Don't get the dinner, don't bring in the wood, don't make a noise or
it will be the worse for you. If he asks for me, tell him I have gone to
the office—do you understand?"
"I understand, bless you, sir; let him sleep and welcome! I am glad
my gentlemen should sleep well, and I take good care of their things.
And about that cup that was broken, and you blamed me, your honour, it
wasn't me, it was poor pussy broke it, I ought to have kept an eye on
her. 'S-sh, you confounded thing,' I said."
"Hush, be quiet, be quiet!"
Arkady Ivanovitch followed Mavra out into the kitchen, asked for the
key and locked her up there. Then he went to the office. On the way he
considered how he could present himself before Yulian Mastakovitch, and
whether it would be appropriate and not impertinent. He went into the
office timidly, and timidly inquired whether His Excellency were there;
receiving the answer that he was not and would not be, Arkady Ivanovitch
instantly thought of going to his flat, but reflected very prudently
that if Yulian Mastakovitch had not come to the office he would
certainly be busy at home. He remained. The hours seemed to him endless.
Indirectly he inquired about the work entrusted to Shumkov, but no one
knew anything about this. All that was known was that Yulian
Mastakovitch did employ him on special jobs, but what they were—no
one could say. At last it struck three o'clock, and Arkady Ivanovitch
rushed out, eager to get home. In the vestibule he was met by a clerk,
who told him that Vassily Petrovitch Shumkov had come about one o'clock
and asked, the clerk added, "whether you were here, and whether Yulian
Mastakovitch had been here." Hearing this Arkady Ivanovitch took a
sledge and hastened home beside himself with alarm.
Shumkov was at home. He was walking about the room in violent
excitement. Glancing at Arkady Ivanovitch, he immediately controlled
himself, reflected, and hastened to conceal his emotion. He sat down to
his papers without a word. He seemed to avoid his friend's questions,
seemed to be bothered by them, to be pondering to himself on some plan,
and deciding to conceal his decision, because he could not reckon
further on his friend's affection. This struck Arkady, and his heart
ached with a poignant and oppressive pain. He sat on the bed and began
turning over the leaves of some book, the only one he had in his
possession, keeping his eye on poor Vasya. But Vasya remained
obstinately silent, writing, and not raising his head. So passed several
hours, and Arkady's misery reached an extreme point. At last, at eleven
o'clock, Vasya lifted his head and looked with a fixed, vacant stare at
Arkady. Arkady waited. Two or three minutes passed; Vasya did not
"Vasya!" cried Arkady.
Vasya made no answer.
"Vasya!" he repeated, jumping up from the bed, "Vasya, what is the
matter with you? What is it?" he cried, running up to him.
Vasya raised his eyes and again looked at him with the same vacant,
"He's in a trance!" thought Arkady, trembling all over with fear. He
seized a bottle of water, raised Vasya, poured some water on his head,
moistened his temples, rubbed his hands in his own—and Vasya came
to himself. "Vasya, Vasya!" cried Arkady, unable to restrain his tears.
"Vasya, save yourself, rouse yourself, rouse yourself!..." He could say
no more, but held him tight in his arms. A look as of some oppressive
sensation passed over Vasya's face; he rubbed his forehead and clutched
at his head, as though he were afraid it would burst.
"I don't know what is the matter with me," he added, at last. "I feel
torn to pieces. Come, it's all right, it's all right! Give over, Arkady;
don't grieve," he repeated, looking at him with sad, exhausted eyes.
"Why be so anxious? Come!"
"You, you comforting me!" cried Arkady, whose heart was torn.
"Vasya," he said at last, "lie down and have a little nap, won't you?
Don't wear yourself out for nothing! You'll set to work better
"Yes, yes," said Vasya, "by all means, I'll lie down, very good. Yes!
you see I meant to finish, but now I've changed my mind, yes...."
And Arkady led him to the bed.
"Listen, Vasya," he said firmly, "we must settle this matter finally.
Tell me what were you thinking about?"
"Oh!" said Vasya, with a flourish of his weak hand turning over on
the other side.
"Come, Vasya, come, make up your mind. I don't want to hurt you. I
can't be silent any longer. You won't sleep till you've made up your
mind, I know."
"As you like, as you like," Vasya repeated enigmatically.
"He will give in," thought Arkady Ivanovitch.
"Attend to me, Vasya," he said, "remember what I say, and I will save
you to-morrow; to-morrow I will decide your fate! What am I saying, your
fate? You have so frightened me, Vasya, that I am using your own words.
Fate, indeed! It's simply nonsense, rubbish! You don't want to lose
Yulian Mastakovitch's favour—affection, if you like. No! And you
won't lose it, you will see. I——"
Arkady Ivanovitch would have said more, but Vasya interrupted him. He
sat up in bed, put both arms round Arkady Ivanovitch's neck and kissed
"Enough," he said in a weak voice, "enough! Say no more about
And again he turned his face to the wall.
"My goodness!" thought Arkady, "my goodness! What is the matter with
him? He is utterly lost. What has he in his mind! He will be his own
Arkady looked at him in despair.
"If he were to fall ill," thought Arkady, "perhaps it would be
better. His trouble would pass off with illness, and that might be the
best way of settling the whole business. But what nonsense I am talking.
Oh, my God!"
Meanwhile Vasya seemed to be asleep. Arkady Ivanovitch was relieved.
"A good sign," he thought. He made up his mind to sit beside him all
night. But Vasya was restless; he kept twitching and tossing about on
the bed, and opening his eyes for an instant. At last exhaustion got the
upper hand, he slept like the dead. It was about two o'clock in the
morning, Arkady Ivanovitch began to doze in the chair with his elbow on
He had a strange and agitated dream. He kept fancying that he was not
asleep, and that Vasya was still lying on the bed. But strange to say,
he fancied that Vasya was pretending, that he was deceiving him, that he
was getting up, stealthily watching him out of the corner of his eye,
and was stealing up to the writing table. Arkady felt a scalding pain at
his heart; he felt vexed and sad and oppressed to see Vasya not trusting
him, hiding and concealing himself from him. He tried to catch hold of
him, to call out, to carry him to the bed. Then Vasya kept shrieking in
his arms, and he laid on the bed a lifeless corpse. He opened his eyes
and woke up; Vasya was sitting before him at the table, writing.
Hardly able to believe his senses, Arkady glanced at the bed; Vasya
was not there. Arkady jumped up in a panic, still under the influence of
his dream. Vasya did not stir; he went on writing. All at once Arkady
noticed with horror that Vasya was moving a dry pen over the paper, was
turning over perfectly blank pages, and hurrying, hurrying to fill up
the paper as though he were doing his work in a most thorough and
efficient way. "No, this is not a trance," thought Arkady Ivanovitch,
and he trembled all over.
"Vasya, Vasya, speak to me," he cried, clutching him by the shoulder.
But Vasya did not speak; he went on as before, scribbling with a dry pen
over the paper.
"At last I have made the pen go faster," he said, without looking up
Arkady seized his hand and snatched away the pen.
A moan broke from Vasya. He dropped his hand and raised his eyes to
Arkady; then with an air of misery and exhaustion he passed his hand
over his forehead as though he wanted to shake off some leaden weight
that was pressing upon his whole being, and slowly, as though lost in
thought, he let his head sink on his breast.
"Vasya, Vasya!" cried Arkady in despair. "Vasya!"
A minute later Vasya looked at him, tears stood in his large blue
eyes, and his pale, mild face wore a look of infinite suffering. He
"What, what is it?" cried Arkady, bending down to him.
"What for, why are they doing it to me?" whispered Vasya. "What for?
What have I done?"
"Vasya, what is it? What are you afraid of? What is it?" cried
Arkady, wringing his hands in despair.
"Why are they sending me for a soldier?" said Vasya, looking his
friend straight in the face. "Why is it? What have I done?"
Arkady's hair stood on end with horror; he refused to believe his
ears. He stood over him, half dead.
A minute later he pulled himself together. "It's nothing, it's only
for the minute," he said to himself, with pale face and blue, quivering
lips, and he hastened to put on his outdoor things. He meant to run
straight for a doctor. All at once Vasya called to him. Arkady rushed to
him and clasped him in his arms like a mother whose child is being torn
"Arkady, Arkady, don't tell any one! Don't tell any one, do you hear?
It is my trouble, I must bear it alone."
"What is it—what is it? Rouse yourself, Vasya, rouse
Vasya sighed, and slow tears trickled down his cheeks.
"Why kill her? How is she to blame?" he muttered in an agonized,
heartrending voice. "The sin is mine, the sin is mine!"
He was silent for a moment.
"Farewell, my love! Farewell, my love!" he whispered, shaking his
luckless head. Arkady started, pulled himself together and would have
rushed for the doctor. "Let us go, it is time," cried Vasya, carried
away by Arkady's last movement. "Let us go, brother, let us go; I am
ready. You lead the way." He paused and looked at Arkady with a downcast
and mistrustful face.
"Vasya, for goodness' sake, don't follow me! Wait for me here. I will
come back to you directly, directly," said Arkady Ivanovitch, losing his
head and snatching up his cap to run for a doctor. Vasya sat down at
once, he was quiet and docile; but there was a gleam of some desperate
resolution in his eye. Arkady turned back, snatched up from the table an
open penknife, looked at the poor fellow for the last time, and ran out
of the flat.
It was eight o'clock. It had been broad daylight for some time in the
He found no one. He was running about for a full hour. All the
doctors whose addresses he had got from the house porter when he
inquired of the latter whether there were no doctor living in the
building, had gone out, either to their work or on their private
affairs. There was one who saw patients. This one questioned at length
and in detail the servant who announced that Nefedevitch had called,
asking him who it was, from whom he came, what was the matter, and
concluded by saying that he could not go, that he had a great deal to
do, and that patients of that kind ought to be taken to a hospital.
Then Arkady, exhausted, agitated, and utterly taken aback by this
turn of affairs, cursed all the doctors on earth, and rushed home in the
utmost alarm about Vasya. He ran into the flat. Mavra, as though there
were nothing the matter, went on scrubbing the floor, breaking up wood
and preparing to light the stove. He went into the room; there was no
trace of Vasya, he had gone out.
"Which way? Where? Where will the poor fellow be off
?" thought Arkady, frozen with
terror. He began questioning Mavra. She knew nothing, had neither seen
nor heard him go out, God bless him! Nefedevitch rushed off to the
It occurred to him for some reason that he must be there.
It was ten o'clock by the time he arrived. They did not expect him,
knew nothing and had heard nothing. He stood before them frightened,
distressed, and asked where was Vasya? The mother's legs gave way under
her; she sank back on the sofa. Lizanka, trembling with alarm, began
asking what had happened. What could he say? Arkady Ivanovitch got out
of it as best he could, invented some tale which of course was not
believed, and fled, leaving them distressed and anxious. He flew to his
department that he might not be too late there, and he let them know
that steps might be taken at once. On the way it occurred to him that
Vasya would be at Yulian Mastakovitch's. That was more likely than
anything: Arkady had thought of that first of all, even before the
Artemyevs'. As he drove by His Excellency's door, he thought of
stopping, but at once told the driver to go straight on. He made up his
mind to try and find out whether anything had happened at the office,
and if he were not there to go to His Excellency, ostensibly to report
on Vasya. Some one must be informed of it.
As soon as he got into the waiting-room he was surrounded by
fellow-clerks, for the most part young men of his own standing in the
service. With one voice they began asking him what had happened to
Vasya? At the same time they all told him that Vasya had gone out of his
mind, and thought that he was to be sent for a soldier as a punishment
for having neglected his work. Arkady Ivanovitch, answering them in all
directions, or rather avoiding giving a direct answer to any one, rushed
into the inner room. On the way he learned that Vasya was in Yulian
Mastakovitch's private room, that every one had been there and that
Esper Ivanovitch had gone in there too. He was stopped on the way. One
of the senior clerks asked him who he was and what he wanted? Without
distinguishing the person he said something about Vasya and went
straight into the room. He heard Yulian Mastakovitch's voice from
within. "Where are you going?" some one asked him at the very door.
Arkady Ivanovitch was almost in despair; he was on the point of turning
back, but through the open door he saw his poor Vasya. He pushed the
door and squeezed his way into the room. Every one seemed to be in
confusion and perplexity, because Yulian Mastakovitch was apparently
much chagrined. All the more important personages were standing about
him talking, and coming to no decision. At a little distance stood
Vasya. Arkady's heart sank when he looked at him. Vasya was standing,
pale, with his head up, stiffly erect, like a recruit before a new
officer, with his feet together and his hands held rigidly at his sides.
He was looking Yulian Mastakovitch straight in the face. Arkady was
noticed at once, and some one who knew that they lodged together
mentioned the fact to His Excellency. Arkady was led up to him. He tried
to make some answer to the questions put to him, glanced at Yulian
Mastakovitch and seeing on his face a look of genuine compassion, began
trembling and sobbing like a child. He even did more, he snatched His
Excellency's hand and held it to his eyes, wetting it with his tears, so
that Yulian Mastakovitch was obliged to draw it hastily away, and waving
it in the air, said, "Come, my dear fellow, come! I see you have a good
heart." Arkady sobbed and turned an imploring look on every one. It
seemed to him that they were all brothers of his dear Vasya, that they
were all worried and weeping about him. "How, how has it happened? how
has it happened?" asked Yulian Mastakovitch. "What has sent him out of
"Gra—gra—gratitude!" was all Arkady Ivanovitch could
Every one heard his answer with amazement, and it seemed strange and
incredible to every one that a man could go out of his mind from
gratitude. Arkady explained as best he could.
"Good Heavens! what a pity!" said Yulian Mastakovitch at last. "And
the work entrusted to him was not important, and not urgent in the
least. It was not worth while for a man to kill himself over it! Well,
take him away!"... At this point Yulian Mastakovitch turned to Arkady
Ivanovitch again, and began questioning him once more. "He begs," he
said, pointing to Vasya, "that some girl should not be told of this. Who
is she—his betrothed, I suppose?"
Arkady began to explain. Meanwhile Vasya seemed to be thinking of
something, as though he were straining his memory to the utmost to
recall some important, necessary matter, which was particularly wanted
at this moment. From time to time he looked round with a distressed
face, as though hoping some one would remind him of what he had
forgotten. He fastened his eyes on Arkady. All of a sudden there was a
gleam of hope in his eyes; he moved with the left leg forward, took
three steps as smartly as he could, clicking with his right boot as
soldiers do when they move forward at the call from their officer. Every
one was waiting to see what would happen.
"I have a physical defect and am small and weak, and I am not fit for
military service, Your Excellency," he said abruptly.
At that every one in the room felt a pang at his heart, and firm as
was Yulian Mastakovitch's character, tears trickled from his eyes.
"Take him away," he said, with a wave of his hands.
"Present!" said Vasya in an undertone; he wheeled round to the left
and marched out of the room. All who were interested in his fate
followed him out. Arkady pushed his way out behind the others. They made
Vasya sit down in the waiting-room till the carriage came which had been
ordered to take him to the hospital. He sat down in silence and seemed
in great anxiety. He nodded to any one he recognized as though saying
good-bye. He looked round towards the door every minute, and prepared
himself to set off when he should be told it was time. People crowded in
a close circle round him; they were all shaking their heads and
lamenting. Many of them were much impressed by his story, which had
suddenly become known. Some discussed his illness, while others
expressed their pity and high opinion of Vasya, saying that he was such
a quiet, modest young man, that he had been so promising; people
described what efforts he had made to learn, how eager he was for
knowledge, how he had worked to educate himself. "He had risen by his
own efforts from a humble position," some one observed. They spoke with
emotion of His Excellency's affection for him. Some of them fell to
explaining why Vasya was possessed by the idea that he was being sent
for a soldier, because he had not finished his work. They said that the
poor fellow had so lately belonged to the class liable for military
service and had only received his first grade through the good offices
of Yulian Mastakovitch, who had had the cleverness to discover his
talent, his docility, and the rare mildness of his disposition. In fact,
there was a great number of views and theories.
A very short fellow-clerk of Vasya's was conspicuous as being
particularly distressed. He was not very young, probably about thirty.
He was pale as a sheet, trembling all over and smiling queerly, perhaps
because any scandalous affair or terrible scene both frightens, and at
the same time somewhat rejoices the outside spectator. He kept running
round the circle that surrounded Vasya, and as he was so short, stood on
tiptoe and caught at the button of every one—that is, of those
with whom he felt entitled to take such a liberty—and kept saying
that he knew how it had all happened, that it was not so simple, but a
very important matter, that it couldn't be left without further inquiry;
then stood on tiptoe again, whispered in some one's ear, nodded his head
again two or three times, and ran round again. At last everything was
over. The porter made his appearance, and an attendant from the hospital
went up to Vasya and told him it was time to start. Vasya jumped up in a
flutter and went with them, looking about him. He was looking about for
"Vasya, Vasya!" cried Arkady Ivanovitch, sobbing. Vasya stopped, and
Arkady squeezed his way up to him. They flung themselves into each
other's arms in a last bitter embrace. It was sad to see them. What
monstrous calamity was wringing the tears from their eyes! What were
they weeping for? What was their trouble? Why did they not understand
"Here, here, take it! Take care of it," said Shumkov, thrusting a
paper of some kind into Arkady's hand. "They will take it away from me.
Bring it me later on; bring it ... take care of it...." Vasya could not
finish, they called to him. He ran hurriedly downstairs, nodding to
every one, saying good-bye to every one. There was despair in his face.
At last he was put in the carriage and taken away. Arkady made haste to
open the paper: it was Liza's curl of black hair, from which Vasya had
never parted. Hot tears gushed from Arkady's eyes: oh, poor Liza!
When office hours were over, he went to the Artemyevs'. There is no
need to describe what happened there! Even Petya, little Petya, though
he could not quite understand what had happened to dear Vasya, went into
a corner, hid his face in his little hands, and sobbed in the fullness
of his childish heart. It was quite dusk when Arkady returned home. When
he reached the Neva he stood still for a minute and turned a keen glance
up the river into the smoky frozen thickness of the distance, which was
suddenly flushed crimson with the last purple and blood-red glow of
sunset, still smouldering on the misty horizon.... Night lay over the
city, and the wide plain of the Neva, swollen with frozen snow, was
shining in the last gleams of the sun with myriads of sparks of gleaming
hoar frost. There was a frost of twenty degrees. A cloud of frozen steam
hung about the overdriven horses and the hurrying people. The condensed
atmosphere quivered at the slightest sound, and from all the roofs on
both sides of the river, columns of smoke rose up like giants and
floated across the cold sky, intertwining and untwining as they went, so
that it seemed new buildings were rising up above the old, a new town
was taking shape in the air.... It seemed as if all that world, with all
its inhabitants, strong and weak, with all their habitations, the
refuges of the poor, or the gilded palaces for the comfort of the
powerful of this world was at that twilight hour like a fantastic vision
of fairy-land, like a dream which in its turn would vanish and pass away
like vapour into the dark blue sky. A strange thought came to poor
Vasya's forlorn friend. He started, and his heart seemed at that instant
flooded with a hot rush of blood kindled by a powerful, overwhelming
sensation he had never known before. He seemed only now to understand
all the trouble, and to know why his poor Vasya had gone out of his
mind, unable to bear his happiness. His lips twitched, his eyes lighted
up, he turned pale, and as it were had a clear vision into something
He became gloomy and depressed, and lost all his gaiety. His old
lodging grew hateful to him—he took a new room. He did not care to
visit the Artemyevs, and indeed he could not. Two years later he met
Lizanka in church. She was by then married; beside her walked a wet
nurse with a tiny baby. They greeted each other, and for a long time
avoided all mention of the past. Liza said that, thank God, she was
happy, that she was not badly off, that her husband was a kind man and
that she was fond of him.... But suddenly in the middle of a sentence
her eyes filled with tears, her voice failed, she turned away, and bowed
down to the church pavement to hide her grief.