Short Fiction

By Leo Tolstoy.

Translated by Louise Maude, Aylmer Maude, Nathan Haskell Dole, Constance Garnett, J. D. Duff, Leo Weiner, R. S. Townsend, Hagberg Wright, Benjamin Tucker, Everyman’s Library, Vladimir Chertkov, and Isabella Fyvie Mayo.

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The Raid

A Volunteer’s Story

I

On the twelfth of July, Captain Hlopov entered the low door of my earth-hut. He was wearing epaulettes and carrying a sword, which I had never seen him do before since I had reached the Caucasus.

“I come straight from the colonel’s,” he said in answer to my questioning look. “Tomorrow our battalion is to march.”

“Where to?” I asked.

“To N⁠⸺ N⁠⸺. The forces are to assemble there.”

“And from there, I suppose, they will go into action?”

“I expect so.”

“In what direction? What do you think?”

“What’s there to think about? I am telling you what I know! A Tartar galloped here last night and brought orders from the general for the battalion to march with two days’ rations of rusks. But where to? Why, and for how long? We do not ask, my friend; we are told to go⁠—and that’s enough!”

“But if you are to take only two days’ rations of rusks, it proves that the troops won’t be out longer than that.”

“It proves nothing at all!”

“How’s that?” I asked with surprise.

“Because it is so. We went to Dargo, and took one week’s rations of rusks, but we stayed there nearly a month.”

“Can I go with you?” I asked after a pause.

“You could, no doubt. But my advice is, don’t. Why run risks?”

“Oh, but you must allow me not to take your advice. I have been here a whole month, solely on the chance of seeing an action, and you wish me to miss it!”

“Well, if you like! But really you had better stay behind. You could wait for us here, and might go hunting⁠—and we would go our way and it would be splendid,” he said with such conviction that for a moment it really seemed to me too that it would be “splendid.” However, I told him decidedly that nothing would induce me to stay behind.

“And what is there for you to see?” the captain went on, still trying to dissuade me. “Do you want to know what battles are like? Read Mikhaylovsky Danilevsky’s Description of War. It’s a fine book; it gives a detailed account of everything. It gives the position of every corps, and describes how battles are fought.”

“All that does not interest me,” I replied.

“What is it then? Do you simply wish to see how people are killed?⁠—In 1832 we had a fellow here, also a civilian, a Spaniard I think he was. He took part with us in two campaigns, wearing some kind of blue mantle. Well, they did for the fine fellow. You won’t astonish anyone here, friend!”

Humiliating though it was that the captain so misjudged my motives, I did not try to disabuse him.

“Was he brave?” I asked.

“Heaven only knows: he always used to ride in front; and where there was firing, there he always was.”

“Then he must have been brave,” said I.

“No. Pushing oneself in where you are not needed, does not prove you to be brave.”

“Then what do you call brave?”

“Brave?⁠—Brave?⁠—” repeated the captain, with the air of one to whom such a question presents itself for the first time. “He who does what he ought to do is brave,” he said, after thinking awhile.

I remembered that Plato defines courage as “The knowledge of what should and what should not be feared,” and despite the looseness and vagueness of the captain’s definition, I thought that the fundamental ideas of the two were not so different as they might appear, and that the captain’s definition was even more correct than that of the Greek philosopher. For if the captain had been able to express himself like Plato, he would no doubt have said that, “He is brave, who fears only what should be feared and not what should not be feared.”

I wished to explain my idea to the captain.

“Yes,” said I, “It seems to me that in every danger there is a choice; and a choice made under the influence of a sense of duty⁠—is courage, but a choice made under the influence of a base motive⁠—is cowardice. Therefore a man who risks his life from vanity, curiosity, or greed, cannot be called brave; while, on the other hand, one who avoids a danger from honest consideration for his family, or simply from conviction, cannot be called a coward.”

The captain looked at me with a curious kind of expression while I was speaking.

“Well, that I cannot prove to you,” he said, filling his pipe, “but we have a cadet here who is fond of philosophizing. You should have a talk with him. He also writes verses.”

I had known of the captain before I left Russia, but I had only made his acquaintance in the Caucasus. His mother, Mary Ivanovna Hlopova, a small and poor landowner, lives within two miles of my estate. Before I left for the Caucasus, I had called on her. The old lady was very glad to hear that I should see her “Pashenka,” by which pet name she called the grey-haired elderly captain, and that I, “a living letter,” could tell him all about her, and take him a small parcel from her. Having treated me to excellent pie and smoked goose, Mary Ivanovna went into her bedroom and returned with a good-sized black amulet, to which was attached a black silk ribbon.

“Here, this is the icon of our Mother Mediatress of the Burning Bush,” said she, crossing herself and kissing the icon of the Virgin and placing it in my hands. “Please let him have it. You see, when he went to the Caucasus I had a Mass said for him, and promised, if he remained alive and safe, to order this icon of the Mother of God for him. And now, for eighteen years, the Mediatress and the Holy Saints have had mercy on him: he has not been wounded once, and yet in what battles has he not taken part?⁠—What Michael, who went with him, told me, was enough, believe me, to make one’s hair stand on end. You see, what I know about him is only from others. He, my pet, never writes me about his campaigns, for fear of frightening me.”

(After I reached the Caucasus I learnt, and then not from the captain himself, that he had been severely wounded four times, and of course never wrote to his mother either about his wounds or his campaigns.)

“So let him now wear this holy image,” she continued, “I give it him with my blessing. May the most Holy Mediatress guard him. Especially when going to battle let him wear it. Tell him so, dear friend; say ‘Your mother wishes it.’ ”

I promised to carry out her instructions carefully.

“I know you will grow fond of my Pashenka,” continued the old lady. “He is such a splendid fellow! Will you believe it, he never lets a year pass without sending me some money, and he also helps my daughter, Annoushka, a good deal, and all out of his pay! I thank God for having given me such a child,” she continued with tears in her eyes.

“Does he often write to you?” I asked.

“Seldom, my dear: perhaps once a year. Only when he sends the money, not otherwise. He says, ‘If I don’t write to you, mother, that means I am alive and well. Should anything befall me, which God forbid, they’ll tell you without me.’ ”

When I handed his mother’s present to the captain (it was in my own quarters) he asked for a bit of paper, carefully wrapped it up, and then put it away. I told him many things about his mother’s life. He remained silent, and when I had finished speaking he went to a corner of the room, and busied himself for what seemed a long time, filling his pipe.

“Yes, she’s a splendid old woman!” he said from there, in rather a muffled voice. “Will God let me ever see her again?” These simple words expressed much love and sadness.

“Why do you serve here?” I asked.

“One has to serve,” he answered with conviction. “And to get double pay, as we do here in the Caucasus, means a great deal to poor men like myself.”

The captain lived economically, did not gamble, rarely went carousing, and smoked the cheapest tobacco (which, for some reason, he called homegrown tobacco). I had liked the captain before; and after this talk I felt a sincere regard for him. He had one of those simple, calm, Russian faces which are easy and pleasant to look straight in the eyes.

II

Next morning, at four o’clock, the captain came for me. He wore an old threadbare coat without epaulettes, wide Caucasian trousers, a white sheepskin cap, the wool of which had grown yellow and limp, and had a shabby Asiatic sword strapped round his shoulders. The small white horse he rode ambled along with short strides, hanging its head down and swinging its thin tail. Although the worthy captain’s figure was not very martial, nor even good-looking, it expressed such equanimity towards everything around him, that it involuntarily inspired respect.

I did not keep him waiting a single moment, but mounted my horse at once, and we rode together through the gates of the fortress. The battalion was some five hundred yards in front of us, and looked like a dense, oscillating, black mass. It was only possible to guess that it was an infantry battalion by the bayonets which looked like needles standing close together, and by the sounds of the soldiers’ songs which occasionally reached us, the beating of a drum, and the delightful voice of the fifth company’s second tenor, which had so often charmed me in the fortress. The road lay along the middle of a deep and broad ravine, by the side of a stream which had overflowed its banks. Flocks of wild pigeons whirled above it, now alighting on the rocky banks, now turning in the air in rapid circles and vanishing out of sight.

The sun was not yet visible, but the crest of the right side of the ravine was just beginning to be lit up. The grey and whitish rock, the yellowish-green moss, the dew-covered bushes of Christ’s-Thorn, dogberry and dwarf elm, appeared extraordinarily distinct and salient in the golden morning light; but the other side and the valley, wrapt in thick mist which floated in uneven strata, were damp and gloomy, and presented an indefinite mingling of colours: pale purple, almost black, dark green and white. Right in front of us, strikingly distinct against the dark-blue horizon, rose the bright dead-white masses of the snowy mountains, with their shadows and outlines, fantastic and yet exquisite in every detail. Crickets, grasshoppers, and thousands of other insects, awoke in the tall grasses and filled the air with their clear and ceaseless sounds: it was as if innumerable tiny bells were ringing inside our very ears. The air was full of the scent of water, grass, and mist⁠—the scent of a lovely early summer morning. The captain struck a light and lit his pipe, and the smell of his cheap tobacco and of the tinder seemed extraordinarily pleasant to me.

To overtake the infantry more quickly we left the road. The captain appeared more thoughtful than usual, did not take his Daghestan pipe out of his mouth, and at every step touched with his heels his horse, which swaying from side to side left a scarcely perceptible green track on the tall wet grass. From under its very feet, with the cry and the whirr of wings which involuntarily sends a thrill through every sportsman, rose a pheasant, which flew slowly upwards. The captain did not take the least notice of it.

We had nearly overtaken the battalion, when we heard the thud of a galloping horse behind us, and that same minute a good-looking youth, in an officer’s uniform and a white sheepskin cap, galloped past us. In passing he smiled, nodded to the captain, and flourished his whip. I had only time to notice that he sat his horse and held his reins with peculiar grace, that he had beautiful black eyes, a fine nose, and only the first signs of a moustache. What specially pleased me about him was that he could not repress a smile when he noticed that we admired him. This smile alone showed him to be very young.

“Where is he galloping to?” muttered the captain, with a dissatisfied air, without taking the pipe out of his mouth.

“Who is he?” I asked.

“Ensign Alanin, a subaltern in my company⁠—. He came from the Cadet Corps only a month ago.”

“I suppose he is going into action for the first time,” I said.

“That’s why he is so delighted,” answered the captain, thoughtfully shaking his head. “Youth.”

“But how could he help being pleased? I can fancy how interesting it must be for a young officer.”

The captain remained silent for a minute or two.

“That is just why I say ‘Youth,’ ” he added in a deep voice. “What is there to be pleased at without ever having seen the thing? When one has seen it many times, one is not so pleased. There are now, let us say, twenty of us officers here: one or other is sure to be killed or wounded, that is quite certain; today it may be I, tomorrow, he; the next day a third. So what is there to be pleased about?”

III

As soon as the bright sun appeared above the hill and lit up the valley along which we were marching, the wavy clouds of mist cleared away and it grew hot. The soldiers, with muskets and sacks on their shoulders, stepped slowly along the dusty road. Now and then Little-Russian words and laughter could be heard in their ranks. Several old soldiers in white blouses (most of them noncommissioned officers) walked together by the roadside smoking their pipes and conversing gravely. Three-horsed heavily-laden wagons moved steadily along, raising thick clouds of dust that hung motionless in the air. The officers rode on in front: some of them caracoled, i.e. they whipped their horse, made it take three or four leaps, and then, turning its head back, stopped abruptly. Others were occupied with the singers, who in spite of the heat and sultriness sang song after song. With the mounted Tartars, about two hundred yards ahead of the infantry, rode a tall handsome lieutenant in Asiatic costume, on a large white horse. He was known in the regiment as a desperate daredevil who would spit the truth out at anybody. He wore a black tunic trimmed with gold braid, leggings to match, soft closely-fitting gold-braided oriental shoes, a yellow coat and a tall sheepskin cap pushed back from his forehead. Fastened to the silver strap that lay across his chest and back, he carried a powder-flask and a pistol behind him. Another pistol and a silver-mounted dagger hung from his girdle, and above these a sword in a red-leather sheath and a musket in a black cover, were swung over his shoulder. By his clothing, by the way he sat his horse, by his general bearing, in fact by his every movement, one could see that he tried to resemble a Tartar. He even talked in a language I did not know, to the Tartars with whom he was riding, but from the bewildered and amused looks with which they glanced at one another, I surmised that they did not understand him either. He was one of our young officers, daredevil braves who shape their lives on the model of Lermontov’s and Marlinsky’s heroes. These officers see the Caucasus only through the prism of such books as the Heroes of Our Times, and Mullah-Nur,1 and are guided in their actions not by their own inclinations, but by the examples of their models.

The lieutenant, for instance, may perhaps have liked the company of well-bred women and of men of rank: generals, colonels, and aides-de-camp (it is even my conviction that he liked such society very much, for he was exceedingly ambitious), but he considered it his imperative duty to turn his roughest side to all important men, though he was strictly moderate in his rudeness to them; and when any lady came to the fortress, he considered it his duty to walk with his bosom-friends in a red shirt, and with slippers on his bare feet, before her window and to shout and swear at the top of his voice.

But all this he did not so much with the intention of offending her, as to let her see what beautiful white feet he had, and how easy it would be to fall in love with him, should he desire it. Or he would often go with two or three friendly Tartars to the hills at night, to lie in ambush by the roadside, and to watch for passing hostile Tartars and to kill them: and though his heart told him more than once that there was nothing valiant in this, he considered himself bound to cause suffering to people, with whom he affected to be disillusioned, and whom he chose to hate and despise. He always carried two things: a large icon hanging round his neck, and a dagger which he wore over his shirt even when in bed. He sincerely believed that he had enemies. To persuade himself that he must avenge himself on someone and wash away some insult with blood was his greatest enjoyment. He was convinced that hatred, vengeance, and contempt for the human race, were the noblest and most poetic of feelings. But his mistress (a Circassian, of course) whom I happened to meet subsequently, used to say that he was the kindest and mildest of men, and that every evening he wrote down his dismal thoughts in his diary, as well as his accounts on ruled paper, and prayed to God on his knees. And how much he suffered, merely to appear in his own eyes what he wished to be! For his comrades and the soldiers could never see him as he wished to appear. Once, on one of his nocturnal expeditions on the road with his bosom friends, he happened to wound a hostile Chechen with a bullet in the leg, and took him prisoner. After that, the Chechen lived for seven weeks with the lieutenant, who attended to him and nursed him as he would have nursed his dearest friend; and when the Chechen recovered he gave him presents and set him free.

After that, during one of our expeditions, when the lieutenant was retreating with the soldiers of the cordon and was firing to keep back the foe, he heard someone among the enemy call him by name, and the man he had wounded rode forward and made signs to the lieutenant to do the same.

The lieutenant rode up to his friend and pressed his hand. The hillsmen stood some way back and did not fire, but scarcely had the lieutenant turned his horse to return, before several men shot at him and a bullet grazed the small of his back. Another time, at night, when a fire had broken out in the fortress and two companies of soldiers were putting it out, I myself saw how the tall figure of a man, mounted on a black horse, and lit up by the red glow of the fire, suddenly appeared among the crowd and, pushing through, rode up to the very flames. When quite close, the lieutenant jumped from his horse and rushed into the house, one side of which was burning. Five minutes later he came out, with singed hair and burned elbow, carrying in his bosom two pigeons which he had rescued from the flames.

His name was Rosenkranz; yet he often spoke of his descent, deducing it somehow from the Varangians (the first rulers of Russia), and clearly demonstrated that he and his ancestors were pure Russians.

IV

The sun had done half its journey, and through the glowing air cast its hot rays on the dry earth. The dark blue sky was perfectly clear: only the base of the snowy mountains began to clothe itself in lilac-tinged white clouds. The motionless air seemed full of transparent dust: the heat was becoming unbearable.

Halfway on their march, the troops reached a small stream and halted. The soldiers stacked their muskets and rushed to the stream; the commander of the battalion sat down in the shade on a drum, his full face assuming the correct expression denoting the greatness of his rank. He, together with some other officers, prepared to have a snack. The captain lay down on the grass under his company’s wagon. The brave Lieutenant Rosenkranz and some other young officers disposed themselves on their outstretched cloaks and got ready for a drinking-bout, as could be gathered from the bottles and flasks arranged round them, as well as from the peculiar animation of the singers, who standing in a semicircle before them sang a Caucasian dance-song with a whistling obbligato interjected.

Shamyl, he began to riot
In the days gone by,
Try, ry, rataty,
In the days gone by!

Among these officers was the young ensign who had overtaken us in the morning. He was very amusing: his eyes shone, he spoke rather thickly, and he wished to kiss, and declare his love to, everyone. Poor boy! He did not know that he might appear funny in such a position, that the frankness and the tenderness with which he assailed everyone, predisposed them not to the affection he so longed for, but to ridicule; nor did he know that when, quite heated, he at last threw himself down on the cloak, and rested on his elbow with his thick black hair thrown back, he looked uncommonly charming.

Two officers sat by the wagon, playing cards on a canteen box. I listened with curiosity to the conversation of the soldiers and officers, and attentively watched the expression of their faces, but could find absolutely no trace of the anxiety I myself experienced: jokes, laughter, and anecdotes, expressed the general carelessness and indifference to the impending danger: as if it were quite out of the question that some of us would never return along that road.

V

Towards seven that evening, dusty and tired, we entered the wide fortified gate of Fort N⁠⸺. The sun was already setting, and threw its rosy slanting rays on the picturesque little batteries, and on the gardens with their tall poplars, which surrounded the fortress, on the yellow gleaming cultivated fields, and on the white clouds that, crowding round the snowy peaks, had, as if trying to imitate them, formed a range not less fantastic and beautiful.

On the horizon the new moon appeared, delicate as a little cloud. In the Tartar village that lay at the gates of the fortress, from the roof of a hut, a Tartar was calling the faithful to prayer; and our singers lifted their voices with renewed energy and vigour.

After a rest, and after tidying myself up a bit, I went to an adjutant of my acquaintance, to ask him to let the general know of my intention. On my way from the suburb where I had put up, I noticed in Fort N⁠⸺ something I did not at all expect: a pretty little brougham, which overtook me, in which I caught sight of a fashionable bonnet, and from which I overheard some French words. The sounds of some “Lizzie” or “Kitty” polka, played on a bad ramshackle piano, reached me through the windows of the commander’s house. In a little grocery and wine shop which I passed, some clerks with cigarettes in their fingers sat drinking wine: and I heard one of them say to another, “No, excuse me, as for politics, Mary Gregoryevna is first among our ladies.” A Jew in a worn-out coat, with a bent back and sickly countenance, was dragging along a wheezy barrel-organ, and the whole suburb resounded with the tones of the finale of Lucia. Two women in rustling dresses, with silk kerchiefs on their heads, and carrying bright-coloured parasols, passed by, along the planks that did duty for a pavement. Two girls, one in a pink, the other in a blue, dress, stood bareheaded beside the earth-embankments of a low-roofed house, and shrieked with high-pitched, forced laughter, evidently to attract the attention of passing officers. The officers, dressed in new uniforms, with glittering epaulettes and white gloves, flaunted along the street and on the boulevard. I found my acquaintance on the ground-floor of the general’s house. I had scarcely had time to explain my wishes to him, and to get his reply, that they could easily be fulfilled, when the pretty little brougham I had noticed outside rattled past the window we were sitting at. A tall well-built man, in an infantry major’s uniform and epaulettes, got out and entered the house.

“Oh, please excuse me,” said the adjutant, rising; “I must go and announce them to the general.”

“Who is it?” I asked.

“The countess,” he replied and, buttoning his uniform, rushed upstairs.

A few minutes later a very handsome man in a frock coat without epaulettes, a white cross in his buttonhole, went out into the porch. He was not tall, but remarkably good-looking. He was followed by the major, the adjutant, and a couple of other officers. The general’s gait, voice, and all his movements, showed him to be a man well aware of his own value.

Bonsoir, Madame la Comtesse,” he said, offering his hand through the carriage-window.

A small hand in a kid glove pressed his, and a pretty smiling face in a yellow bonnet appeared at the carriage-window.

Of the conversation, which lasted several minutes, I only overheard the general say laughingly, as I passed by:

Vous savez que j’ai fait vœu de combattre les infidèles: prenez donc garde de le devenir.

A laugh answered from inside the carriage.

Adieu donc, cher Général!

Non, à revoir,” said the general, ascending the steps of the porch. “N’oubliez pas, que je m’invite pour la soirée de demain.

The carriage rattled off. “Here again,” I thought as I walked home, “is a man who possesses all that Russians strive after: rank, riches, distinction; and this man, on the day before an engagement, the outcome of which is known only to God, jokes with a pretty woman and promises to have tea with her next day, just as if they had met at a ball!”

At that same adjutant’s, I met a young man who surprised me even more. It was a young lieutenant of the K⁠⸺ regiment, who was noted for his almost feminine meekness and timidity, and who had come to the adjutant to pour out his vexation and resentment against those who, he said, had intrigued against him to keep him from taking part in the impending action. He said it was mean to behave in that way, that it was unfriendly, and that he would not forget it, and so forth. Intently as I watched the expression of his face and listened to the sound of his voice, I could not help feeling convinced that he was not pretending, but was genuinely filled with indignation and grief because he was not allowed to go and shoot Circassians and expose himself to their fire. He was grieved like a little child who has been unjustly birched. I could make nothing at all of it.

VI

The troops were to march at ten in the evening. At half-past eight I mounted and rode to the general’s, but, thinking that he and his adjutant were busy, I tied my horse to the fence and sat down on an earth-bank, intending to catch the general as soon as he came out.

The heat and glare of the sun were now replaced by the coolness of night and the soft light of the young moon, which had formed a pale glimmering semicircle around itself on the deep blue of the starry sky, and was already setting. Lights appeared in the windows of the houses, and shone through cracks in the shutters of the dugouts. The stately poplars, beyond the white moonlit dugouts, with their cane-thatched roofs, looked darker and taller than ever against the horizon. The long shadows of the houses, the trees and the fences, stretched out daintily on the dusty road. From the river came the ringing sounds of frogs;2 along the street came the sound of hurried steps and voices talking, or the galloping of a horse, and from the suburb the tones of a barrel-organ now playing “The winds are blowing,” now some “Aurora Waltz.”

I will not say what meditations I was absorbed in; first, because I should be ashamed to confess the gloomy waves of thought that insistently flooded my soul while around me I noticed nothing but gaiety and joy; and secondly, because it would not suit my story. I was so deep in thought that I did not even notice the bell strike eleven, and the general with his suite ride past me.

The rearguard was still within the fortress. I had great difficulty in making my way across the bridge among the guns, ammunition wagons, the carts of the different companies, and the officers noisily giving orders. Once outside the fortress gates, I passed at a trot the troops, who, stretched out over nearly three-quarters of a mile, were moving silently on through the darkness, and I overtook the general.

As I rode past the guns drawn out in single file, and the officers who rode between the guns, I was hurt, as by a discord in the quiet and solemn harmony, by the German accents of a voice shouting, “You devil, a linstock!” and the voice of a soldier hurriedly calling, “Shevchenko, the lieutenant wants a light!”

The greater part of the sky was now overcast with long strips of dark grey clouds; only here and there a few stars twinkled dimly among them. The moon had already sunk behind the near horizon of the black hills, visible to the right, and threw a faint trembling light on their peaks in sharp contrast to the impenetrable darkness which enveloped their base. The air was so warm and still that it seemed as if not one blade of grass, not one cloudlet, were moving. It was so dark that even objects close at hand could not be distinguished. On the sides of the road I seemed to see now rocks, now animals, now some strange kind of men, and I discovered that they were merely bushes only when I heard them rustle, or felt the dew with which they were sprinkled. In front of me I saw a dense heaving wall, followed by some dark moving spots: these were the cavalry vanguard, and the general with his suite. Another similar dark mass, only lower, moved beside us⁠—that was the infantry. The silence that reigned over the whole division was so great that all the mingling sounds of night, with their mysterious charm, were distinctly audible: the far-off, mournful howling of jackals, now like agonized weeping, then like chuckling; the monotonous, resounding song of crickets, frogs, and quails; a sort of rumbling I could not account for at all, but which seemed to draw nearer; scarcely audible motions of Nature, which can neither be understood nor defined, mingled into one beautiful harmony, which we call the stillness of night. This stillness was interrupted by, or rather combined with, the dull thud of hoofs and the rustling of the tall grass, produced by the slowly advancing detachment.

Only very occasionally you heard the clang of a heavy gun, the sound of bayonets striking together, hushed voices, or the snorting of a horse. Nature seemed to breathe with pacifying beauty and power. Can it be that there is not room for all men on this beautiful earth, under those immeasurable starry heavens? Can it be possible that in the midst of this entrancing Nature, feelings of hatred, vengeance, or the passion for exterminating their fellows, can endure in the souls of men? All that is unkind in the hearts of men, ought, one would think, to vanish at the touch of Nature: that most direct expression of beauty and goodness.

VII

We had been riding for more than two hours. I was beginning to shiver and feel drowsy. Through the gloom I still seemed to see the same indefinite forms; a little way in front, the same black wall and the moving spots. Close in front of me I saw the crupper of a white horse which swung its tail and threw its hind legs far apart; the back of a white Circassian coat, on which could be discerned a musket in a black case, and the glimmering butt of a pistol in an embroidered sheath; the glow of a cigarette illumined a fair moustache, a beaver collar, and a white chamois glove. Every now and then, I leant over my horse’s neck, shutting my eyes, and forgetting myself for a few minutes; then, startled by the familiar tramping and rustling, I glanced round, and felt as if I were standing still, and the black wall in front was moving towards me, or that it had stopped and I should in a moment ride into it. At one such moment the rumbling which increased and seemed to approach, and the cause of which I could not guess, struck me forcibly: it was the sound of water. We were entering a deep gorge and approaching a mountain-stream that was overflowing its banks. The rumbling increased, the damp grass grew thicker and taller and the bushes closer, while the horizon gradually narrowed. Now and then, here and there against the dark background of the hills, bright lights flashed and instantly vanished.

“Tell me, please, what are those lights?” I inquired, in a whisper, of a Tartar riding beside me.

“What, don’t you know?” he replied.

“I don’t.”

“It’s the hillsmen have tied straw to poles and are waving the lights about.”

“Why are they doing it?”

“So that everyone should know the Russians have come. Oh! oh! what a bustle is going on now in the aouls; everybody’s dragging his belongings into the ravine,” he said, laughing.

“Why, do they already know in the mountains that a detachment is on its way?” I asked him.

“Eh, how can one help knowing? They always know; our people are like that.”

“Then Shamil3 too is preparing for action?” I asked.

“No,” he answered, shaking his head, “Shamil won’t go into action; Shamil will send his naibs,4 and he himself will look on through a telescope from above.”

“Does he live far away?”

“Not far. To the left, some eight miles.”

“How do you know?” I asked. “Have you been there?”

“I have; our people have all been.”

“Have you seen Shamil?”

“Eh! such as we don’t see Shamil! There are a hundred, three hundred, a thousand murids, all round him, and Shamil’s in the centre,” he said, with an expression of servile admiration.

Looking up, it was possible to discern that the sky, now cleared, was beginning to grow lighter in the East, and the Pleiades to sink towards the horizon; but the ravine through which we were marching was still damp and gloomy.

Suddenly, a little way in front of us, several lights flashed through the darkness; at the same moment some whizzing bullets flew past, and shots and piercing cries resounded amid the surrounding silence. It was the enemy’s advanced picket. The Tartars that composed it raised a hue and cry, fired at random, and then ran in different directions.

All became silent again. The General called up an interpreter. A Tartar in a white Circassian coat rode up to him and, gesticulating and whispering, talked with him for a while.

“Colonel Hasanov! Order the cordon to take open order,” commanded the General, with a quiet but distinct drawl.

The detachment advanced to the river; the black hills and gorges were left behind; the dawn appeared. The vault of the heavens, in which a few pale stars were still dimly visible, seemed higher; the sunrise glow beyond shone brightly in the east; a fresh, penetrating breeze blew from the west, and the white mists rose like vapour above the rushing stream.

VIII

The guide pointed out a ford, and the cavalry vanguard, followed by the General, began crossing the stream. The water, which reached to the horses’ chests, rushed with tremendous force between the white boulders, which here and there appeared on a level with its surface, and formed foaming and gurgling ripples round the horses’ legs. The horses, surprised by the noise of the water, lifted their heads and pricked their ears, but stepped evenly and carefully, against the current, on the uneven bottom of the stream. Their riders lifted their feet and weapons. The infantry, literally in nothing but their shirts, linked arm-in-arm by twenties, and holding above the water their muskets, to which their bundles of clothing were fastened, made great efforts (as the strained expression of their faces showed) to resist the force of the current. The mounted artillerymen, with loud shouts, drove their horses at a trot into the water. The guns and the green ammunition-wagons, over which the water occasionally splashed, rang against the stony bottom, but the good little horses, churning the water, pulled at the traces in unity and, with dripping manes and tails, clambered out on the opposite bank.

As soon as the crossing was accomplished, the General’s face suddenly assumed a meditative and serious look, and he turned his horse and, followed by the cavalry, rode at a trot down a broad glade which opened out before us in the midst of the forest. A cordon of mounted Cossacks was scattered along the skirts of the forest.

In the woods we noticed a man on foot dressed in a Circassian coat and wearing a tall cap⁠—then a second and a third. One of the officers said: “Those are Tartars.” Then a puff of smoke appeared from behind a tree, a shot, and another.⁠ ⁠… Our rapid fire drowns the enemy’s. Only now and then a bullet, with a slow sound like the buzzing of a bee’s wings, passes by and proves that the firing is not all ours! Now the infantry at a run, and the guns at a trot, pass into the cordon. You can hear the boom of the guns, the metallic sounds of flying grapeshot, the hissing of rockets and the crackle of muskets. Over the wide glade you can see on all sides cavalry, infantry, and artillery. Puffs of smoke mingle with the dew-covered verdure and the mist. Colonel Hasanov, approaching the General at full gallop, suddenly reins in his horse.

“Your excellency, shall we order the cavalry to charge?” he says, raising his hand to his cap; “the enemy’s colours are in sight,” and he points with his whip to some mounted Tartars, in front of whom ride two men on white horses, with bits of blue and red stuff fastened to poles in their hands.

“Go, and God be with you, Ivan Mikhaylovich!” says the General. The Colonel turns his horse sharply round, draws his sword, and shouts “Hurrah!”

“Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!” comes from the ranks, and the cavalry gallop after him.⁠ ⁠…

Everyone looks on with interest: there is a pennon, another, a third and a fourth.⁠ ⁠…

The enemy, not waiting for the attack, hides in the wood and thence opens a small-arms fire. Bullets come flying more and more frequently. “Quel charmant coup d’œil!” says the General, slightly rising, English fashion, in his saddle on his slim-legged black horse.

Charmant!” answered the Major, rolling his r’s; and striking his horse, he rides up to the General: “C’est un vrai plaisir, que la guerre dans un aussi beau pays,” he says.

Et surtout en bonne compagnie,” replies the General, with a pleasant smile. The Major bows.

At that moment a hostile cannonball, with a disagreeable whiz, flies past and strikes something. We hear behind us the moan of a wounded man.

This moaning strikes me in so strange a manner that the warlike scene instantly loses for me all its charm. But no one, except myself, seems to notice it: the Major laughs with apparently greater gusto; another officer repeats with perfect calm the first words of a sentence he was just saying; the General looks the other way, and with the quietest smile says something in French. “Shall we reply to their fire?” asks the commander of the artillery, galloping up.

“Yes, frighten them a bit!” carelessly replies the General, lighting a cigar.

The battery takes up its position, and the firing begins. The earth groans under the shots; fires flash incessantly, and smoke, through which it is scarcely possible to distinguish the artillerymen moving round their guns, veils your sight.

The aoul has been bombarded. Colonel Hasanov rides up again, and at the General’s command gallops towards the aoul. The war-cry is raised again, and the cavalry disappears in the cloud of dust which it raises.

The spectacle was truly magnificent. The one thing that spoilt the general impression for me, who took no part in the affair and was unaccustomed to it, was that this movement, and the animation and the shouting, appeared unnecessary. Involuntarily the comparison suggested itself to me of a man swinging his arms from the shoulders to cut the air with an axe.

IX

Our troops had taken possession of the village, and not a single soul of the enemy remained in it, when the General and his suite, with which I had mingled, rode up to it.

The long, clean huts, with their flat earthen roofs and shapely chimneys, stood on irregular stony mounds, between which flowed a small stream.

On one side you saw green gardens with enormous pear and plum trees, brightly lit up by the sun; on the other, strange upright shadows, and the perpendicular stones of the cemetery, and long poles, with balls and many coloured flags attached to their ends. (These marked the graves of the dzhigits.)

The troops were drawn up outside the gates.

A moment later, dragoons, Cossacks, and infantry spread with evident joy through the crooked lanes, and in an instant the empty village was animated again. There crashed a roof: an axe rings against the hard wood of a door that is being forced open: here a stack of hay, a fence, a hut, is set on fire, and a pillar of thick smoke rises up in the clear air. Here is a Cossack dragging along a sack of flour and a carpet; there a soldier, with a delighted look on his face, brings a tin basin and some rag out of a hut; another with outstretched arms is trying to catch two hens that are struggling and cackling beside a fence: a third has somewhere discovered an enormous pot of milk and, after drinking some of it, throws the rest onto the ground amid loud laughter.

The battalion with which I had come from Fort N⁠⸺ was also in the aoul. The Captain sat on the roof of a hut and sent thin whiffs of cheap tobacco smoke through his short pipe, with such an expression of indifference on his face that on seeing him I forgot that I was in a hostile aoul, and felt quite at home.

“Ah, you are here too?” he said when he noticed me.

The tall figure of Lieutenant Rosenkranz flitted here and there in the village. He unceasingly gave orders, and appeared exceedingly engrossed in his task. I saw him come with a triumphant air out of a hut, followed by two soldiers leading an old Tartar. The old man, whose only clothing consisted of a mottled tunic all in rags and patchwork trousers, was so frail that his arms, tightly-bound behind his bent back, seemed scarcely to hold to his shoulders, and he could hardly drag his bare crooked legs along. His face, and even part of his shaven head, were deeply furrowed. His wry toothless mouth kept moving beneath his short-cut moustache and beard, as if he were chewing something; but in his red lashless eyes there still sparkled a gleam, and they clearly expressed an old man’s indifference to life.

Rosenkranz, through an interpreter, asked him why he had not gone away with the others.

“Where should I go?” he answered, looking quietly away.

“Where the others have gone,” someone remarked.

“The braves have gone to fight the Russians, but I am an old man.”

“Are you not afraid of the Russians?”

“What will the Russians do to me? I am old,” he repeated, again glancing carelessly round the circle that had formed about him.

Later, as I was returning, I saw that old man bareheaded, with his arms tied, being jolted along behind the saddle of a Cossack, and he was looking round with the same expression of indifference on his face. He was wanted for the exchange of prisoners.

I climbed onto the roof and sat down beside the Captain.

“There don’t seem to have been many of the enemy,” I said, wishing to know his opinion of the action that had taken place.

“The enemy?” he repeated with surprise. “The enemy was not there at all! Do you call that the enemy?⁠ ⁠… Wait till the evening, when we go back, and you will see how they will speed us on our way: what a lot of them will pour out from there,” he said, pointing to a thicket that we had passed in the morning. “What is that?” I asked anxiously, interrupting the Captain and pointing to a group of Don Cossacks, who had collected round something not far from us.

A sound of something like a child’s cry came from there, and the words “Stop⁠ ⁠… don’t hack it⁠ ⁠… they’ll see⁠ ⁠… Have you a knife, Evstigneich?⁠ ⁠… Lend a knife⁠ ⁠…”

“They are up to something, the scoundrels⁠ ⁠…” calmly replied the Captain.

But at that moment the young ensign, his bonny face flushed and frightened, came suddenly running from behind a corner, and rushed, waving his arms, towards the Cossacks.

“Don’t touch it! Don’t kill it!” he cried in a childish voice.

Seeing the officer, the Cossacks stepped apart, and released a little white kid. The young ensign was quite abashed, muttered something, and stopped before us with a confused face.

Seeing the Captain and me on the roof, he blushed still more, and ran leaping towards us.

“I thought they were going to kill a child,” he said with a bashful smile.

X

The General went ahead with the cavalry. The battalion with which I had come from Fort N⁠⸺ remained in the rearguard. Captain Hlopov’s and Lieutenant Rosenkranz’s battalions retired together.

The Captain’s prophecy was quite correct. No sooner had we entered the narrow thicket which he had mentioned, than on both sides of us we caught glimpses of hillsmen, mounted and on foot, and so near were they that I could distinctly see how some of them ran stooping, rifle in hand, from behind one tree to another.

The Captain took off his cap and piously crossed himself, some of the older soldiers did the same. From the wood were heard war-cries, and the words “Iay giaour.” “Urus! iay!” Dry short rifle-shots, fast following one another, whizzed on both sides of us. Our men answered silently with a running fire, and only now and then remarks, like the following, were made in the ranks: “See where he5 fires from. It’s all right for him inside the wood. We ought to use the cannons,” and so forth.

Our ordnance was brought out and, after some grapeshot had been fired, the enemy seemed to grow weaker; but a moment later, and at every step taken by our troops, the enemy’s fire again grew hotter, and the shouting louder.

We had hardly gone seven hundred yards from the village before enemy cannonballs began whistling over our heads. I saw a soldier killed by a ball.⁠ ⁠… But why should I describe the details of that terrible picture, which I myself would give much to be able to forget! Lieutenant Rosenkranz kept firing his musket and incessantly shouted in a hoarse voice at the soldiers, and galloped from one end of the cordon to the other. He was rather pale, and this was very becoming to his warrior countenance.

The good-looking young Ensign was in raptures: his beautiful dark eyes shone with daring, his lips were slightly smiling, and he kept riding up to the Captain and begging permission to charge. “We will repel them,” he said persuasively, “we certainly will.”

“It’s not necessary,” abruptly replied the Captain. “We must retreat.”

The Captain’s company held the skirts of the wood, the men lying down and replying to the enemy’s fire.

The Captain, in his shabby coat and shabby cap, sat silent on his white horse, with loose reins, bent knees, his feet in the stirrups, and did not stir from his place. (The soldiers knew and did their work so well that there was no need to give them any orders.) Only at rare intervals he raised his voice to shout at those who exposed their heads.

There was nothing very martial about the Captain’s appearance, but there was something so true and simple in it, that I was extremely struck by it. “It is he who is really brave,” I involuntarily said to myself. He was just the same as I had always seen him: the same calm movements, the same guileless expression on his plain but frank face; only his eyes, which were lighter than usual, showed the concentration of one quietly engaged on his duties. “As I had always seen him,” is easily said, but how many different variations have I noticed in the behaviour of others; one wishing to appear quieter, another sterner, a third merrier, than usual; but the Captain’s face showed that he did not even see why he should appear anything but what he was.

The Frenchman who said at Waterloo, “La garde meurt, mais ne se rend pas,” and other, particularly French, heroes who uttered memorable sayings, were brave, and really uttered remarkable words, but between their courage and the Captain’s there was this difference, that even if a great saying had, in any circumstance, stirred the soul of my hero, I am convinced he would not have uttered it: first because, by uttering a great saying he would have feared to spoil a great deed; and secondly because, when a man feels within himself the capacity to perform a great deed, no talk of any kind is needed. That, I think, is a peculiar and a lofty characteristic of Russian courage; and, if that is so, how can a Russian heart help aching when our young Russian warriors utter trivial French phrases, intended to imitate antiquated French chivalry?

Suddenly, from the side where our bonny Ensign stood with his platoon, we heard a not very hearty or loud “Hurrah.” Looking round to where the shout came from, I saw some thirty soldiers, with sacks on their shoulders and muskets in their hands managing with very great difficulty to run across a ploughed field. They kept stumbling, but nevertheless ran on and shouted. Before them, sword in hand, galloped the young Ensign.

They all disappeared into the wood.⁠ ⁠…

After a few minutes of whooping and clatter, a frightened horse ran out of the wood, and soldiers appeared bringing back the dead and wounded. Among the latter was the young Ensign! Two soldiers supported him under his arms. He was as pale as a sheet, and his pretty head, on which only a shadow remained of the warlike enthusiasm which had animated it a few minutes before, was sunk in a dreadful way between his shoulders and drooped on his chest. There was a small spot of blood on the white shirt beneath his unbuttoned coat.

“Ah, what a pity,” I said, involuntarily turning away from this sad spectacle.

“Of course it’s a pity,” said an old soldier, who stood leaning on his musket beside me with a gloomy expression on his face. “He’s not afraid of anything; how can one do such things?” he added, looking intently at the wounded lad. “Young and still foolish, and now he has paid for it!”

“And you?” I asked, “Are you afraid?”

“What do you expect?”

XI

Four soldiers were carrying the Ensign on a stretcher, and behind them an ambulance soldier led a thin broken-winded horse with two green boxes containing surgical appliances on its back. They waited for the doctor. Officers rode up to the stretcher, and tried to cheer up and comfort the wounded lad.

“Well, friend Alanin, it will be some time before you will dance again with castanets,” said Lieutenant Rosenkranz, riding up to the stretcher with a smile.

He probably imagined that these words would keep up the young Ensign’s spirits, but, as far as one could judge by the latter’s coldly sad look, the words had not the desired effect.

The Captain rode up too. He looked intently at the wounded man, and his usually calm and cold face expressed sincere sympathy. “Well my dear Anatol Ivanich,” said he, in a voice of tender sympathy such as I never expected from him, “evidently it is God’s will.”

The wounded lad looked round, and his pale face lit up with a sad smile, “Yes, I disobeyed you.”

“Say rather, it was the will of God,” repeated the Captain.

The doctor arrived, and, having taken from his assistant bandages, a probe, and another implement, rolled up his sleeves and stepped up to the Ensign with an encouraging smile. “So it seems they have made a hole in a sound spot, for you too,” he said in a carelessly playful tone. “Let me see.”

The Ensign obeyed, but the look which he gave the merry doctor expressed astonishment and reproof, which the latter did not notice. The doctor began probing the wound and examining it from all sides; but the wounded Ensign, driven beyond the limits of endurance, pushed away the doctor’s hand with a deep groan.

“Leave me alone,” he said in a scarcely audible voice. “I shall die anyway.”

With those words he fell back, and five minutes later, when I passed the group that had formed round him, and asked a soldier, “How is the Ensign?” the answer was, “Passing away.”

XII

It was late in the day when the detachment, with songs, and formed into a broad column, approached the Fort. The sun had hidden behind the snowy mountain range and threw its last rosy beams on a long thin cloud that stretched motionless across the clear horizon. The snow peaks began to disappear in purple mists, and only their top outline was visible, wonderfully distinct on the crimson sunset glow. The delicate moon, risen long since, began to grow pale against the deep azure. The green of the grass and trees was turning black, and was becoming covered with dew.

The troops in dark masses moved with measured sounds along the luxuriant meadows. Tambourines, drums, and merry songs were heard here and there. The voice of the second tenor of the Sixth Company rang with full force, and the sounds of his clear chest-notes, full of feeling and power, floated away through the clear evening air.

The Wood-Felling

A Cadet’s Story

I

In the middle of the winter of 185-, a division of one battery was on service with the detachment operating in that part of the Terek Territory6 called the Great Chechnya. On the evening of February 14, knowing that the platoon which I, in the absence of any officer, was commanding, was to join a column told off to fell wood next day, and having given and received the necessary orders, I retired to my tent earlier than usual. As I had not contracted the bad habit of warming my tent with hot charcoal, I lay down without undressing on my bed, which was supported on stakes driven into the ground, drew my fur cap over my eyes, tucked myself up in my sheepskin cloak, and fell into that peculiar, heavy, and deep sleep which comes at times of anxiety, and when one is awaiting danger. The expectation of the next day’s affair had this effect on me.

At three next morning, while it was still quite dark, the warm sheepskin was pulled off me, and my eyes, heavy with sleep, were unpleasantly struck by the red light of a candle.

“Get up, please,” said a voice. I shut my eyes, unconsciously pulled the sheepskin back over myself, and again fell asleep. “Get up, please,” said Dmitry once more, remorselessly shaking me by the shoulder: “the infantry are starting.” The reality suddenly flashed on my mind, I sat up, and jumped to my feet. After hurriedly drinking a glass of tea and washing myself with icy water, I crept out of the tent and went to the “park” (the place where the cannons are). It was dark, misty, and cold. The dim red light of the night-fires, which, gleaming here and there in the camp, showed up the figures of the sleepy soldiers who lay near them, seemed but to make the darkness more intense.

Nearby, quiet regular snoring could be heard, and from farther off, sounds of movements, voices, and the clatter of the muskets of the infantry preparing to start. There was a smell of smoke, manure, torches, and mist; the morning air caused cold shivers to run down one’s back, and one’s teeth chattered involuntarily.

It was only by the snorting and occasional stamping of the horses harnessed to them that we could tell where the limbers and ammunition wagons stood in the impenetrable darkness; and only the fiery dots of the linstocks showed where the guns were. “God be with us!” With these words came the clanging sound of the first gun moving, then the noise of the ammunition wagon⁠—and the platoon started. We all took off our caps and crossed ourselves. Having occupied the interval between the infantry companies, the platoon stopped and waited a quarter of an hour for the whole column to collect and for the commander to appear.

“One of our men is missing, Nicholas Petrovich.” With these words a black figure approached me, whom I only knew by the voice to be the gun-sergeant of the platoon, Maksimov.

“Who is it?”

“Velenchuk is missing. He was there all the time they were harnessing⁠—I saw him myself⁠—but now he’s gone.”

As the column could not be expected to start at once, we decided to send Corporal Antonov to look for Velenchuk. Directly after that, several horsemen trotted past us in the dark. They were the commander and his suite; and immediately the head of the column moved and started, and so at last did we also, but Antonov and Velenchuk were still absent. We had, however, hardly gone a hundred yards before they both overtook us.

“Where was he?” I asked Antonov.

“Asleep in the ‘park.’ ”

“Why, has he had a drop too much?”

“Oh, no.”

“Then how is it he fell asleep?”

“I can’t make out.”

For about three hours we moved slowly on in silence and darkness, over some unploughed fields bare of snow, and over low bushes that crackled under the wheels of the gun-carriages. At last, after we had crossed a shallow but extremely rapid stream, we were stopped, and we heard the abrupt reports of vintovkas7 in the direction of the vanguard.

These sounds, as usual, had a most exhilarating effect on everyone. The detachment seemed to wake up: sounds of talking, movement, and laughter were heard in the ranks. Here a soldier wrestled with a comrade, there another hopped from foot to foot. Here was one chewing hardtack, or, to while away the time, shouldering and grounding arms. Meanwhile the mist began to grow distinctly whiter in the east, the damp became more intense, and the surrounding objects gradually emerged from the gloom. I could already discern the green gun-carriages and ammunition wagons, the brass of the guns, covered with moisture by the mist, the familiar figures of my soldiers, every minute detail of which I had involuntarily studied, the bay horses, and the lines of infantry with their bright bayonets, their bags, their ramrods, and the kettles they carried on their backs.

We were soon again moved forward a few hundred yards where there was no road, and then we were shown our position. To the right one could see the steep bank of a winding stream and the high wooden posts of a Tartar cemetery; to the left and in front a black strip was visible through the mist. The platoon unlimbered. The Eighth Company, which covered us, piled their muskets, and a battalion with axes and muskets went to the forest.

Before five minutes were over fires were crackling and smoking in all directions. The soldiers dispersed, blew the fires and stirred them with hands and feet, dragged logs and branches; while the forest resounded with the unceasing noise of hundreds of axes and the crashing of falling trees.

The artillery, with a certain rivalry of the infantry, heaped their pile high, and though it was already burning so that one could hardly come within two paces of it, and thick black smoke was rising through the frozen branches (from which drops fell sizzling into the flames) which the soldiers pressed down into the fire, and though the charcoal was glowing beneath and the grass was scorched all around, the soldiers were not satisfied, but kept throwing great logs onto the pile, feeding it with dry grass beneath, and heaping it higher and higher.

When I came up to the fire to smoke a cigarette, Velenchuk, always officious, but today feeling guilty and bustling about more than anyone, in a fit of zeal snatched a piece of charcoal from the fire with his bare hand, and, after tossing it from hand to hand a couple of times, dropped it on the ground.

“Light a twig and hold it up,” said a soldier.

“No, better get a linstock, lad,” said another.

When I had at length lit my cigarette without the aid of Velenchuk, who was again trying to take a piece of charcoal in his hand, he rubbed his burnt fingers on the skirts of his sheepskin coat, and then, probably for want of something else to do, lifted a large piece of plane-tree wood and swung it into the fire. When at last he felt free to rest a bit, he came close up to the fire, threw open his cloak which he wore like a mantle fastened by one button, spread out his legs, held out his big, black hands, and drawing his mouth a bit to one side, screwed up his eyes.

“Ah, I’ve gone and forgot my pipe. Here’s a go, lads!” said he after a short silence, not addressing anyone in particular.

II

In Russia there are three predominant types of soldier, under which the men of all our forces⁠—whether line, guards, infantry, cavalry, artillery, army of the Caucasus, or whatnot⁠—may be classified.

These principal types, including many subdivisions and combinations, are:

  1. The submissive;

  2. The domineering;

  3. The reckless.

The submissive are divided into, (a) the calmly submissive, and (b) the bustlingly submissive.

The domineering are divided into, (a) the sternly domineering, and (b) the diplomatically domineering.

The reckless are divided into, (a) the amusingly reckless, and (b) the viciously reckless.

The type most often met with⁠—a type more lovable and attractive than the others, and generally accompanied by the best Christian virtues⁠—meekness, piety, patience, and devotion to the will of God⁠—is the submissive type in general. The distinctive feature of the calmly submissive is his invincible resignation to and contempt for all the reverses of fate which may befall him; the distinctive features of the submissive drunkard are a mild, poetic disposition and sensibility; the distinctive feature of the bustlingly submissive is limited mental capacity, combined with purposeless industry and zeal.

The domineering type in general is found chiefly among the higher grade of soldiers: the corporals, sergeants, sergeant-majors, and so on. The first subdivision, the sternly domineering, is a noble, energetic, preeminently military type, and does not exclude high poetic impulses (Corporal Antonov, with whom I wish to acquaint the reader, belonged to this type). The second subdivision, formed by the diplomatic domineering, has for some time past been increasing largely. A man of this type is always eloquent and literate,8 wears pink shirts, won’t eat out of the common pot, sometimes smokes tobacco of Mousatov’s brand, and thinks himself much superior to the common soldier, but is rarely himself as good a soldier as the domineering of the first subdivision.

The reckless type, like the domineering type, is good in its first subdivision, the amusingly reckless, whose characteristic traits are irresistible mirth, great capacity of all kinds, and a highly gifted and daring nature. As with the domineering class, the second subdivision is bad; the viciously reckless are terribly bad, but, to the honour of the Russian army it must be said that this type is very rare, and, when found, it is excluded from companionship by the public opinion of the soldiers themselves. Unbelief and a kind of boldness in vice are the chief traits characteristic of this class.

Velenchuk belonged to the bustlingly submissive. He was a Little-Russian by birth, had already served for fifteen years, and although not a showy or smart soldier, he was simple-minded, kindly, extremely though often inopportunely zealous, and also exceedingly honest. I say exceedingly honest, because an incident had occurred the year before which made this characteristic quality of his very evident. It must be remembered that almost every soldier knows a trade. The most usual trades are tailoring and bootmaking. Velenchuk taught himself the former, and judging from the fact that even Michael Dorofeich, the sergeant-major, ordered clothes from him, he must have attained some proficiency at his craft. Last year, in camp, Velenchuk undertook to make a fine cloth coat for Michael Dorofeich; but that very night, after he had cut out the coat and measured out the trimmings, and put them all under his pillow in the tent, a misfortune befell him: the cloth, that had cost seven rubles, disappeared during the night! Velenchuk, with tears in his eyes, trembling white lips and suppressed sobs, informed the sergeant-major of the occurrence. Michael Dorofeich was enraged. In the first moment of irritation he threatened the tailor; but afterwards, being a man with means and kindly, he just waved his hand and did not demand from Velenchuk payment of the value of the cloth. In spite of all the fuss made by the fussy Velenchuk, in spite of all the tears he shed when telling of his mishap, the thief was not found. A strong suspicion fell on the viciously reckless soldier Chernov, who slept in the same tent; but there were no positive proofs. The diplomatic domineering Michael Dorofeich, being a man with means, and having some little business transactions with the master-at-arms and the caterer of the mess (the aristocracy of the battery), very soon forgot all about the loss of his mufti coat. Not so Velenchuk. He did not forget his misfortune. The soldiers said they feared, at the time, that he might commit suicide or run away into the mountains, so great was the effect of his mishap upon him. He neither ate nor drank, and could not even work, but was continually crying. When three days had passed he appeared, quite pale, before Michael Dorofeich, took with trembling fingers a gold coin from under his cuff and gave it him, “Heaven’s my witness, Michael Dorofeich, that it’s all I have, and even that I borrowed from Zhdanov,” said he, sobbing again; “and the other two rubles I swear I will also return as soon as I have earned them. He” (whom “he” meant Velenchuk did not himself know) “has made me appear like a rascal before you. He⁠—with his loathsome, viper soul⁠—he takes the last morsel from his brother soldier, and I having served for fifteen years.⁠ ⁠…” To the honour of Michael Dorofeich be it said, he did not take the remaining two rubles, though Velenchuk brought them to him two months later.

III

Besides Velenchuk, five other soldiers of my platoon sat warming themselves by our fire.

In the best place, on a butt, with his back to the wind, sat Maksimov, the gun-sergeant of the platoon, smoking a pipe. The habit of commanding and the consciousness of his dignity were betrayed by the pose, the look, and by every movement of this man, not to mention his nankeen-covered sheepskin coat and the butt he was sitting on, which latter is an emblem of power at a halting-place.

When I came up he turned his head towards me without removing his eyes from the fire, and his look, following the direction his head had taken, only fell on me some time later. Maksimov was not a serf but a peasant-yeoman; he had some money, had qualified to take a class in the school-brigade, and had stuffed his head with erudition. He was awfully rich and awfully learned, so the soldiers said. I remember how once when we were practising plunging fire, with a quadrant, he explained to the soldiers gathered round, that a spirit level is nothing but as it occurs that atmospheric mercury has its motion. In reality, Maksimov was far from being stupid, and understood his work thoroughly; but he had the unfortunate peculiarity of sometimes purposely speaking so that there was no possibility of understanding him, and so that, I am convinced, he did not understand his own words. He was particularly fond of the words “as it occurs” and “continues,” so that when I heard him say “as it occurs” or “continues,” I knew beforehand that I should understand nothing of what followed. The soldiers, on the other hand, as far as I could judge, liked to hear his “as it occurs,” and suspected it of being fraught with deep meaning, though they did not understand a word of it any more than I did. This they attributed entirely to their own stupidity, and respected Theodor Maksimov all the more. In a word, Maksimov was one of the diplomatic domineering.

The soldier next to him, who had bared his sinewy red legs and was putting on his boots again by the fire, was Antonov⁠—that same Corporal Antonov, who in 1837, remaining with only two others in charge of an exposed gun, persisted in firing back at a powerful enemy, and, with two bullets in his leg, continued to serve his gun and to reload it.

The soldiers used to say that he would have been made a gun-sergeant long ago but for his character. And his character really was very peculiar. No one could have been calmer, gentler, or more accurate than he was when sober; but when he had a fit of drinking he became quite another man; he would not submit to authority, fought, brawled, and became a perfectly good-for-nothing soldier. Only the week before this, during the Carnival, he had had a drinking-bout; and in spite of all threats, persuasions, and being tied to a cannon, he went on drinking and brawling up to the first day of Lent. During the whole of Lent, though the division had been ordered not to fast, he fed on dried bread, and during the first week would not even drink the regulation cup of vodka. But one had to see his sturdy thickset figure, as of wrought iron, on its stumpy bandy legs, and his shiny moustached visage when, in a tipsy mood, he took the balalaika in his sinewy hands, and looking carelessly round played Lady, or walked down the street with his cloak thrown loosely over his shoulders, his medals dangling, his hands in the pockets of his nankeen blue trousers, and a look on his countenance of soldierly pride, and of contempt for all that was not of the artillery⁠—one had to see all this in order to understand how impossible it was for him, at such a moment, to abstain from fighting an orderly, a Cossack, an infantryman, a peasant (in fact, anyone not of the artillery) who was rude to him, or happened merely to be in his way. He fought and rioted not so much for his own pleasure as to maintain the spirit of soldiership in general, of which he felt himself to be the representative.

The third soldier, who sat on his heels smoking a clay pipe, was the artillery driver Chikin. He had an earring in one of his ears, bristling little moustaches, and the physiognomy of a bird. “Dear old Chikin,” as the soldiers called him, was a wit. During the bitterest frost, or up to his knees in mud, or after going two days without food, on the march, on parade, or at drill, the “dear fellow” was always and everywhere making faces, twisting his legs about, or cracking jokes that convulsed the whole platoon with laughter. At every halting-place, and in the camp, there was always a circle of young soldiers collected round Chikin, who played Filka9 with them, told them stories about the cunning soldier and the English milord, personated a Tartar or a German, or simply made remarks of his own at which everyone roared with laughter. It is true that his reputation as a wit was so well established in the battery that it was sufficient for him to open his mouth and wink in order to produce a general guffaw, but really there was much in him that was truly humorous and surprising. He saw something special, something that never entered anybody else’s head, in everything, and, above all, this capacity for seeing the funny side of things was proof against any and every trial.

The fourth soldier was an insignificant-looking boy recruited the year before, and this was his first campaign. He stood surrounded by the smoke, and so near the flames that his threadbare cloak seemed in danger of catching fire, yet, judging by the way he extended the skirts of his cloak and bent out his calves, and by his quiet, self-satisfied pose, he was feeling highly contented.

The fifth and last of the soldiers was Daddy Zhdanov. He sat a little way off, cutting a stick. Zhdanov had been serving in the battery longer than anyone else, had known all the others as recruits, and they were all in the habit of calling him “daddy.” It was said of him that he never drank, smoked, or played cards (not even “noses”), and never used bad language. He spent all his spare time boot-making, went to church on holidays where that was possible, or else put a farthing taper before his icon and opened the Book of Psalms, the only book he could read. He seldom kept company with the other soldiers. To those who were his seniors in rank though his juniors in years, he was coldly respectful; with his equals he, not being a drinker, had few opportunities of mixing. He liked the recruits and the youngest soldiers best: he always took them under his protection, admonished them, and often helped them. Everyone in the battery considered him a capitalist because he had some twenty-five rubles, out of which he was always ready to lend something to a soldier in real need.

The same Maksimov who was now gun-sergeant, told me that ten years ago, when he first came as a recruit and drank all he had with the old soldiers who were in the habit of drinking, Zhdanov, noticing his unfortunate position, called him up, severely reprimanded him for his conduct and even beat him, delivered a lecture on how one should live in the army, and sent him away after giving him a shirt (which Maksimov lacked) and half-a-ruble in money. “He made a man of me,” Maksimov always used to say with respect and gratitude. He also helped Velenchuk (whom he had taken under his protection since he was a recruit) at the time of his misfortune. When the coat was stolen, he helped him as he had helped many and many another during the twenty-five years of his service.

One could not hope to find a man in the service who knew his work more thoroughly, or was a better or more conscientious soldier than he; but he was too meek and insignificant-looking to be made a gun-sergeant, though he had been bombardier for fifteen years. Zhdanov’s one enjoyment and passion was song. He had a few favourite songs, always collected a circle of singers from among the younger soldiers, and, though he could not sing himself, he would stand by them, his hands in the pockets of his cloak, his eyes closed, showing sympathy by the movements of his head and jaw. I don’t know why, but that regular movement of the jaws below the ears, which I never noticed in anyone else, seemed to me extremely expressive. His snow-white head, his blackened moustaches, and his sunburnt, wrinkled face, gave him at first sight a stern and harsh expression; but on looking closer into his large, round eyes, especially when they smiled (he never laughed with his lips), you were suddenly struck by something remarkable in their unusually mild, almost childlike look.

IV

“I’ll be blowed! I’ve gone and forgot my pipe. Here’s a go, lads!” repeated Velenchuk.

“You should smoke cikars, old fellow!” began Chikin, drawing his mouth to one side and winking. “There, now, I always smoke cikars when I’m at home⁠—them’s sweeter.”

Of course everybody burst out laughing.

“Forgot your pipe, indeed!” interrupted Maksimov without heeding the general mirth, and beating the tobacco out of his pipe into the palm of his left hand with the proud air of a superior; “where did you vanish to⁠—eh, Velenchuk?”

Velenchuk, half turning round to him, was about to raise his hand to his cap, but dropped it again.

“Seems to me you hadn’t your sleep out after yesterday⁠—falling asleep when you are once up! It’s not thanks the likes of you get for such goings on.”

“May I die, Theodor Maksimov, if a drop has passed my lips; I don’t myself know what happened to me,” answered Velenchuk. “Much cause I had for revelling,” he muttered.

“Just so; but we have to answer to the authorities because of the likes of you, and you continue⁠—it’s quite scandalous!” the eloquent Maksimov concluded in a calmer tone.

“It’s quite wonderful, lads,” Velenchuk went on after a moment’s silence, scratching his head and addressing no one in particular; “really quite wonderful, lads! Here have I been serving for the last sixteen years, and such a thing never happened to me. When we were ordered to appear for muster I was all right, but at the ‘park,’ there it suddenly clutches hold of me, and clutches and clutches, and down it throws me, down on the ground and no more ado⁠—and I did not myself know how I fell asleep, lads! That must have been the trances,” he concluded.

“True enough, I hardly managed to wake you,” said Antonov, as he pulled on his boot. “I had to push and push, just as if you’d been a log!”

“Fancy now,” said Velenchuk, “if I’d been drunk now!⁠ ⁠…”

“That’s just like a woman we had at home,” began Chikin; “she hardly got off the stove for two years. Once they began waking her⁠—they thought she was asleep⁠—and she was already dead. She used to be taken sleepy that way. That’s what it is, old fellow!”

“Now then, Chikin, won’t you tell us how you set the tone during your leave of absence?” said Maksimov, looking at me with a smile as if to say: “Would you, too, like to hear the stupid fellow?”

“What tone, Theodor Maksimov?” said Chikin, giving me a rapid side-glance. “In course I told them what sort of a Caw-cusses we’d got here.”

“Well, yes, how did you do it? There! don’t give yourself airs; tell us how you administrated it to them.”

“How should I administrate it? In course they asked me how we live,” Chikin began rapidly, with the air of a man recounting something he had repeated several times before. “ ‘We live well, old fellow,’ says I. ‘Provisions in plenty we get: morning and night a cup of chokelad for every soldier lad, and at noon barley broth before us is set, such as gentlefolks get, and instead of vodka we get a pint of Modera wine from Devirier, such as costs forty-four⁠—with the bottle ten more!’ ”

“Fine Modera!” Velenchuk shouted louder than anyone, rolling with laughter: “that’s Modera of the right sort!”

“Well, and what did you tell them about the Asiaites?” Maksimov went on to ask, when the general mirth had subsided a little.

Chikin stooped over the fire, poked out a bit of charcoal with a stick, put it to his pipe, and long continued puffing at his shag as though not noticing the silent curiosity awakened in his hearers. When he had at last drawn enough smoke he threw the bit of charcoal away, pushed his cap yet farther back, and, stretching himself, continued with a slight smile⁠—

“Well, so they asked, ‘What’s that Cherkes fellow or Turk as you’ve got down in your Caw-cusses,’ they say, ‘as fights?’ and so I says, ‘Them’s not all of one sort; there’s different Cherkeses, old fellow. There’s the Wagabones, them as lives in the stony mountains and eat stones instead of bread. They’re big,’ says I, ‘as big as a good-sized beam, they’ve one eye in the forehead, and wear burning red caps,’ just such as yours, old fellow,” he added, turning to the young recruit, who really wore an absurd cap with a red crown.

At this unexpected sally the recruit suddenly collapsed, slapped his knees, and burst out laughing and coughing so that he hardly managed to utter in a stifled voice, “Them Wagabones is the right sort!”

“ ‘Then,’ says I, ‘there’s also the Mopingers,’ ” continued Chikin, making his cap slip onto his forehead with a movement of his head: “ ‘these others are little twins, so big⁠ ⁠… all in pairs,’ says I, ‘they run about hand in hand at such a rate,’ says I, ‘that you couldn’t catch ’em on a horse!’⁠—‘Then how’s it, lad,’ they say, ‘how’s them Mopingers, be they born hand in hand?’ ” He said this in a hoarse bass, pretending to imitate a peasant. “ ‘Yes,’ says I, ‘he’s naturally like that. Tear their hands apart, and they’ll bleed just like a Chinaman: take a Chinaman’s cap off, and it’ll bleed.’⁠—‘And tell us, lad, how do they fight?’⁠—‘That’s how,’ says I, ‘they catch you and rip your belly up and wind your bowels round your arm, and wind and wind. They go on winding and you go on laughing till your breath all goes.’ ”

“Well, and did they believe you, Chikin?” said Maksimov with a slight smile, while all the rest were dying with laughter.

“Such queer people, Theodor Maksimov, they believe everything. On my word they do. But when I told them about Mount Kazbec, and said that the snow didn’t melt on it all the summer, they mocked at me! ‘What are you bragging for, lad,’ they says; ‘a big mountain and the snow on it don’t melt? Why, lad, when the thaw sets in here, every tiny bit of a hillock thaws first, while the snow still lies in the hollows.’ There now!” Chikin concluded with a wink.

V

The bright disk of the sun, shining through the milky-white mist, had already risen to a considerable height. The purple-grey horizon gradually widened, but though it had receded considerably, it was still as sharply outlined by a deceptive white wall of mist.

Beyond the felled wood a good-sized plain now opened in front of us. The black or milky-white or purple smoke of the fires expanded, and fantastic shapes of white mist-clouds floated above the plain. An occasional group of mounted Tartars appeared far in the distance before us, and at rare intervals the reports of our rifles10 and of their vintovkas and cannon were to be heard.

This, as Captain Hlopov said, was “not yet business, but only play.”

The commander of the 9th Company of Chasseurs, that formed our support, came up to our guns, pointed to three Tartars11 on horseback skirting the forest some 1,400 yards from us, and, with the fondness for artillery fire common among infantry officers in general, asked me to let off a ball or bomb at them.

“Do you see?” he said with a kind and persuasive smile, as he stretched his hand from behind my shoulder, “in front of those big trees there⁠ ⁠… one on a white horse and in a black Circassian cloak, and two others behind. Do you see? Could you not, please?”

“And there are three more riding at the outskirt of the forest,” said Antonov, who had astonishingly sharp eyesight, coming up to us, and hiding behind his back the pipe he had been smoking. “There, the one in front has taken his gun out of its case. They can be seen distinctly, y’r honor!”

“Look there! he’s fired, lads. D’ye see the white smoke?” said Velenchuk, who was one of a group of soldiers standing a little behind us.

“At our line surely, the blackguard!” remarked another.

“See what a lot of ’em come streaming out of the forest. Must be looking round⁠ ⁠… want to place a gun,” said a third.

“Supposing now a bomb was sent right into that lot, wouldn’t they spit!”

“And what d’ye think, old fellow⁠—that it would just reach ’em?” said Chikin.

“Twelve hundred or twelve hundred and fifty yards: not more than that,” said Maksimov calmly and as if speaking to himself, though it was evident he was just as anxious to fire as the rest: “if we were to give an elevation of forty-five lines to our ‘unicorn’12 we could hit the very point, that is to say, perfectly.”

“D’ye know, if you were now to aim at that group, you would be sure to hit somebody. There now, they are all together⁠—please be quick and give the order to fire,” the company commander continued to entreat me.

“Are we to point the gun?” suddenly asked Antonov in an abrupt bass, with a look as if of gloomy anger.

I must admit that I also felt a strong wish to fire, so I ordered the second gun to be trained.

I had hardly given the order before the shell was charged and rammed in, and Antonov, leaning against the cheek of the gun-carriage and holding two of his thick fingers to the base-ring, was directing the movement of the tail of the gun. “Right, left⁠—a bit to the left, a wee bit⁠—more⁠—more⁠—right!” he said, stepping from the gun with a look of pride.

The infantry officer, I, and Maksimov, one after the other, approached, put our heads to the sights, and expressed our various opinions.

“By Heavens, it will shoot over,” remarked Velenchuk, clicking his tongue, though he was only looking over Antonov’s shoulder, and therefore had no grounds for this supposition. “By Hea⁠—vens, it will shoot over; it will hit that there tree, my lads!”

I gave the order: “Two.”

The men stepped away from the gun. Antonov ran aside to watch the flight of the shot. The touch-hole flashed and the brass rang. At the same moment we were enveloped in a cloud of powder-smoke, and, emerging from the overpowering boom of the discharge, the humming, metallic sound of the flying shot receded with the swiftness of lightning and died away in the distance amid general silence.

A little beyond the group of horsemen a white cloudlet appeared; the Tartars galloped away in all directions, and the report of the explosion reached us. “That was very fine!” “Ah, how they galloped!” “The devils don’t like that!” came the words of approval and ridicule from the ranks of the artillery and infantry.

“If we had had the gun pointed only a touch lower we should just have caught him. I said it would hit the tree, and sure enough it did go to the right,” remarked Velenchuk.

VI

Leaving the soldiers to discuss how the Tartars galloped off when they saw the shell, why they had been riding there, and whether there were many of them in the forest, I went and sat down with the company commander under a tree a few steps off, to wait while the cutlets he had invited me to share were being warmed up. The company commander, Bolhov, was one of the officers nicknamed “Bonjourists” in the regiment. He was a man of some means, had formerly served in the Guards, and spoke French. But in spite of all this his comrades liked him. He was clever enough, and had tact enough, to wear a coat of Petersburg make, to eat a good dinner, and to speak French, without too much offending his fellow officers. After talking about the weather, the military operations, our mutual acquaintances among the officers, and having assured ourselves of the satisfactory state of each other’s ideas by questions and answers, and the views expressed, we involuntarily passed to more intimate conversation. And when people belonging to the same circle meet in the Caucasus, a very evident, even if unspoken, question arises: “Why are you here?” and it was to this silent question of mine that, as it seemed to me, my companion wished to reply.

“When will this expedition end?” he said lazily. “It is so dull.”

“I don’t think it dull,” said I. “It’s much worse on the staff.”

“Oh, it’s ten thousand times worse on the staff,” he said irascibly. “No, I mean when will the whole thing end?”

“What is it you want to end?” asked I.

“Everything⁠—the whole affair!⁠ ⁠… Are the cutlets ready, Nikolayev?”

“Then why did you come to serve here if you so dislike the Caucasus?” I said.

“Do you know why?” he answered with resolute frankness. “In obedience to tradition! You know there exists in Russia a most curious tradition about the Caucasus, making it out to be a ‘promised land’ for all unfortunates.”

“Yes, that is almost true,” said I. “Most of us⁠—”

“But the best of it is,” he said, interrupting me, “that all of us who came to the Caucasus in obedience to the tradition made a terrible mistake in our calculations, and I can’t for the life of me see why one should, in consequence of an unfortunate love affair or of financial troubles, choose to go and serve in the Caucasus rather than in Kazan or Kaluga. Why, in Russia they imagine the Caucasus to be something majestic: eternal virgin ice, rushing torrents, daggers, mantles, fair Circassians, and an atmosphere of terror and romance; but in reality there is nothing amusing in it. If they only realized that we never get to the virgin-ice, that it would not be at all amusing if we did, and that the Caucasus is divided into governments⁠—Stavropol, Tiflis, and so on.”

“Yes,” said I, laughing, “we look very differently at the Caucasus when we are in Russia and when we are here. It is like what you may have experienced when reading verses in a language you are not familiar with; you imagine them to be much better than they are.”

“I really don’t know; but I dislike this Caucasus awfully,” he said, interrupting me.

“Well, no; I still like the Caucasus, only in a different way.”

“Perhaps it is all right,” he continued irritably; “all I know is that I’m not all right in the Caucasus.”

“Why is that?” I asked, to say something.

“Well, first because it has deceived me. All that I, in obedience to tradition, came to the Caucasus to be cured of, has followed me here, only with the difference that there it was all on a big scale, and now it is on a little dirty one, where at each step I find millions of petty anxieties, shabbinesses, and insults; and next, because I feel that I am sinking, morally, lower and lower every day; but chiefly, because I do not feel fit for the service here. I can’t stand running risks. The fact of the matter is simply that I am not brave.”

He stopped and looked at me, not joking.

Though this unasked-for confession surprised me very much, I did not contradict him, as he evidently wished me to do, but waited for his own refutation of his words, which always follows in such cases.

“Do you know, in coming on this expedition I am taking part in an action for the first time,” he continued, “and you can’t think what was going on in me yesterday. When the Sergeant-major brought the order that my company was to join the column, I turned as white as a sheet and could not speak for excitement. And if you only knew what a night I had! If it were true that one’s hair turns white from fear, mine ought to be perfectly white today, because I don’t think anyone condemned to death ever suffered more in a night than I did; and even now, though I feel a bit easier than in the night, this is what goes on inside!” he added, turning his fist about before his chest. “And what is funny is that while a most fearful tragedy is being enacted, here one sits eating cutlets and onions and making believe that it is great fun.⁠—Have we any wine, Nikolayev?” he added, yawning.

“That’s him, my lads!” came the excited voice of one of the soldiers, and all eyes turned towards the border of the distant forest.

In the distance a puff of bluish smoke expanded and rose, blown about by the wind. When I had understood that this was a shot fired at us by the enemy, all before my eyes at the moment assumed a sort of new and majestic character. The piles of arms, the smoke of the fires, the blue sky, the green gun-carriages, Nikolayev’s sunburnt, moustached face⁠—all seemed telling me that the ball that had already emerged from the smoke and was at that moment flying through space, might be directed straight at my breast.

“Where did you get the wine?” I asked Bolhov lazily, while deep in my soul two voices spoke with equal clearness. One said, “Lord receive my soul in peace,” the other, “I hope I shall not stoop, but smile, while the ball is passing,” and at that moment something terribly unpleasant whistled past our heads, and a cannonball crashed down a couple of paces from us.

“There now, had I been a Napoleon or a Frederick, I should certainly have paid you a compliment,” Bolhov remarked, turning towards me quite calmly.

“You have done so as it is,” I answered, with difficulty hiding the excitement produced in me by the danger just passed.

“Well, what if I have?⁠—no one will write it down.”

“Yes, I will.”

“Well, if you do put it down, it will only be ‘for critikism,’ as Mischenkov says,” he added with a smile.

“Ugh! the damned thing!” just then remarked Antonov behind us, as he spat over his shoulder with vexation, “just missed my legs!”

All my attempts to seem calm, and all our cunning phrases, suddenly seemed to me insufferably silly after that simple exclamation.

VII

The enemy had really placed two guns where we had seen the Tartars riding, and they fired a shot every twenty or thirty minutes at our men who were felling the wood. My platoon was ordered forward to the plain to answer the enemy’s fire. A puff of smoke appeared on the outskirts of the forest, then followed a report and a whistle, and a ball fell in front or behind us. The enemy’s shots fell fortunately for us, and we sustained no losses.

The artillerymen behaved splendidly, as they always do; loaded quickly, pointed carefully at the spots where the puffs of smoke were, and quietly joked with one another.

The infantry supports lay near in silent inaction awaiting their turn. The wood-fellers went on with their work, the axes rang faster and more unintermittently through the forest; but when the whistle of a shot became audible all were suddenly silent, and, in the midst of the deathly stillness, voices not quite calm exclaimed, “Scatter, lads!” and all eyes followed the ball ricochetting over wood piles and strewn branches.

The mist had now risen quite high and, turning into clouds, gradually disappeared into the dark-blue depths of the sky; the unveiled sun shone brightly, throwing sparkling reflections from the steel bayonets, the brass of the guns, the thawing earth, and the glittering hoarfrost. In the air one felt the freshness of the morning frost together with the warmth of the spring sunshine; thousands of different hues and tints mingled in the dry leaves of the forest, and the shining, beaten track plainly showed the traces left by wheels and the marks of roughshod horses’ feet.

The movement became greater and more noticeable between the two forces. On all sides the blue smoke of the guns appeared more and more frequently. Dragoons rode forward, the streamers of their lances flying; from the infantry companies one heard songs, and the carts laden with firewood formed into a train in our rear. The general rode up to our platoon and ordered us to prepare to retire. The enemy settled in the bushes on our left flank, and their snipers began to molest us seriously. A bullet came humming from the woods to the left and struck a gun-carriage, then came another, and a third.⁠ ⁠… The infantry supports that had been lying near us rose noisily, took up their muskets and formed into line.

The small-arm firing increased, and bullets flew more and more frequently. The retreat commenced, and consequently the serious part of the action, as is usual in the Caucasus.

Everything showed that the artillerymen liked the bullets as little as the infantry had liked the cannonballs. Antonov frowned, Chikin imitated the bullets and joked about them, but it was easy to see he did not like them. “It’s in a mighty hurry,” he said of one of them; another he called “little bee”; a third, which seemed to fly slowly past overhead with a kind of piteous wail, he called an “orphan,” which caused general laughter.

The recruit, who, unaccustomed to such scenes, bent his head to one side and stretched his neck every time a bullet passed, also made the soldiers laugh. “What, is that a friend of yours you’re bowing to?” they said to him. Velenchuk also, usually quite indifferent to danger, was now excited: he was evidently vexed that we did not fire case-shot in the direction whence the bullets came. He repeated several times in a discontented tone, “Why is he allowed to go for us and gets nothing in return? If we turned a gun that way and gave them a taste of case-shot they’d hold their noise, no fear!”

It was true that it was time to do this, so I ordered to fire a last bomb and then to load with case-shot.

“Case-shot!” Antonov called out briskly as he went through the thick of the smoke to sponge out the gun as soon as it was discharged.

At that moment I heard, just behind me, the rapid whiz of a bullet suddenly stopped with a dull thud by something. My heart stopped beating. “Someone of the men has been hit,” I thought, while a sad presentiment made me afraid to turn round. And, really, that sound was followed by the heavy fall of a body, and the heartrending “Oh-o-oh” of someone who had been wounded. “I’m hit, lads!” a voice I knew exclaimed with an effort. It was Velenchuk. He was lying on his back between the limbers and a cannon. The cartridge-bag he had been carrying was thrown to one side. His forehead was covered with blood, and a thick red stream was running down over his right eye and nose. He was wounded in the stomach but hardly bled at all there; his forehead he had hurt against a log in falling.

All this I made out much later; the first moment I could only see an indistinct mass, and, as it seemed to me, a tremendous quantity of blood.

Not one of the soldiers who were loading said a word, only the young recruit muttered something that sounded like “Dear me! he’s bleeding,” and Antonov, frowning, gave an angry grunt; but it was clear that the thought of death passed through the soul of each. All set to work very actively and the gun was loaded in a moment, but the ammunition-bearer bringing the case-shot went two or three steps round the spot where Velenchuk still lay groaning.

VIII

Everyone who has been in action undoubtedly knows that strange and though illogical yet powerful feeling of aversion for the spot where someone has been killed or wounded. It was evident that for a moment my men gave way to this feeling when Velenchuk had to be taken to the cart that came up to fetch him. Zhdanov came up angrily to the wounded man, and, taking him under the arms, lifted him without heeding his loud screams. “Now then, what are you standing there for? take hold!” he shouted, and about ten assistants, some of them superfluous, immediately surrounded Velenchuk. But hardly had they moved him when he began screaming and struggling terribly.

“What are you screaming like a hare for?” said Antonov roughly, holding his leg; “mind, or we’ll just leave you.”

And the wounded man really became quiet, and only now and then uttered, “Oh, it’s my death! Oh, oh, oh, lads!”

When he was laid in the cart he even stopped moaning, and I heard him speak to his comrades in low clear tones, probably saying farewell to them.

No one likes to look at a wounded man during an action, and, instinctively hurrying to end this scene, I ordered him to be taken quickly to the ambulance, and returned to the guns. But after a few minutes I was told that Velenchuk was asking for me, and I went up to the cart.

The wounded man lay at the bottom of the cart holding on to the sides with both hands. His broad healthy face had completely changed during those few moments; he seemed to have grown thinner and years older, his lips were thin and pale, and pressed together with an evident strain. The hasty and dull expression of his glance was replaced by a kind of bright clear radiance, and on the bloody forehead and nose already lay the impress of death. Though the least movement caused him excruciating pain, he nevertheless asked to have a small cherez13 with money taken from his left leg.

The sight of his bare, white, healthy leg, when his jackboot had been taken off and the purse untied, produced on me a terribly sad feeling.

“Here are three rubles and a half,” he said, as I took the purse: “you’ll take care of them.”

The cart was starting, but he stopped it.

“I was making a cloak for Lieutenant Sulimovsky. He gave me two rubles. I bought buttons for one and a half, and half a ruble is in my bag with the buttons. Please let him have it.”

“All right! all right!” said I. “Get well again, old fellow.”

He did not answer; the cart started, and he again began to groan and cry out in a terrible, heartrending voice. It was as if, having done with the business of this life, he did not think it necessary to restrain himself, and considered it permissible to allow himself this relief.

IX

“Where are you off to? Come back! Where are you going?” I shouted to the recruit, who, with his reserve linstock under his arm and a stick of some sort in his hand, was, in the coolest manner, following the cart that bore the wounded man.

But the recruit only looked at me lazily, muttered something or other, and continued his way, so that I had to send a soldier to bring him back. He took off his red cap and looked at me with a stupid smile.

“Where were you going?” I asked.

“To the camp.”

“Why?”

“Why?⁠ ⁠… Velenchuk is wounded,” he said, again smiling.

“What’s that to you? You must stay here.”

He looked at me with surprise, then turned quietly round, put on his cap, and went back to his place.


The affair in general was successful. The Cossacks, as we heard, had made a fine charge and brought back three dead Tartars;14 the infantry had provided itself with firewood, and had only half a dozen men wounded; the artillery had lost only Velenchuk and two horses. For that, two miles of forest had been cut down, and the place so cleared as to be unrecognizable. Instead of the thick outskirts of the forest you saw before you a large plain covered with smoking fires, and cavalry and infantry marching back to camp.

Though the enemy continued to pursue us with artillery and small-arm fire up to the cemetery by the little river we had crossed in the morning, the retirement was successfully accomplished. I was already beginning to dream of the cabbage-soup and mutton ribs with buckwheat that were awaiting me in the camp, when a message came from the General ordering a redoubt to be constructed by the river, and the 3rd battalion of the K⁠⸺ Regiment and the platoon of the 4th Battery to remain there till next day.

The carts with the wood and the wounded, the Cossacks, the artillery, the infantry with muskets and faggots on their shoulders, all passed us with noise and songs. Every face expressed animation and pleasure, caused by the escape from danger and the hope of rest. Only we and the 3rd battalion had to postpone these pleasant feelings till tomorrow.

X

While we of the artillery were busy with the guns⁠—parking the limbers and the ammunition wagons, and arranging the picket-ropes⁠—the infantry had already piled their muskets, made up campfires, built little huts of branches and maize straw, and begun boiling their buckwheat.

The twilight had set in. Bluish white clouds crept over the sky. The mist, turning into fine dank drizzle, wetted the earth and the soldiers’ cloaks; the horizon narrowed, and all the surroundings assumed a gloomier hue. The damp I felt through my boots and on my neck, the ceaseless movement and talk in which I took no part, the sticky mud on which my feet kept slipping, and my empty stomach, all combined to put me into the dreariest, most unpleasant frame of mind after the physical and moral weariness of the day. I could not get Velenchuk out of my head. The whole simple story of his soldier-life depicted itself persistently in my imagination.

His last moments were as clear and calm as his whole life had been. He had lived too honestly and been too artless for his simple faith in a future heavenly life to be shaken at the decisive moment.

“Your honour!” said Nikolayev, coming up to me, “the Captain asks you to come and have tea with him.”

Having scrambled through, as best I could, between the piles of arms and the campfires, I followed Nikolayev to where Bolhov was, thinking with pleasure of a tumbler of hot tea, and a cheerful conversation which would disperse my gloomy thoughts.

“Have you found him?” I heard Bolhov’s voice say from inside a maize-hut in which a light was burning.

“I’ve brought him, y’r honour,” answered Nikolayev’s bass voice.

Inside the hut Bolhov was sitting on a dry mantle, with unbuttoned coat and no cap. A samovar stood boiling by his side, and on a drum were light refreshments. A bayonet holding a candle was stuck into the ground.

“What do you think of it?” he asked, looking proudly round his cosy establishment. It really was so nice inside the hut that at tea I quite forgot the damp, the darkness, and Velenchuk’s wound. We talked of Moscow, and of things that had not the least relation to the war or to the Caucasus.

After a moment of silence, such as sometimes occurs in the most animated conversation, Bolhov looked at me with a smile.

“I think our conversation this morning struck you as being very strange,” he said.

“No, why do you think so? It only seemed to me that you were too frank; there are things which we all know, but which should never be mentioned.”

“Why not? If there were the least possibility of changing this life for the lowest and poorest without danger and without service, I should not hesitate a moment.”

“Then why don’t you return to Russia?” I asked.

“Why?” he repeated. “Oh, I have thought about that long ago. I can’t return to Russia now until I have the Ann and Vladimir orders: an Ann round my neck, and the rank of major, as I planned when I came here.”

“Why?⁠—if, as you say, you feel unfit for the service here.”

“But what if I feel still more unfit to go back to Russia to the same position that I left? That is also one of the traditions in Russia, confirmed by Passek, Sleptsov, and others, that one need only go to the Caucasus to be laden with rewards. Everyone expects and demands it of us; and I have been here for two years, have been on two expeditions, and have got nothing. But still I have so much ambition that I won’t leave on any account until I am a major with a Vladimir and Ann round my neck. I have become so concerned about it that it upsets me when Gnilokishkin gets a reward and I don’t. And then, how am I to show myself in Russia, to the village elder⁠—the merchant Kotelnikov⁠—to whom I sell my corn; to my Moscow aunt; and to all those good people, if after two years spent in the Caucasus I return without any reward? It is true I don’t at all wish to know all those people, and they, too, no doubt, care very little about me; but man is so made that, though I don’t want to know them, yet on account of them I’m wasting the best years of my life, all my life’s happiness, and am ruining my future.”

XI

Just then we heard the voice of the commander of the battalion outside, addressing Bolhov.

“Who is with you, Nicholas Fedorovich?”

Bolhov gave him my name, and then three officers scrambled into the hut⁠—Major Kirsanov; the adjutant of his battalion; and Captain Trosenko.

Kirsanov was not tall but stout, he had black moustaches, rosy cheeks, and oily little eyes. These eyes were his most remarkable feature. When he laughed, nothing remained of them but two tiny moist stars, and these little stars, together with his wide-stretched lips and outstretched neck, often gave him an extraordinarily senseless look. In the regiment Kirsanov behaved himself and bore himself better than anyone else; his subordinates did not complain of him, and his superiors respected him⁠—though the general opinion was that he was very limited. He knew the service, was exact and zealous, always had ready money, kept a carriage and a man-cook, and knew how to make an admirable pretence of being proud.

“What were you talking about, Nicholas Fedorovich?”

“Why, about the attractions of the service here.”

But just then Kirsanov noticed me, a cadet, and to impress me with his importance he paid no attention to Bolhov’s reply, but looked at the drum and said⁠—

“Are you tired, Nicholas Fedorovich?”

“No, you see we⁠—” Bolhov began.

But again the dignity of the commander of the battalion seemed to make it necessary to interrupt, and to ask another question.

“That was a famous affair today, was it not?”

The adjutant of the battalion was a young ensign recently promoted from being a cadet, a modest, quiet lad with a bashful and kindly-pleasant face. I had met him at Bolhov’s before. The lad would often come to Bolhov’s, bow, sit down in a corner, and remain silent for hours making cigarettes and smoking them; then he would rise, bow, and go away. He was the type of a poor Russian nobleman’s son, who had chosen the military career as the only one possible to him with his education, and who esteemed his position as an officer above everything else in the world⁠—a simple-minded and lovable type, notwithstanding the comical appurtenances inseparable from it: the tobacco-pouch, dressing-gown, guitar, and little moustache-brush we are accustomed to associate with it. It was told of him in the regiment, that he bragged about being just but strict with his orderly, and that he used to say, “I punish seldom, but when I am compelled to do it, it’s no joke,” and that when his tipsy orderly robbed him outrageously and even began to insult him, he, the master, took him to the guardhouse and ordered everything to be prepared for a flogging, but was so upset at the sight of the preparations that he could only say, “There now, you see, I could⁠—” and, becoming quite disconcerted, ran home in great confusion, and was henceforth afraid to look his man Chernov in the eyes. His comrades gave the simple-minded boy no rest, but teased him continually about this episode, and more than once I heard how he defended himself, and, blushing to the tips of his ears, assured them that it was not true, but just the contrary.

The third visitor, Captain Trosenko, was a thoroughgoing old Caucasian⁠—that is, a man for whom the company he commanded had become his family; the fortress where the staff was, his home; and the soldiers’ singing his only pleasure in life. He was a man for whom everything unconnected with the Caucasus was contemptible and scarcely worthy of being considered probable, and everything connected with the Caucasus was divided into two halves: ours and not ours. The first he loved, the second he hated with all the power of his soul; but above all he was a man of steeled, calm courage, wonderfully kind in his behaviour to his comrades and subordinates, and desperately frank and even rude, to aides-de-camp and “Bonjourists,” for whom, for some reason, he had a great dislike. On entering the hut he nearly caved the roof in with his head, then suddenly sank down and sat on the ground.

“Well?” he said, and then suddenly remarking me, whom he did not know, he stopped and gazed at me with a dull, fixed look.

“Well, and what have you been conversing about?” asked the Major, taking out his watch and looking at it, though I am perfectly certain he had no need to.

“Why, I’ve been asked my reasons for serving here⁠—”

“Of course. Nicholas Fedorovich wishes to distinguish himself here, and then to return home,” said the Major.

“Well, and you, Abram Ilyich,” said Bolhov, addressing Kirsanov, “tell me why you are serving in the Caucasus.”

“I serve because, in the first place, as you know, it is everyone’s duty to serve.⁠ ⁠… What?” he then added, though no one had spoken. “I had a letter from Russia yesterday, Nicholas Fedorovich,” he continued, evidently wishing to change the subject; “they write that⁠ ⁠… they ask such strange questions.”

“What questions?” asked Bolhov.

The Major began laughing.

“Very queer questions.⁠ ⁠… They ask, can jealousy exist where there is no love.⁠ ⁠… What?” he asked, turning round and glancing at us all.

“Dear me!” said Bolhov, with a smile.

“Yes, you know, it is nice in Russia,” continued the Major, just as if his sentences flowed naturally from one another. “When I was in Tambov in ’52, they received me everywhere as if I had been some emperor’s aide-de-camp. Will you believe it, that at a ball at the Governor’s, when I came in, you know⁠ ⁠… well, they received me very well. The General’s wife herself, you know, talked to me, and asked me about the Caucasus, and everybody was⁠ ⁠… so that I hardly knew.⁠ ⁠… They examined my gold sabre as if it were some curiosity; they asked for what I had received the sabre, for what the Ann, for what the Vladimir⁠ ⁠… so I just told them.⁠ ⁠… What? That’s what the Caucasus is good for, Nicholas Fedorovich!” he continued, without waiting for any reply:⁠—“There they think very well of us Caucasians. You know a young man that’s a staff-officer and has an Ann and a Vladimir⁠ ⁠… that counts for a good deal in Russia.⁠ ⁠… What?”

“And you, no doubt, piled it on a bit, Abram Ilyich?” said Bolhov.

“He⁠—he!” laughed the Major, stupidly. “You know one has to do that. And didn’t I feed well those two months!”

“And tell me, is it nice there in Russia?” said Trosenko, inquiring about Russia as though it were China or Japan.

“Yes, and the champagne we drank those two months, it was awful!”

“Eh, nonsense! You’ll have drunk nothing but lemonade. There now, I’d have burst to let them see how Caucasians drink. I’d have given them something to talk about. I’d have shown them how one drinks; eh, Bolhov?” said Trosenko.

“But you, Daddy, have been more than ten years in the Caucasus,” said Bolhov, “and you remember what Ermolov15 said?⁠ ⁠… And Abram Ilyich has been only six.”

“Ten indeed!⁠ ⁠… nearly sixteen.⁠ ⁠… Well, Bolhov, let us have some sage-vodka. It’s damp, b-r-r-r!⁠ ⁠… Eh?” said Trosenko, smiling, “Will you have a drink, Major?”

But the Major had been displeased by the old Captain’s first remarks to him, and plainly drew back and sought refuge in his own grandeur. He hummed something, and again looked at his watch.

“For my part, I shall never go there!” Trosenko continued without heeding the Major’s frowns. “I have lost the habit of speaking and walking in the Russian way. They’d ask, ‘What curious creature is this coming here? Asia, that’s what it is.’ Am I right, Nicholas Fedorovich? Besides, what have I to go to Russia for? What does it matter? I shall be shot here some day. They’ll ask, ‘Where’s Trosenko?’ ‘Shot!’ What will you do with the 8th Company then, eh?” he added, always addressing the Major.

“Send the officer on duty!” shouted the Major, without answering the Captain, though I again felt sure there was no need for him to give any orders.

“And you, young man, are glad, I suppose, to be drawing double pay?”16 said the Major, turning to the Adjutant of the battalion after some moments of silence.

“Yes, sir, very glad of course.”

“I think our pay now very high, Nicholas Fedorovich,” continued the Major; “a young man can live very decently, and even permit himself some small luxuries.”

“No, really, Abram Ilyich,” said the Adjutant bashfully. “Though it’s double it’s barely enough. You see, one must have a horse.”

“What are you telling me, young man? I have been an ensign myself and know. Believe me, one can live very well with care. But there! count it up,” added he, bending the little finger of his left hand.

“We always draw our salaries in advance; isn’t that account enough for you?” said Trosenko, emptying a glass of vodka.

“Well, yes, but what do you expect.⁠ ⁠… What?”

Just then a white head with a flat nose thrust itself into the opening of the hut, and a sharp voice said with a German accent⁠—

“Are you here, Abram Ilyich? The officer on duty is looking for you.”

“Come in, Kraft!” said Bolhov.

A long figure in the uniform of the general staff crept in at the door, and began shaking hands all round with peculiar fervour.

“Ah, dear Captain, are you here too?” said he, turning to Trosenko.

In spite of the darkness the new visitor made his way to the Captain, and to the latter’s extreme surprise and dismay, as it seemed to me, kissed him on the lips.

“This is a German trying to be hail fellow well met,” thought I.

XII

My surmise was at once confirmed. Captain Kraft asked for vodka, calling it a “warmer,” croaked horribly, and, throwing back his head, emptied the glass.

“Well, gentlemen, we have scoured the plains of Chechnya today, have we not?” he began, but, seeing the officer on duty, stopped at once to allow the Major to give his orders.

“Have you been round the lines?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have the ambuscades been placed?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then give the company commanders orders to be as cautious as possible.”

“Yes, sir.”

The Major screwed up his eyes in profound contemplation.

“Yes, and tell the men they may now boil their buckwheat.”

“They are already boiling it, sir.”

“All right! you may go, sir.”

“Well, we were just reckoning up how much an officer needs,” continued the Major, turning to us with a condescending smile. “Let us count. You want a uniform and a pair of trousers, don’t you?”

“Certainly.”

“That, let us say, is 50 rubles for two years; therefore 25 rubles a year for clothes. Then for food, 40 kopecks a day⁠—is that right?”

“Oh yes, that is even too much.”

“Well, never mind, I’ll leave it so. Then for a horse and repair of harness and saddle⁠—30 rubles. And that is all. So it’s 25, and 120, and 30⁠—that’s 175 rubles. So you have for luxuries⁠—tea, sugar, tobacco⁠—a matter of 20 rubles left. So you see⁠ ⁠… Isn’t it so, Nicholas Fedorovich?”

“No, but excuse me, Abram Ilyich,” said the Adjutant timidly, “nothing remains for tea and sugar. You allow one suit in two years; but it’s hardly possible to keep oneself in trousers with all this marching. And boots? I wear out a pair almost every month. Then underclothing⁠—shirts, towels, leg-bands,17⁠—it all has to be bought. When one comes to reckon it all up nothing remains over. That’s really so, Abram Ilyich.”

“Ah, it’s splendid to wear leg-bands,” Kraft suddenly remarked after a moment’s silence, uttering the word “leg-bands” in specially tender tones. “It’s so simple, you know; quite Russian!”

“I’ll tell you something,” Trosenko remarked. “Reckon what way you like and you’ll find we might as well put our teeth away on a shelf, and yet here we are all alive, drinking tea, smoking tobacco, and drinking vodka. When you’ve served as long as I have,” he went on, turning to the ensign, “you’ll have also learned how to live. Why, gentlemen, do you know how he treats the orderlies?”

And Trosenko, dying with laughter, told us the whole story about the ensign and his orderly, though we had all heard it hundreds of times.

“Why do you look so like a rose, old chap?” continued he, addressing the ensign, who blushed, perspired, and smiled, so that it was pitiful to see him. “Never mind, old chap! I was just like you once, and now look what a fine fellow I am. You let a young fellow straight from Russia in here⁠—haven’t we seen them?⁠—and he gets spasms or rheumatism or something; and here am I settled here, and it’s my house and my bed and all, d’you see?”

And thereupon he drank another glass of vodka, and looking fixedly at Kraft, said, “Eh?”

“That is what I respect! Here’s a genuine old Caucasian! Permit me to shake hands.”

And Kraft, pushing us all aside, forced his way to Trosenko, and catching hold of his hand shook it with peculiar emotion.

“Yes,” continued Kraft, “we may say we have gone through every kind of experience here. In ’45 you were present, Captain, were you not?⁠—you remember the night between the 12th and 13th, when we spent the night knee-deep in mud and next day captured the barricades they had made of felled trees. I was attached to the commander-in-chief at the time, and we took fifteen barricades that one day⁠—you remember, Captain?”

Trosenko nodded affirmatively, stuck out his nether lip and screwed up his eyes.

“You see⁠ ⁠…” began Kraft, with great animation, making unsuitable gestures with his hands, and addressing the Major.

But the Major, who had, in all probability, heard the story more than once, suddenly looked at the speaker with such dim, dull eyes, that Kraft turned away from him and addressed me and Bolhov, looking alternately at one and the other. But he did not give a single glance at Trosenko during the whole of his narration.

“Well then, you see, when we went out in the morning, the commander-in-chief said to me, ‘Kraft, take those barricades!’ Well, you know, a soldier’s duty is not to reason⁠—it’s hand to cap, and ‘Yes, your Excellency!’ and off. Only as we drew near the first barricade I turned and said to the soldiers, ‘Now then, lads, don’t funk it, but look sharp. If anyone hangs back I’ll cut him down myself!’ With Russian soldiers, you know, one has to speak straight out. Suddenly a bomb⁠ ⁠… I look, one soldier down, another, a third⁠ ⁠… then bullets came whizzing⁠ ⁠… vzin!⁠ ⁠… vzin!⁠ ⁠… vzin!⁠ ⁠… ‘On!’ I cry, ‘On, follow me!’ Just as we got there, I look and see a⁠ ⁠… a⁠ ⁠… you know⁠ ⁠… what do you call it?” and the narrator flourished his arms, trying to find the word he wanted.

“A scarp?” suggested Bolhov.

“No⁠ ⁠… Ach! what is the word? Good heavens, what is it?⁠ ⁠… A scarp!” he said quickly. “So, ‘fix bayonets! Hurrah! ta-ra, ta-ta-ta!’ not a sign of the enemy! Everybody was surprised, you know. Well, that’s all right; we go on to the second barricade. Ah, that was a totally different matter. Our mettle was now up, you know. Just as we reached it I look and see the second barricade, and we could not advance. There was a what’s-its-name⁠ ⁠… now, what do you call it? Ach! what is it?⁠ ⁠…”

“Another scarp, perhaps,” I suggested.

“Not at all,” he said crossly: “not a scarp but⁠—oh dear, what do you call it?” and he made an awkward gesture with his hands. “Oh, good heavens, what is it?” He seemed so distressed that one involuntarily wished to help him.

“A river, perhaps,” said Bolhov.

“No, only a scarp! Hardly had we got down, when, will you believe it, such a hell of fire⁠ ⁠…”

At this moment someone outside the tent asked for me. It was Maksimov. And as, after having heard the different histories of these two barricades, there were still thirteen left, I was glad to seize the excuse to return to my platoon. Trosenko came out with me.

“It’s all lies,” he said to me when we were a few steps from the hut; “he never was near those barricades at all,” and Trosenko laughed so heartily that I, too, enjoyed the joke.

XIII

It was already dark, and only the watch-fires dimly lit up the camp when, after the horses were groomed, I rejoined my men. A large stump lay smouldering on the charcoal. Only three men sat round it: Antonov, who was turning a little pot of ryabco18 on the fire; Zhdanov, who was dreamily poking the embers with a stick, and Chikin, with his pipe, which never would draw well. The rest had already lain down to sleep⁠—some under the ammunition wagons, some on the hay, some by the campfires. By the dim light of the charcoal I could distinguish familiar backs, legs, and heads, and among the latter that of the young recruit who, drawn close to the fire, seemed to be already sleeping. Antonov made room for me. I sat down by him and lit a cigarette. The smell of mist and the smoke of damp wood filled the air and made one’s eyes smart, and, as before, a dank drizzle kept falling from the dismal sky.

One could hear the regular sound of snoring nearby, the crackling of branches in the fire, a few words now and then, and the clattering of muskets among the infantry. The camp watch-fires glowed all around, lighting up within narrow circles the dark shadows of the soldiers near them. Where the light fell by the nearest fires, I could distinguish the figures of naked soldiers waving their shirts close over the fire. There were still many who had not lain down, but moved and spoke, collected on a space of some eighty square yards; but the gloomy dull night gave a peculiar mysterious character to all this movement, as if each one felt the dark silence and feared to break its calm monotony.

When I began to speak, I felt that my voice sounded strange, and I discerned the same frame of mind reflected in the faces of all the soldiers sitting near me. I thought that before I joined them they had been talking about their wounded comrade; but it had not been so at all. Chikin had been telling them about receiving supplies at Tiflis, and about the scamps there.

I have noticed always and everywhere, but especially in the Caucasus, the peculiar tact with which our soldiers avoid mentioning anything that might have a bad effect on a comrade’s spirits. A Russian soldier’s spirit does not rest on easily inflammable enthusiasm which cools quickly, like the courage of Southern nations; it is as difficult to inflame him as it is to depress him. He does not need scenes, speeches, war-cries, songs, and drums; on the contrary, he needs quiet, order, and an absence of any affectation. In a Russian, a real Russian, soldier, you will never find any bragging, swagger, or desire to befog or excite himself in time of danger; on the contrary, modesty, simplicity, and a capacity for seeing in peril something quite else than the danger, are the distinctive features of his character. I have seen a soldier wounded in the leg, who, in the first instant, thought only of the hole in his new sheepskin cloak; and an artillery outrider, who, creeping from beneath a horse that was killed under him, began unbuckling the girths to save the saddle. Who does not remember the incident at the siege of Gergebel, when the fuse of a loaded bomb caught fire in the laboratory and an artillery sergeant ordered two soldiers to take the bomb and run to throw it into the ditch, and how the soldiers did not run to the nearest spot, by the Colonel’s tent, which stood over the ditch, but took it farther on, so as not to wake the gentlemen asleep in the tent, and were consequently both blown to pieces. I remember also, how, in the expedition of 1852, something led a young soldier, while in action, to say he thought the platoon would never escape, and how the whole platoon angrily attacked him for such evil words, which they did not like even to repeat. And now, when the thought of Velenchuk must have been in the mind of each one, and when we might expect Tartars to steal up at any moment and fire a volley at us, everyone listened to Chikin’s sprightly stories, and no one referred either to the day’s action, or to the present danger, or to the wounded man; as if it had all happened goodness knows how long ago, or had never happened at all. But it seemed to me that their faces were rather sterner than usual, that they did not listen to Chikin so very attentively, and that even Chikin himself felt he was not being listened to, but talked for the sake of talking.

Maksimov joined us at the fire, and sat down beside me. Chikin made room for him, stopped speaking, and started sucking at his pipe once more.

“The infantry have been sending to the camp for vodka,” said Maksimov after a considerable silence; “they have just returned.” He spat into the fire. “The sergeant says they saw our man.”

“Is he alive?” asked Antonov, turning the pot.

“No, he’s dead.”

The young recruit suddenly raised his head in the little red cap, looked intently for a minute over the fire at Maksimov and at me, then quickly let his head sink again and wrapped himself in his cloak.

“There now, it wasn’t for nought that death had laid its hand on him when I had to wake him in the ‘park’ this morning,” said Antonov.

“Nonsense!” said Zhdanov, turning the smouldering log, and all were silent.

Then, amid the general silence, came the report of a gun from the camp behind us. Our drummers beat an answering tattoo. When the last vibration ceased Zhdanov rose first, taking off his cap. We all followed his example.

Through the deep silence of the night rose an harmonious choir of manly voices:

“Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from the evil one.”


“We had a man in ’45 who was wounded in the same place,” said Antonov, when we had put on our caps and again sat down by the fire. “We carried him about with us on a gun for two days⁠—do you remember Shevchenko, Zhdanov⁠—and then we just left him there under a tree.”

At this moment an infantryman with tremendous whiskers and moustaches, carrying a musket and pouch, came up to our fire.

“Give me a light for my pipe, comrades,” said he.

“All right, smoke away: there’s fire enough,” remarked Chikin.

“I suppose it’s about Dargo19 you are telling, comrade,” said the infantry soldier to Antonov.

“Yes, about Dargo in ’45,” Antonov replied.

The infantryman shook his head, screwed up his eyes, and sat down on his heels near us.

“Yes, all sorts of things happened there,” he remarked.

“Why did you leave him behind?” I asked Antonov.

“He was suffering much with his stomach. As long as we halted it was all right, but as soon as we moved on he screamed aloud and asked for God’s sake to be left behind⁠—but we felt it a pity. But when he began to give it us hot, killed three of our men from the guns and an officer besides, and we somehow got separated from our battery⁠ ⁠… It was such a go! We thought we should not get our guns away. It was muddy and no mistake!”

“The mud was worst under the Indeysky20 Mountain,” remarked one of the soldiers.

“Yes, it was there he got more worse! So we considered it with Anoshenka⁠—he was an old artillery sergeant. ‘Now really he can’t live, and he’s asking for God’s sake to be left behind; let us leave him here.’ So we decided. There was a tree, such a branchy one, growing there. Well, we took some soaked hardtack Zhdanov had, and put it near him, leant him against the tree, put a clean shirt on him, and said goodbye⁠—all as it should be⁠—and left him.”

“And was he a good soldier?”

“Yes, he was all right as a soldier,” remarked Zhdanov.

“And what became of him God only knows,” continued Antonov; “many of the likes of us perished there.”

“What, at Dargo?” said the infantryman, as he rose, scraping out his pipe, and again half-closing his eyes and shaking his head; “all sorts of things happened there.”

And he left us.

“And have we many men still in the battery who were at Dargo?” I asked.

“Many? why, there’s Zhdanov, myself, Patsan, who is now on furlough, and there may be six others, not more.”

“And why’s our Patsan holiday-making all this time?” said Chikin, stretching out his legs, and lying down with his head on a log. “I reckon he’s been away getting on for a year.”

“And you, have you had your year at home?” I asked Zhdanov.

“No, I did not go,” he answered unwillingly.

“You see, it’s all right to go,” said Antonov, “if they’re well off at home, or if you are yourself fit to work; then it’s tempting to go and they’re glad to see you.”

“But where’s the use of going when one’s one of two brothers?” continued Zhdanov. “It’s all they can do to get their bread; how should they feed a soldier like me? I’m no help to them after twenty-five years’ service. And who knows whether they’re alive still?”

“Haven’t you ever written?” I asked.

“Yes, indeed! I wrote two letters, but never had an answer. Either they’re dead, or simply won’t write because they’re living in poverty themselves; so where’s the good?”

“And is it long since you wrote?”

“I wrote last when we returned from Dargo⁠ ⁠… Won’t you sing us ‘The Birch-Tree’?” he said, turning to Antonov, who sat leaning his elbows on his knees and humming a song.

Antonov began to sing “The Birch-Tree.”

“This is the song Daddy Zhdanov likes most best of all,” said Chikin to me in a whisper, pulling at my cloak. “Sometimes he right down weeps when Philip Antonov sings it.”

Zhdanov at first sat quite motionless, with eyes fixed on the glimmering embers, and his face, lit up by the reddish light, seemed very gloomy; then his jaws below his ears began to move faster and faster, and at last he rose, and spreading out his cloak, lay down in the shadow behind the fire. Either it was his tossing and groaning as he settled down to sleep, or it may have been the effect of Velenchuk’s death and of the dull weather, but it really seemed to me that he was crying.

The bottom of the charred log, bursting every now and then into flames, lit up Antonov’s figure, with his grey moustaches, red face, and the medals on the cloak that he had thrown over his shoulders; or it lit up someone’s boots, head, or back. The same gloomy drizzle fell from above, the air was still full of moisture and smoke, all around were the same bright spots of fires, now dying down, and amid the general stillness came the mournful sound of Antonov’s song; and when that stopped for an instant, the faint nocturnal sounds of the camp⁠—snoring, clanking of sentries’ muskets, voices speaking in low tones⁠—took part.

“Second watch! Makatyuk and Zhdanov!” cried Maksimov.

Antonov stopped singing. Zhdanov rose, sighed, stepped across the log, and went slowly towards the guns.

Recollections of a Scorer

A Story

Well, it happened about three o’clock. The gentlemen were playing. There was the big stranger, as our men called him. The prince was there⁠—the two are always together. The whiskered bárin was there; also the little hussar, Oliver, who was an actor, and there was the pan.21 It was a pretty good crowd.

The big stranger and the prince were playing together. Now, here I was walking up and down around the billiard-table with my stick, keeping tally⁠—ten and forty-seven, twelve and forty-seven.

Everybody knows it’s our business to score. You don’t get a chance to get a bite of anything, and you don’t get to bed till two o’clock o’ nights, but you’re always being screamed at to bring the balls.

I was keeping tally; and I look, and see a new bárin comes in at the door. He gazed and gazed, and then sat down on the sofa. Very well!

“Now, who can that be?” thinks I to myself. “He must be somebody.”

His dress was neat⁠—neat as a pin⁠—checkered tricot pants, stylish little short coat, plush vest, and gold chain and all sorts of trinkets dangling from it.

He was dressed neat; but there was something about the man neater still; slim, tall, his hair brushed forward in style, and his face fair and ruddy⁠—well, in a word, a fine young fellow.

You must know our business brings us into contact with all sorts of people. And there’s many that ain’t of much consequence, and there’s a good deal of poor trash. So, though you’re only a scorer, you get used to telling folks; that is, in a certain way you learn a thing or two.

I looked at the bárin. I see him sit down, modest and quiet, not knowing anybody; and the clothes on him are so bran-new, that thinks I, “Either he’s a foreigner⁠—an Englishman maybe⁠—or some count just come. And though he’s so young, he has an air of some distinction.” Oliver sat down next him, so he moved along a little.

They began a game. The big man lost. He shouts to me. Says he, “You’re always cheating. You don’t count straight. Why don’t you pay attention?”

He scolded away, then threw down his cue, and went out. Now, just look here! Evenings, he and the prince plays for fifty silver rubles a game; and here he only lost a bottle of Makon wine, and got mad. That’s the kind of a character he is.

Another time he and the prince plays till two o’clock. They don’t bank down any cash; and so I know neither of them’s got any cash, but they are simply playing a bluff game.

“I’ll go you twenty-five rubles,” says he.

“All right.”

Just yawning, and not even stopping to place the ball⁠—you see, he was not made of stone⁠—now just notice what he said. “We are playing for money,” says he, “and not for chips.”

But this man puzzled me worse than all the rest. Well, then, when the big man left, the prince says to the new bárin, “Wouldn’t you like,” says he, “to play a game with me?”

“With pleasure,” says he.

He sat there, and looked rather foolish, indeed he did. He may have been courageous in reality; but, at all events, he got up, went over to the billiard-table, and did not seem flustered as yet. He was not exactly flustered, but you couldn’t help seeing that he was not quite at his ease.

Either his clothes were a little too new, or he was embarrassed because everybody was looking at him; at any rate, he seemed to have no energy. He sort of sidled up to the table, caught his pocket on the edge, began to chalk his cue, dropped his chalk.

Whenever he hit the ball, he always glanced around, and reddened. Not so the prince. He was used to it; he chalked and chalked his hand, tucked up his sleeve; he goes and sits down when he pockets the ball, even though he is such a little man.

They played two or three games; then I notice the prince puts up the cue, and says, “Would you mind telling me your name?”

“Nekhliudof,” says he.

Says the prince, “Was your father commander in the corps of cadets?”

“Yes,” says the other.

Then they began to talk in French, and I could not understand them. I suppose they were talking about family affairs.

“Au revoir,” says the prince. “I am very glad to have made your acquaintance.” He washed his hands, and went to get a lunch; but the other stood by the billiard-table with his cue, and was knocking the balls about.

It’s our business, you know, when a new man comes along, to be rather sharp: it’s the best way. I took the balls, and go to put them up. He reddened, and says, “Can’t I play any longer?”

“Certainly you can,” says I. “That’s what billiards is for.” But I don’t pay any attention to him. I straighten the cues.

“Will you play with me?”

“Certainly, sir,” says I.

I place the balls.

“Shall we play for odds?”

“What do you mean⁠—‘play for odds’?”

“Well,” says I, “you give me a half-ruble, and I crawl under the table.”

Of course, as he had never seen that sort of thing, it seemed strange to him: he laughs.

“Go ahead,” says he.

“Very well,” says I, “only you must give me odds.”

“What!” says he, “are you a worse player than I am?”

“Most likely,” says I. “We have few players who can be compared with you.”

We began to play. He certainly had the idea that he was a crack shot. It was a caution to see him shoot; but the Pole sat there, and kept shouting out every time⁠—

“Ah, what a chance! ah, what a shot!”

But what a man he was! His ideas were good enough, but he didn’t know how to carry them out. Well, as usual I lost the first game, crawled under the table, and grunted.

Thereupon Oliver and the Pole jumped down from their seats, and applauded, thumping with their cues.

“Splendid! Do it again,” they cried, “once more.”

Well enough to cry “once more,” especially for the Pole. That fellow would have been glad enough to crawl under the billiard-table, or even under the Blue bridge, for a half-ruble! Yet he was the first to cry, “Splendid! but you haven’t wiped off all the dust yet.”

I, Petrushka the marker, was pretty well known to everybody.

Only, of course, I did not care to show my hand yet. I lost my second game.

“It does not become me at all to play with you, sir,” says I.

He laughs. Then, as I was playing the third game, he stood forty-nine and I nothing. I laid the cue on the billiard-table, and said, “Bárin, shall we play off?”

“What do you mean by playing off?” says he. “How would you have it?”

“You make it three rubles or nothing,” says I.

“Why,” says he, “have I been playing with you for money?” The fool!

He turned rather red.

Very good. He lost the game. He took out his pocketbook⁠—quite a new one, evidently just from the English shop⁠—opened it: I see he wanted to make a little splurge. It is stuffed full of bills⁠—nothing but hundred-ruble notes.

“No,” says he, “there’s no small stuff here.”

He took three rubles from his purse. “There,” says he, “there’s your two rubles; the other pays for the games, and you keep the rest for vodka.”

“Thank you, sir, most kindly.” I see that he is a splendid fellow. For such a one I would crawl under anything. For one thing, it’s a pity that he won’t play for money. For then, thinks I, I should know how to work him for twenty rubles, and maybe I could stretch it out to forty.

As soon as the Pole saw the young man’s money, he says, “Wouldn’t you like to try a little game with me? You play so admirably.” Such sharpers prowl around.

“No,” says the young man, “excuse me: I have not the time.” And he went out.

I don’t know who that man was, that Pole. Someone called him Pan or the Pole, and so it stuck to him. Every day he used to sit in the billiard-room, and always look on. He was no longer allowed to take a hand in any game whatever; but he always sat by himself, and got out his pipe, and smoked. But then he could play well.

Very good. Nekhliudof came a second time, a third time; he began to come frequently. He would come morning and evening. He learned to play French carom and pyramid pool⁠—everything in fact. He became less bashful, got acquainted with everybody, and played tolerably well. Of course, being a young man of a good family, with money, everybody liked him. The only exception was the “big guest”: he quarrelled with him.

And the whole thing grew out of a trifle.

They were playing pool⁠—the prince, the big guest, Nekhliudof, Oliver, and someone else. Nekhliudof was standing near the stove talking with someone. When it came the big man’s turn to play, it happened that his ball was just opposite the stove. There was very little space there, and he liked to have elbow-room.

Now, either he didn’t see Nekhliudof, or he did it on purpose; but, as he was flourishing his cue, he hit Nekhliudof in the chest, a tremendous rap. It actually made him groan. What then? He did not think of apologizing, he was so boorish. He even went further: he didn’t look at him; he walks off grumbling⁠—

“Who’s jostling me there? It made me miss my shot. Why can’t we have some room?”

Then the other went up to him, pale as a sheet, but quite self-possessed, and says so politely⁠—

“You ought first, sir, to apologize: you struck me,” says he.

“Catch me apologizing now! I should have won the game,” says he, “but now you have spoiled it for me.”

Then the other one says, “You ought to apologize.”

“Get out of my way! I insist upon it, I won’t.”

And he turned away to look after his ball.

Nekhliudof went up to him, and took him by the arm.

“You’re a boor,” says he, “my dear sir.”

Though he was a slender young fellow, almost like a girl, still he was all ready for a quarrel. His eyes flash fire; he looks as if he could eat him alive. The big guest was a strong, tremendous fellow, no match for Nekhliudof.

“Wha-at!” says he, “you call me a boor?” Yelling out these words, he raises his hand to strike him.

Then everybody there rushed up, and seized them both by the arms, and separated them.

After much talk, Nekhliudof says, “Let him give me satisfaction: he has insulted me.”

“Not at all,” said the other. “I don’t care a whit about any satisfaction. He’s nothing but a boy, a mere nothing. I’ll pull his ears for him.”

“If you aren’t willing to give me satisfaction, then you are no gentleman.”

And, saying this, he almost cried.

“Well, and you, you are a little boy: nothing you say or do can offend me.”

Well, we separated them⁠—led them off, as the custom is, to different rooms. Nekhliudof and the prince were friends.

“Go,” says the former; “for God’s sake make him listen to reason.”

The prince went. The big man says, “I ain’t afraid of anyone,” says he. “I am not going to have any explanation with such a baby. I won’t do it, and that’s the end of it.”

Well, they talked and talked, and then the matter died out, only the big guest ceased to come to us anymore.

As a result of this⁠—this row, I might call it⁠—he was regarded as quite the cock of the walk. He was quick to take offence⁠—I mean Nekhliudof⁠—as to so many other things, however, he was as unsophisticated as a newborn babe.

I remember once, the prince says to Nekhliudof, “Whom do you keep here?”

“No one,” says he.

“What do you mean⁠—‘no one’!”

“Why should I?” says Nekhliudof.

“How so⁠—why should you?”

“I have always lived thus. Why shouldn’t I continue to live the same way?”

“You don’t say so? Did you ever!”

And saying this, the prince burst into a peal of laughter, and the whiskered bárin also roared. They couldn’t get over it.

“What, never?” they asked.

“Never!”

They were dying with laughter. Of course I understood well enough what they were laughing at him for. I keep my eyes open. “What,” thinks I, “will come of it?”

“Come,” says the prince, “come right off.”

“No; not for anything,” was his answer.

“Now, that is absurd,” says the prince. “Come along!”

They went out.

They came back at one o’clock. They sat down to supper; quite a crowd of them were assembled. Some of our very best customers⁠—Atánof, Prince Razin, Count Shustakh, Mirtsof. And all congratulate Nekhliudof, laughing as they do so. They call me in: I see that they are pretty jolly.

“Congratulate the bárin,” they shout.

“What on?” I ask.

How did he call it? His initiation or his enlightenment; I can’t remember exactly.

“I have the honor,” says I, “to congratulate you.”

And he sits there very red in the face, yet he smiles. Didn’t they have fun with him though!

Well and good. They went afterwards to the billiard-room, all very gay; and Nekhliudof went up to the billiard-table, leaned on his elbow, and said⁠—

“It’s amusing to you, gentlemen,” says he, “but it’s sad for me. Why,” says he, “did I do it? Prince,” says he, “I shall never forgive you or myself as long as I live.”

And he actually burst into tears. Evidently he did not know himself what he was saying. The prince went up to him with a smile.

“Don’t talk nonsense,” says he. “Let’s go home, Anatoli.”

“I won’t go anywhere,” says the other. “Why did I do that?”

And the tears poured down his cheeks. He would not leave the billiard-table, and that was the end of it. That’s what it means for a young and inexperienced man to⁠ ⁠…

In this way he used often to come to us. Once he came with the prince, and the whiskered man who was the prince’s crony; the gentlemen always called him “Fedotka.” He had prominent cheekbones, and was homely enough, to be sure; but he used to dress neatly and ride in a carriage. What was the reason that the gentlemen were so fond of him? I really could not tell.

“Fedotka! Fedotka!” they’d call, and ask him to eat and to drink, and they’d spend their money paying up for him; but he was a thoroughgoing beat. If ever he lost, he would be sure not to pay; but if he won, you bet he wouldn’t fail to collect his money. Often too he came to grief: yet there he was, walking arm in arm with the prince.

“You are lost without me,” he would say to the prince. “I am, Fedot,”22 says he; “but not a Fedot of that sort.”

And what jokes he used to crack, to be sure! Well, as I said, they had already arrived that time, and one of them says, “Let’s have the balls for three-handed pool.”

“All right,” says the other.

They began to play at three rubles a stake. Nekhliudof and the prince play, and chat about all sorts of things meantime.

“Ah!” says one of them, “you mind only what a neat little foot she has.”

“Oh,” says the other, “her foot is nothing; her beauty is her wealth of hair.”

Of course they paid no attention to the game, only kept on talking to one another.

As to Fedotka, that fellow was alive to his work; he played his very best, but they didn’t do themselves justice at all.

And so he won six rubles from each of them. God knows how many games he had won from the prince, yet I never knew them to pay each other any money; but Nekhliudof took out two greenbacks, and handed them over to him.

“No,” says he, “I don’t want to take your money. Let’s square it: play ‘quits or double,’23⁠—either double or nothing.”

I set the balls. Fedotka began to play the first hand. Nekhliudof seemed to play only for fun: sometimes he would come very near winning a game, yet just fail of it. Says he, “It would be too easy a move, I won’t have it so.” But Fedotka did not forget what he was up to. Carelessly he proceeded with the game, and thus, as if it were unexpectedly, won.

“Let us play double stakes once more,” says he.

“All right,” says Nekhliudof.

Once more Fedotka won the game.

“Well,” says he, “it began with a mere trifle. I don’t wish to win much from you. Shall we make it once more or nothing?”

“Yes.”

Say what you may, but fifty rubles is a pretty sum, and Nekhliudof himself began to propose, “Let us make it double or quit.” So they played and played.

It kept going worse and worse for Nekhliudof. Two hundred and eighty rubles were written up against him. As to Fedotka, he had his own method: he would lose a simple game, but when the stake was doubled, he would win sure.

As for the prince, he sits by and looks on. He sees that the matter is growing serious.

“Enough!”24 says he, “hold on.”

My! they keep increasing the stake.

At last it went so far that Nekhliudof was in for more than five hundred rubles. Fedotka laid down his cue, and said⁠—

“Aren’t you satisfied for today? I’m tired,” says he.

Yet I knew he was ready to play till dawn of day, provided there was money to be won. Stratagem, of course. And the other was all the more anxious to go on. “Come on! Come on!”

“No⁠—’pon my honor, I’m tired. Come,” says Fedot; “let’s go upstairs; there you shall have your revanche.”

Upstairs with us meant the place where the gentlemen used to play cards. From that very day, Fedotka wound his net round him so that he began to come every day. He would play one or two games of billiards, and then proceed upstairs⁠—every day upstairs.

What they used to do there, God only knows; but it is a fact that from that time he began to be an entirely different kind of man, and seemed hand in glove with Fedotka. Formerly he used to be stylish, neat in his dress, with his hair slightly curled even; but now it would be only in the morning that he would be anything like himself; but as soon as he had paid his visit upstairs, he would not be at all like himself.

Once he came down from upstairs with the prince, pale, his lips trembling, and talking excitedly.

“I cannot permit such a one as he is,” says he, “to say that I am not”⁠—How did he express himself? I cannot recollect, something like “not refined enough,” or what⁠—“and that he won’t play with me anymore. I tell you I have paid him ten thousand, and I should think that he might be a little more considerate, before others, at least.”

“Oh, bother!” says the prince, “is it worthwhile to lose one’s temper with Fedotka?”

“No,” says the other, “I will not let it go so.”

“Why, old fellow, how can you think of such a thing as lowering yourself to have a row with Fedotka?”

“That is all very well; but there were strangers there, mind you.”

“Well, what of that?” says the prince; “strangers? Well, if you wish, I will go and make him ask your pardon.”

“No,” says the other.

And then they began to chatter in French, and I could not understand what it was they were talking about.

And what would you think of it? That very evening he and Fedotka ate supper together, and they became friends again.

Well and good. At other times again he would come alone.

“Well,” he would say, “do I play well?”

It’s our business, you know, to try to make everybody contented, and so I would say, “Yes, indeed;” and yet how could it be called good play, when he would poke about with his cue without any sense whatever?

And from that very evening when he took in with Fedotka, he began to play for money all the time. Formerly he didn’t care to play for stakes, either for a dinner or for champagne. Sometimes the prince would say⁠—

“Let’s play for a bottle of champagne.”

“No,” he would say. “Let us rather have the wine by itself. Hollo there! bring a bottle!”

And now he began to play for money all the time; he used to spend his entire days in our establishment. He would either play with someone in the billiard-room, or he would go “upstairs.”

Well, thinks I to myself, everyone else gets something from him, why don’t I get some advantage out of it?

“Well, sir,” says I one day, “it’s a long time since you have had a game with me.”

And so we began to play. Well, when I won ten half-rubles of him, I says⁠—

“Don’t you want to make it double or quit, sir?”

He said nothing. Formerly, if you remember, he would call me a fool for such a boldness. And we went to playing “quit or double.”

I won eighty rubles of him.

Well, what would you think? Since that first time he used to play with me every day. He would wait till there was no one about, for of course he would have been ashamed to play with a mere marker in presence of others. Once he had got rather warmed up by the play (he already owed me sixty rubles), and so he says⁠—

“Do you want to stake all you have won?”

“All right,” says I.

I won. “One hundred and twenty to one hundred and twenty?”

“All right,” says I.

Again I won. “Two hundred and forty against two hundred and forty?”

“Isn’t that too much?” I ask.

He made no reply. We played the game. Once more it was mine. “Four hundred and eighty against four hundred and eighty?”

I says, “Well, sir, I don’t want to wrong you. Let us make it a hundred rubles that you owe me, and call it square.”

You ought to have heard how he yelled at this, and yet he was not a proud man at all. “Either play, or don’t play!” says he.

Well, I see there’s nothing to be done. “Three hundred and eighty, then, if you please,” says I.

I really wanted to lose. I allowed him forty points in advance. He stood fifty-two to my thirty-six. He began to cut the yellow one, and missed eighteen points; and I was standing just at the turning-point. I made a stroke so as to knock the ball off of the billiard-table. No⁠—so luck would have it. Do what I might, he even missed the doublet. I had won again.

“Listen,” says he. “Peter,”⁠—he did not call me Petrushka then⁠—“I can’t pay you the whole right away. In a couple of months I could pay three thousand even, if it were necessary.”

And there he stood just as red, and his voice kind of trembled.

“Very good, sir,” says I.

With this he laid down the cue. Then he began to walk up and down, up and down, the perspiration running down his face.

“Peter,” says he, “let’s try it again, double or quit.”

And he almost burst into tears.

“What, sir, what! would you play against such luck?”

“Oh, let us play, I beg of you.” And he brings the cue, and puts it in my hand.

I took the cue, and I threw the balls on the table so that they bounced over onto the floor; I could not help showing off a little, naturally. I say, “All right, sir.”

But he was in such a hurry that he went and picked up the balls himself, and I thinks to myself, “Anyway, I’ll never be able to get the seven hundred rubles from him, so I can lose them to him all the same.” I began to play carelessly on purpose. But no⁠—he won’t have it so. “Why,” says he, “you are playing badly on purpose.”

But his hands trembled, and when the ball went towards a pocket, his fingers would spread out and his mouth would screw up to one side, as if he could by any means force the ball into the pocket. Even I couldn’t stand it, and I say, “That won’t do any good, sir.”

Very well. As he won this game I says, “This will make it one hundred and eighty rubles you owe me, and fifty games; and now I must go and get my supper.” So I laid down my cue, and went off.

I went and sat down all by myself, at a small table opposite the door; and I look in and see, and wonder what he will do. Well, what would you think? He began to walk up and down, up and down, probably thinking that no one’s looking at him; and then he would give a pull at his hair, and then walk up and down again, and keep muttering to himself; and then he would pull his hair again.

After that he wasn’t seen for a week. Once he came into the dining-room as gloomy as could be, but he didn’t enter the billiard-room. The prince caught sight of him.

“Come,” says he, “let’s have a game.”

“No,” says the other, “I am not going to play anymore.”

“Nonsense! come along.”

“No,” says he, “I won’t come, I tell you. For you it’s all one whether I go or not, yet for me it’s no good to come here.”

And so he did not come for ten days more. And then, it being the holidays, he came dressed up in a dress suit: he’d evidently been into company. And he was here all day long; he kept playing, and he came the next day, and the third.⁠ ⁠…

And it began to go in the old style, and I thought it would be fine to have another trial with him.

“No,” says he, “I’m not going to play with you; and as to the one hundred and eighty rubles that I owe you, if you’ll come at the end of a month, you shall have it.”

Very good. So I went to him at the end of a month.

“By God,” says he, “I can’t give it to you; but come back on Thursday.”

Well, I went on Thursday. I found that he had a splendid suite of apartments.

“Well,” says I, “is he at home?”

“He hasn’t got up yet,” I was told.

“Very good, I will wait.”

For a body-servant he had one of his own serfs, such a gray-haired old man! That servant was perfectly single-minded, he didn’t know anything about beating about the bush. So we got into conversation.

“Well,” says he, “what is the use of our living here, master and I? He’s squandered all his property, and it’s mighty little honor or good that we get out of this Petersburg of yours. As we started from the country, I thought it would be as it was with the last bárin (may his soul rest in peace!), we would go about with princes and counts and generals; he thought to himself, ‘I’ll find a countess for a sweetheart, and she’ll have a big dowry, and we’ll live on a big scale.’ But it’s quite a different thing from what he expected; here we are, running about from one tavern to another as bad off as we could be! The Princess Rtishcheva, you know, is his own aunt, and Prince Borotintsef is his godfather. What do you think? He went to see them only once, that was at Christmas-time; he never shows his nose there. Yes, and even their people laugh about it to me. ‘Why,’ says they, ‘your bárin is not a bit like his father!’ And once I take it upon myself to say to him⁠—

“ ‘Why wouldn’t you go, sir, and visit your aunt? They are feeling bad because you haven’t been for so long.’

“ ‘It’s stupid there, Demyánitch,’ says he. Just to think, he found his only amusement here in the saloon! If he only would enter the service! yet, no: he has got entangled with cards and all the rest of it. When men get going that way, there’s no good in anything; nothing comes to any good.⁠ ⁠… E-ekh! we are going to the dogs, and no mistake.⁠ ⁠… The late mistress (may her soul rest in peace!) left us a rich inheritance: no less than a thousand souls, and about three hundred thousand rubles worth of timber-lands. He has mortgaged it all, sold the timber, let the estate go to rack and ruin, and still no money on hand. When the master is away, of course, the overseer is more than the master. What does he care? He only cares to stuff his own pockets.

“A few days ago, a couple of peasants brought complaints from the whole estate. ‘He has wasted the last of the property,’ they say. What do you think? he pondered over the complaints, and gave the peasants ten rubles apiece. Says he, ‘I’ll be there very soon. I shall have some money, and I will settle all accounts when I come,’ says he.

“But how can he settle accounts when we are getting into debt all the time? Money or no money, yet the winter here has cost eighty thousand rubles, and now there isn’t a silver ruble in the house. And all owing to his kindheartedness. You see, he’s such a simple bárin that it would be hard to find his equal: that’s the very reason that he’s going to ruin⁠—going to ruin, all for nothing.” And the old man almost wept.

Nekhliudof woke up about eleven, and called me in.

“They haven’t sent me any money yet,” says he. “But it isn’t my fault. Shut the door,” says he.

I shut the door.

“Here,” says he, “take my watch or this diamond pin, and pawn it. They will give you more than one hundred and eighty rubles for it, and when I get my money I will redeem it,” says he.

“No matter, sir,” says I. “If you don’t happen to have any money, it’s no consequence; let me have the watch if you don’t mind. I can wait for your convenience.”

I can see that the watch is worth more than three hundred.

Very good. I pawned the watch for a hundred rubles, and carried him the ticket. “You will owe me eighty rubles,” says I, “and you had better redeem the watch.”

And so it happened that he still owed me eighty rubles.

After that he began to come to us again every day. I don’t know how matters stood between him and the prince, but at all events he kept coming with him all the time, or else they would go and play cards upstairs with Fedotka. And what queer accounts those three men kept between them! this one would lend money to the other, the other to the third, yet who it was that owed the money you never could find out.

And in this way he kept on coming our way for well-nigh two years; only it was to be plainly seen that he was a changed man, such a devil-may-care manner he assumed at times. He even went so far at times as to borrow a ruble of me to pay a hack-driver; and yet he would still play with the prince for a hundred rubles stake.

He grew gloomy, thin, sallow. As soon as he came he used to order a little glass of absinthe, take a bite of something, and drink some port wine, and then he would grow more lively.

He came one time before dinner; it happened to be carnival time, and he began to play with a hussar.

Says he, “Do you want to play for a stake?”

“Very well,” says he. “What shall it be?”

“A bottle of Claude Vougeaux? What do you say?”

“All right.”

Very good. The hussar won, and they went off for their dinner. They sat down at table, and then Nekhliudof says, “Simon, a bottle of Claude Vougeaux, and see that you warm it to the proper point.”

Simon went out, brought in the dinner, but no wine.

“Well,” says he, “where’s the wine?”

Simon hurried out, brought in the roast.

“Let us have the wine,” says he.

Simon makes no reply.

“What’s got into you? Here we’ve almost finished dinner, and no wine. Who wants to drink with dessert?”

Simon hurried out. “The landlord,” says he, “wants to speak to you.”

Nekhliudof turned scarlet. He sprang up from the table.

“What’s the need of calling me?”

The landlord is standing at the door.

Says he, “I can’t trust you anymore, unless you settle my little bill.”

“Well, didn’t I tell you that I would pay the first of the month?”

“That will be all very well,” says the landlord, “but I can’t be all the time giving credit, and having no settlement. There are more than ten thousand rubles of debts outstanding now,” says he.

“Well, that’ll do, monshoor, you know that you can trust me! Send the bottle, and I assure you that I will pay you very soon.”

And he hurried back.

“What was it? Why did they call you out?” asked the hussar.

“Oh, someone wanted to ask me a question.”

“Now it would be a good time,” says the hussar, “to have a little warm wine to drink.”

“Simon, hurry up!”

Simon came back, but still no wine, nothing. Too bad! He left the table, and came to me.

“For God’s sake,” says he, “Petrushka, let me have six rubles!”

He was pale as a sheet. “No, sir,” says I: “by God, you owe me quite too much now.”

“I will give forty rubles for six, in a week’s time.”

“If only I had it,” says I, “I should not think of refusing you, but I haven’t.”

What do you think! He rushed away, his teeth set, his fist doubled up, and ran down the corridor like one mad, and all at once he gave himself a knock on the forehead.

“O my God!” says he, “what has it come to?”

But he did not return to the dining-room; he jumped into a carriage, and drove away. Didn’t we have our laugh over it! The hussar asks⁠—

“Where is the gentleman who was dining with me?”

“He has gone,” said someone.

“Where has he gone? What message did he leave?”

“He didn’t leave any; he just took to his carriage, and went off.”

“That’s a fine way of entertaining a man!” says he.

Now, thinks I to myself, it’ll be a long time before he comes again after this; that is, on account of this scandal. But no. On the next day he came about evening. He came into the billiard-room. He had a sort of a box in his hand. Took off his overcoat.

“Now let us have a game,” says he.

He looked out from under his eyebrows, rather fierce like.

We played a game. “That’s enough now,” says he: “go and bring me a pen and paper; I must write a letter.”

Not thinking anything, not suspecting anything, I bring some paper, and put it on the table in the little room.

“It’s all ready, sir,” says I.

“Very good.” He sat down at the table. He kept on writing and writing, and muttering to himself all the time: then he jumps up, and, frowning, says, “Look and see if my carriage has come yet.”

It was on a Friday, during carnival time, and so there weren’t any of the customers on hand; they were all at some ball. I went to see about the carriage, and just as I was going out of the door, “Petrushka! Petrushka!” he shouted, as if something suddenly frightened him.

I turn round. I see he’s pale as a sheet, standing here and looking at me.

“Did you call me, sir?” says I.

He makes no reply.

“What do you want?” says I.

He says nothing. “Oh, yes!” says he. “Let’s have another game.”

Then says he, “Haven’t I learned to play pretty well?”

He had just won the game. “Yes,” says I.

“All right,” says he; “go now, and see about my carriage.” He himself walked up and down the room.

Without thinking anything, I went down to the door. I didn’t see any carriage at all. I started to go up again.

Just as I am going up, I hear what sounds like the thud of a billiard-cue. I go into the billiard-room. I notice a peculiar smell.

I look around; and there he is lying on the floor in a pool of blood, with a pistol beside him. I was so scared that I could not speak a word.

He keeps twitching, twitching his leg; and stretched himself a little. Then he sort of snored, and stretched out his full length in such a strange way. And God knows why such a sin came about⁠—how it was that it occurred to him to ruin his own soul⁠—but as to what he left written on this paper, I don’t understand it at all. Truly, you can never account for what is going on in the world.


“God gave me all that a man can desire⁠—wealth, name, intellect, noble aspirations. I wanted to enjoy myself, and I trod in the mire all that was best in me. I have done nothing dishonorable, I am not unfortunate, I have not committed any crime; but I have done worse: I have destroyed my feelings, my intellect, my youth. I became entangled in a filthy net, from which I could not escape, and to which I could not accustom myself. I feel that I am falling lower and lower every moment, and I cannot stop my fall.

“And what ruined me? Was there in me some strange passion which I might plead as an excuse? No!

“My recollections are pleasant. One fearful moment of forgetfulness, which can never be erased from my mind, led me to come to my senses. I shuddered when I saw what a measureless abyss separated me from what I desired to be, and might have been. In my imagination arose the hopes, the dreams, and the thoughts of my youth.

“Where are those lofty thoughts of life, of eternity, of God, which at times filled my soul with light and strength? Where that aimless power of love which kindled my heart with its comforting warmth?⁠ ⁠…

“But how good and happy I might have been, had I trodden that path which, at the very entrance of life, was pointed out to me by my fresh mind and true feelings! More than once did I try to go from the ruts in which my life ran, into that sacred path.

“I said to myself, Now I will use my whole strength of will; and yet I could not do it. When I happened to be alone, I felt awkward and timid. When I was with others, I no longer heard the inward voice; and I fell all the time lower and lower.

“At last I came to a terrible conviction that it was impossible for me to lift myself from this low plane. I ceased to think about it, and I wished to forget all; but hopeless repentance worried me still more and more. Then, for the first time, the thought of suicide occurred to me.⁠ ⁠…

“I once thought that the nearness of death would rouse my soul. I was mistaken. In a quarter of an hour I shall be no more, yet my view has not in the least changed. I see with the same eyes, I hear with the same ears, I think the same thoughts; there is the same strange incoherence, unsteadiness, and lightness in my thoughts.⁠ ⁠…”

Sevastopol

In December 1854

The dawn has just begun to tinge the horizon above the Sapoún hill. The dark-blue surface of the sea has already thrown off the shadows of night, and lies waiting the appearance of the first sunbeam to sparkle merrily. A cold mist blows in from the bay; there is no snow⁠—all is black⁠—but the sharp morning frost creaks underfoot and makes the face tingle, while only the distant ceaseless murmur of the sea, now and then overpowered by the thunder of the cannons in Sevastopol, breaks the stillness of the morning. All is quiet on the ships. It strikes eight bells.

On the North Side the activity of day begins gradually to replace the stillness of night: here some soldiers, with clanking muskets, pass to relieve guard; here a doctor is already hurrying to the hospital; here a soldier has crept out of his dugout, washed his bronzed face with icy water, and, turning towards the reddening east, is now praying, rapidly crossing himself; there a high and heavy cart, drawn by camels, passes with creaking wheels towards the cemetery, where the bloodstained corpses that load it almost to the top are to be buried. Approaching the harbour, you are struck by a peculiar smell of coal, dampness, and meat. Thousands of different things⁠—firewood, meat, gabions, flour, iron, and so forth⁠—are lying in heaps near the harbour. Soldiers of various regiments, with or without bags and muskets, crowd around, smoking, scolding, or helping to load the steamer which lies with smoking funnel close to the wharf. Boats filled with people of all sorts⁠—soldiers, seamen, tradesmen and women⁠—come and go.

“To the Gráfskaya?25 here you are, your honour,” and two or three old salts, getting out of their skiffs, offer their services.

You choose the nearest, step across the half-decayed carcass of a bay horse that lies in the mud beside the boat, and take your place at the rudder. The boat pulls off from the shore. Around you is the sea, now already glittering in the morning sun; before you, rowing steadily and silently, are the old sailor in a camel’s-hair coat, and a flaxen-haired boy. You look at the huge bulk of the striped ships, scattered far and near over the Roadstead; at the ships’ boats, like black dots moving over the glittering azure; and, in another direction, at the handsome light-coloured buildings of the town, lit up by the rosy rays of the morning sun; and, again, at the frothy white outline of the breakwater, at the foam above the sunken ships, the ends of whose black masts sadly project here and there; at the enemy’s fleet swaying on the crystal horizon of the sea, and at the salt bubbles dancing on the eddying wash made by the oars. You listen to the steady murmur of voices which reaches you across the water, and to the majestic sounds of the firing which, it seems to you, now grows stronger in Sevastopol.

Some feeling of courage or pride surely enters your soul, and the blood flows faster in your veins, at the thought that you, too, are in Sevastopol.

“Your honour, you’re steering straight into the Constantine,” says the old seaman, who has turned to see where you are steering.

“All her cannons are still on board,”26 says the boy, examining the ship as he rows past her.

“Well, of course; she’s a new ship. Kornílof himself lived on her,” remarks the old seaman, also looking at her.

“Look where it has burst!” says the boy, after a long silence, watching a small white cloud of spreading smoke, which has suddenly appeared high above the South Bay, accompanied by the sharp report of an exploding bomb.

“That’s him firing from the new battery today,” adds the old man calmly, spitting on his hand. “Now then, pull away, Míshka, we’ll get ahead of that longboat there.” And your skiff travels faster over the broad swells of the Roadstead, really overtakes the heavy longboat laden with sacks and rowed by clumsy sailors who do not keep stroke, and⁠—making its way among all sorts of boats moored there⁠—reaches the Gráfskaya landing.

On the quay, soldiers in grey, sailors in black, and women in many colours throng noisily. Women are selling rolls, peasants with samovars27 are calling “hot sbíten,”28 and here, on the very first steps, lie rusty cannonballs, bombs, grapeshot, and cast-iron cannons of various calibres. A little beyond is a large open space where huge beams, gun-carriages, and sleeping soldiers are lying; horses, carts, green cannons, ammunition-wagons, and stacked muskets are standing; soldiers, sailors, officers, women, children, and dealers are moving about, and here and there a Cossack and an officer ride along, or a general drives by in a trap. To the right the street is blocked by a barricade with small cannon mounted in embrasures, and near them sits a sailor smoking away at his pipe. To the left is a handsome building with a date in Roman figures on the frontal, and near it stand soldiers with bloodstained stretchers⁠—everywhere you see unpleasant indications of a war camp. Your first impressions are sure to be most unpleasant: the strange combination of camp and urban life, of a fine town and a dirty bivouac, is not only ugly, but looks like horrible disorder; it even seems to you that everyone is frightened and in commotion, not knowing what to do. But look closer into the faces of these people moving about you, and you will come to quite a different conclusion. Take, for instance, this convoy soldier going to water those three bay horses and muttering something to himself, and doing it all so quietly that it is evident he will not lose himself in this motley crowd (which does not even exist for him), but will fulfil his duty, whatever it may be⁠—watering a horse, or helping to drag cannon⁠—as calmly, confidently, and with as much equanimity as if it were all happening in Toúla or Saránsk. You will read the same in the face of that officer passing by in irreproachably white gloves; in the face of the sailor who sits smoking on the barricade; in the faces of the soldiers in the portico of what was once the Assembly Hall, and in the face of that young girl who, fearing to dirty her pink dress, jumps from stone to stone as she crosses the road.

Yes! disenchantment certainly awaits you if you are entering Sevastopol for the first time. You will look in vain, in any of the faces, for a trace of ardour, flurry, even enthusiasm, determination, or readiness for death⁠—there is nothing of the kind. What you do see are everyday people, quietly occupied with their everyday business; so that perhaps you may reproach yourself for having felt undue enthusiasm, and may begin to doubt the justice of the ideas you had formed of the heroism of the defenders of Sevastopol, ideas founded on tales, descriptions, and the sights and sounds that reached you on the North Side of the Roadstead. But before giving way to such doubts, go to the bastions and see the defenders of Sevastopol where they are defending it; or, better still, go straight into that building opposite, formerly the Sevastopol Assembly Rooms, in the portico of which the soldiers with stretchers are standing. There you will see the defenders of Sevastopol: you will see terrible, sad, solemn, and amusing, but astonishing and soul-elevating sights.

You enter the large Assembly Hall. At once, as soon as you open the door, the sight and smell of forty or fifty of the amputated and most severely wounded, some in beds but most on the floor, staggers you. Do not trust the feeling that detains you at the threshold; it is a bad feeling: go on; do not feel shame that you have come as if to look at the sufferers; do not hesitate to approach and speak to them. The unfortunate like to see a sympathetic human face, like to speak of their sufferings, and to hear words of love and pity. You pass between the rows of beds and look for some face less stern and full of suffering, that you can make up your mind to approach and speak to.

“Where are you wounded?” you hesitatingly and timidly ask an old and emaciated sailor, who, sitting up on his bed, is following you with kindly gaze as if inviting you to speak to him. I say “hesitatingly and timidly,” because suffering seems to inspire not only deep pity and dread of offending the sufferer, but also deep respect.

“In my leg,” replies the sailor, and you now notice by the way the folds of the blanket fall that he has lost one leg above the knee. “But the Lord be thanked,” he adds, “I am now getting ready to leave the hospital.”

“And is it long since you were wounded?”

“Well, it’s over five weeks now, your honour.”

“And are you still in pain?”

“No, I’ve no pain now; only when we have bad weather it feels as if the calf were aching, nothing else.”

“And how did it happen that you were wounded?”

“It was at the Fifth Bastion, your honour, during the first bombardment. I trained the gun, and was just stepping across to the next embrasure, when he struck me in the leg. It was just as if I had stumbled into a hole, and I look⁠—and the leg’s gone!”

“Is it possible it did not hurt you then?”

“Nothing to speak of; it was only as if something hot had blown against my leg.”

“Well, and afterwards?”

“And afterwards it was nothing much either, only it did smart when they drew the skin together. The chief thing, your honour, is not to think: if you don’t think, it’s nothing much. It mostly all comes of thinking.”

At this moment a woman in a grey striped dress, with a black kerchief on her head, approaches you and joins in your conversation with the sailor. She begins to tell you about him: of his sufferings, the desperate condition he was in for four weeks; how, when he was wounded, he stopped his stretcher-bearers that he might see a volley from our battery; how the Grand-Dukes had spoken to him and given him twenty-five roubles, and he had told them he would like to return to the battery to teach the youngsters, if he could no longer work himself. As she says this all in a breath, the woman constantly looks from you to the sailor⁠—who, with his face turned from her, is picking lint on his pillow⁠—and her eyes are bright with some peculiar rapture.

“It’s my missus, your honour!” remarks the sailor, with a look that seems to say, “You must excuse her; it’s a woman’s way to say foolish things.”

You begin to understand the defenders of Sevastopol; without knowing why, you begin to feel ashamed of yourself before this man. To show your sympathy and admiration you are tempted to say too much; but the right words do not come, and you are dissatisfied with those that occur to you, so you bow down in silence before this quiet, unconscious greatness and firmness of spirit, that is ashamed to have its worth revealed.

“Well, God grant you a quick recovery,” you say, and you stop in front of another patient, who, lying on the floor, seems to be awaiting death in unendurable agony.

This is a fair-haired man, with a pale and swollen face. He is lying on his back, with his left arm thrown back in a way that shows cruel suffering. He breathes hoarsely and with difficulty through his parched, open mouth; the leaden, blue eyes are turned upwards; the blanket has slipped, and from under it the bandaged remainder of his right arm sticks out.

The oppressive, corpse-like smell strikes you more strongly, and the devouring inner fever burning in all the sufferer’s limbs seems to penetrate through you also.

“Is he unconscious?” you ask the woman, who has followed you and looks at you kindly as at a friend.

“No, he can still hear⁠—but he is very bad,” she adds in a whisper. “I gave him some tea today⁠—though he is a stranger one must have pity⁠—and he could hardly drink it.”

“How do you feel?” you ask him. The wounded man turns his eyes towards you, but neither sees you nor understands, and only says⁠—

“My heart is on fire.”

A little further on you see an old soldier changing his shirt. His face and body are a kind of brick-red, and he is as gaunt as a skeleton. One arm is quite gone, taken right off at the socket. He is sitting up firmly, and has recovered; but you can see by the dull, dead look of his eyes, by the terrible gauntness of his body, and by the wrinkles on his face, that the best part of this man’s life has been wasted by his sufferings.

On a bed on the other side you may see the pale, suffering, delicate face of a woman, her cheeks suffused with a feverish glow.

“That’s the wife of one of our sailors,” says your guide. “She was hit in the leg by a bomb on the 5th;29 she was taking her husband’s dinner to him at the bastion.”

“Have they amputated it?”

“Yes, above the knee.”

Now, if your nerves are strong, go in at the door to the left; it is there they bandage and operate. There you will see doctors with pale, gloomy faces, and arms red with blood up to the elbows, busy by a bed on which lies a wounded man under chloroform. His eyes are open, and he utters, as if in delirium, incoherent, but sometimes simple and pathetic words. The doctors are engaged on the horrible but beneficent work of amputation. You will see the sharp, curved knife enter the healthy white flesh; you will see the wounded man come back to life with terrible heartrending screams and curses. You will see the doctor’s assistant toss the amputated arm into a corner, and you will see, in the same room, another wounded man on a stretcher, watching the operation, and writhing and groaning, not so much with physical pain, as with the mental torture of anticipation. You will see ghastly sights that will rend your soul; you will see war, not with its orderly, beautiful, and brilliant ranks, its music and beating drums, its waving banners, its generals on prancing horses, but war in its real aspect of blood, suffering, and death.⁠ ⁠…

On coming out of this house of pain you will be sure to experience a sense of relief, you will take deeper breaths of the fresh air, and rejoice in the consciousness of your own health. But, at the same time, by the contemplation of these sufferings you will realise your own insignificance, and you will go to the bastions calmly and without hesitation.⁠ ⁠…

“What matters the death and suffering of so insignificant a worm as I, compared to so many deaths, so much suffering?” But the sight of the clear sky, the brilliant sun, the beautiful town, the open church, and the soldiers moving in all directions, will soon bring your spirit back to its normal state of frivolity, its petty cares and absorption in the present. You may meet the funeral procession of an officer as it leaves the church, the pink coffin accompanied by waving banners and music, and the sound of firing from the bastions may reach your ears. But these things will not bring back your former thoughts. The funeral will seem a very beautiful military pageant; the sounds very beautiful warlike sounds; and neither to these sights nor to these sounds will you attach that clear and personal sense of suffering and death which came to you in the hospital.

Passing the church and the barricade, you enter that part of the town where the everyday life is most active. On both sides hang the signboards30 of shops and restaurants. Tradesmen, women with bonnets or kerchiefs on their heads, dandified officers: all speaks of the firmness, self-confidence, and security of the inhabitants.

If you care to hear the conversation of army and navy officers enter the restaurant on the right. There you are sure to hear talk about last night, about Fanny, about that affair of the 24th,31 how dear and badly served the cutlets are, and how such and such comrades have been killed.

“Things were confoundedly bad at our place today!” says, in a bass voice, a fair, beardless little naval officer with a green knitted scarf.

“Where’s that?” asks another.

“Oh, in the Fourth Bastion,” answers the young officer, and at the words “Fourth Bastion,” you will certainly look more attentively, and even with some respect, at this fair-complexioned officer. The excessive freedom of his manner, his gesticulations, and his loud voice and laugh, which before had seemed to you impudent, now appear to indicate that peculiarly combative frame of mind noticeable in some young men after they have been in danger; but still you expect him to tell how bad it was in the Fourth Bastion because of the bombs and bullets. Not at all! it was bad because of the mud. “One can scarcely get to the battery,” he continues, pointing to his boots, which are muddy even above the calves. “And I have lost my best gunner,” says another, “hit right in the forehead.” “Who’s that? Mitúhin?” “No⁠ ⁠… but am I ever to have my veal? You rascal!” he adds, addressing the waiter. “Not Mitúhin but Abrámof⁠—such a fine fellow! He was out in six sallies.”

At another corner of the table, with plates of cutlets and peas before them, and a bottle of sour Crimean wine called “Bordeaux,” sit two infantry officers. One of them, a young man with a red collar and two little stars on his cloak, is talking to the other, who has a black collar and no stars, about the Alma affair. The former has already been drinking, and by the pauses he makes, by the indecision in his face⁠—expressing his doubt of being believed⁠—and especially by the fact that his own part in the story is too important, and the affair is too dreadful, one sees that he is diverging considerably from the strict truth. But you do not care much for stories of this kind, which will long be current all over Russia; you want to get quickly to the bastions, especially to that Fourth Bastion about which you have been told so many and such different tales. When anyone says, “I am going to the Fourth Bastion,” a slight agitation or a too marked indifference is always noticeable in him; if men are joking they say, “You should be sent to the Fourth Bastion.” When you meet someone carried on a stretcher, and ask, “Where from?” the answer usually is, “From the Fourth Bastion.” Two quite different opinions are current concerning this terrible bastion:32 that of those who have never been there, and who are convinced it is a certain grave for anyone who goes there, and that of those who, like the fair-complexioned midshipman, live there, and who, when speaking of the Fourth Bastion, will tell you whether it is dry or muddy, and whether it is cold or warm in the dugouts, and so forth.

During the half-hour you spent in the restaurant, the weather has changed. The mist that spread over the sea has gathered into dull, grey, moist clouds which hide the sun, and a kind of dismal sleet showers down and wets the roofs, the pavements, and the soldiers’ overcoats.

Passing another barricade, you go through some doors to the right and up a broad street. Beyond this barricade the houses on both sides of the street are unoccupied: there are no signboards, the doors are boarded up, the windows smashed; here a corner of the walls is knocked down, and there a roof is broken in. The buildings look like old veterans who have borne much sorrow and privation; they even seem to gaze proudly and somewhat contemptuously at you. On the road you stumble over cannonballs that lie about, and into holes, full of water, made in the stony ground by bombs. You meet and overtake detachments of soldiers, Cossacks, officers, and occasionally a woman or a child⁠—only it will not be a woman wearing a bonnet, but a sailor’s wife wearing an old cloak and soldier’s boots. Farther along the same street, after you have descended a little slope, you will notice that there are now no houses, but only ruined walls in strange heaps of bricks, boards, clay and beams, and before you, up a steep hill, you see a black, untidy space cut up by ditches. This space you are approaching is the Fourth Bastion.⁠ ⁠… Here you will meet still fewer people and no women at all, the soldiers walk briskly by, traces of blood may be seen on the road, and you are sure to meet four soldiers carrying a stretcher, and on the stretcher probably a pale, yellow face and a bloodstained overcoat. If you ask, “Where is he wounded?” the bearers, without looking at you, will answer crossly “in the leg” or “in the arm” if the man is not severely wounded; or they will remain sternly silent if no head is raised on the stretcher, and the man is either dead or badly wounded.

The whiz of cannonball or bomb nearby, impresses you unpleasantly as you ascend the hill, and you at once understand the meaning of the sounds very differently from when they reached you in the town. Some peaceful and joyous memory will suddenly flash through your mind; consciousness of your own personality begins to supersede the activity of your observation: you are less attentive to all that is around you, and a disagreeable feeling of indecision suddenly seizes you. But, silencing this despicable little voice that has suddenly lifted itself within you at the sight of danger, you⁠—especially after seeing a soldier run past you laughing, waving his arms, and slipping down the hill in the yellow mud⁠—involuntarily expand your chest, raise your head higher, and clamber up the slippery clay hill. You have hardly gone a little way up, when bullets begin to whiz past you right and left, and you will, perhaps, consider whether you had not better walk inside the trench which runs parallel to the road; but the trench is full of such yellow, liquid, stinking mud, more than knee deep, that you are sure to choose the road, especially as everybody keeps to the road. After walking a couple of hundred yards, you come to a muddy place much cut up, surrounded by gabions, cellars, platforms, and dugouts, and on which large cast-iron cannon are mounted and cannonballs lie piled in orderly heaps. All seems placed without any aim, connection, or order. Here a group of sailors are sitting in the battery; here, in the middle of the open space, half sunk in mud, lies a shattered cannon; and there a foot-soldier is crossing the battery, drawing his feet with difficulty out of the sticky mud. Everywhere, on all sides, and all about, you see bomb-fragments, unexploded bombs, cannonballs, and various traces of an encampment, all sunk in the liquid, sticky mud. You think you hear the thud of a cannonball not far off, and you seem to hear the different sounds of bullets all around⁠—some humming like bees, some whistling, and some rapidly flying past with a shrill screech like the string of some instrument. You hear the awful boom of a shot which sends a shock all through you, and seems most dreadful.

“So this is it, the Fourth Bastion! This is that terrible, truly dreadful spot!” So you think, experiencing a slight feeling of pride and a strong feeling of suppressed fear. But you are mistaken; this is, still, not the Fourth Bastion. This is only the Yazónovsky Redoubt⁠—comparatively a very safe and not at all dreadful place. To get to the Fourth Bastion you must turn to the right, along that narrow trench, where a foot-soldier, stooping down, has just passed. In this trench you may again meet men with stretchers, and perhaps a sailor or a soldier with spades. You will see the mouths of mines, dugouts into which only two men can crawl, and there you will see the Cossacks of the Black Sea Battalions, changing their boots, eating, smoking their pipes, and, in short, living. And you will see again the same stinking mud, the traces of camp life, and cast-iron refuse of every shape and form, When you have gone some three hundred steps more, you come out at another battery⁠—a flat space with many holes, surrounded with gabions filled with earth, and cannons on platforms, and the whole walled in with earthworks. Here you will perhaps see four or five soldiers playing cards under shelter of the breastworks; and a naval officer, noticing that you are a stranger and inquisitive, is pleased to show you his “household” and everything that can interest you. This officer, sitting on a cannon, rolls a yellow cigarette so composedly, walks from one embrasure to another so quietly, talks to you so calmly and without affectation, that, in spite of the bullets whizzing around you oftener than before, you yourself grow cooler, question him carefully, and listen to his stories. He will tell you (but only if you ask) about the bombardment on the 5th of October; will tell you how only one gun in his battery remained usable and only eight gunners were left of the whole crew, and how, all the same, next morning, the 6th, he fired all his guns. He will tell you how a bomb dropped into one of the dugouts and knocked over eleven sailors; he will show you from an embrasure the enemy’s batteries and trenches, which are here not more than seventy-five to eighty-five yards distant. I am afraid, though, that when you lean out of the embrasure to have a look at the enemy, you will, under the influence of the whizzing bullets, not see anything; but if you do see anything, you will be much surprised to find that this whitish stone wall which is so near you, and from which puffs of white smoke keep bursting⁠—that this white wall is the enemy: he, as the soldiers and sailors say.

It is even very likely that the naval officer, from vanity, or merely for a little recreation, will wish to show you some firing. “Call the gunner and crew to the cannon;” and fourteen sailors⁠—clattering their hobnailed boots on the platform, one putting his pipe in his pocket, another still chewing a rusk⁠—quickly and cheerfully man the gun and begin loading. Look well into these faces, and note the bearing and carriage of these men. In every wrinkle, every muscle, in the breadth of these shoulders, the thickness of these legs in enormous boots: in every movement, quiet, firm, and deliberate, are seen the distinctive traits of that which forms the strength of the Russian⁠—his simplicity and obstinacy.

Suddenly the most fearful roar strikes not only your ears but your whole being, and makes you shudder all over. It is followed by the whistle of the departing ball, and a thick cloud of powder-smoke envelops you, the platform, and the moving black figures of the sailors. You will hear various comments by the sailors concerning this shot of ours, and you will notice their animation, the evidences of a feeling which you had not, perhaps, expected: the feeling of animosity and thirst for vengeance which lies hidden in each man’s soul. You will hear joyful exclamations: “It’s gone right into the embrasure! It’s killed two, I think⁠ ⁠… There, they’re carrying them off!” “And now he’s riled, and will send one this way,” someone remarks; and really, soon after, you will see before you a flash and some smoke, the sentinel standing on the breastwork will call out “Ca-n-non,” and then a ball will whiz past you and squash into the earth, throwing out a circle of stones and mud. The commander of the battery will be irritated by this shot, and will give orders to fire another and another cannon, the enemy will reply in like manner, and you will experience interesting sensations and see interesting sights. The sentinel will again call “Cannon!” and you will have the same sound and shock, and the mud will be splashed round as before. Or he will call out “Mortar!” and you will hear the regular and rather pleasant whistle⁠—which it is difficult to connect with the thought of anything dreadful⁠—of a bomb; you will hear this whistle coming nearer and faster towards you, then you will see a black ball, feel the shock as it strikes the ground, and will hear the ringing explosion. The bomb will fly apart into whizzing and shrieking fragments, stones will rattle into the air, and you will be bespattered with mud.

At these sounds you will experience a strange feeling of mingled pleasure and fear. At the moment you know the shot is flying towards you, you are sure to imagine that this shot will kill you, but a feeling of pride will support you, and no one will know of the knife that is cutting your heart. But when the shot has flown past and has not hit you, you revive, and, though only for a moment, a glad, inexpressibly joyous feeling seizes you, so that you feel some peculiar delight in the danger⁠—in this game of life and death⁠—and wish that bombs and balls would fall nearer and nearer to you.

But again the sentinel, in his loud, thick voice, shouts “Mortar!” again a whistle, a fall, an explosion; and mingled with the last you are startled by the groans of a man. You approach the wounded man just as the stretchers are brought. Covered with blood and dirt he presents a strange, not human appearance. Part of the sailor’s breast has been torn away. For the first few moments only terror, and the kind of feigned, premature look of suffering common to men in this state, are to be seen in his mud-besprinkled face; but when the stretcher is brought, and he himself lies down on it on his healthy side, you notice that his expression changes. His eyes shine more brightly, his teeth are clenched, with difficulty he raises his head higher, and when the stretcher is lifted he stops the bearers for a moment, and, turning to his comrades, says with an effort in a trembling voice, “Forgive me, brothers!”33 He wishes to say more, something pathetic, but only repeats, “Forgive me, brothers!” At this moment a sailor approaches him, places the cap on the head the wounded man raises, and then quietly, placidly swinging his arms, returns to his cannon.

“That’s the way with seven or eight every day,” the naval officer remarks to you, answering the look of horror on your face, and he yawns as he rolls another yellow cigarette.


So now you have seen the defenders of Sevastopol where they are defending it, and, somehow, you return with a tranquil, heightened spirit, paying no heed to the balls and bombs whose whistle accompanies you all the way to the ruined theatre. The principal, joyous, thought you have brought away with you is a conviction of the strength of the Russian people; and this conviction you gained, not by looking at all those traverses, breastworks, cunningly interlaced trenches, mines, cannon, one on top of the other, of which you could make nothing; but you have received it from the eyes, words, and actions⁠—in short, from seeing what is called the “spirit”⁠—of the defenders of Sevastopol. What they do is all done so simply, with so little effort, that you feel convinced they could do a hundred times as much.⁠ ⁠… You understand that the motive which actuates them is not that petty ambition or forgetfulness which you yourself experienced, but some stronger feeling, which has made of them beings who live quietly under the flying balls, facing a hundred chances of death instead of the one others are subjected to⁠—and this amid conditions of continual toil, lack of sleep, and dirt. For the sake of a cross, or promotion, or because of a threat, men could not accept such terrible conditions of life: there must be some other and higher motive power.

It is only now that the tales of the early days of the siege of Sevastopol are for you no longer beautiful historical legends, but have become realities: the tales of the time when it was not fortified, when there was no army to defend it, when it seemed a physical impossibility to retain it, and there was yet not the slightest idea of abandoning it to the enemy⁠—of the time when Kornílof, that hero worthy of ancient Greece, making his round of the troops, said, “Lads, we will die, but we will not surrender Sevastopol!” and our Russians, incapable of phrase-making, replied, “We will die! Hurrah!” You will clearly recognise in the men you have just left the heroes whose spirits did not flag, but rose, during those dismal days, and who gladly prepared to die.

The evening closes in. The sun, just as it is setting, comes out from behind the grey clouds that covered the sky, and suddenly lights up with ruddy radiance the purple clouds, the greenish waters of the sea with ships and boats rocking on its broad even swell, the white buildings of the town, and the people moving along the streets. The sound of some old valse played by a military band on the boulevard is borne along the water, and seems, in some strange way, answered by the firing from the bastions.

Sevastopol,

In May 1855

I

Six months have passed since the first cannonball whistled from the bastions of Sevastopol and threw up the earth of the enemy’s entrenchments. Since then bullets, balls, and bombs by the thousand have been flying continually from the bastions to the entrenchments, and from the entrenchments to the bastions, and above them the angel of death has hovered unceasingly.

Thousands of human ambitions have had time to be wounded, thousands to be gratified and to expand, thousands to be lulled to rest in the arms of death. So many pink coffins and linen palls! And yet the same sounds from the bastions fill the air; still the French from their camp look with involuntary trepidation and fear at the yellowy earth of the bastions of Sevastopol, and count the embrasures from which the iron cannon frown fiercely; still the pilot from the elevation of the signal-station watches, as before, through the fixed telescope the bright-coloured figures of the French: their batteries, tents, their columns moving on the green hill, the puffs of smoke that rise from the entrenchments; and still, from many parts of the world, with the same ardour, crowds of different men, with still more different desires, stream to this fatal spot. But the question the diplomatists have not settled still remains unsolved by powder and blood.

II

In the besieged town of Sevastopol a regimental band played on the boulevard near the pavilion, and crowds of women and military men strolled along the paths making holiday. The bright spring sun had risen in the morning above the English entrenchments, had reached the bastions, then the town, the Nicholas Barracks, shining with equal joy on all, and was now sinking towards the distant blue sea, which, rocking in even motion, glittered with silvery light.

A tall infantry officer with a slight stoop, drawing on a presentable though not very white glove, passed out of the gate of one of the small sailors’ houses built on the left side of the Morskáya Street, and, gazing thoughtfully at the ground, ascended the hill towards the boulevard. The expression of his plain face did not reveal great intellectual power, but rather good-nature, common-sense, honesty, and an inclination towards respectability. He was badly built, and seemed a bit shy and awkward in his movements. He wore a nearly new cap, a thin cloak of a rather peculiar lilacky shade, from under which was visible a gold watch-chain, trousers with foot-straps, and clean, shiny calfskin boots. He might have been a German (but that his features indicated his purely Russian origin), or an adjutant, or a regimental quartermaster (but in that case he would have had spurs), or an officer transferred for the campaign from the cavalry or the Guards. He was, in fact, an officer who had exchanged from the cavalry, and as he ascended the hill towards the boulevard, he was thinking of a letter he had received from proprietor of the government of T⁠⸺, and of his great friend, that comrade’s wife, the pale, blue-eyed Natásha. He recalled one part of the letter, where his comrade wrote:⁠—

“When we receive the Invalide,34 Póupka” (so the retired Uhlan called his wife) “rushes headlong into the hall, seizes the paper, and runs with it to a seat in the arbour or the drawing-room (in which, you remember, we spent such jolly winter evenings when your regiment was stationed in our town), and reads of your heroic deeds with an ardour you cannot imagine. She often speaks of you. ‘There now,’ she says, ‘Miháylof is a darling. I am ready to cover him with kisses when I see him. He is fighting on the bastions, and is certain to get a St. George’s Cross, and they’ll write about him in the papers,’ etc., etc., so that I am beginning to be quite jealous of you.”

In another place he wrote: “The papers reach us awfully late, and though there are plenty of rumours, one cannot believe them all. For instance, those young ladies with music you know of were saying yesterday that Napoleon has been captured by our Cossacks and sent to St. Petersburg; but you can guess how much of this I believe. One fresh arrival from Petersburg tells us for certain (he is sent by the Minister on special business, a capital fellow, and now there is no one in the town you can’t think what a resource he is to us), that we have taken Eupatoria, so that the French are cut off from Balaclava, and that we lost 200 in the affair and the French as many as 15,000. The wife was in such raptures that she caroused all night, and said that a presentiment made her certain you have distinguished yourself in that affair.”

In spite of the words and expressions I have purposely underlined, and the whole tone of the letter, Lieutenant-Captain Miháylof thought with an inexpressibly melancholy pleasure of his pale-faced provincial friend, and how in the evening he used to sit with her in the arbour talking sentiment. He thought of his kind comrade the Uhlan; how the latter used to get angry and lose when they played cards in the study for kopeck points, and how his wife used to laugh at him. He recalled the friendship these people had for him (perhaps he thought there was something more on the side of the pale-faced friend): these people and their surroundings flitted through his memory in a wonderfully sweet, joyously rosy light, and, smiling at the recollection, he put his hand to the pocket where this dear letter lay.

From these recollections Lieutenant-Captain Miháylof involuntarily passed to dreams and hopes. “How surprised and pleased Natásha will be,” he thought as he passed along a narrow side-street, “when she reads in the Invalide of my being the first to climb on the cannon, and receiving the St. George! I ought to be made full Captain on that former recommendation. Then I may easily become Major already this year by seniority, because so many of our fellows have been killed, and no doubt many more will be killed this campaign. Then there’ll be more fighting, and I, as a well-known man, shall be entrusted with a regiment⁠ ⁠… then Lieutenant-Colonel, the order of St. Anne⁠ ⁠… a Colonel”⁠ ⁠… and he was already a General, honouring with a visit Natásha, the widow of his comrade (who would be dead by that time according to the daydream), when the sounds of the music on the boulevard reached his ears more distinctly, a crowd of people appeared before his eyes, and he awoke on the boulevard a Lieutenant-Captain of infantry as before.

III

He went first to the pavilion, near which was the band. Instead of music-stands, other soldiers of the same regiment were holding the music-books open before the players, and, looking on rather than listening, stood a circle of clerks, junkers,35 and nursemaids with children. Most of the people who were standing, sitting, and sauntering round the pavilion were naval officers, adjutants, and white-gloved army officers. Along the broad avenue of the boulevard walked officers of all sorts and women of all sorts⁠—a few of the latter in hats, but the greater part with kerchiefs on their heads (and some without either kerchiefs or hats)⁠—but it was remarkable that there was not a single old woman amongst them⁠—all were young. Lower down, in the scented alleys shaded by the white acacias, isolated groups sat or strolled.

No one was particularly glad to meet Lieutenant-Captain Miháylof on the boulevard, except, perhaps, Captain Obzhógof of his regiment, and Captain Soúslikof, who pressed his hand warmly; but the first of these wore camel’s-hair trousers, no gloves, and a shabby overcoat, and his face was red and perspiring, and the second shouted so loud, and was so free and easy, that one felt ashamed to be seen walking with him, especially by those white-gloved officers (to one of them, an Adjutant, Miháylof bowed, and he might have bowed to another, a Staff-Officer whom he had twice met at the house of a mutual acquaintance). Besides, what was the fun of walking with Obzhógof and Soúslikof, when, as it was, he met them and shook hands with them six times a day? Was this what he had come to hear the music for?

He would have liked to accost the Adjutant whom he had bowed to, and to talk with those gentlemen; not at all that he wanted Captains Obzhógof and Soúslikof and Lieutenant Pashtétsky and others to see him talking to them, but simply because they were pleasant people, who knew all the news, and might have told him something.

But why is Lieutenant-Captain Miháylof afraid, and unable to muster courage to approach them? “And supposing they don’t return my greeting,” he thinks, “or merely bow and go on talking among themselves as if I were not there, or simply walk away and leave me standing among the aristocrats?” The word aristocrats (in the sense of the highest, select circle of any class) has lately gained great popularity in Russia, where one would think it ought not to exist. It has made its way to every part of the country and into every grade of society that is reached by vanity (and to what conditions of time and circumstance does this pitiful propensity not reach?). It is found among merchants, officials, clerks, officers⁠—in Sarátof, Mamadíshi, Vínnitza: wherever men are found. And since in the besieged town of Sevastopol there are many men, and consequently much vanity, the aristocrats are here also, though death hangs over each one, be he aristocrat or not.

To Captain Obzhógof, Lieutenant-Captain Miháylof was an aristocrat, and to Lieutenant-Captain Miháylof, Adjutant Kaloúgin was an aristocrat, because he was an adjutant and intimate with another adjutant. To Adjutant Kaloúgin, Count Nórdof was an aristocrat, because he was an aide-de-camp to the Emperor.

Vanity! vanity! vanity! everywhere, even on the brink of the grave and among men ready to die for a lofty cause. Vanity! It seems to be the characteristic feature and special malady of our time. How is it that among our predecessors no mention was made of this passion, as of smallpox and cholera? How is it that in our time there are only three kinds of people: those who, considering vanity an inevitably existing fact and therefore justifiable, freely submit to it; those who regard it as a sad but unavoidable condition; and those who act unconsciously and slavishly under its influence? Why did our Homers and Shakespeares speak of love, glory, and suffering, while the literature of today is an endless story of snobbery and vanity?

Twice the Lieutenant-Captain passed irresolutely by the group of his aristocrats, but drawing near them for the third time he made an effort and walked up to them. The group consisted of four officers: Adjutant Kaloúgin, Miháylof’s acquaintance; Adjutant Prince Gáltsin, who was rather an aristocrat even for Kaloúgin himself; Lieutenant-Colonel Nefyórdof, one of the so-called “two hundred and twenty-two” society men (who, being on the retired list, re-entered the army for this war); and Cavalry Captain Praskoúhin, also of the “two hundred and twenty-two.” Luckily for Miháylof, Kaloúgin was in splendid spirits (the General had just spoken to him in a very confidential manner, and Prince Gáltsin, who had arrived from Petersburg, was staying with him), so he did not think it beneath his dignity to shake hands with Miháylof, which was more than Praskoúhin did, though he had often met Miháylof on the bastion, had more than once drunk his wine and vodka, and even owed him twelve and a half roubles lost at cards. Not being yet well acquainted with Prince Gáltsin, he did not like to appear to be acquainted with a mere lieutenant-captain of infantry. So he only bowed slightly.

“Well, Captain,” said Kaloúgin, “when will you be visiting the bastion again? Do you remember our meeting at the Schwartz Redoubt? Things were hot, weren’t they, eh?”

“Yes, very,” said Miháylof, and he remembered how, when making his way along the trench to the bastion, he had met Kaloúgin, walking along courageously, and smartly clanking his sabre.

“My turn’s tomorrow by rights, but we have an officer ill,” continued Miháylof, “so⁠—”

He wanted to say that it was not his turn, but as the Commander of the 8th Company was ill, and only the Ensign was left in the company, he felt it his duty to offer to go in place of Lieutenant Nepshisétsky, and would therefore be at the bastion that evening. But Kaloúgin did not hear him out.

“I feel sure that something is going to happen in a day or two,” he said to Prince Gáltsin.

“How about today? will nothing happen today?” Miháylof asked shyly, looking first at Kaloúgin and then at Gáltsin.

No one replied. Prince Gáltsin only puckered up his face in a curious way, and looking over Miháylof’s cap, said, after a short silence⁠—

“Fine girl that, with the red kerchief. Don’t you know her, Captain?”

“She lives near my lodgings, she’s a sailor’s daughter,” answered the Lieutenant-Captain.

“Come, let’s have a good look at her.”

And Prince Gáltsin gave one of his arms to Kaloúgin and the other to the Lieutenant-Captain, knowing he would thereby confer great pleasure on the latter, as was really the case.

The Lieutenant-Captain was superstitious, and considered it a great sin to amuse himself with women before going into action; but on this occasion he pretended to be a roué, which Prince Gáltsin and Kaloúgin evidently did not believe, and which greatly surprised the girl with the red kerchief, who had more than once noticed how the Lieutenant-Captain blushed when he passed her window. Praskoúhin walked behind them, and kept touching Prince Gáltsin’s arm and making various remarks in French; but as four people could not walk abreast on the path, he was obliged to go alone, until, on the second round, he took the arm of a well-known brave naval officer, Servyágin, who came up and spoke to him, being also anxious to join the aristocrats. And the well-known hero gladly passed his honest, muscular hand under the elbow of Praskoúhin, whom everybody, including especially Servyágin himself, knew to be a man no better than he should be. When (wishing to explain to Prince Gáltsin his acquaintance with this sailor) Praskoúhin whispered that this was the well-known hero, Prince Gáltsin, who had been in the Fourth Bastion the day before and had seen a shell burst at some twenty yards’ distance, considering himself not less courageous than the newcomer and believing that many reputations are obtained by luck, paid not the slightest attention to Servyágin.

Lieutenant-Captain Miháylof found it so pleasant to walk in this company that he forgot his dear letter from T⁠⸺, and his gloomy forebodings at the thought of having to go to the bastion. He remained with them till they began talking exclusively among themselves, avoiding his eyes to show that he might go, and at last walked away from him. But, all the same, the Lieutenant-Captain was contented, and when he passed Junker Baron Pesth, who was particularly conceited and self-satisfied since the previous night (when for the first time in his life he had been in the bombproof of the Fifth Bastion, and had consequently become a hero in his own estimation), he (the Captain) was not at all hurt by the suspiciously haughty expression with which the Junker saluted him.

IV

But hardly had the Lieutenant-Captain crossed the threshold of his lodgings, when very different thoughts entered his head. He saw his little room with its uneven earth floor, its crooked windows, the broken panes mended with paper, his old bedstead with two Toúla pistols and a rug (showing a lady on horseback) nailed to the wall above it,36 as well as the dirty bed of the Junker who lived with him, with its cotton quilt. He saw his man, Nikíta, with his rough, greasy hair, rise, scratching himself, from the floor; he saw his old cloak, his common boots, a little bundle tied in a handkerchief, prepared for him to take to the bastion, from which peeped a bit of cheese and the neck of a porter bottle containing vodka⁠—and he suddenly remembered that he had to go with his company to spend the whole of the night at the lodgments.

“I shall certainly be killed tonight,” thought the Lieutenant-Captain; “I feel I shall. And really there was no need for me to go⁠—I offered of my own accord. And it’s always so: the one who offers himself always does get killed. And what is the matter with that confounded Nepshisétsky? He may not be ill at all; and they’ll go and kill a man because of him⁠—they certainly will. However, if they don’t kill me I shall surely be recommended for promotion. I saw how pleased the Regimental Commander was when I said, ‘Allow me to go if Lieutenant Nepshisétsky is ill.’ If I’m not made a Major, then I’ll get the Order of Vladímir for certain. Why, I am going to the bastion for the thirteenth time. Oh dear, the thirteenth! unlucky number! I am certain to be killed; I feel I shall;⁠ ⁠… but somebody had to go: the company can’t go with only an Ensign. Supposing something was to happen.⁠ ⁠… Why, the honour of the regiment, the honour of the army is at stake. It is my duty to go. Yes, my sacred duty.⁠ ⁠… But I have a presentiment.”

The Lieutenant-Captain forgot that it was not the first time he had felt this presentiment: that, in a greater or lesser degree, he had it whenever he was going to the bastion, and he did not know that, more or less strongly, everyone has such forebodings before going into action. Having calmed himself by appealing to his sense of duty⁠—which was highly developed in him and very strong⁠—the Lieutenant-Captain sat down to the table and began writing a farewell letter to his father. Ten minutes later, having finished his letter, he rose from the table, his eyes wet with tears, and, repeating mentally all the prayers he knew, he began to dress. His rather tipsy and rude servant lazily handed him his new cloak (the old one, which the Lieutenant-Captain usually wore at the bastion, was not mended).

“Why is my cloak not mended? You do nothing but sleep,” said Miháylof angrily.

“How sleep?” grumbled Nikíta; “one does nothing but run about like a dog the whole day⁠—gets fagged, and mayn’t even fall asleep!”

“I see you are again drunk.”

“It’s not on your money if I am, so you needn’t scold me.”

“Hold your tongue, blockhead!” shouted the Lieutenant-Captain, ready to strike the man.

Upset before, he was now quite out of patience and offended at the rudeness of Nikíta, whom he was fond of, and even spoilt, and who had lived with him for the last twelve years.

“Blockhead? blockhead?” repeated the servant. “And why do you, sir, abuse me and call me blockhead? You know what times these are? It is not right to scold.”

Miháylof remembered where he was going, and felt ashamed.

“But you know, Nikíta, you would try anyone’s patience!” he said mildly. “That letter on the table to my father you may leave where it is; don’t touch it,” he added, reddening.

“Yes, sir,” said Nikíta, becoming sentimental under the influence of the vodka he had drunk, as he said, on his own money, and blinking with an evident inclination to weep.

But when, at the porch, the Lieutenant-Captain said “Goodbye, Nikíta,” Nikíta burst into forced sobs and rushed to kiss his master’s hand, saying “Goodbye, sir,” in a broken voice. A sailor’s widow who also stood at the porch could not, as a woman, help joining in this tender scene, and began wiping her eyes on her dirty sleeve, saying something about people who, though they were gentlefolks, took such sufferings upon themselves, while she, poor woman, was left a widow. And she told the tipsy Nikíta for the hundredth time about her sorrows; how her husband had been killed in the first bandagement, and how her hut had been shattered (the one she lived in now was not her own), and so on. After his master was gone, Nikíta lit his pipe, asked the landlady’s little girl to go for some vodka, very soon left off crying, and even had a quarrel with the old woman about a pail which he said she had smashed.

“But perhaps I shall only be wounded,” reasoned the Lieutenant-Captain with himself, arriving at the bastion with his company in the twilight. “But where? and how?⁠—here or here?” he said to himself, mentally pointing to his chest and his stomach. “Supposing it were here” (he thought of his thighs) “and went right round?⁠ ⁠… But suppose it’s here, and with a piece of a bomb, then it’s all up.”

The Lieutenant-Captain, passing along the trenches, safely reached the lodgments. It was in perfect darkness that he and a sapper-officer set the men to their work, after which he sat down in a hole under the breastwork. There was little firing; only now and again on our side or his there was a lightning flash, and the brilliant fuse of a bomb formed a fiery arc on the dark, star-speckled sky. But all the bombs fell far beyond or far to the right of the lodgment where the Lieutenant-Captain sat in his hole. He drank some vodka, ate some cheese, smoked a cigarette, prayed, and felt inclined for sleep.

V

Prince Gáltsin, Lieutenant-Colonel Nefyórdof, and Praskoúhin, whom no one had invited and with whom no one spoke, but who yet stuck to them, went to Kaloúgin’s to tea.

“But you did not finish telling me about Váska Méndel,” said Kaloúgin, when he had taken off his cloak, and sat in a soft easy-chair by the window unbuttoning the collar of his clean, starched shirt. “How did he get married?”

“It was a joke, my boy!⁠ ⁠… Je vous dis, il y avait un temps, on ne parlait que de ça à Petersbourg,”37 said Prince Gáltsin, laughing, as he jumped up from the piano-stool and sat down near Kaloúgin on the windowsill,38 “a capital joke. I know all about it.”⁠ ⁠… And he told, amusingly, cleverly, and with animation, some love story which we will omit, as it does not interest us.

It was noticeable that not only Prince Gáltsin but each of these gentlemen who established themselves, one on the windowsill, another with his legs in the air, and a third by the piano, seemed quite different people now to what they had been on the boulevard. There was none of the absurd arrogance and haughtiness which they had shown towards the infantry officers; here among themselves they were natural, and Kaloúgin and Prince Gáltsin in particular showed themselves very nice, merry, and good-natured young fellows. Their conversation was about their Petersburg fellow-officers and acquaintances.

“What of Máslofsky?”

“Which one?⁠—the Leib-Uhlan or the Horse Guard?”

“I know them both. The one in the Horse Guards I knew when he was a boy just out of school. But the eldest⁠—is he a captain yet?”

“Oh yes, long ago.”

“Is he still fussing about with his gipsy?”

“No, he has dropped her.⁠ ⁠…” And so on, in the same strain.

Later on Prince Gáltsin went to the piano, and sang a gipsy song capitally. Praskoúhin, chiming in, put in a second unasked, and did it so well that he was invited to continue, and this delighted him.

A servant brought tea, cream, and cracknels on a silver tray.

“Serve the Prince,” said Kaloúgin.

“Is it not strange to think,” said Gáltsin, taking his tea to the window, “that we’re in a besieged town, and here’s a pi-aner-forty, tea with cream, and a house such as I should really be glad to have in Petersburg?”

“Why, if we had not even that,” said the old, always dissatisfied Lieutenant-Colonel, “the continual uncertainty we are living in⁠—seeing people killed day after day, and no end to it, would be intolerable. And to have dirt and discomfort added to it⁠—”

“But our infantry officers,” said Kaloúgin, “they live at the bastions with their men in the bombproofs, and eat soldiers’ soup⁠—what of them?”

“What of them? Well, though it’s true they wear the same shirt for ten days at a time, they are heroes all the same⁠—wonderful men.”

Just then an infantry officer entered the room.

“I⁠ ⁠… I have orders⁠ ⁠… may I see the Gen⁠ ⁠… his Excellency? I have come with a message from General N⁠⸺,” he said, bowing shyly.

Kaloúgin rose, and, not returning the officer’s bow, asked with an offensive, affected official smile if he would not have the goodness to wait; and without asking him to sit down or taking any further notice of him, turned to Gáltsin and began talking French, so that the poor officer, left alone in the middle of the room, did not in the least know what to do with himself.

“It is a matter of the utmost urgency, sir,” said the officer, after a short silence.

“Ah! well, then, come if you please,” said Kaloúgin, putting on his cloak, and accompanying the officer to the door.


Eh bien, messieurs, je crois, que cela chauffera cette nuit,”39 said Kaloúgin, when he returned from the General’s.

“Ah! what is it?⁠—a sortie?” asked the others.

“That I don’t know; you will see for yourselves,” replied Kaloúgin, with a mysterious smile.

“And my commander is at the bastion, so I suppose I must go too,” said Praskoúhin, buckling on his sabre.

No one replied; it was his business to know whether he had to go or not.

Praskoúhin and Nefyórdof left, to go to their appointed posts.

“Goodbye, gentlemen. Au revoir! We’ll meet again before the night is over,” shouted Kaloúgin from the window, as Praskoúhin and Nefyórdof, stooping in their Cossack saddles, trotted past. The tramp of their Cossack horses soon died away in the dark street.

Non, dites moi, est-ce qu’il y aura véritablement quelque chose cette nuit?40 said Gáltsin, as he lounged in the windowsill beside Kaloúgin, and watched the bombs that rose above the bastions.

“I can tell you, you see⁠ ⁠… you have been to the bastions? (Gáltsin nodded, though he had only once been to the Fourth Bastion.) You remember just in front of our lunette there is a trench,”⁠ ⁠… and Kaloúgin, with the air of one who without being a specialist considers his military judgment very sound, began somewhat confusedly, and misusing the technical terms, to explain the position of the enemy and of our own works, and the plan of the intended action.

“But, I say, they’re banging away at the lodgments. Oho! I wonder if that is ours or his?⁠ ⁠… Now it’s burst,” said they, as they lounged on the windowsill looking at the fiery trails of the bombs crossing one another in the air, at flashes that for a moment lit up the dark sky, at the puffs of white smoke, and listened to the more and more frequent reports of the firing.

Quel charmant coup d’œil! a?41 said Kaloúgin, drawing his guest’s attention to the really beautiful sight. “Do you know, you sometimes can’t distinguish a bomb from a star.”

“Yes, I thought that was a star just now, and then saw it fall⁠ ⁠… there! it’s burst. And that big star⁠—what do you call it?⁠—looks just like a bomb.”

“Do you know, I am so used to these bombs that I am sure when I’m back in Russia I shall think I see bombs every starlight night⁠—one gets so used to them.”

“But had not I better join this sortie?” said Prince Gáltsin, after a moment’s pause.

“Humbug! my dear fellow! don’t think of such a thing! Besides, I won’t let you,” answered Kaloúgin. “You will have plenty of opportunities later on!”

“Really? You think I need not go, eh?”

At that moment, from the direction in which these gentlemen were looking, amid the boom of the cannon came the terrible rattle of musketry, and thousands of little fires, flaming up in quick succession, flashed all along the line.

“There! now it’s the real thing!” said Kaloúgin. “I can’t keep cool when I hear the noise of muskets; it seems, you know, to seize one’s very soul. There’s an hurrah!” he added, listening intently to the distant and prolonged roar of hundreds of voices, “Ah⁠—ah⁠—ah,” which came from the bastions.

“Whose hurrah was it? theirs or ours?”

“I don’t know, but it’s hand-to-hand fighting now, for the firing has ceased.”

At that moment an officer, followed by a Cossack, galloped under the window and alighted from his horse at the porch.

“Where from?”

“From the bastion. I want the General.”

“Come along. Well, what’s happened?”

“The lodgments have been attacked⁠—and occupied⁠—the French brought up tremendous reserves⁠—attacked us⁠—we had only two battalions,” said the officer, panting. He was the same officer who had been there that evening, but though he was now out of breath, he walked with full self-possession to the door.

“Well, have we retreated?” asked Kaloúgin.

“No,” angrily replied the officer; “another battalion came up in time⁠—we drove them back, but the Colonel is killed and many officers. I have orders to ask for reinforcements.”

And, saying this, he went with Kaloúgin to the General’s, where we shall not follow him.

Five minutes later Kaloúgin was already on his Cossack horse (again in the semi-Cossack manner which I have noticed that all Adjutants, for some reason, seem to consider the proper thing), and rode off at a trot towards the bastion to deliver some orders and await the final result of the affair. Prince Gáltsin, under the influence of that oppressive excitement usually produced in a spectator by proximity to an action in which he is not engaged, went out and began aimlessly pacing up and down the street.

VI

Soldiers passed, carrying the wounded on stretchers or leading them under their arms. It was quite dark in the streets; only here and there one saw lights, in the hospital windows or where some officers were sitting up. From the bastions still came the thunder of cannon and the rattle of muskets,42 and the lights continued to flash in the dark sky as before. From time to time you heard trampling hoofs as an orderly galloped past, or the groans of a wounded man, the steps and voices of stretcher-bearers, or the words of some frightened women who had come out into their porches to watch the cannonade.

Among the spectators were our friend Nikíta, the old sailor’s widow, with whom he had again made friends, and her ten-year-old daughter.

“O Lord God! Holy Mary, Mother of God!” said the old woman, sighing, as she looked at the bombs that kept flying across from side to side like balls of fire; “what horrors! what horrors! Ah, ah! oh, oh! Even at the first bandagement it wasn’t like that. Look now, where the cursed thing has burst, just over our house in the suburb.”

“No, that’s further, they keep tumbling into Aunt Irena’s garden,” said the girl.

“And where, where is master now?” drawled Nikíta, who was not quite sober yet. “Oh! how I love that ’ere master of mine even I myself don’t know. I love him so that, should he be killed in a sinful way, which God forbid, then, would you believe it, granny, after that I myself don’t know what I wouldn’t do to myself! S’elp me, I don’t!⁠ ⁠… My master is that sort, there’s only one word for it. Could one change him for such as them there, playing cards? What are they? Ugh! there’s only one word for it!” concluded Nikíta, pointing to the lighted window of his master’s room, to which, in the absence of the Lieutenant-Captain, the Junker Zhvadchévsky had invited Sublieutenants Ougróvich and Nepshisétsky (whose face was swollen), and was having a spree in honour of a medal he had received.

“Look at the stars, look at ’em, how they’re rolling!” The little girl broke the silence that followed Nikíta’s words. She stood gazing at the sky. “Here’s another rolled down. What is it a sign of, eh, mother?”

“They’ll smash up our hut altogether,” said the old woman with a sigh, leaving her daughter unanswered.

“As we went there today with uncle, mother,” continued, in a singsong tone, the little girl, who had become talkative, “there was such a b⁠—i⁠—g cannonball inside the room, close to the cupboard. A’spose it had smashed in through the passage, and right into the room, such a big one⁠—you couldn’t lift it.”

“Those who had husbands and money all moved away,” said the old woman, “and there’s the hut, all that was left me, and that’s been smashed. Just look at him blazing away! The fiend!⁠ ⁠… O Lord, O Lord!”

“And just as we were going out, comes a bomb fly⁠—ing, and goes and bur⁠—sts and co⁠—o⁠—vers us with dust. A bit of it nearly hit me and uncle.”

VII

More and more wounded, carried on stretchers, or walking supported by others and talking loudly, passed Prince Gáltsin.

“Up they sprang, friends,” said the bass voice of a tall soldier, carrying two guns over his shoulder, “up they sprang, shouting ‘Allah! Allah!’43 and just climbing one over another. You kill one, and another’s there, you couldn’t do anything; no end of ’em⁠—”

But at this point in the story Gáltsin interrupted him.

“You are from the bastion?”

“Just so, y’r honour!”

“Well, what happened, tell me?”

“What happened? Well, y’r honour, such a force of ’em poured down on us over the rampart, it was all up. They quite overpowered us, y’r honour!”

“Overpowered?⁠ ⁠… but you repulsed them?”

“How’s one to repulse ’em, when his whole force came on, killed all our men, and no re’forcements are given?”

The soldier was mistaken, the trench remained ours; but it is a curious fact, which anyone may notice, that a soldier wounded in action always thinks the affair lost, and imagines it to have been a very bloody fight.

“How is that? I was told they had been repulsed,” said Gáltsin irritably. “Perhaps they were driven back after you left? Is it long since you came away?”

“I am straight from there, y’r honour!” answered the soldier; “it is hardly possible; they must have kept the trench, he overpowered us quite.”

“How are you not ashamed to have lost the trench? It’s awful!” said Gáltsin, provoked at such indifference.

“What if he’d the force?” muttered the soldier.

“Ah, y’r honour,” began a soldier from a stretcher which had just come up to them, “how could we help giving it up when he had killed almost all our men? If we had the force we wouldn’t have given it up, not for nothing. But as it was what could one do? I stuck one, and then something hits me. Oh, oh⁠—h! steady, lads, steady! Oh, oh!” groaned the wounded man.

“Really, there seem too many men returning,” said Gáltsin, again stopping the same tall soldier with the two guns. “Why are you retiring? You there, stop!”

The soldier stopped, and took off his cap with his left hand.

“Where are you going, and why?” shouted Gáltsin severely; “you scoun⁠—”

But having come close up to the soldier, Gáltsin noticed that no hand was visible beneath the soldier’s right cuff, and that the sleeve was soaked in blood to the elbow.

“I am wounded, y’r honour.”

“Wounded? How?”

“Here⁠—must ’a’ been with a bullet,” said the man, pointing to his arm, “but I don’t know what struck my head here,” and bending his head, he showed the matted hair at the back stuck together with blood.

“And whose is this other gun?”

“It’s a French rifle I took, y’r honour! But I’d not have come away if it weren’t to lead this fellow⁠—he may fall,” he added, pointing to a soldier who was walking a little in front, leaning on his gun, and painfully dragging his left leg.

Prince Gáltsin suddenly felt horribly ashamed of his unjust suspicions. He felt himself blushing, turned away and, neither questioning nor watching the wounded men any more, he went to the hospital.

Having pushed his way with difficulty through the porch among the wounded who had come on foot and the bearers who were carrying in the wounded and bringing out the dead, Gáltsin entered the first room, gave a look round, and involuntarily turned back and ran out into the street: it was too terrible!

VIII

The large, lofty, dark hall, lit only by the four or five candles with which the doctors examined the wounded, was literally filled. The bearers kept bringing in fresh men, laying them side by side on the floor (which was already so crowded that the unfortunates jostled one another and were soaked with each other’s blood), and going to fetch more wounded. The pools of blood visible in the unoccupied spaces, the feverish breathing of several hundred men, and the perspiration of the workmen with the stretchers, filled the air with a peculiar, heavy, thick, fetid mist, in which, in different parts of the hall, the candles burnt dimly. The sound of all sorts of groans, sighs, death-rattles, now and then interrupted by shrill screams, filled the whole room. Sisters, with quiet faces, expressing not an empty, feminine, painfully tearful pity, but active, practical sympathy, here and there among the bloody coats and shirts stepped across the wounded with medicines, water, bandages, and lint. The doctors, with sleeves turned up, kneeling beside the wounded⁠—near whom the assistants held the candles⁠—examined, felt, and probed their wounds, not heeding the terrible groans and the prayers of the sufferers. One doctor sat at a table near the door, and at the moment Gáltsin came in was already entering No. 532.

“Iván Bogáef, Private, Company III, S⁠⸺ Regiment, fractura femuris complicata!” shouted another doctor from the end of the room, examining a shattered leg.

“Turn him over.”

“Oh, oh, fathers! Oh, you’re our fathers!” screamed the soldier, beseeching them not to touch him.

Perforatio capitis!

“Simon Nefyórdof, Lieutenant-Colonel of the N⁠⸺ Infantry Regiment. Have a little patience, Colonel, or it is quite impossible; I’ll have to leave you!” said a third doctor, poking about with some kind of hook in the skull of the unfortunate Colonel.

“Oh, don’t; oh, for God’s sake be quick! be quick. Ah⁠—!”

Perforatio pectoris.⁠ ⁠… Sebastian Séreda, Private⁠ ⁠… what regiment? But you need not write that: moritur. Carry him away,” said the doctor, leaving the soldier, whose eyes turned up while the death-rattle still sounded in his throat.

About forty soldiers, stretcher-bearers, stood at the door waiting to carry the bandaged to the wards and the dead to the chapel. They looked on in silence, broken only now and then by a heavy sigh, at the scene before them.

IX

On his way to the bastion Kaloúgin met many wounded; but knowing by experience that, in action, such sights have a bad effect on a man’s spirits, he did not stop to question them, but, on the contrary, tried not to notice them. At the foot of the hill he met an orderly-officer galloping fast from the bastion.

“Zóbkin! Zóbkin! wait a bit.”

“Yes, what?”

“Where are you from?”

“The lodgments.”

“How are things there?⁠—Hot?”

“Oh, awful!”

And the orderly galloped on.

In fact, though there was now but little small-arm firing, the cannonade had recommenced with fresh heat and persistence.

“Ah! that’s bad!” thought Kaloúgin, with an unpleasant sensation, and he, too, had a presentiment, i.e., a very usual thought⁠—the thought of death. But Kaloúgin was ambitious, and blessed with nerves of oak; in a word, he was what is called brave. He did not yield to the first feeling, but began to nerve himself. He recalled how an Adjutant, Napoleon’s he thought, having delivered an order, galloped with bleeding head full speed to Napoleon.

Vous êtes blessé?44 said Napoleon.

Je vous demande pardon, sire, je suis mort,”45 and the Adjutant fell from his horse, dead.

That seemed to him very fine, and he even a bit imagined himself to be that Adjutant. Then he whipped his horse, assuming an even more dashing Cossack seat, looked back at the Cossack, who, standing up in his stirrups, was trotting behind, and rode quite gallantly up to the spot where he had to dismount. Here he found four soldiers sitting on some stones smoking their pipes.

“What are you doing there?” he shouted at them.

“Been carrying off a wounded man and sat down to rest a bit, y’r honour,” said one of them, hiding his pipe behind his back and taking off his cap.

“Resting, indeed!⁠ ⁠… to your places, march!” and he went up the hill with them, through the trench, meeting wounded men at every step.

After ascending the hill he turned to the left, and a few steps farther on found himself quite alone. A splinter of a bomb whizzed near him, and fell into the trench. Another bomb rose in front of him and seemed flying straight at him. He suddenly felt frightened; he ran a few steps at full speed and lay down flat. When the bomb burst a considerable distance off, he felt exceedingly vexed with himself, and rose looking round to see if anyone had noticed his downfall, but no one was near.

But when fear has once entered the soul it does not easily yield to any other feeling. He, who always boasted that he never even stooped, now hurried along the trench almost on all fours. He stumbled, and thought, “Oh! it’s awful! they’ll kill me for certain,” his breath came with difficulty, and perspiration broke out all over his body; he was surprised at himself, but no longer strove to master his feeling.

Suddenly he heard footsteps in front. Quickly straightening himself, he raised his head and, boldly clanking his sabre, went on more deliberately. He could not recognise himself again. When he met a sapper-officer and a sailor, and the officer shouted to him to lie down, pointing to a bright spot which, growing brighter and brighter, approached more and more swiftly and came crashing down close to the trench, he only bent slightly, involuntarily influenced by the frightened cry, and went on.

“There’s a brave ’un,” said the sailor, looking quite calmly at the bomb, and at once deciding with experienced eye that the splinters could not fly into the trench, “he won’t even lie down.”

It was only a few steps across open ground to the bombproof of the Commander of the bastion, when Kaloúgin’s mind again became clouded and the same stupid terror seized him; his heart beat more violently, the blood rushed to his head, and he had to constrain himself with an effort in order to run to the bombproof.

“Why are you so out of breath?” said the General, when Kaloúgin had reported his instructions.

“I walked very fast, your Excellency!”

“Won’t you have a glass of wine?”

Kaloúgin drank a glass, and lit a cigarette. The action was over, only a fierce cannonade still continued from both sides. In the bombproof sat General N⁠⸺, the Commander of the bastion, and some six other officers, among whom was Praskoúhin. They were discussing various details of the action. Sitting in this comfortable room with blue wallpaper, a sofa, a bed, a table with papers on it, a wall-clock, with a lamp burning before it, and an icon46⁠—looking at these signs of habitation, at the beams more than two feet thick that formed the ceiling, and listening to the shots that here, in the bombproof, sounded faintly, Kaloúgin could not at all understand how he had allowed himself to be twice overcome by such unpardonable weakness. He was angry with himself, and wished for danger, in order to test his nerve once more.

“Ah! I’m glad you are here, Captain,” said he to a naval officer with big moustaches who wore a Staff-Officer’s coat with a St. George’s Cross, and who had just entered the bombproof and asked the General to give him some men to repair two embrasures of his battery which had become blocked. When the General had finished speaking to the Captain, Kaloúgin said: “The Commander-in-Chief told me to ask if your guns can fire case-shot into the trenches.”

“Only one of them can,” said the Captain sullenly.

“All the same, let’s go and see.”

The Captain, who was in command of the battery, frowned and gave an angry grunt.

“I have been standing there all night, and have come in to get a bit of rest.⁠—Couldn’t you go alone?” he added. “My assistant, Lieutenant Kartz, is there, and can show you everything.”

The Captain had already been more than six months in command of this, one of the most dangerous batteries. From the time the siege began, even before the bombproofs were erected, he had lived continuously on the bastion, and had a great reputation for courage among the sailors. That is why his refusal struck and surprised Kaloúgin. “So much for reputation,” thought he.

“Well, then, I will go alone, if I may,” he said in a slightly sarcastic tone to the Captain, who, however, paid no attention to his words.

Kaloúgin did not realise that whereas he had, all in all, spent some fifty hours, at different times, on the bastions, the Captain had lived there for six months. Kaloúgin was still actuated by vanity, the wish to shine, the hope of rewards, of gaining a reputation, the charm of running risks. But the Captain had already lived through all that: at first he felt vain, showed off his courage, was foolhardy, hoped for rewards and reputation, and even gained them; but now all these incentives had lost their power over him, and he saw things differently. He fulfilled his duty accurately, but, quite understanding how much the chances of life were against him after six months at the bastion, he no longer ran risks without serious need; and so the young Lieutenant, who joined the battery a week ago and was now showing it to Kaloúgin, with whom he vied in uselessly leaning out of the embrasures and climbing out on the banquette, seemed ten times braver than the Captain.

Returning to the bombproof after examining the battery, Kaloúgin, in the dark, came upon the General, who, accompanied by his staff officers, was going to the watchtower.

“Captain Praskoúhin,” he heard the General say, “please go to the right lodgment and tell the second battalion of the M⁠⸺ Regiment, which is at work there, to cease their work, leave the place, and noiselessly rejoin their regiment, which is stationed at the foot of the hill in reserve. Do you understand? Lead them yourself to the regiment.”

“Yes, sir.”

And Praskoúhin started at full speed towards lodgments.

The firing was now becoming less frequent.

X

“Is this the second battalion of the M⁠⸺ Regiment?” asked Praskoúhin, having run to his destination, and coming across some soldiers carrying earth in sacks.

“Just so, y’r honour!”

“Where is the Commander?”

Miháylof, thinking that the Commander of the Company was being asked for, got out of his hole and, taking Praskoúhin for a Commanding Officer, saluted, and approached him.

“The General’s orders are⁠ ⁠… that you⁠ ⁠… should go⁠ ⁠… quickly⁠ ⁠… and especially quietly⁠ ⁠… back⁠—no, not back, but to the reserves,” said Praskoúhin, looking askance in the direction of the enemy’s fire.

Having recognised Praskoúhin and made out what was wanted, Miháylof dropped his hand and passed on the order. The battalion became alert, the men took up their muskets, put on their cloaks, and set out.

No one, without experiencing it, can imagine the delight a man feels when, after three hours’ bombardment, he leaves so dangerous a spot as the lodgments. During those three hours Miháylof, who more than once⁠—and not without reason⁠—had thought his end at hand, had had time to accustom himself to the conviction that he would certainly be killed, and that he no longer belonged to this world, But, in spite of that, he had great difficulty in keeping his legs from running away with him when, leading the company with Praskoúhin at his side, he left the lodgment.

“Au revoir,” said a Major, with whom Miháylof had eaten bread and cheese sitting in the hole under the breastwork, and who was remaining at the bastion in command of another battalion, “I wish you a lucky journey.”

“And I wish you a lucky defence. It seems to be getting quieter now.”

But scarcely had he uttered these words when the enemy, probably observing the movement in the lodgment, began to fire more and more frequently.

Our guns replied, and heavy firing recommenced.

The stars were high in the sky but shone feebly. The night was pitch dark; only the flashes of the guns and the bursting bombs made things around suddenly visible. The soldiers walked quickly and silently, involuntarily outpacing one another, only their measured footfall on the dry road was heard besides the incessant roll of the guns, the ringing of bayonets when they came in contact, a sigh, or the prayer of some poor soldier lad, “Lord, O Lord! what is it?” Now and again you heard the moaning of a man hit, and the cry “Stretchers!” (in the Company Miháylof commanded, the artillery fire alone carried off twenty-six men that night). A flash on the dark and distant horizon, the cry “Can-n-non!” from the sentinel on the bastion, and a ball flew buzzing above the Company and plunged into the earth, making the stones fly.

“What the devil are they so slow for!” thought Praskoúhin, continually looking back as he marched beside Miháylof; “I’d really better run on; I’ve delivered the order.⁠ ⁠… However, no; they might afterwards say I’m a coward! What must be, will be: I’ll remain.”

“Now, why is he walking with me?” thought Miháylof, on his part. “I have noticed, over and over again, that he always brings ill-luck. Here it comes, I believe, straight for us.”

After they had gone a few hundred paces they met Kaloúgin, who was walking briskly towards the lodgments, clanking his sabre. He had been ordered by the General to find out how the works were progressing there. But meeting Miháylof, he thought he could just as well, instead of going himself under such a terrible fire⁠—which he was not ordered to do⁠—find out all about it from an officer who had been there. And Miháylof giving him full details of the work, Kaloúgin, after going some way with him, turned off into a trench leading to the bombproof.

“Well, what news?” asked an officer who was eating his supper there all alone.

“Nothing much; it seems that the affair is over.”

“Over? How’s that? On the contrary, the General has just gone again to the watchtower, and another regiment has arrived. Yes, there it is⁠—listen! The muskets again! Don’t you go; why should you?” added the officer, noticing a movement Kaloúgin made.

“By rights I certainly ought to be there,” thought Kaloúgin, “but I have already exposed myself much today: the firing is awful!”

“Yes, I think I’d better wait here for him,” he said. And about twenty minutes later the General and the officers who were with him returned; among them was the Junker Baron Pesth, but not Praskoúhin. The lodgments had been retaken and occupied by us.

After receiving a full account of the affair, Kaloúgin, accompanied by Pesth, left the bombproof.

XI

“Your coat is bloody; you don’t mean to say you were in the hand-to-hand fight?” asked Kaloúgin.

“Oh, it was awful! Just fancy⁠—”

And Pesth began to relate how he led his company, how the Company-Commander was killed, how he himself stabbed a Frenchman, and how, had it not been for him, we should have lost the day.

This tale was founded on facts: the Company-Commander was killed, and Pesth had bayonetted a Frenchman, but in recounting the details the Junker invented and bragged. He bragged unintentionally, because during the whole of the affair he had been, as it were, in a fog, and so dazed that everything that happened seemed to him to have happened somehow, somewhere, and to someone. And, very naturally, he tried to recall the details in a light advantageous to himself. What really occurred was this:⁠—

The battalion the Junker had been ordered to join for the sortie, stood for two hours under fire close to some low wall. Then the Battalion-Commander in front said something, the Company-Commanders became active, the battalion advanced from behind the breastwork, and, after going about a hundred paces, it stopped to form into company columns. Pesth was told to place himself on the right flank of the second company.

Quite unable to realise where he was and why he was there, the Junker took his place, and involuntarily holding his breath, while cold shivers ran down his back, he gazed into the dark distance, expecting something dreadful. He was, however, not so much frightened (for there was no firing) as disturbed and agitated at being in the field beyond the fortifications.

Again the Battalion-Commander in front said something. Again the officers spoke in whispers, passing on the order, and the black wall formed by the first company suddenly sank out of sight. The order was to lie down. The second company also lay down, and, in lying down, Pesth hurt his hand on a sharp prickle. Only the Commander of the second company remained standing. His short figure, brandishing a sword, moved in front of the company, and he spoke incessantly.

“Mind, lads! show them what you’re made of! Don’t fire, but give it them with the bayonet⁠—the dogs! When I cry ‘Hurrah,’ altogether mind, that’s the thing! We’ll let them see who we are; we’ll not shame ourselves, eh, lads? For our father the Tsar!”

“What is your Company-Commander’s name?” asked Pesth of a Junker lying near him. “How brave he is!”

“Yes, he always is, in action,” answered the Junker. “His name is Lisinkóvsky.”

Just then a flame suddenly flashed up straight before the company, who were deafened by a resounding crash. High up in the air stones and splinters clattered. (Some fifty seconds later a stone fell from above and took a soldier’s leg off.) It was a bomb fired from an elevated stand, and the fact that it reached the company showed that the French had noticed the column.

“It’s bombs you’re sending! Wait a bit till we get at you, then you’ll taste a three-edged Russian bayonet, damn you!” said the Company-Commander, so loudly that the Battalion-Commander had to order him to hold his tongue and not make so much noise.

After that the first company rose, then the second. They were ordered to charge bayonets, and the battalion advanced.

Pesth was in such a fright that he could not in the least make out how long it lasted, where he went, or who was who. He went on as if he were drunk. But suddenly a million fires flashed from all sides, something whistled and clattered. He shouted and ran somewhere, because everyone ran and shouted. Then he stumbled and fell over something. It was the Company-Commander, who had been wounded at the head of his company, and who, taking the Junker for a Frenchman, had seized him by the leg. Then, when Pesth had freed his leg and risen, someone else ran against him from behind in the dark, and nearly knocked him down again. “Run him through!” someone else shouted, “what are you stopping for?” Then someone seized a gun and stuck it into something soft. “Ah Dieu!” cried a dreadful, piercing voice, and Pesth only then understood that he had bayonetted a Frenchman. A cold sweat covered his whole body, he trembled as in fever, and threw down the gun. But this lasted only a moment; the thought immediately entered his head that he was a hero. He again seized the gun, and shouting “Hurrah!” ran with the crowd away from the dead Frenchman. Having run twenty paces he came to a trench. Some of our men with the Battalion-Commander were there.

“And I have killed one!” said Pesth to the Commander.

“You’re a fine fellow, Baron!”

XII

“Do you know Praskoúhin is killed?” said Pesth, accompanying Kaloúgin, who was returning home.

“Impossible!”

“Yes, I saw him myself.”

“Well, goodbye⁠ ⁠… I must be off.”

“I am very pleased,” thought Kaloúgin, approaching his lodgings. “It is the first time I have had such luck when on duty, it’s first-rate; I am alive and well, and shall certainly get an excellent recommendation, and I am sure of a gold sabre. And I really have deserved it.”

After reporting what was necessary to the General he went to his room, where Prince Gáltsin, long since returned, sat awaiting him, reading a book he had found on Kaloúgin’s table.

It was with wonderful pleasure Kaloúgin felt himself again safe at home, and having put on his nightshirt and got into bed, he related to Gáltsin all the details of the affair, recounting them, very naturally, from a point of view from which the facts showed what a capable and brave officer he, Kaloúgin, was⁠—which it seemed hardly necessary to allude to, since everyone knew it, and had no right or reason to question it, except, perhaps, the deceased Captain Praskoúhin, who, though he used to consider it an honour to walk arm-in-arm with Kaloúgin, had, only yesterday, told a friend privately that though Kaloúgin was a first-rate fellow, yet, between you and me, he was awfully disinclined to go to the bastions.

When Praskoúhin, walking beside Miháylof after Kaloúgin left them, had just begun to revive somewhat on approaching a safer place, he suddenly saw a bright light flash up behind him, and heard the sentinel shout “Mortar!” and a soldier walking behind him say, “That’s coming straight for the bastion!”

Miháylof looked round. The bright spot seemed to have stopped at its zenith, in the position which makes it absolutely impossible to define its direction. But that only lasted a moment; the bomb⁠—coming faster and faster, nearer and nearer, so that the sparks of its fuse were already visible and the fatal whistle audible⁠—descended towards the centre of the battalion.

“Lie down!” shouted someone.

Miháylof and Praskoúhin lay flat on the ground. Praskoúhin, closing his eyes, only heard how the bomb crashed down onto the hard earth close by. A second passed which seemed an hour: the bomb had not exploded. Praskoúhin was afraid: perhaps he had played the coward for nothing. Perhaps the bomb had fallen far away, and it only seemed to him that its fuse was fizzing close by. He opened his eyes, and was pleased to see Miháylof lying immovable at his feet. But at that moment he caught sight of the glowing fuse of the bomb, which was spinning on the ground not a yard off. Terror⁠—cold terror, excluding every other thought and feeling, seized his whole being. He covered his face with his hands.

Another second passed⁠—a second during which a whole world of feelings, thoughts, hopes, and memories flashed before his imagination.

“Whom will it kill⁠—Miháylof or me? Or both of us? And if it’s me, where? In the head? then I’m done for; and if in the leg, they’ll cut it off (I’ll certainly ask for chloroform), and I may survive it. But perhaps only Miháylof will be killed; then I shall relate how we were going side by side, and how he was killed, and I was splashed with his blood. No, it’s nearer to me⁠ ⁠… it will be I.”

Then he remembered the twelve roubles he owed Miháylof, remembered also a debt in Petersburg that should have been paid long ago, and the gipsy song he had sung that evening. The woman he loved rose in his imagination, wearing a cap with lilac ribbons; he recollected a man who had insulted him five years ago and whom he had not paid out; and yet, inseparable from all these and from thousands of other recollections, the present thought, the expectation of death, did not leave him for a moment. “Perhaps it won’t explode,” and with desperate decision he wished to open his eyes. But at that instant a red flame pierced through the still closed lids, and with a terrible crash something struck him in the middle of his chest. He jumped up and began to run, but stumbling over the sabre that got between his legs, he fell on his side.

“Thank God, I’m only bruised!” was his first thought, and he wished to touch his chest with his hand; but his arms seemed tied to his sides, and it felt as if a vice were squeezing his head. Soldiers fitted past him, and he counted them unconsciously⁠—“one, two, three soldiers; and there’s an officer with his cloak tucked up,” he thought. Then lightning flashed before his eyes, and he wondered whether the shot was fired from a mortar or a cannon. “A cannon, probably. And there’s another shot, and here are more soldiers⁠—five, six, seven soldiers: they all pass by.” He was suddenly seized with fear that they would crush him. He wished to shout that he was hurt, but his mouth was so dry that his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, and a terrible thirst tormented him. He felt it wet about his chest; and this sensation of being wet made him think of water, and he longed to drink even this that made him feel wet. “I suppose I hit myself in falling and bled,” thought he, and giving way more and more to fear lest the soldiers who kept fitting past might trample on him, he gathered all his strength and tried to shout “Take me with you!” but instead of that he uttered such a terrible groan that he was frightened to hear it. Then some other red fires began dancing before his eyes, and it seemed to him that the soldiers put stones on him; the fires danced less and less, but the stones they put on him pressed more and more heavily. He made an effort to push off the stones⁠—stretched himself⁠—and saw and heard and felt nothing more. He had been killed on the spot by a bomb-splinter in the middle of his chest.

XIII

When Miháylof saw the bomb and fell down, he too, like Praskoúhin, lived through an infinitude of thoughts and feelings in the two seconds that passed before the bomb burst. He prayed mentally, and repeated, “Thy will be done.” And at the same time he thought, “Why did I enter the army? and why did I join the infantry to take part in the campaign? Would it not have been better to have remained with the Uhlan regiment at T⁠⸺, and spent my time with my friend Natásha? And now here I am,”⁠ ⁠… and he began to count “one, two, three, four,” deciding that if the bomb burst at an even number he would live, but if at an odd number he would be killed. “It is all over, I’m killed,” he thought when the bomb burst (he did not remember whether at an odd or even number), and he felt a blow and a cruel pain in his head. “Lord, forgive me my trespasses!” he muttered, folding his hands; he rose, but fell on his back senseless.

When he came to, his first sensation was that of the blood trickling down his nose and the pain in his head, which was much less violent. “That’s the soul passing,” he thought. “How will it be there? Lord! receive my soul in peace.⁠ ⁠… Only it’s strange,” thought he, “that, dying, I should hear so distinctly the steps of the soldiers and the sounds of the firing.”

“Bring stretchers! Eh, the Captain is killed!” shouted a voice above his head, which he involuntarily recognised as the voice of the drummer, Ignátyef.

Someone took him by the shoulders. With an effort he opened his eyes, and saw the sky above him, the groups of stars, and two bombs racing one another as they few above him. He saw Ignátyef, soldiers with stretchers and guns, the embankment, the trenches, and suddenly realised that he was not yet in the other world.

He was slightly wounded in the head by a stone. His first feeling was one almost of regret: he had prepared himself so well and calmly to go there, that the return to reality, with its bombs, stretchers, and blood, seemed unpleasant. The second feeling was unconscious joy at being alive; and the third, a wish to get away from the bastion as quickly as possible. The drummer tied a handkerchief round his Commander’s head, and taking his arm led him towards the Ambulance Station.

“But why, and where, am I going?” thought the Lieutenant-Captain when he had collected his senses. “My duty is to remain with the company, and not to leave it behind, especially,” whispered a voice, “as the company will soon be out of range of the guns.”

“Never mind, my lad,” said he, drawing away his hand from the attentive drummer, “I won’t go to the Ambulance Station, but will stay with the company.”

And he turned back.

“It would be better to have it properly bandaged, your honour,” said Ignátyef. “It’s only the heat of the moment makes it seem nothing; mind it don’t get worse, and just see what warm work it is here.⁠ ⁠… Really, your honour⁠—”

Miháylof stood for a moment undecided, and would probably have followed Ignátyef’s advice had he not reflected how many severely wounded there must be at the Ambulance Station. “Perhaps the doctors will smile at my scratch,” thought the Lieutenant-Captain, and in spite of the drummer’s arguments he returned to his company.

“And where is Staff-Officer Praskoúhin, who was with me?” he asked, when he met the Ensign who was leading the company.

“I don’t know; killed, I think,” replied the Ensign unwillingly.

“Killed? or wounded? How is it you don’t know? wasn’t he going with us? And why did you not bring him away?”

“How could we under such a fire?”

“Ah! what have you done, Michael Ivánitch?” said Miháylof angrily. “How could you leave him if he’s alive? Even if he’s dead his body ought to have been brought away.”

“Alive indeed, when I tell you I myself went up and saw him!” said the Ensign. “Excuse me, it’s hard enough to collect our own.⁠ ⁠… There they are, the villains,” added he, “it’s cannonballs they’re sending now!”

Miháylof sat down and held his head, which ached terribly when he moved. “No, it is absolutely necessary to go back and fetch him; he may still be alive,” said Miháylof. “It is our duty, Michael Ivánitch.”

Michael Ivánitch did not answer.

“There now! he did not take him at the time, and now soldiers will have to be sent back by themselves⁠ ⁠… and how can one send them? Under this terrible fire they may be killed uselessly,” thought Miháylof.

“Lads! someone will have to go back to fetch the officer who was wounded out there in the ditch,” said he, not very loudly or peremptorily, feeling how unpleasant it would be for the soldiers to execute this order. And so it was. As he had not named anyone in particular no one came forward to obey the order.

“And, after all, he may be dead already: it is not worthwhile exposing men uselessly to such danger. It’s all my fault, I ought to have seen to it. I will go back myself and find out whether he is alive. It is my duty,” said Miháylof to himself.

“Michael Ivánitch! you lead the company, I’ll catch you up,” said he, and lifting his cloak with one hand, while with the other he kept touching a small icon of St. Metrophanes that hung round his neck and in which he had great faith, he ran quickly along the trench.

Having convinced himself that Praskoúhin was dead, Miháylof dragged himself back panting, his hand holding the bandage that had slipped on his head, which now again ached badly. When Miháylof overtook the battalion, it was already at the foot of the hill, and almost beyond the range of the shots. I say “almost,” because a stray bomb now and then came even here.

“Tomorrow I had better go and be entered at the Ambulance Station,” thought the Lieutenant-Captain, while a medical assistant, who had turned up, was bandaging his head.

XIV

Hundreds of bodies, freshly stained with blood, of men who, two hours before, had been filled with various lofty and trivial hopes and wishes, lay with stiffened limbs on the dewy, flowery valley between the bastions and the parallels, and on the smooth floor of the Mortuary Chapel in Sevastopol. Hundreds of men, with prayers and curses on their parched lips, crawled, writhed, and moaned, some among the corpses in the flowery valley, others on stretchers, on beds, and on the bloody floor of the Ambulance Station! And, just as on other days, the dawn appeared over the Sapoún hill, the twinkling stars paled, the white mist rose above the dark roaring sea, the rosy morning glow lit up the east, the long purple clouds travelled across the blue horizon, and, just as on other days, promising joy, love and happiness to all the awakening world, in power and glory rose the sun.

XV

The next evening the Chasseurs’ band was again playing on the boulevard, and again officers, junkers, soldiers, and young women promenaded round the pavilion and along the sidewalks under the sweet, white, blooming acacias.

Kaloúgin, Prince Gáltsin, and a Colonel were walking arm-in-arm near the pavilion and talking of last night’s affair. The main clue to the talk, as always in such cases, was not the affair itself but the part the speaker had taken in it. Their faces and tones were serious, almost sorrowful, as if the losses of the night had touched and saddened every one of them. But, to tell the truth, as none of them had lost anyone very dear to him, this sorrowful expression was only an official one they considered it their duty to exhibit.

Kaloúgin and the Colonel, though they were first-rate fellows, were, in fact, ready to see such an affair every day if they could have a gold sword, and be made Major-General each time. It is very well to call some conqueror a monster because he destroys millions to gratify his ambition. But go and ask any Ensign Petroúshef or Sublieutenant Antónof, on their conscience, and you will find that every one of us is a little Napoleon, a little monster, ready to start a battle and kill a hundred men, only to get an extra medal or one-third additional pay.

“No, I beg pardon,” said the Colonel, “it began first on the left side. I was there myself.

“Well, perhaps,” said Kaloúgin. “I spent more time on the right. I went there twice: first to look for the General, and then just to see the lodgments. That’s where it was hot!

“Kaloúgin must know,” said Gáltsin. “By the way, V⁠⸺ told me today that you are a trump⁠—”

“But the losses, the losses are terrible!” said the Colonel. “In my regiment we had four hundred casualties. It is astonishing that I am still alive.

Just then the figure of Miháylof, with his head bandaged, appeared at the end of the boulevard and came towards these gentlemen.

“What, are you wounded, Captain?” said Kaloúgin.

“Yes, slightly, with a stone,” answered Miháylof.

Est-ce que le pavillon est baissé déja?47 asked Prince Gáltsin, glancing at the Lieutenant-Captain’s cap, and not addressing anyone in particular.

Non, pas encore,”48 answered Miháylof, who wished to show that he understood and spoke French.

“Do you mean to say the truce still continues?” said Gáltsin, politely addressing him in Russian, and thereby intimating (so it seemed to the Lieutenant-Captain): “It must, no doubt, be difficult for you to have to speak French, so hadn’t we better simply⁠ ⁠…” and thereupon the Adjutants left him. The Lieutenant-Captain again felt exceedingly lonely, as he had done the day before. After bowing to various people⁠—some of whom he did not wish, and some of whom he did not venture, to join⁠—he sat down near Kazársky’s monument and smoked a cigarette.

Baron Pesth also turned up on the boulevard. He related that he had been present at the parley, and how he had spoken with the French officers. According to his account, one of them had said to him, “Sil n’avait pas fait clair encore pendant une demi-heure, les embuscades auraient été reprises,”49 and he replied, “Monsieur! je ne dis pas non, pour ne pas vous donner un démenti,”50 and he told how well it had come out, etc. etc.

In reality, though he had been at the parley, he had not managed to say anything particular, though he much wished to speak with the French (for it’s awfully jolly to speak with those fellows). Junker Baron Pesth had long paced up and down the line asking the Frenchmen near to him, “De quel régiment éles-vous?51 He got his answer and nothing more. When he went too far beyond the line, the French sentry, not suspecting that “that soldier” knew French, abused him in the third person singular: “Il vient regarder nos travaux, ce sacré⁠—”52 In consequence of which Junker Baron Pesth, finding nothing more to interest him at the parley, rode home, and on his way back composed the French phrases he was now repeating.

Captain Zóbof, who spoke so loud, was on the boulevard, the shabbily-dressed Captain Obzhógof, the artillery captain who never curried favour with anyone, a Junker fortunate in his love affairs⁠—all the same faces as the day before, and all with the same recurring motives.

Only Praskoúhin, Nefyórdof, and a few more were missing, and hardly anyone now remembered or thought of them, though there had not been time for their bodies to be washed, laid out, and put into the ground.

XVI

On our bastions and on the French parallels white flags are hung out, and between them in the flowery valley lie heaps of bootless, mangled corpses, clad in grey and blue, which workmen are removing and piling onto carts. The air is filled with the smell of decaying corpses. From Sevastopol and from the French camp crowds of people have poured out to see the sight, and with eager and amicable curiosity draw near one another.

Listen to what these people are saying to each other.

Here, in a circle of Russians and Frenchmen who have collected round him, a young officer, who speaks French badly but sufficiently to be understood, is examining a Guardsman’s pouch.

Eh sussy, poor quah se waso lié?53

Parce que c’est une giberne d’un régiment de la garde, Monsieur, qui porte l’aigle impérial.54

Eh voo de la guard?55

Pardon, Monsieur, du 6-ème de ligne.56

Eh sussy oo ashtay?57 pointing to a cigarette-holder of yellow wood in which the Frenchman is smoking a cigarette.

A Balaclava, Monsieur! C’est tout simple en bois de palme.58

Joli,”59 says the officer, guided in his remarks not so much by his own free will as by the French words he knows.

Si vous voulez bien garder cela comme souvenir de cette rencontre, vous m’obligerez.60

And the polite Frenchman puts out his cigarette and presents the holder to the officer with a slight bow. The officer gives him his, and all present, both Frenchmen and Russians, smile and seem pleased.


Here is a brisk infantryman in a pink shirt, with cloak thrown over his shoulders, accompanied by others who stand by him, with their hands at their backs, and merry, inquisitive faces. He approaches a Frenchman and asks a light for his pipe. The Frenchman draws at, and stirs up the tobacco in his own short pipe, and shakes a light into that of the Russian.

Tabac boon?” says the soldier in the pink shirt, and the spectators smile. “Oui, bon tabac, tabac turc,” says the Frenchman. “Chez vous autre tabac⁠—Russe? bon?

Roos boon,” says the soldier in the pink shirt, while the onlookers shake with laughter. “Fransay not boon, bongjour mossier!” says the soldier in the pink shirt, letting off his whole stock of French at once, and he slaps the Frenchman on the stomach and laughs. The French also laugh.

Ils ne sont pas jolis ces b⁠⸺ de Russes,”61 says a Zouave among the French.

De quoi de ce qu’ils rient donc?62 says another, a dark man with an Italian accent, coming up to our men.

“Coat boon,” says the cheeky soldier, examining the embroidery of the Zouave’s coat; and everybody laughs again.

Ne sors pas de ta ligne, à vos places, sacré nom!63 cries a French Corporal, and the soldiers separate with evident unwillingness.


And here, amidst a group of French officers, is one of our young cavalry officers gushing. They are talking about some Count Sazónof, “que j’ai beaucoup connu, Monsieur,” says a French officer with only one epaulet⁠—“c’est un de ces vrais comtes russes, comme nous les aimons.64

Il y a un Sazónof, que j’ai connu,” says the cavalry officer, “mais il n’est pas comte, à moins, que je sache, un petit brun de votre âge à peu près.65

C’est ça, Monsieur, c’est lui. Oh! que je voudrais le voir, ce cher comte. Si vous le voyez, je vous prie bien de lui faire mes compliments⁠—Capitaine Latour,”66 he said, bowing.

N’est-ce pas terrible la triste besogne, que nous faisons? Ça chauffait cette nuit, n’est-ce pas?67 said the cavalry officer, wishing to maintain the conversation and pointing to the corpses.

Oh, Monsieur, c’est affreux! Mais quels gaillards vos soldats, quels gaillards! C’est un plaisir, que de se battre avec des gaillards comme eux.68

Il fait avouer que les vôtres ne se mouchent pas du pied non plus,”69 said the cavalry officer, bowing, and imagining himself to be very agreeable.

But enough.

Let us rather look at this ten-year-old boy in the old cap (probably his father’s), with shoes on his stocking-less feet, and nankeen trousers held by one brace. At the very commencement of the truce he came over the entrenchments, and ever since he has been walking about the valley, looking with dull curiosity at the French and at the corpses that lie on the ground, and gathering the blue flowers with which the valley is strewn. Returning home with a large bunch of flowers he holds his nose to escape the smell which is borne towards him by the wind, and stopping near a heap of corpses collected together, he gazes long at a terrible, headless body which lies nearest to him. After standing there some time, he draws nearer and touches with his foot the stiff, outstretched arm of the corpse. The arm trembles a little. He touches it again more boldly; it moves, and falls back again to its old position. The boy gives a sudden scream, hides his face in his flowers, and runs towards the fortifications as fast as his legs can carry him.

Yes, white flags are on the bastions and on the parallels; the flowery valley is covered with dead bodies; the beautiful sun is sinking towards the blue sea; and the undulating blue sea glitters in the golden rays of the sun. Thousands of people crowd together, look at, speak to, and smile at one another. And these people⁠—Christians confessing the one great law of love and self-sacrifice⁠—looking at what they have done, do not at once fall repentant on their knees before Him who has given them life and laid in the soul of each a fear of death and a love of good and of beauty, and do not embrace like brothers with tears of joy and happiness.

The white flags are lowered, again the engines of death and suffering are sounding, again innocent blood flows, and the air is filled with moans and curses.


There, I have said what I wished to say this time. But a painful hesitation seizes me. Perhaps I ought to have left it unsaid. Perhaps what I have said belongs to that class of evil truths which, unconsciously hidden within the soul of each one, should not be uttered for fear of becoming injurious, as the dregs in the bottle must not be shaken for fear of spoiling the wine.

Where in this tale is the evil shown that should be avoided? Where is the good that should be imitated? Who is the villain, who the hero of the story? All are good, and all are bad.

Not Kaloúgin, with his brilliant courage⁠—bravoure de gentilhomme⁠—and the vanity which influences all his actions; not Praskoúhin, the empty, harmless fellow (though he fell in battle for faith, throne, and fatherland); not Miháylof, with his shyness; nor Pesth, a child without firm principles or convictions⁠—can be either the villain or the hero of a tale.

The hero of my tale, whom I love with all the power of my soul, whom I have tried to portray in all his beauty, who has been, is, and will be beautiful⁠—is Truth.

In August 1855

I

Towards the end of August, between Douvánka70 and Bahtchisaráy, through the hot, thick dust of the rocky and hilly highway, an officer’s trap was slowly toiling towards Sevastopol (that peculiar kind of trap you never meet anywhere else, something between a Jewish brítchka, a Russian cart, and a basket).

In the front of the trap, pulling at the reins, squatted an orderly in a nankeen coat and wearing a cap that had once belonged to an officer but was now quite limp: behind, on bundles and bales covered with a soldier’s cloak, sat an infantry officer in a summer cloak. The officer, as far as one could judge while he was sitting, was not tall, but was very broad and massive, not so much across the shoulders as from back to chest. His neck and the back of his head were much developed and very solid. He had not what we call a waist, nor was he at all stouter round the stomach: on the contrary, he was rather lean, especially in the face, which was burnt to an unwholesome yellow. He would have been good-looking had it not been for a certain puffiness, and for the broad, soft wrinkles, not due to age, which blurred the outlines of his features, making them seem larger and giving the face a general look of coarseness and lack of freshness. His small eyes were hazel, with a daring and even insolent expression: he had very thick but not broad moustaches, the ends of which were bitten off, and his chin, and especially his jaws, were covered with an exceedingly strong, thick, black, two-days-old beard.

This officer had been wounded in the head by a bomb splinter on the 10th of May and still wore a bandage; but having felt well again for the last week, he had left the hospital at Simferópol and was now on his way to rejoin his regiment, stationed somewhere in the direction whence the firing came⁠—but whether in Sevastopol itself, on the North Side, or at Inkerman, no one had yet been able to tell him for certain. Already the frequent firing, especially at times when no hills intercepted it and when the wind carried it this way, sounded exceedingly distinct and seemed quite near. Now an explosion shook the air and made one start involuntarily; now sounds less loud followed each other in quick succession like the roll of drums, broken now and then by a startling boom; now again all these sounds mingled into a kind of rolling crash, like peals of thunder when a storm is raging in all its fury and rain has just begun to fall in torrents. Everyone was saying (and besides one could hear for oneself) that a terrific bombardment was going on. The officer kept telling his orderly to drive faster; he seemed in a hurry to get to his destination. They met a train of Russian peasants’ carts that had taken provisions to Sevastopol and were now on their way back laden with sick and wounded soldiers in grey uniforms, sailors in black cloaks, volunteers with red fezzes on their heads, and bearded militiamen. The officer’s trap had to stand still in the thick, motionless cloud of dust raised by this train of carts, and the officer, frowning and blinking while his eyes filled with dust, sat looking at the faces of the sick and wounded who were passing.

“There’s a soldier of our company! That one who is so weak,” said the Orderly, turning to his master and pointing to a cart laden with wounded men then just passing them.

A bearded Russian with a felt hat sat sideways in the front of the cart plaiting the lash of a whip, the handle of which he held to his side with his elbow. Behind him in the cart five or six soldiers, lying and sitting in different positions, were being jolted along. One, with a bandaged arm and his cloak thrown loosely over his shirt, though he looked pale and thin, sat upright in the middle of the cart and raised his hand as if to salute the officer, but remembering, probably, that he was wounded, pretended he only meant to scratch his head. A man lay beside him on the bottom of the cart, of whom all that was visible was his two hands holding on to the sides of the cart, and his lifted knees swaying this way and that like rags. A third, with a swollen face and with a soldier’s cap shaking on the top of his bandaged head, sat sideways with his feet hanging out, and, leaning his elbows on his knees, seemed to be dozing. The officer addressed him: “Dolzhnikóf!” he cried.

“Here!” said the soldier, opening his eyes and taking off his cap, and answering in such a loud, abrupt bass that it sounded as if twenty soldiers had shouted all together.

“When were you wounded, lad?”

The soldier’s leaden eyes with their swollen lids brightened up; he had evidently recognised his officer.

“Good day, y’r ’onor!” said the soldier in the same abrupt bass.

“Where is your regiment stationed now?”

“In Sevastopol. We were going to move on Wednesday, y’r ’onor!”

“Where to?”

“Don’t know, y’r ’onor⁠—to the North Side, maybe.⁠—Now they’re firing right across, y’r ’onor,” he added in a long-drawn tone, replacing his cap: “mostly bombs⁠—they reach right across the bay. He’s giving it us awful hot now⁠ ⁠…”

What the soldier said further could not be heard, but the expression of his face and his bearing showed that his words, spoken with the bitterness of one suffering, were not reassuring.

The officer in the trap, Lieutenant Kozeltsóf, was not an everyday sort of man. He was not one of those who live and act this way or that because others live and act so; he did what he liked, and others followed his example, and felt sure it was right. He had a nature endowed with many minor gifts: he could sing well, played the guitar, talked smartly and wrote very easily (especially official papers, the knack of writing which he had gained when he was adjutant of his battalion); but the most remarkable characteristic of his nature was his ambitious energy, which, though chiefly founded on those same minor talents, was in itself a marked and striking feature. He had ambition of a kind most often found in male circles, especially military, and this had become so much a part of his life that he could imagine no other line than to dominate or to perish. Ambition was at the root even of his inward impulses, and in his private thoughts he liked to put himself first when he compared himself with others.

“It’s likely I should pay attention to the chatter of a Tommy!” muttered the Lieutenant, with a feeling of heaviness and apathy at heart and a certain dimness of thought, left by the sight of the convoy of wounded men, and by the words of the soldier, enforced as they were by the sounds of the cannonade.

“Funny fellow that Tommy! Now then, Nikoláyef, get on!⁠ ⁠… are you asleep?” he added rather fretfully, as he arranged the skirt of his cloak.

Nikoláyef jerked the reins, clicked his tongue, and the trap rolled on at a trot.

“We’ll only stop just to feed the horse, and then we’ll go on at once: today,” said the officer.

II

At the entrance to a street of remains of ruined stone Tartar houses in Douvánka, Lieutenant Kozeltsóf was stopped by a convoy of bombs and cannonballs on its way to Sevastopol, which blocked the road.

Two foot-soldiers sat on the stones of a ruined wall in the midst of a cloud of dust eating a watermelon and bread.

“Going far, comrade?” asked one of them, with his mouth full of bread, as another soldier with a little bag on his back stopped near them.

“Going to join our regiment,” answered the soldier, looking past the watermelon and readjusting his bag: “We have been nigh on three weeks in the province looking after hay for our company, but now we’ve all been recalled, but we don’t know where the regiment is. Some say it crossed to the Korábelnaya last week. Perhaps you have heard, good people?”

“In the town, friend, it’s quartered in the town,” muttered the other, an old convoy soldier, who was digging with a clasp-knife into an unripe, whitish watermelon. “We’ve only come from there since noon. Ah, it’s awful there, my lad!”

“How so, good people?”

“Why, can’t you hear? They’re firing from all sides today, there’s not a place left whole. As for the likes of us as has been killed⁠—there’s no counting ’em!” And making an expressive gesture with his hand the speaker put his cap straight.

The soldier who had stopped shook his head meditatively and clicked his tongue, then he took a pipe out of his bootleg, and, without filling it, merely loosened the scorched tobacco in it, and lit a bit of tinder at the pipe of one of the soldiers. Then he raised his cap and said⁠—

“One can’t get away from God, good people! Forgive me.” And straightening his bag with a jerk he went his way.

“Ah, it would be far better to wait!” said with conviction he who was digging into the watermelon.

“It all comes to the same!” muttered the soldier, squeezing between the wheels of the crowded carts.

III

The posting-station was full of people when Kozeltsóf drove up. The first person he met in the porch was a very young, lean man, the superintendent, bickering with two officers who were following him.

“It’s not three days, but maybe ten you’ll have to wait⁠ ⁠… even generals have to wait, sirs!” said the superintendent, wishing to hurt the travellers’ feelings: “I can’t harness myself for you, can I?”

“Then don’t give horses to anybody if you have none! Why did you give them to that lackey with the baggage?” shouted the elder of the officers, who had a tumbler of tea in his hand.

“Just consider a moment, Mr. Superintendent,” said the other, a very young officer, hesitatingly: “we are not going for our own pleasure. You see we too must be needed there, since we are summoned. I shall really have to report it to the General. It will never do, you know⁠ ⁠… you, it seems, don’t respect an officer’s position.”

But the elder interrupted him crossly. “You always spoil everything! You only hamper me; one must know how to speak to these people. There now, he has lost all respect.⁠ ⁠… Horses, I say, this very minute!”

“Willingly, my dear sir, but where am I to get them from?”

The superintendent was silent for a few moments. Then he suddenly flared up, and waving his arms he began:⁠—

“I know it all very well, my dear sir, and fully understand it, but what’s one to do? You give me but” (a ray of hope appeared on the faces of the officers)⁠ ⁠… “let me but hold out to the end of the month, and I’ll remain here no longer. I’d rather go to the Maláhof Hill than remain here, I swear I would! Let them do what they please. There’s not one sound vehicle in the whole place, and it’s the third day the horses haven’t had a wisp of hay.” And the superintendent disappeared behind the gate.

Kozeltsóf entered the room together with the officers.

“Well,” said the elder very calmly to the younger, though the moment before he had seemed quite beside himself, “we’ve been three months on our way already; let’s wait a little longer. Where’s the harm? there’s time enough!”

The dirty, smoky room was so full of officers and trunks that Kozeltsóf with difficulty found a seat on the windowsill. While observing the faces and listening to the conversation of the others, he began making himself a cigarette. To the right of the door, round a crooked, greasy table on which two samovars stood with verdigris showing here and there, and sugar lay on various bits of paper, sat the principal group. A young moustacheless officer in a new quilted Caucasian coat was filling a teapot, and there were four other such young officers in different parts of the room. One of them with some kind of a fur coat rolled up under his head, was sleeping on the sofa; another was standing cutting up some roast mutton for a one-armed officer who was sitting at the table. Two officers, one in an Aide-de-camp’s cloak, the other in infantry uniform made of fine cloth, and with a satchel across his shoulders, were sitting by the stove; and the way they looked at the others, and the manner in which the one with the satchel smoked his cigarette, proved that they were not infantry officers of the line, and were glad they were not. Their manner did not show contempt, but rather a certain calm self-satisfaction, founded partly on money and partly on intimacy with generals⁠—a consciousness of superiority reaching even to a desire to conceal it. Then there was a thick-lipped young doctor, and an artillery officer who looked like a German⁠—these were sitting on the sofa, almost on the feet of the sleeping officer, counting money. There were also several orderlies, some dozing, others busy with bundles and trunks near the door. Among all these people Kozeltsóf did not recognise a single acquaintance; but he listened with interest to their conversation. The young officers, who, as he at once concluded from their appearance, had come straight from a training-college, pleased him, and reminded him of the fact that his brother, who was also coming straight from the training-college, ought, in a few days’ time, to reach one of the batteries in Sevastopol. But he did not like the officer with the satchel, whose face he had seen somewhere before⁠—everything about him seemed insolent and repulsive. And thinking, “We’ll put him down if he ventures to say anything,” the Lieutenant even moved from the window to the stove, and sat down there. Belonging to a line regiment and being a good officer, he, in general, did not like those “of the Staff,” and such he at once knew these officers to be.

IV

“I say, isn’t it an awful nuisance that we’re so near and still can’t get there,” said one of the young officers. “There may be an action today and we shan’t be in it.”

The piping voice and the fresh rosy spots which appeared on his face betrayed the sweet, youthful bashfulness of one in constant fear that his words may come out wrong.

The officer who had lost an arm looked at him with a smile.

“You will get there quite soon enough, believe me,” he said.

The young man looked with respect at the armless officer⁠—whose emaciated face unexpectedly lit up with a smile⁠—and became silently absorbed in making his tea. And, really, the face, the attitude, and especially the empty sleeve of the officer, expressed a kind of calm indifference, that seemed to reply to every word and action: “All this is excellent, all this I know, and all this I can do if I only wish to.”

“Well, and how shall we decide it?” the young officer began again, turning to his comrade in the Caucasian coat. “Shall we stay the night here, or go on with our own horse?”

His comrade decided to stay.

“Just fancy, Captain,” continued he who was making the tea, addressing the one-armed officer and handing him a knife he had dropped, “we were told that horses were awfully dear in Sevastopol, so we two bought one together in Simferópol.”

“I expect they made you pay a stiff price.”

“I really don’t know, Captain; we paid ninety roubles for it and the trap. Is that very much?” he said, turning to the company in general, including Kozeltsóf, who was looking at him.

“It’s not much if it’s a young horse,” said Kozeltsóf.

“You think so?⁠ ⁠… And we were told it was too much. Only it limps a bit, but that will pass. We were told it’s strong.”

“What training-college are you from?” asked Kozeltsóf, who wished to get news of his brother.

“We are now from the Nobles’ Regiment. There are six of us, and we are all going to Sevastopol⁠—at our own desire,” said the talkative young officer: “only we don’t know where our battery is: some say it is in Sevastopol, but those fellows there say it is in Odessa.”

“Couldn’t you find out in Simferópol?” Kozeltsóf asked.

“They didn’t know.⁠ ⁠… Just fancy, one of our comrades went to the Chancellery there and got nothing but rudeness. Just fancy how unpleasant! Would you like a ready-made cigarette?” he said to the one-armed officer, who was trying to get out his cigar-case.

He attended to this officer’s wants with a kind of servile enthusiasm.

“And are you also from Sevastopol?” he continued. “Oh dear, how wonderful it is! How we all in Petersburg used to think about all of you and all our heroes!” he said, addressing Kozeltsóf with respect and cordial endearment.

“Well, then you may find you have to go back?” asked the Lieutenant.

“That’s just what we are afraid of. Just fancy, when we had bought the horse and got all that we needed⁠—a coffeepot with a spirit-lamp and other necessary little things⁠—we had no money at all left,” he said in a low tone, glancing at his comrade, “so that if we have to return we don’t at all know how we shall manage.”

“Didn’t you receive your travelling allowance, then?” asked Kozeltsóf.

“No,” answered the young officer in a whisper; “they only promised to give it us here.”

“Have you the certificate?”

“I know that a certificate is the principal thing, but when I was at his house, a senator in Moscow⁠—he is my uncle⁠—told me that I should get one here; or else he would have given it me himself. But will they give me one in Sevastopol?”

“Certainly they will.”

“And I also think shall get one there,” he said in a tone which proved that, having asked the same question at some thirty other posting-stations, and having everywhere received different answers, he no longer quite believed anyone.

V

“Who ordered soup?” demanded the rather dirty landlady, a fat woman of about forty, as she came into the room with a tureen of cabbage-soup.

The conversation immediately stopped, and everyone in the room fixed their eyes on the landlady. One officer even winked to another, with a glance at her.

“Oh, Kozeltsóf ordered it,” said the young officer. “He’ll have to be woke up.⁠ ⁠… Get up for dinner!” he said, stepping to the sofa and shaking the sleeper’s shoulder. A lad of about seventeen, with merry black eyes and very rosy cheeks, jumped up energetically and stepped into the middle of the room rubbing his eyes.

“Oh, I beg your pardon,” he said to the doctor, against whom he had knocked in rising.

Lieutenant Kozeltsóf recognised his brother at once and went up to him.

“Don’t you know me?” he asked with a smile.

“Ah-a-a!” cried the younger Kozeltsóf, “this is wonderful!” and he began kissing his brother.

They kissed three times, but hesitated before the third kiss, as if the thought, “Why has it to be just three times?” had struck both of them.

“Well, I am glad!” said the elder, looking into his brother’s face: “come out into the porch and let’s have a talk.”

“Come, come along. I don’t want any soup: you eat it, Féderson,” he said to his comrade.

“But you wanted to eat.”

“I don’t want any.”

Out in the porch the younger one kept asking his brother, “Well, and how are you? Tell me how things are,” and saying how glad he was to see him, but did not tell him anything about himself.

After five minutes, when they had found time to be silent a little, the elder brother asked why the younger had not entered the Guards, as everyone had expected.

“I wanted to get to Sevastopol as soon as possible. You see, if things turn out well here, one can get on quicker than in the Guards; there it takes ten years to become a Colonel, and here in a year Todleben from a lieutenant-colonel has become a general. And if one gets killed⁠—well, it can’t be helped.”

“So that’s the sort of stuff you are made of!” said his brother, with a smile.

“But that’s nothing. The chief thing, you know, brother,” said the younger, smiling and blushing as if he were going to say something very shameful⁠—“the chief thing was that somehow one’s ashamed to be living in Petersburg, while here men are dying for the Fatherland. And besides, I wished to be with you,” he added, still more shyly.

The elder did not look at him. “How odd you are!” he said, and took out his cigarette-case. “Only the pity is that we shall not be together.”

“I say, tell me quite frankly: is it very dreadful at the bastions?” suddenly asked the younger.

“It seems dreadful at first, but one gets used to it. You’ll see for yourself.”

“Yes, another thing. Do you think they will take Sevastopol? I think they won’t; I am certain they won’t.”

“Heaven only knows.”

“It’s so provoking.⁠ ⁠… Just think, what a misfortune: do you know, we’ve had a whole bundle of things stolen on the way, and my shako was inside, so that I am in a terrible position. Whatever shall I appear in?”

Kozeltsóf secundus, Vladímir, was very like his brother Michael, but it was the likeness of an opening rosebud to a withered dog-rose. He had the same fair hair as his brother, but it was thick, and curled about his temples, and a little tail of it grew down the delicate white nape of his neck⁠—a sign of luck according to the nurses. The delicate white skin of his face was not always flushed, but the full young blood, rushing to it, betrayed every movement of the soul. He had the same eyes as his brother, but more open and brighter, which was especially noticeable because a slight moisture often made them glisten. Soft, fair down was beginning to appear on his cheeks and above the red lips, on which a shy smile often played, disclosing the white, glistening teeth. Straight, broad-shouldered, the uniform over his red Russian shirt unbuttoned⁠—as he stood there in front of his brother, cigarette in hand, leaning against the banisters of the porch, his face and attitude expressing naive joy, he was such a pleasantly pretty boy that one could not help wishing to look and look at him. He was very pleased to see his brother, and looked at him with respect and pride, imagining him to be a hero; but in some respects, namely, in what in society is considered good form⁠—being able to speak good French, knowing how to behave in the presence of people of high position, dancing, etc., he was rather ashamed of his brother, looked down on him, and even hoped, if possible, to educate him. All his impressions, so far, were from Petersburg, especially from the house of a lady who liked nice-looking lads, with whom he used to spend his holidays, and from the house of a senator in Moscow, where he had once danced at a grand ball.

VI

Having talked almost their fill, and reached a feeling which often comes when two people find there is little in common between them though they are fond of each other, the brothers remained silent for some time.

“Well, then, collect your things and let us be off,” said the elder.

The younger suddenly blushed and became confused.

“Do we go straight to Sevastopol?” he asked, after a moment’s silence.

“Well, of course. You have not got much luggage, I suppose; we’ll get it all in.”

“All right! let’s start at once,” said the younger with a sigh, and went towards the room.

But he stopped in the passage without opening the door, hung down his head sorrowfully and began thinking.

“Now, at once, straight to Sevastopol within reach of the bombs⁠ ⁠… terrible! Ah well, never mind; it had to be sooner or later. And now, at least, it’s with my brother⁠ ⁠…”

The thing was, that only now, at the thought that once seated in the trap he would reach Sevastopol before again alighting, and that there were no more chances of anything detaining him, did he clearly realise the danger he had been seeking; and the thought of its nearness staggered him. Having calmed himself as well as he could, he entered the room; but a quarter of an hour passed and he did not return to his brother, so the latter at last opened the door to call him. The younger Kozeltsóf, standing like a guilty schoolboy, was speaking with an officer. When his brother opened the door he seemed quite disconcerted.

“Yes, yes, I’m just coming,” he cried, waving his hand to prevent his brother coming in. “Please wait for me there.”

A few minutes later he came out and approached his brother with a deep sigh. “Just fancy,” he said; “it turns out that I can’t go with you, brother.”

“What? what nonsense!”

“I’ll tell you the whole truth, Mísha⁠ ⁠… None of us have any money left, and we are all in debt to that Lieutenant-Captain whom you saw in there. It’s such a shame!”

The elder brother frowned, and remained silent for a considerable time.

“Do you owe much?” he asked at last, looking at his brother from under his brows.

“Much? No, not very much; but I feel terribly ashamed. He paid for me at three post-stations, and the sugar was always his, so that I don’t⁠ ⁠… Yes, and we played at Préférence⁠ ⁠… and I lost a little to him.”

“That’s bad, Volódya! Now what would you have done if you had not met me?” the elder remarked sternly, without looking at him.

“Well, you see, brother, I thought I’d pay when I got my travelling allowance in Sevastopol. I could do that, couldn’t I?⁠ ⁠… So I’d better drive on with him tomorrow.”

The elder brother drew out his purse and with slightly trembling fingers produced two ten-rouble notes and one of three roubles.

“There’s the money I have,” he said; “how much do you owe?”

Kozeltsóf did not speak quite truly when he made it appear as if this were all the money he had. He had four gold coins sewn into the cuff of his sleeve in case of special need, but he had resolved not to touch them.

It turned out that Kozeltsóf secundus only owed eight roubles, including the sugar and the Préférence. The elder brother gave them to him, only remarking that it would never do to go playing Préférence when one has no money.

“How high did you play?”

The younger did not reply. The question seemed to suggest a doubt of his honour.⁠ ⁠… Vexed with himself, ashamed of having done something that could give rise to such suspicions, and hurt at such offensive words from the brother he so loved, his impressionable nature suffered so keenly that he did not answer. Feeling that he could not suppress the sobs which were gathering in his throat, he took the money without looking at it and returned to his comrades.

VII

Nikoláyef, who had strengthened himself in Douvánka with two cups of vodka71 sold by a soldier he had met on the bridge, kept pulling at the reins, and the trap jumped along the stony, and here and there shady, road that leads by the Belbéc to Sevastopol. The two brothers, with their legs touching as they jolted along, sat in obstinate silence, though they never ceased to think about each other.

“Why did he offend me?” thought the younger. “Could he not have left that unsaid? Just as if he thought me a thief: and I think he is still angry, so that we have gone apart for good. And how fine it would have been for us to be together in Sevastopol! Two brothers, friends with one another, fighting the enemy side by side: one, the elder, not highly educated but a brave warrior, and the other, young, but⁠ ⁠… also a fine fellow⁠ ⁠… In a week’s time I would have proved to everybody that I am not so very young! I shall leave off blushing, and my face will look manly; my moustaches, too, will have grown by that time⁠—not very big, but quite sufficient,” and he pulled at the short down that showed at the corners of his mouth. “Perhaps when we get there today we may go straight into action, he and I together. And I’m certain he must be steadfast and very brave; a man who says little but does more than others. I wonder whether or not he is pushing me to the very edge of the trap on purpose. He surely feels that I am uncomfortable, and pretends not to notice me.” He continued his meditation, pressing to the edge of the seat, and afraid to stir lest his brother should notice that he was uncomfortable: “So we’ll get there today, and then, maybe, straight to the bastion; I with the guns, and brother with his company, both together. Then supposing the French come down on us, I shall fire and fire. I kill quite a lot of them, but they still keep coming straight at me. I can no longer fire, and of course there is no escape for me; but suddenly my brother rushes to the front with his sword drawn, and I seize a musket and we run on with the soldiers. The French attack my brother: I run forward, kill one Frenchman, then another, and save my brother. I am wounded in one arm; I seize the gun in the other hand and still run on. Then my brother falls at my side, shot dead by a bullet. I stop for a moment, bend sadly over him, draw myself up and cry, ‘Follow me; we will avenge him! I loved my brother more than anything on earth,’ I shall say, ‘I have lost him. Let us avenge him; let us annihilate the foe or let us all die here!’ They will all rush shouting after me. Then all the French army, with Pélissier himself, will advance. We shall slaughter them, but at last I shall be wounded a second and a third time, and shall fall down dying. Then all will rush to me and Gortchakóf himself will come and ask if I want anything. I shall say that I want nothing⁠—only to be laid near my brother: that I wish to die beside him. They will carry me and lay me down by the bloodstained corpse of my brother. I shall raise myself and say only, ‘Yes, you did not know how to value two men who really loved the Fatherland: now they have both fallen. May God forgive you!’ and then I’ll die.”

Who knows how much of these dreams will come true?

“I say, have you ever been in a hand-to-hand fight?” he suddenly asked, having quite forgotten he was not going to speak to his brother.

“No, never,” answered the elder. “We lost two thousand from the regiment, but it was all at the fortifications, and I also was wounded there. War is not carried on at all in the way you imagine, Volódya.”

The pet name Volódya touched the younger brother. He longed to put matters right with the elder, who had no idea that he had given offence.

“You are not angry with me, Mísha?” he asked after a minute’s pause.

“Angry? What for?”

“Oh, nothing⁠ ⁠… only because of what passed⁠ ⁠… it’s nothing.”

“Not at all,” answered the elder, turning towards him and slapping him on the knee.

“Then forgive me if I have pained you, Mísha.” And the younger brother turned away to hide the tears that suddenly filled his eyes.

VIII

“Can this be Sevastopol already?” asked the younger brother when they reached the top of the hill.

Spread out before them they saw the Roadstead with the masts of the ships, the sea with the enemy’s fleet in the distance, the white shore batteries, the barracks, the aqueducts, the docks, and the buildings of the town, the white and purple clouds of smoke that, rising constantly from the yellow hills surrounding the town, floated in the blue sky, lit up by the rosy rays of the sun, which was reflected brilliantly in the sea, towards whose dark horizon it was already sinking.

Volódya looked without the slightest trepidation at the dreadful place that had so long been in his mind: he even gazed with concentrated attention at this really splendid and unique sight, feeling aesthetic pleasure and an heroic sense of satisfaction at the thought that in another half-hour he would be there; and he continued gazing until, on the North Side, they came to the commissariat of his brother’s regiment, where they had to ascertain the exact position of the regiment and of the battery.

The officer in charge of the commissariat lived near the so-called “new town” (a number of wooden sheds constructed by the sailors’ families) in a tent connected with a good-sized shed constructed of green oak branches that had not yet had time to dry completely.

The brothers found the officer seated at a dirty table on which stood a tumbler of cold tea, a tray with a vodka bottle, and bits of dry caviar and bread. He sat in a dirty yellowish shirt, counting, with the aid of a big abacus, an enormous pile of banknotes. But before speaking of the personality of this officer and his conversation, we must examine the interior of the shed more attentively, and see something of his way of living and his occupations. His new-built shed was as big, as strongly wattled, and as conveniently arranged with tables and seats made of turf, as though it were built for a general or the commander of a regiment. To keep the dry leaves from falling in, the top and sides were lined with three carpets, which, though hideous, were new, and must have cost money. On the iron bedstead which stood beneath the most striking carpet (depicting a lady on horseback), lay a bright red velvet-pile bedcover, a torn and dirty pillow, and a racoon fur-lined overcoat. On the table were a looking-glass in a silver frame, an exceedingly dirty silver-backed hairbrush, a broken horn comb full of greasy hair, a silver candlestick, a bottle of liqueur with an enormous red and gold label, a gold watch with a portrait of Peter I, two gold pens, a box of some kind of capsules, a crust of bread, and a scattered pack of old cards. Bottles, full and empty, were stowed away under the bed. This officer was in charge of the regimental commissariat and of the forage for the horses. With him lived his great friend, the commissioner employed on contracts. When the brothers entered, the latter was asleep in the tent, while the commissary officer was making up the regimental accounts for the month. The officer had a very handsome and military appearance: tall, with large moustaches and a portly figure. What was unpleasant about him was only a certain moistness and a puffiness about his face that almost hid his small grey eyes (as if he were filled with porter), and his extreme lack of cleanliness, from his thin greasy hair to his big bare feet slipped into some kind of ermine-lined slippers.

“What a heap of money!” said Kozeltsóf primus on entering the shed, as he fixed his eyes eagerly on the pile of banknotes. “Ah, if you’d lend me but half, Vasíly Miháylovitch!”

The commissary officer shrank back a little, recognised his visitor, and, gathering up the money, bowed without rising.

“Oh, if it were mine! It’s Government money, my dear fellow.⁠ ⁠… And who is that with you?” he said, putting the money into a cashbox that stood near him, and looking at Volódya.

“It’s my brother, straight from the training-college. We’ve come to learn from you where our regiment is stationed.”

“Take a seat, gentlemen. Won’t you have something to drink? A glass of porter, perhaps?” he said, and without taking any further notice of his visitors he rose and went out into the tent.

“I don’t mind if I do, Vasíly Miháylovitch.”

Volódya was struck by the grandeur of the commissary officer, his offhand manner, and the respect with which his brother addressed him.

“I expect this is one of their best officers, whom they all respect⁠—probably simple-minded, but hospitable and brave,” he thought as he sat down modestly and shyly on the sofa.

“Then where is our regiment stationed?” shouted the elder brother across to the tent.

“What?”

The question was repeated.

“Seifert was here this morning: he says the regiment has gone over to the Fifth Bastion.”

“Is that certain?”

“If I say so, of course it’s certain. However, the devil only knows if he told the truth! He’d not take much to tell a lie either. Well, will you have some porter?” said the commissary officer, still speaking from the tent.

“Well, yes, I think I will,” said Kozeltsóf.

“And you, Ósip Ignátyevitch, will you have some?” continued the voice from the tent, apparently addressing the sleeping contractor. “Wake up; it’s past four.”

“Why do you bother one? I’m not asleep,” answered a thin voice lazily.

“Well, get up, it’s dull without you,” and the commissary officer came out to his visitors.

“A bottle of Simferópol porter!” he cried.

The orderly entered the shed with an expression of pride as it seemed to Volódya, and in getting the porter from under the seat he jostled Volódya.


The bottle of porter had been emptied, and the conversation had continued for some time in the same strain, when the flap of the tent opened, and out stepped a rather short, fresh-looking man in a blue dressing-gown with tassels, and a cap with a red band and a cockade. He came twisting his little black moustaches and looking somewhere in the direction of one of the carpets, and answered the greetings of the officers with a scarcely perceptible movement of his shoulders.

“I think I’ll also have a glass,” he said, sitting down to the table.

“Is it from Petersburg you’ve come, young man?” he remarked, addressing Volódya in a friendly manner.

“Yes, sir, and I’m going to Sevastopol.”

“At your own request?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now, what do you do it for, gentlemen? I don’t understand it,” remarked the commissioner. “I’d be ready to walk to Petersburg on foot, I think, if they’d let me go. My word, I’m sick of this damned life!”

“What have you to complain of?” asked the elder Kozeltsóf, “as if you were not well enough off here.”

The contractor gave him a look and turned away.

“The danger, privations, lack of everything,” continued he, addressing Volódya. “And what induces you to do it? I do not at all understand you, gentlemen. If you got any profit out of it; but no. Now would it be nice, at your age, to be crippled for life?”

“Some want to make a profit and others serve for honour’s sake,” said the elder Kozeltsóf crossly, again intervening in the conversation.

“Where’s the honour of it if you have nothing to eat?” said the contractor, laughing disdainfully and addressing the commissary officer, who also laughed. “Wind up and let’s have the tune from Lucia,” he said, pointing to the music-box; “I like it.”


“What sort of a fellow is that Vasíly Miháylovitch?” asked Volódya when, in the dusk of the evening, he and his brother had left the shed and were driving to Sevastopol.

“So-so, only terribly stingy. But that contractor, I can’t bear to look at.⁠ ⁠… I’ll give him a thrashing some day.”

IX

It was almost night when they reached Sevastopol. Driving towards the large bridge across the Roadstead Volódya was not exactly dispirited, but his heart felt heavy. All he had seen and heard was so different from his past, still recent, experiences⁠—the large, light, parquet-floored examination hall, the jolly, friendly voices and laughter of his comrades, the new uniform, the beloved Tsar whom he had been accustomed to see for the last seven years, and who at parting from them had, with tears in his eyes, called them his children⁠—and all he saw now was so little like his beautiful, radiant, high-souled dreams.

“Well, here we are,” said the elder brother when they reached the Michael Battery and dismounted from their trap. “If they let us cross the bridge we will go at once to the Nicholas Barracks. You can stay there till the morning, and I’ll go to the regiment and find out where your battery is and come for you tomorrow.”

“Oh, why? Let’s go together,” said Volódya. “I’ll go to the bastion with you. It doesn’t matter; one must get used to it sooner or later. If you go, so can I.”

“Better not.”

“No, please. I shall at least find out how⁠ ⁠…”

“My advice is, don’t go; but however⁠ ⁠…”

The sky was clear and dark; the stars, the ever-moving fire of the bombs and the flash of the guns, already showed up brightly in the darkness. The large white building of the battery, and the beginning of the bridge,72 loomed out in the darkness. Literally every second, several artillery shots and explosions ever more loudly and distinctly shook the air in quick succession. Through this roar, and as if answering it, came the dull murmur of the Roadstead. A slight breeze blew in from the sea and the air smelled moist. The brothers reached the bridge. A recruit, awkwardly striking his gun against his hand, called out, “Who goes there?”

“Soldier!”

“No one’s allowed to pass!”

“How is that? We must.”

“Ask the officer.”

The officer, who was sitting on an anchor dozing, rose and ordered that they should be allowed to pass.

“One may go there, but not back.”

“Where are you driving, all of a heap!” he shouted to the regimental wagons, which, laden high with gabions, were crowding the entrance.

As the brothers were descending to the first pontoon, they came upon some soldiers going in the opposite direction and talking loudly.

“If he’s had his outfit money his account is squared⁠—that’s so.”

“Eh, lads,” said another, “when one gets to the North Side one sees light again. My word! it’s different air altogether.”

“Get along,” said the first. “Why, the other day a damned shot came flying here and tore off two soldiers’ legs for them, so that⁠ ⁠…”

Waiting for the trap, the brothers, after crossing the first pontoon, stopped on the second, onto which the waves washed here and there. The wind, which seemed gentle on land, was strong and gusty here; the bridge swayed, and the waves broke noisily against beams, anchors, and ropes, and washed over the boards. To the right, the sea, divided by a smooth, endless black line from the starry, light, bluish-grey horizon, roared dark, misty, and hostile. Far off in the distance gleamed the lights of the enemy’s fleet. To the left loomed the black bulk of one of our ships, against the sides of which the waves beat audibly. A steamer, too, was visible, moving quickly and noisily from the North Side. The flash of a bomb exploding near the steamer lit up, for a moment, the gabions piled high on its deck, two men standing on the paddle-box, and the white foam and splash of the greenish waves cut by the vessel. On the edge of the bridge, his feet dangling in the water, sat a man in his shirt repairing the pontoon. In front, above Sevastopol, the same fires were flying, and louder and louder came the terrible sounds. A wave flowing in from the sea washed over the right side of the bridge and wetted Volódya’s boots, and two soldiers passed by him splashing their feet through the water. Suddenly something came crashing down which lit up the bridge ahead of them, a cart driving over it, and a horseman; and bomb fragments fell whistling and splashing into the water.

“Ah, Michael Semyónitch!”73 said the rider, stopping his horse in front of the elder Kozeltsóf, “have you recovered?”

“As you see. And where is fate taking you?”

“To the North Side for cartridges. You see, I’m taking the place of the regimental adjutant today.⁠ ⁠… We are expecting an attack from hour to hour.”

“And where is Mártsof?”

“His leg was torn off yesterday while he was sleeping in his room in town.⁠ ⁠… Did you know him?”

“Is it true the regiment is now at the Fifth Bastion?”

“Yes; we have taken the place of the M⁠⸺ regiment. You’d better call at the Ambulance; you’ll find some of our fellows are there; they’ll show you the way.”

“Well, and my lodgings in the Morskáya Street, are they safe?”

“Eh, my dear fellow! they’ve long since been shattered by the bombs. You’ll not know Sevastopol again; not a woman left, not a restaurant, no music: the last brothel left yesterday. It’s melancholy enough now. Goodbye!”

And the officer trotted away.

Terrible fear suddenly overcame Volódya; he felt as if a ball or a bomb-splinter would come at once and hit him straight on the head. The damp darkness, all these sounds, especially the murmur of the splashing water⁠—all seemed to tell him to go no farther, that no good awaited him here, that he would never again set foot on this side of the bay, that he should turn back at once and run somewhere, as far as possible from this dreadful place of death. “But perhaps it is too late, it is already now decided,” thought he, shuddering partly at the idea and partly because the water had soaked through his boots and was wetting his feet.

Volódya sighed deeply and moved a few steps from his brother.

“O Lord! shall I really be killed⁠—just I? Lord, have mercy on me!” he whispered, and made the sign of the cross.

“Well, Volódya, come!” said the elder brother when the trap had driven onto the bridge. “Did you see the bomb?”

On the bridge the brothers met carts loaded with wounded men, with gabions, and one with furniture driven by a woman. No one stopped them at the further side.

Keeping instinctively under the wall of the Nicholas Battery, and listening to the bombs that were here bursting overhead and to the howling of the falling fragments, the brothers came silently to that part of the battery where the icon hangs. Here they heard that the Fifth Light Artillery, to which Volódya was appointed, was stationed at the Korábelnaya,74 and they decided that Volódya, in spite of the danger, should spend the night with his elder brother at the Fifth Bastion, and go from there to his battery next morning. After turning into a corridor and stepping across the legs of the soldiers who lay sleeping all along the wall of the battery, they at last reached the Ambulance Station.

X

Entering the first room, lined with beds on which wounded men were lying, and the air of which was permeated with a horribly disgusting hospital smell, they met two Sisters of Mercy just going out.

One, a woman of fifty, with black eyes and a stern expression, was carrying bandages and lint and giving orders to a young lad, a medical assistant, who was following her. The other, a very pretty girl of about twenty, whose pale, tender, fair face looked with a peculiarly sweet helplessness from under her white cap, was walking with her hands in her apron pockets by the side of the elder woman, and seemed afraid of being left behind.

Kozeltsóf asked them if they knew where Mártsof was, whose leg had been torn off the day before.

“He is of the P⁠⸺ regiment, I think?” asked the elder. “Is he a relation of yours?”

“No, a comrade.”

“Take them to him,” said she in French to the young Sister. “It is this way,” and she herself, followed by the assistant, went to one of the patients.

“Come along; what are you looking at?” said Kozeltsóf to Volódya, who stood with raised brows and a look of suffering on his face, unable to tear his eyes from the wounded. “Come now!”

Volódya followed his brother, but still kept looking back and repeating unconsciously, “O my God! my God!”

“I suppose he has not been here long?” the Sister remarked to Kozeltsóf, with reference to Volódya, who followed them along the corridor with exclamations and sighs.

“He has only just come.”

The pretty Sister looked at Volódya, and suddenly began to cry.

“My God! my God! when will it end?” she said, with despair in her voice.

They entered the officers’ ward. Mártsof was lying on his back, his sinewy arms, bare to the elbow, thrown behind his head, and an expression on his yellow face as of a man who has clenched his teeth to keep himself from screaming with pain. His sound leg with a stocking on showed from under the blanket, and one could see the toes moving spasmodically.

“Well, how are you?” asked the Sister, raising his slightly bald head with her slender delicate fingers (on one of which Volódya noticed a gold ring) and arranging his pillow.

“In pain, of course!” he answered angrily. “That’ll do⁠—the pillow’s all right!” and the toes in the stocking moved still faster. “How d’you do? What’s your name?”⁠—“Excuse me,” he said, when Kozeltsóf had told him. “Ah yes, I beg pardon! one forgets everything here. Why, we lived together,” he added, without any sign of pleasure, and looked inquiringly at Volódya.

“This is my brother, arrived today from Petersburg.”

“H’m! And I have got my discharge,” said the wounded man, frowning. “Oh, how it hurts; if only it would be over quicker.”

He drew up his leg and, moving his toes still more rapidly, covered his face with his hands.

“He must be left alone,” said the Sister in a whisper, while tears filled her eyes: “he is very ill.”

While yet on the North Side the brothers had decided to go to the Fifth Bastion together, but on leaving the Nicholas Battery it was as though they had agreed not to expose themselves to needless danger, and, without mentioning the matter, they decided to go each his own way.

“Only, how will you find it, Volódya?” said the elder. “Look here! Nikoláyef shall take you to the Korábelnaya, and I’ll go on alone and come to you tomorrow.”

Nothing more was said at this last parting between the brothers.

XI

The thunder of the cannonade continued with unabated violence. Ekateríninskaya Street, down which Volódya walked followed by the silent Nikoláyef, was quiet and deserted. In the dark he could distinguish only the broad street with white walls of large houses many of which were in ruins, and the stone pavement along which he was walking. Now and then he met some soldiers and officers. As he was passing by the left side of the Admiralty Building a bright light inside showed him the acacias planted along the sidewalk of the streets, with green stakes to support them, and sickly, dusty leaves. He distinctly heard his own footsteps and those of Nikoláyef, who followed him breathing heavily. He was not thinking of anything: the pretty Sister of Mercy, Mártsof’s foot with the toes moving in the stocking, the darkness, the bombs, and different images of death, floated dimly before his imagination. The whole of his young, impressionable soul was weighed down and crushed by a sense of loneliness, and of the general indifference shown to his fate in these dangerous surroundings. “I shall be killed; I shall suffer, endure torments, and no one will shed a tear!” And all this in place of the hero’s life, full of energy and evoking sympathy, that had figured in his beautiful dreams. The bombs burst and whistled nearer and nearer. Nikoláyef sighed more and more often but did not speak. As they were crossing the bridge that led to the Korábelnaya he saw a whistling something fall and disappear into the water nearby, lighting for a second the lilac waves to a flaming red, and then come splashing up again.

“Look there! it was not extinguished,” said Nikoláyef in a hoarse voice.

“Yes,” answered Volódya, in an involuntarily high-pitched, plaintive tone which surprised him.


They met wounded men carried on stretchers, and more carts loaded with gabions; on the Korábelnaya they met a regiment, and men on horseback rode past. One of these was an officer followed by a Cossack. He was riding at a trot; but seeing Volódya he stopped his horse near him, looked in his face, turned away, and, touching his horse with the whip, rode on.

“Alone, alone! no one cares whether I exist or not,” thought the lad, and felt inclined to cry in real earnest.

At the top of the hill, past a high wall, he entered a street of small shattered houses continually lit up by the bombs. A dishevelled, tipsy woman, coming out of a gate with a sailor, knocked up against Volódya.

“Then if he’sh a man o’ ’onor,” she muttered⁠—“pardon y’r exshensh offisher!”

The poor lad’s heart ached more and more. On the dark horizon the lightnings flashed more and more frequently, and the bombs whistled and exploded more and more often around them. Nikoláyef sighed, and suddenly began to speak in an awe-restrained tone, as it seemed to Volódya.

“There now, and we were in such a hurry to get here! Always push on and push on! This is a fine place to hurry to!”

“Well, but if my brother had recovered his health,” answered Volódya, hoping by conversation to disperse the dreadful feeling that had seized him.

“Health indeed! Where’s his health when he’s quite ill? Even them as is really well had best lie in hospital these times. Not much pleasure to be got. All you get is to have a leg or arm carried off! It’s done before you know where you are! Here, even in the town, what horrors! but what’s it like at the baksions! One says all the prayers one knows going there. See the beastly thing how it twangs past you!” he added, listening to the buzzing of a flying fragment.

“Now,” continued Nikoláyef, “I’m to show y’r honor the way. Our business is in course to obey orders: what’s ordered has to be done; but the trap’s been left with some Tommie or other, and the bundle’s untied.⁠ ⁠… ‘Go! go!’ but if something’s lost, why Nikoláyef answers for it!”

After a few steps more, they came to the square. Nikoláyef was silent, but kept sighing.

Then he said suddenly, “There, y’r honor, there’s where your antillary’s stationed. Ask the sentinel, he’ll show you.”

Again a few steps, and Volódya no longer heard Nikoláyef sighing behind him. Then he suddenly felt himself quite, utterly, alone. This sense of loneliness, face to face, as it seemed to him, with death, pressed like a heavy, cold stone on his heart. He stopped in the midst of the square, glanced round to see if anyone were looking, grasped his head and thought with horror⁠—

“O Lord! am I really a vile, miserable coward⁠ ⁠… when it’s for my Fatherland, for the Tsar, for whom I used to long to die? No! I am a miserable, wretched being!” And Volódya, filled with despair and disappointed with himself, asked the sentinel the way to the house of the Commander of the battery and went where he was directed.

XII

The dwelling of the Commander of the battery, which the sentinel showed him, was a small two-storied house with an entrance from the yard. The faint light of a candle shone through a window patched up with paper. An orderly sat on the steps smoking his pipe. He went in to inform the battery Commander of Volódya’s arrival, and then showed him into the room. In the room, under a broken mirror between two windows, stood a table littered with official papers, and there were several chairs, and an iron bedstead with clean bedding and a little rug beside it.

Just at the door stood a handsome man with large moustaches, a sergeant-major, wearing his side-arms and with a cross and an Hungarian medal75 on his uniform. A staff-officer, a short man of about forty, in a thin old cloak and with a swollen cheek tied round with a bandage, was pacing up and down the room.

“I have the honour to report myself, Ensign Kozeltsóf 2nd, ordered to join the 5th Light Artillery,” said Volódya on entering the room, repeating the sentence he had been taught.

The Commander answered his greeting dryly, and, without shaking hands, asked him to take a seat.

Volódya sat down shyly on a chair by the writing table, and began playing with a pair of scissors his hand happened to fall on. The Commander, with his hands at his back and with drooping head, continued to pace the room in silence as if trying to remember something, only now and then glancing at the hand that was playing with the scissors.

The Commander was a rather stout man, with a large bald patch on his head, thick moustaches hanging straight down over his mouth, and pleasant, hazel eyes. His hands were well shaped, clean and plump, his small feet were much turned out, and he trod with firmness and in a way that indicated that the Commander of the battery was not a diffident man.

“Yes,” he said, stopping opposite the Sergeant-major, “the ammunition horses must have an extra peck, beginning from tomorrow; they are getting very thin. Don’t you think so?”

“All right! one can add it, your honour! Oats are a bit cheaper now,” answered the Sergeant-major, standing at attention, but moving his fingers, which evidently liked to help his conversation by gestures. “Then our forage-master, Frantchúk, sent me a note from the convoy yesterday that we must be sure, y’r excellency, to buy axles there; they say they can be got cheap. Will you give the order?”

“Well, let him buy them⁠—he has money,” and the Commander again began to pace the room. “And where are your things?” he asked, suddenly stopping in front of Volódya.

Poor Volódya was so overcome by the thought that he was a miserable coward, that he seemed to see contempt for himself as such in each look and word. He felt as if the Commander of the battery had already discerned his secret and were chaffing him. He was abashed, and replied that his things were at the Gráfskaya, and that his brother had promised to send them on next day.

The Commander did not stop to hear him out, but, turning to the Sergeant-major, asked, “Where could we put up the Ensign?”

“The Ensign, sir?” said the Sergeant-major, making Volódya still more confused by casting a rapid glance at him, which seemed to ask, “What sort of an Ensign is that?”

“Why, downstairs, your Excellency. We can put his honour up in the Lieutenant-Captain’s room;” he continued after a moment’s thought; “the Lieutenant-Captain is at the baksion at present, so there’s his bed empty.”

“Well, then, if you don’t mind for the present,” said the Commander. “I should think you are tired, and we’ll make better arrangements tomorrow.”

Volódya rose and bowed.

“Would you like a glass of tea?” said the Commander of the battery when Volódya had nearly reached the door; “the samovar can be lit.”

Volódya bowed and went out. The Orderly showed him downstairs into a bare, dirty room, where, with all sorts of rubbish lying about, stood a bed without sheets or blankets, on which, covered with a thick cloak, a man in a pink shirt was sleeping. Volódya took him for a soldier.

“Peter Nikoláyitch,” said the Orderly, shaking the sleeper by the shoulder, “the Ensign will sleep here⁠ ⁠… This is our Cadet,” he added, turning to Volódya.

“Oh, please don’t let me disturb you!” said Volódya; but the Cadet, a tall, solid young man, with a handsome but very stupid face, rose from the bed, threw the cloak over his shoulders, and, evidently not yet awake, left the room saying, “Never mind; I shall lie down in the yard.”

XIII

Left alone with his thoughts, Volódya’s first feeling was one of fear at the disorderly, cheerless state of his own soul. He longed to fall asleep and forget all that surrounded him, but especially himself. Putting out the candle, he took off his cloak and lay down on the bed; and to get rid of the darkness, of which he had been afraid from childhood upwards, he drew the cloak over his head. But suddenly the thought occurred to him that now, immediately, a bomb would crash through the roof and kill him, and he began to listen. Just above his head he heard the steps of the Commander of the battery.

“If it does come,” he thought, “it will first kill those upstairs and then me⁠—anyway not me alone.” This thought comforted him a little, and he was about to fall asleep.

“But supposing that all of a sudden, tonight, Sevastopol is taken, and the French break in here? What shall I defend myself with?” He rose and went up and down the room. The fear of real danger drove away the fanciful fear of the darkness. A saddle and a samovar were the only hard things in the room.

“What a wretch I am⁠—a coward, a despicable coward!” he thought again, and once more the oppressive feeling of contempt, even disgust of himself, came over him. He lay down again, and tried not to think. Then, under the influence of the unceasing noise, which made the panes rattle in the one window of the room, the impressions of the day rose up in his imagination, reminding him of danger. Now he seemed to see wounds and blood, then bombs and splinters flying into the room, then the pretty Sister of Mercy bandaging his wounds and crying over him as he lies dying, then his mother seeing him off in the little country town, and praying fervently with tears in her eyes before the wonder-working icon⁠—and again sleep seemed impossible. But suddenly the thought of God the Almighty, who can do anything and hears every prayer, came clearly into his mind. He knelt down, crossed himself, and folded his hands as he had been taught to do when a child. This attitude suddenly brought back to him an old, long-forgotten sense of comfort.

“If I must die, if I must cease to exist, then do it, Lord,” he thought, “do it quickly; but if courage is needed and firmness, which I lack, give them me. Deliver me from the shame and disgrace which are more than I can bear, and teach me what I must do to fulfil Thy will.”

The frightened, cramped, childish soul suddenly matured, brightened, and became aware of new, bright, and broad horizons. He thought and felt many things during the short time this state continued, but soon fell into a sweet untroubled sleep, amid the continued booming of the cannonade and the rattle of the window panes.

O Lord Almighty! Thou alone hast heard and knowest the simple yet burning and desperate prayers of ignorance, of confused repentance, prayers for bodily health and for spiritual enlightenment, that have risen to Thee from this dreadful place of death: from the General who, an instant after his mind has been absorbed by the Order of St. George upon his neck, with trepidation feels the nearness of Thy presence, to the private soldier prostrate on the bare floor of the Nicholas Battery, who prays for the future reward he dimly expects for all his sufferings.

XIV

The elder Kozeltsóf, happening to meet a soldier of his regiment in the street, went with him straight to the Fifth Bastion.

“Keep to the wall, your honour!” said the soldier.

“Why?”

“It’s dangerous, your honour: there it is, flying over us,” said the soldier, listening to the sound of a ball that whistled past and fell on the hard ground on the other side of the road.

Here were still the same streets, the same or even more frequent firing, the same sounds, the same groans from the wounded one met on the way, and the same batteries, breastworks, and trenches, as when he was in Sevastopol in the spring; but somehow it now all seemed more melancholy and yet more energetic. There were more holes in the houses, no lights in any of the windows except those of Koústchin’s house (a hospital), not a woman to be seen; and the place no longer bore its former customary character and air of unconcern but seemed burdened with heavy suspense and weariness.

But the last trench is reached: there is the voice of a soldier of the P⁠⸺ regiment who has recognised his former Company Commander, and there stands the third battalion, pressing against the wall in the darkness, and now and then lit up for an instant by the firing; and sounds are heard of subdued talking and the clatter of muskets.

“Where is the Commander of the regiment?” asked Kozeltsóf.

“In the naval-officers’ casemate, your honour,” answers an obliging soldier; “let me show you the way.”

Passing from trench to trench, the soldier led the way to a little ditch within a trench. A sailor sat in the ditch smoking a pipe. Behind him was a door, through a chink in which a light shone.

“Can I go in?”

“I’ll announce you directly,” and the sailor went in at the door.

Two voices were heard talking inside.

“If Prussia remains neutral,” said one voice, “Austria will also⁠ ⁠…”

“What matters Austria,” said the other, “when the Slavonic lands⁠ ⁠… Well, ask him in.”

Kozeltsóf had never been in this casemate and was struck by its elegance. It had a parquet floor and a screen in front of the door. Two beds stood against the walls; in one of the corners there was a large icon, the Mother of God, with an embossed gilt cover, and a pink lamp burned before her. On one of the beds a naval officer, quite dressed, was lying asleep. On the other, before a table on which stood two uncorked bottles of wine, sat the speakers⁠—the new regimental commander and his adjutant. Though Kozeltsóf was far from being a coward, and was not in the least guilty of any offence against either the government or the Regimental Commander, yet he felt abashed in the presence of his former comrade the Colonel, so proud was the bearing of that Colonel when he rose and listened to Kozeltsóf.

“It’s strange,” thought Kozeltsóf, as he looked at his Commander, “it is only seven weeks since he took the command, and now all his surroundings⁠—his dress, manner, looks⁠—already show the power of a regimental commander. It is not long since this same Batrístchef used to hobnob with us, wore one and the same dark cotton print shirt the whole week, ate the rissoles and dumpling every day, never inviting anyone!⁠—but look at him now! What a look of cold pride in his eyes! It seems to say: ‘Though, being a Commander of the new school, I am your comrade, yet, believe me, I know very well that you’d give half your life to be in my place!’ ”

“You have been under treatment a long time,” said the Colonel, with a cold look at Kozeltsóf.

“I have been ill, Colonel! The wound is not thoroughly closed even now.”

“Then it’s a pity you have come,” said the Colonel, looking suspiciously at the officer’s full figure. “But still, you are capable of taking duty?”

“Certainly, sir, I am.”

“Well, sir, I am very glad. Then you’ll take over from Ensign Záytsef the Ninth Company, that you had before. You will receive your orders at once.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Be so good, when you go, as to send the regimental adjutant to me.” The Commander finished with a slight bow, thereby intimating that the audience was at an end.

On leaving the casemate, Kozeltsóf muttered something to himself several times and shrugged his shoulders as if he were hurt, or uncomfortable, or provoked⁠—and provoked, not with the Colonel (he had no grounds), but with himself; and he felt dissatisfied with everything around him.

XV

Before going to join the officers, Kozeltsóf went to greet his company, and to see where it was stationed. The breastworks of gabions, the plan of the trenches, the cannon he passed, and even the fragments and bombs he stumbled over on the way, all lit up incessantly by the flashes of the firing, were quite familiar to him. All this had vividly impressed itself on his memory three months before, when he had spent two consecutive weeks at this same bastion. Though there was much that was dreadful in the recollection, yet there was some charm of old times mixed with it, and he recognised all the familiar places and objects with pleasure, as if the fortnight spent here had been a pleasant one. His company was stationed against the wall of defence on the side towards the Sixth Bastion.

Kozeltsóf entered a long bombproof, quite open on the entrance side, where he was told he would find the Ninth Company. There was literally no room to put one’s foot in the whole bombproof: it was crowded with soldiers from the very entrance. At one side burned a crooked tallow candle, which a soldier who was lying on the ground held over the book another was reading from, spelling out the words. Round the candle could be seen in the dim light heads uplifted in eager attention to the reader. The book was a primer, and on entering the bombproof Kozeltsóf heard the following:

“Pra-yer af-ter les-sons. We thank Thee, O Cre-a-tor⁠ ⁠…”

“Snuff the candle!” said a voice. “It’s a fine book.”

“Oh-my-God,”⁠ ⁠… continued the reader.

When Kozeltsóf asked for the Sergeant-major the reader stopped, and the soldiers began moving, coughing, and blowing their noses, as is usual after a restrained silence. The Sergeant-major, buttoning his uniform, rose from near the reader’s group, and stepping over and onto the legs of those who, for want of room, were unable to move them, he came to the officer.

“Good evening, friend! Is this the whole of our company?”

“We wish your honour health. Welcome back, your honour!” answered the Sergeant-major with a cheerful and friendly look at Kozeltsóf. “How is your health getting on, your honour? Thank God, you’re better! We have been missing you!”

It was easy to see that Kozeltsóf was liked by his company.

Far in the bombproof voices were heard saying: “Our old company commander has returned.” “He that was wounded.” “Kozeltsóf.” “Michael Semyónitch,” and so on; some even moved nearer to him, and the drummer greeted him.

“How do you do, Obantchoúk?” said Kozeltsóf. “Still whole? Good evening, lads!” he added, raising his voice.

The answer, “Wish your honour health!” resounded through the casemate.

“How are you getting on, lads?”

“Badly, your honour. The French are getting the better of us; they give it us hot from behind their ’trenchments, but don’t come out into the open.”

“Perhaps it will be my luck to see them coming out into the open, lads,” said Kozeltsóf. “It won’t be the first time for you and me, and we’ll give them another thrashing.”

“We’ll do our best, your honour,” several voices replied.

“There now, he’s bold enough for anything!” said a voice.

“Awfully bold!” said the drummer to another soldier, not loud, but so as to be heard, and as if to justify the Commander’s words, and to prove that there was nothing boastful or unlikely in what he had said.

From the soldiers Kozeltsóf went to join his fellow-officers in the Defensive Barracks.

XVI

A crowd of people were in the large barrack-room⁠—naval, artillery, and infantry officers. Some slept, others talked, sitting on a chest of some kind and on the carriage of a garrison gun, but the largest and noisiest group sat on two Cossack cloaks spread on the floor beyond the arch, and were drinking porter and playing cards.

“Ah, Kozeltsóf! Kozeltsóf!⁠ ⁠… So you’ve come! That’s good.⁠ ⁠… You’re a brick.⁠ ⁠… How’s your wound?” It was evident that here also he was liked, and his return gave pleasure.

When he had shaken hands with those he knew, Kozeltsóf joined the noisy group of officers playing cards. With some of them he was acquainted. A thin, dark, handsome man, with a long thin nose and large moustaches which grew out to his cheeks, kept the bank, and dealt the cards with thin, white fingers, on one of which he wore a large seal-ring with a crest. He dealt straight on and carelessly, being evidently excited about something, and only trying to appear at ease. At his right lay a grey-haired Major leaning on his elbows, who, with affected coolness, kept staking half-roubles and paying at once. On his left squatted an officer with a red, perspiring face, smiling unnaturally and joking. When his cards lost, he kept fumbling with one hand in his empty trouser-pocket. He was playing high, but evidently no longer for ready-money, and it was this that upset the handsome dark man. A bald, thin, pale officer with a huge nose and mouth paced the room with a large bundle of paper-money in his hand, and continually staked va-banque for ready money and won. Kozeltsóf drank a glass of vodka and sat down with the players.

“Stake something, Michael Semyónitch!” said the banker: “you’ve brought back lots of money, I’m sure.”

“How should I get money! On the contrary, what I had I’ve spent in the town.”

“Never!⁠ ⁠… You’ve surely cleared someone out in Simferópol!”

“I’ve really very little,” said Kozeltsóf, but, evidently not wishing to be believed, he unbuttoned his uniform and took up an old pack of cards.

“Well, suppose I have a try; who knows what the devil may do for one! Even a mosquito, you know, wins his battles sometimes. Only I must have a drink to keep up my courage.”

And soon, having drunk another glass of vodka and some porter, he lost his last three roubles.

A hundred and fifty roubles were noted down against the little perspiring officer.

“No, I’ve no luck,” he said carelessly, preparing another card.

“I’ll trouble you to send up the money,” said the banker, ceasing for a moment to deal the cards and looking at him.

“Allow me to send it tomorrow,” answered the perspiring officer, rising and fumbling with renewed vigour in his empty pocket.

“H’m!” bellowed the banker, and angrily throwing to the right and left, he finished the deal.

“But this won’t do. I quit the bank. This won’t do, Zahár Ivánitch,” he repeated; “we are playing for ready money and not on credit.”

“What! don’t you trust me? It’s really too ridiculous!”

“Who is going to pay me?” muttered the Major, who had won some eight roubles. “I have paid up more than twenty roubles and when I win I get nothing.”

“How am I to pay,” said the banker, “if there is no money on the board?”

“That’s not my business,” shouted the Major, rising; “I’m playing with you, and not with them.”

The perspiring officer suddenly flared up:

“I shall pay tomorrow, I tell you. How dare you say such things to me?”

“I shall say what I please! That’s no way to behave. There now!” shouted the Major.

“That’s enough, Fyódor Fyódoritch!” said everyone, restraining the Major.

But let us hasten to drop the curtain on this scene. Tomorrow, or today, perhaps each of these men will cheerfully and proudly go to face death, and die steadfastly and calmly; but the only relief in these inhuman conditions, horrible even to the coldest imagination, and from which there is no hope of escape, is to forget and to destroy consciousness. Deep in each soul dwells a noble spark, capable of making him a hero; but the spark wearies of burning⁠—a fateful moment may come when it will flash into flame and illuminate great deeds.

XVII

The next day the bombardment continued with equal vigour. At about eleven o’clock Volódya Kozeltsóf was sitting among the battery officers, to whom he was already beginning to get used. He was examining the new faces, observing, asking questions, and talking. The modest conversation, with a flavour of erudition, of the artillery officers inspired him with respect and pleased him. On the other hand, Volódya’s bashful, innocent, and good-looking appearance inclined the officers in his favour. The senior of the battery, a Captain, a short man with reddish hair curling over his forehead and smoothed over the temples, brought up in the old artillery traditions, a ladies’ man with a pretence to scientific knowledge, questioned Volódya about what he knew of artillery and of new inventions; joked in a friendly manner about his youth and his pretty face, and in general treated him as a son, and this Volódya liked very much. Sublieutenant Dyádenko, a young officer who spoke with a Little-Russian accent, and had a torn cloak and dishevelled hair, though he talked loudly, snatched every opportunity to begin a cantankerous dispute, and was abrupt in his movements, nevertheless pleased Volódya, for he could not help seeing that a very kind heart, and much that was good, lay beneath this rough exterior. Dyádenko kept offering to be of use to Volódya, and demonstrating to him that none of the guns in Sevastopol were placed according to rule.

Lieutenant Tchernovítsky, with high-arched eyebrows, though he was the most polite of all, and his coat was clean enough and neatly patched if not very new, and though he showed a gold chain over his satin waistcoat, did not please Volódya. He kept asking what the Emperor and the Minister of War were doing, told him with unnatural rapture of feats of valour performed in Sevastopol, regretted there were so few real patriots, and in general displayed much knowledge, intelligence, and noble feeling; but, somehow, it all seemed unnatural and unpleasant to Volódya. He noticed especially that the other officers hardly spoke to Tchernovítsky. Junker Vlang, whom Volódya had disturbed the night before, was also there. He did not speak, but, sitting modestly in a corner, laughed when there was anything funny, helped to recall anything that was forgotten, handed the vodka bottle, and made cigarettes for all the officers. Whether it was the modest, courteous manner of Volódya, who behaved to him as to the officers and did not order him about as if he were a boy, or whether his attractive appearance charmed Vlánga (as the soldiers called him, giving a feminine form to his name), at any rate, he did not take his large, kind eyes from the new officer, foresaw and anticipated his wants, and was all the time in a state of enamoured ecstasy, which of course the officers noticed and made fun of.

Before dinner the Lieutenant-Captain was relieved from the bastion and joined them. Lieutenant-Captain Kraut was a fair-haired, handsome, and vivacious officer, with big, sandy moustaches and whiskers. He spoke Russian splendidly, but too accurately and elegantly for a Russian. In the service and in his life he was like his speech: he served admirably, was a first-rate comrade, most reliable in money matters; but simply as a man, just because everything was so satisfactory about him, something seemed lacking. Like all Russo-Germans, in strange contradistinction to the idealist German-Germans, he was praktisch in the extreme.

“Here he comes⁠—our hero!” said the Captain, as Kraut came into the room swinging his arms and jingling his spurs. “What will you take, Friedrich Christiánitch, tea or vodka?”

“I have already ordered some tea,” he answered, “but meanwhile I do not mind taking a drop of vodka as a refreshment to my soul.⁠—Very pleased to make your acquaintance. I hope you will favour us with your company and your friendship,” he said, turning to Volódya, who rose and bowed to him. “Lieutenant-Captain Kraut.⁠ ⁠… At the bastion yesterday, the master-gunner told me you had arrived.”

“I am very grateful to you for your bed: I slept on it.”

“But were you comfortable? One of the legs is broken: no one has time to mend it in this state of siege; it has to be propped up.”

“Well, what luck have you had on duty?” asked Dyádenko.

“Oh, all right: only Skvortsóf was hit, and yesterday we had to mend a gun-carriage⁠—the cheek was blown to shivers.”

He rose and began to walk up and down. It was evident that he was under the influence of the pleasant feeling experienced by men who have just left a post of danger.

“Well, Dmítry Gavrílitch,” he said, shaking the Captain by his knee, “how are you getting on? What of your recommendation⁠—is it still silent?”

“There’s no news as yet.”

“And there won’t be any,” began Dyádenko: “I told you so before.”

“Why won’t there be?”

“Because the report was not written properly.”

“Ah, you wrangler! you wrangler!” said Kraut, smiling merrily. “A real obstinate Little-Russian! There now, just to spite you, you’ll be made Lieutenant.”

“No, I shan’t!”

“Vlang! get me my pipe and fill it,” said Kraut, turning to the Junker, who rose at once and readily ran for the pipe.

Kraut brightened them all up: he talked of the bombardment, asked what had been going on in his absence, and spoke to everyone.

XVIII

“Well, have you established yourself satisfactorily among us?” said Kraut to Volódya. “Pardon me! what is your name and patronymic? You know that’s our custom in the artillery.⁠ ⁠… Have you a horse?”

“No,” said Volódya; “I don’t know what I am to do. I was telling the Captain⁠ ⁠… I have no horse, nor any money until I get my forage-money and travelling expenses paid. I thought, meanwhile, of asking the Commander of the battery to let me have a horse, but I’m afraid he will refuse.”

“Apollón Sergéitch⁠ ⁠… ?” and Kraut made a sound with his lips expressing strong doubt, and looking at the Captain added, “hardly!”

“Well, if he does refuse there’ll be no harm done,” said the Captain. “To tell you the truth, a horse is not much wanted here; still, it is worth trying. I will ask him today.”

“How little you know him,” Dyádenko put in: “he might refuse anything else, but not that.⁠ ⁠… Will you bet?”

“Well, of course we know you can’t help contradicting.”

“I contradict because I know: he’s close in other matters, but he’ll give a horse because he gains nothing by refusing.”

“Gains nothing when oats are eight roubles?” said Kraut: “the gain is not having to keep an extra horse!”

“You ask for Skvoréts, Vladímir Semyónitch,” said Vlang, returning with Kraut’s pipe: “it’s a capital horse.”

“Off which you fell into a ditch in Soróki, eh, Vlánga?” remarked the Lieutenant-Captain.

“What does it matter if oats are eight roubles when, in his estimates, they figure at ten and a half?76 That’s where the gain comes in,” said Dyádenko, continuing to argue.

“Well, naturally, you can’t expect him to keep nothing. When you are commander of a battery, I dare say you’ll not let one have a horse to ride into town.”

“When I am the commander of a battery, my horses will get four measures each, and I shall not make an income, no fear!”

“We shall see, if we live⁠ ⁠…” said the Lieutenant-Captain: “you will act in just the same way⁠—and so will he,” pointing to Volódya.

“Why do you think that he too would wish to make a profit?” said Tchernovítsky to Kraut: “he may have private means, then why should he make a profit?”

“Oh no, I⁠ ⁠… excuse me, Captain,” said Volódya, blushing up to his ears, “but I should think such a thing dishonourable.”

“Dear me! what a severe fellow he is!” said Kraut.

“No, I only mean that I think that if the money is not mine, I ought not to take it.”

“But I’ll just tell you something, young man,” began the Lieutenant-Captain in a more serious tone; “do you know that if you are commanding a battery you have to conduct things properly, and that’s enough. The commander of a battery does not interfere with the soldiers’ supplies; that’s always been the custom in the artillery. If you are a bad manager, you will have no surplus. But you have to spend over and above what’s in the estimates: for shoeing⁠—that’s one” (he bent down one finger), “and for medicine⁠—that’s two” (and he bent down another finger), “for office expenses⁠—that’s three: then for off-horses one has to pay up to 500 roubles, my dear fellow⁠—that’s four: you have to supply the soldiers with new collars, spend a good bit on charcoal for the samovars, and keep open table for the officers. If you are in command of a battery you must live decently: you must have a carriage and a fur coat, and one thing and another.⁠ ⁠… It’s quite plain!”

“And above all,” interrupted the Captain, who had been silent all the time, “look here, Vladímir Semyónitch. Imagine a man, like myself say, serving for twenty years, with a pay of first 200, then 300 roubles a year. Can one refuse him a crust of bread in his old age, after all his service?”

“Ah, what’s the good of talking,” again began the Lieutenant-Captain: “don’t be in a hurry to judge, but live and serve.”

Volódya felt horribly confused and ashamed of what he had so thoughtlessly said; he muttered something, and then listened in silence while Dyádenko began, very irritably, disputing and proving the contrary of what had been said. The dispute was interrupted by the Colonel’s orderly, who came to say that dinner was served.

“Ask Apollón Sergéitch to give us some wine today,” said Tchernovítsky to the Captain, buttoning his uniform. “Why is he so stingy? If we get killed it will all be wasted.”

“Well, ask him yourself.”

“Oh no; you are the senior officer: we must observe order in all things.”

XIX

The table had been moved away from the wall and covered with a dirty tablecloth in the room where Volódya had presented himself to the Colonel the night before. Today the Commander of the battery shook hands with him, and asked him the Petersburg news and about his journey.

“Well, gentlemen, who takes vodka? Please help yourselves⁠—ensigns don’t take any,” added he with a smile.

Altogether he did not seem at all as stern as the night before: on the contrary, he seemed a kind and hospitable host, and an elder comrade among his fellow-officers. But, in spite of it all, the officers, from the old Captain down to Ensign Dyádenko, showed him great respect, if only by the way they addressed him, politely looking him straight in the eyes, and by the timid way they came up, one by one, to the side-table to drink their glass of vodka.

The dinner consisted of a large tureen of cabbage-soup seasoned with an enormous quantity of pepper and bay-leaves, and in which floated pieces of fat beef; Polish cutlets with mustard, and dumplings with butter that was not very fresh. There were no napkins, the spoons were pewter and wooden; there were only two tumblers, and on the table the only drink was supplied by a water-bottle with a broken neck; but the meal was not dull: the conversation never flagged. At first they talked about the battle of Inkerman, in which the battery had taken part, and each gave his own impressions of it and reasons for the reverse, but all were silent as soon as the Commander spoke. Then the conversation naturally passed on to the insufficient calibre of the field-guns, and to the subject of new lighter cannons, which gave Volódya an opportunity of showing his knowledge of artillery. But the conversation never touched the present terrible condition of Sevastopol: it was as if each one had thought so much on this subject that he did not wish to speak of it. Nor, to Volódya’s great surprise and regret, was there any mention at all of the duties of the service on which he had entered; it was as if he had come to Sevastopol solely to discuss lighter guns and to dine with the Commander of the battery. During the dinner a bomb fell near the house they were in. The floor and walls vibrated as if from an earthquake, and the windows were darkened by powder smoke.

“You didn’t see that sort of thing in Petersburg, I fancy; but here we get many such surprises,” said the Commander of the battery. “Vlang, go and see where it burst.”

Vlang went out to see, and reported that it had fallen in the square; and no more was said about the bomb.

Just before dinner ended, a little old man, the battery-clerk, came into the room with three sealed envelopes and handed them to the Commander: “This one is very important: a Cossack has just brought it from the Chief of the Artillery.”

All the officers looked with eager impatience as the Commander, with practised fingers, broke the seal, and drew out the very important paper. “What can it be?” each one asked himself. It might be an order to retire from Sevastopol to recuperate, or the whole battery might be ordered to the bastions.

“Again!” said the Commander, angrily throwing the paper on the table.

“What is it, Apollón Sergéitch?” asked the senior officer.

“They order an officer and men to some mortar-battery or other.⁠ ⁠… As it is, I have only four officers and not men enough for the gun detachments,” grumbled the Commander of the battery; “and here they are taking more away.⁠ ⁠… However, gentlemen, someone will have to go,” said he after a short silence: “the order is, to be at the outposts at seven. Send the Sergeant-major to me. Well, who will go? Decide, gentlemen.”

“There⁠—he has not been anywhere yet,” said Tchernovítsky, pointing to Volódya.

The Commander of the battery did not answer.

“Yes, I should like to go,” said Volódya, and he felt the cold sweat break out on his back and neck.

“No, why?” interrupted the Captain. “Of course no one would refuse, but one need not offer oneself either: but if Apollón Sergéitch leaves it to us, let us throw lots, as we did last time.”

All agreed. Kraut cut up some paper, rolled up the bits, and threw them into a cap. The Captain joked, and even ventured, on this occasion, to ask the Colonel for some wine⁠—to keep up their courage, as he said. Dyádenko sat looking grim, Volódya smiled at something. Tchernovítsky declared he was sure to draw it. Kraut was perfectly calm. Volódya was allowed to draw first. He took a roll of paper a bit longer than the others, but then decided to change it; and taking a thinner and shorter one, unrolled it and read “Go.”

“It’s I,” he said with a sigh.

“Well, God be with you; you’ll get your baptism of fire at once,” said the Commander, looking at the Ensign’s perturbed face with a kindly smile: “but make haste and get ready, and so that it shall be pleasanter for you, Vlang shall go with you as gun-sergeant.”

XX

Vlang was extremely pleased with his appointment, ran off quickly to get ready, and when dressed came to help Volódya: trying to persuade him to take a bed, a fur coat, some back numbers of Fatherland Records, the coffeepot with the spirit lamp, and other unnecessary things. The Captain advised Volódya to read up in the Handbook (Bezák’s Artillery Officer’s Handbook) about firing mortars, and especially to copy out the tables in it. Volódya set to work at once, and to his surprise and joy noticed that his fear of the danger, and, more still, of being a coward, though it still troubled him a little, was far from what it had been the night before. This was partly the effect of daylight and activity, but was chiefly due to the fact that fear, like every strong feeling, cannot long continue with the same intensity. In short, he had already had time to live through the worst of it. At about seven o’clock, just as the sun began to disappear behind the Nicholas Barracks, the Sergeant-major came and announced that the men were ready and waiting.

“I have given Vlánga the list; your honour will please receive it from him,” said he.

About twenty artillerymen, with only their side-arms, stood behind the corner of the house. Volódya and the Junker walked up to them. “Shall I make them a little speech, or simply say ‘Good day, lads,’ or say nothing at all,” he thought. “But why not say ‘Good day, lads;’ it is even right that I should,” and he cried boldly with his ringing voice, “Good day, lads!” The soldiers answered gaily: the young, fresh voice sounded pleasantly in the ears of each. Volódya went briskly in front of the soldiers, and though his heart beat as fast as if he had run full-speed for miles, his step was light and his face cheerful. When they were approaching the Maláhof Redoubt, mounting the hill, he noticed that Vlang, who kept close to him all the time, and who had seemed so brave before leaving the house, was continually dodging and stooping, as if all the bombs and cannonballs, which here whistled past very frequently, were flying straight at him. Some of the soldiers did the same, and, in general, most of the faces expressed uneasiness, if not exactly alarm. These circumstances completely comforted and emboldened Volódya.

“So here I, also, am on the Maláhof mound, which I fancied a thousand times more terrible. And I get along without bowing to the balls, and am even much less frightened than the others. So I am no coward,” thought he, with pleasure and even a certain rapturous self-complacency.

This feeling, however, was quickly shaken by a sight he came upon in the twilight at the Kornílof Battery while looking for the Commander of the bastion. Four sailors stood by the breastwork holding by its arms and legs the bloody corpse of a man without boots or coat, swinging it before heaving it over. (On the second day of this bombardment it was found impossible in some parts to clear away the corpses from the bastions, and they were, therefore, thrown out into the ditch, so as not to be in the way at the batteries.) Volódya felt stunned for a moment when he saw the body bump on the top of the breastwork and then roll down into the ditch, but, luckily for him, the Commander of the bastion met him just then and gave him his orders, as well as a guide to show him the way to the battery and to the bombproof assigned to his men. We will not speak of all the dangers and disenchantments our hero lived through that evening; how⁠—instead of the firing he was used to on the Vólkof field, amid conditions of perfect exactitude and order, which he had expected to meet with here also⁠—he found two injured mortars, one with its mouth battered in by a ball, the other standing on the splinters of its shattered platform; how he could not get workmen to mend the platform till the morning; how not a single charge was of the weight specified in the Handbook; how two of the men under him were wounded, and how he was twenty times within a hair’s-breadth of death. Fortunately a gigantic gunner, a seaman who had served with the mortars since the commencement of the siege, had been appointed to assist Volódya, and convinced him of the possibility of using the mortars. By the light of a lantern, this gunner showed him all over the battery as he might have shown him over his own kitchen-garden, and undertook to have everything right by the morning. The bombproof to which his guide led him was an oblong hole dug in the rocky ground, 25 cubic yards in size and covered with oak beams nearly 2½ feet thick. He and all his soldiers installed themselves in it.

Vlang first of all, as soon as he discovered the little door, not a yard high, rushed in headlong at the risk of breaking his limbs against the stone bottom, squeezed into the farthest corner and there remained. Volódya, when all the soldiers had settled on the ground along the walls, and some had lit their pipes, made up his bed in a corner, lit a candle, and, after lighting a cigarette, lay down.

The reports of the continuous firing could be heard overhead, but not very distinctly, except from one cannon which stood quite close and shook the bombproof with its thunder. In the bombproof all was quiet, except when one or other of the soldiers, still rather shy in the presence of the new officer, spoke, asking a neighbour to move a little, or to give him a light for his pipe, when a rat scratched somewhere among the stones, or when Vlang, who had not yet recovered, and was still looking wildly around him, heaved a deep sigh.

Volódya, on his bed in this quiet corner crammed with people and lighted by a solitary candle, experienced a sensation of cosiness such as he had felt as a child when, playing hide-and-seek, he used to creep into the cupboard or under his mother’s skirt and sit listening in breathless silence, afraid of the dark, yet conscious of enjoyment. It felt rather uncanny, yet his spirits were high.

XXI

After ten minutes or so the soldiers grew bolder and began to talk. The more important people⁠—two noncommissioned officers, an old grey-haired one with all the medals and crosses except that of St. George, and a young one, a Cantonist,77 who was smoking cigarettes made by himself⁠—had settled nearest to the light and to the officer’s bed. The drummer had, as usual, taken upon himself the duty of waiting upon the officer. The bombardiers and men who had medals came next, and farther on, in the shadow nearer the entrance, sat the meeker folk. It was these last who started the conversation. The cause of it was the noise made by a man who came tumbling hastily into the bombproof.

“Hullo, old fellow! how’s it you don’t stay outside? Don’t the lasses play merrily enough out there?” said a voice.

“They’re playing such tunes as we never hear in our village,” laughingly answered the man who had just run in.

“Ah! Vásin don’t like bombs⁠—ah! he don’t,” said someone in the aristocratic corner.

“If there were any need it would be quite a different thing,” slowly replied Vásin; and when he spoke all the others were silent. “On the 24th at least we were working the guns; but what’s there to find fault with now? If we get killed uselessly the authorities won’t thank the likes of us for it.”

At these words all laughed.

“There’s Mélnikof⁠—he’s out there now, I fancy,” said someone.

“Go and send that Mélnikof in here,” said the old sergeant, “or else he’ll really get killed uselessly.”

“Who is Mélnikof?” asked Volódya.

“Oh, it’s a poor, silly soldier of ours, your honour. He’s just afraid of nothing, and he’s now walking about outside. You should have a look at him; he’s just like a bear.”

“He knows a charm,” came Vásin’s long-drawn accents from the other corner.

Mélnikof entered the bombproof. He was stout (which is extremely rare among soldiers), red-haired and red-faced, and had an enormous bulging forehead and prominent, clear, blue eyes.

“Aren’t you afraid of the bombs?” asked Volódya.

“What’s there to be afraid of in them bombs?” answered Mélnikof, shrugging and scratching himself; “they’ll not kill me with a bomb, I know.”

“So you would like to live here?”

“In course I should. It’s gay here,” he said, and burst out laughing.

“Oh, then they should take you for a sortie! Shall I speak to the General about it?” said Volódya, though he did not know a single General here.

“Like, indeed! In course I should!” And Mélnikof hid behind the others.

“Let’s have a game of ‘noses,’ lads! Who has got cards?” his voice was heard to say hurriedly.

And soon the game had started in the far corner: one could hear laughter, noses being smacked, and trumps declared. Volódya drank some tea⁠—the drummer having heated the samovar for him⁠—treated the noncommissioned officers to some, joked and talked with them, wishing to gain popularity, and felt very pleased at the respect paid him. The soldiers also, seeing that the gentleman gave himself no airs, became talkative. One of them explained that the siege of Sevastopol would not last much longer, because a reliable fellow in the fleet had told him that Constantine, the Tsar’s brother, was coming with the ’Merican fleet to help us; and also that there would soon be an agreement not to fire for a fortnight, but to have a rest, and that if anyone did fire he’d have to pay a fine of seventy-five kopecks for each shot. Vásin, who, as Volódya had already observed, was small, and had whiskers and kind, large eyes, related, first amid general silence and then amid roars of laughter, how he had gone home on leave, and at first everyone was glad to see him; but then his father began sending him to work, and the Forester-Lieutenant sent a horse and trap to fetch his wife! All this amused Volódya very much. He not only felt no fear, or discomfort from the overcrowding and bad air in the bombproof, but, on the contrary, felt exceedingly bright and contented.

Many of the soldiers were already snoring. Vlang also lay stretched on the floor, and the old sergeant, having spread his cloak on the ground, was crossing himself and muttering prayers before going to sleep, when Volódya felt inclined to go out of the bombproof and see what was going on outside.

“Draw in your legs!” the soldiers called to one another as soon as he rose, and the legs, drawing in, made room for him.

Vlang, who had seemed to be asleep, suddenly raised his head and seized Volódya by the skirts of his cloak.

“Now don’t; don’t go⁠—how can you?” he began in a tearfully persuasive voice. “You do not yet know; out there the cannonballs are falling all the time. It’s better in here.”

But in spite of Vlang’s entreaties, Volódya made his way out of the bombproof and sat down on the threshold, where Mélnikof was already sitting.

The air was pure and fresh, especially compared with that in the bombproof; the night was clear and calm. Amid the booming of the cannons one could hear the wheels of carts bringing gabions, and the voices of men at work in the powder-vault. High overhead was the starry sky, across which ran the fiery trails of the bombs. To the left was another bombproof, through the small entrance to which the legs and backs of the sailors who lived there could be discerned and their voices heard. In front was the roof of the powder-vault, past which flitted the figures of stooping men, while on it a tall form in a black cloak stood, with his hands in his pockets, under the bullets and bombs that incessantly flew past the spot, and kept treading down with his heel the earth that other men brought there in sacks. Many a bomb flew past and exploded near the vault. The soldiers who were carrying the earth stooped and stepped aside; but the black figure continued calmly to stamp the earth down with his feet, and remained on the spot in the same position.

“Who is that black fellow there?” said Volódya to Mélnikof.

“Can’t say. I’ll go and see.”

“No, don’t; there’s no need.”

But Mélnikof rose without heeding him, approached the black figure and for a long time stood by it equally indifferent and immovable.

“That’s the powder-master, your honour!” he said when he returned. “The vault has been knocked in by a bomb, so the infantry men are carrying earth there.”

Now and then a bomb seemed to fly straight at the door of the bombproof. Then Volódya pressed behind the corner, but soon crept out again, looking up to see if another was coming that way. Though Vlang, from inside the bombproof, again and again entreated him to come in, Volódya sat at the threshold for about three hours, finding a kind of pleasure in tempting fate and in watching the flying bombs. By the end of the evening he knew how many guns were firing, from which positions, and where their shots fell.

XXII

The next morning, the 27th of August, Volódya, after several hours’ sleep, came out fresh and vigorous to the threshold of the bombproof. Vlang also came out, but at the first sound of a bullet he rushed wildly back through the entrance, pushing his way through the crowd with his head, amid the general laughter of the soldiers, most of whom had also come out into the fresh air.

Vlang, the old sergeant, and a few others, only came out into the trench at rare intervals, but the rest could not be kept inside: they all crept out of the stuffy bombproof into the fresh morning air, and in spite of the firing, which continued as violently as on the day before, they settled themselves⁠—some by the threshold of the bombproof, and some under the breastwork. Mélnikof had been strolling about from battery to battery since early dawn, looking calmly upwards.

Near the threshold sat two old soldiers and one young, curly-haired one, a Jew transferred to the battery from an infantry regiment. This soldier had picked up one of the bullets that were lying about, and after flattening it out on a stone with the fragment of a bomb, was now carving out a cross like the Order of St. George; the others sat talking and watching his work. The cross was really turning out very handsome.

“I say,” said one of them, “if we remain here much longer, then, when there’s peace, we shall all have served our time and get discharged.”

“Sure enough! Why, I had only four years left to serve, and here I am five months at Sevastopol.”

“That’s not counted specially to the discharge, you know,” said another.

At this moment a cannonball flew over the heads of the speakers and fell a couple of feet from Mélnikof, who was approaching them through the trench.

“It nearly killed Mélnikof,” said one of them.

“It won’t kill me,” said Mélnikof.

“Then here you have a cross for your courage,” said the young soldier, giving him the cross he had made.

“… No, my lad; a month’s service here counts as a year for everything⁠—that was said in the order,” continued one of the soldiers.

“You may say what you like, but when we’ve peace we’re sure to have an Imperial review at Warsaw, and then, if we don’t all get our discharge we shall be put on the permanent reserve.”

Just then a shrieking, glancing rifle-ball flew just over the talkers’ heads and struck a stone.

“Mind, or you’ll get your discharge in full before tonight,” said one of the soldiers.

They all laughed.

And not only before night, but before two hours had passed, two of them had got their discharge in full, and five more were wounded; but the rest went on joking just the same.


By the morning, sure enough, the two mortars had really been put into such condition that it was possible to fire them. At ten o’clock Volódya, in accordance with the order he had received from the chief of the bastion, called out his company and marched with it to the battery.

Among the men not a trace of the fear which had been noticeable the day before remained as soon as they were actively engaged. Only Vlang could not master himself, but hid and ducked in the same old way, and Vásin lost some of his composure and fidgeted and kept dodging. Volódya was in ecstasies; the thought of danger never entered his head. Joy at fulfilling his duty, at finding that he was not only no coward, but was even brave; the sense of commanding and being in the presence of twenty men who were, he knew, watching him with curiosity, made him quite valiant. He was even vain of his courage, and showed off before the soldiers; climbed out onto the banquette, and unfastened his cloak on purpose to be more conspicuous. The Commander of the bastion, making the round of his “household,” as he expressed it, used as he had become in the last eight months to courage of all sorts, could not help admiring this pretty boy, his unbuttoned cloak showing a red shirt closing round his delicate white neck, as with flushed face and glistening eyes he clapped his hands and gave, in ringing tones, the order, “One⁠—two!” and ran lightly onto the breastwork to see where his bombs were falling. At half-past eleven the firing slackened on both sides, and just at twelve commenced the storming of the Maláhof Redoubt, and of the Second, Third (the Redan), and Fifth Bastions.

XXIII

On the North Side of the Roadstead, at the Star Fort, near noon, two seamen stood on the “telegraph” mound; one of them, an officer, was looking at Sevastopol through the fixed telescope. Another officer, accompanied by a Cossack, had just ridden up to join him at the big Signal-post.

The sun stood high and bright above the Roadstead, which, in the glad, warm light, was playing with its ships at anchor, with their sails and with the boats. The light breeze softly rustled among the dying leaves of the oak bushes near the “telegraph,” filled the sails of the boats and rocked the waves. Sevastopol⁠—still the same: with its unfinished church, its column, its quay, its green boulevard on the hill, its elegant library building, its azure creeks filled with masts, its picturesque aqueduct arches, and with blue clouds of powder-smoke now and then lit up by the blood-red flame of a cannon; the same beautiful, gay, proud Sevastopol, bounded on the one side by the yellow, smoking hills, on the other by the bright blue water of the sea, glittering in the sunlight⁠—lay on the other side of the Roadstead. Above the sea-line, along which the smoke of some passing steamer left a black trail, floated long white clouds which promised wind. Along the whole line of fortifications, but especially on the high ground on the left side, appeared, several at a time, with lightnings that at times flashed bright even in the noonday sun, puffs of thick, dense, white smoke, that grew, taking various shapes, and appearing darker against the sky. These clouds, showing now here, now there, appeared on the hills, on the enemy’s batteries, in the town, and high up in the sky. The reports of explosions never ceased, but rolled together and rent the air.

Towards noon the puffs appeared more and more rarely, and the air vibrated less with the booming.

“I say, the Second Bastion does not reply at all now!” said the hussar officer on horseback; “it is quite knocked to pieces. Terrible!”

“Yes, and the Maláhof, too, sends hardly one shot in reply to three of theirs,” said he who was looking through the telescope. “Their silence provokes me! They are shooting straight into the Kornílof Battery, and it does not reply.”

“But look there! I told you that they always cease the bombardment about noon. It’s the same today. Come, let’s go to lunch; they’ll be waiting for us already. What’s the good of looking?”

“Don’t! wait a bit!” answered the one who had possession of the telescope, looking very eagerly towards Sevastopol.

“What is it? What?”

“A movement in the entrenchments, thick columns advancing.”

“Yes! They can be seen even without a glass, marching in columns. The alarm must be given,” said the seaman.

“Look! look! They’ve left the trenches!”

And, really, with the naked eye one could see what looked like dark spots moving down the hill from the French batteries across the valley to the bastions. In front of these spots dark stripes were already visibly approaching our line. On the bastions white cloudlets burst in succession as if chasing one another. The wind brought a sound of rapid small-arm firing like the beating of rain against a window. The dark stripes were moving in the midst of the smoke and came nearer and nearer. The sounds of firing, growing stronger and stronger, mingled in a prolonged, rumbling peal. Puffs of smoke rose more and more often, spread rapidly along the line, and at last formed one lilac cloud (dotted here and there with little faint lights and black spots), which kept curling and uncurling; and all the sounds blended into one tremendous clatter.

“An assault!” said the naval officer, turning pale and letting the seaman look through the telescope.

Cossacks galloped along the road, some officers rode by, the Commander-in-Chief passed in a carriage with his suite. Every face showed painful excitement and expectation.

“It’s impossible they can have taken it,” said the mounted officer.

“By God, a standard!⁠ ⁠… Look! look!” said the other, panting, and walked away from the telescope: “A French standard on the Maláhof!”

“It can’t be!”

XXIV

The elder Kozeltsóf, who had during the preceding night won back his money and then again before morning lost everything, including the gold pieces sewn in his cuff, was lying in a heavy, unhealthy, but sound sleep in the Defensive Barracks of the Fifth Bastion, when a fateful cry arose, repeated by many voices⁠—

“The alarm!”

“Why are you sleeping, Michael Semyónitch! We are attacked!” shouted someone.

“It must be a hoax,” he said, opening his eyes incredulously.

But suddenly he saw an officer running, without any apparent object, from one corner of the barrack to the other with such a pale face that he understood it all. The thought that they might take him for a coward who did not wish to be with his company at a critical moment upset him terribly. He rushed as fast as he could to join it. The artillery firing had ceased, but the clatter of musketry was at its height. The bullets did not whistle as single ones do, but came in swarms like a flock of autumn birds flying overhead.

The whole place where his battalion was stationed the day before was hidden in smoke, and angry shouts and exclamations were heard. Crowds of soldiers, wounded and not wounded, met him as he went. Having run another thirty paces he saw his company pressing to the wall.

“The Schwartz Redoubt is taken!” said a young officer. “All is lost!”

“Nonsense!” he said angrily, and drawing his little blunt iron sword, he cried⁠—

“Forward, lads! Hurrah!”

His own loud, clear voice roused Kozeltsóf himself. He ran forward along the traverse, and about fifty soldiers ran shouting after him. From the traverse he ran out into the open ground. The bullets fell just like hailstones. Two hit him, but where, and what they had done⁠—bruised or wounded⁠—him he had no time to determine. Before him, through the smoke, he could already see blue uniforms and red trousers and could hear cries that were not Russian. One Frenchman stood on the breastwork waving his cap and shouting something. Kozeltsóf felt sure he would be killed, and this increased his courage. He ran on and on. Several soldiers outran him, others appeared from somewhere else and also ran. The blue uniforms remained at the same distance from him, running back to their trenches, but there were dead and wounded on the ground under his feet. When he had run to the outer ditch all became blurred to Kozeltsóf’s eyes, and he felt a pain in his chest.

Half-an-hour later he was lying on a stretcher by the Nicholas Barracks, and he knew that he was wounded, but felt hardly any pain. He only wished for something cool to drink and to lie more comfortably.

A little, plump doctor with large black whiskers came up to him and unbuttoned his cloak. Kozeltsóf looked over his chin to see what the doctor was doing to his wound, and at the doctor’s face, but he still felt no pain. The doctor covered the wound with the shirt, wiped his fingers on the skirt of his cloak, and silently, without looking at the wounded man, passed on to another patient. Kozeltsóf watched unconsciously what was going on around him, and remembering what had happened at the Fifth Bastion with an exceedingly joyful feeling of self-satisfaction, thought that he had performed his duty well⁠—that for the first time during his whole service, he had acted as well as was possible and had nothing to reproach himself with. The doctor, bandaging another man, pointed to Kozeltsóf and said something to a priest with a large red beard who stood nearby with a cross.

“Am I dying?” asked Kozeltsóf, when the priest approached him.

The priest, without replying, said a prayer and held the cross to the lips of the wounded man.

Death did not frighten Kozeltsóf. He took the cross with his weak hands, pressed it to his lips and began to weep.

“Were the French driven back?” he asked the priest.

“The victory is ours at all points,” answered the latter to console the wounded man, hiding from him the fact that from the Maláhof Redoubt the French standard was already waving.

“Thank God!” exclaimed the dying man. He did not feel the tears that ran down his cheeks.

The thought of his brother flashed through his brain:

“God grant him as good a fate,” thought he.

XXV

But a different fate awaited Volódya. He was listening to a tale Vásin was telling when he heard the cry, “The French are coming!” The blood rushed suddenly to his heart, and he felt his cheeks grow cold and pale. He remained immovable for a moment, but glancing round, he saw the soldiers pretty coolly fastening their uniforms and crawling out one after the other. One of them⁠—Mélnikof probably⁠—even joked, saying, “Let’s meet them with bread and salt.”78

Volódya and Vlang, who followed him like his shadow, climbed out of the bombproof and ran to the battery. There was no artillery firing at all on either side. The quiet appearance of the soldiers did less to rouse Volódya than the pitiful cowardice of the Junker. “Can I possibly be like him?” he thought, and ran gaily up to the breastwork where his mortars stood. He could plainly see the French running straight towards him across the open ground, and crowds of them moving in the nearer trenches, their bayonets glittering in the sunshine. One short, broad-shouldered fellow in a Zouave uniform ran in front, sword in hand, jumping across the pits.

“Fire with case-shot!” cried Volódya, running down from the banquette; but the soldiers had made their arrangements without waiting for his orders, and the metallic ring of the escaping case-shot whistled over his head, first from one mortar and then from the other. “One⁠—Two!” ordered Volódya, running the distance between the two mortars and quite forgetting the danger. From one side, and near at hand, the clatter of the muskets of our supports mingled with excited cries.

Suddenly a wild cry of despair arose on the left. “They’re behind us! behind us!” was repeated by several voices. Volódya looked round. About twenty Frenchmen appeared behind him. One of them, a handsome man with a black beard, was ahead of the rest, but when he had run up to within ten paces of the battery he stopped, fired point-blank at Volódya, and then again started running towards him. For a moment Volódya stood petrified, unable to believe his eyes. When he recollected himself and glanced round, he saw French uniforms on the breastwork in front of him; two Frenchmen, about ten paces from him, were even spiking a cannon. No one was near but Mélnikof, who had fallen at his side killed by a bullet, and Vlang, who had seized a linstock and was rushing forward with a furious look on his face, rolling his eyes and shouting. “Follow me, Vladímir Semyónitch!⁠ ⁠… Follow me!” cried Vlang in a desperate voice, brandishing his linstock at the Frenchmen who had come up from behind. The ferocious figure of the Junker perplexed them. Vlang hit the front one on the head; the others involuntarily hesitated, and continually looking back and shouting desperately, “Follow me, Vladímir Semyónitch; why are you stopping? run!” he ran to the trench where our infantry lay firing at the French. Having jumped in, he climbed out again to see what his adored Ensign was doing. Something in a cloak lay prostrate where Volódya had stood, and the whole of that part was covered with Frenchmen firing at our men.

XVI

Vlang found his company at the second line of defence. Of the twenty soldiers who had gone to the mortar battery, only eight had escaped.

Towards nine in the evening Vlang with the battery crossed over to the North Side on a steamer filled with soldiers, cannon, horses, and wounded men. There was no firing anywhere. The stars shone as brightly in the sky as they had done the night before, but a strong wind rocked the waves. On the First and Second Bastions flames kept bursting up along the ground; explosions rent the air and lit up around them strange dark objects and stones flying in the air. Something was burning near the docks, and the red glare was reflected in the water. The bridge, thronged with people, was illuminated by the fire on the Nicholas Battery. A large flame seemed to stand above the water on the distant little headland of the Alexander Battery, lighting up from below the clouds of smoke that hung above it; and quiet, insolent, distant lights gleamed over the sea, as they had done yesterday, from the fleet of the enemy. A fresh wind rocked the Roadstead. By the glaring light of the conflagrations one could see the masts of our sinking ships, which were slowly descending deeper and deeper into the water. No one was talking on board, only the words of command given by the captain, the snorting and stamping of the animals on the vessel, and the moaning of the wounded, were heard above the steam and the regular swish of the parting waters. Vlang, who had not eaten all day, took a piece of bread from his pocket and began munching it; but suddenly remembering Volódya, he began to cry so loud that the soldiers near him heard it.

“Look! he has bread to eat, and still he cries, our Vlánga does!” said Vásin.

“That’s queer,” said another. “Look! our barrack has been fired as well,” continued he with a sigh; “and how many of the likes of us have perished; and the Frenchmen have got it for nothing.”

“At all events, we have got off alive, thank heaven!” said Vásin.

“It’s a shame, for all that.”

“Where’s the shame? D’you think they’ll get a chance of amusing themselves out there? See if ours don’t take it back. Never mind how many of the likes of us is lost; if the Emperor gives the word, as sure as there’s a God we’ll take it back. You don’t suppose ours will just leave it so? No fear! Here you are; take the bare walls⁠ ⁠… The ’trenchments are all blown up⁠ ⁠… Yes, I daresay⁠ ⁠… He’s stuck his flag on the mound, but he’s not gone and shoved himself into the town. You wait a bit! The real reckoning will come⁠—only wait a bit,” he concluded, admonishing the French.

“Of course it will!” said another with conviction.

Along the whole line of the Sevastopol bastions, which for so many months had been seething with such amazingly energetic life, for so many months had seen heroes relieved by death as they fell one after another, and for so many months had aroused the fear, the hatred, and at last the admiration of the enemy⁠—on these bastions no one was now to be seen. All was dead, ghastly, terrible, but not silent: the destruction still went on. Everywhere on the earth, blasted and strewn around by fresh explosions, lay shattered gun-carriages, crushing the corpses of foes and Russians alike; cast-iron cannons, silenced forever, thrown with terrific force into holes and half-buried in the earth; bombs, cannonballs and more dead bodies, then holes and splintered beams from the bombproofs, and again silent corpses in grey and blue uniforms. All this still shuddered again and again, and was lit up by the lurid flames of the explosions that continued to shake the air.

The enemy saw that something incomprehensible was happening in awe-inspiring Sevastopol. The explosions and the deathly stillness on the bastions made them shudder; but still, under the influence of the strong and firm resistance of that day, they dared not yet believe that their unflinching foe had vanished; and silently, and anxiously immovable, they awaited the end of the sombre night.

The Sevastopol army, surging and spreading like the sea on a rough, dark night, anxiously palpitating through all its members, moved through the dense darkness, slowly swaying, by the bridge over the Roadstead, and on to the North Side, away from the place where it was leaving so many brave brothers, from the place saturated with its blood, from the place which it had held for eleven months from a far stronger foe, but which it was now commanded to abandon without a struggle.

The first effect this command had on every Russian was one of oppressive bewilderment. The next sensation was fear of pursuit. The men felt helpless as soon as they had left the places where they were accustomed to fight, and they crowded anxiously together in the darkness at the entrance to the bridge, which was rocked by the strong wind. With bayonets clashing one against another⁠—line regiments, ships’ crews, and militiamen jumbled together⁠—those on foot pressed onward, mounted officers bearing orders forced their way, inhabitants and orderlies with loads, which were not allowed to pass, wept and implored, while the artillery with noisy wheels, hurrying to get away, moved towards the bay. Notwithstanding the diversion resulting from their various and varied occupations, the instinct of self-preservation and the desire to get away from this dreadful place of death as quickly as possible was present in the soul of each. It was present in the mortally wounded soldier who lay, among 500 other wounded men, on the pavement of the Pávlof Quay, praying to God for death; and in the militiaman pushing with all his might into the dense crowd to make way for a general who rode past; and in the general who conducted the crossing, firmly restraining the impetuosity of the soldiers; and in the sailor who, having got among the moving battalions, was squeezed by the swaying crowd till he could scarcely breathe; and in the wounded officer whom four soldiers had been carrying on a stretcher, but whom, stopped by the throng, they had been obliged to lay on the ground near the Nicholas Battery; and in the artilleryman who, having served for sixteen years with the same gun, now, in obedience to an officer’s orders, quite incomprehensible to him, was, with the aid of his comrades, pushing that gun down the steep bank into the Roadstead; and in the sailors of the fleet who, having just knocked out the scuttles in the ships, were briskly rowing away from them in their longboats. On reaching the North Side and leaving the bridge, almost every man took off his cap and crossed himself. But behind this feeling there was another, a sad, gnawing, and deeper feeling, which seemed like remorse, shame, and anger. Almost every soldier, looking back from the North Side at the abandoned town, sighed with inexpressible bitterness in his heart, and menaced the enemy.

Meeting a Moscow Acquaintance in the Detachment

We were out with a detachment. The work in hand was almost done, the cutting through the forest was nearly finished, and we were expecting every day to receive orders from headquarters to retire to the fort.

Our division of the battery guns was placed on the slope of a steep mountain range which stretched down to the rapid little mountain river Mechik, and we had to command the plain in front. Occasionally, especially towards evening, on this picturesque plain, beyond the range of our guns, groups of peaceable mountaineers on horseback appeared here and there, curious to see the Russian camp. The evening was clear, quiet, and fresh, as December evenings usually are in the Caucasus. The sun was setting behind the steep spur of the mountain range to the left, and threw rosy beams on the tents scattered over the mountain side, on the moving groups of soldiers, and on our two guns, standing as if with outstretched necks, heavy and motionless, on the earthwork battery close by. The infantry picket, stationed on a knoll to our left, was sharply outlined against the clear light of the sunset, with its piles of arms, the figure of its sentry, its group of soldiers, and the smoke of its watch-fires. To the right and to the left, halfway down the hill, white tents gleamed on the trodden black earth, and beyond the tents loomed the bare black trunks of the plane forest, where axes continually rang, fires crackled, and trees fell crashing down. On all sides the pale bluish smoke rose in columns towards the blue frosty sky. Beyond the tents, and on the low ground by the stream, Cossacks, dragoons, and artillery drivers trailed, with stampings and snortings, returning from watering their horses. It was beginning to freeze; all sounds were heard with unusual distinctness, and one could see far into the plain through the clear rarefied air. The groups of natives, no longer exciting the curiosity of our men, rode quietly over the light-yellow stubble of the maize-fields. Here and there through the trees could be seen the tall posts of Tartar cemeteries, and the smoke of their aouls.

Our tent was pitched near the guns, on a dry and elevated spot whence the view was specially extensive. By the tent, close to the battery, we had cleared a space for the games of Gorodki,79 or Choushki. Here the attentive soldiers had erected for us rustic seats and a small table. Because of all these conveniences, our comrades the artillery officers, and some of the infantry, liked to assemble at our battery, and called this place “The Club.”

It was a beautiful evening, the best players had come, and we were playing Gorodki. I, Ensign O⁠⸺, and Lieutenant O⁠⸺, lost two games running, and to the general amusement and laughter of the onlooking officers, and of soldiers and orderlies who were watching us from their tents, we twice carried the winners pickaback from one end of the ground to the other. Specially amusing was the position of the enormous, fat Lieutenant-Captain S⁠⸺, who, puffing and smiling good-humouredly, with his feet trailing on the ground, rode on the back of the small and puny Lieutenant O⁠⸺. But it was growing late. The orderlies brought three tumblers of tea without any saucers, for the whole six of us, and having finished our game we came to the rustic seats. Near them stood a short, bandy-legged man whom I did not know, dressed in a sheepskin coat, and with a large, white, long-woolled sheepskin cap on his head. As soon as we approached him he hesitatingly took off and put on his cap several times, and repeatedly seemed on the point of coming up to us but then stopped again. Having, I suppose, decided that he could no longer remain unnoticed, this stranger again raised his cap, and passing round us approached Lieutenant-Captain S⁠⸺.

“Ah, Guskantini! Well, what is it, old chap?” said S⁠⸺, still continuing to smile good-humouredly after his ride.

Guskantini, as S⁠⸺ called him, put on his cap at once, and pretended to put his hands in the pockets of his sheepskin coat; but on the side turned to me, I could see it had no pocket, so that his little red hand remained in an awkward position. I tried to make up my mind what this man could be (a cadet or an officer reduced to the ranks?), and without noticing that my attention (the attention of an unknown officer) confused him, I looked intently at his clothing and general appearance. He seemed to be about thirty. His small round grey eyes seemed to look sleepily and yet anxiously from under the dirty white wool which hung over his face from his shaggy cap. The thick irregular nose between the sunken cheeks accentuated his sickly unnatural emaciation. His lips, but slightly covered with thin light-coloured moustaches, were continually in motion, as if trying to put on now one, now another expression. But all these expressions seemed unfinished; his face still kept its one predominant expression of mingled fear and hurry. His thin scraggy neck was enveloped in a green woollen scarf partly hidden under his sheepskin coat. The coat was worn bare and was short; it was trimmed with dog’s fur round the collar and at the false pockets. He had checked greyish trousers on, and soldier’s boots with short unblacked tops.

“Please don’t trouble,” said I, when he again raised his cap, looking timidly at me.

He bowed with a grateful look, put on his cap, and taking from his trousers-pocket a dirty calico tobacco-pouch tied with a cord, began to make a cigarette.

It was not long since I myself had been a cadet; an old cadet, who could no longer act the good-humoured attentive younger comrade to the officers, and a cadet without means. Understanding, therefore, all the wretchedness of such a position for a proud man no longer young, I felt for all who were in that state, and tried to discern their characters and the degree and direction of their mental capacities, in order to be able to judge the extent of their moral suffering. This cadet, or reduced officer, judging by his restless look and the purposely varying expression of his face, seemed to be far from stupid, but full of self-love, and therefore very pitiable.

Lieutenant-Captain S⁠⸺ proposed another game of Gorodki, the losers, besides carrying the winners pickaback, to stand a couple of bottles of claret, with rum, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves, to make mulled wine, which was very popular in our detachment that winter because of the cold weather. Guskantini, as S⁠⸺ again called him, was also asked to join, but before beginning, evidently wavering between the pleasure this invitation gave him and fear of some kind, he led Lieutenant-Captain S⁠⸺ aside and whispered something into his ear. The good-natured Lieutenant-Captain slapped him on the stomach with the palm of his big fat hand, and answered aloud, “Never mind, old chap, I’ll give you credit!”

When the game was finished, and when, the side of the lower-grade stranger having won, he should have ridden on one of our officers, Ensign D⁠⸺, the latter blushed, turned aside to the seats, and offered the stranger some cigarettes by way of ransom. When the mulled wine had been ordered, and one could hear Nikita’s bustling arrangements in the orderlies’ tent, and how he sent a messenger for cinnamon and cloves, and could then see his back, first here and then there, bulging the dirty sides of the tent⁠—we, the seven of us, sat down by the little table, drinking tea in turns out of the three tumblers, and looking out over the plain, which began to veil itself in evening twilight, while we talked and laughed over the different incidents of the game. The stranger in the sheepskin coat took no part in the conversation, persistently refused the tea I repeatedly offered him, and, sitting on the ground Tartar-fashion, made cigarettes one after the other out of tobacco-dust and smoked them, evidently not so much for his own pleasure as to give himself an appearance of being occupied. When it was mentioned that a retreat was expected next day, and that perhaps we should have a fight, he rose to his knees and, addressing only Lieutenant-Captain S⁠⸺, said that he had just been at home with the Adjutant and had himself written out an order to move next day. We all were silent while he spoke, and, though he was evidently abashed, we made him repeat this communication⁠—highly interesting to us. He repeated what he had said, adding, however, that at the time the order arrived, he was with, and sat with, the Adjutant, with whom he lived.

“Mind, if you are not telling us a lie, old chap, I must be off to my company to give some orders for tomorrow,” said Lieutenant-Captain S⁠⸺.

“No.⁠ ⁠… Why should?⁠ ⁠… Is it likely?⁠ ⁠… It is certain⁠ ⁠…” began the stranger, but stopped suddenly, having evidently determined to feel hurt, frowned unnaturally and, muttering something between his teeth, again began making cigarettes. But the dregs of tobacco-dust that he could extract from his pouch being insufficient, he asked S⁠⸺ to favour him with the loan of a cigarette. We long continued among ourselves that monotonous military chatter familiar to all who have been on campaign. We complained, ever in the same terms, of the tediousness and duration of the expedition; discussed our commanders in the same old way; and, just as often before, we praised one comrade, pitied another, were astonished that So-and-so won so much, and that So-and-so lost so much at cards, and so on, and so on.

“Our Adjutant has got himself into a mess, and no mistake,” said Lieutenant-Captain S⁠⸺. “He always used to win when he was on the staff⁠—whoever he sat down with he’d pluck clean⁠—but now these last two months he does nothing but lose. He has not hit it off this campaign! I should think he’s lost 2,000 rubles in money, and things for another 500: the carpet he won of Mukhin, Nikitin’s pistols, the gold watch from Sada’s that Vorontsov gave him⁠—have all gone.”

“Serves him right,” said Lieutenant O⁠⸺; “he gulled everybody; it was impossible to play with him.”

“He gulled everybody, and now he himself is gravelled,” and Lieutenant-Captain S⁠⸺ laughed good-naturedly. “Guskov, here, lives with him⁠—the Adjutant nearly lost him one day at cards!⁠—Really.⁠—Am I not right, old chap?” he said, turning to Guskov.

Guskov laughed. It was a pitifully sickly laugh which completely changed the expression of his face. This change suggested to me the idea that I had seen and known the man before; besides, Guskov, his real name, was familiar to me. But how and when I had seen him I was quite unable to recollect.

“Yes,” said Guskov, who kept raising his hand to his moustaches and letting it sink again without touching them, “Paul Dmitrich has been very unlucky this campaign: such a veine de malheur,”80 he added, in carefully spoken but good French, and I again thought I had met, and even often met, him somewhere. “I know Paul Dmitrich well; he has great confidence in me,” continued he; “we are old acquaintances⁠—I mean he is fond of me,” he added, evidently alarmed at his own too bold assertion of being an old acquaintance of the Adjutant. “Paul Dmitrich plays remarkably well, but now it is incomprehensible what has happened to him; he seems quite lost⁠—la chance a tourné,”81 he said, addressing himself chiefly to me.

At first we had listened to Guskov with condescending attention; but as soon as he uttered this second French phrase we all involuntarily turned away from him.

“I have played hundreds of times with him,” said Lieutenant O⁠⸺, “and you won’t deny that it is strange” (he put a special emphasis on the word “strange”), “remarkably strange, that I never once won even a twenty-kopeck piece of him. How is it I win when playing with others?”

“Paul Dmitrich plays admirably: I have long known him,” said I. I had really known the Adjutant for some years; had more than once seen him playing for stakes high in proportion to the officers’ means; and had admired his handsome, rather stern, and ever imperturbably calm face, his slow, Little-Russian pronunciation, his beautiful things, his horses, his leisurely, Little-Russian disposition, and especially his ability to play with self-control⁠—systematically and pleasantly. I confess that more than once, when looking at his plump white hands, with a diamond ring on the first finger, as he beat my cards one after the other, I was enraged with this ring, with the white hands, with the whole person of the Adjutant, and evil thoughts concerning him rose in my mind. But on thinking matters over in cool blood I became convinced that he was simply a more sagacious player than all those with whom he happened to play. I was confirmed in this by the fact that when listening to his general reflections on gaming⁠—how, having been lucky starting with a small stake, one should follow up one’s luck; how in certain cases one ought to stop playing; that the first rule was to play for ready-money, etc., etc.⁠—it was clear that he always won simply because he was cleverer and more self-possessed than the rest of us. And it now appeared that this self-possessed, strong player had, in the detachment, lost completely: not only money, but other belongings as well⁠—which among officers indicates the lowest depth of loss.

“He was always devilish lucky when playing against me,” continued Lieutenant O⁠⸺; “I have sworn never to play with him again.”

“What a queer fellow you are, old man!” said S⁠⸺, winking at me so that his whole head moved, while he addressed O⁠⸺; “you have lost some 300 rubles to him⁠—lost it, haven’t you?”

“More!” said the Lieutenant crossly.

“And now you’ve suddenly come to your senses; but it’s too late, old chap! Everyone else has long known him to be the sharper of our regiment,” said S⁠⸺, hardly able to refrain from laughter, and highly delighted at his invention.

“Here’s Guskov himself⁠—he prepares the cards for him. That is why they are friends, old chap!⁠ ⁠…” And Lieutenant-Captain S⁠⸺ laughed good-humouredly so that he shook all over and spilt some of the mulled wine he held in his hand. A faint tinge of colour seemed to rise on Guskov’s thin, yellow face; he opened his mouth repeatedly, lifted his hands to his moustaches and let them drop again to the places where his pockets should have been, several times began to rise but sat down again, and at last said in an unnatural voice, turning to S⁠⸺:

“This is not a joke, Nicholas Ivanich, you are saying such things! And in the presence of people who don’t know me and who see me in a common sheepskin coat⁠ ⁠… because⁠ ⁠…” His voice failed him, and again the little red hands with their dirty nails moved from his coat to his face; now smoothing his moustaches or hair, now touching his nose, rubbing his eye, or unnecessarily scratching his cheek.

“What’s the good of talking; everyone knows it, old chap!” continued S⁠⸺, really enjoying his joke and not in the least noticing Guskov’s excitement. Guskov again muttered something, and leaning his right elbow on his left knee in a most unnatural position, looked at S⁠⸺ and tried to smile contemptuously.

“Yes,” thought I, watching that smile, “I have not only seen him before, but have spoken with him somewhere.”

“We must have met somewhere before,” I said to him when, under the influence of the general silence, S⁠⸺’s laughter began to subside.

Guskov’s mobile face suddenly brightened, and his eyes, taking for the first time a sincerely pleased expression, turned to me.

“Certainly; I knew you at once!” he began in French. “In ’48 I had the pleasure of meeting you rather often in Moscow, at my sister’s⁠—the Ivashins.”

I apologized for not having recognized him in his present costume. He rose, approached me, and with his moist hand irresolutely and feebly pressed mine. Instead of looking at me, whom he professed to be so glad to see, he looked round in an unpleasantly boastful kind of way at the other officers. Either because he had been recognized by me who had seen him some years before in a drawing-room in a dress-coat, or because that recollection suddenly raised him in his own esteem, his face and even his movements, as it seemed to me, changed completely. They now expressed a lively intellect, childish self-satisfaction at the consciousness of that intellect, and a kind of contemptuous indifference. So that, I admit, notwithstanding the pitiful position he was in, my old acquaintance no longer inspired me with sympathy but with an almost inimical feeling.

I vividly recalled our first meeting. In ’48, during my stay in Moscow, I often visited Ivashin. We had grown up together and were old friends. His wife was a pleasant hostess and what is considered an amiable woman, but I never liked her. The winter I visited them, she often spoke with ill-concealed pride of her brother, who had lately finished his studies, and was, it seemed, among the best-educated and most popular young men in the best Petersburg society. Knowing by reputation Guskov’s father, who was very rich and held an important position, and knowing his sister’s leanings, I was prejudiced before I met Guskov. One evening, having come to see Ivashin, I found there a very pleasant-looking young man, not tall, in a black swallowtail coat and white waistcoat and tie; but the host omitted to introduce us to one another. The young man, evidently prepared to go to a ball, stood hat in hand in front of Ivashin, hotly but politely arguing about a common acquaintance of ours who had recently distinguished himself in the Hungarian campaign. He was maintaining that this acquaintance of ours was not at all a hero, or a man born for war, as was said of him, but merely a clever and well-educated man. I remember that I took part against Guskov in the dispute, and went to an extreme, even undertaking to show that intelligence and education were always in inverse ratio to bravery; and I remember how Guskov pleasantly and cleverly argued that bravery is an inevitable result of intelligence and of a certain degree of development; with which view (considering myself to be intelligent and well-educated) I could not help secretly agreeing. I remember also how, at the end of our conversation, Ivashin’s wife introduced us to one another, and how her brother, with a condescending smile, gave me his little hand, on which he had not quite finished drawing a kid-glove, and pressed mine in the same feeble and irresolute manner as he did now. Though prejudiced against Guskov, I could not then help doing him the justice of agreeing with his sister that he really was an intelligent and pleasant young man, who ought to succeed in society. He was exceedingly neat, elegantly dressed, fresh-looking, and had self-confidently modest manners and a very youthful, almost childlike, appearance, which made one unconsciously forgive the expression of self-satisfaction and of a desire to mitigate the degree of his superiority over you, which his intelligent face, and especially his smile, always showed. It was reported that he had great success among the Moscow ladies that winter. Meeting him at his sister’s, I could only infer the amount of truth in these reports from the expression of pleasure and satisfaction he always wore, and from the indiscreet stories he sometimes told. We met some half-dozen times and talked a good deal, or, rather, he talked a good deal and I listened. He usually spoke French, in a very correct, fluent, and ornamental style, and knew how, politely and gently, to interrupt others in conversation. In general he treated me, and everyone, rather condescendingly; and, as always happens to me with people who are firmly convinced that I ought to be treated with condescension, and whom I do not know well, I felt that he was quite right in so doing.

Now, when he sat down beside me and gave me his hand of his own accord, I vividly recalled his former supercilious expression, and thought that he, as one of inferior rank, was not making quite a fair use of the advantages of his position in questioning me, an officer, in an offhand manner, as to what I had been doing all this time and how I came to be here. Though I answered in Russian every time, he always began again in French, in which it was noticeable that he no longer expressed himself as easily as formerly. About himself he only told me in passing that after that unfortunate and stupid affair of his (I did not know what this affair was, and he did not tell me) he had been three months under arrest, and was afterwards sent to the Caucasus to the N⁠⸺ Regiment, and had now served three years as a private.

“You would not believe,” said he, in French, “what I have suffered at the hands of the officer sets! It was lucky I formerly knew this Adjutant we have just been talking about: he is really a good fellow,” he remarked condescendingly.

“I am living with him, and it is, after all, some mitigation. Oui, mon cher, les jours se suivent, mats ne se ressemblent pas,”82 he added, but suddenly became confused, blushed, and rose from his seat, having noticed that the Adjutant we had been talking about was approaching us.

“It is such a consolation to meet a man like you,” whispered Guskov as he was leaving my side; “there is very very much I should like to talk over with you.”

I told him I should be very glad, though I confess that, in reality, Guskov inspired me with an unsympathetic painful kind of pity.

I foresaw that I should feel uncomfortable when alone with him, but I wanted to hear a good many things from him, especially how it was that, while his father was so wealthy, he was poor, as his clothes and habits showed.

The Adjutant greeted us all except Guskov, and sat down beside me where the latter had been.

Paul Dmitrich, whom I had always known as a calm, deliberate, strong gambler and a moneyed man, was now very different from what he had been in the flourishing days of his card-playing. He seemed to be in a hurry, kept looking round at everybody, and before five minutes were over he, who always used to be reluctant to play, now proposed to Lieutenant O⁠⸺ that the latter should start a “bank.”

Lieutenant O⁠⸺ declined, under pretext of having his duties to attend to; his real reason being that, knowing how little money and how few things Paul Dmitrich still possessed, he considered it unwise to risk his three hundred rubles against the hundred or less he might win.

“Is it true, Paul Dmitrich,” said the Lieutenant, evidently wishing to avoid a repetition of the request, “that we are to leave here tomorrow?”

“I don’t know,” replied Paul Dmitrich, “but the orders are, to be ready! But really we’d better have a game: I would stake my Kabarda83 horse.”

“No, today⁠ ⁠…”

“The grey one. Come what may! Or else, if you like, we’ll play for money. Well?”

“Oh, but I⁠—I would readily⁠—you must not think⁠—” began Lieutenant O⁠⸺, answering his own doubts, “but, you know, we may have an attack or a march before us tomorrow, and I want to have a good sleep.”

The Adjutant rose, and putting his hands in his pockets began pacing up and down. His face assumed the usual cold and somewhat proud expression which I liked in him.

“Won’t you have a glass of mulled wine?” I asked.

“I don’t mind if I do,” he said, coming towards me.

But Guskov hurriedly took the tumbler out of my hand and carried it to the Adjutant, trying at the same time not to look at him. But he did not notice one of the cords with which the tent was fastened, stumbled over it, and letting the tumbler drop, fell on his hands.

“What a muff!” said the Adjutant, who had already stretched out his hand for the tumbler. Everyone burst out laughing, including Guskov, who was rubbing his bony knee, which he could not have hurt in falling.

“That’s the way the bear served the hermit,” continued the Adjutant. “It’s the way he serves me every day! He has wrenched out all the tent-pegs stumbling over them.” Guskov, paying no heed to him, apologized, looking at me with a scarcely perceptible, sad smile, which seemed to say that I alone could understand him. He was very pitiable, but the Adjutant, his protector, seemed for some reason to be angry with his lodger, and would not let him alone.

“Oh yes, he is a sharp boy, turn him which way you will.”

“But who does not stumble over those pegs, Paul Dmitrich?” said Guskov; “you yourself stumbled the day before yesterday.”

“I, old fellow, am not in the ranks; smartness is not expected of me.”

“He may drag his feet,” added Lieutenant-Captain S⁠⸺, “but a private must skip⁠ ⁠…”

“What curious jokes!⁠ ⁠…” said Guskov, almost in a whisper, with eyes cast down. The Adjutant evidently did not feel indifferent to his lodger; he watched greedily every word he uttered.

“He’ll have to be sent to the ambuscades again,” he said, addressing S⁠⸺, and winking towards the disgraced one.

“Well, then, tears will flow again,” said S⁠⸺, laughing.

Guskov no longer looked at me, but pretended to be getting tobacco from the pouch which had long been empty.

“Get ready to go to the outposts, old chap,” said S⁠⸺, laughing, “the scouts have reported that the camp will be attacked tonight, so reliable lads will have to be told off.”

Guskov smiled undecidedly, as if preparing to say something, and cast several imploring looks at S⁠⸺.

“Well, you know I have been before, and I shall go again if I am sent,” muttered he.

“Yes, and you will be sent!”

“Well, and I’ll go. What of that?”

“Yes, just as you did at Argun⁠—ran away from the ambuscade and threw away your gun,” said the Adjutant, and, turning away from him, began telling us about the order for the next day.

It was true that the enemy was expected to fire at the camp in the night, and a movement of some sort was to take place next day. After talking on various subjects of general interest for a while, the Adjutant, as if he had chanced suddenly to recollect it, proposed to Lieutenant O⁠⸺ to have a little game. The Lieutenant quite unexpectedly accepted, and they went with S⁠⸺ and the Ensign to the Adjutant’s tent, where a green folding-table and cards were to be found. The Captain, who was commander of our division, went to his tent to sleep, the other gentlemen also went away, and Guskov and I were left alone.

I had not been mistaken; I really felt uncomfortable alone with him, and I could not help rising and pacing up and down the battery. Guskov walked silently by my side, turning round hurriedly and nervously so as neither to lag behind nor pass before me.

“I am not in your way?” he said, in a meek, sad voice. As far as I could judge in the darkness his face seemed deeply thoughtful and melancholy.

“Not at all,” I answered, but as he did not begin to speak, and I did not know what to say to him, we walked a good while in silence.

The twilight was now quite replaced by the darkness of night, but over the black outlines of the mountains the sheet-lightnings so common there in the evening flashed brightly. Above our heads tiny stars twinkled in the pale-blue frosty sky, and the red flames of smoking watch-fires glared all around: the tents near us seemed grey, and the embankment of our battery a gloomy black. From the fire nearest to us, round which our orderlies sat warming themselves and talking low, now and then a gleam fell on the brass of our heavy guns, and made visible the figure of the sentry, as, with his cloak thrown over his shoulders, he walked with measured steps along the embankment.

“You can’t think what a relief it is to me to talk to a man like you!” said Guskov, though he had not yet spoken to me about anything. “Only a man who has been in my position can understand it.”

I did not know what to answer, and again we were silent, though it was evident that he wished to speak out and I wished to hear him.

“For what were you.⁠ ⁠… What was the cause of your misfortune?” I asked at last, unable to think of any better way to start the conversation.

“Did you not hear about that unfortunate affair with Metenin?”

“Oh yes; a duel, I think. I heard some reference to it,” I answered. “You see, I have been some time in the Caucasus.”

“No, not a duel, but that stupid and terrible affair! I will tell you all about it if you have not heard it. It was that same year when you and I used to meet at my sister’s. I was then living in Petersburg. But first I must tell you that I then had what is called une position dans le monde.84 and a tolerably lucrative, if not brilliant one. Mon père me donnait 10,000 par an.85 In ’49 I was promised a place in the embassy at Turin; an uncle on my mother’s side had influence and was always ready to give me a lift. It’s now a thing of the past. J’étais reçu dans la meilleure société de Petersbourg; je pouvais prétendre86 to make a good match. I had learnt⁠—as we all learn at school; so that I possessed no special education. It is true I read a good deal afterwards, mais j’avais surtout, you know, ce jargon du monde;87 and, whatever the cause, I was considered one of the leading young men in Petersburg. What raised me most in the general estimation, c’est cette liaison avec Mme. D⁠⸺⁠,88 which was much talked of in Petersburg. But I was awfully young at the time, and set little value on these advantages. I was simply young and foolish. What more did I need? At that time in Petersburg that fellow Metenin had a reputation⁠ ⁠…” And Guskov continued in this manner to tell me the story of his misfortune, which, being quite uninteresting, I shall here omit.

“Two months,” continued he, “I was under arrest and quite alone. I don’t know what did not pass through my mind in that time; but, do you know, when it was all over, when it seemed as if every link with the past was severed, it became easier for me. Mon père, vous en avez entendu parler89 surely: he is a man with an iron will and firm convictions; il m’a déshérité,90 and ceased all intercourse with me. According to his convictions it was the proper thing to do, and I do not blame him at all; il a été conséquent.91 And I also did not take a step to induce him to change his mind. My sister was abroad. Mme. D⁠⸺ was the only one who wrote to me when letters were allowed, and she offered me help; but you will understand that I could not accept it, so that I had none of those trifles which somewhat mitigate such a position, you know⁠—no books, no linen, no private food, nothing. Many, very many thoughts passed through my brain at that time, and I began to look at everything with other eyes; for instance, all that noise and gossip about me in Petersburg society no longer interested or flattered me in the least; it all seemed ridiculous. I felt I was myself to blame; I had been careless and young and had spoilt my career, and my only thought was how to retrieve it. And I felt I had strength and energy enough to do it. After my arrest was over, I was, as I told you, sent to the Caucasus to the N⁠⸺ Regiment.

“I thought that here, in the Caucasus,” he continued, growing more and more animated, “la vie de camp,92 the simple, honest men with whom I should be in contact, the war, the dangers⁠—all this would just suit my frame of mind, and I thought I should begin life anew. On me verra au feu93⁠—people would like me, would respect me not for my name only; then I should receive a cross, become a noncommissioned officer, and at last be pardoned, and should return, et, vous savez, avec ce prestige du malheur!94 But quel désenchantement!95 You can’t think how I was mistaken!⁠ ⁠… You know the officer set of our regiment?” He paused for some time, probably expecting me to say that I knew how bad the society of officers here is; but I did not reply to him. I was disgusted that⁠—on account, no doubt, of my knowing French⁠—he should suppose that I ought to despise the officer set, which, on the contrary, I, having lived long in the Caucasus, had fully learnt to appreciate, and which I esteemed a thousand times more than the society Mr. Guskov had left. I wished to tell him so, but his position restrained me.

“In the N⁠⸺ Regiment the officer set is a thousand times worse than here,” he continued⁠—“J’espère que c’est beaucoup dire96⁠—so that you can’t imagine what it is like! Not to mention the cadets and the soldiers⁠—it is just awful! At first I was well received, that’s perfectly true, but afterwards, when they saw I couldn’t help despising them⁠—when in those scarcely noticeable everyday relations, you know, they saw that I was a totally different sort of man, standing on a far higher level than they⁠—they were exasperated with me, and began to retaliate by subjecting me to all kinds of petty indignities. Ce que j’ai eu à souffrir, vous ne vous faites pas une idée.97 Then, being obliged to associate with the cadets; and, above all, avec les petits moyens que j’avais, je manquais de tout,98 I had only what my sister sent me. A proof of what I have suffered is that I, with my character, avec ma fierté, j’ai écris à mon père,99 imploring him to send me something, however little.⁠ ⁠… I can understand how, after five years of such a life, one may become like our cashiered officer, Dromov, who drinks with the soldiers and writes notes to all the officers begging them to lend him three rubles, and signs himself, ‘Tout à vous Dromov.’ One needs a character like mine in order not to sink quite into the mire in this terrible position.” He then walked silently by my side for a long time. “Avez-vous un papiros?100 he said at last. “Yes⁠ ⁠… where had I got to? Oh yes, I could not stand it. I don’t mean physically, for although it was bad enough and I suffered from cold and hunger and lived like a soldier, yet the officers still had a sort of regard for me. I still had a kind of prestige in their eyes. They did not send me to do sentry duty or drill. I could not have borne that. But morally I suffered terribly, and, above all, I could see no escape from this position. I wrote to my uncle imploring him to transfer me to this regiment, which is at least on active duty, and I thought that here Paul Dmitrich, qui est le fils de l’intendant de mon père,101 would be of use to me. My uncle did this much for me, and I was transferred. After that other regiment, this seemed an assembly of courtiers. And Paul Dmitrich was here; he knew who I was, and I was capitally received⁠—at my uncle’s request⁠ ⁠… Guskov, vous savez. But I noticed that these people, without education or culture, cannot respect a man nor show him respect when he is not surrounded by an aureole of wealth and rank. I noticed how, little by little, when they saw that I was poor, their behaviour to me became more and more careless, and at last almost contemptuous. It is dreadful, but it is perfectly true.

“Here I have been in action, have fought, on m’a vu au feu,”102 he continued, “but when will it end? Never, I think! And my strength and energy are beginning to fail. And then, I had imagined la guerre, la vie de camp,103 but it turns out to be quite different from what I expected: dressed in a sheepskin, in soldier’s boots, unwashed, you are sent to the outposts, and lie all night in a ditch with some Antonov or other who has been sent into the army for drunkenness, and at any moment you may be shot from behind a bush⁠—you or Antonov, all the same.⁠ ⁠… That is not courage! It is horrible. C’est affreux, ça tue.104

“Well, but you may be made a noncommissioned officer for this expedition, and next year may become an ensign,” I said.

“Yes, possibly. I was promised it; but that would be another two years, and it is very doubtful. And does anyone realize what two such years mean? Just imagine the life with this Paul Dmitrich: gambling, rough jokes, dissipation.⁠ ⁠… You want to speak out about something that has risen in your soul, but you are not understood, or you are laughed at. They talk to you not to communicate their thoughts, but to make a fool of you if possible. And it’s all so vulgar, coarse, horrid; and all the time you feel you are a private⁠—they always make you feel that. That is why you can’t imagine what a pleasure it is to talk à cœur ouvert105 to a man like you!”

I could not imagine what sort of a man I was supposed to be, and therefore did not know how to reply to him.

“Will you have supper?” at this moment asked Nikita, who had approached unseen in the darkness, and who, I noticed, was not pleased at the presence of my visitor: “there’s nothing but dumplings and a little beef left.”

“And has the captain had his supper?”

“He’s asleep long ago,” said Nikita, crossly.

On my telling him to bring us something to eat and some vodka, he muttered discontentedly, and went slowly to his tent. However, after grumbling there a bit, he brought us a travelling-case, on which he placed a candle (round which he first tied a piece of paper to keep the wind off), a saucepan, a pot of mustard, a tin cup with a handle, and a bottle of vodka bitters. Having arranged all this, Nikita stood some time near us and watched with evident disapproval while Guskov and I drank some of the spirit. By the dim light of the candle shining through the paper the only things one could see amid the surrounding darkness were the sealskin with which the travelling-case was covered, the supper standing on it, and Guskov’s face, his sheepskin coat, and the little red hands with which he took the dumplings out of the saucepan. All around was black, and only by looking intently could one discern the black battery, the equally black figure of the sentry visible over the breastwork, the watch-fires around, and the reddish stars above. Guskov smiled just perceptibly in a sad and bashful way, as if it were awkward for him to look me in the eyes after his confession. He drank another cup of vodka, and ate greedily, scraping out the saucepan.

“Yes, it must at any rate be some relief to you,” I remarked, in order to say something, “to be acquainted with the adjutant; I have heard he is a very decent fellow.”

“Yes,” answered he, “he is a kindhearted man, but he can’t help being what he is; he can’t be a man: with his education one can’t expect it,” and he suddenly seemed to blush. “You noticed his coarse jokes today about the ambuscades.” And Guskov, in spite of my repeated efforts to stop the conversation, began to justify himself to me, and to demonstrate that he did not run away from the ambuscades, and that he was not a coward, as the Adjutant and Captain S⁠⸺ wished to imply.

“As I told you,” he said, wiping his hands on his sheepskin, “people of that kind can’t be considerate to a man who is a private and who has but little money: that is above their strength. And these last five months, during which it has somehow happened that I have received nothing from my sister, I have noticed how they have changed towards me. This sheepskin I bought of a soldier, and which is so worn that there is no warmth in it” (here he showed me the bare skirt of the coat), “does not inspire him with sympathy or respect for my misfortunes, but only contempt which he is unable to conceal. However great my need, as, for instance, at the present time, when I have nothing to eat except the soldiers’ buckwheat, and nothing to wear,” he continued, seemingly abashed, and pouring out for himself yet another cup of vodka, “he does not think of offering to lend me any money, although he knows that I should certainly repay him, but he waits that I, in my position, should ask him for it. You understand what it would mean for me to have to go to him. Now, to you, for instance, I could say quite straight: Vous étes au-dessus de cela, mon cher, je n’ai pas le sou.106 And do you know,” said he, looking desperately into my eyes, “I tell you straight, I am now in terrible difficulties; Pouvez-vous me préter dix roubles argent?107 My sister must send me something by the next mail, et mon père⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh, with pleasure,” said I, though, on the contrary, it was painful and vexatious, especially because, having lost at cards the day before, I myself had only a little over five rubles, and they were in Nikita’s possession. “Directly,” I said, rising, “I will go and get them from the tent.”

“No, it will do later, ne vous dérangez pas.108

But without listening to him, I crept into the closed tent where my bed stood, and where the captain lay asleep.

“Alexey Ivanich, please lend me ten rubles till our allowances are paid,” said I to the captain, shaking him.

“What! cleared out again? And it’s only yesterday you resolved not to play anymore!” said the captain, still half-asleep.

“No, I have not been playing! But I want it⁠—please lend it me.”

“Makatyuk!” shouted the captain to his orderly, “get me the money-box and bring it here.”

“Hush, not so loud,” I said, listening to Guskov’s measured footsteps outside the tent.

“What!⁠ ⁠… Why not so loud?”

“Oh, that fellow in the ranks asked me for a loan. He’s just outside.”

“If I had known that, I would not have given it you,” remarked the captain. “I have heard about him, he’s the dirtiest young scamp.”

Still the captain let me have the money all the same, ordered the money-box to be put away and the tent properly closed, and again repeating, “If I had known what it was for, I would not have given it you,” he wrapped himself, head and all, in his blanket. “Remember you owe me thirty-two now!” he shouted after me.

When I came out of the tent Guskov was pacing up and down in front of the little seats, his short bandy-legged figure in the ugly cap with the long white wool, disappearing in the darkness and reappearing as he passed in and out of the candlelight. He pretended not to notice me. I gave him the paper-money. He said “Merci!” and crumpling it up he put it in his trousers-pocket.

“I suppose play is in full swing at Paul Dmitrich’s now!” he then began.

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“He plays so queerly, always à rebours,109 and does not hedge. When you have luck it is all right, but then, when it goes against you, you may lose terribly. He is a proof of it. On this expedition he has lost more than fifteen hundred rubles, counting the things he has lost. And with what self-control he used to play formerly! So that that officer of yours seemed even to doubt his honour.”

“Oh, he did not mean anything.⁠ ⁠… Nikita, have we any Caucasian wine left?” I asked, very much relieved by Guskov’s loquacity. Nikita grumbled again, but brought us the wine all the same, and again crossly watched Guskov emptying his cup. In Guskov’s manner the former nonchalance again became apparent. I wished him to go away, and thought he stopped only because he did not like to go immediately after receiving the money. I was silent.

“How could you, with means at your disposal and no necessity, de gaieté de cœur110 make up your mind to come and serve in the Caucasus? That is what I don’t understand,” he said.

I tried to justify myself for this step that seemed to him so strange.

“I can imagine how uncongenial to you also the society of these officers must be, men without an idea of education. It is impossible for you and them to understand one another. Why, you may live here for ten years, and except cards and wine, and talk about rewards and campaigns, you will see nothing and hear nothing.”

I did not like his being so certain that I shared his opinion, and I assured him with perfect sincerity that I was very fond of cards and wine, and of talks about campaigns, and that I did not wish for better comrades than those I had. But he would not believe me.

“Oh, you do not really mean it,” he continued; “and the absence of women⁠—I mean femmes comme il faut111⁠—is not that a terrible privation? I don’t know what I wouldn’t give to transport myself into a drawing-room now, and take a peep, though but through a crack, at a charming woman.”

He was silent a moment and drank another cup of wine.

“Oh God, oh God! It is still possible we may some day meet again in Petersburg among men, live with human beings, with women.”

He emptied the bottle and said: “Oh, pardon, perhaps you would have taken some more, I am so terribly absentminded. And I’m afraid I have drunk too much, et je n’ai pas la tête forte.112 There was a time when I lived on the Morskaya113 au rez-de-chaussée.114 I had a delightful little flat and furniture⁠—you know I had a knack for arranging things elegantly and not too expensively. It is true mon père gave me the crockery, and plants, and excellent silver plate. Le matin je sortais,115 then calls, at five o’clock regulièrement I went to dine with her, and often found her alone. Il faut avouer que c’était une femme ravissante!116 Did you not know her? Not at all?”

“No.”

“You know, there was so much of that womanliness about her, that tenderness, and then such love!⁠ ⁠… Oh God! I did not know how to value my happiness then.⁠ ⁠… Or when we returned from the theatre and had supper together. It was never dull in her company, toujours gaie, toujours aimante.117 Yes, I did not then foresee how rare a joy it was. Et j’ai beaucoup à me reprocher118 in regard to her. Je l’ai fait souffrir, et souvent119⁠—I was cruel. Oh, what a delightful time it was! But I am wearying you.”

“No, not at all.”

“Then I will tell you about our evenings. I used to enter⁠—oh, that staircase, I knew every plant-pot on it⁠—the very door-handle⁠—all was so nice, so familiar to me⁠—then the anteroom, and then her room.⁠ ⁠… No, it will never, never, return! She writes to me even now; I can, if you like, even show you her letters. But I am no longer what I was⁠—I am ruined, I am no longer worthy of her.⁠ ⁠… Yes, I am completely ruined! Je suis cassé.120 I have neither energy nor pride; nothing, not even nobility⁠ ⁠… Yes, I am ruined! and no one will ever understand what I have suffered. Everyone is indifferent. I am a lost man! I can never rise again, because I have sunk morally⁠ ⁠… sunk into the mire⁠ ⁠… sunk.⁠ ⁠…” And a real, deep despair sounded in his voice at that moment; he did not look at me, but sat motionless.

“Why give way to such despair?” I said.

“Because I am vile; this life has destroyed me; all that was in me has perished. I no longer suffer proudly, but basely; I have no dignité dans le malheur.121 I am insulted every moment, and I bear it all, and go to meet insults halfway. The mud a déteint sur moi.122 I have become coarse myself, have forgotten what I knew, I can’t even speak French now, and I feel that I am base and despicable. I can’t fight in these surroundings; it is impossible! I might perhaps have been a hero: give me a regiment, gold epaulets, and trumpeters; but to march side by side with some uncivilized Antonov Bondarenko or other, and to think there is no difference between him and me, it is all the same whether I get killed or he does⁠—that is the thought that is killing me. You understand how terrible it is that some ragamuffin may kill me⁠—a man who thinks and feels, and that he might as well kill Antonov by my side, a creature indistinguishable from a brute; and it is quite likely to happen that it is I who will be killed and not Antonov⁠—it is always so, une fatalité for all that is lofty or good. I know they call me a coward. Granted that I am a coward. It is true I am a coward and cannot help it; but it is not enough that I am a coward, according to them I am also a beggar and a contemptible fellow. There, I have just begged money from you, and you have a right to despise me. No, take back your money,” and he held out to me the crumpled note; “I want you to respect me.” He covered his face with his hands and began to cry, and I did not in the least know what to say or do.

“Don’t go on like that,” said I; “you are too sensitive; you should not take things so much to heart: don’t analyse but look at things simply. You say yourself that you are a man of character; face your task, you have not much longer to suffer,” I said to him very incoherently, for I was excited both by feelings of pity and by a feeling of repentance at having allowed myself to condemn a man who was truly and deeply suffering.

“Yes,” he began; “had I but once, since I came into this hell, heard a single word of advice, sympathy, or friendship⁠—a single human word such as I hear from you⁠—I might have borne everything calmly, have faced my task, and even behaved as a soldier; but now it is terrible.⁠ ⁠… When I reason sanely, I long for death. Why should I care for a life of dishonour, or for myself, who am dead to all that is good in life? But at the least sign of danger I can’t help craving for this vile life, and guarding it as if it were something very precious, and I can’t, je ne puis pas,123 master myself.⁠ ⁠… That is, I can,” he continued, after a moment’s pause; “but it costs me too great an effort, a tremendous effort, when I am alone. When others are present, and in ordinary circumstances when going into action, I am brave enough⁠—j’ai fait mes preuves124⁠—because I have self-love and am proud⁠—that is my fault⁠—and in the presence of others⁠ ⁠… I say, let me spend the night with you; they’ll be playing all night in our tent. I can sleep anywhere⁠—on the ground.”

While Nikita was making up a bed we rose, and again, in the dark, began walking up and down the battery. Guskov must really have had a very weak head, for after only two cups of vodka and two glasses of wine he was unsteady on his feet. When we had walked away from the candle I noticed that he put the ten-ruble note, which he had held in his hand all through the foregoing conversation, back into his pocket, trying not to let me see it. He continued to say that he felt he might yet rise if he had a man like myself to take an interest in him.

We were about to enter the tent to go to bed when suddenly a cannonball whistled over us and struck into the ground not far off. It was very strange: the quiet, sleeping camp, our conversation⁠—and suddenly the enemy’s ball flying, God knows whence, right in among our tents: so strange that it was some time before I could realize what had happened. But one of our soldiers, Andreyev, who was pacing up and down the battery on guard, came towards me.

“He’s sneaked within range. There’s the place he fired from,” remarked he.

“The captain must be roused,” said I, and glanced at Guskov.

He had crouched nearly to the earth and stammered, trying to say something, “This⁠ ⁠… this⁠ ⁠… is unple⁠ ⁠… this is⁠ ⁠… most⁠ ⁠… absurd.” He said no more, and I did not see how and where he suddenly vanished.

In the captain’s tent a candle was lit, and we heard him coughing, as he always did on waking; but he soon appeared, demanding the linstock to light his little pipe with.

“What’s the matter, old man?” said he, smiling. “It seems I am to have no sleep tonight; first you come with your ‘fellow from the ranks,’ and now it’s Shamyl. What are we going to do? Shall we reply or not? Nothing was mentioned about it in the orders?”

“Nothing at all. There he is again,” said I; “and this time with two guns.”

And, in fact, before us, a little to the right, two fires were seen in the darkness like a pair of eyes, and then a ball flew past, as well as an empty shell⁠—probably one of our own returned to us⁠—which gave a loud and shrill whistle. The soldiers crept out of the neighbouring tents, and could be heard clearing their throats, stretching themselves, and talking.

“Hear him a-whistlin through the fuse-hole just like a nightingale!” remarked an artilleryman.

“Call Nikita!” said the captain, with his usual kindly banter. “Nikita, don’t go hiding yourself; come and listen to the mountain nightingales.”

“Why not, y’r honour?” said Nikita, as he came up and stood by the captain. “I have seen them nightingales and am not afraid of ’em; but there’s that guest who was here a moment ago drinking your wine, he cut his sticks soon enough when he heard ’em; went past our tent like a ball, doubled up like some animal.”

“Well, someone must ride over to the Chief of Artillery,” said the captain to me in a grave and authoritative tone, “to ask whether we are to reply to the shots or not. We can’t hit anything, but we can shoot for all that. Be so good as to go and ask. Order a horse to be saddled, you’ll get there quicker; take Polkan, if you like.”

Five minutes later the horse was brought, and I started to find the Chief of Artillery.

“Mind, the watchword is pole,” whispered the careful captain, “or you’ll not be allowed to pass the cordon.”

It was barely half a mile to where the Chief of Artillery was stationed. The whole way lay among tents. As soon as I had left the light of our own watch-fires behind, it was so dark that I could not even see my horse’s ears⁠—only the watch-fires, which now seemed very near, now very far away, flickered before my eyes. Having given the horse the rein and let him take his own course for a little, I began to distinguish the white, four-cornered tents and then the black ruts of the road. Half-an-hour later, after having asked my way some three or four times, twice stumbled over tent-pegs and been sworn at each time from within the tent, and after having been twice stopped by sentries, I reached the Chief of Artillery at last.

While on my way I heard two more shots fired at our camp, but they did not reach the place where the staff was stationed. The Chief of Artillery ordered not to fire, especially now that the enemy had ceased firing; so I returned, leading my horse and making my way on foot among the infantry tents. More than once, while passing a soldiers’ tent in which I saw a light, I slackened my pace to listen to a tale told by some wag, or to a book read out by some “literate” person, to whom a whole division listened, tightly packed inside and crowding outside the tent, and now and then interrupting the reader with their remarks; or I caught merely some scrap of conversation about an expedition, about home, or about the officers.

Passing one of the tents of the 3rd Battalion, I heard Guskov’s loud voice speaking very merrily and confidently. He was answered by young voices, not of privates but of gentlemen, as merry as his own. This was evidently a cadet’s or sergeant-major’s tent. I stopped.

“I have long known him,” Guskov was saying. “When I was in Petersburg he often came to see me, and I visited him. He belonged to very good society.”

“Whom are you talking about?” asked a tipsy voice.

“About the prince,” answered Guskov. “We are related, you know; more than that, we are old friends. You know, gentlemen, it is a good thing to have such an acquaintance. He is awfully rich, you see. A hundred rubles is nothing to him; so I’ve taken a little of him till my sister sends me some.”

“Well, then send⁠ ⁠…”

“All right!⁠ ⁠… Savelich, old boy!” came Guskov’s voice from the tent as he drew near to the entrance; “here are ten rubles, go to the canteen and get two bottles of Kahetinsky.⁠ ⁠… What else, gentlemen? Speak up!” and Guskov, bareheaded and with hair dishevelled, reeled out of the tent. Throwing open his sheepskin and thrusting his hands into the pockets of his greyish trousers, he stopped at the entrance. Though he was in the light and I in the dark, I trembled with fear lest he should see me, and moved on, trying not to make a noise.

“Who’s there?” shouted Guskov at me in a perfectly tipsy voice. The cold air evidently had an effect on him. “What devil is prowling about there with a horse?”

I did not reply, and silently found my way out onto the road.

The Snowstorm

I

It was past six o’clock in the evening, after drinking tea, that I set out from a posting-station, the name of which I have forgotten, though I remember that it was somewhere in the Don Cossack district, near Novotcherkask. It was quite dark as I wrapped myself in my fur cloak and fur rug and settled myself beside Alyoshka in the sledge. Under the lee of the station-house it seemed warm and still. Though there was no snow falling, there was not a star to be seen overhead, and the sky seemed extraordinarily low and black in contrast with the pure, snowy plain stretched out before us.

As soon as we had driven out of the village, passing the dark figures of some windmills, one of which was clumsily waving its great sails, I noticed that the road was heavier and thicker with snow, and the wind began to blow more keenly on my left, tossed the horses’ tails and manes on one side, and persistently lifted and blew away the snow as it was stirred up by the sledge-runners and the horses’ hoofs. The tinkle of the bell died away, a draught of cold air made its way through some aperture in my sleeve and blew down my back, and I recalled the advice of the overseer of the station that I should do better not to start that night, or I might be out all night and get frozen on the way.

“Don’t you think we might get lost?” I said to the driver. But receiving no reply, I put the question more definitely, “What do you say, shall we reach the next station? Shan’t we lose the way?”

“God knows,” he answered, without turning his head. “How it drives along the ground! Can’t see the road a bit. Lord, ’a’ mercy!”

“Well, but you tell me, do you expect to get to the next station or not?” I persisted in inquiring. “Shall we manage to get there?”

“We’ve got to get there,” said the driver, and he said something more which I could not catch in the wind.

I did not want to turn back; but to spend the night driving in the frost and the snowstorm about the absolutely desolate steppe of that part of the Don Cossack district was a very cheerless prospect. And although in the dark I could not see my driver distinctly, I somehow did not take to him, and felt no confidence in him. He was sitting with his legs hanging down before him exactly in the middle of his seat instead of on one side. His voice sounded listless; he wore a big hat with a wavering brim, not a coachman’s cap, and besides he did not drive in correct style, but held the reins in both hands, like a footman who has taken the coachman’s place on the box. And what prejudiced me most of all was that he had tied a kerchief over his ears. In short, the serious, bent back before my eyes impressed me unfavourably and seemed to promise no good.

“Well, I think it would be better to turn back,” said Alyoshka; “it’s poor fun being lost.”

“Lord, ’a’ mercy! how the snow is flying; no chance of seeing the road; one’s eyes choked up entirely.⁠ ⁠… Lord, ’a’ mercy!” grumbled the driver.

We had not driven on another quarter of an hour, when the driver, pulling up the horses, handed the reins to Alyoshka, clumsily extricated his legs from the box, and walked off to look for the road, his big boots crunching in the snow.

“Where are you going? Are we off the road, eh?” I inquired, but the driver did not answer. Turning his head to avoid the wind, which was cutting straight in his face, he walked away from the sledge.

“Well, found it?” I questioned him again, when he had come back.

“No, nothing,” he said with sudden impatience and annoyance, as though I were to blame for his having got off the road, and deliberately tucking his big feet back again under the box, he picked up the reins with his frozen gloves.

“What are we going to do?” I asked, as we started again.

“What are we to do? Go whither God leads us.”

And we drove on at the same slow trot, unmistakably on no sort of road; at one moment in snow that was soft and deep, and the next over brittle, bare ice.

Although it was so cold, the snow on my fur collar melted very quickly; the drifting snow blew more and more thickly near the ground, and a few flakes of frozen snow began falling overhead.

It was evident that we were going astray, because after driving another quarter of an hour, we had not seen a single verst post.

“Come, what do you think,” I asked the driver again, “can we manage to get to the station?”

“To which station?⁠ ⁠… We shall get back all right if we let the horses go as they please, they’ll take us there; but I doubt our getting to the other station; only lose our lives, maybe.”

“Well, then let us go back,” said I. “And really⁠ ⁠…”

“Turn back then?” repeated the driver.

“Yes, yes, turn back!”

The driver let the reins go. The horses went at a better pace, and though I did not notice that we turned round, the wind changed and soon the mills could be seen through the snow. The driver plucked up his spirits and began talking. “The other day they were driving back from the next station like this in a snowstorm,” said he, “and they spent the night in some stacks and only arrived next morning. And a good job they did get into the stacks, or they’d have all been clean frozen to death⁠—it was a frost. As it was, one had his feet frostbitten; and he died of it three weeks after.”

“But now it’s not so cold and the wind seems dropping,” said I; “couldn’t we manage it?”

“Warmer it may be, but the snow’s drifting just the same. Now it’s behind us, so it seems a bit quieter, but it’s blowing hard. We might have to go if we’d the mail or anything; but it’s a different matter going of our own accord; it’s no joke to let one’s fare freeze. What if I’ve to answer for your honour afterwards?”

II

At that moment we heard the bells of several sledges behind us, overtaking us at a smart pace.

“It’s the mail express bell,” said my driver; “there’s only one like that at the station.”

And certainly the bells of the foremost sledge were particularly fine; their clear, rich, mellow and somewhat jangled notes reached us distinctly on the wind. As I learned afterwards, it was a set of bells such as sportsmen have on their sledges⁠—three bells, a big one in the middle, with a “raspberry note,” as it is called, and two little bells pitched at the interval of a third up and down the scale. The cadence of these thirds and the jangling fifth ringing in the air was uncommonly striking and strangely sweet in the desolate dumb steppe.

“It’s the post,” said my driver, when the foremost of the three sledges was level with us. “How’s the road, can one get along?” he shouted to the hindmost of the drivers; but the latter only shouted to his horses without answering him.

The music of the bells quickly died away in the wind as soon as the post had passed us. I suppose my driver felt ashamed.

“Suppose we go on, sir!” he said to me; “folks have driven along the road, and now their tracks will be fresh.”

I assented and we turned, facing the wind again, and pushing on through the deep snow. I watched the road at the side, that we might not go off the tracks made by the sledges. For two versts their track was distinctly visible; then only a slight unevenness could be detected below the runners, and soon I was utterly unable to say whether there was a track or simply a crease blown by the wind in the snow. My eyes were dazed by watching the snow flying monotonously by under our runners, and I began looking straight before me. The third verst post we saw, but the fourth we could not find; just as before we drove against the wind and with the wind, to the right and to the left, and at last things came to such a pass that the driver said we were too much to the right; I said too much to the left; and Alyoshka maintained that we were going straight back. Again we pulled up several times, and the driver extricated his long legs and clambered out to seek the road, but always in vain. I, too, got out once to see whether something I fancied I descried might not be the road. But scarcely had I struggled six steps against the wind and satisfied myself that there was nothing but regular, uniform white drifts of snow everywhere, and that I had seen the road only in imagination, when I lost sight of the sledge. I shouted “Driver! Alyoshka!” but my voice I felt was caught up by the wind out of my very mouth and in one second carried far away from me. I went in the direction where the sledge had been⁠—there was no sledge there. I went to the right, it was not there. I am ashamed when I remember the loud, shrill, almost despairing, voice in which I shouted once more, “Driver!” when he was only a couple of paces from me. His black figure, with his whip and his huge hat flapping down on one side, suddenly started up before me. He led me to the sledge.

“We must be thankful, too, that it’s warm,” said he; “if the frost gets sharp, it’s a bad lookout.⁠ ⁠… Lord, ’a’ mercy!”

“Let the horses go, let them take us back,” I said, settling myself in the sledge. “They’ll take us back, driver, eh?”

“They ought to.”

He put down the reins, gave the shaft horse three strokes about the pad with his whip, and we started off again. We drove for another half-hour. All at once we heard ahead of us bells, which I recognised as the sportsman’s set of bells and two others. But this time the bells were coming to meet us. The same three sledges, having delivered the post, were returning to their station with their change of horses tied on behind. The three stalwart horses of the express sledge with the sporting bells galloped swiftly in front. There was only one driver in it. He was sitting on the box-seat, shouting briskly and frequently to his horses. Behind, in the inside of the emptied sledge, there were a couple of drivers; we could hear their loud, cheerful talk. One of them was smoking a pipe, and its spark, glowing in the wind, lighted up part of his face. Looking at them I felt ashamed of having been afraid to go on, and my driver must have had the same feeling, for with one voice we said, “Let us follow them.”

III

Without waiting for the hindmost sledge to get by, my driver began turning awkwardly and ran his shafts into the horses tied on at the back of it. One team of three started aside, broke their rein, and galloped away.

“Ah, the cross-eyed devil doesn’t see where he’s turning to⁠—right into people!⁠ ⁠… The devil!” scolded a short driver in a husky, cracked voice⁠—an old man, as I inferred from his voice and figure. He jumped nimbly out of the hindmost sledge and ran after the horses, still keeping up his coarse and cruel abuse of my driver.

But the horses would not let themselves be caught. The old man ran after them, and in one moment horses and man vanished in the white darkness of the snowstorm.

“Vassily⁠—y! give us the bay here; there’s no catching them like this,” we heard his voice again.

One of the drivers, a very tall man, got out of the sledge, unyoked his three horses, pulled himself up by the head onto one of them, and crunching over the snow at a shuffling gallop vanished in the same direction.

In company with the two other sledges we pushed on without a road, following the express sledge which ran ahead at full gallop with its ringing bells.

“What! he catch them!” said my driver, referring to the man who had run to catch the horses. “If it won’t join the other horses of itself⁠—it’s a vicious beast⁠—it’ll lead him a fine dance, and he won’t catch it.”

From the time that he turned back, my driver seemed in better spirits and was more conversational, and as I was not sleepy I did not fail of course to take advantage of it. I began asking him where he came from, how he came here, and what he was; and soon learned that he was from my province, a Tula man, a serf from the village of Kirpitchny, that they had too little land, and that the corn had given up yielding any crop at all ever since the cholera year. There were two brothers at home, a third had gone for a soldier; they hadn’t bread enough to last till Christmas, and lived on what they could earn. His younger brother, he told me, was the head of the house because he was married, while he himself was a widower. Every year gangs of men from his village came here as drivers, though he hadn’t himself ever been a driver before; but now he had gone into the posting service so as to be a help to his brother. That he earned, thank God, one hundred and twenty roubles a year here, and sent a hundred of them home, and that it would be a pleasant life, too, “but the mail men were a brutal lot, very, and, indeed, all the people in these parts were a rough lot.”

“Now, why did that driver abuse me? Lord, ’a’ mercy on us! Did I set the horses loose on purpose? Am I a man to do anyone a mischief? And what did he gallop after them for? They’d have got home by themselves. He’s only wearing out his horses, and he’ll be lost himself too,” repeated the God-fearing peasant.

“And what’s that blackness?” I asked, noticing several black objects ahead of us.

“Why, a train of wagons. That’s a pleasant way of travelling!” he went on, as we overtook the huge wagons on wheels, covered with hemp sacking, following one another. “Look, not a man to be seen⁠—they’re all asleep. The clever mare knows the way of herself, there’s no making her stray off the road.⁠ ⁠… I’ve driven with a train of wagons too,” he added, “so I know.”

Truly it was strange to look at those huge wagons, covered with snow from their sacking top down to the wheels, moving along quite alone. But in the corner of the foremost the snow-covered sacking was lifted a little on two fingers, and a cap emerged from it for an instant when our bells were ringing close to the wagons. The big, piebald horse, stretching its neck and dragging with its back, stepped evenly along the completely buried road, and rhythmically shook its shaggy head under the whitened yoke. It pricked up one snowy ear as we came up to it.

After we had driven on another half-hour, my driver addressed me again.

“Well, what do you think, sir, are we going right?”

“I don’t know,” I answered.

“The wind was this way, sir, before, but now we’re going with our backs to the weather. No, we’re not going the right way, we’re astray again,” he concluded with complete serenity.

It was clear that though he was very timorous, even death, as they say, is pleasant in company; he had become perfectly composed since we were a large party, and he had not to be the guide and responsible person. With great coolness he made observations on the mistakes of the driver of the foremost sledge, as though he had not the slightest interest in the matter. I did notice, indeed, that the foremost sledge was sometimes visible in profile on my left, sometimes on the right; it positively seemed to me as though we were going round in a very small space. This might, however, have been an illusion of the senses, just as sometimes it looked to me as though the first sledge were driving uphill, or along a slope, or downhill, though the steppe was everywhere level.

We had driven on a good while longer, when I discerned⁠—far away, it seemed to me, on the very horizon⁠—a long black moving streak. But a minute later it was evident to me that this was the same train of wagons we had overtaken before. Just as before, the snow lay on the creaking wheels, some of which did not turn at all, indeed. As before, all the men were asleep under the sacking covers, and as before, the piebald horse in front, with inflated nostrils, sniffed out the road and pricked up its ears.

“There, we’ve gone round and round, and we’ve come back to the same wagons again!” said my driver in a tone of dissatisfaction. “The mail horses are good ones, and so he can drive them in this mad way; but ours will come to a dead stop if we go on like this all night.”

He cleared his throat.

“Let us turn back, sir, before we come to harm.”

“What for? Why, we shall get somewhere.”

“Get somewhere! Why, we shall spend the night on the steppe. How the snow does blow!⁠ ⁠… Lord, ’a’ mercy on us!”

Though I was surprised that the foremost driver, who had obviously lost both the road and the direction, did not attempt to look for the road, but calling merrily to his horses drove on still at full trot, I did not feel inclined now to drop behind the other sledges.

“Follow them!” I said.

My driver went on, but he drove the horses now with less eagerness than before, and he did not address another syllable to me.

IV

The storm became more and more violent, and fine frozen snow was falling from the sky. It seemed as though it were beginning to freeze; my nose and cheeks felt the cold more keenly; more often a draught of cold air crept in under my fur cloak, and I had to wrap myself up more closely. From time to time the sledge jolted over a bare, broken crust of ice where the snow had blown away. Though I was much interested in seeing how our wanderings would end, yet, as I had been travelling six hundred versts without stopping for a night, I could not help shutting my eyes and I dropped into a doze. Once when I opened my eyes, I was struck by what seemed to me for the first minute the bright light shed over the white plain. The horizon had grown noticeably wider; the black, lowering sky had suddenly vanished; on all sides one could see the white, slanting lines of falling snow; the outlines of the horses of the front sledge were more distinctly visible, and when I looked upwards it seemed to me for the first minute that the storm-clouds had parted and that only the falling snow hid the sky. While I had been dozing, the moon had risen and cast its cold, bright light through the thin clouds and falling snow. All that I could see distinctly was my own sledge with the horse and driver and the three sledges with their horses ahead of us. In the first, the mail sledge, the one driver still sat on the box driving his horses at a smart trot. In the second there were two men, who, letting go their reins and making themselves a shelter out of a cloak, were all the time smoking a pipe, as we could see from the gleaming sparks. In the third sledge no one was to be seen; the driver was presumably asleep in the middle of it. The driver in front had, when I waked, begun stopping his horses and looking for the road. Then, as soon as we stopped, the howling of the wind became more audible, and the astoundingly immense mass of snow driving in the air was more evident to me. I could see in the moonlight, veiled by the drifting snow, the short figure of the driver holding a big whip with which he was trying the snow in front of him. He moved backwards and forwards in the white darkness, came back to the sledge again, jumped sideways on the front seat, and again through the monotonous whistling of the wind we could hear his jaunty, musical calling to his horses and the ringing of the bells. Every time that the front driver got out to search for signs of the road or of stacks, a brisk self-confident voice from the second sledge shouted to him⁠—

“I say, Ignashka, we’ve gone right off to the left! Keep more to the right, away from the storm.” Or, “Why do you go round and round like a fool? Go the way of the snow, you’ll get there all right.” Or, “To the right, go on to the right, my lad! See, there ’s something black⁠—a verst post maybe.” Or, “What are you pottering about for? Unyoke the piebald and let him go first; he’ll bring you on the road in a trice. That’ll be the best plan.”

The man who gave this advice did not himself unyoke the trace-horse, nor get out into the snow to look for the road; he did not so much as poke his nose out beyond the shelter of the cloak, and when Ignashka in reply to one of his counsels, shouted to him that he’d better ride on in front himself as he knew which way to go, the giver of good advice answered that, if he were driving the mail horses, he would ride on and would soon bring them onto the road. “But our horses won’t lead the way in a storm!” he shouted; “they’re not that sort!”

“Don’t meddle then!” answered Ignashka, whistling merrily to his horses.

The other driver, sitting in the same sledge as the counsellor, said nothing to Ignashka, and refrained altogether from taking part in the proceedings, though he was not yet asleep, as I concluded from his still glowing pipe, and from the fact that when we stopped I heard his regular, continuous talk. He was telling a tale. Only once, when Ignashka stopped for the sixth or seventh time, apparently vexed at the interruption in his enjoyment of the drive, he shouted to him⁠—

“Why, what are you stopping again for?⁠ ⁠… Trying to find the road, indeed! Don’t you see, there’s a snowstorm! The land-surveyor himself couldn’t find the road now; you should drive on as long as the horses will go. We shan’t freeze to death, I don’t suppose.⁠ ⁠… Do go on!”

“I dare say! A postillion was frozen to death last year, sure enough!” my driver retorted.

The man in the third sledge did not wake up all the time. Only once, while we were halting, the counsellor shouted⁠—

“Filip, aye⁠ ⁠… Filip!” And receiving no reply, he remarked, “I say, he’s not frozen, is he?⁠ ⁠… You’d better look, Ignashka.”

Ignashka, who did everything, went up to the sledge and began to poke the sleeper.

“I say, one drink has done for him. If you’re frozen, just say so!” he said, shaking him.

The sleeping man muttered some words of abuse.

“Alive, lads!” said Ignashka, and he ran ahead again, and again we drove on, and so fast indeed that the little sorrel trace-horse of my sledge, who was constantly being lashed about its tail, more than once broke into a clumsy gallop.

V

It was, I think, about midnight when the old man and Vassily, who had gone in pursuit of the strayed horses, rode up to us. They had caught the horses, and found and overlook us. But how they managed to do this in the dark, blinding blizzard, across the bare steppe, has always remained a mystery to me. The old man with his elbows and legs jogging, trotted up on the shaft-horse (the other two horses were fastened to the yoke; horses cannot be left loose in a blizzard). On overtaking us, he began railing at my driver again.

“You see, you cross-eyed devil, what a⁠ ⁠…”

“Hey, Uncle Mitritch,” shouted the storyteller from the second sledge, “alive are you?⁠ ⁠… Come in to us.”

But the old man, making no answer, went on scolding. When he judged he had said enough, he rode up to the second sledge.

“Caught them all?” was asked him from the sledge.

“I should think so!”

And his little figure bent forward with his breast on the horse’s back while it was at full trot; then he slipped off into the snow, and without stopping an instant ran after the sledge, and tumbled into it, pulling his legs up over the side. The tall Vassily seated himself as before, in silence, in the front sledge with Ignashka, and began looking for the road with him.

“You see what an abusive fellow⁠ ⁠… Lord ’a’ mercy on us!” muttered my driver.

For a long while after this we drove on without a halt over the white wilderness, in the cold, luminous, and flickering twilight of the snowstorm.

I open my eyes. The same clumsy cap and back, covered with snow, are standing up in front of me; the same low-arched yoke, under which, between the tight, leather reins, the head of the shaft-horse shakes up and down always at the same distance away, with its black mane blown rhythmically by the wind in one direction. Over its back on the right there is a glimpse of the bay trace-horse with its tail tied up short and the swinging bar behind it knocking now and then against the framework of the sledge. If I look down⁠—the same crunching snow torn up by the sledge runners, and the wind persistently lifting it and carrying it off, always in the same direction. In front the foremost sledge is running on, always at the same distance; on the right and left everything is white and wavering. In vain the eye seeks some new object; not a post, not a stack, not a hedge⁠—nothing to be seen. Everywhere all is white, white and moving. At one moment the horizon seems inconceivably remote, at the next closed in, two paces away on all sides. Suddenly a high, white wall shoots up on the right, and runs alongside the sledge, then all at once it vanishes and springs up ahead, to flee further and further away, and vanish again. One looks upwards; it seems light for the first minute⁠—one seems to see stars shining through a mist; but the stars fly further and further away from the sight, and one can see nothing but the snow, which falls past the eyes into the face and the collar of one’s cloak. Everywhere the sky is equally light, equally white, colourless, alike and ever moving. The wind seems to shift; at one time it blows in our faces and glues our eyes up with snow, then teazingly it flings one’s fur collar on one’s head and flaps it mockingly in one’s face, then it drones behind in some chink of the sledge. One hears the faint, never-ceasing crunch of hoofs and runners over the snow, and the jingle of the bells, dying down as we drive over deep snow. Only at times when we are going against the wind and over some bare, frozen headland, Ignashka’s vigorous whistling and the melodious tinkle of the bells with the jangling fifth float clearly to one’s hearing, and these sounds make a comforting break in the desolateness of the snowy waste, and then again the bells fall back into the same monotonous jingle, with intolerable correctness ringing ever the same phrase, which I cannot help picturing to myself in musical notes.

One of my legs began to get chilled, and when I turned over to wrap myself up closer, the snow on my collar and cap slipped down my neck and made me shiver; but on the whole, in my fur cloak, warmed through by the heat of my body, I still kept warm and was beginning to feel drowsy.

VI

Memories and fancies followed one another with increased rapidity in my imagination.

“The counsellor, that keeps on calling out advice from the second sledge, what sort of peasant is he likely to be? Sure to be a red-haired, thickset fellow with short legs,” I thought, “somewhat like Fyodor Filippitch, our old butler.” And then I see the staircase of our great house and five house-serfs, who are stepping heavily, dragging along on strips of coarse linen a piano from the lodge. I see Fyodor Filippitch, with the sleeves of his nankin coat turned up, carrying nothing but one pedal, running on ahead, pulling open bolts, tugging at a strip of linen here, shoving there, creeping between people’s legs, getting in everyone’s way, and in a voice of anxiety shouting assiduously.

“You now, in front, in front! That’s it, the tail end upwards, upwards, upwards, through the doorway! That’s it.”

“You only let us be, Fyodor Filippitch, we’ll do it by ourselves,” timidly ventured the gardener, squeezed against the banisters, and red with exertion, as, putting out all his strength, he held up one corner of the piano.

But Fyodor Filippitch would not desist.

“And what is it?” I reflected. “Does he suppose he’s necessary to the business in hand, or is he simply pleased God has given him that conceited, convincing flow of words and enjoys the exercise of it? That’s what it must be.”

And for some reason I recall the pond, and the tired house-serfs, knee-deep in the water, dragging the draw-net, and again Fyodor Filippitch running along the bank with the watering-pot, shouting to all of them, and only approaching the water at intervals to take hold of the golden carp, to let out the muddy water, and to pour over them fresh.

And again it is midday in July. I am wandering over the freshly-mown grass of the garden, under the burning sun straight above my head. I am still very young; there is an emptiness, a yearning for something in my heart. I walk to my favourite spot near the pond, between a thicket of wild rose and the birch-tree avenue, and lie down to go to sleep. I remember the sensation with which, as I lay there, I looked through the red, thorny stems of the rose at the black earth, dried into little clods, and at the shining, bright blue mirror of the pond. It was with a feeling of naive self-satisfaction and melancholy. Everything around me was so beautiful; its beauty had such an intense effect on me that it seemed to me I was beautiful myself, and my only vexation was that there was no one to admire me.

It is hot. I try to console myself by going to sleep. But the flies, the intolerable flies, will not even here give me any peace; they begin to gather together about me and persistently, stolidly, as it were like pellets, they shoot from forehead to hand. A bee buzzes not far from me, right in the hottest spot; yellow butterflies flutter languidly, it seems, from stalk to stalk. I look upwards, it makes my eyes ache; the sun is too dazzling through the bright foliage of the leafy birch-tree, that gently swings its branches high above me, and I feel hotter than ever. I cover my face with my handkerchief; it becomes stifling, and the flies simply stick to my moist hands. Sparrows are twittering in the thickest of the clump of roses. One of them hops on the ground a yard from me; twice he makes a feint of pecking vigorously at the earth, and with a snapping of twigs and a merry chirrup flies out of the bush. Another, too, hops on the ground, perks up his tail, looks round, and with a chirrup he too flies out like an arrow after the first. From the pond come the sounds of wet linen being beaten with washing-bats in the water, and the blows seem to echo and be carried over the surface of the pond. There is the sound of laughter, chatter, and the splashing of bathers. A gust of wind rustles in the treetops at a distance; it comes closer, and I hear it ruffling up the grass, and now the leaves of the wild roses tremble and beat upon the stems; and now it lifts the corner of the handkerchief and a fresh breath of air passes over me, tickling my moist face. A fly flies in under the lifted kerchief and buzzes in a frightened way about my damp mouth. A dead twig sticks into me under my spine. No, it’s no good lying down; I’ll go and have a bathe. But suddenly close to my nook, I hear hurried footsteps and the frightened voices of women.

“Oh, mercy on us! What can we do! and not a man here!”

“What is it, what is it?” I ask, running out into the sunshine and addressing a serf-woman, who runs past me, groaning. She simply looks round, wrings her hands and runs on. But here comes Matrona, an old woman of seventy, holding on her kerchief as it falls back off her head, limping and dragging one leg in a worsted stocking, as she runs towards the pond. Two little girls run along, hand in hand, and a boy of ten, wearing his father’s coat, hurries behind, clinging to the hempen skirt of one of them.

“What has happened?” I inquire of them.

“A peasant is drowning.”

“Where?”

“In our pond.”

“Who? one of ours?”

“No; a stranger.”

The coachman Ivan, struggling over the newly-mown grass in his big boots, and the stout bailiff, Yakov, breathing hard, run towards the pond, and I run after them.

I recall the feeling that said to me, “Come, jump in, and pull out the man, save him, and they will all admire you,” which was just what I was desiring.

“Where? where is he?” I ask of the crowd of house-serfs gathered together on the bank.

“Over yonder, near the deepest pool, towards that bank, almost at the bathhouse,” says a washerwoman, getting in her wet linen on a yoke. “I saw him plunge in; and he comes up so and goes down again, and comes up again and screams, ‘I’m drowning, mercy!’ and again he went down to the bottom, and only bubbles came up. Then I saw the man was drowning. And I yelled, ‘Mercy on us, the peasant’s drowning!’ ”

And the washerwoman hoists the yoke onto her shoulder, and bending on one side, walks along the path away from the pond.

“My word, what a shame!” says Yakov Ivanov, the bailiff, in a voice of despair: “what a to-do we shall have now with the district court⁠—we shall never hear the last of it!”

A peasant with a scythe makes his way through the throng of women, children, and old people crowding about the bank, and hanging his scythe in the branches of a willow, begins deliberately pulling off his boots.

“Where, where did he sink?” I keep on asking, longing to throw myself in, and do something extraordinary.

But they point to the smooth surface of the pond, broken into ripples here and there by the rushing wind. It is inconceivable to me that he is drowned while the water stands just as smooth and beautiful and untroubled over him, shining with glints of gold in the midday sun, and it seems to me that I can do nothing, can astonish no one, especially as I am a very poor swimmer. And the peasant is already pulling his shirt over his head, and in an instant will plunge in. Everyone watches him with hope and a sinking heart; but when he has waded in up to his shoulders, the peasant slowly turns back and puts on his shirt again⁠—he cannot swim.

People still run up; the crowd gets bigger and bigger; the women cling to each other; but no one does anything to help. Those who have only just reached the pond give advice, and groan, and their faces express horror and despair. Of those who had arrived on the scene earlier some, tired of standing, sit down on the grass; others go back. Old Matrona asks her daughter whether she has shut the door of the oven; the boy in his father’s coat flings stones with careful aim into the pond.

But now Trezorka, Fyodor Filippitch’s dog, comes running downhill from the house, barking and looking round in perplexity; and the figure of Fyodor himself, running down the hill and shouting something, comes into sight behind the thicket of wild rose.

“Why are you standing still?” he shouts, taking off his coat as he runs. “A man’s drowning, and they do nothing.⁠ ⁠… Give us a cord!”

All gaze in hope and dread at Fyodor Filippitch, while leaning on the shoulder of an obliging house-serf he kicks off his right boot with the tip of his left one.

“Over there, where the crowd is; over there, a little to the right of the willow, Fyodor Filippitch, over there,” says someone.

“I know,” he answers, and knitting his brows, probably in acknowledgment of symptoms of outraged delicacy in the crowd of women, he takes off his shirt and his cross, handing the latter to the gardener’s boy, who stands obsequiously before him. Then stepping vigorously over the mown grass, he goes to the pond.

Trezorka, who had stood still near the crowd, eating some blades of grass from the water’s edge, and smacking his lips, looks inquiringly at his master, wondering at the rapidity of his movements. All at once, with a whine of delight, he plunges with his master into the water. For the first minute there is nothing to be seen but frothing bubbles, which float right up to us. But soon Fyodor Filippitch is seen swimming smartly towards the further bank, his arms making a graceful sweep, and his back rising and sinking regularly at every fathom’s length. Trezorka, after swallowing a mouthful of water, hurriedly turns back, shakes himself in the crowd, and rolls on his back on the bank. While Fyodor Filippitch is swimming towards the further bank, the two coachmen run round to the willow with a net rolled round a pole. Fyodor Filippitch, for some reason or other, raises his hands above his head, and dives, once, twice, thrice; every time a stream of water runs out of his mouth, he tosses his hair with a fine gesture, and makes no reply to the questions which are showered upon him from all sides. At last he comes out on the bank, and, as far as I can see, simply gives orders for the casting of the net. The net is drawn up, but in it there is nothing except weed and a few carp struggling in it. While the net is being cast a second time, I walk round to that side.

Nothing is to be heard but the voice of Fyodor Filippitch giving directions, the splashing of the water through the wet cords, and sighs of horror. The wet cordage fastened to the right beam is more and more thickly covered with weed, as it comes further and further out of the water.

“Now pull together, all at once!” shouts the voice of Fyodor Filippitch. The butt-ends of the beams come into view covered with water.

“There is something; it pulls heavy, lads,” says someone.

And now the beams of the net in which two or three carp struggle, splashing and crushing the weed, are dragged onto the bank. And through the shallow, shifting layer of muddy water something white comes into sight in the tightly-strained net. A sigh of horror passes over the crowd, subdued but distinctly audible in the deathlike stillness.

“Pull all together, pull it onto dry land!” cries Fyodor Filippitch’s resolute voice. And with the iron hook they drag the drowned man over the cropped stalks of dock and agrimony towards the willow.

And here I see my kind old aunt in her silk gown; I see her fringed, lilac parasol, which seems somehow oddly incongruous with this scene of death, so awful in its simplicity. I see her face on the point of shedding tears. I recall her look of disappointment that in this case arnica could be of no use, and I recall the painful sense of mortification I had when she said to me with the naive egoism of love, “Let us go, my dear. Ah, how awful it is! And you will always go bathing and swimming alone!”

I remember how glaring and hot the sun was, baking the dry earth that crumbled under our feet; how it sparkled on the mirror of the pond; how the big carp struggled on the bank; how a shoal of fish dimpled the pond’s surface in the middle; how a hawk floated high up in the sky, hovering over the ducks, who swam quacking and splashing among the reeds in the centre of the water; how the white, curly storm-clouds gathered on the horizon; how the mud brought onto the bank by the net gradually slipped away; and how, as I crossed the dike, I heard the sounds of the washing-bat floating across the pond.

But the blows of the bat ring out as though there were two bats and another chiming in, a third lower in the scale; and that sound frets me, worries me, especially as I know the bat is a bell, and Fyodor Filippitch can’t make it stop. And the bat, like an instrument of torture, is crushing my leg, which is chilled. I wake up.

I was waked up, it seemed to me, by our galloping very swiftly, and two voices talking quite close beside me.

“I say, Ignat, eh⁠ ⁠… Ignat!” said the voice of my driver; “take my fare; you’ve got to go anyway, and why should I go on for nothing⁠—take him!”

The voice of Ignat close beside me answered⁠—

“It’s no treat for me to have to answer for a passenger.⁠ ⁠… Will you stand me a pint bottle of vodka?”

“Go on with your pint bottle!⁠ ⁠… A dram, and I’ll say done.”

“A dram!” shouted another voice: “a likely idea! tire your horses for a dram!”

I opened my eyes. Still the same insufferable wavering snow floating before one’s eyes, the same drivers and horses, but beside me I saw a sledge. My driver had overtaken Ignat, and we had been for some time moving alongside. Although the voice from the other sledge advised him not to accept less than a pint, Ignat all at once pulled up his horses.

“Move the baggage in! Done! it’s your luck. Stand me a dram when we come tomorrow. Have you much baggage, eh?”

My driver jumped out into the snow with an alacrity quite unlike him, bowed to me, and begged me to get into Ignat’s sledge. I was perfectly ready to do so; but evidently the God-fearing peasant was so pleased that he wanted to lavish his gratitude and joy on someone. He bowed and thanked me, Alyoshka, and Ignashka.

“There, thank God too! Why, Lord ’a’ mercy, here we’ve been driving half the night, and don’t know ourselves where we’re going! He’ll take you all right, sir, but my horses are quite done up.”

And he moved my things with increased energy. While they were shifting my things, with the wind at my back almost carrying me off my legs, I went towards the second sledge. The sledge was more than a quarter buried in the snow, especially on the side where a cloak had been hung over the two drivers’ heads to keep off the wind; under the cloak it was sheltered and snug. The old man was lying just as before with his legs out, while the storyteller was still telling his story: “So at the very time when the general arrived in the king’s name, that is, to Mariya in the prison, Mariya says to him, ‘General! I don’t want you, and I cannot love you, and you are not my lover; my lover is that same prince.’⁠ ⁠… So then”⁠—he was going on, but, seeing me, he paused a moment, and began pulling at his pipe.

“Well, sir, are you come to listen to the tale?” said the other man, whom I have called the counsellor.

“Why, you are nice and cheerful in here!” I said.

“To be sure, it passes the time⁠—anyway, it keeps one from thinking.”

“Don’t you know, really, where we are now?” This question, it struck me, was not liked by the drivers.

“Why, who’s to make out where we are? Maybe we’ve got to the Kalmucks altogether,” answered the counsellor.

“What are we going to do?” I asked.

“What are we to do? Why, we’ll go on, and maybe we’ll get somewhere,” he said in a tone of displeasure.

“Well, but if we don’t get there, and the horses can go no further in the snow, what then?”

“What then? Nothing.”

“But we may freeze.”

“To be sure, we may, for there are no stacks to be seen now; we must have driven right out to the Kalmucks. The chief thing is, we must look about in the snow.”

“And aren’t you at all afraid of being frozen, sir?” said the old man, in a trembling voice.

Although he seemed to be jeering at me, I could see that he was shivering in every bone.

“Yes, it’s getting very cold,” I said.

“Ah, sir! You should do as I do; every now and then take a run; that would warm you.”

“It’s first-rate, the way you run after the sledge,” said the counsellor.

VII

“Please get in: it’s all ready!” Alyoshka called to me from the front sledge.

The blizzard was so terrific that it was only by my utmost efforts, bending double and clutching the skirts of my coat in both hands, that I managed to struggle through the whirling snow, which was blown up by the wind under my feet, and to make the few steps that separated me from the sledge. My former driver was kneeling in the middle of the empty sledge, but on seeing me he took off his big cap; whereupon the wind snatched at his hair furiously. He asked me for something for drink, but most likely had not expected me to give him anything extra, for my refusal did not in the least disappoint him. He thanked me for that too, put on his cap, and said to me, “Well, good luck to you, sir!” and tugging at his reins, and clucking to his horses, he drove away from us. After that, Ignashka too, with a swing of his whole body forward, shouted to his horses. Again the sound of the crunching of the hoofs, shouting, and bells replaced the sound of the howling of the wind, which was more audible when we were standing still.

For a quarter of an hour after moving I did not go to sleep, but amused myself by watching the figures of my new driver and horses. Ignashka sat up smartly, incessantly jumping up and down, swinging his arm with the whip over the horses, shouting, knocking one leg against the other, and bending forward to set straight the shaft-horse’s breech, which kept slipping to the right side. He was not tall, but seemed to be well built. Over his full coat he had on a cloak not tied in at the waist; the collar of it was open, and his neck was quite bare; his boots were not of felt, but of leather, and his cap was a small one, which he was continually taking off and shifting. His ears had no covering but his hair.

In all his actions could be detected not merely energy, but even more, it struck me, the desire to keep up his own energies. The further we went, the more and more frequently he jumped up and down on the box, shifted his position, slapped one leg against the other, and addressed remarks to me and Alyoshka. It seemed to me he was afraid of losing heart. And there was good reason; though we had good horses, the road became heavier and heavier at every step, and the horses unmistakably moved more unwillingly; he had to use the whip now, and the shaft-horse, a spirited, big, shaggy horse, stumbled twice, though at once taking fright, he darted forward and flung up his shaggy head almost to the very bells. The right trace-horse, whom I could not help watching, noticeably kept the traces slack, together with the long leather tassel of the breech, that shifted and shook up and down on the offside. He needed the whip, but, like a good, spirited horse, he seemed vexed at his own feebleness, and angrily dropped and flung up his head, as though asking for the rein. It certainly was terrible to see the blizzard getting more and more violent, the horses growing weaker, and the road getting worse, while we hadn’t a notion where we were and whether we should reach the station, or even a shelter of any sort. And ludicrous and strange it was to hear the bells ringing so gaily and unconcernedly, and Ignashka calling so briskly and jauntily, as though we were driving at midday in sunny, frosty Christmas weather, along some village street on a holiday; and strangest of all it was to think that we were going on all the while and going quickly, anywhere to get away from where we were. Ignashka sang a song, in the vilest falsetto, but so loudly and with breaks in it, filled in by such whistling, that it was odd to feel frightened as one listened to him.

“Hey, hey, what are you splitting your throat for, Ignashka?” I heard the voice of the counsellor. “Do stop it for an hour.”

“What?”

“Shut up!”

Ignat ceased. Again all was quiet, and the wind howled and whined, and the whirling snow began to lie thicker on our sledge. The counsellor came up to us.

“Well, what is it?”

“What, indeed; which way are we to go?”

“Who knows?”

“Why, are your feet frozen, that you keep beating them together?”

“They’re quite numb.”

“You should take a run. There’s something over yonder; isn’t it a Kalmuck encampment? It would warm your feet, anyway.”

“All right. Hold the horses⁠ ⁠… there.”

And Ignat ran in the direction indicated.

“One must keep looking and walking round, and one will find something; what’s the sense of driving on like a fool?” the counsellor said to me. “See, what a steam the horses are in!”

All the time Ignat was gone⁠—and that lasted so long that I began to be afraid he was lost⁠—the counsellor told me in a calm, self-confident tone, how one must act during a blizzard, how the best thing of all was to unyoke a horse and let it go its own way; that as God is holy, it would lead one right; how one could sometimes see by the stars, and how if he had been driving the leading sledge, we should have been at the station long ago.

“Well, is it?” he asked Ignat, who was coming back, stepping with difficulty almost knee-deep in the snow.

“Yes, it’s an encampment,” Ignat answered, panting, “but I don’t know what sort of a one. We must have come right out to Prolgovsky homestead, mate. We must bear more to the left.”

“What nonsense!⁠ ⁠… That’s our encampment, behind the village!” retorted the counsellor.

“But I tell you it’s not!”

“Why, I’ve looked, so I know. That’s what it will be; or if not that, then it’s Tamishevsko. We must keep more to the right, and we shall get out on the big bridge, at the eighth verst, directly.”

“I tell you it’s not so! Why, I’ve seen it!” Ignat answered with irritation.

“Hey, mate, and you call yourself a driver!”

“Yes, I do.⁠ ⁠… You go yourself!”

“What should I go for? I know as it is.”

Ignat unmistakably lost his temper; without replying, he jumped on the box and drove on.

“I say, my legs are numb; there’s no warming them,” he said to Alyoshka, clapping his legs together more and more frequently, and knocking off and scraping at the snow, that had got in above his boot-tops.

I felt awfully sleepy.

VIII

“Can I really be beginning to freeze?” I wondered sleepily. “Being frozen always begins by sleepiness, they say. Better be drowned than frozen⁠—let them drag me out in the net; but never mind, I don’t care whether it’s drowning or freezing, if only that stick, or whatever it is, wouldn’t poke me in the back, and I could forget everything.”

I lost consciousness for a second.

“How will it all end, though?” I suddenly wondered, opening my eyes for a minute and staring at the white expanse of snow; “how will it end, if we don’t come across any stacks, and the horses come to a standstill, which I fancy will happen soon? We shall all be frozen.” I must own that, though I was a little frightened, the desire that something extraordinary and rather tragic should happen to us was stronger than a little fear. It struck me that it would not be bad if, towards morning, the horses should reach some remote, unknown village with us half-frozen, some of us indeed completely frozen. And dreams of something like that floated with extraordinary swiftness and clearness before my imagination. The horses stop, the snow drifts higher and higher, and now nothing can be seen of the horses but their ears and the yoke; but suddenly Ignashka appears on the top of the snow with his three horses and drives past us. We entreat him, we scream to him to take us with him; but the wind blows away our voice, there is no voice heard. Ignashka laughs, shouts to his horses, whistles, and vanishes from our sight in a deep ravine filled with snow. The old man is on horseback, his elbows jogging up and down, and he tries to gallop away, but cannot move from the spot. My old driver with his big cap rushes at him, drags him to the ground and tramples him in the snow. “You’re a sorcerer,” he shouts, “you ’re abusive, we will be lost together.” But the old man pops his head out of a snowdrift; he is not so much an old man now as a hare, and he hops away from us. All the dogs are running after him. The counsellor, who is Fyodor Filippitch, says we must all sit round in a ring, that it doesn’t matter if the snow does bury us; we shall be warm. And we really are warm and snug; only we are thirsty. I get out a case of wine; I treat all of them to rum with sugar in it, and I drink it myself with great enjoyment. The storyteller tells us some tale about a rainbow⁠—and over our heads there is a ceiling made of snow and a rainbow. “Now let us make ourselves each a room in the snow and go to sleep!” I say. The snow is soft and warm like fur; I make myself a room and try to get into it, but Fyodor Filippitch, who has seen my money in the wine-case, says, “Stop, give me the money⁠—you have to die anyway!” and he seizes me by the leg. I give him the money, and only beg him to let me go; but they will not believe it is all the money, and try to kill me. I clutch at the old man’s hand, and with inexpressible delight begin kissing it; the old man’s hand is soft and sweet. At first he snatches it away, but then he gives it me, and even strokes me with the other hand. But Fyodor Filippitch approaches and threatens me. I run into my room; now it is not a room, but a long, white corridor, and someone is holding me by the legs. I pull myself away. My boots and stockings, together with part of my skin, are left in the hands of the man who held me. But I only feel cold and ashamed⁠—all the more ashamed as my aunt with her parasol and her homoeopathic medicine-chest is coming to meet me, arm in arm with the drowned man. They are laughing, and do not understand the signs I make to them. I fling myself into a sledge, my legs drag in the snow; but the old man pursues me, his elbows jogging up and down. The old man is close upon me, but I hear two bells ringing in front of me, and I know I am safe if I can reach them. The bells ring more and more distinctly; but the old man has overtaken me and fallen with his body on my face, so that I can hardly hear the bells. I snatch his hand again, and begin kissing it, but he is not the old man but the drowned man, and he shouts, “Ignashka, stop, yonder are the Ahmetkin stacks, I do believe! Run and look!” That is too dreadful. No, I had better wake up.

I open my eyes. The wind has blown the skirt of Alyoshka’s coat over my face; my knee is uncovered; we are driving over a bare surface of ice, and the chime of the bells with its jangling fifth rings out more distinctly in the air.

I look to see where there is a stack; but instead of stacks, I see now with open eyes a house with a balcony and a turreted wall like a fortress. I feel little interest in examining this house and fortress. I want most to see again the white corridor, along which I was running, to hear the church bell ringing and to kiss the old man’s hand. I close my eyes again and fall asleep.

IX

I slept soundly; but the chime of the bells was audible all the while, and came into my dreams; at one time in the form of a dog barking and rushing at me, then an organ, of which I am one of the pipes, then French verses which I am composing. Then it seemed that the chime of the bell is an instrument of torture with which my right heel is being continually squeezed. This was so vivid that I woke up and opened my eyes, rubbing my foot. It was beginning to get frostbitten. The night was as light, as dim, as white as ever. The same movement jolted me and the sledge; Ignashka was sitting sideways as before, clapping his legs together. The trace-horse, as before, craning his neck and not lifting his legs high, ran trotting over the deep snow; the tassel bobbed up and down on the breech, and lashed against the horse’s belly. The shaft-horse’s head, with his mane flying, swayed regularly up and down, tightening and loosening the reins that were fastened to the yoke. But all this was more than ever covered, buried in snow. The snow whirled in front of us, buried the runners on one side, and the horses’ legs up to the knees, and was piled up high on our collars and caps. The wind blew first on the right, then on the left, played with my collar, with the skirt of Ignashka’s coat, and the trace-horses’ mane, and whistled through the yoke and the shafts.

It had become fearfully cold, and I had hardly peeped out of my fur collar when the dry, frozen, whirling snow settled on my eyelashes, my nose and my mouth, and drifted down my neck. I looked round⁠—all was white, and light and snowy; nowhere anything but dim light and snow. I felt seriously alarmed. Alyoshka was asleep at my feet, right at the bottom of the sledge; his whole back was covered by a thick layer of snow. Ignashka was not depressed; he was incessantly tugging at the reins, shouting and clapping his feet together. The bells rang as strangely as ever. The horses were panting, but they still went on, though rather more slowly, and stumbling more and more often. Ignashka jumped up and down again, brandished his gloves, and began singing a song in his shrill, strained voice. Before he had finished the song, he pulled up, flung the reins on the forepart of the sledge, and got down. The wind howled ruthlessly; the snow simply poured as it were in shovelfuls on the skirts of my fur cloak. I looked round; the third sledge was not there (it had been left behind somewhere). Beside the second sledge I could see in the snowy fog the old man hopping from one leg to the other. Ignashka walked three steps away from the sledge, sat down on the snow, undid his belt and began taking off his boots.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I must take my boots off; or my feet will be quite frostbitten!” he answered, going on with what he was about.

It was too cold for me to poke my neck out of my fur collar to see what he was doing. I sat up straight, looking at the trace-horse, who stood with one leg outstretched in an attitude of painful exhaustion, shaking his tied-up, snowy tail. The jolt Ignashka gave the sledge in jumping up on the box waked me up.

“Well, where are we now?” I asked. “Shall we go on till morning?”

“Don’t you worry yourself, we’ll take you all right,” he answered. “Now my feet are grandly warm since I shifted my boots.”

And he started; the bells began ringing; the sledge began swaying from side to side; and the wind whistled through the runners. And again we set off floating over the boundless sea of snow.

X

I slept soundly. When I was waked up by Alyoshka kicking me, and opened my eyes, it was morning. It seemed even colder than in the night. No snow was falling from above; but the keen, dry wind was still driving the fine snow along the ground and especially under the runners and the horse’s hoofs. To the right the sky in the east was a heavy, dingy blue colour; but bright, orange-red, slanting rays were becoming more and more clearly marked in it. Overhead, behind the flying white clouds, faintly tinged with red, the pale blue sky was visible; on the left the clouds were light, bright, and moving. Everywhere around, as far as the eye could see, the country lay under deep, white snow, thrown up into sharp ridges. Here and there could be seen a greyish hillock, where the fine, dry snow had persistently blown by. Not a track of sledge, or man, or beast was visible. The outlines and colours of the driver’s back and the horses could be seen clearly and distinctly against the white background.⁠ ⁠… The rim of Ignashka’s dark blue cap, his collar, his hair, and even his boots were white. The sledge was completely buried. The grey shaft-horse’s head and forelock were covered with snow on the right side; my right trace-horse’s legs were buried up to the knee, and all his back, crisp with frozen sweat, was coated with snow on the offside. The tassel was still dancing in time to any tune one liked to fancy, and the trace-horse stepped to the same rhythm. It was only from his sunken belly, that heaved and fell so often, and his drooping ears that one could see how exhausted he was. Only one new object caught my attention. That was a verst post, from which the snow was falling to the ground, and about which the wind had swept up quite a mountain on the right and kept whirling and shifting the powdery snow from one side to the other. I was utterly amazed to find that we had been driving the whole night with the same horses, twelve hours without stopping or knowing where we were going, and yet had somehow arrived. Our bells chimed more gaily than ever. Ignat kept wrapping himself round and shouting; behind us we heard the snorting of the horses and the ringing of the bells of the sledge in which were the old man and the counsellor; but the man who had been asleep had gone completely astray from us on the steppe. When we had driven on another half-verst, we came upon fresh tracks of a sledge and three horses, not yet covered by the snow, and here and there we saw a red spot of blood, most likely from a horse that had been hurt.

“That’s Filip. Why, he’s got in before us!” said Ignashka.

And now a little house with a signboard came into sight near the roadside, in the middle of the snow, which buried it almost to the roof and windows. Near the little inn stood a sledge with three grey horses, with their coats crisp with sweat, their legs stiffly stretched out, and their heads drooping. The snow had been cleared about the door, and a spade stood there; but the droning wind still whirled and drifted the snow from the roof.

At the sound of our bells there came out from the door a big, red-faced, red-haired driver, holding a glass of vodka in his hand, and shouting something to us. Ignashka turned to me and asked my permission to stop here; then, for the first time, I saw his face.

XI

His face was not swarthy, lean, and straight-nosed, as I had expected, judging from his hair and figure. It was a merry, round face, with quite a pug nose, a large mouth, and round, bright, light blue eyes. His face and neck were red, as though they had been rubbed with a polishing cloth; his eyebrows, long eyelashes, and the down that covered all the lower part of his face were stiffly coated with snow and perfectly white. It was only half a verst from the station, and we stopped.

“Only make haste,” I said.

“One minute,” answered Ignashka, jumping off the box and going towards Filip.

“Give it here, mate,” he said, taking the glove off his right hand and flinging it with the whip on the snow, and throwing back his head, he tossed off the glass of vodka at one gulp.

The innkeeper, probably an old Cossack, came out of the door with a pint bottle in his hand.

“To whom shall I take some?” said he.

Tall Vassily, a thin, flaxen-headed peasant with a goat’s beard, and the counsellor, a stout man with light eyebrows and a thick light beard framing his red face, came up, and drank a glass each. The old man, too, was approaching the group, but they did not offer him any, and he moved away to his horses, that were fastened at the back of the sledge, and began stroking one of them on the back.

The old man was just as I had imagined him to be⁠—a thin little man, with a wrinkled, bluish face, a scanty beard, a sharp nose, and decayed, yellow teeth. His cap was a regular driver’s cap, perfectly new, but his greatcoat was shabby, smeared with tar, and torn about the shoulders and skirts. It did not cover his knees, and his coarse, hempen undergarment, which was stuffed into his huge, felt boots. He was bent and wrinkled, his face quivering, and his knees trembling. He bustled about the sledge, apparently trying to get warm.

“Why, Mitritch, have a drop; it would warm you finely,” the counsellor said to him.

Mitritch gave a shrug. He straightened the breech on his horse, set the yoke right, and came up to me.

“Well, sir,” said he, taking his cap off his grey hair, and bowing low, “we’ve been lost all night along with you, and looking for the road; you might treat me to a glass. Surely, your excellency! Else I’ve nothing to warm me up,” he added with a deprecating smile.

I gave him twenty-five kopecks. The innkeeper brought out a glass, and handed it to the old man. He took off his glove with the whip, and put his black, horny little hand, blue with cold, to the glass; but his thumb was not under his control; he could not hold the glass, and let it drop, spilling the vodka in the snow.

All the drivers laughed.

“I say, Mitritch is so frozen, he can’t hold the vodka.”

But Mitritch was greatly mortified at having spilt the drink.

They poured him out another glass, however, and put it to his lips. He became more cheerful at once, ran into the inn, lighted a pipe, began grinning, showing his decayed, yellow teeth, and at every word he uttered an oath. After drinking a last glass, the drivers got into their sledges, and we drove on.

The snow became whiter and brighter, so that it made one’s eyes ache to look at it. The orange-red streaks spread higher and higher, and grew brighter and brighter in the sky overhead. The red disc of the sun appeared on the horizon through the dark blue clouds. The blue became deeper and more brilliant. Along the road near the station there was a distinct yellowish track, with here and there deep ruts in it. In the tense, frozen air there was a peculiar, refreshing lightness.

My sledge flew along very briskly. The head of the shaft-horse, with his mane floating up on the yoke above, bobbed up and down quickly under the sportsman’s bell, the clapper of which did not move freely now, but somehow grated against the sides. The gallant trace-horses, pulling together at the twisted, frozen traces, trotted vigorously, and the tassel danced right under the belly and the breech. Sometimes a trace-horse slipped off the beaten track into a snowdrift, and his eyes were all powdered with snow as he plunged smartly out of it. Ignashka shouted in a cheerful tenor; the dry frost crunched under the runners; behind us we heard the two bells ringing out with a clear, festive note, and the drunken shouts of the drivers. I looked round. The grey, crisp-haired trace-horses, breathing regularly, galloped over the snow with outstretched necks and bits askew. Filip cracked his whip and set his cap straight. The old man lay in the middle of the sledge with his legs up as before.

Two minutes later the sledge was creaking over the swept boards of the approach to the posting-station, and Ignashka turned his merry face, all covered with frost and snow, towards me.

“We’ve brought you safe after all, sir,” said he.

A Russian Proprietor

I

Prince Nekhliudof was nineteen years of age when, at the end of his third term at the university, he came to spend his summer vacation on his estate. He was alone there all the summer.

In the autumn he wrote in his unformed, boyish hand, a letter to his aunt, the Countess Biéloretskaïa, who, according to his notion, was his best friend, and the most genial woman in the world. The letter was in French, and was to the following effect:⁠—

Dear Auntie⁠—I have adopted a resolution upon which must depend the fate of my whole existence. I have left the university in order to devote myself to a country life, because I feel that I was born for it. For God’s sake, dear auntie, don’t make sport of me. You say that I am young. Perhaps I am still almost a child; but this does not prevent me from feeling sure of my vocation, from wishing to accomplish it successfully, and from loving it.

“As I have already written you, I found our affairs in indescribable confusion. Wishing to bring order out of chaos, I made an investigation, and discovered that the principal trouble was due to the most wretched miserable condition of the peasants, and that this trouble could be remedied only by work and patience.

“If you could only see two of my peasants, David and Iván, and the way that they and their families live, I am convinced that one glance at these two unfortunates would do more to persuade you than all that I can tell you in justification of my resolve. Is not my obligation sacred and clear, to labor for the welfare of these seven hundred human beings for whom I must be responsible to God? Would it not be a sin to leave them to the mercy of harsh elders and overseers, so as to carry out plans of enjoyment or ambition? And why should I seek in any other sphere the opportunity of being useful, and doing good, when such a noble, brilliant, and paramount duty lies right at hand?

“I feel that I am capable of being a good farmer;125 and in order to make myself such an one as I understand the word to mean, I do not need my diploma as B.A., nor the rank which you so expect of me. Dear auntie, do not make ambitious plans for me: accustom yourself to the thought that I am going on an absolutely peculiar path, but one that is good, and, I think, will bring me to happiness. I have thought and thought about my future duties, have written out some rules of conduct, and, if God only gives me health and strength, I shall succeed in my undertaking.

“Do not show this letter to my brother Vásya: I am afraid of his ridicule. He generally dictates to me, and I am accustomed to give way to him. Whilst Vanya may not approve of my resolve, at least he will understand it.”

The countess replied to her nephew in the following letter, also written in French:⁠—

“Your letter, dear Dmitri, showed nothing else to me than that you have a warm heart; and I have never had reason to doubt that. But, my dear, our good tendencies do us more harm in life than our bad ones. I will not tell you that you are committing a folly, that your behavior annoys me; but I will do my best to make one argument have an effect upon you. Let us reason together, my dear.

“You say you feel that your vocation is for a country life; that you wish to make your serfs happy, and that you hope to be a good farmer.

“In the first place, I must tell you that we feel sure of our vocation only when we have once made a mistake in one; secondly, that it is easier to win happiness for ourselves than for others; and thirdly, that, in order to be a good master, it is necessary to be a cold and austere man, which you will never in this world succeed in being, even though you strive to make believe that you are.

“You consider your arguments irresistible, and go so far as to adopt them as rules for the conduct of life; but at my age, my dear, people don’t care for arguments and rules, but only for experience. Now, experience tells me that your plans are childish.

“I am now in my fiftieth year, and I have known many fine men; but I have never heard of a young man of good family and ability burying himself in the country under the pretext of doing good.

“You have always wished to appear original, but your originality is nothing else than morbidly developed egotism. And, my dear, choose some better-trodden path. It will lead you to success; and success, if it is not necessary for you as success, is at least indispensable in giving you the possibility of doing good which you desire. The poverty of a few serfs is an unavoidable evil, or, rather, an evil which cannot be remedied by forgetting all your obligations to society, to your relatives, and to yourself.

“With your intellect, with your kind heart, and your love for virtue, no career would fail to bring you success; but at all events choose one which would be worth your while, and bring you honor.

“I believe that you are sincere, when you say that you are free from ambition; but you are deceiving yourself. Ambition is a virtue at your age, and with your means it becomes a fault and an absurdity when a man is no longer in the condition to satisfy this passion.

“And you will experience this if you do not change your intention. Goodbye, dear Mitya. It seems to me that I have all the more love for you on account of your foolish but still noble and magnanimous plan. Do as you please, but I forewarn you that I shall not be able to sympathize with you.”

The young man read this letter, considered it long and seriously, and finally, having decided that his genial aunt might be mistaken, sent in his petition for dismissal from the university, and took up his residence at his estate.

II

The young proprietor had, as he wrote his aunt, devised a plan of action in the management of his estate; and his whole life and activity were measured by hours, days, and months.

Sunday was reserved for the reception of petitioners, domestic servants, and peasants, for the visitation of the poor serfs belonging to the estate, and the distribution of assistance with the approval of the Commune, which met every Sunday evening, and was obliged to decide who should have help, and what amount should be given.

In such employments passed more than a year, and the young man was now no longer a novice either in the practical or theoretical knowledge of estate management.

It was a clear July Sunday when Nekhliudof, having finished his coffee and run through a chapter of Maison Rustique, put his notebook and a packet of banknotes into the pocket of his light overcoat, and started out of doors. It was a great country-house with colonnades and terraces where he lived, but he occupied only one small room on the ground floor. He made his way over the neglected, weed-grown paths of the old English garden, toward the village, which was distributed along both sides of the highway.

Nekhliudof was a tall, slender young man, with long, thick, wavy auburn hair, with a bright gleam in his dark eyes, a clear complexion, and rosy lips where the first down of young manhood was now beginning to appear.

In all his motions and gait, could be seen strength, energy, and the good-natured self-satisfaction of youth.

The serfs, in variegated groups, were returning from church: old men, maidens, children, mothers with babies in their arms, dressed in their Sunday best, were scattering to their homes; and as they met the bárin they bowed low and made room for him to pass.

After Nekhliudof had walked some distance along the street, he stopped, and drew from his pocket his notebook, on the last page of which, inscribed in his own boyish hand, were a number of names of his serfs with memoranda. He read, “Iván Churis asks for aid;” and then, proceeding still farther along the street, entered the gate of the second hut126 on the right.

Churis’s domicile consisted of a half-decayed structure, with musty corners; the sides were rickety. It was so buried in the ground, that the banking, made of earth and dung, almost hid the two windows. The one on the front had a broken sash, and the shutters were half torn away; the other was small and low, and was stuffed with flax. A boarded entry with rotting sills and low door, another small building still older and still lower-studded than the entry, a gate, and a barn were clustered about the principal hut.

All this had once been covered by one irregular roof; but now only over the eaves hung the thick straw, black and decaying. Above, in places, could be seen the framework and rafters.

In front of the yard were a well with rotten curb, the remains of a post, and the wheel, and a mud-puddle stirred up by the cattle where some ducks were splashing.

Near the well stood two old willows, split and broken, with their whitish-green foliage. They were witnesses to the fact that someone, some time, had taken interest in beautifying this place. Under one of them sat a fair-haired girl of seven summers, watching another little girl of two, who was creeping at her feet. The watchdog gambolling about them, as soon as he saw the bárin, flew headlong under the gate, and there set up a quavering yelp expressive of panic.

“Iván at home?” asked Nekhliudof.

The little girl seemed stupefied at this question, and kept opening her eyes wider and wider, but made no reply. The baby opened her mouth, and set up a yell.

A little old woman, in a torn checkered skirt, belted low with an old red girdle, peered out of the door, and also said nothing. Nekhliudof approached the entry, and repeated his inquiry.

“Yes, he’s at home,” replied the little old woman in a quavering voice, bowing low, and evincing timidity and agitation.

After Nekhliudof had asked after her health, and passed through the entry into the little yard, the old woman, resting her chin in her hand, went to the door, and, without taking her eyes off the bárin, began gently to shake her head.

The yard was in a wretched condition, with heaps of old blackened manure that had not been carried away: on the manure were thrown in confusion a rotting block, pitchforks, and two harrows.

There were penthouses around the yard, under one side of which stood a wooden plough, a cart without a wheel, and a pile of empty good-for-nothing beehives thrown one upon another. The roof was in disrepair; and one side had fallen in so that the covering in front rested, not on the supports, but on the manure.

Churis, with the edge and head of an axe, was breaking off the wattles that strengthened the roof. Iván was a peasant, fifty years of age. In stature, he was short. The features of his tanned oval face, framed in a dark auburn beard and hair where a trace of gray was beginning to appear, were handsome and expressive. His dark blue eyes gleamed with intelligence and lazy good-nature, from under half-shut lids. His small, regular mouth, sharply defined under his sandy thin mustache when he smiled, betrayed a calm self-confidence, and a certain bantering indifference toward all around him.

By the roughness of his skin, by his deep wrinkles, by the veins that stood out prominently on his neck, face, and hands, by his unnatural stoop and the crooked position of his legs, it was evident that all his life had been spent in hard work, far beyond his strength.

His garb consisted of white hempen drawers, with blue patches on the knees, and a dirty shirt of the same material, which kept hitching up his back and arms. The shirt was belted low in the waist by a girdle, from which hung a brass key.

“Good day,” said the bárin, as he stepped into the yard. Churis glanced around, and kept on with his work; making energetic motions, he finished clearing away the wattles from under the shed, and then only, having struck the axe into the block, he came out into the middle of the yard.

“A pleasant holiday, your excellency!” said he, bowing low and smoothing his hair.

“Thanks, my friend. I came to see how your affairs127 were progressing,” said Nekhliudof with boyish friendliness and timidity, glancing at the peasant’s garb. “Just show me what you need in the way of supports that you asked me about at the last meeting.”

“Supports, of course, sir, your excellency, sir.128 I should like it fixed a little here, sir, if you will have the goodness to cast your eye on it: here this corner has given way, sir, and only by the mercy of God the cattle didn’t happen to be there. It barely hangs at all,” said Churis, gazing with an expressive look at his broken-down, ramshackly, and ruined sheds. “Now the girders and the supports and the rafters are nothing but rot; you won’t see a sound timber. But where can we get lumber nowadays, I should like to know?”

“Well, what do you want with the five supports when the one shed has fallen in? the others will be soon falling in too, won’t they? You need to have everything made new⁠—rafters and girders and posts; but you don’t want supports,” said the bárin, evidently priding himself on his comprehension of the case.

Churis made no reply.

“Of course you need lumber, but not supports. You ought to have told me so.”

“Surely I do, but there’s nowhere to get it. Not all of us can come to the manor-house. If we all should get into the habit of coming to the manor-house and asking your excellency for everything we wanted, what kind of serfs should we be? But if your kindness went so far as to let me have some of the oak saplings that are lying idle over by the threshing-floor,” said the peasant, making a low bow and scraping with his foot, “then, maybe, I might exchange some, and piece out others, so that the old would last some time longer.”

“What is the good of the old? Why, you just told me that it was all old and rotten. This part has fallen in today; tomorrow, that one will; the day after, a third. So, if anything is to be done, it must be all made new, so that the work may not be wasted. Now tell me what you think about it. Can your premises129 last out this winter, or not?”

“Who can tell?”

“No, but what do you think? Will they fall in, or not?”

Churis meditated for a moment. “Can’t help falling in,” said he suddenly.

“Well, now you see you had better have said that at the meeting, that you needed to rebuild your whole place,130 instead of a few props. You see, I should be glad to help you.”

“Many thanks for your kindness,” replied Churis, in an incredulous tone and not looking at the bárin. “If you would give me four joists and some props, then, perhaps, I might fix things up myself; but if anyone is hunting after good-for-nothing timbers, then he’d find them in the joists of the hut.”

“Why, is your hut so wretched as all that?”

“My old woman and I are expecting it to fall in on us any day,” replied Churis indifferently. “A day or two ago, a girder fell from the ceiling, and struck my old woman.”

“What! struck her?”

“Yes, struck her, your excellency: whacked her on the back, so that she lay half dead all night.”

“Well, did she get over it?”

“Pretty much, but she’s been ailing ever since; but then she’s always ailing.”

“What, are you sick?” asked Nekhliudof of the old woman, who had been standing all the time at the door, and had begun to groan as soon as her husband mentioned her.

“It bothers me here more and more, especially on Sundays,” she replied, pointing to her dirty lean bosom.

“Again?” asked the young master in a tone of vexation, shrugging his shoulders. “Why, if you are so sick, don’t you come and get advice at the dispensary? That is what the dispensary was built for. Haven’t you been told about it?”

“Certainly we have, but I have not had any time to spare; have had to work in the field, and at home, and look after the children, and no one to help me; if I weren’t all alone⁠ ⁠…”

III

Nekhliudof went into the hut. The uneven smoke-begrimed walls of the dwelling were hung with various rags and clothes; and, in the living-room, were literally covered with reddish cockroaches clustering around the holy images and benches.

In the middle of this dark, fetid apartment, not fourteen feet square, was a huge crack in the ceiling; and in spite of the fact that it was braced up in two places, the ceiling hung down so that it threatened to fall from moment to moment.

“Yes, the hut is very miserable,” said the bárin, looking into the face of Churis, who, it seems, had not cared to speak first about this state of things.

“It will crush us to death; it will crush the children,” said the woman in a tearful voice, attending to the stove which stood under the loft.

“Hold your tongue,” cried Churis sternly; and with a slight smile playing under his mustaches, he turned to the master. “And I haven’t the wit to know what’s to be done with it, your excellency⁠—with this hut and props and planks. There’s nothing to be done with them.”

“How can we live through the winter here? Okh, okh! Oh, oh!” groaned the old woman.

“There’s one thing⁠—if we put in some more props and laid a new floor,” said the husband, interrupting her with a calm, practical expression, “and threw over one set of rafters, then perhaps we might manage to get through the winter. It is possible to live; but you’d have to put some props all over the hut, like that: but if it gets shaken, then there won’t be anything left of it. As long as it stands, it holds together,” he concluded, evidently perfectly contented that he appreciated this contingency.

Nekhliudof was both vexed and grieved that Churis had got himself into such a condition, without having come to him long before; since he had more than once, during his sojourn on the estate, told the peasants, and insisted upon it, that they should all apply directly to him for whatever they needed.

He now felt some indignation against the peasant; he angrily shrugged his shoulders, and frowned. But the sight of the poverty in the midst of which he found himself, and Churis’s calm and self-satisfied appearance in contrast with this poverty, changed his vexation into a sort of feeling of melancholy and hopelessness.

“Well, Iván, why on earth didn’t you tell me about this before?” he asked in a tone of reproach, as he took a seat on the filthy, unsteady bench.

“I didn’t dare to, your excellency,” replied Churis with the same scarcely perceptible smile, shuffling with his black, bare feet over the uneven surface of the mud floor; but this he said so fearlessly and with such composure, that it was hard to believe that he had any timidity about going to his master.

“We are mere peasants; how could we be so presuming?” began the old woman, sobbing.

“Hush up,” said Churis, again addressing her.

“It is impossible for you to live in this hut: it’s all rotten,” cried Nekhliudof after a brief silence. “Now, this is how we shall manage it, my friend⁠ ⁠…”131

“I am listening.”

“Have you seen the improved stone cottages that I have been building at the new farm⁠—the one with the undressed walls?”

“Indeed I have seen them,” replied Churis, with a smile that showed his white teeth still unimpaired. “Everybody’s agog at the way they’re built. Fine cottages! The boys were laughing and wondering if they wouldn’t be turned into granaries; they would be so secure against rats. Fine cottages,” he said in conclusion, with an expression of absurd perplexity, shaking his head, “just like a jail!”

“Yes, they’re splendid cottages, dry and warm, and no danger of fire,” replied the bárin, a frown crossing his youthful face as he perceived the peasant’s involuntary sarcasm.

“Without question, your excellency, fine cottages.”

“Well, then, one of these cottages is just finished. It is twenty-four feet square, with an entry, and a barn, and it’s entirely ready. I will let you have it on credit if you say so, at cost price; you can pay for it at your own convenience,” said the bárin with a self-satisfied smile, which he could not control, at the thought of his benevolence. “You can pull down this old one,” he went on to say; “it will make you a granary. We will also move the pens. The water there is splendid. I will give you enough land for a vegetable-garden, and I’ll let you have a strip of land on all three sides. You can live there in a decent way. Now, does not that please you?” asked Nekhliudof, perceiving that as soon as he spoke of moving, Churis became perfectly motionless, and looked at the ground without even a shadow of a smile.

“It’s as your excellency wills,” he replied, not raising his eyes.

The old woman came forward as though something had stung her to the quick, and began to speak; but her husband anticipated her.

“It’s as your excellency wills,” he repeated resolutely, and at the same time humbly glancing at his master, and tossing back his hair. “But it would never do for us to live on a new farm.”

“Why not?”

“Nay, your excellency, not if you move us over there: here we are wretched enough, but over there we could never in the world get along. What kind of peasants should we be there? Nay, nay, it is impossible for us to live there.”

“But why not, pray?”

“We should be totally ruined, your excellency.”

“But why can’t you live there?”

“What kind of a life would it be? Just think! it has never been lived in; we don’t know anything about the water, no pasture anywhere. Here we have had hemp-fields ever since we can remember, all manured; but what is there there? Yes, what is there there? A wilderness! No hedges, no corn-kilns, no sheds, no nothing at all! Oh, yes, your excellency; we should be ruined if you took us there; we should be perfectly ruined. A new place, all unknown to us,” he repeated, shaking his head thoughtfully but resolutely.

Nekhliudof tried to point out to the peasant that the change, on the contrary, would be very advantageous for him; that they would plant hedges, and build sheds; that the water there was excellent, and so on: but Churis’s obstinate silence exasperated him, and he accordingly felt that he was speaking to no purpose.

Churis made no objection to what he said; but when the master finished speaking, he remarked with a crafty smile, that it would be best of all to remove to that farm some of the old domestic servants, and Alyósha the fool, so that they might watch over the grain there.

“That would be worthwhile,” he remarked, and smiled once more. “This is foolish business, your excellency.”

“What makes you think the place is not inhabitable?” insisted Nekhliudof patiently. “This place here isn’t inhabitable, and hasn’t been, and yet you live here. But there, you will get settled there before you know it; you will certainly find it easy⁠ ⁠…”

“But, your excellency, kind sir,132 how can it be compared?” replied Churis eagerly, as though he feared that the master would not accept a conclusive argument. “Here is our place in the world; we are happy in it; we are accustomed to it, and the road and the pond⁠—where would the old woman do her washing? where would the cattle get watered? And all our peasant ways are here; here from time out of mind. And here’s the threshing-floor, and the little garden, and the willows; and here my parents lived, and my grandfather; and my father gave his soul into God’s keeping here, and I too would end my days here, your excellency. I ask nothing more than that. Be good, and let the hut be put in order; we shall be always grateful for your kindness: but no, not for anything, would we spend our last days anywhere else. Let us stay here and say our prayers,” he continued, bowing low; “do not take us from our nest, kind sir.”133

All the time that Churis was speaking, there was heard in the place under the loft, where his wife was standing, sobs growing more and more violent; and when the husband said “kind sir,” she suddenly darted forward, and with tears in her eyes threw herself at the bárin’s feet.

“Don’t destroy us, benefactor; you are our father, you are our mother! Where are you going to move us to? We are old folks; we have no one to help us. You are to us as God is,” lamented the old woman.

Nekhliudof leaped up from the bench, and was going to lift the old woman; but she, with a sort of passionate despair, beat her forehead on the earth floor, and pushed aside the master’s hand.

“What is the matter with you? Get up, I beg of you. If you don’t wish to go, it is not necessary. I won’t oblige you to,” said he, waving his hand, and retreating to the door.

When Nekhliudof sat down on the bench again, and silence was restored in the room, interrupted only by the sobs of the old woman, who was once more busy under the loft, and was wiping away her tears with the sleeves of her shirt, the young proprietor began to comprehend what was meant for the peasant and his wife by the dilapidated little hut, the crumbling well with the filthy pool, the decaying stalls and sheds, and the broken willows which could be seen before the crooked window; and the feeling that arose in him was burdensome, melancholy, and touched with shame.

“Why didn’t you tell the Commune last Sunday, Iván, that you needed a new hut? I don’t know, now, how to help you. I told you all at the first meeting, that I had come to live in the country, and devote my life to you, that I was ready to deprive myself of everything to make you happy and contented; and I vowed before God, now, that I would keep my word,” said the young proprietor, not knowing that such a manner of opening the heart is incapable of arousing faith in anyone, and especially in the Russian, who loves not words but deeds, and is reluctant to be stirred up by feelings, no matter how beautiful they may be.

But the simple-hearted young man was so pleased with this feeling that he experienced, that he could not help speaking.

Churis leaned his head to one side, and slowly blinking, listened with constrained attention to his master, as to a man to whom he must needs listen, even though he says things not entirely good, and absolutely foreign to his way of thinking.

“But you see I cannot do all that everybody asks of me. If I did not refuse some who ask me for wood, I myself should be left without any, and I could not give to those who really needed. When I made this rule, I did it for the regulation of the peasants’ affairs; and I put it entirely in the hands of the Commune. This wood now is not mine, but yours, you peasants’, and I cannot any longer dispose of it; but the Commune disposes of it, as you know. Come to the meeting tonight. I will tell the Commune about your request: if they are disposed to give you a new hut, well and good; but I haven’t any more wood. I wish with all my soul to help you; but if you aren’t willing to move, then it is no longer my affair, but the Commune’s. Do you understand me?”

“Many thanks for your kindness,” replied Churis in some agitation. “If you will give me some lumber, then we can make repairs. What is the Commune? It’s a well-known fact that⁠ ⁠…”

“No, you come.”

“I obey. I will come. Why shouldn’t I come? Only this thing is sure: I won’t ask the Commune.”

IV

The young proprietor evidently desired to ask some more questions of the peasants. He did not move from the bench; and he glanced irresolutely, now at Churis, now at the empty, unlighted stove.

“Well, have you had dinner yet?” he asked at last.

A mocking smile arose to Churis’s lips, as though it were ridiculous to him for his master to ask such foolish questions; he made no reply.

“What do you mean⁠—dinner, benefactor?” said the old woman, sighing deeply. “We’ve eaten a little bread; that’s our dinner. We couldn’t get any vegetables today so as to boil some soup,134 but we had a little kvass⁠—enough for the children.”

“Today was a fast-day for us, your excellency,” remarked Churis sarcastically, taking up his wife’s words. “Bread and onions; that’s the way we peasants live. Howsomever, praise be to the Lord, I have a little grain yet, thanks to your kindness; it’s lasted till now; but there’s plenty of our peasants as ain’t got any. Everywheres there’s scarcity of onions. Only a day or two ago they sent to Mikháïl the gardener, to get a bunch for a farthing: couldn’t get any anywheres. Haven’t been to God’s church scarcely since Easter. Haven’t had nothing to buy a taper for Mikóla [St. Nicholas] with.”

Nekhliudof, not by hearsay nor by trust in the words of others, but by the evidence of his own eyes, had long known the extreme depth of poverty into which his peasantry had sunken: but the entire reality was in such perfect contrast to his own bringing-up, the turn of his mind, and the course of his life, that in spite of himself he kept forgetting the truth of it; and every time when, as now, it was brought vividly, tangibly, before him, his heart was torn with painful, almost unendurable melancholy, as though some absolute and unavoidable punishment were torturing him.

“Why are you so poor?” he exclaimed, involuntarily expressing his thought.

“How could such as we help being poor, sir,135 your excellency? Our land is so bad, you yourself may be pleased to know⁠—clay and sand-heaps; and surely we must have angered God, for this long time, ever since the cholera, the corn won’t grow. Our meadows and everything else have been growing worse and worse. And some of us have to work for the farm, and some detailed for the manor-lands. And here I am with no one to help me, and I’m getting old. I’d be glad enough to work, but I hain’t no strength. And my old woman’s ailing; and every year there’s a new girl born, and I have to feed ’em all. I get tired out all alone, and here’s seven dependent on me. I must be a sinner in the eyes of the Lord God, I often think to myself. And when God takes me off sudden-like, I feel it would be easier for me; just as it’s better for them than to lead such a dog’s life here⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh, okh!” groaned the old woman, as a sort of confirmation of her husband’s words.

“And this is all the help I have,” continued Churis, pointing to the white-headed, unkempt little boy of seven, with a huge belly, who at this moment, timidly and quietly pushing the door open, came into the hut, and, resting his eyes in wonder and solemnity on the master, clung hold of Churis’s shirt-band with both hands.

“This is all the assistance I have here,” continued Churis in a sonorous voice, laying his shaggy hand on the little lad’s white hair. “When will he be good for anything? But my work isn’t much good. When I reach old age I shall be good for nothing; the rupture is getting the better of me. In wet weather it makes me fairly scream. I am getting to be an old man, and yet I have to take care of my land.136 And here’s Yermilof, Demkin, Zabref, all younger than I am, and they have been freed from their land long ago. Well, I haven’t anyone to help me with it; that’s my misfortune. Have to feed so many; that’s where my struggle lies, your excellency.”

“I should be very glad to make it easier for you, truly. But how can I?” asked the young bárin in a tone of sympathy, looking at the serf.

“How make it easier? It’s a well-known fact, if you have the land you must do enforced labor also;137 that’s the regulation. I expect something from this youngster. If only you’d be good enough to let him off from going to school. But just a day or two ago, the officer138 came and said that your excellency wanted him to go to school. Do let him off; he has no capacity for learning, your excellency. He’s too young yet; he won’t understand anything.”

“No, brother, you’re wrong there,” said the bárin. “Your boy is old enough to understand; it’s time for him to be learning. Just think of it! How he’ll grow up, and learn about farming; yes, and he’ll know his A.B.C.s, and know how to read; and read in church. He’ll be a great help to you if God lets him live,” said Nekhliudof, trying to make himself as plain as possible, and at the same time blushing and stammering.

“Very true, your excellency. You don’t want to do us an injury, but there’s no one to take care of the house; for while I and the old woman are doing the enforced labor, the boy, though he’s so young, is a great help, driving the cattle and watering the horses. Whatever he is, he’s a true muzhik;” and Churis, with a smile, took the lad’s nose between his fat fingers, and deftly removed the mucus.

“Nevertheless, you must send him to school, for now you are at home, and he has plenty of time⁠—do you hear? Don’t you fail.”

Churis sighed deeply, and made no reply.

V

“There’s one other thing I wished to speak to you about,” said Nekhliudof. “Why don’t you haul out your manure?”

“What manure, sir,139 your excellency? There isn’t any to haul out. What cattle have I got? One mare and colt; and last autumn I sold my heifer to the porter⁠—that’s all the cattle I’ve got.”

“I know you haven’t much, but why did you sell your heifer?” asked the bárin in amazement.

“What have I got to feed her on?”

“Didn’t you have some straw for feeding the cow? The others did.”

“The others have their fields manured, but my land’s all clay. I can’t do anything with it.”

“Why don’t you dress it, then, so it won’t be clay? Then the land would give you grain, and you’d have something to feed to your stock.”

“But I haven’t any stock, so how am I going to get dressing?”

“That’s an odd cercle vicieux,” said Nekhliudof to himself; and he actually was at his wits’ ends to find an answer for the peasant.

“And I tell you this, your excellency, it ain’t the manure that makes the corn grow, but God,” continued the peasant. “Now, one summer I had six sheaves on one little unmanured piece of land, and only a twelfth as much on that which was manured well. No one like God,” he added with a sigh. “Yes, and my stock are always dying off. Five years past I haven’t had any luck with ’em. Last summer one heifer died; had to sell another, hadn’t anything to feed her on; and last year my best cow perished. They were driving her home from pasture; nothing the matter, but suddenly she staggered and staggered. And so now it’s all empty here. Just my bad luck!”

“Well, brother, since you say that you have no cattle to help you make fodder, and no fodder for your cattle, here’s something towards a cow,” said Nekhliudof, reddening, and fetching forth from his pocket a packet of crumpled banknotes and untying it. “Buy you a cow at my expense, and get some fodder from the granary: I will give orders. See to it that you have a cow by next Sunday. I shall come to see.”

Churis hesitated long; and when he did not offer to take the money, Nekhliudof laid it down on the end of the table, and a still deeper flush spread over his face.

“Many thanks for your kindness,” said Churis, with his ordinary smile, which was somewhat sarcastic.

The old woman sighed heavily several times as she stood under the loft, and seemed to be repeating a prayer.

The situation was embarrassing for the young prince: he hastily got up from the bench, went out into the entry, and called to Churis to follow him. The sight of the man whom he had been befriending was so pleasant that he found it hard to tear himself away.

“I am glad to help you,” said he, halting by the well. “It’s in my power to help you, because I know that you are not lazy. You will work, and I will assist you; and, with God’s aid, you will come out all right.”

“There’s no hope of coming out all right, your excellency,” said Churis, suddenly assuming a serious and even stern expression of countenance, as though the young man’s assurance that he would come out all right had awakened all his opposition. “In my father’s time my brothers and I did not see any lack; but when he died, we broke all up. It kept going from bad to worse. Perfect wretchedness!”

“Why did you break up?”

“All on account of the women, your excellency. It was just after your grandfather died; when he was alive, we should not have ventured to do it: then the present order of things came in. He was just like you, he took an interest in everything; and we should not have dared to separate. The late master did not like to look after the peasants; but after your grandfather’s time, Andréï Ilyitch took charge. God forgive him! he was a drunken, careless man. We came to him once and again with complaints⁠—no living on account of the women⁠—begged him to let us separate. Well, he put it off, and put it off; but at last things came to such a pass, the women kept each to their own part; we began to live apart; and, of course, what could a single peasant do? Well, there wasn’t no law or order. Andréï Ilyitch managed simply to suit himself. ‘Take all you can get.’ And whatever he could extort from a peasant, he took without asking. Then the poll-tax was raised, and they began to exact more provisions, and we had less and less land, and the grain stopped growing. Well, when the new allotment was made, then he took away from us our manured land, and added it to the master’s, the villain, and ruined us entirely. He ought to have been hung. Your father140⁠—the kingdom of heaven be his!⁠—was a good bárin, but it was rarely enough that we ever had sight of him: he always lived in Moscow. Well, of course they used to drive the carts in pretty often. Sometimes it would be the season of bad roads,141 and no fodder; but no matter! The bárin couldn’t get along without it. We did not dare to complain at this, but there wasn’t system. But now your grace lets any of us peasants see your face, and so a change has come over us; and the overseer is a different kind of man. Now we know for sure that we have a bárin. And it is impossible to say how grateful your peasants are for your kindness. But before you came, there wasn’t any real bárin: everyone was bárin. Ilyitch was bárin, and his wife put on the airs of a lady,142 and the scribe from the police-station was bárin. Too many of em! ukh! the peasants had to put up with many trials.”

Again Nekhliudof experienced a feeling akin to shame or remorse. He put on his hat, and went on his way.

VI

“Yukhvanka the clever143 wants to sell a horse,” was what Nekhliudof next read in his notebook; and he proceeded along the street to Yukhvanka’s place.144 Yukhvanka’s hut was carefully thatched with straw from the threshing-floor of the estate; the framework was of new light-gray aspen-wood (also from stock belonging to the estate), had two handsome painted shutters for the window, and a porch with eaves and ingenious balustrades cut out of deal planks.

The narrow entry and the cold hut were also in perfect order; but the general impression of sufficiency and comfort given by this establishment was somewhat injured by a barn enclosed in the gates, which had a dilapidated hedge and a sagging pent roof, appearing from behind it.

Just as Nekhliudof approached the steps from one side, two peasant women came up on the other carrying a tub full of water. One was Yukhvanka’s wife, the other his mother.

The first was a robust, healthy-looking woman, with an extraordinarily exuberant bosom, and wide fat cheeks. She wore a clean shirt embroidered on the sleeves and collar, an apron of the same material, a new linen skirt, peasant’s shoes, a string of beads, and an elegant four-cornered headdress of embroidered red paper and spangles.

The end of the water-yoke was not in the least unsteady, but was firmly settled on her wide and solid shoulder. Her easy forcefulness, manifested in her rosy face, in the curvature of her back, and the measured swing of her arms and legs, made it evident that she had splendid health and rugged strength.

Yukhvanka’s mother, balancing the other end of the yoke, was, on the contrary, one of those elderly women who seem to have reached the final limit of old age and decrepitude. Her bony frame, clad in a black dilapidated shirt and a faded linen skirt, was bent so that the water-yoke rested rather on her back than on her shoulder. Her two hands, whose distorted fingers seemed to clutch the yoke, were of a strange dark chestnut color, and were convulsively cramped. Her drooping head, wrapped up in some sort of a clout, bore the most monstrous evidences of indigence and extreme old age.

From under her narrow brow, perfectly covered with deep wrinkles, two red eyes, unprotected by lashes, gazed with leaden expression to the ground. One yellow tooth protruded from her sunken upper lip, and, constantly moving, sometimes came in contact with her sharp chin. The wrinkles on the lower part of her face and neck hung down like little bags, quivering at every motion.

She breathed heavily and hoarsely; but her bare, distorted legs, though it seemed as if they would have barely strength to drag along over the ground, moved with measured steps.

VII

Almost stumbling against the prince, the young wife precipitately set down the tub, showed a little embarrassment, dropped a courtesy, and then with shining eyes glanced up at him, and, endeavoring to hide a slight smile behind the sleeve of her embroidered shirt, ran up the steps, clattering in her wooden shoes.

“Mother,145 you take the water-yoke to aunt Nastásia,” said she, pausing at the door, and addressing the old woman.

The modest young proprietor looked sternly but scrutinizingly at the rosy woman, frowned, and turned to the old dame, who, seizing the yoke with her crooked fingers, submissively lifted it to her shoulder, and was about to direct her steps to the adjacent hut.

“Your son at home?” asked the prince.

The old woman, her bent form bent more than usual, made an obeisance, and tried to say something in reply, but, suddenly putting her hand to her mouth, was taken with such a fit of coughing, that Nekhliudof without waiting went into the hut.

Yukhvanka, who had been sitting on the bench in the “red corner,”146 when he saw the prince, threw himself upon the oven, as though he were anxious to hide from him, hastily thrust something away in the loft, and, with mouth and eyes twitching, squeezed himself close to the wall, as though to make way for the prince.

Yukhvanka was a light-complexioned fellow, thirty years of age, spare, with a young, pointed beard. He was well proportioned, and rather handsome, save for the unpleasant expression of his hazel eyes, under his knitted brow, and for the lack of two front teeth, which immediately attracted one’s attention because his lips were short and constantly parted.

He wore a Sunday shirt with bright red gussets, striped print drawers, and heavy boots with wrinkled legs.

The interior of Vanka’s hut was not as narrow and gloomy as that of Churis’s, though it was fully as stifling, as redolent of smoke and sheepskin, and showing as disorderly an array of peasant garments and utensils.

Two things here strangely attracted the attention⁠—a small damaged samovar standing on the shelf, and a black frame near the icon, with the remains of a dirty mirror and the portrait of some general in a red uniform.

Nekhliudof looked with distaste on the samovar, the general’s portrait, and the loft, where stuck out, from under some rags, the end of a copper-mounted pipe. Then he turned to the peasant.

“How do you do, Yepifán?” said he, looking into his eyes.

Yepifán bowed low, and mumbled, “Good morning, ’slency,”147 with a peculiar abbreviation of the last word, while his eyes wandered restlessly from the prince to the ceiling, and from the ceiling to the floor, and not pausing on anything. Then he hastily ran to the loft, dragged out a coat, and began to put it on.

“Why are you putting on your coat?” asked Nekhliudof, sitting down on the bench, and evidently endeavoring to look at Yepifán as sternly as possible.

“How can I appear before you without it, ’slency? You see we can understand⁠ ⁠…”

“I have come to ask you why you need to sell a horse? Have you many horses? What horse do you wish to sell?” said the prince without wasting words, but propounding questions that he had evidently pre-considered.

“We are greatly beholden to you, ’slency, that you do not think it beneath you to visit me, a mere peasant,” replied Yukhvanka, casting hasty glances at the general’s portrait, at the stove, at the prince’s boots, and everything else except Nekhliudof’s face. “We always pray God for your ’slency.”

“Why sell the horse?” repeated Nekhliudof, raising his voice, and coughing.

Yukhvanka sighed, tossed back his hair (again his glance roved about the hut), and noticing the cat that lay on the bench contentedly purring, he shouted out to her, “Scat, you rubbish!” and quickly addressed himself to the bárin. “A horse, ’slency, which ain’t worth anything. If the beast was good for anything, I shouldn’t think of selling him, ’slency.”

“How many horses have you in all?”

“Three horses, ’slency.”

“No colts?”

“Of course, ’slency. There is one colt.”

VIII

“Come, show me your horses. Are they in the yard?”148

“Indeed they are, ’slency. I have done as I was told, ’slency. Could we fail to heed you, ’slency? Yakof Ilyitch told me not to send the horses out to pasture. ‘The prince,’ says he, ‘is coming to look at them,’ and so we didn’t send them. For, of course, we shouldn’t dare to disobey you, ’slency.”

While Nekhliudof was on his way to the door, Yukhvanka snatched down his pipe from the loft, and flung it into the stove. His lips were still drawn in with the same expression of constraint as when the prince was looking at him.

A wretched little gray mare, with thin tail, all stuck up with burrs, was sniffing at the filthy straw under the pent roof. A long-legged colt two months old, of some nondescript color, with bluish hoofs and nose, followed close behind her.

In the middle of the yard stood a potbellied brown gelding with closed eyes and thoughtfully pendent head. It was apparently an excellent little horse for a peasant.

“So these are all your horses?”

“No, indeed, ’slency. Here’s still another mare, and here’s the little colt,” replied Yukhvanka, pointing to the horses, which the prince could not help seeing.

“I see. Which one do you propose to sell?”

“This here one, ’slency,” he replied, waving his jacket in the direction of the somnolent gelding, and constantly winking and sucking in his lips.

The gelding opened his eyes, and lazily switched his tail.

“He does not seem to be old, and he’s fairly plump,” said Nekhliudof. “Bring him up, and show me his teeth. I can tell if he’s old.”

“You can’t tell by one indication, ’slency. The beast isn’t worth a farthing. He’s peculiar. You have to judge both by tooth and limb, ’slency,” replied Yukhvanka, smiling very gayly, and letting his eyes rove in all directions.

“What nonsense! Bring him here, I tell you.”

Yukhvanka stood still smiling, and made a deprecatory gesture; and it was only when Nekhliudof cried angrily, “Well, what are you up to?” that he moved toward the shed, seized the halter, and began to pull at the horse, scaring him, and getting farther and farther away as the horse resisted.

The young prince was evidently vexed to see this, and perhaps, also, he wished to show his own shrewdness.

“Give me the halter,” he cried.

“Excuse me. It’s impossible for you, ’slency⁠—don’t⁠ ⁠…”

But Nekhliudof went straight up to the horse’s head, and, suddenly seizing him by the ears, threw him to the ground with such force, that the gelding, who, as it seems, was a very peaceful peasant steed, began to kick and strangle in his endeavors to get away.

When Nekhliudof perceived that it was perfectly useless to exert his strength so, and looked at Yukhvanka, who was still smiling, the thought most maddening at his time of life occurred to him⁠—that Yukhvanka was laughing at him, and regarding him as a mere child.

He reddened, let go of the horse’s ears, and, without making use of the halter, opened the creature’s mouth, and looked at his teeth: they were sound, the crowns full, so far as the young man had time to make his observations. No doubt the horse was in his prime.

Meantime Yukhvanka came to the shed, and, seeing that the harrow was lying out of its place, seized it, and stood it up against the wattled hedge.

“Come here,” shouted the prince, with an expression of childish annoyance in his face, and almost with tears of vexation and wrath in his voice. “What! call this horse old?”

“Excuse me, ’slency, very old, twenty years old at least. A horse that⁠ ⁠…”

“Silence! You are a liar and a good-for-nothing. No decent peasant will lie, there’s no need for him to,” said Nekhliudof, choking with the angry tears that filled his throat.

He stopped speaking, lest he should be detected in weeping before the peasant. Yukhvanka also said nothing, and had the appearance of a man who was almost on the verge of tears, blew his nose, and slowly shook his head.

“Well, how are you going to plough when you have disposed of this horse?” continued Nekhliudof, calming himself with an effort, so as to speak in his ordinary voice. “You are sent out into the field on purpose to drive the horses for ploughing, and you wish to dispose of your last horse? And I should like to know why you need to lie about it.”

In proportion as the prince calmed down, Yukhvanka also calmed down. He straightened himself up, and, while he sucked in his lips constantly, he let his eyes rove about from one object to another.

“Lie to you, ’slency? We are no worse off than others in going to work.”

“But what will you go on?”

“Don’t worry. We will do your work, ’slency,” he replied, starting up the gelding, and driving him away. “Even if we didn’t need money, I should want to get rid of him.”

“Why do you need money?”

“Haven’t no grain, ’slency; and besides, we peasants have to pay our debts, ’slency.”

“How is it you have no grain? Others who have families have corn enough; but you have no family, and you are in want. Where is it all gone?”

“Ate it up, ’slency, and now we haven’t a bit. I will buy a horse in the autumn, ’slency.”

“Don’t for a moment think of selling your horse.”

“But if we don’t then what’ll become of us, ’slency? No grain, and forbidden to sell anything,” he replied, turning his head to one side, sucking in his lips, and suddenly glancing boldly into the prince’s face. “Of course we shall die of starvation.”

“Look here, brother,” cried Nekhliudof, paling, and experiencing a feeling of righteous indignation against the peasant. “I can’t endure such peasants as you are. It will go hard with you.”

“Just as you will, ’slency,” he replied, shutting his eyes with an expression of feigned submission: “I should not think of disobeying you. But it comes not from any fault of mine. Of course, I may not please you, ’slency; at all events, I can do as you wish; only I don’t see why I deserve to be punished.”

“This is why: because your yard is exposed, your manure is not ploughed in, your hedges are broken down, and yet you sit at home smoking your pipe, and don’t work; because you don’t give a crust of bread to your mother, who gave you your whole place,149 and you let your wife beat her, and she has to come to me with her complaints.”

“Excuse me, ’slency, I don’t know what you mean by smoking your pipe,” replied Yukhvanka in a constrained tone, showing beyond peradventure that the complaint about his smoking touched him to the quick. “It is possible to say anything about a man.”

“Now you’re lying again! I myself saw⁠ ⁠…”

“How could I venture to lie to you, ’slency?”

Nekhliudof made no answer, but bit his lip, and began to walk back and forth in the yard. Yukhvanka, standing in one place, and not lifting his eyes, followed the prince’s legs.

“See here, Yepifán,” said Nekhliudof in a childishly gentle voice, coming to a pause before the peasant, and endeavoring to hide his vexation, “it is impossible to live so, and you are working your own destruction. Just think. If you want to be a good peasant, then turn over a new leaf, cease your evil courses, stop lying, don’t get drunk anymore, honor your mother. You see, I know all about you. Take hold of your work; don’t steal from the crown woods, for the sake of going to the tavern. Think how well off you might be. If you really need anything, then come to me; tell me honestly, what you need and why you need it; and don’t tell lies, but tell the whole truth, and then I won’t refuse you anything that I can possibly grant.”

“Excuse me, ’slency, I think I understand you, ’slency,” replied Yukhvanka smiling as though he comprehended the entire significance of the prince’s words.

That smile and answer completely disenchanted Nekhliudof so far as he had any hope of reforming the man and of turning him into the path of virtue by means of moral suasion. It seemed to him hard that it should be wasted energy when he had the power to warn the peasant, and that all that he had said was exactly what he should not have said.

He shook his head gravely, and went into the house. The old woman was sitting on the threshold and groaning heavily, as it seemed to the young proprietor as a sign of approbation of his words which she had overheard.

“Here’s something for you to get bread with,” said Nekhliudof in her ear, pressing a banknote into her hand. “But keep it for yourself, and don’t give it to Yepifán, else he’ll drink it up.”

The old woman with her distorted hand laid hold of the doorpost, and tried to get up. She began to pour out her thanks to the prince; her head began to wag, but Nekhliudof was already on the other side of the street when she got to her feet.

IX

“Davidka Byélui150 asks for grain and posts,” was what followed Yukhvanka’s case in the notebook.

After passing by a number of places, Nekhliudof came to a turn in the lane, and there fell in with his overseer Yakof Alpátitch, who, while the prince was still at a distance, took off his oiled cap, and pulling out a crumpled bandanna handkerchief began to wipe his fat red face.

“Cover yourself, Yakof! Yakof, cover yourself, I tell you.”

“Where do you wish to go, your excellency?” asked Yakof, using his cap to shield his eyes from the sun, but not putting it on.

“I have been at Yukhvanka’s. Tell me, pray, why does he act so?” asked the prince as he walked along the street.

“Why indeed, your excellency!” echoed the overseer as he followed behind the prince in a respectful attitude. He put on his cap, and began to twist his mustache.

“What’s to be done with him? He’s thoroughly good for nothing, lazy, thievish, a liar; he persecutes his mother, and to all appearances he is such a confirmed good-for-nothing that there is no reforming him.”

“I didn’t know, your excellency, that he displeased you so.”

“And his wife,” continued the prince, interrupting the overseer, “seems like a bad woman. The old mother is dressed worse than a beggar, and has nothing to eat; but she wears all her best clothes, and so does he. I really don’t know what is to be done with them.”

Yakof knit his brows thoughtfully when Nekhliudof spoke of Yukhvanka’s wife.

“Well, if he behaves so, your excellency,” began the overseer, “then it will be necessary to find some way to correct things. He is in abject poverty like all the peasants who have no assistance, but he seems to manage his affairs quite differently from the others. He’s a clever fellow, knows how to read, and he’s far from being a dishonest peasant. At the collection of the poll-taxes he was always on hand. And for three years, while I was overseer he was bailiff, and no fault was found with him. In the third year the warden took it into his head to depose him, so he was obliged to take to farming. Perhaps when he lived in town at the station he got drunk sometimes, so we had to devise some means. They used to threaten him, in fun, and he came to his senses again. He was good-natured, and got along well with his family. But as it does not please you to use these means, I am sure I don’t know what we are to do with him. He has really got very low. He can’t be sent into the army, because, as you may be pleased to remember, two of his teeth are missing. Yes, and there are others besides him, I venture to remind you, who absolutely haven’t any⁠ ⁠…”

“Enough of that, Yakof,” interrupted Nekhliudof, smiling shrewdly. “You and I have discussed that again and again. You know what ideas I have on this subject; and whatever you may say to me, I still remain of the same opinion.”

“Certainly, your excellency, you understand it all,” said Yakof, shrugging his shoulders, and looking askance at the prince as though what he saw were worthy of no consideration. “But as far as the old woman is concerned, I beg you to see that you are disturbing yourself to no purpose,” he continued. “Certainly it is true that she has brought up the orphans, she has fed Yukhvanka, and got him a wife, and so forth; but you know that is common enough among peasants. When the mother or father has transferred the property151 to the son, then the new owners get control, and the old mother is obliged to work for her own living to the utmost of her strength. Of course they are lacking in delicate feelings, but this is common enough among the peasantry; and so I take the liberty of explaining to you that you are stirred up about the old woman all for nothing. She is a clever old woman, and a good housewife;152 is there any reason for a gentleman to worry over her? Well, she has quarrelled with her daughter-in-law; maybe the young woman struck her: that’s like a woman, and they would make up again while you torment yourself. You really take it all too much to heart,” said the overseer looking with a certain expression of fondness mingled with condescension at the prince, who was walking silently with long strides before him up the street.

“Will you go home now?” he added.

“No, to Davidka Byélui’s or Kazyól’s⁠—what is his name?”

“Well, he’s a good-for-nothing, I assure you. All the race of the Kazyóls are of the same sort. I haven’t had any success with him; he cares for nothing. Yesterday I rode past the peasant’s field, and his buckwheat wasn’t even sowed yet. What do you wish done with such people? The old man taught his son, but still he’s a good-for-nothing just the same; whether for himself or for the estate, he makes a bungle of everything. Neither the warden nor I have been able to do anything with him: we’ve sent him to the station-house, and we’ve punished him at home, because you are pleased now to like⁠ ⁠…”

“Who? the old man?”

“Yes, the old man. The warden more than once has punished him before the whole assembly, and, would you believe it? he would shake himself, go home, and be as bad as ever. And Davidka, I assure your excellency, is a law-abiding peasant, and a quick-witted peasant; that is, he doesn’t smoke and doesn’t drink,” explained Yakof; “and yet he’s worse than the other who gets drunk. There’s nothing else to do with him than to make a soldier of him or send him to Siberia. All the Kazyóls are the same; and Matriushka who lives in the village belongs to their family, and is the same sort of cursed good-for-nothing. Don’t you care to have me here, your excellency?” inquired the overseer, perceiving that the prince did not heed what he was saying.

“No, go away,” replied Nekhliudof absentmindedly, and turned his steps toward Davidka Byélui’s.

Davidka’s hovel153 stood askew and alone at the very edge of the village. It had neither yard, nor cornkiln, nor barn. Only some sort of dirty stalls for cattle were built against one side. On the other a heap of brushwood and logs was piled up, in imitation of a yard.154

Tall green steppe-grass was growing in the place where the courtyard should have been.

There was no living creature to be seen near the hovel, except a sow lying in the mire at the threshold, and grunting.

Nekhliudof tapped at the broken window; but as no one made answer, he went into the entry and shouted, “Holloa there!”155

This also brought no response. He passed through the entry, peered into the empty stalls, and entered the open hut.

An old red cock and two hens with ruffs were scratching with their legs, and strutting about over the floor and benches. When they saw a man they spread their wings, and, cackling with terror, flew against the walls, and one took refuge on the oven.

The whole hut, which was not quite fourteen feet156 square, was occupied by the oven with its broken pipe, a loom, which in spite of its being summertime was not taken down, and a most filthy table made of a split and uneven plank.

Although it was a dry situation, there was a filthy puddle at the door, caused by the recent rain, which had leaked through roof and ceiling. Loft there was none. It was hard to realize that this was a human habitation, such decided evidence of neglect and disorder was impressed upon both the exterior and the interior of the hovel; nevertheless, in this hovel lived Davidka Byélui and all his family.

At the present moment, notwithstanding the heat of the June day, Davidka, with his head covered by his sheepskin,157 was fast asleep, curled up on one corner of the oven. The panic-stricken hen, skipping up on the oven, and growing more and more agitated, took up her position on Davidka’s back, but did not awaken him.

Nekhliudof, seeing no one in the hovel, was about to go, when a prolonged humid sigh betrayed the sleeper.158

“Holloa! who’s there?” cried the prince.

A second prolonged sigh was heard from the oven.

“Who’s there? Come here!”

Still another sigh, a sort of a bellow, and a heavy yawn responded to the prince’s call.

“Well, who are you?”

Something moved slightly on the oven. The skirt of a torn sheepskin159 was lifted; one huge leg in a dilapidated boot was put down, then another, and finally Davidka’s entire figure emerged. He sat up on the oven, and rubbed his eyes drowsily and morosely with his fist.

Slowly shaking his head, and yawning, he looked down into the hut, and, seeing the prince, began to make greater haste than before; but still his motions were so slow, that Nekhliudof had time to walk back and forth three times from the puddle to the loom before Davidka got down from the oven.

Davidka Byélui or David White was white in reality: his hair, and his body, and his face all were perfectly white.

He was tall and very stout, but stout as peasants are wont to be, that is, not in the waist alone, but in the whole body. His stoutness, however, was of a peculiar flabby, unhealthy kind. His rather comely face, with pale-blue good-natured eyes, and a wide trimmed beard, bore the impress of ill health. There was not the slightest trace of tan or blood: it was of a uniform yellowish ashen tint, with pale livid circles under the eyes, quite as though his face were stuffed with fat or bloated.

His hands were puffy and yellow, like the hands of men afflicted with dropsy, and they wore a growth of fine white hair. He was so drowsy that he could scarcely open his eyes or cease from staggering and yawning.

“Well, aren’t you ashamed of yourself,” began Nekhliudof, “sleeping in the very best part of the day,160 when you ought to be attending to your work, when you haven’t any corn?”

As Davidka little by little shook off his drowsiness, and began to realize that it was the prince who was standing before him, he folded his arms across his stomach, hung his head, inclining it a trifle to one side, and did not move a limb or say a word; but the expression of his face and the pose of his whole body seemed to say, “I know, I know; it is an old story with me. Well, strike me, if it must be: I will endure it.”

He evidently was anxious for the prince to get through speaking and give him his thrashing as quickly as possible, even if he struck him severely on his swollen cheeks, and then leave him in peace.

Perceiving that Davidka did not understand him, Nekhliudof endeavored by various questions to rouse the peasant from his vexatiously obstinate silence.

“Why have you asked me for wood when you have enough to last you a whole month here, and you haven’t had anything to do? What?”

Davidka still remained silent, and did not move.

“Well, answer me.”

Davidka muttered something, and blinked his white eyelashes.

“You must go to work, brother. What will become of you if you don’t work? Now you have no grain, and what’s the reason of it? Because your land is badly ploughed, and not harrowed, and no seed put in at the right time⁠—all from laziness. You asked me for grain: well, let us suppose that I gave it to you, so as to keep you from starving to death, still it is not becoming to do so. Whose grain do I give you? whose do you think? Answer me⁠—whose grain do I give you?” demanded Nekhliudof obstinately.

“The Lord’s,” muttered Davidka, raising his eyes timidly and questioningly.

“But where did the Lord’s grain come from? Think for yourself, who ploughed for it? who harrowed? who planted it? who harvested it? The peasants, hey? Just look here: if the Lord’s grain is given to the peasants, then those peasants who work most will get most; but you work less than anybody. You are complained about on all sides. You work less than all the others, and yet you ask for more of the Lord’s grain than all the rest. Why should it be given to you, and not to the others? Now, if all, like you, lay on their backs, it would not be long before everybody in the world died of starvation. Brother, you’ve got to labor. This is disgraceful. Do you hear, David?”

“I hear you,” said the other slowly through his teeth.

X

At this moment, the window was darkened by the head of a peasant woman who passed carrying some linen on a yoke, and presently Davidka’s mother came into the hovel. She was a tall woman, fifty years old, very fresh and lively. Her ugly face was covered with pockmarks and wrinkles; but her straight, firm nose, her delicate, compressed lips, and her keen gray eyes gave witness to her mental strength and energy.

The angularity of her shoulders, the flatness of her chest, the thinness of her hands, and the solid muscles of her black bare legs, made it evident that she had long ago ceased to be a woman, and had become a mere drudge.

She came hurrying into the hovel, shut the door, set down her linen, and looked angrily at her son.

Nekhliudof was about to say something to her, but she turned her back on him, and began to cross herself before the black wooden icon, that was visible behind the loom.

When she had thus done, she adjusted the dirty checkered handkerchief which was tied around her head, and made a low obeisance to the prince.

“A pleasant Lord’s day to you, excellency,” she said. “God spare you; you are our father.”

When Davidka saw his mother he grew confused, bent his back a little, and hung his head still lower.

“Thanks, Arína,” replied Nekhliudof. “I have just been talking with your son about your affairs.”161

Arína or Aríshka Burlák,162 as the peasants used to call her when she was a girl, rested her chin on the clinched fist of her right hand, which she supported with the palm of the left, and, without waiting for the prince to speak further, began to talk so sharply and loud that the whole hovel was filled with the sound of her voice; and from outside it might have been concluded that several women had suddenly fallen into a discussion.

“What, my father, what is then to be said to him? You can’t talk to him as to a man. Here he stands, the lout,” she continued contemptuously, wagging her head in the direction of Davidka’s woebegone, stolid form.

“How are my affairs, your excellency? We are poor. In your whole village there are none so bad off as we are, either for our own work or for yours. It’s a shame! And it’s all his fault. I bore him, fed him, gave him to drink. Didn’t expect to have such a lubber. There is but one end to the story. Grain is all gone, and no more work to be got out of him than from that piece of rotten wood. All he knows is to lie on top of the oven, or else he stands here, and scratches his empty pate,” she said, mimicking him.

“If you could only frighten him, father! I myself beseech you: punish him, for the Lord God’s sake! send him off as a soldier⁠—it’s all one. But he’s no good to me⁠—that’s the way it is.”

“Now, aren’t you ashamed, Davidka, to bring your mother to this?” said Nekhliudof reproachfully, addressing the peasant.

Davidka did not move.

“One might think that he was a sick peasant,” continued Arína, with the same eagerness and the same gestures; “but only to look at him you can see he’s fatter than the pig at the mill. It would seem as if he might have strength enough to work on something, the lubber! But no, not he! He prefers to curl himself up on top of the oven. And even when he undertakes to do anything, it would make you sick even to look at him, the way he goes about the work! He wastes time when he gets up, when he moves, when he does anything,” said she, dwelling on the words, and awkwardly swaying from side to side with her angular shoulders.

“Now, here today my old man himself went to the forest after wood, and told him to dig a hole; but he did not even put his hand to the shovel.”

She paused for a moment.

“He has killed me,” she suddenly hissed, gesticulating with her arms, and advancing toward her son with threatening gesture. “Curse your smooth, bad face!”

She scornfully, and at the same time despairingly, turned from him, spat, and again addressed the prince with the same animation, still swinging her arms, but with tears in her eyes.

“I am the only one, benefactor. My old man is sick, old: yes, and I get no help out of him; and I am the only one at all. And this fellow hangs around my neck like a stone. If he would only die, then it would be easier; that would be the end of it. He lets me starve, the poltroon. You are our father. There’s no help for me. My daughter-in-law died of work, and I shall too.”

XI

“How did she die?” inquired Nekhliudof, somewhat sceptically.

“She died of hard work, as God knows, benefactor. We brought her last year from Baburin,” she continued, suddenly changing her wrathful expression to one of tearfulness and grief. “Well, the woman163 was young, fresh, obliging, good stuff. As a girl, she lived at home with her father in clover, never knew want; and when she came to us, then she learned to do our work⁠—for the estate and at home and everywhere.⁠ ⁠… She and I⁠—that was all to do it. What was it to me? I was used to it. She was going to have a baby, good father; and she began to suffer pain; and all because she worked beyond her strength. Well, she did herself harm, the poor little sweetheart. Last summer, about the time of the feast of Peter and Paul, she had a poor little boy born. But there was no bread. We ate whatever we could get, my father. She went to work too soon: her milk all dried up. The baby was her firstborn. There was no cow, and we were mere peasants. She had to feed him on rye. Well, of course, it was sheer folly. It kept pining away on this. And when the child died, she became so down-spirited⁠—she would sob and sob, and howl and howl; and then it was poverty and work, and all the time going from bad to worse. So she passed away in the summer, the sweetheart, at the time of the feast of St. Mary’s Intercession. He brought her to it, the beast,” she cried, turning to her son with wrathful despair. “I wanted to ask your excellency a favor,” she continued after a short pause, lowering her voice, and making an obeisance.

“What?” asked Nekhliudof in some constraint.

“You see he’s a young peasant still. He demands so much work of me. Today I am alive, tomorrow I may die. How can he live without a wife? He won’t be any good to you at all. Help us to find someone for him, good father.”

“That is, you want to get a wife for him? What? What an idea!”

“God’s will be done! You are in the place of parents to us.”

And after making a sign to her son, she and the man threw themselves on the floor at the prince’s feet.

“Why do you stoop to the ground?” asked Nekhliudof peevishly, taking her by the shoulder. “You know I don’t like this sort of thing. Marry your son, of course, if you have a girl in view. I should be very glad if you had a daughter-in-law to help you.”

The old woman got up, and began to rub her dry eyes with her sleeves. Davidka followed her example, and, rubbing his eyes with his weak fist, with the same patiently-submissive expression, continued to stand, and listen to what Arína said.

“Plenty of brides, certainly. Here’s Vasiutka Mikheïkin’s daughter, and a right good girl she is; but the girl would not come to us without your consent.”

“Isn’t she willing?”

“No, benefactor, she isn’t.”

“Well, what’s to be done? I can’t compel her. Select someone else. If you can’t find one at home, go to another village. I will pay for her, only she must come of her own free will. It is impossible to marry her by force. There’s no law allows that; that would be a great sin.”

E-e-kh! benefactor! Is it possible that anyone would come to us of her own accord, seeing our way of life, our wretchedness? Not even the wife of a soldier would like to undergo such want. What peasant would let us have his daughter?164 It is not to be expected. You see we’re in the very depths of poverty. They will say, ‘Since you starved one to death, it will be the same with my daughter.’ Who is to give her?” she added, shaking her head dubiously. “Give us your advice, excellency.”

“Well, what can I do?”

“Think of someone for us, kind sir,” repeated Arína urgently. “What are we to do?”

“How can I think of anyone? I can’t do anything at all for you as things are.”

“Who will help us if you do not?” said Arína, drooping her head, and spreading her palms with an expression of melancholy discontent.

“Here you ask for grain, and so I will give orders for some to be delivered to you,” said the prince after a short silence, during which Arína sighed, and Davidka imitated her. “But I cannot do anything more.”

Nekhliudof went into the entry. Mother and son with low bows followed the prince.

XII

“O-okh! alas for my wretchedness!” exclaimed Arína, sighing deeply.

She paused, and looked angrily at her son. Davidka immediately turned around, and, clumsily lifting his stout leg encased in a huge dirty boot over the threshold, took refuge in the opposite door.

“What shall I do with him, father?” continued Arína, turning to the prince. “You yourself see what he is. He is not a bad man;165 doesn’t get drunk, and is peaceable; wouldn’t hurt a little child. It’s a sin to say hard things of him. There’s nothing bad about him, and God knows what has taken place in him to make him so bad to himself. You see he himself does not like it. Would you believe it, father,166 my heart bleeds when I look at him, and see what suffering he undergoes. You see, whatever he is, he is my son. I pity him. Oh, how I pity him!⁠ ⁠… You see, it isn’t as though he had done anything against me or his father or the authorities. But, no: he’s a bashful man, almost like a child. How can he bear to be a widower? Help us out, benefactor,” she said once more, evidently desirous of removing the unfavorable impression which her bitter words might have left upon the prince. “Father, your excellency, I”⁠—She went on to say in a confidential whisper, “My wit does not go far enough to explain him. It seems as though bad men had spoiled him.”

She paused for a moment.

“If we could find the men, we might cure him.”

“What nonsense you talk, Arína! How can he be spoiled?”

“My father, they spoil him so that they make him a no-man forever! Many bad people in the world! Out of ill-will they take a handful of earth from out of one’s path, or something of that sort; and one is made a no-man forever after. Isn’t that a sin? I think to myself, Might I not go to the old man Danduk, who lives at Vorobyevka? He knows all sorts of words; and he knows herbs, and he can make charms; and he finds water with a cross. Wouldn’t he help me?” said the woman. “Maybe he will cure him.”

“What abjectness and superstition!” thought the young prince, shaking his head gloomily, and walking back with long strides through the village.

“What’s to be done with him? To leave him in this situation is impossible, both for myself and for the others and for him⁠—impossible,” he said to himself, counting off on his fingers these reasons.

“I cannot bear to see him in this plight; but how extricate him? He renders nugatory all my best plans for the management of the estate. If such peasants are allowed, none of my dreams will ever be realized,” he went on, experiencing a feeling of despite and anger against the peasant in consequence of the ruin of his plans. “To send him to Siberia, as Yakof suggests, against his will, would that be good for him? or to make him a soldier? That is best. At least I should be quit of him, and I could replace him by a decent peasant.”

Such was his decision.

He thought about this with satisfaction; but at the same time something obscurely told him that he was thinking with only one side of his mind, and not wholly right.

He paused.

“I will think about it some more,” he said to himself. “To send him off as a soldier⁠—why? He is a good man, better than many; and I know.⁠ ⁠… Shall I free him?” he asked himself, putting the question from a different side of his mind. “It wouldn’t be fair. Yes, it’s impossible.”

But suddenly a thought occurred to him that greatly pleased him. He smiled with the expression of a man who has decided a difficult question.

“I will take him to the house,” he said to himself. “I will look after him myself; and by means of kindness and advice, and selecting his employment, I will teach him to work, and reform him.”

XIII

“That’s the way I’ll do,” said Nekhliudof to himself with a pleasant self-consciousness; and then, recollecting that he had still to go to the rich peasant Dutlof, he directed his steps toward a lofty and ample establishment, with two chimneys, standing in the midst of the village.

As he passed a neighboring hut on his way thither, he stopped to speak with a tall, disorderly-looking peasant-woman of forty summers, who came to meet him.

“A pleasant holiday, father,”167 she said, with some show of assurance, stopping at a little distance from him with a pleased smile and a low obeisance.

“Good morning, my nurse. How are you? I was just going to see your neighbor.”

“Pretty well, your excellency, my father. It’s a good idea. But won’t you come in? I beg you to. My old man would be very pleased.”

“Well, I’ll come; and we’ll have a little talk with you, nurse. Is this your house?”

“It is, sir.”168

And the nurse led the way into the hut. Nekhliudof followed her into the entry, and sat down on a tub, and began to smoke a cigarette.

“It’s hot inside. It’s better to sit down here, and have our talk,” he said in reply to the woman’s invitation to go into the hut.

The nurse was a well-preserved and handsome woman. In the features of her countenance, and especially in her big black eyes, there was a strong resemblance to the prince himself. She folded her hands under her apron, and looking fearlessly at him, and incessantly moving her head, began to talk with him.

“Why is it, father? why do you wish to visit Dutlof?”

“Oh, I am anxious for him to take thirty desiatins169 of land of me, and enlarge his domain; and moreover I want him to buy some wood from me also. You see, he has money, so why should it be idle? What do you think about it, nurse?”

“Well, what can I say? The Dutlofs are strong people: he’s the leading peasant in the whole estate,” replied the nurse, shaking her head. “Last summer he built another building out of his own lumber. He did not call upon the estate at all. He has horses, and yearling colts besides, at least six troikas, and cattle, cows, and sheep; so that it is a sight worth seeing when they are driven along the street from pasture, and the women of the house come out to get them into the yard. There is such a crush of animals at the gate that they can scarcely get through, so many of them there are. And two hundred beehives at the very least. He is a strong peasant, and must have money.”

“But what do you think⁠—has he much money?” asked the prince.

“Men say, out of spite of course, that the old man has no little money. But he does not go round talking about it, and he does not tell even his sons, but he must have. Why shouldn’t he take hold of the woodland? Perhaps he is afraid of getting the reputation for money. Five years ago he went into a small business with Shkalik the porter. They got some meadow-land; and this Shkalik, some way or other, cheated him, so that the old man was three hundred rubles out of pocket. And from that time he has sworn off. How can he help being forehanded, your excellency, father?” continued the nurse. “He has three farms, a big family, all workers; and besides, the old man⁠—it is hard to say it⁠—is a capital manager. He is lucky in everything; it is surprising⁠—in his grain and in his horses and in his cattle and in his bees, and he’s lucky in his children. Now he has got them all married off. He has found husbands for his daughters; and he has just married Ilyushka, and given him his freedom. He himself bought the letter of enfranchisement. And so a fine woman has come into his house.”

“Well, do they live harmoniously?” asked the prince.

“As long as there’s the right sort of a head to the house, they get along. Yet even the Dutlofs⁠—but of course that’s among the women. The daughters-in-law bark at each other a little behind the oven, but the old man generally holds them in hand; and the sons live harmoniously.”

The nurse was silent for a little.

“Now, the old man, we hear, wants to leave his eldest son, Karp, as master of the house. ‘I am getting old,’ says he. ‘It’s my business to attend to the bees.’ Well, Karp is a good peasant, a careful peasant; but he doesn’t manage to please the old man in the least. There’s no sense in it.”

“Well, perhaps Karp wants to speculate in land and wood. What do you think about it?” pursued the prince, wishing to learn from the woman all that she knew about her neighbors.

“Scarcely, sir,”170 continued the nurse. “The old man hasn’t disclosed his money to his son. As long as he lives, of course, the money in the house will be under the old man’s control; and it will increase all the time too.”

“But isn’t the old man willing?”

“He is afraid.”

“What is he afraid of?”

“How is it possible, sir, for a seignorial peasant to make a noise about his money? And it’s a hard question to decide what to do with money anyway. Here he went into business with the porter, and was cheated. Where was he to get redress? And so he lost his money. But with the proprietor he would have any loss made good immediately, of course.”

“Yes, hence⁠ ⁠…” said Nekhliudof, reddening. “But goodbye, nurse.”

“Goodbye, sir, your excellency. Greatly obliged to you.”

XIV

“Hadn’t I better go home?” mused Nekhliudof, as he strode along toward the Dutlof enclosure, and felt a boundless melancholy and moral weariness.

But at this moment the new deal gates were thrown open before him with a creaking sound; and a handsome, ruddy fellow of eighteen in wagoner’s attire appeared, leading a troika of powerful-limbed and still sweaty horses. He hastily brushed back his blonde hair, and bowed to the prince.

“Well, is your father at home, Ilya?” asked Nekhliudof.

“At the bee-house, back of the yard,” replied the youth, driving the horses, one after the other, through the half-opened gates.

“I will not give it up. I will make the proposal. I will do the best I can,” reflected Nekhliudof; and, after waiting till the horses had passed out, he entered Dutlof’s spacious yard.

It was plain to see that the manure had only recently been carried away. The ground was still black and damp; and in places, particularly in the hollows, were left red fibrous clots.

In the yard and under the high sheds, many carts stood in orderly rows, together with ploughs, sledges, harrows, barrels, and all sorts of farming implements. Doves were flitting about, cooing in the shadows under the broad solid rafters. There was an odor of manure and tar.

In one corner Karp and Ignát were fitting a new crossbar to a large iron-mounted, three-horse cart.

All three of Dutlof’s sons bore a strong family resemblance. The youngest, Ilya, who had met Nekhliudof at the gate, was beardless, of smaller stature, ruddier complexion, and more neatly dressed, than the others. The second, Ignát, was rather taller and darker. He had a wedge-shaped beard; and though he wore boots, a driver’s shirt, and a lamb’s-skin cap, he had not such a festive, holiday appearance as his brother had.

The eldest, Karp, was still taller. He wore clogs, a gray kaftan, and a shirt without gussets. He had a reddish beard, trimmed; and his expression was serious, even to severity.

“Do you wish my father sent for, your excellency?” he asked, coming to meet the prince, and bowing slightly and awkwardly.

“No, I will go to him at the hives: I wish to see what he’s building there. But I should like a talk with you,” said Nekhliudof, drawing him to the other side of the yard, so that Ignát might not overhear what he was about to talk about with Karp.

The self-confidence and degree of pride noticeable in the deportment of the two peasants, and what the nurse had told the young prince, so troubled him, that it was difficult for him to make up his mind to speak with them about the matter proposed.

He had a sort of guilty feeling, and it seemed to him easier to speak with one brother out of the hearing of the other. Karp seemed surprised that the prince took him to one side, but he followed him.

“Well, now,” began Nekhliudof awkwardly⁠—“I wished to inquire of you if you had many horses.”

“We have about five troikas, also some colts,” replied Karp in a free-and-easy manner, scratching his back.

“Well, are your brothers going to take out relays of horses for the post?”

“We shall send out three troikas to carry the mail. And there’s Ilyushka, he has been off with his team; but he’s just come back.”

“Well, is that profitable for you? How much do you earn that way?”

“What do you mean by profit, your excellency? We at least get enough to live on and bait our horses, thank God for that!”

“Then, why don’t you take hold of something else? You see, you might buy wood, or take more land.”

“Of course, your excellency: we might rent some land if there were any convenient.”

“I wish to make a proposition to you. Since you only make enough out of your teaming to live on, you had better take thirty desiatins of land from me. All that strip behind Sapof I will let you have, and you can carry on your farming better.”

And Nekhliudof, carried away by his plan for a peasant farm, which more than once he had proposed to himself, and deliberated about, began fluently to explain to the peasant his proposition about it.

Karp listened attentively to the prince’s words.

“We are very grateful for your kindness,” said he, when Nekhliudof stopped, and looked at him in expectation of his answer. “Of course here there’s nothing very bad. To occupy himself with farming is better for a peasant than to go off as a whip. He goes among strangers; he sees all sorts of men; he gets wild. It’s the very best thing for a peasant, to occupy himself with land.”

“You think so, do you?”

“As long as my father is alive, how can I think, your excellency? It’s as he wills.”

“Take me to the beehives. I will talk with him.”

“Come with me this way,” said Karp, slowly directing himself to the barn back of the house. He opened a low gate which led to the apiary, and after letting the prince pass through, he shut it, and returned to Ignát, and silently took up his interrupted labors.

XV

Nekhliudof, stooping low, passed through the low gate, under the gloomy shed, to the apiary, which was situated behind the yard.

A small space, surrounded by straw and a wattled hedge, through the chinks of which the light streamed, was filled with beehives symmetrically arranged, and covered with shavings, while the golden bees were humming around them. Everything was bathed in the warm and brilliant rays of the July sun.

From the gate a well-trodden footway led through the middle to a wooden side-building, with a tinfoil image on it gleaming brightly in the sun.

A few orderly young lindens lifting, above the thatched roof of the neighboring courtyard, their bushy tops, almost audibly rustled their dark-green, fresh foliage, in unison with the sound of the buzzing bees. All the shadows from the covered hedge, from the lindens, and from the hives, fell dark and short on the delicate curling grass springing up between the planks.

The bent, small figure of the old man, with his gray hair and bald spot shining in the sun, was visible near the door of a straw-thatched structure situated among the lindens. When he heard the creaking of the gate, the old man looked up, and wiping his heated, sweaty face with the flap of his shirt, and smiling with pleasure, came to meet the prince.

In the apiary it was so comfortable, so pleasant, so warm, so free! The figure of the gray-haired old man, with thick wrinkles radiating from his eyes, and wearing wide shoes on his bare feet, as he came waddling along, good-naturedly and contentedly smiling, to welcome the prince to his own private possessions, was so ingenuously soothing that Nekhliudof for a moment forgot the trying impressions of the morning, and his cherished dream came vividly up before him. He already saw all his peasants just as prosperous and contented as the old man Dutlof, and all smiling soothingly and pleasantly upon him, because to him alone they were indebted for their prosperity and happiness.

“Would you like a net, your excellency? The bees are angry now,” said the old man, taking down from the fence a dirty gingham bag fragrant of honey, and handing it to the prince. “The bees know me, and don’t sting,” he added, with the pleasant smile that rarely left his handsome sunburned face.

“I don’t need it either. Well, are they swarming yet?” asked Nekhliudof, also smiling, though without knowing why.

“Yes, they are swarming, father, Mitri Mikolayévitch,”171 replied the old man, throwing an expression of peculiar endearment into this form of addressing his bárin by his name and patronymic. “They have only just begun to swarm; it has been a cold spring, you know.”

“I have just been reading in a book,” began Nekhliudof, defending himself from a bee which had got entangled in his hair, and was buzzing under his ear, “that if the wax stands straight on the bars, then the bees swarm earlier. Therefore such hives as are made of boards⁠ ⁠… with cross-b⁠—”

“You don’t want to gesticulate; that makes it worse,” said the little old man. “Now don’t you think you had better put on the net?”

Nekhliudof felt a sharp pain, but by some sort of childish egotism he did not wish to give in to it; and so, once more refusing the bag, continued to talk with the old man about the construction of hives, about which he had read in Maison Rustique, and which, according to his idea, ought to be made twice as large. But another bee stung him in the neck, and he lost the thread of his discourse and stopped short in the midst of it.

“That’s well enough, father, Mitri Mikolayévitch,” said the old man, looking at the prince with paternal protection; “that’s well enough in books, as you say. Yes; maybe the advice is given with some deceit, with some hidden meaning; but only just let him do as he advises, and we shall be the first to have a good laugh at his expense. And this happens! How are you going to teach the bees where to deposit their wax? They themselves put it on the crossbar, sometimes straight and sometimes aslant. Just look here!” he continued, opening one of the nearest hives, and gazing at the entrance-hole blocked by a bee buzzing and crawling on the crooked comb. “Here’s a young one. It sees; at its head sits the queen, but it lays the wax straight and sideways, both according to the position of the block,” said the old man, evidently carried away by his interest in his occupation, and not heeding the prince’s situation. “Now, today, it will fly with the pollen. Today is warm; it’s on the watch,” he continued, again covering up the hive and pinning down with a cloth the crawling bee; and then brushing off into his rough palm a few of the insects from his wrinkled neck.

The bees did not sting him; but as for Nekhliudof, he could scarcely refrain from the desire to beat a retreat from the apiary. The bees had already stung him in three places, and were buzzing angrily on all sides around his head and neck.

“You have many hives?” he asked as he retreated toward the gate.

“What God has given,” replied Dutlof sarcastically. “It is not necessary to count them, father; the bees don’t like it. Now, your excellency, I wanted to ask a favor of you,” he went on to say, pointing to the small posts standing by the fence. “It was about Osip, the nurse’s husband. If you would only speak to him. In our village it’s so hard to act in a neighborly way; it’s not good.”

“How so?⁠ ⁠… Ah, how they sting!” exclaimed the prince, already seizing the latch of the gate.

“Every year now, he lets his bees out among my young ones. We could stand it, but strange bees get away their comb and kill them,” said the old man, not heeding the prince’s grimaces.

“Very well, by and by; right away,” said Nekhliudof. And having no longer strength of will to endure, he hastily beat a retreat through the gate, fighting his tormentors with both hands.

“Rub it with dirt. It’s nothing,” said the old man, coming to the door after the prince. The prince took some earth, and rubbed the spot where he had been stung, and reddened as he cast a quick glance at Karp and Ignát, who did not deign to look at him. Then he frowned angrily.

XVI

“I wanted to ask you something about my sons, your excellency,” said the old man, either pretending not to notice, or really not noticing, the prince’s angry face.

“What?”

“Well, we are well provided with horses, praise the Lord! and that’s our trade, and so we don’t have to work on your land.”

“What do you mean?”

“If you would only be kind enough to let my sons have leave of absence, then Ilyushka and Ignát would take three troikas, and go out teaming for all summer. Maybe they’d earn something.”

“Where would they go?”

“Just as it happened,” replied Ilyushka, who at this moment, having put the horses under the shed, joined his father. “The Kadminski boys went with eight horses to Romen. Not only earned their own living, they say, but brought back a gain of more than three hundred percent. Fodder, they say, is cheap at Odest.”

“Well, that’s the very thing I wanted to talk with you about,” said the prince, addressing the old man, and anxious to draw him shrewdly into a talk about the farm. “Tell me, please, if it would be more profitable to go to teaming than farming at home?”

“Why not more profitable, your excellency?” said Ilyushka, again putting in his word, and at the same time quickly shaking back his hair. “There’s no way of keeping horses at home.”

“Well, how much do you earn in the summer?”

“Since spring, as feed was high, we went to Kiev with merchandise, and to Kursk, and back again to Moscow with grits; and in that way we earned our living. And our horses had enough, and we brought back fifteen rubles in money.”

“There’s no harm in taking up with an honorable profession, whatever it is,” said the prince, again addressing the old man. “But it seems to me that you might find another form of activity. And besides, this work is such that a young man goes everywhere. He sees all sorts of people⁠—may get wild,” he added, quoting Karp’s words.

“What can we peasants take up with, if not teaming?” objected the old man with his sweet smile. “If you are a good driver, you get enough to eat, and so do your horses; but, as regards mischief, they are just the same as at home, thank the Lord! It isn’t the first time that they have been. I have been myself, and never saw any harm in it, nothing but good.”

“How many other things you might find to do at home! with fields and meadows⁠—”

“How is it possible?” interrupted Ilyushka with animation. “We were born for this. All the regulations are at our fingers’ ends. We like the work. It’s the most enjoyable we have, your excellency. How we like to go teaming!”

“Your excellency, will you not do us the honor of coming into the house? You have not yet seen our new domicile,” said the old man, bowing low, and winking to his son.

Ilyushka hastened into the house, and Nekhliudof and the old man followed after him.

XVII

As soon as he got into the house, the old man bowed once more; then using his coattail to dust the bench in the front of the room, he smiled, and said⁠—

“What do you want of us, your excellency?”

The hut was bright and roomy, with a chimney; and it had a loft and berths. The fresh aspen-wood beams, between which could be seen the moss, scarcely faded, were as yet not turned dark. The new benches and the loft were not polished smooth, and the floor was not worn. One young peasant woman, rather lean, with a serious oval face, was sitting on a berth, and using her foot to rock a hanging cradle that was suspended from the ceiling by a long hook. This was Ilya’s wife.

In the cradle lay at full length a suckling child, scarcely breathing, and with closed eyes.

Another young woman, robust and rosy-cheeked, with her sleeves rolled up above her elbows, showing strong arms and hands red even higher than her wrists, was standing in front of the oven, and mincing onions in a wooden dish. This was Karp’s wife.

A pockmarked woman, showing signs of pregnancy, which she tried to conceal, was standing near the oven. The room was hot, not only from the summer sun, but from the heat of the oven; and there was a strong smell of baking bread.

Two flaxen-headed little boys and a girl gazed down from the loft upon the prince, with faces full of curiosity. They had come in, expecting something to eat.

Nekhliudof was delighted to see this happy household; and at the same time he felt a sense of constraint in presence of these peasants, men and women, all looking at him. He flushed a little as he sat down on the bench.

“Give me a crust of hot bread: I am fond of it,” said he, and the flush deepened.

Karp’s wife cut off a huge slice of bread, and handed it on a plate to the prince. Nekhliudof said nothing, not knowing what to say. The women also were silent, the old man smiled benevolently.

“Well, now why am I so awkward? as though I were to blame for something,” thought Nekhliudof. “Why shouldn’t I make my proposition about the farm? What stupidity!” Still he remained silent.

“Well, father Mitri Mikolayévitch, what are you going to say about my boys’ proposal?” asked the old man.

“I should advise you absolutely not to send them away, but to have them stay at home, and work,” said Nekhliudof, suddenly collecting his wits. “You know what I have proposed to you. Go in with me, and buy some of the crown woods and some more land⁠—”

“But how are we going to get money to buy it, your excellency?” he asked, interrupting the prince.

“Why, it isn’t very much wood, only two hundred rubles’ worth,” replied Nekhliudof.

The old man gave an indignant laugh.

“Very good, if that’s all. Why not buy it?” said he.

“Haven’t you money enough?” asked the prince reproachfully.

Okh! Sir, your excellency!” replied the old man, with grief expressed in his tone, looking apprehensively toward the door. “Only enough to feed my family, not enough to buy woodland.”

“But you know you have money⁠—what do you do with it?” insisted Nekhliudof.

The old man suddenly fell into a terrible state of excitement: his eyes flashed, his shoulders began to twitch.

“Wicked men may say all sorts of things about me,” he muttered in a trembling voice. “But, so may God be my witness!” he said, growing more and more animated, and turning his eyes toward the icon, “may my eyes crack, may I perish with all my family, if I have anything more than the fifteen silver rubles which Ilyushka brought home; and we have to pay the poll-tax, you yourself know that. And we built the hut⁠—”

“Well, well, all right,” said the prince, rising from the bench. “Goodbye, friends.”172

XVIII

“My God! my God!” was Nekhliudof’s mental exclamation, as with long strides he hastened home through the shady alleys of his weed-grown garden, and, absentmindedly, snapped off the leaves and branches which fell in his way.

“Is it possible that my dreams about the ends and duties of my life are all idle nonsense? Why is it hard for me, and mournful, as though I were dissatisfied with myself because I imagined that having once begun this course I should constantly experience the fullness of the morally pleasant feeling which I had when, for the first time, these thoughts came to me?”

And with extraordinary vividness and distinctness he saw in his imagination that happy moment which he had experienced a year before.

He had arisen very early, before everyone else in the house, and feeling painfully those secret, indescribable impulses of youth, he had gone aimlessly out into the garden, and from there into the woods; and, amid the energetic but tranquil nature pulsing with the new life of Maytime, he had wandered long alone, without thought, and suffering from the exuberance of some feeling, and not finding any expression for it.

Then, with all the allurement of what is unknown, his youthful imagination brought up before him the voluptuous form of a woman; and it seemed to him that was the object of his indescribable longing. But another, deeper sentiment said, Not that, and impelled him to search and be disturbed in mind.

Without thought or desire, as always happens after extra activity, he lay on his back under a tree, and looked at the diaphanous morning-clouds drifting over him across the deep, endless sky.

Suddenly, without any reason, the tears sprang to his eyes, and God knows in what way the thought came to him with perfect clearness, filling all his soul and giving him intense delight⁠—the thought that love and righteousness are the same as truth and enjoyment, and that there is only one truth, and only one possible happiness, in the world.

The deeper feeling this time did not say, Not that. He sat up, and began to verify this thought.

“That is it, that is it,” said he to himself, in a sort of ecstasy, measuring all his former convictions, all the phenomena of his life, by the truth just discovered to him, and as it seemed to him absolutely new.

“What stupidity! All that I knew, all that I believed in, all that I loved,” he had said to himself. “Love is self-denying; this is the only true happiness independent of chance,” he had said over and over again, smiling and waving his hands.

Applying this thought on every side to life, and finding in it confirmation both of life and that inner voice which told him that this was it, he had experienced a new feeling of pleasant agitation and enthusiasm.

“And so I ought to do good if I would be happy,” he thought; and all his future vividly came up before him, not as an abstraction, but in images in the form of the life of a proprietor.

He saw before him a huge field, conterminous with his whole life, which he was to consecrate to the good, and in which really he should find happiness. There was no need for him to search for a sphere of activity; it was all ready. He had one out-and-out obligation: he had his serfs.⁠ ⁠…

And what comfortable and beneficent labor lay before him! “To work for this simple, impressionable, incorruptible class of people; to lift them from poverty; to give them pleasure; to give them education which, fortunately, I will turn to use in correcting their faults, which arise from ignorance and superstition; to develop their morals; to induce them to love the right.⁠ ⁠… What a brilliant, happy future! And besides all this, I, who am going to do this for my own happiness, shall take delight in their appreciation, shall see how every day I shall go farther and farther toward my predestined end. A wonderful future! Why could I not have seen this before?

“And besides,” so he had thought at the same time, “who will hinder me from being happy in love for a woman, in enjoyment of family?”

And his youthful imagination portrayed before him a still more bewitching future.

“I and my wife, whom I shall love as no one ever loved a wife before in the world, we shall always live amid this restful, poetical, rural nature, with our children, maybe, and with my old aunt. We have our love for each other, our love for our children; and we shall both know that our aim is the right. We shall help each other in pressing on to this goal. I shall make general arrangements; I shall give general aid when it is right; I shall carry on the farm, the savings bank, the workshop. And she, with her dear little head, and dressed in a simple white dress, which she lifts above her dainty ankle as she steps through the mud, will go to the peasants’ school, to the hospital, to some unfortunate peasant who in truth does not deserve help, and everywhere carry comfort and aid.⁠ ⁠… Children, old men, women, will wait for her, and look on her as on some angel, as on Providence. Then she will return, and hide from me the fact that she has been to see the unfortunate peasant, and given him money; but I shall know all, and give her a hearty hug, and rain kisses thick and fast on her lovely eyes, her modestly-blushing cheeks, and her smiling, rosy lips.”

XIX

“Where are those dreams?” the young man now asked himself as he walked home after his round of visits. “Here more than a year has passed since I have been seeking for happiness in this course, and what have I found? It is true, I sometimes feel that I can be contented with myself; but this is a dry, doubtful kind of content. Yet, no; I am simply dissatisfied! I am dissatisfied because I find no happiness here; and I desire, I passionately long for, happiness. I have not experienced delight, I have cut myself off from all that gives it. Wherefore? for what end? Does that make it easier for anyone?

“My aunt was right when she wrote that it is easier to find happiness than to give it to others. Have my peasants become any richer? Have they learned anything? or have they shown any moral improvement? Not the least. They are no better off, but it grows harder and harder every day for me. If I saw any success in my undertakings, if I saw any signs of gratitude⁠ ⁠… but, no! I see falsely directed routine, vice, untruthfulness, helplessness. I am wasting the best years of my life.”

Thus he said to himself, and he recollected that his neighbors, as he heard from his nurse, called him “a mere boy;” that he had no money left in the counting-room; that his new threshing-machine, which he had invented, much to the amusement of the peasants, only made a noise, and did not thresh anything when it had been set in motion for the first time in presence of numerous spectators, who had gathered at the threshing-floor; that from day to day he had to expect the coming of the district judge for the list of goods and chattels, which he had neglected to make out, having been engrossed in various new enterprises on his estate.

And suddenly there arose before him, just as vividly as, before, that walk through the forest and his ideal of rural life had arisen⁠—just as vividly there appeared his little university room at Moscow, where he used to sit half the night before a solitary candle, with his chum and his favorite boy friend.

They used to read for five hours on a stretch, and study such stupid lessons in civil law; and when they were done with them, they would send for supper, open a bottle of champagne, and talk about the future which awaited them.

How entirely different the young student had thought the future would be! Then the future was full of enjoyment, of varied occupation, brilliant with success, and beyond a peradventure sure to bring them both to what seemed to them the greatest blessing in the world⁠—to fame.

“He will go on, and go on rapidly, in that path,” thought Nekhliudof of his friend; “but I⁠ ⁠…”

But by this time he was already mounting the steps to his house; and near it were standing a score of peasants and house-servants, waiting with various requests to the prince. And this brought him back from dreams to the reality.

Among the crowd was a ragged and bloodstained peasant-woman, who was lamenting and complaining of her father-in-law, who had been beating her. There were two brothers, who for two years past had been going on shares in their domestic arrangements, and now looked at each other with hatred and despair. There was also an unshaven, gray-haired domestic serf, with hands trembling from the effects of intoxication; and this man was brought to the prince by his son, a gardener, who complained of his disorderly conduct. There was a peasant, who had driven his wife out of the house because she had not worked any all the spring. There was also the wife, a sick woman, who sobbed, but said nothing, as she sat on the grass by the steps⁠—only showed her inflamed and swollen leg, carelessly wrapped up in a filthy rag.

Nekhliudof listened to all the petitions and complaints; and after he had given advice to one, blamed others, and replied to still others, he began to feel a sort of whimsical sensation of weariness, shame, weakness, and regret. And he went to his room.

XX

In the small room occupied by Nekhliudof stood an old leather sofa decorated with copper nails, a few chairs of the same description, an old-fashioned inlaid extension-table with scallops and brass mountings, and strewn with papers, and an old-fashioned English grand with narrow keys, broken and twisted.

Between the windows hung a large mirror with an old carved frame gilded. On the floor, near the table, lay packages of papers, books, and accounts.

This room, on the whole, had a characterless and disorderly appearance; and this lively disorder presented a sharp contrast with the affectedly aristocratic arrangement of the other rooms of the great mansion.

When Nekhliudof reached his room, he flung his hat angrily on the table, and sat down in a chair which stood near the piano, crossed his legs, and shook his head.

“Will you have lunch, your excellency?” asked a tall, thin, wrinkled old woman, who entered just at this instant, dressed in a cap, a great kerchief, and a print dress.

Nekhliudof looked at her for a moment or two in silence, as though collecting his thoughts.

“No: I don’t wish anything, nurse,” said he, and again fell into thought.

The nurse shook her head at him in some vexation, and sighed.

“Eh! Father, Dmitri Nikolayévitch, are you melancholy? Such tribulation comes, but it will pass away. God knows⁠ ⁠…”

“I am not melancholy. What have you brought, Malanya Finogenovna?” replied Nekhliudof, endeavoring to smile.

“Ain’t melancholy! can’t I see?” the old woman began to say with warmth. “The whole livelong day to be all sole alone! And you take everything to heart so, and look out for everything; and besides, you scarcely eat anything. What’s the reason of it? If you’d only go to the city, or visit your neighbors, as others do! You are young, and the idea of bothering over things so! Pardon me, little father, I will sit down,” pursued the old nurse, taking a seat near the door. “You see, we have got into such a habit that we lose fear. Is that the way gentlemen do? There’s no good in it. You are only ruining yourself, and the people are spoiled. That’s just like our people: they don’t understand it, that’s a fact. You had better go to your auntie. What she wrote was good sense,” said the old nurse, admonishing him.

Nekhliudof kept growing more and more dejected. His right hand, resting on his knee, lazily struck the piano, making a chord, a second, a third.

Nekhliudof moved nearer, drew his other hand from his pocket, and began to play. The chords which he made were sometimes not premeditated, were occasionally not even according to rule, often remarkable for absurdity, and showed that he was lacking in musical talent; but the exercise gave him a certain indefinable melancholy enjoyment.

At every modification in the harmony, he waited with muffled heartbeat for what would come out of it; and when anything came, he, in a dark sort of way, completed with his imagination what was missing.

It seemed to him that he heard a hundred melodies, and a chorus, and an orchestra simultaneously joining in with his harmony. But his chief pleasure was in the powerful activity of his imagination; confused and broken, but bringing up with striking clearness before him the most varied, mixed, and absurd images and pictures from the past and the future.

Now it presents the puffy figure of Davidka Byélui, timidly blinking his white eyelashes at the sight of his mother’s black fist with its network of veins; his bent back, and huge hands covered with white hairs, exhibiting a uniform patience and submission to fate, sufficient to overcome torture and deprivation.

Then he saw the brisk, presuming nurse, and, somehow, seemed to picture her going through the villages, and announcing to the peasants that they ought to hide their money from the proprietors; and he unconsciously said to himself, “Yes, it is necessary to hide money from the proprietors.”

Then suddenly there came up before him the fair head of his future wife, for some reason weeping and leaning on his shoulder in deep grief.

Then he seemed to see Churis’s kindly blue eyes looking affectionately at his potbellied little son. Yes, he saw in him a helper and savior, apart from his son. “That is love,” he whispered.

Then he remembered Yukhvanka’s mother, remembered the expression of patience and conciliation which, notwithstanding her prominent teeth and her irregular features, he recognized on her aged face.

“It must be that I have been the first during her seventy years of life, to recognize her good qualities,” he said to himself, and whispered “Strange;” but he continued still to drum on the piano, and to listen to the sounds.

Then he vividly recalled his retreat from the bees, and the expressions on the faces of Karp and Ignát, who evidently wanted to laugh though they made believe not look at him. He reddened, and involuntarily glanced at the old nurse, who still remained sitting by the door, looking at him with silent attention, occasionally shaking her gray head.

Here, suddenly, he seemed to see a troika of sleek horses, and Ilyushka’s handsome, robust form, with bright curls, gayly shining, narrow blue eyes, fresh complexion, and delicate down just beginning to appear on lip and chin.

He remembered how Ilyushka was afraid that he would not be permitted to go teaming, and how eagerly he argued in favor of the work that he liked so well. And he saw the gray early morning, that began with mist, and the smooth paved road, and the long lines of three-horse wagons, heavily laden and protected by mats, and marked with big black letters. The stout, contented, well-fed horses, thundering along with their bells, arching their backs, and tugging on the traces, pulled in unison up the hill, forcefully straining on their long-nailed shoes over the smooth road.

As the train of wagons reached the foot of the hill, the postman had quickly dashed by with jingling bells, which were echoed far and wide by the great forest extending along on both sides of the road.

A-a-aï!” in a loud, boyish voice, shouts the head driver, who has a badge on his lambskin cap, and swings his whip around his head.

Beside the front wheel of the front team, the redheaded, cross-looking Karp is walking heavily in huge boots. In the second team Ilyushka shows his handsome head, as he sits on the driver’s seat playing the bugle. Three troika-wagons loaded with boxes, with creaking wheels, with the sound of bells and shouts, file by. Ilyushka once more hides his handsome face under the matting, and falls off to sleep.

Now it is a fresh, clear evening. The deal gates open for the weary horses as they halt in front of the tavern yard; and one after the other, the high mat-covered teams roll in across the planks that lie at the gates, and come to rest under the wide sheds.

Ilyushka gayly exchanges greetings with the light-complexioned, wide-bosomed landlady, who asks, “Have you come far? and will there be many of you to supper?” and at the same time looks with pleasure on the handsome lad, with her bright, kindly eyes.

And now, having unharnessed the horses, he goes into the warm house173 crowded with people, crosses himself, sits down at the generous wooden bowl, and enters into lively conversation with the landlady and his companions.

And then he goes to bed in the open air, under the stars which gleam down into the shed. His bed is fragrant hay, and he is near the horses, which, stamping and snorting, eat their fodder in the wooden cribs. He goes to the shed, turns toward the east, and after crossing himself thirty times in succession on his broad brawny chest, and throwing back his bright curls, he repeats “Our Father” and “Lord have mercy” a score of times, and wrapping himself, head and all, in his cloak, sleeps the healthy, dreamless sleep of strong, fresh manhood.

And here he sees in his vision the city of Kiev, with its saints and throngs of priests; Romen, with its merchants and merchandise; he sees Odest, and the distant blue sea studded with white sails, and the city of Tsar-grad,174 with its golden palaces, and the white-breasted, dark-browed Turkish maidens; and thither he flies, lifting himself on invisible wings.

He flies freely and easily, always farther and farther away, and sees below him golden cities bathed in clear effulgence, and the blue sky with bright stars, and a blue sea with white sails; and smoothly and pleasantly he flies, always farther and farther away.⁠ ⁠…

“Splendid!” whispers Nekhliudof to himself; and the thought, “Why am I not Ilyushka?” comes to him.

Lucerne

From the Recollections of Prince Nekhliudof

Yesterday evening I arrived at Lucerne, and put up at the best inn there, the Schweitzerhof.

“Lucerne, the chief city of the canton, situated on the shore of the Vierwaldstätter See,” says Murray, “is one of the most romantic places of Switzerland: here cross three important highways, and it is only an hour’s distance by steamboat to Mount Righi, from which is obtained one of the most magnificent views in the world.”

Whether that be true or no, other guides say the same thing, and consequently at Lucerne there are throngs of travellers of all nationalities, especially the English.

The magnificent five-storied building of the Hotel Schweitzerhof is situated on the quay, at the very edge of the lake, where in olden times there used to be the crooked covered wooden bridge175 with chapels on the corners and pictures on the roof. Now, thanks to the tremendous inroad of Englishmen, with their necessities, their tastes, and their money, the old bridge has been torn down, and in its place has been erected a granite quay, straight as a stick. On the quay are built the long, quadrangular five-storied houses; in front of the houses two rows of lindens have been set out and provided with supports, and between the lindens are the usual supply of green benches.

This is the promenade; and here back and forth stroll the Englishwomen in their Swiss straw hats, and the Englishmen in simple and comfortable attire, and rejoice in that which they have caused to be created. Possibly these quays and houses and lindens and Englishmen would be excellent in their way anywhere else, but here they seem discordant amid this strangely grandiose and at the same time indescribably harmonious and smiling nature.

As soon as I went up to my room, and opened the window facing the lake, the beauty of the sheet of water, of these mountains, and of this sky, at the first moment literally dazzled and overwhelmed me. I experienced an inward unrest, and the necessity of expressing in some manner the feelings that suddenly filled my soul to overflowing. I felt a desire to embrace, powerfully to embrace, someone, to tickle him, or to pinch him; in short, to do to him and to myself something extraordinary.

It was seven o’clock in the evening. The rain had been falling all day, but now it had cleared off.

The lake, blue as heated sulphur, spread out before my windows smooth and motionless, like a concave mirror between the variegated green shores; its surface was dotted with boats, which left behind them vanishing trails. Farther away it was contracted between two monstrous headlands, and, darkling, set itself against and disappeared behind a confused pile of mountains, clouds, and glaciers. In the foreground stretched a panorama of moist, fresh green shores, with reeds, meadows, gardens, and villas. Farther away, the dark-green wooded heights, crowned with the ruins of feudal castles; in the background, the rolling, pale-lilac-colored vista of mountains, with fantastic peaks built up of crags and dead white mounds of snow. And everything was bathed in a fresh, transparent atmosphere of azure blue, and kindled by the warm rays of the setting sun, bursting forth through the riven skies.

Not on the lake nor on the mountains nor in the skies was there a single completed line, a single unmixed color, a single moment of repose; everywhere motion, irregularity, fantasy, endless conglomeration and variety of shades and lines; and above all, a calm, a softness, a unity, and a striving for the beautiful.

And here amid this indefinable, confused, unfettered beauty, before my very window, stretched in stupid kaleidoscopic confusion the white line of the quay, the lindens with their supports, and the green seats⁠—miserable, tasteless creations of human ingenuity, not subordinated, like the distant villas and ruins, to the general harmony of the beautiful scene, but on the contrary brutally contradicting it.⁠ ⁠… Constantly, though against my will, my eyes were attracted to that horribly straight line of the quay; and mentally I should have liked to spurn it, to demolish it like a black spot disfiguring the nose beneath one’s eye.

But the quay with the sauntering Englishmen remained where it was, and I involuntarily tried to find a point of view where it would be out of my sight. I succeeded in finding such a view; and till dinner was ready I took delight, alone by myself, in this incomplete and therefore the more enjoyable feeling of oppression that one experiences in the solitary contemplation of natural beauty.

About half-past seven I was called to dinner. Two long tables, accommodating at least a hundred persons, were spread in the great, magnificently decorated dining-room on the first floor.⁠ ⁠… The silent gathering of the guests lasted three minutes⁠—the frou-frou of women’s dresses, the soft steps, the softly-spoken words addressed to the courtly and elegant waiters. And all the places were occupied by ladies and gentlemen dressed elegantly, even richly, and for the most part in perfect taste.

As is apt to be the case in Switzerland, the majority of the guests were English, and this gave the ruling characteristics of the common table: that is, a strict decorum regarded as an obligation, a reserve founded not in pride but in the absence of any necessity for social relationship, and finally a uniform sense of satisfaction felt by each in the comfortable and agreeable gratification of his wants.

On all sides gleamed the whitest laces, the whitest collars, the whitest teeth⁠—natural and artificial⁠—the whitest complexions and hands. But the faces, many of which were very handsome, bore the expression merely of individual prosperity, and absolute absence of interest in all that surrounded them unless it bore directly on their own individual selves; and the white hands glittering with rings, or protected by mitts, moved only for the purpose of straightening collars, cutting meat, or filling wineglasses; no soul-felt emotion was betrayed in these actions.

Occasionally members of some one family would exchange remarks in subdued voices, about the excellence of such and such a dish or wine, or about the beauty of the view from Mount Righi.

Individual tourists, whether men or women, sat alongside of each other in silence, and did not even seem to see each other. If it happened occasionally, that, out of this five-score human beings, two spoke to each other, the topic of their conversation consisted uniformly in the weather, or the ascent of the Righi.

Knives and forks scarcely rattled on the plates, so perfect was the observance of propriety; and no one dared to convey peas and vegetables to the mouth otherwise than on the fork. The waiters, involuntarily subdued by the universal silence, asked in a whisper what wine you would be pleased to order.

Such dinners invariably depress me: I dislike them, and before they are over I become blue.⁠ ⁠… It always seems to me as if I were in some way to blame; just as when I was a boy I was set upon a chair in consequence of some naughtiness, and bidden ironically, “Now rest a little while, my dear young fellow.” And all the time my young blood was pulsing through my veins, and in the other room I could hear the merry shouts of my brothers.

I used to try to rebel against this feeling of being choked down, which I experienced at such dinners, but in vain. All these dead-and-alive faces have an irresistible ascendency over me, and I myself become also as one dead. I have no desires, I have no thoughts: I do not even observe.

At first I attempted to enter into conversation with my neighbors; but I got no response beyond the phrases which had been repeated in that place a hundred times, a thousand times, with absolutely no variation of countenance.

And yet these people were by no means all stupid and feelingless; but evidently many of them, though they seemed so dead, had got into the habit of leading self-centred lives, which in reality were far more complicated and interesting than my own. Why, then, should they deprive themselves of one of the greatest enjoyments of life⁠—the enjoyment that comes from the intercourse of man with man?

How different it used to be in our pension at Paris, where twenty of us, belonging to as many different nationalities, professions, and individualities, met together at a common table, and, under the influence of the Gallic sociability, found the keenest zest!

There, from the very moment that we sat down, from one end of the table to the other, was general conversation, sandwiched with witticisms and puns, though often in a broken speech. There everyone, without being solicitous for the proprieties, said whatever came into his head. There we had our own philosopher, our own disputant, our own bel esprit, our own butt⁠—all common property.

There, immediately after dinner, we would move the table to one side, and, without paying too much attention to rhythm, take to dancing the polka on the dusty carpet, and often keep it up till evening. There, though we were rather flirtatious, and not over-wise, but perfectly respectable, still we were human beings.

And the Spanish countess with romantic proclivities, and the Italian abbate who insisted on declaiming from the Divine Comedy after dinner, and the American doctor who had the entrée into the Tuileries, and the young dramatic author with long hair, and the pianist who, according to her own account, had composed the best polka in existence, and the unhappy widow who was a beauty, and wore three rings on every finger⁠—all of us enjoyed this society, which, though somewhat superficial, was human and pleasant. And we each carried away from it hearty recollections of each other, perhaps lighter in some cases, and more serious in others.

But at these English table-d’hôte dinners, as I look at all these laces, ribbons, jewels, pomaded locks, and silken dresses, I often think how many living women would be happy, and would make others happy, with these adornments.

Strange to think how many friends and lovers⁠—most fortunate friends and lovers⁠—are sitting here side by side, without, perhaps, knowing it! And God knows why they never come to this knowledge, and never give each other this happiness, which they might so easily give, and which they so long for.

I began to feel blue, as invariably happens after such a dinner; and, without waiting for dessert, I sallied out in the same frame of mind for a constitutional through the city. My melancholy frame of mind was not relieved, but rather confirmed by the narrow, muddy streets without lanterns, the shuttered shops, the encounters with drunken workmen, and with women hastening after water, or in bonnets, glancing around them as they turned the corners.

It was perfectly dark in the streets, when I returned to the hotel without casting a glance about me, or having an idea in my head. I hoped that sleep would put an end to my melancholy. I experienced that peculiar spiritual chill and loneliness and heaviness, which, without any reason, beset those who are just arrived in any new place.

Looking steadfastly down, I walked along the quay to the Schweitzerhof, when suddenly my ear was struck by the strains of a peculiar but thoroughly agreeable and sweet music.

These strains had an immediately enlivening effect upon me. It was as though a bright, cheerful light had poured into my soul. I felt contented, gay. My slumbering attention was awakened again to all surrounding objects; and the beauty of the night and the lake, to which till then I had been indifferent, suddenly came over me with quickening force like a novelty.

I involuntarily took in at a glance the dark sky with gray clouds flecking its deep blue, now lighted by the rising moon, the glassy dark-green lake with its surface reflecting the lighted windows, and far away the snowy mountains; and I heard the croaking of the frogs over on the Freshenburg shore, and the dewy fresh call of the quail.

Directly in front of me, in the spot whence the sounds of music had first come, and which still especially attracted my attention, I saw, amid the semidarkness on the street, a throng of people standing in a semicircle, and in front of the crowd, at a little distance, a small man in dark clothes.

Behind the throng and the man, there stood out harmoniously against the dark, ragged sky, gray and blue, the black tops of a few Lombardy poplars in some garden, and, rising majestically on high, the two stern spires that stand on the towers of the ancient cathedral.

I drew nearer, and the strains became more distinct. At some distance I could clearly distinguish the full accords of a guitar, sweetly swelling in the evening air, and several voices, which, while taking turns with each other, did not sing any definite theme, but gave suggestions of one in places wherever the melody was most pronounced.

The theme was in somewhat the nature of a mazurka, sweet and graceful. The voices sounded now near at hand, now far distant; now a bass was heard, now a tenor, now a falsetto such as the Tyrolese warblers are wont to sing.

It was not a song, but the graceful masterly sketch of a song. I could not comprehend what it was, but it was beautiful.

Those voluptuous, soft chords of the guitar, that sweet, gentle melody, and that solitary figure of the man in black, amid the fantastic environment of the lake, the gleaming moon, and the twin spires of the cathedral rising in majestic silence, and the black tops of the poplars⁠—all was strange and perfectly beautiful, or at least seemed so to me.

All the confused, arbitrary impressions of life suddenly became full of meaning and beauty. It seemed to me as though a fresh fragrant flower had sprung up in my soul. In place of the weariness, dullness, and indifference toward everything in the world, which I had been feeling the moment before, I experienced a necessity for love, a fullness of hope, and an unbounded enjoyment of life.

“What dost thou desire, what dost thou long for?” an inner voice seemed to say. “Here it is. Thou art surrounded on all sides by beauty and poetry. Breathe it in, in full, deep draughts, as long as thou hast strength. Enjoy it to the full extent of thy capacity. ’Tis all thine, all blessed!”

I drew nearer. The little man was, as it seemed, a travelling Tyrolese. He stood before the windows of the hotel, one leg a little advanced, his head thrown back; and, as he thrummed on the guitar, he sang his graceful song in all those different voices.

I immediately felt an affection for this man, and a gratefulness for the change which he had brought about in me.

The singer, so far as I was able to judge, was dressed in an old black coat. He had short black hair, and he wore a civilian’s hat that was no longer new. There was nothing artistic in his attire, but his clever and youthfully gay motions and pose, together with his diminutive stature, formed a pleasing and at the same time pathetic spectacle.

On the steps, in the windows, and on the balconies of the brilliantly lighted hotel, stood ladies handsomely decorated and attired, gentlemen with polished collars, porters and lackeys in gold-embroidered liveries; in the street, in the semicircle of the crowd, and farther along on the sidewalk, among the lindens, were gathered groups of well-dressed waiters, cooks in white caps and aprons, and young girls wandering about with arms about each other’s waists.

All, it seemed, were under the influence of the same feeling that I myself experienced. All stood in silence around the singer, and listened attentively. Silence reigned, except in the pauses of the song, when there came from far away across the waters the regular click of a hammer, and from the Freshenburg shore rang in fascinating monotone the voices of the frogs, interrupted by the mellow, monotonous call of the quail.

The little man in the darkness, in the midst of the street, poured out his heart like a nightingale, in couplet after couplet, song after song. Though I had come close to him, his singing continued to give me greater and greater gratification.

His voice, which was not of great power, was extremely pleasant and tender; the taste and feeling for rhythm which he displayed in the control of it were extraordinary, and proved that he had great natural gifts.

After he sung each couplet, he invariably repeated the theme in variation, and it was evident that all his graceful variations came to him at the instant, spontaneously.

Among the crowd, and above on the Schweitzerhof, and nearby on the boulevard, were heard frequent murmurs of approval, though generally the most respectful silence reigned.

The balconies and the windows kept filling more and more with handsomely dressed men and women leaning on their elbows, and picturesquely illuminated by the lights in the house.

Promenaders came to a halt, and in the darkness on the quay stood men and women in little groups. Near me, at some distance from the common crowd, stood an aristocratic cook and lackey, smoking their cigars. The cook was forcibly impressed by the music, and at every high falsetto note enthusiastically nodded his head to the lackey, and nudged him with his elbow with an expression of astonishment that seemed to say, “How he sings! hey?”

The lackey, whose careless smile betrayed the depth of feeling that he experienced, replied to the cook’s nudges by shrugging his shoulders, as if to show that it was hard enough for him to be made enthusiastic, and that he had heard much better music.

In one of the pauses of his song, while the minstrel was clearing his throat, I asked the lackey who he was, and if he often came there.

“Twice this summer he has been here,” replied the lackey. “He is from Aargau; he goes round begging.”

“Well, do many like him come round here?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” replied the lackey, not comprehending the full force of what I asked; but, immediately after, recollecting himself, he added, “Oh, no. This one is the only one I ever heard here. No one else.”

At this moment the little man had finished his first song, briskly twanged his guitar, and said something in his German patois, which I could not understand, but which brought forth a hearty round of laughter from the surrounding throng.

“What was that he said?” I asked.

“He says that his throat is dried up, he would like some wine,” replied the lackey who was standing near me.

“What? is he rather fond of the glass?”

“Yes, all that sort of people are,” replied the lackey, smiling and pointing at the minstrel.

The minstrel took off his cap, and swinging his guitar went toward the hotel. Raising his head, he addressed the ladies and gentlemen standing by the windows and on the balconies, saying in a half-Italian, half-German accent, and with the same intonation that jugglers use in speaking to their audiences⁠—

Messieurs et mesdames, si vous croyez que je gagne quelque chose, vous vous trompez: je ne suis qu’un pauvre tiaple.

He stood in silence a moment, but as no one gave him anything, he once more took up his guitar and said⁠—

À présent, messieurs et mesdames, je vous chanterai l’air du Righi.

His hotel audience made no response, but stood in expectation of the coming song. Below on the street a laugh went round, probably in part because he had expressed himself so strangely, and in part because no one had given him anything.

I gave him a few centimes, which he deftly changed from one hand to the other, and bestowed them in his vest-pocket; and then, replacing his cap, began once more to sing the graceful, sweet Tyrolese melody which he had called l’air du Righi.

This song, which formed the last on his programme, was even better than the preceding, and from all sides in the wondering throng were heard sounds of approbation.

He finished. Again he swung his guitar, took off his cap, held it out in front of him, went two or three steps nearer to the windows, and again repeated his stock phrase⁠—

Messieurs et mesdames, si vous croyez que je gagne quelque chose,” which he evidently considered to be very shrewd and witty; but in his voice and motions I perceived a certain irresolution and childish timidity which were especially touching in a person of such diminutive stature.

The elegant public, still picturesquely grouped in the lighted windows and on the balconies, were shining in their rich attire; a few conversed in soberly discreet tones, apparently about their singer who was standing there below them with outstretched hand; others gazed down with attentive curiosity on the little black figure; on one balcony could be heard the merry, ringing laughter of some young girl.

In the surrounding crowd the talk and laughter grew constantly louder and louder.

The singer for the third time repeated his phrase, but in a still weaker voice, and did not even end the sentence; and again he stretched his hand with his cap, but instantly drew it back. Again not one of those brilliantly dressed scores of people standing to listen to him threw him a penny.

The crowd laughed heartlessly.

The little singer, so it seemed to me, shrunk more into himself, took his guitar into his other hand, lifted his cap, and said⁠—

Messieurs et mesdames, je vous remercie, et je vous souhais une bonne nuit.” Then he put on his hat.

The crowd cackled with laughter and satisfaction. The handsome ladies and gentlemen, calmly exchanging remarks, withdrew gradually from the balconies. On the boulevard the promenading began once more. The street, which had been still during the singing, assumed its wonted liveliness; a few men, however, stood at some distance, and, without approaching the singer, looked at him and laughed.

I heard the little man muttering something between his teeth as he turned away; and I saw him, apparently growing more and more diminutive, hurry toward the city with brisk steps. The promenaders who had been looking at him followed him at some distance, still making merry at his expense. My mind was in a whirl; I could not comprehend what it all meant; and still standing in the same place, I gazed abstractedly into the darkness after the little man, who was fast disappearing, as he went with ever-increasing swiftness with long strides into the city, followed by the merrymaking promenaders.

I was overmastered by a feeling of pain, of bitterness, and above all, of shame for the little man, for the crowd, for myself, as though it were I who had asked for money and received none; as though it were I who had been turned to ridicule.

Without looking any longer, feeling my heart oppressed, I also hurried with long strides toward the entrance of the Schweitzerhof. I could not explain the feeling that overmastered me; only there was something like a stone, from which I could not free myself, weighing down my soul and oppressing me.

At the ample, well-lighted entrance, I met the porter, who politely made way for me. An English family was also at the door. A portly, handsome, and tall gentleman, with black side-whiskers, in a black hat, and with a plaid on one arm, while in his hand he carried a costly cane, came out slowly and full of importance. Leaning on his arm was a lady, who wore a raw silk dress and bonnet with bright ribbons and the most costly laces. Together with them was a pretty, fresh-looking young lady, in a graceful Swiss hat with a feather à la mousquetaire; from under it escaped long light-yellow curls softly encircling her fair face. In front of them skipped a buxom girl of ten, with round white knees which showed from under her thin embroideries. “Magnificent night!” the lady was saying in a sweet, happy voice, as I passed them.

“Oh, yes,” growled the Englishman lazily; and it was evident that he found it so enjoyable to be alive in the world, that it was too much trouble even to speak.

And it seemed as though all of them alike found it so comfortable and easy, so light and free, to be alive in the world, their faces and motions expressed such perfect indifference to the lives of everyone else, and such absolute confidence that it was to them that the porter made way and bowed so profoundly, and that when they returned they would find clean, comfortable beds and rooms, and that all this was bound to be, and was their indefeasible right, that I involuntarily contrasted them with the wandering minstrel who weary, perhaps hungry, full of shame, was retreating before the laughing crowd. And then suddenly I comprehended what it was that oppressed my heart with such a load of heaviness, and I felt an indescribable anger against these people.

Twice I walked up and down past the Englishman, and each time, without turning out for him, my elbow punched him, which gave me a feeling of indescribable satisfaction; and then, darting down the steps, I hastened through the darkness in the direction toward the city taken by the little man.

Overtaking the three men who had been walking together, I asked them where the singer was; they laughed, and pointed straight ahead. There he was, walking alone with brisk steps; no one was with him; all the time, as it seemed to me, he was indulging in bitter monologue.

I caught up with him, and proposed to him to go somewhere with me and drink a bottle of wine. He kept on with his rapid walk, and scarcely deigned to look at me; but when he perceived what I was saying, he halted.

“Well, I would not refuse, if you would be so kind,” said he; “here is a little café, we can go in there. It’s not fashionable,” he added, pointing to a drinking-saloon that was still open.

His expression “not fashionable” involuntarily suggested the idea of not going to an unfashionable café, but to go to the Schweitzerhof, where those who had been listening to him were. Notwithstanding the fact that several times he showed a sort of timid disquietude at the idea of going to the Schweitzerhof, declaring that it was too fine for him there, still I insisted in carrying out my purpose; and he, putting the best face on the matter, gayly swinging his guitar, went back with me across the quay.

A few loiterers who had happened along as I was talking with the minstrel, and had stopped to hear what I had to say, now, after arguing among themselves, followed us to the very entrance of the hotel, evidently expecting from the Tyrolese some further demonstration.

I ordered a bottle of wine of a waiter whom I met in the hall. The waiter smiled and looked at us, and went by without answering. The head waiter, to whom I addressed myself with the same order, listened to me solemnly, and, measuring the minstrel’s modest little figure from head to foot, sternly ordered the waiter to take us to the room at the left.

The room at the left was a barroom for simple people. In the corner of this room a hunchbacked maid was washing dishes. The whole furniture consisted of bare wooden tables and benches.

The waiter who came to serve us looked at us with a supercilious smile, thrust his hands in his pockets, and exchanged some remarks with the humpbacked dishwasher. He evidently tried to give us to understand that he felt himself immeasurably higher than the minstrel, both in dignity and social position, so that he considered it not only an indignity, but even an actual joke, that he was called upon to serve us.

“Do you wish vin ordinaire?” he asked with a knowing look, winking toward my companion, and switching his napkin from one hand to the other.

“Champagne, and your very best,” said I, endeavoring to assume my haughtiest and most imposing appearance.

But neither my champagne, nor my endeavor to look haughty and imposing, had the least effect on the servant: he smiled incredulously, loitered a moment or two gazing at us, took time enough to glance at his gold watch, and with leisurely steps, as though going out for a walk, left the room.

Soon he returned with the wine, bringing two other waiters with him. These two sat down near the dishwasher, and gazed at us with amused attention and a bland smile, just as parents gaze at their children when they are gently playing. Only the dishwasher, it seemed to me, did not look at us scornfully but sympathetically.

Though it was trying and awkward to lunch with the minstrel, and to play the entertainer, under the fire of all these waiters’ eyes, I tried to do my duty with as little constraint as possible. In the lighted room I could see him better. He was a small but symmetrically built and muscular man, though almost a dwarf in stature; he had bristly black hair, teary big black eyes, bushy eyebrows, and a thoroughly pleasant, attractively shaped mouth. He had little side-whiskers, his hair was short, his attire was very simple and mean. He was not over-clean, was ragged and sunburnt, and in general had the look of a laboring-man. He was far more like a poor tradesman than an artist.

Only in his ever humid and brilliant eyes, and in his firm mouth, was there any sign of originality or genius. By his face it might be conjectured that his age was between twenty-five and forty; in reality, he was thirty-seven.

Here is what he related to me, with good-natured readiness and evident sincerity, of his life. He was a native of Aargau. In early childhood he had lost father and mother; other relatives he had none. He had never owned any property. He had been apprenticed to a carpenter; but twenty-two years previously one of his hands had been attacked by caries, which had prevented him from ever working again.

From childhood he had been fond of singing, and he began to be a singer. Occasionally strangers had given him money. With this he had learned his profession, bought his guitar, and now for eighteen years he had been wandering about through Switzerland and Italy, singing before hotels. His whole luggage consisted of his guitar, and a little purse in which, at the present time, there was only half a franc. That would have to suffice for supper and lodgings this night.

Every year now for eighteen years he had made the round of the best and most popular resorts of Switzerland⁠—Zurich, Lucerne, Interlaken, Chamounix, etc.; by the way of the St. Bernard he would go down into Italy, and return over the St. Gothard, or through Savoy. Just at present it was rather hard for him to walk, as he had caught a cold, causing him to suffer from some trouble in his legs⁠—he called it rheumatism⁠—which grew more severe from year to year; and, moreover, his voice and eyes had grown weaker. Nevertheless, he was on his way to Interlaken, Aix-les-Bains, and thence over the Little St. Bernard to Italy, which he was very fond of. It was evident that on the whole he was well content with his life.

When I asked him why he returned home, if he had any relatives there, or a house and land, his mouth parted in a gay smile, and he replied, “Oui, le sucre est bon, il est doux pour les enfants!” and he winked at the servants.

I did not catch his meaning, but the group of servants burst out laughing.

“No, I have nothing of the sort, but still I should always want to go back,” he explained to me. “I go home because there is always a something that draws one to one’s native place.” And once more he repeated with a shrewd, self-satisfied smile, his phrase, “Oui, le sucre est bon,” and then laughed good-naturedly.

The servants were very much amused, and laughed heartily; only the hunchbacked dishwasher looked earnestly from her big kindly eyes at the little man, and picked up his cap for him, when, as we talked, he once knocked it off the bench. I have noticed that wandering minstrels, acrobats, even jugglers, delight in calling themselves artists, and several times I hinted to my comrade that he was an artist; but he did not at all accept this designation, but with perfect simplicity looked upon his work as a means of existence.

When I asked him if he had not himself written the songs which he sang, he showed great surprise at such a strange question, and replied that the words of whatever he sang were all of old Tyrolese origin.

“But how about that song of the Righi? I think that cannot be very ancient,” I suggested.

“Oh, that was composed about fifteen years ago. There was a German in Basel; he was a clever man; it was he who composed it. A splendid song. You see he composed it especially for travellers.” And he began to repeat the words of the Righi song, which he liked so well, translating them into French as he went along.

“If you wish to go to Righi,
You will not need shoes to Wegis,
(For you go that far by steamboat),
But from Wegis take a stout staff,
Also take upon your arm a maiden;
Drink a glass of wine on starting,
Only do not drink too freely,
For if you desire to drink here,
You must earn the right to, first.”

“Oh! a splendid song!” he exclaimed, as he finished.

The servants, evidently, also found the song much to their mind, because they came up closer to us.

“Yes, but who was it composed the music?” I asked.

“Oh, no one at all; you know you must have something new when you are going to sing for strangers.”

When the ice was brought, and I had given my comrade a glass of champagne, he seemed somewhat ill at ease, and, glancing at the servants, he turned and twisted on the bench.

We touched our glasses to the health of all artists; he drank half a glass, then he seemed to be collecting his ideas, and knit his brows in deep thought.

“It is long since I have tasted such wine, je ne vous dis que ça. In Italy the vino d’Asti is excellent, but this is still better. Ah! Italy; it is splendid to be there!” he added.

“Yes, there they know how to appreciate music and artists,” said I, trying to bring him round to the evening’s mischance before the Schweitzerhof.

“No,” he replied. “There, as far as music is concerned, I cannot give anybody satisfaction. The Italians are themselves musicians⁠—none like them in the world; but I know only Tyrolese songs. They are something of a novelty to them, though.”

“Well, you find rather more generous gentlemen there, don’t you?” I went on to say, anxious to make him share in my resentment against the guests of the Schweitzerhof. “There it would not be possible to find a big hotel frequented by rich people, where, out of a hundred listening to an artist’s singing, not one would give him anything.”

My question utterly failed of the effect that I expected. It did not enter his head to be indignant with them: on the contrary, he saw in my remark an implied slur upon his talent which had failed of its reward, and he hastened to set himself right before me. “It is not every time that you get anything,” he remarked; “sometimes one isn’t in good voice, or you are tired; now today I have been walking ten hours, and singing almost all the time. That is hard. And these important aristocrats do not always care to listen to Tyrolese songs.”

“But still, how can they help giving?” I insisted.

He did not comprehend my remark.

“That’s nothing,” he said; “but here the principal thing is, on est tres serré pour la police, that’s what’s the trouble. Here, according to these republican laws, you are not allowed to sing; but in Italy you can go wherever you please, no one says a word. Here, if they want to let you, they let you; but if they don’t want to, then they can throw you into jail.”

“What? That’s incredible!”

“Yes, it is true. If you have been warned once, and are found singing again, they may put you in jail. I was kept there three months once,” he said, smiling as though that were one of his pleasantest recollections.

“Oh! that is terrible!” I exclaimed. “What was the reason?”

“That was in consequence of one of the new republican laws,” he went on to explain, growing animated. “They cannot comprehend here that a poor fellow must earn his living somehow. If I were not a cripple, I would work. But what harm do I do to anyone in the world by my singing? What does it mean? The rich can live as they wish, un pauvre tiaple like myself can’t live at all. What kind of laws are these republican ones? If that is the way they run, then we don’t want a republic: isn’t that so, my dear sir? We don’t want a republic, but we want⁠—we simply want⁠—we want”⁠—he hesitated a little⁠—“we want natural laws.”

I filled up his glass. “You are not drinking,” I said.

He took the glass in his hand, and bowed to me.

“I know what you wish,” he said, blinking his eyes at me, and threatening me with his finger. “You wish to make me drunk, so as to see what you can get out of me; but no, you shan’t have that gratification.”

“Why should I make you drunk?” I inquired. “All I wished was to give you a pleasure.”

He seemed really sorry that he had offended me by interpreting my insistence so harshly. He grew confused, stood up, and touched my elbow.

“No, no,” said he, looking at me with a beseeching expression in his moist eyes. “I was only joking.”

And immediately after he made use of some horribly uncultivated slang expression, intended to signify that I was, nevertheless, a fine young man. “Je ne vous dis que ça,” he said in conclusion. In this fashion the minstrel and I continued to drink and converse; and the waiters continued unceremoniously to stare at us, and, as it seemed, to make ridicule of us.

In spite of the interest which our conversation aroused in me, I could not avoid taking notice of their behavior; and I confess I began to grow more and more angry.

One of the waiters arose, came up to the little man, and, regarding the top of his head, began to smile. I was already full of wrath against the inmates of the hotel, and had not yet had a chance to pour it out on anyone; and now I confess I was in the highest degree irritated by this audience of waiters.

The porter, not removing his hat, came into the room, and sat down near me, leaning his elbows on the table. This last circumstance, which was so insulting to my dignity or my vainglory, completely enraged me, and gave an outlet for all the wrath which all the evening long had been boiling within me. I asked myself why he had so humbly bowed when he had met me before, and now, because I was sitting with the travelling minstrel, he came and took his place near me so rudely? I was entirely overmastered by that boiling, angry indignation which I enjoy in myself, which I sometimes endeavor to stimulate when it comes over me, because it has an exhilarating effect upon me, and gives me, if only for a short time, a certain extraordinary flexibility, energy, and strength in all my physical and moral faculties.

I leaped to my feet.

“Whom are you laughing at?” I screamed at the waiter; and I felt my face turn pale, and my lips involuntarily set together.

“I am not laughing,” replied the waiter, moving away from me.

“Yes, you are: you are laughing at this gentleman. And what right have you to come, and to take a seat here, when there are guests? Don’t you dare to sit down!”

The porter, muttering something, got up, and turned to the door.

“What right have you to make sport of this gentleman, and to sit down by him, when he is a guest, and you are a waiter? Why didn’t you laugh at me this evening at dinner, and come and sit down beside me? Because he is meanly dressed, and sings in the streets? Is that the reason? and because I have better clothes? He is poor, but he is a thousand times better than you are; that I am sure of, because he has never insulted anyone, but you have insulted him.”

“I didn’t mean anything,” replied my enemy the waiter. “Perhaps I disturbed him by sitting down.”

The waiter did not understand me, and my German was wasted on him. The rude porter was about to take the waiter’s part; but I fell upon him so impetuously that the porter pretended not to understand me, and waved his hand.

The hunchbacked dishwasher, either because she perceived my wrathful state, and feared a scandal, or possibly because she shared my views, took my part, and, trying to force her way between me and the porter, told him to hold his tongue, saying that I was right, but at the same time urging me to calm myself.

Der Herr hat Recht; Sie haben Recht,” she said over and over again. The minstrel’s face presented a most pitiable, terrified expression; and evidently he did not understand why I was angry, and what I wanted: and he urged me to let him go away as soon as possible.

But the eloquence of wrath burned within me more and more. I understood it all⁠—the throng that had made merry at his expense, and his auditors who had not given him anything; and not for all the world would I have held my peace.

I believe, that, if the waiters and the porter had not been so submissive, I should have taken delight in having a brush with them, or striking the defenceless English lady on the head with a stick. If at that moment I had been at Sevastópol, I should have taken delight in devoting myself to slaughtering and killing in the English trench.

“And why did you take this gentleman and me into this room, and not into the other? What?” I thundered at the porter, seizing him by the arm so that he could not escape from me. “What right had you to judge by his appearance that this gentleman must be served in this room, and not in that? Have not all guests who pay, equal rights in hotels? Not only in a republic, but in all the world! Your scurvy republic!⁠ ⁠… Equality, indeed! You would not dare to take an Englishman into this room, not even those Englishmen who have heard this gentleman free of cost; that is, who have stolen from him, each one of them, the few centimes which ought to have been given to him. How did you dare to take us to this room?”

“That room is closed,” said the porter.

“No,” I cried, “that isn’t true; it isn’t closed.”

“Then you know best.”

“I know⁠—I know that you are lying.”

The porter turned his back on me.

“Eh! What is to be said?” he muttered.

“What is to be said?” I cried. “You conduct us instanter into that room!”

In spite of the dishwasher’s warning, and the entreaties of the minstrel, who would have preferred to go home, I insisted on seeing the head waiter, and went with my guest into the big dining-room. The head waiter, hearing my angry voice, and seeing my menacing face, avoided a quarrel, and, with contemptuous servility, said that I might go wherever I pleased. I could not prove to the porter that he had lied, because he had hastened out of sight before I went into the hall.

The dining-room was, in fact, open and lighted; and at one of the tables sat an Englishman and a lady, eating their supper. Although we were shown to a special table, I took the dirty minstrel to the very one where the Englishman was, and bade the waiter bring to us there the unfinished bottle.

The two guests at first looked with surprised, then with angry, eyes at the little man, who, more dead than alive, was sitting near me. They talked together in a low tone; then the lady pushed back her plate, her silk dress rustled, and both of them left the room. Through the glass doors I saw the Englishman saying something in an angry voice to the waiter, and pointing with his hand in our direction. The waiter put his head through the door, and looked at us. I waited with pleasurable anticipation for someone to come and order us out, for then I could have found a full outlet for all my indignation. But fortunately, though at the time I felt injured, we were left in peace. The minstrel, who before had fought shy of the wine, now eagerly drank all that was left in the bottle, so that he might make his escape as quickly as possible.

He, however, expressed his gratitude with deep feeling, as it seemed to me, for his entertainment. His teary eyes grew still more humid and brilliant, and he made use of a most strange and complicated phrase of gratitude. But still very pleasant to me was the sentence in which he said that if everybody treated artists as I had been doing, it would be very good, and ended by wishing me all manner of happiness. We went out into the hall together. There stood the servants, and my enemy the porter apparently airing his grievances against me before them. All of them, I thought, looked at me as though I were a man who had lost his wits. I treated the little man exactly like an equal, before all that audience of servants; and then, with all the respect that I was able to express in my behavior, I took off my hat, and pressed his hand with its dry and hardened fingers.

The servants made believe not pay the slightest attention to me. One of them only indulged in a sarcastic laugh.

As soon as the minstrel had bowed himself out, and disappeared in the darkness, I went upstairs to my room, intending to sleep off all these impressions and the foolish childish anger which had come upon me so unexpectedly. But finding that I was too much excited to sleep, I once more went down into the street with the intention of walking until I should have recovered my equanimity, and, I must confess, with the secret hope that I might accidentally come across the porter or the waiter or the Englishman, and show them all their rudeness, and, most of all, their unfairness. But beyond the porter, who when he saw me turned his back, I met no one; and I began to promenade in absolute solitude along the quay.

“This is an example of the strange fate of poetry,” said I to myself, having grown a little calmer. “All love it, all are in search of it; it is the only thing in life that men love and seek, and yet no one recognizes its power, no one prizes this best treasure of the world, and those who give it to men are not rewarded. Ask anyone you please, ask all these guests of the Schweitzerhof, what is the most precious treasure in the world, and all, or ninety-nine out of a hundred, putting on a sardonic expression, will say that the best thing in the world is money.

“ ‘Maybe, though, this does not please you, or coincide with your elevated ideas,’ it will be urged, ‘but what is to be done if human life is so constituted that money alone is capable of giving a man happiness? I cannot force my mind not to see the world as it is,’ it will be added, ‘that is, to see the truth.’

“Pitiable is your intellect, pitiable the happiness which you desire! And you yourselves, unhappy creatures, not knowing what you desire⁠ ⁠… why have you all left your fatherland, your relatives, your moneymaking trades and occupations, and come to this little Swiss city of Lucerne? Why did you all this evening gather on the balconies, and in respectful silence listen to the little beggar’s song? And if he had been willing to sing longer, you would have been silent and listened longer. What! could money, even millions of it, have driven you all from your country, and brought you all together in this little nook of Lucerne? Could money have gathered you all on the balconies to stand for half an hour silent and motionless? No! One thing compels you to do it, and will forever have a stronger influence than all the other impulses of life: the longing for poetry which you know, which you do not realize, but feel, always will feel so long as you have any human sensibilities. The word ‘poetry’ is a mockery to you; you make use of it as a sort of ridiculous reproach; you regard the love for poetry as something meet for children and silly girls, and you make sport of them for it. For yourselves you must have something more definite.

“But children look upon life in a healthy way: they recognize and love what man ought to love, and what gives happiness. But life has so deceived and perverted you, that you ridicule the only thing that you really love, and you seek for what you hate and for what gives you unhappiness.

“You are so perverted that you did not perceive what obligations you were under to the poor Tyrolese who rendered you a pure delight; but at the same time you feel yourselves needlessly obliged to bow before some lord, which gives you neither pleasure nor profit, but rather causes you to sacrifice your comfort and convenience. What absurdity! what incomprehensible lack of reason!

“But it was not this that made the most powerful impression upon me this evening. This blindness to all that gives happiness, this unconsciousness of poetic enjoyment, I can almost comprehend, or at least I have become wonted to it, since I have almost everywhere met with it in the course of my life; the harsh, unconscious churlishness of the crowd was no novelty to me: whatever those who argue in favor of popular sentiment may say, the throng is a conglomeration of very possibly good people, but of people who touch each other only on their coarse animal sides, and express only the weakness and harshness of human nature. But how was it that you, children of a humane people, you Christians, you simple people, repaid with coldness and ridicule the poor beggar who gave you a pure enjoyment? But no, in your country there are asylums for beggars. There are no beggars, there can be none; and there can be no feelings of sympathy, since that would be a confession that beggary existed.

“But he labored, he gave you enjoyment, he besought you to give him something of your superfluity in payment for his labor of which you took advantage. But you looked upon him with a cool smile as upon one of the curiosities in your lofty brilliant palaces; and though there were a hundred of you, favored with happiness and wealth, not one man or one woman among you gave him a sou. Abashed he went away from you, and the thoughtless throng, laughing, followed and ridiculed not you, but him, because you were cold, harsh, and dishonorable; because you robbed him in receiving the entertainment which he gave you: for this they jeered him.

“ ‘On the 19th of July, 1857, before the Schweitzerhof Hotel, in which were lodging very opulent people, a wandering beggar minstrel sang for half an hour his songs, and played his guitar. About a hundred people listened to him. The minstrel thrice asked you all to give him something. No one person gave him a thing, and many made sport of him.

“This is not an invention, but an actual fact, as those who desire can find out for themselves by consulting the papers for the list of those who were at the Schweitzerhof on the 19th of July.

“This is an event which the historians of our time ought to describe in letters of inextinguishable flame. This event is more significant and more serious, and fraught with far deeper meaning, than the facts that are printed in newspapers and histories. That the English have killed several thousand Chinese because the Chinese would not sell them anything for money while their land is overflowing with ringing coins; that the French have killed several thousand Kabyles because the wheat grows well in Africa, and because constant war is essential for the drill of an army; that the Turkish ambassador in Naples must not be a Jew; and that the Emperor Napoleon walks about in Plombières, and gives his people the express assurance that he rules only in direct accordance with the will of the people⁠—all these are words which darken or reveal something long known. But the episode that took place in Lucerne on the 19th of July seems to me something entirely novel and strange, and it is connected not with the everlastingly ugly side of human nature, but with a well-known epoch in the development of society. This fact is not for the history of human activities, but for the history of progress and civilization.

“Why is it that this inhuman fact, impossible in any country⁠—Germany, France, or Italy⁠—is quite possible here where civilization, freedom, and equality are carried to the highest degree of development, where there are gathered together the most civilized travellers from the most civilized nations? Why is it that these cultivated human beings, generally capable of every honorable human action, had no hearty, human feeling for one good deed? Why is it that these people who in their palaces, their meetings, and their societies, labor warmly for the condition of the celibate Chinese in India, about the spread of Christianity and culture in Africa, about the formation of societies for attaining all perfection⁠—why is it that they should not find in their souls the simple, primitive feeling of human sympathy? Has such a feeling entirely disappeared, and has its place been taken by vainglory, ambition, and cupidity, governing these men in their palaces, meetings, and societies? Has the spreading of that reasonable, egotistical association of people, which we call civilization, destroyed and rendered nugatory the desire for instinctive and loving association? And is this that boasted equality for which so much innocent blood has been shed, and so many crimes have been perpetrated? Is it possible that nations, like children, can be made happy by the mere sound of the word ‘equality’?

“Equality before the law? Does the whole life of a people revolve within the sphere of law? Only the thousandth part of it is subject to the law: the rest lies outside of it, in the sphere of the customs and intuitions of society.

“But in society the lackey is better dressed than the minstrel, and insults him with impunity. I am better dressed than the lackey, and insult him with impunity. The porter considers me higher, but the minstrel lower, than himself; when I made the minstrel my companion, he felt that he was on an equality with us both, and behaved rudely. I was impudent to the porter, and the porter acknowledged that he was inferior to me. The waiter was impudent to the minstrel, and the minstrel accepted the fact that he was inferior to the waiter.

“And is that government free, even though men seriously call it free, where a single citizen can be thrown into prison because, without harming anyone, without interfering with anyone, he does the only thing that he can to prevent himself from dying of starvation?

“A wretched, pitiable creature is man with his craving for positive solutions, thrown into this everlastingly tossing, limitless ocean of good and evil, of combinations and contradictions. For centuries men have been struggling and laboring to put the good on one side, the evil on the other. Centuries will pass, and no matter how much the unprejudiced mind may strive to decide where the balance lies between the good and the evil, the scales will refuse to tip the beam, and there will always be equal quantities of the good and the evil on each scale.

“If only man would learn to form judgments, and not to indulge in rash and arbitrary thoughts, and not to make reply to questions that are propounded merely to remain forever unanswered! If only he would learn that every thought is both a lie and a truth!⁠—a lie from the one-sidedness and inability of man to recognize all truth; and true because it expresses one side of mortal endeavor. There are divisions in this everlastingly tumultuous, endless, endlessly confused chaos of the good and the evil. They have drawn imaginary lines over this ocean, and they contend that the ocean is really thus divided.

“But are there not millions of other possible subdivisions from absolutely different standpoints, in other planes? Certainly these novel subdivisions will be made in centuries to come, just as millions of different ones have been made in centuries past.

“Civilization is good, barbarism is evil; freedom, good; slavery, evil. Now, this imaginary knowledge annihilates the instinctive, beatific, primitive craving for the good that is in human nature. And who will explain to me what is freedom, what is despotism, what is civilization, what is barbarism?

“Where are the boundaries that separate them? And whose soul possesses so absolute a standard of good and evil as to measure these fleeting, complicated facts? Whose wit is so great as to comprehend and weigh all the facts in the irretrievable past? And who can find any circumstance in which there is no union of good and evil? And because I know that I see more of one than of the other, is it not because my standpoint is wrong? And who has the ability to separate himself so absolutely from life, even for a moment, as to look upon it from above?

“One, only one infallible Guide we have⁠—the universal Spirit which penetrates all collectively and as units, which has endowed each of us with the craving for the right; the Spirit which impels the tree to grow toward the sun, which stimulates the flower in autumn-tide to scatter its seed, and which obliges each one of us unconsciously to draw closer together. And this one unerring, inspiring voice rings out louder than the noisy, hasty development of culture.

“Who is the greater man, and who the greater barbarian⁠—that lord, who, seeing the minstrel’s well-worn clothes, angrily left the table, who gave him not the millionth part of his possessions in payment of his labor, and now lazily sitting in his brilliant, comfortable room, calmly opines about the events that are happening in China, and justifies the massacres that have been done there; or the little minstrel, who, risking imprisonment, with a franc in his pocket, and doing no harm to anyone, has been going about for a score of years, up hill and down dale, rejoicing men’s hearts with his songs, though they have jeered at him, and almost cast him out of the pale of humanity; and who, in weariness and cold and shame, has gone off to sleep, no one knows where, on his filthy straw?”

At this moment, from the city, through the dead silence of the night, far, far away, I caught the sound of the little man’s guitar and his voice.

“No,” something involuntarily said to me, “you have no right to commiserate the little man, or to blame the lord for his well-being. Who can weigh the inner happiness which is found in the soul of each of these men? There he stands somewhere in the muddy road, and gazes at the brilliant moonlit sky, and gayly sings amid the smiling, fragrant night; in his soul there is no reproach, no anger, no regret. And who knows what is transpiring now in the hearts of all these men within those opulent, brilliant rooms? Who knows if they all have as much unencumbered, sweet delight in life, and as much satisfaction with the world, as dwells in the soul of that little man?

“Endless are the mercy and wisdom of Him who has permitted and formed all these contradictions. Only to thee, miserable little worm of the dust, audaciously, lawlessly attempting to fathom His laws, His designs⁠—only to thee do they seem like contradictions.

“Full of love He looks down from His bright, immeasurable height, and rejoices in the endless harmony in which you all move in endless contradictions. In thy pride thou hast thought thyself able to separate thyself from the laws of the universe. No, thou also, with thy petty, ridiculous anger against the waiters⁠—thou also hast disturbed the harmonious craving for the eternal and the infinite.⁠ ⁠…”

Albert

A Story

I

Five rich young men went at three o’clock in the morning to a ball in Petersburg to have a good time.

Much champagne was drunk; a majority of the gentlemen were very young; the girls were pretty; a pianist and a fiddler played indefatigably one polka after another; there was no cease to the noise of conversation and dancing. But there was a sense of awkwardness and constraint; everyone felt somehow or other⁠—and this is not unusual⁠—that all was not as it should be.

There were several attempts made to make things more lively, but simulated liveliness is much worse than melancholy.

One of the five young men, who was more discontented than anyone else, both with himself and with the others, and who had been feeling all the evening a sense of disgust, took his hat, and went out noiselessly on purpose, intending to go home.

There was no one in the anteroom, but in the next room at the door he heard two voices disputing. The young man paused, and listened.

“It is impossible, there are guests in there,” said a woman’s voice.

“Come, let me in, please. I will not do any harm,” urged a man in a gentle voice.

“Indeed I will not without madame’s permission,” said the woman. “Where are you going? Oh, what a man you are!”

The door was flung open, and on the threshold appeared the figure of a stranger. Seeing a guest, the maid ceased to detain the man; and the stranger, timidly bowing, came into the room with a somewhat unsteady gait.

He was a man of medium stature, with a lank, crooked back, and long dishevelled hair. He wore a short paletot, and tight ragged pantaloons over coarse dirty boots. His necktie, twisted into a string, exposed his long white neck. His shirt was filthy, and the sleeves came down over his lean hands.

But, notwithstanding his thoroughly emaciated body, his face was attractive and fair; and a fresh color even mantled his cheeks under his thin dark beard and side-whiskers. His dishevelled locks, thrown back, exposed a low and remarkably pure forehead. His dark, languid eyes looked unswervingly forward with an expression of serenity, submission, and sweetness, which made a fascinating combination with the expression of his fresh, curved lips, visible under his thin moustache.

Advancing a few steps, he paused, turned to the young man, and smiled. He found it apparently rather hard to smile. But his face was so lighted up by it, that the young man, without knowing why, smiled in return.

“Who is that man?” he asked of the maid in a whisper, as the stranger walked toward the room where the dancing was going on.

“A crazy musician from the theatre,” replied the maid. “He sometimes comes to call upon madame.”

“Where are you going, Delesof?” someone at this moment called from the drawing-room.

The young man who was called Delesof returned to the drawing-room. The musician was now standing at the door; and, as his eyes fell on the dancers, he showed by his smile and by the beating of his foot how much pleasure this spectacle afforded him.

“Won’t you come, and have a dance too?” said one of the guests to him. The musician bowed, and looked at the hostess inquiringly.

“Come, come. Why not, since the gentlemen have invited you?” said the hostess. The musician’s thin, weak face suddenly assumed an expression of decision; and smiling and winking, and shuffling his feet, he awkwardly, clumsily went to join the dancers in the drawing-room.

In the midst of a quadrille a jolly officer, who was dancing very beautifully and with great liveliness, accidentally hit the musician in the back. His weak, weary legs lost their equilibrium; and the musician, making ineffectual struggles to keep his balance, measured his length on the floor.

Notwithstanding the sharp, hard sound made by his fall, almost everybody at the first moment laughed.

But the musician did not rise. The guests grew silent, even the piano ceased to sound. Delesof and the hostess were the first to reach the prostrate musician. He was lying on his elbow, and gloomily looking at the ground. When he had been lifted to his feet, and set in a chair, he threw back his hair from his forehead with a quick motion of his bony hand, and began to smile without replying to the questions that were put.

Mr. Albert! Mr. Albert!” exclaimed the hostess. “Were you hurt? Where? Now, I told you that you had better not try to dance.⁠ ⁠… He is so weak,” she added, addressing her guests. “It takes all his strength.”

“Who is he?” someone asked the hostess.

“A poor man, an artist. A very nice young fellow; but he’s a sad case, as you can see.”

She said this without paying the least heed to the musician’s presence. He suddenly opened his eyes as though frightened at something, collected himself, and remarked to those who were standing about him, “It’s nothing at all,” said he suddenly, arising from the chair with evident effort.

And in order to show that he had suffered no injury, he went into the middle of the room, and was going to dance; but he tottered, and would have fallen again, had he not been supported.

Everybody felt constrained. All looked at him, and no one spoke. The musician’s glance again lost its vivacity; and, apparently forgetting that anyone was looking, he put his hand to his knee. Suddenly he raised his head, advanced one faltering foot, and, with the same awkward gesture as before, tossed back his hair, and went to a violin-case, and took out the instrument.

“It was nothing at all,” said he again, waving the violin. “Gentlemen, we will have a little music.”

“What a strange face!” said the guests among themselves.

“Maybe there is great talent lurking in that unhappy creature,” said one of them.

“Yes: it’s a sad case⁠—a sad case,” said another.

“What a lovely face!⁠ ⁠… There is something extraordinary about it,” said Delesof. “Let us have a look at him.⁠ ⁠…”

II

Albert by this time, not paying attention to anyone, had raised his violin to his shoulder, and was slowly crossing over to the piano, and tuning his instrument. His lips were drawn into an expression of indifference, his eyes were almost shut; but his lank, bony back, his long white neck, his crooked legs, and disorderly black hair presented a strange but somehow not entirely ridiculous appearance. After he had tuned his violin, he struck a quick chord, and, throwing back his head, turned to the pianist who was waiting to accompany him. “Melancholie, G Sharp,” he said, turning to the pianist with a peremptory gesture. And immediately after, as though in apology for his peremptory gesture, he smiled sweetly, and with the same smile turned to his audience again.

Tossing back his hair with the hand that held the bow, Albert stood at one side of the piano, and, with a flowing motion of the bow, touched the strings. Through the room there swept a pure, harmonious sound, which instantly brought absolute silence.

At first, it was as though a ray of unexpectedly brilliant light had flashed across the inner world of each hearer’s consciousness; and the notes of the theme immediately followed, pouring forth abundant and beautiful.

Not one discordant or imperfect note distracted the attention of the listeners. All the tones were clear, beautiful, and full of meaning. All silently, with trembling expectation, followed the development of the theme. From a state of tedium, of noisy gayety, or of deep drowsiness, into which these people had fallen, they were suddenly transported to a world whose existence they had forgotten.

In one instant there arose in their souls, now a sentiment as though they were contemplating the past, now of passionate remembrance of some happiness, now the boundless longing for power and glory, now the feelings of humility, of unsatisfied love, and of melancholy.

Now bittersweet, now vehemently despairing, the notes, freely intermingling, poured forth and poured forth, so sweetly, so powerfully, and so spontaneously, that it was not so much that sounds were heard, as that some sort of beautiful stream of poetry, long known, but now for the first time expressed, gushed through the soul.

At each note that he played, Albert grew taller and taller. At a little distance, he had no appearance of being either crippled or peculiar. Pressing the violin to his chin, and with an expression of listening with passionate attention to the tones that he produced, he convulsively moved his feet. Now he straightened himself up to his full height, now thoughtfully leaned forward.

His left hand, curving over spasmodically on the strings, seemed as though it had swooned in its position, while it was only the bony fingers that changed about spasmodically; the right hand moved smoothly, gracefully, without effort.

His face shone with complete, enthusiastic delight; his eyes gleamed with a radiant, steely light; his nostrils quivered, his red lips were parted in rapture.

Sometimes his head bent down closer to his violin, his eyes almost closed, and his face, half shaded by his long locks, lighted up with a smile of genuine blissfulness. Sometimes he quickly straightened himself up, changed from one leg to the other, and his pure forehead, and the radiant look which he threw around the room, were alive with pride, greatness, and the consciousness of power. Once the pianist made a mistake, and struck a false chord. Physical pain was apparent in the whole form and face of the musician. He paused for a second, and with an expression of childish anger stamped his foot, and cried, “Moll, ce moll!” The pianist corrected his mistake; Albert closed his eyes, smiled, and, again forgetting himself and everybody else, gave himself up with beatitude to his work. Everybody who was in the room while Albert was playing preserved an attentive silence, and seemed to live and breathe only in the music.

The gay officer sat motionless in a chair by the window, with his eyes fixed upon the floor, and drawing long heavy sighs. The girls, awed by the universal silence, sat along by the walls, only occasionally exchanging glances expressive of satisfaction or perplexity.

The fat smiling face of the hostess was radiant with happiness. The pianist kept his eyes fixed on Albert’s face, and while his whole figure from head to foot showed his solicitude lest he should make some mistake, he did his best to follow him. One of the guests, who had been drinking more heavily than the rest, lay at full length on the sofa, and tried not to move lest he should betray his emotion. Delesof experienced an unusual sensation. It seemed as though an icy band, now contracting, now expanding, were pressed upon his head. The roots of his hair seemed endued with consciousness; the cold shivers ran down his back, something rose higher and higher in his throat, his nose and palate were full of little needles, and the tears stole down his cheeks.

He shook himself, tried to swallow them back and wipe them away without attracting attention, but fresh tears followed and streamed down his face. By some sort of strange association of impressions, the first tones of Albert’s violin carried Delesof back to his early youth.

Old before his time, weary of life, a broken man, he suddenly felt as though he were a boy of seventeen again, self-satisfied and handsome, blissfully dull, unconsciously happy. He remembered his first love for his cousin who wore a pink dress, he remembered his first confession of it in the linden alley; he remembered the warmth and the inexpressible charm of the fortuitous kiss; he remembered the immensity and enigmatical mystery of Nature as it surrounded them then.

In his imagination as it went back in its flight, she gleamed in a mist of indefinite hopes, of incomprehensible desires, and the indubitable faith in the possibility of impossible happiness. All the priceless moments of that time, one after the other, arose before him, not like unmeaning instants of the fleeting present, but like the immutable, full-formed, reproachful images of the past.

He contemplated them with rapture, and wept⁠—wept not because the time had passed and he might have spent it more profitably (if that time had been given to him again he would not have spent it any more profitably), but he wept because it had passed and would never return. His recollections evolved themselves without effort, and Albert’s violin was their mouthpiece. It said, “They have passed, forever passed, the days of thy strength, of love, and of happiness; passed forever, and never will return. Weep for them, shed all thy tears, let thy life pass in tears for these days; this is the only and best happiness that remains to thee.”

At the end of the next variation, Albert’s face grew serene, his eyes flushed, great clear drops of sweat poured down his cheeks. The veins swelled on his forehead; his whole body swayed more and more; his pale lips were parted, and his whole figure expressed an enthusiastic craving for enjoyment. Despairingly swaying with his whole body, and throwing back his hair, he laid down his violin, and with a smile of proud satisfaction and happiness gazed at the bystanders. Then his back assumed its ordinary curve, his head sank, his lips grew set, his eyes lost their fire; and as though he were ashamed of himself, timidly glancing round, and stumbling, he went into the next room.

III

Something strange came over all the audience, and something strange was noticeable in the dead silence that succeeded Albert’s playing. It was as though each desired, and yet dared not, to acknowledge the meaning of it all.

What did it mean⁠—this brightly lighted, warm room, these brilliant women, the dawn just appearing at the windows, these hurrying pulses, and the pure impressions made by the fleeting tones of music? But no one ventured to acknowledge the meaning of it all; on the contrary, almost all, feeling incapable of throwing themselves completely under the influence of what the new impression concealed from them, rebelled against it.

“Well, now, he plays mighty well,” said the officer.

“Wonderfully,” replied Delesof, stealthily wiping his cheek with his sleeve.

“One thing sure, it’s time to be going, gentlemen,” said the gentleman who had been lying on the sofa, straightening himself up a little. “We’ll have to give him something, gentlemen. Let us make a collection.”

At this time, Albert was sitting alone in the next room, on the sofa. As he supported himself with his elbows on his bony knees, he smoothed his face with his dirty, sweaty hand, tossed back his hair, and smiled at his own happy thoughts.

A large collection was taken up, and Delesof was chosen to present it. Aside from this, Delesof, who had been so keenly and unwontedly affected by the music, had conceived the thought of conferring some benefit upon this man.

It came into his head to take him home with him, to feed him, to establish him somewhere⁠—in other words, to lift him from his vile position.

“Well, are you tired?” asked Delesof, approaching him. Albert replied with a smile. “You have creative talent; you ought seriously to devote yourself to music, to play in public.”

“I should like to have something to drink,” exclaimed Albert, as though suddenly waking up.

Delesof brought him some wine, and the musician greedily drained two glasses.

“What splendid wine!” he exclaimed.

“What a lovely thing that Melancholie is!” said Delesof.

“Oh, yes, yes,” replied Albert with a smile. “But pardon me, I do not know with whom I have the honor to be talking; maybe you are a count or a prince. Couldn’t you let me have a little money?” He paused for a moment. “I have nothing⁠—I am a poor man: I couldn’t pay it back to you.”

Delesof flushed, grew embarrassed, and hastened to hand the musician the money that had been collected for him.

“Very much obliged to you,” said Albert, seizing the money. “Now let us have some more music; I will play for you as much as you wish. Only let me have something to drink, something to drink,” he repeated, as he started to his feet.

Delesof gave him some more wine, and asked him to sit down by him.

“Pardon me if I am frank with you,” said Delesof. “Your talent has interested me so much. It seems to me that you are in a wretched position.”

Albert glanced now at Delesof, now at the hostess, who just then came into the room.

“Permit me to help you,” continued Delesof. “If you need anything, then I should be very glad if you would come and stay with me for a while. I live alone, and maybe I could be of some service to you.”

Albert smiled, and made no reply.

“Why don’t you thank him?” said the hostess. “It seems to me that this would be a capital thing for you.⁠—Only I would not advise you,” she continued, turning to Delesof, and shaking her head warningly.

“Very much obliged to you,” said Albert, seizing Delesof’s hand with both his moist ones. “Only now let us have some music, please.”

But the rest of the guests were already making their preparations to depart; and as Albert did not address them, they came out into the anteroom.

Albert bade the hostess farewell; and having taken his worn hat with wide brim, and a last summer’s alma viva, which composed his only protection against the winter, he went with Delesof down the steps.

As soon as Delesof took his seat in his carriage with his new friend, and became conscious of that unpleasant odor of intoxication and filthiness exhaled by the musician, he began to repent of the step that he had taken, and to curse himself for his childish softness of heart and lack of reason. Moreover, all that Albert said was so foolish and in such bad taste, and he seemed so near a sudden state of beastly intoxication, that Delesof was disgusted. “What shall I do with him?” he asked himself.

After they had been driving for a quarter of an hour, Albert relapsed into silence, took off his hat, and laid it on his knee, then threw himself into a corner of the carriage, and began to snore.⁠ ⁠… The wheels crunched monotonously over the frozen snow, the feeble light of dawn scarcely made its way through the frosty windows.

Delesof glanced at his companion. His long body, wrapped in his mantle, lay almost lifeless near him. It seemed to him that a long head with large black nose was swaying on his trunk; but on examining more closely he perceived that what he took to be nose and face was the man’s hair, and that his actual face was lower down.

He bent over, and studied the features of Albert’s face. Then the beauty of his brow and of his peacefully closed mouth once more charmed him. Under the influence of nervous excitement caused by the sleepless hours of the long night and the music, Delesof, as he looked at that face, was once more carried back to the blessed world of which he had caught a glimpse once before that night; again he remembered the happy and magnanimous time of his youth, and he ceased to repent of his rashness. At that moment he loved Albert truly and warmly, and firmly resolved to be a benefactor to him.

IV

The next morning when Delesof was awakened to go to his office, he saw, with an unpleasant feeling of surprise, his old screen, his old servant, and his clock on the table.

“What did I expect to see if not the usual objects that surround me?” he asked himself.

Then he recollected the musician’s black eyes and happy smile; the motive of the Melancholie and all the strange experiences of the night came back into his consciousness. It was never his way, however, to reconsider whether he had done wisely or foolishly in taking the musician home with him. After he had dressed, he carefully laid out his plans for the day: he took some paper, wrote out some necessary directions for the house, and hastily put on his cloak and galoshes.

As he went by the dining-room he glanced in at the door. Albert, with his face buried in the pillow and lying at full length in his dirty, tattered shirt, was buried in the profoundest slumber on the saffron sofa, where in absolute unconsciousness he had been laid the night before.

Delesof felt that something was not right: it disturbed him. “Please go for me to Boriuzovsky, and borrow his violin for a day or two,” said he to his man; “and when he wakes up, bring him some coffee, and get him some clean linen and some old suit or other of mine. Fix him up as well as you can, please.”

When he returned home in the afternoon, Delesof, to his surprise, found that Albert was not there.

“Where is he?” he asked of his man.

“He went out immediately after dinner,” replied the servant. “He took the violin, and went out, saying that he would be back again in an hour; but since that time we have not seen him.”

“Ta, ta! how provoking!” said Delesof. “Why did you let him go, Zakhár?”

Zakhár was a Petersburg lackey, who had been in Delesof’s service for eight years. Delesof, as a single young bachelor, could not help entrusting him with his plans; and he liked to get his judgment in regard to each of his undertakings.

“How should I have ventured to detain him?” replied Zakhár, playing with his watch-charms. “If you had intimated, Dmitri Ivánovitch, that you wished me to keep him here, I might have kept him at home. But you only spoke of his wardrobe.”

“Ta! how vexatious! Well, what has he been doing while I was out?”

Zakhár smiled.

“Indeed, he’s a real artist, as you may say, Dmitri Ivánovitch. As soon as he woke up he asked for some madeira: then he began to keep the cook and me pretty busy. Such an absurd⁠ ⁠… However, he’s a very interesting character. I brought him some tea, got some dinner ready for him; but he would not eat alone, so he asked me to sit down with him. But when he began to play on the fiddle, then I knew that you would not find many such artists at Izler’s. One might well keep such a man. When he played ‘Down the Little Mother Volga’ for us, why, it was enough to make a man weep. It was too good for anything! The people from all the floors came down into our entry to listen.”

“Well, did you give him some clothes?” asked the bárin.

“Certainly I did: I gave him your dress-shirt, and I put on him an overcoat of mine. You want to help such a man as that, he’s a fine fellow.” Zakhár smiled. “He asked me what rank you were, and if you had had important acquaintances, and how many souls of peasantry you had.”

“Very good: but now we must send and find him; and henceforth don’t give him anything to drink, otherwise you’ll do him more harm than good.”

“That is true,” said Zakhár in assent. “He doesn’t seem in very robust health: we used to have an overseer who, like him⁠ ⁠…”

Delesof, who had already long ago heard the story of the drunken overseer, did not give Zakhár time to finish, but bade him make everything ready for the night, and then go out and bring the musician back.

He threw himself down on his bed, and put out the candle; but it was long before he fell asleep, for thinking about Albert.

“This may seem strange to some of my friends,” said Delesof to himself, “but how seldom it is that I can do anything for anyone beside myself! and I ought to thank God for a chance when one presents itself. I will not send him away. I will do everything, at least everything that I can, to help him. Maybe he is not absolutely crazy, but only inclined to get drunk. It certainly will not cost me very much. Where one is, there is always enough to satisfy two. Let him live with me awhile, and then we will find him a place, or get him up a concert; we’ll help him off the shoals, and then there will be time enough to see what will come of it.” An agreeable sense of self-satisfaction came over him after making this resolution.

“Certainly I am not a bad man: I might say I am far from being a bad man,” he thought. “I might go so far as to say that I am a good man, when I compare myself with others.”

He was just dropping off to sleep when the sound of opening doors, and steps in the anteroom, roused him again. “Well, shall I treat him rather severely?” he asked himself; “I suppose that is best, and I ought to do it.”

He rang.

“Well, did you find him?” he asked of Zakhár, who answered his call.

“He’s a poor, wretched fellow, Dmitri Ivánovitch,” said Zakhár, shaking his head significantly, and closing his eyes.

“What! is he drunk?”

“Very weak.”

“Had he the violin with him?”

“I brought it: the lady gave it to me.”

“All right. Now please don’t bring him to me tonight: let him sleep it off; and tomorrow don’t under any circumstances let him out of the house.”

But before Zakhár had time to leave the room, Albert came in.

V

“You don’t mean to say that you’ve gone to bed at this time,” said Albert with a smile. “I was there again, at Anna Ivánovna’s. I spent a very pleasant evening. We had music, told stories; there was a very pleasant company there. Please let me have a glass of something to drink,” he added, seizing a carafe of water that stood on the table, “only not water.”

Albert was just as he had been the night before⁠—the same lovely smiling eyes and lips, the same fresh inspired brow, and weak features. Zakhár’s overcoat fitted him as though it had been made for him, and the clean, tall, stiffly-starched collar of the dress-shirt picturesquely fitted around his delicate white neck, giving him a peculiarly childlike and innocent appearance.

He sat down on Delesof’s bed, smiling with pleasure and gratitude, and looked at him without speaking. Delesof gazed into Albert’s eyes, and suddenly felt himself once under the sway of that smile. All desire for sleep vanished from him, he forgot his resolution to be stern: on the contrary, he felt like having a gay time, to hear some music, and to talk confidentially with Albert till morning. Delesof bade Zakhár bring a bottle of wine, cigarettes, and the violin.

“This is excellent,” said Albert. “It’s early yet, we’ll have a little music. I will play whatever you like.”

Zakhár, with evident satisfaction, brought a bottle of Lafitte, two glasses, some mild cigarettes such as Albert smoked, and the violin. But, instead of going off to bed as his bárin bade him, he lighted a cigar, and sat down in the next room.

“Let us talk instead,” said Delesof to the musician, who was beginning to tune the violin.

Albert sat down submissively on the bed, and smiled pleasantly.

“Oh, yes!” said he, suddenly striking his forehead with his hand, and putting on an expression of anxious curiosity. The expression of his face always foretold what he was going to say. “I wanted to ask you,”⁠—he hesitated a little⁠—“that gentleman who was there with you last evening.⁠ ⁠… You called him N⁠⸺. Was he the son of the celebrated N⁠⸺?”

“His own son,” replied Delesof, not understanding at all what Albert could find of interest in him.

“Indeed!” he exclaimed, smiling with satisfaction. “I instantly noticed that there was something peculiarly aristocratic in his manners. I love aristocrats. There is something splendid and elegant about an aristocrat. And that officer who danced so beautifully,” he went on to ask. “He also pleased me very much, he was so gay and noble looking. It seems he is called Adjutant N⁠⸺ N⁠⸺.”

“Who?” asked Delesof.

“The one who ran into me when we were dancing. He must be a splendid man.”

“No, he is a silly fellow,” replied Delesof.

“Oh, no! it can’t be,” rejoined Albert hotly. “There’s something very, very pleasant about him. And he’s a fine musician,” added Albert. “He played something from an opera. It’s a long time since I have seen anyone who pleased me so much.”

“Yes, he plays very well; but I don’t like his playing,” said Delesof, anxious to bring his companion to talk about music. “He does not understand classic music, but only Donizetti and Bellini; and that’s no music, you know. You agree with me, don’t you?”

“Oh, no, no! Pardon me,” replied Albert with a gentle expression of vindication. “The old music is music; but modern music is music too. And in the modern music there are extraordinarily beautiful things. Now, Somnambula, and the finale of Lucia, and Chopin, and Robert! I often think,”⁠—he hesitated, apparently collecting his thoughts⁠—“that if Beethoven were alive, he would weep tears of joy to hear Somnambula. It’s so beautiful all through. I heard Somnambula first when Viardot and Rubini were here. That was something worthwhile,” he said, with shining eyes, and making a gesture with both hands, as though he were casting something from his breast. “I’d give a good deal, but it would be impossible, to bring it back.”

“Well, but how do you like the opera nowadays?” asked Delesof.

“Bosio is good, very good,” was his reply, “exquisite beyond words; but she does not touch me here,” he said, pointing to his sunken chest. “A singer must have passion, and she hasn’t any. She is enjoyable, but she doesn’t torture you.”

“Well, how about Lablache?”

“I heard him in Paris, in The Barber of Seville. Then he was the only one, but now he is old. He can’t be an artist, he is old.”

“Well, supposing he is old, still he is fine in morceaux d’ensemble,” said Delesof, still speaking of Lablache.

“Who said that he was old?” said Albert severely. “He can’t be old. The artist can never be old. Much is needed in an artist, but fire most of all,” he declared with glistening eyes, and raising both hands in the air. And, indeed, a terrible inner fire seemed to glow throughout his whole frame. “Ah, my God!” he exclaimed suddenly. “You don’t know Petrof, do you⁠—Petrof, the artist?”

“No, I don’t know him,” replied Delesof with a smile.

“How I wish that you and he might become acquainted! You would enjoy talking with him. How he does understand art! He and I often used to meet at Anna Ivánovna’s, but now she is vexed with him for some reason or other. But I really wish that you might make his acquaintance. He has great, great talent.”

“Oh! Does he paint pictures?” asked Delesof.

“I don’t know. No, I think not; but he was an artist of the Academy. What thoughts he had! Whenever he talks, it is wonderful. Oh, Petrof has great talent, only he leads a very gay life!⁠ ⁠… It’s too bad,” said Albert with a smile. The next moment he got up from the bed, took the violin, and began to play.

“Have you been at the opera lately?” asked Delesof.

Albert looked round, and sighed.

“Ah, I have not been able to!” he said, clutching his head. Again he sat down by Delesof. “I will tell you,” he went on to say, almost in a whisper. “I can’t go: I can’t play there. I have nothing, nothing at all⁠—no clothes, no home, no violin. It’s a wretched life⁠—a wretched life!” he repeated the phrase. “Yes, and why have I got into such a state? Why, indeed? It ought not to have been,” said he, smiling. “Akh! Don Juan.”

And he struck his head.

“Now let us have something to eat,” said Delesof.

Albert, without replying, sprang up, seized the violin, and began to play the finale of the first act of Don Juan, accompanying it with a description of the scene in the opera.

Delesof felt the hair stand up on his head, when he played the voice of the dying commander.

“No, I cannot play tonight,” said Albert, laying down the instrument. “I have been drinking too much.” But immediately after he went to the table, poured out a brimming glass of wine, drank it at one gulp, and again sat down on the bed near Delesof.

Delesof looked steadily at Albert. The latter occasionally smiled, and Delesof returned his smile. Neither of them spoke, but the glance and smile brought them close together into a reciprocity of affection. Delesof felt that he was growing constantly fonder and fonder of this man, and he experienced an inexpressible pleasure.

“Were you ever in love?” he asked suddenly. Albert remained sunk in thought for a few seconds, then his face lighted up with a melancholy smile. He bent over toward Delesof, and gazed straight into his eyes.

“Why did you ask me that question?” he whispered. “But I will tell you all about it. I like you,” he added, after a few moments of thought, and glancing around. “I will not deceive you, I will tell you all, just as it was, from the beginning.” He paused, and his eyes took on a strange wild appearance. “You know that I am weak in judgment,” he said suddenly. “Yes, yes,” he continued. “Anna Ivánovna has told you about it. She tells everybody that I am crazy. It isn’t true, she says it for a joke; she is a good woman, but I really have not been quite well for some time.” Albert paused again, and stood up, gazing with wide-opened eyes at the dark door. “You asked me if I had ever been in love. Yes, I have been in love,” he whispered, raising his brows. “That happened long ago; it was at a time when I still had a place at the theatre. I went to play second violin at the opera, and she came into a parquet box at the left.”

Albert stood up, and bent over to Delesof’s ear. “But no,” said he, “why should I mention her name? You probably know her, everybody knows her. I said nothing, but simply looked at her: I knew that I was a poor artist, and she an aristocratic lady. I knew that very well. I only looked at her, and had no thoughts.”

Albert paused for a moment, as though making sure of his recollections.

“How it happened I know not, but I was invited once to accompany her on my violin.⁠ ⁠… Now I was only a poor artist!” he repeated, shaking his head and smiling. “But no, I cannot tell you, I cannot!” he exclaimed, again clutching his head. “How happy I was!”

“What? did you go to her house often?” asked Delesof.

“Once, only once.⁠ ⁠… But it was my own fault; I wasn’t in my right mind. I was a poor artist, and she an aristocratic lady. I ought not to have spoken to her. But I lost my senses, I committed a folly. Petrof told me the truth: ‘It would have been better only to have seen her at the theatre.’ ”

“What did you do?” asked Delesof.

“Ah! wait, wait, I cannot tell you that.”

And, hiding his face in his hands, he said nothing for some time.

“I was late at the orchestra. Petrof and I had been drinking that evening, and I was excited. She was sitting in her box, and talking with some general. I don’t know who that general was. She was sitting at the very edge of the box, with her arm resting on the rim. She wore a white dress, with pearls on her neck. She was talking with him, but she looked at me. Twice she looked at me. She had arranged her hair in such a becoming way! I stopped playing, and stood near the bass, and gazed at her. Then, for the first time, something strange took place in me. She smiled on the general, but she looked at me. I felt certain that she was talking about me; and suddenly I seemed to be not in my place in the orchestra, but was standing in her box, and seizing her hand in that place. What was the meaning of that?” asked Albert, after a moment’s silence.

“A powerful imagination,” said Delesof.

“No, no⁠ ⁠… I cannot tell,” said Albert frowning. “Even then I was poor. I hadn’t any room; and when I went to the theatre, I sometimes used to sleep there.”

“What, in the theatre?” asked Delesof.

“Ah! I am not afraid of these stupid things. Ah! just wait a moment. As soon as everybody was gone, I went to that box where she had been sitting, and slept there. That was my only pleasure. How many nights I spent there! Only once again did I have that experience. At night many things seemed to come to me. But I cannot tell you much about them.” Albert contracted his brows, and looked at Delesof. “What did it mean?” he asked.

“It was strange,” replied the other.

“No, wait, wait!” he bent over to his ear, and said in a whisper⁠—

“I kissed her hand, wept there before her, and said many things to her. I heard the fragrance of her sighs, I heard her voice. She said many things to me that one night. Then I took my violin, and began to play softly. And I played beautifully. But it became terrible to me. I am not afraid of such stupid things, and I don’t believe in them, but my head felt terribly,” he said, smiling sweetly, and moving his hand over his forehead. “It seemed terrible to me on account of my poor mind; something happened in my head. Maybe it was nothing; what do you think?”

Neither spoke for several minutes.

“Und wenn die Wolken sie verhüllen,
Die Sonne bleibt doch ewig klar.”176

hummed Albert, smiling gently. “That is true, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Ich auch habe gelebt und genossen.”177

“Ah, old man Petrof! how this would have made things clear to you!”

Delesof, in silence and with dismay, looked at his companion’s excited and colorless face.

“Do you know the Juristen waltzes?” suddenly asked Albert in a loud voice, and without waiting for an answer, jumped up, seized the violin, and began to play the waltz. In absolute self-forgetfulness, and evidently imagining that a whole orchestra was playing for him, Albert smiled, began to dance, to shuffle his feet, and to play admirably.

“Hey, we will have a good time!” he exclaimed, as he ended, and waved his violin. “I am going,” said he, after sitting down in silence for a little. “Won’t you come along too?”

“Where?” asked Delesof in surprise.

“Let us go to Anna Ivánovna’s again. It’s gay there⁠—bustle, people, music.”

Delesof for a moment was almost persuaded. However, coming to his senses, he promised Albert that he would go with him the next day.

“I should like to go this minute.”

“Indeed, I wouldn’t go.”

Albert sighed, and laid down the violin.

“Shall I stay, then?” He looked over at the table, but the wine was gone; and so, wishing him a good night, he left the room.

Delesof rang. “Look here,” said he to Zakhár, “don’t let Mr. Albert go anywhere without asking me about it first.”

VI

The next day was a holiday. Delesof, on waking, sat in his parlor, drinking his coffee and reading a book. Albert, who was in the next room, had not yet moved. Zakhár discreetly opened the door, and looked into the dining-room.

“Would you believe it, Dmitri Ivánovitch, there he lies asleep on the bare sofa. I would not send him away for anything, God knows. He’s like a little child. Indeed, he’s an artist!”

At twelve o’clock, there was a sound of yawning and coughing on the other side of the door.

Zakhár again crept into the dining-room; and the bárin heard his wheedling voice, and Albert’s gentle, beseeching voice.

“Well, how is he?” asked Delesof, when Zakhár came out.

“He feels blue, Dmitri Ivánovitch. He doesn’t want to get dressed. He’s so cross. All he asks for is something to drink.”

“Now, if we are to get hold of him, we must strengthen his character,” said Delesof to himself. And, forbidding Zakhár to give him any wine, he again devoted himself to his book; in spite of himself, however, listening all the time for developments in the dining-room.

But there was no movement there, only occasionally were heard a heavy chest cough and spitting. Two hours passed. Delesof, after dressing to go out, resolved to look in upon his guest. Albert was sitting motionless at the window, leaning his head on his hands.

He looked round. His face was sallow, morose, and not only melancholy but deeply unhappy. He tried to welcome his host with a smile, but his face assumed a still more woebegone expression. It seemed as though he were on the point of tears.

With effort he stood up and bowed. “If I might have just a little glass of simple vodka,” he exclaimed with a supplicating expression. “I am so weak. If you please!”

“Coffee will be more strengthening, I would advise you.”

Albert’s face lost its childish expression; he gazed coldly, sadly, out of the window, and fell back into the chair.

“Wouldn’t you like some breakfast?”

“No, thank you, I haven’t any appetite.”

“If you want to play on the violin, you will not disturb me,” said Delesof, laying the instrument on the table. Albert looked at the violin with a contemptuous smile.

“No, I am too weak, I cannot play,” he said, and pushed the instrument from him.

After that, in reply to all Delesof’s propositions to go to walk, to go to the theatre in the evening, or anything else, he only shook his head mournfully, and refused to speak.

Delesof went out, made a few calls, dined out, and before the theatre hour, he returned to his rooms to change his attire and find out how the musician was getting along.

Albert was sitting in the dark anteroom, and, with his head resting on his hand, was gazing at the heated stove. He was neatly dressed, washed and combed; but his eyes were sad and vacant, and his whole form expressed even more weakness and debility than in the morning.

“Well, have you had dinner, Mr. Albert?” asked Delesof.

Albert nodded his head, and, after looking with a terrified expression at Delesof, dropped his eyes. It made Delesof feel uncomfortable.

“I have been talking today with a manager,” said he, also dropping his eyes. “He would be very glad to make terms with you, if you would like to accept an engagement.”

“I thank you, but I cannot play,” said Albert, almost in a whisper; and he went into his room, and closed the door as softly as possible. After a few minutes, lifting the latch as softly as possible, he came out of the room, bringing the violin. Casting a sharp, angry look at Delesof, he laid the instrument on the table, and again disappeared.

Delesof shrugged his shoulders, and smiled.

“What am I to do now? Wherein am I to blame?” he asked himself.

“Well, how is the musician?” was his first question when he returned home late that evening.

“Bad,” was Zakhár’s short and ringing reply. “He sighs all the time, and coughs, and says nothing at all, only he has asked for vodka four or five times, and once I gave him some. How can we avoid killing him this way, Dmitri Ivánovitch? That was the way the overseer⁠ ⁠…”

“Well, hasn’t he played on the fiddle?”

“Didn’t even touch it. I took it to him, twice⁠—Well, he took it up slowly, and carried it out,” said Zakhár with a smile. “Do you still bid me refuse him something to drink?”

“Don’t give him anything today; we’ll see what’ll come of it. What is he doing now?”

“He has shut himself into the parlor.”

Delesof went into his library, took down a few French books, and the Testament in German. “Put these books tomorrow in his room; and look out, don’t let him get away,” said he to Zakhár.

The next morning Zakhár informed his bárin that the musician had not slept a wink all night. “He kept walking up and down his rooms, and going to the sideboard to try to open the cupboard and door; but everything, in spite of his efforts, remained locked.”

Zakhár told how, while he was going to sleep, he heard Albert muttering to himself in the darkness and gesticulating.


Each day Albert grew more gloomy and taciturn. It seemed as though he were afraid of Delesof, and his face expressed painful terror whenever their eyes met. He did not touch either book or violin, and made no replies to the questions put to him.

On the third day after the musician came to stay with him, Delesof returned home late in the evening, tired and worried. He had been on the go all day, attending to his duties. Though they had seemed very simple and easy, yet, as is often the case, he had not made any progress at all, in spite of his strenuous endeavors. Afterwards he had stopped at the club, and lost at whist. He was out of spirits.

“Well, God be with him,” he replied to Zakhár, who had been telling him of Albert’s pitiable state. “Tomorrow I shall be really worried about him. Is he willing or not to stay with me, and follow my advice? No? Then it’s idle. I have done the best that I could.”

“That’s what comes of trying to be a benefactor to people,” said he to himself. “I am putting myself to inconvenience for him. I have taken this filthy creature into my rooms, which keeps me from receiving strangers in the morning; I work and trot; and yet he looks upon me as some enemy who, against his will, would keep him in pound. But the worst is, that he is not willing to take a step in his own behalf. That’s the way with them all.”

That word all referred to people in general, and especially to those with whom he had been associated in business that day. “But what is to be done for him now? What is he contemplating? Why is he melancholy? Is he melancholy on account of the debauch from which I rescued him? on account of the degradation in which he has been? the humiliation from which I saved him? Can it be that he has fallen so low that it is a burden for him to look on a pure life?⁠ ⁠…

“No, this was a childish action,” reasoned Delesof. “Why should I undertake to direct others, when it is as much as I can do to manage my own affairs?”

The impulse came over him to let him go immediately, but after a little deliberation he postponed it till the morning.

During the night Delesof was aroused by the noise of a falling table in the anteroom, and the sound of voices and stamping feet.

“Just wait a little, I will tell Dmitri Ivánovitch,” said Zakhár’s voice; Albert’s voice replied passionately and incoherently.

Delesof leaped up, and went with a candle into the anteroom. Zakhár in his nightdress was standing against the door; Albert in cap and alma viva was trying to pull him away, and was screaming at him in a pathetic voice.

“You have no right to detain me; I have a passport; I have not stolen anything from you. You must let me go. I will go to the police.”

“I beg of you, Dmitri Ivánovitch,” said Zakhár, turning to his bárin, and continuing to stand guard at the door. “He got up in the night, found the key in my overcoat-pocket, and he has drunk up the whole decanter of sweet vodka. Was that good? And now he wants to go. You didn’t give me orders, and so I could not let him out.”

Albert, seeing Delesof, began to pull still more violently on Zakhár. “No one has the right to detain me! He cannot do it,” he screamed, raising his voice more and more.

“Let him go, Zakhár,” said Delesof. “I do not wish to detain you, and I have no right to, but I advise you to stay till tomorrow,” he added, addressing Albert.

“No one has the right to detain me. I am going to the police,” screamed Albert more and more furiously, addressing only Zakhár, and not heeding Delesof. “Guard!” he suddenly shouted at the top of his voice.

“Now, what are you screaming like that for? You see you are free to go,” said Zakhár, opening the door.

Albert ceased screaming. “How did they dare? They were going to murder me! No!” he muttered to himself as he put on his galoshes. Not offering to say goodbye, and still muttering something unintelligible, he went out of the door. Zakhár accompanied him to the gate, and came back.

“Thank the Lord, Dmitri Ivánovitch! Any longer would have been a sin,” said he to his bárin. “And now we must count the silver.”

Delesof only shook his head, and made no reply. There came over him a lively recollection of the first two evenings which he and the musician had spent together; he remembered the last wretched days which Albert had spent there; and above all he remembered the sweet but absurd sentiment of wonder, of love, and of sympathy, which had been aroused in him by the very first sight of this strange man; and he began to pity him.

“What will become of him now?” he asked himself. “Without money, without warm clothing, alone at midnight!” He thought of sending Zakhár after him, but now it was too late.

“Is it cold outdoors?” he asked.

“A healthy frost, Dmitri Ivánovitch,” replied the man. “I forgot to tell you that you will have to buy some more firewood to last till spring.”

“But what did you mean by saying that it would last?”

VII

Out of doors it was really cold; but Albert did not feel it, he was so excited by the wine that he had taken and by the quarrel.

As he entered the street, he looked around him, and rubbed his hands with pleasure. The street was empty, but the long lines of lights were still brilliantly gleaming; the sky was clear and beautiful. “What!” he cried, addressing the lighted window in Delesof’s apartments; and then thrusting his hands in his trousers pockets under his coat, and looking straight ahead, he walked with heavy and uncertain steps straight up the street.

He felt an absolute weight in his legs and abdomen, something hummed in his head, some invisible power seemed to hurl him from side to side; but he still plunged ahead in the direction of where Anna Ivánovna lived.

Strange, disconnected thoughts rushed through his head. Now he remembered his quarrel with Zakhár, now something recalled the sea and his first voyage in the steamboat to Russia; now the merry night that he had spent with some friend in the wine-shop by which he was passing; then suddenly there came to him a familiar air singing itself in his recollections, and he seemed to see the object of his passion and the terrible night in the theatre.

But notwithstanding their incoherence, all these recollections presented themselves before his imaginations with such distinctness that when he closed his eyes he could not tell which was nearer to the reality: what he was doing, or what he was thinking. He did not realize and he did not feel how his legs moved, how he staggered and hit against a wall, how he looked around him, and how he made his way from street to street.

As he went along the Little Morskaya, Albert tripped and fell. Collecting himself in a moment, he saw before him some huge and magnificent edifice, and he went toward it.

In the sky not a star was to be seen, nor sign of dawn, nor moon, neither were there any streetlights there; but all objects were perfectly distinguishable. The windows of the edifice, which loomed up at the corner of the street, were brilliantly lighted, but the lights wavered like reflections. The building kept coming nearer and nearer, clearer and clearer, to Albert.

But the lights vanished the moment that Albert entered the wide portals. Inside it was dark. He took a few steps under the vaulted ceiling, and something like shades glided by and fled at his approach.

“Why did I come here?” wondered Albert; but some irresistible power dragged him forward into the depths of the immense hall.

There stood some lofty platform, and around it in silence stood what seemed like little men. “Who is going to speak?” asked Albert. No one answered, but someone pointed to the platform. There stood now on the platform a tall, thin man, with bushy hair and dressed in a variegated gown. Albert immediately recognized his friend Petrof.

“How strange! what is he doing here?” said Albert to himself.

“No, brethren,” said Petrof, pointing to something, “you did not appreciate the man while he was living among you; you did not appreciate him! He was not a cheap artist, not a merely mechanical performer, not a crazy, ruined man. He was a genius, a great musical genius, who perished among you unknown and unvalued.”

Albert immediately understood of whom his friend was speaking; but not wishing to interrupt him, he hung his head modestly. “He, like a sheaf of straw, was wholly consumed by the sacred fire which we all serve,” continued the voice. “But he has completely fulfilled all that God gave him; therefore he ought to be considered a great man. You may despise him, torture him, humiliate him,” continued the voice, more and more energetically, “but he has been, is, and will be immeasurably higher than you all. He is happy, he is good. He loved you all alike, or cared for you, it is all the same; but he has served only that with which he was so highly endowed. He loved one thing⁠—beauty, the only infinite good in the world. Oh, yes, what a man he is! Fall all of you before him. On your knees!” cried Petrof in a thundering voice.

But another voice mildly answered from another corner of the hall. “I do not wish to bow my knee before him,” said the voice.

Albert instantly recognized Delesof.

“Why is he great? And why should we bow before him? Has he conducted himself in an honorable and righteous manner? Has he brought society any advantage? Do we not know how he borrowed money, and never returned it; how he carried off a violin that belonged to a brother artist, and pawned it?”

“My God! how did he know all that?” said Albert to himself, drooping his head still lower.

“Do we not know,” the voice went on, “how he pandered to the lowest of the low, pandered to them for money? Do we not know how he was driven out of the theatre? How Anna Ivánovna threatened to hand him over to the police?”

“My God! that is all true, but protect me,” cried Albert. “You are the only one who knows why I did so.”

“Stop, for shame!” cried Petrof’s voice again. “What right have you to accuse him? Have you lived his life? Have you experienced his enthusiasms?”

“Right! right!” whispered Albert.

“Art is the highest manifestation of power in man. It is given only to the favored few, and it lifts the chosen to such an eminence that the head swims, and it is hard to preserve its integrity. In art, as in every struggle, there are heroes who bring all under subjection to them, and perish if they do not attain their ends.”

Petrof ceased speaking; and Albert lifted his head, and tried to shout in a loud voice, “Right! right!” but his voice died without a sound.

“That is not the case with you. This does not concern you,” sternly said the artist Petrof, addressing Delesof. “Yes, humble him, despise him,” he continued, “for he is better and happier than all the rest of you.”

Albert, with rapture in his heart at hearing these words, could not contain himself, but went up to his friend, and was about to kiss him.

“Get thee gone, I do not know you,” replied Petrof. “Go your own way, you cannot come here.”

“Here, you drunken fellow, you cannot come here,” cried a policeman at the crossing.

Albert hesitated, then collected all his forces, and, endeavoring not to stumble, crossed over to the next street.

It was only a few steps to Anna Ivánovna’s. From the hall of her house a stream of light fell on the snowy dvor, and at the gate stood sledges and carriages.

Clinging with both hands to the balustrade, he made his way up the steps, and rang the bell.

The maid’s sleepy face appeared at the open door, and looked angrily at Albert.

“It is impossible,” she cried; “I have been forbidden to let you in,” and she slammed the door. The sounds of music and women’s voices floated down to him.

Albert sat down on the ground, and leaned his head against the wall, and shut his eyes. At that very instant a throng of indistinct but correlated visions took possession of him with fresh force, mastered him, and carried him off into the beautiful and free domain of fancy.

“Yes! he is better and happier,” involuntarily the voice repeated in his imagination.

From the door were heard the sounds of a polka. These sounds also told him that he was better and happier. In a neighboring church was heard the sound of a prayer-bell; and the prayer-bell also told him that he was better and happier.

“Now I will go back to that hall again,” said Albert to himself. “Petrof must have many things still to tell me.”

There seemed to be no one now in the hall; and in the place of the artist Petrof, Albert himself stood on the platform, and was playing on his violin all that the voice had said before.

But his violin was of strange make: it was composed of nothing but glass, and he had to hold it with both hands, and slowly rub it on his breast to make it give out sounds. The sounds were so sweet and delicious, that Albert felt he had never before heard anything like them. The more tightly he pressed the violin to his breast, the more sweet and consoling they became. The louder the sounds, the more swiftly the shadows vanished, and the more brilliantly the walls of the hall were illuminated. But it was necessary to play very cautiously on the violin, lest it should break.

Albert played on the instrument of glass cautiously and well. He played things the like of which he felt no one would ever hear again.

He was growing tired, when a heavy distant sound began to annoy him. It was the sound of a bell, but this sound seemed to have a language.

“Yes,” said the bell, with its notes coming from somewhere far off and high up, “yes, he seems to you wretched; you despise him, but he is better and happier than you. No one ever will play more on that instrument!”

These words which he understood seemed suddenly so wise, so novel, and so true, to Albert, that he stopped playing, and, while trying not to move, lifted his eyes and his arms toward heaven. He felt that he was beautiful and happy. Although no one was in the hall, Albert expanded his chest, and proudly lifted his head, and stood on the platform so that all might see him.

Suddenly someone’s hand was gently laid on his shoulder; he turned around, and in the half light saw a woman. She looked pityingly at him, and shook her head. He immediately became conscious that what he was doing was wrong, and a sense of shame came over him.

“Where shall I go?” he asked her. Once more she gazed long and fixedly at him, and bent her head pityingly. She was the one, the very one whom he loved, and her dress was the same; on her round white neck was the pearl necklace, and her lovely arms were bare above the elbows.

She took him in her arms, and bore him away through the hall. At the entrance of the hall, Albert saw the moon and water. But the water was not below as is usually the case, and the moon was not above; there was a white circle in one place as sometimes happens. The moon and the water were together⁠—everywhere, above and below, and on all sides and around them both. Albert and his love darted off toward the moon and the water, and he now realized that she whom he loved more than all in the world was in his arms: he embraced her, and felt inexpressible felicity.

“Is not this a dream?” he asked himself. But no, it was the reality, it was more than reality: it was reality and recollection combined.

Then he felt that the indescribable pleasure which he had felt during the last moment was gone, and would never be renewed.

“Why am I weeping?” he asked of her. She looked at him in silence, with pitying eyes. Albert understood what she desired to say in reply. “Just as when I was alive,” he went on to say. She, without replying, looked straight forward.

“This is terrible! How can I explain to her that I am alive?” he asked himself in horror. “My God, I am alive! Do understand me,” he whispered.

“He is better and happier,” said a voice.

But something kept oppressing Albert ever more powerfully. Whether it was the moon or the water, or her embrace or his tears, he could not tell, but he was conscious that he could not say all that it was his duty to say, and that all would be quickly over.


Two guests coming out from Anna Ivánovna’s rooms stumbled against Albert lying on the threshold. One of them went back to Anna Ivánovna, and called her. “That was heartless,” he said. “You might let a man freeze to death that way.”

Akh! why, that is my Albert. See where he was lying!” exclaimed the hostess. “Annushka, have him brought into the room; find a place for him somewhere,” she added, addressing the maid.

“Oh! I am alive, why do you bury me?” muttered Albert, as they brought him unconscious into the room.

Two Hussars

A Story

Early in the nineteenth century, in the days when there were no railways or macadamised roads, no gaslight, no stearine candles, no low couches with spring cushions, no unvarnished furniture, no disillusioned youths with eyeglasses, no liberal women-philosophers, nor any charming dames aux caméllias, of whom there are so many in our times; in those naive days, when leaving Moscow for Petersburg in a coach or carriage provided with a kitchenful of homemade provisions, one travelled for eight days along a soft, dusty, or muddy road, and had faith in chopped cutlets, in sleigh-bells and plain rolls; when in the long autumn evenings the tallow candles, around which family groups of twenty or thirty people gathered, had to be snuffed; when ballrooms were illuminated by candelabra with wax or spermaceti candles; when furniture was arranged symmetrically; when our fathers were still young, and proved it not only by the absence of wrinkles and grey hair, but by fighting duels for the sake of a woman and by rushing from the opposite corner of a room to pick up a bit of a handkerchief dropped purposely or accidentally; when our mothers wore short-waisted dresses and enormous sleeves, and decided family affairs by casting lots; when the charming dames aux caméllias hid from the light of day⁠—in the naive days of Freemasons’ lodges,178 Martinists,179 and Tugendbunds,180 the days of Milorádovitches181 and Davídofs182 and Poúshkins⁠—a meeting of landed proprietors was held at the Government town of K⁠⸺ and the nobility183 elections were over.

I

“Well, never mind, the saloon will do,” said a young officer wearing a fur cloak and hussar’s cap, who had just got out of a post-sledge and was entering the best hotel in the town of K⁠⸺.

“The meeting, your excellency, is enormous,” said the boots, who had already managed to learn from the Orderly that the hussar’s name was Count Toúrbin, and therefore addressed him as “your excellency.”

“The proprietress of Afrémovo with her daughters has said she will leave this evening, so No. 11 will be at your disposal as soon as they go,” continued the boots, stepping softly before the Count along the passage, and continually looking back.

In the general saloon, at a little table under the blackened full-length portrait of the Emperor Alexander I, several men, probably belonging to the local nobility, sat drinking champagne, and at one side sat some travellers: tradesmen in blue, fur-lined cloaks.

Entering the room and calling in Blücher, a gigantic grey mastiff he had brought with him, the Count threw off his cloak, the collar of which was still covered with hoarfrost, called for vodka, sat down in his blue satin Cossack jacket at the table, and entered into conversation with the gentlemen sitting there.

The handsome, open countenance of the newcomer immediately predisposed them in his favour, and they offered him a glass of champagne. The Count first drank a glass of vodka, and then ordered another bottle of champagne to treat his new acquaintances. The sledge-driver came in to ask for a tip.

“Sáshka!” shouted the Count, “give him something.”

The driver went out with Sáshka, but came back again with the money in his hand.

“Look here, y’r ’xelence, haven’t I done my very best for y’r honour? Didn’t you promise me half a rouble, and he’s only given me a quarter!”

“Sáshka, give him a rouble.”

Sáshka cast down his eyes and looked at the driver’s feet.

“He’s had enough!” he said, in a bass voice. “And besides, I have no more money.”

The Count drew from his pocketbook the two five-rouble notes which were all that was in it, and gave one of them to the driver, who kissed his hand and went off.

“I’ve run it pretty close!” said the Count. “These are my last five roubles.”

“Real hussar fashion, Count,” said one of the nobles, who from his moustache, voice, and a certain energetic freedom about the legs, was evidently a retired cavalryman. “Are you staying here some time, Count?”

“I must get some money. I should not have stayed here at all but for that. And there are no rooms to be had, devil take them, in this cursed pub.”

“Permit me, Count,” said the cavalryman, “will you not join me? My room is No. 7.⁠ ⁠… If you do not mind, just for the night. And then you’ll stay a couple of days with us? It happens that the Maréchal de la Noblesse is just giving a ball tonight. You would make him very happy by going.”

“Yes, Count, do stay,” said another, a handsome young man. “You have surely no reason to hurry away! You know this only comes once in three years⁠—the elections, I mean. You should at least have a look at our young ladies, Count!”

“Sáshka, get my clean linen ready; I am going to the bath,” said the Count, rising, “and from there perhaps I may run in to the Marshal’s.”

Then, having called the waiter and whispered something to him, to which the latter answered with a smile, “That can all be managed,” he went out.

“So I’ll order my trunk to be taken to your room, old fellow,” shouted the Count from the passage.

“Please do, I shall be most happy,” replied the cavalryman, running to the door; “No. 7⁠—don’t forget.”

When the Count’s footsteps could no longer be heard, the cavalryman returned to his place, and sitting close to one of the group, a Government official, and looking him straight in the face with smiling eyes, he said⁠—

“It is the very man, you know.”

“No?”

“I tell you it is; it is the very same duellist hussar⁠—the famous Toúrbin. He knew me⁠—I bet you anything he knew me. Why, he and I went on the spree for three weeks without a break when I was at Lebedyáni184 for remounts. There was one thing⁠—he and I did together.⁠ ⁠… He’s a fine fellow, eh?”

“A splendid fellow. And so pleasant in his manner! Doesn’t show a grain of⁠—what d’you call it?” answered the handsome young man. “How quickly we became intimate.⁠ ⁠… He’s not more than twenty-five, is he?”

“Oh no, that’s what he looks, but he is more than that. One has to get to know him, you know. Who eloped with Migoúnova? He. It was he killed Sáblin. It was he dropped Matnyóf out of the window by the legs. He won 300,000 roubles of Prince Néstorof. He is a regular daredevil, you know: a gambler, a duellist, a seducer, but a jewel of an hussar⁠—a real jewel. The rumours that are afloat about us are nothing⁠—if anyone knew what a true hussar is! Ah yes, those were times!”

And the cavalryman told his interlocutor of such a spree with the Count in Lebedyáni, as not only never had, but never even could have taken place.

It could not have done so, first because he had never seen the Count till that day, and had left the army two years before the Count entered it; and secondly, because the cavalryman had never really served in the cavalry at all, but had for four years been the humblest of cadets in the Beléfsky Regiment, and had retired as soon as ever he became ensign. But ten years ago he had inherited some money and had really been in Lebedyáni, where he squandered 700 roubles with some officers who were there for remounts. He had even gone so far as to have an Uhlan uniform with orange facings made, meaning to enter an Uhlan regiment. This desire to enter the cavalry, and the three weeks spent with the remount officers at Lebedyáni, remained the brightest and happiest memories of his life; so that he transformed the desire, first into a reality and then into a reminiscence, and came to believe firmly in his past as a cavalry officer⁠—all of which did not hinder him from being, both as to gentleness and honesty, a most worthy man.

“Yes, those who have never served in the cavalry will never understand us fellows.”

He sat down astride a chair, and thrusting out his lower jaw began to speak in a bass voice. “One used to ride at the head of one’s squadron: under you not a horse, but the devil incarnate, prancing all about, and you just sit in devil-me-care style. The squadron commander rides up to review: ‘Lieutenant,’ he says, ‘if you please, we can’t get on without you⁠—lead the squadron to parade.’ ‘All right,’ you say, and there you are; you turn round, shout to your moustached fellows.⁠ ⁠… Ah, devil take it, those were times!”

The Count returned from the bath very red and with wet hair, and went straight to No. 7, where the cavalryman was already sitting in his dressing-gown, smoking a pipe and considering with pleasure, and not without some apprehension, the happiness that had befallen him of sharing a room with the celebrated Toúrbin. “Now, supposing,” he thought, “that he suddenly takes me, strips me naked, drives with me to the town gates and puts me in the snow, or⁠ ⁠… tars me, or simply⁠ ⁠… But no,” he consoled himself, “he won’t do it to a comrade.”

“Sáshka, feed Blücher!” shouted the Count.

Sáshka, who had taken a tumbler of vodka to refresh himself after the journey, and was decidedly tipsy, came in.

“What, already! You’ve been drinking, rascal!⁠ ⁠… Feed Blücher!”

“He won’t starve anyhow; see how sleek he is!” answered Sáshka, stroking the dog.

“Silence! Be off and feed him!”

“You want the dog to be fed, but when a man drinks a glass you reproach him.”

“Hey! I’ll thrash you!” shouted the Count, in a voice that made the window panes rattle and frightened even the cavalryman a bit.

“You should ask if Sáshka has yet had a bite today! Yes, beat me, if you think more of a dog than of a man,” muttered Sáshka.

But here he received such a terrible blow in the face from the Count’s fist, that he fell, knocked his head against the partition, and, clutching his nose, fled from the room and fell on a settee in the passage.

“He’s knocked my teeth out,” grunted Sáshka, wiping his bleeding nose with one hand, while with the other he scratched the back of Blücher, who was licking himself. “He’s knocked my teeth out, Bluchy, but still he’s my Count, and I’d go through fire for him⁠—I would! Because he⁠—is my Count; do you understand, Bluchy? Want your dinner, eh?”

After lying still for a while, he rose, fed the dog, and then, almost sobered, went in to wait on his Count, and to offer him some tea.

“I shall really feel hurt,” said the cavalryman meekly, as he stood before the Count, who was lying on the cavalryman’s bed with his legs up against the partition. “You see, I also am an old army man, and, I may say, a comrade. Why should you borrow from anyone else when I shall be delighted to lend you a couple of hundred roubles? I have not got them just now, only a hundred roubles, but I’ll get the rest today. You would really hurt my feelings, Count!”

“Thank you, old man,” said the Count, instantly discerning what kind of relations had to be established between them, and slapping the cavalryman on the shoulder: “Thanks! Well then, we’ll go to the ball if it must be so. But what are we to do now? Tell us what you have in your town. What pretty girls? What men game for a spree? What gaming?”

The cavalryman explained that there would be an abundance of pretty creatures at the ball, that Kólhof, who had been reelected Captain of Police, was the best hand at a spree, only he lacked the true hussar go⁠—otherwise he was a good sort of chap; that the Ilúshkin gipsy chorus had been singing in the town since the elections began, Styóshka leading, and that everybody meant to go to hear them after leaving the Marshal’s that evening.

“And there is a devilish lot of card-playing too,” he went on; “Loúhnof plays. He has money and is staying here to break his journey, and Ilyín, an Uhlan cornet, who has room No. 8, has lost a lot. They have already begun in his room. They play every evening. And what a fine fellow that Ilyín is! I tell you, Count, he’s not mean⁠—he’ll let his last shirt go.”

“Well then, let us go to his room. Let us see what sort of people they are,” said the Count.

“Yes, do, pray do. They will be devilish glad.”

II

The Uhlan cornet, Ilyín, had not been long awake. The evening before he had sat down to cards at eight o’clock, and had lost pretty steadily for fifteen hours on end⁠—till eleven in the morning. He had lost a considerable sum, but did not know exactly how much, because he had about 3000 roubles of his own, and 15,000 service-money which had long since got mixed up with it, and he feared to count lest he should find his forebodings confirmed that some of the Government money was already missing. It was nearly noon when he fell asleep, and he had slept that heavy, dreamless sleep which comes only to a very young man, and after a heavy loss. Waking at six o’clock (just at the time when Count Toúrbin arrived at the hotel), and seeing the floor all around strewn with cards and bits of chalk, and the chalk-marked tables in the middle of the room, he recalled with terror last night’s play, and the last card, a knave on which he lost 500 roubles; but not yet quite convinced of the reality of all this, he drew his money from under his pillow and began to count. He recognised some notes which had passed from hand to hand several times with “corners” and “transports,” and he recollected the whole course of the game. He had none of his own 3000 roubles left, and some 2500 Government money were also gone.

The Uhlan had been playing for four nights running.

He had come from Moscow, where the service-money had been entrusted to him, and he had been detained at K⁠⸺ by the superintendent of the post-house on the pretext that there were no horses, but really because the latter had an agreement with the hotel keeper to detain all travellers a day. The Uhlan, a bright young lad, who had just received 3000 roubles from his parents in Moscow for his equipment on entering his regiment, was glad to spend a few days in the town of K⁠⸺ at election time, and hoped to thoroughly enjoy himself. He knew one of the landed gentry there who had a family, and he was thinking of looking them up and flirting with the daughters, when the cavalryman turned up to make his acquaintance. That same evening, without any evil intent, the cavalryman introduced him to his other acquaintances, Loúhnof and other gamblers, in the general saloon, or common room, of the hotel. And ever since then the Uhlan had been playing cards, not asking at the station for horses, much less going to visit his acquaintance the landed proprietor, and not even leaving his room for four days.

Having dressed and had some tea, he went to the window. He felt he would like to go for a stroll, to get rid of the gaming recollections that haunted him. He put on his cloak and went out into the street. The sun was already hidden behind the white, red-roofed houses, and it was getting dusk. It was warm for winter. Large, wet snowflakes were slowly falling into the muddy street. Suddenly, at the thought that he had slept all through the day now ending, a feeling of intolerable sadness came over him.

“This day, now past, can never be brought back,” he thought.

“I have ruined my youth!” he suddenly said to himself, not because he really thought he had ruined his youth⁠—he did not even think about it⁠—but the phrase just happened to come into his head.

“And what am I to do now?” thought he: “borrow of someone and go away?” A lady passed him along the pavement. “There’s a stupid woman,” thought he, for some unknown reason. “There’s no one to borrow of⁠ ⁠… I have ruined my youth!” He came to the bazaar. A tradesman in a fox-fur cloak stood at the door of his shop touting for customers. “If I had not taken that eight I should have recovered my losses.” An old beggar-woman followed him whimpering. “There’s no one to borrow from.” Some man or other drove past in a bearskin cloak; a policeman was standing at his post. “What could one do that is unusual? Shoot at them? No, it’s dull.⁠ ⁠… I have ruined my youth!⁠ ⁠… Ah, there are fine horse-collars and trappings hanging there. There now, if one could get into a troika:185 ‘Gee-up, beauties!’⁠ ⁠… I’ll go back. Loúhnof will come soon, and we’ll play.”

He returned to the hotel and again counted his money. No, he had made no mistake when he first counted: there were still 2500 roubles of Government money missing. “I’ll stake 25 roubles on the first card, then make a ‘corner’⁠ ⁠… 7-fold it, 15-fold, 30, 60⁠ ⁠… 3000 roubles. Then I’ll buy the horse-collars and be off. He won’t give me a chance, the rascal! I have ruined my youth!”

That is what was going on in the Uhlan’s head when Loúhnof really entered the room.

“Well, have you been up long, Michael Vasílitch?” asked Loúhnof, slowly removing the gold spectacles from his skinny nose, and carefully wiping them with a red silk handkerchief.

“No, I’ve only just got up⁠—I slept uncommonly well.”

“Some hussar or other has arrived; he is staying with Zavalshévsky⁠—did you know?”

“No, I didn’t. But how’s it no one else has turned up?”

“They must have gone into Pryáhin’s. They’ll be here directly.”

And, sure enough, a little later the room was entered by a garrison officer who always followed Loúhnof, a Greek merchant with an enormous brown, hooked nose and sunken black eyes, and a fat, puffy squire and distiller, who played whole nights, always staking “simples” of half-a-rouble each.

They all wished to begin playing as soon as possible, but the principal players, and especially Loúhnof, who was telling about a robbery in Moscow in an exceedingly calm manner, said nothing about that subject.

“Just fancy,” he said, “a city like Moscow, the historic capital, the chief town, and men go about there with crooks, dressed up like devils, frighten stupid people and rob the passersby⁠—and there’s an end of it. What are the police about? That’s the question.”

The Uhlan listened attentively to the story about the robbers, but when a pause came he rose and quietly ordered cards to be brought. The fat squire was the first to speak out.

“I say, gentlemen, why lose precious time? If we mean business, let us begin.”

“Yes, you walked off with a pile of half-roubles last night, so you like it,” said the Greek.

“It is about time,” said the garrison officer.

Ilyín looked at Loúhnof. Loúhnof, looking him straight in the eyes, quietly continued his story about robbers dressed up as devils with claws.

“Will you take the bank?” asked the Uhlan.

“Is it not too early?”

“Belóf!” shouted the Uhlan, blushing for some unknown reason, “bring me some dinner⁠—I have not had anything to eat yet, gentlemen⁠—and a bottle of champagne and some cards.”

At this moment the Count and Zavalshévsky entered. It turned out that Toúrbin and Ilyín belonged to the same division. They took to one another at once, clinked glasses, drank champagne together, and were on intimate terms in five minutes. The Count seemed to like Ilyín very much; he looked smilingly at him and teased him about his youthfulness.

“There’s an Uhlan of the true sort!” said he. “What moustaches⁠—dear me, what moustaches!”

Even what little fluff there was on Ilyín’s lip was quite white.

“I suppose you are going to play?” said the Count: “Well, I wish you luck, Ilyín! I should think you are a master at it,” he added, with a smile.

“Yes, they mean to start,” said Loúhnof, tearing open a pack of cards, “and you, Count, won’t you join us?”

“No, not today. I should clear you all out if I did. When I begin ‘cornering’ in earnest the bank begins to crack! But I have nothing to play with⁠—I was cleaned out at a station near Volotchók. I met some infantry fellow there with rings on his fingers⁠—some sharper, I should think⁠—and he plucked me clean.”

“Why, how long were you at that station?” asked Ilyín.

“I sat there for twenty-two hours. I shall remember that cursed station! And the superintendent won’t forget me either⁠ ⁠…”

“How’s that?”

“I drive up, you know; out rushes the superintendent, with a regular brigand’s rascally phiz. ‘No horses,’ says he. Now, I must tell you, I make it a rule: if there are no horses I don’t take off my cloak, but go into the superintendent’s own room⁠—not into the public room, but into his private room⁠—and I have all the doors and windows opened, on the ground that it’s smoky. Well, that’s just what I did there. And you remember what frosts we had last week? Twenty degrees!186 The superintendent began to reason, I punched his head. There was an old woman there, girls and women; they kicked up a row, caught up their pots and pans and were rushing off to the village⁠ ⁠… I went to the door, and said, ‘Let me have horses and I’ll be off; if not, no one shall go out: I’ll freeze you all!’ ”

“That’s an infernally good plan!” said the puffy squire, rolling with laughter; “it’s the way they freeze out cockroaches⁠ ⁠…”

“But I did not watch carefully, and the superintendent made off with all the women. Only one old woman remained in pawn on the top of the stove; she kept sneezing and saying her prayers. Afterwards we began negotiating; the superintendent came and, from a distance, began persuading me to let the old woman go, but I set Blücher at him a bit. Blücher’s splendid at tackling superintendents! But the rascal did not let me have horses until the next morning. Then that infantry fellow came along. I joined him in the other room, and we began to play. You have seen Blücher?⁠ ⁠… Blücher!⁠ ⁠… Whew!”

Blücher rushed in. The players condescendingly paid him some attention, though it was evident they wished to attend to quite other matters.

“But why don’t you play, gentlemen? Please don’t let me prevent you. I am a chatterbox, you see,” said Toúrbin. “Play is play, whether one likes it or not.”

III

Loúhnof drew two candles nearer to himself, took out a large brown pocketbook full of paper money, and slowly, as if performing some rite, opened it on the table, drew forth two hundred-rouble notes and put them under the cards.

“Two hundred for the bank, the same as yesterday,” said he, arranging his spectacles and opening a pack of cards.

“Very well,” said Ilyín, continuing his conversation with Toúrbin without looking at Loúhnof.

The game187 started. Loúhnof dealt the cards with machine-like precision, stopping now and then and deliberately jotting something down, or looking severely over his spectacles and saying in low tones, “Pass up!” The fat squire spoke louder than anyone else, audibly deliberating with himself, and wetting his plump fingers as he bent down the corners of the cards. The garrison officer silently and neatly noted the amount of his stake on his card, and bent down small corners under the table. The Greek sat beside the “banker” and watched the game attentively with his black, sunken eyes, and seemed to be waiting for something. Zavalshévsky, standing by the table, would suddenly begin to fidget all over, take a red or blue banknote188 out of his trousers pocket, lay a card on it, slap it with his palm and say, “Little seven, pull me through!” Then he would bite his moustache, step from foot to foot, and keep fidgeting until his card was dealt. Ilyín sat eating veal and cucumbers, which were placed beside him on the horsehair sofa, and, hastily wiping his hands on his coat, laid down card after card. Toúrbin, who at first sat on the sofa, quickly saw how things stood. Loúhnof did not look at or speak to the Uhlan; only now and then his spectacles would turn for a moment towards the Uhlan’s hand, but most of the latter’s cards lost.

“There, now, I should like to beat that card,” said Loúhnof of a card the fat squire, who was staking half-roubles, had put down.

“You beat Ilyín’s, never mind me!” remarked the squire.

And, really, Ilyín’s cards lost more often than any of the others. He would tear up the losing card nervously under the table, and choose another with trembling fingers. Toúrbin rose from the sofa and asked the Greek to let him sit by the “banker.” The Greek moved to another place and gave his chair to the Count, who began watching Loúhnof’s hands attentively, not taking his eyes off them.

“Ilyín!” he suddenly said, in his usual voice, which quite unintentionally drowned all others, “why do you repeat the same card? You don’t know how to play.”

“It’s all the same how one plays.”

“That way you’ll be sure to lose. Let me play for you.”

“No, please excuse me. I always do it myself. Play for yourself if you like.”

“I said I should not play for myself, but I should like to play for you. I am vexed that you are losing.”

“I suppose it’s my fate.”

The Count was silent, but putting his elbows on the table, again gazed intently at the “banker’s” hands.

“Abominable!” he suddenly said, in a loud, long-drawn tone.

Loúhnof glanced at him.

“Abominable, quite abominable!” he repeated, still louder, looking straight into Loúhnof’s eyes.

The game continued.

“Very bad!” again said Toúrbin, just as Loúhnof “beat” a large card of Ilyín’s.

“What is it you don’t like, Count?” inquired the “banker,” with polite indifference.

“This!⁠—that you let Ilyín have his ‘simples,’ and beat his ‘corners.’ That’s what is bad.”

Loúhnof made a slight movement with his brows and shoulders, expressing the advisability of submitting to fate in everything, and continued to play.

“Blücher! Whew!” shouted the Count, rising. “At him!” he added quickly.

Blücher, bumping his back against the sofa as he leapt from under it and nearly knocking the garrison officer over, ran to his master and growled, looking round on everyone and moving his tail as if asking, “Who is misbehaving here, eh?”

Loúhnof laid down his cards and moved to one side with his chair.

“One can’t play like that,” he said. “I hate dogs. What kind of game is it when one brings in a whole pack of hounds?”

“And especially dogs like that. I believe they are called ‘leeches,’ ” chimed in the garrison officer.

“Well, are we going to play or not, Michael Vasílitch?” said Loúhnof to their host.

“Please don’t interfere with us, Count,” said Ilyín, turning to Toúrbin.

“Come here a minute,” said Toúrbin, taking Ilyín’s arm and stepping behind the partition with him.

The Count’s words, spoken in his usual tone, were distinctly audible from there. His voice always carried across three rooms.

“Are you daft, eh? Don’t you see that gentleman in spectacles is a sharper of the first water?”

“Oh, enough! What are you saying?”

“No enough about it! Just stop, I tell you. It’s nothing to me. Another time I’d pluck you myself, but somehow I’m sorry you should be fleeced. And maybe you have service-money too?”

“No⁠ ⁠… why do you invent such things?”

“Eh, my lad, I’ve been that way myself, so I know all those sharpers’ tricks. I tell you the chap with the spectacles is a sharper. Stop now! I ask you as a comrade.”

“Well then, I’ll only finish this one deal.”

“I know what ‘one deal’ means. Well, we’ll see.”

They went back. In this one deal Ilyín put down so many cards, and so many of them were beaten, that he lost a large sum.

Toúrbin put his hands in the middle of the table. “Now stop it! Come along.”

“No, I can’t. Leave me alone, do!” said Ilyín, irritably shuffling some bent cards without looking at Toúrbin.

“Well, go to the devil! Go and lose for certain, if that pleases you; it’s time for me to be off. Zavalshévsky, let’s go to the Marshal’s.”

They went out. All remained silent, and Loúhnof dealt no more cards until the sound of their steps and of Blücher’s claws on the passage floor had died away.

“What a devil of a fellow!” said the squire, laughing.

“Well, he’ll not interfere now,” remarked the garrison officer hastily and still in a whisper.

And the play continued.

IV

The band, composed of serfs of the Marshal’s, standing in the pantry (cleared out for the occasion), with their coat sleeves turned up ready, had, at a given signal, struck up the old polonaise, “Alexander-Elizabeth,” and by the bright, soft light of the wax-candles a Governor-General of Catherine’s days, with a star on his breast, arm-in-arm with the Marshal’s skinny wife, the Marshal arm-in-arm with the Governor’s wife, and the rest of the local grandees with their partners in various combinations and variations, had begun slowly gliding over the parquet floor of the large dancing-room, when Zavalshévsky entered, wearing a blue swallowtail coat with an enormous collar, puffs on the shoulders, stockings and pumps on his feet, and spreading a strong smell of the jasmine perfume with which his moustaches, the facings of his coat, and his handkerchief were abundantly sprinkled. The handsome hussar who came with him wore tight-fitting, light-blue riding breeches, and a gold-embroidered scarlet coat to which a Vladímir cross and a medal of 1812189 were fastened. The Count was not tall, but exceedingly well formed. His clear blue and wonderfully brilliant eyes, and rather large, tightly curled, light-brown head of hair, gave a remarkable character to his beauty. His arrival at the ball was expected; the handsome young man who had seen him at the hotel had already prepared the Marshal for it. The impressions created by the news were various, but generally not altogether pleasant.

“It’s not unlikely the youngster will hold one up to ridicule,” was the opinion of the old women and of the men. “What if he should run away with me?” was more or less in the minds of the younger ladies, married or unmarried.

As soon as the polonaise was over, and the couples, after bowing to one another, had separated⁠—the women to the women and the men to the men⁠—Zavalshévsky, proud and happy, introduced the Count to their hostess.

The Marshal’s wife, feeling an inner trepidation lest this hussar should treat her in some scandalous manner before everybody, turned away haughtily and contemptuously as she said: “Very pleased; I hope you will dance,” and then gave him a distrustful look that said, “Now, if you offend a woman it will show me that you are a perfect villain.” The Count, however, soon conquered her prejudices by his amiability, attentive manner, and handsome, gay appearance; so that five minutes later the face of the Marshal’s wife expressed to all present: “I know how to manage such gentlemen; he has at once understood with whom he has to deal. And now he’ll be charming to me for the rest of the evening.” However, at that moment the Governor of the town, who had known the Count’s father, came up to him and very affably took him aside to chat, and this still further calmed the provincial public and raised the Count in its estimation. After that Zavalshévsky introduced the Count to his sister, a plump young widow whose large black eyes had stared at the Count from the moment he entered. The Count asked her to dance the valse which the band had just commenced, and finally dispersed the general prejudice by the masterly way he danced.

“What a splendid dancer!” said a fat landed proprietress, watching the legs in the blue breeches as they fitted across the room, and mentally counting “one, two, three⁠—one, two, three”⁠—“splendid!”

“There he goes⁠—jig, jig, jig,” said another, a visitor in the town whom the local society did not consider genteel; “how does he manage not to entangle his spurs⁠—wonderfully clever!”

The Count eclipsed the three best dancers of the Government by his artistic dancing: the tall, fair Governor’s Adjutant, noted for the rapidity with which he danced, and for holding his partner very close to himself; the cavalryman, famous for the graceful, swaying motion with which he valsed, and for the frequent but light tapping of his heels; and, lastly, a civilian of whom everybody said that, though he was not very deep intellectually, he was a first-rate dancer and the soul of every ball. In fact, from the very beginning of a ball this civilian would ask each lady in turn, in the order in which they sat, to dance,190 and never stopped for a minute except occasionally to wipe, with a very wet cambric handkerchief, the perspiration from his weary but pleased face. The Count eclipsed them all, and danced with the three principal ladies: the tall one, rich, handsome, and stupid; the middle-sized one, thin and not very pretty, but splendidly dressed; and the little one, plain, but very clever. He danced with others too, with all the pretty ones, and there were many of them. But it was the little widow, Zavalshévsky’s sister, that pleased the Count best. With her he danced a quadrille, an ecossaise, and a mazurka. He began, when they were sitting down during the quadrille, by paying her many compliments and comparing her to Venus and to Diana, and to a rose and to some other flower. But all these compliments only made the widow bend her white neck, cast down her eyes and look at her white muslin dress, or pass her fan from hand to hand. When she said “Don’t, you are only joking, Count,” and other words to that effect, there was a note of such naive simple-mindedness and such funny silliness in her slightly guttural voice that, looking at her, it really seemed that this was not a woman but a flower, and not a rose, but some wild, rosy-white, gorgeous, scentless flower that had grown all alone out of a snowdrift in some very remote land.

The combination of naivete and absence of conventionality, with her fresh beauty, created such a peculiar impression on the Count that several times during the intervals of conversation, when gazing silently into her eyes or at the beautiful outline of her neck and arms, the desire to seize her in his arms and to cover her with kisses came into his mind with such force that he had to make a serious effort to resist it. The widow noticed with pleasure the effect she was producing; yet something in the Count’s behaviour began to frighten and excite her, though the young hussar, in spite of his insinuating amiability, was respectful to a degree which in our days would be considered maudlin. He ran to fetch almond-milk for her, picked up her handkerchief, snatched a chair⁠—to hand it her more quickly⁠—from the hands of a scrofulous young squire who was also dancing attendance on her, and so on.

When he noticed that the society attentions of the day had little effect on the lady, he tried to amuse her by telling her funny stories, and assured her that he was ready to stand on his head, to crow like a cock, to jump out of the window, or to plunge into the water through a hole in the ice, if she ordered him to do so. This proved quite a success. The widow brightened up and burst into peals of laughter, showing lovely white teeth, and was quite satisfied with her partner. The Count liked her more and more every minute, so that by the end of the quadrille, he was seriously in love with her.

When, after the quadrille was over, her eighteen year-old adorer of long standing came up to the widow (it was the same scrofulous young man from whom Toúrbin had snatched the chair, the son of the richest local landed proprietor, and not yet in government service), she received him with extreme coolness, and did not show one-tenth of the confusion she had experienced with the Count.

“Well, you are a fine fellow!” she said, looking all the time at Toúrbin’s back, and unconsciously considering how many yards of gold cord it had taken to trim his whole jacket. “You are a good one: you promised to call and fetch me for a drive and to bring me some comfits.”

“And I did come, Anna Fyódorovna, but you had already gone, and I left some of the very best comfits for you,” said the young man, who, despite his tallness, spoke in a very high-pitched voice.

“You’ll always find excuses!⁠ ⁠… I don’t want your bonbons. Please don’t imagine⁠—”

“I see, Anna Fyódorovna, that you have changed towards me, and I know why. But it’s not right,” he added, evidently unable to finish his speech because of some strong inward agitation which made his lips quiver in a very rapid and strange manner.

Anna Fyódorovna did not listen to him, but continued to follow Toúrbin with her eyes.

The Marshal, the master of the house, a stately, stout, toothless old man, came up to the Count, took him under the arm, and invited him into the study to smoke and have something to drink. As soon as Toúrbin left the room Anna Fyódorovna felt there was absolutely nothing to do there, and went out into the dressing-room arm-in-arm with a friend of hers, a bony, elderly maiden lady.

“Well, is he nice?” asked the maiden lady.

“Only he bothers so,” Anna Fyódorovna answered, walking up to the glass and looking at herself.

Her face brightened, her eyes laughed, she even blushed, and suddenly, imitating the ballet-dancers she had seen during these elections, she twirled round on one foot, then laughed her guttural but pleasant laugh, and even, bending her knees, gave a jump.

“Just fancy, what a man! He actually asked me for a keepsake,” she said to her friend; “but he will get no-o-o-thing.” She sang the last word, and held up one finger of the kid glove, which reached to her elbow.

In the study, where the Marshal had taken Toúrbin, stood bottles of different sorts of vodka, liqueurs, champagne, and zakoúska.191 The nobility, walking and sitting in a cloud of tobacco smoke, were talking about the elections.

“When the whole noble society of our aristocracy has honoured him with their choice,” said the newly-elected Captain of Police, who had already drunk a good deal, “he should on no account transgress in the face of the whole society⁠ ⁠…”

The Count’s entrance interrupted the conversation. Everyone wished to be introduced to him, and the Captain of Police especially kept pressing the Count’s hand with both his own for a long time, and repeatedly asked him not to refuse to accompany him (the Captain) to the new restaurant, where, after the ball, he was going to treat the gentlemen, and where the gipsies were going to sing. The Count promised to go without fail, and drank some glasses of champagne with him.

“But why are you not dancing, gentlemen?” said the Count, as he was about to leave the room.

“We are not dancers,” replied the Captain of Police, laughing, “wine is more in our line, Count.⁠ ⁠… And besides, I have seen them all grow up⁠—those young ladies, Count! But I can walk through an ecossaise now and then, Count.⁠ ⁠… I can do it, Count.”

“Then come and walk through one now,” said Toúrbin; “it will brighten us up before going to hear the gipsies.”

“Very well, gentlemen! let’s come and please our host.”

And three of the nobles, who had been drinking in the study since the commencement of the ball, put on black or silk knitted gloves, and with their red faces were just about to follow the Count into the ballroom, when they were stopped by the scrofulous young man, who, pale and hardly restraining his tears, accosted Toúrbin.

“You think that because you are a Count you can jostle people about as if at a fair,” he said, breathing hard, “because that is impolite.⁠ ⁠…”

And again, do what he would, his quivering lips stopped the flow of his words.

“What?” cried Toúrbin, suddenly frowning. “What?⁠ ⁠… You brat!” he cried, seizing him by the arms and squeezing them so that the blood rushed to the young man’s head, not so much from vexation as from fear. “What? Do you want to fight? I am at your service!”

Hardly had Toúrbin released the arms he had squeezed so hard when two nobles caught hold of them and dragged the young man towards the back door.

“What! are you out of your mind? You must be tipsy! There now, if one were to tell your papa! What is the matter with you?” said they to him.

“No, I’m not tipsy, but he jostles one and does not apologise. He’s a swine, there now!” squeaked the young man, now quite in tears.

They, however, did not listen to him, but someone drove home with him.

On the other hand, the Captain of Police and Zavalshévsky were exhorting Toúrbin. “Never mind, Count; he’s only a child. He gets flogged still; he’s only sixteen.⁠ ⁠… What can have happened to him? What bee has stung him? And his father such a respectable man⁠—a candidate of ours.”

“Well, let him go to the devil, if he does not wish⁠ ⁠…”

And the Count returned to the ballroom and danced the ecossaise with the pretty widow as gaily as before, laughed with all his heart as he watched the steps performed by the gentlemen who had come out of the study with him, and burst into peals of laughter that rang across the room when the Captain of Police slipped and measured his full length in the midst of the dancers.

V

While the Count was in the study, Anna Fyódorovna had approached her brother, and, imagining that she ought for some reason to pretend to be very little interested in the Count, began to ask:

“Who is that hussar who was dancing with me? Can you tell me, brother?”

The cavalryman explained to his sister as well as he could what a great man this hussar was, and told her at the same time that the Count was only stopping in K⁠⸺ because his money had been stolen on the way, that he himself had lent the Count a hundred roubles, but that that was not enough, so that perhaps “sister” might lend another couple of hundred. Only, Zavalshévsky asked her on no account to tell anyone, especially not the Count. Anna Fyódorovna promised to send him the money that night and to keep the affair secret, but somehow during the ecossaise she felt a great longing herself to offer the Count as much money as he wanted. She took a long time making up her mind, and blushed, but at last made a great effort, and set to work in the following manner:⁠—

“My brother tells me that a misfortune befell you on the road, Count, and that you have no money by you. If you want any, would you not take some of mine? I should be so glad.”

But having said this, Anna Fyódorovna suddenly felt frightened of something, and blushed. All gaiety instantly left the Count’s face.

“Your brother is a fool!” he said abruptly. “You know, when a man insults another man they fight; but when a woman insults a man, what does he do then⁠—do you know?”

Poor Anna Fyódorovna’s neck and ears grew red with confusion. She cast down her eyes and said nothing.

“He kisses the woman in public,” said the Count, in a low voice, leaning towards her ear. “Allow me to kiss at least your hand,” he added in a whisper, after a prolonged silence, taking pity on his partner’s confusion.

“Ah, only not now!” uttered Anna Fyódorovna, with a deep sigh.

“When then? I am leaving early tomorrow, and you owe it me.”

“Well then, it’s impossible,” said Anna Fyódorovna, with a smile.

“Only allow me an opportunity of meeting you tonight to kiss your hand. I shall not fail to find it.”

“How can you find it?”

“That is not your business. In order to see you everything is possible.⁠ ⁠… It’s agreed?”

“Agreed.”

The ecossaise ended. After that they danced a mazurka, and the Count was quite wonderful: catching handkerchiefs, kneeling on one knee, striking his spurs together in a quite special Warsaw manner, so that all the old people left their game of “boston” and flocked into the ballroom to see, and the cavalryman, the best mazurka dancer, confessed himself eclipsed. Then they had supper, after which they danced the “Grandfather,” and the ball began to break up. The Count never took his eyes off the widow. It was not pretence when he said he was ready to jump through a hole in the ice for her sake. Whether it was whim, or love, or obstinacy, that evening all his mental powers were concentrated in one desire⁠—to meet and love her. As soon as he noticed that Anna Fyódorovna was taking leave of the hostess, he ran out into the hall, and thence, withou