The Watch by Ivan Turgenev
Translated From The Russian By Constance Garnett
AN OLD MAN'S STORY
I will tell you my adventures with a watch. It is a curious story.
It happened at the very beginning of this century, in 1801. I had
just reached my sixteenth year. I was living at Ryazan in a little
wooden house not far from the bank of the river Oka with my father, my
aunt and my cousin; my mother I do not remember; she died three years
after her marriage; my father had no other children. His name was
Porfiry Petrovitch. He was a quiet man, sickly and unattractive in
appearance; he was employed in some sort of legal and—other—business.
In old days such were called attorneys, sharpers, nettle-seeds; he
called himself a lawyer. Our domestic life was presided over by his
sister, my aunt, an old maiden lady of fifty; my father, too, had
passed his fourth decade. My aunt was very pious, or, to speak bluntly,
she was a canting hypocrite and a chattering magpie, who poked her nose
into everything; and, indeed, she had not a kind heart like my father.
We were not badly off, but had nothing to spare. My father had a
brother called Yegor; but he had been sent to Siberia in the year 1797
for some “seditious acts and Jacobin tendencies” (those were the words
of the accusation).
Yegor's son David, my cousin, was left on my father's hands and lived
with us. He was only one year older than I; but I respected him and
obeyed him as though he were quite grown up. He was a sensible fellow
with character; in appearance, thick-set and broad-shouldered with a
square face covered with freckles, with red hair, small grey eyes,
thick lips, a short nose, and short fingers—a sturdy lad, in fact—and
strong for his age! My aunt could not endure him; my father was
positively afraid of him ... or perhaps he felt himself to blame
towards him. There was a rumour that, if my father had not given his
brother away, David's father would not have been sent to Siberia. We
were both at the high school and in the same class and both fairly high
up in it; I was, indeed, a little better at my lessons than David. I
had a good memory but boys—as we all know!—do not think much of such
superiority, and David remained my leader.
My name—you know—is Alexey. I was born on the seventh of March and
my name-day is the seventeenth. In accordance with the old-fashioned
custom, I was given the name of the saint whose festival fell on the
tenth day after my birth. My godfather was a certain Anastasy
Anastasyevitch Putchkov, or more exactly Nastasey Nastasyeitch, for
that was what everyone called him. He was a terribly shifty,
pettifogging knave and bribe-taker—a thoroughly bad man; he had been
turned out of the provincial treasury and had had to stand his trial on
more than one occasion; he was often of use to my father.... They used
to “do business” together. In appearance he was a round, podgy figure;
and his face was like a fox's with a nose like an owl's. His eyes were
brown, bright, also like a fox's, and he was always moving them, those
eyes, to right and to left, and he twitched his nose, too, as though he
were sniffing the air. He wore shoes without heels, and wore powder
every day, which was looked upon as very exceptional in the provinces.
He used to declare that he could not go without powder as he had to
associate with generals and their ladies. Well, my name-day had come.
Nastasey Nastasyeitch came to the house and said:
“I have never made you a present up to now, godson, but to make up
for that, look what a fine thing I have brought you to-day.”
And he took out of his pocket a silver watch, a regular turnip, with
a rose tree engraved on the face and a brass chain. I was overwhelmed
with delight, while my aunt, Pelageya Petrovna, shouted at the top of
“Kiss his hand, kiss his hand, dirty brat!”
I proceeded to kiss my godfather's hand, while my aunt went piping
“Oh, Nastasey Nastasyeitch! Why do you spoil him like this? How can
he take care of a watch? He will be sure to drop it, break it, or spoil
My father walked in, looked at the watch, thanked Nastasey
Nastasyeitch—somewhat carelessly, and invited him to his study. And I
heard my father say, as though to himself:
“If you think to get off with that, my man....” But I could
not stay still. I put on the watch and rushed headlong to show my
present to David.
David took the watch, opened it and examined it attentively. He had
great mechanical ability; he liked having to do with iron, copper, and
metals of all sorts; he had provided himself with various instruments,
and it was nothing for him to mend or even to make a screw, a key or
anything of that kind.
David turned the watch about in his hands and muttering through his
teeth (he was not talkative as a rule):
“Oh ... poor ...” added, “where did you get it?”
I told him that my godfather had given it me.
David turned his little grey eyes upon me:
“Yes, Nastasey Nastasyeitch.”
David laid the watch on the table and walked away without a word.
“Do you like it?” I asked.
“Well, it isn't that.... But if I were you, I would not take any sort
of present from Nastasey.”
“Because he is a contemptible person; and you ought not to be under
an obligation to a contemptible person. And to say thank you to him,
too. I suppose you kissed his hand?”
“Yes, Aunt made me.”
David grinned—a peculiar grin—to himself. That was his way. He
never laughed aloud; he considered laughter a sign of feebleness.
David's words, his silent grin, wounded me deeply. “So he inwardly
despises me,” I thought. “So I, too, am contemptible in his eyes. He
would never have stooped to this himself! He would not have accepted
presents from Nastasey. But what am I to do now?”
Give back the watch? Impossible!
I did try to talk to David, to ask his advice. He told me that he
never gave advice to anyone and that I had better do as I thought best.
As I thought best!! I remember I did not sleep all night afterwards: I
was in agonies of indecision. I was sorry to lose the watch—I had laid
it on the little table beside my bed; its ticking was so pleasant and
amusing ... but to feel that David despised me (yes, it was useless to
deceive myself, he did despise me) ... that seemed to me unbearable.
Towards morning a determination had taken shape in me ... I wept, it is
true—but I fell asleep upon it, and as soon as I woke up, I dressed in
haste and ran out into the street. I had made up my mind to give my
watch to the first poor person I met.
I had not run far from home when I hit upon what I was looking for. I
came across a barelegged boy of ten, a ragged urchin, who was often
hanging about near our house. I dashed up to him at once and, without
giving him or myself time to recover, offered him my watch.
The boy stared at me round-eyed, put one hand before his mouth, as
though he were afraid of being scalded—and held out the other.
“Take it, take it,” I muttered, “it's mine, I give it you, you can
sell it, and buy yourself ... something you want.... Good-bye.”
I thrust the watch into his hand—and went home at a gallop. Stopping
for a moment at the door of our common bedroom to recover my breath, I
went up to David who had just finished dressing and was combing his
“Do you know what, David?” I said in as unconcerned a tone as I
could, “I have given away Nastasey's watch.”
David looked at me and passed the brush over his temples.
“Yes,” I added in the same businesslike voice, “I have given it away.
There is a very poor boy, a beggar, you know, so I have given it to
David put down the brush on the washing-stand.
“He can buy something useful,” I went on, “with the money he can get
for it. Anyway, he will get something for it.”
“Well,” David said at last, “that's a good thing,” and he went off to
the schoolroom. I followed him.
“And if they ask you what you have done with it?” he said, turning to
“I shall tell them I've lost it,” I answered carelessly.
No more was said about the watch between us that day; but I had the
feeling that David not only approved of what I had done but ... was to
some extent surprised by it. He really was!
Two days more passed. It happened that no one in the house thought of
the watch. My father was taken up with a very serious unpleasantness
with one of his clients; he had no attention to spare for me or my
watch. I, on the other hand, thought of it without ceasing! Even the
approval ... the presumed approval of David did not quite comfort me.
He did not show it in any special way: the only thing he said, and that
casually, was that he hadn't expected such recklessness of me.
Certainly I was a loser by my sacrifice: it was not counter-balanced by
the gratification afforded me by my vanity.
And what is more, as ill-luck would have it, another schoolfellow of
ours, the son of the town doctor, must needs turn up and begin boasting
of a new watch, a present from his grandmother, and not even a silver,
but a pinch-back one....
I could not bear it, at last, and, without a word to anyone, slipped
out of the house and proceeded to hunt for the beggar boy to whom I had
given my watch.
I soon found him; he was playing knucklebones in the churchyard with
some other boys.
I called him aside—and, breathless and stammering, told him that my
family were angry with me for having given away the watch—and that if
he would consent to give it back to me I would gladly pay him for
it.... To be ready for any emergency, I had brought with me an
old-fashioned rouble of the reign of Elizabeth, which represented the
whole of my fortune.
“But I haven't got it, your watch,” answered the boy in an angry and
tearful voice; “my father saw it and took it away from me; and he was
for thrashing me, too. 'You must have stolen it from somewhere,' he
said. 'What fool is going to make you a present of a watch?'“
“And who is your father?”
“My father? Trofimitch.”
“But what is he? What's his trade?”
“He is an old soldier, a sergeant. And he has no trade at all. He
mends old shoes, he re-soles them. That's all his trade. That's what he
“Where do you live? Take me to him.”
“To be sure I will. You tell my father that you gave me the watch.
For he keeps pitching into me, and calling me a thief! And my mother,
too. 'Who is it you are taking after,' she says, 'to be a thief?'“
I set off with the boy to his home. They lived in a smoky hut in the
back-yard of a factory, which had long ago been burnt down and not
rebuilt. We found both Trofimitch and his wife at home. The discharged
sergeant was a tall old man, erect and sinewy, with yellowish grey
whiskers, an unshaven chin and a perfect network of wrinkles on his
cheeks and forehead. His wife looked older than he. Her red eyes, which
looked buried in her unhealthily puffy face, kept blinking dejectedly.
Some sort of dark rags hung about them by way of clothes.
I explained to Trofimitch what I wanted and why I had come. He
listened to me in silence without once winking or moving from me his
stupid and strained—typically soldierly—eyes.
“Whims and fancies!” he brought out at last in a husky, toothless
bass. “Is that the way gentlemen behave? And if Petka really did not
steal the watch—then I'll give him one for that! To teach him not to
play the fool with little gentlemen! And if he did steal it, then I
would give it to him in a very different style, whack, whack, whack!
With the flat of a sword; in horseguard's fashion! No need to think
twice about it! What's the meaning of it? Eh? Go for them with sabres!
Here's a nice business! Tfoo!”
This last interjection Trofimitch pronounced in a falsetto. He was
“If you are willing to restore the watch to me,” I explained to
him—I did not dare to address him familiarly in spite of his being a
soldier—“I will with pleasure pay you this rouble here. The watch is
not worth more, I imagine.”
“Well!” growled Trofimitch, still amazed and, from old habit,
devouring me with his eyes as though I were his superior officer. “It's
a queer business, eh? Well, there it is, no understanding it. Ulyana,
hold your tongue!” he snapped out at his wife who was opening her
mouth. “Here's the watch,” he added, opening the table drawer; “if it
really is yours, take it by all means; but what's the rouble for? Eh?”
“Take the rouble, Trofimitch, you senseless man,” wailed his wife.
“You have gone crazy in your old age! We have not a half-rouble between
us, and then you stand on your dignity! It was no good their cutting
off your pigtail, you are a regular old woman just the same! How can
you go on like that—when you know nothing about it? ... Take the
money, if you have a fancy to give back the watch!”
“Ulyana, hold your tongue, you dirty slut!” Trofimitch repeated.
“Whoever heard of such a thing, talking away? Eh? The husband is the
head; and yet she talks! Petka, don't budge, I'll kill you.... Here's
Trofimitch held out the watch to me, but did not let go of it.
He pondered, looked down, then fixed the same intent, stupid stare
upon me. Then all at once bawled at the top of his voice:
“Where is it? Where's your rouble?”
“Here it is, here it is,” I responded hurriedly and I snatched the
coin out of my pocket.
But he did not take it, he still stared at me. I laid the rouble on
the table. He suddenly brushed it into the drawer, thrust the watch
into my hand and wheeling to the left with a loud stamp, he hissed at
his wife and his son:
“Get along, you low wretches!”
Ulyana muttered something, but I had already dashed out into the yard
and into the street. Thrusting the watch to the very bottom of my
pocket and clutching it tightly in my hand, I hurried home.
I had regained the possession of my watch but it afforded me no
satisfaction whatever. I did not venture to wear it, it was above all
necessary to conceal from David what I had done. What would he think of
me, of my lack of will? I could not even lock up the luckless watch in
a drawer: we had all our drawers in common. I had to hide it, sometimes
on the top of the cupboard, sometimes under my mattress, sometimes
behind the stove.... And yet I did not succeed in hoodwinking David.
One day I took the watch from under a plank in the floor of our room
and proceeded to rub the silver case with an old chamois leather glove.
David had gone off somewhere in the town; I did not at all expect him
to be back quickly.... Suddenly he was in the doorway.
I was so overcome that I almost dropped the watch, and, utterly
disconcerted, my face painfully flushing crimson, I fell to fumbling
about my waistcoat with it, unable to find my pocket.
David looked at me and, as usual, smiled without speaking.
“What's the matter?” he brought out at last. “You imagined I didn't
know you had your watch again? I saw it the very day you brought it
“I assure you,” I began, almost on the point of tears....
David shrugged his shoulders.
“The watch is yours, you are free to do what you like with it.”
Saying these cruel words, he went out.
I was overwhelmed with despair. This time there could be no doubt!
David certainly despised me.
I could not leave it so.
“I will show him,” I thought, clenching my teeth, and at once with a
firm step I went into the passage, found our page-boy, Yushka, and
presented him with the watch!
Yushka would have refused it, but I declared that if he did not take
the watch from me I would smash it that very minute, trample it under
foot, break it to bits and throw it in the cesspool! He thought a
moment, giggled, and took the watch. I went back to our room and seeing
David reading there, I told him what I had done.
David did not take his eyes off the page and, again shrugging his
shoulder and smiling to himself, repeated that the watch was mine and
that I was free to do what I liked with it.
But it seemed to me that he already despised me a little less.
I was fully persuaded that I should never again expose myself to the
reproach of weakness of character, for the watch, the disgusting
present from my disgusting godfather, had suddenly grown so distasteful
to me that I was quite incapable of understanding how I could have
regretted it, how I could have begged for it back from the wretched
Trofimitch, who had, moreover, the right to think that he had treated
me with generosity.
Several days passed.... I remember that on one of them the great news
reached our town that the Emperor Paul was dead and his son Alexandr,
of whose graciousness and humanity there were such favourable rumours,
had ascended the throne. This news excited David intensely: the
possibility of seeing—of shortly seeing—his father occurred to him at
once. My father was delighted, too.
“They will bring back all the exiles from Siberia now and I expect
brother Yegor will not be forgotten,” he kept repeating, rubbing his
hands, coughing and, at the same time, seeming rather nervous.
David and I at once gave up working and going to the high school; we
did not even go for walks but sat in a corner counting and reckoning in
how many months, in how many weeks, in how many days “brother Yegor"
ought to come back and where to write to him and how to go to meet him
and in what way we should begin to live afterwards. “Brother Yegor” was
an architect: David and I decided that he ought to settle in Moscow and
there build big schools for poor people and we would go to be his
assistants. The watch, of course, we had completely forgotten; besides,
David had new cares.... Of them I will speak later, but the watch was
destined to remind us of its existence again.
One morning we had only just finished lunch—I was sitting alone by
the window thinking of my uncle's release—outside there was the steam
and glitter of an April thaw—when all at once my aunt, Pelageya
Petrovna, walked into the room. She was at all times restless and
fidgetty, she spoke in a shrill voice and was always waving her arms
about; on this occasion she simply pounced on me.
“Go along, go to your father at once, sir!” she snapped out. “What
pranks have you been up to, you shameless boy! You will catch it, both
of you. Nastasey Nastasyeitch has shown up all your tricks! Go along,
your father wants you.... Go along this very minute.”
Understanding nothing, I followed my aunt, and, as I crossed the
threshold of the drawing-room, I saw my father, striding up and down
and ruffling up his hair, Yushka in tears by the door and, sitting on a
chair in the corner, my godfather, Nastasey Nastasyeitch, with an
expression of peculiar malignancy in his distended nostrils and in his
fiery, slanting eyes.
My father swooped down upon me as soon as I walked in.
“Did you give your watch to Yushka? Tell me!”
I glanced at Yushka.
“Tell me,” repeated my father, stamping.
“Yes,” I answered, and immediately received a stinging slap in the
face, which afforded my aunt great satisfaction. I heard her gulp, as
though she had swallowed some hot tea. From me my father ran to Yushka.
“And you, you rascal, ought not to have dared to accept such a
present,” he said, pulling him by the hair: “and you sold it, too, you
Yushka, as I learned later had, in the simplicity of his heart, taken
my watch to a neighbouring watchmaker's. The watchmaker had displayed
it in his shop-window; Nastasey Nastasyeitch had seen it, as he passed
by, bought it and brought it along with him.
However, my ordeal and Yushka's did not last long: my father gasped
for breath, and coughed till he choked; indeed, it was not in his
character to be angry long.
“Brother, Porfiry Petrovitch,” observed my aunt, as soon as she
noticed not without regret that my father's anger had, so to speak,
flickered out, “don't you worry yourself further: it's not worth
dirtying your hands over. I tell you what I suggest: with the consent
of our honoured friend, Nastasey Nastasyeitch, in consideration of the
base ingratitude of your son—I will take charge of the watch; and
since he has shown by his conduct that he is not worthy to wear it and
does not even understand its value, I will present it in your name to a
person who will be very sensible of your kindness.”
“Whom do you mean?” asked my father.
“To Hrisanf Lukitch,” my aunt articulated, with slight hesitation.
“To Hrisashka?” asked my father, and with a wave of his hand, he
added: “It's all one to me. You can throw it in the stove, if you
He buttoned up his open vest and went out, writhing from his
“And you, my good friend, do you agree?” said my aunt, addressing
“I am quite agreeable,” responded the latter. During the whole
proceedings he had not stirred and only snorting stealthily and
stealthily rubbing the ends of his fingers, had fixed his foxy eyes by
turns on me, on my father, and on Yushka. We afforded him real
My aunt's suggestion revolted me to the depths of my soul. It was not
that I regretted the watch; but the person to whom she proposed to
present it was absolutely hateful to me. This Hrisanf Lukitch (his
surname was Trankvillitatin), a stalwart, robust, lanky divinity
student, was in the habit of coming to our house—goodness knows what
for!—to help the children with their lessons, my aunt asserted;
but he could not help us with our lessons because he had never learnt
anything himself and was as stupid as a horse. He was rather like a
horse altogether: he thudded with his feet as though they had been
hoofs, did not laugh but neighed, opening his jaws till you could see
right down his throat—and he had a long face, a hooked nose and big,
flat jaw-bones; he wore a shaggy frieze, full-skirted coat, and smelt
of raw meat. My aunt idolised him and called him a good-looking man, a
cavalier and even a grenadier. He had a habit of tapping children on
the forehead with the nails of his long fingers, hard as stones (he
used to do it to me when I was younger), and as he tapped he would
chuckle and say with surprise: “How your head resounds, it must be
empty.” And this lout was to possess my watch!—No, indeed, I
determined in my own mind as I ran out of the drawing-room and flung
myself on my bed, while my cheek glowed crimson from the slap I had
received and my heart, too, was aglow with the bitterness of the insult
and the thirst for revenge—no, indeed! I would not allow that cursed
Hrisashka to jeer at me.... He would put on the watch, let the chain
hang over his stomach, would neigh with delight; no, indeed!
“Quite so, but how was it to be done, how to prevent it?”
I determined to steal the watch from my aunt.
Luckily Trankvillitatin was away from the town at the time: he could
not come to us before the next day; I must take advantage of the night!
My aunt did not lock her bedroom door and, indeed, none of the keys in
the house would turn in the locks; but where would she put the watch,
where would she hide it? She kept it in her pocket till the evening and
even took it out and looked at it more than once; but at night—where
would it be at night?—Well, that was just my work to find out, I
thought, shaking my fists.
I was burning with boldness and terror and joy at the thought of the
approaching crime. I was continually nodding to myself; I knitted my
brows. I whispered: “Wait a bit!” I threatened someone, I was wicked, I
was dangerous ... and I avoided David!—no one, not even he, must have
the slightest suspicion of what I meant to do....
I would act alone and alone I would answer for it!
Slowly the day lagged by, then the evening, at last the night came. I
did nothing; I even tried not to move: one thought was stuck in my head
like a nail. At dinner my father, who was, as I have said, naturally
gentle, and who was a little ashamed of his harshness—boys of sixteen
are not slapped in the face—tried to be affectionate to me; but I
rejected his overtures, not from slowness to forgive, as he imagined at
the time, but simply that I was afraid of my feelings getting the
better of me; I wanted to preserve untouched all the heat of my
vengeance, all the hardness of unalterable determination. I went to bed
very early; but of course I did not sleep and did not even shut my
eyes, but on the contrary opened them wide, though I did pull the quilt
over my head. I did not consider beforehand how to act. I had no plan
of any kind; I only waited till everything should be quiet in the
house. I only took one step: I did not remove my stockings. My aunt's
room was on the second floor. One had to pass through the dining-room
and the hall, go up the stairs, pass along a little passage and there
... on the right was the door! I must not on any account take with me a
candle or a lantern; in the corner of my aunt's room a little lamp was
always burning before the ikon shrine; I knew that. So I should be able
to see. I still lay with staring eyes and my mouth open and parched;
the blood was throbbing in my temples, in my ears, in my throat, in my
back, all over me! I waited ... but it seemed as though some demon were
mocking me; time passed and passed but still silence did not reign.
Never, I thought, had David been so late getting to sleep.... David,
the silent David, even began talking to me! Never had they gone on so
long banging, talking, walking about the house! And what could they be
talking about? I wondered; as though they had not had the whole day to
talk in! Sounds outside persisted, too; first a dog barked on a shrill,
obstinate note; then a drunken peasant was making an uproar somewhere
and would not be pacified; then gates kept creaking; then a wretched
cart on racketty wheels kept passing and passing and seeming as though
it would never pass! However, these sounds did not worry me: on the
contrary, I was glad of them; they seemed to distract my attention. But
now at last it seemed as though all were tranquil. Only the pendulum of
our old clock ticked gravely and drowsily in the dining-room and there
was an even drawn-out sound like the hard breathing of people asleep. I
was on the point of getting up, then again something rustled ... then
suddenly sighed, something soft fell down ... and a whisper glided
along the walls.
Or was there nothing of the sort—and was it only imagination mocking
At last all was still. It was the very heart, the very dead of night.
The time had come! Chill with anticipation, I threw off the bedclothes,
let my feet down to the floor, stood up ... one step; a second.... I
stole along, my feet, heavy as though they did not belong to me, trod
feebly and uncertainly. Stay! what was that sound? Someone sawing,
somewhere, or scraping ... or sighing? I listened ... I felt my cheeks
twitching and cold watery tears came into my eyes. Nothing! ... I stole
on again. It was dark but I knew the way. All at once I stumbled
against a chair.... What a bang and how it hurt! It hit me just on my
leg.... I stood stock still. Well, did that wake them? Ah! here goes!
Suddenly I felt bold and even spiteful. On! On! Now the dining-room was
crossed, then the door was groped for and opened at one swing. The
cursed hinge squeaked, bother it! Then I went up the stairs, one! two!
one! two! A step creaked under my foot; I looked at it spitefully, just
as though I could see it. Then I stretched for the handle of another
door. This one made not the slightest sound! It flew open so easily, as
though to say, “Pray walk in.” ... And now I was in the corridor!
In the corridor there was a little window high up under the ceiling,
a faint light filtered in through the dark panes. And in that glimmer
of light I could see our little errand girl lying on the floor on a
mat, both arms behind her tousled head; she was sound asleep, breathing
rapidly and the fatal door was just behind her head. I stepped across
the mat, across the girl ... who opened that door? ... I don't know,
but there I was in my aunt's room. There was the little lamp in one
corner and the bed in the other and my aunt in her cap and night jacket
on the bed with her face towards me. She was asleep, she did not stir,
I could not even hear her breathing. The flame of the little lamp
softly flickered, stirred by the draught of fresh air, and shadows
stirred all over the room, even over the motionless wax-like yellow
face of my aunt....
And there was the watch! It was hanging on a little embroidered
cushion on the wall behind the bed. What luck, only think of it!
Nothing to delay me! But whose steps were those, soft and rapid behind
my back? Oh! no! it was my heart beating! ... I moved my legs
forward.... Good God! something round and rather large pushed against
me below my knee, once and again! I was ready to scream, I was ready to
drop with horror.... A striped cat, our own cat, was standing before me
arching his back and wagging his tail. Then he leapt on the bed—softly
and heavily—turned round and sat without purring, exactly like a
judge; he sat and looked at me with his golden pupils. “Puss, puss,” I
whispered, hardly audibly. I bent across my aunt, I had already
snatched the watch. She suddenly sat up and opened her eyelids wide....
Heavenly Father, what next? ... but her eyelids quivered and closed and
with a faint murmur her head sank on the pillow.
A minute later I was back again in my own room, in my own bed and the
watch was in my hands....
More lightly than a feather I flew back! I was a fine fellow, I was a
thief, I was a hero, I was gasping with delight, I was hot, I was
gleeful—I wanted to wake David at once to tell him all about it—and,
incredible as it sounds, I fell asleep and slept like the dead! At last
I opened my eyes.... It was light in the room, the sun had risen.
Luckily no one was awake yet. I jumped up as though I had been scalded,
woke David and told him all about it. He listened, smiled. “Do you know
what?” he said to me at last, “let's bury the silly watch in the earth,
so that it may never be seen again.” I thought his idea best of all. In
a few minutes we were both dressed; we ran out into the orchard behind
our house and under an old apple tree in a deep hole, hurriedly scooped
out in the soft, springy earth with David's big knife, my godfather's
hated present was hidden forever, so that it never got into the hands
of the disgusting Trankvillitatin after all! We stamped down the hole,
strewed rubbish over it and, proud and happy, unnoticed by anyone, went
home again, got into our beds and slept another hour or two—and such a
light and blissful sleep!
You can imagine the uproar there was that morning, as soon as my aunt
woke up and missed the watch! Her piercing shriek is ringing in my ears
to this day. “Help! Robbed! Robbed!” she squealed, and alarmed the
whole household. She was furious, while David and I only smiled to
ourselves and sweet was our smile to us. “Everyone, everyone must be
well thrashed!” bawled my aunt. “The watch has been stolen from under
my head, from under my pillow!” We were prepared for anything, we
expected trouble.... But contrary to our expectations we did not get
into trouble at all. My father certainly did fume dreadfully at first,
he even talked of the police; but I suppose he was bored with the
enquiry of the day before and suddenly, to my aunt's indescribable
amazement, he flew out not against us but against her.
“You sicken me worse than a bitter radish, Pelageya Petrovna,” he
shouted, “with your watch. I don't want to hear any more about it! It
can't be lost by magic, you say, but what's it to do with me? It may be
magic for all I care! Stolen from you? Well, good luck to it then! What
will Nastasey Nastasyeitch say? Damnation take him, your Nastasyeitch!
I get nothing but annoyances and unpleasantness from him! Don't dare to
worry me again! Do you hear?”
My father slammed the door and went off to his own room. David and I
did not at first understand the allusion in his last words; but
afterwards we found out that my father was just then violently
indignant with my godfather, who had done him out of a profitable job.
So my aunt was left looking a fool. She almost burst with vexation, but
there was no help for it. She had to confine herself to repeating in a
sharp whisper, twisting her mouth in my direction whenever she passed
me, “Thief, thief, robber, scoundrel.” My aunt's reproaches were a
source of real enjoyment to me. It was very agreeable, too, as I
crossed the flower-garden, to let my eye with assumed indifference
glide over the very spot where the watch lay at rest under the
apple-tree; and if David were close at hand to exchange a meaning
grimace with him....
My aunt tried setting Trankvillitatin upon me; but I appealed to
David. He told the stalwart divinity student bluntly that he would rip
up his belly with a knife if he did not leave me alone....
Trankvillitatin was frightened; though, according to my aunt, he was a
grenadier and a cavalier he was not remarkable for valour. So passed
five weeks.... But do you imagine that the story of the watch ended
there? No, it did not; only to continue my story I must introduce a new
character; and to introduce that new character I must go back a little.
My father had for many years been on very friendly, even intimate
terms with a retired government clerk called Latkin, a lame little man
in poor circumstances with queer, timid manners, one of those creatures
of whom it is commonly said that they are crushed by God Himself. Like
my father and Nastasey, he was engaged in the humbler class of legal
work and acted as legal adviser and agent. But possessing neither a
presentable appearance nor the gift of words and having little
confidence in himself, he did not venture to act independently but
attached himself to my father. His handwriting was “regular beadwork,”
he knew the law thoroughly and had mastered all the intricacies of the
jargon of petitions and legal documents. He had managed various cases
with my father and had shared with him gains and losses and it seemed
as though nothing could shake their friendship, and yet it broke down
in one day and forever. My father quarrelled with his colleague for
good. If Latkin had snatched a profitable job from my father, after the
fashion of Nastasey, who replaced him later on, my father would have
been no more indignant with him than with Nastasey, probably less. But
Latkin, under the influence of an unexplained, incomprehensible
feeling, envy, greed—or perhaps even a momentary fit of honesty—“gave
away” my father, betrayed him to their common client, a wealthy young
merchant, opening this careless young man's eyes to a certain—well,
piece of sharp practice, destined to bring my father considerable
profit. It was not the money loss, however great—no—but the betrayal
that wounded and infuriated my father; he could not forgive treachery.
“So he sets himself up for a saint!” he repeated, trembling all over
with anger, his teeth chattering as though he were in a fever. I
happened to be in the room and was a witness of this ugly scene. “Good.
Amen, from today. It's all over between us. There's the ikon and
there's the door! Neither you in my house nor I in yours. You are too
honest for us. How can we keep company with you? But may you have no
house nor home!”
It was in vain that Latkin entreated my father and bowed down before
him; it was in vain that he tried to explain to him what filled his own
soul with painful perplexity. “You know it was with no sort of profit
to myself, Porfiry Petrovitch,” he faltered: “why, I cut my own
throat!” My father remained implacable. Latkin never set foot in our
house again. Fate itself seemed determined to carry out my father's
last cruel words. Soon after the rupture (which took place two years
before the beginning of my story), Latkin's wife, who had, it is true,
been ill for a long time, died; his second daughter, a child three
years old, became deaf and dumb in one day from terror; a swarm of bees
had settled on her head; Latkin himself had an apoplectic stroke and
sank into extreme and hopeless poverty. How he struggled on, what he
lived upon—it is hard to imagine. He lived in a dilapidated hovel at
no great distance from our house. His elder daughter Raissa lived with
him and kept house, so far as that was possible. This Raissa is the
character whom I must now introduce into our story.
When her father was on friendly terms with mine, we used to see her
continually. She would sit with us for hours at a time, either sewing,
or spinning with her delicate, rapid, clever fingers. She was a
well-made, rather thin girl, with intelligent brown eyes and a long,
white, oval face. She talked little but sensibly in a soft, musical
voice, barely opening her mouth and not showing her teeth. When she
laughed—which happened rarely and never lasted long—they were all
suddenly displayed, big and white as almonds. I remember her gait, too,
light, elastic, with a little skip at each step. It always seemed to me
that she was going down a flight of steps, even when she was walking on
level ground. She held herself erect with her arms folded tightly over
her bosom. And whatever she was doing, whatever she undertook, if she
were only threading a needle or ironing a petticoat—the effect was
always beautiful and somehow—you may not believe it—touching. Her
Christian name was Raissa, but we used to call her Black-lip: she had
on her upper lip a birthmark; a little dark-bluish spot, as though she
had been eating blackberries; but that did not spoil her: on the
contrary. She was just a year older than David. I cherished for her a
feeling akin to respect, but we were not great friends. But between her
and David a friendship had sprung up, a strange, unchildlike but good
friendship. They somehow suited each other.
Sometimes they did not exchange a word for hours together, but both
felt that they were happy and happy because they were together. I had
never met a girl like her, really. There was something attentive and
resolute about her, something honest and mournful and charming. I never
heard her say anything very intelligent, but I never heard her say
anything commonplace, and I have never seen more intelligent eyes.
After the rupture between her family and mine I saw her less
frequently: my father sternly forbade my visiting the Latkins, and she
did not appear in our house again. But I met her in the street, in
church and Black-lip always aroused in me the same feeling—respect and
even some wonder, rather than pity. She bore her misfortunes very well
indeed. “The girl is flint,” even coarse-witted, Trankvillitatin said
about her once, but really she ought to have been pitied: her face
acquired a careworn, exhausted expression, her eyes were hollow and
sunken, a burden beyond her strength lay on her young shoulders. David
saw her much oftener than I did; he used to go to their house. My
father gave him up in despair: he knew that David would not obey him,
anyway. And from time to time Raissa would appear at the hurdle fence
of our garden which looked into a lane and there have an interview with
David; she did not come for the sake of conversation, but told him of
some new difficulty or trouble and asked his advice. The paralysis that
had attacked Latkin was of a rather peculiar kind. His arms and legs
had grown feeble, but he had not lost the use of them, and his brain
indeed worked perfectly; but his speech was muddled and instead of one
word he would pronounce another: one had to guess what it was he wanted
to say.... “Tchoo—tchoo—tchoo,” he would stammer with an effort—he
began every sentence with “Tchoo—tchoo—tchoo, some scissors, some
scissors,” ... and the word scissors meant bread.... My father, he
hated with all the strength left him—he attributed all his misfortunes
to my father's curse and called him alternately the butcher and the
diamond-merchant. “Tchoo, tchoo, don't you dare to go to the butcher's,
Vassilyevna.” This was what he called his daughter though his own name
was Martinyan. Every day he became more exacting; his needs
increased.... And how were those needs to be satisfied? Where could the
money be found? Sorrow soon makes one old: but it was horrible to hear
some words on the lips of a girl of seventeen.
I remember I happened to be present at a conversation with David over
the fence, on the very day of her mother's death.
“Mother died this morning at daybreak,” she said, first looking round
with her dark expressive eyes and then fixing them on the ground.
“Cook undertook to get a coffin cheap but she's not to be trusted;
she may spend the money on drink, even. You might come and look after
her, Davidushka, she's afraid of you.”
“I will come,” answered David. “I will see to it. And how's your
“He cries; he says: 'you must spoil me, too.' Spoil must mean bury.
Now he has gone to sleep.” Raissa suddenly gave a deep sigh. “Oh,
Davidushka, Davidushka!” She passed her half-clenched fist over her
forehead and her eyebrows, and the action was so bitter ... and as
sincere and beautiful as all her actions.
“You must take care of yourself, though,” David observed; “you
haven't slept at all, I expect.... And what's the use of crying? It
doesn't help trouble.”
“I have no time for crying,” answered Raissa.
“That's a luxury for the rich, crying,” observed David.
Raissa was going, but she turned back.
“The yellow shawl's being sold, you know; part of mother's dowry.
They are giving us twelve roubles; I think that is not much.”
“It certainly is not much.”
“We shouldn't sell it,” Raissa said after a brief pause, “but you see
we must have money for the funeral.”
“Of course you must. Only you mustn't spend money at random. Those
priests are awful! But I say, wait a minute. I'll come. Are you going?
I'll be with you soon. Goodbye, darling.”
“Good-bye, Davidushka, darling.”
“Mind now, don't cry!”
“As though I should cry! It's either cooking the dinner or crying.
One or the other.”
“What! does she cook the dinner?” I said to David, as soon as Raissa
was out of hearing, “does she do the cooking herself?”
“Why, you heard that the cook has gone to buy a coffin.”
“She cooks the dinner,” I thought, “and her hands are always so clean
and her clothes so neat.... I should like to see her there at work in
the kitchen.... She is an extraordinary girl!”
I remember another conversation at the fence. That time Raissa
brought with her her little deaf and dumb sister. She was a pretty
child with immense, astonished-looking eyes and a perfect mass of dull,
black hair on her little, head (Raissa's hair, too, was black and hers,
too, was without lustre). Latkin had by then been struck down by
“I really don't know what to do,” Raissa began. “The doctor has
written a prescription. We must go to the chemist's; and our peasant
(Latkin had still one serf) has brought us wood from the village and a
goose. And the porter has taken it away, 'you are in debt to me,' he
“Taken the goose?” asked David.
“No, not the goose. He says it is an old one; it is no good for
anything; he says that is why our peasant brought it us, but he is
taking the wood.”
“But he has no right to,” exclaimed David.
“He has no right to, but he has taken it. I went up to the garret,
there we have got a very, very old trunk. I began rummaging in it and
what do you think I found? Look!”
She took from under her kerchief a rather large field glass in a
copper setting, covered with morocco, yellow with age. David, as a
connoisseur of all sorts of instruments, seized upon it at once.
“It's English,” he pronounced, putting it first to one eye and then
to the other. “A marine glass.”
“And the glasses are perfect,” Raissa went on. “I showed it to
father; he said, 'Take it and pawn it to the diamond-merchant'! What do
you think, would they give us anything for it? What do we want a
telescope for? To look at ourselves in the looking-glass and see what
beauties we are? But we haven't a looking-glass, unluckily.”
And Raissa suddenly laughed aloud. Her sister, of course, could not
hear her. But most likely she felt the shaking of her body: she clung
to Raissa's hand and her little face worked with a look of terror as
she raised her big eyes to her sister and burst into tears.
“That's how she always is,” said Raissa, “she doesn't like one to
“Come, I won't, Lyubotchka, I won't,” she added, nimbly squatting on
her heels beside the child and passing her fingers through her hair.
The laughter vanished from Raissa's face and her lips, the corners of
which twisted upwards in a particularly charming way, became motionless
again. The child was pacified. Raissa got up.
“So you will do what you can, about the glass I mean, Davidushka. But
I do regret the wood, and the goose, too, however old it may be.”
“They would certainly give you ten roubles,” said David, turning the
telescope in all directions. “I will buy it of you, what could be
better? And here, meanwhile, are fifteen kopecks for the chemist's....
Is that enough?”
“I'll borrow that from you,” whispered Raissa, taking the fifteen
kopecks from him.
“What next? Perhaps you would like to pay interest? But you see I
have a pledge here, a very fine thing.... First-rate people, the
“They say we are going to war with them.”
“No,” answered David, “we are fighting the French now.”
“Well, you know best. Take care of it, then. Good-bye, friends.”
Here is another conversation that took place beside the same fence.
Raissa seemed more worried than usual.
“Five kopecks for a cabbage, and a tiny little one, too,” she said,
propping her chin on her hand. “Isn't it dear? And I haven't had the
money for my sewing yet.”
“Who owes it you?” asked David.
“Why, the merchant's wife who lives beyond the rampart.”
“The fat woman who goes about in a green blouse?”
“I say, she is fat! She can hardly breathe for fat. She positively
steams in church, and doesn't pay her debts!”
“She will pay, only when? And do you know, Davidushka, I have fresh
troubles. Father has taken it into his head to tell me his dreams—you
know he cannot say what he means: if he wants to say one word, it comes
out another. About food or any everyday thing we have got used to it
and understand; but it is not easy to understand the dreams even of
healthy people, and with him, it's awful! 'I am very happy,' he says;
'I was walking about all among white birds to-day; and the Lord God
gave me a nosegay and in the nosegay was Andryusha with a little
knife,' he calls our Lyubotchka, Andryusha; 'now we shall both be quite
well,' he says. 'We need only one stroke with the little knife, like
this!' and he points to his throat. I don't understand him, but I say,
'All right, dear, all right,' but he gets angry and tries to explain
what he means. He even bursts into tears.”
“But you should have said something to him,” I put in; “you should
have made up some lie.”
“I can't tell lies,” answered Raissa, and even flung up her hands.
And indeed she could not tell lies.
“There is no need to tell lies,” observed David, “but there is no
need to kill yourself, either. No one will say thank you for it, you
Raissa looked at him intently.
“I wanted to ask you something, Davidushka; how ought I to spell
“What sort of 'while'?”
“Why, for instance: I hope you will live a long while.”
“No,” I put in, “w-h-i-l-e.”
“Well, it does not matter. Spell it with an h, then! What does matter
is, that you should live a long while.”
“I should like to write correctly,” observed Raissa, and she flushed
When she flushed she was amazingly pretty at once.
“It may be of use.... How father wrote in his day ... wonderfully! He
taught me. Well, now he can hardly make out the letters.”
“You only live, that's all I want,” David repeated, dropping his
voice and not taking his eyes off her. Raissa glanced quickly at him
and flushed still more.
“You live and as for spelling, spell as you like.... Oh, the devil,
the witch is coming!” (David called my aunt the witch.) “What ill-luck
has brought her this way? You must go, darling.”
Raissa glanced at David once more and ran away.
David talked to me of Raissa and her family very rarely and
unwillingly, especially from the time when he began to expect his
father's return. He thought of nothing but him and how we should live
together afterwards. He had a vivid memory of him and used to describe
him to me with particular pleasure.
“He is big and strong; he can lift three hundred-weight with one
hand.... When he shouted: 'Where's the lad?' he could be heard all over
the house. He's so jolly and kind ... and a brave man! Nobody can
intimidate him. We lived so happily together before we were ruined.
They say he has gone quite grey, and in old days his hair was as red as
mine. He was a strong man.”
David would never admit that we might remain in Ryazan.
“You will go away,” I observed, “but I shall stay.”
“Nonsense, we shall take you with us.”
“And how about my father?”
“You will cast off your father. You will be ruined if you don't.”
David made me no answer but merely knitted his white brows.
“So when we go away with father,” he began again, “he will get a good
situation and I shall marry.”
“Well, that won't be just directly,” I said.
“No, why not? I shall marry soon.”
“Yes, I; why not?”
“You haven't fixed on your wife, I suppose.”
“Of course, I have.”
“Who is she?”
“What a senseless fellow you are, really? Raissa, of course.”
“Raissa!” I repeated in amazement; “you are joking!”
“I am not given to joking, and don't like it.”
“Why, she is a year older than you are.”
“What of it? but let's drop the subject.”
“Let me ask one question,” I said. “Does she know that you mean to
“But haven't you declared your feelings?”
“What is there to declare? When the time comes I shall tell her.
Come, that's enough.”
David got up and went out of the room. When I was alone, I pondered
... and pondered ... and came to the conclusion that David would act
like a sensible and practical man; and indeed I felt flattered at the
thought of being the friend of such a practical man!
And Raissa in her everlasting black woollen dress suddenly seemed to
me charming and worthy of the most devoted love.
David's father still did not come and did not even send a letter. It
had long been summer and June was drawing to its end. We were wearing
ourselves out in suspense.
Meanwhile there began to be rumours that Latkin had suddenly become
much worse, and that his family were likely to die of hunger or else
the house would fall in and crush them all under the roof.
David's face even looked changed and he became so ill-tempered and
surly that there was no going near him. He began to be more often
absent from home, too. I did not meet Raissa at all. From time to time,
I caught a glimpse of her in the distance, rapidly crossing the street
with her beautiful, light step, straight as an arrow, with her arms
crossed, with her dark, clever eyes under her long brows, with an
anxious expression on her pale, sweet face—that was all. My aunt with
the help of her Trankvillitatin pitched into me as before, and as
before reproachfully whispered in my ear: “You are a thief, sir, a
thief!” But I took no notice of her; and my father was very busy, and
occupied with his writing and driving all over the place and did not
want to hear anything.
One day, passing by the familiar apple-tree, more from habit than
anything I cast a furtive glance in the direction of the little spot I
knew so well, and it suddenly struck me that there was a change in the
surface of the soil that concealed our treasure ... as though there
were a little protuberance where there had been a hollow, and the bits
of rubbish were disarranged. “What does that mean?” I wondered. “Can
someone have guessed our secret and dug up the watch?”
I had to make certain with my own eyes. I felt, of course, the most
complete indifference in regard to the watch that lay rusting in the
bosom of the earth; but was not prepared to let anyone else make use of
it! And so next day I got up before dawn again and arming myself with a
knife went into the orchard, sought out the marked spot under the
apple-tree, began digging—and after digging a hole a yard deep was
forced to the conviction that the watch was gone, that someone had got
hold of it, taken it away, stolen it!
But who could have dug it up except David?
Who else knew where it was?
I filled in the hole and went back to the house. I felt deeply
“Supposing,” I thought, “that David needs the watch to save his
future wife or her father from dying of starvation.... Say what you
like, the watch was worth something.... Why did he not come to me and
say: 'Brother' (in David's place I should have certainly begun by
saying brother), 'brother, I need money; you have none, I know, but let
me make use of that watch which we buried together under the old
apple-tree? It is of no use to anyone and I shall be so grateful to
you, brother!' With what joy I should have consented. But to act
secretly, treacherously, not to trust his friend.... No! No passion, no
necessity would justify that!”
I repeat, I felt horribly injured. I began by a display of coldness
But David was not one of the sort to notice this and be upset by it.
I began dropping hints.
But David appeared not to understand my hints in the least!
I said before him how base in my eyes was the man who having a friend
and understanding all that was meant by that sacred sentiment
“friendship,” was yet so devoid of generosity as to have recourse to
deception; as though it were possible to conceal anything.
As I uttered these last words I laughed scornfully.
But David did not turn a hair. At last I asked him straight out:
“What did he think, had our watch gone for some time after being buried
in the earth or had it stopped at once?”
He answered me: “The devil only knows! What a thing to wonder about!”
I did not know what to think! David evidently had something on his
mind ... but not the abduction of the watch. An unexpected incident
showed me his innocence.
One day I came home by a side lane which I usually avoided as the
house in which my enemy Trankvillitatin lodged was in it; but on this
occasion Fate itself led me that way. Passing the open window of an
eating-house, I suddenly heard the voice of our servant, Vassily, a
young man of free and easy manners, “a lazy fellow and a scamp,” as my
father called him, but also a great conqueror of female hearts which he
charmed by his wit, his dancing and his playing on the tambourine.
“And what do you suppose they've been up to?” said Vassily, whom I
could not see but heard distinctly; he was, most likely, sitting close
by, near the window with a companion over the steaming tea—and as
often happens with people in a closed room, spoke in a loud voice
without suspecting that anyone passing in the street could hear every
word: “They buried it in the ground!”
“Nonsense!” muttered another voice.
“I tell you they did, our young gentlemen are extraordinary!
Especially that Davidka, he's a regular Aesop! I got up at daybreak and
went to the window.... I looked out and, what do you think! Our two
little dears were coming along the orchard bringing that same watch and
they dug a hole under the apple-tree and there they buried it, as
though it had been a baby! And they smoothed the earth over afterwards,
upon my soul they did, the young rakes!”
“Ah! plague take them,” Vassily's companion commented. “Too well off,
I suppose. Well, did you dig up the watch?”
“To be sure I did. I have got it now. Only it won't do to show it for
a time. There's been no end of a fuss over it. Davidka stole it that
very night from under our old lady's back.”
“I tell you, he did. He's a desperate fellow. So it won't do to show
it. But when the officers come down I shall sell it or stake it at
I didn't stay to hear more: I rushed headlong home and straight to
“Brother!” I began, “brother, forgive me! I have wronged you! I
suspected you! I blamed you! You see how agitated I am! Forgive me!”
“What's the matter with you?” asked David. “Explain!”
“I suspected that you had dug up our watch under the apple-tree.”
“The watch again! Why, isn't it there?”
“It's not there; I thought you had taken it, to help your friends.
And it was all Vassily.”
I repeated to David all that I had overheard under the window of the
But how to describe my amazement! I had, of course, expected David to
be indignant, but I had not for a moment anticipated the effect it
produced on him! I had hardly finished my story when he flew into an
indescribable fury! David, who had always taken up a scornful attitude
to the whole “vulgar,” as he called it, business of the watch; David,
who had more than once declared that it wasn't worth a rotten egg,
jumped up from his seat, got hot all over, ground his teeth and
clenched his fists. “We can't let this pass!” he said at last; “how
dare he take someone else's property? Wait a bit, I'll show him. I
won't let thieves off so easily!”
I confess I don't understand to this day what can have so infuriated
David. Whether he had been irritated before and Vassily's action had
simply poured oil on the flames, or whether my suspicions had wounded
him, I cannot say, but I had never seen him in such excitement. I stood
before him with my mouth open merely wondering how it was that his
breathing was so hard and laboured.
“What do you intend to do?” I asked at last.
“You shall see after dinner, when your father lies down. I'll find
this scoffer, I'll talk to him.”
“Well,” thought I, “I should not care to be in that scoffer's shoes!
What will happen? Merciful heavens?”
This is what did happen:
As soon as that drowsy, stifling stillness prevailed, which to this
day lies like a feather bed on the Russian household and the Russian
people in the middle of the day after dinner is eaten, David went to
the servants' rooms (I followed on his heels with a sinking heart) and
called Vassily out. The latter was at first unwilling to come, but
ended by obeying and following us into the garden.
David stood close in front of him. Vassily was a whole head taller.
“Vassily Terentyev,” my comrade began in a firm voice, “six weeks ago
you took from under this very apple-tree the watch we hid there. You
had no right to do so; it does not belong to you. Give it back at
Vassily was taken aback, but at once recovered himself.
“What watch? What are you talking about? God bless you! I have no
“I know what I am saying and don't tell lies. You've got the watch,
give it back.”
“I've not got your watch.”
“Then how was it that in the eating-house, you...” I began, but David
“Vassily Terentyev!” he pronounced in a hollow, threatening voice,
“we know for a fact that you have the watch. You are told honourably to
give it back and if you don't...”
Vassily sniggered insolently.
“Then what will you do with me then? Eh?”
“What will we do? We will both fight with you till you beat us or we
“Fight? That's not for a gentleman! To fight with a servant!”
David suddenly caught hold of Vassily's waistcoat.
“But we are not going to fight you with our fists,” he articulated,
grinding his teeth. “Understand that! I'll give you a knife and take
one myself.... And then we shall see who does for which? Alexey!” he
began commanding me, “run for my big knife, you know the one with the
bone handle—it's lying on the table and the other's in my pocket.”
Vassily positively collapsed. David stood holding him by the
“Mercy on us! ... Mercy on us, David Yegoritch!” he muttered; tears
actually came into his eyes. “What do you mean, what are you saying?
Let me go.”
“I won't let you go. And we shall have no mercy on you! If you get
away from us today, we shall begin again to-morrow. Alyoshka, where's
“David Yegoritch,” wailed Vassily, “don't commit murder.... What are
you doing! The watch ... I certainly ... I was joking. I'll give it to
you this minute. What a thing, to be sure! First you are going to slit
Hrisanf Lukitch's belly, then mine. Let me go, David Yegoritch....
Kindly take the watch. Only don't tell your papa.”
David let go his hold of Vassily's waistcoat. I looked into his face:
certainly not only Vassily might have been frightened by it. It looked
so weary ... and cold ... and angry....
Vassily dashed into the house and promptly returned with the watch in
his hand. He gave it to David without a word and only on going back
into the house exclaimed aloud in the doorway:
“Tfoo! here's a go.”
He still looked panic-stricken. David tossed his head and walked into
our room. Again I followed on his heels. “A Suvorov! He's a regular
Suvorov!” I thought to myself. In those days, in 1801, Suvorov was our
great national hero.
David shut the door after him, put the watch on the table, folded his
arms and—oh, wonder!—laughed. Looking at him I laughed, too.
“What a wonderful performance!” he began. “We can't get rid of this
watch anyway. It's bewitched, really. And why was I so furious about
“Yes, why?” I repeated. “You ought to have let Vassily keep it....”
“Well, no,” interposed David. “That's nonsense. But what are we to do
We both stared at the watch and pondered. Adorned with a chain of
pale blue beads (the luckless Vassily in his haste had not removed this
chain which belonged to him) it was calmly doing its work: ticking
somewhat irregularly, it is true, and slowly moving its copper minute
“Shall we bury it again? Or put it in the stove,” I suggested at
last. “Or, I tell you what: shouldn't we take it to Latkin?”
“No,” answered David. “That's not the thing. I know what: they have
set up a committee at the governor's office and are collecting
subscriptions for the benefit of the people of Kasimov. The town has
been burnt to ashes with all its churches. And I am told they take
anything, not only bread and money, but all sorts of things. Shall we
send the watch there?”
“Yes! yes!” I answered. “A splendid idea. But I thought that since
your friends are in want....”
“No, no; to the committee; the Latkins will manage without it. To the
“Well, if it is to be the committee, let it be. Only, I imagine, we
must write something to the governor.”
David glanced at me. “Do you think so?”
“Yes, of course; there is no need to write much. But just a few
“For instance ... begin like this: 'Being' ... or better: 'Moved by'
“'Moved by' ... very good.”
“Then we must say: 'herewith our mite' ...”
“'Mite' ... that's good, too. Well, take your pen, sit down and
write, fire away!”
“First I must make a rough copy,” I observed.
“All right, a rough copy, only write, write.... And meanwhile I will
clean it with some whitening.”
I took a sheet of paper, mended a pen, but before I had time to write
at the top of the sheet “To His Excellency, the illustrious Prince"
(our governer was at that time Prince X), I stopped, struck by the
extraordinary uproar ... which had suddenly arisen in the house. David
noticed the hubbub, too, and he, too, stopped, holding the watch in his
left hand and a rag with whitening in his right. We looked at each
other. What was that shrill cry. It was my aunt shrieking ... and that?
It was my father's voice, hoarse with anger. “The watch! the watch!”
bawled someone, surely Trankvillitatin. We heard the thud of feet, the
creak of the floor, a regular rabble running ... moving straight upon
us. I was numb with terror and David was as white as chalk, but he
looked proud as an eagle. “Vassily, the scoundrel, has betrayed us,” he
whispered through his teeth. The door was flung wide open, and my
father in his dressing gown and without his cravat, my aunt in her
dressing jacket, Trankvillitatin, Vassily, Yushka, another boy, and the
cook, Agapit—all burst into the room.
“Scoundrels!” shouted my father, gasping for breath.... “At last we
have found you out!” And seeing the watch in David's hands: “Give it
here!” yelled my father, “give me the watch!”
But David, without uttering a word, dashed to the open window and
leapt out of it into the yard and then off into the street.
Accustomed to imitate my paragon in everything, I jumped out, too,
and ran after David....
“Catch them! Hold them!” we heard a medley of frantic shouts behind
But we were already racing along the street bareheaded, David in
advance and I a few paces behind him, and behind us the clatter and
uproar of pursuit.
Many years have passed since the date of these events; I have
reflected over them more than once—and to this day I can no more
understand the cause of the fury that took possession of my father (who
had so lately been so sick of the watch that he had forbidden it to be
mentioned in his hearing) than I can David's rage at its having been
stolen by Vassily! One is tempted to imagine that there was some
mysterious power connected with it. Vassily had not betrayed us as
David assumed—he was not capable of it: he had been too much
scared—it was simply that one of our maids had seen the watch in his
hands and had promptly informed our aunt. The fat was in the fire!
And so we darted down the street, keeping to the very middle of it.
The passers-by who met us stopped or stepped aside in amazement. I
remember a retired major craned out of the window of his flat—and,
crimson in the face, his bulky person almost overbalancing, hallooed
furiously. Shouts of “Stop! hold them” still resounded behind us.
David ran flourishing the watch over his head and from time to time
leaping into the air; I jumped, too, whenever he did.
“Where?” I shouted to David, seeing that he was turning into a side
street—and I turned after him.
“To the Oka!” he shouted. “To throw it into the water, into the
river. To the devil!”
“Stop! stop!” they shouted behind.
But we were already flying along the side street, already a whiff of
cool air was meeting us—and the river lay before us, and the steep
muddy descent to it, and the wooden bridge with a train of waggons
stretching across it, and a garrison soldier with a pike beside the
flagstaff; soldiers used to carry pikes in those days. David reached
the bridge and darted by the soldier who tried to give him a blow on
the legs with his pike and hit a passing calf. David instantly leaped
on to the parapet; he uttered a joyful exclamation.... Something white,
something blue gleamed in the air and shot into the water—it was the
silver watch with Vassily's blue bead chain flying into the water....
But then something incredible happened. After the watch David's feet
flew upwards—and head foremost, with his hands thrust out before him
and the lapels of his jacket fluttering, he described an arc in the air
(as frightened frogs jump on hot days from a high bank into a pond) and
instantly vanished behind the parapet of the bridge ... and then flop!
and a tremendous splash below.
What happened to me I am utterly unable to describe. I was some steps
from David when he leapt off the parapet ... but I don't even remember
whether I cried out; I don't think that I was even frightened: I was
stunned, stupefied. I could not stir hand or foot. People were running
and hustling round me; some of them seemed to be people I knew. I had a
sudden glimpse of Trofimitch, the soldier with the pike dashed off
somewhere, the horses and the waggons passed by quickly, tossing up
their noses covered with string. Then everything was green before my
eyes and someone gave me a violent shove on my head and all down my
back ... I fell fainting.
I remember that I came to myself afterwards and seeing that no one
was paying any attention to me went up to the parapet but not on the
side that David had jumped. It seemed terrible to me to approach it,
and as I began gazing into the dark blue muddy swollen river, I
remember that I noticed a boat moored to the bridge not far from the
bank, and several people in the boat, and one of these, who was
drenched all over and sparkling in the sun, bending over the edge of
the boat was pulling something out of the water, something not very
big, oblong, a dark thing which at first I took to be a portmanteau or
a basket; but when I looked more intently I saw that the thing
was—David. Then in violent excitement I shouted at the top of my voice
and ran towards the boat, pushing my way through the people, but when I
had run down to it I was overcome with timidity and began looking about
me. Among the people who were crowding about it I recognised
Trankvillitatin, the cook Agapit with a boot in his hand, Yushka,
Vassily ... the wet and shining man held David's body under the arms,
drew him out of the boat and laid him on his back on the mud of the
bank. Both David's hands were raised to the level of his face as though
he were trying to hide himself from strange eyes; he did not stir but
lay as though standing at attention, with his heels together and his
stomach out. His face was greenish—his eyes were staring and water was
dripping from his hair. The wet man who had pulled him out, a factory
hand, judging by his clothes, began describing how he had done it,
shivering with cold and continually throwing back his hair from his
forehead as he talked. He told his story in a very proper and
“What do I see, friends? This young lad go flying from the bridge....
Well! ... I ran down at once the way of the current for I knew he had
fallen into mid-stream and it would carry him under the bridge and
there ... talk of the devil! ... I looked: something like a fur cap was
floating and it was his head. Well, quick as thought, I was in the
water and caught hold of him.... It didn't need much cleverness for
Two or three words of approval were audible in the crowd.
“You ought to have something to warm you now. Come along and we will
have a drink,” said someone.
But at this point all at once somebody pushed forward abruptly: it
“What are you doing, good Christians?” he cried, tearfully. “We must
bring him to by rolling him; it's our young gentleman!”
“Roll him, roll him,” shouted the crowd, which was continually
“Hang him up by the feet! it's the best way!”
“Lay him with his stomach on the barrel and roll him backwards and
forwards.... Take him, lads.”
“Don't dare to touch him,” put in the soldier with the pike. “He must
be taken to the police station.”
“Low brute,” Trofimitch's bass voice rang out.
“But he is alive,” I shouted at the top of my voice and almost with
horror. I had put my face near to his. “So that is what the drowned
look like,” I thought, with a sinking heart.... And all at once I saw
David's lips stir and a little water oozed from them....
At once I was pushed back and dragged away; everyone rushed up to
“Roll him, roll him,” voices clamoured.
“No, no, stay,” shouted Vassily. “Take him home.... Take him home!”
“Take him home,” Trankvillitatin himself chimed in.
“We will bring him to. We can see better there,” Vassily went on....
(I have liked him from that day.) “Lads, haven't you a sack? If not we
must take him by his head and his feet....”
“Stay! Here's a sack! Lay him on it! Catch hold! Start! That's fine.
As though he were driving in a chaise.”
A few minutes later David, borne in triumph on the sack, crossed the
threshold of our house again.
He was undressed and put to bed. He began to give signs of life while
in the street, moaned, moved his hands.... Indoors he came to himself
completely. But as soon as all anxiety for his life was over and there
was no reason to worry about him, indignation got the upper hand again:
everyone shunned him, as though he were a leper.
“May God chastise him! May God chastise him!” my aunt shrieked, to be
heard all over the house. “Get rid of him, somehow, Porfiry Petrovitch,
or he will do some mischief beyond all bearing.”
“Upon my word, he is a viper; he is possessed with a devil,”
Trankvillitatin chimed in.
“The wickedness, the wickedness!” cackled my aunt, going close to the
door of our room so that David might be sure to hear her. “First of all
he stole the watch and then flung it into the water ... as though to
say, no one should get it....”
Everyone, everyone was indignant.
“David,” I asked him as soon as we were left alone, “what did you do
“So you are after that, too,” he answered in a voice that was still
weak; his lips were blue and he looked as though he were swollen all
over. “What did I do?”
“But what did you jump into the water for?”
“Jump! I lost my balance on the parapet, that was all. If I had known
how to swim I should have jumped on purpose. I shall certainly learn.
But the watch now—ah....”
But at that moment my father walked with a majestic step into our
“You, my fine fellow,” he said, addressing me, “I shall certainly
whip, you need have no doubt about that, though you are too big to lie
on the bench now.”
Then he went up to the bed on which David was lying. “In Siberia,” he
began in an impressive and dignified tone, “in Siberia, sir, in penal
servitude, in the mines, there are people living and dying who are less
guilty, less criminal than you. Are you a suicide or simply a thief or
altogether a fool? Be so kind as to tell me just that!”
“I am not a suicide and I am not a thief,” answered David, “but the
truth's the truth: there are good men in Siberia, better than you or I
... who should know that, if not you?”
My father gave a subdued gasp, drew back a step, looked intently at
David, spat on the floor and, slowly crossing himself, walked away.
“Don't you like that?” David called after him and put his tongue out.
Then he tried to get up but could not.
“I must have hurt myself somehow,” he said, gasping and frowning. “I
remember the water dashed me against a post.”
“Did you see Raissa?” he added suddenly.
“No. I did not.... Stay, stay, stay! Now I remember, wasn't it she
standing on the bank by the bridge? ... Yes ... yes ... a dark dress...
a yellow kerchief on her head, yes it must have been Raissa.”
“Well, and afterwards.... Did you see her?”
“Afterwards ... I don't know, I had no thought to spare for her....
You jumped in ...”
David was suddenly roused. “Alyosha, darling, go to her at once, tell
her I am all right, that there's nothing the matter with me. Tomorrow I
shall be with them. Go as quickly as you can, brother, for my sake!”
David held out both hands to me.... His red hair, by now dry, stuck
up in amusing tufts.... But the softened expression of his face seemed
the more genuine for that. I took my cap and went out of the house,
trying to avoid meeting my father and reminding him of his promise.
“Yes, indeed,” I reflected as I walked towards the Latkins', “how was
it that I did not notice Raissa? What became of her? She must have
And all at once I remembered that the very moment of David's fall, a
terrible piercing shriek had rung in my ears.
“Was not that Raissa? But how was it I did not see her afterwards?”
Before the little house in which Latkin lodged there stretched a
waste-ground overgrown with nettles and surrounded by a broken hurdle.
I had scarcely clambered over the hurdle (there was no gate anywhere)
when the following sight met my eyes: Raissa, with her elbows on her
knees and her chin propped on her clasped hands, was sitting on the
lowest step in front of the house; she was looking fixedly straight
before her; near her stood her little dumb sister with the utmost
composure brandishing a little whip, while, facing the steps with his
back to me, old Latkin, in torn and shabby drawers and high felt boots,
was trotting and prancing up and down, capering and jerking his elbows.
Hearing my footsteps he suddenly turned round and squatted on his
heels—then at once, skipping up to me, began speaking very rapidly in
a trembling voice, incessantly repeating, “Tchoo—tchoo—tchoo!” I was
dumbfoundered. I had not seen him for a long time and should not, of
course, have known him if I had met him anywhere else. That red,
wrinkled, toothless face, those lustreless round eyes and touzled grey
hair, those jerks and capers, that senseless halting speech! What did
it mean? What inhuman despair was torturing this unhappy creature? What
dance of death was this?
“Tchoo—tchoo,” he muttered, wriggling incessantly. “See Vassilyevna
here came in tchoo—tchoo, just now.... Do you hear? With a trough on
the roof” (he slapped himself on the head with his hand), “and there
she sits like a spade, and she is cross-eyed, cross-eyed, like
Andryushka; Vassilyevna is cross-eyed” (he probably meant to say dumb),
“tchoo! My Vassilyevna is cross-eyed! They are both on the same cork
now. You may wonder, good Christians! I have only these two little
Latkin was evidently conscious that he was not saying the right thing
and made terrible efforts to explain to me what was the matter. Raissa
did not seem to hear what her father was saying and the little sister
went on lashing the whip.
“Good-bye, diamond-merchant, good-bye, good-bye,” Latkin drawled
several times in succession, making a low bow, seeming delighted at
having at last got hold of an intelligible word.
My head began to go round.
“What does it all mean?” I asked of an old woman who was looking out
of the window of the little house.
“Well, my good gentleman,” she answered in a sing-song voice, “they
say some man—the Lord only knows who—went and drowned himself and she
saw it. Well, it gave her a fright or something; when she came home she
seemed all right though; but when she sat down on the step—here, she
has been sitting ever since like an image, it's no good talking to her.
I suppose she has lost her speech, too. Oh, dear! Oh, dear!”
“Good-bye, good-bye,” Latkin kept repeating, still with the same bow.
I went up to Raissa and stood directly facing her.
“Raissa, dear, what's the matter with you?”
She made no answer, she seemed not to notice me. Her face had not
grown pale, had not changed—but had turned somehow stony and there was
a look in it as though she were just falling asleep.
“She is cross-eyed, cross-eyed,” Latkin muttered in my ear.
I took Raissa by the hand. “David is alive,” I cried, more loudly
than before. “Alive and well; David's alive, do you understand? He was
pulled out of the water; he is at home now and told me to say that he
will come to you to-morrow; he is alive!” As it were with effort Raissa
turned her eyes on me; she blinked several times, opening them wider
and wider, then leaned her head on one side and flushed slightly all
over while her lips parted ... she slowly drew in a deep breath, winced
as though in pain and with fearful effort articulated:
“Da ... Dav ... a ... alive,” got up impulsively and rushed away.
“Where are you going?” I exclaimed. But with a faint laugh she ran
staggering across the waste-ground....
I, of course, followed her, while behind me a wail rose up in unison
from the old man and the child.... Raissa darted straight to our house.
“Here's a day!” I thought, trying not to lose sight of the black
dress that was fluttering before me. “Well!”
Passing Vassily, my aunt, and even Trankvillitatin, Raissa ran into
the room where David was lying and threw herself on his neck. “Oh... oh
... Da ... vidushka,” her voice rang out from under her loose curls,
Flinging wide his arms David embraced her and nestled his head
“Forgive me, my heart,” I heard his voice saying.
And both seemed swooning with joy.
“But why did you go home, Raissa, why didn't you stay?” I said to
her.... She still kept her head bowed. “You would have seen that he was
“Ah, I don't know! Ah, I don't know. Don't ask. I don't know, I don't
remember how I got home. I only remember: I saw you in the air ...
something seemed to strike me... and what happened afterwards...”
“Seemed to strike you,” repeated David, and we all three suddenly
burst out laughing together. We were very happy.
“What may be the meaning of this, may I ask,” we heard behind us a
threatening voice, the voice of my father. He was standing in the
doorway. “Will there ever be an end to these fooleries? Where are we
living? Are we in the Russian Empire or the French Republic?”
He came into the room.
“Anyone who wants to be rebellious and immoral had better go to
France! And how dare you come here?” he said, turning to Raissa,
who, quietly sitting up and turning to face him, was evidently taken
aback but still smiled as before, a friendly and blissful smile.
“The daughter of my sworn enemy! How dare you? And hugging him, too!
Away with you at once, or ...”
“Uncle,” David brought out, and he sat up in bed. “Don't insult
Raissa. She is going away, only don't insult her.”
“And who are you to teach me? I am not insulting her, I am not in ...
sul ... ting her! I am simply turning her out of the house. I have an
account to settle with you, too, presently. You have made away with
other people's property, have attempted to take your own life, have put
me to expense.”
“To what expense?” David interrupted.
“What expense? You have ruined your clothes. Do you count that as
nothing? And I had to tip the men who brought you. You have given the
whole family a fright and are you going to be unruly now? And if this
young woman, regardless of shame and honour itself ...”
David made a dash as though to get out of bed.
“Don't insult her, I tell you.”
“Hold your tongue.”
“Don't dare ...”
“Hold your tongue!”
“Don't dare to insult my betrothed,” cried David at the top of his
voice, “my future wife!”
“Betrothed!” repeated my father, with round eyes. “Betrothed! Wife!
Ho, ho, ho! ...” (“Ha, ha, ha,” my aunt echoed behind the door.) “Why,
how old are you? He's been no time in the world, the milk is hardly dry
on his lips, he is a mere babe and he is going to be married! But I ...
but you ...”
“Let me go, let me go,” whispered Raissa, and she made for the door.
She looked more dead than alive.
“I am not going to ask permission of you,” David went on shouting,
propping himself up with his fists on the edge of the bed, “but of my
own father who is bound to be here one day soon; he is a law to me, but
you are not; but as for my age, if Raissa and I are not old enough ...
we will bide our time whatever you may say....”
“Aië, aië, Davidka, don't forget yourself,” my father interrupted.
“Just look at yourself. You are not fit to be seen. You have lost all
sense of decency.”
David put his hand to the front of his shirt.
“Whatever you may say...” he repeated. “Oh, shut his mouth, Porfiry
Petrovitch,” piped my aunt from behind the door, “shut his mouth, and
as for this hussy, this baggage ... this ...”
But something extraordinary must have cut short my aunt's eloquence
at that moment: her voice suddenly broke off and in its place we heard
another, feeble and husky with old age....
“Brother,” this weak voice articulated, “Christian soul.”
We all turned round.... In the same costume in which I had just seen
him, thin, pitiful and wild looking, Latkin stood before us like an
“God!” he pronounced in a sort of childish way, pointing upwards with
a bent and trembling finger and gazing impotently at my father, “God
has chastised me, but I have come for Va ... for Ra ... yes, yes, for
Raissotchka.... What ... tchoo! what is there for me? Soon
underground—and what do you call it? One little stick, another ...
cross-beam—that's what I ... want, but you, brother, diamond-merchant
... mind ... I'm a man, too!”
Raissa crossed the room without a word and taking his arm buttoned
“Let us go, Vassilyevna,” he said; “they are all saints here, don't
come to them and he lying there in his case”—he pointed to David—“is
a saint, too, but you and I are sinners, brother. Come. Tchoo....
Forgive an old man with a pepper pot, gentleman! We have stolen
together!” he shouted suddenly; “stolen together, stolen together!” he
repeated, with evident satisfaction that his tongue had obeyed him at
Everyone in the room was silent. “And where is ... the ikon here,” he
asked, throwing back his head and turning up his eyes; “we must cleanse
ourselves a bit.”
He fell to praying to one of the corners, crossing himself fervently
several times in succession, tapping first one shoulder and then the
other with his fingers and hurriedly repeating:
“Have mercy me, oh, Lor ... me, oh, Lor ... me, oh, Lor ...” My
father, who had not taken his eyes off Latkin, and had not uttered a
word, suddenly started, stood beside him and began crossing himself,
too. Then he turned to him, bowed very low so that he touched the floor
with one hand, saying, “You forgive me, too, Martinyan Gavrilitch,”
kissed him on the shoulder. Latkin in response smacked his lips in the
air and blinked: I doubt whether he quite knew what he was doing. Then
my father turned to everyone in the room, to David, to Raissa and to
“Do as you like, act as you think best,” he brought out in a soft and
mournful voice, and he withdrew.
My aunt was running up to him, but he cried out sharply and gruffly
to her. He was overwhelmed.
“Me, oh, Lor ... me, oh, Lor ... mercy!” Latkin repeated. “I am a
“Good-bye, Davidushka,” said Raissa, and she, too, went out of the
room with the old man.
“I will be with you tomorrow,” David called after her, and, turning
his face to the wall, he whispered: “I am very tired; it will be as
well to have some sleep now,” and was quiet.
It was a long while before I went out of the room. I kept in hiding.
I could not forget my father's threats. But my apprehensions turned out
to be unnecessary. He met me and did not utter a word. He seemed to
feel awkward himself. But night soon came on and everything was quiet
in the house.
Next morning David got up as though nothing were the matter and not
long after, on the same day, two important events occurred: in the
morning old Latkin died, and towards evening my uncle, Yegor, David's
father, arrived in Ryazan. Without sending any letter in advance,
without warning anyone, he descended on us like snow on our heads. My
father was completely taken aback and did not know what to offer to his
dear guest and where to make him sit. He rushed about as though
delirious, was flustered as though he were guilty; but my uncle did not
seem to be much touched by his brother's fussy solicitude; he kept
repeating: “What's this for?” or “I don't want anything.” His manner
with my aunt was even colder; she had no great liking for him, indeed.
In her eyes he was an infidel, a heretic, a Voltairian ... (he had in
fact learnt French to read Voltaire in the original). I found my Uncle
Yegor just as David had described him. He was a big heavy man with a
broad pock-marked face, grave and serious. He always wore a hat with
feathers in it, cuffs, a frilled shirt front and a snuff-coloured vest
and a sword at his side. David was unspeakably delighted to see him—he
actually looked brighter in the face and better looking, and his eyes
looked different: merrier, keener, more shining; but he did his utmost
to moderate his joy and not to show it in words: he was afraid of being
too soft. The first night after Uncle Yegor's arrival, father and son
shut themselves up in the room that had been assigned to my uncle and
spent a long time talking together in a low voice; next morning I saw
that my uncle looked particularly affectionately and trustfully at his
son: he seemed very much pleased with him. David took him to the
requiem service for Latkin; I went to it, too, my father did not hinder
my going but remained at home himself. Raissa impressed me by her calm:
she looked pale and much thinner but did not shed tears and spoke and
behaved with perfect simplicity; and with all that, strange to say, I
saw a certain grandeur in her; the unconscious grandeur of sorrow
forgetful of itself! Uncle Yegor made her acquaintance on the spot, in
the church porch; from his manner to her, it was evident that David had
already spoken of her. He was as pleased with her as with his son: I
could read that in David's eyes when he looked at them both. I remember
how his eyes sparkled when his father said, speaking of her: “She's a
clever girl; she'll make a capable woman.” At the Latkins' I was told
that the old man had quietly expired like a candle that has burnt out,
and that until he had lost power and consciousness, he kept stroking
his daughter's head and saying something unintelligible but not gloomy,
and he was smiling to the end. My father went to the funeral and to the
service in the church and prayed very devoutly; Trankvillitatin
actually sang in the choir.
Beside the grave Raissa suddenly broke into sobs and sank forward on
the ground; but she soon recovered herself. Her little deaf and dumb
sister stared at everyone and everything with big, bright, rather
wild-looking eyes; from time to time she huddled up to Raissa, but
there was no sign of terror about her. The day after the funeral Uncle
Yegor, who, judging from appearances, had not come back from Siberia
with empty hands (he paid for the funeral and liberally rewarded
David's rescuer) but who told us nothing of his doings there or of his
plans for the future, Uncle Yegor suddenly informed my father that he
did not intend to remain in Ryazan, but was going to Moscow with his
son. My father, from a feeling of propriety, expressed regret and even
tried—very faintly it is true—to induce my uncle to alter his
decision, but at the bottom of his heart, I think he was really much
The presence of his brother with whom he had very little in common,
who did not even condescend to reproach him, whose feeling for him was
more one of simple disgust than disdain—oppressed him ... and parting
with David could not have caused him much regret. I, of course, was
utterly crushed by the separation; I was utterly desolate at first and
lost all support in life and all interest in it.
And so my uncle went away and took with him not only David but, to
the great astonishment and even indignation of our whole street, Raissa
and her little sister, too.... When she heard of this, my aunt promptly
called him a Turk, and called him a Turk to the end of her days.
And I was left alone, alone ... but this story is not about me.
So this is the end of my tale of the watch. What more have I to tell
you? Five years after David was married to his Black-lip, and in 1812,
as a lieutenant of artillery, he died a glorious death on the
battlefield of Borodino in defence of the Shevardinsky redoubt.
Much water has flowed by since then and I have had many watches; I
have even attained the dignity of a real repeater with a second hand
and the days of the week on it. But in a secret drawer of my writing
table there is preserved an old-fashioned silver watch with a rose on
the face; I bought it from a Jewish pedlar, struck by its likeness to
the watch which was once presented to me by my godfather. From time to
time, when I am alone and expect no one, I take it out of the drawer
and looking at it remember my young days and the companion of those
days that have fled never to return.