Short Fiction

By Anton Chekhov.

Translated by Constance Garnett.


The Standard Ebooks logo.

This ebook is the product of many hours of hard work by volunteers for Standard Ebooks, and builds on the hard work of other literature lovers made possible by the public domain.

This particular ebook is based on transcriptions from Project Gutenberg and on digital scans from the HathiTrust Digital Library.

The source text and artwork in this ebook are believed to be in the United States public domain; that is, they are believed to be free of copyright restrictions in the United States. They may still be copyrighted in other countries, so users located outside of the United States must check their local laws before using this ebook. The creators of, and contributors to, this ebook dedicate their contributions to the worldwide public domain via the terms in the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. For full license information, see the Uncopyright at the end of this ebook.

Standard Ebooks is a volunteer-driven project that produces ebook editions of public domain literature using modern typography, technology, and editorial standards, and distributes them free of cost. You can download this and other ebooks carefully produced for true book lovers at

A Living Chattel


Groholsky embraced Liza, kept kissing one after another all her little fingers with their bitten pink nails, and laid her on the couch covered with cheap velvet. Liza crossed one foot over the other, clasped her hands behind her head, and lay down.

Groholsky sat down in a chair beside her and bent over. He was entirely absorbed in contemplation of her.

How pretty she seemed to him, lighted up by the rays of the setting sun!

There was a complete view from the window of the setting sun, golden, lightly flecked with purple.

The whole drawing room, including Liza, was bathed by it with brilliant light that did not hurt the eyes, and for a little while covered with gold.

Groholsky was lost in admiration. Liza was so incredibly beautiful. It is true her little kittenish face with its brown eyes, and turn up nose was fresh, and even piquant, her scanty hair was black as soot and curly, her little figure was graceful, well proportioned and mobile as the body of an electric eel, but on the whole.⁠ ⁠… However my taste has nothing to do with it. Groholsky who was spoilt by women, and who had been in love and out of love hundreds of times in his life, saw her as a beauty. He loved her, and blind love finds ideal beauty everywhere.

“I say,” he said, looking straight into her eyes, “I have come to talk to you, my precious. Love cannot bear anything vague or indefinite.⁠ ⁠… Indefinite relations, you know, I told you yesterday, Liza⁠ ⁠… we will try today to settle the question we raised yesterday. Come, let us decide together.⁠ ⁠…”

“What are we to do?”

Liza gave a yawn and scowling, drew her right arm from under her head.

“What are we to do?” she repeated hardly audibly after Groholsky.

“Well, yes, what are we to do? Come, decide, wise little head⁠ ⁠… I love you, and a man in love is not fond of sharing. He is more than an egoist. It is too much for me to go shares with your husband. I mentally tear him to pieces, when I remember that he loves you too. In the second place you love me.⁠ ⁠… Perfect freedom is an essential condition for love.⁠ ⁠… And are you free? Are you not tortured by the thought that that man towers forever over your soul? A man whom you do not love, whom very likely and quite naturally, you hate.⁠ ⁠… That’s the second thing.⁠ ⁠… And thirdly.⁠ ⁠… What is the third thing? Oh yes.⁠ ⁠… We are deceiving him and that⁠ ⁠… is dishonourable. Truth before everything, Liza. Let us have done with lying!”

“Well, then, what are we to do?”

“You can guess.⁠ ⁠… I think it necessary, obligatory, to inform him of our relations and to leave him, to begin to live in freedom. Both must be done as quickly as possible.⁠ ⁠… This very evening, for instance.⁠ ⁠… It’s time to make an end of it. Surely you must be sick of loving like a thief?”

“Tell! tell Vanya?”

“Why, yes!”

“That’s impossible! I told you yesterday, Michel, that it is impossible.”


“He will be upset. He’ll make a row, do all sorts of unpleasant things.⁠ ⁠… Don’t you know what he is like? God forbid! There’s no need to tell him. What an idea!”

Groholsky passed his hand over his brow, and heaved a sigh.

“Yes,” he said, “he will be more than upset. I am robbing him of his happiness. Does he love you?”

“He does love me. Very much.”

“There’s another complication! One does not know where to begin. To conceal it from him is base, telling him would kill him.⁠ ⁠… Goodness knows what’s one to do. Well, how is it to be?”

Groholsky pondered. His pale face wore a frown.

“Let us go on always as we are now,” said Liza. “Let him find out for himself, if he wants to.”

“But you know that⁠ ⁠… is sinful, and besides the fact is you are mine, and no one has the right to think that you do not belong to me but to someone else! You are mine! I will not give way to anyone!⁠ ⁠… I am sorry for him⁠—God knows how sorry I am for him, Liza! It hurts me to see him! But⁠ ⁠… it can’t be helped after all. You don’t love him, do you? What’s the good of your going on being miserable with him? We must have it out! We will have it out with him, and you will come to me. You are my wife, and not his. Let him do what he likes. He’ll get over his troubles somehow.⁠ ⁠… He is not the first, and he won’t be the last.⁠ ⁠… Will you run away? Eh? Make haste and tell me! Will you run away?”

Liza got up and looked inquiringly at Groholsky.

“Run away?”

“Yes.⁠ ⁠… To my estate.⁠ ⁠… Then to the Crimea.⁠ ⁠… We will tell him by letter.⁠ ⁠… We can go at night. There is a train at half past one. Well? Is that all right?”

Liza scratched the bridge of her nose, and hesitated.

“Very well,” she said, and burst into tears.

Patches of red came out of her cheeks, her eyes swelled, and tears flowed down her kittenish face.⁠ ⁠…

“What is it?” cried Groholsky in a flutter. “Liza! what’s the matter? Come! what are you crying for? What a girl! Come, what is it? Darling! Little woman!”

Liza held out her hands to Groholsky, and hung on his neck. There was a sound of sobbing.

“I am sorry for him⁠ ⁠…” muttered Liza. “Oh, I am so sorry for him!”

“Sorry for whom?”

“Va⁠—Vanya.⁠ ⁠…”

“And do you suppose I’m not? But what’s to be done? We are causing him suffering.⁠ ⁠… He will be unhappy, will curse us⁠ ⁠… but is it our fault that we love one another?”

As he uttered the last word, Groholsky darted away from Liza as though he had been stung and sat down in an easy chair. Liza sprang away from his neck and rapidly⁠—in one instant⁠—dropped on the lounge.

They both turned fearfully red, dropped their eyes, and coughed.

A tall, broad-shouldered man of thirty, in the uniform of a government clerk, had walked into the drawing room. He had walked in unnoticed. Only the bang of a chair which he knocked in the doorway had warned the lovers of his presence, and made them look round. It was the husband.

They had looked round too late.

He had seen Groholsky’s arm round Liza’s waist, and had seen Liza hanging on Groholsky’s white and aristocratic neck.

“He saw us!” Liza and Groholsky thought at the same moment, while they did not know what to do with their heavy hands and embarrassed eyes.⁠ ⁠…

The petrified husband, rosy-faced, turned white.

An agonising, strange, soul-revolting silence lasted for three minutes. Oh, those three minutes! Groholsky remembers them to this day.

The first to move and break the silence was the husband. He stepped up to Groholsky and, screwing his face into a senseless grimace like a smile, gave him his hand. Groholsky shook the soft perspiring hand and shuddered all over as though he had crushed a cold frog in his fist.

“Good evening,” he muttered.

“How are you?” the husband brought out in a faint husky, almost inaudible voice, and he sat down opposite Groholsky, straightening his collar at the back of his neck.

Again, an agonising silence followed⁠ ⁠… but that silence was no longer so stupid.⁠ ⁠… The first step, most difficult and colourless, was over.

All that was left now was for one of the two to depart in search of matches or on some such trifling errand. Both longed intensely to get away. They sat still, not looking at one another, and pulled at their beards while they ransacked their troubled brains for some means of escape from their horribly awkward position. Both were perspiring. Both were unbearably miserable and both were devoured by hatred. They longed to begin the tussle but how were they to begin and which was to begin first? If only she would have gone out!

“I saw you yesterday at the Assembly Hall,” muttered Bugrov (that was the husband’s name).

“Yes, I was there⁠ ⁠… the ball⁠ ⁠… did you dance?”

“M’m⁠ ⁠… yes⁠ ⁠… with that⁠ ⁠… with the younger Lyukovtsky.⁠ ⁠… She dances heavily.⁠ ⁠… She dances impossibly. She is a great chatterbox.” (Pause.) “She is never tired of talking.”

“Yes.⁠ ⁠… It was slow. I saw you too⁠ ⁠…”

Groholsky accidentally glanced at Bugrov.⁠ ⁠… He caught the shifting eyes of the deceived husband and could not bear it. He got up quickly, quickly seized Bugrov’s hand, shook it, picked up his hat, and walked towards the door, conscious of his own back. He felt as though thousands of eyes were looking at his back. It is a feeling known to the actor who has been hissed and is making his exit from the stage, and to the young dandy who has received a blow on the back of the head and is being led away in charge of a policeman.

As soon as the sound of Groholsky’s steps had died away and the door in the hall creaked, Bugrov leapt up, and after making two or three rounds of the drawing room, strolled up to his wife. The kittenish face puckered up and began blinking its eyes as though expecting a slap. Her husband went up to her, and with a pale, distorted face, with arms, head, and shoulders shaking, stepped on her dress and knocked her knees with his.

“If, you wretched creature,” he began in a hollow, wailing voice, “you let him come here once again, I’ll.⁠ ⁠… Don’t let him dare to set his foot.⁠ ⁠… I’ll kill you. Do you understand? A-a-ah⁠ ⁠… worthless creature, you shudder! Fil-thy woman!”

Bugrov seized her by the elbow, shook her, and flung her like an India-rubber ball towards the window.⁠ ⁠…

“Wretched, vulgar woman! you have no shame!”

She flew towards the window, hardly touching the floor with her feet, and caught at the curtains with her hands.

“Hold your tongue,” shouted her husband, going up to her with flashing eyes and stamping his foot.

She did hold her tongue, she looked at the ceiling, and whimpered while her face wore the expression of a little girl in disgrace expecting to be punished.

“So that’s what you are like! Eh? Carrying on with a fop! Good! And your promise before the altar? What are you? A nice wife and mother. Hold your tongue!”

And he struck her on her pretty supple shoulder. “Hold your tongue, you wretched creature. I’ll give you worse than that! If that scoundrel dares to show himself here ever again, if I see you⁠—listen!⁠—with that blackguard ever again, don’t ask for mercy! I’ll kill you, if I go to Siberia for it! And him too. I shouldn’t think twice about it! You can go, I don’t want to see you!”

Bugrov wiped his eyes and his brow with his sleeve and strode about the drawing room, Liza sobbing more and more loudly, twitching her shoulders and her little turned up nose, became absorbed in examining the lace on the curtain.

“You are crazy,” her husband shouted. “Your silly head is full of nonsense! Nothing but whims! I won’t allow it, Elizaveta, my girl! You had better be careful with me! I don’t like it! If you want to behave like a pig, then⁠ ⁠… then out you go, there is no place in my house for you! Out you pack if.⁠ ⁠… You are a wife, so you must forget these dandies, put them out of your silly head! It’s all foolishness! Don’t let it happen again! You try defending yourself! Love your husband! You have been given to your husband, so you must love him. Yes, indeed! Is one not enough? Go away till.⁠ ⁠… Torturers!”

Bugrov paused; then shouted:

“Go away I tell you, go to the nursery! Why are you blubbering, it is your own fault, and you blubber! What a woman! Last year you were after Petka Totchkov, now you are after this devil. Lord forgive us!⁠ ⁠… Tfoo, it’s time you understood what you are! A wife! A mother! Last year there were unpleasantnesses, and now there will be unpleasantnesses.⁠ ⁠… Tfoo!”

Bugrov heaved a loud sigh, and the air was filled with the smell of sherry. He had come back from dining and was slightly drunk.⁠ ⁠…

“Don’t you know your duty? No!⁠ ⁠… you must be taught, you’ve not been taught so far! Your mamma was a gadabout, and you⁠ ⁠… you can blubber. Yes! blubber away.⁠ ⁠…”

Bugrov went up to his wife and drew the curtain out of her hands.

“Don’t stand by the window, people will see you blubbering.⁠ ⁠… Don’t let it happen again. You’ll go from embracing to worse trouble. You’ll come to grief. Do you suppose I like to be made a fool of? And you will make a fool of me if you carry on with them, the low brutes.⁠ ⁠… Come, that’s enough.⁠ ⁠… Don’t you.⁠ ⁠… Another time.⁠ ⁠… Of course I⁠ ⁠… Liza⁠ ⁠… stay.⁠ ⁠…”

Bugrov heaved a sigh and enveloped Liza in the fumes of sherry.

“You are young and silly, you don’t understand anything.⁠ ⁠… I am never at home.⁠ ⁠… And they take advantage of it. You must be sensible, prudent. They will deceive you. And then I won’t endure it.⁠ ⁠… Then I may do anything.⁠ ⁠… Of course! Then you can just lie down, and die. I⁠ ⁠… I am capable of doing anything if you deceive me, my good girl. I might beat you to death.⁠ ⁠… And⁠ ⁠… I shall turn you out of the house, and then you can go to your rascals.”

And Bugrov (horribile dictu) wiped the wet, tearful face of the traitress Liza with his big soft hand. He treated his twenty-year-old wife as though she were a child.

“Come, that’s enough.⁠ ⁠… I forgive you. Only God forbid it should happen again! I forgive you for the fifth time, but I shall not forgive you for the sixth, as God is holy. God does not forgive such as you for such things.”

Bugrov bent down and put out his shining lips towards Liza’s little head. But the kiss did not follow. The doors of the hall, of the dining room, of the parlour, and of the drawing room all slammed, and Groholsky flew into the drawing room like a whirlwind. He was pale and trembling. He was flourishing his arms and crushing his expensive hat in his hands. His coat fluttered upon him as though it were on a peg. He was the incarnation of acute fever. When Bugrov saw him he moved away from his wife and began looking out of the other window. Groholsky flew up to him, and waving his arms and breathing heavily and looking at no one, he began in a shaking voice:

“Ivan Petrovitch! Let us leave off keeping up this farce with one another! We have deceived each other long enough! It’s too much! I cannot stand it. You must do as you like, but I cannot! It’s hateful and mean, it’s revolting! Do you understand that it is revolting?”

Groholsky spluttered and gasped for breath.

“It’s against my principles. And you are an honest man. I love her! I love her more than anything on earth! You have noticed it and⁠ ⁠… it’s my duty to say this!”

“What am I to say to him?” Ivan Petrovitch wondered.

“We must make an end of it. This farce cannot drag on much longer! It must be settled somehow.”

Groholsky drew a breath and went on:

“I cannot live without her; she feels the same. You are an educated man, you will understand that in such circumstances your family life is impossible. This woman is not yours, so⁠ ⁠… in short, I beg you to look at the matter from an indulgent humane point of view.⁠ ⁠… Ivan Petrovitch, you must understand at last that I love her⁠—love her more than myself, more than anything in the world, and to struggle against that love is beyond my power!”

“And she?” Bugrov asked in a sullen, somewhat ironical tone.

“Ask her; come now, ask her! For her to live with a man she does not love, to live with you is⁠ ⁠… is a misery!”

“And she?” Bugrov repeated, this time not in an ironical tone.

“She⁠ ⁠… she loves me! We love each other, Ivan Petrovitch! Kill us, despise us, pursue us, do as you will, but we can no longer conceal it from you. We are standing face to face⁠—you may judge us with all the severity of a man whom we⁠ ⁠… whom fate has robbed of happiness!”

Bugrov turned as red as a boiled crab, and looked out of one eye at Liza. He began blinking. His fingers, his lips, and his eyelids twitched. Poor fellow! The eyes of his weeping wife told him that Groholsky was right, that it was a serious matter.

“Well!” he muttered. “If you.⁠ ⁠… In these days.⁠ ⁠… You are always.⁠ ⁠…”

“As God is above,” Groholsky shrilled in his high tenor, “we understand you. Do you suppose we have no sense, no feeling? I know what agonies I am causing you, as God’s above! But be indulgent, I beseech you! We are not to blame. Love is not a crime. No will can struggle against it.⁠ ⁠… Give her up to me, Ivan Petrovitch! Let her go with me! Take from me what you will for your sufferings. Take my life, but give me Liza. I am ready to do anything.⁠ ⁠… Come, tell me how I can do something to make up in part at least! To make up for that lost happiness, I can give you other happiness. I can, Ivan Petrovitch; I am ready to do anything! It would be base on my part to leave you without satisfaction.⁠ ⁠… I understand you at this moment.”

Bugrov waved his hand as though to say, “For God’s sake, go away.” His eyes began to be dimmed by a treacherous moisture⁠—in a moment they would see him crying like a child.

“I understand you, Ivan Petrovitch. I will give you another happiness, such as hitherto you have not known. What would you like? I have money, my father is an influential man.⁠ ⁠… Will you? Come, how much do you want?”

Bugrov’s heart suddenly began throbbing.⁠ ⁠… He clutched at the window curtains with both hands.⁠ ⁠…

“Will you have fifty thousand? Ivan Petrovitch, I entreat you.⁠ ⁠… It’s not a bribe, not a bargain.⁠ ⁠… I only want by a sacrifice on my part to atone a little for your inevitable loss. Would you like a hundred thousand? I am willing. A hundred thousand?”

My God! Two immense hammers began beating on the perspiring temples of the unhappy Ivan Petrovitch. Russian sledges with tinkling bells began racing in his ears.⁠ ⁠…

“Accept this sacrifice from me,” Groholsky went on, “I entreat you! You will take a load off my conscience.⁠ ⁠… I implore you!”

My God! A smart carriage rolled along the road wet from a May shower, passed the window through which Bugrov’s wet eyes were looking. The horses were fine, spirited, well-trained beasts. People in straw hats, with contented faces, were sitting in the carriage with long fishing-rods and bags.⁠ ⁠… A schoolboy in a white cap was holding a gun. They were driving out into the country to catch fish, to shoot, to walk about and have tea in the open air. They were driving to that region of bliss in which Bugrov as a boy⁠—the barefoot, sunburnt, but infinitely happy son of a village deacon⁠—had once raced about the meadows, the woods, and the river banks. Oh, how fiendishly seductive was that May! How happy those who can take off their heavy uniforms, get into a carriage and fly off to the country where the quails are calling and there is the scent of fresh hay. Bugrov’s heart ached with a sweet thrill that made him shiver. A hundred thousand! With the carriage there floated before him all the secret dreams over which he had gloated, through the long years of his life as a government clerk as he sat in the office of his department or in his wretched little study.⁠ ⁠… A river, deep, with fish, a wide garden with narrow avenues, little fountains, shade, flowers, arbours, a luxurious villa with terraces and turrets with an Aeolian harp and little silver bells (he had heard of the existence of an Aeolian harp from German romances); a cloudless blue sky; pure limpid air fragrant with the scents that recall his hungry, barefoot, crushed childhood.⁠ ⁠… To get up at five, to go to bed at nine; to spend the day catching fish, talking with the peasants.⁠ ⁠… What happiness!

“Ivan Petrovitch, do not torture me! Will you take a hundred thousand?”

“H’m⁠ ⁠… a hundred and fifty thousand!” muttered Bugrov in a hollow voice, the voice of a husky bull. He muttered it, and bowed his head, ashamed of his words, and awaiting the answer.

“Good,” said Groholsky, “I agree. I thank you, Ivan Petrovitch.⁠ ⁠… In a minute.⁠ ⁠… I will not keep you waiting.⁠ ⁠…”

Groholsky jumped up, put on his hat, and staggering backwards, ran out of the drawing room.

Bugrov clutched the window curtains more tightly than ever.⁠ ⁠… He was ashamed.⁠ ⁠… There was a nasty, stupid feeling in his soul, but, on the other hand, what fair shining hopes swarmed between his throbbing temples! He was rich!

Liza, who had grasped nothing of what was happening, darted through the half-opened door trembling all over and afraid that he would come to her window and fling her away from it. She went into the nursery, laid herself down on the nurse’s bed, and curled herself up. She was shivering with fever.

Bugrov was left alone. He felt stifled, and he opened the window. What glorious air breathed fragrance on his face and neck! It would be good to breathe such air lolling on the cushions of a carriage.⁠ ⁠… Out there, far beyond the town, among the villages and the summer villas, the air was sweeter still.⁠ ⁠… Bugrov actually smiled as he dreamed of the air that would be about him when he would go out on the verandah of his villa and admire the view. A long while he dreamed.⁠ ⁠… The sun had set, and still he stood and dreamed, trying his utmost to cast out of his mind the image of Liza which obstinately pursued him in all his dreams.

“I have brought it, Ivan Petrovitch!” Groholsky, re-entering, whispered above his ear. “I have brought it⁠—take it.⁠ ⁠… Here in this roll there are forty thousand.⁠ ⁠… With this cheque will you kindly get twenty the day after tomorrow from Valentinov?⁠ ⁠… Here is a bill of exchange⁠ ⁠… a cheque.⁠ ⁠… The remaining thirty thousand in a day or two.⁠ ⁠… My steward will bring it to you.”

Groholsky, pink and excited, with all his limbs in motion, laid before Bugrov a heap of rolls of notes and bundles of papers. The heap was big, and of all sorts of hues and tints. Never in the course of his life had Bugrov seen such a heap. He spread out his fat fingers and, not looking at Groholsky, fell to going through the bundles of notes and bonds.⁠ ⁠…

Groholsky spread out all the money, and moved restlessly about the room, looking for the Dulcinea who had been bought and sold.

Filling his pockets and his pocketbook, Bugrov thrust the securities into the table drawer, and, drinking off half a decanter full of water, dashed out into the street.

“Cab!” he shouted in a frantic voice.

At half-past eleven that night he drove up to the entrance of the Paris Hotel. He went noisily upstairs and knocked at the door of Groholsky’s apartments. He was admitted. Groholsky was packing his things in a portmanteau, Liza was sitting at the table trying on bracelets. They were both frightened when Bugrov went in to them. They fancied that he had come for Liza and had brought back the money which he had taken in haste without reflection. But Bugrov had not come for Liza. Ashamed of his new getup and feeling frightfully awkward in it, he bowed and stood at the door in the attitude of a flunkey. The getup was superb. Bugrov was unrecognisable. His huge person, which had never hitherto worn anything but a uniform, was clothed in a fresh, brand-new suit of fine French cloth and of the most fashionable cut. On his feet spats shone with sparkling buckles. He stood ashamed of his new getup, and with his right hand covered the watch-chain for which he had, an hour before, paid three hundred roubles.

“I have come about something,” he began. “A business agreement is beyond price. I am not going to give up Mishutka.⁠ ⁠…”

“What Mishutka?” asked Groholsky.

“My son.”

Groholsky and Liza looked at each other. Liza’s eyes bulged, her cheeks flushed, and her lips twitched.⁠ ⁠…

“Very well,” she said.

She thought of Mishutka’s warm little cot. It would be cruel to exchange that warm little cot for a chilly sofa in the hotel, and she consented.

“I shall see him,” she said.

Bugrov bowed, walked out, and flew down the stairs in his splendour, cleaving the air with his expensive cane.⁠ ⁠…

“Home,” he said to the cabman. “I am starting at five o’clock tomorrow morning.⁠ ⁠… You will come; if I am asleep, you will wake me. We are driving out of town.”


It was a lovely August evening. The sun, set in a golden background lightly flecked with purple, stood above the western horizon on the point of sinking behind the faraway tumuli. In the garden, shadows and half-shadows had vanished, and the air had grown damp, but the golden light was still playing on the treetops.⁠ ⁠… It was warm.⁠ ⁠… Rain had just fallen, and made the fresh, transparent fragrant air still fresher.

I am not describing the August of Petersburg or Moscow, foggy, tearful, and dark, with its cold, incredibly damp sunsets. God forbid! I am not describing our cruel northern August. I ask the reader to move with me to the Crimea, to one of its shores, not far from Feodosia, the spot where stands the villa of one of our heroes. It is a pretty, neat villa surrounded by flowerbeds and clipped bushes. A hundred paces behind it is an orchard in which its inmates walk.⁠ ⁠… Groholsky pays a high rent for that villa, a thousand roubles a year, I believe.⁠ ⁠… The villa is not worth that rent, but it is pretty.⁠ ⁠… Tall, with delicate walls and very delicate parapets, fragile, slender, painted a pale blue colour, hung with curtains, portières, draperies, it suggests a charming, fragile Chinese lady.⁠ ⁠…

On the evening described above, Groholsky and Liza were sitting on the verandah of this villa. Groholsky was reading Novoye Vremya and drinking milk out of a green mug. A syphon of Seltzer water was standing on the table before him. Groholsky imagined that he was suffering from catarrh of the lungs, and by the advice of Dr. Dmitriev consumed an immense quantity of grapes, milk, and Seltzer water. Liza was sitting in a soft easy chair some distance from the table. With her elbows on the parapet, and her little face propped on her little fists, she was gazing at the villa opposite.⁠ ⁠… The sun was playing upon the windows of the villa opposite, the glittering panes reflected the dazzling light.⁠ ⁠… Beyond the little garden and the few trees that surrounded the villa there was a glimpse of the sea with its waves, its dark blue colour, its immensity, its white masts.⁠ ⁠… It was so delightful! Groholsky was reading an article by Anonymous, and after every dozen lines he raised his blue eyes to Liza’s back.⁠ ⁠… The same passionate, fervent love was shining in those eyes still.⁠ ⁠… He was infinitely happy in spite of his imaginary catarrh of the lungs.⁠ ⁠… Liza was conscious of his eyes upon her back, and was thinking of Mishutka’s brilliant future, and she felt so comfortable, so serene.⁠ ⁠…

She was not so much interested by the sea, and the glittering reflection on the windows of the villa opposite as by the wagons which were trailing up to that villa one after another.

The wagons were full of furniture and all sorts of domestic articles. Liza watched the trellis gates and big glass doors of the villa being opened and the men bustling about the furniture and wrangling incessantly. Big armchairs and a sofa covered with dark raspberry coloured velvet, tables for the hall, the drawing room and the dining room, a big double bed and a child’s cot were carried in by the glass doors; something big, wrapped up in sacking, was carried in too. A grand piano, thought Liza, and her heart throbbed.

It was long since she had heard the piano, and she was so fond of it. They had not a single musical instrument in their villa. Groholsky and she were musicians only in soul, no more. There were a great many boxes and packages with the words “with care” upon them carried in after the piano.

They were boxes of looking-glasses and crockery. A gorgeous and luxurious carriage was dragged in, at the gate, and two white horses were led in looking like swans.

“My goodness, what riches!” thought Liza, remembering her old pony which Groholsky, who did not care for riding, had bought her for a hundred roubles. Compared with those swan-like steeds, her pony seemed to her no better than a bug. Groholsky, who was afraid of riding fast, had purposely bought Liza a poor horse.

“What wealth!” Liza thought and murmured as she gazed at the noisy carriers.

The sun hid behind the tumuli, the air began to lose its dryness and limpidity, and still the furniture was being driven up and hauled into the house. At last it was so dark that Groholsky left off reading the newspaper while Liza still gazed and gazed.

“Shouldn’t we light the lamp?” said Groholsky, afraid that a fly might drop into his milk and be swallowed in the darkness.

“Liza! shouldn’t we light the lamp? Shall we sit in darkness, my angel?”

Liza did not answer. She was interested in a chaise which had driven up to the villa opposite.⁠ ⁠… What a charming little mare was in that chaise. Of medium size, not large, but graceful.⁠ ⁠… A gentleman in a top hat was sitting in the chaise, a child about three, apparently a boy, was sitting on his knees waving his little hands.⁠ ⁠… He was waving his little hands and shouting with delight.

Liza suddenly uttered a shriek, rose from her seat and lurched forward.

“What is the matter?” asked Groholsky.

“Nothing⁠ ⁠… I only⁠ ⁠… I fancied.⁠ ⁠…”

The tall, broad-shouldered gentleman in the top hat jumped out of the chaise, lifted the boy down, and with a skip and a hop ran gaily in at the glass door. The door opened noisily and he vanished into the darkness of the villa apartments.

Two smart footmen ran up to the horse in the chaise, and most respectfully led it to the gate. Soon the villa opposite was lighted up, and the clatter of plates, knives, and forks was audible. The gentleman in the top hat was having his supper, and judging by the duration of the clatter of crockery, his supper lasted long. Liza fancied she could smell chicken soup and roast duck. After supper discordant sounds of the piano floated across from the villa. In all probability the gentleman in the top hat was trying to amuse the child in some way, and allowing it to strum on it.

Groholsky went up to Liza and put his arm round her waist.

“What wonderful weather!” he said. “What air! Do you feel it? I am very happy, Liza, very happy indeed. My happiness is so great that I am really afraid of its destruction. The greatest things are usually destroyed, and do you know, Liza, in spite of all my happiness, I am not absolutely⁠ ⁠… at peace.⁠ ⁠… One haunting thought torments me⁠ ⁠… it torments me horribly. It gives me no peace by day or by night.⁠ ⁠…”

“What thought?”

“An awful thought, my love. I am tortured by the thought of your husband. I have been silent hitherto. I have feared to trouble your inner peace, but I cannot go on being silent. Where is he? What has happened to him? What has become of him with his money? It is awful! Every night I see his face, exhausted, suffering, imploring.⁠ ⁠… Why, only think, my angel⁠—can the money he so generously accepted make up to him for you? He loved you very much, didn’t he?”

“Very much!”

“There you see! He has either taken to drink now, or⁠ ⁠… I am anxious about him! Ah, how anxious I am! Should we write to him, do you think? We ought to comfort him⁠ ⁠… a kind word, you know.”

Groholsky heaved a deep sigh, shook his head, and sank into an easy chair exhausted by painful reflection. Leaning his head on his fists he fell to musing. Judging from his face, his musings were painful.

“I am going to bed,” said Liza; “it’s time.”

Liza went to her own room, undressed, and dived under the bedclothes. She used to go to bed at ten o’clock and get up at ten. She was fond of her comfort.

She was soon in the arms of Morpheus. Throughout the whole night she had the most fascinating dreams.⁠ ⁠… She dreamed whole romances, novels, Arabian Nights.⁠ ⁠… The hero of all these dreams was the gentleman in the top hat, who had caused her to utter a shriek that evening.

The gentleman in the top hat was carrying her off from Groholsky, was singing, was beating Groholsky and her, was flogging the boy under the window, was declaring his love, and driving her off in the chaise.⁠ ⁠… Oh, dreams! In one night, lying with one’s eyes shut, one may sometimes live through more than ten years of happiness.⁠ ⁠… That night Liza lived through a great variety of experiences, and very happy ones, even in spite of the beating.

Waking up between six and seven, she flung on her clothes, hurriedly did her hair, and without even putting on her Tatar slippers with pointed toes, ran impulsively on to the verandah. Shading her eyes from the sun with one hand, and with the other holding up her slipping clothes, she gazed at the villa opposite. Her face beamed.⁠ ⁠… There could be no further doubt it was he.

On the verandah in the villa opposite there was a table in front of the glass door. A tea service was shining and glistening on the table with a silver samovar at the head. Ivan Petrovitch was sitting at the table. He had in his hand a glass in a silver holder, and was drinking tea. He was drinking it with great relish. That fact could be deduced from the smacking of his lips, the sound of which reached Liza’s ears. He was wearing a brown dressing-gown with black flowers on it. Massive tassels fell down to the ground. It was the first time in her life Liza had seen her husband in a dressing-gown, and such an expensive-looking one.

Mishutka was sitting on one of his knees, and hindering him from drinking his tea. The child jumped up and down and tried to clutch his papa’s shining lip. After every three or four sips the father bent down to his son and kissed him on the head. A grey cat with its tail in the air was rubbing itself against one of the table legs, and with a plaintive mew proclaiming its desire for food. Liza hid behind the verandah curtain, and fastened her eyes upon the members of her former family; her face was radiant with joy.

“Misha!” she murmured, “Misha! Are you really here, Misha? The darling! And how he loves Vanya! Heavens!”

And Liza went off into a giggle when Mishutka stirred his father’s tea with a spoon. “And how Vanya loves Misha! My darlings!”

Liza’s heart throbbed, and her head went round with joy and happiness. She sank into an armchair and went on observing them, sitting down.

“How did they come here?” she wondered as she sent airy kisses to Mishutka. “Who gave them the idea of coming here? Heavens! Can all that wealth belong to them? Can those swan-like horses that were led in at the gate belong to Ivan Petrovitch? Ah!”

When he had finished his tea, Ivan Petrovitch went into the house. Ten minutes later, he appeared on the steps and Liza was astounded.⁠ ⁠… He, who in his youth only seven years ago had been called Vanushka and Vanka and had been ready to punch a man in the face and turn the house upside down over twenty kopecks, was dressed devilishly well. He had on a broad-brimmed straw hat, exquisite brilliant boots, a piqué waistcoat.⁠ ⁠… Thousands of suns, big and little, glistened on his watch-chain. With much chic he held in his right hand his gloves and cane.

And what swagger, what style there was in his heavy figure when, with a graceful motion of his hand, he bade the footman bring the horse round.

He got into the chaise with dignity, and told the footmen standing round the chaise to give him Mishutka and the fishing tackle they had brought. Setting Mishutka beside him, and putting his left arm round him, he held the reins and drove off.

“Ge-ee up!” shouted Mishutka.

Liza, unaware of what she was doing, waved her handkerchief after them. If she had looked in the glass she would have been surprised at her flushed, laughing, and, at the same time, tear-stained face. She was vexed that she was not beside her gleeful boy, and that she could not for some reason shower kisses on him at once.

For some reason!⁠ ⁠… Away with all your petty delicacies!

“Grisha! Grisha!” Liza ran into Groholsky’s bedroom and set to work to wake him. “Get up, they have come! The darling!”

“Who has come?” asked Groholsky, waking up.

“Our people⁠ ⁠… Vanya and Misha, they have come, they are in the villa opposite.⁠ ⁠… I looked out, and there they were drinking tea.⁠ ⁠… And Misha too.⁠ ⁠… What a little angel our Misha has grown! If only you had seen him! Mother of God!”

“Seen whom? Why, you are.⁠ ⁠… Who has come? Come where?”

“Vanya and Misha.⁠ ⁠… I have been looking at the villa opposite, while they were sitting drinking tea. Misha can drink his tea by himself now.⁠ ⁠… Didn’t you see them moving in yesterday, it was they who arrived!”

Groholsky rubbed his forehead and turned pale.

“Arrived? Your husband?” he asked.

“Why, yes.”

“What for?”

“Most likely he is going to live here. They don’t know we are here. If they did, they would have looked at our villa, but they drank their tea and took no notice.”

“Where is he now? But for God’s sake do talk sense! Oh, where is he?”

“He has gone fishing with Misha in the chaise. Did you see the horses yesterday? Those are their horses⁠ ⁠… Vanya’s⁠ ⁠… Vanya drives with them. Do you know what, Grisha? We will have Misha to stay with us.⁠ ⁠… We will, won’t we? He is such a pretty boy. Such an exquisite boy!”

Groholsky pondered, while Liza went on talking and talking.

“This is an unexpected meeting,” said Groholsky, after prolonged and, as usual, harrassing reflection. “Well, who could have expected that we should meet here? Well⁠ ⁠… There it is.⁠ ⁠… So be it. It seems that it is fated. I can imagine the awkwardness of his position when he meets us.”

“Shall we have Misha to stay with us?”

“Yes, we will.⁠ ⁠… It will be awkward meeting him.⁠ ⁠… Why, what can I say to him? What can I talk of? It will be awkward for him and awkward for me.⁠ ⁠… We ought not to meet. We will carry on communications, if necessary, through the servants.⁠ ⁠… My head does ache so, Lizotchka. My arms and legs too, I ache all over. Is my head feverish?”

Liza put her hand on his forehead and found that his head was hot.

“I had dreadful dreams all night⁠ ⁠… I shan’t get up today. I shall stay in bed⁠ ⁠… I must take some quinine. Send me my breakfast here, little woman.”

Groholsky took quinine and lay in bed the whole day. He drank warm water, moaned, had the sheets and pillowcase changed, whimpered, and induced an agonising boredom in all surrounding him.

He was insupportable when he imagined he had caught a chill. Liza had continually to interrupt her inquisitive observations and run from the verandah to his room. At dinnertime she had to put on mustard plasters. How boring all this would have been, O reader, if the villa opposite had not been at the service of my heroine! Liza watched that villa all day long and was gasping with happiness.

At ten o’clock Ivan Petrovitch and Mishutka came back from fishing and had breakfast. At two o’clock they had dinner, and at four o’clock they drove off somewhere in a carriage. The white horses bore them away with the swiftness of lightning. At seven o’clock visitors came to see them⁠—all of them men. They were playing cards on two tables in the verandah till midnight. One of the men played superbly on the piano. The visitors played, ate, drank, and laughed. Ivan Petrovitch guffawing loudly, told them an anecdote of Armenian life at the top of his voice, so that all the villas round could hear. It was very gay and Mishutka sat up with them till midnight.

“Misha is merry, he is not crying,” thought Liza, “so he does not remember his mamma. So he has forgotten me!”

And there was a horrible bitter feeling in Liza’s soul. She spent the whole night crying. She was fretted by her little conscience, and by vexation and misery, and the desire to talk to Mishutka and kiss him.⁠ ⁠… In the morning she got up with a headache and tear-stained eyes. Her tears Groholsky put down to his own account.

“Do not weep, darling,” he said to her, “I am all right today, my chest is a little painful, but that is nothing.”

While they were having tea, lunch was being served at the villa opposite. Ivan Petrovitch was looking at his plate, and seeing nothing but a morsel of goose dripping with fat.

“I am very glad,” said Groholsky, looking askance at Bugrov, “very glad that his life is so tolerable! I hope that decent surroundings anyway may help to stifle his grief. Keep out of sight, Liza! They will see you⁠ ⁠… I am not disposed to talk to him just now⁠ ⁠… God be with him! Why trouble his peace?”

But the dinner did not pass off so quietly. During dinner precisely that “awkward position” which Groholsky so dreaded occurred. Just when the partridges, Groholsky’s favorite dish, had been put on the table, Liza was suddenly overcome with confusion, and Groholsky began wiping his face with his dinner napkin. On the verandah of the villa opposite they saw Bugrov. He was standing with his arms leaning on the parapet, and staring straight at them, with his eyes starting out of his head.

“Go in, Liza, go in,” Groholsky whispered. “I said we must have dinner indoors! What a girl you are, really.⁠ ⁠…”

Bugrov stared and stared, and suddenly began shouting. Groholsky looked at him and saw a face full of astonishment.⁠ ⁠…

“Is that you?” bawled Ivan Petrovitch, “you! Are you here too?”

Groholsky passed his fingers from one shoulder to another, as though to say, “My chest is weak, and so I can’t shout across such a distance.” Liza’s heart began throbbing, and everything turned round before her eyes. Bugrov ran from his verandah, ran across the road, and a few seconds later was standing under the verandah on which Groholsky and Liza were dining. Alas for the partridges!

“How are you?” he began, flushing crimson, and stuffing his big hands in his pockets. “Are you here? Are you here too?”

“Yes, we are here too.⁠ ⁠…”

“How did you get here?”

“Why, how did you?”

“I? It’s a long story, a regular romance, my good friend! But don’t put yourselves out⁠—eat your dinner! I’ve been living, you know, ever since then⁠ ⁠… in the Oryol province. I rented an estate. A splendid estate! But do eat your dinner! I stayed there from the end of May, but now I have given it up.⁠ ⁠… It was cold there, and⁠—well, the doctor advised me to go to the Crimea.⁠ ⁠…”

“Are you ill, then?” inquired Groholsky.

“Oh, well.⁠ ⁠… There always seems, as it were⁠ ⁠… something gurgling here.⁠ ⁠…”

And at the word “here” Ivan Petrovitch passed his open hand from his neck down to the middle of his stomach.

“So you are here too.⁠ ⁠… Yes⁠ ⁠… that’s very pleasant. Have you been here long?”

“Since July.”

“Oh, and you, Liza, how are you? Quite well?”

“Quite well,” answered Liza, and was embarrassed.

“You miss Mishutka, I’ll be bound. Eh? Well, he’s here with me.⁠ ⁠… I’ll send him over to you directly with Nikifor. This is very nice. Well, goodbye! I have to go off directly.⁠ ⁠… I made the acquaintance of Prince Ter-Haimazov yesterday; delightful man, though he is an Armenian. So he has a croquet party today; we are going to play croquet.⁠ ⁠… Goodbye! The carriage is waiting.⁠ ⁠…”

Ivan Petrovitch whirled round, tossed his head, and, waving adieu to them, ran home.

“Unhappy man,” said Groholsky, heaving a deep sigh as he watched him go off.

“In what way is he unhappy?” asked Liza.

“To see you and not have the right to call you his!”

“Fool!” Liza was so bold to think. “Idiot!”

Before evening Liza was hugging and kissing Mishutka. At first the boy howled, but when he was offered jam, he was all friendly smiles.

For three days Groholsky and Liza did not see Bugrov. He had disappeared somewhere, and was only at home at night. On the fourth day he visited them again at dinnertime. He came in, shook hands with both of them, and sat down to the table. His face was serious.

“I have come to you on business,” he said. “Read this.” And he handed Groholsky a letter. “Read it! Read it aloud!”

Groholsky read as follows:

“My beloved and consoling, never-forgotten son Ioann! I have received the respectful and loving letter in which you invite your aged father to the mild and salubrious Crimea, to breathe the fragrant air, and behold strange lands. To that letter I reply that on taking my holiday, I will come to you, but not for long. My colleague, Father Gerasim, is a frail and delicate man, and cannot be left alone for long. I am very sensible of your not forgetting your parents, your father and your mother.⁠ ⁠… You rejoice your father with your affection, and you remember your mother in your prayers, and so it is fitting to do. Meet me at Feodosia. What sort of town is Feodosia⁠—what is it like? It will be very agreeable to see it. Your godmother, who took you from the font, is called Feodosia. You write that God has been graciously pleased that you should win two hundred thousand roubles. That is gratifying to me. But I cannot approve of your having left the service while still of a grade of little importance; even a rich man ought to be in the service. I bless you always, now and hereafter. Ilya and Seryozhka Andronov send you their greetings. You might send them ten roubles each⁠—they are badly off!

“Your loving Father,

“Pyotr Bugrov, Priest.”

Groholsky read this letter aloud, and he and Liza both looked inquiringly at Bugrov.

“You see what it is,” Ivan Petrovitch began hesitatingly. “I should like to ask you, Liza, not to let him see you, to keep out of his sight while he is here. I have written to him that you are ill and gone to the Caucasus for a cure. If you meet him⁠ ⁠… You see yourself.⁠ ⁠… It’s awkward⁠ ⁠… H’m.⁠ ⁠…”

“Very well,” said Liza.

“We can do that,” thought Groholsky, “since he makes sacrifices, why shouldn’t we?”

“Please do.⁠ ⁠… If he sees you there will be trouble.⁠ ⁠… My father is a man of strict principles. He would curse me in seven churches. Don’t go out of doors, Liza, that is all. He won’t be here long. Don’t be afraid.”

Father Pyotr did not long keep them waiting. One fine morning Ivan Petrovitch ran in and hissed in a mysterious tone:

“He has come! He is asleep now, so please be careful.”

And Liza was shut up within four walls. She did not venture to go out into the yard or on to the verandah. She could only see the sky from behind the window curtain. Unluckily for her, Ivan Petrovitch’s papa spent his whole time in the open air, and even slept on the verandah. Usually Father Pyotr, a little parish priest, in a brown cassock and a top hat with a curly brim, walked slowly round the villas and gazed with curiosity at the “strange lands” through his grandfatherly spectacles. Ivan Petrovitch with the Stanislav on a little ribbon accompanied him. He did not wear a decoration as a rule, but before his own people he liked to show off. In their society he always wore the Stanislav.

Liza was bored to death. Groholsky suffered too. He had to go for his walks alone without a companion. He almost shed tears, but⁠ ⁠… had to submit to his fate. And to make things worse, Bugrov would run across every morning and in a hissing whisper would give some quite unnecessary bulletin concerning the health of Father Pyotr. He bored them with those bulletins.

“He slept well,” he informed them. “Yesterday he was put out because I had no salted cucumbers⁠ ⁠… He has taken to Mishutka; he keeps patting him on the head.”

At last, a fortnight later, little Father Pyotr walked for the last time round the villas and, to Groholsky’s immense relief, departed. He had enjoyed himself, and went off very well satisfied. Liza and Groholsky fell back into their old manner of life. Groholsky once more blessed his fate. But his happiness did not last for long. A new trouble worse than Father Pyotr followed. Ivan Petrovitch took to coming to see them every day. Ivan Petrovitch, to be frank, though a capital fellow, was a very tedious person. He came at dinnertime, dined with them and stayed a very long time. That would not have mattered. But they had to buy vodka, which Groholsky could not endure, for his dinner. He would drink five glasses and talk the whole dinnertime. That, too, would not have mattered.⁠ ⁠… But he would sit on till two o’clock in the morning, and not let them get to bed, and, worse still, he permitted himself to talk of things about which he should have been silent. When towards two o’clock in the morning he had drunk too much vodka and champagne, he would take Mishutka in his arms, and weeping, say to him, before Groholsky and Liza:

“Mihail, my son, what am I? I⁠ ⁠… am a scoundrel. I have sold your mother! Sold her for thirty pieces of silver, may the Lord punish me! Mihail Ivanitch, little sucking pig, where is your mother? Lost! Gone! Sold into slavery! Well, I am a scoundrel.”

These tears and these words turned Groholsky’s soul inside out. He would look timidly at Liza’s pale face and wring his hands.

“Go to bed, Ivan Petrovitch,” he would say timidly.

“I am going.⁠ ⁠… Come along, Mishutka.⁠ ⁠… The Lord be our judge! I cannot think of sleep while I know that my wife is a slave.⁠ ⁠… But it is not Groholsky’s fault.⁠ ⁠… The goods were mine, the money his.⁠ ⁠… Freedom for the free and Heaven for the saved.”

By day Ivan Petrovitch was no less insufferable to Groholsky. To Groholsky’s intense horror, he was always at Liza’s side. He went fishing with her, told her stories, walked with her, and even on one occasion, taking advantage of Groholsky’s having a cold, carried her off in his carriage, goodness knows where, and did not bring her back till night!

“It’s outrageous, inhuman,” thought Groholsky, biting his lips.

Groholsky liked to be continually kissing Liza. He could not exist without those honeyed kisses, and it was awkward to kiss her before Ivan Petrovitch. It was agony. The poor fellow felt forlorn, but fate soon had compassion on him. Ivan Petrovitch suddenly went off somewhere for a whole week. Visitors had come and carried him off with them⁠ ⁠… And Mishutka was taken too.

One fine morning Groholsky came home from a walk good-humoured and beaming.

“He has come,” he said to Liza, rubbing his hands. “I am very glad he has come. Ha-ha-ha!”

“What are you laughing at?”

“There are women with him.”

“What women?”

“I don’t know.⁠ ⁠… It’s a good thing he has got women.⁠ ⁠… A capital thing, in fact.⁠ ⁠… He is still young and fresh. Come here! Look!”

Groholsky led Liza on to the verandah, and pointed to the villa opposite. They both held their sides, and roared with laughter. It was funny. Ivan Petrovitch was standing on the verandah of the villa opposite, smiling. Two dark-haired ladies and Mishutka were standing below, under the verandah. The ladies were laughing, and loudly talking French.

“French women,” observed Groholsky. “The one nearest us isn’t at all bad-looking. Lively damsels, but that’s no matter. There are good women to be found even among such.⁠ ⁠… But they really do go too far.”

What was funny was that Ivan Petrovitch bent across the verandah, and stretching with his long arms, put them round the shoulders of one of the French girls, lifted her in the air, and set her giggling on the verandah. After lifting up both ladies on to the verandah, he lifted up Mishutka too. The ladies ran down and the proceedings were repeated.

“Powerful muscles, I must say,” muttered Groholsky looking at this scene. The operation was repeated some six times, the ladies were so amiable as to show no embarrassment whatever when the boisterous wind disposed of their inflated skirts as it willed while they were being lifted. Groholsky dropped his eyes in a shamefaced way when the ladies flung their legs over the parapet as they reached the verandah. But Liza watched and laughed! What did she care? It was not a case of men misbehaving themselves, which would have put her, as a woman, to shame, but of ladies.

In the evening, Ivan Petrovitch flew over, and with some embarrassment announced that he was now a man with a household to look after.⁠ ⁠…

“You mustn’t imagine they are just anybody,” he said. “It is true they are French. They shout at the top of their voices, and drink⁠ ⁠… but we all know! The French are brought up to be like that! It can’t be helped.⁠ ⁠… The prince,” Ivan Petrovitch added, “let me have them almost for nothing.⁠ ⁠… He said: ‘take them, take them.⁠ ⁠…’ I must introduce you to the prince sometime. A man of culture! He’s forever writing, writing.⁠ ⁠… And do you know what their names are? One is Fanny, the other Isabella.⁠ ⁠… There’s Europe, ha-ha-ha!⁠ ⁠… The west! Goodbye!”

Ivan Petrovitch left Liza and Groholsky in peace, and devoted himself to his ladies. All day long sound of talk, laughter, and the clatter of crockery came from his villa.⁠ ⁠… The lights were not put out till far into the night.⁠ ⁠… Groholsky was in bliss.⁠ ⁠… At last, after a prolonged interval of agony, he felt happy and at peace again. Ivan Petrovitch with his two ladies had no such happiness as he had with one. But alas, destiny has no heart. She plays with the Groholskys, the Lizas, the Ivans, and the Mishutkas as with pawns.⁠ ⁠… Groholsky lost his peace again.⁠ ⁠…

One morning, about ten days afterwards, on waking up late, he went out on to the verandah and saw a spectacle which shocked him, revolted him, and moved him to intense indignation. Under the verandah of the villa opposite stood the French women, and between them Liza. She was talking and looking askance at her own villa as though to see whether that tyrant, that despot were awake (so Groholsky interpreted those looks). Ivan Petrovitch standing on the verandah with his sleeves tucked up, lifted Isabella into the air, then Fanny, and then Liza. When he was lifting Liza it seemed to Groholsky that he pressed her to himself.⁠ ⁠… Liza too flung one leg over the parapet.⁠ ⁠… Oh these women! All sphinxes, every one of them!

When Liza returned home from her husband’s villa and went into the bedroom on tiptoe, as though nothing had happened, Groholsky, pale, with hectic flushes on his cheeks, was lying in the attitude of a man at his last gasp and moaning.

On seeing Liza, he sprang out of bed, and began pacing about the bedroom.

“So that’s what you are like, is it?” he shrieked in a high tenor. “So that’s it! Very much obliged to you! It’s revolting, madam! Immoral, in fact! Let me tell you that!”

Liza turned pale, and of course burst into tears. When women feel that they are in the right, they scold and shed tears; when they are conscious of being in fault, they shed tears only.

“On a level with those depraved creatures! It’s⁠ ⁠… it’s⁠ ⁠… it’s⁠ ⁠… lower than any impropriety! Why, do you know what they are? They are kept women! Cocottes! And you a respectable woman go rushing off where they are⁠ ⁠… And he⁠ ⁠… He! What does he want? What more does he want of me? I don’t understand it! I have given him half of my property⁠—I have given him more! You know it yourself! I have given him what I have not myself.⁠ ⁠… I have given him almost all.⁠ ⁠… And he! I’ve put up with your calling him Vanya, though he has no right whatever to such intimacy. I have put up with your walks, kisses after dinner.⁠ ⁠… I have put up with everything, but this I will not put up with.⁠ ⁠… Either he or I! Let him go away, or I go away! I’m not equal to living like this any longer, no! You can see that for yourself!⁠ ⁠… Either he or I.⁠ ⁠… Enough! The cup is brimming over.⁠ ⁠… I have suffered a great deal as it is.⁠ ⁠… I am going to talk to him at once⁠—this minute! What is he, after all? What has he to be proud of? No, indeed.⁠ ⁠… He has no reason to think so much of himself.⁠ ⁠…”

Groholsky said a great many more valiant and stinging things, but did not “go at once”; he felt timid and abashed.⁠ ⁠… He went to Ivan Petrovitch three days later.

When he went into his apartment, he gaped with astonishment. He was amazed at the wealth and luxury with which Bugrov had surrounded himself. Velvet hangings, fearfully expensive chairs.⁠ ⁠… One was positively ashamed to step on the carpet. Groholsky had seen many rich men in his day, but he had never seen such frenzied luxury.⁠ ⁠… And the higgledy-piggledy muddle he saw when, with an inexplicable tremor, he walked into the drawing room⁠—plates with bits of bread on them were lying about on the grand piano, a glass was standing on a chair, under the table there was a basket with a filthy rag in it.⁠ ⁠… Nut shells were strewn about in the windows. Bugrov himself was not quite in his usual trim when Groholsky walked in.⁠ ⁠… With a red face and uncombed locks he was pacing about the room in deshabille, talking to himself, apparently much agitated. Mishutka was sitting on the sofa there in the drawing room, and was making the air vibrate with a piercing scream.

“It’s awful, Grigory Vassilyevitch!” Bugrov began on seeing Groholsky, “such disorder⁠ ⁠… such disorder⁠ ⁠… Please sit down. You must excuse my being in the costume of Adam and Eve.⁠ ⁠… It’s of no consequence.⁠ ⁠… Horrible disorderliness! I don’t understand how people can exist here, I don’t understand it! The servants won’t do what they are told, the climate is horrible, everything is expensive.⁠ ⁠… Stop your noise,” Bugrov shouted, suddenly coming to a halt before Mishutka; “stop it, I tell you! Little beast, won’t you stop it?”

And Bugrov pulled Mishutka’s ear.

“That’s revolting, Ivan Petrovitch,” said Groholsky in a tearful voice. “How can you treat a tiny child like that? You really are⁠ ⁠…”

“Let him stop yelling then.⁠ ⁠… Be quiet⁠—I’ll whip you!”

“Don’t cry, Misha darling.⁠ ⁠… Papa won’t touch you again. Don’t beat him, Ivan Petrovitch; why, he is hardly more than a baby.⁠ ⁠… There, there.⁠ ⁠… Would you like a little horse? I’ll send you a little horse.⁠ ⁠… You really are hardhearted.⁠ ⁠…”

Groholsky paused, and then asked:

“And how are your ladies getting on, Ivan Petrovitch?”

“Not at all. I’ve turned them out without ceremony. I might have gone on keeping them, but it’s awkward.⁠ ⁠… The boy will grow up.⁠ ⁠… A father’s example.⁠ ⁠… If I were alone, then it would be a different thing.⁠ ⁠… Besides, what’s the use of my keeping them? Poof⁠ ⁠… it’s a regular farce! I talk to them in Russian, and they answer me in French. They don’t understand a thing⁠—you can’t knock anything into their heads.”

“I’ve come to you about something, Ivan Petrovitch, to talk things over.⁠ ⁠… H’m.⁠ ⁠… It’s nothing very particular. But just⁠ ⁠… two or three words.⁠ ⁠… In reality, I have a favour to ask of you.”

“What’s that?”

“Would you think it possible, Ivan Petrovitch, to go away? We are delighted that you are here; it’s very agreeable for us, but it’s inconvenient, don’t you know.⁠ ⁠… You will understand me. It’s awkward in a way.⁠ ⁠… Such indefinite relations, such continual awkwardness in regard to one another.⁠ ⁠… We must part.⁠ ⁠… It’s essential in fact. Excuse my saying so, but⁠ ⁠… you must see for yourself, of course, that in such circumstances to be living side by side leads to⁠ ⁠… reflections⁠ ⁠… that is⁠ ⁠… not to reflections, but there is a certain awkward feeling.⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes.⁠ ⁠… That is so, I have thought of it myself. Very good, I will go away.”

“We shall be very grateful to you.⁠ ⁠… Believe me, Ivan Petrovitch, we shall preserve the most flattering memory of you. The sacrifice which you⁠ ⁠…”

“Very good.⁠ ⁠… Only what am I to do with all this? I say, you buy this furniture of mine! What do you say? It’s not expensive, eight thousand⁠ ⁠… ten.⁠ ⁠… The furniture, the carriage, the grand piano.⁠ ⁠…”

“Very good.⁠ ⁠… I will give you ten thousand.⁠ ⁠…”

“Well, that is capital! I will set off tomorrow. I shall go to Moscow. It’s impossible to live here. Everything is so dear! Awfully dear! The money fairly flies.⁠ ⁠… You can’t take a step without spending a thousand! I can’t go on like that. I have a child to bring up.⁠ ⁠… Well, thank God that you will buy my furniture.⁠ ⁠… That will be a little more in hand, or I should have been regularly bankrupt.⁠ ⁠…”

Groholsky got up, took leave of Bugrov, and went home rejoicing. In the evening he sent him ten thousand roubles.

Early next morning Bugrov and Mishutka were already at Feodosia.


Several months had passed; spring had come. With spring, fine bright days had come too. Life was not so dull and hateful, and the earth was more fair to look upon.⁠ ⁠… There was a warm breeze from the sea and the open country.⁠ ⁠… The earth was covered with fresh grass, fresh leaves were green upon the trees. Nature had sprung into new life, and had put on new array.

It might be thought that new hopes and new desires would surge up in man when everything in nature is renewed, and young and fresh⁠ ⁠… but it is hard for man to renew life.⁠ ⁠…

Groholsky was still living in the same villa. His hopes and desires, small and unexacting, were still concentrated on the same Liza, on her alone, and on nothing else! As before, he could not take his eyes off her, and gloated over the thought: how happy I am! The poor fellow really did feel awfully happy. Liza sat as before on the verandah, and unaccountably stared with bored eyes at the villa opposite and the trees near it through which there was a peep at the dark blue sea.⁠ ⁠… As before, she spent her days for the most part in silence, often in tears and from time to time in putting mustard plasters on Groholsky. She might be congratulated on one new sensation, however. There was a worm gnawing at her vitals.⁠ ⁠… That worm was misery.⁠ ⁠… She was fearfully miserable, pining for her son, for her old, her cheerful manner of life. Her life in the past had not been particularly cheerful, but still it was livelier than her present existence. When she lived with her husband she used from time to time to go to a theatre, to an entertainment, to visit acquaintances. But here with Groholsky it was all quietness and emptiness.⁠ ⁠… Besides, here there was one man, and he with his ailments and his continual mawkish kisses, was like an old grandfather forever shedding tears of joy.

It was boring! Here she had not Mihey Sergeyitch who used to be fond of dancing the mazurka with her. She had not Spiridon Nikolaitch, the son of the editor of the Provincial News. Spiridon Nikolaitch sang well and recited poetry. Here she had not a table set with lunch for visitors. She had not Gerasimovna, the old nurse who used to be continually grumbling at her for eating too much jam.⁠ ⁠… She had no one! There was simply nothing for her but to lie down and die of depression. Groholsky rejoiced in his solitude, but⁠ ⁠… he was wrong to rejoice in it. All too soon he paid for his egoism. At the beginning of May when the very air seemed to be in love and faint with happiness, Groholsky lost everything; the woman he loved and⁠ ⁠…

That year Bugrov, too, visited the Crimea. He did not take the villa opposite, but pottered about, going from one town to another with Mishutka. He spent his time eating, drinking, sleeping, and playing cards. He had lost all relish for fishing, shooting and the French women, who, between ourselves, had robbed him a bit. He had grown thin, lost his broad and beaming smiles, and had taken to dressing in canvas. Ivan Petrovitch from time to time visited Groholsky’s villa. He brought Liza jam, sweets, and fruit, and seemed trying to dispel her ennui. Groholsky was not troubled by these visits, especially as they were brief and infrequent, and were apparently paid on account of Mishutka, who could not under any circumstances have been altogether deprived of the privilege of seeing his mother. Bugrov came, unpacked his presents, and after saying a few words, departed. And those few words he said not to Liza but to Groholsky.⁠ ⁠… With Liza he was silent and Groholsky’s mind was at rest; but there is a Russian proverb which he would have done well to remember: “Don’t fear the dog that barks, but fear the dog that’s quiet.⁠ ⁠…” A fiendish proverb, but in practical life sometimes indispensable.

As he was walking in the garden one day, Groholsky heard two voices in conversation. One voice was a man’s, the other was a woman’s. One belonged to Bugrov, the other to Liza. Groholsky listened, and turning white as death, turned softly towards the speakers. He halted behind a lilac bush, and proceeded to watch and listen. His arms and legs turned cold. A cold sweat came out upon his brow. He clutched several branches of the lilac that he might not stagger and fall down. All was over!

Bugrov had his arm round Liza’s waist, and was saying to her:

“My darling! what are we to do? It seems it was God’s will.⁠ ⁠… I am a scoundrel.⁠ ⁠… I sold you. I was seduced by that Herod’s money, plague take him, and what good have I had from the money? Nothing but anxiety and display! No peace, no happiness, no position.⁠ ⁠… One sits like a fat invalid at the same spot, and never a step forwarder.⁠ ⁠… Have you heard that Andrushka Markuzin has been made a head clerk? Andrushka, that fool! While I stagnate.⁠ ⁠… Good heavens! I have lost you, I have lost my happiness. I am a scoundrel, a blackguard, how do you think I shall feel at the dread day of judgment?”

“Let us go away, Vanya,” wailed Liza. “I am dull.⁠ ⁠… I am dying of depression.”

“We cannot, the money has been taken.⁠ ⁠…”

“Well, give it back again.”

“I should be glad to, but⁠ ⁠… wait a minute. I have spent it all. We must submit, my girl. God is chastising us. Me for my covetousness and you for your frivolity. Well, let us be tortured.⁠ ⁠… It will be the better for us in the next world.”

And in an access of religious feeling, Bugrov turned up his eyes to heaven.

“But I cannot go on living here; I am miserable.”

“Well, there is no help for it. I’m miserable too. Do you suppose I am happy without you? I am pining and wasting away! And my chest has begun to be bad!⁠ ⁠… You are my lawful wife, flesh of my flesh⁠ ⁠… one flesh.⁠ ⁠… You must live and bear it! While I⁠ ⁠… will drive over⁠ ⁠… visit you.”

And bending down to Liza, Bugrov whispered, loudly enough, however, to be heard several yards away:

“I will come to you at night, Lizanka.⁠ ⁠… Don’t worry.⁠ ⁠… I am staying at Feodosia close by.⁠ ⁠… I will live here near you till I have run through everything⁠ ⁠… and I soon shall be at my last farthing! A-a-ah, what a life it is! Dreariness, ill⁠ ⁠… my chest is bad, and my stomach is bad.”

Bugrov ceased speaking, and then it was Liza’s turn.⁠ ⁠… My God, the cruelty of that woman! She began weeping, complaining, enumerating all the defects of her lover and her own sufferings. Groholsky as he listened to her, felt that he was a villain, a miscreant, a murderer.

“He makes me miserable.⁠ ⁠…” Liza said in conclusion.

After kissing Liza at parting, and going out at the garden gate, Bugrov came upon Groholsky, who was standing at the gate waiting for him.

“Ivan Petrovitch,” said Groholsky in the tone of a dying man, “I have seen and heard it all⁠ ⁠… It’s not honourable on your part, but I do not blame you.⁠ ⁠… You love her too, but you must understand that she is mine. Mine! I cannot live without her! How is it you don’t understand that? Granted that you love her, that you are miserable.⁠ ⁠… Have I not paid you, in part at least, for your sufferings? For God’s sake, go away! For God’s sake, go away! Go away from here forever, I implore you, or you will kill me.⁠ ⁠…”

“I have nowhere to go,” Bugrov said thickly.

“H’m, you have squandered everything.⁠ ⁠… You are an impulsive man. Very well.⁠ ⁠… Go to my estate in the province of Tchernigov. If you like I will make you a present of the property. It’s a small estate, but a good one.⁠ ⁠… On my honour, it’s a good one!”

Bugrov gave a broad grin. He suddenly felt himself in the seventh heaven.

“I will give it you.⁠ ⁠… This very day I will write to my steward and send him an authorisation for completing the purchase. You must tell everyone you have bought it.⁠ ⁠… Go away, I entreat you.”

“Very good, I will go. I understand.”

“Let us go to a notary⁠ ⁠… at once,” said Groholsky, greatly cheered, and he went to order the carriage.

On the following evening, when Liza was sitting on the garden seat where her rendezvous with Ivan Petrovitch usually took place, Groholsky went quietly to her. He sat down beside her, and took her hand.

“Are you dull, Lizotchka?” he said, after a brief silence. “Are you depressed? Why shouldn’t we go away somewhere? Why is it we always stay at home? We want to go about, to enjoy ourselves, to make acquaintances.⁠ ⁠… Don’t we?”

“I want nothing,” said Liza, and turned her pale, thin face towards the path by which Bugrov used to come to her.

Groholsky pondered. He knew who it was she expected, who it was she wanted.

“Let us go home, Liza,” he said, “it is damp here.⁠ ⁠…”

“You go; I’ll come directly.”

Groholsky pondered again.

“You are expecting him?” he asked, and made a wry face as though his heart had been gripped with red-hot pincers.

“Yes.⁠ ⁠… I want to give him the socks for Misha.⁠ ⁠…”

“He will not come.”

“How do you know?”

“He has gone away.⁠ ⁠…”

Liza opened her eyes wide.⁠ ⁠…

“He has gone away, gone to the Tchernigov province. I have given him my estate.⁠ ⁠…”

Liza turned fearfully pale, and caught at Groholsky’s shoulder to save herself from falling.

“I saw him off at the steamer at three o’clock.”

Liza suddenly clutched at her head, made a movement, and falling on the seat, began shaking all over.

“Vanya,” she wailed, “Vanya! I will go to Vanya.⁠ ⁠… Darling!”

She had a fit of hysterics.⁠ ⁠…

And from that evening, right up to July, two shadows could be seen in the park in which the summer visitors took their walks. The shadows wandered about from morning till evening, and made the summer visitors feel dismal.⁠ ⁠… After Liza’s shadow invariably walked the shadow of Groholsky.⁠ ⁠… I call them shadows because they had both lost their natural appearance. They had grown thin and pale and shrunken, and looked more like shadows than living people.⁠ ⁠… Both were pining away like fleas in the classic anecdote of the Jew who sold insect powder.

At the beginning of July, Liza ran away from Groholsky, leaving a note in which she wrote that she was going for a time to “her son”⁠ ⁠… For a time! She ran away by night when Groholsky was asleep.⁠ ⁠… After reading her letter Groholsky spent a whole week wandering round about the villa as though he were mad, and neither ate nor slept. In August, he had an attack of recurrent fever, and in September he went abroad. There he took to drink.⁠ ⁠… He hoped in drink and dissipation to find comfort.⁠ ⁠… He squandered all his fortune, but did not succeed, poor fellow, in driving out of his brain the image of the beloved woman with the kittenish face.⁠ ⁠… Men do not die of happiness, nor do they die of misery. Groholsky’s hair went grey, but he did not die: he is alive to this day.⁠ ⁠… He came back from abroad to have “just a peep” at Liza.⁠ ⁠… Bugrov met him with open arms, and made him stay for an indefinite period. He is staying with Bugrov to this day.

This year I happened to be passing through Groholyovka, Bugrov’s estate. I found the master and the mistress of the house having supper.⁠ ⁠… Ivan Petrovitch was highly delighted to see me, and fell to pressing good things upon me.⁠ ⁠… He had grown rather stout, and his face was a trifle puffy, though it was still rosy and looked sleek and well-nourished.⁠ ⁠… He was not bald. Liza, too, had grown fatter. Plumpness did not suit her. Her face was beginning to lose the kittenish look, and was, alas! more suggestive of the seal. Her cheeks were spreading upwards, outwards, and to both sides. The Bugrovs were living in first-rate style. They had plenty of everything. The house was overflowing with servants and edibles.⁠ ⁠…

When we had finished supper we got into conversation. Forgetting that Liza did not play, I asked her to play us something on the piano.

“She does not play,” said Bugrov; “she is no musician.⁠ ⁠… Hey, you there! Ivan! call Grigory Vassilyevitch here! What’s he doing there?” And turning to me, Bugrov added, “Our musician will come directly; he plays the guitar. We keep the piano for Mishutka⁠—we are having him taught.⁠ ⁠…”

Five minutes later, Groholsky walked into the room⁠—sleepy, unkempt, and unshaven.⁠ ⁠… He walked in, bowed to me, and sat down on one side.

“Why, whoever goes to bed so early?” said Bugrov, addressing him. “What a fellow you are really! He’s always asleep, always asleep⁠ ⁠… The sleepy head! Come, play us something lively.⁠ ⁠…”

Groholsky turned the guitar, touched the strings, and began singing:

“Yesterday I waited for my dear one.⁠ ⁠…”

I listened to the singing, looked at Bugrov’s well-fed countenance, and thought: “Nasty brute!” I felt like crying.⁠ ⁠… When he had finished singing, Groholsky bowed to us, and went out.

“And what am I to do with him?” Bugrov said when he had gone away. “I do have trouble with him! In the day he is always brooding and brooding.⁠ ⁠… And at night he moans.⁠ ⁠… He sleeps, but he sighs and moans in his sleep.⁠ ⁠… It is a sort of illness.⁠ ⁠… What am I to do with him, I can’t think! He won’t let us sleep.⁠ ⁠… I am afraid that he will go out of his mind. People think he is badly treated here.⁠ ⁠… In what way is he badly treated? He eats with us, and he drinks with us.⁠ ⁠… Only we won’t give him money. If we were to give him any he would spend it on drink or waste it.⁠ ⁠… That’s another trouble for me! Lord forgive me, a sinner!”

They made me stay the night. When I woke next morning, Bugrov was giving someone a lecture in the adjoining room.⁠ ⁠…

“Set a fool to say his prayers, and he will crack his skull on the floor! Why, who paints oars green! Do think, blockhead! Use your sense! Why don’t you speak?”

“I⁠ ⁠… I⁠ ⁠… made a mistake,” said a husky tenor apologetically.

The tenor belonged to Groholsky.

Groholsky saw me to the station.

“He is a despot, a tyrant,” he kept whispering to me all the way. “He is a generous man, but a tyrant! Neither heart nor brain are developed in him.⁠ ⁠… He tortures me! If it were not for that noble woman, I should have gone away long ago. I am sorry to leave her. It’s somehow easier to endure together.”

Groholsky heaved a sigh, and went on:

“She is with child.⁠ ⁠… You notice it? It is really my child.⁠ ⁠… Mine.⁠ ⁠… She soon saw her mistake, and gave herself to me again. She cannot endure him.⁠ ⁠…”

“You are a rag,” I could not refrain from saying to Groholsky.

“Yes, I am a man of weak character.⁠ ⁠… That is quite true. I was born so. Do you know how I came into the world? My late papa cruelly oppressed a certain little clerk⁠—it was awful how he treated him! He poisoned his life. Well⁠ ⁠… and my late mama was tenderhearted. She came from the people, she was of the working class.⁠ ⁠… She took that little clerk to her heart from pity.⁠ ⁠… Well⁠ ⁠… and so I came into the world.⁠ ⁠… The son of the ill-treated clerk. How could I have a strong will? Where was I to get it from? But that’s the second bell.⁠ ⁠… Goodbye. Come and see us again, but don’t tell Ivan Petrovitch what I have said about him.”

I pressed Groholsky’s hand, and got into the train. He bowed towards the carriage, and went to the water-barrel⁠—I suppose he was thirsty!


It was twelve o’clock at night.

Mitya Kuldarov, with excited face and ruffled hair, flew into his parents’ flat, and hurriedly ran through all the rooms. His parents had already gone to bed. His sister was in bed, finishing the last page of a novel. His schoolboy brothers were asleep.

“Where have you come from?” cried his parents in amazement. “What is the matter with you?”

“Oh, don’t ask! I never expected it; no, I never expected it! It’s⁠ ⁠… it’s positively incredible!”

Mitya laughed and sank into an armchair, so overcome by happiness that he could not stand on his legs.

“It’s incredible! You can’t imagine! Look!”

His sister jumped out of bed and, throwing a quilt round her, went in to her brother. The schoolboys woke up.

“What’s the matter? You don’t look like yourself!”

“It’s because I am so delighted, Mamma! Do you know, now all Russia knows of me! All Russia! Till now only you knew that there was a registration clerk called Dmitry Kuldarov, and now all Russia knows it! Mamma! Oh, Lord!”

Mitya jumped up, ran up and down all the rooms, and then sat down again.

“Why, what has happened? Tell us sensibly!”

“You live like wild beasts, you don’t read the newspapers and take no notice of what’s published, and there’s so much that is interesting in the papers. If anything happens it’s all known at once, nothing is hidden! How happy I am! Oh, Lord! You know it’s only celebrated people whose names are published in the papers, and now they have gone and published mine!”

“What do you mean? Where?”

The papa turned pale. The mamma glanced at the holy image and crossed herself. The schoolboys jumped out of bed and, just as they were, in short nightshirts, went up to their brother.

“Yes! My name has been published! Now all Russia knows of me! Keep the paper, mamma, in memory of it! We will read it sometimes! Look!”

Mitya pulled out of his pocket a copy of the paper, gave it to his father, and pointed with his finger to a passage marked with blue pencil.

“Read it!”

The father put on his spectacles.

“Do read it!”

The mamma glanced at the holy image and crossed herself. The papa cleared his throat and began to read: “At eleven o’clock on the evening of the 29th of December, a registration clerk of the name of Dmitry Kuldarov⁠ ⁠…”

“You see, you see! Go on!”

“… a registration clerk of the name of Dmitry Kuldarov, coming from the beershop in Kozihin’s buildings in Little Bronnaia in an intoxicated condition⁠ ⁠…”

“That’s me and Semyon Petrovitch.⁠ ⁠… It’s all described exactly! Go on! Listen!”

“… intoxicated condition, slipped and fell under a horse belonging to a sledge-driver, a peasant of the village of Durikino in the Yuhnovsky district, called Ivan Drotov. The frightened horse, stepping over Kuldarov and drawing the sledge over him, together with a Moscow merchant of the second guild called Stepan Lukov, who was in it, dashed along the street and was caught by some house-porters. Kuldarov, at first in an unconscious condition, was taken to the police station and there examined by the doctor. The blow he had received on the back of his head⁠ ⁠…”

“It was from the shaft, papa. Go on! Read the rest!”

“… he had received on the back of his head turned out not to be serious. The incident was duly reported. Medical aid was given to the injured man.⁠ ⁠…”

“They told me to foment the back of my head with cold water. You have read it now? Ah! So you see. Now it’s all over Russia! Give it here!”

Mitya seized the paper, folded it up and put it into his pocket.

“I’ll run round to the Makarovs and show it to them.⁠ ⁠… I must show it to the Ivanitskys too, Natasya Ivanovna, and Anisim Vassilyitch.⁠ ⁠… I’ll run! Goodbye!”

Mitya put on his cap with its cockade and, joyful and triumphant, ran into the street.

At the Barber’s

Morning. It is not yet seven o’clock, but Makar Kuzmitch Blyostken’s shop is already open. The barber himself, an unwashed, greasy, but foppishly dressed youth of three and twenty, is busy clearing up; there is really nothing to be cleared away, but he is perspiring with his exertions. In one place he polishes with a rag, in another he scrapes with his finger or catches a bug and brushes it off the wall.

The barber’s shop is small, narrow, and unclean. The log walls are hung with paper suggestive of a cabman’s faded shirt. Between the two dingy, perspiring windows there is a thin, creaking, rickety door, above it, green from the damp, a bell which trembles and gives a sickly ring of itself without provocation. Glance into the looking-glass which hangs on one of the walls, and it distorts your countenance in all directions in the most merciless way! The shaving and haircutting is done before this looking-glass. On the little table, as greasy and unwashed as Makar Kuzmitch himself, there is everything: combs, scissors, razors, a ha’porth of wax for the moustache, a ha’porth of powder, a ha’porth of much watered eau de cologne, and indeed the whole barber’s shop is not worth more than fifteen kopecks.

There is a squeaking sound from the invalid bell and an elderly man in a tanned sheepskin and high felt overboots walks into the shop. His head and neck are wrapped in a woman’s shawl.

This is Erast Ivanitch Yagodov, Makar Kuzmitch’s godfather. At one time he served as a watchman in the Consistory, now he lives near the Red Pond and works as a locksmith.

“Makarushka, good day, dear boy!” he says to Makar Kuzmitch, who is absorbed in tidying up.

They kiss each other. Yagodov drags his shawl off his head, crosses himself, and sits down.

“What a long way it is!” he says, sighing and clearing his throat. “It’s no joke! From the Red Pond to the Kaluga gate.”

“How are you?”

“In a poor way, my boy. I’ve had a fever.”

“You don’t say so! Fever!”

“Yes, I have been in bed a month; I thought I should die. I had extreme unction. Now my hair’s coming out. The doctor says I must be shaved. He says the hair will grow again strong. And so, I thought, I’ll go to Makar. Better to a relation than to anyone else. He will do it better and he won’t take anything for it. It’s rather far, that’s true, but what of it? It’s a walk.”

“I’ll do it with pleasure. Please sit down.”

With a scrape of his foot Makar Kuzmitch indicates a chair. Yagodov sits down and looks at himself in the glass and is apparently pleased with his reflection: the looking-glass displays a face awry, with Kalmuck lips, a broad, blunt nose, and eyes in the forehead. Makar Kuzmitch puts round his client’s shoulders a white sheet with yellow spots on it, and begins snipping with the scissors.

“I’ll shave you clean to the skin!” he says.

“To be sure. So that I may look like a Tartar, like a bomb. The hair will grow all the thicker.”

“How’s auntie?”

“Pretty middling. The other day she went as midwife to the major’s lady. They gave her a rouble.”

“Oh, indeed, a rouble. Hold your ear.”

“I am holding it.⁠ ⁠… Mind you don’t cut me. Oy, you hurt! You are pulling my hair.”

“That doesn’t matter. We can’t help that in our work. And how is Anna Erastovna?”

“My daughter? She is all right, she’s skipping about. Last week on the Wednesday we betrothed her to Sheikin. Why didn’t you come?”

The scissors cease snipping. Makar Kuzmitch drops his hands and asks in a fright:

“Who is betrothed?”


“How’s that? To whom?”

“To Sheikin. Prokofy Petrovitch. His aunt’s a housekeeper in Zlatoustensky Lane. She is a nice woman. Naturally we are all delighted, thank God. The wedding will be in a week. Mind you come; we will have a good time.”

“But how’s this, Erast Ivanitch?” says Makar Kuzmitch, pale, astonished, and shrugging his shoulders. “It’s⁠ ⁠… it’s utterly impossible. Why, Anna Erastovna⁠ ⁠… why I⁠ ⁠… why, I cherished sentiments for her, I had intentions. How could it happen?”

“Why, we just went and betrothed her. He’s a good fellow.”

Cold drops of perspiration come on the face of Makar Kuzmitch. He puts the scissors down on the table and begins rubbing his nose with his fist.

“I had intentions,” he says. “It’s impossible, Erast Ivanitch. I⁠ ⁠… I am in love with her and have made her the offer of my heart.⁠ ⁠… And auntie promised. I have always respected you as though you were my father.⁠ ⁠… I always cut your hair for nothing.⁠ ⁠… I have always obliged you, and when my papa died you took the sofa and ten roubles in cash and have never given them back. Do you remember?”

“Remember! of course I do. Only, what sort of a match would you be, Makar? You are nothing of a match. You’ve neither money nor position, your trade’s a paltry one.”

“And is Sheikin rich?”

“Sheikin is a member of a union. He has a thousand and a half lent on mortgage. So my boy.⁠ ⁠… It’s no good talking about it, the thing’s done. There is no altering it, Makarushka. You must look out for another bride.⁠ ⁠… The world is not so small. Come, cut away. Why are you stopping?”

Makar Kuzmitch is silent and remains motionless, then he takes a handkerchief out of his pocket and begins to cry.

“Come, what is it?” Erast Ivanitch comforts him. “Give over. Fie, he is blubbering like a woman! You finish my head and then cry. Take up the scissors!”

Makar Kuzmitch takes up the scissors, stares vacantly at them for a minute, then drops them again on the table. His hands are shaking.

“I can’t,” he says. “I can’t do it just now. I haven’t the strength! I am a miserable man! And she is miserable! We loved each other, we had given each other our promise and we have been separated by unkind people without any pity. Go away, Erast Ivanitch! I can’t bear the sight of you.”

“So I’ll come tomorrow, Makarushka. You will finish me tomorrow.”


“You calm yourself and I will come to you early in the morning.”

Erast Ivanitch has half his head shaven to the skin and looks like a convict. It is awkward to be left with a head like that, but there is no help for it. He wraps his head in the shawl and walks out of the barber’s shop. Left alone, Makar Kuzmitch sits down and goes on quietly weeping.

Early next morning Erast Ivanitch comes again.

“What do you want?” Makar Kuzmitch asks him coldly.

“Finish cutting my hair, Makarushka. There is half the head left to do.”

“Kindly give me the money in advance. I won’t cut it for nothing.”

Without saying a word Erast Ivanitch goes out, and to this day his hair is long on one side of the head and short on the other. He regards it as extravagance to pay for having his hair cut and is waiting for the hair to grow of itself on the shaven side.

He danced at the wedding in that condition.

An Enigmatic Nature

On the red velvet seat of a first-class railway carriage a pretty lady sits half reclining. An expensive fluffy fan trembles in her tightly closed fingers, a pince-nez keeps dropping off her pretty little nose, the brooch heaves and falls on her bosom, like a boat on the ocean. She is greatly agitated.

On the seat opposite sits the Provincial Secretary of Special Commissions, a budding young author, who from time to time publishes long stories of high life, or “Novelli” as he calls them, in the leading paper of the province. He is gazing into her face, gazing intently, with the eyes of a connoisseur. He is watching, studying, catching every shade of this exceptional, enigmatic nature. He understands it, he fathoms it. Her soul, her whole psychology lies open before him.

“Oh, I understand, I understand you to your inmost depths!” says the Secretary of Special Commissions, kissing her hand near the bracelet. “Your sensitive, responsive soul is seeking to escape from the maze of ⸻. Yes, the struggle is terrific, titanic. But do not lose heart, you will be triumphant! Yes!”

“Write about me, Voldemar!” says the pretty lady, with a mournful smile. “My life has been so full, so varied, so chequered. Above all, I am unhappy. I am a suffering soul in some page of Dostoevsky. Reveal my soul to the world, Voldemar. Reveal that hapless soul. You are a psychologist. We have not been in the train an hour together, and you have already fathomed my heart.”

“Tell me! I beseech you, tell me!”

“Listen. My father was a poor clerk in the Service. He had a good heart and was not without intelligence; but the spirit of the age⁠—of his environment⁠—vous comprenez?⁠—I do not blame my poor father. He drank, gambled, took bribes. My mother⁠—but why say more? Poverty, the struggle for daily bread, the consciousness of insignificance⁠—ah, do not force me to recall it! I had to make my own way. You know the monstrous education at a boarding-school, foolish novel-reading, the errors of early youth, the first timid flutter of love. It was awful! The vacillation! And the agonies of losing faith in life, in oneself! Ah, you are an author. You know us women. You will understand. Unhappily I have an intense nature. I looked for happiness⁠—and what happiness! I longed to set my soul free. Yes. In that I saw my happiness!”

“Exquisite creature!” murmured the author, kissing her hand close to the bracelet. “It’s not you I am kissing, but the suffering of humanity. Do you remember Raskolnikov and his kiss?”

“Oh, Voldemar, I longed for glory, renown, success, like every⁠—why affect modesty?⁠—every nature above the commonplace. I yearned for something extraordinary, above the common lot of woman! And then⁠—and then⁠—there crossed my path⁠—an old general⁠—very well off. Understand me, Voldemar! It was self-sacrifice, renunciation! You must see that! I could do nothing else. I restored the family fortunes, was able to travel, to do good. Yet how I suffered, how revolting, how loathsome to me were his embraces⁠—though I will be fair to him⁠—he had fought nobly in his day. There were moments⁠—terrible moments⁠—but I was kept up by the thought that from day to day the old man might die, that then I would begin to live as I liked, to give myself to the man I adore⁠—be happy. There is such a man, Voldemar, indeed there is!”

The pretty lady flutters her fan more violently. Her face takes a lachrymose expression. She goes on:

“But at last the old man died. He left me something. I was free as a bird of the air. Now is the moment for me to be happy, isn’t it, Voldemar? Happiness comes tapping at my window, I had only to let it in⁠—but⁠—Voldemar, listen, I implore you! Now is the time for me to give myself to the man I love, to become the partner of his life, to help, to uphold his ideals, to be happy⁠—to find rest⁠—but⁠—how ignoble, repulsive, and senseless all our life is! How mean it all is, Voldemar. I am wretched, wretched, wretched! Again there is an obstacle in my path! Again I feel that my happiness is far, far away! Ah, what anguish!⁠—if only you knew what anguish!”

“But what⁠—what stands in your way? I implore you tell me! What is it?”

“Another old general, very well off⁠—”

The broken fan conceals the pretty little face. The author props on his fist his thought⁠—heavy brow and ponders with the air of a master in psychology. The engine is whistling and hissing while the window curtains flush red with the glow of the setting sun.

A Classical Student

Before setting off for his examination in Greek, Vanya kissed all the holy images. His stomach felt as though it were upside down; there was a chill at his heart, while the heart itself throbbed and stood still with terror before the unknown. What would he get that day? A three or a two? Six times he went to his mother for her blessing, and, as he went out, asked his aunt to pray for him. On the way to school he gave a beggar two kopecks, in the hope that those two kopecks would atone for his ignorance, and that, please God, he would not get the numerals with those awful forties and eighties.

He came back from the high school late, between four and five. He came in, and noiselessly lay down on his bed. His thin face was pale. There were dark rings round his red eyes.

“Well, how did you get on? How were you marked?” asked his mother, going to his bedside.

Vanya blinked, twisted his mouth, and burst into tears. His mother turned pale, let her mouth fall open, and clasped her hands. The breeches she was mending dropped out of her hands.

“What are you crying for? You’ve failed, then?” she asked.

“I am plucked.⁠ ⁠… I got a two.”

“I knew it would be so! I had a presentiment of it,” said his mother. “Merciful God! How is it you have not passed? What is the reason of it? What subject have you failed in?”

“In Greek.⁠ ⁠… Mother, I⁠ ⁠… They asked me the future of phero, and I⁠ ⁠… instead of saying oisomai said opsomai. Then⁠ ⁠… then there isn’t an accent, if the last syllable is long, and I⁠ ⁠… I got flustered.⁠ ⁠… I forgot that the alpha was long in it.⁠ ⁠… I went and put in the accent. Then Artaxerxov told me to give the list of the enclitic particles.⁠ ⁠… I did, and I accidentally mixed in a pronoun⁠ ⁠… and made a mistake⁠ ⁠… and so he gave me a two.⁠ ⁠… I am a miserable person.⁠ ⁠… I was working all night⁠ ⁠… I’ve been getting up at four o’clock all this week.⁠ ⁠…”

“No, it’s not you but I who am miserable, you wretched boy! It’s I that am miserable! You’ve worn me to a threadpaper, you Herod, you torment, you bane of my life! I pay for you, you good-for-nothing rubbish; I’ve bent my back toiling for you, I’m worried to death, and, I may say, I am unhappy, and what do you care? How do you work?”

“I⁠ ⁠… I do work. All night.⁠ ⁠… You’ve seen it yourself.”

“I prayed to God to take me, but He won’t take me, a sinful woman.⁠ ⁠… You torment! Other people have children like everyone else, and I’ve one only and no sense, no comfort out of him. Beat you? I’d beat you, but where am I to find the strength? Mother of God, where am I to find the strength?”

The mamma hid her face in the folds of her blouse and broke into sobs. Vanya wriggled with anguish and pressed his forehead against the wall. The aunt came in.

“So that’s how it is.⁠ ⁠… Just what I expected,” she said, at once guessing what was wrong, turning pale and clasping her hands. “I’ve been depressed all the morning.⁠ ⁠… There’s trouble coming, I thought⁠ ⁠… and here it’s come.⁠ ⁠…”

“The villain, the torment!”

“Why are you swearing at him?” cried the aunt, nervously pulling her coffee-coloured kerchief off her head and turning upon the mother. “It’s not his fault! It’s your fault! You are to blame! Why did you send him to that high school? You are a fine lady! You want to be a lady? A-a-ah! I dare say, as though you’ll turn into gentry! But if you had sent him, as I told you, into business⁠ ⁠… to an office, like my Kuzya⁠ ⁠… here is Kuzya getting five hundred a year.⁠ ⁠… Five hundred roubles is worth having, isn’t it? And you are wearing yourself out, and wearing the boy out with this studying, plague take it! He is thin, he coughs⁠ ⁠… just look at him! He’s thirteen, and he looks no more than ten.”

“No, Nastenka, no, my dear! I haven’t thrashed him enough, the torment! He ought to have been thrashed, that’s what it is! Ugh⁠ ⁠… Jesuit, Muhammad, torment!” she shook her fist at her son. “You want a flogging, but I haven’t the strength. They told me years ago when he was little, ‘Whip him, whip him!’ I didn’t heed them, sinful woman as I am. And now I am suffering for it. You wait a bit! I’ll flay you! Wait a bit.⁠ ⁠…”

The mamma shook her wet fist, and went weeping into her lodger’s room. The lodger, Yevtihy Kuzmitch Kuporossov, was sitting at his table, reading “Dancing Self-taught.” Yevtihy Kuzmitch was a man of intelligence and education. He spoke through his nose, washed with a soap the smell of which made everyone in the house sneeze, ate meat on fast days, and was on the lookout for a bride of refined education, and so was considered the cleverest of the lodgers. He sang tenor.

“My good friend,” began the mamma, dissolving into tears. “If you would have the generosity⁠—thrash my boy for me.⁠ ⁠… Do me the favour! He’s failed in his examination, the nuisance of a boy! Would you believe it, he’s failed! I can’t punish him, through the weakness of my ill-health.⁠ ⁠… Thrash him for me, if you would be so obliging and considerate, Yevtihy Kuzmitch! Have regard for a sick woman!”

Kuporossov frowned and heaved a deep sigh through his nose. He thought a little, drummed on the table with his fingers, and sighing once more, went to Vanya.

“You are being taught, so to say,” he began, “being educated, being given a chance, you revolting young person! Why have you done it?”

He talked for a long time, made a regular speech. He alluded to science, to light, and to darkness.

“Yes, young person.”

When he had finished his speech, he took off his belt and took Vanya by the hand.

“It’s the only way to deal with you,” he said. Vanya knelt down submissively and thrust his head between the lodger’s knees. His prominent pink ears moved up and down against the lodger’s new serge trousers, with brown stripes on the outer seams.

Vanya did not utter a single sound. At the family council in the evening, it was decided to send him into business.

The Death of a Government Clerk

One fine evening, a no less fine government clerk called Ivan Dmitritch Tchervyakov was sitting in the second row of the stalls, gazing through an opera glass at the Cloches de Corneville. He gazed and felt at the acme of bliss. But suddenly.⁠ ⁠… In stories one so often meets with this “But suddenly.” The authors are right: life is so full of surprises! But suddenly his face puckered up, his eyes disappeared, his breathing was arrested⁠ ⁠… he took the opera glass from his eyes, bent over and⁠ ⁠… “Aptchee!” he sneezed as you perceive. It is not reprehensible for anyone to sneeze anywhere. Peasants sneeze and so do police superintendents, and sometimes even privy councillors. All men sneeze. Tchervyakov was not in the least confused, he wiped his face with his handkerchief, and like a polite man, looked round to see whether he had disturbed anyone by his sneezing. But then he was overcome with confusion. He saw that an old gentleman sitting in front of him in the first row of the stalls was carefully wiping his bald head and his neck with his glove and muttering something to himself. In the old gentleman, Tchervyakov recognised Brizzhalov, a civilian general serving in the Department of Transport.

“I have spattered him,” thought Tchervyakov, “he is not the head of my department, but still it is awkward. I must apologise.”

Tchervyakov gave a cough, bent his whole person forward, and whispered in the general’s ear.

“Pardon, your Excellency, I spattered you accidentally.⁠ ⁠…”

“Never mind, never mind.”

“For goodness sake excuse me, I⁠ ⁠… I did not mean to.”

“Oh, please, sit down! let me listen!”

Tchervyakov was embarrassed, he smiled stupidly and fell to gazing at the stage. He gazed at it but was no longer feeling bliss. He began to be troubled by uneasiness. In the interval, he went up to Brizzhalov, walked beside him, and overcoming his shyness, muttered:

“I spattered you, your Excellency, forgive me⁠ ⁠… you see⁠ ⁠… I didn’t do it to.⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh, that’s enough⁠ ⁠… I’d forgotten it, and you keep on about it!” said the general, moving his lower lip impatiently.

“He has forgotten, but there is a fiendish light in his eye,” thought Tchervyakov, looking suspiciously at the general. “And he doesn’t want to talk. I ought to explain to him⁠ ⁠… that I really didn’t intend⁠ ⁠… that it is the law of nature or else he will think I meant to spit on him. He doesn’t think so now, but he will think so later!”

On getting home, Tchervyakov told his wife of his breach of good manners. It struck him that his wife took too frivolous a view of the incident; she was a little frightened, but when she learned that Brizzhalov was in a different department, she was reassured.

“Still, you had better go and apologise,” she said, “or he will think you don’t know how to behave in public.”

“That’s just it! I did apologise, but he took it somehow queerly⁠ ⁠… he didn’t say a word of sense. There wasn’t time to talk properly.”

Next day Tchervyakov put on a new uniform, had his hair cut and went to Brizzhalov’s to explain; going into the general’s reception room he saw there a number of petitioners and among them the general himself, who was beginning to interview them. After questioning several petitioners the general raised his eyes and looked at Tchervyakov.

“Yesterday at the Arcadia, if you recollect, your Excellency,” the latter began, “I sneezed and⁠ ⁠… accidentally spattered⁠ ⁠… Exc.⁠ ⁠…”

“What nonsense.⁠ ⁠… It’s beyond anything! What can I do for you,” said the general addressing the next petitioner.

“He won’t speak,” thought Tchervyakov, turning pale; “that means that he is angry.⁠ ⁠… No, it can’t be left like this.⁠ ⁠… I will explain to him.”

When the general had finished his conversation with the last of the petitioners and was turning towards his inner apartments, Tchervyakov took a step towards him and muttered:

“Your Excellency! If I venture to trouble your Excellency, it is simply from a feeling I may say of regret!⁠ ⁠… It was not intentional if you will graciously believe me.”

The general made a lachrymose face, and waved his hand.

“Why, you are simply making fun of me, sir,” he said as he closed the door behind him.

“Where’s the making fun in it?” thought Tchervyakov, “there is nothing of the sort! He is a general, but he can’t understand. If that is how it is I am not going to apologise to that fanfaron any more! The devil take him. I’ll write a letter to him, but I won’t go. By Jove, I won’t.”

So thought Tchervyakov as he walked home; he did not write a letter to the general, he pondered and pondered and could not make up that letter. He had to go next day to explain in person.

“I ventured to disturb your Excellency yesterday,” he muttered, when the general lifted enquiring eyes upon him, “not to make fun as you were pleased to say. I was apologising for having spattered you in sneezing.⁠ ⁠… And I did not dream of making fun of you. Should I dare to make fun of you, if we should take to making fun, then there would be no respect for persons, there would be.⁠ ⁠…”

“Be off!” yelled the general, turning suddenly purple, and shaking all over.

“What?” asked Tchervyakov, in a whisper turning numb with horror.

“Be off!” repeated the general, stamping.

Something seemed to give way in Tchervyakov’s stomach. Seeing nothing and hearing nothing he reeled to the door, went out into the street, and went staggering along.⁠ ⁠… Reaching home mechanically, without taking off his uniform, he lay down on the sofa and died.

A Daughter of Albion

A fine carriage with rubber tyres, a fat coachman, and velvet on the seats, rolled up to the house of a landowner called Gryabov. Fyodor Andreitch Otsov, the district Marshal of Nobility, jumped out of the carriage. A drowsy footman met him in the hall.

“Are the family at home?” asked the Marshal.

“No, sir. The mistress and the children are gone out paying visits, while the master and mademoiselle are catching fish. Fishing all the morning, sir.”

Otsov stood a little, thought a little, and then went to the river to look for Gryabov. Going down to the river he found him a mile and a half from the house. Looking down from the steep bank and catching sight of Gryabov, Otsov gushed with laughter.⁠ ⁠… Gryabov, a large stout man, with a very big head, was sitting on the sand, angling, with his legs tucked under him like a Turk. His hat was on the back of his head and his cravat had slipped on one side. Beside him stood a tall thin Englishwoman, with prominent eyes like a crab’s, and a big birdlike nose more like a hook than a nose. She was dressed in a white muslin gown through which her scraggy yellow shoulders were very distinctly apparent. On her gold belt hung a little gold watch. She too was angling. The stillness of the grave reigned about them both. Both were motionless, as the river upon which their floats were swimming.

“A desperate passion, but deadly dull!” laughed Otsov. “Good day, Ivan Kuzmitch.”

“Ah⁠ ⁠… is that you?” asked Gryabov, not taking his eyes off the water. “Have you come?”

“As you see.⁠ ⁠… And you are still taken up with your crazy nonsense! Not given it up yet?”

“The devil’s in it.⁠ ⁠… I begin in the morning and fish all day.⁠ ⁠… The fishing is not up to much today. I’ve caught nothing and this dummy hasn’t either. We sit on and on and not a devil of a fish! I could scream!”

“Well, chuck it up then. Let’s go and have some vodka!”

“Wait a little, maybe we shall catch something. Towards evening the fish bite better.⁠ ⁠… I’ve been sitting here, my boy, ever since the morning! I can’t tell you how fearfully boring it is. It was the devil drove me to take to this fishing! I know that it is rotten idiocy for me to sit here. I sit here like some scoundrel, like a convict, and I stare at the water like a fool. I ought to go to the haymaking, but here I sit catching fish. Yesterday His Holiness held a service at Haponyevo, but I didn’t go. I spent the day here with this⁠ ⁠… with this she-devil.”

“But⁠ ⁠… have you taken leave of your senses?” asked Otsov, glancing in embarrassment at the Englishwoman. “Using such language before a lady and she.⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh, confound her, it doesn’t matter, she doesn’t understand a syllable of Russian, whether you praise her or blame her, it is all the same to her! Just look at her nose! Her nose alone is enough to make one faint. We sit here for whole days together and not a single word! She stands like a stuffed image and rolls the whites of her eyes at the water.”

The Englishwoman gave a yawn, put a new worm on, and dropped the hook into the water.

“I wonder at her not a little,” Gryabov went on, “the great stupid has been living in Russia for ten years and not a word of Russian!⁠ ⁠… Any little aristocrat among us goes to them and learns to babble away in their lingo, while they⁠ ⁠… there’s no making them out. Just look at her nose, do look at her nose!”

“Come, drop it⁠ ⁠… it’s uncomfortable. Why attack a woman?”

“She’s not a woman, but a maiden lady.⁠ ⁠… I bet she’s dreaming of suitors. The ugly doll. And she smells of something decaying.⁠ ⁠… I’ve got a loathing for her, my boy! I can’t look at her with indifference. When she turns her ugly eyes on me it sends a twinge all through me as though I had knocked my elbow on the parapet. She likes fishing too. Watch her: she fishes as though it were a holy rite! She looks upon everything with disdain.⁠ ⁠… She stands there, the wretch, and is conscious that she is a human being, and that therefore she is the monarch of nature. And do you know what her name is? Wilka Charlesovna Fyce! Tfoo! There is no getting it out!”

The Englishwoman, hearing her name, deliberately turned her nose in Gryabov’s direction and scanned him with a disdainful glance; she raised her eyes from Gryabov to Otsov and steeped him in disdain. And all this in silence, with dignity and deliberation.

“Did you see?” said Gryabov chuckling. “As though to say ‘take that.’ Ah, you monster! It’s only for the children’s sake that I keep that triton. If it weren’t for the children, I wouldn’t let her come within ten miles of my estate.⁠ ⁠… She has got a nose like a hawk’s⁠ ⁠… and her figure! That doll makes me think of a long nail, so I could take her, and knock her into the ground, you know. Stay, I believe I have got a bite.⁠ ⁠…”

Gryabov jumped up and raised his rod. The line drew taut.⁠ ⁠… Gryabov tugged again, but could not pull out the hook.

“It has caught,” he said, frowning, “on a stone I expect⁠ ⁠… damnation take it.⁠ ⁠…”

There was a look of distress on Gryabov’s face. Sighing, moving uneasily, and muttering oaths, he began tugging at the line.

“What a pity; I shall have to go into the water.”

“Oh, chuck it!”

“I can’t.⁠ ⁠… There’s always good fishing in the evening.⁠ ⁠… What a nuisance. Lord, forgive us, I shall have to wade into the water, I must! And if only you knew, I have no inclination to undress. I shall have to get rid of the Englishwoman.⁠ ⁠… It’s awkward to undress before her. After all, she is a lady, you know!”

Gryabov flung off his hat, and his cravat.

“Meess⁠ ⁠… er, er⁠ ⁠…” he said, addressing the Englishwoman, “Meess Fyce, je voo pree⁠ ⁠… ? Well, what am I to say to her? How am I to tell you so that you can understand? I say⁠ ⁠… over there! Go away over there! Do you hear?”

Miss Fyce enveloped Gryabov in disdain, and uttered a nasal sound.

“What? Don’t you understand? Go away from here, I tell you! I must undress, you devil’s doll! Go over there! Over there!”

Gryabov pulled the lady by her sleeve, pointed her towards the bushes, and made as though he would sit down, as much as to say: Go behind the bushes and hide yourself there.⁠ ⁠… The Englishwoman, moving her eyebrows vigorously, uttered rapidly a long sentence in English. The gentlemen gushed with laughter.

“It’s the first time in my life I’ve heard her voice. There’s no denying, it is a voice! She does not understand! Well, what am I to do with her?”

“Chuck it, let’s go and have a drink of vodka!”

“I can’t. Now’s the time to fish, the evening.⁠ ⁠… It’s evening.⁠ ⁠… Come, what would you have me do? It is a nuisance! I shall have to undress before her.⁠ ⁠…”

Gryabov flung off his coat and his waistcoat and sat on the sand to take off his boots.

“I say, Ivan Kuzmitch,” said the marshal, chuckling behind his hand. “It’s really outrageous, an insult.”

“Nobody asks her not to understand! It’s a lesson for these foreigners!”

Gryabov took off his boots and his trousers, flung off his undergarments and remained in the costume of Adam. Otsov held his sides, he turned crimson both from laughter and embarrassment. The Englishwoman twitched her brows and blinked.⁠ ⁠… A haughty, disdainful smile passed over her yellow face.

“I must cool off,” said Gryabov, slapping himself on the ribs. “Tell me if you please, Fyodor Andreitch, why I have a rash on my chest every summer.”

“Oh, do get into the water quickly or cover yourself with something, you beast.”

“And if only she were confused, the nasty thing,” said Gryabov, crossing himself as he waded into the water. “Brrrr⁠ ⁠… the water’s cold.⁠ ⁠… Look how she moves her eyebrows! She doesn’t go away⁠ ⁠… she is far above the crowd! He, he, he⁠ ⁠… and she doesn’t reckon us as human beings.”

Wading knee deep in the water and drawing his huge figure up to its full height, he gave a wink and said:

“This isn’t England, you see!”

Miss Fyce coolly put on another worm, gave a yawn, and dropped the hook in. Otsov turned away, Gryabov released his hook, ducked into the water and, spluttering, waded out. Two minutes later he was sitting on the sand and angling as before.

The Trousseau

I have seen a great many houses in my time, little and big, new and old, built of stone and of wood, but of one house I have kept a very vivid memory. It was, properly speaking, rather a cottage than a house⁠—a tiny cottage of one story, with three windows, looking extraordinarily like a little old hunchback woman with a cap on. Its white stucco walls, its tiled roof, and dilapidated chimney, were all drowned in a perfect sea of green. The cottage was lost to sight among the mulberry trees, acacias, and poplars planted by the grandfathers and great-grandfathers of its present occupants. And yet it is a town house. Its wide courtyard stands in a row with other similar green courtyards, and forms part of a street. Nothing ever drives down that street, and very few persons are ever seen walking through it.

The shutters of the little house are always closed; its occupants do not care for sunlight⁠—the light is no use to them. The windows are never opened, for they are not fond of fresh air. People who spend their lives in the midst of acacias, mulberries, and nettles have no passion for nature. It is only to the summer visitor that God has vouchsafed an eye for the beauties of nature. The rest of mankind remain steeped in profound ignorance of the existence of such beauties. People never prize what they have always had in abundance. “What we have, we do not treasure,” and what’s more we do not even love it.

The little house stands in an earthly paradise of green trees with happy birds nesting in them. But inside⁠ ⁠… alas⁠ ⁠… ! In summer, it is close and stifling within; in winter, hot as a Turkish bath, not one breath of air, and the dreariness!⁠ ⁠…

The first time I visited the little house was many years ago on business. I brought a message from the Colonel who was the owner of the house to his wife and daughter. That first visit I remember very distinctly. It would be impossible, indeed, to forget it.

Imagine a limp little woman of forty, gazing at you with alarm and astonishment while you walk from the passage into the parlour. You are a stranger, a visitor, “a young man”; that’s enough to reduce her to a state of terror and bewilderment. Though you have no dagger, axe, or revolver in your hand, and though you smile affably, you are met with alarm.

“Whom have I the honour and pleasure of addressing?” the little lady asks in a trembling voice.

I introduced myself and explained why I had come. The alarm and amazement were at once succeeded by a shrill, joyful “Ach!” and she turned her eyes upwards to the ceiling. This “Ach!” was caught up like an echo and repeated from the hall to the parlour, from the parlour to the kitchen, and so on down to the cellar. Soon the whole house was resounding with “Ach!” in various voices.

Five minutes later I was sitting on a big, soft, warm lounge in the drawing room listening to the “Ach!” echoing all down the street. There was a smell of moth powder, and of goatskin shoes, a pair of which lay on a chair beside me wrapped in a handkerchief. In the windows were geraniums, and muslin curtains, and on the curtains were torpid flies. On the wall hung the portrait of some bishop, painted in oils, with the glass broken at one corner, and next to the bishop a row of ancestors with lemon-coloured faces of a gipsy type. On the table lay a thimble, a reel of cotton, and a half-knitted stocking, and paper patterns and a black blouse, tacked together, were lying on the floor. In the next room two alarmed and fluttered old women were hurriedly picking up similar patterns and pieces of tailor’s chalk from the floor.

“You must, please, excuse us; we are dreadfully untidy,” said the little lady.

While she talked to me, she stole embarrassed glances towards the other room where the patterns were still being picked up. The door, too, seemed embarrassed, opening an inch or two and then shutting again.

“What’s the matter?” said the little lady, addressing the door.

Où est mon cravatte lequel mon père m’avait envoyé de Koursk?” asked a female voice at the door.

Ah, est-ce que, Marie⁠ ⁠… que⁠ ⁠… Really, it’s impossible.⁠ ⁠… Nous avons donc chez nous un homme peu connu de nous. Ask Lukerya.”

“How well we speak French, though!” I read in the eyes of the little lady, who was flushing with pleasure.

Soon afterwards the door opened and I saw a tall, thin girl of nineteen, in a long muslin dress with a gilt belt from which, I remember, hung a mother-of-pearl fan. She came in, dropped a curtsy, and flushed crimson. Her long nose, which was slightly pitted with smallpox, turned red first, and then the flush passed up to her eyes and her forehead.

“My daughter,” chanted the little lady, “and, Manetchka, this is a young gentleman who has come,” etc.

I was introduced, and expressed my surprise at the number of paper patterns. Mother and daughter dropped their eyes.

“We had a fair here at Ascension,” said the mother; “we always buy materials at the fair, and then it keeps us busy with sewing till the next year’s fair comes around again. We never put things out to be made. My husband’s pay is not very ample, and we are not able to permit ourselves luxuries. So we have to make up everything ourselves.”

“But who will ever wear such a number of things? There are only two of you?”

“Oh⁠ ⁠… as though we were thinking of wearing them! They are not to be worn; they are for the trousseau!”

“Ah, mamam, what are you saying?” said the daughter, and she crimsoned again. “Our visitor might suppose it was true. I don’t intend to be married. Never!”

She said this, but at the very word “married” her eyes glowed.

Tea, biscuits, butter, and jam were brought in, followed by raspberries and cream. At seven o’clock, we had supper, consisting of six courses, and while we were at supper I heard a loud yawn from the next room. I looked with surprise towards the door: it was a yawn that could only come from a man.

“That’s my husband’s brother, Yegor Semyonitch,” the little lady explained, noticing my surprise. “He’s been living with us for the last year. Please excuse him; he cannot come in to see you. He is such an unsociable person, he is shy with strangers. He is going into a monastery. He was unfairly treated in the service, and the disappointment has preyed on his mind.”

After supper the little lady showed the vestment which Yegor Semyonitch was embroidering with his own hands as an offering for the Church. Manetchka threw off her shyness for a moment and showed me the tobacco-pouch she was embroidering for her father. When I pretended to be greatly struck by her work, she flushed crimson and whispered something in her mother’s ear. The latter beamed all over, and invited me to go with her to the storeroom. There I was shown five large trunks, and a number of smaller trunks and boxes.

“This is her trousseau,” her mother whispered; “we made it all ourselves.”

After looking at these forbidding trunks I took leave of my hospitable hostesses. They made me promise to come and see them again some day.

It happened that I was able to keep this promise. Seven years after my first visit, I was sent down to the little town to give expert evidence in a case that was being tried there.

As I entered the little house I heard the same “Ach!” echo through it. They recognised me at once.⁠ ⁠… Well they might! My first visit had been an event in their lives, and when events are few they are long remembered.

I walked into the drawing room: the mother, who had grown stouter and was already getting grey, was creeping about on the floor, cutting out some blue material. The daughter was sitting on the sofa, embroidering.

There was the same smell of moth powder; there were the same patterns, the same portrait with the broken glass. But yet there was a change. Beside the portrait of the bishop hung a portrait of the Colonel, and the ladies were in mourning. The Colonel’s death had occurred a week after his promotion to be a general.

Reminiscences began.⁠ ⁠… The widow shed tears.

“We have had a terrible loss,” she said. “My husband, you know, is dead. We are alone in the world now, and have no one but ourselves to look to. Yegor Semyonitch is alive, but I have no good news to tell of him. They would not have him in the monastery on account of⁠—of intoxicating beverages. And now in his disappointment he drinks more than ever. I am thinking of going to the Marshal of Nobility to lodge a complaint. Would you believe it, he has more than once broken open the trunks and⁠ ⁠… taken Manetchka’s trousseau and given it to beggars. He has taken everything out of two of the trunks! If he goes on like this, my Manetchka will be left without a trousseau at all.”

“What are you saying, mamam?” said Manetchka, embarrassed. “Our visitor might suppose⁠ ⁠… there’s no knowing what he might suppose.⁠ ⁠… I shall never⁠—never marry.”

Manetchka cast her eyes up to the ceiling with a look of hope and aspiration, evidently not for a moment believing what she said.

A little bald-headed masculine figure in a brown coat and goloshes instead of boots darted like a mouse across the passage and disappeared. “Yegor Semyonitch, I suppose,” I thought.

I looked at the mother and daughter together. They both looked much older and terribly changed. The mother’s hair was silvered, but the daughter was so faded and withered that her mother might have been taken for her elder sister, not more than five years her senior.

“I have made up my mind to go to the Marshal,” the mother said to me, forgetting she had told me this already. “I mean to make a complaint. Yegor Semyonitch lays his hands on everything we make, and offers it up for the sake of his soul. My Manetchka is left without a trousseau.”

Manetchka flushed again, but this time she said nothing.

“We have to make them all over again. And God knows we are not so well off. We are all alone in the world now.”

“We are alone in the world,” repeated Manetchka.

A year ago fate brought me once more to the little house.

Walking into the drawing room, I saw the old lady. Dressed all in black with heavy crape pleureuses, she was sitting on the sofa sewing. Beside her sat the little old man in the brown coat and the goloshes instead of boots. On seeing me, he jumped up and ran out of the room.

In response to my greeting, the old lady smiled and said:

Je suis charmée de vous revoir, monsieur.

“What are you making?” I asked, a little later.

“It’s a blouse. When it’s finished I shall take it to the priest’s to be put away, or else Yegor Semyonitch would carry it off. I store everything at the priest’s now,” she added in a whisper.

And looking at the portrait of her daughter which stood before her on the table, she sighed and said:

“We are all alone in the world.”

And where was the daughter? Where was Manetchka? I did not ask. I did not dare to ask the old mother dressed in her new deep mourning. And while I was in the room, and when I got up to go, no Manetchka came out to greet me. I did not hear her voice, nor her soft, timid footstep.⁠ ⁠…

I understood, and my heart was heavy.

An Inquiry

It was midday. Voldyrev, a tall, thickset country gentleman with a cropped head and prominent eyes, took off his overcoat, mopped his brow with his silk handkerchief, and somewhat diffidently went into the government office. There they were scratching away.⁠ ⁠…

“Where can I make an inquiry here?” he said, addressing a porter who was bringing a trayful of glasses from the furthest recesses of the office. “I have to make an inquiry here and to take a copy of a resolution of the Council.”

“That way please! To that one sitting near the window!” said the porter, indicating with the tray the furthest window. Voldyrev coughed and went towards the window; there, at a green table spotted like typhus, was sitting a young man with his hair standing up in four tufts on his head, with a long pimply nose, and a long faded uniform. He was writing, thrusting his long nose into the papers. A fly was walking about near his right nostril, and he was continually stretching out his lower lip and blowing under his nose, which gave his face an extremely careworn expression.

“May I make an inquiry about my case here⁠ ⁠… of you? My name is Voldyrev, and, by the way, I have to take a copy of the resolution of the Council of the second of March.”

The clerk dipped his pen in the ink and looked to see if he had got too much on it. Having satisfied himself that the pen would not make a blot, he began scribbling away. His lip was thrust out, but it was no longer necessary to blow: the fly had settled on his ear.

“Can I make an inquiry here?” Voldyrev repeated a minute later, “my name is Voldyrev, I am a landowner.⁠ ⁠…”

“Ivan Alexeitch!” the clerk shouted into the air as though he had not observed Voldyrev, “will you tell the merchant Yalikov when he comes to sign the copy of the complaint lodged with the police! I’ve told him a thousand times!”

“I have come in reference to my lawsuit with the heirs of Princess Gugulin,” muttered Voldyrev. “The case is well known. I earnestly beg you to attend to me.”

Still failing to observe Voldyrev, the clerk caught the fly on his lip, looked at it attentively and flung it away. The country gentleman coughed and blew his nose loudly on his checked pocket handkerchief. But this was no use either. He was still unheard. The silence lasted for two minutes. Voldyrev took a rouble note from his pocket and laid it on an open book before the clerk. The clerk wrinkled up his forehead, drew the book towards him with an anxious air and closed it.

“A little inquiry.⁠ ⁠… I want only to find out on what grounds the heirs of Princess Gugulin.⁠ ⁠… May I trouble you?”

The clerk, absorbed in his own thoughts, got up and, scratching his elbow, went to a cupboard for something. Returning a minute later to his table he became absorbed in the book again: another rouble note was lying upon it.

“I will trouble you for one minute only.⁠ ⁠… I have only to make an inquiry.”

The clerk did not hear, he had begun copying something.

Voldyrev frowned and looked hopelessly at the whole scribbling brotherhood.

“They write!” he thought, sighing. “They write, the devil take them entirely!”

He walked away from the table and stopped in the middle of the room, his hands hanging hopelessly at his sides. The porter, passing again with glasses, probably noticed the helpless expression of his face, for he went close up to him and asked him in a low voice:

“Well? Have you inquired?”

“I’ve inquired, but he wouldn’t speak to me.”

“You give him three roubles,” whispered the porter.

“I’ve given him two already.”

“Give him another.”

Voldyrev went back to the table and laid a green note on the open book.

The clerk drew the book towards him again and began turning over the leaves, and all at once, as though by chance, lifted his eyes to Voldyrev. His nose began to shine, turned red, and wrinkled up in a grin.

“Ah⁠ ⁠… what do you want?” he asked.

“I want to make an inquiry in reference to my case.⁠ ⁠… My name is Voldyrev.”

“With pleasure! The Gugulin case, isn’t it? Very good. What is it then exactly?”

Voldyrev explained his business.

The clerk became as lively as though he were whirled round by a hurricane. He gave the necessary information, arranged for a copy to be made, gave the petitioner a chair, and all in one instant. He even spoke about the weather and asked after the harvest. And when Voldyrev went away he accompanied him down the stairs, smiling affably and respectfully, and looking as though he were ready any minute to fall on his face before the gentleman. Voldyrev for some reason felt uncomfortable, and in obedience to some inward impulse he took a rouble out of his pocket and gave it to the clerk. And the latter kept bowing and smiling, and took the rouble like a conjuror, so that it seemed to flash through the air.

“Well, what people!” thought the country gentleman as he went out into the street, and he stopped and mopped his brow with his handkerchief.

Fat and Thin

Two friends⁠—one a fat man and the other a thin man⁠—met at the Nikolaevsky station. The fat man had just dined in the station and his greasy lips shone like ripe cherries. He smelt of sherry and fleur d’orange. The thin man had just slipped out of the train and was laden with portmanteaus, bundles, and bandboxes. He smelt of ham and coffee grounds. A thin woman with a long chin, his wife, and a tall schoolboy with one eye screwed up came into view behind his back.

“Porfiry,” cried the fat man on seeing the thin man. “Is it you? My dear fellow! How many summers, how many winters!”

“Holy saints!” cried the thin man in amazement. “Misha! The friend of my childhood! Where have you dropped from?”

The friends kissed each other three times, and gazed at each other with eyes full of tears. Both were agreeably astounded.

“My dear boy!” began the thin man after the kissing. “This is unexpected! This is a surprise! Come have a good look at me! Just as handsome as I used to be! Just as great a darling and a dandy! Good gracious me! Well, and how are you? Made your fortune? Married? I am married as you see.⁠ ⁠… This is my wife Luise, her maiden name was Vantsenbach⁠ ⁠… of the Lutheran persuasion.⁠ ⁠… And this is my son Nafanail, a schoolboy in the third class. This is the friend of my childhood, Nafanya. We were boys at school together!”

Nafanail thought a little and took off his cap.

“We were boys at school together,” the thin man went on. “Do you remember how they used to tease you? You were nicknamed ‘Herostratus’ because you burned a hole in a schoolbook with a cigarette, and I was nicknamed ‘Ephialtes’ because I was fond of telling tales. Ho⁠—ho!⁠ ⁠… we were children!⁠ ⁠… Don’t be shy, Nafanya. Go nearer to him. And this is my wife, her maiden name was Vantsenbach, of the Lutheran persuasion.⁠ ⁠…”

Nafanail thought a little and took refuge behind his father’s back.

“Well, how are you doing my friend?” the fat man asked, looking enthusiastically at his friend. “Are you in the service? What grade have you reached?”

“I am, dear boy! I have been a collegiate assessor for the last two years and I have the Stanislav. The salary is poor, but that’s no great matter! The wife gives music lessons, and I go in for carving wooden cigarette cases in a private way. Capital cigarette cases! I sell them for a rouble each. If anyone takes ten or more I make a reduction of course. We get along somehow. I served as a clerk, you know, and now I have been transferred here as a head clerk in the same department. I am going to serve here. And what about you? I bet you are a civil councillor by now? Eh?”

“No dear boy, go higher than that,” said the fat man. “I have risen to privy councillor already⁠ ⁠… I have two stars.”

The thin man turned pale and rigid all at once, but soon his face twisted in all directions in the broadest smile; it seemed as though sparks were flashing from his face and eyes. He squirmed, he doubled together, crumpled up.⁠ ⁠… His portmanteaus, bundles and cardboard boxes seemed to shrink and crumple up too.⁠ ⁠… His wife’s long chin grew longer still; Nafanail drew himself up to attention and fastened all the buttons of his uniform.

“Your Excellency, I⁠ ⁠… delighted! The friend, one may say, of childhood and to have turned into such a great man! He⁠—he!”

“Come, come!” the fat man frowned. “What’s this tone for? You and I were friends as boys, and there is no need of this official obsequiousness!”

“Merciful heavens, your Excellency! What are you saying⁠ ⁠… ?” sniggered the thin man, wriggling more than ever. “Your Excellency’s gracious attention is like refreshing manna.⁠ ⁠… This, your Excellency, is my son Nafanail,⁠ ⁠… my wife Luise, a Lutheran in a certain sense.”

The fat man was about to make some protest, but the face of the thin man wore an expression of such reverence, sugariness, and mawkish respectfulness that the privy councillor was sickened. He turned away from the thin man, giving him his hand at parting.

The thin man pressed three fingers, bowed his whole body and sniggered like a Chinaman: “He⁠—he⁠—he!” His wife smiled. Nafanail scraped with his foot and dropped his cap. All three were agreeably overwhelmed.

A Tragic Actor

It was the benefit night of Fenogenov, the tragic actor. They were acting Prince Serebryany. The tragedian himself was playing Vyazemsky; Limonadov, the stage manager, was playing Morozov; Madame Beobahtov, Elena. The performance was a grand success. The tragedian accomplished wonders indeed. When he was carrying off Elena, he held her in one hand above his head as he dashed across the stage. He shouted, hissed, banged with his feet, tore his coat across his chest. When he refused to fight Morozov, he trembled all over as nobody ever trembles in reality, and gasped loudly. The theatre shook with applause. There were endless calls. Fenogenov was presented with a silver cigarette-case and a bouquet tied with long ribbons. The ladies waved their handkerchiefs and urged their men to applaud, many shed tears.⁠ ⁠… But the one who was the most enthusiastic and most excited was Masha, daughter of Sidoretsky the police captain. She was sitting in the first row of the stalls beside her papa; she was ecstatic and could not take her eyes off the stage even between the acts. Her delicate little hands and feet were quivering, her eyes were full of tears, her cheeks turned paler and paler. And no wonder⁠—she was at the theatre for the first time in her life.

“How well they act! how splendidly!” she said to her papa the police captain, every time the curtain fell. “How good Fenogenov is!”

And if her papa had been capable of reading faces he would have read on his daughter’s pale little countenance a rapture that was almost anguish. She was overcome by the acting, by the play, by the surroundings. When the regimental band began playing between the acts, she closed her eyes, exhausted.

“Papa!” she said to the police captain during the last interval, “go behind the scenes and ask them all to dinner tomorrow!”

The police captain went behind the scenes, praised them for all their fine acting, and complimented Madame Beobahtov.

“Your lovely face demands a canvas, and I only wish I could wield the brush!”

And with a scrape, he thereupon invited the company to dinner.

“All except the fair sex,” he whispered. “I don’t want the actresses, for I have a daughter.”

Next day the actors dined at the police captain’s. Only three turned up, the manager Limonadov, the tragedian Fenogenov, and the comic man Vodolazov; the others sent excuses. The dinner was a dull affair. Limonadov kept telling the police captain how much he respected him, and how highly he thought of all persons in authority; Vodolazov mimicked drunken merchants and Armenians; and Fenogenov (on his passport his name was Knish), a tall, stout Little Russian with black eyes and frowning brow, declaimed “At the portals of the great,” and “To be or not to be.” Limonadov, with tears in his eyes, described his interview with the former Governor, General Kanyutchin. The police captain listened, was bored, and smiled affably. He was well satisfied, although Limonadov smelt strongly of burnt feathers, and Fenogenov was wearing a hired dress coat and boots trodden down at heel. They pleased his daughter and made her lively, and that was enough for him. And Masha never took her eyes off the actors. She had never before seen such clever, exceptional people!

In the evening the police captain and Masha were at the theatre again. A week later the actors dined at the police captain’s again, and after that came almost every day either to dinner or supper. Masha became more and more devoted to the theatre, and went there every evening.

She fell in love with the tragedian. One fine morning, when the police captain had gone to meet the bishop, Masha ran away with Limonadov’s company and married her hero on the way. After celebrating the wedding, the actors composed a long and touching letter and sent it to the police captain.

It was the work of their combined efforts.

“Bring out the motive, the motive!” Limonadov kept saying as he dictated to the comic man. “Lay on the respect.⁠ ⁠… These official chaps like it. Add something of a sort⁠ ⁠… to draw a tear.”

The answer to this letter was most discomforting. The police captain disowned his daughter for marrying, as he said, “a stupid, idle Little Russian with no fixed home or occupation.”

And the day after this answer was received Masha was writing to her father.

“Papa, he beats me! Forgive us!”

He had beaten her, beaten her behind the scenes, in the presence of Limonadov, the washerwoman, and two lighting men. He remembered how, four days before the wedding, he was sitting in the London Tavern with the whole company, and all were talking about Masha. The company were advising him to “chance it,” and Limonadov, with tears in his eyes urged: “It would be stupid and irrational to let slip such an opportunity! Why, for a sum like that one would go to Siberia, let alone getting married! When you marry and have a theatre of your own, take me into your company. I shan’t be master then, you’ll be master.”

Fenogenov remembered it, and muttered with clenched fists:

“If he doesn’t send money I’ll smash her! I won’t let myself be made a fool of, damn my soul!”

At one provincial town the company tried to give Masha the slip, but Masha found out, ran to the station, and got there when the second bell had rung and the actors had all taken their seats.

“I’ve been shamefully treated by your father,” said the tragedian; “all is over between us!”

And though the carriage was full of people, she went down on her knees and held out her hands, imploring him:

“I love you! Don’t drive me away, Kondraty Ivanovitch,” she besought him. “I can’t live without you!”

They listened to her entreaties, and after consulting together, took her into the company as a “countess”⁠—the name they used for the minor actresses who usually came on to the stage in crowds or in dumb parts. To begin with Masha used to play maidservants and pages, but when Madame Beobahtov, the flower of Limonadov’s company, eloped, they made her ingénue. She acted badly, lisped, and was nervous. She soon grew used to it, however, and began to be liked by the audience. Fenogenov was much displeased.

“To call her an actress!” he used to say. “She has no figure, no deportment, nothing whatever but silliness.”

In one provincial town the company acted Schiller’s Robbers. Fenogenov played Franz, Masha, Amalie. The tragedian shouted and quivered. Masha repeated her part like a well-learnt lesson, and the play would have gone off as they generally did had it not been for a trifling mishap. Everything went well up to the point where Franz declares his love for Amalie and she seizes his sword. The tragedian shouted, hissed, quivered, and squeezed Masha in his iron embrace. And Masha, instead of repulsing him and crying “Hence!” trembled in his arms like a bird and did not move,⁠ ⁠… she seemed petrified.

“Have pity on me!” she whispered in his ear. “Oh, have pity on me! I am so miserable!”

“You don’t know your part! Listen to the prompter!” hissed the tragedian, and he thrust his sword into her hand.

After the performance, Limonadov and Fenogenov were sitting in the ticket box-office engaged in conversation.

“Your wife does not learn her part, you are right there,” the manager was saying. “She doesn’t know her line.⁠ ⁠… Every man has his own line,⁠ ⁠… but she doesn’t know hers.⁠ ⁠…”

Fenogenov listened, sighed, and scowled and scowled.

Next morning, Masha was sitting in a little general shop writing:

“Papa, he beats me! Forgive us! Send us some money!”

A Slander

Sergei Kapitonich Ahineev, the writing master, was marrying his daughter to the teacher of history and geography. The wedding festivities were going off most successfully. In the drawing room there was singing, playing, and dancing. Waiters hired from the club were flitting distractedly about the rooms, dressed in black swallowtails and dirty white ties. There was a continual hubbub and din of conversation. Sitting side by side on the sofa, the teacher of mathematics, Tarantulov, the French teacher, Pasdequoi, and the junior assessor of taxes, Mzda, were talking hurriedly and interrupting one another as they described to the guests cases of persons being buried alive, and gave their opinions on spiritualism. None of them believed in spiritualism, but all admitted that there were many things in this world which would always be beyond the mind of man. In the next room the literature master, Dodonsky, was explaining to the visitors the cases in which a sentry has the right to fire on passersby. The subjects, as you perceive, were alarming, but very agreeable. Persons whose social position precluded them from entering were looking in at the windows from the yard.

Just at midnight the master of the house went into the kitchen to see whether everything was ready for supper. The kitchen from floor to ceiling was filled with fumes composed of goose, duck, and many other odours. On two tables the accessories, the drinks and light refreshments, were set out in artistic disorder. The cook, Marfa, a red-faced woman whose figure was like a barrel with a belt around it, was bustling about the tables.

“Show me the sturgeon, Marfa,” said Ahineev, rubbing his hands and licking his lips. “What a perfume! I could eat up the whole kitchen. Come, show me the sturgeon.”

Marfa went up to one of the benches and cautiously lifted a piece of greasy newspaper. Under the paper on an immense dish there reposed a huge sturgeon, masked in jelly and decorated with capers, olives, and carrots. Ahineev gazed at the sturgeon and gasped. His face beamed, he turned his eyes up. He bent down and with his lips emitted the sound of an ungreased wheel. After standing a moment he snapped his fingers with delight and once more smacked his lips.

“Ah-ah! the sound of a passionate kiss.⁠ ⁠… Who is it you’re kissing out there, little Marfa?” came a voice from the next room, and in the doorway there appeared the cropped head of the assistant usher, Vankin. “Who is it? A-a-h!⁠ ⁠… Delighted to meet you! Sergei Kapitonich! You’re a fine grandfather, I must say! Tête-à-tête with the fair sex⁠—tette!”

“I’m not kissing,” said Ahineev in confusion. “Who told you so, you fool? I was only⁠ ⁠… I smacked my lips⁠ ⁠… in reference to⁠ ⁠… as an indication of⁠ ⁠… pleasure⁠ ⁠… at the sight of the fish.”

“Tell that to the marines!” The intrusive face vanished, wearing a broad grin.

Ahineev flushed.

“Hang it!” he thought, “the beast will go now and talk scandal. He’ll disgrace me to all the town, the brute.”

Ahineev went timidly into the drawing room and looked stealthily round for Vankin. Vankin was standing by the piano, and, bending down with a jaunty air, was whispering something to the inspector’s sister-in-law, who was laughing.

“Talking about me!” thought Ahineev. “About me, blast him! And she believes it⁠ ⁠… believes it! She laughs! Mercy on us! No, I can’t let it pass⁠ ⁠… I can’t. I must do something to prevent his being believed.⁠ ⁠… I’ll speak to them all, and he’ll be shown up for a fool and a gossip.”

Ahineev scratched his head, and still overcome with embarrassment, went up to Pasdequoi.

“I’ve just been in the kitchen to see after the supper,” he said to the Frenchman. “I know you are fond of fish, and I’ve a sturgeon, my dear fellow, beyond everything! A yard and a half long! Ha, ha, ha! And, by the way⁠ ⁠… I was just forgetting.⁠ ⁠… In the kitchen just now, with that sturgeon⁠ ⁠… quite a little story! I went into the kitchen just now and wanted to look at the supper dishes. I looked at the sturgeon and I smacked my lips with relish⁠ ⁠… at the piquancy of it. And at the very moment that fool Vankin came in and said:⁠ ⁠… ‘Ha, ha, ha!⁠ ⁠… So you’re kissing here!’ Kissing Marfa, the cook! What a thing to imagine, silly fool! The woman is a perfect fright, like all the beasts put together, and he talks about kissing! Queer fish!”

“Who’s a queer fish?” asked Tarantulov, coming up.

“Why he, over there⁠—Vankin! I went into the kitchen⁠ ⁠…”

And he told the story of Vankin. “… He amused me, queer fish! I’d rather kiss a dog than Marfa, if you ask me,” added Ahineev. He looked round and saw behind him Mzda.

“We were talking of Vankin,” he said. “Queer fish, he is! He went into the kitchen, saw me beside Marfa, and began inventing all sorts of silly stories. ‘Why are you kissing?’ he says. He must have had a drop too much. ‘And I’d rather kiss a turkeycock than Marfa,’ I said, ‘And I’ve a wife of my own, you fool,’ said I. He did amuse me!”

“Who amused you?” asked the priest who taught Scripture in the school, going up to Ahineev.

“Vankin. I was standing in the kitchen, you know, looking at the sturgeon.⁠ ⁠…”

And so on. Within half an hour or so all the guests knew the incident of the sturgeon and Vankin.

“Let him tell away now!” thought Ahineev, rubbing his hands. “Let him! He’ll begin telling his story and they’ll say to him at once, ‘Enough of your improbable nonsense, you fool, we know all about it!’ ”

And Ahineev was so relieved that in his joy he drank four glasses too many. After escorting the young people to their room, he went to bed and slept like an innocent babe, and next day he thought no more of the incident with the sturgeon. But, alas! man proposes, but God disposes. An evil tongue did its evil work, and Ahineev’s strategy was of no avail. Just a week later⁠—to be precise, on Wednesday after the third lesson⁠—when Ahineev was standing in the middle of the teacher’s room, holding forth on the vicious propensities of a boy called Visekin, the head master went up to him and drew him aside:

“Look here, Sergei Kapitonich,” said the head master, “you must excuse me.⁠ ⁠… It’s not my business; but all the same I must make you realize.⁠ ⁠… It’s my duty. You see, there are rumors that you are romancing with that⁠ ⁠… cook.⁠ ⁠… It’s nothing to do with me, but⁠ ⁠… flirt with her, kiss her⁠ ⁠… as you please, but don’t let it be so public, please. I entreat you! Don’t forget that you’re a schoolmaster.”

Ahineev turned cold and faint. He went home like a man stung by a whole swarm of bees, like a man scalded with boiling water. As he walked home, it seemed to him that the whole town was looking at him as though he were smeared with pitch. At home fresh trouble awaited him.

“Why aren’t you gobbling up your food as usual?” his wife asked him at dinner. “What are you so pensive about? Brooding over your amours? Pining for your Marfa? I know all about it, Mohammedan! Kind friends have opened my eyes! O-o-o!⁠ ⁠… you savage!”

And she slapped him in the face. He got up from the table, not feeling the earth under his feet, and without his hat or coat, made his way to Vankin. He found him at home.

“You scoundrel!” he addressed him. “Why have you covered me with mud before all the town? Why did you set this slander going about me?”

“What slander? What are you talking about?”

“Who was it gossiped of my kissing Marfa? Wasn’t it you? Tell me that. Wasn’t it you, you brigand?”

Vankin blinked and twitched in every fibre of his battered countenance, raised his eyes to the icon and articulated, “God blast me! Strike me blind and lay me out, if I said a single word about you! May I be left without house and home, may I be stricken with worse than cholera!”

Vankin’s sincerity did not admit of doubt. It was evidently not he who was the author of the slander.

“But who, then, who?” Ahineev wondered, going over all his acquaintances in his mind and beating himself on the breast. “Who, then?”

Who, then? We, too, ask the reader.

The Bird Market

There is a small square near the monastery of the Holy Birth which is called Trubnoy, or simply Truboy; there is a market there on Sundays. Hundreds of sheepskins, wadded coats, fur caps, and chimneypot hats swarm there, like crabs in a sieve. There is the sound of the twitter of birds in all sorts of keys, recalling the spring. If the sun is shining, and there are no clouds in the sky, the singing of the birds and the smell of hay make a more vivid impression, and this reminder of spring sets one thinking and carries one’s fancy far, far away. Along one side of the square there stands a string of wagons. The wagons are loaded, not with hay, not with cabbages, nor with beans, but with goldfinches, siskins, larks, blackbirds and thrushes, bluetits, bullfinches. All of them are hopping about in rough, homemade cages, twittering and looking with envy at the free sparrows. The goldfinches cost five kopecks, the siskins are rather more expensive, while the value of the other birds is quite indeterminate.

“How much is a lark?”

The seller himself does not know the value of a lark. He scratches his head and asks whatever comes into it, a rouble, or three kopecks, according to the purchaser. There are expensive birds too. A faded old blackbird, with most of its feathers plucked out of its tail, sits on a dirty perch. He is dignified, grave, and motionless as a retired general. He has waved his claw in resignation to his captivity long ago, and looks at the blue sky with indifference. Probably, owing to this indifference, he is considered a sagacious bird. He is not to be bought for less than forty kopecks. Schoolboys, workmen, young men in stylish greatcoats, and bird-fanciers in incredibly shabby caps, in ragged trousers that are turned up at the ankles, and look as though they had been gnawed by mice, crowd round the birds, splashing through the mud. The young people and the workmen are sold hens for cocks, young birds for old ones.⁠ ⁠… They know very little about birds. But there is no deceiving the bird-fancier. He sees and understands his bird from a distance.

“There is no relying on that bird,” a fancier will say, looking into a siskin’s beak, and counting the feathers on its tail. “He sings now, it’s true, but what of that? I sing in company too. No, my boy, shout, sing to me without company; sing in solitude, if you can.⁠ ⁠… You give me that one yonder that sits and holds its tongue! Give me the quiet one! That one says nothing, so he thinks the more.⁠ ⁠…”

Among the wagons of birds there are some full of other live creatures. Here you see hares, rabbits, hedgehogs, guinea-pigs, polecats. A hare sits sorrowfully nibbling the straw. The guinea-pigs shiver with cold, while the hedgehogs look out with curiosity from under their prickles at the public.

“I have read somewhere,” says a post-office official in a faded overcoat, looking lovingly at the hare, and addressing no one in particular, “I have read that some learned man had a cat and a mouse and a falcon and a sparrow, who all ate out of one bowl.”

“That’s very possible, sir. The cat must have been beaten, and the falcon, I dare say, had all its tail pulled out. There’s no great cleverness in that, sir. A friend of mine had a cat who, saving your presence, used to eat his cucumbers. He thrashed her with a big whip for a fortnight, till he taught her not to. A hare can learn to light matches if you beat it. Does that surprise you? It’s very simple! It takes the match in its mouth and strikes it. An animal is like a man. A man’s made wiser by beating, and it’s the same with a beast.”

Men in long, full-skirted coats move backwards and forwards in the crowd with cocks and ducks under their arms. The fowls are all lean and hungry. Chickens poke their ugly, mangy-looking heads out of their cages and peck at something in the mud. Boys with pigeons stare into your face and try to detect in you a pigeon-fancier.

“Yes, indeed! It’s no use talking to you,” someone shouts angrily. “You should look before you speak! Do you call this a pigeon? It is an eagle, not a pigeon!”

A tall thin man, with a shaven upper lip and side whiskers, who looks like a sick and drunken footman, is selling a snow-white lapdog. The old lapdog whines.

“She told me to sell the nasty thing,” says the footman, with a contemptuous snigger. “She is bankrupt in her old age, has nothing to eat, and here now is selling her dogs and cats. She cries, and kisses them on their filthy snouts. And then she is so hard up that she sells them. ’Pon my soul, it is a fact! Buy it, gentlemen! The money is wanted for coffee.”

But no one laughs. A boy who is standing by screws up one eye and looks at him gravely with compassion.

The most interesting of all is the fish section. Some dozen peasants are sitting in a row. Before each of them is a pail, and in each pail there is a veritable little hell. There, in the thick, greenish water are swarms of little carp, eels, small fry, water-snails, frogs, and newts. Big water-beetles with broken legs scurry over the small surface, clambering on the carp, and jumping over the frogs. The creatures have a strong hold on life. The frogs climb on the beetles, the newts on the frogs. The dark green tench, as more expensive fish, enjoy an exceptional position; they are kept in a special jar where they can’t swim, but still they are not so cramped.⁠ ⁠…

“The carp is a grand fish! The carp’s the fish to keep, your honour, plague take him! You can keep him for a year in a pail and he’ll live! It’s a week since I caught these very fish. I caught them, sir, in Pererva, and have come from there on foot. The carp are two kopecks each, the eels are three, and the minnows are ten kopecks the dozen, plague take them! Five kopecks’ worth of minnows, sir? Won’t you take some worms?”

The seller thrusts his coarse rough fingers into the pail and pulls out of it a soft minnow, or a little carp, the size of a nail. Fishing lines, hooks, and tackle are laid out near the pails, and pond-worms glow with a crimson light in the sun.

An old fancier in a fur cap, iron-rimmed spectacles, and goloshes that look like two dreadnoughts, walks about by the wagons of birds and pails of fish. He is, as they call him here, “a type.” He hasn’t a farthing to bless himself with, but in spite of that he haggles, gets excited, and pesters purchasers with advice. He has thoroughly examined all the hares, pigeons, and fish; examined them in every detail, fixed the kind, the age, and the price of each one of them a good hour ago. He is as interested as a child in the goldfinches, the carp, and the minnows. Talk to him, for instance, about thrushes, and the queer old fellow will tell you things you could not find in any book. He will tell you them with enthusiasm, with passion, and will scold you too for your ignorance. Of goldfinches and bullfinches he is ready to talk endlessly, opening his eyes wide and gesticulating violently with his hands. He is only to be met here at the market in the cold weather; in the summer he is somewhere in the country, catching quails with a bird-call and angling for fish.

And here is another “type,” a very tall, very thin, close-shaven gentleman in dark spectacles, wearing a cap with a cockade, and looking like a scrivener of bygone days. He is a fancier; he is a man of decent position, a teacher in a high school, and that is well known to the habitués of the market, and they treat him with respect, greet him with bows, and have even invented for him a special title: “Your Scholarship.” At Suharev market he rummages among the books, and at Trubnoy looks out for good pigeons.

“Please, sir!” the pigeon-sellers shout to him, “Mr. Schoolmaster, your Scholarship, take notice of my tumblers! your Scholarship!”

“Your Scholarship!” is shouted at him from every side.

“Your Scholarship!” an urchin repeats somewhere on the boulevard.

And his “Scholarship,” apparently quite accustomed to his title, grave and severe, takes a pigeon in both hands, and lifting it above his head, begins examining it, and as he does so frowns and looks graver than ever, like a conspirator.

And Trubnoy Square, that little bit of Moscow where animals are so tenderly loved, and where they are so tortured, lives its little life, grows noisy and excited, and the businesslike or pious people who pass by along the boulevard cannot make out what has brought this crowd of people, this medley of caps, fur hats, and chimneypots together; what they are talking about there, what they are buying and selling.


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, thickset 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 schoolroom, 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 schoolchildren abandoned their copies and fell to watching the movements of Alexey Alexeitch. People stood under the windows. The schoolwatchman, 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.


“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 windowsill, 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 thickset man with a red pockmarked 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 sunblinds 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 tomorrow?’ 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.

The Album

Kraterov, the titular councillor, as thin and slender as the Admiralty spire, stepped forward and, addressing Zhmyhov, said:

“Your Excellency! Moved and touched to the bottom of our hearts by the way you have ruled us during long years, and by your fatherly care.⁠ ⁠…”

“During the course of more than ten years⁠ ⁠…” Zakusin prompted.

“During the course of more than ten years, we, your subordinates, on this so memorable for us⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… day, beg your Excellency to accept in token of our respect and profound gratitude this album with our portraits in it, and express our hope that for the duration of your distinguished life, that for long, long years to come, to your dying day you may not abandon us.⁠ ⁠…”

“With your fatherly guidance in the path of justice and progress⁠ ⁠…” added Zakusin, wiping from his brow the perspiration that had suddenly appeared on it; he was evidently longing to speak, and in all probability had a speech ready. “And,” he wound up, “may your standard fly for long, long years in the career of genius, industry, and social self-consciousness.”

A tear trickled down the wrinkled left cheek of Zhmyhov.

“Gentlemen!” he said in a shaking voice, “I did not expect, I had no idea that you were going to celebrate my modest jubilee.⁠ ⁠… I am touched indeed⁠ ⁠… very much so.⁠ ⁠… I shall not forget this moment to my dying day, and believe me⁠ ⁠… believe me, friends, that no one is so desirous of your welfare as I am⁠ ⁠… and if there has been anything⁠ ⁠… it was for your benefit.”

Zhmyhov, the actual civil councillor, kissed the titular councillor Kraterov, who had not expected such an honour, and turned pale with delight. Then the chief made a gesture that signified that he could not speak for emotion, and shed tears as though an expensive album had not been presented to him, but on the contrary, taken from him.⁠ ⁠… Then when he had a little recovered and said a few more words full of feeling and given everyone his hand to shake, he went downstairs amid loud and joyful cheers, got into his carriage and drove off, followed by their blessings. As he sat in his carriage he was aware of a flood of joyous feelings such as he had never known before, and once more he shed tears.

At home new delights awaited him. There his family, his friends, and acquaintances had prepared him such an ovation that it seemed to him that he really had been of very great service to his country, and that if he had never existed his country would perhaps have been in a very bad way. The jubilee dinner was made up of toasts, speeches, and tears. In short, Zhmyhov had never expected that his merits would be so warmly appreciated.

“Gentlemen!” he said before the dessert, “two hours ago I was recompensed for all the sufferings a man has to undergo who is the servant, so to say, not of routine, not of the letter, but of duty! Through the whole duration of my service I have constantly adhered to the principle;⁠—the public does not exist for us, but we for the public, and today I received the highest reward! My subordinates presented me with an album⁠ ⁠… see! I was touched.”

Festive faces bent over the album and began examining it.

“It’s a pretty album,” said Zhmyhov’s daughter Olya, “it must have cost fifty roubles, I do believe. Oh, it’s charming! You must give me the album, papa, do you hear? I’ll take care of it, it’s so pretty.”

After dinner Olya carried off the album to her room and shut it up in her table drawer. Next day she took the clerks out of it, flung them on the floor, and put her school friends in their place. The government uniforms made way for white pelerines. Kolya, his Excellency’s little son, picked up the clerks and painted their clothes red. Those who had no moustaches he presented with green moustaches and added brown beards to the beardless. When there was nothing left to paint he cut the little men out of the cardboard, pricked their eyes with a pin, and began playing soldiers with them. After cutting out the titular councillor Kraterov, he fixed him on a matchbox and carried him in that state to his father’s study.

“Papa, a monument, look!”

Zhmyhov burst out laughing, lurched forward, and, looking tenderly at the child, gave him a warm kiss on the cheek.

“There, you rogue, go and show mamma; let mamma look too.”

Minds in Ferment

(From the Annals of a Town)

The earth was like an oven. The afternoon sun blazed with such energy that even the thermometer hanging in the excise officer’s room lost its head: it ran up to 112.5 and stopped there, irresolute. The inhabitants streamed with perspiration like overdriven horses, and were too lazy to mop their faces.

Two of the inhabitants were walking along the marketplace in front of the closely shuttered houses. One was Potcheshihin, the local treasury clerk, and the other was Optimov, the agent, for many years a correspondent of the Son of the Fatherland newspaper. They walked in silence, speechless from the heat. Optimov felt tempted to find fault with the local authorities for the dust and disorder of the marketplace, but, aware of the peace-loving disposition and moderate views of his companion, he said nothing.

In the middle of the marketplace Potcheshihin suddenly halted and began gazing into the sky.

“What are you looking at?”

“Those starlings that flew up. I wonder where they have settled. Clouds and clouds of them.⁠ ⁠… If one were to go and take a shot at them, and if one were to pick them up⁠ ⁠… and if⁠ ⁠… They have settled in the Father Prebendary’s garden!”

“Oh no! They are not in the Father Prebendary’s, they are in the Father Deacon’s. If you did have a shot at them from here you wouldn’t kill anything. Fine shot won’t carry so far; it loses its force. And why should you kill them, anyway? They’re birds destructive of the fruit, that’s true; still, they’re fowls of the air, works of the Lord. The starling sings, you know.⁠ ⁠… And what does it sing, pray? A song of praise.⁠ ⁠… ‘All ye fowls of the air, praise ye the Lord.’ No. I do believe they have settled in the Father Prebendary’s garden.”

Three old pilgrim women, wearing bark shoes and carrying wallets, passed noiselessly by the speakers. Looking enquiringly at the gentlemen who were for some unknown reason staring at the Father Prebendary’s house, they slackened their pace, and when they were a few yards off stopped, glanced at the friends once more, and then fell to gazing at the house themselves.

“Yes, you were right; they have settled in the Father Prebendary’s,” said Optimov. “His cherries are ripe now, so they have gone there to peck them.”

From the garden gate emerged the Father Prebendary himself, accompanied by the sexton. Seeing the attention directed upon his abode and wondering what people were staring at, he stopped, and he, too, as well as the sexton, began looking upwards to find out.

“The father is going to a service somewhere, I suppose,” said Potcheshihin. “The Lord be his succour!”

Some workmen from Purov’s factory, who had been bathing in the river, passed between the friends and the priest. Seeing the latter absorbed in contemplation of the heavens and the pilgrim women, too, standing motionless with their eyes turned upwards, they stood still and stared in the same direction.

A small boy leading a blind beggar and a peasant, carrying a tub of stinking fish to throw into the marketplace, did the same.

“There must be something the matter, I should think,” said Potcheshihin, “a fire or something. But there’s no sign of smoke anywhere. Hey! Kuzma!” he shouted to the peasant, “what’s the matter?”

The peasant made some reply, but Potcheshihin and Optimov did not catch it. Sleepy-looking shopmen made their appearance at the doors of all the shops. Some plasterers at work on a warehouse near left their ladders and joined the workmen.

The fireman, who was describing circles with his bare feet, on the watchtower, halted, and, after looking steadily at them for a few minutes, came down. The watchtower was left deserted. This seemed suspicious.

“There must be a fire somewhere. Don’t shove me! You damned swine!”

“Where do you see the fire? What fire? Pass on, gentlemen! I ask you civilly!”

“It must be a fire indoors!”

“Asks us civilly and keeps poking with his elbows. Keep your hands to yourself! Though you are a head constable, you have no sort of right to make free with your fists!”

“He’s trodden on my corn! Ah! I’ll crush you!”

“Crushed? Who’s crushed? Lads! a man’s been crushed!”

“What’s the meaning of this crowd? What do you want?”

“A man’s been crushed, please your honour!”

“Where? Pass on! I ask you civilly! I ask you civilly, you blockheads!”

“You may shove a peasant, but you daren’t touch a gentleman! Hands off!”

“Did you ever know such people? There’s no doing anything with them by fair words, the devils! Sidorov, run for Akim Danilitch! Look sharp! It’ll be the worse for you, gentlemen! Akim Danilitch is coming, and he’ll give it to you! You here, Parfen? A blind man, and at his age too! Can’t see, but he must be like other people and won’t do what he’s told. Smirnov, put his name down!”

“Yes, sir! And shall I write down the men from Purov’s? That man there with the swollen cheek, he’s from Purov’s works.”

“Don’t put down the men from Purov’s. It’s Purov’s birthday tomorrow.”

The starlings rose in a black cloud from the Father Prebendary’s garden, but Potcheshihin and Optimov did not notice them. They stood staring into the air, wondering what could have attracted such a crowd, and what it was looking at.

Akim Danilitch appeared. Still munching and wiping his lips, he cut his way into the crowd, bellowing:

“Firemen, be ready! Disperse! Mr. Optimov, disperse, or it’ll be the worse for you! Instead of writing all kinds of things about decent people in the papers, you had better try to behave yourself more conformably! No good ever comes of reading the papers!”

“Kindly refrain from reflections upon literature!” cried Optimov hotly. “I am a literary man, and I will allow no one to make reflections upon literature! though, as is the duty of a citizen, I respect you as a father and benefactor!”

“Firemen, turn the hose on them!”

“There’s no water, please your honour!”

“Don’t answer me! Go and get some! Look sharp!”

“We’ve nothing to get it in, your honour. The major has taken the fire-brigade horses to drive his aunt to the station.”

“Disperse! Stand back, damnation take you! Is that to your taste? Put him down, the devil!”

“I’ve lost my pencil, please your honour!”

The crowd grew larger and larger. There is no telling what proportions it might have reached if the new organ just arrived from Moscow had not fortunately begun playing in the tavern close by. Hearing their favourite tune, the crowd gasped and rushed off to the tavern. So nobody ever knew why the crowd had assembled, and Potcheshihin and Optimov had by now forgotten the existence of the starlings who were innocently responsible for the proceedings.

An hour later the town was still and silent again, and only a solitary figure was to be seen⁠—the fireman pacing round and round on the watchtower.

The same evening Akim Danilitch sat in the grocer’s shop drinking limonade gaseuse and brandy, and writing:

“In addition to the official report, I venture, your Excellency, to append a few supplementary observations of my own. Father and benefactor! In very truth, but for the prayers of your virtuous spouse in her salubrious villa near our town, there’s no knowing what might not have come to pass. What I have been through today I can find no words to express. The efficiency of Krushensky and of the major of the fire brigade are beyond all praise! I am proud of such devoted servants of our country! As for me, I did all that a weak man could do, whose only desire is the welfare of his neighbour; and sitting now in the bosom of my family, with tears in my eyes I thank Him Who spared us bloodshed! In absence of evidence, the guilty parties remain in custody, but I propose to release them in a week or so. It was their ignorance that led them astray!”

A Chameleon

The police superintendent Otchumyelov is walking across the market square wearing a new overcoat and carrying a parcel under his arm. A red-haired policeman strides after him with a sieve full of confiscated gooseberries in his hands. There is silence all around. Not a soul in the square.⁠ ⁠… The open doors of the shops and taverns look out upon God’s world disconsolately, like hungry mouths; there is not even a beggar near them.

“So you bite, you damned brute?” Otchumyelov hears suddenly. “Lads, don’t let him go! Biting is prohibited nowadays! Hold him! ah⁠ ⁠… ah!”

There is the sound of a dog yelping. Otchumyelov looks in the direction of the sound and sees a dog, hopping on three legs and looking about her, run out of Pitchugin’s timber-yard. A man in a starched cotton shirt, with his waistcoat unbuttoned, is chasing her. He runs after her, and throwing his body forward falls down and seizes the dog by her hind legs. Once more there is a yelping and a shout of “Don’t let go!” Sleepy countenances are protruded from the shops, and soon a crowd, which seems to have sprung out of the earth, is gathered round the timber-yard.

“It looks like a row, your honour⁠ ⁠…” says the policeman.

Otchumyelov makes a half turn to the left and strides towards the crowd.

He sees the aforementioned man in the unbuttoned waistcoat standing close by the gate of the timber-yard, holding his right hand in the air and displaying a bleeding finger to the crowd. On his half-drunken face there is plainly written: “I’ll pay you out, you rogue!” and indeed the very finger has the look of a flag of victory. In this man Otchumyelov recognises Hryukin, the goldsmith. The culprit who has caused the sensation, a white borzoy puppy with a sharp muzzle and a yellow patch on her back, is sitting on the ground with her forepaws outstretched in the middle of the crowd, trembling all over. There is an expression of misery and terror in her tearful eyes.

“What’s it all about?” Otchumyelov inquires, pushing his way through the crowd. “What are you here for? Why are you waving your finger⁠ ⁠… ? Who was it shouted?”

“I was walking along here, not interfering with anyone, your honour,” Hryukin begins, coughing into his fist. “I was talking about firewood to Mitry Mitritch, when this low brute for no rhyme or reason bit my finger.⁠ ⁠… You must excuse me, I am a working man.⁠ ⁠… Mine is fine work. I must have damages, for I shan’t be able to use this finger for a week, may be.⁠ ⁠… It’s not even the law, your honour, that one should put up with it from a beast.⁠ ⁠… If everyone is going to be bitten, life won’t be worth living.⁠ ⁠…”

“H’m. Very good,” says Otchumyelov sternly, coughing and raising his eyebrows. “Very good. Whose dog is it? I won’t let this pass! I’ll teach them to let their dogs run all over the place! It’s time these gentry were looked after, if they won’t obey the regulations! When he’s fined, the blackguard, I’ll teach him what it means to keep dogs and such stray cattle! I’ll give him a lesson!⁠ ⁠… Yeldyrin,” cries the superintendent, addressing the policeman, “find out whose dog this is and draw up a report! And the dog must be strangled. Without delay! It’s sure to be mad.⁠ ⁠… Whose dog is it, I ask?”

“I fancy it’s General Zhigalov’s,” says someone in the crowd.

“General Zhigalov’s, h’m.⁠ ⁠… Help me off with my coat, Yeldyrin⁠ ⁠… it’s frightfully hot! It must be a sign of rain.⁠ ⁠… There’s one thing I can’t make out, how it came to bite you?” Otchumyelov turns to Hryukin. “Surely it couldn’t reach your finger. It’s a little dog, and you are a great hulking fellow! You must have scratched your finger with a nail, and then the idea struck you to get damages for it. We all know⁠ ⁠… your sort! I know you devils!”

“He put a cigarette in her face, your honour, for a joke, and she had the sense to snap at him.⁠ ⁠… He is a nonsensical fellow, your honour!”

“That’s a lie, Squinteye! You didn’t see, so why tell lies about it? His honour is a wise gentleman, and will see who is telling lies and who is telling the truth, as in God’s sight.⁠ ⁠… And if I am lying let the court decide. It’s written in the law.⁠ ⁠… We are all equal nowadays. My own brother is in the gendarmes⁠ ⁠… let me tell you.⁠ ⁠…”

“Don’t argue!”

“No, that’s not the General’s dog,” says the policeman, with profound conviction, “the General hasn’t got one like that. His are mostly setters.”

“Do you know that for a fact?”

“Yes, your honour.”

“I know it, too. The General has valuable dogs, thoroughbred, and this is goodness knows what! No coat, no shape.⁠ ⁠… A low creature. And to keep a dog like that!⁠ ⁠… where’s the sense of it. If a dog like that were to turn up in Petersburg or Moscow, do you know what would happen? They would not worry about the law, they would strangle it in a twinkling! You’ve been injured, Hryukin, and we can’t let the matter drop.⁠ ⁠… We must give them a lesson! It is high time.⁠ ⁠… !”

“Yet maybe it is the General’s,” says the policeman, thinking aloud. “It’s not written on its face.⁠ ⁠… I saw one like it the other day in his yard.”

“It is the General’s, that’s certain!” says a voice in the crowd.

“H’m, help me on with my overcoat, Yeldyrin, my lad⁠ ⁠… the wind’s getting up.⁠ ⁠… I am cold.⁠ ⁠… You take it to the General’s, and inquire there. Say I found it and sent it. And tell them not to let it out into the street.⁠ ⁠… It may be a valuable dog, and if every swine goes sticking a cigar in its mouth, it will soon be ruined. A dog is a delicate animal.⁠ ⁠… And you put your hand down, you blockhead. It’s no use your displaying your fool of a finger. It’s your own fault.⁠ ⁠…”

“Here comes the General’s cook, ask him⁠ ⁠… Hi, Prohor! Come here, my dear man! Look at this dog.⁠ ⁠… Is it one of yours?”

“What an idea! We have never had one like that!”

“There’s no need to waste time asking,” says Otchumyelov. “It’s a stray dog! There’s no need to waste time talking about it.⁠ ⁠… Since he says it’s a stray dog, a stray dog it is.⁠ ⁠… It must be destroyed, that’s all about it.”

“It is not our dog,” Prohor goes on. “It belongs to the General’s brother, who arrived the other day. Our master does not care for hounds. But his honour is fond of them.⁠ ⁠…”

“You don’t say his Excellency’s brother is here? Vladimir Ivanitch?” inquires Otchumyelov, and his whole face beams with an ecstatic smile. “Well, I never! And I didn’t know! Has he come on a visit?”


“Well, I never.⁠ ⁠… He couldn’t stay away from his brother.⁠ ⁠… And there I didn’t know! So this is his honour’s dog? Delighted to hear it.⁠ ⁠… Take it. It’s not a bad pup.⁠ ⁠… A lively creature.⁠ ⁠… Snapped at this fellow’s finger! Ha-ha-ha.⁠ ⁠… Come, why are you shivering? Rrr⁠ ⁠… Rrrr.⁠ ⁠… The rogue’s angry⁠ ⁠… a nice little pup.”

Prohor calls the dog, and walks away from the timber-yard with her. The crowd laughs at Hryukin.

“I’ll make you smart yet!” Otchumyelov threatens him, and wrapping himself in his greatcoat, goes on his way across the square.

In the Graveyard

“The wind has got up, friends, and it is beginning to get dark. Hadn’t we better take ourselves off before it gets worse?”

The wind was frolicking among the yellow leaves of the old birch trees, and a shower of thick drops fell upon us from the leaves. One of our party slipped on the clayey soil, and clutched at a big grey cross to save himself from falling.

“Yegor Gryaznorukov, titular councillor and cavalier⁠ ⁠…” he read. “I knew that gentleman. He was fond of his wife, he wore the Stanislav ribbon, and read nothing.⁠ ⁠… His digestion worked well⁠ ⁠… life was all right, wasn’t it? One would have thought he had no reason to die, but alas! fate had its eye on him.⁠ ⁠… The poor fellow fell a victim to his habits of observation. On one occasion, when he was listening at a keyhole, he got such a bang on the head from the door that he sustained concussion of the brain (he had a brain), and died. And here, under this tombstone, lies a man who from his cradle detested verses and epigrams.⁠ ⁠… As though to mock him his whole tombstone is adorned with verses.⁠ ⁠… There is someone coming!”

A man in a shabby overcoat, with a shaven, bluish-crimson countenance, overtook us. He had a bottle under his arm and a parcel of sausage was sticking out of his pocket.

“Where is the grave of Mushkin, the actor?” he asked us in a husky voice.

We conducted him towards the grave of Mushkin, the actor, who had died two years before.

“You are a government clerk, I suppose?” we asked him.

“No, an actor. Nowadays it is difficult to distinguish actors from clerks of the Consistory. No doubt you have noticed that.⁠ ⁠… That’s typical, but it’s not very flattering for the government clerk.”

It was with difficulty that we found the actor’s grave. It had sunken, was overgrown with weeds, and had lost all appearance of a grave. A cheap, little cross that had begun to rot, and was covered with green moss blackened by the frost, had an air of aged dejection and looked, as it were, ailing.

“… forgotten friend Mushkin⁠ ⁠…” we read.

Time had erased the never, and corrected the falsehood of man.

“A subscription for a monument to him was got up among actors and journalists, but they drank up the money, the dear fellows⁠ ⁠…” sighed the actor, bowing down to the ground and touching the wet earth with his knees and his cap.

“How do you mean, drank it?”

“That’s very simple. They collected the money, published a paragraph about it in the newspaper, and spent it on drink.⁠ ⁠… I don’t say it to blame them.⁠ ⁠… I hope it did them good, dear things! Good health to them, and eternal memory to him.”

“Drinking means bad health, and eternal memory nothing but sadness. God give us remembrance for a time, but eternal memory⁠—what next!”

“You are right there. Mushkin was a well-known man, you see; there were a dozen wreaths on the coffin, and he is already forgotten. Those to whom he was dear have forgotten him, but those to whom he did harm remember him. I, for instance, shall never, never forget him, for I got nothing but harm from him. I have no love for the deceased.”

“What harm did he do you?”

“Great harm,” sighed the actor, and an expression of bitter resentment overspread his face. “To me he was a villain and a scoundrel⁠—the Kingdom of Heaven be his! It was through looking at him and listening to him that I became an actor. By his art he lured me from the parental home, he enticed me with the excitements of an actor’s life, promised me all sorts of things⁠—and brought tears and sorrow.⁠ ⁠… An actor’s lot is a bitter one! I have lost youth, sobriety, and the divine semblance.⁠ ⁠… I haven’t a halfpenny to bless myself with, my shoes are down at heel, my breeches are frayed and patched, and my face looks as if it had been gnawed by dogs.⁠ ⁠… My head’s full of freethinking and nonsense.⁠ ⁠… He robbed me of my faith⁠—my evil genius! It would have been something if I had had talent, but as it is, I am ruined for nothing.⁠ ⁠… It’s cold, honoured friends.⁠ ⁠… Won’t you have some? There is enough for all.⁠ ⁠… B-r-r-r.⁠ ⁠… Let us drink to the rest of his soul! Though I don’t like him and though he’s dead, he was the only one I had in the world, the only one. It’s the last time I shall visit him.⁠ ⁠… The doctors say I shall soon die of drink, so here I have come to say goodbye. One must forgive one’s enemies.”

We left the actor to converse with the dead Mushkin and went on. It began drizzling a fine cold rain.

At the turning into the principal avenue strewn with gravel, we met a funeral procession. Four bearers, wearing white calico sashes and muddy high boots with leaves sticking on them, carried the brown coffin. It was getting dark and they hastened, stumbling and shaking their burden.⁠ ⁠…

“We’ve only been walking here for a couple of hours and that is the third brought in already.⁠ ⁠… Shall we go home, friends?”


I need no great effort of memory to recall, in every detail, the rainy autumn evening when I stood with my father in one of the more frequented streets of Moscow, and felt that I was gradually being overcome by a strange illness. I had no pain at all, but my legs were giving way under me, the words stuck in my throat, my head slipped weakly on one side⁠ ⁠… It seemed as though, in a moment, I must fall down and lose consciousness.

If I had been taken into a hospital at that minute, the doctors would have had to write over my bed: Fames, a disease which is not in the manuals of medicine.

Beside me on the pavement stood my father in a shabby summer overcoat and a serge cap, from which a bit of white wadding was sticking out. On his feet he had big heavy goloshes. Afraid, vain man, that people would see that his feet were bare under his goloshes, he had drawn the tops of some old boots up round the calves of his legs.

This poor, foolish, queer creature, whom I loved the more warmly the more ragged and dirty his smart summer overcoat became, had come to Moscow, five months before, to look for a job as copying-clerk. For those five months he had been trudging about Moscow looking for work, and it was only on that day that he had brought himself to go into the street to beg for alms.

Before us was a big house of three storeys, adorned with a blue signboard with the word “Restaurant” on it. My head was drooping feebly backwards and on one side, and I could not help looking upwards at the lighted windows of the restaurant. Human figures were flitting about at the windows. I could see the right side of the orchestrion, two oleographs, hanging lamps.⁠ ⁠… Staring into one window, I saw a patch of white. The patch was motionless, and its rectangular outlines stood out sharply against the dark, brown background. I looked intently and made out of the patch a white placard on the wall. Something was written on it, but what it was, I could not see⁠ ⁠…

For half an hour I kept my eyes on the placard. Its white attracted my eyes, and, as it were, hypnotised my brain. I tried to read it, but my efforts were in vain.

At last the strange disease got the upper hand.

The rumble of the carriages began to seem like thunder, in the stench of the street I distinguished a thousand smells. The restaurant lights and the lamps dazzled my eyes like lightning. My five senses were overstrained and sensitive beyond the normal. I began to see what I had not seen before.

“Oysters⁠ ⁠…” I made out on the placard.

A strange word! I had lived in the world eight years and three months, but had never come across that word. What did it mean? Surely it was not the name of the restaurant-keeper? But signboards with names on them always hang outside, not on the walls indoors!

“Papa, what does ‘oysters’ mean?” I asked in a husky voice, making an effort to turn my face towards my father.

My father did not hear. He was keeping a watch on the movements of the crowd, and following every passerby with his eyes.⁠ ⁠… From his eyes I saw that he wanted to say something to the passersby, but the fatal word hung like a heavy weight on his trembling lips and could not be flung off. He even took a step after one passerby and touched him on the sleeve, but when he turned round, he said, “I beg your pardon,” was overcome with confusion, and staggered back.

“Papa, what does ‘oysters’ mean?” I repeated.

“It is an animal⁠ ⁠… that lives in the sea.”

I instantly pictured to myself this unknown marine animal.⁠ ⁠… I thought it must be something midway between a fish and a crab. As it was from the sea they made of it, of course, a very nice hot fish soup with savoury pepper and laurel leaves, or broth with vinegar and fricassee of fish and cabbage, or crayfish sauce, or served it cold with horseradish.⁠ ⁠… I vividly imagined it being brought from the market, quickly cleaned, quickly put in the pot, quickly, quickly, for everyone was hungry⁠ ⁠… awfully hungry! From the kitchen rose the smell of hot fish and crayfish soup.

I felt that this smell was tickling my palate and nostrils, that it was gradually taking possession of my whole body.⁠ ⁠… The restaurant, my father, the white placard, my sleeves were all smelling of it, smelling so strongly that I began to chew. I moved my jaws and swallowed as though I really had a piece of this marine animal in my mouth⁠ ⁠…

My legs gave way from the blissful sensation I was feeling, and I clutched at my father’s arm to keep myself from falling, and leant against his wet summer overcoat. My father was trembling and shivering. He was cold⁠ ⁠…

“Papa, are oysters a Lenten dish?” I asked.

“They are eaten alive⁠ ⁠…” said my father. “They are in shells like tortoises, but⁠ ⁠… in two halves.”

The delicious smell instantly left off affecting me, and the illusion vanished.⁠ ⁠… Now I understood it all!

“How nasty,” I whispered, “how nasty!”

So that’s what “oysters” meant! I imagined to myself a creature like a frog. A frog sitting in a shell, peeping out from it with big, glittering eyes, and moving its revolting jaws. I imagined this creature in a shell with claws, glittering eyes, and a slimy skin, being brought from the market.⁠ ⁠… The children would all hide while the cook, frowning with an air of disgust, would take the creature by its claw, put it on a plate, and carry it into the dining room. The grownups would take it and eat it, eat it alive with its eyes, its teeth, its legs! While it squeaked and tried to bite their lips.⁠ ⁠…

I frowned, but⁠ ⁠… but why did my teeth move as though I were munching? The creature was loathsome, disgusting, terrible, but I ate it, ate it greedily, afraid of distinguishing its taste or smell. As soon as I had eaten one, I saw the glittering eyes of a second, a third⁠ ⁠… I ate them too.⁠ ⁠… At last I ate the table-napkin, the plate, my father’s goloshes, the white placard⁠ ⁠… I ate everything that caught my eye, because I felt that nothing but eating would take away my illness. The oysters had a terrible look in their eyes and were loathsome. I shuddered at the thought of them, but I wanted to eat! To eat!

“Oysters! Give me some oysters!” was the cry that broke from me and I stretched out my hand.

“Help us, gentlemen!” I heard at that moment my father say, in a hollow and shaking voice. “I am ashamed to ask but⁠—my God!⁠—I can bear no more!”

“Oysters!” I cried, pulling my father by the skirts of his coat.

“Do you mean to say you eat oysters? A little chap like you!” I heard laughter close to me.

Two gentlemen in top hats were standing before us, looking into my face and laughing.

“Do you really eat oysters, youngster? That’s interesting! How do you eat them?”

I remember that a strong hand dragged me into the lighted restaurant. A minute later there was a crowd round me, watching me with curiosity and amusement. I sat at a table and ate something slimy, salt with a flavour of dampness and mouldiness. I ate greedily without chewing, without looking and trying to discover what I was eating. I fancied that if I opened my eyes I should see glittering eyes, claws, and sharp teeth.

All at once I began biting something hard, there was a sound of a scrunching.

“Ha, ha! He is eating the shells,” laughed the crowd. “Little silly, do you suppose you can eat that?”

After that I remember a terrible thirst. I was lying in my bed, and could not sleep for heartburn and the strange taste in my parched mouth. My father was walking up and down, gesticulating with his hands.

“I believe I have caught cold,” he was muttering. “I’ve a feeling in my head as though someone were sitting on it.⁠ ⁠… Perhaps it is because I have not⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… eaten anything today.⁠ ⁠… I really am a queer, stupid creature.⁠ ⁠… I saw those gentlemen pay ten roubles for the oysters. Why didn’t I go up to them and ask them⁠ ⁠… to lend me something? They would have given something.”

Towards morning, I fell asleep and dreamt of a frog sitting in a shell, moving its eyes. At midday I was awakened by thirst, and looked for my father: he was still walking up and down and gesticulating.

The Swedish Match

(The Story of a Crime)


On the morning of October 6, 1885, a well-dressed young man presented himself at the office of the police superintendent of the 2nd division of the S⁠⸺ district, and announced that his employer, a retired cornet of the guards, called Mark Ivanovitch Klyauzov, had been murdered. The young man was pale and extremely agitated as he made this announcement. His hands trembled and there was a look of horror in his eyes.

“To whom have I the honour of speaking?” the superintendent asked him.

“Psyekov, Klyauzov’s steward. Agricultural and engineering expert.”

The police superintendent, on reaching the spot with Psyekov and the necessary witnesses, found the position as follows.

Masses of people were crowding about the lodge in which Klyauzov lived. The news of the event had flown round the neighbourhood with the rapidity of lightning, and, thanks to its being a holiday, the people were flocking to the lodge from all the neighbouring villages. There was a regular hubbub of talk. Pale and tearful faces were to be seen here and there. The door into Klyauzov’s bedroom was found to be locked. The key was in the lock on the inside.

“Evidently the criminals made their way in by the window,” Psyekov observed, as they examined the door.

They went into the garden into which the bedroom window looked. The window had a gloomy, ominous air. It was covered by a faded green curtain. One corner of the curtain was slightly turned back, which made it possible to peep into the bedroom.

“Has any one of you looked in at the window?” inquired the superintendent.

“No, your honour,” said Yefrem, the gardener, a little, grey-haired old man with the face of a veteran noncommissioned officer. “No one feels like looking when they are shaking in every limb!”

“Ech, Mark Ivanitch! Mark Ivanitch!” sighed the superintendent, as he looked at the window. “I told you that you would come to a bad end! I told you, poor dear⁠—you wouldn’t listen! Dissipation leads to no good!”

“It’s thanks to Yefrem,” said Psyekov. “We should never have guessed it but for him. It was he who first thought that something was wrong. He came to me this morning and said: ‘Why is it our master hasn’t waked up for so long? He hasn’t been out of his bedroom for a whole week!’ When he said that to me I was struck all of a heap.⁠ ⁠… The thought flashed through my mind at once. He hasn’t made an appearance since Saturday of last week, and today’s Sunday. Seven days is no joke!”

“Yes, poor man,” the superintendent sighed again. “A clever fellow, well-educated, and so good-hearted. There was no one like him, one may say, in company. But a rake; the kingdom of heaven be his! I’m not surprised at anything with him! Stepan,” he said, addressing one of the witnesses, “ride off this minute to my house and send Andryushka to the police captain’s, let him report to him. Say Mark Ivanitch has been murdered! Yes, and run to the inspector⁠—why should he sit in comfort doing nothing? Let him come here. And you go yourself as fast as you can to the examining magistrate, Nikolay Yermolaitch, and tell him to come here. Wait a bit, I will write him a note.”

The police superintendent stationed watchmen round the lodge, and went off to the steward’s to have tea. Ten minutes later he was sitting on a stool, carefully nibbling lumps of sugar, and sipping tea as hot as a red-hot coal.

“There it is!⁠ ⁠…” he said to Psyekov, “there it is!⁠ ⁠… a gentleman, and a well-to-do one, too⁠ ⁠… a favourite of the gods, one may say, to use Pushkin’s expression, and what has he made of it? Nothing! He gave himself up to drinking and debauchery, and⁠ ⁠… here now⁠ ⁠… he has been murdered!”

Two hours later the examining magistrate drove up. Nikolay Yermolaitch Tchubikov (that was the magistrate’s name), a tall, thickset old man of sixty, had been hard at work for a quarter of a century. He was known to the whole district as an honest, intelligent, energetic man, devoted to his work. His invariable companion, assistant, and secretary, a tall young man of six and twenty, called Dyukovsky, arrived on the scene of action with him.

“Is it possible, gentlemen?” Tchubikov began, going into Psyekov’s room and rapidly shaking hands with everyone. “Is it possible? Mark Ivanitch? Murdered? No, it’s impossible! Imposs-i-ble!”

“There it is,” sighed the superintendent.

“Merciful heavens! Why I saw him only last Friday. At the fair at Tarabankovo! Saving your presence, I drank a glass of vodka with him!”

“There it is,” the superintendent sighed once more.

They heaved sighs, expressed their horror, drank a glass of tea each, and went to the lodge.

“Make way!” the police inspector shouted to the crowd.

On going into the lodge the examining magistrate first of all set to work to inspect the door into the bedroom. The door turned out to be made of deal, painted yellow, and not to have been tampered with. No special traces that might have served as evidence could be found. They proceeded to break open the door.

“I beg you, gentlemen, who are not concerned, to retire,” said the examining magistrate, when, after long banging and cracking, the door yielded to the axe and the chisel. “I ask this in the interests of the investigation.⁠ ⁠… Inspector, admit no one!”

Tchubikov, his assistant, and the police superintendent opened the door and hesitatingly, one after the other, walked into the room. The following spectacle met their eyes. In the solitary window stood a big wooden bedstead with an immense feather bed on it. On the rumpled feather bed lay a creased and crumpled quilt. A pillow, in a cotton pillow case⁠—also much creased, was on the floor. On a little table beside the bed lay a silver watch, and silver coins to the value of twenty kopecks. Some sulphur matches lay there too. Except the bed, the table, and a solitary chair, there was no furniture in the room. Looking under the bed, the superintendent saw two dozen empty bottles, an old straw hat, and a jar of vodka. Under the table lay one boot, covered with dust. Taking a look round the room, Tchubikov frowned and flushed crimson.

“The blackguards!” he muttered, clenching his fists.

“And where is Mark Ivanitch?” Dyukovsky asked quietly.

“I beg you not to put your spoke in,” Tchubikov answered roughly. “Kindly examine the floor. This is the second case in my experience, Yevgraf Kuzmitch,” he added to the police superintendent, dropping his voice. “In 1870 I had a similar case. But no doubt you remember it.⁠ ⁠… The murder of the merchant Portretov. It was just the same. The blackguards murdered him, and dragged the dead body out of the window.”

Tchubikov went to the window, drew the curtain aside, and cautiously pushed the window. The window opened.

“It opens, so it was not fastened.⁠ ⁠… H’m⁠ ⁠… there are traces on the windowsill. Do you see? Here is the trace of a knee.⁠ ⁠… Someone climbed out.⁠ ⁠… We shall have to inspect the window thoroughly.”

“There is nothing special to be observed on the floor,” said Dyukovsky. “No stains, nor scratches. The only thing I have found is a used Swedish match. Here it is. As far as I remember, Mark Ivanitch didn’t smoke; in a general way he used sulphur ones, never Swedish matches. This match may serve as a clue.⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh, hold your tongue, please!” cried Tchubikov, with a wave of his hand. “He keeps on about his match! I can’t stand these excitable people! Instead of looking for matches, you had better examine the bed!”

On inspecting the bed, Dyukovsky reported:

“There are no stains of blood or of anything else.⁠ ⁠… Nor are there any fresh rents. On the pillow there are traces of teeth. A liquid, having the smell of beer and also the taste of it, has been spilt on the quilt.⁠ ⁠… The general appearance of the bed gives grounds for supposing there has been a struggle.”

“I know there was a struggle without your telling me! No one asked you whether there was a struggle. Instead of looking out for a struggle you had better be⁠ ⁠…”

“One boot is here, the other one is not on the scene.”

“Well, what of that?”

“Why, they must have strangled him while he was taking off his boots. He hadn’t time to take the second boot off when.⁠ ⁠…”

“He’s off again!⁠ ⁠… And how do you know that he was strangled?”

“There are marks of teeth on the pillow. The pillow itself is very much crumpled, and has been flung to a distance of six feet from the bed.”

“He argues, the chatterbox! We had better go into the garden. You had better look in the garden instead of rummaging about here.⁠ ⁠… I can do that without your help.”

When they went out into the garden their first task was the inspection of the grass. The grass had been trampled down under the windows. The clump of burdock against the wall under the window turned out to have been trodden on too. Dyukovsky succeeded in finding on it some broken shoots, and a little bit of wadding. On the topmost burrs, some fine threads of dark blue wool were found.

“What was the colour of his last suit?” Dyukovsky asked Psyekov.

“It was yellow, made of canvas.”

“Capital! Then it was they who were in dark blue.⁠ ⁠…”

Some of the burrs were cut off and carefully wrapped up in paper. At that moment Artsybashev-Svistakovsky, the police captain, and Tyutyuev, the doctor, arrived. The police captain greeted the others, and at once proceeded to satisfy his curiosity; the doctor, a tall and extremely lean man with sunken eyes, a long nose, and a sharp chin, greeting no one and asking no questions, sat down on a stump, heaved a sigh and said:

“The Serbians are in a turmoil again! I can’t make out what they want! Ah, Austria, Austria! It’s your doing!”

The inspection of the window from outside yielded absolutely no result; the inspection of the grass and surrounding bushes furnished many valuable clues. Dyukovsky succeeded, for instance, in detecting a long, dark streak in the grass, consisting of stains, and stretching from the window for a good many yards into the garden. The streak ended under one of the lilac bushes in a big, brownish stain. Under the same bush was found a boot, which turned out to be the fellow to the one found in the bedroom.

“This is an old stain of blood,” said Dyukovsky, examining the stain.

At the word “blood,” the doctor got up and lazily took a cursory glance at the stain.

“Yes, it’s blood,” he muttered.

“Then he wasn’t strangled since there’s blood,” said Tchubikov, looking malignantly at Dyukovsky.

“He was strangled in the bedroom, and here, afraid he would come to, they stabbed him with something sharp. The stain under the bush shows that he lay there for a comparatively long time, while they were trying to find some way of carrying him, or something to carry him on out of the garden.”

“Well, and the boot?”

“That boot bears out my contention that he was murdered while he was taking off his boots before going to bed. He had taken off one boot, the other, that is, this boot he had only managed to get half off. While he was being dragged and shaken the boot that was only half on came off of itself.⁠ ⁠…”

“What powers of deduction! Just look at him!” Tchubikov jeered. “He brings it all out so pat! And when will you learn not to put your theories forward? You had better take a little of the grass for analysis instead of arguing!”

After making the inspection and taking a plan of the locality they went off to the steward’s to write a report and have lunch. At lunch they talked.

“Watch, money, and everything else⁠ ⁠… are untouched,” Tchubikov began the conversation. “It is as clear as twice two makes four that the murder was committed not for mercenary motives.”

“It was committed by a man of the educated class,” Dyukovsky put in.

“From what do you draw that conclusion?”

“I base it on the Swedish match which the peasants about here have not learned to use yet. Such matches are only used by landowners and not by all of them. He was murdered, by the way, not by one but by three, at least: two held him while the third strangled him. Klyauzov was strong and the murderers must have known that.”

“What use would his strength be to him, supposing he were asleep?”

“The murderers came upon him as he was taking off his boots. He was taking off his boots, so he was not asleep.”

“It’s no good making things up! You had better eat your lunch!”

“To my thinking, your honour,” said Yefrem, the gardener, as he set the samovar on the table, “this vile deed was the work of no other than Nikolashka.”

“Quite possible,” said Psyekov.

“Who’s this Nikolashka?”

“The master’s valet, your honour,” answered Yefrem. “Who else should it be if not he? He’s a ruffian, your honour! A drunkard, and such a dissipated fellow! May the Queen of Heaven never bring the like again! He always used to fetch vodka for the master, he always used to put the master to bed.⁠ ⁠… Who should it be if not he? And what’s more, I venture to bring to your notice, your honour, he boasted once in a tavern, the rascal, that he would murder his master. It’s all on account of Akulka, on account of a woman.⁠ ⁠… He had a soldier’s wife.⁠ ⁠… The master took a fancy to her and got intimate with her, and he⁠ ⁠… was angered by it, to be sure. He’s lolling about in the kitchen now, drunk. He’s crying⁠ ⁠… making out he is grieving over the master.⁠ ⁠…”

“And anyone might be angry over Akulka, certainly,” said Psyekov. “She is a soldier’s wife, a peasant woman, but⁠ ⁠… Mark Ivanitch might well call her Nana. There is something in her that does suggest Nana⁠ ⁠… fascinating⁠ ⁠…”

“I have seen her⁠ ⁠… I know⁠ ⁠…” said the examining magistrate, blowing his nose in a red handkerchief.

Dyukovsky blushed and dropped his eyes. The police superintendent drummed on his saucer with his fingers. The police captain coughed and rummaged in his portfolio for something. On the doctor alone the mention of Akulka and Nana appeared to produce no impression. Tchubikov ordered Nikolashka to be fetched. Nikolashka, a lanky young man with a long pockmarked nose and a hollow chest, wearing a reefer jacket that had been his master’s, came into Psyekov’s room and bowed down to the ground before Tchubikov. His face looked sleepy and showed traces of tears. He was drunk and could hardly stand up.

“Where is your master?” Tchubikov asked him.

“He’s murdered, your honour.”

As he said this Nikolashka blinked and began to cry.

“We know that he is murdered. But where is he now? Where is his body?”

“They say it was dragged out of window and buried in the garden.”

“H’m⁠ ⁠… the results of the investigation are already known in the kitchen then.⁠ ⁠… That’s bad. My good fellow, where were you on the night when your master was killed? On Saturday, that is?”

Nikolashka raised his head, craned his neck, and pondered.

“I can’t say, your honour,” he said. “I was drunk and I don’t remember.”

“An alibi!” whispered Dyukovsky, grinning and rubbing his hands.

“Ah! And why is it there’s blood under your master’s window!”

Nikolashka flung up his head and pondered.

“Think a little quicker,” said the police captain.

“In a minute. That blood’s from a trifling matter, your honour. I killed a hen; I cut her throat very simply in the usual way, and she fluttered out of my hands and took and ran off.⁠ ⁠… That’s what the blood’s from.”

Yefrem testified that Nikolashka really did kill a hen every evening and killed it in all sorts of places, and no one had seen the half-killed hen running about the garden, though of course it could not be positively denied that it had done so.

“An alibi,” laughed Dyukovsky, “and what an idiotic alibi.”

“Have you had relations with Akulka?”

“Yes, I have sinned.”

“And your master carried her off from you?”

“No, not at all. It was this gentleman here, Mr. Psyekov, Ivan Mihalitch, who enticed her from me, and the master took her from Ivan Mihalitch. That’s how it was.”

Psyekov looked confused and began rubbing his left eye. Dyukovsky fastened his eyes upon him, detected his confusion, and started. He saw on the steward’s legs dark blue trousers which he had not previously noticed. The trousers reminded him of the blue threads found on the burdock. Tchubikov in his turn glanced suspiciously at Psyekov.

“You can go!” he said to Nikolashka. “And now allow me to put one question to you, Mr. Psyekov. You were here, of course, on the Saturday of last week?”

“Yes, at ten o’clock I had supper with Mark Ivanitch.”

“And afterwards?”

Psyekov was confused, and got up from the table.

“Afterwards⁠ ⁠… afterwards⁠ ⁠… I really don’t remember,” he muttered. “I had drunk a good deal on that occasion.⁠ ⁠… I can’t remember where and when I went to bed.⁠ ⁠… Why do you all look at me like that? As though I had murdered him!”

“Where did you wake up?”

“I woke up in the servants’ kitchen on the stove.⁠ ⁠… They can all confirm that. How I got on to the stove I can’t say.⁠ ⁠…”

“Don’t disturb yourself⁠ ⁠… Do you know Akulina?”

“Oh well, not particularly.”

“Did she leave you for Klyauzov?”

“Yes.⁠ ⁠… Yefrem, bring some more mushrooms! Will you have some tea, Yevgraf Kuzmitch?”

There followed an oppressive, painful silence that lasted for some five minutes. Dyukovsky held his tongue, and kept his piercing eyes on Psyekov’s face, which gradually turned pale. The silence was broken by Tchubikov.

“We must go to the big house,” he said, “and speak to the deceased’s sister, Marya Ivanovna. She may give us some evidence.”

Tchubikov and his assistant thanked Psyekov for the lunch, then went off to the big house. They found Klyauzov’s sister, a maiden lady of five and forty, on her knees before a high family shrine of icons. When she saw portfolios and caps adorned with cockades in her visitors’ hands, she turned pale.

“First of all, I must offer an apology for disturbing your devotions, so to say,” the gallant Tchubikov began with a scrape. “We have come to you with a request. You have heard, of course, already.⁠ ⁠… There is a suspicion that your brother has somehow been murdered. God’s will, you know.⁠ ⁠… Death no one can escape, neither Tsar nor ploughman. Can you not assist us with some fact, something that will throw light?”

“Oh, do not ask me!” said Marya Ivanovna, turning whiter still, and hiding her face in her hands. “I can tell you nothing! Nothing! I implore you! I can say nothing⁠ ⁠… What can I do? Oh, no, no⁠ ⁠… not a word⁠ ⁠… of my brother! I would rather die than speak!”

Marya Ivanovna burst into tears and went away into another room. The officials looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and beat a retreat.

“A devil of a woman!” said Dyukovsky, swearing as they went out of the big house. “Apparently she knows something and is concealing it. And there is something peculiar in the maidservant’s expression too.⁠ ⁠… You wait a bit, you devils! We will get to the bottom of it all!”

In the evening, Tchubikov and his assistant were driving home by the light of a pale-faced moon; they sat in their wagonette, summing up in their minds the incidents of the day. Both were exhausted and sat silent. Tchubikov never liked talking on the road. In spite of his talkativeness, Dyukovsky held his tongue in deference to the old man. Towards the end of the journey, however, the young man could endure the silence no longer, and began:

“That Nikolashka has had a hand in the business,” he said, “non dubitandum est. One can see from his mug too what sort of a chap he is.⁠ ⁠… His alibi gives him away hand and foot. There is no doubt either that he was not the instigator of the crime. He was only the stupid hired tool. Do you agree? The discreet Psyekov plays a not unimportant part in the affair too. His blue trousers, his embarrassment, his lying on the stove from fright after the murder, his alibi, and Akulka.”

“Keep it up, you’re in your glory! According to you, if a man knows Akulka he is the murderer. Ah, you hothead! You ought to be sucking your bottle instead of investigating cases! You used to be running after Akulka too, does that mean that you had a hand in this business?”

“Akulka was a cook in your house for a month, too, but⁠ ⁠… I don’t say anything. On that Saturday night I was playing cards with you, I saw you, or I should be after you too. The woman is not the point, my good sir. The point is the nasty, disgusting, mean feeling.⁠ ⁠… The discreet young man did not like to be cut out, do you see. Vanity, do you see.⁠ ⁠… He longed to be revenged. Then⁠ ⁠… His thick lips are a strong indication of sensuality. Do you remember how he smacked his lips when he compared Akulka to Nana? That he is burning with passion, the scoundrel, is beyond doubt! And so you have wounded vanity and unsatisfied passion. That’s enough to lead to murder. Two of them are in our hands, but who is the third? Nikolashka and Psyekov held him. Who was it smothered him? Psyekov is timid, easily embarrassed, altogether a coward. People like Nikolashka are not equal to smothering with a pillow, they set to work with an axe or a mallet.⁠ ⁠… Some third person must have smothered him, but who?”

Dyukovsky pulled his cap over his eyes, and pondered. He was silent till the wagonette had driven up to the examining magistrate’s house.

“Eureka!” he said, as he went into the house, and took off his overcoat. “Eureka, Nikolay Yermolaitch! I can’t understand how it is it didn’t occur to me before. Do you know who the third is?”

“Do leave off, please! There’s supper ready. Sit down to supper!”

Tchubikov and Dyukovsky sat down to supper. Dyukovsky poured himself out a wineglassful of vodka, got up, stretched, and with sparkling eyes, said:

“Let me tell you then that the third person who collaborated with the scoundrel Psyekov and smothered him was a woman! Yes! I am speaking of the murdered man’s sister, Marya Ivanovna!”

Tchubikov coughed over his vodka and fastened his eyes on Dyukovsky.

“Are you⁠ ⁠… not quite right? Is your head⁠ ⁠… not quite right? Does it ache?”

“I am quite well. Very good, suppose I have gone out of my mind, but how do you explain her confusion on our arrival? How do you explain her refusal to give information? Admitting that that is trivial⁠—very good! All right!⁠—but think of the terms they were on! She detested her brother! She is an Old Believer, he was a profligate, a godless fellow⁠ ⁠… that is what has bred hatred between them! They say he succeeded in persuading her that he was an angel of Satan! He used to practise spiritualism in her presence!”

“Well, what then?”

“Don’t you understand? She’s an Old Believer, she murdered him through fanaticism! She has not merely slain a wicked man, a profligate, she has freed the world from Antichrist⁠—and that she fancies is her merit, her religious achievement! Ah, you don’t know these old maids, these Old Believers! You should read Dostoevsky! And what does Lyeskov say⁠ ⁠… and Petchersky! It’s she, it’s she, I’ll stake my life on it. She smothered him! Oh, the fiendish woman! Wasn’t she, perhaps, standing before the icons when we went in to put us off the scent? ‘I’ll stand up and say my prayers,’ she said to herself, ‘they will think I am calm and don’t expect them.’ That’s the method of all novices in crime. Dear Nikolay Yermolaitch! My dear man! Do hand this case over to me! Let me go through with it to the end! My dear fellow! I have begun it, and I will carry it through to the end.”

Tchubikov shook his head and frowned.

“I am equal to sifting difficult cases myself,” he said. “And it’s your place not to put yourself forward. Write what is dictated to you, that is your business!”

Dyukovsky flushed crimson, walked out, and slammed the door.

“A clever fellow, the rogue,” Tchubikov muttered, looking after him. “Ve-ery clever! Only inappropriately hasty. I shall have to buy him a cigar-case at the fair for a present.”

Next morning a lad with a big head and a hare lip came from Klyauzovka. He gave his name as the shepherd Danilko, and furnished a very interesting piece of information.

“I had had a drop,” said he. “I stayed on till midnight at my crony’s. As I was going home, being drunk, I got into the river for a bathe. I was bathing and what do I see! Two men coming along the dam carrying something black. ‘Tyoo!’ I shouted at them. They were scared, and cut along as fast as they could go into the Makarev kitchen-gardens. Strike me dead, if it wasn’t the master they were carrying!”

Towards evening of the same day Psyekov and Nikolashka were arrested and taken under guard to the district town. In the town they were put in the prison tower.


Twelve days passed.

It was morning. The examining magistrate, Nikolay Yermolaitch, was sitting at a green table at home, looking through the papers, relating to the “Klyauzov case”; Dyukovsky was pacing up and down the room restlessly, like a wolf in a cage.

“You are convinced of the guilt of Nikolashka and Psyekov,” he said, nervously pulling at his youthful beard. “Why is it you refuse to be convinced of the guilt of Marya Ivanovna? Haven’t you evidence enough?”

“I don’t say that I don’t believe in it. I am convinced of it, but somehow I can’t believe it.⁠ ⁠… There is no real evidence. It’s all theoretical, as it were.⁠ ⁠… Fanaticism and one thing and another.⁠ ⁠…”

“And you must have an axe and bloodstained sheets!⁠ ⁠… You lawyers! Well, I will prove it to you then! Do give up your slipshod attitude to the psychological aspect of the case. Your Marya Ivanovna ought to be in Siberia! I’ll prove it. If theoretical proof is not enough for you, I have something material.⁠ ⁠… It will show you how right my theory is! Only let me go about a little!”

“What are you talking about?”

“The Swedish match! Have you forgotten? I haven’t forgotten it! I’ll find out who struck it in the murdered man’s room! It was not struck by Nikolashka, nor by Psyekov, neither of whom turned out to have matches when searched, but a third person, that is Marya Ivanovna. And I will prove it!⁠ ⁠… Only let me drive about the district, make some inquiries.⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh, very well, sit down.⁠ ⁠… Let us proceed to the examination.”

Dyukovsky sat down to the table, and thrust his long nose into the papers.

“Bring in Nikolay Tetchov!” cried the examining magistrate.

Nikolashka was brought in. He was pale and thin as a chip. He was trembling.

“Tetchov!” began Tchubikov. “In 1879 you were convicted of theft and condemned to a term of imprisonment. In 1882 you were condemned for theft a second time, and a second time sent to prison⁠ ⁠… We know all about it.⁠ ⁠…”

A look of surprise came up into Nikolashka’s face. The examining magistrate’s omniscience amazed him, but soon wonder was replaced by an expression of extreme distress. He broke into sobs, and asked leave to go to wash, and calm himself. He was led out.

“Bring in Psyekov!” said the examining magistrate.

Psyekov was led in. The young man’s face had greatly changed during those twelve days. He was thin, pale, and wasted. There was a look of apathy in his eyes.

“Sit down, Psyekov,” said Tchubikov. “I hope that today you will be sensible and not persist in lying as on other occasions. All this time you have denied your participation in the murder of Klyauzov, in spite of the mass of evidence against you. It is senseless. Confession is some mitigation of guilt. Today I am talking to you for the last time. If you don’t confess today, tomorrow it will be too late. Come, tell us.⁠ ⁠…”

“I know nothing, and I don’t know your evidence,” whispered Psyekov.

“That’s useless! Well then, allow me to tell you how it happened. On Saturday evening, you were sitting in Klyauzov’s bedroom drinking vodka and beer with him.” (Dyukovsky riveted his eyes on Psyekov’s face, and did not remove them during the whole monologue.) “Nikolay was waiting upon you. Between twelve and one Mark Ivanitch told you he wanted to go to bed. He always did go to bed at that time. While he was taking off his boots and giving you some instructions regarding the estate, Nikolay and you at a given signal seized your intoxicated master and flung him back upon the bed. One of you sat on his feet, the other on his head. At that moment the lady, you know who, in a black dress, who had arranged with you beforehand the part she would take in the crime, came in from the passage. She picked up the pillow, and proceeded to smother him with it. During the struggle, the light went out. The woman took a box of Swedish matches out of her pocket and lighted the candle. Isn’t that right? I see from your face that what I say is true. Well, to proceed.⁠ ⁠… Having smothered him, and being convinced that he had ceased to breathe, Nikolay and you dragged him out of window and put him down near the burdocks. Afraid that he might regain consciousness, you struck him with something sharp. Then you carried him, and laid him for some time under a lilac bush. After resting and considering a little, you carried him⁠ ⁠… lifted him over the hurdle.⁠ ⁠… Then went along the road⁠ ⁠… Then comes the dam; near the dam you were frightened by a peasant. But what is the matter with you?”

Psyekov, white as a sheet, got up, staggering.

“I am suffocating!” he said. “Very well.⁠ ⁠… So be it.⁠ ⁠… Only I must go.⁠ ⁠… Please.”

Psyekov was led out.

“At last he has admitted it!” said Tchubikov, stretching at his ease. “He has given himself away! How neatly I caught him there.”

“And he didn’t deny the woman in black!” said Dyukovsky, laughing. “I am awfully worried over that Swedish match, though! I can’t endure it any longer. Goodbye! I am going!”

Dyukovsky put on his cap and went off. Tchubikov began interrogating Akulka.

Akulka declared that she knew nothing about it.⁠ ⁠…

“I have lived with you and with nobody else!” she said.

At six o’clock in the evening Dyukovsky returned. He was more excited than ever. His hands trembled so much that he could not unbutton his overcoat. His cheeks were burning. It was evident that he had not come back without news.

Veni, vidi, vici!” he cried, dashing into Tchubikov’s room and sinking into an armchair. “I vow on my honour, I begin to believe in my own genius. Listen, damnation take us! Listen and wonder, old friend! It’s comic and it’s sad. You have three in your grasp already⁠ ⁠… haven’t you? I have found a fourth murderer, or rather murderess, for it is a woman! And what a woman! I would have given ten years of my life merely to touch her shoulders. But⁠ ⁠… listen. I drove to Klyauzovka and proceeded to describe a spiral round it. On the way I visited all the shopkeepers and innkeepers, asking for Swedish matches. Everywhere I was told ‘No.’ I have been on my round up to now. Twenty times I lost hope, and as many times regained it. I have been on the go all day long, and only an hour ago came upon what I was looking for. A couple of miles from here they gave me a packet of a dozen boxes of matches. One box was missing⁠ ⁠… I asked at once: ‘Who bought that box?’ ‘So-and-so. She took a fancy to them⁠ ⁠… They crackle.’ My dear fellow! Nikolay Yermolaitch! What can sometimes be done by a man who has been expelled from a seminary and studied Gaboriau is beyond all conception! From today I shall began to respect myself!⁠ ⁠… Ough.⁠ ⁠… Well, let us go!”

“Go where?”

“To her, to the fourth.⁠ ⁠… We must make haste, or⁠ ⁠… I shall explode with impatience! Do you know who she is? You will never guess. The young wife of our old police superintendent, Yevgraf Kuzmitch, Olga Petrovna; that’s who it is! She bought that box of matches!”

“You⁠ ⁠… you.⁠ ⁠… Are you out of your mind?”

“It’s very natural! In the first place she smokes, and in the second she was head over ears in love with Klyauzov. He rejected her love for the sake of an Akulka. Revenge. I remember now, I once came upon them behind the screen in the kitchen. She was cursing him, while he was smoking her cigarette and puffing the smoke into her face. But do come along; make haste, for it is getting dark already.⁠ ⁠… Let us go!”

“I have not gone so completely crazy yet as to disturb a respectable, honourable woman at night for the sake of a wretched boy!”

“Honourable, respectable.⁠ ⁠… You are a rag then, not an examining magistrate! I have never ventured to abuse you, but now you force me to it! You rag! you old fogey! Come, dear Nikolay Yermolaitch, I entreat you!”

The examining magistrate waved his hand in refusal and spat in disgust.

“I beg you! I beg you, not for my own sake, but in the interests of justice! I beseech you, indeed! Do me a favour, if only for once in your life!”

Dyukovsky fell on his knees.

“Nikolay Yermolaitch, do be so good! Call me a scoundrel, a worthless wretch if I am in error about that woman! It is such a case, you know! It is a case! More like a novel than a case. The fame of it will be all over Russia. They will make you examining magistrate for particularly important cases! Do understand, you unreasonable old man!”

The examining magistrate frowned and irresolutely put out his hand towards his hat.

“Well, the devil take you!” he said, “let us go.”

It was already dark when the examining magistrate’s wagonette rolled up to the police superintendent’s door.

“What brutes we are!” said Tchubikov, as he reached for the bell. “We are disturbing people.”

“Never mind, never mind, don’t be frightened. We will say that one of the springs has broken.”

Tchubikov and Dyukovsky were met in the doorway by a tall, plump woman of three and twenty, with eyebrows as black as pitch and full red lips. It was Olga Petrovna herself.

“Ah, how very nice,” she said, smiling all over her face. “You are just in time for supper. My Yevgraf Kuzmitch is not at home.⁠ ⁠… He is staying at the priest’s. But we can get on without him. Sit down. Have you come from an inquiry?”

“Yes.⁠ ⁠… We have broken one of our springs, you know,” began Tchubikov, going into the drawing room and sitting down in an easy-chair.

“Take her by surprise at once and overwhelm her,” Dyukovsky whispered to him.

“A spring⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… yes.⁠ ⁠… We just drove up.⁠ ⁠…”

“Overwhelm her, I tell you! She will guess if you go drawing it out.”

“Oh, do as you like, but spare me,” muttered Tchubikov, getting up and walking to the window. “I can’t! You cooked the mess, you eat it!”

“Yes, the spring,” Dyukovsky began, going up to the superintendent’s wife and wrinkling his long nose. “We have not come in to⁠ ⁠… er-er-er⁠ ⁠… supper, nor to see Yevgraf Kuzmitch. We have come to ask you, madam, where is Mark Ivanovitch whom you have murdered?”

“What? What Mark Ivanovitch?” faltered the superintendent’s wife, and her full face was suddenly in one instant suffused with crimson. “I⁠ ⁠… don’t understand.”

“I ask you in the name of the law! Where is Klyauzov? We know all about it!”

“Through whom?” the superintendent’s wife asked slowly, unable to face Dyukovsky’s eyes.

“Kindly inform us where he is!”

“But how did you find out? Who told you?”

“We know all about it. I insist in the name of the law.”

The examining magistrate, encouraged by the lady’s confusion, went up to her.

“Tell us and we will go away. Otherwise we⁠ ⁠…”

“What do you want with him?”

“What is the object of such questions, madam? We ask you for information. You are trembling, confused.⁠ ⁠… Yes, he has been murdered, and if you will have it, murdered by you! Your accomplices have betrayed you!”

The police superintendent’s wife turned pale.

“Come along,” she said quietly, wringing her hands. “He is hidden in the bathhouse. Only for God’s sake, don’t tell my husband! I implore you! It would be too much for him.”

The superintendent’s wife took a big key from the wall, and led her visitors through the kitchen and the passage into the yard. It was dark in the yard. There was a drizzle of fine rain. The superintendent’s wife went on ahead. Tchubikov and Dyukovsky strode after her through the long grass, breathing in the smell of wild hemp and slops, which made a squelching sound under their feet. It was a big yard. Soon there were no more pools of slops, and their feet felt ploughed land. In the darkness they saw the silhouette of trees, and among the trees a little house with a crooked chimney.

“This is the bathhouse,” said the superintendent’s wife, “but, I implore you, do not tell anyone.”

Going up to the bathhouse, Tchubikov and Dyukovsky saw a large padlock on the door.

“Get ready your candle-end and matches,” Tchubikov whispered to his assistant.

The superintendent’s wife unlocked the padlock and let the visitors into the bathhouse. Dyukovsky struck a match and lighted up the entry. In the middle of it stood a table. On the table, beside a podgy little samovar, was a soup tureen with some cold cabbage-soup in it, and a dish with traces of some sauce on it.

“Go on!”

They went into the next room, the bathroom. There, too, was a table. On the table there stood a big dish of ham, a bottle of vodka, plates, knives and forks.

“But where is he⁠ ⁠… where’s the murdered man?”

“He is on the top shelf,” whispered the superintendent’s wife, turning paler than ever and trembling.

Dyukovsky took the candle-end in his hand and climbed up to the upper shelf. There he saw a long, human body, lying motionless on a big feather bed. The body emitted a faint snore.⁠ ⁠…

“They have made fools of us, damn it all!” Dyukovsky cried. “This is not he! It is some living blockhead lying here. Hi! who are you, damnation take you!”

The body drew in its breath with a whistling sound and moved. Dyukovsky prodded it with his elbow. It lifted up its arms, stretched, and raised its head.

“Who is that poking?” a hoarse, ponderous bass voice inquired. “What do you want?”

Dyukovsky held the candle-end to the face of the unknown and uttered a shriek. In the crimson nose, in the ruffled, uncombed hair, in the pitch-black moustaches of which one was jauntily twisted and pointed insolently towards the ceiling, he recognised Cornet Klyauzov.

“You.⁠ ⁠… Mark⁠ ⁠… Ivanitch! Impossible!”

The examining magistrate looked up and was dumbfoundered.

“It is I, yes.⁠ ⁠… And it’s you, Dyukovsky! What the devil do you want here? And whose ugly mug is that down there? Holy Saints, it’s the examining magistrate! How in the world did you come here?”

Klyauzov hurriedly got down and embraced Tchubikov. Olga Petrovna whisked out of the door.

“However did you come? Let’s have a drink!⁠—dash it all! Tra-ta-ti-to-tom.⁠ ⁠… Let’s have a drink! Who brought you here, though? How did you get to know I was here? It doesn’t matter, though! Have a drink!”

Klyauzov lighted the lamp and poured out three glasses of vodka.

“The fact is, I don’t understand you,” said the examining magistrate, throwing out his hands. “Is it you, or not you?”

“Stop that.⁠ ⁠… Do you want to give me a sermon? Don’t trouble yourself! Dyukovsky boy, drink up your vodka! Friends, let us pass the⁠ ⁠… What are you staring at⁠ ⁠… ? Drink!”

“All the same, I can’t understand,” said the examining magistrate, mechanically drinking his vodka. “Why are you here?”

“Why shouldn’t I be here, if I am comfortable here?”

Klyauzov sipped his vodka and ate some ham.

“I am staying with the superintendent’s wife, as you see. In the wilds among the ruins, like some house goblin. Drink! I felt sorry for her, you know, old man! I took pity on her, and, well, I am living here in the deserted bathhouse, like a hermit.⁠ ⁠… I am well fed. Next week I am thinking of moving on.⁠ ⁠… I’ve had enough of it.⁠ ⁠…”

“Inconceivable!” said Dyukovsky.

“What is there inconceivable in it?”

“Inconceivable! For God’s sake, how did your boot get into the garden?”

“What boot?”

“We found one of your boots in the bedroom and the other in the garden.”

“And what do you want to know that for? It is not your business. But do drink, dash it all. Since you have waked me up, you may as well drink! There’s an interesting tale about that boot, my boy. I didn’t want to come to Olga’s. I didn’t feel inclined, you know, I’d had a drop too much.⁠ ⁠… She came under the window and began scolding me.⁠ ⁠… You know how women⁠ ⁠… as a rule. Being drunk, I up and flung my boot at her. Ha-ha!⁠ ⁠… ‘Don’t scold,’ I said. She clambered in at the window, lighted the lamp, and gave me a good drubbing, as I was drunk. I have plenty to eat here.⁠ ⁠… Love, vodka, and good things! But where are you off to? Tchubikov, where are you off to?”

The examining magistrate spat on the floor and walked out of the bathhouse. Dyukovsky followed him with his head hanging. Both got into the wagonette in silence and drove off. Never had the road seemed so long and dreary. Both were silent. Tchubikov was shaking with anger all the way. Dyukovsky hid his face in his collar as though he were afraid the darkness and the drizzling rain might read his shame on his face.

On getting home the examining magistrate found the doctor, Tyutyuev, there. The doctor was sitting at the table and heaving deep sighs as he turned over the pages of the Neva.

“The things that are going on in the world,” he said, greeting the examining magistrate with a melancholy smile. “Austria is at it again⁠ ⁠… and Gladstone, too, in a way.⁠ ⁠…”

Tchubikov flung his hat under the table and began to tremble.

“You devil of a skeleton! Don’t bother me! I’ve told you a thousand times over, don’t bother me with your politics! It’s not the time for politics! And as for you,” he turned upon Dyukovsky and shook his fist at him, “as for you.⁠ ⁠… I’ll never forget it, as long as I live!”

“But the Swedish match, you know! How could I tell.⁠ ⁠…”

“Choke yourself with your match! Go away and don’t irritate me, or goodness knows what I shall do to you. Don’t let me set eyes on you.”

Dyukovsky heaved a sigh, took his hat, and went out.

“I’ll go and get drunk!” he decided, as he went out of the gate, and he sauntered dejectedly towards the tavern.

When the superintendent’s wife got home from the bathhouse she found her husband in the drawing room.

“What did the examining magistrate come about?” asked her husband.

“He came to say that they had found Klyauzov. Only fancy, they found him staying with another man’s wife.”

“Ah, Mark Ivanitch, Mark Ivanitch!” sighed the police superintendent, turning up his eyes. “I told you that dissipation would lead to no good! I told you so⁠—you wouldn’t heed me!”

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 name-day 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 tiptoe, 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 thickset, 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:

“Today, 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.⁠ ⁠…”

Small Fry

“Honored Sir, Father and Benefactor!” a petty clerk called Nevyrazimov was writing a rough copy of an Easter congratulatory letter. “I trust that you may spend this Holy Day even as many more to come, in good health and prosperity. And to your family also I⁠ ⁠…”

The lamp, in which the kerosene was getting low, was smoking and smelling. A stray cockroach was running about the table in alarm near Nevyrazimov’s writing hand. Two rooms away from the office Paramon the porter was for the third time cleaning his best boots, and with such energy that the sound of the blacking-brush and of his expectorations was audible in all the rooms.

“What else can I write to him, the rascal?” Nevyrazimov wondered, raising his eyes to the smutty ceiling.

On the ceiling he saw a dark circle⁠—the shadow of the lampshade. Below it was the dusty cornice, and lower still the wall, which had once been painted a bluish muddy color. And the office seemed to him such a place of desolation that he felt sorry, not only for himself, but even for the cockroach.

“When I am off duty I shall go away, but he’ll be on duty here all his cockroach-life,” he thought, stretching. “I am bored! Shall I clean my boots?”

And stretching once more, Nevyrazimov slouched lazily to the porter’s room. Paramon had finished cleaning his boots. Crossing himself with one hand and holding the brush in the other, he was standing at the open windowpane, listening.

“They’re ringing,” he whispered to Nevyrazimov, looking at him with eyes intent and wide open. “Already!”

Nevyrazimov put his ear to the open pane and listened. The Easter chimes floated into the room with a whiff of fresh spring air. The booming of the bells mingled with the rumble of carriages, and above the chaos of sounds rose the brisk tenor tones of the nearest church and a loud shrill laugh.

“What a lot of people!” sighed Nevyrazimov, looking down into the street, where shadows of men flitted one after another by the illumination lamps. “They’re all hurrying to the midnight service.⁠ ⁠… Our fellows have had a drink by now, you may be sure, and are strolling about the town. What a lot of laughter, what a lot of talk! I’m the only unlucky one, to have to sit here on such a day: And I have to do it every year!”

“Well, nobody forces you to take the job. It’s not your turn to be on duty today, but Zastupov hired you to take his place. When other folks are enjoying themselves you hire yourself out. It’s greediness!”

“Devil a bit of it! Not much to be greedy over⁠—two roubles is all he gives me; a necktie as an extra.⁠ ⁠… It’s poverty, not greediness. And it would be jolly, now, you know, to be going with a party to the service, and then to break the fast.⁠ ⁠… To drink and to have a bit of supper and tumble off to sleep.⁠ ⁠… One sits down to the table, there’s an Easter cake and the samovar hissing, and some charming little thing beside you.⁠ ⁠… You drink a glass and chuck her under the chin, and it’s first-rate.⁠ ⁠… You feel you’re somebody.⁠ ⁠… Ech-h-h!⁠ ⁠… I’ve made a mess of things! Look at that hussy driving by in her carriage, while I have to sit here and brood.”

“We each have our lot in life, Ivan Danilitch. Please God, you’ll be promoted and drive about in your carriage one day.”

“I? No, brother, not likely. I shan’t get beyond a ‘titular,’ not if I try till I burst. I’m not an educated man.”

“Our General has no education either, but⁠ ⁠…”

“Well, but the General stole a hundred thousand before he got his position. And he’s got very different manners and deportment from me, brother. With my manners and deportment one can’t get far! And such a scoundrelly surname, Nevyrazimov! It’s a hopeless position, in fact. One may go on as one is, or one may hang oneself⁠ ⁠…”

He moved away from the window and walked wearily about the rooms. The din of the bells grew louder and louder.⁠ ⁠… There was no need to stand by the window to hear it. And the better he could hear the bells and the louder the roar of the carriages, the darker seemed the muddy walls and the smutty cornice and the more the lamp smoked.

“Shall I hook it and leave the office?” thought Nevyrazimov.

But such a flight promised nothing worth having.⁠ ⁠… After coming out of the office and wandering about the town, Nevyrazimov would have gone home to his lodging, and in his lodging it was even grayer and more depressing than in the office.⁠ ⁠… Even supposing he were to spend that day pleasantly and with comfort, what had he beyond? Nothing but the same gray walls, the same stopgap duty and complimentary letters.⁠ ⁠…

Nevyrazimov stood still in the middle of the office and sank into thought. The yearning for a new, better life gnawed at his heart with an intolerable ache. He had a passionate longing to find himself suddenly in the street, to mingle with the living crowd, to take part in the solemn festivity for the sake of which all those bells were clashing and those carriages were rumbling. He longed for what he had known in childhood⁠—the family circle, the festive faces of his own people, the white cloth, light, warmth⁠ ⁠… ! He thought of the carriage in which the lady had just driven by, the overcoat in which the head clerk was so smart, the gold chain that adorned the secretary’s chest.⁠ ⁠… He thought of a warm bed, of the Stanislav order, of new boots, of a uniform without holes in the elbows.⁠ ⁠… He thought of all those things because he had none of them.

“Shall I steal?” he thought. “Even if stealing is an easy matter, hiding is what’s difficult. Men run away to America, they say, with what they’ve stolen, but the devil knows where that blessed America is. One must have education even to steal, it seems.”

The bells died down. He heard only a distant noise of carriages and Paramon’s cough, while his depression and anger grew more and more intense and unbearable. The clock in the office struck half-past twelve.

“Shall I write a secret report? Proshkin did, and he rose rapidly.”

Nevyrazimov sat down at his table and pondered. The lamp in which the kerosene had quite run dry was smoking violently and threatening to go out. The stray cockroach was still running about the table and had found no resting-place.

“One can always send in a secret report, but how is one to make it up? I should want to make all sorts of innuendoes and insinuations, like Proshkin, and I can’t do it. If I made up anything I should be the first to get into trouble for it. I’m an ass, damn my soul!”

And Nevyrazimov, racking his brain for a means of escape from his hopeless position, stared at the rough copy he had written. The letter was written to a man whom he feared and hated with his whole soul, and from whom he had for the last ten years been trying to wring a post worth eighteen roubles a month, instead of the one he had at sixteen roubles.

“Ah, I’ll teach you to run here, you devil!” He viciously slapped the palm of his hand on the cockroach, who had the misfortune to catch his eye. “Nasty thing!”

The cockroach fell on its back and wriggled its legs in despair. Nevyrazimov took it by one leg and threw it into the lamp. The lamp flared up and spluttered.

And Nevyrazimov felt better.

In an Hotel

“Let me tell you, my good man,” began Madame Nashatyrin, the colonel’s lady at No. 47, crimson and spluttering, as she pounced on the hotelkeeper. “Either give me other apartments, or I shall leave your confounded hotel altogether! It’s a sink of iniquity! Mercy on us, I have grown-up daughters and one hears nothing but abominations day and night! It’s beyond everything! Day and night! Sometimes he fires off such things that it simply makes one’s ears blush! Positively like a cabman. It’s a good thing that my poor girls don’t understand or I should have to fly out into the street with them⁠ ⁠… He’s saying something now! You listen!”

“I know a thing better than that, my boy,” a husky bass floated in from the next room. “Do you remember Lieutenant Druzhkov? Well, that same Druzhkov was one day making a drive with the yellow into the pocket and as he usually did, you know, flung up his leg.⁠ ⁠… All at once something went crrr-ack! At first they thought he had torn the cloth of the billiard table, but when they looked, my dear fellow, his United States had split at every seam! He had made such a high kick, the beast, that not a seam was left.⁠ ⁠… Ha-ha-ha, and there were ladies present, too⁠ ⁠… among others the wife of that drivelling Lieutenant Okurin.⁠ ⁠… Okurin was furious.⁠ ⁠… ‘How dare the fellow,’ said he, ‘behave with impropriety in the presence of my wife?’ One thing led to another⁠ ⁠… you know our fellows!⁠ ⁠… Okurin sent seconds to Druzhkov, and Druzhkov said ‘don’t be a fool’⁠ ⁠… ha-ha-ha, ‘but tell him he had better send seconds not to me but to the tailor who made me those breeches; it is his fault, you know.’ Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha.⁠ ⁠…”

Lilya and Mila, the colonel’s daughters, who were sitting in the window with their round cheeks propped on their fists, flushed crimson and dropped their eyes that looked buried in their plump faces.

“Now you have heard him, haven’t you?” Madame Nashatyrin went on, addressing the hotelkeeper. “And that, you consider, of no consequence, I suppose? I am the wife of a colonel, sir! My husband is a commanding officer. I will not permit some cabman to utter such infamies almost in my presence!”

“He is not a cabman, madam, but the staff-captain Kikin.⁠ ⁠… A gentleman born.”

“If he has so far forgotten his station as to express himself like a cabman, then he is even more deserving of contempt! In short, don’t answer me, but kindly take steps!”

“But what can I do, madam? You are not the only one to complain, everybody’s complaining, but what am I to do with him? One goes to his room and begins putting him to shame, saying: ‘Hannibal Ivanitch, have some fear of God! It’s shameful! and he’ll punch you in the face with his fists and say all sorts of things: ‘there, put that in your pipe and smoke it,’ and suchlike. It’s a disgrace! He wakes up in the morning and sets to walking about the corridor in nothing, saving your presence, but his underclothes. And when he has had a drop he will pick up a revolver and set to putting bullets into the wall. By day he is swilling liquor and at night he plays cards like mad, and after cards it is fighting.⁠ ⁠… I am ashamed for the other lodgers to see it!”

“Why don’t you get rid of the scoundrel?”

“Why, there’s no getting him out! He owes me for three months, but we don’t ask for our money, we simply ask him to get out as a favour.⁠ ⁠… The magistrate has given him an order to clear out of the rooms, but he’s taking it from one court to another, and so it drags on.⁠ ⁠… He’s a perfect nuisance, that’s what he is. And, good Lord, such a man, too! Young, good-looking and intellectual.⁠ ⁠… When he hasn’t had a drop you couldn’t wish to see a nicer gentleman. The other day he wasn’t drunk and he spent the whole day writing letters to his father and mother.”

“Poor father and mother!” sighed the colonel’s lady.

“They are to be pitied, to be sure! There’s no comfort in having such a scamp! He’s sworn at and turned out of his lodgings, and not a day passes but he is in trouble over some scandal. It’s sad!”

“His poor unhappy wife!” sighed the lady.

“He has no wife, madam. A likely idea! She would have to thank God if her head were not broken.⁠ ⁠…”

The lady walked up and down the room.

“He is not married, you say?”

“Certainly not, madam.”

The lady walked up and down the room again and mused a little.

“H’m, not married⁠ ⁠…” she pronounced meditatively. “H’m. Lilya and Mila, don’t sit at the window, there’s a draught! What a pity! A young man and to let himself sink to this! And all owing to what? The lack of good influence! There is no mother who would.⁠ ⁠… Not married? Well⁠ ⁠… there it is.⁠ ⁠… Please be so good,” the lady continued suavely after a moment’s thought, “as to go to him and ask him in my name to⁠ ⁠… refrain from using expressions.⁠ ⁠… Tell him that Madame Nashatyrin begs him.⁠ ⁠… Tell him she is staying with her daughters in No. 47⁠ ⁠… that she has come up from her estate in the country.⁠ ⁠…”


“Tell him, a colonel’s lady and her daughters. He might even come and apologize.⁠ ⁠… We are always at home after dinner. Oh, Mila, shut the window!”

“Why, what do you want with that⁠ ⁠… black sheep, mamma?” drawled Lilya when the hotelkeeper had retired. “A queer person to invite! A drunken, rowdy rascal!”

“Oh, don’t say so, ma chère! You always talk like that; and there⁠ ⁠… sit down! Why, whatever he may be, we ought not to despise him.⁠ ⁠… There’s something good in everyone. Who knows,” sighed the colonel’s lady, looking her daughters up and down anxiously, “perhaps your fate is here. Change your dresses anyway.⁠ ⁠…”


A piano-tuner called Murkin, a close-shaven man with a yellow face, with a nose stained with snuff, and cotton-wool in his ears, came out of his hotel room into the passage, and in a cracked voice cried: “Semyon! Waiter!”

And looking at his frightened face one might have supposed that the ceiling had fallen in on him or that he had just seen a ghost in his room.

“Upon my word, Semyon!” he cried, seeing the attendant running towards him. “What is the meaning of it? I am a rheumatic, delicate man and you make me go barefoot! Why is it you don’t give me my boots all this time? Where are they?”

Semyon went into Murkin’s room, looked at the place where he was in the habit of putting the boots he had cleaned, and scratched his head: the boots were not there.

“Where can they be, the damned things?” Semyon brought out. “I fancy I cleaned them in the evening and put them here.⁠ ⁠… H’m!⁠ ⁠… Yesterday, I must own, I had a drop.⁠ ⁠… I must have put them in another room, I suppose. That must be it, Afanasy Yegoritch, they are in another room! There are lots of boots, and how the devil is one to know them apart when one is drunk and does not know what one is doing?⁠ ⁠… I must have taken them in to the lady that’s next door⁠ ⁠… the actress.⁠ ⁠…”

“And now, if you please, I am to go in to a lady and disturb her all through you! Here, if you please, through this foolishness I am to wake up a respectable woman.”

Sighing and coughing, Murkin went to the door of the next room and cautiously tapped.

“Who’s there?” he heard a woman’s voice a minute later.

“It’s I!” Murkin began in a plaintive voice, standing in the attitude of a cavalier addressing a lady of the highest society. “Pardon my disturbing you, madam, but I am a man in delicate health, rheumatic.⁠ ⁠… The doctors, madam, have ordered me to keep my feet warm, especially as I have to go at once to tune the piano at Madame la Générale Shevelitsyn’s. I can’t go to her barefoot.”

“But what do you want? What piano?”

“Not a piano, madam; it is in reference to boots! Semyon, stupid fellow, cleaned my boots and put them by mistake in your room. Be so extremely kind, madam, as to give me my boots!”

There was a sound of rustling, of jumping off the bed and the flapping of slippers, after which the door opened slightly and a plump feminine hand flung at Murkin’s feet a pair of boots. The piano-tuner thanked her and went into his own room.

“Odd⁠ ⁠…” he muttered, putting on the boots, “it seems as though this is not the right boot. Why, here are two left boots! Both are for the left foot! I say, Semyon, these are not my boots! My boots have red tags and no patches on them, and these are in holes and have no tags.”

Semyon picked up the boots, turned them over several times before his eyes, and frowned.

“Those are Pavel Alexandritch’s boots,” he grumbled, squinting at them. He squinted with the left eye.

“What Pavel Alexandritch?”

“The actor; he comes here every Tuesday.⁠ ⁠… He must have put on yours instead of his own.⁠ ⁠… So I must have put both pairs in her room, his and yours. Here’s a go!”

“Then go and change them!”

“That’s all right!” sniggered Semyon, “go and change them.⁠ ⁠… Where am I to find him now? He went off an hour ago.⁠ ⁠… Go and look for the wind in the fields!”

“Where does he live then?”

“Who can tell? He comes here every Tuesday, and where he lives I don’t know. He comes and stays the night, and then you may wait till next Tuesday.⁠ ⁠…”

“There, do you see, you brute, what you have done? Why, what am I to do now? It is time I was at Madame la Générale Shevelitsyn’s, you anathema! My feet are frozen!”

“You can change the boots before long. Put on these boots, go about in them till the evening, and in the evening go to the theatre.⁠ ⁠… Ask there for Blistanov, the actor.⁠ ⁠… If you don’t care to go to the theatre, you will have to wait till next Tuesday; he only comes here on Tuesdays.⁠ ⁠…”

“But why are there two boots for the left foot?” asked the piano-tuner, picking up the boots with an air of disgust.

“What God has sent him, that he wears. Through poverty⁠ ⁠… where is an actor to get boots? I said to him ‘What boots, Pavel Alexandritch! They are a positive disgrace!’ and he said: ‘Hold your peace,’ says he, ‘and turn pale! In those very boots,’ says he, ‘I have played counts and princes.’ A queer lot! Artists, that’s the only word for them! If I were the governor or anyone in command, I would get all these actors together and clap them all in prison.”

Continually sighing and groaning and knitting his brows, Murkin drew the two left boots on to his feet, and set off, limping, to Madame la Générale Shevelitsyn’s. He went about the town all day long tuning pianos, and all day long it seemed to him that everyone was looking at his feet and seeing his patched boots with heels worn down at the sides! Apart from his moral agonies he had to suffer physically also; the boots gave him a corn.

In the evening he was at the theatre. There was a performance of Bluebeard. It was only just before the last act, and then only thanks to the good offices of a man he knew who played a flute in the orchestra, that he gained admittance behind the scenes. Going to the men’s dressing room, he found there all the male performers. Some were changing their clothes, others were painting their faces, others were smoking. Bluebeard was standing with King Bobesh, showing him a revolver.

“You had better buy it,” said Bluebeard. “I bought it at Kursk, a bargain, for eight roubles, but, there! I will let you have it for six.⁠ ⁠… A wonderfully good one!”

“Steady.⁠ ⁠… It’s loaded, you know!”

“Can I see Mr. Blistanov?” the piano-tuner asked as he went in.

“I am he!” said Bluebeard, turning to him. “What do you want?”

“Excuse my troubling you, sir,” began the piano-tuner in an imploring voice, “but, believe me, I am a man in delicate health, rheumatic. The doctors have ordered me to keep my feet warm⁠ ⁠…”

“But, speaking plainly, what do you want?”

“You see,” said the piano-tuner, addressing Bluebeard. “Er⁠ ⁠… you stayed last night at Buhteyev’s furnished apartments⁠ ⁠… No. 64⁠ ⁠…”

“What’s this nonsense?” said King Bobesh with a grin. “My wife is at No. 64.”

“Your wife, sir? Delighted.⁠ ⁠…” Murkin smiled. “It was she, your good lady, who gave me this gentleman’s boots.⁠ ⁠… After this gentleman⁠—” the piano-tuner indicated Blistanov⁠—“had gone away I missed my boots.⁠ ⁠… I called the waiter, you know, and he said: ‘I left your boots in the next room!’ By mistake, being in a state of intoxication, he left my boots as well as yours at 64,” said Murkin, turning to Blistanov, “and when you left this gentleman’s lady you put on mine.”

“What are you talking about?” said Blistanov, and he scowled. “Have you come here to libel me?”

“Not at all, sir⁠—God forbid! You misunderstand me. What am I talking about? About boots! You did stay the night at No. 64, didn’t you?”


“Last night!”

“Why, did you see me there?”

“No, sir, I didn’t see you,” said Murkin in great confusion, sitting down and taking off the boots. “I did not see you, but this gentleman’s lady threw out your boots here to me⁠ ⁠… instead of mine.”

“What right have you, sir, to make such assertions? I say nothing about myself, but you are slandering a woman, and in the presence of her husband, too!”

A fearful hubbub arose behind the scenes. King Bobesh, the injured husband, suddenly turned crimson and brought his fist down upon the table with such violence that two actresses in the next dressing room felt faint.

“And you believe it?” cried Bluebeard. “You believe this worthless rascal? O-oh! Would you like me to kill him like a dog? Would you like it? I will turn him into a beefsteak! I’ll blow his brains out!”

And all the persons who were promenading that evening in the town park by the Summer theatre describe to this day how just before the fourth act they saw a man with bare feet, a yellow face, and terror-stricken eyes dart out of the theatre and dash along the principal avenue. He was pursued by a man in the costume of Bluebeard, armed with a revolver. What happened later no one saw. All that is known is that Murkin was confined to his bed for a fortnight after his acquaintance with Blistanov, and that to the words “I am a man in delicate health, rheumatic” he took to adding, “I am a wounded man.⁠ ⁠…”


Dmitri Osipovitch Vaxin, the architect, returned from town to his holiday cottage greatly impressed by the spiritualistic séance at which he had been present. As he undressed and got into his solitary bed (Madame Vaxin had gone to an all-night service) he could not help remembering all he had seen and heard. It had not, properly speaking, been a séance at all, but the whole evening had been spent in terrifying conversation. A young lady had begun it by talking, apropos of nothing, about thought-reading. From thought-reading they had passed imperceptibly to spirits, and from spirits to ghosts, from ghosts to people buried alive.⁠ ⁠… A gentleman had read a horrible story of a corpse turning round in the coffin. Vaxin himself had asked for a saucer and shown the young ladies how to converse with spirits. He had called up among others the spirit of his deceased uncle, Klavdy Mironitch, and had mentally asked him:

“Has not the time come for me to transfer the ownership of our house to my wife?”

To which his uncle’s spirit had replied:

“All things are good in their season.”

“There is a great deal in nature that is mysterious and⁠ ⁠… terrible⁠ ⁠…” thought Vaxin, as he got into bed. “It’s not the dead but the unknown that’s so horrible.”

It struck one o’clock. Vaxin turned over on the other side and peeped out from beneath the bedclothes at the blue light of the lamp burning before the holy icon. The flame flickered and cast a faint light on the icon-stand and the big portrait of Uncle Klavdy that hung facing his bed.

“And what if the ghost of Uncle Klavdy should appear this minute?” flashed through Vaxin’s mind. “But, of course, that’s impossible.”

Ghosts are, we all know, a superstition, the offspring of undeveloped intelligence, but Vaxin, nevertheless, pulled the bedclothes over his head, and shut his eyes very tight. The corpse that turned round in its coffin came back to his mind, and the figures of his deceased mother-in-law, of a colleague who had hanged himself, and of a girl who had drowned herself, rose before his imagination.⁠ ⁠… Vaxin began trying to dispel these gloomy ideas, but the more he tried to drive them away the more haunting the figures and fearful fancies became. He began to feel frightened.

“Hang it all!” he thought. “Here I am afraid in the dark like a child! Idiotic!”

Tick⁠ ⁠… tick⁠ ⁠… tick⁠ ⁠… he heard the clock in the next room. The church-bell chimed the hour in the churchyard close by. The bell tolled slowly, depressingly, mournfully.⁠ ⁠… A cold chill ran down Vaxin’s neck and spine. He fancied he heard someone breathing heavily over his head, as though Uncle Klavdy had stepped out of his frame and was bending over his nephew.⁠ ⁠… Vaxin felt unbearably frightened. He clenched his teeth and held his breath in terror.

At last, when a cockchafer flew in at the open window and began buzzing over his bed, he could bear it no longer and gave a violent tug at the bellrope.

“Dmitri Osipitch, was wollen Sie?” he heard the voice of the German governess at his door a moment later.

“Ah, it’s you, Rosalia Karlovna!” Vaxin cried, delighted. “Why do you trouble? Gavrila might just⁠ ⁠…”

“Yourself Gavrila to the town sent. And Glafira is somewhere all the evening gone.⁠ ⁠… There’s nobody in the house.⁠ ⁠… Was wollen Sie doch?”

“Well, what I wanted⁠ ⁠… it’s⁠ ⁠… but, please, come in⁠ ⁠… you needn’t mind!⁠ ⁠… it’s dark.”

Rosalia Karlovna, a stout red-cheeked person, came in to the bedroom and stood in an expectant attitude at the door.

“Sit down, please⁠ ⁠… you see, it’s like this.⁠ ⁠… What on earth am I to ask her for?” he wondered, stealing a glance at Uncle Klavdy’s portrait and feeling his soul gradually returning to tranquility.

“What I really wanted to ask you was⁠ ⁠… Oh, when the man goes to town, don’t forget to tell him to⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… to get some cigarette-papers.⁠ ⁠… But do, please sit down.”

“Cigarette-papers? good.⁠ ⁠… Was wollen Sie noch?”

Ich will⁠ ⁠… there’s nothing I will, but⁠ ⁠… But do sit down! I shall think of something else in a minute.”

“It is shocking for a maiden in a man’s room to remain.⁠ ⁠… Mr. Vaxin, you are, I see, a naughty man.⁠ ⁠… I understand.⁠ ⁠… To order cigarette-papers one does not a person wake.⁠ ⁠… I understand you.⁠ ⁠…”

Rosalia Karlovna turned and went out of the room.

Somewhat reassured by his conversation with her and ashamed of his cowardice, Vaxin pulled the bedclothes over his head and shut his eyes. For about ten minutes he felt fairly comfortable, then the same nonsense came creeping back into his mind.⁠ ⁠… He swore to himself, felt for the matches, and without opening his eyes lighted a candle.

But even the light was no use. To Vaxin’s excited imagination it seemed as though someone were peeping round the corner and that his uncle’s eyes were moving.

“I’ll ring her up again⁠ ⁠… damn the woman!” he decided. “I’ll tell her I’m unwell and ask for some drops.”

Vaxin rang. There was no response. He rang again, and as though answering his ring, he heard the church-bell toll the hour.

Overcome with terror, cold all over, he jumped out of bed, ran headlong out of his bedroom, and making the sign of the cross and cursing himself for his cowardice, he fled barefoot in his nightshirt to the governess’s room.

“Rosalia Karlovna!” he began in a shaking voice as he knocked at her door, “Rosalia Karlovna!⁠ ⁠… Are you asleep?⁠ ⁠… I feel⁠ ⁠… so⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… unwell.⁠ ⁠… Drops!⁠ ⁠…”

There was no answer. Silence reigned.

“I beg you⁠ ⁠… do you understand? I beg you! Why this squeamishness, I can’t understand⁠ ⁠… especially when a man⁠ ⁠… is ill⁠ ⁠… How absurdly zierlich manierlich you are really⁠ ⁠… at your age.⁠ ⁠…”

“I to your wife shall tell.⁠ ⁠… Will not leave an honest maiden in peace.⁠ ⁠… When I was at Baron Anzig’s, and the baron try to come to me for matches, I understand at once what his matches mean and tell to the baroness.⁠ ⁠… I am an honest maiden.”

“Hang your honesty! I am ill I tell you⁠ ⁠… and asking you for drops. Do you understand? I’m ill!”

“Your wife is an honest, good woman, and you ought her to love! Ja! She is noble!⁠ ⁠… I will not be her foe!”

“You are a fool! simply a fool! Do you understand, a fool?”

Vaxin leaned against the doorpost, folded his arms and waited for his panic to pass off. To return to his room where the lamp flickered and his uncle stared at him from his frame was more than he could face, and to stand at the governess’s door in nothing but his nightshirt was inconvenient from every point of view. What could he do?

It struck two o’clock and his terror had not left him. There was no light in the passage and something dark seemed to be peeping out from every corner. Vaxin turned so as to face the doorpost, but at that instant it seemed as though somebody tweaked his nightshirt from behind and touched him on the shoulder.

“Damnation!⁠ ⁠… Rosalia Karlovna!”

No answer. Vaxin hesitatingly opened the door and peeped into the room. The virtuous German was sweetly slumbering. The tiny flame of a night-light threw her solid buxom person into relief. Vaxin stepped into the room and sat down on a wickerwork trunk near the door. He felt better in the presence of a living creature, even though that creature was asleep.

“Let the German idiot sleep,” he thought, “I’ll sit here, and when it gets light I’ll go back.⁠ ⁠… It’s daylight early now.”

Vaxin curled up on the trunk and put his arm under his head to await the coming of dawn.

“What a thing it is to have nerves!” he reflected. “An educated, intelligent man!⁠ ⁠… Hang it all!⁠ ⁠… It’s a perfect disgrace!”

As he listened to the gentle, even breathing of Rosalia Karlovna, he soon recovered himself completely.

At six o’clock, Vaxin’s wife returned from the all-night service, and not finding her husband in their bedroom, went to the governess to ask her for some change for the cabman.

On entering the German’s room, a strange sight met her eyes.

On the bed lay stretched Rosalia Karlovna fast asleep, and a couple of yards from her was her husband curled up on the trunk sleeping the sleep of the just and snoring loudly.

What she said to her husband, and how he looked when he woke, I leave to others to describe. It is beyond my powers.

A Country Cottage

Two young people who had not long been married were walking up and down the platform of a little country station. His arm was round her waist, her head was almost on his shoulder, and both were happy.

The moon peeped up from the drifting cloudlets and frowned, as it seemed, envying their happiness and regretting her tedious and utterly superfluous virginity. The still air was heavy with the fragrance of lilac and wild cherry. Somewhere in the distance beyond the line a corncrake was calling.

“How beautiful it is, Sasha, how beautiful!” murmured the young wife. “It all seems like a dream. See, how sweet and inviting that little copse looks! How nice those solid, silent telegraph posts are! They add a special note to the landscape, suggesting humanity, civilization in the distance.⁠ ⁠… Don’t you think it’s lovely when the wind brings the rushing sound of a train?”

“Yes.⁠ ⁠… But what hot little hands you’ve got⁠ ⁠… That’s because you’re excited, Varya.⁠ ⁠… What have you got for our supper tonight?”

“Chicken and salad.⁠ ⁠… It’s a chicken just big enough for two.⁠ ⁠… Then there is the salmon and sardines that were sent from town.”

The moon as though she had taken a pinch of snuff hid her face behind a cloud. Human happiness reminded her of her own loneliness, of her solitary couch beyond the hills and dales.

“The train is coming!” said Varya, “how jolly!”

Three eyes of fire could be seen in the distance. The stationmaster came out on the platform. Signal lights flashed here and there on the line.

“Let’s see the train in and go home,” said Sasha, yawning. “What a splendid time we are having together, Varya, it’s so splendid, one can hardly believe it’s true!”

The dark monster crept noiselessly alongside the platform and came to a standstill. They caught glimpses of sleepy faces, of hats and shoulders at the dimly lighted windows.

“Look! look!” they heard from one of the carriages. “Varya and Sasha have come to meet us! There they are!⁠ ⁠… Varya!⁠ ⁠… Varya.⁠ ⁠… Look!”

Two little girls skipped out of the train and hung on Varya’s neck. They were followed by a stout, middle-aged lady, and a tall, lanky gentleman with grey whiskers; behind them came two schoolboys, laden with bags, and after the schoolboys, the governess, after the governess the grandmother.

“Here we are, here we are, dear boy!” began the whiskered gentleman, squeezing Sasha’s hand. “Sick of waiting for us, I expect! You have been pitching into your old uncle for not coming down all this time, I daresay! Kolya, Kostya, Nina, Fifa⁠ ⁠… children! Kiss your cousin Sasha! We’re all here, the whole troop of us, just for three or four days.⁠ ⁠… I hope we shan’t be too many for you? You mustn’t let us put you out!”

At the sight of their uncle and his family, the young couple were horror-stricken. While his uncle talked and kissed them, Sasha had a vision of their little cottage: he and Varya giving up their three little rooms, all the pillows and bedding to their guests; the salmon, the sardines, the chicken all devoured in a single instant; the cousins plucking the flowers in their little garden, spilling the ink, filled the cottage with noise and confusion; his aunt talking continually about her ailments and her papa’s having been Baron von Fintich.⁠ ⁠…

And Sasha looked almost with hatred at his young wife, and whispered:

“It’s you they’ve come to see!⁠ ⁠… Damn them!”

“No, it’s you,” answered Varya, pale with anger. “They’re your relations! they’re not mine!”

And turning to her visitors, she said with a smile of welcome: “Welcome to the cottage!”

The moon came out again. She seemed to smile, as though she were glad she had no relations. Sasha, turning his head away to hide his angry despairing face, struggled to give a note of cordial welcome to his voice as he said:

“It is jolly of you! Welcome to the cottage!”


Marfa Petrovna Petchonkin, the General’s widow, who has been practising for ten years as a homeopathic doctor, is seeing patients in her study on one of the Tuesdays in May. On the table before her lie a chest of homeopathic drugs, a book on homeopathy, and bills from a homeopathic chemist. On the wall the letters from some Petersburg homeopath, in Marfa Petrovna’s opinion a very celebrated and great man, hang under glass in a gilt frame, and there also is a portrait of Father Aristark, to whom the lady owes her salvation⁠—that is, the renunciation of pernicious allopathy and the knowledge of the truth. In the vestibule patients are sitting waiting, for the most part peasants. All but two or three of them are barefoot, as the lady has given orders that their ill-smelling boots are to be left in the yard.

Marfa Petrovna has already seen ten patients when she calls the eleventh: “Gavrila Gruzd!”

The door opens and instead of Gavrila Gruzd, Zamuhrishen, a neighbouring landowner who has sunk into poverty, a little old man with sour eyes, and with a gentleman’s cap under his arm, walks into the room. He puts down his stick in the corner, goes up to the lady, and without a word drops on one knee before her.

“What are you about, Kuzma Kuzmitch?” cries the lady in horror, flushing crimson. “For goodness sake!”

“While I live I will not rise,” says Zamuhrishen, bending over her hand. “Let all the world see my homage on my knees, our guardian angel, benefactress of the human race! Let them! Before the good fairy who has given me life, guided me into the path of truth, and enlightened my scepticism I am ready not merely to kneel but to pass through fire, our miraculous healer, mother of the orphan and the widowed! I have recovered. I am a new man, enchantress!”

“I⁠ ⁠… I am very glad⁠ ⁠…” mutters the lady, flushing with pleasure. “It’s so pleasant to hear that⁠ ⁠… Sit down please! Why, you were so seriously ill that Tuesday.”

“Yes indeed, how ill I was! It’s awful to recall it,” says Zamuhrishen, taking a seat. “I had rheumatism in every part and every organ. I have been in misery for eight years, I’ve had no rest from it⁠ ⁠… by day or by night, my benefactress. I have consulted doctors, and I went to professors at Kazan; I have tried all sorts of mud-baths, and drunk waters, and goodness knows what I haven’t tried! I have wasted all my substance on doctors, my beautiful lady. The doctors did me nothing but harm. They drove the disease inwards. Drive in, that they did, but to drive out was beyond their science. All they care about is their fees, the brigands; but as for the benefit of humanity⁠—for that they don’t care a straw. They prescribe some quackery, and you have to drink it. Assassins, that’s the only word for them. If it hadn’t been for you, our angel, I should have been in the grave by now! I went home from you that Tuesday, looked at the pilules that you gave me then, and wondered what good there could be in them. Was it possible that those little grains, scarcely visible, could cure my immense, longstanding disease? That’s what I thought⁠—unbeliever that I was!⁠—and I smiled; but when I took the pilule⁠—it was instantaneous! It was as though I had not been ill, or as though it had been lifted off me. My wife looked at me with her eyes starting out of her head and couldn’t believe it. ‘Why, is it you, Kolya?’ ‘Yes, it is I,’ I said. And we knelt down together before the icon, and fell to praying for our angel: ‘Send her, O Lord, all that we are feeling!’ ”

Zamuhrishen wipes his eyes with his sleeve gets up from his chair, and shows a disposition to drop on one knee again; but the lady checks him and makes him sit down.

“It’s not me you must thank,” she says, blushing with excitement and looking enthusiastically at the portrait of Father Aristark. “It’s not my doing.⁠ ⁠… I am only the obedient instrument⁠ ⁠… It’s really a miracle. Rheumatism of eight years’ standing by one pilule of scrofuloso!”

“Excuse me, you were so kind as to give me three pilules. One I took at dinner and the effect was instantaneous! Another in the evening, and the third next day; and since then not a touch! Not a twinge anywhere! And you know I thought I was dying, I had written to Moscow for my son to come! The Lord has given you wisdom, our lady of healing! Now I am walking, and feel as though I were in Paradise. The Tuesday I came to you I was hobbling, and now I am ready to run after a hare.⁠ ⁠… I could live for a hundred years. There’s only one trouble, our lack of means. I’m well now, but what’s the use of health if there’s nothing to live on? Poverty weighs on me worse than illness.⁠ ⁠… For example, take this⁠ ⁠… It’s the time to sow oats, and how is one to sow it if one has no seed? I ought to buy it, but the money⁠ ⁠… everyone knows how we are off for money.⁠ ⁠…”

“I will give you oats, Kuzma Kuzmitch.⁠ ⁠… Sit down, sit down. You have so delighted me, you have given me so much pleasure that it’s not you but I that should say thank you!”

“You are our joy! That the Lord should create such goodness! Rejoice, Madam, looking at your good deeds!⁠ ⁠… While we sinners have no cause for rejoicing in ourselves.⁠ ⁠… We are paltry, poor-spirited, useless people⁠ ⁠… a mean lot.⁠ ⁠… We are only gentry in name, but in a material sense we are the same as peasants, only worse.⁠ ⁠… We live in stone houses, but it’s a mere make-believe⁠ ⁠… for the roof leaks. And there is no money to buy wood to mend it with.”

“I’ll give you the wood, Kuzma Kuzmitch.”

Zamuhrishen asks for and gets a cow too, a letter of recommendation for his daughter whom he wants to send to a boarding school, and⁠ ⁠… touched by the lady’s liberality he whimpers with excess of feeling, twists his mouth, and feels in his pocket for his handkerchief.⁠ ⁠…

Marfa Petrovna sees a red paper slip out of his pocket with his handkerchief and fall noiselessly to the floor.

“I shall never forget it to all eternity⁠ ⁠…” he mutters, “and I shall make my children and my grandchildren remember it⁠ ⁠… from generation to generation. ‘See, children,’ I shall say, ‘who has saved me from the grave, who⁠ ⁠…’ ”

When she has seen her patient out, the lady looks for a minute at Father Aristark with eyes full of tears, then turns her caressing, reverent gaze on the drug chest, the books, the bills, the armchair in which the man she had saved from death has just been sitting, and her eyes fall on the paper just dropped by her patient. She picks up the paper, unfolds it, and sees in it three pilules⁠—the very pilules she had given Zamuhrishen the previous Tuesday.

“They are the very ones,” she thinks puzzled. “… The paper is the same.⁠ ⁠… He hasn’t even unwrapped them! What has he taken then? Strange.⁠ ⁠… Surely he wouldn’t try to deceive me!”

And for the first time in her ten years of practice a doubt creeps into Marfa Petrovna’s mind.⁠ ⁠… She summons the other patients, and while talking to them of their complaints notices what has hitherto slipped by her ears unnoticed. The patients, every one of them as though they were in a conspiracy, first belaud her for their miraculous cure, go into raptures over her medical skill, and abuse allopath doctors, then when she is flushed with excitement, begin holding forth on their needs. One asks for a bit of land to plough, another for wood, a third for permission to shoot in her forests, and so on. She looks at the broad, benevolent countenance of Father Aristark who has revealed the truth to her, and a new truth begins gnawing at her heart. An evil oppressive truth.⁠ ⁠…

The deceitfulness of man!

The Fish

A summer morning. The air is still; there is no sound but the churring of a grasshopper on the river bank, and somewhere the timid cooing of a turtledove. Feathery clouds stand motionless in the sky, looking like snow scattered about.⁠ ⁠… Gerassim, the carpenter, a tall gaunt peasant, with a curly red head and a face overgrown with hair, is floundering about in the water under the green willow branches near an unfinished bathing shed.⁠ ⁠… He puffs and pants and, blinking furiously, is trying to get hold of something under the roots of the willows. His face is covered with perspiration. A couple of yards from him, Lubim, the carpenter, a young hunchback with a triangular face and narrow Chinese-looking eyes, is standing up to his neck in water. Both Gerassim and Lubim are in shirts and linen breeches. Both are blue with cold, for they have been more than an hour already in the water.

“But why do you keep poking with your hand?” cries the hunchback Lubim, shivering as though in a fever. “You blockhead! Hold him, hold him, or else he’ll get away, the anathema! Hold him, I tell you!”

“He won’t get away.⁠ ⁠… Where can he get to? He’s under a root,” says Gerassim in a hoarse, hollow bass, which seems to come not from his throat, but from the depths of his stomach. “He’s slippery, the beggar, and there’s nothing to catch hold of.”

“Get him by the gills, by the gills!”

“There’s no seeing his gills.⁠ ⁠… Stay, I’ve got hold of something.⁠ ⁠… I’ve got him by the lip⁠ ⁠… He’s biting, the brute!”

“Don’t pull him out by the lip, don’t⁠—or you’ll let him go! Take him by the gills, take him by the gills.⁠ ⁠… You’ve begun poking with your hand again! You are a senseless man, the Queen of Heaven forgive me! Catch hold!”

“Catch hold!” Gerassim mimics him. “You’re a fine one to give orders.⁠ ⁠… You’d better come and catch hold of him yourself, you hunchback devil.⁠ ⁠… What are you standing there for?”

“I would catch hold of him if it were possible. But can I stand by the bank, and me as short as I am? It’s deep there.”

“It doesn’t matter if it is deep.⁠ ⁠… You must swim.”

The hunchback waves his arms, swims up to Gerassim, and catches hold of the twigs. At the first attempt to stand up, he goes into the water over his head and begins blowing up bubbles.

“I told you it was deep,” he says, rolling his eyes angrily. “Am I to sit on your neck or what?”

“Stand on a root⁠ ⁠… there are a lot of roots like a ladder.” The hunchback gropes for a root with his heel, and tightly gripping several twigs, stands on it.⁠ ⁠… Having got his balance, and established himself in his new position, he bends down, and trying not to get the water into his mouth, begins fumbling with his right hand among the roots. Getting entangled among the weeds and slipping on the mossy roots he finds his hand in contact with the sharp pincers of a crayfish.

“As though we wanted to see you, you demon!” says Lubim, and he angrily flings the crayfish on the bank.

At last his hand feels Gerassim’s arm, and groping its way along it comes to something cold and slimy.

“Here he is!” says Lubim with a grin. “A fine fellow! Move your fingers, I’ll get him directly⁠ ⁠… by the gills. Stop, don’t prod me with your elbow.⁠ ⁠… I’ll have him in a minute, in a minute, only let me get hold of him.⁠ ⁠… The beggar has got a long way under the roots, there is nothing to get hold of.⁠ ⁠… One can’t get to the head⁠ ⁠… one can only feel its belly⁠ ⁠… kill that gnat on my neck⁠—it’s stinging! I’ll get him by the gills, directly.⁠ ⁠… Come to one side and give him a push! Poke him with your finger!”

The hunchback puffs out his cheeks, holds his breath, opens his eyes wide, and apparently has already got his fingers in the gills, but at that moment the twigs to which he is holding on with his left hand break, and losing his balance he plops into the water! Eddies race away from the bank as though frightened, and little bubbles come up from the spot where he has fallen in. The hunchback swims out and, snorting, clutches at the twigs.

“You’ll be drowned next, you stupid, and I shall have to answer for you,” wheezes Gerassim. “Clamber out, the devil take you! I’ll get him out myself.”

High words follow.⁠ ⁠… The sun is baking hot. The shadows begin to grow shorter and to draw in on themselves, like the horns of a snail.⁠ ⁠… The high grass warmed by the sun begins to give out a strong, heavy smell of honey. It will soon be midday, and Gerassim and Lubim are still floundering under the willow tree. The husky bass and the shrill, frozen tenor persistently disturb the stillness of the summer day.

“Pull him out by the gills, pull him out! Stay, I’ll push him out! Where are you shoving your great ugly fist? Poke him with your finger⁠—you pig’s face! Get round by the side! get to the left, to the left, there’s a big hole on the right! You’ll be a supper for the water-devil! Pull it by the lip!”

There is the sound of the flick of a whip.⁠ ⁠… A herd of cattle, driven by Yefim, the shepherd, saunter lazily down the sloping bank to drink. The shepherd, a decrepit old man, with one eye and a crooked mouth, walks with his head bowed, looking at his feet. The first to reach the water are the sheep, then come the horses, and last of all the cows.

“Push him from below!” he hears Lubim’s voice. “Stick your finger in! Are you deaf, fellow, or what? Tfoo!”

“What are you after, lads?” shouts Yefim.

“An eelpout! We can’t get him out! He’s hidden under the roots. Get round to the side! To the side!”

For a minute Yefim screws up his eye at the fishermen, then he takes off his bark shoes, throws his sack off his shoulders, and takes off his shirt. He has not the patience to take off his breeches, but, making the sign of the cross, he steps into the water, holding out his thin dark arms to balance himself.⁠ ⁠… For fifty paces he walks along the slimy bottom, then he takes to swimming.

“Wait a minute, lads!” he shouts. “Wait! Don’t be in a hurry to pull him out, you’ll lose him. You must do it properly!”

Yefim joins the carpenters and all three, shoving each other with their knees and their elbows, puffing and swearing at one another, bustle about the same spot. Lubim, the hunchback, gets a mouthful of water, and the air rings with his hard spasmodic coughing.

“Where’s the shepherd?” comes a shout from the bank. “Yefim! Shepherd! Where are you? The cattle are in the garden! Drive them out, drive them out of the garden! Where is he, the old brigand?”

First men’s voices are heard, then a woman’s. The master himself, Andrey Andreitch, wearing a dressing-gown made of a Persian shawl and carrying a newspaper in his hand, appears from behind the garden fence. He looks inquiringly towards the shouts which come from the river, and then trips rapidly towards the bathing shed.

“What’s this? Who’s shouting?” he asks sternly, seeing through the branches of the willow the three wet heads of the fishermen. “What are you so busy about there?”

“Catching a fish,” mutters Yefim, without raising his head.

“I’ll give it to you! The beasts are in the garden and he is fishing!⁠ ⁠… When will that bathing shed be done, you devils? You’ve been at work two days, and what is there to show for it?”

“It⁠ ⁠… will soon be done,” grunts Gerassim; “summer is long, you’ll have plenty of time to wash, your honour.⁠ ⁠… Pfrrr!⁠ ⁠… We can’t manage this eelpout here anyhow.⁠ ⁠… He’s got under a root and sits there as if he were in a hole and won’t budge one way or another.⁠ ⁠…”

“An eelpout?” says the master, and his eyes begin to glisten. “Get him out quickly then.”

“You’ll give us half a rouble for it presently if we oblige you.⁠ ⁠… A huge eelpout, as fat as a merchant’s wife.⁠ ⁠… It’s worth half a rouble, your honour, for the trouble.⁠ ⁠… Don’t squeeze him, Lubim, don’t squeeze him, you’ll spoil him! Push him up from below! Pull the root upwards, my good man⁠ ⁠… what’s your name? Upwards, not downwards, you brute! Don’t swing your legs!”

Five minutes pass, ten.⁠ ⁠… The master loses all patience.

“Vassily!” he shouts, turning towards the garden. “Vaska! Call Vassily to me!”

The coachman Vassily runs up. He is chewing something and breathing hard.

“Go into the water,” the master orders him. “Help them to pull out that eelpout. They can’t get him out.”

Vassily rapidly undresses and gets into the water.

“In a minute.⁠ ⁠… I’ll get him in a minute,” he mutters. “Where’s the eelpout? We’ll have him out in a trice! You’d better go, Yefim. An old man like you ought to be minding his own business instead of being here. Where’s that eelpout? I’ll have him in a minute.⁠ ⁠… Here he is! Let go.”

“What’s the good of saying that? We know all about that! You get it out!”

“But there is no getting it out like this! One must get hold of it by the head.”

“And the head is under the root! We know that, you fool!”

“Now then, don’t talk or you’ll catch it! You dirty cur!”

“Before the master to use such language,” mutters Yefim. “You won’t get him out, lads! He’s fixed himself much too cleverly!”

“Wait a minute, I’ll come directly,” says the master, and he begins hurriedly undressing. “Four fools, and can’t get an eelpout!”

When he is undressed, Andrey Andreitch gives himself time to cool and gets into the water. But even his interference leads to nothing.

“We must chop the root off,” Lubim decides at last. “Gerassim, go and get an axe! Give me an axe!”

“Don’t chop your fingers off,” says the master, when the blows of the axe on the root under water are heard. “Yefim, get out of this! Stay, I’ll get the eelpout.⁠ ⁠… You’ll never do it.”

The root is hacked a little. They partly break it off, and Andrey Andreitch, to his immense satisfaction, feels his fingers under the gills of the fish.

“I’m pulling him out, lads! Don’t crowd round⁠ ⁠… stand still.⁠ ⁠… I am pulling him out!”

The head of a big eelpout, and behind it its long black body, nearly a yard long, appears on the surface of the water. The fish flaps its tail heavily and tries to tear itself away.

“None of your nonsense, my boy! Fiddlesticks! I’ve got you! Aha!”

A honied smile overspreads all the faces. A minute passes in silent contemplation.

“A famous eelpout,” mutters Yefim, scratching under his shoulder-blades. “I’ll be bound it weighs ten pounds.”

“Mm!⁠ ⁠… Yes,” the master assents. “The liver is fairly swollen! It seems to stand out! A-ach!”

The fish makes a sudden, unexpected upward movement with its tail and the fishermen hear a loud splash⁠ ⁠… they all put out their hands, but it is too late; they have seen the last of the eelpout.

Gone Astray

A country village wrapped in the darkness of night. One o’clock strikes from the belfry. Two lawyers, called Kozyavkin and Laev, both in the best of spirits and a little unsteady on their legs, come out of the wood and turn towards the cottages.

“Well, thank God, we’ve arrived,” says Kozyavkin, drawing a deep breath. “Tramping four miles from the station in our condition is a feat. I am fearfully done up! And, as ill-luck would have it, not a fly to be seen.”

“Petya, my dear fellow.⁠ ⁠… I can’t.⁠ ⁠… I feel like dying if I’m not in bed in five minutes.”

“In bed! Don’t you think it, my boy! First we’ll have supper and a glass of red wine, and then you can go to bed. Verotchka and I will wake you up.⁠ ⁠… Ah, my dear fellow, it’s a fine thing to be married! You don’t understand it, you cold-hearted wretch! I shall be home in a minute, worn out and exhausted.⁠ ⁠… A loving wife will welcome me, give me some tea and something to eat, and repay me for my hard work and my love with such a fond and loving look out of her darling black eyes that I shall forget how tired I am, and forget the burglary and the law courts and the appeal division.⁠ ⁠… It’s glorious!”

“Yes⁠—I say, I feel as though my legs were dropping off, I can scarcely get along.⁠ ⁠… I am frightfully thirsty.⁠ ⁠…”

“Well, here we are at home.”

The friends go up to one of the cottages, and stand still under the nearest window.

“It’s a jolly cottage,” said Kozyavkin. “You will see tomorrow what views we have! There’s no light in the windows. Verotchka must have gone to bed, then; she must have got tired of sitting up. She’s in bed, and must be worrying at my not having turned up.” (He pushes the window with his stick, and it opens.) “Plucky girl! She goes to bed without bolting the window.” (He takes off his cape and flings it with his portfolio in at the window.) “I am hot! Let us strike up a serenade and make her laugh!” (He sings.) “The moon floats in the midnight sky.⁠ ⁠… Faintly stir the tender breezes.⁠ ⁠… Faintly rustle in the treetops.⁠ ⁠… Sing, sing, Alyosha! Verotchka, shall we sing you Schubert’s Serenade?” (He sings.)

His performance is cut short by a sudden fit of coughing. “Tphoo! Verotchka, tell Aksinya to unlock the gate for us!” (A pause.) “Verotchka! don’t be lazy, get up, darling!” (He stands on a stone and looks in at the window.) “Verotchka, my dumpling; Verotchka, my poppet⁠ ⁠… my little angel, my wife beyond compare, get up and tell Aksinya to unlock the gate for us! You are not asleep, you know. Little wife, we are really so done up and exhausted that we’re not in the mood for jokes. We’ve trudged all the way from the station! Don’t you hear? Ah, hang it all!” (He makes an effort to climb up to the window and falls down.) “You know this isn’t a nice trick to play on a visitor! I see you are just as great a schoolgirl as ever, Vera, you are always up to mischief!”

“Perhaps Vera Stepanovna is asleep,” says Laev.

“She isn’t asleep! I bet she wants me to make an outcry and wake up the whole neighbourhood. I’m beginning to get cross, Vera! Ach, damn it all! Give me a leg up, Alyosha; I’ll get in. You are a naughty girl, nothing but a regular schoolgirl⁠ ⁠… Give me a hoist.”

Puffing and panting, Laev gives him a leg up, and Kozyavkin climbs in at the window and vanishes into the darkness within.

“Vera!” Laev hears a minute later, “where are you?⁠ ⁠… D⁠—damnation! Tphoo! I’ve put my hand into something! Tphoo!”

There is a rustling sound, a flapping of wings, and the desperate cackling of a fowl.

“A nice state of things,” Laev hears. “Vera, where on earth did these chickens come from? Why, the devil, there’s no end of them! There’s a basket with a turkey in it.⁠ ⁠… It pecks, the nasty creature.”

Two hens fly out of the window, and cackling at the top of their voices, flutter down the village street.

“Alyosha, we’ve made a mistake!” says Kozyavkin in a lachrymose voice. “There are a lot of hens here.⁠ ⁠… I must have mistaken the house. Confound you, you are all over the place, you cursed brutes!”

“Well, then, make haste and come down. Do you hear? I am dying of thirst!”

“In a minute.⁠ ⁠… I am looking for my cape and portfolio.”

“Light a match.”

“The matches are in the cape.⁠ ⁠… I was a crazy idiot to get into this place. The cottages are exactly alike; the devil himself couldn’t tell them apart in the dark. Aie, the turkey’s pecked my cheek, nasty creature!”

“Make haste and get out or they’ll think we are stealing the chickens.”

“In a minute.⁠ ⁠… I can’t find my cape anywhere.⁠ ⁠… There are lots of old rags here, and I can’t tell where the cape is. Throw me a match.”

“I haven’t any.”

“We are in a hole, I must say! What am I to do? I can’t go without my cape and my portfolio. I must find them.”

“I can’t understand a man’s not knowing his own cottage,” says Laev indignantly. “Drunken beast.⁠ ⁠… If I’d known I was in for this sort of thing I would never have come with you. I should have been at home and fast asleep by now, and a nice fix I’m in here.⁠ ⁠… I’m fearfully done up and thirsty, and my head is going round.”

“In a minute, in a minute.⁠ ⁠… You won’t expire.”

A big cock flies crowing over Laev’s head. Laev heaves a deep sigh, and with a hopeless gesture sits down on a stone. He is beset with a burning thirst, his eyes are closing, his head drops forward.⁠ ⁠… Five minutes pass, ten, twenty, and Kozyavkin is still busy among the hens.

“Petya, will you be long?”

“A minute. I found the portfolio, but I have lost it again.”

Laev lays his head on his fists, and closes his eyes. The cackling of the fowls grows louder and louder. The inhabitants of the empty cottage fly out of the window and flutter round in circles, he fancies, like owls over his head. His ears ring with their cackle, he is overwhelmed with terror.

“The beast!” he thinks. “He invited me to stay, promising me wine and junket, and then he makes me walk from the station and listen to these hens.⁠ ⁠…”

In the midst of his indignation his chin sinks into his collar, he lays his head on his portfolio, and gradually subsides. Weariness gets the upper hand and he begins to doze.

“I’ve found the portfolio!” he hears Kozyavkin cry triumphantly. “I shall find the cape in a minute and then off we go!”

Then through his sleep he hears the barking of dogs. First one dog barks, then a second, and a third.⁠ ⁠… And the barking of the dogs blends with the cackling of the fowls into a sort of savage music. Someone comes up to Laev and asks him something. Then he hears someone climb over his head into the window, then a knocking and a shouting.⁠ ⁠… A woman in a red apron stands beside him with a lantern in her hand and asks him something.

“You’ve no right to say so,” he hears Kozyavkin’s voice. “I am a lawyer, a bachelor of laws⁠—Kozyavkin⁠—here’s my visiting card.”

“What do I want with your card?” says someone in a husky bass. “You’ve disturbed all my fowls, you’ve smashed the eggs! Look what you’ve done. The turkey poults were to have come out today or tomorrow, and you’ve smashed them. What’s the use of your giving me your card, sir?”

“How dare you interfere with me! No! I won’t have it!”

“I am thirsty,” thinks Laev, trying to open his eyes, and he feels somebody climb down from the window over his head.

“My name is Kozyavkin! I have a cottage here. Everyone knows me.”

“We don’t know anyone called Kozyavkin.”

“What are you saying? Call the elder. He knows me.”

“Don’t get excited, the constable will be here directly.⁠ ⁠… We know all the summer visitors here, but I’ve never seen you in my life.”

“I’ve had a cottage in Rottendale for five years.”

“Whew! Do you take this for the Dale? This is Sicklystead, but Rottendale is farther to the right, beyond the match factory. It’s three miles from here.”

“Bless my soul! Then I’ve taken the wrong turning!”

The cries of men and fowls mingle with the barking of dogs, and the voice of Kozyavkin rises above the chaos of confused sounds:

“You shut up! I’ll pay. I’ll show you whom you have to deal with!”

Little by little the voices die down. Laev feels himself being shaken by the shoulder.⁠ ⁠…

The Huntsman

A sultry, stifling midday. Not a cloudlet in the sky.⁠ ⁠… The sunbaked grass had a disconsolate, hopeless look: even if there were rain it could never be green again.⁠ ⁠… The forest stood silent, motionless, as though it were looking at something with its treetops or expecting something.

At the edge of the clearing a tall, narrow-shouldered man of forty in a red shirt, in patched trousers that had been a gentleman’s, and in high boots, was slouching along with a lazy, shambling step. He was sauntering along the road. On the right was the green of the clearing, on the left a golden sea of ripe rye stretched to the very horizon. He was red and perspiring, a white cap with a straight jockey peak, evidently a gift from some openhanded young gentleman, perched jauntily on his handsome flaxen head. Across his shoulder hung a game-bag with a blackcock lying in it. The man held a double-barrelled gun cocked in his hand, and screwed up his eyes in the direction of his lean old dog who was running on ahead sniffing the bushes. There was stillness all round, not a sound⁠ ⁠… everything living was hiding away from the heat.

“Yegor Vlassitch!” the huntsman suddenly heard a soft voice.

He started and, looking round, scowled. Beside him, as though she had sprung out of the earth, stood a pale-faced woman of thirty with a sickle in her hand. She was trying to look into his face, and was smiling diffidently.

“Oh, it is you, Pelagea!” said the huntsman, stopping and deliberately uncocking the gun. “H’m!⁠ ⁠… How have you come here?”

“The women from our village are working here, so I have come with them.⁠ ⁠… As a labourer, Yegor Vlassitch.”

“Oh⁠ ⁠…” growled Yegor Vlassitch, and slowly walked on.

Pelagea followed him. They walked in silence for twenty paces.

“I have not seen you for a long time, Yegor Vlassitch⁠ ⁠…” said Pelagea looking tenderly at the huntsman’s moving shoulders. “I have not seen you since you came into our hut at Easter for a drink of water⁠ ⁠… you came in at Easter for a minute and then God knows how⁠ ⁠… drunk⁠ ⁠… you scolded and beat me and went away⁠ ⁠… I have been waiting and waiting⁠ ⁠… I’ve tired my eyes out looking for you. Ah, Yegor Vlassitch, Yegor Vlassitch! you might look in just once!”

“What is there for me to do there?”

“Of course there is nothing for you to do⁠ ⁠… though to be sure⁠ ⁠… there is the place to look after.⁠ ⁠… To see how things are going.⁠ ⁠… You are the master.⁠ ⁠… I say, you have shot a blackcock, Yegor Vlassitch! You ought to sit down and rest!”

As she said all this Pelagea laughed like a silly girl and looked up at Yegor’s face. Her face was simply radiant with happiness.

“Sit down? If you like⁠ ⁠…” said Yegor in a tone of indifference, and he chose a spot between two fir trees. “Why are you standing? You sit down too.”

Pelagea sat a little way off in the sun and, ashamed of her joy, put her hand over her smiling mouth. Two minutes passed in silence.

“You might come for once,” said Pelagea.

“What for?” sighed Yegor, taking off his cap and wiping his red forehead with his hand. “There is no object in my coming. To go for an hour or two is only waste of time, it’s simply upsetting you, and to live continually in the village my soul could not endure.⁠ ⁠… You know yourself I am a pampered man.⁠ ⁠… I want a bed to sleep in, good tea to drink, and refined conversation.⁠ ⁠… I want all the niceties, while you live in poverty and dirt in the village.⁠ ⁠… I couldn’t stand it for a day. Suppose there were an edict that I must live with you, I should either set fire to the hut or lay hands on myself. From a boy I’ve had this love for ease; there is no help for it.”

“Where are you living now?”

“With the gentleman here, Dmitry Ivanitch, as a huntsman. I furnish his table with game, but he keeps me⁠ ⁠… more for his pleasure than anything.”

“That’s not proper work you’re doing, Yegor Vlassitch.⁠ ⁠… For other people it’s a pastime, but with you it’s like a trade⁠ ⁠… like real work.”

“You don’t understand, you silly,” said Yegor, gazing gloomily at the sky. “You have never understood, and as long as you live you will never understand what sort of man I am.⁠ ⁠… You think of me as a foolish man, gone to the bad, but to anyone who understands I am the best shot there is in the whole district. The gentry feel that, and they have even printed things about me in a magazine. There isn’t a man to be compared with me as a sportsman.⁠ ⁠… And it is not because I am pampered and proud that I look down upon your village work. From my childhood, you know, I have never had any calling apart from guns and dogs. If they took away my gun, I used to go out with the fishing-hook, if they took the hook I caught things with my hands. And I went in for horse-dealing too, I used to go to the fairs when I had the money, and you know that if a peasant goes in for being a sportsman, or a horse-dealer, it’s goodbye to the plough. Once the spirit of freedom has taken a man you will never root it out of him. In the same way, if a gentleman goes in for being an actor or for any other art, he will never make an official or a landowner. You are a woman, and you do not understand, but one must understand that.”

“I understand, Yegor Vlassitch.”

“You don’t understand if you are going to cry.⁠ ⁠…”

“I⁠ ⁠… I’m not crying,” said Pelagea, turning away. “It’s a sin, Yegor Vlassitch! You might stay a day with luckless me, anyway. It’s twelve years since I was married to you, and⁠ ⁠… and⁠ ⁠… there has never once been love between us!⁠ ⁠… I⁠ ⁠… I am not crying.”

“Love⁠ ⁠…” muttered Yegor, scratching his hand. “There can’t be any love. It’s only in name we are husband and wife; we aren’t really. In your eyes I am a wild man, and in mine you are a simple peasant woman with no understanding. Are we well matched? I am a free, pampered, profligate man, while you are a working woman, going in bark shoes and never straightening your back. The way I think of myself is that I am the foremost man in every kind of sport, and you look at me with pity.⁠ ⁠… Is that being well matched?”

“But we are married, you know, Yegor Vlassitch,” sobbed Pelagea.

“Not married of our free will.⁠ ⁠… Have you forgotten? You have to thank Count Sergey Pavlovitch and yourself. Out of envy, because I shot better than he did, the Count kept giving me wine for a whole month, and when a man’s drunk you could make him change his religion, let alone getting married. To pay me out he married me to you when I was drunk.⁠ ⁠… A huntsman to a herd-girl! You saw I was drunk, why did you marry me? You were not a serf, you know; you could have resisted. Of course it was a bit of luck for a herd-girl to marry a huntsman, but you ought to have thought about it. Well, now be miserable, cry. It’s a joke for the Count, but a crying matter for you.⁠ ⁠… Beat yourself against the wall.”

A silence followed. Three wild ducks flew over the clearing. Yegor followed them with his eyes till, transformed into three scarcely visible dots, they sank down far beyond the forest.

“How do you live?” he asked, moving his eyes from the ducks to Pelagea.

“Now I am going out to work, and in the winter I take a child from the Foundling Hospital and bring it up on the bottle. They give me a rouble and a half a month.”

“Oh.⁠ ⁠…”

Again a silence. From the strip that had been reaped floated a soft song which broke off at the very beginning. It was too hot to sing.

“They say you have put up a new hut for Akulina,” said Pelagea.

Yegor did not speak.

“So she is dear to you.⁠ ⁠…”

“It’s your luck, it’s fate!” said the huntsman, stretching. “You must put up with it, poor thing. But goodbye, I’ve been chattering long enough.⁠ ⁠… I must be at Boltovo by the evening.”

Yegor rose, stretched himself, and slung his gun over his shoulder; Pelagea got up.

“And when are you coming to the village?” she asked softly.

“I have no reason to, I shall never come sober, and you have little to gain from me drunk; I am spiteful when I am drunk. Goodbye!”

“Goodbye, Yegor Vlassitch.”

Yegor put his cap on the back of his head and, clicking to his dog, went on his way. Pelagea stood still looking after him.⁠ ⁠… She saw his moving shoulder-blades, his jaunty cap, his lazy, careless step, and her eyes were full of sadness and tender affection.⁠ ⁠… Her gaze flitted over her husband’s tall, lean figure and caressed and fondled it.⁠ ⁠… He, as though he felt that gaze, stopped and looked round.⁠ ⁠… He did not speak, but from his face, from his shrugged shoulders, Pelagea could see that he wanted to say something to her. She went up to him timidly and looked at him with imploring eyes.

“Take it,” he said, turning round.

He gave her a crumpled rouble note and walked quickly away.

“Goodbye, Yegor Vlassitch,” she said, mechanically taking the rouble.

He walked by a long road, straight as a taut strap. She, pale and motionless as a statue, stood, her eyes seizing every step he took. But the red of his shirt melted into the dark colour of his trousers, his step could not be seen, and the dog could not be distinguished from the boots. Nothing could be seen but the cap, and⁠ ⁠… suddenly Yegor turned off sharply into the clearing and the cap vanished in the greenness.

“Goodbye, Yegor Vlassitch,” whispered Pelagea, and she stood on tiptoe to see the white cap once more.

A Malefactor

An exceedingly lean little peasant, in a striped hempen shirt and patched drawers, stands facing the investigating magistrate. His face overgrown with hair and pitted with smallpox, and his eyes scarcely visible under thick, overhanging eyebrows have an expression of sullen moroseness. On his head there is a perfect mop of tangled, unkempt hair, which gives him an even more spider-like air of moroseness. He is barefooted.

“Denis Grigoryev!” the magistrate begins. “Come nearer, and answer my questions. On the seventh of this July the railway watchman, Ivan Semyonovitch Akinfov, going along the line in the morning, found you at the hundred-and-forty-first mile engaged in unscrewing a nut by which the rails are made fast to the sleepers. Here it is, the nut!⁠ ⁠… With the aforesaid nut he detained you. Was that so?”


“Was this all as Akinfov states?”

“To be sure, it was.”

“Very good; well, what were you unscrewing the nut for?”


“Drop that ‘wha-at’ and answer the question; what were you unscrewing the nut for?”

“If I hadn’t wanted it I shouldn’t have unscrewed it,” croaks Denis, looking at the ceiling.

“What did you want that nut for?”

“The nut? We make weights out of those nuts for our lines.”

“Who is ‘we’?”

“We, people.⁠ ⁠… The Klimovo peasants, that is.”

“Listen, my man; don’t play the idiot to me, but speak sensibly. It’s no use telling lies here about weights!”

“I’ve never been a liar from a child, and now I’m telling lies⁠ ⁠…” mutters Denis, blinking. “But can you do without a weight, your honour? If you put live bait or maggots on a hook, would it go to the bottom without a weight?⁠ ⁠… I am telling lies,” grins Denis.⁠ ⁠… “What the devil is the use of the worm if it swims on the surface! The perch and the pike and the eelpout always go to the bottom, and a bait on the surface is only taken by a shillisper, not very often then, and there are no shillispers in our river.⁠ ⁠… That fish likes plenty of room.”

“Why are you telling me about shillispers?”

“Wha-at? Why, you asked me yourself! The gentry catch fish that way too in our parts. The silliest little boy would not try to catch a fish without a weight. Of course anyone who did not understand might go to fish without a weight. There is no rule for a fool.”

“So you say you unscrewed this nut to make a weight for your fishing line out of it?”

“What else for? It wasn’t to play knuckle-bones with!”

“But you might have taken lead, a bullet⁠ ⁠… a nail of some sort.⁠ ⁠…”

“You don’t pick up lead in the road, you have to buy it, and a nail’s no good. You can’t find anything better than a nut.⁠ ⁠… It’s heavy, and there’s a hole in it.”

“He keeps pretending to be a fool! as though he’d been born yesterday or dropped from heaven! Don’t you understand, you blockhead, what unscrewing these nuts leads to? If the watchman had not noticed it the train might have run off the rails, people would have been killed⁠—you would have killed people.”

“God forbid, your honour! What should I kill them for? Are we heathens or wicked people? Thank God, good gentlemen, we have lived all our lives without ever dreaming of such a thing.⁠ ⁠… Save, and have mercy on us, Queen of Heaven!⁠ ⁠… What are you saying?”

“And what do you suppose railway accidents do come from? Unscrew two or three nuts and you have an accident.”

Denis grins, and screws up his eye at the magistrate incredulously.

“Why! how many years have we all in the village been unscrewing nuts, and the Lord has been merciful; and you talk of accidents, killing people. If I had carried away a rail or put a log across the line, say, then maybe it might have upset the train, but⁠ ⁠… pouf! a nut!”

“But you must understand that the nut holds the rail fast to the sleepers!”

“We understand that.⁠ ⁠… We don’t unscrew them all⁠ ⁠… we leave some.⁠ ⁠… We don’t do it thoughtlessly⁠ ⁠… we understand.⁠ ⁠…”

Denis yawns and makes the sign of the cross over his mouth.

“Last year the train went off the rails here,” says the magistrate. “Now I see why!”

“What do you say, your honour?”

“I am telling you that now I see why the train went off the rails last year.⁠ ⁠… I understand!”

“That’s what you are educated people for, to understand, you kind gentlemen. The Lord knows to whom to give understanding.⁠ ⁠… Here you have reasoned how and what, but the watchman, a peasant like ourselves, with no understanding at all, catches one by the collar and hauls one along.⁠ ⁠… You should reason first and then haul me off. It’s a saying that a peasant has a peasant’s wit.⁠ ⁠… Write down, too, your honour, that he hit me twice⁠—in the jaw and in the chest.”

“When your hut was searched they found another nut.⁠ ⁠… At what spot did you unscrew that, and when?”

“You mean the nut which lay under the red box?”

“I don’t know where it was lying, only it was found. When did you unscrew it?”

“I didn’t unscrew it; Ignashka, the son of one-eyed Semyon, gave it me. I mean the one which was under the box, but the one which was in the sledge in the yard Mitrofan and I unscrewed together.”

“What Mitrofan?”

“Mitrofan Petrov.⁠ ⁠… Haven’t you heard of him? He makes nets in our village and sells them to the gentry. He needs a lot of those nuts. Reckon a matter of ten for each net.”

“Listen. Article 1081 of the Penal Code lays down that every wilful damage of the railway line committed when it can expose the traffic on that line to danger, and the guilty party knows that an accident must be caused by it⁠ ⁠… (Do you understand? Knows! And you could not help knowing what this unscrewing would lead to⁠ ⁠…) is liable to penal servitude.”

“Of course, you know best.⁠ ⁠… We are ignorant people.⁠ ⁠… What do we understand?”

“You understand all about it! You are lying, shamming!”

“What should I lie for? Ask in the village if you don’t believe me. Only a bleak is caught without a weight, and there is no fish worse than a gudgeon, yet even that won’t bite without a weight.”

“You’d better tell me about the shillisper next,” said the magistrate, smiling.

“There are no shillispers in our parts.⁠ ⁠… We cast our line without a weight on the top of the water with a butterfly; a mullet may be caught that way, though that is not often.”

“Come, hold your tongue.”

A silence follows. Denis shifts from one foot to the other, looks at the table with the green cloth on it, and blinks his eyes violently as though what was before him was not the cloth but the sun. The magistrate writes rapidly.

“Can I go?” asks Denis after a long silence.

“No. I must take you under guard and send you to prison.”

Denis leaves off blinking and, raising his thick eyebrows, looks inquiringly at the magistrate.

“How do you mean, to prison? Your honour! I have no time to spare, I must go to the fair; I must get three roubles from Yegor for some tallow!⁠ ⁠…”

“Hold your tongue; don’t interrupt.”

“To prison.⁠ ⁠… If there was something to go for, I’d go; but just to go for nothing! What for? I haven’t stolen anything, I believe, and I’ve not been fighting.⁠ ⁠… If you are in doubt about the arrears, your honour, don’t believe the elder.⁠ ⁠… You ask the agent⁠ ⁠… he’s a regular heathen, the elder, you know.”

“Hold your tongue.”

“I am holding my tongue, as it is,” mutters Denis; “but that the elder has lied over the account, I’ll take my oath for it.⁠ ⁠… There are three of us brothers: Kuzma Grigoryev, then Yegor Grigoryev, and me, Denis Grigoryev.”

“You are hindering me.⁠ ⁠… Hey, Semyon,” cries the magistrate, “take him away!”

“There are three of us brothers,” mutters Denis, as two stalwart soldiers take him and lead him out of the room. “A brother is not responsible for a brother. Kuzma does not pay, so you, Denis, must answer for it.⁠ ⁠… Judges indeed! Our master the general is dead⁠—the Kingdom of Heaven be his⁠—or he would have shown you judges.⁠ ⁠… You ought to judge sensibly, not at random.⁠ ⁠… Flog if you like, but flog someone who deserves it, flog with conscience.”

A Dead Body

A still August night. A mist is rising slowly from the fields and casting an opaque veil over everything within eyesight. Lighted up by the moon, the mist gives the impression at one moment of a calm, boundless sea, at the next of an immense white wall. The air is damp and chilly. Morning is still far off. A step from the byroad which runs along the edge of the forest a little fire is gleaming. A dead body, covered from head to foot with new white linen, is lying under a young oak tree. A wooden icon is lying on its breast. Beside the corpse almost on the road sits the “watch”⁠—two peasants performing one of the most disagreeable and uninviting of peasants’ duties. One, a tall young fellow with a scarcely perceptible moustache and thick black eyebrows, in a tattered sheepskin and bark shoes, is sitting on the wet grass, his feet stuck out straight in front of him, and is trying to while away the time with work. He bends his long neck, and breathing loudly through his nose, makes a spoon out of a big crooked bit of wood; the other⁠—a little scraggy, pockmarked peasant with an aged face, a scanty moustache, and a little goat’s beard⁠—sits with his hands dangling loose on his knees, and without moving gazes listlessly at the light. A small campfire is lazily burning down between them, throwing a red glow on their faces. There is perfect stillness. The only sounds are the scrape of the knife on the wood and the crackling of damp sticks in the fire.

“Don’t you go to sleep, Syoma⁠ ⁠…” says the young man.

“I⁠ ⁠… I am not asleep⁠ ⁠…” stammers the goat-beard.

“That’s all right.⁠ ⁠… It would be dreadful to sit here alone, one would be frightened. You might tell me something, Syoma.”

“You are a queer fellow, Syomushka! Other people will laugh and tell a story and sing a song, but you⁠—there is no making you out. You sit like a scarecrow in the garden and roll your eyes at the fire. You can’t say anything properly⁠ ⁠… when you speak you seem frightened. I dare say you are fifty, but you have less sense than a child. Aren’t you sorry that you are a simpleton?”

“I am sorry,” the goat-beard answers gloomily.

“And we are sorry to see your foolishness, you may be sure. You are a good-natured, sober peasant, and the only trouble is that you have no sense in your head. You should have picked up some sense for yourself if the Lord has afflicted you and given you no understanding. You must make an effort, Syoma.⁠ ⁠… You should listen hard when anything good’s being said, note it well, and keep thinking and thinking.⁠ ⁠… If there is any word you don’t understand, you should make an effort and think over in your head in what meaning the word is used. Do you see? Make an effort! If you don’t gain some sense for yourself you’ll be a simpleton and of no account at all to your dying day.”

All at once a long drawn-out, moaning sound is heard in the forest. Something rustles in the leaves as though torn from the very top of the tree and falls to the ground. All this is faintly repeated by the echo. The young man shudders and looks enquiringly at his companion.

“It’s an owl at the little birds,” says Syoma, gloomily.

“Why, Syoma, it’s time for the birds to fly to the warm countries!”

“To be sure, it is time.”

“It is chilly at dawn now. It is co-old. The crane is a chilly creature, it is tender. Such cold is death to it. I am not a crane, but I am frozen.⁠ ⁠… Put some more wood on!”

Syoma gets up and disappears in the dark undergrowth. While he is busy among the bushes, breaking dry twigs, his companion puts his hand over his eyes and starts at every sound. Syoma brings an armful of wood and lays it on the fire. The flame irresolutely licks the black twigs with its little tongues, then suddenly, as though at the word of command, catches them and throws a crimson light on the faces, the road, the white linen with its prominences where the hands and feet of the corpse raise it, the icon. The “watch” is silent. The young man bends his neck still lower and sets to work with still more nervous haste. The goat-beard sits motionless as before and keeps his eyes fixed on the fire.⁠ ⁠…

“Ye that love not Zion⁠ ⁠… shall be put to shame by the Lord.” A falsetto voice is suddenly heard singing in the stillness of the night, then slow footsteps are audible, and the dark figure of a man in a short monkish cassock and a broad-brimmed hat, with a wallet on his shoulders, comes into sight on the road in the crimson firelight.

“Thy will be done, O Lord! Holy Mother!” the figure says in a husky falsetto. “I saw the fire in the outer darkness and my soul leapt for joy.⁠ ⁠… At first I thought it was men grazing a drove of horses, then I thought it can’t be that, since no horses were to be seen. ‘Aren’t they thieves,’ I wondered, ‘aren’t they robbers lying in wait for a rich Lazarus? Aren’t they the gypsy people offering sacrifices to idols?’ And my soul leapt for joy. ‘Go, Feodosy, servant of God,’ I said to myself, ‘and win a martyr’s crown!’ And I flew to the fire like a light-winged moth. Now I stand before you, and from your outer aspect I judge of your souls: you are not thieves and you are not heathens. Peace be to you!”

“Good evening.”

“Good orthodox people, do you know how to reach the Makuhinsky Brickyards from here?”

“It’s close here. You go straight along the road; when you have gone a mile and a half there will be Ananova, our village. From the village, father, you turn to the right by the riverbank, and so you will get to the brickyards. It’s two miles from Ananova.”

“God give you health. And why are you sitting here?”

“We are sitting here watching. You see, there is a dead body.⁠ ⁠…”

“What? what body? Holy Mother!”

The pilgrim sees the white linen with the icon on it, and starts so violently that his legs give a little skip. This unexpected sight has an overpowering effect upon him. He huddles together and stands as though rooted to the spot, with wide-open mouth and staring eyes. For three minutes he is silent as though he could not believe his eyes, then begins muttering:

“O Lord! Holy Mother! I was going along not meddling with anyone, and all at once such an affliction.”

“What may you be?” enquires the young man. “Of the clergy?”

“No⁠ ⁠… no.⁠ ⁠… I go from one monastery to another.⁠ ⁠… Do you know Mi⁠ ⁠… Mihail Polikarpitch, the foreman of the brickyard? Well, I am his nephew.⁠ ⁠… Thy will be done, O Lord! Why are you here?”

“We are watching⁠ ⁠… we are told to.”

“Yes, yes⁠ ⁠…” mutters the man in the cassock, passing his hand over his eyes. “And where did the deceased come from?”

“He was a stranger.”

“Such is life! But I’ll⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… be getting on, brothers.⁠ ⁠… I feel flustered. I am more afraid of the dead than of anything, my dear souls! And only fancy! while this man was alive he wasn’t noticed, while now when he is dead and given over to corruption we tremble before him as before some famous general or a bishop.⁠ ⁠… Such is life; was he murdered, or what?”

“The Lord knows! Maybe he was murdered, or maybe he died of himself.”

“Yes, yes.⁠ ⁠… Who knows, brothers? Maybe his soul is now tasting the joys of Paradise.”

“His soul is still hovering here, near his body,” says the young man. “It does not depart from the body for three days.”

“H’m, yes!⁠ ⁠… How chilly the nights are now! It sets one’s teeth chattering.⁠ ⁠… So then I am to go straight on and on?⁠ ⁠…”

“Till you get to the village, and then you turn to the right by the riverbank.”

“By the riverbank.⁠ ⁠… To be sure.⁠ ⁠… Why am I standing still? I must go on. Farewell, brothers.”

The man in the cassock takes five steps along the road and stops.

“I’ve forgotten to put a kopeck for the burying,” he says. “Good orthodox friends, can I give the money?”

“You ought to know best, you go the round of the monasteries. If he died a natural death it would go for the good of his soul; if it’s a suicide it’s a sin.”

“That’s true.⁠ ⁠… And maybe it really was a suicide! So I had better keep my money. Oh, sins, sins! Give me a thousand roubles and I would not consent to sit here.⁠ ⁠… Farewell, brothers.”

The cassock slowly moves away and stops again.

“I can’t make up my mind what I am to do,” he mutters. “To stay here by the fire and wait till daybreak.⁠ ⁠… I am frightened; to go on is dreadful, too. The dead man will haunt me all the way in the darkness.⁠ ⁠… The Lord has chastised me indeed! Over three hundred miles I have come on foot and nothing happened, and now I am near home and there’s trouble. I can’t go on.⁠ ⁠…”

“It is dreadful, that is true.”

“I am not afraid of wolves, of thieves, or of darkness, but I am afraid of the dead. I am afraid of them, and that is all about it. Good orthodox brothers, I entreat you on my knees, see me to the village.”

“We’ve been told not to go away from the body.”

“No one will see, brothers. Upon my soul, no one will see! The Lord will reward you a hundredfold! Old man, come with me, I beg! Old man! Why are you silent?”

“He is a bit simple,” says the young man.

“You come with me, friend; I will give you five kopecks.”

“For five kopecks I might,” says the young man, scratching his head, “but I was told not to. If Syoma here, our simpleton, will stay alone, I will take you. Syoma, will you stay here alone?”

“I’ll stay,” the simpleton consents.

“Well, that’s all right, then. Come along!” The young man gets up, and goes with the cassock. A minute later the sound of their steps and their talk dies away. Syoma shuts his eyes and gently dozes. The fire begins to grow dim, and a big black shadow falls on the dead body.

The Cook’s Wedding

Grisha, a fat, solemn little person of seven, was standing by the kitchen door listening and peeping through the keyhole. In the kitchen something extraordinary, and in his opinion never seen before, was taking place. A big, thickset, red-haired peasant, with a beard, and a drop of perspiration on his nose, wearing a cabman’s full coat, was sitting at the kitchen table on which they chopped the meat and sliced the onions. He was balancing a saucer on the five fingers of his right hand and drinking tea out of it, and crunching sugar so loudly that it sent a shiver down Grisha’s back. Aksinya Stepanovna, the old nurse, was sitting on the dirty stool facing him, and she, too, was drinking tea. Her face was grave, though at the same time it beamed with a kind of triumph. Pelageya, the cook, was busy at the stove, and was apparently trying to hide her face. And on her face Grisha saw a regular illumination: it was burning and shifting through every shade of colour, beginning with a crimson purple and ending with a deathly white. She was continually catching hold of knives, forks, bits of wood, and rags with trembling hands, moving, grumbling to herself, making a clatter, but in reality doing nothing. She did not once glance at the table at which they were drinking tea, and to the questions put to her by the nurse she gave jerky, sullen answers without turning her face.

“Help yourself, Danilo Semyonitch,” the nurse urged him hospitably. “Why do you keep on with tea and nothing but tea? You should have a drop of vodka!”

And nurse put before the visitor a bottle of vodka and a wineglass, while her face wore a very wily expression.

“I never touch it.⁠ ⁠… No⁠ ⁠…” said the cabman, declining. “Don’t press me, Aksinya Stepanovna.”

“What a man!⁠ ⁠… A cabman and not drink!⁠ ⁠… A bachelor can’t get on without drinking. Help yourself!”

The cabman looked askance at the bottle, then at nurse’s wily face, and his own face assumed an expression no less cunning, as much as to say, “You won’t catch me, you old witch!”

“I don’t drink; please excuse me. Such a weakness does not do in our calling. A man who works at a trade may drink, for he sits at home, but we cabmen are always in view of the public. Aren’t we? If one goes into a pothouse one finds one’s horse gone; if one takes a drop too much it is worse still; before you know where you are you will fall asleep or slip off the box. That’s where it is.”

“And how much do you make a day, Danilo Semyonitch?”

“That’s according. One day you will have a fare for three roubles, and another day you will come back to the yard without a farthing. The days are very different. Nowadays our business is no good. There are lots and lots of cabmen as you know, hay is dear, and folks are paltry nowadays and always contriving to go by tram. And yet, thank God, I have nothing to complain of. I have plenty to eat and good clothes to wear, and⁠ ⁠… we could even provide well for another⁠ ⁠…” (the cabman stole a glance at Pelageya) “if it were to their liking.⁠ ⁠…”

Grisha did not hear what was said further. His mamma came to the door and sent him to the nursery to learn his lessons.

“Go and learn your lesson. It’s not your business to listen here!”

When Grisha reached the nursery, he put My Own Book in front of him, but he did not get on with his reading. All that he had just seen and heard aroused a multitude of questions in his mind.

“The cook’s going to be married,” he thought. “Strange⁠—I don’t understand what people get married for. Mamma was married to papa, Cousin Verotchka to Pavel Andreyitch. But one might be married to papa and Pavel Andreyitch after all: they have gold watch-chains and nice suits, their boots are always polished; but to marry that dreadful cabman with a red nose and felt boots.⁠ ⁠… Fi! And why is it nurse wants poor Pelageya to be married?”

When the visitor had gone out of the kitchen, Pelageya appeared and began clearing away. Her agitation still persisted. Her face was red and looked scared. She scarcely touched the floor with the broom, and swept every corner five times over. She lingered for a long time in the room where mamma was sitting. She was evidently oppressed by her isolation, and she was longing to express herself, to share her impressions with someone, to open her heart.

“He’s gone,” she muttered, seeing that mamma would not begin the conversation.

“One can see he is a good man,” said mamma, not taking her eyes off her sewing. “Sober and steady.”

“I declare I won’t marry him, mistress!” Pelageya cried suddenly, flushing crimson. “I declare I won’t!”

“Don’t be silly; you are not a child. It’s a serious step; you must think it over thoroughly, it’s no use talking nonsense. Do you like him?”

“What an idea, mistress!” cried Pelageya, abashed. “They say such things that⁠ ⁠… my goodness.⁠ ⁠…”

“She should say she doesn’t like him!” thought Grisha.

“What an affected creature you are.⁠ ⁠… Do you like him?”

“But he is old, mistress!”

“Think of something else,” nurse flew out at her from the next room. “He has not reached his fortieth year; and what do you want a young man for? Handsome is as handsome does.⁠ ⁠… Marry him and that’s all about it!”

“I swear I won’t,” squealed Pelageya.

“You are talking nonsense. What sort of rascal do you want? Anyone else would have bowed down to his feet, and you declare you won’t marry him. You want to be always winking at the postmen and tutors. That tutor that used to come to Grishenka, mistress⁠ ⁠… she was never tired of making eyes at him. O-o, the shameless hussy!”

“Have you seen this Danilo before?” mamma asked Pelageya.

“How could I have seen him? I set eyes on him today for the first time. Aksinya picked him up and brought him along⁠ ⁠… the accursed devil.⁠ ⁠… And where has he come from for my undoing!”

At dinner, when Pelageya was handing the dishes, everyone looked into her face and teased her about the cabman. She turned fearfully red, and went off into a forced giggle.

“It must be shameful to get married,” thought Grisha. “Terribly shameful.”

All the dishes were too salt, and blood oozed from the half-raw chickens, and, to cap it all, plates and knives kept dropping out of Pelageya’s hands during dinner, as though from a shelf that had given way; but no one said a word of blame to her, as they all understood the state of her feelings. Only once papa flicked his table-napkin angrily and said to mamma:

“What do you want to be getting them all married for? What business is it of yours? Let them get married of themselves if they want to.”

After dinner, neighbouring cooks and maidservants kept flitting into the kitchen, and there was the sound of whispering till late evening. How they had scented out the matchmaking, God knows. When Grisha woke in the night he heard his nurse and the cook whispering together in the nursery. Nurse was talking persuasively, while the cook alternately sobbed and giggled. When he fell asleep after this, Grisha dreamed of Pelageya being carried off by Tchernomor and a witch.

Next day there was a calm. The life of the kitchen went on its accustomed way as though the cabman did not exist. Only from time to time nurse put on her new shawl, assumed a solemn and austere air, and went off somewhere for an hour or two, obviously to conduct negotiations.⁠ ⁠… Pelageya did not see the cabman, and when his name was mentioned she flushed up and cried:

“May he be thrice damned! As though I should be thinking of him! Tfoo!”

In the evening mamma went into the kitchen, while nurse and Pelageya were zealously mincing something, and said:

“You can marry him, of course⁠—that’s your business⁠—but I must tell you, Pelageya, that he cannot live here.⁠ ⁠… You know I don’t like to have anyone sitting in the kitchen. Mind now, remember.⁠ ⁠… And I can’t let you sleep out.”

“Goodness knows! What an idea, mistress!” shrieked the cook. “Why do you keep throwing him up at me? Plague take him! He’s a regular curse, confound him!⁠ ⁠…”

Glancing one Sunday morning into the kitchen, Grisha was struck dumb with amazement. The kitchen was crammed full of people. Here were cooks from the whole courtyard, the porter, two policemen, a noncommissioned officer with good-conduct stripes, and the boy Filka.⁠ ⁠… This Filka was generally hanging about the laundry playing with the dogs; now he was combed and washed, and was holding an icon in a tinfoil setting. Pelageya was standing in the middle of the kitchen in a new cotton dress, with a flower on her head. Beside her stood the cabman. The happy pair were red in the face and perspiring and blinking with embarrassment.

“Well⁠ ⁠… I fancy it is time,” said the noncommissioned officer, after a prolonged silence.

Pelageya’s face worked all over and she began blubbering.⁠ ⁠…

The soldier took a big loaf from the table, stood beside nurse, and began blessing the couple. The cabman went up to the soldier, flopped down on his knees, and gave a smacking kiss on his hand. He did the same before nurse. Pelageya followed him mechanically, and she too bowed down to the ground. At last the outer door was opened, there was a whiff of white mist, and the whole party flocked noisily out of the kitchen into the yard.

“Poor thing, poor thing,” thought Grisha, hearing the sobs of the cook. “Where have they taken her? Why don’t papa and mamma protect her?”

After the wedding there was singing and concertina-playing in the laundry till late evening. Mamma was cross all the evening because nurse smelt of vodka, and owing to the wedding there was no one to heat the samovar. Pelageya had not come back by the time Grisha went to bed.

“The poor thing is crying somewhere in the dark!” he thought. “While the cabman is saying to her ‘shut up!’ ”

Next morning the cook was in the kitchen again. The cabman came in for a minute. He thanked mamma, and glancing sternly at Pelageya, said:

“Will you look after her, madam? Be a father and a mother to her. And you, too, Aksinya Stepanovna, do not forsake her, see that everything is as it should be⁠ ⁠… without any nonsense.⁠ ⁠… And also, madam, if you would kindly advance me five roubles of her wages. I have got to buy a new horse-collar.”

Again a problem for Grisha: Pelageya was living in freedom, doing as she liked, and not having to account to anyone for her actions, and all at once, for no sort of reason, a stranger turns up, who has somehow acquired rights over her conduct and her property! Grisha was distressed. He longed passionately, almost to tears, to comfort this victim, as he supposed, of man’s injustice. Picking out the very biggest apple in the storeroom he stole into the kitchen, slipped it into Pelageya’s hand, and darted headlong away.

In a Strange Land

Sunday, midday. A landowner, called Kamyshev, is sitting in his dining room, deliberately eating his lunch at a luxuriously furnished table. Monsieur Champoun, a clean, neat, smoothly-shaven, old Frenchman, is sharing the meal with him. This Champoun had once been a tutor in Kamyshev’s household, had taught his children good manners, the correct pronunciation of French, and dancing: afterwards when Kamyshev’s children had grown up and become lieutenants, Champoun had become something like a bonne of the male sex. The duties of the former tutor were not complicated. He had to be properly dressed, to smell of scent, to listen to Kamyshev’s idle babble, to eat and drink and sleep⁠—and apparently that was all. For this he received a room, his board, and an indefinite salary.

Kamyshev eats and as usual babbles at random.

“Damnation!” he says, wiping away the tears that have come into his eyes after a mouthful of ham thickly smeared with mustard. “Ough! It has shot into my head and all my joints. Your French mustard would not do that, you know, if you ate the whole potful.”

“Some like the French, some prefer the Russian⁠ ⁠…” Champoun assents mildly.

“No one likes French mustard except Frenchmen. And a Frenchman will eat anything, whatever you give him⁠—frogs and rats and black beetles⁠ ⁠… brrr! You don’t like that ham, for instance, because it is Russian, but if one were to give you a bit of baked glass and tell you it was French, you would eat it and smack your lips.⁠ ⁠… To your thinking everything Russian is nasty.”

“I don’t say that.”

“Everything Russian is nasty, but if it’s French⁠—o say tray zholee! To your thinking there is no country better than France, but to my mind⁠ ⁠… Why, what is France, to tell the truth about it? A little bit of land. Our police captain was sent out there, but in a month he asked to be transferred: there was nowhere to turn round! One can drive round the whole of your France in one day, while here when you drive out of the gate⁠—you can see no end to the land, you can ride on and on⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, monsieur, Russia is an immense country.”

“To be sure it is! To your thinking there are no better people than the French. Well-educated, clever people! Civilization! I agree, the French are all well-educated with elegant manners⁠ ⁠… that is true.⁠ ⁠… A Frenchman never allows himself to be rude: he hands a lady a chair at the right minute, he doesn’t eat crayfish with his fork, he doesn’t spit on the floor, but⁠ ⁠… there’s not the same spirit in him! not the spirit in him! I don’t know how to explain it to you but, however one is to express it, there’s nothing in a Frenchman of⁠ ⁠… something⁠ ⁠… (the speaker flourishes his fingers)⁠ ⁠… of something⁠ ⁠… fanatical. I remember I have read somewhere that all of you have intelligence acquired from books, while we Russians have innate intelligence. If a Russian studies the sciences properly, none of your French professors is a match for him.”

“Perhaps,” says Champoun, as it were reluctantly.

“No, not perhaps, but certainly! It’s no use your frowning, it’s the truth I am speaking. The Russian intelligence is an inventive intelligence. Only of course he is not given a free outlet for it, and he is no hand at boasting. He will invent something⁠—and break it or give it to the children to play with, while your Frenchman will invent some nonsensical thing and make an uproar for all the world to hear it. The other day Iona the coachman carved a little man out of wood, if you pull the little man by a thread he plays unseemly antics. But Iona does not brag of it.⁠ ⁠… I don’t like Frenchmen as a rule. I am not referring to you, but speaking generally.⁠ ⁠… They are an immoral people! Outwardly they look like men, but they live like dogs. Take marriage for instance. With us, once you are married, you stick to your wife, and there is no talk about it, but goodness knows how it is with you. The husband is sitting all day long in a café, while his wife fills the house with Frenchmen, and sets to dancing the cancan with them.”

“That’s not true!” Champoun protests, flaring up and unable to restrain himself. “The principle of the family is highly esteemed in France.”

“We know all about that principle! You ought to be ashamed to defend it: one ought to be impartial: a pig is always a pig.⁠ ⁠… We must thank the Germans for having beaten them.⁠ ⁠… Yes indeed, God bless them for it.”

“In that case, monsieur, I don’t understand⁠ ⁠…” says the Frenchman leaping up with flashing eyes, “if you hate the French why do you keep me?”

“What am I to do with you?”

“Let me go, and I will go back to France.”

“Wha-at? But do you suppose they would let you into France now? Why, you are a traitor to your country! At one time Napoleon’s your great man, at another Gambetta.⁠ ⁠… Who the devil can make you out?”

“Monsieur,” says Champoun in French, spluttering and crushing up his table napkin in his hands, “my worst enemy could not have thought of a greater insult than the outrage you have just done to my feelings! All is over!”

And with a tragic wave of his arm the Frenchman flings his dinner napkin on the table majestically, and walks out of the room with dignity.

Three hours later the table is laid again, and the servants bring in the dinner. Kamyshev sits alone at the table. After the preliminary glass he feels a craving to babble. He wants to chatter, but he has no listener.

“What is Alphonse Ludovikovitch doing?” he asks the footman.

“He is packing his trunk, sir.”

“What a noodle! Lord forgive us!” says Kamyshev, and goes in to the Frenchman.

Champoun is sitting on the floor in his room, and with trembling hands is packing in his trunk his linen, scent bottles, prayer-books, braces, ties.⁠ ⁠… All his correct figure, his trunk, his bedstead and the table⁠—all have an air of elegance and effeminacy. Great tears are dropping from his big blue eyes into the trunk.

“Where are you off to?” asks Kamyshev, after standing still for a little.

The Frenchman says nothing.

“Do you want to go away?” Kamyshev goes on. “Well, you know, but⁠ ⁠… I won’t venture to detain you. But what is queer is, how are you going to travel without a passport? I wonder! You know I have lost your passport. I thrust it in somewhere between some papers, and it is lost.⁠ ⁠… And they are strict about passports among us. Before you have gone three or four miles they pounce upon you.”

Champoun raises his head and looks mistrustfully at Kamyshev.

“Yes.⁠ ⁠… You will see! They will see from your face you haven’t a passport, and ask at once: Who is that? Alphonse Champoun. We know that Alphonse Champoun. Wouldn’t you like to go under police escort somewhere nearer home!”

“Are you joking?”

“What motive have I for joking? Why should I? Only mind now; it’s a compact, don’t you begin whining then and writing letters. I won’t stir a finger when they lead you by in fetters!”

Champoun jumps up and, pale and wide-eyed, begins pacing up and down the room.

“What are you doing to me?” he says in despair, clutching at his head. “My God! accursed be that hour when the fatal thought of leaving my country entered my head!⁠ ⁠…”

“Come, come, come⁠ ⁠… I was joking!” says Kamyshev in a lower tone. “Queer fish he is; he doesn’t understand a joke. One can’t say a word!”

“My dear friend!” shrieks Champoun, reassured by Kamyshev’s tone. “I swear I am devoted to Russia, to you and your children.⁠ ⁠… To leave you is as bitter to me as death itself! But every word you utter stabs me to the heart!”

“Ah, you queer fish! If I do abuse the French, what reason have you to take offence? You are a queer fish really! You should follow the example of Lazar Isaakitch, my tenant. I call him one thing and another, a Jew, and a scurvy rascal, and I make a pig’s ear out of my coat tail, and catch him by his Jewish curls. He doesn’t take offence.”

“But he is a slave! For a kopeck he is ready to put up with any insult!”

“Come, come, come⁠ ⁠… that’s enough! Peace and concord!”

Champoun powders his tear-stained face and goes with Kamyshev to the dining room. The first course is eaten in silence, after the second the same performance begins over again, and so Champoun’s sufferings have no end.

Overdoing It

Glyeb Gavrilovitch Smirnov, a land surveyor, arrived at the station of Gnilushki. He had another twenty or thirty miles to drive before he would reach the estate which he had been summoned to survey. (If the driver were not drunk and the horses were not bad, it would hardly be twenty miles, but if the driver had had a drop and his steeds were worn out it would mount up to a good forty.)

“Tell me, please, where can I get post-horses here?” the surveyor asked of the station gendarme.

“What? Post-horses? There’s no finding a decent dog for seventy miles round, let alone post-horses.⁠ ⁠… But where do you want to go?”

“To Dyevkino, General Hohotov’s estate.”

“Well,” yawned the gendarme, “go outside the station, there are sometimes peasants in the yard there, they will take passengers.”

The surveyor heaved a sigh and made his way out of the station.

There, after prolonged enquiries, conversations, and hesitations, he found a very sturdy, sullen-looking pockmarked peasant, wearing a tattered grey smock and bark-shoes.

“You have got a queer sort of cart!” said the surveyor, frowning as he clambered into the cart. “There is no making out which is the back and which is the front.”

“What is there to make out? Where the horse’s tail is, there’s the front, and where your honour’s sitting, there’s the back.”

The little mare was young, but thin, with legs planted wide apart and frayed ears. When the driver stood up and lashed her with a whip made of cord, she merely shook her head; when he swore at her and lashed her once more, the cart squeaked and shivered as though in a fever. After the third lash the cart gave a lurch, after the fourth, it moved forward.

“Are we going to drive like this all the way?” asked the surveyor, violently jolted and marvelling at the capacity of Russian drivers for combining a slow tortoise-like pace with a jolting that turns the soul inside out.

“We shall ge-et there!” the peasant reassured him. “The mare is young and frisky.⁠ ⁠… Only let her get running and then there is no stopping her.⁠ ⁠… No-ow, cur-sed brute!”

It was dusk by the time the cart drove out of the station. On the surveyor’s right hand stretched a dark frozen plain, endless and boundless. If you drove over it you would certainly get to the other side of beyond. On the horizon, where it vanished and melted into the sky, there was the languid glow of a cold autumn sunset.⁠ ⁠… On the left of the road, mounds of some sort, that might be last year’s stacks or might be a village, rose up in the gathering darkness. The surveyor could not see what was in front as his whole field of vision on that side was covered by the broad clumsy back of the driver. The air was still, but it was cold and frosty.

“What a wilderness it is here,” thought the surveyor, trying to cover his ears with the collar of his overcoat. “Neither post nor paddock. If, by ill-luck, one were attacked and robbed no one would hear you, whatever uproar you made.⁠ ⁠… And the driver is not one you could depend on.⁠ ⁠… Ugh, what a huge back! A child of nature like that has only to move a finger and it would be all up with one! And his ugly face is suspicious and brutal-looking.”

“Hey, my good man!” said the surveyor, “What is your name?”

“Mine? Klim.”

“Well, Klim, what is it like in your parts here? Not dangerous? Any robbers on the road?”

“It is all right, the Lord has spared us.⁠ ⁠… Who should go robbing on the road?”

“It’s a good thing there are no robbers. But to be ready for anything I have got three revolvers with me,” said the surveyor untruthfully. “And it doesn’t do to trifle with a revolver, you know. One can manage a dozen robbers.⁠ ⁠…”

It had become quite dark. The cart suddenly began creaking, squeaking, shaking, and, as though unwillingly, turned sharply to the left.

“Where is he taking me to?” the surveyor wondered. “He has been driving straight and now all at once to the left. I shouldn’t wonder if he’ll take me, the rascal, to some den of thieves⁠ ⁠… and.⁠ ⁠… Things like that do happen.”

“I say,” he said, addressing the driver, “so you tell me it’s not dangerous here? That’s a pity⁠ ⁠… I like a fight with robbers.⁠ ⁠… I am thin and sickly-looking, but I have the strength of a bull.⁠ ⁠… Once three robbers attacked me and what do you think? I gave one such a dressing that⁠ ⁠… that he gave up his soul to God, you understand, and the other two were sent to penal servitude in Siberia. And where I got the strength I can’t say.⁠ ⁠… One grips a strapping fellow of your sort with one hand and⁠ ⁠… wipes him out.”

Klim looked round at the surveyor, wrinkled up his whole face, and lashed his horse.

“Yes⁠ ⁠…” the surveyor went on. “God forbid anyone should tackle me. The robber would have his bones broken, and, what’s more, he would have to answer for it in the police court too.⁠ ⁠… I know all the judges and the police captains, I am a man in the government, a man of importance. Here I am travelling and the authorities know⁠ ⁠… they keep a regular watch over me to see no one does me a mischief. There are policemen and village constables stuck behind bushes all along the road.⁠ ⁠… Sto⁠ ⁠… sto⁠ ⁠… stop!” the surveyor bawled suddenly. “Where have you got to? Where are you taking me to?”

“Why, don’t you see? It’s a forest!”

“It certainly is a forest,” thought the surveyor. “I was frightened! But it won’t do to betray my feelings.⁠ ⁠… He has noticed already that I am in a funk. Why is it he has taken to looking round at me so often? He is plotting something for certain.⁠ ⁠… At first he drove like a snail and now how he is dashing along!”

“I say, Klim, why are you making the horse go like that?”

“I am not making her go. She is racing along of herself.⁠ ⁠… Once she gets into a run there is no means of stopping her. It’s no pleasure to her that her legs are like that.”

“You are lying, my man, I see that you are lying. Only I advise you not to drive so fast. Hold your horse in a bit.⁠ ⁠… Do you hear? Hold her in!”

“What for?”

“Why⁠ ⁠… why, because four comrades were to drive after me from the station. We must let them catch us up.⁠ ⁠… They promised to overtake us in this forest. It will be more cheerful in their company.⁠ ⁠… They are a strong, sturdy set of fellows.⁠ ⁠… And each of them has got a pistol. Why do you keep looking round and fidgeting as though you were sitting on thorns? eh? I, my good fellow, er⁠ ⁠… my good fellow⁠ ⁠… there is no need to look around at me⁠ ⁠… there is nothing interesting about me.⁠ ⁠… Except perhaps the revolvers. Well, if you like I will take them out and show you.⁠ ⁠…”

The surveyor made a pretence of feeling in his pockets and at that moment something happened which he could not have expected with all his cowardice. Klim suddenly rolled off the cart and ran as fast as he could go into the forest.

“Help!” he roared. “Help! Take the horse and the cart, you devil, only don’t take my life. Help!”

There was the sound of footsteps hurriedly retreating, of twigs snapping⁠—and all was still.⁠ ⁠… The surveyor had not expected such a denouement. He first stopped the horse and then settled himself more comfortably in the cart and fell to thinking.

“He has run off⁠ ⁠… he was scared, the fool. Well, what’s to be done now? I can’t go on alone because I don’t know the way; besides they may think I have stolen his horse.⁠ ⁠… What’s to be done?”

“Klim! Klim,” he cried.

“Klim,” answered the echo.

At the thought that he would have to sit through the whole night in the cold and dark forest and hear nothing but the wolves, the echo, and the snorting of the scraggy mare, the surveyor began to have twinges down his spine as though it were being rasped with a cold file.

“Klimushka,” he shouted. “Dear fellow! Where are you, Klimushka?”

For two hours the surveyor shouted, and it was only after he was quite husky and had resigned himself to spending the night in the forest that a faint breeze wafted the sound of a moan to him.

“Klim, is it you, dear fellow? Let us go on.”

“You’ll mu-ur-der me!”

“But I was joking, my dear man! I swear to God I was joking! As though I had revolvers! I told a lie because I was frightened. For goodness sake let us go on, I am freezing!”

Klim, probably reflecting that a real robber would have vanished long ago with the horse and cart, came out of the forest and went hesitatingly up to his passenger.

“Well, what were you frightened of, stupid? I⁠ ⁠… I was joking and you were frightened. Get in!”

“God be with you, sir,” Klim muttered as he clambered into the cart, “if I had known I wouldn’t have taken you for a hundred roubles. I almost died of fright.⁠ ⁠…”

Klim lashed at the little mare. The cart swayed. Klim lashed once more and the cart gave a lurch. After the fourth stroke of the whip when the cart moved forward, the surveyor hid his ears in his collar and sank into thought.

The road and Klim no longer seemed dangerous to him.

Old Age

Uzelkov, an architect with the rank of civil councillor, arrived in his native town, to which he had been invited to restore the church in the cemetery. He had been born in the town, had been at school, had grown up and married in it. But when he got out of the train he scarcely recognized it. Everything was changed.⁠ ⁠… Eighteen years ago when he had moved to Petersburg the street-boys used to catch marmots, for instance, on the spot where now the station was standing; now when one drove into the chief street, a hotel of four storeys stood facing one; in old days there was an ugly grey fence just there; but nothing⁠—neither fences nor houses⁠—had changed as much as the people. From his enquiries of the hotel waiter Uzelkov learned that more than half of the people he remembered were dead, reduced to poverty, forgotten.

“And do you remember Uzelkov?” he asked the old waiter about himself. “Uzelkov the architect who divorced his wife? He used to have a house in Svirebeyevsky Street⁠ ⁠… you must remember.”

“I don’t remember, sir.”

“How is it you don’t remember? The case made a lot of noise, even the cabmen all knew about it. Think, now! Shapkin the attorney managed my divorce for me, the rascal⁠ ⁠… the notorious cardsharper, the fellow who got a thrashing at the club.⁠ ⁠…”

“Ivan Nikolaitch?”

“Yes, yes.⁠ ⁠… Well, is he alive? Is he dead?”

“Alive, sir, thank God. He is a notary now and has an office. He is very well off. He has two houses in Kirpitchny Street.⁠ ⁠… His daughter was married the other day.”

Uzelkov paced up and down the room, thought a bit, and in his boredom made up his mind to go and see Shapkin at his office. When he walked out of the hotel and sauntered slowly towards Kirpitchny Street it was midday. He found Shapkin at his office and scarcely recognized him. From the once well-made, adroit attorney with a mobile, insolent, and always drunken face Shapkin had changed into a modest, grey-headed, decrepit old man.

“You don’t recognize me, you have forgotten me,” began Uzelkov. “I am your old client, Uzelkov.”

“Uzelkov, what Uzelkov? Ah!” Shapkin remembered, recognized, and was struck all of a heap. There followed a shower of exclamations, questions, recollections.

“This is a surprise! This is unexpected!” cackled Shapkin. “What can I offer you? Do you care for champagne? Perhaps you would like oysters? My dear fellow, I have had so much from you in my time that I can’t offer you anything equal to the occasion.⁠ ⁠…”

“Please don’t put yourself out⁠ ⁠…” said Uzelkov. “I have no time to spare. I must go at once to the cemetery and examine the church; I have undertaken the restoration of it.”

“That’s capital! We’ll have a snack and a drink and drive together. I have capital horses. I’ll take you there and introduce you to the churchwarden; I will arrange it all.⁠ ⁠… But why is it, my angel, you seem to be afraid of me and hold me at arm’s length? Sit a little nearer! There is no need for you to be afraid of me nowadays. He-he!⁠ ⁠… At one time, it is true, I was a cunning blade, a dog of a fellow⁠ ⁠… no one dared approach me; but now I am stiller than water and humbler than the grass. I have grown old, I am a family man, I have children. It’s time I was dead.”

The friends had lunch, had a drink, and with a pair of horses drove out of the town to the cemetery.

“Yes, those were times!” Shapkin recalled as he sat in the sledge. “When you remember them you simply can’t believe in them. Do you remember how you divorced your wife? It’s nearly twenty years ago, and I dare say you have forgotten it all; but I remember it as though I’d divorced you yesterday. Good Lord, what a lot of worry I had over it! I was a sharp fellow, tricky and cunning, a desperate character.⁠ ⁠… Sometimes I was burning to tackle some ticklish business, especially if the fee were a good one, as, for instance, in your case. What did you pay me then? Five or six thousand! That was worth taking trouble for, wasn’t it? You went off to Petersburg and left the whole thing in my hands to do the best I could, and, though Sofya Mihailovna, your wife, came only of a merchant family, she was proud and dignified. To bribe her to take the guilt on herself was difficult, awfully difficult! I would go to negotiate with her, and as soon as she saw me she called to her maid: ‘Masha, didn’t I tell you not to admit that scoundrel?’ Well, I tried one thing and another.⁠ ⁠… I wrote her letters and contrived to meet her accidentally⁠—it was no use! I had to act through a third person. I had a lot of trouble with her for a long time, and she only gave in when you agreed to give her ten thousand.⁠ ⁠… She couldn’t resist ten thousand, she couldn’t hold out.⁠ ⁠… She cried, she spat in my face, but she consented, she took the guilt on herself!”

“I thought it was fifteen thousand she had from me, not ten,” said Uzelkov.

“Yes, yes⁠ ⁠… fifteen⁠—I made a mistake,” said Shapkin in confusion. “It’s all over and done with, though, it’s no use concealing it. I gave her ten and the other five I collared for myself. I deceived you both.⁠ ⁠… It’s all over and done with, it’s no use to be ashamed. And indeed, judge for yourself, Boris Petrovitch, weren’t you the very person for me to get money out of?⁠ ⁠… You were a wealthy man and had everything you wanted.⁠ ⁠… Your marriage was an idle whim, and so was your divorce. You were making a lot of money.⁠ ⁠… I remember you made a scoop of twenty thousand over one contract. Whom should I have fleeced if not you? And I must own I envied you. If you grabbed anything they took off their caps to you, while they would thrash me for a rouble and slap me in the face at the club.⁠ ⁠… But there, why recall it? It is high time to forget it.”

“Tell me, please, how did Sofya Mihailovna get on afterwards?”

“With her ten thousand? Very badly. God knows what it was⁠—she lost her head, perhaps, or maybe her pride and her conscience tormented her at having sold her honour, or perhaps she loved you; but, do you know, she took to drink.⁠ ⁠… As soon as she got her money she was off driving about with officers. It was drunkenness, dissipation, debauchery.⁠ ⁠… When she went to a restaurant with officers she was not content with port or anything light, she must have strong brandy, fiery stuff to stupefy her.”

“Yes, she was eccentric.⁠ ⁠… I had a lot to put up with from her⁠ ⁠… sometimes she would take offence at something and begin being hysterical.⁠ ⁠… And what happened afterwards?”

“One week passed and then another.⁠ ⁠… I was sitting at home, writing something. All at once the door opened and she walked in⁠ ⁠… drunk. ‘Take back your cursed money,’ she said, and flung a roll of notes in my face.⁠ ⁠… So she could not keep it up. I picked up the notes and counted them. It was five hundred short of the ten thousand, so she had only managed to get through five hundred.”

“Where did you put the money?”

“It’s all ancient history⁠ ⁠… there’s no reason to conceal it now.⁠ ⁠… In my pocket, of course. Why do you look at me like that? Wait a bit for what will come later.⁠ ⁠… It’s a regular novel, a pathological study. A couple of months later I was going home one night in a nasty drunken condition.⁠ ⁠… I lighted a candle, and lo and behold! Sofya Mihailovna was sitting on my sofa, and she was drunk, too, and in a frantic state⁠—as wild as though she had run out of Bedlam. ‘Give me back my money,’ she said, ‘I have changed my mind; if I must go to ruin I won’t do it by halves, I’ll have my fling! Be quick, you scoundrel, give me my money!’ A disgraceful scene!”

“And you⁠ ⁠… gave it her?”

“I gave her, I remember, ten roubles.”

“Oh! How could you?” cried Uzelkov, frowning. “If you couldn’t or wouldn’t have given it her, you might have written to me.⁠ ⁠… And I didn’t know! I didn’t know!”

“My dear fellow, what use would it have been for me to write, considering that she wrote to you herself when she was lying in the hospital afterwards?”

“Yes, but I was so taken up then with my second marriage. I was in such a whirl that I had no thoughts to spare for letters.⁠ ⁠… But you were an outsider, you had no antipathy for Sofya⁠ ⁠… why didn’t you give her a helping hand?⁠ ⁠…”

“You can’t judge by the standards of today, Boris Petrovitch; that’s how we look at it now, but at the time we thought very differently.⁠ ⁠… Now maybe I’d give her a thousand roubles, but then even that ten-rouble note I did not give her for nothing. It was a bad business!⁠ ⁠… We must forget it.⁠ ⁠… But here we are.⁠ ⁠…”

The sledge stopped at the cemetery gates. Uzelkov and Shapkin got out of the sledge, went in at the gate, and walked up a long, broad avenue. The bare cherry trees and acacias, the grey crosses and tombstones, were silvered with hoarfrost, every little grain of snow reflected the bright, sunny day. There was the smell there always is in cemeteries, the smell of incense and freshly dug earth.⁠ ⁠…

“Our cemetery is a pretty one,” said Uzelkov, “quite a garden!”

“Yes, but it is a pity thieves steal the tombstones.⁠ ⁠… And over there, beyond that iron monument on the right, Sofya Mihailovna is buried. Would you like to see?”

The friends turned to the right and walked through the deep snow to the iron monument.

“Here it is,” said Shapkin, pointing to a little slab of white marble. “A lieutenant put the stone on her grave.”

Uzelkov slowly took off his cap and exposed his bald head to the sun. Shapkin, looking at him, took off his cap too, and another bald patch gleamed in the sunlight. There was the stillness of the tomb all around as though the air, too, were dead. The friends looked at the grave, pondered, and said nothing.

“She sleeps in peace,” said Shapkin, breaking the silence. “It’s nothing to her now that she took the blame on herself and drank brandy. You must own, Boris Petrovitch.⁠ ⁠…”

“Own what?” Uzelkov asked gloomily.

“Why.⁠ ⁠… However hateful the past, it was better than this.”

And Shapkin pointed to his grey head.

“I used not to think of the hour of death.⁠ ⁠… I fancied I could have given death points and won the game if we had had an encounter; but now.⁠ ⁠… But what’s the good of talking!”

Uzelkov was overcome with melancholy. He suddenly had a passionate longing to weep, as once he had longed for love, and he felt those tears would have tasted sweet and refreshing. A moisture came into his eyes and there was a lump in his throat, but⁠ ⁠… Shapkin was standing beside him and Uzelkov was ashamed to show weakness before a witness. He turned back abruptly and went into the church.

Only two hours later, after talking to the churchwarden and looking over the church, he seized a moment when Shapkin was in conversation with the priest and hastened away to weep.⁠ ⁠… He stole up to the grave secretly, furtively, looking round him every minute. The little white slab looked at him pensively, mournfully, and innocently as though a little girl lay under it instead of a dissolute, divorced wife.

“To weep, to weep!” thought Uzelkov.

But the moment for tears had been missed; though the old man blinked his eyes, though he worked up his feelings, the tears did not flow nor the lump come in his throat. After standing for ten minutes, with a gesture of despair, Uzelkov went to look for Shapkin.


The turner, Grigory Petrov, who had been known for years past as a splendid craftsman, and at the same time as the most senseless peasant in the Galtchinskoy district, was taking his old woman to the hospital. He had to drive over twenty miles, and it was an awful road. A government post driver could hardly have coped with it, much less an incompetent sluggard like Grigory. A cutting cold wind was blowing straight in his face. Clouds of snowflakes were whirling round and round in all directions, so that one could not tell whether the snow was falling from the sky or rising from the earth. The fields, the telegraph posts, and the forest could not be seen for the fog of snow. And when a particularly violent gust of wind swooped down on Grigory, even the yoke above the horse’s head could not be seen. The wretched, feeble little nag crawled slowly along. It took all its strength to drag its legs out of the snow and to tug with its head. The turner was in a hurry. He kept restlessly hopping up and down on the front seat and lashing the horse’s back.

“Don’t cry, Matryona,⁠ ⁠…” he muttered. “Have a little patience. Please God we shall reach the hospital, and in a trice it will be the right thing for you.⁠ ⁠… Pavel Ivanitch will give you some little drops, or tell them to bleed you; or maybe his honor will be pleased to rub you with some sort of spirit⁠—it’ll⁠ ⁠… draw it out of your side. Pavel Ivanitch will do his best. He will shout and stamp about, but he will do his best.⁠ ⁠… He is a nice gentleman, affable, God give him health! As soon as we get there he will dart out of his room and will begin calling me names. ‘How? Why so?’ he will cry. ‘Why did you not come at the right time? I am not a dog to be hanging about waiting on you devils all day. Why did you not come in the morning? Go away! Get out of my sight. Come again tomorrow.’ And I shall say: ‘Mr. Doctor! Pavel Ivanitch! Your honor!’ Get on, do! plague take you, you devil! Get on!”

The turner lashed his nag, and without looking at the old woman went on muttering to himself:

“ ‘Your honor! It’s true as before God.⁠ ⁠… Here’s the Cross for you, I set off almost before it was light. How could I be here in time if the Lord.⁠ ⁠… The Mother of God⁠ ⁠… is wroth, and has sent such a snowstorm? Kindly look for yourself.⁠ ⁠… Even a first-rate horse could not do it, while mine⁠—you can see for yourself⁠—is not a horse but a disgrace.’ And Pavel Ivanitch will frown and shout: ‘We know you! You always find some excuse! Especially you, Grishka; I know you of old! I’ll be bound you have stopped at half a dozen taverns!’ And I shall say: ‘Your honor! am I a criminal or a heathen? My old woman is giving up her soul to God, she is dying, and am I going to run from tavern to tavern! What an idea, upon my word! Plague take them, the taverns!’ Then Pavel Ivanitch will order you to be taken into the hospital, and I shall fall at his feet.⁠ ⁠… ‘Pavel Ivanitch! Your honor, we thank you most humbly! Forgive us fools and anathemas, don’t be hard on us peasants! We deserve a good kicking, while you graciously put yourself out and mess your feet in the snow!’ And Pavel Ivanitch will give me a look as though he would like to hit me, and will say: ‘You’d much better not be swilling vodka, you fool, but taking pity on your old woman instead of falling at my feet. You want a thrashing!’ ‘You are right there⁠—a thrashing, Pavel Ivanitch, strike me God! But how can we help bowing down at your feet if you are our benefactor, and a real father to us? Your honor! I give you my word,⁠ ⁠… here as before God,⁠ ⁠… you may spit in my face if I deceive you: as soon as my Matryona, this same here, is well again and restored to her natural condition, I’ll make anything for your honor that you would like to order! A cigarette-case, if you like, of the best birchwood,⁠ ⁠… balls for croquet, skittles of the most foreign pattern I can turn.⁠ ⁠… I will make anything for you! I won’t take a farthing from you. In Moscow they would charge you four roubles for such a cigarette-case, but I won’t take a farthing.’ The doctor will laugh and say: ‘Oh, all right, all right.⁠ ⁠… I see! But it’s a pity you are a drunkard.⁠ ⁠…’ I know how to manage the gentry, old girl. There isn’t a gentleman I couldn’t talk to. Only God grant we don’t get off the road. Oh, how it is blowing! One’s eyes are full of snow.”

And the turner went on muttering endlessly. He prattled on mechanically to get a little relief from his depressing feelings. He had plenty of words on his tongue, but the thoughts and questions in his brain were even more numerous. Sorrow had come upon the turner unawares, unlooked-for, and unexpected, and now he could not get over it, could not recover himself. He had lived hitherto in unruffled calm, as though in drunken half-consciousness, knowing neither grief nor joy, and now he was suddenly aware of a dreadful pain in his heart. The careless idler and drunkard found himself quite suddenly in the position of a busy man, weighed down by anxieties and haste, and even struggling with nature.

The turner remembered that his trouble had begun the evening before. When he had come home yesterday evening, a little drunk as usual, and from long-established habit had begun swearing and shaking his fists, his old woman had looked at her rowdy spouse as she had never looked at him before. Usually, the expression in her aged eyes was that of a martyr, meek like that of a dog frequently beaten and badly fed; this time she had looked at him sternly and immovably, as saints in the holy pictures or dying people look. From that strange, evil look in her eyes the trouble had begun. The turner, stupefied with amazement, borrowed a horse from a neighbor, and now was taking his old woman to the hospital in the hope that, by means of powders and ointments, Pavel Ivanitch would bring back his old woman’s habitual expression.

“I say, Matryona,⁠ ⁠…” the turner muttered, “if Pavel Ivanitch asks you whether I beat you, say, ‘Never!’ and I never will beat you again. I swear it. And did I ever beat you out of spite? I just beat you without thinking. I am sorry for you. Some men wouldn’t trouble, but here I am taking you.⁠ ⁠… I am doing my best. And the way it snows, the way it snows! Thy Will be done, O Lord! God grant we don’t get off the road.⁠ ⁠… Does your side ache, Matryona, that you don’t speak? I ask you, does your side ache?”

It struck him as strange that the snow on his old woman’s face was not melting; it was queer that the face itself looked somehow drawn, and had turned a pale gray, dingy waxen hue and had grown grave and solemn.

“You are a fool!” muttered the turner.⁠ ⁠… “I tell you on my conscience, before God,⁠ ⁠… and you go and⁠ ⁠… Well, you are a fool! I have a good mind not to take you to Pavel Ivanitch!”

The turner let the reins go and began thinking. He could not bring himself to look round at his old woman: he was frightened. He was afraid, too, of asking her a question and not getting an answer. At last, to make an end of uncertainty, without looking round he felt his old woman’s cold hand. The lifted hand fell like a log.

“She is dead, then! What a business!”

And the turner cried. He was not so much sorry as annoyed. He thought how quickly everything passes in this world! His trouble had hardly begun when the final catastrophe had happened. He had not had time to live with his old woman, to show her he was sorry for her before she died. He had lived with her for forty years, but those forty years had passed by as it were in a fog. What with drunkenness, quarreling, and poverty, there had been no feeling of life. And, as though to spite him, his old woman died at the very time when he felt he was sorry for her, that he could not live without her, and that he had behaved dreadfully badly to her.

“Why, she used to go the round of the village,” he remembered. “I sent her out myself to beg for bread. What a business! She ought to have lived another ten years, the silly thing; as it is I’ll be bound she thinks I really was that sort of man.⁠ ⁠… Holy Mother! but where the devil am I driving? There’s no need for a doctor now, but a burial. Turn back!”

Grigory turned back and lashed the horse with all his might. The road grew worse and worse every hour. Now he could not see the yoke at all. Now and then the sledge ran into a young fir tree, a dark object scratched the turner’s hands and flashed before his eyes, and the field of vision was white and whirling again.

“To live over again,” thought the turner.

He remembered that forty years ago Matryona had been young, handsome, merry, that she had come of a well-to-do family. They had married her to him because they had been attracted by his handicraft. All the essentials for a happy life had been there, but the trouble was that, just as he had got drunk after the wedding and lay sprawling on the stove, so he had gone on without waking up till now. His wedding he remembered, but of what happened after the wedding⁠—for the life of him he could remember nothing, except perhaps that he had drunk, lain on the stove, and quarreled. Forty years had been wasted like that.

The white clouds of snow were beginning little by little to turn gray. It was getting dusk.

“Where am I going?” the turner suddenly bethought him with a start. “I ought to be thinking of the burial, and I am on the way to the hospital.⁠ ⁠… It as is though I had gone crazy.”

Grigory turned round again, and again lashed his horse. The little nag strained its utmost and, with a snort, fell into a little trot. The turner lashed it on the back time after time.⁠ ⁠… A knocking was audible behind him, and though he did not look round, he knew it was the dead woman’s head knocking against the sledge. And the snow kept turning darker and darker, the wind grew colder and more cutting.⁠ ⁠…

“To live over again!” thought the turner. “I should get a new lathe, take orders,⁠ ⁠… give the money to my old woman.⁠ ⁠…”

And then he dropped the reins. He looked for them, tried to pick them up, but could not⁠—his hands would not work.⁠ ⁠…

“It does not matter,” he thought, “the horse will go of itself, it knows the way. I might have a little sleep now.⁠ ⁠… Before the funeral or the requiem it would be as well to get a little rest.⁠ ⁠…”

The turner closed his eyes and dozed. A little later he heard the horse stop; he opened his eyes and saw before him something dark like a hut or a haystack.⁠ ⁠…

He would have got out of the sledge and found out what it was, but he felt overcome by such inertia that it seemed better to freeze than move, and he sank into a peaceful sleep.

He woke up in a big room with painted walls. Bright sunlight was streaming in at the windows. The turner saw people facing him, and his first feeling was a desire to show himself a respectable man who knew how things should be done.

“A requiem, brothers, for my old woman,” he said. “The priest should be told.⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh, all right, all right; lie down,” a voice cut him short.

“Pavel Ivanitch!” the turner cried in surprise, seeing the doctor before him. “Your honor, benefactor!”

He wanted to leap up and fall on his knees before the doctor, but felt that his arms and legs would not obey him.

“Your honor, where are my legs, where are my arms!”

“Say goodbye to your arms and legs.⁠ ⁠… They’ve been frozen off. Come, come!⁠ ⁠… What are you crying for? You’ve lived your life, and thank God for it! I suppose you have had sixty years of it⁠—that’s enough for you!⁠ ⁠…”

“I am grieving.⁠ ⁠… Graciously forgive me! If I could have another five or six years!⁠ ⁠…”

“What for?”

“The horse isn’t mine, I must give it back.⁠ ⁠… I must bury my old woman.⁠ ⁠… How quickly it is all ended in this world! Your honor, Pavel Ivanitch! A cigarette-case of birchwood of the best! I’ll turn you croquet balls.⁠ ⁠…”

The doctor went out of the ward with a wave of his hand. It was all over with the turner.

Oh! The Public

“Here goes, I’ve done with drinking! Nothing⁠ ⁠… n-o-thing shall tempt me to it. It’s time to take myself in hand; I must buck up and work⁠ ⁠… You’re glad to get your salary, so you must do your work honestly, heartily, conscientiously, regardless of sleep and comfort. Chuck taking it easy. You’ve got into the way of taking a salary for nothing, my boy⁠—that’s not the right thing⁠ ⁠… not the right thing at all.⁠ ⁠…”

After administering to himself several such lectures Podtyagin, the head ticket collector, begins to feel an irresistible impulse to get to work. It is past one o’clock at night, but in spite of that he wakes the ticket collectors and with them goes up and down the railway carriages, inspecting the tickets.

“T-t-t-ickets⁠ ⁠… P-p-p-please!” he keeps shouting, briskly snapping the clippers.

Sleepy figures, shrouded in the twilight of the railway carriages, start, shake their heads, and produce their tickets.

“T-t-t-tickets, please!” Podtyagin addresses a second-class passenger, a lean, scraggy-looking man, wrapped up in a fur coat and a rug and surrounded with pillows. “Tickets, please!”

The scraggy-looking man makes no reply. He is buried in sleep. The head ticket-collector touches him on the shoulder and repeats impatiently: “T-t-tickets, p-p-please!”

The passenger starts, opens his eyes, and gazes in alarm at Podtyagin.

“What?⁠ ⁠… Who?⁠ ⁠… Eh?”

“You’re asked in plain language: t-t-tickets, p-p-please! If you please!”

“My God!” moans the scraggy-looking man, pulling a woebegone face. “Good Heavens! I’m suffering from rheumatism.⁠ ⁠… I haven’t slept for three nights! I’ve just taken morphia on purpose to get to sleep, and you⁠ ⁠… with your tickets! It’s merciless, it’s inhuman! If you knew how hard it is for me to sleep you wouldn’t disturb me for such nonsense.⁠ ⁠… It’s cruel, it’s absurd! And what do you want with my ticket! It’s positively stupid!”

Podtyagin considers whether to take offence or not⁠—and decides to take offence.

“Don’t shout here! This is not a tavern!”

“No, in a tavern people are more humane⁠ ⁠…” coughs the passenger. “Perhaps you’ll let me go to sleep another time! It’s extraordinary: I’ve travelled abroad, all over the place, and no one asked for my ticket there, but here you’re at it again and again, as though the devil were after you.⁠ ⁠…”

“Well, you’d better go abroad again since you like it so much.”

“It’s stupid, sir! Yes! As though it’s not enough killing the passengers with fumes and stuffiness and draughts, they want to strangle us with red tape, too, damn it all! He must have the ticket! My goodness, what zeal! If it were of any use to the company⁠—but half the passengers are travelling without a ticket!”

“Listen, sir!” cries Podtyagin, flaring up. “If you don’t leave off shouting and disturbing the public, I shall be obliged to put you out at the next station and to draw up a report on the incident!”

“This is revolting!” exclaims “the public,” growing indignant. “Persecuting an invalid! Listen, and have some consideration!”

“But the gentleman himself was abusive!” says Podtyagin, a little scared. “Very well.⁠ ⁠… I won’t take the ticket⁠ ⁠… as you like.⁠ ⁠… Only, of course, as you know very well, it’s my duty to do so.⁠ ⁠… If it were not my duty, then, of course⁠ ⁠… You can ask the stationmaster⁠ ⁠… ask anyone you like.⁠ ⁠…”

Podtyagin shrugs his shoulders and walks away from the invalid. At first he feels aggrieved and somewhat injured, then, after passing through two or three carriages, he begins to feel a certain uneasiness not unlike the pricking of conscience in his ticket-collector’s bosom.

“There certainly was no need to wake the invalid,” he thinks, “though it was not my fault.⁠ ⁠… They imagine I did it wantonly, idly. They don’t know that I’m bound in duty⁠ ⁠… if they don’t believe it, I can bring the stationmaster to them.” A station. The train stops five minutes. Before the third bell, Podtyagin enters the same second-class carriage. Behind him stalks the stationmaster in a red cap.

“This gentleman here,” Podtyagin begins, “declares that I have no right to ask for his ticket and⁠ ⁠… and is offended at it. I ask you, Mr. Stationmaster, to explain to him.⁠ ⁠… Do I ask for tickets according to regulation or to please myself? Sir,” Podtyagin addresses the scraggy-looking man, “sir! you can ask the stationmaster here if you don’t believe me.”

The invalid starts as though he had been stung, opens his eyes, and with a woebegone face sinks back in his seat.

“My God! I have taken another powder and only just dozed off when here he is again⁠ ⁠… again! I beseech you have some pity on me!”

“You can ask the stationmaster⁠ ⁠… whether I have the right to demand your ticket or not.”

“This is insufferable! Take your ticket⁠ ⁠… take it! I’ll pay for five extra if you’ll only let me die in peace! Have you never been ill yourself? Heartless people!”

“This is simply persecution!” A gentleman in military uniform grows indignant. “I can see no other explanation of this persistence.”

“Drop it⁠ ⁠…” says the stationmaster, frowning and pulling Podtyagin by the sleeve.

Podtyagin shrugs his shoulders and slowly walks after the stationmaster.

“There’s no pleasing them!” he thinks, bewildered. “It was for his sake I brought the stationmaster, that he might understand and be pacified, and he⁠ ⁠… swears!”

Another station. The train stops ten minutes. Before the second bell, while Podtyagin is standing at the refreshment bar, drinking seltzer water, two gentlemen go up to him, one in the uniform of an engineer, and the other in a military overcoat.

“Look here, ticket-collector!” the engineer begins, addressing Podtyagin. “Your behaviour to that invalid passenger has revolted all who witnessed it. My name is Puzitsky; I am an engineer, and this gentleman is a colonel. If you do not apologize to the passenger, we shall make a complaint to the traffic manager, who is a friend of ours.”

“Gentlemen! Why of course I⁠ ⁠… why of course you⁠ ⁠…” Podtyagin is panic-stricken.

“We don’t want explanations. But we warn you, if you don’t apologize, we shall see justice done to him.”

“Certainly I⁠ ⁠… I’ll apologize, of course⁠ ⁠… To be sure.⁠ ⁠…”

Half an hour later, Podtyagin having thought of an apologetic phrase which would satisfy the passenger without lowering his own dignity, walks into the carriage. “Sir,” he addresses the invalid. “Listen, sir.⁠ ⁠…”

The invalid starts and leaps up: “What?”

“I⁠ ⁠… what was it?⁠ ⁠… You mustn’t be offended.⁠ ⁠…”

“Och! Water⁠ ⁠…” gasps the invalid, clutching at his heart. “I’d just taken a third dose of morphia, dropped asleep, and⁠ ⁠… again! Good God! when will this torture cease!”

“I only⁠ ⁠… you must excuse⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh!⁠ ⁠… Put me out at the next station! I can’t stand any more.⁠ ⁠… I⁠ ⁠… I am dying.⁠ ⁠…”

“This is mean, disgusting!” cry the “public,” revolted. “Go away! You shall pay for such persecution. Get away!”

Podtyagin waves his hand in despair, sighs, and walks out of the carriage. He goes to the attendants’ compartment, sits down at the table, exhausted, and complains:

“Oh, the public! There’s no satisfying them! It’s no use working and doing one’s best! One’s driven to drinking and cursing it all.⁠ ⁠… If you do nothing⁠—they’re angry; if you begin doing your duty, they’re angry too. There’s nothing for it but drink!”

Podtyagin empties a bottle straight off and thinks no more of work, duty, and honesty!

Mari d’Elle

It was a free night. Natalya Andreyevna Bronin (her married name was Nikitin), the opera singer, is lying in her bedroom, her whole being abandoned to repose. She lies, deliciously drowsy, thinking of her little daughter who lives somewhere far away with her grandmother or aunt.⁠ ⁠… The child is more precious to her than the public, bouquets, notices in the papers, adorers⁠ ⁠… and she would be glad to think about her till morning. She is happy, at peace, and all she longs for is not to be prevented from lying undisturbed, dozing and dreaming of her little girl.

All at once the singer starts, and opens her eyes wide: there is a harsh abrupt ring in the entry. Before ten seconds have passed the bell tinkles a second time and a third time. The door is opened noisily and someone walks into the entry stamping his feet like a horse, snorting and puffing with the cold.

“Damn it all, nowhere to hang one’s coat!” the singer hears a husky bass voice. “Celebrated singer, look at that! Makes five thousand a year, and can’t get a decent hatstand!”

“My husband!” thinks the singer, frowning. “And I believe he has brought one of his friends to stay the night too.⁠ ⁠… Hateful!”

No more peace. When the loud noise of someone blowing his nose and putting off his goloshes dies away, the singer hears cautious footsteps in her bedroom.⁠ ⁠… It is her husband, mari d’elle, Denis Petrovitch Nikitin. He brings a whiff of cold air and a smell of brandy. For a long while he walks about the bedroom, breathing heavily, and, stumbling against the chairs in the dark, seems to be looking for something.⁠ ⁠…

“What do you want?” his wife moans, when she is sick of his fussing about. “You have woken me.”

“I am looking for the matches, my love. You⁠ ⁠… you are not asleep then? I have brought you a message.⁠ ⁠… Greetings from that⁠ ⁠… what’s-his-name?⁠ ⁠… redheaded fellow who is always sending you bouquets.⁠ ⁠… Zagvozdkin.⁠ ⁠… I have just been to see him.”

“What did you go to him for?”

“Oh, nothing particular.⁠ ⁠… We sat and talked and had a drink. Say what you like, Nathalie, I dislike that individual⁠—I dislike him awfully! He is a rare blockhead. He is a wealthy man, a capitalist; he has six hundred thousand, and you would never guess it. Money is no more use to him than a radish to a dog. He does not eat it himself nor give it to others. Money ought to circulate, but he keeps tight hold of it, is afraid to part with it.⁠ ⁠… What’s the good of capital lying idle? Capital lying idle is no better than grass.”

Mari d’elle gropes his way to the edge of the bed and, puffing, sits down at his wife’s feet.

“Capital lying idle is pernicious,” he goes on. “Why has business gone downhill in Russia? Because there is so much capital lying idle among us; they are afraid to invest it. It’s very different in England.⁠ ⁠… There are no such queer fish as Zagvozdkin in England, my girl.⁠ ⁠… There every farthing is in circulation.⁠ ⁠… Yes.⁠ ⁠… They don’t keep it locked up in chests there.⁠ ⁠…”

“Well, that’s all right. I am sleepy.”

“Directly.⁠ ⁠… Whatever was it I was talking about? Yes.⁠ ⁠… In these hard times hanging is too good for Zagvozdkin.⁠ ⁠… He is a fool and a scoundrel.⁠ ⁠… No better than a fool. If I asked him for a loan without security⁠—why, a child could see that he runs no risk whatever. He doesn’t understand, the ass! For ten thousand he would have got a hundred. In a year he would have another hundred thousand. I asked, I talked⁠ ⁠… but he wouldn’t give it me, the blockhead.”

“I hope you did not ask him for a loan in my name.”

“H’m.⁠ ⁠… A queer question.⁠ ⁠…” Mari d’elle is offended. “Anyway he would sooner give me ten thousand than you. You are a woman, and I am a man anyway, a businesslike person. And what a scheme I propose to him! Not a bubble, not some chimera, but a sound thing, substantial! If one could hit on a man who would understand, one might get twenty thousand for the idea alone! Even you would understand if I were to tell you about it. Only you⁠ ⁠… don’t chatter about it⁠ ⁠… not a word⁠ ⁠… but I fancy I have talked to you about it already. Have I talked to you about sausage-skins?”

“M’m⁠ ⁠… by and by.”

“I believe I have.⁠ ⁠… Do you see the point of it? Now the provision shops and the sausage-makers get their sausage-skins locally, and pay a high price for them. Well, but if one were to bring sausage-skins from the Caucasus where they are worth nothing, and where they are thrown away, then⁠ ⁠… where do you suppose the sausage-makers would buy their skins, here in the slaughterhouses or from me? From me, of course! Why, I shall sell them ten times as cheap! Now let us look at it like this: every year in Petersburg and Moscow and in other centres these same skins would be bought to the⁠ ⁠… to the sum of five hundred thousand, let us suppose. That’s the minimum. Well, and if.⁠ ⁠…”

“You can tell me tomorrow⁠ ⁠… later on.⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, that’s true. You are sleepy, pardon, I am just going⁠ ⁠… say what you like, but with capital you can do good business everywhere, wherever you go.⁠ ⁠… With capital even out of cigarette ends one may make a million.⁠ ⁠… Take your theatrical business now. Why, for example, did Lentovsky come to grief? It’s very simple. He did not go the right way to work from the very first. He had no capital and he went headlong to the dogs.⁠ ⁠… He ought first to have secured his capital, and then to have gone slowly and cautiously.⁠ ⁠… Nowadays, one can easily make money by a theatre, whether it is a private one or a people’s one.⁠ ⁠… If one produces the right plays, charges a low price for admission, and hits the public fancy, one may put a hundred thousand in one’s pocket the first year.⁠ ⁠… You don’t understand, but I am talking sense.⁠ ⁠… You see you are fond of hoarding capital; you are no better than that fool Zagvozdkin, you heap it up and don’t know what for.⁠ ⁠… You won’t listen, you don’t want to.⁠ ⁠… If you were to put it into circulation, you wouldn’t have to be rushing all over the place.⁠ ⁠… You see for a private theatre, five thousand would be enough for a beginning.⁠ ⁠… Not like Lentovsky, of course, but on a modest scale in a small way. I have got a manager already, I have looked at a suitable building.⁠ ⁠… It’s only the money I haven’t got.⁠ ⁠… If only you understood things you would have parted with your five percents⁠ ⁠… your Preference shares.⁠ ⁠…”

“No, merci.⁠ ⁠… You have fleeced me enough already.⁠ ⁠… Let me alone, I have been punished already.⁠ ⁠…”

“If you are going to argue like a woman, then of course⁠ ⁠…” sighs Nikitin, getting up. “Of course.⁠ ⁠…”

“Let me alone.⁠ ⁠… Come, go away and don’t keep me awake.⁠ ⁠… I am sick of listening to your nonsense.”

“H’m.⁠ ⁠… To be sure⁠ ⁠… of course! Fleeced⁠ ⁠… plundered.⁠ ⁠… What we give we remember, but we don’t remember what we take.”

“I have never taken anything from you.”

“Is that so? But when we weren’t a celebrated singer, at whose expense did we live then? And who, allow me to ask, lifted you out of beggary and secured your happiness? Don’t you remember that?”

“Come, go to bed. Go along and sleep it off.”

“Do you mean to say you think I am drunk?⁠ ⁠… if I am so low in the eyes of such a grand lady⁠ ⁠… I can go away altogether.”

“Do. A good thing too.”

“I will, too. I have humbled myself enough. And I will go.”

“Oh, my God! Oh, do go, then! I shall be delighted!”

“Very well, we shall see.”

Nikitin mutters something to himself, and, stumbling over the chairs, goes out of the bedroom. Then sounds reach her from the entry of whispering, the shuffling of goloshes and a door being shut. Mari d’elle has taken offence in earnest and gone out.

“Thank God, he has gone!” thinks the singer. “Now I can sleep.”

And as she falls asleep she thinks of her mari d’elle, what sort of a man he is, and how this affliction has come upon her. At one time he used to live at Tchernigov, and had a situation there as a bookkeeper. As an ordinary obscure individual and not the mari d’elle, he had been quite endurable: he used to go to his work and take his salary, and all his whims and projects went no further than a new guitar, fashionable trousers, and an amber cigarette-holder. Since he had become “the husband of a celebrity” he was completely transformed. The singer remembered that when first she told him she was going on the stage he had made a fuss, been indignant, complained to her parents, turned her out of the house. She had been obliged to go on the stage without his permission. Afterwards, when he learned from the papers and from various people that she was earning big sums, he had “forgiven her,” abandoned bookkeeping, and become her hanger-on. The singer was overcome with amazement when she looked at her hanger-on: when and where had he managed to pick up new tastes, polish, and airs and graces? Where had he learned the taste of oysters and of different Burgundies? Who had taught him to dress and do his hair in the fashion and call her “Nathalie” instead of Natasha?

“It’s strange,” thinks the singer. “In old days he used to get his salary and put it away, but now a hundred roubles a day is not enough for him. In old days he was afraid to talk before schoolboys for fear of saying something silly, and now he is overfamiliar even with princes⁠ ⁠… wretched, contemptible little creature!”

But then the singer starts again; again there is the clang of the bell in the entry. The housemaid, scolding and angrily flopping with her slippers, goes to open the door. Again someone comes in and stamps like a horse.

“He has come back!” thinks the singer. “When shall I be left in peace? It’s revolting!” She is overcome by fury.

“Wait a bit.⁠ ⁠… I’ll teach you to get up these farces! You shall go away. I’ll make you go away!”

The singer leaps up and runs barefoot into the little drawing room where her mari usually sleeps. She comes at the moment when he is undressing, and carefully folding his clothes on a chair.

“You went away!” she says, looking at him with bright eyes full of hatred. “What did you come back for?”

Nikitin remains silent, and merely sniffs.

“You went away! Kindly take yourself off this very minute! This very minute! Do you hear?”

Mari d’elle coughs and, without looking at his wife, takes off his braces.

“If you don’t go away, you insolent creature, I shall go,” the singer goes on, stamping her bare foot, and looking at him with flashing eyes. “I shall go! Do you hear, insolent⁠ ⁠… worthless wretch, flunkey, out you go!”

“You might have some shame before outsiders,” mutters her husband.⁠ ⁠…

The singer looks round and only then sees an unfamiliar countenance that looks like an actor’s.⁠ ⁠… The countenance, seeing the singer’s uncovered shoulders and bare feet, shows signs of embarrassment, and looks ready to sink through the floor.

“Let me introduce⁠ ⁠…” mutters Nikitin, “Bezbozhnikov, a provincial manager.”

The singer utters a shriek, and runs off into her bedroom.

“There, you see⁠ ⁠…” says mari d’elle, as he stretches himself on the sofa, “it was all honey just now⁠ ⁠… my love, my dear, my darling, kisses and embraces⁠ ⁠… but as soon as money is touched upon, then.⁠ ⁠… As you see⁠ ⁠… money is the great thing.⁠ ⁠… Good night!”

A minute later there is a snore.

The Looking-Glass

New Year’s Eve. Nellie, the daughter of a landowner and general, a young and pretty girl, dreaming day and night of being married, was sitting in her room, gazing with exhausted, half-closed eyes into the looking-glass. She was pale, tense, and as motionless as the looking-glass.

The nonexistent but apparent vista of a long, narrow corridor with endless rows of candles, the reflection of her face, her hands, of the frame⁠—all this was already clouded in mist and merged into a boundless grey sea. The sea was undulating, gleaming and now and then flaring crimson.⁠ ⁠…

Looking at Nellie’s motionless eyes and parted lips, one could hardly say whether she was asleep or awake, but nevertheless she was seeing. At first she saw only the smile and soft, charming expression of someone’s eyes, then against the shifting grey background there gradually appeared the outlines of a head, a face, eyebrows, beard. It was he, the destined one, the object of long dreams and hopes. The destined one was for Nellie everything, the significance of life, personal happiness, career, fate. Outside him, as on the grey background of the looking-glass, all was dark, empty, meaningless. And so it was not strange that, seeing before her a handsome, gently smiling face, she was conscious of bliss, of an unutterably sweet dream that could not be expressed in speech or on paper. Then she heard his voice, saw herself living under the same roof with him, her life merged into his. Months and years flew by against the grey background. And Nellie saw her future distinctly in all its details.

Picture followed picture against the grey background. Now Nellie saw herself one winter night knocking at the door of Stepan Lukitch, the district doctor. The old dog hoarsely and lazily barked behind the gate. The doctor’s windows were in darkness. All was silence.

“For God’s sake, for God’s sake!” whispered Nellie.

But at last the garden gate creaked and Nellie saw the doctor’s cook.

“Is the doctor at home?”

“His honour’s asleep,” whispered the cook into her sleeve, as though afraid of waking her master.

“He’s only just got home from his fever patients, and gave orders he was not to be waked.”

But Nellie scarcely heard the cook. Thrusting her aside, she rushed headlong into the doctor’s house. Running through some dark and stuffy rooms, upsetting two or three chairs, she at last reached the doctor’s bedroom. Stepan Lukitch was lying on his bed, dressed, but without his coat, and with pouting lips was breathing into his open hand. A little night-light glimmered faintly beside him. Without uttering a word Nellie sat down and began to cry. She wept bitterly, shaking all over.

“My husband is ill!” she sobbed out. Stepan Lukitch was silent. He slowly sat up, propped his head on his hand, and looked at his visitor with fixed, sleepy eyes. “My husband is ill!” Nellie continued, restraining her sobs. “For mercy’s sake come quickly. Make haste.⁠ ⁠… Make haste!”

“Eh?” growled the doctor, blowing into his hand.

“Come! Come this very minute! Or⁠ ⁠… it’s terrible to think! For mercy’s sake!”

And pale, exhausted Nellie, gasping and swallowing her tears, began describing to the doctor her husband’s illness, her unutterable terror. Her sufferings would have touched the heart of a stone, but the doctor looked at her, blew into his open hand, and⁠—not a movement.

“I’ll come tomorrow!” he muttered.

“That’s impossible!” cried Nellie. “I know my husband has typhus! At once⁠ ⁠… this very minute you are needed!”

“I⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… have only just come in,” muttered the doctor. “For the last three days I’ve been away, seeing typhus patients, and I’m exhausted and ill myself.⁠ ⁠… I simply can’t! Absolutely! I’ve caught it myself! There!”

And the doctor thrust before her eyes a clinical thermometer.

“My temperature is nearly forty.⁠ ⁠… I absolutely can’t. I can scarcely sit up. Excuse me. I’ll lie down.⁠ ⁠…”

The doctor lay down.

“But I implore you, doctor,” Nellie moaned in despair. “I beseech you! Help me, for mercy’s sake! Make a great effort and come! I will repay you, doctor!”

“Oh, dear!⁠ ⁠… Why, I have told you already. Ah!”

Nellie leapt up and walked nervously up and down the bedroom. She longed to explain to the doctor, to bring him to reason.⁠ ⁠… She thought if only he knew how dear her husband was to her and how unhappy she was, he would forget his exhaustion and his illness. But how could she be eloquent enough?

“Go to the Zemstvo doctor,” she heard Stepan Lukitch’s voice.

“That’s impossible! He lives more than twenty miles from here, and time is precious. And the horses can’t stand it. It is thirty miles from us to you, and as much from here to the Zemstvo doctor. No, it’s impossible! Come along, Stepan Lukitch. I ask of you an heroic deed. Come, perform that heroic deed! Have pity on us!”

“It’s beyond everything.⁠ ⁠… I’m in a fever⁠ ⁠… my head’s in a whirl⁠ ⁠… and she won’t understand! Leave me alone!”

“But you are in duty bound to come! You cannot refuse to come! It’s egoism! A man is bound to sacrifice his life for his neighbour, and you⁠ ⁠… you refuse to come! I will summon you before the Court.”

Nellie felt that she was uttering a false and undeserved insult, but for her husband’s sake she was capable of forgetting logic, tact, sympathy for others.⁠ ⁠… In reply to her threats, the doctor greedily gulped a glass of cold water. Nellie fell to entreating and imploring like the very lowest beggar.⁠ ⁠… At last the doctor gave way. He slowly got up, puffing and panting, looking for his coat.

“Here it is!” cried Nellie, helping him. “Let me put it on to you. Come along! I will repay you.⁠ ⁠… All my life I shall be grateful to you.⁠ ⁠…”

But what agony! After putting on his coat the doctor lay down again. Nellie got him up and dragged him to the hall. Then there was an agonizing to-do over his goloshes, his overcoat.⁠ ⁠… His cap was lost.⁠ ⁠… But at last Nellie was in the carriage with the doctor. Now they had only to drive thirty miles and her husband would have a doctor’s help. The earth was wrapped in darkness. One could not see one’s hand before one’s face.⁠ ⁠… A cold winter wind was blowing. There were frozen lumps under their wheels. The coachman was continually stopping and wondering which road to take.

Nellie and the doctor sat silent all the way. It was fearfully jolting, but they felt neither the cold nor the jolts.

“Get on, get on!” Nellie implored the driver.

At five in the morning the exhausted horses drove into the yard. Nellie saw the familiar gates, the well with the crane, the long row of stables and barns. At last she was at home.

“Wait a moment, I will be back directly,” she said to Stepan Lukitch, making him sit down on the sofa in the dining room. “Sit still and wait a little, and I’ll see how he is going on.”

On her return from her husband, Nellie found the doctor lying down. He was lying on the sofa and muttering.

“Doctor, please!⁠ ⁠… doctor!”

“Eh? Ask Domna!” muttered Stepan Lukitch.


“They said at the meeting⁠ ⁠… Vlassov said⁠ ⁠… Who?⁠ ⁠… what?”

And to her horror Nellie saw that the doctor was as delirious as her husband. What was to be done?

“I must go for the Zemstvo doctor,” she decided.

Then again there followed darkness, a cutting cold wind, lumps of frozen earth. She was suffering in body and in soul, and delusive nature has no arts, no deceptions to compensate these sufferings.⁠ ⁠…

Then she saw against the grey background how her husband every spring was in straits for money to pay the interest for the mortgage to the bank. He could not sleep, she could not sleep, and both racked their brains till their heads ached, thinking how to avoid being visited by the clerk of the Court.

She saw her children: the everlasting apprehension of colds, scarlet fever, diphtheria, bad marks at school, separation. Out of a brood of five or six one was sure to die.

The grey background was not untouched by death. That might well be. A husband and wife cannot die simultaneously. Whatever happened one must bury the other. And Nellie saw her husband dying. This terrible event presented itself to her in every detail. She saw the coffin, the candles, the deacon, and even the footmarks in the hall made by the undertaker.

“Why is it, what is it for?” she asked, looking blankly at her husband’s face.

And all the previous life with her husband seemed to her a stupid prelude to this.

Something fell from Nellie’s hand and knocked on the floor. She started, jumped up, and opened her eyes wide. One looking-glass she saw lying at her feet. The other was standing as before on the table.

She looked into the looking-glass and saw a pale, tear-stained face. There was no grey background now.

“I must have fallen asleep,” she thought with a sigh of relief.


A gloomy winter morning.

On the smooth and glittering surface of the river Bystryanka, sprinkled here and there with snow, stand two peasants, scrubby little Seryozhka and the church beadle, Matvey. Seryozhka, a short-legged, ragged, mangy-looking fellow of thirty, stares angrily at the ice. Tufts of wool hang from his shaggy sheepskin like a mangy dog. In his hands he holds a compass made of two pointed sticks. Matvey, a fine-looking old man in a new sheepskin and high felt boots, looks with mild blue eyes upwards where on the high sloping bank a village nestles picturesquely. In his hands there is a heavy crowbar.

“Well, are we going to stand like this till evening with our arms folded?” says Seryozhka, breaking the silence and turning his angry eyes on Matvey. “Have you come here to stand about, old fool, or to work?”

“Well, you⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… show me⁠ ⁠…” Matvey mutters, blinking mildly.

“Show you.⁠ ⁠… It’s always me: me to show you, and me to do it. They have no sense of their own! Mark it out with the compasses, that’s what’s wanted! You can’t break the ice without marking it out. Mark it! Take the compass.”

Matvey takes the compasses from Seryozhka’s hands, and, shuffling heavily on the same spot and jerking with his elbows in all directions, he begins awkwardly trying to describe a circle on the ice. Seryozhka screws up his eyes contemptuously and obviously enjoys his awkwardness and incompetence.

“Eh-eh-eh!” he mutters angrily. “Even that you can’t do! The fact is you are a stupid peasant, a wooden-head! You ought to be grazing geese and not making a Jordan! Give the compasses here! Give them here, I say!”

Seryozhka snatches the compasses out of the hands of the perspiring Matvey, and in an instant, jauntily twirling round on one heel, he describes a circle on the ice. The outline of the new Jordan is ready now, all that is left to do is to break the ice⁠ ⁠…

But before proceeding to the work Seryozhka spends a long time in airs and graces, whims and reproaches⁠ ⁠…

“I am not obliged to work for you! You are employed in the church, you do it!”

He obviously enjoys the peculiar position in which he has been placed by the fate that has bestowed on him the rare talent of surprising the whole parish once a year by his art. Poor mild Matvey has to listen to many venomous and contemptuous words from him. Seryozhka sets to work with vexation, with anger. He is lazy. He has hardly described the circle when he is already itching to go up to the village to drink tea, lounge about, and babble⁠ ⁠…

“I’ll be back directly,” he says, lighting his cigarette, “and meanwhile you had better bring something to sit on and sweep up, instead of standing there counting the crows.”

Matvey is left alone. The air is grey and harsh but still. The white church peeps out genially from behind the huts scattered on the river bank. Jackdaws are incessantly circling round its golden crosses. On one side of the village where the river bank breaks off and is steep a hobbled horse is standing at the very edge, motionless as a stone, probably asleep or deep in thought.

Matvey, too, stands motionless as a statue, waiting patiently. The dreamily brooding look of the river, the circling of the jackdaws, and the sight of the horse make him drowsy. One hour passes, a second, and still Seryozhka does not come. The river has long been swept and a box brought to sit on, but the drunken fellow does not appear. Matvey waits and merely yawns. The feeling of boredom is one of which he knows nothing. If he were told to stand on the river for a day, a month, or a year he would stand there.

At last Seryozhka comes into sight from behind the huts. He walks with a lurching gait, scarcely moving. He is too lazy to go the long way round, and he comes not by the road, but prefers a shortcut in a straight line down the bank, and sticks in the snow, hangs on to the bushes, slides on his back as he comes⁠—and all this slowly, with pauses.

“What are you about?” he cries, falling on Matvey at once. “Why are you standing there doing nothing! When are you going to break the ice?”

Matvey crosses himself, takes the crowbar in both hands, and begins breaking the ice, carefully keeping to the circle that has been drawn. Seryozhka sits down on the box and watches the heavy clumsy movements of his assistant.

“Easy at the edges! Easy there!” he commands. “If you can’t do it properly, you shouldn’t undertake it, once you have undertaken it you should do it. You!”

A crowd collects on the top of the bank. At the sight of the spectators Seryozhka becomes even more excited.

“I declare I am not going to do it⁠ ⁠…” he says, lighting a stinking cigarette and spitting on the ground. “I should like to see how you get on without me. Last year at Kostyukovo, Styopka Gulkov undertook to make a Jordan as I do. And what did it amount to⁠—it was a laughingstock. The Kostyukovo folks came to ours⁠—crowds and crowds of them! The people flocked from all the villages.”

“Because except for ours there is nowhere a proper Jordan⁠ ⁠…”

“Work, there is no time for talking.⁠ ⁠… Yes, old man⁠ ⁠… you won’t find another Jordan like it in the whole province. The soldiers say you would look in vain, they are not so good even in the towns. Easy, easy!”

Matvey puffs and groans. The work is not easy. The ice is firm and thick; and he has to break it and at once take the pieces away that the open space may not be blocked up.

But, hard as the work is and senseless as Seryozhka’s commands are, by three o’clock there is a large circle of dark water in the Bystryanka.

“It was better last year,” says Seryozhka angrily. “You can’t do even that! Ah, dummy! To keep such fools in the temple of God! Go and bring a board to make the pegs! Bring the ring, you crow! And er⁠ ⁠… get some bread somewhere⁠ ⁠… and some cucumbers, or something.”

Matvey goes off and soon afterwards comes back, carrying on his shoulders an immense wooden ring which had been painted in previous years in patterns of various colours. In the centre of the ring is a red cross, at the circumference holes for the pegs. Seryozhka takes the ring and covers the hole in the ice with it.

“Just right⁠ ⁠… it fits.⁠ ⁠… We have only to renew the paint and it will be first-rate.⁠ ⁠… Come, why are you standing still? Make the lectern. Or⁠—er⁠—go and get logs to make the cross⁠ ⁠…”

Matvey, who has not tasted food or drink all day, trudges up the hill again. Lazy as Seryozhka is, he makes the pegs with his own hands. He knows that those pegs have a miraculous power: whoever gets hold of a peg after the blessing of the water will be lucky for the whole year. Such work is really worth doing.

But the real work begins the following day. Then Seryozhka displays himself before the ignorant Matvey in all the greatness of his talent. There is no end to his babble, his faultfinding, his whims and fancies. If Matvey nails two big pieces of wood to make a cross, he is dissatisfied and tells him to do it again. If Matvey stands still, Seryozhka asks him angrily why he does not go; if he moves, Seryozhka shouts to him not to go away but to do his work. He is not satisfied with his tools, with the weather, or with his own talent; nothing pleases him.

Matvey saws out a great piece of ice for a lectern.

“Why have you broken off the corner?” cries Seryozhka, and glares at him furiously. “Why have you broken off the corner? I ask you.”

“Forgive me, for Christ’s sake.”

“Do it over again!”

Matvey saws again⁠ ⁠… and there is no end to his sufferings. A lectern is to stand by the hole in the ice that is covered by the painted ring; on the lectern is to be carved the cross and the open gospel. But that is not all. Behind the lectern there is to be a high cross to be seen by all the crowd and to glitter in the sun as though sprinkled with diamonds and rubies. On the cross is to be a dove carved out of ice. The path from the church to the Jordan is to be strewn with branches of fir and juniper. All this is their task.

First of all Seryozhka sets to work on the lectern. He works with a file, a chisel, and an awl. He is perfectly successful in the cross on the lectern, the gospel, and the drapery that hangs down from the lectern. Then he begins on the dove. While he is trying to carve an expression of meekness and humility on the face of the dove, Matvey, lumbering about like a bear, is coating with ice the cross he has made of wood. He takes the cross and dips it in the hole. Waiting till the water has frozen on the cross he dips it in a second time, and so on till the cross is covered with a thick layer of ice. It is a difficult job, calling for a great deal of strength and patience.

But now the delicate work is finished. Seryozhka races about the village like one possessed. He swears and vows he will go at once to the river and smash all his work. He is looking for suitable paints.

His pockets are full of ochre, dark blue, red lead, and verdigris; without paying a farthing he rushes headlong from one shop to another. The shop is next door to the tavern. Here he has a drink; with a wave of his hand he darts off without paying. At one hut he gets beetroot leaves, at another an onion skin, out of which he makes a yellow colour. He swears, shoves, threatens, and not a soul murmurs! They all smile at him, they sympathise with him, call him Sergey Nikititch; they all feel that his art is not his personal affair but something that concerns them all, the whole people. One creates, the others help him. Seryozhka in himself is a nonentity, a sluggard, a drunkard, and a wastrel, but when he has his red lead or compasses in his hand he is at once something higher, a servant of God.

Epiphany morning comes. The precincts of the church and both banks of the river for a long distance are swarming with people. Everything that makes up the Jordan is scrupulously concealed under new mats. Seryozhka is meekly moving about near the mats, trying to control his emotion. He sees thousands of people. There are many here from other parishes; these people have come many a mile on foot through the frost and the snow merely to see his celebrated Jordan. Matvey, who had finished his coarse, rough work, is by now back in the church, there is no sight, no sound of him; he is already forgotten.⁠ ⁠… The weather is lovely.⁠ ⁠… There is not a cloud in the sky. The sunshine is dazzling.

The church bells ring out on the hill⁠ ⁠… Thousands of heads are bared, thousands of hands are moving, there are thousands of signs of the cross!

And Seryozhka does not know what to do with himself for impatience. But now they are ringing the bells for the Sacrament; then half an hour later a certain agitation is perceptible in the belfry and among the people. Banners are borne out of the church one after the other, while the bells peal in joyous haste. Seryozhka, trembling, pulls away the mat⁠ ⁠… and the people behold something extraordinary. The lectern, the wooden ring, the pegs, and the cross in the ice are iridescent with thousands of colors. The cross and the dove glitter so dazzlingly that it hurts the eyes to look at them. Merciful God, how fine it is! A murmur of wonder and delight runs through the crowd; the bells peal more loudly still, the day grows brighter; the banners oscillate and move over the crowd as over the waves. The procession, glittering with the settings of the icons and the vestments of the clergy, comes slowly down the road and turns towards the Jordan. Hands are waved to the belfry for the ringing to cease, and the blessing of the water begins. The priests conduct the service slowly, deliberately, evidently trying to prolong the ceremony and the joy of praying all gathered together. There is perfect stillness.

But now they plunge the cross in, and the air echoes with an extraordinary din. Guns are fired, the bells peal furiously, loud exclamations of delight, shouts, and a rush to get the pegs. Seryozhka listens to this uproar, sees thousands of eyes fixed upon him, and the lazy fellow’s soul is filled with a sense of glory and triumph.

A Blunder

Ilya Sergeitch Peplov and his wife Kleopatra Petrovna were standing at the door, listening greedily. On the other side in the little drawing room a love scene was apparently taking place between two persons: their daughter Natashenka and a teacher of the district school, called Shchupkin.

“He’s rising!” whispered Peplov, quivering with impatience and rubbing his hands. “Now, Kleopatra, mind; as soon as they begin talking of their feelings, take down the icon from the wall and we’ll go in and bless them.⁠ ⁠… We’ll catch him.⁠ ⁠… A blessing with an icon is sacred and binding⁠ ⁠… He couldn’t get out of it, if he brought it into court.”

On the other side of the door this was the conversation:

“Don’t go on like that!” said Shchupkin, striking a match against his checked trousers. “I never wrote you any letters!”

“I like that! As though I didn’t know your writing!” giggled the girl with an affected shriek, continually peeping at herself in the glass. “I knew it at once! And what a queer man you are! You are a writing master, and you write like a spider! How can you teach writing if you write so badly yourself?”

“H’m!⁠ ⁠… That means nothing. The great thing in writing lessons is not the hand one writes, but keeping the boys in order. You hit one on the head with a ruler, make another kneel down.⁠ ⁠… Besides, there’s nothing in handwriting! Nekrassov was an author, but his handwriting’s a disgrace, there’s a specimen of it in his collected works.”

“You are not Nekrassov.⁠ ⁠…” (A sigh). “I should love to marry an author. He’d always be writing poems to me.”

“I can write you a poem, too, if you like.”

“What can you write about?”

“Love⁠—passion⁠—your eyes. You’ll be crazy when you read it. It would draw a tear from a stone! And if I write you a real poem, will you let me kiss your hand?”

“That’s nothing much! You can kiss it now if you like.”

Shchupkin jumped up, and making sheepish eyes, bent over the fat little hand that smelt of egg soap.

“Take down the icon,” Peplov whispered in a fluster, pale with excitement, and buttoning his coat as he prodded his wife with his elbow. “Come along, now!”

And without a second’s delay Peplov flung open the door.

“Children,” he muttered, lifting up his arms and blinking tearfully, “the Lord bless you, my children. May you live⁠—be fruitful⁠—and multiply.”

“And⁠—and I bless you, too,” the mamma brought out, crying with happiness. “May you be happy, my dear ones! Oh, you are taking from me my only treasure!” she said to Shchupkin. “Love my girl, be good to her.⁠ ⁠…”

Shchupkin’s mouth fell open with amazement and alarm. The parents’ attack was so bold and unexpected that he could not utter a single word.

“I’m in for it! I’m spliced!” he thought, going limp with horror. “It’s all over with you now, my boy! There’s no escape!”

And he bowed his head submissively, as though to say, “Take me, I’m vanquished.”

“Ble-blessings on you,” the papa went on, and he, too, shed tears. “Natashenka, my daughter, stand by his side. Kleopatra, give me the icon.”

But at this point the father suddenly left off weeping, and his face was contorted with anger.

“You ninny!” he said angrily to his wife. “You are an idiot! Is that the icon?”

“Ach, saints alive!”

What had happened? The writing master raised himself and saw that he was saved; in her flutter the mamma had snatched from the wall the portrait of Lazhetchnikov, the author, in mistake for the icon. Old Peplov and his wife stood disconcerted in the middle of the room, holding the portrait aloft, not knowing what to do or what to say. The writing master took advantage of the general confusion and slipped away.


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!


“To Whom Shall I Tell My Grief?”

The twilight of evening. Big flakes of wet snow are whirling lazily about the street lamps, which have just been lighted, and lying in a thin soft layer on roofs, horses’ backs, shoulders, caps. Iona Potapov, the sledge-driver, is all white like a ghost. He sits on the box without stirring, bent as double as the living body can be bent. If a regular snowdrift fell on him it seems as though even then he would not think it necessary to shake it off.⁠ ⁠… His little mare is white and motionless too. Her stillness, the angularity of her lines, and the stick-like straightness of her legs make her look like a halfpenny gingerbread horse. She is probably lost in thought. Anyone who has been torn away from the plough, from the familiar gray landscapes, and cast into this slough, full of monstrous lights, of unceasing uproar and hurrying people, is bound to think.

It is a long time since Iona and his nag have budged. They came out of the yard before dinnertime and not a single fare yet. But now the shades of evening are falling on the town. The pale light of the street lamps changes to a vivid color, and the bustle of the street grows noisier.

“Sledge to Vyborgskaya!” Iona hears. “Sledge!”

Iona starts, and through his snow-plastered eyelashes sees an officer in a military overcoat with a hood over his head.

“To Vyborgskaya,” repeats the officer. “Are you asleep? To Vyborgskaya!”

In token of assent Iona gives a tug at the reins which sends cakes of snow flying from the horse’s back and shoulders. The officer gets into the sledge. The sledge-driver clicks to the horse, cranes his neck like a swan, rises in his seat, and more from habit than necessity brandishes his whip. The mare cranes her neck, too, crooks her stick-like legs, and hesitatingly sets of.⁠ ⁠…

“Where are you shoving, you devil?” Iona immediately hears shouts from the dark mass shifting to and fro before him. “Where the devil are you going? Keep to the r-right!”

“You don’t know how to drive! Keep to the right,” says the officer angrily.

A coachman driving a carriage swears at him; a pedestrian crossing the road and brushing the horse’s nose with his shoulder looks at him angrily and shakes the snow off his sleeve. Iona fidgets on the box as though he were sitting on thorns, jerks his elbows, and turns his eyes about like one possessed as though he did not know where he was or why he was there.

“What rascals they all are!” says the officer jocosely. “They are simply doing their best to run up against you or fall under the horse’s feet. They must be doing it on purpose.”

Iona looks as his fare and moves his lips.⁠ ⁠… Apparently he means to say something, but nothing comes but a sniff.

“What?” inquires the officer.

Iona gives a wry smile, and straining his throat, brings out huskily: “My son⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… my son died this week, sir.”

“H’m! What did he die of?”

Iona turns his whole body round to his fare, and says:

“Who can tell! It must have been from fever.⁠ ⁠… He lay three days in the hospital and then he died.⁠ ⁠… God’s will.”

“Turn round, you devil!” comes out of the darkness. “Have you gone cracked, you old dog? Look where you are going!”

“Drive on! drive on!⁠ ⁠…” says the officer. “We shan’t get there till tomorrow going on like this. Hurry up!”

The sledge-driver cranes his neck again, rises in his seat, and with heavy grace swings his whip. Several times he looks round at the officer, but the latter keeps his eyes shut and is apparently disinclined to listen. Putting his fare down at Vyborgskaya, Iona stops by a restaurant, and again sits huddled up on the box.⁠ ⁠… Again the wet snow paints him and his horse white. One hour passes, and then another.⁠ ⁠…

Three young men, two tall and thin, one short and hunchbacked, come up, railing at each other and loudly stamping on the pavement with their goloshes.

“Cabby, to the Police Bridge!” the hunchback cries in a cracked voice. “The three of us,⁠ ⁠… twenty kopecks!”

Iona tugs at the reins and clicks to his horse. Twenty kopecks is not a fair price, but he has no thoughts for that. Whether it is a rouble or whether it is five kopecks does not matter to him now so long as he has a fare.⁠ ⁠… The three young men, shoving each other and using bad language, go up to the sledge, and all three try to sit down at once. The question remains to be settled: Which are to sit down and which one is to stand? After a long altercation, ill-temper, and abuse, they come to the conclusion that the hunchback must stand because he is the shortest.

“Well, drive on,” says the hunchback in his cracked voice, settling himself and breathing down Iona’s neck. “Cut along! What a cap you’ve got, my friend! You wouldn’t find a worse one in all Petersburg.⁠ ⁠…”

“He-he!⁠ ⁠… he-he!⁠ ⁠…” laughs Iona. “It’s nothing to boast of!”

“Well, then, nothing to boast of, drive on! Are you going to drive like this all the way? Eh? Shall I give you one in the neck?”

“My head aches,” says one of the tall ones. “At the Dukmasovs’ yesterday Vaska and I drank four bottles of brandy between us.”

“I can’t make out why you talk such stuff,” says the other tall one angrily. “You lie like a brute.”

“Strike me dead, it’s the truth!⁠ ⁠…”

“It’s about as true as that a louse coughs.”

“He-he!” grins Iona. “Me-er-ry gentlemen!”

“Tfoo! the devil take you!” cries the hunchback indignantly. “Will you get on, you old plague, or won’t you? Is that the way to drive? Give her one with the whip. Hang it all, give it her well.”

Iona feels behind his back the jolting person and quivering voice of the hunchback. He hears abuse addressed to him, he sees people, and the feeling of loneliness begins little by little to be less heavy on his heart. The hunchback swears at him, till he chokes over some elaborately whimsical string of epithets and is overpowered by his cough. His tall companions begin talking of a certain Nadyezhda Petrovna. Iona looks round at them. Waiting till there is a brief pause, he looks round once more and says:

“This week⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… my⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… son died!”

“We shall all die,⁠ ⁠…” says the hunchback with a sigh, wiping his lips after coughing. “Come, drive on! drive on! My friends, I simply cannot stand crawling like this! When will he get us there?”

“Well, you give him a little encouragement⁠ ⁠… one in the neck!”

“Do you hear, you old plague? I’ll make you smart. If one stands on ceremony with fellows like you one may as well walk. Do you hear, you old dragon? Or don’t you care a hang what we say?”

And Iona hears rather than feels a slap on the back of his neck.

“He-he!⁠ ⁠…” he laughs. “Merry gentlemen.⁠ ⁠… God give you health!”

“Cabman, are you married?” asks one of the tall ones.

“I? He he! Me-er-ry gentlemen. The only wife for me now is the damp earth.⁠ ⁠… He-ho-ho!⁠ ⁠… The grave that is!⁠ ⁠… Here my son’s dead and I am alive.⁠ ⁠… It’s a strange thing, death has come in at the wrong door.⁠ ⁠… Instead of coming for me it went for my son.⁠ ⁠…”

And Iona turns round to tell them how his son died, but at that point the hunchback gives a faint sigh and announces that, thank God! they have arrived at last. After taking his twenty kopecks, Iona gazes for a long while after the revelers, who disappear into a dark entry. Again he is alone and again there is silence for him.⁠ ⁠… The misery which has been for a brief space eased comes back again and tears his heart more cruelly than ever. With a look of anxiety and suffering Iona’s eyes stray restlessly among the crowds moving to and fro on both sides of the street: can he not find among those thousands someone who will listen to him? But the crowds flit by heedless of him and his misery.⁠ ⁠… His misery is immense, beyond all bounds. If Iona’s heart were to burst and his misery to flow out, it would flood the whole world, it seems, but yet it is not seen. It has found a hiding-place in such an insignificant shell that one would not have found it with a candle by daylight.⁠ ⁠…

Iona sees a house-porter with a parcel and makes up his mind to address him.

“What time will it be, friend?” he asks.

“Going on for ten.⁠ ⁠… Why have you stopped here? Drive on!”

Iona drives a few paces away, bends himself double, and gives himself up to his misery. He feels it is no good to appeal to people. But before five minutes have passed he draws himself up, shakes his head as though he feels a sharp pain, and tugs at the reins.⁠ ⁠… He can bear it no longer.

“Back to the yard!” he thinks. “To the yard!”

And his little mare, as though she knew his thoughts, falls to trotting. An hour and a half later Iona is sitting by a big dirty stove. On the stove, on the floor, and on the benches are people snoring. The air is full of smells and stuffiness. Iona looks at the sleeping figures, scratches himself, and regrets that he has come home so early.⁠ ⁠…

“I have not earned enough to pay for the oats, even,” he thinks. “That’s why I am so miserable. A man who knows how to do his work,⁠ ⁠… who has had enough to eat, and whose horse has had enough to eat, is always at ease.⁠ ⁠…”

In one of the corners a young cabman gets up, clears his throat sleepily, and makes for the water-bucket.

“Want a drink?” Iona asks him.

“Seems so.”

“May it do you good.⁠ ⁠… But my son is dead, mate.⁠ ⁠… Do you hear? This week in the hospital.⁠ ⁠… It’s a queer business.⁠ ⁠…”

Iona looks to see the effect produced by his words, but he sees nothing. The young man has covered his head over and is already asleep. The old man sighs and scratches himself.⁠ ⁠… Just as the young man had been thirsty for water, he thirsts for speech. His son will soon have been dead a week, and he has not really talked to anybody yet.⁠ ⁠… He wants to talk of it properly, with deliberation.⁠ ⁠… He wants to tell how his son was taken ill, how he suffered, what he said before he died, how he died.⁠ ⁠… He wants to describe the funeral, and how he went to the hospital to get his son’s clothes. He still has his daughter Anisya in the country.⁠ ⁠… And he wants to talk about her too.⁠ ⁠… Yes, he has plenty to talk about now. His listener ought to sigh and exclaim and lament.⁠ ⁠… It would be even better to talk to women. Though they are silly creatures, they blubber at the first word.

“Let’s go out and have a look at the mare,” Iona thinks. “There is always time for sleep.⁠ ⁠… You’ll have sleep enough, no fear.⁠ ⁠…”

He puts on his coat and goes into the stables where his mare is standing. He thinks about oats, about hay, about the weather.⁠ ⁠… He cannot think about his son when he is alone.⁠ ⁠… To talk about him with someone is possible, but to think of him and picture him is insufferable anguish.⁠ ⁠…

“Are you munching?” Iona asks his mare, seeing her shining eyes. “There, munch away, munch away.⁠ ⁠… Since we have not earned enough for oats, we will eat hay.⁠ ⁠… Yes,⁠ ⁠… I have grown too old to drive.⁠ ⁠… My son ought to be driving, not I.⁠ ⁠… He was a real cabman.⁠ ⁠… He ought to have lived.⁠ ⁠…”

Iona is silent for a while, and then he goes on:

“That’s how it is, old girl.⁠ ⁠… Kuzma Ionitch is gone.⁠ ⁠… He said goodbye to me.⁠ ⁠… He went and died for no reason.⁠ ⁠… Now, suppose you had a little colt, and you were own mother to that little colt.⁠ ⁠… And all at once that same little colt went and died.⁠ ⁠… You’d be sorry, wouldn’t you?⁠ ⁠…”

The little mare munches, listens, and breathes on her master’s hands. Iona is carried away and tells her all about it.

An Actor’s End

Shtchiptsov, the “heavy father” and “good-hearted simpleton,” a tall and thickset old man, not so much distinguished by his talents as an actor as by his exceptional physical strength, had a desperate quarrel with the manager during the performance, and just when the storm of words was at its height felt as though something had snapped in his chest. Zhukov, the manager, as a rule began at the end of every heated discussion to laugh hysterically and to fall into a swoon; on this occasion, however, Shtchiptsov did not remain for this climax, but hurried home. The high words and the sensation of something ruptured in his chest so agitated him as he left the theatre that he forgot to wash off his paint, and did nothing but take off his beard.

When he reached his hotel room, Shtchiptsov spent a long time pacing up and down, then sat down on the bed, propped his head on his fists, and sank into thought. He sat like that without stirring or uttering a sound till two o’clock the next afternoon, when Sigaev, the comic man, walked into his room.

“Why is it you did not come to the rehearsal, Booby Ivanitch?” the comic man began, panting and filling the room with fumes of vodka. “Where have you been?”

Shtchiptsov made no answer, but simply stared at the comic man with lustreless eyes, under which there were smudges of paint.

“You might at least have washed your phiz!” Sigaev went on. “You are a disgraceful sight! Have you been boozing, or⁠ ⁠… are you ill, or what? But why don’t you speak? I am asking you: are you ill?”

Shtchiptsov did not speak. In spite of the paint on his face, the comic man could not help noticing his striking pallor, the drops of sweat on his forehead, and the twitching of his lips. His hands and feet were trembling too, and the whole huge figure of the “good-natured simpleton” looked somehow crushed and flattened. The comic man took a rapid glance round the room, but saw neither bottle nor flask nor any other suspicious vessel.

“I say, Mishutka, you know you are ill!” he said in a flutter. “Strike me dead, you are ill! You don’t look yourself!”

Shtchiptsov remained silent and stared disconsolately at the floor.

“You must have caught cold,” said Sigaev, taking him by the hand. “Oh, dear, how hot your hands are! What’s the trouble?”

“I wa-ant to go home,” muttered Shtchiptsov.

“But you are at home now, aren’t you?”

“No.⁠ ⁠… To Vyazma.⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh, my, anywhere else! It would take you three years to get to your Vyazma.⁠ ⁠… What? do you want to go and see your daddy and mummy? I’ll be bound, they’ve kicked the bucket years ago, and you won’t find their graves.⁠ ⁠…”

“My ho-ome’s there.”

“Come, it’s no good giving way to the dismal dumps. These neurotic feelings are the limit, old man. You must get well, for you have to play Mitka in The Terrible Tsar tomorrow. There is nobody else to do it. Drink something hot and take some castor-oil? Have you got the money for some castor-oil? Or, stay, I’ll run and buy some.”

The comic man fumbled in his pockets, found a fifteen-kopeck piece, and ran to the chemist’s. A quarter of an hour later he came back.

“Come, drink it,” he said, holding the bottle to the “heavy father’s” mouth. “Drink it straight out of the bottle.⁠ ⁠… All at a go! That’s the way.⁠ ⁠… Now nibble at a clove that your very soul mayn’t stink of the filthy stuff.”

The comic man sat a little longer with his sick friend, then kissed him tenderly, and went away. Towards evening the jeune premier, Brama-Glinsky, ran in to see Shtchiptsov. The gifted actor was wearing a pair of prunella boots, had a glove on his left hand, was smoking a cigar, and even smelt of heliotrope, yet nevertheless he strongly suggested a traveller cast away in some land in which there were neither baths nor laundresses nor tailors.⁠ ⁠…

“I hear you are ill?” he said to Shtchiptsov, twirling round on his heel. “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with you, really?⁠ ⁠…”

Shtchiptsov did not speak nor stir.

“Why don’t you speak? Do you feel giddy? Oh well, don’t talk, I won’t pester you⁠ ⁠… don’t talk.⁠ ⁠…”

Brama-Glinsky (that was his stage name, in his passport he was called Guskov) walked away to the window, put his hands in his pockets, and fell to gazing into the street. Before his eyes stretched an immense waste, bounded by a grey fence beside which ran a perfect forest of last year’s burdocks. Beyond the waste ground was a dark, deserted factory, with windows boarded up. A belated jackdaw was flying round the chimney. This dreary, lifeless scene was beginning to be veiled in the dusk of evening.

“I must go home!” the jeune premier heard.

“Where is home?”

“To Vyazma⁠ ⁠… to my home.⁠ ⁠…”

“It is a thousand miles to Vyazma⁠ ⁠… my boy,” sighed Brama-Glinsky, drumming on the windowpane. “And what do you want to go to Vyazma for?”

“I want to die there.”

“What next! Now he’s dying! He has fallen ill for the first time in his life, and already he fancies that his last hour is come.⁠ ⁠… No, my boy, no cholera will carry off a buffalo like you. You’ll live to be a hundred.⁠ ⁠… Where’s the pain?”

“There’s no pain, but I⁠ ⁠… feel⁠ ⁠…”

“You don’t feel anything, it all comes from being too healthy. Your surplus energy upsets you. You ought to get jolly tight⁠—drink, you know, till your whole inside is topsy-turvy. Getting drunk is wonderfully restoring.⁠ ⁠… Do you remember how screwed you were at Rostov on the Don? Good Lord, the very thought of it is alarming! Sashka and I together could only just carry in the barrel, and you emptied it alone, and even sent for rum afterwards.⁠ ⁠… You got so drunk you were catching devils in a sack and pulled a lamppost up by the roots. Do you remember? Then you went off to beat the Greeks.⁠ ⁠…”

Under the influence of these agreeable reminiscences Shtchiptsov’s face brightened a little and his eyes began to shine.

“And do you remember how I beat Savoikin the manager?” he muttered, raising his head. “But there! I’ve beaten thirty-three managers in my time, and I can’t remember how many smaller fry. And what managers they were! Men who would not permit the very winds to touch them! I’ve beaten two celebrated authors and one painter!”

“What are you crying for?”

“At Kherson I killed a horse with my fists. And at Taganrog some roughs fell upon me at night, fifteen of them. I took off their caps and they followed me, begging: ‘Uncle, give us back our caps.’ That’s how I used to go on.”

“What are you crying for, then, you silly?”

“But now it’s all over⁠ ⁠… I feel it. If only I could go to Vyazma!”

A pause followed. After a silence Shtchiptsov suddenly jumped up and seized his cap. He looked distraught.

“Goodbye! I am going to Vyazma!” he articulated, staggering.

“And the money for the journey?”

“H’m!⁠ ⁠… I shall go on foot!”

“You are crazy.⁠ ⁠…”

The two men looked at each other, probably because the same thought⁠—of the boundless plains, the unending forests and swamps⁠—struck both of them at once.

“Well, I see you have gone off your head,” the jeune premier commented. “I’ll tell you what, old man.⁠ ⁠… First thing, go to bed, then drink some brandy and tea to put you into a sweat. And some castor-oil, of course. Stay, where am I to get some brandy?”

Brama-Glinsky thought a minute, then made up his mind to go to a shopkeeper called Madame Tsitrinnikov to try and get it from her on tick: who knows? perhaps the woman would feel for them and let them have it. The jeune premier went off, and half an hour later returned with a bottle of brandy and some castor-oil. Shtchiptsov was sitting motionless, as before, on the bed, gazing dumbly at the floor. He drank the castor-oil offered him by his friend like an automaton, with no consciousness of what he was doing. Like an automaton he sat afterwards at the table, and drank tea and brandy; mechanically he emptied the whole bottle and let the jeune premier put him to bed. The latter covered him up with a quilt and an overcoat, advised him to get into a perspiration, and went away.

The night came on; Shtchiptsov had drunk a great deal of brandy, but he did not sleep. He lay motionless under the quilt and stared at the dark ceiling; then, seeing the moon looking in at the window, he turned his eyes from the ceiling towards the companion of the earth, and lay so with open eyes till the morning. At nine o’clock in the morning Zhukov, the manager, ran in.

“What has put it into your head to be ill, my angel?” he cackled, wrinkling up his nose. “Aie, aie! A man with your physique has no business to be ill! For shame, for shame! Do you know, I was quite frightened. ‘Can our conversation have had such an effect on him?’ I wondered. My dear soul, I hope it’s not through me you’ve fallen ill! You know you gave me as good⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… And, besides, comrades can never get on without words. You called me all sorts of names⁠ ⁠… and have gone at me with your fists too, and yet I am fond of you! Upon my soul, I am. I respect you and am fond of you! Explain, my angel, why I am so fond of you. You are neither kith nor kin nor wife, but as soon as I heard you had fallen ill it cut me to the heart.”

Zhukov spent a long time declaring his affection, then fell to kissing the invalid, and finally was so overcome by his feelings that he began laughing hysterically, and was even meaning to fall into a swoon, but, probably remembering that he was not at home nor at the theatre, put off the swoon to a more convenient opportunity and went away.

Soon after him Adabashev, the tragic actor, a dingy, shortsighted individual who talked through his nose, made his appearance.⁠ ⁠… For a long while he looked at Shtchiptsov, for a long while he pondered, and at last he made a discovery.

“Do you know what, Mifa?” he said, pronouncing through his nose “f” instead of “sh,” and assuming a mysterious expression. “Do you know what? You ought to have a dose of castor-oil!”

Shtchiptsov was silent. He remained silent, too, a little later as the tragic actor poured the loathsome oil into his mouth. Two hours later Yevlampy, or, as the actors for some reason called him, Rigoletto, the hairdresser of the company, came into the room. He too, like the tragic man, stared at Shtchiptsov for a long time, then sighed like a steam-engine, and slowly and deliberately began untying a parcel he had brought with him. In it there were twenty cups and several little flasks.

“You should have sent for me and I would have cupped you long ago,” he said, tenderly baring Shtchiptsov’s chest. “It is easy to neglect illness.”

Thereupon Rigoletto stroked the broad chest of the “heavy father” and covered it all over with suction cups.

“Yes⁠ ⁠…” he said, as after this operation he packed up his paraphernalia, crimson with Shtchiptsov’s blood. “You should have sent for me, and I would have come.⁠ ⁠… You needn’t trouble about payment.⁠ ⁠… I do it from sympathy. Where are you to get the money if that idol won’t pay you? Now, please take these drops. They are nice drops! And now you must have a dose of this castor-oil. It’s the real thing. That’s right! I hope it will do you good. Well, now, goodbye.⁠ ⁠…”

Rigoletto took his parcel and withdrew, pleased that he had been of assistance to a fellow-creature.

The next morning Sigaev, the comic man, going in to see Shtchiptsov, found him in a terrible condition. He was lying under his coat, breathing in gasps, while his eyes strayed over the ceiling. In his hands he was crushing convulsively the crumpled quilt.

“To Vyazma!” he whispered, when he saw the comic man. “To Vyazma.”

“Come, I don’t like that, old man!” said the comic man, flinging up his hands. “You see⁠ ⁠… you see⁠ ⁠… you see, old man, that’s not the thing! Excuse me, but⁠ ⁠… it’s positively stupid.⁠ ⁠…”

“To go to Vyazma! My God, to Vyazma!”

“I⁠ ⁠… I did not expect it of you,” the comic man muttered, utterly distracted. “What the deuce do you want to collapse like this for? Aie⁠ ⁠… aie⁠ ⁠… aie!⁠ ⁠… that’s not the thing. A giant as tall as a watchtower, and crying. Is it the thing for actors to cry?”

“No wife nor children,” muttered Shtchiptsov. “I ought not to have gone for an actor, but have stayed at Vyazma. My life has been wasted, Semyon! Oh, to be in Vyazma!”

“Aie⁠ ⁠… aie⁠ ⁠… aie!⁠ ⁠… that’s not the thing! You see, it’s stupid⁠ ⁠… contemptible indeed!”

Recovering his composure and setting his feelings in order, Sigaev began comforting Shtchiptsov, telling him untruly that his comrades had decided to send him to the Crimea at their expense, and so on, but the sick man did not listen and kept muttering about Vyazma.⁠ ⁠… At last, with a wave of his hand, the comic man began talking about Vyazma himself to comfort the invalid.

“It’s a fine town,” he said soothingly, “a capital town, old man! It’s famous for its cakes. The cakes are classical, but⁠—between ourselves⁠—h’m!⁠—they are a bit groggy. For a whole week after eating them I was⁠ ⁠… h’m!⁠ ⁠… But what is fine there is the merchants! They are something like merchants. When they treat you they do treat you!”

The comic man talked while Shtchiptsov listened in silence and nodded his head approvingly.

Towards evening he died.

The Requiem

In the village church of Verhny Zaprudy mass was just over. The people had begun moving and were trooping out of church. The only one who did not move was Andrey Andreyitch, a shopkeeper and old inhabitant of Verhny Zaprudy. He stood waiting, with his elbows on the railing of the right choir. His fat and shaven face, covered with indentations left by pimples, expressed on this occasion two contradictory feelings: resignation in the face of inevitable destiny, and stupid, unbounded disdain for the smocks and striped kerchiefs passing by him. As it was Sunday, he was dressed like a dandy. He wore a long cloth overcoat with yellow bone buttons, blue trousers not thrust into his boots, and sturdy goloshes⁠—the huge clumsy goloshes only seen on the feet of practical and prudent persons of firm religious convictions.

His torpid eyes, sunk in fat, were fixed upon the icon stand. He saw the long familiar figures of the saints, the verger Matvey puffing out his cheeks and blowing out the candles, the darkened candle stands, the threadbare carpet, the sacristan Lopuhov running impulsively from the altar and carrying the holy bread to the churchwarden.⁠ ⁠… All these things he had seen for years, and seen over and over again like the five fingers of his hand.⁠ ⁠… There was only one thing, however, that was somewhat strange and unusual. Father Grigory, still in his vestments, was standing at the north door, twitching his thick eyebrows angrily.

“Who is it he is winking at? God bless him!” thought the shopkeeper. “And he is beckoning with his finger! And he stamped his foot! What next! What’s the matter, Holy Queen and Mother! Whom does he mean it for?”

Andrey Andreyitch looked round and saw the church completely deserted. There were some ten people standing at the door, but they had their backs to the altar.

“Do come when you are called! Why do you stand like a graven image?” he heard Father Grigory’s angry voice. “I am calling you.”

The shopkeeper looked at Father Grigory’s red and wrathful face, and only then realized that the twitching eyebrows and beckoning finger might refer to him. He started, left the railing, and hesitatingly walked towards the altar, tramping with his heavy goloshes.

“Andrey Andreyitch, was it you asked for prayers for the rest of Mariya’s soul?” asked the priest, his eyes angrily transfixing the shopkeeper’s fat, perspiring face.

“Yes, Father.”

“Then it was you wrote this? You?” And Father Grigory angrily thrust before his eyes the little note.

And on this little note, handed in by Andrey Andreyitch before mass, was written in big, as it were staggering, letters:

“For the rest of the soul of the servant of God, the harlot Mariya.”

“Yes, certainly I wrote it,⁠ ⁠…” answered the shopkeeper.

“How dared you write it?” whispered the priest, and in his husky whisper there was a note of wrath and alarm.

The shopkeeper looked at him in blank amazement; he was perplexed, and he, too, was alarmed. Father Grigory had never in his life spoken in such a tone to a leading resident of Verhny Zaprudy. Both were silent for a minute, staring into each other’s face. The shopkeeper’s amazement was so great that his fat face spread in all directions like spilt dough.

“How dared you?” repeated the priest.

“Wha⁠ ⁠… what?” asked Andrey Andreyitch in bewilderment.

“You don’t understand?” whispered Father Grigory, stepping back in astonishment and clasping his hands. “What have you got on your shoulders, a head or some other object? You send a note up to the altar, and write a word in it which it would be unseemly even to utter in the street! Why are you rolling your eyes? Surely you know the meaning of the word?”

“Are you referring to the word harlot?” muttered the shopkeeper, flushing crimson and blinking. “But you know, the Lord in His mercy⁠ ⁠… forgave this very thing,⁠ ⁠… forgave a harlot.⁠ ⁠… He has prepared a place for her, and indeed from the life of the holy saint, Mariya of Egypt, one may see in what sense the word is used⁠—excuse me⁠ ⁠…”

The shopkeeper wanted to bring forward some other argument in his justification, but took fright and wiped his lips with his sleeve.

“So that’s what you make of it!” cried Father Grigory, clasping his hands. “But you see God has forgiven her⁠—do you understand? He has forgiven, but you judge her, you slander her, call her by an unseemly name, and whom! Your own deceased daughter! Not only in Holy Scripture, but even in worldly literature you won’t read of such a sin! I tell you again, Andrey, you mustn’t be oversubtle! No, no, you mustn’t be oversubtle, brother! If God has given you an inquiring mind, and if you cannot direct it, better not go into things.⁠ ⁠… Don’t go into things, and hold your peace!”

“But you know, she,⁠ ⁠… excuse my mentioning it, was an actress!” articulated Andrey Andreyitch, overwhelmed.

“An actress! But whatever she was, you ought to forget it all now she is dead, instead of writing it on the note.”

“Just so,⁠ ⁠…” the shopkeeper assented.

“You ought to do penance,” boomed the deacon from the depths of the altar, looking contemptuously at Andrey Andreyitch’s embarrassed face, “that would teach you to leave off being so clever! Your daughter was a well-known actress. There were even notices of her death in the newspapers.⁠ ⁠… Philosopher!”

“To be sure,⁠ ⁠… certainly,” muttered the shopkeeper, “the word is not a seemly one; but I did not say it to judge her, Father Grigory, I only meant to speak spiritually,⁠ ⁠… that it might be clearer to you for whom you were praying. They write in the memorial notes the various callings, such as the infant John, the drowned woman Pelagea, the warrior Yegor, the murdered Pavel, and so on.⁠ ⁠… I meant to do the same.”

“It was foolish, Andrey! God will forgive you, but beware another time. Above all, don’t be subtle, but think like other people. Make ten bows and go your way.”

“I obey,” said the shopkeeper, relieved that the lecture was over, and allowing his face to resume its expression of importance and dignity. “Ten bows? Very good, I understand. But now, Father, allow me to ask you a favor.⁠ ⁠… Seeing that I am, anyway, her father,⁠ ⁠… you know yourself, whatever she was, she was still my daughter, so I was,⁠ ⁠… excuse me, meaning to ask you to sing the requiem today. And allow me to ask you, Father Deacon!”

“Well, that’s good,” said Father Grigory, taking off his vestments. “That I commend. I can approve of that! Well, go your way. We will come out immediately.”

Andrey Andreyitch walked with dignity from the altar, and with a solemn, requiem-like expression on his red face took his stand in the middle of the church. The verger Matvey set before him a little table with the memorial food upon it, and a little later the requiem service began.

There was perfect stillness in the church. Nothing could be heard but the metallic click of the censer and slow singing.⁠ ⁠… Near Andrey Andreyitch stood the verger Matvey, the midwife Makaryevna, and her one-armed son Mitka. There was no one else. The sacristan sang badly in an unpleasant, hollow bass, but the tune and the words were so mournful that the shopkeeper little by little lost the expression of dignity and was plunged in sadness. He thought of his Mashutka,⁠ ⁠… he remembered she had been born when he was still a lackey in the service of the owner of Verhny Zaprudy. In his busy life as a lackey he had not noticed how his girl had grown up. That long period during which she was being shaped into a graceful creature, with a little flaxen head and dreamy eyes as big as kopeck-pieces passed unnoticed by him. She had been brought up like all the children of favorite lackeys, in ease and comfort in the company of the young ladies. The gentry, to fill up their idle time, had taught her to read, to write, to dance; he had had no hand in her bringing up. Only from time to time casually meeting her at the gate or on the landing of the stairs, he would remember that she was his daughter, and would, so far as he had leisure for it, begin teaching her the prayers and the scripture. Oh, even then he had the reputation of an authority on the church rules and the holy scriptures! Forbidding and stolid as her father’s face was, yet the girl listened readily. She repeated the prayers after him yawning, but on the other hand, when he, hesitating and trying to express himself elaborately, began telling her stories, she was all attention. Esau’s pottage, the punishment of Sodom, and the troubles of the boy Joseph made her turn pale and open her blue eyes wide.

Afterwards when he gave up being a lackey, and with the money he had saved opened a shop in the village, Mashutka had gone away to Moscow with his master’s family.⁠ ⁠…

Three years before her death she had come to see her father. He had scarcely recognized her. She was a graceful young woman with the manners of a young lady, and dressed like one. She talked cleverly, as though from a book, smoked, and slept till midday. When Andrey Andreyitch asked her what she was doing, she had announced, looking him boldly straight in the face: “I am an actress.” Such frankness struck the former flunkey as the acme of cynicism. Mashutka had begun boasting of her successes and her stage life; but seeing that her father only turned crimson and threw up his hands, she ceased. And they spent a fortnight together without speaking or looking at one another till the day she went away. Before she went away she asked her father to come for a walk on the bank of the river. Painful as it was for him to walk in the light of day, in the sight of all honest people, with a daughter who was an actress, he yielded to her request.

“What a lovely place you live in!” she said enthusiastically. “What ravines and marshes! Good heavens, how lovely my native place is!”

And she had burst into tears.

“The place is simply taking up room,⁠ ⁠…” Andrey Andreyvitch had thought, looking blankly at the ravines, not understanding his daughter’s enthusiasm. “There is no more profit from them than milk from a billy-goat.”

And she had cried and cried, drawing her breath greedily with her whole chest, as though she felt she had not a long time left to breathe.

Andrey Andreyitch shook his head like a horse that has been bitten, and to stifle painful memories began rapidly crossing himself.⁠ ⁠…

“Be mindful, O Lord,” he muttered, “of Thy departed servant, the harlot Mariya, and forgive her sins, voluntary or involuntary.⁠ ⁠…”

The unseemly word dropped from his lips again, but he did not notice it: what is firmly imbedded in the consciousness cannot be driven out by Father Grigory’s exhortations or even knocked out by a nail. Makaryevna sighed and whispered something, drawing in a deep breath, while one-armed Mitka was brooding over something.⁠ ⁠…

“Where there is no sickness, nor grief, nor sighing,” droned the sacristan, covering his right cheek with his hand.

Bluish smoke coiled up from the censer and bathed in the broad, slanting patch of sunshine which cut across the gloomy, lifeless emptiness of the church. And it seemed as though the soul of the dead woman were soaring into the sunlight together with the smoke. The coils of smoke like a child’s curls eddied round and round, floating upwards to the window and, as it were, holding aloof from the woes and tribulations of which that poor soul was full.


In the cheapest room of a big block of furnished apartments Stepan Klotchkov, a medical student in his third year, was walking to and fro, zealously conning his anatomy. His mouth was dry and his forehead perspiring from the unceasing effort to learn it by heart.

In the window, covered by patterns of frost, sat on a stool the girl who shared his room⁠—Anyuta, a thin little brunette of five-and-twenty, very pale with mild grey eyes. Sitting with bent back she was busy embroidering with red thread the collar of a man’s shirt. She was working against time.⁠ ⁠… The clock in the passage struck two drowsily, yet the little room had not been put to rights for the morning. Crumpled bedclothes, pillows thrown about, books, clothes, a big filthy slop-pail filled with soapsuds in which cigarette ends were swimming, and the litter on the floor⁠—all seemed as though purposely jumbled together in one confusion.⁠ ⁠…

“The right lung consists of three parts⁠ ⁠…” Klotchkov repeated. “Boundaries! Upper part on anterior wall of thorax reaches the fourth or fifth rib, on the lateral surface, the fourth rib⁠ ⁠… behind to the spina scapulæ⁠ ⁠…”

Klotchkov raised his eyes to the ceiling, striving to visualise what he had just read. Unable to form a clear picture of it, he began feeling his upper ribs through his waistcoat.

“These ribs are like the keys of a piano,” he said. “One must familiarise oneself with them somehow, if one is not to get muddled over them. One must study them in the skeleton and the living body.⁠ ⁠… I say, Anyuta, let me pick them out.”

Anyuta put down her sewing, took off her blouse, and straightened herself up. Klotchkov sat down facing her, frowned, and began counting her ribs.

“H’m!⁠ ⁠… One can’t feel the first rib; it’s behind the shoulder-blade.⁠ ⁠… This must be the second rib.⁠ ⁠… Yes⁠ ⁠… this is the third⁠ ⁠… this is the fourth.⁠ ⁠… H’m!⁠ ⁠… yes.⁠ ⁠… Why are you wriggling?”

“Your fingers are cold!”

“Come, come⁠ ⁠… it won’t kill you. Don’t twist about. That must be the third rib, then⁠ ⁠… this is the fourth.⁠ ⁠… You look such a skinny thing, and yet one can hardly feel your ribs. That’s the second⁠ ⁠… that’s the third.⁠ ⁠… Oh, this is muddling, and one can’t see it clearly.⁠ ⁠… I must draw it.⁠ ⁠… Where’s my crayon?”

Klotchkov took his crayon and drew on Anyuta’s chest several parallel lines corresponding with the ribs.

“First-rate. That’s all straightforward.⁠ ⁠… Well, now I can sound you. Stand up!”

Anyuta stood up and raised her chin. Klotchkov began sounding her, and was so absorbed in this occupation that he did not notice how Anyuta’s lips, nose, and fingers turned blue with cold. Anyuta shivered, and was afraid the student, noticing it, would leave off drawing and sounding her, and then, perhaps, might fail in his exam.

“Now it’s all clear,” said Klotchkov when he had finished. “You sit like that and don’t rub off the crayon, and meanwhile I’ll learn up a little more.”

And the student again began walking to and fro, repeating to himself. Anyuta, with black stripes across her chest, looking as though she had been tattooed, sat thinking, huddled up and shivering with cold. She said very little as a rule; she was always silent, thinking and thinking.⁠ ⁠…

In the six or seven years of her wanderings from one furnished room to another, she had known five students like Klotchkov. Now they had all finished their studies, had gone out into the world, and, of course, like respectable people, had long ago forgotten her. One of them was living in Paris, two were doctors, the fourth was an artist, and the fifth was said to be already a professor. Klotchkov was the sixth.⁠ ⁠… Soon he, too, would finish his studies and go out into the world. There was a fine future before him, no doubt, and Klotchkov probably would become a great man, but the present was anything but bright; Klotchkov had no tobacco and no tea, and there were only four lumps of sugar left. She must make haste and finish her embroidery, take it to the woman who had ordered it, and with the quarter rouble she would get for it, buy tea and tobacco.

“Can I come in?” asked a voice at the door.

Anyuta quickly threw a woollen shawl over her shoulders. Fetisov, the artist, walked in.

“I have come to ask you a favour,” he began, addressing Klotchkov, and glaring like a wild beast from under the long locks that hung over his brow. “Do me a favour; lend me your young lady just for a couple of hours! I’m painting a picture, you see, and I can’t get on without a model.”

“Oh, with pleasure,” Klotchkov agreed. “Go along, Anyuta.”

“The things I’ve had to put up with there,” Anyuta murmured softly.

“Rubbish! The man’s asking you for the sake of art, and not for any sort of nonsense. Why not help him if you can?”

Anyuta began dressing.

“And what are you painting?” asked Klotchkov.

“Psyche; it’s a fine subject. But it won’t go, somehow. I have to keep painting from different models. Yesterday I was painting one with blue legs. ‘Why are your legs blue?’ I asked her. ‘It’s my stockings stain them,’ she said. And you’re still grinding! Lucky fellow! You have patience.”

“Medicine’s a job one can’t get on with without grinding.”

“H’m!⁠ ⁠… Excuse me, Klotchkov, but you do live like a pig! It’s awful the way you live!”

“How do you mean? I can’t help it.⁠ ⁠… I only get twelve roubles a month from my father, and it’s hard to live decently on that.”

“Yes⁠ ⁠… yes⁠ ⁠…” said the artist, frowning with an air of disgust; “but, still, you might live better.⁠ ⁠… An educated man is in duty bound to have taste, isn’t he? And goodness knows what it’s like here! The bed not made, the slops, the dirt⁠ ⁠… yesterday’s porridge in the plates⁠ ⁠… Tfoo!”

“That’s true,” said the student in confusion; “but Anyuta has had no time today to tidy up; she’s been busy all the while.”

When Anyuta and the artist had gone out Klotchkov lay down on the sofa and began learning, lying down; then he accidentally dropped asleep, and waking up an hour later, propped his head on his fists and sank into gloomy reflection. He recalled the artist’s words that an educated man was in duty bound to have taste, and his surroundings actually struck him now as loathsome and revolting. He saw, as it were in his mind’s eye, his own future, when he would see his patients in his consulting room, drink tea in a large dining room in the company of his wife, a real lady. And now that slop-pail in which the cigarette ends were swimming looked incredibly disgusting. Anyuta, too, rose before his imagination⁠—a plain, slovenly, pitiful figure⁠ ⁠… and he made up his mind to part with her at once, at all costs.

When, on coming back from the artist’s, she took off her coat, he got up and said to her seriously:

“Look here, my good girl⁠ ⁠… sit down and listen. We must part! The fact is, I don’t want to live with you any longer.”

Anyuta had come back from the artist’s worn out and exhausted. Standing so long as a model had made her face look thin and sunken, and her chin sharper than ever. She said nothing in answer to the student’s words, only her lips began to tremble.

“You know we should have to part sooner or later, anyway,” said the student. “You’re a nice, good girl, and not a fool; you’ll understand.⁠ ⁠…”

Anyuta put on her coat again, in silence wrapped up her embroidery in paper, gathered together her needles and thread: she found the screw of paper with the four lumps of sugar in the window, and laid it on the table by the books.

“That’s⁠ ⁠… your sugar⁠ ⁠…” she said softly, and turned away to conceal her tears.

“Why are you crying?” asked Klotchkov.

He walked about the room in confusion, and said:

“You are a strange girl, really.⁠ ⁠… Why, you know we shall have to part. We can’t stay together forever.”

She had gathered together all her belongings, and turned to say goodbye to him, and he felt sorry for her.

“Shall I let her stay on here another week?” he thought. “She really may as well stay, and I’ll tell her to go in a week;” and vexed at his own weakness, he shouted to her roughly:

“Come, why are you standing there? If you are going, go; and if you don’t want to, take off your coat and stay! You can stay!”

Anyuta took off her coat, silently, stealthily, then blew her nose also stealthily, sighed, and noiselessly returned to her invariable position on her stool by the window.

The student drew his textbook to him and began again pacing from corner to corner. “The right lung consists of three parts,” he repeated; “the upper part, on anterior wall of thorax, reaches the fourth or fifth rib.⁠ ⁠…”

In the passage someone shouted at the top of his voice: “Grigory! The samovar!”

Ivan Matveyitch

Between five and six in the evening. A fairly well-known man of learning⁠—we will call him simply the man of learning⁠—is sitting in his study nervously biting his nails.

“It’s positively revolting,” he says, continually looking at his watch. “It shows the utmost disrespect for another man’s time and work. In England such a person would not earn a farthing, he would die of hunger. You wait a minute, when you do come.⁠ ⁠…”

And feeling a craving to vent his wrath and impatience upon someone, the man of learning goes to the door leading to his wife’s room and knocks.

“Listen, Katya,” he says in an indignant voice. “If you see Pyotr Danilitch, tell him that decent people don’t do such things. It’s abominable! He recommends a secretary, and does not know the sort of man he is recommending! The wretched boy is two or three hours late with unfailing regularity every day. Do you call that a secretary? Those two or three hours are more precious to me than two or three years to other people. When he does come I will swear at him like a dog, and won’t pay him and will kick him out. It’s no use standing on ceremony with people like that!”

“You say that every day, and yet he goes on coming and coming.”

“But today I have made up my mind. I have lost enough through him. You must excuse me, but I shall swear at him like a cabman.”

At last a ring is heard. The man of learning makes a grave face; drawing himself up, and, throwing back his head, he goes into the entry. There his amanuensis Ivan Matveyitch, a young man of eighteen, with a face oval as an egg and no moustache, wearing a shabby, mangy overcoat and no goloshes, is already standing by the hatstand. He is in breathless haste, and scrupulously wipes his huge clumsy boots on the doormat, trying as he does so to conceal from the maidservant a hole in his boot through which a white sock is peeping. Seeing the man of learning he smiles with that broad, prolonged, somewhat foolish smile which is seen only on the faces of children or very good-natured people.

“Ah, good evening!” he says, holding out a big wet hand. “Has your sore throat gone?”

“Ivan Matveyitch,” says the man of learning in a shaking voice, stepping back and clasping his hands together. “Ivan Matveyitch.”

Then he dashes up to the amanuensis, clutches him by the shoulders, and begins feebly shaking him.

“What a way to treat me!” he says with despair in his voice. “You dreadful, horrid fellow, what a way to treat me! Are you laughing at me, are you jeering at me? Eh?”

Judging from the smile which still lingered on his face Ivan Matveyitch had expected a very different reception, and so, seeing the man of learning’s countenance eloquent of indignation, his oval face grows longer than ever, and he opens his mouth in amazement.

“What is⁠ ⁠… what is it?” he asks.

“And you ask that?” the man of learning clasps his hands. “You know how precious time is to me, and you are so late. You are two hours late!⁠ ⁠… Have you no fear of God?”

“I haven’t come straight from home,” mutters Ivan Matveyitch, untying his scarf irresolutely. “I have been at my aunt’s name-day party, and my aunt lives five miles away.⁠ ⁠… If I had come straight from home, then it would have been a different thing.”

“Come, reflect, Ivan Matveyitch, is there any logic in your conduct? Here you have work to do, work at a fixed time, and you go flying off after name-day parties and aunts! But do make haste and undo your wretched scarf! It’s beyond endurance, really!”

The man of learning dashes up to the amanuensis again and helps him to disentangle his scarf.

“You are done up like a peasant woman,⁠ ⁠… Come along,⁠ ⁠… Please make haste!”

Blowing his nose in a dirty, crumpled-up handkerchief and pulling down his grey reefer jacket, Ivan Matveyitch goes through the hall and the drawing room to the study. There a place and paper and even cigarettes had been put ready for him long ago.

“Sit down, sit down,” the man of learning urges him on, rubbing his hands impatiently. “You are an unsufferable person.⁠ ⁠… You know the work has to be finished by a certain time, and then you are so late. One is forced to scold you. Come, write,⁠ ⁠… Where did we stop?”

Ivan Matveyitch smooths his bristling cropped hair and takes up his pen. The man of learning walks up and down the room, concentrates himself, and begins to dictate:

“The fact is⁠ ⁠… comma⁠ ⁠… that so to speak fundamental forms⁠ ⁠… have you written it?⁠ ⁠… forms are conditioned entirely by the essential nature of those principles⁠ ⁠… comma⁠ ⁠… which find in them their expression and can only be embodied in them.⁠ ⁠… New line,⁠ ⁠… There’s a stop there, of course.⁠ ⁠… More independence is found⁠ ⁠… is found⁠ ⁠… by the forms which have not so much a political⁠ ⁠… comma⁠ ⁠… as a social character⁠ ⁠…”

“The high school boys have a different uniform now⁠ ⁠… a grey one,” said Ivan Matveyitch, “when I was at school it was better: they used to wear regular uniforms.”

“Oh dear, write please!” says the man of learning wrathfully. “Character⁠ ⁠… have you written it? Speaking of the forms relating to the organization⁠ ⁠… of administrative functions, and not to the regulation of the life of the people⁠ ⁠… comma⁠ ⁠… it cannot be said that they are marked by the nationalism of their forms⁠ ⁠… the last three words in inverted commas.⁠ ⁠… Aie, aie⁠ ⁠… tut, tut⁠ ⁠… so what did you want to say about the high school?”

“That they used to wear a different uniform in my time.”

“Aha!⁠ ⁠… indeed,⁠ ⁠… Is it long since you left the high school?”

“But I told you that yesterday. It is three years since I left school.⁠ ⁠… I left in the fourth class.”

“And why did you give up high school?” asks the man of learning, looking at Ivan Matveyitch’s writing.

“Oh, through family circumstances.”

“Must I speak to you again, Ivan Matveyitch? When will you get over your habit of dragging out the lines? There ought not to be less than forty letters in a line.”

“What, do you suppose I do it on purpose?” says Ivan Matveyitch, offended. “There are more than forty letters in some of the other lines.⁠ ⁠… You count them. And if you think I don’t put enough in the line, you can take something off my pay.”

“Oh dear, that’s not the point. You have no delicacy, really.⁠ ⁠… At the least thing you drag in money. The great thing is to be exact, Ivan Matveyitch, to be exact is the great thing. You ought to train yourself to be exact.”

The maidservant brings in a tray with two glasses of tea on it, and a basket of rusks.⁠ ⁠… Ivan Matveyitch takes his glass awkwardly with both hands, and at once begins drinking it. The tea is too hot. To avoid burning his mouth Ivan Matveyitch tries to take a tiny sip. He eats one rusk, then a second, then a third, and, looking sideways, with embarrassment, at the man of learning, timidly stretches after a fourth.⁠ ⁠… The noise he makes in swallowing, the relish with which he smacks his lips, and the expression of hungry greed in his raised eyebrows irritate the man of learning.

“Make haste and finish, time is precious.”

“You dictate, I can drink and write at the same time.⁠ ⁠… I must confess I was hungry.”

“I should think so after your walk!”

“Yes, and what wretched weather! In our parts there is a scent of spring by now.⁠ ⁠… There are puddles everywhere; the snow is melting.”

“You are a southerner, I suppose?”

“From the Don region.⁠ ⁠… It’s quite spring with us by March. Here it is frosty, everyone’s in a fur coat,⁠ ⁠… but there you can see the grass⁠ ⁠… it’s dry everywhere, and one can even catch tarantulas.”

“And what do you catch tarantulas for?”

“Oh!⁠ ⁠… to pass the time⁠ ⁠…” says Ivan Matveyitch, and he sighs. “It’s fun catching them. You fix a bit of pitch on a thread, let it down into their hole and begin hitting the tarantula on the back with the pitch, and the brute gets cross, catches hold of the pitch with his claws, and gets stuck.⁠ ⁠… And what we used to do with them! We used to put a basinful of them together and drop a bihorka in with them.”

“What is a bihorka?”

“That’s another spider, very much the same as a tarantula. In a fight one of them can kill a hundred tarantulas.”

“H’m!⁠ ⁠… But we must write,⁠ ⁠… Where did we stop?”

The man of learning dictates another twenty lines, then sits plunged in meditation.

Ivan Matveyitch, waiting while the other cogitates, sits and, craning his neck, puts the collar of his shirt to rights. His tie will not set properly, the stud has come out, and the collar keeps coming apart.

“H’m!⁠ ⁠…” says the man of learning. “Well, haven’t you found a job yet, Ivan Matveyitch?”

“No. And how is one to find one? I am thinking, you know, of volunteering for the army. But my father advises my going into a chemist’s.”

“H’m!⁠ ⁠… But it would be better for you to go into the university. The examination is difficult, but with patience and hard work you could get through. Study, read more.⁠ ⁠… Do you read much?”

“Not much, I must own⁠ ⁠…” says Ivan Matveyitch, lighting a cigarette.

“Have you read Turgenev?”

“N-no.⁠ ⁠…”

“And Gogol?”

“Gogol. H’m!⁠ ⁠… Gogol.⁠ ⁠… No, I haven’t read him!”

“Ivan Matveyitch! Aren’t you ashamed? Aie! aie! You are such a nice fellow, so much that is original in you⁠ ⁠… you haven’t even read Gogol! You must read him! I will give you his works! It’s essential to read him! We shall quarrel if you don’t!”

Again a silence follows. The man of learning meditates, half reclining on a soft lounge, and Ivan Matveyitch, leaving his collar in peace, concentrates his whole attention on his boots. He has not till then noticed that two big puddles have been made by the snow melting off his boots on the floor. He is ashamed.

“I can’t get on today⁠ ⁠…” mutters the man of learning. “I suppose you are fond of catching birds, too, Ivan Matveyitch?”

“That’s in autumn,⁠ ⁠… I don’t catch them here, but there at home I always did.”

“To be sure⁠ ⁠… very good. But we must write, though.”

The man of learning gets up resolutely and begins dictating, but after ten lines sits down on the lounge again.

“No.⁠ ⁠… Perhaps we had better put it off till tomorrow morning,” he says. “Come tomorrow morning, only come early, at nine o’clock. God preserve you from being late!”

Ivan Matveyitch lays down his pen, gets up from the table and sits in another chair. Five minutes pass in silence, and he begins to feel it is time for him to go, that he is in the way; but in the man of learning’s study it is so snug and light and warm, and the impression of the nice rusks and sweet tea is still so fresh that there is a pang at his heart at the mere thought of home. At home there is poverty, hunger, cold, his grumbling father, scoldings, and here it is so quiet and unruffled, and interest even is taken in his tarantulas and birds.

The man of learning looks at his watch and takes up a book.

“So you will give me Gogol?” says Ivan Matveyitch, getting up.

“Yes, yes! But why are you in such a hurry, my dear boy? Sit down and tell me something⁠ ⁠…”

Ivan Matveyitch sits down and smiles broadly. Almost every evening he sits in this study and always feels something extraordinarily soft, attracting him, as it were akin, in the voice and the glance of the man of learning. There are moments when he even fancies that the man of learning is becoming attached to him, used to him, and that if he scolds him for being late, it’s simply because he misses his chatter about tarantulas and how they catch goldfinches on the Don.

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, lacklustre 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, pockmarked 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 thickhead, 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 tonight⁠ ⁠… do you hear?⁠ ⁠… if anything happens tonight, I’ll go straight off tomorrow 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 mailbag 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 mailbag. 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 someone 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 mailbag.

The sexton ran out and helped him drag the postbags 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 mailbags, 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 featherbed, 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.

“Tomorrow 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.

A Story Without an End

Soon after two o’clock one night, long ago, the cook, pale and agitated, rushed unexpectedly into my study and informed me that Madame Mimotih, the old woman who owned the house next door, was sitting in her kitchen.

“She begs you to go in to her, sir⁠ ⁠…” said the cook, panting. “Something bad has happened about her lodger.⁠ ⁠… He has shot himself or hanged himself.⁠ ⁠…”

“What can I do?” said I. “Let her go for the doctor or for the police!”

“How is she to look for a doctor! She can hardly breathe, and she has huddled under the stove, she is so frightened.⁠ ⁠… You had better go round, sir.”

I put on my coat and hat and went to Madame Mimotih’s house. The gate towards which I directed my steps was open. After pausing beside it, uncertain what to do, I went into the yard without feeling for the porter’s bell. In the dark and dilapidated porch the door was not locked. I opened it and walked into the entry. Here there was not a glimmer of light, it was pitch dark, and, moreover, there was a marked smell of incense. Groping my way out of the entry I knocked my elbow against something made of iron, and in the darkness stumbled against a board of some sort which almost fell to the floor. At last the door covered with torn baize was found, and I went into a little hall.

I am not at the moment writing a fairy tale, and am far from intending to alarm the reader, but the picture I saw from the passage was fantastic and could only have been drawn by death. Straight before me was a door leading to a little drawing room. Three five-kopeck wax candles, standing in a row, threw a scanty light on the faded slate-coloured wallpaper. A coffin was standing on two tables in the middle of the little room. The two candles served only to light up a swarthy yellow face with a half-open mouth and sharp nose. Billows of muslin were mingled in disorder from the face to the tips of the two shoes, and from among the billows peeped out two pale motionless hands, holding a wax cross. The dark gloomy corners of the little drawing room, the icons behind the coffin, the coffin itself, everything except the softly glimmering lights, were still as death, as the tomb itself.

“How strange!” I thought, dumbfoundered by the unexpected panorama of death. “Why this haste? The lodger has hardly had time to hang himself, or shoot himself, and here is the coffin already!”

I looked round. On the left there was a door with a glass panel; on the right a lame hatstand with a shabby fur coat on it.⁠ ⁠…

“Water.⁠ ⁠…” I heard a moan.

The moan came from the left, beyond the door with the glass panel. I opened the door and walked into a little dark room with a solitary window, through which there came a faint light from a street lamp outside.

“Is anyone here?” I asked.

And without waiting for an answer I struck a match. This is what I saw while it was burning. A man was sitting on the bloodstained floor at my very feet. If my step had been a longer one I should have trodden on him. With his legs thrust forward and his hands pressed on the floor, he was making an effort to raise his handsome face, which was deathly pale against his pitch-black beard. In the big eyes which he lifted upon me, I read unutterable terror, pain, and entreaty. A cold sweat trickled in big drops down his face. That sweat, the expression of his face, the trembling of the hands he leaned upon, his hard breathing and his clenched teeth, showed that he was suffering beyond endurance. Near his right hand in a pool of blood lay a revolver.

“Don’t go away,” I heard a faint voice when the match had gone out. “There’s a candle on the table.”

I lighted the candle and stood still in the middle of the room not knowing what to do next. I stood and looked at the man on the floor, and it seemed to me that I had seen him before.

“The pain is insufferable,” he whispered, “and I haven’t the strength to shoot myself again. Incomprehensible lack of will.”

I flung off my overcoat and attended to the sick man. Lifting him from the floor like a baby, I laid him on the American-leather covered sofa and carefully undressed him. He was shivering and cold when I took off his clothes; the wound which I saw was not in keeping either with his shivering nor the expression on his face. It was a trifling one. The bullet had passed between the fifth and sixth ribs on the left side, only piercing the skin and the flesh. I found the bullet itself in the folds of the coat-lining near the back pocket. Stopping the bleeding as best I could and making a temporary bandage of a pillowcase, a towel, and two handkerchiefs, I gave the wounded man some water and covered him with a fur coat that was hanging in the passage. We neither of us said a word while the bandaging was being done. I did my work while he lay motionless looking at me with his eyes screwed up as though he were ashamed of his unsuccessful shot and the trouble he was giving me.

“Now I must trouble you to lie still,” I said, when I had finished the bandaging, “while I run to the chemist and get something.”

“No need!” he muttered, clutching me by the sleeve and opening his eyes wide.

I read terror in his eyes. He was afraid of my going away.

“No need! Stay another five minutes⁠ ⁠… ten. If it doesn’t disgust you, do stay, I entreat you.”

As he begged me he was trembling and his teeth were chattering. I obeyed, and sat down on the edge of the sofa. Ten minutes passed in silence. I sat silent, looking about the room into which fate had brought me so unexpectedly. What poverty! This man who was the possessor of a handsome, effeminate face and a luxuriant well-tended beard, had surroundings which a humble working man would not have envied. A sofa with its American-leather torn and peeling, a humble greasy-looking chair, a table covered with a little of paper, and a wretched oleograph on the wall, that was all I saw. Damp, gloomy, and grey.

“What a wind!” said the sick man, without opening his eyes, “How it whistles!”

“Yes,” I said. “I say, I fancy I know you. Didn’t you take part in some private theatricals in General Luhatchev’s villa last year?”

“What of it?” he asked, quickly opening his eyes.

A cloud seemed to pass over his face.

“I certainly saw you there. Isn’t your name Vassilyev?”

“If it is, what of it? It makes it no better that you should know me.”

“No, but I just asked you.”

Vassilyev closed his eyes and, as though offended, turned his face to the back of the sofa.

“I don’t understand your curiosity,” he muttered. “You’ll be asking me next what it was drove me to commit suicide!”

Before a minute had passed, he turned round towards me again, opened his eyes and said in a tearful voice:

“Excuse me for taking such a tone, but you’ll admit I’m right! To ask a convict how he got into prison, or a suicide why he shot himself is not generous⁠ ⁠… and indelicate. To think of gratifying idle curiosity at the expense of another man’s nerves!”

“There is no need to excite yourself.⁠ ⁠… It never occurred to me to question you about your motives.”

“You would have asked.⁠ ⁠… It’s what people always do. Though it would be no use to ask. If I told you, you would not believe or understand.⁠ ⁠… I must own I don’t understand it myself.⁠ ⁠… There are phrases used in the police reports and newspapers such as: ‘unrequited love,’ and ‘hopeless poverty,’ but the reasons are not known.⁠ ⁠… They are not known to me, nor to you, nor to your newspaper offices, where they have the impudence to write ‘The diary of a suicide.’ God alone understands the state of a man’s soul when he takes his own life; but men know nothing about it.”

“That is all very nice,” I said, “but you oughtn’t to talk.⁠ ⁠…”

But my suicide could not be stopped, he leaned his head on his fist, and went on in the tone of some great professor:

“Man will never understand the psychological subtleties of suicide! How can one speak of reasons? Today the reason makes one snatch up a revolver, while tomorrow the same reason seems not worth a rotten egg. It all depends most likely on the particular condition of the individual at the given moment.⁠ ⁠… Take me for instance. Half an hour ago, I had a passionate desire for death, now when the candle is lighted, and you are sitting by me, I don’t even think of the hour of death. Explain that change if you can! Am I better off, or has my wife risen from the dead? Is it the influence of the light on me, or the presence of an outsider?”

“The light certainly has an influence⁠ ⁠…” I muttered for the sake of saying something. “The influence of light on the organism.⁠ ⁠…”

“The influence of light.⁠ ⁠… We admit it! But you know men do shoot themselves by candlelight! And it would be ignominious indeed for the heroes of your novels if such a trifling thing as a candle were to change the course of the drama so abruptly. All this nonsense can be explained perhaps, but not by us. It’s useless to ask questions or give explanations of what one does not understand.⁠ ⁠…”

“Forgive me,” I said, “but⁠ ⁠… judging by the expression of your face, it seems to me that at this moment you⁠ ⁠… are posing.”

“Yes,” Vassilyev said, startled. “It’s very possible! I am naturally vain and fatuous. Well, explain it, if you believe in your power of reading faces! Half an hour ago I shot myself, and just now I am posing.⁠ ⁠… Explain that if you can.”

These last words Vassilyev pronounced in a faint, failing voice. He was exhausted, and sank into silence. A pause followed. I began scrutinising his face. It was as pale as a dead man’s. It seemed as though life were almost extinct in him, and only the signs of the suffering that the “vain and fatuous” man was feeling betrayed that it was still alive. It was painful to look at that face, but what must it have been for Vassilyev himself who yet had the strength to argue and, if I were not mistaken, to pose?

“You here⁠—are you here?” he asked suddenly, raising himself on his elbow. “My God, just listen!”

I began listening. The rain was pattering angrily on the dark window, never ceasing for a minute. The wind howled plaintively and lugubriously.

“ ‘And I shall be whiter than snow, and my ears will hear gladness and rejoicing.’ ” Madame Mimotih, who had returned, was reading in the drawing room in a languid, weary voice, neither raising nor dropping the monotonous dreary key.

“It is cheerful, isn’t it?” whispered Vassilyev, turning his frightened eyes towards me. “My God, the things a man has to see and hear! If only one could set this chaos to music! As Hamlet says, ‘it would⁠—’ ”

“Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed,
The very faculties of eyes and ears.”

“How well I should have understood that music then! How I should have felt it! What time is it?”

“Five minutes to three.”

“Morning is still far off. And in the morning there’s the funeral. A lovely prospect! One follows the coffin through the mud and rain. One walks along, seeing nothing but the cloudy sky and the wretched scenery. The muddy mutes, taverns, woodstacks.⁠ ⁠… One’s trousers drenched to the knees. The never-ending streets. The time dragging out like eternity, the coarse people. And on the heart a stone, a stone!”

After a brief pause he suddenly asked: “Is it long since you saw General Luhatchev?”

“I haven’t seen him since last summer.”

“He likes to be cock of the walk, but he is a nice little old chap. And are you still writing?”

“Yes, a little.”

“Ah.⁠ ⁠… Do you remember how I pranced about like a needle, like an enthusiastic ass at those private theatricals when I was courting Zina? It was stupid, but it was good, it was fun.⁠ ⁠… The very memory of it brings back a whiff of spring.⁠ ⁠… And now! What a cruel change of scene! There is a subject for you! Only don’t you go in for writing ‘the diary of a suicide.’ That’s vulgar and conventional. You make something humorous of it.”

“Again you are⁠ ⁠… posing,” I said. “There’s nothing humorous in your position.”

“Nothing laughable? You say nothing laughable?” Vassilyev sat up, and tears glistened in his eyes. An expression of bitter distress came into his pale face. His chin quivered.

“You laugh at the deceit of cheating clerks and faithless wives,” he said, “but no clerk, no faithless wife has cheated as my fate has cheated me! I have been deceived as no bank depositor, no duped husband has ever been deceived! Only realise what an absurd fool I have been made! Last year before your eyes I did not know what to do with myself for happiness. And now before your eyes.⁠ ⁠…”

Vassilyev’s head sank on the pillow and he laughed.

“Nothing more absurd and stupid than such a change could possibly be imagined. Chapter one: spring, love, honeymoon⁠ ⁠… honey, in fact; chapter two: looking for a job, the pawnshop, pallor, the chemist’s shop, and⁠ ⁠… tomorrow’s splashing through the mud to the graveyard.”

He laughed again. I felt acutely uncomfortable and made up my mind to go.

“I tell you what,” I said, “you lie down, and I will go to the chemist’s.”

He made no answer. I put on my greatcoat and went out of his room. As I crossed the passage I glanced at the coffin and Madame Mimotih reading over it. I strained my eyes in vain, I could not recognise in the swarthy, yellow face Zina, the lively, pretty ingénue of Luhatchev’s company.

Sic transit,” I thought.

With that I went out, not forgetting to take the revolver, and made my way to the chemist’s. But I ought not to have gone away. When I came back from the chemist’s, Vassilyev lay on the sofa fainting. The bandages had been roughly torn off, and blood was flowing from the reopened wound. It was daylight before I succeeded in restoring him to consciousness. He was raving in delirium, shivering, and looking with unseeing eyes about the room till morning had come, and we heard the booming voice of the priest as he read the service over the dead.

When Vassilyev’s rooms were crowded with old women and mutes, when the coffin had been moved and carried out of the yard, I advised him to remain at home. But he would not obey me, in spite of the pain and the grey, rainy morning. He walked bareheaded and in silence behind the coffin all the way to the cemetery, hardly able to move one leg after the other, and from time to time clutching convulsively at his wounded side. His face expressed complete apathy. Only once when I roused him from his lethargy by some insignificant question he shifted his eyes over the pavement and the grey fence, and for a moment there was a gleam of gloomy anger in them.

“ ‘Weelright,’ ” he read on a signboard. “Ignorant, illiterate people, devil take them!”

I led him home from the cemetery.

Only one year has passed since that night, and Vassilyev has hardly had time to wear out the boots in which he tramped through the mud behind his wife’s coffin.

At the present time as I finish this story, he is sitting in my drawing room and, playing on the piano, is showing the ladies how provincial misses sing sentimental songs. The ladies are laughing, and he is laughing too. He is enjoying himself.

I call him into my study. Evidently not pleased at my taking him from agreeable company, he comes to me and stands before me in the attitude of a man who has no time to spare. I give him this story, and ask him to read it. Always condescending about my authorship, he stifles a sigh, the sigh of a lazy reader, sits down in an armchair and begins upon it.

“Hang it all, what horrors,” he mutters with a smile.

But the further he gets into the reading, the graver his face becomes. At last, under the stress of painful memories, he turns terribly pale, he gets up and goes on reading as he stands. When he has finished he begins pacing from corner to corner.

“How does it end?” I ask him.

“How does it end? H’m.⁠ ⁠…”

He looks at the room, at me, at himself.⁠ ⁠… He sees his new fashionable suit, hears the ladies laughing and⁠ ⁠… sinking on a chair, begins laughing as he laughed on that night.

“Wasn’t I right when I told you it was all absurd? My God! I have had burdens to bear that would have broken an elephant’s back; the devil knows what I have suffered⁠—no one could have suffered more, I think, and where are the traces? It’s astonishing. One would have thought the imprint made on a man by his agonies would have been everlasting, never to be effaced or eradicated. And yet that imprint wears out as easily as a pair of cheap boots. There is nothing left, not a scrap. It’s as though I hadn’t been suffering then, but had been dancing a mazurka. Everything in the world is transitory, and that transitoriness is absurd! A wide field for humorists! Tack on a humorous end, my friend!”

“Pyotr Nikolaevitch, are you coming soon?” The impatient ladies call my hero.

“This minute,” answers the “vain and fatuous” man, setting his tie straight. “It’s absurd and pitiful, my friend, pitiful and absurd, but what’s to be done? Homo sum.⁠ ⁠… And I praise Mother Nature all the same for her transmutation of substances. If we retained an agonising memory of toothache and of all the terrors which every one of us has had to experience, if all that were everlasting, we poor mortals would have a bad time of it in this life.”

I look at his smiling face and I remember the despair and the horror with which his eyes were filled a year ago when he looked at the dark window. I see him, entering into his habitual role of intellectual chatterer, prepare to show off his idle theories, such as the transmutation of substances before me, and at the same time I recall him sitting on the floor in a pool of blood with his sick imploring eyes.

“How will it end?” I ask myself aloud.

Vassilyev, whistling and straightening his tie, walks off into the drawing room, and I look after him, and feel vexed. For some reason I regret his past sufferings, I regret all that I felt myself on that man’s account on that terrible night. It is as though I had lost something.⁠ ⁠…

A Joke

It was a bright winter midday.⁠ ⁠… There was a sharp snapping frost and the curls on Nadenka’s temples and the down on her upper lip were covered with silvery frost. She was holding my arm and we were standing on a high hill. From where we stood to the ground below there stretched a smooth sloping descent in which the sun was reflected as in a looking-glass. Beside us was a little sledge lined with bright red cloth.

“Let us go down, Nadyezhda Petrovna!” I besought her. “Only once! I assure you we shall be all right and not hurt.”

But Nadenka was afraid. The slope from her little goloshes to the bottom of the ice hill seemed to her a terrible, immensely deep abyss. Her spirit failed her, and she held her breath as she looked down, when I merely suggested her getting into the sledge, but what would it be if she were to risk flying into the abyss! She would die, she would go out of her mind.

“I entreat you!” I said. “You mustn’t be afraid! You know it’s poor-spirited, it’s cowardly!”

Nadenka gave way at last, and from her face I saw that she gave way in mortal dread. I sat her in the sledge, pale and trembling, put my arm round her and with her cast myself down the precipice.

The sledge flew like a bullet. The air cleft by our flight beat in our faces, roared, whistled in our ears, tore at us, nipped us cruelly in its anger, tried to tear our heads off our shoulders. We had hardly strength to breathe from the pressure of the wind. It seemed as though the devil himself had caught us in his claws and was dragging us with a roar to hell. Surrounding objects melted into one long furiously racing streak⁠ ⁠… another moment and it seemed we should perish.

“I love you, Nadya!” I said in a low voice.

The sledge began moving more and more slowly, the roar of the wind and the whirr of the runners was no longer so terrible, it was easier to breathe, and at last we were at the bottom. Nadenka was more dead than alive. She was pale and scarcely breathing.⁠ ⁠… I helped her to get up.

“Nothing would induce me to go again,” she said, looking at me with wide eyes full of horror. “Nothing in the world! I almost died!”

A little later she recovered herself and looked enquiringly into my eyes, wondering had I really uttered those four words or had she fancied them in the roar of the hurricane. And I stood beside her smoking and looking attentively at my glove.

She took my arm and we spent a long while walking near the ice-hill. The riddle evidently would not let her rest.⁠ ⁠… Had those words been uttered or not?⁠ ⁠… Yes or no? Yes or no? It was the question of pride, or honour, of life⁠—a very important question, the most important question in the world. Nadenka kept impatiently, sorrowfully looking into my face with a penetrating glance; she answered at random, waiting to see whether I would not speak. Oh, the play of feeling on that sweet face! I saw that she was struggling with herself, that she wanted to say something, to ask some question, but she could not find the words; she felt awkward and frightened and troubled by her joy.⁠ ⁠…

“Do you know what,” she said without looking at me.

“Well?” I asked.

“Let us⁠ ⁠… slide down again.”

We clambered up the ice-hill by the steps again. I sat Nadenka, pale and trembling, in the sledge; again we flew into the terrible abyss, again the wind roared and the runners whirred, and again when the flight of our sledge was at its swiftest and noisiest, I said in a low voice:

“I love you, Nadenka!”

When the sledge stopped, Nadenka flung a glance at the hill down which we had both slid, then bent a long look upon my face, listened to my voice which was unconcerned and passionless, and the whole of her little figure, every bit of it, even her muff and her hood expressed the utmost bewilderment, and on her face was written: “What does it mean? Who uttered those words? Did he, or did I only fancy it?”

The uncertainty worried her and drove her out of all patience. The poor girl did not answer my questions, frowned, and was on the point of tears.

“Hadn’t we better go home?” I asked.

“Well, I⁠ ⁠… I like this tobogganning,” she said, flushing. “Shall we go down once more?”

She “liked” the tobogganning, and yet as she got into the sledge she was, as both times before, pale, trembling, hardly able to breathe for terror.

We went down for the third time, and I saw she was looking at my face and watching my lips. But I put my handkerchief to my lips, coughed, and when we reached the middle of the hill I succeeded in bringing out:

“I love you, Nadya!”

And the mystery remained a mystery! Nadenka was silent, pondering on something.⁠ ⁠… I saw her home, she tried to walk slowly, slackened her pace and kept waiting to see whether I would not say those words to her, and I saw how her soul was suffering, what effort she was making not to say to herself:

“It cannot be that the wind said them! And I don’t want it to be the wind that said them!”

Next morning I got a little note:

“If you are tobogganning today, come for me. —N.

And from that time I began going every day tobogganning with Nadenka, and as we flew down in the sledge, every time I pronounced in a low voice the same words: “I love you, Nadya!”

Soon Nadenka grew used to that phrase as to alcohol or morphia. She could not live without it. It is true that flying down the ice-hill terrified her as before, but now the terror and danger gave a peculiar fascination to words of love⁠—words which as before were a mystery and tantalized the soul. The same two⁠—the wind and I were still suspected.⁠ ⁠… Which of the two was making love to her she did not know, but apparently by now she did not care; from which goblet one drinks matters little if only the beverage is intoxicating.

It happened I went to the skating-ground alone at midday; mingling with the crowd I saw Nadenka go up to the ice-hill and look about for me⁠ ⁠… then she timidly mounted the steps.⁠ ⁠… She was frightened of going alone⁠—oh, how frightened! She was white as the snow, she was trembling, she went as though to the scaffold, but she went, she went without looking back, resolutely. She had evidently determined to put it to the test at last: would those sweet amazing words be heard when I was not there? I saw her, pale, her lips parted with horror, get into the sledge, shut her eyes and saying goodbye forever to the earth, set off.⁠ ⁠… “Whrrr!” whirred the runners. Whether Nadenka heard those words I do not know. I only saw her getting up from the sledge looking faint and exhausted. And one could tell from her face that she could not tell herself whether she had heard anything or not. Her terror while she had been flying down had deprived of her all power of hearing, of discriminating sounds, of understanding.

But then the month of March arrived⁠ ⁠… the spring sunshine was more kindly.⁠ ⁠… Our ice-hill turned dark, lost its brilliance and finally melted. We gave up tobogganning. There was nowhere now where poor Nadenka could hear those words, and indeed no one to utter them, since there was no wind and I was going to Petersburg⁠—for long, perhaps forever.

It happened two days before my departure I was sitting in the dusk in the little garden which was separated from the yard of Nadenka’s house by a high fence with nails in it.⁠ ⁠… It was still pretty cold, there was still snow by the manure heap, the trees looked dead but there was already the scent of spring and the rooks were cawing loudly as they settled for their night’s rest. I went up to the fence and stood for a long while peeping through a chink. I saw Nadenka come out into the porch and fix a mournful yearning gaze on the sky.⁠ ⁠… The spring wind was blowing straight into her pale dejected face.⁠ ⁠… It reminded her of the wind which roared at us on the ice-hill when she heard those four words, and her face became very, very sorrowful, a tear trickled down her cheek, and the poor child held out both arms as though begging the wind to bring her those words once more. And waiting for the wind I said in a low voice:

“I love you, Nadya!”

Mercy! The change that came over Nadenka! She uttered a cry, smiled all over her face and looking joyful, happy and beautiful, held out her arms to meet the wind.

And I went off to pack up.⁠ ⁠…

That was long ago. Now Nadenka is married; she married⁠—whether of her own choice or not does not matter⁠—a secretary of the Nobility Wardenship and now she has three children. That we once went tobogganning together, and that the wind brought her the words “I love you, Nadenka,” is not forgotten; it is for her now the happiest, most touching, and beautiful memory in her life.⁠ ⁠…

But now that I am older I cannot understand why I uttered those words, what was my motive in that joke.⁠ ⁠…


During my stay in the district of S⁠⸺ I often used to go to see the watchman Savva Stukatch, or simply Savka, in the kitchen gardens of Dubovo. These kitchen gardens were my favorite resort for so-called “mixed” fishing, when one goes out without knowing what day or hour one may return, taking with one every sort of fishing tackle as well as a store of provisions. To tell the truth, it was not so much the fishing that attracted me as the peaceful stroll, the meals at no set time, the talk with Savka, and being for so long face to face with the calm summer nights. Savka was a young man of five-and-twenty, well grown and handsome, and as strong as a flint. He had the reputation of being a sensible and reasonable fellow. He could read and write, and very rarely drank, but as a workman this strong and healthy young man was not worth a farthing. A sluggish, overpowering sloth was mingled with the strength in his muscles, which were strong as cords. Like everyone else in his village, he lived in his own hut, and had his share of land, but neither tilled it nor sowed it, and did not work at any sort of trade. His old mother begged alms at people’s windows and he himself lived like a bird of the air; he did not know in the morning what he would eat at midday. It was not that he was lacking in will, or energy, or feeling for his mother; it was simply that he felt no inclination for work and did not recognize the advantage of it. His whole figure suggested unruffled serenity, an innate, almost artistic passion for living carelessly, never with his sleeves tucked up. When Savka’s young, healthy body had a physical craving for muscular work, the young man abandoned himself completely for a brief interval to some free but nonsensical pursuit, such as sharpening skates not wanted for any special purpose, or racing about after the peasant women. His favorite attitude was one of concentrated immobility. He was capable of standing for hours at a stretch in the same place with his eyes fixed on the same spot without stirring. He never moved except on impulse, and then only when an occasion presented itself for some rapid and abrupt action: catching a running dog by the tail, pulling off a woman’s kerchief, or jumping over a big hole. It need hardly be said that with such parsimony of movement Savka was as poor as a mouse and lived worse than any homeless outcast. As time went on, I suppose he accumulated arrears of taxes and, young and sturdy as he was, he was sent by the commune to do an old man’s job⁠—to be watchman and scarecrow in the kitchen gardens. However much they laughed at him for his premature senility he did not object to it. This position, quiet and convenient for motionless contemplation, exactly fitted his temperament.

It happened I was with this Savka one fine May evening. I remember I was lying on a torn and dirty sackcloth cover close to the shanty from which came a heavy, fragrant scent of hay. Clasping my hands under my head I looked before me. At my feet was lying a wooden fork. Behind it Savka’s dog Kutka stood out like a black patch, and not a dozen feet from Kutka the ground ended abruptly in the steep bank of the little river. Lying down I could not see the river; I could only see the tops of the young willows growing thickly on the nearer bank, and the twisting, as it were gnawed away, edges of the opposite bank. At a distance beyond the bank on the dark hillside the huts of the village in which Savka lived lay huddling together like frightened young partridges. Beyond the hill the afterglow of sunset still lingered in the sky. One pale crimson streak was all that was left, and even that began to be covered by little clouds as a fire with ash.

A copse with alder trees, softly whispering, and from time to time shuddering in the fitful breeze, lay, a dark blur, on the right of the kitchen gardens; on the left stretched the immense plain. In the distance, where the eye could not distinguish between the sky and the plain, there was a bright gleam of light. A little way off from me sat Savka. With his legs tucked under him like a Turk and his head hanging, he looked pensively at Kutka. Our hooks with live bait on them had long been in the river, and we had nothing left to do but to abandon ourselves to repose, which Savka, who was never exhausted and always rested, loved so much. The glow had not yet quite died away, but the summer night was already enfolding nature in its caressing, soothing embrace.

Everything was sinking into its first deep sleep except some night bird unfamiliar to me, which indolently uttered a long, protracted cry in several distinct notes like the phrase, “Have you seen Ni-ki-ta?” and immediately answered itself, “Seen him, seen him, seen him!”

“Why is it the nightingales aren’t singing tonight?” I asked Savka.

He turned slowly towards me. His features were large, but his face was open, soft, and expressive as a woman’s. Then he gazed with his mild, dreamy eyes at the copse, at the willows, slowly pulled a whistle out of his pocket, put it in his mouth and whistled the note of a hen-nightingale. And at once, as though in answer to his call, a landrail called on the opposite bank.

“There’s a nightingale for you⁠ ⁠…” laughed Savka. “Drag-drag! drag-drag! just like pulling at a hook, and yet I bet he thinks he is singing, too.”

“I like that bird,” I said. “Do you know, when the birds are migrating the landrail does not fly, but runs along the ground? It only flies over the rivers and the sea, but all the rest it does on foot.”

“Upon my word, the dog⁠ ⁠…” muttered Savka, looking with respect in the direction of the calling landrail.

Knowing how fond Savka was of listening, I told him all I had learned about the landrail from sportsman’s books. From the landrail I passed imperceptibly to the migration of the birds. Savka listened attentively, looking at me without blinking, and smiling all the while with pleasure.

“And which country is most the bird’s home? Ours or those foreign parts?” he asked.

“Ours, of course. The bird itself is hatched here, and it hatches out its little ones here in its native country, and they only fly off there to escape being frozen.”

“It’s interesting,” said Savka. “Whatever one talks about it is always interesting. Take a bird now, or a man⁠ ⁠… or take this little stone; there’s something to learn about all of them.⁠ ⁠… Ah, sir, if I had known you were coming I wouldn’t have told a woman to come here this evening.⁠ ⁠… She asked to come today.”

“Oh, please don’t let me be in your way,” I said. “I can lie down in the wood.⁠ ⁠…”

“What next! She wouldn’t have died if she hadn’t come till tomorrow.⁠ ⁠… If only she would sit quiet and listen, but she always wants to be slobbering.⁠ ⁠… You can’t have a good talk when she’s here.”

“Are you expecting Darya?” I asked, after a pause.

“No⁠ ⁠… a new one has asked to come this evening⁠ ⁠… Agafya, the signalman’s wife.”

Savka said this in his usual passionless, somewhat hollow voice, as though he were talking of tobacco or porridge, while I started with surprise. I knew Agafya.⁠ ⁠… She was quite a young peasant woman of nineteen or twenty, who had been married not more than a year before to a railway signalman, a fine young fellow. She lived in the village, and her husband came home there from the line every night.

“Your goings on with the women will lead to trouble, my boy,” said I.

“Well, may be.⁠ ⁠…”

And after a moment’s thought Savka added:

“I’ve said so to the women; they won’t heed me.⁠ ⁠… They don’t trouble about it, the silly things!”

Silence followed.⁠ ⁠… Meanwhile the darkness was growing thicker and thicker, and objects began to lose their contours. The streak behind the hill had completely died away, and the stars were growing brighter and more luminous.⁠ ⁠… The mournfully monotonous chirping of the grasshoppers, the call of the landrail, and the cry of the quail did not destroy the stillness of the night, but, on the contrary, gave it an added monotony. It seemed as though the soft sounds that enchanted the ear came, not from birds or insects, but from the stars looking down upon us from the sky.⁠ ⁠…

Savka was the first to break the silence. He slowly turned his eyes from black Kutka and said:

“I see you are dull, sir. Let’s have supper.”

And without waiting for my consent he crept on his stomach into the shanty, rummaged about there, making the whole edifice tremble like a leaf; then he crawled back and set before me my vodka and an earthenware bowl; in the bowl there were baked eggs, lard scones made of rye, pieces of black bread, and something else.⁠ ⁠… We had a drink from a little crooked glass that wouldn’t stand, and then we fell upon the food.⁠ ⁠… Coarse grey salt, dirty, greasy cakes, eggs tough as india-rubber, but how nice it all was!

“You live all alone, but what lots of good things you have,” I said, pointing to the bowl. “Where do you get them from?”

“The women bring them,” mumbled Savka.

“What do they bring them to you for?”

“Oh⁠ ⁠… from pity.”

Not only Savka’s menu, but his clothing, too, bore traces of feminine “pity.” Thus I noticed that he had on, that evening, a new woven belt and a crimson ribbon on which a copper cross hung round his dirty neck. I knew of the weakness of the fair sex for Savka, and I knew that he did not like talking about it, and so I did not carry my inquiries any further. Besides there was not time to talk.⁠ ⁠… Kutka, who had been fidgeting about near us and patiently waiting for scraps, suddenly pricked up his ears and growled. We heard in the distance repeated splashing of water.

“Someone is coming by the ford,” said Savka.

Three minutes later Kutka growled again and made a sound like a cough.

“Shsh!” his master shouted at him.

In the darkness there was a muffled thud of timid footsteps, and the silhouette of a woman appeared out of the copse. I recognized her, although it was dark⁠—it was Agafya. She came up to us diffidently and stopped, breathing hard. She was breathless, probably not so much from walking as from fear and the unpleasant sensation everyone experiences in wading across a river at night. Seeing near the shanty not one but two persons, she uttered a faint cry and fell back a step.

“Ah⁠ ⁠… that is you!” said Savka, stuffing a scone into his mouth.

“Ye-es⁠ ⁠… I,” she muttered, dropping on the ground a bundle of some sort and looking sideways at me. “Yakov sent his greetings to you and told me to give you⁠ ⁠… something here.⁠ ⁠…”

“Come, why tell stories? Yakov!” laughed Savka. “There is no need for lying; the gentleman knows why you have come! Sit down; you shall have supper with us.”

Agafya looked sideways at me and sat down irresolutely.

“I thought you weren’t coming this evening,” Savka said, after a prolonged silence. “Why sit like that? Eat! Or shall I give you a drop of vodka?”

“What an idea!” laughed Agafya; “do you think you have got hold of a drunkard?⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh, drink it up.⁠ ⁠… Your heart will feel warmer.⁠ ⁠… There!”

Savka gave Agafya the crooked glass. She slowly drank the vodka, ate nothing with it, but drew a deep breath when she had finished.

“You’ve brought something,” said Savka, untying the bundle and throwing a condescending, jesting shade into his voice. “Women can never come without bringing something. Ah, pie and potatoes.⁠ ⁠… They live well,” he sighed, turning to me. “They are the only ones in the whole village who have got potatoes left from the winter!”

In the darkness I did not see Agafya’s face, but from the movement of her shoulders and head it seemed to me that she could not take her eyes off Savka’s face. To avoid being the third person at this tryst, I decided to go for a walk and got up. But at that moment a nightingale in the wood suddenly uttered two low contralto notes. Half a minute later it gave a tiny high trill and then, having thus tried its voice, began singing. Savka jumped up and listened.

“It’s the same one as yesterday,” he said. “Wait a minute.”

And, getting up, he went noiselessly to the wood.

“Why, what do you want with it?” I shouted out after him, “Stop!”

Savka shook his hand as much as to say, “Don’t shout,” and vanished into the darkness. Savka was an excellent sportsman and fisherman when he liked, but his talents in this direction were as completely thrown away as his strength. He was too slothful to do things in the routine way, and vented his passion for sport in useless tricks. For instance, he would catch nightingales only with his hands, would shoot pike with a fowling piece, he would spend whole hours by the river trying to catch little fish with a big hook.

Left alone with me, Agafya coughed and passed her hand several times over her forehead.⁠ ⁠… She began to feel a little drunk from the vodka.

“How are you getting on, Agasha?” I asked her, after a long silence, when it began to be awkward to remain mute any longer.

“Very well, thank God.⁠ ⁠… Don’t tell anyone, sir, will you?” she added suddenly in a whisper.

“That’s all right,” I reassured her. “But how reckless you are, Agasha!⁠ ⁠… What if Yakov finds out?”

“He won’t find out.”

“But what if he does?”

“No⁠ ⁠… I shall be at home before he is. He is on the line now, and he will come back when the mail train brings him, and from here I can hear when the train’s coming.⁠ ⁠…”

Agafya once more passed her hand over her forehead and looked away in the direction in which Savka had vanished. The nightingale was singing. Some night bird flew low down close to the ground and, noticing us, was startled, fluttered its wings and flew across to the other side of the river.

Soon the nightingale was silent, but Savka did not come back. Agafya got up, took a few steps uneasily, and sat down again.

“What is he doing?” she could not refrain from saying. “The train’s not coming in tomorrow! I shall have to go away directly.”

“Savka,” I shouted. “Savka.”

I was not answered even by an echo. Agafya moved uneasily and sat down again.

“It’s time I was going,” she said in an agitated voice. “The train will be here directly! I know when the trains come in.”

The poor woman was not mistaken. Before a quarter of an hour had passed a sound was heard in the distance.

Agafya kept her eyes fixed on the copse for a long time and moved her hands impatiently.

“Why, where can he be?” she said, laughing nervously. “Where has the devil carried him? I am going! I really must be going.”

Meanwhile the noise was growing more and more distinct. By now one could distinguish the rumble of the wheels from the heavy gasps of the engine. Then we heard the whistle, the train crossed the bridge with a hollow rumble⁠ ⁠… another minute and all was still.

“I’ll wait one minute more,” said Agafya, sitting down resolutely. “So be it, I’ll wait.”

At last Savka appeared in the darkness. He walked noiselessly on the crumbling earth of the kitchen gardens and hummed something softly to himself.

“Here’s a bit of luck; what do you say to that now?” he said gaily. “As soon as I got up to the bush and began taking aim with my hand it left off singing! Ah, the bald dog! I waited and waited to see when it would begin again, but I had to give it up.”

Savka flopped clumsily down to the ground beside Agafya and, to keep his balance, clutched at her waist with both hands.

“Why do you look cross, as though your aunt were your mother?” he asked.

With all his softheartedness and good-nature, Savka despised women. He behaved carelessly, condescendingly with them, and even stooped to scornful laughter of their feelings for himself. God knows, perhaps this careless, contemptuous manner was one of the causes of his irresistible attraction for the village Dulcineas. He was handsome and well-built; in his eyes there was always a soft friendliness, even when he was looking at the women he so despised, but the fascination was not to be explained by merely external qualities. Apart from his happy exterior and original manner, one must suppose that the touching position of Savka as an acknowledged failure and an unhappy exile from his own hut to the kitchen gardens also had an influence upon the women.

“Tell the gentleman what you have come here for!” Savka went on, still holding Agafya by the waist. “Come, tell him, you good married woman! Ho-ho! Shall we have another drop of vodka, friend Agasha?”

I got up and, threading my way between the plots, I walked the length of the kitchen garden. The dark beds looked like flattened-out graves. They smelt of dug earth and the tender dampness of plants beginning to be covered with dew.⁠ ⁠… A red light was still gleaming on the left. It winked genially and seemed to smile.

I heard a happy laugh. It was Agafya laughing.

“And the train?” I thought. “The train has come in long ago.”

Waiting a little longer, I went back to the shanty. Savka was sitting motionless, his legs crossed like a Turk, and was softly, scarcely audibly humming a song consisting of words of one syllable something like: “Out on you, fie on you⁠ ⁠… I and you.” Agafya, intoxicated by the vodka, by Savka’s scornful caresses, and by the stifling warmth of the night, was lying on the earth beside him, pressing her face convulsively to his knees. She was so carried away by her feelings that she did not even notice my arrival.

“Agasha, the train has been in a long time,” I said.

“It’s time⁠—it’s time you were gone,” Savka, tossing his head, took up my thought. “What are you sprawling here for? You shameless hussy!”

Agafya started, took her head from his knees, glanced at me, and sank down beside him again.

“You ought to have gone long ago,” I said.

Agafya turned round and got up on one knee.⁠ ⁠… She was unhappy.⁠ ⁠… For half a minute her whole figure, as far as I could distinguish it through the darkness, expressed conflict and hesitation. There was an instant when, seeming to come to herself, she drew herself up to get upon her feet, but then some invincible and implacable force seemed to push her whole body, and she sank down beside Savka again.

“Bother him!” she said, with a wild, guttural laugh, and reckless determination, impotence, and pain could be heard in that laugh.

I strolled quietly away to the copse, and from there down to the river, where our fishing lines were set. The river slept. Some soft, fluffy-petalled flower on a tall stalk touched my cheek tenderly like a child who wants to let one know it’s awake. To pass the time I felt for one of the lines and pulled at it. It yielded easily and hung limply⁠—nothing had been caught.⁠ ⁠… The further bank and the village could not be seen. A light gleamed in one hut, but soon went out. I felt my way along the bank, found a hollow place which I had noticed in the daylight, and sat down in it as in an armchair. I sat there a long time.⁠ ⁠… I saw the stars begin to grow misty and lose their brightness; a cool breath passed over the earth like a faint sigh and touched the leaves of the slumbering osiers.⁠ ⁠…

“A-ga-fya!” a hollow voice called from the village. “Agafya!”

It was the husband, who had returned home, and in alarm was looking for his wife in the village. At that moment there came the sound of unrestrained laughter: the wife, forgetful of everything, sought in her intoxication to make up by a few hours of happiness for the misery awaiting her next day.

I dropped asleep.

When I woke up Savka was sitting beside me and lightly shaking my shoulder. The river, the copse, both banks, green and washed, trees and fields⁠—all were bathed in bright morning light. Through the slim trunks of the trees the rays of the newly risen sun beat upon my back.

“So that’s how you catch fish?” laughed Savka. “Get up!”

I got up, gave a luxurious stretch, and began greedily drinking in the damp and fragrant air.

“Has Agasha gone?” I asked.

“There she is,” said Savka, pointing in the direction of the ford.

I glanced and saw Agafya. Dishevelled, with her kerchief dropping off her head, she was crossing the river, holding up her skirt. Her legs were scarcely moving.⁠ ⁠…

“The cat knows whose meat it has eaten,” muttered Savka, screwing up his eyes as he looked at her. “She goes with her tail hanging down.⁠ ⁠… They are sly as cats, these women, and timid as hares.⁠ ⁠… She didn’t go, silly thing, in the evening when we told her to! Now she will catch it, and they’ll flog me again at the peasant court⁠ ⁠… all on account of the women.⁠ ⁠…”

Agafya stepped upon the bank and went across the fields to the village. At first she walked fairly boldly, but soon terror and excitement got the upper hand; she turned round fearfully, stopped and took breath.

“Yes, you are frightened!” Savka laughed mournfully, looking at the bright green streak left by Agafya in the dewy grass. “She doesn’t want to go! Her husband’s been standing waiting for her for a good hour.⁠ ⁠… Did you see him?”

Savka said the last words with a smile, but they sent a chill to my heart. In the village, near the furthest hut, Yakov was standing in the road, gazing fixedly at his returning wife. He stood without stirring, and was as motionless as a post. What was he thinking as he looked at her? What words was he preparing to greet her with? Agafya stood still a little while, looked round once more as though expecting help from us, and went on. I have never seen anyone, drunk or sober, move as she did. Agafya seemed to be shrivelled up by her husband’s eyes. At one time she moved in zigzags, then she moved her feet up and down without going forward, bending her knees and stretching out her hands, then she staggered back. When she had gone another hundred paces she looked round once more and sat down.

“You ought at least to hide behind a bush⁠ ⁠…” I said to Savka. “If the husband sees you⁠ ⁠…”

“He knows, anyway, who it is Agafya has come from.⁠ ⁠… The women don’t go to the kitchen garden at night for cabbages⁠—we all know that.”

I glanced at Savka’s face. It was pale and puckered up with a look of fastidious pity such as one sees in the faces of people watching tortured animals.

“What’s fun for the cat is tears for the mouse⁠ ⁠…” he muttered.

Agafya suddenly jumped up, shook her head, and with a bold step went towards her husband. She had evidently plucked up her courage and made up her mind.

A Nightmare

Kunin, a young man of thirty, who was a permanent member of the Rural Board, on returning from Petersburg to his district, Borisovo, immediately sent a mounted messenger to Sinkino, for the priest there, Father Yakov Smirnov.

Five hours later Father Yakov appeared.

“Very glad to make your acquaintance,” said Kunin, meeting him in the entry. “I’ve been living and serving here for a year; it seems as though we ought to have been acquainted before. You are very welcome! But⁠ ⁠… how young you are!” Kunin added in surprise. “What is your age?”

“Twenty-eight,⁠ ⁠…” said Father Yakov, faintly pressing Kunin’s outstretched hand, and for some reason turning crimson.

Kunin led his visitor into his study and began looking at him more attentively.

“What an uncouth womanish face!” he thought.

There certainly was a good deal that was womanish in Father Yakov’s face: the turned-up nose, the bright red cheeks, and the large grey-blue eyes with scanty, scarcely perceptible eyebrows. His long reddish hair, smooth and dry, hung down in straight tails on to his shoulders. The hair on his upper lip was only just beginning to form into a real masculine moustache, while his little beard belonged to that class of good-for-nothing beards which among divinity students are for some reason called “ticklers.” It was scanty and extremely transparent; it could not have been stroked or combed, it could only have been pinched.⁠ ⁠… All these scanty decorations were put on unevenly in tufts, as though Father Yakov, thinking to dress up as a priest and beginning to gum on the beard, had been interrupted halfway through. He had on a cassock, the colour of weak coffee with chicory in it, with big patches on both elbows.

“A queer type,” thought Kunin, looking at his muddy skirts. “Comes to the house for the first time and can’t dress decently.

“Sit down, Father,” he began more carelessly than cordially, as he moved an easy-chair to the table. “Sit down, I beg you.”

Father Yakov coughed into his fist, sank awkwardly on to the edge of the chair, and laid his open hands on his knees. With his short figure, his narrow chest, his red and perspiring face, he made from the first moment a most unpleasant impression on Kunin. The latter could never have imagined that there were such undignified and pitiful-looking priests in Russia; and in Father Yakov’s attitude, in the way he held his hands on his knees and sat on the very edge of his chair, he saw a lack of dignity and even a shade of servility.

“I have invited you on business, Father.⁠ ⁠…” Kunin began, sinking back in his low chair. “It has fallen to my lot to perform the agreeable duty of helping you in one of your useful undertakings.⁠ ⁠… On coming back from Petersburg, I found on my table a letter from the Marshal of Nobility. Yegor Dmitrevitch suggests that I should take under my supervision the church parish school which is being opened in Sinkino. I shall be very glad to, Father, with all my heart.⁠ ⁠… More than that, I accept the proposition with enthusiasm.”

Kunin got up and walked about the study.

“Of course, both Yegor Dmitrevitch and probably you, too, are aware that I have not great funds at my disposal. My estate is mortgaged, and I live exclusively on my salary as the permanent member. So that you cannot reckon on very much assistance, but I will do all that is in my power.⁠ ⁠… And when are you thinking of opening the school Father?”

“When we have the money,⁠ ⁠…” answered Father Yakov.

“You have some funds at your disposal already?”

“Scarcely any.⁠ ⁠… The peasants settled at their meeting that they would pay, every man of them, thirty kopecks a year; but that’s only a promise, you know! And for the first beginning we should need at least two hundred roubles.⁠ ⁠…”

“M’yes.⁠ ⁠… Unhappily, I have not that sum now,” said Kunin with a sigh. “I spent all I had on my tour and got into debt, too. Let us try and think of some plan together.”

Kunin began planning aloud. He explained his views and watched Father Yakov’s face, seeking signs of agreement or approval in it. But the face was apathetic and immobile, and expressed nothing but constrained shyness and uneasiness. Looking at it, one might have supposed that Kunin was talking of matters so abstruse that Father Yakov did not understand and only listened from good manners, and was at the same time afraid of being detected in his failure to understand.

“The fellow is not one of the brightest, that’s evident⁠ ⁠…” thought Kunin. “He’s rather shy and much too stupid.”

Father Yakov revived somewhat and even smiled only when the footman came into the study bringing in two glasses of tea on a tray and a cake-basket full of biscuits. He took his glass and began drinking at once.

“Shouldn’t we write at once to the bishop?” Kunin went on, meditating aloud. “To be precise, you know, it is not we, not the Zemstvo, but the higher ecclesiastical authorities, who have raised the question of the church parish schools. They ought really to apportion the funds. I remember I read that a sum of money had been set aside for the purpose. Do you know nothing about it?”

Father Yakov was so absorbed in drinking tea that he did not answer this question at once. He lifted his grey-blue eyes to Kunin, thought a moment, and as though recalling his question, he shook his head in the negative. An expression of pleasure and of the most ordinary prosaic appetite overspread his face from ear to ear. He drank and smacked his lips over every gulp. When he had drunk it to the very last drop, he put his glass on the table, then took his glass back again, looked at the bottom of it, then put it back again. The expression of pleasure faded from his face.⁠ ⁠… Then Kunin saw his visitor take a biscuit from the cake-basket, nibble a little bit off it, then turn it over in his hand and hurriedly stick it in his pocket.

“Well, that’s not at all clerical!” thought Kunin, shrugging his shoulders contemptuously. “What is it, priestly greed or childishness?”

After giving his visitor another glass of tea and seeing him to the entry, Kunin lay down on the sofa and abandoned himself to the unpleasant feeling induced in him by the visit of Father Yakov.

“What a strange wild creature!” he thought. “Dirty, untidy, coarse, stupid, and probably he drinks.⁠ ⁠… My God, and that’s a priest, a spiritual father! That’s a teacher of the people! I can fancy the irony there must be in the deacon’s face when before every mass he booms out: ‘Thy blessing, Reverend Father!’ A fine reverend Father! A reverend Father without a grain of dignity or breeding, hiding biscuits in his pocket like a schoolboy.⁠ ⁠… Fie! Good Lord, where were the bishop’s eyes when he ordained a man like that? What can he think of the people if he gives them a teacher like that? One wants people here who⁠ ⁠…”

And Kunin thought what Russian priests ought to be like.

“If I were a priest, for instance.⁠ ⁠… An educated priest fond of his work might do a great deal.⁠ ⁠… I should have had the school opened long ago. And the sermons? If the priest is sincere and is inspired by love for his work, what wonderful rousing sermons he might give!”

Kunin shut his eyes and began mentally composing a sermon. A little later he sat down to the table and rapidly began writing.

“I’ll give it to that red-haired fellow, let him read it in church,⁠ ⁠…” he thought.

The following Sunday Kunin drove over to Sinkino in the morning to settle the question of the school, and while he was there to make acquaintance with the church of which he was a parishioner. In spite of the awful state of the roads, it was a glorious morning. The sun was shining brightly and cleaving with its rays the layers of white snow still lingering here and there. The snow as it took leave of the earth glittered with such diamonds that it hurt the eyes to look, while the young winter corn was hastily thrusting up its green beside it. The rooks floated with dignity over the fields. A rook would fly, drop to earth, and give several hops before standing firmly on its feet.⁠ ⁠…

The wooden church up to which Kunin drove was old and grey; the columns of the porch had once been painted white, but the colour had now completely peeled off, and they looked like two ungainly shafts. The icon over the door looked like a dark smudged blur. But its poverty touched and softened Kunin. Modestly dropping his eyes, he went into the church and stood by the door. The service had only just begun. An old sacristan, bent into a bow, was reading the “Hours” in a hollow indistinct tenor. Father Yakov, who conducted the service without a deacon, was walking about the church, burning incense. Had it not been for the softened mood in which Kunin found himself on entering the poverty-stricken church, he certainly would have smiled at the sight of Father Yakov. The short priest was wearing a crumpled and extremely long robe of some shabby yellow material; the hem of the robe trailed on the ground.

The church was not full. Looking at the parishioners, Kunin was struck at the first glance by one strange circumstance: he saw nothing but old people and children.⁠ ⁠… Where were the men of working age? Where was the youth and manhood? But after he had stood there a little and looked more attentively at the aged-looking faces, Kunin saw that he had mistaken young people for old. He did not, however, attach any significance to this little optical illusion.

The church was as cold and grey inside as outside. There was not one spot on the icons nor on the dark brown walls which was not begrimed and defaced by time. There were many windows, but the general effect of colour was grey, and so it was twilight in the church.

“Anyone pure in soul can pray here very well,” thought Kunin. “Just as in St. Peter’s in Rome one is impressed by grandeur, here one is touched by the lowliness and simplicity.”

But his devout mood vanished like smoke as soon as Father Yakov went up to the altar and began mass. Being still young and having come straight from the seminary bench to the priesthood, Father Yakov had not yet formed a set manner of celebrating the service. As he read he seemed to be vacillating between a high tenor and a thin bass; he bowed clumsily, walked quickly, and opened and shut the gates abruptly.⁠ ⁠… The old sacristan, evidently deaf and ailing, did not hear the prayers very distinctly, and this very often led to slight misunderstandings. Before Father Yakov had time to finish what he had to say, the sacristan began chanting his response, or else long after Father Yakov had finished the old man would be straining his ears, listening in the direction of the altar and saying nothing till his skirt was pulled. The old man had a sickly hollow voice and an asthmatic quavering lisp.⁠ ⁠… The complete lack of dignity and decorum was emphasized by a very small boy who seconded the sacristan and whose head was hardly visible over the railing of the choir. The boy sang in a shrill falsetto and seemed to be trying to avoid singing in tune. Kunin stayed a little while, listened and went out for a smoke. He was disappointed, and looked at the grey church almost with dislike.

“They complain of the decline of religious feeling among the people⁠ ⁠…” he sighed. “I should rather think so! They’d better foist a few more priests like this one on them!”

Kunin went back into the church three times, and each time he felt a great temptation to get out into the open air again. Waiting till the end of the mass, he went to Father Yakov’s. The priest’s house did not differ outwardly from the peasants’ huts, but the thatch lay more smoothly on the roof and there were little white curtains in the windows. Father Yakov led Kunin into a light little room with a clay floor and walls covered with cheap paper; in spite of some painful efforts towards luxury in the way of photographs in frames and a clock with a pair of scissors hanging on the weight the furnishing of the room impressed him by its scantiness. Looking at the furniture, one might have supposed that Father Yakov had gone from house to house and collected it in bits; in one place they had given him a round three-legged table, in another a stool, in a third a chair with a back bent violently backwards; in a fourth a chair with an upright back, but the seat smashed in; while in a fifth they had been liberal and given him a semblance of a sofa with a flat back and a latticework seat. This semblance had been painted dark red and smelt strongly of paint. Kunin meant at first to sit down on one of the chairs, but on second thoughts he sat down on the stool.

“This is the first time you have been to our church?” asked Father Yakov, hanging his hat on a huge misshapen nail.

“Yes it is. I tell you what, Father, before we begin on business, will you give me some tea? My soul is parched.”

Father Yakov blinked, gasped, and went behind the partition wall. There was a sound of whispering.

“With his wife, I suppose,” thought Kunin; “it would be interesting to see what the redheaded fellow’s wife is like.”

A little later Father Yakov came back, red and perspiring and with an effort to smile, sat down on the edge of the sofa.

“They will heat the samovar directly,” he said, without looking at his visitor.

“My goodness, they have not heated the samovar yet!” Kunin thought with horror. “A nice time we shall have to wait.”

“I have brought you,” he said, “the rough draft of the letter I have written to the bishop. I’ll read it after tea; perhaps you may find something to add.⁠ ⁠…”

“Very well.”

A silence followed. Father Yakov threw furtive glances at the partition wall, smoothed his hair, and blew his nose.

“It’s wonderful weather,⁠ ⁠…” he said.

“Yes. I read an interesting thing yesterday⁠ ⁠… the Volsky Zemstvo have decided to give their schools to the clergy, that’s typical.”

Kunin got up, and pacing up and down the clay floor, began to give expression to his reflections.

“That would be all right,” he said, “if only the clergy were equal to their high calling and recognized their tasks. I am so unfortunate as to know priests whose standard of culture and whose moral qualities make them hardly fit to be army secretaries, much less priests. You will agree that a bad teacher does far less harm than a bad priest.”

Kunin glanced at Father Yakov; he was sitting bent up, thinking intently about something and apparently not listening to his visitor.

“Yasha, come here!” a woman’s voice called from behind the partition. Father Yakov started and went out. Again a whispering began.

Kunin felt a pang of longing for tea.

“No; it’s no use my waiting for tea here,” he thought, looking at his watch. “Besides I fancy I am not altogether a welcome visitor. My host has not deigned to say one word to me; he simply sits and blinks.”

Kunin took up his hat, waited for Father Yakov to return, and said goodbye to him.

“I have simply wasted the morning,” he thought wrathfully on the way home. “The blockhead! The dummy! He cares no more about the school than I about last year’s snow.⁠ ⁠… No, I shall never get anything done with him! We are bound to fail! If the Marshal knew what the priest here was like, he wouldn’t be in such a hurry to talk about a school. We ought first to try and get a decent priest, and then think about the school.”

By now Kunin almost hated Father Yakov. The man, his pitiful, grotesque figure in the long crumpled robe, his womanish face, his manner of officiating, his way of life and his formal restrained respectfulness, wounded the tiny relic of religious feeling which was stored away in a warm corner of Kunin’s heart together with his nurse’s other fairy tales. The coldness and lack of attention with which Father Yakov had met Kunin’s warm and sincere interest in what was the priest’s own work was hard for the former’s vanity to endure.⁠ ⁠…

On the evening of the same day Kunin spent a long time walking about his rooms and thinking. Then he sat down to the table resolutely and wrote a letter to the bishop. After asking for money and a blessing for the school, he set forth genuinely, like a son, his opinion of the priest at Sinkino.

“He is young,” he wrote, “insufficiently educated, leads, I fancy, an intemperate life, and altogether fails to satisfy the ideals which the Russian people have in the course of centuries formed of what a pastor should be.”

After writing this letter Kunin heaved a deep sigh, and went to bed with the consciousness that he had done a good deed.

On Monday morning, while he was still in bed, he was informed that Father Yakov had arrived. He did not want to get up, and instructed the servant to say he was not at home. On Tuesday he went away to a sitting of the Board, and when he returned on Saturday he was told by the servants that Father Yakov had called every day in his absence.

“He liked my biscuits, it seems,” he thought.

Towards evening on Sunday Father Yakov arrived. This time not only his skirts, but even his hat, was bespattered with mud. Just as on his first visit, he was hot and perspiring, and sat down on the edge of his chair as he had done then. Kunin determined not to talk about the school⁠—not to cast pearls.

“I have brought you a list of books for the school, Pavel Mihailovitch,⁠ ⁠…” Father Yakov began.

“Thank you.”

But everything showed that Father Yakov had come for something else besides the list. Has whole figure was expressive of extreme embarrassment, and at the same time there was a look of determination upon his face, as on the face of a man suddenly inspired by an idea. He struggled to say something important, absolutely necessary, and strove to overcome his timidity.

“Why is he dumb?” Kunin thought wrathfully. “He’s settled himself comfortably! I haven’t time to be bothered with him.”

To smooth over the awkwardness of his silence and to conceal the struggle going on within him, the priest began to smile constrainedly, and this slow smile, wrung out on his red perspiring face, and out of keeping with the fixed look in his grey-blue eyes, made Kunin turn away. He felt moved to repulsion.

“Excuse me, Father, I have to go out,” he said.

Father Yakov started like a man asleep who has been struck a blow, and, still smiling, began in his confusion wrapping round him the skirts of his cassock. In spite of his repulsion for the man, Kunin felt suddenly sorry for him, and he wanted to soften his cruelty.

“Please come another time, Father,” he said, “and before we part I want to ask you a favour. I was somehow inspired to write two sermons the other day.⁠ ⁠… I will give them to you to look at. If they are suitable, use them.”

“Very good,” said Father Yakov, laying his open hand on Kunin’s sermons which were lying on the table. “I will take them.”

After standing a little, hesitating and still wrapping his cassock round him, he suddenly gave up the effort to smile and lifted his head resolutely.

“Pavel Mihailovitch,” he said, evidently trying to speak loudly and distinctly.

“What can I do for you?”

“I have heard that you⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… have dismissed your secretary, and⁠ ⁠… and are looking for a new one.⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, I am.⁠ ⁠… Why, have you someone to recommend?”

“I⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… you see⁠ ⁠… I⁠ ⁠… Could you not give the post to me?”

“Why, are you giving up the Church?” said Kunin in amazement.

“No, no,” Father Yakov brought out quickly, for some reason turning pale and trembling all over. “God forbid! If you feel doubtful, then never mind, never mind. You see, I could do the work between whiles,⁠ ⁠… so as to increase my income.⁠ ⁠… Never mind, don’t disturb yourself!”

“H’m!⁠ ⁠… your income.⁠ ⁠… But you know, I only pay my secretary twenty roubles a month.”

“Good heavens! I would take ten,” whispered Father Yakov, looking about him. “Ten would be enough! You⁠ ⁠… you are astonished, and everyone is astonished. The greedy priest, the grasping priest, what does he do with his money? I feel myself I am greedy,⁠ ⁠… and I blame myself, I condemn myself.⁠ ⁠… I am ashamed to look people in the face.⁠ ⁠… I tell you on my conscience, Pavel Mihailovitch.⁠ ⁠… I call the God of truth to witness.⁠ ⁠…”

Father Yakov took breath and went on:

“On the way here I prepared a regular confession to make you, but⁠ ⁠… I’ve forgotten it all; I cannot find a word now. I get a hundred and fifty roubles a year from my parish, and everyone wonders what I do with the money.⁠ ⁠… But I’ll explain it all truly.⁠ ⁠… I pay forty roubles a year to the clerical school for my brother Pyotr. He has everything found there, except that I have to provide pens and paper.”

“Oh, I believe you; I believe you! But what’s the object of all this?” said Kunin, with a wave of the hand, feeling terribly oppressed by this outburst of confidence on the part of his visitor, and not knowing how to get away from the tearful gleam in his eyes.

“Then I have not yet paid up all that I owe to the consistory for my place here. They charged me two hundred roubles for the living, and I was to pay ten roubles a month.⁠ ⁠… You can judge what is left! And, besides, I must allow Father Avraamy at least three roubles a month.”

“What Father Avraamy?”

“Father Avraamy who was priest at Sinkino before I came. He was deprived of the living on account of⁠ ⁠… his failing, but you know, he is still living at Sinkino! He has nowhere to go. There is no one to keep him. Though he is old, he must have a corner, and food and clothing⁠—I can’t let him go begging on the roads in his position! It would be on my conscience if anything happened! It would be my fault! He is⁠ ⁠… in debt all round; but, you see, I am to blame for not paying for him.”

Father Yakov started up from his seat and, looking frantically at the floor, strode up and down the room.

“My God, my God!” he muttered, raising his hands and dropping them again. “Lord, save us and have mercy upon us! Why did you take such a calling on yourself if you have so little faith and no strength? There is no end to my despair! Save me, Queen of Heaven!”

“Calm yourself, Father,” said Kunin.

“I am worn out with hunger, Pavel Mihailovitch,” Father Yakov went on. “Generously forgive me, but I am at the end of my strength.⁠ ⁠… I know if I were to beg and to bow down, everyone would help, but⁠ ⁠… I cannot! I am ashamed. How can I beg of the peasants? You are on the Board here, so you know.⁠ ⁠… How can one beg of a beggar? And to beg of richer people, of landowners, I cannot! I have pride! I am ashamed!”

Father Yakov waved his hand, and nervously scratched his head with both hands.

“I am ashamed! My God, I am ashamed! I am proud and can’t bear people to see my poverty! When you visited me, Pavel Mihailovitch, I had no tea in the house! There wasn’t a pinch of it, and you know it was pride prevented me from telling you! I am ashamed of my clothes, of these patches here.⁠ ⁠… I am ashamed of my vestments, of being hungry.⁠ ⁠… And is it seemly for a priest to be proud?”

Father Yakov stood still in the middle of the study, and, as though he did not notice Kunin’s presence, began reasoning with himself.

“Well, supposing I endure hunger and disgrace⁠—but, my God, I have a wife! I took her from a good home! She is not used to hard work; she is soft; she is used to tea and white bread and sheets on her bed.⁠ ⁠… At home she used to play the piano.⁠ ⁠… She is young, not twenty yet.⁠ ⁠… She would like, to be sure, to be smart, to have fun, go out to see people.⁠ ⁠… And she is worse off with me than any cook; she is ashamed to show herself in the street. My God, my God! Her only treat is when I bring an apple or some biscuit from a visit.⁠ ⁠…”

Father Yakov scratched his head again with both hands.

“And it makes us feel not love but pity for each other.⁠ ⁠… I cannot look at her without compassion! And the things that happen in this life, O Lord! Such things that people would not believe them if they saw them in the newspaper.⁠ ⁠… And when will there be an end to it all!”

“Hush, Father!” Kunin almost shouted, frightened at his tone. “Why take such a gloomy view of life?”

“Generously forgive me, Pavel Mihailovitch⁠ ⁠…” muttered Father Yakov as though he were drunk, “Forgive me, all this⁠ ⁠… doesn’t matter, and don’t take any notice of it.⁠ ⁠… Only I do blame myself, and always shall blame myself⁠ ⁠… always.”

Father Yakov looked about him and began whispering:

“One morning early I was going from Sinkino to Lutchkovo; I saw a woman standing on the river bank, doing something.⁠ ⁠… I went up close and could not believe my eyes.⁠ ⁠… It was horrible! The wife of the doctor, Ivan Sergeitch, was sitting there washing her linen.⁠ ⁠… A doctor’s wife, brought up at a select boarding-school! She had got up you see, early and gone half a mile from the village that people should not see her.⁠ ⁠… She couldn’t get over her pride! When she saw that I was near her and noticed her poverty, she turned red all over.⁠ ⁠… I was flustered⁠—I was frightened, and ran up to help her, but she hid her linen from me; she was afraid I should see her ragged chemises.⁠ ⁠…”

“All this is positively incredible,” said Kunin, sitting down and looking almost with horror at Father Yakov’s pale face.

“Incredible it is! It’s a thing that has never been! Pavel Mihailovitch, that a doctor’s wife should be rinsing the linen in the river! Such a thing does not happen in any country! As her pastor and spiritual father, I ought not to allow it, but what can I do? What? Why, I am always trying to get treated by her husband for nothing myself! It is true that, as you say, it is all incredible! One can hardly believe one’s eyes. During Mass, you know, when I look out from the altar and see my congregation, Avraamy starving, and my wife, and think of the doctor’s wife⁠—how blue her hands were from the cold water⁠—would you believe it, I forget myself and stand senseless like a fool, until the sacristan calls to me.⁠ ⁠… It’s awful!”

Father Yakov began walking about again.

“Lord Jesus!” he said, waving his hands, “holy Saints! I can’t officiate properly.⁠ ⁠… Here you talk to me about the school, and I sit like a dummy and don’t understand a word, and think of nothing but food.⁠ ⁠… Even before the altar.⁠ ⁠… But⁠ ⁠… what am I doing?” Father Yakov pulled himself up suddenly. “You want to go out. Forgive me, I meant nothing.⁠ ⁠… Excuse⁠ ⁠…”

Kunin shook hands with Father Yakov without speaking, saw him into the hall, and going back into his study, stood at the window. He saw Father Yakov go out of the house, pull his wide-brimmed rusty-looking hat over his eyes, and slowly, bowing his head, as though ashamed of his outburst, walk along the road.

“I don’t see his horse,” thought Kunin.

Kunin did not dare to think that the priest had come on foot every day to see him; it was five or six miles to Sinkino, and the mud on the road was impassable. Further on he saw the coachman Andrey and the boy Paramon, jumping over the puddles and splashing Father Yakov with mud, run up to him for his blessing. Father Yakov took off his hat and slowly blessed Andrey, then blessed the boy and stroked his head.

Kunin passed his hand over his eyes, and it seemed to him that his hand was moist. He walked away from the window and with dim eyes looked round the room in which he still seemed to hear the timid droning voice. He glanced at the table. Luckily, Father Yakov, in his haste, had forgotten to take the sermons. Kunin rushed up to them, tore them into pieces, and with loathing thrust them under the table.

“And I did not know!” he moaned, sinking on to the sofa. “After being here over a year as member of the Rural Board, Honorary Justice of the Peace, member of the School Committee! Blind puppet, egregious idiot! I must make haste and help them, I must make haste!”

He turned from side to side uneasily, pressed his temples and racked his brains.

“On the twentieth I shall get my salary, two hundred roubles.⁠ ⁠… On some good pretext I will give him some, and some to the doctor’s wife.⁠ ⁠… I will ask them to perform a special service here, and will get up an illness for the doctor.⁠ ⁠… In that way I shan’t wound their pride. And I’ll help Father Avraamy too.⁠ ⁠…”

He reckoned his money on his fingers, and was afraid to own to himself that those two hundred roubles would hardly be enough for him to pay his steward, his servants, the peasant who brought the meat.⁠ ⁠… He could not help remembering the recent past when he was senselessly squandering his father’s fortune, when as a puppy of twenty he had given expensive fans to prostitutes, had paid ten roubles a day to Kuzma, his cabdriver, and in his vanity had made presents to actresses. Oh, how useful those wasted rouble, three-rouble, ten-rouble notes would have been now!

“Father Avraamy lives on three roubles a month!” thought Kunin. “For a rouble the priest’s wife could get herself a chemise, and the doctor’s wife could hire a washerwoman. But I’ll help them, anyway! I must help them.”

Here Kunin suddenly recalled the private information he had sent to the bishop, and he writhed as from a sudden draught of cold air. This remembrance filled him with overwhelming shame before his inner self and before the unseen truth.

So had begun and had ended a sincere effort to be of public service on the part of a well-intentioned but unreflecting and over-comfortable person.


Grisha, a chubby little boy, born two years and eight months ago, is walking on the boulevard with his nurse. He is wearing a long, wadded pelisse, a scarf, a big cap with a fluffy pom-pom, and warm overboots. He feels hot and stifled, and now, too, the rollicking April sunshine is beating straight in his face, and making his eyelids tingle.

The whole of his clumsy, timidly and uncertainly stepping little figure expresses the utmost bewilderment.

Hitherto Grisha has known only a rectangular world, where in one corner stands his bed, in the other nurse’s trunk, in the third a chair, while in the fourth there is a little lamp burning. If one looks under the bed, one sees a doll with a broken arm and a drum; and behind nurse’s trunk, there are a great many things of all sorts: cotton reels, boxes without lids, and a broken Jack-a-dandy. In that world, besides nurse and Grisha, there are often mamma and the cat. Mamma is like a doll, and puss is like papa’s fur-coat, only the coat hasn’t got eyes and a tail. From the world which is called the nursery a door leads to a great expanse where they have dinner and tea. There stands Grisha’s chair on high legs, and on the wall hangs a clock which exists to swing its pendulum and chime. From the dining room, one can go into a room where there are red armchairs. Here, there is a dark patch on the carpet, concerning which fingers are still shaken at Grisha. Beyond that room is still another, to which one is not admitted, and where one sees glimpses of papa⁠—an extremely enigmatical person! Nurse and mamma are comprehensible: they dress Grisha, feed him, and put him to bed, but what papa exists for is unknown. There is another enigmatical person, auntie, who presented Grisha with a drum. She appears and disappears. Where does she disappear to? Grisha has more than once looked under the bed, behind the trunk, and under the sofa, but she was not there.

In this new world, where the sun hurts one’s eyes, there are so many papas and mammas and aunties, that there is no knowing to whom to run. But what is stranger and more absurd than anything is the horses. Grisha gazes at their moving legs, and can make nothing of it. He looks at his nurse for her to solve the mystery, but she does not speak.

All at once he hears a fearful tramping.⁠ ⁠… A crowd of soldiers, with red faces and bath brooms under their arms, move in step along the boulevard straight upon him. Grisha turns cold all over with terror, and looks inquiringly at nurse to know whether it is dangerous. But nurse neither weeps nor runs away, so there is no danger. Grisha looks after the soldiers, and begins to move his feet in step with them himself.

Two big cats with long faces run after each other across the boulevard, with their tongues out, and their tails in the air. Grisha thinks that he must run too, and runs after the cats.

“Stop!” cries nurse, seizing him roughly by the shoulder. “Where are you off to? Haven’t you been told not to be naughty?”

Here there is a nurse sitting holding a tray of oranges. Grisha passes by her, and, without saying anything, takes an orange.

“What are you doing that for?” cries the companion of his travels, slapping his hand and snatching away the orange. “Silly!”

Now Grisha would have liked to pick up a bit of glass that was lying at his feet and gleaming like a lamp, but he is afraid that his hand will be slapped again.

“My respects to you!” Grisha hears suddenly, almost above his ear, a loud thick voice, and he sees a tall man with bright buttons.

To his great delight, this man gives nurse his hand, stops, and begins talking to her. The brightness of the sun, the noise of the carriages, the horses, the bright buttons are all so impressively new and not dreadful, that Grisha’s soul is filled with a feeling of enjoyment and he begins to laugh.

“Come along! Come along!” he cries to the man with the bright buttons, tugging at his coattails.

“Come along where?” asks the man.

“Come along!” Grisha insists.

He wants to say that it would be just as well to take with them papa, mamma, and the cat, but his tongue does not say what he wants to.

A little later, nurse turns out of the boulevard, and leads Grisha into a big courtyard where there is still snow; and the man with the bright buttons comes with them too. They carefully avoid the lumps of snow and the puddles, then, by a dark and dirty staircase, they go into a room. Here there is a great deal of smoke, there is a smell of roast meat, and a woman is standing by the stove frying cutlets. The cook and the nurse kiss each other, and sit down on the bench together with the man, and begin talking in a low voice. Grisha, wrapped up as he is, feels insufferably hot and stifled.

“Why is this?” he wonders, looking about him.

He sees the dark ceiling, the oven fork with two horns, the stove which looks like a great black hole.

“Mam-ma,” he drawls.

“Come, come, come!” cries the nurse. “Wait a bit!”

The cook puts a bottle on the table, two wineglasses, and a pie. The two women and the man with the bright buttons clink glasses and empty them several times, and, the man puts his arm round first the cook and then the nurse. And then all three begin singing in an undertone.

Grisha stretches out his hand towards the pie, and they give him a piece of it. He eats it and watches nurse drinking.⁠ ⁠… He wants to drink too.

“Give me some, nurse!” he begs.

The cook gives him a sip out of her glass. He rolls his eyes, blinks, coughs, and waves his hands for a long time afterwards, while the cook looks at him and laughs.

When he gets home Grisha begins to tell mamma, the walls, and the bed where he has been, and what he has seen. He talks not so much with his tongue, as with his face and his hands. He shows how the sun shines, how the horses run, how the terrible stove looks, and how the cook drinks.⁠ ⁠…

In the evening he cannot get to sleep. The soldiers with the brooms, the big cats, the horses, the bit of glass, the tray of oranges, the bright buttons, all gathered together, weigh on his brain. He tosses from side to side, babbles, and, at last, unable to endure his excitement, begins crying.

“You are feverish,” says mamma, putting her open hand on his forehead. “What can have caused it?”

“Stove!” wails Grisha. “Go away, stove!”

“He must have eaten too much⁠ ⁠…” mamma decides.

And Grisha, shattered by the impressions of the new life he has just experienced, receives a spoonful of castor-oil from mamma.


“Three o’clock in the morning. The soft April night is looking in at my windows and caressingly winking at me with its stars. I can’t sleep, I am so happy!

“My whole being from head to heels is bursting with a strange, incomprehensible feeling. I can’t analyse it just now⁠—I haven’t the time, I’m too lazy, and there⁠—hang analysis! Why, is a man likely to interpret his sensations when he is flying head foremost from a belfry, or has just learned that he has won two hundred thousand? Is he in a state to do it?”

This was more or less how I began my love-letter to Sasha, a girl of nineteen with whom I had fallen in love. I began it five times, and as often tore up the sheets, scratched out whole pages, and copied it all over again. I spent as long over the letter as if it had been a novel I had to write to order. And it was not because I tried to make it longer, more elaborate, and more fervent, but because I wanted endlessly to prolong the process of this writing, when one sits in the stillness of one’s study and communes with one’s own daydreams while the spring night looks in at one’s window. Between the lines I saw a beloved image, and it seemed to me that there were, sitting at the same table writing with me, spirits as naively happy, as foolish, and as blissfully smiling as I. I wrote continually, looking at my hand, which still ached deliciously where hers had lately pressed it, and if I turned my eyes away I had a vision of the green trellis of the little gate. Through that trellis Sasha gazed at me after I had said goodbye to her. When I was saying goodbye to Sasha I was thinking of nothing and was simply admiring her figure as every decent man admires a pretty woman; when I saw through the trellis two big eyes, I suddenly, as though by inspiration, knew that I was in love, that it was all settled between us, and fully decided already, that I had nothing left to do but to carry out certain formalities.

It is a great delight also to seal up a love-letter, and, slowly putting on one’s hat and coat, to go softly out of the house and to carry the treasure to the post. There are no stars in the sky now: in their place there is a long whitish streak in the east, broken here and there by clouds above the roofs of the dingy houses; from that streak the whole sky is flooded with pale light. The town is asleep, but already the water-carts have come out, and somewhere in a faraway factory a whistle sounds to wake up the workpeople. Beside the postbox, slightly moist with dew, you are sure to see the clumsy figure of a house porter, wearing a bell-shaped sheepskin and carrying a stick. He is in a condition akin to catalepsy: he is not asleep or awake, but something between.

If the boxes knew how often people resort to them for the decision of their fate, they would not have such a humble air. I, anyway, almost kissed my postbox, and as I gazed at it I reflected that the post is the greatest of blessings.

I beg anyone who has ever been in love to remember how one usually hurries home after dropping the letter in the box, rapidly gets into bed and pulls up the quilt in the full conviction that as soon as one wakes up in the morning one will be overwhelmed with memories of the previous day and look with rapture at the window, where the daylight will be eagerly making its way through the folds of the curtain.

Well, to facts.⁠ ⁠… Next morning at midday, Sasha’s maid brought me the following answer: “I am delited be sure to come to us to day please I shall expect you. Your S.

Not a single comma. This lack of punctuation, and the misspelling of the word “delighted,” the whole letter, and even the long, narrow envelope in which it was put filled my heart with tenderness. In the sprawling but diffident handwriting I recognised Sasha’s walk, her way of raising her eyebrows when she laughed, the movement of her lips.⁠ ⁠… But the contents of the letter did not satisfy me. In the first place, poetical letters are not answered in that way, and in the second, why should I go to Sasha’s house to wait till it should occur to her stout mamma, her brothers, and poor relations to leave us alone together? It would never enter their heads, and nothing is more hateful than to have to restrain one’s raptures simply because of the intrusion of some animate trumpery in the shape of a half-deaf old woman or little girl pestering one with questions. I sent an answer by the maid asking Sasha to select some park or boulevard for a rendezvous. My suggestion was readily accepted. I had struck the right chord, as the saying is.

Between four and five o’clock in the afternoon I made my way to the furthest and most overgrown part of the park. There was not a soul in the park, and the tryst might have taken place somewhere nearer in one of the avenues or arbours, but women don’t like doing it by halves in romantic affairs; in for a penny, in for a pound⁠—if you are in for a tryst, let it be in the furthest and most impenetrable thicket, where one runs the risk of stumbling upon some rough or drunken man. When I went up to Sasha she was standing with her back to me, and in that back I could read a devilish lot of mystery. It seemed as though that back and the nape of her neck, and the black spots on her dress were saying: Hush!⁠ ⁠… The girl was wearing a simple cotton dress over which she had thrown a light cape. To add to the air of mysterious secrecy, her face was covered with a white veil. Not to spoil the effect, I had to approach on tiptoe and speak in a half whisper.

From what I remember now, I was not so much the essential point of the rendezvous as a detail of it. Sasha was not so much absorbed in the interview itself as in its romantic mysteriousness, my kisses, the silence of the gloomy trees, my vows.⁠ ⁠… There was not a minute in which she forgot herself, was overcome, or let the mysterious expression drop from her face, and really if there had been any Ivan Sidoritch or Sidor Ivanitch in my place she would have felt just as happy. How is one to make out in such circumstances whether one is loved or not? Whether the love is “the real thing” or not?

From the park I took Sasha home with me. The presence of the beloved woman in one’s bachelor quarters affects one like wine and music. Usually one begins to speak of the future, and the confidence and self-reliance with which one does so is beyond bounds. You make plans and projects, talk fervently of the rank of general though you have not yet reached the rank of a lieutenant, and altogether you fire off such high-flown nonsense that your listener must have a great deal of love and ignorance of life to assent to it. Fortunately for men, women in love are always blinded by their feelings and never know anything of life. Far from not assenting, they actually turn pale with holy awe, are full of reverence and hang greedily on the maniac’s words. Sasha listened to me with attention, but I soon detected an absentminded expression on her face, she did not understand me. The future of which I talked interested her only in its external aspect and I was wasting time in displaying my plans and projects before her. She was keenly interested in knowing which would be her room, what paper she would have in the room, why I had an upright piano instead of a grand piano, and so on. She examined carefully all the little things on my table, looked at the photographs, sniffed at the bottles, peeled the old stamps off the envelopes, saying she wanted them for something.

“Please collect old stamps for me!” she said, making a grave face. “Please do.”

Then she found a nut in the window, noisily cracked it and ate it.

“Why don’t you stick little labels on the backs of your books?” she asked, taking a look at the bookcase.

“What for?”

“Oh, so that each book should have its number. And where am I to put my books? I’ve got books too, you know.”

“What books have you got?” I asked.

Sasha raised her eyebrows, thought a moment and said:

“All sorts.”

And if it had entered my head to ask her what thoughts, what convictions, what aims she had, she would no doubt have raised her eyebrows, thought a minute, and have said in the same way: “All sorts.”

Later I saw Sasha home and left her house regularly, officially engaged, and was so reckoned till our wedding. If the reader will allow me to judge merely from my personal experience, I maintain that to be engaged is very dreary, far more so than to be a husband or nothing at all. An engaged man is neither one thing nor the other, he has left one side of the river and not reached the other, he is not married and yet he can’t be said to be a bachelor, but is in something not unlike the condition of the porter whom I have mentioned above.

Every day as soon as I had a free moment I hastened to my fiancée. As I went I usually bore within me a multitude of hopes, desires, intentions, suggestions, phrases. I always fancied that as soon as the maid opened the door I should, from feeling oppressed and stifled, plunge at once up to my neck into a sea of refreshing happiness. But it always turned out otherwise in fact. Every time I went to see my fiancée I found all her family and other members of the household busy over the silly trousseau. (And by the way, they were hard at work sewing for two months and then they had less than a hundred roubles’ worth of things). There was a smell of irons, candle grease and fumes. Bugles scrunched under one’s feet. The two most important rooms were piled up with billows of linen, calico, and muslin and from among the billows peeped out Sasha’s little head with a thread between her teeth. All the sewing party welcomed me with cries of delight but at once led me off into the dining room where I could not hinder them nor see what only husbands are permitted to behold. In spite of my feelings, I had to sit in the dining room and converse with Pimenovna, one of the poor relations. Sasha, looking worried and excited, kept running by me with a thimble, a skein of wool or some other boring object.

“Wait, wait, I shan’t be a minute,” she would say when I raised imploring eyes to her. “Only fancy that wretch Stepanida has spoilt the bodice of the barège dress!”

And after waiting in vain for this grace, I lost my temper, went out of the house and walked about the streets in the company of the new cane I had bought. Or I would want to go for a walk or a drive with my fiancée, would go round and find her already standing in the hall with her mother, dressed to go out and playing with her parasol.

“Oh, we are going to the Arcade,” she would say. “We have got to buy some more cashmere and change the hat.”

My outing is knocked on the head. I join the ladies and go with them to the Arcade. It is revoltingly dull to listen to women shopping, haggling and trying to outdo the sharp shopman. I felt ashamed when Sasha, after turning over masses of material and knocking down the prices to a minimum, walked out of the shop without buying anything, or else told the shopman to cut her some half rouble’s worth.

When they came out of the shop, Sasha and her mamma with scared and worried faces would discuss at length having made a mistake, having bought the wrong thing, the flowers in the chintz being too dark, and so on.

Yes, it is a bore to be engaged! I’m glad it’s over.

Now I am married. It is evening. I am sitting in my study reading. Behind me on the sofa Sasha is sitting munching something noisily. I want a glass of beer.

“Sasha, look for the corkscrew.⁠ ⁠…” I say. “It’s lying about somewhere.”

Sasha leaps up, rummages in a disorderly way among two or three heaps of papers, drops the matches, and without finding the corkscrew, sits down in silence.⁠ ⁠… Five minutes pass⁠—ten⁠ ⁠… I begin to be fretted both by thirst and vexation.

“Sasha, do look for the corkscrew,” I say.

Sasha leaps up again and rummages among the papers near me. Her munching and rustling of the papers affects me like the sound of sharpening knives against each other.⁠ ⁠… I get up and begin looking for the corkscrew myself. At last it is found and the beer is uncorked. Sasha remains by the table and begins telling me something at great length.

“You’d better read something, Sasha,” I say.

She takes up a book, sits down facing me and begins moving her lips.⁠ ⁠… I look at her little forehead, moving lips, and sink into thought.

“She is getting on for twenty.⁠ ⁠…” I reflect. “If one takes a boy of the educated class and of that age and compares them, what a difference! The boy would have knowledge and convictions and some intelligence.”

But I forgive that difference just as the low forehead and moving lips are forgiven. I remember in my old Lovelace days I have cast off women for a stain on their stockings, or for one foolish word, or for not cleaning their teeth, and now I forgive everything: the munching, the muddling about after the corkscrew, the slovenliness, the long talking about nothing that matters; I forgive it all almost unconsciously, with no effort of will, as though Sasha’s mistakes were my mistakes, and many things which would have made me wince in old days move me to tenderness and even rapture. The explanation of this forgiveness of everything lies in my love for Sasha, but what is the explanation of the love itself, I really don’t know.

Easter Eve

I was standing on the bank of the River Goltva, waiting for the ferryboat from the other side. At ordinary times the Goltva is a humble stream of moderate size, silent and pensive, gently glimmering from behind thick reeds; but now a regular lake lay stretched out before me. The waters of spring, running riot, had overflowed both banks and flooded both sides of the river for a long distance, submerging vegetable gardens, hayfields and marshes, so that it was no unusual thing to meet poplars and bushes sticking out above the surface of the water and looking in the darkness like grim solitary crags.

The weather seemed to me magnificent. It was dark, yet I could see the trees, the water and the people.⁠ ⁠… The world was lighted by the stars, which were scattered thickly all over the sky. I don’t remember ever seeing so many stars. Literally one could not have put a finger in between them. There were some as big as a goose’s egg, others tiny as hempseed.⁠ ⁠… They had come out for the festival procession, every one of them, little and big, washed, renewed and joyful, and everyone of them was softly twinkling its beams. The sky was reflected in the water; the stars were bathing in its dark depths and trembling with the quivering eddies. The air was warm and still.⁠ ⁠… Here and there, far away on the further bank in the impenetrable darkness, several bright red lights were gleaming.⁠ ⁠…

A couple of paces from me I saw the dark silhouette of a peasant in a high hat, with a thick knotted stick in his hand.

“How long the ferryboat is in coming!” I said.

“It is time it was here,” the silhouette answered.

“You are waiting for the ferryboat, too?”

“No I am not,” yawned the peasant⁠—“I am waiting for the illumination. I should have gone, but to tell you the truth, I haven’t the five kopecks for the ferry.”

“I’ll give you the five kopecks.”

“No; I humbly thank you.⁠ ⁠… With that five kopecks put up a candle for me over there in the monastery.⁠ ⁠… That will be more interesting, and I will stand here. What can it mean, no ferryboat, as though it had sunk in the water!”

The peasant went up to the water’s edge, took the rope in his hands, and shouted; “Ieronim! Ieron⁠—im!”

As though in answer to his shout, the slow peal of a great bell floated across from the further bank. The note was deep and low, as from the thickest string of a double bass; it seemed as though the darkness itself had hoarsely uttered it. At once there was the sound of a cannon shot. It rolled away in the darkness and ended somewhere in the far distance behind me. The peasant took off his hat and crossed himself.

“Christ is risen,” he said.

Before the vibrations of the first peal of the bell had time to die away in the air a second sounded, after it at once a third, and the darkness was filled with an unbroken quivering clamour. Near the red lights fresh lights flashed, and all began moving together and twinkling restlessly.

“Ieron⁠—im!” we heard a hollow prolonged shout.

“They are shouting from the other bank,” said the peasant, “so there is no ferry there either. Our Ieronim has gone to sleep.”

The lights and the velvety chimes of the bell drew one towards them.⁠ ⁠… I was already beginning to lose patience and grow anxious, but behold at last, staring into the dark distance, I saw the outline of something very much like a gibbet. It was the long-expected ferry. It moved towards us with such deliberation that if it had not been that its lines grew gradually more definite, one might have supposed that it was standing still or moving to the other bank.

“Make haste! Ieronim!” shouted my peasant. “The gentleman’s tired of waiting!”

The ferry crawled to the bank, gave a lurch and stopped with a creak. A tall man in a monk’s cassock and a conical cap stood on it, holding the rope.

“Why have you been so long?” I asked jumping upon the ferry.

“Forgive me, for Christ’s sake,” Ieronim answered gently. “Is there no one else?”

“No one.⁠ ⁠…”

Ieronim took hold of the rope in both hands, bent himself to the figure of a mark of interrogation, and gasped. The ferryboat creaked and gave a lurch. The outline of the peasant in the high hat began slowly retreating from me⁠—so the ferry was moving off. Ieronim soon drew himself up and began working with one hand only. We were silent, gazing towards the bank to which we were floating. There the illumination for which the peasant was waiting had begun. At the water’s edge barrels of tar were flaring like huge camp fires. Their reflections, crimson as the rising moon, crept to meet us in long broad streaks. The burning barrels lighted up their own smoke and the long shadows of men flitting about the fire; but further to one side and behind them from where the velvety chime floated there was still the same unbroken black gloom. All at once, cleaving the darkness, a rocket zigzagged in a golden ribbon up the sky; it described an arc and, as though broken to pieces against the sky, was scattered crackling into sparks. There was a roar from the bank like a faraway hurrah.

“How beautiful!” I said.

“Beautiful beyond words!” sighed Ieronim. “Such a night, sir! Another time one would pay no attention to the fireworks, but today one rejoices in every vanity. Where do you come from?”

I told him where I came from.

“To be sure⁠ ⁠… a joyful day today.⁠ ⁠…” Ieronim went on in a weak sighing tenor like the voice of a convalescent. “The sky is rejoicing and the earth and what is under the earth. All the creatures are keeping holiday. Only tell me kind sir, why, even in the time of great rejoicing, a man cannot forget his sorrows?”

I fancied that this unexpected question was to draw me into one of those endless religious conversations which bored and idle monks are so fond of. I was not disposed to talk much, and so I only asked:

“What sorrows have you, father?”

“As a rule only the same as all men, kind sir, but today a special sorrow has happened in the monastery: at mass, during the reading of the Bible, the monk and deacon Nikolay died.”

“Well, it’s God’s will!” I said, falling into the monastic tone. “We must all die. To my mind, you ought to rejoice indeed.⁠ ⁠… They say if anyone dies at Easter he goes straight to the kingdom of heaven.”

“That’s true.”

We sank into silence. The figure of the peasant in the high hat melted into the lines of the bank. The tar barrels were flaring up more and more.

“The Holy Scripture points clearly to the vanity of sorrow and so does reflection,” said Ieronim, breaking the silence, “but why does the heart grieve and refuse to listen to reason? Why does one want to weep bitterly?”

Ieronim shrugged his shoulders, turned to me and said quickly:

“If I died, or anyone else, it would not be worth notice perhaps; but, you see, Nikolay is dead! No one else but Nikolay! Indeed, it’s hard to believe that he is no more! I stand here on my ferryboat and every minute I keep fancying that he will lift up his voice from the bank. He always used to come to the bank and call to me that I might not be afraid on the ferry. He used to get up from his bed at night on purpose for that. He was a kind soul. My God! how kindly and gracious! Many a mother is not so good to her child as Nikolay was to me! Lord, save his soul!”

Ieronim took hold of the rope, but turned to me again at once.

“And such a lofty intelligence, your honour,” he said in a vibrating voice. “Such a sweet and harmonious tongue! Just as they will sing immediately at early matins: ‘Oh lovely! oh sweet is Thy Voice!’ Besides all other human qualities, he had, too, an extraordinary gift!”

“What gift?” I asked.

The monk scrutinized me, and as though he had convinced himself that he could trust me with a secret, he laughed good-humouredly.

“He had a gift for writing hymns of praise,” he said. “It was a marvel, sir; you couldn’t call it anything else! You would be amazed if I tell you about it. Our Father Archimandrite comes from Moscow, the Father Sub-Prior studied at the Kazan academy, we have wise monks and elders, but, would you believe it, no one could write them; while Nikolay, a simple monk, a deacon, had not studied anywhere, and had not even any outer appearance of it, but he wrote them! A marvel! A real marvel!” Ieronim clasped his hands and, completely forgetting the rope, went on eagerly:

“The Father Sub-Prior has great difficulty in composing sermons; when he wrote the history of the monastery he worried all the brotherhood and drove a dozen times to town, while Nikolay wrote canticles! Hymns of praise! That’s a very different thing from a sermon or a history!”

“Is it difficult to write them?” I asked.

“There’s great difficulty!” Ieronim wagged his head. “You can do nothing by wisdom and holiness if God has not given you the gift. The monks who don’t understand argue that you only need to know the life of the saint for whom you are writing the hymn, and to make it harmonize with the other hymns of praise. But that’s a mistake, sir. Of course, anyone who writes canticles must know the life of the saint to perfection, to the least trivial detail. To be sure, one must make them harmonize with the other canticles and know where to begin and what to write about. To give you an instance, the first response begins everywhere with ‘the chosen’ or ‘the elect.’⁠ ⁠… The first line must always begin with the ‘angel.’ In the canticle of praise to Jesus the Most Sweet, if you are interested in the subject, it begins like this: ‘Of angels Creator and Lord of all powers!’ In the canticle to the Holy Mother of God: ‘Of angels the foremost sent down from on high,’ to Nikolay, the Wonder-worker⁠—‘An angel in semblance, though in substance a man,’ and so on. Everywhere you begin with the angel. Of course, it would be impossible without making them harmonize, but the lives of the saints and conformity with the others is not what matters; what matters is the beauty and sweetness of it. Everything must be harmonious, brief and complete. There must be in every line softness, graciousness and tenderness; not one word should be harsh or rough or unsuitable. It must be written so that the worshipper may rejoice at heart and weep, while his mind is stirred and he is thrown into a tremor. In the canticle to the Holy Mother are the words: ‘Rejoice, O Thou too high for human thought to reach! Rejoice, O Thou too deep for angels’ eyes to fathom!’ In another place in the same canticle: ‘Rejoice, O tree that bearest the fair fruit of light that is the food of the faithful! Rejoice, O tree of gracious spreading shade, under which there is shelter for multitudes!’ ”

Ieronim hid his face in his hands, as though frightened at something or overcome with shame, and shook his head.

“Tree that bearest the fair fruit of light⁠ ⁠… tree of gracious spreading shade.⁠ ⁠…” he muttered. “To think that a man should find words like those! Such a power is a gift from God! For brevity he packs many thoughts into one phrase, and how smooth and complete it all is! ‘Light-radiating torch to all that be⁠ ⁠…’ comes in the canticle to Jesus the Most Sweet. ‘Light-radiating!’ There is no such word in conversation or in books, but you see he invented it, he found it in his mind! Apart from the smoothness and grandeur of language, sir, every line must be beautified in every way, there must be flowers and lightning and wind and sun and all the objects of the visible world. And every exclamation ought to be put so as to be smooth and easy for the ear. ‘Rejoice, thou flower of heavenly growth!’ comes in the hymn to Nikolay the Wonder-worker. It’s not simply ‘heavenly flower,’ but ‘flower of heavenly growth.’ It’s smoother so and sweet to the ear. That was just as Nikolay wrote it! Exactly like that! I can’t tell you how he used to write!”

“Well, in that case it is a pity he is dead,” I said; “but let us get on, father, or we shall be late.”

Ieronim started and ran to the rope; they were beginning to peal all the bells. Probably the procession was already going on near the monastery, for all the dark space behind the tar barrels was now dotted with moving lights.

“Did Nikolay print his hymns?” I asked Ieronim.

“How could he print them?” he sighed. “And indeed, it would be strange to print them. What would be the object? No one in the monastery takes any interest in them. They don’t like them. They knew Nikolay wrote them, but they let it pass unnoticed. No one esteems new writings nowadays, sir!”

“Were they prejudiced against him?”

“Yes, indeed. If Nikolay had been an elder perhaps the brethren would have been interested, but he wasn’t forty, you know. There were some who laughed and even thought his writing a sin.”

“What did he write them for?”

“Chiefly for his own comfort. Of all the brotherhood, I was the only one who read his hymns. I used to go to him in secret, that no one else might know of it, and he was glad that I took an interest in them. He would embrace me, stroke my head, speak to me in caressing words as to a little child. He would shut his cell, make me sit down beside him, and begin to read.⁠ ⁠…”

Ieronim left the rope and came up to me.

“We were dear friends in a way,” he whispered, looking at me with shining eyes. “Where he went I would go. If I were not there he would miss me. And he cared more for me than for anyone, and all because I used to weep over his hymns. It makes me sad to remember. Now I feel just like an orphan or a widow. You know, in our monastery they are all good people, kind and pious, but⁠ ⁠… there is no one with softness and refinement, they are just like peasants. They all speak loudly, and tramp heavily when they walk; they are noisy, they clear their throats, but Nikolay always talked softly, caressingly, and if he noticed that anyone was asleep or praying he would slip by like a fly or a gnat. His face was tender, compassionate.⁠ ⁠…”

Ieronim heaved a deep sigh and took hold of the rope again. We were by now approaching the bank. We floated straight out of the darkness and stillness of the river into an enchanted realm, full of stifling smoke, crackling lights and uproar. By now one could distinctly see people moving near the tar barrels. The flickering of the lights gave a strange, almost fantastic, expression to their figures and red faces. From time to time one caught among the heads and faces a glimpse of a horse’s head motionless as though cast in copper.

“They’ll begin singing the Easter hymn directly,⁠ ⁠…” said Ieronim, “and Nikolay is gone; there is no one to appreciate it.⁠ ⁠… There was nothing written dearer to him than that hymn. He used to take in every word! You’ll be there, sir, so notice what is sung; it takes your breath away!”

“Won’t you be in church, then?”

“I can’t;⁠ ⁠… I have to work the ferry.⁠ ⁠…”

“But won’t they relieve you?”

“I don’t know.⁠ ⁠… I ought to have been relieved at eight; but, as you see, they don’t come!⁠ ⁠… And I must own I should have liked to be in the church.⁠ ⁠…”

“Are you a monk?”

“Yes⁠ ⁠… that is, I am a lay-brother.”

The ferry ran into the bank and stopped. I thrust a five-kopeck piece into Ieronim’s hand for taking me across and jumped on land. Immediately a cart with a boy and a sleeping woman in it drove creaking onto the ferry. Ieronim, with a faint glow from the lights on his figure, pressed on the rope, bent down to it, and started the ferry back.⁠ ⁠…

I took a few steps through mud, but a little farther walked on a soft freshly trodden path. This path led to the dark monastery gates, that looked like a cavern through a cloud of smoke, through a disorderly crowd of people, unharnessed horses, carts and chaises. All this crowd was rattling, snorting, laughing, and the crimson light and wavering shadows from the smoke flickered over it all.⁠ ⁠… A perfect chaos! And in this hubbub the people yet found room to load a little cannon and to sell cakes. There was no less commotion on the other side of the wall in the monastery precincts, but there was more regard for decorum and order. Here there was a smell of juniper and incense. They talked loudly, but there was no sound of laughter or snorting. Near the tombstones and crosses people pressed close to one another with Easter cakes and bundles in their arms. Apparently many had come from a long distance for their cakes to be blessed and now were exhausted. Young lay brothers, making a metallic sound with their boots, ran busily along the iron slabs that paved the way from the monastery gates to the church door. They were busy and shouting on the belfry, too.

“What a restless night!” I thought. “How nice!”

One was tempted to see the same unrest and sleeplessness in all nature, from the night darkness to the iron slabs, the crosses on the tombs and the trees under which the people were moving to and fro. But nowhere was the excitement and restlessness so marked as in the church. An unceasing struggle was going on in the entrance between the inflowing stream and the outflowing stream. Some were going in, others going out and soon coming back again to stand still for a little and begin moving again. People were scurrying from place to place, lounging about as though they were looking for something. The stream flowed from the entrance all round the church, disturbing even the front rows, where persons of weight and dignity were standing. There could be no thought of concentrated prayer. There were no prayers at all, but a sort of continuous, childishly irresponsible joy, seeking a pretext to break out and vent itself in some movement, even in senseless jostling and shoving.

The same unaccustomed movement is striking in the Easter service itself. The altar gates are flung wide open, thick clouds of incense float in the air near the candelabra; wherever one looks there are lights, the gleam and splutter of candles.⁠ ⁠… There is no reading; restless and lighthearted singing goes on to the end without ceasing. After each hymn the clergy change their vestments and come out to burn the incense, which is repeated every ten minutes.

I had no sooner taken a place, when a wave rushed from in front and forced me back. A tall thickset deacon walked before me with a long red candle; the grey-headed archimandrite in his golden mitre hurried after him with the censer. When they had vanished from sight the crowd squeezed me back to my former position. But ten minutes had not passed before a new wave burst on me, and again the deacon appeared. This time he was followed by the Father Sub-Prior, the man who, as Ieronim had told me, was writing the history of the monastery.

As I mingled with the crowd and caught the infection of the universal joyful excitement, I felt unbearably sore on Ieronim’s account. Why did they not send someone to relieve him? Why could not someone of less feeling and less susceptibility go on the ferry? “Lift up thine eyes, O Sion, and look around,” they sang in the choir, “for thy children have come to thee as to a beacon of divine light from north and south, and from east and from the sea.⁠ ⁠…”

I looked at the faces; they all had a lively expression of triumph, but not one was listening to what was being sung and taking it in, and not one was “holding his breath.” Why was not Ieronim released? I could fancy Ieronim standing meekly somewhere by the wall, bending forward and hungrily drinking in the beauty of the holy phrase. All this that glided by the ears of the people standing by me he would have eagerly drunk in with his delicately sensitive soul, and would have been spellbound to ecstasy, to holding his breath, and there would not have been a man happier than he in all the church. Now he was plying to and fro over the dark river and grieving for his dead friend and brother.

The wave surged back. A stout smiling monk, playing with his rosary and looking round behind him, squeezed sideways by me, making way for a lady in a hat and velvet cloak. A monastery servant hurried after the lady, holding a chair over our heads.

I came out of the church. I wanted to have a look at the dead Nikolay, the unknown canticle writer. I walked about the monastery wall, where there was a row of cells, peeped into several windows, and, seeing nothing, came back again. I do not regret now that I did not see Nikolay; God knows, perhaps if I had seen him I should have lost the picture my imagination paints for me now. I imagine the lovable poetical figure solitary and not understood, who went out at nights to call to Ieronim over the water, and filled his hymns with flowers, stars and sunbeams, as a pale timid man with soft mild melancholy features. His eyes must have shone, not only with intelligence, but with kindly tenderness and that hardly restrained childlike enthusiasm which I could hear in Ieronim’s voice when he quoted to me passages from the hymns.

When we came out of church after mass it was no longer night. The morning was beginning. The stars had gone out and the sky was a morose greyish blue. The iron slabs, the tombstones and the buds on the trees were covered with dew. There was a sharp freshness in the air. Outside the precincts I did not find the same animated scene as I had beheld in the night. Horses and men looked exhausted, drowsy, scarcely moved, while nothing was left of the tar barrels but heaps of black ash. When anyone is exhausted and sleepy he fancies that nature, too, is in the same condition. It seemed to me that the trees and the young grass were asleep. It seemed as though even the bells were not pealing so loudly and gaily as at night. The restlessness was over, and of the excitement nothing was left but a pleasant weariness, a longing for sleep and warmth.

Now I could see both banks of the river; a faint mist hovered over it in shifting masses. There was a harsh cold breath from the water. When I jumped on to the ferry, a chaise and some two dozen men and women were standing on it already. The rope, wet and as I fancied drowsy, stretched far away across the broad river and in places disappeared in the white mist.

“Christ is risen! Is there no one else?” asked a soft voice.

I recognized the voice of Ieronim. There was no darkness now to hinder me from seeing the monk. He was a tall narrow-shouldered man of five-and-thirty, with large rounded features, with half-closed listless-looking eyes and an unkempt wedge-shaped beard. He had an extraordinarily sad and exhausted look.

“They have not relieved you yet?” I asked in surprise.

“Me?” he answered, turning to me his chilled and dewy face with a smile. “There is no one to take my place now till morning. They’ll all be going to the Father Archimandrite’s to break the fast directly.”

With the help of a little peasant in a hat of reddish fur that looked like the little wooden tubs in which honey is sold, he threw his weight on the rope; they gasped simultaneously, and the ferry started.

We floated across, disturbing on the way the lazily rising mist. Everyone was silent. Ieronim worked mechanically with one hand. He slowly passed his mild lustreless eyes over us; then his glance rested on the rosy face of a young merchant’s wife with black eyebrows, who was standing on the ferry beside me silently shrinking from the mist that wrapped her about. He did not take his eyes off her face all the way.

There was little that was masculine in that prolonged gaze. It seemed to me that Ieronim was looking in the woman’s face for the soft and tender features of his dead friend.


Fyodor Petrovitch the Director of Elementary Schools in the N⁠⸺ District, who considered himself a just and generous man, was one day interviewing in his office a schoolmaster called Vremensky.

“No, Mr. Vremensky,” he was saying, “your retirement is inevitable. You cannot continue your work as a schoolmaster with a voice like that! How did you come to lose it?”

“I drank cold beer when I was in a perspiration⁠ ⁠…” hissed the schoolmaster.

“What a pity! After a man has served fourteen years, such a calamity all at once! The idea of a career being ruined by such a trivial thing. What are you intending to do now?”

The schoolmaster made no answer.

“Are you a family man?” asked the director.

“A wife and two children, your Excellency⁠ ⁠…” hissed the schoolmaster.

A silence followed. The director got up from the table and walked to and fro in perturbation.

“I cannot think what I am going to do with you!” he said. “A teacher you cannot be, and you are not yet entitled to a pension.⁠ ⁠… To abandon you to your fate, and leave you to do the best you can, is rather awkward. We look on you as one of our men, you have served fourteen years, so it is our business to help you.⁠ ⁠… But how are we to help you? What can I do for you? Put yourself in my place: what can I do for you?”

A silence followed; the director walked up and down, still thinking, and Vremensky, overwhelmed by his trouble, sat on the edge of his chair, and he, too, thought. All at once the director began beaming, and even snapped his fingers.

“I wonder I did not think of it before!” he began rapidly. “Listen, this is what I can offer you. Next week our secretary at the Home is retiring. If you like, you can have his place! There you are!”

Vremensky, not expecting such good fortune, beamed too.

“That’s capital,” said the director. “Write the application today.”

Dismissing Vremensky, Fyodor Petrovitch felt relieved and even gratified: the bent figure of the hissing schoolmaster was no longer confronting him, and it was agreeable to recognize that in offering a vacant post to Vremensky he had acted fairly and conscientiously, like a good-hearted and thoroughly decent person. But this agreeable state of mind did not last long. When he went home and sat down to dinner his wife, Nastasya Ivanovna, said suddenly:

“Oh yes, I was almost forgetting! Nina Sergeyevna came to see me yesterday and begged for your interest on behalf of a young man. I am told there is a vacancy in our Home.⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, but the post has already been promised to someone else,” said the director, and he frowned. “And you know my rule: I never give posts through patronage.”

“I know, but for Nina Sergeyevna, I imagine, you might make an exception. She loves us as though we were relations, and we have never done anything for her. And don’t think of refusing, Fedya! You will wound both her and me with your whims.”

“Who is it that she is recommending?”


“What Polzuhin? Is it that fellow who played Tchatsky at the party on New Year’s Day? Is it that gentleman? Not on any account!”

The director left off eating.

“Not on any account!” he repeated. “Heaven preserve us!”

“But why not?”

“Understand, my dear, that if a young man does not set to work directly, but through women, he must be good for nothing! Why doesn’t he come to me himself?”

After dinner the director lay on the sofa in his study and began reading the letters and newspapers he had received.

“Dear Fyodor Petrovitch,” wrote the wife of the Mayor of the town. “You once said that I knew the human heart and understood people. Now you have an opportunity of verifying this in practice. K. N. Polzuhin, whom I know to be an excellent young man, will call upon you in a day or two to ask you for the post of secretary at our Home. He is a very nice youth. If you take an interest in him you will be convinced of it.” And so on.

“On no account!” was the director’s comment. “Heaven preserve me!”

After that, not a day passed without the director’s receiving letters recommending Polzuhin. One fine morning Polzuhin himself, a stout young man with a close-shaven face like a jockey’s, in a new black suit, made his appearance.⁠ ⁠…

“I see people on business not here but at the office,” said the director drily, on hearing his request.

“Forgive me, your Excellency, but our common acquaintances advised me to come here.”

“H’m!” growled the director, looking with hatred at the pointed toes of the young man’s shoes. “To the best of my belief your father is a man of property and you are not in want,” he said. “What induces you to ask for this post? The salary is very trifling!”

“It’s not for the sake of the salary.⁠ ⁠… It’s a government post, anyway⁠ ⁠…”

“H’m.⁠ ⁠… It strikes me that within a month you will be sick of the job and you will give it up, and meanwhile there are candidates for whom it would be a career for life. There are poor men for whom⁠ ⁠…”

“I shan’t get sick of it, your Excellency,” Polzuhin interposed. “Honour bright, I will do my best!”

It was too much for the director.

“Tell me,” he said, smiling contemptuously, “why was it you didn’t apply to me direct but thought fitting instead to trouble ladies as a preliminary?”

“I didn’t know that it would be disagreeable to you,” Polzuhin answered, and he was embarrassed. “But, your Excellency, if you attach no significance to letters of recommendation, I can give you a testimonial.⁠ ⁠…”

He drew from his pocket a letter and handed it to the director. At the bottom of the testimonial, which was written in official language and handwriting, stood the signature of the Governor. Everything pointed to the Governor’s having signed it unread, simply to get rid of some importunate lady.

“There’s nothing for it, I bow to his authority⁠ ⁠… I obey⁠ ⁠…” said the director, reading the testimonial, and he heaved a sigh.

“Send in your application tomorrow.⁠ ⁠… There’s nothing to be done.⁠ ⁠…”

And when Polzuhin had gone out, the director abandoned himself to a feeling of repulsion.

“Sneak!” he hissed, pacing from one corner to the other. “He has got what he wanted, one way or the other, the good-for-nothing toady! Making up to the ladies! Reptile! Creature!”

The director spat loudly in the direction of the door by which Polzuhin had departed, and was immediately overcome with embarrassment, for at that moment a lady, the wife of the Superintendent of the Provincial Treasury, walked in at the door.

“I’ve come for a tiny minute⁠ ⁠… a tiny minute⁠ ⁠…” began the lady. “Sit down, friend, and listen to me attentively.⁠ ⁠… Well, I’ve been told you have a post vacant.⁠ ⁠… Today or tomorrow you will receive a visit from a young man called Polzuhin.⁠ ⁠…”

The lady chattered on, while the director gazed at her with lustreless, stupefied eyes like a man on the point of fainting, gazed and smiled from politeness.

And the next day when Vremensky came to his office it was a long time before the director could bring himself to tell the truth. He hesitated, was incoherent, and could not think how to begin or what to say. He wanted to apologize to the schoolmaster, to tell him the whole truth, but his tongue halted like a drunkard’s, his ears burned, and he was suddenly overwhelmed with vexation and resentment that he should have to play such an absurd part⁠—in his own office, before his subordinate. He suddenly brought his fist down on the table, leaped up, and shouted angrily:

“I have no post for you! I have not, and that’s all about it! Leave me in peace! Don’t worry me! Be so good as to leave me alone!”

And he walked out of the office.

Strong Impressions

It happened not so long ago in the Moscow circuit court. The jurymen, left in the court for the night, before lying down to sleep fell into conversation about strong impressions. They were led to this discussion by recalling a witness who, by his own account, had begun to stammer and had gone grey owing to a terrible moment. The jurymen decided that before going to sleep, each one of them should ransack among his memories and tell something that had happened to him. Man’s life is brief, but yet there is no man who cannot boast that there have been terrible moments in his past.

One juryman told the story of how he was nearly drowned; another described how, in a place where there were neither doctors nor chemists, he had one night poisoned his own son through giving him zinc vitriol by mistake for soda. The child did not die, but the father nearly went out of his mind. A third, a man not old but in bad health, told how he had twice attempted to commit suicide: the first time by shooting himself and the second time by throwing himself before a train.

The fourth, a foppishly dressed, fat little man, told us the following story:

“I was not more than twenty-two or twenty-three when I fell head over ears in love with my present wife and made her an offer. Now I could with pleasure thrash myself for my early marriage, but at the time, I don’t know what would have become of me if Natasha had refused me. My love was absolutely the real thing, just as it is described in novels⁠—frantic, passionate, and so on. My happiness overwhelmed me and I did not know how to get away from it, and I bored my father and my friends and the servants, continually talking about the fervour of my passion. Happy people are the most sickening bores. I was a fearful bore; I feel ashamed of it even now.⁠ ⁠…

“Among my friends there was in those days a young man who was beginning his career as a lawyer. Now he is a lawyer known all over Russia; in those days he was only just beginning to gain recognition and was not rich and famous enough to be entitled to cut an old friend when he met him. I used to go and see him once or twice a week. We used to loll on sofas and begin discussing philosophy.

“One day I was lying on his sofa, arguing that there was no more ungrateful profession than that of a lawyer. I tried to prove that as soon as the examination of witnesses is over the court can easily dispense with both the counsels for the prosecution and for the defence, because they are neither of them necessary and are only in the way. If a grown-up juryman, morally and mentally sane, is convinced that the ceiling is white, or that Ivanov is guilty, to struggle with that conviction and to vanquish it is beyond the power of any Demosthenes. Who can convince me that I have a red moustache when I know that it is black? As I listen to an orator I may perhaps grow sentimental and weep, but my fundamental conviction, based for the most part on unmistakable evidence and fact, is not changed in the least. My lawyer maintained that I was young and foolish and that I was talking childish nonsense. In his opinion, for one thing, an obvious fact becomes still more obvious through light being thrown upon it by conscientious, well-informed people; for another, talent is an elemental force, a hurricane capable of turning even stones to dust, let alone such trifles as the convictions of artisans and merchants of the second guild. It is as hard for human weakness to struggle against talent as to look at the sun without winking, or to stop the wind. One simple mortal by the power of the word turns thousands of convinced savages to Christianity; Odysseus was a man of the firmest convictions, but he succumbed to the Syrens, and so on. All history consists of similar examples, and in life they are met with at every turn; and so it is bound to be, or the intelligent and talented man would have no superiority over the stupid and incompetent.

“I stuck to my point, and went on maintaining that convictions are stronger than any talent, though, frankly speaking, I could not have defined exactly what I meant by conviction or what I meant by talent. Most likely I simply talked for the sake of talking.

“ ‘Take you, for example,’ said the lawyer. ‘You are convinced at this moment that your fiancée is an angel and that there is not a man in the whole town happier than you. But I tell you: ten or twenty minutes would be enough for me to make you sit down to this table and write to your fiancée, breaking off your engagement.’

“I laughed.

“ ‘Don’t laugh, I am speaking seriously,’ said my friend. ‘If I choose, in twenty minutes you will be happy at the thought that you need not get married. Goodness knows what talent I have, but you are not one of the strong sort.’

“ ‘Well, try it on!’ said I.

“ ‘No, what for? I am only telling you this. You are a good boy and it would be cruel to subject you to such an experiment. And besides I am not in good form today.’

“We sat down to supper. The wine and the thought of Natasha, my beloved, flooded my whole being with youth and happiness. My happiness was so boundless that the lawyer sitting opposite to me with his green eyes seemed to me an unhappy man, so small, so grey.⁠ ⁠…

“ ‘Do try!’ I persisted. ‘Come, I entreat you!’

“The lawyer shook his head and frowned. Evidently I was beginning to bore him.

“ ‘I know,’ he said, ‘after my experiment you will say, thank you, and will call me your saviour; but you see I must think of your fiancée too. She loves you; your jilting her would make her suffer. And what a charming creature she is! I envy you.’

“The lawyer sighed, sipped his wine, and began talking of how charming my Natasha was. He had an extraordinary gift of description. He could knock you off a regular string of words about a woman’s eyelashes or her little finger. I listened to him with relish.

“ ‘I have seen a great many women in my day,’ he said, ‘but I give you my word of honour, I speak as a friend, your Natasha Andreyevna is a pearl, a rare girl. Of course she has her defects⁠—many of them, in fact, if you like⁠—but still she is fascinating.’

“And the lawyer began talking of my fiancée’s defects. Now I understand very well that he was talking of women in general, of their weak points in general, but at the time it seemed to me that he was talking only of Natasha. He went into ecstasies over her turn-up nose, her shrieks, her shrill laugh, her airs and graces, precisely all the things I so disliked in her. All that was, to his thinking, infinitely sweet, graceful, and feminine.

“Without my noticing it, he quickly passed from his enthusiastic tone to one of fatherly admonition, and then to a light and derisive one.⁠ ⁠… There was no presiding judge and no one to check the diffusiveness of the lawyer. I had not time to open my mouth, besides, what could I say? What my friend said was not new, it was what everyone has known for ages, and the whole venom lay not in what he said, but in the damnable form he put it in. It really was beyond anything!

“As I listened to him then I learned that the same word has thousands of shades of meaning according to the tone in which it is pronounced, and the form which is given to the sentence. Of course I cannot reproduce the tone or the form; I can only say that as I listened to my friend and walked up and down the room, I was moved to resentment, indignation, and contempt together with him. I even believed him when with tears in his eyes he informed me that I was a great man, that I was worthy of a better fate, that I was destined to achieve something in the future which marriage would hinder!

“ ‘My friend!’ he exclaimed, pressing my hand. ‘I beseech you, I adjure you: stop before it is too late. Stop! May Heaven preserve you from this strange, cruel mistake! My friend, do not ruin your youth!’

“Believe me or not, as you choose, but the long and the short of it was that I sat down to the table and wrote to my fiancée, breaking off the engagement. As I wrote I felt relieved that it was not yet too late to rectify my mistake. Sealing the letter, I hastened out into the street to post it. The lawyer himself came with me.

“ ‘Excellent! Capital!’ he applauded me as my letter to Natasha disappeared into the darkness of the box. ‘I congratulate you with all my heart. I am glad for you.’

“After walking a dozen paces with me the lawyer went on:

“ ‘Of course, marriage has its good points. I, for instance, belong to the class of people to whom marriage and home life is everything.’

“And he proceeded to describe his life, and lay before me all the hideousness of a solitary bachelor existence.

“He spoke with enthusiasm of his future wife, of the sweets of ordinary family life, and was so eloquent, so sincere in his ecstasies that by the time we had reached his door, I was in despair.

“ ‘What are you doing to me, you horrible man?’ I said, gasping. ‘You have ruined me! Why did you make me write that cursed letter? I love her, I love her!’

“And I protested my love. I was horrified at my conduct which now seemed to me wild and senseless. It is impossible, gentlemen, to imagine a more violent emotion than I experienced at that moment. Oh, what I went through, what I suffered! If some kind person had thrust a revolver into my hand at that moment, I should have put a bullet through my brains with pleasure.

“ ‘Come, come⁠ ⁠…’ said the lawyer, slapping me on the shoulder, and he laughed. ‘Give over crying. The letter won’t reach your fiancée. It was not you who wrote the address but I, and I muddled it so they won’t be able to make it out at the post-office. It will be a lesson to you not to argue about what you don’t understand.’

“Now, gentlemen, I leave it to the next to speak.”

The fifth juryman settled himself more comfortably, and had just opened his mouth to begin his story when we heard the clock strike on Spassky Tower.

“Twelve⁠ ⁠…” one of the jurymen counted. “And into which class, gentlemen, would you put the emotions that are being experienced now by the man we are trying? He, that murderer, is spending the night in a convict cell here in the court, sitting or lying down and of course not sleeping, and throughout the whole sleepless night listening to that chime. What is he thinking of? What visions are haunting him?”

And the jurymen all suddenly forgot about strong impressions; what their companion who had once written a letter to his Natasha had suffered seemed unimportant, even not amusing; and no one said anything more; they began quietly and in silence lying down to sleep.

A Gentleman Friend

The charming Vanda, or, as she was described in her passport, the “Honourable Citizen Nastasya Kanavkin,” found herself, on leaving the hospital, in a position she had never been in before: without a home to go to or a farthing in her pocket. What was she to do?

The first thing she did was to visit a pawnbroker’s and pawn her turquoise ring, her one piece of jewellery. They gave her a rouble for the ring⁠ ⁠… but what can you get for a rouble? You can’t buy for that sum a fashionable short jacket, nor a big hat, nor a pair of bronze shoes, and without those things she had a feeling of being, as it were, undressed. She felt as though the very horses and dogs were staring and laughing at the plainness of her dress. And clothes were all she thought about: the question what she should eat and where she should sleep did not trouble her in the least.

“If only I could meet a gentleman friend,” she thought to herself, “I could get some money.⁠ ⁠… There isn’t one who would refuse me, I know⁠ ⁠…”

But no gentleman she knew came her way. It would be easy enough to meet them in the evening at the Renaissance, but they wouldn’t let her in at the Renaissance in that shabby dress and with no hat. What was she to do?

After long hesitation, when she was sick of walking and sitting and thinking, Vanda made up her mind to fall back on her last resource: to go straight to the lodgings of some gentleman friend and ask for money.

She pondered which to go to. “Misha is out of the question; he’s a married man.⁠ ⁠… The old chap with the red hair will be at his office at this time⁠ ⁠…”

Vanda remembered a dentist, called Finkel, a converted Jew, who six months ago had given her a bracelet, and on whose head she had once emptied a glass of beer at the supper at the German Club. She was awfully pleased at the thought of Finkel.

“He’ll be sure to give it me, if only I find him at home,” she thought, as she walked in his direction. “If he doesn’t, I’ll smash all the lamps in the house.”

Before she reached the dentist’s door she thought out her plan of action: she would run laughing up the stairs, dash into the dentist’s room and demand twenty-five roubles. But as she touched the bell, this plan seemed to vanish from her mind of itself. Vanda began suddenly feeling frightened and nervous, which was not at all her way. She was bold and saucy enough at drinking parties, but now, dressed in everyday clothes, feeling herself in the position of an ordinary person asking a favour, who might be refused admittance, she felt suddenly timid and humiliated. She was ashamed and frightened.

“Perhaps he has forgotten me by now,” she thought, hardly daring to pull the bell. “And how can I go up to him in such a dress, looking like a beggar or some working girl?”

And she rang the bell irresolutely.

She heard steps coming: it was the porter.

“Is the doctor at home?” she asked.

She would have been glad now if the porter had said “No,” but the latter, instead of answering ushered her into the hall, and helped her off with her coat. The staircase impressed her as luxurious, and magnificent, but of all its splendours what caught her eye most was an immense looking-glass, in which she saw a ragged figure without a fashionable jacket, without a big hat, and without bronze shoes. And it seemed strange to Vanda that, now that she was humbly dressed and looked like a laundress or sewing girl, she felt ashamed, and no trace of her usual boldness and sauciness remained, and in her own mind she no longer thought of herself as Vanda, but as the Nastasya Kanavkin she used to be in the old days.⁠ ⁠…

“Walk in, please,” said a maidservant, showing her into the consulting room. “The doctor will be here in a minute. Sit down.”

Vanda sank into a soft armchair.

“I’ll ask him to lend it me,” she thought; “that will be quite proper, for, after all, I do know him. If only that servant would go. I don’t like to ask before her. What does she want to stand there for?”

Five minutes later the door opened and Finkel came in. He was a tall, dark Jew, with fat cheeks and bulging eyes. His cheeks, his eyes, his chest, his body, all of him was so well fed, so loathsome and repellent! At the Renaissance and the German Club he had usually been rather tipsy, and would spend his money freely on women, and be very long-suffering and patient with their pranks (when Vanda, for instance, poured the beer over his head, he simply smiled and shook his finger at her): now he had a cross, sleepy expression and looked solemn and frigid like a police captain, and he kept chewing something.

“What can I do for you?” he asked, without looking at Vanda.

Vanda looked at the serious countenance of the maid and the smug figure of Finkel, who apparently did not recognize her, and she turned red.

“What can I do for you?” repeated the dentist a little irritably.

“I’ve got toothache,” murmured Vanda.

“Aha!⁠ ⁠… Which is the tooth? Where?”

Vanda remembered she had a hole in one of her teeth.

“At the bottom⁠ ⁠… on the right⁠ ⁠…” she said.

“Hm!⁠ ⁠… Open your mouth.”

Finkel frowned and, holding his breath, began examining the tooth.

“Does it hurt?” he asked, digging into it with a steel instrument.

“Yes,” Vanda replied, untruthfully.

“Shall I remind him?” she was wondering. “He would be sure to remember me. But that servant! Why will she stand there?”

Finkel suddenly snorted like a steam-engine right into her mouth, and said:

“I don’t advise you to have it stopped. That tooth will never be worth keeping anyhow.”

After probing the tooth a little more and soiling Vanda’s lips and gums with his tobacco-stained fingers, he held his breath again, and put something cold into her mouth. Vanda suddenly felt a sharp pain, cried out, and clutched at Finkel’s hand.

“It’s all right, it’s all right,” he muttered; “don’t you be frightened! That tooth would have been no use to you, anyway⁠ ⁠… you must be brave⁠ ⁠…”

And his tobacco-stained fingers, smeared with blood, held up the tooth to her eyes, while the maid approached and put a basin to her mouth.

“You wash out your mouth with cold water when you get home, and that will stop the bleeding,” said Finkel.

He stood before her with the air of a man expecting her to go, waiting to be left in peace.

“Good day,” she said, turning towards the door.

“Hm!⁠ ⁠… and how about my fee?” enquired Finkel, in a jesting tone.

“Oh, yes!” Vanda remembered, blushing, and she handed the Jew the rouble that had been given her for her ring.

When she got out into the street she felt more overwhelmed with shame than before, but now it was not her poverty she was ashamed of. She was unconscious now of not having a big hat and a fashionable jacket. She walked along the street, spitting blood, and brooding on her life, her ugly, wretched life, and the insults she had endured, and would have to endure tomorrow, and next week, and all her life, up to the very day of her death.

“Oh! how awful it is! My God, how fearful!”

Next day, however, she was back at the Renaissance, and dancing there. She had on an enormous new red hat, a new fashionable jacket, and bronze shoes. And she was taken out to supper by a young merchant up from Kazan.

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. Goodbye!”

“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 countinghouse. 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?”

“Today, 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.

The Privy Councillor

At the beginning of April in 1870 my mother, Klavdia Arhipovna, the widow of a lieutenant, received from her brother Ivan, a privy councillor in Petersburg, a letter in which, among other things, this passage occurred: “My liver trouble forces me to spend every summer abroad, and as I have not at the moment the money in hand for a trip to Marienbad, it is very possible, dear sister, that I may spend this summer with you at Kotchuevko.⁠ ⁠…”

On reading the letter my mother turned pale and began trembling all over; then an expression of mingled tears and laughter came into her face. She began crying and laughing. This conflict of tears and laughter always reminds me of the flickering and spluttering of a brightly burning candle when one sprinkles it with water. Reading the letter once more, mother called together all the household, and in a voice broken with emotion began explaining to us that there had been four Gundasov brothers: one Gundasov had died as a baby; another had gone to the war, and he, too, was dead; the third, without offence to him be it said, was an actor; the fourth⁠ ⁠…

“The fourth has risen far above us,” my mother brought out tearfully. “My own brother, we grew up together; and I am all of a tremble, all of a tremble!⁠ ⁠… A privy councillor with the rank of a general! How shall I meet him, my angel brother? What can I, a foolish, uneducated woman, talk to him about? It’s fifteen years since I’ve seen him! Andryushenka,” my mother turned to me, “you must rejoice, little stupid! It’s a piece of luck for you that God is sending him to us!”

After we had heard a detailed history of the Gundasovs, there followed a fuss and bustle in the place such as I had been accustomed to see only before Christmas and Easter. The sky above and the water in the river were all that escaped; everything else was subjected to a merciless cleansing, scrubbing, painting. If the sky had been lower and smaller and the river had not flowed so swiftly, they would have scoured them, too, with bath-brick and rubbed them, too, with tow. Our walls were as white as snow, but they were whitewashed; the floors were bright and shining, but they were washed every day. The cat Bobtail (as a small child I had cut off a good quarter of his tail with the knife used for chopping the sugar, and that was why he was called Bobtail) was carried off to the kitchen and put in charge of Anisya; Fedka was told that if any of the dogs came near the front-door “God would punish him.” But no one was so badly treated as the poor sofas, easy-chairs, and rugs! They had never, before been so violently beaten as on this occasion in preparation for our visitor. My pigeons took fright at the loud thud of the sticks, and were continually flying up into the sky.

The tailor Spiridon, the only tailor in the whole district who ventured to make for the gentry, came over from Novostroevka. He was a hardworking capable man who did not drink and was not without a certain fancy and feeling for form, but yet he was an atrocious tailor. His work was ruined by hesitation.⁠ ⁠… The idea that his cut was not fashionable enough made him alter everything half a dozen times, walk all the way to the town simply to study the dandies, and in the end dress us in suits that even a caricaturist would have called outré and grotesque. We cut a dash in impossibly narrow trousers and in such short jackets that we always felt quite abashed in the presence of young ladies.

This Spiridon spent a long time taking my measure. He measured me all over lengthways and crossways, as though he meant to put hoops round me like a barrel; then he spent a long time noting down my measurements with a thick pencil on a bit of paper, and ticked off all the measurements with triangular signs. When he had finished with me he set to work on my tutor, Yegor Alexyevitch Pobyedimsky. My beloved tutor was then at the stage when young men watch the growth of their moustache and are critical of their clothes, and so you can imagine the devout awe with which Spiridon approached him. Yegor Alexyevitch had to throw back his head, to straddle his legs like an inverted V, first lift up his arms, then let them fall. Spiridon measured him several times, walking round him during the process like a lovesick pigeon round its mate, going down on one knee, bending double.⁠ ⁠… My mother, weary, exhausted by her exertions and heated by ironing, watched these lengthy proceedings, and said:

“Mind now, Spiridon, you will have to answer for it to God if you spoil the cloth! And it will be the worse for you if you don’t make them fit!”

Mother’s words threw Spiridon first into a fever, then into a perspiration, for he was convinced that he would not make them fit. He received one rouble twenty kopecks for making my suit, and for Pobyedimsky’s two roubles, but we provided the cloth, the lining, and the buttons. The price cannot be considered excessive, as Novostroevka was about seven miles from us, and the tailor came to fit us four times. When he came to try the things on and we squeezed ourselves into the tight trousers and jackets adorned with basting threads, mother always frowned contemptuously and expressed her surprise:

“Goodness knows what the fashions are coming to nowadays! I am positively ashamed to look at them. If brother were not used to Petersburg I would not get you fashionable clothes!”

Spiridon, relieved that the blame was thrown on the fashion and not on him, shrugged his shoulders and sighed, as though to say:

“There’s no help for it; it’s the spirit of the age!”

The excitement with which we awaited the arrival of our guest can only be compared with the strained suspense with which spiritualists wait from minute to minute the appearance of a ghost. Mother went about with a sick headache, and was continually melting into tears. I lost my appetite, slept badly, and did not learn my lessons. Even in my dreams I was haunted by an impatient longing to see a general⁠—that is, a man with epaulettes and an embroidered collar sticking up to his ears, and with a naked sword in his hands, exactly like the one who hung over the sofa in the drawing room and glared with terrible black eyes at everybody who dared to look at him. Pobyedimsky was the only one who felt himself in his element. He was neither terrified nor delighted, and merely from time to time, when he heard the history of the Gundasov family, said:

“Yes, it will be pleasant to have someone fresh to talk to.”

My tutor was looked upon among us as an exceptional nature. He was a young man of twenty, with a pimply face, shaggy locks, a low forehead, and an unusually long nose. His nose was so big that when he wanted to look close at anything he had to put his head on one side like a bird. To our thinking, there was not a man in the province cleverer, more cultivated, or more stylish. He had left the high school in the class next to the top, and had then entered a veterinary college, from which he was expelled before the end of the first half-year. The reason of his expulsion he carefully concealed, which enabled anyone who wished to do so to look upon my instructor as an injured and to some extent a mysterious person. He spoke little, and only of intellectual subjects; he ate meat during the fasts, and looked with contempt and condescension on the life going on around him, which did not prevent him, however, from taking presents, such as suits of clothes, from my mother, and drawing funny faces with red teeth on my kites. Mother disliked him for his “pride,” but stood in awe of his cleverness.

Our visitor did not keep us long waiting. At the beginning of May two wagonloads of big boxes arrived from the station. These boxes looked so majestic that the drivers instinctively took off their hats as they lifted them down.

“There must be uniforms and gunpowder in those boxes,” I thought.

Why “gunpowder”? Probably the conception of a general was closely connected in my mind with cannons and gunpowder.

When I woke up on the morning of the tenth of May, nurse told me in a whisper that “my uncle had come.” I dressed rapidly, and, washing after a fashion, flew out of my bedroom without saying my prayers. In the vestibule I came upon a tall, solid gentleman with fashionable whiskers and a foppish-looking overcoat. Half dead with devout awe, I went up to him and, remembering the ceremonial mother had impressed upon me, I scraped my foot before him, made a very low bow, and craned forward to kiss his hand; but the gentleman did not allow me to kiss his hand: he informed me that he was not my uncle, but my uncle’s footman, Pyotr. The appearance of this Pyotr, far better dressed than Pobyedimsky or me, excited in me the utmost astonishment, which, to tell the truth, has lasted to this day. Can such dignified, respectable people with stern and intellectual faces really be footmen? And what for?

Pyotr told me that my uncle was in the garden with my mother. I rushed into the garden.

Nature, knowing nothing of the history of the Gundasov family and the rank of my uncle, felt far more at ease and unconstrained than I. There was a clamour going on in the garden such as one only bears at fairs. Masses of starlings flitting through the air and hopping about the walks were noisily chattering as they hunted for cockchafers. There were swarms of sparrows in the lilac-bushes, which threw their tender, fragrant blossoms straight in one’s face. Wherever one turned, from every direction came the note of the golden oriole and the shrill cry of the hoopoe and the red-legged falcon. At any other time I should have begun chasing dragonflies or throwing stones at a crow which was sitting on a low mound under an aspen tree, with his blunt beak turned away; but at that moment I was in no mood for mischief. My heart was throbbing, and I felt a cold sinking at my stomach; I was preparing myself to confront a gentleman with epaulettes, with a naked sword, and with terrible eyes!

But imagine my disappointment! A dapper little foppish gentleman in white silk trousers, with a white cap on his head, was walking beside my mother in the garden. With his hands behind him and his head thrown back, every now and then running on ahead of mother, he looked quite young. There was so much life and movement in his whole figure that I could only detect the treachery of age when I came close up behind and saw beneath his cap a fringe of close-cropped silver hair. Instead of the staid dignity and stolidity of a general, I saw an almost schoolboyish nimbleness; instead of a collar sticking up to his ears, an ordinary light blue necktie. Mother and my uncle were walking in the avenue talking together. I went softly up to them from behind, and waited for one of them to look round.

“What a delightful place you have here, Klavdia!” said my uncle. “How charming and lovely it is! Had I known before that you had such a charming place, nothing would have induced me to go abroad all these years.”

My uncle stooped down rapidly and sniffed at a tulip. Everything he saw moved him to rapture and excitement, as though he had never been in a garden on a sunny day before. The queer man moved about as though he were on springs, and chattered incessantly, without allowing mother to utter a single word. All of a sudden Pobyedimsky came into sight from behind an elder tree at the turn of the avenue. His appearance was so unexpected that my uncle positively started and stepped back a pace. On this occasion my tutor was attired in his best Inverness cape with sleeves, in which, especially back-view, he looked remarkably like a windmill. He had a solemn and majestic air. Pressing his hat to his bosom in Spanish style, he took a step towards my uncle and made a bow such as a marquis makes in a melodrama, bending forward, a little to one side.

“I have the honour to present myself to your high excellency,” he said aloud: “the teacher and instructor of your nephew, formerly a pupil of the veterinary institute, and a nobleman by birth, Pobyedimsky!”

This politeness on the part of my tutor pleased my mother very much. She gave a smile, and waited in thrilled suspense to hear what clever thing he would say next; but my tutor, expecting his dignified address to be answered with equal dignity⁠—that is, that my uncle would say “H’m!” like a general and hold out two fingers⁠—was greatly confused and abashed when the latter laughed genially and shook hands with him. He muttered something incoherent, cleared his throat, and walked away.

“Come! isn’t that charming?” laughed my uncle. “Just look! he has made his little flourish and thinks he’s a very clever fellow! I do like that⁠—upon my soul I do! What youthful aplomb, what life in that foolish flourish! And what boy is this?” he asked, suddenly turning and looking at me.

“That is my Andryushenka,” my mother introduced me, flushing crimson. “My consolation⁠ ⁠…”

I made a scrape with my foot on the sand and dropped a low bow.

“A fine fellow⁠ ⁠… a fine fellow⁠ ⁠…” muttered my uncle, taking his hand from my lips and stroking me on the head. “So your name is Andrusha? Yes, yes.⁠ ⁠… H’m!⁠ ⁠… upon my soul!⁠ ⁠… Do you learn lessons?”

My mother, exaggerating and embellishing as all mothers do, began to describe my achievements in the sciences and the excellence of my behaviour, and I walked round my uncle and, following the ceremonial laid down for me, I continued making low bows. Then my mother began throwing out hints that with my remarkable abilities it would not be amiss for me to get a government nomination to the cadet school; but at the point when I was to have burst into tears and begged for my uncle’s protection, my uncle suddenly stopped and flung up his hands in amazement.

“My goo-oodness! What’s that?” he asked.

Tatyana Ivanovna, the wife of our bailiff, Fyodor Petrovna, was coming towards us. She was carrying a starched white petticoat and a long ironing-board. As she passed us she looked shyly at the visitor through her eyelashes and flushed crimson.

“Wonders will never cease⁠ ⁠…” my uncle filtered through his teeth, looking after her with friendly interest. “You have a fresh surprise at every step, sister⁠ ⁠… upon my soul!”

“She’s a beauty⁠ ⁠…” said mother. “They chose her as a bride for Fyodor, though she lived over seventy miles from here.⁠ ⁠…”

Not everyone would have called Tatyana a beauty. She was a plump little woman of twenty, with black eyebrows and a graceful figure, always rosy and attractive-looking, but in her face and in her whole person there was not one striking feature, not one bold line to catch the eye, as though nature had lacked inspiration and confidence when creating her. Tatyana Ivanovna was shy, bashful, and modest in her behaviour; she moved softly and smoothly, said little, seldom laughed, and her whole life was as regular as her face and as flat as her smooth, tidy hair. My uncle screwed up his eyes looking after her, and smiled. Mother looked intently at his smiling face and grew serious.

“And so, brother, you’ve never married!” she sighed.

“No; I’ve not married.”

“Why not?” asked mother softly.

“How can I tell you? It has happened so. In my youth I was too hard at work, I had no time to live, and when I longed to live⁠—I looked round⁠—and there I had fifty years on my back already. I was too late! However, talking about it⁠ ⁠… is depressing.”

My mother and my uncle both sighed at once and walked on, and I left them and flew off to find my tutor, that I might share my impressions with him. Pobyedimsky was standing in the middle of the yard, looking majestically at the heavens.

“One can see he is a man of culture!” he said, twisting his head round. “I hope we shall get on together.”

An hour later mother came to us.

“I am in trouble, my dears!” she began, sighing. “You see brother has brought a valet with him, and the valet, God bless him, is not one you can put in the kitchen or in the hall; we must give him a room apart. I can’t think what I am to do! I tell you what, children, couldn’t you move out somewhere⁠—to Fyodor’s lodge, for instance⁠—and give your room to the valet? What do you say?”

We gave our ready consent, for living in the lodge was a great deal more free than in the house, under mother’s eye.

“It’s a nuisance, and that’s a fact!” said mother. “Brother says he won’t have dinner in the middle of the day, but between six and seven, as they do in Petersburg. I am simply distracted with worry! By seven o’clock the dinner will be done to rags in the oven. Really, men don’t understand anything about housekeeping, though they have so much intellect. Oh, dear! we shall have to cook two dinners every day! You will have dinner at midday as before, children, while your poor old mother has to wait till seven, for the sake of her brother.”

Then my mother heaved a deep sigh, bade me try and please my uncle, whose coming was a piece of luck for me for which we must thank God, and hurried off to the kitchen. Pobyedimsky and I moved into the lodge the same day. We were installed in a room which formed the passage from the entry to the bailiff’s bedroom.

Contrary to my expectations, life went on just as before, drearily and monotonously, in spite of my uncle’s arrival and our move into new quarters. We were excused lessons “on account of the visitor.” Pobyedimsky, who never read anything or occupied himself in any way, spent most of his time sitting on his bed, with his long nose thrust into the air, thinking. Sometimes he would get up, try on his new suit, and sit down again to relapse into contemplation and silence. Only one thing worried him, the flies, which he used mercilessly to squash between his hands. After dinner he usually “rested,” and his snores were a cause of annoyance to the whole household. I ran about the garden from morning to night, or sat in the lodge sticking my kites together. For the first two or three weeks we did not see my uncle often. For days together he sat in his own room working, in spite of the flies and the heat. His extraordinary capacity for sitting as though glued to his table produced upon us the effect of an inexplicable conjuring trick. To us idlers, knowing nothing of systematic work, his industry seemed simply miraculous. Getting up at nine, he sat down to his table, and did not leave it till dinnertime; after dinner he set to work again, and went on till late at night. Whenever I peeped through the keyhole I invariably saw the same thing: my uncle sitting at the table working. The work consisted in his writing with one hand while he turned over the leaves of a book with the other, and, strange to say, he kept moving all over⁠—swinging his leg as though it were a pendulum, whistling, and nodding his head in time. He had an extremely careless and frivolous expression all the while, as though he were not working, but playing at noughts and crosses. I always saw him wearing a smart short jacket and a jauntily tied cravat, and he always smelt, even through the keyhole, of delicate feminine perfumery. He only left his room for dinner, but he ate little.

“I can’t make brother out!” mother complained of him. “Every day we kill a turkey and pigeons on purpose for him, I make a compote with my own hands, and he eats a plateful of broth and a bit of meat the size of a finger and gets up from the table. I begin begging him to eat; he comes back and drinks a glass of milk. And what is there in that, in a glass of milk? It’s no better than washing up water! You may die of a diet like that.⁠ ⁠… If I try to persuade him, he laughs and makes a joke of it.⁠ ⁠… No; he does not care for our fare, poor dear!”

We spent the evenings far more gaily than the days. As a rule, by the time the sun was setting and long shadows were lying across the yard, we⁠—that is, Tatyana Ivanovna, Pobyedimsky, and I⁠—were sitting on the steps of the lodge. We did not talk till it grew quite dusk. And, indeed, what is one to talk of when every subject has been talked over already? There was only one thing new, my uncle’s arrival, and even that subject was soon exhausted. My tutor never took his eyes off Tatyana Ivanovna’s face, and frequently heaved deep sighs.⁠ ⁠… At the time I did not understand those sighs, and did not try to fathom their significance; now they explain a great deal to me.

When the shadows merged into one thick mass of shade, the bailiff Fyodor would come in from shooting or from the field. This Fyodor gave me the impression of being a fierce and even a terrible man. The son of a Russianized gipsy from Izyumskoe, swarthy-faced and curly-headed, with big black eyes and a matted beard, he was never called among our Kotchuevko peasants by any name but “The Devil.” And, indeed, there was a great deal of the gipsy about him apart from his appearance. He could not, for instance, stay at home, and went off for days together into the country or into the woods to shoot. He was gloomy, ill-humoured, taciturn, was afraid of nobody, and refused to recognize any authority. He was rude to mother, addressed me familiarly, and was contemptuous of Pobyedimsky’s learning. All this we forgave him, looking upon him as a hot-tempered and nervous man; mother liked him because, in spite of his gipsy nature, he was ideally honest and industrious. He loved his Tatyana Ivanovna passionately, like a gipsy, but this love took in him a gloomy form, as though it cost him suffering. He was never affectionate to his wife in our presence, but simply rolled his eyes angrily at her and twisted his mouth.

When he came in from the fields he would noisily and angrily put down his gun, would come out to us on the steps, and sit down beside his wife. After resting a little, he would ask his wife a few questions about household matters, and then sink into silence.

“Let us sing,” I would suggest.

My tutor would tune his guitar, and in a deep deacon’s bass strike up “In the midst of the valley.” We would begin singing. My tutor took the bass, Fyodor sang in a hardly audible tenor, while I sang soprano in unison with Tatyana Ivanovna.

When the whole sky was covered with stars and the frogs had left off croaking, they would bring in our supper from the kitchen. We went into the lodge and sat down to the meal. My tutor and the gipsy ate greedily, with such a sound that it was hard to tell whether it was the bones crunching or their jaws, and Tatyana Ivanovna and I scarcely succeeded in getting our share. After supper the lodge was plunged in deep sleep.

One evening, it was at the end of May, we were sitting on the steps, waiting for supper. A shadow suddenly fell across us, and Gundasov stood before us as though he had sprung out of the earth. He looked at us for a long time, then clasped his hands and laughed gaily.

“An idyll!” he said. “They sing and dream in the moonlight! It’s charming, upon my soul! May I sit down and dream with you?”

We looked at one another and said nothing. My uncle sat down on the bottom step, yawned, and looked at the sky. A silence followed. Pobyedimsky, who had for a long time been wanting to talk to somebody fresh, was delighted at the opportunity, and was the first to break the silence. He had only one subject for intellectual conversation, the epizootic diseases. It sometimes happens that after one has been in an immense crowd, only some one countenance of the thousands remains long imprinted on the memory; in the same way, of all that Pobyedimsky had heard, during his six months at the veterinary institute, he remembered only one passage:

“The epizootics do immense damage to the stock of the country. It is the duty of society to work hand in hand with the government in waging war upon them.”

Before saying this to Gundasov, my tutor cleared his throat three times, and several times, in his excitement, wrapped himself up in his Inverness. On hearing about the epizootics, my uncle looked intently at my tutor and made a sound between a snort and a laugh.

“Upon my soul, that’s charming!” he said, scrutinizing us as though we were mannequins. “This is actually life.⁠ ⁠… This is really what reality is bound to be. Why are you silent, Pelagea Ivanovna?” he said, addressing Tatyana Ivanovna.

She coughed, overcome with confusion.

“Talk, my friends, sing⁠ ⁠… play!⁠ ⁠… Don’t lose time. You know, time, the rascal, runs away and waits for no man! Upon my soul, before you have time to look round, old age is upon you.⁠ ⁠… Then it is too late to live! That’s how it is, Pelagea Ivanovna.⁠ ⁠… We mustn’t sit still and be silent.⁠ ⁠…”

At that point supper was brought out from the kitchen. Uncle went into the lodge with us, and to keep us company ate five curd fritters and the wing of a duck. He ate and looked at us. He was touched and delighted by us all. Whatever silly nonsense my precious tutor talked, and whatever Tatyana Ivanovna did, he thought charming and delightful. When after supper Tatyana Ivanovna sat quietly down and took up her knitting, he kept his eyes fixed on her fingers and chatted away without ceasing.

“Make all the haste you can to live, my friends⁠ ⁠…” he said. “God forbid you should sacrifice the present for the future! There is youth, health, fire in the present; the future is smoke and deception! As soon as you are twenty begin to live.”

Tatyana Ivanovna dropped a knitting-needle. My uncle jumped up, picked up the needle, and handed it to Tatyana Ivanovna with a bow, and for the first time in my life I learnt that there were people in the world more refined than Pobyedimsky.

“Yes⁠ ⁠…” my uncle went on, “love, marry, do silly things. Foolishness is a great deal more living and healthy than our straining and striving after rational life.”

My uncle talked a great deal, so much that he bored us; I sat on a box listening to him and dropping to sleep. It distressed me that he did not once all the evening pay attention to me. He left the lodge at two o’clock, when, overcome with drowsiness, I was sound asleep.

From that time forth my uncle took to coming to the lodge every evening. He sang with us, had supper with us, and always stayed on till two o’clock in the morning, chatting incessantly, always about the same subject. His evening and night work was given up, and by the end of June, when the privy councillor had learned to eat mother’s turkey and compote, his work by day was abandoned too. My uncle tore himself away from his table and plunged into “life.” In the daytime he walked up and down the garden, he whistled to the workmen and hindered them from working, making them tell him their various histories. When his eye fell on Tatyana Ivanovna he ran up to her, and, if she were carrying anything, offered his assistance, which embarrassed her dreadfully.

As the summer advanced my uncle grew more and more frivolous, volatile, and careless. Pobyedimsky was completely disillusioned in regard to him.

“He is too one-sided,” he said. “There is nothing to show that he is in the very foremost ranks of the service. And he doesn’t even know how to talk. At every word it’s ‘upon my soul.’ No, I don’t like him!”

From the time that my uncle began visiting the lodge there was a noticeable change both in Fyodor and my tutor. Fyodor gave up going out shooting, came home early, sat more taciturn than ever, and stared with particular ill-humour at his wife. In my uncle’s presence my tutor gave up talking about epizootics, frowned, and even laughed sarcastically.

“Here comes our little bantam cock!” he growled on one occasion when my uncle was coming into the lodge.

I put down this change in them both to their being offended with my uncle. My absentminded uncle mixed up their names, and to the very day of his departure failed to distinguish which was my tutor and which was Tatyana Ivanovna’s husband. Tatyana Ivanovna herself he sometimes called Nastasya, sometimes Pelagea, and sometimes Yevdokia. Touched and delighted by us, he laughed and behaved exactly as though in the company of small children.⁠ ⁠… All this, of course, might well offend young men. It was not a case of offended pride, however, but, as I realize now, subtler feelings.

I remember one evening I was sitting on the box struggling with sleep. My eyelids felt glued together and my body, tired out by running about all day, drooped sideways. But I struggled against sleep and tried to look on. It was about midnight. Tatyana Ivanovna, rosy and unassuming as always, was sitting at a little table sewing at her husband’s shirt. Fyodor, sullen and gloomy, was staring at her from one corner, and in the other sat Pobyedimsky, snorting angrily and retreating into the high collar of his shirt. My uncle was walking up and down the room thinking. Silence reigned; nothing was to be heard but the rustling of the linen in Tatyana Ivanovna’s hands. Suddenly my uncle stood still before Tatyana Ivanovna, and said:

“You are all so young, so fresh, so nice, you live so peacefully in this quiet place, that I envy you. I have become attached to your way of life here; my heart aches when I remember I have to go away.⁠ ⁠… You may believe in my sincerity!”

Sleep closed my eyes and I lost myself. When some sound waked me, my uncle was standing before Tatyana Ivanovna, looking at her with a softened expression. His cheeks were flushed.

“My life has been wasted,” he said. “I have not lived! Your young face makes me think of my own lost youth, and I should be ready to sit here watching you to the day of my death. It would be a pleasure to me to take you with me to Petersburg.”

“What for?” Fyodor asked in a husky voice.

“I should put her under a glass case on my worktable. I should admire her and show her to other people. You know, Pelagea Ivanovna, we have no women like you there. Among us there is wealth, distinction, sometimes beauty, but we have not this true sort of life, this healthy serenity.⁠ ⁠…”

My uncle sat down facing Tatyana Ivanovna and took her by the hand.

“So you won’t come with me to Petersburg?” he laughed. “In that case give me your little hand.⁠ ⁠… A charming little hand!⁠ ⁠… You won’t give it? Come, you miser! let me kiss it, anyway.⁠ ⁠…”

At that moment there was the scrape of a chair. Fyodor jumped up, and with heavy, measured steps went up to his wife. His face was pale, grey, and quivering. He brought his fist down on the table with a bang, and said in a hollow voice:

“I won’t allow it!”

At the same moment Pobyedimsky jumped up from his chair. He, too, pale and angry, went up to Tatyana Ivanovna, and he, too, struck the table with his fist.

“I⁠ ⁠… I won’t allow it!” he said.

“What, what’s the matter?” asked my uncle in surprise.

“I won’t allow it!” repeated Fyodor, banging on the table.

My uncle jumped up and blinked nervously. He tried to speak, but in his amazement and alarm could not utter a word; with an embarrassed smile, he shuffled out of the lodge with the hurried step of an old man, leaving his hat behind. When, a little later, my mother ran into the lodge, Fyodor and Pobyedimsky were still hammering on the table like blacksmiths and repeating, “I won’t allow it!”

“What has happened here?” asked mother. “Why has my brother been taken ill? What’s the matter?”

Looking at Tatyana’s pale, frightened face and at her infuriated husband, mother probably guessed what was the matter. She sighed and shook her head.

“Come! give over banging on the table!” she said. “Leave off, Fyodor! And why are you thumping, Yegor Alexyevitch? What have you got to do with it?”

Pobyedimsky was startled and confused. Fyodor looked intently at him, then at his wife, and began walking about the room. When mother had gone out of the lodge, I saw what for long afterwards I looked upon as a dream. I saw Fyodor seize my tutor, lift him up in the air, and thrust him out of the door.

When I woke up in the morning my tutor’s bed was empty. To my question where he was nurse told me in a whisper that he had been taken off early in the morning to the hospital, as his arm was broken. Distressed at this intelligence and remembering the scene of the previous evening, I went out of doors. It was a grey day. The sky was covered with storm-clouds and there was a wind blowing dust, bits of paper, and feathers along the ground.⁠ ⁠… It felt as though rain were coming. There was a look of boredom in the servants and in the animals. When I went into the house I was told not to make such a noise with my feet, as mother was ill and in bed with a migraine. What was I to do? I went outside the gate, sat down on the little bench there, and fell to trying to discover the meaning of what I had seen and heard the day before. From our gate there was a road which, passing the forge and the pool which never dried up, ran into the main road. I looked at the telegraph-posts, about which clouds of dust were whirling, and at the sleepy birds sitting on the wires, and I suddenly felt so dreary that I began to cry.

A dusty wagonette crammed full of townspeople, probably going to visit the shrine, drove by along the main road. The wagonette was hardly out of sight when a light chaise with a pair of horses came into view. In it was Akim Nikititch, the police inspector, standing up and holding on to the coachman’s belt. To my great surprise, the chaise turned into our road and flew by me in at the gate. While I was puzzling why the police inspector had come to see us, I heard a noise, and a carriage with three horses came into sight on the road. In the carriage stood the police captain, directing his coachman towards our gate.

“And why is he coming?” I thought, looking at the dusty police captain. “Most probably Pobyedimsky has complained of Fyodor to him, and they have come to take him to prison.”

But the mystery was not so easily solved. The police inspector and the police captain were only the first instalment, for five minutes had scarcely passed when a coach drove in at our gate. It dashed by me so swiftly that I could only get a glimpse of a red beard.

Lost in conjecture and full of misgivings, I ran to the house. In the passage first of all I saw mother; she was pale and looking with horror towards the door, from which came the sounds of men’s voices. The visitors had taken her by surprise in the very throes of migraine.

“Who has come, mother?” I asked.

“Sister,” I heard my uncle’s voice, “will you send in something to eat for the governor and me?”

“It is easy to say ‘something to eat,’ ” whispered my mother, numb with horror. “What have I time to get ready now? I am put to shame in my old age!”

Mother clutched at her head and ran into the kitchen. The governor’s sudden visit stirred and overwhelmed the whole household. A ferocious slaughter followed. A dozen fowls, five turkeys, eight ducks, were killed, and in the fluster the old gander, the progenitor of our whole flock of geese and a great favourite of mother’s, was beheaded. The coachmen and the cook seemed frenzied, and slaughtered birds at random, without distinction of age or breed. For the sake of some wretched sauce a pair of valuable pigeons, as dear to me as the gander was to mother, were sacrificed. It was a long while before I could forgive the governor their death.

In the evening, when the governor and his suite, after a sumptuous dinner, had got into their carriages and driven away, I went into the house to look at the remains of the feast. Glancing into the drawing room from the passage, I saw my uncle and my mother. My uncle, with his hands behind his back, was walking nervously up and down close to the wall, shrugging his shoulders. Mother, exhausted and looking much thinner, was sitting on the sofa and watching his movements with heavy eyes.

“Excuse me, sister, but this won’t do at all,” my uncle grumbled, wrinkling up his face. “I introduced the governor to you, and you didn’t offer to shake hands. You covered him with confusion, poor fellow! No, that won’t do.⁠ ⁠… Simplicity is a very good thing, but there must be limits to it.⁠ ⁠… Upon my soul! And then that dinner! How can one give people such things? What was that mess, for instance, that they served for the fourth course?”

“That was duck with sweet sauce⁠ ⁠…” mother answered softly.

“Duck! Forgive me, sister, but⁠ ⁠… but here I’ve got heartburn! I am ill!”

My uncle made a sour, tearful face, and went on:

“It was the devil sent that governor! As though I wanted his visit! Pff!⁠ ⁠… heartburn! I can’t work or sleep⁠ ⁠… I am completely out of sorts.⁠ ⁠… And I can’t understand how you can live here without anything to do⁠ ⁠… in this boredom! Here I’ve got a pain coming under my shoulder-blade!⁠ ⁠…”

My uncle frowned, and walked about more rapidly than ever.

“Brother,” my mother inquired softly, “what would it cost to go abroad?”

“At least three thousand⁠ ⁠…” my uncle answered in a tearful voice. “I would go, but where am I to get it? I haven’t a farthing. Pff!⁠ ⁠… heartburn!”

My uncle stopped to look dejectedly at the grey, overcast prospect from the window, and began pacing to and fro again.

A silence followed.⁠ ⁠… Mother looked a long while at the icon, pondering something, then she began crying, and said:

“I’ll give you the three thousand, brother.⁠ ⁠…”

Three days later the majestic boxes went off to the station, and the privy councillor drove off after them. As he said goodbye to mother he shed tears, and it was a long time before he took his lips from her hands, but when he got into his carriage his face beamed with childlike pleasure.⁠ ⁠… Radiant and happy, he settled himself comfortably, kissed his hand to my mother, who was crying, and all at once his eye was caught by me. A look of the utmost astonishment came into his face.

“What boy is this?” he asked.

My mother, who had declared my uncle’s coming was a piece of luck for which I must thank God, was bitterly mortified at this question. I was in no mood for questions. I looked at my uncle’s happy face, and for some reason I felt fearfully sorry for him. I could not resist jumping up to the carriage and hugging that frivolous man, weak as all men are. Looking into his face and wanting to say something pleasant, I asked:

“Uncle, have you ever been in a battle?”

“Ah, the dear boy⁠ ⁠…” laughed my uncle, kissing me. “A charming boy, upon my soul! How natural, how living it all is, upon my soul!⁠ ⁠…”

The carriage set off.⁠ ⁠… I looked after him, and long afterwards that farewell “upon my soul” was ringing in my ears.

A Day in the Country

Between eight and nine o’clock in the morning.

A dark leaden-coloured mass is creeping over the sky towards the sun. Red zigzags of lightning gleam here and there across it. There is a sound of faraway rumbling. A warm wind frolics over the grass, bends the trees, and stirs up the dust. In a minute there will be a spurt of May rain and a real storm will begin.

Fyokla, a little beggar-girl of six, is running through the village, looking for Terenty the cobbler. The white-haired, barefoot child is pale. Her eyes are wide-open, her lips are trembling.

“Uncle, where is Terenty?” she asks everyone she meets. No one answers. They are all preoccupied with the approaching storm and take refuge in their huts. At last she meets Silanty Silitch, the sacristan, Terenty’s bosom friend. He is coming along, staggering from the wind.

“Uncle, where is Terenty?”

“At the kitchen-gardens,” answers Silanty.

The beggar-girl runs behind the huts to the kitchen-gardens and there finds Terenty; the tall old man with a thin, pockmarked face, very long legs, and bare feet, dressed in a woman’s tattered jacket, is standing near the vegetable plots, looking with drowsy, drunken eyes at the dark storm-cloud. On his long crane-like legs he sways in the wind like a starling-cote.

“Uncle Terenty!” the white-headed beggar-girl addresses him. “Uncle, darling!”

Terenty bends down to Fyokla, and his grim, drunken face is overspread with a smile, such as come into people’s faces when they look at something little, foolish, and absurd, but warmly loved.

“Ah! servant of God, Fyokia,” he says, lisping tenderly, “where have you come from?”

“Uncle Terenty,” says Fyokia, with a sob, tugging at the lapel of the cobbler’s coat. “Brother Danilka has had an accident! Come along!”

“What sort of accident? Ough, what thunder! Holy, holy, holy.⁠ ⁠… What sort of accident?”

“In the count’s copse Danilka stuck his hand into a hole in a tree, and he can’t get it out. Come along, uncle, do be kind and pull his hand out!”

“How was it he put his hand in? What for?”

“He wanted to get a cuckoo’s egg out of the hole for me.”

“The day has hardly begun and already you are in trouble.⁠ ⁠…” Terenty shook his head and spat deliberately. “Well, what am I to do with you now? I must come⁠ ⁠… I must, may the wolf gobble you up, you naughty children! Come, little orphan!”

Terenty comes out of the kitchen-garden and, lifting high his long legs, begins striding down the village street. He walks quickly without stopping or looking from side to side, as though he were shoved from behind or afraid of pursuit. Fyokla can hardly keep up with him.

They come out of the village and turn along the dusty road towards the count’s copse that lies dark blue in the distance. It is about a mile and a half away. The clouds have by now covered the sun, and soon afterwards there is not a speck of blue left in the sky. It grows dark.

“Holy, holy, holy⁠ ⁠…” whispers Fyokla, hurrying after Terenty. The first raindrops, big and heavy, lie, dark dots on the dusty road. A big drop falls on Fyokla’s cheek and glides like a tear down her chin.

“The rain has begun,” mutters the cobbler, kicking up the dust with his bare, bony feet. “That’s fine, Fyokla, old girl. The grass and the trees are fed by the rain, as we are by bread. And as for the thunder, don’t you be frightened, little orphan. Why should it kill a little thing like you?”

As soon as the rain begins, the wind drops. The only sound is the patter of rain dropping like fine shot on the young rye and the parched road.

“We shall get soaked, Fyolka,” mutters Terenty. “There won’t be a dry spot left on us.⁠ ⁠… Ho-ho, my girl! It’s run down my neck! But don’t be frightened, silly.⁠ ⁠… The grass will be dry again, the earth will be dry again, and we shall be dry again. There is the same sun for us all.”

A flash of lightning, some fourteen feet long, gleams above their heads. There is a loud peal of thunder, and it seems to Fyokla that something big, heavy, and round is rolling over the sky and tearing it open, exactly over her head.

“Holy, holy, holy⁠ ⁠…” says Terenty, crossing himself. “Don’t be afraid, little orphan! It is not from spite that it thunders.”

Terenty’s and Fyokla’s feet are covered with lumps of heavy, wet clay. It is slippery and difficult to walk, but Terenty strides on more and more rapidly. The weak little beggar-girl is breathless and ready to drop.

But at last they go into the count’s copse. The washed trees, stirred by a gust of wind, drop a perfect waterfall upon them. Terenty stumbles over stumps and begins to slacken his pace.

“Whereabouts is Danilka?” he asks. “Lead me to him.”

Fyokla leads him into a thicket, and, after going a quarter of a mile, points to Danilka. Her brother, a little fellow of eight, with hair as red as ochre and a pale sickly face, stands leaning against a tree, and, with his head on one side, looking sideways at the sky. In one hand he holds his shabby old cap, the other is hidden in an old lime tree. The boy is gazing at the stormy sky, and apparently not thinking of his trouble. Hearing footsteps and seeing the cobbler he gives a sickly smile and says:

“A terrible lot of thunder, Terenty.⁠ ⁠… I’ve never heard so much thunder in all my life.”

“And where is your hand?”

“In the hole.⁠ ⁠… Pull it out, please, Terenty!”

The wood had broken at the edge of the hole and jammed Danilka’s hand: he could push it farther in, but could not pull it out. Terenty snaps off the broken piece, and the boy’s hand, red and crushed, is released.

“It’s terrible how it’s thundering,” the boy says again, rubbing his hand. “What makes it thunder, Terenty?”

“One cloud runs against the other,” answers the cobbler. The party come out of the copse, and walk along the edge of it towards the darkened road. The thunder gradually abates, and its rumbling is heard far away beyond the village.

“The ducks flew by here the other day, Terenty,” says Danilka, still rubbing his hand. “They must be nesting in the Gniliya Zaimishtcha marshes.⁠ ⁠… Fyolka, would you like me to show you a nightingale’s nest?”

“Don’t touch it, you might disturb them,” says Terenty, wringing the water out of his cap. “The nightingale is a singing-bird, without sin. He has had a voice given him in his throat, to praise God and gladden the heart of man. It’s a sin to disturb him.”

“What about the sparrow?”

“The sparrow doesn’t matter, he’s a bad, spiteful bird. He is like a pickpocket in his ways. He doesn’t like man to be happy. When Christ was crucified it was the sparrow brought nails to the Jews, and called ‘alive! alive!’ ”

A bright patch of blue appears in the sky.

“Look!” says Terenty. “An ant-heap burst open by the rain! They’ve been flooded, the rogues!”

They bend over the ant-heap. The downpour has damaged it; the insects are scurrying to and fro in the mud, agitated, and busily trying to carry away their drowned companions.

“You needn’t be in such a taking, you won’t die of it!” says Terenty, grinning. “As soon as the sun warms you, you’ll come to your senses again.⁠ ⁠… It’s a lesson to you, you stupids. You won’t settle on low ground another time.”

They go on.

“And here are some bees,” cries Danilka, pointing to the branch of a young oak tree.

The drenched and chilled bees are huddled together on the branch. There are so many of them that neither bark nor leaf can be seen. Many of them are settled on one another.

“That’s a swarm of bees,” Terenty informs them. “They were flying looking for a home, and when the rain came down upon them they settled. If a swarm is flying, you need only sprinkle water on them to make them settle. Now if, say, you wanted to take the swarm, you would bend the branch with them into a sack and shake it, and they all fall in.”

Little Fyokla suddenly frowns and rubs her neck vigorously. Her brother looks at her neck, and sees a big swelling on it.

“Hey-hey!” laughs the cobbler. “Do you know where you got that from Fyokia, old girl? There are Spanish flies on some tree in the wood. The rain has trickled off them, and a drop has fallen on your neck⁠—that’s what has made the swelling.”

The sun appears from behind the clouds and floods the wood, the fields, and the three friends with its warm light. The dark menacing cloud has gone far away and taken the storm with it. The air is warm and fragrant. There is a scent of bird-cherry, meadowsweet, and lilies-of-the-valley.

“That herb is given when your nose bleeds,” says Terenty, pointing to a woolly-looking flower. “It does good.”

They hear a whistle and a rumble, but not such a rumble as the storm-clouds carried away. A goods train races by before the eyes of Terenty, Danilka, and Fyokla. The engine, panting and puffing out black smoke, drags more than twenty vans after it. Its power is tremendous. The children are interested to know how an engine, not alive and without the help of horses, can move and drag such weights, and Terenty undertakes to explain it to them:

“It’s all the steam’s doing, children.⁠ ⁠… The steam does the work.⁠ ⁠… You see, it shoves under that thing near the wheels, and it⁠ ⁠… you see⁠ ⁠… it works.⁠ ⁠…”

They cross the railway line, and, going down from the embankment, walk towards the river. They walk not with any object, but just at random, and talk all the way.⁠ ⁠… Danilka asks questions, Terenty answers them.⁠ ⁠…

Terenty answers all his questions, and there is no secret in Nature which baffles him. He knows everything. Thus, for example, he knows the names of all the wild flowers, animals, and stones. He knows what herbs cure diseases, he has no difficulty in telling the age of a horse or a cow. Looking at the sunset, at the moon, or the birds, he can tell what sort of weather it will be next day. And indeed, it is not only Terenty who is so wise. Silanty Silitch, the innkeeper, the market-gardener, the shepherd, and all the villagers, generally speaking, know as much as he does. These people have learned not from books, but in the fields, in the wood, on the river bank. Their teachers have been the birds themselves, when they sang to them, the sun when it left a glow of crimson behind it at setting, the very trees, and wild herbs.

Danilka looks at Terenty and greedily drinks in every word. In spring, before one is weary of the warmth and the monotonous green of the fields, when everything is fresh and full of fragrance, who would not want to hear about the golden may-beetles, about the cranes, about the gurgling streams, and the corn mounting into ear?

The two of them, the cobbler and the orphan, walk about the fields, talk unceasingly, and are not weary. They could wander about the world endlessly. They walk, and in their talk of the beauty of the earth do not notice the frail little beggar-girl tripping after them. She is breathless and moves with a lagging step. There are tears in her eyes; she would be glad to stop these inexhaustible wanderers, but to whom and where can she go? She has no home or people of her own; whether she likes it or not, she must walk and listen to their talk.

Towards midday, all three sit down on the river bank. Danilka takes out of his bag a piece of bread, soaked and reduced to a mash, and they begin to eat. Terenty says a prayer when he has eaten the bread, then stretches himself on the sandy bank and falls asleep. While he is asleep, the boy gazes at the water, pondering. He has many different things to think of. He has just seen the storm, the bees, the ants, the train. Now, before his eyes, fishes are whisking about. Some are two inches long and more, others are no bigger than one’s nail. A viper, with its head held high, is swimming from one bank to the other.

Only towards the evening our wanderers return to the village. The children go for the night to a deserted barn, where the corn of the commune used to be kept, while Terenty, leaving them, goes to the tavern. The children lie huddled together on the straw, dozing.

The boy does not sleep. He gazes into the darkness, and it seems to him that he is seeing all that he has seen in the day: the storm-clouds, the bright sunshine, the birds, the fish, lanky Terenty. The number of his impressions, together with exhaustion and hunger, are too much for him; he is as hot as though he were on fire, and tosses from, side to side. He longs to tell someone all that is haunting him now in the darkness and agitating his soul, but there is no one to tell. Fyokla is too little and could not understand.

“I’ll tell Terenty tomorrow,” thinks the boy.

The children fall asleep thinking of the homeless cobbler, and, in the night, Terenty comes to them, makes the sign of the cross over them, and puts bread under their heads. And no one sees his love. It is seen only by the moon which floats in the sky and peeps caressingly through the holes in the wall of the deserted barn.

At a Summer Villa

“I love you. You are my life, my happiness⁠—everything to me! Forgive the avowal, but I have not the strength to suffer and be silent. I ask not for love in return, but for sympathy. Be at the old arbour at eight o’clock this evening.⁠ ⁠… To sign my name is unnecessary I think, but do not be uneasy at my being anonymous. I am young, nice-looking⁠ ⁠… what more do you want?”

When Pavel Ivanitch Vyhodtsev, a practical married man who was spending his holidays at a summer villa, read this letter, he shrugged his shoulders and scratched his forehead in perplexity.

“What devilry is this?” he thought. “I’m a married man, and to send me such a queer⁠ ⁠… silly letter! Who wrote it?”

Pavel Ivanitch turned the letter over and over before his eyes, read it through again, and spat with disgust.

“ ‘I love you’ ”⁠ ⁠… he said jeeringly. “A nice boy she has pitched on! So I’m to run off to meet you in the arbour!⁠ ⁠… I got over all such romances and fleurs d’amour years ago, my girl.⁠ ⁠… Hm! She must be some reckless, immoral creature.⁠ ⁠… Well, these women are a set! What a whirligig⁠—God forgive us!⁠—she must be to write a letter like that to a stranger, and a married man, too! It’s real demoralisation!”

In the course of his eight years of married life Pavel Ivanitch had completely got over all sentimental feeling, and he had received no letters from ladies except letters of congratulation, and so, although he tried to carry it off with disdain, the letter quoted above greatly intrigued and agitated him.

An hour after receiving it, he was lying on his sofa, thinking:

“Of course I am not a silly boy, and I am not going to rush off to this idiotic rendezvous; but yet it would be interesting to know who wrote it! Hm.⁠ ⁠… It is certainly a woman’s writing.⁠ ⁠… The letter is written with genuine feeling, and so it can hardly be a joke.⁠ ⁠… Most likely it’s some neurotic girl, or perhaps a widow⁠ ⁠… widows are frivolous and eccentric as a rule. Hm.⁠ ⁠… Who could it be?”

What made it the more difficult to decide the question was that Pavel Ivanitch had not one feminine acquaintance among all the summer visitors, except his wife.

“It is queer⁠ ⁠…” he mused. “ ‘I love you!’⁠ ⁠… When did she manage to fall in love? Amazing woman! To fall in love like this, apropos of nothing, without making any acquaintance and finding out what sort of man I am.⁠ ⁠… She must be extremely young and romantic if she is capable of falling in love after two or three looks at me.⁠ ⁠… But⁠ ⁠… who is she?”

Pavel Ivanitch suddenly recalled that when he had been walking among the summer villas the day before, and the day before that, he had several times been met by a fair young lady with a light blue hat and a turn-up nose. The fair charmer had kept looking at him, and when he sat down on a seat she had sat down beside him.⁠ ⁠…

“Can it be she?” Vyhodtsev wondered. “It can’t be! Could a delicate ephemeral creature like that fall in love with a worn-out old eel like me? No, it’s impossible!”

At dinner Pavel Ivanitch looked blankly at his wife while he meditated:

“She writes that she is young and nice-looking.⁠ ⁠… So she’s not old.⁠ ⁠… Hm.⁠ ⁠… To tell the truth, honestly I am not so old and plain that no one could fall in love with me. My wife loves me! Besides, love is blind, we all know.⁠ ⁠…”

“What are you thinking about?” his wife asked him.

“Oh⁠ ⁠… my head aches a little⁠ ⁠…” Pavel Ivanitch said, quite untruly.

He made up his mind that it was stupid to pay attention to such a nonsensical thing as a love-letter, and laughed at it and at its authoress, but⁠—alas!⁠—powerful is the enemy of mankind! After dinner, Pavel Ivanitch lay down on his bed, and instead of going to sleep, reflected:

“But there, I daresay she is expecting me to come! What a silly! I can just imagine what a nervous fidget she’ll be in and how her tournure will quiver when she does not find me in the arbour! I shan’t go, though.⁠ ⁠… Bother her!”

But, I repeat, powerful is the enemy of mankind.

“Though I might, perhaps, just out of curiosity⁠ ⁠…” he was musing, half an hour later. “I might go and look from a distance what sort of a creature she is.⁠ ⁠… It would be interesting to have a look at her! It would be fun, and that’s all! After all, why shouldn’t I have a little fun since such a chance has turned up?”

Pavel Ivanitch got up from his bed and began dressing. “What are you getting yourself up so smartly for?” his wife asked, noticing that he was putting on a clean shirt and a fashionable tie.

“Oh, nothing.⁠ ⁠… I must have a walk.⁠ ⁠… My head aches.⁠ ⁠… Hm.”

Pavel Ivanitch dressed in his best, and waiting till eight o’clock, went out of the house. When the figures of gaily dressed summer visitors of both sexes began passing before his eyes against the bright green background, his heart throbbed.

“Which of them is it?⁠ ⁠…” he wondered, advancing irresolutely. “Come, what am I afraid of? Why, I am not going to the rendezvous! What⁠ ⁠… a fool! Go forward boldly! And what if I go into the arbour? Well, well⁠ ⁠… there is no reason I should.”

Pavel Ivanitch’s heart beat still more violently.⁠ ⁠… Involuntarily, with no desire to do so, he suddenly pictured to himself the half-darkness of the arbour.⁠ ⁠… A graceful fair girl with a little blue hat and a turn-up nose rose before his imagination. He saw her, abashed by her love and trembling all over, timidly approach him, breathing excitedly, and⁠ ⁠… suddenly clasping him in her arms.

“If I weren’t married it would be all right⁠ ⁠…” he mused, driving sinful ideas out of his head. “Though⁠ ⁠… for once in my life, it would do no harm to have the experience, or else one will die without knowing what.⁠ ⁠… And my wife, what will it matter to her? Thank God, for eight years I’ve never moved one step away from her.⁠ ⁠… Eight years of irreproachable duty! Enough of her.⁠ ⁠… It’s positively vexatious.⁠ ⁠… I’m ready to go to spite her!”

Trembling all over and holding his breath, Pavel Ivanitch went up to the arbour, wreathed with ivy and wild vine, and peeped into it.⁠ ⁠… A smell of dampness and mildew reached him.⁠ ⁠…

“I believe there’s nobody⁠ ⁠…” he thought, going into the arbour, and at once saw a human silhouette in the corner.

The silhouette was that of a man.⁠ ⁠… Looking more closely, Pavel Ivanitch recognised his wife’s brother, Mitya, a student, who was staying with them at the villa.

“Oh, it’s you⁠ ⁠…” he growled discontentedly, as he took off his hat and sat down.

“Yes, it’s I⁠ ⁠…” answered Mitya.

Two minutes passed in silence.

“Excuse me, Pavel Ivanitch,” began Mitya: “but might I ask you to leave me alone?⁠ ⁠… I am thinking over the dissertation for my degree and⁠ ⁠… and the presence of anybody else prevents my thinking.”

“You had better go somewhere in a dark avenue⁠ ⁠…” Pavel Ivanitch observed mildly. “It’s easier to think in the open air, and, besides,⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… I should like to have a little sleep here on this seat⁠ ⁠… It’s not so hot here.⁠ ⁠…”

“You want to sleep, but it’s a question of my dissertation⁠ ⁠…” Mitya grumbled. “The dissertation is more important.”

Again there was a silence. Pavel Ivanitch, who had given the rein to his imagination and was continually hearing footsteps, suddenly leaped up and said in a plaintive voice:

“Come, I beg you, Mitya! You are younger and ought to consider me.⁠ ⁠… I am unwell and⁠ ⁠… I need sleep.⁠ ⁠… Go away!”

“That’s egoism.⁠ ⁠… Why must you be here and not I? I won’t go as a matter of principle.”

“Come, I ask you to! Suppose I am an egoist, a despot and a fool⁠ ⁠… but I ask you to go! For once in my life I ask you a favour! Show some consideration!”

Mitya shook his head.

“What a beast!⁠ ⁠…” thought Pavel Ivanitch. “That can’t be a rendezvous with him here! It’s impossible with him here!”

“I say, Mitya,” he said, “I ask you for the last time.⁠ ⁠… Show that you are a sensible, humane, and cultivated man!”

“I don’t know why you keep on so!”⁠ ⁠… said Mitya, shrugging his shoulders. “I’ve said I won’t go, and I won’t. I shall stay here as a matter of principle.⁠ ⁠…”

At that moment a woman’s face with a turn-up nose peeped into the arbour.⁠ ⁠…

Seeing Mitya and Pavel Ivanitch, it frowned and vanished.

“She is gone!” thought Pavel Ivanitch, looking angrily at Mitya. “She saw that blackguard and fled! It’s all spoilt!”

After waiting a little longer, he got up, put on his hat and said:

“You’re a beast, a low brute and a blackguard! Yes! A beast! It’s mean⁠ ⁠… and silly! Everything is at an end between us!”

“Delighted to hear it!” muttered Mitya, also getting up and putting on his hat. “Let me tell you that by being here just now you’ve played me such a dirty trick that I’ll never forgive you as long as I live.”

Pavel Ivanitch went out of the arbour, and beside himself with rage, strode rapidly to his villa. Even the sight of the table laid for supper did not soothe him.

“Once in a lifetime such a chance has turned up,” he thought in agitation; “and then it’s been prevented! Now she is offended⁠ ⁠… crushed!”

At supper Pavel Ivanitch and Mitya kept their eyes on their plates and maintained a sullen silence.⁠ ⁠… They were hating each other from the bottom of their hearts.

“What are you smiling at?” asked Pavel Ivanitch, pouncing on his wife. “It’s only silly fools who laugh for nothing!”

His wife looked at her husband’s angry face, and went off into a peal of laughter.

“What was that letter you got this morning?” she asked.

“I?⁠ ⁠… I didn’t get one.⁠ ⁠…” Pavel Ivanitch was overcome with confusion. “You are inventing⁠ ⁠… imagination.”

“Oh, come, tell us! Own up, you did! Why, it was I sent you that letter! Honour bright, I did! Ha ha!”

Pavel Ivanitch turned crimson and bent over his plate. “Silly jokes,” he growled.

“But what could I do? Tell me that.⁠ ⁠… We had to scrub the rooms out this evening, and how could we get you out of the house? There was no other way of getting you out.⁠ ⁠… But don’t be angry, stupid.⁠ ⁠… I didn’t want you to be dull in the arbour, so I sent the same letter to Mitya too! Mitya, have you been to the arbour?”

Mitya grinned and left off glaring with hatred at his rival.

Panic Fears

During all the years I have been living in this world I have only three times been terrified.

The first real terror, which made my hair stand on end and made shivers run all over me, was caused by a trivial but strange phenomenon. It happened that, having nothing to do one July evening, I drove to the station for the newspapers. It was a still, warm, almost sultry evening, like all those monotonous evenings in July which, when once they have set in, go on for a week, a fortnight, or sometimes longer, in regular unbroken succession, and are suddenly cut short by a violent thunderstorm and a lavish downpour of rain that refreshes everything for a long time.

The sun had set some time before, and an unbroken gray dusk lay all over the land. The mawkishly sweet scents of the grass and flowers were heavy in the motionless, stagnant air.

I was driving in a rough trolley. Behind my back the gardener’s son Pashka, a boy of eight years old, whom I had taken with me to look after the horse in case of necessity, was gently snoring, with his head on a sack of oats. Our way lay along a narrow byroad, straight as a ruler, which lay hid like a great snake in the tall thick rye. There was a pale light from the afterglow of sunset; a streak of light cut its way through a narrow, uncouth-looking cloud, which seemed sometimes like a boat and sometimes like a man wrapped in a quilt.⁠ ⁠…

I had driven a mile and a half, or two miles, when against the pale background of the evening glow there came into sight one after another some graceful tall poplars; a river glimmered beyond them, and a gorgeous picture suddenly, as though by magic, lay stretched before me. I had to stop the horse, for our straight road broke off abruptly and ran down a steep incline overgrown with bushes. We were standing on the hillside and beneath us at the bottom lay a huge hole full of twilight, of fantastic shapes, and of space. At the bottom of this hole, in a wide plain guarded by the poplars and caressed by the gleaming river, nestled a village. It was now sleeping.⁠ ⁠… Its huts, its church with the belfry, its trees, stood out against the gray twilight and were reflected darkly in the smooth surface of the river.

I waked Pashka for fear he should fall out and began cautiously going down.

“Have we got to Lukovo?” asked Pashka, lifting his head lazily.

“Yes. Hold the reins!⁠ ⁠…”

I led the horse down the hill and looked at the village. At the first glance one strange circumstance caught my attention: at the very top of the belfry, in the tiny window between the cupola and the bells, a light was twinkling. This light was like that of a smoldering lamp, at one moment dying down, at another flickering up. What could it come from?

Its source was beyond my comprehension. It could not be burning at the window, for there were neither icons nor lamps in the top turret of the belfry; there was nothing there, as I knew, but beams, dust, and spiders’ webs. It was hard to climb up into that turret, for the passage to it from the belfry was closely blocked up.

It was more likely than anything else to be the reflection of some outside light, but though I strained my eyes to the utmost, I could not see one other speck of light in the vast expanse that lay before me. There was no moon. The pale and, by now, quite dim streak of the afterglow could not have been reflected, for the window looked not to the west, but to the east. These and other similar considerations were straying through my mind all the while that I was going down the slope with the horse. At the bottom I sat down by the roadside and looked again at the light. As before it was glimmering and flaring up.

“Strange,” I thought, lost in conjecture. “Very strange.”

And little by little I was overcome by an unpleasant feeling. At first I thought that this was vexation at not being able to explain a simple phenomenon; but afterwards, when I suddenly turned away from the light in horror and caught hold of Pashka with one hand, it became clear that I was overcome with terror.⁠ ⁠…

I was seized with a feeling of loneliness, misery, and horror, as though I had been flung down against my will into this great hole full of shadows, where I was standing all alone with the belfry looking at me with its red eye.

“Pashka!” I cried, closing my eyes in horror.


“Pashka, what’s that gleaming on the belfry?”

Pashka looked over my shoulder at the belfry and gave a yawn.

“Who can tell?”

This brief conversation with the boy reassured me for a little, but not for long. Pashka, seeing my uneasiness, fastened his big eyes upon the light, looked at me again, then again at the light.⁠ ⁠…

“I am frightened,” he whispered.

At this point, beside myself with terror, I clutched the boy with one hand, huddled up to him, and gave the horse a violent lash.

“It’s stupid!” I said to myself. “That phenomenon is only terrible because I don’t understand it; everything we don’t understand is mysterious.”

I tried to persuade myself, but at the same time I did not leave off lashing the horse. When we reached the posting station I purposely stayed for a full hour chatting with the overseer, and read through two or three newspapers, but the feeling of uneasiness did not leave me. On the way back the light was not to be seen, but on the other hand the silhouettes of the huts, of the poplars, and of the hill up which I had to drive, seemed to me as though animated. And why the light was there I don’t know to this day.

The second terror I experienced was excited by a circumstance no less trivial.⁠ ⁠… I was returning from a romantic interview. It was one o’clock at night, the time when nature is buried in the soundest, sweetest sleep before the dawn. That time nature was not sleeping, and one could not call the night a still one. Corncrakes, quails, nightingales, and woodcocks were calling, crickets and grasshoppers were chirruping. There was a light mist over the grass, and clouds were scurrying straight ahead across the sky near the moon. Nature was awake, as though afraid of missing the best moments of her life.

I walked along a narrow path at the very edge of a railway embankment. The moonlight glided over the lines which were already covered with dew. Great shadows from the clouds kept flitting over the embankment. Far ahead, a dim green light was glimmering peacefully.

“So everything is well,” I thought, looking at them.

I had a quiet, peaceful, comfortable feeling in my heart. I was returning from a tryst, I had no need to hurry; I was not sleepy, and I was conscious of youth and health in every sigh, every step I took, rousing a dull echo in the monotonous hum of the night. I don’t know what I was feeling then, but I remember I was happy, very happy.

I had gone not more than three-quarters of a mile when I suddenly heard behind me a monotonous sound, a rumbling, rather like the roar of a great stream. It grew louder and louder every second, and sounded nearer and nearer. I looked round; a hundred paces from me was the dark copse from which I had only just come; there the embankment turned to the right in a graceful curve and vanished among the trees. I stood still in perplexity and waited. A huge black body appeared at once at the turn, noisily darted towards me, and with the swiftness of a bird flew past me along the rails. Less than half a minute passed and the blur had vanished, the rumble melted away into the noise of the night.

It was an ordinary goods truck. There was nothing peculiar about it in itself, but its appearance without an engine and in the night puzzled me. Where could it have come from and what force sent it flying so rapidly along the rails? Where did it come from and where was it flying to?

If I had been superstitious I should have made up my mind it was a party of demons and witches journeying to a devils’ sabbath, and should have gone on my way; but as it was, the phenomenon was absolutely inexplicable to me. I did not believe my eyes, and was entangled in conjectures like a fly in a spider’s web.⁠ ⁠…

I suddenly realized that I was utterly alone on the whole vast plain; that the night, which by now seemed inhospitable, was peeping into my face and dogging my footsteps; all the sounds, the cries of the birds, the whisperings of the trees, seemed sinister, and existing simply to alarm my imagination. I dashed on like a madman, and without realizing what I was doing I ran, trying to run faster and faster. And at once I heard something to which I had paid no attention before: that is, the plaintive whining of the telegraph wires.

“This is beyond everything,” I said, trying to shame myself. “It’s cowardice! it’s silly!”

But cowardice was stronger than common sense. I only slackened my pace when I reached the green light, where I saw a dark signal-box, and near it on the embankment the figure of a man, probably the signalman.

“Did you see it?” I asked breathlessly.

“See whom? What?”

“Why, a truck ran by.”

“I saw it,⁠ ⁠…” the peasant said reluctantly. “It broke away from the goods train. There is an incline at the ninetieth mile⁠ ⁠… ; the train is dragged uphill. The coupling on the last truck gave way, so it broke off and ran back.⁠ ⁠… There is no catching it now!⁠ ⁠…”

The strange phenomenon was explained and its fantastic character vanished. My panic was over and I was able to go on my way.

My third fright came upon me as I was going home from stand shooting in early spring. It was in the dusk of evening. The forest road was covered with pools from a recent shower of rain, and the earth squelched under one’s feet. The crimson glow of sunset flooded the whole forest, coloring the white stems of the birches and the young leaves. I was exhausted and could hardly move.

Four or five miles from home, walking along the forest road, I suddenly met a big black dog of the water spaniel breed. As he ran by, the dog looked intently at me, straight in my face, and ran on.

“A nice dog!” I thought. “Whose is it?”

I looked round. The dog was standing ten paces off with his eyes fixed on me. For a minute we scanned each other in silence, then the dog, probably flattered by my attention, came slowly up to me and wagged his tail.

I walked on, the dog following me.

“Whose dog can it be?” I kept asking myself. “Where does he come from?”

I knew all the country gentry for twenty or thirty miles round, and knew all their dogs. Not one of them had a spaniel like that. How did he come to be in the depths of the forest, on a track used for nothing but carting timber? He could hardly have dropped behind someone passing through, for there was nowhere for the gentry to drive to along that road.

I sat down on a stump to rest, and began scrutinizing my companion. He, too, sat down, raised his head, and fastened upon me an intent stare. He gazed at me without blinking. I don’t know whether it was the influence of the stillness, the shadows and sounds of the forest, or perhaps a result of exhaustion, but I suddenly felt uneasy under the steady gaze of his ordinary doggy eyes. I thought of Faust and his bulldog, and of the fact that nervous people sometimes when exhausted have hallucinations. That was enough to make me get up hurriedly and hurriedly walk on. The dog followed me.

“Go away!” I shouted.

The dog probably liked my voice, for he gave a gleeful jump and ran about in front of me.

“Go away!” I shouted again.

The dog looked round, stared at me intently, and wagged his tail good-humoredly. Evidently my threatening tone amused him. I ought to have patted him, but I could not get Faust’s dog out of my head, and the feeling of panic grew more and more acute⁠ ⁠… Darkness was coming on, which completed my confusion, and every time the dog ran up to me and hit me with his tail, like a coward I shut my eyes. The same thing happened as with the light in the belfry and the truck on the railway: I could not stand it and rushed away.

At home I found a visitor, an old friend, who, after greeting me, began to complain that as he was driving to me he had lost his way in the forest, and a splendid valuable dog of his had dropped behind.

The Chemist’s Wife

The little town of B⁠⸺, consisting of two or three crooked streets, was sound asleep. There was a complete stillness in the motionless air. Nothing could be heard but far away, outside the town no doubt, the barking of a dog in a thin, hoarse tenor. It was close upon daybreak.

Everything had long been asleep. The only person not asleep was the young wife of Tchernomordik, a qualified dispenser who kept a chemist’s shop at B⁠⸺. She had gone to bed and got up again three times, but could not sleep, she did not know why. She sat at the open window in her nightdress and looked into the street. She felt bored, depressed, vexed⁠ ⁠… so vexed that she felt quite inclined to cry⁠—again she did not know why. There seemed to be a lump in her chest that kept rising into her throat.⁠ ⁠… A few paces behind her Tchernomordik lay curled up close to the wall, snoring sweetly. A greedy flea was stabbing the bridge of his nose, but he did not feel it, and was positively smiling, for he was dreaming that everyone in the town had a cough, and was buying from him the King of Denmark’s cough-drops. He could not have been wakened now by pinpricks or by cannon or by caresses.

The chemist’s shop was almost at the extreme end of the town, so that the chemist’s wife could see far into the fields. She could see the eastern horizon growing pale by degrees, then turning crimson as though from a great fire. A big broad-faced moon peeped out unexpectedly from behind bushes in the distance. It was red (as a rule when the moon emerges from behind bushes it appears to be blushing).

Suddenly in the stillness of the night there came the sounds of footsteps and a jingle of spurs. She could hear voices.

“That must be the officers going home to the camp from the Police Captain’s,” thought the chemist’s wife.

Soon afterwards two figures wearing officers’ white tunics came into sight: one big and tall, the other thinner and shorter.⁠ ⁠… They slouched along by the fence, dragging one leg after the other and talking loudly together. As they passed the chemist’s shop, they walked more slowly than ever, and glanced up at the windows.

“It smells like a chemist’s,” said the thin one. “And so it is! Ah, I remember.⁠ ⁠… I came here last week to buy some castor-oil. There’s a chemist here with a sour face and the jawbone of an ass! Such a jawbone, my dear fellow! It must have been a jawbone like that Samson killed the Philistines with.”

“M’yes,” said the big one in a bass voice. “The pharmacist is asleep. And his wife is asleep too. She is a pretty woman, Obtyosov.”

“I saw her. I liked her very much.⁠ ⁠… Tell me, doctor, can she possibly love that jawbone of an ass? Can she?”

“No, most likely she does not love him,” sighed the doctor, speaking as though he were sorry for the chemist. “The little woman is asleep behind the window, Obtyosov, what? Tossing with the heat, her little mouth half open⁠ ⁠… and one little foot hanging out of bed. I bet that fool the chemist doesn’t realise what a lucky fellow he is.⁠ ⁠… No doubt he sees no difference between a woman and a bottle of carbolic!”

“I say, doctor,” said the officer, stopping. “Let us go into the shop and buy something. Perhaps we shall see her.”

“What an idea⁠—in the night!”

“What of it? They are obliged to serve one even at night. My dear fellow, let us go in!”

“If you like.⁠ ⁠…”

The chemist’s wife, hiding behind the curtain, heard a muffled ring. Looking round at her husband, who was smiling and snoring sweetly as before, she threw on her dress, slid her bare feet into her slippers, and ran to the shop.

On the other side of the glass door she could see two shadows. The chemist’s wife turned up the lamp and hurried to the door to open it, and now she felt neither vexed nor bored nor inclined to cry, though her heart was thumping. The big doctor and the slender Obtyosov walked in. Now she could get a view of them. The doctor was corpulent and swarthy; he wore a beard and was slow in his movements. At the slightest motion his tunic seemed as though it would crack, and perspiration came on to his face. The officer was rosy, clean-shaven, feminine-looking, and as supple as an English whip.

“What may I give you?” asked the chemist’s wife, holding her dress across her bosom.

“Give us⁠ ⁠… er⁠—er⁠ ⁠… four pennyworth of peppermint lozenges!”

Without haste the chemist’s wife took down a jar from a shelf and began weighing out lozenges. The customers stared fixedly at her back; the doctor screwed up his eyes like a well-fed cat, while the lieutenant was very grave.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen a lady serving in a chemist’s shop,” observed the doctor.

“There’s nothing out of the way in it,” replied the chemist’s wife, looking out of the corner of her eye at the rosy-cheeked officer. “My husband has no assistant, and I always help him.”

“To be sure.⁠ ⁠… You have a charming little shop! What a number of different⁠ ⁠… jars! And you are not afraid of moving about among the poisons? Brrr!”

The chemist’s wife sealed up the parcel and handed it to the doctor. Obtyosov gave her the money. Half a minute of silence followed.⁠ ⁠… The men exchanged glances, took a step towards the door, then looked at one another again.

“Will you give me two pennyworth of soda?” said the doctor.

Again the chemist’s wife slowly and languidly raised her hand to the shelf.

“Haven’t you in the shop anything⁠ ⁠… such as⁠ ⁠…” muttered Obtyosov, moving his fingers, “something, so to say, allegorical⁠ ⁠… revivifying⁠ ⁠… seltzer water, for instance. Have you any seltzer water?”

“Yes,” answered the chemist’s wife.

“Bravo! You’re a fairy, not a woman! Give us three bottles!”

The chemist’s wife hurriedly sealed up the soda and vanished through the door into the darkness.

“A peach!” said the doctor, with a wink. “You wouldn’t find a pineapple like that in the island of Madeira! Eh? What do you say? Do you hear the snoring, though? That’s his worship the chemist enjoying sweet repose.”

A minute later the chemist’s wife came back and set five bottles on the counter. She had just been in the cellar, and so was flushed and rather excited.

“Sh-sh!⁠ ⁠… quietly!” said Obtyosov when, after uncorking the bottles, she dropped the corkscrew. “Don’t make such a noise; you’ll wake your husband.”

“Well, what if I do wake him?”

“He is sleeping so sweetly⁠ ⁠… he must be dreaming of you.⁠ ⁠… To your health!”

“Besides,” boomed the doctor, hiccupping after the seltzer water, “husbands are such a dull business that it would be very nice of them to be always asleep. How good a drop of red wine would be in this water!”

“What an idea!” laughed the chemist’s wife.

“That would be splendid. What a pity they don’t sell spirits in chemist’s shops! Though you ought to sell wine as a medicine. Have you any vinum gallicum rubrum?”


“Well, then, give us some! Bring it here, damn it!”

“How much do you want?”

Quantum satis.⁠ ⁠… Give us an ounce each in the water, and afterwards we’ll see.⁠ ⁠… Obtyosov, what do you say? First with water and afterwards per se.⁠ ⁠…”

The doctor and Obtyosov sat down to the counter, took off their caps, and began drinking the wine.

“The wine, one must admit, is wretched stuff! Vinum nastissimum! Though in the presence of⁠ ⁠… er⁠ ⁠… it tastes like nectar. You are enchanting, madam! In imagination I kiss your hand.”

“I would give a great deal to do so not in imagination,” said Obtyosov. “On my honour, I’d give my life.”

“That’s enough,” said Madame Tchernomordik, flushing and assuming a serious expression.

“What a flirt you are, though!” the doctor laughed softly, looking slyly at her from under his brows. “Your eyes seem to be firing shot: piff-paff! I congratulate you: you’ve conquered! We are vanquished!”

The chemist’s wife looked at their ruddy faces, listened to their chatter, and soon she, too, grew quite lively. Oh, she felt so gay! She entered into the conversation, she laughed, flirted, and even, after repeated requests from the customers, drank two ounces of wine.

“You officers ought to come in oftener from the camp,” she said; “it’s awful how dreary it is here. I’m simply dying of it.”

“I should think so!” said the doctor indignantly. “Such a peach, a miracle of nature, thrown away in the wilds! How well Griboyedov said, ‘Into the wilds, to Saratov’! It’s time for us to be off, though. Delighted to have made your acquaintance⁠ ⁠… very. How much do we owe you?”

The chemist’s wife raised her eyes to the ceiling and her lips moved for some time.

“Twelve roubles forty-eight kopecks,” she said.

Obtyosov took out of his pocket a fat pocketbook, and after fumbling for some time among the notes, paid.

“Your husband’s sleeping sweetly⁠ ⁠… he must be dreaming,” he muttered, pressing her hand at parting.

“I don’t like to hear silly remarks.⁠ ⁠…”

“What silly remarks? On the contrary, it’s not silly at all⁠ ⁠… even Shakespeare said: ‘Happy is he who in his youth is young.’ ”

“Let go of my hand.”

At last after much talk and after kissing the lady’s hand at parting, the customers went out of the shop irresolutely, as though they were wondering whether they had not forgotten something.

She ran quickly into the bedroom and sat down in the same place. She saw the doctor and the officer, on coming out of the shop, walk lazily away a distance of twenty paces; then they stopped and began whispering together. What about? Her heart throbbed, there was a pulsing in her temples, and why she did not know.⁠ ⁠… Her heart beat violently as though those two whispering outside were deciding her fate.

Five minutes later the doctor parted from Obtyosov and walked on, while Obtyosov came back. He walked past the shop once and a second time.⁠ ⁠… He would stop near the door and then take a few steps again. At last the bell tinkled discreetly.

“What? Who is there?” the chemist’s wife heard her husband’s voice suddenly. “There’s a ring at the bell, and you don’t hear it,” he said severely. “Is that the way to do things?”

He got up, put on his dressing-gown, and staggering, half asleep, flopped in his slippers to the shop.

“What⁠ ⁠… is it?” he asked Obtyosov.

“Give me⁠ ⁠… give me four pennyworth of peppermint lozenges.”

Sniffing continually, yawning, dropping asleep as he moved, and knocking his knees against the counter, the chemist went to the shelf and reached down the jar.

Two minutes later the chemist’s wife saw Obtyosov go out of the shop, and, after he had gone some steps, she saw him throw the packet of peppermints on the dusty road. The doctor came from behind a corner to meet him.⁠ ⁠… They met and, gesticulating, vanished in the morning mist.

“How unhappy I am!” said the chemist’s wife, looking angrily at her husband, who was undressing quickly to get into bed again. “Oh, how unhappy I am!” she repeated, suddenly melting into bitter tears. “And nobody knows, nobody knows.⁠ ⁠…”

“I forgot fourpence on the counter,” muttered the chemist, pulling the quilt over him. “Put it away in the till, please.⁠ ⁠…”

And at once he fell asleep again.

Not Wanted

Between six and seven o’clock on a July evening, a crowd of summer visitors⁠—mostly fathers of families⁠—burdened with parcels, portfolios, and ladies’ hatboxes, was trailing along from the little station of Helkovo, in the direction of the summer villas. They all looked exhausted, hungry, and ill-humoured, as though the sun were not shining and the grass were not green for them.

Trudging along among the others was Pavel Matveyitch Zaikin, a member of the Circuit Court, a tall, stooping man, in a cheap cotton dust-coat and with a cockade on his faded cap. He was perspiring, red in the face, and gloomy.⁠ ⁠…

“Do you come out to your holiday home every day?” said a summer visitor, in ginger-coloured trousers, addressing him.

“No, not every day,” Zaikin answered sullenly. “My wife and son are staying here all the while, and I come down two or three times a week. I haven’t time to come every day; besides, it is expensive.”

“You’re right there; it is expensive,” sighed he of the ginger trousers. “In town you can’t walk to the station, you have to take a cab; and then, the ticket costs forty-two kopecks; you buy a paper for the journey; one is tempted to drink a glass of vodka. It’s all petty expenditure not worth considering, but, mind you, in the course of the summer it will run up to some two hundred roubles. Of course, to be in the lap of Nature is worth any money⁠—I don’t dispute it⁠ ⁠… idyllic and all the rest of it; but of course, with the salary an official gets, as you know yourself, every farthing has to be considered. If you waste a halfpenny you lie awake all night.⁠ ⁠… Yes⁠ ⁠… I receive, my dear sir⁠—I haven’t the honour of knowing your name⁠—I receive a salary of very nearly two thousand roubles a year. I am a civil councillor, I smoke second-rate tobacco, and I haven’t a rouble to spare to buy Vichy water, prescribed me by the doctor for gallstones.”

“It’s altogether abominable,” said Zaikin after a brief silence. “I maintain, sir, that summer holidays are the invention of the devil and of woman. The devil was actuated in the present instance by malice, woman by excessive frivolity. Mercy on us, it is not life at all; it is hard labour, it is hell! It’s hot and stifling, you can hardly breathe, and you wander about like a lost soul and can find no refuge. In town there is no furniture, no servants⁠ ⁠… everything has been carried off to the villa: you eat what you can get; you go without your tea because there is no one to heat the samovar; you can’t wash yourself; and when you come down here into this ‘lap of Nature’ you have to walk, if you please, through the dust and heat.⁠ ⁠… Phew! Are you married?”

“Yes⁠ ⁠… three children,” sighs Ginger Trousers.

“It’s abominable altogether.⁠ ⁠… It’s a wonder we are still alive.”

At last the summer visitors reached their destination. Zaikin said goodbye to Ginger Trousers and went into his villa. He found a deathlike silence in the house. He could hear nothing but the buzzing of the gnats, and the prayer for help of a fly destined for the dinner of a spider. The windows were hung with muslin curtains, through which the faded flowers of the geraniums showed red. On the unpainted wooden walls near the oleographs flies were slumbering. There was not a soul in the passage, the kitchen, or the dining room. In the room which was called indifferently the parlour or the drawing room, Zaikin found his son Petya, a little boy of six. Petya was sitting at the table, and breathing loudly with his lower lip stuck out, was engaged in cutting out the figure of a knave of diamonds from a card.

“Oh, that’s you, father!” he said, without turning round. “Good evening.”

“Good evening.⁠ ⁠… And where is mother?”

“Mother? She is gone with Olga Kirillovna to a rehearsal of the play. The day after tomorrow they will have a performance. And they will take me, too.⁠ ⁠… And will you go?”

“H’m!⁠ ⁠… When is she coming back?”

“She said she would be back in the evening.”

“And where is Natalya?”

“Mamma took Natalya with her to help her dress for the performance, and Akulina has gone to the wood to get mushrooms. Father, why is it that when gnats bite you their stomachs get red?”

“I don’t know.⁠ ⁠… Because they suck blood. So there is no one in the house, then?”

“No one; I am all alone in the house.”

Zaikin sat down in an easy-chair, and for a moment gazed blankly at the window.

“Who is going to get our dinner?” he asked.

“They haven’t cooked any dinner today, father. Mamma thought you were not coming today, and did not order any dinner. She is going to have dinner with Olga Kirillovna at the rehearsal.”

“Oh, thank you very much; and you, what have you to eat?”

“I’ve had some milk. They bought me six kopecks’ worth of milk. And, father, why do gnats suck blood?”

Zaikin suddenly felt as though something heavy were rolling down on his liver and beginning to gnaw it. He felt so vexed, so aggrieved, and so bitter, that he was choking and tremulous; he wanted to jump up, to bang something on the floor, and to burst into loud abuse; but then he remembered that his doctor had absolutely forbidden him all excitement, so he got up, and making an effort to control himself, began whistling a tune from Les Huguenots.

“Father, can you act in plays?” he heard Petya’s voice.

“Oh, don’t worry me with stupid questions!” said Zaikin, getting angry. “He sticks to one like a leaf in the bath! Here you are, six years old, and just as silly as you were three years ago.⁠ ⁠… Stupid, neglected child! Why are you spoiling those cards, for instance? How dare you spoil them?”

“These cards aren’t yours,” said Petya, turning round. “Natalya gave them me.”

“You are telling fibs, you are telling fibs, you horrid boy!” said Zaikin, growing more and more irritated. “You are always telling fibs! You want a whipping, you horrid little pig! I will pull your ears!”

Petya leapt up, and craning his neck, stared fixedly at his father’s red and wrathful face. His big eyes first began blinking, then were dimmed with moisture, and the boy’s face began working.

“But why are you scolding?” squealed Petya. “Why do you attack me, you stupid? I am not interfering with anybody; I am not naughty; I do what I am told, and yet⁠ ⁠… you are cross! Why are you scolding me?”

The boy spoke with conviction, and wept so bitterly that Zaikin felt conscience-stricken.

“Yes, really, why am I falling foul of him?” he thought. “Come, come,” he said, touching the boy on the shoulder. “I am sorry, Petya⁠ ⁠… forgive me. You are my good boy, my nice boy, I love you.”

Petya wiped his eyes with his sleeve, sat down, with a sigh, in the same place and began cutting out the queen. Zaikin went off to his own room. He stretched himself on the sofa, and putting his hands behind his head, sank into thought. The boy’s tears had softened his anger, and by degrees the oppression on his liver grew less. He felt nothing but exhaustion and hunger.

“Father,” he heard on the other side of the door, “shall I show you my collection of insects?”

“Yes, show me.”

Petya came into the study and handed his father a long green box. Before raising it to his ear Zaikin could hear a despairing buzz and the scratching of claws on the sides of the box. Opening the lid, he saw a number of butterflies, beetles, grasshoppers, and flies fastened to the bottom of the box with pins. All except two or three butterflies were still alive and moving.

“Why, the grasshopper is still alive!” said Petya in surprise. “I caught him yesterday morning, and he is still alive!”

“Who taught you to pin them in this way?”

“Olga Kirillovna.”

“Olga Kirillovna ought to be pinned down like that herself!” said Zaikin with repulsion. “Take them away! It’s shameful to torture animals.”

“My God! How horribly he is being brought up!” he thought, as Petya went out.

Pavel Matveyitch forgot his exhaustion and hunger, and thought of nothing but his boy’s future. Meanwhile, outside the light was gradually fading.⁠ ⁠… He could hear the summer visitors trooping back from the evening bathe. Someone was stopping near the open dining room window and shouting: “Do you want any mushrooms?” And getting no answer, shuffled on with bare feet.⁠ ⁠… But at last, when the dusk was so thick that the outlines of the geraniums behind the muslin curtain were lost, and whiffs of the freshness of evening were coming in at the window, the door of the passage was thrown open noisily, and there came a sound of rapid footsteps, talk, and laughter.⁠ ⁠…

“Mamma!” shrieked Petya.

Zaikin peeped out of his study and saw his wife, Nadyezhda Stepanovna, healthy and rosy as ever; with her he saw Olga Kirillovna, a spare woman with fair hair and heavy freckles, and two unknown men: one a lanky young man with curly red hair and a big Adam’s apple; the other, a short stubby man with a shaven face like an actor’s and a bluish crooked chin.

“Natalya, set the samovar,” cried Nadyezhda Stepanovna, with a loud rustle of her skirts. “I hear Pavel Matveyitch is come. Pavel, where are you? Good evening, Pavel!” she said, running into the study breathlessly. “So you’ve come. I am so glad.⁠ ⁠… Two of our amateurs have come with me.⁠ ⁠… Come, I’ll introduce you.⁠ ⁠… Here, the taller one is Koromyslov⁠ ⁠… he sings splendidly; and the other, the little one⁠ ⁠… is called Smerkalov: he is a real actor⁠ ⁠… he recites magnificently. Oh, how tired I am! We have just had a rehearsal.⁠ ⁠… It goes splendidly. We are acting The Lodger with the Trombone and Waiting for Him.⁠ ⁠… The performance is the day after tomorrow.⁠ ⁠…”

“Why did you bring them?” asked Zaikin.

“I couldn’t help it, Poppet; after tea we must rehearse our parts and sing something.⁠ ⁠… I am to sing a duet with Koromyslov.⁠ ⁠… Oh, yes, I was almost forgetting! Darling, send Natalya to get some sardines, vodka, cheese, and something else. They will most likely stay to supper.⁠ ⁠… Oh, how tired I am!”

“H’m! I’ve no money.”

“You must, Poppet! It would be awkward! Don’t make me blush.”

Half an hour later Natalya was sent for vodka and savouries; Zaikin, after drinking tea and eating a whole French loaf, went to his bedroom and lay down on the bed, while Nadyezhda Stepanovna and her visitors, with much noise and laughter, set to work to rehearse their parts. For a long time Pavel Matveyitch heard Koromyslov’s nasal reciting and Smerkalov’s theatrical exclamations.⁠ ⁠… The rehearsal was followed by a long conversation, interrupted by the shrill laughter of Olga Kirillovna. Smerkalov, as a real actor, explained the parts with aplomb and heat.⁠ ⁠…

Then followed the duet, and after the duet there was the clatter of crockery.⁠ ⁠… Through his drowsiness Zaikin heard them persuading Smerkalov to read “The Woman who was a Sinner,” and heard him, after affecting to refuse, begin to recite. He hissed, beat himself on the breast, wept, laughed in a husky bass.⁠ ⁠… Zaikin scowled and hid his head under the quilt.

“It’s a long way for you to go, and it’s dark,” he heard Nadyezhda Stepanovna’s voice an hour later. “Why shouldn’t you stay the night here? Koromyslov can sleep here in the drawing room on the sofa, and you, Smerkalov, in Petya’s bed.⁠ ⁠… I can put Petya in my husband’s study.⁠ ⁠… Do stay, really!”

At last when the clock was striking two, all was hushed, the bedroom door opened, and Nadyezhda Stepanovna appeared.

“Pavel, are you asleep?” she whispered.

“No; why?”

“Go into your study, darling, and lie on the sofa. I am going to put Olga Kirillovna here, in your bed. Do go, dear! I would put her to sleep in the study, but she is afraid to sleep alone.⁠ ⁠… Do get up!”

Zaikin got up, threw on his dressing gown, and taking his pillow, crept wearily to the study.⁠ ⁠… Feeling his way to his sofa, he lighted a match, and saw Petya lying on the sofa. The boy was not asleep, and, looking at the match with wide-open eyes:

“Father, why is it gnats don’t go to sleep at night?” he asked.

“Because⁠ ⁠… because⁠ ⁠… you and I are not wanted.⁠ ⁠… We have nowhere to sleep even.”

“Father, and why is it Olga Kirillovna has freckles on her face?”

“Oh, shut up! I am tired of you.”

After a moment’s thought, Zaikin dressed and went out into the street for a breath of air.⁠ ⁠… He looked at the grey morning sky, at the motionless clouds, heard the lazy call of the drowsy corncrake, and began dreaming of the next day, when he would go to town, and coming back from the court would tumble into bed.⁠ ⁠… Suddenly the figure of a man appeared round the corner.

“A watchman, no doubt,” thought Zaikin. But going nearer and looking more closely he recognized in the figure the summer visitor in the ginger trousers.

“You’re not asleep?” he asked.

“No, I can’t sleep,” sighed Ginger Trousers. “I am enjoying Nature.⁠ ⁠… A welcome visitor, my wife’s mother, arrived by the night train, you know. She brought with her our nieces⁠ ⁠… splendid girls! I was delighted to see them, although⁠ ⁠… it’s very damp! And you, too, are enjoying Nature?”

“Yes,” grunted Zaikin, “I am enjoying it, too.⁠ ⁠… Do you know whether there is any sort of tavern or restaurant in the neighbourhood?”

Ginger Trousers raised his eyes to heaven and meditated profoundly.

The Chorus Girl

One day when she was younger and better-looking, and when her voice was stronger, Nikolay Petrovitch Kolpakov, her adorer, was sitting in the outer room in her summer villa. It was intolerably hot and stifling. Kolpakov, who had just dined and drunk a whole bottle of inferior port, felt ill-humoured and out of sorts. Both were bored and waiting for the heat of the day to be over in order to go for a walk.

All at once there was a sudden ring at the door. Kolpakov, who was sitting with his coat off, in his slippers, jumped up and looked inquiringly at Pasha.

“It must be the postman or one of the girls,” said the singer.

Kolpakov did not mind being found by the postman or Pasha’s lady friends, but by way of precaution gathered up his clothes and went into the next room, while Pasha ran to open the door. To her great surprise in the doorway stood, not the postman and not a girl friend, but an unknown woman, young and beautiful, who was dressed like a lady, and from all outward signs was one.

The stranger was pale and was breathing heavily as though she had been running up a steep flight of stairs.

“What is it?” asked Pasha.

The lady did not at once answer. She took a step forward, slowly looked about the room, and sat down in a way that suggested that from fatigue, or perhaps illness, she could not stand; then for a long time her pale lips quivered as she tried in vain to speak.

“Is my husband here?” she asked at last, raising to Pasha her big eyes with their red tear-stained lids.

“Husband?” whispered Pasha, and was suddenly so frightened that her hands and feet turned cold. “What husband?” she repeated, beginning to tremble.

“My husband,⁠ ⁠… Nikolay Petrovitch Kolpakov.”

“N⁠ ⁠… no, madam.⁠ ⁠… I⁠ ⁠… I don’t know any husband.”

A minute passed in silence. The stranger several times passed her handkerchief over her pale lips and held her breath to stop her inward trembling, while Pasha stood before her motionless, like a post, and looked at her with astonishment and terror.

“So you say he is not here?” the lady asked, this time speaking with a firm voice and smiling oddly.

“I⁠ ⁠… I don’t know who it is you are asking about.”

“You are horrid, mean, vile⁠ ⁠…” the stranger muttered, scanning Pasha with hatred and repulsion. “Yes, yes⁠ ⁠… you are horrid. I am very, very glad that at last I can tell you so!”

Pasha felt that on this lady in black with the angry eyes and white slender fingers she produced the impression of something horrid and unseemly, and she felt ashamed of her chubby red cheeks, the pockmark on her nose, and the fringe on her forehead, which never could be combed back. And it seemed to her that if she had been thin, and had had no powder on her face and no fringe on her forehead, then she could have disguised the fact that she was not “respectable,” and she would not have felt so frightened and ashamed to stand facing this unknown, mysterious lady.

“Where is my husband?” the lady went on. “Though I don’t care whether he is here or not, but I ought to tell you that the money has been missed, and they are looking for Nikolay Petrovitch.⁠ ⁠… They mean to arrest him. That’s your doing!”

The lady got up and walked about the room in great excitement. Pasha looked at her and was so frightened that she could not understand.

“He’ll be found and arrested today,” said the lady, and she gave a sob, and in that sound could be heard her resentment and vexation. “I know who has brought him to this awful position! Low, horrid creature! Loathsome, mercenary hussy!” The lady’s lips worked and her nose wrinkled up with disgust. “I am helpless, do you hear, you low woman?⁠ ⁠… I am helpless; you are stronger than I am, but there is One to defend me and my children! God sees all! He is just! He will punish you for every tear I have shed, for all my sleepless nights! The time will come; you will think of me!⁠ ⁠…”

Silence followed again. The lady walked about the room and wrung her hands, while Pasha still gazed blankly at her in amazement, not understanding and expecting something terrible.

“I know nothing about it, madam,” she said, and suddenly burst into tears.

“You are lying!” cried the lady, and her eyes flashed angrily at her. “I know all about it! I’ve known you a long time. I know that for the last month he has been spending every day with you!”

“Yes. What then? What of it? I have a great many visitors, but I don’t force anyone to come. He is free to do as he likes.”

“I tell you they have discovered that money is missing! He has embezzled money at the office! For the sake of such a⁠ ⁠… creature as you, for your sake he has actually committed a crime. Listen,” said the lady in a resolute voice, stopping short, facing Pasha. “You can have no principles; you live simply to do harm⁠—that’s your object; but one can’t imagine you have fallen so low that you have no trace of human feeling left! He has a wife, children.⁠ ⁠… If he is condemned and sent into exile we shall starve, the children and I.⁠ ⁠… Understand that! And yet there is a chance of saving him and us from destitution and disgrace. If I take them nine hundred roubles today they will let him alone. Only nine hundred roubles!”

“What nine hundred roubles?” Pasha asked softly. “I⁠ ⁠… I don’t know.⁠ ⁠… I haven’t taken it.”

“I am not asking you for nine hundred roubles.⁠ ⁠… You have no money, and I don’t want your money. I ask you for something else.⁠ ⁠… Men usually give expensive things to women like you. Only give me back the things my husband has given you!”

“Madam, he has never made me a present of anything!” Pasha wailed, beginning to understand.

“Where is the money? He has squandered his own and mine and other people’s.⁠ ⁠… What has become of it all? Listen, I beg you! I was carried away by indignation and have said a lot of nasty things to you, but I apologize. You must hate me, I know, but if you are capable of sympathy, put yourself in my position! I implore you to give me back the things!”

“H’m!” said Pasha, and she shrugged her shoulders. “I would with pleasure, but God is my witness, he never made me a present of anything. Believe me, on my conscience. However, you are right, though,” said the singer in confusion, “he did bring me two little things. Certainly I will give them back, if you wish it.”

Pasha pulled out one of the drawers in the toilet-table and took out of it a hollow gold bracelet and a thin ring with a ruby in it.

“Here, madam!” she said, handing the visitor these articles.

The lady flushed and her face quivered. She was offended.

“What are you giving me?” she said. “I am not asking for charity, but for what does not belong to you⁠ ⁠… what you have taken advantage of your position to squeeze out of my husband⁠ ⁠… that weak, unhappy man.⁠ ⁠… On Thursday, when I saw you with my husband at the harbour you were wearing expensive brooches and bracelets. So it’s no use your playing the innocent lamb to me! I ask you for the last time: will you give me the things, or not?”

“You are a queer one, upon my word,” said Pasha, beginning to feel offended. “I assure you that, except the bracelet and this little ring, I’ve never seen a thing from your Nikolay Petrovitch. He brings me nothing but sweet cakes.”

“Sweet cakes!” laughed the stranger. “At home the children have nothing to eat, and here you have sweet cakes. You absolutely refuse to restore the presents?”

Receiving no answer, the lady sat, down and stared into space, pondering.

“What’s to be done now?” she said. “If I don’t get nine hundred roubles, he is ruined, and the children and I am ruined, too. Shall I kill this low woman or go down on my knees to her?”

The lady pressed her handkerchief to her face and broke into sobs.

“I beg you!” Pasha heard through the stranger’s sobs. “You see you have plundered and ruined my husband. Save him.⁠ ⁠… You have no feeling for him, but the children⁠ ⁠… the children⁠ ⁠… What have the children done?”

Pasha imagined little children standing in the street, crying with hunger, and she, too, sobbed.

“What can I do, madam?” she said. “You say that I am a low woman and that I have ruined Nikolay Petrovitch, and I assure you⁠ ⁠… before God Almighty, I have had nothing from him whatever.⁠ ⁠… There is only one girl in our chorus who has a rich admirer; all the rest of us live from hand to mouth on bread and kvass. Nikolay Petrovitch is a highly educated, refined gentleman, so I’ve made him welcome. We are bound to make gentlemen welcome.”

“I ask you for the things! Give me the things! I am crying.⁠ ⁠… I am humiliating myself.⁠ ⁠… If you like I will go down on my knees! If you wish it!”

Pasha shrieked with horror and waved her hands. She felt that this pale, beautiful lady who expressed herself so grandly, as though she were on the stage, really might go down on her knees to her, simply from pride, from grandeur, to exalt herself and humiliate the chorus girl.

“Very well, I will give you things!” said Pasha, wiping her eyes and bustling about. “By all means. Only they are not from Nikolay Petrovitch.⁠ ⁠… I got these from other gentlemen. As you please.⁠ ⁠…”

Pasha pulled out the upper drawer of the chest, took out a diamond brooch, a coral necklace, some rings and bracelets, and gave them all to the lady.

“Take them if you like, only I’ve never had anything from your husband. Take them and grow rich,” Pasha went on, offended at the threat to go down on her knees. “And if you are a lady⁠ ⁠… his lawful wife, you should keep him to yourself. I should think so! I did not ask him to come; he came of himself.”

Through her tears the lady scrutinized the articles given her and said:

“This isn’t everything.⁠ ⁠… There won’t be five hundred roubles’ worth here.”

Pasha impulsively flung out of the chest a gold watch, a cigar-case and studs, and said, flinging up her hands:

“I’ve nothing else left.⁠ ⁠… You can search!”

The visitor gave a sigh, with trembling hands twisted the things up in her handkerchief, and went out without uttering a word, without even nodding her head.

The door from the next room opened and Kolpakov walked in. He was pale and kept shaking his head nervously, as though he had swallowed something very bitter; tears were glistening in his eyes.

“What presents did you make me?” Pasha asked, pouncing upon him. “When did you, allow me to ask you?”

“Presents⁠ ⁠… that’s no matter!” said Kolpakov, and he tossed his head. “My God! She cried before you, she humbled herself.⁠ ⁠…”

“I am asking you, what presents did you make me?” Pasha cried.

“My God! She, a lady, so proud, so pure.⁠ ⁠… She was ready to go down on her knees to⁠ ⁠… to this wench! And I’ve brought her to this! I’ve allowed it!”

He clutched his head in his hands and moaned.

“No, I shall never forgive myself for this! I shall never forgive myself! Get away from me⁠ ⁠… you low creature!” he cried with repulsion, backing away from Pasha, and thrusting her off with trembling hands. “She would have gone down on her knees, and⁠ ⁠… and to you! Oh, my God!”

He rapidly dressed, and pushing Pasha aside contemptuously, made for the door and went out.

Pasha lay down and began wailing aloud. She was already regretting her things which she had given away so impulsively, and her feelings were hurt. She remembered how three years ago a merchant had beaten her for no sort of reason, and she wailed more loudly than ever.

The Schoolmaster

Fyodor Lukitch Sysoev, the master of the factory school maintained at the expense of the firm of Kulikin, was getting ready for the annual dinner. Every year after the school examination the board of managers gave a dinner at which the inspector of elementary schools, all who had conducted the examinations, and all the managers and foremen of the factory were present. In spite of their official character, these dinners were always good and lively, and the guests sat a long time over them; forgetting distinctions of rank and recalling only their meritorious labours, they ate till they were full, drank amicably, chattered till they were all hoarse and parted late in the evening, deafening the whole factory settlement with their singing and the sound of their kisses. Of such dinners Sysoev had taken part in thirteen, as he had been that number of years master of the factory school.

Now, getting ready for the fourteenth, he was trying to make himself look as festive and correct as possible. He had spent a whole hour brushing his new black suit, and spent almost as long in front of a looking-glass while he put on a fashionable shirt; the studs would not go into the buttonholes, and this circumstance called forth a perfect storm of complaints, threats, and reproaches addressed to his wife.

His poor wife, bustling round him, wore herself out with her efforts. And indeed he, too, was exhausted in the end. When his polished boots were brought him from the kitchen he had not strength to pull them on. He had to lie down and have a drink of water.

“How weak you have grown!” sighed his wife. “You ought not to go to this dinner at all.”

“No advice, please!” the schoolmaster cut her short angrily.

He was in a very bad temper, for he had been much displeased with the recent examinations. The examinations had gone off splendidly; all the boys of the senior division had gained certificates and prizes; both the managers of the factory and the government officials were pleased with the results; but that was not enough for the schoolmaster. He was vexed that Babkin, a boy who never made a mistake in writing, had made three mistakes in the dictation; Sergeyev, another boy, had been so excited that he could not remember seventeen times thirteen; the inspector, a young and inexperienced man, had chosen a difficult article for dictation, and Lyapunov, the master of a neighbouring school, whom the inspector had asked to dictate, had not behaved like “a good comrade”; but in dictating had, as it were, swallowed the words and had not pronounced them as written.

After pulling on his boots with the assistance of his wife, and looking at himself once more in the looking-glass, the schoolmaster took his gnarled stick and set off for the dinner. Just before the factory manager’s house, where the festivity was to take place, he had a little mishap. He was taken with a violent fit of coughing.⁠ ⁠… He was so shaken by it that the cap flew off his head and the stick dropped out of his hand; and when the school inspector and the teachers, hearing his cough, ran out of the house, he was sitting on the bottom step, bathed in perspiration.

“Fyodor Lukitch, is that you?” said the inspector, surprised. “You⁠ ⁠… have come?”

“Why not?”

“You ought to be at home, my dear fellow. You are not at all well today.⁠ ⁠…”

“I am just the same today as I was yesterday. And if my presence is not agreeable to you, I can go back.”

“Oh, Fyodor Lukitch, you must not talk like that! Please come in. Why, the function is really in your honour, not ours. And we are delighted to see you. Of course we are!⁠ ⁠…”

Within, everything was ready for the banquet. In the big dining room adorned with German oleographs and smelling of geraniums and varnish there were two tables, a larger one for the dinner and a smaller one for the hors-d’oeuvres. The hot light of midday faintly percolated through the lowered blinds.⁠ ⁠… The twilight of the room, the Swiss views on the blinds, the geraniums, the thin slices of sausage on the plates, all had a naive, girlishly-sentimental air, and it was all in keeping with the master of the house, a good-natured little German with a round little stomach and affectionate, oily little eyes. Adolf Andreyitch Bruni (that was his name) was bustling round the table of hors-d’oeuvres as zealously as though it were a house on fire, filling up the wineglasses, loading the plates, and trying in every way to please, to amuse, and to show his friendly feelings. He clapped people on the shoulder, looked into their eyes, chuckled, rubbed his hands, in fact was as ingratiating as a friendly dog.

“Whom do I behold? Fyodor Lukitch!” he said in a jerky voice, on seeing Sysoev. “How delightful! You have come in spite of your illness. Gentlemen, let me congratulate you, Fyodor Lukitch has come!”

The schoolteachers were already crowding round the table and eating the hors-d’oeuvres. Sysoev frowned; he was displeased that his colleagues had begun to eat and drink without waiting for him. He noticed among them Lyapunov, the man who had dictated at the examination, and going up to him, began:

“It was not acting like a comrade! No, indeed! Gentlemanly people don’t dictate like that!”

“Good Lord, you are still harping on it!” said Lyapunov, and he frowned. “Aren’t you sick of it?”

“Yes, still harping on it! My Babkin has never made mistakes! I know why you dictated like that. You simply wanted my pupils to be floored, so that your school might seem better than mine. I know all about it!⁠ ⁠…”

“Why are you trying to get up a quarrel?” Lyapunov snarled. “Why the devil do you pester me?”

“Come, gentlemen,” interposed the inspector, making a woebegone face. “Is it worth while to get so heated over a trifle? Three mistakes⁠ ⁠… not one mistake⁠ ⁠… does it matter?”

“Yes, it does matter. Babkin has never made mistakes.”

“He won’t leave off,” Lyapunov went on, snorting angrily. “He takes advantage of his position as an invalid and worries us all to death. Well, sir, I am not going to consider your being ill.”

“Let my illness alone!” cried Sysoev, angrily. “What is it to do with you? They all keep repeating it at me: illness! illness! illness!⁠ ⁠… As though I need your sympathy! Besides, where have you picked up the notion that I am ill? I was ill before the examinations, that’s true, but now I have completely recovered, there is nothing left of it but weakness.”

“You have regained your health, well, thank God,” said the scripture teacher, Father Nikolay, a young priest in a foppish cinnamon-coloured cassock and trousers outside his boots. “You ought to rejoice, but you are irritable and so on.”

“You are a nice one, too,” Sysoev interrupted him. “Questions ought to be straightforward, clear, but you kept asking riddles. That’s not the thing to do!”

By combined efforts they succeeded in soothing him and making him sit down to the table. He was a long time making up his mind what to drink, and pulling a wry face drank a wineglass of some green liqueur; then he drew a bit of pie towards him, and sulkily picked out of the inside an egg with onion on it. At the first mouthful it seemed to him that there was no salt in it. He sprinkled salt on it and at once pushed it away as the pie was too salt.

At dinner Sysoev was seated between the inspector and Bruni. After the first course the toasts began, according to the old-established custom.

“I consider it my agreeable duty,” the inspector began, “to propose a vote of thanks to the absent school wardens, Daniel Petrovitch and⁠ ⁠… and⁠ ⁠… and⁠ ⁠…”

“And Ivan Petrovitch,” Bruni prompted him.

“And Ivan Petrovitch Kulikin, who grudge no expense for the school, and I propose to drink their health.⁠ ⁠…”

“For my part,” said Bruni, jumping up as though he had been stung, “I propose a toast to the health of the honoured inspector of elementary schools, Pavel Gennadievitch Nadarov!”

Chairs were pushed back, faces beamed with smiles, and the usual clinking of glasses began.

The third toast always fell to Sysoev. And on this occasion, too, he got up and began to speak. Looking grave and clearing his throat, he first of all announced that he had not the gift of eloquence and that he was not prepared to make a speech. Further he said that during the fourteen years that he had been schoolmaster there had been many intrigues, many underhand attacks, and even secret reports on him to the authorities, and that he knew his enemies and those who had informed against him, and he would not mention their names, “for fear of spoiling somebody’s appetite”; that in spite of these intrigues the Kulikin school held the foremost place in the whole province not only from a moral, but also from a material point of view.

“Everywhere else,” he said, “schoolmasters get two hundred or three hundred roubles, while I get five hundred, and moreover my house has been redecorated and even furnished at the expense of the firm. And this year all the walls have been repapered.⁠ ⁠…”

Further the schoolmaster enlarged on the liberality with which the pupils were provided with writing materials in the factory schools as compared with the Zemstvo and government schools. And for all this the school was indebted, in his opinion, not to the heads of the firm, who lived abroad and scarcely knew of its existence, but to a man who, in spite of his German origin and Lutheran faith, was a Russian at heart.

Sysoev spoke at length, with pauses to get his breath and with pretensions to rhetoric, and his speech was boring and unpleasant. He several times referred to certain enemies of his, tried to drop hints, repeated himself, coughed, and flourished his fingers unbecomingly. At last he was exhausted and in a perspiration and he began talking jerkily, in a low voice as though to himself, and finished his speech not quite coherently: “And so I propose the health of Bruni, that is Adolf Andreyitch, who is here, among us⁠ ⁠… generally speaking⁠ ⁠… you understand⁠ ⁠…”

When he finished everyone gave a faint sigh, as though someone had sprinkled cold water and cleared the air. Bruni alone apparently had no unpleasant feeling. Beaming and rolling his sentimental eyes, the German shook Sysoev’s hand with feeling and was again as friendly as a dog.

“Oh, I thank you,” he said, with an emphasis on the oh, laying his left hand on his heart. “I am very happy that you understand me! I, with my whole heart, wish you all things good. But I ought only to observe; you exaggerate my importance. The school owes its flourishing condition only to you, my honoured friend, Fyodor Lukitch. But for you it would be in no way distinguished from other schools! You think the German is paying a compliment, the German is saying something polite. Ha-ha! No, my dear Fyodor Lukitch, I am an honest man and never make complimentary speeches. If we pay you five hundred roubles a year it is because you are valued by us. Isn’t that so? Gentlemen, what I say is true, isn’t it? We should not pay anyone else so much.⁠ ⁠… Why, a good school is an honour to the factory!”

“I must sincerely own that your school is really exceptional,” said the inspector. “Don’t think this is flattery. Anyway, I have never come across another like it in my life. As I sat at the examination I was full of admiration.⁠ ⁠… Wonderful children! They know a great deal and answer brightly, and at the same time they are somehow special, unconstrained, sincere.⁠ ⁠… One can see that they love you, Fyodor Lukitch. You are a schoolmaster to the marrow of your bones. You must have been born a teacher. You have all the gifts⁠—innate vocation, long experience, and love for your work.⁠ ⁠… It’s simply amazing, considering the weak state of your health, what energy, what understanding⁠ ⁠… what perseverance, do you understand, what confidence you have! Someone in the school committee said truly that you were a poet in your work.⁠ ⁠… Yes, a poet you are!”

And all present at the dinner began as one man talking of Sysoev’s extraordinary talent. And as though a dam had been burst, there followed a flood of sincere, enthusiastic words such as men do not utter when they are restrained by prudent and cautious sobriety. Sysoev’s speech and his intolerable temper and the horrid, spiteful expression on his face were all forgotten. Everyone talked freely, even the shy and silent new teachers, poverty-stricken, downtrodden youths who never spoke to the inspector without addressing him as “your honour.” It was clear that in his own circle Sysoev was a person of consequence.

Having been accustomed to success and praise for the fourteen years that he had been schoolmaster, he listened with indifference to the noisy enthusiasm of his admirers.

It was Bruni who drank in the praise instead of the schoolmaster. The German caught every word, beamed, clapped his hands, and flushed modestly as though the praise referred not to the schoolmaster but to him.

“Bravo! bravo!” he shouted. “That’s true! You have grasped my meaning!⁠ ⁠… Excellent!⁠ ⁠…” He looked into the schoolmaster’s eyes as though he wanted to share his bliss with him. At last he could restrain himself no longer; he leapt up, and, overpowering all the other voices with his shrill little tenor, shouted:

“Gentlemen! Allow me to speak! Sh-h! To all you say I can make only one reply: the management of the factory will not be forgetful of what it owes to Fyodor Lukitch!⁠ ⁠…”

All were silent. Sysoev raised his eyes to the German’s rosy face.

“We know how to appreciate it,” Bruni went on, dropping his voice. “In response to your words I ought to tell you that⁠ ⁠… Fyodor Lukitch’s family will be provided for and that a sum of money was placed in the bank a month ago for that object.”

Sysoev looked enquiringly at the German, at his colleagues, as though unable to understand why his family should be provided for and not he himself. And at once on all the faces, in all the motionless eyes bent upon him, he read not the sympathy, not the commiseration which he could not endure, but something else, something soft, tender, but at the same time intensely sinister, like a terrible truth, something which in one instant turned him cold all over and filled his soul with unutterable despair. With a pale, distorted face he suddenly jumped up and clutched at his head. For a quarter of a minute he stood like that, stared with horror at a fixed point before him as though he saw the swiftly coming death of which Bruni was speaking, then sat down and burst into tears.

“Come, come!⁠ ⁠… What is it?” he heard agitated voices saying. “Water! drink a little water!”

A short time passed and the schoolmaster grew calmer, but the party did not recover their previous liveliness. The dinner ended in gloomy silence, and much earlier than on previous occasions.

When he got home Sysoev first of all looked at himself in the glass.

“Of course there was no need for me to blubber like that!” he thought, looking at his sunken cheeks and his eyes with dark rings under them. “My face is a much better colour today than yesterday. I am suffering from anemia and catarrh of the stomach, and my cough is only a stomach cough.”

Reassured, he slowly began undressing, and spent a long time brushing his new black suit, then carefully folded it up and put it in the chest of drawers.

Then he went up to the table where there lay a pile of his pupils’ exercise-books, and picking out Babkin’s, sat down and fell to contemplating the beautiful childish handwriting.⁠ ⁠…

And meantime, while he was examining the exercise-books, the district doctor was sitting in the next room and telling his wife in a whisper that a man ought not to have been allowed to go out to dinner who had not in all probability more than a week to live.

A Troublesome Visitor

In the low-pitched, crooked little hut of Artyom, the forester, two men were sitting under the big dark icon⁠—Artyom himself, a short and lean peasant with a wrinkled, aged-looking face and a little beard that grew out of his neck, and a well-grown young man in a new crimson shirt and big wading boots, who had been out hunting and come in for the night. They were sitting on a bench at a little three-legged table on which a tallow candle stuck into a bottle was lazily burning.

Outside the window the darkness of the night was full of the noisy uproar into which nature usually breaks out before a thunderstorm. The wind howled angrily and the bowed trees moaned miserably. One pane of the window had been pasted up with paper, and leaves torn off by the wind could be heard pattering against the paper.

“I tell you what, good Christian,” said Artyom in a hoarse little tenor half-whisper, staring with unblinking, scared-looking eyes at the hunter. “I am not afraid of wolves or bears, or wild beasts of any sort, but I am afraid of man. You can save yourself from beasts with a gun or some other weapon, but you have no means of saving yourself from a wicked man.”

“To be sure, you can fire at a beast, but if you shoot at a robber you will have to answer for it: you will go to Siberia.”

“I’ve been forester, my lad, for thirty years, and I couldn’t tell you what I have had to put up with from wicked men. There have been lots and lots of them here. The hut’s on a track, it’s a cart-road, and that brings them, the devils. Every sort of ruffian turns up, and without taking off his cap or making the sign of the cross, bursts straight in upon one with: ‘Give us some bread, you old so-and-so.’ And where am I to get bread for him? What claim has he? Am I a millionaire to feed every drunkard that passes? They are half-blind with spite.⁠ ⁠… They have no cross on them, the devils.⁠ ⁠… They’ll give you a clout on the ear and not think twice about it: ‘Give us bread!’ Well, one gives it.⁠ ⁠… One is not going to fight with them, the idols! Some of them are two yards across the shoulders, and a great fist as big as your boot, and you see the sort of figure I am. One of them could smash me with his little finger.⁠ ⁠… Well, one gives him bread and he gobbles it up, and stretches out full length across the hut with not a word of thanks. And there are some that ask for money. ‘Tell me, where is your money?’ As though I had money! How should I come by it?”

“A forester and no money!” laughed the hunter. “You get wages every month, and I’ll be bound you sell timber on the sly.”

Artyom took a timid sideway glance at his visitor and twitched his beard as a magpie twitches her tail.

“You are still young to say a thing like that to me,” he said. “You will have to answer to God for those words. Whom may your people be? Where do you come from?”

“I am from Vyazovka. I am the son of Nefed the village elder.”

“You have gone out for sport with your gun. I used to like sport, too, when I was young. H’m! Ah, our sins are grievous,” said Artyom, with a yawn. “It’s a sad thing! There are few good folks, but villains and murderers no end⁠—God have mercy upon us.”

“You seem to be frightened of me, too.⁠ ⁠…”

“Come, what next! What should I be afraid of you for? I see.⁠ ⁠… I understand.⁠ ⁠… You came in, and not just anyhow, but you made the sign of the cross, you bowed, all decent and proper.⁠ ⁠… I understand.⁠ ⁠… One can give you bread.⁠ ⁠… I am a widower, I don’t heat the stove, I sold the samovar.⁠ ⁠… I am too poor to keep meat or anything else, but bread you are welcome to.”

At that moment something began growling under the bench: the growl was followed by a hiss. Artyom started, drew up his legs, and looked enquiringly at the hunter.

“It’s my dog worrying your cat,” said the hunter. “You devils!” he shouted under the bench. “Lie down. You’ll be beaten. I say, your cat’s thin, mate! She is nothing but skin and bone.”

“She is old, it is time she was dead.⁠ ⁠… So you say you are from Vyazovka?”

“I see you don’t feed her. Though she’s a cat she’s a creature⁠ ⁠… every breathing thing. You should have pity on her!”

“You are a queer lot in Vyazovka,” Artyom went on, as though not listening. “The church has been robbed twice in one year⁠ ⁠… To think that there are such wicked men! So they fear neither man nor God! To steal what is the Lord’s! Hanging’s too good for them! In old days the governors used to have such rogues flogged.”

“However you punish, whether it is with flogging or anything else, it will be no good, you will not knock the wickedness out of a wicked man.”

“Save and preserve us, Queen of Heaven!” The forester sighed abruptly. “Save us from all enemies and evildoers. Last week at Volovy Zaimishtchy, a mower struck another on the chest with his scythe⁠ ⁠… he killed him outright! And what was it all about, God bless me! One mower came out of the tavern⁠ ⁠… drunk. The other met him, drunk too.”

The young man, who had been listening attentively, suddenly started, and his face grew tense as he listened.

“Stay,” he said, interrupting the forester. “I fancy someone is shouting.”

The hunter and the forester fell to listening with their eyes fixed on the window. Through the noise of the forest they could hear sounds such as the strained ear can always distinguish in every storm, so that it was difficult to make out whether people were calling for help or whether the wind was wailing in the chimney. But the wind tore at the roof, tapped at the paper on the window, and brought a distinct shout of “Help!”

“Talk of your murderers,” said the hunter, turning pale and getting up. “Someone is being robbed!”

“Lord have mercy on us,” whispered the forester, and he, too, turned pale and got up.

The hunter looked aimlessly out of window and walked up and down the hut.

“What a night, what a night!” he muttered. “You can’t see your hand before your face! The very time for a robbery. Do you hear? There is a shout again.”

The forester looked at the icon and from the icon turned his eyes upon the hunter, and sank on to the bench, collapsing like a man terrified by sudden bad news.

“Good Christian,” he said in a tearful voice, “you might go into the passage and bolt the door. And we must put out the light.”

“What for?”

“By ill-luck they may find their way here.⁠ ⁠… Oh, our sins!”

“We ought to be going, and you talk of bolting the door! You are a clever one! Are you coming?”

The hunter threw his gun over his shoulder and picked up his cap.

“Get ready, take your gun. Hey, Flerka, here,” he called to his dog. “Flerka!”

A dog with long frayed ears, a mongrel between a setter and a house-dog, came out from under the bench. He stretched himself by his master’s feet and wagged his tail.

“Why are you sitting there?” cried the hunter to the forester. “You mean to say you are not going?”


“To help!”

“How can I?” said the forester with a wave of his hand, shuddering all over. “I can’t bother about it!”

“Why won’t you come?”

“After talking of such dreadful things I won’t stir a step into the darkness. Bless them! And what should I go for?”

“What are you afraid of? Haven’t you got a gun? Let us go, please do. It’s scaring to go alone; it will be more cheerful, the two of us. Do you hear? There was a shout again. Get up!”

“Whatever do you think of me, lad?” wailed the forester. “Do you think I am such a fool to go straight to my undoing?”

“So you are not coming?”

The forester did not answer. The dog, probably hearing a human cry, gave a plaintive whine.

“Are you coming, I ask you?” cried the hunter, rolling his eyes angrily.

“You do keep on, upon my word,” said the forester with annoyance. “Go yourself.”

“Ugh!⁠ ⁠… low cur,” growled the hunter, turning towards the door. “Flerka, here!”

He went out and left the door open. The wind flew into the hut. The flame of the candle flickered uneasily, flared up, and went out.

As he bolted the door after the hunter, the forester saw the puddles in the track, the nearest pine trees, and the retreating figure of his guest lighted up by a flash of lightning. Far away he heard the rumble of thunder.

“Holy, holy, holy,” whispered the forester, making haste to thrust the thick bolt into the great iron rings. “What weather the Lord has sent us!”

Going back into the room, he felt his way to the stove, lay down, and covered himself from head to foot. Lying under the sheepskin and listening intently, he could no longer hear the human cry, but the peals of thunder kept growing louder and more prolonged. He could hear the big wind-lashed raindrops pattering angrily on the panes and on the paper of the window.

“He’s gone on a fool’s errand,” he thought, picturing the hunter soaked with rain and stumbling over the tree-stumps. “I bet his teeth are chattering with terror!”

Not more than ten minutes later there was a sound of footsteps, followed by a loud knock at the door.

“Who’s there?” cried the forester.

“It’s I,” he heard the young man’s voice. “Unfasten the door.”

The forester clambered down from the stove, felt for the candle, and, lighting it, went to the door. The hunter and his dog were drenched to the skin. They had come in for the heaviest of the downpour, and now the water ran from them as from washed clothes before they have been wrung out.

“What was it?” asked the forester.

“A peasant woman driving in a cart; she had got off the road⁠ ⁠…” answered the young man, struggling with his breathlessness. “She was caught in a thicket.”

“Ah, the silly thing! She was frightened, then.⁠ ⁠… Well, did you put her on the road?”

“I don’t care to talk to a scoundrel like you.”

The young man flung his wet cap on the bench and went on:

“I know now that you are a scoundrel and the lowest of men. And you a keeper, too, getting a salary! You blackguard!”

The forester slunk with a guilty step to the stove, cleared his throat, and lay down. The young man sat on the bench, thought a little, and lay down on it full length. Not long afterwards he got up, put out the candle, and lay down again. During a particularly loud clap of thunder he turned over, spat on the floor, and growled out:

“He’s afraid.⁠ ⁠… And what if the woman were being murdered? Whose business is it to defend her? And he an old man, too, and a Christian.⁠ ⁠… He’s a pig and nothing else.”

The forester cleared his throat and heaved a deep sigh. Somewhere in the darkness Flerka shook his wet coat vigorously, which sent drops of water flying about all over the room.

“So you wouldn’t care if the woman were murdered?” the hunter went on. “Well⁠—strike me, God⁠—I had no notion you were that sort of man.⁠ ⁠…”

A silence followed. The thunderstorm was by now over and the thunder came from far away, but it was still raining.

“And suppose it hadn’t been a woman but you shouting ‘Help!’?” said the hunter, breaking the silence. “How would you feel, you beast, if no one ran to your aid? You have upset me with your meanness, plague take you!”

After another long interval the hunter said:

“You must have money to be afraid of people! A man who is poor is not likely to be afraid.⁠ ⁠…”

“For those words you will answer before God,” Artyom said hoarsely from the stove. “I have no money.”

“I dare say! Scoundrels always have money.⁠ ⁠… Why are you afraid of people, then? So you must have! I’d like to take and rob you for spite, to teach you a lesson!⁠ ⁠…”

Artyom slipped noiselessly from the stove, lighted a candle, and sat down under the holy image. He was pale and did not take his eyes off the hunter.

“Here, I’ll rob you,” said the hunter, getting up. “What do you think about it? Fellows like you want a lesson. Tell me, where is your money hidden?”

Artyom drew his legs up under him and blinked. “What are you wriggling for? Where is your money hidden? Have you lost your tongue, you fool? Why don’t you answer?”

The young man jumped up and went up to the forester.

“He is blinking like an owl! Well? Give me your money, or I will shoot you with my gun.”

“Why do you keep on at me?” squealed the forester, and big tears rolled from his eyes. “What’s the reason of it? God sees all! You will have to answer, for every word you say, to God. You have no right whatever to ask for my money.”

The young man looked at Artyom’s tearful face, frowned, and walked up and down the hut, then angrily clapped his cap on his head and picked up his gun.

“Ugh!⁠ ⁠… ugh!⁠ ⁠… it makes me sick to look at you,” he filtered through his teeth. “I can’t bear the sight of you. I won’t sleep in your house, anyway. Goodbye! Hey, Flerka!”

The door slammed and the troublesome visitor went out with his dog.⁠ ⁠… Artyom bolted the door after him, crossed himself, and lay down.

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 copybook 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 copybook 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 lovemaking; 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 anyone 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.


“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 bumblebee was beating itself against the windowpane 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 daydream.

“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.

A Pink Stocking

A dull, rainy day. The sky is completely covered with heavy clouds, and there is no prospect of the rain ceasing. Outside sleet, puddles, and drenched jackdaws. Indoors it is half dark, and so cold that one wants the stove heated.

Pavel Petrovitch Somov is pacing up and down his study, grumbling at the weather. The tears of rain on the windows and the darkness of the room make him depressed. He is insufferably bored and has nothing to do.⁠ ⁠… The newspapers have not been brought yet; shooting is out of the question, and it is not nearly dinnertime.⁠ ⁠…

Somov is not alone in his study. Madame Somov, a pretty little lady in a light blouse and pink stockings, is sitting at his writing table. She is eagerly scribbling a letter. Every time he passes her as he strides up and down, Ivan Petrovitch looks over her shoulder at what she is writing. He sees big sprawling letters, thin and narrow, with all sorts of tails and flourishes. There are numbers of blots, smears, and fingermarks. Madame Somov does not like ruled paper, and every line runs downhill with horrid wriggles as it reaches the margin.⁠ ⁠…

“Lidotchka, who is it you are writing such a lot to?” Somov inquires, seeing that his wife is just beginning to scribble the sixth page.

“To sister Varya.”

“Hm⁠ ⁠… it’s a long letter! I’m so bored⁠—let me read it!”

“Here, you may read it, but there’s nothing interesting in it.”

Somov takes the written pages and, still pacing up and down, begins reading. Lidotchka leans her elbows on the back of her chair and watches the expression of his face.⁠ ⁠… After the first page his face lengthens and an expression of something almost like panic comes into it.⁠ ⁠… At the third page Somov frowns and scratches the back of his head. At the fourth he pauses, looks with a scared face at his wife, and seems to ponder. After thinking a little, he takes up the letter again with a sigh.⁠ ⁠… His face betrays perplexity and even alarm.⁠ ⁠…

“Well, this is beyond anything!” he mutters, as he finishes reading the letter and flings the sheets on the table, “It’s positively incredible!”

“What’s the matter?” asks Lidotchka, flustered.

“What’s the matter! You’ve covered six pages, wasted a good two hours scribbling, and there’s nothing in it at all! If there were one tiny idea! One reads on and on, and one’s brain is as muddled as though one were deciphering the Chinese wriggles on tea chests! Ough!”

“Yes, that’s true, Vanya,⁠ ⁠…” says Lidotchka, reddening. “I wrote it carelessly.⁠ ⁠…”

“Queer sort of carelessness! In a careless letter there is some meaning and style⁠—there is sense in it⁠—while yours⁠ ⁠… excuse me, but I don’t know what to call it! It’s absolute twaddle! There are words and sentences, but not the slightest sense in them. Your whole letter is exactly like the conversation of two boys: ‘We had pancakes today! And we had a soldier come to see us!’ You say the same thing over and over again! You drag it out, repeat yourself.⁠ ⁠… The wretched ideas dance about like devils: there’s no making out where anything begins, where anything ends.⁠ ⁠… How can you write like that?”

“If I had been writing carefully,” Lidotchka says in self defence, “then there would not have been mistakes.⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh, I’m not talking about mistakes! The awful grammatical howlers! There’s not a line that’s not a personal insult to grammar! No stops nor commas⁠—and the spelling⁠ ⁠… brrr! ‘Earth’ has an a in it! And the writing! It’s desperate! I’m not joking, Lida.⁠ ⁠… I’m surprised and appalled at your letter.⁠ ⁠… You mustn’t be angry, darling, but, really, I had no idea you were such a duffer at grammar.⁠ ⁠… And yet you belong to a cultivated, well-educated circle: you are the wife of a University man, and the daughter of a general! Tell me, did you ever go to school?”

“What next! I finished at the Von Mebke’s boarding school.⁠ ⁠…”

Somov shrugs his shoulders and continues to pace up and down, sighing. Lidotchka, conscious of her ignorance and ashamed of it, sighs too and casts down her eyes.⁠ ⁠… Ten minutes pass in silence.

“You know, Lidotchka, it really is awful!” says Somov, suddenly halting in front of her and looking into her face with horror. “You are a mother⁠ ⁠… do you understand? A mother! How can you teach your children if you know nothing yourself? You have a good brain, but what’s the use of it if you have never mastered the very rudiments of knowledge? There⁠—never mind about knowledge⁠ ⁠… the children will get that at school, but, you know, you are very shaky on the moral side too! You sometimes use such language that it makes my ears tingle!”

Somov shrugs his shoulders again, wraps himself in the folds of his dressing-gown and continues his pacing.⁠ ⁠… He feels vexed and injured, and at the same time sorry for Lidotchka, who does not protest, but merely blinks.⁠ ⁠… Both feel oppressed and miserable.⁠ ⁠… Absorbed in their woes, they do not notice how time is passing and the dinner hour is approaching.

Sitting down to dinner, Somov, who is fond of good eating and of eating in peace, drinks a large glass of vodka and begins talking about something else. Lidotchka listens and assents, but suddenly over the soup her eyes fill with tears and she begins whimpering.

“It’s all mother’s fault!” she says, wiping away her tears with her dinner napkin. “Everyone advised her to send me to the high school, and from the high school I should have been sure to go on to the University!”

“University⁠ ⁠… high school,” mutters Somov. “That’s running to extremes, my girl! What’s the good of being a blue stocking! A blue stocking is the very deuce! Neither man nor woman, but just something midway: neither one thing nor another⁠ ⁠… I hate blue stockings! I would never have married a learned woman.⁠ ⁠…”

“There’s no making you out⁠ ⁠…” says Lidotchka. “You are angry because I am not learned, and at the same time you hate learned women; you are annoyed because I have no ideas in my letter, and yet you yourself are opposed to my studying.⁠ ⁠…”

“You do catch me up at a word, my dear,” yawns Somov, pouring out a second glass of vodka in his boredom.

Under the influence of vodka and a good dinner, Somov grows more good-humoured, lively, and soft.⁠ ⁠… He watches his pretty wife making the salad with an anxious face and a rush of affection for her, of indulgence and forgiveness comes over him.

“It was stupid of me to depress her, poor girl⁠ ⁠… ,” he thought. “Why did I say such a lot of dreadful things? She is silly, that’s true, uncivilised and narrow; but⁠ ⁠… there are two sides to the question, and audiatur et altera pars.⁠ ⁠… Perhaps people are perfectly right when they say that woman’s shallowness rests on her very vocation. Granted that it is her vocation to love her husband, to bear children, and to mix salad, what the devil does she want with learning? No, indeed!”

At that point he remembers that learned women are usually tedious, that they are exacting, strict, and unyielding; and, on the other hand, how easy it is to get on with silly Lidotchka, who never pokes her nose into anything, does not understand so much, and never obtrudes her criticism. There is peace and comfort with Lidotchka, and no risk of being interfered with.

“Confound them, those clever and learned women! It’s better and easier to live with simple ones,” he thinks, as he takes a plate of chicken from Lidotchka.

He recollects that a civilised man sometimes feels a desire to talk and share his thoughts with a clever and well-educated woman. “What of it?” thinks Somov. “If I want to talk of intellectual subjects, I’ll go to Natalya Andreyevna⁠ ⁠… or to Marya Frantsovna.⁠ ⁠… It’s very simple! But no, I shan’t go. One can discuss intellectual subjects with men,” he finally decides.


Lizotchka Kudrinsky, a young married lady who had many admirers, was suddenly taken ill, and so seriously that her husband did not go to his office, and a telegram was sent to her mamma at Tver. This is how she told the story of her illness:

“I went to Lyesnoe to auntie’s. I stayed there a week and then I went with all the rest to cousin Varya’s. Varya’s husband is a surly brute and a despot (I’d shoot a husband like that), but we had a very jolly time there. To begin with I took part in some private theatricals. It was A Scandal in a Respectable Family. Hrustalev acted marvellously! Between the acts I drank some cold, awfully cold, lemon squash, with the tiniest nip of brandy in it. Lemon squash with brandy in it is very much like champagne.⁠ ⁠… I drank it and I felt nothing. Next day after the performance I rode out on horseback with that Adolf Ivanitch. It was rather damp and there was a strong wind. It was most likely then that I caught cold. Three days later I came home to see how my dear, good Vassya was getting on, and while here to get my silk dress, the one that has little flowers on it. Vassya, of course, I did not find at home. I went into the kitchen to tell Praskovya to set the samovar, and there I saw on the table some pretty little carrots and turnips like playthings. I ate one little carrot and well, a turnip too. I ate very little, but only fancy, I began having a sharp pain at once⁠—spasms⁠ ⁠… spasms⁠ ⁠… spasms⁠ ⁠… ah, I am dying. Vassya runs from the office. Naturally he clutches at his hair and turns white. They run for the doctor.⁠ ⁠… Do you understand, I am dying, dying.”

The spasms began at midday, before three o’clock the doctor came, and at six Lizotchka fell asleep and slept soundly till two o’clock in the morning.

It strikes two.⁠ ⁠… The light of the little night lamp filters scantily through the pale blue shade. Lizotchka is lying in bed, her white lace cap stands out sharply against the dark background of the red cushion. Shadows from the blue lampshade lie in patterns on her pale face and her round plump shoulders. Vassily Stepanovitch is sitting at her feet. The poor fellow is happy that his wife is at home at last, and at the same time he is terribly alarmed by her illness.

“Well, how do you feel, Lizotchka?” he asks in a whisper, noticing that she is awake.

“I am better,” moans Lizotchka. “I don’t feel the spasms now, but there is no sleeping.⁠ ⁠… I can’t get to sleep!”

“Isn’t it time to change the compress, my angel?”

Lizotchka sits up slowly with the expression of a martyr and gracefully turns her head on one side. Vassily Stepanovitch with reverent awe, scarcely touching her hot body with his fingers, changes the compress. Lizotchka shrinks, laughs at the cold water which tickles her, and lies down again.

“You are getting no sleep, poor boy!” she moans.

“As though I could sleep!”

“It’s my nerves, Vassya, I am a very nervous woman. The doctor has prescribed for stomach trouble, but I feel that he doesn’t understand my illness. It’s nerves and not the stomach, I swear that it is my nerves. There is only one thing I am afraid of, that my illness may take a bad turn.”

“No, Lizotchka, no, tomorrow you will be all right!”

“Hardly likely! I am not afraid for myself.⁠ ⁠… I don’t care, indeed, I shall be glad to die, but I am sorry for you! You’ll be a widower and left all alone.”

Vassitchka rarely enjoys his wife’s society, and has long been used to solitude, but Lizotchka’s words agitate him.

“Goodness knows what you are saying, little woman! Why these gloomy thoughts?”

“Well, you will cry and grieve, and then you will get used to it. You’ll even get married again.”

The husband clutches his head.

“There, there, I won’t!” Lizotchka soothes him, “only you ought to be prepared for anything.”

“And all of a sudden I shall die,” she thinks, shutting her eyes.

And Lizotchka draws a mental picture of her own death, how her mother, her husband, her cousin Varya with her husband, her relations, the admirers of her “talent” press round her death bed, as she whispers her last farewell. All are weeping. Then when she is dead they dress her, interestingly pale and dark-haired, in a pink dress (it suits her) and lay her in a very expensive coffin on gold legs, full of flowers. There is a smell of incense, the candles splutter. Her husband never leaves the coffin, while the admirers of her talent cannot take their eyes off her, and say: “As though living! She is lovely in her coffin!” The whole town is talking of the life cut short so prematurely. But now they are carrying her to the church. The bearers are Ivan Petrovitch, Adolf Ivanitch, Varya’s husband, Nikolay Semyonitch, and the black-eyed student who had taught her to drink lemon squash with brandy. It’s only a pity there’s no music playing. After the burial service comes the leave-taking. The church is full of sobs, they bring the lid with tassels, and⁠ ⁠… Lizotchka is shut off from the light of day forever, there is the sound of hammering nails. Knock, knock, knock.

Lizotchka shudders and opens her eyes.

“Vassya, are you here?” she asks. “I have such gloomy thoughts. Goodness, why am I so unlucky as not to sleep. Vassya, have pity, do tell me something!”

“What shall I tell you?”

“Something about love,” Lizotchka says languidly. “Or some anecdote about Jews.⁠ ⁠…”

Vassily Stepanovitch, ready for anything if only his wife will be cheerful and not talk about death, combs locks of hair over his ears, makes an absurd face, and goes up to Lizotchka.

“Does your vatch vant mending?” he asks.

“It does, it does,” giggles Lizotchka, and hands him her gold watch from the little table. “Mend it.”

Vassya takes the watch, examines the mechanism for a long time, and wriggling and shrugging, says: “She can not be mended⁠ ⁠… in vun veel two cogs are vanting.⁠ ⁠…”

This is the whole performance. Lizotchka laughs and claps her hands.

“Capital,” she exclaims. “Wonderful. Do you know, Vassya, it’s awfully stupid of you not to take part in amateur theatricals! You have a remarkable talent! You are much better than Sysunov. There was an amateur called Sysunov who played with us in It’s My Birthday. A first-class comic talent, only fancy: a nose as thick as a parsnip, green eyes, and he walks like a crane.⁠ ⁠… We all roared; stay, I will show you how he walks.”

Lizotchka springs out of bed and begins pacing about the floor, barefooted and without her cap.

“A very good day to you!” she says in a bass, imitating a man’s voice. “Anything pretty? Anything new under the moon? Ha, ha, ha!” she laughs.

“Ha, ha, ha!” Vassya seconds her. And the young pair, roaring with laughter, forgetting the illness, chase one another about the room. The race ends in Vassya’s catching his wife by her nightgown and eagerly showering kisses upon her. After one particularly passionate embrace Lizotchka suddenly remembers that she is seriously ill.⁠ ⁠…

“What silliness!” she says, making a serious face and covering herself with the quilt. “I suppose you have forgotten that I am ill! Clever, I must say!”

“Sorry⁠ ⁠…” falters her husband in confusion.

“If my illness takes a bad turn it will be your fault. Not kind! not good!”

Lizotchka closes her eyes and is silent. Her former languor and expression of martyrdom return again, there is a sound of gentle moans. Vassya changes the compress, and glad that his wife is at home and not gadding off to her aunt’s, sits meekly at her feet. He does not sleep all night. At ten o’clock the doctor comes.

“Well, how are we feeling?” he asks as he takes her pulse. “Have you slept?”

“Badly,” Lizotchka’s husband answers for her, “very badly.”

The doctor walks away to the window and stares at a passing chimney-sweep.

“Doctor, may I have coffee today?” asks Lizotchka.

“You may.”

“And may I get up?”

“You might, perhaps, but⁠ ⁠… you had better lie in bed another day.”

“She is awfully depressed,” Vassya whispers in his ear, “such gloomy thoughts, such pessimism. I am dreadfully uneasy about her.”

The doctor sits down to the little table, and rubbing his forehead, prescribes bromide of potassium for Lizotchka, then makes his bow, and promising to look in again in the evening, departs. Vassya does not go to the office, but sits all day at his wife’s feet.

At midday the admirers of her talent arrive in a crowd. They are agitated and alarmed, they bring masses of flowers and French novels. Lizotchka, in a snow-white cap and a light dressing jacket, lies in bed with an enigmatic look, as though she did not believe in her own recovery. The admirers of her talent see her husband, but readily forgive his presence: they and he are united by one calamity at that bedside!

At six o’clock in the evening Lizotchka falls asleep, and again sleeps till two o’clock in the morning. Vassya as before sits at her feet, struggles with drowsiness, changes her compress, plays at being a Jew, and in the morning after a second night of suffering, Liza is prinking before the looking-glass and putting on her hat.

“Wherever are you going, my dear?” asks Vassya, with an imploring look at her.

“What?” says Lizotchka in wonder, assuming a scared expression, “don’t you know that there is a rehearsal today at Marya Lvovna’s?”

After escorting her there, Vassya having nothing to do to while away his boredom, takes his portfolio and goes to the office. His head aches so violently from his sleepless nights that his left eye shuts of itself and refuses to open.⁠ ⁠…

“What’s the matter with you, my good sir?” his chief asks him. “What is it?”

Vassy a waves his hand and sits down.

“Don’t ask me, your Excellency,” he says with a sigh. “What I have suffered in these two days, what I have suffered! Liza has been ill!”

“Good heavens,” cried his chief in alarm. “Lizaveta Pavlovna, what is wrong with her?”

Vassily Stepanovitch merely throws up his hands and raises his eyes to the ceiling, as though he would say: “It’s the will of Providence.”

“Ah, my boy, I can sympathise with you with all my heart!” sighs his chief, rolling his eyes. “I’ve lost my wife, my dear, I understand. That is a loss, it is a loss! It’s awful, awful! I hope Lizaveta Pavlovna is better now! What doctor is attending her?”

“Von Schterk.”

“Von Schterk! But you would have been better to have called in Magnus or Semandritsky. But how very pale your face is. You are ill yourself! This is awful!”

“Yes, your Excellency, I haven’t slept. What I have suffered, what I have been through!”

“And yet you came! Why you came I can’t understand? One can’t force oneself like that! One mustn’t do oneself harm like that. Go home and stay there till you are well again! Go home, I command you! Zeal is a very fine thing in a young official, but you mustn’t forget as the Romans used to say: ‘mens sana in corpore sano,’ that is, a healthy brain in a healthy body.”

Vassya agrees, puts his papers back in his portfolio, and, taking leave of his chief, goes home to bed.

The First-Class Passenger

A first-class passenger who had just dined at the station and drunk a little too much lay down on the velvet-covered seat, stretched himself out luxuriously, and sank into a doze. After a nap of no more than five minutes, he looked with oily eyes at his vis-à-vis, gave a smirk, and said:

“My father of blessed memory used to like to have his heels tickled by peasant women after dinner. I am just like him, with this difference, that after dinner I always like my tongue and my brains gently stimulated. Sinful man as I am, I like empty talk on a full stomach. Will you allow me to have a chat with you?”

“I shall be delighted,” answered the vis-à-vis.

“After a good dinner the most trifling subject is sufficient to arouse devilishly great thoughts in my brain. For instance, we saw just now near the refreshment bar two young men, and you heard one congratulate the other on being celebrated. ‘I congratulate you,’ he said; ‘you are already a celebrity and are beginning to win fame.’ Evidently actors or journalists of microscopic dimensions. But they are not the point. The question that is occupying my mind at the moment, sir, is exactly what is to be understood by the word fame or charity. What do you think? Pushkin called fame a bright patch on a ragged garment; we all understand it as Pushkin does⁠—that is, more or less subjectively⁠—but no one has yet given a clear, logical definition of the word.⁠ ⁠… I would give a good deal for such a definition!”

“Why do you feel such a need for it?”

“You see, if we knew what fame is, the means of attaining it might also perhaps be known to us,” said the first-class passenger, after a moment’s thought. “I must tell you, sir, that when I was younger I strove after celebrity with every fiber of my being. To be popular was my craze, so to speak. For the sake of it I studied, worked, sat up at night, neglected my meals. And I fancy, as far as I can judge without partiality, I had all the natural gifts for attaining it. To begin with, I am an engineer by profession. In the course of my life I have built in Russia some two dozen magnificent bridges, I have laid aqueducts for three towns; I have worked in Russia, in England, in Belgium.⁠ ⁠… Secondly, I am the author of several special treatises in my own line. And thirdly, my dear sir, I have from a boy had a weakness for chemistry. Studying that science in my leisure hours, I discovered methods of obtaining certain organic acids, so that you will find my name in all the foreign manuals of chemistry. I have always been in the service, I have risen to the grade of actual civil councilor, and I have an unblemished record. I will not fatigue your attention by enumerating my works and my merits, I will only say that I have done far more than some celebrities. And yet here I am in my old age, I am getting ready for my coffin, so to say, and I am as celebrated as that black dog yonder running on the embankment.”

“How can you tell? Perhaps you are celebrated.”

“H’m! Well, we will test it at once. Tell me, have you ever heard the name Krikunov?”

The vis-à-vis raised his eyes to the ceiling, thought a minute, and laughed.

“No, I haven’t heard it,⁠ ⁠…” he said.

“That is my surname. You, a man of education, getting on in years, have never heard of me⁠—a convincing proof! It is evident that in my efforts to gain fame I have not done the right thing at all: I did not know the right way to set to work, and, trying to catch fame by the tail, got on the wrong side of her.”

“What is the right way to set to work?”

“Well, the devil only knows! Talent, you say? Genius? Originality? Not a bit of it, sir!⁠ ⁠… People have lived and made a career side by side with me who were worthless, trivial, and even contemptible compared with me. They did not do one-tenth of the work I did, did not put themselves out, were not distinguished for their talents, and did not make an effort to be celebrated, but just look at them! Their names are continually in the newspapers and on men’s lips! If you are not tired of listening I will illustrate it by an example. Some years ago I built a bridge in the town of K⁠⸺. I must tell you that the dullness of that scurvy little town was terribl