Three Portraits by Iván Turgénieff
Translator, Isabel Hapgood
"The neighbours" constitute one of the most serious drawbacks to country
life. I knew one landed proprietor of the Government of Vólogda, who, at
every convenient opportunity, was wont to repeat the following words:
"Thank God, I have no neighbours!"—and I must admit that I could not
refrain from envying that lucky mortal.
My little village is situated in one of the most thickly-populated
governments of Russia. I am surrounded by a vast multitude of petty
neighbours, beginning with the well-intentioned and respected landed
proprietors, clad in capacious dress-coats, and more capacious
waistcoats,—and ending with arrant roysterers, who wear hussar-jackets
with long sleeves and the so-called "fimsky" knot on the back. In the
ranks of these nobles, however, I have accidentally discovered one very
amiable young fellow. Once upon a time he was in the military service,
then he retired, and settled down for good and all in the country.
According to his account, he served two years in the B*** regiment; but
I positively cannot understand how that man could have discharged any
duties whatsoever, not only for the space of two years, but even for the
space of two days. He was born "for a peaceful life, for rustic
tranquillity," that is to say, for indolent, careless vegetation, which,
I may remark in parenthesis, is not devoid of great and inexhaustible
He enjoyed a very respectable property: without troubling himself too
much about the management of his estate, he spent about ten thousand
rubles a year, procured for himself a capital cook (my friend was
fond of good eating); he also imported from Moscow the newest French
books and journals. He read nothing in Russian except the reports of his
overseer, and that with great difficulty. From morning until dinner (if
he did not go off hunting), he did not doff his dressing-gown; he sorted
over some sketches or other pertaining to the management, or betook
himself to the stable, or to the threshing-shed, and indulged in a good
laugh with the peasant wives, who rattled their chains, as the saying
is, in his presence, out of ostentation. After dinner my friend dressed
himself before the mirror with great care, and drove off to some
neighbour endowed with two or three pretty young daughters; heedlessly
and pacifically, he dangled after one of them, played at blind-man's
buff with them, returned home rather late, and immediately sank into
heroic slumber. He could not feel bored, because he never devoted
himself to absolute inaction, and he was not fastidious as to his choice
of occupations, and, like a child, was amused with the smallest trifle.
On the other hand, he felt no special attachment to life, and, it
sometimes happened, that when it became necessary to outrun a wolf or a
fox, he would launch his horse at full speed over such ravines, that to
this day I cannot understand why he did not break his neck a hundred
times. He belonged to the category of people who evoke in you the
thought that they are not aware of their own value, that beneath their
external generosity great and mighty passions are concealed; but he
would have laughed in your face, if he could have guessed that you
cherished such an opinion concerning him; yes, and, I am bound to admit,
I think myself that if my friend was haunted in his youth by any
aspiration, indistinct but powerful, toward what is very prettily called
"something higher," that aspiration had long, long ago calmed down in
him and pined away.
He was rather obese, and enjoyed splendid health. In our age, it is
impossible not to like people who give little thought to themselves,
because they are extremely rare .... and my friend almost completely
forgot his own person. However, I have already said too much about him,
I think—and my chattering is all the more ill-placed, since he does not
serve as the subject of my story. His name was Piótr Feódorovitch
One autumn day, five of us thorough-going sportsmen had assembled
together at Piótr Feódorovitch's. We had spent the entire morning in the
fields, had coursed two wolves and a multitude of hares, and had
returned home in the ravishingly-agreeable frame of mind which invades
every well-regulated man after a successful hunt.
Twilight was descending. The wind was playing over the dark fields, and
noisily rocking the naked crests of the birches and lindens which
surrounded Lutchínoff's house. We arrived, and alighted from our
horses... On the porch I halted and glanced about me: long storm-clouds
were crawling heavily across the grey sky; a dark-brown bush was
writhing in the wind, and creaking piteously; the yellow grass bent
feebly and sadly to the ground; flocks of blackbirds were flying to and
fro among the mountain-ash trees, dotted with clusters of bright-scarlet
berries; in the slender and brittle branches of the birch-trees
tomtits were hopping and whistling; the dogs were barking hoarsely in
the village. Melancholy overpowered me .... for which reason I entered
the dining-room with genuine pleasure. The shutters were closed; on the
round table, covered with a cloth of dazzling whiteness, in the midst of
crystal caraffes filled with red wine, burned eight candles in silver
candlesticks; a fire blazed merrily on the hearth—and an old, very
comely butler, with a huge bald spot, dressed in English fashion, stood
in respectful immobility in front of another table, which was already
adorned with a large soup-tureen, encircled with a light, fragrant
steam. In the anteroom we had passed another respectable man, engaged in
cooling the champagne—"according to the strict rules of the art."
The dinner was, as is usual on such occasions, extremely agreeable; we
laughed, recounted the incidents which had occurred during the hunt, and
recalled with rapture two notable "drives." After having dined rather
heartily, we disposed ourselves in broad arm-chairs in front of the
fireplace; a capacious silver bowl made its appearance on the table,
and, a few moments later, the flitting flame of rum announced to us our
host's pleasant intention to "brew a punch."—Piótr Feódorovitch was a
man not lacking in taste; he knew, for example, that nothing has such
deadly effect on the fancy as the even, cold, and pedantic light of
lamps—therefore he ordered that only two candles should be left in the
room. Strange half-shadows quivered on the walls, produced by the fitful
play of the fire on the hearth, and the flame of the punch .... a quiet,
extremely agreeable comfort replaced in our hearts the somewhat
obstreperous jollity which had reigned at dinner.
Conversations have their fates—like books (according to the Latin
apothegm), like everything in the world. Our conversation on that
evening was peculiarly varied and vivacious. In part it rose to
decidedly important general questions, then lightly and unconstrainedly
returned to the commonplaces of everyday life.... After chatting a good
deal, we all suddenly fell silent. At such times, they say, the angel of
silence flits past.
I do not know why my companions ceased talking, but I stopped because my
eyes had suddenly paused on three dusty portraits in black wooden
frames. The colours had been rubbed off, and here and there the canvas
was warped, but the faces could still be distinguished. The middle
portrait represented a woman, young in years, in a white gown with lace
borders, and a tall coiffure of the eighties. On her right, against a
perfectly black background, was visible the round, fat face of a
good-natured Russian landed proprietor five-and-twenty years of age,
with a low, broad forehead, a stubby nose, and an ingenuous smile. The
powdered French coiffure was extremely out of keeping with the
expression of his Slavonic countenance. The artist had depicted him in
a kaftan of crimson hue with large strass buttons; in his hand he held
some sort of unusual flower. The third portrait, painted by another and
more experienced hand, represented a man of thirty, in a green uniform
of the period of Katherine II, with red facings, a white
under-waistcoat, and a thin batiste neckerchief. With one hand he leaned
on a cane with a gold head, the other he had thrust into his waistcoat.
His thin, swarthy face breathed forth insolent arrogance. His long,
slender eyebrows almost met over his pitch-black eyes; on his pale,
barely-perceptible lips played an evil smile.
"What makes you stare at those faces?"—Piótr Feódorovitch asked me.
"Because!"—I answered, looking at him.
"Would you like to hear the whole story about those three persons?"
"Pray, do us the favour to tell it,"—we replied with one voice.
Piótr Feódorovitch rose, took a candle, raised it to the portraits, and
in the voice of a man who is exhibiting wild animals, "Gentlemen!" he
proclaimed: "this lady is the adopted daughter of my own
great-grandfather, Olga Ivánovna NN., called Lutchínoff, who died
unmarried forty years ago. This gentleman,"—pointing to the portrait of
the man in uniform,—"is sergeant of the Guards, Vasíly Ivánovitch
Lutchínoff, who departed this life, by the will of God, in the year one
thousand seven hundred and ninety. And this gentleman, to whom I have
not the honour to be related, is a certain Pável Afanásievitch
Rogatchyóff, who never served anywhere, so far as I am aware. Please to
note the hole which is in his breast, in the exact place of the heart.
This hole, which is, as you see, regular, and three-cornered, probably
could not have happened accidentally.... Now,"—he went on in his
ordinary voice,—"please to take your seats, arm yourselves with
patience, and listen."
Gentlemen (he began) I descend from a fairly ancient race. I am not
proud of my descent, because my ancestors were all frightful
spendthrifts. This reproach, however, does not apply to my
great-grandfather, Iván Andréevitch Lutchínoff,—on the contrary, he
bore the reputation of being an extraordinarily penurious and even
miserly man—during the last years of his life, at all events. He passed
his youth in Petersburg, and was a witness of Elizavéta's reign. In
Petersburg he married, and had by his wife, who was also my
great-grandmother, four children—three sons, Vasíly, Iván and Pável (my
grandfather), and one daughter, Natálya. In addition to these, Iván
Andréevitch took into his family the daughter of a distant relative, a
full and nameless orphan,—Olga Ivánovna, of whom I have already
spoken. My great-grandfather's subjects were, probably, aware of his
existence, because they were in the habit of sending to him (when no
particular catastrophe had happened) a very considerable sum in
quit-rents;—but they had never beheld his face. The village of
Lutchínovko, deprived of the light of its master's countenance, was
thriving,—when, all of a sudden, one fine morning, a heavy travelling
carriage drove into the village, and drew up in front of the Elder's
cottage. The peasants, startled by such an unprecedented event, flocked
thither and beheld their master, mistress, and all the pair's offspring,
with the exception of the eldest, Vasíly, who had remained in
Petersburg. From that memorable day forth, and to the very day of his
death, Iván Andréevitch never quitted Lutchínovko. He built himself a
house, this very house in which I now have the pleasure of chatting with
you; he also built the church, and began to live the life of a landed
proprietor. Iván Andréevitch was a man of huge stature, gaunt, taciturn,
and extremely slow in all his movements; he never wore a dressing-gown,
and no one, with the exception of his valet, had ever seen him with
unpowdered hair. Iván Andréevitch habitually walked with his hands
clasped behind his back, slowly turning his head at every step. Every
day he walked in the long linden alley, which he had planted with his
own hands,—and before his death he had the satisfaction of enjoying the
shade of those lindens.
Iván Andréevitch was extremely parsimonious of his words; this
remarkable circumstance may serve as a proof of his taciturnity—that in
the space of twenty years he never said a single word to his spouse,
Anna Pávlovna. Altogether, his relations to Anna Pávlovna were of a very
strange nature.—She administered all the domestic affairs, at dinner
she always sat by her husband's side,—he would ruthlessly have
chastised any man who presumed to utter one disrespectful word to
her,—and yet he himself never spoke to her, and never touched her hand.
Anna Pávlovna was a pale, timid, crushed woman; every day she prayed in
church on her knees, and never smiled. It was said that formerly,
that is to say, before their arrival in the country, they had lived in
grand style; it was said, also, that Anna Pávlovna had broken her
marital vows, that her husband had found out about her fault.... However
that may have been, Iván Andréevitch, even when he lay dying, did not
become reconciled to her. She never left him during his last illness;
but he seemed not to notice her. One night, Anna Pávlovna was sitting in
Iván Andréevitch's bedroom; he was tortured with insomnia; the
shrine-lamp was burning in front of the holy picture; my
great-grandfather's servant, Yúditch, concerning whom I shall have a
couple of words to say to you hereafter, had left the room. Anna
Pávlovna rose, crossed the chamber, and flung herself, sobbing, on her
knees before her husband's bed, tried to say something—and stretched
out her arms.... Iván Andréevitch looked at her—and shouted in a weak
but firm voice: "Man!" The servant entered. Anna Pávlovna hastily rose
to her feet, and returned, reeling, to her place.
Iván Andréevitch's children were extremely afraid of him. They grew up
in the country, and were witnesses of Iván Andréevitch's strange
behaviour to his wife. They all passionately loved Anna Pávlovna, but
dared not express their love. She herself seemed to shun them.... You
remember my grandfather, gentlemen: to the day of his death, he always
used to go about on tiptoe, and he spoke in a whisper .... that 's what
habit will do! My grandfather and his brother Iván Ivánovitch were
plain, kind, peaceable and melancholy people; my grand'tante Natálya
married a coarse, stupid man, as you know, and until her death cherished
for him a dumb, servile, sheep-like love; but their brother Vasíly was
not like that.
I think I have told you that Iván Andréevitch left him in Petersburg. He
was twenty years old at the time. His father confided him to the care of
a distant relative, a man no longer young, a bachelor and a frightful
Vasíly grew up, and entered the service. He was small of stature, but
well built and extremely agile; he spoke French splendidly, and was
renowned for his skill at fighting with the broadsword. He was
considered one of the most brilliant young men of the beginning of
Katherine II's reign. My father often told me that he knew more than one
old woman who could not mention Vasíly Ivánovitch Lutchínoff without
heartfelt emotion. Picture to yourself a man gifted with remarkable
strength of will, passionate and calculating, patient and daring,
secretive to the last degree and—according to the words of all his
contemporaries—bewitchingly, enchantingly amiable. He had neither
conscience nor good-nature nor honour, although no one could call him a
positively bad man. He was selfish—but knew how to conceal his
selfishness, and was passionately fond of independence. When Vasíly
Ivánovitch used, smilingly, to screw up his black eyes, when he wanted
to fascinate any one, they say that it was impossible to resist him—and
even people who were convinced of the coldness and hardness of his
spirit more than once surrendered to the bewitching power of his
influence. He zealously served himself, and made others toil also for
his benefit, and always succeeded in everything, because he never lost
his head, did not disdain flattery as a means, and understood how to
Ten years after Iván Andréevitch settled in the country, he came to
Lutchínovko as a brilliant officer of the Guards, for four months,—and
in that space of time succeeded in turning the head even of the surly
old man, his father. It is strange! Iván Andréevitch listened with
delight to his son's tales of his conquests. His brothers were dumb in
his presence, and admired him as a superior being. And even Anna
Pávlovna herself came to love him almost more than all her other
children, who were so sincerely devoted to her.
Vasíly Ivánovitch came to the country, in the first place, in order to
see his relatives; but, in the second place also, in order to get as
much money as possible out of his father. He had lived sumptuously and
kept open house in Petersburg, and had contracted a multitude of debts.
It was not easy for him to reconcile himself to his parent's stinginess,
and, although Iván Andréevitch gave him for his trip alone more money,
in all probability, than he gave all his other children in the space of
the twenty years which they spent in the paternal house, yet Vasíly
stuck to the familiar Russian rule: "Take all you can get!"
Iván Andréevitch had a servant, Yúditch by name, as tall, gaunt, and
taciturn a man as his master. They say that this Yúditch was, in part,
the cause of the strange behaviour of Iván Andréevitch to Anna Pávlovna:
they say that it was he who discovered the guilty liaison of my
great-grandmother with one of my great-grandfather's best friends.
Probably Yúditch deeply repented of his ill-judged zeal, because it
would be difficult to conceive of a more kind-hearted man. His memory is
held sacred to this day by all my house-serfs. Yúditch enjoyed the
unbounded confidence of my great-grandfather. At that period, landed
proprietors had money, but did not hand it over to loan institutions for
safe-keeping, but kept it themselves in coffers, in cellars, and the
like. Iván Andréevitch kept all his money in a huge iron-bound coffer,
which stood under the head of his bed. The key to this coffer was handed
over to Yúditch. Every evening, when he went to bed, Iván Andréevitch
ordered this chest to be opened in his presence, tapped all the
tightly-stuffed sacks in turn with his cane, and on Saturdays, he and
Yúditch untied the sacks and carefully counted over the money.
Vasíly found out about all these performances and was fired with a
desire to rummage a bit in the sacred coffer. In the course of five or
six days he mollified Yúditch, that is to say, he reduced the poor old
fellow to such a state that—as the saying is—he fairly worshipped his
young master. After having properly prepared him, Vasíly assumed a
careworn and gloomy aspect, for a long time refused to answer Yúditch's
inquiries and, at last, told him that he had gambled away all his money,
and intended to lay violent hands on himself if he did not obtain money
from somewhere. Yúditch began to sob, flung himself on his knees before
him, begged him to remember God, not to ruin his soul. Vasíly, without
uttering a word, locked himself up in his chamber. After a while, he
heard some one knocking cautiously on his door. He opened the door and
beheld on the threshold Yúditch, pale and trembling, with a key in his
hands. Vasíly immediately understood everything. At first he resisted
for a long time. Yúditch kept repeating with tears: "Pray, master, take
it!"... At last, Vasíly consented. This happened on Monday. The idea
occurred to Vasíly to replace the money he abstracted with bits of
glass. He reckoned on Iván Andréevitch's not paying any special heed to
the barely perceptible difference in the sound when he tapped the sacks
with his cane,—and by Saturday he hoped to obtain money and replace it
in the sacks. No sooner thought than done. His father, in fact, did not
notice anything. But Vasíly did not obtain money by Saturday: he had
hoped, with the money he had taken, to clean out at the card-table a
certain wealthy neighbour—and, on the contrary, he lost everything
himself. In the meantime, Saturday arrived; the turn came for the sacks
stuffed with bits of glass. Picture to yourselves, gentlemen, the
amazement of Iván Andréevitch!
"What 's the meaning of this?"—he thundered.
Yúditch made no reply.
"Hast thou stolen this money?"
"Then has some one taken the key from thee?"
"I have not given the key to any one."
"Not to any one? If thou hast not given it to any one—thou art the
"I am not a thief, Iván Andréevitch."
"Whence came these bits of glass, damn it? So thou art deceiving me? For
the last time I say to thee—confess!"
Yúditch hung his head and clasped his hands behind his back.
"Hey there, people!" shouted Iván Andréevitch in a raging voice.—"The
"What? You mean to .... whip ... me?" whispered Yúditch.
"Thou shalt catch it! And how art thou any better than the rest? Thou
art a thief! Well, now, Yúditch! I had not expected such rascality from
"I have grown grey in your service, Iván Andréevitch," said Yúditch with
"And what care I about thy grey hair? May the devil take thee and thy
The people entered.
"Take him, and give him a good flogging!"
Iván Andréevitch's lips were pale and trembling. He ramped about the
room like a wild beast in a confined cage.
The men did not dare to execute his commands.
"What are you standing there for, you vile serfs? have I got to lay
hands on him myself, I 'd like to know?"
Yúditch started for the door.
"Stop!" yelled Iván Andréevitch.—"Yúditch, for the last time I say to
thee, I entreat thee, Yúditch, confess."
"I cannot," moaned Yúditch.
"Then seize him, the old sycophant!... Flog him to death! On my head be
it!" thundered the maddened old man. The torture began....
Suddenly the door flew open, and Vasíly entered. He was almost paler
than his father, his hands trembled, his upper lip was raised and
disclosed a row of white, even teeth.
"I am guilty," he said in a dull but steady voice.—"I took the money."
The men stopped short.
"Thou! what?! thou, Váska! without the consent of Yúditch?"
"No!"—said Yúditch:—"with my consent. I myself gave the key to Vasíly
Ivánovitch. Dear little father, Vasíly Ivánovitch! why have you deigned
to trouble yourself?"
"So that 's who the thief is!"—shouted Iván Andréevitch.—"Thanks,
Vasíly, thanks! But I shall not spare thee, Yúditch, all the same. Why
didst not thou confess all to me at once? Hey, there, you! why have you
stopped? or do you no longer recognise my authority? And I 'll settle
with you, my dear little dove!" he added, turning to Vasíly.
The men were on the point of setting to work again on Yúditch.
"Don't touch him!" whispered Vasíly through his teeth. The servants did
not heed him.—"Back!" he shouted, and hurled himself upon them.... They
"Ah! a rebel!"—moaned Iván Andréevitch, and raising his cane, he
advanced on his son.
Vasíly leaped aside, grasped the hilt of his sword, and bared it
half-way. All began to tremble. Anna Pávlovna, attracted by the noise,
frightened and pale, made her appearance in the doorway.
Iván Andréevitch's face underwent a frightful change. He staggered,
dropped his cane, and fell heavily into an arm-chair, covering his face
with both hands. No one stirred; all stood as though rooted to the spot,
not excepting even Vasíly. He convulsively gripped the steel hilt of his
sword, his eyes flashed with a morose, evil gleam....
"Go away all ... begone,"—said Iván Andréevitch in a low voice, without
removing his hands from his face.
The whole throng withdrew. Vasíly halted on the threshold, then suddenly
tossed his head, embraced Yúditch, kissed his mother's hand ... and two
hours later he was no longer in the village. He had departed for
On the evening of that day, Yúditch was sitting on the porch of the
house-serfs' cottage. The servants swarmed around him, pitied him, and
bitterly blamed the master.
"Stop, my lads," he said to them at last;—"enough of that .... why do
you abuse him? I don't believe that he, our dear little father, is
pleased himself with his desperate deed...."
As a result of this affair, Vasíly never saw his parents again. Iván
Andréevitch died without him, probably with such grief at his heart as
may God spare any of us from experiencing. In the meantime, Vasíly
Ivánovitch went out in society, made merry after his own fashion, and
squandered money. How he obtained the money, I cannot say with
certainty. He procured for himself a French servant, a clever and
intelligent young fellow, a certain Boursier. This man became
passionately attached to him, and aided him in all his numerous
performances. I have no intention of narrating to you in detail all the
pranks of my great-uncle; he distinguished himself by such unbounded
audacity, such snaky tact, such incredible cold-bloodedness, such adroit
and subtle wit, that, I must confess, I can understand the limitless
power of that unprincipled man over the most noble souls....
Soon after his father's death, Vasíly Ivánovitch, notwithstanding all
his tact, was challenged to a duel by an outraged husband. He fought,
severely wounded his antagonist, and was forced to quit the capital: he
was ordered to reside permanently on his hereditary estate. Vasíly
Ivánovitch was thirty years of age. You can easily imagine, gentlemen,
with what feelings this man, who had become accustomed to the brilliant
life of the capital, journeyed to his native place. They say that, on
the road, he frequently got out of his kibítka, flung himself face down
on the snow, and wept. No one in Lutchínovko recognised the former
jolly, amiable Vasíly Ivánovitch. He spoke to no one, he went off
hunting from morning until night, with visible impatience endured the
timid caresses of his mother, and jeered pitilessly at his brothers,
and at their wives (both of them were already married)....
So far I have said nothing to you, I believe, about Olga Ivánovna. She
had been brought to Lutchínovko as an infant at the breast; she had
almost died on the way. Olga Ivánovna had been reared, as the saying is,
in the fear of God and of her parents.... It must be confessed that Iván
Andréevitch and Anna Pávlovna both treated her like a daughter. But
there was concealed in her a feeble spark of that fire which blazed so
brightly in the soul of Vasíly Ivánovitch. In the meantime, while Iván
Andréevitch's own children did not dare to indulge in conjectures
concerning the strange, speechless quarrel between their parents, Olga,
from her earliest years had been disturbed and pained by the position of
Anna Pávlovna. Like Vasíly, she loved independence; all oppression
revolted her. She had attached herself to her benefactress with all the
powers of her soul; she hated old Lutchínoff, and more than once, as she
sat at table, she had fixed upon him such sombre glances, that even the
man who was serving the viands felt frightened. Iván Andréevitch did not
notice all those glances, because, in general, he paid no attention
whatever to his family.
At first, Anna Pávlovna endeavoured to exterminate this hatred in
her—but several bold questions on Olga's part forced her to complete
silence. Iván Andréevitch's children adored Olga, and the old woman
loved her also, although with rather a cold affection.
Prolonged sorrow had crushed all cheerfulness, all strong feeling, in
this poor woman; nothing so clearly proves Vasíly's bewitching
amiability as the fact that he made even his mother love him ardently.
Effusions of tenderness on the part of children was not in the spirit of
that age, and therefore it is not surprising that Olga did not venture
to display her devotion, although she always kissed Anna Pávlovna's hand
with particular respect in the evening, when she bade her good-night.
She was barely able to read and write. Twenty years later, Russian girls
began to read novels in the style of the "Adventures of Marquis
G***,"—"Fanfan and Lolotte,"—of "Alexyéi; or, The Cot in the
Forest";—they began to learn to play on the clavichord and to sing
romances in the style of the following, once very familiar song:
"Men in the light
Cling to us like flies"—and so forth.
But in the '70s (Olga Ivánovna was born in the year 1757), our rustic
beauties had no conception of all these accomplishments. It would be
difficult for us now to picture to ourselves a young Russian girl of
good birth of that epoch. We can, it is true, judge from our
grandmothers as to the degree of education of noble gentlewomen in the
times of Katherine II; but how is one to distinguish that which was
inculcated in them in the course of their long life, from that which
they were in the days of their youth?
Olga Ivánovna spoke a little French, but with a strong Russian accent;
in her day, there was no thought of such a thing as the emigrés.
In a word, with all her good qualities, she was, nevertheless, a decided
savage, and, probably, in the simplicity of her heart, she more than
once administered chastisement with her own hands to some unlucky
Some time before Vasíly Ivánovitch's arrival, Olga Ivánovna had been
betrothed to a neighbour,—Pável Afanásievitch Rogatchyóff, an extremely
good-natured and honourable man. Nature had forgotten to endow him with
gall. His own servants did not obey him; they sometimes all went off,
from the first to the last of them, and left poor Rogatchyóff without
any dinner ... but nothing could disturb the tranquillity of his soul.
He had been distinguished, even from his childhood, by his obesity and
sluggishness; he had never served anywhere, and he was fond of going to
church and singing in the choir. Look at that good-natured, round face,
gentlemen; gaze at that tranquil, brilliant smile .... does not it make
you feel cheerful yourselves? Once in a while his father had driven over
to Lutchínovko, and had brought with him, on festival days, his
Pávlusha, whom the little Lutchínoffs tormented in every possible way.
Pávlusha grew up, began to go to Iván Andréevitch's of his own accord,
fell in love with Olga Ivánovna, and offered her his hand and his
heart—not to her personally, but to her benefactors. Her benefactors
gave their consent. They never even thought of asking Olga Ivánovna
whether she liked Rogatchyóff. At that epoch,—as our grandmothers used
to say,—"such luxuries were not in fashion." But Olga speedily got used
to her betrothed: it was impossible not to grow attached to that gentle,
Rogatchyóff had received no education whatsoever; all he could say in
French was "bonzhour"—and in secret he even regarded that word as
improper. And some jester had also taught him the following, which
professed to be a French song: "Sónetchka, Sónetchka! Que voulez-vous de
moi—I adore you—mais je ne peux pas."... He was always humming this
song in an undertone when he felt in good spirits. His father also was a
man of indescribably kind disposition; he was forever going about in a
long nankeen coat, and no matter what was said to him, he assented to
everything with a smile.
From the time of Pável Afanásievitch's betrothal both the
Rogatchyóffs—father and son—began to bustle about frightfully; they
made over their house, they built on various "galleries," they chatted
in friendly wise with the workmen, they treated them to vodka. They did
not manage to finish all the additional building by winter—so they
deferred the wedding until the summer; in the summer, Iván Andréevitch
died—and the wedding was postponed until the following spring; in the
winter, Vasíly Ivánovitch arrived. Rogatchyóff was introduced to him;
Vasíly received him coldly and carelessly, and in the course of time,
frightened him to such a degree by his arrogant treatment that poor
Rogatchyóff quivered like a leaf at his mere appearance, maintained
silence, and smiled constrainedly. Vasíly once came near driving him off
for good—by offering to bet with him that he, Rogatchyóff, was unable
to stop smiling. Poor Pável Afanásievitch almost wept with confusion,
but—'t is an actual fact!—the smile, the very stupid, constrained
smile, would not quit his face! And Vasíly slowly toyed with the ends of
his neckcloth, and stared at him in quite too scornful a manner.
Pável Afanásievitch's father also learned of Vasíly's arrival, and a few
days later—for the sake of "the greater solemnity"—he set out for
Lutchínovko with the intention of "congratulating the amiable visitor on
his arrival in his native parts." Afanásy Lúkitch was renowned
throughout the whole countryside for his eloquence—that is to say, for
his ability to utter, without hesitation, a rather long and
cunningly-concocted speech, with a slight admixture of bookish words.
Alas! on this occasion he did not maintain his reputation; he became
confused much worse than his son, Pável Afanásievitch. He stammered out
something very unintelligible, and, although he had never touched vodka
in his life, having this time, "by way of countenance," drunk a small
glassful (he had found Vasíly at luncheon), he had endeavoured, at
least, to clear his throat with a certain amount of independence, and
had not produced the smallest sound. As he set out for home, Pável
Afanásievitch whispered to his parent: "Well, dear little father?"
Afanásy Lúkitch replied to him with irritation, also in a whisper:
"Don't mention it!"
The Rogatchyóffs began to come more rarely to Lutchínovko. But they were
not the only ones whom Vasíly intimidated: he aroused in his brothers,
in their wives, even in Anna Pávlovna herself, a painful and involuntary
sense of discomfort .... they began to avoid him in all possible ways.
Vasíly could not help noticing this, but, apparently, he had no
intention of altering his behaviour to them, when, all of a sudden, at
the beginning of the spring, he again revealed himself as the same
amiable, charming man they had previously known him to be....
The first revelation of this sudden change was on the occasion of
Vasíly's unexpected call on the Rogatchyóffs. Afanásy Lúkitch, in
particular, was thoroughly daunted by the sight of Lutchínoff's calash,
but his fear very speedily vanished. Never had Vasíly been more amiable
and merry. He linked his arm in the arm of young Rogatchyóff, walked out
with him to inspect the buildings, chatted with the carpenters, gave
them advice, himself made a few notches with the axe, ordered them to
show him Afanásy Lúkitch's stud-horses, himself drove them at the end of
a rope—and altogether, by his cordial amiability, reduced the
kind-hearted steppe-dwellers to such a condition that they both
repeatedly embraced him. At home, also, Vasíly turned all heads for a
few days as of yore: he devised various amusing games, he procured
musicians, invited in the neighbours of both sexes, narrated the
tittle-tattle of the town to the old ladies in the most diverting
manner, paid some court to the young women, invented unheard-of
amusements, fireworks, and so forth:—in a word, he enlivened everything
and everybody. The sad, gloomy house of the Lutchínoffs was suddenly
converted into a noisy, brilliant, enchanting sort of dwelling, of which
the whole countryside talked.—This sudden change amazed many,
delighted all, and various rumours got into circulation; the knowing
ones said that some hidden trouble had, up to that time, been afflicting
Vasíly Ivánovitch, that the possibility of returning to the capital had
presented itself to him.... But no one divined the true cause of Vasíly
Olga Ivánovna, gentlemen, was very far from being uncomely.—But her
beauty consisted rather in remarkable softness and freshness of person,
in a tranquil charm of movement, than in strict regularity of features.
Nature had endowed her with a certain independence; her education—she
had been reared an orphan—had developed in her caution and firmness.
Olga did not belong to the category of quiet and languid young
gentlewomen; but one feeling alone had fully ripened in her: hatred for
her benefactor. However, other and more womanly passions also could
flame up in Olga Ivánovna's soul with unusual, unhealthy force .... but
there was in her none of that proud coldness, nor that compact strength
of soul, nor that selfish concentration, without which every passion
speedily vanishes.—The first outbursts of such half-active,
half-passive souls are sometimes remarkably violent; but they very soon
undergo a change, especially when it becomes a question of the ruthless
application of accepted principles; they fear the consequences.... And,
yet, gentlemen, I must confess to you frankly: women of that sort
produce upon me a very strong impression....
(At these words, the narrator tossed off a glass of water at one
draught.—"Nonsense! nonsense!"—I thought, as I looked at his round
chin:—"on you, my dear friend, no one in the world produces 'a very
strong impression.'") ...
Piótr Feódorovitch went on:
Gentlemen, I believe in blood, in race. There was more blood in Olga
Ivánovna, than, for example, in her nominal sister—Natálya. How did
that "blood" show itself?—you ask me.—Why, in everything; in the
outline of her hands and of her lips, in the sound of her voice, in her
glance, in her walk, in the way she dressed her hair,—in the folds of
her gown, in short. In all these trifles there was a certain hidden
something, although I must admit that that .... how shall I express
it?.... that distinction which had fallen to the lot of Olga Ivánovna
would not have attracted the attention of Vasíly if he had met her in
Petersburg. But in the country, in the wilds, she not only excited his
attention,—but even, altogether, was the sole cause of the change of
which I have just spoken.
Judge for yourselves: Vasíly Ivánovitch was fond of enjoying life; he
could not help being bored in the country; his brothers were
kind-hearted fellows, but extremely limited in mind; he had nothing in
common with them. His sister Natálya and her husband had had four
children in the space of three years; between her and Vasíly lay a whole
abyss... Anna Pávlovna went to church, prayed, fasted, and prepared
herself for death. There remained only Olga, a rosy, timid, charming
young girl... At first Vasíly did not notice her ... and who would turn
his attention on an adopted child, an orphan, a foundling?.... One day,
at the very beginning of spring, he was walking through the garden, and
with his cane switching off the heads of the chicory, those stupid
yellow flowers which make their appearance in such abundance first of
all, in the meadows as yet hardly green.—He was strolling in the garden
in front of the house, raised his head—and beheld Olga Ivánovna.—She
was sitting with her side to the window, and gazing pensively at a
striped kitten, which, purring and blinking, had cuddled down on her
lap, and with great satisfaction was presenting its little nose to the
spring sunshine, already fairly brilliant. Olga Ivánovna wore a white
morning-gown with short sleeves; her bare, faintly-rosy, as yet not
fully-developed shoulders and arms breathed forth freshness and health;
a small cap discreetly confined her thick, soft, silky locks; her face
was slightly flushed; she had not been long awake. Her slender, supple
neck was bent forward so charmingly; her unconfined form reposed so
engagingly and modestly that Vasíly Ivánovitch (a great connoisseur!)
involuntarily halted and took a look. It suddenly came into his head
that Olga Ivánovna ought not to be left in her pristine ignorance, that
in time she might turn out to be a very charming and very amiable woman.
He crept up to the window, raised himself on tiptoe, and imprinted a
silent kiss on Olga Ivánovna's smooth, white arm, a little below the
elbow.—Olga screamed and sprang to her feet, the kitten elevated its
tail, and leaped into the garden; Vasíly Ivánovitch detained her with
his hand.... Olga blushed all over, to her very ears; he began to jest
at her fright .... invited her to walk with him; but suddenly Olga
Ivánovna noticed the negligence of her attire—"more swiftly than the
swift-footed doe," she slipped into the next room.
That same day, Vasíly set off for the Rogatchyóffs'. He suddenly grew
gay, and brightened up in spirit. Vasíly did not fall in love with Olga,
no!—one must not trifle with the word love.... He had found for himself
an occupation, he had set himself a task, and was rejoicing with the joy
of an active man. He never even called to mind the fact that she was his
mother's adopted child, the betrothed of another man; he did not deceive
himself for a single instant; he was very well aware that she could not
be his wife.... Perhaps passion was his excuse—not a lofty, not a noble
passion, 't is true, but, nevertheless, a tolerably strong and
torturing passion. Of course he did not fall in love like a child; he
did not surrender himself to unbounded raptures; he knew well what he
wanted and what he was aiming at.
Vasíly Ivánovitch possessed to perfection the ability to win the favour
of others, even of those who were prejudiced or timid. Olga speedily
ceased to shun him. Vasíly Ivánovitch introduced her into a new world.
He imported a clavichord for her, gave her music lessons (he played very
fairly himself on the flute), he read books to her, he had long talks
with her.... The poor young steppe-girl's head was turned; Vasíly had
completely subjugated her. He knew how to talk to her about that which,
hitherto, had been foreign to her, and to talk in a language which she
understood. Olga gradually brought herself to express all her feelings
to him; he helped her, suggested to her the words which she could not
find; he did not startle her; he now repressed, now encouraged her
impulses.... Vasíly occupied himself with her education not out of a
disinterested desire to awaken and develop her abilities; he simply
wanted to bring her somewhat closer to him, and he knew, moreover, that
it is easier to attract an inexperienced, shy, but vain young girl by
the mind than by the heart. Even if Olga had been a remarkable being,
Vasíly could not possibly have observed it, because he treated her like
a child; but you already know, gentlemen, that there was nothing
noteworthy about Olga.
Vasíly strove, as much as possible, to work on her imagination, and
often of an evening she would leave him with such a whirl of new images,
words, and thoughts in her head, that she was unable to get to sleep
until dawn, and sighing sadly, she pressed her burning cheeks against
her cold pillows; or she rose and went to the window, and gazed
timorously and eagerly into the far-away gloom. Vasíly filled every
moment of her life; she could not think of any one else. She soon ceased
to take any notice of Rogatchyóff. Vasíly, being a shrewd and clever
man, did not speak to Olga in his presence; but he either confused him
to the verge of tears, or got up some boisterous game, a stroll in the
evening, a rowing-party on the river by night with lanterns and
music,—in a word, he did not give Pável Afanásievitch a chance to
recover his ground. But, despite all Vasíly Ivánovitch's cleverness,
Rogatchyóff was dimly conscious that he, the betrothed and the future
husband of Olga, had become, as it were, a stranger to her .... but, in
his infinite good-heartedness, he was afraid of wounding her by a
reproach, although he really loved her and prized her affection. When he
was alone with her, he did not know what to talk about, and merely
endeavoured to serve her in every possible way. Two months passed.
Every trace of independence, of will, disappeared in Olga; the weak and
taciturn Rogatchyóff could not serve her as a prop; she did not even try
to resist the fascination, and with a sinking heart she gave herself
unconditionally to Vasíly....
Olga Ivánovna, it is probable, then learned the joys of love; but not
for long. Although Vasíly—for the lack of any other occupation—not
only did not discard her, but even became attached to her, and petted
her, yet Olga lost herself to such a degree that she did not find bliss
even in love, and nevertheless she was unable to tear herself away from
Vasíly. She began to be afraid of everything, she did not dare to think;
she talked of nothing; she ceased to read; she became a prey to
melancholy. Sometimes Vasíly succeeded in drawing her after him, and
making her forget everybody and everything; but on the following day he
found her pale and silent, with cold hands, with a senseless smile on
A decidedly difficult time began for Vasíly; but no difficulties could
daunt him. He concentrated himself completely, like an expert gambler.
He could not count upon Olga Ivánovna in the slightest degree; she was
incessantly betraying herself, paling, and blushing and weeping ... her
new rôle was beyond her strength. Vasíly toiled for two; in his
boisterous and noisy joy only an experienced observer could have
detected a feverish tenseness; he played with his brothers, his
sisters, the Rogatchyóffs, the neighbours, both men and women,—as
though they had been pawns; he was eternally on the alert, he never
allowed a single glance, a single movement to escape him, although he
appeared to be the most care-free of mortals; every morning he entered
into battle, and every evening he celebrated a victory. He was not in
the least oppressed by this strange activity; he slept four hours a day,
he ate very little, and was healthy, fresh, and gay. In the meantime,
the wedding-day was approaching; Vasíly succeeded in convincing Pável
Afanásievitch himself of the necessity of a postponement; then he
despatched him to Moscow to make some purchases, and himself entered
into correspondence with his Petersburg friends. He exerted himself not
so much out of compassion for Olga Ivánovna, as out of a desire and love
for fuss and bustle.... Moreover, he had begun to grow tired of Olga
Ivánovna, and more than once already, after a fierce outburst of
passion, he had looked at her as he had been wont to look at
Rogatchyóff. Lutchínoff always remained a puzzle to every one; in the
very coldness of his implacable spirit you felt conscious of the
presence of a strange, almost southern flame, and in the maddest heat of
passion, cold emanated from that man.—In the presence of others, he
upheld Olga Ivánovna as before; but when he was alone with her, he
played with her as a cat plays with a mouse—he either terrified her
with sophisms, or he exhibited heavy and vicious tedium, or, in
conclusion, he threw himself at her feet again, swept her away, as a
whirlwind sweeps a chip .... and he was not then pretending to be in
love ... but really was swooning with it himself...
One day, quite late in the evening, Vasíly was sitting alone in his own
room and attentively perusing the latest letters he had received from
Petersburg—when, suddenly, the door creaked softly and Paláshka, Olga
Ivánovna's maid, entered.
"What dost thou want?"—Vasíly asked her, quite curtly.
"My mistress begs that you will come to her."
"I can't at present. Go away... Well, why dost thou stand there?"—he
went on, perceiving that Paláshka did not leave the room.
"My mistress ordered me to say that there is very great need, sir."
"Well, but what 's the matter?"
"Please to see for yourself, sir...."
Vasíly rose, with vexation tossed the letters into a casket, and betook
himself to Olga Ivánovna. She was sitting alone in a corner,—pale and
"What do you want?"—he asked her, not very politely.
Olga looked at him, and with a shudder, covered her eyes.
"What ails you? what 's the matter with thee, Olga?"
He took her hand... Olga Ivánovna's hand was as cold as ice... She tried
to speak .... and her voice died away. The poor woman had no doubt left
in her mind as to her condition.
Vasíly was somewhat disconcerted. Olga Ivánovna's room was a couple of
paces from the bedroom of Anna Pávlovna. Vasíly cautiously seated
himself beside Olga, kissed and warmed her hands, and argued with her in
a whisper. She listened to him, and shivered silently, slightly.
Paláshka stood in the doorway and softly wiped away her tears. In the
adjoining room a pendulum was beating heavily and regularly, and the
breathing of a sleeper was audible. Olga Ivánovna's torpor dissolved, at
last, in tears and dull sobs. Tears are the equivalent of a
thunder-storm: after them a person is always quieter. When Olga Ivánovna
had become somewhat composed, and only sobbed convulsively from time to
time like a child, Vasíly knelt down before her, and with caresses and
tender promises soothed her completely, gave her a drink of water, put
her to bed, and went away. All night long he did not undress himself,
wrote two or three letters, burned two or three papers, got out a golden
locket with the portrait of a black-browed and black-eyed woman, with a
bold, sensual face, gazed long at her features, and paced his chamber in
thought. On the following morning, at tea, he beheld, with a good deal
of dissatisfaction, poor Olga's reddened, swollen eyes, and pale,
distraught face. After breakfast, he proposed to her that she should
take a stroll with him in the park. Olga followed Vasíly like an
obedient sheep. But when, two hours later, she returned from the park,
she looked dreadfully; she told Anna Pávlovna that she felt ill, and
went to bed. During the walk, Vasíly had announced to her, with all due
penitence, that he was secretly married—he was just as much a bachelor
as I am. Olga Ivánovna did not fall down in a swoon—people fall in
swoons only on the stage; but she became suddenly petrified, although
she not only had not been hoping to marry Vasíly Ivánovitch, but had
even, somehow, been afraid to think of it. Vasíly began to demonstrate
to her the necessity of parting from him and marrying Rogatchyóff. Olga
Ivánovna looked at him with dumb horror. Vasíly talked coldly,
practically, sensibly; he blamed himself, he expressed regret,—but all
his arguments wound up with the following words: "We must act." Olga
lost her head completely; she was frightened and ashamed; dismal, heavy
despair took possession of her; she longed for death—and sadly awaited
"We must confess all to my mother," he said at last.
Olga turned deadly pale; her limbs gave way beneath her.
"Don't be frightened, don't be frightened,"—Vasíly kept
repeating:—"rely on me; I will not forsake thee ... I will arrange
everything ... trust in me."
The poor woman gazed at him with love ... yes, with love, and with
profound, though hopeless devotion.
"I will arrange everything, everything,"—said Vasíly to her at parting
... and for the last time kissed her ice-cold hands.
Olga Ivánovna had just risen from her bed on the following morning, when
her door opened ... and Anna Pávlovna made her appearance on the
threshold. She was supported by Vasíly. Silently she made her way to an
arm-chair, and silently seated herself. Vasíly stood beside her. He
seemed composed; his brows were contracted, and his lips were slightly
parted. Anna Pávlovna, pale, indignant, wrathful, tried to speak, but
her voice failed her. Olga Ivánovna with terror, took in, in a single
glance, her benefactress and her lover; she felt a frightful sinking at
the heart ... with a shriek she fell down on her knees in the middle of
the room and covered her face with her hands....
"So it is true ... it is true?" whispered Anna Pávlovna, and bent
toward her.... "Answer!"—she went on harshly, seizing Olga by the arm.
"Mamma!" rang out Vasíly's brazen voice,—"you promised me not to insult
"I won't ... come, confess .... confess ... is it true? Is it true?"
"Mamma ... remember!..." said Vasíly, slowly.
That one word shook Anna Pávlovna violently. She leaned against the back
of her chair, and fell to sobbing.
Olga Ivánovna softly raised her head and attempted to fling herself at
the old woman's feet, but Vasíly restrained her, raised her up, and
seated her in another arm-chair. Anna Pávlovna continued to weep and
whisper incoherent words....
"Listen, mamma,"—began Vasíly. "Don't be so overwhelmed! This calamity
can still be alleviated.... If Rogatchyóff ...."
Olga Ivánovna shuddered and straightened herself up.
"If Rogatchyóff,"—pursued Vasíly, with a significant glance at Olga
Ivánovna,—"has imagined that he can with impunity disgrace an
honourable family ...."
Olga Ivánovna was terrified.
"In my house,"—moaned Anna Pávlovna.
"Calm yourself, mamma. He has taken advantage of her inexperience, of
her youth, he .... did you wish to say something?"—he added, perceiving
that Olga was trying to get at him.
Olga Ivánovna fell back in her chair.
"I shall go at once to Rogatchyóff. I shall force him to wed her this
very day. Be assured, I shall not permit him to jeer at us...."
"But ... Vasíly Ivánovitch ... you ..." whispered Olga.
He stared long and coldly at her. She relapsed into silence.
"Mamma, give me your word not to disturb her until my arrival. See—she
is barely alive. Yes, and you require rest yourself. Trust to me: I
answer for everything; in any case, await my return. I repeat to you—do
not kill her, nor yourself—rely upon me."
He walked to the door, and paused.
"Mamma,"—he said: "come with me. Leave her alone, I beg of you."
Anna Pávlovna rose, went to the holy picture, made a reverence to the
floor, and softly followed her son. Olga Ivánovna followed her silently
and immovably with her eyes. Vasíly hastily came back, seized her hand,
whispered in her ear: "Trust to me, and do not betray us,"—and
"Boursier!" he shouted, as he ran swiftly down the stairs.—"Boursier!"
A quarter of an hour later he was seated in his calash with his servant.
Old Rogatchyóff was not at home that day. He had gone to the county
town, to buy seersucker for kaftans to clothe his retainers. Pável
Afanásievitch was sitting in his study, and inspecting a collection of
faded butterflies. Elevating his eyebrows, and thrusting forth his lips,
he was cautiously turning about with a pin the large wings of the
"nocturnal sphinx," when suddenly, he felt a small but heavy hand on his
shoulder. He glanced round—before him stood Vasíly.
"Good morning, Vasíly Ivánovitch,"—said he, not without some surprise.
Vasíly looked at him and sat down in front of him on a chair.
Pável Afanásievitch was about to smile ... but glanced at Vasíly,
relaxed, opened his mouth, and clasped his hands.
"Come, tell me, Pável Afanásievitch,"—began Vasíly, suddenly:—"do you
intend to have the wedding soon?"
"I?... soon .... of course.... I, so far as I am concerned .... however,
that is as you and your sister choose.... I, for my part, am ready
to-morrow, if you like."
"Very good, very good. You are a very impatient man, Pável
"How so, sir?"
"Listen,"—added Vasíly Ivánovitch, rising to his feet:—"I know
everything; you understand me, and I order you to marry Olga without
"But excuse me, excuse me,"—returned Rogatchyóff, without rising from
his seat;—"you order me? I myself have sought the hand of Olga
Ivánovna, and there is no need to order me. I must confess, Vasíly
Ivánovitch, somehow, I don't understand you...."
"Thou dost not understand?"
"No, really, I don't understand, sir."
"Wilt thou give me thy word to marry her to-morrow?"
"Why, good gracious, Vasíly Ivánovitch .... have n't you yourself
repeatedly postponed our marriage? If it had not been for you, it would
have taken place long ago. And even now I have no idea of refusing. But
what is the meaning of your threats, of your urgent demands?"
Pável Afanásievitch wiped the perspiration from his face.
"Wilt thou give me thy word? Speak! Yes, or no?"—repeated Vasíly with
pauses between his words.
"Certainly ... I give it, sir, but ...."
"Good. Remember.... And she has confessed everything."
"Who has confessed?"
"But what has she confessed?"
"Why do you dissimulate with me, Pável Afanásievitch? Surely, I 'm not a
stranger to you."
"How am I dissimulating? I don't understand you, I don't understand you,
positively I don't understand you. What could Olga Ivánovna confess?"
"What? You bore me! You know well what."
"May God slay me if ...."
"No, I will slay thee—if thou dost not marry her .... dost understand?"
"What!...." Pável Afanásievitch leaped to his feet, and stood before
Vasíly.—"Olga Ivánovna .... you say ...."
"Thou 'rt clever, my good fellow, very clever, I must admit." Vasíly,
with a smile, tapped him on the shoulder.—"In spite of the fact that
thou art so mild of aspect ...."
"My God, O God!... You will drive me mad... What do you mean to say?
Explain yourself, for God's sake!"
Vasíly bent over him and whispered something in his ear.
Rogatchyóff cried out:—"What?.... how?"
Vasíly stamped his foot.
"Olga Ivánovna? Olga?..."
"Yes .... your betrothed bride...."
"My betrothed bride .... Vasíly Ivánovitch .... she .... she .... But I
will have nothing to do with her!"—shouted Pável Afanásievitch. "I 'll
have none of her! What do you take me for? To deceive me—to deceive
me!... Olga Ivánovna, is n't it sinful of you, are n't you ashamed?...."
(Tears gushed from his eyes.)—"I thank you, Vasíly Ivánovitch, I thank
you.... And now I 'll have nothing to do with her! I won't! I won't!
don't speak of such a thing!.... Akh, good heavens!—that I should have
lived to see this day! But it is well, it is well!"
"Stop behaving like a baby,"—remarked Vasíly Ivánovitch,
coldly.—"Remember, you have given me your word that the wedding shall
take place to-morrow."
"No, that shall not be! Enough, Vasíly Ivánovitch, I say to you once
more—for whom do you take me? You do me much honour; many thanks, sir.
Excuse me, sir."
"As you like!"—retorted Vasíly.—"Get your sword."
"This is why."
Vasíly drew out his slender, flexible French sword, and bent it slightly
against the floor.
"You mean .... to fight .... with me?..."
"But, Vasíly Ivánovitch, pray, enter into my position! How can I—judge
for yourself—after what you have told me?... I am an honest man,
Vasíly Ivánovitch; I am a nobleman."
"You are a nobleman, you are an honest man,—then be so good as to fight
"You appear to be a coward, Mr. Rogatchyóff?"
"I am not in the least a coward, Vasíly Ivánovitch. You have thought to
frighten me, Vasíly Ivánovitch. 'Come, now,' you said to yourself, 'I
'll scare him, and he 'll turn cowardly; he will instantly consent to
anything.'.... No, Vasíly Ivánovitch, I 'm the same sort of nobleman as
yourself, although I have not received my education in the capital, it
is true; and you will not succeed in terrifying me, excuse me."
"Very good,"—retorted Vasíly:—"where is your sword?"
"Eróshka!"—shouted Pável Afanásievitch.
A man entered.
"Get my sword—yonder—thou knowest where it is—in the garret .... and
be quick about it...."
Eróshka withdrew. Pável Afanásievitch suddenly turned extremely pale,
hastily took off his dressing-gown, put on a kaftan of a reddish hue
with large strass buttons .... wound a neckcloth round his neck....
Vasíly watched him, and examined the fingers of his right hand.
"So how is it to be? Are we to fight, Pável Afanásievitch?"
"If we must fight, we must,"—returned Rogatchyóff, hastily buttoning
"Hey, Pável Afanásievitch, heed my advice: marry .... why shouldst thou
not?... But I, believe me ...."
"No, Vasíly Ivánovitch,"—Rogatchyóff interrupted him. "You will either
kill me or maim me, I know; but I have no intention of losing my honour;
if I must die, I will."
Eróshka entered and hurriedly handed Rogatchyóff a wretched little old
sword, in a cracked, leather scabbard. At that time all nobles wore
swords when they had powdered hair; but the nobles of the steppes only
powdered their hair a couple of times a year. Eróshka retreated to the
door, and fell to weeping. Pável Afanásievitch thrust him out of the
"But, Vasíly Ivánovitch,"—he remarked, with some agitation,—"I cannot
fight with you instantly: permit me to defer our duel until to-morrow;
my father is not at home; and it would not be a bad thing to put my
affairs in order, in case of a catastrophe."
"I see that you are beginning to quail again, my dear sir."
"No, no, Vasíly Ivánovitch; but judge for yourself...."
"Listen!"... shouted Lutchínoff:—"you are driving me out of
patience.... Either give me your word to marry immediately, or fight
.... or I will trounce you with a cudgel, like a coward, do you
"Let us go into the park,"—replied Rogatchyóff between his teeth.
But suddenly the door opened, and the old nurse Efímovna, all
dishevelled, forced her way into the room, fell on her knees before
Rogatchyóff and clasped his feet....
"My dear little father!"—she wailed:—"my child .... what is this thou
art projecting? Do not ruin us miserable ones, dear little father! For
he will kill thee, my dear little dove! But only give us the command,
give us the command, and we 'll kill that insolent fellow with our
caps.... Pável Afanásievitch, my darling child, have the fear of God
before thine eyes!"
A multitude of pale and agitated faces showed themselves in the doorway
.... the red beard of the Elder even made its appearance....
"Let me go, Efímovna, let me go!"—muttered Rogatchyóff.
"I will not let thee go, my own one, I will not let thee go. What art
thou doing, dear little father, what art thou doing? And what will
Afanásy Lúkitch say? Why, he will drive all of us out of the white
world.... And why do ye stand there? Seize the unbidden guest by the
arms, and lead him forth from the house, that no trace of him may
"Rogatchyóff!"—shouted Vasíly Ivánovitch, menacingly.
"Thou hast gone crazy, Efímovna, thou art disgracing me,".... said Pável
Afanásievitch.—"Go away, go, with God's blessing, and begone, all of
you, do you hear? Do you hear?..."
Vasíly Ivánovitch walked swiftly to the open window, drew out a small
silver whistle, and whistled lightly.... Boursier answered close at
hand. Lutchínoff immediately turned to Pável Afanásievitch.
"How is this comedy to end?"
"Vasíly Ivánovitch, I will come to you to-morrow—what am I to do with
this crazy woman?...."
"Eh! I see that it is useless to talk long with you,"—said Vasíly, and
swiftly raised his cane....
Pável Afanásievitch dashed forward, thrust aside Efímovna, seized his
sword, and rushed through the other door into the park.
Vasíly darted after him. They both ran to a wooden arbour artfully
painted in the Chinese manner, locked themselves in, and bared their
swords. Rogatchyóff had once upon a time taken lessons in fencing; but
he barely knew how to parry properly. The blades crossed. Vasíly was,
evidently, playing with Rogatchyóff's sword. Pável Afanásievitch sighed,
turned pale, and gazed with consternation into Lutchínoff's face. In
the meanwhile, cries resounded in the park; a throng of people rushed
to the arbour. Suddenly Rogatchyóff heard a heart-rending, senile roar
.... he recognised his father's voice. Afanásy Lúkitch, hatless, and
with dishevelled locks, was running in front of all, waving his arms
With a powerful and unexpected turn of his blade, Vasíly knocked the
sword from Pável Afanásievitch's hand.
"Marry, brother,"—he said to him.—"Stop being a fool!"
"I will not marry!"—whispered Rogatchyóff, closed his eyes, and
trembled all over.
Afanásy Lúkitch began to pound on the door of the arbour.
"Thou wilt not?"—shouted Vasíly.
Rogatchyóff shook his head in the negative.
"Well, then, the devil take thee!"
Poor Pável Afanásievitch fell dead: Lutchínoff's sword had pierced his
heart.... The door burst open, old Rogatchyóff rushed into the arbour,
but Vasíly had already managed to spring out of the window...
Two hours later, he entered Olga Ivánovna's room... She darted to meet
him in affright.... He silently bowed to her, drew out his sword, and
pierced Pável Afanásievitch's portrait at the place of the heart. Olga
shrieked, and fell senseless on the floor.... Vasíly directed his steps
to Anna Pávlovna. He found her in the room of the holy pictures.
"Mamma,"—he said,—"we are avenged."
The poor old woman shuddered and went on praying.
A week later, Vasíly took his departure for Petersburg,—and two years
afterward he returned to the country, crippled with paralysis, and
speechless. He no longer found either Anna Pávlovna or Olga Ivánovna
alive, and soon died himself in the arms of Yúditch, who fed him like a
baby, and was the only person who could understand his incoherent