Mumu by Iván Turgénieff
Translator: Isabel Hapgood
In one of the remote streets of Moscow, in a grey house with white
pillars, an entresol, and a crooked balcony, dwelt in former days a
well-born lady, a widow, surrounded by numerous domestics. Her sons were
in the service in Petersburg, her daughters were married; she rarely
went out into society, and was living out the last years of a miserly
and tedious old age in solitude. Her day, cheerless and stormy, was long
since over; but her evening also was blacker than night.
Among the ranks of her menials, the most remarkable person was the
yard-porter, Gerásim, a man six feet five inches in height, built like
an epic hero, and a deaf-mute from his birth. His mistress had taken him
from the village, where he lived alone, in a tiny cottage, apart from
his brethren, and was considered the most punctual of the taxable serfs.
Endowed with remarkable strength, he did the work of four persons.
Matters made progress in his hands, and it was a cheerful sight to watch
him when he ploughed and, applying his huge hands to the primitive
plough, seemed to be carving open the elastic bosom of the earth alone,
without the aid of his little nag; or about St. Peter's Day wielding
the scythe so shatteringly that he might even have hewn off a young
birch-wood from its roots; or threshing briskly and unremittingly with a
chain seven feet in length, while the firm, oblong muscles on his
shoulders rose and fell like levers. His uninterrupted muteness imparted
to his indefatigable labour a grave solemnity. He was a splendid
peasant, and had it not been for his infirmity, any maiden would
willingly have married him.... But Gerásim was brought to Moscow, boots
were bought for him, a broom and a shovel were put into his hand, and he
was appointed to be the yard-porter.
At first he felt a violent dislike for his new life. From his childhood
he had been accustomed to field-labour, to country life. Set apart by
his infirmity from communion with his fellow-men, he had grown up dumb
and mighty, as a tree grows on fruitful soil.... Transported to the
town, he did not understand what was happening to him;—he felt bored
and puzzled, as a healthy young bull is puzzled when he has just been
taken from the pasture, where the grass grew up to his belly,—when he
has been taken, and placed in a railway-wagon,—and, lo, with his robust
body enveloped now with smoke and sparks, again with billows of steam,
he is drawn headlong onward, drawn with rumble and squeaking, and
whither—God only knows! Gerásim's occupations in his new employment
seemed to him a mere farce after his onerous labours as a peasant; in
half an hour he had finished everything, and he was again standing in
the middle of the courtyard and staring, open-mouthed, at all the
passers-by, as though desirous of obtaining from them the solution of
his enigmatic situation; or he would suddenly go off to some corner and,
flinging his broom or his shovel far from him, would throw himself on
the ground face downward, and lie motionless on his breast for whole
hours at a time, like a captured wild beast.
But man grows accustomed to everything, and Gerásim got used, at last,
to town life! He had not much to do; his entire duty consisted in
keeping the courtyard clean, fetching a cask of water twice a day,
hauling and chopping up wood for the kitchen and house, and in not
admitting strangers, and keeping watch at night. And it must be said
that he discharged his duty with zeal; not a chip was ever strewn about
his courtyard, nor any dirt; if in muddy weather the broken-winded nag
for hauling water and the barrel entrusted to his care got stranded
anywhere, all he had to do was to apply his shoulder,—and not only the
cart, but the horse also, would be pried from the spot. If he undertook
to chop wood, his axe would ring like glass, and splinters and billets
would fly in every direction; and as for strangers—after he had, one
night, caught two thieves, and had banged their heads together, and
mauled them so that there was no necessity for taking them to the
police-station afterward, every one in the neighbourhood began to
respect him greatly, and even by day, passers-by who were not in the
least rascals, but simply strangers to him, at the sight of the ominous
yard-porter, would brandish their arms as though in self-defence, and
shout at him as though he were able to hear their cries.
With all the other domestics Gerásim sustained relations which were not
exactly friendly,—they were afraid of him,—but gentle; he regarded
them as members of the family. They expressed their meaning to him by
signs, and he understood them, accurately executed all orders, but knew
his own rights also, and no one dared to take his seat at table. On the
whole, Gerásim was of stern and serious disposition, and was fond of
orderliness in all things; even the cocks did not venture to fight in
his presence—but if they did, woe be to them! if he caught sight of
them, he would instantly seize them by the legs, whirl them round like a
wheel half a score of times in the air, and hurl them in opposite
directions. There were geese also in his lady mistress's courtyard, but
a goose, as every one knows, is a serious and sensible bird; Gerásim
felt respect for them, tended them, and fed them; he himself bore a
resemblance to a stately gander.
He was allotted a tiny chamber over the kitchen; he arranged it himself
after his own taste, constructed a bed of oaken planks on four
blocks—truly a bed fit for an epic hero; a hundred puds might have
been loaded upon it,—it would not have given way. Under the bed was a
stout chest; in one corner stood a small table of the same sturdy
quality, and beside the table a three-legged chair, and so firm and
squatty that Gerásim himself would pick it up, drop it, and grin. This
little den was fastened with a padlock which suggested a kalátch
in shape, only black; Gerásim always carried the key to this lock with
him, in his belt. He was not fond of having people come into his room.
In this manner a year passed, at the end of which a small incident
happened to Gerásim.
The old gentlewoman with whom he lived as yard-porter in all things
followed the ancient customs, and kept a numerous train of domestics;
she had in her house not only laundresses, seamstresses, carpenters,
tailors, and dressmakers, but also one saddler, who set up to be a
veterinary and a medical man for the servants as well (there was a
house-physician for the mistress), and, in conclusion, there was a
shoemaker, by the name of Kapíton Klímoff, a bitter drunkard. Klímoff
regarded himself as an injured being and not appreciated at his true
value, a cultured man used to the ways of the capital, who ought not to
live in Moscow, without occupation, in a sort of desert spot, and if he
drank,—as he himself expressed it, with pauses between his words, and
thumping himself on the breast,—he drank in reality from grief. One day
he was under discussion by the mistress and her head butler, Gavríla, a
man who would seem, from his little yellow eyes and his duck's-bill
nose, to have been designated by Fate itself as a commanding personage.
The mistress was complaining about the depraved morals of Kapíton, who
had been picked up somewhere in the street only the night before.
"Well, Gavríla,"—she suddenly remarked:—"shall not we marry him? What
dost thou think about it? Perhaps that will steady him."
"Why should n't we marry him, ma'am? It can be done, ma'am,"—replied
Gavríla;—"and it would even be a very good thing."
"Yes; only who would marry him?"
"Of course, ma'am. However, as you like, ma'am. He can always be put to
some use, so to speak; you would n't reject him out of any ten men."
"I think he likes Tatyána?"
Gavríla was about to make some reply, but compressed his lips.
"Yes!.... let him woo Tatyána,"—the mistress announced her decision, as
she took a pinch of snuff with satisfaction:—"dost hear me?"
"I obey, ma'am,"—enunciated Gavríla, and withdrew.
On returning to his chamber (it was situated in a wing, and was almost
completely filled with wrought-iron coffers), Gavríla first sent away
his wife, and then seated himself by the window, and became engrossed in
meditation. The mistress's sudden command had evidently dazed him. At
last he rose, and ordered Kapíton to be called. Kapíton presented
himself.... But before we repeat their conversation to the reader, we
consider it not superfluous to state, in a few words, who this Tatyána
was, whom Kapíton was to marry, and why his mistress's command had
disconcerted the major-domo.
Tatyána, who, as we have said above, served as laundress (but, in her
quality of expert and well-trained laundress, she was given only the
delicate linen), was a woman of eight-and-twenty, small, thin,
fair-haired, with moles on her left cheek. Moles on the left cheek are
regarded as a bad sign in Russia—as the presage of an unhappy life....
Tatyána could not boast of her luck. From early youth she had been
ill-treated; she had worked for two, and had never received any
caresses; she was badly clothed; she received the very smallest of
wages; she had practically no relatives; an old butler in the village
who had been discharged for uselessness was her uncle, and her other
uncles were common peasants,—that is all. At one time she had been a
beauty, but her beauty soon left her. She was of extremely meek, or, to
put it more accurately, frightened disposition, felt the most complete
indifference for herself, and was deadly afraid of other people. Her
sole thought was as to how she might finish her work by the appointed
time. She never talked with any one, and she trembled at the mere
mention of the mistress's name, although she hardly knew her by sight.
When Gerásim was brought from the country, she almost swooned with
terror at the sight of his huge form, used all possible efforts to avoid
meeting him, and even screwed up her eyes when she was obliged to run
past him, as she scurried from the house to the laundry. At first,
Gerásim paid no special attention to her, then he began to laugh when
she crossed his path; then he began to gaze at her with pleasure, and at
last he never took his eyes from her. Whether he had taken a liking to
her because of her gentle expression of countenance, or of the timidity
of her movements—God knows! And behold, one day, as she was making her
way across the courtyard, cautiously elevating on her outspread fingers
a starched wrapper belonging to her mistress ... some one suddenly
grasped her by the elbow; she turned round and fairly screamed aloud:
behind her stood Gerásim. Laughing stupidly, and bellowing
affectionately, he was offering her a gingerbread cock with gold tinsel
on its tail and wings. She tried to refuse it, but he thrust it forcibly
straight into her hand, nodded his head, walked away, and, turning
round, bellowed once more something of a very friendly nature to her.
From that day forth he gave her no peace; wherever she went, he
immediately came to meet her, smiled, bellowed, waved his hands,
suddenly drew a ribbon from his breast and thrust it into her hand, and
cleaned the dust away in front of her with his broom.
The poor girl simply did not know how to take it or what to do. The
whole household speedily found out about the pranks of the dumb
yard-porter; jeers, jests, stinging remarks showered down on Tatyána.
But none of them could bring himself to ridicule Gerásim; the latter was
not fond of jests; and they let her alone in his presence. Willy-nilly
the girl became his protégée. Like all deaf and dumb people, he was very
perspicacious, and understood perfectly well when they were laughing at
him or at her. One day, at dinner, the keeper of the linen, Tatyána's
chief, undertook, as the saying is, to banter her, and carried it to
such a pitch that the latter, poor creature, did not know where to look,
and almost wept with vexation. Gerásim suddenly rose half-way, stretched
out his enormous hand, laid it on the head of the keeper of the linen,
and glared into her face with such ferocity that the latter fairly bent
over the table. All fell silent. Gerásim picked up his spoon again, and
went on eating his cabbage-soup. "Just see that dumb devil, that forest
fiend!" all muttered under their breaths, and the keeper of the linen
rose and went off to the maids' room. On another occasion, observing
that Kapíton—that same Kapíton of whom we have just been speaking—was
chatting in rather too friendly a manner with Tatyána, Gerásim beckoned
the man to him, led him away to the carriage-house, and seizing by its
end a shaft which was standing in the corner, he menaced him slightly
but significantly with it. From that time forth no one dared to address
a word to Tatyána. And all this ran smoothly in his hands. No sooner had
the linen-keeper, it is true, run into the maids' hall than she fell
down in a swoon, and altogether behaved in such an artful manner, that
on that very same day she brought to the knowledge of the mistress
Gerásim's rude behaviour; but the capricious old lady merely laughed
several times, to the extreme offence of her linen-keeper, made her
repeat, "What didst thou say? Did he bend thee down with his heavy
hand?" and on the following day sent a silver ruble to Gerásim. She
favoured him as a faithful and powerful watchman. Gerásim held her in
decided awe, but, nevertheless, he trusted in her graciousness, and was
making ready to betake himself to her with the request that she would
permit him to marry Tatyána. He was only waiting for the new kaftan
promised him by the major-domo, in order that he might present himself
before his mistress in decent shape, when suddenly this same mistress
took into her head the idea of marrying Tatyána to Kapíton.
The reader will now be able readily to understand the cause of the
perturbation which seized upon Gavríla, the major-domo, after his
conversation with his mistress. "The mistress,"—he thought, as he sat
by the window,—"of course, favours Gerásim" (this was well known to
Gavríla, and therefore he also showed indulgence to him); "still, he is
a dumb brute. I can't inform the mistress that Gerásim is courting
Tatyána. And, after all, 't is just; what sort of a husband is he? And,
on the other hand, Lord forgive! for just as soon as that forest fiend
finds out that Tatyána is to be married to Kapíton, he 'll smash
everything in the house, by Heaven he will! For you can't reason with
him—you can't prevail upon him, the devil that he is, in any way
whatsoever—sinful man that I am to have said so wicked a thing ....
that 's so!"....
The appearance of Kapíton broke the thread of Gavríla's meditations. The
giddy-pated shoemaker entered, threw his hands behind him, and, leaning
up against a projecting corner of the wall near the door, in a
free-and-easy way he stuck his right leg crosswise in front of the left
and shook his head, as much as to say: "Here I am. What 's your will?"
Gavríla looked at Kapíton and began to drum on the jamb of the window
with his fingers. Kapíton merely narrowed his leaden eyes a bit, but did
not lower them, even smiled slightly and passed his hand over his
whitish hair, which stood out in disarray in all directions, as much as
to say: "Well, yes, 't is I. What are you staring for?"
"Good,"—said Gavríla, and paused for a space.
"Thou 'rt a nice one,"—remarked Gavríla, and paused awhile.—"A nice
person, there 's no denying that!"
Kapíton merely shrugged his shoulders. "And art thou any better, pray?"
he said to himself.
"Come, now, just look at thyself; come, look,"—went on Gavríla
reprovingly;—"Well, art not thou ashamed of thyself?"
Kapíton surveyed with a calm glance his threadbare and tattered coat and
his patched trousers, scanned with particular attention his shoes
perforated with holes, especially the one on whose toe his right foot
rested in so dandified a manner, and again fixed his eyes on the
"What of it, sir?"
"What of it, sir?"—repeated Gavríla.—"What of it, sir? And thou
sayest: 'What of it, sir?' to boot! Thou lookest like the devil,—Lord
forgive me, sinful man that I am,—that 's what thou lookest like."
Kapíton winked his little eyes briskly.
"Curse away, curse away, Gavríla Andréitch," he thought to himself.
"Thou hast been drunk again, apparently,"—began Gavríla;—"drunk again,
surely? Hey? Come, answer."
"Owing to the feebleness of my health, I have succumbed to spirituous
beverages, in fact,"—returned Kapíton.
"Owing to feebleness of health?.... Thou art not whipped enough, that 's
what; and thou hast served thine apprenticeship in Peter to boot....
Much thou didst learn in thine apprenticeship! Thou dost nothing but eat
the bread of idleness."
"In that case, Gavríla Andréitch, I have but one judge,—the Lord God
Himself, and no one else. He alone knows what sort of a man I am in this
world, and whether I really do eat the bread of idleness. And as for
thy reflections concerning drunkenness,—in that case also I am not to
blame, but rather one of my comrades; for he led me astray, and after he
had accomplished his crafty purpose, he went away; that is to say, I
"And thou didst remain behind, thou goose, in the street. Akh, thou
dissolute man! Well, but that 's not the point,"—went on the
major-domo,—"but this. The mistress ...." here he paused for a
moment,—"it is the mistress's pleasure that thou shouldst marry.
Hearest thou? She thinks that thou wilt grow steady when thou art
married. Dost understand?"
"How can I help understanding, sir?"
"Well, yes. In my opinion, 't would be better to take thee firmly in
hand. Well, but that 's her affair. How now? Dost thou consent?"
Kapíton displayed his teeth in a grin.
"Marriage is a good thing for a man, Gavríla Andréitch; and I, on my
part, agree with very great pleasure."
"Well, yes,"—returned Gavríla, and thought to himself:—"there 's no
denying it, the man talks with exactness."—"Only, see here,"—he went
on, aloud:—"an inconvenient bride has been picked out for thee."
"Who is she, permit me to inquire?"...
And Kapíton's eyes fairly popped out of his head, and he started away
from the wall.
"Well, what art thou scared at?... Is n't she to thy taste?"
"To my taste, forsooth, Gavríla Andréitch! The girl herself is all
right; she 's a good worker, a meek lass.... But you know yourself,
Gavríla Andréitch, that that forest fiend, that spectre of the steppes,
is courting her, you know ...."
"I know, brother, I know all,"—the major-domo interrupted him, with
vexation:—"but, seest thou ...."
"But, good gracious, Gavríla Andréitch! why, he 'll murder me; by
Heaven, he 'll murder me, he 'll mash me like a fly! Why, he has a
hand—just look for yourself what a hand he has; why, he simply has the
hand of Mínin and Pozhársky. For he 's deaf, he 'll kill me, and not
hear that he is killing! He flourishes his huge fists exactly as though
he were asleep. And there 's no possibility of stopping him. Why?
Because, you know yourself, Gavríla Andréitch, he 's deaf, and stupid as
an owl into the bargain. Why, he 's a sort of wild beast, a heathen
idol, Gavríla Andréitch,—worse than an idol ... he 's a sort of
aspen-block; why should I now suffer from him? Of course nothing
matters to me now; I have endured, I have practised patience, I have
smeared myself with oil like a glazed Kolómna jug,—all the same, I 'm a
man, and not some sort of insignificant jug, as a matter of fact."
"I know, I know; don't give a description...."
"O Lord, my God!"—went on the shoemaker, hotly:—"when will the end
come? When, O Lord! I 'm a miserable wretch, a hopeless wretch. 'T is
fate, my fate, when you come to think of it! In my younger years I was
thrashed by a German master; in the best period of my life I was beaten
by my own brother; and at last, in my riper years, to what have I
"Ekh, limp linden-bast soul!"—said Gavríla.—"Why dost thou dilate on
the matter, really, now?"
"What do you mean by 'why,' Gavríla Andréitch? I 'm not afraid of blows,
Gavríla Andréitch. Let the master thrash me within doors, but give me a
greeting before folks, and still I 'm numbered among men; but in this
case, from whom must I ...."
"Come, now, begone!"—Gavríla interrupted him, impatiently.
Kapíton turned and took himself off.
"And supposing there were no question of him,"—shouted the major-domo
after him;—"dost thou consent?"
"I announce my assent,"—replied Kapíton, and lurched out of the room.
His eloquence did not abandon him even in extremities.
The major-domo paced the length of the room several times.
"Well, now summon Tatyána,"—he said at last.
In a few moments Tatyána entered almost inaudibly, and halted on the
"What is your command, Gavríla Andréitch?"—she said in a quiet voice.
The major-domo gazed fixedly at her.
"Come,"—said he,—"Tániusha, wouldst thou like to marry? The mistress
has hunted up a bridegroom for thee."
"I obey, Gavríla Andréitch. But who has been appointed as my
bridegroom?"—she added with hesitation.
"Kapíton, the shoemaker."
"I obey, sir."
"He is a reckless man—that 's a fact. But the mistress pins her hopes
on thee in that respect."
"I obey, sir."
"It 's a pity about one thing:.... there 's that deaf man, Garáska, who
's paying court to thee. And how hast thou bewitched that bear? I do
believe he 'll kill thee, the bear that he is...."
"He will, Gavríla Andréitch, he 'll infallibly kill me."
"He will.... Well, we 'll see about that. What makes thee say, 'He 'll
kill me'? Has he the right to kill thee, pray? Judge for thyself."
"Why, I don't know, Gavríla Andréitch, whether he has a right or not."
"What a girl! I suppose thou hast not made him any promise...."
"What do you mean, sir?"
The major-domo paused for a while, and thought:
"Thou art a meek soul!"—"Well, very good,"—he added; "we will have
another talk about it, and now, go thy way, Tatyána; I see that thou
really art an obedient girl."
Tatyána turned, leaned lightly against the door-jamb, and left the room.
"But perhaps the mistress will have forgotten about this wedding by
to-morrow,"—meditated the major-domo. "Why have I been alarmed? We 'll
pinion that insolent fellow if he makes any trouble—we 'll send word to
the police.... Ustínya Feódorovna!"—he shouted in a loud voice to his
wife, "prepare the samovár, my good woman...."
All that day, Tatyána hardly quitted the laundry. At first she wept,
then she wiped away her tears, and set to work as of yore. Kapíton sat
until the dead of night in a drinking establishment with a friend of
gloomy aspect, and narrated to him in detail how he had lived in Peter
with a certain gentleman who had everything that heart could desire, and
was a great stickler for order, and withal permitted himself one little
delinquency: he was wont to get awfully fuddled, and as for the feminine
sex, he simply had all the qualities to attract... His gloomy comrade
merely expressed assent; but when Kapíton announced, at last, that,
owing to certain circumstances, he must lay violent hands upon himself
on the morrow, the gloomy comrade remarked that it was time to go to
bed. And they parted churlishly, and in silence.
In the meantime, the major-domo's expectations were not realised. The
idea of Kapíton's wedding had so captivated the mistress, that even
during the night she had talked of nothing else with one of her
companions, whom she kept in the house solely in case of sleeplessness,
and who, like night cabmen, slept by day. When Gavríla entered her room
after tea with his report, her first question was:
"And how about our wedding?"
He replied, of course, that it was progressing famously, and that
Kapíton would present himself to her that same day to thank her.
The mistress was slightly indisposed; she did not occupy herself long
with business. The major-domo returned to his own room and called a
council. The matter really did require particular consideration. Tatyána
did not make any objection, of course; but Kapíton declared, in the
hearing of all, that he had but one head, and not two or three heads....
Gerásim gazed surlily and swiftly at everybody, never left the maids'
porch, and, apparently, divined that something unpleasant for him was
brewing. The assembled company (among them was present the old butler,
nicknamed Uncle Tail, to whom all respectfully turned for advice,
although all they heard from him was "Yes! yes! yes! yes!") began, by
way of precaution, for safety, by locking Kapíton up in the lumber-room
with the filtering-machine and set to thinking hard. Of course, it was
easy to resort to force; but God forbid! there would be a row, the
mistress would get uneasy—and a calamity would ensue! What was to be
They thought and thought, and eventually they hit upon something. It had
been repeatedly noticed that Gerásim could not abide intoxicated
persons.... As he sat at the gate, he turned away angrily whenever any
man with a load of drink aboard passed him with unsteady steps, and the
visor of his cap over his ear. They decided to instruct Tatyána to
pretend to be intoxicated, and to walk past Gerásim reeling and
staggering. The poor girl would not consent for a long time, but they
prevailed upon her; moreover, she herself saw that otherwise she would
not be able to get rid of her adorer. She did it. Kapíton was released
from the lumber-room; the affair concerned him, anyhow. Gerásim was
sitting on the guard-stone at the gate and jabbing the ground with his
shovel.... There were people staring at him from round all the corners,
from behind the window-shades....
The ruse was completely successful. When first he caught sight of
Tatyána, he nodded his head with an affectionate bellow; then he took a
closer look, dropped his shovel, sprang to his feet, stepped up to her,
put his face close down to her face... She reeled worse than ever with
terror, and closed her eyes.... He seized her by the arm, dashed the
whole length of the courtyard, and entering the room where the council
was in session with her, he thrust her straight at Kapíton. Tatyána was
fairly swooning.... Gerásim stood there, glared at her, waved his hand,
laughed, and departed, clumping heavily to his little den.... For
four-and-twenty hours he did not emerge thence. Antípka, the postilion,
related afterward how, peeping through a crack, he had beheld Gerásim
seated on his bed, with his head resting on his hand, quietly,
peaceably, and only bellowing from time to time; then he would rock
himself to and fro, cover his eyes, and shake his head, as postilions or
stevedores do when they strike up their melancholy chanteys. Antípka was
frightened, and he retreated from the crack. But when, on the following
day, Gerásim emerged from his den, no particular change was noticeable
in him. He merely seemed to have become more surly, and paid not the
slightest attention to Tatyána and Kapíton. On that same evening, both
of them, with geese under their arms, wended their way to the mistress,
and a week later they were married. On the wedding-day itself, Gerásim
did not alter his demeanour in the slightest degree; only, he returned
from the river without water: somehow, he had smashed the cask on the
road; and at night, in the stable, he so zealously curried his horse
that the animal reeled like a blade of grass in a gale, and shifted from
foot to foot under his iron fists.
All this took place in the spring. Another year passed, in the course of
which Kapíton finally became a thorough-going drunkard, and as a man
utterly unfit for anything, was despatched with the train of
freight-sledges to a distant village, together with his wife. On the day
of departure he made a great show of courage at first, and declared
that, no matter where they might send him, even to the place where the
peasant-wives wash shirts and put their clothes-beaters in the sky, he
would not come to grief; but afterward he became low-spirited, began to
complain that he was being taken to uncivilised people, and finally
weakened to such a degree that he was unable even to put his own cap on
his head. Some compassionate soul pulled it down on his brow, adjusted
the visor, and banged it down on top. And when all was ready, and the
peasants were already holding the reins in their hands, and only waiting
for the word: "With God's blessing!" Gerásim emerged from his tiny
chamber, approached Tatyána, and presented her with a souvenir
consisting of a red cotton kerchief, which he had bought expressly for
her a year before. Tatyána, who up to that moment had borne all the
vicissitudes of her life with great equanimity, could hold out no
longer, and then and there burst into tears, and, as she took her seat
in the cart, exchanged three kisses with Gerásim, in Christian
fashion. He wanted to escort her to the town barrier, and at first
walked alongside her cart, but suddenly halted at the Crimean Ford,
waved his hand and directed his steps along the river.
This happened toward evening. He walked quietly, and stared at the
water. Suddenly it seemed to him as though something were floundering in
the ooze close to the bank. He bent down, and beheld a small puppy,
white with black spots, which, despite all its endeavours, utterly
unable to crawl out of the water, was struggling, slipping, and
quivering all over its wet, gaunt little body. Gerásim gazed at the
unfortunate puppy, picked it up with one hand, thrust it into his
breast, and set out with great strides homeward. He entered his little
den, laid the rescued puppy on his bed, covered it with his heavy coat,
ran first to the stable for straw, then to the kitchen for a cup of
milk. Cautiously throwing back the coat and spreading out the straw, he
placed the milk on the bed. The poor little dog was only three weeks
old; it had only recently got its eyes open, and one eye even appeared
to be a little larger than the other; it did not yet know how to drink
out of a cup, and merely trembled and blinked. Gerásim grasped it
lightly with two fingers by the head, and bent its muzzle down to the
milk. The dog suddenly began to drink greedily, snorting, shaking itself
and lapping. Gerásim gazed and gazed, and then suddenly began to
laugh.... All night he fussed over it, put it to bed, wiped it off, and
at last fell asleep himself beside it in a joyous, tranquil slumber.
No mother tends her infant as Gerásim tended his nursling. (The dog
proved to be a bitch.) In the beginning she was very weak, puny, and
ill-favoured, but little by little she improved in health and looks, and
at the end of eight months, thanks to the indefatigable care of her
rescuer, she had turned into a very fair sort of a dog of Spanish breed,
with long ears, a feathery tail in the form of a trumpet, and large,
expressive eyes. She attached herself passionately to Gerásim, never
left him by a pace, and was always following him, wagging her tail. And
he had given her a name, too,—the dumb know that their bellowing
attracts other people's attention to them:—he called her Mumú. All the
people in the house took a liking to her, and also called her dear
little Mumú. She was extremely intelligent, fawned upon every one, but
loved Gerásim alone. Gerásim himself loved her madly .... and it was
disagreeable to him when others stroked her: whether he was afraid for
her, or jealous of her—God knows! She waked him up in the morning by
tugging at his coat-tails; she led to him by the reins the old
water-horse, with whom she dwelt in great amity; with importance
depicted on her face, she went with him to the river; she stood guard
over the brooms and shovels, and allowed no one to enter his room. He
cut out an aperture in his door expressly for her, and she seemed to
feel that only in Gerásim's little den was she the full mistress, and
therefore, on entering it, with a look of satisfaction, she immediately
leaped upon the bed. At night she did not sleep at all, but she did not
bark without discernment, like a stupid watch-dog, which, sitting on its
haunches and elevating its muzzle, and shutting its eyes, barks simply
out of tedium, at the stars, and usually three times in succession; no!
Mumú's shrill voice never resounded without cause! Either a stranger was
approaching too close to the fence, or some suspicious noise or rustling
had arisen somewhere..... In a word, she kept capital watch.
Truth to tell, there was, in addition to her, an old dog in the
courtyard, yellow in hue speckled with dark brown, Peg-top by name
(Voltchók); but that dog was never unchained, even by night, and he
himself, owing to his decrepitude, did not demand freedom, but lay
there, curled up in his kennel, and only now and then emitted a hoarse,
almost soundless bark, which he immediately broke off short, as though
himself conscious of its utter futility.
Mumú did not enter the manor-house, and when Gerásim carried wood to the
rooms she always remained behind and impatiently awaited him, with ears
pricked up, and her head turning now to the right, then suddenly to the
left, at the slightest noise indoors....
In this manner still another year passed. Gerásim continued to discharge
his avocations as yard-porter and was very well satisfied with his lot,
when suddenly an unexpected incident occurred.... Namely, one fine
summer day the mistress, with her hangers-on, was walking about the
drawing-room. She was in good spirits, and was laughing and jesting; the
hangers-on were laughing and jesting also, but felt no particular mirth;
the people of the household were not very fond of seeing the mistress in
merry mood, because, in the first place, at such times she demanded
instantaneous and complete sympathy from every one, and flew into a rage
if there was a face which did not beam with satisfaction; and, in the
second place, these fits did not last very long, and were generally
succeeded by a gloomy and cross-grained frame of mind. On that day, she
seemed to have got up happily; at cards, she held four knaves: the
fulfilment of desire (she always told fortunes with the cards in the
morning),—and her tea struck her as particularly delicious, in
consequence whereof the maid received praise in words and ten kopéks in
money. With a sweet smile on her wrinkled lips, the lady of the house
strolled about her drawing-room and approached the window. A
flower-garden was laid out in front of the window, and in the very
middle of the border, under a rose-bush, lay Mumú assiduously gnawing a
bone. The mistress caught sight of her.
"My God!"—she suddenly exclaimed;—"what dog is that?"
The hanger-on whom the mistress addressed floundered, poor creature,
with that painful uneasiness which generally takes possession of a
dependent person when he does not quite know how he is to understand his
"I ... d .. do .... on't know, ma'am," she stammered; "I think it
belongs to the dumb man."
"My God!"—her mistress interrupted her:—"why, it is a very pretty dog!
Order it to be brought hither. Has he had it long? How is it that I
have not seen it before?... Order it to be brought hither."
The hanger-on immediately fluttered out into the anteroom.
"Man, man!"—she screamed,—"bring Mumú here at once! She is in the
"And so her name is Mumú,"—said the mistress;—"a very nice name."
"Akh, very nice indeed, ma'am!"—replied the dependent.—"Be quick,
Stepán, a sturdy young fellow, who served as footman, rushed headlong to
the garden and tried to seize Mumú; but the latter cleverly slipped out
of his fingers, and elevating her tail, set off at full gallop to
Gerásim, who was in the kitchen beating out and shaking out the
water-cask, twirling it about in his hands like a child's drum. Stepán
ran after her, and tried to seize her at the very feet of her master;
but the agile dog would not surrender herself into the hands of a
stranger, and kept leaping and evading him. Gerásim looked on at all
this tumult with a grin; at last Stepán rose in wrath, and hastily gave
him to understand by signs that the mistress had ordered the dog to be
brought to her. Gerásim was somewhat surprised, but he called Mumú,
lifted her from the ground, and handed her to Stepán. Stepán carried her
into the drawing-room, and placed her on the polished wood floor. The
mistress began to call the dog to her in a caressing voice. Mumú, who
had never in her life been in such magnificent rooms, was extremely
frightened, and tried to dart through the door, but, rebuffed by the
obsequious Stepán, fell to trembling, and crouched against the wall.
"Mumú, Mumú, come hither to me,"—said the mistress;—"come, thou stupid
creature .... don't be afraid...."
"Come, Mumú, come to the mistress,"—repeated the dependents;—"come!"
But Mumú looked anxiously about and did not stir from the spot.
"Bring her something to eat,"—said the mistress.—"What a stupid thing
she is! She won't come to the mistress. What is she afraid of?"
"She feels strange still,"—remarked one of the dependents, in a timid
and imploring voice.
Stepán brought a saucer of milk and set it in front of Mumú, but Mumú
did not even smell of the milk, and kept on trembling and gazing about
her, as before.
"Akh, who ever saw such a creature!"—said the mistress, as she
approached her, bent down and was on the point of stroking her; but Mumú
turned her head and displayed her teeth in a snarl.—The mistress
hastily drew back her hand.
A momentary silence ensued. Mumú whined faintly, as though complaining
and excusing herself... The mistress retreated and frowned. The dog's
sudden movement had frightened her.
"Akh!"—cried all the dependents with one accord:—"She didn't bite you,
did she? God forbid!" (Mumú had never bitten any one in her life.) "Akh!
"Take her away,"—said the old woman, in an altered voice,—"the horrid
little dog! What a vicious beast she is!"
And slowly turning, she went toward her boudoir. The dependents
exchanged timorous glances and started to follow her, but she paused,
looked coldly at them, said: "Why do you do that? for I have not bidden
you," and left the room.
The dependents waved their hands in despair at Stepán; the latter picked
up Mumú and flung her out into the yard as speedily as possible,
straight at Gerásim's feet; and half an hour later a profound stillness
reigned in the house, and the old gentlewoman sat on her divan more
lowering than a thunder-cloud.
What trifles, when one comes to think of it, can sometimes put a person
out of tune!
The lady was out of sorts until evening, talked with no one, did not
play cards, and passed a bad night. She took it into her head that they
had not given her the same eau de cologne which they usually gave her,
that her pillow smelled of soap, and made the keeper of the linen-closet
smell all the bed-linen twice,—in a word, she was upset and extremely
incensed. On the following morning she ordered Gavríla to be summoned to
her presence an hour earlier than usual.
"Tell me, please,"—she began, as soon as the latter, not without some
inward quaking, had crossed the threshold of her boudoir,—"why that dog
was barking in our courtyard all night long? It prevented my getting to
"A dog, ma'am .... which one, ma'am?... Perhaps it was the dumb man's
dog,"—he uttered in a voice that was not altogether firm.
"I don't know whether it belongs to the dumb man or to some one else,
only it interfered with my sleep. And I am amazed that there is such a
horde of dogs! I want to know about it. We have a watch-dog, have we
"Yes, ma'am, we have, ma'am, Peg-top, ma'am."
"Well, what need have we for any more dogs? They only create disorder.
There 's no head to the house,—that 's what 's the matter. And what
does the dumb man want of a dog? Who has given him permission to keep a
dog in my courtyard? Yesterday I went to the window, and it was lying in
the garden; it had brought some nasty thing there, and was gnawing
it,—and I have roses planted there...."
The lady paused for a while.
"See that it is removed this very day .... dost hear me?"
"I obey, ma'am."
"This very day. And now, go. I will have thee called for thy report
Gavríla left the room.
As he passed through the drawing-room, the major-domo transferred a
small bell from one table to another, for show, softly blew his
duck's-bill nose in the hall, and went out into the anteroom. In the
anteroom, on a locker, Stepán was sleeping in the attitude of a slain
warrior in a battalion picture, with his bare legs projecting from his
coat, which served him in lieu of a coverlet.
The major-domo nudged him, and imparted to him in an undertone some
order, to which Stepán replied with a half-yawn, half-laugh. The
major-domo withdrew, and Stepán sprang to his feet, drew on his kaftan
and his boots, went out and came to a standstill on the porch. Five
minutes had not elapsed before Gerásim made his appearance with a huge
fagot of firewood on his back, accompanied by his inseparable Mumú. (The
mistress had issued orders that her bedroom and boudoir were to be
heated even in summer.) Gerásim stood sideways to the door, gave it a
push with his shoulder, and precipitated himself into the house with his
burden. Mumú, according to her wont, remained behind to wait for him.
Then Stepán, seizing a favourable moment, made a sudden dash at her,
like a hawk pouncing on a chicken, crushed her to the ground with his
breast, gathered her up in his arms, and without stopping to don so much
as his cap, ran out into the street with her, jumped into the first
drozhky that came to hand, and galloped off to the Game Market. There he
speedily hunted up a purchaser, to whom he sold her for half a ruble,
stipulating only that the latter should keep her tied up for at least a
week, and immediately returned home; but before he reached the house, he
alighted from the drozhky, and making a circuit of the house, he leaped
over the fence into the yard from a back alley; he was afraid to enter
by the wicket, lest he should encounter Gerásim.
But his anxiety was wasted; Gerásim was no longer in the courtyard. On
coming out of the house he had instantly bethought himself of Mumú; he
could not remember that she had ever failed to await his return, and he
began to run in every direction to hunt for her, to call her after his
own fashion ... he dashed into his little chamber, to the hay-loft; he
darted into the street,—hither and thither.... She was gone! He
appealed to the domestics, with the most despairing signs inquired about
her; pointing fourteen inches from the ground, he drew her form with his
hands.... Some of them really did not know what had become of Mumú, and
only shook their heads; others did know and grinned at him in reply,
but the major-domo assumed a very pompous mien and began to shout at the
coachmen. Then Gerásim fled far away from the courtyard.
Twilight was already falling when he returned. One was justified in
assuming, from his exhausted aspect, from his unsteady gait, from his
dusty clothing, that he had wandered over the half of Moscow. He halted
in front of the mistress's windows, swept a glance over the porch on
which seven house-serfs were gathered, turned away, and bellowed once
more: "Mumú!"—Mumú did not respond. He went away. All stared after him,
but no one smiled, no one uttered a word ... and the curious postilion,
Antípka, narrated on the following morning in the kitchen, that the dumb
man had moaned all night long.
All the following day Gerásim did not show himself, so that Potáp the
coachman was obliged to go for water in his stead, which greatly
displeased coachman Potáp. The mistress asked Gavríla whether her
command had been executed. Gavríla replied that it had. The next morning
Gerásim emerged from his chamber to do his work. He came to dinner, ate
and went off again, without having exchanged greetings with any one. His
face, which was inanimate at the best of times, as is the case with all
deaf and dumb persons, now seemed to have become absolutely petrified.
After dinner he again quitted the courtyard, but not for long, returned
and immediately directed his steps to the hay-barn. Night came, a clear,
moonlight night. Sighing heavily and incessantly tossing from side to
side, Gerásim was lying there, when he suddenly felt as though something
were tugging at the skirts of his garments; he trembled all over, but
did not raise his head, nevertheless, and even screwed his eyes up
tight; but the tugging was repeated, more energetically than before; he
sprang to his feet .... before him, with a fragment of rope about her
neck, Mumú was capering about. A prolonged shriek of joy burst from his
speechless breast; he seized Mumú and clasped her in a close embrace; in
one moment she had licked his nose, his eyes, and his beard... He stood
still for a while, pondering, cautiously slipped down from the hay-mow,
cast a glance round him, and having made sure that no one was watching
him, he safely regained his little chamber.
Even before this Gerásim had divined that the dog had not disappeared of
her own volition; that she must have been carried away by the mistress's
command; for the domestics had explained to him by signs how his Mumú
had snapped at her—and he decided to take precautions of his own. First
he fed Mumú with some bread, caressed her, and put her to bed; then he
began to consider how he might best conceal her. At last he hit upon
the idea of leaving her all day in his room, and only looking in now and
then to see how she was getting along, and taking her out for exercise
at night. He closed the opening in his door compactly by stuffing in an
old coat of his, and as soon as it was daylight he was in the courtyard,
as though nothing had happened, even preserving (innocent guile!) his
former dejection of countenance. It could not enter the head of the poor
deaf man that Mumú would betray herself by her whining; as a matter of
fact, every one in the house was speedily aware that the dumb man's dog
had come back and was locked up in his room; but out of compassion for
him and for her, and partly, perhaps, out of fear of him, they did not
give him to understand that his secret had been discovered.
The major-domo alone scratched the back of his head and waved his hand
in despair, as much as to say: "Well, I wash my hands of the matter!
Perhaps the mistress will not get to know of it!" And never had the dumb
man worked so zealously as on that day; he swept and scraped out the
entire courtyard, he rooted up all the blades of grass to the very last
one, with his own hand pulled up all the props in the garden-fence, with
a view to making sure that they were sufficiently firm, and then
hammered them in again,—in a word, he fussed and bustled about so, that
even the mistress noticed his zeal.
Twice in the course of the day Gerásim went stealthily to his captive;
and when night came, he lay down to sleep in her company, in the little
room, not in the hay-barn, and only at one o'clock did he go out to take
a stroll with her in the fresh air. Having walked quite a long time with
her in the courtyard, he was preparing to return, when suddenly a noise
resounded outside the fence in the direction of the alley. Mumú pricked
up her ears, began to growl, approached the fence, sniffed, and broke
forth into a loud and piercing bark. Some drunken man or other had taken
it into his head to nestle down there for the night. At that very
moment, the mistress had just got to sleep after a prolonged "nervous
excitement"; she always had these excited fits after too hearty a
supper. The sudden barking woke her; her heart began to beat violently,
and to collapse.
"Maids, maids!"—she moaned.—"Maids!"
The frightened maids flew to her bedroom.
"Okh, okh, I'm dying!"—said she, throwing her hands apart in
anguish.—"There's that dog again, again!... Okh, send for the doctor!
They want to kill me... The dog, the dog again! Okh!"
And she flung back her head, which was intended to denote a swoon.
They ran for the doctor, that is to say, for the household medical man,
Kharitón. The whole art of this healer consisted in the fact that he
wore boots with soft soles, understood how to feel the pulse
delicately, slept fourteen hours out of the twenty-four, spent the rest
of the time in sighing, and was incessantly treating the mistress to
laurel drops. This healer immediately hastened to her, fumigated with
burnt feathers, and when the mistress opened her eyes, immediately
presented to her on a silver tray a wine-glass with the inevitable
The mistress took them, but immediately, with tearful eyes, began to
complain of the dog, of Gavríla, of her lot, that she, a poor old woman,
had been abandoned by every one, that no one had any pity on her, and
that every one desired her death. In the meantime the unlucky Mumú
continued to bark, while Gerásim strove in vain to call her away from
"There ... there .... it goes again!..." stammered the mistress, and
again rolled up her eyes. The medical man whispered to one of the maids;
she rushed into the anteroom, and explained matters to Stepán; the
latter ran to awaken Gavríla, and Gavríla, in a passion, gave orders
that the whole household should be roused.
Gerásim turned round, beheld the twinkling lights and shadows in the
windows, and, foreboding in his heart a catastrophe, he caught up Mumú
under his arm, ran into his room and locked the door. A few moments
later, five men were thumping at his door, but feeling the resistance
of the bolt, desisted. Gavríla ran up in a frightful hurry, ordered them
all to remain there until morning and stand guard, while he himself
burst into the maids' hall and gave orders through the eldest companion,
Liubóff Liubímovna,—together with whom he was in the habit of
stealing and enjoying tea, sugar, and other groceries,—that the
mistress was to be informed that the dog, unfortunately, had run home
again from somewhere or other, but that it would not be alive on the
morrow, and that the mistress must do them the favour not to be angry,
and must calm down. The mistress probably would not have calmed down
very speedily, had not the medical man, in his haste, poured out forty
drops instead of twelve. The strength of the laurel took its effect—in
a quarter of an hour the mistress was sleeping soundly and peacefully,
and Gerásim was lying, all pale, on his bed, tightly compressing Mumú's
On the following morning the mistress awoke quite late. Gavríla was
waiting for her awakening in order to make a decisive attack upon
Gerásim's asylum, and was himself prepared to endure a heavy
thunder-storm. But the thunder-storm did not come off. As she lay in
bed, the mistress ordered the eldest dependent to be called to her.
"Liubóff Liubímovna,"—she began in a soft, weak voice; she sometimes
liked to pretend to be a persecuted and defenceless sufferer; it is
needless to state that at such times all the people in the house felt
very uncomfortable:—"Liubóff Liubímovna, you see what my condition is;
go, my dear, to Gavríla Andréitch, and have a talk with him; it cannot
be possible that some nasty little dog or other is more precious to him
than the tranquillity, the very life of his mistress! I should not like
to believe that,"—she added, with an expression of profound
emotion:—"Go, my dear, be so good, go to Gavríla Andréitch."
Liubóff Liubímovna betook herself to Gavríla's room. What conversation
took place between them is not known; but a while later a whole throng
of domestics marched through the courtyard in the direction of Gerásim's
little den; in front walked Gavríla, holding on his cap with his hand,
although there was no wind; around him walked footmen and cooks; Uncle
Tail gazed out of the window, and issued orders—that is to say, he
merely spread his hands apart; in the rear of all, the small urchins
leaped and capered, one half of them being strangers who had run in. On
the narrow stairway leading to the den sat one sentry; at the door stood
two others with clubs. They began to ascend the staircase, and occupied
it to its full length. Gavríla went to the door, knocked on it with his
fist, and shouted:
A suppressed bark made itself audible; but there was no reply.
"Open, I say!"—he repeated.
"But, Gavríla Andréitch,"—remarked Stepán from below:—"he 's deaf, you
know—he does n't hear."
All burst out laughing.
"What is to be done?"—retorted Gavríla from the top of the stairs.
"Why, he has a hole in his door,"—replied Stepán;—"so do you wiggle a
stick around in it a bit."
Gavríla bent down.
"He has stuffed it up with some sort of coat, that hole."
"But do you poke the coat inward."
At this point another dull bark rang out.
"See there, see there, she 's giving herself away!"—some one remarked
in the crowd, and again there was laughter.
Gavríla scratched behind his ear.
"No, brother,"—he went on at last;—"do thou poke the coat through
thyself, if thou wishest."
And Stepán scrambled up, took a stick, thrust the coat inside, and began
to wiggle the stick about in the opening, saying: "Come forth, come
forth!" He was still wiggling the stick when the door of the little
chamber flew suddenly and swiftly open—and the whole train of menials
rolled head over heels down the stairs, Gavríla in the lead. Uncle Tail
shut the window.
"Come, come, come, come!"—shouted Gavríla from the courtyard;—"just
look out, look out!"
Gerásim stood motionless on the threshold. The crowd assembled at the
foot of the staircase. Gerásim stared at all these petty folk in their
foreign kaftans from above, with his arms lightly set akimbo; in his
scarlet peasant shirt he seemed like a giant in comparison with them.
Gavríla advanced a pace.
"See here, brother,"—said he:—"I 'll take none of thy impudence."
And he began to explain to him by signs: "The mistress insists upon
having thy dog: hand it over instantly, or 't will be the worse for
Gerásim looked at him, pointed to the dog, made a sign with his hand at
his own neck, as though he were drawing up a noose, and cast an
inquiring glance at the major-domo.
"Yes, yes,"—replied the latter, nodding his head;—"yes, she insists."
Gerásim dropped his eyes, then suddenly shook himself, again pointed at
Mumú, who all this time had been standing by his side, innocently
wagging her tail and moving her ears to and fro with curiosity, repeated
the sign of strangling over his own neck, and significantly smote
himself on the breast, as though declaring that he would take it upon
himself to annihilate Mumú.
"But thou wilt deceive,"—waved Gavríla to him in reply.
Gerásim looked at him, laughed disdainfully, smote himself again on the
breast, and slammed the door.
All present exchanged glances in silence.
"Well, and what 's the meaning of this?"—began Gavríla.—"He has locked
"Let him alone, Gavríla Andréitch,"—said Stepán;—"he 'll do it, if he
has promised. That 's the sort of fellow he is.... If he once promises a
thing, it 's safe. He is n't like us folks in that respect. What is true
is true. Yes."
"Yes,"—repeated all, and wagged their heads.—"That 's so. Yes."
Uncle Tail opened the window and said "Yes," also.
"Well, we shall see, I suppose,"—returned Gavríla;—"but the guard is
not to be removed, notwithstanding. Hey, there, Eróshka!"—he added,
addressing a poor man in a yellow nankeen kazák coat, who was reckoned
as the gardener:—"what hast thou to do? Take a stick and sit here, and
if anything happens, run for me on the instant."
Eróshka took a stick and sat down on the last step of the staircase. The
crowd dispersed, with the exception of a few curious bodies and the
small urchins, while Gavríla returned home, and through Liubóff
Liubímovna gave orders that the mistress should be informed that
everything had been done, and that he himself, in order to make quite
sure, had sent the postilion for a policeman. The mistress tied a knot
in her handkerchief, poured eau de cologne on it, sniffed at it, wiped
her temples, sipped her tea and, being still under the influence of the
laurel drops, fell asleep again.
An hour after all this commotion, the door of the tiny den opened and
Gerásim made his appearance. He wore a new holiday kaftan; he was
leading Mumú by a string. Eróshka drew aside and let him pass. Gerásim
directed his way toward the gate. All the small boys who were in the
courtyard followed him with their eyes in silence. He did not even turn
round; he did not put on his cap until he reached the street. Gavríla
despatched after him that same Eróshka, in the capacity of observer.
Eróshka, perceiving from afar that he had entered an eating-house in
company with his dog, awaited his reappearance.
In the eating-house they knew Gerásim and understood his signs. He
ordered cabbage-soup with meat, and seated himself, with his arms
resting on the table. Mumú stood beside his chair, calmly gazing at him
with her intelligent eyes. Her coat was fairly shining with gloss: it
was evident that she had recently been brushed. They brought the
cabbage-soup to Gerásim. He crumbled up bread in it, cut the meat up
into small pieces, and set the plate on the floor. Mumú began to eat
with her customary politeness, hardly touching her muzzle to the food;
Gerásim stared long at her; two heavy tears rolled suddenly from his
eyes; one fell on the dog's sloping forehead, the other into the soup.
He covered his face with his hand. Mumú ate half a plateful and retired,
licking her chops. Gerásim rose, paid for the soup, and set out,
accompanied by the somewhat astounded glance of the waiter. Eróshka, on
catching sight of Gerásim, sprang round the corner, and allowing him to
pass, again set out on his track.
Gerásim walked on without haste, and did not release Mumú from the cord.
On reaching the corner of the street he halted, as though in thought,
and suddenly directed his course, with swift strides, straight toward
the Crimean Ford. On the way he entered the yard of a house, to which a
wing was being built, and brought thence two bricks under his arm. From
the Crimean Ford he turned along the bank, advanced to a certain spot,
where stood two boats with oars, tied to stakes (he had already noted
them previously), and sprang into one of them, in company with Mumú. A
lame little old man emerged from behind a hut placed in one corner of a
vegetable-garden, and shouted at him. But Gerásim only nodded his head,
and set to rowing so vigorously, although against the current, that in
an instant he had darted off to a distance of a hundred fathoms. The
old man stood and stood, scratched his back, first with the left hand
then with the right, and returned, limping, to his hut.
But Gerásim rowed on and on. And now he had left Moscow behind him. Now,
already meadows, fields, groves stretched along the shores, and peasant
cottages made their appearance. It smacked of the country. He flung
aside the oars, bent his head down to Mumú, who was sitting in front of
him on a dry thwart,—the bottom was inundated with water,—and remained
motionless, with his mighty hands crossed on her back, while the boat
drifted a little backward with the current toward the town. At last
Gerásim straightened up hastily, with a sort of painful wrath on his
face, wound the rope around the bricks he had taken, arranged a noose,
put it on Mumú's neck, lifted her over the river, for the last time
gazed at her.... She gazed back at him confidingly and without alarm,
waving her little tail slightly. He turned away, shut his eyes, and
opened his hands... Gerásim heard nothing, neither the swift whine of
the falling Mumú, nor the loud splash of the water; for him the noisiest
day was silent and speechless, as not even the quietest night is to us,
and when he opened his eyes again, the little waves were hurrying down
the river as before; as before they were plashing about the sides of
the boat, and only far astern toward the shore certain broad circles
Eróshka, as soon as Gerásim vanished from his sight, returned home and
reported what he had seen.
"Well, yes,"—remarked Stepán;—"he will drown her. You may be easy
about that. If he has once promised a thing ...."
Throughout the day no one saw Gerásim. He did not dine at home. Evening
came; all, except him, assembled for supper.
"What a queer fellow that Gerásim is!"—squealed a fat laundress. "The
idea of making such a fuss over a dog!... Really!"
"But Gerásim has been here,"—suddenly exclaimed Stepán, as he scooped
up his buckwheat groats with his spoon.
"Why, a couple of hours ago. Certainly he has! I met him at the gate; he
has gone away from here again; he went out of the courtyard. I wanted to
ask him about his dog, but he evidently was out of sorts. Well, and he
jostled me; it must have been done by accident, he only wanted to get me
out of the way; as much as to say: 'Don't bother me!'—but he gave me
such a dig in the spine, that óï, óï, óï!"—And Stepán shrugged his
shoulders with an involuntary grimace, and rubbed the nape of his
neck.—"Yes,"—he added;—"his hand is an apt one, there 's no denying
All laughed at Stepán and, after supper, dispersed to their beds.
And in the meantime, on that same night, on the T*** highway, a giant
was marching onward diligently and unremittingly, with a sack on his
shoulders, and a long staff in his hands. It was Gerásim. He was
hurrying on, without looking behind him, hurrying home, to his own house
in the country, to his native place. After drowning poor Mumú, he had
hastened to his little den, had briskly put together a few articles of
clothing in an old horse-cloth, had tied it up with a knot, slung it
across his shoulder, and taken himself off. He had noted well the road
when he had been brought to Moscow; the village from which his mistress
had taken him lay at most five-and-twenty versts from the highway. He
walked along it with a certain invincible hardihood, with despairing,
yet joyful firmness. He strode onward, his breast expanded broadly; his
eyes were bent eagerly straight ahead. He hastened onward as though his
aged mother were waiting for him in his native place, as though she had
summoned him to her after long wanderings in foreign lands, among
strange peoples... The summer night, which had only just descended, was
warm and tranquil; on the one hand, in the direction where the sun had
gone down, the rim of the sky was still white, with a crimson gleam
from the last reflection of the vanished day,—on the other hand, the
blue-grey gloom was rising. Night had come thence. Hundreds of quail
were whistling all around, corn-crakes were vying with each other in
their calls.... Gerásim could not hear them, he could not hear even the
delicate nocturnal rustling of the trees past which he was bearing his
mighty feet, but he discerned the familiar scent of the ripening rye,
which was exhaled from the dark fields; he felt the breeze wafting to
meet him,—the breeze from his native place,—beating on his face,
playing with his hair and beard; he beheld in front of him the road
homeward, gleaming white, straight as an arrow; he beheld in the sky
innumerable stars, which illuminated his path, and like a lion he
stepped out powerfully and alertly, so that when the rising sun lighted
up with its moistly-crimson rays the gallant fellow who had just been
driven to extremities, three-and-thirty versts already lay between him
At the end of two days he was at home in his own little cottage, to the
great amazement of the soldier's wife who had removed thither. After
praying before the holy pictures, he immediately betook himself to the
overseer. The overseer was astounded at first; but the haying was only
just beginning. Gerásim, being a capital workman, immediately had a
scythe put into his hand—and he went off to mow as of yore, to mow in
such fashion that the peasants simply sweated through and through as
they watched his swings and strokes....
But in Moscow, on the day following Gerásim's flight, they discovered
it. They went into his room, ransacked it, and told Gavríla. The latter
came, made an inspection, shrugged his shoulders, and decided that the
dumb man had either run away or drowned himself along with his stupid
dog. The police were informed, and the matter was reported to the
mistress. The mistress flew into a rage, fell to weeping, ordered him to
be hunted up at any cost, asserted that she had never ordered the dog to
be made away with, and, at last, so berated Gavríla, that the latter did
nothing all day but shake his head and add: "Well!" until Uncle Tail
brought him to his senses by saying to him: "We-ell!" At last news came
from the village of Gerásim's arrival there. The mistress calmed down
somewhat; at first she was minded to issue an order demanding his
immediate return to Moscow, but afterward she announced that she wanted
nothing to do with so ungrateful a man. Moreover, she died herself soon
after, and her heirs had other things to think about besides Gerásim;
and they dismissed the rest of their mother's serfs on quit-rent.
And Gerásim is living yet, poor, wretched fellow, in his lonely hut; he
is healthy and powerful as of yore, and, as of yore, he does the work of
four men, and, as of yore, he is staid and dignified. But the neighbours
have noticed that ever since his return from Moscow he has entirely
ceased to have anything to do with women, he does not even look at them,
and he keeps not a single dog on his premises.—"However,"—say the
peasants,—"'t is lucky for him that he needs no woman; and as for a
dog—what should he do with a dog? you could n't drag a thief into his
yard with a noose!" Such is the fame of the dumb man's heroic strength.