Mumu by Ivan
From "Torrents of Spring." Translated by Constance Garnett.
In one of the outlying streets of Moscow, in a gray house with white
columns and a balcony, warped all askew, there was once living a lady,
a widow, surrounded by a numerous household of serfs. Her sons were in
the government service at Petersburg; her daughters were married; she
went out very little, and in solitude lived through the last years of
her miserly and dreary old age. Her day, a joyless and gloomy day, had
long been over; but the evening of her life was blacker than night.
Of all her servants, the most remarkable personage was the porter,
Gerasim, a man full twelve inches over the normal height, of heroic
build, and deaf and dumb from his birth. The lady, his owner, had
brought him up from the village where he lived alone in a little hut,
apart from his brothers, and was reckoned about the most punctual of
her peasants in the payment of the seignorial dues. Endowed with
extraordinary strength, he did the work of four men; work flew apace
under his hands, and it was a pleasant sight to see him when he was
ploughing, while, with his huge palms pressing hard upon the plough, he
seemed alone, unaided by his poor horse, to cleave the yielding bosom
of the earth, or when, about St. Peter's Day, he plied his scythe with
a furious energy that might have mown a young birch copse up by the
roots, or swiftly and untiringly wielded a flail over two yards long;
while the hard oblong muscles of his shoulders rose and fell like a
lever. His perpetual silence lent a solemn dignity to his unwearying
labor. He was a splendid peasant, and, except for his affliction, any
girl would have been glad to marry him. . . But now they had taken
Gerasim to Moscow, bought him boots, had him made a full-skirted coat
for summer, a sheepskin for winter, put into his hand a broom and a
spade, and appointed him porter.
At first he intensely disliked his new mode of life. From his
childhood he had been used to field labor, to village life. Shut off
by his affliction from the society of men, he had grown up, dumb and
mighty, as a tree grows on a fruitful soil. When he was transported to
the town, he could not understand what was being done with him; he was
miserable and stupefied, with the stupefaction of some strong young
bull, taken straight from the meadow, where the rich grass stood up to
his belly, taken and put in the truck of a railway train, and there,
while smoke and sparks and gusts of steam puff out upon the sturdy
beast, he is whirled onwards, whirled along with loud roar and whistle,
whither—God knows! What Gerasim had to do in his new duties seemed a
mere trifle to him after his hard toil as a peasant; in half an hour
all his work was done, and he would once more stand stock-still in the
middle of the courtyard, staring open-mouthed at all the passers-by, as
though trying to wrest from them the explanation of his perplexing
position; or he would suddenly go off into some corner, and flinging a
long way off the broom or the spade, throw himself on his face on the
ground, and lie for hours together without stirring, like a caged
beast. But man gets used to anything, and Gerasim got used at last to
living in town. He had little work to do; his whole duty consisted in
keeping the courtyard clean, bringing in a barrel of water twice a day,
splitting and dragging in wood for the kitchen and the house, keeping
out strangers, and watching at night. And it must be said he did his
duty zealously. In his courtyard there was never a shaving lying
about, never a speck of dust; if sometimes, in the muddy season, the
wretched nag, put under his charge for fetching water, got stuck in the
road, he would simply give it a shove with his shoulder, and set not
only the cart but the horse itself moving. If he set to chopping wood,
the axe fairly rang like glass, and chips and chunks flew in all
directions. And as for strangers, after he had one night caught two
thieves and knocked their heads together—knocked them so that there
was not the slightest need to take them to the police-station
afterwards—every one in the neighborhood began to feel a great respect
for him; even those who came in the daytime, by no means robbers, but
simply unknown persons, at the sight of the terrible porter, waved and
shouted to him as though he could hear their shouts. With all the rest
of the servants, Gerasim was on terms hardly friendly—they were afraid
of him—but familiar; he regarded them as his fellows. They explained
themselves to him by signs, and he understood them, and exactly carried
out all orders, but knew his own rights too, and soon no one dared to
take his seat at the table. Gerasim was altogether of a strict and
serious temper, he liked order in everything; even the cocks did not
dare to fight in his presence, or woe betide them! Directly he caught
sight of them, he would seize them by the legs, swing them ten times
round in the air like a wheel, and throw them in different directions.
There were geese, too, kept in the yard; but the goose, as is well
known, is a dignified and reasonable bird: Gerasim felt a respect for
them, looked after them, and fed them; he was himself not unlike a
gander of the steppes. He was assigned a little garret over the
kitchen; he arranged it himself to his own liking, made a bedstead in
it of oak boards on four stumps of wood for legs—a truly Titanic
bedstead; one might have put a ton or two on it—it would not have bent
under the load; under the bed was a solid chest; in a corner stood a
little table of the same strong kind, and near the table a three-legged
stool, so solid and squat that Gerasim himself would sometimes pick it
up and drop it again with a smile of delight. The garret was locked up
by means of a padlock that looked like a kalatch or basket-shaped loaf,
only black; the key of this padlock Gerasim always carried about him in
his girdle. He did not like people to come to his garret.
So passed a year, at the end of which a little incident befell Gerasim.
The old lady, in whose service he lived as porter, adhered in
everything to the ancient ways, and kept a large number of servants.
In her house were not only laundresses, sempstresses, carpenters,
tailors and tailoresses, there was even a harness-maker—he was
reckoned as a veterinary surgeon, too,—and a doctor for the servants;
there was a household doctor for the mistress; there was, lastly, a
shoemaker, by name Kapiton Klimov, a sad drunkard. Klimov regarded
himself as an injured creature, whose merits were unappreciated, a
cultivated man from Petersburg, who ought not to be living in Moscow
without occupation—in the wilds, so to speak; and if he drank, as he
himself expressed it emphatically, with a blow on his chest, it was
sorrow drove him to it. So one day his mistress had a conversation
about him with her head steward, Gavrila, a man whom, judging solely
from his little yellow eyes and nose like a duck's beak, fate itself,
it seemed, had marked out as a person in authority. The lady expressed
her regret at the corruption of the morals of Kapiton, who had, only
the evening before, been picked up somewhere in the street.
"Now, Gavrila," she observed, all of a sudden, "now, if we were to
marry him, what do you think, perhaps he would be steadier?"
"Why not marry him, indeed, 'm? He could be married, 'm," answered
Gavrila, "and it would be a very good thing, to be sure, 'm."
"Yes; only who is to marry him?"
"Ay, 'm. But that's at your pleasure, 'm. He may, any way, so to say,
be wanted for something; he can't be turned adrift altogether."
"I fancy he likes Tatiana."
Gavrila was on the point of making some reply, but he shut his lips
"Yes! . . . let him marry Tatiana," the lady decided, taking a pinch of
snuff complacently, "Do you hear?"
"Yes, 'm," Gavrila articulated, and he withdrew.
Returning to his own room (it was in a little lodge, and was almost
filled up with metal-bound trunks), Gavrila first sent his wife away,
and then sat down at the window and pondered. His mistress's
unexpected arrangement had clearly put him in a difficulty. At last he
got up and sent to call Kapiton. Kapiton made his appearance. . . But
before reporting their conversation to the reader, we consider it not
out of place to relate in few words who was this Tatiana, whom it was
to be Kapiton's lot to marry, and why the great lady's order had
disturbed the steward.
Tatiana, one of the laundresses referred to above (as a trained and
skilful laundress she was in charge of the fine linen only), was a
woman of twenty-eight, thin, fair-haired, with moles on her left cheek.
Moles on the left cheek are regarded as of evil omen in Russia—a token
of unhappy life. . . Tatiana could not boast of her good luck. From
her earliest youth she had been badly treated; she had done the work of
two, and had never known affection; she had been poorly clothed and had
received the smallest wages. Relations she had practically none; an
uncle she had once had, a butler, left behind in the country as
useless, and other uncles of hers were peasants—that was all. At one
time she had passed for a beauty, but her good looks were very soon
over. In disposition, she was very meek, or, rather, scared; towards
herself, she felt perfect indifference; of others, she stood in mortal
dread; she thought of nothing but how to get her work done in good
time, never talked to any one, and trembled at the very name of her
mistress, though the latter scarcely knew her by sight. When Gerasim
was brought from the country, she was ready to die with fear on seeing
his huge figure, tried all she could to avoid meeting him, even dropped
her eyelids when sometimes she chanced to run past him, hurrying from
the house to the laundry. Gerasim at first paid no special attention
to her, then he used to smile when she came his way, then he began even
to stare admiringly at her, and at last he never took his eyes off her.
She took his fancy, whether by the mild expression of her face or the
timidity of her movements, who can tell? So one day she was stealing
across the yard, with a starched dressing-jacket of her mistress's
carefully poised on her outspread fingers . . . some one suddenly
grasped her vigorously by the elbow; she turned round and fairly
screamed; behind her stood Gerasim. With a foolish smile, making
inarticulate caressing grunts, he held out to her a gingerbread cock
with gold tinsel on his tail and wings. She was about to refuse it,
but he thrust it forcibly into her hand, shook his head, walked away,
and turning round, once more grunted something very affectionately to
From that day forward he gave her no peace; wherever she went, he was
on the spot at once, coming to meet her, smiling, grunting, waving his
hands; all at once he would pull a ribbon out of the bosom of his smock
and put it in her hand, or would sweep the dust out of her way. The
poor girl simply did not know how to behave or what to do. Soon the
whole household knew of the dumb porter's wiles; jeers, jokes, sly
hints, were showered upon Tatiana. At Gerasim, however, it was not
every one who would dare to scoff; he did not like jokes; indeed, in
his presence, she, too, was left in peace. Whether she liked it or
not, the girl found herself to be under his protection. Like all
deaf-mutes, he was very suspicious, and very readily perceived when
they were laughing at him or at her. One day, at dinner, the
wardrobe-keeper, Tatiana's superior, fell to nagging, as it is called,
at her, and brought the poor thing to such a state that she did not
know where to look, and was almost crying with vexation. Gerasim got
up all of a sudden, stretched out his gigantic hand, laid it on the
wardrobe-maid's head, and looked into her face with such grim ferocity
that her head positively flopped upon the table. Every one was still.
Gerasim took up his spoon again and went on with his cabbage-soup.
"Look at him, the dumb devil, the wood-demon!" they all muttered in
undertones, while the wardrobe-maid got up and went out into the maid's
room. Another time, noticing that Kapiton—the same Kapiton who was
the subject of the conversation reported above—was gossiping somewhat
too attentively with Tatiana, Gerasim beckoned him to him, led him into
the cartshed, and taking up a shaft that was standing in a corner by
one end, lightly, but most significantly, menaced him with it. Since
then no one addressed a word to Tatiana. And all this cost him
nothing. It is true the wardrobe-maid, as soon as she reached the
maids' room, promptly fell into a fainting fit, and behaved altogether
so skilfully that Gerasim's rough action reached his mistress's
knowledge the same day. But the capricious old lady only laughed, and
several times, to the great offence of the wardrobe-maid, forced her to
repeat "how he bent your head down with his heavy hand," and next day
she sent Gerasim a rouble. She looked on him with favor as a strong
and faithful watchman. Gerasim stood in considerable awe of her, but,
all the same, he had hopes of her favor, and was preparing to go to her
with a petition for leave to marry Tatiana. He was only waiting for a
new coat, promised him by the steward, to present a proper appearance
before his mistress, when this same mistress suddenly took it into her
head to marry Tatiana to Kapiton.
The reader will now readily understand the perturbation of mind that
overtook the steward Gavrila after his conversation with his mistress.
"My lady," he thought, as he sat at the window, "favors Gerasim, to be
sure"—(Gavrila was well aware of this, and that was why he himself
looked on him with an indulgent eye)—"still he is a speechless
creature. I could not, indeed, put it before the mistress that
Gerasim's courting Tatiana. But, after all, it's true enough; he's a
queer sort of husband. But on the other hand, that devil, God forgive
me, has only got to find out they're marrying Tatiana to Kapiton, he'll
smash up everything in the house, 'pon my soul! There's no reasoning
with him; why, he's such a devil, God forgive my sins, there's no
getting over him nohow . . . 'pon my soul!"
Kapiton's entrance broke the thread of Gavrila's reflections. The
dissipated shoemaker came in, his hands behind him, and lounging
carelessly against a projecting angle of the wall, near the door,
crossed his right foot in front of his left, and tossed his head, as
much as to say, "What do you want?"
Gavrila looked at Kapiton, and drummed with his fingers on the
window-frame. Kapiton merely screwed up his leaden eyes a little, but
he did not look down; he even grinned slightly, and passed his hand
over his whitish locks which were sticking up in all directions.
"Well, here I am. What is it?"
"You're a pretty fellow," said Gavrila, and paused. "A pretty fellow
you are, there's no denying!"
Kapiton only twitched his little shoulders. "Are you any better,
pray?" he thought to himself.
"Just look at yourself, now, look at yourself," Gavrila went on
reproachfully; "now, whatever do you look like?"
Kapiton serenely surveyed his shabby, tattered coat and his patched
trousers, and with special attention stared at his burst boots,
especially the one on the tiptoe of which his right foot so gracefully
poised, and he fixed his eyes again on the steward.
"Well?" repeated Gavrila. "Well? And then you say well? You look
like Old Nick himself, God forgive my saying so, that's what you look
Kapiton blinked rapidly.
"Go on abusing me, go on, if you like, Gavrila Andreitch," he thought
to himself again.
"Here you've been drunk again," Gavrila began, "drunk again, haven't
you? Eh? Come, answer me!"
"Owing to the weakness of my health, I have exposed myself to
spirituous beverages, certainly," replied Kapiton.
"Owing to the weakness of your health! . . . They let you off too easy,
that's what it is; and you've been apprenticed in Petersburg. . . Much
you learned in your apprenticeship! You simply eat your bread in
"In that matter, Gavrila Andreitch, there is One to judge me, the Lord
God Himself, and no one else. He also knows what manner of man I be in
this world, and whether I eat my bread in idleness. And as concerning
your contention regarding drunkenness, in that matter, too, I am not to
blame, but rather a friend; he led me into temptation, but was
diplomatic and got away, while I . . ."
"While you were left like a goose, in the street. Ah, you're a
dissolute fellow! But that's not the point," the steward went on,
"I've something to tell you. Our lady . . ." here he paused a minute,
"it's our lady's pleasure that you should be married. Do you hear?
She imagines you may be steadier when you're married. Do you
"To be sure I do."
"Well, then. For my part I think it would be better to give you a good
hiding. But there—it's her business. Well? are you agreeable?"
"Matrimony is an excellent thing for any one, Gavrila Andreitch; and,
as far as I am concerned, I shall be quite agreeable."
"Very well, then," replied Gavrila, while he reflected to himself:
"There's no denying the man expresses himself very properly. Only
there's one thing," he pursued aloud: "the wife our lady's picked out
for you is an unlucky choice."
"Why, who is she, permit me to inquire?"
And Kapiton opened his eyes, and moved a little away from the wall.
"Well, what are you in such a taking for? . . . Isn't she to your
"Not to my taste, do you say, Gavrila Andreitch? She's right enough, a
hard-working steady girl. . . But you know very well yourself, Gavrila
Andreitch, why that fellow, that wild man of the woods, that monster of
the steppes, he's after her, you know. . ."
"I know, mate, I know all about it," the butler cut him short in a tone
of annoyance: "but there, you see . . ."
"But upon my soul, Gavrila Andreitch! why, he'll kill me, by God, he
will, he'll crush me like some fly; why, he's got a fist—why, you
kindly look yourself what a fist he's got; why, he's simply got a fist
like Minin Pozharsky's. You see he's deaf, he beats and does not hear
how he's beating! He swings his great fists, as if he's asleep. And
there's no possibility of pacifying him; and for why? Why, because, as
you know yourself, Gavrila Andreitch, he's deaf, and what's more, has
no more wit than the heel of my foot. Why, he's a sort of beast, a
heathen idol, Gavrila Andreitch, and worse . . . a block of wood; what
have I done that I should have to suffer from him now? Sure it is,
it's all over me now; I've knocked about, I've had enough to put up
with, I've been battered like an earthenware pot, but still I'm a man,
after all, and not a worthless pot."
"I know, I know, don't go talking away. . ."
"Lord, my God!" the shoemaker continued warmly, "when is the end? when,
O Lord! A poor wretch I am, a poor wretch whose sufferings are
endless! What a life, what a life mine's been come to think of it! In
my young days, I was beaten by a German I was 'prentice to; in the
prime of life beaten by my own countrymen, and last of all, in ripe
years, see what I have been brought to. . ."
"Ugh, you flabby soul!" said Gavrila Andreitch. "Why do you make so
many words about it?"
"Why, do you say, Gavrila Andreitch? It's not a beating I'm afraid of,
Gavrila Andreitch. A gentleman may chastise me in private, but give me
a civil word before folks, and I'm a man still; but see now, whom I've
to do with . . ."
"Come, get along," Gavrila interposed impatiently. Kapiton turned away
and staggered off.
"But, if it were not for him," the steward shouted after him, "you
would consent for your part?"
"I signify my acquiescence," retorted Kapiton as he disappeared.
His fine language did not desert him, even in the most trying positions.
The steward walked several times up and down the room.
"Well, call Tatiana now," he said at last.
A few instants later, Tatiana had come up almost noiselessly, and was
standing in the doorway.
"What are your orders, Gavrila Andreitch?" she said in a soft voice.
The steward looked at her intently.
"Well, Taniusha," he said, "would you like to be married? Our lady has
chosen a husband for you?"
"Yes, Gavrila Andreitch. And whom has she deigned to name as a husband
for me?" she added falteringly.
"Kapiton, the shoemaker."
"He's a feather-brained fellow, that's certain. But it's just for that
the mistress reckons upon you."
"There's one difficulty . . . you know the deaf man, Gerasim, he's
courting you, you see. How did you come to bewitch such a bear? But
you see, he'll kill you, very like, he's such a bear . . ."
"He'll kill me, Gavrila Andreitch, he'll kill me, and no mistake."
"Kill you . . . Well we shall see about that. What do you mean by
saying he'll kill you? Has he any right to kill you? tell me yourself."
"I don't know, Gavrila Andreitch, about his having any right or not."
"What a woman! why, you've made him no promise, I suppose . . ."
"What are you pleased to ask of me?"
The steward was silent for a little, thinking, "You're a meek soul!
Well, that's right," he said aloud; "we'll have another talk with you
later, now you can go, Taniusha; I see you're not unruly, certainly."
Tatiana turned, steadied herself a little against the doorpost, and
"And, perhaps, our lady will forget all about this wedding by
to-morrow," thought the steward; "and here am I worrying myself for
nothing! As for that insolent fellow, we must tie him down if it comes
to that, we must let the police know . . . Ustinya Fyedorovna!" he
shouted in a loud voice to his wife, "heat the samovar, my good soul .
. ." All that day Tatiana hardly went out of the laundry. At first
she had started crying, then she wiped away her tears, and set to work
as before. Kapiton stayed till late at night at the gin-shop with a
friend of his, a man of gloomy appearance, to whom he related in detail
how he used to live in Petersburg with a gentleman, who would have been
all right, except he was a bit too strict, and he had a slight weakness
besides, he was too fond of drink; and, as to the fair sex, he didn't
stick at anything. His gloomy companion merely said yes; but when
Kapiton announced at last that, in a certain event, he would have to
lay hands on himself to-morrow, his gloomy companion remarked that it
was bedtime. And they parted in surly silence.
Meanwhile, the steward's anticipations were not fulfilled. The old
lady was so much taken up with the idea of Kapiton's wedding, that even
in the night she talked of nothing else to one of her companions, who
was kept in her house solely to entertain her in case of sleeplessness,
and, like a night cabman, slept in the day. When Gavrila came to her
after morning tea with his report, her first question was: "And how
about our wedding—is it getting on all right?" He replied, of course,
that it was getting on first-rate, and that Kapiton would appear before
her to pay his reverence to her that day. The old lady was not quite
well; she did not give much time to business. The steward went back to
his own room, and called a council. The matter certainly called for
serious consideration. Tatiana would make no difficulty, of course;
but Kapiton had declared in the hearing of all that he had but one head
to lose, not two or three. . . Gerasim turned rapid sullen looks on
every one, would not budge from the steps of the maids' quarters, and
seemed to guess that some mischief was being hatched against him. They
met together. Among them was an old sideboard waiter, nicknamed Uncle
Tail, to whom every one looked respectfully for counsel, though all
they got out of him was, "Here's a pretty pass! to be sure, to be sure,
to be sure!" As a preliminary measure of security, to provide against
contingencies, they locked Kapiton up in the lumber-room where the
filter was kept; then considered the question with the gravest
deliberation. It would, to be sure, be easy to have recourse to force.
But Heaven save us! There would be an uproar, the mistress would be
put out—it would be awful! What should they do? They thought and
thought, and at last thought out a solution. It had many a time been
observed that Gerasim could not bear drunkards. . . . As he sat at the
gates, he would always turn away with disgust when some one passed by
intoxicated, with unsteady steps and his cap on one side of his ear.
They resolved that Tatiana should be instructed to pretend to be tipsy,
and should pass by Gerasim staggering and reeling about. The poor girl
refused for a long while to agree to this, but they persuaded her at
last; she saw, too, that it was the only possible way of getting rid of
her adorer. She went out. Kapiton was released from the lumber-room;
for, after all, he had an interest in the affair. Gerasim was sitting
on the curbstone at the gates, scraping the ground with a spade. . . .
From behind every corner, from behind every window-blind, the others
were watching him. . . . The trick succeeded beyond all expectations.
On seeing Tatiana, at first, he nodded as usual, making caressing,
inarticulate sounds; then he looked carefully at her, dropped his
spade, jumped up, went up to her, brought his face close to her face. .
. . In her fright she staggered more than ever, and shut her eyes. . .
. He took her by the arm, whirled her right across the yard, and going
into the room where the council had been sitting, pushed her straight
at Kapiton. Tatiana fairly swooned away. . . . Gerasim stood, looked
at her, waved his hand, laughed, and went off, stepping heavily, to his
garret. . . . For the next twenty-four hours he did not come out of
it. The postilion Antipka said afterwards that he saw Gerasim through
a crack in the wall, sitting on his bedstead, his face in his hand.
From time to time he uttered soft regular sounds; he was wailing a
dirge, that is, swaying backwards and forwards with his eyes shut, and
shaking his head as drivers or bargemen do when they chant their
melancholy songs. Antipka could not bear it, and he came away from the
crack. When Gerasim came out of the garret next day, no particular
change could be observed in him. He only seemed, as it were, more
morose, and took not the slightest notice of Tatiana or Kapiton. The
same evening, they both had to appear before their mistress with geese
under their arms, and in a week's time they were married. Even on the
day of the wedding Gerasim showed no change of any sort in his
behavior. Only, he came back from the river without water, he had
somehow broken the barrel on the road; and at night, in the stable, he
washed and rubbed down his horse so vigorously, it swayed like a blade
of grass in the wind, and staggered from one leg to the other under his
fists of iron.
All this had taken place in the spring. Another year passed by, during
which Kapiton became a hopeless drunkard, and as being absolutely of no
use for anything, was sent away with the store wagons to a distant
village with his wife. On the day of his departure, he put a very good
face on it at first, and declared that he would always be at home, send
him where they would, even to the other end of the world; but later on
he lost heart, began grumbling that he was being taken to uneducated
people, and collapsed so completely at last that he could not even put
his own hat on. Some charitable soul stuck it on his forehead, set the
peak straight in front, and thrust it on with a slap from above. When
everything was quite ready, and the peasants already held the reins in
their hands, and were only waiting for the words "With God's blessing!"
to start, Gerasim came out of his garret, went up to Tatiana, and gave
her as a parting present a red cotton handkerchief he had bought for
her a year ago. Tatiana, who had up to that instant borne all the
revolting details of her life with great indifference, could not
control herself upon that; she burst into tears, and as she took her
seat in the cart, she kissed Gerasim three times like a good Christian.
He meant to accompany her as far as the town-barrier, and did walk
beside her cart for a while, but he stopped suddenly at the Crimean
ford, waved his hand, and walked away along the riverside.
It was getting towards evening. He walked slowly, watching the water.
All of a sudden he fancied something was floundering in the mud close
to the bank. He stooped over, and saw a little white-and-black puppy,
who, in spite of all its efforts, could not get out of the water; it
was struggling, slipping back, and trembling all over its thin wet
little body. Gerasim looked at the unlucky little dog, picked it up
with one hand, put it into the bosom of his coat, and hurried with long
steps homewards. He went into his garret, put the rescued puppy on his
bed, covered it with his thick overcoat, ran first to the stable for
straw, and then to the kitchen for a cup of milk. Carefully folding
back the overcoat, and spreading out the straw, he set the milk on the
bedstead. The poor little puppy was not more than three weeks old, its
eyes were just open—one eye still seemed rather larger than the other;
it did not know how to lap out of a cup, and did nothing but shiver and
blink. Gerasim took hold of its head softly with two fingers, and
dipped its little nose into the milk. The pup suddenly began lapping
greedily, sniffing, shaking itself, and choking. Gerasim watched and
watched it, and all at once he laughed outright. . . . All night long
he was waiting on it, keeping it covered, and rubbing it dry. He fell
asleep himself at last, and slept quietly and happily by its side.
No mother could have looked after her baby as Gerasim looked after his
little nursling. At first she—for the pup turned out to be a
bitch—was very weak, feeble, and ugly, but by degrees she grew
stronger and improved in looks, and, thanks to the unflagging care of
her preserver, in eight months' time she was transformed into a very
pretty dog of the spaniel breed, with long ears, a bushy spiral tail,
and large, expressive eyes. She was devotedly attached to Gerasim, and
was never a yard from his side; she always followed him about wagging
her tail. He had even given her a name—the dumb know that their
inarticulate noises call the attention of others. He called her Mumu.
All the servants in the house liked her, and called her Mumu, too. She
was very intelligent, she was friendly with every one, but was only
fond of Gerasim. Gerasim, on his side, loved her passionately, and he
did not like it when other people stroked her; whether he was afraid
for her, or jealous—God knows! She used to wake him in the morning,
pulling at his coat; she used to take the reins in her mouth, and bring
him up the old horse that carried the water, with whom she was on very
friendly terms. With a face of great importance, she used to go with
him to the river; she used to watch his brooms and spades, and never
allowed any one to go into his garret. He cut a little hole in his
door on purpose for her, and she seemed to feel that only in Gerasim's
garret she was completely mistress and at home; and directly she went
in, she used to jump with a satisfied air upon the bed. At night she
did not sleep at all, but she never barked without sufficient cause,
like some stupid house-dog, who, sitting on its hind-legs, blinking,
with its nose in the air, barks simply from dullness, at the stars,
usually three times in succession. No! Mumu's delicate little voice
was never raised without good reason; either some stranger was passing
close to the fence, or there was some suspicious sound or rustle
somewhere. . . . In fact, she was an excellent watch-dog. It is true
that there was another dog in the yard, a tawny old dog with brown
spots, called Wolf, but he was never, even at night, let off the chain;
and, indeed, he was so decrepit that he did not even wish for freedom.
He used to lie curled up in his kennel, and only rarely uttered a
sleepy, almost noiseless bark, which broke off at once, as though he
were himself aware of its uselessness. Mumu never went into the
mistress's house; and when Gerasim carried wood into the rooms, she
always stayed behind, impatiently waiting for him at the steps,
pricking up her ears and turning her head to right and to left at the
slightest creak of the door . . .
So passed another year. Gerasim went on performing his duties as
house-porter, and was very well content with his lot, when suddenly an
unexpected incident occurred. . . . One fine summer day the old lady
was walking up and down the drawing-room with her dependants. She was
in high spirits; she laughed and made jokes. Her servile companions
laughed and joked too, but they did not feel particularly mirthful; the
household did not much like it, when their mistress was in a lively
mood, for, to begin with, she expected from every one prompt and
complete participation in her merriment, and was furious if any one
showed a face that did not beam with delight; and secondly, these
outbursts never lasted long with her, and were usually followed by a
sour and gloomy mood. That day she had got up in a lucky hour; at
cards she took the four knaves, which means the fulfilment of one's
wishes (she used to try her fortune on the cards every morning), and
her tea struck her as particularly delicious, for which her maid was
rewarded by words of praise, and by twopence in money. With a sweet
smile on her wrinkled lips, the lady walked about the drawing-room and
went up to the window. A flower-garden had been laid out before the
window, and in the very middle bed, under a rosebush, lay Mumu busily
gnawing a bone. The lady caught sight of her.
"Mercy on us!" she cried suddenly; "what dog is that?"
The companion, addressed by the old lady, hesitated, poor thing, in
that wretched state of uneasiness which is common in any person in a
dependent position who doesn't know very well what significance to give
to the exclamation of a superior.
"I d . . . d . . . don't know," she faltered; "I fancy it's the dumb
"Mercy!" the lady cut her short; "but it's a charming little dog! order
it to be brought in. Has he had it long? How is it I've never seen it
before? . . . Order it to be brought in."
The companion flew at once into the hall.
"Boy, boy!" she shouted; "bring Mumu in at once! She's in the
"Her name's Mumu then," observed the lady; "a very nice name."
"Oh, very, indeed!" chimed in the companion. "Make haste, Stepan!"
Stepan, a sturdy-built young fellow, whose duties were those of a
footman, rushed headlong into the flower-garden, and tried to capture
Mumu, but she cleverly slipped from his fingers, and with her tail in
the air, fled full speed to Gerasim, who was at that instant in the
kitchen, knocking out and cleaning a barrel, turning it upside down in
his hands like a child's drum. Stepan ran after her, and tried to
catch her just at her master's feet; but the sensible dog would not let
a stranger touch her, and with a bound, she got away. Gerasim looked
on with a smile at all this ado; at last, Stepan got up, much amazed,
and hurriedly explained to him by signs that the mistress wanted the
dog brought in to her. Gerasim was a little astonished; he called
Mumu, however, picked her up, and handed her over to Stepan. Stepan
carried her into the drawing-room, and put her down on the parquette
floor. The old lady began calling the dog to her in a coaxing voice.
Mumu, who had never in her life been in such magnificent apartments,
was very much frightened, and made a rush for the door, but, being
driven back by the obsequious Stepan, she began trembling, and huddled
close up against the wall.
"Mumu, Mumu, come to me, come to your mistress," said the lady; "come,
silly thing . . . don't be afraid."
"Come, Mumu, come to the mistress," repeated the companions. "Come
But Mumu looked round her uneasily, and did not stir.
"Bring her something to eat," said the old lady. "How stupid she is!
she won't come to her mistress. What's she afraid of?"
"She's not used to your honor yet," ventured one of the companions in a
timid and conciliatory voice.
Stepan brought in a saucer of milk, and set it down before Mumu, but
Mumu would not even sniff at the milk, and still shivered, and looked
round as before.
"Ah, what a silly you are!" said the lady, and going up to her, she
stooped down, and was about to stroke her, but Mumu turned her head
abruptly, and showed her teeth. The lady hurriedly drew back her hand.
. . .
A momentary silence followed. Mumu gave a faint whine, as though she
would complain and apologize. . . . The old lady moved back, scowling.
The dog's sudden movement had frightened her.
"Ah!" shrieked all the companions at once, "she's not bitten you, has
she? Heaven forbid! (Mumu had never bitten any one in her life.) Ah!
"Take her away," said the old lady in a changed voice. "Wretched
little dog! What a spiteful creature!"
And, turning round deliberately, she went towards her boudoir. Her
companions looked timidly at one another, and were about to follow her,
but she stopped, stared coldly at them, and said, "What's that for,
pray? I've not called you," and went out.
The companions waved their hands to Stepan in despair. He picked up
Mumu, and flung her promptly outside the door, just at Gerasim's feet,
and half an hour later a profound stillness led in the house, and the
old lady sat on her sofa looking blacker than a thundercloud.
What trifles, if you think of it, will sometimes disturb any one!
Till evening the lady was out of humor; she did not talk to any one,
did not play cards, and passed a bad night. She fancied the
eau-de-Cologne they gave her was not the same as she usually had, and
that her pillow smelt of soap, and she made the wardrobe-maid smell all
the bed linen—in fact she was very upset and cross altogether. Next
morning she ordered Gavrila to be summoned an hour earlier than usual.
"Tell me, please," she began, directly the latter, not without some
inward trepidation, crossed the threshold of her boudoir, "what dog was
that barking all night in our yard? It wouldn't let me sleep!"
"A dog, 'm . . . what dog, 'm . . . may be, the dumb man's dog, 'm," he
brought out in a rather unsteady voice.
"I don't know whether it was the dumb man's or whose, but it wouldn't
let me sleep. And I wonder what we have such a lot of dogs for! I
wish to know. We have a yard dog, haven't we?"
"Oh yes, 'm, we have, 'm. Wolf, 'm."
"Well, why more? what do we want more dogs for? It's simply
introducing disorder. There's no one in control in the house—that's
what it is. And what does the dumb man want with a dog? Who gave him
leave to keep dogs in my yard? Yesterday I went to the window, and
there it was lying in the flower-garden; it had dragged in nastiness it
was gnawing, and my roses are planted there . . ."
The lady ceased.
"Let her be gone from to-day . . . do you hear?"
"To-day. Now go. I will send for you later for the report."
Gavrila went away.
As he went through the drawing-room, the steward, by way of maintaining
order, moved a bell from one table to another; he stealthily blew his
duck-like nose in the hall, and went into the outer-hall. In the
outer-hall, on a locker, was Stepan asleep in the attitude of a slain
warrior in a battalion picture, his bare legs thrust out below the coat
which served him for a blanket. The steward gave him a shove, and
whispered some instructions to him, to which Stepan responded with
something between a yawn and a laugh. The steward went away, and
Stepan got up, put on his coat and his boots, went out and stood on the
steps. Five minutes had not passed before Gerasim made his appearance
with a huge bundle of hewn logs on his back, accompanied by the
inseparable Mumu. (The lady had given orders that her bedroom and
boudoir should be heated at times even in the summer.) Gerasim turned
sideways before the door, shoved it open with his shoulder, and
staggered into the house with his load. Mumu, as usual, stayed behind
to wait for him. Then Stepan, seizing his chance, suddenly pounced on
her, like a kite on a chicken, held her down to the ground, gathered
her up in his arms, and without even putting on his cap, ran out of the
yard with her, got into the first fly he met, and galloped off to a
market-place. There he soon found a purchaser, to whom he sold her for
a shilling, on condition that he would keep her for at least a week
tied up; then he returned at once. But before he got home, he got off
the fly, and going right round the yard, jumped over the fence into the
yard from a back street. He was afraid to go in at the gate for fear
of meeting Gerasim.
His anxiety was unnecessary, however; Gerasim was no longer in the
yard. On coming out of the house he had at once missed Mumu. He never
remembered her failing to wait for his return, and began running up and
down, looking for her, and calling her in his own way. . . . He rushed
up to his garret, up to the hay-loft, ran out into the street, this way
and that. . . . She was lost! He turned to the other serfs, with the
most despairing signs, questioned them about her, pointing to her
height from the ground, describing her with his hands. . . . Some of
them really did not know what had become of Mumu, and merely shook
their heads; others did know, and smiled to him for all response; while
the steward assumed an important air, and began scolding the coachmen.
Then Gerasim ran right away out of the yard.
It was dark by the time he came back. From his worn-out look, his
unsteady walk, and his dusty clothes, it might be surmised that he had
been running over half Moscow. He stood still opposite the windows of
the mistress's house, took a searching look at the steps where a group
of house-serfs were crowded together, turned away, and uttered once
more his inarticulate "Mumu." Mumu did not answer. He went away.
Every one looked after him, but no one smiled or said a word, and the
inquisitive postilion Antipka reported next morning in the kitchen that
the dumb man had been groaning all night.
All the next day Gerasim did not show himself, so that they were
obliged to send the coachman Potap for water instead of him, at which
the coachman Potap was anything but pleased. The lady asked Gavrila if
her orders had been carried out. Gavrila replied that they had. The
next morning Gerasim came out of his garret, and went about his work.
He came in to his dinner, ate it, and went out again, without a
greeting to any one. His face, which had always been lifeless, as with
all deaf-mutes, seemed now to be turned to stone. After dinner he went
out of the yard again, but not for long; he came back, and went
straight up to the hay-loft. Night came on, a clear moonlight night.
Gerasim lay breathing heavily, and incessantly turning from side to
side. Suddenly he felt something pull at the skirt of his coat. He
started, but did not raise his head, and even shut his eyes tighter.
But again there was a pull, stronger than before; he jumped up before
him, with an end of string round her neck, was Mumu, twisting and
turning. A prolonged cry of delight broke from his speechless breast;
he caught up Mumu, and hugged her tight in his arms, she licked his
nose and eyes, and beard and moustache, all in one instant. . . . He
stood a little, thought a minute, crept cautiously down from the
hay-loft, looked round, and having satisfied himself that no one could
see him, made his way successfully to his garret. Gerasim had guessed
before that his dog had not got lost by her own doing, that she must
have been taken away by the mistress's orders; the servants had
explained to him by signs that his Mumu had snapped at her, and he
determined to take his own measures. First he fed Mumu with a bit of
bread, fondled her, and put her to bed, then he fell to meditating, and
spent the whole night long in meditating how he could best conceal her.
At last he decided to leave her all day in the garret, and only to come
in now and then to see her, and to take her out at night. The hole in
the door he stopped up effectually with his old overcoat, and almost
before it was light he was already in the yard, as though nothing had
happened, even—innocent guile!—the same expression of melancholy on
his face. It did not even occur to the poor deaf man that Mumu would
betray herself by her whining; in reality, everyone in the house was
soon aware that the dumb man's dog had come back, and was locked up in
his garret, but from sympathy with him and with her, and partly,
perhaps, from dread of him, they did not let him know that they had
found out his secret. The steward scratched his head, and gave a
despairing wave of his head, as much as to say, "Well, well, God have
mercy on him! If only it doesn't come to the mistress's ears!"
But the dumb man had never shown such energy as on that day; he cleaned
and scraped the whole courtyard, pulled up every single weed with his
own hand, tugged up every stake in the fence of the flower-garden, to
satisfy himself that they were strong enough, and unaided drove them in
again; in fact, he toiled and labored so that even the old lady noticed
his zeal. Twice in the course of the day Gerasim went stealthily in to
see his prisoner; when night came on, he lay down to sleep with her in
the garret, not in the hay-loft, and only at two o'clock in the night
he went out to take her a turn in the fresh air.
After walking about the courtyard a good while with her, he was just
turning back, when suddenly a rustle was heard behind the fence on the
side of the back street. Mumu pricked up her ears, growled—went up to
the fence, sniffed, and gave vent to a loud shrill bark. Some drunkard
had thought fit to take refuge under the fence for the night. At that
very time the old lady had just fallen asleep after a prolonged fit of
"nervous agitation"; these fits of agitation always overtook her after
too hearty a supper. The sudden bark waked her up: her heart
palpitated, and she felt faint. "Girls, girls!" she moaned. "Girls!"
The terrified maids ran into her bedroom. "Oh, oh, I am dying!" she
said, flinging her arms about in her agitation. "Again, that dog,
again! . . . Oh, send for the doctor. They mean to be the death of
me. . . . The dog, the dog again! Oh!" And she let her head fall
back, which always signified a swoon. They rushed for the doctor, that
is, for the household physician, Hariton. This doctor, whose whole
qualification consisted in wearing soft-soled boots, knew how to feel
the pulse delicately. He used to sleep fourteen hours out of the
twenty-four, but the rest of the time he was always sighing, and
continually dosing the old lady with cherrybay drops. This doctor ran
up at once, fumigated the room with burnt feathers, and when the old
lady opened her eyes, promptly offered her a wineglass of the hallowed
drops on a silver tray. The old lady took them, but began again at
once in a tearful voice complaining of the dog, of Gavrila, and of her
fate, declaring that she was a poor old woman, and that every one had
forsaken her, no one pitied her, every one wished her dead. Meanwhile
the luckless Mumu had gone on barking, while Gerasim tried in vain to
call her away, from the fence. "There . . . there . . . again,"
groaned the old lady, and once more she turned up the whites of her
eyes. The doctor whispered to a maid, she rushed into the outer hall,
and shook Stepan, he ran to wake Gavrila, Gavrila in a fury ordered the
whole household to get up.
Gerasim turned round, saw lights and shadows moving in the windows, and
with an instinct of coming trouble in his heart, put Mumu under his
arm, ran into his garret, and locked himself in. A few minutes later
five men were banging at his door, but feeling the resistance of the
bolt, they stopped. Gavrila ran up in a fearful state of mind, and
ordered them all to wait there and watch till morning. Then he flew
off himself to the maids' quarter, and through an old companion, Liubov
Liubimovna, with whose assistance he used to steal tea, sugar, and
other groceries and to falsify the accounts, sent word to the mistress
that the dog had unhappily run back from somewhere, but that to-morrow
she should be killed, and would the mistress be so gracious as not to
be angry and to overlook it. The old lady would probably not have been
so soon appeased, but the doctor had in his haste given her fully forty
drops instead of twelve. The strong dose of narcotic acted; in a
quarter of an hour the old lady was in a sound and peaceful sleep;
while Gerasim was lying with a white face on his bed, holding Mumu's
mouth tightly shut.
Next morning the lady woke up rather late. Gavrila was waiting till
she should be awake, to give the order for a final assault on Gerasim's
stronghold, while he prepared himself to face a fearful storm. But the
storm did not come off. The old lady lay in bed and sent for the
eldest of her dependent companions.
"Liubov Liubimovna," she began in a subdued weak voice—she was fond of
playing the part of an oppressed and forsaken victim; needless to say,
every one in the house was made extremely uncomfortable at such
times—"Liubov Liubimovna, you see my position; go, my love, to Gavrila
Andreitch, and talk to him a little. Can he really prize some wretched
cur above the repose—the very life—of his mistress? I could not bear
to think so," she added, with an expression of deep feeling. "Go, my
love; be so good as to go to Gavrila Andreitch for me."
Liubov Liubimovna went to Gavrila's room. What conversation passed
between them is not known, but a short time after, a whole crowd of
people was moving across the yard in the direction of Gerasim's garret.
Gavrila walked in front, holding his cap on with his hand, though there
was no wind. The footmen and cooks were close behind him; Uncle Tail
was looking out of a window, giving instructions, that is to say,
simply waving his hands. At the rear there was a crowd of small boys
skipping and hopping along; half of them were outsiders who had run up.
On the narrow staircase leading to the garret sat one guard; at the
door were standing two more with sticks. They began to mount the
stairs, which they entirely blocked up. Gavrila went up to the door,
knocked with his fist, shouting, "Open the door!"
A stifled bark was audible, but there was no answer.
"Open the door, I tell you," he repeated.
"But, Gavrila Andreitch," Stepan observed from below, "he's deaf, you
know—he doesn't hear."
They all laughed.
"What are we to do?" Gavrila rejoined from above.
"Why, there's a hole there in the door," answered Stepan, "so you shake
the stick in there."
Gavrila bent down.
"He's stuffed it up with a coat or something."
"Well, you just push the coat in."
At this moment a smothered bark was heard again.
"See, see—she speaks for herself," was remarked in the crowd, and
again they laughed.
Gavrila scratched his ear.
"No, mate," he responded at last, "you can poke the coat in yourself,
if you like."
"All right, let me."
And Stepan scrambled up, took the stick, pushed in the coat, and began
waving the stick about in the opening, saying, "Come out, come out!" as
he did so. He was still waving the stick, when suddenly the door of
the garret was flung open; all the crowd flew pell-mell down the stairs
instantly, Gavrila first of all. Uncle Tail locked the window.
"Come, come, come," shouted Gavrila from the yard, "mind what you're
Gerasim stood without stirring in his doorway. The crowd gathered at
the foot of the stairs. Gerasim, with his arms akimbo, looked down at
all these poor creatures in German coats; in his red peasant's shirt he
looked like a giant before them. Gavrila took a step forward.
"Mind, mate," said he, "don't be insolent."
And he began to explain to him by signs that the mistress insists on
having his dog; that he must hand it over at once, or it would be the
worse for him.
Gerasim looked at him, pointed to the dog, made a motion with his hand
round his neck, as though he were pulling a noose tight, and glanced
with a face of inquiry at the steward.
"Yes, yes," the latter assented, nodding; "yes, just so."
Gerasim dropped his eyes, then all of a sudden roused himself and
pointed to Mumu, who was all the while standing beside him, innocently
wagging her tail and pricking up her ears inquisitively. Then he
repeated the strangling action round his neck and significantly struck
himself on the breast, as though announcing he would take upon himself
the task of killing Mumu.
"But you'll deceive us," Gavrila waved back in response.
Gerasim looked at him, smiled scornfully, struck himself again on the
breast, and slammed to the door.
They all looked at one another in silence.
"What does that mean?" Gavrila began. "He's locked himself in."
"Let him be, Gavrila Andreitch," Stepan advised; "he'll do it if he's
promised. He's like that, you know. . . . If he makes a promise, it's
a certain thing. He's not like us others in that. The truth's the
truth with him. Yes, indeed."
"Yes," they all repeated, nodding their heads, "yes—that's so—yes."
Uncle Tail opened his window, and he too said, "Yes."
"Well, may be, we shall see," responded Gavrila; "any way, we won't
take off the guard. Here you, Eroshka!" he added, addressing a poor
fellow in a yellow nankeen coat, who considered himself to be a
gardener, "what have you to do? Take a stick and sit here, and if
anything happens, run to me at once!"
Eroshka took a stick, and sat down on the bottom stair. The crowd
dispersed, all except a few inquisitive small boys, while Gavrila went
home and sent word through Liubov Liubimovna to the mistress that
everything had been done, while he sent a postilion for a policeman in
case of need. The old lady tied a knot in her handkerchief, sprinkled
some eau-de-Cologne on it, sniffed at it, and rubbed her temples with
it, drank some tea, and, being still under the influence of the
cherrybay drops, fell asleep again.
An hour after all this hubbub the garret door opened, and Gerasim
showed himself. He had on his best coat; he was leading Mumu by a
string. Eroshka moved aside and let him pass. Gerasim went to the
gates. All the small boys in the yard stared at him in silence. He
did not even turn round; he only put his cap on in the street. Gavrila
sent the same Eroshka to follow him and keep watch on him as a spy.
Eroshka, seeing from a distance that he had gone into a cookshop with
his dog, waited for him to come out again.
Gerasim was well known at the cookshop, and his signs were understood.
He asked for cabbage soup with meat in it, and sat down with his arms
on the table. Mumu stood beside his chair, looking calmly at him with
her intelligent eyes. Her coat was glossy; one could see she had just
been combed down. They brought Gerasim the soup. He crumbled some
bread into it, cut the meat up small, and put the plate on the ground.
Mumu began eating in her usual refined way, her little muzzle daintily
held so as scarcely to touch her food. Gerasim gazed a long while at
her; two big tears suddenly rolled from his eyes; one fell on the dog's
brow, the other into the soup. He shaded his face with his hand. Mumu
ate up half the plateful, and came away from it, licking her lips.
Gerasim got up, paid for the soup, and went out, followed by the rather
perplexed glances of the waiter. Eroshka, seeing Gerasim, hid round a
corner, and letting him get in front, followed him again.
Gerasim walked without haste, still holding Mumu by a string. When he
got to the corner of the street, he stood still as though reflecting,
and suddenly set off with rapid steps to the Crimean Ford. On the way
he went into the yard of a house, where a lodge was being built, and
carried away two bricks under his arm. At the Crimean Ford, he turned
along the bank, went to a place where there were two little
rowing-boats fastened to stakes (he had noticed them there before), and
jumped into one of them with Mumu. A lame old man came out of a shed
in the corner of a kitchen-garden and shouted after him; but Gerasim
only nodded, and began rowing so vigorously, though against stream,
that in an instant he had darted two hundred yards way. The old man
stood for a while, scratched his back first with the left and then with
the right hand, and went back hobbling to the shed.
Gerasim rowed on and on. Moscow was soon left behind. Meadows
stretched each side of the bank, market gardens, fields, and copses;
peasants' huts began to make their appearance. There was the fragrance
of the country. He threw down his oars, bent his head down to Mumu,
who was sitting facing him on a dry cross seat—the bottom of the boat
was full of water—and stayed motionless, his mighty hands clasped upon
her back, while the boat was gradually carried back by the current
towards the town. At last Gerasim drew himself up hurriedly, with a
sort of sick anger in his face, he tied up the bricks he had taken with
string, made a running noose, put it round Mumu's neck, lifted her up
over the river, and for the last time looked at her. . . . She watched
him confidingly and without any fear, faintly wagging her tail. He
turned away, frowned, and wrung his hands. . . . Gerasim heard
nothing, neither the quick shrill whine of Mumu as she fell, nor the
heavy splash of the water; for him the noisiest day was soundless and
silent as even the stillest night is not silent to us. When he opened
his eyes again, little wavelets were hurrying over the river, chasing
one another; as before they broke against the boat's side, and only far
away behind wide circles moved widening to the bank.
Directly Gerasim had vanished from Eroshka's sight, the latter returned
home and reported what he had seen.
"Well, then," observed Stepan, "he'll drown her. Now we can feel easy
about it. If he once promises a thing . . ."
No one saw Gerasim during the day. He did not have dinner at home.
Evening came on; they were all gathered together to supper, except him.
"What a strange creature that Gerasim is!" piped a fat laundrymaid;
"fancy, upsetting himself like that over a dog. . . . Upon my word!"
"But Gerasim has been here," Stepan cried all at once, scraping up his
porridge with a spoon.
"Why, a couple of hours ago. Yes, indeed! I ran against him at the
gate; he was going out again from here; he was coming out of the yard.
I tried to ask him about his dog, but he wasn't in the best of humors,
I could see. Well, he gave me a shove; I suppose he only meant to put
me out of his way, as if he'd say, 'Let me go, do!' but he fetched me
such a crack on my neck, so seriously, that—oh! oh!" And Stepan, who
could not help laughing, shrugged up and rubbed the back of his head.
"Yes," he added; "he has got a fist; it's something like a fist,
there's no denying that!"
They all laughed at Stepan, and after supper they separated to go to
Meanwhile, at that very time, a gigantic figure with a bag on his
shoulders and a stick in his hand, was eagerly and persistently
stepping out along the T—- high-road. It was Gerasim. He was
hurrying on without looking round; hurrying homewards, to his own
village, to his own country. After drowning poor Mumu, he had run back
to his garret, hurriedly packed a few things together in an old
horsecloth, tied it up in a bundle, tossed it on his shoulder, and so
was ready. He had noticed the road carefully when he was brought to
Moscow; the village his mistress had taken him from lay only about
twenty miles off the high-road. He walked along it with a sort of
invincible purpose, a desperate and at the same time joyous
determination. He walked, his shoulders thrown back and his chest
expanded; his eyes were fixed greedily straight before him. He
hastened as though his old mother were waiting for him at home, as
though she were calling him to her after long wanderings in strange
parts, among strangers. The summer night, that was just drawing in,
was still and warm; on one side, where the sun had set, the horizon was
still light and faintly flushed with the last glow of the vanished day;
on the other side a blue-gray twilight had already risen up. The night
was coming up from that quarter. Quails were in hundreds around;
corncrakes were calling to one another in the thickets. . . . Gerasim
could not hear them; he could not hear the delicate night-whispering of
the trees, by which his strong legs carried him, but he smelt the
familiar scent of the ripening rye, which was wafted from the dark
fields; he felt the wind, flying to meet him—the wind from home—beat
caressingly upon his face, and play with his hair and his beard. He
saw before him the whitening road homewards, straight as an arrow. He
saw in the sky stars innumerable, lighting up his way, and stepped out,
strong and bold as a lion, so that when the rising sun shed its moist
rosy light upon the still fresh and unwearied traveller, already thirty
miles lay between him and Moscow.
In a couple of days he was at home, in his little hut, to the great
astonishment of the soldier's wife who had been put in there. After
praying before the holy pictures, he set off at once to the village
elder. The village elder was at first surprised; but the hay-cutting
had just begun; Gerasim was a first-rate mower, and they put a scythe
into his hand on the spot, and he went to mow in his old way, mowing so
that the peasants were fairly astounded as they watched his wide
sweeping strokes and the heaps he raked together. . . .
In Moscow the day after Gerasim's flight they missed him. They went to
his garret, rummaged about in it, and spoke to Gavrila. He came,
looked, shrugged his shoulders, and decided that the dumb man had
either run away or had drowned himself with his stupid dog. They gave
information to the police, and informed the lady. The old lady was
furious, burst into tears, gave orders that he was to be found whatever
happened, declared she had never ordered the dog to be destroyed, and,
in fact, gave Gavrila such a rating that he could do nothing all day
but shake his head and murmur, "Well!" until Uncle Tail checked him at
last, sympathetically echoing "We-ell!" At last the news came from the
country of Gerasim's being there. The old lady was somewhat pacified;
at first she issued a mandate for him to be brought back without delay
to Moscow; afterwards, however, she declared that such an ungrateful
creature was absolutely of no use to her. Soon after this she died
herself; and her heirs had no thought to spare for Gerasim; they let
their mother's other servants redeem their freedom on payment of an
And Gerasim is living still, a lonely man in his lonely hut; he is
strong and healthy as before, and does the work of four men as before,
and as before is serious and steady. But his neighbors have observed
that ever since his return from Moscow he has quite given up the
society of women; he will not even look at them, and does not keep even
a single dog.
"It's his good luck, though," the peasants reason, "that he can get on
without female folk; and as for a dog—what need has he of a dog? you
wouldn't get a thief to go into his yard for any money!" Such is the
fame of the dumb man's Titanic strength.