"The Black Monk" and other stories by Anton Chekhov

(actualisé le ) by Anton Chekhov

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. CHORISTERS (1884) The sacristan of a village church has been intensely rehearsing a complex choral with the school’s choir in preparation for the forthcoming visit of a Petersburg dignitary, in spite of the vocal inadequacies of the singers and the hostility of the church deacon. But when the big day arrives, there is a crisis that reconciles the two churchmen. (1,900 words)

2. THE MARSHAL’S WIDOW (1886) Every year on the estate of Madame Zavzyatov there’s a memorial service for the late district marshal, attended by all the local notabilities. After the service there’s a splendid feast in honour of the late departed – who had been famous for knocking off a whole bottle of champagne at one go – with every delicacy imaginable, with the exception of anything containing alcohol. As the feast progresses, the guests return ever more frequently to the cloakroom where many of them have things stored away in case of need. (1,600 words)

3. CHILDREN (1886) While waiting for their parents to come home from a night out, a group of six children play intensely at cards, with kopecks, prestige, the thrill of competition, the joy of gaming and the simple reluctance to go to bed driving each of them on in their different ways. (1,950 words)

4. THE WITCH (1886) A poor and very dirty country sexton lies in his bed at night listening to the howling of a blizzard outside and, ignorant creature that he is, accuses his wife of being a witch and of somehow having started the storm so as to entrap stray visitors. Soon the bells of the post-carriage are heard and the postman and his handsome young assistant come in, having lost their way. We follow the increased tension between the postman, the wife and the surly sexton, more convinced than ever that she is indeed a witch. (4,650 words)

5. A HAPPY MAN (1886) Ivan Alexyevitch comes into a railway carriage in a somewhat excited state after having stopped off for a glass at the latest stop, finds an old friend there, and promptly launches into a lengthy explanation of his joy at just having gotten married and how nothing could spoil his state of bliss that day. When the conductor comes along, however, he finds that he had gone into the wrong train at the last stop and that while his bride has gone off to Saint Petersburg, he is now on his way to Moscow. (1,850 words)

6. A MISFORTUNE (1886) Sofya, a twenty-five year-old married woman, is walking in the woods with Ilyin, a family friend, and is asking him to stop pestering her with love letters and to either be satisfied with just being a friend or to just go away. But Ilyin is not to be put off with words, he is really in love with her, he has an intellectual’s command of language and Sofya is tormented by her increasing realisation of his attractiveness. (5,100 words)

7. AN INCIDENT (1886) Vanya and Nina, little children of six and four respectively, wake up to discover that the house cat has given birth to kittens and their joy is unbounded. Their day is centred around the three little beings, even if their joy and wonder is not shared by their parents who end up by forbidding them to go into the kitchen to play with the kittens. And when their uncle arrives that evening, his huge dog puts a definitive end to their childish delight. (1,950 words)

8. THE BEGGAR (1887) Skvortsov is stopped by a poorly-dressed beggar who explains that he’s a teacher who’s been unfairly dismissed and needs help to travel to a position in the province – but Skvortsov recognizes the fellow, who’d told him an entirely different story only a few days before. After giving him a lecture he offers him work chopping wood. The man accepts, comes back regularly, and finally gives up his drinking habits and gets a regular job. When Skvortsov meets him two years later in a theatre he explains what the key event really had been that first day at work that had changed his life. (2,050 words)

9. DRUNK (1887) We follow Frolov, an extremely wealthy, boorish and unhappy man as he flings money around in a very fancy restaurant, drinking far too much, eating practically nothing and grossly insulting the servants and the various musicians in the restaurant that he has reserved for himself and a close friend. To whom he ends up confessing the root cause of his repulsive rage – he no longer loves the woman he had married only two years previously. (2,250 words)

10. THE COSSACK (1887) The recently-married farmer Tortchakov is driving home across the countryside with his wife after the Easter service when he encounters a Cossack sitting on the ground beside his horse, too ill and famished to carry on, who begs him for a piece of the Easter cake that he has had blessed during the service. Tortchakov’s wife indignantly refuses to cut into the blessed cake so they carry on, but the next day, filled with remorse, Tortchakov sends the servants out with food and a piece of the cake for the Cossack, who’s nowhere to be found. (1,950 words)

11. THE RUNAWAY (1887) Pashka, a seven-year-old boy and his mother had walked to the hospital in the rain across the countryside at night, waited for two hours for the doors to open and then for a long time in the waiting-room. When Pashka was finally examined the doctor berates the mother for not having brought him sooner as his arm was so badly infected that he had to be operated on and Pashka had to stay there overnight. Wandering around the different wards he sees terrible things and runs out of the hospital that evening in terror. (2,900 words)

12. THE OLD HOUSE (1887) A house-owner doing a final tour of a large house about to be torn down recounts the many different kinds of people who have lived in the various room over the past many years. (2,400 words)

13. LIGHTS (1888) The engineer Ananyev is working late at night with his assistant and the narrator, a casual visitor to their worksite in a railway camp. As they plan the next day’s work there’s very Russian debate about the value of what they’re doing and indeed of the value of any worldly endeavour in view of the inevitability of death and destruction at some point, and in the course of the disussion the engineer recounts his heartless seduction of a despairing woman he had met by chance many years beforehand. (15,800 words)

14. THE BLACK MONK (1894) Andrey Vallilitch has been worn out physically and nervously by his tireless university work and has been advised to spend the summer in the countryside to recuperate, which he does by visiting his former guardian Pesotsky, a famous horticulturist, and his daughter Tanya in their magnificent estate-nursery. The site is splendid and the welcome whole-hearted but Andrey still spends too much time working and very little sleeping, and has strange encounters with a supernatural figure, a black monk who descends from the skies to discuss values and ideals with him. (11,800 words)

15. THE MURDER (1895) Matvey, a former factory worker, is a devoutly religious man who loves singing and talking to one and all about his cherished religion. His cousin Yakov, who has inherited the family’s money and owns the tavern where Matvey sleeps, is also intensely religious but in a very different, extremely individualistic way. The difference of beliefs between the two is heightened by the constant reproaches of Matvey to his cousin and tragedy for all of them strikes when words turn to blows. (12,400 words)


e-books of these stories [1] can be downloaded below.


1. CHORISTERS

THE Justice of the Peace, who had received a letter from Petersburg, had set the news going that the owner of Yefremovo, Count Vladimir Ivanovitch, would soon be arriving. When he would arrive—there was no saying.
“Like a thief in the night,” said Father Kuzma, a grey-headed little priest in a lilac cassock. “And when he does come the place will be crowded with the nobility and other high gentry. All the neighbours will flock here. Mind now, do your best, Alexey Alexeitch. . . . I beg you most earnestly.”
“You need not trouble about me,” said Alexey Alexeitch, frowning. “I know my business. If only my enemy intones the litany in the right key. He may . . . out of sheer spite. . . .”
“There, there. . . . I’ll persuade the deacon. . . I’ll persuade him.”
Alexey Alexeitch was the sacristan of the Yefremovo church. He also taught the schoolboys church and secular singing, for which he received sixty roubles a year from the revenues of the Count’s estate. The schoolboys were bound to sing in church in return for their teaching. Alexey Alexeitch was a tall, thick-set man of dignified deportment, with a fat, clean-shaven face that reminded one of a cow’s udder. His imposing figure and double chin made him look like a man occupying an important position in the secular hierarchy rather than a sacristan. It was strange to see him, so dignified and imposing, flop to the ground before the bishop and, on one occasion, after too loud a squabble with the deacon Yevlampy Avdiessov, remain on his knees for two hours by order of the head priest of the district. Grandeur was more in keeping with his figure than humiliation.
On account of the rumours of the Count’s approaching visit he had a choir practice every day, morning and evening. The choir practice was held at the school. It did not interfere much with the school work. During the practice the schoolmaster, Sergey Makaritch, set the children writing copies while he joined the tenors as an amateur.
This is how the choir practice was conducted. Alexey Alexeitch would come into the school-room, slamming the door and blowing his nose. The trebles and altos extricated themselves noisily from the school-tables. The tenors and basses, who had been waiting for some time in the yard, came in, tramping like horses. They all took their places. Alexey Alexeitch drew himself up, made a sign to enforce silence, and struck a note with the tuning fork.
“To-to-li-to-tom . . . Do-mi-sol-do!”
“Adagio, adagio. . . . Once more.”
After the “Amen” there followed “Lord have mercy upon us” from the Great Litany. All this had been learned long ago, sung a thousand times and thoroughly digested, and it was gone through simply as a formality. It was sung indolently, unconsciously. Alexey Alexeitch waved his arms calmly and chimed in now in a tenor, now in a bass voice. It was all slow, there was nothing interesting. . . . But before the “Cherubim” hymn the whole choir suddenly began blowing their noses, coughing and zealously turning the pages of their music. The sacristan turned his back on the choir and with a mysterious expression on his face began tuning his violin. The preparations lasted a couple of minutes.
“Take your places. Look at your music carefully. . . . Basses, don’t overdo it . . . rather softly.”
Bortnyansky’s “Cherubim” hymn, No. 7, was selected. At a given signal silence prevailed. All eyes were fastened on the music, the trebles opened their mouths. Alexey Alexeitch softly lowered his arm.
“Piano . . . piano. . . . You see ‘piano’ is written there. . . . More lightly, more lightly.”
When they had to sing “piano” an expression of benevolence and amiability overspread Alexey Alexeitch’s face, as though he was dreaming of a dainty morsel.
“Forte . . . forte! Hold it!”
And when they had to sing “forte” the sacristan’s fat face expressed alarm and even horror.
The “Cherubim” hymn was sung well, so well that the school-children abandoned their copies and fell to watching the movements of Alexey Alexeitch. People stood under the windows. The school-watchman, Vassily, came in wearing an apron and carrying a dinner-knife in his hand and stood listening. Father Kuzma, with an anxious face appeared suddenly as though he had sprung from out of the earth. . . . After ‘Let us lay aside all earthly cares’ Alexey Alexeitch wiped the sweat off his brow and went up to Father Kuzma in excitement.
“It puzzles me, Father Kuzma,” he said, shrugging his shoulders, “why is it that the Russian people have no understanding? It puzzles me, may the Lord chastise me! Such an uncultured people that you really cannot tell whether they have a windpipe in their throats or some other sort of internal arrangement. Were you choking, or what?” he asked, addressing the bass Gennady Semitchov, the innkeeper’s brother.
“Why?”
“What is your voice like? It rattles like a saucepan. I bet you were boozing yesterday! That’s what it is! Your breath smells like a tavern. . . . E-ech! You are a clodhopper, brother! You are a lout! How can you be a chorister if you keep company with peasants in the tavern? Ech, you are an ass, brother!”
“It’s a sin, it’s a sin, brother,” muttered Father Kuzma. “God sees everything . . . through and through . . . .”
“That’s why you have no idea of singing—because you care more for vodka than for godliness, you fool.”
“Don’t work yourself up,” said Father Kuzma. “Don’t be cross. . . . I will persuade him.”
Father Kuzma went up to Gennady Semitchov and began “persuading” him: “What do you do it for? Try and put your mind to it. A man who sings ought to restrain himself, because his throat is . . . er . . tender.”
Gennady scratched his neck and looked sideways towards the window as though the words did not apply to him.
After the “Cherubim” hymn they sang the Creed, then “It is meet and right”; they sang smoothly and with feeling, and so right on to “Our Father.”
“To my mind, Father Kuzma,” said the sacristan, “the old ‘Our Father’ is better than the modern. That’s what we ought to sing before the Count.”
“No, no. . . . Sing the modern one. For the Count hears nothing but modern music when he goes to Mass in Petersburg or Moscow. . . . In the churches there, I imagine . . . there’s very different sort of music there, brother!”
After “Our Father” there was again a great blowing of noses, coughing and turning over of pages. The most difficult part of the performance came next: the “concert.” Alexey Alexeitch was practising two pieces, “Who is the God of glory” and “Universal Praise.” Whichever the choir learned best would be sung before the Count. During the “concert” the sacristan rose to a pitch of enthusiasm. The expression of benevolence was continually alternating with one of alarm.
“Forte!” he muttered. “Andante! let yourselves go! Sing, you image! Tenors, you don’t bring it off! To-to-ti-to-tom. . . . Sol . . . si . . . sol, I tell you, you blockhead! Glory! Basses, glo . . . o . . . ry.”
His bow travelled over the heads and shoulders of the erring trebles and altos. His left hand was continually pulling the ears of the young singers. On one occasion, carried away by his feelings he flipped the bass Gennady under the chin with his bent thumb. But the choristers were not moved to tears or to anger at his blows: they realised the full gravity of their task.
After the “concert” came a minute of silence. Alexey Alexeitch, red, perspiring and exhausted, sat down on the window-sill, and turned upon the company lustreless, wearied, but triumphant eyes. In the listening crowd he observed to his immense annoyance the deacon Avdiessov. The deacon, a tall thick-set man with a red pock-marked face, and straw in his hair, stood leaning against the stove and grinning contemptuously.
“That’s right, sing away! Perform your music!” he muttered in a deep bass. “Much the Count will care for your singing! He doesn’t care whether you sing with music or without. . . . For he is an atheist.”
Father Kuzma looked round in a scared way and twiddled his fingers.
“Come, come,” he muttered. “Hush, deacon, I beg.”
After the “concert” they sang “May our lips be filled with praise,” and the choir practice was over. The choir broke up to reassemble in the evening for another practice. And so it went on every day.
One month passed and then a second. . . . The steward, too, had by then received a notice that the Count would soon be coming. At last the dusty sun-blinds were taken off the windows of the big house, and Yefremovo heard the strains of the broken-down, out-of-tune piano. Father Kuzma was pining, though he could not himself have said why, or whether it was from delight or alarm. . . . The deacon went about grinning.
The following Saturday evening Father Kuzma went to the sacristan’s lodgings. His face was pale, his shoulders drooped, the lilac of his cassock looked faded.
“I have just been at his Excellency’s,” he said to the sacristan, stammering. “He is a cultivated gentleman with refined ideas. But . . . er . . . it’s mortifying, brother. . . . ‘At what o’clock, your Excellency, do you desire us to ring for Mass to-morrow?’ And he said: ‘As you think best. Only, couldn’t it be as short and quick as possible without a choir.’ Without a choir! Er . . . do you understand, without, without a choir. . . .”
Alexey Alexeitch turned crimson. He would rather have spent two hours on his knees again than have heard those words! He did not sleep all night. He was not so much mortified at the waste of his labours as at the fact that the deacon would give him no peace now with his jeers. The deacon was delighted at his discomfiture. Next day all through the service he was casting disdainful glances towards the choir where Alexey Alexeitch was booming responses in solitude. When he passed by the choir with the censer he muttered:
“Perform your music! Do your utmost! The Count will give a ten-rouble note to the choir!”
After the service the sacristan went home, crushed and ill with mortification. At the gate he was overtaken by the red-faced deacon.
“Stop a minute, Alyosha!” said the deacon. “Stop a minute, silly, don’t be cross! You are not the only one, I am in for it too! Immediately after the Mass Father Kuzma went up to the Count and asked: ‘And what did you think of the deacon’s voice, your Excellency. He has a deep bass, hasn’t he?’ And the Count—do you know what he answered by way of compliment? ‘Anyone can bawl,’ he said. ‘A man’s voice is not as important as his brains.’ A learned gentleman from Petersburg! An atheist is an atheist, and that’s all about it! Come, brother in misfortune, let us go and have a drop to drown our troubles!”
And the enemies went out of the gate arm-in-arm.


2. THE MARSHAL’S WIDOW

ON the first of February every year, St. Trifon’s day, there is an extraordinary commotion on the estate of Madame Zavzyatov, the widow of Trifon Lvovitch, the late marshal of the district. On that day, the nameday of the deceased marshal, the widow Lyubov Petrovna has a requiem service celebrated in his memory, and after the requiem a thanksgiving to the Lord. The whole district assembles for the service. There you will see Hrumov the present marshal, Marfutkin, the president of the Zemstvo, Potrashkov, the permanent member of the Rural Board, the two justices of the peace of the district, the police captain, Krinolinov, two police-superintendents, the district doctor, Dvornyagin, smelling of iodoform, all the landowners, great and small, and so on. There are about fifty people assembled in all.
Precisely at twelve o’clock, the visitors, with long faces, make their way from all the rooms to the big hall. There are carpets on the floor and their steps are noiseless, but the solemnity of the occasion makes them instinctively walk on tip-toe, holding out their hands to balance themselves. In the hall everything is already prepared. Father Yevmeny, a little old man in a high faded cap, puts on his black vestments. Konkordiev, the deacon, already in his vestments, and as red as a crab, is noiselessly turning over the leaves of his missal and putting slips of paper in it. At the door leading to the vestibule, Luka, the sacristan, puffing out his cheeks and making round eyes, blows up the censer. The hall is gradually filled with bluish transparent smoke and the smell of incense.
Gelikonsky, the elementary schoolmaster, a young man with big pimples on his frightened face, wearing a new greatcoat like a sack, carries round wax candles on a silver-plated tray. The hostess, Lyubov Petrovna, stands in the front by a little table with a dish of funeral rice on it, and holds her handkerchief in readiness to her face. There is a profound stillness, broken from time to time by sighs. Everybody has a long, solemn face. . . .
The requiem service begins. The blue smoke curls up from the censer and plays in the slanting sunbeams, the lighted candles faintly splutter. The singing, at first harsh and deafening, soon becomes quiet and musical as the choir gradually adapt themselves to the acoustic conditions of the rooms. . . . The tunes are all mournful and sad. . . . The guests are gradually brought to a melancholy mood and grow pensive. Thoughts of the brevity of human life, of mutability, of worldly vanity stray through their brains. . . . They recall the deceased Zavzyatov, a thick-set, red-cheeked man who used to drink off a bottle of champagne at one gulp and smash looking-glasses with his forehead. And when they sing “With Thy Saints, O Lord,” and the sobs of their hostess are audible, the guests shift uneasily from one foot to the other. The more emotional begin to feel a tickling in their throat and about their eyelids. Marfutkin, the president of the Zemstvo, to stifle the unpleasant feeling, bends down to the police captain’s ear and whispers:
“I was at Ivan Fyodoritch’s yesterday. . . . Pyotr Petrovitch and I took all the tricks, playing no trumps. . . . Yes, indeed. . . . Olga Andreyevna was so exasperated that her false tooth fell out of her mouth.”
But at last the “Eternal Memory” is sung. Gelikonsky respectfully takes away the candles, and the memorial service is over. Thereupon there follows a momentary commotion; there is a changing of vestments and a thanksgiving service. After the thanksgiving, while Father Yevmeny is disrobing, the visitors rub their hands and cough, while their hostess tells some anecdote of the good-heartedness of the deceased Trifon Lvovitch.
“Pray come to lunch, friends,” she says, concluding her story with a sigh.
The visitors, trying not to push or tread on each other’s feet, hasten into the dining-room. . . . There the luncheon is awaiting them. The repast is so magnificent that the deacon Konkordiev thinks it his duty every year to fling up his hands as he looks at it and, shaking his head in amazement, say:
“Supernatural! It’s not so much like human fare, Father Yevmeny, as offerings to the gods.”
The lunch is certainly exceptional. Everything that the flora and fauna of the country can furnish is on the table, but the only thing supernatural about it, perhaps, is that on the table there is everything except . . . alcoholic beverages. Lyubov Petrovna has taken a vow never to have in her house cards or spirituous liquors —the two sources of her husband’s ruin. And the only bottles contain oil and vinegar, as though in mockery and chastisement of the guests who are to a man desperately fond of the bottle, and given to tippling.
“Please help yourselves, gentlemen!” the marshal’s widow presses them. “Only you must excuse me, I have no vodka. . . . I have none in the house.”
The guests approach the table and hesitatingly attack the pie. But the progress with eating is slow. In the plying of forks, in the cutting up and munching, there is a certain sloth and apathy. . . . Evidently something is wanting.
“I feel as though I had lost something,” one of the justices of the peace whispers to the other. “I feel as I did when my wife ran away with the engineer. . . . I can’t eat.”
Marfutkin, before beginning to eat, fumbles for a long time in his pocket and looks for his handkerchief.
“Oh, my handkerchief must be in my greatcoat,” he recalls in a loud voice, “and here I am looking for it,” and he goes into the vestibule where the fur coats are hanging up.
He returns from the vestibule with glistening eyes, and at once attacks the pie with relish.
“I say, it’s horrid munching away with a dry mouth, isn’t it?” he whispers to Father Yevmeny. “Go into the vestibule, Father. There’s a bottle there in my fur coat. . . . Only mind you are careful; don’t make a clatter with the bottle.”
Father Yevmeny recollects that he has some direction to give to Luka, and trips off to the vestibule.
“Father, a couple of words in confidence,” says Dvornyagin, overtaking him.
“You should see the fur coat I’ve bought myself, gentlemen,” Hrumov boasts. “It’s worth a thousand, and I gave . . . you won’t believe it . . . two hundred and fifty! Not a farthing more.”
At any other time the guests would have greeted this information with indifference, but now they display surprise and incredulity. In the end they all troop out into the vestibule to look at the fur coat, and go on looking at it till the doctor’s man Mikeshka carries five empty bottles out on the sly. When the steamed sturgeon is served, Marfutkin remembers that he has left his cigar case in his sledge and goes to the stable. That he may not be lonely on this expedition, he takes with him the deacon, who appropriately feels it necessary to have a look at his horse. . . .
On the evening of the same day, Lyubov Petrovna is sitting in her study, writing a letter to an old friend in Petersburg:
“To-day, as in past years,” she writes among other things, “I had a memorial service for my dear husband. All my neighbours came to the service. They are a simple, rough set, but what hearts! I gave them a splendid lunch, but of course, as in previous years, without a drop of alcoholic liquor. Ever since he died from excessive drinking I have vowed to establish temperance in this district and thereby to expiate his sins. I have begun the campaign for temperance at my own house. Father Yevmeny is delighted with my efforts, and helps me both in word and deed. Oh, ma chère, if you knew how fond my bears are of me! The president of the Zemstvo, Marfutkin, kissed my hand after lunch, held it a long while to his lips, and, wagging his head in an absurd way, burst into tears: so much feeling but no words! Father Yevmeny, that delightful little old man, sat down by me, and looking tearfully at me kept babbling something like a child. I did not understand what he said, but I know how to understand true feeling. The police captain, the handsome man of whom I wrote to you, went down on his knees to me, tried to read me some verses of his own composition (he is a poet), but . . . his feelings were too much for him, he lurched and fell over . . . that huge giant went into hysterics, you can imagine my delight! The day did not pass without a hitch, however. Poor Alalykin, the president of the judges’ assembly, a stout and apoplectic man, was overcome by illness and lay on the sofa in a state of unconsciousness for two hours. We had to pour water on him. . . . I am thankful to Doctor Dvornyagin: he had brought a bottle of brandy from his dispensary and he moistened the patient’s temples, which quickly revived him, and he was able to be moved. . . .”


3. CHILDREN

PAPA and mamma and Aunt Nadya are not at home. They have gone to a christening party at the house of that old officer who rides on a little grey horse. While waiting for them to come home, Grisha, Anya, Alyosha, Sonya, and the cook’s son, Andrey, are sitting at the table in the dining-room, playing at loto. To tell the truth, it is bedtime, but how can one go to sleep without hearing from mamma what the baby was like at the christening, and what they had for supper? The table, lighted by a hanging lamp, is dotted with numbers, nutshells, scraps of paper, and little bits of glass. Two cards lie in front of each player, and a heap of bits of glass for covering the numbers. In the middle of the table is a white saucer with five kopecks in it. Beside the saucer, a half-eaten apple, a pair of scissors, and a plate on which they have been told to put their nutshells. The children are playing for money. The stake is a kopeck. The rule is: if anyone cheats, he is turned out at once. There is no one in the dining-room but the players, and nurse, Agafya Ivanovna, is in the kitchen, showing the cook how to cut a pattern, while their elder brother, Vasya, a schoolboy in the fifth class, is lying on the sofa in the drawing-room, feeling bored.

They are playing with zest. The greatest excitement is expressed on the face of Grisha. He is a small boy of nine, with a head cropped so that the bare skin shows through, chubby cheeks, and thick lips like a negro’s. He is already in the preparatory class, and so is regarded as grown up, and the cleverest. He is playing entirely for the sake of the money. If there had been no kopecks in the saucer, he would have been asleep long ago. His brown eyes stray uneasily and jealously over the other players’ cards. The fear that he may not win, envy, and the financial combinations of which his cropped head is full, will not let him sit still and concentrate his mind. He fidgets as though he were sitting on thorns. When he wins, he snatches up the money greedily, and instantly puts it in his pocket. His sister, Anya, a girl of eight, with a sharp chin and clever shining eyes, is also afraid that someone else may win. She flushes and turns pale, and watches the players keenly. The kopecks do not interest her. Success in the game is for her a question of vanity. The other sister, Sonya, a child of six with a curly head, and a complexion such as is seen only in very healthy children, expensive dolls, and the faces on bonbon boxes, is playing loto for the process of the game itself. There is bliss all over her face. Whoever wins, she laughs and claps her hands. Alyosha, a chubby, spherical little figure, gasps, breathes hard through his nose, and stares open-eyed at the cards. He is moved neither by covetousness nor vanity. So long as he is not driven out of the room, or sent to bed, he is thankful. He looks phlegmatic, but at heart he is rather a little beast. He is not there so much for the sake of the loto, as for the sake of the misunderstandings which are inevitable in the game. He is greatly delighted if one hits another, or calls him names. He ought to have run off somewhere long ago, but he won’t leave the table for a minute, for fear they should steal his counters or his kopecks. As he can only count the units and numbers which end in nought, Anya covers his numbers for him. The fifth player, the cook’s son, Andrey, a dark-skinned and sickly looking boy in a cotton shirt, with a copper cross on his breast, stands motionless, looking dreamily at the numbers. He takes no interest in winning, or in the success of the others, because he is entirely engrossed by the arithmetic of the game, and its far from complex theory; "How many numbers there are in the world," he is thinking, "and how is it they don’t get mixed up?"

They all shout out the numbers in turn, except Sonya and Alyosha. To vary the monotony, they have invented in the course of time a number of synonyms and comic nicknames. Seven, for instance, is called the "ovenrake," eleven the "sticks," seventy-seven "Semyon Semyonitch," ninety "grandfather," and so on. The game is going merrily.

"Thirty-two," cries Grisha, drawing the little yellow cylinders out of his father’s cap. "Seventeen! Ovenrake! Twenty-eight! Lay them straight. . . ."

Anya sees that Andrey has let twenty-eight slip. At any other time she would have pointed it out to him, but now when her vanity lies in the saucer with the kopecks, she is triumphant.

"Twenty-three!" Grisha goes on, "Semyon Semyonitch! Nine!"

"A beetle, a beetle," cries Sonya, pointing to a beetle running across the table. "Aie!"

"Don’t kill it," says Alyosha, in his deep bass, "perhaps it’s got children . . . ."

Sonya follows the black beetle with her eyes and wonders about its children: what tiny little beetles they must be!

"Forty-three! One!" Grisha goes on, unhappy at the thought that Anya has already made two fours. "Six!"

"Game! I have got the game!" cries Sonya, rolling her eyes coquettishly and giggling.

The players’ countenances lengthen.

"Must make sure!" says Grisha, looking with hatred at Sonya.

Exercising his rights as a big boy, and the cleverest, Grisha takes upon himself to decide. What he wants, that they do. Sonya’s reckoning is slowly and carefully verified, and to the great regret of her fellow players, it appears that she has not cheated. Another game is begun.

"I did see something yesterday!" says Anya, as though to herself. "Filipp Filippitch turned his eyelids inside out somehow and his eyes looked red and dreadful, like an evil spirit’s."

"I saw it too," says Grisha. "Eight! And a boy at our school can move his ears. Twenty-seven!"

Andrey looks up at Grisha, meditates, and says:

"I can move my ears too. . . ."

"Well then, move them."

Andrey moves his eyes, his lips, and his fingers, and fancies that his ears are moving too. Everyone laughs.

"He is a horrid man, that Filipp Filippitch," sighs Sonya. "He came into our nursery yesterday, and I had nothing on but my chemise . . . And I felt so improper!"

"Game!" Grisha cries suddenly, snatching the money from the saucer. "I’ve got the game! You can look and see if you like."

The cook’s son looks up and turns pale.

"Then I can’t go on playing any more," he whispers.

"Why not?"

"Because . . . because I have got no more money."

"You can’t play without money," says Grisha.

Andrey ransacks his pockets once more to make sure. Finding nothing in them but crumbs and a bitten pencil, he drops the corners of his mouth and begins blinking miserably. He is on the point of crying. . . .

"I’ll put it down for you!" says Sonya, unable to endure his look of agony. "Only mind you must pay me back afterwards."

The money is brought and the game goes on.

"I believe they are ringing somewhere," says Anya, opening her eyes wide.

They all leave off playing and gaze open-mouthed at the dark window. The reflection of the lamp glimmers in the darkness.

"It was your fancy."

"At night they only ring in the cemetery," says Andrey.

"And what do they ring there for?"

"To prevent robbers from breaking into the church. They are afraid of the bells."

"And what do robbers break into the church for?" asks Sonya.

"Everyone knows what for: to kill the watchmen."

A minute passes in silence. They all look at one another, shudder, and go on playing. This time Andrey wins.

"He has cheated," Alyosha booms out, apropos of nothing.

"What a lie, I haven’t cheated."

Andrey turns pale, his mouth works, and he gives Alyosha a slap on the head! Alyosha glares angrily, jumps up, and with one knee on the table, slaps Andrey on the cheek! Each gives the other a second blow, and both howl. Sonya, feeling such horrors too much for her, begins crying too, and the dining-room resounds with lamentations on various notes. But do not imagine that that is the end of the game. Before five minutes are over, the children are laughing and talking peaceably again. Their faces are tear-stained, but that does not prevent them from smiling; Alyosha is positively blissful, there has been a squabble!

Vasya, the fifth form schoolboy, walks into the dining-room. He looks sleepy and disillusioned.

"This is revolting!" he thinks, seeing Grisha feel in his pockets in which the kopecks are jingling. "How can they give children money? And how can they let them play games of chance? A nice way to bring them up, I must say! It’s revolting!"

But the children’s play is so tempting that he feels an inclination to join them and to try his luck.

"Wait a minute and I’ll sit down to a game," he says.

"Put down a kopeck!"

"In a minute," he says, fumbling in his pockets. "I haven’t a kopeck, but here is a rouble. I’ll stake a rouble."

"No, no, no. . . . You must put down a kopeck."

"You stupids. A rouble is worth more than a kopeck anyway," the schoolboy explains. "Whoever wins can give me change."

"No, please! Go away!"

The fifth form schoolboy shrugs his shoulders, and goes into the kitchen to get change from the servants. It appears there is not a single kopeck in the kitchen.

"In that case, you give me change," he urges Grisha, coming back from the kitchen. "I’ll pay you for the change. Won’t you? Come, give me ten kopecks for a rouble."

Grisha looks suspiciously at Vasya, wondering whether it isn’t some trick, a swindle.

"I won’t," he says, holding his pockets.

Vasya begins to get cross, and abuses them, calling them idiots and blockheads.

"I’ll put down a stake for you, Vasya! " says Sonya. "Sit down." He sits down and lays two cards before him. Anya begins counting the numbers.

"I’ve dropped a kopeck!" Grisha announces suddenly, in an agitated voice. "Wait!"

He takes the lamp, and creeps under the table to look for the kopeck. They clutch at nutshells and all sorts of nastiness, knock their heads together, but do not find the kopeck. They begin looking again, and look till Vasya takes the lamp out of Grisha’s hands and puts it in its place. Grisha goes on looking in the dark. But at last the kopeck is found. The players sit down at the table and mean to go on playing.

"Sonya is asleep!" Alyosha announces.

Sonya, with her curly head lying on her arms, is in a sweet, sound, tranquil sleep, as though she had been asleep for an hour. She has fallen asleep by accident, while the others were looking for the kopeck.

"Come along, lie on mamma’s bed!" says Anya, leading her away from the table. "Come along!"

They all troop out with her, and five minutes later mamma’s bed presents a curious spectacle. Sonya is asleep. Alyosha is snoring beside her. With their heads to the others’ feet, sleep Grisha and Anya. The cook’s son, Andrey too, has managed to snuggle in beside them. Near them lie the kopecks, that have lost their power till the next game. Good-night!


4. THE WITCH

IT was approaching nightfall. The sexton, Savely Gykin, was lying in his huge bed in the hut adjoining the church. He was not asleep, though it was his habit to go to sleep at the same time as the hens. His coarse red hair peeped from under one end of the greasy patchwork quilt, made up of coloured rags, while his big unwashed feet stuck out from the other. He was listening. His hut adjoined the wall that encircled the church and the solitary window in it looked out upon the open country. And out there a regular battle was going on. It was hard to say who was being wiped off the face of the earth, and for the sake of whose destruction nature was being churned up into such a ferment; but, judging from the unceasing malignant roar, someone was getting it very hot. A victorious force was in full chase over the fields, storming in the forest and on the church roof, battering spitefully with its fists upon the windows, raging and tearing, while something vanquished was howling and wailing.... A plaintive lament sobbed at the window, on the roof, or in the stove. It sounded not like a call for help, but like a cry of misery, a consciousness that it was too late, that there was no salvation. The snowdrifts were covered with a thin coating of ice; tears quivered on them and on the trees; a dark slush of mud and melting snow flowed along the roads and paths. In short, it was thawing, but through the dark night the heavens failed to see it, and flung flakes of fresh snow upon the melting earth at a terrific rate. And the wind staggered like a drunkard. It would not let the snow settle on the ground, and whirled it round in the darkness at random.
Savely listened to all this din and frowned. The fact was that he knew, or at any rate suspected, what all this racket outside the window was tending to and whose handiwork it was.
“I know!” he muttered, shaking his finger menacingly under the bedclothes; “I know all about it.”
On a stool by the window sat the sexton’s wife, Raissa Nilovna. A tin lamp standing on another stool, as though timid and distrustful of its powers, shed a dim and flickering light on her broad shoulders, on the handsome, tempting-looking contours of her person, and on her thick plait, which reached to the floor. She was making sacks out of coarse hempen stuff. Her hands moved nimbly, while her whole body, her eyes, her eyebrows, her full lips, her white neck were as still as though they were asleep, absorbed in the monotonous, mechanical toil. Only from time to time she raised her head to rest her weary neck, glanced for a moment towards the window, beyond which the snowstorm was raging, and bent again over her sacking. No desire, no joy, no grief, nothing was expressed by her handsome face with its turned-up nose and its dimples. So a beautiful fountain expresses nothing when it is not playing.
But at last she had finished a sack. She flung it aside, and, stretching luxuriously, rested her motionless, lack-lustre eyes on the window. The panes were swimming with drops like tears, and white with short-lived snowflakes which fell on the window, glanced at Raissa, and melted....
“Come to bed!” growled the sexton. Raissa remained mute. But suddenly her eyelashes flickered and there was a gleam of attention in her eye. Savely, all the time watching her expression from under the quilt, put out his head and asked:
“What is it?”
“Nothing.... I fancy someone’s coming,” she answered quietly.
The sexton flung the quilt off with his arms and legs, knelt up in bed, and looked blankly at his wife. The timid light of the lamp illuminated his hirsute, pock-marked countenance and glided over his rough matted hair.
“Do you hear?” asked his wife.
Through the monotonous roar of the storm he caught a scarcely audible thin and jingling monotone like the shrill note of a gnat when it wants to settle on one’s cheek and is angry at being prevented.
“It’s the post,” muttered Savely, squatting on his heels.
Two miles from the church ran the posting road. In windy weather, when the wind was blowing from the road to the church, the inmates of the hut caught the sound of bells.
“Lord! fancy people wanting to drive about in such weather,” sighed Raissa.
“It’s government work. You’ve to go whether you like or not.”
The murmur hung in the air and died away.
“It has driven by,” said Savely, getting into bed.
But before he had time to cover himself up with the bedclothes he heard a distinct sound of the bell. The sexton looked anxiously at his wife, leapt out of bed and walked, waddling, to and fro by the stove. The bell went on ringing for a little, then died away again as though it had ceased.
“I don’t hear it,” said the sexton, stopping and looking at his wife with his eyes screwed up.
But at that moment the wind rapped on the window and with it floated a shrill jingling note. Savely turned pale, cleared his throat, and flopped about the floor with his bare feet again.
“The postman is lost in the storm,” he wheezed out glancing malignantly at his wife. “Do you hear? The postman has lost his way!... I... I know! Do you suppose I... don’t understand?” he muttered. “I know all about it, curse you!”
“What do you know?” Raissa asked quietly, keeping her eyes fixed on the window.
“I know that it’s all your doing, you she-devil! Your doing, damn you! This snowstorm and the post going wrong, you’ve done it all—you!”
“You’re mad, you silly,” his wife answered calmly.
“I’ve been watching you for a long time past and I’ve seen it. From the first day I married you I noticed that you’d bitch’s blood in you!”
“Tfoo!” said Raissa, surprised, shrugging her shoulders and crossing herself. “Cross yourself, you fool!”
“A witch is a witch,” Savely pronounced in a hollow, tearful voice, hurriedly blowing his nose on the hem of his shirt; “though you are my wife, though you are of a clerical family, I’d say what you are even at confession.... Why, God have mercy upon us! Last year on the Eve of the Prophet Daniel and the Three Young Men there was a snowstorm, and what happened then? The mechanic came in to warm himself. Then on St. Alexey’s Day the ice broke on the river and the district policeman turned up, and he was chatting with you all night... the damned brute! And when he came out in the morning and I looked at him, he had rings under his eyes and his cheeks were hollow! Eh? During the August fast there were two storms and each time the huntsman turned up. I saw it all, damn him! Oh, she is redder than a crab now, aha!”
“You didn’t see anything.”
“Didn’t I! And this winter before Christmas on the Day of the Ten Martyrs of Crete, when the storm lasted for a whole day and night—do you remember?—the marshal’s clerk was lost, and turned up here, the hound.... Tfoo! To be tempted by the clerk! It was worth upsetting God’s weather for him! A drivelling scribbler, not a foot from the ground, pimples all over his mug and his neck awry! If he were good-looking, anyway—but he, tfoo! he is as ugly as Satan!”
The sexton took breath, wiped his lips and listened. The bell was not to be heard, but the wind banged on the roof, and again there came a tinkle in the darkness.
“And it’s the same thing now!” Savely went on. “It’s not for nothing the postman is lost! Blast my eyes if the postman isn’t looking for you! Oh, the devil is a good hand at his work; he is a fine one to help! He will turn him round and round and bring him here. I know, I see! You can’t conceal it, you devil’s bauble, you heathen wanton! As soon as the storm began I knew what you were up to.”
“Here’s a fool!” smiled his wife. “Why, do you suppose, you thick-head, that I make the storm?”
“H’m!... Grin away! Whether it’s your doing or not, I only know that when your blood’s on fire there’s sure to be bad weather, and when there’s bad weather there’s bound to be some crazy fellow turning up here. It happens so every time! So it must be you!”
To be more impressive the sexton put his finger to his forehead, closed his left eye, and said in a singsong voice:
“Oh, the madness! oh, the unclean Judas! If you really are a human being and not a witch, you ought to think what if he is not the mechanic, or the clerk, or the huntsman, but the devil in their form! Ah! You’d better think of that!”
“Why, you are stupid, Savely,” said his wife, looking at him compassionately. “When father was alive and living here, all sorts of people used to come to him to be cured of the ague: from the village, and the hamlets, and the Armenian settlement. They came almost every day, and no one called them devils. But if anyone once a year comes in bad weather to warm himself, you wonder at it, you silly, and take all sorts of notions into your head at once.”
His wife’s logic touched Savely. He stood with his bare feet wide apart, bent his head, and pondered. He was not firmly convinced yet of the truth of his suspicions, and his wife’s genuine and unconcerned tone quite disconcerted him. Yet after a moment’s thought he wagged his head and said:
“It’s not as though they were old men or bandy-legged cripples; it’s always young men who want to come for the night.... Why is that? And if they only wanted to warm themselves——But they are up to mischief. No, woman; there’s no creature in this world as cunning as your female sort! Of real brains you’ve not an ounce, less than a starling, but for devilish slyness—oo-oo-oo! The Queen of Heaven protect us! There is the postman’s bell! When the storm was only beginning I knew all that was in your mind. That’s your witchery, you spider!”
“Why do you keep on at me, you heathen?” His wife lost her patience at last. “Why do you keep sticking to it like pitch?”
“I stick to it because if anything—God forbid—happens to-night... do you hear?... if anything happens to-night, I’ll go straight off to-morrow morning to Father Nikodim and tell him all about it. ‘Father Nikodim,’ I shall say, ‘graciously excuse me, but she is a witch.’ ‘Why so?’ ‘H’m! do you want to know why?’ ‘Certainly....’ And I shall tell him. And woe to you, woman! Not only at the dread Seat of Judgment, but in your earthly life you’ll be punished, too! It’s not for nothing there are prayers in the breviary against your kind!”
Suddenly there was a knock at the window, so loud and unusual that Savely turned pale and almost dropped backwards with fright. His wife jumped up, and she, too, turned pale.
“For God’s sake, let us come in and get warm!” they heard in a trembling deep bass. “Who lives here? For mercy’s sake! We’ve lost our way.”
“Who are you?” asked Raissa, afraid to look at the window.
“The post,” answered a second voice.
“You’ve succeeded with your devil’s tricks,” said Savely with a wave of his hand. “No mistake; I am right! Well, you’d better look out!”
The sexton jumped on to the bed in two skips, stretched himself on the feather mattress, and sniffing angrily, turned with his face to the wall. Soon he felt a draught of cold air on his back. The door creaked and the tall figure of a man, plastered over with snow from head to foot, appeared in the doorway. Behind him could be seen a second figure as white.
“Am I to bring in the bags?” asked the second in a hoarse bass voice.
“You can’t leave them there.” Saying this, the first figure began untying his hood, but gave it up, and pulling it off impatiently with his cap, angrily flung it near the stove. Then taking off his greatcoat, he threw that down beside it, and, without saying good-evening, began pacing up and down the hut.
He was a fair-haired, young postman wearing a shabby uniform and black rusty-looking high boots. After warming himself by walking to and fro, he sat down at the table, stretched out his muddy feet towards the sacks and leaned his chin on his fist. His pale face, reddened in places by the cold, still bore vivid traces of the pain and terror he had just been through. Though distorted by anger and bearing traces of recent suffering, physical and moral, it was handsome in spite of the melting snow on the eyebrows, moustaches, and short beard.
“It’s a dog’s life!” muttered the postman, looking round the walls and seeming hardly able to believe that he was in the warmth. “We were nearly lost! If it had not been for your light, I don’t know what would have happened. Goodness only knows when it will all be over! There’s no end to this dog’s life! Where have we come?” he asked, dropping his voice and raising his eyes to the sexton’s wife.
“To the Gulyaevsky Hill on General Kalinovsky’s estate,” she answered, startled and blushing.
“Do you hear, Stepan?” The postman turned to the driver, who was wedged in the doorway with a huge mail-bag on his shoulders. “We’ve got to Gulyaevsky Hill.”
“Yes... we’re a long way out.” Jerking out these words like a hoarse sigh, the driver went out and soon after returned with another bag, then went out once more and this time brought the postman’s sword on a big belt, of the pattern of that long flat blade with which Judith is portrayed by the bedside of Holofernes in cheap woodcuts. Laying the bags along the wall, he went out into the outer room, sat down there and lighted his pipe.
“Perhaps you’d like some tea after your journey?” Raissa inquired.
“How can we sit drinking tea?” said the postman, frowning. “We must make haste and get warm, and then set off, or we shall be late for the mail train. We’ll stay ten minutes and then get on our way. Only be so good as to show us the way.”
“What an infliction it is, this weather!” sighed Raissa.
“H’m, yes.... Who may you be?”
“We? We live here, by the church.... We belong to the clergy.... There lies my husband. Savely, get up and say good-evening! This used to be a separate parish till eighteen months ago. Of course, when the gentry lived here there were more people, and it was worth while to have the services. But now the gentry have gone, and I need not tell you there’s nothing for the clergy to live on. The nearest village is Markovka, and that’s over three miles away. Savely is on the retired list now, and has got the watchman’s job; he has to look after the church....”
And the postman was immediately informed that if Savely were to go to the General’s lady and ask her for a letter to the bishop, he would be given a good berth. “But he doesn’t go to the General’s lady because he is lazy and afraid of people. We belong to the clergy all the same...” added Raissa.
“What do you live on?” asked the postman.
“There’s a kitchen garden and a meadow belonging to the church. Only we don’t get much from that,” sighed Raissa. “The old skinflint, Father Nikodim, from the next village celebrates here on St. Nicolas’ Day in the winter and on St. Nicolas’ Day in the summer, and for that he takes almost all the crops for himself. There’s no one to stick up for us!”
“You are lying,” Savely growled hoarsely. “Father Nikodim is a saintly soul, a luminary of the Church; and if he does take it, it’s the regulation!”
“You’ve a cross one!” said the postman, with a grin. “Have you been married long?”
“It was three years ago the last Sunday before Lent. My father was sexton here in the old days, and when the time came for him to die, he went to the Consistory and asked them to send some unmarried man to marry me that I might keep the place. So I married him.”
“Aha, so you killed two birds with one stone!” said the postman, looking at Savely’s back. “Got wife and job together.”
Savely wriggled his leg impatiently and moved closer to the wall. The postman moved away from the table, stretched, and sat down on the mail-bag. After a moment’s thought he squeezed the bags with his hands, shifted his sword to the other side, and lay down with one foot touching the floor.
“It’s a dog’s life,” he muttered, putting his hands behind his head and closing his eyes. “I wouldn’t wish a wild Tatar such a life.”
Soon everything was still. Nothing was audible except the sniffing of Savely and the slow, even breathing of the sleeping postman, who uttered a deep prolonged “h-h-h” at every breath. From time to time there was a sound like a creaking wheel in his throat, and his twitching foot rustled against the bag.
Savely fidgeted under the quilt and looked round slowly. His wife was sitting on the stool, and with her hands pressed against her cheeks was gazing at the postman’s face. Her face was immovable, like the face of some one frightened and astonished.
“Well, what are you gaping at?” Savely whispered angrily.
“What is it to you? Lie down!” answered his wife without taking her eyes off the flaxen head.
Savely angrily puffed all the air out of his chest and turned abruptly to the wall. Three minutes later he turned over restlessly again, knelt up on the bed, and with his hands on the pillow looked askance at his wife. She was still sitting motionless, staring at the visitor. Her cheeks were pale and her eyes were glowing with a strange fire. The sexton cleared his throat, crawled on his stomach off the bed, and going up to the postman, put a handkerchief over his face.
“What’s that for?” asked his wife.
“To keep the light out of his eyes.”
“Then put out the light!”
Savely looked distrustfully at his wife, put out his lips towards the lamp, but at once thought better of it and clasped his hands.
“Isn’t that devilish cunning?” he exclaimed. “Ah! Is there any creature slyer than womenkind?”
“Ah, you long-skirted devil!” hissed his wife, frowning with vexation. “You wait a bit!”
And settling herself more comfortably, she stared at the postman again.
It did not matter to her that his face was covered. She was not so much interested in his face as in his whole appearance, in the novelty of this man. His chest was broad and powerful, his hands were slender and well formed, and his graceful, muscular legs were much comelier than Savely’s stumps. There could be no comparison, in fact.
“Though I am a long-skirted devil,” Savely said after a brief interval, “they’ve no business to sleep here.... It’s government work; we shall have to answer for keeping them. If you carry the letters, carry them, you can’t go to sleep.... Hey! you!” Savely shouted into the outer room. “You, driver. What’s your name? Shall I show you the way? Get up; postmen mustn’t sleep!”
And Savely, thoroughly roused, ran up to the postman and tugged him by the sleeve.
“Hey, your honour, if you must go, go; and if you don’t, it’s not the thing.... Sleeping won’t do.”
The postman jumped up, sat down, looked with blank eyes round the hut, and lay down again.
“But when are you going?” Savely pattered away. “That’s what the post is for—to get there in good time, do you hear? I’ll take you.”
The postman opened his eyes. Warmed and relaxed by his first sweet sleep, and not yet quite awake, he saw as through a mist the white neck and the immovable, alluring eyes of the sexton’s wife. He closed his eyes and smiled as though he had been dreaming it all.
“Come, how can you go in such weather!” he heard a soft feminine voice; “you ought to have a sound sleep and it would do you good!”
“And what about the post?” said Savely anxiously. “Who’s going to take the post? Are you going to take it, pray, you?”
The postman opened his eyes again, looked at the play of the dimples on Raissa’s face, remembered where he was, and understood Savely. The thought that he had to go out into the cold darkness sent a chill shudder all down him, and he winced.
“I might sleep another five minutes,” he said, yawning. “I shall be late, anyway....”
“We might be just in time,” came a voice from the outer room. “All days are not alike; the train may be late for a bit of luck.”
The postman got up, and stretching lazily began putting on his coat.
Savely positively neighed with delight when he saw his visitors were getting ready to go.
“Give us a hand,” the driver shouted to him as he lifted up a mail-bag.
The sexton ran out and helped him drag the post-bags into the yard. The postman began undoing the knot in his hood. The sexton’s wife gazed into his eyes, and seemed trying to look right into his soul.
“You ought to have a cup of tea...” she said.
“I wouldn’t say no... but, you see, they’re getting ready,” he assented. “We are late, anyway.”
“Do stay,” she whispered, dropping her eyes and touching him by the sleeve.
The postman got the knot undone at last and flung the hood over his elbow, hesitating. He felt it comfortable standing by Raissa.
“What a... neck you’ve got!...” And he touched her neck with two fingers. Seeing that she did not resist, he stroked her neck and shoulders.
“I say, you are...”
“You’d better stay... have some tea.”
“Where are you putting it?” The driver’s voice could be heard outside. “Lay it crossways.”
“You’d better stay.... Hark how the wind howls.”
And the postman, not yet quite awake, not yet quite able to shake off the intoxicating sleep of youth and fatigue, was suddenly overwhelmed by a desire for the sake of which mail-bags, postal trains... and all things in the world, are forgotten. He glanced at the door in a frightened way, as though he wanted to escape or hide himself, seized Raissa round the waist, and was just bending over the lamp to put out the light, when he heard the tramp of boots in the outer room, and the driver appeared in the doorway. Savely peeped in over his shoulder. The postman dropped his hands quickly and stood still as though irresolute.
“It’s all ready,” said the driver. The postman stood still for a moment, resolutely threw up his head as though waking up completely, and followed the driver out. Raissa was left alone.
“Come, get in and show us the way!” she heard.
One bell sounded languidly, then another, and the jingling notes in a long delicate chain floated away from the hut.
When little by little they had died away, Raissa got up and nervously paced to and fro. At first she was pale, then she flushed all over. Her face was contorted with hate, her breathing was tremulous, her eyes gleamed with wild, savage anger, and, pacing up and down as in a cage, she looked like a tigress menaced with red-hot iron. For a moment she stood still and looked at her abode. Almost half of the room was filled up by the bed, which stretched the length of the whole wall and consisted of a dirty feather-bed, coarse grey pillows, a quilt, and nameless rags of various sorts. The bed was a shapeless ugly mass which suggested the shock of hair that always stood up on Savely’s head whenever it occurred to him to oil it. From the bed to the door that led into the cold outer room stretched the dark stove surrounded by pots and hanging clouts. Everything, including the absent Savely himself, was dirty, greasy, and smutty to the last degree, so that it was strange to see a woman’s white neck and delicate skin in such surroundings.
Raissa ran up to the bed, stretched out her hands as though she wanted to fling it all about, stamp it underfoot, and tear it to shreds. But then, as though frightened by contact with the dirt, she leapt back and began pacing up and down again.
When Savely returned two hours later, worn out and covered with snow, she was undressed and in bed. Her eyes were closed, but from the slight tremor that ran over her face he guessed that she was not asleep. On his way home he had vowed inwardly to wait till next day and not to touch her, but he could not resist a biting taunt at her.
“Your witchery was all in vain: he’s gone off,” he said, grinning with malignant joy.
His wife remained mute, but her chin quivered. Savely undressed slowly, clambered over his wife, and lay down next to the wall.
“To-morrow I’ll let Father Nikodim know what sort of wife you are!” he muttered, curling himself up.
Raissa turned her face to him and her eyes gleamed.
“The job’s enough for you, and you can look for a wife in the forest, blast you!” she said. “I am no wife for you, a clumsy lout, a slug-a-bed, God forgive me!”
“Come, come... go to sleep!”
“How miserable I am!” sobbed his wife. “If it weren’t for you, I might have married a merchant or some gentleman! If it weren’t for you, I should love my husband now! And you haven’t been buried in the snow, you haven’t been frozen on the highroad, you Herod!”
Raissa cried for a long time. At last she drew a deep sigh and was still. The storm still raged without. Something wailed in the stove, in the chimney, outside the walls, and it seemed to Savely that the wailing was within him, in his ears. This evening had completely confirmed him in his suspicions about his wife. He no longer doubted that his wife, with the aid of the Evil One, controlled the winds and the post sledges. But to add to his grief, this mysteriousness, this supernatural, weird power gave the woman beside him a peculiar, incomprehensible charm of which he had not been conscious before. The fact that in his stupidity he unconsciously threw a poetic glamour over her made her seem, as it were, whiter, sleeker, more unapproachable.
“Witch!” he muttered indignantly. “Tfoo, horrid creature!”
Yet, waiting till she was quiet and began breathing evenly, he touched her head with his finger... held her thick plait in his hand for a minute. She did not feel it. Then he grew bolder and stroked her neck.
“Leave off!” she shouted, and prodded him on the nose with her elbow with such violence that he saw stars before his eyes.
The pain in his nose was soon over, but the torture in his heart remained.


5. A HAPPY MAN

THE passenger train is just starting from Bologoe, the junction on the Petersburg-Moscow line. In a second-class smoking compartment five passengers sit dozing, shrouded in the twilight of the carriage. They had just had a meal, and now, snugly ensconced in their seats, they are trying to go to sleep. Stillness.

The door opens and in there walks a tall, lanky figure straight as a poker, with a ginger-coloured hat and a smart overcoat, wonderfully suggestive of a journalist in Jules Verne or on the comic stage.

The figure stands still in the middle of the compartment for a long while, breathing heavily, screwing up his eyes and peering at the seats.

"No, wrong again!" he mutters. "What the deuce! It’s positively revolting! No, the wrong one again!"

One of the passengers stares at the figure and utters a shout of joy:

"Ivan Alexyevitch! what brings you here? Is it you?"

The poker-like gentleman starts, stares blankly at the passenger, and recognizing him claps his hands with delight.

"Ha! Pyotr Petrovitch," he says. "How many summers, how many winters! I didn’t know you were in this train."

"How are you getting on?"

"I am all right; the only thing is, my dear fellow, I’ve lost my compartment and I simply can’t find it. What an idiot I am! I ought to be thrashed!"

The poker-like gentleman sways a little unsteadily and sniggers.

"Queer things do happen!" he continues. "I stepped out just after the second bell to get a glass of brandy. I got it, of course. Well, I thought, since it’s a long way to the next station, it would be as well to have a second glass. While I was thinking about it and drinking it the third bell rang. . . . I ran like mad and jumped into the first carriage. I am an idiot! I am the son of a hen!"

"But you seem in very good spirits," observes Pyotr Petrovitch. "Come and sit down! There’s room and a welcome."

"No, no. . . . I’m off to look for my carriage. Good-bye!"

"You’ll fall between the carriages in the dark if you don’t look out! Sit down, and when we get to a station you’ll find your own compartment. Sit down!"

Ivan Alexyevitch heaves a sigh and irresolutely sits down facing Pyotr Petrovitch. He is visibly excited, and fidgets as though he were sitting on thorns.

"Where are you travelling to?" Pyotr Petrovitch enquires.

"I? Into space. There is such a turmoil in my head that I couldn’t tell where I am going myself. I go where fate takes me. Ha-ha! My dear fellow, have you ever seen a happy fool? No? Well, then, take a look at one. You behold the happiest of mortals! Yes! Don’t you see something from my face?"

"Well, one can see you’re a bit . . . a tiny bit so-so."

"I dare say I look awfully stupid just now. Ach! it’s a pity I haven’t a looking-glass, I should like to look at my counting-house. My dear fellow, I feel I am turning into an idiot, honour bright. Ha-ha! Would you believe it, I’m on my honeymoon. Am I not the son of a hen?"

"You? Do you mean to say you are married?"

"To-day, my dear boy. We came away straight after the wedding."

Congratulations and the usual questions follow. "Well, you are a fellow!" laughs Pyotr Petrovitch. "That’s why you are rigged out such a dandy."

"Yes, indeed. . . . To complete the illusion, I’ve even sprinkled myself with scent. I am over my ears in vanity! No care, no thought, nothing but a sensation of something or other . . . deuce knows what to call it . . . beatitude or something? I’ve never felt so grand in my life!"

Ivan Alexyevitch shuts his eyes and waggles his head.

"I’m revoltingly happy," he says. "Just think; in a minute I shall go to my compartment. There on the seat near the window is sitting a being who is, so to say, devoted to you with her whole being. A little blonde with a little nose . . . little fingers. . . . My little darling! My angel! My little poppet! Phylloxera of my soul! And her little foot! Good God! A little foot not like our beetle-crushers, but something miniature, fairylike, allegorical. I could pick it up and eat it, that little foot! Oh, but you don’t understand! You’re a materialist, of course, you begin analyzing at once, and one thing and another. You are cold-hearted bachelors, that’s what you are! When you get married you’ll think of me. ’Where’s Ivan Alexyevitch now?’ you’ll say. Yes; so in a minute I’m going to my compartment. There she is waiting for me with impatience . . . in joyful anticipation of my appearance. She’ll have a smile to greet me. I sit down beside her and take her chin with my two fingers.

Ivan Alexyevitch waggles his head and goes off into a chuckle of delight.

"Then I lay my noddle on her shoulder and put my arm round her waist. Around all is silence, you know . . . poetic twilight. I could embrace the whole world at such a moment. Pyotr Petrovitch, allow me to embrace you!"

"Delighted, I’m sure." The two friends embrace while the passengers laugh in chorus. And the happy bridegroom continues:

"And to complete the idiocy, or, as the novelists say, to complete the illusion, one goes to the refreshment-room and tosses off two or three glasses. And then something happens in your head and your heart, finer than you can read of in a fairy tale. I am a man of no importance, but I feel as though I were limitless: I embrace the whole world!"

The passengers, looking at the tipsy and blissful bridegroom, are infected by his cheerfulness and no longer feel sleepy. Instead of one listener, Ivan Alexyevitch has now an audience of five. He wriggles and splutters, gesticulates, and prattles on without ceasing. He laughs and they all laugh.

"Gentlemen, gentlemen, don’t think so much! Damn all this analysis! If you want a drink, drink, no need to philosophize as to whether it’s bad for you or not. . . . Damn all this philosophy and psychology!"

The guard walks through the compartment.

"My dear fellow," the bridegroom addresses him, "when you pass through the carriage No. 209 look out for a lady in a grey hat with a white bird and tell her I’m here!"

"Yes, sir. Only there isn’t a No. 209 in this train; there’s 219!"

"Well, 219, then! It’s all the same. Tell that lady, then, that her husband is all right!"

Ivan Alexyevitch suddenly clutches his head and groans:

"Husband. . . . Lady. . . . All in a minute! Husband. . . . Ha-ha! I am a puppy that needs thrashing, and here I am a husband! Ach, idiot! But think of her! . . . Yesterday she was a little girl, a midget . . . it s simply incredible!"

"Nowadays it really seems strange to see a happy man," observes one of the passengers; "one as soon expects to see a white elephant."

"Yes, and whose fault is it?" says Ivan Alexyevitch, stretching his long legs and thrusting out his feet with their very pointed toes. "If you are not happy it’s your own fault! Yes, what else do you suppose it is? Man is the creator of his own happiness. If you want to be happy you will be, but you don’t want to be! You obstinately turn away from happiness."

"Why, what next! How do you make that out?"

"Very simply. Nature has ordained that at a certain stage in his life man should love. When that time comes you should love like a house on fire, but you won’t heed the dictates of nature, you keep waiting for something. What’s more, it’s laid down by law that the normal man should enter upon matrimony. There’s no happiness without marriage. When the propitious moment has come, get married. There’s no use in shilly-shallying. . . . But you don’t get married, you keep waiting for something! Then the Scriptures tell us that ’wine maketh glad the heart of man.’ . . . If you feel happy and you want to feel better still, then go to the refreshment bar and have a drink. The great thing is not to be too clever, but to follow the beaten track! The beaten track is a grand thing!"

"You say that man is the creator of his own happiness. How the devil is he the creator of it when a toothache or an ill-natured mother-in-law is enough to scatter his happiness to the winds? Everything depends on chance. If we had an accident at this moment you’d sing a different tune."

"Stuff and nonsense!" retorts the bridegroom. "Railway accidents only happen once a year. I’m not afraid of an accident, for there is no reason for one. Accidents are exceptional! Confound them! I don’t want to talk of them! Oh, I believe we’re stopping at a station."

"Where are you going now?" asks Pyotr Petrovitch. "To Moscow or somewhere further south?

"Why, bless you! How could I go somewhere further south, when I’m on my way to the north?"

"But Moscow isn’t in the north."

"I know that, but we’re on our way to Petersburg," says Ivan Alexyevitch.

"We are going to Moscow, mercy on us!"

"To Moscow? What do you mean?" says the bridegroom in amazement.

"It’s queer. . . . For what station did you take your ticket?"

"For Petersburg."

"In that case I congratulate you. You’ve got into the wrong train."

There follows a minute of silence. The bridegroom gets up and looks blankly round the company.

"Yes, yes," Pyotr Petrovitch explains. "You must have jumped into the wrong train at Bologoe. . . . After your glass of brandy you succeeded in getting into the down-train."

Ivan Alexyevitch turns pale, clutches his head, and begins pacing rapidly about the carriage.

"Ach, idiot that I am!" he says in indignation. "Scoundrel! The devil devour me! Whatever am I to do now? Why, my wife is in that train! She’s there all alone, expecting me, consumed by anxiety. Ach, I’m a motley fool!"

The bridegroom falls on the seat and writhes as though someone had trodden on his corns.

"I am un-unhappy man!" he moans. "What am I to do, what am I to do?"

"There, there!" the passengers try to console him. "It’s all right. . . . You must telegraph to your wife and try to change into the Petersburg express. In that way you’ll overtake her."

"The Petersburg express!" weeps the bridegroom, the creator of his own happiness. "And how am I to get a ticket for the Petersburg express? All my money is with my wife."

The passengers, laughing and whispering together, make a collection and furnish the happy man with funds.


6. A MISFORTUNE

SOFYA PETROVNA, the wife of Lubyantsev the notary, a handsome young woman of five-and-twenty, was walking slowly along a track that had been cleared in the wood, with Ilyin, a lawyer who was spending the summer in the neighbourhood. It was five o’clock in the evening. Feathery-white masses of cloud stood overhead; patches of bright blue sky peeped out between them. The clouds stood motionless, as though they had caught in the tops of the tall old pine-trees. It was still and sultry.

Farther on, the track was crossed by a low railway embankment on which a sentinel with a gun was for some reason pacing up and down. Just beyond the embankment there was a large white church with six domes and a rusty roof.

"I did not expect to meet you here," said Sofya Petrovna, looking at the ground and prodding at the last year’s leaves with the tip of her parasol, "and now I am glad we have met. I want to speak to you seriously and once for all. I beg you, Ivan Mihalovitch, if you really love and respect me, please make an end of this pursuit of me! You follow me about like a shadow, you are continually looking at me not in a nice way, making love to me, writing me strange letters, and . . . and I don’t know where it’s all going to end! Why, what can come of it?"

Ilyin said nothing. Sofya Petrovna walked on a few steps and continued:

"And this complete transformation in you all came about in the course of two or three weeks, after five years’ friendship. I don’t know you, Ivan Mihalovitch!"

Sofya Petrovna stole a glance at her companion. Screwing up his eyes, he was looking intently at the fluffy clouds. His face looked angry, ill-humoured, and preoccupied, like that of a man in pain forced to listen to nonsense.

"I wonder you don’t see it yourself," Madame Lubyantsev went on, shrugging her shoulders. "You ought to realize that it’s not a very nice part you are playing. I am married; I love and respect my husband. . . . I have a daughter . . . . Can you think all that means nothing? Besides, as an old friend you know my attitude to family life and my views as to the sanctity of marriage."

Ilyin cleared his throat angrily and heaved a sigh.

"Sanctity of marriage . . ." he muttered. "Oh, Lord!"

Yes, yes. . . . I love my husband, I respect him; and in any case I value the peace of my home. I would rather let myself be killed than be a cause of unhappiness to Andrey and his daughter. . . . And I beg you, Ivan Mihalovitch, for God’s sake, leave me in peace! Let us be as good, true friends as we used to be, and give up these sighs and groans, which really don’t suit you. It’s settled and over! Not a word more about it. Let us talk of something else."

Sofya Petrovna again stole a glance at Ilyin’s face. Ilyin was looking up; he was pale, and was angrily biting his quivering lips. She could not understand why he was angry and why he was indignant, but his pallor touched her.

"Don’t be angry; let us be friends," she said affectionately. "Agreed? Here’s my hand."

Ilyin took her plump little hand in both of his, squeezed it, and slowly raised it to his lips.

"I am not a schoolboy," he muttered. "I am not in the least tempted by friendship with the woman I love."

"Enough, enough! It’s settled and done with. We have reached the seat; let us sit down."

Sofya Petrovna’s soul was filled with a sweet sense of relief: the most difficult and delicate thing had been said, the painful question was settled and done with. Now she could breathe freely and look Ilyin straight in the face. She looked at him, and the egoistic feeling of the superiority of the woman over the man who loves her, agreeably flattered her. It pleased her to see this huge, strong man, with his manly, angry face and his big black beard — clever, cultivated, and, people said, talented — sit down obediently beside her and bow his head dejectedly. For two or three minutes they sat without speaking.

"Nothing is settled or done with," began Ilyin. "You repeat copy-book maxims to me. ’I love and respect my husband . . . the sanctity of marriage. . . .’ I know all that without your help, and I could tell you more, too. I tell you truthfully and honestly that I consider the way I am behaving as criminal and immoral. What more can one say than that? But what’s the good of saying what everybody knows? Instead of feeding nightingales with paltry words, you had much better tell me what I am to do."

"I’ve told you already — go away."

"As you know perfectly well, I have gone away five times, and every time I turned back on the way. I can show you my through tickets — I’ve kept them all. I have not will enough to run away from you! I am struggling. I am struggling horribly; but what the devil am I good for if I have no backbone, if I am weak, cowardly! I can’t struggle with Nature! Do you understand? I cannot! I run away from here, and she holds on to me and pulls me back. Contemptible, loathsome weakness!"

Ilyin flushed crimson, got up, and walked up and down by the seat.

"I feel as cross as a dog," he muttered, clenching his fists. "I hate and despise myself! My God! like some depraved schoolboy, I am making love to another man’s wife, writing idiotic letters, degrading myself . . . ugh!"

Ilyin clutched at his head, grunted, and sat down. "And then your insincerity!" he went on bitterly. "If you do dislike my disgusting behaviour, why have you come here? What drew you here? In my letters I only ask you for a direct, definite answer — yes or no; but instead of a direct answer, you contrive every day these ’chance’ meetings with me and regale me with copy-book maxims!"

Madame Lubyantsev was frightened and flushed. She suddenly felt the awkwardness which a decent woman feels when she is accidentally discovered undressed.

"You seem to suspect I am playing with you," she muttered. "I have always given you a direct answer, and . . . only today I’ve begged you . . ."

"Ough! as though one begged in such cases! If you were to say straight out ’Get away,’ I should have been gone long ago; but you’ve never said that. You’ve never once given me a direct answer. Strange indecision! Yes, indeed; either you are playing with me, or else . . ."

Ilyin leaned his head on his fists without finishing. Sofya Petrovna began going over in her own mind the way she had behaved from beginning to end. She remembered that not only in her actions, but even in her secret thoughts, she had always been opposed to Ilyin’s love-making; but yet she felt there was a grain of truth in the lawyer’s words. But not knowing exactly what the truth was, she could not find answers to make to Ilyin’s complaint, however hard she thought. It was awkward to be silent, and, shrugging her shoulders, she said:

So I am to blame, it appears."

"I don’t blame you for your insincerity," sighed Ilyin. "I did not mean that when I spoke of it. . . . Your insincerity is natural and in the order of things. If people agreed together and suddenly became sincere, everything would go to the devil."

Sofya Petrovna was in no mood for philosophical reflections, but she was glad of a chance to change the conversation, and asked:

"But why?"

"Because only savage women and animals are sincere. Once civilization has introduced a demand for such comforts as, for instance, feminine virtue, sincerity is out of place. . . ."

Ilyin jabbed his stick angrily into the sand. Madame Lubyantsev listened to him and liked his conversation, though a great deal of it she did not understand. What gratified her most was that she, an ordinary woman, was talked to by a talented man on "intellectual" subjects; it afforded her great pleasure, too, to watch the working of his mobile, young face, which was still pale and angry. She failed to understand a great deal that he said, but what was clear to her in his words was the attractive boldness with which the modern man without hesitation or doubt decides great questions and draws conclusive deductions.

She suddenly realized that she was admiring him, and was alarmed.

"Forgive me, but I don’t understand," she said hurriedly. "What makes you talk of insincerity? I repeat my request again: be my good, true friend; let me alone! I beg you most earnestly!"

"Very good; I’ll try again," sighed Ilyin. "Glad to do my best. . . . Only I doubt whether anything will come of my efforts. Either I shall put a bullet through my brains or take to drink in an idiotic way. I shall come to a bad end! There’s a limit to everything — to struggles with Nature, too. Tell me, how can one struggle against madness? If you drink wine, how are you to struggle against intoxication? What am I to do if your image has grown into my soul, and day and night stands persistently before my eyes, like that pine there at this moment? Come, tell me, what hard and difficult thing can I do to get free from this abominable, miserable condition, in which all my thoughts, desires, and dreams are no longer my own, but belong to some demon who has taken possession of me? I love you, love you so much that I am completely thrown out of gear; I’ve given up my work and all who are dear to me; I’ve forgotten my God! I’ve never been in love like this in my life."

Sofya Petrovna, who had not expected such a turn to their conversation, drew away from Ilyin and looked into his face in dismay. Tears came into his eyes, his lips were quivering, and there was an imploring, hungry expression in his face.

"I love you!" he muttered, bringing his eyes near her big, frightened eyes. "You are so beautiful! I am in agony now, but I swear I would sit here all my life, suffering and looking in your eyes. But . . . be silent, I implore you!"

Sofya Petrovna, feeling utterly disconcerted, tried to think as quickly as possible of something to say to stop him. "I’ll go away," she decided, but before she had time to make a movement to get up, Ilyin was on his knees before her. . . . He was clasping her knees, gazing into her face and speaking passionately, hotly, eloquently. In her terror and confusion she did not hear his words; for some reason now, at this dangerous moment, while her knees were being agreeably squeezed and felt as though they were in a warm bath, she was trying, with a sort of angry spite, to interpret her own sensations. She was angry that instead of brimming over with protesting virtue, she was entirely overwhelmed with weakness, apathy, and emptiness, like a drunken man utterly reckless; only at the bottom of her soul a remote bit of herself was malignantly taunting her: "Why don’t you go? Is this as it should be? Yes?"

Seeking for some explanation, she could not understand how it was she did not pull away the hand to which Ilyin was clinging like a leech, and why, like Ilyin, she hastily glanced to right and to left to see whether any one was looking. The clouds and the pines stood motionless, looking at them severely, like old ushers seeing mischief, but bribed not to tell the school authorities. The sentry stood like a post on the embankment and seemed to be looking at the seat.

"Let him look," thought Sofya Petrovna.

"But . . . but listen," she said at last, with despair in her voice. "What can come of this? What will be the end of this?"

"I don’t know, I don’t know," he whispered, waving off the disagreeable questions.

They heard the hoarse, discordant whistle of the train. This cold, irrelevant sound from the everyday world of prose made Sofya Petrovna rouse herself.

"I can’t stay . . . it’s time I was at home," she said, getting up quickly. "The train is coming in. . . Andrey is coming by it! He will want his dinner."

Sofya Petrovna turned towards the embankment with a burning face. The engine slowly crawled by, then came the carriages. It was not the local train, as she had supposed, but a goods train. The trucks filed by against the background of the white church in a long string like the days of a man’s life, and it seemed as though it would never end.

But at last the train passed, and the last carriage with the guard and a light in it had disappeared behind the trees. Sofya Petrovna turned round sharply, and without looking at Ilyin, walked rapidly back along the track. She had regained her self-possession. Crimson with shame, humiliated not by Ilyin — no, but by her own cowardice, by the shamelessness with which she, a chaste and high-principled woman, had allowed a man, not her husband, to hug her knees — she had only one thought now: to get home as quickly as possible to her villa, to her family. The lawyer could hardly keep pace with her. Turning from the clearing into a narrow path, she turned round and glanced at him so quickly that she saw nothing but the sand on his knees, and waved to him to drop behind.

Reaching home, Sofya Petrovna stood in the middle of her room for five minutes without moving, and looked first at the window and then at her writing-table.

"You low creature!" she said, upbraiding herself. "You low creature!"

To spite herself, she recalled in precise detail, keeping nothing back — she recalled that though all this time she had been opposed to Ilyin’s lovemaking, something had impelled her to seek an interview with him; and what was more, when he was at her feet she had enjoyed it enormously. She recalled it all without sparing herself, and now, breathless with shame, she would have liked to slap herself in the face.

"Poor Andrey!" she said to herself, trying as she thought of her husband to put into her face as tender an expression as she could. "Varya, my poor little girl, doesn’t know what a mother she has! Forgive me, my dear ones! I love you so much . . . so much!"

And anxious to prove to herself that she was still a good wife and mother, and that corruption had not yet touched that "sanctity of marriage" of which she had spoken to Ilyin, Sofya Petrovna ran to the kitchen and abused the cook for not having yet laid the table for Andrey Ilyitch. She tried to picture her husband’s hungry and exhausted appearance, commiserated him aloud, and laid the table for him with her own hands, which she had never done before. Then she found her daughter Varya, picked her up in her arms and hugged her warmly; the child seemed to her cold and heavy, but she was unwilling to acknowledge this to herself, and she began explaining to the child how good, kind, and honourable her papa was.

But when Andrey Ilyitch arrived soon afterwards she hardly greeted him. The rush of false feeling had already passed off without proving anything to her, only irritating and exasperating her by its falsity. She was sitting by the window, feeling miserable and cross. It is only by being in trouble that people can understand how far from easy it is to be the master of one’s feelings and thoughts. Sofya Petrovna said afterwards that there was a tangle within her which it was as difficult to unravel as to count a flock of sparrows rapidly flying by. From the fact that she was not overjoyed to see her husband, that she did not like his manner at dinner, she concluded all of a sudden that she was beginning to hate her husband

Andrey Ilyitch, languid with hunger and exhaustion, fell upon the sausage while waiting for the soup to be brought in, and ate it greedily, munching noisily and moving his temples.

"My goodness!" thought Sofya Petrovna. "I love and respect him, but . . . why does he munch so repulsively?"

The disorder in her thoughts was no less than the disorder in her feelings. Like all persons inexperienced in combating unpleasant ideas, Madame Lubyantsev did her utmost not to think of her trouble, and the harder she tried the more vividly Ilyin, the sand on his knees, the fluffy clouds, the train, stood out in her imagination.

"And why did I go there this afternoon like a fool?" she thought, tormenting herself. "And am I really so weak that I cannot depend upon myself?"

Fear magnifies danger. By the time Andrey Ilyitch was finishing the last course, she had firmly made up her mind to tell her husband everything and to flee from danger!

"I’ve something serious to say to you, Andrey," she began after dinner while her husband was taking off his coat and boots to lie down for a nap.

"Well?"

"Let us leave this place!"

" H’m! . . . Where shall we go? It’s too soon to go back to town."

"No; for a tour or something of that sort.

"For a tour . . ." repeated the notary, stretching. "I dream of that myself, but where are we to get the money, and to whom am I to leave the office?"

And thinking a little he added:

"Of course, you must be bored. Go by yourself if you like."

Sofya Petrovna agreed, but at once reflected that Ilyin would be delighted with the opportunity, and would go with her in the same train, in the same compartment. . . . She thought and looked at her husband, now satisfied but still languid. For some reason her eyes rested on his feet — miniature, almost feminine feet, clad in striped socks; there was a thread standing out at the tip of each sock.

Behind the blind a bumble-bee was beating itself against the window-pane and buzzing. Sofya Petrovna looked at the threads on the socks, listened to the bee, and pictured how she would set off. . . . vis-à-vis Ilyin would sit, day and night, never taking his eyes off her, wrathful at his own weakness and pale with spiritual agony. He would call himself an immoral schoolboy, would abuse her, tear his hair, but when darkness came on and the passengers were asleep or got out at a station, he would seize the opportunity to kneel before her and embrace her knees as he had at the seat in the wood. . . .

She caught herself indulging in this day-dream.

"Listen. I won’t go alone," she said. "You must come with me."

"Nonsense, Sofotchka!" sighed Lubyantsev. "One must be sensible and not want the impossible."

"You will come when you know all about it," thought Sofya Petrovna.

Making up her mind to go at all costs, she felt that she was out of danger. Little by little her ideas grew clearer; her spirits rose and she allowed herself to think about it all, feeling that however much she thought, however much she dreamed, she would go away. While her husband was asleep, the evening gradually came on. She sat in the drawing-room and played the piano. The greater liveliness out of doors, the sound of music, but above all the thought that she was a sensible person, that she had surmounted her difficulties, completely restored her spirits. Other women, her appeased conscience told her, would probably have been carried off their feet in her position, and would have lost their balance, while she had almost died of shame, had been miserable, and was now running out of the danger which perhaps did not exist! She was so touched by her own virtue and determination that she even looked at herself two or three times in the looking-glass.

When it got dark, visitors arrived. The men sat down in the dining-room to play cards; the ladies remained in the drawing-room and the verandah. The last to arrive was Ilyin. He was gloomy, morose, and looked ill. He sat down in the corner of the sofa and did not move the whole evening. Usually good-humoured and talkative, this time he remained silent, frowned, and rubbed his eyebrows. When he had to answer some question, he gave a forced smile with his upper lip only, and answered jerkily and irritably. Four or five times he made some jest, but his jests sounded harsh and cutting. It seemed to Sofya Petrovna that he was on the verge of hysterics. Only now, sitting at the piano, she recognized fully for the first time that this unhappy man was in deadly earnest, that his soul was sick, and that he could find no rest. For her sake he was wasting the best days of his youth and his career, spending the last of his money on a summer villa, abandoning his mother and sisters, and, worst of all, wearing himself out in an agonizing struggle with himself. From mere common humanity he ought to be treated seriously.

She recognized all this clearly till it made her heart ache, and if at that moment she had gone up to him and said to him, "No," there would have been a force in her voice hard to disobey. But she did not go up to him and did not speak — indeed, never thought of doing so. The pettiness and egoism of youth had never been more patent in her than that evening. She realized that Ilyin was unhappy, and that he was sitting on the sofa as though he were on hot coals; she felt sorry for him, but at the same time the presence of a man who loved her to distraction, filled her soul with triumph and a sense of her own power. She felt her youth, her beauty, and her unassailable virtue, and, since she had decided to go away, gave herself full licence for that evening. She flirted, laughed incessantly, sang with peculiar feeling and gusto. Everything delighted and amused her. She was amused at the memory of what had happened at the seat in the wood, of the sentinel who had looked on. She was amused by her guests, by Ilyin’s cutting jests, by the pin in his cravat, which she had never noticed before. There was a red snake with diamond eyes on the pin; this snake struck her as so amusing that she could have kissed it on the spot.

Sofya Petrovna sang nervously, with defiant recklessness as though half intoxicated, and she chose sad, mournful songs which dealt with wasted hopes, the past, old age, as though in mockery of another’s grief. " ’And old age comes nearer and nearer’ . . ." she sang. And what was old age to her?

"It seems as though there is something going wrong with me," she thought from time to time through her laughter and singing.

The party broke up at twelve o’clock. Ilyin was the last to leave. Sofya Petrovna was still reckless enough to accompany him to the bottom step of the verandah. She wanted to tell him that she was going away with her husband, and to watch the effect this news would produce on him.

The moon was hidden behind the clouds, but it was light enough for Sofya Petrovna to see how the wind played with the skirts of his overcoat and with the awning of the verandah. She could see, too, how white Ilyin was, and how he twisted his upper lip in the effort to smile.

"Sonia, Sonitchka . . . my darling woman!" he muttered, preventing her from speaking. "My dear! my sweet!"

In a rush of tenderness, with tears in his voice, he showered caressing words upon her, that grew tenderer and tenderer, and even called her "thou," as though she were his wife or mistress. Quite unexpectedly he put one arm round her waist and with the other hand took hold of her elbow.

"My precious! my delight!" he whispered, kissing the nape of her neck; "be sincere; come to me at once!"

She slipped out of his arms and raised her head to give vent to her indignation and anger, but the indignation did not come off, and all her vaunted virtue and chastity was only sufficient to enable her to utter the phrase used by all ordinary women on such occasions:

"You must be mad."

"Come, let us go," Ilyin continued. "I felt just now, as well as at the seat in the wood, that you are as helpless as I am, Sonia. . . . You are in the same plight! You love me and are fruitlessly trying to appease your conscience. . . ."

Seeing that she was moving away, he caught her by her lace cuff and said rapidly:

"If not today, then tomorrow you will have to give in! Why, then, this waste of time? My precious, darling Sonia, the sentence is passed; why put off the execution? Why deceive yourself?"

Sofya Petrovna tore herself from him and darted in at the door. Returning to the drawing-room, she mechanically shut the piano, looked for a long time at the music-stand, and sat down. She could not stand up nor think. All that was left of her excitement and recklessness was a fearful weakness, apathy, and dreariness. Her conscience whispered to her that she had behaved badly, foolishly, that evening, like some madcap girl — that she had just been embraced on the verandah, and still had an uneasy feeling in her waist and her elbow. There was not a soul in the drawing-room; there was only one candle burning. Madame Lubyantsev sat on the round stool before the piano, motionless, as though expecting something. And as though taking advantage of the darkness and her extreme lassitude, an oppressive, overpowering desire began to assail her. Like a boa-constrictor it gripped her limbs and her soul, and grew stronger every second, and no longer menaced her as it had done, but stood clear before her in all its nakedness.

She sat for half an hour without stirring, not restraining herself from thinking of Ilyin, then she got up languidly and dragged herself to her bedroom. Andrey Ilyitch was already in bed. She sat down by the open window and gave herself up to desire. There was no "tangle" now in her head; all her thoughts and feelings were bent with one accord upon a single aim. She tried to struggle against it, but instantly gave it up. . . . She understood now how strong and relentless was the foe. Strength and fortitude were needed to combat him, and her birth, her education, and her life had given her nothing to fall back upon.

"Immoral wretch! Low creature!" she nagged at herself for her weakness. "So that’s what you’re like!"

Her outraged sense of propriety was moved to such indignation by this weakness that she lavished upon herself every term of abuse she knew, and told herself many offensive and humiliating truths. So, for instance, she told herself that she never had been moral, that she had not come to grief before simply because she had had no opportunity, that her inward conflict during that day had all been a farce. . . .

"And even if I have struggled," she thought, "what sort of struggle was it? Even the woman who sells herself struggles before she brings herself to it, and yet she sells herself. A fine struggle! Like milk, I’ve turned in a day! In one day!"

She convicted herself of being tempted, not by feeling, not by Ilyin personally, but by sensations which awaited her . . . an idle lady, having her fling in the summer holidays, like so many!

" ’Like an unfledged bird when the mother has been slain,’ " sang a husky tenor outside the window.

"If I am to go, it’s time," thought Sofya Petrovna. Her heart suddenly began beating violently.

"Andrey!" she almost shrieked. "Listen! we . . . we are going? Yes?"

"Yes, I’ve told you already: you go alone."

"But listen," she began. "If you don’t go with me, you are in danger of losing me. I believe I am . . . in love already."

"With whom?" asked Andrey Ilyitch.

"It can’t make any difference to you who it is!" cried Sofya Petrovna.

Andrey Ilyitch sat up with his feet out of bed and looked wonderingly at his wife’s dark figure.

"It’s a fancy!" he yawned.

He did not believe her, but yet he was frightened. After thinking a little and asking his wife several unimportant questions, he delivered himself of his opinions on the family, on infidelity . . . spoke listlessly for about ten minutes and got into bed again. His moralizing produced no effect. There are a great many opinions in the world, and a good half of them are held by people who have never been in trouble!

In spite of the late hour, summer visitors were still walking outside. Sofya Petrovna put on a light cape, stood a little, thought a little. . . . She still had resolution enough to say to her sleeping husband:

"Are you asleep? I am going for a walk. . . . Will you come with me?"

That was her last hope. Receiving no answer, she went out. . . . It was fresh and windy. She was conscious neither of the wind nor the darkness, but went on and on. . . . An overmastering force drove her on, and it seemed as though, if she had stopped, it would have pushed her in the back.

"Immoral creature!" she muttered mechanically. "Low wretch!"

She was breathless, hot with shame, did not feel her legs under her, but what drove her on was stronger than shame, reason, or fear.


7. AN INCIDENT

MORNING. Brilliant sunshine is piercing through the frozen lacework on the window-panes into the nursery. Vanya, a boy of six, with a cropped head and a nose like a button, and his sister Nina, a short, chubby, curly-headed girl of four, wake up and look crossly at each other through the bars of their cots.
“Oo-oo-oo! naughty children!” grumbles their nurse. “Good people have had their breakfast already, while you can’t get your eyes open.”
The sunbeams frolic over the rugs, the walls, and nurse’s skirts, and seem inviting the children to join in their play, but they take no notice. They have woken up in a bad humour. Nina pouts, makes a grimace, and begins to whine:
“Brea-eakfast, nurse, breakfast!”
Vanya knits his brows and ponders what to pitch upon to howl over. He has already begun screwing up his eyes and opening his mouth, but at that instant the voice of mamma reaches them from the drawing-room, saying: “Don’t forget to give the cat her milk, she has a family now!”
The children’s puckered countenances grow smooth again as they look at each other in astonishment. Then both at once begin shouting, jump out of their cots, and filling the air with piercing shrieks, run barefoot, in their nightgowns, to the kitchen.
“The cat has puppies!” they cry. “The cat has got puppies!”
Under the bench in the kitchen there stands a small box, the one in which Stepan brings coal when he lights the fire. The cat is peeping out of the box. There is an expression of extreme exhaustion on her grey face; her green eyes, with their narrow black pupils, have a languid, sentimental look. From her face it is clear that the only thing lacking to complete her happiness is the presence in the box of “him,” the father of her children, to whom she had abandoned herself so recklessly! She wants to mew, and opens her mouth wide, but nothing but a hiss comes from her throat; the squealing of the kittens is audible.
The children squat on their heels before the box, and, motionless, holding their breath, gaze at the cat. . . . They are surprised, impressed, and do not hear nurse grumbling as she pursues them. The most genuine delight shines in the eyes of both.
Domestic animals play a scarcely noticed but undoubtedly beneficial part in the education and life of children. Which of us does not remember powerful but magnanimous dogs, lazy lapdogs, birds dying in captivity, dull-witted but haughty turkeys, mild old tabby cats, who forgave us when we trod on their tails for fun and caused them agonising pain? I even fancy, sometimes, that the patience, the fidelity, the readiness to forgive, and the sincerity which are characteristic of our domestic animals have a far stronger and more definite effect on the mind of a child than the long exhortations of some dry, pale Karl Karlovitch, or the misty expositions of a governess, trying to prove to children that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen.
“What little things!” says Nina, opening her eyes wide and going off into a joyous laugh. “They are like mice!”
“One, two, three,” Vanya counts. “Three kittens. So there is one for you, one for me, and one for somebody else, too.”
“Murrm . . . murrm . . .” purrs the mother, flattered by their attention. “Murrm.”
After gazing at the kittens, the children take them from under the cat, and begin squeezing them in their hands, then, not satisfied with this, they put them in the skirts of their nightgowns, and run into the other rooms.
“Mamma, the cat has got pups!” they shout.
Mamma is sitting in the drawing-room with some unknown gentleman. Seeing the children unwashed, undressed, with their nightgowns held up high, she is embarrassed, and looks at them severely.
“Let your nightgowns down, disgraceful children,” she says. “Go out of the room, or I will punish you.”
But the children do not notice either mamma’s threats or the presence of a stranger. They put the kittens down on the carpet, and go off into deafening squeals. The mother walks round them, mewing imploringly. When, a little afterwards, the children are dragged off to the nursery, dressed, made to say their prayers, and given their breakfast, they are full of a passionate desire to get away from these prosaic duties as quickly as possible, and to run to the kitchen again.
Their habitual pursuits and games are thrown completely into the background.
The kittens throw everything into the shade by making their appearance in the world, and supply the great sensation of the day. If Nina or Vanya had been offered forty pounds of sweets or ten thousand kopecks for each kitten, they would have rejected such a barter without the slightest hesitation. In spite of the heated protests of the nurse and the cook, the children persist in sitting by the cat’s box in the kitchen, busy with the kittens till dinner-time. Their faces are earnest and concentrated and express anxiety. They are worried not so much by the present as by the future of the kittens. They decide that one kitten shall remain at home with the old cat to be a comfort to her mother, while the second shall go to their summer villa, and the third shall live in the cellar, where there are ever so many rats.
“But why don’t they look at us?” Nina wondered. “Their eyes are blind like the beggars’.”
Vanya, too, is perturbed by this question. He tries to open one kitten’s eyes, and spends a long time puffing and breathing hard over it, but his operation is unsuccessful. They are a good deal troubled, too, by the circumstance that the kittens obstinately refuse the milk and the meat that is offered to them. Everything that is put before their little noses is eaten by their grey mamma.
“Let’s build the kittens little houses,” Vanya suggests. “They shall live in different houses, and the cat shall come and pay them visits. . . .”
Cardboard hat-boxes are put in the different corners of the kitchen and the kittens are installed in them. But this division turns out to be premature; the cat, still wearing an imploring and sentimental expression on her face, goes the round of all the hat-boxes, and carries off her children to their original position.
“The cat’s their mother,” observed Vanya, “but who is their father?”
“Yes, who is their father?” repeats Nina.
“They must have a father.”
Vanya and Nina are a long time deciding who is to be the kittens’ father, and, in the end, their choice falls on a big dark-red horse without a tail, which is lying in the store-cupboard under the stairs, together with other relics of toys that have outlived their day. They drag him up out of the store-cupboard and stand him by the box.
“Mind now!” they admonish him, “stand here and see they behave themselves properly.”
All this is said and done in the gravest way, with an expression of anxiety on their faces. Vanya and Nina refuse to recognise the existence of any world but the box of kittens. Their joy knows no bounds. But they have to pass through bitter, agonising moments, too.
Just before dinner, Vanya is sitting in his father’s study, gazing dreamily at the table. A kitten is moving about by the lamp, on stamped note paper. Vanya is watching its movements, and thrusting first a pencil, then a match into its little mouth. . . . All at once, as though he has sprung out of the floor, his father is beside the table.
“What’s this?” Vanya hears, in an angry voice.
“It’s . . . it’s the kitty, papa. . . .”
“I’ll give it you; look what you have done, you naughty boy! You’ve dirtied all my paper!”
To Vanya’s great surprise his papa does not share his partiality for the kittens, and, instead of being moved to enthusiasm and delight, he pulls Vanya’s ear and shouts:
“Stepan, take away this horrid thing.”
At dinner, too, there is a scene. . . . During the second course there is suddenly the sound of a shrill mew. They begin to investigate its origin, and discover a kitten under Nina’s pinafore.
“Nina, leave the table!” cries her father angrily. “Throw the kittens in the cesspool! I won’t have the nasty things in the house! . . .”
Vanya and Nina are horrified. Death in the cesspool, apart from its cruelty, threatens to rob the cat and the wooden horse of their children, to lay waste the cat’s box, to destroy their plans for the future, that fair future in which one cat will be a comfort to its old mother, another will live in the country, while the third will catch rats in the cellar. The children begin to cry and entreat that the kittens may be spared. Their father consents, but on the condition that the children do not go into the kitchen and touch the kittens.
After dinner, Vanya and Nina slouch about the rooms, feeling depressed. The prohibition of visits to the kitchen has reduced them to dejection. They refuse sweets, are naughty, and are rude to their mother. When their uncle Petrusha comes in the evening, they draw him aside, and complain to him of their father, who wanted to throw the kittens into the cesspool.
“Uncle Petrusha, tell mamma to have the kittens taken to the nursery,” the children beg their uncle, “do-o tell her.”
“There, there . . . very well,” says their uncle, waving them off. “All right.”
Uncle Petrusha does not usually come alone. He is accompanied by Nero, a big black dog of Danish breed, with drooping ears, and a tail as hard as a stick. The dog is silent, morose, and full of a sense of his own dignity. He takes not the slightest notice of the children, and when he passes them hits them with his tail as though they were chairs. The children hate him from the bottom of their hearts, but on this occasion, practical considerations override sentiment.
“I say, Nina,” says Vanya, opening his eyes wide. “Let Nero be their father, instead of the horse! The horse is dead and he is alive, you see.”
They are waiting the whole evening for the moment when papa will sit down to his cards and it will be possible to take Nero to the kitchen without being observed. . . . At last, papa sits down to cards, mamma is busy with the samovar and not noticing the children. . . .
The happy moment arrives.
“Come along!” Vanya whispers to his sister.
But, at that moment, Stepan comes in and, with a snigger, announces:
“Nero has eaten the kittens, madam.”
Nina and Vanya turn pale and look at Stepan with horror.
“He really has . . .” laughs the footman, “he went to the box and gobbled them up.”
The children expect that all the people in the house will be aghast and fall upon the miscreant Nero. But they all sit calmly in their seats, and only express surprise at the appetite of the huge dog. Papa and mamma laugh. Nero walks about by the table, wags his tail, and licks his lips complacently . . . the cat is the only one who is uneasy. With her tail in the air she walks about the rooms, looking suspiciously at people and mewing plaintively.
“Children, it’s past nine,” cries mamma, “it’s bedtime.”
Vanya and Nina go to bed, shed tears, and spend a long time thinking about the injured cat, and the cruel, insolent, and unpunished Nero.


8. THE BEGGAR

“KIND sir, be so good as to notice a poor, hungry man. I have not tasted food for three days. I have not a five-kopeck piece for a night’s lodging. I swear by God! For five years I was a village schoolmaster and lost my post through the intrigues of the Zemstvo. I was the victim of false witness. I have been out of a place for a year now.”
Skvortsov, a Petersburg lawyer, looked at the speaker’s tattered dark blue overcoat, at his muddy, drunken eyes, at the red patches on his cheeks, and it seemed to him that he had seen the man before.
“And now I am offered a post in the Kaluga province,” the beggar continued, “but I have not the means for the journey there. Graciously help me! I am ashamed to ask, but . . . I am compelled by circumstances.”
Skvortsov looked at his goloshes, of which one was shallow like a shoe, while the other came high up the leg like a boot, and suddenly remembered.
“Listen, the day before yesterday I met you in Sadovoy Street,” he said, “and then you told me, not that you were a village schoolmaster, but that you were a student who had been expelled. Do you remember?”
“N-o. No, that cannot be so!” the beggar muttered in confusion. “I am a village schoolmaster, and if you wish it I can show you documents to prove it.”
“That’s enough lies! You called yourself a student, and even told me what you were expelled for. Do you remember?”
Skvortsov flushed, and with a look of disgust on his face turned away from the ragged figure.
“It’s contemptible, sir!” he cried angrily. “It’s a swindle! I’ll hand you over to the police, damn you! You are poor and hungry, but that does not give you the right to lie so shamelessly!”
The ragged figure took hold of the door-handle and, like a bird in a snare, looked round the hall desperately.
“I . . . I am not lying,” he muttered. “I can show documents.”
“Who can believe you?” Skvortsov went on, still indignant. “To exploit the sympathy of the public for village schoolmasters and students—it’s so low, so mean, so dirty! It’s revolting!”
Skvortsov flew into a rage and gave the beggar a merciless scolding. The ragged fellow’s insolent lying aroused his disgust and aversion, was an offence against what he, Skvortsov, loved and prized in himself: kindliness, a feeling heart, sympathy for the unhappy. By his lying, by his treacherous assault upon compassion, the individual had, as it were, defiled the charity which he liked to give to the poor with no misgivings in his heart. The beggar at first defended himself, protested with oaths, then he sank into silence and hung his head, overcome with shame.
“Sir!” he said, laying his hand on his heart, “I really was . . . lying! I am not a student and not a village schoolmaster. All that’s mere invention! I used to be in the Russian choir, and I was turned out of it for drunkenness. But what can I do? Believe me, in God’s name, I can’t get on without lying—when I tell the truth no one will give me anything. With the truth one may die of hunger and freeze without a night’s lodging! What you say is true, I understand that, but . . . what am I to do?”
“What are you to do? You ask what are you to do?” cried Skvortsov, going close up to him. “Work—that’s what you must do! You must work!”
“Work. . . . I know that myself, but where can I get work?”
“Nonsense. You are young, strong, and healthy, and could always find work if you wanted to. But you know you are lazy, pampered, drunken! You reek of vodka like a pothouse! You have become false and corrupt to the marrow of your bones and fit for nothing but begging and lying! If you do graciously condescend to take work, you must have a job in an office, in the Russian choir, or as a billiard-marker, where you will have a salary and have nothing to do! But how would you like to undertake manual labour? I’ll be bound, you wouldn’t be a house porter or a factory hand! You are too genteel for that!”
“What things you say, really . . .” said the beggar, and he gave a bitter smile. “How can I get manual work? It’s rather late for me to be a shopman, for in trade one has to begin from a boy; no one would take me as a house porter, because I am not of that class . . . . And I could not get work in a factory; one must know a trade, and I know nothing.”
“Nonsense! You always find some justification! Wouldn’t you like to chop wood?”
“I would not refuse to, but the regular woodchoppers are out of work now.”
“Oh, all idlers argue like that! As soon as you are offered anything you refuse it. Would you care to chop wood for me?”
“Certainly I will. . .”
“Very good, we shall see. . . . Excellent. We’ll see!” Skvortsov, in nervous haste; and not without malignant pleasure, rubbing his hands, summoned his cook from the kitchen.
“Here, Olga,” he said to her, “take this gentleman to the shed and let him chop some wood.”
The beggar shrugged his shoulders as though puzzled, and irresolutely followed the cook. It was evident from his demeanour that he had consented to go and chop wood, not because he was hungry and wanted to earn money, but simply from shame and amour propre, because he had been taken at his word. It was clear, too, that he was suffering from the effects of vodka, that he was unwell, and felt not the faintest inclination to work.
Skvortsov hurried into the dining-room. There from the window which looked out into the yard he could see the woodshed and everything that happened in the yard. Standing at the window, Skvortsov saw the cook and the beggar come by the back way into the yard and go through the muddy snow to the woodshed. Olga scrutinized her companion angrily, and jerking her elbow unlocked the woodshed and angrily banged the door open.
“Most likely we interrupted the woman drinking her coffee,” thought Skvortsov. “What a cross creature she is!”
Then he saw the pseudo-schoolmaster and pseudo-student seat himself on a block of wood, and, leaning his red cheeks upon his fists, sink into thought. The cook flung an axe at his feet, spat angrily on the ground, and, judging by the expression of her lips, began abusing him. The beggar drew a log of wood towards him irresolutely, set it up between his feet, and diffidently drew the axe across it. The log toppled and fell over. The beggar drew it towards him, breathed on his frozen hands, and again drew the axe along it as cautiously as though he were afraid of its hitting his golosh or chopping off his fingers. The log fell over again.
Skvortsov’s wrath had passed off by now, he felt sore and ashamed at the thought that he had forced a pampered, drunken, and perhaps sick man to do hard, rough work in the cold.
“Never mind, let him go on . . .” he thought, going from the dining-room into his study. “I am doing it for his good!”
An hour later Olga appeared and announced that the wood had been chopped up.
“Here, give him half a rouble,” said Skvortsov. “If he likes, let him come and chop wood on the first of every month. . . . There will always be work for him.”
On the first of the month the beggar turned up and again earned half a rouble, though he could hardly stand. From that time forward he took to turning up frequently, and work was always found for him: sometimes he would sweep the snow into heaps, or clear up the shed, at another he used to beat the rugs and the mattresses. He always received thirty to forty kopecks for his work, and on one occasion an old pair of trousers was sent out to him.
When he moved, Skvortsov engaged him to assist in packing and moving the furniture. On this occasion the beggar was sober, gloomy, and silent; he scarcely touched the furniture, walked with hanging head behind the furniture vans, and did not even try to appear busy; he merely shivered with the cold, and was overcome with confusion when the men with the vans laughed at his idleness, feebleness, and ragged coat that had once been a gentleman’s. After the removal Skvortsov sent for him.
“Well, I see my words have had an effect upon you,” he said, giving him a rouble. “This is for your work. I see that you are sober and not disinclined to work. What is your name?”
“Lushkov.”
“I can offer you better work, not so rough, Lushkov. Can you write?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Then go with this note to-morrow to my colleague and he will give you some copying to do. Work, don’t drink, and don’t forget what I said to you. Good-bye.”
Skvortsov, pleased that he had put a man in the path of rectitude, patted Lushkov genially on the shoulder, and even shook hands with him at parting.
Lushkov took the letter, departed, and from that time forward did not come to the back-yard for work.
Two years passed. One day as Skvortsov was standing at the ticket-office of a theatre, paying for his ticket, he saw beside him a little man with a lambskin collar and a shabby cat’s-skin cap. The man timidly asked the clerk for a gallery ticket and paid for it with kopecks.
“Lushkov, is it you?” asked Skvortsov, recognizing in the little man his former woodchopper. “Well, what are you doing? Are you getting on all right?”
“Pretty well. . . . I am in a notary’s office now. I earn thirty-five roubles.”
“Well, thank God, that’s capital. I rejoice for you. I am very, very glad, Lushkov. You know, in a way, you are my godson. It was I who shoved you into the right way. Do you remember what a scolding I gave you, eh? You almost sank through the floor that time. Well, thank you, my dear fellow, for remembering my words.”
“Thank you too,” said Lushkov. “If I had not come to you that day, maybe I should be calling myself a schoolmaster or a student still. Yes, in your house I was saved, and climbed out of the pit.”
“I am very, very glad.”
“Thank you for your kind words and deeds. What you said that day was excellent. I am grateful to you and to your cook, God bless that kind, noble-hearted woman. What you said that day was excellent; I am indebted to you as long as I live, of course, but it was your cook, Olga, who really saved me.”
“How was that?”
“Why, it was like this. I used to come to you to chop wood and she would begin: ‘Ah, you drunkard! You God-forsaken man! And yet death does not take you!’ and then she would sit opposite me, lamenting, looking into my face and wailing: ‘You unlucky fellow! You have no gladness in this world, and in the next you will burn in hell, poor drunkard! You poor sorrowful creature!’ and she always went on in that style, you know. How often she upset herself, and how many tears she shed over me I can’t tell you. But what affected me most—she chopped the wood for me! Do you know, sir, I never chopped a single log for you—she did it all! How it was she saved me, how it was I changed, looking at her, and gave up drinking, I can’t explain. I only know that what she said and the noble way she behaved brought about a change in my soul, and I shall never forget it. It’s time to go up, though, they are just going to ring the bell.”
Lushkov bowed and went off to the gallery.


9. DRUNK

A MANUFACTURER called Frolov, a handsome dark man with a round beard, and a soft, velvety expression in his eyes, and Almer, his lawyer, an elderly man with a big rough head, were drinking in one of the public rooms of a restaurant on the outskirts of the town. They had both come to the restaurant straight from a ball and so were wearing dress coats and white ties. Except them and the waiters at the door there was not a soul in the room; by Frolov’s orders no one else was admitted.
They began by drinking a big wine-glass of vodka and eating oysters.
“Good!” said Almer. “It was I brought oysters into fashion for the first course, my boy. The vodka burns and stings your throat and you have a voluptuous sensation in your throat when you swallow an oyster. Don’t you?”
A dignified waiter with a shaven upper lip and grey whiskers put a sauceboat on the table.
“What’s that you are serving?” asked Frolov.
“Sauce Provençale for the herring, sir. . . .”
“What! is that the way to serve it?” shouted Frolov, not looking into the sauceboat. “Do you call that sauce? You don’t know how to wait, you blockhead!”
Frolov’s velvety eyes flashed. He twisted a corner of the table-cloth round his finger, made a slight movement, and the dishes, the candlesticks, and the bottles, all jingling and clattering, fell with a crash on the floor.
The waiters, long accustomed to pot-house catastrophes, ran up to the table and began picking up the fragments with grave and unconcerned faces, like surgeons at an operation.
“How well you know how to manage them!” said Almer, and he laughed. “But . . . move a little away from the table or you will step in the caviare.”
“Call the engineer here!” cried Frolov.
This was the name given to a decrepit, doleful old man who really had once been an engineer and very well off; he had squandered all his property and towards the end of his life had got into a restaurant where he looked after the waiters and singers and carried out various commissions relating to the fair sex. Appearing at the summons, he put his head on one side respectfully.
“Listen, my good man,” Frolov said, addressing him. “What’s the meaning of this disorder? How queerly you fellows wait! Don’t you know that I don’t like it? Devil take you, I shall give up coming to you!”
“I beg you graciously to excuse it, Alexey Semyonitch!” said the engineer, laying his hand on his heart. “I will take steps immediately, and your slightest wishes shall be carried out in the best and speediest way.”
“Well, that’ll do, you can go. . . .”
The engineer bowed, staggered back, still doubled up, and disappeared through the doorway with a final flash of the false diamonds on his shirt-front and fingers.
The table was laid again. Almer drank red wine and ate with relish some sort of bird served with truffles, and ordered a matelote of eelpouts and a sterlet with its tail in its mouth. Frolov only drank vodka and ate nothing but bread. He rubbed his face with his open hands, scowled, and was evidently out of humour. Both were silent. There was a stillness. Two electric lights in opaque shades flickered and hissed as though they were angry. The gypsy girls passed the door, softly humming.
“One drinks and is none the merrier,” said Frolov. “The more I pour into myself, the more sober I become. Other people grow festive with vodka, but I suffer from anger, disgusting thoughts, sleeplessness. Why is it, old man, that people don’t invent some other pleasure besides drunkenness and debauchery? It’s really horrible!”
“You had better send for the gypsy girls.”
“Confound them!”
The head of an old gypsy woman appeared in the door from the passage.
“Alexey Semyonitch, the gypsies are asking for tea and brandy,” said the old woman. “May we order it?”
“Yes,” answered Frolov. “You know they get a percentage from the restaurant keeper for asking the visitors to treat them. Nowadays you can’t even believe a man when he asks for vodka. The people are all mean, vile, spoilt. Take these waiters, for instance. They have countenances like professors, and grey heads; they get two hundred roubles a month, they live in houses of their own and send their girls to the high school, but you may swear at them and give yourself airs as much as you please. For a rouble the engineer will gulp down a whole pot of mustard and crow like a cock. On my honour, if one of them would take offence I would make him a present of a thousand roubles.”
“What’s the matter with you?” said Almer, looking at him with surprise. “Whence this melancholy? You are red in the face, you look like a wild animal. . . . What’s the matter with you?”
“It’s horrid. There’s one thing I can’t get out of my head. It seems as though it is nailed there and it won’t come out.”
A round little old man, buried in fat and completely bald, wearing a short reefer jacket and lilac waistcoat and carrying a guitar, walked into the room. He made an idiotic face, drew himself up, and saluted like a soldier.
“Ah, the parasite!” said Frolov, “let me introduce him, he has made his fortune by grunting like a pig. Come here!” He poured vodka, wine, and brandy into a glass, sprinkled pepper and salt into it, mixed it all up and gave it to the parasite. The latter tossed it off and smacked his lips with gusto.
“He’s accustomed to drink a mess so that pure wine makes him sick,” said Frolov. “Come, parasite, sit down and sing.”
The old man sat down, touched the strings with his fat fingers, and began singing:
Neetka, neetka, Margareetka. . . .
After drinking champagne Frolov was drunk. He thumped with his fist on the table and said:
“Yes, there’s something that sticks in my head! It won’t give me a minute’s peace!”
“Why, what is it?”
“I can’t tell you. It’s a secret. It’s something so private that I could only speak of it in my prayers. But if you like . . . as a sign of friendship, between ourselves . . . only mind, to no one, no, no, no, . . . I’ll tell you, it will ease my heart, but for God’s sake . . . listen and forget it. . . .”
Frolov bent down to Almer and for a minute breathed in his ear.
“I hate my wife!” he brought out.
The lawyer looked at him with surprise.
“Yes, yes, my wife, Marya Mihalovna,” Frolov muttered, flushing red. “I hate her and that’s all about it.”
“What for?”
“I don’t know myself! I’ve only been married two years. I married as you know for love, and now I hate her like a mortal enemy, like this parasite here, saving your presence. And there is no cause, no sort of cause! When she sits by me, eats, or says anything, my whole soul boils, I can scarcely restrain myself from being rude to her. It’s something one can’t describe. To leave her or tell her the truth is utterly impossible because it would be a scandal, and living with her is worse than hell for me. I can’t stay at home! I spend my days at business and in the restaurants and spend my nights in dissipation. Come, how is one to explain this hatred? She is not an ordinary woman, but handsome, clever, quiet.”
The old man stamped his foot and began singing:
“I went a walk with a captain bold, And in his ear my secrets told.”
“I must own I always thought that Marya Mihalovna was not at all the right person for you,” said Almer after a brief silence, and he heaved a sigh.
“Do you mean she is too well educated? . . . I took the gold medal at the commercial school myself, I have been to Paris three times. I am not cleverer than you, of course, but I am no more foolish than my wife. No, brother, education is not the sore point. Let me tell you how all the trouble began. It began with my suddenly fancying that she had married me not from love, but for the sake of my money. This idea took possession of my brain. I have done all I could think of, but the cursed thing sticks! And to make it worse my wife was overtaken with a passion for luxury. Getting into a sack of gold after poverty, she took to flinging it in all directions. She went quite off her head, and was so carried away that she used to get through twenty thousand every month. And I am a distrustful man. I don’t believe in anyone, I suspect everybody. And the more friendly you are to me the greater my torment. I keep fancying I am being flattered for my money. I trust no one! I am a difficult man, my boy, very difficult!”
Frolov emptied his glass at one gulp and went on.
“But that’s all nonsense,” he said. “One never ought to speak of it. It’s stupid. I am tipsy and I have been chattering, and now you are looking at me with lawyer’s eyes—glad you know some one else’s secret. Well, well! . . . Let us drop this conversation. Let us drink! I say,” he said, addressing a waiter, “is Mustafa here? Fetch him in!”
Shortly afterwards there walked into the room a little Tatar boy, aged about twelve, wearing a dress coat and white gloves.
“Come here!” Frolov said to him. “Explain to us the following fact: there was a time when you Tatars conquered us and took tribute from us, but now you serve us as waiters and sell dressing-gowns. How do you explain such a change?”
Mustafa raised his eyebrows and said in a shrill voice, with a sing-song intonation: “The mutability of destiny!”
Almer looked at his grave face and went off into peals of laughter.
“Well, give him a rouble!” said Frolov. “He is making his fortune out of the mutability of destiny. He is only kept here for the sake of those two words. Drink, Mustafa! You will make a gre-eat rascal! I mean it is awful how many of your sort are toadies hanging about rich men. The number of these peaceful bandits and robbers is beyond all reckoning! Shouldn’t we send for the gypsies now? Eh? Fetch the gypsies along!”
The gypsies, who had been hanging about wearily in the corridors for a long time, burst with whoops into the room, and a wild orgy began.
“Drink!” Frolov shouted to them. “Drink! Seed of Pharaoh! Sing! A-a-ah!”
“In the winter time . . . o-o-ho! . . . the sledge was flying . . .”
The gypsies sang, whistled, danced. In the frenzy which sometimes takes possession of spoilt and very wealthy men, “broad natures,” Frolov began to play the fool. He ordered supper and champagne for the gypsies, broke the shade of the electric light, shied bottles at the pictures and looking-glasses, and did it all apparently without the slightest enjoyment, scowling and shouting irritably, with contempt for the people, with an expression of hatred in his eyes and his manners. He made the engineer sing a solo, made the bass singers drink a mixture of wine, vodka, and oil.
At six o’clock they handed him the bill.
“Nine hundred and twenty-five roubles, forty kopecks,” said Almer, and shrugged his shoulders. “What’s it for? No, wait, we must go into it!”
“Stop!” muttered Frolov, pulling out his pocket-book. “Well! . . . let them rob me. That’s what I’m rich for, to be robbed! . . . You can’t get on without parasites! . . . You are my lawyer. You get six thousand a year out of me and what for? But excuse me, . . . I don’t know what I am saying.”
As he was returning home with Almer, Frolov murmured:
“Going home is awful to me! Yes! . . . There isn’t a human being I can open my soul to. . . . They are all robbers . . . traitors . . . . Oh, why did I tell you my secret? Yes . . . why? Tell me why?”
At the entrance to his house, he craned forward towards Almer and, staggering, kissed him on the lips, having the old Moscow habit of kissing indiscriminately on every occasion.
“Good-bye . . . I am a difficult, hateful man,” he said. “A horrid, drunken, shameless life. You are a well-educated, clever man, but you only laugh and drink with me . . . there’s no help from any of you. . . . But if you were a friend to me, if you were an honest man, in reality you ought to have said to me: ‘Ugh, you vile, hateful man! You reptile!’”
“Come, come,” Almer muttered, “go to bed.”
“There is no help from you; the only hope is that, when I am in the country in the summer, I may go out into the fields and a storm come on and the thunder may strike me dead on the spot. . . . Good-bye.”
Frolov kissed Almer once more and muttering and dropping asleep as he walked, began mounting the stairs, supported by two footmen.


10. THE COSSACK

MAXIM TORTCHAKOV, a farmer in southern Russia, was driving home from church with his young wife and bringing back an Easter cake which had just been blessed. The sun had not yet risen, but the east was all tinged with red and gold and had dissipated the haze which usually, in the early morning, screens the blue of the sky from the eyes. It was quiet. . . . The birds were hardly yet awake. . . . The corncrake uttered its clear note, and far away above a little tumulus, a sleepy kite floated, heavily flapping its wings, and no other living creature could be seen all over the steppe.
Tortchakov drove on and thought that there was no better nor happier holiday than the Feast of Christ’s Resurrection. He had only lately been married, and was now keeping his first Easter with his wife. Whatever he looked at, whatever he thought about, it all seemed to him bright, joyous, and happy. He thought about his farming, and thought that it was all going well, that the furnishing of his house was all the heart could desire — there was enough of everything and all of it good; he looked at his wife, and she seemed to him lovely, kind, and gentle. He was delighted by the glow in the east, and the young grass, and his squeaking chaise, and the kite. . . . And when on the way, he ran into a tavern to light his cigarette and drank a glass, he felt happier still.
"It is said, ’Great is the day,’ he chattered. "Yes, it is great! Wait a bit, Lizaveta, the sun will begin to dance. It dances every Easter. So it rejoices too!"
"It is not alive," said his wife.
"But there are people on it!" exclaimed Tortchakov, "there are really! Ivan Stepanitch told me that there are people on all the planets — on the sun, and on the moon! Truly . . . but maybe the learned men tell lies — the devil only knows! Stay, surely that’s not a horse? Yes, it is!"
At the Crooked Ravine, which was just half-way on the journey home, Tortchakov and his wife saw a saddled horse standing motionless, and sniffing last year’s dry grass. On a hillock beside the roadside a red-haired Cossack was sitting doubled up, looking at his feet.
"Christ is risen!" Maxim shouted to him. "Wo-o-o!"
"Truly He is risen," answered the Cossack, without raising his head.
"Where are you going?"
"Home on leave."
"Why are you sitting here, then?"
"Why . . . I have fallen ill . . . I haven’t the strength to go on."
"What is wrong?"
"I ache all over."
"H’m. What a misfortune! People are keeping holiday, and you fall sick! But you should ride on to a village or an inn, what’s the use of sitting here!"
The Cossack raised his head, and with big, exhausted eyes, scanned Maxim, his wife, and the horse.
"Have you come from church?" he asked.
"Yes."
"The holiday found me on the high road. It was not God’s will for me to reach home. I’d get on my horse at once and ride off, but I haven’t the strength. . . . You might, good Christians, give a wayfarer some Easter cake to break his fast!"
"Easter cake?" Tortchakov repeated, "That we can, to be sure. . . . Stay, I’ll. . . ."
Maxim fumbled quickly in his pockets, glanced at his wife, and said:
"I haven’t a knife, nothing to cut it with. And I don’t like to break it, it would spoil the whole cake. There’s a problem! You look and see if you haven’t a knife?"
The Cossack got up groaning, and went to his saddle to get a knife.
"What an idea," said Tortchakov’s wife angrily. "I won’t let you slice up the Easter cake! What should I look like, taking it home already cut! Ride on to the peasants in the village, and break your fast there!"
The wife took the napkin with the Easter cake in it out of her husband’s hands and said:
"I won’t allow it! One must do things properly; it’s not a loaf, but a holy Easter cake. And it’s a sin to cut it just anyhow."
"Well, Cossack, don’t be angry," laughed Tortchakov. "The wife forbids it! Good-bye. Good luck on your journey!"
Maxim shook the reins, clicked to his horse, and the chaise rolled on squeaking. For some time his wife went on grumbling, and declaring that to cut the Easter cake before reaching home was a sin and not the proper thing. In the east the first rays of the rising sun shone out, cutting their way through the feathery clouds, and the song of the lark was heard in the sky. Now not one but three kites were hovering over the steppe at a respectful distance from one another. Grasshoppers began churring in the young grass.
When they had driven three-quarters of a mile from the Crooked Ravine, Tortchakov looked round and stared intently into the distance.
"I can’t see the Cossack," he said. "Poor, dear fellow, to take it into his head to fall ill on the road. There couldn’t be a worse misfortune, to have to travel and not have the strength. . . . I shouldn’t wonder if he dies by the roadside. We didn’t give him any Easter cake, Lizaveta, and we ought to have given it. I’ll be bound he wants to break his fast too."
The sun had risen, but whether it was dancing or not Tortchakov did not see. He remained silent all the way home, thinking and keeping his eyes fixed on the horse’s black tail. For some unknown reason he felt overcome by depression, and not a trace of the holiday gladness was left in his heart. When he had arrived home and said, "Christ is risen" to his workmen, he grew cheerful again and began talking, but when he had sat down to break the fast and had taken a bite from his piece of Easter cake, he looked regretfully at his wife, and said:
"It wasn’t right of us, Lizaveta, not to give that Cossack something to eat."
"You are a queer one, upon my word," said Lizaveta, shrugging her shoulders in surprise. "Where did you pick up such a fashion as giving away the holy Easter cake on the high road? Is it an ordinary loaf? Now that it is cut and lying on the table, let anyone eat it that likes — your Cossack too! Do you suppose I grudge it?"
"That’s all right, but we ought to have given the Cossack some. . . . Why, he was worse off than a beggar or an orphan. On the road, and far from home, and sick too."
Tortchakov drank half a glass of tea, and neither ate nor drank anything more. He had no appetite, the tea seemed to choke him, and he felt depressed again. After breaking their fast, his wife and he lay down to sleep. When Lizaveta woke two hours later, he was standing by the window, looking into the yard.
"Are you up already?" asked his wife.
"I somehow can’t sleep. . . . Ah, Lizaveta," he sighed. "We were unkind, you and I, to that Cossack!"
"Talking about that Cossack again!" yawned his wife. "You have got him on the brain."
"He has served his Tsar, shed his blood maybe, and we treated him as though he were a pig. We ought to have brought the sick man home and fed him, and we did not even give him a morsel of bread."
"Catch me letting you spoil the Easter cake for nothing! And one that has been blessed too! You would have cut it on the road, and shouldn’t I have looked a fool when I got home?"
Without saying anything to his wife, Maxim went into the kitchen, wrapped a piece of cake up in a napkin, together with half a dozen eggs, and went to the labourers in the barn.
"Kuzma, put down your concertina," he said to one of them. "Saddle the bay, or Ivantchik, and ride briskly to he Crooked Ravine. There you will see a sick Cossack with a horse, so give him this. Maybe he hasn’t ridden away yet."
Maxim felt cheerful again, but after waiting for Kuzma for some hours, he could bear it no longer, so he saddled a horse and went off to meet him. He met him just at the Ravine.
"Well, have you seen the Cossack?"
"I can’t find him anywhere, he must have ridden on."
"H’m . . . a queer business."
Tortchakov took the bundle from Kuzma, and galloped on farther. When he reached Shustrovo he asked the peasants:
"Friends, have you seen a sick Cossack with a horse? Didn’t he ride by here? A red-headed fellow on a bay horse."
The peasants looked at one another, and said they had not seen the Cossack.
"The returning postman drove by, it’s true, but as for a Cossack or anyone else, there has been no such."
Maxim got home at dinner time.
"I can’t get that Cossack out of my head, do what you will!" he said to his wife. "He gives me no peace. I keep thinking: what if God meant to try us, and sent some saint or angel in the form of a Cossack? It does happen, you know. It’s bad, Lizaveta; we were unkind to the man!"
"What do you keep pestering me with that Cossack for?" cried Lizaveta, losing patience at last. "You stick to it like tar!"
"You are not kind, you know . . ." said Maxim, looking into his wife’s face.
And for the first time since his marriage he perceived that he wife was not kind.
"I may be unkind," cried Lizaveta, tapping angrily with her spoon, "but I am not going to give away the holy Easter cake to every drunken man in the road."
"The Cossack wasn’t drunk!"
"He was drunk!"
"Well, you are a fool then!"
Maxim got up from the table and began reproaching his young wife for hard-heartedness and stupidity. She, getting angry too, answered his reproaches with reproaches, burst into tears, and went away into their bedroom, declaring she would go home to her father’s. This was the first matrimonial squabble that had happened in the Tortchakov’s married life. He walked about the yard till the evening, picturing his wife’s face, and it seemed to him now spiteful and ugly. And as though to torment him the Cossack haunted his brain, and Maxim seemed to see now his sick eyes, now his unsteady walk.
"Ah, we were unkind to the man," he muttered.
When it got dark, he was overcome by an insufferable depression such as he had never felt before. Feeling so dreary, and being angry with his wife, he got drunk, as he had sometimes done before he was married. In his drunkenness he used bad language and shouted to his wife that she had a spiteful, ugly face, and that next day he would send her packing to her father’s. On the morning of Easter Monday, he drank some more to sober himself, and got drunk again.
And with that his downfall began.
His horses, cows, sheep, and hives disappeared one by one from the yard; Maxim was more and more often drunk, debts mounted up, he felt an aversion for his wife. Maxim put down all his misfortunes to the fact that he had an unkind wife, and above all, that God was angry with him on account of the sick Cossack.
Lizaveta saw their ruin, but who was to blame for it she did not understand.


11. THE RUNAWAY

IT had been a long business. At first Pashka had walked with his mother in the rain, at one time across a mown field, then by forest paths, where the yellow leaves stuck to his boots; he had walked until it was daylight. Then he had stood for two hours in the dark passage, waiting for the door to open. It was not so cold and damp in the passage as in the yard, but with the high wind spurts of rain flew in even there. When the passage gradually became packed with people Pashka, squeezed among them, leaned his face against somebody’s sheepskin which smelt strongly of salt fish, and sank into a doze. But at last the bolt clicked, the door flew open, and Pashka and his mother went into the waiting-room. All the patients sat on benches without stirring or speaking. Pashka looked round at them, and he too was silent, though he was seeing a great deal that was strange and funny. Only once, when a lad came into the waiting-room hopping on one leg, Pashka longed to hop too; he nudged his mother’s elbow, giggled in his sleeve, and said: "Look, mammy, a sparrow."
"Hush, child, hush!" said his mother.
A sleepy-looking hospital assistant appeared at the little window.
"Come and be registered!" he boomed out.
All of them, including the funny lad who hopped, filed up to the window. The assistant asked each one his name, and his father’s name, where he lived, how long he had been ill, and so on. From his mother’s answers, Pashka learned that his name was not Pashka, but Pavel Galaktionov, that he was seven years old, that he could not read or write, and that he had been ill ever since Easter.
Soon after the registration, he had to stand up for a little while; the doctor in a white apron, with a towel round his waist, walked across the waiting-room. As he passed by the boy who hopped, he shrugged his shoulders, and said in a sing-song tenor:
"Well, you are an idiot! Aren’t you an idiot? I told you to come on Monday, and you come on Friday. It’s nothing to me if you don’t come at all, but you know, you idiot, your leg will be done for!"
The lad made a pitiful face, as though he were going to beg for alms, blinked, and said:
"Kindly do something for me, Ivan Mikolaitch!"
"It’s no use saying ’Ivan Mikolaitch,’ " the doctor mimicked him. "You were told to come on Monday, and you ought to obey. You are an idiot, and that is all about it."
The doctor began seeing the patients. He sat in his little room, and called up the patients in turn. Sounds were continually coming from the little room, piercing wails, a child’s crying, or the doctor’s angry words:
"Come, why are you bawling? Am I murdering you, or what? Sit quiet!"
Pashka’s turn came.
"Pavel Galaktionov!" shouted the doctor.
His mother was aghast, as though she had not expected this summons, and taking Pashka by the hand, she led him into the room.
The doctor was sitting at the table, mechanically tapping on a thick book with a little hammer.
"What’s wrong?" he asked, without looking at them.
"The little lad has an ulcer on his elbow, sir," answered his mother, and her face assumed an expression as though she really were terribly grieved at Pashka’s ulcer.
"Undress him!"
Pashka, panting, unwound the kerchief from his neck, then wiped his nose on his sleeve, and began deliberately pulling off his sheepskin.
"Woman, you have not come here on a visit!" said the doctor angrily. "Why are you dawdling? You are not the only one here."
Pashka hurriedly flung the sheepskin on the floor, and with his mother’s help took off his shirt. . . The doctor looked at him lazily, and patted him on his bare stomach.
"You have grown quite a respectable corporation, brother Pashka," he said, and heaved a sigh. "Come, show me your elbow."
Pashka looked sideways at the basin full of bloodstained slops, looked at the doctor’s apron, and began to cry.
"May-ay!" the doctor mimicked him. "Nearly old enough to be married, spoilt boy, and here he is blubbering! For shame!"
Pashka, trying not to cry, looked at his mother, and in that look could be read the entreaty: "Don’t tell them at home that I cried at the hospital."
The doctor examined his elbow, pressed it, heaved a sigh, clicked with his lips, then pressed it again.
"You ought to be beaten, woman, but there is no one to do it," he said. "Why didn’t you bring him before? Why, the whole arm is done for. Look, foolish woman. You see, the joint is diseased!"
"You know best, kind sir . . ." sighed the woman.
"Kind sir. . . . She’s let the boy’s arm rot, and now it is ’kind sir.’ What kind of workman will he be without an arm? You’ll be nursing him and looking after him for ages. I bet if you had had a pimple on your nose, you’d have run to the hospital quick enough, but you have left your boy to rot for six months. You are all like that."
The doctor lighted a cigarette. While the cigarette smoked, he scolded the woman, and shook his head in time to the song he was humming inwardly, while he thought of something else. Pashka stood naked before him, listening and looking at the smoke. When the cigarette went out, the doctor started, and said in a lower tone:
"Well, listen, woman. You can do nothing with ointments and drops in this case. You must leave him in the hospital."
"If necessary, sir, why not?
"We must operate on him. You stop with me, Pashka," said the doctor, slapping Pashka on the shoulder. "Let mother go home, and you and I will stop here, old man. It’s nice with me, old boy, it’s first-rate here. I’ll tell you what we’ll do, Pashka, we will go catching finches together. I will show you a fox! We will go visiting together! Shall we? And mother will come for you tomorrow! Eh?"
Pashka looked inquiringly at his mother.
"You stay, child!" she said.
"He’ll stay, he’ll stay!" cried the doctor gleefully. "And there is no need to discuss it. I’ll show him a live fox! We will go to the fair together to buy candy! Marya Denisovna, take him upstairs!"
The doctor, apparently a light-hearted and friendly fellow, seemed glad to have company; Pashka wanted to oblige him, especially as he had never in his life been to a fair, and would have been glad to have a look at a live fox, but how could he do without his mother?
After a little reflection he decided to ask the doctor to let his mother stay in the hospital too, but before he had time to open his mouth the lady assistant was already taking him upstairs. He walked up and looked about him with his mouth open. The staircase, the floors, and the doorposts — everything huge, straight, and bright-were painted a splendid yellow colour, and had a delicious smell of Lenten oil. On all sides lamps were hanging, strips of carpet stretched along the floor, copper taps stuck out on the walls. But best of all Pashka liked the bedstead upon which he was made to sit down, and the grey woollen coverlet. He touched the pillows and the coverlet with his hands, looked round the ward, and made up his mind that it was very nice at the doctor’s.
The ward was not a large one, it consisted of only three beds. One bed stood empty, the second was occupied by Pashka, and on the third sat an old man with sour eyes, who kept coughing and spitting into a mug. From Pashka’s bed part of another ward could be seen with two beds; on one a very pale wasted-looking man with an india-rubber bottle on his head was asleep; on the other a peasant with his head tied up, looking very like a woman, was sitting with his arms spread out.
After making Pashka sit down, the assistant went out and came back a little later with a bundle of clothes under her arm.
"These are for you," she said, "put them on."
Pashka undressed and, not without satisfaction began attiring himself in his new array. When he had put on the shirt, the drawers, and the little grey dressing-gown, he looked at himself complacently, and thought that it would not be bad to walk through the village in that costume. His imagination pictured his mother’s sending him to the kitchen garden by the river to gather cabbage leaves for the little pig; he saw himself walking along, while the boys and girls surrounded him and looked with envy at his little dressing-gown.
A nurse came into the ward, bringing two tin bowls, two spoons, and two pieces of bread. One bowl she set before the old man, the other before Pashka.
"Eat!" she said.
Looking into his bowl, Pashka saw some rich cabbage soup, and in the soup a piece of meat, and thought again that it was very nice at the doctor’s, and that the doctor was not nearly so cross as he had seemed at first. He spent a long time swallowing the soup, licking the spoon after each mouthful, then when there was nothing left in the bowl but the meat he stole a look at the old man, and felt envious that he was still eating the soup. With a sigh Pashka attacked the meat, trying to make it last as long as possible, but his efforts were fruitless; the meat, too, quickly vanished. There was nothing left but the piece of bread. Plain bread without anything on it was not appetising, but there was no help for it. Pashka thought a little, and ate the bread. At that moment the nurse came in with another bowl. This time there was roast meat with potatoes in the bowl.
"And where is the bread?" asked the nurse.
Instead of answering, Pashka puffed out his cheeks, and blew out the air.
"Why did you gobble it all up?" said the nurse reproachfully. "What are you going to eat your meat with?"
She went and fetched another piece of bread. Pashka had never eaten roast meat in his life, and trying it now found it very nice. It vanished quickly, and then he had a piece of bread left bigger than the first. When the old man had finished his dinner, he put away the remains of his bread in a little table. Pashka meant to do the same, but on second thoughts ate his piece.
When he had finished he went for a walk. In the next ward, besides the two he had seen from the door, there were four other people. Of these only one drew his attention. This was a tall, extremely emaciated peasant with a morose-looking, hairy face. He was sitting on the bed, nodding his head and swinging his right arm all the time like a pendulum. Pashka could not take his eyes off him for a long time. At first the man’s regular pendulum-like movements seemed to him curious, and he thought they were done for the general amusement, but when he looked into the man’s face he felt frightened, and realised that he was terribly ill. Going into a third ward he saw two peasants with dark red faces as though they were smeared with clay. They were sitting motionless on their beds, and with their strange faces, in which it was hard to distinguish their features, they looked like heathen idols.
"Auntie, why do they look like that?" Pashka asked the nurse.
"They have got smallpox, little lad."
Going back to his own ward, Pashka sat down on his bed and began waiting for the doctor to come and take him to catch finches, or to go to the fair. But the doctor did not come. He got a passing glimpse of a hospital assistant at the door of the next ward. He bent over the patient on whose head lay a bag of ice, and cried: "Mihailo!"
But the sleeping man did not stir. The assistant made a gesture and went away. Pashka scrutinised the old man, his next neighbour. The old man coughed without ceasing and spat into a mug. His cough had a long-drawn-out, creaking sound.
Pashka liked one peculiarity about him; when he drew the air in as he coughed, something in his chest whistled and sang on different notes.
"Grandfather, what is it whistles in you?" Pashka asked.
The old man made no answer. Pashka waited a little and asked:
"Grandfather, where is the fox?"
"What fox?"
"The live one."
"Where should it be? In the forest!"
A long time passed, but the doctor still did not appear. The nurse brought in tea, and scolded Pashka for not having saved any bread for his tea; the assistant came once more and set to work to wake Mihailo. It turned blue outside the windows, the wards were lighted up, but the doctor did not appear. It was too late now to go to the fair and catch finches; Pashka stretched himself on his bed and began thinking. He remembered the candy promised him by the doctor, the face and voice of his mother, the darkness in his hut at home, the stove, peevish granny Yegorovna . . . and he suddenly felt sad and dreary. He remembered that his mother was coming for him next day, smiled, and shut his eyes.
He was awakened by a rustling. In the next ward someone was stepping about and speaking in a whisper. Three figures were moving about Mihailo’s bed in the dim light of the night-light and the ikon lamp.
"Shall we take him, bed and all, or without?" asked one of them.
"Without. You won’t get through the door with the bed."
"He’s died at the wrong time, the Kingdom of Heaven be his!"
One took Mihailo by his shoulders, another by his legs and lifted him up: Mihailo’s arms and the skirt of his dressing-gown hung limply to the ground. A third — it was the peasant who looked like a woman — crossed himself, and all three tramping clumsily with their feet and stepping on Mihailo’s skirts, went out of the ward.
There came the whistle and humming on different notes from the chest of the old man who was asleep. Pashka listened, peeped at the dark windows, and jumped out of bed in terror.
"Ma-a-mka!" he moaned in a deep bass.
And without waiting for an answer, he rushed into the next ward. There the darkness was dimly lighted up by a night-light and the ikon lamp; the patients, upset by the death of Mihailo, were sitting on their bedsteads: their dishevelled figures, mixed up with the shadows, looked broader, taller, and seemed to be growing bigger and bigger; on the furthest bedstead in the corner, where it was darkest, there sat the peasant moving his head and his hand.
Pashka, without noticing the doors, rushed into the smallpox ward, from there into the corridor, from the corridor he flew into a big room where monsters, with long hair and the faces of old women, were lying and sitting on the beds. Running through the women’s wing he found himself again in the corridor, saw the banisters of the staircase he knew already, and ran downstairs. There he recognised the waiting-room in which he had sat that morning, and began looking for the door into the open air.
The latch creaked, there was a whiff of cold wind, and Pashka, stumbling, ran out into the yard. He had only one thought — to run, to run! He did not know the way, but felt convinced that if he ran he would be sure to find himself at home with his mother. The sky was overcast, but there was a moon behind the clouds. Pashka ran from the steps straight forward, went round the barn and stumbled into some thick bushes; after stopping for a minute and thinking, he dashed back again to the hospital, ran round it, and stopped again undecided; behind the hospital there were white crosses.
"Ma-a-mka! " he cried, and dashed back.
Running by the dark sinister buildings, he saw one lighted window.
The bright red patch looked dreadful in the darkness, but Pashka, frantic with terror, not knowing where to run, turned towards it. Beside the window was a porch with steps, and a front door with a white board on it; Pashka ran up the steps, looked in at the window, and was at once possessed by intense overwhelming joy. Through the window he saw the merry affable doctor sitting at the table reading a book. Laughing with happiness, Pashka stretched out his hands to the person he knew and tried to call out, but some unseen force choked him and struck at his legs; he staggered and fell down on the steps unconscious.
When he came to himself it was daylight, and a voice he knew very well, that had promised him a fair, finches, and a fox, was saying beside him:
"Well, you are an idiot, Pashka! Aren’t you an idiot? You ought to be beaten, but there’s no one to do it."


12. THE OLD HOUSE

(A Story told by a Houseowner)

THE old house had to be pulled down that a new one might be built in its place. I led the architect through the empty rooms, and between our business talk told him various stories. The tattered wallpapers, the dingy windows, the dark stoves, all bore the traces of recent habitation and evoked memories. On that staircase, for instance, drunken men were once carrying down a dead body when they stumbled and flew headlong downstairs together with the coffin; the living were badly bruised, while the dead man looked very serious, as though nothing had happened, and shook his head when they lifted him up from the ground and put him back in the coffin. You see those three doors in a row: in there lived young ladies who were always receiving visitors, and so were better dressed than any other lodgers, and could pay their rent regularly. The door at the end of the corridor leads to the wash-house, where by day they washed clothes and at night made an uproar and drank beer. And in that flat of three rooms everything is saturated with bacteria and bacilli. It’s not nice there. Many lodgers have died there, and I can positively assert that that flat was at some time cursed by someone, and that together with its human lodgers there was always another lodger, unseen, living in it. I remember particularly the fate of one family. Picture to yourself an ordinary man, not remarkable in any way, with a wife, a mother, and four children. His name was Putohin; he was a copying clerk at a notary’s, and received thirty-five roubles a month. He was a sober, religious, serious man. When he brought me his rent for the flat he always apologised for being badly dressed; apologised for being five days late, and when I gave him a receipt he would smile good-humouredly and say: "Oh yes, there’s that too, I don’t like those receipts." He lived poorly but decently. In that middle room, the grandmother used to be with the four children; there they used to cook, sleep, receive their visitors, and even dance. This was Putohin’s own room; he had a table in it, at which he used to work doing private jobs, copying parts for the theatre, advertisements, and so on. This room on the right was let to his lodger, Yegoritch, a locksmith — a steady fellow, but given to drink; he was always too hot, and so used to go about in his waistcoat and barefoot. Yegoritch used to mend locks, pistols, children’s bicycles, would not refuse to mend cheap clocks and make skates for a quarter-rouble, but he despised that work, and looked on himself as a specialist in musical instruments. Amongst the litter of steel and iron on his table there was always to be seen a concertina with a broken key, or a trumpet with its sides bent in. He paid Putohin two and a half roubles for his room; he was always at his work-table, and only came out to thrust some piece of iron into the stove.
On the rare occasions when I went into that flat in the evening, this was always the picture I came upon: Putohin would be sitting at his little table, copying something; his mother and his wife, a thin woman with an exhausted-looking face, were sitting near the lamp, sewing; Yegoritch would be making a rasping sound with his file. And the hot, still smouldering embers in the stove filled the room with heat and fumes; the heavy air smelt of cabbage soup, swaddling-clothes, and Yegoritch. It was poor and stuffy, but the working-class faces, the children’s little drawers hung up along by the stove, Yegoritch’s bits of iron had yet an air of peace, friendliness, content. . . . In the corridor outside the children raced about with well-combed heads, merry and profoundly convinced that everything was satisfactory in this world, and would be so endlessly, that one had only to say one’s prayers every morning and at bedtime.
Now imagine in the midst of that same room, two paces from the stove, the coffin in which Putohin’s wife is lying. There is no husband whose wife will live for ever, but there was something special about this death. When, during the requiem service, I glanced at the husband’s grave face, at his stern eyes, I thought: "Oho, brother!"
It seemed to me that he himself, his children, the grandmother and Yegoritch, were already marked down by that unseen being which lived with them in that flat. I am a thoroughly superstitious man, perhaps, because I am a houseowner and for forty years have had to do with lodgers. I believe if you don’t win at cards from the beginning you will go on losing to the end; when fate wants to wipe you and your family off the face of the earth, it remains inexorable in its persecution, and the first misfortune is commonly only the first of a long series. . . . Misfortunes are like stones. One stone has only to drop from a high cliff for others to be set rolling after it. In short, as I came away from the requiem service at Putohin’s, I believed that he and his family were in a bad way.
And, in fact, a week afterwards the notary quite unexpectedly dismissed Putohin, and engaged a young lady in his place. And would you believe it, Putohin was not so much put out at the loss of his job as at being superseded by a young lady and not by a man. Why a young lady? He so resented this that on his return home he thrashed his children, swore at his mother, and got drunk. Yegoritch got drunk, too, to keep him company.
Putohin brought me the rent, but did not apologise this time, though it was eighteen days overdue, and said nothing when he took the receipt from me. The following month the rent was brought by his mother; she only brought me half, and promised to bring the remainder a week later. The third month, I did not get a farthing, and the porter complained to me that the lodgers in No. 23 were "not behaving like gentlemen."
These were ominous symptoms.
Picture this scene. A sombre Petersburg morning looks in at the dingy windows. By the stove, the granny is pouring out the children’s tea. Only the eldest, Vassya, drinks out of a glass, for the others the tea is poured out into saucers. Yegoritch is squatting on his heels before the stove, thrusting a bit of iron into the fire. His head is heavy and his eyes are lustreless from yesterday’s drinking-bout; he sighs and groans, trembles and coughs.
"He has quite put me off the right way, the devil," he grumbles; "he drinks himself and leads others into sin."
Putohin sits in his room, on the bedstead from which the bedclothes and the pillows have long ago disappeared, and with his hands straying in his hair looks blankly at the floor at his feet. He is tattered, unkempt, and ill.
"Drink it up, make haste or you will be late for school," the old woman urges on Vassya, "and it’s time for me, too, to go and scrub the floors for the Jews. . . ."
The old woman is the only one in the flat who does not lose heart. She thinks of old times, and goes out to hard dirty work. On Fridays she scrubs the floors for the Jews at the crockery shop, on Saturdays she goes out washing for shopkeepers, and on Sundays she is racing about the town from morning to night, trying to find ladies who will help her. Every day she has work of some sort; she washes and scrubs, and is by turns a midwife, a matchmaker, or a beggar. It is true she, too, is not disinclined to drown her sorrows, but even when she has had a drop she does not forget her duties. In Russia there are many such tough old women, and how much of its welfare rests upon them!
When he has finished his tea, Vassya packs up his books in a satchel and goes behind the stove; his greatcoat ought to be hanging there beside his granny’s clothes. A minute later he comes out from behind the stove and asks:
"Where is my greatcoat?"
The grandmother and the other children look for the greatcoat together, they waste a long time in looking for it, but the greatcoat has utterly vanished. Where is it? The grandmother and Vassya are pale and frightened. Even Yegoritch is surprised. Putohin is the only one who does not move. Though he is quick to notice anything irregular or disorderly, this time he makes a pretence of hearing and seeing nothing. That is suspicious.
"He’s sold it for drink," Yegoritch declares.
Putohin says nothing, so it is the truth. Vassya is overcome with horror. His greatcoat, his splendid greatcoat, made of his dead mother’s cloth dress, with a splendid calico lining, gone for drink at the tavern! And with the greatcoat is gone too, of course, the blue pencil that lay in the pocket, and the note-book with "Nota bene" in gold letters on it! There’s another pencil with india-rubber stuck into the note-book, and, besides that, there are transfer pictures lying in it.
Vassya would like to cry, but to cry is impossible. If his father, who has a headache, heard crying he would shout, stamp with his feet, and begin fighting, and after drinking he fights horribly. Granny would stand up for Vassya, and his father would strike granny too; it would end in Yegoritch getting mixed up in it too, clutching at his father and falling on the floor with him. The two would roll on the floor, struggling together and gasping with drunken animal fury, and granny would cry, the children would scream, the neighbours would send for the porter. No, better not cry.
Because he mustn’t cry, or give vent to his indignation aloud, Vassya moans, wrings his hands and moves his legs convulsively, or biting his sleeve shakes it with his teeth as a dog does a hare. His eyes are frantic, and his face is distorted with despair. Looking at him, his granny all at once takes the shawl off her head, and she too makes queer movements with her arms and legs in silence, with her eyes fixed on a point in the distance. And at that moment I believe there is a definite certainty in the minds of the boy and the old woman that their life is ruined, that there is no hope. . . .
Putohin hears no crying, but he can see it all from his room. When, half an hour later, Vassya sets off to school, wrapped in his grandmother’s shawl, he goes out with a face I will not undertake to describe, and walks after him. He longs to call the boy, to comfort him, to beg his forgiveness, to promise him on his word of honour, to call his dead mother to witness, but instead of words, sobs break from him. It is a grey, cold morning. When he reaches the town school Vassya untwists his granny’s shawl, and goes into the school with nothing over his jacket for fear the boys should say he looks like a woman. And when he gets home Putohin sobs, mutters some incoherent words, bows down to the ground before his mother and Yegoritch, and the locksmith’s table. Then, recovering himself a little, he runs to me and begs me breathlessly, for God’s sake, to find him some job. I give him hopes, of course.
"At last I am myself again," he said. "It’s high time, indeed, to come to my senses. I’ve made a beast of myself, and now it’s over."
He is delighted and thanks me, while I, who have studied these gentry thoroughly during the years I have owned the house, look at him, and am tempted to say:
"It’s too late, dear fellow! You are a dead man already."
From me, Putohin runs to the town school. There he paces up and down, waiting till his boy comes out.
"I say, Vassya," he says joyfully, when the boy at last comes out, "I have just been promised a job. Wait a bit, I will buy you a splendid fur-coat. . . . I’ll send you to the high school! Do you understand? To the high school! I’ll make a gentleman of you! And I won’t drink any more. On my honour I won’t."
And he has intense faith in the bright future. But the evening comes on. The old woman, coming back from the Jews with twenty kopecks, exhausted and aching all over, sets to work to wash the children’s clothes. Vassya is sitting doing a sum. Yegoritch is not working. Thanks to Putohin he has got into the way of drinking, and is feeling at the moment an overwhelming desire for drink. It’s hot and stuffy in the room. Steam rises in clouds from the tub where the old woman is washing.
"Are we going?" Yegoritch asks surlily.
My lodger does not answer. After his excitement he feels insufferably dreary. He struggles with the desire to drink, with acute depression and . . . and, of course, depression gets the best of it. It is a familiar story.
Towards night, Yegoritch and Putohin go out, and in the morning Vassya cannot find granny’s shawl.
That is the drama that took place in that flat. After selling the shawl for drink, Putohin did not come home again. Where he disappeared to I don’t know. After he disappeared, the old woman first got drunk, then took to her bed. She was taken to the hospital, the younger children were fetched by relations of some sort, and Vassya went into the wash-house here. In the day-time he handed the irons, and at night fetched the beer. When he was turned out of the wash-house he went into the service of one of the young ladies, used to run about at night on errands of some sort, and began to be spoken of as "a dangerous customer."
What has happened to him since I don’t know.
And in this room here a street musician lived for ten years. When he died they found twenty thousand roubles in his feather bed.


13. LIGHTS

THE dog was barking excitedly outside. And Ananyev the engineer, his assistant called Von Schtenberg, and I went out of the hut to see at whom it was barking. I was the visitor, and might have remained indoors, but I must confess my head was a little dizzy from the wine I had drunk, and I was glad to get a breath of fresh air.
“There is nobody here,” said Ananyev when we went out. “Why are you telling stories, Azorka? You fool!”
There was not a soul in sight.
“The fool,” Azorka, a black house-dog, probably conscious of his guilt in barking for nothing and anxious to propitiate us, approached us, diffidently wagging his tail. The engineer bent down and touched him between his ears.
“Why are you barking for nothing, creature?” he said in the tone in which good-natured people talk to children and dogs. “Have you had a bad dream or what? Here, doctor, let me commend to your attention,” he said, turning to me, “a wonderfully nervous subject! Would you believe it, he can’t endure solitude—he is always having terrible dreams and suffering from nightmares; and when you shout at him he has something like an attack of hysterics.”
“Yes, a dog of refined feelings,” the student chimed in.
Azorka must have understood that the conversation was concerning him. He turned his head upwards and grinned plaintively, as though to say, “Yes, at times I suffer unbearably, but please excuse it!”
It was an August night, there were stars, but it was dark. Owing to the fact that I had never in my life been in such exceptional surroundings, as I had chanced to come into now, the starry night seemed to me gloomy, inhospitable, and darker than it was in reality. I was on a railway line which was still in process of construction. The high, half-finished embankment, the mounds of sand, clay, and rubble, the holes, the wheel-barrows standing here and there, the flat tops of the mud huts in which the workmen lived—all this muddle, coloured to one tint by the darkness, gave the earth a strange, wild aspect that suggested the times of chaos. There was so little order in all that lay before me that it was somehow strange in the midst of the hideously excavated, grotesque-looking earth to see the silhouettes of human beings and the slender telegraph posts. Both spoiled the ensemble of the picture, and seemed to belong to a different world. It was still, and the only sound came from the telegraph wire droning its wearisome refrain somewhere very high above our heads.
We climbed up on the embankment and from its height looked down upon the earth. A hundred yards away where the pits, holes, and mounds melted into the darkness of the night, a dim light was twinkling. Beyond it gleamed another light, beyond that a third, then a hundred paces away two red eyes glowed side by side—probably the windows of some hut—and a long series of such lights, growing continually closer and dimmer, stretched along the line to the very horizon, then turned in a semicircle to the left and disappeared in the darkness of the distance. The lights were motionless. There seemed to be something in common between them and the stillness of the night and the disconsolate song of the telegraph wire. It seemed as though some weighty secret were buried under the embankment and only the lights, the night, and the wires knew of it.
“How glorious, O Lord!” sighed Ananyev; “such space and beauty that one can’t tear oneself away! And what an embankment! It’s not an embankment, my dear fellow, but a regular Mont Blanc. It’s costing millions. . . .”
Going into ecstasies over the lights and the embankment that was costing millions, intoxicated by the wine and his sentimental mood, the engineer slapped Von Schtenberg on the shoulder and went on in a jocose tone:
“Well, Mihail Mihailitch, lost in reveries? No doubt it is pleasant to look at the work of one’s own hands, eh? Last year this very spot was bare steppe, not a sight of human life, and now look: life . . . civilisation. . . And how splendid it all is, upon my soul! You and I are building a railway, and after we are gone, in another century or two, good men will build a factory, a school, a hospital, and things will begin to move! Eh!”
The student stood motionless with his hands thrust in his pockets, and did not take his eyes off the lights. He was not listening to the engineer, but was thinking, and was apparently in the mood in which one does not want to speak or to listen. After a prolonged silence he turned to me and said quietly:
“Do you know what those endless lights are like? They make me think of something long dead, that lived thousands of years ago, something like the camps of the Amalekites or the Philistines. It is as though some people of the Old Testament had pitched their camp and were waiting for morning to fight with Saul or David. All that is wanting to complete the illusion is the blare of trumpets and sentries calling to one another in some Ethiopian language.”
And, as though of design, the wind fluttered over the line and brought a sound like the clank of weapons. A silence followed. I don’t know what the engineer and the student were thinking of, but it seemed to me already that I actually saw before me something long dead and even heard the sentry talking in an unknown tongue. My imagination hastened to picture the tents, the strange people, their clothes, their armour.
“Yes,” muttered the student pensively, “once Philistines and Amalekites were living in this world, making wars, playing their part, and now no trace of them remains. So it will be with us. Now we are making a railway, are standing here philosophising, but two thousand years will pass—and of this embankment and of all those men, asleep after their hard work, not one grain of dust will remain. In reality, it’s awful!”
“You must drop those thoughts . . .” said the engineer gravely and admonishingly.
“Why?”
“Because. . . . Thoughts like that are for the end of life, not for the beginning of it. You are too young for them.”
“Why so?” repeated the student.
“All these thoughts of the transitoriness, the insignificance and the aimlessness of life, of the inevitability of death, of the shadows of the grave, and so on, all such lofty thoughts, I tell you, my dear fellow, are good and natural in old age when they come as the product of years of inner travail, and are won by suffering and really are intellectual riches; for a youthful brain on the threshold of real life they are simply a calamity! A calamity!” Ananyev repeated with a wave of his hand. “To my mind it is better at your age to have no head on your shoulders at all than to think on these lines. I am speaking seriously, Baron. And I have been meaning to speak to you about it for a long time, for I noticed from the very first day of our acquaintance your partiality for these damnable ideas!”
“Good gracious, why are they damnable?” the student asked with a smile, and from his voice and his face I could see that he asked the question from simple politeness, and that the discussion raised by the engineer did not interest him in the least.
I could hardly keep my eyes open. I was dreaming that immediately after our walk we should wish each other good-night and go to bed, but my dream was not quickly realised. When we had returned to the hut the engineer put away the empty bottles and took out of a large wicker hamper two full ones, and uncorking them, sat down to his work-table with the evident intention of going on drinking, talking, and working. Sipping a little from his glass, he made pencil notes on some plans and went on pointing out to the student that the latter’s way of thinking was not what it should be. The student sat beside him checking accounts and saying nothing. He, like me, had no inclination to speak or to listen. That I might not interfere with their work, I sat away from the table on the engineer’s crooked-legged travelling bedstead, feeling bored and expecting every moment that they would suggest I should go to bed. It was going on for one o’clock.
Having nothing to do, I watched my new acquaintances. I had never seen Ananyev or the student before. I had only made their acquaintance on the night I have described. Late in the evening I was returning on horseback from a fair to the house of a landowner with whom I was staying, had got on the wrong road in the dark and lost my way. Going round and round by the railway line and seeing how dark the night was becoming, I thought of the “barefoot railway roughs,” who lie in wait for travellers on foot and on horseback, was frightened, and knocked at the first hut I came to. There I was cordially received by Ananyev and the student. As is usually the case with strangers casually brought together, we quickly became acquainted, grew friendly and at first over the tea and afterward over the wine, began to feel as though we had known each other for years. At the end of an hour or so, I knew who they were and how fate had brought them from town to the far-away steppe; and they knew who I was, what my occupation and my way of thinking.
Nikolay Anastasyevitch Ananyev, the engineer, was a broad-shouldered, thick-set man, and, judging from his appearance, he had, like Othello, begun the “descent into the vale of years,” and was growing rather too stout. He was just at that stage which old match-making women mean when they speak of “a man in the prime of his age,” that is, he was neither young nor old, was fond of good fare, good liquor, and praising the past, panted a little as he walked, snored loudly when he was asleep, and in his manner with those surrounding him displayed that calm imperturbable good humour which is always acquired by decent people by the time they have reached the grade of a staff officer and begun to grow stout. His hair and beard were far from being grey, but already, with a condescension of which he was unconscious, he addressed young men as “my dear boy” and felt himself entitled to lecture them good-humouredly about their way of thinking. His movements and his voice were calm, smooth, and self-confident, as they are in a man who is thoroughly well aware that he has got his feet firmly planted on the right road, that he has definite work, a secure living, a settled outlook. . . . His sunburnt, thick-nosed face and muscular neck seemed to say: “I am well fed, healthy, satisfied with myself, and the time will come when you young people too, will be well-fed, healthy, and satisfied with yourselves. . . .” He was dressed in a cotton shirt with the collar awry and in full linen trousers thrust into his high boots. From certain trifles, as for instance, from his coloured worsted girdle, his embroidered collar, and the patch on his elbow, I was able to guess that he was married and in all probability tenderly loved by his wife.
Baron Von Schtenberg, a student of the Institute of Transport, was a young man of about three or four and twenty. Only his fair hair and scanty beard, and, perhaps, a certain coarseness and frigidity in his features showed traces of his descent from Barons of the Baltic provinces; everything else—his name, Mihail Mihailovitch, his religion, his ideas, his manners, and the expression of his face were purely Russian. Wearing, like Ananyev, a cotton shirt and high boots, with his round shoulders, his hair left uncut, and his sunburnt face, he did not look like a student or a Baron, but like an ordinary Russian workman. His words and gestures were few, he drank reluctantly without relish, checked the accounts mechanically, and seemed all the while to be thinking of something else. His movements and voice were calm, and smooth too, but his calmness was of a different kind from the engineer’s. His sunburnt, slightly ironical, dreamy face, his eyes which looked up from under his brows, and his whole figure were expressive of spiritual stagnatio—mental sloth. He looked as though it did not matter to him in the least whether the light were burning before him or not, whether the wine were nice or nasty, and whether the accounts he was checking were correct or not. . . . And on his intelligent, calm face I read: “I don’t see so far any good in definite work, a secure living, and a settled outlook. It’s all nonsense. I was in Petersburg, now I am sitting here in this hut, in the autumn I shall go back to Petersburg, then in the spring here again. . . . What sense there is in all that I don’t know, and no one knows. . . . And so it’s no use talking about it. . . .”
He listened to the engineer without interest, with the condescending indifference with which cadets in the senior classes listen to an effusive and good-natured old attendant. It seemed as though there were nothing new to him in what the engineer said, and that if he had not himself been too lazy to talk, he would have said something newer and cleverer. Meanwhile Ananyev would not desist. He had by now laid aside his good-humoured, jocose tone and spoke seriously, even with a fervour which was quite out of keeping with his expression of calmness. Apparently he had no distaste for abstract subjects, was fond of them, indeed, but had neither skill nor practice in the handling of them. And this lack of practice was so pronounced in his talk that I did not always grasp his meaning at once.
“I hate those ideas with all my heart!” he said, “I was infected by them myself in my youth, I have not quite got rid of them even now, and I tell you—perhaps because I am stupid and such thoughts were not the right food for my mind—they did me nothing but harm. That’s easy to understand! Thoughts of the aimlessness of life, of the insignificance and transitoriness of the visible world, Solomon’s ’vanity of vanities’ have been, and are to this day, the highest and final stage in the realm of thought. The thinker reaches that stage and—comes to a halt! There is nowhere further to go. The activity of the normal brain is completed with this, and that is natural and in the order of things. Our misfortune is that we begin thinking at that end. What normal people end with we begin with. From the first start, as soon as the brain begins working independently, we mount to the very topmost, final step and refuse to know anything about the steps below.”
“What harm is there in that?” said the student.
“But you must understand that it’s abnormal,” shouted Ananyev, looking at him almost wrathfully. “If we find means of mounting to the topmost step without the help of the lower ones, then the whole long ladder, that is the whole of life, with its colours, sounds, and thoughts, loses all meaning for us. That at your age such reflections are harmful and absurd, you can see from every step of your rational independent life. Let us suppose you sit down this minute to read Darwin or Shakespeare, you have scarcely read a page before the poison shows itself; and your long life, and Shakespeare, and Darwin, seem to you nonsense, absurdity, because you know you will die, that Shakespeare and Darwin have died too, that their thoughts have not saved them, nor the earth, nor you, and that if life is deprived of meaning in that way, all science, poetry, and exalted thoughts seem only useless diversions, the idle playthings of grown up people; and you leave off reading at the second page. Now, let us suppose that people come to you as an intelligent man and ask your opinion about war, for instance: whether it is desirable, whether it is morally justifiable or not. In answer to that terrible question you merely shrug your shoulders and confine yourself to some commonplace, because for you, with your way of thinking, it makes absolutely no difference whether hundreds of thousands of people die a violent death, or a natural one: the results are the same—ashes and oblivion. You and I are building a railway line. What’s the use, one may ask, of our worrying our heads, inventing, rising above the hackneyed thing, feeling for the workmen, stealing or not stealing, when we know that this railway line will turn to dust within two thousand years, and so on, and so on. . . . You must admit that with such a disastrous way of looking at things there can be no progress, no science, no art, nor even thought itself. We fancy that we are cleverer than the crowd, and than Shakespeare. In reality our thinking leads to nothing because we have no inclination to go down to the lower steps and there is nowhere higher to go, so our brain stands at the freezing point—neither up nor down; I was in bondage to these ideas for six years, and by all that is holy, I never read a sensible book all that time, did not gain a ha’porth of wisdom, and did not raise my moral standard an inch. Was not that disastrous? Moreover, besides being corrupted ourselves, we bring poison into the lives of those surrounding us. It would be all right if, with our pessimism, we renounced life, went to live in a cave, or made haste to die, but, as it is, in obedience to the universal law, we live, feel, love women, bring up children, construct railways!”
“Our thoughts make no one hot or cold,” the student said reluctantly.
“Ah! there you are again!—do stop it! You have not yet had a good sniff at life. But when you have lived as long as I have you will know a thing or two! Our theory of life is not so innocent as you suppose. In practical life, in contact with human beings, it leads to nothing but horrors and follies. It has been my lot to pass through experiences which I would not wish a wicked Tatar to endure.”
“For instance?” I asked.
“For instance?” repeated the engineer.
He thought a minute, smiled and said:
“For instance, take this example. More correctly, it is not an example, but a regular drama, with a plot and a dénouement. An excellent lesson! Ah, what a lesson!”
He poured out wine for himself and us, emptied his glass, stroked his broad chest with his open hands, and went on, addressing himself more to me than to the student.
“It was in the year 187—, soon after the war, and when I had just left the University. I was going to the Caucasus, and on the way stopped for five days in the seaside town of N. I must tell you that I was born and grew up in that town, and so there is nothing odd in my thinking N. extraordinarily snug, cosy, and beautiful, though for a man from Petersburg or Moscow, life in it would be as dreary and comfortless as in any Tchuhloma or Kashira. With melancholy I passed by the high school where I had been a pupil; with melancholy I walked about the very familiar park, I made a melancholy attempt to get a nearer look at people I had not seen for a long time—all with the same melancholy.
“Among other things, I drove out one evening to the so-called Quarantine. It was a small mangy copse in which, at some forgotten time of plague, there really had been a quarantine station, and which was now the resort of summer visitors. It was a drive of three miles from the town along a good soft road. As one drove along one saw on the left the blue sea, on the right the unending gloomy steppe; there was plenty of air to breathe, and wide views for the eyes to rest on. The copse itself lay on the seashore. Dismissing my cabman, I went in at the familiar gates and first turned along an avenue leading to a little stone summer-house which I had been fond of in my childhood. In my opinion that round, heavy summer-house on its clumsy columns, which combined the romantic charm of an old tomb with the ungainliness of a Sobakevitch,* was the most poetical nook in the whole town. It stood at the edge above the cliff, and from it there was a splendid view of the sea.
*A character in Gogol’s Dead Souls.—Translator’s Note.
“I sat down on the seat, and, bending over the parapet, looked down. A path ran from the summer-house along the steep, almost overhanging cliff, between the lumps of clay and tussocks of burdock. Where it ended, far below on the sandy shore, low waves were languidly foaming and softly purring. The sea was as majestic, as infinite, and as forbidding as seven years before when I left the high school and went from my native town to the capital; in the distance there was a dark streak of smoke—a steamer was passing—and except for this hardly visible and motionless streak and the sea-swallows that flitted over the water, there was nothing to give life to the monotonous view of sea and sky. To right and left of the summer-house stretched uneven clay cliffs.
“You know that when a man in a melancholy mood is left tête-à-tête with the sea, or any landscape which seems to him grandiose, there is always, for some reason, mixed with melancholy, a conviction that he will live and die in obscurity, and he reflectively snatches up a pencil and hastens to write his name on the first thing that comes handy. And that, I suppose, is why all convenient solitary nooks like my summer-house are always scrawled over in pencil or carved with penknives. I remember as though it were to-day; looking at the parapet I read: ‘Ivan Korolkov, May 16, 1876.’ Beside Korolkov some local dreamer had scribbled freely, adding:
“‘He stood on the desolate ocean’s strand,
While his soul was filled with imaginings grand.’

And his handwriting was dreamy, limp like wet silk. An individual called Kross, probably an insignificant, little man, felt his unimportance so deeply that he gave full licence to his penknife and carved his name in deep letters an inch high. I took a pencil out of my pocket mechanically, and I too scribbled on one of the columns. All that is irrelevant, however. . . You must forgive me—I don’t know how to tell a story briefly.
“I was sad and a little bored. Boredom, the stillness, and the purring of the sea gradually brought me to the line of thought we have been discussing. At that period, towards the end of the ’seventies, it had begun to be fashionable with the public, and later, at the beginning of the ‘eighties, it gradually passed from the general public into literature, science, and politics. I was no more than twenty-six at the time, but I knew perfectly well that life was aimless and had no meaning, that everything was a deception and an illusion, that in its essential nature and results a life of penal servitude in Sahalin was not in any way different from a life spent in Nice, that the difference between the brain of a Kant and the brain of a fly was of no real significance, that no one in this world is righteous or guilty, that everything was stuff and nonsense and damn it all! I lived as though I were doing a favour to some unseen power which compelled me to live, and to which I seemed to say: ‘Look, I don’t care a straw for life, but I am living!’ I thought on one definite line, but in all sorts of keys, and in that respect I was like the subtle gourmand who could prepare a hundred appetising dishes from nothing but potatoes. There is no doubt that I was one-sided and even to some extent narrow, but I fancied at the time that my intellectual horizon had neither beginning nor end, and that my thought was as boundless as the sea. Well, as far as I can judge by myself, the philosophy of which we are speaking has something alluring, narcotic in its nature, like tobacco or morphia. It becomes a habit, a craving. You take advantage of every minute of solitude to gloat over thoughts of the aimlessness of life and the darkness of the grave. While I was sitting in the summer-house, Greek children with long noses were decorously walking about the avenues. I took advantage of the occasion and, looking at them, began reflecting in this style:
“‘Why are these children born, and what are they living for? Is there any sort of meaning in their existence? They grow up, without themselves knowing what for; they will live in this God-forsaken, comfortless hole for no sort of reason, and then they will die. . . .’
“And I actually felt vexed with those children because they were walking about decorously and talking with dignity, as though they did not hold their little colourless lives so cheap and knew what they were living for. . . . I remember that far away at the end of an avenue three feminine figures came into sight. Three young ladies, one in a pink dress, two in white, were walking arm-in-arm, talking and laughing. Looking after them, I thought:
“‘It wouldn’t be bad to have an affair with some woman for a couple of days in this dull place.’
“I recalled by the way that it was three weeks since I had visited my Petersburg lady, and thought that a passing love affair would come in very appropriately for me just now. The young lady in white in the middle was rather younger and better looking than her companions, and judging by her manners and her laugh, she was a high-school girl in an upper form. I looked, not without impure thoughts, at her bust, and at the same time reflected about her: ’She will be trained in music and manners, she will be married to some Greek—God help us!—will lead a grey, stupid, comfortless life, will bring into the world a crowd of children without knowing why, and then will die. An absurd life!’
“I must say that as a rule I was a great hand at combining my lofty ideas with the lowest prose.
“Thoughts of the darkness of the grave did not prevent me from giving busts and legs their full due. Our dear Baron’s exalted ideas do not prevent him from going on Saturdays to Vukolovka on amatory expeditions. To tell the honest truth, as far as I remember, my attitude to women was most insulting. Now, when I think of that high-school girl, I blush for my thoughts then, but at the time my conscience was perfectly untroubled. I, the son of honourable parents, a Christian, who had received a superior education, not naturally wicked or stupid, felt not the slightest uneasiness when I paid women Blutgeld, as the Germans call it, or when I followed high-school girls with insulting looks. . . . The trouble is that youth makes its demands, and our philosophy has nothing in principle against those demands, whether they are good or whether they are loathsome. One who knows that life is aimless and death inevitable is not interested in the struggle against nature or the conception of sin: whether you struggle or whether you don’t, you will die and rot just the same. . . . Secondly, my friends, our philosophy instils even into very young people what is called reasonableness. The predominance of reason over the heart is simply overwhelming amongst us. Direct feeling, inspiration—everything is choked by petty analysis. Where there is reasonableness there is coldness, and cold people—it’s no use to disguise it—know nothing of chastity. That virtue is only known to those who are warm, affectionate, and capable of love. Thirdly, our philosophy denies the significance of each individual personality. It’s easy to see that if I deny the personality of some Natalya Stepanovna, it’s absolutely nothing to me whether she is insulted or not. To-day one insults her dignity as a human being and pays her Blutgeld, and next day thinks no more of her.
“So I sat in the summer-house and watched the young ladies. Another woman’s figure appeared in the avenue, with fair hair, her head uncovered and a white knitted shawl on her shoulders. She walked along the avenue, then came into the summer-house, and taking hold of the parapet, looked indifferently below and into the distance over the sea. As she came in she paid no attention to me, as though she did not notice me. I scrutinised her from foot to head (not from head to foot, as one scrutinises men) and found that she was young, not more than five-and-twenty, nice-looking, with a good figure, in all probability married and belonging to the class of respectable women. She was dressed as though she were at home, but fashionably and with taste, as ladies are, as a rule, in N.
“‘This one would do nicely,’ I thought, looking at her handsome figure and her arms; ‘she is all right. . . . She is probably the wife of some doctor or schoolmaster. . . .’
“But to make up to her—that is, to make her the heroine of one of those impromptu affairs to which tourists are so prone—was not easy and, indeed, hardly possible. I felt that as I gazed at her face. The way she looked, and the expression of her face, suggested that the sea, the smoke in the distance, and the sky had bored her long, long ago, and wearied her sight. She seemed to be tired, bored, and thinking about something dreary, and her face had not even that fussy, affectedly indifferent expression which one sees in the face of almost every woman when she is conscious of the presence of an unknown man in her vicinity.
“The fair-haired lady took a bored and passing glance at me, sat down on a seat and sank into reverie, and from her face I saw that she had no thoughts for me, and that I, with my Petersburg appearance, did not arouse in her even simple curiosity. But yet I made up my mind to speak to her, and asked: ‘Madam, allow me to ask you at what time do the waggonettes go from here to the town?’
“‘At ten or eleven, I believe. . . .’”
“I thanked her. She glanced at me once or twice, and suddenly there was a gleam of curiosity, then of something like wonder on her passionless face. . . . I made haste to assume an indifferent expression and to fall into a suitable attitude; she was catching on! She suddenly jumped up from the seat, as though something had bitten her, and examining me hurriedly, with a gentle smile, asked timidly:
“‘Oh, aren’t you Ananyev?’
“‘Yes, I am Ananyev,’ I answered.
“‘And don’t you recognise me? No?’
“I was a little confused. I looked intently at her, and—would you believe it?—I recognised her not from her face nor her figure, but from her gentle, weary smile. It was Natalya Stepanovna, or, as she was called, Kisotchka, the very girl I had been head over ears in love with seven or eight years before, when I was wearing the uniform of a high-school boy. The doings of far, vanished days, the days of long ago. . . . I remember this Kisotchka, a thin little high-school girl of fifteen or sixteen, when she was something just for a schoolboy’s taste, created by nature especially for Platonic love. What a charming little girl she was! Pale, fragile, light—she looked as though a breath would send her flying like a feather to the skies—a gentle, perplexed face, little hands, soft long hair to her belt, a waist as thin as a wasp’s—altogether something ethereal, transparent like moonlight—in fact, from the point of view of a high-school boy a peerless beauty. . . . Wasn’t I in love with her! I did not sleep at night. I wrote verses. . . . Sometimes in the evenings she would sit on a seat in the park while we schoolboys crowded round her, gazing reverently; in response to our compliments, our sighing, and attitudinising, she would shrink nervously from the evening damp, screw up her eyes, and smile gently, and at such times she was awfully like a pretty little kitten. As we gazed at her every one of us had a desire to caress her and stroke her like a cat, hence her nickname of Kisotchka.
“In the course of the seven or eight years since we had met, Kisotchka had greatly changed. She had grown more robust and stouter, and had quite lost the resemblance to a soft, fluffy kitten. It was not that her features looked old or faded, but they had somehow lost their brilliance and looked sterner, her hair seemed shorter, she looked taller, and her shoulders were quite twice as broad, and what was most striking, there was already in her face the expression of motherliness and resignation commonly seen in respectable women of her age, and this, of course, I had never seen in her before. . . . In short, of the school-girlish and the Platonic her face had kept the gentle smile and nothing more. . . .
“We got into conversation. Learning that I was already an engineer, Kisotchka was immensely delighted.
“‘How good that is!’ she said, looking joyfully into my face. ‘Ah, how good! And how splendid you all are! Of all who left with you, not one has been a failure—they have all turned out well. One an engineer, another a doctor, a third a teacher, another, they say, is a celebrated singer in Petersburg. . . . You are all splendid, all of you. . . . Ah, how good that is!’
“Kisotchka’s eyes shone with genuine goodwill and gladness. She was admiring me like an elder sister or a former governess. ‘While I looked at her sweet face and thought, It wouldn’t be bad to get hold of her to-day!’
“‘Do you remember, Natalya Stepanovna,’ I asked her, ‘how I once brought you in the park a bouquet with a note in it? You read my note, and such a look of bewilderment came into your face. . . .’
“‘No, I don’t remember that,’ she said, laughing. ‘But I remember how you wanted to challenge Florens to a duel over me. . . .’
“‘Well, would you believe it, I don’t remember that. . . .’
“‘Well, that’s all over and done with . . .’ sighed Kisotchka. ‘At one time I was your idol, and now it is my turn to look up to all of you. . . .’
“From further conversation I learned that two years after leaving the high school, Kisotchka had been married to a resident in the town who was half Greek, half Russian, had a post either in the bank or in the insurance society, and also carried on a trade in corn. He had a strange surname, something in the style of Populaki or Skarandopulo. . . . Goodness only knows—I have forgotten. . . . As a matter of fact, Kisotchka spoke little and with reluctance about herself. The conversation was only about me. She asked me about the College of Engineering, about my comrades, about Petersburg, about my plans, and everything I said moved her to eager delight and exclamations of, ‘Oh, how good that is!’
“We went down to the sea and walked over the sands; then when the night air began to blow chill and damp from the sea we climbed up again. All the while our talk was of me and of the past. We walked about until the reflection of the sunset had died away from the windows of the summer villas.
“‘Come in and have some tea,’ Kisotchka suggested. ‘The samovar must have been on the table long ago. . . . I am alone at home,’ she said, as her villa came into sight through the green of the acacias. ‘My husband is always in the town and only comes home at night, and not always then, and I must own that I am so dull that it’s simply deadly.’
“I followed her in, admiring her back and shoulders. I was glad that she was married. Married women are better material for temporary love affairs than girls. I was also pleased that her husband was not at home. At the same time I felt that the affair would not come off. . . .
“We went into the house. The rooms were smallish and had low ceilings, and the furniture was typical of the summer villa (Russians like having at their summer villas uncomfortable heavy, dingy furniture which they are sorry to throw away and have nowhere to put), but from certain details I could observe that Kisotchka and her husband were not badly off, and must be spending five or six thousand roubles a year. I remember that in the middle of the room which Kisotchka called the dining-room there was a round table, supported for some reason on six legs, and on it a samovar and cups. At the edge of the table lay an open book, a pencil, and an exercise book. I glanced at the book and recognised it as ‘Malinin and Burenin’s Arithmetical Examples.’ It was open, as I now remember, at the ‘Rules of Compound Interest.’
“‘To whom are you giving lessons?’ I asked Kisotchka.
“‘Nobody,’ she answered. ‘I am just doing some. . . . I have nothing to do, and am so bored that I think of the old days and do sums.’
“‘Have you any children?’
“‘I had a baby boy, but he only lived a week.’
“We began drinking tea. Admiring me, Kisotchka said again how good it was that I was an engineer, and how glad she was of my success. And the more she talked and the more genuinely she smiled, the stronger was my conviction that I should go away without having gained my object. I was a connoisseur in love affairs in those days, and could accurately gauge my chances of success. You can boldly reckon on success if you are tracking down a fool or a woman as much on the look out for new experiences and sensations as yourself, or an adventuress to whom you are a stranger. If you come across a sensible and serious woman, whose face has an expression of weary submission and goodwill, who is genuinely delighted at your presence, and, above all, respects you, you may as well turn back. To succeed in that case needs longer than one day.
“And by evening light Kisotchka seemed even more charming than by day. She attracted me more and more, and apparently she liked me too, and the surroundings were most appropriate: the husband not at home, no servants visible, stillness around. . . . Though I had little confidence in success, I made up my mind to begin the attack anyway. First of all it was necessary to get into a familiar tone and to change Kisotchka’s lyrically earnest mood into a more frivolous one.
“‘Let us change the conversation, Natalya Stepanovna,’ I began. ’Let us talk of something amusing. First of all, allow me, for the sake of old times, to call you Kisotchka.’
“She allowed me.
“‘Tell me, please, Kisotchka,’ I went on, ‘what is the matter with all the fair sex here. What has happened to them? In old days they were all so moral and virtuous, and now, upon my word, if one asks about anyone, one is told such things that one is quite shocked at human nature. . . . One young lady has eloped with an officer; another has run away and carried off a high-school boy with her; another—a married woman—has run away from her husband with an actor; a fourth has left her husband and gone off with an officer, and so on and so on. It’s a regular epidemic! If it goes on like this there won’t be a girl or a young woman left in your town!’
“I spoke in a vulgar, playful tone. If Kisotchka had laughed in response I should have gone on in this style: ‘You had better look out, Kisotchka, or some officer or actor will be carrying you off!’ She would have dropped her eyes and said: ‘As though anyone would care to carry me off; there are plenty younger and better looking . . . .’ And I should have said: ‘Nonsense, Kisotchka—I for one should be delighted!’ And so on in that style, and it would all have gone swimmingly. But Kisotchka did not laugh in response; on the contrary, she looked grave and sighed.
“‘All you have been told is true,’ she said. ‘My cousin Sonya ran away from her husband with an actor. Of course, it is wrong. . . . Everyone ought to bear the lot that fate has laid on him, but I do not condemn them or blame them. . . . Circumstances are sometimes too strong for anyone!’
“‘That is so, Kisotchka, but what circumstances can produce a regular epidemic?’
“‘It’s very simple and easy to understand,’ replied Kisotchka, raising her eyebrows. ‘There is absolutely nothing for us educated girls and women to do with ourselves. Not everyone is able to go to the University, to become a teacher, to live for ideas, in fact, as men do. They have to be married. . . . And whom would you have them marry? You boys leave the high-school and go away to the University, never to return to your native town again, and you marry in Petersburg or Moscow, while the girls remain. . . . To whom are they to be married? Why, in the absence of decent cultured men, goodness knows what sort of men they marry—stockbrokers and such people of all kinds, who can do nothing but drink and get into rows at the club. . . . A girl married like that, at random. . . . And what is her life like afterwards? You can understand: a well-educated, cultured woman is living with a stupid, boorish man; if she meets a cultivated man, an officer, an actor, or a doctor—well, she gets to love him, her life becomes unbearable to her, and she runs away from her husband. And one can’t condemn her!’
“‘If that is so, Kisotchka, why get married?’ I asked.
“‘Yes, of course,’ said Kisotchka with a sigh, ‘but you know every girl fancies that any husband is better than nothing. . . . Altogether life is horrid here, Nikolay Anastasyevitch, very horrid! Life is stifling for a girl and stifling when one is married. . . . Here they laugh at Sonya for having run away from her husband, but if they could see into her soul they would not laugh. . . .’”
Azorka began barking outside again. He growled angrily at some one, then howled miserably and dashed with all his force against the wall of the hut. . . . Ananyev’s face was puckered with pity; he broke off his story and went out. For two minutes he could be heard outside comforting his dog. “Good dog! poor dog!”
“Our Nikolay Anastasyevitch is fond of talking,” said Von Schtenberg, laughing. “He is a good fellow,” he added after a brief silence.
Returning to the hut, the engineer filled up our glasses and, smiling and stroking his chest, went on:
“And so my attack was unsuccessful. There was nothing for it, I put off my unclean thoughts to a more favourable occasion, resigned myself to my failure and, as the saying is, waved my hand. What is more, under the influence of Kisotchka’s voice, the evening air, and the stillness, I gradually myself fell into a quiet sentimental mood. I remember I sat in an easy chair by the wide-open window and glanced at the trees and darkened sky. The outlines of the acacias and the lime trees were just the same as they had been eight years before; just as then, in the days of my childhood, somewhere far away there was the tinkling of a wretched piano, and the public had just the same habit of sauntering to and fro along the avenues, but the people were not the same. Along the avenues there walked now not my comrades and I and the object of my adoration, but schoolboys and young ladies who were strangers. And I felt melancholy. When to my inquiries about acquaintances I five times received from Kisotchka the answer, ‘He is dead,’ my melancholy changed into the feeling one has at the funeral service of a good man. And sitting there at the window, looking at the promenading public and listening to the tinkling piano, I saw with my own eyes for the first time in my life with what eagerness one generation hastens to replace another, and what a momentous significance even some seven or eight years may have in a man’s life!
“Kisotchka put a bottle of red wine on the table. I drank it off, grew sentimental, and began telling a long story about something or other. Kisotchka listened as before, admiring me and my cleverness. And time passed. The sky was by now so dark that the outlines of the acacias and lime trees melted into one, the public was no longer walking up and down the avenues, the piano was silent and the only sound was the even murmur of the sea.
“Young people are all alike. Be friendly to a young man, make much of him, regale him with wine, let him understand that he is attractive and he will sit on and on, forget that it is time to go, and talk and talk and talk. . . . His hosts cannot keep their eyes open, it’s past their bedtime, and he still stays and talks. That was what I did. Once I chanced to look at the clock; it was half-past ten. I began saying good-bye.
“‘Have another glass before your walk,’ said Kisotchka.
“I took another glass, again I began talking at length, forgot it was time to go, and sat down. Then there came the sound of men’s voices, footsteps and the clank of spurs.
“‘I think my husband has come in . . . .’ said Kisotchka listening.
“The door creaked, two voices came now from the passage and I saw two men pass the door that led into the dining-room: one a stout, solid, dark man with a hooked nose, wearing a straw hat, and the other a young officer in a white tunic. As they passed the door they both glanced casually and indifferently at Kisotchka and me, and I fancied both of them were drunk.
“‘She told you a lie then, and you believed her!’ we heard a loud voice with a marked nasal twang say a minute later. ‘To begin with, it wasn’t at the big club but at the little one.’
“‘You are angry, Jupiter, so you are wrong . . . .’ said another voice, obviously the officer’s, laughing and coughing. ‘I say, can I stay the night? Tell me honestly, shall I be in your way?’
“‘What a question! Not only you can, but you must. What will you have, beer or wine?’
“They were sitting two rooms away from us, talking loudly, and apparently feeling no interest in Kisotchka or her visitor. A perceptible change came over Kisotchka on her husband’s arrival. At first she flushed red, then her face wore a timid, guilty expression; she seemed to be troubled by some anxiety, and I began to fancy that she was ashamed to show me her husband and wanted me to go.
“I began taking leave. Kisotchka saw me to the front door. I remember well her gentle mournful smile and kind patient eyes as she pressed my hand and said:
“‘Most likely we shall never see each other again. Well, God give you every blessing. Thank you!’
“Not one sigh, not one fine phrase. As she said good-bye she was holding the candle in her hand; patches of light danced over her face and neck, as though chasing her mournful smile. I pictured to myself the old Kisotchka whom one used to want to stroke like a cat, I looked intently at the present Kisotchka, and for some reason recalled her words: ‘Everyone ought to bear the lot that fate has laid on him.’ And I had a pang at my heart. I instinctively guessed how it was, and my conscience whispered to me that I, in my happiness and indifference, was face to face with a good, warm-hearted, loving creature, who was broken by suffering.
“I said good-bye and went to the gate. By now it was quite dark. In the south the evenings draw in early in July and it gets dark rapidly. Towards ten o’clock it is so dark that you can’t see an inch before your nose. I lighted a couple of dozen matches before, almost groping, I found my way to the gate.
“‘Cab!’ I shouted, going out of the gate; not a sound, not a sigh in answer. . . . ‘Cab,’ I repeated, ‘hey, Cab!’
“But there was no cab of any description. The silence of the grave. I could hear nothing but the murmur of the drowsy sea and the beating of my heart from the wine. Lifting my eyes to the sky I found not a single star. It was dark and sullen. Evidently the sky was covered with clouds. For some reason I shrugged my shoulders, smiling foolishly, and once more, not quite so resolutely, shouted for a cab.
“The echo answered me. A walk of three miles across open country and in the pitch dark was not an agreeable prospect. Before making up my mind to walk, I spent a long time deliberating and shouting for a cab; then, shrugging my shoulders, I walked lazily back to the copse, with no definite object in my mind. It was dreadfully dark in the copse. Here and there between the trees the windows of the summer villas glowed a dull red. A raven, disturbed by my steps and the matches with which I lighted my way to the summer-house, flew from tree to tree and rustled among the leaves. I felt vexed and ashamed, and the raven seemed to understand this, and croaked ’krrra!’ I was vexed that I had to walk, and ashamed that I had stayed on at Kisotchka’s, chatting like a boy.
“I made my way to the summer-house, felt for the seat and sat down. Far below me, behind a veil of thick darkness, the sea kept up a low angry growl. I remember that, as though I were blind, I could see neither sky nor sea, nor even the summer-house in which I was sitting. And it seemed to me as though the whole world consisted only of the thoughts that were straying through my head, dizzy from the wine, and of an unseen power murmuring monotonously somewhere below. And afterwards, as I sank into a doze, it began to seem that it was not the sea murmuring, but my thoughts, and that the whole world consisted of nothing but me. And concentrating the whole world in myself in this way, I thought no more of cabs, of the town, and of Kisotchka, and abandoned myself to the sensation I was so fond of: that is, the sensation of fearful isolation when you feel that in the whole universe, dark and formless, you alone exist. It is a proud, demoniac sensation, only possible to Russians whose thoughts and sensations are as large, boundless, and gloomy as their plains, their forests, and their snow. If I had been an artist I should certainly have depicted the expression of a Russian’s face when he sits motionless and, with his legs under him and his head clasped in his hands, abandons himself to this sensation. . . . And together with this sensation come thoughts of the aimlessness of life, of death, and of the darkness of the grave. . . . The thoughts are not worth a brass farthing, but the expression of face must be fine. . . .
“While I was sitting and dozing, unable to bring myself to get up—I was warm and comfortable—all at once, against the even monotonous murmur of the sea, as though upon a canvas, sounds began to grow distinct which drew my attention from myself. . . . Someone was coming hurriedly along the avenue. Reaching the summer-house this someone stopped, gave a sob like a little girl, and said in the voice of a weeping child: ‘My God, when will it all end! Merciful Heavens!’
“Judging from the voice and the weeping I took it to be a little girl of ten or twelve. She walked irresolutely into the summer-house, sat down, and began half-praying, half-complaining aloud. . . .
“‘Merciful God!’ she said, crying, ‘it’s unbearable. It’s beyond all endurance! I suffer in silence, but I want to live too. . . . Oh, my God! My God!’
“And so on in the same style.
“I wanted to look at the child and speak to her. So as not to frighten her I first gave a loud sigh and coughed, then cautiously struck a match. . . . There was a flash of bright light in the darkness, which lighted up the weeping figure. It was Kisotchka!”
“Marvels upon marvels!” said Von Schtenberg with a sigh. “Black night, the murmur of the sea; she in grief, he with a sensation of world—solitude. . . . It’s too much of a good thing. . . . You only want Circassians with daggers to complete it.”
“I am not telling you a tale, but fact.”
“Well, even if it is a fact . . . it all proves nothing, and there is nothing new in it. . . .”
“Wait a little before you find fault! Let me finish,” said Ananyev, waving his hand with vexation; “don’t interfere, please! I am not telling you, but the doctor. . . . Well,” he went on, addressing me and glancing askance at the student who bent over his books and seemed very well satisfied at having gibed at the engineer—“well, Kisotchka was not surprised or frightened at seeing me. It seemed as though she had known beforehand that she would find me in the summer-house. She was breathing in gasps and trembling all over as though in a fever, while her tear-stained face, so far as I could distinguish it as I struck match after match, was not the intelligent, submissive weary face I had seen before, but something different, which I cannot understand to this day. It did not express pain, nor anxiety, nor misery—nothing of what was expressed by her words and her tears. . . . I must own that, probably because I did not understand it, it looked to me senseless and as though she were drunk.
“‘I can’t bear it,’ muttered Kisotchka in the voice of a crying child. ‘It’s too much for me, Nikolay Anastasyitch. Forgive me, Nikolav Anastasyitch. I can’t go on living like this. . . . I am going to the town to my mother’s. . . . Take me there. . . . Take me there, for God’s sake!’
“In the presence of tears I can neither speak nor be silent. I was flustered and muttered some nonsense trying to comfort her.
“‘No, no; I will go to my mother’s,’ said Kisotchka resolutely, getting up and clutching my arm convulsively (her hands and her sleeves were wet with tears). ‘Forgive me, Nikolay Anastasyitch, I am going. . . . I can bear no more. . . .’
“‘Kisotchka, but there isn’t a single cab,’ I said. ‘How can you go?’
“‘No matter, I’ll walk. . . . It’s not far. I can’t bear it. . . .’
“I was embarrassed, but not touched. Kisotchka’s tears, her trembling, and the blank expression of her face suggested to me a trivial, French or Little Russian melodrama, in which every ounce of cheap shallow feeling is washed down with pints of tears.
“I didn’t understand her, and knew I did not understand her; I ought to have been silent, but for some reason, most likely for fear my silence might be taken for stupidity, I thought fit to try to persuade her not to go to her mother’s, but to stay at home. When people cry, they don’t like their tears to be seen. And I lighted match after match and went on striking till the box was empty. What I wanted with this ungenerous illumination, I can’t conceive to this day. Cold-hearted people are apt to be awkward, and even stupid.
“In the end Kisotchka took my arm and we set off. Going out of the gate, we turned to the right and sauntered slowly along the soft dusty road. It was dark. As my eyes grew gradually accustomed to the darkness, I began to distinguish the silhouettes of the old gaunt oaks and lime trees which bordered the road. The jagged, precipitous cliffs, intersected here and there by deep, narrow ravines and creeks, soon showed indistinctly, a black streak on the right. Low bushes nestled by the hollows, looking like sitting figures. It was uncanny. I looked sideways suspiciously at the cliffs, and the murmur of the sea and the stillness of the country alarmed my imagination. Kisotchka did not speak. She was still trembling, and before she had gone half a mile she was exhausted with walking and was out of breath. I too was silent.
“Three-quarters of a mile from the Quarantine Station there was a deserted building of four storeys, with a very high chimney in which there had once been a steam flour mill. It stood solitary on the cliff, and by day it could be seen for a long distance, both by sea and by land. Because it was deserted and no one lived in it, and because there was an echo in it which distinctly repeated the steps and voices of passers-by, it seemed mysterious. Picture me in the dark night arm-in-arm with a woman who was running away from her husband near this tall long monster which repeated the sound of every step I took and stared at me fixedly with its hundred black windows. A normal young man would have been moved to romantic feelings in such surroundings, but I looked at the dark windows and thought: ‘All this is very impressive, but time will come when of that building and of Kisotchka and her troubles and of me with my thoughts, not one grain of dust will remain. . . . All is nonsense and vanity. . . .’
“When we reached the flour mill Kisotchka suddenly stopped, took her arm out of mine, and said, no longer in a childish voice, but in her own:
“‘Nikolay Anastasvitch, I know all this seems strange to you. But I am terribly unhappy! And you cannot even imagine how unhappy! It’s impossible to imagine it! I don’t tell you about it because one can’t talk about it. . . . Such a life, such a life! . . .’
“Kisotchka did not finish. She clenched her teeth and moaned as though she were doing her utmost not to scream with pain.
“‘Such a life!’ she repeated with horror, with the cadence and the southern, rather Ukrainian accent which particularly in women gives to emotional speech the effect of singing. ‘It is a life! Ah, my God, my God! what does it mean? Oh, my God, my God!’
“As though trying to solve the riddle of her fate, she shrugged her shoulders in perplexity, shook her head, and clasped her hands. She spoke as though she were singing, moved gracefully, and reminded me of a celebrated Little Russian actress.
“‘Great God, it is as though I were in a pit,’ she went on. ‘If one could live for one minute in happiness as other people live! Oh, my God, my God! I have come to such disgrace that before a stranger I am running away from my husband by night, like some disreputable creature! Can I expect anything good after that?’
“As I admired her movements and her voice, I began to feel annoyed that she was not on good terms with her husband. ‘It would be nice to have got on into relations with her!’ flitted through my mind; and this pitiless thought stayed in my brain, haunted me all the way and grew more and more alluring.
“About a mile from the flour mill we had to turn to the left by the cemetery. At the turning by the corner of the cemetery there stood a stone windmill, and by it a little hut in which the miller lived. We passed the mill and the hut, turned to the left and reached the gates of the cemetery. There Kisotchka stopped and said:
“‘I am going back, Nikolay Anastasyitch! You go home, and God bless you, but I am going back. I am not frightened.’
“‘Well, what next!’ I said, disconcerted. ‘If you are going, you had better go!’
“‘I have been too hasty. . . . It was all about nothing that mattered. You and your talk took me back to the past and put all sort of ideas into my head. . . . I was sad and wanted to cry, and my husband said rude things to me before that officer, and I could not bear it. . . . And what’s the good of my going to the town to my mother’s? Will that make me any happier? I must go back. . . . But never mind . . . let us go on,’ said Kisotchka, and she laughed. ’It makes no difference!’
“I remembered that over the gate of the cemetery there was an inscription: ‘The hour will come wherein all they that lie in the grave will hear the voice of the Son of God.’ I knew very well that sooner or later I and Kisotchka and her husband and the officer in the white tunic would lie under the dark trees in the churchyard; I knew that an unhappy and insulted fellow-creature was walking beside me. All this I recognised distinctly, but at the same time I was troubled by an oppressive and unpleasant dread that Kisotchka would turn back, and that I should not manage to say to her what had to be said. Never at any other time in my life have thoughts of a higher order been so closely interwoven with the basest animal prose as on that night. . . . It was horrible!
“Not far from the cemetery we found a cab. When we reached the High Street, where Kisotchka’s mother lived, we dismissed the cab and walked along the pavement. Kisotchka was silent all the while, while I looked at her, and I raged at myself, ‘Why don’t you begin? Now’s the time!’ About twenty paces from the hotel where I was staying, Kisotchka stopped by the lamp-post and burst into tears.
“‘Nikolay Anastasyitch!’ she said, crying and laughing and looking at me with wet shining eyes, ‘I shall never forget your sympathy . . . . How good you are! All of you are so splendid—all of you! Honest, great-hearted, kind, clever. . . . Ah, how good that is!’
“She saw in me a highly educated man, advanced in every sense of the word, and on her tear-stained laughing face, together with the emotion and enthusiasm aroused by my personality, there was clearly written regret that she so rarely saw such people, and that God had not vouchsafed her the bliss of being the wife of one of them. She muttered, ‘Ah, how splendid it is!’ The childish gladness on her face, the tears, the gentle smile, the soft hair, which had escaped from under the kerchief, and the kerchief itself thrown carelessly over her head, in the light of the street lamp reminded me of the old Kisotchka whom one had wanted to stroke like a kitten.
“I could not restrain myself, and began stroking her hair, her shoulders, and her hands.
“‘Kisotchka, what do you want?’ I muttered. ‘I’ll go to the ends of the earth with you if you like! I will take you out of this hole and give you happiness. I love you. . . . Let us go, my sweet? Yes? Will you?’
“Kisotchka’s face was flooded with bewilderment. She stepped back from the street lamp and, completely overwhelmed, gazed at me with wide-open eyes. I gripped her by the arm, began showering kisses on her face, her neck, her shoulders, and went on making vows and promises. In love affairs vows and promises are almost a physiological necessity. There’s no getting on without them. Sometimes you know you are lying and that promises are not necessary, but still you vow and protest. Kisotchka, utterly overwhelmed, kept staggering back and gazing at me with round eyes.
“‘Please don’t! Please don’t!’ she muttered, holding me off with her hands.
“I clasped her tightly in my arms. All at once she broke into hysterical tears. And her face had the same senseless blank expression that I had seen in the summer-house when I lighted the matches. Without asking her consent, preventing her from speaking, I dragged her forcibly towards my hotel. She seemed almost swooning and did not walk, but I took her under the arms and almost carried her. . . . I remember, as we were going up the stairs, some man with a red band in his cap looked wonderingly at me and bowed to Kisotchka. . . .”
Ananyev flushed crimson and paused. He walked up and down near the table in silence, scratched the back of his head with an air of vexation, and several times shrugged his shoulders and twitched his shoulder-blades, while a shiver ran down his huge back. The memory was painful and made him ashamed, and he was struggling with himself.
“It’s horrible!” he said, draining a glass of wine and shaking his head. “I am told that in every introductory lecture on women’s diseases the medical students are admonished to remember that each one of them has a mother, a sister, a fiancée, before undressing and examining a female patient. . . . That advice would be very good not only for medical students but for everyone who in one way or another has to deal with a woman’s life. Now that I have a wife and a little daughter, oh, how well I understand that advice! How I understand it, my God! You may as well hear the rest, though. . . . As soon as she had become my mistress, Kisotchka’s view of the position was very different from mine. First of all she felt for me a deep and passionate love. What was for me an ordinary amatory episode was for her an absolute revolution in her life. I remember, it seemed to me that she had gone out of her mind. Happy for the first time in her life, looking five years younger, with an inspired enthusiastic face, not knowing what to do with herself for happiness, she laughed and cried and never ceased dreaming aloud how next day we would set off for the Caucasus, then in the autumn to Petersburg; how we would live afterwards.
“‘Don’t worry yourself about my husband,’ she said to reassure me. ’He is bound to give me a divorce. Everyone in the town knows that he is living with the elder Kostovitch. We will get a divorce and be married.’
“When women love they become acclimatised and at home with people very quickly, like cats. Kisotchka had only spent an hour and a half in my room when she already felt as though she were at home and was ready to treat my property as though it were her own. She packed my things in my portmanteau, scolded me for not hanging my new expensive overcoat on a peg instead of flinging it on a chair, and so on.
“I looked at her, listened, and felt weariness and vexation. I was conscious of a slight twinge of horror at the thought that a respectable, honest, and unhappy woman had so easily, after some three or four hours, succumbed to the first man she met. As a respectable man, you see, I didn’t like it. Then, too, I was unpleasantly impressed by the fact that women of Kisotchka’s sort, not deep or serious, are too much in love with life, and exalt what is in reality such a trifle as love for a man to the level of bliss, misery, a complete revolution in life. . . . Moreover, now that I was satisfied, I was vexed with myself for having been so stupid as to get entangled with a woman whom I should have to deceive. And in spite of my disorderly life I must observe that I could not bear telling lies.
“I remember that Kisotchka sat down at my feet, laid her head on my knees, and, looking at me with shining, loving eyes, asked:
“‘Kolya, do you love me? Very, very much?’
“And she laughed with happiness. . . . This struck me as sentimental, affected, and not clever; and meanwhile I was already inclined to look for ‘depth of thought’ before everything.
“‘Kisotchka, you had better go home,’ I said, or else your people will be sure to miss you and will be looking for you all over the town; and it would be awkward for you to go to your mother in the morning.’
“Kisotchka agreed. At parting we arranged to meet at midday next morning in the park, and the day after to set off together to Pyatigorsk. I went into the street to see her home, and I remember that I caressed her with genuine tenderness on the way. There was a minute when I felt unbearably sorry for her, for trusting me so implicitly, and I made up my mind that I would really take her to Pyatigorsk, but remembering that I had only six hundred roubles in my portmanteau, and that it would be far more difficult to break it off with her in the autumn than now, I made haste to suppress my compassion.
“We reached the house where Kisotchka’s mother lived. I pulled at the bell. When footsteps were heard at the other side of the door Kisotchka suddenly looked grave, glanced upwards to the sky, made the sign of the Cross over me several times and, clutching my hand, pressed it to her lips.
“‘Till to-morrow,’ she said, and disappeared into the house.
“I crossed to the opposite pavement and from there looked at the house. At first the windows were in darkness, then in one of the windows there was the glimmer of the faint bluish flame of a newly lighted candle; the flame grew, gave more light, and I saw shadows moving about the rooms together with it.
“‘They did not expect her,’ I thought.
“Returning to my hotel room I undressed, drank off a glass of red wine, ate some fresh caviare which I had bought that day in the bazaar, went to bed in a leisurely way, and slept the sound, untroubled sleep of a tourist.
“In the morning I woke up with a headache and in a bad humour. Something worried me.
“‘What’s the matter?’ I asked myself, trying to explain my uneasiness. ’What’s upsetting me?’
“And I put down my uneasiness to the dread that Kisotchka might turn up any minute and prevent my going away, and that I should have to tell lies and act a part before her. I hurriedly dressed, packed my things, and left the hotel, giving instructions to the porter to take my luggage to the station for the seven o’clock train in the evening. I spent the whole day with a doctor friend and left the town that evening. As you see, my philosophy did not prevent me from taking to my heels in a mean and treacherous flight. . . .
“All the while that I was at my friend’s, and afterwards driving to the station, I was tormented by anxiety. I fancied that I was afraid of meeting with Kisotchka and a scene. In the station I purposely remained in the toilet room till the second bell rang, and while I was making my way to my compartment, I was oppressed by a feeling as though I were covered all over with stolen things. With what impatience and terror I waited for the third bell!
“At last the third bell that brought my deliverance rang at last, the train moved; we passed the prison, the barracks, came out into the open country, and yet, to my surprise, the feeling of uneasiness still persisted, and still I felt like a thief passionately longing to escape. It was queer. To distract my mind and calm myself I looked out of the window. The train ran along the coast. The sea was smooth, and the turquoise sky, almost half covered with the tender, golden crimson light of sunset, was gaily and serenely mirrored in it. Here and there fishing boats and rafts made black patches on its surface. The town, as clean and beautiful as a toy, stood on the high cliff, and was already shrouded in the mist of evening. The golden domes of its churches, the windows and the greenery reflected the setting sun, glowing and melting like shimmering gold. . . . The scent of the fields mingled with the soft damp air from the sea.
“The train flew rapidly along. I heard the laughter of passengers and guards. Everyone was good-humoured and light-hearted, yet my unaccountable uneasiness grew greater and greater. . . . I looked at the white mist that covered the town and I imagined how a woman with a senseless blank face was hurrying up and down in that mist by the churches and the houses, looking for me and moaning, ‘Oh, my God! Oh, my God!’ in the voice of a little girl or the cadences of a Little Russian actress. I recalled her grave face and big anxious eyes as she made the sign of the Cross over me, as though I belonged to her, and mechanically I looked at the hand which she had kissed the day before.
“‘Surely I am not in love?’ I asked myself, scratching my hand.
“Only as night came on when the passengers were asleep and I was left tête-à-tête with my conscience, I began to understand what I had not been able to grasp before. In the twilight of the railway carriage the image of Kisotchka rose before me, haunted me and I recognised clearly that I had committed a crime as bad as murder. My conscience tormented me. To stifle this unbearable feeling, I assured myself that everything was nonsense and vanity, that Kisotchka and I would die and decay, that her grief was nothing in comparison with death, and so on and so on . . . and that if you come to that, there is no such thing as freewill, and that therefore I was not to blame. But all these arguments only irritated me and were extraordinarily quickly crowded out by other thoughts. There was a miserable feeling in the hand that Kisotchka had kissed. . . . I kept lying down and getting up again, drank vodka at the stations, forced myself to eat bread and butter, fell to assuring myself again that life had no meaning, but nothing was of any use. A strange and if you like absurd ferment was going on in my brain. The most incongruous ideas crowded one after another in disorder, getting more and more tangled, thwarting each other, and I, the thinker, ’with my brow bent on the earth,’ could make out nothing and could not find my bearings in this mass of essential and non-essential ideas. It appeared that I, the thinker, had not mastered the technique of thinking, and that I was no more capable of managing my own brain than mending a watch. For the first time in my life I was really thinking eagerly and intensely, and that seemed to me so monstrous that I said to myself: ‘I am going off my head.’ A man whose brain does not work at all times, but only at painful moments, is often haunted by the thought of madness.
“I spent a day and a night in this misery, then a second night, and learning from experience how little my philosophy was to me, I came to my senses and realised at last what sort of a creature I was. I saw that my ideas were not worth a brass farthing, and that before meeting Kisotchka I had not begun to think and had not even a conception of what thinking in earnest meant; now through suffering I realised that I had neither convictions nor a definite moral standard, nor heart, nor reason; my whole intellectual and moral wealth consisted of specialist knowledge, fragments, useless memories, other people’s ideas—and nothing else; and my mental processes were as lacking in complexity, as useless and as rudimentary as a Yakut’s. . . . If I had disliked lying, had not stolen, had not murdered, and, in fact, made obviously gross mistakes, that was not owing to my convictions—I had none, but because I was in bondage, hand and foot, to my nurse’s fairy tales and to copy-book morals, which had entered into my flesh and blood and without my noticing it guided me in life, though I looked on them as absurd. . . .
“I realised that I was not a thinker, not a philosopher, but simply a dilettante. God had given me a strong healthy Russian brain with promise of talent. And, only fancy, here was that brain at twenty-six, undisciplined, completely free from principles, not weighed down by any stores of knowledge, but only lightly sprinkled with information of a sort in the engineering line; it was young and had a physiological craving for exercise, it was on the look-out for it, when all at once quite casually the fine juicy idea of the aimlessness of life and the darkness beyond the tomb descends upon it. It greedily sucks it in, puts its whole outlook at its disposal and begins playing with it, like a cat with a mouse. There is neither learning nor system in the brain, but that does not matter. It deals with the great ideas with its own innate powers, like a self-educated man, and before a month has passed the owner of the brain can turn a potato into a hundred dainty dishes, and fancies himself a philosopher . . . .
“Our generation has carried this dilettantism, this playing with serious ideas into science, into literature, into politics, and into everything which it is not too lazy to go into, and with its dilettantism has introduced, too, its coldness, its boredom, and its one-sidedness and, as it seems to me, it has already succeeded in developing in the masses a new hitherto non-existent attitude to serious ideas.
“I realised and appreciated my abnormality and utter ignorance, thanks to a misfortune. My normal thinking, so it seems to me now, dates from the day when I began again from the A, B, C, when my conscience sent me flying back to N., when with no philosophical subleties I repented, besought Kisotchka’s forgiveness like a naughty boy and wept with her. . . .”
Ananyev briefly described his last interview with Kisotchka.
“H’m. . . .” the student filtered through his teeth when the engineer had finished. “That’s the sort of thing that happens.”
His face still expressed mental inertia, and apparently Ananyev’s story had not touched him in the least. Only when the engineer after a moment’s pause, began expounding his view again and repeating what he had said at first, the student frowned irritably, got up from the table and walked away to his bed. He made his bed and began undressing.
“You look as though you have really convinced some one this time,” he said irritably.
“Me convince anybody!” said the engineer. “My dear soul, do you suppose I claim to do that? God bless you! To convince you is impossible. You can reach conviction only by way of personal experience and suffering!”
“And then—it’s queer logic!” grumbled the student as he put on his nightshirt. “The ideas which you so dislike, which are so ruinous for the young are, according to you, the normal thing for the old; it’s as though it were a question of grey hairs. . . . Where do the old get this privilege? What is it based upon? If these ideas are poison, they are equally poisonous for all?”
“Oh, no, my dear soul, don’t say so!” said the engineer with a sly wink. “Don’t say so. In the first place, old men are not dilettanti. Their pessimism comes to them not casually from outside, but from the depths of their own brains, and only after they have exhaustively studied the Hegels and Kants of all sorts, have suffered, have made no end of mistakes, in fact—when they have climbed the whole ladder from bottom to top. Their pessimism has both personal experience and sound philosophic training behind it. Secondly, the pessimism of old thinkers does not take the form of idle talk, as it does with you and me, but of Weltschmertz, of suffering; it rests in them on a Christian foundation because it is derived from love for humanity and from thoughts about humanity, and is entirely free from the egoism which is noticeable in dilettanti. You despise life because its meaning and its object are hidden just from you, and you are only afraid of your own death, while the real thinker is unhappy because the truth is hidden from all and he is afraid for all men. For instance, there is living not far from here the Crown forester, Ivan Alexandritch. He is a nice old man. At one time he was a teacher somewhere, and used to write something; the devil only knows what he was, but anyway he is a remarkably clever fellow and in philosophy he is A1. He has read a great deal and he is continually reading now. Well, we came across him lately in the Gruzovsky district. . . . They were laying the sleepers and rails just at the time. It’s not a difficult job, but Ivan Alexandritch, not being a specialist, looked at it as though it were a conjuring trick. It takes an experienced workman less than a minute to lay a sleeper and fix a rail on it. The workmen were in good form and really were working smartly and rapidly; one rascal in particular brought his hammer down with exceptional smartness on the head of the nail and drove it in at one blow, though the handle of the hammer was two yards or more in length and each nail was a foot long. Ivan Alexandritch watched the workmen a long time, was moved, and said to me with tears in his eyes:
“‘What a pity that these splendid men will die!’ Such pessimism I understand.”
“All that proves nothing and explains nothing,” said the student, covering himself up with a sheet; “all that is simply pounding liquid in a mortar. No one knows anything and nothing can be proved by words.”
He peeped out from under the sheet, lifted up his head and, frowning irritably, said quickly:
“One must be very naïve to believe in human words and logic and to ascribe any determining value to them. You can prove and disprove anything you like with words, and people will soon perfect the technique of language to such a point that they will prove with mathematical certainty that twice two is seven. I am fond of reading and listening, but as to believing, no thank you; I can’t, and I don’t want to. I believe only in God, but as for you, if you talk to me till the Second Coming and seduce another five hundred Kisothchkas, I shall believe in you only when I go out of my mind . . . . Goodnight.”
The student hid his head under the sheet and turned his face towards the wall, meaning by this action to let us know that he did not want to speak or listen. The argument ended at that.
Before going to bed the engineer and I went out of the hut, and I saw the lights once more.
“We have tired you out with our chatter,” said Ananyev, yawning and looking at the sky. “Well, my good sir! The only pleasure we have in this dull hole is drinking and philosophising. . . . What an embankment, Lord have mercy on us!” he said admiringly, as we approached the embankment; “it is more like Mount Ararat than an embankment.”
He paused for a little, then said: “Those lights remind the Baron of the Amalekites, but it seems to me that they are like the thoughts of man. . . . You know the thoughts of each individual man are scattered like that in disorder, stretch in a straight line towards some goal in the midst of the darkness and, without shedding light on anything, without lighting up the night, they vanish somewhere far beyond old age. But enough philosophising! It’s time to go bye-bye.”
When we were back in the hut the engineer began begging me to take his bed.
“Oh please!” he said imploringly, pressing both hands on his heart. “I entreat you, and don’t worry about me! I can sleep anywhere, and, besides, I am not going to bed just yet. Please do—it’s a favour!”
I agreed, undressed, and went to bed, while he sat down to the table and set to work on the plans.
“We fellows have no time for sleep,” he said in a low voice when I had got into bed and shut my eyes. “When a man has a wife and two children he can’t think of sleep. One must think now of food and clothes and saving for the future. And I have two of them, a little son and a daughter. . . . The boy, little rascal, has a jolly little face. He’s not six yet, and already he shows remarkable abilities, I assure you. . . . I have their photographs here, somewhere. . . . Ah, my children, my children!”
He rummaged among his papers, found their photographs, and began looking at them. I fell asleep.
I was awakened by the barking of Azorka and loud voices. Von Schtenberg with bare feet and ruffled hair was standing in the doorway dressed in his underclothes, talking loudly with some one . . . . It was getting light. A gloomy dark blue dawn was peeping in at the door, at the windows, and through the crevices in the hut walls, and casting a faint light on my bed, on the table with the papers, and on Ananyev. Stretched on the floor on a cloak, with a leather pillow under his head, the engineer lay asleep with his fleshy, hairy chest uppermost; he was snoring so loudly that I pitied the student from the bottom of my heart for having to sleep in the same room with him every night.
“Why on earth are we to take them?” shouted Von Schtenberg. “It has nothing to do with us! Go to Tchalisov! From whom do the cauldrons come?”
“From Nikitin . . .” a bass voice answered gruffly.
“Well, then, take them to Tchalisov. . . . That’s not in our department. What the devil are you standing there for? Drive on!”
“Your honour, we have been to Tchalisov already,” said the bass voice still more gruffly. “Yesterday we were the whole day looking for him down the line, and were told at his hut that he had gone to the Dymkovsky section. Please take them, your honour! How much longer are we to go carting them about? We go carting them on and on along the line, and see no end to it.”
“What is it?” Ananyev asked huskily, waking up and lifting his head quickly.
“They have brought some cauldrons from Nikitin’s,” said the student, “and he is begging us to take them. And what business is it of ours to take them?”
“Do be so kind, your honour, and set things right! The horses have been two days without food and the master, for sure, will be angry. Are we to take them back, or what? The railway ordered the cauldrons, so it ought to take them. . . .”
“Can’t you understand, you blockhead, that it has nothing to do with us? Go on to Tchalisov!”
“What is it? Who’s there?” Ananyev asked huskily again. “Damnation take them all,” he said, getting up and going to the door. “What is it?”
I dressed, and two minutes later went out of the hut. Ananyev and the student, both in their underclothes and barefooted, were angrily and impatiently explaining to a peasant who was standing before them bare-headed, with his whip in his hand, apparently not understanding them. Both faces looked preoccupied with workaday cares.
“What use are your cauldrons to me,” shouted Ananyev. “Am I to put them on my head, or what? If you can’t find Tchalisov, find his assistant, and leave us in peace!”
Seeing me, the student probably recalled the conversation of the previous night. The workaday expression vanished from his sleepy face and a look of mental inertia came into it. He waved the peasant off and walked away absorbed in thought.
It was a cloudy morning. On the line where the lights had been gleaming the night before, the workmen, just roused from sleep, were swarming. There was a sound of voices and the squeaking of wheelbarrows. The working day was beginning. One poor little nag harnessed with cord was already plodding towards the embankment, tugging with its neck, and dragging along a cartful of sand.
I began saying good-bye. . . . A great deal had been said in the night, but I carried away with me no answer to any question, and in the morning, of the whole conversation there remained in my memory, as in a filter, only the lights and the image of Kisotchka. As I got on the horse, I looked at the student and Ananyev for the last time, at the hysterical dog with the lustreless, tipsy-looking eyes, at the workmen flitting to and fro in the morning fog, at the embankment, at the little nag straining with its neck, and thought:
“There is no making out anything in this world.”
And when I lashed my horse and galloped along the line, and when a little later I saw nothing before me but the endless gloomy plain and the cold overcast sky, I recalled the questions which were discussed in the night. I pondered while the sun-scorched plain, the immense sky, the oak forest, dark on the horizon and the hazy distance, seemed saying to me:
“Yes, there’s no understanding anything in this world!”
The sun began to rise. . . .


14. THE BLACK MONK

I

Andrei Vasilyevitch Kovrin, Magister, had worn himself out, and unsettled his nerves. He made no effort to undergo regular treatment; but only incidentally, over a bottle of wine, spoke to his friend the doctor; and his friend the doctor advised him to spend all the spring and summer in the country. And in the nick of time came a long letter from Tánya Pesótsky, asking him to come and stay with her father at Borisovka. He decided to go.
But first (it was in April) he travelled to his own estate, to his native Kovrinka, and spent three weeks in solitude; and only when the fine weather came drove across the country to his former guardian and second parent, Pesótsky, the celebrated Russian horti-culturist. From Kovrinka to Borisovka, the home of the Pesótskys, was a distance of some seventy versts, and in the easy, springed calêche the drive along the roads, soft in springtime, promised real enjoyment.
The house at Borisovka was, large, faced with a colonnade, and adorned with figures of lions with the plaster falling off. At the door stood a servant in livery. The old park, gloomy and severe, laid out in English fashion, stretched for nearly a verst from the house down to the river, and ended there in a steep clay bank covered with pines whose bare roots resembled shaggy paws. Below sparkled a deserted stream; overhead the snipe circled about with melancholy cries—all, in short, seemed to invite a visitor to sit down and write a ballad. But the gardens and orchards, which together with the seed-plots occupied some eighty acres, inspired very different feelings. Even in the worst of weather they were bright and joy-inspiring. Such wonderful roses, lilies, camelias, such tulips, such a host of flowering plants of every possible kind and colour, from staring white to sooty black,—such a wealth of blossoms Kovrin had never seen before. The spring was only beginning, and the greatest rareties were hidden under glass; but already enough bloomed in the alleys and beds to make up an empire of delicate shades. And most charming of all was it in the early hours of morning, when dewdrops glistened on every petal and leaf.
In childhood the decorative part of the garden, called contemptuously by Pesótsky "the rubbish," had produced on Kovrin a fabulous impression. What miracles of art, what studied monstrosities, what monkeries of nature! Espaliers of fruit trees, a pear tree shaped like a pyramidal poplar, globular oaks and lindens, apple-tree houses, arches, monograms, candelabra—even the date 1862 in plum trees, to commemorate the year in which Pesótsky first engaged in the art of gardening. There were stately, symmetrical trees, with trunks erect as those of palms, which after examination proved to be gooseberry or currant trees. But what most of all enlivened the garden and gave it its joyous tone was the constant movement of Pesótsky’s gardeners. From early morning to late at night, by the trees, by the bushes, in the alleys, and on the beds swarmed men as busy as ants, with barrows, spades, and watering-pots.
Kovrin arrived at Borisovka at nine o’clock. He found Tánya and her father in great alarm. The clear starlight night foretold frost, and the head gardener, Ivan Karlitch, had gone to town, so that there was no one who could be relied upon. At supper they spoke only of the impending frost; and it was decided that Tánya should not go to bed at all, but should inspect the gardens at one o’clock and see if all were in order, while Yegor Semiónovitch should rise at three o’clock, or even earlier.
Kovrin sat with Tánya all the evening, and after midnight accompanied her to the garden. The air already smelt strongly of burning. In the great orchard, called "the commercial," which every year brought Yegor Semiónovitch thousands of roubles profit, there already crept along the ground the thick, black, sour smoke which was to clothe the young leaves and save the plants. The trees were marshalled like chessmen in straight rows—like ranks of soldiers; and this pedantic regularity, together with the uniformity of height, made the garden seem monotonous and even tiresome. Kovrin and Tánya walked up and down the alleys, and watched the fires of dung, straw, and litter; but seldom met the workmen, who wandered in the smoke like shadows. Only the cherry and plum trees and a few apple trees were in blossom, but the whole garden was shrouded in smoke, and it was only when they reached the seed-plots that Kovrin was able to breathe.
"I remember when I was a child sneezing from the smoke," he said, shrugging his shoulders, "but to this day I cannot understand how smoke saves plants from the frost."
"Smoke is a good substitute when there are no clouds," answered Tánya.
"But what do you want the clouds for?"
"In dull and cloudy weather we have no morning frosts."
"Is that so?" said Kovrin.
He laughed and took Tánya by the hand. Her broad, very serious, chilled face; her thick, black eyebrows; the stiff collar on her jacket which prevented her from moving her head freely; her dress tucked up out of the dew; and her whole figure, erect and slight, pleased him.
"Heavens! how she has grown!" he said to himself. "When I was here last time, five years ago, you were quite a child. You were thin, long-legged, and untidy, and wore a short dress, and I used to tease you. What a change in five years!"
"Yes, five years!" sighed Tánya. "A lot of things have happened since then. Tell me, Andrei, honestly," she said, looking merrily into his face, "do you feel that you have got out of touch with us? But why do I ask? You are a man, you live your own interesting life, you.... Some estrangement is natural. But whether that is so or not, Andrusha, I want you now to look on us as your own. We have a right to that."
"I do, already, Tánya."
"Your word of honour?"
"My word of honour."
"You were surprised that we had so many of your photographs. But surely you know how my father adores you, worships you. You are a scholar, and not an ordinary man; you have built up a brilliant career, and he is firmly convinced that you turned out a success because he educated you. I do not interfere with his delusion. Let him believe it!"
Already dawn. The sky paled, and the foliage and clouds of smoke began to show themselves more clearly. The nightingale sang, and from the fields came the cry of quails.
"It is time for bed!" said Tánya. "It is cold too." She took Kovrin by the hand. "Thanks, Andrusha, for coming. We are cursed with most uninteresting acquaintances, and not many even of them. With us it is always garden, garden, garden, and nothing else. Trunks, timbers," she laughed, "pippins, rennets, budding, pruning, grafting.... All our life goes into the garden, we never even dream of anything but apples and pears. Of course this is all very good and useful, but sometimes I cannot help wishing for change. I remember when you used to come and pay us visits, and when you came home for the holidays, how the whole house grew fresher and brighter, as if someone had taken the covers off the furniture; I was then a very little girl, but I understood...."
Tánya spoke for a time, and spoke with feeling. Then suddenly it came into Kovrin’s head that during the summer he might become attached to this little, weak, talkative being, that he might get carried away, fall in love—in their position what was more probable and natural? The thought pleased him, amused him, and as he bent down to the kind, troubled face, he hummed to himself Pushkin’s couplet:
"Oniégin; I will not conceal
That I love Tatyana madly."
By the time they reached the house Yegor Semiónovitch had risen. Kovrin felt no desire to sleep; he entered into conversation with the old man, and returned with him to the garden. Yegor Semiónovitch was tall, broad-shouldered, and fat. He suffered from shortness of breath, yet walked so quickly that it was difficult to keep up with him. His expression was always troubled and hurried, and he seemed to be thinking that if he were a single second late everything would be destroyed.
"There, brother, is a mystery for you!" he began, stopping to recover breath. "On the surface of the ground, as you see, there is frost, but raise the thermometer a couple of yards on your stick, and it is quite warm.... Why is that?"
"I confess I don’t know," said Kovrin, laughing.
"No!... You can’t know everything.... The biggest brain cannot comprehend everything. You are still engaged with your philosophy?"
"Yes, ... I am studying psychology, and philosophy generally."
"And it doesn’t bore you?"
"On the contrary, I couldn’t live without it."
"Well, God grant ..." began Yegor Semiónovitch, smoothing his big whiskers thoughtfully. "Well, God grant ... I am very glad for your sake, brother, very glad...."
Suddenly he began to listen, and making a terrible face, ran off the path and soon vanished among the trees in a cloud of smoke.
"Who tethered this horse to the tree?" rang out a despairing voice. "Which of you thieves and murderers dared to tether this horse to the apple tree? My God, my God! Ruined, ruined, spoiled, destroyed! The garden is ruined, the garden is destroyed! My God!"
When he returned to Kovrin his face bore an expression of injury and impotence.
"What on earth can you do with these accursed people?" he asked in a whining voice, wringing his hands. "Stepka brought a manure cart here last night and tethered the horse to an apple tree ... tied the reins, the idiot, so tight, that the bark is rubbed off in three places. What can you do with men like this? I speak to him and he blinks his eyes and looks stupid. He ought to be hanged!"
When at last he calmed down, he embraced Kovrin and kissed him on the cheek.
"Well, God grant ... God grant!..." he stammered. "I am very, very glad that you have come. I cannot say how glad. Thanks!"
Then, with the same anxious face, and walking with the same quick step, he went round the whole garden, showing his former ward the orangery, the hothouses, the sheds, and two beehives which he described as the miracle of the century.
As they walked about, the sun rose, lighting up the garden. It grew hot. When he thought of the long, bright day before him, Kovrin remembered that it was but the beginning of May, and that he had before him a whole summer of long, bright, and happy days; and suddenly through him pulsed the joyous, youthful feeling which he had felt when as a child he played in this same garden. And in turn, he embraced the old man and kissed him tenderly. Touched by remembrances, the pair went into the house and drank tea out of the old china cups, with cream and rich biscuits; and these trifles again reminded Kovrin of his childhood and youth. The splendid present and the awakening memories of the past mingled, and a feeling of intense happiness filled his heart.
He waited until Tánya awoke, and having drunk coffee with her, walked through the garden, and then went to his room and began to work. He read attentively, making notes; and only lifted his eyes from his books when he felt that he must look out of the window or at the fresh roses, still wet with dew, which stood in vases on his table. It seemed to hint that every little vein in his body trembled and pulsated with joy.

II

But in the country Kovrin continued to live the same nervous and untranquil life as he had lived in town. He read much, wrote much, studied Italian; and when he went for walks, thought all the time of returning to work. He slept so little that he astonished the household; if by chance he slept in the daytime for half an hour, he could not sleep all the following night. Yet after these sleepless nights he felt active and gay.
He talked much, drank wine, and smoked expensive cigars. Often, nearly every day, young girls from the neighbouring country-houses drove over to Borisovka, played the piano with Tánya, and sang. Sometimes the visitor was a young man, also a neighbour, who played the violin well. Kovrin listened eagerly to their music and singing, but was exhausted by it, so exhausted sometimes that his eyes closed involuntarily, and his head drooped on his shoulder.
One evening after tea he sat upon the balcony, reading. In the drawing-room Tánya—a soprano, one of her friends—a contralto, and the young violinist studied the well-known serenade of Braga. Kovrin listened to the words, but though they were Russian, could not understand their meaning. At last, laying down his book and listening attentively, he understood. A girl with a disordered imagination heard by night in a garden some mysterious sounds, sounds so beautiful and strange that she was forced to recognise their harmony and holiness, which to us mortals are incomprehensible, and therefore flew back to heaven. Kovrin’s eyelids drooped. He rose, and in exhaustion walked up and down the drawing-room, and then up and down the hall. When the music ceased, he took Tánya by the hand and went out with her to the balcony.
"All day—since early morning," he began, "my head has been taken up with a strange legend. I cannot remember whether I read it, or where I heard it, but the legend is very remarkable and not very coherent. I may begin by saying that it is not very clear. A thousand years ago a monk, robed in black, wandered in the wilderness—somewhere in Syria or Arabia ... Some miles away the fishermen saw another black monk moving slowly over the surface of the lake. The second monk was a mirage. Now put out of your mind all the laws of optics, which legend, of course, does not recognise, and listen. From the first mirage was produced another mirage, from the second a third, so that the image of the Black Monk is eternally reflected from one stratum of the atmosphere to another. At one time it was seen in Africa, then in Spain, then in India, then in the Far North. At last it issued from the limits of the earth’s atmosphere, but never came across conditions which would cause it to disappear. Maybe it is seen to-day in Mars or in the constellation of the Southern Cross. Now the whole point, the very essence of the legend, lies in the prediction that exactly a thousand years after the monk went into the wilderness, the mirage will again be cast into the atmosphere of the earth and show itself to the world of men. This term of a thousand years, it appears, is now expiring.... According to the legend we must expect the Black Monk to-day or to-morrow."
"It is a strange story," said Tánya, whom the legend did not please.
"But the most astonishing thing," laughed Kovrin, "is that I cannot remember how this legend came into my head. Did I read it? Did I hear it? Or can it be that I dreamed of the Black Monk? I cannot remember. But the legend interests me. All day long I thought of nothing else."
Releasing Tánya, who returned to her visitors, he went out of the house, and walked lost in thought beside the flower-beds. Already the sun was setting. The freshly watered flowers exhaled a damp, irritating smell. In the house the music had again begun, and from the distance the violin produced the effect of a human voice. Straining his memory in an attempt to recall where he had heard the legend, Kovrin walked slowly across the park, and then, not noticing where he went, to the river-bank.
By the path which ran down among the uncovered roots to the water’s edge Kovrin descended, frightening the snipe, and disturbing two ducks. On the dark pine trees glowed the rays of the setting sun, but on the surface of the river darkness had already fallen. Kovrin crossed the stream. Before him now lay a broad field covered with young rye. Neither human dwelling nor human soul was visible in the distance; and it seemed that the path must lead to the unexplored, enigmatical region in the west where the sun had already set—where still, vast and majestic, flamed the afterglow.
"How open it is—how peaceful and free!" thought Kovrin, walking along the path. "It seems as if all the world is looking at me from a hiding-place and waiting for me to comprehend it."
A wave passed over the rye, and the light evening breeze blew softly on his uncovered head. Yet a minute more and the breeze blew again, this time more strongly, the rye rustled, and from behind came the dull murmur of the pines. Kovrin stopped in amazement On the horizon, like a cyclone or waterspout, a great, black pillar rose up from earth to heaven. Its outlines were undefined; but from the first it might be seen that it was not standing still, but moving with inconceivable speed towards Kovrin; and the nearer it came the smaller and smaller it grew. Involuntarily Kovrin rushed aside and made a path for it. A monk in black clothing, with grey hair and black eyebrows, crossing his hands upon his chest, was borne past. His bare feet were above the ground. Having swept some twenty yards past Kovrin, he looked at him, nodded his head, and smiled kindly and at the same time slyly. His face was pale and thin. When he had passed by Kovrin he again began to grow, flew across the river, struck inaudibly against the clay bank and pine trees, and, passing through them, vanished like smoke.
"You see," stammered Kovrin, "after all, the legend was true!"
Making no attempt to explain this strange phenomenon; satisfied with the fact that he had so closely and so plainly seen not only the black clothing but even the face and eyes of the monk; agitated agreeably, he returned home.
In the park and in the garden visitors were walking quietly; in the house the music continued. So he alone had seen the Black Monk. He felt a strong desire to tell what he had seen to Tánya and Yegor Semiónovitch, but feared that they would regard it as a hallucination, and decided to keep his counsel. He laughed loudly, sang, danced a mazurka, and felt in the best of spirits; and the guests and Tánya noticed upon his face a peculiar expression of ecstasy and inspiration, and found him very interesting.

III

When supper was over and the visitors had gone, he went to his own room, and lay on the sofa. He wished to think of the monk. But in a few minutes Tánya entered.
"There, Andrusha, you can read father’s articles ..." she said. "They are splendid articles. He writes very well."
"Magnificent!" said Yegor Semiónovitch, coming in after her, with a forced smile. "Don’t listen to her, please!... Or read them only if you want to go to sleep—they are a splendid soporific."
"In my opinion they are magnificent," said Tánya, deeply convinced. "Read them, Andrusha, and persuade father to write more often. He could write a whole treatise on gardening."
Yegor Semiónovitch laughed, blushed, and stammered out the conventional phrases used by abashed authors. At last he gave in.
"If you must read them, read first these papers of Gauche’s, and the Russian articles," he stammered, picking out the papers with trembling hands. "Otherwise you won’t understand them. Before you read my replies you must know what I am replying to. But it won’t interest you ... stupid. And it’s time for bed."
Tánya went out. Yegor Semiónovitch sat on the end of the sofa and sighed loudly.
"Akh, brother mine ..." he began after a long silence. As you see, my dear Magister, I write articles, and exhibit at shows, and get medals sometimes. ... Pesótsky, they say, has apples as big as your head.... Pesótsky has made a fortune out of his gardens.... In one word:
"’Rich and glorious is Kotchubéi.’"
"But I should like to ask you what is going to be the end of all this? The gardens—there is no question of that—are splendid, they are models.... Not gardens at all, in short, but a whole institution of high political importance, and a step towards a new era in Russian agriculture and Russian industry.... But for what purpose? What ultimate object?"
"That question is easily answered."
"I do not mean in that sense. What I want to know is what will happen with the garden when I die? As things are, it would not last without me a single month. The secret does not lie in the fact that the garden is big and the workers many, but in the fact that I love the work—you understand? I love it, perhaps, more than I love myself. Just look at me! I work from morning to night. I do everything with my own hands. All grafting, all pruning, all planting—everything is done by me. When I am helped I feel jealous, and get irritated to the point of rudeness. The whole secret is in love, in a sharp master’s eye, in a master’s hands, and in the feeling when I drive over to a friend and sit down for half an hour, that I have left my heart behind me and am not myself—all the time I am in dread that something has happened to the garden. Now suppose I die to-morrow, who will replace all this? Who will do the work? The head gardeners? The workmen? Why the whole burden of my present worries is that my greatest enemy is not the hare or the beetle or the frost, but the hands of the stranger."
"But Tánya?" said Kovrin, laughing. "Surely she is not more dangerous than a hare?... She loves and understands the work."
"Yes, Tánya loves it and understands it. If after my death the garden should fall to her as mistress, then I could wish for nothing better. But suppose—which God forbid—she should marry!" Yegor Semiónovitch whispered and look at Kovrin with frightened eyes. "That’s the whole crux. She might marry, there would be children, and there would be no time to attend to the garden. That is bad enough. But what I fear most of all is that she may marry some spendthrift who is always in want of money, who will lease the garden to tradesmen, and the whole thing will go to the devil in the first year. In a business like this a woman, is the scourge of God."
Yegor Semiónovitch sighed and was silent for a few minutes.
"Perhaps you may call it egoism. But I do not want Tánya to marry. I am afraid! You’ve seen that fop who comes along with a fiddle and makes a noise. I know Tánya would never marry him, yet I cannot bear the sight of him.... In short, brother, I am a character ... and I know it."
Yegor Semiónovitch rose and walked excitedly up and down the room. It was plain that he had something very serious to say, but could not bring himself to the point.
"I love you too sincerely not to talk to you frankly," he said, thrusting his hands into his pockets. "In all delicate questions I say what I think, and dislike mystification. I tell you plainly, therefore, that you are the only man whom I should not be afraid of Tánya marrying. You are a clever man, you have a heart, and you would not see my life’s work ruined. And what is more, I love you as my own son ... and am proud of you. So if you and Tánya were to end ... in a sort of romance ... I should be very glad and very happy. I tell you this straight to your face, without shame, as becomes an honest man."
Kovrin smiled. Yegor Semiónovitch opened the door, and was leaving the room, but stopped suddenly on the threshold.
"And if you and Tánya had a son, I could make a horti-culturist out of him," he added. "But that is an idle fancy. Good night!"
Left alone, Kovrin settled himself comfortably, and took up his host’s articles. The first was entitled "Intermediate Culture," the second "A Few Words in Reply to the Remarks of Mr. Z. about the Treatment of the Soil of a New Garden," the third "More about Grafting." The others were similar in scope. But all breathed restlessness and sickly irritation. Even a paper with the peaceful title of "Russian Apple Trees" exhaled irritability. Yegor Semiónovitch began with the words "Audi alteram partem," and ended it with "Sapienti sat"; and between these learned quotations flowed a whole torrent of acid words directed against "the learned ignorance of our patent horticulturists who observe nature from their academic chairs," and against M. Gauche, "whose fame is founded on the admiration of the profane and dilletanti" And finally Kovrin came across an uncalled-for and quite insincere expression of regret that it is no longer legal to flog peasants who are caught stealing fruit and injuring trees.
"His is good work, wholesome and fascinating," thought Kovrin, "yet in these pamphlets we have nothing but bad temper and war to the knife. I suppose it is the same everywhere; in all careers men of ideas are nervous, and victims of this kind of exalted sensitiveness. I suppose it must be so."
He thought of Tánya, so delighted with her father’s articles, and then of Yegor Semiónovitch. Tánya, small, pale, and slight, with her collar-bone showing, with her widely-opened, her dark and clever eyes, which it seemed were always searching for something. And Yegor Semiónovitch with his little, hurried steps. He thought again of Tánya, fond of talking, fond of argument, and always accompanying even the most insignificant phrases with mimicry and gesticulation. Nervous—she must be nervous in the highest degree. Again Kovrin began to read, but he understood nothing, and threw down his books. The agreeable emotion with which he had danced the mazurka and listened to the music still held possession of him, and aroused a multitude of thoughts. It flashed upon him that if this strange, unnatural monk had been seen by him alone, he must be ill, ill to the point of suffering from hallucinations. The thought frightened him, but not for long.
He sat on the sofa, and held his head in his hands, curbing the inexplicable joy which filled his whole being; and then walked up and down the room for a minute, and returned to his work. But the thoughts which he read in books no longer satisfied him. He longed for something vast, infinite, astonishing. Towards morning he undressed and went unwillingly to bed; he felt that he had better rest. When at last he heard Yegor Semiónovitch going to his work in the garden, he rang, and ordered the servant to bring him some wine. He drank several glasses; his consciousness became dim, and he slept.

IV

Yegor Semiónovitch and Tánya often quarrelled and said disagreeable things to one another. This morning they had both been irritated, and Tánya burst out crying and went to her room, coming down neither to dinner nor to tea At first Yegor Semiónovitch marched about, solemn and dignified, as if wishing to give everyone to understand that for him justice and order were the supreme interests of life. But he was unable to keep this up for long; his spirits fell, and he wandered about the park and sighed, "Akh, my God!" At dinner he ate nothing, and at last, tortured by his conscience, he knocked softly at the closed door, and called timidly:
"Tánya! Tánya!"
Through the door came a Weak voice, tearful but determined:
"Leave me alone!... I implore you."
The misery of father and daughter reacted on the whole household, even on the labourers in the garden. Kovrin, as usual, was immersed in his own interesting work, but at last even he felt tired and uncomfortable. He determined to interfere, and disperse the cloud before evening. He knocked at Tánya’s door, and was admitted.
"Come, come! What a shame!" he began jokingly; and then looked with surprise at her tear-stained and afflicted face covered with red spots. "Is it so serious, then? Well, well!"
"But if you knew how he tortured me!" she said, and a flood of tears gushed out of her big eyes. "He tormented me!" she continued, wringing her hands. "I never said a word to him.... I only said there was no need to keep unnecessary labourers, if ... if we can get day workmen.... You know the men have done nothing for the whole week. I ... I only said this, and he roared at me, and said a lot of things ... most offensive ... deeply insulting. And all for nothing."
"Never mind!" said Kovrin, straightening her hair. "You have had your scoldings and your cryings, and that is surely enough. You can’t keep up this for ever ... it is not right ... all the more since you know he loves you infinitely."
"He has ruined my whole life," sobbed Tánya. "I never hear anything but insults and affronts. He regards me as superfluous in his own house. Let him! He will have cause! I shall leave here to-morrow, and study for a position as telegraphist.... Let him!"
"Come, come. Stop crying, Tánya. It does you no good.... You are both irritable and impulsive, and both in the wrong. Come, and I will make peace!"
Kovrin spoke gently and persuasively, but Tánya continued to cry, twitching her shoulders and wringing her hands as if she had been overtaken by a real misfortune. Kovrin felt all the sorrier owing to the smallness of the cause of her sorrow. What a trifle it took to make this little creature unhappy for a whole day, or, as she had expressed it, for a whole life! And as he consoled Tánya, it occurred to him that except this girl and her father there was not one in the world who loved him as a kinsman; and had it not been for them, he, left fatherless and motherless in early childhood, must have lived his whole life without feeling one sincere caress, or tasting ever that simple, unreasoning love which we feel only for those akin to us by blood. And he felt that his tired, strained nerves, like magnets, responded to the nerves of this crying, shuddering girl. He felt, too, that he could never love a healthy, rosy-cheeked woman; but pale, weak, unhappy Tánya appealed to him.
He felt pleasure in looking at her hair and her shoulders; and he pressed her hand, and wiped away her tears.... At last she ceased crying. But she still continued to complain of her father, and of her insufferable life at home, imploring Kovrin to try to realise her position. Then by degrees she began to smile, and to sigh that God had cursed her with such a wicked temper; and in the end laughed aloud, called herself a fool, and ran out of the room. A little later Kovrin went into the garden. Yegor Semiónovitch and Tánya, as if nothing had happened, We were walking side by side up the alley, eating rye-bread and salt, we both were very hungry.

V

Pleased with his success as peacemaker, Kovrin went into the park. As he sat on a bench and mused, he heal’d the rattle of a carnage and a woman’s laugh—visitors evidently again. Shadows fell in the garden, the sound of a violin, the music of a woman’s voice reached him almost inaudibly; and this reminded him of the Black Monk. Whither, to what country, to what planet, had that optical absurdity flown? Hardly had he called to mind the legend and painted in imagination the black apparition in the rye-field when from behind the pine trees opposite to him, walked inaudibly—without the faintest rustling—a man of middle height. His grey head was uncovered, he was dressed in black, and barefooted like a beggar. On his pallid, corpse-like face stood out sharply a number of black spots. Nodding his head politely the stranger or beggar walked noiselessly to the bench and sat down, and Kovrin recognised the Black Monk. For a minute they looked at one another, Kovrin with astonishment, but the monk kindly and, as before, with a sly expression on his face.
"But you are a mirage," said Kovrin. "Why are you here, and why do you sit in one place? That is not in accordance with the legend."
"It is all the same," replied the monk softly, turning his face towards Kovrin. "The legend, the mirage, I—all are products of your own excited imagination. I am a phantom."
"That is to say you don’t exist?" asked Kovrin. "Think as you like," replied the monk, smiling faintly. "I exist in your imagination, and as your imagination is a part of Nature, I must exist also in Nature."
"You have a clever, a distinguished face—it seems to me as if in reality you had lived more than a thousand years," said Kovrin. "I did not know that my imagination was capable of creating such a phenomenon. Why do you look at me with such rapture? Are you pleased with me?"
"Yes. For you are one of the few who can justly be named the elected of God. You serve eternal truth. Your thoughts, your intentions, your astonishing science, all your life bear the stamp of divinity, a heavenly impress; they are dedicated to the rational and the beautiful, and that is, to the Eternal."
"You say, to eternal truth. Then can eternal truth be accessible and necessary to men if there is no eternal life?"
"There is eternal life," said the monk.
"You believe in the immortality of men."
"Of course. For you, men, there awaits a great and a beautiful future. And the more the world has of men like you the nearer will this future be brought. Without you, ministers to the highest principles, living freely and consciously, humanity would be nothing; developing in the natural order it must wait the end of its earthly history. But you, by some thousands of years, hasten it into the kingdom of eternal truth—and in this is your high service. You embody in yourself the blessing of God which rested upon the people."
"And what is the object of eternal life?" asked Kovrin.
"The same as all life—enjoyment. True enjoyment is in knowledge, and eternal life presents innumerable, inexhaustible fountains of knowledge; it is in this sense it was said: ’In My Father’s house are many mansions....’"
"You cannot conceive what a joy it is to me to listen to you," said Kovrin, rubbing his hands with delight.
"I am glad."
"Yet I know that when you leave me I shall be tormented by doubt as to your reality. You are a phantom, a hallucination. But that means that I am psychically diseased, that I am not in a normal state?" "What if you are? That need not worry you. You are ill because you have overstrained your powers, because you have borne your health in sacrifice to one idea, and the time is near when you will sacrifice not merely it but your life also. What more could you desire? It is what all gifted and noble natures aspire to."
"But if I am psychically diseased, how can I trust myself?"
"And how do you know that the men of genius whom all the world trusts have not also seen visions? Genius, they tell you now, is akin to insanity. Believe me, the healthy and the normal are but ordinary men—the herd. Fears as to a nervous age, over-exhaustion and degeneration can trouble seriously only those whose aims in life lie in the present—that is the herd."
"The Romans had as their ideal: mens sana in corpore sano."
"All that the Greeks and Romans said is not true. Exaltations, aspirations, excitements, ecstacies—all those things which distinguish poets, prophets, martyrs to ideas from ordinary men are incompatible with the animal life, that is, with physical health. I repeat, if you wish to be healthy and normal go with the herd."
"How strange that you should repeat what I myself have so often thought!" said Kovrin. "It seems as if you had watched me and listened to my secret thoughts. But do not talk about me. What do you imply by the words: eternal truth?"
The monk made no answer. Kovrin looked at him, but could not make out his face. His features clouded and melted away; his head and arms disappeared; his body faded into the bench and into the twilight, and vanished utterly.
"The hallucination has gone," said Kovrin, laughing. "It is a pity."
He returned to the house lively and happy. What the Black Monk had said to him flattered, not his self-love, but his soul, his whole being. To be the elected, to minister to eternal truth, to stand in the ranks of those who hasten by thousands of years the making mankind worthy of the kingdom of Christ, to deliver humanity from thousands of years of struggle, sin, and suffering, to give to one idea everything, youth, strength, health, to die for the general welfare—what an exalted, what a glorious ideal! And when through his memory flowed his past life, a life pure and chaste and full of labour, when he remembered what he had learnt and what he had taught, he concluded that in the words of the monk there was no exaggeration. Through the park, to meet him, came Tánya. She was wearing a different dress from that in which he had last seen her.
"You here?" she cried. "We were looking for you, looking.... But what has happened?" she asked in surprise, looking into his glowing, enraptured face, and into his eyes, now full of tears. "How strange you are, Andrusha!"
"I am satisfied, Tánya," said Kovrin, laying his hand upon her shoulder. "I am more than satisfied; I am happy! Tánya, dear Tánya, you are inexpressibly dear to me. Tánya, I am so glad!"
He kissed both her hands warmly, and continued: "I have just lived through the brightest, most wonderful, most unearthly moments.... But I cannot tell you all, for you would call me mad, or refuse to believe me.... Let me speak of you! Tánya, I love you, and have long loved you. To have you near me, to meet you ten times a day, has become a necessity for me. I do not know how I shall live without you when I go home."
"No!" laughed Tánya. "You will forget us all in two days. We are little people, and you are a great man."
"Let us talk seriously," said he. "I will take you with me, Tánya! Yes? You will come? You will be mine?"
Tánya cried "What?" and tried to laugh again. But the laugh did not come, and, instead, red spots stood out on her cheeks. She breathed quickly, and walked on rapidly into the park.
"I did not think ... I never thought of this ... never thought," she said, pressing her hands together as if in despair.
But Kovrin hastened after her, and, with the same glowing, enraptured face, continued to speak.
"I wish for a love which will take possession of me altogether, and this love only you, Tánya, can give me. I am happy! How happy!"
She was overcome, bent, withered up, and seemed suddenly to have aged ten years. But Kovrin found her beautiful, and loudly expressed his ecstacy: "How lovely she is!"

VI

When he learned from Kovrin that not only had a romance resulted, but that a wedding was to follow, Yegor Semiónovitch walked from corner to corner, and tried to conceal his agitation. His hands shook, his neck seemed swollen and purple; he ordered the horses to be put into his racing droschky, and drove away. Tánya, seeing how he whipped the horses and how he pushed his cap down over his ears, understood his mood, locked herself into her room, and cried all day.
In the orangery the peaches and plums were already ripe. The packing and despatch to Moscow of such a delicate load required much attention, trouble, and bustle. Owing to the heat of the summer every tree had to be watered; the process was costly in time and working-power; and many caterpillars appeared, which the workmen, and even Yegor Semiónovitch and Tánya, crushed with their fingers, to the great disgust of Kovrin. The autumn orders for fruit and trees had to be attended to, and a vast correspondence carried on. And at the very busiest time, when it seemed no one had a free moment, work began in the fields and deprived the garden of half its workers. Yegor Semiónovitch, very sunburnt, very irritated, and very worried, galloped about, now to the garden, now to the fields; and all the time shouted that they were tearing him to bits, and that he would put a bullet through his brain.
On top of all came the bustle over Tánya’s trousseau, to which the Pesótskys attributed infinite significance. With the eternal snipping of scissors, rattle of sewing-machines, smell of flat-irons, and the caprices of the nervous and touchy dressmaker, the whole house seemed to spin round. And, to make matters worse, visitors arrived every day, and these visitors had to be amused, fed, and lodged for the night. Yet work and worry passed unnoticed in a mist of joy. Tánya felt as if love and happiness had suddenly burst upon her, although ever since her fourteenth year she had been certain that Kovrin would marry nobody but herself. She was eternally in a state of astonishment, doubt, and disbelief in herself. At one moment she was seized by such great joy that she felt she must fly away to the clouds and pray to God; but a moment later she remembered that when August came she would have to leave the home of her childhood and forsake her father; and she was frightened by the thought—God knows whence it came—that she was trivial, insignificant, and unworthy of a great man like Kovrin. When such thoughts came she would run up to her room, lock herself in, and cry bitterly for hours. But when visitors were present, it broke in upon her that Kovrin was a singularly handsome man, that all the women loved him and envied her; and in these moments her heart was as full of rapture and pride as if she had conquered the whole world. When he dared to smile on any other woman she trembled with jealousy, went to her room, and again—tears. These new feelings possessed her altogether; she helped her father mechanically, noticing neither pears nor caterpillars, nor workmen, nor how swiftly time was passing by.
Yegor Semiónovitch was in much the same state of mind. He still worked from morning to night, Hew about the gardens, and lost his temper; but all the while he was wrapped in a magic reverie. In his sturdy body contended two men, one the real Yegor Semiónovitch, who, when he listened to the gardener, Ivan Karlovitch’s report of some mistake or disorder, went mad with excitement, and tore his hair; and the other the unreal Yegor Semiónovitch—a half-intoxicated old man, who broke off an important conversation in the middle of a word, seized the gardener by the shoulder, and stammered:
"You may say what you like, but blood is thicker than water. His mother was an astonishing, a most noble, a most brilliant woman. It was a pleasure to see her good, pure, open, angel face. She painted beautifully, wrote poetry, spoke five foreign languages, and sang.... Poor thing, Heaven rest her soul, she died of consumption!"
The unreal Yegor Semiónovitch sighed, and after a moment’s silence continued:
"When he was a boy growing up to manhood in my house he had just such an angel face, open and good. His looks, his movements, his words were as gentle and graceful as his mother’s. And his intellect It is not for nothing he has the degree of Magister. But you just wait, Ivan Karlovitch; you’ll see what he’ll be in ten years’ time. Why, he’ll be out of sight!" But here the real Yegor Semiónovitch remembered himself, seized his head and roared:
"Devils! Frost-bitten! Ruined, destroyed! The garden is ruined; the garden is destroyed!" Kovrin worked with all his former ardour, and hardly noticed the bustle about him. Love only poured oil on the flames. After every meeting with Tánya, he returned to his rooms in rapture and happiness, and set to work with his books and manuscripts with the same passion with which he had kissed her and sworn his love. What the Black Monk had told him of his election by God, of eternal truth, and of the glorious future of humanity, gave to all his work a peculiar, unusual significance. Once or twice every week, either in the park or in the house, he met the monk, and talked with him for hours; but this did not frighten, but on the contrary delighted him, for he was now assured that such apparitions visit only the elect and exceptional who dedicate themselves to the ministry of ideas.
Assumption passed unobserved. Then came the wedding, celebrated by the determined wish of Yegor Semiónovitch with what was called éclat, that is, with meaningless festivities which lasted for two days. Three thousand roubles were consumed in food and drink; but what with the vile music, the noisy toasts, the fussing servants, the clamour, and the closeness of the atmosphere, no one appreciated the expensive wines or the astonishing hors d’oeuvres specially ordered from Moscow.

VII

One of the long winter nights. Kovrin lay in bed, reading a French novel. Poor Tánya, whose head every evening ached as the result of the unaccustomed life in town, had long been sleeping, muttering incoherent phrases in her dreams.
The dock struck three. Kovrin put out the candle and lay down, lay for a long time with dosed eyes unable to sleep owing to the heat of the room and Tánya’s continued muttering. At half-past four he again lighted the candle. The Black Monk was sitting in a chair beside his bed.
"Good night!" said the monk, and then, after a moment’s silence, asked, "What are you thinking of now?"
"Of glory," answered Kovrin. "In a French novel which I have just been reading, the hero is a young man who does foolish things, and dies from a passion for glory. To me this passion is inconceivable."
"Because you are too clever. You look indifferently on fame as a toy which cannot interest you."
"That is true."
"Celebrity has no attractions for you. What flattery, joy, or instruction can a man draw from the knowledge that his name will be graven on a monument, when time will efface the inscription sooner or later? Yes, happily there are too many of you for brief human memory to remember all your names."
"Of course," said Kovrin. "And why remember them?... But let us talk of something else. Of happiness, for instance. What is this happiness?"
When the clock struck five he was sitting on the bed with his feet trailing on the carpet and his head turned to the monk, and saying:
"In ancient times a man became frightened at his happiness, so great it was, and to placate the gods laid before them in sacrifice his beloved ring. You have heard? Now I, like Polycrates, am a little frightened at my own happiness. From morning to night I experience only joy—joy absorbs me and stifles all other feelings. I do not know the meaning of grief affliction, or weariness. I speak seriously, I am beginning to doubt."
"Why?" asked the monk in an astonished tone. "Then you think joy is a supernatural feeling? You think it is not the normal condition of things? No! The higher a man has climbed in mental and moral development the freer he is, the greater satisfaction he draws from life. Socrates, Diogenes, Marcus Aurelius knew joy and not sorrow. And the apostle said, ’rejoice exceedingly.’ Rejoice and be happy!"
"And suddenly the gods will be angered," said Kovrin jokingly. "But it would hardly be to my taste if they were to steal my happiness and force me to shiver and starve."
Tánya awoke, and looked at her husband with amazement and terror. He spoke, he turned to the chair, he gesticulated, and laughed; his eyes glittered and his laughter sounded strange.
"Andrusha, whom are you speaking to?" she asked, seizing the hand which he had stretched out to the monk. "Andrusha, who is it?"
"Who?" answered Kovrin. "Why, the monk!... He is sitting there." He pointed to the Black Monk.
"There is no one there, ... no one, Andrusha; you are ill."
Tánya embraced her husband, and, pressing against him as if to defend him against the apparition, covered his eyes with her hand.
"You are ill," she sobbed, trembling all over. "Forgive me, darling, but for a long time I have fancied you were unnerved in some way.... You are ill, ... psychically, Andrusha."
The shudder communicated itself to him. He looked once more at the chair, now empty, and suddenly felt weakness in his arms and legs. He began to dress. "It is nothing, Tánya, nothing, ..." he stammered, and still shuddered. "But I am a little unwell.... It is time to recognise it."
"I have noticed it for a long time, and father noticed it," she said, trying to restrain her sobs. "You have been speaking so funnily to yourself, and smiling so strangely, ... and you do not sleep. O, my God, my God, save us!" she cried in terror. "But do not be afraid, Andrusha, do not fear, ... for God’s sake do not be afraid...."
She also dressed.... It was only as he looked at her that Kovrin understood the danger of his position, and realised the meaning of the Black Monk and of their conversations. It became plain to him that he was mad.
Both, themselves not knowing why, dressed and went into the hall; she first, he after her. There they found Yegor Semiónovitch in his dressing-gown. He was staying with them, and had been awakened by Tánya’s sobs.
"Do not be afraid, Andrusha," said Tánya, trembling as if in fever. "Do not be afraid ... father, this will pass off ... it will pass off."
Kovrin was so agitated that he could hardly speak. But he tried to treat the matter as a joke. He turned to his father-in-law and attempted to say: "Congratulate me ... it seems I have gone out of my mind." But his lips only moved, and he smiled bitterly.
At nine o’clock they put on his overcoat and a fur cloak, wrapped him up in a shawl, and drove him to the doctor’s. He began a course of treatment.

VIII

Again summer. By the doctor’s orders Kovrin returned to the country. He had recovered his health, and no longer saw the Black Monk. It only remained for him to recruit his physical strength. He lived with his father-in-law, drank much milk, worked only two hours a day, never touched wine, and gave up smoking.
On the evening of the 19th June, before Elijah’s day, a vesper service was held in the house. When the priest took the censor from the sexton, and the vast hall began to smell like a church, Kovrin felt tired. He went into the garden. Taking no notice of the gorgeous blossoms around him he walked up and down, sat for a while on a bench, and then walked through the park. He descended the sloping bank to the margin of the river, and stood still, looking questioningly at the water. The great pines, with their shaggy roots, which a year before had seen him so young, so joyous, so active, no longer whispered, but stood silent and motionless, as if not recognising him.... And, indeed, with his short-dipped hair, his feeble walk, and his changed face, so heavy and pale and changed since last year, he would hardly have been recognised anywhere.
He crossed the stream. In the field, last year covered with rye, lay rows of reaped oats. The sun had set, and on the horizon flamed a broad, red afterglow, fore-telling stormy weather. All was quiet; and, gazing towards the point at which a year before he had first seen the Black Monk, Kovrin stood twenty minutes watching the crimson fade. When he returned to the house, tired and unsatisfied, Yegor Semiónovitch and Tánya were sitting on the steps of the terrace, drinking tea. They were talking together, and, seeing Kovrin, stopped. But Kovrin knew by their faces that they had been speaking of him.
"It is time for you to have your milk," said Tánya to her husband.
"No, not yet," he answered, sitting down on the lowest step. "You drink it. I do not want it." Tánya timidly exchanged glances with her father, and said in a guilty voice:
"You know very well that the milk does you good."
"Yes, any amount of good," laughed Kovrin. "I congratulate you, I have gained a pound in weight since last Friday." He pressed his hands to his head and said in a pained voice: "Why ... why have you cured me? Bromide mixtures, idleness, warm baths, watching in trivial terror over every mouthful, every step ... all this in the end will drive me to idiocy. I had gone out of my mind ... I had the mania of greatness. ... But for all that I was bright, active, and even happy.... I was interesting and original. Now I have become rational and solid, just like the rest of the world. I am a mediocrity, and it is tiresome for me to live.... Oh, how cruelly... how cruelly you have treated me! I had hallucinations ... but what harm did that cause to anyone? I ask you what harm?"
"God only knows what you mean!" sighed Yegor Semiónovitch. "It is stupid even to listen to you."
"Then you need not listen."
The presence of others, especially of Yegor Semiónovitch, now irritated Kovrin; he answered his father-in-law drily, coldly, even rudely, and could not look on him without contempt and hatred. And Yegor Semiónovitch felt confused, and coughed guiltily, although he could not see how he was in the wrong. Unable to understand the cause of such a sudden reversal of their former hearty relations, Tánya leaned against her father, and looked with alarm into his eyes. It was becoming plain to her that their relations every day grew worse and worse, that her father had aged greatly, and that her husband had become irritable, capricious, excitable, and uninteresting. She no longer laughed and sang, she ate nothing, and whole nights never slept, but lived under the weight of some impending terror, torturing herself so much that she lay insensible from dinner-time till evening. When the service was being held, it had seemed to her that her father was crying; and now as she sat on the terrace she made an effort not to think of it.
"How happy were Buddha and Mahomet and Shakespeare that their kind-hearted kinsmen and doctors did not cure them of ecstacy and inspiration!" said Kovrin. "If Mahomet had taken potassium bromide for his nerves, worked only two hours a day, and drunk milk, that astonishing man would have left as little behind him as his dog. Doctors and kind-hearted relatives only do their best to make humanity stupid, and the time will come when mediocrity will be considered genius, and humanity will perish. If you only had some idea," concluded Kovrin peevishly, "if you only had some idea how grateful I am!" He felt strong irritation, and to prevent himself saying too much, rose and went into the house. It was a windless night, and into the window was borne the smell of tobacco plants and jalap. Through the windows of the great dark hall, on the floor and on the piano, fell the moonrays. Kovrin recalled the raptures of the summer before, when the air, as now, was full of the smell of jalap and the moonrays poured through the window.... To awaken the mood of last year he went to his room, lighted a strong cigar, and ordered the servant to bring him wine. But now the cigar was bitter and distasteful, and the wine had lost its flavour of the year before. How much it means to get out of practice! From a single cigar, and two sips of wine, his head went round, and he was obliged to take bromide of potassium.
Before going to bed Tánya said to him:
"Listen. Father worships you, but you are annoyed with him about something, and that is killing him. Look at his face; he is growing old, not by days but by hours! I implore you, Andrusha, for the love of Christ, for the sake of your own dead father, for the sake of my peace of mind—be kind to him again!"
"I cannot, and I do not want to."
"But why?" Tánya trembled all over. "Explain to me why!"
"Because I do not like him; that is all," answered Kovrin carelessly, shrugging his shoulders. "But better not talk of that; he is your father."
"I cannot, cannot understand," said Tánya. She pressed her hands to her forehead and fixed her eyes on one point. "Something terrible, something incomprehensible is going on in this house. You, Ahdrusha, have changed; you are no longer yourself.... You—a clever, an exceptional man—get irritated over trifles. ... You are annoyed by such little things that at any other time you yourself would have refused to believe it. No ... do not be angry, do not be angry," she continued, kissing his hands, and frightened by her own words. "You are clever, good, and noble. You will be just to father. He is so good."
"He is not good, but merely good-humoured. These vaudeville uncles—of your father’s type—with well-fed, easy-going faces, are characters in their way, and once used to amuse me, whether in novels, in comedies, or in life. But they are now hateful to me. They are egoists to the marrow of their bones.... Most disgusting of all is their satiety, and this stomachic, purely bovine—or swinish—optimism."
Tánya sat on the bed, and laid her head on a pillow. "This is torture!" she said; and from her voice it was plain that she was utterly weary and found it hard to speak. "Since last winter not a moment of rest. ... It is terrible, my God! I suffer ..."
"Yes, of course! I am Herod, and you and your papa the massacred infants. Of course!"
His face seemed to Tánya ugly and disagreeable. The expression of hatred and contempt did not suit it. She even observed that something was lacking in his face; ever since his hair had been cut off, it seemed changed. She felt an almost irresistible desire to say something insulting, but restrained herself in time, and overcome with terror, went out of the bedroom.

IX

Kovrin received an independent chair. His inaugural address was fixed for the 2nd of December, and a notice to that effect was posted in the corridors of the University. But when the day came a telegram was received by the University authorities that he could not fulfil the engagement, owing to illness.
Blood came from his throat. He spat it up, and twice in one month it flowed in streams. He felt terribly weak, and fell into a somnolent condition. But this illness did not frighten him, for he knew that his dead mother had lived with the same complaint more than ten years. His doctors, too, declared that there was no danger, and advised him merely not to worry, to lead a regular life, and to talk less.
In January the lecture was postponed for the same reason, and in February it was too late to begin the course. It was postponed till the following year.
He no longer lived with Tánya, but with another woman, older than himself, who looked after him as if he were a child. His temper was calm and obedient; he submitted willingly, and when Varvara Nikolaievna—that was her name—made arrangements for taking him to the Crimea, he consented to go, although he felt that from the change no good would come.
They reached Sevastopol late one evening, and stopped there to rest, intending to drive to Yalta on the following day. Both were tired by the journey. Varvara Nikolaievna drank tea, and went to bed. But Kovrin remained up. An hour before leaving home for the railway station he had received a letter from Tánya, which he had not read; and the thought of this letter caused him unpleasant agitation. In the depths of his heart he knew that his marriage with Tánya had been a mistake. He was glad that he was finally parted from her; but the remembrance of this woman, who towards the last had seemed to turn into a walking, living mummy, in which all had died except the great, clever eyes, awakened in him only pity and vexation against himself. The writing on the envelope reminded him that two years before he had been guilty of cruelty and injustice, and that he had avenged on people in no way guilty his spiritual vacuity, his solitude, his disenchantment with life.... He remembered how he had once torn into fragments his dissertation and all the articles written by him since the time of his illness, and thrown them out of the window, how the fragments flew in the wind and rested on the trees and flowers; in every page he had seen strange and baseless pretensions, frivolous irritation, and a mania for greatness. And all this had produced upon him an impression that he had written a description of his own faults. Yet when the last copybook had been tom up and thrown out of the window, he felt bitterness and vexation, and went to his wife and spoke to her cruelly. Heavens, how he had ruined her life! He remembered how once, wishing to cause her pain, he had told her that her father had played in their romance an unusual role, and had even asked him to marry her; and Yegor Semiónovitch, happening to overhear him, had rushed into the room, so dumb with consternation that he could not utter a word, but only stamped his feet on one spot and bellowed strangely as if his tongue had been cut out. And Tánya, looking at her father, cried out in a heartrending voice, and fell insensible on the floor. It was hideous.
The memory of all this returned to him at the sight of the well-known handwriting. He went out on to the balcony. It was warm and calm, and a salt smell came to him from the sea. The moonlight, and the lights around, were imaged on the surface of the wonderful bay—a surface of a hue impossible to name. It was a tender and soft combination of dark blue and green; in parts the water resembled copperas, and in parts, instead of water, liquid moonlight filled the bay. And all these combined in a harmony of hues which exhaled tranquillity and exaltation.
In the lower story of the inn, underneath the balcony, the windows were evidently open, for women’s voices and laughter could plainly be heard. There must be an entertainment.
Kovrin made an effort over himself, unsealed the letter, and, returning to his room, began to read:
"My father has just died. For this I am indebted to you, for it was you who killed him. Our garden is being ruined; it is managed by strangers; what my poor father so dreaded is taking place. For this also I am indebted to you. I hate you with all my soul, and wish that you may perish soon! Oh, how I suffer I My heart bums with an intolerable pain!... May you be accursed! I took you for an exceptional man, for a genius; I loved you, and you proved a madman...."
Kovrin could read no more; he tore up the letter and threw the pieces away.... He was overtaken by restlessness—almost by terror.... On the other side of the screen, slept Varvara Nikolaievna; he could hear her breathing. From the story beneath came the women’s voices and laughter, but he felt that in the whole hotel there was not one living soul except himself. The fact that wretched, overwhelmed Tánya had cursed him in her letter, and wished him ill, caused him pain; and he looked fearfully at the door as if fearing to see again that unknown power which in two years had brought about so much ruin in his own life and in the lives of all who were dearest to him.
By experience he knew that when the nerves give way the best refuge lies in work. He used to sit at the table and concentrate his mind upon some definite thought. He took from his red portfolio a copybook containing the conspect of a small work of compilation which he intended to carry out during his stay in the Crimea, if he became tired of inactivity.... He sat at the table, and worked on this conspect, and it seemed to him that he was regaining his former peaceful, resigned, impersonal mood. His conspect led him to speculation on the vanity of the world. He thought of the great price which life demands for the most trivial and ordinary benefits which it gives to men. To reach a chair of philosophy under forty years of age; to be an ordinary professor; to expound commonplace thoughts—and those thoughts the thoughts of others—in feeble, tiresome, heavy language; in one word, to attain the position of a learned mediocrity, he had studied fifteen years, worked day and night, passed through a severe psychical disease, survived an unsuccessful marriage—been guilty of many follies and injustices which it was torture to remember. Kovrin now clearly realised that he was a mediocrity, and he was willingly reconciled to it, for he knew that every man must be satisfied with what he is.
The conspect calmed him, but the tom letter lay upon the floor and hindered the concentration of his thoughts. He rose, picked up the fragments, and threw them out of the window. But a light wind blew from the sea, and the papers fluttered back on to the window sill. Again he was overtaken by restlessness akin to terror, and it seemed to him that in the whole hotel except himself there was not one living soul.... He went on to the balcony. The bay, as if alive, stared up at him from its multitude of light-and dark-blue eyes, its eyes of turquoise and fire, and beckoned him. It was warm and stifling; how delightful, he thought, to bathe!
Suddenly beneath the balcony a violin was played, and two women’s voices sang. All this was known to him. The song which they sang told of a young girl, diseased in imagination, who heard by night in a garden mysterious sounds, and found in them a harmony and a holiness incomprehensible to us mortals. ... Kovrin held his breath, his heart ceased to beat, and the magical, ecstatic rapture which he had long forgotten trembled in his heart again.
A high, black pillar, like a cyclone or waterspout, appeared on the opposite coast. It swept with incredible swiftness across the bay towards the hotel; it became smaller and smaller, and Kovrin stepped aside to make room for it.... The monk, with uncovered grey head, with black eyebrows, barefooted, folding his arms upon his chest, swept past him, and stopped in the middle of the room.
"Why did you not believe me?" he asked in a tone of reproach, looking caressingly at Kovrin. "If you had believed me when I said you were a genius, these last two years would not have been passed so sadly and so barrenly."
Kovrin again believed that he was the elected of God and a genius; he vividly remembered all his former conversation with the Black Monk, and wished to reply. But the blood flowed from his throat on to his chest, and he, not knowing what to do, moved his hands about his chest till his cuffs were red with the blood. He wished to call Varvara Nikolaievna, who slept behind the screen, and making an effort to do so, cried: "Tánya!"
He fell on the floor, and raising his hands, again cried:
"Tánya!"
He cried to Tánya, cried to the great garden with the miraculous flowers, cried to the park, to the pines with their shaggy roots, to the rye-field, cried to his marvellous science, to his youth, his daring, his joy, cried to the life which had been so beautiful. He saw on the floor before him a great pool of blood, and from weakness could not utter a single word. But an inexpressible, infinite joy filled his whole being. Beneath the balcony the serenade was being played, and the Black Monk whispered to him that he was a genius, and died only because his feeble, mortal body had lost its balance, and could no longer serve as the covering of genius.
When Varvara Nikolaievna awoke, and came from behind her screen, Kovrin was dead. But on his face was frozen an immovable smile of happiness.


15. THE MURDER

I

The evening service was being celebrated at Progonnaya Station. Before the great ikon, painted in glaring colours on a background of gold, stood the crowd of railway servants with their wives and children, and also of the timbermen and sawyers who worked close to the railway line. All stood in silence, fascinated by the glare of the lights and the howling of the snow-storm which was aimlessly disporting itself outside, regardless of the fact that it was the Eve of the Annunciation. The old priest from Vedenyapino conducted the service; the sacristan and Matvey Terehov were singing.
Matvey’s face was beaming with delight; he sang stretching out his neck as though he wanted to soar upwards. He sang tenor and chanted the “Praises” too in a tenor voice with honied sweetness and persuasiveness. When he sang “Archangel Voices” he waved his arms like a conductor, and trying to second the sacristan’s hollow bass with his tenor, achieved something extremely complex, and from his face it could be seen that he was experiencing great pleasure.
At last the service was over, and they all quietly dispersed, and it was dark and empty again, and there followed that hush which is only known in stations that stand solitary in the open country or in the forest when the wind howls and nothing else is heard and when all the emptiness around, all the dreariness of life slowly ebbing away is felt.
Matvey lived not far from the station at his cousin’s tavern. But he did not want to go home. He sat down at the refreshment bar and began talking to the waiter in a low voice.
“We had our own choir in the tile factory. And I must tell you that though we were only workmen, our singing was first-rate, splendid. We were often invited to the town, and when the Deputy Bishop, Father Ivan, took the service at Trinity Church, the bishop’s singers sang in the right choir and we in the left. Only they complained in the town that we kept the singing on too long: ‘the factory choir drag it out,’ they used to say. It is true we began St. Andrey’s prayers and the Praises between six and seven, and it was past eleven when we finished, so that it was sometimes after midnight when we got home to the factory. It was good,” sighed Matvey. “Very good it was, indeed, Sergey Nikanoritch! But here in my father’s house it is anything but joyful. The nearest church is four miles away; with my weak health I can’t get so far; there are no singers there. And there is no peace or quiet in our family; day in day out, there is an uproar, scolding, uncleanliness; we all eat out of one bowl like peasants; and there are beetles in the cabbage soup. . . . God has not given me health, else I would have gone away long ago, Sergey Nikanoritch.”
Matvey Terehov was a middle-aged man about forty-five, but he had a look of ill-health; his face was wrinkled and his lank, scanty beard was quite grey, and that made him seem many years older. He spoke in a weak voice, circumspectly, and held his chest when he coughed, while his eyes assumed the uneasy and anxious look one sees in very apprehensive people. He never said definitely what was wrong with him, but he was fond of describing at length how once at the factory he had lifted a heavy box and had ruptured himself, and how this had led to “the gripes,” and had forced him to give up his work in the tile factory and come back to his native place; but he could not explain what he meant by “the gripes.”
“I must own I am not fond of my cousin,” he went on, pouring himself out some tea. “He is my elder; it is a sin to censure him, and I fear the Lord, but I cannot bear it in patience. He is a haughty, surly, abusive man; he is the torment of his relations and workmen, and constantly out of humour. Last Sunday I asked him in an amiable way, ‘Brother, let us go to Pahomovo for the Mass!’ but he said ‘I am not going; the priest there is a gambler;’ and he would not come here to-day because, he said, the priest from Vedenyapino smokes and drinks vodka. He doesn’t like the clergy! He reads Mass himself and the Hours and the Vespers, while his sister acts as sacristan; he says, ‘Let us pray unto the Lord’! and she, in a thin little voice like a turkey-hen, ‘Lord, have mercy upon us! . . .’ It’s a sin, that’s what it is. Every day I say to him, ‘Think what you are doing, brother! Repent, brother!’ and he takes no notice.”
Sergey Nikanoritch, the waiter, poured out five glasses of tea and carried them on a tray to the waiting-room. He had scarcely gone in when there was a shout:
“Is that the way to serve it, pig’s face? You don’t know how to wait!”
It was the voice of the station-master. There was a timid mutter, then again a harsh and angry shout:
“Get along!”
The waiter came back greatly crestfallen.
“There was a time when I gave satisfaction to counts and princes,” he said in a low voice; “but now I don’t know how to serve tea. . . . He called me names before the priest and the ladies!”
The waiter, Sergey Nikanoritch, had once had money of his own, and had kept a buffet at a first-class station, which was a junction, in the principal town of a province. There he had worn a swallow-tail coat and a gold chain. But things had gone ill with him; he had squandered all his own money over expensive fittings and service; he had been robbed by his staff, and getting gradually into difficulties, had moved to another station less bustling. Here his wife had left him, taking with her all the silver, and he moved to a third station of a still lower class, where no hot dishes were served. Then to a fourth. Frequently changing his situation and sinking lower and lower, he had at last come to Progonnaya, and here he used to sell nothing but tea and cheap vodka, and for lunch hard-boiled eggs and dry sausages, which smelt of tar, and which he himself sarcastically said were only fit for the orchestra. He was bald all over the top of his head, and had prominent blue eyes and thick bushy whiskers, which he often combed out, looking into the little looking-glass. Memories of the past haunted him continually; he could never get used to sausage “only fit for the orchestra,” to the rudeness of the station-master, and to the peasants who used to haggle over the prices, and in his opinion it was as unseemly to haggle over prices in a refreshment room as in a chemist’s shop. He was ashamed of his poverty and degradation, and that shame was now the leading interest of his life.
“Spring is late this year,” said Matvey, listening. “It’s a good job; I don’t like spring. In spring it is very muddy, Sergey Nikanoritch. In books they write: Spring, the birds sing, the sun is setting, but what is there pleasant in that? A bird is a bird, and nothing more. I am fond of good company, of listening to folks, of talking of religion or singing something agreeable in chorus; but as for nightingales and flowers—bless them, I say!”
He began again about the tile factory, about the choir, but Sergey Nikanoritch could not get over his mortification, and kept shrugging his shoulders and muttering. Matvey said good-bye and went home.
There was no frost, and the snow was already melting on the roofs, though it was still falling in big flakes; they were whirling rapidly round and round in the air and chasing one another in white clouds along the railway line. And the oak forest on both sides of the line, in the dim light of the moon which was hidden somewhere high up in the clouds, resounded with a prolonged sullen murmur. When a violent storm shakes the trees, how terrible they are! Matvey walked along the causeway beside the line, covering his face and his hands, while the wind beat on his back. All at once a little nag, plastered all over with snow, came into sight; a sledge scraped along the bare stones of the causeway, and a peasant, white all over, too, with his head muffled up, cracked his whip. Matvey looked round after him, but at once, as though it had been a vision, there was neither sledge nor peasant to be seen, and he hastened his steps, suddenly scared, though he did not know why.
Here was the crossing and the dark little house where the signalman lived. The barrier was raised, and by it perfect mountains had drifted and clouds of snow were whirling round like witches on broomsticks. At that point the line was crossed by an old highroad, which was still called “the track.” On the right, not far from the crossing, by the roadside stood Terehov’s tavern, which had been a posting inn. Here there was always a light twinkling at night.
When Matvey reached home there was a strong smell of incense in all the rooms and even in the entry. His cousin Yakov Ivanitch was still reading the evening service. In the prayer-room where this was going on, in the corner opposite the door, there stood a shrine of old-fashioned ancestral ikons in gilt settings, and both walls to right and to left were decorated with ikons of ancient and modern fashion, in shrines and without them. On the table, which was draped to the floor, stood an ikon of the Annunciation, and close by a cyprus-wood cross and the censer; wax candles were burning. Beside the table was a reading desk. As he passed by the prayer-room, Matvey stopped and glanced in at the door. Yakov Ivanitch was reading at the desk at that moment, his sister Aglaia, a tall lean old woman in a dark-blue dress and white kerchief, was praying with him. Yakov Ivanitch’s daughter Dashutka, an ugly freckled girl of eighteen, was there, too, barefoot as usual, and wearing the dress in which she had at nightfall taken water to the cattle.
“Glory to Thee Who hast shown us the light!” Yakov Ivanitch boomed out in a chant, bowing low.
Aglaia propped her chin on her hand and chanted in a thin, shrill, drawling voice. And upstairs, above the ceiling, there was the sound of vague voices which seemed menacing or ominous of evil. No one had lived on the storey above since a fire there a long time ago. The windows were boarded up, and empty bottles lay about on the floor between the beams. Now the wind was banging and droning, and it seemed as though someone were running and stumbling over the beams.
Half of the lower storey was used as a tavern, while Terehov’s family lived in the other half, so that when drunken visitors were noisy in the tavern every word they said could be heard in the rooms. Matvey lived in a room next to the kitchen, with a big stove, in which, in old days, when this had been a posting inn, bread had been baked every day. Dashutka, who had no room of her own, lived in the same room behind the stove. A cricket chirped there always at night and mice ran in and out.
Matvey lighted a candle and began reading a book which he had borrowed from the station policeman. While he was sitting over it the service ended, and they all went to bed. Dashutka lay down, too. She began snoring at once, but soon woke up and said, yawning:
“You shouldn’t burn a candle for nothing, Uncle Matvey.”
“It’s my candle,” answered Matvey; “I bought it with my own money.”
Dashutka turned over a little and fell asleep again. Matvey sat up a good time longer—he was not sleepy—and when he had finished the last page he took a pencil out of a box and wrote on the book:
“I, Matvey Terehov, have read this book, and think it the very best of all the books I have read, for which I express my gratitude to the non-commissioned officer of the Police Department of Railways, Kuzma Nikolaev Zhukov, as the possessor of this priceless book.”
He considered it an obligation of politeness to make such inscriptions in other people’s books.

II

On Annunciation Day, after the mail train had been sent off, Matvey was sitting in the refreshment bar, talking and drinking tea with lemon in it.
The waiter and Zhukov the policeman were listening to him.
“I was, I must tell you,” Matvey was saying, “inclined to religion from my earliest childhood. I was only twelve years old when I used to read the epistle in church, and my parents were greatly delighted, and every summer I used to go on a pilgrimage with my dear mother. Sometimes other lads would be singing songs and catching crayfish, while I would be all the time with my mother. My elders commended me, and, indeed, I was pleased myself that I was of such good behaviour. And when my mother sent me with her blessing to the factory, I used between working hours to sing tenor there in our choir, and nothing gave me greater pleasure. I needn’t say, I drank no vodka, I smoked no tobacco, and lived in chastity; but we all know such a mode of life is displeasing to the enemy of mankind, and he, the unclean spirit, once tried to ruin me and began to darken my mind, just as now with my cousin. First of all, I took a vow to fast every Monday and not to eat meat any day, and as time went on all sorts of fancies came over me. For the first week of Lent down to Saturday the holy fathers have ordained a diet of dry food, but it is no sin for the weak or those who work hard even to drink tea, yet not a crumb passed into my mouth till the Sunday, and afterwards all through Lent I did not allow myself a drop of oil, and on Wednesdays and Fridays I did not touch a morsel at all. It was the same in the lesser fasts. Sometimes in St. Peter’s fast our factory lads would have fish soup, while I would sit a little apart from them and suck a dry crust. Different people have different powers, of course, but I can say of myself I did not find fast days hard, and, indeed, the greater the zeal the easier it seems. You are only hungry on the first days of the fast, and then you get used to it; it goes on getting easier, and by the end of a week you don’t mind it at all, and there is a numb feeling in your legs as though you were not on earth, but in the clouds. And, besides that, I laid all sorts of penances on myself; I used to get up in the night and pray, bowing down to the ground, used to drag heavy stones from place to place, used to go out barefoot in the snow, and I even wore chains, too. Only, as time went on, you know, I was confessing one day to the priest and suddenly this reflection occurred to me: why, this priest, I thought, is married, he eats meat and smokes tobacco—how can he confess me, and what power has he to absolve my sins if he is more sinful that I? I even scruple to eat Lenten oil, while he eats sturgeon, I dare say. I went to another priest, and he, as ill luck would have it, was a fat fleshy man, in a silk cassock; he rustled like a lady, and he smelt of tobacco too. I went to fast and confess in the monastery, and my heart was not at ease even there; I kept fancying the monks were not living according to their rules. And after that I could not find a service to my mind: in one place they read the service too fast, in another they sang the wrong prayer, in a third the sacristan stammered. Sometimes, the Lord forgive me a sinner, I would stand in church and my heart would throb with anger. How could one pray, feeling like that? And I fancied that the people in the church did not cross themselves properly, did not listen properly; wherever I looked it seemed to me that they were all drunkards, that they broke the fast, smoked, lived loose lives and played cards. I was the only one who lived according to the commandments. The wily spirit did not slumber; it got worse as it went on. I gave up singing in the choir and I did not go to church at all; since my notion was that I was a righteous man and that the church did not suit me owing to its imperfections—that is, indeed, like a fallen angel, I was puffed up in my pride beyond all belief. After this I began attempting to make a church for myself. I hired from a deaf woman a tiny little room, a long way out of town near the cemetery, and made a prayer-room like my cousin’s, only I had big church candlesticks, too, and a real censer. In this prayer-room of mine I kept the rules of holy Mount Athos—that is, every day my matins began at midnight without fail, and on the eve of the chief of the twelve great holy days my midnight service lasted ten hours and sometimes even twelve. Monks are allowed by rule to sit during the singing of the Psalter and the reading of the Bible, but I wanted to be better than the monks, and so I used to stand all through. I used to read and sing slowly, with tears and sighing, lifting up my hands, and I used to go straight from prayer to work without sleeping; and, indeed, I was always praying at my work, too. Well, it got all over the town ‘Matvey is a saint; Matvey heals the sick and senseless.’ I never had healed anyone, of course, but we all know wherever any heresy or false doctrine springs up there’s no keeping the female sex away. They are just like flies on the honey. Old maids and females of all sorts came trailing to me, bowing down to my feet, kissing my hands and crying out I was a saint and all the rest of it, and one even saw a halo round my head. It was too crowded in the prayer-room. I took a bigger room, and then we had a regular tower of Babel. The devil got hold of me completely and screened the light from my eyes with his unclean hoofs. We all behaved as though we were frantic. I read, while the old maids and other females sang, and then after standing on their legs for twenty-four hours or longer without eating or drinking, suddenly a trembling would come over them as though they were in a fever; after that, one would begin screaming and then another—it was horrible! I, too, would shiver all over like a Jew in a frying-pan, I don’t know myself why, and our legs began to prance about. It’s a strange thing, indeed: you don’t want to, but you prance about and waggle your arms; and after that, screaming and shrieking, we all danced and ran after one another —ran till we dropped; and in that way, in wild frenzy, I fell into fornication.”
The policeman laughed, but, noticing that no one else was laughing, became serious and said:
“That’s Molokanism. I have heard they are all like that in the Caucasus.”
“But I was not killed by a thunderbolt,” Matvey went on, crossing himself before the ikon and moving his lips. “My dead mother must have been praying for me in the other world. When everyone in the town looked upon me as a saint, and even the ladies and gentlemen of good family used to come to me in secret for consolation, I happened to go into our landlord, Osip Varlamitch, to ask forgiveness —it was the Day of Forgiveness—and he fastened the door with the hook, and we were left alone face to face. And he began to reprove me, and I must tell you Osip Varlamitch was a man of brains, though without education, and everyone respected and feared him, for he was a man of stern, God-fearing life and worked hard. He had been the mayor of the town, and a warden of the church for twenty years maybe, and had done a great deal of good; he had covered all the New Moscow Road with gravel, had painted the church, and had decorated the columns to look like malachite. Well, he fastened the door, and—‘I have been wanting to get at you for a long time, you rascal, . . .’ he said. ‘You think you are a saint,’ he said. ‘No you are not a saint, but a backslider from God, a heretic and an evildoer! . . .’ And he went on and on. . . . I can’t tell you how he said it, so eloquently and cleverly, as though it were all written down, and so touchingly. He talked for two hours. His words penetrated my soul; my eyes were opened. I listened, listened and —burst into sobs! ‘Be an ordinary man,’ he said, ‘eat and drink, dress and pray like everyone else. All that is above the ordinary is of the devil. Your chains,’ he said, ‘are of the devil; your fasting is of the devil; your prayer-room is of the devil. It is all pride,’ he said. Next day, on Monday in Holy Week, it pleased God I should fall ill. I ruptured myself and was taken to the hospital. I was terribly worried, and wept bitterly and trembled. I thought there was a straight road before me from the hospital to hell, and I almost died. I was in misery on a bed of sickness for six months, and when I was discharged the first thing I did I confessed, and took the sacrament in the regular way and became a man again. Osip Varlamitch saw me off home and exhorted me: ‘Remember, Matvey, that anything above the ordinary is of the devil.’ And now I eat and drink like everyone else and pray like everyone else . . . . If it happens now that the priest smells of tobacco or vodka I don’t venture to blame him, because the priest, too, of course, is an ordinary man. But as soon as I am told that in the town or in the village a saint has set up who does not eat for weeks, and makes rules of his own, I know whose work it is. So that is how I carried on in the past, gentlemen. Now, like Osip Varlamitch, I am continually exhorting my cousins and reproaching them, but I am a voice crying in the wilderness. God has not vouchsafed me the gift.”
Matvey’s story evidently made no impression whatever. Sergey Nikanoritch said nothing, but began clearing the refreshments off the counter, while the policeman began talking of how rich Matvey’s cousin was.
“He must have thirty thousand at least,” he said.
Zhukov the policeman, a sturdy, well-fed, red-haired man with a full face (his cheeks quivered when he walked), usually sat lolling and crossing his legs when not in the presence of his superiors. As he talked he swayed to and fro and whistled carelessly, while his face had a self-satisfied replete air, as though he had just had dinner. He was making money, and he always talked of it with the air of a connoisseur. He undertook jobs as an agent, and when anyone wanted to sell an estate, a horse or a carriage, they applied to him.
“Yes, it will be thirty thousand, I dare say,” Sergey Nikanoritch assented. “Your grandfather had an immense fortune,” he said, addressing Matvey. “Immense it was; all left to your father and your uncle. Your father died as a young man and your uncle got hold of it all, and afterwards, of course, Yakov Ivanitch. While you were going pilgrimages with your mama and singing tenor in the factory, they didn’t let the grass grow under their feet.”
“Fifteen thousand comes to your share,” said the policeman swaying from side to side. “The tavern belongs to you in common, so the capital is in common. Yes. If I were in your place I should have taken it into court long ago. I would have taken it into court for one thing, and while the case was going on I’d have knocked his face to a jelly.”
Yakov Ivanitch was disliked because, when anyone believes differently from others, it upsets even people who are indifferent to religion. The policeman disliked him also because he, too, sold horses and carriages.
“You don’t care about going to law with your cousin because you have plenty of money of your own,” said the waiter to Matvey, looking at him with envy. “It is all very well for anyone who has means, but here I shall die in this position, I suppose. . . .”
Matvey began declaring that he hadn’t any money at all, but Sergey Nikanoritch was not listening. Memories of the past and of the insults which he endured every day came showering upon him. His bald head began to perspire; he flushed and blinked.
“A cursed life!” he said with vexation, and he banged the sausage on the floor.

III

The story ran that the tavern had been built in the time of Alexander I, by a widow who had settled here with her son; her name was Avdotya Terehov. The dark roofed-in courtyard and the gates always kept locked excited, especially on moonlight nights, a feeling of depression and unaccountable uneasiness in people who drove by with posting-horses, as though sorcerers or robbers were living in it; and the driver always looked back after he passed, and whipped up his horses. Travellers did not care to put up here, as the people of the house were always unfriendly and charged heavily. The yard was muddy even in summer; huge fat pigs used to lie there in the mud, and the horses in which the Terehovs dealt wandered about untethered, and often it happened that they ran out of the yard and dashed along the road like mad creatures, terrifying the pilgrim women. At that time there was a great deal of traffic on the road; long trains of loaded waggons trailed by, and all sorts of adventures happened, such as, for instance, that thirty years ago some waggoners got up a quarrel with a passing merchant and killed him, and a slanting cross is standing to this day half a mile from the tavern; posting-chaises with bells and the heavy dormeuses of country gentlemen drove by; and herds of horned cattle passed bellowing and stirring up clouds of dust.
When the railway came there was at first at this place only a platform, which was called simply a halt; ten years afterwards the present station, Progonnaya, was built. The traffic on the old posting-road almost ceased, and only local landowners and peasants drove along it now, but the working people walked there in crowds in spring and autumn. The posting-inn was transformed into a restaurant; the upper storey was destroyed by fire, the roof had grown yellow with rust, the roof over the yard had fallen by degrees, but huge fat pigs, pink and revolting, still wallowed in the mud in the yard. As before, the horses sometimes ran away and, lashing their tails dashed madly along the road. In the tavern they sold tea, hay oats and flour, as well as vodka and beer, to be drunk on the premises and also to be taken away; they sold spirituous liquors warily, for they had never taken out a licence.
The Terehovs had always been distinguished by their piety, so much so that they had even been given the nickname of the “Godlies.” But perhaps because they lived apart like bears, avoided people and thought out all their ideas for themselves, they were given to dreams and to doubts and to changes of faith and almost each generation had a peculiar faith of its own. The grandmother Avdotya, who had built the inn, was an Old Believer; her son and both her grandsons (the fathers of Matvey and Yakov) went to the Orthodox church, entertained the clergy, and worshipped before the new ikons as devoutly as they had done before the old. The son in old age refused to eat meat and imposed upon himself the rule of silence, considering all conversation as sin; it was the peculiarity of the grandsons that they interpreted the Scripture not simply, but sought in it a hidden meaning, declaring that every sacred word must contain a mystery.
Avdotya’s great-grandson Matvey had struggled from early childhood with all sorts of dreams and fancies and had been almost ruined by it; the other great-grandson, Yakov Ivanitch, was orthodox, but after his wife’s death he gave up going to church and prayed at home. Following his example, his sister Aglaia had turned, too; she did not go to church herself, and did not let Dashutka go. Of Aglaia it was told that in her youth she used to attend the Flagellant meetings in Vedenyapino, and that she was still a Flagellant in secret, and that was why she wore a white kerchief.
Yakov Ivanitch was ten years older than Matvey—he was a very handsome tall old man with a big grey beard almost to his waist, and bushy eyebrows which gave his face a stern, even ill-natured expression. He wore a long jerkin of good cloth or a black sheepskin coat, and altogether tried to be clean and neat in dress; he wore goloshes even in dry weather. He did not go to church, because, to his thinking, the services were not properly celebrated and because the priests drank wine at unlawful times and smoked tobacco. Every day he read and sang the service at home with Aglaia. At Vedenyapino they left out the “Praises” at early matins, and had no evening service even on great holidays, but he used to read through at home everything that was laid down for every day, without hurrying or leaving out a single line, and even in his spare time read aloud the Lives of the Saints. And in everyday life he adhered strictly to the rules of the church; thus, if wine were allowed on some day in Lent “for the sake of the vigil,” then he never failed to drink wine, even if he were not inclined.
He read, sang, burned incense and fasted, not for the sake of receiving blessings of some sort from God, but for the sake of good order. Man cannot live without religion, and religion ought to be expressed from year to year and from day to day in a certain order, so that every morning and every evening a man might turn to God with exactly those words and thoughts that were befitting that special day and hour. One must live, and, therefore, also pray as is pleasing to God, and so every day one must read and sing what is pleasing to God—that is, what is laid down in the rule of the church. Thus the first chapter of St. John must only be read on Easter Day, and “It is most meet” must not be sung from Easter to Ascension, and so on. The consciousness of this order and its importance afforded Yakov Ivanitch great gratification during his religious exercises. When he was forced to break this order by some necessity—to drive to town or to the bank, for instance his conscience was uneasy and he felt miserable.
When his cousin Matvey had returned unexpectedly from the factory and settled in the tavern as though it were his home, he had from the very first day disturbed his settled order. He refused to pray with them, had meals and drank tea at wrong times, got up late, drank milk on Wednesdays and Fridays on the pretext of weak health; almost every day he went into the prayer-room while they were at prayers and cried: “Think what you are doing, brother! Repent, brother!” These words threw Yakov into a fury, while Aglaia could not refrain from beginning to scold; or at night Matvey would steal into the prayer-room and say softly: “Cousin, your prayer is not pleasing to God. For it is written, First be reconciled with thy brother and then offer thy gift. You lend money at usury, you deal in vodka—repent!”
In Matvey’s words Yakov saw nothing but the usual evasions of empty-headed and careless people who talk of loving your neighbour, of being reconciled with your brother, and so on, simply to avoid praying, fasting and reading holy books, and who talk contemptuously of profit and interest simply because they don’t like working. Of course, to be poor, save nothing, and put by nothing was a great deal easier than being rich.
But yet he was troubled and could not pray as before. As soon as he went into the prayer-room and opened the book he began to be afraid his cousin would come in and hinder him; and, in fact, Matvey did soon appear and cry in a trembling voice: “Think what you are doing, brother! Repent, brother!” Aglaia stormed and Yakov, too, flew into a passion and shouted: “Go out of my house!” while Matvey answered him: “The house belongs to both of us.”
Yakov would begin singing and reading again, but he could not regain his calm, and unconsciously fell to dreaming over his book. Though he regarded his cousin’s words as nonsense, yet for some reason it had of late haunted his memory that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, that the year before last he had made a very good bargain over buying a stolen horse, that one day when his wife was alive a drunkard had died of vodka in his tavern. . . .
He slept badly at nights now and woke easily, and he could hear that Matvey, too, was awake, and continually sighing and pining for his tile factory. And while Yakov turned over from one side to another at night he thought of the stolen horse and the drunken man, and what was said in the gospels about the camel.
It looked as though his dreaminess were coming over him again. And as ill-luck would have it, although it was the end of March, every day it kept snowing, and the forest roared as though it were winter, and there was no believing that spring would ever come. The weather disposed one to depression, and to quarrelling and to hatred and in the night, when the wind droned over the ceiling, it seemed as though someone were living overhead in the empty storey; little by little the broodings settled like a burden on his mind, his head burned and he could not sleep.

IV

On the morning of the Monday before Good Friday, Matvey heard from his room Dashutka say to Aglaia:
“Uncle Matvey said, the other day, that there is no need to fast.”
Matvey remembered the whole conversation he had had the evening before with Dashutka, and he felt hurt all at once.
“Girl, don’t do wrong!” he said in a moaning voice, like a sick man. “You can’t do without fasting; our Lord Himself fasted forty days. I only explained that fasting does a bad man no good.”
“You should just listen to the factory hands; they can teach you goodness,” Aglaia said sarcastically as she washed the floor (she usually washed the floors on working days and was always angry with everyone when she did it). “We know how they keep the fasts in the factory. You had better ask that uncle of yours—ask him about his ‘Darling,’ how he used to guzzle milk on fast days with her, the viper. He teaches others; he forgets about his viper. But ask him who was it he left his money with—who was it?”
Matvey had carefully concealed from everyone, as though it were a foul sore, that during that period of his life when old women and unmarried girls had danced and run about with him at their prayers he had formed a connection with a working woman and had had a child by her. When he went home he had given this woman all he had saved at the factory, and had borrowed from his landlord for his journey, and now he had only a few roubles which he spent on tea and candles. The “Darling” had informed him later on that the child was dead, and asked him in a letter what she should do with the money. This letter was brought from the station by the labourer. Aglaia intercepted it and read it, and had reproached Matvey with his “Darling” every day since.
“Just fancy, nine hundred roubles,” Aglaia went on. “You gave nine hundred roubles to a viper, no relation, a factory jade, blast you!” She had flown into a passion by now and was shouting shrilly: “Can’t you speak? I could tear you to pieces, wretched creature! Nine hundred roubles as though it were a farthing. You might have left it to Dashutka—she is a relation, not a stranger—or else have it sent to Byelev for Marya’s poor orphans. And your viper did not choke, may she be thrice accursed, the she-devil! May she never look upon the light of day!”
Yakov Ivanitch called to her: it was time to begin the “Hours.” She washed, put on a white kerchief, and by now quiet and meek, went into the prayer-room to the brother she loved. When she spoke to Matvey or served peasants in the tavern with tea she was a gaunt, keen-eyed, ill-humoured old woman; in the prayer-room her face was serene and softened, she looked younger altogether, she curtsied affectedly, and even pursed up her lips.
Yakov Ivanitch began reading the service softly and dolefully, as he always did in Lent. After he had read a little he stopped to listen to the stillness that reigned through the house, and then went on reading again, with a feeling of gratification; he folded his hands in supplication, rolled his eyes, shook his head, sighed. But all at once there was the sound of voices. The policeman and Sergey Nikanoritch had come to see Matvey. Yakov Ivanitch was embarrassed at reading aloud and singing when there were strangers in the house, and now, hearing voices, he began reading in a whisper and slowly. He could hear in the prayer-room the waiter say:
“The Tatar at Shtchepovo is selling his business for fifteen hundred. He’ll take five hundred down and an I.O.U. for the rest. And so, Matvey Vassilitch, be so kind as to lend me that five hundred roubles. I will pay you two per cent a month.”
“What money have I got?” cried Matvey, amazed. “I have no money!”
“Two per cent a month will be a godsend to you,” the policeman explained. “While lying by, your money is simply eaten by the moth, and that’s all that you get from it.”
Afterwards the visitors went out and a silence followed. But Yakov Ivanitch had hardly begun reading and singing again when a voice was heard outside the door:
“Brother, let me have a horse to drive to Vedenyapino.”
It was Matvey. And Yakov was troubled again. “Which can you go with?” he asked after a moment’s thought. “The man has gone with the sorrel to take the pig, and I am going with the little stallion to Shuteykino as soon as I have finished.”
“Brother, why is it you can dispose of the horses and not I?” Matvey asked with irritation.
“Because I am not taking them for pleasure, but for work.”
“Our property is in common, so the horses are in common, too, and you ought to understand that, brother.”
A silence followed. Yakov did not go on praying, but waited for Matvey to go away from the door.
“Brother,” said Matvey, “I am a sick man. I don’t want possession —let them go; you have them, but give me a small share to keep me in my illness. Give it me and I’ll go away.”
Yakov did not speak. He longed to be rid of Matvey, but he could not give him money, since all the money was in the business; besides, there had never been a case of the family dividing in the whole history of the Terehovs. Division means ruin.
Yakov said nothing, but still waited for Matvey to go away, and kept looking at his sister, afraid that she would interfere, and that there would be a storm of abuse again, as there had been in the morning. When at last Matvey did go Yakov went on reading, but now he had no pleasure in it. There was a heaviness in his head and a darkness before his eyes from continually bowing down to the ground, and he was weary of the sound of his soft dejected voice. When such a depression of spirit came over him at night, he put it down to not being able to sleep; by day it frightened him, and he began to feel as though devils were sitting on his head and shoulders.
Finishing the service after a fashion, dissatisfied and ill-humoured, he set off for Shuteykino. In the previous autumn a gang of navvies had dug a boundary ditch near Progonnaya, and had run up a bill at the tavern for eighteen roubles, and now he had to find their foreman in Shuteykino and get the money from him. The road had been spoilt by the thaw and the snowstorm; it was of a dark colour and full of holes, and in parts it had given way altogether. The snow had sunk away at the sides below the road, so that he had to drive, as it were, upon a narrow causeway, and it was very difficult to turn off it when he met anything. The sky had been overcast ever since the morning and a damp wind was blowing. . . .
A long train of sledges met him; peasant women were carting bricks. Yakov had to turn off the road. His horse sank into the snow up to its belly; the sledge lurched over to the right, and to avoid falling out he bent over to the left, and sat so all the time the sledges moved slowly by him. Through the wind he heard the creaking of the sledge poles and the breathing of the gaunt horses, and the women saying about him, “There’s Godly coming,” while one, gazing with compassion at his horse, said quickly:
“It looks as though the snow will be lying till Yegory’s Day! They are worn out with it!”
Yakov sat uncomfortably huddled up, screwing up his eyes on account of the wind, while horses and red bricks kept passing before him. And perhaps because he was uncomfortable and his side ached, he felt all at once annoyed, and the business he was going about seemed to him unimportant, and he reflected that he might send the labourer next day to Shuteykino. Again, as in the previous sleepless night, he thought of the saying about the camel, and then memories of all sorts crept into his mind; of the peasant who had sold him the stolen horse, of the drunken man, of the peasant women who had brought their samovars to him to pawn. Of course, every merchant tries to get as much as he can, but Yakov felt depressed that he was in trade; he longed to get somewhere far away from this routine, and he felt dreary at the thought that he would have to read the evening service that day. The wind blew straight into his face and soughed in his collar; and it seemed as though it were whispering to him all these thoughts, bringing them from the broad white plain . . . . Looking at that plain, familiar to him from childhood, Yakov remembered that he had had just this same trouble and these same thoughts in his young days when dreams and imaginings had come upon him and his faith had wavered.
He felt miserable at being alone in the open country; he turned back and drove slowly after the sledges, and the women laughed and said:
“Godly has turned back.”
At home nothing had been cooked and the samovar was not heated on account of the fast, and this made the day seem very long. Yakov Ivanitch had long ago taken the horse to the stable, dispatched the flour to the station, and twice taken up the Psalms to read, and yet the evening was still far off. Aglaia has already washed all the floors, and, having nothing to do, was tidying up her chest, the lid of which was pasted over on the inside with labels off bottles. Matvey, hungry and melancholy, sat reading, or went up to the Dutch stove and slowly scrutinized the tiles which reminded him of the factory. Dashutka was asleep; then, waking up, she went to take water to the cattle. When she was getting water from the well the cord broke and the pail fell in. The labourer began looking for a boathook to get the pail out, and Dashutka, barefooted, with legs as red as a goose’s, followed him about in the muddy snow, repeating: “It’s too far!” She meant to say that the well was too deep for the hook to reach the bottom, but the labourer did not understand her, and evidently she bothered him, so that he suddenly turned around and abused her in unseemly language. Yakov Ivanitch, coming out that moment into the yard, heard Dashutka answer the labourer in a long rapid stream of choice abuse, which she could only have learned from drunken peasants in the tavern.
“What are you saying, shameless girl!” he cried to her, and he was positively aghast. “What language!”
And she looked at her father in perplexity, dully, not understanding why she should not use those words. He would have admonished her, but she struck him as so savage and benighted; and for the first time he realized that she had no religion. And all this life in the forest, in the snow, with drunken peasants, with coarse oaths, seemed to him as savage and benighted as this girl, and instead of giving her a lecture he only waved his hand and went back into the room.
At that moment the policeman and Sergey Nikanoritch came in again to see Matvey. Yakov Ivanitch thought that these people, too, had no religion, and that that did not trouble them in the least; and human life began to seem to him as strange, senseless and unenlightened as a dog’s. Bareheaded he walked about the yard, then he went out on to the road, clenching his fists. Snow was falling in big flakes at the time. His beard was blown about in the wind. He kept shaking his head, as though there were something weighing upon his head and shoulders, as though devils were sitting on them; and it seemed to him that it was not himself walking about, but some wild beast, a huge terrible beast, and that if he were to cry out his voice would be a roar that would sound all over the forest and the plain, and would frighten everyone. . . .

V

When he went back into the house the policeman was no longer there, but the waiter was sitting with Matvey, counting something on the reckoning beads. He was in the habit of coming often, almost every day, to the tavern; in old days he had come to see Yakov Ivanitch, now he came to see Matvey. He was continually reckoning on the beads, while his face perspired and looked strained, or he would ask for money or, stroking his whiskers, would describe how he had once been in a first-class station and used to prepare champagne-punch for officers, and at grand dinners served the sturgeon-soup with his own hands. Nothing in this world interested him but refreshment bars, and he could only talk about things to eat, about wines and the paraphernalia of the dinner-table. On one occasion, handing a cup of tea to a young woman who was nursing her baby and wishing to say something agreeable to her, he expressed himself in this way:
“The mother’s breast is the baby’s refreshment bar.”
Reckoning with the beads in Matvey’s room, he asked for money; said he could not go on living at Progonnaya, and several times repeated in a tone of voice that sounded as though he were just going to cry:
“Where am I to go? Where am I to go now? Tell me that, please.”
Then Matvey went into the kitchen and began peeling some boiled potatoes which he had probably put away from the day before. It was quiet, and it seemed to Yakov Ivanitch that the waiter was gone. It was past the time for evening service; he called Aglaia, and, thinking there was no one else in the house sang out aloud without embarrassment. He sang and read, but was inwardly pronouncing other words, “Lord, forgive me! Lord, save me!” and, one after another, without ceasing, he made low bows to the ground as though he wanted to exhaust himself, and he kept shaking his head, so that Aglaia looked at him with wonder. He was afraid Matvey would come in, and was certain that he would come in, and felt an anger against him which he could overcome neither by prayer nor by continually bowing down to the ground.
Matvey opened the door very softly and went into the prayer-room.
“It’s a sin, such a sin!” he said reproachfully, and heaved a sigh. “Repent! Think what you are doing, brother!”
Yakov Ivanitch, clenching his fists and not looking at him for fear of striking him, went quickly out of the room. Feeling himself a huge terrible wild beast, just as he had done before on the road, he crossed the passage into the grey, dirty room, reeking with smoke and fog, in which the peasants usually drank tea, and there he spent a long time walking from one corner to the other, treading heavily, so that the crockery jingled on the shelves and the tables shook. It was clear to him now that he was himself dissatisfied with his religion, and could not pray as he used to do. He must repent, he must think things over, reconsider, live and pray in some other way. But how pray? And perhaps all this was a temptation of the devil, and nothing of this was necessary? . . . How was it to be? What was he to do? Who could guide him? What helplessness! He stopped and, clutching at his head, began to think, but Matvey’s being near him prevented him from reflecting calmly. And he went rapidly into the room.
Matvey was sitting in the kitchen before a bowl of potato, eating. Close by, near the stove, Aglaia and Dashutka were sitting facing one another, spinning yarn. Between the stove and the table at which Matvey was sitting was stretched an ironing-board; on it stood a cold iron.
“Sister,” Matvey asked, “let me have a little oil!”
“Who eats oil on a day like this?” asked Aglaia.
“I am not a monk, sister, but a layman. And in my weak health I may take not only oil but milk.”
“Yes, at the factory you may have anything.”
Aglaia took a bottle of Lenten oil from the shelf and banged it angrily down before Matvey, with a malignant smile evidently pleased that he was such a sinner.
“But I tell you, you can’t eat oil!” shouted Yakov.
Aglaia and Dashutka started, but Matvey poured the oil into the bowl and went on eating as though he had not heard.
“I tell you, you can’t eat oil!” Yakov shouted still more loudly; he turned red all over, snatched up the bowl, lifted it higher than his head, and dashed it with all his force to the ground, so that it flew into fragments. “Don’t dare to speak!” he cried in a furious voice, though Matvey had not said a word. “Don’t dare!” he repeated, and struck his fist on the table.
Matvey turned pale and got up.
“Brother!” he said, still munching—“brother, think what you are about!”
“Out of my house this minute!” shouted Yakov; he loathed Matvey’s wrinkled face, and his voice, and the crumbs on his moustache, and the fact that he was munching. “Out, I tell you!”
“Brother, calm yourself! The pride of hell has confounded you!”
“Hold your tongue!” (Yakov stamped.) “Go away, you devil!”
“If you care to know,” Matvey went on in a loud voice, as he, too, began to get angry, “you are a backslider from God and a heretic. The accursed spirits have hidden the true light from you; your prayer is not acceptable to God. Repent before it is too late! The deathbed of the sinner is terrible! Repent, brother!”
Yakov seized him by the shoulders and dragged him away from the table, while he turned whiter than ever, and frightened and bewildered, began muttering, “What is it? What’s the matter?” and, struggling and making efforts to free himself from Yakov’s hands, he accidentally caught hold of his shirt near the neck and tore the collar; and it seemed to Aglaia that he was trying to beat Yakov. She uttered a shriek, snatched up the bottle of Lenten oil and with all her force brought it down straight on the skull of the cousin she hated. Matvey reeled, and in one instant his face became calm and indifferent. Yakov, breathing heavily, excited, and feeling pleasure at the gurgle the bottle had made, like a living thing, when it had struck the head, kept him from falling and several times (he remembered this very distinctly) motioned Aglaia towards the iron with his finger; and only when the blood began trickling through his hands and he heard Dashutka’s loud wail, and when the ironing-board fell with a crash, and Matvey rolled heavily on it, Yakov left off feeling anger and understood what had happened.
“Let him rot, the factory buck!” Aglaia brought out with repulsion, still keeping the iron in her hand. The white bloodstained kerchief slipped on to her shoulders and her grey hair fell in disorder. “He’s got what he deserved!”
Everything was terrible. Dashutka sat on the floor near the stove with the yarn in her hands, sobbing, and continually bowing down, uttering at each bow a gasping sound. But nothing was so terrible to Yakov as the potato in the blood, on which he was afraid of stepping, and there was something else terrible which weighed upon him like a bad dream and seemed the worst danger, though he could not take it in for the first minute. This was the waiter, Sergey Nikanoritch, who was standing in the doorway with the reckoning beads in his hands, very pale, looking with horror at what was happening in the kitchen. Only when he turned and went quickly into the passage and from there outside, Yakov grasped who it was and followed him.
Wiping his hands on the snow as he went, he reflected. The idea flashed through his mind that their labourer had gone away long before and had asked leave to stay the night at home in the village; the day before they had killed a pig, and there were huge bloodstains in the snow and on the sledge, and even one side of the top of the well was splattered with blood, so that it could not have seemed suspicious even if the whole of Yakov’s family had been stained with blood. To conceal the murder would be agonizing, but for the policeman, who would whistle and smile ironically, to come from the station, for the peasants to arrive and bind Yakov’s and Aglaia’s hands, and take them solemnly to the district courthouse and from there to the town, while everyone on the way would point at them and say mirthfully, “They are taking the Godlies!”—this seemed to Yakov more agonizing than anything, and he longed to lengthen out the time somehow, so as to endure this shame not now, but later, in the future.
“I can lend you a thousand roubles, . . .” he said, overtaking Sergey Nikanoritch. “If you tell anyone, it will do no good. . . . There’s no bringing the man back, anyway;” and with difficulty keeping up with the waiter, who did not look round, but tried to walk away faster than ever, he went on: “I can give you fifteen hundred. . . .”
He stopped because he was out of breath, while Sergey Nikanoritch walked on as quickly as ever, probably afraid that he would be killed, too. Only after passing the railway crossing and going half the way from the crossing to the station, he furtively looked round and walked more slowly. Lights, red and green, were already gleaming in the station and along the line; the wind had fallen, but flakes of snow were still coming down and the road had turned white again. But just at the station Sergey Nikanoritch stopped, thought a minute, and turned resolutely back. It was growing dark.
“Oblige me with the fifteen hundred, Yakov Ivanitch,” he said, trembling all over. “I agree.”

VI

Yakov Ivanitch’s money was in the bank of the town and was invested in second mortgages; he only kept a little at home, Just what was wanted for necessary expenses. Going into the kitchen he felt for the matchbox, and while the sulphur was burning with a blue light he had time to make out the figure of Matvey, which was still lying on the floor near the table, but now it was covered with a white sheet, and nothing could be seen but his boots. A cricket was chirruping. Aglaia and Dashutka were not in the room, they were both sitting behind the counter in the tea-room, spinning yarn in silence. Yakov Ivanitch crossed to his own room with a little lamp in his hand, and pulled from under the bed a little box in which he kept his money. This time there were in it four hundred and twenty one-rouble notes and silver to the amount of thirty-five roubles; the notes had an unpleasant heavy smell. Putting the money together in his cap, Yakov Ivanitch went out into the yard and then out of the gate. He walked, looking from side to side, but there was no sign of the waiter.
“Hi!” cried Yakov.
A dark figure stepped out from the barrier at the railway crossing and came irresolutely towards him.
“Why do you keep walking about?” said Yakov with vexation, as he recognized the waiter. “Here you are; there is a little less than five hundred. . . . I’ve no more in the house.”
“Very well; . . . very grateful to you,” muttered Sergey Nikanoritch, taking the money greedily and stuffing it into his pockets. He was trembling all over, and that was perceptible in spite of the darkness. “Don’t worry yourself, Yakov Ivanitch. . . . What should I chatter for: I came and went away, that’s all I’ve had to do with it. As the saying is, I know nothing and I can tell nothing . . .” And at once he added with a sigh “Cursed life!”
For a minute they stood in silence, without looking at each other.
“So it all came from a trifle, goodness knows how, . . .” said the waiter, trembling. “I was sitting counting to myself when all at once a noise. . . . I looked through the door, and just on account of Lenten oil you. . . . Where is he now?”
“Lying there in the kitchen.”
“You ought to take him somewhere. . . . Why put it off?”
Yakov accompanied him to the station without a word, then went home again and harnessed the horse to take Matvey to Limarovo. He had decided to take him to the forest of Limarovo, and to leave him there on the road, and then he would tell everyone that Matvey had gone off to Vedenyapino and had not come back, and then everyone would think that he had been killed by someone on the road. He knew there was no deceiving anyone by this, but to move, to do something, to be active, was not as agonizing as to sit still and wait. He called Dashutka, and with her carried Matvey out. Aglaia stayed behind to clean up the kitchen.
When Yakov and Dashutka turned back they were detained at the railway crossing by the barrier being let down. A long goods train was passing, dragged by two engines, breathing heavily, and flinging puffs of crimson fire out of their funnels.
The foremost engine uttered a piercing whistle at the crossing in sight of the station.
“It’s whistling, . . .” said Dashutka.
The train had passed at last, and the signalman lifted the barrier without haste.
“Is that you, Yakov Ivanitch? I didn’t know you, so you’ll be rich.”
And then when they had reached home they had to go to bed.
Aglaia and Dashutka made themselves a bed in the tea-room and lay down side by side, while Yakov stretched himself on the counter. They neither said their prayers nor lighted the ikon lamp before lying down to sleep. All three lay awake till morning, but did not utter a single word, and it seemed to them that all night someone was walking about in the empty storey overhead.
Two days later a police inspector and the examining magistrate came from the town and made a search, first in Matvey’s room and then in the whole tavern. They questioned Yakov first of all, and he testified that on the Monday Matvey had gone to Vedenyapino to confess, and that he must have been killed by the sawyers who were working on the line.
And when the examining magistrate had asked him how it had happened that Matvey was found on the road, while his cap had turned up at home—surely he had not gone to Vedenyapino without his cap?— and why they had not found a single drop of blood beside him in the snow on the road, though his head was smashed in and his face and chest were black with blood, Yakov was confused, lost his head and answered:
“I cannot tell.”
And just what Yakov had so feared happened: the policeman came, the district police officer smoked in the prayer-room and Aglaia fell upon him with abuse and was rude to the police inspector; and afterwards when Yakov and Aglaia were led out to the yard, the peasants crowded at the gates and said, “They are taking the Godlies!” and it seemed that they were all glad.
At the inquiry the policeman stated positively that Yakov and Aglaia had killed Matvey in order not to share with him, and that Matvey had money of his own, and that if it was not found at the search evidently Yakov and Aglaia had got hold of it. And Dashutka was questioned. She said that Uncle Matvey and Aunt Aglaia quarrelled and almost fought every day over money, and that Uncle Matvey was rich, so much so that he had given someone—“his Darling”—nine hundred roubles.
Dashutka was left alone in the tavern. No one came now to drink tea or vodka, and she divided her time between cleaning up the rooms, drinking mead and eating rolls; but a few days later they questioned the signalman at the railway crossing, and he said that late on Monday evening he had seen Yakov and Dashutka driving from Limarovo. Dashutka, too, was arrested, taken to the town and put in prison. It soon became known, from what Aglaia said, that Sergey Nikanoritch had been present at the murder. A search was made in his room, and money was found in an unusual place, in his snowboots under the stove, and the money was all in small change, three hundred one-rouble notes. He swore he had made this money himself, and that he hadn’t been in the tavern for a year, but witnesses testified that he was poor and had been in great want of money of late, and that he used to go every day to the tavern to borrow from Matvey; and the policeman described how on the day of the murder he had himself gone twice to the tavern with the waiter to help him to borrow. It was recalled at this juncture that on Monday evening Sergey Nikanoritch had not been there to meet the passenger train, but had gone off somewhere. And he, too, was arrested and taken to the town.
The trial took place eleven months later.
Yakov Ivanitch looked much older and much thinner, and spoke in a low voice like a sick man. He felt weak, pitiful, lower in stature that anyone else, and it seemed as though his soul, too, like his body, had grown older and wasted, from the pangs of his conscience and from the dreams and imaginings which never left him all the while he was in prison. When it came out that he did not go to church the president of the court asked him:
“Are you a dissenter?”
“I can’t tell,” he answered.
He had no religion at all now; he knew nothing and understood nothing; and his old belief was hateful to him now, and seemed to him darkness and folly. Aglaia was not in the least subdued, and she still went on abusing the dead man, blaming him for all their misfortunes. Sergey Nikanoritch had grown a beard instead of whiskers. At the trial he was red and perspiring, and was evidently ashamed of his grey prison coat and of sitting on the same bench with humble peasants. He defended himself awkwardly, and, trying to prove that he had not been to the tavern for a whole year, got into an altercation with every witness, and the spectators laughed at him. Dashutka had grown fat in prison. At the trial she did not understand the questions put to her, and only said that when they killed Uncle Matvey she was dreadfully frightened, but afterwards she did not mind.
All four were found guilty of murder with mercenary motives. Yakov Ivanitch was sentenced to penal servitude for twenty years; Aglaia for thirteen and a half; Sergey Nikanoritch to ten; Dashutka to six.

VII

Late one evening a foreign steamer stopped in the roads of Dué in Sahalin and asked for coal. The captain was asked to wait till morning, but he did not want to wait over an hour, saying that if the weather changed for the worse in the night there would be a risk of his having to go off without coal. In the Gulf of Tartary the weather is liable to violent changes in the course of half an hour, and then the shores of Sahalin are dangerous. And already it had turned fresh, and there was a considerable sea running.
A gang of convicts were sent to the mine from the Voevodsky prison, the grimmest and most forbidding of all the prisons in Sahalin. The coal had to be loaded upon barges, and then they had to be towed by a steam-cutter alongside the steamer which was anchored more than a quarter of a mile from the coast, and then the unloading and reloading had to begin—an exhausting task when the barge kept rocking against the steamer and the men could scarcely keep on their legs for sea-sickness. The convicts, only just roused from their sleep, still drowsy, went along the shore, stumbling in the darkness and clanking their fetters. On the left, scarcely visible, was a tall, steep, extremely gloomy-looking cliff, while on the right there was a thick impenetrable mist, in which the sea moaned with a prolonged monotonous sound, “Ah! . . . ah! . . . ah! . . . ah! . . .” And it was only when the overseer was lighting his pipe, casting as he did so a passing ray of light on the escort with a gun and on the coarse faces of two or three of the nearest convicts, or when he went with his lantern close to the water that the white crests of the foremost waves could be discerned.
One of this gang was Yakov Ivanitch, nicknamed among the convicts the “Brush,” on account of his long beard. No one had addressed him by his name or his father’s name for a long time now; they called him simply Yashka.
He was here in disgrace, as, three months after coming to Siberia, feeling an intense irresistible longing for home, he had succumbed to temptation and run away; he had soon been caught, had been sentenced to penal servitude for life and given forty lashes. Then he was punished by flogging twice again for losing his prison clothes, though on each occasion they were stolen from him. The longing for home had begun from the very time he had been brought to Odessa, and the convict train had stopped in the night at Progonnaya; and Yakov, pressing to the window, had tried to see his own home, and could see nothing in the darkness. He had no one with whom to talk of home. His sister Aglaia had been sent right across Siberia, and he did not know where she was now. Dashutka was in Sahalin, but she had been sent to live with some ex-convict in a far away settlement; there was no news of her except that once a settler who had come to the Voevodsky Prison told Yakov that Dashutka had three children. Sergey Nikanoritch was serving as a footman at a government official’s at Dué, but he could not reckon on ever seeing him, as he was ashamed of being acquainted with convicts of the peasant class.
The gang reached the mine, and the men took their places on the quay. It was said there would not be any loading, as the weather kept getting worse and the steamer was meaning to set off. They could see three lights. One of them was moving: that was the steam-cutter going to the steamer, and it seemed to be coming back to tell them whether the work was to be done or not. Shivering with the autumn cold and the damp sea mist, wrapping himself in his short torn coat, Yakov Ivanitch looked intently without blinking in the direction in which lay his home. Ever since he had lived in prison together with men banished here from all ends of the earth—with Russians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Georgians, Chinese, Gypsies, Jews— and ever since he had listened to their talk and watched their sufferings, he had begun to turn again to God, and it seemed to him at last that he had learned the true faith for which all his family, from his grandmother Avdotya down, had so thirsted, which they had sought so long and which they had never found. He knew it all now and understood where God was, and how He was to be served, and the only thing he could not understand was why men’s destinies were so diverse, why this simple faith which other men receive from God for nothing and together with their lives, had cost him such a price that his arms and legs trembled like a drunken man’s from all the horrors and agonies which as far as he could see would go on without a break to the day of his death. He looked with strained eyes into the darkness, and it seemed to him that through the thousand miles of that mist he could see home, could see his native province, his district, Progonnaya, could see the darkness, the savagery, the heartlessness, and the dull, sullen, animal indifference of the men he had left there. His eyes were dimmed with tears; but still he gazed into the distance where the pale lights of the steamer faintly gleamed, and his heart ached with yearning for home, and he longed to live, to go back home to tell them there of his new faith and to save from ruin if only one man, and to live without suffering if only for one day.
The cutter arrived, and the overseer announced in a loud voice that there would be no loading.
“Back!” he commanded. “Steady!”
They could hear the hoisting of the anchor chain on the steamer. A strong piercing wind was blowing by now; somewhere on the steep cliff overhead the trees were creaking. Most likely a storm was coming.


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Footnotes

[1all of these stories were translated into English by Constance Garnett (1861-1946).