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Title: The Mantle and Other Stories
Author: Gogol, Nicholas
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [ Transcriber's Notes:

    Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully
    as possible, including inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation.
    Some corrections of spelling have been made. They are listed at the
    end of the text.

    Italic text has been marked with _underscores_.
  ]



  THE
  MANTLE
  AND OTHER STORIES



  Printed in Great Britain



  THE MANTLE AND
  OTHER STORIES

  BY
  NICHOLAS GOGOL

  AUTHOR OF
  "DEAD SOULS," "TARAS BULBA," ETC.

  TRANSLATED BY CLAUD FIELD

  AND WITH AN INTRODUCTION ON GOGOL
  BY
  PROSPER MERIMÉE

  New York: FREDERICK A. STOKES Co.
  London: T. WERNER LAURIE LIMITED



"Gogol, Nikolai Vassilievitch. Born in the government of Pultowa, March
31 (N.S.), 1809, died at Moscow, March 4 (N.S.), 1852. A Russian
novelist and dramatist. He was educated in a public gymnasium at
Pultowa, and subsequently in the lyceum, then newly established, at
Niejinsk. In 1831 he was appointed teacher of history at the Patriotic
Institution, a place which he exchanged in 1834 for the professorship of
history in the University of St Petersburg. This he resigned at the end
of a year and devoted himself entirely to literature. In 1836 Gogol left
Russia. He lived most of the time in Rome. In 1837 he wrote 'Dead
Souls.' In 1840 he went to Russia for a short period in order to
superintend the publication of the first volume of 'Dead Souls,' and
then returned to Italy. In 1846 he returned to Russia and fell into a
state of fanatical mysticism. One of his last acts was to burn the
manuscript of the concluding portion of 'Dead Souls,' which he
considered harmful. He also wrote 'The Mantle,' 'Evenings at the Farm,'
'St Petersburg Stories,' 'Taras Bulba,' a tale of the Cossacks, 'The
Revizor,' a comedy, etc."--From _The Century Cyclopædia of Names_.



CONTENTS


                          PAGE

  PREFACE                    7

  THE MANTLE                19

  THE NOSE                  67

  MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN      107

  A MAY NIGHT              141

  THE VIY                  187



PREFACE


As a novel-writer and a dramatist, Gogol appears to me to deserve a
minute study, and if the knowledge of Russian were more widely spread,
he could not fail to obtain in Europe a reputation equal to that of the
best English humorists.

A delicate and close observer, quick to detect the absurd, bold in
exposing, but inclined to push his fun too far, Gogol is in the first
place a very lively satirist. He is merciless towards fools and rascals,
but he has only one weapon at his disposal--irony. This is a weapon
which is too severe to use against the merely absurd, and on the other
hand it is not sharp enough for the punishment of crime; and it is
against crime that Gogol too often uses it. His comic vein is always too
near the farcical, and his mirth is hardly contagious. If sometimes he
makes his reader laugh, he still leaves in his mind a feeling of
bitterness and indignation; his satires do not avenge society, they only
make it angry.

As a painter of manners, Gogol excels in familiar scenes. He is akin to
Teniers and Callot. We feel as though we had seen and lived with his
characters, for he shows us their eccentricities, their nervous habits,
their slightest gestures. One lisps, another mispronounces his words,
and a third hisses because he has lost a front tooth. Unfortunately
Gogol is so absorbed in this minute study of details that he too often
forgets to subordinate them to the main action of the story. To tell the
truth, there is no ordered plan in his works, and--a strange trait in an
author who sets up as a realist--he takes no care to preserve an
atmosphere of probability. His most carefully painted scenes are
clumsily connected--they begin and end abruptly; often the author's
great carelessness in construction destroys, as though wantonly, the
illusion produced by the truth of his descriptions and the naturalness
of his conversations.

The immortal master of this school of desultory but ingenious and
attractive story-tellers, among whom Gogol is entitled to a high place,
is Rabelais, who cannot be too much admired and studied, but to imitate
whom nowadays would, I think, be dangerous and difficult. In spite of
the indefinable grace of his obsolete language, one can hardly read
twenty pages of Rabelais in succession. One soon wearies of this
eloquence, so original and so eloquent, but the drift of which escapes
every reader except some Oedipuses like Le Duchat or Éloi Johanneau.
Just as the observation of animalculæ under the microscope fatigues the
eye, so does the perusal of these brilliant pages tire the mind.
Possibly not a word of them is superfluous, but possibly also they might
be entirely eliminated from the work of which they form part, without
sensibly detracting from its merit. The art of choosing among the
innumerable details which nature offers us is, after all, much more
difficult than that of observing them with attention and recording them
with exactitude.

The Russian language, which is, as far as I can judge, the richest of
all the European family, seems admirably adapted to express the most
delicate shades of thought. Possessed of a marvellous conciseness and
clearness, it can with a single word call up several ideas, to express
which in another tongue whole phrases would be necessary. French,
assisted by Greek and Latin, calling to its aid all its northern and
southern dialects--the language of Rabelais, in fact, is the only one
which can convey any idea of this suppleness and this energy. One can
imagine that such an admirable instrument may exercise a considerable
influence on the mind of a writer who is capable of handling it. He
naturally takes delight in the picturesqueness of its expressions, just
as a draughtsman with skill and a good pencil will trace delicate
contours. An excellent gift, no doubt, but there are few things which
have not their disadvantages. Elaborate execution is a considerable
merit if it is reserved for the chief parts of a work; but if it is
uniformly lavished on all the accessory parts also, the whole produces,
I fear, a monotonous effect.

I have said that satire is, in my opinion, the special characteristic of
Gogol's talent: he does not see men or things in a bright light. That
does not mean that he is an unfaithful observer, but his descriptions
betray a certain preference for the ugly and the sad elements in life.
Doubtless these two disagreeable elements are only too easily found, and
it is precisely for that reason that they should not be investigated
with insatiable curiosity. We would form a terrible idea of Russia--of
"Holy Russia," as her children call her--if we only judged her by the
pictures which Gogol draws. His characters are almost entirely confined
to idiots, or scoundrels who deserve to be hung. It is a well-known
defect of satirists to see everywhere the game which they are hunting,
and they should not be taken too literally. Aristophanes vainly employed
his brilliant genius in blackening his contemporaries; he cannot prevent
us loving the Athens of Pericles.

Gogol generally goes to the country districts for his characters,
imitating in this respect Balzac, whose writings have undoubtedly
influenced him. The modern facility of communication in Europe has
brought about, among the higher classes of all countries and the
inhabitants of the great cities, a conventional uniformity of manners
and customs, e.g. the dress-coat and round hat. It is among the middle
classes remote from great towns that we must look to-day for national
characteristics and for original characters. In the country, people
still maintain primitive habits and prejudices--things which become
rarer from day to day. The Russian country gentlemen, who only journey
to St Petersburg once in a lifetime, and who, living on their estates
all the year round, eat much, read little and hardly think at all--these
are the types to which Gogol is partial, or rather which he pursues with
his jests and sarcasms. Some critics, I am told, reproach him for
displaying a kind of provincial patriotism. As a Little Russian, he is
said to have a predilection for Little Russia over the rest of the
Empire. For my own part, I find him impartial enough or even too general
in his criticisms, and on the other hand too severe on anyone whom he
places under the microscope of his observation. Pushkin was accused,
quite wrongly in my opinion, of scepticism, immorality, and of belonging
to the Satanic school; however he discovered in an old country manor his
admirable Tatiana. One regrets that Gogol has not been equally
fortunate.

I do not know the dates of Gogol's different works, but I should be
inclined to believe that his short stories were the first in order of
publication. They seem to me to witness to a certain vagueness in the
author's mind, as though he were making experiments in order to
ascertain to what style of work his genius was best adapted. He has
produced an historical romance inspired by the perusal of Sir Walter
Scott, fantastic legends, psychological studies, marked by a mixture of
sentimentality and grotesqueness. If my conjecture is correct, he has
been obliged to ask himself for some time whether he should take as his
model Sterne, Walter Scott, Chamisso, or Hoffmann. Later on he has done
better in following the path which he has himself traced out. "Taras
Bulba," his historical romance, is an animated and, as far as I know,
correct picture of the Zaporogues, that singular people whom Voltaire
briefly mentions in his "Life of Charles XII." In the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries the Zaporogues played a great part in the annals
of Russia and of Poland; they then formed a republic of soldiers, or
rather of filibusters, established on the islands of the Don, nominal
subjects sometimes of the Kings of Poland, sometimes of the Grand Dukes
of Moscow, sometimes even of the Ottoman Porte. At bottom they were
extremely independent bandits, and ravaged their neighbours' territory
with great impartiality. They did not allow women to live in their
towns, which were a kind of nomad encampments; it was there that the
Cossack aspirants to military glory went to be trained as irregular
troops. The most absolute equality prevailed among the Zaporogues while
at peace in the marshes of the Don. Then the chiefs, or atamans, when
speaking to their subordinates always took their caps off. But during an
expedition, on the contrary, their power was unlimited, and disobedience
to the captain of the company (Ataman Kotchevoï) was considered the
greatest of crimes.

Our filibusters of the seventeenth century have many traits of
resemblance to the Zaporogues, and the histories of both preserve the
remembrance of prodigies of audacity and of horrible cruelties. Taras
Bulba is one of those heroes with whom, as the student of Schiller said,
one can only have relations when holding a well-loaded gun in one's
hand. I am one of those who have a strong liking for bandits; not
because I like to meet them on my road, but because, in spite of myself,
the energy these men display in struggling against the whole of society,
extorts from me an admiration of which I am ashamed. Formerly I read
with delight the lives of Morgan, of Donnais, and of Mombars the
destroyer, and I would not be bored if I read them again. However, there
are bandits and bandits. Their glory is greatly enhanced if they are of
a recent date. Actual bandits always cast into the shade those of the
melodrama, and the one who has been more recently hung infallibly
effaces the fame of his predecessors. Nowadays neither Mombars nor Taras
Bulba can excite so much interest as Mussoni, who last month sustained a
regular siege in a wolf's den against five hundred men, who had to
attack him by sapping and mining.

Gogol has made brilliantly coloured pictures of his Zaporogues, which
please by their very grotesqueness; but sometimes it is too evident that
he has not drawn them from nature. Moreover, these character-pictures
are framed in such a trivial and romantic setting that one regrets to
see them so ill-placed. The most prosaic story would have suited them
better than these melodramatic scenes in which are accumulated tragic
incidents of famine, torture, etc. In short, one feels that the author
is not at ease on the ground which he has chosen; his gait is awkward,
and the invariable irony of his style makes the perusal of these
melancholy incidents more painful. This style which, in my opinion, is
quite out of place in some parts of "Taras Bulba," is much more
appropriate in the "Viy," or "King of the Gnomes," a tale of witchcraft,
which amuses and alarms at the same time. The grotesque easily blends
with the marvellous. Recognising to the full the poetic side of his
subject, the author, while describing the savage and strange customs of
the old-time Cossacks with his usual precision and exactitude, has
easily prepared the way for the introduction of an element of
uncanniness.

The receipt for a good, fantastic tale is well known: begin with
well-defined portraits of eccentric characters, but such as to be within
the bounds of possibility, described with minute realism. From the
grotesque to the marvellous the transition is imperceptible, and the
reader will find himself in the world of fantasy before he perceives
that he has left the real world far behind him. I purposely avoid any
attempt to analyse "The King of the Gnomes"; the proper time and place
to read it is in the country, by the fireside on a stormy autumn night.
After the _dénouement_, it will require a certain amount of resolution
to traverse long corridors to reach one's room, while the wind and the
rain shake the casements. Now that the fantastic style of the Germans is
a little threadbare, that of the Cossacks will have novel charms, and in
the first place the merit of resembling nothing else--no slight praise,
I think.

The "Memoirs of a Madman" is simultaneously a social satire, a
sentimental story, and a medico-legal study of the phenomena presented
by a brain which is becoming deranged. The study, I believe, is
carefully made and the process carefully depicted, but I do not like
this class of writing; madness is one of those misfortunes which arouse
pity but which disgust at the same time. Doubtless, by introducing a
madman in his story an author is sure of producing an effect. It causes
to vibrate a cord which is always susceptible; but it is a cheap method,
and Gogol's gifts are such as to be able to dispense with having resort
to such. The portrayal of lunatics and dogs--both of whom can produce an
irresistible effect--should be left to tyros. It is easy to extract
tears from a reader by breaking a poodle's paw. Homer's only excuse, in
my opinion, for making us weep at the mutual recognition of the dog
Argus and Ulysses, is because he was, I think, the first to discover the
resources which the canine race offers to an author at a loss for
expedients.

I hasten to go on to a small masterpiece, "An Old-time Household." In a
few pages Gogol sketches for us the life of two honest old folk living
in the country. There is not a grain of malice in their composition;
they are cheated and adored by their servants, and naïve egoists as they
are, believe everyone is as happy as themselves. The wife dies. The
husband, who only seemed born for merry-making, falls ill and dies some
months after his wife. We discover that there was a heart in this mass
of flesh. We laugh and weep in turns while reading this charming story,
in which the art of the narrator is disguised by simplicity. All is true
and natural; every detail is attractive and adds to the general effect.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_Translator's Note._--The rest of Merimée's essay is occupied with
analyses of Gogol's "Dead Souls" and "The Revisor," and therefore is not
given here.



THE MANTLE


In a certain Russian ministerial department----

But it is perhaps better that I do not mention which department it was.
There are in the whole of Russia no persons more sensitive than
Government officials. Each of them believes if he is annoyed in any way,
that the whole official class is insulted in his person.

Recently an Isprawnik (country magistrate)--I do not know of which
town--is said to have drawn up a report with the object of showing that,
ignoring Government orders, people were speaking of Isprawniks in terms
of contempt. In order to prove his assertions, he forwarded with his
report a bulky work of fiction, in which on about every tenth page an
Isprawnik appeared generally in a drunken condition.

In order therefore to avoid any unpleasantness, I will not definitely
indicate the department in which the scene of my story is laid, and will
rather say "in a certain chancellery."

Well, in a certain chancellery there was a certain man who, as I cannot
deny, was not of an attractive appearance. He was short, had a face
marked with smallpox, was rather bald in front, and his forehead and
cheeks were deeply lined with furrows--to say nothing of other physical
imperfections. Such was the outer aspect of our hero, as produced by the
St Petersburg climate.

As regards his official rank--for with us Russians the official rank
must always be given--he was what is usually known as a permanent
titular councillor, one of those unfortunate beings who, as is well
known, are made a butt of by various authors who have the bad habit of
attacking people who cannot defend themselves.

Our hero's family name was Bashmatchkin; his baptismal name Akaki
Akakievitch. Perhaps the reader may think this name somewhat strange and
far-fetched, but he can be assured that it is not so, and that
circumstances so arranged it that it was quite impossible to give him
any other name.

This happened in the following way. Akaki Akakievitch was born, if I am
not mistaken, on the night of the 23rd of March. His deceased mother,
the wife of an official and a very good woman, immediately made proper
arrangements for his baptism. When the time came, she was lying on the
bed before the door. At her right hand stood the godfather, Ivan
Ivanovitch Jeroshkin, a very important person, who was registrar of the
senate; at her left, the godmother Anna Semenovna Byelobrushkova, the
wife of a police inspector, a woman of rare virtues.

Three names were suggested to the mother from which to choose one for
the child--Mokuja, Sossuja, or Khozdazat.

"No," she said, "I don't like such names."

In order to meet her wishes, the church calendar was opened in another
place, and the names Triphiliy, Dula, and Varakhasiy were found.

"This is a punishment from heaven," said the mother. "What sort of names
are these! I never heard the like! If it had been Varadat or Varukh, but
Triphiliy and Varakhasiy!"

They looked again in the calendar and found Pavsikakhiy and Vakhtisiy.

"Now I see," said the mother, "this is plainly fate. If there is no help
for it, then he had better take his father's name, which was Akaki."

So the child was called Akaki Akakievitch. It was baptised, although it
wept and cried and made all kinds of grimaces, as though it had a
presentiment that it would one day be a titular councillor.

We have related all this so conscientiously that the reader himself
might be convinced that it was impossible for the little Akaki to
receive any other name. When and how he entered the chancellery and who
appointed him, no one could remember. However many of his superiors
might come and go, he was always seen in the same spot, in the same
attitude, busy with the same work, and bearing the same title; so that
people began to believe he had come into the world just as he was, with
his bald forehead and official uniform.

In the chancellery where he worked, no kind of notice was taken of him.
Even the office attendants did not rise from their seats when he
entered, nor look at him; they took no more notice than if a fly had
flown through the room. His superiors treated him in a coldly despotic
manner. The assistant of the head of the department, when he pushed a
pile of papers under his nose, did not even say "Please copy those," or
"There is something interesting for you," or make any other polite
remark such as well-educated officials are in the habit of doing. But
Akaki took the documents, without worrying himself whether they had the
right to hand them over to him or not, and straightway set to work to
copy them.

His young colleagues made him the butt of their ridicule and their
elegant wit, so far as officials can be said to possess any wit. They
did not scruple to relate in his presence various tales of their own
invention regarding his manner of life and his landlady, who was seventy
years old. They declared that she beat him, and inquired of him when he
would lead her to the marriage altar. Sometimes they let a shower of
scraps of paper fall on his head, and told him they were snowflakes.

But Akaki Akakievitch made no answer to all these attacks; he seemed
oblivious of their presence. His work was not affected in the slightest
degree; during all these interruptions he did not make a single error in
copying. Only when the horse-play grew intolerable, when he was held by
the arm and prevented writing, he would say "Do leave me alone! Why do
you always want to disturb me at work?" There was something peculiarly
pathetic in these words and the way in which he uttered them.

One day it happened that when a young clerk, who had been recently
appointed to the chancellery, prompted by the example of the others, was
playing him some trick, he suddenly seemed arrested by something in the
tone of Akaki's voice, and from that moment regarded the old official
with quite different eyes. He felt as though some supernatural power
drew him away from the colleagues whose acquaintance he had made here,
and whom he had hitherto regarded as well-educated, respectable men, and
alienated him from them. Long afterwards, when surrounded by gay
companions, he would see the figure of the poor little councillor and
hear the words "Do leave me alone! Why will you always disturb me at
work?" Along with these words, he also heard others: "Am I not your
brother?" On such occasions the young man would hide his face in his
hands, and think how little humane feeling after all was to be found in
men's hearts; how much coarseness and cruelty was to be found even in
the educated and those who were everywhere regarded as good and
honourable men.

Never was there an official who did his work so zealously as Akaki
Akakievitch. "Zealously," do I say? He worked with a passionate love of
his task. While he copied official documents, a world of varied beauty
rose before his eyes. His delight in copying was legible in his face. To
form certain letters afforded him special satisfaction, and when he came
to them he was quite another man; he began to smile, his eyes sparkled,
and he pursed up his lips, so that those who knew him could see by his
face which letters he was working at.

Had he been rewarded according to his zeal, he would perhaps--to his own
astonishment--have been raised to the rank of civic councillor. However,
he was not destined, as his colleagues expressed it, to wear a cross at
his buttonhole, but only to get hæmorrhoids by leading a too sedentary
life.

For the rest, I must mention that on one occasion he attracted a certain
amount of attention. A director, who was a kindly man and wished to
reward him for his long service, ordered that he should be entrusted
with a task more important than the documents which he usually had to
copy. This consisted in preparing a report for a court, altering the
headings of various documents, and here and there changing the first
personal pronoun into the third.

Akaki undertook the work; but it confused and exhausted him to such a
degree that the sweat ran from his forehead and he at last exclaimed:
"No! Please give me again something to copy." From that time he was
allowed to continue copying to his life's end.

Outside this copying nothing appeared to exist for him. He did not even
think of his clothes. His uniform, which was originally green, had
acquired a reddish tint. The collar was so narrow and so tight that his
neck, although of average length, stretched far out of it, and appeared
extraordinarily long, just like those of the cats with movable heads,
which are carried about on trays and sold to the peasants in Russian
villages.

Something was always sticking to his clothes--a piece of thread, a
fragment of straw which had been flying about, etc. Moreover he seemed
to have a special predilection for passing under windows just when
something not very clean was being thrown out of them, and therefore he
constantly carried about on his hat pieces of orange-peel and such
refuse. He never took any notice of what was going on in the streets, in
contrast to his colleagues who were always watching people closely and
whom nothing delighted more than to see someone walking along on the
opposite pavement with a rent in his trousers.

But Akaki Akakievitch saw nothing but the clean, regular lines of his
copies before him; and only when he collided suddenly with a horse's
nose, which blew its breath noisily in his face, did the good man
observe that he was not sitting at his writing-table among his neat
duplicates, but walking in the middle of the street.

When he arrived home, he sat down at once to supper, ate his
cabbage-soup hurriedly, and then, without taking any notice how it
tasted, a slice of beef with garlic, together with the flies and any
other trifles which happened to be lying on it. As soon as his hunger
was satisfied, he set himself to write, and began to copy the documents
which he had brought home with him. If he happened to have no official
documents to copy, he copied for his own satisfaction political letters,
not for their more or less grand style but because they were directed to
some high personage.

When the grey St Petersburg sky is darkened by the veil of night, and
the whole of officialdom has finished its dinner according to its
gastronomical inclinations or the depth of its purse--when all recover
themselves from the perpetual scratching of bureaucratic pens, and all
the cares and business with which men so often needlessly burden
themselves, they devote the evening to recreation. One goes to the
theatre; another roams about the streets, inspecting toilettes; another
whispers flattering words to some young girl who has risen like a star
in his modest official circle. Here and there one visits a colleague in
his third or fourth story flat, consisting of two rooms with an
entrance-hall and kitchen, fitted with some pretentious articles of
furniture purchased by many abstinences.

In short, at this time every official betakes himself to some form of
recreation--playing whist, drinking tea, and eating cheap pastry or
smoking tobacco in long pipes. Some relate scandals about great people,
for in whatever situation of life the Russian may be, he always likes to
hear about the aristocracy; others recount well-worn but popular
anecdotes, as for example that of the commandant to whom it was reported
that a rogue had cut off the horse's tail on the monument of Peter the
Great.

But even at this time of rest and recreation, Akaki Akakievitch remained
faithful to his habits. No one could say that he had ever seen him in
any evening social circle. After he had written as much as he wanted, he
went to bed, and thought of the joys of the coming day, and the fine
copies which God would give him to do.

So flowed on the peaceful existence of a man who was quite content with
his post and his income of four hundred roubles a year. He might perhaps
have reached an extreme old age if one of those unfortunate events had
not befallen him, which not only happen to titular but to actual privy,
court, and other councillors, and also to persons who never give advice
nor receive it.

In St Petersburg all those who draw a salary of four hundred roubles or
thereabouts have a terrible enemy in our northern cold, although some
assert that it is very good for the health. About nine o'clock in the
morning, when the clerks of the various departments betake themselves to
their offices, the cold nips their noses so vigorously that most of them
are quite bewildered. If at this time even high officials so suffer from
the severity of the cold in their own persons that the tears come into
their eyes, what must be the sufferings of the titular councillors,
whose means do not allow of their protecting themselves against the
rigour of winter? When they have put on their light cloaks, they must
hurry through five or six streets as rapidly as possible, and then in
the porter's lodge warm themselves and wait till their frozen official
faculties have thawed.

For some time Akaki had been feeling on his back and shoulders very
sharp twinges of pain, although he ran as fast as possible from his
dwelling to the office. After well considering the matter, he came to
the conclusion that these were due to the imperfections of his cloak. In
his room he examined it carefully, and discovered that in two or three
places it had become so thin as to be quite transparent, and that the
lining was much torn.

This cloak had been for a long time the standing object of jests on the
part of Akaki's merciless colleagues. They had even robbed it of the
noble name of "cloak," and called it a cowl. It certainly presented a
remarkable appearance. Every year the collar had grown smaller, for
every year the poor titular councillor had taken a piece of it away in
order to repair some other part of the cloak; and these repairs did not
look as if they had been done by the skilled hand of a tailor. They had
been executed in a very clumsy way and looked remarkably ugly.

After Akaki Akakievitch had ended his melancholy examination, he said to
himself that he must certainly take his cloak to Petrovitch the tailor,
who lived high up in a dark den on the fourth floor.

With his squinting eyes and pock-marked face, Petrovitch certainly did
not look as if he had the honour to make frock-coats and trousers for
high officials--that is to say, when he was sober, and not absorbed in
more pleasant diversions.

I might dispense here with dwelling on this tailor; but since it is the
custom to portray the physiognomy of every separate personage in a tale,
I must give a better or worse description of Petrovitch. Formerly when
he was a simple serf in his master's house, he was merely called Gregor.
When he became free, he thought he ought to adorn himself with a new
name, and dubbed himself Petrovitch; at the same time he began to drink
lustily, not only on the high festivals but on all those which are
marked with a cross in the calendar. By thus solemnly celebrating the
days consecrated by the Church, he considered that he was remaining
faithful to the traditions of his childhood; and when he quarrelled with
his wife, he shouted that she was an earthly minded creature and a
German. Of this lady we have nothing more to relate than that she was
the wife of Petrovitch, and that she did not wear a kerchief but a cap
on her head. For the rest, she was not pretty; only the soldiers looked
at her as they passed, then they twirled their moustaches and walked on,
laughing.

Akaki Akakievitch accordingly betook himself to the tailor's attic. He
reached it by a dark, dirty, damp staircase, from which, as in all the
inhabited houses of the poorer class in St Petersburg, exhaled an
effluvia of spirits vexatious to nose and eyes alike. As the titular
councillor climbed these slippery stairs, he calculated what sum
Petrovitch could reasonably ask for repairing his cloak, and determined
only to give him a rouble.

The door of the tailor's flat stood open in order to provide an outlet
for the clouds of smoke which rolled from the kitchen, where
Petrovitch's wife was just then cooking fish. Akaki, his eyes smarting,
passed through the kitchen without her seeing him, and entered the room
where the tailor sat on a large, roughly made, wooden table, his legs
crossed like those of a Turkish pasha, and, as is the custom of tailors,
with bare feet. What first arrested attention, when one approached him,
was his thumb nail, which was a little misshapen but as hard and strong
as the shell of a tortoise. Round his neck were hung several skeins of
thread, and on his knees lay a tattered coat. For some minutes he had
been trying in vain to thread his needle. He was first of all angry with
the gathering darkness, then with the thread.

"Why the deuce won't you go in, you worthless scoundrel!" he exclaimed.

Akaki saw at once that he had come at an inopportune moment. He wished
he had found Petrovitch at a more favourable time, when he was enjoying
himself--when, as his wife expressed it, he was having a substantial
ration of brandy. At such times the tailor was extraordinarily ready to
meet his customer's proposals with bows and gratitude to boot. Sometimes
indeed his wife interfered in the transaction, and declared that he was
drunk and promised to do the work at much too low a price; but if the
customer paid a trifle more, the matter was settled.

Unfortunately for the titular councillor, Petrovitch had just now not
yet touched the brandy flask. At such moments he was hard, obstinate,
and ready to demand an exorbitant price.

Akaki foresaw this danger, and would gladly have turned back again, but
it was already too late. The tailor's single eye--for he was
one-eyed--had already noticed him, and Akaki Akakievitch murmured
involuntarily "Good day, Petrovitch."

"Welcome, sir," answered the tailor, and fastened his glance on the
titular councillor's hand to see what he had in it.

"I come just--merely--in order--I want--"

We must here remark that the modest titular councillor was in the habit
of expressing his thoughts only by prepositions, adverbs, or particles,
which never yielded a distinct meaning. If the matter of which he spoke
was a difficult one, he could never finish the sentence he had begun. So
that when transacting business, he generally entangled himself in the
formula "Yes--it is indeed true that----" Then he would remain standing
and forget what he wished to say, or believe that he had said it.

"What do you want, sir?" asked Petrovitch, scrutinising him from top to
toe with a searching look, and contemplating his collar, sleeves, coat,
buttons--in short his whole uniform, although he knew them all very
well, having made them himself. That is the way of tailors whenever they
meet an acquaintance.

Then Akaki answered, stammering as usual, "I want--Petrovitch--this
cloak--you see--it is still quite good, only a little dusty--and
therefore it looks a little old. It is, however, still quite new, only
that it is worn a little--there in the back and here in the
shoulder--and there are three quite little splits. You see it is hardly
worth talking about; it can be thoroughly repaired in a few minutes."

Petrovitch took the unfortunate cloak, spread it on the table,
contemplated it in silence, and shook his head. Then he stretched his
hand towards the window-sill for his snuff-box, a round one with the
portrait of a general on the lid. I do not know whose portrait it was,
for it had been accidentally injured, and the ingenious tailor had
gummed a piece of paper over it.

After Petrovitch had taken a pinch of snuff, he examined the cloak
again, held it to the light, and once more shook his head. Then he
examined the lining, took a second pinch of snuff, and at last
exclaimed, "No! that is a wretched rag! It is beyond repair!"

At these words Akaki's courage fell.

"What!" he cried in the querulous tone of a child. "Can this hole really
not be repaired? Look! Petrovitch; there are only two rents, and you
have enough pieces of cloth to mend them with."

"Yes, I have enough pieces of cloth; but how should I sew them on? The
stuff is quite worn out; it won't bear another stitch."

"Well, can't you strengthen it with another piece of cloth?"

"No, it won't bear anything more; cloth after all is only cloth, and in
its present condition a gust of wind might blow the wretched mantle into
tatters."

"But if you could only make it last a little longer, do you
see--really----"

"No!" answered Petrovitch decidedly. "There is nothing more to be done
with it; it is completely worn out. It would be better if you made
yourself foot bandages out of it for the winter; they are warmer than
stockings. It was the Germans who invented stockings for their own
profit." Petrovitch never lost an opportunity of having a hit at the
Germans. "You must certainly buy a new cloak," he added.

"A new cloak?" exclaimed Akaki Akakievitch, and it grew dark before his
eyes. The tailor's work-room seemed to go round with him, and the only
object he could clearly distinguish was the paper-patched general's
portrait on the tailor's snuff-box. "A new cloak!" he murmured, as
though half asleep. "But I have no money."

"Yes, a new cloak," repeated Petrovitch with cruel calmness.

"Well, even if I did decide on it--how much----"

"You mean how much would it cost?"

"Yes."

"About a hundred and fifty roubles," answered the tailor, pursing his
lips. This diabolical tailor took a special pleasure in embarrassing his
customers and watching the expression of their faces with his squinting
single eye.

"A hundred and fifty roubles for a cloak!" exclaimed Akaki Akakievitch
in a tone which sounded like an outcry--possibly the first he had
uttered since his birth.

"Yes," replied Petrovitch. "And then the marten-fur collar and silk
lining for the hood would make it up to two hundred roubles."

"Petrovitch, I adjure you!" said Akaki Akakievitch in an imploring tone,
no longer hearing nor wishing to hear the tailor's words, "try to make
this cloak last me a little longer."

"No, it would be a useless waste of time and work."

After this answer, Akaki departed, feeling quite crushed; while
Petrovitch, with his lips firmly pursed up, feeling pleased with himself
for his firmness and brave defence of the art of tailoring, remained
sitting on the table.

Meanwhile Akaki wandered about the streets like a somnambulist, at
random and without an object. "What a terrible business!" he said to
himself. "Really, I could never have believed that it would come to
that. No," he continued after a short pause, "I could not have guessed
that it would come to that. Now I find myself in a completely unexpected
situation--in a difficulty that----"

As he thus continued his monologue, instead of approaching his dwelling,
he went, without noticing it, in quite a wrong direction. A
chimney-sweep brushed against him and blackened his back as he passed
by. From a house where building was going on, a bucket of plaster of
Paris was emptied on his head. But he saw and heard nothing. Only when
he collided with a sentry, who, after he had planted his halberd beside
him, was shaking out some snuff from his snuff-box with a bony hand, was
he startled out of his reverie.

"What do you want?" the rough guardian of civic order exclaimed. "Can't
you walk on the pavement properly?"

This sudden address at last completely roused Akaki from his torpid
condition. He collected his thoughts, considered his situation clearly,
and began to take counsel with himself seriously and frankly, as with a
friend to whom one entrusts the most intimate secrets.

"No!" he said at last. "To-day I will get nothing from Petrovitch--to-day
he is in a bad humour--perhaps his wife has beaten him--I
will look him up again next Sunday. On Saturday evenings he gets
intoxicated; then the next day he wants a pick-me-up--his wife gives him
no money--I squeeze a ten-kopeck piece into his hand; then he will be
more reasonable and we can discuss the cloak further."

Encouraged by these reflections, Akaki waited patiently till Sunday. On
that day, having seen Petrovitch's wife leave the house, he betook
himself to the tailor's and found him, as he had expected, in a very
depressed state as the result of his Saturday's dissipation. But hardly
had Akaki let a word fall about the mantle than the diabolical tailor
awoke from his torpor and exclaimed, "No, nothing can be done; you must
certainly buy a new cloak."

The titular councillor pressed a ten-kopeck piece into his hand.

"Thanks, my dear friend," said Petrovitch; "that will get me a
pick-me-up, and I will drink your health with it. But as for your old
mantle, what is the use of talking about it? It isn't worth a farthing.
Let me only get to work; I will make you a splendid one, I promise!"

But poor Akaki Akakievitch still importuned the tailor to repair his old
one.

"No, and again no," answered Petrovitch. "It is quite impossible. Trust
me; I won't take you in. I will even put silver hooks and eyes on the
collar, as is now the fashion."

This time Akaki saw that he must follow the tailor's advice, and again
all his courage sank. He must have a new mantle made. But how should he
pay for it? He certainly expected a Christmas bonus at the office; but
that money had been allotted beforehand. He must buy a pair of trousers,
and pay his shoemaker for repairing two pairs of boots, and buy some
fresh linen. Even if, by an unexpected stroke of good luck, the director
raised the usual bonus from forty to fifty roubles, what was such a
small amount in comparison with the immense sum which Petrovitch
demanded? A mere drop of water in the sea.

At any rate, he might expect that Petrovitch, if he were in a good
humour, would lower the price of the cloak to eighty roubles; but where
were these eighty roubles to be found? Perhaps he might succeed if he
left no stone unturned, in raising half the sum; but he saw no means of
procuring the other half. As regards the first half, he had been in the
habit, as often as he received a rouble, of placing a kopeck in a
money-box. At the end of each half-year he changed these copper coins
for silver. He had been doing this for some time, and his savings just
now amounted to forty roubles. Thus he already had half the required
sum. But the other half!

Akaki made long calculations, and at last determined that he must, at
least for a whole year, reduce some of his daily expenses. He would have
to give up his tea in the evening, and copy his documents in his
landlady's room, in order to economise the fuel in his own. He also
resolved to avoid rough pavements as much as possible, in order to spare
his shoes; and finally to give out less washing to the laundress.

At first he found these deprivations rather trying; but gradually he got
accustomed to them, and at last took to going to bed without any supper
at all. Although his body suffered from this abstinence, his spirit
derived all the richer nutriment from perpetually thinking about his new
cloak. From that time it seemed as though his nature had completed
itself; as though he had married and possessed a companion on his life
journey. This companion was the thought of his new cloak, properly
wadded and lined.

From that time he became more lively, and his character grew stronger,
like that of a man who has set a goal before himself which he will reach
at all costs. All that was indecisive and vague in his gait and gestures
had disappeared. A new fire began to gleam in his eyes, and in his bold
dreams he sometimes even proposed to himself the question whether he
should not have a marten-fur collar made for his coat.

These and similar thoughts sometimes caused him to be absent-minded. As
he was copying his documents one day he suddenly noticed that he had
made a slip. "Ugh!" he exclaimed, and crossed himself.

At least once a month he went to Petrovitch to discuss the precious
cloak with him, and to settle many important questions, e.g. where and
at what price he should buy the cloth, and what colour he should choose.

Each of these visits gave rise to new discussions, but he always
returned home in a happier mood, feeling that at last the day must come
when all the materials would have been bought and the cloak would be
lying ready to put on.

This great event happened sooner than he had hoped. The director gave
him a bonus, not of forty or fifty, but of five-and-sixty roubles. Had
the worthy official noticed that Akaki needed a new mantle, or was the
exceptional amount of the gift only due to chance?

However that might be, Akaki was now richer by twenty roubles. Such an
access of wealth necessarily hastened his important undertaking. After
two or three more months of enduring hunger, he had collected his eighty
roubles. His heart, generally so quiet, began to beat violently; he
hastened to Petrovitch, who accompanied him to a draper's shop. There,
without hesitating, they bought a very fine piece of cloth. For more
than half a year they had discussed the matter incessantly, and gone
round the shops inquiring prices. Petrovitch examined the cloth, and
said they would not find anything better. For the lining they chose a
piece of such firm and thickly woven linen that the tailor declared it
was better than silk; it also had a splendid gloss on it. They did not
buy marten fur, for it was too dear, but chose the best catskin in the
shop, which was a very good imitation of the former.

It took Petrovitch quite fourteen days to make the mantle, for he put an
extra number of stitches into it. He charged twelve roubles for his
work, and said he could not ask less; it was all sewn with silk, and the
tailor smoothed the sutures with his teeth.

At last the day came--I cannot name it certainly, but it assuredly was
the most solemn in Akaki's life--when the tailor brought the cloak. He
brought it early in the morning, before the titular councillor started
for his office. He could not have come at a more suitable moment, for
the cold had again begun to be very severe.

Petrovitch entered the room with the dignified mien of an important
tailor. His face wore a peculiarly serious expression, such as Akaki had
never seen on it. He was fully conscious of his dignity, and of the gulf
which separates the tailor who only repairs old clothes from the artist
who makes new ones.

The cloak had been brought wrapped up in a large, new, freshly washed
handkerchief, which the tailor carefully opened, folded, and placed in
his pocket. Then he proudly took the cloak in both hands and laid it on
Akaki Akakievitch's shoulders. He pulled it straight behind to see how
it hung majestically in its whole length. Finally he wished to see the
effect it made when unbuttoned. Akaki, however, wished to try the
sleeves, which fitted wonderfully well. In brief, the cloak was
irreproachable, and its fit and cut left nothing to be desired.

While the tailor was contemplating his work, he did not forget to say
that the only reason he had charged so little for making it, was that he
had only a low rent to pay and had known Akaki Akakievitch for a long
time; he declared that any tailor who lived on the Nevski Prospect would
have charged at least five-and-sixty roubles for making up such a cloak.

The titular councillor did not let himself be involved in a discussion
on the subject. He thanked him, paid him, and then sallied forth on his
way to the office.

Petrovitch went out with him, and remained standing in the street to
watch Akaki as long as possible wearing the mantle; then he hurried
through a cross-alley and came into the main street again to catch
another glimpse of him.

Akaki went on his way in high spirits. Every moment he was acutely
conscious of having a new cloak on, and smiled with sheer
self-complacency. His head was filled with only two ideas: first that
the cloak was warm, and secondly that it was beautiful. Without noticing
anything on the road, he marched straight to the chancellery, took off
his treasure in the hall, and solemnly entrusted it to the porter's
care.

I do not know how the report spread in the office that Akaki's old cloak
had ceased to exist. All his colleagues hastened to see his splendid new
one, and then began to congratulate him so warmly that he at first had
to smile with self-satisfaction, but finally began to feel embarrassed.

But how great was his surprise when his cruel colleagues remarked that
he should formally "handsel" his cloak by giving them a feast! Poor
Akaki was so disconcerted and taken aback, that he did not know what to
answer nor how to excuse himself. He stammered out, blushing, that the
cloak was not so new as it appeared; it was really second-hand.

One of his superiors, who probably wished to show that he was not too
proud of his rank and title, and did not disdain social intercourse with
his subordinates, broke in and said, "Gentlemen! Instead of Akaki
Akakievitch, I will invite you to a little meal. Come to tea with me
this evening. To-day happens to be my birthday."

All the others thanked him for his kind proposal, and joyfully accepted
his invitation. Akaki at first wished to decline, but was told that to
do so would be grossly impolite and unpardonable, so he reconciled
himself to the inevitable. Moreover, he felt a certain satisfaction at
the thought that the occasion would give him a new opportunity of
displaying his cloak in the streets. This whole day for him was like a
festival day. In the cheerfullest possible mood he returned home, took
off his cloak, and hung it up on the wall after once more examining the
cloth and the lining. Then he took out his old one in order to compare
it with Petrovitch's masterpiece. His looks passed from one to the
other, and he thought to himself, smiling, "What a difference!"

He ate his supper cheerfully, and after he had finished, did not sit
down as usual to copy documents. No; he lay down, like a Sybarite, on
the sofa and waited. When the time came, he made his toilette, took his
cloak, and went out.

I cannot say where was the house of the superior official who so
graciously invited his subordinates to tea. My memory begins to grow
weak, and the innumerable streets and houses of St Petersburg go round
so confusedly in my head that I have difficulty in finding my way about
them. So much, however, is certain: that the honourable official lived
in a very fine quarter of the city, and therefore very far from Akaki
Akakievitch's dwelling.

At first the titular councillor traversed several badly lit streets
which seemed quite empty; but the nearer he approached his superior's
house, the more brilliant and lively the streets became. He met many
people, among whom were elegantly dressed ladies, and men with
beaverskin collars. The peasants' sledges, with their wooden seats and
brass studs, became rarer; while now every moment appeared skilled
coachmen with velvet caps, driving lacquered sleighs covered with
bearskins, and fine carriages.

At last he reached the house whither he had been invited. His host lived
in a first-rate style; a lamp hung before his door, and he occupied the
whole of the second story. As Akaki entered the vestibule, he saw a long
row of galoshes; on a table a samovar was smoking and hissing; many
cloaks, some of them adorned with velvet and fur collars, hung on the
wall. In the adjoining room he heard a confused noise, which assumed a
more decided character when a servant opened the door and came out
bearing a tray full of empty cups, a milk-jug, and a basket of biscuits.
Evidently the guests had been there some time and had already drunk
their first cup of tea.

After hanging his cloak on a peg, Akaki approached the room in which his
colleagues, smoking long pipes, were sitting round the card-table and
making a good deal of noise. He entered the room, but remained standing
by the door, not knowing what to do; but his colleagues greeted him with
loud applause, and all hastened into the vestibule to take another look
at his cloak. This excitement quite robbed the good titular councillor
of his composure; but in his simplicity of heart he rejoiced at the
praises which were lavished on his precious cloak. Soon afterwards his
colleagues left him to himself and resumed their whist parties.

Akaki felt much embarrassed, and did not know what to do with his feet
and hands. Finally he sat down by the players; looked now at their faces
and now at the cards; then he yawned and remembered that it was long
past his usual bedtime. He made an attempt to go, but they held him back
and told him that he could not do so without drinking a glass of
champagne on what was for him such a memorable day.

Soon supper was brought. It consisted of cold veal, cakes, and pastry of
various kinds, accompanied by several bottles of champagne. Akaki was
obliged to drink two glasses of it, and found everything round him take
on a more cheerful aspect. But he could not forget that it was already
midnight and that he ought to have been in bed long ago. From fear of
being kept back again, he slipped furtively into the vestibule, where he
was pained to find his cloak lying on the ground. He carefully shook it,
brushed it, put it on, and went out.

The street-lamps were still alight. Some of the small ale-houses
frequented by servants and the lower classes were still open, and some
had just been shut; but by the beams of light which shone through the
chinks of the doors, it was easy to see that there were still people
inside, probably male and female domestics, who were quite indifferent
to their employers' interests.

Akaki Akakievitch turned homewards in a cheerful mood. Suddenly he found
himself in a long street where it was very quiet by day and still more
so at night. The surroundings were very dismal. Only here and there hung
a lamp which threatened to go out for want of oil; there were long rows
of wooden houses with wooden fences, but no sign of a living soul. Only
the snow in the street glimmered faintly in the dim light of the
half-extinguished lanterns, and the little houses looked melancholy in
the darkness.

Akaki went on till the street opened into an enormous square, on the
other side of which the houses were scarcely visible, and which looked
like a terrible desert. At a great distance--God knows where!--glimmered
the light in a sentry-box, which seemed to stand at the end of the
world. At the same moment Akaki's cheerful mood vanished. He went in the
direction of the light with a vague sense of depression, as though some
mischief threatened him. On the way he kept looking round him with
alarm. The huge, melancholy expanse looked to him like a sea. "No," he
thought to himself, "I had better not look at it"; and he continued his
way with his eyes fixed on the ground. When he raised them again he
suddenly saw just in front of him several men with long moustaches,
whose faces he could not distinguish. Everything grew dark before his
eyes, and his heart seemed to be constricted.

"That is my cloak!" shouted one of the men, and seized him by the
collar. Akaki tried to call for help. Another man pressed a great bony
fist on his mouth, and said to him, "Just try to scream again!" At the
same moment the unhappy titular councillor felt the cloak snatched away
from him, and simultaneously received a kick which stretched him
senseless in the snow. A few minutes later he came to himself and stood
up; but there was no longer anyone in sight. Robbed of his cloak, and
feeling frozen to the marrow, he began to shout with all his might; but
his voice did not reach the end of the huge square. Continuing to shout,
he ran with the rage of despair to the sentinel in the sentry-box, who,
leaning on his halberd, asked him why the deuce he was making such a
hellish noise and running so violently.

When Akaki reached the sentinel, he accused him of being drunk because
he did not see that passers-by were robbed a short distance from his
sentry-box.

"I saw you quite well," answered the sentinel, "in the middle of the
square with two men; I thought you were friends. It is no good getting
so excited. Go to-morrow to the police inspector; he will take up the
matter, have the thieves searched for, and make an examination."

Akaki saw there was nothing to be done but to go home. He reached his
dwelling in a state of dreadful disorder, his hair hanging wildly over
his forehead, and his clothes covered with snow. When his old landlady
heard him knocking violently at the door, she sprang up and hastened
thither, only half-dressed; but at the sight of Akaki started back in
alarm. When he told her what had happened, she clasped her hands
together and said, "You should not go to the police inspector, but to
the municipal Superintendent of the district. The inspector will put you
off with fine words, and do nothing; but I have known the Superintendent
for a long time. My former cook, Anna, is now in his service, and I
often see him pass by under our windows. He goes to church on all the
festival-days, and one sees at once by his looks that he is an honest
man."

After hearing this eloquent recommendation, Akaki retired sadly to his
room. Those who can picture to themselves such a situation will
understand what sort of a night he passed. As early as possible the next
morning he went to the Superintendent's house. The servants told him
that he was still asleep. At ten o'clock he returned, only to receive
the same reply. At twelve o'clock the Superintendent had gone out.

About dinner-time the titular councillor called again, but the clerks
asked him in a severe tone what was his business with their superior.
Then for the first time in his life Akaki displayed an energetic
character. He declared that it was absolutely necessary for him to speak
with the Superintendent on an official matter, and that anyone who
ventured to put difficulties in his way would have to pay dearly for it.

This left them without reply. One of the clerks departed, in order to
deliver his message. When Akaki was admitted to the Superintendent's
presence, the latter's way of receiving his story was somewhat singular.
Instead of confining himself to the principal matter--the theft, he
asked the titular councillor how he came to be out so late, and whether
he had not been in suspicious company.

Taken aback by such a question, Akaki did not know what to answer, and
went away without knowing whether any steps would be taken in the matter
or not.

The whole day he had not been in his office--a perfectly new event in
his life. The next day he appeared there again with a pale face and
restless aspect, in his old cloak, which looked more wretched than ever.
When his colleagues heard of his misfortune, some were cruel enough to
laugh; most of them, however, felt a sincere sympathy with him, and
started a subscription for his benefit; but this praiseworthy
undertaking had only a very insignificant result, because these same
officials had been lately called upon to contribute to two other
subscriptions--in the first case to purchase a portrait of their
director, and in the second to buy a work which a friend of his had
published.

One of them, who felt sincerely sorry for Akaki, gave him some good
advice for want of something better. He told him it was a waste of time
to go again to the Superintendent, because even in case that this
official succeeded in recovering the cloak, the police would keep it
till the titular councillor had indisputably proved that he was the real
owner of it. Akaki's friend suggested to him to go to a certain
important personage, who because of his connection with the authorities
could expedite the matter.

In his bewilderment, Akaki resolved to follow this advice. It was not
known what position this personage occupied, nor how high it really was;
the only facts known were that he had only recently been placed in it,
and that there must be still higher personages than himself, as he was
leaving no stone unturned in order to get promotion. When he entered his
private room, he made his subordinates wait for him on the stairs below,
and no one had direct access to him. If anyone called with a request to
see him, the secretary of the board informed the Government secretary,
who in his turn passed it on to a higher official, and the latter
informed the important personage himself.

That is the way business is carried on in our Holy Russia. In the
endeavour to resemble the higher officials, everyone imitates the
manners of his superiors. Not long ago a titular councillor, who was
appointed to the headship of a little office, immediately placed over
the door of one of his two tiny rooms the inscription "Council-chamber."
Outside it were placed servants with red collars and lace-work on their
coats, in order to announce petitioners, and to conduct them into the
chamber which was hardly large enough to contain a chair.

But let us return to the important personage in question. His way of
carrying things on was dignified and imposing, but a trifle complicated.
His system might be summed up in a single word--"severity." This word he
would repeat in a sonorous tone three times in succession, and the last
time turn a piercing look on the person with whom he happened to be
speaking. He might have spared himself the trouble of displaying so much
disciplinary energy; the ten officials who were under his command feared
him quite sufficiently without it. As soon as they were aware of his
approach, they would lay down their pens, and hasten to station
themselves in a respectful attitude as he passed by. In converse with
his subordinates, he preserved a stiff, unbending attitude, and
generally confined himself to such expressions as "What do you want? Do
you know with whom you are speaking? Do you consider who is in front of
you?"

For the rest, he was a good-natured man, friendly and amiable with his
acquaintances. But the title of "District-Superintendent" had turned his
head. Since the time when it had been bestowed upon him, he lived for a
great part of the day in a kind of dizzy self-intoxication. Among his
equals, however, he recovered his equilibrium, and then showed his real
amiability in more than one direction; but as soon as he found himself
in the society of anyone of less rank than himself, he entrenched
himself in a severe taciturnity. This situation was all the more painful
for him as he was quite aware that he might have passed his time more
agreeably.

All who watched him at such moments perceived clearly that he longed to
take part in an interesting conversation, but that the fear of
displaying some unguarded courtesy, of appearing too confidential, and
thereby doing a deadly injury to his dignity, held him back. In order to
avoid such a risk, he maintained an unnatural reserve, and only spoke
from time to time in monosyllables. He had driven this habit to such a
pitch that people called him "The Tedious," and the title was well
deserved.

Such was the person to whose aid Akaki wished to appeal. The moment at
which he came seemed expressly calculated to flatter the
Superintendent's vanity, and accordingly to help forward the titular
councillor's cause.

The high personage was seated in his office, talking cheerfully with an
old friend whom he had not seen for several years, when he was told that
a gentleman named Akakievitch begged for the honour of an interview.

"Who is the man?" asked the Superintendent in a contemptuous tone.

"An official," answered the servant.

"He must wait. I have no time to receive him now."

The high personage lied; there was nothing in the way of his granting
the desired audience. His friend and himself had already quite exhausted
various topics of conversation. Many long, embarrassing pauses had
occurred, during which they had lightly tapped each other on the
shoulder, saying, "So it was, you see."

"Yes, Stepan."

But the Superintendent refused to receive the petitioner, in order to
show his friend, who had quitted the public service and lived in the
country, his own importance, and how officials must wait in the
vestibule till he chose to receive them.

At last, after they had discussed various other subjects with other
intervals of silence, during which the two friends leaned back in their
chairs and blew cigarette smoke in the air, the Superintendent seemed
suddenly to remember that someone had sought an interview with him. He
called the secretary, who stood with a roll of papers in his hand at the
door, and told him to admit the petitioner.

When he saw Akaki approaching with his humble expression, wearing his
shabby old uniform, he turned round suddenly towards him and said "What
do you want?" in a severe voice, accompanied by a vibrating intonation
which at the time of receiving his promotion he had practised before the
looking-glass for eight days.

The modest Akaki was quite taken aback by his harsh manner; however, he
made an effort to recover his composure, and to relate how his cloak had
been stolen, but did not do so without encumbering his narrative with a
mass of superfluous detail. He added that he had applied to His
Excellence in the hope that through his making a representation to the
police inspector, or some other high personage, the cloak might be
traced.

The Superintendent found Akaki's method of procedure somewhat
unofficial. "Ah, sir," he said, "don't you know what steps you ought to
take in such a case? Don't you know the proper procedure? You should
have handed in your petition at the chancellery. This in due course
would have passed through the hands of the chief clerk and director of
the bureau. It would then have been brought before my secretary, who
would have made a communication to you."

"Allow me," replied Akaki, making a strenuous effort to preserve the
remnants of his presence of mind, for he felt that the perspiration
stood on his forehead, "allow me to remark to Your Excellence that I
ventured to trouble you personally in this matter because
secretaries--secretaries are a hopeless kind of people."

"What! How! Is it possible?" exclaimed the Superintendent. "How could
you say such a thing? Where have you got your ideas from? It is
disgraceful to see young people so rebellious towards their superiors."
In his official zeal the Superintendent overlooked the fact that the
titular councillor was well on in the fifties, and that the word "young"
could only apply to him conditionally, i.e. in comparison with a man of
seventy. "Do you also know," he continued, "with whom you are speaking?
Do you consider before whom you are standing? Do you consider, I ask
you, do you consider?" As he spoke, he stamped his foot, and his voice
grew deeper.

Akaki was quite upset--nay, thoroughly frightened; he trembled and shook
and could hardly remain standing upright. Unless one of the office
servants had hurried to help him, he would have fallen to the ground. As
it was, he was dragged out almost unconscious.

But the Superintendent was quite delighted at the effect he had
produced. It exceeded all his expectations, and filled with satisfaction
at the fact that his words made such an impression on a middle-aged man
that he lost consciousness, he cast a side-glance at his friend to see
what effect the scene had produced on him. His self-satisfaction was
further increased when he observed that his friend also was moved, and
looked at him half-timidly.

Akaki had no idea how he got down the stairs and crossed the street, for
he felt more dead than alive. In his whole life he had never been so
scolded by a superior official, let alone one whom he had never seen
before.

He wandered in the storm which raged without taking the least care of
himself, nor sheltering himself on the side-walk against its fury. The
wind, which blew from all sides and out of all the narrow streets,
caused him to contract inflammation of the throat. When he reached home
he was unable to speak a word, and went straight to bed.

Such was the result of the Superintendent's lecture.

The next day Akaki had a violent fever. Thanks to the St Petersburg
climate, his illness developed with terrible rapidity. When the doctor
came, he saw that the case was already hopeless; he felt his pulse and
ordered him some poultices, merely in order that he should not die
without some medical help, and declared at once that he had only two
days to live. After giving this opinion, he said to Akaki's landlady,
"There is no time to be lost; order a pine coffin, for an oak one would
be too expensive for this poor man."

Whether the titular councillor heard these words, whether they excited
him and made him lament his tragic lot, no one ever knew, for he was
delirious all the time. Strange pictures passed incessantly through his
weakened brain. At one time he saw Petrovitch the tailor and asked him
to make a cloak with nooses attached for the thieves who persecuted him
in bed, and begged his old landlady to chase away the robbers who were
hidden under his coverlet. At another time he seemed to be listening to
the Superintendent's severe reprimand, and asking his forgiveness. Then
he uttered such strange and confused remarks that the old woman crossed
herself in alarm. She had never heard anything of the kind in her life,
and these ravings astonished her all the more because the expression
"Your Excellency" constantly occurred in them. Later on he murmured wild
disconnected words, from which it could only be gathered that his
thoughts were continually revolving round a cloak.

At last Akaki breathed his last. Neither his room nor his cupboard were
officially sealed up, for the simple reason that he had no heir and left
nothing behind him but a bundle of goose-quills, a notebook of white
paper, three pairs of socks, some trouser buttons, and his old coat.

Into whose possession did these relics pass? Heaven only knows! The
writer of this narrative has never inquired.

Akaki was wrapped in his shroud, and laid to rest in the churchyard. The
great city of St Petersburg continued its life as though he had never
existed. Thus disappeared a human creature who had never possessed a
patron or friend, who had never elicited real hearty sympathy from
anyone, nor even aroused the curiosity of the naturalists, though they
are most eager to subject a rare insect to microscopic examination.

Without a complaint he had borne the scorn and contempt of his
colleagues; he had proceeded on his quiet way to the grave without
anything extraordinary happening to him--only towards the end of his
life he had been joyfully excited by the possession of a new cloak, and
had then been overthrown by misfortune.

Some days after his conversation with the Superintendent, his superior
in the chancellery, where no one knew what had become of him, sent an
official to his house to demand his presence. The official returned with
the news that no one would see the titular councillor any more.

"Why?" asked all the clerks.

"Because he was buried four days ago."

In such a manner did Akaki's colleagues hear of his death.

The next day his place was occupied by an official of robuster fibre, a
man who did not trouble to make so many fair transcripts of state
documents.

                   *       *       *       *       *

It seems as though Akaki's story ended here, and that there was nothing
more to be said of him; but the modest titular councillor was destined
to attract more notice after his death than during his life, and our
tale now assumes a somewhat ghostly complexion.

One day there spread in St Petersburg the report that near the Katinka
Bridge there appeared every night a spectre in a uniform like that of
the chancellery officials; that he was searching for a stolen cloak, and
stripped all passers-by of their cloaks without any regard for rank or
title. It mattered not whether they were lined with wadding, mink, cat,
otter, bear, or beaverskin; he took all he could get hold of. One of the
titular councillor's former colleagues had seen the ghost, and quite
clearly recognised Akaki. He ran as hard as he could and managed to
escape, but had seen him shaking his fist in the distance. Everywhere it
was reported that councillors, and not only titular councillors but also
state-councillors, had caught serious colds in their honourable backs on
account of these raids.

The police adopted all possible measures in order to get this ghost dead
or alive into their power, and to inflict an exemplary punishment on
him; but all their attempts were vain.

One evening, however, a sentinel succeeded in getting hold of the
malefactor just as he was trying to rob a musician of his cloak. The
sentinel summoned with all the force of his lungs two of his comrades,
to whom he entrusted the prisoner while he sought for his snuff-box in
order to bring some life again into his half-frozen nose. Probably his
snuff was so strong that even a ghost could not stand it. Scarcely had
the sentinel thrust a grain or two up his nostrils than the prisoner
began to sneeze so violently that a kind of mist rose before the eyes of
the sentinels. While the three were rubbing their eyes, the prisoner
disappeared. Since that day, all the sentries were so afraid of the
ghost that they did not even venture to arrest the living but shouted to
them from afar "Go on! Go on!"

Meanwhile the ghost extended his depredations to the other side of the
Katinka Bridge, and spread dismay and alarm in the whole of the quarter.

But now we must return to the Superintendent, who is the real origin of
our fantastic yet so veracious story. First of all we must do him the
justice to state that after Akaki's departure he felt a certain sympathy
for him. He was by no means without a sense of justice--no, he possessed
various good qualities, but his infatuation about his title hindered him
from showing his good side. When his friend left him, his thoughts began
to occupy themselves with the unfortunate titular councillor, and from
that moment onwards he saw him constantly in his mind's eye, crushed by
the severe reproof which had been administered to him. This image so
haunted him that at last one day he ordered one of his officials to find
out what had become of Akaki, and whether anything could be done for
him.

When the messenger returned with the news that the poor man had died
soon after that interview, the Superintendent felt a pang in his
conscience, and remained the whole day absorbed in melancholy brooding.

In order to banish his unpleasant sensations, he went in the evening to
a friend's house, where he hoped to find pleasant society and what was
the chief thing, some other officials of his own rank, so that he would
not be obliged to feel bored. And in fact he did succeed in throwing off
his melancholy thoughts there; he unbent and became lively, took an
active part in the conversation, and passed a very pleasant evening. At
supper he drank two glasses of champagne, which, as everyone knows, is
an effective means of heightening one's cheerfulness.

As he sat in his sledge, wrapped in his mantle, on his way home, his
mind was full of pleasant reveries. He thought of the society in which
he had passed such a cheerful evening, and of all the excellent jokes
with which he had made them laugh. He repeated some of them to himself
half-aloud, and laughed at them again.

From time to time, however, he was disturbed in this cheerful mood by
violent gusts of wind, which from some corner or other blew a quantity
of snowflakes into his face, lifted the folds of his cloak, and made it
belly like a sail, so that he had to exert all his strength to hold it
firmly on his shoulders. Suddenly he felt a powerful hand seize him by
the collar. He turned round, perceived a short man in an old, shabby
uniform, and recognised with terror Akaki's face, which wore a deathly
pallor and emaciation.

The titular councillor opened his mouth, from which issued a kind of
corpse-like odour, and with inexpressible fright the Superintendent
heard him say, "At last I have you--by the collar! I need your cloak.
You did not trouble about me when I was in distress; you thought it
necessary to reprimand me. Now give me your cloak."

The high dignitary nearly choked. In his office, and especially in the
presence of his subordinates, he was a man of imposing manners. He only
needed to fix his eye on one of them and they all seemed impressed by
his pompous bearing. But, as is the case with many such officials, all
this was only outward show; at this moment he felt so upset that he
seriously feared for his health. Taking off his cloak with a feverish,
trembling hand, he handed it to Akaki, and called to his coachman,
"Drive home quickly."

When the coachman heard this voice, which did not sound as it usually
did, and had often been accompanied by blows of a whip, he bent his head
cautiously and drove on apace.

Soon afterwards the Superintendent found himself at home. Cloakless, he
retired to his room with a pale face and wild looks, and had such a bad
night that on the following morning his daughter exclaimed "Father, are
you ill?" But he said nothing of what he had seen, though a very deep
impression had been made on him. From that day onwards he no longer
addressed to his subordinates in a violent tone the words, "Do you know
with whom you are speaking? Do you know who is standing before you?" Or
if it ever did happen that he spoke to them in a domineering tone, it
was not till he had first listened to what they had to say.

Strangely enough, from that time the spectre never appeared again.
Probably it was the Superintendent's cloak which he had been seeking so
earnestly; now he had it and did not want anything more. Various
persons, however, asserted that this formidable ghost was still to be
seen in other parts of the city. A sentinel went so far as to say that
he had seen him with his own eyes glide like a furtive shadow behind a
house. But this sentinel was of such a nervous disposition that he had
been chaffed about his timidity more than once. Since he did not venture
to seize the flitting shadow, he stole after it in the darkness; but the
shadow turned round and shouted at him "What do you want?" shaking an
enormous fist, such as no man had ever possessed.

"I want nothing," answered the sentry, quickly retiring.

This shadow, however, was taller than the ghost of the titular
councillor, and had an enormous moustache. He went with great strides
towards the Obuchoff Bridge, and disappeared in the darkness.



THE NOSE


I

On the 25th March, 18--, a very strange occurrence took place in St
Petersburg. On the Ascension Avenue there lived a barber of the name of
Ivan Jakovlevitch. He had lost his family name, and on his sign-board,
on which was depicted the head of a gentleman with one cheek soaped, the
only inscription to be read was, "Blood-letting done here."

On this particular morning he awoke pretty early. Becoming aware of the
smell of fresh-baked bread, he sat up a little in bed, and saw his wife,
who had a special partiality for coffee, in the act of taking some
fresh-baked bread out of the oven.

"To-day, Prasskovna Ossipovna," he said, "I do not want any coffee; I
should like a fresh loaf with onions."

"The blockhead may eat bread only as far as I am concerned," said his
wife to herself; "then I shall have a chance of getting some coffee."
And she threw a loaf on the table.

For the sake of propriety, Ivan Jakovlevitch drew a coat over his shirt,
sat down at the table, shook out some salt for himself, prepared two
onions, assumed a serious expression, and began to cut the bread. After
he had cut the loaf in two halves, he looked, and to his great
astonishment saw something whitish sticking in it. He carefully poked
round it with his knife, and felt it with his finger.

"Quite firmly fixed!" he murmured in his beard. "What can it be?"

He put in his finger, and drew out--a nose!

Ivan Jakovlevitch at first let his hands fall from sheer astonishment;
then he rubbed his eyes and began to feel it. A nose, an actual nose;
and, moreover, it seemed to be the nose of an acquaintance! Alarm and
terror were depicted in Ivan's face; but these feelings were slight in
comparison with the disgust which took possession of his wife.

"Whose nose have you cut off, you monster?" she screamed, her face red
with anger. "You scoundrel! You tippler! I myself will report you to the
police! Such a rascal! Many customers have told me that while you were
shaving them, you held them so tight by the nose that they could hardly
sit still."

But Ivan Jakovlevitch was more dead than alive; he saw at once that this
nose could belong to no other than to Kovaloff, a member of the
Municipal Committee whom he shaved every Sunday and Wednesday.

"Stop, Prasskovna Ossipovna! I will wrap it in a piece of cloth and
place it in the corner. There it may remain for the present; later on I
will take it away."

"No, not there! Shall I endure an amputated nose in my room? You
understand nothing except how to strop a razor. You know nothing of the
duties and obligations of a respectable man. You vagabond! You
good-for-nothing! Am I to undertake all responsibility for you at the
police-office? Ah, you soap-smearer! You blockhead! Take it away where
you like, but don't let it stay under my eyes!"

Ivan Jakovlevitch stood there flabbergasted. He thought and thought, and
knew not what he thought.

"The devil knows how that happened!" he said at last, scratching his
head behind his ear. "Whether I came home drunk last night or not, I
really don't know; but in all probability this is a quite extraordinary
occurrence, for a loaf is something baked and a nose is something
different. I don't understand the matter at all." And Ivan Jakovlevitch
was silent. The thought that the police might find him in unlawful
possession of a nose and arrest him, robbed him of all presence of mind.
Already he began to have visions of a red collar with silver braid and
of a sword--and he trembled all over.

At last he finished dressing himself, and to the accompaniment of the
emphatic exhortations of his spouse, he wrapped up the nose in a cloth
and issued into the street.

He intended to lose it somewhere--either at somebody's door, or in a
public square, or in a narrow alley; but just then, in order to complete
his bad luck, he was met by an acquaintance, who showered inquiries upon
him. "Hullo, Ivan Jakovlevitch! Whom are you going to shave so early in
the morning?" etc., so that he could find no suitable opportunity to do
what he wanted. Later on he did let the nose drop, but a sentry bore
down upon him with his halberd, and said, "Look out! You have let
something drop!" and Ivan Jakovlevitch was obliged to pick it up and put
it in his pocket.

A feeling of despair began to take possession of him; all the more as
the streets became more thronged and the merchants began to open their
shops. At last he resolved to go to the Isaac Bridge, where perhaps he
might succeed in throwing it into the Neva.

But my conscience is a little uneasy that I have not yet given any
detailed information about Ivan Jakovlevitch, an estimable man in many
ways.

Like every honest Russian tradesman, Ivan Jakovlevitch was a terrible
drunkard, and although he shaved other people's faces every day, his own
was always unshaved. His coat (he never wore an overcoat) was quite
mottled, i.e. it had been black, but become brownish-yellow; the collar
was quite shiny, and instead of the three buttons, only the threads by
which they had been fastened were to be seen.

Ivan Jakovlevitch was a great cynic, and when Kovaloff, the member of
the Municipal Committee, said to him, as was his custom while being
shaved, "Your hands always smell, Ivan Jakovlevitch!" the latter
answered, "What do they smell of?" "I don't know, my friend, but they
smell very strong." Ivan Jakovlevitch after taking a pinch of snuff
would then, by way of reprisals, set to work to soap him on the cheek,
the upper lip, behind the ears, on the chin, and everywhere.

This worthy man now stood on the Isaac Bridge. At first he looked round
him, then he leant on the railings of the bridge, as though he wished to
look down and see how many fish were swimming past, and secretly threw
the nose, wrapped in a little piece of cloth, into the water. He felt as
though a ton weight had been lifted off him, and laughed cheerfully.
Instead, however, of going to shave any officials, he turned his steps
to a building, the sign-board of which bore the legend "Teas served
here," in order to have a glass of punch, when suddenly he perceived at
the other end of the bridge a police inspector of imposing exterior,
with long whiskers, three-cornered hat, and sword hanging at his side.
He nearly fainted; but the police inspector beckoned to him with his
hand and said, "Come here, my dear sir."

Ivan Jakovlevitch, knowing how a gentleman should behave, took his hat
off quickly, went towards the police inspector and said, "I hope you are
in the best of health."

"Never mind my health. Tell me, my friend, why you were standing on the
bridge."

"By heaven, gracious sir, I was on the way to my customers, and only
looked down to see if the river was flowing quickly."

"That is a lie! You won't get out of it like that. Confess the truth."

"I am willing to shave Your Grace two or even three times a week
gratis," answered Ivan Jakovlevitch.

"No, my friend, don't put yourself out! Three barbers are busy with me
already, and reckon it a high honour that I let them show me their
skill. Now then, out with it! What were you doing there?"

Ivan Jakovlevitch grew pale. But here the strange episode vanishes in
mist, and what further happened is not known.


II

Kovaloff, the member of the Municipal Committee, awoke fairly early that
morning, and made a droning noise--"Brr! Brr!"--through his lips, as he
always did, though he could not say why. He stretched himself, and told
his valet to give him a little mirror which was on the table. He wished
to look at the heat-boil which had appeared on his nose the previous
evening; but to his great astonishment, he saw that instead of his nose
he had a perfectly smooth vacancy in his face. Thoroughly alarmed, he
ordered some water to be brought, and rubbed his eyes with a towel. Sure
enough, he had no longer a nose! Then he sprang out of bed, and shook
himself violently! No, no nose any more! He dressed himself and went at
once to the police superintendent.

But before proceeding further, we must certainly give the reader some
information about Kovaloff, so that he may know what sort of a man this
member of the Municipal Committee really was. These committee-men, who
obtain that title by means of certificates of learning, must not be
compared with the committee-men appointed for the Caucasus district, who
are of quite a different kind. The learned committee-man--but Russia is
such a wonderful country that when one committee-man is spoken of all
the others from Riga to Kamschatka refer it to themselves. The same is
also true of all other titled officials. Kovaloff had been a Caucasian
committee-man two years previously, and could not forget that he had
occupied that position; but in order to enhance his own importance, he
never called himself "committee-man" but "Major."

"Listen, my dear," he used to say when he met an old woman in the street
who sold shirt-fronts; "go to my house in Sadovaia Street and ask 'Does
Major Kovaloff live here?' Any child can tell you where it is."

Accordingly we will call him for the future Major Kovaloff. It was his
custom to take a daily walk on the Neffsky Avenue. The collar of his
shirt was always remarkably clean and stiff. He wore the same style of
whiskers as those that are worn by governors of districts, architects,
and regimental doctors; in short, all those who have full red cheeks and
play a good game of whist. These whiskers grow straight across the cheek
towards the nose.

Major Kovaloff wore a number of seals, on some of which were engraved
armorial bearings, and others the names of the days of the week. He had
come to St Petersburg with the view of obtaining some position
corresponding to his rank, if possible that of vice-governor of a
province; but he was prepared to be content with that of a bailiff in
some department or other. He was, moreover, not disinclined to marry,
but only such a lady who could bring with her a dowry of two hundred
thousand roubles. Accordingly, the reader can judge for himself what his
sensations were when he found in his face, instead of a fairly
symmetrical nose, a broad, flat vacancy.

To increase his misfortune, not a single droshky was to be seen in the
street, and so he was obliged to proceed on foot. He wrapped himself up
in his cloak, and held his handkerchief to his face as though his nose
bled. "But perhaps it is all only my imagination; it is impossible that
a nose should drop off in such a silly way," he thought, and stepped
into a confectioner's shop in order to look into the mirror.

Fortunately no customer was in the shop; only small shop-boys were
cleaning it out, and putting chairs and tables straight. Others with
sleepy faces were carrying fresh cakes on trays, and yesterday's
newspapers stained with coffee were still lying about. "Thank God no one
is here!" he said to himself. "Now I can look at myself leisurely."

He stepped gingerly up to a mirror and looked.

"What an infernal face!" he exclaimed, and spat with disgust. "If there
were only something there instead of the nose, but there is absolutely
nothing."

He bit his lips with vexation, left the confectioner's, and resolved,
quite contrary to his habit, neither to look nor smile at anyone on the
street. Suddenly he halted as if rooted to the spot before a door, where
something extraordinary happened. A carriage drew up at the entrance;
the carriage door was opened, and a gentleman in uniform came out and
hurried up the steps. How great was Kovaloff's terror and astonishment
when he saw that it was his own nose!

At this extraordinary sight, everything seemed to turn round with him.
He felt as though he could hardly keep upright on his legs; but, though
trembling all over as though with fever, he resolved to wait till the
nose should return to the carriage. After about two minutes the nose
actually came out again. It wore a gold-embroidered uniform with a
stiff, high collar, trousers of chamois leather, and a sword hung at its
side. The hat, adorned with a plume, showed that it held the rank of a
state-councillor. It was obvious that it was paying "duty-calls." It
looked round on both sides, called to the coachman "Drive on," and got
into the carriage, which drove away.

Poor Kovaloff nearly lost his reason. He did not know what to think of
this extraordinary procedure. And indeed how was it possible that the
nose, which only yesterday he had on his face, and which could neither
walk nor drive, should wear a uniform. He ran after the carriage, which
fortunately had stopped a short way off before the Grand Bazar of
Moscow. He hurried towards it and pressed through a crowd of
beggar-women with their faces bound up, leaving only two openings for
the eyes, over whom he had formerly so often made merry.

There were only a few people in front of the Bazar. Kovaloff was so
agitated that he could decide on nothing, and looked for the nose
everywhere. At last he saw it standing before a shop. It seemed half
buried in its stiff collar, and was attentively inspecting the wares
displayed.

"How can I get at it?" thought Kovaloff. "Everything--the uniform, the
hat, and so on--show that it is a state-councillor. How the deuce has
that happened?"

He began to cough discreetly near it, but the nose paid him not the
least attention.

"Honourable sir," said Kovaloff at last, plucking up courage,
"honourable sir."

"What do you want?" asked the nose, and turned round.

"It seems to me strange, most respected sir--you should know where you
belong--and I find you all of a sudden--where? Judge yourself."

"Pardon me, I do not understand what you are talking about. Explain
yourself more distinctly."

"How shall I make my meaning plainer to him?" Then plucking up fresh
courage, he continued, "Naturally--besides I am a Major. You must admit
it is not befitting that I should go about without a nose. An old
apple-woman on the Ascension Bridge may carry on her business without
one, but since I am on the look out for a post; besides in many houses I
am acquainted with ladies of high position--Madame Tchektyriev, wife of
a state-councillor, and many others. So you see--I do not know,
honourable sir, what you----" (here the Major shrugged his shoulders).
"Pardon me; if one regards the matter from the point of view of duty and
honour--you will yourself understand----"

"I understand nothing," answered the nose. "I repeat, please explain
yourself more distinctly."

"Honourable sir," said Kovaloff with dignity, "I do not know how I am to
understand your words. It seems to me the matter is as clear as
possible. Or do you wish--but you are after all my own nose!"

The nose looked at the Major and wrinkled its forehead. "There you are
wrong, respected sir; I am myself. Besides, there can be no close
relations between us. To judge by the buttons of your uniform, you must
be in quite a different department to mine." So saying, the nose turned
away.

Kovaloff was completely puzzled; he did not know what to do, and still
less what to think. At this moment he heard the pleasant rustling of a
lady's dress, and there approached an elderly lady wearing a quantity of
lace, and by her side her graceful daughter in a white dress which set
off her slender figure to advantage, and wearing a light straw hat.
Behind the ladies marched a tall lackey with long whiskers.

Kovaloff advanced a few steps, adjusted his cambric collar, arranged his
seals which hung by a little gold chain, and with smiling face fixed his
eyes on the graceful lady, who bowed lightly like a spring flower, and
raised to her brow her little white hand with transparent fingers. He
smiled still more when he spied under the brim of her hat her little
round chin, and part of her cheek faintly tinted with rose-colour. But
suddenly he sprang back as though he had been scorched. He remembered
that he had nothing but an absolute blank in place of a nose, and tears
started to his eyes. He turned round in order to tell the gentleman in
uniform that he was only a state-councillor in appearance, but really a
scoundrel and a rascal, and nothing else but his own nose; but the nose
was no longer there. He had had time to go, doubtless in order to
continue his visits.

His disappearance plunged Kovaloff into despair. He went back and stood
for a moment under a colonnade, looking round him on all sides in hope
of perceiving the nose somewhere. He remembered very well that it wore a
hat with a plume in it and a gold-embroidered uniform; but he had not
noticed the shape of the cloak, nor the colour of the carriages and the
horses, nor even whether a lackey stood behind it, and, if so, what sort
of livery he wore. Moreover, so many carriages were passing that it
would have been difficult to recognise one, and even if he had done so,
there would have been no means of stopping it.

The day was fine and sunny. An immense crowd was passing to and fro in
the Neffsky Avenue; a variegated stream of ladies flowed along the
pavement. There was his acquaintance, the Privy Councillor, whom he was
accustomed to style "General," especially when strangers were present.
There was Iarygin, his intimate friend who always lost in the evenings
at whist; and there another Major, who had obtained the rank of
committee-man in the Caucasus, beckoned to him.

"Go to the deuce!" said Kovaloff _sotto voce_. "Hi! coachman, drive me
straight to the superintendent of police." So saying, he got into a
droshky and continued to shout all the time to the coachman "Drive
hard!"

"Is the police superintendent at home?" he asked on entering the front
hall.

"No, sir," answered the porter, "he has just gone out."

"Ah, just as I thought!"

"Yes," continued the porter, "he has only just gone out; if you had been
a moment earlier you would perhaps have caught him."

Kovaloff, still holding his handkerchief to his face, re-entered the
droshky and cried in a despairing voice "Drive on!"

"Where?" asked the coachman.

"Straight on!"

"But how? There are cross-roads here. Shall I go to the right or the
left?"

This question made Kovaloff reflect. In his situation it was necessary
to have recourse to the police; not because the affair had anything to
do with them directly but because they acted more promptly than other
authorities. As for demanding any explanation from the department to
which the nose claimed to belong, it would, he felt, be useless, for the
answers of that gentleman showed that he regarded nothing as sacred, and
he might just as likely have lied in this matter as in saying that he
had never seen Kovaloff.

But just as he was about to order the coachman to drive to the
police-station, the idea occurred to him that this rascally scoundrel
who, at their first meeting, had behaved so disloyally towards him,
might, profiting by the delay, quit the city secretly; and then all his
searching would be in vain, or might last over a whole month. Finally,
as though visited with a heavenly inspiration, he resolved to go
directly to an advertisement office, and to advertise the loss of his
nose, giving all its distinctive characteristics in detail, so that
anyone who found it might bring it at once to him, or at any rate inform
him where it lived. Having decided on this course, he ordered the
coachman to drive to the advertisement office, and all the way he
continued to punch him in the back--"Quick, scoundrel! quick!"

"Yes, sir!" answered the coachman, lashing his shaggy horse with the
reins.

At last they arrived, and Kovaloff, out of breath, rushed into a little
room where a grey-haired official, in an old coat and with spectacles on
his nose, sat at a table holding his pen between his teeth, counting a
heap of copper coins.

"Who takes in the advertisements here?" exclaimed Kovaloff.

"At your service, sir," answered the grey-haired functionary, looking up
and then fastening his eyes again on the heap of coins before him.

"I wish to place an advertisement in your paper----"

"Have the kindness to wait a minute," answered the official, putting
down figures on paper with one hand, and with the other moving two balls
on his calculating-frame.

A lackey, whose silver-laced coat showed that he served in one of the
houses of the nobility, was standing by the table with a note in his
hand, and speaking in a lively tone, by way of showing himself sociable.
"Would you believe it, sir, this little dog is really not worth
twenty-four kopecks, and for my own part I would not give a farthing for
it; but the countess is quite gone upon it, and offers a hundred
roubles' reward to anyone who finds it. To tell you the truth, the
tastes of these people are very different from ours; they don't mind
giving five hundred or a thousand roubles for a poodle or a pointer,
provided it be a good one."

The official listened with a serious air while counting the number of
letters contained in the note. At either side of the table stood a
number of housekeepers, clerks and porters, carrying notes. The writer
of one wished to sell a barouche, which had been brought from Paris in
1814 and had been very little used; others wanted to dispose of a strong
droshky which wanted one spring, a spirited horse seventeen years old,
and so on. The room where these people were collected was very small,
and the air was very close; but Kovaloff was not affected by it, for he
had covered his face with a handkerchief, and because his nose itself
was heaven knew where.

"Sir, allow me to ask you--I am in a great hurry," he said at last
impatiently.

"In a moment! In a moment! Two roubles, twenty-four kopecks--one minute!
One rouble, sixty-four kopecks!" said the grey-haired official, throwing
their notes back to the housekeepers and porters. "What do you wish?" he
said, turning to Kovaloff.

"I wish--" answered the latter, "I have just been swindled and cheated,
and I cannot get hold of the perpetrator. I only want you to insert an
advertisement to say that whoever brings this scoundrel to me will be
well rewarded."

"What is your name, please?"

"Why do you want my name? I have many lady friends--Madame Tchektyriev,
wife of a state-councillor, Madame Podtotchina, wife of a Colonel.
Heaven forbid that they should get to hear of it. You can simply write
'committee-man,' or, better, 'Major.'"

"And the man who has run away is your serf."

"Serf! If he was, it would not be such a great swindle! It is the nose
which has absconded."

"H'm! What a strange name. And this Mr Nose has stolen from you a
considerable sum?"

"Mr Nose! Ah, you don't understand me! It is my own nose which has gone,
I don't know where. The devil has played a trick on me."

"How has it disappeared? I don't understand."

"I can't tell you how, but the important point is that now it walks
about the city itself a state-councillor. That is why I want you to
advertise that whoever gets hold of it should bring it as soon as
possible to me. Consider; how can I live without such a prominent part
of my body? It is not as if it were merely a little toe; I would only
have to put my foot in my boot and no one would notice its absence.
Every Thursday I call on the wife of M. Tchektyriev, the
state-councillor; Madame Podtotchina, a Colonel's wife who has a very
pretty daughter, is one of my acquaintances; and what am I to do now? I
cannot appear before them like this."

The official compressed his lips and reflected. "No, I cannot insert an
advertisement like that," he said after a long pause.

"What! Why not?"

"Because it might compromise the paper. Suppose everyone could advertise
that his nose was lost. People already say that all sorts of nonsense
and lies are inserted."

"But this is not nonsense! There is nothing of that sort in my case."

"You think so? Listen a minute. Last week there was a case very like it.
An official came, just as you have done, bringing an advertisement for
the insertion of which he paid two roubles, sixty-three kopecks; and
this advertisement simply announced the loss of a black-haired poodle.
There did not seem to be anything out of the way in it, but it was
really a satire; by the poodle was meant the cashier of some
establishment or other."

"But I am not talking of a poodle, but my own nose; i.e. almost myself."

"No, I cannot insert your advertisement."

"But my nose really has disappeared!"

"That is a matter for a doctor. There are said to be people who can
provide you with any kind of nose you like. But I see that you are a
witty man, and like to have your little joke."

"But I swear to you on my word of honour. Look at my face yourself."

"Why put yourself out?" continued the official, taking a pinch of snuff.
"All the same, if you don't mind," he added with a touch of curiosity,
"I should like to have a look at it."

The committee-man removed the handkerchief from before his face.

"It certainly does look odd," said the official. "It is perfectly flat
like a freshly fried pancake. It is hardly credible."

"Very well. Are you going to hesitate any more? You see it is impossible
to refuse to advertise my loss. I shall be particularly obliged to you,
and I shall be glad that this incident has procured me the pleasure of
making your acquaintance." The Major, we see, did not even shrink from a
slight humiliation.

"It certainly is not difficult to advertise it," replied the official;
"but I don't see what good it would do you. However, if you lay so much
stress on it, you should apply to someone who has a skilful pen, so that
he may describe it as a curious, natural freak, and publish the article
in the _Northern Bee_" (here he took another pinch) "for the benefit of
youthful readers" (he wiped his nose), "or simply as a matter worthy of
arousing public curiosity."

The committee-man felt completely discouraged. He let his eyes fall
absent-mindedly on a daily paper in which theatrical performances were
advertised. Reading there the name of an actress whom he knew to be
pretty, he involuntarily smiled, and his hand sought his pocket to see
if he had a blue ticket--for in Kovaloff's opinion superior officers
like himself should not take a lesser-priced seat; but the thought of
his lost nose suddenly spoilt everything.

The official himself seemed touched at his difficult position. Desiring
to console him, he tried to express his sympathy by a few polite words.
"I much regret," he said, "your extraordinary mishap. Will you not try a
pinch of snuff? It clears the head, banishes depression, and is a good
preventive against hæmorrhoids."

So saying, he reached his snuff-box out to Kovaloff, skilfully
concealing at the same time the cover, which was adorned with the
portrait of some lady or other.

This act, quite innocent in itself, exasperated Kovaloff. "I don't
understand what you find to joke about in the matter," he exclaimed
angrily. "Don't you see that I lack precisely the essential feature for
taking snuff? The devil take your snuff-box. I don't want to look at
snuff now, not even the best, certainly not your vile stuff!"

So saying, he left the advertisement office in a state of profound
irritation, and went to the commissary of police. He arrived just as
this dignitary was reclining on his couch, and saying to himself with a
sigh of satisfaction, "Yes, I shall make a nice little sum out of that."

It might be expected, therefore, that the committee-man's visit would be
quite inopportune.

This police commissary was a great patron of all the arts and
industries; but what he liked above everything else was a cheque. "It is
a thing," he used to say, "to which it is not easy to find an
equivalent; it requires no food, it does not take up much room, it stays
in one's pocket, and if it falls, it is not broken."

The commissary accorded Kovaloff a fairly frigid reception, saying that
the afternoon was not the best time to come with a case, that nature
required one to rest a little after eating (this showed the
committee-man that the commissary was acquainted with the aphorisms of
the ancient sages), and that respectable people did not have their noses
stolen.

The last allusion was too direct. We must remember that Kovaloff was a
very sensitive man. He did not mind anything said against him as an
individual, but he could not endure any reflection on his rank or social
position. He even believed that in comedies one might allow attacks on
junior officers, but never on their seniors.

The commissary's reception of him hurt his feelings so much that he
raised his head proudly, and said with dignity, "After such insulting
expressions on your part, I have nothing more to say." And he left the
place.

He reached his house quite wearied out. It was already growing dark.
After all his fruitless search, his room seemed to him melancholy and
even ugly. In the vestibule he saw his valet Ivan stretched on the
leather couch and amusing himself by spitting at the ceiling, which he
did very cleverly, hitting every time the same spot. His servant's
equanimity enraged him; he struck him on the forehead with his hat, and
said, "You good-for-nothing, you are always playing the fool!"

Ivan rose quickly and hastened to take off his master's cloak.

Once in his room, the Major, tired and depressed, threw himself in an
armchair and, after sighing a while, began to soliloquise:

"In heaven's name, why should such a misfortune befall me? If I had lost
an arm or a leg, it would be less insupportable; but a man without a
nose! Devil take it!--what is he good for? He is only fit to be thrown
out of the window. If it had been taken from me in war or in a duel, or
if I had lost it by my own fault! But it has disappeared inexplicably.
But no! it is impossible," he continued after reflecting a few moments,
"it is incredible that a nose can disappear like that--quite incredible.
I must be dreaming, or suffering from some hallucination; perhaps I
swallowed, by mistake instead of water, the brandy with which I rub my
chin after being shaved. That fool of an Ivan must have forgotten to
take it away, and I must have swallowed it."

In order to find out whether he were really drunk, the Major pinched
himself so hard that he unvoluntarily uttered a cry. The pain convinced
him that he was quite wide awake. He walked slowly to the looking-glass
and at first closed his eyes, hoping to see his nose suddenly in its
proper place; but on opening them, he started back. "What a hideous
sight!" he exclaimed.

It was really incomprehensible. One might easily lose a button, a silver
spoon, a watch, or something similar; but a loss like this, and in one's
own dwelling!

After considering all the circumstances, Major Kovaloff felt inclined to
suppose that the cause of all his trouble should be laid at the door of
Madame Podtotchina, the Colonel's wife, who wished him to marry her
daughter. He himself paid her court readily, but always avoided coming
to the point. And when the lady one day told him point-blank that she
wished him to marry her daughter, he gently drew back, declaring that he
was still too young, and that he had to serve five years more before he
would be forty-two. This must be the reason why the lady, in revenge,
had resolved to bring him into disgrace, and had hired two sorceresses
for that object. One thing was certain--his nose had not been cut off;
no one had entered his room, and as for Ivan Jakovlevitch--he had been
shaved by him on Wednesday, and during that day and the whole of
Thursday his nose had been there, as he knew and well remembered.
Moreover, if his nose had been cut off he would naturally have felt
pain, and doubtless the wound would not have healed so quickly, nor
would the surface have been as flat as a pancake.

All kinds of plans passed through his head: should he bring a legal
action against the wife of a superior officer, or should he go to her
and charge her openly with her treachery?

His reflections were interrupted by a sudden light, which shone through
all the chinks of the door, showing that Ivan had lit the wax-candles in
the vestibule. Soon Ivan himself came in with the lights. Kovaloff
quickly seized a handkerchief and covered the place where his nose had
been the evening before, so that his blockhead of a servant might not
gape with his mouth wide open when he saw his master's extraordinary
appearance.

Scarcely had Ivan returned to the vestibule than a stranger's voice was
heard there.

"Does Major Kovaloff live here?" it asked.

"Come in!" said the Major, rising rapidly and opening the door.

He saw a police official of pleasant appearance, with grey whiskers and
fairly full cheeks--the same who at the commencement of this story was
standing at the end of the Isaac Bridge. "You have lost your nose?" he
asked.

"Exactly so."

"It has just been found."

"What--do you say?" stammered Major Kovaloff.

Joy had suddenly paralysed his tongue. He stared at the police
commissary on whose cheeks and full lips fell the flickering light of
the candle.

"How was it?" he asked at last.

"By a very singular chance. It has been arrested just as it was getting
into a carriage for Riga. Its passport had been made out some time ago
in the name of an official; and what is still more strange, I myself
took it at first for a gentleman. Fortunately I had my glasses with me,
and then I saw at once that it was a nose. I am shortsighted, you know,
and as you stand before me I cannot distinguish your nose, your beard,
or anything else. My mother-in-law can hardly see at all."

Kovaloff was beside himself with excitement. "Where is it? Where? I will
hasten there at once."

"Don't put yourself out. Knowing that you need it, I have brought it
with me. Another singular thing is that the principal culprit in the
matter is a scoundrel of a barber living in the Ascension Avenue, who is
now safely locked up. I had long suspected him of drunkenness and theft;
only the day before yesterday he stole some buttons in a shop. Your nose
is quite uninjured." So saying, the police commissary put his hand in
his pocket and brought out the nose wrapped up in paper.

"Yes, yes, that is it!" exclaimed Kovaloff. "Will you not stay and drink
a cup of tea with me?"

"I should like to very much, but I cannot. I must go at once to the
House of Correction. The cost of living is very high nowadays. My
mother-in-law lives with me, and there are several children; the eldest
is very hopeful and intelligent, but I have no means for their
education."

After the commissary's departure, Kovaloff remained for some time
plunged in a kind of vague reverie, and did not recover full
consciousness for several moments, so great was the effect of this
unexpected good news. He placed the recovered nose carefully in the palm
of his hand, and examined it again with the greatest attention.

"Yes, this is it!" he said to himself. "Here is the heat-boil on the
left side, which came out yesterday." And he nearly laughed aloud with
delight.

But nothing is permanent in this world. Joy in the second moment of its
arrival is already less keen than in the first, is still fainter in the
third, and finishes by coalescing with our normal mental state, just as
the circles which the fall of a pebble forms on the surface of water,
gradually die away. Kovaloff began to meditate, and saw that his
difficulties were not yet over; his nose had been recovered, but it had
to be joined on again in its proper place.

And suppose it could not? As he put this question to himself, Kovaloff
grew pale. With a feeling of indescribable dread, he rushed towards his
dressing-table, and stood before the mirror in order that he might not
place his nose crookedly. His hands trembled.

Very carefully he placed it where it had been before. Horror! It did not
remain there. He held it to his mouth and warmed it a little with his
breath, and then placed it there again; but it would not hold.

"Hold on, you stupid!" he said.

But the nose seemed to be made of wood, and fell back on the table with
a strange noise, as though it had been a cork. The Major's face began to
twitch feverishly. "Is it possible that it won't stick?" he asked
himself, full of alarm. But however often he tried, all his efforts were
in vain.

He called Ivan, and sent him to fetch the doctor who occupied the finest
flat in the mansion. This doctor was a man of imposing appearance, who
had magnificent black whiskers and a healthy wife. He ate fresh apples
every morning, and cleaned his teeth with extreme care, using five
different tooth-brushes for three-quarters of an hour daily.

The doctor came immediately. After having asked the Major when this
misfortune had happened, he raised his chin and gave him a fillip with
his finger just where the nose had been, in such a way that the Major
suddenly threw back his head and struck the wall with it. The doctor
said that did not matter; then, making him turn his face to the right,
he felt the vacant place and said "H'm!" then he made him turn it to the
left and did the same; finally he again gave him a fillip with his
finger, so that the Major started like a horse whose teeth are being
examined. After this experiment, the doctor shook his head and said,
"No, it cannot be done. Rather remain as you are, lest something worse
happen. Certainly one could replace it at once, but I assure you the
remedy would be worse than the disease."

"All very fine, but how am I to go on without a nose?" answered
Kovaloff. "There is nothing worse than that. How can I show myself with
such a villainous appearance? I go into good society, and this evening I
am invited to two parties. I know several ladies, Madame Tchektyriev,
the wife of a state-councillor, Madame Podtotchina--although after what
she has done, I don't want to have anything to do with her except
through the agency of the police. I beg you," continued Kovaloff in a
supplicating tone, "find some way or other of replacing it; even if it
is not quite firm, as long as it holds at all; I can keep it in place
sometimes with my hand, whenever there is any risk. Besides, I do not
even dance, so that it is not likely to be injured by any sudden
movement. As to your fee, be in no anxiety about that; I can well afford
it."

"Believe me," answered the doctor in a voice which was neither too high
nor too low, but soft and almost magnetic, "I do not treat patients from
love of gain. That would be contrary to my principles and to my art. It
is true that I accept fees, but that is only not to hurt my patients'
feelings by refusing them. I could certainly replace your nose, but I
assure you on my word of honour, it would only make matters worse.
Rather let Nature do her own work. Wash the place often with cold water,
and I assure you that even without a nose, you will be just as well as
if you had one. As to the nose itself, I advise you to have it preserved
in a bottle of spirits, or, still better, of warm vinegar mixed with two
spoonfuls of brandy, and then you can sell it at a good price. I would
be willing to take it myself, provided you do not ask too much."

"No, no, I shall not sell it at any price. I would rather it were lost
again."

"Excuse me," said the doctor, taking his leave. "I hoped to be useful to
you, but I can do nothing more; you are at any rate convinced of my
good-will." So saying, the doctor left the room with a dignified air.

Kovaloff did not even notice his departure. Absorbed in a profound
reverie, he only saw the edge of his snow-white cuffs emerging from the
sleeves of his black coat.

The next day he resolved, before bringing a formal action, to write to
the Colonel's wife and see whether she would not return to him, without
further dispute, that of which she had deprived him.

The letter ran as follows:

    "To Madame Alexandra Podtotchina,

    "I hardly understand your method of action. Be sure that by adopting
    such a course you will gain nothing, and will certainly not succeed
    in making me marry your daughter. Believe me, the story of my nose
    has become well known; it is you and no one else who have taken the
    principal part in it. Its unexpected separation from the place which
    it occupied, its flight and its appearances sometimes in the
    disguise of an official, sometimes in proper person, are nothing but
    the consequence of unholy spells employed by you or by persons who,
    like you, are addicted to such honourable pursuits. On my part, I
    wish to inform you, that if the above-mentioned nose is not restored
    to-day to its proper place, I shall be obliged to have recourse to
    legal procedure.

    "For the rest, with all respect, I have the honour to be your humble
    servant,

    "Platon Kovaloff."

The reply was not long in coming, and was as follows:

    "Major Platon Kovaloff,--

    "Your letter has profoundly astonished me. I must confess that I had
    not expected such unjust reproaches on your part. I assure you that
    the official of whom you speak has not been at my house, either
    disguised or in his proper person. It is true that Philippe
    Ivanovitch Potantchikoff has paid visits at my house, and though he
    has actually asked for my daughter's hand, and was a man of good
    breeding, respectable and intelligent, I never gave him any hope.

    "Again, you say something about a nose. If you intend to imply by
    that that I wished to snub you, i.e. to meet you with a refusal, I
    am very astonished because, as you well know, I was quite of the
    opposite mind. If after this you wish to ask for my daughter's hand,
    I should be glad to gratify you, for such has also been the object
    of my most fervent desire, in the hope of the accomplishment of
    which, I remain, yours most sincerely,

    "Alexandra Podtotchina."

"No," said Kovaloff, after having reperused the letter, "she is
certainly not guilty. It is impossible. Such a letter could not be
written by a criminal." The committee-man was experienced in such
matters, for he had been often officially deputed to conduct criminal
investigations while in the Caucasus. "But then how and by what trick of
fate has the thing happened?" he said to himself with a gesture of
discouragement. "The devil must be at the bottom of it."

Meanwhile the rumour of this extraordinary event had spread all over the
city, and, as is generally the case, not without numerous additions. At
that period there was a general disposition to believe in the
miraculous; the public had recently been impressed by experiments in
magnetism. The story of the floating chairs in Koniouchennaia Street was
still quite recent, and there was nothing astonishing in hearing soon
afterwards that Major Kovaloff's nose was to be seen walking every day
at three o'clock on the Neffsky Avenue. The crowd of curious spectators
which gathered there daily was enormous. On one occasion someone spread
a report that the nose was in Junker's stores and immediately the place
was besieged by such a crowd that the police had to interfere and
establish order. A certain speculator with a grave, whiskered face, who
sold cakes at a theatre door, had some strong wooden benches made which
he placed before the window of the stores, and obligingly invited the
public to stand on them and look in, at the modest charge of twenty-four
kopecks. A veteran colonel, leaving his house earlier than usual
expressly for the purpose, had the greatest difficulty in elbowing his
way through the crowd, but to his great indignation he saw nothing in
the store window but an ordinary flannel waistcoat and a coloured
lithograph representing a young girl darning a stocking, while an
elegant youth in a waistcoat with large lappels watched her from behind
a tree. The picture had hung in the same place for more than ten years.
The colonel went off, growling savagely to himself, "How can the fools
let themselves be excited by such idiotic stories?"

Then another rumour got abroad, to the effect that the nose of Major
Kovaloff was in the habit of walking not on the Neffsky Avenue but in
the Tauris Gardens. Some students of the Academy of Surgery went there
on purpose to see it. A high-born lady wrote to the keeper of the
gardens asking him to show her children this rare phenomenon, and to
give them some suitable instruction on the occasion.

All these incidents were eagerly collected by the town wits, who just
then were very short of anecdotes adapted to amuse ladies. On the other
hand, the minority of solid, sober people were very much displeased. One
gentleman asserted with great indignation that he could not understand
how in our enlightened age such absurdities could spread abroad, and he
was astonished that the Government did not direct their attention to the
matter. This gentleman evidently belonged to the category of those
people who wish the Government to interfere in everything, even in their
daily quarrels with their wives.

But here the course of events is again obscured by a veil.


III

Strange events happen in this world, events which are sometimes entirely
improbable. The same nose which had masqueraded as a state-councillor,
and caused so much sensation in the town, was found one morning in its
proper place, i.e. between the cheeks of Major Kovaloff, as if nothing
had happened.

This occurred on 7th April. On awaking, the Major looked by chance into
a mirror and perceived a nose. He quickly put his hand to it; it was
there beyond a doubt!

"Oh!" exclaimed Kovaloff. For sheer joy he was on the point of
performing a dance barefooted across his room, but the entrance of Ivan
prevented him. He told him to bring water, and after washing himself, he
looked again in the glass. The nose was there! Then he dried his face
with a towel and looked again. Yes, there was no mistake about it!

"Look here, Ivan, it seems to me that I have a heat-boil on my nose," he
said to his valet.

And he thought to himself at the same time, "That will be a nice
business if Ivan says to me 'No, sir, not only is there no boil, but
your nose itself is not there!'"

But Ivan answered, "There is nothing, sir; I can see no boil on your
nose."

"Good! Good!" exclaimed the Major, and snapped his fingers with delight.

At this moment the barber, Ivan Jakovlevitch, put his head in at the
door, but as timidly as a cat which has just been beaten for stealing
lard.

"Tell me first, are your hands clean?" asked Kovaloff when he saw him.

"Yes, sir."

"You lie."

"I swear they are perfectly clean, sir."

"Very well; then come here."

Kovaloff seated himself. Jakovlevitch tied a napkin under his chin, and
in the twinkling of an eye covered his beard and part of his cheeks with
a copious creamy lather.

"There it is!" said the barber to himself, as he glanced at the nose.
Then he bent his head a little and examined it from one side. "Yes, it
actually is the nose--really, when one thinks----" he continued,
pursuing his mental soliloquy and still looking at it. Then quite
gently, with infinite precaution, he raised two fingers in the air in
order to take hold of it by the extremity, as he was accustomed to do.

"Now then, take care!" Kovaloff exclaimed.

Ivan Jakovlevitch let his arm fall and felt more embarrassed than he had
ever done in his life. At last he began to pass the razor very lightly
over the Major's chin, and although it was very difficult to shave him
without using the olfactory organ as a point of support, he succeeded,
however, by placing his wrinkled thumb against the Major's lower jaw and
cheek, thus overcoming all obstacles and bringing his task to a safe
conclusion.

When the barber had finished, Kovaloff hastened to dress himself, took a
droshky, and drove straight to the confectioner's. As he entered it, he
ordered a cup of chocolate. He then stepped straight to the mirror; the
nose was there!

He returned joyfully, and regarded with a satirical expression two
officers who were in the shop, one of whom possessed a nose not much
larger than a waistcoat button.

After that he went to the office of the department where he had applied
for the post of vice-governor of a province or Government bailiff. As he
passed through the hall of reception, he cast a glance at the mirror;
the nose was there! Then he went to pay a visit to another
committee-man, a very sarcastic personage, to whom he was accustomed to
say in answer to his raillery, "Yes, I know, you are the funniest fellow
in St Petersburg."

On the way he said to himself, "If the Major does not burst into
laughter at the sight of me, that is a most certain sign that everything
is in its accustomed place."

But the Major said nothing. "Very good!" thought Kovaloff.

As he returned, he met Madame Podtotchina with her daughter. He accosted
them, and they responded very graciously. The conversation lasted a long
time, during which he took more than one pinch of snuff, saying to
himself, "No, you haven't caught me yet, coquettes that you are! And as
to the daughter, I shan't marry her at all."

After that, the Major resumed his walks on the Neffsky Avenue and his
visits to the theatre as if nothing had happened. His nose also remained
in its place as if it had never quitted it. From that time he was always
to be seen smiling, in a good humour, and paying attentions to pretty
girls.


IV

Such was the occurrence which took place in the northern capital of our
vast empire. On considering the account carefully we see that there is a
good deal which looks improbable about it. Not to speak of the strange
disappearance of the nose, and its appearance in different places under
the disguise of a councillor of state, how was it that Kovaloff did not
understand that one cannot decently advertise for a lost nose? I do not
mean to say that he would have had to pay too much for the
advertisement--that is a mere trifle, and I am not one of those who
attach too much importance to money; but to advertise in such a case is
not proper nor befitting.

Another difficulty is--how was the nose found in the baked loaf, and how
did Ivan Jakovlevitch himself--no, I don't understand it at all!

But the most incomprehensible thing of all is, how authors can choose
such subjects for their stories. That really surpasses my understanding.
In the first place, no advantage results from it for the country; and in
the second place, no harm results either.

All the same, when one reflects well, there really is something in the
matter. Whatever may be said to the contrary, such cases do
occur--rarely, it is true, but now and then actually.



MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN


_October 3rd._--A strange occurrence has taken place to-day. I got up
fairly late, and when Mawra brought me my clean boots, I asked her how
late it was. When I heard it had long struck ten, I dressed as quickly
as possible.

To tell the truth, I would rather not have gone to the office at all
to-day, for I know beforehand that our department-chief will look as
sour as vinegar. For some time past he has been in the habit of saying
to me, "Look here, my friend; there is something wrong with your head.
You often rush about as though you were possessed. Then you make such
confused abstracts of the documents that the devil himself cannot make
them out; you write the title without any capital letters, and add
neither the date nor the docket-number." The long-legged scoundrel! He
is certainly envious of me, because I sit in the director's work-room,
and mend His Excellency's pens. In a word, I should not have gone to the
office if I had not hoped to meet the accountant, and perhaps squeeze a
little advance out of this skinflint.

A terrible man, this accountant! As for his advancing one's salary once
in a way--you might sooner expect the skies to fall. You may beg and
beseech him, and be on the very verge of ruin--this grey devil won't
budge an inch. At the same time, his own cook at home, as all the world
knows, boxes his ears.

I really don't see what good one gets by serving in our department.
There are no plums there. In the fiscal and judicial offices it is quite
different. There some ungainly fellow sits in a corner and writes and
writes; he has such a shabby coat and such an ugly mug that one would
like to spit on both of them. But you should see what a splendid
country-house he has rented. He would not condescend to accept a gilt
porcelain cup as a present. "You can give that to your family doctor,"
he would say. Nothing less than a pair of chestnut horses, a fine
carriage, or a beaver-fur coat worth three hundred roubles would be good
enough for him. And yet he seems so mild and quiet, and asks so amiably,
"Please lend me your penknife; I wish to mend my pen." Nevertheless, he
knows how to scarify a petitioner till he has hardly a whole stitch left
on his body.

In our office it must be admitted everything is done in a proper and
gentlemanly way; there is more cleanness and elegance than one will ever
find in Government offices. The tables are mahogany, and everyone is
addressed as "sir." And truly, were it not for this official propriety,
I should long ago have sent in my resignation.

I put on my old cloak, and took my umbrella, as a light rain was
falling. No one was to be seen on the streets except some women, who had
flung their skirts over their heads. Here and there one saw a cabman or
a shopman with his umbrella up. Of the higher classes one only saw an
official here and there. One I saw at the street-crossing, and thought
to myself, "Ah! my friend, you are not going to the office, but after
that young lady who walks in front of you. You are just like the
officers who run after every petticoat they see."

As I was thus following the train of my thoughts, I saw a carriage stop
before a shop just as I was passing it. I recognised it at once; it was
our director's carriage. "He has nothing to do in the shop," I said to
myself; "it must be his daughter."

I pressed myself close against the wall. A lackey opened the carriage
door, and, as I had expected, she fluttered like a bird out of it. How
proudly she looked right and left; how she drew her eyebrows together,
and shot lightnings from her eyes--good heavens! I am lost, hopelessly
lost!

But why must she come out in such abominable weather? And yet they say
women are so mad on their finery!

She did not recognise me. I had wrapped myself as closely as possible in
my cloak. It was dirty and old-fashioned, and I would not have liked to
have been seen by her wearing it. Now they wear cloaks with long
collars, but mine has only a short double collar, and the cloth is of
inferior quality.

Her little dog could not get into the shop, and remained outside. I know
this dog; its name is "Meggy."

Before I had been standing there a minute, I heard a voice call, "Good
day, Meggy!"

Who the deuce was that? I looked round and saw two ladies hurrying by
under an umbrella--one old, the other fairly young. They had already
passed me when I heard the same voice say again, "For shame, Meggy!"

What was that? I saw Meggy sniffing at a dog which ran behind the
ladies. The deuce! I thought to myself, "I am not drunk? That happens
pretty seldom."

"No, Fidel, you are wrong," I heard Meggy say quite distinctly. "I
was--bow--wow!--I was--bow! wow! wow!--very ill."

What an extraordinary dog! I was, to tell the truth, quite amazed to
hear it talk human language. But when I considered the matter well, I
ceased to be astonished. In fact, such things have already happened in
the world. It is said that in England a fish put its head out of water
and said a word or two in such an extraordinary language that learned
men have been puzzling over them for three years, and have not succeeded
in interpreting them yet. I also read in the paper of two cows who
entered a shop and asked for a pound of tea.

Meanwhile what Meggy went on to say seemed to me still more remarkable.
She added, "I wrote to you lately, Fidel; perhaps Polkan did not bring
you the letter."

Now I am willing to forfeit a whole month's salary if I ever heard of
dogs writing before. This has certainly astonished me. For some little
time past I hear and see things which no other man has heard and seen.

"I will," I thought, "follow that dog in order to get to the bottom of
the matter. Accordingly, I opened my umbrella and went after the two
ladies. They went down Bean Street, turned through Citizen Street and
Carpenter Street, and finally halted on the Cuckoo Bridge before a large
house. I know this house; it is Sverkoff's. What a monster he is! What
sort of people live there! How many cooks, how many bagmen! There are
brother officials of mine also there packed on each other like herrings.
And I have a friend there, a fine player on the cornet."

The ladies mounted to the fifth story. "Very good," thought I; "I will
make a note of the number, in order to follow up the matter at the first
opportunity."

                   *       *       *       *       *

_October 4th._--To-day is Wednesday, and I was as usual in the office. I
came early on purpose, sat down, and mended all the pens.

Our director must be a very clever man. The whole room is full of
bookcases. I read the titles of some of the books; they were very
learned, beyond the comprehension of people of my class, and all in
French and German. I look at his face; see! how much dignity there is in
his eyes. I never hear a single superfluous word from his mouth, except
that when he hands over the documents, he asks "What sort of weather is
it?"

No, he is not a man of our class; he is a real statesman. I have already
noticed that I am a special favourite of his. If now his daughter
also--ah! what folly--let me say no more about it!

I have read the _Northern Bee_. What foolish people the French are! By
heavens! I should like to tackle them all, and give them a thrashing. I
have also read a fine description of a ball given by a landowner of
Kursk. The landowners of Kursk write a fine style.

Then I noticed that it was already half-past twelve, and the director
had not yet left his bedroom. But about half-past one something happened
which no pen can describe.

The door opened. I thought it was the director; I jumped up with my
documents from the seat, and--then--she--herself--came into the room. Ye
saints! how beautifully she was dressed. Her garments were whiter than a
swan's plumage--oh how splendid! A sun, indeed, a real sun!

She greeted me and asked, "Has not my father come yet?"

Ah! what a voice. A canary bird! A real canary bird!

"Your Excellency," I wanted to exclaim, "don't have me executed, but if
it must be done, then kill me rather with your own angelic hand." But,
God knows why, I could not bring it out, so I only said, "No, he has not
come yet."

She glanced at me, looked at the books, and let her handkerchief fall.
Instantly I started up, but slipped on the infernal polished floor, and
nearly broke my nose. Still I succeeded in picking up the handkerchief.
Ye heavenly choirs, what a handkerchief! So tender and soft, of the
finest cambric. It had the scent of a general's rank!

She thanked me, and smiled so amiably that her sugar lips nearly melted.
Then she left the room.

After I had sat there about an hour, a flunkey came in and said, "You
can go home, Mr Ivanovitch; the director has already gone out!"

I cannot stand these lackeys! They hang about the vestibules, and
scarcely vouchsafe to greet one with a nod. Yes, sometimes it is even
worse; once one of these rascals offered me his snuff-box without even
getting up from his chair. "Don't you know then, you country-bumpkin,
that I am an official and of aristocratic birth?"

This time, however, I took my hat and overcoat quietly; these people
naturally never think of helping one on with it. I went home, lay a good
while on the bed, and wrote some verses in my note:

    "'Tis an hour since I saw thee,
       And it seems a whole long year;
     If I loathe my own existence,
       How can I live on, my dear?"

I think they are by Pushkin.

In the evening I wrapped myself in my cloak, hastened to the director's
house, and waited there a long time to see if she would come out and get
into the carriage. I only wanted to see her once, but she did not come.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_November 6th._--Our chief clerk has gone mad. When I came to the office
to-day he called me to his room and began as follows: "Look here, my
friend, what wild ideas have got into your head?"

"How! What? None at all," I answered.

"Consider well. You are already past forty; it is quite time to be
reasonable. What do you imagine? Do you think I don't know all your
tricks? Are you trying to pay court to the director's daughter? Look at
yourself and realise what you are! A nonentity, nothing else. I would
not give a kopeck for you. Look well in the glass. How can you have such
thoughts with such a caricature of a face?"

May the devil take him! Because his own face has a certain resemblance
to a medicine-bottle, because he has a curly bush of hair on his head,
and sometimes combs it upwards, and sometimes plasters it down in all
kinds of queer ways, he thinks that he can do everything. I know well, I
know why he is angry with me. He is envious; perhaps he has noticed the
tokens of favour which have been graciously shown me. But why should I
bother about him? A councillor! What sort of important animal is that?
He wears a gold chain with his watch, buys himself boots at thirty
roubles a pair; may the deuce take him! Am I a tailor's son or some
other obscure cabbage? I am a nobleman! I can also work my way up. I am
just forty-two--an age when a man's real career generally begins. Wait a
bit, my friend! I too may get to a superior's rank; or perhaps, if God
is gracious, even to a higher one. I shall make a name which will far
outstrip yours. You think there are no able men except yourself? I only
need to order a fashionable coat and wear a tie like yours, and you
would be quite eclipsed.

But I have no money--that is the worst part of it!

                   *       *       *       *       *

_November 8th._--I was at the theatre. "The Russian House-Fool" was
performed. I laughed heartily. There was also a kind of musical comedy
which contained amusing hits at barristers. The language was very broad;
I wonder the censor passed it. In the comedy lines occur which accuse
the merchants of cheating; their sons are said to lead immoral lives,
and to behave very disrespectfully towards the nobility.

The critics also are criticised; they are said only to be able to find
fault, so that authors have to beg the public for protection.

Our modern dramatists certainly write amusing things. I am very fond of
the theatre. If I have only a kopeck in my pocket, I always go there.
Most of my fellow-officials are uneducated boors, and never enter a
theatre unless one throws free tickets at their head.

One actress sang divinely. I thought also of--but silence!

                   *       *       *       *       *

_November 9th._--About eight o'clock I went to the office. The chief
clerk pretended not to notice my arrival. I for my part also behaved as
though he were not in existence. I read through and collated documents.
About four o'clock I left. I passed by the director's house, but no one
was to be seen. After dinner I lay for a good while on the bed.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_November 11th._--To-day I sat in the director's room, mended
twenty-three pens for him, and for Her--for Her Excellence, his
daughter, four more.

The director likes to see many pens lying on his table. What a head he
must have! He continually wraps himself in silence, but I don't think
the smallest trifle escapes his eye. I should like to know what he is
generally thinking of, what is really going on in this brain; I should
like to get acquainted with the whole manner of life of these gentlemen,
and get a closer view of their cunning courtiers' arts, and all the
activities of these circles. I have often thought of asking His
Excellence about them; but--the deuce knows why!--every time my tongue
failed me and I could get nothing out but my meteorological report.

I wish I could get a look into the spare-room whose door I so often see
open. And a second small room behind the spare-room excites my
curiosity. How splendidly it is fitted up; what a quantity of mirrors
and choice china it contains! I should also like to cast a glance into
those regions where Her Excellency, the daughter, wields the sceptre. I
should like to see how all the scent-bottles and boxes are arranged in
her boudoir, and the flowers which exhale so delicious a scent that one
is half afraid to breathe. And her clothes lying about which are too
ethereal to be called clothes--but silence!

To-day there came to me what seemed a heavenly inspiration. I remembered
the conversation between the two dogs which I had overheard on the
Nevski Prospect. "Very good," I thought; "now I see my way clear. I must
get hold of the correspondence which these two silly dogs have carried
on with each other. In it I shall probably find many things explained."

I had already once called Meggy to me and said to her, "Listen, Meggy!
Now we are alone together; if you like, I will also shut the door so
that no one can see us. Tell me now all that you know about your
mistress. I swear to you that I will tell no one."

But the cunning dog drew in its tail, ruffled up its hair, and went
quite quietly out of the door, as though it had heard nothing.

I had long been of the opinion that dogs are much cleverer than men. I
also believed that they could talk, and that only a certain obstinacy
kept them from doing so. They are especially watchful animals, and
nothing escapes their observation. Now, cost what it may, I will go
to-morrow to Sverkoff's house in order to ask after Fidel, and if I have
luck, to get hold of all the letters which Meggy has written to her.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_November 12th._--To-day about two o'clock in the afternoon I started in
order, by some means or other, to see Fidel and question her.

I cannot stand this smell of Sauerkraut which assails one's olfactory
nerves from all the shops in Citizen Street. There also exhales such an
odour from under each house door, that one must hold one's nose and pass
by quickly. There ascends also so much smoke and soot from the artisans'
shops that it is almost impossible to get through it.

When I had climbed up to the sixth story, and had rung the bell, a
rather pretty girl with a freckled face came out. I recognised her as
the companion of the old lady. She blushed a little and asked "What do
you want?"

"I want to have a little conversation with your dog."

She was a simple-minded girl, as I saw at once. The dog came running and
barking loudly. I wanted to take hold of it, but the abominable beast
nearly caught hold of my nose with its teeth. But in a corner of the
room I saw its sleeping-basket. Ah! that was what I wanted. I went to
it, rummaged in the straw, and to my great satisfaction drew out a
little packet of small pieces of paper. When the hideous little dog saw
this, it first bit me in the calf of the leg, and then, as soon as it
had become aware of my theft, it began to whimper and to fawn on me; but
I said, "No, you little beast; good-bye!" and hastened away.

I believe the girl thought me mad; at any rate she was thoroughly
alarmed.

When I reached my room I wished to get to work at once, and read through
the letters by daylight, since I do not see well by candle-light; but
the wretched Mawra had got the idea of sweeping the floor. These
blockheads of Finnish women are always clean where there is no need to
be.

I then went for a little walk and began to think over what had happened.
Now at last I could get to the bottom of all facts, ideas and motives!
These letters would explain everything. Dogs are clever fellows; they
know all about politics, and I will certainly find in the letters all I
want, especially the character of the director and all his
relationships. And through these letters I will get information about
her who--but silence!

Towards evening I came home and lay for a good while on the bed.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_November 13th._--Now let us see! The letter is fairly legible but the
handwriting is somewhat doggish.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"Dear Fidel!--I cannot get accustomed to your ordinary name, as if they
could not have found a better one for you! Fidel! How tasteless! How
ordinary! But this is not the time to discuss it. I am very glad that we
thought of corresponding with each other."

(The letter is quite correctly written. The punctuation and spelling are
perfectly right. Even our head clerk does not write so simply and
clearly, though he declares he has been at the University. Let us go
on.)

"I think that it is one of the most refined joys of this world to
interchange thoughts, feelings, and impressions."

(H'm! This idea comes from some book which has been translated from
German. I can't remember the title.)

"I speak from experience, although I have not gone farther into the
world than just before our front door. Does not my life pass happily and
comfortably? My mistress, whom her father calls Sophie, is quite in love
with me."

(Ah! Ah!--but better be silent!)

"Her father also often strokes me. I drink tea and coffee with cream.
Yes, my dear, I must confess to you that I find no satisfaction in those
large, gnawed-at bones which Polkan devours in the kitchen. Only the
bones of wild fowl are good, and that only when the marrow has not been
sucked out of them. They taste very nice with a little sauce, but there
should be no green stuff in it. But I know nothing worse than the habit
of giving dogs balls of bread kneaded up. Someone sits at table, kneads
a bread-ball with dirty fingers, calls you and sticks it in your mouth.
Good manners forbid your refusing it, and you eat it--with disgust it is
true, but you eat it."

(The deuce! What is this? What rubbish! As if she could find nothing
more suitable to write about! I will see if there is anything more
reasonable on the second page.)

"I am quite willing to inform you of everything that goes on here. I
have already mentioned the most important person in the house, whom
Sophie calls 'Papa.' He is a very strange man."

(Ah! Here we are at last! Yes, I knew it; they have a politician's
penetrating eye for all things. Let us see what she says about "Papa.")

"... a strange man. Generally he is silent; he only speaks seldom, but
about a week ago he kept on repeating to himself, 'Shall I get it or
not?' In one hand he took a sheet of paper; the other he stretched out
as though to receive something, and repeated, 'Shall I get it or not?'
Once he turned to me with the question, 'What do you think, Meggy?' I
did not understand in the least what he meant, sniffed at his boots, and
went away. A week later he came home with his face beaming. That morning
he was visited by several officers in uniform who congratulated him. At
the dinner-table he was in a better humour than I have ever seen him
before."

(Ah! he is ambitious then! I must make a note of that.)

"Pardon, my dear, I hasten to conclude, etc., etc. To-morrow I will
finish the letter."

                   *       *       *       *       *

"Now, good morning; here I am again at your service. To-day my mistress
Sophie ..."

(Ah! we will see what she says about Sophie. Let us go on!)

"... was in an unusually excited state. She went to a ball, and I was
glad that I could write to you in her absence. She likes going to balls,
although she gets dreadfully irritated while dressing. I cannot
understand, my dear, what is the pleasure in going to a ball. She comes
home from the ball at six o'clock in the early morning, and to judge by
her pale and emaciated face, she has had nothing to eat. I could,
frankly speaking, not endure such an existence. If I could not get
partridge with sauce, or the wing of a roast chicken, I don't know what
I should do. Porridge with sauce is also tolerable, but I can get up no
enthusiasm for carrots, turnips, and artichokes."

                   *       *       *       *       *

The style is very unequal! One sees at once that it has not been written
by a man. The beginning is quite intelligent, but at the end the canine
nature breaks out. I will read another letter; it is rather long and
there is no date.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"Ah, my dear, how delightful is the arrival of spring! My heart beats as
though it expected something. There is a perpetual ringing in my ears,
so that I often stand with my foot raised, for several minutes at a
time, and listen towards the door. In confidence I will tell you that I
have many admirers. I often sit on the window-sill and let them pass in
review. Ah! if you knew what miscreations there are among them; one, a
clumsy house-dog, with stupidity written on his face, walks the street
with an important air and imagines that he is an extremely important
person, and that the eyes of all the world are fastened on him. I don't
pay him the least attention, and pretend not to see him at all.

"And what a hideous bulldog has taken up his post opposite my window! If
he stood on his hind-legs, as the monster probably cannot, he would be
taller by a head than my mistress's papa, who himself has a stately
figure. This lout seems, moreover, to be very impudent. I growl at him,
but he does not seem to mind that at all. If he at least would only
wrinkle his forehead! Instead of that, he stretches out his tongue,
droops his big ears, and stares in at the window--this rustic boor! But
do you think, my dear, that my heart remains proof against all
temptations? Alas no! If you had only seen that gentlemanly dog who
crept through the fence of the neighbouring house. 'Treasure' is his
name. Ah, my dear, what a delightful snout he has!"

(To the deuce with the stuff! What rubbish it is! How can one blacken
paper with such absurdities. Give me a man. I want to see a man! I need
some food to nourish and refresh my mind, and get this silliness
instead. I will turn the page to see if there is anything better on the
other side.)

"Sophie sat at the table and sewed something. I looked out of the window
and amused myself by watching the passers-by. Suddenly a flunkey entered
and announced a visitor--'Mr Teploff.'

"'Show him in!' said Sophie, and began to embrace me. 'Ah! Meggy, Meggy,
do you know who that is? He is dark, and belongs to the Royal Household;
and what eyes he has! Dark and brilliant as fire.'

"Sophie hastened into her room. A minute later a young gentleman with
black whiskers entered. He went to the mirror, smoothed his hair, and
looked round the room. I turned away and sat down in my place.

"Sophie entered and returned his bow in a friendly manner.

"I pretended to observe nothing, and continued to look out of the
window. But I leant my head a little on one side to hear what they were
talking about. Ah, my dear! what silly things they discussed--how a lady
executed the wrong figure in dancing; how a certain Boboff, with his
expansive shirt-frill, had looked like a stork and nearly fallen down;
how a certain Lidina imagined she had blue eyes when they were really
green, etc.

"I do not know, my dear, what special charm she finds in her Mr Teploff,
and why she is so delighted with him."

(It seems to me myself that there is something wrong here. It is
impossible that this Teploff should bewitch her. We will see further.)

"If this gentleman of the Household pleases her, then she must also be
pleased, according to my view, with that official who sits in her papa's
writing-room. Ah, my dear, if you know what a figure he is! A regular
tortoise!"

(What official does she mean?)

"He has an extraordinary name. He always sits there and mends the pens.
His hair looks like a truss of hay. Her papa always employs him instead
of a servant."

(I believe this abominable little beast is referring to me. But what has
my hair got to do with hay?)

"Sophie can never keep from laughing when she sees him."

                   *       *       *       *       *

You lie, cursed dog! What a scandalous tongue! As if I did not know that
it is envy which prompts you, and that here there is treachery at
work--yes, the treachery of the chief clerk. This man hates me
implacably; he has plotted against me, he is always seeking to injure
me. I'll look through one more letter; perhaps it will make the matter
clearer.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"Fidel, my dear, pardon me that I have not written for so long. I was
floating in a dream of delight. In truth, some author remarks, 'Love is
a second life.' Besides, great changes are going on in the house. The
young chamberlain is always here. Sophie is wildly in love with him. Her
papa is quite contented. I heard from Gregor, who sweeps the floor, and
is in the habit of talking to himself, that the marriage will soon be
celebrated. Her papa will at any rate get his daughter married to a
general, a colonel, or a chamberlain."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Deuce take it! I can read no more. It is all about chamberlains and
generals. I should like myself to be a general--not in order to sue for
her hand and all that--no, not at all; I should like to be a general
merely in order to see people wriggling, squirming, and hatching plots
before me.

And then I should like to tell them that they are both of them not worth
spitting on. But it is vexatious! I tear the foolish dog's letters up in
a thousand pieces.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_December 3rd._--It is not possible that the marriage should take place;
it is only idle gossip. What does it signify if he is a chamberlain!
That is only a dignity, not a substantial thing which one can see or
handle. His chamberlain's office will not procure him a third eye in his
forehead. Neither is his nose made of gold; it is just like mine or
anyone else's nose. He does not eat and cough, but smells and sneezes
with it. I should like to get to the bottom of the mystery--whence do
all these distinctions come? Why am I only a titular councillor?

Perhaps I am really a count or a general, and only appear to be a
titular councillor. Perhaps I don't even know who and what I am. How
many cases there are in history of a simple gentleman, or even a burgher
or peasant, suddenly turning out to be a great lord or baron? Well,
suppose that I appear suddenly in a general's uniform, on the right
shoulder an epaulette, on the left an epaulette, and a blue sash across
my breast, what sort of a tune would my beloved sing then? What would
her papa, our director, say? Oh, he is ambitious! He is a freemason,
certainly a freemason; however much he may conceal it, I have found it
out. When he gives anyone his hand, he only reaches out two fingers.
Well, could not I this minute be nominated a general or a
superintendent? I should like to know why I am a titular councillor--why
just that, and nothing more?

                   *       *       *       *       *

_December 5th._--To-day I have been reading papers the whole morning.
Very strange things are happening in Spain. I have not understood them
all. It is said that the throne is vacant, the representatives of the
people are in difficulties about finding an occupant, and riots are
taking place.

All this appears to me very strange. How can the throne be vacant? It is
said that it will be occupied by a woman. A woman cannot sit on a
throne. That is impossible. Only a king can sit on a throne. They say
that there is no king there, but that is not possible. There cannot be a
kingdom without a king. There must be a king, but he is hidden away
somewhere. Perhaps he is actually on the spot, and only some domestic
complications, or fears of the neighbouring Powers, France and other
countries, compel him to remain in concealment; there might also be
other reasons.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_December 8th._--I was nearly going to the office, but various
considerations kept me from doing so. I keep on thinking about these
Spanish affairs. How is it possible that a woman should reign? It would
not be allowed, especially by England. In the rest of Europe the
political situation is also critical; the Emperor of Austria----

These events, to tell the truth, have so shaken and shattered me, that I
could really do nothing all day. Mawra told me that I was very
absent-minded at table. In fact, in my absent-mindedness I threw two
plates on the ground so that they broke in pieces.

After dinner I felt weak, and did not feel up to making abstracts of
reports. I lay most of the time on my bed, and thought of the Spanish
affairs.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_The year 2000: April 43rd._--To-day is a day of splendid triumph. Spain
has a king; he has been found, and I am he. I discovered it to-day; all
of a sudden it came upon me like a flash of lightning.

I do not understand how I could imagine that I am a titular councillor.
How could such a foolish idea enter my head? It was fortunate that it
occurred to no one to shut me up in an asylum. Now it is all clear, and
as plain as a pikestaff. Formerly--I don't know why--everything seemed
veiled in a kind of mist. That is, I believe, because people think that
the human brain is in the head. Nothing of the sort; it is carried by
the wind from the Caspian Sea.

For the first time I told Mawra who I am. When she learned that the king
of Spain stood before her, she struck her hands together over her head,
and nearly died of alarm. The stupid thing had never seen the king of
Spain before!

I comforted her, however, at once by assuring her that I was not angry
with her for having hitherto cleaned my boots badly. Women are stupid
things; one cannot interest them in lofty subjects. She was frightened
because she thought all kings of Spain were like Philip II. But I
explained to her that there was a great difference between me and him. I
did not go to the office. Why the deuce should I? No, my dear friends,
you won't get me there again! I am not going to worry myself with your
infernal documents any more.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_Marchember 86. Between day and night._--To-day the office-messenger
came and summoned me, as I had not been there for three weeks. I went
just for the fun of the thing. The chief clerk thought I would bow
humbly before him, and make excuses; but I looked at him quite
indifferently, neither angrily nor mildly, and sat down quietly at my
place as though I noticed no one. I looked at all this rabble of
scribblers, and thought, "If you only knew who is sitting among you!
Good heavens! what a to-do you would make. Even the chief clerk would
bow himself to the earth before me as he does now before the director."

A pile of reports was laid before me, of which to make abstracts, but I
did not touch them with one finger.

After a little time there was a commotion in the office, and there a
report went round that the director was coming. Many of the clerks vied
with each other to attract his notice; but I did not stir. As he came
through our room, each one hastily buttoned up his coat; but I had no
idea of doing anything of the sort. What is the director to me? Should I
stand up before him? Never. What sort of a director is he? He is a
bottle-stopper, and no director. A quite ordinary, simple
bottle-stopper--nothing more. I felt quite amused as they gave me a
document to sign.

They thought I would simply put down my name--"So-and-so, Clerk." Why
not? But at the top of the sheet, where the director generally writes
his name, I inscribed "Ferdinand VIII." in bold characters. You should
have seen what a reverential silence ensued. But I made a gesture with
my hand, and said, "Gentlemen, no ceremony please!" Then I went out, and
took my way straight to the director's house.

He was not at home. The flunkey wanted not to let me in, but I talked to
him in such a way that he soon dropped his arms.

I went straight to Sophie's dressing-room. She sat before the mirror.
When she saw me, she sprang up and took a step backwards; but I did not
tell her that I was the king of Spain.

But I told her that a happiness awaited her, beyond her power to
imagine; and that in spite of all our enemies' devices we should be
united. That was all which I wished to say to her, and I went out. Oh,
what cunning creatures these women are! Now I have found out what woman
really is. Hitherto no one knew whom a woman really loves; I am the
first to discover it--she loves the devil. Yes, joking apart, learned
men write nonsense when they pronounce that she is this and that; she
loves the devil--that is all. You see a woman looking through her
lorgnette from a box in the front row. One thinks she is watching that
stout gentleman who wears an order. Not a bit of it! She is watching the
devil who stands behind his back. He has hidden himself there, and
beckons to her with his finger. And she marries him--actually--she
marries him!

That is all ambition, and the reason is that there is under the tongue a
little blister in which there is a little worm of the size of a pin's
head. And this is constructed by a barber in Bean Street; I don't
remember his name at the moment, but so much is certain that, in
conjunction with a midwife, he wants to spread Mohammedanism all over
the world, and that in consequence of this a large number of people in
France have already adopted the faith of Islam.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_No date. The day had no date._--I went for a walk incognito on the
Nevski Prospect. I avoided every appearance of being the king of Spain.
I felt it below my dignity to let myself be recognised by the whole
world, since I must first present myself at court. And I was also
restrained by the fact that I have at present no Spanish national
costume. If I could only get a cloak! I tried to have a consultation
with a tailor, but these people are real asses! Moreover, they neglect
their business, dabble in speculation, and have become loafers. I will
have a cloak made out of my new official uniform which I have only worn
twice. But to prevent this botcher of a tailor spoiling it, I will make
it myself with closed doors, so that no one sees me. Since the cut must
be altogether altered, I have used the scissors myself.

                   *       *       *       *       *

I don't remember the date. The devil knows what month it was. The cloak
is quite ready. Mawra exclaimed aloud when I put it on. I will, however,
not present myself at court yet; the Spanish deputation has not yet
arrived. It would not be befitting if I appeared without them. My
appearance would be less imposing. From hour to hour I expect them.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_The 1st._--The extraordinary long delay of the deputies in coming
astonishes me. What can possibly keep them? Perhaps France has a hand in
the matter; it is certainly hostilely inclined. I went to the post
office to inquire whether the Spanish deputation had come. The
postmaster is an extraordinary blockhead who knows nothing. "No," he
said to me, "there is no Spanish deputation here; but if you want to
send them a letter, we will forward it at the fixed rate." The deuce!
What do I want with a letter? Letters are nonsense. Letters are written
by apothecaries....

                   *       *       *       *       *

_Madrid, February 30th._--So I am in Spain after all! It has happened so
quickly that I could hardly take it in. The Spanish deputies came early
this morning, and I got with them into the carriage. This unexpected
promptness seemed to me strange. We drove so quickly that in half an
hour we were at the Spanish frontier. Over all Europe now there are
cast-iron roads, and the steamers go very fast. A wonderful country,
this Spain!

As we entered the first room, I saw numerous persons with shorn heads. I
guessed at once that they must be either grandees or soldiers, at least
to judge by their shorn heads.

The Chancellor of the State, who led me by the hand, seemed to me to
behave in a very strange way; he pushed me into a little room and said,
"Stay here, and if you call yourself 'King Ferdinand' again, I will
drive the wish to do so out of you."

I knew, however, that that was only a test, and I reasserted my
conviction; on which the Chancellor gave me two such severe blows with a
stick on the back, that I could have cried out with the pain. But I
restrained myself, remembering that this was a usual ceremony of
old-time chivalry when one was inducted into a high position, and in
Spain the laws of chivalry prevail up to the present day. When I was
alone, I determined to study State affairs; I discovered that Spain and
China are one and the same country, and it is only through ignorance
that people regard them as separate kingdoms. I advise everyone urgently
to write down the word "Spain" on a sheet of paper; he will see that it
is quite the same as China.

But I feel much annoyed by an event which is about to take place
to-morrow; at seven o'clock the earth is going to sit on the moon. This
is foretold by the famous English chemist, Wellington. To tell the
truth, I often felt uneasy when I thought of the excessive brittleness
and fragility of the moon. The moon is generally repaired in Hamburg,
and very imperfectly. It is done by a lame cooper, an obvious blockhead
who has no idea how to do it. He took waxed thread and olive-oil--hence
that pungent smell over all the earth which compels people to hold their
noses. And this makes the moon so fragile that no men can live on it,
but only noses. Therefore we cannot see our noses, because they are on
the moon.

When I now pictured to myself how the earth, that massive body, would
crush our noses to dust, if it sat on the moon, I became so uneasy, that
I immediately put on my shoes and stockings and hastened into the
council-hall to give the police orders to prevent the earth sitting on
the moon.

The grandees with the shorn heads, whom I met in great numbers in the
hall, were very intelligent people, and when I exclaimed, "Gentlemen!
let us save the moon, for the earth is going to sit on it," they all set
to work to fulfil my imperial wish, and many of them clambered up the
wall in order to take the moon down. At that moment the Imperial
Chancellor came in. As soon as he appeared, they all scattered, but I
alone, as king, remained. To my astonishment, however, the Chancellor
beat me with the stick and drove me to my room. So powerful are ancient
customs in Spain!

                   *       *       *       *       *

_January in the same year, following after February._--I can never
understand what kind of a country this Spain really is. The popular
customs and rules of court etiquette are quite extraordinary. I do not
understand them at all, at all. To-day my head was shorn, although I
exclaimed as loudly as I could, that I did not want to be a monk. What
happened afterwards, when they began to let cold water trickle on my
head, I do not know. I have never experienced such hellish torments. I
nearly went mad, and they had difficulty in holding me. The significance
of this strange custom is entirely hidden from me. It is a very foolish
and unreasonable one.

Nor can I understand the stupidity of the kings who have not done away
with it before now. Judging by all the circumstances, it seems to me as
though I had fallen into the hands of the Inquisition, and as though the
man whom I took to be the Chancellor was the Grand Inquisitor. But yet I
cannot understand how the king could fall into the hands of the
Inquisition. The affair may have been arranged by France--especially
Polignac--he is a hound, that Polignac! He has sworn to compass my
death, and now he is hunting me down. But I know, my friend, that you
are only a tool of the English. They are clever fellows, and have a
finger in every pie. All the world knows that France sneezes when
England takes a pinch of snuff.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_The 25th._--To-day the Grand Inquisitor came into my room; when I heard
his steps in the distance, I hid myself under a chair. When he did not
see me, he began to call. At first he called "Poprishchin!" I made no
answer. Then he called "Axanti Ivanovitch! Titular Councillor!
Nobleman!" I still kept silence. "Ferdinand the Eighth, King of Spain!"
I was on the point of putting out my head, but I thought, "No, brother,
you shall not deceive me! You shall not pour water on my head again!"

But he had already seen me and drove me from under the chair with his
stick. The cursed stick really hurts one. But the following discovery
compensated me for all the pain, i.e. that every cock has his Spain
under his feathers. The Grand Inquisitor went angrily away, and
threatened me with some punishment or other. I felt only contempt for
his powerless spite, for I know that he only works like a machine, like
a tool of the English.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_34 March. February, 349._--No, I have no longer power to endure. O God!
what are they going to do with me? They pour cold water on my head. They
take no notice of me, and seem neither to see nor hear. Why do they
torture me? What do they want from one so wretched as myself? What can I
give them? I possess nothing. I cannot bear all their tortures; my head
aches as though everything were turning round in a circle. Save me!
Carry me away! Give me three steeds swift as the wind! Mount your seat,
coachman, ring bells, gallop horses, and carry me straight out of this
world. Farther, ever farther, till nothing more is to be seen!

Ah! the heaven bends over me already; a star glimmers in the distance;
the forest with its dark trees in the moonlight rushes past; a bluish
mist floats under my feet; music sounds in the cloud; on the one side is
the sea, on the other, Italy; beyond I also see Russian peasants'
houses. Is not my parents' house there in the distance? Does not my
mother sit by the window? O mother, mother, save your unhappy son! Let a
tear fall on his aching head! See how they torture him! Press the poor
orphan to your bosom! He has no rest in this world; they hunt him from
place to place.

Mother, mother, have pity on your sick child! And do you know that the
Bey of Algiers has a wart under his nose?



A MAY NIGHT


I

Songs were echoing in the village street. It was just the time when the
young men and girls, tired with the work and cares of the day, were in
the habit of assembling for the dance. In the mild evening light,
cheerful songs blended with mild melodies. A mysterious twilight
obscured the blue sky and made everything seem indistinct and distant.
It was growing dark, but the songs were not hushed.

A young Cossack, Levko by name, the son of the village headman, had
stolen away from the singers, guitar in hand. With his embroidered cap
set awry on his head, and his hand playing over the strings, he stepped
a measure to the music. Then he stopped at the door of a house half
hidden by blossoming cherry-trees. Whose house was it? To whom did the
door lead? After a little while he played and sang:

    "The night is nigh, the sun is down,
     Come out to me, my love, my own!"

"No one is there; my bright-eyed beauty is fast asleep," said the
Cossack to himself as he finished the song and approached the window.
"Hanna, Hanna, are you asleep, or won't you come to me? Perhaps you are
afraid someone will see us, or will not expose your delicate face to the
cold! Fear nothing! The evening is warm, and there is no one near. And
if anyone comes I will wrap you in my caftan, fold you in my arms, and
no one will see us. And if the wind blows cold, I will press you close
to my heart, warm you with my kisses, and lay my cap on your tiny feet,
my darling. Only throw me a single glance. No, you are not asleep, you
proud thing!" he exclaimed now louder, in a voice which betrayed his
annoyance at the humiliation. "You are laughing at me! Good-bye!"

Then he turned away, set his cap jauntily, and, still lightly touching
his guitar, stepped back from the window. Just then the wooden handle of
the door turned with a grating noise, and a girl who counted hardly
seventeen springs looked out timidly through the darkness, and still
keeping hold of the handle, stepped over the threshold. In the twilight
her bright eyes shone like little stars, her coral necklace gleamed, and
the pink flush on her cheeks did not escape the Cossack's observation.

"How impatient you are!" she said in a whisper. "You get angry so
quickly! Why did you choose such a time? There are crowds of people in
the street.... I tremble all over."

"Don't tremble, my darling! Come close to me!" said the Cossack, putting
down his guitar, which hung on a long strap round his neck, and sitting
down with her on the door-step. "You know I find it hard to be only an
hour without seeing you."

"Do you know what I am thinking of?" interrupted the young girl, looking
at him thoughtfully. "Something whispers to me that we shall not see so
much of each other in the future. The people here are not well disposed
to you, the girls look so envious, and the young fellows.... I notice
also that my mother watches me carefully for some time past. I must
confess I was happier when among strangers." Her face wore a troubled
expression as she spoke.

"You are only two months back at home, and are already tired of it!"
said the Cossack. "And of me too perhaps?"

"Oh no!" she replied, smiling. "I love you, you black-eyed Cossack! I
love you because of your dark eyes, and my heart laughs in my breast
when you look at me. I feel so happy when you come down the street
stroking your black moustache, and enjoy listening to your song when you
play the guitar!"

"Oh my Hanna!" exclaimed the Cossack, kissing the girl and drawing her
closer to him.

"Stop, Levko! Tell me whether you have spoken to your father?"

"About what?" he answered absent-mindedly. "About my marrying you? Yes,
I did." But he seemed to speak almost reluctantly.

"Well? What more?"

"What can you make of him? The old curmudgeon pretends to be deaf; he
will not listen to anything, and blames me for loafing with fellows, as
he says, about the streets. But don't worry, Hanna! I give you my word
as a Cossack, I will break his obstinacy."

"You only need to say a word, Levko, and it shall be as you wish. I know
that of myself. Often I do not wish to obey you, but you speak only a
word, and I involuntarily do what you wish. Look, look!" she continued,
laying her head on his shoulder and raising her eyes to the sky, the
immeasurable heaven of the Ukraine; "there far away are twinkling little
stars--one, two, three, four, five. Is it not true that those are angels
opening the windows of their bright little homes and looking down on us.
Is it not so, Levko? They are looking down on earth. If men had wings
like birds, how high they could fly. But ah! not even our oaks reach the
sky. Still people say there is in some distant land a tree whose top
reaches to heaven, and that God descends by it on the earth, the night
before Easter."

"No, Hanna. God has a long ladder which reaches from heaven to earth.
Before Easter Sunday holy angels set it up, and as soon as God puts His
foot on the first rung, all evil spirits take to flight and fall in
swarms into hell. That is why on Easter Day there are none of them on
earth."

"How gently the water ripples! Like a child in the cradle," continued
Hanna, pointing to the pool begirt by dark maples and weeping-willows,
whose melancholy branches drooped in the water. On a hill near the wood
slumbered an old house with closed shutters. The roof was covered with
moss and weeds; leafy apple-trees had grown high up before the windows;
the wood cast deep shadows on it; a grove of nut-trees spread from the
foot of the hill as far as the pool.

"I remember as if in a dream," said Hanna, keeping her eyes fixed on the
house, "a long, long time ago, when I was little and lived with mother,
someone told a terrible story about this house. You must know it--tell
me."

"God forbid, my dear child! Old women and stupid people talk a lot of
nonsense. It would only frighten you and spoil your sleep."

"Tell me, my darling, my black-eyed Cossack," she said, pressing her
cheek to his. "No, you don't love me; you have certainly another
sweetheart! I will not be frightened, and will sleep quite quietly. If
you refuse to tell me, _that_ would keep me awake. I would keep on
worrying and thinking about it. Tell me, Levko!"

"Certainly it is true what people say, that the devil possesses girls,
and stirs up their curiosity. Well then, listen. Long ago there lived in
that house an elderly man who had a beautiful daughter white as snow,
just like you. His wife had been dead a long time, and he was thinking
of marrying again.

"'Will you pet me as before, father, if you take a second wife?' asked
his daughter.

"'Yes, my daughter,' he answered, 'I shall love you more than ever, and
give you yet more rings and necklaces.'

"So he brought a young wife home, who was beautiful and white and red,
but she cast such an evil glance at her stepdaughter that she cried
aloud, but not a word did her sulky stepmother speak to her all day
long.

"When night came, and her father and his wife had retired, the young
girl locked herself up in her room, and feeling melancholy began to weep
bitterly. Suddenly she spied a hideous black cat creeping towards her;
its fur was aflame and its claws struck on the ground like iron. In her
terror the girl sprang on a chair; the cat followed her. Then she sprang
into bed; the cat sprang after her, and seizing her by the throat began
to choke her. She tore the creature away, and flung it on the ground,
but the terrible cat began to creep towards her again. Rendered
desperate with terror, she seized her father's sabre which hung on the
wall, and struck at the cat, wounding one of its paws. The animal
disappeared, whimpering.

"The next day the young wife did not leave her bedroom; the third day
she appeared with her hand bound up.

"The poor girl perceived that her stepmother was a witch, and that she
had wounded her hand.

"On the fourth day her father told her to bring water, to sweep the
floor like a servant-maid, and not to show herself where he and his wife
sat. She obeyed him, though with a heavy heart. On the fifth day he
drove her barefooted out of the house, without giving her any food for
her journey. Then she began to sob and covered her face with her hands.

"'You have ruined your own daughter, father!' she cried; 'and the witch
has ruined your soul. May God forgive you! He will not allow me to live
much longer.'

"And do you see," continued Levko, turning to Hanna and pointing to the
house, "do you see that high bank; from that bank she threw herself into
the water, and has been no more seen on earth."

"And the witch?" Hanna interrupted, timidly fastening her tearful eyes
on him.

"The witch? Old women say that when the moon shines, all those who have
been drowned come out to warm themselves in its rays, and that they are
led by the witch's stepdaughter. One night she saw her stepmother by the
pool, caught hold of her, and dragged her screaming into the water. But
this time also the witch played her a trick; she changed herself into
one of those who had been drowned, and so escaped the chastisement she
would have received at their hands.

"Let anyone who likes believe the old women's stories. They say that the
witch's stepdaughter gathers together those who have been drowned every
night, and looks in their faces in order to find out which of them is
the witch; but has not done so yet. Such are the old wives' tales. It is
said to be the intention of the present owner to erect a distillery on
the spot. But I hear voices. They are coming home from the dancing.
Good-bye, Hanna! Sleep well, and don't think of all that nonsense." So
saying he embraced her, kissed her, and departed.

"Good-bye, Levko!" said Hanna, still gazing at the dark pine wood.

The brilliant moon was now rising and filling all the earth with
splendour. The pool shone like silver, and the shadows of the trees
stood out in strong relief.

"Good-bye, Hanna!" she heard again as she spoke, and felt the light
pressure of a kiss.

"You have come back!" she said, looking round, but started on seeing a
stranger before her.

There was another "Good-bye, Hanna!" and again she was kissed.

"Has the devil brought a second?" she exclaimed angrily.

"Good-bye, dear Hanna!"

"There is a third!"

"Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye, Hanna!" and kisses rained from all sides.

"Why, there is a whole band of them!" cried Hanna, tearing herself from
the youths who had gathered round. "Are they never tired of the eternal
kissing? I shall soon not be able to show myself on the street!" So
saying, she closed the door and bolted it.


II

THE VILLAGE HEADMAN

Do you know a Ukraine night? No, you do not know a night in the Ukraine.
Gaze your full on it. The moon shines in the midst of the sky; the
immeasurable vault of heaven seems to have expanded to infinity; the
earth is bathed in silver light; the air is warm, voluptuous, and
redolent of innumerable sweet scents. Divine night! Magical night!
Motionless, but inspired with divine breath, the forests stand, casting
enormous shadows and wrapped in complete darkness. Calmly and placidly
sleep the lakes surrounded by dark green thickets. The virginal groves
of the hawthorns and cherry-trees stretch their roots timidly into the
cool water; only now and then their leaves rustle unwillingly when that
freebooter, the night-wind, steals up to kiss them. The whole landscape
is hushed in slumber; but there is a mysterious breath upon the heights.
One falls into a weird and unearthly mood, and silvery apparitions rise
from the depths. Divine night! Magical night! Suddenly the woods, lakes,
and steppes become alive. The nightingales of the Ukraine are singing,
and it seems as though the moon itself were listening to their song. The
village sleeps as though under a magic spell; the cottages shine in the
moonlight against the darkness of the woods behind them. The songs grow
silent, and all is still. Only here and there is a glimmer of light in
some small window. Some families, sitting up late, are finishing their
supper at the thresholds of their houses.

"No, the 'gallop' is not danced like that! Now I see, it does not go
properly! What did my godfather tell me? So then! Hop! tralala! Hop!
tralala! Hop! Hop! Hop!" Thus a half-intoxicated, middle-aged Cossack
talked to himself as he danced through the street. "By heaven, a
'gallop' is not danced like that! What is the use of lying! On with it
then! Hop! tralala! Hop! tralala! Hop! Hop! Hop!"

"See that fool there! If he were only a young fellow! But to see a grown
man dancing, and the children laughing at him," exclaimed an old woman
who was passing by, carrying a bundle of straw. "Go home! It is quite
time to go to sleep!"

"I am going!" said the Cossack, standing still. "I am going. What do I
care about the headman? He thinks because he is the eldest, and throws
cold water on people, and carries his head high. As to being headman--I
myself am a headman. Yes indeed--otherwise----" As he spoke, he stepped
up to the door of the first cottage he came to, stood at the window,
drumming with his fingers on the glass, and feeling for the door-handle.
"Woman, open! Woman, open quickly I tell you! It is time for me to go to
sleep!"

"Where are you going, Kalenik? That is the wrong house!" some young
girls who were returning from the dance called to him as they passed.
"Shall we show you yours?"

"Yes, please, ladies!"

"Ladies! Just listen to him!" one of them exclaimed. "How polite Kalenik
is! We will show you the house--but no, first dance before us!"

"Dance before you? Oh, you are clever girls!" said Kalenik in a drawling
voice, and laughing. He threatened them with his finger, and stumbled,
not being able to stand steadily. "And will you let yourselves be
kissed? I will kiss the lot." With tottering steps he began to run after
them.

The girls cried out and ran apart; but they soon plucked up courage and
went on the other side of the road, when they saw that Kalenik was not
firm on his legs.

"There is your house!" they called to him, pointing to one which was
larger than the rest, and which belonged to the village headman.

Kalenik turned towards it, and began again to revile the headman.

But who is this headman to whose disadvantage so much has been said? Oh,
he is a very important person in the village. Before Kalenik reaches his
house, we shall doubtless find enough time to say something about him.
Everyone in the village takes off his cap at the sight of him, and even
the smallest girls wish him good morning. Which of the young Cossacks
would not like to be a headman? The headman has an entry everywhere, and
every stalwart rustic stands respectfully, cap in hand, so long as the
headman feels round his snuff-box with his thick, coarse finger. In
parish-meetings and other assemblies, although his power may be limited
by the votes of the majority, the headman still maintains the upper
hand, and sends whom he chooses to make roads or dig ditches. In outward
manners he is morose and severe, and not fond of talking. Long ago, when
the Empress Catherine of blessed memory journeyed to the Crimea, he was
chosen as one of her escort for two whole days, and had the high honour
of sitting with the imperial coachman on the box.

Since then the headman has formed the habit of shaking his head solemnly
and thoughtfully, of stroking his long, drooping moustache, and of
darting hawk-like glances from his eyes. Whatever the topic of
conversation may be, he manages to refer to his having accompanied the
Empress, and sat on the box of the imperial coach. He often pretends to
be hard of hearing, especially when he hears something that he does not
like. He has an aversion for dandies, and himself wears under a black
caftan of cloth, made at home, a simple, embroidered, woollen
waist-band. No one has seen him wear any other dress except, of course,
on the occasion of the Czarina's journey to the Crimea, when he wore a
blue Cossack's uniform. Hardly anyone in the village remembers that
time, and he keeps the uniform packed up in a chest.

The headman is a widower, but his sister-in-law lives with him. She
cooks his dinner and supper, keeps the house and furniture clean, weaves
linen, and acts as housekeeper generally. The village gossips say that
she is not a relation of his; but we must remark that the headman has
many enemies who spread all kinds of slanders about him. We have now
said what we considered to be necessary about the headman, and the
drunken Kalenik is not yet half-way to his house. He continued to abuse
the headman in terms which might be expected from one in his condition.


III

AN UNEXPECTED RIVAL--THE CONSPIRACY

"No, you fellows, I won't. What is the good of all those silly
goings-on? Aren't you tired of these foolish jokes? People already call
us good-for-nothing scapegraces. Better go to bed!" So Levko said one
evening to his companions, who were trying to persuade him to take part
with them in further practical jokes. "Farewell, brothers! Good night!"
he said, and left them with quick steps.

"Does my bright-eyed Hanna sleep?" he thought as he passed the house
shaded by the cherry-trees. Then in the silence he heard the sound of a
whispered conversation. Levko stood still. Between the trees there
glimmered something white. "What is that?" he thought, as he crept
closer and hid himself behind a tree.

By the light of the moon he saw the face of a girl standing opposite
him. It was Hanna. But who was the tall man who had his back turned to
him? In vain he strained his eyes; the whole figure was hidden in
shadow, and the slightest forward step on Levko's part would expose him
to the risk of discovery. He therefore leant quietly against the tree,
and determined to remain where he was. Then he heard the girl utter his
name distinctly.

"Levko? Levko is a baby," said the tall man in an undertone. "If I ever
find him with you, I will pull his hair."

"I should like to know what rascal is boasting of pulling my hair," said
Levko to himself, stretching out his head and endeavouring to miss no
word. But the stranger continued to speak so low that he was inaudible.

"What, aren't you ashamed?" said Hanna after he had finished. "You are
lying and deceiving me; I will never believe that you love me."

"I know," continued the tall man, "that Levko has talked nonsense to you
and turned your head." (Here it seemed to the Cossack as though the
stranger's voice were not quite unknown to him, and that he must have
heard it somewhere or other.) "But Levko shall learn to know me,"
continued the stranger. "He thinks I don't notice his rascally tricks;
but he will yet feel the weight of my fists, the scoundrel!"

At these words Levko could no longer restrain his wrath. He came three
steps nearer, and took a run in order to plant a blow which would have
stretched the stranger on the ground in spite of his strength. At that
moment, however, a ray of light fell on the latter's face, and Levko
stood transfixed, for he saw it was his father. But he only expressed
his surprise by an involuntary shake of the head and a low whistle.

On the other side there was the sound of approaching footsteps. Hanna
ran hastily into the house and closed the door behind her.

"Good-bye, Hanna!" cried one of the youths, who had stolen up and
embraced the headman, but started back alarmed when he felt a rough
moustache.

"Good-bye, my darling!" cried another, but speedily executed a
somersault in consequence of a violent blow from the headman.

"Good-bye, good-bye, Hanna!" exclaimed several youths, falling on his
neck.

"Go to the deuce, you infernal scoundrels!" shouted the headman,
defending himself with both hands and feet. "What kind of Hanna do you
take me for? Hang yourselves like your fathers did, you children of the
devil! Falling on one like flies on honey! I will show you who Hanna
is!"

"The headman! The headman! It is the headman!" cried the youths, running
away in all directions.

"Aha, father!" said Levko to himself, recovering from his astonishment
and looking after the headman as he departed, cursing and scolding.
"Those are the tricks you like to play! Splendid! And I wonder and
puzzle my head why he pretends to be deaf when I only touch on the
matter! Wait, you old sinner, I will teach you to cajole other people's
sweethearts. Hi! you fellows, come here!" he cried, beckoning to the
youths, who gathered round him. "Come nearer! I told you to go to bed,
but I am differently minded now, and am ready to go round with you all
night."

"That is reasonable," exclaimed a broad-shouldered, stout fellow, who
was regarded as the chief toper and good-for-nothing in the village. "I
always feel uncomfortable if I do not have a good fling, and play some
practical jokes. I always feel as though there were something wanting,
as though I had lost my cap or my pipe--in a word, I don't feel like a
proper Cossack then!"

"Do you really want to bait the headman?" asked Levko.

"The headman?"

"Yes, the headman. I don't know for whom he takes himself. He carries on
as though he were a duke. It is not only that he treats us as if we were
his serfs, but he comes after our girls."

"Quite right! That is true!" exclaimed all the youths together.

"But are we made of any worse stuff than he? We are, thank God! free
Cossacks. Let us show him so."

"Yes, we will show him!" they shouted. "But when we go for the headman,
we must not forget his clerk."

"The clerk shall have his share, too. Just now a song that suits the
headman occurs to me. Go on! I will teach it you!" continued Levko,
striking the strings of his guitar. "But listen! Disguise yourselves as
well as you can."

"Hurrah for the Cossacks!" cried the stout reveller, dancing and
clapping his hands. "Long live freedom! When one lets the reins go, one
thinks of the good old times. It feels as jolly as though one were in
paradise. Hurrah, you fellows! Go ahead!"

The youths rushed noisily through the village street, and the pious old
women, aroused from their sleep, looked through the windows, crossed
themselves drowsily, and thought, "There they go, the wild young
fellows!"


IV

WILD PRANKS

Only in one house at the end of the street there still burned a light;
it was the headman's. He had long finished his supper, and would
certainly have gone to sleep but that he had a guest with him, the
brandy-distiller. The latter had been sent to superintend the building
of a distillery for the lords of the manor, who possessed small
allotments between the lands of the free Cossacks. At the upper end of
the table, in the place of honour, sat the guest--a short, stout man
with small, merry eyes. He smoked his short pipe with obvious
satisfaction, spitting every moment and constantly pushing the tobacco
down in the bowl. The clouds of smoke collected over his head, and
veiled him in a bluish mist. It seemed as though the broad chimney of a
distillery, which was bored at always being perched up on the roof, had
hit upon the idea of taking a little recreation, and had now settled
itself comfortably at the headman's table. Close under his nose bristled
his short, thick moustache, which in the dim, smoky atmosphere resembled
a mouse which the distiller had caught and held in his mouth, usurping
the functions of a dining-room cat. The headman sat there, as master of
the house, wearing only his shirt and linen breeches. His eagle eye
began to grow dim like the setting sun, and to half close. At the lower
end of the table sat, smoking his pipe, one of the village council, of
which the headman was superintendent. Out of respect for the latter he
had not removed his caftan.

"How soon do you think," asked the headman, turning to the distiller and
putting his hand before his gaping mouth, "will you have the distillery
put up?"

"With God's help we shall be distilling brandy this autumn. On
Conception Day I bet the headman will be tracing the figure eight with
his feet on his way home." So saying, the distiller laughed so heartily
that his small eyes disappeared altogether, his body was convulsed, and
his twitching lips actually let go of the reeking pipe for a moment.

"God grant it!" said the headman, on whose face the shadow of a smile
was visible. "Now, thank heaven, the number of distilleries is
increasing a little; but in the old days, when I accompanied the Czarina
on the Perejlaslov Road, and the late Besborodko----"

"Yes, my friend, those were bad times. Then from Krementchuk to Romen
there were hardly two distilleries. And now--but have you heard what the
infernal Germans have invented? They say they will no longer use wood
for fuel in the distilleries, but devilish steam." At these words the
distiller stared at the table reflectively, and at his arms resting on
it. "But how they can use steam--by heavens! I don't know."

"What fools these Germans are!" said the headman. "I should like to give
these sons of dogs a good thrashing. Whoever heard of cooking with
steam? At this rate one will not be able to get a spoonful of porridge
or a bit of bacon into one's mouth."

"And you, friend," broke in the headman's sister-in-law, who was sitting
by the stove; "will you be with us the whole time without your wife?"

"Do I want her then? If she were only passably good-looking----"

"She is not pretty, then?" asked the headman with a questioning glance.

"How should she be; as old as Satan, and with a face as full of wrinkles
as an empty purse," said the distiller, shaking again with laughter.

Then a noise was heard at the door, which opened and a Cossack stepped
over the threshold without removing his cap, and remained standing in an
absent-minded way in the middle of the room, with open mouth and gazing
at the ceiling. It was Kalenik, whose acquaintance we have already made.

"Now I am at home," he said, taking his seat by the door, without taking
any notice of those present. "Ah! to what a length Satan made the road
stretch. I went on and on, and there was no end. My legs are quite
broken. Woman, bring me my fur blanket to lie down on. There it is in
the corner; but mind you don't upset the little pot of snuff. But no;
better not touch it! Leave it alone! You are really quite drunk--I had
better get it myself."

Kalenik tried to rise, but an invincible power fettered him to his seat.

"That's a nice business!" said the headman. "He comes into a strange
house, and behaves as though he were at home! Push him out, in heaven's
name!"

"Let him rest a bit, friend!" said the distiller, seizing the headman's
arm. "The man is very useful; if we had only plenty of this kind, our
distillery would get on grandly...." For the rest, it was not
good-nature which inspired these words. The distiller was full of
superstition, and to turn out a man who had already sat down, seemed to
him to be tantamount to invoking the devil.

"That comes of being old," grumbled Kalenik, stretching himself out
along the seat. "People might say I was drunk, but no, I am not! Why
should I lie? I am ready to tell the headman to his face! Who is the
headman anyway? May he break his neck, the son of a dog! I spit at him!
May he be run over by a cart, the one-eyed devil!"

"Ah! the drunken sot has crawled into the house, and now he lays his
paws on the table," said the headman, rising angrily; but at that moment
a heavy stone, breaking a window-pane to pieces, fell at his feet. The
headman remained standing. "If I knew," he said, "what jail-bird has
thrown it, I would give him something. What devil's trick is this?" he
continued, looking at the stone, which he held in his hand, with burning
eyes. "I wish I could choke him with it!"

"Stop! Stop! God preserve you, friend!" broke in the distiller, looking
pale. "God keep you in this world and the next, but don't curse anyone
so."

"Ah! now we have his defender! May he be ruined!"

"Listen, friend! You don't know what happened to my late mother-in-law."

"Your mother-in-law?"

"Yes, my mother-in-law. One evening, perhaps rather earlier than this,
they were sitting at supper, my late mother-in-law, my father-in-law,
their two servants, and five children. My mother-in-law emptied some
dumplings from the cooking-pot into a dish in order to cool them. But
the others, being hungry after the day's work, did not wait till they
were quite cooled, but stuck their long wooden forks into them and ate
them at once. All at once a stranger entered--heaven knows whence!--and
asked to be allowed to share their meal. They could not refuse to feed a
hungry man, and gave him also a wooden fork. But the guest made as short
work with the dumplings as a cow with hay. Before the family had each of
them finished his or her dumpling and reached out their forks again for
another, the dish had been swept as clean as the floor of a nobleman's
drawing-room. My mother-in-law emptied out some more dumplings; she
thought to herself, 'Now the guest is satisfied, and will not be so
greedy.' But on the contrary, he began to swallow them faster than ever,
and emptied the second dish also. 'May one of them choke you!' said my
mother-in-law under her breath. Suddenly the guest seemed to try to
clear his throat, and fell back. They rushed to his help, but his breath
had stopped and he was dead."

"Served him right, the cursed glutton!"

"But it turned out quite otherwise; since that time my mother-in-law has
no rest. No sooner is it dark than the dead man approaches the house. He
then sits astride the chimney, the scoundrel, holding a dumpling between
his teeth. During the day it is quite quiet--one hears and sees nothing;
but as soon as it begins to grow dark, and one casts a look at the roof,
there he is comfortably perched on the chimney!"

"A wonderful story, friend! I heard something similar from my late----"

Then the headman suddenly stopped. Outside there were noises, and the
stamping of dancers' feet. The strings of a guitar were being struck
gently, to the accompaniment of a voice. Then the guitar was played more
loudly, many voices joined in, and the whole chorus struck up a song in
ridicule of the headman.

When it was over, the distiller said, with his head bent a little on one
side, to the headman who was almost petrified by the audacity of the
serenaders, "A fine song, my friend!"

"Very fine! Only it is a pity that they insult the headman."

He folded his arms with a certain measure of composure on the table, and
prepared to listen further, for the singing and noise outside continued.
A sharp observer, however, would have seen that it was not mere
torpidity which made the headman sit so quietly. In the same way a
crafty cat often allows an inexperienced mouse to play about her tail,
while she is quickly devising a plan to cut it off from the mouse-hole.
The headman's one eye was still fastened on the window, and his hand,
after he had given the village councillor a sign, was reaching for the
door-handle, when suddenly a loud noise and shouts were heard from the
street. The distiller, who beside many other characteristics possessed a
keen curiosity, laid down his pipe quickly and ran into the street; but
the ne'er-do-wells had all dispersed.

"No, you don't escape me!" cried the headman, dragging someone muffled
up in a sheepskin coat with the hair turned outwards, by the arm.

The distiller rapidly seized a favourable moment to look at the face of
this disturber of the peace; but he started back when he saw a long
beard and a grim, painted face.

"No, you don't escape me!" exclaimed the headman again as he dragged his
prisoner into the vestibule.

The latter offered no resistance, and followed him as quietly as though
it had been his own house.

"Karpo, open the store-room!" the headman called to the village
councillor. "We will throw him in there! Then we will awake the clerk,
call the village council together, catch this impudent rabble, and pass
our sentence on them at once."

The village councillor unlocked the store-room; then in the darkness of
the vestibule, the prisoner made a desperate effort to break loose from
the headman's arms.

"Ah! you would, would you?" exclaimed the headman, holding him more
firmly by the collar.

"Let me go! It is I!" a half-stifled voice was heard saying.

"It is no good, brother! You may squeal if you choose, like the devil,
instead of imitating a woman, but you won't get round me." So saying, he
thrust the prisoner with such violence into the dark room that he fell
on the ground and groaned aloud.

The victorious headman, accompanied by the village councillor, now
betook himself to the clerk's; they were followed by the distiller, who
was veiled in clouds of tobacco-smoke, and resembled a steamer.

They were all three walking reflectively with bent heads, when suddenly,
turning into a dark side-alley, they uttered a cry and started back in
consequence of coming into collision with three other men, who on their
side shouted with equal loudness. The headman saw with his one eye, to
his no small astonishment, the clerk with two village councillors.

"I was just coming to you, Mr Notary."

"And I was on my way to your honour."

"These are strange goings-on, Mr Notary."

"Indeed they are, your honour."

"Have you seen them then?" asked the headman, surprised.

"The young fellows are roaming about the streets using vile language.
They are abusing your honour in a way--in a word, it is a scandal. A
drunken Russian would be ashamed to use such words."

The lean notary, in his gaily striped breeches and yeast-coloured
waistcoat, kept on stretching forward and drawing back his neck while he
talked.

"Hardly had I gone to sleep," he continued, "than the cursed loafers
woke me up with their shameful songs and their noise. I meant to give
them a sound rating, but while I was putting on my breeches and vest,
they all ran away. But the ringleader has not escaped; for the present
he is shut up in the hut which we use as a prison. I was very curious to
know who the scapegrace is, but his face is as sooty as the devil's when
he forges nails for sinners."

"What clothes does he wear, Mr Notary?"

"The son of a dog wears a black sheepskin coat turned inside out, your
honour."

"Aren't you telling me a lie, Mr Notary? The same good-for-nothing is
now shut up in my store-room under lock and key."

"No, your honour! You have drawn the long bow a little yourself, and
should not be vexed at what I say."

"Bring a light! We will take a look at him at once!"

They returned to the headman's house; the store-room door was opened,
and the headman groaned for sheer amazement as he saw his sister-in-law
standing before him.

"Tell me then," she said, stepping forward, "have you quite lost your
senses? Had you a single particle of brains in your one-eyed fish-head
when you locked me up in the dark room? It is a mercy I did not break my
head against the iron door hinge. Didn't I shout out that it was I? Then
he seized me, the cursed bear, with his iron claws, and pushed me in.
May Satan hereafter so push you into hell!" The last words she spoke
from the street, having wisely gone out of his reach.

"Yes, now I see that it is you!" said the headman, who had slowly
recovered his composure.

"Is he not a scamp and a scoundrel, Mr Clerk?" he continued.

"Yes, certainly, your honour."

"Isn't it high time to give all these loose fellows a lesson, that they
may at last betake themselves to their work?"

"Yes, it is high time, your honour."

"The fools have combined in a gang. What the deuce is that? It sounded
like my sister-in-law's voice. The blockheads think that I am like her,
an ordinary Cossack."

Here he coughed and cleared his throat, and a gleam in his eyes showed
that he was about to say something very important. "In the year one
thousand--I cannot keep these cursed dates in my memory, if I was to be
killed for it. Well, never mind when it was, the Commissary Ledatcho was
commanded to choose out a Cossack who was cleverer than the rest. Yes,"
he added, raising his forefinger, "cleverer than the rest, to accompany
the Czar. Then I was----"

"Yes, yes," the notary interrupted him, "we all know, headman, that you
well deserved the imperial favour. But confess now that I was right: you
made a mistake when you declared that you had caught the vagabond in the
reversed sheepskin."

"This disguised devil I will have imprisoned to serve as a warning to
the rest. They will have to learn what authority means. Who has
appointed the headman, if not the Czar? Then we will tackle the other
fellows. I don't forget how the scamps drove a whole herd of swine into
my garden, which ate up all the cabbages and cucumbers; I don't forget
how those sons of devils refused to thrash my rye for me. I don't
forget--to the deuce with them! We must first find out who this
scoundrel in the sheepskin really is."

"He is a sly dog anyway," said the distiller, whose cheeks during the
whole conversation had been as full of smoke as a siege-cannon, and
whose lips, when he took his pipe out of his mouth, seemed to emit
sparks.

Meanwhile they had approached a small ruined hut. Their curiosity had
mounted to the highest pitch, and they pressed round the door. The
notary produced a key and tried to turn the lock, but it did not fit; it
was the key of his trunk. The impatience of the onlookers increased. He
plunged his hand into the wide pocket of his gaily striped breeches,
bent his back, scraped with his feet, uttered imprecations, and at last
cried triumphantly, "I have it!"

At these words the hearts of our heroes beat so loud, that the turning
of the key in the lock was almost inaudible. At last the door opened,
and the headman turned as white as a sheet. The distiller felt a shiver
run down his spine, and his hair stood on end. Terror and apprehension
were stamped on the notary's face; the village councillors almost sank
into the ground and could not shut their wide-open mouths. Before them
stood the headman's sister-in-law!

She was not less startled than they, but recovered herself somewhat, and
made a movement as if to approach them.

"Stop!" cried the headman in an excited voice, and slammed the door
again. "Sirs, Satan is behind this!" he continued. "Bring fire quickly!
Never mind the hut! Set it alight and burn it up so that not even the
witch's bones remain."

"Wait a minute, brother!" exclaimed the distiller. "Your hair is grey,
but you are not very intelligent; no ordinary fire will burn a witch.
Only the fire of a pipe can do it. I will manage it all right." So
saying, he shook some glowing ashes from his pipe on to a bundle of
straw, and began to fan the flame.

Despair gave the unfortunate woman courage; she began to implore them in
a loud voice.

"Stop a moment, brother! Perhaps we are incurring guilt needlessly.
Perhaps she is really no witch!" said the notary. "If the person sitting
in there declares herself ready to make the sign of the cross, then she
is not a child of the devil."

The proposal was accepted. "Look out, Satan!" continued the notary,
speaking at a chink in the door. "If you promise not to move, we will
open the door."

The door was opened.

"Cross yourself!" exclaimed the headman, looking round him for a safe
place of retreat in case of necessity.

His sister-in-law crossed herself.

"The deuce! It is really you, sister-in-law!"

"What evil spirit dragged you into this hole, friend?" asked the notary.

The headman's sister related amid sobs how the rioters had seized her on
the street, and in spite of her resistance, pushed her through a large
window into the hut, on which they had closed the shutters. The notary
looked and found that the bolt of the shutter had been wrenched off, and
that it was held in its place by a wooden bar placed across it outside.

"You are a nice fellow, you one-eyed Satan!" she now exclaimed,
advancing towards the headman, who stepped backwards and continued to
contemplate her from head to foot. "I know your thoughts; you were glad
of an opportunity to get me shut up in order to run after that
petticoat, so that no one could see the grey-haired sinner making a fool
of himself. You think I don't know how you talked this evening with
Hanna. Oh, I know everything. You must get up earlier if you want to
make a fool of me, you great stupid! I have endured for a long time, but
at last don't take it ill if----"

She made a threatening gesture with her fist, and ran away swiftly,
leaving the headman quite taken aback.

"The devil really has something to do with it!" he thought, rubbing his
bald head.

"We have him!" now exclaimed the two village councillors as they
approached.

"Whom have you?" asked the headman.

"The devil in the sheepskin."

"Bring him here!" cried the headman, seizing the prisoner by the arm.
"Are you mad? This is the drunken Kalenik!"

"It is witchcraft! He was in our hands, your honour!" replied the
village councillors. "The rascals were rushing about in the narrow
side-streets, dancing and behaving like idiots--the devil take them! How
it was we got hold of this fellow instead of him, heaven only knows!"

"In virtue of my authority, and that of the village assembly," said the
headman, "I issue the order to seize these robbers and other young
vagabonds which may be met with in the streets, and to bring them before
me to be dealt with."

"Excuse us, your honour," answered the village councillors, bowing low.
"If you could only see the hideous faces they had; may heaven punish us
if ever anyone has seen such miscreations since he was born and
baptised. These devils might frighten one into an illness."

"I'll teach you to be afraid! You won't obey then? You are certainly in
the conspiracy with them! You mutineers! What is the meaning of that?
What? You abet robbery and murder! You!--I will inform the Commissary.
Go at once, do you hear; fly like birds. I shall--you will----"

They all dispersed in different directions.


V

THE DROWNED GIRL

Without troubling himself in the least about those who had been sent to
pursue him, the originator of all this confusion slowly walked towards
the old house and the pool. We hardly need to say it was Levko. His
black fur coat was buttoned up; he carried his cap in his hand, and the
perspiration was pouring down his face. The moon poured her light on the
gloomy majesty of the dark maple-wood.

The coolness of the air round the motionless pool enticed the weary
wanderer to rest by it a while. Universal silence prevailed, only that
in the forest thickets the nightingales' songs were heard. An
overpowering drowsiness closed his eyes; his tired limbs relaxed, and
his head nodded.

"Ah! am I going to sleep?" he said, rising and rubbing his eyes.

He looked round; the night seemed to him still more beautiful. The
moonlight seemed to have an intoxicating quality about it, a glamour
which he had never perceived before. The landscape was veiled in a
silver mist. The air was redolent with the perfume of the apple-blossoms
and the night-flowers. Entranced, he gazed on the motionless pool. The
old, half-ruined house was clearly reflected without a quiver in the
water. But instead of dark shutters, he saw light streaming from
brilliantly lit windows. Presently one of them opened. Holding his
breath, and without moving a muscle, he fastened his eyes on the pool
and seemed to penetrate its depths. What did he see? First he saw at the
window a graceful, curly head with shining eyes, propped on a white arm;
the head moved and smiled. His heart suddenly began to beat. The water
began to break into ripples, and the window closed.

Quietly he withdrew from the pool, and looked towards the house. The
dark shutters were flung back; the window-panes gleamed in the
moonlight. "How little one can believe what people say!" he thought to
himself. "The house is brand-new, and looks as though it had only just
been painted. It is certainly inhabited."

He stepped nearer cautiously, but the house was quite silent. The clear
song of the nightingales rose powerfully and distinctly on the air, and
as they died away one heard the chirping and rustling of the
grasshoppers, and the marshbird clapping his slippery beak in the water.

Levko felt enraptured with the sweetness and stillness of the night. He
struck the strings of his guitar and sang:

    "Oh lovely moon
       Thou steepst in light
     The house where my darling
       Sleeps all night."

A window opened gently, and the same girl whose image he had seen in the
pool looked out and listened attentively to the song. Her long-lashed
eyelids were partly drooping over her eyes; she was as pale as the
moonlight, but wonderfully beautiful. She smiled, and a shiver ran
through Levko.

"Sing me a song, young Cossack!" she said gently, bending her head
sideways and quite closing her eyes.

"What song shall I sing you, dear girl?"

Tears rolled down her pale cheeks. "Cossack," she said, and there was
something inexpressibly touching in her tone, "Cossack, find my
stepmother for me. I will do everything for you; I will reward you; I
will give you abundant riches. I have armlets embroidered with silk and
coral necklaces; I will give you a girdle set with pearls. I have gold.
Cossack, seek my stepmother for me. She is a terrible witch; she allowed
me no peace in the beautiful world. She tortured me; she made me work
like a common maid-servant. Look at my face; she has banished the
redness from my cheeks with her unholy magic. Look at my white neck;
they cannot be washed away, they cannot be washed away--the blue marks
of her iron claws. Look at my white feet; they did not walk on carpets,
but on hot sand, on damp ground, on piercing thorns. And my eyes--look
at them; they are almost blind with weeping. Seek my stepmother!"

Her voice, which had gradually become louder, stopped, and she wept.

The Cossack felt overpowered by sympathy and grief. "I am ready to do
everything to please you, dear lady," he cried with deep emotion; "but
where and how can I find her?"

"Look, look!" she said quickly, "she is here! She dances on the
lake-shore with my maidens, and warms herself in the moonlight. Yet she
is cunning and sly. She has assumed the shape of one who is drowned, yet
I know and hear that she is present. I am so afraid of her. Because of
her I cannot swim free and light as a fish. I sink and fall to the
bottom like a piece of iron. Look for her, Cossack!"

Levko cast a glance at the lake-shore. In a silvery mist there moved,
like shadows, girls in white dresses decked with May flowers; gold
necklaces and coins gleamed on their necks; but they were very pale, as
though formed of transparent clouds. They danced nearer him, and he
could hear their voices, somewhat like the sound of reeds stirred in the
quiet evening by the breeze.

"Let us play the raven-game! Let us play the raven-game!"

"Who will be the raven?"

Lots were cast, and a girl stepped out of the line of the dancers.

Levko observed her attentively. Her face and clothing resembled those of
the others; but she was evidently unwilling to play the part assigned
her. The dancers revolved rapidly round her, without her being able to
catch one of them.

"No, I won't be the raven any more," she said, quite exhausted. "I do
not like to rob the poor mother-hen of her chickens."

"You are not a witch," thought Levko.

The girls again gathered together in order to cast lots who should be
the raven.

"I will be the raven!" called one from the midst.

Levko watched her closely. Boldly and rapidly she ran after the dancers,
and made every effort to catch her prey. Levko began to notice that her
body was not transparent like the others; there was something black in
the midst of it. Suddenly there was a cry; the "raven" had rushed on a
girl, embraced her, and it seemed to Levko as though she had stretched
out claws, and as though her face shone with malicious joy.

"Witch!" he cried out, pointing at her suddenly with his finger, and
turning towards the house.

The girl at the window laughed, and the other girls dragged the "raven"
screaming along with them.

"How shall I reward you, Cossack?" said the maiden. "I know you do not
need gold; you love Hanna, but her harsh father will not allow you to
marry. But give him this note, and he will cease to hinder it."

She stretched out her white hand, and her face shone wonderfully. With
strange shudders and a beating heart, he grasped the paper and--awoke.


VI

THE AWAKENING

"Have I then been really asleep?" Levko asked himself as he stood up.
"Everything seemed so real, as though I were awake. Wonderful!
Wonderful!" he repeated, looking round him. The position of the moon
vertical overhead showed that it was midnight; a waft of coolness came
from the pool. The ruined house with the closed shutters stood there
with a melancholy aspect; the moss and weeds which grew thickly upon it
showed that it had not been entered by any human foot for a long time.
Then he suddenly opened his hand, which had been convulsively clenched
during his sleep, and cried aloud with astonishment when he saw the note
in it. "Ah! if I could only read," he thought, turning it this way and
that. At that moment he heard a noise behind him.

"Fear nothing! Lay hold of him! What are you afraid of? There are ten of
us. I wager that he is a man, and not the devil."

It was the headman encouraging his companions.

Levko felt himself seized by several arms, many of which were trembling
with fear.

"Throw off your mask, friend! Cease trying to fool us," said the
headman, taking him by the collar. But he started back when he saw him
closely. "Levko! My son!" he exclaimed, letting his arms sink. "It is
you, miserable boy! I thought some rascal, or disguised devil, was
playing these tricks; but now it seems you have cooked this mess for
your own father--placed yourself at the head of a band of robbers, and
composed songs to ridicule him. Eh, Levko! What is the meaning of that?
It seems your back is itching. Tie him fast!"

"Stop, father! I have been ordered to give you this note," said Levko.

"Let me see it then! But bind him all the same."

"Wait, headman," said the notary, unfolding the note; "it is the
Commissary's handwriting!"

"The Commissary's?"

"The Commissary's?" echoed the village councillors mechanically.

"The Commissary's? Wonderful! Still more incomprehensible!" thought
Levko.

"Read! Read!" said the headman. "What does the Commissary write?"

"Let us hear!" exclaimed the distiller, holding his pipe between his
teeth, and lighting it.

The notary cleared his throat and began to read.

    "'Order to the headman, Javtuk Makohonenko.

    "'It has been brought to our knowledge that you, old id----'"

"Stop! Stop! That is unnecessary!" exclaimed the headman. "Even if I
have not heard it, I know that that is not the chief matter. Read
further!"

    "'Consequently I order you at once to marry your son, Levko
    Makohonenko, to the Cossack's daughter, Hanna Petritchenka, to
    repair the bridges on the post-road, and to give no horses belonging
    to the lords of the manor to the county-court magistrates without my
    knowledge. If on my arrival I do not find these orders carried out,
    I shall hold you singly responsible.

    "'Lieut. Kosma Derkatch-Drischpanowski,

    "'_Commissary_.'"

"There we have it!" exclaimed the headman, with his mouth open. "Have
you heard it? The headman is made responsible for everything, and
therefore everyone has to obey him without contradiction! Otherwise, I
beg to resign my office. And you," he continued, turning to Levko, "I
will have married, as the Commissary directs, though it seems to me
strange how he knows of the affair; but you will get a taste of my knout
first--the one, you know, which hangs on the wall at my bed-head. But
how did you get hold of the note?"

Levko, in spite of the astonishment which the unexpected turn of affairs
caused him, had had the foresight to prepare an answer, and to conceal
the way in which the note had come into his possession. "I was in the
town last night," he said, "and met the Commissary just as he was
alighting from his droshky. When he heard from which village I was he
gave me the note and bid me tell you by word of mouth, father, that he
would dine with us on his way back."

"Did he say that?"

"Yes."

"Have you heard it?" said the headman, with a solemn air turning to his
companions. "The Commissary himself, in his own person, comes to us,
that is to me, to dine." The headman lifted a finger and bent his head
as though he were listening to something. "The Commissary, do you hear,
the Commissary is coming to dine with me! What do you think, Mr Notary?
And what do you think, friend? That is not a little honour, is it?"

"As far as I can recollect," the notary broke in, "no Commissary has
ever dined with a headman."

"All headmen are not alike," he answered with a self-satisfied air. Then
he uttered a hoarse laugh and said, "What do you think, Mr Notary? Isn't
it right to order that in honour of the distinguished guest, a fowl,
linen, and other things should be offered by every cottage?"

"Yes, they should."

"And when is the wedding to be, father?" asked Levko.

"Wedding! I should like to celebrate your wedding in my way! Well, in
honour of the distinguished guest, to-morrow the pope(1) will marry you.
Let the Commissary see that you are punctual. Now, children, we will go
to bed. Go to your houses. The present occasion reminds me of the time
when I----" At these words the headman assumed his customary solemn air.

  (1) Village priest.

"Now the headman will relate how he accompanied the Czarina!" said Levko
to himself, and hastened quickly, and full of joy, to the
cherry-tree-shaded house, which we know. "May God bless you, beloved,
and the holy angels smile on you. To no one will I relate the wonders of
this night except to you, Hanna; you alone will believe it, and pray
with me for the repose of the souls of the poor drowned maidens."

He approached the house; the window was open; the moonbeams fell on
Hanna, who was sleeping by it. Her head was supported on her arm; her
cheeks glowed; her lips moved, gently murmuring his name.

"Sleep sweetly, my darling. Dream of everything that is good, and yet
the awaking will surpass all." He made the sign of the cross over her,
closed the window, and gently withdrew.

In a few moments the whole village was buried in slumber. Only the moon
hung as brilliant and wonderful as before in the immensity of the
Ukraine sky. The divine night continued her reign in solemn stillness,
while the earth lay bathed in silvery radiance. The universal silence
was only broken here and there by the bark of a dog; only the drunken
Kalenik still wandered about the empty streets seeking for his house.



THE VIY


    (The "Viy" is a monstrous creation of popular fancy. It is the name
    which the inhabitants of Little Russia give to the king of the
    gnomes, whose eyelashes reach to the ground. The following story is
    a specimen of such folk-lore. I have made no alterations, but
    reproduce it in the same simple form in which I heard it.--Author's
    Note.)


I

As soon as the clear seminary bell began sounding in Kieff in the
morning, the pupils would come flocking from all parts of the town. The
students of grammar, rhetoric, philosophy, and theology hastened with
their books under their arms over the streets.

The "grammarians" were still mere boys. On the way they pushed against
each other and quarrelled with shrill voices. Nearly all of them wore
torn or dirty clothes, and their pockets were always crammed with all
kinds of things--push-bones, pipes made out of pens, remains of
confectionery, and sometimes even young sparrows. The latter would
sometimes begin to chirp in the midst of deep silence in the school, and
bring down on their possessors severe canings and thrashings.

The "rhetoricians" walked in a more orderly way. Their clothes were
generally untorn, but on the other hand their faces were often strangely
decorated; one had a black eye, and the lips of another resembled a
single blister, etc. These spoke to each other in tenor voices.

The "philosophers" talked in a tone an octave lower; in their pockets
they only had fragments of tobacco, never whole cakes of it; for what
they could get hold of, they used at once. They smelt so strongly of
tobacco and brandy, that a workman passing by them would often remain
standing and sniffing with his nose in the air, like a hound.

About this time of day the market-place was generally full of bustle,
and the market women, selling rolls, cakes, and honey-tarts, plucked the
sleeves of those who wore coats of fine cloth or cotton.

"Young sir! Young sir! Here! Here!" they cried from all sides. "Rolls
and cakes and tasty tarts, very delicious! I have baked them myself!"

Another drew something long and crooked out of her basket and cried,
"Here is a sausage, young sir! Buy a sausage!"

"Don't buy anything from her!" cried a rival. "See how greasy she is,
and what a dirty nose and hands she has!"

But the market women carefully avoided appealing to the philosophers and
theologians, for these only took handfuls of eatables merely to taste
them.

Arrived at the seminary, the whole crowd of students dispersed into the
low, large class-rooms with small windows, broad doors, and blackened
benches. Suddenly they were filled with a many-toned murmur. The
teachers heard the pupils' lessons repeated, some in shrill and others
in deep voices which sounded like a distant booming. While the lessons
were being said, the teachers kept a sharp eye open to see whether
pieces of cake or other dainties were protruding from their pupils'
pockets; if so, they were promptly confiscated.

When this learned crowd arrived somewhat earlier than usual, or when it
was known that the teachers would come somewhat late, a battle would
ensue, as though planned by general agreement. In this battle all had to
take part, even the monitors who were appointed to look after the order
and morality of the whole school. Two theologians generally arranged the
conditions of the battle: whether each class should split into two
sides, or whether all the pupils should divide themselves into two
halves.

In each case the grammarians began the battle, and after the
rhetoricians had joined in, the former retired and stood on the benches,
in order to watch the fortunes of the fray. Then came the philosophers
with long black moustaches, and finally the thick-necked theologians.
The battle generally ended in a victory for the latter, and the
philosophers retired to the different class-rooms rubbing their aching
limbs, and throwing themselves on the benches to take breath.

When the teacher, who in his own time had taken part in such contests,
entered the class-room he saw by the heated faces of his pupils that the
battle had been very severe, and while he caned the hands of the
rhetoricians, in another room another teacher did the same for the
philosophers.

On Sundays and Festival Days the seminarists took puppet-theatres to the
citizens' houses. Sometimes they acted a comedy, and in that case it was
always a theologian who took the part of the hero or heroine--Potiphar
or Herodias, etc. As a reward for their exertions, they received a piece
of linen, a sack of maize, half a roast goose, or something similar. All
the students, lay and clerical, were very poorly provided with means for
procuring themselves necessary subsistence, but at the same time very
fond of eating; so that, however much food was given to them, they were
never satisfied, and the gifts bestowed by rich landowners were never
adequate for their needs.

Therefore the Commissariat Committee, consisting of philosophers and
theologians, sometimes dispatched the grammarians and rhetoricians under
the leadership of a philosopher--themselves sometimes joining in the
expedition--with sacks on their shoulders, into the town, in order to
levy a contribution on the fleshpots of the citizens, and then there was
a feast in the seminary.

The most important event in the seminary year was the arrival of the
holidays; these began in July, and then generally all the students went
home. At that time all the roads were thronged with grammarians,
rhetoricians, philosophers, and theologians. He who had no home of his
own, would take up his quarters with some fellow-student's family; the
philosophers and theologians looked out for tutors' posts, taught the
children of rich farmers, and received for doing so a pair of new boots
and sometimes also a new coat.

A whole troop of them would go off in close ranks like a regiment; they
cooked their porridge in common, and encamped under the open sky. Each
had a bag with him containing a shirt and a pair of socks. The
theologians were especially economical; in order not to wear out their
boots too quickly, they took them off and carried them on a stick over
their shoulders, especially when the road was very muddy. Then they
tucked up their breeches over their knees and waded bravely through the
pools and puddles. Whenever they spied a village near the highway, they
at once left it, approached the house which seemed the most
considerable, and began with loud voices to sing a psalm. The master of
the house, an old Cossack engaged in agriculture, would listen for a
long time with his head propped in his hands, then with tears on his
cheeks say to his wife, "What the students are singing sounds very
devout; bring out some lard and anything else of the kind we have in the
house."

After thus replenishing their stores, the students would continue their
way. The farther they went, the smaller grew their numbers, as they
dispersed to their various houses, and left those whose homes were still
farther on.

On one occasion, during such a march, three students left the main-road
in order to get provisions in some village, since their stock had long
been exhausted. This party consisted of the theologian Khalava, the
philosopher Thomas Brutus, and the rhetorician Tiberius Gorobetz.

The first was a tall youth with broad shoulders and of a peculiar
character; everything which came within reach of his fingers he felt
obliged to appropriate. Moreover, he was of a very melancholy
disposition, and when he had got intoxicated he hid himself in the most
tangled thickets so that the seminary officials had the greatest trouble
in finding him.

The philosopher Thomas Brutus was a more cheerful character. He liked to
lie for a long time on the same spot and smoke his pipe; and when he was
merry with wine, he hired a fiddler and danced the "tropak." Often he
got a whole quantity of "beans," i.e. thrashings; but these he endured
with complete philosophic calm, saying that a man cannot escape his
destiny.

The rhetorician Tiberius Gorobetz had not yet the right to wear a
moustache, to drink brandy, or to smoke tobacco. He only wore a small
crop of hair, as though his character was at present too little
developed. To judge by the great bumps on his forehead, with which he
often appeared in the class-room, it might be expected that some day he
would be a valiant fighter. Khalava and Thomas often pulled his hair as
a mark of their special favour, and sent him on their errands.

Evening had already come when they left the high-road; the sun had just
gone down, and the air was still heavy with the heat of the day. The
theologian and the philosopher strolled along, smoking in silence, while
the rhetorician struck off the heads of the thistles by the wayside with
his stick. The way wound on through thick woods of oak and walnut; green
hills alternated here and there with meadows. Twice already they had
seen cornfields, from which they concluded that they were near some
village; but an hour had already passed, and no human habitation
appeared. The sky was already quite dark, and only a red gleam lingered
on the western horizon.

"The deuce!" said the philosopher Thomas Brutus. "I was almost certain
we would soon reach a village."

The theologian still remained silent, looked round him, then put his
pipe again between his teeth, and all three continued their way.

"Good heavens!" exclaimed the philosopher, and stood still. "Now the
road itself is disappearing."

"Perhaps we shall find a farm farther on," answered the theologian,
without taking his pipe out of his mouth.

Meanwhile the night had descended; clouds increased the darkness, and
according to all appearance there was no chance of moon or stars
appearing. The seminarists found that they had lost the way altogether.

After the philosopher had vainly sought for a footpath, he exclaimed,
"Where have we got to?"

The theologian thought for a while, and said, "Yes, it is really dark."

The rhetorician went on one side, lay on the ground, and groped for a
path; but his hands encountered only fox-holes. All around lay a huge
steppe over which no one seemed to have passed. The wanderers made
several efforts to get forward, but the landscape grew wilder and more
inhospitable.

The philosopher tried to shout, but his voice was lost in vacancy, no
one answered; only, some moments later, they heard a faint groaning
sound, like the whimpering of a wolf.

"Curse it all! What shall we do?" said the philosopher.

"Why, just stop here, and spend the night in the open air," answered the
theologian. So saying, he felt in his pocket, brought out his timber and
steel, and lit his pipe.

But the philosopher could not agree with this proposal; he was not
accustomed to sleep till he had first eaten five pounds of bread and
five of dripping, and so he now felt an intolerable emptiness in his
stomach. Besides, in spite of his cheerful temperament, he was a little
afraid of the wolves.

"No, Khalava," he said, "that won't do. To lie down like a dog and
without any supper! Let us try once more; perhaps we shall find a house,
and the consolation of having a glass of brandy to drink before going to
sleep."

At the word "brandy," the theologian spat on one side and said, "Yes, of
course, we cannot remain all night in the open air."

The students went on and on, and to their great joy they heard the
barking of dogs in the distance. After listening a while to see from
which direction the barking came, they went on their way with new
courage, and soon espied a light.

"A village, by heavens, a village!" exclaimed the philosopher.

His supposition proved correct; they soon saw two or three houses built
round a court-yard. Lights glimmered in the windows, and before the
fence stood a number of trees. The students looked through the crevices
of the gates and saw a court-yard in which stood a large number of
roving tradesmen's carts. In the sky there were now fewer clouds, and
here and there a star was visible.

"See, brother!" one of them said, "we must now cry 'halt!' Cost what it
may, we must find entrance and a night's lodging."

The three students knocked together at the gate, and cried "Open!"

The door of one of the houses creaked on its hinges, and an old woman
wrapped in a sheepskin appeared. "Who is there?" she exclaimed, coughing
loudly.

"Let us spend the night here, mother; we have lost our way, our stomachs
are empty, and we do not want to spend the night out of doors."

"But what sort of people are you?"

"Quite harmless people; the theologian Khalava, the philosopher Brutus,
and the rhetorician Gorobetz."

"It is impossible," answered the old woman. "The whole house is full of
people, and every corner occupied. Where can I put you up? You are big
and heavy enough to break the house down. I know these philosophers and
theologians; when once one takes them in, they eat one out of house and
home. Go farther on! There is no room here for you!"

"Have pity on us, mother! How can you be so heartless? Don't let
Christians perish. Put us up where you like, and if we eat up your
provisions, or do any other damage, may our hands wither up, and all the
punishment of heaven light on us!"

The old woman seemed a little touched. "Well," she said after a few
moments' consideration, "I will let you in; but I must put you in
different rooms, for I should have no quiet if you were all together at
night."

"Do just as you like; we won't say any more about it," answered the
students.

The gates moved heavily on their hinges, and they entered the
court-yard.

"Well now, mother," said the philosopher, following the old woman, "if
you had a little scrap of something! By heavens! my stomach is as empty
as a drum. I have not had a bit of bread in my mouth since early this
morning!"

"Didn't I say so?" replied the old woman. "There you go begging at once.
But I have no food in the house, nor any fire."

"But we will pay for everything," continued the philosopher.

"We will pay early to-morrow in cash."

"Go on and be content with what you get. You are fine fellows whom the
devil has brought here!"

Her reply greatly depressed the philosopher Thomas; but suddenly his
nose caught the odour of dried fish; he looked at the breeches of the
theologian, who walked by his side, and saw a huge fish's tail sticking
out of his pocket. The latter had already seized the opportunity to
steal a whole fish from one of the carts standing in the court-yard. He
had not done this from hunger so much as from the force of habit. He had
quite forgotten the fish, and was looking about to see whether he could
not find something else to appropriate. Then the philosopher put his
hand in the theologian's pocket as though it were his own, and laid hold
of his prize.

The old woman found a special resting-place for each student; the
rhetorician she put in a shed, the theologian in an empty store-room,
and the philosopher in a sheep's stall.

As soon as the philosopher was alone, he devoured the fish in a
twinkling, examined the fence which enclosed the stall, kicked away a
pig from a neighbouring stall, which had inquiringly inserted its nose
through a crevice, and lay down on his right side to sleep like a
corpse.

Then the low door opened, and the old woman came crouching into the
stall.

"Well, mother, what do you want here?" asked the philosopher.

She made no answer, but came with outstretched arms towards him.

The philosopher shrank back; but she still approached, as though she
wished to lay hold of him. A terrible fright seized him, for he saw the
old hag's eyes sparkle in an extraordinary way. "Away with you, old
witch, away with you!" he shouted. But she still stretched her hands
after him.

He jumped up in order to rush out, but she placed herself before the
door, fixed her glowing eyes upon him, and again approached him. The
philosopher tried to push her away with his hands, but to his
astonishment he found that he could neither lift his hands nor move his
legs, nor utter an audible word. He only heard his heart beating, and
saw the old woman approach him, place his hands crosswise on his breast,
and bend his head down. Then with the agility of a cat she sprang on his
shoulders, struck him on the side with a broom, and he began to run like
a race-horse, carrying her on his shoulders.

All this happened with such swiftness, that the philosopher could
scarcely collect his thoughts. He laid hold of his knees with both hands
in order to stop his legs from running; but to his great astonishment
they kept moving forward against his will, making rapid springs like a
Caucasian horse.

Not till the house had been left behind them and a wide plain stretched
before them, bordered on one side by a black gloomy wood, did he say to
himself, "Ah! it is a witch!"

The half-moon shone pale and high in the sky. Its mild light, still more
subdued by intervening clouds, fell like a transparent veil on the
earth. Woods, meadows, hills, and valleys--all seemed to be sleeping
with open eyes; nowhere was a breath of air stirring. The atmosphere was
moist and warm; the shadows of the trees and bushes fell sharply defined
on the sloping plain. Such was the night through which the philosopher
Thomas Brutus sped with his strange rider.

A strange, oppressive, and yet sweet sensation took possession of his
heart. He looked down and saw how the grass beneath his feet seemed to
be quite deep and far away; over it there flowed a flood of
crystal-clear water, and the grassy plain looked like the bottom of a
transparent sea. He saw his own image, and that of the old woman whom he
carried on his back, clearly reflected in it. Then he beheld how,
instead of the moon, a strange sun shone there; he heard the deep tones
of bells, and saw them swinging. He saw a water-nixie rise from a bed of
tall reeds; she turned to him, and her face was clearly visible, and she
sang a song which penetrated his soul; then she approached him and
nearly reached the surface of the water, on which she burst into
laughter and again disappeared.

Did he see it or did he not see it? Was he dreaming or was he awake? But
what was that below--wind or music? It sounded and drew nearer, and
penetrated his soul like a song that rose and fell. "What is it?" he
thought as he gazed into the depths, and still sped rapidly along.

The perspiration flowed from him in streams; he experienced
simultaneously a strange feeling of oppression and delight in all his
being. Often he felt as though he had no longer a heart, and pressed his
hand on his breast with alarm.

Weary to death, he began to repeat all the prayers which he knew, and
all the formulas of exorcism against evil spirits. Suddenly he
experienced a certain relief. He felt that his pace was slackening; the
witch weighed less heavily on his shoulders, and the thick herbage of
the plain was again beneath his feet, with nothing especial to remark
about it.

"Splendid!" thought the philosopher Thomas, and began to repeat his
exorcisms in a still louder voice.

Then suddenly he wrenched himself away from under the witch, and sprang
on her back in his turn. She began to run, with short, trembling steps
indeed, but so rapidly that he could hardly breathe. So swiftly did she
run that she hardly seemed to touch the ground. They were still on the
plain, but owing to the rapidity of their flight everything seemed
indistinct and confused before his eyes. He seized a stick that was
lying on the ground, and began to belabour the hag with all his might.
She uttered a wild cry, which at first sounded raging and threatening;
then it became gradually weaker and more gentle, till at last it sounded
quite low like the pleasant tones of a silver bell, so that it
penetrated his innermost soul. Involuntarily the thought passed through
his mind:

"Is she really an old woman?"

"Ah! I can go no farther," she said in a faint voice, and sank to the
earth.

He knelt beside her, and looked in her eyes. The dawn was red in the
sky, and in the distance glimmered the gilt domes of the churches of
Kieff. Before him lay a beautiful maiden with thick, dishevelled hair
and long eyelashes. Unconsciously she had stretched out her white, bare
arms, and her tear-filled eyes gazed at the sky.

Thomas trembled like an aspen-leaf. Sympathy, and a strange feeling of
excitement, and a hitherto unknown fear overpowered him. He began to run
with all his might. His heart beat violently, and he could not explain
to himself what a strange, new feeling had seized him. He did not wish
to return to the village, but hastened towards Kieff, thinking all the
way as he went of his weird, unaccountable adventure.

There were hardly any students left in the town; they were all scattered
about the country, and had either taken tutors' posts or simply lived
without occupation; for at the farms in Little Russia one can live
comfortably and at ease without paying a farthing. The great
half-decayed building in which the seminary was established was
completely empty; and however much the philosopher searched in all its
corners for a piece of lard and bread, he could not find even one of the
hard biscuits which the seminarists were in the habit of hiding.

But the philosopher found a means of extricating himself from his
difficulties by making friends with a certain young widow in the
market-place who sold ribbons, etc. The same evening he found himself
being stuffed with cakes and fowl; in fact it is impossible to say how
many things were placed before him on a little table in an arbour shaded
by cherry-trees.

Later on the same evening the philosopher was to be seen in an
ale-house. He lay on a bench, smoked his pipe in his usual way, and
threw the Jewish publican a gold piece. He had a jug of ale standing
before him, looked on all who went in and out in a cold-blooded,
self-satisfied way, and thought no more of his strange adventure.

                   *       *       *       *       *

About this time a report spread about that the daughter of a rich
colonel, whose estate lay about fifty versts distant from Kieff, had
returned home one day from a walk in a quite broken-down condition. She
had scarcely enough strength to reach her father's house; now she lay
dying, and had expressed a wish that for three days after her death the
prayers for the dead should be recited by a Kieff seminarist named
Thomas Brutus.

This fact was communicated to the philosopher by the rector of the
seminary himself, who sent for him to his room and told him that he must
start at once, as a rich colonel had sent his servants and a kibitka for
him. The philosopher trembled, and was seized by an uncomfortable
feeling which he could not define. He had a gloomy foreboding that some
evil was about to befall him. Without knowing why, he declared that he
did not wish to go.

"Listen, Thomas," said the rector, who under certain circumstances spoke
very politely to his pupils; "I have no idea of asking you whether you
wish to go or not. I only tell you that if you think of disobeying, I
will have you so soundly flogged on the back with young birch-rods, that
you need not think of having a bath for a long time."

The philosopher scratched the back of his head, and went out silently,
intending to make himself scarce at the first opportunity. Lost in
thought, he descended the steep flight of steps which led to the
court-yard, thickly planted with poplars; there he remained standing for
a moment, and heard quite distinctly the rector giving orders in a loud
voice to his steward, and to another person, probably one of the
messengers sent by the colonel.

"Thank your master for the peeled barley and the eggs," said the rector;
"and tell him that as soon as the books which he mentions in his note
are ready, I will send them. I have already given them to a clerk to be
copied. And don't forget to remind your master that he has some
excellent fish, especially prime sturgeon, in his ponds; he might send
me some when he has the opportunity, as here in the market the fish are
bad and dear. And you, Jantukh, give the colonel's man a glass of
brandy. And mind you tie up the philosopher, or he will show you a clean
pair of heels."

"Listen to the scoundrel!" thought the philosopher. "He has smelt a rat,
the long-legged stork!"

He descended into the court-yard and beheld there a kibitka, which he at
first took for a barn on wheels. It was, in fact, as roomy as a kiln, so
that bricks might have been made inside it. It was one of those
remarkable Cracow vehicles in which Jews travelled from town to town in
scores, wherever they thought they would find a market. Six stout,
strong, though somewhat elderly Cossacks were standing by it. Their
gold-braided coats of fine cloth showed that their master was rich and
of some importance; and certain little scars testified to their valour
on the battle-field.

"What can I do?" thought the philosopher. "There is no escaping one's
destiny." So he stepped up to the Cossacks and said "Good day,
comrades."

"Welcome, Mr Philosopher!" some of them answered.

"Well, I am to travel with you! It is a magnificent vehicle," he
continued as he got into it. "If there were only musicians present, one
might dance in it."

"Yes, it is a roomy carriage," said one of the Cossacks, taking his seat
by the coachman. The latter had tied a cloth round his head, as he had
already found an opportunity of pawning his cap in the ale-house. The
other five, with the philosopher, got into the capacious kibitka, and
sat upon sacks which were filled with all sorts of articles purchased in
the city.

"I should like to know," said the philosopher, "if this equipage were
laden with salt or iron, how many horses would be required to draw it?"

"Yes," said the Cossack who sat by the coachman, after thinking a short
time, "it would require a good many horses."

After giving this satisfactory answer, the Cossack considered himself
entitled to remain silent for the whole of the rest of the journey.

The philosopher would gladly have found out who the colonel was, and
what sort of a character he had. He was also curious to know about his
daughter, who had returned home in such a strange way and now lay dying,
and whose destiny seemed to be mingled with his own; and wanted to know
the sort of life that was lived in the colonel's house. But the Cossacks
were probably philosophers like himself, for in answer to his inquiries
they only blew clouds of tobacco and settled themselves more comfortably
on their sacks.

Meanwhile, one of them addressed to the coachman on the box a brief
command: "Keep your eyes open, Overko, you old sleepy-head, and when you
come to the ale-house on the road to Tchukrailoff, don't forget to pull
up and wake me and the other fellows if we are asleep." Then he began to
snore pretty loud. But in any case his admonition was quite superfluous;
for scarcely had the enormous equipage begun to approach the aforesaid
ale-house, than they all cried with one mouth "Halt! Halt!" Besides
this, Overko's horse was accustomed to stop outside every inn of its own
accord.

In spite of the intense July heat, they all got out and entered a low,
dirty room where a Jewish innkeeper received them in a friendly way as
old acquaintances. He brought in the skirt of his long coat some
sausages, and laid them on the table, where, though forbidden by the
Talmud, they looked very seductive. All sat down at table, and it was
not long before each of the guests had an earthenware jug standing in
front of him. The philosopher Thomas had to take part in the feast, and
as the Little Russians when they are intoxicated always begin to kiss
each other or to weep, the whole room soon began to echo with
demonstrations of affection.

"Come here, come here, Spirid, let me embrace thee!"

"Come here, Dorosch, let me press you to my heart!"

One Cossack, with a grey moustache, the eldest of them all, leant his
head on his hand and began to weep bitterly because he was an orphan and
alone in God's wide world. Another tall, loquacious man did his best to
comfort him, saying, "Don't weep, for God's sake, don't weep! For over
there--God knows best."

The Cossack who had been addressed as Dorosch was full of curiosity, and
addressed many questions to the philosopher Thomas. "I should like to
know," he said, "what you learn in your seminary; do you learn the same
things as the deacon reads to us in church, or something else?"

"Don't ask," said the consoler; "let them learn what they like. God
knows what is to happen; God knows everything."

"No, I will know," answered Dorosch, "I will know what is written in
their books; perhaps it is something quite different from that in the
deacon's book."

"O good heavens!" said the other, "why all this talk? It is God's will,
and one cannot change God's arrangements."

"But I will know everything that is written; I will enter the seminary
too, by heaven I will! Do you think perhaps I could not learn? I will
learn everything, everything."

"Oh, heavens!" exclaimed the consoler, and let his head sink on the
table, for he could no longer hold it upright.

The other Cossacks talked about the nobility, and why there was a moon
in the sky.

When the philosopher Thomas saw the state they were in, he determined to
profit by it, and to make his escape. In the first place he turned to
the grey-headed Cossack, who was lamenting the loss of his parents.
"But, little uncle," he said to him, "why do you weep so? I too am an
orphan! Let me go, children; why do you want me?"

"Let him go!" said some of them, "he is an orphan, let him go where he
likes."

They were about to take him outside themselves, when the one who had
displayed a special thirst for knowledge, stopped them, saying, "No, I
want to talk with him about the seminary; I am going to the seminary
myself."

Moreover, it was not yet certain whether the philosopher could have
executed his project of flight, for when he tried to rise from his
chair, he felt as though his feet were made of wood, and he began to see
such a number of doors leading out of the room that it would have been
difficult for him to have found the right one.

It was not till evening that the company remembered that they must
continue their journey. They crowded into the kibitka, whipped up the
horses, and struck up a song, the words and sense of which were hard to
understand. During a great part of the night, they wandered about,
having lost the road which they ought to have been able to find
blindfolded. At last they drove down a steep descent into a valley, and
the philosopher noticed, by the sides of the road, hedges, behind which
he caught glimpses of small trees and house-roofs. All these belonged to
the colonel's estate.

It was already long past midnight. The sky was dark, though little stars
glimmered here and there; no light was to be seen in any of the houses.
They drove into a large court-yard, while the dogs barked. On all sides
were barns and cottages with thatched roofs. Just opposite the gateway
was a house, which was larger than the others, and seemed to be the
colonel's dwelling. The kibitka stopped before a small barn, and the
travellers hastened into it and laid themselves down to sleep. The
philosopher however attempted to look at the exterior of the house, but,
rub his eyes as he might, he could distinguish nothing; the house seemed
to turn into a bear, and the chimney into the rector of the seminary.
Then he gave it up and lay down to sleep.

When he woke up the next morning, the whole house was in commotion; the
young lady had died during the night. The servants ran hither and
thither in a distracted state; the old women wept and lamented; and a
number of curious people gazed through the enclosure into the
court-yard, as though there were something special to be seen. The
philosopher began now to inspect the locality and the buildings, which
he had not been able to do during the night.

The colonel's house was one of those low, small buildings, such as used
formerly to be constructed in Russia. It was thatched with straw; a
small, high-peaked gable, with a window shaped like an eye, was painted
all over with blue and yellow flowers and red crescent-moons; it rested
on little oaken pillars, which were round above the middle, hexagonal
below, and whose capitals were adorned with quaint carvings. Under this
gable was a small staircase with seats at the foot of it on either side.

The walls of the house were supported by similar pillars. Before the
house stood a large pear-tree of pyramidal shape, whose leaves
incessantly trembled. A double row of buildings formed a broad street
leading up to the colonel's house. Behind the barns near the
entrance-gate stood two three-cornered wine-houses, also thatched with
straw; each of the stone walls had a door in it, and was covered with
all kinds of paintings. On one was represented a Cossack sitting on a
barrel and swinging a large pitcher over his head; it bore the
inscription "I will drink all that!" Elsewhere were painted large and
small bottles, a beautiful girl, a running horse, a pipe, and a drum
bearing the words "Wine is the Cossack's joy."

In the loft of one of the barns one saw through a huge round window a
drum and some trumpets. At the gate there stood two cannons. All this
showed that the colonel loved a cheerful life, and the whole place often
rang with sounds of merriment. Before the gate were two windmills, and
behind the house gardens sloped away; through the tree-tops the dark
chimneys of the peasants' houses were visible. The whole village lay on
a broad, even plateau, in the middle of a mountain-slope which
culminated in a steep summit on the north side. When seen from below, it
looked still steeper. Here and there on the top the irregular stems of
the thick steppe-brooms showed in dark relief against the blue sky. The
bare clay soil made a melancholy impression, worn as it was into deep
furrows by rain-water. On the same slope there stood two cottages, and
over one of them a huge apple-tree spread its branches; the roots were
supported by small props, whose interstices were filled with mould. The
apples, which were blown off by the wind, rolled down to the court-yard
below. A road wound round the mountain to the village.

When the philosopher looked at this steep slope, and remembered his
journey of the night before, he came to the conclusion that either the
colonel's horses were very sagacious, or that the Cossacks must have
very strong heads, as they ventured, even when the worse for drink, on
such a road with the huge kibitka.

When the philosopher turned and looked in the opposite direction, he saw
quite another picture. The village reached down to the plain; meadows
stretched away to an immense distance, their bright green growing
gradually dark; far away, about twenty versts off, many other villages
were visible. To the right of these meadows were chains of hills, and in
the remote distance one saw the Dnieper shimmer and sparkle like a
mirror of steel.

"What a splendid country!" said the philosopher to himself. "It must be
fine to live here! One could catch fish in the Dnieper, and in the
ponds, and shoot and snare partridges and bustards; there must be
quantities here. Much fruit might be dried here and sold in the town,
or, better still, brandy might be distilled from it, for fruit-brandy is
the best of all. But what prevents me thinking of my escape after all?"

Behind the hedge he saw a little path which was almost entirely
concealed by the high grass of the steppe. The philosopher approached it
mechanically, meaning at first to walk a little along it unobserved, and
then quite quietly to gain the open country behind the peasants' houses.
Suddenly he felt the pressure of a fairly heavy hand on his shoulder.

Behind him stood the same old Cossack who yesterday had so bitterly
lamented the death of his father and mother, and his own loneliness.
"You are giving yourself useless trouble, Mr Philosopher, if you think
you can escape from us," he said. "One cannot run away here; and
besides, the roads are too bad for walkers. Come to the colonel; he has
been waiting for you for some time in his room."

"Yes, of course! What are you talking about? I will come with the
greatest pleasure," said the philosopher, and followed the Cossack.

The colonel was an elderly man; his moustache was grey, and his face
wore the signs of deep sadness. He sat in his room by a table, with his
head propped on both hands. He seemed about five-and-fifty, but his
attitude of utter despair, and the pallor on his face, showed that his
heart had been suddenly broken, and that all his former cheerfulness had
for ever disappeared.

When Thomas entered with the Cossack, he answered their deep bows with a
slight inclination of the head.

"Who are you, whence do you come, and what is your profession, my good
man?" asked the colonel in an even voice, neither friendly nor austere.

"I am a student of philosophy; my name is Thomas Brutus."

"And who was your father?"

"I don't know, sir."

"And your mother?"

"I don't know either; I know that I must have had a mother, but who she
was, and where she lived, by heavens, I do not know."

The colonel was silent, and seemed for a moment lost in thought. "Where
did you come to know my daughter?"

"I do not know her, gracious sir; I declare I do not know her."

"Why then has she chosen you, and no one else, to offer up prayers for
her?"

The philosopher shrugged his shoulders. "God only knows. It is a
well-known fact that grand people often demand things which the most
learned man cannot comprehend; and does not the proverb say, 'Dance,
devil, as the Lord commands!'"

"Aren't you talking nonsense, Mr Philosopher?"

"May the lightning strike me on the spot if I lie."

"If she had only lived a moment longer," said the colonel sadly, "then I
had certainly found out everything. She said, 'Let no one offer up
prayers for me, but send, father, at once to the seminary in Kieff for
the student Thomas Brutus; he shall pray three nights running for my
sinful soul--he knows.' But what he really knows she never said. The
poor dove could speak no more, and died. Good man, you are probably well
known for your sanctity and devout life, and she has perhaps heard of
you."

"What? Of me?" said the philosopher, and took a step backward in
amazement. "I and sanctity!" he exclaimed, and stared at the colonel.
"God help us, gracious sir! What are you saying? It was only last Holy
Thursday that I paid a visit to the tart-shop."

"Well, she must at any rate have had some reason for making the
arrangement, and you must begin your duties to-day."

"I should like to remark to your honour--naturally everyone who knows
the Holy Scripture at all can in his measure--but I believe it would be
better on this occasion to send for a deacon or subdeacon. They are
learned people, and they know exactly what is to be done. I have not got
a good voice, nor any official standing."

"You may say what you like, but I shall carry out all my dove's wishes.
If you read the prayers for her three nights through in the proper way,
I will reward you; and if not--I advise the devil himself not to oppose
me!"

The colonel spoke the last words in such an emphatic way that the
philosopher quite understood them.

"Follow me!" said the colonel.

They went into the hall. The colonel opened a door which was opposite
his own. The philosopher remained for a few minutes in the hall in order
to look about him; then he stepped over the threshold with a certain
nervousness.

The whole floor of the room was covered with red cloth. In a corner
under the icons of the saints, on a table covered with a gold-bordered,
velvet cloth, lay the body of the girl. Tall candles, round which were
wound branches of the "calina," stood at her head and feet, and burned
dimly in the broad daylight. The face of the dead was not to be seen, as
the inconsolable father sat before his daughter, with his back turned to
the philosopher. The words which the latter overheard filled him with a
certain fear:

"I do not mourn, my daughter, that in the flower of your age you have
prematurely left the earth, to my grief; but I mourn, my dove, that I do
not know my deadly enemy who caused your death. Had I only known that
anyone could even conceive the idea of insulting you, or of speaking a
disrespectful word to you, I swear by heaven he would never have seen
his children again, if he had been as old as myself; nor his father and
mother, if he had been young. And I would have thrown his corpse to the
birds of the air, and the wild beasts of the steppe. But woe is me, my
flower, my dove, my light! I will spend the remainder of my life without
joy, and wipe the bitter tears which flow out of my old eyes, while my
enemy will rejoice and laugh in secret over the helpless old man!"

He paused, overpowered by grief, and streams of tears flowed down his
cheeks.

The philosopher was deeply affected by the sight of such inconsolable
sorrow. He coughed gently in order to clear his throat. The colonel
turned and signed to him to take his place at the head of the dead girl,
before a little prayer-desk on which some books lay.

"I can manage to hold out for three nights," thought the philosopher;
"and then the colonel will fill both my pockets with ducats."

He approached the dead girl, and after coughing once more, began to
read, without paying attention to anything else, and firmly resolved not
to look at her face.

Soon there was deep silence, and he saw that the colonel had left the
room. Slowly he turned his head in order to look at the corpse. A
violent shudder thrilled through him; before him lay a form of such
beauty as is seldom seen upon earth. It seemed to him that never in a
single face had so much intensity of expression and harmony of feature
been united. Her brow, soft as snow and pure as silver, seemed to be
thinking; the fine, regular eyebrows shadowed proudly the closed eyes,
whose lashes gently rested on her cheeks, which seemed to glow with
secret longing; her lips still appeared to smile. But at the same time
he saw something in these features which appalled him; a terrible
depression seized his heart, as when in the midst of dance and song
someone begins to chant a dirge. He felt as though those ruby lips were
coloured with his own heart's blood. Moreover, her face seemed
dreadfully familiar.

"The witch!" he cried out in a voice which sounded strange to himself;
then he turned away and began to read the prayers with white cheeks. It
was the witch whom he had killed.


II

When the sun had sunk below the horizon, the corpse was carried into the
church. The philosopher supported one corner of the black-draped coffin
upon his shoulder, and felt an ice-cold shiver run through his body. The
colonel walked in front of him, with his right hand resting on the edge
of the coffin.

The wooden church, black with age and overgrown with green lichen, stood
quite at the end of the village in gloomy solitude; it was adorned with
three round cupolas. One saw at the first glance that it had not been
used for divine worship for a long time.

Lighted candles were standing before almost every icon. The coffin was
set down before the altar. The old colonel kissed his dead daughter once
more, and then left the church, together with the bearers of the bier,
after he had ordered his servants to look after the philosopher and to
take him back to the church after supper.

The coffin-bearers, when they returned to the house, all laid their
hands on the stove. This custom is always observed in Little Russia by
those who have seen a corpse.

The hunger which the philosopher now began to feel caused him for a
while to forget the dead girl altogether. Gradually all the domestics of
the house assembled in the kitchen; it was really a kind of club, where
they were accustomed to gather. Even the dogs came to the door, wagging
their tails in order to have bones and offal thrown to them.

If a servant was sent on an errand, he always found his way into the
kitchen to rest there for a while, and to smoke a pipe. All the Cossacks
of the establishment lay here during the whole day on and under the
benches--in fact, wherever a place could be found to lie down in.
Moreover, everyone was always leaving something behind in the
kitchen--his cap, or his whip, or something of the sort. But the numbers
of the club were not complete till the evening, when the groom came in
after tying up his horses in the stable, the cowherd had shut up his
cows in their stalls, and others collected there who were not usually
seen in the day-time. During supper-time even the tongues of the laziest
were set in motion. They talked of all and everything--of the new pair
of breeches which someone had ordered for himself, of what might be in
the centre of the earth, and of the wolf which someone had seen. There
were a number of wits in the company--a class which is always
represented in Little Russia.

The philosopher took his place with the rest in the great circle which
sat round the kitchen door in the open-air. Soon an old woman with a red
cap issued from it, bearing with both hands a large vessel full of hot
"galuchkis," which she distributed among them. Each drew out of his
pocket a wooden spoon, or a one-pronged wooden fork. As soon as their
jaws began to move a little more slowly, and their wolfish hunger was
somewhat appeased, they began to talk. The conversation, as might be
expected, turned on the dead girl.

"Is it true," said a young shepherd, "is it true--though I cannot
understand it--that our young mistress had traffic with evil spirits?"

"Who, the young lady?" answered Dorosch, whose acquaintance the
philosopher had already made in the kibitka. "Yes, she was a regular
witch! I can swear that she was a witch!"

"Hold your tongue, Dorosch!" exclaimed another--the one who, during the
journey, had played the part of a consoler. "We have nothing to do with
that. May God be merciful to her! One ought not to talk of such things."

But Dorosch was not at all inclined to be silent; he had just visited
the wine-cellar with the steward on important business, and having
stooped two or three times over one or two casks, he had returned in a
very cheerful and loquacious mood.

"Why do you ask me to be silent?" he answered. "She has ridden on my own
shoulders, I swear she has."

"Say, uncle," asked the young shepherd, "are there signs by which to
recognise a sorceress?"

"No, there are not," answered Dorosch; "even if you knew the Psalter by
heart, you could not recognise one."

"Yes, Dorosch, it is possible; don't talk such nonsense," retorted the
former consoler. "It is not for nothing that God has given each some
special peculiarity; the learned maintain that every witch has a little
tail."

"Every old woman is a witch," said a grey-headed Cossack quite
seriously.

"Yes, you are a fine lot," retorted the old woman who entered at that
moment with a vessel full of fresh "galuchkis." "You are great fat
pigs!"

A self-satisfied smile played round the lips of the old Cossack whose
name was Javtuch, when he found that his remark had touched the old
woman on a tender point. The shepherd burst into such a deep and loud
explosion of laughter as if two oxen were lowing together.

This conversation excited in the philosopher a great curiosity, and a
wish to obtain more exact information regarding the colonel's daughter.
In order to lead the talk back to the subject, he turned to his next
neighbour and said, "I should like to know why all the people here think
that the young lady was a witch. Has she done harm to anyone, or killed
them by witchcraft?"

"Yes, there are reports of that kind," answered a man, whose face was as
flat as a shovel. "Who does not remember the huntsman Mikita, or
the----"

"What has the huntsman Mikita got to do with it?" asked the philosopher.

"Stop; I will tell you the story of Mikita," interrupted Dorosch.

"No, I will tell it," said the groom, "for he was my godfather."

"I will tell the story of Mikita," said Spirid.

"Yes, yes, Spirid shall tell it," exclaimed the whole company; and
Spirid began.

"You, Mr Philosopher Thomas, did not know Mikita. Ah! he was an
extraordinary man. He knew every dog as though he were his own father.
The present huntsman, Mikola, who sits three places away from me, is not
fit to hold a candle to him, though good enough in his way; but compared
to Mikita, he is a mere milksop."

"You tell the tale splendidly," exclaimed Dorosch, and nodded as a sign
of approval.

Spirid continued.

"He saw a hare in the field quicker than you can take a pinch of snuff.
He only needed to whistle 'Come here, Rasboy! Come here, Bosdraja!' and
flew away on his horse like the wind, so that you could not say whether
he went quicker than the dog or the dog than he. He could empty a quart
pot of brandy in the twinkling of an eye. Ah! he was a splendid
huntsman, only for some time he always had his eyes fixed on the young
lady. Either he had fallen in love with her or she had bewitched him--in
short, he went to the dogs. He became a regular old woman; yes, he
became the devil knows what--it is not fitting to relate it."

"Very good," remarked Dorosch.

"If the young lady only looked at him, he let the reins slip out of his
hands, called Bravko instead of Rasboy, stumbled, and made all kinds of
mistakes. One day when he was currycombing a horse, the young lady came
to him in the stable. 'Listen, Mikita,' she said. 'I should like for
once to set my foot on you.' And he, the booby, was quite delighted, and
answered, 'Don't only set your foot there, but sit on me altogether.'
The young lady lifted her white little foot, and as soon as he saw it,
his delight robbed him of his senses. He bowed his neck, the idiot, took
her feet in both hands, and began to trot about like a horse all over
the place. Whither they went he could not say; he returned more dead
than alive, and from that time he wasted away and became as dry as a
chip of wood. At last someone coming into the stable one day found
instead of him only a handful of ashes and an empty jug; he had burned
completely out. But it must be said he was a huntsman such as the world
cannot match."

When Spirid had ended his tale, they all began to vie with one another
in praising the deceased huntsman.

"And have you heard the story of Cheptchicha?" asked Dorosch, turning to
Thomas.

"No."

"Ha! Ha! One sees they don't teach you much in your seminary. Well,
listen. We have here in our village a Cossack called Cheptoun, a fine
fellow. Sometimes indeed he amuses himself by stealing and lying without
any reason; but he is a fine fellow for all that. His house is not far
away from here. One evening, just about this time, Cheptoun and his wife
went to bed after they had finished their day's work. Since it was fine
weather, Cheptchicha went to sleep in the court-yard, and Cheptoun in
the house--no! I mean Cheptchicha went to sleep in the house on a bench
and Cheptoun outside----"

"No, Cheptchicha didn't go to sleep on a bench, but on the ground,"
interrupted the old woman who stood at the door.

Dorosch looked at her, then at the ground, then again at her, and said
after a pause, "If I tore your dress off your back before all these
people, it wouldn't look pretty."

The rebuke was effectual. The old woman was silent, and did not
interrupt again.

Dorosch continued.

"In the cradle which hung in the middle of the room lay a one-year-old
child. I do not know whether it was a boy or a girl. Cheptchicha had
lain down, and heard on the other side of the door a dog scratching and
howling loud enough to frighten anyone. She was afraid, for women are
such simple folk that if one puts out one's tongue at them behind the
door in the dark, their hearts sink into their boots. 'But,' she thought
to herself, 'I must give this cursed dog one on the snout to stop his
howling!' So she seized the poker and opened the door. But hardly had
she done so than the dog rushed between her legs straight to the cradle.
Then Cheptchicha saw that it was not a dog but the young lady; and if it
had only been the young lady as she knew her it wouldn't have mattered,
but she looked quite blue, and her eyes sparkled like fiery coals. She
seized the child, bit its throat, and began to suck its blood.
Cheptchicha shrieked, 'Ah! my darling child!' and rushed out of the
room. Then she saw that the house-door was shut and rushed up to the
attic and sat there, the stupid woman, trembling all over. Then the
young lady came after her and bit her too, poor fool! The next morning
Cheptoun carried his wife, all bitten and wounded, down from the attic,
and the next day she died. Such strange things happen in the world. One
may wear fine clothes, but that does not matter; a witch is and remains
a witch."

After telling his story, Dorosch looked around him with a complacent
air, and cleaned out his pipe with his little finger in order to fill it
again. The story of the witch had made a deep impression on all, and
each of them had something to say about her. One had seen her come to
the door of his house in the form of a hayrick; from others she had
stolen their caps or their pipes; she had cut off the hair-plaits of
many girls in the village, and drunk whole pints of the blood of others.

At last the whole company observed that they had gossiped over their
time, for it was already night. All looked for a sleeping place--some in
the kitchen and others in the barn or the court-yard.

"Now, Mr Thomas, it is time that we go to the dead," said the
grey-headed Cossack, turning to the philosopher. All four--Spirid,
Dorosch, the old Cossack, and the philosopher--betook themselves to the
church, keeping off with their whips the wild dogs who roamed about the
roads in great numbers and bit the sticks of passers-by in sheer malice.

Although the philosopher had seized the opportunity of fortifying
himself beforehand with a stiff glass of brandy, yet he felt a certain
secret fear which increased as he approached the church, which was lit
up within. The strange tales he had heard had made a deep impression on
his imagination. They had passed the thick hedges and trees, and the
country became more open. At last they reached the small enclosure round
the church; behind it there were no more trees, but a huge, empty plain
dimly visible in the darkness. The three Cossacks ascended the steep
steps with Thomas, and entered the church. Here they left the
philosopher, expressing their hope that he would successfully accomplish
his duties, and locked him in as their master had ordered.

He was left alone. At first he yawned, then he stretched himself, blew
on both hands, and finally looked round him. In the middle of the church
stood the black bier; before the dark pictures of saints burned the
candles, whose light only illuminated the icons, and cast a faint
glimmer into the body of the church; all the corners were in complete
darkness. The lofty icons seemed to be of considerable age; only a
little of the original gilt remained on their broken traceries; the
faces of the saints had become quite black and looked uncanny.

Once more the philosopher cast a glance around him. "Bother it!" said he
to himself. "What is there to be afraid about? No living creature can
get in, and as for the dead and those who come from the 'other side,' I
can protect myself with such effectual prayers that they cannot touch me
with the tips of their fingers. There is nothing to fear," he repeated,
swinging his arms. "Let us begin the prayers!"

As he approached one of the side-aisles, he noticed two packets of
candles which had been placed there.

"That is fine," he thought. "I must illuminate the whole church, till it
is as bright as day. What a pity that one cannot smoke in it."

He began to light the candles on all the wall-brackets and all the
candelabra, as well as those already burning before the holy pictures;
soon the whole church was brilliantly lit up. Only the darkness in the
roof above seemed still denser by contrast, and the faces of the saints
peering out of the frames looked as unearthly as before. He approached
the bier, looked nervously at the face of the dead girl, could not help
shuddering slightly, and involuntarily closed his eyes. What terrible
and extraordinary beauty!

He turned away and tried to go to one side, but the strange curiosity
and peculiar fascination which men feel in moments of fear, compelled
him to look again and again, though with a similar shudder. And in truth
there was something terrible about the beauty of the dead girl. Perhaps
she would not have inspired so much fear had she been less beautiful;
but there was nothing ghastly or deathlike in the face, which wore
rather an expression of life, and it seemed to the philosopher as though
she were watching him from under her closed eyelids. He even thought he
saw a tear roll from under the eyelash of her right eye, but when it was
half-way down her cheek, he saw that it was a drop of blood.

He quickly went into one of the stalls, opened his book, and began to
read the prayers in a very loud voice in order to keep up his courage.
His deep voice sounded strange to himself in the grave-like silence; it
aroused no echo in the silent and desolate wooden walls of the church.

"What is there to be afraid of?" he thought to himself. "She will not
rise from her bier, since she fears God's word. She will remain quietly
resting. Yes, and what sort of a Cossack should I be, if I were afraid?
The fact is, I have drunk a little too much--that is why I feel so
queer. Let me take a pinch of snuff. It is really excellent--first-rate!"

At the same time he cast a furtive glance over the pages of the
prayer-book towards the bier, and involuntarily he said to himself,
"There! See! She is getting up! Her head is already above the edge of
the coffin!"

But a death-like silence prevailed; the coffin was motionless, and all
the candles shone steadily. It was an awe-inspiring sight, this church
lit up at midnight, with the corpse in the midst, and no living soul
near but one. The philosopher began to sing in various keys in order to
stifle his fears, but every moment he glanced across at the coffin, and
involuntarily the question came to his lips, "Suppose she rose up after
all?"

But the coffin did not move. Nowhere was there the slightest sound nor
stir. Not even did a cricket chirp in any corner. There was nothing
audible but the slight sputtering of some distant candle, or the faint
fall of a drop of wax.

"Suppose she rose up after all?"

He raised his head. Then he looked round him wildly and rubbed his eyes.
Yes, she was no longer lying in the coffin, but sitting upright. He
turned away his eyes, but at once looked again, terrified, at the
coffin. She stood up; then she walked with closed eyes through the
church, stretching out her arms as though she wanted to seize someone.

She now came straight towards him. Full of alarm, he traced with his
finger a circle round himself; then in a loud voice he began to recite
the prayers and formulas of exorcism which he had learnt from a monk who
had often seen witches and evil spirits.

She had almost reached the edge of the circle which he had traced; but
it was evident that she had not the power to enter it. Her face wore a
bluish tint like that of one who has been several days dead.

Thomas had not the courage to look at her, so terrible was her
appearance; her teeth chattered and she opened her dead eyes, but as in
her rage she saw nothing, she turned in another direction and felt with
outstretched arms among the pillars and corners of the church in the
hope of seizing him.

At last she stood still, made a threatening gesture, and then lay down
again in the coffin.

The philosopher could not recover his self-possession, and kept on
gazing anxiously at it. Suddenly it rose from its place and began
hurtling about the church with a whizzing sound. At one time it was
almost directly over his head; but the philosopher observed that it
could not pass over the area of his charmed circle, so he kept on
repeating his formulas of exorcism. The coffin now fell with a crash in
the middle of the church, and remained lying there motionless. The
corpse rose again; it had now a greenish-blue colour, but at the same
moment the distant crowing of a cock was audible, and it lay down again.

The philosopher's heart beat violently, and the perspiration poured in
streams from his face; but heartened by the crowing of the cock, he
rapidly repeated the prayers.

As the first light of dawn looked through the windows, there came a
deacon and the grey-haired Javtuk, who acted as sacristan, in order to
release him. When he had reached the house, he could not sleep for a
long time; but at last weariness overpowered him, and he slept till
noon. When he awoke, his experiences of the night appeared to him like a
dream. He was given a quart of brandy to strengthen him.

At table he was again talkative and ate a fairly large sucking pig
almost without assistance. But none the less he resolved to say nothing
of what he had seen, and to all curious questions only returned the
answer, "Yes, some wonderful things happened."

The philosopher was one of those men who, when they have had a good
meal, are uncommonly amiable. He lay down on a bench, with his pipe in
his mouth, looked blandly at all, and expectorated every minute.

But as the evening approached, he became more and more pensive. About
supper-time nearly the whole company had assembled in order to play
"krapli." This is a kind of game of skittles, in which, instead of
bowls, long staves are used, and the winner has the right to ride on the
back of his opponent. It provided the spectators with much amusement;
sometimes the groom, a huge man, would clamber on the back of the
swineherd, who was slim and short and shrunken; another time the groom
would present his own back, while Dorosch sprang on it shouting, "What a
regular ox!" Those of the company who were more staid sat by the
threshold of the kitchen. They looked uncommonly serious, smoked their
pipes, and did not even smile when the younger ones went into fits of
laughter over some joke of the groom or Spirid.

Thomas vainly attempted to take part in the game; a gloomy thought was
firmly fixed like a nail in his head. In spite of his desperate efforts
to appear cheerful after supper, fear had overmastered his whole being,
and it increased with the growing darkness.

"Now it is time for us to go, Mr Student!" said the grey-haired Cossack,
and stood up with Dorosch. "Let us betake ourselves to our work."

Thomas was conducted to the church in the same way as on the previous
evening; again he was left alone, and the door was bolted behind him.

As soon as he found himself alone, he began to feel in the grip of his
fears. He again saw the dark pictures of the saints in their gilt
frames, and the black coffin, which stood menacing and silent in the
middle of the church.

"Never mind!" he said to himself. "I am over the first shock. The first
time I was frightened, but I am not so at all now--no, not at all!"

He quickly went into a stall, drew a circle round him with his finger,
uttered some prayers and formulas for exorcism, and then began to read
the prayers for the dead in a loud voice and with the fixed resolution
not to look up from the book nor take notice of anything.

He did so for an hour, and began to grow a little tired; he cleared his
throat and drew his snuff-box out of his pocket, but before he had taken
a pinch he looked nervously towards the coffin.

A sudden chill shot through him. The witch was already standing before
him on the edge of the circle, and had fastened her green eyes upon him.
He shuddered, looked down at the book, and began to read his prayers and
exorcisms aloud. Yet all the while he was aware how her teeth chattered,
and how she stretched out her arms to seize him. But when he cast a
hasty glance towards her, he saw that she was not looking in his
direction, and it was clear that she could not see him.

Then she began to murmur in an undertone, and terrible words escaped her
lips--words that sounded like the bubbling of boiling pitch. The
philosopher did not know their meaning, but he knew that they signified
something terrible, and were intended to counteract his exorcisms.

After she had spoken, a stormy wind arose in the church, and there was a
noise like the rushing of many birds. He heard the noise of their wings
and claws as they flapped against and scratched at the iron bars of the
church windows. There were also violent blows on the church door, as if
someone were trying to break it in pieces.

The philosopher's heart beat violently; he did not dare to look up, but
continued to read the prayers without a pause. At last there was heard
in the distance the shrill sound of a cock's crow. The exhausted
philosopher stopped and gave a great sigh of relief.

Those who came to release him found him more dead than alive; he had
leant his back against the wall, and stood motionless, regarding them
without any expression in his eyes. They were obliged almost to carry
him to the house; he then shook himself, asked for and drank a quart of
brandy. He passed his hand through his hair and said, "There are all
sorts of horrors in the world, and such dreadful things happen that----"
Here he made a gesture as though to ward off something. All who heard
him bent their heads forward in curiosity. Even a small boy, who ran on
everyone's errands, stood by with his mouth wide open.

Just then a young woman in a close-fitting dress passed by. She was the
old cook's assistant, and very coquettish; she always stuck something in
her bodice by way of ornament, a ribbon or a flower, or even a piece of
paper if she could find nothing else.

"Good day, Thomas," she said, as she saw the philosopher. "Dear me! what
has happened to you?" she exclaimed, striking her hands together.

"Well, what is it, you silly creature?"

"Good heavens! You have grown quite grey!"

"Yes, so he has!" said Spirid, regarding him more closely. "You have
grown as grey as our old Javtuk."

When the philosopher heard that, he hastened into the kitchen, where he
had noticed on the wall a dirty, three-cornered piece of looking-glass.
In front of it hung some forget-me-nots, evergreens, and a small
garland--a proof that it was the toilette-glass of the young coquette.
With alarm he saw that it actually was as they had said--his hair was
quite grizzled.

He sank into a reverie; at last he said to himself, "I will go to the
colonel, tell him all, and declare that I will read no more prayers. He
must send me back at once to Kieff." With this intention he turned
towards the door-steps of the colonel's house.

The colonel was sitting motionless in his room; his face displayed the
same hopeless grief which Thomas had observed on it on his first
arrival, only the hollows in his cheeks had deepened. It was obvious
that he took very little or no food. A strange paleness made him look
almost as though made of marble.

"Good day," he said as he observed Thomas standing, cap in hand, at the
door. "Well, how are you getting on? All right?"

"Yes, sir, all right! Such hellish things are going on, that one would
like to rush away as far as one's feet can carry one."

"How so?"

"Your daughter, sir.... When one considers the matter, she is, of
course, of noble descent--no one can dispute that; but don't be angry,
and may God grant her eternal rest!"

"Very well! What about her?"

"She is in league with the devil. She inspires one with such dread that
all prayers are useless."

"Pray! Pray! It was not for nothing that she sent for you. My dove was
troubled about her salvation, and wished to expel all evil influences by
means of prayer."

"I swear, gracious sir, it is beyond my power."

"Pray! Pray!" continued the colonel in the same persuasive tone. "There
is only one night more; you are doing a Christian work, and I will
reward you richly."

"However great your rewards may be, I will not read the prayers any
more, sir," said Thomas in a tone of decision.

"Listen, philosopher!" said the colonel with a menacing air. "I will not
allow any objections. In your seminary you may act as you like, but here
it won't do. If I have you knouted, it will be somewhat different to the
rector's canings. Do you know what a strong 'kantchuk'(2) is?"

  (2) Small scourge.

"Of course I do," said the philosopher in a low voice; "a number of them
together are insupportable."

"Yes, I think so too. But you don't know yet how hot my fellows can make
it," replied the colonel threateningly. He sprang up, and his face
assumed a fierce, despotic expression, betraying the savagery of his
nature, which had been only temporarily modified by grief. "After the
first flogging they pour on brandy and then repeat it. Go away and
finish your work. If you don't obey, you won't be able to stand again,
and if you do, you will get a thousand ducats."

"That is a devil of a fellow," thought the philosopher to himself, and
went out. "One can't trifle with him. But wait a little, my friend; I
will escape you so cleverly, that even your hounds can't find me!"

He determined, under any circumstances, to run away, and only waited
till the hour after dinner arrived, when all the servants were
accustomed to take a nap on the hay in the barn, and to snore and puff
so loudly that it sounded as if machinery had been set up there. At last
the time came. Even Javtuch stretched himself out in the sun and closed
his eyes. Tremblingly, and on tiptoe, the philosopher stole softly into
the garden, whence he thought he could escape more easily into the open
country. This garden was generally so choked up with weeds that it
seemed admirably adapted for such an attempt. With the exception of a
single path used by the people of the house, the whole of it was covered
with cherry-trees, elder-bushes, and tall heath-thistles with fibrous
red buds. All these trees and bushes had been thickly overgrown with
ivy, which formed a kind of roof. Its tendrils reached to the hedge and
fell down on the other side in snake-like curves among the small, wild
field-flowers. Behind the hedge which bordered the garden was a dense
mass of wild heather, in which it did not seem probable that anyone
would care to venture himself, and the strong, stubborn stems of which
seemed likely to baffle any attempt to cut them.

As the philosopher was about to climb over the hedge, his teeth
chattered, and his heart beat so violently that he felt frightened at
it. The skirts of his long cloak seemed to cling to the ground as though
they had been fastened to it by pegs. When he had actually got over the
hedge he seemed to hear a shrill voice crying behind him "Whither?
Whither?"

He jumped into the heather and began to run, stumbling over old roots
and treading on unfortunate moles. When he had emerged from the heather
he saw that he still had a wide field to cross, behind which was a
thick, thorny underwood. This, according to his calculation, must
stretch as far as the road leading to Kieff, and if he reached it he
would be safe. Accordingly he ran over the field and plunged into the
thorny copse. Every sharp thorn he encountered tore a fragment from his
coat. Then he reached a small open space; in the centre of it stood a
willow, whose branches hung down to the earth, and close by flowed a
clear spring bright as silver. The first thing the philosopher did was
to lie down and drink eagerly, for he was intolerably thirsty.

"Splendid water!" he said, wiping his mouth. "This is a good place to
rest in."

"No, better run farther; perhaps we are being followed," said a voice
immediately behind him.

Thomas started and turned; before him stood Javtuch.

"This devil of a Javtuch!" he thought. "I should like to seize him by
the feet and smash his hang-dog face against the trunk of a tree."

"Why did you go round such a long way?" continued Javtuch. "You had much
better have chosen the path by which I came; it leads directly by the
stable. Besides, it is a pity about your coat. Such splendid cloth! How
much did it cost an ell? Well, we have had a long enough walk; it is
time to go home."

The philosopher followed Javtuch in a very depressed state.

"Now the accursed witch will attack me in earnest," he thought. "But
what have I really to fear? Am I not a Cossack? I have read the prayers
for two nights already; with God's help I will get through the third
night also. It is plain that the witch must have a terrible load of
guilt upon her, else the evil one would not help her so much."

Feeling somewhat encouraged by these reflections, he returned to the
court-yard and asked Dorosch, who sometimes, by the steward's
permission, had access to the wine-cellar, to fetch him a small bottle
of brandy. The two friends sat down before a barn and drank a pretty
large one. Suddenly the philosopher jumped up and said, "I want
musicians! Bring some musicians!"

But without waiting for them he began to dance the "tropak" in the
court-yard. He danced till tea-time, and the servants, who, as is usual
in such cases, had formed a small circle round him, grew at last tired
of watching him, and went away saying, "By heavens, the man can dance!"

Finally the philosopher lay down in the place where he had been dancing,
and fell asleep. It was necessary to pour a bucket of cold water on his
head to wake him up for supper. At the meal he enlarged on the topic of
what a Cossack ought to be, and how he should not be afraid of anything
in the world.

"It is time," said Javtuch; "let us go."

"I wish I could put a lighted match to your tongue," thought the
philosopher; then he stood up and said, "Let us go."

On their way to the church, the philosopher kept looking round him on
all sides, and tried to start a conversation with his companions; but
both Javtuch and Dorosch remained silent. It was a weird night. In the
distance wolves howled continually, and even the barking of the dogs had
something unearthly about it.

"That doesn't sound like wolves howling, but something else," remarked
Dorosch.

Javtuch still kept silence, and the philosopher did not know what answer
to make.

They reached the church and walked over the old wooden planks, whose
rotten condition showed how little the lord of the manor cared about God
and his soul. Javtuch and Dorosch left the philosopher alone, as on the
previous evenings.

There was still the same atmosphere of menacing silence in the church,
in the centre of which stood the coffin with the terrible witch inside
it.

"I am not afraid, by heavens, I am not afraid!" he said; and after
drawing a circle round himself as before, he began to read the prayers
and exorcisms.

An oppressive silence prevailed; the flickering candles filled the
church with their clear light. The philosopher turned one page after
another, and noticed that he was not reading what was in the book. Full
of alarm, he crossed himself and began to sing a hymn. This calmed him
somewhat, and he resumed his reading, turning the pages rapidly as he
did so.

Suddenly in the midst of the sepulchral silence the iron lid of the
coffin sprang open with a jarring noise, and the dead witch stood up.
She was this time still more terrible in aspect than at first. Her teeth
chattered loudly and her lips, through which poured a stream of dreadful
curses, moved convulsively. A whirlwind arose in the church; the icons
of the saints fell on the ground, together with the broken window-panes.
The door was wrenched from its hinges, and a huge mass of monstrous
creatures rushed into the church, which became filled with the noise of
beating wings and scratching claws. All these creatures flew and crept
about, seeking for the philosopher, from whose brain the last fumes of
intoxication had vanished. He crossed himself ceaselessly and uttered
prayer after prayer, hearing all the time the whole unclean swarm
rustling about him, and brushing him with the tips of their wings. He
had not the courage to look at them; he only saw one uncouth monster
standing by the wall, with long, shaggy hair and two flaming eyes. Over
him something hung in the air which looked like a gigantic bladder
covered with countless crabs' claws and scorpions' stings, and with
black clods of earth hanging from it. All these monsters stared about
seeking him, but they could not find him, since he was protected by his
sacred circle.

"Bring the Viy(3)! Bring the Viy!" cried the witch.

  (3) The king of the gnomes.

A sudden silence followed; the howling of wolves was heard in the
distance, and soon heavy footsteps resounded through the church. Thomas
looked up furtively and saw that an ungainly human figure with crooked
legs was being led into the church. He was quite covered with black
soil, and his hands and feet resembled knotted roots. He trod heavily
and stumbled at every step. His eyelids were of enormous length. With
terror, Thomas saw that his face was of iron. They led him in by the
arms and placed him near Thomas's circle.

"Raise my eyelids! I can't see anything!" said the Viy in a dull, hollow
voice, and they all hastened to help in doing so.

"Don't look!" an inner voice warned the philosopher; but he could not
restrain from looking.

"There he is!" exclaimed the Viy, pointing an iron finger at him; and
all the monsters rushed on him at once.

Struck dumb with terror, he sank to the ground and died.

At that moment there sounded a cock's crow for the second time; the
earth-spirits had not heard the first one. In alarm they hurried to the
windows and the door to get out as quickly as possible. But it was too
late; they all remained hanging as though fastened to the door and the
windows.

When the priest came he stood amazed at such a desecration of God's
house, and did not venture to read prayers there. The church remained
standing as it was, with the monsters hanging on the windows and the
door. Gradually it became overgrown with creepers, bushes, and wild
heather, and no one can discover it now.

                   *       *       *       *       *

When the report of this event reached Kieff, and the theologian Khalava
heard what a fate had overtaken the philosopher Thomas, he sank for a
whole hour into deep reflection. He had greatly altered of late; after
finishing his studies he had become bell-ringer of one of the chief
churches in the city, and he always appeared with a bruised nose,
because the belfry staircase was in a ruinous condition.

"Have you heard what has happened to Thomas?" said Tiberius Gorobetz,
who had become a philosopher and now wore a moustache.

"Yes; God had appointed it so," answered the bell-ringer. "Let us go to
the ale-house; we will drink a glass to his memory."

The young philosopher, who, with the enthusiasm of a novice, had made
such full use of his privileges as a student that his breeches and coat
and even his cap reeked of brandy and tobacco, agreed readily to the
proposal.

"He was a fine fellow, Thomas," said the bell-ringer as the limping
innkeeper set the third jug of beer before him. "A splendid fellow! And
lost his life for nothing!"

"I know why he perished," said Gorobetz; "because he was afraid. If he
had not feared her, the witch could have done nothing to him. One ought
to cross oneself incessantly and spit exactly on her tail, and then not
the least harm can happen. I know all about it, for here, in Kieff, all
the old women in the market-place are witches."

The bell-ringer nodded assent. But being aware that he could not say any
more, he got up cautiously and went out, swaying to the right and left
in order to find a hiding-place in the thick steppe grass outside the
town. At the same time, in accordance with his old habits, he did not
forget to steal an old boot-sole which lay on the ale-house bench.

THE END


THE NORTHUMBERLAND PRESS, THORNTON STREET, NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE



  [ Transcriber's Note:

    The following is a list of corrections made to the original.
    The first line is the original line, the second the corrected one.

  31 (N.S) 1809, died at Moscow, March 4 (N.S.), 1852. A Russian
  31 (N.S.), 1809, died at Moscow, March 4 (N.S.), 1852. A Russian

  Just as the observation of animalculæ under the miscroscope fatigues the
  Just as the observation of animalculæ under the microscope fatigues the

  preventive against hæmorroids."
  preventive against hæmorrhoids."

  a mirror and percieved a nose. He quickly put his hand to it; it was
  a mirror and perceived a nose. He quickly put his hand to it; it was

  that people regard them as separate kingdoms. I advice everyone urgently
  that people regard them as separate kingdoms. I advise everyone urgently

  council-hall to give the police orders to prevent the moon sitting on
  council-hall to give the police orders to prevent the earth sitting on

  the earth.
  the moon.

  one of those who had been drowned, anl so escaped the chastisement she
  one of those who had been drowned, and so escaped the chastisement she

  when you locked me up in the dark room. It is a mercy I did not break my
  when you locked me up in the dark room? It is a mercy I did not break my

  himself. "The house is bran-new, and looks as though it had only just
  himself. "The house is brand-new, and looks as though it had only just

  ]





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