I. A SLOW JOURNEY
Again two carriages stood at the front door of the house at Petrovskoe.
In one of them sat Mimi, the two girls, and their maid, with the
bailiff, Jakoff, on the box, while in the other--a britchka--sat Woloda,
myself, and our servant Vassili. Papa, who was to follow us to Moscow in
a few days, was standing bareheaded on the entrance-steps. He made the
sign of the cross at the windows of the carriages, and said:
"Christ go with you! Good-bye."
Jakoff and our coachman (for we had our own horses) lifted their caps in
answer, and also made the sign of the cross.
"Amen. God go with us!"
The carriages began to roll away, and the birch-trees of the great
avenue filed out of sight.
I was not in the least depressed on this occasion, for my mind was not
so much turned upon what I had left as upon what was awaiting me. In
proportion as the various objects connected with the sad recollections
which had recently filled my imagination receded behind me, those
recollections lost their power, and gave place to a consolatory feeling
of life, youthful vigour, freshness, and hope.
Seldom have I spent four days more--well, I will not say gaily, since
I should still have shrunk from appearing gay--but more agreeably and
pleasantly than those occupied by our journey.
No longer were my eyes confronted with the closed door of Mamma's room
(which I had never been able to pass without a pang), nor with the
covered piano (which nobody opened now, and at which I could never look
without trembling), nor with mourning dresses (we had each of us on our
ordinary travelling clothes), nor with all those other objects which
recalled to me so vividly our irreparable loss, and forced me to abstain
from any manifestation of merriment lest I should unwittingly offend
against HER memory.
On the contrary, a continual succession of new and exciting objects
and places now caught and held my attention, and the charms of spring
awakened in my soul a soothing sense of satisfaction with the present
and of blissful hope for the future.
Very early next morning the merciless Vassili (who had only just entered
our service, and was therefore, like most people in such a position,
zealous to a fault) came and stripped off my counterpane, affirming that
it was time for me to get up, since everything was in readiness for us
to continue our journey. Though I felt inclined to stretch myself and
rebel--though I would gladly have spent another quarter of an hour in
sweet enjoyment of my morning slumber--Vassili's inexorable face showed
that he would grant me no respite, but that he was ready to tear away
the counterpane twenty times more if necessary. Accordingly I submitted
myself to the inevitable and ran down into the courtyard to wash myself
at the fountain.
In the coffee-room, a tea-kettle was already surmounting the fire which
Milka the ostler, as red in the face as a crab, was blowing with a pair
of bellows. All was grey and misty in the courtyard, like steam from a
smoking dunghill, but in the eastern sky the sun was diffusing a clear,
cheerful radiance, and making the straw roofs of the sheds around the
courtyard sparkle with the night dew. Beneath them stood our horses,
tied to mangers, and I could hear the ceaseless sound of their chewing.
A curly-haired dog which had been spending the night on a dry dunghill
now rose in lazy fashion and, wagging its tail, walked slowly across the
The bustling landlady opened the creaking gates, turned her meditative
cows into the street (whence came the lowing and bellowing of other
cattle), and exchanged a word or two with a sleepy neighbour. Philip,
with his shirt-sleeves rolled up, was working the windlass of a
draw-well, and sending sparkling fresh water coursing into an oaken
trough, while in the pool beneath it some early-rising ducks were taking
a bath. It gave me pleasure to watch his strongly-marked, bearded face,
and the veins and muscles as they stood out upon his great powerful
hands whenever he made an extra effort. In the room behind the
partition-wall where Mimi and the girls had slept (yet so near to
ourselves that we had exchanged confidences overnight) movements now
became audible, their maid kept passing in and out with clothes, and, at
last the door opened and we were summoned to breakfast. Woloda, however,
remained in a state of bustle throughout as he ran to fetch first one
article and then another and urged the maid to hasten her preparations.
The horses were put to, and showed their impatience by tinkling their
bells. Parcels, trunks, dressing-cases, and boxes were replaced, and we
set about taking our seats. Yet, every time that we got in, the mountain
of luggage in the britchka seemed to have grown larger than before, and
we had much ado to understand how things had been arranged yesterday,
and how we should sit now. A tea-chest, in particular, greatly
inconvenienced me, but Vassili declared that "things will soon right
themselves," and I had no choice but to believe him.
The sun was just rising, covered with dense white clouds, and every
object around us was standing out in a cheerful, calm sort of radiance.
The whole was beautiful to look at, and I felt comfortable and light of
Before us the road ran like a broad, sinuous ribbon through cornfields
glittering with dew. Here and there a dark bush or young birch-tree cast
a long shadow over the ruts and scattered grass-tufts of the track. Yet
even the monotonous din of our carriage-wheels and collar-bells could
not drown the joyous song of soaring larks, nor the combined odour of
moth-eaten cloth, dust, and sourness peculiar to our britchka overpower
the fresh scents of the morning. I felt in my heart that delightful
impulse to be up and doing which is a sign of sincere enjoyment.
As I had not been able to say my prayers in the courtyard of the inn,
but had nevertheless been assured once that on the very first day when
I omitted to perform that ceremony some misfortune would overtake me,
I now hastened to rectify the omission. Taking off my cap, and stooping
down in a corner of the britchka, I duly recited my orisons, and
unobtrusively signed the sign of the cross beneath my coat. Yet all the
while a thousand different objects were distracting my attention, and
more than once I inadvertently repeated a prayer twice over.
Soon on the little footpath beside the road became visible some slowly
moving figures. They were pilgrims. On their heads they had dirty
handkerchiefs, on their backs wallets of birch-bark, and on their feet
bundles of soiled rags and heavy bast shoes. Moving their staffs in
regular rhythm, and scarcely throwing us a glance, they pressed onwards
with heavy tread and in single file.
"Where have they come from?" I wondered to myself, "and whither are they
bound? Is it a long pilgrimage they are making?" But soon the shadows
they cast on the road became indistinguishable from the shadows of the
bushes which they passed.
Next a carriage-and-four could be seen approaching us. In two seconds
the faces which looked out at us from it with smiling curiosity had
vanished. How strange it seemed that those faces should have nothing
in common with me, and that in all probability they would never meet my
Next came a pair of post-horses, with the traces looped up to their
collars. On one of them a young postillion-his lamb's wool cap cocked to
one side-was negligently kicking his booted legs against the flanks
of his steed as he sang a melancholy ditty. Yet his face and attitude
seemed to me to express such perfect carelessness and indolent ease that
I imagined it to be the height of happiness to be a postillion and to
sing melancholy songs.
Far off, through a cutting in the road, there soon stood out against
the light-blue sky, the green roof of a village church. Presently the
village itself became visible, together with the roof of the manor-house
and the garden attached to it. Who lived in that house? Children,
parents, teachers? Why should we not call there and make the
acquaintance of its inmates?
Next we overtook a file of loaded waggons--a procession to which our
vehicles had to yield the road.
"What have you got in there?" asked Vassili of one waggoner who was
dangling his legs lazily over the splashboard of his conveyance and
flicking his whip about as he gazed at us with a stolid, vacant look;
but he only made answer when we were too far off to catch what he said.
"And what have YOU got?" asked Vassili of a second waggoner who was
lying at full length under a new rug on the driving-seat of his vehicle.
The red poll and red face beneath it lifted themselves up for a
second from the folds of the rug, measured our britchka with a cold,
contemptuous look, and lay down again; whereupon I concluded that the
driver was wondering to himself who we were, whence we had come, and
whither we were going.
These various objects of interest had absorbed so much of my time that,
as yet, I had paid no attention to the crooked figures on the verst
posts as we passed them in rapid succession; but in time the sun began
to burn my head and back, the road to become increasingly dusty, the
impedimenta in the carriage to grow more and more uncomfortable, and
myself to feel more and more cramped. Consequently, I relapsed into
devoting my whole faculties to the distance-posts and their numerals,
and to solving difficult mathematical problems for reckoning the time
when we should arrive at the next posting-house.
"Twelve versts are a third of thirty-six, and in all there are forty-one
to Lipetz. We have done a third and how much, then?", and so forth, and
"Vassili," was my next remark, on observing that he was beginning to nod
on the box-seat, "suppose we change seats? Will you?" Vassili agreed,
and had no sooner stretched himself out in the body of the vehicle than
he began to snore. To me on my new perch, however, a most interesting
spectacle now became visible--namely, our horses, all of which were
familiar to me down to the smallest detail.
"Why is Diashak on the right today, Philip, not on the left?" I asked
knowingly. "And Nerusinka is not doing her proper share of the pulling."
"One could not put Diashak on the left," replied Philip, altogether
ignoring my last remark. "He is not the kind of horse to put there at
all. A horse like the one on the left now is the right kind of one for
After this fragment of eloquence, Philip turned towards Diashak and
began to do his best to worry the poor animal by jogging at the reins,
in spite of the fact that Diashak was doing well and dragging the
vehicle almost unaided. This Philip continued to do until he found it
convenient to breathe and rest himself awhile and to settle his cap
askew, though it had looked well enough before.
I profited by the opportunity to ask him to let me have the reins
to hold, until, the whole six in my hand, as well as the whip, I had
attained complete happiness. Several times I asked whether I was doing
things right, but, as usual, Philip was never satisfied, and soon
destroyed my felicity.
The heat increased until a hand showed itself at the carriage window,
and waved a bottle and a parcel of eatables; whereupon Vassili leapt
briskly from the britchka, and ran forward to get us something to eat
When we arrived at a steep descent, we all got out and ran down it to
a little bridge, while Vassili and Jakoff followed, supporting the
carriage on either side, as though to hold it up in the event of its
threatening to upset.
After that, Mimi gave permission for a change of seats, and sometimes
Woloda or myself would ride in the carriage, and Lubotshka or Katenka
in the britchka. This arrangement greatly pleased the girls, since much
more fun went on in the britchka. Just when the day was at its hottest,
we got out at a wood, and, breaking off a quantity of branches,
transformed our vehicle into a bower. This travelling arbour then
bustled on to catch the carriage up, and had the effect of exciting
Lubotshka to one of those piercing shrieks of delight which she was in
the habit of occasionally emitting.
At last we drew near the village where we were to halt and dine. Already
we could perceive the smell of the place--the smell of smoke and tar
and sheep-and distinguish the sound of voices, footsteps, and carts. The
bells on our horses began to ring less clearly than they had done in
the open country, and on both sides the road became lined with
huts--dwellings with straw roofs, carved porches, and small red or green
painted shutters to the windows, through which, here and there, was a
woman's face looking inquisitively out. Peasant children clad in smocks
only stood staring open-eyed or, stretching out their arms to us, ran
barefooted through the dust to climb on to the luggage behind, despite
Philip's menacing gestures. Likewise, red-haired waiters came darting
around the carriages to invite us, with words and signs, to select their
several hostelries as our halting-place.
Presently a gate creaked, and we entered a courtyard. Four hours of rest
and liberty now awaited us.
II. THE THUNDERSTORM
The sun was sinking towards the west, and his long, hot rays were
burning my neck and cheeks beyond endurance, while thick clouds of dust
were rising from the road and filling the whole air. Not the slightest
wind was there to carry it away. I could not think what to do. Neither
the dust-blackened face of Woloda dozing in a corner, nor the motion of
Philip's back, nor the long shadow of our britchka as it came bowling
along behind us brought me any relief. I concentrated my whole attention
upon the distance-posts ahead and the clouds which, hitherto dispersed
over the sky, were now assuming a menacing blackness, and beginning to
form themselves into a single solid mass.
From time to time distant thunder could be heard--a circumstance which
greatly increased my impatience to arrive at the inn where we were
to spend the night. A thunderstorm always communicated to me an
inexpressibly oppressive feeling of fear and gloom.
Yet we were still ten versts from the next village, and in the meanwhile
the large purple cloudbank--arisen from no one knows where--was
advancing steadily towards us. The sun, not yet obscured, was picking
out its fuscous shape with dazzling light, and marking its front with
grey stripes running right down to the horizon. At intervals, vivid
lightning could be seen in the distance, followed by low rumbles which
increased steadily in volume until they merged into a prolonged roll
which seemed to embrace the entire heavens. At length, Vassili got up
and covered over the britchka, the coachman wrapped himself up in
his cloak and lifted his cap to make the sign of the cross at each
successive thunderclap, and the horses pricked up their ears and
snorted as though to drink in the fresh air which the flying clouds were
outdistancing. The britchka began to roll more swiftly along the dusty
road, and I felt uneasy, and as though the blood were coursing more
quickly through my veins. Soon the clouds had veiled the face of
the sun, and though he threw a last gleam of light to the dark and
terrifying horizon, he had no choice but to disappear behind them.
Suddenly everything around us seemed changed, and assumed a gloomy
aspect. A wood of aspen trees which we were passing seemed to be all
in a tremble, with its leaves showing white against the dark lilac
background of the clouds, murmuring together in an agitated manner. The
tops of the larger trees began to bend to and fro, and dried leaves
and grass to whirl about in eddies over the road. Swallows and
white-breasted swifts came darting around the britchka and even passing
in front of the forelegs of the horses. While rooks, despite their
outstretched wings, were laid, as it were, on their keels by the wind.
Finally, the leather apron which covered us began to flutter about and
to beat against the sides of the conveyance.
The lightning flashed right into the britchka as, cleaving the obscurity
for a second, it lit up the grey cloth and silk galloon of the lining
and Woloda's figure pressed back into a corner.
Next came a terrible sound which, rising higher and higher, and
spreading further and further, increased until it reached its climax in
a deafening thunderclap which made us tremble and hold our breaths. "The
wrath of God"--what poetry there is in that simple popular conception!
The pace of the vehicle was continually increasing, and from Philip's
and Vassili's backs (the former was tugging furiously at the reins) I
could see that they too were alarmed.
Bowling rapidly down an incline, the britchka cannoned violently against
a wooden bridge at the bottom. I dared not stir and expected destruction
Crack! A trace had given way, and, in spite of the ceaseless, deafening
thunderclaps, we had to pull up on the bridge.
Leaning my head despairingly against the side of the britchka, I
followed with a beating heart the movements of Philip's great black
fingers as he tied up the broken trace and, with hands and the butt-end
of the whip, pushed the harness vigorously back into its place.
My sense of terror was increasing with the violence of the thunder.
Indeed, at the moment of supreme silence which generally precedes the
greatest intensity of a storm, it mounted to such a height that I felt
as though another quarter of an hour of this emotion would kill me.
Just then there appeared from beneath the bridge a human being who, clad
in a torn, filthy smock, and supported on a pair of thin shanks bare of
muscles, thrust an idiotic face, a tremulous, bare, shaven head, and a
pair of red, shining stumps in place of hands into the britchka.
"M-my lord! A copeck for--for God's sake!" groaned a feeble voice as
at each word the wretched being made the sign of the cross and bowed
himself to the ground.
I cannot describe the chill feeling of horror which penetrated my heart
at that moment. A shudder crept through all my hair, and my eyes stared
in vacant terror at the outcast.
Vassili, who was charged with the apportioning of alms during the
journey, was busy helping Philip, and only when everything had been put
straight and Philip had resumed the reins again had he time to look for
his purse. Hardly had the britchka begun to move when a blinding flash
filled the welkin with a blaze of light which brought the horses to
their haunches. Then, the flash was followed by such an ear-splitting
roar that the very vault of heaven seemed to be descending upon our
heads. The wind blew harder than ever, and Vassili's cloak, the manes
and tails of the horses, and the carriage-apron were all slanted in one
direction as they waved furiously in the violent blast.
Presently, upon the britchka's top there fell some large drops of
rain--"one, two, three:" then suddenly, and as though a roll of drums
were being beaten over our heads, the whole countryside resounded with
the clatter of the deluge.
From Vassili's movements, I could see that he had now got his purse
open, and that the poor outcast was still bowing and making the sign of
the cross as he ran beside the wheels of the vehicle, at the imminent
risk of being run over, and reiterated from time to time his plea,
"For-for God's sake!" At last a copeck rolled upon the ground, and the
miserable creature--his mutilated arms, with their sleeves wet through
and through, held out before him--stopped perplexed in the roadway and
vanished from my sight.
The heavy rain, driven before the tempestuous wind, poured down in
pailfuls and, dripping from Vassili's thick cloak, formed a series of
pools on the apron. The dust became changed to a paste which clung to
the wheels, and the ruts became transformed into muddy rivulets.
At last, however, the lightning grew paler and more diffuse, and the
thunderclaps lost some of their terror amid the monotonous rattling
of the downpour. Then the rain also abated, and the clouds began to
disperse. In the region of the sun, a lightness appeared, and between
the white-grey clouds could be caught glimpses of an azure sky.
Finally, a dazzling ray shot across the pools on the road, shot through
the threads of rain--now falling thin and straight, as from a sieve--,
and fell upon the fresh leaves and blades of grass. The great cloud was
still louring black and threatening on the far horizon, but I no longer
felt afraid of it--I felt only an inexpressibly pleasant hopefulness in
proportion, as trust in life replaced the late burden of fear. Indeed,
my heart was smiling like that of refreshed, revivified Nature herself.
Vassili took off his cloak and wrung the water from it. Woloda flung
back the apron, and I stood up in the britchka to drink in the new,
fresh, balm-laden air. In front of us was the carriage, rolling along
and looking as wet and resplendent in the sunlight as though it had just
been polished. On one side of the road boundless oatfields, intersected
in places by small ravines which now showed bright with their moist
earth and greenery, stretched to the far horizon like a checkered
carpet, while on the other side of us an aspen wood, intermingled with
hazel bushes, and parquetted with wild thyme in joyous profusion, no
longer rustled and trembled, but slowly dropped rich, sparkling diamonds
from its newly-bathed branches on to the withered leaves of last year.
From above us, from every side, came the happy songs of little birds
calling to one another among the dripping brushwood, while clear from
the inmost depths of the wood sounded the voice of the cuckoo. So
delicious was the wondrous scent of the wood, the scent which follows
a thunderstorm in spring, the scent of birch-trees, violets, mushrooms,
and thyme, that I could no longer remain in the britchka. Jumping out,
I ran to some bushes, and, regardless of the showers of drops discharged
upon me, tore off a few sprigs of thyme, and buried my face in them to
smell their glorious scent.
Then, despite the mud which had got into my boots, as also the fact that
my stockings were soaked, I went skipping through the puddles to the
window of the carriage.
"Lubotshka! Katenka!" I shouted as I handed them some of the thyme,
"Just look how delicious this is!"
The girls smelt it and cried, "A-ah!" but Mimi shrieked to me to go
away, for fear I should be run over by the wheels.
"Oh, but smell how delicious it is!" I persisted.
III. A NEW POINT OF VIEW
Katenka was with me in the britchka; her lovely head inclined as she
gazed pensively at the roadway. I looked at her in silence and wondered
what had brought the unchildlike expression of sadness to her face which
I now observed for the first time there.
"We shall soon be in Moscow," I said at last. "How large do you suppose
"I don't know," she replied.
"Well, but how large do you IMAGINE? As large as Serpukhov?"
"What do you say?"
Yet the instinctive feeling which enables one person to guess the
thoughts of another and serves as a guiding thread in conversation
soon made Katenka feel that her indifference was disagreeable to me;
wherefore she raised her head presently, and, turning round, said:
"Did your Papa tell you that we girls too were going to live at your
"Yes, he said that we should ALL live there."
"ALL live there?"
"Yes, of course. We shall have one half of the upper floor, and you the
other half, and Papa the wing; but we shall all of us dine together with
"But Mamma says that your Grandmamma is so very grave and so easily made
"No, she only SEEMS like that at first. She is grave, but not
bad-tempered. On the contrary, she is both kind and cheerful. If you
could only have seen the ball at her house!"
"All the same, I am afraid of her. Besides, who knows whether we--"
Katenka stopped short, and once again became thoughtful.
"What?" I asked with some anxiety.
"Nothing, I only said that--"
"No. You said, 'Who knows whether we--'"
"And YOU said, didn't you, that once there was ever such a ball at
"Yes. It is a pity you were not there. There were heaps of guests--about
a thousand people, and all of them princes or generals, and there was
music, and I danced--But, Katenka" I broke off, "you are not listening
"Oh yes, I am listening. You said that you danced--?"
"Why are you so serious?"
"Well, one cannot ALWAYS be gay."
"But you have changed tremendously since Woloda and I first went
to Moscow. Tell me the truth, now: why are you so odd?" My tone was
"AM I so odd?" said Katenka with an animation which showed me that my
question had interested her. "I don't see that I am so at all."
"Well, you are not the same as you were before," I continued. "Once upon
a time any one could see that you were our equal in everything, and that
you loved us like relations, just as we did you; but now you are always
serious, and keep yourself apart from us."
"Oh, not at all."
"But let me finish, please," I interrupted, already conscious of a
slight tickling in my nose--the precursor of the tears which usually
came to my eyes whenever I had to vent any long pent-up feeling. "You
avoid us, and talk to no one but Mimi, as though you had no wish for our
"But one cannot always remain the same--one must change a little
sometimes," replied Katenka, who had an inveterate habit of pleading
some such fatalistic necessity whenever she did not know what else to
I recollect that once, when having a quarrel with Lubotshka, who had
called her "a stupid girl," she (Katenka) retorted that EVERYBODY
could not be wise, seeing that a certain number of stupid people was
a necessity in the world. However, on the present occasion, I was not
satisfied that any such inevitable necessity for "changing sometimes"
existed, and asked further:
"WHY is it necessary?"
"Well, you see, we MAY not always go on living together as we are doing
now," said Katenka, colouring slightly, and regarding Philip's back with
a grave expression on her face. "My Mamma was able to live with your
mother because she was her friend; but will a similar arrangement always
suit the Countess, who, they say, is so easily offended? Besides, in
any case, we shall have to separate SOME day. You are rich--you have
Petrovskoe, while we are poor--Mamma has nothing."
"You are rich," "we are poor"--both the words and the ideas which they
connoted seemed to me extremely strange. Hitherto, I had conceived that
only beggars and peasants were poor and could not reconcile in my mind
the idea of poverty and the graceful, charming Katenka. I felt that Mimi
and her daughter ought to live with us ALWAYS and to share everything
that we possessed. Things ought never to be otherwise. Yet, at this
moment, a thousand new thoughts with regard to their lonely position
came crowding into my head, and I felt so remorseful at the notion
that we were rich and they poor, that I coloured up and could not look
Katenka in the face.
"Yet what does it matter," I thought, "that we are well off and they are
not? Why should that necessitate a separation? Why should we not share
in common what we possess?" Yet, I had a feeling that I could not talk
to Katenka on the subject, since a certain practical instinct, opposed
to all logical reasoning, warned me that, right though she possibly was,
I should do wrong to tell her so.
"It is impossible that you should leave us. How could we ever live
"Yet what else is there to be done? Certainly I do not WANT to do it;
yet, if it HAS to be done, I know what my plan in life will be."
"Yes, to become an actress! How absurd!" I exclaimed (for I knew that to
enter that profession had always been her favourite dream).
"Oh no. I only used to say that when I was a little girl."
"Well, then? What?"
"To go into a convent and live there. Then I could walk out in a black
dress and velvet cap!" cried Katenka.
Has it ever befallen you, my readers, to become suddenly aware that your
conception of things has altered--as though every object in life
had unexpectedly turned a side towards you of which you had hitherto
remained unaware? Such a species of moral change occurred, as regards
myself, during this journey, and therefore from it I date the beginning
of my boyhood. For the first time in my life, I then envisaged the idea
that we--i.e. our family--were not the only persons in the world; that
not every conceivable interest was centred in ourselves; and that there
existed numbers of people who had nothing in common with us, cared
nothing for us, and even knew nothing of our existence. No doubt I had
known all this before--only I had not known it then as I knew it now; I
had never properly felt or understood it.
Thought merges into conviction through paths of its own, as well as,
sometimes, with great suddenness and by methods wholly different from
those which have brought other intellects to the same conclusion. For me
the conversation with Katenka--striking deeply as it did, and forcing me
to reflect on her future position--constituted such a path. As I gazed
at the towns and villages through which we passed, and in each house of
which lived at least one family like our own, as well as at the women
and children who stared with curiosity at our carriages and then became
lost to sight for ever, and the peasants and workmen who did not even
look at us, much less make us any obeisance, the question arose for the
first time in my thoughts, "Whom else do they care for if not for us?"
And this question was followed by others, such as, "To what end do
they live?" "How do they educate their children?" "Do they teach their
children and let them play? What are their names?" and so forth.
IV. IN MOSCOW
From the time of our arrival in Moscow, the change in my conception of
objects, of persons, and of my connection with them became increasingly
perceptible. When at my first meeting with Grandmamma, I saw her thin,
wrinkled face and faded eyes, the mingled respect and fear with which
she had hitherto inspired me gave place to compassion, and when, laying
her cheek against Lubotshka's head, she sobbed as though she saw before
her the corpse of her beloved daughter, my compassion grew to love.
I felt deeply sorry to see her grief at our meeting, even though I knew
that in ourselves we represented nothing in her eyes, but were dear to
her only as reminders of our mother--that every kiss which she imprinted
upon my cheeks expressed the one thought, "She is no more--she is dead,
and I shall never see her again."
Papa, who took little notice of us here in Moscow, and whose face was
perpetually preoccupied on the rare occasions when he came in his black
dress-coat to take formal dinner with us, lost much in my eyes at this
period, in spite of his turned-up ruffles, robes de chambre, overseers,
bailiffs, expeditions to the estate, and hunting exploits.
Karl Ivanitch--whom Grandmamma always called "Uncle," and who (Heaven
knows why!) had taken it into his head to adorn the bald pate of my
childhood's days with a red wig parted in the middle--now looked to me
so strange and ridiculous that I wondered how I could ever have failed
to observe the fact before. Even between the girls and ourselves there
seemed to have sprung up an invisible barrier. They, too, began to have
secrets among themselves, as well as to evince a desire to show off
their ever-lengthening skirts even as we boys did our trousers and
ankle-straps. As for Mimi, she appeared at luncheon, the first Sunday,
in such a gorgeous dress and with so many ribbons in her cap that it was
clear that we were no longer en campagne, and that everything was now
going to be different.
V. MY ELDER BROTHER
I was only a year and some odd months younger than Woloda, and from the
first we had grown up and studied and played together. Hitherto, the
difference between elder and younger brother had never been felt between
us, but at the period of which I am speaking, I began to have a
notion that I was not Woloda's equal either in years, in tastes, or in
capabilities. I even began to fancy that Woloda himself was aware of
his superiority and that he was proud of it, and, though, perhaps, I
was wrong, the idea wounded my conceit--already suffering from frequent
comparison with him. He was my superior in everything--in games, in
studies, in quarrels, and in deportment. All this brought about an
estrangement between us and occasioned me moral sufferings which I had
never hitherto experienced.
When for the first time Woloda wore Dutch pleated shirts, I at once said
that I was greatly put out at not being given similar ones, and each
time that he arranged his collar, I felt that he was doing so on purpose
to offend me. But, what tormented me most of all was the idea that
Woloda could see through me, yet did not choose to show it.
Who has not known those secret, wordless communications which spring
from some barely perceptible smile or movement--from a casual glance
between two persons who live as constantly together as do brothers,
friends, man and wife, or master and servant--particularly if those
two persons do not in all things cultivate mutual frankness? How many
half-expressed wishes, thoughts, and meanings which one shrinks from
revealing are made plain by a single accidental glance which timidly and
irresolutely meets the eye!
However, in my own case I may have been deceived by my excessive
capacity for, and love of, analysis. Possibly Woloda did not feel at
all as I did. Passionate and frank, but unstable in his likings, he was
attracted by the most diverse things, and always surrendered himself
wholly to such attraction. For instance, he suddenly conceived a passion
for pictures, spent all his money on their purchase, begged Papa,
Grandmamma, and his drawing master to add to their number, and applied
himself with enthusiasm to art. Next came a sudden rage for curios, with
which he covered his table, and for which he ransacked the whole house.
Following upon that, he took to violent novel-reading--procuring such
works by stealth, and devouring them day and night. Involuntarily I was
influenced by his whims, for, though too proud to imitate him, I was
also too young and too lacking in independence to choose my own way.
Above all, I envied Woloda his happy, nobly frank character, which
showed itself most strikingly when we quarrelled. I always felt that
he was in the right, yet could not imitate him. For instance, on one
occasion when his passion for curios was at its height, I went to his
table and accidentally broke an empty many-coloured smelling-bottle.
"Who gave you leave to touch my things?" asked Woloda, chancing to enter
the room at that moment and at once perceiving the disorder which I had
occasioned in the orderly arrangement of the treasures on his table.
"And where is that smelling bottle? Perhaps you--?"
"I let it fall, and it smashed to pieces; but what does that matter?"
"Well, please do me the favour never to DARE to touch my things again,"
he said as he gathered up the broken fragments and looked at them
"And will YOU please do me the favour never to ORDER me to do anything
whatever," I retorted. "When a thing's broken, it's broken, and there is
no more to be said." Then I smiled, though I hardly felt like smiling.
"Oh, it may mean nothing to you, but to me it means a good deal," said
Woloda, shrugging his shoulders (a habit he had caught from Papa).
"First of all you go and break my things, and then you laugh. What a
nuisance a little boy can be!"
"LITTLE boy, indeed? Then YOU, I suppose, are a man, and ever so wise?"
"I do not intend to quarrel with you," said Woloda, giving me a slight
push. "Go away."
"Don't you push me!"
"I say again--don't you push me!"
Woloda took me by the hand and tried to drag me away from the table, but
I was excited to the last degree, and gave the table such a push with
my foot that I upset the whole concern, and brought china and crystal
ornaments and everything else with a crash to the floor.
"You disgusting little brute!" exclaimed Woloda, trying to save some of
his falling treasures.
"At last all is over between us," I thought to myself as I strode from
the room. "We are separated now for ever."
It was not until evening that we again exchanged a word. Yet I felt
guilty, and was afraid to look at him, and remained at a loose end all
Woloda, on the contrary, did his lessons as diligently as ever, and
passed the time after luncheon in talking and laughing with the girls.
As soon, again, as afternoon lessons were over I left the room, for
it would have been terribly embarrassing for me to be alone with my
brother. When, too, the evening class in history was ended I took my
notebook and moved towards the door. Just as I passed Woloda, I pouted
and pulled an angry face, though in reality I should have liked to have
made my peace with him. At the same moment he lifted his head, and with
a barely perceptible and good-humouredly satirical smile looked me full
in the face. Our eyes met, and I saw that he understood me, while he,
for his part, saw that I knew that he understood me; yet a feeling
stronger than myself obliged me to turn away from him.
"Nicolinka," he said in a perfectly simple and anything but
mock-pathetic way, "you have been angry with me long enough. I am sorry
if I offended you," and he tendered me his hand.
It was as though something welled up from my heart and nearly choked
me. Presently it passed away, the tears rushed to my eyes, and I felt
"I too am so-rry, Wo-lo-da," I said, taking his hand. Yet he only looked
at me with an expression as though he could not understand why there
should be tears in my eyes.
None of the changes produced in my conception of things were so striking
as the one which led me to cease to see in one of our chambermaids a
mere servant of the female sex, but, on the contrary, a WOMAN upon whom
depended, to a certain extent, my peace of mind and happiness. From the
time of my earliest recollection I can remember Masha an inmate of our
house, yet never until the occurrence of which I am going to speak--an
occurrence which entirely altered my impression of her--had I bestowed
the smallest attention upon her. She was twenty-five years old, while I
was but fourteen. Also, she was very beautiful. But I hesitate to give a
further description of her lest my imagination should once more picture
the bewitching, though deceptive, conception of her which filled my mind
during the period of my passion. To be frank, I will only say that she
was extraordinarily handsome, magnificently developed, and a woman--as
also that I was but fourteen.
At one of those moments when, lesson-book in hand, I would pace the
room, and try to keep strictly to one particular crack in the floor as I
hummed a fragment of some tune or repeated some vague formula--in
short, at one of those moments when the mind leaves off thinking and the
imagination gains the upper hand and yearns for new impressions--I left
the schoolroom, and turned, with no definite purpose in view, towards
the head of the staircase.
Somebody in slippers was ascending the second flight of stairs. Of
course I felt curious to see who it was, but the footsteps ceased
abruptly, and then I heard Masha's voice say:
"Go away! What nonsense! What would Maria Ivanovna think if she were to
"Oh, but she will not come," answered Woloda's voice in a whisper.
"Well, go away, you silly boy," and Masha came running up, and fled past
I cannot describe the way in which this discovery confounded me.
Nevertheless the feeling of amazement soon gave place to a kind of
sympathy with Woloda's conduct. I found myself wondering less at the
conduct itself than at his ability to behave so agreeably. Also, I found
myself involuntarily desiring to imitate him.
Sometimes I would pace the landing for an hour at a time, with no other
thought in my head than to watch for movements from above. Yet, although
I longed beyond all things to do as Woloda had done, I could not bring
myself to the point. At other times, filled with a sense of envious
jealousy, I would conceal myself behind a door and listen to the sounds
which came from the maidservants' room, until the thought would occur to
my mind, "How if I were to go in now and, like Woloda, kiss Masha? What
should I say when she asked me--ME with the huge nose and the tuft on
the top of my head--what I wanted?" Sometimes, too, I could hear her
saying to Woloda,
"That serves you right! Go away! Nicolas Petrovitch never comes in here
with such nonsense." Alas! she did not know that Nicolas Petrovitch was
sitting on the staircase just below and feeling that he would give all
he possessed to be in "that bold fellow Woloda's" place! I was shy by
nature, and rendered worse in that respect by a consciousness of my own
ugliness. I am certain that nothing so much influences the development
of a man as his exterior--though the exterior itself less than his
belief in its plainness or beauty.
Yet I was too conceited altogether to resign myself to my fate. I tried
to comfort myself much as the fox did when he declared that the grapes
were sour. That is to say, I tried to make light of the satisfaction
to be gained from making such use of a pleasing exterior as I believed
Woloda to employ (satisfaction which I nevertheless envied him from
my heart), and endeavoured with every faculty of my intellect and
imagination to console myself with a pride in my isolation.
VII. SMALL SHOT
"Good gracious! Powder!" exclaimed Mimi in a voice trembling with alarm.
"Whatever are you doing? You will set the house on fire in a moment, and
be the death of us all!" Upon that, with an indescribable expression of
firmness, Mimi ordered every one to stand aside, and, regardless of
all possible danger from a premature explosion, strode with long and
resolute steps to where some small shot was scattered about the floor,
and began to trample upon it.
When, in her opinion, the peril was at least lessened, she called for
Michael and commanded him to throw the "powder" away into some remote
spot, or, better still, to immerse it in water; after which she adjusted
her cap and returned proudly to the drawing-room, murmuring as she went,
"At least I can say that they are well looked after."
When Papa issued from his room and took us to see Grandmamma we found
Mimi sitting by the window and glancing with a grave, mysterious,
official expression towards the door. In her hand she was holding
something carefully wrapped in paper. I guessed that that something was
the small shot, and that Grandmamma had been informed of the occurrence.
In the room also were the maidservant Gasha (who, to judge by her
angry flushed face, was in a state of great irritation) and Doctor
Blumenthal--the latter a little man pitted with smallpox, who was
endeavouring by tacit, pacificatory signs with his head and eyes to
reassure the perturbed Gasha. Grandmamma was sitting a little askew and
playing that variety of "patience" which is called "The Traveller"--two
unmistakable signs of her displeasure.
"How are you to-day, Mamma?" said Papa as he kissed her hand
respectfully. "Have you had a good night?"
"Yes, very good, my dear; you KNOW that I always enjoy sound health,"
replied Grandmamma in a tone implying that Papa's inquiries were
out of place and highly offensive. "Please give me a clean
pocket-handkerchief," she added to Gasha.
"I HAVE given you one, madam," answered Gasha, pointing to the
snow-white cambric handkerchief which she had just laid on the arm of
"No, no; it's a nasty, dirty thing. Take it away and bring me a CLEAN
one, my dear."
Gasha went to a cupboard and slammed the door of it back so violently
that every window rattled. Grandmamma glared angrily at each of us, and
then turned her attention to following the movements of the servant.
After the latter had presented her with what I suspected to be the same
handkerchief as before, Grandmamma continued:
"And when do you mean to cut me some snuff, my dear?"
"When I have time."
"What do you say?"
"If you don't want to continue in my service you had better say so at
once. I would have sent you away long ago had I known that you wished
"It wouldn't have broken my heart if you had!" muttered the woman in an
Here the doctor winked at her again, but she returned his gaze so firmly
and wrathfully that he soon lowered it and went on playing with his
"You see, my dear, how people speak to me in my own house!" said
Grandmamma to Papa when Gasha had left the room grumbling.
"Well, Mamma, I will cut you some snuff myself," replied Papa, though
evidently at a loss how to proceed now that he had made this rash
"No, no, I thank you. Probably she is cross because she knows that no
one except herself can cut the snuff just as I like it. Do you know, my
dear," she went on after a pause, "that your children very nearly set
the house on fire this morning?"
Papa gazed at Grandmamma with respectful astonishment.
"Yes, they were playing with something or another. Tell him the story,"
she added to Mimi.
Papa could not help smiling as he took the shot in his hand.
"This is only small shot, Mamma," he remarked, "and could never be
"I thank you, my dear, for your instruction, but I am rather too old for
that sort of thing."
"Nerves, nerves!" whispered the doctor.
Papa turned to us and asked us where we had got the stuff, and how we
could dare to play with it.
"Don't ask THEM, ask that useless 'Uncle,' rather," put in Grandmamma,
laying a peculiar stress upon the word "UNCLE." "What else is he for?"
"Woloda says that Karl Ivanitch gave him the powder himself," declared
"Then you can see for yourself what use he is," continued Grandmamma.
"And where IS he--this precious 'Uncle'? How is one to get hold of him?
Send him here."
"He has gone an errand for me," said Papa.
"That is not at all right," rejoined Grandmamma. "He ought ALWAYS to be
here. True, the children are yours, not mine, and I have nothing to do
with them, seeing that you are so much cleverer than I am; yet all the
same I think it is time we had a regular tutor for them, and not this
'Uncle' of a German--a stupid fellow who knows only how to teach them
rude manners and Tyrolean songs! Is it necessary, I ask you, that they
should learn Tyrolean songs? However, there is no one for me to consult
about it, and you must do just as you like."
The word "NOW" meant "NOW THAT THEY HAVE NO MOTHER," and suddenly
awakened sad recollections in Grandmamma's heart. She threw a glance at
the snuff-box bearing Mamma's portrait and sighed.
"I thought of all this long ago," said Papa eagerly, "as well as taking
your advice on the subject. How would you like St. Jerome to superintend
"Oh, I think he would do excellently, my friend," said Grandmamma in a
mollified tone, "He is at least a tutor comme il faut, and knows how to
instruct des enfants de bonne maison. He is not a mere 'Uncle' who is
good only for taking them out walking."
"Very well; I will talk to him to-morrow," said Papa. And, sure enough,
two days later saw Karl Ivanitch forced to retire in favour of the young
Frenchman referred to.
VIII. KARL IVANITCH'S HISTORY
THE evening before the day when Karl was to leave us for ever, he was
standing (clad, as usual, in his wadded dressing-gown and red cap)
near the bed in his room, and bending down over a trunk as he carefully
packed his belongings.
His behaviour towards us had been very cool of late, and he had seemed
to shrink from all contact with us. Consequently, when I entered his
room on the present occasion, he only glanced at me for a second and
then went on with his occupation. Even though I proceeded to jump on
to his bed (a thing hitherto always forbidden me to do), he said not
a word; and the idea that he would soon be scolding or forgiving us no
longer--no longer having anything to do with us--reminded me vividly of
the impending separation. I felt grieved to think that he had ceased to
love us and wanted to show him my grief.
"Will you let me help you?" I said, approaching him.
He looked at me for a moment and turned away again. Yet the expression
of pain in his eyes showed that his coldness was not the result of
indifference, but rather of sincere and concentrated sorrow.
"God sees and knows everything," he said at length, raising himself to
his full height and drawing a deep sigh. "Yes, Nicolinka," he went on,
observing, the expression of sincere pity on my face, "my fate has been
an unhappy one from the cradle, and will continue so to the grave. The
good that I have done to people has always been repaid with evil; yet,
though I shall receive no reward here, I shall find one THERE" (he
pointed upwards). "Ah, if only you knew my whole story, and all that I
have endured in this life!--I who have been a bootmaker, a soldier, a
deserter, a factory hand, and a teacher! Yet now--now I am nothing, and,
like the Son of Man, have nowhere to lay my head." Sitting down upon a
chair, he covered his eyes with his hand.
Seeing that he was in the introspective mood in which a man pays
no attention to his listener as he cons over his secret thoughts, I
remained silent, and, seating myself upon the bed, continued to watch
his kind face.
"You are no longer a child. You can understand things now, and I will
tell you my whole story and all that I have undergone. Some day, my
children, you may remember the old friend who loved you so much--"
He leant his elbow upon the table by his side, took a pinch of snuff,
and, in the peculiarly measured, guttural tone in which he used to
dictate us our lessons, began the story of his career.
Since he many times in later years repeated the whole to me
again--always in the same order, and with the same expressions and
the same unvarying intonation--I will try to render it literally, and
without omitting the innumerable grammatical errors into which he always
strayed when speaking in Russian. Whether it was really the history of
his life, or whether it was the mere product of his imagination--that
is to say, some narrative which he had conceived during his lonely
residence in our house, and had at last, from endless repetition, come
to believe in himself--or whether he was adorning with imaginary facts
the true record of his career, I have never quite been able to make
out. On the one hand, there was too much depth of feeling and practical
consistency in its recital for it to be wholly incredible, while, on the
other hand, the abundance of poetical beauty which it contained tended
to raise doubts in the mind of the listener.
"Me vere very unhappy from ze time of my birth," he began with a
profound sigh. "Ze noble blot of ze Countess of Zomerblat flows in my
veins. Me vere born six veek after ze vetting. Ze man of my Mutter (I
called him 'Papa') vere farmer to ze Count von Zomerblat. He coult not
forget my Mutter's shame, ant loaft me not. I had a youngster broser
Johann ant two sister, pot me vere strange petween my own family. Ven
Johann mate several silly trick Papa sayt, 'Wit sis chilt Karl I am
never to have one moment tranquil!' and zen he scoltet and ponishet me.
Ven ze sister quarrellet among zemselves Papa sayt, 'Karl vill never
be one opedient poy,' ant still scoltet ant ponishet me. My goot Mamma
alone loaft ant tenteret me. Often she sayt to me, 'Karl, come in my
room,' ant zere she kisset me secretly. 'Poorly, poorly Karl!' she sayt.
'Nopoty loaf you, pot I will not exchange you for somepoty in ze worlt,
One zing your Mutter pegs you, to rememper,' sayt she to me, 'learn
vell, ant be efer one honest man; zen Got will not forsake you.' Ant
I triet so to become. Ven my fourteen year hat expiret, ant me coult
partake of ze Holy Sopper, my Mutter sayt to my Vater, 'Karl is one
pig poy now, Kustaf. Vat shall we do wis him?' Ant Papa sayt, 'Me ton't
know.' Zen Mamma sayt, 'Let us give him to town at Mister Schultzen's,
and he may pea Schumacher,' ant my Vater sayt, 'Goot!' Six year ant
seven mons livet I in town wis ze Mister Shoemaker, ant he loaft me.
He sayt, 'Karl are one goot vorkman, ant shall soon become my Geselle.'
Pot-man makes ze proposition, ant Got ze deposition. In ze year 1796
one conscription took place, ant each which vas serviceable, from ze
eighteens to ze twenty-first year, hat to go to town.
"My Fater and my broser Johann come to town, ant ve go togezer to throw
ze lot for which shoult pe Soldat. Johann drew ze fatal nomper, and me
vas not necessary to pe Soldat. Ant Papa sayt, 'I have only vun son, ant
wis him I must now separate!'
"Den I take his hant, ant says, 'Why say you so, Papa? Come wis me,
ant I will say you somesing.' Ant Papa come, ant we seat togezer at ze
publics-house, ant me sayt, 'Vaiter, give us one Bierkrug,' ant he gives
us one. We trink altogezer, and broser Johann also trink. 'Papa,' sayt
me, 'ton't say zat you have only one son, ant wis it you must separate,
My heart was breaking ven you say sis. Broser Johann must not serve;
ME shall pe Soldat. Karl is for nopoty necessary, and Karl shall pe
"'You is one honest man, Karl,' sayt Papa, ant kiss me. Ant me was
IX. CONTINUATION OF KARL'S NARRATIVE
"Zat was a terrible time, Nicolinka," continued Karl Ivanitch, "ze
time of Napoleon. He vanted to conquer Germany, ant we protected
our Vaterland to ze last trop of plot. Me vere at Ulm, me vere at
Austerlitz, me vere at Wagram."
"Did you really fight?" I asked with a gaze of astonishment "Did you
really kill anybody?"
Karl instantly reassured me on this point,
"Vonce one French grenadier was left behint, ant fell to ze grount.
I sprang forvarts wis my gon, ant vere about to kill him, aber der
Franzose warf sein Gewehr hin und rief, 'Pardon'--ant I let him loose.
"At Wagram, Napoleon cut us open, ant surrountet us in such a way as
zere vas no helping. Sree days hat we no provisions, ant stoot in
ze vater op to ze knees. Ze evil Napoleon neiser let us go loose nor
"On ze fours day zey took us prisoners--zank Got! ant sent us to one
fortress. Upon me vas one blue trousers, uniforms of very goot clos,
fifteen of Thalers, ant one silver clock which my Vater hat given me,
Ze Frans Soldaten took from me everysing. For my happiness zere vas
sree tucats on me which my Mamma hat sewn in my shirt of flannel. Nopoty
"I liket not long to stay in ze fortresses, ant resoluted to ron away.
Von day, von pig holitay, says I to the sergeant which hat to look after
us, 'Mister Sergeant, to-day is a pig holitay, ant me vants to celeprate
it. Pring here, if you please, two pottle Mateira, ant we shall trink
zem wis each oser.' Ant ze sergeant says, 'Goot!' Ven ze sergeant pring
ze Mateira ant we trink it out to ze last trop, I taket his hant
ant says, 'Mister Sergeant, perhaps you have still one Vater and one
Mutter?' He says, 'So I have, Mister Mayer.' 'My Vater ant Mutter not
seen me eight year,' I goes on to him, 'ant zey know not if I am yet
alive or if my bones be reposing in ze grave. Oh, Mister Sergeant, I
have two tucats which is in my shirt of flannel. Take zem, ant let me
loose! You will pe my penefactor, ant my Mutter will be praying for you
all her life to ze Almighty Got!'
"Ze sergeant emptiet his glass of Mateira, ant says, 'Mister Mayer, I
loaf and pity you very much, pot you is one prisoner, ant I one soldat.'
So I take his hant ant says, 'Mister Sergeant!'
"Ant ze sergeant says, 'You is one poor man, ant I will not take your
money, pot I will help you. Ven I go to sleep, puy one pail of pranty
for ze Soldaten, ant zey will sleep. Me will not look after you.' Sis
was one goot man. I puyet ze pail of pranty, ant ven ze Soldaten was
trunken me tresset in one olt coat, ant gang in silence out of ze doon.
"I go to ze wall, ant will leap down, pot zere is vater pelow, ant I
will not spoil my last tressing, so I go to ze gate.
"Ze sentry go up and town wis one gon, ant look at me. 'Who goes zere?'
ant I was silent. 'Who goes zere ze second time?' ant I was silent.
'Who goes zere ze third time?' ant I ron away, I sprang in ze vater,
climp op to ze oser site, ant walk on.
"Ze entire night I ron on ze vay, pot ven taylight came I was afrait
zat zey woult catch me, ant I hit myself in ze high corn. Zere I kneelet
town, zanket ze Vater in Heaven for my safety, ant fall asleep wis a
"I wakenet op in ze evening, ant gang furser. At once one large German
carriage, wis two raven-black horse, came alongside me. In ze carriage
sit one well-tresset man, smoking pipe, ant look at me. I go slowly,
so zat ze carriage shall have time to pass me, pot I go slowly, ant ze
carriage go slowly, ant ze man look at me. I go quick, ant ze carriage
go quick, ant ze man stop its two horses, ant look at me. 'Young man,'
says he, 'where go you so late?' I says, 'I go to Frankfort.' 'Sit in ze
carriage--zere is room enough, ant I will trag you,' he says. 'Bot
why have you nosing about you? Your boots is dirty, ant your beart not
shaven.' I seated wis him, ant says, 'Ich bin one poor man, ant I would
like to pusy myself wis somesing in a manufactory. My tressing is dirty
because I fell in ze mud on ze roat.'
"'You tell me ontruse, young man,' says he. 'Ze roat is kvite dry now.'
I was silent. 'Tell me ze whole truse,' goes on ze goot man--'who you
are, ant vere you go to? I like your face, ant ven you is one honest
man, so I will help you.' Ant I tell all.
"'Goot, young man!' he says. 'Come to my manufactory of rope, ant I will
give you work ant tress ant money, ant you can live wis os.' I says,
"I go to ze manufactory of rope, ant ze goot man says to his voman,
'Here is one yong man who defented his Vaterland, ant ron away from
prisons. He has not house nor tresses nor preat. He will live wis os.
Give him clean linen, ant norish him.'
"I livet one ant a half year in ze manufactory of rope, ant my lantlort
loaft me so much zat he would not let me loose. Ant I felt very goot.
"I were zen handsome man--yong, of pig stature, with blue eyes and
romische nose--ant Missis L-- (I like not to say her name--she was ze
voman of my lantlort) was yong ant handsome laty. Ant she fell in loaf
Here Karl Ivanitch made a long pause, lowered his kindly blue eyes,
shook his head quietly, and smiled as people always do under the
influence of a pleasing recollection.
"Yes," he resumed as he leant back in his arm-chair and adjusted his
dressing-gown, "I have experiencet many sings in my life, pot zere is
my witness,"--here he pointed to an image of the Saviour, embroidered
on wool, which was hanging over his bed--"zat nopoty in ze worlt can say
zat Karl Ivanitch has been one dishonest man, I would not repay black
ingratitude for ze goot which Mister L-- dit me, ant I resoluted to ron
away. So in ze evening, ven all were asleep, I writet one letter to my
lantlort, ant laid it on ze table in his room. Zen I taket my tresses,
tree Thaler of money, ant go mysteriously into ze street. Nopoty have
seen me, ant I go on ze roat."
X. CONCLUSION OF KARL'S NARRATIVE
"I had not seen my Mamma for nine year, ant I know not whether she lived
or whether her bones had long since lain in ze dark grave. Ven I come to
my own country and go to ze town I ask, 'Where live Kustaf Mayer who was
farmer to ze Count von Zomerblat?' ant zey answer me, 'Graf Zomerblat
is deat, ant Kustaf Mayer live now in ze pig street, ant keep a
public-house.' So I tress in my new waistcoat and one noble coat which
ze manufacturist presented me, arranged my hairs nice, ant go to ze
public-house of my Papa. Sister Mariechen vas sitting on a pench, and
she ask me what I want. I says, 'Might I trink one glass of pranty?'
ant she says, 'Vater, here is a yong man who wish to trink one glass of
pranty.' Ant Papa says, 'Give him ze glass.' I set to ze table, trink my
glass of pranty, smoke my pipe, ant look at Papa, Mariechen, ant Johann
(who also come into ze shop). In ze conversation Papa says, 'You know,
perhaps, yong man, where stants our army?' and I say, 'I myself am come
from ze army, ant it stants now at Wien.' 'Our son,' says Papa, 'is a
Soldat, ant now is it nine years since he wrote never one wort, and we
know not whether he is alive or dead. My voman cry continually for him.'
I still fumigate the pipe, ant say, 'What was your son's name, and where
servet he? Perhaps I may know him.' 'His name was Karl Mayer, ant he
servet in ze Austrian Jagers.' 'He were of pig stature, ant a handsome
man like yourself,' puts in Mariechen. I say, 'I know your Karl.'
'Amalia,' exclaimet my Vater. 'Come here! Here is yong man which knows
our Karl!'--ant my dear Mutter comes out from a back door. I knew her
directly. 'You know our Karl?' says she, ant looks at me, ant, white all
over, trembles. 'Yes, I haf seen him,' I says, without ze corage to look
at her, for my heart did almost burst. 'My Karl is alive?' she cry. 'Zen
tank Got! Vere is he, my Karl? I woult die in peace if I coult see him
once more--my darling son! Bot Got will not haf it so.' Then she cried,
and I coult no longer stant it. 'Darling Mamma!' I say, 'I am your son,
I am your Karl!'--and she fell into my arms."
Karl Ivanitch covered his eyes, and his lips were quivering.
"'Mutter,' sagte ich, 'ich bin ihr Sohn, ich bin ihr Karl!'--und sie
sturtzte mir in die Arme!'" he repeated, recovering a little and wiping
the tears from his eyes.
"Bot Got did not wish me to finish my tays in my own town. I were
pursuet by fate. I livet in my own town only sree mons. One Suntay I sit
in a coffee-house, ant trinket one pint of Pier, ant fumigated my
pipe, ant speaket wis some frients of Politik, of ze Emperor Franz, of
Napoleon, of ze war--ant anypoty might say his opinion. But next to us
sits a strange chentleman in a grey Uberrock, who trink coffee, fumigate
the pipe, ant says nosing. Ven the night watchman shoutet ten o'clock I
taket my hat, paid ze money, and go home. At ze middle of ze night
some one knock at ze door. I rise ant says, 'Who is zere?' 'Open!' says
someone. I shout again, 'First say who is zere, ant I will open.' 'Open
in the name of the law!' say the someone behint the door. I now do so.
Two Soldaten wis gons stant at ze door, ant into ze room steps ze man in
ze grey Uberrock, who had sat with us in ze coffeehouse. He were Spion!
'Come wis me,' says ze Spion, 'Very goot!' say I. I dresset myself in
boots, trousers, ant coat, ant go srough ze room. Ven I come to ze wall
where my gon hangs I take it, ant says, 'You are a Spion, so defent
you!' I give one stroke left, one right, ant one on ze head. Ze Spion
lay precipitated on ze floor! Zen I taket my cloak-bag ant money, ant
jompet out of ze vintow. I vent to Ems, where I was acquainted wis one
General Sasin, who loaft me, givet me a passport from ze Embassy, ant
taket me to Russland to learn his chiltren. Ven General Sasin tiet, your
Mamma callet for me, ant says, 'Karl Ivanitch, I gif you my children.
Loaf them, ant I will never leave you, ant will take care for your olt
age.' Now is she teat, ant all is forgotten! For my twenty year full of
service I most now go into ze street ant seek for a try crust of preat
for my olt age! Got sees all sis, ant knows all sis. His holy will be
done! Only-only, I yearn for you, my children!"--and Karl drew me to
him, and kissed me on the forehead.
XI. ONE MARK ONLY
The year of mourning over, Grandmamma recovered a little from her grief,
and once more took to receiving occasional guests, especially children
of the same age as ourselves.
On the 13th of December--Lubotshka's birthday--the Princess Kornakoff
and her daughters, with Madame Valakhin, Sonetchka, Ilinka Grap, and the
two younger Iwins, arrived at our house before luncheon.
Though we could hear the sounds of talking, laughter, and movements
going on in the drawing-room, we could not join the party until our
morning lessons were finished. The table of studies in the schoolroom
said, "Lundi, de 2 a 3, maitre d'Histoire et de Geographie," and this
infernal maitre d'Histoire we must await, listen to, and see the back
of before we could gain our liberty. Already it was twenty minutes past
two, and nothing was to be heard of the tutor, nor yet anything to be
seen of him in the street, although I kept looking up and down it with
the greatest impatience and with an emphatic longing never to see the
"I believe he is not coming to-day," said Woloda, looking up for a
moment from his lesson-book.
"I hope he is not, please the Lord!" I answered, but in a despondent
tone. "Yet there he DOES come, I believe, all the same!"
"Not he! Why, that is a GENTLEMAN," said Woloda, likewise looking out of
the window, "Let us wait till half-past two, and then ask St. Jerome if
we may put away our books."
"Yes, and wish them au revoir," I added, stretching my arms, with the
book clasped in my hands, over my head. Having hitherto idled away my
time, I now opened the book at the place where the lesson was to begin,
and started to learn it. It was long and difficult, and, moreover, I
was in the mood when one's thoughts refuse to be arrested by anything at
all. Consequently I made no progress. After our last lesson in history
(which always seemed to me a peculiarly arduous and wearisome subject)
the history master had complained to St. Jerome of me because only two
good marks stood to my credit in the register--a very small total. St.
Jerome had then told me that if I failed to gain less than THREE marks
at the next lesson I should be severely punished. The next lesson was
now imminent, and I confess that I felt a little nervous.
So absorbed, however, did I become in my reading that the sound of
goloshes being taken off in the ante-room came upon me almost as a
shock. I had just time to look up when there appeared in the doorway the
servile and (to me) very disgusting face and form of the master, clad in
a blue frockcoat with brass buttons.
Slowly he set down his hat and books and adjusted the folds of his coat
(as though such a thing were necessary!), and seated himself in his
"Well, gentlemen," he said, rubbing his hands, "let us first of all
repeat the general contents of the last lesson: after which I will
proceed to narrate the succeeding events of the middle ages."
This meant "Say over the last lesson." While Woloda was answering the
master with the entire ease and confidence which come of knowing a
subject well, I went aimlessly out on to the landing, and, since I
was not allowed to go downstairs, what more natural than that I should
involuntarily turn towards the alcove on the landing? Yet before I had
time to establish myself in my usual coign of vantage behind the door I
found myself pounced upon by Mimi--always the cause of my misfortunes!
"YOU here?" she said, looking severely, first at myself, and then at the
maidservants' door, and then at myself again.
I felt thoroughly guilty, firstly, because I was not in the schoolroom,
and secondly, because I was in a forbidden place. So I remained silent,
and, dropping my head, assumed a touching expression of contrition.
"Indeed, this is TOO bad!" Mimi went on, "What are you doing here?"
Still I said nothing.
"Well, it shall not rest where it is," she added, tapping the banister
with her yellow fingers. "I shall inform the Countess."
It was five minutes to three when I re-entered the schoolroom. The
master, as though oblivious of my presence or absence, was explaining
the new lesson to Woloda. When he had finished doing this, and had put
his books together (while Woloda went into the other room to fetch his
ticket), the comforting idea occurred to me that perhaps the whole thing
was over now, and that the master had forgotten me.
But suddenly he turned in my direction with a malicious smile, and said
as he rubbed his hands anew, "I hope you have learnt your lesson?"
"Yes," I replied.
"Would you be so kind, then, as to tell me something about St. Louis'
Crusade?" he went on, balancing himself on his chair and looking gravely
at his feet. "Firstly, tell me something about the reasons which induced
the French king to assume the cross" (here he raised his eyebrows and
pointed to the inkstand); "then explain to me the general characteristics
of the Crusade" (here he made a sweeping gesture with his hand, as though
to seize hold of something with it); "and lastly, expound to me the
influence of this Crusade upon the European states in general" (drawing
the copy books to the left side of the table) "and upon the French state
in particular" (drawing one of them to the right, and inclining his head
in the same direction).
I swallowed a few times, coughed, bent forward, and was silent. Then,
taking a pen from the table, I began to pick it to pieces, yet still
"Allow me the pen--I shall want it," said the master. "Well?"
"Louis the-er-Saint was-was-a very good and wise king."
"King, He took it into his head to go to Jerusalem, and handed over the
reins of government to his mother."
"What was her name?
I laughed in a rather forced manner.
"Well, is that all you know?" he asked again, smiling.
I had nothing to lose now, so I began chattering the first thing that
came into my head. The master remained silent as he gathered together
the remains of the pen which I had left strewn about the table, looked
gravely past my ear at the wall, and repeated from time to time, "Very
well, very well." Though I was conscious that I knew nothing whatever
and was expressing myself all wrong, I felt much hurt at the fact that
he never either corrected or interrupted me.
"What made him think of going to Jerusalem?" he asked at last, repeating
some words of my own.
"Because--because--that is to say--"
My confusion was complete, and I relapsed into silence, I felt that,
even if this disgusting history master were to go on putting questions
to me, and gazing inquiringly into my face, for a year, I should never
be able to enunciate another syllable. After staring at me for some
three minutes, he suddenly assumed a mournful cast of countenance, and
said in an agitated voice to Woloda (who was just re-entering the room):
"Allow me the register. I will write my remarks."
He opened the book thoughtfully, and in his fine caligraphy marked FIVE
for Woloda for diligence, and the same for good behaviour. Then, resting
his pen on the line where my report was to go, he looked at me and
reflected. Suddenly his hand made a decisive movement and, behold,
against my name stood a clearly-marked ONE, with a full stop after it!
Another movement and in the behaviour column there stood another one and
another full stop! Quietly closing the book, the master then rose, and
moved towards the door as though unconscious of my look of entreaty,
despair, and reproach.
"Michael Lavionitch!" I said.
"No!" he replied, as though knowing beforehand what I was about to say.
"It is impossible for you to learn in that way. I am not going to earn
my money for nothing."
He put on his goloshes and cloak, and then slowly tied a scarf about his
neck. To think that he could care about such trifles after what had just
happened to me! To him it was all a mere stroke of the pen, but to me it
meant the direst misfortune.
"Is the lesson over?" asked St. Jerome, entering.
"And was the master pleased with you?"
"How many marks did he give you?"
"And to Nicholas?"
I was silent.
"I think four," said Woloda. His idea was to save me for at least today.
If punishment there must be, it need not be awarded while we had guests.
"Voyons, Messieurs!" (St. Jerome was forever saying "Voyons!") "Faites
votre toilette, et descendons."
XII. THE KEY
We had hardly descended and greeted our guests when luncheon was
announced. Papa was in the highest of spirits since for some time
past he had been winning. He had presented Lubotshka with a silver tea
service, and suddenly remembered, after luncheon, that he had forgotten
a box of bonbons which she was to have too.
"Why send a servant for it? YOU had better go, Koko," he said to me
jestingly. "The keys are in the tray on the table, you know. Take them,
and with the largest one open the second drawer on the right. There you
will find the box of bonbons. Bring it here."
"Shall I get you some cigars as well?" said I, knowing that he always
smoked after luncheon.
"Yes, do; but don't touch anything else."
I found the keys, and was about to carry out my orders, when I was
seized with a desire to know what the smallest of the keys on the bunch
On the table I saw, among many other things, a padlocked portfolio,
and at once felt curious to see if that was what the key fitted. My
experiment was crowned with success. The portfolio opened and disclosed
a number of papers. Curiosity so strongly urged me also to ascertain
what those papers contained that the voice of conscience was stilled,
and I began to read their contents. . . .
My childish feeling of unlimited respect for my elders, especially for
Papa, was so strong within me that my intellect involuntarily refused to
draw any conclusions from what I had seen. I felt that Papa was living
in a sphere completely apart from, incomprehensible by, and unattainable
for, me, as well as one that was in every way excellent, and that any
attempt on my part to criticise the secrets of his life would constitute
something like sacrilege.
For this reason, the discovery which I made from Papa's portfolio left
no clear impression upon my mind, but only a dim consciousness that I
had done wrong. I felt ashamed and confused.
The feeling made me eager to shut the portfolio again as quickly as
possible, but it seemed as though on this unlucky day I was destined to
experience every possible kind of adversity. I put the key back into the
padlock and turned it round, but not in the right direction. Thinking
that the portfolio was now locked, I pulled at the key and, oh horror!
found my hand come away with only the top half of the key in it! In vain
did I try to put the two halves together, and to extract the portion
that was sticking in the padlock. At last I had to resign myself to the
dreadful thought that I had committed a new crime--one which would be
discovered to-day as soon as ever Papa returned to his study! First of
all, Mimi's accusation on the staircase, and then that one mark, and
then this key! Nothing worse could happen now. This very evening
I should be assailed successively by Grandmamma (because of Mimi's
denunciation), by St. Jerome (because of the solitary mark), and by Papa
(because of the matter of this key)--yes, all in one evening!
"What on earth is to become of me? What have I done?" I exclaimed as
I paced the soft carpet. "Well," I went on with sudden determination,
"what MUST come, MUST--that's all;" and, taking up the bonbons and the
cigars, I ran back to the other part of the house.
The fatalistic formula with which I had concluded (and which was one
that I often heard Nicola utter during my childhood) always produced
in me, at the more difficult crises of my life, a momentarily soothing,
beneficial effect. Consequently, when I re-entered the drawing-room,
I was in a rather excited, unnatural mood, yet one that was perfectly
XIII. THE TRAITRESS
After luncheon we began to play at round games, in which I took a lively
part. While indulging in "cat and mouse", I happened to cannon rather
awkwardly against the Kornakoffs' governess, who was playing with us,
and, stepping on her dress, tore a large hole in it. Seeing that the
girls--particularly Sonetchka--were anything but displeased at the
spectacle of the governess angrily departing to the maidservants' room
to have her dress mended, I resolved to procure them the satisfaction
a second time. Accordingly, in pursuance of this amiable resolution, I
waited until my victim returned, and then began to gallop madly round
her, until a favourable moment occurred for once more planting my
heel upon her dress and reopening the rent. Sonetchka and the young
princesses had much ado to restrain their laughter, which excited my
conceit the more, but St. Jerome, who had probably divined my tricks,
came up to me with the frown which I could never abide in him, and said
that, since I seemed disposed to mischief, he would have to send me away
if I did not moderate my behaviour.
However, I was in the desperate position of a person who, having staked
more than he has in his pocket, and feeling that he can never make up
his account, continues to plunge on unlucky cards--not because he hopes
to regain his losses, but because it will not do for him to stop and
consider. So, I merely laughed in an impudent fashion and flung away
from my monitor.
After "cat and mouse", another game followed in which the gentlemen sit
on one row of chairs and the ladies on another, and choose each other
for partners. The youngest princess always chose the younger Iwin,
Katenka either Woloda or Ilinka, and Sonetchka Seriosha--nor, to my
extreme astonishment, did Sonetchka seem at all embarrassed when her
cavalier went and sat down beside her. On the contrary, she only laughed
her sweet, musical laugh, and made a sign with her head that he had
chosen right. Since nobody chose me, I always had the mortification of
finding myself left over, and of hearing them say, "Who has been left
out? Oh, Nicolinka. Well, DO take him, somebody." Consequently, whenever
it came to my turn to guess who had chosen me, I had to go either to
my sister or to one of the ugly elder princesses. Sonetchka seemed so
absorbed in Seriosha that in her eyes I clearly existed no longer. I do
not quite know why I called her "the traitress" in my thoughts, since
she had never promised to choose me instead of Seriosha, but, for all
that, I felt convinced that she was treating me in a very abominable
fashion. After the game was finished, I actually saw "the traitress"
(from whom I nevertheless could not withdraw my eyes) go with Seriosha
and Katenka into a corner, and engage in secret confabulation.
Stealing softly round the piano which masked the conclave, I beheld the
Katenka was holding up a pocket-handkerchief by two of its corners, so
as to form a screen for the heads of her two companions. "No, you have
lost! You must pay the forfeit!" cried Seriosha at that moment, and
Sonetchka, who was standing in front of him, blushed like a criminal
as she replied, "No, I have NOT lost! HAVE I, Mademoiselle Katherine?"
"Well, I must speak the truth," answered Katenka, "and say that you HAVE
lost, my dear." Scarcely had she spoken the words when Seriosha embraced
Sonetchka, and kissed her right on her rosy lips! And Sonetchka smiled
as though it were nothing, but merely something very pleasant!
Horrors! The artful "traitress!"
XIV. THE RETRIBUTION
Instantly, I began to feel a strong contempt for the female sex in
general and Sonetchka in particular. I began to think that there was
nothing at all amusing in these games--that they were only fit for
girls, and felt as though I should like to make a great noise, or to do
something of such extraordinary boldness that every one would be forced
to admire it. The opportunity soon arrived. St. Jerome said something to
Mimi, and then left the room, I could hear his footsteps ascending the
staircase, and then passing across the schoolroom, and the idea occurred
to me that Mimi must have told him her story about my being found on the
landing, and thereupon he had gone to look at the register. (In those
days, it must be remembered, I believed that St. Jerome's whole aim in
life was to annoy me.) Some where I have read that, not infrequently,
children of from twelve to fourteen years of age--that is to say,
children just passing from childhood to adolescence--are addicted to
incendiarism, or even to murder. As I look back upon my childhood, and
particularly upon the mood in which I was on that (for myself) most
unlucky day, I can quite understand the possibility of such terrible
crimes being committed by children without any real aim in view--without
any real wish to do wrong, but merely out of curiosity or under the
influence of an unconscious necessity for action. There are moments when
the human being sees the future in such lurid colours that he
shrinks from fixing his mental eye upon it, puts a check upon all his
intellectual activity, and tries to feel convinced that the future will
never be, and that the past has never been. At such moments--moments
when thought does not shrink from manifestations of will, and the carnal
instincts alone constitute the springs of life--I can understand that
want of experience (which is a particularly predisposing factor in
this connection) might very possibly lead a child, aye, without fear
or hesitation, but rather with a smile of curiosity on its face, to set
fire to the house in which its parents and brothers and sisters (beings
whom it tenderly loves) are lying asleep. It would be under the same
influence of momentary absence of thought--almost absence of mind--that
a peasant boy of seventeen might catch sight of the edge of a
newly-sharpened axe reposing near the bench on which his aged father was
lying asleep, face downwards, and suddenly raise the implement in order
to observe with unconscious curiosity how the blood would come spurting
out upon the floor if he made a wound in the sleeper's neck. It is under
the same influence--the same absence of thought, the same instinctive
curiosity--that a man finds delight in standing on the brink of an abyss
and thinking to himself, "How if I were to throw myself down?" or in
holding to his brow a loaded pistol and wondering, "What if I were
to pull the trigger?" or in feeling, when he catches sight of some
universally respected personage, that he would like to go up to him,
pull his nose hard, and say, "How do you do, old boy?"
Under the spell, then, of this instinctive agitation and lack of
reflection I was moved to put out my tongue, and to say that I would not
move, when St. Jerome came down and told me that I had behaved so badly
that day, as well as done my lessons so ill, that I had no right to be
where I was, and must go upstairs directly.
At first, from astonishment and anger, he could not utter a word.
"C'est bien!" he exclaimed eventually as he darted towards me. "Several
times have I promised to punish you, and you have been saved from it by
your Grandmamma, but now I see that nothing but the cane will teach you
obedience, and you shall therefore taste it."
This was said loud enough for every one to hear. The blood rushed to
my heart with such vehemence that I could feel that organ beating
violently--could feel the colour rising to my cheeks and my lips
trembling. Probably I looked horrible at that moment, for, avoiding
my eye, St. Jerome stepped forward and caught me by the hand. Hardly
feeling his touch, I pulled away my hand in blind fury, and with all my
childish might struck him.
"What are you doing?" said Woloda, who had seen my behaviour, and now
approached me in alarm and astonishment.
"Let me alone!" I exclaimed, the tears flowing fast. "Not a single one
of you loves me or understands how miserable I am! You are all of you
odious and disgusting!" I added bluntly, turning to the company at
At this moment St. Jerome--his face pale, but determined--approached me
again, and, with a movement too quick to admit of any defence, seized
my hands as with a pair of tongs, and dragged me away. My head swam with
excitement, and I can only remember that, so long as I had strength to
do it, I fought with head and legs; that my nose several times collided
with a pair of knees; that my teeth tore some one's coat; that all
around me I could hear the shuffling of feet; and that I could smell
dust and the scent of violets with which St. Jerome used to perfume
Five minutes later the door of the store-room closed behind me.
"Basil," said a triumphant but detestable voice, "bring me the cane."
Could I at that moment have supposed that I should ever live to survive
the misfortunes of that day, or that there would ever come a time when I
should be able to look back upon those misfortunes composedly?
As I sat there thinking over what I had done, I could not imagine what
the matter had been with me. I only felt with despair that I was for
At first the most profound stillness reigned around me--at least, so it
appeared to me as compared with the violent internal emotion which I had
been experiencing; but by and by I began to distinguish various sounds.
Basil brought something downstairs which he laid upon a chest outside.
It sounded like a broom-stick. Below me I could hear St. Jerome's
grumbling voice (probably he was speaking of me), and then children's
voices and laughter and footsteps; until in a few moments everything
seemed to have regained its normal course in the house, as though
nobody knew or cared to know that here was I sitting alone in the dark
I did not cry, but something lay heavy, like a stone, upon my heart.
Ideas and pictures passed with extraordinary rapidity before my troubled
imagination, yet through their fantastic sequence broke continually
the remembrance of the misfortune which had befallen me as I once
again plunged into an interminable labyrinth of conjectures as to the
punishment, the fate, and the despair that were awaiting me. The
thought occurred to me that there must be some reason for the general
dislike--even contempt--which I fancied to be felt for me by others.
I was firmly convinced that every one, from Grandmamma down to the
coachman Philip, despised me, and found pleasure in my sufferings. Next
an idea struck me that perhaps I was not the son of my father and mother
at all, nor Woloda's brother, but only some unfortunate orphan who had
been adopted by them out of compassion, and this absurd notion not only
afforded me a certain melancholy consolation, but seemed to me quite
probable. I found it comforting to think that I was unhappy, not through
my own fault, but because I was fated to be so from my birth, and
conceived that my destiny was very much like poor Karl Ivanitch's.
"Why conceal the secret any longer, now that I have discovered it?" I
reflected. "To-morrow I will go to Papa and say to him, 'It is in vain
for you to try and conceal from me the mystery of my birth. I know it
already.' And he will answer me, 'What else could I do, my good fellow?
Sooner or later you would have had to know that you are not my son, but
were adopted as such. Nevertheless, so long as you remain worthy of my
love, I will never cast you out.' Then I shall say, 'Papa, though I
have no right to call you by that name, and am now doing so for the last
time, I have always loved you, and shall always retain that love. At the
same time, while I can never forget that you have been my benefactor, I
cannot remain longer in your house. Nobody here loves me, and St. Jerome
has wrought my ruin. Either he or I must go forth, since I cannot answer
for myself. I hate the man so that I could do anything--I could even
kill him.' Papa will begin to entreat me, but I shall make a gesture,
and say, 'No, no, my friend and benefactor! We cannot live together. Let
me go'--and for the last time I shall embrace him, and say in French,
'O mon pere, O mon bienfaiteur, donne moi, pour la derniere fois, ta
benediction, et que la volonte de Dieu soit faite!'"
I sobbed bitterly at these thoughts as I sat on a trunk in that dark
storeroom. Then, suddenly recollecting the shameful punishment which was
awaiting me, I would find myself back again in actuality, and the dreams
had fled. Soon, again, I began to fancy myself far away from the
house and alone in the world. I enter a hussar regiment and go to war.
Surrounded by the foe on every side, I wave my sword, and kill one of
them and wound another--then a third,--then a fourth. At last, exhausted
with loss of blood and fatigue, I fall to the ground and cry, "Victory!"
The general comes to look for me, asking, "Where is our saviour?"
whereupon I am pointed out to him. He embraces me, and, in his turn,
exclaims with tears of joy, "Victory!" I recover and, with my arm in a
black sling, go to walk on the boulevards. I am a general now. I meet
the Emperor, who asks, "Who is this young man who has been wounded?" He
is told that it is the famous hero Nicolas; whereupon he approaches me
and says, "My thanks to you! Whatsoever you may ask for, I will grant
it." To this I bow respectfully, and, leaning on my sword, reply, "I am
happy, most august Emperor, that I have been able to shed my blood
for my country. I would gladly have died for it. Yet, since you are
so generous as to grant any wish of mine, I venture to ask of you
permission to annihilate my enemy, the foreigner St. Jerome" And then I
step fiercely before St. Jerome and say, "YOU were the cause of all my
fortunes! Down now on your knees!"
Unfortunately this recalled to my mind the fact that at any moment the
REAL St. Jerome might be entering with the cane; so that once more I
saw myself, not a general and the saviour of my country, but an unhappy,
Then the idea of God occurred to me, and I asked Him boldly why He had
punished me thus, seeing that I had never forgotten to say my prayers,
either morning or evening. Indeed, I can positively declare that it was
during that hour in the store-room that I took the first step towards
the religious doubt which afterwards assailed me during my youth (not
that mere misfortune could arouse me to infidelity and murmuring, but
that, at moments of utter contrition and solitude, the idea of the
injustice of Providence took root in me as readily as bad seed takes
root in land well soaked with rain). Also, I imagined that I was
going to die there and then, and drew vivid pictures of St. Jerome's
astonishment when he entered the store-room and found a corpse there
instead of myself! Likewise, recollecting what Natalia Savishna had told
me of the forty days during which the souls of the departed must hover
around their earthly home, I imagined myself flying through the rooms
of Grandmamma's house, and seeing Lubotshka's bitter tears, and hearing
Grandmamma's lamentations, and listening to Papa and St. Jerome talking
together. "He was a fine boy," Papa would say with tears in his
eyes. "Yes," St. Jerome would reply, "but a sad scapegrace and
good-for-nothing." "But you should respect the dead," would expostulate
Papa. "YOU were the cause of his death; YOU frightened him until he
could no longer bear the thought of the humiliation which you were about
to inflict upon him. Away from me, criminal!" Upon that St. Jerome would
fall upon his knees and implore forgiveness, and when the forty
days were ended my soul would fly to Heaven, and see there something
wonderfully beautiful, white, and transparent, and know that it was
And that something would embrace and caress me. Yet, all at once, I
should feel troubled, and not know her. "If it be you," I should say
to her, "show yourself more distinctly, so that I may embrace you in
return." And her voice would answer me, "Do you not feel happy thus?"
and I should reply, "Yes, I do, but you cannot REALLY caress me, and I
cannot REALLY kiss your hand like this." "But it is not necessary," she
would say. "There can be happiness here without that,"--and I should
feel that it was so, and we should ascend together, ever higher and
higher, until--Suddenly I feel as though I am being thrown down again,
and find myself sitting on the trunk in the dark store-room (my cheeks
wet with tears and my thoughts in a mist), yet still repeating the
words, "Let us ascend together, higher and higher." Indeed, it was a
long, long while before I could remember where I was, for at that moment
my mind's eye saw only a dark, dreadful, illimitable void. I tried to
renew the happy, consoling dream which had been thus interrupted by the
return to reality, but, to my surprise, I found that, as soon as ever
I attempted to re-enter former dreams, their continuation became
impossible, while--which astonished me even more--they no longer gave me
XVI. "KEEP ON GRINDING, AND YOU'LL HAVE FLOUR"
I PASSED the night in the store-room, and nothing further happened,
except that on the following morning--a Sunday--I was removed to a small
chamber adjoining the schoolroom, and once more shut up. I began to hope
that my punishment was going to be limited to confinement, and found my
thoughts growing calmer under the influence of a sound, soft sleep, the
clear sunlight playing upon the frost crystals of the windowpanes, and
the familiar noises in the street.
Nevertheless, solitude gradually became intolerable. I wanted to move
about, and to communicate to some one all that was lying upon my
heart, but not a living creature was near me. The position was the more
unpleasant because, willy-nilly, I could hear St. Jerome walking about
in his room, and softly whistling some hackneyed tune. Somehow, I felt
convinced that he was whistling not because he wanted to, but because he
knew it annoyed me.
At two o'clock, he and Woloda departed downstairs, and Nicola brought me
up some luncheon. When I told him what I had done and what was awaiting
me he said:
"Pshaw, sir! Don't be alarmed. 'Keep on grinding, and you'll have
Although this expression (which also in later days has more than once
helped me to preserve my firmness of mind) brought me a little comfort,
the fact that I received, not bread and water only, but a whole
luncheon, and even dessert, gave me much to think about. If they had
sent me no dessert, it would have meant that my punishment was to be
limited to confinement; whereas it was now evident that I was looked
upon as not yet punished--that I was only being kept away from the
others, as an evil-doer, until the due time of punishment. While I was
still debating the question, the key of my prison turned, and St. Jerome
entered with a severe, official air.
"Come down and see your Grandmamma," he said without looking at me.
I should have liked first to have brushed my jacket, since it was
covered with dust, but St. Jerome said that that was quite unnecessary,
since I was in such a deplorable moral condition that my exterior
was not worth considering. As he led me through the salon, Katenka,
Lubotshka, and Woloda looked at me with much the same expression as
we were wont to look at the convicts who on certain days filed past my
grandmother's house. Likewise, when I approached Grandmamma's arm-chair
to kiss her hand, she withdrew it, and thrust it under her mantilla.
"Well, my dear," she began after a long pause, during which she regarded
me from head to foot with the kind of expression which makes one
uncertain where to look or what to do, "I must say that you seem to
value my love very highly, and afford me great consolation." Then she
went on, with an emphasis on each word, "Monsieur St. Jerome, who, at my
request, undertook your education, says that he can no longer remain
in the house. And why? Simply because of you." Another pause ensued.
Presently she continued in a tone which clearly showed that her speech
had been prepared beforehand, "I had hoped that you would be grateful
for all his care, and for all the trouble that he has taken with you,
that you would have appreciated his services; but you--you baby, you
silly boy!--you actually dare to raise your hand against him! Very
well, very good. I am beginning to think that you cannot understand kind
treatment, but require to be treated in a very different and humiliating
fashion. Go now directly and beg his pardon," she added in a stern and
peremptory tone as she pointed to St. Jerome, "Do you hear me?"
I followed the direction of her finger with my eye, but on that member
alighting upon St. Jerome's coat, I turned my head away, and once more
felt my heart beating violently as I remained where I was.
"What? Did you not hear me when I told you what to do?"
I was trembling all over, but I would not stir.
"Koko," went on my grandmother, probably divining my inward sufferings,
"Koko," she repeated in a voice tender rather than harsh, "is this you?"
"Grandmamma, I cannot beg his pardon for--" and I stopped suddenly, for
I felt the next word refuse to come for the tears that were choking me.
"But I ordered you, I begged of you, to do so. What is the matter with
"I-I-I will not--I cannot!" I gasped, and the tears, long pent up and
accumulated in my breast, burst forth like a stream which breaks its
dikes and goes flowing madly over the country.
"C'est ainsi que vous obeissez a votre seconde mere, c'est ainsi que
vous reconnaissez ses bontes!" remarked St. Jerome quietly, "A genoux!"
"Good God! If SHE had seen this!" exclaimed Grandmamma, turning from me
and wiping away her tears. "If she had seen this! It may be all for
the best, yet she could never have survived such grief--never!" and
Grandmamma wept more and more. I too wept, but it never occurred to me
to ask for pardon.
"Tranquillisez-vous au nom du ciel, Madame la Comtesse," said St.
Jerome, but Grandmamma heard him not. She covered her face with her
hands, and her sobs soon passed to hiccups and hysteria. Mimi and Gasha
came running in with frightened faces, salts and spirits were applied,
and the whole house was soon in a ferment.
"You may feel pleased at your work," said St. Jerome to me as he led me
from the room.
"Good God! What have I done?" I thought to myself. "What a terribly bad
boy I am!"
As soon as St. Jerome, bidding me go into his room, had returned to
Grandmamma, I, all unconscious of what I was doing, ran down the grand
staircase leading to the front door. Whether I intended to drown myself,
or whether merely to run away from home, I do not remember. I only know
that I went blindly on, my face covered with my hands that I might see
"Where are you going to?" asked a well-known voice. "I want you, my
I would have passed on, but Papa caught hold of me, and said sternly:
"Come here, you impudent rascal. How could you dare to do such a thing
as to touch the portfolio in my study?" he went on as he dragged me into
his room. "Oh! you are silent, eh?" and he pulled my ear.
"Yes, I WAS naughty," I said. "I don't know myself what came over me
"So you don't know what came over you--you don't know, you don't know?"
he repeated as he pulled my ear harder and harder. "Will you go and put
your nose where you ought not to again--will you, will you?"
Although my ear was in great pain, I did not cry, but, on the contrary,
felt a sort of morally pleasing sensation. No sooner did he let go of my
ear than I seized his hand and covered it with tears and kisses.
"Please whip me!" I cried, sobbing. "Please hurt me the more and more,
for I am a wretched, bad, miserable boy!"
"Why, what on earth is the matter with you?" he said, giving me a slight
push from him.
"No, I will not go away!" I continued, seizing his coat. "Every one else
hates me--I know that, but do YOU listen to me and protect me, or else
send me away altogether. I cannot live with HIM. He tries to humiliate
me--he tells me to kneel before him, and wants to strike me. I can't
stand it. I'm not a baby. I can't stand it--I shall die, I shall kill
myself. HE told Grandmamma that I was naughty, and now she is ill--she
will die through me. It is all his fault. Please let me--W-why
The tears choked my further speech. I sat down on the sofa, and, with
my head buried on Papa's knees, sobbed until I thought I should die of
"Come, come! Why are you such a water-pump?" said Papa compassionately,
as he stooped over me.
"He is such a bully! He is murdering me! I shall die! Nobody loves me at
all!" I gasped almost inaudibly, and went into convulsions.
Papa lifted me up, and carried me to my bedroom, where I fell asleep.
When I awoke it was late. Only a solitary candle burned in the room,
while beside the bed there were seated Mimi, Lubotshka, and our doctor.
In their faces I could discern anxiety for my health, so, although
I felt so well after my twelve-hours' sleep that I could have got up
directly, I thought it best to let them continue thinking that I was
Yes, it was the real feeling of hatred that was mine now--not the hatred
of which one reads in novels, and in the existence of which I do
not believe--the hatred which finds satisfaction in doing harm to a
fellow-creature, but the hatred which consists of an unconquerable
aversion to a person who may be wholly deserving of your esteem, yet
whose very hair, neck, walk, voice, limbs, movements, and everything
else are disgusting to you, while all the while an incomprehensible
force attracts you towards him, and compels you to follow his slightest
acts with anxious attention.
This was the feeling which I cherished for St. Jerome, who had lived
with us now for a year and a half.
Judging coolly of the man at this time of day, I find that he was a true
Frenchman, but a Frenchman in the better acceptation of the term. He was
fairly well educated, and fulfilled his duties to us conscientiously,
but he had the peculiar features of fickle egotism, boastfulness,
impertinence, and ignorant self-assurance which are common to all his
countrymen, as well as entirely opposed to the Russian character.
All this set me against him, Grandmamma had signified to him her dislike
for corporal punishment, and therefore he dared not beat us, but he
frequently THREATENED us, particularly myself, with the cane, and would
utter the word fouetter as though it were fouatter in an expressive
and detestable way which always gave me the idea that to whip me would
afford him the greatest possible satisfaction.
I was not in the least afraid of the bodily pain, for I had never
experienced it. It was the mere idea that he could beat me that threw me
into such paroxysms of wrath and despair.
True, Karl Ivanitch sometimes (in moments of exasperation) had recourse
to a ruler or to his braces, but that I can look back upon without
anger. Even if he had struck me at the time of which I am now speaking
(namely, when I was fourteen years old), I should have submitted quietly
to the correction, for I loved him, and had known him all my life,
and looked upon him as a member of our family, but St. Jerome was a
conceited, opinionated fellow for whom I felt merely the unwilling
respect which I entertained for all persons older than myself. Karl
Ivanitch was a comical old "Uncle" whom I loved with my whole heart, but
who, according to my childish conception of social distinctions, ranked
below us, whereas St. Jerome was a well-educated, handsome young dandy
who was for showing himself the equal of any one.
Karl Ivanitch had always scolded and punished us coolly, as though he
thought it a necessary, but extremely disagreeable, duty. St. Jerome,
on the contrary, always liked to emphasise his part as JUDGE when
correcting us, and clearly did it as much for his own satisfaction
as for our good. He loved authority. Nevertheless, I always found his
grandiloquent French phrases (which he pronounced with a strong emphasis
on all the final syllables) inexpressibly disgusting, whereas Karl, when
angry, had never said anything beyond, "What a foolish puppet-comedy it
is!" or "You boys are as irritating as Spanish fly!" (which he always
called "Spaniard" fly). St. Jerome, however, had names for us like
"mauvais sujet," "villain," "garnement," and so forth--epithets which
greatly offended my self-respect. When Karl Ivanitch ordered us to
kneel in the corner with our faces to the wall, the punishment consisted
merely in the bodily discomfort of the position, whereas St. Jerome, in
such cases, always assumed a haughty air, made a grandiose gesture with
his hand, and exclaiming in a pseudo-tragic tone, "A genoux, mauvais
sujet!" ordered us to kneel with our faces towards him, and to crave his
pardon. His punishment consisted in humiliation.
However, on the present occasion the punishment never came, nor was the
matter ever referred to again. Yet, I could not forget all that I had
gone through--the shame, the fear, and the hatred of those two days.
From that time forth, St. Jerome appeared to give me up in despair, and
took no further trouble with me, yet I could not bring myself to treat
him with indifference. Every time that our eyes met I felt that my
look expressed only too plainly my dislike, and, though I tried hard
to assume a careless air, he seemed to divine my hypocrisy, until I was
forced to blush and turn away.
In short, it was a terrible trial to me to have anything to do with him.
XVIII. THE MAIDSERVANTS' ROOM
I BEGAN to feel more and more lonely, until my chief solace lay in
solitary reflection and observation. Of the favourite subject of
my reflections I shall speak in the next chapter. The scene where I
indulged in them was, for preference, the maidservants' room, where
a plot suitable for a novel was in progress--a plot which touched and
engrossed me to the highest degree. The heroine of the romance was, of
course, Masha. She was in love with Basil, who had known her before she
had become a servant in our house, and who had promised to marry her
some day. Unfortunately, fate, which had separated them five years ago,
and afterwards reunited them in Grandmamma's abode, next proceeded to
interpose an obstacle between them in the shape of Masha's uncle, our
man Nicola, who would not hear of his niece marrying that "uneducated
and unbearable fellow," as he called Basil. One effect of the obstacle
had been to make the otherwise slightly cool and indifferent Basil fall
as passionately in love with Masha as it is possible for a man to be
who is only a servant and a tailor, wears a red shirt, and has his hair
pomaded. Although his methods of expressing his affection were odd (for
instance, whenever he met Masha he always endeavoured to inflict upon
her some bodily pain, either by pinching her, giving her a slap with his
open hand, or squeezing her so hard that she could scarcely breathe),
that affection was sincere enough, and he proved it by the fact that,
from the moment when Nicola refused him his niece's hand, his grief led
him to drinking, and to frequenting taverns, until he proved so
unruly that more than once he had to be sent to undergo a humiliating
chastisement at the police-station.
Nevertheless, these faults of his and their consequences only served to
elevate him in Masha's eyes, and to increase her love for him. Whenever
he was in the hands of the police, she would sit crying the whole day,
and complain to Gasha of her hard fate (Gasha played an active part
in the affairs of these unfortunate lovers). Then, regardless of her
uncle's anger and blows, she would stealthily make her way to the
police-station, there to visit and console her swain.
Excuse me, reader, for introducing you to such company. Nevertheless, if
the cords of love and compassion have not wholly snapped in your soul,
you will find, even in that maidservants' room, something which may
cause them to vibrate again.
So, whether you please to follow me or not, I will return to the alcove
on the staircase whence I was able to observe all that passed in that
room. From my post I could see the stove-couch, with, upon it, an iron,
an old cap-stand with its peg bent crooked, a wash-tub, and a basin.
There, too, was the window, with, in fine disorder before it, a piece
of black wax, some fragments of silk, a half-eaten cucumber, a box of
sweets, and so on. There, too, was the large table at which SHE used
to sit in the pink cotton dress which I admired so much and the
blue handkerchief which always caught my attention so. She would be
sewing-though interrupting her work at intervals to scratch her head
a little, to bite the end of her thread, or to snuff the candle--and I
would think to myself: "Why was she not born a lady--she with her blue
eyes, beautiful fair hair, and magnificent bust? How splendid she would
look if she were sitting in a drawing-room and dressed in a cap with
pink ribbons and a silk gown--not one like Mimi's, but one like the gown
which I saw the other day on the Tverski Boulevard!" Yes, she would work
at the embroidery-frame, and I would sit and look at her in the mirror,
and be ready to do whatsoever she wanted--to help her on with her mantle
or to hand her food. As for Basil's drunken face and horrid figure in
the scanty coat with the red shirt showing beneath it, well, in his
every gesture, in his every movement of his back, I seemed always to see
signs of the humiliating chastisements which he had undergone.
"Ah, Basil! AGAIN?" cried Masha on one occasion as she stuck her needle
into the pincushion, but without looking up at the person who was
"What is the good of a man like HIM?" was Basil's first remark.
"Yes. If only he would say something DECISIVE! But I am powerless in the
matter--I am all at odds and ends, and through his fault, too."
"Will you have some tea?" put in Madesha (another servant).
"No, thank you.--But why does he hate me so, that old thief of an uncle
of yours? Why? Is it because of the clothes I wear, or of my height,
or of my walk, or what? Well, damn and confound him!" finished Basil,
snapping his fingers.
"We must be patient," said Masha, threading her needle.
"You are so--"
"It is my nerves that won't stand it, that's all."
At this moment the door of Grandmamma's room banged, and Gasha's angry
voice could be heard as she came up the stairs.
"There!" she muttered with a gesture of her hands. "Try to please people
when even they themselves do not know what they want, and it is a cursed
life--sheer hard labour, and nothing else! If only a certain thing would
happen!--though God forgive me for thinking it!"
"Good evening, Agatha Michaelovna," said Basil, rising to greet her.
"You here?" she answered brusquely as she stared at him, "That is not
very much to your credit. What do you come here for? Is the maids' room
a proper place for men?"
"I wanted to see how you were," said Basil soothingly.
"I shall soon be breathing my last--THAT'S how I am!" cried Gasha, still
"Oh, there's nothing to laugh at when I say that I shall soon be dead.
But that's how it will be, all the same. Just look at the drunkard!
Marry her, would he? The fool! Come, get out of here!" and, with a stamp
of her foot on the floor, Gasha retreated to her own room, and banged
the door behind her until the window rattled again. For a while she
could be heard scolding at everything, flinging dresses and other things
about, and pulling the ears of her favourite cat. Then the door opened
again, and puss, mewing pitifully, was flung forth by the tail.
"I had better come another time for tea," said Basil in a whisper--"at
some better time for our meeting."
"No, no!" put in Madesha. "I'll go and fetch the urn at once."
"I mean to put an end to things soon," went on Basil, seating himself
beside Masha as soon as ever Madesha had left the room. "I had much
better go straight to the Countess, and say 'so-and-so' or I will throw
up my situation and go off into the world. Oh dear, oh dear!"
"And am I to remain here?"
"Ah, there's the difficulty--that's what I feel so badly about, You have
been my sweetheart so long, you see. Ah, dear me!"
"Why don't you bring me your shirts to wash, Basil?" asked Masha after a
pause, during which she had been inspecting his wrist-bands.
At this moment Grandmamma's bell rang, and Gasha issued from her room
"What do you want with her, you impudent fellow?" she cried as she
pushed Basil (who had risen at her entrance) before her towards the
door. "First you lead a girl on, and then you want to lead her further
still. I suppose it amuses you to see her tears. There's the door, now.
Off you go! We want your room, not your company. And what good can you
see in him?" she went on, turning to Masha. "Has not your uncle been
walking into you to-day already? No; she must stick to her promise,
forsooth! 'I will have no one but Basil,' Fool that you are!"
"Yes, I WILL have no one but him! I'll never love any one else! I could
kill myself for him!" poor Masha burst out, the tears suddenly gushing
For a while I stood watching her as she wiped away those tears. Then I
fell to contemplating Basil attentively, in the hope of finding out what
there was in him that she found so attractive; yet, though I sympathised
with her sincerely in her grief, I could not for the life of me
understand how such a charming creature as I considered her to be could
love a man like him.
"When I become a man," I thought to myself as I returned to my room,
"Petrovskoe shall be mine, and Basil and Masha my servants. Some day,
when I am sitting in my study and smoking a pipe, Masha will chance to
pass the door on her way to the kitchen with an iron, and I shall say,
'Masha, come here,' and she will enter, and there will be no one else in
the room. Then suddenly Basil too will enter, and, on seeing her, will
cry, 'My sweetheart is lost to me!' and Masha will begin to weep, Then
I shall say, 'Basil, I know that you love her, and that she loves you.
Here are a thousand roubles for you. Marry her, and may God grant you
both happiness!' Then I shall leave them together."
Among the countless thoughts and fancies which pass, without logic or
sequence, through the mind and the imagination, there are always some
which leave behind them a mark so profound that, without remembering
their exact subject, we can at least recall that something good has
passed through our brain, and try to retain and reproduce its effect.
Such was the mark left upon my consciousness by the idea of sacrificing
my feelings to Masha's happiness, seeing that she believed that she
could attain it only through a union with Basil.
PERHAPS people will scarcely believe me when I tell them what were the
dearest, most constant, objects of my reflections during my boyhood, so
little did those objects consort with my age and position. Yet, in my
opinion, contrast between a man's actual position and his moral activity
constitutes the most reliable sign of his genuineness.
During the period when I was leading a solitary and self-centred moral
life, I was much taken up with abstract thoughts on man's destiny, on
a future life, and on the immortality of the soul, and, with all the
ardour of inexperience, strove to make my youthful intellect solve those
questions--the questions which constitute the highest level of thought
to which the human intellect can tend, but a final decision of which the
human intellect can never succeed in attaining.
I believe the intellect to take the same course of development in the
individual as in the mass, as also that the thoughts which serve as
a basis for philosophical theories are an inseparable part of that
intellect, and that every man must be more or less conscious of those
thoughts before he can know anything of the existence of philosophical
theories. To my own mind those thoughts presented themselves with such
clarity and force that I tried to apply them to life, in the fond belief
that I was the first to have discovered such splendid and invaluable
Sometimes I would suppose that happiness depends, not upon external
causes themselves, but only upon our relation to them, and that,
provided a man can accustom himself to bearing suffering, he need
never be unhappy. To prove the latter hypothesis, I would (despite the
horrible pain) hold out a Tatistchev's dictionary at arm's length for
five minutes at a time, or else go into the store-room and scourge my
back with cords until the tears involuntarily came to my eyes!
Another time, suddenly bethinking me that death might find me at any
hour or any minute, I came to the conclusion that man could only be
happy by using the present to the full and taking no thought for the
future. Indeed, I wondered how people had never found that out before.
Acting under the influence of the new idea, I laid my lesson-books
aside for two or three days, and, reposing on my bed, gave myself up to
novel-reading and the eating of gingerbread-and-honey which I had bought
with my last remaining coins.
Again, standing one day before the blackboard and smearing figures on it
with honey, I was struck with the thought, "Why is symmetry so agreeable
to the eye? What is symmetry? Of course it is an innate sense," I
continued; "yet what is its basis? Perhaps everything in life is
symmetry? But no. On the contrary, this is life"--and I drew an oblong
figure on the board--"and after life the soul passes to eternity"--here
I drew a line from one end of the oblong figure to the edge of the
board. "Why should there not be a corresponding line on the other
side? If there be an eternity on one side, there must surely be a
corresponding one on the other? That means that we have existed in a
previous life, but have lost the recollection of it."
This conclusion--which seemed to me at the time both clear and novel,
but the arguments for which it would be difficult for me, at this
distance of time, to piece together--pleased me extremely, so I took a
piece of paper and tried to write it down. But at the first attempt
such a rush of other thoughts came whirling though my brain that I was
obliged to jump up and pace the room. At the window, my attention was
arrested by a driver harnessing a horse to a water-cart, and at once my
mind concentrated itself upon the decision of the question, "Into what
animal or human being will the spirit of that horse pass at death?" Just
at that moment, Woloda passed through the room, and smiled to see me
absorbed in speculative thoughts. His smile at once made me feel that
all that I had been thinking about was utter nonsense.
I have related all this as I recollect it in order to show the reader
the nature of my cogitations. No philosophical theory attracted me so
much as scepticism, which at one period brought me to a state of mind
verging upon insanity. I took the fancy into my head that no one nor
anything really existed in the world except myself--that objects were
not objects at all, but that images of them became manifest only so soon
as I turned my attention upon them, and vanished again directly that
I ceased to think about them. In short, this idea of mine (that real
objects do not exist, but only one's conception of them) brought me to
Schelling's well-known theory. There were moments when the influence
of this idea led me to such vagaries as, for instance, turning sharply
round, in the hope that by the suddenness of the movement I should come
in contact with the void which I believed to be existing where I myself
purported to be!
What a pitiful spring of moral activity is the human intellect! My
faulty reason could not define the impenetrable. Consequently it
shattered one fruitless conviction after another--convictions which,
happily for my after life, I never lacked the courage to abandon as soon
as they proved inadequate. From all this weary mental struggle I derived
only a certain pliancy of mind, a weakening of the will, a habit
of perpetual moral analysis, and a diminution both of freshness of
sentiment and of clearness of thought. Usually abstract thinking
develops man's capacity for apprehending the bent of his mind at certain
moments and laying it to heart, but my inclination for abstract thought
developed my consciousness in such a way that often when I began to
consider even the simplest matter, I would lose myself in a labyrinthine
analysis of my own thoughts concerning the matter in question. That is
to say, I no longer thought of the matter itself, but only of what I was
thinking about it. If I had then asked myself, "Of what am I thinking?"
the true answer would have been, "I am thinking of what I am thinking;"
and if I had further asked myself, "What, then, are the thoughts of
which I am thinking?" I should have had to reply, "They are attempts
to think of what I am thinking concerning my own thoughts"--and so on.
Reason, with me, had to yield to excess of reason. Every philosophical
discovery which I made so flattered my conceit that I often imagined
myself to be a great man discovering new truths for the benefit of
humanity. Consequently, I looked down with proud dignity upon my
fellow-mortals. Yet, strange to state, no sooner did I come in contact
with those fellow-mortals than I became filled with a stupid shyness of
them, and, the higher I happened to be standing in my own opinion, the
less did I feel capable of making others perceive my consciousness of
my own dignity, since I could not rid myself of a sense of diffidence
concerning even the simplest of my words and acts.
THE further I advance in the recital of this period of my life, the more
difficult and onerous does the task become. Too rarely do I find among
the reminiscences of that time any moments full of the ardent feeling
of sincerity which so often and so cheeringly illumined my childhood.
Gladly would I pass in haste over my lonely boyhood, the sooner to
arrive at the happy time when once again a tender, sincere, and noble
friendship marked with a gleam of light at once the termination of that
period and the beginning of a phase of my youth which was full of the
charm of poetry. Therefore, I will not pursue my recollections from hour
to hour, but only throw a cursory glance at the most prominent of them,
from the time to which I have now carried my tale to the moment of
my first contact with the exceptional personality that was fated to
exercise such a decisive influence upon my character and ideas.
Woloda was about to enter the University. Tutors came to give
him lessons independently of myself, and I listened with envy and
involuntary respect as he drew boldly on the blackboard with white chalk
and talked about "functions," "sines," and so forth--all of which seemed
to me terms pertaining to unattainable wisdom. At length, one Sunday
before luncheon all the tutors--and among them two professors--assembled
in Grandmamma's room, and in the presence of Papa and some friends put
Woloda through a rehearsal of his University examination--in which,
to Grandmamma's delight, he gave evidence of no ordinary amount of
Questions on different subjects were also put to me, but on all of
them I showed complete ignorance, while the fact that the professors
manifestly endeavoured to conceal that ignorance from Grandmamma only
confused me the more. Yet, after all, I was only fifteen, and so had a
year before me in which to prepare for the examinations. Woloda now came
downstairs for luncheon only, and spent whole days and evenings over
his studies in his own room--to which he kept, not from necessity, but
because he preferred its seclusion. He was very ambitious, and meant to
pass the examinations, not by halves, but with flying colours.
The first day arrived. Woloda was wearing a new blue frockcoat with
brass buttons, a gold watch, and shiny boots. At the door stood Papa's
phaeton, which Nicola duly opened; and presently, when Woloda and
St. Jerome set out for the University, the girls--particularly
Katenka--could be seen gazing with beaming faces from the window at
Woloda's pleasing figure as it sat in the carriage. Papa said several
times, "God go with him!" and Grandmamma, who also had dragged herself
to the window, continued to make the sign of the cross as long as the
phaeton was visible, as well as to murmur something to herself.
When Woloda returned, every one eagerly crowded round him. "How many
marks? Were they good ones?" "Yes." But his happy face was an answer in
itself. He had received five marks-the maximum! The next day, he sped on
his way with the same good wishes and the same anxiety for his success,
and was welcomed home with the same eagerness and joy.
This lasted for nine days. On the tenth day there was to be the last and
most difficult examination of all--the one in divinity.
We all stood at the window, and watched for him with greater impatience
than ever. Two o'clock, and yet no Woloda.
"Here they come, Papa! Here they come!" suddenly screamed Lubotshka as
she peered through the window.
Sure enough the phaeton was driving up with St. Jerome and Woloda--the
latter no longer in his grey cap and blue frockcoat, but in the uniform
of a student of the University, with its embroidered blue collar,
three-cornered hat, and gilded sword.
"Ah! If only SHE had been alive now!" exclaimed Grandmamma on seeing
Woloda in this dress, and swooned away.
Woloda enters the anteroom with a beaming face, and embraces myself,
Lubotshka, Mimi, and Katenka--the latter blushing to her ears. He hardly
knows himself for joy. And how smart he looks in that uniform! How well
the blue collar suits his budding, dark moustache! What a tall, elegant
figure is his, and what a distinguished walk!
On that memorable day we all lunched together in Grandmamma's room.
Every face expressed delight, and with the dessert which followed the
meal the servants, with grave but gratified faces, brought in bottles of
Grandmamma, for the first time since Mamma's death, drank a full glass
of the wine to Woloda's health, and wept for joy as she looked at him.
Henceforth Woloda drove his own turn-out, invited his own friends,
smoked, and went to balls. On one occasion, I even saw him sharing a
couple of bottles of champagne with some guests in his room, and the
whole company drinking a toast, with each glass, to some mysterious
being, and then quarrelling as to who should have the bottom of the
Nevertheless he always lunched at home, and after the meal would stretch
himself on a sofa and talk confidentially to Katenka: yet from what I
overheard (while pretending, of course, to pay no attention) I gathered
that they were only talking of the heroes and heroines of novels which
they had read, or else of jealousy and love, and so on. Never could I
understand what they found so attractive in these conversations, nor why
they smiled so happily and discussed things with such animation.
Altogether I could see that, in addition to the friendship natural to
persons who had been companions from childhood, there existed between
Woloda and Katenka a relation which differentiated them from us, and
united them mysteriously to one another.
XXI. KATENKA AND LUBOTSHKA
Katenka was now sixteen years old--quite a grown-up girl; and although
at that age the angular figures, the bashfulness, and the gaucherie
peculiar to girls passing from childhood to youth usually replace the
comely freshness and graceful, half-developed bloom of childhood, she
had in no way altered. Still the blue eyes with their merry glance were
hers, the well-shaped nose with firm nostrils and almost forming a line
with the forehead, the little mouth with its charming smile, the dimples
in the rosy cheeks, and the small white hands. To her, the epithet of
"girl," pure and simple, was pre-eminently applicable, for in her the
only new features were a new and "young-lady-like" arrangement of her
thick flaxen hair and a youthful bosom--the latter an addition which at
once caused her great joy and made her very bashful.
Although Lubotshka and she had grown up together and received the same
education, they were totally unlike one another. Lubotshka was not tall,
and the rickets from which she had suffered had shaped her feet in goose
fashion and made her figure very bad. The only pretty feature in her
face was her eyes, which were indeed wonderful, being large and black,
and instinct with such an extremely pleasing expression of mingled
gravity and naivete that she was bound to attract attention. In
everything she was simple and natural, so that, whereas Katenka always
looked as though she were trying to be like some one else, Lubotshka
looked people straight in the face, and sometimes fixed them so long
with her splendid black eyes that she got blamed for doing what was
thought to be improper. Katenka, on the contrary, always cast her
eyelids down, blinked, and pretended that she was short-sighted, though
I knew very well that her sight was excellent. Lubotshka hated being
shown off before strangers, and when a visitor offered to kiss her she
invariably grew cross, and said that she hated "affection"; whereas,
when strangers were present, Katenka was always particularly endearing
to Mimi, and loved to walk about the room arm in arm with another girl.
Likewise, though Lubotshka was a terrible giggler, and sometimes ran
about the room in convulsions of gesticulating laughter, Katenka always
covered her mouth with her hands or her pocket-handkerchief when she
wanted to laugh. Lubotshka, again, loved to have grown-up men to talk
to, and said that some day she meant to marry a hussar, but Katenka
always pretended that all men were horrid, and that she never meant to
marry any one of them, while as soon as a male visitor addressed her she
changed completely, as though she were nervous of something. Likewise,
Lubotshka was continually at loggerheads with Mimi because the latter
wanted her to have her stays so tight that she could not breathe or eat
or drink in comfort, while Katenka, on the contrary, would often insert
her finger into her waistband to show how loose it was, and always ate
very little. Lubotshka liked to draw heads; Katenka only flowers and
butterflies. The former could play Field's concertos and Beethoven's
sonatas excellently, whereas the latter indulged in variations and
waltzes, retarded the time, and used the pedals continuously--not to
mention the fact that, before she began, she invariably struck three
chords in arpeggio.
Nevertheless, in those days I thought Katenka much the grander person of
the two, and liked her the best.
Papa had been in a particularly good humour ever since Woloda had passed
into the University, and came much oftener to dine with Grandmamma.
However, I knew from Nicola that he had won a great deal lately.
Occasionally, he would come and sit with us in the evening before going
to the club. He used to sit down to the piano and bid us group ourselves
around him, after which he would beat time with his thin boots (he
detested heels, and never wore them), and make us sing gipsy songs. At
such times you should have seen the quaint enthusiasm of his beloved
Lubotshka, who adored him!
Sometimes, again, he would come to the schoolroom and listen with a
grave face as I said my lessons; yet by the few words which he would let
drop when correcting me, I could see that he knew even less about the
subject than I did. Not infrequently, too, he would wink at us and make
secret signs when Grandmamma was beginning to scold us and find fault
with us all round. "So much for us children!" he would say. On
the whole, however, the impossible pinnacle upon which my childish
imagination had placed him had undergone a certain abasement. I still
kissed his large white hand with a certain feeling of love and respect,
but I also allowed myself to think about him and to criticise his
behaviour until involuntarily thoughts occurred to me which alarmed me
by their presence. Never shall I forget one incident in particular which
awakened thoughts of this kind, and caused me intense astonishment. Late
one evening, he entered the drawing-room in his black dress-coat and
white waistcoat, to take Woloda (who was still dressing in his bedroom)
to a ball. Grandmamma was also in her bedroom, but had given orders
that, before setting out, Woloda was to come and say goodbye to her (it
was her invariable custom to inspect him before he went to a ball, and
to bless him and direct him as to his behaviour). The room where we were
was lighted by a solitary lamp. Mimi and Katenka were walking up
and down, and Lubotshka was playing Field's Second Concerto (Mamma's
favourite piece) at the piano. Never was there such a family likeness as
between Mamma and my sister--not so much in the face or the stature as
in the hands, the walk, the voice, the favourite expressions, and,
above all, the way of playing the piano and the whole demeanour at the
instrument. Lubotshka always arranged her dress when sitting down just
as Mamma had done, as well as turned the leaves like her, tapped her
fingers angrily and said "Dear me!" whenever a difficult passage did not
go smoothly, and, in particular, played with the delicacy and exquisite
purity of touch which in those days caused the execution of Field's
music to be known characteristically as "jeu perle" and to lie beyond
comparison with the humbug of our modern virtuosi.
Papa entered the room with short, soft steps, and approached Lubotshka.
On seeing him she stopped playing.
"No, go on, Luba, go on," he said as he forced her to sit down again.
She went on playing, while Papa, his head on his hand, sat near her for
a while. Then suddenly he gave his shoulders a shrug, and, rising, began
to pace the room. Every time that he approached the piano he halted
for a moment and looked fixedly at Lubotshka. By his walk and his
every movement, I could see that he was greatly agitated. Once, when he
stopped behind Lubotshka, he kissed her black hair, and then, wheeling
quickly round, resumed his pacing. The piece finished, Lubotshka went up
to him and said, "Was it well played?" whereupon, without answering, he
took her head in his two hands, and kissed her forehead and eyes with
such tenderness as I had never before seen him display.
"Why, you are crying!" cried Lubotshka suddenly as she ceased to toy
with his watch-chain and stared at him with her great black eyes.
"Pardon me, darling Papa! I had quite forgotten that it was dear Mamma's
piece which I was playing."
"No, no, my love; play it often," he said in a voice trembling with
emotion. "Ah, if you only knew how much good it does me to share your
He kissed her again, and then, mastering his feelings and shrugging
his shoulders, went to the door leading to the corridor which ran past
"Waldemar, shall you be ready soon?" he cried, halting in the middle of
the passage. Just then Masha came along.
"Why, you look prettier every day," he said to her. She blushed and
"Waldemar, shall you be ready soon?" he cried again, with a cough and a
shake of his shoulders, just as Masha slipped away and he first caught
sight of me.
I loved Papa, but the intellect is independent of the heart, and often
gives birth to thoughts which offend and are harsh and incomprehensible
to the feelings. And it was thoughts of this kind that, for all I strove
to put them away, arose at that moment in my mind.
Grandmamma was growing weaker every day. Her bell, Gasha's grumbling
voice, and the slamming of doors in her room were sounds of constant
occurrence, and she no longer received us sitting in the Voltairian
arm-chair in her boudoir, but lying on the bed in her bedroom, supported
on lace-trimmed cushions. One day when she greeted us, I noticed a
yellowish-white swelling on her hand, and smelt the same oppressive
odour which I had smelt five years ago in Mamma's room. The doctor came
three times a day, and there had been more than one consultation. Yet
the character of her haughty, ceremonious bearing towards all who lived
with her, and particularly towards Papa, never changed in the least. She
went on emphasising certain words, raising her eyebrows, and saying "my
dear," just as she had always done.
Then for a few days we did not see her at all, and one morning St.
Jerome proposed to me that Woloda and I should take Katenka and
Lubotshka for a drive during the hours generally allotted to study.
Although I observed that the street was lined with straw under the
windows of Grandmamma's room, and that some men in blue stockings
[Undertaker's men.] were standing at our gate, the reason never dawned
upon me why we were being sent out at that unusual hour. Throughout
the drive Lubotshka and I were in that particularly merry mood when the
least trifle, the least word or movement, sets one off laughing.
A pedlar went trotting across the road with a tray, and we laughed.
Some ragged cabmen, brandishing their reins and driving at full speed,
overtook our sledge, and we laughed again. Next, Philip's whip got
caught in the side of the vehicle, and the way in which he said, "Bother
the thing!" as he drove to disentangle it almost killed us with mirth.
Mimi looked displeased, and said that only silly people laughed for
no reason at all, but Lubotshka--her face purple with suppressed
merriment--needed but to give me a sly glance, and we again burst out
into such Homeric laughter, when our eyes met, that the tears rushed
into them and we could not stop our paroxysms, although they nearly
choked us. Hardly, again, had we desisted a little when I looked at
Lubotshka once more, and gave vent to one of the slang words which we
then affected among ourselves--words which always called forth hilarity;
and in a moment we were laughing again.
Just as we reached home, I was opening my mouth to make a splendid
grimace at Lubotshka when my eye fell upon a black coffin-cover which
was leaning against the gate--and my mouth remained fixed in its gaping
"Your Grandmamma is dead," said St. Jerome as he met us. His face was
Throughout the whole time that Grandmamma's body was in the house I was
oppressed with the fear of death, for the corpse served as a forcible
and disagreeable reminder that I too must die some day--a feeling which
people often mistake for grief. I had no sincere regret for Grandmamma,
nor, I think, had any one else, since, although the house was full of
sympathising callers, nobody seemed to mourn for her from their hearts
except one mourner whose genuine grief made a great impression upon me,
seeing that the mourner in question was--Gasha! She shut herself up in
the garret, tore her hair and refused all consolation, saying that, now
that her mistress was dead, she only wished to die herself.
I again assert that, in matters of feeling, it is the unexpected effects
that constitute the most reliable signs of sincerity.
Though Grandmamma was no longer with us, reminiscences and gossip about
her long went on in the house. Such gossip referred mostly to her will,
which she had made shortly before her death, and of which, as yet, no
one knew the contents except her bosom friend, Prince Ivan Ivanovitch.
I could hear the servants talking excitedly together, and making
innumerable conjectures as to the amount left and the probable
beneficiaries: nor can I deny that the idea that we ourselves were
probably the latter greatly pleased me.
Six weeks later, Nicola--who acted as regular news-agent to the
house--informed me that Grandmamma had left the whole of her fortune to
Lubotshka, with, as her trustee until her majority, not Papa, but Prince
Only a few months remained before I was to matriculate for the
University, yet I was making such good progress that I felt no
apprehensions, and even took a pleasure in my studies. I kept in good
heart, and learnt my lessons fluently and intelligently. The faculty
I had selected was the mathematical one--probably, to tell the truth,
because the terms "tangent," "differentials," "integrals," and so forth,
pleased my fancy.
Though stout and broad-shouldered, I was shorter than Woloda, while my
ugliness of face still remained and tormented me as much as ever. By way
of compensation, I tried to appear original. Yet one thing comforted
me, namely, that Papa had said that I had "an INTELLIGENT face." I quite
St. Jerome was not only satisfied with me, but actually had taken to
praising me. Consequently, I had now ceased to hate him. In fact, when,
one day, he said that, with my "capacities" and my "intellect," it would
be shameful for me not to accomplish this, that, or the other thing, I
believe I almost liked him.
I had long ago given up keeping observation on the maidservants' room,
for I was now ashamed to hide behind doors. Likewise, I confess that
the knowledge of Masha's love for Basil had greatly cooled my ardour
for her, and that my passion underwent a final cure by their marriage--a
consummation to which I myself contributed by, at Basil's request,
asking Papa's consent to the union.
When the newly-married couple brought trays of cakes and sweetmeats to
Papa as a thank-offering, and Masha, in a cap with blue ribbons, kissed
each of us on the shoulder in token of her gratitude, I merely noticed
the scent of the rose pomade on her hair, but felt no other sensation.
In general, I was beginning to get the better of my youthful defects,
with the exception of the principal one--the one of which I shall often
again have to speak in relating my life's history--namely, the tendency
to abstract thought.
XXV. WOLODA'S FRIENDS
Although, when in the society of Woloda's friends, I had to play a part
that hurt my pride, I liked sitting in his room when he had visitors,
and silently watching all they did. The two who came most frequently
to see him were a military adjutant called Dubkoff and a student named
Prince Nechludoff. Dubkoff was a little dark-haired, highly-strung man
who, though short of stature and no longer in his first youth, had
a pleasing and invariably cheerful air. His was one of those limited
natures which are agreeable through their very limitations; natures
which cannot regard matters from every point of view, but which are
nevertheless attracted by everything. Usually the reasoning of such
persons is false and one-sided, yet always genuine and taking; wherefore
their narrow egotism seems both amiable and excusable. There were two
other reasons why Dubkoff had charms for Woloda and myself--namely,
the fact that he was of military appearance, and, secondly (and
principally), the fact that he was of a certain age--an age with which
young people are apt to associate that quality of "gentlemanliness"
which is so highly esteemed at their time of life. However, he was in
very truth un homme comme il faut. The only thing which I did not like
about it all was that, in his presence, Woloda always seemed ashamed
of my innocent behaviour, and still more so of my youthfulness. As for
Prince Nechludoff, he was in no way handsome, since neither his small
grey eyes, his low, projecting forehead, nor his disproportionately long
hands and feet could be called good features. The only good points about
him were his unusually tall stature, his delicate colouring, and
his splendid teeth. Nevertheless, his face was of such an original,
energetic character (owing to his narrow, sparkling eyes and
ever-changing expression--now stern, now childlike, now smiling
indeterminately) that it was impossible to help noticing it. As a rule
he was very shy, and would blush to the ears at the smallest trifle, but
it was a shyness altogether different from mine, seeing that, the more
he blushed, the more determined-looking he grew, as though he were vexed
at his own weakness.
Although he was on very good terms with Woloda and Dubkoff, it was
clearly chance which had united them thus, since their tastes were
entirely dissimilar. Woloda and Dubkoff seemed to be afraid of anything
like serious consideration or emotion, whereas Nechludoff was beyond all
things an enthusiast, and would often, despite their sarcastic remarks,
plunge into dissertations on philosophical matters or matters of
feeling. Again, the two former liked talking about the fair objects of
their adoration (these were always numerous, and always shared by the
friends in common), whereas Nechludoff invariably grew annoyed when
taxed with his love for a certain red-haired lady.
Again, Woloda and Dubkoff often permitted themselves to criticise their
relatives, and to find amusement in so doing, but Nechludoff flew into
a tremendous rage when on one occasion they referred to some weak points
in the character of an aunt of his whom he adored. Finally, after supper
Woloda and Dubkoff would usually go off to some place whither Nechludoff
would not accompany them; wherefore they called him "a dainty girl."
The very first time that I ever saw Prince Nechludoff I was struck
with his exterior and conversation. Yet, though I could discern a great
similarity between his disposition and my own (or perhaps it was because
I COULD so discern it), the impression which he produced upon me at
first was anything but agreeable. I liked neither his quick glance, his
hard voice, his proud bearing, nor (least of all) the utter indifference
with which he treated me. Often, when conversing, I burned to contradict
him, to punish his pride by confuting him, to show him that I was clever
in spite of his disdainful neglect of my presence. But I was invariably
prevented from doing so by my shyness.
Woloda was lying reading a French novel on the sofa when I paid my usual
visit to his room after my evening lessons. He looked up at me for a
moment from his book, and then went on reading. This perfectly simple
and natural movement, however, offended me. I conceived that the glance
implied a question why I had come and a wish to hide his thoughts from
me (I may say that at that period a tendency to attach a meaning to the
most insignificant of acts formed a prominent feature in my character).
So I went to the table and also took up a book to read. Yet, even before
I had actually begun reading, the idea struck me how ridiculous it was
that, although we had never seen one another all day, we should have not
a word to exchange.
"Are you going to stay in to-night, Woloda?"
"I don't know. Why?"
"Oh, because--" Seeing that the conversation did not promise to be
a success, I took up my book again, and began to read. Yet it was a
strange thing that, though we sometimes passed whole hours together
without speaking when we were alone, the mere presence of a
third--sometimes of a taciturn and wholly uninteresting person--sufficed
to plunge us into the most varied and engrossing of discussions. The
truth was that we knew one another too well, and to know a person either
too well or too little acts as a bar to intimacy.
"Is Woloda at home?" came in Dubkoff's voice from the ante-room.
"Yes!" shouted Woloda, springing up and throwing aside his book.
Dubkoff and Nechludoff entered.
"Are you coming to the theatre, Woloda?"
"No, I have no time," he replied with a blush.
"Oh, never mind that. Come along."
"But I haven't got a ticket."
"Tickets, as many as you like, at the entrance."
"Very well, then; I'll be back in a minute," said Woloda evasively as
he left the room. I knew very well that he wanted to go, but that he
had declined because he had no money, and had now gone to borrow five
roubles of one of the servants--to be repaid when he got his next
"How do you do, DIPLOMAT?" said Dubkoff to me as he shook me by the
hand. Woloda's friends had called me by that nickname since the day when
Grandmamma had said at luncheon that Woloda must go into the army, but
that she would like to see me in the diplomatic service, dressed in a
black frock-coat, and with my hair arranged a la coq (the two essential
requirements, in her opinion, of a DIPLOMAT).
"Where has Woloda gone to?" asked Nechludoff.
"I don't know," I replied, blushing to think that nevertheless they had
probably guessed his errand.
"I suppose he has no money? Yes, I can see I am right, O diplomatist,"
he added, taking my smile as an answer in the affirmative. "Well, I have
none, either. Have you any, Dubkoff?"
"I'll see," replied Dubkoff, feeling for his pocket, and rummaging
gingerly about with his squat little fingers among his small change.
"Yes, here are five copecks-twenty, but that's all," he concluded with a
comic gesture of his hand.
At this point Woloda re-entered.
"Are we going?"
"What an odd fellow you are!" said Nechludoff. "Why don't you say that
you have no money? Here, take my ticket."
"But what are you going to do?"
"He can go into his cousin's box," said Dubkoff.
"No, I'm not going at all," replied Nechludoff.
"Because I hate sitting in a box."
"And for what reason?"
"I don't know. Somehow I feel uncomfortable there."
"Always the same! I can't understand a fellow feeling uncomfortable
when he is sitting with people who are fond of him. It is unnatural, mon
"But what else is there to be done si je suis tant timide? You never
blushed in your life, but I do at the least trifle," and he blushed at
"Do you know what that nervousness of yours proceeds from?" said Dubkoff
in a protecting sort of tone, "D'un exces d'amour propre, mon cher."
"What do you mean by 'exces d'amour propre'?" asked Nechludoff, highly
offended. "On the contrary, I am shy just because I have TOO LITTLE
amour propre. I always feel as though I were being tiresome and
disagreeable, and therefore--"
"Well, get ready, Woloda," interrupted Dubkoff, tapping my brother on
the shoulder and handing him his cloak. "Ignaz, get your master ready."
"Therefore," continued Nechludoff, "it often happens with me that--"
But Dubkoff was not listening. "Tra-la-la-la," and he hummed a popular
"Oh, but I'm not going to let you off," went on Nechludoff. "I mean to
prove to you that my shyness is not the result of conceit."
"You can prove it as we go along."
"But I have told you that I am NOT going."
"Well, then, stay here and prove it to the DIPLOMAT, and he can tell us
all about it when we return."
"Yes, that's what I WILL do," said Nechludoff with boyish obstinacy, "so
hurry up with your return."
"Well, do you think I am egotistic?" he continued, seating himself
True, I had a definite opinion on the subject, but I felt so taken aback
by this unexpected question that at first I could make no reply.
"Yes, I DO think so," I said at length in a faltering voice, and
colouring at the thought that at last the moment had come when I could
show him that I was clever. "I think that EVERYBODY is egotistic, and
that everything we do is done out of egotism."
"But what do you call egotism?" asked Nechludoff--smiling, as I thought,
a little contemptuously.
"Egotism is a conviction that we are better and cleverer than any one
else," I replied.
"But how can we ALL be filled with this conviction?" he inquired.
"Well, I don't know if I am right or not--certainly no one but myself
seems to hold the opinion--but I believe that I am wiser than any one
else in the world, and that all of you know it."
"At least I can say for myself," observed Nechludoff, "that I have met a
FEW people whom I believe to excel me in wisdom."
"It is impossible," I replied with conviction.
"Do you really think so?" he said, looking at me gravely.
"Yes, really," I answered, and an idea crossed my mind which I proceeded
to expound further. "Let me prove it to you. Why do we love ourselves
better than any one else? Because we think ourselves BETTER than any
one else--more worthy of our own love. If we THOUGHT others better than
ourselves, we should LOVE them better than ourselves: but that is never
the case. And even if it were so, I should still be right," I added with
an involuntary smile of complacency.
For a few minutes Nechludoff was silent.
"I never thought you were so clever," he said with a smile so
goodhumoured and charming that I at once felt happy.
Praise exercises an all-potent influence, not only upon the feelings,
but also upon the intellect; so that under the influence of that
agreeable sensation I straightway felt much cleverer than before, and
thoughts began to rush with extraordinary rapidity through my head.
From egotism we passed insensibly to the theme of love, which seemed
inexhaustible. Although our reasonings might have sounded nonsensical to
a listener (so vague and one-sided were they), for ourselves they had a
profound significance. Our minds were so perfectly in harmony that not a
chord was struck in the one without awakening an echo in the other, and
in this harmonious striking of different chords we found the greatest
delight. Indeed, we felt as though time and language were insufficient
to express the thoughts which seethed within us.
XXVII. THE BEGINNING OF OUR FRIENDSHIP
From that time forth, a strange, but exceedingly pleasant, relation
subsisted between Dimitri Nechludoff and myself. Before other people he
paid me scanty attention, but as soon as ever we were alone, we would
sit down together in some comfortable corner and, forgetful both of time
and of everything around us, fall to reasoning.
We talked of a future life, of art, service, marriage, and education;
nor did the idea ever occur to us that very possibly all we said was
shocking nonsense. The reason why it never occurred to us was that the
nonsense which we talked was good, sensible nonsense, and that, so long
as one is young, one can appreciate good nonsense, and believe in it. In
youth the powers of the mind are directed wholly to the future, and
that future assumes such various, vivid, and alluring forms under the
influence of hope--hope based, not upon the experience of the past, but
upon an assumed possibility of happiness to come--that such dreams of
expected felicity constitute in themselves the true happiness of that
period of our life. How I loved those moments in our metaphysical
discussions (discussions which formed the major portion of our
intercourse) when thoughts came thronging faster and faster, and,
succeeding one another at lightning speed, and growing more and more
abstract, at length attained such a pitch of elevation that one felt
powerless to express them, and said something quite different from what
one had intended at first to say! How I liked those moments, too, when,
carried higher and higher into the realms of thought, we suddenly felt
that we could grasp its substance no longer and go no further!
At carnival time Nechludoff was so much taken up with one festivity and
another that, though he came to see us several times a day, he never
addressed a single word to me. This offended me so much that once again
I found myself thinking him a haughty, disagreeable fellow, and only
awaited an opportunity to show him that I no longer valued his company
or felt any particular affection for him. Accordingly, the first time
that he spoke to me after the carnival, I said that I had lessons to do,
and went upstairs, but a quarter of an hour later some one opened the
schoolroom door, and Nechludoff entered.
"Am I disturbing you?" he asked.
"No," I replied, although I had at first intended to say that I had a
great deal to do.
"Then why did you run away just now? It is a long while since we had a
talk together, and I have grown so accustomed to these discussions that
I feel as though something were wanting."
My anger had quite gone now, and Dimitri stood before me the same good
and lovable being as before.
"You know, perhaps, why I ran away?" I said.
"Perhaps I do," he answered, taking a seat near me. "However, though it
is possible I know why, I cannot say it straight out, whereas YOU can."
"Then I will do so. I ran away because I was angry with you--well, not
angry, but grieved. I always have an idea that you despise me for being
"Well, do you know why I always feel so attracted towards you?" he
replied, meeting my confession with a look of kind understanding, "and
why I like you better than any of my other acquaintances or than any of
the people among whom I mostly have to live? It is because I found out
at once that you have the rare and astonishing gift of sincerity."
"Yes, I always confess the things of which I am most ashamed--but only
to people in whom I trust," I said.
"Ah, but to trust a man you must be his friend completely, and we
are not friends yet, Nicolas. Remember how, when we were speaking of
friendship, we agreed that, to be real friends, we ought to trust one
"I trust you in so far as that I feel convinced that you would never
repeat a word of what I might tell you," I said.
"Yet perhaps the most interesting and important thoughts of all are
just those which we never tell one another, while the mean thoughts
(the thoughts which, if we only knew that we had to confess them to
one another, would probably never have the hardihood to enter our
minds)--Well, do you know what I am thinking of, Nicolas?" he broke off,
rising and taking my hand with a smile. "I propose (and I feel sure
that it would benefit us mutually) that we should pledge our word to one
another to tell each other EVERYTHING. We should then really know each
other, and never have anything on our consciences. And, to guard against
outsiders, let us also agree never to speak of one another to a third
person. Suppose we do that?"
"I agree," I replied. And we did it. What the result was shall be told
Kerr has said that every attachment has two sides: one loves, and the
other allows himself to be loved; one kisses, and the other surrenders
his cheek. That is perfectly true. In the case of our own attachment it
was I who kissed, and Dimitri who surrendered his cheek--though he, in
his turn, was ready to pay me a similar salute. We loved equally because
we knew and appreciated each other thoroughly, but this did not prevent
him from exercising an influence over me, nor myself from rendering him
It will readily be understood that Nechludoff's influence caused me
to adopt his bent of mind, the essence of which lay in an enthusiastic
reverence for ideal virtue and a firm belief in man's vocation to
perpetual perfection. To raise mankind, to abolish vice and misery,
seemed at that time a task offering no difficulties. To educate oneself
to every virtue, and so to achieve happiness, seemed a simple and easy
Only God Himself knows whether those blessed dreams of youth were
ridiculous, or whose the fault was that they never became realised.