Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Russian Gentleman
Author: Aksakov, S. T. (Sergei Timofeevich)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Russian Gentleman" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org)



Note: Images of the original pages are available through
      Internet Archive. See
      http://www.archive.org/details/russiangentleman00aksauoft


      
      
      
A RUSSIAN GENTLEMAN

————

_UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME_

1 Vol. Demy 8vo. 7_s._ 6_d._ net
A RUSSIAN SCHOOLBOY

1 Vol. Demy 8vo. 10_s._ 6_d._ net
YEARS OF CHILDHOOD

BY
SERGE AKSAKOFF

Translated from the Russian by
J. D. DUFF
FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE

LONDON: EDWARD ARNOLD

————

A RUSSIAN GENTLEMAN

by

SERGE AKSAKOFF

Translated from the Russian by J. D. Duff

Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge

SECOND IMPRESSION



London
Edward Arnold
1917

All rights reserved



————

TO J. F. D.

————



TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE


Serge Aksakoff,¹ the author of this Russian classic, was born at Ufa, in
the district of Orenburg, on September 20, 1791. His father held some
office in the law-court of the town, and his grandfather lived in the
country as the owner of large estates, to which Aksakoff ultimately
succeeded. His grandfather had migrated about 1760 from Simbirsk to Ufa,
where the population consisted mainly of Tatars and a number of Finnish
tribes—Mordvinians, Choovashes, and others.

   ¹ The name is pronounced Aksākoff, not Aksăkoff, and his birthplace
     is called by Russians _Oo-fá_, not _Yéw-fa_.

Aksakoff was educated at Kazan, and entered the Civil Service in 1808.
After serving in many different capacities—he was censor of the Press at
Moscow for some years—he retired in 1839 and devoted himself exclusively
to literature. He married in 1816; and his two sons, Constantine and
Ivan, both played a conspicuous part in the public life of Russia. He
died at Moscow, after a long and painful illness, on April 30, 1859.

His high and secure place among Russian writers Aksakoff owes to three
works—his _Years of Childhood_ and _Recollections_, which are
autobiography, and his _Family History_, which is here translated under
the title of _A Russian Gentleman_. This is his most famous work: his
portrait of his grandfather is his masterpiece, and his descriptions of
his parents’ courtship and marriage are as vivid and minute as his
pictures of his own early childhood.

He began to write this book soon after his retirement from the public
service. Portions of it were published in a Moscow magazine in 1846; and
the whole work appeared, with the addition of a short Epilogue, in 1856.
He published _Recollections_ in the same volume; and _Years of
Childhood_—which should have preceded _Recollections_—followed in 1858,
the last year of his life.

_A Russian Gentleman_ seems a suitable title for this book, because the
whole scene, in which a multitude of characters appear, is entirely
dominated and permeated by the tremendous personality of Aksakoff’s
grandfather, Stepan Mihailovitch. Plain and rough in his appearance and
habits, but proud of his long descent; hardly able to read or write, but
full of natural intelligence; capable of furious anger and extreme
violence in his anger, but equally capable of steadfast and even
chivalrous affection; a born leader of men and the very incarnation of
truth, honour, and honesty—Stepan Mihailovitch is more like a Homeric
hero than a man of modern times.

The reader, when he reflects that Aksakoff’s present narrative ends with
the day of his own birth, will be inclined to think that the author must
have had a lively imagination. I therefore translate the sentence with
which Skabichevsky, a critic of reputation, begins his review of
Aksakoff’s work:—

"Aksakoff’s books are remarkable, first of all, on this ground: you will
find in them no trace of creative or inventive power."

I suppose myself that he derived his information chiefly from his
mother; but there are certainly scenes in the book which he cannot have
owed to this source.

This translation has been made from the Moscow edition of 1900. I should
say here: (1) that I have abridged some of the topographical detail at
the beginning of the book; (2) that I have dealt freely with the Notes
which Aksakoff added, sometimes promoting them to the text, and
sometimes omitting them wholly or in part. I know of two previous
translations. A German translation, _Russische Familienchronik_, by
Sergius Raczynski, was published at Leipzig in 1858. This seems to me a
good translation, and I have found it useful in some difficulties. An
English translation "by a Russian Lady" was published at Calcutta in
1871; and there is a copy in the British Museum. I have not seen this;
but I have heard that it is inadequate, and the first few sentences,
which were copied out for me, seem to bear this out.

I have completed a translation of Aksakoff’s remaining book of
Memoirs—his _Recollections_ of school and college; and I hope that it
may be published after a short interval.

    J. D. DUFF.

    _Cambridge._
    _Jan. 11, 1917._

                                  ————



CONTENTS


    TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE
    FRAGMENT I: STEPAN MIHAILOVITCH BAGROFF
      1. _The Migration_
      2. _The Government of Orenburg_
      3. _Fresh Scenes._
      4. _My Grandfather, on one of his Good Days_
    FRAGMENT II: MIHAIL MAXIMOVITCH KUROLYESSOFF
    FRAGMENT III: THE MARRIAGE OF THE YOUNG BAGROFF
    FRAGMENT IV: THE YOUNG COUPLE AT BAGROVO
    FRAGMENT V: LIFE AT UFA

                                  ————

                          A RUSSIAN GENTLEMAN



FRAGMENT I: STEPAN MIHAILOVITCH BAGROFF



1. _The Migration_


When my grandfather lived in the Government of Simbirsk, on the
ancestral estate granted to his forefathers by the Tsars of Muscovy, he
felt cramped and confined. Not that there was really want of room; for
he had arable land and pasture, timber and other necessaries in
abundance; but the trouble was, that the estate which his
great-grandfather had held in absolute possession, had ceased to belong
to one owner. This happened quite simply: for three successive
generations the family consisted of one son and several daughters; and,
when some of these daughters were married, their portions took the shape
of a certain number of serfs and a certain amount of land. Though their
shares were not large, yet, as the land had never been properly
surveyed, at this time four intruders asserted their right to share in
the management of it. To my grandfather, life under these conditions was
intolerable: there was no patience in his passionate temperament; he
loved plain dealing and hated complications and wrangles with his kith
and kin.

For some time past, he had heard frequent reports about the district of
Ufa—how there was land there without limit for the plough and for stock,
with an indescribable abundance of game and fish and all the fruit of
the earth; and how easy it was to acquire whole tracts of land for a
very trifling sum of money. If tales were true, you had only to invite a
dozen of the native Bashkir chiefs in certain districts to partake of
your hospitality; you provided two or three fat sheep, for them to kill
and dress in their own fashion; you produced a bucket of whisky, with
several buckets of strong fermented Bashkir mead and a barrel of
home-made country beer—which proves, by the way, that even in old days
the Bashkirs were not strict Mahometans—and the rest was as simple as A
B C. It was said, indeed, that an entertainment of this kind might last
a week or even a fortnight: it was impossible for Bashkirs to do
business in a hurry, and every day it was necessary to ask the question,
"Well, good friend, is it time now to discuss my business?" The guests
had been eating and drinking, without exaggeration, all day and all
night; but, if they were not completely satisfied with the
entertainment, if they had not had enough of their monotonous singing
and playing on the pipe, and their singular dances in which they stood
up or crouched down on the same spot of ground, then the greatest of the
chiefs, clicking his tongue and wagging his head, would answer with much
dignity and without looking his questioner in the face: "The time has
not come; bring us another sheep!" The sheep was forthcoming, as a
matter of course, with fresh supplies of beer and spirits; and the tipsy
Bashkirs began again to sing and dance, dropping off to sleep wherever
they felt inclined. But everything in the world has an end; and a day
came at last when the chief would look his host straight in the face and
say: "We are obliged to you, _batyushka_,² ever so much obliged! And
now, what is it that you want?" The rest of the transaction followed a
regular fashion. The customer began with the shrewdness native to your
true Russian: he assured the Bashkir that he did not want anything at
all; but, having heard that the Bashkirs were exceedingly kind people,
he had come to Ufa on purpose to form a friendship with them, and so on.
Then the conversation would somehow come round to the vast extent of the
Bashkir territory and the unsatisfactory ways of the present tenants,
who might pay their rent for a year or two and then pay no more and yet
continue to live on the land, as if they were its rightful owners; it
was rash to evict them, and a lawsuit became unavoidable. These remarks,
which were true enough to the facts, were followed up by an obliging
offer to relieve the kind Bashkirs of some part of the land which was
such a burden to them; and in the end whole districts were bought and
sold for a mere song. The bargain was clinched by a legal document, but
the amount of land was never stated in it, and could not be, as it had
never been surveyed. As a rule, the boundaries were settled by landmarks
of this kind: "from the mouth of such and such a stream as far as the
dead beech-tree on the wolf-track, and from the dead beech-tree in a
bee-line to the watershed, and from the watershed to the fox-earths, and
from the fox-earths to the hollow tree at Soltamratka," and so on. So
precise and permanent were the boundaries enclosing ten or twenty or
thirty thousand _dessyatines_³ of land! And the price of all this might
be about one hundred _roubles_⁴ and presents worth another hundred, not
including the cost of the entertainments.

   ² "Father," a title of respect or affection.

   ³ 100 _dessyatines_ = 270 acres.

   ⁴ A _rouble_ is worth about 2_s._

Stories of this kind had a great attraction for my grandfather. As a man
of strict integrity, he disapproved of the deception practised on the
simple Bashkirs; but he considered that the harm lay, not in the
business itself, but in the method of transacting it, and believed that
it was possible to deal fairly and yet to buy a great stretch of land at
a low price. In that case he could migrate with his family and transfer
half of his serfs to the new estate; and thus he would secure the main
object of this design. For the fact was, that for some time past he had
been so much worried by unending disputes over the management of the
land—disputes between himself and the relations who owned a small part
of it—that his desire to leave the place where his ancestors had lived
and he himself was born, had become a fixed idea. There was no other
means of securing a quiet life; and to him, now that his youth was past,
a quiet life seemed more desirable than anything else.

So he scraped together several thousand _roubles_, and said good-bye to
his wife, whom he called Arisha when he was in a good humour and Arina
when he was not; he kissed his children and gave them his blessing—his
four young daughters and the infant son who was the single scion and
sole hope of an ancient and noble family. The daughters he thought of no
importance: "What’s the good of them? They look out of the house, not
in; if their name is Bagroff⁵ to-day, it may be anything on earth
to-morrow; my hopes rest entirely on my boy, Alexyéi"—such were my
grandfather’s parting words, when he started to cross the Volga on his
way to the district of Ufa.

   ⁵ Bagroff is a pseudonym for Aksakoff.

But perhaps I had better begin by telling you what sort of a man my
grandfather was.

Stepan Mihailovitch Bagroff—this was his name—was under the middle
height; but his prominent chest, uncommonly broad shoulders, sinewy
arms, and wiry muscular frame, gave proof of his extraordinary
strength. When it happened, in the rough-and-tumble amusements of
young men, that a number of his brother-officers fastened on him at
once, he would hurl them from him, as a sturdy oak hurls off the
rain-drops, when its branches rock in the breeze after a shower. He
had fair hair and regular features; his eyes were large and dark-blue,
quick to light up with anger but friendly and kind in his hours of
composure; his eyebrows were thick and the lines of his mouth pleasant
to look at. The general expression of his features was singularly
frank and open: no one could help trusting him; his word or his
promise was better than any bond, and more sacred than any document
guaranteed by Church or State. His natural intelligence was clear and
strong. All landowners of that time were ignorant men, and he had
received no sort of education; indeed he could hardly read and write
his native language. But, while serving in the Army, and before he was
promoted from the ranks, he had mastered the elementary rules of
arithmetic and the use of the reckoning-board—acquirements of which he
liked to speak even when he was an old man. It is probable that his
period of service was not long; for he was only quarter-master of the
regiment when he retired. But in those days even nobles served for
long in the ranks or as non-commissioned officers, unless indeed they
passed through this stage in their cradles, first enrolled as
sergeants in the Guards and then making a sudden appearance as
captains in line regiments. Of the career of Stepan Mihailovitch in
the Army I know little; but I have been told that he was often
employed in the capture of the highwaymen who infested the Volga, and
always showed good sense in the formation of his plans and reckless
courage in their execution; that the outlaws knew him well by sight
and feared him like fire. On retiring from the Army, he lived for some
years on his hereditary estate of Bagrovo⁶ and became very skilful in
the management of land. It was not his way to be present from morning
to night where his labourers were at work, nor did he stand like a
sentry over the grain, when it was coming in and going out; but, when
he was on the spot, he looked to some purpose, and, if he noticed
anything amiss, especially any attempt to deceive him, he never failed
to visit the offender with a summary form of punishment which may
rouse the displeasure of my readers. But my grandfather, while acting
in accordance with the spirit of his age, reasoned in a fashion of his
own. In his view, to punish a peasant by fines or by forced labour on
the estate made the man less substantial and therefore less useful to
his owner; and to separate him from his family and banish him to a
distant estate was even worse, for a man deprived of family ties was
sure to go downhill. But to have recourse to the police was simply out
of the question; that would have been considered the depth of disgrace
and shame; every voice in the village would have been raised to mourn
for the offender as if he were dead, and he would have considered
himself as disgraced and ruined beyond redemption. And it must be said
for my grandfather, that he was never severe except when his anger was
hot; when the fit had passed away, the offence was forgotten.
Advantage was often taken of this: sometimes the offender had time to
hide, and the storm passed by without hurting any one. Before long,
his people became so satisfactory that none of them gave him any cause
to lose his temper.

   ⁶ Bagrovo is a pseudonym for Aksakovo.

After getting his estate into good order, my grandfather married; his
bride was Arina Vassilyevna Nyeklyoodoff, a young lady of little fortune
but, like himself, of ancient descent. This gives me an opportunity to
explain that his pedigree was my grandfather’s foible: he was moderately
well-to-do, owning only 180 serfs, but his descent, which he traced
back, by means of Heaven knows what documents, for six hundred years all
the way to a Varyag⁷ prince called Shimon, he valued far more than any
riches or office in the State. At one time he was much attracted by a
rich and beautiful girl, but he would not marry her, merely because her
great-grandfather was not a noble.

   ⁷ The earliest Russian chronicles report that the Russian empire was
     founded in the 8th century by certain foreign princes called
     _Varyags_. The nationality of these princes has been a subject of
     endless controversy, some historians maintaining that they were
     Norsemen, others denying it.

After this account of Stepan Mihailovitch, let us go back to the course
of the narrative.

My grandfather first crossed the Volga by the ferry near Simbirsk, and
then struck across the steppe on the further side, and travelled on till
he came to Sergievsk, which stands on a hill at the meeting of two
rivers and gives a name to the sulphur springs twelve _versts_⁸ from the
town. The deeper he plunged into the district of Ufa, the more he was
impressed by the spaciousness and fertility of that country. The first
place where he found trees growing was the district of Boogoorooslan;
and in the town of that name, perched on a high hill above the river, he
made a halt, wishing to make inquiries and learn more particulars of the
lands that were for sale. Of land belonging to the Bashkirs there was
little left in this district: some of the occupiers were tenants of the
Crown, whom the Government had settled on lands confiscated for
rebellion, though later they granted a general pardon and restored their
territory to the Bashkir owners; part of the land had been let to
tenants by the Bashkirs themselves; and part had been bought up by
migrating landowners. Using Boogoorooslan as a centre, my grandfather
made expeditions to the surrounding districts and spent some time in the
beautiful country watered by the Ik and the Dyoma.⁹ It is an enchanting
region; and even in his old age Stepan Mihailovitch often spoke with
enthusiasm of the first impression produced on him by the astonishing
richness of that soil. But he did not allow himself to be carried away.
Ascertaining on the spot that any purchaser of Bashkir land was quite
sure to be involved in endless disputes and lawsuits—for it was
impossible for the acquirer to make sure either of his own title or of
the number of the former owners—my grandfather, who feared and hated
like poison the very name of a lawsuit, resolved to buy no land direct
from the Bashkirs or without formal legal documents to confirm his
ownership. Thus he hoped to exclude the possibility of disputes, and
surely he had reason for such a hope; but things turned out very
differently, and the last claim was only settled by his youngest
grandson when he was forty years old.

   ⁸ A _verst_ is two-thirds of a mile.

   ⁹ Pronounce Dyáw-ma.

My grandfather returned reluctantly from the banks of the Ik and the
Dyoma to Boogoorooslan, where he bought land from a Russian lady near
the river of that name and distant twenty-five _versts_ from the town.
The river is rapid and deep and never runs dry. For forty _versts_, from
the town of Boogoorooslan to the Crown settlement of Fair Bank, the
country on both sides of the river was uninhabited, so that there was
ample room; and the amenities of the spot were wonderful. The river was
so transparent that, if you threw in a copper coin, you could see it
resting on the bottom even in pools fifteen feet deep. In some places
there was a thick border of trees and bushes—birches, poplars,
service-trees, guelder-roses, and bird-cherries, where the hop-bines
trailed their green festoons and hung their straw-coloured clusters from
tree to tree; in other places, the grass grew tall and strong, with an
infinite profusion of flowers, including tall Meadow Sweet, Lords’ Pride
(the scarlet Lychnis), Kings’ Curls (the Martagon lily), and Cat-grass
or Valerian. The river flows along a valley varying in breadth and
bordered on both sides by sloping hills with a steep cliff here and
there; the slopes were thickly covered with hard-wood trees of all
sorts. As you got out of the valley, the level steppe spread out before
you, a black virgin soil over two feet in depth. Along the river and in
the neighbouring marshes, wild ducks of all kinds, and geese, woodcocks,
and snipe made their nests and filled the air with their different notes
and calls; while on the table-land above, where the grass grew thick and
strong, the music in the air was as rich and quite distinct. Every kind
of bird that lives in the steppe bred there in multitudes—bustards,
cranes, and hawks; and on the wooded slopes there were quantities of
black-game. The river swarmed with every variety of fish that could
endure its ice-cold water—pike, perch, chub, dace, and even salmon. Both
steppe and forest were filled beyond belief with wild creatures. In a
word, the place was, and still is, a paradise for the sportsman.

My grandfather bought about 12,000 acres for 2500 _roubles_. That was a
large sum in those days, and the price was much higher than was
generally paid. When he had assured his title by legal documents, he
went back with a light heart to his expectant family in the Government
of Simbirsk. There he set to work with fierce energy and made all
preparations for transferring at once a portion of his serfs to the new
estate. It was an anxious and troublesome job, because the distance was
considerable—about 400 _versts_. That same autumn twenty families of
serfs started for the district of Boogoorooslan, taking with them
ploughs and harrows with rye for sowing. They chose their ground and set
to work on the virgin soil. Two thousand acres were lightly ploughed,
then harrowed, and sown with winter rye; two thousand more were ploughed
in preparation for the spring sowing; and some cottages were built. When
this was done, the men travelled back to spend the winter at home. When
winter was over, twenty more labourers again went forth; and, as the
spring advanced, they sowed the two thousand acres with spring wheat,
erected fences round the cottages and byres, and made stoves for the
cottages out of clay. The second party then returned home. These were
distinct from the actual settlers, who remained at home, preparing for
their move and selling off what they did not need—their houses and
kailyards, stock and corn, and all sorts of odds and ends.

The date fixed was the middle of June, that the colonists might reach
their destination before St. Peter’s Day,¹⁰ when hay-cutting begins. The
carts were packed with the women and children and old people, and
awnings of bast bent over them to protect them from the sun and rain;
the indispensable pots and pans were piled up inside, the cocks and hens
perched on the top, and the cows tied on behind; and off they started.
The poor settlers shed bitter tears as they parted for ever with their
past life, with the church in which they had been christened and
married, and with the graves of their fathers and grandfathers. Nobody
likes moving, and a Russian peasant least of all; but to move in those
days to an unknown land inhabited by unbelievers, where the churches
were so distant that a man might die without confession and infants
remain long unchristened, a land of which rumour reported evil as well
as good—this seemed a terrible ordeal. When the peasants had gone, my
grandfather started after them. He had taken a vow that, when
circumstances allowed, he would build a church dedicated to the
Presentation of Our Lady—it was actually built by his son—and he named
the new settlement after the festival. But the peasants, whose example
was followed by their neighbours, called it New Bagrovo, after their
master and in memory of Old Bagrovo, from which they had come; and to
this day the formal name is only used in legal documents. No one knows
the village, with its fine stone church and high manor-house, by any
other name than Bagrovo. With unremitting care and attention my
grandfather watched the labour of the people on their own land and on
his; the hay was mown, the winter rye and spring corn were cut down and
carried, and the right moment was chosen for each operation. The yield
of the crops was fabulous. The peasants thought things were not so bad
after all. By November, cottages were built for them all, and the
beginning of a house for the owner was run up. All this was not done
without help from neighbours. In spite of the long distances, they came
willingly to lend a hand to the new landowner, who proved to be sensible
and friendly; they ate and drank and turned to with a will, and sang as
they worked. In that winter my grandfather went to Simbirsk and brought
back his wife and children with him.

  ¹⁰ June 29.

Next year forty more serfs were transferred and set up in their new
abodes; and this proved an easier job. My grandfather’s first operation
in this year was to build a mill; without it, it had been necessary to
drive forty _versts_ to get his corn ground. A spot was chosen where the
river was not deep, the bottom sound, and the banks high and solid. Then
a dam of earth and brushwood was started from each bank, like a pair of
hands ready to clasp; next, the dam was wattled with osiers, to make it
more substantial; and all that remained was to stop the swift strong
current and force it to fill the basin intended for it. The mill itself,
with two pairs of millstones, was built beforehand on the lower bank.
All the machinery was ready and even greased. It was the business of the
river, when checked in its natural course, to fill the broad dam and
pour through wooden pipes down upon the great wheel. When all was ready
and four long oaken piles had been firmly driven into the clay bottom of
the river, my grandfather invited his neighbours to lend him their
assistance for two days; and they came, bringing horses and carts,
spades, forks, and axes. On the first day, great piles of brushwood,
straw, manure, and fresh-cut sods were heaped up on both banks of the
Boogoorooslan, while the river continued to pour down its waters at its
own sweet will. Hardly any one slept that night, and next morning at
sunrise about a hundred men set to work to dam the stream; they all
looked solemn and serious, as if they had important business before
them. They began on both sides at the same moment. With loud cries they
hurled with sturdy arms faggots of brushwood into the water; part was
carried down by the stream, but part stuck against the piles and sank
across the channel. Next came bundles of straw weighted with stones,
then soil and manure, then more brushwood, followed by more straw and
manure, and, on the top of all, a thick layer of sods. All this
accumulation was swallowed up till it rose at last above the surface of
the water. At once, a dozen strong and active men sprang on to the
barrier and began to tread it and stamp it down. The operation was
performed with the utmost speed; and the general excitement was so great
and the noise so vociferous, that a passer-by, if he had not known the
reason of it, might have been frightened. But there was no one there to
be frightened by it: only the uninhabited steppes and dark forests and
all the region round re-echoed the shouts of the labourers. The voices
of women and children swelled the chorus; for such an important affair
aroused interest in every breast, and the noise and excitement were
universal. The resistance of the river was not overcome at once. For
long it tore away and carried down brushwood and straw, manure and turf;
but man at last conquered. The baffled water stopped, as if reflecting;
then it turned back, and rose till it poured over its banks and
inundated the fields. By evening the mill-pond had taken shape; or one
might call it a floating lake, where the banks and all the green grass
and bushes had disappeared; only the tops of submerged trees, doomed to
die, stuck up here and there. Next day the mill began to work, and goes
on working and grinding to this day.



2. _The Government of Orenburg_


How wonderful in those days was that region, in its wild and virginal
richness! It is different now; it is not even what it was when I first
knew it, when it was still fresh and blooming and undeflowered by hordes
of settlers from every quarter. It is changed; but it is still beautiful
and spacious, fertile and infinitely various, the Government of
Orenburg. The name sounds strange, and the termination "burg" is
inappropriate enough. But when I first knew that earthly paradise, it
was still called the "Province of Ufa."

Thirty years ago, one who was born within it¹¹ expressed in verse his
fears for the future of the land; and these have been realised in part,
and the process still goes on. But still hast thou power to charm,
wondrous land! Bright and clear, like great deep cups, are thy
lakes—Kandry and Karatabyn. Full of water and full of all manner of fish
are thy rivers, whether they race down the valleys and rocky gorges of
the Ural Mountains, or steal softly, glittering like a string of jewels,
through the prairie-grass of the steppes. Wondrous are these rivers of
the steppe, formed by the union of countless little streams flowing from
deep water-holes—streams so tiny that you can hardly see the trickle of
water in them. And thy rivers that flow swift from fountain-heads and
run under the shade of trees and bushes are transparent and cold as ice
even in the heat of summer; and all kinds of trout, good to eat and
beautiful to see, live there; but they soon die out, when man begins to
defile with unclean hands the virgin streams of their clear cool
retreats. Fertile is the black soil of thy corn-land, and rich thy
pastures; and thy fields are covered in spring with the milk-white
blossom of the cherry-tree and wild peach, while in summer the fragrant
strawberries spread over them like a scarlet cloth, and the small
cherries that turn purple later when they ripen in autumn. Rich is the
harvest that rewards the peasant, however idle and ignorant, when he
scratches with his rude ploughshare the surface of thy soil. Fresh and
green and mighty stand thy forests of all manner of trees; and buzzing
swarms of wild bees fill their self-chosen nests among the leaves with
the fragrant honey of the lime blossom. The Ufa marten, with its
priceless fur, is still to be found in the wooded head-waters of the
great rivers.

  ¹¹ Aksakoff himself.

The original inhabitants of the land are men of peace, the wandering
tribes of Bashkirs. Their herds of horses and cattle and flocks of
sheep, though far smaller than they were once, are still numerous. When
the fierce storms of winter are over, the Bashkirs crawl forth, thin and
wasted like flies in winter. With the first warmth and the first
sprouting of the grass they drive out into the open their half-starved
herds and flocks, and drag themselves after them, with their wives and
children. A few weeks change them beyond recognition, both men and
animals. What were mere skeletons have become spirited and tireless
horses; and the stallion proudly guards his mares as they graze, and
keeps both man and beast at a distance. The meagre cattle have grown
fat, and their udders swell with milk. But for cow’s milk the Bashkir
cares nothing. For the _koumiss_¹² is now in season and already
fermenting in the bags of horse-hide; and every creature that can drink,
from the infant in arms to the tottering old man, swallows the
health-giving beverage, a drink for heroes. And the result is
marvellous: all the traces of winter and starvation soon disappear, and
even the troubles of old age; their faces fill out, and pale sunken
cheeks take on the hue of health. But their deserted villages are a sad
and even alarming sight. A traveller unfamiliar with the country might
well start, appalled by the emptiness and deadness of the place. There
stand the deserted huts with their white chimneys, and the empty
window-frames look mournfully at him like human faces with no eyes in
the sockets. He may hear the bark of a half-starved watch-dog, whom his
master visits and feeds at long intervals, or the mewing of a cat that
has run wild and finds food for herself; but that is all: not one human
being remains.

  ¹² Mare’s milk, fermented.

How varied and picturesque, each in its own way, are the different
regions of the land—the forests, the steppes, and, more than all, the
hills, where all metals, even gold, are found along the slopes of the
Ural ridge! How vast the expanse, from the borders of Vyatka and Perm,
where the mercury often freezes in winter, to the little town of Guryeff
on the edge of Astrakhan, where small grapes ripen in the open
air—grapes whose wine the Cossack trades in and drinks himself for
coolness in summer and warmth in winter. How noble is the fishing in the
Urals, unlike any other both in the fish that are caught and in the
manner of catching them! It only needs a faithful and lively description
to attract general attention.

But I must ask pardon. I have gone too far in the description of the
beautiful country where I was born. Now let us go back and observe the
life and unwearied activity of my grandfather.



3. _Fresh Scenes._


Stepan Mihailovitch had peace at last. Many a time he thanked God from
the bottom of his heart, when the move was completed and he found
elbow-room on the banks of the Boogoorooslan. His spirits rose, and even
his health was better. No petitions, no complaints, no disputes, no
disturbance! No tiresome relations, no divided ownership! No thieves to
fell his trees, no trespassers to trample down his corn and meadows! He
was undisputed master at last in his own house, and beyond it: he might
feed sheep, or mow grass, or cut firewood where he pleased without a
word from any one.

The peasants too soon became accustomed to the new habitation and soon
grew to love it. And that was but natural. Old Bagrovo had wood, but
little water; meadow-land was so scarce that it was hard for them to
find grazing for one horse and one cow apiece; and, though the natural
soil was good, it had been cropped over and over from time immemorial
till its fertility was exhausted. The new site gave them wide and
fertile fields and meadows, never touched till now by ploughshare or
scythe; it gave them a rapid river with good fresh water, and springs in
abundance; it gave them a broad pond with fish in it and the river
running through it; and it gave them a mill at their very doors, whereas
before they had to travel twenty-five _versts_ to have a load of corn
ground, and perhaps to wait after all a couple of days till their turn
came.

It surprises you perhaps that I called Old Bagrovo waterless; and you
may blame my ancestors for choosing such a spot to settle in. But they
were not to blame, and things were different in old days. Once on a time
Old Bagrovo stood on a pretty stream, the Maina, which took its rise
from the Mossy Lakes three _versts_ distant; and also along the whole
settlement there stretched a lake, not broad but long and clear, and
deep in the middle, with a bottom of white sand; and another streamlet,
called The White Spring, issued from this lake. So it was in former
times, but it is quite another story now. Tradition tells that the Mossy
Lakes were once deep round pools surrounded by trees, with ice-cold
water and treacherous banks, and no one ventured near them except in
winter, because the banks were said to give way under foot and engulf
the bold disturber of the water-spirit’s solitary reign. But man is the
sworn foe of Nature, and she can never withstand his treacherous warfare
against her beauty. Ancient tradition, unsupported by modern instances,
ceased to be believed. The people steeped their flax on the banks and
drove their herds there to water; and the Mossy Lakes were polluted by
degrees, and grew shallow at the edges, and even dried up in places
where the wood all round was cut. Then a thick scurf formed on the top;
moss grew over it, and the vein-like roots of water-plants bound it
together, till it was covered with tussocks and bushes and even
fir-trees of some size. One of the pools is now entirely covered; of the
other are left two deep water-holes, which even now are formidable for a
stranger to approach, because the soil, with all its covering of plants
and bushes and trees, rises and falls beneath the foot like a wave at
sea. Owing to the dwindling of these lakes, the Maina now issues from
the ground some distance below the settlement, and its upper waters have
dried up. The lake by the village has become a filthy stinking canal;
the sandy bottom is covered to a depth of over seven feet by mud and
refuse of all kinds from the peasants’ houses; of the White Spring not a
trace is left, and the memory of it will soon be forgotten.

When my grandfather had settled down at New Bagrovo, he set to work,
with all his natural activity and energy, to grow corn and breed stock.
The peasants caught the contagion of his enthusiasm and worked so hard
and steadily that they were soon as well set up and provided for as if
they had been old inhabitants. After a few years, their stackyards took
up thrice as much room as the village-street; and their drove of stout
horses, their herds and flocks and pigs, would have done honour to a
large and prosperous settlement.

After the success of Stepan Mihailovitch, migration to Ufa or Orenburg
became more fashionable every year. Native tribes came streaming from
every quarter—Mordvinians, Choovashes, Tatars, and Meshchers, and plenty
of Russian settlers too—Crown-tenants from different districts, and
landowners, large and small. My grandfather began to have neighbours.
His brother-in-law, Ivan Nyeklyoodoff, bought land within twelve
_versts_ of Bagrovo, transferred his serfs there, built a wooden church,
named his estate Nyeklyoodovo, and came to live there with his family.
This afforded no gratification to my grandfather, who had a strong
dislike to all his wife’s relations—all "Nyeklyoodovdom," as he used to
call them. Then a landowner called Bakmétyeff bought land still closer,
about ten _versts_ from Bagrovo, on the upper waters of the Sovrusha,
which runs to the south-west like the Boogoorooslan. On the other side,
twelve _versts_ along the river Nasyagai, another settlement was
planted, Polibino, which now belongs to the Karamzin family. The
Nasyagai is a larger and finer river than the Boogoorooslan, with more
water and more fish in it, and birds still breed there much more freely.
On the road to Polibino, and eight _versts_ from Bagrovo, a number of
Mordvinians settled in a large village called Noikino, and built a mill
on the streamlet of Bokla. Close to the mill, the Bokla runs into the
Nasyagai, which rolls its swift strong current straight to the
south-west, and is reinforced by the Boogoorooslan not far from the town
of that name. Then the Nasyagai unites with the Great Kinel, and loses
thenceforth its sounding and significant¹³ name.

  ¹³ Na-sya-gai = "Pursuer."

The latest arrivals were some Mordvinian colonists, a detachment from
the larger settlement at Mordovsky Boogoorooslan, nine _versts_ from
Bagrovo. This smaller settlement, called Kivatsky, was within two
_versts_ of my grandfather, down the river; and he made a wry face at
first; for it reminded him of old times in Simbirsk. But the result was
quite different. They were good-tempered, quiet people, who respected my
grandfather as much as the official in charge of them.

Before many years had passed, Stepan Mihailovitch had gained the deep
respect and love too of the whole district. He was a real benefactor to
his neighbours, near or far, old or new, and especially to the latter,
owing to their ignorance of the place and lack of supplies, and the
various difficulties which always befall settlers. Too often people
start off on this difficult job without due preparation, without even
providing themselves with bread and corn or the means to buy them. My
grandfather’s full granaries were always open to such people. "Take what
you want, and pay me back next harvest, if you can; and if you
can’t—well, never mind!"—with such words as these he used to distribute
with a generous hand corn seed and flour. And more than this: he was so
sensible, so considerate towards petitioners, and so inflexibly strict
in the keeping of his word, that he soon became quite an oracle in that
newly settled corner of the spacious district of Orenburg. Not only did
he help his neighbours by his generosity, but he taught them how to
behave. To speak the truth was the only key to his favour: a man who had
once lied to him and deceived him was ill advised if he came again to
Bagrovo: he would be certain to depart with empty hands, and might think
himself lucky if he came off with a whole skin. My grandfather settled
many family disputes and smothered many lawsuits at their first birth.
People travelled from every quarter to seek his advice and hear his
decision; and both were punctiliously followed. I have known grandsons
and great-grandsons of that generation and heard them speak of Stepan
Mihailovitch; and the figure of the strict master but kind benefactor is
still unforgotten. I have often heard striking facts told about him by
simple people, who shed tears and crossed themselves as they ejaculated
a prayer for his soul’s rest. It is not surprising that his peasants
loved so excellent a master; but he was loved also by his personal
servants who had often to endure the terrible storms of his furious
rage. Many of his younger servants spent their last days under my roof;
and in their old age they liked to talk of their late master—of his
strict discipline and passionate temper, and also of his goodness and
justice; and they never spoke of him with dry eyes.

Yet this kind, helpful, and even considerate man was subject at times to
fearful explosions of anger which utterly defaced the image of humanity
in him and made him capable, for the time, of repulsive and ferocious
actions. I once saw him in this state when I was a child—it was many
years after the time I am writing about—and the fear that I felt has
left a lively impression on my mind to this day. I seem to see him
before me now. He was angry with one of his daughters; I believe she had
told him a lie and persisted in it. It was impossible to recognise his
former self. He was trembling all over and supported on each side by a
servant; his face was convulsed, and a fierce fire shot from his eyes
which were clouded and darkened with fury. "Let me get at her!"—he
called out in a strangled voice. (So far, my recollection is clear; and
the rest I have often heard others tell.) My grandmother tried to throw
herself at his feet, to intercede for the culprit; but in an instant her
kerchief and cap flew to a distance, and Stepan Mihailovitch was
dragging his wife though she was now old and stout, over the floor by
her hair. Meantime, not only the offender, but all her sisters, and even
their brother with his young wife and little son,¹⁴ had fled out of
doors and sought concealment in the wood that grew round the house. The
rest of them spent the whole night there; but the daughter-in-law,
fearing that her child would catch cold, went back and passed the night
in a servant’s cottage. For a long time my grandfather raged at large
through the deserted house. At last, when he was weary of dragging his
wife about by the hair, and weary of striking his servants, Mazan and
Tanaichonok, he dropped upon his bed utterly exhausted and soon fell
into a deep sleep which lasted till the following morning.

  ¹⁴ _I.e._ the author, who in childhood was called Seryozha (short for
     Serghéi).

At dawn Stepan Mihailovitch woke up. His face was bright and clear, and
his voice cheerful as he hailed his wife. She hurried in at once from
the next room, looking as if nothing had happened the day before. "I
want my tea! Where are the children, and Alexyéi and his wife? I want to
see Seryozha"—thus spoke the madman on his waking, and all the family
appeared, composed and cheerful, in his presence. But there was one
exception. His daughter-in-law was a woman of strong character herself,
and no entreaties could induce her to smile so soon upon the wild beast
of the day before; and her little son kept constantly saying, "I won’t
go to grandfather! I’m frightened!" She really did not feel well and
excused herself on that ground; and she kept her child in her room. The
family were horrified and expected a renewal of the storm. But the wild
beast of yesterday had wakened up as a human being. He talked playfully
over his tea and then went himself to visit the invalid. She was really
unwell and was lying in bed, looking thin and altered. The old man sat
down beside her, kissed her, said kind things to her, and caressed his
grandson; then he left the room, saying that he would find the day long
"without his dear daughter-in-law." Half an hour later she entered his
room, wearing a pretty dress which he used to say especially became her,
and holding her son by the hand. My grandfather welcomed her almost in
tears: "Just see!" he said fondly; "though she was not well, she got up
and dressed, regardless of herself, and came to cheer up an old man."
His wife and daughters bit their lips and looked down; for they all
disliked his favourite; but she answered his affectionate greeting with
cheerful respect, and looked proudly and triumphantly at her
ill-wishers.

But I will say no more of the dark side of my grandfather’s character. I
would rather dwell on his bright side and describe one of his good days,
which I have often and often heard spoken of.



4. _My Grandfather, on one of his Good Days_


It was the end of June, and the weather was very hot. After a stifling
night, a fresh breeze set in from the East at dawn, the breeze which
always flags when the sun grows hot. At sunrise my grandfather awoke. It
was hot in his bedroom; for the room was not large, and, though the
window with its narrow old-fashioned sash was raised as high as it would
go, he had curtains of home-made muslin round his bed. This precaution
was indispensable: without it, the wicked mosquitos would have kept him
awake and devoured him. The winged musicians swarmed round the bed,
drove their long probosces into the fine fabric which protected him, and
kept up their monotonous serenade all through the night. It sounds
absurd, but I cannot conceal the fact that I like the shrill high note
and even the bite of the mosquito; for it reminds me of sleepless nights
in high summer on the banks of the Boogoorooslan, where the bushes grew
thick and green and all round the nightingales called; and I remember
the beating heart of youth and that vague feeling, half pleasure and
half pain, for which I would now give up all that remains of the sinking
fire of life.

My grandfather woke up, rubbed the sweat off his high forehead with a
hot hand, put his head out between the curtains, and burst out laughing.
His two servants, Mazan and Tanaichonok, lay stretched on the floor;
their attitudes might have made any one laugh, and they snored lustily.
"Confound the rascals! How they snore!" said my grandfather, and smiled
again. You could never be sure about Stepan Mihailovitch. It might have
been expected that such forcible language would have been followed up by
a blow in the ribs from the blackthorn staff which always stood by his
bed, or a kick, or even a salutation in the form of a stool. But no: my
grandfather had laughed on opening his eyes, and he kept up that mood
throughout the day. He rose quickly, crossed himself once or twice, and
thrust his bare feet into a pair of old rusty leather slippers; then,
wearing only his shirt of coarse home-made linen—my grandmother would
not give him any better—he went out upon the stoop,¹⁵ to enjoy the
freshness and moisture of the morning all round him.

  ¹⁵ This word from S. Africa seems best for an unroofed veranda, such
     as this was.

I said just now that Arina Vassilyevna would not give her husband finer
linen; and the reader will remark with justice that this is inconsistent
with the relations between the two. I am sorry, but I cannot help it. It
is really true that female persistence triumphed, as it always does,
over male violence. My grandmother got more than one beating over the
coarse linen, but she continued to supply him with it till at last her
husband got used to it. He resorted once to extreme measures: he took an
axe and chopped up all his objectionable shirts on the threshold of his
room, while my grandmother howled at the sight and implored him to beat
_her_ rather than spoil his good clothes. But even this device failed:
the coarse shirts appeared once more, and the victim submitted. I must
apologise for interrupting my narrative, in order to meet an imaginary
objection on the part of the reader.

Without troubling any one, he went himself to the store-room, fetched a
woollen mat, and spread it out on the top step of the stoop; then he sat
down upon it, meaning to follow his regular custom of watching the sun
rise. To see sunrise gives every man a kind of half-conscious pleasure;
and my grandfather felt an added satisfaction when he looked down over
his courtyard, by this time sufficiently equipped with all the buildings
necessary for his farming operations. The court was not, indeed, fenced;
and the animals, when turned out of the peasants’ yards, used to pay it
passing visits, before they were all gathered together and driven to the
common pasture. So it was on this morning; and the same thing was
repeated every evening. Some pigs, fresh from the mire, rubbed and
scratched themselves against the very stoop on which my grandfather was
sitting, while they feasted with grunts of satisfaction on crab-shells
and other refuse from the table which that unsophisticated household
deposited close to the steps. Cows and sheep also looked in, and it was
inevitable that these visitors should leave uncleanly tokens behind
them. But to this my grandfather did not object in the least. On the
contrary, he looked with pleasure at the fine beasts, taking them as a
certain indication that his peasants were doing well. The loud cracking
of the herdsman’s long whip soon evicted the trespassers. Now the
servants began to stir. The stout groom, Spiridon—known even in advanced
old age as "little Spirka"—led out, one after another, three colts, two
bays and one brown. He tied them to a post, rubbed them down, and
exercised them at the end of a long halter, while my grandfather admired
their paces and also admired in fancy the stock he hoped to raise from
them—a dream which he realised with entire success. Then the old
housekeeper came forth from the cellar in which she slept, and went down
to the river to wash. First she sighed and groaned, according to her
invariable custom; then she turned towards the sunrise and said a
prayer, before she set to work at washing and scrubbing plates and
dishes. Swallows and martins twittered cheerfully as they cut circles in
the air, quails called loudly in the fields, the song of the larks
rained down from the sky, the hoarse note of the sitting landrails came
from the bushes, and the bleat of the snipe from the neighbouring marsh,
the mocking-birds imitated the nightingales with all their might; and
forth from behind the hill issued the bright sun! Blue smoke rose in
columns from the peasants’ houses and then swayed in the breeze like the
fluttering flags of a line of ships; and soon the labourers were
plodding towards the fields.

My grandfather began to feel a desire for cold water to wash in and then
for his tea. He roused his two servants from their ungainly attitudes;
and they jumped up in a great fright at first, but were soon reassured
by his good-humoured voice: "Mazan, my washing things! Tanaichonok, wake
Aksyutka and your mistress, and then tea!" There was no need to repeat
these orders: clumsy Mazan was already flying at top speed to the spring
for water, carrying a glittering copper basin, while handy Tanaichonok
woke up Aksyutka, a young but ugly maid; and she, while she put straight
the kerchief on her head, called her mistress, Arina Vassilyevna, now
grown old and stout. In a few minutes all the household were on their
legs, and all knew by this time that the old master had got out of bed
on the right side! A quarter of an hour later, a table was standing by
the stoop—the white tablecloth was home-made and adorned with a
pattern—a _samovar_,¹⁶ in the shape of a large copper teapot, was
hissing on the table, and Aksyutka was busy about the tea. Meanwhile
Arina Vassilyevna was greeting her husband. On some mornings it was the
etiquette to sigh and look sorrowful; but to-day she asked after his
health in a loud cheerful voice: "How had he slept? What dreams had he
had?" Stepan Mihailovitch greeted his wife affectionately and called her
"Arisha"; he never kissed her hand, but sometimes gave her his to kiss
as a sign of favour. Arina Vassilyevna, in her pleasure, looked quite
young and pretty; one forgot her stout awkward figure. She brought a
stool at once and sat down on the stoop beside my grandfather, which she
never ventured to do unless he was in a very good humour. "Come, Arisha,
let us have a cup of tea together before it gets hot," said Stepan
Mihailovitch; "it was a stifling night, but I slept so sound that I have
forgotten all my dreams. How did you sleep?" This question was a signal
mark of favour, and my grandmother replied at once that, when Stepan
Mihailovitch had a good night, she of course had one too, but that
Tanyusha¹⁷ was restless all night. Tanyusha was the youngest daughter
and, as often happens, her father’s favourite. He was vexed to hear this
account of her, and ordered that she was not to be called but to sleep
on till she woke. She had been called at the same time as her sisters
Alexandra and Elizabeth, and was dressed already; but no one ventured to
mention this fact. She made haste to undress, got back into bed, and had
the shutters drawn. She could not get to sleep, but she lay in the dark
for two hours; and her father was pleased that Tanyusha had had her
sleep out. The only son,¹⁸ who was now nine, was never wakened early.
But the two elder daughters appeared immediately; and Stepan
Mihailovitch gave them his hand to kiss and called them by their pet
names, Lexanya and Lizanka. They were both clever girls, and Alexandra
had also inherited her father’s active mind and violent temper but none
of his good qualities. My grandmother, a very simple woman, was entirely
under the thumb of her daughters; and, whenever she ventured to play
tricks upon Stepan Mihailovitch, it was because they had put her up to
it; but she was so clumsy that she seldom succeeded, and her husband
knew very well who was at the bottom of it. He knew also that his
daughters were prepared to deceive him whenever they got the
chance—though, for the sake of a quiet life, he let them suppose that he
was blind to their goings-on. But this only lasted while he was in a
good temper: as soon as he got angry, he stated his view of their
conduct in the most unsparing and uncomplimentary terms, and sometimes
even chastised them. But, like true daughters of Eve, they were not
discouraged. When the fit of anger passed and the cloud lifted from
their father’s brow, they started again upon their underhand schemes,
and pretty often they were successful in carrying them out.

  ¹⁶ An urn, with a central receptacle for hot charcoal. In this case,
     the receptacle is inserted where the teapot lid should be.

  ¹⁷ A diminutive form of Tatyana.

  ¹⁸ The author’s father, called throughout Alexyéi; his real name was
     Timoféi (Timothy). So his mother, whose name was Márya (Mary) is
     called Sofya (Sophia).

When he had drunk his tea and talked about things in general with his
womankind, my grandfather got ready to drive out. Some time before, he
had said to Mazan, "My horse!"—and an old brown gelding was already
standing by the steps, harnessed to a long car, a very comfortable
conveyance, with an outer frame-work of netting and a plank, covered
with felt, to sit on. Spiridon, the driver, wore a simple livery: he had
bare feet and nothing on but his shirt, with a red woollen belt, from
which hung a key and a copper comb. On a similar occasion on the
previous day, he had worn no hat; but this had been disapproved of, and
he now wore some head-gear which he had woven out of broad strips of
bast.¹⁹ My grandfather made merry over this "sunbonnet." Then he put on
his own cap and long coat of unbleached home-made cloth, placed beneath
him his heavy cloak in case of rain, and took his seat on the car.
Spiridon also folded his coat and sat upon it; it was made of unbleached
cloth but dyed bright red with madder. Madder grew freely in the fields
round Bagrovo, and was so much used that the servants about the house
were called by the neighbours "redbreasts"; I have heard the nickname
myself fifteen years after my grandfather’s death.

  ¹⁹ The inner bark of the lime-tree, used for many purposes in Russia.

In the fields, Stepan Mihailovitch found everything to his mind. He
examined the rye-crop; it was now past flowering and stood up like a
wall, as high as a man; a light breeze was blowing, and bluish-purple
waves went over it, now lighter and now darker in the sunlight; and the
sight gladdened his heart. He visited the young oats and millet and all
the spring-sown crops, and then went to the fallow, where he ordered his
car to be driven backwards and forwards over the field. This was his
regular way of testing the goodness of the work: any spot of ground that
had not been properly ploughed and harrowed gave the light car a jolt;
and, when my grandfather was not in a good humour, he stuck a twig or a
stick in the ground at the place, sent for the bailiff if he was not
present, and settled accounts with him on the spot. But to-day all went
well: his wheels may have encountered such obstacles, but he took no
notice of them. His next point was the hay-fields, where he admired the
tall thick steppe-grass which was to fall beneath the scythe before many
days were past. He paid a visit to the peasants’ fields also, to see for
himself, who had a good crop and who had not; and he drove over their
fallow to test it. He noticed everything and forgot nothing. Passing
over an untilled strip, he saw some wild strawberries nearly ripe; he
stopped and, with Mazan’s help, picked a large handful of splendid big
berries, which he took home as a present for his "Arisha." In spite of
the great heat, he was out till nearly noon.

As soon as my grandfather’s car was seen descending the hill, dinner was
set on the table, and all the family stood on the steps to receive him.
"Well, Arisha," he called out cheerfully, "what splendid crops God is
giving us this year! Great is His goodness! And here are some
strawberries for you; they are nearly ripe; the pickers must go out
to-morrow." This attention was almost too much for my grandmother. As he
spoke, he walked into the house, and the smell of the hot cabbage-soup
came to meet him from the parlour. "Ah! I see dinner’s ready; good!"
said Stepan Mihailovitch more cheerfully than before, and walked
straight into the parlour and sat down at table, without visiting his
own room. I should mention that my grandfather had a rule: at whatever
hour, early or late, he returned from the fields, dinner must be on the
table, and Heaven help the women, if they did not notice him coming and
failed to serve the meal in time! There were occasions when such neglect
gave rise to sad consequences; but, on this happy day, everything went
without a hitch. Behind my grandfather’s chair stood a stout lad,
holding a birch-bough with the leaves on, to drive away the flies. The
hottest weather will not make a true Russian refuse cabbage-soup, and my
grandfather supped his with a wooden spoon, because silver would have
burnt his lips. Soup was followed by a fish-salad, made of kippered
sturgeon, as yellow as wax, and shelled crayfish. All the courses were
of this light kind, and were washed down with _kvass_²⁰ and home-made
beer; the drinks were iced and so was the salad. There were days when
dinner was eaten in terrible stillness and silent dread of an explosion;
but this was a cheerful meal, with much loud talking and laughing. Every
boy and girl about the place had heard that the master was in a cheerful
temper, and they all crowded into the parlour in hopes of a "piece." He
gave them all something good to eat; for there was five times as much
food on the table as the family could eat.

  ²⁰ A drink made of malt and rye.

Immediately after dinner he went to lie down. All flies were expelled
from the bed-curtains, and the curtains drawn round him with the ends
tucked under the mattress; and soon his mighty snoring proclaimed that
the master was asleep. All the rest went to their rooms to lie down.
Mazan and Tanaichonok, when they had had their dinner and swallowed
their share of the remnants from the dining-room table, also lay down in
the passage, close to the door of my grandfather’s bedroom. Though they
had slept before dinner, they went to sleep again at once; but they were
soon wakened by the heat and the burning rays of the sun coming through
the windows. They felt a strong desire to cool their parched throats
with some of their master’s iced beer; and the bold scamps managed to
get it in the following way. My grandfather’s dressing-gown and nightcap
were lying on a chair near the half-open door of his room. Tanaichonok
put them on and sat down on the stoop, while Mazan went off to the
cellar with a jug and wakened the old housekeeper, who like every soul
in the house was fast asleep. He said his master was awake and wanted an
iced tankard at once. She was surprised at his waking so soon; but Mazan
then pointed to the figure in the dressing-gown and nightcap sitting on
the stoop. The beer was drawn at once and ice added; and Mazan went
quickly back with his prize. The cronies shared the jug between them and
then replaced the garments. An hour later their master awoke in
excellent humour, and his first words were, "Iced beer!" This frightened
the rascals; and, when Tanaichonok hurried off to the cellar, the
housekeeper guessed at once where the previous jug had gone. She
produced the liquor, but followed the messenger back herself, and found
the real Simon Pure sitting on the stoop and wearing the dressing-gown.
The truth came out at once; and Mazan and Tanaichonok shaking with fear
fell at their master’s feet. And what do you think my grandfather did?
He burst out laughing, sent for his wife and daughters, and told them
the story with loud bursts of laughter. The culprits breathed again, and
one of them even ventured to grin. But Stepan Mihailovitch noticed this
and very nearly grew angry: he frowned, but the composing effect of his
good day was so strong that his face cleared up, and he said with a
significant look, "Well, I forgive you this once; but, if it happens
again ..."—there was no need to end the sentence.

It is certainly strange that the servants of a man so passionate and so
violent in his moments of passion should dare to be so impudent. But I
have often noticed in the course of my life that the strictest masters
have the most venturesome and reckless servants. My grandfather had
other experiences of a similar kind. This same servant, Mazan, was
sweeping out his master’s room one day and preparing to make the bed,
when he was suddenly tempted by the soft down of the bedding and
pillows. He thought he would like a little taste of luxury; so down he
lay on his master’s bed and fell asleep. My grandfather himself came
upon him sound asleep, and only laughed! He did, indeed, give the man
one good rap with his staff; but that was nothing—he only did it in
order to see how frightened Mazan would be. Worse tricks than these were
played upon Stepan Mihailovitch in his time. During his absence from
home, his cousin and ward, Praskovya Ivanovna Bagroff, was given in
marriage to a dangerous and disreputable man whom he detested; the girl,
who was only fourteen and a great heiress, was an inmate of Bagrovo and
very dear to its owner. It is true that the plot was executed by the
girl’s relations on her mother’s side; but Arina Vassilyevna gave her
consent, and her daughters were actively engaged in it. But I shall
return to my narrative for the present and leave this incident to be
told later.

He woke up at five in the afternoon and drank his iced beer. Soon
afterwards he wanted his tea, in spite of the sultry heat of the day;
for he believed that a very hot drink makes hot weather more bearable.
But first he went down to bathe in the cool waters of the river, which
flowed under the windows of the house. When he came back, the whole
family were waiting for him at the tea-table—the same table set in the
shade, with the same hissing teapot and the same Aksyutka. When he had
drunk his fill of his favourite sudorific beverage, with cream so thick
that the curd on it was yellow, my grandfather proposed that the whole
party should make an expedition to the mill. The plan was received with
joy; and Alexandra and Tatyana, who were fond of angling, took
fishing-rods with them. Two cars were brought round in a minute. Stepan
Mihailovitch and his wife took their seats on one, and placed between
them their one boy,²¹ the precious scion of their ancient and noble
line; while the other carried the three daughters, with a boy to dig for
worms on the mill-dam and bait their hooks for the young ladies. When
they reached the mill, a seat was brought out for Arina Vassilyevna, and
she sat down in the shade of the building, not far from the mill-race
where her daughters were fishing. Meanwhile Elizabeth, the eldest,
partly to please her father and partly from her own interest in such
matters, went with Stepan Mihailovitch to inspect the mill and the
pounding-machine. The little boy either watched his sisters fishing—he
was not allowed to fish himself in deep places—or played beside his
mother, who never took her eyes off him, in her fear that the child
would somehow tumble in.

  ²¹ The author’s father.

Both sets of millstones were at work, one making wheat-flour for the
master’s table, and the other grinding rye for a neighbour; and there
was millet under the pounding-machine. My grandfather was well
acquainted with all farming operations: he understood a mill thoroughly
and explained all the details to his attentive and intelligent
companion. He saw in a moment any defect in the machinery or mistake in
the position of the stones. One of them he ordered to be lowered half a
notch, and the rye-meal came out finer, to the great satisfaction of its
owner. At the other stone, his ear detected at once that one of the cogs
on the small wheel was getting worn. He stopped the current, and
Boltunyónok,²² the miller, jumped down beside the wheel. He looked at it
and felt it and then said, "You are quite right, _batyushka_ Stepan
Mihailovitch! One of the cogs is a little worn." "A little you call
it!"—said my grandfather, not at all vexed: "but for my coming, the
wheel would have snapped this very night!" "I am sorry I did not notice
it, Stepan Mihailovitch." "Well, never mind! Bring a new wheel, and take
the worn cog off the other; and mind the new cog is neither thicker nor
thinner than the rest; the whole secret lies in that." The new wheel,
fitted and tested beforehand, was fixed at once and greased with tar;
and the current was turned on by degrees, also by my grandfather’s
instructions; at once the stone began to hum and grind smoothly and
evenly, with no stumbling or knocking. The visitors went next to the
pounding-machine, where my grandfather took a handful of millet from the
mortar. He blew the chaff away and said to the man who had brought the
grain to the mill, a Mordvinian and an old acquaintance: "Have a care,
friend Vaska! If you look, every grain is pounded already, and, if you
go on, you will have less of it." Vaska tried it himself and saw that my
grandfather was right. He said, "Thank you," ducked his head by way of
bowing, and ran off to stop the current. Their last visit was to the
poultry-yard, where a large number of ducks and geese, hens and turkeys,
were looked after by an old woman and her little grand-daughter.
Everything here was in excellent order. As a sign of special favour, my
grandfather gave both of them his hand to kiss, and ordered that the
hen-wife should get an extra allowance of 20 lbs. of wheat-flour every
month to make pies with. Stepan Mihailovitch rejoined his wife in good
spirits. Everything had gone right: his daughter had shown intelligence,
the mill was working well, and the hen-wife, Tatyana Gorozhana,²³ was
attending to her duties.

  ²² A nickname: "Little Chatterer," a diminutive of _boltún_.

  ²³ She had got this nickname ("the town-woman") because she had spent
     part of her youth in some town.

The heat had long been abating; coolness came from the water and from
the approach of evening; a long cloud of dust drifted along the road and
came nearer the village with the bleating of sheep and lowing of cattle;
the sun was losing light and sinking behind the steep hill. Stepan
Mihailovitch stood on the mill-dam and surveyed the wide mirror of the
pond as it lay motionless in the frame of its sloping banks. A fish
jumped from time to time; but my grandfather was no fisherman. "Time to
go home, Arisha," he said at last: "I expect the bailiff is waiting for
me." Seeing his good humour, his daughters asked leave to fish on: they
said the fish would take better at sunset, and they would walk home in
half an hour. Leave was given, and the old couple started for home on
one of the cars, while Elizabeth took her little brother in the other.
As Stepan Mihailovitch had expected, the bailiff was waiting for him by
the stoop, and some peasants and their wives were there with him; they
had got a hint from the bailiff, who knew already that his master was in
the right mood, and now seized the opportunity to state some exceptional
needs or prefer some exceptional requests. Not one of them was
disappointed. To one my grandfather gave corn, and forgave an old debt
which the man could have paid; another was allowed to marry his son
before the winter²⁴ and to a girl of their own choosing; he gave leave
to a soldier’s wife,²⁵ who was to be turned out of the village for
misconduct, to go on living with her father; and so on. Nor was that
all: strong home-made spirits were offered to each of them, in a silver
cup which held more than an ordinary dram. Then my grandfather gave his
orders to the bailiff, shortly and clearly, and went off to his supper
which had been standing ready some time. The evening meal did not differ
much from the midday dinner; but the cooler air probably gave a keener
edge to appetite. It was a custom with Stepan Mihailovitch to send his
family off to bed and sit up for half an hour or so on the stoop, with
nothing on but his shirt, for the sake of coolness. This day he stayed
there longer than usual, laughing and jesting with Mazan and
Tanaichonok; he made them wrestle and fight with their fists, and urged
them on till they began to hit out in earnest and even clutched each
other by the hair. He had laughed his fill; and now a word of command,
and the tone it was spoken in, brought them to their senses and parted
them.

All the landscape lay before him, still and wonderful, enfolded by the
short summer night. The glow of sunset had not yet disappeared, and
would go on till it gave place to the glow of dawn. Hour by hour, the
depths of the vault of heaven grew darker; hour by hour, the stars
flashed brighter, and the cries of the night birds grew louder, as if
they were becoming more familiar with man; the clack of the mill sounded
nearer in the misty damp of the night air. My grandfather rose from his
stoop, and crossed himself once or twice, looking at the starry sky.
Then, though the heat in his bedroom was stifling, he lay down on the
hot feather-bed and ordered his curtains to be drawn round him.

  ²⁴ After harvest is the normal time for peasants’ marriages.

  ²⁵ A _soldatka_ is a woman whose husband is away serving in the Army.



FRAGMENT II: MIHAIL MAXIMOVITCH KUROLYESSOFF


I promised to give a separate account of Mihail Maximovitch Kurolyessoff
and his marriage with my grandfather’s cousin, Praskovya Ivanovna
Bagroff. This story begins about 1760, earlier than the time described
in the First Fragment of this history, and ends much later. I shall now
fulfil my promise.

Stepan Mihailovitch was the only son of Mihail Bagroff; Mihail had a
brother Peter, whose only daughter was Praskovya Ivanovna. As she was
his only cousin and the sole female representative of the Bagroff family
in that generation, my grandfather was much attached to her. While still
in the cradle she lost her mother, and her father died when she was ten.
Her mother, one of the Baktéyeff family, was very rich and left to her
daughter 900 serfs, a quantity of money, and still more in silver and
valuables; and her father’s death added 300 serfs to her property.
Praskovya Ivanovna was therefore a rich orphan, and would bring a great
fortune to her future husband. After her father’s death she lived at
first with her grandmother, Mme. Baktéyeff; then she paid a long visit
to Bagrovo; and finally Stepan Mihailovitch took her to his house as a
permanent inmate. He was quite as fond of his orphan cousin as of his
daughters and was very affectionate to her in his own way. But she was
too young, too babyish, one might say, to appreciate her cousin’s love
and tenderness, which never took the form of spoiling, while, under her
grandmother’s roof, where she had spent some time, she had grown
accustomed to indulgence. So it is not surprising that she grew tired of
Bagrovo and wished to go back to old Mme. Baktéyeff. Praskovya Ivanovna,
though she was not beautiful, had regular features and fine intelligent
grey eyes; her dark eyebrows, long and rather thick, were a sign of her
masculine strength of character; she was tall and well-made, and looked
eighteen when she was only fourteen. But, in spite of her physical
maturity, her mind and feelings were still those of a mere child: always
lively and merry, she capered and frisked, gambolled and sang, from
morning till night. She had a remarkable voice and was passionately fond
of joining with the maids in their singing or dancing or swinging; or,
when nothing of that kind was to be had, she played with her dolls all
day, invariably accompanying her occupation with popular songs of all
sorts, of which she knew even then an immense number.

A year before Praskovya Ivanovna went to live at Bagrovo, Mihail
Kurolyessoff, an officer in the Army, came on leave to the Government of
Simbirsk. He belonged to a noble family in the district, and was then
twenty-eight years old. He was a fine-looking fellow, and many people
called him handsome; but some said that, in spite of his regular
features, there was something unpleasing about him; and I remember to
have heard as a child debates on this point between my grandmother and
her daughters. Entering the Army at fifteen, he had served in a regiment
of high reputation in those days and had risen to the rank of major. He
did not often come home on leave, and he had little reason to come,
because the serfs—about 150 in all—who formed his property, owned little
land and were scattered about. As a matter of course, he had received no
proper education, but he had a ready tongue and wrote in an easy correct
style. Many of his letters have passed through my hands; and they prove
clearly that he was a man of sense and tact and also firm of purpose and
business-like. I don’t know his exact relationship to our immortal
Suvóroff;²⁶ but I found in the correspondence some letters from the
great captain, which always begin thus—

        "Dear Sir and cousin, Mihail Maximovitch,"
        and end—

    "With all proper respect for you and my worthy cousin, Praskovya
    Ivanovna,

        "I have the honour to be," etc.

  ²⁶ A famous general in the reign of Catherine II. and a great popular
     hero.

Kurolyessoff was little known in the Government of Simbirsk. But "rumour
runs all over the earth," and perhaps the young officer on leave
permitted himself some "distractions" as they are called; or perhaps the
soldier servant whom he brought with him, in spite of his master’s
severity, let something leak out at odd times. Whatever the reason, an
opinion gradually took shape about him, which may be summed up in the
following statements—"Toe the line, when you parade before the
Major"—"Mind your P’s and Q’s, when talking to Kurolyessoff"—"When one
of his men is caught out, he shows no mercy, though he may try to shield
him"—"When he says a thing, he means it"—"He’s the very devil when his
temper’s up." People called him "a dark horse" and "a rum customer"; but
every one admitted his ability as a man of business. There were also
rumours, probably proceeding from the same sources, that the Major had
certain weaknesses, which, however, he gratified with due regard to time
and place. But these failings were excused by the charitable proverbs—"A
young man must sow his wild oats," and "It’s no crime in a man to
drink," and "The man who drinks and keeps his head, Scores two points,
it must be said." So Kurolyessoff had not a positively bad reputation;
on the contrary many people thought highly of him. Insinuating and
courteous in his address, and respectful to all persons of rank and
position, he was a welcome guest in every house. As he was a near
neighbour of the Baktéyeff family, and indeed a distant connexion, he
soon managed to make his way into their good graces; they took a great
liking to him and sounded his praises everywhere. At first he had no
special object, but was merely following his invariable rule—to make
himself agreeable to persons of rank and wealth; but later, when he met
in their house Praskovya Ivanovna, lively, laughing, and rich, and
looking quite old enough to be married, he formed a plan of marrying her
himself and getting her wealth into his hands. With this definite object
in view, he redoubled his attentions to her grandmother and aunt, till
the two ladies quite lost their heads about him; and at the same time he
paid court so cleverly to the girl herself, that she soon had a liking
for him, as she naturally would for a man who agreed to everything she
said, gave her everything she asked, and spoiled her in every possible
way. Next he showed his hand to her relations: he professed that he had
fallen in love with the orphan girl, and they believed that he was
suffering all a passionate lover’s pangs, mad with longing, and haunted
by his darling’s image day and night. They approved of his plan and took
the poor victim of love under their protection. The favour and
connivance of her relations made it easy for him to proceed along his
path: he did everything he could to entertain and amuse the child—taking
her out for drives behind his spirited horses, pushing her in the swing
and sitting beside her in it himself, singing with her the popular songs
which he sang very well, giving her many trifling presents, and ordering
amusing toys for her from Moscow.

Kurolyessoff knew, however, that the consent of her cousin and guardian
was a necessary preliminary to complete success, and therefore tried to
get into the good graces of Stepan Mihailovitch. Under various pretexts
and provided with introductory letters from Praskovya Ivanovna’s
relations, he paid a visit at Bagrovo; but the visit proved a failure.
At first sight this may seem strange; for some of the young officer’s
qualities were likely to appeal to Stepan Mihailovitch. But my
grandfather, as well as his quick eye and sound sense, had that
instinct, peculiar to men who are perfectly honest and straightforward
themselves, which is instantly conscious of the hidden guile and crooked
ways even of a complete stranger—the instinct which detects evil under a
plausible exterior and surmises its future development. Kurolyessoff’s
respectful manner and polite speeches did not take him in for a moment:
he guessed at once that there was some knavery underneath. There were
other objections. My grandfather’s own life was very strict, and the
reports of the Major’s peccadilloes which had casually come to his ear,
though many people treated them lightly enough, filled his honest breast
with disgust; and, though he was himself capable of furious anger, he
hated deliberate unkindness and cold cruelty. For all these reasons his
reception of his guest was cool and dry, though Kurolyessoff talked in a
sensible practical way on all subjects and especially the management of
land. Praskovya Ivanovna had now come to live with my grandfather; and,
when the Major began, on the strength of their old acquaintance, to pay
her compliments which she accepted with pleasure, his host’s head bent a
little to one side, his eyebrows met, and he shot a look at his guest
which was hardly hospitable. Arina Vassilyevna, on the contrary, and her
daughters, had been charmed straight off by the young man’s seductions
and were quite inclined to say kind things to him; but the storm-signals
on the face of Stepan Mihailovitch quenched their ardour and made them
all hold their tongues. The guest tried to restore the harmony of the
party and to resume their agreeable conversation. But it was no use: he
received short answers from them all, and his host was not even quite
polite. Though it was getting late and an invitation to stay the night
would have been the natural thing, there was nothing for it but to take
his leave. "The man is a knave and rotten all through," said Stepan
Mihailovitch to his family; "but perhaps he won’t come here again." No
voice was raised to contradict him; but, behind his back, the women went
on for a long time praising the dashing young officer; and one who liked
to listen to his merits and to tell of them herself, was the orphan girl
with the large fortune.

With the taste of this rebuff in his mouth, Kurolyessoff went back and
told Mme. Baktéyeff of his failure. The people there knew my grandfather
well, and at once abandoned all hope that he would give his consent.
Long consideration brought no solution of the difficulty. The bold Major
suggested that her grandmother should invite the girl on a visit, and
that the marriage should take place without the consent of Stepan
Mihailovitch; but both Mme. Baktéyeff and her daughter, Mme. Kurmysheff,
were convinced that Stepan Mihailovitch would not let his cousin go
alone, or, if he did, would be slow about it, and the Major’s leave was
nearly at an end. Then he proposed a desperate scheme—to induce
Praskovya Ivanovna to elope with him, and to get married in the nearest
church; but her relations would not hear of such a scandalous expedient,
and Kurolyessoff went back to his regiment. The ways of Providence are
past finding out, and we cannot judge why it came about that this
nefarious scheme was crowned with success. Six months later, Mme.
Baktéyeff heard one day that Stepan Mihailovitch was called away to some
distance by very important business and would not return for some time.
His destination and errand I do not know; but it was some distant place,
Astrakhan or Moscow, and the business was certainly legal, because he
took with him his man of business. A letter was sent at once to Stepan
Mihailovitch, begging that the child, during the absence of her cousin
and guardian, might stay with her grandmother. A curt answer was
received—that Parasha was very well where she was, and, if they wished
to see her, they were welcome to visit Bagrovo and stay as long as they
liked. Stepan Mihailovitch sent this plain answer, and gave the
strictest injunctions to his always submissive wife, that she was to
watch Parasha as the apple of her eye and never let her out of the house
alone; and then he started on his journey.

Mme. Baktéyeff was constantly sending letters and messages to Praskovya
Ivanovna and my grandfather’s womankind; and she sent news of his
departure at once to Kurolyessoff, adding that the absence would be a
long one, and asking whether the Major could not come on leave, to take
a personal share in the promotion of their scheme. She herself and her
daughter went at once to Bagrovo. She had always been on friendly terms
with Arina Vassilyevna, and now, on discovering that she also liked
Kurolyessoff, revealed the fact that the young officer was passionately
in love with Parasha; she launched out into praise of the suitor, and
said, "There is nothing I wish so much as to see the poor little orphan
comfortably settled in my lifetime; I am sure she will be happy. I feel
that I have not long to live, and therefore I should like to hurry on
the business." Arina Vassilyevna, on her side, entirely approved of the
plan but expressed doubts whether Stepan Mihailovitch would consent:
"Heaven knows why," she said, "but he took a strong dislike to that
delightful Kurolyessoff." Arina Vassilyevna’s elder daughters were
summoned to a council presided over by Mme. Baktéyeff and her daughter,
a strong partisan of the Major’s; and it was settled that the
grandmother, as the girl’s nearest relation, should manage the affair,
without involving Arina Vassilyevna and her daughters; it was to appear
that they knew nothing about it and took no hand in it. I have said
already that Arina Vassilyevna was a kind-hearted and very simple woman;
her daughters sympathised entirely with Mme. Baktéyeff, and it is not
surprising that she was persuaded by them to promote a scheme which was
sure to provoke the furious rage of Stepan Mihailovitch.

Meantime the innocent victim laughed and sang, with no suspicion that
her fate was being decided. They often spoke of Kurolyessoff in her
presence, praised him to the skies, and assured her that he loved her
more than his own life, was constantly studying how to please her, and
would certainly bring her a number of presents from Moscow on his next
visit. All this she heard with pleasure, and often said that she loved
Kurolyessoff better than any one in the world. While Mme. Baktéyeff was
at Bagrovo, she had a letter forwarded to her, in which Kurolyessoff
assured her that he would come, as soon as he could get leave. Arina
Vassilyevna promised to say nothing when writing to her husband, and
also to send Parasha to her grandmother’s house, in spite of her
husband’s strict orders to the contrary, on the pretext that her nearest
relative was dangerously ill. When the two ladies left Bagrovo and went
home, Praskovya Ivanovna cried and asked to go with them; the Major was
expected soon, and that was an additional attraction; but permission was
refused, out of respect, it was said, to her guardian’s strict orders.
Kurolyessoff had some difficulty in getting leave, and it was two months
before he arrived. Immediately afterwards a special messenger was
despatched to Bagrovo, with a letter from Mme. Kurmysheff to Arina
Vassilyevna; the lady wrote that her mother was desperately ill and
wished to see her grand-daughter and give her her blessing; she
therefore asked that Parasha might be sent, with an escort. She also
wrote that Stepan Mihailovitch would certainly have sent the child to
see the last of her grandmother, and could not possibly resent this
infraction of his commands. The letter was clearly intended to be shown
by Arina Vassilyevna, in order to protect herself from her husband’s
displeasure. True to her promise and reassured by this letter, Arina
Vassilyevna made her preparations at once and took Parasha herself to
the place where the grandmother was supposed to be dying; she stayed
there a week and returned home charmed by the politeness of Kurolyessoff
and also by some presents which he had brought from Moscow for her, and
for her daughters as well. Praskovya Ivanovna was very happy: her
grandmother took a sudden turn for the better; that fairy godmother, the
Major, had brought her a number of presents and toys from Moscow and
stayed in the house continuously. He flattered her in every possible
way, and soon took her fancy so completely, that, when her grandmother
told her he wished to marry her, she was charmed. She ran up and down
through the house like a perfect child, telling every one she met that
she was going to marry the Major and would have capital fun—driving all
day with him behind his fine trotters, swinging on a swing of immense
height, singing, or playing with dolls, not little dolls, but big ones
that were able to walk and bow. You can judge by this, how far the poor
little bride realised her position. Fearing that reports might reach
Stepan Mihailovitch, the plotters went to work quickly: they invited the
neighbours to a formal betrothal, at which the pair exchanged rings and
kisses, sat side by side at table, and had their healths drunk. At
first, the bride got tired of the ceremony where she had to sit still so
long and listen to so many congratulations; but, when she was allowed to
have her new doll from Moscow beside her, she quite cheered up,
introducing the doll to every one as her daughter, and making it curtsey
when she did, in acknowledgment of their kind wishes. A week later, the
marriage took place with all due formality; the bride’s age was given as
seventeen instead of fifteen, but no one would have guessed the truth,
to look at her.

Though Arina Vassilyevna and her daughters knew what the end must be,
yet the news of the marriage, which came sooner than they expected,
filled them with horror. The scales fell from their eyes, and they now
realised what they had been about, and that neither the grandmother’s
sham illness nor her letter would serve to cover them from the just
wrath of Stepan Mihailovitch. Before she heard of the marriage, Arina
Vassilyevna had written to her husband that she had taken the child to
her grandmother: "It was quite necessary," she wrote, "because the old
lady was in a dying state. I stayed there a whole week, and mercifully
the invalid took a good turn; but they insisted on keeping Parasha till
her grandmother got well. I was helpless: I could not take her by force,
so I agreed against my will and hurried back to our own children, who
were quite alone at Bagrovo. And now I am afraid that you will be
angry." In answering, he said she had done a foolish thing and told her
to go back and fetch Parasha home at all costs. Arina Vassilyevna sighed
and shed tears over this letter, and was puzzled how to act. The young
couple soon came to pay her a visit. Parasha seemed perfectly happy and
cheerful, though some of her childish gaiety had gone. Her husband
seemed happy too, and at the same time so composed and sensible that his
clever arguments had power to lull Arina Vassilyevna’s fears to rest. He
proved to her convincingly that her husband’s wrath must all fall upon
the grandmother: "And she," said he, "owing to that dangerous
illness—though now, thank God! she is better—had a perfect right not to
wait for the consent of Stepan Mihailovitch; she knew that he would be
slow in giving it, though of course he must have given it in time. It
was impossible for her to delay, owing to her critical condition, and it
would have been hard for her to die without seeing her orphan
grand-daughter settled in life; her place could not be filled even by a
brother, far less by a mere cousin." Many soothing assurances of this
kind were forthcoming, backed by some very handsome presents which were
received by the Bagrovo ladies with great satisfaction and some sinking
of heart. Other presents were left, to be given to Stepan Mihailovitch.
Kurolyessoff advised Arina Vassilyevna not to write to her husband till
he answered the letter of intimation from the young couple; and he
assured her that he and his wife would write this at once. He did not
really dream of writing: his sole object was to delay the explosion and
get time to take root in his new position. Immediately after his
marriage, he applied for leave to retire from the Army, and got it very
soon. He then began by paying a round of visits with his bride to all
the relations and friends on both sides. At Simbirsk he began by calling
on the Governor and neglected no one of any importance who could be
useful to him. All were enthusiastic in praise of the handsome young
couple, and they were so popular everywhere, that the marriage was soon
sanctioned by public opinion. Thus several months passed away.

Stepan Mihailovitch had had no news from home for a long time, and his
lawsuit dragged on interminably. He was suddenly seized by a longing to
see his family again, and returned one fine day to Bagrovo. Arina
Vassilyevna trembled all over when she heard the awful words, "The
master has come!" Hearing that all were alive and well, he entered his
house in high spirits, kissed his Arisha and daughters and son, and then
asked in an easy tone, "But where on earth is Parasha²⁷?" Encouraged by
her husband’s kind manner, Arina Vassilyevna answered: "I don’t know for
certain where she is; perhaps, with her grandmother. Of course you heard
long ago, _batyushka_, that she was married." I shall not describe my
grandfather’s amazement and fury; but his fury became twice as hot, when
he heard the name of the bridegroom. He was proceeding to settle
accounts with his wife on the spot, when she and all her daughters fell
at his feet and showed him Mme. Baktéyeff’s letter; thus she had time to
convince him that she knew nothing about it and had been deceived
herself. The fury of Stepan Mihailovitch was now diverted to Mme.
Baktéyeff; he ordered fresh horses to be ready, rested two hours, and
then galloped straight off to her house. The battle royal that took
place between the two may be imagined. The old lady stood his first
torrent of unmeasured abuse without flinching; then she drew herself up,
grew hot in her turn, and delivered her own attack upon my grandfather.
"How dare you make this furious assault on me," she asked, "as if I was
your bond-slave? Do you forget that my birth is quite as good as yours,
and that my late husband held a much higher rank than you? I am a nearer
relation to Parasha, I am her own grandmother, and her guardian as much
as you are. I arranged for her settlement without waiting for your
consent, because I was dangerously ill and did not wish to leave her
dependent upon you. I knew your infernal temper; under your roof, the
child would have had a taste of the stick some day. Kurolyessoff is an
excellent match for her, and Parasha fell in love with him of herself.
Everybody likes him and praises him. I know he did not take your fancy;
but just ask your own family, and you will soon find out that they can’t
say enough in his praise!"

  ²⁷ A short form of Praskovya, which itself represents the Greek name
     Paraskeva.

"You lie, you old swindler!" roared my grandfather; "you deceived my
wife by pretending that you were dying! Kurolyessoff has bewitched you
and your daughter by the power of the devil, and you have sold your
grand-daughter into his hands!"

This was too much for Mme. Baktéyeff, and she let out in her rage that
Arina Vassilyevna and her daughters were in league with her and had
themselves accepted presents at different times from Kurolyessoff. This
disclosure turned the whole force of my grandfather’s rage back upon his
own family. He threatened that he would dissolve the marriage on the
ground that Parasha was not of age, and then started home. On the way he
turned aside to visit the priest who had performed the ceremony, and
called him to account. But the priest met his attack very coolly, and
showed him with no hesitation the certificate of affinity, the
signatures of the grandmother, the bride, and the witnesses, and also
the baptismal certificate which alleged that Praskovya Ivanovna was
seventeen. This was a fresh blow to my grandfather, for it deprived him
of all hope of breaking the hateful marriage; and it increased
enormously his anger against his wife and daughters. I shall not dwell
upon his behaviour when he got home: it would be too painful and
repulsive. Thirty years later, my aunts could never speak of that day
without trembling. I shall only say, that the culprits made a full
confession, that he sent back all the presents, including those intended
for himself, to Mme. Baktéyeff, to be forwarded to the proper quarter,
that the elder daughters long kept their beds, and that my grandmother
lost all her hair and went about for a whole year with her head
bandaged. He sent a message to the Kurolyessoffs forbidding them to dare
to appear before him, and ordered that their names should never be
mentioned in his house.

Time rolled on, healing wounds whether of mind or body, and calming
passions. Within a year Arina Vassilyevna’s head was healed, and the
anger in the heart of Stepan Mihailovitch had cooled. At first he
refused either to see or hear of the Kurolyessoffs, and would not even
write to Praskovya Ivanovna; but, when a year had passed and he heard
from all quarters good accounts of her way of life, and was told that
she had suddenly become sensible beyond her years, his heart softened
and he became anxious to see the cousin whom he had loved. He reasoned
that she, as a perfect child, was less to blame than any of the rest,
and gave her leave to come, without her husband, to Bagrovo; and, as a
matter of course, she came at once. The reports were true: one year of
marriage had wrought such a change in Praskovya Ivanovna, that Stepan
Mihailovitch could hardly believe it. It was puzzling also, that she now
showed towards her cousin a kind of love and gratitude which she had
never felt in her girlhood, and was still less likely, one would think,
to feel after her marriage. In his eyes, which filled with tears when
they met, did she read how much love was concealed under that harsh
exterior and that arbitrary violence? Had she any dark foreboding of the
future, or did she dimly realise that here was her one support and stay?
Or did she feel unconsciously, that the rough cousin who had opposed her
happiness and still disliked her husband, loved her better than all the
women who had indulged her by falling in with all her childish wishes? I
cannot answer these questions; but all were struck by the change. In her
careless childhood she had been indifferent to her cousin, thinking
little of his rights and her duties; and now she had every reason to
resent his treatment of her grandmother; yet she felt to him now as a
devoted daughter feels to a tender father when both have long known and
loved one another. Whatever the cause of it, this sudden feeling ended
only with her life.

But what was the remarkable change that had come over so young a woman
as Praskovya Ivanovna, after one year of married life? The foolish child
had turned into a sensible but cheerful woman. She frankly confessed
that they had all behaved badly to Stepan Mihailovitch. For herself only
she pleaded youth and ignorance, and, for her grandmother, her husband,
and the rest, their blind devotion to her. She did not ask him to pardon
the chief criminal at once; but she hoped that in time, when he saw her
happiness and the unwearied care with which her husband managed her
property and looked after her estates, her cousin would forgive the
culprit and admit him at Bagrovo. My grandfather, though he made no
answer at the time, was completely conquered by this appeal. He did not
keep his "clever cousin"—as he now began to call her—long at his house;
he said that her place was now elsewhere, and soon sent her back to her
husband. At parting, he said: "If you are as well satisfied with your
husband a year hence, and if he behaves as well to you as he does now, I
shall be reconciled to him." A year later, as he knew that Kurolyessoff
was behaving well and paying the utmost attention to the management of
his wife’s property, and found his cousin, when he saw her, looking
healthy and happy and cheerful, Stepan Mihailovitch told her to bring
her husband with her to Bagrovo. He received Kurolyessoff cordially,
frankly confessed his former doubts, and ended by promising to treat him
as a kinsman and friend, on condition of continued good conduct. The
guest behaved very cleverly: he was less furtive and less insinuating
than he used to be, but just as respectful, attentive, and tactful. His
bearing was clearly more confident and self-assured; he was giving the
closest attention to agricultural problems, on which he asked advice
from my grandfather—advice which he took in very quickly and followed
with remarkable skill. He was connected in some distant way with Stepan
Mihailovitch, and addressed him as "uncle" and treated the rest of the
family as relations. Even before the scene of reconciliation or
forgiveness, he had rendered a service of some kind to Stepan
Mihailovitch; my grandfather was aware of this and thanked him for it
now; he even gave him a similar commission to execute. In fact, the
visit passed off very well. But, though all the circumstances seemed to
speak in favour of Kurolyessoff, my grandfather still said: "The lad is
all right: he is clever and sensible; but somehow I don’t take to him."

It was in the course of the next year that Stepan Mihailovitch made his
move to the district of Ufa. For three years after his marriage,
Kurolyessoff behaved with discretion and moderation, or at least
concealed his conduct with such care that nothing got round. Besides, he
was constantly moving about and spent little time at home. There was
only one report, which spread everywhere with exaggeration—that the
young landowner was a very strict master. During the next two years he
did wonders in the way of improving his wife’s property, and established
his character for unceasing activity, bold enterprise, and steadfast
perseverance in the execution of his schemes. The property had been
mismanaged previously: the land had been injured by neglect, and the
peasants brought in very little income, not because there was no market
for their grain, but because they were spoilt and lazy, and had too
little land; and another difficulty was that some of them belonged to
three different owners—Mme. Baktéyeff and her daughter as well as
Praskovya Ivanovna. Kurolyessoff began by transferring some of the
peasants to new ground, while he sold the old land at a good profit. He
bought about 20,000 acres of steppe in the Government of Simbirsk (now
Samára) and the district of Stavropolsk—excellent arable land, level and
easy to plough, with over three feet of black soil. The land lay on the
river Berlya, which had some coppices on its banks near the source; and
there was also "Bear Hollow," which was left untouched for some time and
is now the only forest on the property. He settled 350 serfs here. This
estate turned out highly profitable, because it was only a hundred
_versts_ from Samára and about fifty from a number of ports on the
Volga. It is well known that the value of an estate in our country
depends entirely upon the market for grain.

Next, Kurolyessoff went off to the district of Ufa and bought from the
Bashkirs 60,000 acres. The soil, though good, was not as productive as
that in Simbirsk, but there was a considerable quantity of wood, not
only firewood, but timber for building. He planted two colonies there,
one of 450 serfs and the other of 50; and he called the larger
"Parashino" and the smaller "Ivanovka." As the Simbirsk estate was
called "Kurolyessovo," each of the properties bore one of the names of
his wife. Such a romantic fancy has always seemed to me curious,
considering the sort of man that Kurolyessoff turned out to be; but some
will maintain that these inconsistencies are common enough. He also made
a seat for himself and his wife in the village of Choorassovo, fifty
_versts_ from Simbirsk; this was a separate property of 350 serfs which
his wife had inherited from her mother. He built there a splendid
mansion, according to the ideas of those days, with all the usual
appurtenances; it was finely decorated and furnished, and painted with
frescoes inside and out; the chandeliers and bronzes, the silver plate
and china, were a wonder to behold. The house was situated on the slope
of a hill, from which more than twenty excellent springs came bubbling
out. The house and the hill stood in the centre of an orchard, very
large and productive, stocked with apple-trees and cherry-trees of every
possible sort. The internal arrangements—the service and cooking, the
horses and carriages—were luxurious and substantial. There was a
constant succession of visitors at Choorassovo, either country
neighbours, of whom there were a good many, or people from Simbirsk;
they ate and drank, took walks and played cards, sang and talked, and
were generally noisy and merry. Kurolyessoff dressed his wife up like a
doll, anticipated all her wishes, and entertained her from morning till
night, that is, when he happened to be at home. In short, after a few
years, he had attained such a position all round, that good people
admired him and bad people envied him. Nor did he forget the claims of
religion: in place of an old tumbledown wooden erection, he built a new
church of stone and equipped it splendidly; he even formed an excellent
choir out of the household servants. Praskovya Ivanovna was quite
contented and happy. She gave birth to a daughter in the fourth year of
her marriage, and to a son a year later, but she soon lost them, the
girl in infancy, and the boy when he was three. She had become so
attached to the boy that this loss cost her dear. For a whole year her
eyes were never dry, her excellent constitution was seriously affected,
and she had no more children. Meanwhile her husband’s reputation and
influence grew by leaps and bounds. It is true that his behaviour to the
small landowners was arbitrary and harsh; yet they, if they did not like
him, were exceedingly afraid of him; and people of importance thought it
only to his credit, that he made his inferiors know their proper place.
His absences from home became more frequent and longer, from year to
year, especially after the sad year in which Praskovya Ivanovna lost her
son and would not be comforted. It is probable that he grew weary of
tears and sighs and solitude; for she refused to have any visitors for a
whole year. But indeed the most cheerful and noisy society at
Choorassovo was no attraction to Kurolyessoff.

Little by little, certain rumours began to spread abroad and gain
strength. According to these reports, the Major was not merely strict,
as was said before, but cruel; in the privacy of his estates at Ufa he
gave himself up to drink and debauchery; he had gathered round him a
band, with whom he drank and committed excesses of every kind; and,
worse still, several victims had already been killed by him in the fury
of his drunken violence. The police and magistrates of the district, it
was said, were all his creatures: he had bribed some with money and
others with drink and terrorised them all. The small landowners and
inferior officials went in terror of their lives: if any dared to act or
speak against him, they were seized in broad daylight and imprisoned in
cellars or corn-kilns, where they were fed on bread and water and
suffered the pangs of cold and hunger; and some were unmercifully
flogged with an instrument called a "cat." Kurolyessoff had a special
fancy for this implement, which was merely a leather whip with seven
tails and knots at the end of each tail. They remained for some time
after Kurolyessoff’s death in a store-room at Parashino, for show, not
for use; and I saw them there myself; they were burnt by my father when
he inherited the property. These reports were only too well founded: the
reality far surpassed the timid whisper of rumour. Kurolyessoff’s thirst
for blood, inflamed to madness by strong drink, grew unchecked to its
full proportions, till it presented one of those horrible spectacles at
which humanity shudders and turns sick. The instinct of the tiger is
terrible indeed, when combined with the reasoning power of a man.

At last the rumours were changed into certain knowledge; and of all the
people with whom Praskovya Ivanovna lived—relations, neighbours, and
servants, every one knew the real truth about Kurolyessoff. When he
returned to Choorassovo from the scene of his exploits, he always showed
the same respect to rank, the same friendly attention to his equals, the
same anxiety to please his wife. She had now got over her loss and had
recovered health and spirits; the house was as full of visitors as it
used to be, and something was always going on. At Choorassovo,
Kurolyessoff never struck any of the servants, leaving the bailiff and
the butler in sole possession of this amusement; but they all knew about
him and trembled at a mere look. Even relations and intimate friends
showed some discomfort and embarrassment in his company. But Praskovya
Ivanovna noticed nothing, or, if she did, ascribed it to a quite
different cause—the involuntary respect which every one felt for her
husband’s remarkable success as a landowner, his splendid establishment,
and his general intelligence and firmness of purpose. Sensible people
who loved Praskovya Ivanovna, when they saw her perfectly composed and
happy, were glad of her ignorance and hoped it might last as long as
possible. There were, no doubt, some women among her dependants and
humble neighbours whose tongues itched uncommonly, and who felt a strong
desire to pay the Major out for his contemptuous treatment of them, by
disclosing the truth; but, apart from the fear they could not help
feeling, which would probably not have deterred them, there was another
obstacle which prevented the fulfilment of their kind intentions. It was
simply impossible to bring any tales against her husband to Praskovya
Ivanovna. She was clever, keen-sighted, and determined; and, as soon as
she detected any hidden innuendo to the detriment of Kurolyessoff, she
knitted her dark eyebrows and said in her downright way that any offence
of the kind would be punished by perpetual exclusion from her house. As
the natural result of such a significant warning, nobody ventured to
interfere in what was not their business. There were two servants in the
house, a favourite attendant of her late father’s and her own old nurse,
whom she specially favoured, though they were not admitted to such close
intimacy as old servants often were in those days; but they too were
powerless. To them it was a matter of life and death that their mistress
should know the real truth about her husband; for they had near
relations who were personal attendants of Kurolyessoff’s and were
suffering beyond endurance from their master’s cruelty. At last they
determined to tell the whole story to their mistress. They chose a time
when she was alone, and went together to her room; but the old nurse had
hardly mentioned Kurolyessoff’s name, when Praskovya Ivanovna flew into
a violent passion. She told the woman that, if she ever again ventured
to open her mouth against her master, she would banish her from her
presence for ever and send her to live at Parashino. Thus all possible
channels were blocked, and all mouths were stopped, that might have
informed against the criminal. Praskovya Ivanovna loved her husband and
trusted him absolutely. She knew that people like to meddle with what
does not concern them, and like to trouble the water, that they may
catch fish; and she had made up her mind at once and laid down an
absolute rule, to listen to no tales against her husband. It is an
excellent rule, and indispensable for the preservation of domestic
peace. But there is no rule that does not admit of exceptions; and
perhaps, in the present case, the resolute temper and strong will of the
wife, added to the fact that all the wealth belonged to her, might have
checked the husband at the outset of his career. As a sensible man, he
would not have cared to deprive himself of all the advantages of a
luxurious life; he would not have gone to such extremes or given such
free play to his monstrous passions. It is more likely that, like many
other men, he would have taken his pleasures in moderation and with
precaution.

Thus several years went by, during which Kurolyessoff gave himself up
without restraint to his evil tendencies. His degeneration was rapid,
and at last he began to commit incredible crimes, and always with
impunity. I shall not describe in detail the kind of life he led on his
estates, especially at Parashino, and also in the villages of the
district; the story would be too repulsive. I shall say no more than is
necessary to convey a true conception of this formidable man. During the
early years when his whole attention was given to organising his wife’s
estates, he deserved to be called the most far-seeing, practical, and
watchful of agents. To all the infinitely various and troublesome
business, involved in removing peasants and settling them down in
distant holdings, he gave his personal and unremitting attention. He
kept constantly in view one object only, the well-being of his
dependants. He could spend money where it was needed; he saw that it
came to hand at the right time and in the right quantity; he anticipated
all the wants and requirements of the settlers. He accompanied them
himself for a great part of their journey, and met them himself at the
end of it, where they found everything prepared for their reception. It
is true that he was too severe and even cruel in the punishment of
culprits; but he was just, and could keep his eyes shut at times. From
time to time he allowed himself a little relaxation, when he disappeared
for a day or two to amuse himself; but he could throw off the effects of
his debauchery like water off a duck’s back, and come to work again with
fresh vigour.

So long as he had the burden of his work upon his shoulders, it took up
all his powers of mind and kept him from the fatal passion for drink,
which robbed him of his senses and removed the curb from his monstrous
inhuman passions. Work was his salvation; but, when he had got both the
new estates, Kurolyessovo and Parashino, into order, and built
manor-houses at both, with a second smaller house at Parashino, then
came the season of little work and much leisure. Drunkenness, with its
usual consequences, and violence, gained complete mastery over him, and
developed by degrees into an insatiable thirst for human blood and human
suffering. Encouraged by the passive fear of all around him, he soon
ceased to set any limit to his arbitrary violence. He chose from among
his dependants a score of ruffians, fit instruments for his purposes,
and formed them into a band of robbers. They saw that their master bore
a charmed life, and believed in his power; drunken and debauched
themselves, they carried out all his insane orders willingly and boldly.
If any man offended Kurolyessoff by the slightest independence in word
or action—if, for example, he failed to turn up when invited to one of
their drunken revels—the gang set off at once at a sign from their
master, seized the culprit either secretly or openly wherever they found
him, and brought him back to Parashino, where he was treated with insult
and chained up in a cellar underground or flogged by their master’s
orders. Kurolyessoff was a man of taste: he liked good horses, and he
liked good pictures—he thought them good at least—to adorn his walls. If
anything of the kind took his fancy in a neighbour’s house or in any
house where he happened to be, he at once proposed an exchange; in case
of a refusal, he would sometimes, if he was in a good humour, offer
money; but, if this also was refused, he gave warning that he would take
it and give nothing for it. And he did actually turn up with his gang a
short time after, pack up whatever he wanted, and carry it off.
Complaints were made, and the preliminary steps for an inquiry were
taken. But Kurolyessoff saw this must be stopped at once. He sent a
message to the district magistrate, that he would flay with the "cat"
any officer of the law who dared to present himself; and he remained
master of the situation. Meantime the man who had dared to complain was
seized and beaten, on his own estate and in his own house, with his wife
and children kneeling round and imploring mercy. It was Kurolyessoff’s
custom to make it up with his victims after a time: sometimes he offered
them pecuniary compensation, but more often he restored peace by
terrorising them; in any case, the stolen goods remained his lawful
property. During his carouses he liked to boast that he had taken "that
pretty thing in the gilt frame" from so-and-so, and that inlaid
writing-table from some one else; and often these very people were
sitting at the table, pretending to be deaf or plucking up heart to
laugh at their own losses. There were even worse acts of violence, but
these also went scot free.

Kurolyessoff had a very powerful constitution: though he drank a great
deal, it never disabled him but only put him on the move and roused a
horrible activity in his clouded brain and inflamed body. One of his
favourite amusements was to harness teams of spirited horses to a
miscellaneous assortment of carriages, to pack the carriages with his
ragtag and bobtail of men and women, and then scour over the fields and
through the villages at full gallop, with the jingling of bells and the
singing and shouting of his drunken rabble. He took a stock of liquor
with him on these occasions and made every one he met, without regard to
calling or sex or age, drink till they were intoxicated; and any one who
dared to refuse was first flogged, and then tied to a tree or a post,
though it might be raining or freezing at the time. Of more revolting
acts of violence I say nothing. One day he was driving in this state of
mind through a village, and, as he passed a threshing-floor, noticed a
woman of remarkable beauty. "Stop!" he called out. "Petrushka, what do
you think of that woman?" "She’s uncommonly pretty," said Petrushka.
"Would you like to marry her?" "How can I marry another man’s wife?"
asked Petrushka with a grin on his face. "I’ll show you how! Seize her,
my lads, and put her in the carriage beside me!" They did so; the woman
was taken straight to the parish church, and there, though she protested
that she had a husband living and two children, was married to
Petrushka; and no complaints were made either in Kurolyessoff’s lifetime
or in that of his widow. When the estate came into my father’s hands, he
restored this woman with her husband and children to her former owner;
her first husband had long been dead. My father also distributed various
articles of property to their former owners when they asked for them;
but many of the things had got worn out by tossing about in
lumber-rooms. It is hard to believe that such things could happen in
Russia, even eighty years ago; but the truth of the narrative it is
impossible to dispute.

This life of drunken and criminal violence, horrible and disgusting
enough in itself, led on to worse, till the man’s natural cruelty became
a ferocious thirst for blood. To inflict torture became with him a
necessity as well as a pleasure. On the days when he could not gratify
this passion, he was depressed and listless, uneasy and even ill; and
this was why his visits to Choorassovo grew steadily rarer and his stay
there shorter. But, on his return to the solitude of Parashino, he made
haste to reward himself for his abstinence. He had only to watch the
labourers at their work, to secure a sufficient number of victims; no
excuses were accepted, and it is always possible to find trifling cases
of neglect on the land if you are determined to hunt for them. Yet it
was the personal servants and people about the house who suffered most
from his ferocity. He seldom flogged a peasant, unless the man had
committed a serious offence or was personally known to him; but his
bailiffs and clerks suffered as much at his hands as the household
servants. He spared no one: every one of his favourites had, some time
or other, been flogged within an inch of his life, and some of them many
times. It is remarkable that, when Kurolyessoff got violently angry,
which seldom happened, he did not use violence; but, when he had got
hold of a man and intended to torture him for his own amusement, he
would say in a quiet and even affectionate tone: "Well, my good friend
Grigóri Kuzmitch,"—Grishka²⁸ being his usual name—"it can’t be helped;
come, and I will settle accounts with you." Thus he would speak to his
head-groom, who for some unknown reason was put to the torture more
often than others. "Scratch him up a bit with the cat," said the master
with a smile, and then the torture went on for hours, while the master
drank tea with brandy in it, smoked his pipe, and from time to time
passed jests on his victim till unconsciousness supervened. Trustworthy
witnesses have assured me that only one expedient proved successful in
saving life after such an ordeal: the lacerated body of the victim was
wrapped up in sheepskins taken warm from the animals’ backs as soon as
they were slaughtered. Kurolyessoff would carefully examine his victim;
then, if content, he would say, "Well, that’s enough; take him away"—and
then he became cheerful, jocular, and amiable for the whole day and
sometimes for several days. In order to complete the portrait of this
monster, I shall quote his own words which he repeated more than once
among his boon-companions: "Don’t talk to me of the knout or the stick!
They kill a man before you mean it. The ’cat’ is the thing for me: it
gives pain without taking life!" I have told here only a tithe of what I
know, but perhaps I have said enough. It is remarkable, as an instance
of the inexplicable inconsistencies of corrupt human nature, that
Kurolyessoff, at a time when he had reached the extreme limit of
debauchery and cruelty, was zealously engaged in building a stone church
at Parashino. At the time I am about to describe, the outside of the
church was finished, and workmen had been hired for the internal
decoration: carpenters, carvers, gilders, and _ikon_²⁹-painters had been
at work for some months and were occupying all the smaller manor-house
of Parashino.

  ²⁸ A diminutive form of Grigóri (Gregory).

  ²⁹ An _ikon_ is a sacred image, kept in a church or hung on the wall
     of a room.

Praskovya Ivanovna had now been married fourteen years. She noticed
something strange about her husband, whom for two years she had only
seen at long intervals for a few days at a time, but she did not even
suspect anything like the truth. She went on with her easy cheerful way
of life: in summer she gave great attention to her orchard and the
water-springs which she left in their natural state and liked to clean
out with her own hands; at other seasons she spent her time with her
visitors and became a great lover of cards. Suddenly she received, by
post or special messenger, a letter from an old lady for whom she had
great respect, a distant relation of her husband’s. This letter gave a
full description of Kurolyessoff’s life, and ended in this way, that it
would be sinful not to open the eyes of the mistress of a thousand
serfs, when they were suffering such monstrous cruelty and she could
protect them by cancelling the legal authority she had given her husband
to manage her estates. "Their blood cries to heaven," she wrote, "and at
this moment a servant known to you, Ivan Onufrieff, is dying in
consequence of cruel maltreatment. You have nothing to fear yourself
from Kurolyessoff: he will not venture to show his face at Choorassovo,
and your good neighbours and the Governor himself will protect you."

This letter fell like a thunderbolt on Praskovya Ivanovna. I have heard
her say myself that she was quite stunned for some minutes; but she was
supported by her firm faith in God and the uncommon strength of her
will, and soon determined on a step from which most brave men would have
shrunk. She ordered horses to be harnessed, saying that she was going to
Simbirsk, and then, with one maid and a man and the coachman, drove
straight to Parashino. It was a long journey of 400 _versts_, and she
had plenty of leisure to think over what she was doing. She used to say
herself that she had formed no plan of action whatever; she merely
wished to see with her own eyes and find out for certain what her
husband was doing and how he lived. She did not entirely trust the
letter from his kinswoman, who lived at a distance and might have been
deceived by false reports; and she did not choose to question her old
nurse at Choorassovo. The thought of danger never entered her head: her
husband had always been so gentle and respectful with her, that it
seemed to her quite natural and quite possible to induce him to return
in her carriage to Choorassovo. She timed herself to arrive at Parashino
in the evening, left her carriage outside the village, and walked
unrecognised—few of the people there knew her—accompanied by her maid
and man, to the court of the mansion-house. She passed through the back
entrance, made her way to a wing from which loud sounds of singing and
laughter were issuing, and opened the door with a steady hand.

Fortune, as if on purpose, had brought together everything that could
reveal at one flash the kind of life her husband was leading. More
intoxicated than usual, he was carousing with his boon-companions.
Dressed in a shirt of red silk, he held a glass of punch in one hand³⁰
while a tipsy herd of servants, retainers, and country women danced and
sang before him. Praskovya Ivanovna nearly fainted at the sight. She
understood all now. Unnoticed, because the room was crowded with people,
she shut the door and left the house. On the steps she came face to face
with one of Kurolyessoff’s servants, not a young man, and, fortunately,
sober. He recognised his mistress and was just calling out,
"_Matushka_³¹ Praskovya Ivanovna, is it you?"—when she put her hand over
his mouth and led him to the centre of the courtyard. She said in an
ominous voice, "Is this the way you go on behind my back? The days of
your feasting and dancing are done." The man fell at her feet weeping
and said: "_Matushka_, do you suppose that _we_ find pleasure in his
goings-on, that _we_ are responsible? God himself has brought you here."
She told him to be silent and take her to see Ivan Onufrieff; she had
heard that he was still living. She found him in a dying state, lying in
a cow-byre in the backyard. He was too weak to tell her anything; but
his brother, Alexyéi, a mere lad, who had been flogged only the day
before, crawled somehow from his pallet, fell on his knees, and told her
what had befallen his brother and himself and others as well. Praskovya
Ivanovna’s heart swelled with pity and horror. She felt that she also
was to blame, and she formed a firm resolve to put an end to the crimes
and atrocities of Kurolyessoff. She thought there would be no
difficulty. She gave strict orders that her presence should be kept
secret. Then, as she heard that the smaller house, which had been built
some years before, but, from some caprice of her husband’s, never
furnished, contained one habitable room unoccupied by the workmen, she
went off, intending to pass the remainder of the night there and to
speak next morning to her husband when he was sober. But the secret of
her arrival was not strictly kept. The report reached the ear of one of
the most desperate of Kurolyessoff’s gang, and he, moved by devotion or
by fear, whispered it to his master. Kurolyessoff was dumbfounded by the
news; it sobered him in a moment; he felt uneasy and scented danger
ahead. His wife’s firm and masculine temper had found few opportunities
to display itself hitherto, but he guessed that it was there. Dismissing
his band of revellers, he had two buckets of cold water poured over his
head; and then, braced up and invigorated by this expedient, he changed
into ordinary clothing and went to see if his wife was asleep. He had
had time to reflect and fix on a line of action. He guessed the truth,
that Praskovya Ivanovna had received from some quarter information as to
his way of life, but that she was incredulous and had come to Parashino
to ascertain the truth herself. He knew that her eye had rested for a
moment on his revels, but he did not know that she had seen Onufrieff
and that Alexyéi had told her the whole story. He intended to play the
repentant sinner, to excuse himself as best he could for his riotous
debauch, to pour oil on the troubled waters by his delicate attentions,
and to take his wife away as soon as possible from Parashino.

  ³⁰ The asterisks apparently imply that the author is unwilling to
     report some details of this orgy.

  ³¹ _I.e_. mother, a term of affection and respect.

It was morning by now, and the sun had actually risen. Kurolyessoff
stole on tiptoe to the room occupied by Praskovya Ivanovna and softly
opened the door. A bed had been made for her on the top of a chest, but
the sheets were still smooth and no one had lain down on them. He looked
all round the room and saw Praskovya Ivanovna. She was kneeling in
prayer; there was no _ikon_ in the room, and her eyes, full of tears,
were fixed upon the Cross on the church, which was just opposite the
window and glittered in the rays of the rising sun. He remained standing
a few moments, and then said in a playful voice: "You have prayed long
enough, my dear! I am delighted to see you. What made you think of
coming?" Praskovya Ivanovna rose from her knees with no sign of
confusion; she refused her husband’s embrace; then, concealing the flame
of her just anger under a cold determined manner, she told him that she
knew all and had seen Ivan Onufrieff. She expressed in plain terms her
aversion to the monster whom she could no longer regard as her husband,
and she passed sentence upon him: he was to return the document which
gave him authority over her estates, to leave Parashino at once, never
to appear before her again, and never to set foot on any of her lands;
if he refused, she would petition the Governor of the province, and
reveal all his crimes; and his fate would be Siberia and penal
servitude. Kurolyessoff was taken by surprise; he foamed at the mouth
with rage and anger. "So that is the way you talk to me, my beauty! Then
I shall change my tune too!" roared the infuriated ruffian. "You shall
not leave Parashino till you sign a document transferring all your
estates to me; if you refuse, I shall shut you up in a cellar and starve
you to death." Then he caught up a stick from a corner of the room,
felled his wife to the floor with his first blows, and went on beating
her till she lost her senses. Next he ordered some of his trusted
servants to carry their mistress to a stone cellar, which he locked with
a huge padlock and put the key in his pocket. He was a formidable figure
when he appeared before the assembled household; he had summoned them
all, in order to discover the culprit who had led his mistress to the
cow-byre; but the man had already sought safety in flight, accompanied
by the coachman and manservant who had come from Choorassovo. The
fugitives were pursued at once. Kurolyessoff did no injury to the maid,
who had refused to desert her mistress: he gave her directions for
exhorting the prisoner to submission, and then locked her up with his
own hands in the same cellar. What did Kurolyessoff do next? He began to
drink and riot more furiously than before. But alas! in vain did he
swallow brandy like water, in vain did his revel rout dance and sing
before him—he had turned gloomy and sullen. Yet this did not prevent him
from working indefatigably for the attainment of his purpose. He
procured from the local town a legal document by which Praskovya
Ivanovna professed to sell Parashino and Kurolyessovo to one of his
disreputable friends—Choorassovo he was kind enough to leave to her—and
twice a day he went down to the cellar and pressed his wife to sign the
paper; he begged pardon for his violence in the heat of the moment,
promised that if she consented she should never see him again, and took
an oath that he would restore all her property to her by his will. But
Praskovya Ivanovna, though bruised and half-starved and suffering from
fever, refused even to listen to any compromise whatever. So things went
on for five days, and God only knows how it would all have ended.

All this time my grandfather Stepan Mihailovitch was living and
prospering on his estate of New Bagrovo, which was 120 _versts_ distant
from Parashino. As I have mentioned already, he had frankly made it up
with Kurolyessoff and was satisfied with him in general, though he felt
no fancy for him. Kurolyessoff, on his side, showed great deference to
Stepan Mihailovitch and all his family, and was ready to perform any
services for them. When he had planted his colony at Parashino and was
engaged in organising it, he came every year to Bagrovo and made himself
very agreeable. He appealed to Stepan Mihailovitch, as a man of
practical experience in colonising, for his advice; he received it
gratefully, wrote it all down word for word, and really followed it. He
even invited Stepan Mihailovitch twice to Parashino, to judge of his
pupil’s proficiency; and each time my grandfather approved entirely of
what he saw; and on his last visit, when he had inspected the arable
land and all the farming arrangements, he said to Kurolyessoff, "You are
young, friend, but you’ve got on fast; I can teach you nothing." And, as
a matter of fact, everything at Parashino was in excellent order. Of
course the host received the old man as if he had been his own father,
with all possible deference and attention. As years went on, ugly
rumours about Kurolyessoff found their way to Bagrovo. As my grandfather
disliked gossip, nothing was said to him at first; but the rumours grew
steadily. The womankind at Bagrovo knew of them; and Arina Vassilyevna
ventured at last to tell her husband that Kurolyessoff was leading a
terribly wicked life. He would not believe it. He said: "Once you
believe what people say, you will soon accuse your neighbour of robbing
a church! I know what the Baktéyeff servants were like—thieves and
shirkers, to a man! And my cousin’s serfs too got spoilt, with no master
to look after them. It’s not surprising if they’re terrified of honest
work and decent order. Friend Mihail may have gone to work too fast:
what of that? they’ll learn to bear it. As to his drinking—if he takes a
glass after his work, a man’s none the worse for that, provided he
doesn’t neglect his business. There _are_ beastly things a man shouldn’t
do; but there, I fancy, they’re lying. You women are too fond of
listening to gossip." For a long time after this, Stepan Mihailovitch
heard nothing more of the rumours. At last, some Bagroff serfs, who had
been transferred from the Government of Simbirsk to Parashino together
with the serfs of the Baktéyeff family, came to visit their relations at
New Bagrovo and told terrible stories of their master. Arina Vassilyevna
again appealed to her husband, and begged that he would himself question
one of these men who was now at Bagrovo; he was an old man with an
established character for speaking the truth; and Stepan Mihailovitch
had known him all his life. My grandfather consented. He sent for the
man and questioned him, and heard a story which made his hair stand on
end. He could not think what to do, or how to mend matters. Praskovya
Ivanovna’s occasional letters showed that she was quite happy and
undisturbed; and he concluded that she knew nothing of her husband’s
conduct. In the old days he had warned her himself never to listen to
tales against her husband; and he felt sure that she was following his
advice only too well. He reflected, that, if she learnt the truth, it
was doubtful if she could do anything; she would distress herself
terribly, all to no purpose. It was therefore desirable that her eyes
should never be opened. He could not now interfere; and he thought
interference useless in the case of such a man. "I hope he will break
his neck or be tried for a murder; he deserves it. No hand but God’s can
mend a man like that. He is not so hard upon his peasants and labourers,
and the house-servants are a pack of scoundrels; let them suffer for
their sins! I have no mind to soil my fingers with this dirty business."
Thus Stepan Mihailovitch reasoned in his own way. He broke off all
relations with Kurolyessoff, however, and ceased to answer his letters.
This hint was understood, and the correspondence came to an end. But to
Praskovya Ivanovna, Stepan Mihailovitch began to write oftener and more
intimately than before.

So matters remained till the morning, when the three fugitives from
Parashino made their appearance before my grandfather as he sat on his
stoop. They had spent the first day concealed in an inaccessible swamp
which joined on to the stackyards of Parashino; in the evening they
learnt from some one in the village exactly what had happened, and made
their way straight to Bagrovo, considering Stepan Mihailovitch as the
only possible protector and champion of Praskovya Ivanovna. His feelings
may be imagined when he heard what had happened at Parashino. He loved
his one cousin not less, perhaps more, than his own daughters. The image
of Parasha half-killed by her ruffian of a husband, of Parasha confined
in a cellar for three days and perhaps dead already, presented itself so
vividly to his lively imagination that he sprang up like one demented,
and rushed down the courtyard and through the village, summoning his
retainers and labourers in accents of frenzy. Those who were not in the
cottages came running from the fields. When all were assembled, they
were full of sympathy for their master’s passionate despair, and cried
with one voice that they would go on foot, if need be, to the rescue of
Praskovya Ivanovna. In a short time three cars, drawn by teams of
spirited horses from the stables of Bagrovo, and carrying a dozen men
chosen for strength and courage, were galloping along the road to
Parashino. The party included the fugitives from Parashino, and were
armed with guns and swords, pikes and pitchforks. Later in the day two
more cars followed to reinforce Stepan Mihailovitch; the men were armed
in the same way; the horses were the best the peasants could produce. By
the evening of the second day, the vanguard was within seven _versts_ of
Parashino. They fed the jaded horses, and in the first light of the
summer dawn dashed into the wide courtyard and drove straight up to the
cellar. It was close to the rooms occupied by Kurolyessoff. Stepan
Mihailovitch jumped out and began to beat his fist against the wooden
door of the cellar. A voice faintly asked, "Who is there?" My
grandfather recognised his cousin’s voice; dropping a tear of joy that
he had found her alive, and crossing himself, he called out in a loud
voice, "Thank God! It is your cousin, Stepan Mihailovitch; you are safe
now!" He sent off the servants from Choorassovo to get ready Praskovya
Ivanovna’s carriage, and posted six armed men to defend the gate, while
he himself and the rest of his men applied axes and crowbars to the
cellar-door. It gave way in a moment; and Stepan Mihailovitch himself
carried out Praskovya Ivanovna, placed her on a car between himself and
her faithful maid, and drove unmolested out of the courtyard with all
his retainers. The sun was rising as they drove past the church, and his
first beams lit up the Cross on the roof. It was just six days since
Praskovya Ivanovna had prayed with her eyes fixed on that Cross; and now
she prayed again and thanked God for her deliverance. The carriage
caught them up, when they were five _versts_ from Parashino; and Stepan
Mihailovitch moved his cousin into the carriage and drove with her back
to Bagrovo.

But I shall be asked, "How did all this happen? did no one see it? what
had become of Kurolyessoff and his trusty retainers? is it possible that
he was unaware of it or absent at the time?" No: the liberation of
Praskovya Ivanovna took place before many witnesses; and Kurolyessoff
was at home and knew what was going on, but did not venture to show his
face.

The explanation is quite simple. His men had spent the whole evening
carousing with their master, and some of them were so drunk that they
could not be roused. There was one sober man, a complete abstainer and a
favourite. He wakened his master with some difficulty, and, trembling
with fear, told him of the raid of Stepan Mihailovitch and the guns
pointing straight at the windows. "But where are all our fellows?" asked
Kurolyessoff. "Some are asleep, and others are hiding," said the man;
but this was not true; for the drunken rabble was mustering near the
outside steps. Kurolyessoff thought a moment; then with a gesture of
despair he said, "Let her go, and the devil go with her! Lock the door,
go to the window, and watch what happens." In a few minutes, the man
cried out, "They are carrying away the mistress!—They’re off!"—"Go to
your bed," said his master; then he rolled himself up in his blankets
and either fell asleep or made a pretence of it.

Yes, right has a moral strength before which wrong must bend, for all
its boldness. Kurolyessoff knew the stout heart and fearless courage of
Stepan Mihailovitch, and he knew that he himself was in the wrong; and
therefore, in spite of his furious temper and unscrupulous impudence, he
let his victim go without a struggle.

Tenderly and carefully Stepan Mihailovitch conveyed the sufferer, whom
he had always loved and who now roused in him deep sympathy and a still
greater affection. No question passed his lips on the journey; and, when
he brought her in safety to Bagrovo, he forbade his womankind to trouble
her with inquiries. But in a fortnight Praskovya Ivanovna was herself
again, thanks to her strong constitution and high spirit; and then
Stepan Mihailovitch determined to cross-examine her. In order to act, he
must know the real truth, and he never trusted secondhand information.
She told him the whole truth with perfect frankness, but begged that he
would keep it from his family and that she should be asked no questions
by any one else. She put herself altogether in his hands; but she feared
his hot temper and implored him not to take vengeance on Kurolyessoff.
She said positively that, on reflection, she had decided not to bring
shame on her husband, or to stain the name which she must continue to
bear throughout her life. She added that she now repented of the words
which had burst from her lips at her first interview with Kurolyessoff
at Parashino, and that nothing would induce her to make a complaint to
the Governor against him. Yet she considered it her duty to rescue her
serfs from his cruelty, and therefore intended to cancel the document
which gave him authority over her estates. She asked Stepan Mihailovitch
to take over the management himself, and also to write to Kurolyessoff
demanding the document and stating that, if he refused to give it up,
she would take legal steps to cancel it. She asked Stepan Mihailovitch
to express this in plain terms but without any abusive epithets; and she
offered to sign the letter herself, to make it more convincing. I should
mention that she could hardly read and write her native language. Stepan
Mihailovitch loved his cousin so well that he bridled his rage and
assented to her wishes. But he would not hear of taking over the
management. "No, my dear," he said; "I don’t care to meddle in other
people’s affairs, and I don’t want your relations to be saying that I
feather my own nest while looking after your multitude of serfs. The
land will be badly managed in your hands, I don’t doubt; but you are
rich and will have enough. I don’t mind saying in the letter that I am
to take over the management; that will give your sweet pet a turn! All
the rest you ask shall be done."

Strict orders were accordingly issued to the womankind to ask no
questions of the lady. My grandfather wrote the letter to Kurolyessoff
with his own hand, Praskovya Ivanovna added her signature, and a special
messenger was despatched with it to Parashino. But, while they were
considering and wondering and writing at Bagrovo, all was already over
at Parashino. The messenger returned on the fourth day and reported
that, by God’s will, Kurolyessoff had died suddenly and was already
buried.

Stepan Mihailovitch heard the news first. Involuntarily he crossed
himself and said, "Thank God!" And so said all his family: in spite of
their former weakness for Kurolyessoff, they had long looked on him with
horror as a criminal and a ruffian. With Praskovya Ivanovna it was
different. Judging by their own feelings, they all supposed she would
welcome the news, and told her at once. But, to the surprise of every
one, she was utterly prostrated by it and became ill again; and, when
her strength got the better of the illness, her depression and
wretchedness were extreme: for some weeks she wept from morning till
night, and she grew so thin that Stepan Mihailovitch was alarmed. No one
could understand the cause of such intense sorrow for a husband whom she
could not love and who had treated her so brutally—"a disgrace to human
nature," as they called him. But there was an explanation, and this is
it.

Many years later, my mother, who was a great favourite with Praskovya
Ivanovna, was talking with her of past days—a thing which Praskovya
Ivanovna generally avoided—and in the openhearted frankness of their
conversation she asked: "Please tell me, aunt, why you took on so after
your husband’s death. In your place, I should have said a prayer for his
soul, and felt quite cheerful." "You are a little fool, my dear,"
answered Praskovya Ivanovna: "I had loved him for fourteen years and
could not unlearn my feeling in one month, even though I had found out
what he was; and, above all, I grieved for his soul: he had no time to
repent before he died."

After six weeks, Praskovya Ivanovna’s good sense mastered her grief to
some extent; and she consented, or, I should rather say, did not refuse,
to travel with all the Bagroff family to Parashino, in order to attend a
memorial service at Kurolyessoff’s grave. To the general surprise, she
dropped no tear at Parashino or during the sad ceremony; but one may
imagine how much this effort cost her, in her condition of sorrow and
bodily weakness. By her wish, only a few hours were spent at Parashino,
and she did not enter that part of the house where her husband had lived
and died.

It is not difficult to guess the cause of Kurolyessoff’s sudden death.
When Stepan Mihailovitch had rescued his cousin from the cellar, the
people at Parashino all plucked up heart, believing that the end of
Kurolyessoff’s rule had come. They all supposed that the owner of
Bagrovo, who was in the position of a father to their mistress, would
turn her husband neck and crop out of a place that did not belong to
him. No one dreamed that their young mistress, insulted and beaten and
half-starved in an underground cellar in her own house, would fail to
appeal to the law for redress. Every day they expected an irruption from
Stepan Mihailovitch with the sheriff at his back; but week followed
week, and no one came. Kurolyessoff was as drunken and violent as ever:
every one of his retainers he flogged till they were half-dead, for
having betrayed him, not sparing even the sober man who had wakened him
on the night of the rescue; and he boasted that Praskovya Ivanovna had
given up to him the title-deeds of her estates. It was past the power of
human endurance; and the future seemed hopeless.³² Two of the
scoundrels, who had been favourites, and, strangely enough, two who had
suffered less than the rest from his cruelty, ventured upon a horrible
crime. They poisoned him with arsenic, putting it into a decanter of
_kvass_, which Kurolyessoff generally emptied during the night; and they
put in so much, that he was dead in two hours. As they had taken no one
into their confidence, the catastrophe startled and terrified the whole
household. The servants suspected one another, but the real criminals
remained unknown for some time. Six months later one of them became
desperately ill and confessed his crime before he died; and his
accomplice, though the dying man had not betrayed him, made off and was
never seen again.

  ³² From here to the end of the paragraph was removed by the censor
     from the early editions of the work.

The sudden death of Kurolyessoff would certainly have been followed by
an inquest, but for the presence at Parashino of a young clerk called
Mihaila Maximitch, who had only lately come to the place. By cleverness
and good management, he contrived to get the affair hushed up. He became
later Praskovya Ivanovna’s man of business and the chief agent on all
her estates, and enjoyed her full confidence. Under the name of
"Mihailushka" he was known to all and sundry in the Governments of
Simbirsk and Orenburg. He was a man of remarkable ability; though he
made a large fortune, he lived discreetly and modestly for many years;
but, when he received his freedom on the death of his mistress and lost
his wife to whom he was much attached, he took to drinking and died in
poverty. One of his sons, if I remember rightly, entered the official
class and was eventually ennobled.

I should not conceal the fact, that forty years later, when I became the
owner of Parashino, I found the recollection of Kurolyessoff’s
management still fresh among the peasants, and they spoke of him with
gratitude, because they felt every day the advantage of many of his
arrangements. His cruelty they had forgotten, and they had felt it less
than his personal attendants; but they remembered his power of
distinguishing guilt and innocence, the honest workman and the shirker;
they remembered his perfect knowledge of their needs and his constant
readiness to give them help. The old men smiled as they told me that
Kurolyessoff used often to say: "Steal and rob as you please, if you
keep it dark; but, if I catch you, then look out!"

When she went back to Bagrovo, Praskovya Ivanovna, soothed by the
sincere and tender love of her cousin and by the assiduous attentions of
his womankind (whom she did not much like but who expected great favours
and benefits from her) gradually got over the terrible blow she had
suffered. Her good health came back, and her peace of mind; and at the
end of a year she resolved to go back to Choorassovo. It was painful to
Stepan Mihailovitch to part with his favourite: her whole nature
appealed to him, and he had become thoroughly accustomed to her society.
Not once in his whole life was he in a rage with Praskovya Ivanovna. But
he did not try to keep her: on the contrary, he pressed her to go as
soon as possible. "It’s no sort of life for you here, my dear," he used
to say; "it’s a dull place, though we have got accustomed to it. You are
young still"—she was thirty—"and rich and used to something different.
You should go back to Choorassovo, and enjoy your fine house and
splendid garden and the springs. You have plenty of kind neighbours
there, rich people who live a gay life. It is possible that God will
send you better fortune in a second venture; you won’t want for offers."
Praskovya Ivanovna put off her departure from day to day—so hard did she
find it to part from the cousin who had saved her life and been her
benefactor from her childhood. At last the day was fixed. Early on the
previous morning, she came out to join Stepan Mihailovitch, who was
sitting on his stoop and thinking sad thoughts. She kissed and embraced
him; the tears came to her eyes as she said: "I feel all your love for
me, and I love and respect you like a daughter. God sees my gratitude;
but I wish that men should see it too. Will you let me bequeath to your
family all my mother’s property? What I have from my father will come to
your son in any case. My relations on my mother’s side are rich, and you
know that they have given me no reason to reward them with my wealth. I
shall never marry. I wish the Bagroff family to be rich. Say yes, my
dear cousin, and you will comfort me and set my mind at rest." She threw
herself at his feet and covered with kisses the hands with which he was
trying to raise her up. "Listen, my dear," said Stepan Mihailovitch in a
rather stern voice: "You don’t know me aright. That I should covet what
does not belong to me, and cut out the rightful heirs to your
estates—no! that shall never be, and never shall any one be able to say
that of Stepan Bagroff! Mind you don’t ever mention it again. If you do,
we shall quarrel; and it will be the first time in our lives."

Next day Praskovya Ivanovna left Bagrovo and began her own independent
life at Choorassovo.



FRAGMENT III: THE MARRIAGE OF THE YOUNG BAGROFF


Many years passed by and much happened during that time—famine and
plague, and the rebellion of Pugatchoff.³³ The landowners of the
Orenburg district scattered before the bands of the usurper, and Stepan
Mihailovitch also made off with his family, first to Samára, and then
down the Volga to Saratoff and as far off as Astrakhan. But by degrees
all disturbances passed over and calmed down and were forgotten.
Children became boys, boys became men, and men came to grey hairs; and
among these last was Stepan Mihailovitch. He saw this himself, but he
hardly believed it. He would sometimes allude to the ravages of time,
but he did so without uneasiness, as if there were no personal reference
to himself. Yet my grandfather had ceased to be his old self: his
herculean strength and tireless activity had gone for ever. This
sometimes surprised him; but he went on living precisely in the old
way—eating and drinking to his heart’s content, and dressing with no
regard to the weather, though he sometimes suffered for this neglect.
Little by little, his keen clear eye became clouded and his great voice
lost its power; his fits of anger were rarer, but so were his bright and
happy moods. His elder daughters had all married, and the oldest had
been dead some time, leaving a daughter of three years old. Aksinya,³⁴
the second, had lost one husband and married again; Elizabeth, a clever
but arrogant woman, had somehow married a General Yerlykin, who was old
and poor and given to drinking; and Alexandra had found herself a
husband in Ivan Karatayeff, well-born, young, and rich, but a passionate
lover of the Bashkirs and their wandering life—a true Bashkir himself in
mind and body. The youngest daughter, Tanyusha, had not married. The
only son³⁵ was now twenty-six, a handsome youth with a complexion of
lilies and roses: his own father used to say of him, "Put a petticoat on
him, and he’d be a prettier girl than any of his sisters!" Though his
wife, Arina Vassilyevna, shed bitter tears and would not be comforted,
Stepan Mihailovitch sent his son into the Army as soon as he was
sixteen. He served for three years, and, owing to the influence of
Mihail Kurolyessoff, acted as aide-de-camp for part of the time to
Suvóroff. But Suvóroff left the district of Orenburg and was succeeded
by a German general (I think his name was Treubluth); and he sentenced
the young man to a severe flogging, from which his entire innocence, if
not his noble birth, should have protected him. His mother nearly died
of grief, when she heard it; and even my grandfather thought this was
going too far. He withdrew his son from the Army and got him a place in
the law court at Ufa, where he earned promotion by long and zealous
service.

  ³³ Pugatchoff was a Cossack, who raised a formidable rebellion in East
     Russia; taken prisoner by Suvóroff, he was executed at Moscow in
     1775.

  ³⁴ The popular form of Xenia; the diminutive is Aksyutka.

  ³⁵ The author’s father.

I cannot pass over in silence a strange fact that I have noticed: most
of the Germans and foreigners in general who held posts in the Russian
service in those days were notorious for their cruelty and love of
inflicting corporal punishment. The German who punished young Bagroff so
cruelly was a Lutheran himself, but at the same time a great stickler
for all the rites and ceremonies of the Russian Church. This historic
incident in the annals of the Bagroff family happened in the following
way. The general ordered a service to be performed in the regimental
chapel on the eve of some unimportant saint’s-day; he was always present
himself on these occasions, and all officers were expected to attend. It
was summer, and the chapel windows were open. Suddenly, a voice in the
street outside struck up a popular song. The general rushed to the
window: three subalterns were walking along the street, and one of them
was singing. He ordered them under arrest and sentenced each of them to
300 lashes. My unfortunate father, who was not singing but merely
walking with his friends, pleaded his noble birth; but the general said
with a sneer, "A noble is bound to show special respect to divine
service"; and then the brute himself looked on till the last stripe was
inflicted on the innocent youth. This took place in a room next the
chapel, where the solemn singing of the choir could be distinctly heard;
and the tyrant forbade his victim to cry out, "for fear of disturbing
divine worship." After his punishment, he was carried off unconscious to
hospital, where it was found necessary to cut off his uniform, owing to
the swelling of his tender young body. It was two months before his back
and shoulders healed up. What must it have cost his mother to hear such
news of her only son whom she simply worshipped! My grandfather lodged a
complaint in some quarter; and his son, who had sent in his papers at
once, got his discharge from the Army before he left the hospital, and
entered the Civil Service as an official of the fourteenth or lowest
class. Eight years had now gone by, and the incident was by this time
forgotten.

Alexyéi Stepanitch was now living peacefully at Ufa and performing his
duties there. Twice a year he paid a visit to his parents at Bagrovo,
240 _versts_ away. His life was quite uneventful. Quiet, bashful, and
unassuming, this young heir to a landed estate lived on good terms with
all the world, till suddenly the modest course of his existence became
disturbed.

There was a permanent military administration in the town of Ufa, and
next in authority the Lieutenant-Governor was Nikolai Zubin, who
resided regularly in the town. M. Zubin was an honest and able man,
but his character was weak. His wife had died, leaving three
children—Sonitchka,³⁶ a girl of twelve, and two younger boys. He was
devoted to his daughter; and it was no wonder he should love a child
so beautiful and so clever, who, in spite of her tender years, soon
became her father’s companion and assisted him in the management of
the household. Eighteen months after the death of his first wife, whom
he had loved and sincerely mourned, M. Zubin found consolation by
falling in love with the daughter of M. Rychkoff, a landowner in
Orenburg, well-known for his descriptions of that country. The
marriage soon took place; and the young wife, Alexandra, by her
intelligence and beauty, soon gained entire control over her
submissive husband. But she was hard and unfeeling, and conceived a
hatred for her stepdaughter, her father’s darling, who bade fair to
grow up into a beautiful woman. The thing is common enough. The name
of stepmother has long been proverbial for cruelty, and it fitted Mme.
Zubin precisely. But it was by no means easy to tear Sonitchka from
her place in her father’s heart: she was not a girl who could be put
down easily, and the contest which followed inflamed the stepmother’s
anger to an extraordinary pitch. She swore that this hussy of
thirteen, who was the idol of her father and all the town, should some
day live in the maids’ room, wear the coarsest clothes, and carry the
slops out of the children’s nursery. She kept her oath to the letter:
after two or three years, Sonitchka was living with the servants and
clothed like a scullion, and she scrubbed and cleaned the nursery
which was now inhabited by two half-sisters. But what was the father
doing? He had once loved her dearly; but now for whole months he never
saw her; and when he did meet her going about in rags, he turned away
with a sigh, wiped away a furtive tear, and made off as soon as
possible. It is the way of many elderly men who have married again and
are dominated by young wives. As I do not know exactly the ways and
methods by which Mme. Zubin attained her object, I shall not speak of
them; nor shall I dwell upon the cruelties and sufferings inflicted
upon the bereaved girl, with her sensitive temper and strong will;
nothing was spared her, not even the most humiliating punishments and
beatings for imaginary offences. I shall only say, that the
stepdaughter was not far from suicide, and was only saved from it by a
miracle. It happened thus. When she had decided to put an end to an
intolerable existence, the poor child wished to say her last prayer
before an image of Our Lady of Smolensk, the image with which her
mother on her deathbed had blessed her. She fell on her knees in her
garret before the _ikon_, and, with floods of bitter tears, pressed
her face on the dirt-stained floor. Suffering deprived her of
consciousness for some minutes; when she recovered and got up, she saw
the candle, which she had put out the night before, still burning
before the image. At first she cried out with surprise and involuntary
fear; but soon she recognised that she had seen a miracle wrought by
Divine Power. She took courage; she was conscious of a strength and
composure she had never felt before; and she firmly resolved to suffer
and endure and live. From that day the helpless child wore armour of
proof against the increasing exasperation of her stepmother: whatever
she was told to do, she did; whatever was inflicted upon her, she
bore. Degrading punishment no longer forced the tears from her eyes,
no longer made her turn sick and faint, as it used to do. "Mean slut"
had long been her title, and "desperate wretch" was now added to it.
But the measure of God’s patience now brimmed over, and His thunder
pealed: Mme. Zubin, in the prime of life and in the pride of her
health and beauty, died ten days after giving birth to a son.
Twenty-four hours before the end, knowing that she must die, she was
eager to take the load off her conscience. Sonitchka was suddenly
wakened in the night and summoned to her stepmother’s bedside. The
dying woman confessed in the presence of witnesses her guilty conduct
towards her stepdaughter, begged her forgiveness, and conjured her in
the name of God to be good to the children. The girl forgave her and
promised to care for the orphans; and she kept that promise. Mme.
Zubin confessed also to her husband that the accusations which had
been brought against his daughter were all calumnies and falsehoods.

  ³⁶ A pet name for Sofya (Sophia). This is the author’s mother, whose
     real name was Márya.

Her death caused a complete reversal of affairs. M. Zubin also had a
paralytic stroke, and, though he survived for some years, never left his
bed again. The oppressed and ragged Cinderella, whom the servants—and
especially those belonging to Mme. Zubin—had been mean enough to
humiliate and insult to their heart’s content, suddenly became the
absolute mistress of the household, her sick father having put
everything under her control. The reconciliation between the guilty
father and the injured daughter was touching and even distressing to the
daughter and all who saw it. For long, M. Zubin was wrung by remorse:
his tears flowed day and night, and he repeated the same words over and
over, "No, Sonitchka, it is impossible you should forgive me!" To each
one of his acquaintance in the town he formally confessed his misconduct
towards his daughter; and "Sofya Nikolayevna," as she was now called,
became the object of general respect and admiration. Made wise by years
of suffering, this girl of seventeen developed into a grown woman, a
mother to the children, and the manager of the household. She even
discharged public duties; for, owing to her father’s illness, she
received all heads of departments, officials, and private citizens; she
discussed matters with them, wrote letters and official documents, and
at last became the real manager of the business in her father’s office.
Sofya Nikolayevna nursed her father with anxious care and tenderness;
she looked after her three brothers and two sisters, and even took
trouble about the education of the elder children. Her own brothers,
Serghéi and Alexander, were now boys of twelve and ten; and she
contrived to find teachers for them—a kind old Frenchman called
Villemer, whom fortune had somehow stranded at Ufa, and a half-educated
Little Russian who had been exiled to the town for an attempted fraud.
She availed herself of the opportunity to study with her brothers, and
worked so hard that she could soon understand a French book or
conversation and even talk French a little herself. Eighteen months
later she sent her brothers to Moscow for their education. Through a
certain M. Anitchkoff who lived at Ufa, she had become acquainted with
his cousin who lived at Moscow, and they often corresponded. The
well-known writer, Novikoff, shared a house at Moscow with this M.
Anitchkoff; and both friends were so struck by the letters from this
young lady on the banks of the river Byélaya, that they sent her
regularly all new and important books in the way of Russian literature;
and this did much for her mental development. This M. Anitchkoff had a
special respect for her, and considered it an honour to carry out her
request. He undertook to receive both her brothers and place them at a
boarding-school connected with Moscow University, and performed his
undertaking punctiliously. The boys got on well at school, but their
studies were broken off when the summons came for them to enter the
Guards, in which they had been enrolled while still in the cradle.

All clever and educated people who came to Ufa hastened to make the
acquaintance of Sofya Nikolayevna, were attracted by her, and never
forgot her. Many of these acquaintances became in course of time the
intimate friends of her children, and the relation was severed only by
death. I shall name only those of them whom I knew myself—V. Romanovsky,
A. Avenarius, Peter Chichagoff, Dmitri Myortvavo, and V. Itchansky.
Scholars also and travellers, attracted by the novelty and beauty of the
district, invariably made the young lady’s acquaintance and left written
testimony of their admiration for her beauty and wit. It is true that
her position in society and her home helped her, and served, one might
say, as a pedestal for the statue; but the statue itself was a noble
figure. I remember especially the verses of Count Manteuffel, a
traveller; he sent them to Sofya Nikolayevna with a most respectful
letter in French; and he also sent a copy of an immense work in five
quarto volumes, by a Dr. Buchan,³⁷ which had just been translated from
English into Russian and made a great sensation in the medical world of
that day. Buchan’s _Domestic Medicine_ was a real treasure to Sofya
Nikolayevna: she was able to make use of its directions to make up
medicines for her father’s benefit. In his verses Count Manteuffel
compared the fair lady of Ufa to both Venus and Minerva.

  ³⁷ Buchan’s _Domestic Medicine_ was published in 1769; the author died
     in 1805.

In spite of his enfeebled state, M. Zubin did not resign his office for
several years. Twice a year he gave a ball; he did not appear himself,
in order to welcome the ladies, but the men went to see him where he lay
in his study; and the young hostess had to receive the whole town.
Several times a year, her father insisted on her going out to balls in
the houses of the leading people, and she yielded to his earnest
entreaties and put in a short appearance at the ball. She wore fine
dresses and was an excellent dancer in the fashion of the time. When she
had gone through a Polish minuet and a single country-dance or
schottische, she went away at once, after flashing through the room like
a meteor. All who had the right to be so, were in love with Sofya
Nikolayevna, but they sighed at a respectful distance; for this young
lady gave none of them any encouragement whatever.

And with this peerless creature the son of Stepan Mihailovitch fell in
love! He could not understand and appreciate her fully, but her
appearance alone and her lively cheerful temper were enough to bewitch a
man; and bewitched he accordingly was. He saw her first in church, and
the first sight was enough for his susceptible heart. Alexyéi
Stepanitch—henceforth we shall give him both his names—soon discovered
that the fair lady received all officials who visited at her father’s
house; and, being himself an official in the law-court, he began to
appear regularly in her drawing-room, to pay his respects on high days
and holidays. He saw her every time, and his passion grew steadily. His
calls were so regular and so prolonged—though he hardly opened his
mouth—that they soon attracted general notice; and it is probable that
the first person to notice them was the young hostess herself. Rapturous
looks, flaming cheeks, helpless confusion—these are the symbols by which
love has always spoken. A frank passion has been an object of ridicule
from time immemorial, and all Ufa laughed at Alexyéi Stepanitch. He was
humble and shy and as bashful as a country girl; and his only reply to
all jests and allusions to the subject was to blush the colour of a
peony. But Sofya Nikolayevna, so cold and even snubbing in her manner to
her fashionable admirers, was surprisingly indulgent to this speechless
worshipper. Perhaps she was sorry for this young man who had no armour
against all the ridicule he suffered on her behalf; perhaps she
understood that his was no idle or passing fancy and that his whole life
was at stake; anyhow, the severe young beauty not only bowed graciously
and looked kindly at him, but tried also to start conversation; and his
timid, incoherent replies and agitated voice did not seem to her
ridiculous or repulsive. I should say, however, that Sofya Nikolayevna,
though she stood on her dignity with self-assertive people, was always
kind and condescending to humility and modesty.

Things went on thus for some time. Suddenly, a bold thought flashed on
the brain of Alexyéi Stepanitch—the thought of getting Sofya Nikolayevna
for his wife. At first he was frightened by his own ambition, so bold
and so unlikely to be realised. How could he raise his eyes to Sofya
Nikolayevna, the chief personage in Ufa, and, in his opinion, the
cleverest and most beautiful woman in the world? He abandoned his
intention entirely for a time. But by degrees the lady’s constant
goodwill and attention, her friendly glances which seemed to him to hold
out some encouragement, and, above all, the passion which mastered his
whole being, recalled the abandoned ideal; and it soon grew familiar and
became part of his life. There was an old lady called Mme. Alakayeff,
then living at Ufa to look after a lawsuit, who used to visit at the
Zubins’ house; she was distantly related to Alexyéi Stepanitch and had
always taken a great interest in him. He now began to visit her oftener,
and did his best to please her; and at last he confessed his love for a
certain person, and his intention to seek her hand. His love was the
talk of the town and therefore no news to Mme. Alakayeff; but his
intention of marrying her was a surprise. "She won’t have you," said the
old lady, shaking her head; "she’s too clever, too proud, too highly
educated. Plenty of people have been in love with her, but not one has
ever dared to ask the question. You’re a handsome lad, certainly,
well-born and fairly well-off, and you will be rich in course of
time—everybody knows that; but then you’re a plain country fellow, no
scholar or man of the world, and you’re terribly bashful in society."
Alexyéi Stepanitch was aware of all this himself; but love had entirely
confused his brain, and a voice whispered in his ear day and night that
Sofya Nikolayevna would accept him. Though the young man’s hopes seemed
to her unfounded, Mme. Alakayeff consented to go to Sofya Nikolayevna’s
house, where, without making any allusion to his wishes, she would turn
the conversation on to him and take note of all that was said. She
started at once, and Alexyéi Stepanitch remained in the house till she
should come back. She was absent for some time, and the lover became so
distressed and despondent that he began to cry and then fell asleep,
tired out, with his head leaning against the window. When the old lady
came back, she wakened him and said with a cheerful air: "Well, Alexyéi
Stepanitch, there is really something in it! When I began to speak about
you, and was rather hard upon you, Sofya Nikolayevna took up the cudgels
in earnest on your behalf, and ended by saying that she was sure you
were very kind and modest and gentle, and respectful to your parents;
and she said that God sent his blessing on such people, and they were
much better than your pert and forward talkers." Alexyéi Stepanitch was
so enraptured by this report that he hardly knew where he was. Mme.
Alakayeff gave him time to recover, and then said with decision: "If
your mind is quite made up about this, I will tell you what you had
better do. Go home at once, tell the whole story to your parents, and
ask for their consent and blessing, before kind people put their oar in.
If they give you one and the other, I don’t refuse to work in your
cause. Only don’t be in a hurry: begin by getting on the soft side of
your sisters; your mother won’t go against your wishes. Of course, your
father’s consent matters most of all. I know him: he is masterful to a
degree, but he has good sense; have a talk to him when he is in a good
humour." Alexyéi Stepanitch did not see the need of all this caution and
manœuvring: he said that his parents would be delighted, and asked what
possible flaw could be found in Sofya Nikolayevna. "Two terrible flaws,"
said the shrewd old lady: "she has only twopence to her fortune, and her
grandfather was a simple sergeant in a Cossack regiment." The
significance of her words was entirely lost upon Alexyéi Stepanitch, but
the old lady was not wrong in her presentiment, and her warning came too
late.

Within a week Alexyéi Stepanitch got leave of absence. He called on
Sofya Nikolayevna to say "good-bye," and she treated him kindly, wishing
him a pleasant journey, and hoping he might find his parents in good
health and happy to see him. Her kind words encouraged him to hope, and
off he went home. The old people were glad to see him, but they were
puzzled by the time of his visit and looked at him inquiringly. His
sisters—who lived near Bagrovo and came there in hot haste on a summons
from their mother—kissed their brother and made much of him, but kept on
smiling for some reason. The youngest sister, Tatyana, was his
favourite, and he revealed his passion to her ears first. Being a rather
romantic girl and fonder of her brother than the older sisters were, she
listened to him with sympathy, and at last went so far as to confide to
him a great secret: the family knew already of his love-affair and were
opposed to it. It had happened in this way.

Two months before, Ivan Karatayeff had travelled to Ufa on business and
brought back this piece of news to his wife. Alexandra Karatayeff—I have
spoken already of her character—boiled over with rage and indignation.
She took the lead in the family, and could twist them all, except, of
course, her father, round her little finger. She set one of her
brother’s servants to spy on his master, and made him report to her
every detail concerning his love-affair and his life at Ufa; and she
found a female friend in the town, who first rummaged and ferreted
about, and then, with the help of a discarded attorney’s clerk, sent her
a long letter composed of town talk and servants’ gossip. As her chief
authorities were the servants of the late Mme. Zubin, it is easy to
guess the kind of portrait which these enemies drew of Sofya
Nikolayevna.

It is a well-known fact that in the good old days of the Empress
Catherine—perhaps it is the case still—there was little love lost
between a man’s wife and his sisters; and the case was worse when the
sisters had only one brother, because his wife must become the sole and
undisputed mistress of the household. A great deal of selfishness
underlies human nature; it often works without our knowledge, and no one
is exempt from it; honourable and kind people, not recognising selfish
motives in themselves, quite honestly attribute their actions to other
and more presentable causes; but they deceive themselves and others
unintentionally. Where there is no kindness of heart or refinement of
manners, selfishness shows itself without any concealment or apology;
and so it was with the womankind of Stepan Mihailovitch. It was
inevitable that they should all resent their brother’s marriage,
irrespective of his choice. "Alosha will change towards us and love us
less than before; his bride will be a cuckoo in the nest and push out
the birds born there"—such would certainly have been the language of the
sisters, even if Alexyéi Stepanitch had chosen a bird of their own
feather; but Sofya Nikolayevna was worse than anything they could
imagine. Alexandra summoned her sister Elizabeth and hurried to Bagrovo,
to communicate to her mother and sisters—of course, with suitable
embellishments—all the information she had received of her brother’s
goings on. They believed every word she said, and their opinion of Sofya
Nikolayevna was to the following effect. In the first place, the Zubin
girl—this was her regular name in the secret meetings of the family
council—was of mean birth: her grandfather had been a Ural Cossack, and
her mother, Vyera Ivanovna Kandalintsoff, had belonged to the merchant
class; the alliance was therefore a degradation to an ancient and noble
family. In the second place, the Zubin girl was a mere pauper: if her
father died or was dismissed from his post, she would depend on charity
for her bread, and all her brothers and sisters would be a stone round
her husband’s neck. Thirdly, the Zubin girl was proud and fashionable, a
crafty adventuress who was accustomed to lord it over the town of Ufa;
and she would turn up her nose with no ceremony at plain people living
in the country, however long their pedigree. Fourthly and lastly, the
Zubin girl was a witch who used magic herbs to keep all the men running
after her with their tongues hanging out; and their poor brother was one
of her victims; she had scented out his future wealth and his easy
temper, and had determined to marry into a noble family by hook or by
crook. Alexandra managed the whole affair; her glib and wicked tongue
frightened them all and soon proved to them, beyond all possibility of
doubt, that such a marriage was a terrible misfortune for them. "Likely
enough, she will get round Stepan Mihailovitch himself, and then we’re
all done for; we must leave no stone unturned to prevent the marriage."
It was clearly of the first importance to impress upon Stepan
Mihailovitch the worst possible opinion of Sofya Nikolayevna; but who
was to bell the cat? Their conscience was not clear, and they dared not
go to work openly. If their father suspected that they had any concealed
purpose, he would not believe even the truth in that case; once before,
when there had been some talk of choosing a daughter-in-law, he had seen
through their repugnance to the scheme and had told them so plainly.

They had recourse therefore to the following stratagem. Arina
Vassilyevna had a married niece living near; her name was Flona
Lupenevsky; she was short and stout, a notorious fool and gossip, and
not averse to strong liquors. She was instructed to come to Bagrovo as
if on an ordinary visit, and to bring in, among other topics, the
love-affairs of Alexyéi Stepanitch; she was, of course, to represent
Sofya Nikolayevna in the most unfavourable light. Alexandra spent a long
time coaching this lady in what she was to say and how she was to say
it. When she had learnt it as well as she could, Mme. Lupenevsky turned
up at Bagrovo and had dinner there; after dinner, hosts and guests slept
for three hours and then assembled for tea. The master of the house was
in good humour and himself gave his guest an opening to begin her
performance. "Come now, Flona," he said, "tell us the news you got from
the travellers to Ufa"—her sister, Mme. Kalpinsky, had just been there
with her husband—"I warrant they brought home a good budget, and you
will add as much more out of your own head."

"You will always have your joke, dear uncle," said the lady; "but they
brought plenty of news, and I have no need to invent." Then off she
started on a string of silly gossip, true and untrue, which I shall
spare my readers. My grandfather pretended to disbelieve her throughout,
even when she was telling the truth; he made fun of her stories, threw
her out on purpose, and teased her till all the hearers laughed
heartily. The stupid woman, who had taken a stiff glass on waking to
give her courage, got vexed at last and said with some heat: "Uncle, why
do you keep on laughing and believe nothing I say? Wait a moment; I have
kept one special bit of news for the end, and that won’t make you laugh,
though you can’t help believing it." The family exchanged glances, and
my grandfather laughed. "Come, out with it!" he said coolly; "I shan’t
believe it; and, if I don’t laugh at it, it’s because I’m bored by your
stories." "O uncle, uncle," she began, "you’re quite in the dark about
my dear cousin, Alexyéi Stepanitch. He’s a perfect wreck: the witch of
Ufa, the daughter of a great man there, Governor or Commander-in-Chief,
I don’t know which, has used devilish arts to fascinate him. She’s a
perfect beauty, they say, and has captivated all the men, young and old;
she has bewitched them with magic herbs, and they all run after her. And
my poor cousin, Alexyéi Stepanitch, is so bad that he can neither eat
nor drink nor sleep. He’s constantly sitting beside her, he can’t take
his eyes off her, he just looks and sighs; and at night he’s always
walking past her house, carrying a gun and a sword and keeping guard
over her. They say that the Zubin girl is very sweet upon him; of course
he’s handsome and well-born; she knows what she’s about and means to
marry him. It’s natural enough: she has no money, and her father is a
Cossack’s son who rose from the ranks; though he has worked his way up
and held great posts, he has put nothing by; he has spent every penny on
dinners and fine parties and dresses for his daughter. The old man is at
death’s door, and there is a swarm of children—half a dozen of them by
his two wives. They will all settle on your shoulders, uncle, if my
cousin marries her; she has no portion but the clothes she wears; they
have silk to their backs but nothing to put in their bellies. And
Alexyéi Stepanitch, they say, is changed out of all knowledge: he looks
terrible; the very servants weep to see him and dare not inform you.
Believe me, uncle, every single word is gospel truth. Question his
servants, and they won’t deny it."

At this, Arina Vassilyevna began to cry and her daughters to rub their
eyes. My grandfather was rather taken aback, but soon recovered himself.
Then he smiled and said coolly: "Plenty of lies there, and perhaps a
grain of truth. I have heard myself that the young lady is pretty and
clever; and that’s all the magic there is about it.³⁸ It’s little wonder
if Alexyéi’s eyes were dazzled. All the rest is rubbish. Mlle. Zubin has
no idea of marrying Alexyéi; he is no match for her; she will find a
better man and a more pushing man to marry her. And now, that’s enough:
not a word more on the subject! Let us go and drink tea out of doors."
As a matter of course, neither Mme. Lupenevsky nor any one else dared to
refer again to the news from Ufa. The visitor departed in the evening.
After supper, when Arina Vassilyevna and her daughters were about to
take a silent farewell of Stepan Mihailovitch, he stopped them and said:
"Well, Arisha, what do you think about it? Though that stupid Flona
added plenty of lies, yet it seems to me there is truth in the story
too. The boy’s letters have been quite different of late. The thing
needs some looking into. The best plan would be to summon Alosha here;
we shall learn all the truth from him." At this point Alexandra offered
to send a special messenger to Ufa to find out the truth through a
relation of her husband’s: "She is a very honest woman," she said, "and
nothing would make her tell a lie." Her father agreed not to send for
his son till the fresh report arrived. Alexandra started at once for her
own house, which was not more than 30 _versts_ from Bagrovo, and
returned in a week, bringing with her the letter I have mentioned
already, which she had received long before from her gossiping female
friend at Ufa. This letter was shown and read aloud to Stepan
Mihailovitch; and, though he put little faith in the women as detectives
and informers, some statements in the letter seemed to him probable, and
he was displeased. He said positively, that, if Mlle. Zubin did wish to
marry Alosha, he would forbid it, on the ground of her birth. "Write by
the next post to Alosha," he said, "and tell him to come home." A few
days passed, and were used by the women to prejudice Stepan Mihailovitch
as strongly as possible against the marriage; and then, as we know
already, the young man turned up at Bagrovo without having received the
letter.

  ³⁸ In general, my grandfather had little belief in witchcraft. A
     wizard once told him that a gun was charmed and would not go off.
     He took out the shot secretly and fired at the wizard, who got a
     great fright. But he recovered and said that my grandfather himself
     was "a man of power"; and this was generally believed, except by
     Stepan Mihailovitch. (_Author’s note._)

Alexyéi Stepanitch heard the whole of this story from Tatyana, and it
made him very serious and uneasy. He was not by nature strong-willed,
and had been brought up in blind obedience to his family and his father.
In his alarm, he did not know what to do. At last he decided to speak to
his mother. Arina Vassilyevna was devoted to her only son; but, as she
was accustomed to look on him as still a child and convinced that this
child had taken a fancy to a dangerous toy, she met his avowal of strong
feeling with the words one would use to a child who begged to hold the
hot poker; and, when this treatment brought the tears to his eyes, she
tried to comfort him in the way that a child is comforted for the loss
of a favourite toy. He might say what he pleased, he might try as he
pleased to refute the slander brought against Sofya Nikolayevna—his
mother either did not listen at all or listened without attending. Two
more days passed by; the young man’s heart was breaking; though his love
and longing for Sofya Nikolayevna increased every hour, it is probable
that he would not easily have plucked up courage to broach the subject
to his father; but Stepan Mihailovitch took the first step. Early one
fine morning, he was sitting as usual on his stoop, when Alexyéi
Stepanitch, looking rather pale and worn after an almost sleepless
night, came out to join his father. The old man was in a cheerful mood;
he greeted his son affectionately, and then, looking attentively at his
face, he read what was going on within. He gave him his hand to kiss,
and then said, not in anger but with energy: "Listen to me, Alexyéi! I
know the burden on your mind, and I see that this fancy has taken a
strong hold of you. Just tell me the story now, the whole truth and
nothing but the truth." Alexyéi Stepanitch felt more fear than love for
his father, and was not in the way of speaking to him frankly; but his
love for Sofya Nikolayevna lent him courage. He threw himself at his
father’s feet and repeated the whole story, omitting no details and
keeping nothing back. Stepan Mihailovitch listened with patience and
attention. When one of the family appeared in the distance and evidently
meant to come and say "good morning," he waved his blackthorn staff with
a significant gesture, and then nobody, not even Aksyutka with the tea,
dared approach before he summoned them. Though his son’s story was
ill-arranged, confused, long, and unconvincing, yet Stepan Mihailovitch
with his clear head made out the gist of the matter. But unfortunately
he did not and could not approve of it. Of the romantic side of love he
had small appreciation, and his masculine pride was offended by his
son’s susceptibility, which seemed to him degrading weakness in a man
and a sign of worthlessness; and yet at the same time he saw that Sofya
Nikolayevna was not in the least to blame, and that all the evil he had
heard about her was merely malicious falsehood, due to the ill will of
his own womankind. After a little reflection, he said, with no sign of
anger, even affectionately, but firmly: "Listen to me, Alexyéi! You are
just at the time of life when a pretty girl may easily take a man’s
fancy. In that there is no harm whatever; but I see that you have gone
too far, and that does not do. I don’t blame Sofya Nikolayevna in the
least; she seems to me a very worthy girl; but she’s not a good match
for you, and she won’t suit us. In the first place, her nobility dates
from yesterday, while you are the descendant of an ancient and noble
line. Then she is accustomed to town life, highly educated, and
independent; since her stepmother died she has ruled a household; and,
though poor herself, she is used to luxury; but we are plain country
people, and you know yourself how we live. And you ought to know your
own character; you’re too compliant. But her cleverness is the chief
objection to her; to marry a wife cleverer than one’s self is a mistake;
she is sure to rule her husband; and you are so much in love that you
are certain to spoil her at first. Well, as your father, I now bid you
clear your head of this notion. I confess I don’t believe myself that
Sofya Nikolayevna would accept you. Choose your shoe of the right size,
and it won’t pinch your foot. We will find out a wife for you here—some
gentle, quiet girl, well-born and with some money. Then you can give up
your office and live here in comfort. You know, my boy, we’re not
rolling in wealth. We get enough to eat, but very little money comes in.
As to the Kurolyessoff legacy, about which people made such a noise, I
never give it a thought; we can’t count on it: Praskovya Ivanovna is
young enough to marry and have children of her own. Now, mind what I
say, Alosha: throw all this off like water off a duck’s back, and don’t
let me hear again of Sofya Nikolayevna." Then Stepan Mihailovitch gave
his hand graciously to his son, who kissed it as respectfully as usual.
The old man ordered tea to be served and the family to be summoned; he
was more than usually cheerful and friendly to them all, but Alexyéi
Stepanitch was terribly depressed. No anger on his father’s part would
have produced such an effect; that was soon over and was always followed
by indulgence and kindness, but the old man’s quiet determination
deprived him of all hope. There was a change in his expression, so
sudden and complete, that his mother was frightened to see it and plied
him with questions—"Was he unwell? What had happened to him?" His
sisters noticed the change also, but they were more cunning and held
their tongues. None of this was lost on Stepan Mihailovitch. He looked
askance at Arina Vassilyevna and muttered through his teeth, "Don’t
worry the boy!" So they took no more notice of him but left him in
peace, and the day went on with its usual routine.

The conversation with his father made a deep impression on Alexyéi
Stepanitch; one may say that it crushed him. His appetite and sleep
failed, he lost interest in everything, even his bodily strength was
affected. His mother shed tears, and even his sisters were uneasy. Next
day his mother found it difficult to get from him any account of the
interview with his father. To all inquiries he returned the same answer:
"My father won’t hear of it; I am a lost man, and life will soon be over
for me." And within a week he did really take to his bed; he was very
weak and often half-conscious; and, though his skin was not hot, he was
constantly delirious. No one could understand what was the matter with
him; but it was simply a nervous fever. The family were terribly
alarmed. As there were no doctors in the neighbourhood, they treated him
with domestic remedies; but he grew steadily worse till he was so weak
that his death was expected hourly. His mother and sisters screamed and
tore their hair. Stepan Mihailovitch, though he shed no tears and was
not always sitting by the bedside, probably suffered more than any one;
he understood perfectly what had caused this illness. But youth at last
asserted itself, and the turn came after exactly six weeks. Alexyéi
Stepanitch woke up to life an absolute child, and life was slow in
resuming its normal course with him; his convalescence lasted two
months, and all the past seemed to have been blotted out from his
memory. Everything that he saw, both indoors and out, pleased him as
much as if it were new and strange. At last he got perfectly well; his
face filled out and got back the healthy colour which it had lost for
more than a year; he went out fishing and shooting quails, ate and drank
heartily, and was in good spirits. His parents felt more joy than they
could express, and were convinced that the illness had expelled all
former thoughts and feelings from his head and heart. And perhaps this
would really have been the case if they had taken him away from Ufa,
kept him a whole year at home, and found a pretty girl for him to marry.
But their fears were lulled to rest by his present condition, and they
sent him back to the same place and the same duties after six months.
This settled his fate once for all. The old passion revived and blazed
up with far greater power. I do not know whether love came back to his
heart all at once or by degrees; I only know that he went seldom at
first to the Zubins’ house, and then oftener, and at last as often as he
could. I know also that his old friend, Mme. Alakayeff, continued her
visits to Sofya Nikolayevna, sounding her cautiously as to her
sentiments and bringing back favourable reports, which confirmed her own
hope that the proud beauty was not indifferent to her humble worshipper.
A few months after Alexyéi Stepanitch had returned to Ufa, a letter from
him suddenly arrived at Bagrovo, in which he declared to his parents,
with his usual affection and respect, but also with a firmness not
characteristic of him, that he loved Sofya Nikolayevna more than his own
life and could not live without her; he had hopes of her accepting him,
and asked his parents to give him their blessing and their consent to
the match. This letter was a great surprise and shock to the old people.
Stepan Mihailovitch knitted his brows but did not express his feelings
by a single word. The family all sat round in perfect silence till he
dismissed them by a gesture. When he was alone, my grandfather sat there
a long time, tracing patterns on the floor of his room with his
blackthorn staff. He soon realised that it was a bad business, that they
had been mistaken, and that no fever would cure the lad of his passion.
His impulsive and kindly nature shook his resolve and made him inclined
to give his consent, as may be inferred from what he said to his wife.
When they were alone together next morning, he said: "Well, Arisha, what
do you think of it? If we refuse, we shall see no more of Alosha than of
our own ears. He will die of grief, or go off to the wars, or become a
monk—and that’s the end of the Bagroff family!" But Arina Vassilyevna
had been primed already by her daughters, and she answered, as if her
son ran no risk: "As you please, Stepan Mihailovitch; your will is mine
too. But how can you hope they will respect you in future, if they
resist your positive commands now?" This mean and cunning trick was
successful: the old man’s pride was touched, and he resolved to stand
firm. He dictated a letter, in which he expressed surprise that his son
should begin the old business over again, and repeated what he had
already said by word of mouth. In short, the letter contained a positive
refusal.

Two or three weeks passed, and brought no reply from Alexyéi Stepanitch.
Then there came one stormy autumn morning, when my grandfather was
sitting across his bed in his own room; he was wearing his favourite
dressing-gown of fine camel’s hair over a shirt buttoning up at the
side, and had slippers on his bare feet. Arina Vassilyevna was sitting
near him with her spinning-wheel, spinning goat’s down and carefully
drawing out the fine long threads with which she intended to make
cloth—cloth to provide her son with light, warm, comfortable garments.
Tanyusha was sitting by the window, reading a book. Elizabeth, who was
on a visit to Bagrovo, was sitting on the bed near her father, telling
him of her troubles—her husband’s poor prospects, and the shifts they
had to practise at home to make ends meet. The old man listened sadly,
with his hands on his knees, and his head, now turning white, bent down
over his breast. Suddenly the door opened; and Ivan, a tall, handsome
lad, wearing a travelling jacket, entered the room with a quick step and
delivered a letter which he had brought from the post-town 25 _versts_
away. The stir among the party showed that the letter was eagerly
expected. "From Alosha?" asked the old man quickly and uneasily. "From
my brother," answered Tanyusha, who had gone to meet Ivan, taken the
letter quickly from him, and looked at the address. "You have lost no
time, and I thank you. A dram for Ivan! Then go and have your dinner and
rest." The spirit-case was opened at once; Tanyusha took out a long,
cut-glass decanter, filled a silver cup with brandy, and handed it to
Ivan. Ivan crossed himself and drank it, then coughed, bowed, and left
the room. "Read it aloud, Tanyusha," said her father; she did his
reading and writing for him. She placed herself by the window; her
father left his bed and her mother her spinning-wheel, and all crowded
round the reader, who had unsealed the letter by this time but dared not
take a preliminary peep. After a moment’s silence, the letter was read
slowly and audibly. It began with the form of address usual in those
days—"Dear and honoured Father, and dear and honoured Mother," and then
went on in this fashion—

"In answer to my last letter, I had the misfortune to receive a refusal
of my request, my dearest parents. I cannot go against your will; I
submit to it, but I cannot long drag the burden of my life without my
adored Sofya Nikolayevna; and therefore a fatal bullet shall ere long
pierce the head of your unhappy son."³⁹

  ³⁹ I know the letter nearly by heart. It probably still exists among
     the old papers of one of my brothers. Some expressions in it are
     clearly borrowed from the novels which Alexyéi Stepanitch was fond
     of reading. (_Author’s note._)

The letter produced a powerful effect. My aunts began to whimper; my
grandmother, who was taken utterly by surprise, turned pale, threw out
her hands, and flopped down on the ground like a corn-sheaf. Even in
those days fainting-fits were not unknown. Stepan Mihailovitch never
stirred; but his head bent a little to one side, as it used to do when a
fit of anger was coming on, and began to tremble slightly; and that
tremulous motion went on from that hour till his death. The daughters
rushed to their mother’s aid and soon brought her back to her senses. At
once, Arina Vassilyevna threw herself at her husband’s feet, raising the
cry of mourning for the dead; and her daughters followed her example.
Taking no notice of the storm-signals on his brow, and quite forgetting
that she herself had egged him on to disappoint his son, she cried at
the top of her voice: "_Batyushka_ Stepan Mihailovitch! have pity and do
not be the death of your own child, our only son! Give Alosha leave to
marry! If anything happens to him, I will not live one hour longer!" The
old man never stirred. At last he said in an unsteady voice: "Enough of
that howling! Alosha deserves a good whipping. But we’ll leave it till
to-morrow; morning brings good counsel. Now go and order dinner to be
served." Dinner my grandfather regarded as a sedative at every domestic
crisis. Arina Vassilyevna tried to begin again—"Mercy! Mercy!"—but
Stepan Mihailovitch called out loudly, "Leave the room, all of you!"—and
in his voice was audible the roar that goes before a storm. The room was
cleared instantly, and no one ventured near him before the dinner-hour.

It is hard to imagine the thoughts that passed through his mind in the
interval, the struggle that took place in that iron heart between love
and prudence, and the final defeat of the stubborn spirit; but, when
Mazan’s voice was heard outside the door, announcing dinner, my
grandfather came out of his room quite composed. His face was rather
pale, but his wife and daughters, who were standing, each by her own
chair, till he appeared, could not see the faintest sign of anger; on
the contrary, he was quieter and more cheerful than he had been in the
morning, and made a hearty meal. Arina Vassilyevna had to harden her
heart and suit her conversation to his mood; she dared not even sigh,
far less ask questions; in vain she tried to guess what was passing
through her husband’s mind; the little chestnut-brown eyes in her fat
face might ask what questions they pleased, but the dark-blue eyes of
Stepan Mihailovitch, for all their frank good-humoured expression, gave
no answer. After dinner he lay down as usual, and woke in a still more
cheerful mood, but not a syllable did he utter about his son or the
letter. Yet it was clear that no wrath was brooding in the old man’s
heart. When he said "good night"; to his wife after supper, she ventured
to say, "Please say something about Alosha." He smiled and answered:
"Did I not say that morning thoughts are best? Go to sleep, and God
bless you!"

Morning did indeed bring good counsel and kindly action. My grandfather
got up at four o’clock when Mazan was kindling his fire, and his first
words were: "Tanaichonok, you are to take a letter at once to Ufa for
Alexyéi Stepanitch. Get ready immediately, and no one is to know your
errand or where you are going. Put the young brown horse in the shafts,
and the roarer abreast of him. Take six bushels of oats with you and a
loaf of bread. Ask the housekeeper for two _roubles_ in copper for your
expenses. See that all is ready when my letter is written, and don’t
lose a moment!" When my grandfather demanded haste, he always got it.
Then he opened the oak desk which served him as a writing-table, got
writing materials, and with some effort—for ten years past he had
written nothing but his signature—he wrote as follows in a stiff,
old-fashioned hand:—

    "_Dear Son Alexyéi_,

    "Your mother, Arina Vassilyevna, and I, give you our permission
    to marry Sofya Nikolayevna Zubin, if that be God’s will, and we
    send you our blessing.

        "Your father,

          "_Stepan Bagroff_."

Half an hour later, long before it was light, Tanaichonok had reached
the top of the long hill and passed the stackyard, and was trotting
briskly along the road to Ufa. At six o’clock Stepan Mihailovitch
ordered Aksyutka to bring the _samovar_ but to wake no one in the house.
In spite of this, the mistress was called and told in confidence that
Tanaichonok had started very early with a pair of horses from the
stable; he was carrying a letter from the master, but his destination
was unknown. She did not venture to join her husband at once: she waited
an hour or so, and appeared when he had finished his tea and was
chatting with Aksyutka, the maid, who had been plain as a child and was
now still plainer in middle life. "Well, what did they wake you for?"
said Stepan Mihailovitch, holding out his hand to his wife. "I dare say
you had a bad night." Arina Vassilyevna kissed his hand respectfully:
"No," she said, "no one called me, I woke of myself; and I had a good
night, for I hoped you would be kind to our poor boy." He looked
attentively at her; but her face was accustomed to wear a mask, and he
could not read her thoughts. "In that case," he said, "I have good news
for you. I have sent a special messenger to Ufa and written to Alexyéi
that he has permission from us both to marry Sofya Nikolayevna."

Arina Vassilyevna had been horrified by her son’s tragic intentions, and
had sincerely begged and prayed her stern husband to consent to the
marriage. Yet, when she heard how Stepan Mihailovitch had decided, she
felt more fear than joy; or rather, she did not dare to feel joy,
because she feared her daughters. She knew already what Elizabeth
thought of the letter, and guessed what Alexandra would say. For these
reasons she received the decision, which her husband hoped would delight
her, rather coldly and strangely; and this did not escape him. Elizabeth
expressed no satisfaction whatever, but merely respectful submission to
her father’s will; but Tanyusha, who took her brother’s letter quite
seriously, rejoiced with all her heart. Elizabeth was not alarmed even
at first by her brother’s threat; she shed tears and interceded for him,
merely because it would not look well to act differently from her mother
and youngest sister. She wrote at once to Alexandra, who was furious
when she heard of the decision and came with all speed to Bagrovo. She
too treated her brother’s letter as an empty threat, a trick suggested
by Sofya Nikolayevna; and the two together soon converted their mother
and even Tanyusha to this belief. But the matter was settled, and open
rebellion was now out of the question. Stepan Mihailovitch had thought
that Sofya Nikolayevna would refuse his son; but no one else at Bagrovo
believed this. But it is time now to leave Bagrovo and see what was
going on at Ufa.

I will not take upon myself to decide positively whether Alexyéi
Stepanitch really intended to shoot himself, if his parents were
obdurate, or took a hint from some incident in a novel and tried to
excite their fears by suggesting the awful result of their refusal.
Judging by the later development of his character—and I knew it well—I
cannot think him capable of either course of action. Therefore, as I
suppose, the young man was not playing a trick in order to frighten his
parents; on the contrary, he sincerely intended to blow out his brains,
if he was forbidden to marry Sofya Nikolayevna. But at the same time I
do not think he could ever have brought himself to carry out his fatal
purpose, although your mild quiet people, who are often called
faint-hearted, are sometimes more capable of desperate actions than men
of bold and energetic temperament. The idea of suicide was certainly
borrowed from some novel: it was quite out of keeping with the character
of Alexyéi Stepanitch, his view of life, and the circle of ideas in
which he had been born and brought up. However that may be, when he had
launched the fatal letter, he became greatly agitated and was soon laid
up with fever. His friend and confidante, Mme. Alakayeff, knew nothing
of the letter; she came to see him daily and soon perceived that his
illness and his love-affair were not enough to account for his excessive
agitation. She was sitting beside him one day, knitting a stocking and
talking about trifles, in order to amuse the invalid and distract his
mind from his hopeless passion; he was lying on the sofa, with his hands
behind his head, looking out of the window. Suddenly he turned as white
as a sheet. A cart with a pair of horses had turned off the street into
the courtyard, and he recognised the horses and Tanaichonok. He sprang
to his feet, cried out, "A message from my father, from Bagrovo!" and
made for the door. Mme. Alakayeff seized his arm, and, with the help of
a servant, prevented him from hurrying to the steps; it was wet and cold
autumn weather. Meanwhile Tanaichonok came quickly into the room and
delivered the letter. Alexyéi Stepanitch broke the seal with trembling
fingers, read the few lines, burst into tears, and fell on his knees
before the _ikon_. Mme. Alakayeff was puzzled until he handed her the
letter; but, when she had read it, she too shed tears of joy. The young
man was beside himself with happiness. He now confessed the nature of
the letter he had written to his parents, and she shook her head when
she heard it. Tanaichonok was called in and closely questioned; when he
told how he had been sent off, they saw that Stepan Mihailovitch had
settled the matter by himself, without the knowledge of his womankind
and probably against their wishes.

Mme. Alakayeff was entirely taken by surprise: even when she had read
the letter over again she could not believe her own eyes, because she
knew Stepan Mihailovitch of old and quite realised the opposition of the
family. But, when the first excitement of surprise and joy was over, the
two began to discuss how they should set to work. So long as opposition
from their own side made the marriage seem remote and impossible, they
had been sanguine as to the feelings of the lady; but now a doubt seized
on Mme. Alakayeff. When she recalled and examined all the favourable
signs, she felt that perhaps she had attached more importance to them
than they deserved; and, like a sensible woman, she made haste to
moderate the young man’s confident hopes, prudently calculating that, if
he were seduced by them, he would find it harder to bear the sudden
collapse of those radiant dreams. A refusal now seemed to her quite
possible, and her fears had effect upon her companion. Still, she did
not back out of her promise to help him: on the contrary, she went next
day and laid his proposal before Sofya Nikolayevna.

Simply, clearly, and with no exaggeration, she described the constant
and ardent attachment of Alexyéi Stepanitch—all the town had long known
it, and certainly Sofya Nikolayevna did; she spoke warmly of the fine
character of her young relative, his kind heart, his rare modesty; she
gave true and exact details of his financial position and prospects; she
told the facts about his family, not forgetting to state that he had
received by letter yesterday his parents’ blessing and their full
consent to seek the hand of a lady so worthy and highly respected as
Sofya Nikolayevna; she added, that the young man had caught a fever in
the excitement of waiting for his parents’ reply, but found it
impossible to postpone the decision of his fate, and therefore had asked
her, as his kinswoman and a friend of Sofya Nikolayevna’s, to find out
whether a formal proposal for her hand, laid before her father, would be
distasteful to her or not.

Sofya Nikolayevna had long been accustomed to act for herself: without
confusion and without any of the affectation and prudery expected of
women in those days, she replied as follows:—

"I thank Alexyéi Stepanitch for the honour he has done me, and you, dear
lady, for your interest in the matter. I say frankly that I noticed long
ago his partiality for me and have long expected that he would make me a
proposal; but I have never decided whether I would accept or reject it.
His last visit to his parents, the suddenness—you told me this
yourself—of his long and dangerous illness at home, and the change in
him when he came back to Ufa—these were signs that his parents
disapproved of me as a daughter-in-law. This, I confess, I did not
expect; it seemed more natural to fear opposition on the part of my
father. Later I saw that Alexyéi Stepanitch had revived his former
feeling for me; and now I suppose that he has been able to induce his
father and mother to consent. But you must admit yourself, my dear lady,
that the matter now assumes quite a new aspect. To enter a family where
one is not welcome, is too great a risk. Certainly, my father would not
oppose my choice; but can I venture to conceal the truth from him? If he
were to learn that an obscure country squire thought twice before
admitting me to the honour of alliance with his family, he would
consider it a degradation, and nothing would induce him to consent. I am
not in love with Alexyéi Stepanitch: I only respect his good qualities
and his constant affection, and I believe he might make the woman he
loved happy. Allow me, therefore, to think it over; and also, before I
speak of this to my father and trouble him in his feeble state with such
news, I wish to speak myself to Alexyéi Stepanitch. Let him come and see
us, when he is well enough."

Mme. Alakayeff reported this answer exactly to the young man. He did not
think it promising, but she disagreed with him and tried to sooth his
anxiety.

After parting on very friendly terms with her visitor, Sofya Nikolayevna
sat for a long time alone in her drawing-room, and thought hard. Her
bright lively eyes were clouded; sombre thoughts raced through her brain
and were reflected on the mirror of her beautiful face. All that she had
said to Mme. Alakayeff was perfectly true: the question, whether she
should marry Alexyéi Stepanitch or not, was really not settled. But the
proposal had now been made, and it was necessary to make the great
decision, so critical in every woman’s life. Sofya Nikolayevna had an
unusually clear head; in later years, the trials of life and her own
passionate temperament may have warped her judgment, but she was able
then to see everything exactly in its true light. Her prospects were not
bright. Her father was a hopeless invalid, and Zanden, their best
doctor, declared he could not live more than a year. His property
consisted of two villages near Ufa, Zubkova and Kasimofka—forty serfs in
all and a small amount of land; he had also scraped together a sum of
10,000 _roubles_ which he intended as a portion for his daughter. To see
her married was his constant and eager desire; but strange things do
happen, and Sofya Nikolayevna had never before received a formal offer.
He would leave behind him six orphans, the children of his two
marriages, and separate guardians would have to be appointed. The three
youngest would go to their grandmother, Mme. Rychkoff; their mother’s
fortune consisted of a small estate of fifty serfs. Sofya Nikolayevna’s
own brothers were at a boarding-school in Moscow; she would be left
absolutely alone, without even distant relations to take her under their
roof. In short, she had no where to lay her head. To face poverty and
want, to live on the charity of strangers and in complete dependence
upon strangers—such a fate might distress any one; but to a girl who had
lived in comfort and held a high position in society, a girl proud by
nature and flattered by general attention and popularity, a girl who had
experienced all the burden of dependence and then all the charm of
authority—such a change might well seem intolerable. And here was a
young man, good-looking, honest, modest, the heir of an ancient line and
an only son, whose father possessed 180 serfs and who was himself to
inherit wealth from an aunt; and this young man worshipped her and
offered her his hand and heart. At first sight, hesitation seemed out of
the question. But, on the other hand, they were ill-matched in mind and
temperament. No one in the town could believe that Sofya Nikolayevna
would accept Alexyéi Stepanitch, and she realised the justice of public
opinion and could not but attach importance to it. She was considered a
marvel of beauty and intelligence: her suitor was certainly pretty in a
boyish way—which was no recommendation to Sofya Nikolayevna—but rather
simple and stupid, and passed with every one for a plain country lad.
She was quick and enterprising: he was timid and slow. She was educated
and might almost be called learned, had read much, and had a wide range
of intellectual interests: he was quite ignorant, had read nothing but a
few silly novels and a song-book, and cared for little beyond snaring
quails and flying his hawks. She was witty and tactful and shone in
society: he could not string three words together; clumsy, shy, abject,
and ridiculous, he could only blush and bow and squeeze into a corner or
against a door, to escape from the talkative and sociable young men whom
he positively feared, though he was in truth far cleverer than many of
them. She had a firm, positive, unbending temper: he was humble and
wanting in energy, easily silenced and easily discomfited. Was he the
man to support and defend his wife in society and in domestic life?

Such were the contradictory thoughts and ideas and fancies which swarmed
in the young girl’s mind, mingling and jostling one another. Long after
darkness had come down, she was still sitting there alone. At last a
feeling of extreme misery, a terrible certainty that her reason was
utterly baffled and growing less and less able to solve her problem,
turned her thoughts to prayer. She hurried to her room to beg for the
light of reason from on high, and fell on her knees before the image of
Our Lady of Smolensk, who had once before by a miracle lightened her
darkness and pointed out to her the path of life. For a long time she
prayed, and her hot tears fell. But by degrees she felt a kind of
relief, a measure of strength, a power of resolve, though she did not
know yet what her resolve would be; and even this feeling helped her.
She went downstairs to look at her father in his sleep; then she came
back to her own room, lay down, and went peacefully to sleep. When she
woke next morning, she was perfectly composed; she reflected for a few
minutes, gave a thought to her hesitation and perplexity of the night
before, and then kept quietly to her purpose, which was, first to have a
conversation with her suitor, and then to settle the matter definitely,
in accordance with the impression left on her mind by their interview.

Alexyéi Stepanitch, wishing to know his fate as soon as possible, sent
for the doctor and begged to be put on his legs without delay. The
doctor promised to let him out soon and kept his promise for once.
Within a week Alexyéi Stepanitch, though still pale, thin, and feeble,
was sitting in Sofya Nikolayevna’s drawing-room. Touched by the loss of
colour and change in his young face, she was not quite as outspoken and
rigorous as she meant to be. In substance she repeated to him what she
had said to Mme. Alakayeff, but she added two points—that she would not
part from her father while he lived, and that she would not live in the
country. She wished to live in a town, in Ufa, for choice, where she was
acquainted with many worthy and cultivated people, and hoped to enjoy
their society after her marriage. She ended by saying that she would
like to see her husband in the public service and holding a position in
the town, which, if not brilliant, should at least secure deference and
respect. To all these conditions and anticipations of a wife’s rights,
Alexyéi Stepanitch replied, with abject humility, that her will was law
to him, and that his happiness would consist in the fulfilment of all
her wishes. Such an answer no man should have given: it proved that his
love was not to be depended on, and that he could not assure a woman’s
happiness; yet it pleased Sofya Nikolayevna, clever as she was.
Reluctantly I must confess that love of power was one of her ruling
passions; and the germs of this passion, now that she had been released
from the cruel oppression of her stepmother, were sprouting actively at
this time. Love of power did really, though she herself did not know it,
help her to her decision.

She expressed a wish to see the letter of consent which he had received
from his parents; and he produced it from his pocket. She read it and
was convinced that she was right in guessing that his wishes had at
first been opposed. The young man was incapable of dissimulation, and
also so much in love that he could not resist a kind look or word from
his idol. So, when Sofya Nikolayevna demanded perfect frankness, he made
a clean breast of everything; and I believe that this frankness finally
settled the question in his favour. Sofya Nikolayevna was clever, but
still she was a woman; and she was filled with the idea of reshaping and
remoulding in her own way this good-tempered young man, so modest and
sincere and uncorrupted by society. How delightful to think of the
gradual awakening and enlightenment of this Orson! Orson had no lack of
sense; and feeling, though wrapt in unbroken slumber, was there too.
Orson would love her still better, if that were possible, in gratitude
for his transformation. This vision took hold of her eager imagination;
and she parted very graciously from her adorer, promising to talk the
matter over with her father and communicate the result through Mme.
Alakayeff. Alexyéi Stepanitch was "swimming in bliss"—to use an
expression of that day. That evening Sofya Nikolayevna again had
recourse to prayer, and prayed for a long time with great mental strain
and fervour. She was exhausted when she went to sleep; and she had a
dream which she interpreted, as people often do, as a confirmation of
her purpose. Men are clever enough to interpret anything according to
their desires. This dream I forget; but I remember that it was capable,
with much more probability and much less forcing, of the opposite
interpretation. Next morning Sofya Nikolayevna lost no time in telling
her father, who was now in a very feeble state, of the proposal she had
received. M. Zubin did not know Alexyéi Stepanitch, but had somehow come
to think of him as a person of no importance; and he was not pleased, in
spite of his eager desire to see his daughter settled before he died.
But she proved to him, with her usual eagerness and convincing
eloquence, that it was unwise to show the door to such a suitor. She
urged all the advantages of the match which we know already, and, above
all, that, far from parting with him, she would continue to live in the
same house. She painted her helpless condition when it should please God
to remove her father, till the sick man shed a tear and said: "Do as you
please, my dear clever child. I consent to everything. Bring your future
husband to see me soon: I wish to become better acquainted with him. And
I insist on receiving a proposal in writing from his parents."

Sofya Nikolayevna then sent a note to Mme. Alakayeff, asking Alexyéi
Stepanitch to call on her father at a fixed hour. He was still "swimming
in bliss," which he shared only with his old friend and supporter; but
he was much disconcerted by this invitation which he had never expected
from such a confirmed invalid. M. Zubin, in the absence of the
Lieutenant-Governor the most important and powerful personage in the
whole district of Ufa! M. Zubin, whom he had always approached with
reverence and awe! His name seemed now more formidable than ever. What
if he frowned on this proposal for his daughter’s hand from one of the
humblest of his subordinates? Might he not treat it as insolence, and
thunder out: "How dared you think of my daughter? Are you a fit match
for her? Off with him to prison and to judgment!" However wild these
notions may appear, they did really pass through the young man’s head;
and he often told the story afterwards himself. Plucking up his spirits
and encouraged by Mme. Alakayeff, he put on his uniform which hung
loosely on his limbs from loss of flesh, and set off to wait on the
great man. With his three-cornered hat under his arm, and clutching his
troublesome sword in a trembling hand, he entered M. Zubin’s study, so
nervous that he could hardly breathe. M. Zubin, who had once been
clever, lively, and energetic, now lay on his couch hardly able to move
and shrunk to a mere skeleton. The visitor bowed low and remained
standing by the door. This in itself was enough to annoy the invalid.
"Step this way, M. Bagroff, and take a chair near my bed; I am too weak
to talk loud." Alexyéi Stepanitch, with a profusion of bows, sat down on
the edge of a chair close to the bed. "I understand that you seek my
daughter’s hand," the old man went on. The suitor jumped up, bowed, and
said that he did in fact venture to seek this happiness.

I could report the whole of this interview in detail, as I have often
heard it fully described by Alexyéi Stepanitch himself; but part of it
would be a repetition of what we know already, and I am afraid of
wearying my readers. The important points are these. M. Zubin questioned
the young man about his family, his means, and his intentions with
regard to his profession and place of residence; he said that Sofya
Nikolayevna would have nothing but her portion of 10,000 _roubles_, two
families of serfs as servants, and 3000 _roubles_ in cash for initial
expenses; and he added: "Though I am quite sure that you, as a dutiful
son, would not have made such a proposal without the consent of your
parents, yet they may change their minds; and social usage requires that
they should write to me personally on the subject; and I cannot give you
a positive answer till I receive a letter to that effect." Alexyéi
Stepanitch got up repeatedly, bowed, and sat down again. He agreed to
everything and promised to write that very day to his parents. In half
an hour the invalid said that he was tired—which was perfectly true—and
dismissed the young man rather drily. The moment he left, Sofya
Nikolayevna entered her father’s study; he was lying with closed eyes,
and his face expressed weariness and also anxiety. Hearing his
daughter’s approach, he threw an imploring glance at her, pressed his
hands to his breast, and ejaculated: "Is it possible, Sonitchka, that
you intend to marry him!" But Sofya Nikolayevna had anticipated the
result of the interview and was prepared for an even worse impression.
"I warned you, father," she said in a gentle but firm voice, "that
Alexyéi Stepanitch, owing to utter ignorance of society, awkwardness,
and timidity, was bound to appear to you at first somewhat of a
simpleton; but I, who have seen him often and had long conversations
with him, will vouch for it that he is no fool and has more sense than
most people. I beg you to have two more interviews with him; and I am
sure you will agree with me." M. Zubin looked long at his daughter with
a keen and penetrating gaze, as if he wished to read some secret hidden
in her heart; then he sighed heavily and consented to do what she asked.

By the next post Alexyéi Stepanitch sent a very affectionate and
respectful letter to his parents. He thanked them for having given him
life a second time, and humbly begged them to write at once to M. Zubin
and request the hand of his daughter for their son; he added that this
was the regular custom, and without such a letter the father would not
give a positive answer. The fulfilment of this simple request gave some
trouble to the old people at Bagrovo. They were no hands at composition,
and, for want of previous experience, had no idea how to set about it,
while they were exceedingly loath to commit themselves before the
Governor’s Deputy and their future relation, who was sure to be a
skilful man of business and a practised writer. It took them a whole
week to compose their letter; at last it got written somehow and was
dispatched to Alexyéi Stepanitch. It was not a skilful production,
having none of those polite phrases and expressions of affection which
are indispensable in such cases.

While waiting for the answer from home, Alexyéi Stepanitch received two
more invitations from M. Zubin. The second visit did not remove the
unfavourable impression produced by the first. On the next occasion,
however, Sofya Nikolayevna was present. Returning from a call earlier
than usual, she walked into her father’s room, as if she did not know
that her suitor was sitting there. Her presence made all the difference.
She could make him talk and knew what he could talk about, so as to
display to advantage his natural good sense, high principle, and
goodness of heart. M. Zubin was obviously pleased: he spoke kindly to
the young man and invited him to come to the house as often as he could.
When they were alone, the old man embraced his daughter with tears,
called her by many fond names, and said she was a witch whose spells
could draw out a man’s good qualities, even when they were so deeply
hidden that no one suspected their existence. She too was much pleased;
for she had not dared to hope that Alexyéi Stepanitch would do so much
to support her favourable opinion and justify the character she had
given him.

The letter containing the formal proposal arrived at last, and Alexyéi
Stepanitch delivered it in person to M. Zubin. Alas! without the magic
presence and aid of Sofya Nikolayevna the suitor failed again to please
his future father-in-law, who was also far from satisfied with the
letter. Next day he had a long conversation with his daughter, in which
he set before her all the disadvantages of marrying a man inferior to
herself in intelligence, education, and force of character; he said that
the Bagroff family would not take her to their hearts—they would be much
more likely to hate her, because coarse and cruel ignorance always hates
refinement; he warned her not to rely on the promises of a lover; for
these as a rule are not kept after marriage, and Alexyéi Stepanitch,
even if he wished, would not have the power to keep them. To all this
sage advice, drawn directly from the experience of life, she had an
answer of surprising adroitness; and at the same time she depicted in
such lively colours the advantages of marrying a man who, if he lacked
energy and refinement, was at least kind-hearted, honourable, loving,
and no fool, that her father was carried away by her confidence and gave
his full consent. She clasped her father in her arms and kissed his
wasted hands; then she gave him the _ikon_ and received his blessing,⁴⁰
kneeling by his bed and weeping. "Father," she cried in her excitement,
"with God’s help, I hope that in a year’s time Alexyéi Stepanitch will
be a different creature: the reading of good books, the society of
clever people, and constant conversation with his wife—these will make
up for defects of education; his bashfulness will pass away, and the
power to take a place in society will come of itself." "May it be so!"
he answered. "Now send for the priest. I wish that we should pray
together for your happiness."

  ⁴⁰ The sacred image is often held by the person giving the blessing.

That same evening Alexyéi Stepanitch was invited to the house, with Mme.
Alakayeff and some old friends of the Zubins’—M. Anitchkoff and the
Misailoffs; and the favourable answer was given. The young man’s bliss
no words can describe: Sofya Nikolayevna, even in extreme old age, used
to speak of his joy at that moment. He threw himself at M. Zubin’s feet
and kissed his hands, cried and sobbed like a child, and nearly fainted
from the effect of this immense good-fortune which down to the last
moment had seemed beyond his reach. She too was deeply moved by such a
frank expression of ardent and entire devotion.

The official betrothal came two days later, and all the town was invited
to the ceremony. There was general surprise, because many had
disbelieved the reports of the engagement. But all sceptics were
convinced at last, and came to express their congratulations and good
wishes. Alexyéi Stepanitch was radiant with happiness; he was quite
unaware of any hidden meaning in congratulations, of any mockery in
looks and smiles. But Sofya Nikolayevna let nothing pass unnoticed: she
saw everything and heard everything, though, in speaking to her, every
one was cautious and polite. Though she knew beforehand the view society
would take of her action, she could not help being vexed by this
expression of their opinion. But no one detected her vexation; for she
was cheerful and affectionate with every one and especially with her
suitor, and seemed perfectly happy and content with her choice. The pair
were soon summoned into M. Zubin’s study, and the betrothal took place
there before a few witnesses. While the priest read the prayers, the old
man shed tears; when the rite was over, he told the bridegroom to kiss
the bride and embraced them both himself with a great effort; then he
gazed earnestly at Alexyéi Stepanitch and said, "Love her always as you
do now; God is giving you such a treasure ..." and then he broke down.
The engaged couple and the witnesses returned to the drawing-room, where
all the men embraced the bridegroom and kissed the bride’s hand, while
all the ladies embraced the bride and had their hands kissed by the
bridegroom. When this fuss was over, the pair were made to sit on a sofa
side by side, and exchange kisses again; and then the company, holding
glasses in their hands, repeated their congratulations and good wishes.
Anitchkoff acted as host, and Mme. Alakayeff as hostess. Alexyéi
Stepanitch, who had never in his life drunk anything but water, was
forced to take a glass of wine, and the unfamiliar stimulant had a
strong effect upon him, weakened as he was by recent illness and
constant agitation. He became uncommonly lively, laughed and cried, and
talked a great deal, to the amusement of the company and the
mortification of the bride. The guests soon grew merry: glass followed
glass, and a fine supper was served. All ate and drank heartily, and at
last the party broke up amid noise and merriment. The bridegroom’s head
was beginning to ache; and Mme. Alakayeff took him home in her carriage.

M. Zubin felt that he was in great danger and therefore wished to have
the wedding as soon as possible; but, as he also wished his daughter’s
outfit to be rich and splendid, it was necessary to postpone the
ceremony for some months. Her mother’s diamonds and emeralds had to be
sent to Moscow, to be reset and restrung in the newest fashion; silver
had to be ordered from Moscow, and some dresses and presents; the other
dresses, curtains for the state bed, and a sumptuous black-brown fur
cloak which cost 500 _roubles_ then and could not be bought now for
5000—all these were made in Kazan; a quantity of table-linen and Holland
sheets were also provided. Ten thousand roubles, the amount fixed for
the dowry, was a great sum in those days; and, as many valuable things
were provided as well, the inventory of the bride’s outfit assumed such
splendid proportions, that when I read it now I can hardly believe in
the simple life of our ancestors at the end of last century.

The first business after the formal betrothal was to send complimentary
letters to all relations on both sides. One of Sofya Nikolayevna’s gifts
was her remarkable skill in letter-writing; and her letter to her future
husband’s parents was such that Stepan Mihailovitch, though no
letter-writer himself, set a high value on it. First he listened to it
with great attention; then he took it out of Tanyusha’s hand, praised
the distinct handwriting, and read it through twice himself. "Well,
she’s a clever girl," he said, "and I make sure she has a warm heart."
This enraged the family, but they had the sense to keep silent.
Alexandra alone could not restrain herself: her gooseberry eyes flashed
with rage as she said: "She can write a fine letter, father, I admit;
but all is not gold that glitters." The old man scowled at her and said
in his dangerous voice: "How do you know? You’re snarling at her
already, and you’ve never even seen her! Take care! Keep your tongue
from wagging, and don’t stir up the rest!" All sat as silent as mice,
and, of course, hated Sofya Nikolayevna worse than ever. Meanwhile
Stepan Mihailovitch, under the influence of that warm and affectionate
letter, took the pen himself and wrote as follows, in defiance of all
established etiquette:—

        "_My dear, precious, sensible Daughter-in-Law to be_,

    "If you, without seeing us, have learnt to love and respect us
    old people, we feel the same for you. And when, by God’s
    blessing, we meet, we shall love you still better; and you will
    be to us as our own daughter, and we shall rejoice in the
    happiness of our son Alexyéi."

On her side, Sofya Nikolayevna valued the old man’s simple words as they
deserved; from what she had heard, she had already taken a fancy to him.
As she had no relations living, the bridegroom had no letters to write;
but she asked Alexyéi Stepanitch to write a letter of intimation to M.
Anitchkoff, the friend at Moscow whom she had never seen and who had
taken her brothers under his care. The bridegroom of course gladly
consented. Not having much confidence in his power to express himself on
paper, she asked to see the letter before it was sent. When she read it,
she was horrified! Alexyéi Stepanitch, who had heard a great deal of M.
Anitchkoff as a wit, took it into his head to adopt an elaborate style.
Therefore he had recourse to some novel of the day, and filled two sides
with phrases which, under other circumstances, would have made Sofya
Nikolayevna laugh outright; as it was, the blood rushed to her face, and
then the tears poured from her eyes. When she grew calmer, she wondered
how she was to get out of such an awkward situation. She did not wonder
long, however. She wrote a rough draft of a letter herself, and then
said to her betrothed, that, not being in the habit of writing to
strangers, he had written in a way that might not please Anitchkoff; and
therefore she had written a rough draft, which she asked him to copy out
and send off. She felt shame and pain, and was hurt on his account; her
voice shook, and she nearly broke down. But he welcomed her suggestion
with enthusiasm; when she read him the letter, he was charmed with it,
praised her wonderful skill, and covered her hands with kisses. This was
the first step in disrespect for her future husband, the first step
towards realising her dream of complete domination over him; and she did
not find it easy to take.

Knowing that his parents had little money and were forced to be chary in
spending any, Alexyéi Stepanitch wrote to ask for a very moderate sum;
and, to strengthen his request, he asked Mme. Alakayeff to write to his
father, to assure him that the request was reasonable and that some
expense was inevitable in view of the marriage. He asked only 800
_roubles_, but Mme. Alakayeff stated the necessary sum at 1500. The old
people replied that they had not got such a sum; they sent him all they
had—300 _roubles_, and suggested that, if the other 500 were necessary,
he should borrow them; but they promised to send him a team of four
horses with a coachman and postilion, and provisions of all kinds. They
did not even answer Mme. Alakayeff: so indignant were they with her for
demanding such a huge sum. It could not be helped: Alexyéi Stepanitch
thanked them for their kindness and borrowed 500 _roubles_; when even
this proved insufficient, Mme. Alakayeff gave him 500 more, without the
knowledge of his parents.

Meantime, as the engaged couple met more often and were together longer,
they became more intimate. Sofya Nikolayevna for the first time saw her
husband as he really was, and realised for the first time what a heavy
task lay before her! She had made no mistake in thinking that he
possessed natural intelligence, a very kind heart, strict principles of
honour, and perfect integrity in official life; but otherwise she found
such a limitation of ideas, such a pettiness of interests, such an
absence of self-esteem and independence, that her courage and firmness
in the execution of her purpose were more than once severely shaken.
More than once, in despair, she took the engagement-ring off her finger,
laid it before the image of Our Lady of Smolensk, and prayed with tears
that her feeble intelligence might be enlightened by divine wisdom. As
we know already, she was accustomed to act thus at each crisis in her
life. When she had prayed, she felt braver and calmer. Interpreting this
feeling as heavenly guidance, she would put her ring on again and go
back, composed and cheerful, to join her lover in the drawing-room. Her
father felt that he was losing strength daily; and she was able to
assure him that she was constantly discovering fresh merits in her
lover, that she was quite content and looked forward to happiness in her
marriage. By this time disease had dulled M. Zubin’s perspicacity: he
not only believed that she was sincere, but was convinced himself that
his daughter would be happy. "Thank God!" he used to say; "now I can die
happy."

And now the wedding-day drew near. The bride’s outfit was all ready. The
bridegroom too made his preparations, being guided by the advice of Mme.
Alakayeff, who assumed the entire management of him. The old lady, in
spite of her shrewdness, was surprised by his profound ignorance of the
customs of polite society. But for her, he would have been guilty of
many blunders which would have made his bride blush for shame. Thus he
intended to give her as a birthday-present a kind of cloth for a dress
which would only have been suitable as a present to her maid; and he
thought of driving to the church in an old shandrydan without springs,
which would have made all the town laugh; and so on. The things were not
of importance in themselves; but it would have tried Sofya Nikolayevna
too hard to see her bridegroom the laughing-stock of Ufa society. All
such things were put right by Mme. Alakayeff, or rather by the bride
herself, for the two women discussed every point together. Sofya
Nikolayevna told her lover in time, that he must not think of giving her
a present for her birthday, because she loathed birthday-presents in
general. For the wedding, she made him buy a new English carriage which
had lately been ordered from Petersburg by a local landowner; his name
was Murzahanoff,⁴¹ and he had managed to run through his fortune in a
few months. The price paid for the carriage was 350 _roubles_; Sofya
Nikolayevna bought it herself as a present from her father to the
bridegroom, and begged him not to trouble the dying man by thanking him.
And the other difficulties were got over in the same fashion.

  ⁴¹ The Russianised form of an oriental name, Mirza Khan.

Then the bride and bridegroom wrote, for themselves and M. Zubin, to
Stepan Mihailovitch and Arina Vassilyevna, pressing them to honour the
wedding by their presence; but the old people, as a matter of course,
declined the invitation. They had lived so long in their country
solitude that town and town society seemed to them something strange and
formidable. None of the daughters wished to go either; but Stepan
Mihailovitch thought this awkward, and desired Elizabeth and Alexandra
to attend the wedding. The latter was accompanied by her husband,
Karatayeff; but Yerlykin was detained by his duties at Orenburg.

The presence of these uninvited and unexpected guests was the cause of
much annoyance to Sofya Nikolayevna. Her future sisters-in-law were
clever and cunning women; they were determined to dislike her, and their
behaviour to her was cold, unfriendly, and even rude. Though Sofya
Nikolayevna knew very well the sort of attitude they were likely to
adopt, yet she thought it her duty to be friendly and even cordial to
them at first; but when she saw that all her efforts were vain, and that
the better she treated them the worse they treated her, she retired
behind a wall of cold civility. But this did not protect her from those
mean hints and innuendoes which it is impossible not to understand and
not to resent, though it is awkward to do either, because you lay
yourself open to the retort—"If the cap fits, wear it!" This odious form
of attack, now banished to the servants’ hall by the advance of
refinement, was formidable in those days, and much used in the houses of
rural landowners, many of whom differed little from their own servants
in their manners and customs. But is it true that it has really been
banished? Does it not still live on among us, concealed under more
decent and artistic forms?

The good people of Ufa made fun, as might be expected, of the country
clothes and manners of the two ladies. As to Karatayeff, who had now
adopted all the Bashkir habits and began drinking Bashkir decoctions at
eight in the morning, when he was first introduced to Sofya Nikolayevna,
he kissed her hand with a sounding smack three times over, and cried out
with real Bashkir enthusiasm, "My word! what a dazzler brother Alexyéi
has hooked!" The coarse jests and compliments of the man were as
distressing as the malicious sallies of the women; and both forced Sofya
Nikolayevna to swallow many tears. But worse than all was the blindness
of Alexyéi Stepanitch: he seemed perfectly satisfied with the relations
between his sisters and his bride, and this was not only a mortification
for the present but also a peril for the future. These venomous
creatures, who were staying with their brother, began at once to drop
their poison into his simple soul, and did it so artfully that he did
not suspect their manœuvres. Allusions to the young lady’s pride, to the
poverty which she hid under jewels and fine clothes, to her caprices and
his meek submission to them, were dinned into his ears all day long.
Much passed unnoticed, but much also went straight to the mark and made
him thoughtful and vaguely uneasy. All their attacks, whether secret or
open, were accompanied by a pretence of sympathy and sisterly affection.
"What makes you look so worn, my dear boy?" Elizabeth would ask; "Sofya
Nikolayevna wears you out with all her commissions. You’ve just got back
from the other end of the town, tired and hungry, and off you run again,
without eating a morsel, to dance attendance on her. As your sisters, we
can’t help being sorry for you"; and then sham tears, or at least some
play with the pocket-handkerchief, completed the crafty sentence. Then
Alexandra would make a furious entry into the conversation. "No, my
dear, I really cannot stand it! I know you will be angry, and perhaps
you will cease to love us; but I can’t help it, I must tell you the
truth. You are quite changed: you’re ashamed of us and have forgotten us
altogether; your one wish is to mumble that girl’s hand; your one fear,
to get into her black books. You have become her lackey, her slave! Then
it cuts us to the heart to see that old witch, Mme. Alakayeff, ordering
you about like a servant and making you fetch and carry for her; and
she’s not content with that, but finds fault with you and urges you to
greater activity." Alexyéi Stepanitch could think of no answer to all
this, except that he loved his sisters and would continue to do so,
and—it was time to go and see Sofya Nikolayevna; whereupon he took his
hat and hurried off. "Oh, go by all means!" Alexandra called after him,
"and go quick; or else she will be angry and perhaps withhold her hand
from your lips!" Scenes like this took place again and again and
undoubtedly left their impression.

Sofya Nikolayevna could not help noticing that his sisters’ visit had
brought about a certain change in her lover. He seemed depressed, was
less exact in keeping his engagements, and spent less time with her. The
reason for this she herself understood very well; and Mme. Alakayeff,
who had become a very intimate friend and also knew all that went on in
the Bagroffs’ lodgings, did not fail to provide her with detailed
information. Her impulsive nature made her unwilling to let things drag
on. She reasoned justly, that she ought not to give time for the
sisters’ influence to take root at leisure, that she must open her
lover’s eyes and put the strength of his character and affection to a
decisive test. If they proved too weak, it was better to part before
marriage than to unite her fate to such a feeble creature, who was, to
use her own expression, "neither a shield from the sun nor a cloak to
keep out the rain." She summoned him early one morning and ordered that
no visitors should be admitted to the drawing-room where they were
sitting. Then she turned to Alexyéi Stepanitch, who was looking pale and
frightened, and addressed him as follows:—

"I wish to have a frank explanation with you and to make a clean breast
of what I am feeling; and I ask you to do the same. Your sisters detest
me and did their best to rouse your parents against me. That I know from
yourself. But your love overcame all obstacles: your parents gave you
their approval, and I resolved to accept you and brave the hatred of all
your family. I hoped to find protection in your love for me and in my
endeavour to prove to your parents that I don’t deserve their
displeasure. But now I see that I was mistaken. You saw yourself how I
received your sisters, how friendly I was and how hard I tried to please
them; and, though their rudeness made me draw back, yet I never once
failed in politeness to them. And what has been the result? It is only a
week since they came, and you treat me differently already: you make me
promises and then forget to keep them; you spend less time with me; you
are depressed and anxious, and even less affectionate to me than you
used to be. Don’t defend yourself, or deny it; that would not be
honourable on your part. I know that you love me still, but you are
afraid to show it; you fear your sisters, and that is why you are
depressed and even avoid opportunities of being alone with me. You know
yourself that all this is quite true. Well, then, tell me, how can I
hope that your love will stand firm? It is a strange kind of love that
turns coward and hides, because your sisters disapprove of your bride,
as you knew they did long ago. Suppose your parents disapprove of me and
turn up their noses at me? What then? Then you will really cease to love
me. No, Alexyéi Stepanitch, honourable men do not behave so to the woman
they love. The knowledge that your sisters disliked me should have made
you twice as attentive and twice as devoted in their presence; and then
they would not have dared to utter a syllable; but you have suffered
them to use insulting language in your presence. I know just how they
speak to you. From all this I conclude that your love is not love at
all, but love-making, that I cannot rely on you, and that we had better
part now than be unhappy for life. Consider carefully what I have said;
I shall give you two days to think it over. Come to the house as usual,
but I shall not see you alone and shall not refer to this interview.
After two days, I shall ask for an honest answer to these questions:
’Have you sufficient firmness to be my defender against your relations
and any one else who chooses to insult me? Can you shut your sisters’
mouths and prevent them from uttering in your presence a single
insulting word or allusion against me?’ To break her engagement a week
before her marriage is a great misfortune for any girl; but it is better
to bear it once for all than to suffer all one’s life. You know that I
am not in love with you, but I was beginning to love you; and I believe
my love would have been stronger and more constant than yours. Now,
good-bye! For to-day and to-morrow we are strangers."

Long before she ended, Alexyéi Stepanitch had been in tears, and he
tried several times to interrupt; but, before he could open his mouth,
she had left the room and shut the door behind her. It was some time
before he recovered from this tremendous blow. But at last the terrible
thought of losing his adored mistress presented itself to him with
appalling reality, and summoned up that energy and vigour of which the
mildest and gentlest of men are capable, though they cannot keep it up
for long. He hurried home; and, when his sisters, with no pity for his
evident disturbance and distress, greeted him with the usual malicious
jests, he flew into such a rage and attacked them with such fury that
they were frightened. The wrath of a gentle patient man is a formidable
thing. Among other things he told his sisters that, if they ventured to
say another insulting word about his bride or about himself, he would
instantly move to other lodgings, from which, as well as from M. Zubin’s
house, they would be excluded; and he would write to his father and tell
him the whole story. That was enough. Alexandra had a clear recollection
of her father’s warning-"Keep your tongue quiet, and don’t stir up the
rest of the family!" She knew very well what a thunder-cloud her
brother’s complaint would call up, and what alarming consequences she
might expect. Both the sisters fell on their brother’s neck and begged
forgiveness with tears; they solemnly declared that it should never
happen again; they were really very fond of Sofya Nikolayevna, and it
was only out of pity for his health and fear that he was doing too much
that they had ventured on these foolish jests. They called on Sofya
Nikolayevna that same day and paid court to her with the utmost
servility. The meaning of all this was not lost upon her, and she felt
she had prevailed.

The position of her lover really deserved pity. His feelings, which had
been calmed and composed to some extent by frequent interviews with
Sofya Nikolayevna, her simple friendly behaviour to him, and the near
prospect of the marriage, had then been rather alarmed and abashed by
the sneers of his sisters; and now they flamed up so fiercely, that at
the present moment he was capable of any self-sacrifice, of any
desperate action, a true knight-errant! His state of mind was clearly
reflected on his handsome young face during those two endless days. The
lovers met several times, and Sofya Nikolayevna could not look at his
face without pain; but she had the firmness to support the test she had
imposed. The agitation and pity which she felt were a surprise to
herself. She felt that she did really love this simple, modest young
man, who was absolutely devoted to her and would not have hesitated to
put an end to his existence if she made up her mind to refuse him. At
last the two long days were over. Early on the third day Alexyéi
Stepanitch sat in the drawing-room, waiting for his mistress to appear.
The door opened softly, and in she came, more beautiful, more charming
than ever. She was smiling, and her eyes expressed such tenderness that,
when he looked at her and saw her kind hand stretched out towards him,
the excess of his emotion deprived him for an instant of the power of
speech. He soon recovered, and then, instead of taking her hand, fell at
her feet and poured forth a torrent of burning heartfelt eloquence. She
interrupted him and raised him to his feet. Then she said: "I see and
feel your love, and I share it; I believe all your promises; I put my
fate in your hands without fear." She had never been so affectionate to
him before, and she used words of tenderness which he had never before
heard from her lips.

Only five days remained before the marriage. All their preparations were
complete, and the lovers were free to spend most of their time together.
For five whole months Sofya Nikolayevna had been true to her intention
of educating her future husband over again. She never lost a suitable
moment, but did her best to impart those ideals which he did not
possess, to clear up and develop feelings of which he was dimly
conscious, and to root out the notions which he had derived from his
early surroundings. She even made him read, and discussed with him the
books he had read, explaining what puzzled him, filling up gaps in his
memory, and illustrating fiction from real life. But it is probable that
she got on faster with her task during these five days than in the
course of five long months; for the recent incident which I have
described had raised her lover’s mind to a higher level of refinement,
and he was in an unusually receptive and impressionable mood. How far
the teacher succeeded on the whole in impressing her ideas upon the
pupil, I cannot venture to decide. It is hard to know how much weight to
attach to the opinions of the two persons concerned; but it is certain
that in later years they both maintained—and they appealed to the
evidence of disinterested persons in confirmation of the statement—that
a great change took place in Alexyéi Stepanitch, and even a complete
transformation. I am very willing to believe it; but I have a proof that
his proficiency in social etiquette left something to be desired. I know
that he made his bride very angry the day before the marriage, and that
her vehemence left a strong and painful impression on his mind. It
happened in the following way. Two ladies were calling on Sofya
Nikolayevna when a servant brought in a paper parcel and handed it to
his mistress, with the explanation that Alexyéi Stepanitch had sent it
by his coachman and wished her at once to make a cap for his sister
Alexandra. Her lover had left her half an hour before without saying one
word about this commission, and Sofya Nikolayevna was exceedingly
annoyed. The ladies, who were of some importance, had supposed at first
that the parcel contained a present from the bridegroom; and now they
did not try to conceal their amusement. Sofya Nikolayevna lost patience:
she ordered the parcel to be returned, with a message that Alexyéi
Stepanitch had better apply to a milliner; it was no doubt a mistake to
have brought the thing to her. The explanation was quite simple. On
going home, he had found his sister in a great difficulty, because the
milliner, who had engaged to make her a cap for the wedding, had fallen
ill and returned the materials. As he had seen with his own eyes the
skill with which Sofya Nikolayevna could trim hats and caps, he offered
to help his sister out of her trouble, and told his servant to carry the
parcel to his bride, with a humble request that she would trim a cap for
Alexandra. But the servant was busy, and, instead of going himself, sent
the coachman; and the humble request became, in the coachman’s mouth, an
imperious demand. Alexyéi Stepanitch hastened back to explain matters,
and carried with him the same unlucky parcel. Sofya Nikolayevna had not
yet cooled down, when she saw him coming into the room with the odious
parcel under his arm; and she flared up worse than ever, and said many
violent and unkind things which she had better have left unspoken. The
culprit, utterly dumbfounded, tried to defend himself, but did it very
badly; he was seriously hurt by this onslaught. She sent the materials
for the cap to some milliner she knew of; and then, repenting of her
violence, she tried to put matters right. But, to her surprise, Alexyéi
Stepanitch could not get over it: he felt that he had been unjustly
treated, and she had frightened him. He became very depressed, and her
efforts to calm and cheer him were unsuccessful.

The wedding-day, the 10th of May, 1788, arrived, and the bridegroom paid
an early visit to his bride. After her excitement of the previous day,
she was distressed to see that Alexyéi Stepanitch still wore the same
pained expression. She felt hurt; for she had always supposed that he
would be in an ecstasy of joy on the day when he led her to the altar;
and here he was, looking demure and even depressed! She expressed her
feelings, and that made matters worse. Of course, he assured her that he
considered himself the happiest man in the world, and so on; but the
pompous and trivial phrases, which he had repeated many a time before
and she had heard with satisfaction, were now distasteful to her ear,
because they lacked the fire of inward conviction. They soon parted, to
meet next in church, where the bridegroom was to be in waiting for her
at six in the evening.

Sofya Nikolayevna was assailed by a terrible misgiving—would she be
happy in her marriage? A host of dark forebodings passed before her
heated imagination. She blamed herself for her hot temper and violent
language; she recognised that the offence was trifling, and that she
must expect many slips of the kind on her lover’s part, and must take
them calmly. They had happened often enough before; but, on this
occasion, the unlucky combination of circumstances and the presence of
the two unfriendly visitors had pricked her vanity and irritated her
natural impetuosity. Conscious that she had frightened her lover, she
repented of her fault; but at the same time she was aware in the depth
of her heart that she was quite capable of committing the same fault
again. And now she realised afresh all the difficulty of the tremendous
task she had undertaken—the reformation and regeneration of a man of
twenty-seven. Her whole life—and it might be long—must be spent with a
husband whom she loved indeed but could not entirely respect; there
would be constant collision between utterly different ideas and opposite
qualities, and they would often misunderstand one another. Doubts of
success, doubts of her own strength, doubts of her power to command the
qualities of firmness and calmness so foreign to her nature—these rose
before her for the first time in their appalling truth, and she shrank
back in terror. But what could she do? If she broke off the marriage at
the eleventh hour, what would be the consequences? It would be a
terrible blow to her dying father, who took comfort in the conviction
that his daughter would be happy in the care of a kind husband; her
rivals in society and enemies would mock at her; she would be the talk
of the town and the laughing-stock of the district, perhaps even a mark
for calumny; and, above all, she would kill, literally kill, her devoted
lover. And all for what? Merely because she was afraid she might lack
firmness to carry out a purpose which she had deliberately formed and
which was beginning to take shape with triumphant success. "No! that
shall never be! God will help me; Our Lady of Smolensk will be my
intercessor and will give me strength to conquer my impetuous nature."
Thus Sofya Nikolayevna thought, and thus she decided. She wept and
prayed and regained her stability.

The Church of the Assumption was quite close to the Zubins’ house, and
there was then an empty space round it. Long before six o’clock, it was
surrounded by a crowd of curious spectators. The high steps projecting
from the house into the street were blocked by the carriages of the
privileged persons who had been invited to escort the bride. The bride
was dressed, and her little brother, Nikolinka, whose birth had cost his
mother her life three years before, put on the stockings and shoes,
according to established custom, though of course the maids lent their
assistance. By six the bride was ready; she received her father’s
blessing and came into the drawing-room. The rich bridal-dress lent an
added lustre to her beauty. The bridegroom, on his way to church, had to
pass right under the drawing-room windows, and Sofya Nikolayevna saw him
drive past in the English carriage drawn by the four fine horses bred at
Bagrovo; he had his head out and was looking up at the open windows; she
smiled and nodded. Next came the bridegroom’s sisters with Mme.
Alakayeff, and all the men who were escorting him to church. She did not
wish to keep him waiting, and insisted, in spite of various hindrances,
that they should start at once. Sofya Nikolayevna was calm and composed
when she entered the church; she gave her arm cheerfully and smilingly
to the bridegroom; but she was vexed to see that his face still wore the
same sad expression; and it was generally remarked that they both looked
depressed during the ceremony. The church was brilliantly lighted and
full of people; the cathedral choir did not spare their voices.
Altogether, it was a dignified and splendid ceremony. When the rite was
over, the young couple were escorted to the Zubins’ house by the
bridegroom’s sisters, the whole train of friends and relations on both
sides, and all the important people of Ufa. Dancing began at once and
went on till an early but sumptuous supper was served. Privileged guests
paid a visit to M. Zubin in his study and congratulated him on his
daughter’s marriage. The usual festivities took place on the next and
following days—balls, dinners, and calls, in fact, the regular routine
which we see nowadays even in Moscow and Petersburg.

The shade of sadness soon vanished from the faces of the young couple.
They were perfectly happy. Kind people could not look at them without
pleasure; and every one said, "What a handsome couple!" A week later,
they prepared for a visit to Bagrovo; the bridegroom’s sisters had gone
back there three days after the wedding, and Sofya Nikolayevna had sent
by them an affectionate letter to the old people.

Startled by their brother’s explosion, Elizabeth and Alexandra had been
cautious of late. They refrained from all hints and sneers and grimaces
in his presence, and were even polite to Sofya Nikolayevna. She, of
course, was not taken in by this; but their brother entirely believed in
the sincerity of their devotion to his bride. At the wedding and the
festivities which followed, they were, naturally, somewhat out of place,
and therefore hastened their departure. On arriving at Bagrovo, they
determined to do nothing rash and to hide their hostility towards Sofya
Nikolayevna from their father; but to their mother and two sisters they
described the marriage and events at Ufa in such a way as to fill their
minds with a strong prejudice against the bride; and they did not forget
to mention their brother’s threats and his fury excited by their attacks
upon Sofya Nikolayevna. It was agreed to treat her kindly in the
presence of Stepan Mihailovitch, and to say nothing bad about her to him
directly; at the same time they were to use every opportunity to excite
by indirect means his displeasure against their enemy. It was a highly
delicate operation; and Elizabeth and Alexandra could not trust it to
any hands but their own.

My grandfather questioned them minutely about the wedding, the people
they had seen there, the health of M. Zubin, and so on. They praised
everything, but the poison under their praises could be smelt and
tasted, and they failed to deceive their father. By way of a joke, and
perhaps also for the sake of comparison, he turned to Karatayeff and
said: "Well, now, friend Ivan, what say you of the daughter-in-law? As a
man, you are a better judge of the point than the women are."
Karatayeff, disregarding a signal from his wife, burst out with
enthusiasm: "I do assure you, _batyushka_, that such another dazzler"—he
always used this phrase of a beautiful woman—"as brother Alexyéi has
bagged is not to be found in the whole world. A look from her is as good
as a shilling. And her cleverness! it’s past all telling. But there’s
one thing, _batyushka_: she’s proud; she can’t stand a joke. When you
try to have a little fun with her, she gives you a look that makes you
bite off the end of your tongue." "I see, my friend, that she made short
work with your nonsense," said the old man with an amused look; then he
laughed and added, "Not much amiss there, so far." In fact, Stepan
Mihailovitch, from what he had heard and the bride’s letters and
Karatayeff’s description, had formed in his own mind a highly favourable
opinion of Sofya Nikolayevna.

The expected visit of the young couple produced bustle and confusion in
the quiet or, one might say, stagnant waters of life at Bagrovo. They
had to bestir themselves, to clean things up, and bring out their best
clothes. The bride was a fine town lady, poor, perhaps, but accustomed
to live in luxury; she would be critical and contemptuous—so they all
thought, and so they all said, except the master of the house. As there
were no separate rooms in the house unoccupied, Tanyusha had to turn out
of her bedroom, one corner of which overlooked the garden and the clear
waters of the Boogoorooslan with its green bushes and loud nightingales.
Tanyusha was very unwilling to move to the bath-house, but there was no
other place: all her sisters were put up in the house, and Karatayeff
and Yerlykin slept in the hayloft. The day before the visitors’ arrival
brought their state-bed and bed-hangings and curtains for the windows,
and with them a man who knew how to put everything up properly.
Tanyusha’s room was completely furnished in a few hours. Stepan
Mihailovitch came to see it and expressed his admiration, but the women
bit their lips with envy. At last a messenger galloped up and announced
that the couple had stopped at the village of Noikino, eight _versts_
from Bagrovo; they were to change their dress there and would arrive in
two hours. This caused a general stir. The priest had been summoned
hours before; but, as he had not yet arrived, Stepan Mihailovitch sent a
mounted messenger to hasten his steps.

Meantime the following scene was taking place in the Mordvinian village
of Noikino. The travellers were making their way along side roads and
had always to send a man ahead to arrange about fresh horses. The people
of Noikino had all known Alexyéi Stepanitch from childhood, and had a
great regard and respect for his father. Every one of the six hundred
inhabitants of the village, men and women, old and young, gathered
before the cottage where the young people were to make their halt. Sofya
Nikolayevna had probably never seen people of this tribe close at hand;
and therefore the dress of the women and the uncommonly tall stout
girls—their white shifts embroidered with red wool, their black woollen
girdles, and the silver coins and little bells which hung from their
heads over their breasts and backs—was very interesting to her. But,
when she heard them all break out into joyful greetings and compliments
and good wishes, childish enough and expressed in bad Russian, but
coming from the heart, then she both laughed and cried. "What a fine
wife God has given you, Alosha! How glad our father Stepan Mihailovitch
will be! Good luck! Good luck!" But, when the bride, arrayed in her fine
city clothes, came out to take her seat in the carriage, there was such
a roar of enthusiastic applause that the horses actually shied. The
travellers made a present of ten _roubles_, to be spent on whisky, to
the whole village, and went on their way.

The stackyard at Bagrovo was at the top of a hill, and now the high
carriage was seen emerging from behind it. The cry, "They’re coming!
they’re coming!" flew from room to room, and house-servants and
labourers soon gathered in the large courtyard, while the young people
and children ran to meet the carriage. The master and mistress, attended
by all their family, came out upon the steps. Arina Vassilyevna wore a
silk jacket and skirt and a silk handkerchief adorned with gold sprigs
upon her head; Stepan Mihailovitch was clean-shaved and wore an
old-fashioned frock-coat and a stock round his neck. Husband and wife
stood on the top step; and he held in his hands an ikon representing the
Presentation of the Virgin, while she carried a loaf of bread and a
silver salt-cellar. Their daughters and two sons-in-law were grouped
round them. The carriage drove up to the steps. The young couple got
out, knelt down before the old people, and received their blessing; then
they exchanged embraces with each member of the family. Hardly had the
bride completed this ceremony and turned again towards her
father-in-law, when he caught her by the hand and looked keenly at her
eyes from which the tears were falling. His own eyes grew wet; he
clasped her in a tight embrace, kissed her, and said, "I thank God. Let
us go and thank Him together!" He took her by the hand and led her
through the crowd of people into the parlour. There he made her sit near
him; and the priest, who was waiting for them with his robes on,
pronounced the solemn words—

"We praise thee, O God: we acknowledge thee to be the Lord."



FRAGMENT IV: THE YOUNG COUPLE AT BAGROVO


Stepan Mihailovitch joined fervently in the prayers, and so did his
daughter-in-law. When the service was over, all kissed the Cross, and
the priest sprinkled the young pair and the rest of the company with
holy water. Then the kissing and embracing began over again, with the
phrases customary on such occasions—"We beg that you will regard us as
relations and love us," and so on—said of course by those to whom the
bride was still a stranger. Stepan Mihailovitch said nothing: he only
looked affectionately at the tearful eyes and flaming cheeks of Sofya
Nikolayevna, listened attentively to every word she spoke, and noted her
every movement. Then he took her by the hand and led her to the
drawing-room, where he sat down on the sofa and made the pair sit near
him. Arina Vassilyevna seated herself next to her son at the other end
of the sofa, while her daughters with their husbands sat round the
central group. It should be said that Stepan Mihailovitch never sat in
the drawing-room: he entered it very seldom and never stayed long. There
were only two parts of the house which he used—his own room, and the
outside stoop, a very simple contrivance of beams and boards; there he
was thoroughly at home, but in the drawing-room he was never quite at
his ease. For once he put constraint upon himself and carried on a
friendly conversation with his daughter-in-law. He began by asking about
her father’s health, and expressed sincere regret on hearing that he
grew weaker daily: "In that case, my dear," he said, "I must not keep
you too long at Bagrovo." It need not be said that the bride was at no
loss for words: she was not merely polite, but cordial and eager to make
a good impression. Arina Vassilyevna, naturally a very simple woman,
took her tone from her husband, as far as her intelligence and her dread
of disobeying her daughters would let her. She was friendly to her son’s
wife and had taken a real liking to her at first sight; but the others
were silent, and it was not hard to guess their feelings from their
faces. After half an hour the bride whispered to her husband, who rose
at once and went to the bedroom which had been specially prepared for
them, near the drawing-room. Stepan Mihailovitch looked on with
surprise; but the bride’s lively talk engaged his attention, and he was
so much interested by it that he was startled when presently the folding
doors of the bedroom opened and his son came in, holding a large silver
salver so loaded with presents for the family that it actually bent
under their weight. Sofya Nikolayevna sprang to her feet; she took from
the salver and presented to her father-in-law a piece of fine English
broadcloth, and a waistcoat of watered silk, richly laced with gold
thread and embroidered all over with spangles; and she told him quite
truly that she had worked it all with her own hands. Stepan Mihailovitch
looked uneasily at his son standing with the salver in his arms, but he
accepted the presents graciously and kissed his daughter-in-law. Next,
Arina Vassilyevna was presented with a silk handkerchief covered with
gold embroidery, to wear over her head, and a complete length of
excellent China silk, which even then was considered a rarity; each
sister-in-law received a piece of costly silk, and each of their
husbands a piece of English broadcloth; but these presents were
naturally rather less valuable. All got up, kissed the hands of the
donor, and bowed their thanks. Meanwhile the door leading to the parlour
was cracking with the pressure of curious spectators of both sexes, and
the well-oiled heads of the maids kept peeping timidly out of the
bedroom door, which they had to themselves, because none of the outdoor
servants dared to enter the elegant apartment of the young couple. In
the parlour there was a great noise; for the menservants were prevented
by the intruders from laying the table, and were unable to turn them
out. Stepan Mihailovitch guessed what was going on; he got up and
glanced through the door; one look and one quiet word was enough: "Off,"
he said, and the parlour was empty in a moment.

The dinner passed off in the usual fashion. The young pair sat side by
side between the old couple; there were a great many courses, one richer
and more indigestible than another; the cook Stepan had been lavish with
his spice, cloves, and pepper, and especially with his butter. The bride
ate the dainties pressed upon her by Stepan Mihailovitch, and prayed
that she might not die in the night. There was little talking, partly
because every mouth was otherwise occupied, and also because the party
were not good at conversation. Indeed they were all uncomfortable in
their own ways. Yerlykin in his sober intervals drank nothing but water,
and hardly spoke at all at such times, which gained him a reputation for
exceptional intelligence; and Karatayeff dared not open his mouth in the
presence of Stepan Mihailovitch except to answer a question, and went no
further than repeating the last words of other people’s remarks. If they
said: "The hay crop will be good, if we get no rain," or "The rye made a
good start till that sudden frost came"—Karatayeff came in like an echo,
"if we get no rain," "till the frost came"; and his repetitions were
sometimes ill-timed. As the hosts had not thought of procuring sparkling
wine from Ufa, the health of the bride and bridegroom was drunk in
strawberry wine, three years old and as thick as oil, which diffused
about the room the delicious perfume of the wild strawberry. Mazan, with
long boots smelling of tar on his feet, and wearing a long coat which
made him look like a bear dressed up in sacking, handed round the
loving-cup; it was ornamented with a white pattern and had a dark-blue
spiral inside its glass stalk. When the young pair had to return thanks,
Sofya Nikolayevna was not much pleased to drink from the cup which had
just left Karatayeff’s greasy lips; but she made no wry faces. Indeed
she was intending to drain the cup, when her father-in-law stopped her:
"Don’t drink it all, my dear," he said; "the liquor is good and sweet
but strong; you are not accustomed to it, and your little head would
ache." She declared that such a noble drink could not hurt her, and
begged to be allowed a little more, till Stepan Mihailovitch allowed her
one sip from the cup which he held in his hands.

It was clear to all the family that the old man was pleased with his
daughter-in-law and liked all that she said. And she could see this
herself, though she had been surprised twice over by a shadow of
displeasure passing over his face. But more than once during the meal
she had encountered his expressive look, as his eyes rested with
satisfaction on her. At last the long and solemn dinner came to an end.
Sofya Nikolayevna, unlike the rest, had found this rustic feast very
wearisome, but she had done her best to enliven it by cheerful
conversation. When they rose from table, his son and daughters kissed
their father’s hand, and Sofya Nikolayevna tried to do so too, but the
old man embraced and kissed her instead. It was the second time this had
happened, and Sofya Nikolayevna, with her natural impulsiveness, asked
him in a lively affectionate tone: "Why do you not give me your hand,
_batyushka_? I am your daughter too, and I wish to kiss your hand out of
love and respect, like the rest." The old man looked at her keenly and
attentively; then he said in a kind voice: "I love you, my dear, but I
am not a priest,⁴² and no one kisses my hand except my own children."

  ⁴² Devout Russians kiss a priest’s hand.

The party went back to the drawing-room and sat down where they were
before. The maid Aksyutka brought in coffee, which was only served on
very solemn occasions; the old man did not drink it, but all his family
were very fond of it; they always called it "coff," never "coffee." When
it was swallowed, Stepan Mihailovitch rose and said: "Now it is time to
have a good sleep, and the young people too would be none the worse of a
rest after their journey"; then he went off to his own room, escorted by
his son and daughter-in-law. "This is my den, my dear," said the old man
cheerfully; "sit down and be my guest. As your husband knows, it was an
exception for me to sit in the drawing-room with you all, with this
bearing-rein on, as well," and he pointed to his stock: "and in future,
if any one wants my society, I shall welcome them here." Then he kissed
her, gave his hand to his son to kiss, and let them go. When alone, he
undressed and lay down, to rest from the unusual bodily exertions and
mental excitement of the day. He was soon sound asleep; and his powerful
snoring echoed through the house and swayed to and fro the curtains
which Mazan had drawn round his old master.

His example was followed by the rest. Yerlykin and Karatayeff went off
to the stable to lie down on the haymow; both their faces showed that
they had done well at dinner, and Karatayeff had also drunk too much.
The daughters assembled in their mother’s room which was separate from
their father’s; and now began such a debate and discussion, carried on
in whispers, that not one of the party even lay down to sleep that
afternoon. Poor Sofya Nikolayevna was their theme, and her
sisters-in-law simply tore her to pieces; they were enraged beyond all
bounds by their father’s evident partiality for her. But there was one
kind heart there—Aksinya, the eldest sister, who was now a widow for the
second time; she stood up for Sofya Nikolayevna and brought down their
wrath on her own head: they turned her out of the room and banished her
for the future from their family councils; and to her old nickname of
"Miss Simplicity," they now added another offensive title which she
still bore in advanced old age. Yet, for all the persecution of her
sisters, her kind heart never swerved from its devotion to her
sister-in-law.

Meanwhile the young pair went off to their own fine bedroom. With the
help of her own maid Parasha, a brisk, black-eyed girl, Sofya
Nikolayevna unpacked the large number of boxes and trunks which the
English coach had brought from Ufa. Parasha was able already to run
through a list of outdoor servants and old people among the peasants who
deserved special notice; and her mistress, who had brought with her a
goodly store of trifles, fixed the present to be given to each, taking
account of their age and services, and the respect which their owners
had for them. The husband and wife were not tired and did not think it
necessary to rest. Sofya Nikolayevna changed into a simpler dress, and
left Parasha to finish the unpacking and arrangement of the bedroom,
while she went out with her young husband, who was very anxious, in
spite of the heat, to show her all his favourite haunts—the beech-wood,
the island with its lime-trees just coming into leaf, and the
transparent waters of the river where it made a bend round the island.
And how delightful it was there at that season, when the freshness of
spring combines with the warmth of summer! Alexyéi Stepanitch was
passionately in love with his adored wife, and time had not yet blunted
the edge of his happiness; but he was disconcerted to find that she was
not charmed either by wood or island, and indeed took little notice of
either. She sat down in the shade on the bank of the rapid river, and
began at once to speak to her husband of his relations. She discussed
their reception. "I like your father so much," she went on, "and I could
see at the first glance that he liked me; perhaps your mother liked me,
but she seemed afraid to show it. Aksinya seems the kindest of them, but
she is afraid of something too. Oh, I understand it all perfectly; I
know in what quarter the damp wood is smouldering. I did not miss a
single word or a single glance; I know what I am bound to expect. God
will judge your sisters, Elizabeth and Alexandra!" But Alexyéi
Stepanitch was hardly listening to her words. The fresh shade, the green
of the boughs bending over the stream, the low ripple of the running
water, the fish jumping, his adored wife sitting beside him with one arm
round his waist—in such surroundings how was it possible to find fault
or make objections or express discontent? How was it possible even to
take in what was said? And in fact Alexyéi Stepanitch did not take in
what his young wife was saying to him: he was so happy that nothing but
silence and oblivion of the world around him could serve as a full
expression of his intoxicating bliss. But Sofya Nikolayevna went on: she
said a great deal, with warmth and feeling; and then she noticed that
her husband was not listening and was nearly asleep. She sprang up at
once, and then followed a scene of conflict and mutual misunderstanding,
more pronounced than any they had ever had before, though there had been
premonitory symptoms once or twice already. Sofya Nikolayevna kept
nothing back this time: the tears rushed from her eyes as she poured
forth a torrent of reproaches for his indifference and inattention.
Alexyéi Stepanitch was puzzled and distressed: he felt as if he had
fallen from the skies or awakened from a delightful dream. Thinking to
calm his wife, he assured her with perfect sincerity, that there was
nothing wrong at all, that it was all her imagination, and that all the
family loved her; how could any one help loving her, he asked. That he
was honestly convinced of this was clear as day; and his eyes and face
and voice all expressed his devoted love to his wife; yet Sofya
Nikolayevna, for all her cleverness and lively sensibility, did not
understand her husband, and found in his words only a fresh proof of the
same indifference and inattention. Statements and explanations went on
with increasing heat, and I do not know how far they would have gone;
but suddenly Alexyéi Stepanitch caught sight of his sister Tatyana’s
maid crossing the high gangway and hastening towards them. He guessed
that they were being searched for because his father had got up, and
told his wife at once what he feared. She regained her self-control in a
moment, caught his arm, and hastened home with him; but he was not in
good spirits as he walked behind her.

Preparations had been made beforehand at Bagrovo to celebrate the day of
the young people’s arrival by an entertainment given to the outdoor
servants and all the serfs on the estate; and, if serfs from
neighbouring estates chose to come on foot or on wheels, they were
welcome too. A quantity of beer had been brewed, and some twenty buckets
of strong home-made spirits distilled; and drinking vessels of all kinds
were ready. Before he lay down after dinner, Stepan Mihailovitch had
asked whether many had come from the neighbouring villages. When he was
told that the whole population, from the old men and women to the
babies, had assembled, he smiled and said, "Well, we shall not stint
them; tell the housekeeper and steward to have everything ready." He did
not sleep long, but he woke in even better spirits than when he lay
down. "Is all ready?" he asked at once, and was told that all was ready
long ago. The old man dressed quickly; instead of his ceremonial
frock-coat, he put on his familiar dressing-gown of fine camel’s hair,
and went out to the stoop to superintend the entertainment in person. On
the broad lawn which was not fenced off from the road, tables had been
put up on trestles, and the tables were laden with barrels of beer,
casks of whisky, and piles of buns to eat with the liquor; these buns,
made of wheat-flour, were cut in halves. The outdoor servants stood in a
group apart near the house; a great crowd of serfs and their wives stood
further off, and beyond them a still greater crowd of Mordvinians of
both sexes. Stepan Mihailovitch threw a hasty glance over the scene, saw
that all was in order, and went back to his stoop. The family had
collected round him, and he was just going to ask where the young couple
were, when they appeared together. He greeted his daughter-in-law even
more affectionately than before, and treated her with no more formality
than if she had been his own daughter. "Now then, Alosha," he said,
"take your wife’s arm and lead her round to greet the people; they are
all anxious to see her and kiss the hand of their young mistress. Let us
start!" He went in front himself; then came Alexyéi Stepanitch, leading
his wife, and last, at a little distance, Arina Vassilyevna with her
daughters and their husbands. The sisters-in-law, except Aksinya, found
it hard to restrain their wrath. The signs of growing affection on their
father’s part, his mention of Sofya Nikolayevna as "the young mistress,"
the triumph of this hated intruder, her beauty and pretty clothes, her
ready easy tongue, her charming respect and affection for her
father-in-law—all these things rankled in their jealous bosoms. They
felt at once that they had sunk in importance. "It matters less to us,"
whispered Alexandra; "we are severed branches; but I can’t look at
Tanyusha without crying. She is nothing now in the household but Sofya
Nikolayevna’s maid. And you, mother—no one will respect you any more:
the servants will all look to her for orders." Her voice shook, and the
tears gathered in her round rolling eyes. Meanwhile Stepan Mihailovitch
had got to the outdoor servants and was calling the peasants to come
nearer: "Why don’t you all stand together? You all belong to the same
family. Well," he went on, "here you see your young mistress; the young
master you know already. When the time comes, serve them as faithfully
and zealously as you have served me and Arina Vassilyevna, and you will
earn their love and favour." All the people bowed to the ground. The
bride, unaccustomed to such demonstrations, felt disconcerted, not
knowing where to go or what to do. Noticing this, her father-in-law
said: "Don’t be frightened! Their heads may bend, but they won’t come
off. Well, my friends, first kiss your young mistress’s hand, and then
drink to her health." The people all got up and came near Sofya
Nikolayevna. She looked round and signed to her man Theodore and handy
Parasha, who were standing at one side, holding the presents. In a
moment they handed her a large parcel and a well-filled box. It felt
strange to her to stretch out her hand to be kissed while standing
motionless as a statue; and she began to kiss them all herself. This
ceremony was repeated, as each received a gift from her hands. But
Stepan Mihailovitch interfered at this point: he saw that at that rate
he would not get his tea till supper-time. "My dear," he said, "you
can’t possibly kiss them all once, let alone twice! There are too many.
The old people are a different matter; but it will be enough if they
kiss your hand." This simplified and shortened the rather tiresome
ceremony, but even so it lasted a long time. Stepan Mihailovitch
sometimes spun it out himself, because he could not refrain from naming
some of the people and praising them to her. Many of the old people
spoke some simple words of love and devotion, some shed tears, and all
looked at the bride with pleasure and cordiality. Sofya Nikolayevna was
much moved. "These good people are ready to love me, and some love me
already," she thought; "how have I deserved it?" At last, when young and
old had kissed her hand and she had kissed some of them, and when all
had received handsome presents, Stepan Mihailovitch took her hand and
led her to the crowd of Mordvinians. "I am glad to see you, neighbours,"
he cried in a hearty cheerful voice; "and thank you for coming. I ask
your goodwill for this young lady who is coming to live near you. You
are welcome to eat and drink what God has given us." The Mordvinians
showed their pleasure by shouting, "Many thanks, Stepan Mihailovitch!
Thank God, for giving such a wife to your son! You deserve such luck for
your goodness, Stepan Mihailovitch."

When the drinking began, Stepan Mihailovitch surrounded by his family
hastened back to his beloved stoop. He was conscious that his tea-time
was long past: it was now past seven, and tea was invariably served at
six. The long shadow of the house was sloping towards the south, and its
edges touched the storehouse and stable; the _samovar_ had long been
hissing on a large table close to the stoop, and Aksyutka was in
attendance. While the rest sat down round the table, Stepan Mihailovitch
stuck to his favourite place: he first spread out his invariable woollen
mat to sit on, and then sat down on the stoop. Tatyana, assisted by
Aksyutka, poured out tea. Then Sofya Nikolayevna asked leave of her
father-in-law to sit beside him, and he consented with obvious
satisfaction. She sprang up from the table, carried her half-finished
cup of tea to the stoop, and sat down beside the old man. He caressed
her and ordered a mat to be put down for her, that she might not spoil
her dress. Then they began a lively, cheerful talk; but at the tea-table
angry looks and even whispers were exchanged, in spite of the presence
of the young husband. He could not help noticing this, and his spirits,
which had not been high before, fell yet lower. Suddenly the old man’s
loud voice rang out: "Come and join us, Alosha; it’s livelier over
here." Alosha started; but the change of place seemed to improve his
spirits. When tea was over, they remained where they were and went on
talking till supper, which was served at nine—an hour later than usual.
All the time the loud singing and hearty laughter of the revellers rang
out far and wide as the darkness slowly gathered round; but they all
departed to their own homes as soon as the family had finished supper.
On saying "good night" Sofya Nikolayevna asked her father-in-law to give
her his blessing, and the old man at once signed her with the Cross and
kissed her with a father’s tenderness.

The young couple were escorted to their room by the lady of the house
and her eldest daughter, who sat there a few minutes; and then it was
the turn of Alexyéi Stepanitch to escort his mother and sister to rest.
Sofya Nikolayevna hastily dismissed her maid and sat down by one of the
open windows fronting the river, which was fringed at that point by a
thick border of osier and alder. It was a lovely night: the freshness
from the river and the scent of the young leaves came through the open
windows, together with the trills and calls of the nightingales. But
Sofya Nikolayevna had something else to think of. As a clever woman who
knew in advance what awaited her in her husband’s family, she had
naturally formed a plan of action beforehand. She had always lived in a
town and had no conception of the sort of life led by landowners of
moderate means on their scattered estates in that vast country. She had
not expected much, but the reality was far worse than she had imagined.
Nothing was to her taste, neither house, nor garden, nor wood, nor
island. In the neighbourhood of Ufa she had been accustomed to admire
noble views from the mountainous bank of the river Byélaya; and this
little village in a hollow, the time-stained and weather-beaten wooden
house, the pond surrounded by swamps, and the unending clack of the
mill—all this seemed to her actually repulsive. And the people were no
better: from her husband’s family to the peasants’ children, she could
love none of them. But there was one exception, and that was Stepan
Mihailovitch. But for him, she would have been in despair. She had
formed a favourable opinion of him from the beginning; then, when she
first saw him, she was frightened by his rough exterior; but she soon
read in his intelligent eyes and kindly smile, and heard in his voice,
that this old man had a tender heart which beat kindly to her, that he
was ready to love her and would love her. Knowing from the first that
all her hopes depended upon him, she had firmly resolved to gain his
love by all means; but now she had learnt to love him herself, and her
deliberate plan coincided with the impulse of her heart. In this respect
Sofya Nikolayevna was satisfied with herself: she saw that she had
reached her goal at once. But she was distressed by the thought that by
her impetuosity she had hurt her kind husband. She waited impatiently
for him, but, as if to spite her, he did not return. Had she known where
he was, she would have hurried off in search of him long ago. She longed
to throw herself into his arms and beg his forgiveness with tears, and
to remove the last trace of dissatisfaction from his mind by a torrent
of loving words and caresses. But Alexyéi Stepanitch still did not
return; and the happy moment, when she was penitent and loving and
filled with a passionate desire to atone for her fault, went by to no
purpose. An impulse soon passes, and Sofya Nikolayevna first grew
alarmed and then angry at her husband’s long absence. When he came in at
last, looking rather upset and distressed, instead of rushing into his
arms and begging to be forgiven, his wife called out to him in an
excited and somewhat irritated voice, as soon as he crossed the
threshold: "Where on earth have you been? Why did you leave me alone? I
am quite worn out with waiting for you two whole hours!" "I sat a
quarter of an hour or so with my mother and sisters," he answered. "And
that was time enough for them to complain of me and invent calumnies
against me, and you believed them! Why are you so depressed and sad?"
Sofya Nikolayevna’s face expressed strong emotion, and her beautiful
eyes filled with tears. The young husband was startled and even alarmed;
he was beginning to dread her tears. "Sonitchka," he said, "calm
yourself; no one complained of you; why should they, when you have
injured no one?" This was not quite a true statement. If nobody had
complained openly or attacked her in plain terms, they had implied by
hints and allusions that his wife was singling out her father-in-law to
pay court to, with the object of trampling on the rest of the family;
but they saw through her tricks, and so would her husband some day when
he found himself under her feet! Alexyéi Stepanitch did not believe
these innuendoes; but the feeling of sadness, which had never left him
since the scene on the island, became heavier and lay like lead on his
kind heart. He only said, "It is no use talking like that," and left the
room. But, instead of returning at once to his bedroom, he spent some
time in walking alone up and down the parlour which was now dark and
empty. Through the seven open windows he looked at the Jackdaw Wood
sleeping in darkness, and at the dark line of trees by the river, the
scene of his childhood’s amusements and occupations; and he listened to
the sound of the mill, the whistles of the nightingales, and the
screeching of the owls. Feeling somewhat relieved, he went off to the
bedroom, entirely unconscious of the reception he was to meet there.

But Sofya Nikolayevna soon grew calmer: the voice of penitence began to
speak again in her heart, though not with the same force as before; she
changed her tone and turned to her husband with a genuine feeling of
love and pity; she caressed him and begged his forgiveness. She spoke
with unfeigned warmth of her happiness in finding that she loved his
father, and begged him to be perfectly frank with her: frankness, she
said, was essential between them. Her husband was soothed and comforted;
and in the fullness of his heart he told her all he had determined to
keep secret at all costs, lest he should make a quarrel between his wife
and his sisters. He lay down and went to sleep at once, but Sofya
Nikolayevna lay awake for long, and her brain worked busily. At last she
remembered that she had to get up early, because she intended to join
her father-in-law on the stoop at sunrise, long before the family
assembled; she wished to cheer the old man by her presence and to speak
her mind to him at leisure. At last, with a strong effort, she fell
asleep.

Sofya Nikolayevna woke with the first rays of the sun. Though she had
not slept long, she rose fresh and vigorous. She dressed quickly, kissed
her husband and told him she was going to his father and he might sleep
on another hour or so, and then hurried off. Stepan Mihailovitch, after
sleeping longer than usual, had just washed himself and gone out to the
stoop. It was a lovely May morning, with all the charm of late spring,
fresh and yet deliciously warm; all living things sang together for joy,
and the long morning shadows still hid the coolness and moisture from
the conquering rays of the sun. The feeling of the morning took hold of
Sofya Nikolayevna and breathed life into her, though she was not
accustomed to be moved by natural beauty or the charms of the country.
Her father-in-law was surprised and pleased to see her. Her fresh face
and shining eyes, her neat hair and pretty dress, made it impossible to
guess that she had sprung out of bed after little sleep and had spent
but little time over her toilet before she hurried out. Stepan
Mihailovitch liked people to be lively and quick and clever; and all
these requirements he was pleased to find in Sofya Nikolayevna. He
kissed her and said good-humouredly: "What made you get up so early? You
can’t have had your sleep out. I’m sure you’re not accustomed to rise so
early; you will have a headache." "No, _batyushka_," she replied,
embracing the old man with genuine tenderness; "I am used to early
rising. From childhood I have had much to do and many cares, with a sick
father and a whole family to look after. Of late I have been spoilt and
have lain in bed longer. But I woke early this morning, and Alexyéi told
me"—here the old man frowned—"that you were up already; so I came out
here, hoping that you would not drive me away but allow me to give you
your tea." The words were ordinary enough, but they came from the heart
and were spoken so earnestly that the old man was touched. He kissed her
forehead and said: "Well, in that case, thank you, my dear child. You
shall give me my tea, and we shall have a leisurely talk together."
Aksyutka had already set the _samovar_ on the table. Stepan Mihailovitch
gave orders that no one else should be called, and Sofya Nikolayevna
began to arrange about the tea. All her actions were as quick and neat
as if she had done nothing else all her life. The old man was pleased,
as he watched that young and pretty figure so unlike what he was
accustomed to, and those busy active fingers. The tea was made strong,
and served exactly as he liked it: that is, the teapot, covered with a
napkin, was placed on the top of the _samovar_; his cup was filled close
up to the brim; Sofya Nikolayevna handed it without spilling a single
drop in the saucer; and the fragrant beverage was so hot that it burnt
his lips. The old man took his cup and tasted the tea. With surprise and
pleasure he said: "I declare you are a witch: you know all my tastes and
fancies. Well, if you make yourself as pleasant to your husband, he will
be a happy man." He generally drank his tea alone, and the family did
not begin theirs till he had finished; but this morning, when he had got
his second cup, he told his daughter-in-law to pour one out for herself
and drink it sitting beside him. "I never drink more than two, but I
will take a third cup to-day; the tea tastes better somehow," he said in
the kindest of tones. And indeed, the pleasure which Sofya Nikolayevna
felt in her occupation was so visible on her expressive face that it
could not but communicate itself to the susceptible nature of Stepan
Mihailovitch; and his spirits rose unusually high. He made her take a
second cup and eat a scone, of the kind for which the ovens at Bagrovo
were long famous. The tea was cleared away, and a conversation began,
most lively and animated, most frank and affectionate. Sofya Nikolayevna
gave free course to her eager feelings; she talked easily and
charmingly; her conquest of the old man was complete. In the middle of
their talk he suddenly asked, "What of your husband? Is he asleep?"
"Alexyéi was waking when I left him," she said quickly; "but I told him
to sleep on." The old man frowned severely and was silent. After a
moment’s reflexion, he spoke, not angrily but seriously. "Listen to me,
my dear little daughter-in-law; you are so clever that I can tell you
the truth without beating about the bush. I don’t like to keep a thing
on my mind. If you take my advice—well and good; if you don’t—well, you
are not my daughter and can please yourself. I don’t like your calling
your husband ’Alexyéi,’ as his parents might; he has got another name;⁴³
’Alexyéi’ is a name you might address to a servant. A wife must treat
her husband with respect if she wishes other people to respect him.
There was another thing yesterday I did not like: you sent him to fetch
the presents, and he stood there holding the tray like a footman. Then
again just now, you said you had ’told’ him to go to sleep. A wife ought
not to give orders to her husband; if she does, mischief comes of it.
That may be the fashion with you in the town, but, according to our
old-fashioned country notions, all that is a great mistake." Sofya
Nikolayevna listened respectfully, and then she spoke, so frankly and
feelingly, that every word made its way to the old man’s heart: "I thank
you, _batyushka_, for not keeping back from me what displeased you. I
shall gladly do what you wish, and I begin to see myself that I was
wrong. I am still young, _batyushka_, and I have had no one to guide me:
my own father has not left his bed for six years. I caught up that way
of addressing my husband from others; but it shall never happen again,
either in your presence or behind your back. _Batyushka_," she went on,
and the large tears welled from her eyes, "I have come to love you like
a father; treat me always as a daughter: stop me, scold me, whenever I
do wrong, but forgive me and do not keep displeasure in your heart
against me. I am young and hasty, and I may go wrong at every step.
Remember that I am a stranger in this house, where nobody knows me and I
know nobody. Do not you fail me." Then she fell on his neck and embraced
him like a daughter, kissing his breast and even his hands; and the old
man’s own eyes filled with tears. He let her keep hold of his hands and
said, "Well, that is all right." As we know already, Stepan Mihailovitch
had a natural sagacity which divined the presence of evil and was
attracted by goodness; and he never made a mistake in either case. He
had taken a fancy to his daughter-in-law at first sight; and now that he
understood her and appreciated her, he loved her for better and for
worse. That love was exposed to many trials in later years, and any
other man might have wavered, but he never wavered in his love for her
to his last breath.

  ⁴³ _I.e._ Stepanitch, son of Stephen, which should be used in public
     by the wife.

Alexyéi Stepanitch soon appeared, and was followed by all the family.
Her daughters had urged Arina Vassilyevna to go out long before, but she
did not dare to appear, because, when Stepan Mihailovitch gave orders
"that no one should be called," it was taken to mean that he did not
wish to see any one. She only came out now because her husband had told
Mazan to summon all the family. There was no trace of tears on Sofya
Nikolayevna’s face; and she greeted the newcomers with more than usual
cordiality. Nor could one tell from Stepan Mihailovitch that anything
unusual had happened; but the bride could not conceal her high spirits,
and the two sisters-in-law noticed this at once and guessed the alarming
truth pretty accurately.

Stepan Mihailovitch had settled that the young couple were to visit
their relations in order of seniority; and it was therefore arranged
that they should go to Aksinya’s house next day. Aksinya herself went
home that afternoon, accompanied by her sister Elizabeth, who was to
help her in entertaining the guests. The distance was only 50 _versts_,
and the strong Bagrovo horses could go all the way without baiting. The
start was fixed for six o’clock next morning.

Stepan Mihailovitch did not in the least conceal his feelings towards
his daughter-in-law. He kept her beside him and talked with her
repeatedly, asking questions about her family affairs, or making her
speak of her life at Ufa; and he listened to her with attentive
interest, now and then giving his opinion in some pithy phrase. She
eagerly caught up his pertinent remarks; but it was clear that she was
moved, not by obsequious concurrence with the old man’s ways of
thinking, but by a full comprehension of his words and a conviction of
their truth. Then in his turn he initiated her into the past and present
history of her new relations; and his whole description was so simple
and true, so frank and lifelike, that she realised it as few could have
done, and was charmed by it. Never in her life had she met his equal.
Her own father was intelligent and kind, emotional and unselfish; but at
the same time he was weak, falling in with the prevailing tone of his
surroundings, and bearing the stamp of the evasive time-serving official
who had worked his way up from a clerk’s stool to the position of
Governor’s Deputy. Here she saw before her an old man of little
education and uncouth exterior, and report said of him that he was
ruthless when angry; and yet he was sensible, kind, and honest, and
inflexible in his clear judgment of right and wrong—a man who was
upright in all his actions and truthful in every word he spoke. Her
quick intellect conceived a noble type of manly worth, which set aside
her old ideas and opened up new possibilities. And what happiness that
this man was her husband’s father! On him depended her peace of mind in
her husband’s family, and perhaps even the happiness of her marriage!

Dinner was a much more lively and cheerful affair than on the previous
day. The bride sat as before between her husband and her father-in-law;
but Arina Vassilyevna now took her usual place opposite Stepan
Mihailovitch. Immediately after dinner, Aksinya left, accompanied by her
sister Elizabeth. As the old man was lying down to rest as usual, he
said, "Well, Arisha, I think God has given us a splendid
daughter-in-law; it would be a sin not to take her to our hearts." "True
indeed, Stepan Mihailovitch," she answered; "if you approve of Sofya
Nikolayevna, of course I do." The old man made a wry face but said
nothing; and she hurried away, fearing to make a slip of the tongue, and
anxious to report to her daughters the remarkable words of Stepan
Mihailovitch, which must be accepted as law and obeyed, in appearance at
least, to the letter.

Though she had slept little at night, Sofya Nikolayevna could not sleep
after dinner. She went out with her husband, and they walked, by his
wish, to the old beech-wood, where the jackdaws built, and down the
course of the river. There was no repetition of the old disagreements.
She had been charmed and captivated by her father-in-law, and she now
tried to convey to her husband the feelings of her own eager
impressionable mind. As all people of her temperament are apt to do, she
transferred to her handsome young husband some part of the merits she
had found in his father, and loved him more than ever. He listened with
surprise and pleasure to the enthusiasm of his beautiful wife, and said
to himself, "Thank God that my father and she have become such friends!
There will be no further trouble." He kissed her hands, and said that he
was the happiest man on all the earth, and she a peerless goddess before
whom all should bow down. He did not quite understand his wife nor
appreciate her estimate of his father, so acute and profound; he only
felt, as he had always felt, perfectly convinced that Stepan
Mihailovitch was the kind of man whom all must respect and even fear.
This time Sofya Nikolayevna found no faults: his feelings were her
feelings and his language hers: she praised the deep river and the
beech-wood with all its uneven stumps; even of her sisters-in-law she
spoke kindly.

When he woke up in the afternoon, Stepan Mihailovitch at once summoned
all the family. It was a long time since he had been seen in such a
bright and gentle mood: whether it was due to a good sleep or to happy
feelings, it was clear to every one that the old master was satisfied
and cheerful beyond his wont. After their father’s pronouncement,
Alexandra and Elizabeth were on their guard, while Tanyusha (as she was
always called) and her mother were very willing to be more friendly and
conversational. At a sign from his wife Karatayeff began with more
boldness to echo what was said, even when he was not addressed; but his
brother-in-law, the General, persisted in his gloomy silence and frowned
significantly. The conversation became unusually brisk and animated. The
old man expressed a wish to have his tea early, in the shade near the
stoop, of course; and the privilege of pouring it out was conferred on
Sofya Nikolayevna exclusively. Tanyusha was quite willing to hand over
the office. After tea Stepan Mihailovitch ordered two cars to be brought
round, took his daughter-in-law in one, and drove off with all his
family to the mill. It should be said that a mill was a special hobby of
my grandfather’s, and that he understood the working of it thoroughly.
The mill itself was not much to look at, and the weed grew round it in
an untidy way; but the stones did their work thoroughly well. He liked
to show off his mill, and now displayed it in detail to his
daughter-in-law, taking pleasure in her utter ignorance and
astonishment, which sometimes turned to fear, when he suddenly turned on
a strong current of water upon all the four wheels, till the machinery
began to move and swing and rattle, the stones to whirl round, creaking
and whizzing, and the building, filled with flour-dust, to quiver and
shake under foot. All this was an entire novelty to Sofya Nikolayevna,
and she did not like it at all, though out of politeness she asked many
questions and expressed surprise and admiration at everything. He was
much pleased, and kept her there a long time. When the pair went out
upon the dam, where Alexyéi Stepanitch and his sisters were fishing,
they were hailed with laughter by the anglers: they were both covered
with flour. Stepan Mihailovitch was accustomed to this; besides he had
given a shake and a brush to his clothes on leaving the mill; but Sofya
Nikolayevna had no suspicion that she was so completely and artistically
powdered. When he looked at her, her father-in-law himself laughed
heartily; and she laughed more than any one, and was very merry,
regretting only that she had no looking-glass to consult, to find out if
her ball-dress became her. Seeing the anglers intent upon their sport,
Stepan Mihailovitch next drove his companion round the pond and over the
bridge; and, after visiting the stream higher up, he came back along the
dam to the place where the anglers were engaged, while Arina
Vassilyevna, who was very stout, sat on the ground and watched them. The
whole course of their drive was over bog and swamp; it was hardly safe
to cross the crazy little bridge, and difficult to make way over the dam
which was made of manure and sank under the wheels. Though Sofya
Nikolayevna found all this distasteful, it was impossible for Stepan
Mihailovitch to detect her. He saw neither mire nor swamp, and he was
impervious to the unpleasant smell from the stagnant water and the
material of the dam. He had planned and constructed it all himself, and
he enjoyed it all. It grew damp at sunset, and all set off for home in
good spirits. The anglers carried their spoil with them, perch and other
kinds. The bailiff was waiting for his master by the stoop; and orders
were given about work on the land, while the bride put her dress in
order. Meanwhile the fish was boiled or fried in sour cream, while the
largest perch were baked in their skins and scales; and all these were
pronounced very good at supper.

So the second day passed, and the party broke up early, because the
young couple had to make an early start next morning for their visit.
When alone with her mother and youngest sister, Alexandra threw off the
mask with relief and gave full play to her infernal temper and cruel
tongue. She saw perfectly that all was lost and all her forebodings
realised: that her father was taken in the toils and infatuated with the
adventuress, and there was nothing to be done now except to dismiss the
pair to Ufa as soon as possible and devise some scheme in their absence.
She abused her mother and sister for being too affectionate: "But for
me," she said, "you would have been taken in too by that dressed-up
doll, that pauper with a Cossack for her grandfather."

At six exactly next morning the young couple started in their English
coach drawn by six of the fine horses bred at Bagrovo. Sofya Nikolayevna
was up in time to give his tea to her father-in-law; and he embraced her
at starting, and even signed her with the Cross, because she was to be
absent for the night. They drove down the river and across it, and then
uphill to the little town of Boogoorooslan. Without a halt our
travellers crossed the river Great Kinel, and the horses trotted at the
rate of ten _versts_ an hour along the rutty road on the flat side of
the river, where the grass grew tall and thick and there was no sign of
habitation. It was long since Alexyéi Stepanitch had been across the
Kinel; and he was delighted by the greenness and fragrance of the
steppe. Bustards constantly rose off the road, and solitary snipe kept
up with the carriage, wheeling over it and flying on ahead, or perching
on the guide-posts and filling the air with their notes. Alexyéi
Stepanitch was very sorry that he had not taken his gun. In those days
the steppe was alive with birds of every kind, and the sound of their
myriad voices was so attractive to him, and indeed absorbed his
attention so completely, that his ears were generally deaf to the lively
and clever conversation of his wife. She soon noticed this and became
thoughtful; her high spirits gave place to displeasure, and she began to
talk to her maid, Parasha, who was with them in the coach. After
crossing a district of high level land, they arrived at their
destination exactly at noon. The little wooden house, an even greater
contrast than Bagrovo to the houses of Ufa, stood on the flat bank of
the Little Kinel, divided from it only by a kitchen-garden containing a
few sunflowers and young vegetables and rows of peeled pea-stakes. I
still recall with pleasure this unpretending spot, which I first saw ten
years after this time; and I understand why my father liked it and my
mother was bound to dislike it. It was a bare empty spot, quite flat and
fully exposed to the sun, without a bush or a tree; the level steppe
with its marmot-burrows lay all round; and the quiet river flowed by,
deep in places and overgrown with reeds. It had nothing striking or
picturesque to attract any one; yet Alexyéi Stepanitch preferred it even
to Bagrovo. I don’t agree with him, but I had a strong liking for that
quiet little house on the river-bank, the clear stream, the weed swaying
in the current, the wide stretch of grassy steppe, and the ferry which
started from close to the door and took you across to a yet wilder
steppe, where the prairie-grass stretched straight southwards to what
seemed an illimitable distance.

The hostess, with her two little boys and a daughter of two years old,
met her guests at the door; her sister Elizabeth and her husband were
there also. In spite of the unpromising aspect of the simple rooms,
everything was very clean and nice, much more so indeed than at Bagrovo.
Though "Miss Simplicity," as her sisters called her, was a widow with
small children, there was a neatness and order in the place which showed
that it was managed entirely by a female hand. I have said already that
Aksinya was a kind woman and had taken a fancy to her sister-in-law; it
was therefore very natural that she did honour to her guests and
received them with cordiality in her own house. This had been foreseen
at Bagrovo, and Elizabeth had been sent on purpose to restrain the
excessive friendliness of her sister by means of her superior
intelligence and higher position in society, due to her husband’s rank.
But that simple soul held out against her clever, cunning sister: to all
her urgent admonitions her answer was short and plain: "Do as you please
at Bagrovo; you may hate and abuse Sofya Nikolayevna, but I like her;
she has always been polite and kind to me, and therefore I intend to
make her and my brother happy in my house." And she carried out her
purpose with sincere affection and satisfaction, showing every attention
to her sister-in-law and pressing her good things on both guests. But
the proud Elizabeth and even her husband—though he drank so much towards
evening that he had to be shut up in an empty bath-house—were much
colder and more distant in their behaviour than at Bagrovo. Sofya
Nikolayevna took no notice of them, and was charming to her hostess and
the children. After dinner the party rested for a little and then went
out for a walk by the river; they crossed by a ferry to the far bank and
drank tea there. Sofya Nikolayevna was asked to fish, but she declined,
saying that she hated fishing and was quite happy sitting with her
sisters-in-law. But Alexyéi Stepanitch, much pleased to see how well his
wife got on with his eldest sister, eagerly accepted the proposal and
sat till supper-time on the bank, hidden in the thick reeds; he landed
several of the large bream which abounded in the quiet waters of the
Kinel. The servants used constantly to fish for their own amusement and
for that of their young masters. The guests determined to start next
morning at six, and were half inclined to depart even earlier, so as not
to keep Stepan Mihailovitch waiting for his dinner. Their hostess and
her sister were to wait till the evening, spending a night at
Boogoorooslan to rest the horses, and reaching Bagrovo the following
day.

Sofya Nikolayevna was still a little vexed with her husband. For all her
intelligence she could not understand how a man who loved her dearly
could also love his damp Bagrovo, with its stump-strewn woods, unsavoury
dam, and stagnant pools; how he could gaze with delight at the tiresome
steppe with its stupid snipe; and, above all, how he could desert his
wife for hours for the sake of a fishing-rod and those bream which smelt
so damp and disgusting! So she felt almost offended when Alexyéi
Stepanitch tried to communicate to her his delight in nature and in
sport. She was wise enough, however, not to start upon explanations or
reproofs this time; the scene on the island was still fresh in her
memory.

The young couple passed a peaceful night in Aksinya’s own bedroom which
she had given up to them; and she had done it up for them to the best of
her ability, undeterred by the caustic remarks of her sister. They left
the house half an hour earlier than the time originally fixed; and
nothing particular happened on their way back, except that Alexyéi
Stepanitch was not quite so much absorbed by the steppe and the snipe,
and did not call out quite so loud when bustards rose off the road, so
that he could listen with more attention to his wife and look at her
more tenderly. They reached Bagrovo before they were expected. But
preparations were making for dinner, and Alexandra had had time to say:
"Poor papa will have to wait for dinner to-day; but how can you expect
town-people to get up so early several days running?" The old man saw
through this perfectly. He astonished them all by saying very
good-humouredly, "Well, never mind; we can wait for our guests." This
caused a sensation, because Stepan Mihailovitch had never in his life
sat down to dinner later than twelve o’clock, though sometimes, when he
felt hungry, he had it earlier, and the slightest delay or unpunctuality
made him exceedingly angry. "You see what Sofya Nikolayevna can do,"
whispered Alexandra to her mother and youngest sister; "if _she_ keeps
him waiting, there is no complaint; but if you had come back from
Nyeklyoodovo late for dinner, you would never have heard the end of it,
nor should we." The malicious whisper was hardly ended when the carriage
dashed up to the steps; while the tired horses snorted, the old man
kissed his daughter-in-law and praised her for being in time; then his
voice rang through the house, "Mazan, Tanaichonok, dinner at once!"

The day passed off as before. After tea Stepan Mihailovitch, whose
affection for his daughter-in-law seemed to grow with every hour,
ordered the drove of horses to be driven in from the steppe. He wished
to show it to Sofya Nikolayevna, who happened to say that she had never
seen such a thing and would like to see it. When the animals were driven
into the yard, the old man took his daughter-in-law round himself,
pointing out the best brood-mares, the yearlings and two-year-olds and
young geldings, all fat and healthy from the steppe where they grazed
together all summer. He gave her two fine mares with foals at foot, and
hoped she would have good fortune with their stock. Sofya Nikolayevna
was much pleased by the foals, and liked to watch them as they started
and bounded and then nuzzled against their mothers; and she expressed
much gratitude for the gift. Then Stepan Mihailovitch gave strict orders
to his head groom, Spirka: "See," he said, "that special care is taken
of Sofya Nikolayevna’s mares; and we shall put a special mark on the
foals by splitting one ear rather lower; and later we must make a brand
with the young mistress’s name on it." Then he turned to her: "I wish
you were a lover of horses, my dear," he went on; "Alexyéi does not care
for them in the least." The old man was very fond of them himself, and,
though he was not rich, by endless trouble he had got together a large
stud and owned a breed which was the admiration of fanciers and good
judges. He was pleased by her interest in his stud; though her only
motive was to please him, he believed that she meant what she said, and
carried her off to see how the carriage-horses, his own and those of his
guests, were fed; of the latter there were often a large number in the
stables at Bagrovo.

I am afraid of wearying the reader by such a minute description of the
young couple’s visit, and shall only say that the next day, which was
the fifth, was spent just like the preceding day. According to the order
of seniority the next formal visit should have been to the Yerlykins;
but, as their estate was 170 _versts_ from Bagrovo and much nearer Ufa,
it was settled to take them on the return journey to the town. There was
this other reason, that General Yerlykin, Elizabeth’s silent, gloomy
husband, having broken out at Aksinya’s house, had started on one of his
regular drinking bouts which generally lasted at least a week, so that
his wife had been forced to leave him with some friends at
Boogoorooslan, and give out that he was ill. So Alexandra was to receive
the next visit, and started off home with her husband on the previous
day; with her father’s consent, she invited the oldest and youngest of
the sisters for the occasion, while Elizabeth remained behind,
ostensibly to be near her sick husband, though her real object was to
bring her influence to bear on her parents. The Karatayeffs lived about
50 _versts_ from Bagrovo; the distance was the same as to Aksinya’s
house, but the road ran in the opposite direction, due north, and passed
through woods and hills in the second half of the journey. The visitors
started after an early lunch. As the road was little used and heavy for
the horses, they halted half-way for two hours in the open field, and
reached Karatayevka about tea-time. The house was infinitely worse than
Aksinya’s: the small dark windows caught the eye at once; the floors
were uneven, riddled with rat-holes, and so dirty as to defy soap and
water. Sofya Nikolayevna felt fear and disgust as she entered this
inhospitable and repulsive dwelling. Alexandra was haughty in her
reception of them; she was profuse in sarcastic apologies of this kind:
"We are glad to see our guests and bid them welcome; my brother, I know,
will not be critical, but I doubt if Sofya Nikolayevna will deign to
enter our poor house after her father’s grand mansion at Ufa. Of course
we are poor people, with no official rank; living on our own property,
_we_ have no lucrative salaries to maintain us." But Sofya Nikolayevna
gave as good as she got: she replied that the way people lived depended
as much on their tastes as on their money, and that it was all one to
her where her husband’s relations lived and how they lived. When supper
was over, the young couple were shown to their bedroom, which was the
so-called drawing-room. As soon as the candle was out, a great
disturbance began in the room; the pattering and noise increased, and
swarms of rats soon assailed them with such boldness that the poor bride
lay awake all night, shaking with fear and disgust. Alexyéi Stepanitch
was forced to light a candle and arm himself with a window-prop for the
defence of the bed, on which the rats kept jumping up as long as it was
dark. He felt neither fear nor disgust; it was no novelty to him; at
first he was rather amused by the ceaseless activity and bold springs of
the repulsive creatures, and then he fell asleep, lying across the bed
and still holding the window-prop. But his wife woke him again and again
and only fell asleep herself at sunrise, when the enemy sought the
concealment of his trenches. She got up with a headache, but her hostess
only laughed at the fright the rats had given her, and added that they
only attacked strangers, and the people of the house were used to them.
Tanyusha was afraid of rats herself; and she and Aksinya could not look
unmoved at the signs of suffering on their sister-in-law’s face. They
expressed sympathy with her, and Aksinya even scolded Alexandra for not
taking the ordinary precautions by placing the bed in the centre of the
room, attaching curtains to it, and tucking the ends under the mattress;
but the hostess said with an angry laugh, "It is a pity they did not
bite off her nose." "You had better look out!" said her sister; "if this
gets to our father’s ears, you will catch it."

Karatayevka was situated on the slope of a hill, above a little
spring-fed stream which was dammed up at the end of the village and
turned a small mill. The position was not bad, but the owners and all
their ways were so objectionable that the place had no attraction for
any one. M. Karatayeff, who was afraid of Stepan Mihailovitch at Bagrovo
and of his wife at home, would have liked to pay some attentions to
Sofya Nikolayevna when his wife was out of the room; but he only found
courage to ask leave from time to time to kiss her hand, and generally
added that she was the most beautiful creature in the world. When he
repeated his request, it was refused. His was a strange existence. Most
of his summer was spent in visiting wandering Bashkir tribes, and
drinking _koumiss_ every day till he was intoxicated; he spoke the
Bashkir language like a native; he rode on horseback whole days without
dismounting, and had become as bow-legged as a Bashkir; he had their
skill with the bow and could smash an egg at long range with the best of
them. All the rest of the year he spent in a kind of lumber-room warmed
by a stove, near the house-door; he wore a skin coat, and kept the
little window always open even in the hardest frosts; and there he
remained all day with his head stuck out of the window, humming Bashkir
songs and taking a sip now and then of Bashkir mead or some decoction of
herbs. Why Karatayeff looked out of his window over the empty yard with
a rough path running across it, what he saw and noted there, what
thoughts passed through the brain at the top of that big body—these are
problems which no ingenuity can solve. Sometimes, it is true, his
philosophic meditations were disturbed: when some plump woman or girl
appeared from the servants’ quarters and walked mincingly along the path
towards the cattle-shed, then a pantomime of nods and signals took place
between the window and the yard; but soon the fair vision turned out of
sight and vanished like a ghost, and Karatayeff was left staring into
empty void.

Sofya Nikolayevna was eager to escape from this horrible place: after an
early dinner, during which the horses were already standing at the door,
they said "good-bye" at once and started. The hostess kissed her
sister-in-law on both cheeks and on the shoulders, and thanked her
significantly for her kind visit; and Sofya Nikolayevna, just as
significantly, thanked the lady for her kind hospitality.

When alone with her husband in the carriage, Sofya Nikolayevna gave vent
to her anger. Aksinya in her simplicity had let out accidentally that
the hostess had purposely taken no precautions against the rats; and the
bride, though she had refrained from an outburst in her enemy’s house,
was unable any longer to control her excitable nature. Forgetting that
Alexandra was her husband’s sister, and that Parasha was in the carriage
with them, she was lavish in her terms of abuse. Alexyéi Stepanitch, a
straightforward and kindly man himself, could not believe that there was
any intention on the part of his sister: attributing what had happened
to mere carelessness, he was hurt by his wife’s violent language which
was really inexcusable under any provocation. The young husband was
angry for the first time with his young wife: saying that she should be
ashamed to speak so, he turned from her and was silent. Such was their
state of mind when they arrived at Mertovshchina, where Mme. Myortvavo,
a remarkably intelligent old lady, was then living with her daughter
Katherine who had lately been married to Peter Chichagoff. Sofya
Nikolayevna was warmly attached to both the Chichagoffs. She did not in
the least expect to find them there, and soon forgot all her displeasure
in this agreeable surprise; she became very lively and cheerful, but no
one could fail to notice that Alexyéi Stepanitch remained silent and
sad.

Chichagoff’s history, and especially his second marriage, is quite a
romance; and I shall tell it as briefly as I can, because we shall often
come across this family in future, and especially because the life of
the young Bagroffs was a good deal influenced by this pair. Peter
Chichagoff was a man of exceptional ability or, I should rather say,
exceptional acuteness, and had received what was for those days an
advanced education in many subjects: he knew several languages, could
draw and understood architecture, and wrote both in prose and verse. In
his hot youth he fell in love at Moscow with a young lady of the
Rimsko-Korsakoff family, and went so far as to misrepresent his
position, in order to win her hand. This was discovered after the
marriage, and he was banished to Ufa. His wife soon died. Within a year
he consoled himself and fell in love with Katherine Myortvavo, who was
attracted by his gay and amiable temper, his intelligence and
acquirements; his face was so very plain that it could exercise no
attraction. She was no longer a girl and had too strong a character to
be controlled by her mother and brothers: they let her marry Chichagoff,
and he was pardoned soon afterwards but not allowed to leave the
Government of Ufa. Sofya Nikolayevna liked him for two reasons: because
he was the husband of her dearest friend, and perhaps still more for his
own cleverness and wide information. Mme. Myortvavo had just settled to
leave Ufa and live in the country, and the Chichagoffs had come on
purpose to help her in building a house and a church. After a week’s
experience of her husband’s relations, this meeting was a spring in the
desert to Sofya Nikolayevna; it was like a breath of fresh air in which
her heart and quick intelligence expanded; she talked on with her
friends till near midnight. But Alexyéi Stepanitch would have sat there
in silence and solitude, had not the old lady grasped the situation and
entertained him by her pleasant talk. After supper, however, he said
"good-night," and went off to the bedroom allotted to the visitors; when
Sofya Nikolayevna came she found him fast asleep. They started for
Bagrovo early next day without disturbing their hosts.

During their drive Alexyéi Stepanitch was still sullen and silent. In
reply to direct questions from his wife, his answers were so cold and
short that she gave up speaking to him. Her lively and impatient temper
resented this treatment, but she did not care to clear up matters in
Parasha’s presence, preferring to wait till the after-dinner rest when
she would be alone with her husband. For the present she started a
conversation with her maid about their life at Ufa, while Alexyéi
Stepanitch squeezed into a corner of the carriage and either fell asleep
or pretended to. They reached Bagrovo two hours before dinner. Stepan
Mihailovitch was obviously pleased to see his daughter-in-law again, and
even said that he had missed her. "My dear," he added; "you really must
not stay here too long, or I shan’t be able to let you go; as it is, I
shall miss you, likely enough." He made her give him a minute account of
their expedition. He praised Mme. Myortvavo whom he knew well, and said
that he would send her an invitation next day to come with her daughter
and son-in-law and dine at Bagrovo; he fixed on the following Sunday,
which was four days ahead, for the entertainment. "You must visit the
Kalpinskys and Lupenevskys the day after to-morrow," he said; "and then
you can invite them too for Sunday; and then, three days later, you had
better be off home to Ufa. Your father has never been parted from you
before, and must miss you terribly; and I am sure, my dear, that you are
even more anxious to see him, poor suffering old man!"

Stepan Mihailovitch was not long in finding out that something
disagreeable had happened on this expedition. In the course of
conversation, he said, "Well, were the Karatayeffs glad to see you?" The
answer was of course in the affirmative; but Sofya Nikolayevna happened
to mention that she had been kept awake all night by rats. This
surprised the old man: he had only been there once, long ago, and had
heard nothing of the kind. But here Arina Vassilyevna unsuspiciously
joined in, in spite of the warning signs of her daughter Elizabeth; she
suffered for it afterwards, poor lady, at the hands of her daughters. "O
yes, yes, _batyushka_ Stepan Mihailovitch!" she cried; "the rats there
are perfectly awful! Without bed-curtains, it’s impossible to get a wink
of sleep." "Had you no curtains to your bed, then?" asked the old man,
and there was an ominous change in his voice as he spoke. "No," was the
only possible answer. "An excellent hostess!" he said, and looked at his
wife and daughter in such a way that a cold shiver ran down their backs.

The Karatayeff party had not yet returned, but were expected by
tea-time. Dinner was not a cheerful meal: all were out of spirits, and
each had his or her own reasons. Arina Vassilyevna and Elizabeth were
conscious of the approaching storm, and feared that the thunderbolt
might smite them also. It was long since Stepan Mihailovitch had been in
a rage, and the prospect was more alarming to them because they had
become unused to such outbreaks. Sofya Nikolayevna noted the frown on
her father-in-law’s face; she did not object to his giving a good fright
to his daughter, whom she detested as her avowed enemy; but she feared
she might somehow get involved herself. She had no unkind intention in
speaking about the rats: she never supposed that her father-in-law would
take any special notice of this circumstance or attach serious
importance to it. Nevertheless, a stone lay on her heart also: she could
not determine how to act towards her husband. He had been angry with her
for the first time, when she used insulting language about his sister:
was it best to wait till he appealed to her voluntarily, or to put an
end to the uncomfortable situation by begging him to forgive her? Her
love and her tender caresses might then cause him to forget her
regrettable impulsiveness. And she certainly would have chosen this
course; for she was passionately in love with her kind young husband.
She blamed herself severely: she ought to have foreseen everything and
been prepared for everything. She knew that Alexyéi Stepanitch would not
hesitate to die for her, but she knew also that she ought not to demand
of him what he could not give—a tender and constant observation, and a
full comprehension of all the trifling occurrences that might give her
pain. And this was hard for her, with her hot blood and sensitive
nerves, her eager, excitable brain and impressionable nature. Such were
the poor woman’s thoughts and feelings as she walked up and down her
room waiting for her husband; his mother had stopped him on his way
there after dinner and asked him to come to her bedroom. The minutes
seemed to her like hours. The thought that he was loitering on purpose,
fearing a scene and unwilling to be alone with her; the thought, that
without relieving her heart of its many troubles and without a
reconciliation with her husband, she would see him again in the presence
of her enemies and must play a part the whole evening—this thought
oppressed her heart and threw her into a fever. Suddenly the door
opened, and Alexyéi Stepanitch walked in. There was no hesitation in his
movements; he was no longer timid and sad, but fearless and even
displeased. He began at once to reproach her for complaining to his
father and getting Alexandra into trouble. "They are all trembling and
crying now, and God only knows what will come of it," he said, primed
with all that his mother and sister had been impressing upon him. "It is
wrong and a sin on your part to cause trouble and quarrels in your
husband’s family. I told you what my father is like when he is angry;
and you, knowing this and seeing his love for you, took advantage of
it!" Sofya Nikolayevna’s patience snapped instantly, and she fired up at
once; love was silent, and of pity and contrition not a trace was left;
and her poor husband discovered that Stepan Mihailovitch was not the
only person who could fly into a passion. An irresistible flood of
complaints, accusations, and reproaches poured down upon him. He was
utterly crushed and confounded; he could make no defence, and was all
but a monster in his own eyes. Soon he was kneeling at her feet and
begging forgiveness with tears. It was not surprising that Alexyéi
Stepanitch was powerless before that volcanic eruption of feeling and
intelligence, that heartfelt conviction and wonderful power of
eloquence. A man entirely in the right, a man much more resolute than
Alexyéi Stepanitch, would have pleaded guilty before the youth and
beauty of a woman whom he loved. And Alexyéi Stepanitch was certainly
not in the right.

When the storm had calmed down in the bedroom of the young couple, it
was still brewing at the other end of the house, in the smallish room
which belonged to Stepan Mihailovitch. Sleep had not brought peace to
him or smoothed the frown from his high forehead. He sat for some time
across his bed in gloomy silence, and then called out, "Mazan!" Mazan
had long been lying outside the door, breathing heavily according to his
wont, and looking in through a chink; he had been placed there as a
sentry, while the family were sitting in the parlour, full of gloomy
apprehensions. He called out at the top of his voice, "What is your
pleasure, sir?"—and hurried into the room. "Has my daughter Alexandra
arrived? Yes? Then bring her here." Alexandra entered on his heels, for
on such occasions delay was more dangerous than anything. "How dared
you, Madam," began the old man in the voice she knew and dreaded—"how
dared you set rats on your brother and his wife?" "I am sorry, father,"
humbly answered Alexandra, while her knees trembled beneath her, and
fear kept down her own infernal temper. "I put my guests on purpose in
the drawing-room, and I never thought of putting curtains to their bed.
I was so busy and so glad to see them that it slipped my memory." "You
were so glad to see them! Do you expect me to believe _that_? How did
you dare to act so to your brother and to me? How did you dare to bring
shame on your father in his old age?" The affair would perhaps have gone
no further than angry words and loud threats and possibly a rap from his
fist; but Alexandra, stung by the thought that she was suffering on
account of Sofya Nikolayevna, and hoping that the storm would still blow
over, forgot that any sort of answer was a new offence. She could not
resist saying, "I am punished for nothing on her account." A fresh and
terrible fit of rage seized Stepan Mihailovitch, that rage which
invariably ended in painful and shocking violence. Words of fury were on
the point of rushing from his lips, when Arina Vassilyevna, with her
daughters Aksinya and Tanyusha, ran into the room and fell at the old
man’s feet, with tears and cries; they had been standing outside the
door and had seen what was coming. Karatayeff had been standing there
with them; but he ran out of the house and into the wood, where he
slashed furiously at the innocent birch-branches with his stick,
punishing them for the wrong done to his wife. Elizabeth did not venture
to enter the room, knowing that her own conscience was not clear, and
that her father was quite aware of the part she had played. "_Batyushka_
Stepan Mihailovitch!" cried Arina Vassilyevna, "your will is law, you
are our master, do what pleases you! Only do not shame us and disgrace
your family in the sight of your daughter-in-law! You will frighten her
out of her life; all this is new to her." The words seemed to have some
effect on the old man. He was silent for a moment; then he pushed
Alexandra from him with his foot, crying, "Begone, and don’t venture to
show yourself till I send for you!" No one waited for any further
orders: in a moment the room was cleared, and all was silence round
Stepan Mihailovitch; but his blue eyes long remained dark and clouded,
and his chest rose and fell with his heavy breathing, as he restrained
his passionate anger which had been aroused and not satisfied.

The _samovar_ had long been hissing on the drawing-room table, not in
the shade of the stoop, because heavy rain had just ceased falling and
it was damp out of doors. Nature seemed to sympathise with what was
passing in the house of Bagrovo. Soon after dinner two clouds of intense
blackness had met in the zenith and long remained there motionless,
emitting from time to time flashes of lightning and shaking the air with
peals of thunder. At last the rain came down in torrents, the clouds
shifted to the east, and the setting sun shone out. Fields and woods
smelt sweeter, refreshed by the rain, and the birds began to sing
louder; but alas! the storms of human passion are not followed by such a
calm.

Alexandra pretended illness, but the other daughters came with their
mother to the drawing-room; Karatayeff also was there, but Yerlykin was
still absent from the house, on the pretext of ill-health. Stepan
Mihailovitch had tea in his room and gave orders that he was not to be
disturbed. The door of the young couple’s room was locked; after a short
delay, tapping was tried and brought them out at once. Sofya Nikolayevna
looked cheerful, and her husband really was more cheerful than before;
but it was easy to guess from their faces that something unusual had
been happening in their room. Of what had passed in the bedroom of
Stepan Mihailovitch, they knew nothing. As for Arina Vassilyevna and her
daughters, they looked like people who had just been pulled out of the
water or snatched from the fire. It is a pity that there was no one to
observe the scene; for it is certain that the different expressions on
the faces of the company would have afforded an entertaining spectacle.
All attempts to keep up a conversation were unsuccessful. The absence of
the father and of one daughter puzzled Sofya Nikolayevna beyond
endurance: she invented some pretext for going to her own room, where
she summoned Parasha and got to the bottom of the mystery. They knew all
about it in the maids’ room: not only had Mazan and Tanaichonok been
listening all the time, but the old lady and her daughter were in the
habit of keeping nothing back from their waiting-women. Thus Parasha was
able to give her mistress an exact and detailed report. Sofya
Nikolayevna was much disturbed. She had never expected such alarming
consequences; she heartily regretted having told her father-in-law about
the wretched rats; and she was sincerely sorry for Alexandra. She went
back to the drawing-room and asked leave to visit the invalid, but was
told she was asleep. During her absence, Alexyéi Stepanitch had heard
the whole story. After a hasty supper they separated to their rooms at
ten o’clock. When alone with her husband, Sofya Nikolayevna, with much
agitation and many tears, fell on his neck, and again asked his
forgiveness with heartfelt penitence, blaming herself much more than she
really deserved. But he did not understand the delicacy of feeling which
prompted her genuine grief and drew from her tears. He was only sorry to
see her distress herself about trifles; and he tried to console her by
saying that all was well that ends well, that the family were accustomed
to such scenes, that his father would wake in a good temper to-morrow
and forgive Alexandra, and all would go on as well as at first. Only he
begged her not to have any explanations with any of the family, and not
to beg pardon, as she wished to do, for her unintentional slip; and he
advised her not to visit his father in the morning but to wait till he
sent for her. Sofya Nikolayevna understood her husband’s character
better than she had ever done before; and the knowledge hurt her deeply.
While he slept peacefully all night, she never closed an eye.

Stepan Mihailovitch was the worse for his fit of anger and also disliked
the thought that his daughter-in-law might have heard of it. His honest
nature resented every underhand action and deliberate unkindness; and
also he saw, in what his daughter had done, disregard to his own
authority and position. He was on the brink of an illness; he ate no
supper, stayed indoors instead of going to sit on the stoop, and, when
he should have seen his bailiff, sent his orders by a servant. But the
benign darkness of night which gives light to the eye of our mind, the
stillness, and then sleep, which calms the passions of men and rains
down blessings upon them—all these did their kindly office. Early next
day he summoned Arina Vassilyevna and gave her his instructions to
convey to his daughters—they were intended mainly for Alexandra, but in
part also for Elizabeth—that Sofya Nikolayevna was not to know of any
unpleasantness, and they were to behave accordingly. In a short time the
_samovar_ was placed on the table, and all the family summoned. Arina
Vassilyevna fortunately had time to send a message by her son to Sofya
Nikolayevna, begging her to do her best to cheer up the master of the
house: "He is not quite well," she said, "and in low spirits for some
reason." In spite of her sleepless night and the aching of her own
heart, Sofya Nikolayevna carried out this request to admiration; all the
party, and she herself more than any, were anxious that it should be
done.

Sofya Nikolayevna was an astonishing woman! Lively, impressionable, and
excitable, she could be carried away in a moment by impulses of the head
or heart, and was capable of very sudden and complete transformations of
behaviour. In later years stupid people accused her of insincerity on
this ground, but no one else did. It was really a kind of artistic
power, which enabled her to adapt herself instantly to a new atmosphere
and a new position, and to act absolutely in accordance with her
immediate purpose; and this purpose, being entirely sincere, acted like
a spell on others. In this case, she laid herself out to calm the
agitation of her father-in-law, for whom she had conceived a warm
affection, and who had championed her cause at the cost of his peace of
mind and at the risk of his health; and she wished to relieve her
husband and his family, who had been terrified and assailed owing to her
slip of the tongue. Her imagination and feelings were so completely
mastered by this purpose that she exercised a kind of magical power over
the party and soon subdued them all by the irresistible spell of her
personality. She poured out tea herself and handed the cups herself,
first to her father-in-law and then to the rest; she talked to every one
so easily and pleasantly and brightly that the old man, quite convinced
that she had caught no glimpse of the skeleton in the cupboard, soon
relaxed his features. Of him also it was true that his cheerfulness was
infectious; and, before an hour had passed, all traces of the storm of
yesterday had disappeared.

Immediately after dinner the young couple started off to pay two
ceremonial visits—to Ilarion Kalpinsky and his wife Catherine at
Nyeklyoodovo, and to our old acquaintance Mme. Lupenevsky, who lived
within two _versts_ of the Kalpinskys. Kalpinsky was in his own way a
remarkable man: though he had received no regular education, he was very
intelligent and well-read; his origin was obscure—it was said that he
was of Mordvinian descent—but he had risen to a considerable rank in the
public service, and had made a marriage of interest with the daughter of
a country gentleman of good family. His present pursuit was farming, and
his object to save money. He set up for a freethinker; and his few
neighbours who had heard of Voltaire called him a Voltairian. He lived
at home without taking any part in the life of the family, and reserved
to himself complete freedom in the gratification of his somewhat
Epicurean tastes and habits. Though she had heard of him, Sofya
Nikolayevna had never seen him, because he had only recently removed to
Orenburg from his public office at Petersburg. She was surprised to find
in him a man possessed of intelligence and culture according to the
standards of the time, and dressed like a gentleman living in the
capital. She was pleased with him at first; but he soon began to show
off before such an attractive visitor, and then his profanity and the
shameless immorality of his family life made her feel a disgust for him
which she never afterwards got over. His wife was far more intelligent
than her sister, Mme. Lupenevsky, but not her superior in any other
respect. The visit lasted for an hour, and was followed by a visit to
Mme. Lupenevsky. In both houses tea was given to the guests and
home-made jam, and the meal was seasoned with a kind of conversation
which horrified Sofya Nikolayevna. Both families were invited to dine at
Bagrovo on the following Sunday. By one of those striking
inconsistencies in human nature which it is impossible to explain, Mme.
Lupenevsky fell in love at first sight with Sofya Nikolayevna, and used
such language to her at parting that her guest must needs either blush
or laugh aloud; nevertheless her words were the expression of sincere
and even enthusiastic attachment.

The pair reached home an hour before supper-time, and were welcomed with
unusual cordiality and pleasure by Stepan Mihailovitch, whom they found
sitting on the familiar stoop. He was much amused when he was told that
Mme. Lupenevsky had conceived such a passion for his daughter-in-law,
kissing her repeatedly, claiming that they were kindred spirits, and
lavishing terms of affection upon her. Contrary to custom, the whole
family went out again to the stoop after supper, and spent a long time
there in cheerful conversation with the master of the household, in the
cool of the night and under the starry sky. Stepan Mihailovitch, though
he could not have explained why, was fond of the faint colourless light
that follows the glow of sunset.

The solemn feast on the Sunday was to be something beyond what had ever
been seen at Bagrovo, but nothing special happened on either of the
intervening days. Yerlykin came back from Boogoorooslan looking yellow
and ill, as he always did after a drinking-bout. Stepan Mihailovitch
knew of his son-in-law’s unfortunate weakness or disease, and tried to
cure him by dosing him with unpalatable drinks, but without success.
When sober, Yerlykin had a loathing for alcohol and could not raise a
glass of wine to his lips without a shudder; but he was seized four
times a year with a sudden and irresistible craving for spirits. If the
attempt was made to keep drink from him, he became a most pitiable and
wretched object, talking constantly and weeping, and begging abjectly
for the poison; and if it was still refused, he became frantic and even
capable of attempts at suicide. Sofya Nikolayevna, who had heard the
whole story, was exceedingly sorry for him. She spoke kindly to him and
tried to make him talk to her. But it was no good: the General persisted
in his sullen silence and gloomy pride. Instead of being grateful to her
sister-in-law, Elizabeth resented these advances to her husband, and
expressed her resentment in bitter terms. But Stepan Mihailovitch
noticed this and addressed a stern reproof to his clever daughter, who
did not love her sister-in-law any the better in consequence.

Stepan Mihailovitch twice took his daughter-in-law out to see his crops
of rye and spring-sown wheat, and drove with her to all his favourite
water-springs in the hills, and the "Sacred Wood" where the trees had
been protected from the axe by a religious service. The old man believed
that all these sights were interesting and agreeable to her; but in fact
she positively disliked them all. Her sole support was in the thought
that she would soon leave Bagrovo and would do her best never to set
eyes on it again. If any one had told her that she would spend most of
her life there, grow old there, and even die there, she would not have
believed it: she would have said that death was preferable, and would
have meant what she said. But whatever God decrees, to that man can
become accustomed, and that he can endure.

Sunday came and the guests began to assemble. Mme. Myortvavo came, and
the Kalpinskys and Lupenevskys, and two old bachelors, the judge and the
mayor of Boogoorooslan. Another guest was Afrosinya Andréyevna (her
surname, which was never used, I forget), a spare little old lady and a
great talker; she had a small estate near Bagrovo. She was famous for
her powers of invention, and Stepan Mihailovitch liked at times to
listen to her, as a grown man sometimes listens with pleasure to a fairy
tale intended for children.

But Afrosinya Andréyevna deserves that the reader should have at least a
bowing acquaintance with her. At one time in her life she had spent ten
years in Petersburg to watch a lawsuit; when she won it, she came back
to her little estate in the country. She brought back with her from
Petersburg a store of anecdotes whose extravagance made Stepan
Mihailovitch laugh till he cried. For instance, she used to represent
herself as a bosom friend of the Empress Catherine, adding by way of
explanation that two people could not live ten years in the same town
without being thrown together. "I was in church one day"—she talked this
way when she was in the vein—"the people were going out, and the Empress
walked past me, and I made a low curtsey and ventured to congratulate
her on the festival; and then Her Majesty was so very kind and
condescending as to say: ’How are you, Afrosinya Andréyevna? How is your
suit going? Why don’t you come to see me of an evening and bring your
knitting with you? We could chat together and pass the time pleasantly.’
Of course I never missed an evening after that. I got to know the people
about the court, and every one in the palace without a single exception
knew me and liked me. Suppose a royal footman was sent anywhere, to buy
something it might be, he never failed to look in at my house and tell
me all about it. As a matter of course, I always offered him a glass of
something good; I kept a bottle of whisky in the cupboard on purpose. I
was sitting by my window one evening when I saw a royal footman in red
uniform, with the coat of arms on it, ride past at a gallop; he was soon
followed by a second and a third. That was too much for me: I threw up
the window and called out, ’Philip Petrovitch! Philip Petrovitch! what
are you all galloping for, and why don’t you pay me a visit?’ ’No time!
Afrosinya Andréyevna!’ was his answer; ’a terrible thing has happened:
candles will soon be wanted at the palace, and we’ve run out of them!’
’Stop!’ I cried out; ’I have 5 lbs. of candles laid in; you can come in
and take them.’ Philip Petrovitch was delighted; I carried out the
candles with my own hands and relieved the people from their difficulty.
So you see, _batyushka_ Stepan Mihailovitch, they simply couldn’t help
being fond of me."

Stepan Mihailovitch had many traits of character peculiar to himself;
and this was one—though he was a sworn foe to deliberate lying of every
kind, and detested the most trifling deception and even the kind of
evasion which is sometimes quite excusable, yet he liked listening to
the harmless fabrications and fictions of simple people, who were
innocently carried away by the vividness of their imagination till they
actually came to believe in their own incredible romancing. He liked
talking to Afrosinya Andréyevna, not only at a merry party, but also
when they were alone together, if he was in the right mood for it; and
she spent whole hours in pouring out for his benefit the story of her
life in Petersburg, which consisted entirely of such incidents as that
which I have already quoted.

But it is time to go back to the guests arriving at Bagrovo. The mayor’s
_kaftan_⁴⁴ and the judge’s uniform were equally remarkable; but the best
sight of all was Kalpinsky: on each side of him stood a female scarecrow
in the person of his wife and of her sister, while he himself wore an
embroidered coat of French cut, a pair of watch-chains, a number of
rings, silk stockings and shoes with gold buckles. All the family wore
their best bib and tucker, and even Stepan Mihailovitch was forced to
smarten himself up. M. Chichagoff, who had a critical, satirical turn of
mind, made fun with much effect of the motley assembly and especially of
his friend Kalpinsky; he was talking all the time to his wife and to her
inseparable companion, Sofya Nikolayevna, who sat together and apart
from the rest. Sofya Nikolayevna had hard work to keep from laughing:
she tried not to listen, and begged Chichagoff either to hold his tongue
or to start a conversation with Stepan Mihailovitch, whom he would find
worthy of respect. He did so, and soon took a great fancy to the old
man; and his feeling was reciprocated. But Stepan Mihailovitch disliked
Kalpinsky, both as an upstart and also as an unbeliever and loose-liver.

  ⁴⁴ The kaftan is a long cloth coat belted in at the waist.

The splendour of the banquet may be imagined. Stepan Mihailovitch for
once resigned all his favourite dishes—haggis, roast ribs of pork, and
porridge made of green rye. A _chef_ had been procured, of special skill
in the culinary art. Materials of all sorts were provided in abundance—a
six-weeks-old calf, a pig fed to monstrous proportions, fat sheep, and
poultry of all kinds. It was the custom then to place all the courses at
once on the cloth; and the table at Bagrovo could hardly hold them all
or support their weight. Cold dishes came first—smoked hams seasoned
with garlic; next came green cabbage soup and crayfish soup, with
forcemeat balls and rolls of different kinds; then fish-salad on ice,
sturgeon kippered and sturgeon dried, and a dish heaped mountain-high
with crayfish tails. Of entrées there were only two: salted quails _aux
choux_, and stuffed ducks with a red sauce containing raisins, plums,
peaches, and apricots. These entrées were a concession to modern
fashion; Stepan Mihailovitch did not like them and called them
"kickshaws." They were followed by a turkey of enormous size and
fatness, and a hindquarter of veal; the accessories were preserved
melons and gourds, apple chips, and pickled mushrooms. The dinner ended
up with round jam-tarts and raised apple pies served with thick cream.
All this was washed down with home-made liquors, home-brewed March beer,
iced _kvass_, and foaming mead.

Such were the meals which our heroic grandfathers and grandmothers
consumed without leaving out a single course, and even managed to digest
satisfactorily! But they took their time over it, and the meal went on
for hours. The dishes were solid, substantial affairs, as we have seen,
and there were plenty of them; and the servants also, both those of the
house and those whom the guests brought with them, had no idea of
waiting: they bustled about and collided with one another and seemed
likely at every moment to spill the sauce or the gravy over some lady’s
dress.

The dinner was a cheerful meal. The master of the house had Mme.
Myortvavo on his right, and on his left Chichagoff, who steadily rose in
his host’s good graces and was quite capable, unaided, of enlivening the
dullest of parties. The young couple were near the head of the table,
with Mme. Chichagoff and Kalpinsky; the latter, while paying constant
attentions to the two young women and exchanging an occasional jest with
Alexyéi Stepanitch, ate for two all the time, to make up for the
voluntary abstinence which he practised at home, in his eagerness to
save money. Yerlykin sat next to Chichagoff; unlike the rest of the
party, he ate little and drank nothing but cold water; he never spoke,
but looked gloomy and profound. The lady of the house had her daughters
and nieces with other guests near her at table. The party next adjourned
to the drawing-room, where there were two tables set out with
sweetmeats. On one stood a round cabinet of Chinese porcelain resting on
a round metal stand which was gilt and painted in bright colours. The
cabinet contained a number of closely-fitting trays, each of which held
a different sort of preserved fruit—raspberries, strawberries, cherries,
gooseberries, and blackberries; and there were crystallised rose-petals
in a small round receptacle at the top. This cabinet, which would be
considered very rare and precious nowadays, was a present sent by the
bride’s father to Stepan Mihailovitch. Small plates were set out on the
other table, filled with black and white currants, apricots, peaches,
dates, raisins, nuts of many kinds, and almonds in the shell.

Stepan Mihailovitch rose from table in such good spirits that he did not
even wish to lie down and rest. All could see—and indeed he wished it to
be seen—his pride in his daughter-in-law and his affection for her; and
her love and respect for him were as plain to see. During dinner he
often turned towards her and asked her to do him some trifling
service—to hand something, or pour out something. "Please help me
yourself," he would say, "for you and I agree in our tastes"—or, "Just
remind me of what I said to you the other day"—or, "Do repeat what you
told me yesterday; I seem to have forgotten it." After dinner it was the
same: he often asked her to give some order, or to hand him something,
and so on. The form of his address was always plain and unpretentious,
sometimes even unceremonious; but the tone of affection in which these
appeals were expressed left no doubt in the mind of any spectator that
he was entirely captivated by his daughter-in-law. And she, I need
hardly say, replied with love and gratitude to every token of the stern
old man’s love for her—tokens often so slight that many would have
missed them. Stepan Mihailovitch, who was thoroughly enjoying himself,
tried to make Mme. Lupenevsky talk: pretending ignorance, he asked in a
loud voice, "Well, Flona, what say you of my daughter-in-law?" The
lady’s enthusiasm had been raised to a higher pitch by the ale and
strong waters she had been drinking. She declared most positively and
solemnly that she had fallen in love at first sight with Sofya
Nikolayevna, and rather preferred her to her own daughter, Lizanka; and
that Alexyéi Stepanitch was the most fortunate of men. "It used to be
quite another story," said the old man significantly; "don’t change back
again, my dear!" But now Sofya Nikolayevna, perhaps from a dislike for
this topic, strongly urged her father-in-law to go and lie down, if only
for a short time. He consented, and she went with him and drew his
curtains with her own hand; he asked her to see to the entertainment of
the party, and she hurried back, pleased and flattered by this
commission. While some lay down to rest, the others crossed to the
island and sat on the river-bank in the shade of the trees. Sofya
Nikolayevna was reminded of the scene that had taken place there so
recently—her unreasonable excitement and the unjust reproaches which had
rankled in the mind of her husband. Her heart was full; and, though she
saw him now, in perfect content and happiness, laughing loudly at a
story which Kalpinsky was telling, she drew him aside, threw her arms
round him, and said with tears in her eyes, "Forgive me, my dear, and
bury in oblivion all that happened here on the day we came!" Alexyéi
Stepanitch had a strong objection to tears; but he kissed both her hands
and said good-humouredly, "How can you recall such a trifle, my darling?
You are quite wrong to trouble yourself." Then he hurried back to hear
the end of the story, which was very amusing as Kalpinsky told it.
Though there was really no cause for distress, Sofya Nikolayevna felt a
momentary heartache.

The master of the house soon woke and summoned all the party to join him
by the stoop. Tables and chairs were placed in the broad thick shadow
cast by the house; and the _samovar_ was soon hissing. Tea was poured
out by Sofya Nikolayevna; there were rolls and scones and cream so thick
that it had a golden tinge on it; and for all this some at least of the
guests still found room. The Kalpinskys and Mme. Lupenevsky went off
after tea: there was positively no room for them to sleep at Bagrovo,
and they had not far to go, only fifteen _versts_. The guests from
Boogoorooslan also took their leave.

Mme. Myortvavo and her party left early next morning, and the Yerlykins
after dinner, to prepare for a visit from the young couple on their way
back to Ufa. The same evening Stepan Mihailovitch announced quite
frankly that the time had come for the rest of the party to disperse: he
wished to spend the last days alone with his son and daughter-in-law,
and to enjoy their society without interruption. As a matter of course,
his wishes were carried out. Alexandra said "good-bye" to her
sister-in-law as graciously as she could, and the sister-in-law said
"good-bye" to her with unfeigned satisfaction. Her secret wish to spend
some days without the hateful presence of Elizabeth and Alexandra had
been divined by Stepan Mihailovitch; and she blessed him in her thoughts
for his power of intuition. Aksinya was quite different; and Sofya
Nikolayevna parted from her with feelings of gratitude and real
affection. None of this escaped the old man’s keen eyes. Tanyusha and
her mother caused no constraint, partly because they were more
good-tempered and friendly to their guest, and also because they often
withdrew and left the others to their own devices.

The three remaining days were spent at Bagrovo in perfect peace of mind,
untroubled by malevolent observation or pretences of affection or
venomous innuendoes. The strain on Sofya Nikolayevna’s nerves was
relaxed, and she was able to take her bearings with less prejudice and
study the peculiarities of the little world in which she found herself.
In spite of their complete unlikeness to herself, she could now
understand her mother-in-law and Tanyusha better, and make allowances
for them; she could form a cooler judgment of Stepan Mihailovitch, and
could understand how her husband came to be what he was. To some extent
she realised that Alexyéi could not be entirely changed, and that the
time was distant—perhaps it would never come—when misunderstandings
between them would cease. But this last thought passed too lightly
through her mind; and the old dream, that she could educate her husband
over again and make a new man of him, took fresh hold of her eager
imagination. What happens to most young wives in the course of life was
happening now to Sofya Nikolayevna: she found in her husband a certain
inferiority, certain limitations of feeling and perception; and though
her love for him was none the less passionate on that account, she was
beginning to feel vaguely dissatisfied with his love for her, because he
found room in his heart for other things—the pond and the island, the
steppe and its population of snipe, the river and those horrid fish! A
feeling of jealousy, though directed to no definite object as yet, was
lurking at her heart; and she felt a dim presentiment of coming
disaster.

Stepan Mihailovitch also had been somewhat taken up hitherto by constant
observation of the feelings and actions of his daughters; but now he was
more at leisure to attend to his daughter-in-law and his son also. For
all his want of education and rough-and-ready way of expressing himself,
his natural sagacity and power of intuition revealed to him the whole
difference of character between the two; and he found here matter for
serious reflexion. Their present love for one another was a pleasant
sight to him, and he felt happy when he saw Sofya Nikolayevna’s eyes
constantly fixed on her husband and her eager desire to please him; but
his happiness had a shade of fear and of disbelief in the solidity and
permanence of a state of things in itself so charming. He would have
liked to speak his mind on the subject, to give them some hints or some
useful advice; but, whenever he began, he could not find the right words
for thoughts and feelings which he could not make clear even to himself;
and he went no further than those trivial commonplaces which, for all
their triviality, have been bequeathed to us by the practical wisdom of
past generations and are verified by our own experience. His failure
troubled him, and he said so frankly to his daughter-in-law. She was a
clever woman, yet she failed to understand the thoughts which the old
man was turning over in his brain, and the feeling hidden in his heart.
To his son he said: "Your wife is very clever and very excitable. Her
tongue will probably run away with her at times; if so, don’t be weak
with her: stop her at once, and make her see her mistake. Scold her, but
forgive her at once; if she displeases you, don’t be sullen or keep up
resentment; have it all out with her at once. But trust her absolutely;
she is as true as steel." Again, when he was alone with Sofya
Nikolayevna, he said to her: "My dear daughter-in-law, God has given you
many good gifts. I have only one thing to say to you: don’t give the
reins to your impetuous temper. Your husband is honest and kind; his
temper is mild, and he will never willingly hurt your feelings; don’t
you hurt his. Honour him and treat him with respect. If you cease to
respect your husband, things will go wrong. Suppose he says or does
something you don’t like, then say nothing; don’t be too exacting, and
don’t expect perfection. I can see you through and through, and I love
you dearly. For God’s sake, don’t fill the cup till it runs over:
anything can be overdone, even a wife’s devotion to her husband."

The advice was received as always by his son with profound respect, and
by Sofya Nikolayevna with the ardent gratitude of a daughter. There was
much talk on other subjects—their future life at Ufa, the husband’s
prospects in his profession, and the means of defraying their
expenditure. Definite arrangements were made on all points, and all
parties were satisfied.

And now the day came for their departure. The silk curtains in the
bedroom were taken down; the muslin and satin pillow-cases with broad
lace edging were taken off the pillows; and all this finery was packed
up and dispatched to Ufa. Pies of different kinds were baked for the
travellers. Father Vassili was summoned once more, and the prayers for
those "travelling by land or by water" were said. Fresh horses were to
be in readiness at Korovino, forty _versts_ away; to that point they
were to be taken by the Bagrovo horses, the same fine team of six which
had conveyed the pair on their ceremonial visits. They dined together
for the last time; and for the last time Stepan Mihailovitch pressed his
favourite dishes on his daughter-in-law. The carriage was already
standing at the steps. When the party rose from table, they went to the
drawing-room and sat there in silence for some minutes. Then Stepan
Mihailovitch crossed himself and rose to his feet; the rest followed his
example, said a prayer,⁴⁵ and began their good-byes. All shed tears
except Stepan Mihailovitch, and even he had hard work to refrain. He
embraced his daughter-in-law and gave her his blessing; then he
whispered in her ear, "Mind, I look forward to a little grandson." She
blushed up to the ears and kissed his hands without speaking; and now he
did not resist her doing so. All the outdoor servants and most of the
peasants were standing by the steps. Some of them had half a mind to
come forward and say farewell to their young master and mistress; but
Stepan Mihailovitch, who hated good-byes and parting scenes, called out,
"What are you up to there? Make your bow, and that will be enough!"
Sofya Nikolayevna had only time to exchange greetings with one or two of
the people. They took their seats quickly, and the strong horses started
off with the carriage as if it had been a mere feather. Stepan
Mihailovitch shaded his eyes from the sun with his hand; for some
minutes he tried to make out the moving carriage in the cloud of dust
which followed it; and, when it had reached the stackyard at the top of
the hill, he went back to his own room and lay down to sleep.

  ⁴⁵ In prayers of this kind, nothing is said aloud: the worshipper
     turns towards the _ikons_ on the wall and crosses himself.



FRAGMENT V: LIFE AT UFA


During the first few minutes Sofya Nikolayevna felt sorry for her
father-in-law and sad to part with him. The image of the old man who had
learnt to love her and was suffering now from the separation, came
vividly before her. But before long the easy motion of the carriage,
with the fleeting glimpses of fields and coppices and the outline of the
hills along which they were driving, had a soothing effect upon her
mind; and she began to feel heartily glad that she had left Bagrovo. Her
joy was too great to be concealed, though she realised that her husband
would not like it. He, she thought, was sadder than he had any business
to be. Some explanations might possibly have followed, but were
fortunately prevented by the presence of Parasha. The carriage rolled
quickly through the village of Noikino, where it was saluted by hearty
shouts from the Mordvinians, and then crossed the river Nasyagai by a
crazy bridge. They crossed the same river again and passed through the
village of Polibino, and came at last to Korovino, where a fresh team
was waiting for their arrival; their own horses were to rest there for
some hours and return to Bagrovo in the evening.

Sofya Nikolayevna had provided herself with writing materials, and now
she wrote a warm letter of thanks to her husband’s parents. It was
intended especially for Stepan Mihailovitch; and he understood this
perfectly and hid the letter in the secret drawer of the modest
writing-desk which satisfied his needs; and there Sofya Nikolayevna came
upon her own letter unexpectedly eight years afterwards, when the old
man was in his grave. The horses were put to, good-byes were said to the
coachman and postilion—long-legged Tanaichonok was acting as postilion
on this occasion—and the pair resumed their journey. Fortune was kind at
this point to Sofya Nikolayevna: it proved impossible to get to the
Yerlykins’ house, and thus she was saved from a most tiresome and
oppressive visit. A deep river on the way had to be crossed, and the
bridge had rotted and collapsed. As it would take a long time to mend
it, the young couple could keep straight on towards Ufa. As they got
near the town, Sofya Nikolayevna could think of nothing but her sick
father, who had not seen her for more than a fortnight; he had been left
in the care of servants and must be feeling lonely and eager for his
daughter’s return. The travellers took a full hour to cross the river
Byélaya in a crazy ferry-boat; and the ascent of the steep hill on the
other side took time. Before it was over, Sofya Nikolayevna was very
impatient and in great agitation. At last she got to the house. In a
fever of excitement she hurried to her father’s room and softly opened
the door. He was lying in his usual position; and near him, on the very
armchair which was usually occupied by Sofya Nikolayevna herself, his
servant Nikolai was sitting.

This man was a Kalmuck, and I must tell something of his history. In
those distant times it was a common practice in the district of Ufa to
buy native boys and girls, either Kalmucks or Kirghizes, from their
parents or relations, and to make use of them later as serfs. Forty
years before the date of my story, M. Zubin had bought two Kalmuck boys.
He had them baptized, became fond of them, and made pets of them. He had
them taught to read and write; and, when they grew up, they became his
personal servants. Both of them were intelligent and neat-handed and
appeared to be very devoted; but, when Pugatchoff⁴⁶ raised the standard
of revolt, they both ran off and joined the rebels. One of them soon
lost his life; but the other, who had been his master’s favourite and
was called Nikolai, now became the favourite of one Chika, who was
prominent among the rebels and stood high in the favour of Pugatchoff
himself. It is well known that one band of the revolters was encamped
for a long time near Ufa, on the opposite bank of the river Byélaya.
Nikolai was in this camp and had by this time been promoted to a
position of some authority. It was said that he was fiercer than any of
them and breathed fire and slaughter against no one so much as his old
master who had brought him up. Tradition tells that, whenever the rebels
were preparing to cross the river and fall upon the defenceless town,
they saw a great army march out to defend the heights on the opposite
bank, and an ancient warrior at their head, riding on a snow-white
horse, and holding a spear in one hand and a Cross in the other. The
cowardly band of outlaws were terrified by this vision and desisted from
all their attempts; and they had done nothing when the news came that
Pugatchoff was defeated. Of course they scattered at once. The revolt
came to an end, and the scattered rabble were seized and brought to
trial. Nikolai, who was one of these, was condemned to the gallows. I
cannot vouch for the truth of this; but I have been assured that, after
his trial at Ufa, the noose was actually round his neck, when M. Zubin
claimed the privilege which he possessed as a landholder, pardoned his
old favourite, and took him home, undertaking to be responsible himself
for the criminal’s behaviour. Nikolai seemed penitent and tried by zeal
and devotion to atone for his crime. By degrees he contrived to get back
into his master’s confidence; and, when Sofya Nikolayevna, after her
stepmother’s death, took over the management of the household, she found
Nikolai established as butler; he had been a favourite with her
stepmother, and this now became a passport to her father’s goodwill.
Nikolai had been guilty of much insolence to his young mistress during
her time of humiliation; but he was a very cunning fellow and quite
realised his present position. He played the part of the repentant
sinner, throwing all the guilt on the stepmother, and blaming himself
for the slavish spirit in which he had carried out her orders. It would
have been quite easy for Sofya Nikolayevna to get rid of him for good
and all; but her youth and generous nature made her believe that his
repentance was genuine. She pardoned him, and actually begged her father
to leave him in his old position. As time went on, she was sometimes
vexed by the way in which he settled things without consulting her, and
she felt doubts about his honesty. She noticed also that his intimacy
with her father, though concealed from her, was closer than she liked.
But he was very zealous in his attendance upon his sick master, sleeping
always in the same room, and also found time to do his work as butler
exceedingly well. She was therefore content with mild reproofs, and the
man was left free to take root at leisure in his double office. When she
became engaged, she had to see herself to the buying of her
wedding-clothes and to spend much time with her future husband; and so
she was less with her father and gave less attention to household
affairs. Nikolai took full advantage of this opportunity, and his power
over the old invalid increased daily. Hoping soon to get rid of his
mistress and to become master of the house himself, he grew more
insolent and less careful to conceal his power. Sofya Nikolayevna
sometimes snubbed him sharply; she was grieved to see her father’s
increasing dependence on this man and abdication of his own authority.

  ⁴⁶ See note to p. 67 (Transcriber: note 33).

Nikolai had made full use of the few days that preceded and followed the
marriage, and of her absence for a fortnight at Bagrovo: his master, now
at death’s door, was completely under his control. Sofya Nikolayevna
guessed the true state of affairs as soon as she saw the man lying
asleep in the armchair; never before had he ventured on such a liberty.
She gave him a look which sent him in some haste and confusion out of
the room. Her father was by no means as pleased to see her as she
expected; he made haste to tell her that Nikolai was not to blame: "It
is at my urgent wish," he said, "that he sometimes takes a seat at my
bedside." "It is a pity you do that, father," she said; "you will spoil
him altogether and be forced to turn him off; I know him better than you
do." Then, without entering upon further explanations, she expressed her
joy at having found him no worse. Alexyéi Stepanitch soon came in, and
then the old man, touched by his daughter’s unfeigned tenderness, his
son-in-law’s attentive behaviour, and the love between husband and wife,
listened with pleasure to their narrative and thanked God with tears for
their happiness.

Sofya Nikolayevna began at once the business of instalment. She chose
three rooms, quite separate from the rest, for their own occupation; and
in a few days her arrangements were so complete that she could receive
her own guests without any disturbance to her father. It was her
intention to arrange as before about the management of the house and the
attendance on her father, and to assign to Nikolai the subordinate part
of carrying out her instructions; but the man had always hated her, and
now felt himself strong enough to declare open war against his young
mistress. While attending to the father more zealously than ever, he
contrived with extraordinary cunning to insult the daughter at every
turn; and to Alexyéi Stepanitch he was so insolent that the young man
lost patience, in spite of his easy and unexacting temper, and told his
wife that he could not possibly put up with the position. For some time
Sofya Nikolayevna did not trouble her father, hoping by her own
influence to keep Nikolai within the bounds of reasonable politeness;
she relied upon his intelligence, and also believed that he knew her
determined character and would not venture to drive her to extremities.
But the malicious Asiatic—this was the servants’ name for him—was
convinced beforehand that he would conquer, and tried to provoke Sofya
Nikolayevna into some passionate outburst. Long ago he had been able to
instill into his master the belief that the young lady could not endure
her father’s faithful servant and would certainly try to turn him out of
the house. The invalid was horrified by this prospect, and solemnly
declared that he would prefer death to such a deprivation. Sofya
Nikolayevna tried to hint to her father in very gentle and affectionate
terms that Nikolai forgot himself in his behaviour to her husband and
neglected to carry out her orders; it seemed to be his intention to
provoke her to anger. But her father became agitated and refused to
listen: he said that he was perfectly satisfied with Nikolai, and begged
her not to trouble the butler but to give her orders to some other
servant. Young and impulsive, and accustomed to undisputed authority in
her father’s house, Sofya Nikolayevna found it hard to endure the
insulting behaviour of an unworthy menial; yet her love for her father,
and her desire to nurse and comfort him and alleviate his sufferings as
far as possible, kept her for long from the idea of leaving him in that
dying state to depend entirely upon such a wretch as Nikolai and other
servants. She controlled her impulsiveness and injured pride; she gave
her household orders through one of the other servants, knowing all the
time that all her instructions were altered by her enemy at his will and
pleasure. She induced her father to order that Nikolai should not enter
the sick-room while she was sitting there. But this arrangement soon
broke down: under various pretexts, the man constantly came into the
room; and indeed the invalid himself constantly asked for him. This
painful situation continued for several months.

Sofya Nikolayevna arranged her engagements in the town in accordance
with her own wishes. The people whom she liked she often met, either in
their houses or her own; the rest she seldom saw, and was content to
exchange formal calls with them. Her husband was acquainted already with
everybody in the town; but his wife’s intimate friends now became
intimate with him. He became popular with them and got on very well in
his new position—I mean, in the select society that gathered round his
wife.

Meanwhile, soon after her return to Ufa, Sofya Nikolayevna began to feel
unpleasant symptoms of a peculiar kind, which gave great satisfaction to
Stepan Mihailovitch when he heard of them. The continuation of his
ancient line, the descendants of the great Shimon, was a constant theme
of the old man’s thoughts and wishes; it troubled his peace of mind and
stuck in his head like a nail. On receiving the good news from his son,
Stepan Mihailovitch was full of happy hopes and convinced that the child
would infallibly be a boy. His family always said that his spirits were
unusually high at this time. He had prayers said in church for his
daughter-in-law’s health, forgave certain sums owed him by neighbours or
dependants, asked every one to congratulate him, and made them drink
till they were dizzy.

In his excitement and joy, it occurred to him suddenly to bestow a mark
of his favour upon Aksyutka, the maid who poured out tea and coffee, to
whom he always showed an unaccountable partiality. Aksyutka was a
peasant’s daughter who had lost both parents and was brought to the
house at Bagrovo when she was seven years old, merely to save her from
starvation. She was exceedingly ugly—red-haired and freckled, with eyes
of no colour in particular; she was also bad-tempered and a horrible
sloven. This does not sound attractive; but Stepan Mihailovitch took a
great fancy to her, and never did dinner pass without his giving or
sending to the child something taken from the dishes at table. When she
grew up, he made her pour out his tea in the morning and talked to her
for hours at a time. She was now a good deal over thirty. One morning,
soon after the good news came from Ufa, Stepan Mihailovitch said to her:
"What makes you go about looking like a scarecrow? Be off, you stupid
creature, and put on your best clothes that you wear on holidays. I mean
to find you a husband." Aksyutka grinned: she thought her master was not
serious, and answered: "Why, who would marry an orphan like me, except
perhaps Kirsanka, the shepherd?" (Kirsanka, as every one knew, was
deformed and idiotic.) Stepan Mihailovitch seemed vexed; he went on, "If
I arrange the marriage, you can have your pick of the young men. Go and
dress yourself, and come back at once." Aksyutka went out surprised and
delighted; and Stepan Mihailovitch summoned Little Ivan to his presence.
We have heard something of this man already; he was now twenty-four
years old, with a complexion of lilies and roses, a very fine young
fellow, both tall and stout. At the time of Pugatchoff’s revolt, when
the master himself took refuge with his family at Astrakhan, Ivan’s
father had been left in charge of the serfs at Bagrovo; and it was
generally supposed that his death was due to overwork and anxiety at
that time. He left two sons, both called Ivan, and this one was known as
Little Ivan, to distinguish him from his elder brother, who inherited
his father’s nickname of Weasel. Little Ivan appeared before his master,
"like a leaf before the grass."⁴⁷ Stepan Mihailovitch looked at him with
admiration, and then said in a voice so kind that the lad’s heart leaped
for joy, "Ivan, I mean to give you a wife." "Your will is law,
_batyushka_ Stepan Mihailovitch," answered the man, devoted body and
soul to his master. "Well, go and dress yourself in your best, and come
back to me in less than no time." Ivan flew off to do his master’s
bidding. Aksyutka was the first to reappear; she had smoothed her red
hair and greased it with oil, and put on her smartest jacket and skirt,
and her bare feet were hidden in shoes; but alas! she was no more
beautiful than before. She was much excited, and her mouth was
constantly expanding into a broad grin, which she tried to hide with her
hand, because she felt ashamed of it. Stepan Mihailovitch laughed: "Oh,
she’s willing enough to take a husband," he said. Back flew Ivan; but
the sight of Aksyutka’s ugly face and fine dress sent a cold shiver down
his back. "There is your bride," said Stepan Mihailovitch; "she is a
good servant to me as your father was once. You may both count on my
protection." His wife now came in, and he turned to her and said:
"Arisha, the bride’s clothes are all to be made out of our stuff; I
shall give her a cow and provide everything to eat and drink at the
wedding." No one raised any objections, and the marriage took place.
Aksyutka was charmed with her handsome husband, but he detested his
repulsive wife, who was ten years older than him to boot. She was
jealous of him all day long, and not without reason; and he beat her all
day long, with some excuse on his side also; for nothing but the
stick—and not even that for long—could shut her mouth and keep her
wicked tongue from wagging. It was a pity, a great pity: Stepan
Mihailovitch did a wrong thing when he made others sad because he was
happy.

  ⁴⁷ _I.e._ "instantly," though why the phrase means this I cannot
     discover. In Russian fairy-tales, a witch regularly summons any one
     she wants with the words, "Stand thou before me, like a leaf before
     the grass!"

Of his happiness I judge partly by tradition but more from a letter
which he wrote to Sofya Nikolayevna and which I have seen myself. We
have seen that he was capable of strong and deep affection; yet it is
hard to believe that a man with so little refinement of manner could
give verbal expression to such tender and delicate solicitude as
breathed through the whole of this letter. He begged her and commanded
her to be careful of her health, and sent her much advice on the
subject. Unfortunately, I can only remember a few words of it: "If you
were living in my house"—this was one thing the old man said—"I would
not suffer the wind to blow on you or a grain of dust to settle on your
skin."

Sofya Nikolayevna was able to appreciate this affection, though she
understood that half of it was intended for the expected heir; and she
promised to carry out scrupulously his wishes and instructions. But it
was hard for her to keep this promise. She was one of those women who
pay for the joy of motherhood by a constant discomfort which is more
painful and distressing than any real illness; and she suffered in mind
also, because her relations with her father became daily more
humiliating and the insolence of Nikolai more unbearable. Alexyéi
Stepanitch, who saw no danger in his wife’s constant sufferings, and was
told that the symptoms were quite natural and would soon pass away,
though he was sorry for his wife, was not excessively put out; and this
was another cause of distress to Sofya Nikolayevna. He worked hard at
his duties in the law-court, hoping soon to be promoted. He had become
accustomed to living with his father-in-law; he avoided for the present
all contact with Nikolai, and looked forward without impatience to a
change in their position. His wife did not like this either. Things
dragged on like this, as I have said already, for several months, and it
was not a happy time for any of them.

But Nikolai was not satisfied with this state of things: he desired a
final solution. Seeing that Sofya Nikolayevna was controlling her quick
temper and righteous indignation, he determined to force her hand. It
was necessary for his purpose that she should lose patience and complain
to her father; and he warned the invalid more than once that he was
constantly expecting Sofya Nikolayevna to complain of him and demand his
instant dismissal. He did not wait for any pretext or opportunity. One
day, in the presence of other servants, when his young mistress was
standing close to him at the open door of the next room, he began,
speaking loud and looking straight at her, to use such offensive
language of herself and her husband that Sofya Nikolayevna was struck
dumb for a moment by his insolence. But she recovered immediately, and
without a word to him rushed to her father’s room, where, choking with
wrath and excitement, she repeated the insulting words which had been
said almost to her face by his favourite. Nikolai came in at her heels
and would not let her finish her story. Feigning tears and crossing
himself, he solemnly swore, that it was mere slander, that he had never
said anything of the sort, and that it was wicked of Sofya Nikolayevna
to ruin an innocent man! "You hear what he says, Sonitchka," said the
invalid in a peevish voice. This was too much for Sofya Nikolayevna:
stung to the quick, she forgot her magnanimous self-restraint and forgot
also that she might kill her father with fright. She raised her voice
with such effect that the favourite was forced to leave the room. Then
she said to her father: "After this insult I cannot live under the same
roof with Nikolai: you must choose which of us is to go, he or I!"—and
then she rushed wildly from the room. The old man had a seizure, and
Nikolai hastened to his aid. The usual remedies were applied with
success, and then master and man had a long conversation, after which
Sofya Nikolayevna was summoned to the room. "Sonitchka," he said, with
all the firmness and calmness he could muster, "my weak and suffering
state makes it impossible for me to part with Nikolai; my life depends
on him. You must buy another house; here is money for the purpose."
Sofya Nikolayevna fell fainting to the ground and was carried back to
her own room.

To this had come the tender tie of affection between parent and child, a
tie which should surely have been made doubly strong by the temporary
coolness due to the stepmother, and then by the father’s penitence and
the daughter’s devotion and forgetfulness of all her wrongs. And then,
when she married, she had chosen her husband with this in view, and had
stipulated that she should not be parted from her father! And now they
were to part at a time when the doctors declared he would not live
another month! But in this forecast the doctors were mistaken, just as
they often are nowadays: he lived on for more than a year.

When Sofya Nikolayevna recovered from her swoon and her eyes fell on the
pale anxious face of Alexyéi Stepanitch, she realised that there was one
creature on earth who loved her: she threw her arms round her husband,
and floods of tears gave relief to her heart. She told him all that had
passed between her and her father. The narrative revived the smart of
her wounded feelings, and brought out more clearly the difficulty of her
position; and she would have despaired, but for the support of her kind
husband. Though weaker in character and less far-sighted than she was,
he never ran into extremes and never lost presence of mind and power of
judgment in the trying hours of life. It may seem strange that Alexyéi
Stepanitch could give moral support to Sofya Nikolayevna; but, for all
her exceptional intelligence and apparent strength of will, the effect
of a sudden shock to her feelings was to make her lose courage and
become utterly bewildered. As an honest chronicler of oral tradition, I
am bound to add that she was too sensitive to the opinion of society and
paid it too much deference, in spite of her own superiority to the
people among whom she lived. What would be said by people at Ufa, and
especially by the ladies who took the lead in society there? What would
be thought by her husband’s family? What, above all, would be said by
Stepan Mihailovitch when he heard that she had left her father? As she
asked herself these questions, the injury to her pride gave her as much
pain as the wound to her feelings as a daughter. To her it seemed
equally terrible that her father should be blamed for ingratitude to his
daughter, or that she should be blamed for failing in affection to a
dying father. One or other alternative was bound to be chosen; and
either he or she was bound to be condemned.

Alexyéi Stepanitch felt deep pity for her as he watched these
sufferings, and he felt puzzled also. It was no easy task to administer
consolation to Sofya Nikolayevna: her eager fancy painted appalling
pictures of disaster, and her ready tongue gave them lively expression.
She was prepared to brush aside every attempt to find an issue from the
situation, and to trample on every suggestion of a settlement. But
Alexyéi Stepanitch had love to teach him, and also that sanity and
simplicity of mind which was wanting in his wife. He waited till the
first irrepressible outburst was over, the first outcry of the wounded
heart; and then he began to speak. The words were very ordinary, but
they came from a kind, simple heart; and if they did not calm Sofya
Nikolayevna, they did at least by degrees make it possible for her to
understand what was said. He told her that she had always done her duty
as a loving daughter, and that she must continue to do it by falling in
with her father’s wishes. It was probably no sudden decision: her father
might have wished for a long time that they should live apart. For a
sick and dying man it was difficult or even impossible to part from the
regular attendant who nursed him so faithfully. Stepan Mihailovitch must
be told the whole truth; but to acquaintances it would be enough to say
that her father had always intended to set up the young couple in a
house of their own during his lifetime. She would be able to visit her
father twice a day and attend to him almost as much as before. Of course
people in the town would find out in time the real reason of the
separation—they had probably some idea already of the facts—but they
would only pity her and abuse Nikolai. "Besides," he added, "though your
father talked like that, when it comes to acting, he may shrink from the
separation. Talk it over with him, and lay all your case before him."
Sofya Nikolayevna made no reply: during a long silence her eyes rested
with a curious, puzzled gaze on her husband. The truth of his simple
words and his plain way of looking at things—these breathed peace and
comfort into her heart. His plan seemed to her new and ingenious, and
she wondered she had never thought of it herself. With a heart full of
love and gratitude she embraced her husband.

So it was settled that Sofya Nikolayevna should appeal to her father to
alter his decision and let them stay on in the house, at all events
until she had entirely recovered from her confinement; their household
arrangements would be quite separate, and all collisions with Nikolai
would be avoided. In favour of this suggestion, there was one very
pressing argument—that, while it was bad for Sofya Nikolayevna in her
present condition to be jolted over the ill-paved streets of the town,
no risk to herself would prevent her from paying a daily visit to her
father. But the explanation with her father was unsuccessful. The old
man told her calmly but firmly that his decision had been carefully
considered and was no impulse of the moment. "My dear Sonitchka," he
said, "I knew beforehand that after your marriage you could not live
under the same roof as Nikolai. You are not able to judge him coolly,
and I don’t blame you for it: he sinned deeply against you in old days,
and, though you forgave him, you were unable to forget his conduct. I
know that he does not behave properly to you even now; but you take an
exaggerated view of it all." At this point Sofya Nikolayevna tried to
break in, but he stopped her and said: "Wait and hear to the end what I
have to say. Let us suppose that he is as guilty as you take him to be:
that makes it all the more impossible for you to live in the same house
with him; but I cannot face parting from him. Have pity on my helpless
and suffering condition. I am no longer a man, but a lifeless corpse;
you know that Nikolai has to move me in bed ten times a day; no one can
take his place. All I ask is peace of mind. Death is hovering over me,
and every moment I must prepare for the change to eternity. I was
constantly made wretched by the thought that Nikolai was giving offence
to you. Our parting is inevitable; go, my dear, and live in a house of
your own. When you come to visit me you shall not see the object of your
dislike: he will be only too glad to keep out of the way. He has gained
his object and got you out of the house, and now he will be able to rob
me at his leisure. I know and see it all, but I forgive him everything
for his unwearied nursing of me day and night. What he undergoes in his
attendance on me is beyond the power of human endurance. Do not distress
me, but take the money and buy a house for yourselves."

I shall not describe all the phases through which Sofya Nikolayevna
passed—her doubts and hesitations, her mental conflicts, her tears and
sufferings, her ups and downs of feeling from day to day. It is enough
to say that the money was accepted and the house bought, and husband and
wife were settled there before a fortnight had passed. The little house
was new and clean, and had never been occupied before. Sofya Nikolayevna
began with her usual ardour to put her house in order and to settle the
course of their daily life; but her health, much affected by her
condition, and still more by all the agitation she had gone through,
soon broke down altogether. She was confined to bed for a fortnight, and
did not see her father for a whole month. Their first interview was a
touching and pitiful sight. He had grown much weaker; missing his
daughter and blaming himself for her illness, he had suffered much by
her absence. Their meeting gave happiness to both, but it cost them
tears. He was especially grieved to see her so terribly thin and so
altered in looks; but this was due, not so much to grief and illness as
to her condition. The features of some women look different and even
ugly during pregnancy; and Sofya Nikolayevna was a case in point. In
course of time things settled down and her relations with her father
became easy; Nikolai never ventured to appear when she was present.
There was just one person who could not reconcile himself to the thought
that she had left a dying father to settle in a house of her own; and
that was Stepan Mihailovitch. She quite anticipated this, and wrote him
a very frank letter just before she was taken ill, in which she tried to
explain her father’s action and defend it as far as possible. She might
have saved herself the trouble, for Stepan Mihailovitch blamed her and
not her father, and said that it was her duty to bear without a sign of
displeasure all the misconduct of "that scoundrel" Nikolai. He wrote to
his son to reprove him for allowing his wife to abandon her father to
the hands of servants. But Stepan Mihailovitch did not realise, either
that the separation was necessary to preserve the peace of a dying man,
or that a wife could act without the permission of her husband. In the
present case, however, husband and wife were entirely of one mind.

To put the finishing touches to the new house and modest household
arrangements, Sofya Nikolayevna called in the assistance of a widow whom
she knew, who lived in a humble position at Ufa. This was Mme.
Cheprunoff, a very simple and kind-hearted creature. She owned a little
house in the suburbs, and a small but productive garden, which brought
her in a trifle. She had other means of maintaining herself and her
adored only child, a little one-eyed boy called Andrusha: she hawked
about small wares of different kinds, and even sold cakes in the market.
But her chief source of income was the sale of Bokhara muslin, which she
went to Orenburg every year to buy. Sofya Nikolayevna was related
through her mother to this woman; but she had the weakness to conceal
the relationship, though every one in the town knew it. Mme. Cheprunoff
was devoted to her brilliant and distinguished kinswoman. She used to
pay secret visits to Sofya Nikolayevna during the time when she was
persecuted and humiliated by her stepmother; and Sofya Nikolayevna, when
her time of triumph and influence came, became the avowed benefactress
of Mme. Cheprunoff. When they were alone together, Sofya Nikolayevna
lavished caresses upon her unselfish and devoted kinswoman; but, when
other people were present, the one was the great lady and the other the
poor _protégée_ who sold cakes in the streets. This treatment did not
offend Mme. Cheprunoff: on the contrary, she insisted on it. She loved
and admired her beautiful cousin with all her heart, and looked on her
as a superior being, and would never have forgiven herself if she had
thrown a shadow on the brilliant position of Sofya Nikolayevna. The
secret was revealed, as it had to be, to Alexyéi Stepanitch; and he, in
spite of the ancient lineage which his sisters were always dinning into
his ears, received this humble friend as his wife’s worthy kinswoman,
and treated her with affection and respect all his life; he even tried
to kiss the work-worn hand of the cake-seller, but she would never allow
it. He was only prevented by his wife’s earnest entreaties from speaking
of this relationship in his own family and in the circle of their
acquaintance. This conduct earned him the love of the simple-minded
woman; and whenever there were differences in the household in later
years, she was his ardent champion and defender. She knew all the shops
and was a great hand at a bargain; and so, with her help, Sofya
Nikolayevna did her furnishing quickly and well.

When the young Bagroffs bought a house and started housekeeping by
themselves, there was much talk and gossip in the town; and at first
many exaggerations and inventions were current. But Alexyéi Stepanitch
had spoken the truth: the real reason came out before long. This was due
chiefly to Nikolai, who boasted among his friends that he had ousted the
pettish young lady, and took the opportunity to give a lively
description of her character. So the talk and gossip soon quieted down.

Husband and wife had at last a house entirely to themselves. In the
morning, Alexyéi Stepanitch drove down to his work at the law-courts,
dropping his wife at her father’s house; and on his return he spent some
time every day with his father-in-law, before taking his wife home. A
modest dinner awaited them there. To sit alone together, at a meal of
their own ordering, in their own house, was a charming sensation for a
time; but nothing is a novelty for long, and this charm could not last
for ever. In spite of her bad health and small means, Sofya
Nikolayevna’s clever hands made her little house as dainty as a toy.
Taste and care are a substitute for money; and many of their visitors
thought the furnishing splendid. The hardest problem was to arrange
about their servants. Sofya Nikolayevna had brought two servants as part
of her portion—a man named Theodore and a black-eyed maid called
Parasha; these two were now married to one another; and at the same time
Annushka, a young laundress belonging to Sofya Nikolayevna, was married
to Yephrem Yevséitch, a young servant who had been brought from Bagrovo.
This man was honest and good-natured and much attached to his young
mistress, which cannot be said of the other servants. She returned his
affection, and he well deserved it: he was one in a thousand, and his
devotion to her was proved by his whole life.

Yevséitch (as he was always called in the family) became later the
attendant of her eldest son,⁴⁸ and watched over him like a father. I
knew this worthy man well. Fifteen years ago I saw him for the last
time; he was then blind and spending his last days in the Government of
Penza on an estate belonging to one of the grandsons of Stepan
Mihailovitch. I spent a whole month there in the summer; and every
morning I went to fish in a pool where the stream of Kakarma falls into
the river Niza. The cottage where Yevséitch was living stood right on
the bank of this pool; and every day as I came up I saw him leaning
against the angle of the cottage and facing the rising sun. He was bent
and decrepit, and his hair had turned perfectly white; pressing a long
staff to his breast, he leaned upon it with the knotted fingers of both
hands, and turned his sightless eyes towards the sun’s rays. Though he
could not see the light, he could feel its warmth, so pleasant in the
fresh morning air, and his face expressed both pleasure and sadness. His
ear was so quick that he heard my step at some distance, and he always
hailed me as an old fisherman might hail a schoolboy, though I was then
myself over fifty years old. "Ah, it’s you, my little falcon!"—he used
to call me this when I was a child—"you’re late this morning! God send
you a full basket!" He died two years later in the arms of his son and
daughter and his wife, who survived him several years.

  ⁴⁸ _I.e._ the Author.

Meantime life at Ufa took a very regular and unvarying course. Owing to
her state of health and spirits, Sofya Nikolayevna paid few visits and
only to intimate friends, whose small number was made smaller by the
absence of the Chichagoffs. Autumn was nearly over before those dearest
of friends returned from the country with Mme. Myortvavo. The disordered
nerves and consequent low spirits of his wife were at first a source of
great uneasiness to Alexyéi Stepanitch. He was completely puzzled: he
had never in his life met people who were ill without anything definite
the matter, or sad with no cause for sadness; he could make nothing of
illness due to some inexplicable grief, or grief due to some imaginary
or imperceptible illness. But he saw that there was no serious danger,
and his anxiety calmed down by degrees. He was convinced that it was all
the effect of imagination, which had always been his way of accounting
for his wife’s moods of excitement and distress, whenever he found it
impossible to arrive at any reason within his comprehension. If he
ceased to be uneasy, he began to be rather bored at times; and this was
very natural, in spite of his love for his wife and pity for her
constant suffering. To listen for whole hours every day to constant
complaints about her condition, which was not after all so very
exceptional; to hear gloomy presentiments, or even prophecies, of the
fatal results which were sure to follow (and Sofya Nikolayevna, thanks
to her reading of medical works, was extraordinarily ingenious in
discovering ominous symptoms); to endure her reproaches and constant
demands for those trifling services which a man can seldom render—all
this was wearisome enough. Sofya Nikolayevna saw what he felt, and was
deeply hurt. If she had found him in general incapable of deep feeling
and strong passion, she would have reconciled herself sooner to her
situation. She used often to say herself, "A man cannot give you what he
has not got"; and she would have recognised the truth of the saying and
submitted to her fate. But the misfortune was that she remembered the
depth and ardour of her husband’s passion in the days of his courtship,
and believed that he might have continued to love her in the same
fashion, had not something occurred to cool his feelings. This unlucky
notion by degrees took hold of her imagination, and her ingenuity soon
discovered many reasons to account for this coolness and much evidence
of its truth. As to reasons—there was the hostile influence of his
family, her own ill-health, and, worst of all, her loss of beauty; for
her looking-glass forced upon her the sad change in her appearance. Her
proofs were these—that her husband was not disquieted by her danger,
took insufficient notice of her condition, did not try to cheer and
interest her, and, above all, found more pleasure in talking to other
women. And then a passion, which hitherto had lurked unrecognised, the
torturing passion of jealousy, as keen-sighted as it is blind, flashed
up like gunpowder in her heart. Every day there were scenes—tears and
reproaches, quarrels and reconciliations. And all the time Alexyéi
Stepanitch was entirely innocent. To the insinuations of his sisters he
paid no attention at all; to his father’s opinion he attached great
importance, and that was so favourable to Sofya Nikolayevna that she had
even risen in her husband’s eyes in consequence. He was sincerely, if
not deeply, distressed about her sufferings; and her loss of beauty he
regarded as temporary, and looked forward with pleasure to the time when
his young wife would get back her good looks. Though the sight of her
suffering distressed him, he could not sympathise with all her
presentiments and prognostications which he believed to be quite
imaginary. He was incapable, as most men would be, of paying her the
sort of attention she expected. It was really a ticklish business to
administer consolation to Sofya Nikolayevna in her present condition:
you were quite likely to put your foot in it and make matters worse; it
required much tact and dexterity, and these were qualities which her
husband did not possess. If he found more pleasure in talking to other
women, it was probably because he was not afraid that some casual remark
might cause annoyance and irritation.

But Sofya Nikolayevna could not look at the matter in this light. Her
view of it was dictated by her nature, whose fine qualities were apt to
run to extremes. But what was to be done, if the nerves of one were
tough and strong and those of the other sensitive and morbid, if hers
were jarred by what had no effect upon his? The Chichagoffs alone
understood the causes of this uncomfortable situation; and, though they
received no confidences from either husband or wife, they took a warm
interest in both and did much to calm Sofya Nikolayevna’s excitement by
their friendship, their frequent visits, and their rational and sensible
conversation. Both husband and wife owed much to them at this period.

So things went on till the time that Sofya Nikolayevna became a mother.
Though she was often troubled in mind, her health improved during the
last two months, and she was safely delivered of a daughter. She
herself, and her husband still more, would have preferred a son; but,
when the mother pressed the child to her heart, she thought no more of
any distinction between boy and girl. A passion of maternal love filled
her heart and mind and whole being. Alexyéi Stepanitch thanked God for
his wife’s safety, rejoiced at her relief, and soon reconciled himself
to the fact that his child was a girl.

But at Bagrovo it was quite another story! Stepan Mihailovitch was so
confident that he was to have a grandson to carry on the line of the
Bagroffs, that he would not believe at first in the birth of a
grand-daughter. When at last he read through his son’s letter with his
own eyes and was convinced that there was no doubt about it, he was
seriously annoyed. He put off the entertainment planned for his
labourers, and refused to write himself to the parents; he would only
send a message of congratulation to the young mother, with instructions
that the infant was to be christened Praskovya, in compliment to his
cousin and favourite, Praskovya Ivanovna Kurolyessova. His vexation over
this disappointment was a touching and amusing sight. Even his womankind
derived a little secret amusement from it. His good sense told him that
he had no business to be angry with any one, but for a few days he could
not control his feelings—so hard was it for him to give up the hope, or
rather the certainty, that a grandson would be born, to continue the
famous line of Shimon. In the expectation of the happy news, he had kept
his family tree on his bed, ready any day to enter his grandson’s name;
but now he ordered this document to be hidden out of sight. He would not
allow his daughter Aksinya to travel to Ufa in order to stand godmother
to the babe; he said impatiently, "Take that journey for a girl’s
christening? Nonsense! If she brings a girl every year, you would have
travelling enough!" Time did its work, however, and the frown, never a
formidable frown this time, vanished from the brow of Stepan
Mihailovitch, as he consoled himself with the thought that he might have
a grandson before a year was out. Then he wrote a kind and playful
letter to his daughter-in-law, pretending to scold her for her mistake
and bidding her present him with a grandson within a twelvemonth.

Sofya Nikolayevna was so entirely absorbed by the revelation of
maternity and by devotion to her child, that she did not even notice the
signs of the old man’s displeasure, and was quite unaffected by
Aksinya’s absence from the christening. It proved difficult to keep her
in bed for nine days after her confinement. She felt so well and strong
that she could have danced on the fourth day. But she had no wish to
dance; she wanted to be on her feet day and night, attending to her
little Parasha. The infant was feeble and sickly; the mother’s constant
distress of body and mind had probably affected the child. The doctor
would not allow her to nurse the child herself. Andréi Avenarius was the
name of this doctor; he was a very clever, cultivated, and amiable man,
an intimate friend of the young people and a daily visitor at their
house. As soon as possible Sofya Nikolayevna took her baby to her
father’s house, hoping that it would please the invalid to see this
mite, and that he would find in it a resemblance to his first wife. This
resemblance was probably imaginary; for, in my opinion, it is impossible
for an infant to be like a grown-up person; but Sofya Nikolayevna never
failed to assert that her first child was the very image of its
grandmother. Old M. Zubin was approaching the end of his earthly career;
both body and mind were breaking fast. He looked at the baby with little
interest, and had hardly strength to sign it with the Cross. All he said
was, "I congratulate you, Sonitchka." Sofya Nikolayevna was distressed
by her father’s critical condition—it was more than a month since she
had seen him—and also by his indifference to her little angel, Parasha.

But soon the young mother forgot all the world around her, as she hung
over her daughter’s cradle. All other interests and attachments grew
pale in comparison, and she surrendered herself with a kind of frenzy to
this new sensation. No hands but hers might touch the child. She handed
it herself to the foster-mother and held it at the breast, and it was
pain to her to watch it drawing life, not from its mother, but from a
stranger. It is hard to believe, but it is true, and Sofya Nikolayevna
admitted it herself later, that, if the child sucked too long, she used
to take it away before it was satisfied, and rock it herself in her arms
or in the cradle, and sing it to sleep. She saw nothing of her friends,
not even of her dear Mme. Chichagoff. Naturally they all thought her
eccentric or absurd and her chief intimates were vexed by her conduct.
She paid a hasty visit every day to her father, and returned every day
with fear in her heart that she would find the child ill. She left her
husband perfectly free to spend his time as he liked. For some days he
stopped at home; but his wife never stirred from the cradle and took no
notice of him, except to turn him out of the little nursery, because she
feared that twice-breathed air might hurt the baby. After this, he began
to go out alone, till at last he went to some party every day; and he
began to play cards to relieve his boredom. The Ufa ladies were amused
at the sight of the deserted husband, and some of them flirted with him,
saying that it was a charity to console the widower, and that Sofya
Nikolayevna would thank them for it when she recovered from her maternal
passion and reappeared in society. Sofya Nikolayevna did not hear of
these good Samaritans till later; when she did, she was vexed. Mme.
Cheprunoff, who came often to the house, watched Sofya Nikolayevna with
astonishment, pity, and displeasure. She was a tender mother herself to
her little boy with the one eye, but this devotion to one object and
disregard of everything else seemed to her to border on insanity. With
groans and sighs she struck her fists against her own body—this was a
regular trick of hers—and said that such love was a mortal sin which God
would punish. Sofya Nikolayevna resented this so much that she kept Mme.
Cheprunoff out of the nursery in future. No one but Dr. Avenarius was
admitted there, and he came pretty often. The mother was constantly
discovering symptoms of different diseases in the child; for these she
began by consulting Buchan’s _Domestic Medicine_, and then, when that
did not answer, she called in Avenarius. He found it impossible to argue
her out of her beliefs: all he could do was to prescribe harmless
medicines. Yet the child was really feeble, and at times he was obliged
to prescribe for it in real earnest.

It is difficult to say what would have been the upshot of all this; but,
by the inscrutable designs of Providence, a thunderbolt burst over the
head of Sofya Nikolayevna: her adored child died suddenly. The cause of
death was uncertain: it may have been too much care, or too much
medicine, or too feeble a constitution; at any rate, the child
succumbed, when four months old, to a very slight attack of a common
childish ailment. Sofya Nikolayevna was sitting by the cradle when she
saw the infant start and a spasm pass over the little face; she caught
it up and found that it was dead.

Sofya Nikolayevna must have had a marvellous constitution to support
this blow. For some days she knew no one and the doctors feared for her
reason; there were three of them, Avenarius, Zanden, and Klauss; all
three were much attached to their patient, and one of them was always
with her. But, by God’s blessing and thanks to her youth and strength,
that terrible time passed by. The unhappy mother recovered her senses,
and her love for her husband, whose own distress was great, asserted
itself for the time and saved her. On the fourth day she became
conscious of her surroundings; she recognised Alexyéi Stepanitch, so
changed by grief that he was hard to recognise, and her bosom friend,
Mme. Chichagoff; a terrible cry burst from her lips and a healing flood
of tears gushed from the eyes which had been dry till then. She silently
embraced her husband and sobbed for long on his breast, while he sobbed
himself like a child. The danger of insanity was past, but the
exhaustion of her bodily strength was still alarming. For four days and
nights she had neither eaten nor drunk, and now she could swallow no
food nor medicine nor even water. Her condition was so critical that the
doctors did not oppose her wish to make her confession and receive the
sacraments. The performance of this Christian duty was beneficial to the
patient: she slept for the first time, and, when she woke after two
hours looking bright and happy, she told her husband that she had seen
in her sleep a vision of Our Lady of Iberia, exactly as she was
represented on the _ikon_ of their parish church; and she believed that,
if she could put her lips to this _ikon_, the Mother of God would surely
have mercy on her. The image was brought from the church, and the priest
read the service for the Visitation of the Sick. When the choir sang, "O
mighty Mother of God, look down in mercy on my sore bodily
suffering!"—all present fell on their knees and repeated the words of
the prayer. Alexyéi Stepanitch sobbed aloud; and the sufferer too shed
tears throughout the service and pressed her lips to the image. When it
was over, she felt so much relief that she was able to drink some water;
and from that time she began to take food and medicine. Her two dear
friends, Mme. Chichagoff and Mme. Cheprunoff, were with her constantly;
she was soon pronounced out of danger, and her husband’s troubled heart
had rest. The doctors set to work with fresh zeal to restore her
strength, and their great anxiety was in a way dangerous to their
patient; for one of them found traces of consumption, another of
_marasmus_, and the third was apprehensive of an aneurysm. But
fortunately they were unanimous on one point: the patient should go at
once to the country, to enjoy pure air and, preferably, forest air, and
take a course of _koumiss_. At the beginning of June it was not too late
to drink mare’s milk, as the grass on the steppes was still fresh and in
full growth.

Stepan Mihailovitch took the news of his grand-daughter’s death very
coolly: he even said, "No reason to tear one’s hair over _that_! There
will be plenty more girls." But when he heard later of the dangerous
illness of Sofya Nikolayevna, the old man was much disturbed. When a
third message came, that she was out of immediate danger but very ill,
and that the doctors were baffled and prescribed a course of _koumiss_,
he was exceedingly angry with the doctors: "Those bunglers murder our
bodies," he said, "and defile our souls by making us swallow the drink
of heathens. If a Russian is forbidden by his Church to eat horseflesh,
then he has no business to drink the milk of the unclean animal." Then
he added with a heavy sigh and a gesture of disgust: "I don’t like it at
all: her life may perhaps be saved, but she will never be right again,
and there will be no children." Stepan Mihailovitch was deeply grieved
and remained for a long time in a state of depression.

Twenty-nine _versts_ to the south-west of Ufa, on the road to Kazan,
where the Uza falls into that noble river, the Dyoma, there lay in a
rich valley a little Tatar village called by the Russians Alkino,
surrounded by forests. The houses nestled in picturesque disorder at the
foot of a hill called Bairam-Tau⁴⁹ which gave them shelter from the
north; and another hill, Zein-Tau,⁵⁰ rose on the west. The Uza, fringed
with bushes, flowed to the south-west; the forest-glades were fragrant
with grasses and flowers; and, all round, oaks and limes and maples
cleft the air and imparted to it an invigorating virtue. To this
charming spot Alexyéi Stepanitch brought his wife, weak and pale and
thin, a mere shadow of her old self; Avenarius, their friend and doctor,
came with them, and they had some difficulty in getting the patient to
the end of the journey. The owner of the village received them with
cordial hospitality; he had a comfortable house, but Sofya Nikolayevna
was unwilling to install herself there, and one of the outbuildings was
cleared out for her occupation. The family were only too kind in their
attentions to her, so that the doctor was obliged to forbid their visits
for a time. They spoke Russian fairly well, though they professed the
Mohammedan creed; and, though their dress and habits were then partly
Russian and partly Tatar, _koumiss_ was their invariable drink from
morning till night. For Sofya Nikolayevna, the health-giving beverage
was prepared in a cleanly, civilised manner: the mare’s milk was
fermented in a clean, new wooden bucket and not in the usual bag of raw
horse-hide. The natives declared that _koumiss_ made in their fashion
tasted better, and was more effective; but Sofya Nikolayevna felt an
unconquerable aversion to the horse-hide bag. When the doctor had laid
down rules for the cure, he went back to Ufa, leaving Alexyéi
Stepanitch, with Parasha and Annushka, in charge of the invalid. The air
and the _koumiss_, of which small doses were taken at first; the daily
drives with Alexyéi Stepanitch through the forest which surrounded the
village—Yevséitch, who was now a favourite with Sofya Nikolayevna, acted
as coachman; the woods, where the patient lay for whole hours in the
cool shade on a leather mattress with pillows, breathing the fragrant
air into her lungs, listening sometimes to an entertaining book, and
often sinking into refreshing sleep—the whole life was so beneficial to
Sofya Nikolayevna that in a fortnight she was able to get up and could
walk about. When Avenarius came again he was delighted by the effect of
the _koumiss_, and increased the doses; but, as the patient could not
endure it in large quantities, he thought it necessary to prescribe
vigorous exercise in the form of riding on horseback. For a Russian lady
to ride was in those days a startling novelty: Alexyéi Stepanitch did
not like it, and Sofya Nikolayevna herself was shocked by the notion.
Their host’s daughters presented an instructive example, for they
constantly rode far and wide over the country on their Bashkir ponies;
but Sofya Nikolayevna turned a deaf ear for long to all persuasions, and
even to the entreaties of her husband, whom the doctor had speedily and
completely convinced of the necessity of the exercise. At last the
Chichagoffs came on a visit to Alkino, and Sofya Nikolayevna’s
resistance was overcome by a joint effort. What appealed to her most
strongly was the example of Mme. Chichagoff, who, in the spirit of true
friendship, sacrificed her own prejudices and began to ride, at first
alone, and then with the patient. This hard exercise required a change
of diet; and fat mutton, which Sofya Nikolayevna did not like either,
was prescribed. Avenarius probably took a hint from the habits of the
Bashkirs and Tatars, who, while moving from place to place throughout
the summer, drink _koumiss_ and eat hardly anything but fat mutton, not
even bread; and they ride all day long over the broad steppes, until the
prairie grass turns from green to grey and veils itself with a soft,
silvery down. The treatment answered admirably. They sometimes rode out
in a large party with the sons and daughters of their host. There was a
potash factory which they sometimes visited, about two _versts_ from
Alkino, situated in the depth of the forest and on the bank of a stream;
and Sofya Nikolayevna looked with interest at the iron cauldrons full of
burning wood-ash, the wooden troughs in which the dross was deposited,
and the furnaces in which the product was refined and converted into
porous white lumps of the vegetable salt called "potash." She admired
the rapidity with which the work was carried on, and the activity of the
Tatars, whose skull-caps were a novelty to her, and also the long shirts
which came down to their feet and yet left them free command of their
limbs. In general her hosts were very kind, and tried to amuse their
guest by making the natives sing and dance before her, or wrestle, or
run races on horseback.

  ⁴⁹ Hill of Feasting.

  ⁵⁰ Hill of Meeting.

At first Alexyéi Stepanitch was always present at these expeditions and
entertainments; but, when he ceased to feel anxious about his wife’s
health, and saw her surrounded by troops of attentive friends, he began
by degrees to find some time on his hands. Country life and country air,
with the beauty of that landscape, roused in him a desire for his old
amusements. He made fishing-lines and began to angle for the wily trout
in the clear mountain streams round Alkino; and he went out sometimes to
catch quails with a net. Theodore, Parasha’s young husband, was a
capital hand at this sport and could make pipes to decoy the birds. With
sportsmen in general, netting for quails does not rank high; but really
I do not know why they despise it. To lie on the fragrant meadow grass
with your net hanging in front of you on the tall stalks; to hear the
quails calling beside you and at a distance; to imitate their low, sweet
note on the pipe; to hear the excited birds reply and watch them run, or
even fly, from all sides towards you; to watch their curious antics, and
to get excited yourself over the success or failure of your strategy—all
this gave me much pleasure at one time, and even now I cannot recall it
with indifference. But it was impossible to make this pleasure
intelligible to Sofya Nikolayevna.

In two months she was well on the way to recovery: her face filled out,
and a bright colour began to play again upon her cheeks. When Avenarius
paid a third visit, he was entirely satisfied; and he had a perfect
right to triumph; for he was the first to prescribe _koumiss_ and
directed the treatment himself. He had always been attached to his
patient; and now that he had succeeded in saving her life, he loved her
like a daughter.

Alexyéi Stepanitch sent a weekly bulletin to his father at Bagrovo.
Stepan Mihailovitch was glad to hear that his daughter-in-law was
getting better; but of course he disbelieved in the healing power of the
_koumiss_, and was very angry about the riding, which they were rash
enough to mention in writing to him. His wife and daughters made use of
this opportunity, and the sneering remarks, which they let fall on
purpose in the course of conversation, worked him up to such a pitch
that he wrote his son a rather offensive letter which gave pain to Sofya
Nikolayevna. But, when he was convinced that his daughter-in-law had
quite recovered and had even grown stout, pleasing hopes began to stir
again in his breast, and he grew reconciled in some degree to the
_koumiss_ and the riding.

The young Bagroffs returned to Ufa at the beginning of autumn. Old M.
Zubin was very far gone by that time, and his daughter’s wonderful
recovery produced no sort of impression on him. All his earthly business
was done, and all ties broken; every thread that held him to life was
severed, and the soul could hardly find shelter in the disruption of the
body.

The normal course of relations between the young couple had been, so to
speak, arrested in its development by a number of events: first, by the
birth of the child and the mother’s extravagant devotion to it; then, by
the child’s death which nearly deprived the mother of her reason and her
life; and, finally, by the long course of treatment and residence in the
Tatar village. In the stormy season of her distress and sickness, Sofya
Nikolayevna had ever before her eyes the genuine love and self-sacrifice
of her husband. At that time there were none of those collisions, which
constantly occur at ordinary times between ill-matched characters; and,
even if there were occasions for such misunderstandings, they passed
unnoticed. When gold is in circulation, small change is of little
importance. In exceptional circumstances and critical moments, nothing
but gold passes; but the daily expenditure of uneventful life is mainly
carried on with small change. Now Alexyéi Stepanitch, though he was not
poor in gold, was often hard up for small change. When a man, if he sees
distress and danger threatening the health and life of one whom he
loves, himself suffers in every fibre of his being; when he forgets
sleep and food and himself altogether; when the nerves are strung up and
the moral nature uplifted—at such times there is no room for small
exactions, no room for small services and attentions. But when the time
of tragic events has gone by, everything quiets down again; the nerves
are relaxed and the spirit contracts; the material life of flesh and
blood asserts itself, in all its triviality; habits resume their lost
power; and then comes the turn of those exactions and demands we spoke
of, the turn of small services and polite attentions and all the other
trifles which make up the web of actual ordinary life. Time will again
apply the test and bring back the necessity of self-sacrifice; but
meanwhile life runs on without a stop in the ordinary groove, and its
peace and adornment and pleasure—what we call happiness, in fact—is made
up entirely of trivial things, of small change.

For these reasons, when Sofya Nikolayevna began to recover and Alexyéi
Stepanitch ceased to fear for her life and health, there began by
degrees to reappear, on one side, the old exacting temper, and, on the
other side, the old incapacity to satisfy its demands. Gentle reproaches
and expostulations had become tiresome to the husband, and fierce
explosions frightened him. Fear at once banished perfect frankness, and
loss of frankness between husband and wife, especially in the less
assertive and independent of the two, leads straight to the destruction
of domestic happiness. After the return to Ufa, this evil would probably
have grown worse in the trivial, idle atmosphere of town life; but Sofya
Nikolayevna’s father was now actually dying, and his sad, suffering
condition banished all other anxieties and monopolised his daughter’s;
thoughts and feelings. Obedient to the law of her moral nature, she gave
herself up without reserves to her duty as a daughter. Thus the process
which was unveiling every corner of their domestic life, was again
brought to a standstill. Sofya Nikolayevna spent her days and nights
with her father. Nikolai, as before, waited on his sick master, nursing
him with wonderful devotion and indefatigable care; and, as before, he
kept out of sight of Sofya; Nikolayevna, though he had now the right and
the power to appear before her with impunity. Touched by his behaviour,
she had sent for him; a reconciliation took place, and she gave him
leave to be present with her in the sick-room. The dying man, in spite
of his apparent insensibility to all around him, noticed this change: he
pressed his daughter’s hand in his feeble grasp, and said in a hardly
audible whisper, "I thank you." Sofya Nikolayevna never left her father
after this time.

I said that when Stepan Mihailovitch received the good news of his
daughter-in-law’s recovery, fond hopes awoke once more in his breast.
They were not disappointed: before long Sofya Nikolayevna wrote to him
herself, that she hoped, if God was good to her, to give birth to a son,
to be the comfort of his old age. At the instant Stepan Mihailovitch was
overjoyed, but he soon controlled his feelings and hid his happiness
from his womankind. Perhaps it occurred to him that this second child
might be a daughter, that Sofya Nikolayevna and the doctors between them
might kill it too with too much love and too much medicine, and that the
mother might lose her health over again; or perhaps Stepan Mihailovitch
was like many other people, who deliberately prophesy calamities with a
secret hope that fortune will reverse their prognostications. He
pretended that he was not in the least glad, and said coolly: "No, no!
I’m too old a bird to look at _that_ chaff. When the thing happens, it
will be time enough to believe it and rejoice over it." His family were
surprised to hear him speak so, and said nothing in reply. But, as a
matter of fact, the old man for some unknown reason became convinced
once more in his heart that he would have a grandson: he gave
instructions again to Father Vassili to repeat in church the prayer for
"women labouring of child"; and he fished out once more the family tree
from its hiding-place, and kept it always beside him.

Meanwhile M. Zubin’s last hour on earth came quietly on. He had suffered
much for many years; it seemed hardly natural that life should linger on
in a body which had lost all force and motion; and the ending of such a
bare and pitiful existence could distress no one. Even Sofya Nikolayevna
had only one prayer—that her father’s soul might depart in peace. And
there _was_ peace, and even happiness, at the moment of death. The face
of the dying man lit up suddenly, and this expression remained long upon
the features, though the eyes were shut and the body had grown cold. The
funeral was a solemn and splendid ceremony. M. Zubin had once been very
popular; but he had become forgotten by degrees, and sympathy for his
suffering had become gradually weaker. But now, when the news of his
death flew round the town, old memories revived and evoked a fresh
feeling of love and pity for him. On the day of his funeral every house
was empty, and all the population of Ufa lined the streets between the
Church of the Assumption and the cemetery. May he rest in peace! If he
had the weakness of human nature, he had also its goodness.

After M. Zubin’s death, guardians were appointed for the children of his
two marriages; and Alexyéi Stepanitch became guardian of his wife’s two
brothers, who, before finishing their education at the Moscow
boarding-school, were summoned to Petersburg to enter the Guards. I
forgot to mention that M. Zubin, shortly before his death, was
successful in obtaining for Alexyéi Stepanitch his promotion to a higher
office at the law-courts.

Sofya Nikolayevna wept and prayed for a long time, and Alexyéi
Stepanitch wept and prayed at her side; but those tears and prayers were
not painful or violent and had no ill effect on the recently restored
health of Sofya Nikolayevna. Her husband’s entreaties and the advice of
her friends and doctors prevailed with her, and she began to take care
of herself and to pay due attention to her condition. They convinced her
that the health and even the life of the unborn child depended on the
state of her own health and spirits. Their arguments were confirmed by
bitter experience, and she resolutely submitted to all that was required
of her. When her father-in-law wrote to her and expressed in simple
words his sympathy with her loss and his fear that she might again
injure her own health by excess of grief, she sent a very reassuring
letter in reply; and she did in fact attend carefully to her bodily
health and composure of mind. A regular but not monotonous plan of life
was laid down. The two doctors, Klauss—who was becoming very intimate
with the Bagroffs—and Avenarius, made her go out every day before
dinner, and sometimes on foot; and each evening they had an
unceremonious party of pleasant people at home, or went out themselves,
generally to the Chichagoffs’ house. Mme. Chichagoff’s brothers became
great friends of the Bagroffs, especially the younger, Dmitri, who asked
that, when the time came, he might stand godfather. Both brothers were
well-bred men and well-educated, according to the standards of the time;
and they came often to the house and passed the time there with
pleasure. In the Bagroffs’ house, reading aloud was a favourite
occupation. But, as no one can read or listen to reading without
intervals, Sofya Nikolayevna was taught to play cards. Klauss took the
chief part in initiating her into this science; and, whenever the
Bagroffs were alone of an evening, he never failed to make up their
table. Avenarius could not take part in this pastime, because he never
in his life knew the difference between the five and the ace.

Spring set in early that year, but in all its beauty. The ice on the
Byélaya broke up, and the blocks were carried down by the stream; the
river broke its banks and spread till it was six _versts_ across. The
whole of this expanse could be clearly seen from the windows of the
Bagroffs’ little house; their orchard burst into leaf and flower, and
the fragrance of bird-cherries and apple-blossom filled the air. They
used this orchard as a drawing-room, and the warm weather did good to
Sofya Nikolayevna and made her stronger.

At this time an event happened at Ufa which caused a great sensation
there and was especially interesting to the young Bagroffs, because the
hero of the story was an intimate friend of theirs, and, if I am not
mistaken, distantly related to Alexyéi Stepanitch. Sofya Nikolayevna, as
one would expect from her character, took a lively interest in such a
romantic affair. A young man, named Timásheff, one of the most prominent
and richest nobles of the district, fell in love with a Tatar girl, the
daughter of a rich Tatar landowner. Her family, just like the Alkins,
had altered their way of living to a certain extent in conformity with
European customs, and they spoke Russian well; but they strictly
observed the Moslem faith in all its purity. The beautiful Salmé
returned the love of the handsome Russian officer, who was a captain in
the regiment stationed near Ufa. As she could not be married to a
Russian without changing her religion, it was perfectly certain that her
parents and grown-up brothers would never give their consent to such a
union. Salmé struggled long against her love, and love burns more
fiercely in the hearts of women of Asia. At last, as is the rule in such
cases, Mahomet was defeated, and Salmé made up her mind to elope with
her lover, meaning to be baptised first and then married. The commander
of Timásheff’s regiment was General Mansúroff, a universal favourite and
the kindest of men, who gained distinction afterwards when he crossed
"The Devil’s Bridge" in the Alps with Suvóroff. He had lately married
for love himself, and he knew and sympathised with Timásheff’s
enterprise, and promised to take the lovers under his protection. One
dark, rainy night Salmé sallied forth from her father’s house, and found
Timásheff waiting for her in a wood close by with a pair of
saddle-horses; they had to gallop about 100 _versts_ to reach Ufa. Salmé
was a skilful rider; every ten or fifteen _versts_ they found fresh
horses, guarded by soldiers of Timásheff’s regiment; he was very popular
with his men. Thus the fugitives flew along "on the wings of love," as a
poet of that day would infallibly have said. Meanwhile Salmé’s absence
was quickly noticed: her passion for Timásheff had long been suspected,
and a strict watch was kept over her movements. A band of armed Tatars
assembled instantly, and followed the enraged father⁵¹ and brothers in
furious pursuit of the lovers, uttering fierce shouts and threats of
vengeance. They took the right track and would probably have captured
the fugitives—at any rate blood would have been spilt, because a number
of soldiers, eagerly interested in the affair, were posted at different
points along the road—had not the pursuit been delayed by a stratagem.
The bridge over a deep and dangerous river was broken down behind the
lovers; and the Tatars were forced to swim across, and thus lost some
two hours. Even so, the boat which carried Timásheff and Salmé across
the Byélaya under the walls of Ufa, had hardly reached mid-stream, when
the old Tatar galloped up to the bank, attended by his sons and half of
his faithful company; the other half had stopped when their horses fell
dead under them. A whole regiment of Russian soldiers were in possession
of all the punts and ferry-boats, on the pretence of crossing to the
town. The unhappy father gnashed his teeth in fury, cursed his daughter,
and rode off home. Half dead with weariness and fear, Salmé was placed
in a carriage and taken to the house of Timásheff’s mother. The affair
now assumed a legal and official character: here was a Mahometan woman
asking of her own free will to be received into the Christian Church,
and the authorities of the town took her under their protection,
informed the _mufti_, who lived at Ufa and was always called "the Tatar
bishop," of all that had passed, and called upon him to stop the injured
family or any other Mahometans from all attempts to recover by violence
a person who had deliberately preferred the Christian faith. In a few
days the clergy prepared the convert to receive the sacraments of
baptism and unction. The rite was celebrated with great pomp in the
Cathedral: Salmé was christened Seraphima, and immediately afterwards,
without leaving the church, the young lovers were married. All Ufa was
interested in the affair. The young people and all the men naturally
stood up for the beautiful Salmé; but the women, some of whom, perhaps,
had personal reasons for disappointment, judged her conduct severely.
Very few stretched out the hand of sincere friendship to the convert,
whom her husband’s station admitted to the inner circle of Ufa society.
The young couple had no warmer sympathisers than Sofya Nikolayevna and
Alexyéi Stepanitch; and they were actively assisted by the wife of
General Mansúroff, an amiable young woman whose maiden name was
Bulgákoff. Before long the Timásheffs had a firm footing in their new
sphere. The bride’s education was taken in hand; she had much natural
ability, and soon became a success in society, where she aroused both
sympathy and envy, due in some degree to her beauty and the peculiarity
of her position. Sofya Nikolayevna kept up a steady friendship with
Seraphima Timásheff till death divided them. To the general regret, Mme.
Timásheff died of consumption three years after her marriage. She left
two sons; her husband nearly went out of his mind with grief; he left
the Army, gave up his life to the care of his children, and never
married again. It was currently reported, though I cannot vouch for the
truth of the reports, that her illness and death were due to secret
pining after the kinsfolk she had abandoned and remorse for her change
of religion.

  ⁵¹ Another version of the story tells that the mother led the pursuit.
     (_Author’s note_.)

These events did nothing to arrest the quick flight of time. The day
came when Sofya Nikolayevna was forbidden to go out to parties, or even
to take drives in the country. In fine weather she walked up and down
the garden for half an hour twice a day; if it was wet, she opened all
the doors in the house and followed the same routine under cover. It is
probable that all this seclusion and strict regimen did more harm than
good; yet my opinion is contradicted by the facts, for Sofya Nikolayevna
was in perfect health. Alexyéi Stepanitch found it necessary to let the
doctors have their way; for he was constantly receiving instructions
from his father to watch over his wife like the apple of his eye. Her
friends also, and especially the doctors who felt a strong personal
attachment for her, kept such a close watch on Sofya Nikolayevna that
she could neither take a step nor swallow a morsel or drink a drop
without their permission. As Avenarius had to leave the town on some
official business, it fell on Klauss, who was the other leading lady’s
doctor at Ufa, to undertake the personal supervision of her health.
Klauss was a German, a very kind man, clever and well-educated, but
singularly grotesque in his appearance. Though he was still of middle
age, he wore a bright yellow wig; and people asked where he could have
got human hair of a colour never beheld on any human head; his eyebrows
also were yellowish, and so were the whites of his small brown eyes; but
his face, which was round and rather small, was as red as burning coal.
His habits in society were very odd: though he liked kissing the hands
of ladies, he would never allow himself to be kissed on the cheek,
maintaining that it was a gross breach of manners on the part of a man
to permit such a greeting. He had a great fondness for small children
which he showed in this way: he took the child on his knees, placed its
hand on the palm of his own left hand and stroked it for hours at a time
with his right hand. His special favourites he constantly addressed as
"Monster!" or "Turk!"—and Sofya Nikolayevna naturally came in for her
share of these endearments.⁵²

  ⁵² Klauss became lecturer on midwifery in the Foundling Hospital at
     Moscow in 1791, and died in 1821 after the conscientious discharge
     of his duties for thirty years. He never left off the yellow wig.
     He was an enthusiastic and well-known numismatist. (_Author’s
     note._)

Owing to his intimacy with the young Bagroffs, Klauss knew all about
Stepan Mihailovitch—his eager desire for a grandson, and the impatience
with which he was awaiting the event. As Klauss wrote Russian well, he
wrote out a forecast, for whose accuracy he vouched, in a distinct
handwriting for the old man’s benefit: he foretold that Sofya
Nikolayevna would give birth to a son between the 15th and 22nd of
September. When the forecast was sent to Stepan Mihailovitch, "German
liar!" was his only comment; but in his heart he believed it; for his
excitement and joy could be seen in his face and heard in every word he
spoke. About this time, our old acquaintance, Afrosinya Andréyevna, paid
him a visit at Bagrovo. He let her see more than others of his main
anxiety, that he might have another grand-daughter; and she told him
that, when passing through Moscow, she had gone to Trinity Church there,
to say her prayers to St. Sergius; and there she heard that some
well-known lady, the mother of several daughters, had taken a vow that
if her next child was a boy, it should be christened Serghéi; and she
did give birth to a son before the year was out. Stepan Mihailovitch
said nothing at the time; but he wrote a letter himself to his son and
daughter-in-law by the next post, expressing his desire that they should
say prayers in church to St. Sergius the Wonder-worker, and take a vow
to call their child Serghéi if it were a boy. In explanation of his wish
he added: "There has never yet been a Serghéi in the Bagroff family."
These instructions were carried out to the letter. Sofya Nikolayevna
spared no pains to provide everything that a careful mother could think
of for her expected child; above all, an admirable foster-mother was
found at Kasimofka, one of the villages that had belonged to her father.
Márya Vassilyevna, a peasant woman, had every qualification for her
office that one could wish for; and she was perfectly willing to
undertake the duty, and moved to Ufa in good time, bringing her own
infant with her.

The crisis was now approaching. By this time Sofya Nikolayevna was
forbidden to walk. Catherine Chichagoff was kept to her own house by
ill-health, and no other visitors were admitted. But Mme. Cheprunoff was
constantly with her cousin, never leaving her except to see her own
beloved little boy, Andrusha. Klauss came to breakfast every morning,
and again for tea, which he drank with rum in it, in the evening; then
he played cards with husband and wife; and, as the stakes were too small
to buy cards with, the prudent German procured some used packs which he
brought with him. Reading sometimes took the place of cards, and Klauss
was present on these occasions. Alexyéi Stepanitch, who had gained some
experience and skill in the art, was the regular reader; and sometimes
Klauss brought a German book and translated it aloud, which gave
pleasure to his hearers, especially to Sofya Nikolayevna, who wished to
get some knowledge, if only a smattering, of German literature.

Sofya Nikolayevna had experienced already the absorbing and unlimited
power of maternal affection, the strongest of all our feelings, and she
was filled with awe by her present condition. She accepted it as a
sacred duty to maintain mental composure, and so to preserve the health
of her unborn infant and secure its existence, on which depended all her
hopes, all her future, and all her life. We know Sofya Nikolayevna
pretty well already; we know how apt she was to be carried away; and
therefore we shall not be surprised to hear that she gave herself up
wholly to her feeling for the child she bore. Every hour of the day and
night was devoted to the task of taking care of herself in all possible
ways. Her mind and her thoughts were so entirely concentrated upon this
one object that she noticed nothing else and was, apparently, quite
satisfied with her husband, though it is probable that things happened
which might have made her dissatisfied. The more Alexyéi Stepanitch got
to know his wife, the more she surprised him. He was a man singularly
unable to appreciate excessive display of feeling, or to sympathise with
it, from whatever object it arose. Thus his wife’s power of passionate
devotion frightened him; he dreaded it, just as he used to dread his
father’s furious fits of anger. Excessive feeling always produces an
unpleasant impression upon quiet unemotional people; they cannot
recognise such a state of mind to be natural, and regard it as a kind of
morbid condition which some persons are liable to at times. They
disbelieve in the permanence of a mental composure which may break down
at any moment; and they are afraid of people with such a temperament.
And fear is fatal to love, even to a child’s love for his parents. In
general I must say that, in point of mutual understanding and sympathy,
the relations between Alexyéi Stepanitch and his wife, instead of
becoming closer, as might have been expected, grew less intimate. This
may seem strange, but it often happens thus in life.

Just at this time Klauss was transferred to an official post at Moscow.
He had already taken leave of his colleagues and all his acquaintance;
and he waited on solely with a view to Sofya Nikolayevna’s confinement,
hoping to be of service to her in case of necessity. He calculated that
he might be able to get away on the 17th or 18th of September, and hired
horses for that date. Hiring was necessary, because he intended to break
his journey to visit a German friend, who lived at some distance from
the post-road, so that the coach would not serve his purpose. The 15th
of September passed, but the expected event did not take place. Sofya
Nikolayevna felt better and more enterprising than usual; and it was
only the pedantry of the doctor, she said, that kept her to the sofa.
When the 16th, 17th, and 18th had all gone by, the German, in spite of
his love for Sofya Nikolayevna, got very angry, because he had to pay a
_rouble_ a day to the driver he had hired—a terribly high price,
according to the ideas of those days; and the Bagroffs bantered him
about this in a friendly way. The reading and card-playing went on every
evening; and if the doctor won 60 _kopecks_⁵³ from his hosts, he was
much pleased, and said that his driver would not cost him much _that_
day. The 19th passed off with no change. On the 20th, when Klauss came
in the morning, Sofya Nikolayevna stood at her bedroom door and greeted
him with a curtsey. He got very angry: "Monster!" he said, "you are
treating me abominably"; but he kissed as usual the hand she held out to
him. "It is too bad, Alexyéi Stepanitch," he went on; "your wife is
ruining me. Her baby ought to have been born on the 15th, and here she
is, dropping curtseys on the 20th!" "Never mind, my dear fellow," said
Alexyéi Stepanitch, patting him on the shoulder; "you must rob us at
cards to-night. But the packs are nearly worn out." Klauss promised to
bring a new pack; he lunched there, and, after sitting on till two
o’clock, took his leave. He called again at six in the evening, punctual
to the minute. Finding no one in the hall, or parlour, or drawing-room,
he tried to get into the bedroom, but the door was locked; he knocked,
and it was opened by Mme. Cheprunoff. The doctor went in and stood dumb
with astonishment. The floor of the room was covered with rugs; green
silk curtains hung by the windows, and a fine silk canopy over the
double bed; a candle, shaded by a book, was burning in a corner; and in
the bed, resting on embroidered pillows and wearing a dainty, easy
morning wrapper, lay Sofya Nikolayevna. Her face looked fresh, and her
eyes were radiant with happiness. "Congratulate me, my dear friend!" she
said in a strong, audible voice; "I am the happy mother of a son!" The
doctor, when he looked at her face and heard her voice, took the whole
thing to be a mystification and a hoax. "Monster! don’t try to play
tricks on so old a bird as I am!" he said. "Better get up; I have
brought a new pack of cards. It will be a present for the baby," he
added, coming up to the bed and shoving the cards under a pillow. "My
dear friend," said Sofya Nikolayevna, "I swear to you I have got a son!
Look at him; there he is!" And there, resting on a large down-pillow
trimmed with lace, and wrapped in a pink velvet coverlet, he really saw
a newborn infant, a strong boy; and Alyona Maksimovna, the midwife, was
standing near the bed.

  ⁵³ 1 _rouble_ = 100 _kopecks_.

The doctor flew into a furious rage. He sprang back from the bed as if
he had burnt himself, and roared out, "What! in my absence! after my
staying on here for a week and losing money every day, you did not send
for me!" His face turned from red to purple, his wig came half off, and
his whole stumpy figure looked so ridiculous that the lady in the bed
burst out laughing. Then the midwife tried to soothe him: "_Batyushka_,"
she said, "we had no time to think of anything at the moment; then, when
we had got things straight, we meant to send for your Honour, but Sofya
Nikolayevna said you would be here at once." The worthy man soon
recovered from his vexation; tears of joy started to his eyes; he caught
hold of the infant in his practised hands and began to examine it by the
candle-light, turning it round and feeling it till it squalled loudly.
Then he thrust a finger into its mouth, and, when the infant began to
suck lustily, the doctor was pleased and called out, "How fine and
healthy he is, the little Turk!" Sofya Nikolayevna was frightened when
she saw her priceless treasure so freely handed; and the midwife tried
to take it from him, fearing it would be "overlooked." But Klauss was
inexorable: he ran about the room, holding the child, and called for a
tub of warm water with a sponge and some soap, and a binder. Then he
turned back his sleeves, tied on an apron, threw down his wig, and began
to wash the babe, talking to it like this: "Ah, my little Turk, that
stops your crying; you like the feel of the warm water!"

Then Alexyéi Stepanitch hurried into the room, almost beside himself
with joy. He had been dispatching a special messenger to carry the good
news to Stepan Mihailovitch, and writing letters to his parents; and
there was a separate letter for his sister Aksinya, begging her to come
as soon as possible and stand godmother to his son. Before the doctor
had time to dry himself, the happy father embraced him till he nearly
choked him; he had already exchanged greetings with every one in the
house, and many tears of joy had been shed. And Sofya Nikolayevna—but,
what _she_ felt, I dare not try to express in words: her bliss was such
as few on earth ever feel and no one can feel for long.

The event produced extraordinary rejoicing within the house, and even
the neighbours shared in it. The intoxication of joy was prolonged by
liquor; and soon all the servants were singing and dancing in the court.
Some who never drank at other times now took a drop too much; and one of
these was Yevséitch. They found it impossible to control him: he was
always begging to go to his mistress’s bedroom to see the little son. At
last his wife, with Parasha’s help, tied him tightly to a heavy bench;
and even then he went on kicking out his legs, cracking his fingers, and
attempting to articulate the chorus of a song.

Tired out by his exertions and by joyful excitement, Klauss at last sat
down in an armchair and much enjoyed a cup of tea. He was somewhat too
liberal with the rum that evening, and felt a buzzing in his head after
the third cup. So he gave instructions that the baby was to have no milk
but only syrup of rhubarb till the morning, and took leave of his happy
host and hostess. He kissed the baby’s hand, promised to call early the
next morning, and went off to spend the night at his own house. As he
passed through the court, he saw the dancing, and the sound of singing
came from every window of the kitchen and servants’ quarter. He stood
still; and, though he was sorry to interfere with the good people’s
merriment, yet he advised them to stop their singing and dancing,
because their mistress needed rest. To his surprise, they all took his
hint and lay down at once, intending to sleep. As he passed out of the
gate he muttered to himself: "Well, he’s a lucky child! How glad they
all are to have him!"

And it is really true that this child was born under a happy star. His
mother, who had suffered constantly before her former confinement, had
perfect health before his birth; his parents lived in peace together
during those halcyon days; a foster-mother was found for him who proved
to be more devoted than most real mothers; he was the answer to prayers
and the object of fond desires, and the joy over his coming into the
world spread far beyond his parents. The very day of his birth, though
the season was autumn, was warm as summer.

But what happened at Bagrovo, when the good news came that God had given
a son and heir to Alexyéi Stepanitch? This is what happened at Bagrovo.
From the 15th of September, Stepan Mihailovitch counted the days and
hours, and waited for the special messenger from Ufa. The man had been
told to gallop day and night with relays of horses. This method of
travelling was new, and Stepan Mihailovitch disapproved of it as a
foolish waste of money and an unnecessary tax on the country people. He
preferred to use his own horses; but the importance and solemnity of
this occasion made him depart from his regular practice. Fortune did not
keep him in suspense too long: on the 22nd of September, when he was
sleeping after dinner, the messenger arrived, bearing letters and the
good news. The old man woke from a sound sleep, and had hardly had time
to stretch himself and clear his throat when Mazan rushed into the room
and, stammering with joyful excitement, got out the words, "A grandson,
_batyushka_ Stepan Mihailovitch! Hearty congratulations!"

The first movement of Stepan Mihailovitch was to cross himself. Then he
sprang out of bed, went barefoot to his desk, snatched from it the
family tree, took the pen from the ink-bottle, drew a line from the
circle containing the name Alexyéi, traced a fresh circle at the end of
the line, and wrote in the centre of the circle, "_Serghéi_."

                                  ————

Farewell! my figures, bright or dark, my people, good or bad—I should
rather say, figures that have their bright and dark sides, and people
who have both virtues and vices. You are not great heroes, not imposing
personalities; you trod your path on earth in silence and obscurity, and
it is long, very long, since you left it. But you were men and women,
and your inward and outward life was not mere dull prose, but as
interesting and instructive to us as we and our life in turn will be
interesting and instructive to our descendants. You were actors in that
mighty drama which mankind has played on this earth since time
immemorial; you played your parts as conscientiously as others, and you
deserve as well to be remembered. By the mighty power of the pen and of
print, your descendants have now been made acquainted with you.⁵⁴ They
have greeted you with sympathy and recognised you as brothers, whenever
and however you lived, and whatever clothes you wore. May no harsh
judgment and no flippant tongue ever wrong your memory!

  ⁵⁴ This work first appeared in parts in a Moscow magazine. When they
     were collected in a book, this epilogue was added.

                                THE END.



                                  ————

                               PRINTED BY

                   WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,

                           LONDON AND BECCLES

                                  ————

                          _By SERGE AKSAKOFF_.

                           YEARS OF CHILDHOOD

                           By SERGE AKSAKOFF.

    Translated, for the first time, from the Russian by J. D. DUFF,
                 Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

                       _Demy 8vo. 10s. 6d. net._

                                  ————

"We are grateful to Mr. Duff for translating for the first time into
English this remarkable book. ’Years of Childhood’ becomes the more
fascinating the more one reads and thinks about it. Aksakoff read a new
and ecstatic meaning into things which are banal and tame to most men
and women, and the eager eye of his mind scanned deep into the lives and
loves of the people round about him."—_Morning Post._

"Serge Aksakoff holds a distinct and, one might say, delightful position
in Russian literature. He placed himself, almost without an effort, in
the ranks of the great masters of his nation by instinctively obeying
the precept that men of letters should look in their own hearts and
write. One can hardly thank the translator sufficiently for this first
rendering of the book in any other language than Russian."—_The Times._

"English readers may well be grateful to Mr. J. D. Duff for his
translation of a very unusual book. He promises us a translation of ’A
Family History,’ which carries on the narrative of Aksakoff’s life and
gives some account of his family. In the original the two make one book,
and all who read this first instalment will welcome the completion of
it."—_Spectator._

"A book of rare charm."—_Observer._

"Mr. Duff, with this admirable rendering, has unearthed a treasure for
the English reader. Let us hope that the other portion of these memoirs
will appear without delay. For this is Russia herself—convincingly real
and intimate." —_English Review._

"Apart from its great artistic value, Aksakoff’s work has the
attractiveness that belongs to all origins. What Mr. Maurice Baring once
said, that the story of Aksakoff’s memoirs is as vivid and interesting
as any novel, is quite true. And it is not only true but remarkable; for
reminiscences, especially of childhood, do not usually have the sort of
interest that a novel has, however vivid they may be.... The fact is,
Aksakoff succeeded in solving perhaps the hardest problem in
literature,—the problem of working a child’s consciousness as a medium
for all it is worth. The book has, for us, this advantage over the other
major works of Russian literature, that it has found in Mr. Duff a
translator who is not only a scholar, but an artist skilful enough never
to force the note for a moment." —_New Statesman._

"A charming Russian book. At this time when so many translations from
the Russian are appearing, well advised and ill advised, it is good to
be able to put the hand on one superlatively good book. Here is a
refreshment for tired eyes and tired souls. It is put into beautiful
English, and the book can be read aloud with much profit and
pleasure."—_Country Life._

"Of an extraordinary richness and novelty."—_Westminster Gazette._

                         LONDON: EDWARD ARNOLD





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Russian Gentleman" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home