by Leo Tolstoy
Translated by CJ Hogarth
I. A SLOW JOURNEY
I. A SLOW
III. A NEW POINT
IV. IN MOSCOW
V. MY ELDER
VII. SMALL SHOT
X. CONCLUSION OF
XI. ONE MARK
XII. THE KEY
XVI. "KEEP ON
XXI. KATENKA AND
BEGINNING OF OUR
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 courtyard.
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
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 heart.
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
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
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 eyes again!
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
"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 so forth.
"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
"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 the job."
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 and drink.
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
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
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 every moment.
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
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
"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
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 it is?"
"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
"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 Grandmamma downstairs."
"But Mamma says that your Grandmamma is so very grave and so
easily made angry?"
"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
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 to me?"
"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 further acquaintance."
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 day.
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 immensely relieved.
"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
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 come now?"
"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 me.
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
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
"It wouldn't have broken my heart if you had!" muttered the woman
in an undertone.
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 watch-key.
"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
"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,"
"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 their lessons?"
"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
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
"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 Soldat.'
"'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
"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 fount zem.
"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 tranquil feeling.
"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, 'lch
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
"'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
"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
"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 maitre again.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 said nothing.
"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
"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 belonged to.
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 cheerful.
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 following:
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
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 himself.
Five minutes later the door of the store-room closed behind me.
"Basil," said a triumphant but detestable voice, "bring me the
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
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 ever lost.
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 store-room!
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, pitiful creature.
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 Mamma.
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
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
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
"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
"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 nothing.
"Where are you going to?" asked a well-known voice. "I want you,
I would have passed on, but Papa caught hold of me, and said
"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
"Yes, I WAS naughty," I said. "I don't know myself what came over
"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
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
"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 should-he-tor-ment me?"
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 grief.
"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
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 unwell.
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
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
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
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
"Ah, Basil! AGAIN?" cried Masha on one occasion as she stuck her
needle into the pincushion, but without looking up at the person who
"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,
"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
"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 greatly incensed.
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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 knowledge.
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
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
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 champagne.
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
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 it 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
"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
He kissed her again, and then, mastering his feelings and
shrugging his shoulders, went to the door leading to the corridor
which ran past Woloda's room.
"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 passed on.
"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
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
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
"Your Grandmamma is dead," said St. Jerome as he met us. His face
was very pale.
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 Ivan Ivanovitch!
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 believed him.
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
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 cher."
"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 that moment.
"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
"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
"Therefore," continued Nechludoff, it often happens with me
But Dubkoff was not listening. "Tra-la-la-la," and he hummed a
"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
"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 so young."
"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
"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
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 adoration.
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 matter.
Only God Himself knows whether those blessed dreams of youth were
ridiculous, or whose the fault was that they never became realised.