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´╗┐Title: Poor Folk
Author: Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 1821-1881
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 "Poor Folk" ***

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By Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Translated by C. J. Hogarth

April 8th

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--How happy I was last night--how
immeasurably, how impossibly happy! That was because for once in your
life you had relented so far as to obey my wishes. At about eight
o'clock I awoke from sleep (you know, my beloved one, that I always like
to sleep for a short hour after my work is done)--I awoke, I say, and,
lighting a candle, prepared my paper to write, and trimmed my pen. Then
suddenly, for some reason or another, I raised my eyes--and felt my
very heart leap within me! For you had understood what I wanted, you had
understood what my heart was craving for. Yes, I perceived that a corner
of the curtain in your window had been looped up and fastened to the
cornice as I had suggested should be done; and it seemed to me that your
dear face was glimmering at the window, and that you were looking at me
from out of the darkness of your room, and that you were thinking of
me. Yet how vexed I felt that I could not distinguish your sweet face
clearly! For there was a time when you and I could see one another
without any difficulty at all. Ah me, but old age is not always a
blessing, my beloved one! At this very moment everything is standing
awry to my eyes, for a man needs only to work late overnight in his
writing of something or other for, in the morning, his eyes to be red,
and the tears to be gushing from them in a way that makes him ashamed to
be seen before strangers. However, I was able to picture to myself your
beaming smile, my angel--your kind, bright smile; and in my heart there
lurked just such a feeling as on the occasion when I first kissed you,
my little Barbara. Do you remember that, my darling? Yet somehow you
seemed to be threatening me with your tiny finger. Was it so, little
wanton? You must write and tell me about it in your next letter.

But what think you of the plan of the curtain, Barbara? It is a charming
one, is it not? No matter whether I be at work, or about to retire to
rest, or just awaking from sleep, it enables me to know that you are
thinking of me, and remembering me--that you are both well and happy.
Then when you lower the curtain, it means that it is time that I, Makar
Alexievitch, should go to bed; and when again you raise the curtain, it
means that you are saying to me, "Good morning," and asking me how I am,
and whether I have slept well. "As for myself," adds the curtain, "I am
altogether in good health and spirits, glory be to God!" Yes, my heart's
delight, you see how easy a plan it was to devise, and how much writing
it will save us! It is a clever plan, is it not? And it was my own
invention, too! Am I not cunning in such matters, Barbara Alexievna?

Well, next let me tell you, dearest, that last night I slept better
and more soundly than I had ever hoped to do, and that I am the more
delighted at the fact in that, as you know, I had just settled into a
new lodging--a circumstance only too apt to keep one from sleeping! This
morning, too, I arose (joyous and full of love) at cockcrow. How good
seemed everything at that hour, my darling! When I opened my window I
could see the sun shining, and hear the birds singing, and smell the air
laden with scents of spring. In short, all nature was awaking to life
again. Everything was in consonance with my mood; everything seemed fair
and spring-like. Moreover, I had a fancy that I should fare well today.
But my whole thoughts were bent upon you. "Surely," thought I, "we
mortals who dwell in pain and sorrow might with reason envy the birds
of heaven which know not either!" And my other thoughts were similar
to these. In short, I gave myself up to fantastic comparisons. A little
book which I have says the same kind of thing in a variety of ways. For
instance, it says that one may have many, many fancies, my Barbara--that
as soon as the spring comes on, one's thoughts become uniformly pleasant
and sportive and witty, for the reason that, at that season, the mind
inclines readily to tenderness, and the world takes on a more roseate
hue. From that little book of mine I have culled the following passage,
and written it down for you to see. In particular does the author
express a longing similar to my own, where he writes:

"Why am I not a bird free to seek its quest?"

And he has written much else, God bless him!

But tell me, my love--where did you go for your walk this morning? Even
before I had started for the office you had taken flight from your room,
and passed through the courtyard--yes, looking as vernal-like as a
bird in spring. What rapture it gave me to see you! Ah, little Barbara,
little Barbara, you must never give way to grief, for tears are of no
avail, nor sorrow. I know this well--I know it of my own experience. So
do you rest quietly until you have regained your health a little. But
how is our good Thedora? What a kind heart she has! You write that she
is now living with you, and that you are satisfied with what she does.
True, you say that she is inclined to grumble, but do not mind that,
Barbara. God bless her, for she is an excellent soul!

But what sort of an abode have I lighted upon, Barbara Alexievna? What
sort of a tenement, do you think, is this? Formerly, as you know, I used
to live in absolute stillness--so much so that if a fly took wing
it could plainly be heard buzzing. Here, however, all is turmoil and
shouting and clatter. The PLAN of the tenement you know already. Imagine
a long corridor, quite dark, and by no means clean. To the right a dead
wall, and to the left a row of doors stretching as far as the line of
rooms extends. These rooms are tenanted by different people--by one,
by two, or by three lodgers as the case may be, but in this arrangement
there is no sort of system, and the place is a perfect Noah's Ark. Most
of the lodgers are respectable, educated, and even bookish people. In
particular they include a tchinovnik (one of the literary staff in some
government department), who is so well-read that he can expound Homer or
any other author--in fact, ANYTHING, such a man of talent is he! Also,
there are a couple of officers (for ever playing cards), a midshipman,
and an English tutor. But, to amuse you, dearest, let me describe these
people more categorically in my next letter, and tell you in detail
about their lives. As for our landlady, she is a dirty little old woman
who always walks about in a dressing-gown and slippers, and never ceases
to shout at Theresa. I myself live in the kitchen--or, rather, in a
small room which forms part of the kitchen. The latter is a very large,
bright, clean, cheerful apartment with three windows in it, and a
partition-wall which, running outwards from the front wall, makes a sort
of little den, a sort of extra room, for myself. Everything in this den
is comfortable and convenient, and I have, as I say, a window to myself.
So much for a description of my dwelling-place. Do not think, dearest,
that in all this there is any hidden intention. The fact that I live in
the kitchen merely means that I live behind the partition wall in that
apartment--that I live quite alone, and spend my time in a quiet fashion
compounded of trifles. For furniture I have provided myself with a
bed, a table, a chest of drawers, and two small chairs. Also, I have
suspended an ikon. True, better rooms MAY exist in the world than
this--much better rooms; yet COMFORT is the chief thing. In fact, I
have made all my arrangements for comfort's sake alone; so do not for a
moment imagine that I had any other end in view. And since your window
happens to be just opposite to mine, and since the courtyard between us
is narrow and I can see you as you pass,--why, the result is that this
miserable wretch will be able to live at once more happily and with less
outlay. The dearest room in this house costs, with board, thirty-five
roubles--more than my purse could well afford; whereas MY room costs
only twenty-four, though formerly I used to pay thirty, and so had to
deny myself many things (I could drink tea but seldom, and never could
indulge in tea and sugar as I do now). But, somehow, I do not like
having to go without tea, for everyone else here is respectable, and the
fact makes me ashamed. After all, one drinks tea largely to please one's
fellow men, Barbara, and to give oneself tone and an air of gentility
(though, of myself, I care little about such things, for I am not a
man of the finicking sort). Yet think you that, when all things
needful--boots and the rest--have been paid for, much will remain? Yet I
ought not to grumble at my salary,--I am quite satisfied with it; it is
sufficient. It has sufficed me now for some years, and, in addition, I
receive certain gratuities.

Well good-bye, my darling. I have bought you two little pots of
geraniums--quite cheap little pots, too--as a present. Perhaps you would
also like some mignonette? Mignonette it shall be if only you will write
to inform me of everything in detail. Also, do not misunderstand the
fact that I have taken this room, my dearest. Convenience and nothing
else, has made me do so. The snugness of the place has caught my fancy.
Also, I shall be able to save money here, and to hoard it against the
future. Already I have saved a little money as a beginning. Nor must
you despise me because I am such an insignificant old fellow that a fly
could break me with its wing. True, I am not a swashbuckler; but perhaps
there may also abide in me the spirit which should pertain to every man
who is at once resigned and sure of himself. Good-bye, then, again, my
angel. I have now covered close upon a whole two sheets of notepaper,
though I ought long ago to have been starting for the office. I kiss
your hands, and remain ever your devoted slave, your faithful friend,


P.S.--One thing I beg of you above all things--and that is, that you
will answer this letter as FULLY as possible. With the letter I send you
a packet of bonbons. Eat them for your health's sake, nor, for the love
of God, feel any uneasiness about me. Once more, dearest one, good-bye.

April 8th

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Do you know, must quarrel with you. Yes,
good Makar Alexievitch, I really cannot accept your presents, for I know
what they must have cost you--I know to what privations and self-denial
they must have led. How many times have I not told you that I stand in
need of NOTHING, of absolutely NOTHING, as well as that I shall never be
in a position to recompense you for all the kindly acts with which you
have loaded me? Why, for instance, have you sent me geraniums? A little
sprig of balsam would not have mattered so much--but geraniums! Only
have I to let fall an unguarded word--for example, about geraniums--and
at once you buy me some! How much they must have cost you! Yet what a
charm there is in them, with their flaming petals! Wherever did you
get these beautiful plants? I have set them in my window as the most
conspicuous place possible, while on the floor I have placed a bench
for my other flowers to stand on (since you are good enough to enrich me
with such presents). Unfortunately, Thedora, who, with her sweeping and
polishing, makes a perfect sanctuary of my room, is not over-pleased
at the arrangement. But why have you sent me also bonbons? Your letter
tells me that something special is afoot with you, for I find in it so
much about paradise and spring and sweet odours and the songs of birds.
Surely, thought I to myself when I received it, this is as good as
poetry! Indeed, verses are the only thing that your letter lacks,
Makar Alexievitch. And what tender feelings I can read in it--what
roseate-coloured fancies! To the curtain, however, I had never given a
thought. The fact is that when I moved the flower-pots, it LOOPED ITSELF
up. There now!

Ah, Makar Alexievitch, you neither speak of nor give any account of what
you have spent upon me. You hope thereby to deceive me, to make it
seem as though the cost always falls upon you alone, and that there
is nothing to conceal. Yet I KNOW that for my sake you deny yourself
necessaries. For instance, what has made you go and take the room which
you have done, where you will be worried and disturbed, and where you
have neither elbow-space nor comfort--you who love solitude, and never
like to have any one near you? To judge from your salary, I should think
that you might well live in greater ease than that. Also, Thedora tells
me that your circumstances used to be much more affluent than they are
at present. Do you wish, then, to persuade me that your whole existence
has been passed in loneliness and want and gloom, with never a cheering
word to help you, nor a seat in a friend's chimney-corner? Ah, kind
comrade, how my heart aches for you! But do not overtask your health,
Makar Alexievitch. For instance, you say that your eyes are over-weak
for you to go on writing in your office by candle-light. Then why do so?
I am sure that your official superiors do not need to be convinced of
your diligence!

Once more I implore you not to waste so much money upon me. I know
how much you love me, but I also know that you are not rich.... This
morning I too rose in good spirits. Thedora had long been at work; and
it was time that I too should bestir myself. Indeed I was yearning to
do so, so I went out for some silk, and then sat down to my labours. All
the morning I felt light-hearted and cheerful. Yet now my thoughts are
once more dark and sad--once more my heart is ready to sink.

Ah, what is going to become of me? What will be my fate? To have to be
so uncertain as to the future, to have to be unable to foretell what is
going to happen, distresses me deeply. Even to look back at the past
is horrible, for it contains sorrow that breaks my very heart at the
thought of it. Yes, a whole century in tears could I spend because of
the wicked people who have wrecked my life!

But dusk is coming on, and I must set to work again. Much else should I
have liked to write to you, but time is lacking, and I must hasten. Of
course, to write this letter is a pleasure enough, and could never be
wearisome; but why do you not come to see me in person? Why do you not,
Makar Alexievitch? You live so close to me, and at least SOME of your
time is your own. I pray you, come. I have just seen Theresa. She was
looking so ill, and I felt so sorry for her, that I gave her twenty
kopecks. I am almost falling asleep. Write to me in fullest detail, both
concerning your mode of life, and concerning the people who live with
you, and concerning how you fare with them. I should so like to know!
Yes, you must write again. Tonight I have purposely looped the curtain
up. Go to bed early, for, last night, I saw your candle burning until
nearly midnight. Goodbye! I am now feeling sad and weary. Ah that
I should have to spend such days as this one has been. Again
good-bye.--Your friend,


April 8th

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--To think that a day like this should have
fallen to my miserable lot! Surely you are making fun of an old man?...
However, it was my own fault--my own fault entirely. One ought not to
grow old holding a lock of Cupid's hair in one's hand. Naturally one is
misunderstood.... Yet man is sometimes a very strange being. By all the
Saints, he will talk of doing things, yet leave them undone, and remain
looking the kind of fool from whom may the Lord preserve us!... Nay, I
am not angry, my beloved; I am only vexed to think that I should have
written to you in such stupid, flowery phraseology. Today I went hopping
and skipping to the office, for my heart was under your influence, and
my soul was keeping holiday, as it were. Yes, everything seemed to
be going well with me. Then I betook myself to my work. But with what
result? I gazed around at the old familiar objects, at the old familiar
grey and gloomy objects. They looked just the same as before. Yet
WERE those the same inkstains, the same tables and chairs, that I had
hitherto known? Yes, they WERE the same, exactly the same; so why should
I have gone off riding on Pegasus' back? Whence had that mood arisen?
It had arisen from the fact that a certain sun had beamed upon me, and
turned the sky to blue. But why so? Why is it, sometimes, that sweet
odours seem to be blowing through a courtyard where nothing of the sort
can be? They must be born of my foolish fancy, for a man may stray so
far into sentiment as to forget his immediate surroundings, and to give
way to the superfluity of fond ardour with which his heart is charged.
On the other hand, as I walked home from the office at nightfall my feet
seemed to lag, and my head to be aching. Also, a cold wind seemed to be
blowing down my back (enraptured with the spring, I had gone out clad
only in a thin overcoat). Yet you have misunderstood my sentiments,
dearest. They are altogether different to what you suppose. It is a
purely paternal feeling that I have for you. I stand towards you in
the position of a relative who is bound to watch over your lonely
orphanhood. This I say in all sincerity, and with a single purpose,
as any kinsman might do. For, after all, I AM a distant kinsman of
yours--the seventh drop of water in the pudding, as the proverb has
it--yet still a kinsman, and at the present time your nearest relative
and protector, seeing that where you had the right to look for help and
protection, you found only treachery and insult. As for poetry, I may
say that I consider it unbecoming for a man of my years to devote his
faculties to the making of verses. Poetry is rubbish. Even boys at
school ought to be whipped for writing it.

Why do you write thus about "comfort" and "peace" and the rest? I am
not a fastidious man, nor one who requires much. Never in my life have I
been so comfortable as now. Why, then, should I complain in my old age?
I have enough to eat, I am well dressed and booted. Also, I have my
diversions. You see, I am not of noble blood. My father himself was not
a gentleman; he and his family had to live even more plainly than I do.
Nor am I a milksop. Nevertheless, to speak frankly, I do not like my
present abode so much as I used to like my old one. Somehow the latter
seemed more cosy, dearest. Of course, this room is a good one enough;
in fact, in SOME respects it is the more cheerful and interesting of the
two. I have nothing to say against it--no. Yet I miss the room that used
to be so familiar to me. Old lodgers like myself soon grow as attached
to our chattels as to a kinsman. My old room was such a snug little
place! True, its walls resembled those of any other room--I am not
speaking of that; the point is that the recollection of them seems to
haunt my mind with sadness. Curious that recollections should be so
mournful! Even what in that room used to vex me and inconvenience me now
looms in a purified light, and figures in my imagination as a thing to
be desired. We used to live there so quietly--I and an old landlady
who is now dead. How my heart aches to remember her, for she was a good
woman, and never overcharged for her rooms. Her whole time was spent in
making patchwork quilts with knitting-needles that were an arshin [An
ell.] long. Oftentimes we shared the same candle and board. Also she had
a granddaughter, Masha--a girl who was then a mere baby, but must now be
a girl of thirteen. This little piece of mischief, how she used to make
us laugh the day long! We lived together, a happy family of three. Often
of a long winter's evening we would first have tea at the big round
table, and then betake ourselves to our work; the while that, to amuse
the child and to keep her out of mischief, the old lady would set
herself to tell stories. What stories they were!--though stories less
suitable for a child than for a grown-up, educated person. My word! Why,
I myself have sat listening to them, as I smoked my pipe, until I have
forgotten about work altogether. And then, as the story grew grimmer,
the little child, our little bag of mischief, would grow thoughtful in
proportion, and clasp her rosy cheeks in her tiny hands, and, hiding her
face, press closer to the old landlady. Ah, how I loved to see her at
those moments! As one gazed at her one would fail to notice how the
candle was flickering, or how the storm was swishing the snow about the
courtyard. Yes, that was a goodly life, my Barbara, and we lived it
for nearly twenty years.... How my tongue does carry me away! Maybe
the subject does not interest you, and I myself find it a not over-easy
subject to recall--especially at the present time.

Darkness is falling, and Theresa is busying herself with something or
another. My head and my back are aching, and even my thoughts seem to
be in pain, so strangely do they occur. Yes, my heart is sad today,
Barbara.... What is it you have written to me?----"Why do you not come
in PERSON to see me?" Dear one, what would people say? I should have
but to cross the courtyard for people to begin noticing us, and asking
themselves questions. Gossip and scandal would arise, and there would be
read into the affair quite another meaning than the real one. No, little
angel, it were better that I should see you tomorrow at Vespers. That
will be the better plan, and less hurtful to us both. Nor must you chide
me, beloved, because I have written you a letter like this (reading it
through, I see it to be all odds and ends); for I am an old man now,
dear Barbara, and an uneducated one. Little learning had I in my youth,
and things refuse to fix themselves in my brain when I try to learn
them anew. No, I am not skilled in letter-writing, Barbara, and, without
being told so, or any one laughing at me for it, I know that, whenever
I try to describe anything with more than ordinary distinctness, I fall
into the mistake of talking sheer rubbish.... I saw you at your window
today--yes, I saw you as you were drawing down the blind! Good-bye,
goodbye, little Barbara, and may God keep you! Good-bye, my own Barbara
Alexievna!--Your sincere friend,


P.S.--Do not think that I could write to you in a satirical vein, for I
am too old to show my teeth to no purpose, and people would laugh at me,
and quote our Russian proverb: "Who diggeth a pit for another one, the
same shall fall into it himself."

April 9th

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Are not you, my friend and benefactor,
just a little ashamed to repine and give way to such despondency? And
surely you are not offended with me? Ah! Though often thoughtless in my
speech, I never should have imagined that you would take my words as
a jest at your expense. Rest assured that NEVER should I make sport of
your years or of your character. Only my own levity is at fault; still
more, the fact that I am so weary of life.

What will such a feeling not engender? To tell you the truth, I had
supposed that YOU were jesting in your letter; wherefore, my heart was
feeling heavy at the thought that you could feel so displeased with
me. Kind comrade and helper, you will be doing me an injustice if for
a single moment you ever suspect that I am lacking in feeling or in
gratitude towards you. My heart, believe me, is able to appraise at
its true worth all that you have done for me by protecting me from my
enemies, and from hatred and persecution. Never shall I cease to pray
to God for you; and, should my prayers ever reach Him and be received of
Heaven, then assuredly fortune will smile upon you!

Today I am not well. By turns I shiver and flush with heat, and Thedora
is greatly disturbed about me.... Do not scruple to come and see me,
Makar Alexievitch. How can it concern other people what you do? You and
I are well enough acquainted with each other, and one's own affairs are
one's own affairs. Goodbye, Makar Alexievitch, for I have come to the
end of all I had to say, and am feeling too unwell to write more. Again
I beg of you not to be angry with me, but to rest assured of my constant
respect and attachment.--Your humble, devoted servant,


April 12th

DEAREST MISTRESS BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I pray you, my beloved, to tell
me what ails you. Every one of your letters fills me with alarm. On the
other hand, in every letter I urge you to be more careful of yourself,
and to wrap up yourself warmly, and to avoid going out in bad weather,
and to be in all things prudent. Yet you go and disobey me! Ah, little
angel, you are a perfect child! I know well that you are as weak as a
blade of grass, and that, no matter what wind blows upon you, you are
ready to fade. But you must be careful of yourself, dearest; you MUST
look after yourself better; you MUST avoid all risks, lest you plunge
your friends into desolation and despair.

Dearest, you also express a wish to learn the details of my daily life
and surroundings. That wish I hasten to satisfy. Let me begin at
the beginning, since, by doing so, I shall explain things more
systematically. In the first place, on entering this house, one passes
into a very bare hall, and thence along a passage to a mean staircase.
The reception room, however, is bright, clean, and spacious, and is
lined with redwood and metal-work. But the scullery you would not care
to see; it is greasy, dirty, and odoriferous, while the stairs are in
rags, and the walls so covered with filth that the hand sticks fast
wherever it touches them. Also, on each landing there is a medley of
boxes, chairs, and dilapidated wardrobes; while the windows have had
most of their panes shattered, and everywhere stand washtubs filled with
dirt, litter, eggshells, and fish-bladders. The smell is abominable. In
short, the house is not a nice one.

As to the disposition of the rooms, I have described it to you
already. True, they are convenient enough, yet every one of them has an
ATMOSPHERE. I do not mean that they smell badly so much as that each of
them seems to contain something which gives forth a rank, sickly-sweet
odour. At first the impression is an unpleasant one, but a couple of
minutes will suffice to dissipate it, for the reason that EVERYTHING
here smells--people's clothes, hands, and everything else--and one grows
accustomed to the rankness. Canaries, however, soon die in this house. A
naval officer here has just bought his fifth. Birds cannot live long
in such an air. Every morning, when fish or beef is being cooked, and
washing and scrubbing are in progress, the house is filled with steam.
Always, too, the kitchen is full of linen hanging out to dry; and since
my room adjoins that apartment, the smell from the clothes causes me not
a little annoyance. However, one can grow used to anything.

From earliest dawn the house is astir as its inmates rise, walk about,
and stamp their feet. That is to say, everyone who has to go to work
then gets out of bed. First of all, tea is partaken of. Most of the
tea-urns belong to the landlady; and since there are not very many of
them, we have to wait our turn. Anyone who fails to do so will find
his teapot emptied and put away. On the first occasion, that was what
happened to myself. Well, is there anything else to tell you? Already I
have made the acquaintance of the company here. The naval officer took
the initiative in calling upon me, and his frankness was such that he
told me all about his father, his mother, his sister (who is married to
a lawyer of Tula), and the town of Kronstadt. Also, he promised me
his patronage, and asked me to come and take tea with him. I kept the
appointment in a room where card-playing is continually in progress;
and, after tea had been drunk, efforts were made to induce me to gamble.
Whether or not my refusal seemed to the company ridiculous I cannot
say, but at all events my companions played the whole evening, and were
playing when I left. The dust and smoke in the room made my eyes ache.
I declined, as I say, to play cards, and was, therefore, requested to
discourse on philosophy, after which no one spoke to me at all--a result
which I did not regret. In fact, I have no intention of going there
again, since every one is for gambling, and for nothing but gambling.
Even the literary tchinovnik gives such parties in his room--though, in
his case, everything is done delicately and with a certain refinement,
so that the thing has something of a retiring and innocent air.

In passing, I may tell you that our landlady is NOT a nice woman. In
fact, she is a regular beldame. You have seen her once, so what do you
think of her? She is as lanky as a plucked chicken in consumption,
and, with Phaldoni (her servant), constitutes the entire staff of the
establishment. Whether or not Phaldoni has any other name I do not know,
but at least he answers to this one, and every one calls him by it.
A red-haired, swine-jowled, snub-nosed, crooked lout, he is for ever
wrangling with Theresa, until the pair nearly come to blows. In short,
life is not overly pleasant in this place. Never at any time is the
household wholly at rest, for always there are people sitting up to
play cards. Sometimes, too, certain things are done of which it would
be shameful for me to speak. In particular, hardened though I am, it
astonishes me that men WITH FAMILIES should care to live in this Sodom.
For example, there is a family of poor folk who have rented from the
landlady a room which does not adjoin the other rooms, but is set apart
in a corner by itself. Yet what quiet people they are! Not a sound is
to be heard from them. The father--he is called Gorshkov--is a little
grey-headed tchinovnik who, seven years ago, was dismissed from public
service, and now walks about in a coat so dirty and ragged that it hurts
one to see it. Indeed it is a worse coat even than mine! Also, he is
so thin and frail (at times I meet him in the corridor) that his knees
quake under him, his hands and head are tremulous with some disease
(God only knows what!), and he so fears and distrusts everybody that he
always walks alone. Reserved though I myself am, he is even worse. As
for his family, it consists of a wife and three children. The eldest of
the latter--a boy--is as frail as his father, while the mother--a woman
who, formerly, must have been good looking, and still has a striking
aspect in spite of her pallor--goes about in the sorriest of rags. Also
I have heard that they are in debt to our landlady, as well as that she
is not overly kind to them. Moreover, I have heard that Gorshkov lost
his post through some unpleasantness or other--through a legal suit
or process of which I could not exactly tell you the nature. Yes, they
certainly are poor--Oh, my God, how poor! At the same time, never a
sound comes from their room. It is as though not a soul were living in
it. Never does one hear even the children--which is an unusual thing,
seeing that children are ever ready to sport and play, and if they fail
to do so it is a bad sign. One evening when I chanced to be passing the
door of their room, and all was quiet in the house, I heard through the
door a sob, and then a whisper, and then another sob, as though somebody
within were weeping, and with such subdued bitterness that it tore my
heart to hear the sound. In fact, the thought of these poor people never
left me all night, and quite prevented me from sleeping.

Well, good-bye, my little Barbara, my little friend beyond price. I have
described to you everything to the best of my ability. All today you
have been in my thoughts; all today my heart has been yearning for you.
I happen to know, dearest one, that you lack a warm cloak. To me too,
these St. Petersburg springs, with their winds and their snow showers,
spell death. Good heavens, how the breezes bite one! Do not be angry,
beloved, that I should write like this. Style I have not. Would that
I had! I write just what wanders into my brain, in the hope that I may
cheer you up a little. Of course, had I had a good education, things
might have been different; but, as things were, I could not have
one. Never did I learn even to do simple sums!--Your faithful and
unchangeable friend,


April 25th

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Today I met my cousin Sasha. To see her
going to wrack and ruin shocked me terribly. Moreover, it has reached
me, through a side wind, that she has been making inquiry for me, and
dogging my footsteps, under the pretext that she wishes to pardon me, to
forget the past, and to renew our acquaintance. Well, among other things
she told me that, whereas you are not a kinsman of mine, that she is my
nearest relative; that you have no right whatever to enter into family
relations with us; and that it is wrong and shameful for me to be
living upon your earnings and charity. Also, she said that I must have
forgotten all that she did for me, though thereby she saved both myself
and my mother from starvation, and gave us food and drink; that for two
and a half years we caused her great loss; and, above all things, that
she excused us what we owed her. Even my poor mother she did not spare.
Would that she, my dead parent, could know how I am being treated!
But God knows all about it.... Also, Anna declared that it was solely
through my own fault that my fortunes declined after she had bettered
them; that she is in no way responsible for what then happened; and that
I have but myself to blame for having been either unable or unwilling to
defend my honour. Great God! WHO, then, has been at fault? According to
Anna, Hospodin [Mr.] Bwikov was only right when he declined to marry
a woman who--But need I say it? It is cruel to hear such lies as hers.
What is to become of me I do not know. I tremble and sob and weep.
Indeed, even to write this letter has cost me two hours. At least it
might have been thought that Anna would have confessed HER share in the
past. Yet see what she says!... For the love of God do not be anxious
about me, my friend, my only benefactor. Thedora is over apt to
exaggerate matters. I am not REALLY ill. I have merely caught a little
cold. I caught it last night while I was walking to Bolkovo, to hear
Mass sung for my mother. Ah, mother, my poor mother! Could you but rise
from the grave and learn what is being done to your daughter!

B. D.

May 20th

MY DEAREST LITTLE BARBARA,--I am sending you a few grapes, which are
good for a convalescent person, and strongly recommended by doctors for
the allayment of fever. Also, you were saying the other day that you
would like some roses; wherefore, I now send you a bunch. Are you at all
able to eat, my darling?--for that is the chief point which ought to
be seen to. Let us thank God that the past and all its unhappiness are
gone! Yes, let us give thanks to Heaven for that much! As for books, I
cannot get hold of any, except for a book which, written in excellent
style, is, I believe, to be had here. At all events, people keep
praising it very much, and I have begged the loan of it for myself.
Should you too like to read it? In this respect, indeed, I feel nervous,
for the reason that it is so difficult to divine what your taste in
books may be, despite my knowledge of your character. Probably you would
like poetry--the poetry of sentiment and of love making? Well, I will
send you a book of MY OWN poems. Already I have copied out part of the

Everything with me is going well; so pray do not be anxious on my
account, beloved. What Thedora told you about me was sheer rubbish. Tell
her from me that she has not been speaking the truth. Yes, do not fail
to give this mischief-maker my message. It is not the case that I have
gone and sold a new uniform. Why should I do so, seeing that I have
forty roubles of salary still to come to me? Do not be uneasy, my
darling. Thedora is a vindictive woman--merely a vindictive woman. We
shall yet see better days. Only do you get well, my angel--only do you
get well, for the love of God, lest you grieve an old man. Also, who
told you that I was looking thin? Slanders again--nothing but slanders!
I am as healthy as could be, and have grown so fat that I am ashamed
to be so sleek of paunch. Would that you were equally healthy!... Now
goodbye, my angel. I kiss every one of your tiny fingers, and remain
ever your constant friend,


P.S.--But what is this, dearest one, that you have written to me? Why do
you place me upon such a pedestal? Moreover, how could I come and visit
you frequently? How, I repeat? Of course, I might avail myself of the
cover of night; but, alas! the season of the year is what it is, and
includes no night time to speak of. In fact, although, throughout your
illness and delirium, I scarcely left your side for a moment, I cannot
think how I contrived to do the many things that I did. Later, I ceased
to visit you at all, for the reason that people were beginning to notice
things, and to ask me questions. Yet, even so, a scandal has arisen.
Theresa I trust thoroughly, for she is not a talkative woman; but
consider how it will be when the truth comes out in its entirety! What
THEN will folk not say and think? Nevertheless, be of good cheer, my
beloved, and regain your health. When you have done so we will contrive
to arrange a rendezvous out of doors.

June 1st

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--So eager am I to do something that
will please and divert you in return for your care, for your ceaseless
efforts on my behalf--in short, for your love for me--that I have
decided to beguile a leisure hour for you by delving into my locker, and
extracting thence the manuscript which I send you herewith. I began it
during the happier period of my life, and have continued it at intervals
since. So often have you asked me about my former existence--about my
mother, about Pokrovski, about my sojourn with Anna Thedorovna, about my
more recent misfortunes; so often have you expressed an earnest desire
to read the manuscript in which (God knows why) I have recorded certain
incidents of my life, that I feel no doubt but that the sending of it
will give you sincere pleasure. Yet somehow I feel depressed when I read
it, for I seem now to have grown twice as old as I was when I penned
its concluding lines. Ah, Makar Alexievitch, how weary I am--how this
insomnia tortures me! Convalescence is indeed a hard thing to bear!

B. D.


UP to the age of fourteen, when my father died, my childhood was the
happiest period of my life. It began very far away from here in the
depths of the province of Tula, where my father filled the position of
steward on the vast estates of the Prince P----. Our house was situated in
one of the Prince's villages, and we lived a quiet, obscure, but happy,
life. A gay little child was I--my one idea being ceaselessly to run
about the fields and the woods and the garden. No one ever gave me a
thought, for my father was always occupied with business affairs, and
my mother with her housekeeping. Nor did any one ever give me any
lessons--a circumstance for which I was not sorry. At earliest dawn I
would hie me to a pond or a copse, or to a hay or a harvest field, where
the sun could warm me, and I could roam wherever I liked, and scratch my
hands with bushes, and tear my clothes in pieces. For this I used to get
blamed afterwards, but I did not care.

Had it befallen me never to quit that village--had it befallen me to
remain for ever in that spot--I should always have been happy; but fate
ordained that I should leave my birthplace even before my girlhood had
come to an end. In short, I was only twelve years old when we removed
to St. Petersburg. Ah! how it hurts me to recall the mournful gatherings
before our departure, and to recall how bitterly I wept when the time
came for us to say farewell to all that I had held so dear! I remember
throwing myself upon my father's neck, and beseeching him with tears
to stay in the country a little longer; but he bid me be silent, and
my mother, adding her tears to mine, explained that business matters
compelled us to go. As a matter of fact, old Prince P---- had just died,
and his heirs had dismissed my father from his post; whereupon, since
he had a little money privately invested in St. Petersburg, he bethought
him that his personal presence in the capital was necessary for the
due management of his affairs. It was my mother who told me this.
Consequently we settled here in St. Petersburg, and did not again move
until my father died.

How difficult I found it to grow accustomed to my new life! At the time
of our removal to St. Petersburg it was autumn--a season when, in the
country, the weather is clear and keen and bright, all agricultural
labour has come to an end, the great sheaves of corn are safely garnered
in the byre, and the birds are flying hither and thither in clamorous
flocks. Yes, at that season the country is joyous and fair, but here
in St. Petersburg, at the time when we reached the city, we encountered
nothing but rain, bitter autumn frosts, dull skies, ugliness, and crowds
of strangers who looked hostile, discontented, and disposed to take
offence. However, we managed to settle down--though I remember that
in our new home there was much noise and confusion as we set the
establishment in order. After this my father was seldom at home, and my
mother had few spare moments; wherefore, I found myself forgotten.

The first morning after our arrival, when I awoke from sleep, how sad I
felt! I could see that our windows looked out upon a drab space of wall,
and that the street below was littered with filth. Passers-by were few,
and as they walked they kept muffling themselves up against the cold.

Then there ensued days when dullness and depression reigned supreme.
Scarcely a relative or an acquaintance did we possess in St. Petersburg,
and even Anna Thedorovna and my father had come to loggerheads with one
another, owing to the fact that he owed her money. In fact, our only
visitors were business callers, and as a rule these came but to wrangle,
to argue, and to raise a disturbance. Such visits would make my father
look very discontented, and seem out of temper. For hours and hours he
would pace the room with a frown on his face and a brooding silence on
his lips. Even my mother did not dare address him at these times,
while, for my own part, I used to sit reading quietly and humbly in a
corner--not venturing to make a movement of any sort.

Three months after our arrival in St. Petersburg I was sent to a
boarding-school. Here I found myself thrown among strange people; here
everything was grim and uninviting, with teachers continually shouting
at me, and my fellow-pupils for ever holding me up to derision, and
myself constantly feeling awkward and uncouth. How strict, how exacting
was the system! Appointed hours for everything, a common table,
ever-insistent teachers! These things simply worried and tortured me.
Never from the first could I sleep, but used to weep many a chill, weary
night away. In the evenings everyone would have to repeat or to learn
her lessons. As I crouched over a dialogue or a vocabulary, without
daring even to stir, how my thoughts would turn to the chimney-corner
at home, to my father, to my mother, to my old nurse, to the tales which
the latter had been used to tell! How sad it all was! The memory of the
merest trifle at home would please me, and I would think and think how
nice things used to be at home. Once more I would be sitting in our
little parlour at tea with my parents--in the familiar little parlour
where everything was snug and warm! How ardently, how convulsively I
would seem to be embracing my mother! Thus I would ponder, until at
length tears of sorrow would softly gush forth and choke my bosom, and
drive the lessons out of my head. For I never could master the tasks of
the morrow; no matter how much my mistress and fellow-pupils might gird
at me, no matter how much I might repeat my lessons over and over to
myself, knowledge never came with the morning. Consequently, I used to
be ordered the kneeling punishment, and given only one meal in the day.
How dull and dispirited I used to feel! From the first my fellow-pupils
used to tease and deride and mock me whenever I was saying my lessons.
Also, they used to pinch me as we were on our way to dinner or tea, and
to make groundless complaints of me to the head mistress. On the other
hand, how heavenly it seemed when, on Saturday evening, my old nurse
arrived to fetch me! How I would embrace the old woman in transports
of joy! After dressing me, and wrapping me up, she would find that
she could scarcely keep pace with me on the way home, so full was I of
chatter and tales about one thing and another. Then, when I had arrived
home merry and lighthearted, how fervently I would embrace my parents,
as though I had not seen them for ten years. Such a fussing would there
be--such a talking and a telling of tales! To everyone I would run with
a greeting, and laugh, and giggle, and scamper about, and skip for
very joy. True, my father and I used to have grave conversations about
lessons and teachers and the French language and grammar; yet we were
all very happy and contented together. Even now it thrills me to think
of those moments. For my father's sake I tried hard to learn my lessons,
for I could see that he was spending his last kopeck upon me, and
himself subsisting God knows how. Every day he grew more morose and
discontented and irritable; every day his character kept changing for
the worse. He had suffered an influx of debts, nor were his business
affairs prospering. As for my mother, she was afraid even to say a word,
or to weep aloud, for fear of still further angering him. Gradually
she sickened, grew thinner and thinner, and became taken with a painful
cough. Whenever I reached home from school I would find every one
low-spirited, and my mother shedding silent tears, and my father raging.
Bickering and high words would arise, during which my father was wont
to declare that, though he no longer derived the smallest pleasure or
relaxation from life, and had spent his last coin upon my education, I
had not yet mastered the French language. In short, everything began to
go wrong, to turn to unhappiness; and for that circumstance, my father
took vengeance upon myself and my mother. How he could treat my poor
mother so I cannot understand. It used to rend my heart to see her, so
hollow were her cheeks becoming, so sunken her eyes, so hectic her
face. But it was chiefly around myself that the disputes raged. Though
beginning only with some trifle, they would soon go on to God knows
what. Frequently, even I myself did not know to what they related.
Anything and everything would enter into them, for my father would say
that I was an utter dunce at the French language; that the head mistress
of my school was a stupid, common sort of women who cared nothing for
morals; that he (my father) had not yet succeeded in obtaining another
post; that Lamonde's "Grammar" was a wretched book--even a worse one
than Zapolski's; that a great deal of money had been squandered upon me;
that it was clear that I was wasting my time in repeating dialogues
and vocabularies; that I alone was at fault, and that I must answer for
everything. Yet this did not arise from any WANT OF LOVE for me on the
part of my father, but rather from the fact that he was incapable of
putting himself in my own and my mother's place. It came of a defect of

All these cares and worries and disappointments tortured my poor father
until he became moody and distrustful. Next he began to neglect his
health, with the result that, catching a chill, he died, after a short
illness, so suddenly and unexpectedly that for a few days we were almost
beside ourselves with the shock--my mother, in particular, lying for
a while in such a state of torpor that I had fears for her reason. The
instant my father was dead creditors seemed to spring up out of the
ground, and to assail us en masse. Everything that we possessed had to
be surrendered to them, including a little house which my father had
bought six months after our arrival in St. Petersburg. How matters
were finally settled I do not know, but we found ourselves roofless,
shelterless, and without a copper. My mother was grievously ill, and
of means of subsistence we had none. Before us there loomed only ruin,
sheer ruin. At the time I was fourteen years old. Soon afterwards Anna
Thedorovna came to see us, saying that she was a lady of property and
our relative; and this my mother confirmed--though, true, she added that
Anna was only a very DISTANT relative. Anna had never taken the least
notice of us during my father's lifetime, yet now she entered our
presence with tears in her eyes, and an assurance that she meant to
better our fortunes. Having condoled with us on our loss and destitute
position, she added that my father had been to blame for everything, in
that he had lived beyond his means, and taken upon himself more than he
was able to perform. Also, she expressed a wish to draw closer to us,
and to forget old scores; and when my mother explained that, for her own
part, she harboured no resentment against Anna, the latter burst into
tears, and, hurrying my mother away to church, then and there ordered
Mass to be said for the "dear departed," as she called my father. In
this manner she effected a solemn reconciliation with my mother.

Next, after long negotiations and vacillations, coupled with much
vivid description of our destitute position, our desolation, and our
helplessness, Anna invited us to pay her (as she expressed it) a
"return visit." For this my mother duly thanked her, and considered the
invitation for a while; after which, seeing that there was nothing
else to be done, she informed Anna Thedorovna that she was prepared,
gratefully, to accept her offer. Ah, how I remember the morning when we
removed to Vassilievski Island! [A quarter of St. Petersburg.] It was a
clear, dry, frosty morning in autumn. My mother could not restrain
her tears, and I too felt depressed. Nay, my very heart seemed to be
breaking under a strange, undefined load of sorrow. How terrible it all


AT first--that is to say, until my mother and myself grew used to
our new abode--we found living at Anna Thedorovna's both strange and
disagreeable. The house was her own, and contained five rooms, three of
which she shared with my orphaned cousin, Sasha (whom she had brought up
from babyhood); a fourth was occupied by my mother and myself; and the
fifth was rented of Anna by a poor student named Pokrovski. Although
Anna lived in good style--in far better style than might have been
expected--her means and her avocation were conjectural. Never was she
at rest; never was she not busy with some mysterious something or other.
Also, she possessed a wide and varied circle of friends. The stream of
callers was perpetual--although God only knows who they were, or what
their business was. No sooner did my mother hear the door-bell ring than
off she would carry me to our own apartment. This greatly displeased
Anna, who used again and again to assure my mother that we were too
proud for our station in life. In fact, she would sulk for hours about
it. At the time I could not understand these reproaches, and it was
not until long afterwards that I learned--or rather, I guessed--why
eventually my mother declared that she could not go on living with Anna.
Yes, Anna was a bad woman. Never did she let us alone. As to the exact
motive why she had asked us to come and share her house with her I am
still in the dark. At first she was not altogether unkind to us but,
later, she revealed to us her real character--as soon, that is to say,
as she saw that we were at her mercy, and had nowhere else to go.
Yes, in early days she was quite kind to me--even offensively so, but
afterwards, I had to suffer as much as my mother. Constantly did Anna
reproach us; constantly did she remind us of her benefactions, and
introduce us to her friends as poor relatives of hers whom, out of
goodness of heart and for the love of Christ, she had received into her
bosom. At table, also, she would watch every mouthful that we took;
and, if our appetite failed, immediately she would begin as before, and
reiterate that we were over-dainty, that we must not assume that riches
would mean happiness, and that we had better go and live by ourselves.
Moreover, she never ceased to inveigh against my father--saying that
he had sought to be better than other people, and thereby had brought
himself to a bad end; that he had left his wife and daughter destitute;
and that, but for the fact that we had happened to meet with a kind and
sympathetic Christian soul, God alone knew where we should have laid our
heads, save in the street. What did that woman not say? To hear her was
not so much galling as disgusting. From time to time my mother would
burst into tears, her health grew worse from day to day, and her body
was becoming sheer skin and bone. All the while, too, we had to work--to
work from morning till night, for we had contrived to obtain some
employment as occasional sempstresses. This, however, did not please
Anna, who used to tell us that there was no room in her house for a
modiste's establishment. Yet we had to get clothes to wear, to provide
for unforeseen expenses, and to have a little money at our disposal in
case we should some day wish to remove elsewhere. Unfortunately, the
strain undermined my mother's health, and she became gradually weaker.
Sickness, like a cankerworm, was gnawing at her life, and dragging her
towards the tomb. Well could I see what she was enduring, what she was
suffering. Yes, it all lay open to my eyes.

Day succeeded day, and each day was like the last one. We lived a life
as quiet as though we had been in the country. Anna herself grew quieter
in proportion as she came to realise the extent of her power over us.
In nothing did we dare to thwart her. From her portion of the house
our apartment was divided by a corridor, while next to us (as mentioned
above) dwelt a certain Pokrovski, who was engaged in teaching Sasha the
French and German languages, as well as history and geography--"all the
sciences," as Anna used to say. In return for these services he received
free board and lodging. As for Sasha, she was a clever, but rude and
uncouth, girl of thirteen. On one occasion Anna remarked to my mother
that it might be as well if I also were to take some lessons, seeing
that my education had been neglected at school; and, my mother joyfully
assenting, I joined Sasha for a year in studying under this Pokrovski.

The latter was a poor--a very poor--young man whose health would not
permit of his undertaking the regular university course. Indeed, it was
only for form's sake that we called him "The Student." He lived in such
a quiet, humble, retiring fashion that never a sound reached us from his
room. Also, his exterior was peculiar--he moved and walked awkwardly,
and uttered his words in such a strange manner that at first I could
never look at him without laughing. Sasha was for ever playing tricks
upon him--more especially when he was giving us our lessons. But
unfortunately, he was of a temperament as excitable as herself. Indeed,
he was so irritable that the least trifle would send him into a frenzy,
and set him shouting at us, and complaining of our conduct. Sometimes he
would even rush away to his room before school hours were over, and sit
there for days over his books, of which he had a store that was
both rare and valuable. In addition, he acted as teacher at another
establishment, and received payment for his services there; and,
whenever he had received his fees for this extra work, he would hasten
off and purchase more books.

In time I got to know and like him better, for in reality he was a good,
worthy fellow--more so than any of the people with whom we otherwise
came in contact. My mother in particular had a great respect for him,
and, after herself, he was my best friend. But at first I was just an
overgrown hoyden, and joined Sasha in playing the fool. For hours we
would devise tricks to anger and distract him, for he looked extremely
ridiculous when he was angry, and so diverted us the more (ashamed
though I am now to admit it). But once, when we had driven him nearly
to tears, I heard him say to himself under his breath, "What cruel
children!" and instantly I repented--I began to feel sad and ashamed and
sorry for him. I reddened to my ears, and begged him, almost with tears,
not to mind us, nor to take offence at our stupid jests. Nevertheless,
without finishing the lesson, he closed his book, and departed to his
own room. All that day I felt torn with remorse. To think that we two
children had forced him, the poor, the unhappy one, to remember his hard
lot! And at night I could not sleep for grief and regret. Remorse is
said to bring relief to the soul, but it is not so. How far my grief was
internally connected with my conceit I do not know, but at least I did
not wish him to think me a baby, seeing that I had now reached the age
of fifteen years. Therefore, from that day onwards I began to torture
my imagination with devising a thousand schemes which should compel
Pokrovski to alter his opinion of me. At the same time, being yet shy
and reserved by nature, I ended by finding that, in my present position,
I could make up my mind to nothing but vague dreams (and such dreams
I had). However, I ceased to join Sasha in playing the fool, while
Pokrovski, for his part, ceased to lose his temper with us so much.
Unfortunately this was not enough to satisfy my self-esteem.

At this point, I must say a few words about the strangest, the most
interesting, the most pitiable human being that I have ever come across.
I speak of him now--at this particular point in these memoirs--for the
reason that hitherto I had paid him no attention whatever, and began to
do so now only because everything connected with Pokrovski had suddenly
become of absorbing interest in my eyes.

Sometimes there came to the house a ragged, poorly-dressed, grey-headed,
awkward, amorphous--in short, a very strange-looking--little old man. At
first glance it might have been thought that he was perpetually ashamed
of something--that he had on his conscience something which always made
him, as it were, bristle up and then shrink into himself. Such curious
starts and grimaces did he indulge in that one was forced to conclude
that he was scarcely in his right mind. On arriving, he would halt for
a while by the window in the hall, as though afraid to enter; until,
should any one happen to pass in or out of the door--whether Sasha or
myself or one of the servants (to the latter he always resorted the most
readily, as being the most nearly akin to his own class)--he would begin
to gesticulate and to beckon to that person, and to make various signs.
Then, should the person in question nod to him, or call him by name (the
recognised token that no other visitor was present, and that he
might enter freely), he would open the door gently, give a smile of
satisfaction as he rubbed his hands together, and proceed on tiptoe to
young Pokrovski's room. This old fellow was none other than Pokrovski's

Later I came to know his story in detail. Formerly a civil servant, he
had possessed no additional means, and so had occupied a very low
and insignificant position in the service. Then, after his first wife
(mother of the younger Pokrovski) had died, the widower bethought him of
marrying a second time, and took to himself a tradesman's daughter, who
soon assumed the reins over everything, and brought the home to rack and
ruin, so that the old man was worse off than before. But to the younger
Pokrovski, fate proved kinder, for a landowner named Bwikov, who had
formerly known the lad's father and been his benefactor, took the boy
under his protection, and sent him to school. Another reason why this
Bwikov took an interest in young Pokrovski was that he had known the
lad's dead mother, who, while still a serving-maid, had been befriended
by Anna Thedorovna, and subsequently married to the elder Pokrovski. At
the wedding Bwikov, actuated by his friendship for Anna, conferred upon
the young bride a dowry of five thousand roubles; but whither that money
had since disappeared I cannot say. It was from Anna's lips that I heard
the story, for the student Pokrovski was never prone to talk about his
family affairs. His mother was said to have been very good-looking;
wherefore, it is the more mysterious why she should have made so poor a
match. She died when young--only four years after her espousal.

From school the young Pokrovski advanced to a gymnasium, [Secondary
school.] and thence to the University, where Bwikov, who frequently
visited the capital, continued to accord the youth his protection.
Gradually, however, ill health put an end to the young man's university
course; whereupon Bwikov introduced and personally recommended him to
Anna Thedorovna, and he came to lodge with her on condition that he
taught Sasha whatever might be required of him.

Grief at the harshness of his wife led the elder Pokrovski to plunge
into dissipation, and to remain in an almost permanent condition of
drunkenness. Constantly his wife beat him, or sent him to sit in the
kitchen--with the result that in time, he became so inured to blows
and neglect, that he ceased to complain. Still not greatly advanced
in years, he had nevertheless endangered his reason through evil
courses--his only sign of decent human feeling being his love for his
son. The latter was said to resemble his dead mother as one pea may
resemble another. What recollections, therefore, of the kind helpmeet of
former days may not have moved the breast of the poor broken old man to
this boundless affection for the boy? Of naught else could the father
ever speak but of his son, and never did he fail to visit him twice a
week. To come oftener he did not dare, for the reason that the younger
Pokrovski did not like these visits of his father's. In fact, there
can be no doubt that the youth's greatest fault was his lack of filial
respect. Yet the father was certainly rather a difficult person to deal
with, for, in the first place, he was extremely inquisitive, while, in
the second place, his long-winded conversation and questions--questions
of the most vapid and senseless order conceivable--always prevented
the son from working. Likewise, the old man occasionally arrived there
drunk. Gradually, however, the son was weaning his parent from his
vicious ways and everlasting inquisitiveness, and teaching the old man
to look upon him, his son, as an oracle, and never to speak without that
son's permission.

On the subject of his Petinka, as he called him, the poor old man could
never sufficiently rhapsodise and dilate. Yet when he arrived to see his
son he almost invariably had on his face a downcast, timid expression
that was probably due to uncertainty concerning the way in which he
would be received. For a long time he would hesitate to enter, and if I
happened to be there he would question me for twenty minutes or so as to
whether his Petinka was in good health, as well as to the sort of
mood he was in, whether he was engaged on matters of importance, what
precisely he was doing (writing or meditating), and so on. Then, when I
had sufficiently encouraged and reassured the old man, he would make up
his mind to enter, and quietly and cautiously open the door. Next, he
would protrude his head through the chink, and if he saw that his son
was not angry, but threw him a nod, he would glide noiselessly into the
room, take off his scarf, and hang up his hat (the latter perennially
in a bad state of repair, full of holes, and with a smashed brim)--the
whole being done without a word or a sound of any kind. Next, the old
man would seat himself warily on a chair, and, never removing his eyes
from his son, follow his every movement, as though seeking to gauge
Petinka's state of mind. On the other hand, if the son was not in good
spirits, the father would make a note of the fact, and at once get up,
saying that he had "only called for a minute or two," that, "having been
out for a long walk, and happening at the moment to be passing," he had
"looked in for a moment's rest." Then silently and humbly the old man
would resume his hat and scarf; softly he would open the door, and
noiselessly depart with a forced smile on his face--the better to bear
the disappointment which was seething in his breast, the better to help
him not to show it to his son.

On the other hand, whenever the son received his father civilly the old
man would be struck dumb with joy. Satisfaction would beam in his face,
in his every gesture, in his every movement. And if the son deigned to
engage in conversation with him, the old man always rose a little from
his chair, and answered softly, sympathetically, with something like
reverence, while strenuously endeavouring to make use of the most
recherche (that is to say, the most ridiculous) expressions. But, alas!
He had not the gift of words. Always he grew confused, and turned red in
the face; never did he know what to do with his hands or with himself.
Likewise, whenever he had returned an answer of any kind, he would go
on repeating the same in a whisper, as though he were seeking to justify
what he had just said. And if he happened to have returned a good
answer, he would begin to preen himself, and to straighten his
waistcoat, frockcoat and tie, and to assume an air of conscious dignity.
Indeed, on these occasions he would feel so encouraged, he would carry
his daring to such a pitch, that, rising softly from his chair, he would
approach the bookshelves, take thence a book, and read over to himself
some passage or another. All this he would do with an air of feigned
indifference and sangfroid, as though he were free ALWAYS to use his
son's books, and his son's kindness were no rarity at all. Yet on one
occasion I saw the poor old fellow actually turn pale on being told by
his son not to touch the books. Abashed and confused, he, in his awkward
hurry, replaced the volume wrong side uppermost; whereupon, with a
supreme effort to recover himself, he turned it round with a smile and
a blush, as though he were at a loss how to view his own misdemeanour.
Gradually, as already said, the younger Pokrovski weaned his father
from his dissipated ways by giving him a small coin whenever, on three
successive occasions, he (the father) arrived sober. Sometimes, also,
the younger man would buy the older one shoes, or a tie, or a waistcoat;
whereafter, the old man would be as proud of his acquisition as a
peacock. Not infrequently, also, the old man would step in to visit
ourselves, and bring Sasha and myself gingerbread birds or apples,
while talking unceasingly of Petinka. Always he would beg of us to pay
attention to our lessons, on the plea that Petinka was a good son, an
exemplary son, a son who was in twofold measure a man of learning; after
which he would wink at us so quizzingly with his left eye, and twist
himself about in such amusing fashion, that we were forced to burst out
laughing. My mother had a great liking for him, but he detested Anna
Thedorovna--although in her presence he would be quieter than water and
lowlier than the earth.

Soon after this I ceased to take lessons of Pokrovski. Even now he
thought me a child, a raw schoolgirl, as much as he did Sasha; and this
hurt me extremely, seeing that I had done so much to expiate my former
behaviour. Of my efforts in this direction no notice had been taken,
and the fact continued to anger me more and more. Scarcely ever did I
address a word to my tutor between school hours, for I simply could
not bring myself to do it. If I made the attempt I only grew red and
confused, and rushed away to weep in a corner. How it would all have
ended I do not know, had not a curious incident helped to bring about
a rapprochement. One evening, when my mother was sitting in Anna
Thedorovna's room, I crept on tiptoe to Pokrovski's apartment, in the
belief that he was not at home. Some strange impulse moved me to do so.
True, we had lived cheek by jowl with one another; yet never once had
I caught a glimpse of his abode. Consequently my heart beat loudly--so
loudly, indeed, that it seemed almost to be bursting from my breast. On
entering the room I glanced around me with tense interest. The apartment
was very poorly furnished, and bore few traces of orderliness. On table
and chairs there lay heaps of books; everywhere were books and papers.
Then a strange thought entered my head, as well as, with the thought, an
unpleasant feeling of irritation. It seemed to me that my friendship,
my heart's affection, meant little to him, for HE was well-educated,
whereas I was stupid, and had learned nothing, and had read not a single
book. So I stood looking wistfully at the long bookshelves where
they groaned under their weight of volumes. I felt filled with grief,
disappointment, and a sort of frenzy. I felt that I MUST read those
books, and decided to do so--to read them one by one, and with all
possible speed. Probably the idea was that, by learning whatsoever HE
knew, I should render myself more worthy of his friendship. So, I made
a rush towards the bookcase nearest me, and, without stopping further
to consider matters, seized hold of the first dusty tome upon which my
hands chanced to alight, and, reddening and growing pale by turns, and
trembling with fear and excitement, clasped the stolen book to my breast
with the intention of reading it by candle light while my mother lay
asleep at night.

But how vexed I felt when, on returning to our own room, and hastily
turning the pages, only an old, battered worm-eaten Latin work greeted
my eyes! Without loss of time I retraced my steps. Just when I was about
to replace the book I heard a noise in the corridor outside, and the
sound of footsteps approaching. Fumblingly I hastened to complete what
I was about, but the tiresome book had become so tightly wedged into
its row that, on being pulled out, it caused its fellows to close up too
compactly to leave any place for their comrade. To insert the book was
beyond my strength; yet still I kept pushing and pushing at the row. At
last the rusty nail which supported the shelf (the thing seemed to have
been waiting on purpose for that moment!) broke off short; with the
result that the shelf descended with a crash, and the books piled
themselves in a heap on the floor! Then the door of the room opened, and
Pokrovski entered!

I must here remark that he never could bear to have his possessions
tampered with. Woe to the person, in particular, who touched his books!
Judge, therefore, of my horror when books small and great, books of
every possible shape and size and thickness, came tumbling from the
shelf, and flew and sprang over the table, and under the chairs, and
about the whole room. I would have turned and fled, but it was too late.
"All is over!" thought I. "All is over! I am ruined, I am undone! Here
have I been playing the fool like a ten-year-old child! What a stupid
girl I am! The monstrous fool!"

Indeed, Pokrovski was very angry. "What? Have you not done enough?" he
cried. "Are you not ashamed to be for ever indulging in such pranks? Are
you NEVER going to grow sensible?" With that he darted forward to pick
up the books, while I bent down to help him.

"You need not, you need not!" he went on. "You would have done far
better not to have entered without an invitation."

Next, a little mollified by my humble demeanour, he resumed in his usual
tutorial tone--the tone which he had adopted in his new-found role of

"When are you going to grow steadier and more thoughtful? Consider
yourself for a moment. You are no longer a child, a little girl, but a
maiden of fifteen."

Then, with a desire (probably) to satisfy himself that I was no longer a
being of tender years, he threw me a glance--but straightway reddened to
his very ears. This I could not understand, but stood gazing at him in
astonishment. Presently, he straightened himself a little, approached
me with a sort of confused expression, and haltingly said
something--probably it was an apology for not having before perceived
that I was now a grown-up young person. But the next moment I
understood. What I did I hardly know, save that, in my dismay and
confusion, I blushed even more hotly than he had done and, covering my
face with my hands, rushed from the room.

What to do with myself for shame I could not think. The one thought in
my head was that he had surprised me in his room. For three whole days
I found myself unable to raise my eyes to his, but blushed always to
the point of weeping. The strangest and most confused of thoughts kept
entering my brain. One of them--the most extravagant--was that I should
dearly like to go to Pokrovski, and to explain to him the situation, and
to make full confession, and to tell him everything without concealment,
and to assure him that I had not acted foolishly as a minx, but honestly
and of set purpose. In fact, I DID make up my mind to take this course,
but lacked the necessary courage to do it. If I had done so, what a
figure I should have cut! Even now I am ashamed to think of it.

A few days later, my mother suddenly fell dangerously ill. For two
days past she had not left her bed, while during the third night of her
illness she became seized with fever and delirium. I also had not closed
my eyes during the previous night, but now waited upon my mother, sat by
her bed, brought her drink at intervals, and gave her medicine at duly
appointed hours. The next night I suffered terribly. Every now and then
sleep would cause me to nod, and objects grow dim before my eyes. Also,
my head was turning dizzy, and I could have fainted for very weariness.
Yet always my mother's feeble moans recalled me to myself as I started,
momentarily awoke, and then again felt drowsiness overcoming me. What
torture it was! I do not know, I cannot clearly remember, but I think
that, during a moment when wakefulness was thus contending with slumber,
a strange dream, a horrible vision, visited my overwrought brain, and
I awoke in terror. The room was nearly in darkness, for the candle was
flickering, and throwing stray beams of light which suddenly illuminated
the room, danced for a moment on the walls, and then disappeared.
Somehow I felt afraid--a sort of horror had come upon me--my imagination
had been over-excited by the evil dream which I had experienced, and a
feeling of oppression was crushing my heart.... I leapt from the chair,
and involuntarily uttered a cry--a cry wrung from me by the terrible,
torturing sensation that was upon me. Presently the door opened, and
Pokrovski entered.

I remember that I was in his arms when I recovered my senses. Carefully
seating me on a bench, he handed me a glass of water, and then asked me
a few questions--though how I answered them I do not know. "You yourself
are ill," he said as he took my hand. "You yourself are VERY ill. You
are feverish, and I can see that you are knocking yourself out through
your neglect of your own health. Take a little rest. Lie down and go to
sleep. Yes, lie down, lie down," he continued without giving me time to
protest. Indeed, fatigue had so exhausted my strength that my eyes
were closing from very weakness. So I lay down on the bench with the
intention of sleeping for half an hour only; but, I slept till morning.
Pokrovski then awoke me, saying that it was time for me to go and give
my mother her medicine.

When the next evening, about eight o'clock, I had rested a little and
was preparing to spend the night in a chair beside my mother (fixedly
meaning not to go to sleep this time), Pokrovski suddenly knocked at
the door. I opened it, and he informed me that, since, possibly, I
might find the time wearisome, he had brought me a few books to read. I
accepted the books, but do not, even now, know what books they were, nor
whether I looked into them, despite the fact that I never closed my eyes
the whole night long. The truth was that a strange feeling of excitement
was preventing me from sleeping, and I could not rest long in any one
spot, but had to keep rising from my chair, and walking about the
room. Throughout my whole being there seemed to be diffused a kind of
elation--of elation at Pokrovski's attentions, at the thought that he
was anxious and uneasy about me. Until dawn I pondered and dreamed; and
though I felt sure Pokrovski would not again visit us that night, I gave
myself up to fancies concerning what he might do the following evening.

That evening, when everyone else in the house had retired to rest,
Pokrovski opened his door, and opened a conversation from the threshold
of his room. Although, at this distance of time, I cannot remember a
word of what we said to one another, I remember that I blushed, grew
confused, felt vexed with myself, and awaited with impatience the end of
the conversation although I myself had been longing for the meeting
to take place, and had spent the day in dreaming of it, and devising
a string of suitable questions and replies. Yes, that evening saw the
first strand in our friendship knitted; and each subsequent night of
my mother's illness we spent several hours together. Little by little I
overcame his reserve, but found that each of these conversations left me
filled with a sense of vexation at myself. At the same time, I could see
with secret joy and a sense of proud elation that I was leading him to
forget his tiresome books. At last the conversation turned jestingly
upon the upsetting of the shelf. The moment was a peculiar one, for it
came upon me just when I was in the right mood for self-revelation and
candour. In my ardour, my curious phase of exaltation, I found myself
led to make a full confession of the fact that I had become wishful to
learn, to KNOW, something, since I had felt hurt at being taken for a
chit, a mere baby.... I repeat that that night I was in a very strange
frame of mind. My heart was inclined to be tender, and there were
tears standing in my eyes. Nothing did I conceal as I told him about
my friendship for him, about my desire to love him, about my scheme
for living in sympathy with him and comforting him, and making his
life easier. In return he threw me a look of confusion mingled with
astonishment, and said nothing. Then suddenly I began to feel terribly
pained and disappointed, for I conceived that he had failed to
understand me, or even that he might be laughing at me. Bursting into
tears like a child, I sobbed, and could not stop myself, for I had
fallen into a kind of fit; whereupon he seized my hand, kissed it, and
clasped it to his breast--saying various things, meanwhile, to comfort
me, for he was labouring under a strong emotion. Exactly what he said
I do not remember--I merely wept and laughed by turns, and blushed, and
found myself unable to speak a word for joy. Yet, for all my agitation,
I noticed that about him there still lingered an air of constraint
and uneasiness. Evidently, he was lost in wonder at my enthusiasm and
raptures--at my curiously ardent, unexpected, consuming friendship. It
may be that at first he was amazed, but that afterwards he accepted my
devotion and words of invitation and expressions of interest with the
same simple frankness as I had offered them, and responded to them
with an interest, a friendliness, a devotion equal to my own, even as a
friend or a brother would do. How happy, how warm was the feeling in my
heart! Nothing had I concealed or repressed. No, I had bared all to his
sight, and each day would see him draw nearer to me.

Truly I could not say what we did not talk about during those painful,
yet rapturous, hours when, by the trembling light of a lamp, and almost
at the very bedside of my poor sick mother, we kept midnight tryst.
Whatsoever first came into our heads we spoke of--whatsoever came riven
from our hearts, whatsoever seemed to call for utterance, found voice.
And almost always we were happy. What a grievous, yet joyous, period it
was--a period grievous and joyous at the same time! To this day it both
hurts and delights me to recall it. Joyous or bitter though it was, its
memories are yet painful. At least they seem so to me, though a certain
sweetness assuaged the pain. So, whenever I am feeling heartsick and
oppressed and jaded and sad those memories return to freshen and revive
me, even as drops of evening dew return to freshen and revive, after a
sultry day, the poor faded flower which has long been drooping in the
noontide heat.

My mother grew better, but still I continued to spend the nights on
a chair by her bedside. Often, too, Pokrovski would give me books. At
first I read them merely so as to avoid going to sleep, but afterwards I
examined them with more attention, and subsequently with actual avidity,
for they opened up to me a new, an unexpected, an unknown, an unfamiliar
world. New thoughts, added to new impressions, would come pouring
into my heart in a rich flood; and the more emotion, the more pain and
labour, it cost me to assimilate these new impressions, the dearer did
they become to me, and the more gratefully did they stir my soul to
its very depths. Crowding into my heart without giving it time even to
breathe, they would cause my whole being to become lost in a wondrous
chaos. Yet this spiritual ferment was not sufficiently strong wholly to
undo me. For that I was too fanciful, and the fact saved me.

With the passing of my mother's illness the midnight meetings and
long conversations between myself and Pokrovski came to an end. Only
occasionally did we exchange a few words with one another--words, for
the most part, that were of little purport or substance, yet words
to which it delighted me to apportion their several meanings, their
peculiar secret values. My life had now become full--I was happy; I was
quietly, restfully happy. Thus did several weeks elapse....

One day the elder Pokrovski came to see us, and chattered in a
brisk, cheerful, garrulous sort of way. He laughed, launched out into
witticisms, and, finally, resolved the riddle of his transports by
informing us that in a week's time it would be his Petinka's birthday,
when, in honour of the occasion, he (the father) meant to don a new
jacket (as well as new shoes which his wife was going to buy for him),
and to come and pay a visit to his son. In short, the old man was
perfectly happy, and gossiped about whatsoever first entered his head.

My lover's birthday! Thenceforward, I could not rest by night or day.
Whatever might happen, it was my fixed intention to remind Pokrovski
of our friendship by giving him a present. But what sort of present?
Finally, I decided to give him books. I knew that he had long wanted to
possess a complete set of Pushkin's works, in the latest edition; so,
I decided to buy Pushkin. My private fund consisted of thirty roubles,
earned by handiwork, and designed eventually to procure me a new dress,
but at once I dispatched our cook, old Matrena, to ascertain the price
of such an edition. Horrors! The price of the eleven volumes, added to
extra outlay upon the binding, would amount to at least SIXTY roubles!
Where was the money to come from? I thought and thought, yet could not
decide. I did not like to resort to my mother. Of course she would help
me, but in that case every one in the house would become aware of my
gift, and the gift itself would assume the guise of a recompense--of
payment for Pokrovski's labours on my behalf during the past year;
whereas, I wished to present the gift ALONE, and without the knowledge
of anyone. For the trouble that he had taken with me I wished to be his
perpetual debtor--to make him no payment at all save my friendship. At
length, I thought of a way out of the difficulty.

I knew that of the hucksters in the Gostinni Dvor one could sometimes
buy a book--even one that had been little used and was almost entirely
new--for a half of its price, provided that one haggled sufficiently
over it; wherefore I determined to repair thither. It so happened that,
next day, both Anna Thedorovna and ourselves were in want of sundry
articles; and since my mother was unwell and Anna lazy, the execution of
the commissions devolved upon me, and I set forth with Matrena.

Luckily, I soon chanced upon a set of Pushkin, handsomely bound, and
set myself to bargain for it. At first more was demanded than would have
been asked of me in a shop; but afterwards--though not without a great
deal of trouble on my part, and several feints at departing--I induced
the dealer to lower his price, and to limit his demands to ten roubles
in silver. How I rejoiced that I had engaged in this bargaining! Poor
Matrena could not imagine what had come to me, nor why I so desired to
buy books. But, oh horror of horrors! As soon as ever the dealer caught
sight of my capital of thirty roubles in notes, he refused to let the
Pushkin go for less than the sum he had first named; and though, in
answer to my prayers and protestations, he eventually yielded a little,
he did so only to the tune of two-and-a-half roubles more than I
possessed, while swearing that he was making the concession for my sake
alone, since I was "a sweet young lady," and that he would have done so
for no one else in the world. To think that only two-and-a-half roubles
should still be wanting! I could have wept with vexation. Suddenly an
unlooked-for circumstance occurred to help me in my distress.

Not far away, near another table that was heaped with books, I perceived
the elder Pokrovski, and a crowd of four or five hucksters plaguing him
nearly out of his senses. Each of these fellows was proffering the old
man his own particular wares; and while there was nothing that they did
not submit for his approval, there was nothing that he wished to buy.
The poor old fellow had the air of a man who is receiving a thrashing.
What to make of what he was being offered him he did not know.
Approaching him, I inquired what he happened to be doing there; whereat
the old man was delighted, since he liked me (it may be) no less than he
did Petinka.

"I am buying some books, Barbara Alexievna," said he, "I am buying them
for my Petinka. It will be his birthday soon, and since he likes books I
thought I would get him some."

The old man always expressed himself in a very roundabout sort of
fashion, and on the present occasion he was doubly, terribly confused.
Of no matter what book he asked the price, it was sure to be one, two,
or three roubles. The larger books he could not afford at all; he could
only look at them wistfully, fumble their leaves with his finger, turn
over the volumes in his hands, and then replace them. "No, no, that
is too dear," he would mutter under his breath. "I must go and try
somewhere else." Then again he would fall to examining copy-books,
collections of poems, and almanacs of the cheaper order.

"Why should you buy things like those?" I asked him. "They are such

"No, no!" he replied. "See what nice books they are! Yes, they ARE nice
books!" Yet these last words he uttered so lingeringly that I could see
he was ready to weep with vexation at finding the better sorts of books
so expensive. Already a little tear was trickling down his pale cheeks
and red nose. I inquired whether he had much money on him; whereupon the
poor old fellow pulled out his entire stock, wrapped in a piece of
dirty newspaper, and consisting of a few small silver coins, with twenty
kopecks in copper. At once I seized the lot, and, dragging him off to my
huckster, said: "Look here. These eleven volumes of Pushkin are priced
at thirty-two-and-a-half roubles, and I have only thirty roubles. Let
us add to them these two-and-a-half roubles of yours, and buy the books
together, and make them our joint gift." The old man was overjoyed, and
pulled out his money en masse; whereupon the huckster loaded him with
our common library. Stuffing it into his pockets, as well as filling
both arms with it, he departed homewards with his prize, after giving me
his word to bring me the books privately on the morrow.

Next day the old man came to see his son, and sat with him, as usual,
for about an hour; after which he visited ourselves, wearing on his face
the most comical, the most mysterious expression conceivable. Smiling
broadly with satisfaction at the thought that he was the possessor of a
secret, he informed me that he had stealthily brought the books to our
rooms, and hidden them in a corner of the kitchen, under Matrena's care.
Next, by a natural transition, the conversation passed to the coming
fete-day; whereupon, the old man proceeded to hold forth extensively
on the subject of gifts. The further he delved into his thesis, and the
more he expounded it, the clearer could I see that on his mind there was
something which he could not, dared not, divulge. So I waited and kept
silent. The mysterious exaltation, the repressed satisfaction which I
had hitherto discerned in his antics and grimaces and left-eyed winks
gradually disappeared, and he began to grow momentarily more anxious and
uneasy. At length he could contain himself no longer.

"Listen, Barbara Alexievna," he said timidly. "Listen to what I have got
to say to you. When his birthday is come, do you take TEN of the books,
and give them to him yourself--that is, FOR yourself, as being YOUR
share of the gift. Then I will take the eleventh book, and give it to
him MYSELF, as being my gift. If we do that, you will have a present for
him and I shall have one--both of us alike."

"Why do you not want us to present our gifts together, Zachar
Petrovitch?" I asked him.

"Oh, very well," he replied. "Very well, Barbara Alexievna. Only--only,
I thought that--"

The old man broke off in confusion, while his face flushed with the
exertion of thus expressing himself. For a moment or two he sat glued to
his seat.

"You see," he went on, "I play the fool too much. I am forever playing
the fool, and cannot help myself, though I know that it is wrong to do
so. At home it is often cold, and sometimes there are other troubles
as well, and it all makes me depressed. Well, whenever that happens, I
indulge a little, and occasionally drink too much. Now, Petinka does not
like that; he loses his temper about it, Barbara Alexievna, and scolds
me, and reads me lectures. So I want by my gift to show him that I am
mending my ways, and beginning to conduct myself better. For a long time
past, I have been saving up to buy him a book--yes, for a long time past
I have been saving up for it, since it is seldom that I have any
money, unless Petinka happens to give me some. He knows that, and,
consequently, as soon as ever he perceives the use to which I have put
his money, he will understand that it is for his sake alone that I have

My heart ached for the old man. Seeing him looking at me with such
anxiety, I made up my mind without delay.

"I tell you what," I said. "Do you give him all the books."

"ALL?" he ejaculated. "ALL the books?"

"Yes, all of them."

"As my own gift?" "Yes, as your own gift."

"As my gift alone?"

"Yes, as your gift alone."

Surely I had spoken clearly enough, yet the old man seemed hardly to
understand me.

"Well," said he after reflection, "that certainly would be
splendid--certainly it would be most splendid. But what about yourself,
Barbara Alexievna?"

"Oh, I shall give your son nothing."

"What?" he cried in dismay. "Are you going to give Petinka nothing--do
you WISH to give him nothing?" So put about was the old fellow with what
I had said, that he seemed almost ready to renounce his own proposal
if only I would give his son something. What a kind heart he had! I
hastened to assure him that I should certainly have a gift of some sort
ready, since my one wish was to avoid spoiling his pleasure.

"Provided that your son is pleased," I added, "and that you are pleased,
I shall be equally pleased, for in my secret heart I shall feel as
though I had presented the gift."

This fully reassured the old man. He stopped with us another couple of
hours, yet could not sit still for a moment, but kept jumping up from
his seat, laughing, cracking jokes with Sasha, bestowing stealthy kisses
upon myself, pinching my hands, and making silent grimaces at Anna
Thedorovna. At length, she turned him out of the house. In short, his
transports of joy exceeded anything that I had yet beheld.

On the festal day he arrived exactly at eleven o'clock, direct from
Mass. He was dressed in a carefully mended frockcoat, a new waistcoat,
and a pair of new shoes, while in his arms he carried our pile of
books. Next we all sat down to coffee (the day being Sunday) in Anna
Thedorovna's parlour. The old man led off the meal by saying
that Pushkin was a magnificent poet. Thereafter, with a return to
shamefacedness and confusion, he passed suddenly to the statement that
a man ought to conduct himself properly; that, should he not do so, it
might be taken as a sign that he was in some way overindulging himself;
and that evil tendencies of this sort led to the man's ruin and
degradation. Then the orator sketched for our benefit some terrible
instances of such incontinence, and concluded by informing us that for
some time past he had been mending his own ways, and conducting himself
in exemplary fashion, for the reason that he had perceived the justice
of his son's precepts, and had laid them to heart so well that he, the
father, had really changed for the better: in proof whereof, he now
begged to present to the said son some books for which he had long been
setting aside his savings.

As I listened to the old man I could not help laughing and crying in
a breath. Certainly he knew how to lie when the occasion required! The
books were transferred to his son's room, and arranged upon a shelf,
where Pokrovski at once guessed the truth about them. Then the old man
was invited to dinner and we all spent a merry day together at cards and
forfeits. Sasha was full of life, and I rivalled her, while Pokrovski
paid me numerous attentions, and kept seeking an occasion to speak to me
alone. But to allow this to happen I refused. Yes, taken all in all, it
was the happiest day that I had known for four years.

But now only grievous, painful memories come to my recollection, for I
must enter upon the story of my darker experiences. It may be that that
is why my pen begins to move more slowly, and seems as though it were
going altogether to refuse to write. The same reason may account for my
having undertaken so lovingly and enthusiastically a recounting of even
the smallest details of my younger, happier days. But alas! those days
did not last long, and were succeeded by a period of black sorrow which
will close only God knows when!

My misfortunes began with the illness and death of Pokrovski, who was
taken worse two months after what I have last recorded in these memoirs.
During those two months he worked hard to procure himself a livelihood
since hitherto he had had no assured position. Like all consumptives, he
never--not even up to his last moment--altogether abandoned the hope of
being able to enjoy a long life. A post as tutor fell in his way, but he
had never liked the profession; while for him to become a civil servant
was out of the question, owing to his weak state of health. Moreover, in
the latter capacity he would have had to have waited a long time for his
first instalment of salary. Again, he always looked at the darker side
of things, for his character was gradually being warped, and his health
undermined by his illness, though he never noticed it. Then autumn came
on, and daily he went out to business--that is to say, to apply for and
to canvass for posts--clad only in a light jacket; with the result that,
after repeated soakings with rain, he had to take to his bed, and
never again left it. He died in mid-autumn at the close of the month of

Throughout his illness I scarcely ever left his room, but waited on him
hand and foot. Often he could not sleep for several nights at a time.
Often, too, he was unconscious, or else in a delirium; and at such times
he would talk of all sorts of things--of his work, of his books, of his
father, of myself. At such times I learned much which I had not hitherto
known or divined about his affairs. During the early part of his illness
everyone in the house looked askance at me, and Anna Thedorovna would
nod her head in a meaning manner; but, I always looked them straight in
the face, and gradually they ceased to take any notice of my concern for
Pokrovski. At all events my mother ceased to trouble her head about it.

Sometimes Pokrovski would know who I was, but not often, for more
usually he was unconscious. Sometimes, too, he would talk all night with
some unknown person, in dim, mysterious language that caused his gasping
voice to echo hoarsely through the narrow room as through a sepulchre;
and at such times, I found the situation a strange one. During his last
night he was especially lightheaded, for then he was in terrible agony,
and kept rambling in his speech until my soul was torn with pity.
Everyone in the house was alarmed, and Anna Thedorovna fell to praying
that God might soon take him. When the doctor had been summoned, the
verdict was that the patient would die with the morning.

That night the elder Pokrovski spent in the corridor, at the door of his
son's room. Though given a mattress to lie upon, he spent his time in
running in and out of the apartment. So broken with grief was he that
he presented a dreadful spectacle, and appeared to have lost both
perception and feeling. His head trembled with agony, and his body
quivered from head to foot as at times he murmured to himself something
which he appeared to be debating. Every moment I expected to see him go
out of his mind. Just before dawn he succumbed to the stress of mental
agony, and fell asleep on his mattress like a man who has been beaten;
but by eight o'clock the son was at the point of death, and I ran to
wake the father. The dying man was quite conscious, and bid us all
farewell. Somehow I could not weep, though my heart seemed to be

The last moments were the most harassing and heartbreaking of all. For
some time past Pokrovski had been asking for something with his failing
tongue, but I had been unable to distinguish his words. Yet my heart had
been bursting with grief. Then for an hour he had lain quieter, except
that he had looked sadly in my direction, and striven to make some sign
with his death-cold hands. At last he again essayed his piteous request
in a hoarse, deep voice, but the words issued in so many inarticulate
sounds, and once more I failed to divine his meaning. By turns I brought
each member of the household to his bedside, and gave him something to
drink, but he only shook his head sorrowfully. Finally, I understood
what it was he wanted. He was asking me to draw aside the curtain from
the window, and to open the casements. Probably he wished to take his
last look at the daylight and the sun and all God's world. I pulled back
the curtain, but the opening day was as dull and mournful--looking as
though it had been the fast-flickering life of the poor invalid. Of
sunshine there was none. Clouds overlaid the sky as with a shroud of
mist, and everything looked sad, rainy, and threatening under a fine
drizzle which was beating against the window-panes, and streaking their
dull, dark surfaces with runlets of cold, dirty moisture. Only a scanty
modicum of daylight entered to war with the trembling rays of the ikon
lamp. The dying man threw me a wistful look, and nodded. The next moment
he had passed away.

The funeral was arranged for by Anna Thedorovna. A plain coffin was
bought, and a broken-down hearse hired; while, as security for
this outlay, she seized the dead man's books and other articles.
Nevertheless, the old man disputed the books with her, and, raising an
uproar, carried off as many of them as he could--stuffing his pockets
full, and even filling his hat. Indeed, he spent the next three days
with them thus, and refused to let them leave his sight even when it was
time for him to go to church. Throughout he acted like a man bereft
of sense and memory. With quaint assiduity he busied himself about the
bier--now straightening the candlestick on the dead man's breast, now
snuffing and lighting the other candles. Clearly his thoughts were
powerless to remain long fixed on any subject. Neither my mother nor
Anna Thedorovna were present at the requiem, for the former was ill
and the latter was at loggerheads with the old man. Only myself and
the father were there. During the service a sort of panic, a sort of
premonition of the future, came over me, and I could hardly hold myself
upright. At length the coffin had received its burden and was screwed
down; after which the bearers placed it upon a bier, and set out. I
accompanied the cortege only to the end of the street. Here the
driver broke into a trot, and the old man started to run behind the
hearse--sobbing loudly, but with the motion of his running ever and anon
causing the sobs to quaver and become broken off. Next he lost his hat,
the poor old fellow, yet would not stop to pick it up, even though the
rain was beating upon his head, and a wind was rising and the sleet kept
stinging and lashing his face. It seemed as though he were impervious
to the cruel elements as he ran from one side of the hearse to the
other--the skirts of his old greatcoat flapping about him like a pair
of wings. From every pocket of the garment protruded books, while in his
hand he carried a specially large volume, which he hugged closely to his
breast. The passers-by uncovered their heads and crossed themselves as
the cortege passed, and some of them, having done so, remained staring
in amazement at the poor old man. Every now and then a book would slip
from one of his pockets and fall into the mud; whereupon somebody,
stopping him, would direct his attention to his loss, and he would stop,
pick up the book, and again set off in pursuit of the hearse. At the
corner of the street he was joined by a ragged old woman; until at
length the hearse turned a corner, and became hidden from my eyes. Then
I went home, and threw myself, in a transport of grief, upon my mother's
breast--clasping her in my arms, kissing her amid a storm of sobs and
tears, and clinging to her form as though in my embraces I were holding
my last friend on earth, that I might preserve her from death. Yet
already death was standing over her....

June 11th

How I thank you for our walk to the Islands yesterday, Makar
Alexievitch! How fresh and pleasant, how full of verdure, was
everything! And I had not seen anything green for such a long time!
During my illness I used to think that I should never get better, that
I was certainly going to die. Judge, then, how I felt yesterday! True,
I may have seemed to you a little sad, and you must not be angry with me
for that. Happy and light-hearted though I was, there were moments, even
at the height of my felicity, when, for some unknown reason, depression
came sweeping over my soul. I kept weeping about trifles, yet could not
say why I was grieved. The truth is that I am unwell--so much so, that
I look at everything from the gloomy point of view. The pale, clear sky,
the setting sun, the evening stillness--ah, somehow I felt disposed
to grieve and feel hurt at these things; my heart seemed to be
over-charged, and to be calling for tears to relieve it. But why should
I write this to you? It is difficult for my heart to express itself;
still more difficult for it to forego self-expression. Yet possibly
you may understand me. Tears and laughter!... How good you are, Makar
Alexievitch! Yesterday you looked into my eyes as though you could
read in them all that I was feeling--as though you were rejoicing at my
happiness. Whether it were a group of shrubs or an alleyway or a vista
of water that we were passing, you would halt before me, and stand
gazing at my face as though you were showing me possessions of your own.
It told me how kind is your nature, and I love you for it. Today I am
again unwell, for yesterday I wetted my feet, and took a chill. Thedora
also is unwell; both of us are ailing. Do not forget me. Come and see me
as often as you can.--Your own,


June 12th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA--I had supposed that you meant to describe
our doings of the other day in verse; yet from you there has arrived
only a single sheet of writing. Nevertheless, I must say that, little
though you have put into your letter, that little is not expressed with
rare beauty and grace. Nature, your descriptions of rural scenes, your
analysis of your own feelings--the whole is beautifully written. Alas,
I have no such talent! Though I may fill a score of pages, nothing comes
of it--I might as well never have put pen to paper. Yes, this I know
from experience.

You say, my darling, that I am kind and good, that I could not harm
my fellow-men, that I have power to comprehend the goodness of God
(as expressed in nature's handiwork), and so on. It may all be so, my
dearest one--it may all be exactly as you say. Indeed, I think that you
are right. But if so, the reason is that when one reads such a letter
as you have just sent me, one's heart involuntarily softens, and
affords entrance to thoughts of a graver and weightier order. Listen, my
darling; I have something to tell you, my beloved one.

I will begin from the time when I was seventeen years old and first
entered the service--though I shall soon have completed my thirtieth
year of official activity. I may say that at first I was much pleased
with my new uniform; and, as I grew older, I grew in mind, and fell
to studying my fellow-men. Likewise I may say that I lived an upright
life--so much so that at last I incurred persecution. This you may not
believe, but it is true. To think that men so cruel should exist! For
though, dearest one, I am dull and of no account, I have feelings like
everyone else. Consequently, would you believe it, Barbara, when I
tell you what these cruel fellows did to me? I feel ashamed to tell
it you--and all because I was of a quiet, peaceful, good-natured

Things began with "this or that, Makar Alexievitch, is your fault."
Then it went on to "I need hardly say that the fault is wholly Makar
Alexievitch's." Finally it became "OF COURSE Makar Alexievitch is to
blame." Do you see the sequence of things, my darling? Every mistake
was attributed to me, until "Makar Alexievitch" became a byword in our
department. Also, while making of me a proverb, these fellows could not
give me a smile or a civil word. They found fault with my boots, with
my uniform, with my hair, with my figure. None of these things were to
their taste: everything had to be changed. And so it has been from
that day to this. True, I have now grown used to it, for I can
grow accustomed to anything (being, as you know, a man of peaceable
disposition, like all men of small stature)--yet why should these things
be? Whom have I harmed? Whom have I ever supplanted? Whom have I ever
traduced to his superiors? No, the fault is that more than once I have
asked for an increase of salary. But have I ever CABALLED for it? No,
you would be wrong in thinking so, my dearest one. HOW could I ever
have done so? You yourself have had many opportunities of seeing how
incapable I am of deceit or chicanery.

Why then, should this have fallen to my lot?... However, since you think
me worthy of respect, my darling, I do not care, for you are far and
away the best person in the world.... What do you consider to be the
greatest social virtue? In private conversation Evstafi Ivanovitch once
told me that the greatest social virtue might be considered to be an
ability to get money to spend. Also, my comrades used jestingly (yes,
I know only jestingly) to propound the ethical maxim that a man ought
never to let himself become a burden upon anyone. Well, I am a burden
upon no one. It is my own crust of bread that I eat; and though that
crust is but a poor one, and sometimes actually a maggoty one, it has
at least been EARNED, and therefore, is being put to a right and lawful
use. What therefore, ought I to do? I know that I can earn but little by
my labours as a copyist; yet even of that little I am proud, for it has
entailed WORK, and has wrung sweat from my brow. What harm is there in
being a copyist? "He is only an amanuensis," people say of me. But what
is there so disgraceful in that? My writing is at least legible, neat,
and pleasant to look upon--and his Excellency is satisfied with it.
Indeed, I transcribe many important documents. At the same time, I know
that my writing lacks STYLE, which is why I have never risen in the
service. Even to you, my dear one, I write simply and without tricks,
but just as a thought may happen to enter my head. Yes, I know all this;
but if everyone were to become a fine writer, who would there be left to
act as copyists?... Whatsoever questions I may put to you in my letters,
dearest, I pray you to answer them. I am sure that you need me, that I
can be of use to you; and, since that is so, I must not allow myself
to be distracted by any trifle. Even if I be likened to a rat, I do not
care, provided that that particular rat be wanted by you, and be of use
in the world, and be retained in its position, and receive its reward.
But what a rat it is!

Enough of this, dearest one. I ought not to have spoken of it, but I
lost my temper. Still, it is pleasant to speak the truth sometimes.
Goodbye, my own, my darling, my sweet little comforter! I will come to
you soon--yes, I will certainly come to you. Until I do so, do not fret
yourself. With me I shall be bringing a book. Once more goodbye.--Your
heartfelt well-wisher,


June 20th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH--I am writing to you post-haste--I am
hurrying my utmost to get my work finished in time. What do you suppose
is the reason for this? It is because an opportunity has occurred for
you to make a splendid purchase. Thedora tells me that a retired civil
servant of her acquaintance has a uniform to sell--one cut to regulation
pattern and in good repair, as well as likely to go very cheap. Now, DO
not tell me that you have not got the money, for I know from your own
lips that you HAVE. Use that money, I pray you, and do not hoard it. See
what terrible garments you walk about in! They are shameful--they are
patched all over! In fact, you have nothing new whatever. That this is
so, I know for certain, and I care not WHAT you tell me about it. So
listen to me for once, and buy this uniform. Do it for MY sake. Do it to
show that you really love me.

You have sent me some linen as a gift. But listen to me, Makar
Alexievitch. You are simply ruining yourself. Is it a jest that you
should spend so much money, such a terrible amount of money, upon me?
How you love to play the spendthrift! I tell you that I do not need it,
that such expenditure is unnecessary. I know, I am CERTAIN, that you
love me--therefore, it is useless to remind me of the fact with gifts.
Nor do I like receiving them, since I know how much they must have cost
you. No--put your money to a better use. I beg, I beseech of you, to
do so. Also, you ask me to send you a continuation of my memoirs--to
conclude them. But I know not how I contrived even to write as much of
them as I did; and now I have not the strength to write further of my
past, nor the desire to give it a single thought. Such recollections are
terrible to me. Most difficult of all is it for me to speak of my poor
mother, who left her destitute daughter a prey to villains. My heart
runs blood whenever I think of it; it is so fresh in my memory that
I cannot dismiss it from my thoughts, nor rest for its insistence,
although a year has now elapsed since the events took place. But all
this you know.

Also, I have told you what Anna Thedorovna is now intending. She accuses
me of ingratitude, and denies the accusations made against herself with
regard to Monsieur Bwikov. Also, she keeps sending for me, and telling
me that I have taken to evil courses, but that if I will return to her,
she will smooth over matters with Bwikov, and force him to confess his
fault. Also, she says that he desires to give me a dowry. Away with them
all! I am quite happy here with you and good Thedora, whose devotion to
me reminds me of my old nurse, long since dead. Distant kinsman though
you may be, I pray you always to defend my honour. Other people I do
not wish to know, and would gladly forget if I could.... What are they
wanting with me now? Thedora declares it all to be a trick, and says
that in time they will leave me alone. God grant it be so!

B. D.

June 21st.

MY OWN, MY DARLING,--I wish to write to you, yet know not where to
begin. Things are as strange as though we were actually living together.
Also I would add that never in my life have I passed such happy days as
I am spending at present. 'Tis as though God had blessed me with a home
and a family of my own! Yes, you are my little daughter, beloved. But
why mention the four sorry roubles that I sent you? You needed them;
I know that from Thedora herself, and it will always be a particular
pleasure to me to gratify you in anything. It will always be my one
happiness in life. Pray, therefore, leave me that happiness, and do
not seek to cross me in it. Things are not as you suppose. I have now
reached the sunshine since, in the first place, I am living so close to
you as almost to be with you (which is a great consolation to my mind),
while, in the second place, a neighbour of mine named Rataziaev (the
retired official who gives the literary parties) has today invited me
to tea. This evening, therefore, there will be a gathering at which we
shall discuss literature! Think of that my darling! Well, goodbye now.
I have written this without any definite aim in my mind, but solely to
assure you of my welfare. Through Theresa I have received your message
that you need an embroidered cloak to wear, so I will go and purchase
one. Yes, tomorrow I mean to purchase that embroidered cloak, and so
give myself the pleasure of having satisfied one of your wants. I know
where to go for such a garment. For the time being I remain your sincere


June 22nd.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I have to tell you that a sad event
has happened in this house--an event to excite one's utmost pity.
This morning, about five o'clock, one of Gorshkov's children died of
scarlatina, or something of the kind. I have been to pay the parents
a visit of condolence, and found them living in the direst poverty and
disorder. Nor is that surprising, seeing that the family lives in a
single room, with only a screen to divide it for decency's sake. Already
the coffin was standing in their midst--a plain but decent shell which
had been bought ready-made. The child, they told me, had been a boy of
nine, and full of promise. What a pitiful spectacle! Though not weeping,
the mother, poor woman, looked broken with grief. After all, to have one
burden the less on their shoulders may prove a relief, though there are
still two children left--a babe at the breast and a little girl of six!
How painful to see these suffering children, and to be unable to help
them! The father, clad in an old, dirty frockcoat, was seated on a
dilapidated chair. Down his cheeks there were coursing tears--though
less through grief than owing to a long-standing affliction of the eyes.
He was so thin, too! Always he reddens in the face when he is addressed,
and becomes too confused to answer. A little girl, his daughter, was
leaning against the coffin--her face looking so worn and thoughtful,
poor mite! Do you know, I cannot bear to see a child look thoughtful.
On the floor there lay a rag doll, but she was not playing with it as,
motionless, she stood there with her finger to her lips. Even a bon-bon
which the landlady had given her she was not eating. Is it not all sad,
sad, Barbara?


June 25th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH--I return you your book. In my opinion it
is a worthless one, and I would rather not have it in my possession.
Why do you save up your money to buy such trash? Except in jest, do
such books really please you? However, you have now promised to send me
something else to read. I will share the cost of it. Now, farewell until
we meet again. I have nothing more to say.

B. D.

June 26th.

MY DEAR LITTLE BARBARA--To tell you the truth, I myself have not read
the book of which you speak. That is to say, though I began to read it,
I soon saw that it was nonsense, and written only to make people laugh.
"However," thought I, "it is at least a CHEERFUL work, and so may please
Barbara." That is why I sent it you.

Rataziaev has now promised to give me something really literary to read;
so you shall soon have your book, my darling. He is a man who reflects;
he is a clever fellow, as well as himself a writer--such a writer! His
pen glides along with ease, and in such a style (even when he is writing
the most ordinary, the most insignificant of articles) that I have often
remarked upon the fact, both to Phaldoni and to Theresa. Often, too, I
go to spend an evening with him. He reads aloud to us until five o'clock
in the morning, and we listen to him. It is a revelation of things
rather than a reading. It is charming, it is like a bouquet of
flowers--there is a bouquet of flowers in every line of each page.
Besides, he is such an approachable, courteous, kind-hearted fellow!
What am I compared with him? Why, nothing, simply nothing! He is a
man of reputation, whereas I--well, I do not exist at all. Yet he
condescends to my level. At this very moment I am copying out a
document for him. But you must not think that he finds any DIFFICULTY in
condescending to me, who am only a copyist. No, you must not believe the
base gossip that you may hear. I do copying work for him simply in order
to please myself, as well as that he may notice me--a thing that always
gives me pleasure. I appreciate the delicacy of his position. He is a
good--a very good--man, and an unapproachable writer.

What a splendid thing is literature, Barbara--what a splendid thing!
This I learnt before I had known Rataziaev even for three days. It
strengthens and instructs the heart of man.... No matter what there be
in the world, you will find it all written down in Rataziaev's works.
And so well written down, too! Literature is a sort of picture--a sort
of picture or mirror. It connotes at once passion, expression, fine
criticism, good learning, and a document. Yes, I have learned this from
Rataziaev himself. I can assure you, Barbara, that if only you could be
sitting among us, and listening to the talk (while, with the rest of us,
you smoked a pipe), and were to hear those present begin to argue
and dispute concerning different matters, you would feel of as little
account among them as I do; for I myself figure there only as a
blockhead, and feel ashamed, since it takes me a whole evening to think
of a single word to interpolate--and even then the word will not come!
In a case like that a man regrets that, as the proverb has it, he should
have reached man's estate but not man's understanding.... What do I
do in my spare time? I sleep like a fool, though I would far rather be
occupied with something else--say, with eating or writing, since the one
is useful to oneself, and the other is beneficial to one's fellows. You
should see how much money these fellows contrive to save! How much, for
instance, does not Rataziaev lay by? A few days' writing, I am told, can
earn him as much as three hundred roubles! Indeed, if a man be a writer
of short stories or anything else that is interesting, he can sometimes
pocket five hundred roubles, or a thousand, at a time! Think of it,
Barbara! Rataziaev has by him a small manuscript of verses, and for it
he is asking--what do you think? Seven thousand roubles! Why, one could
buy a whole house for that sum! He has even refused five thousand for a
manuscript, and on that occasion I reasoned with him, and advised him
to accept the five thousand. But it was of no use. "For," said he, "they
will soon offer me seven thousand," and kept to his point, for he is a
man of some determination.

Suppose, now, that I were to give you an extract from "Passion in Italy"
(as another work of his is called). Read this, dearest Barbara, and
judge for yourself:

"Vladimir started, for in his veins the lust of passion had welled until
it had reached boiling point.

"'Countess,' he cried, 'do you know how terrible is this adoration of
mine, how infinite this madness? No! My fancies have not deceived me--I
love you ecstatically, diabolically, as a madman might! All the blood
that is in your husband's body could never quench the furious,
surging rapture that is in my soul! No puny obstacle could thwart the
all-destroying, infernal flame which is eating into my exhausted breast!
Oh Zinaida, my Zinaida!'

"'Vladimir!' she whispered, almost beside herself, as she sank upon his

"'My Zinaida!' cried the enraptured Smileski once more.

"His breath was coming in sharp, broken pants. The lamp of love was
burning brightly on the altar of passion, and searing the hearts of the
two unfortunate sufferers.

"'Vladimir!' again she whispered in her intoxication, while her bosom
heaved, her cheeks glowed, and her eyes flashed fire.

"Thus was a new and dread union consummated.

"Half an hour later the aged Count entered his wife's boudoir.

"'How now, my love?' said he. 'Surely it is for some welcome guest
beyond the common that you have had the samovar [Tea-urn.] thus
prepared?' And he smote her lightly on the cheek."

What think you of THAT, Barbara? True, it is a little too
outspoken--there can be no doubt of that; yet how grand it is, how
splendid! With your permission I will also quote you an extract from
Rataziaev's story, Ermak and Zuleika:

"'You love me, Zuleika? Say again that you love me, you love me!'

"'I DO love you, Ermak,' whispered Zuleika.

"'Then by heaven and earth I thank you! By heaven and earth you have
made me happy! You have given me all, all that my tortured soul has
for immemorial years been seeking! 'Tis for this that you have led me
hither, my guiding star--'tis for this that you have conducted me to
the Girdle of Stone! To all the world will I now show my Zuleika, and
no man, demon or monster of Hell, shall bid me nay! Oh, if men would but
understand the mysterious passions of her tender heart, and see the poem
which lurks in each of her little tears! Suffer me to dry those tears
with my kisses! Suffer me to drink of those heavenly drops, Oh being who
art not of this earth!'

"'Ermak,' said Zuleika, 'the world is cruel, and men are unjust. But
LET them drive us from their midst--let them judge us, my beloved Ermak!
What has a poor maiden who was reared amid the snows of Siberia to do
with their cold, icy, self-sufficient world? Men cannot understand me,
my darling, my sweetheart.'

"'Is that so? Then shall the sword of the Cossacks sing and whistle over
their heads!' cried Ermak with a furious look in his eyes."

What must Ermak have felt when he learnt that his Zuleika had been
murdered, Barbara?--that, taking advantages of the cover of night, the
blind old Kouchoum had, in Ermak's absence, broken into the latter's
tent, and stabbed his own daughter in mistake for the man who had robbed
him of sceptre and crown?

"'Oh that I had a stone whereon to whet my sword!' cried Ermak in the
madness of his wrath as he strove to sharpen his steel blade upon the
enchanted rock. 'I would have his blood, his blood! I would tear him
limb from limb, the villain!'"

Then Ermak, unable to survive the loss of his Zuleika, throws himself
into the Irtisch, and the tale comes to an end.

Here, again, is another short extract--this time written in a more
comical vein, to make people laugh:

"Do you know Ivan Prokofievitch Zheltopuzh? He is the man who took a
piece out of Prokofi Ivanovitch's leg. Ivan's character is one of the
rugged order, and therefore, one that is rather lacking in virtue.
Yet he has a passionate relish for radishes and honey. Once he also
possessed a friend named Pelagea Antonovna. Do you know Pelagea
Antonovna? She is the woman who always puts on her petticoat wrong side

What humour, Barbara--what purest humour! We rocked with laughter when
he read it aloud to us. Yes, that is the kind of man he is. Possibly the
passage is a trifle over-frolicsome, but at least it is harmless, and
contains no freethought or liberal ideas. In passing, I may say that
Rataziaev is not only a supreme writer, but also a man of upright
life--which is more than can be said for most writers.

What, do you think, is an idea that sometimes enters my head? In fact,
what if I myself were to write something? How if suddenly a book were
to make its appearance in the world bearing the title of "The Poetical
Works of Makar Dievushkin"? What THEN, my angel? How should you view,
should you receive, such an event? I may say of myself that never, after
my book had appeared, should I have the hardihood to show my face on
the Nevski Prospect; for would it not be too dreadful to hear every
one saying, "Here comes the literateur and poet, Dievushkin--yes, it is
Dievushkin himself." What, in such a case, should I do with my feet (for
I may tell you that almost always my shoes are patched, or have just
been resoled, and therefore look anything but becoming)? To think that
the great writer Dievushkin should walk about in patched footgear! If
a duchess or a countess should recognise me, what would she say, poor
woman? Perhaps, though, she would not notice my shoes at all, since
it may reasonably be supposed that countesses do not greatly occupy
themselves with footgear, especially with the footgear of civil service
officials (footgear may differ from footgear, it must be remembered).
Besides, I should find that the countess had heard all about me, for
my friends would have betrayed me to her--Rataziaev among the first of
them, seeing that he often goes to visit Countess V., and practically
lives at her house. She is said to be a woman of great intellect and
wit. An artful dog, that Rataziaev!

But enough of this. I write this sort of thing both to amuse myself and
to divert your thoughts. Goodbye now, my angel. This is a long epistle
that I am sending you, but the reason is that today I feel in good
spirits after dining at Rataziaev's. There I came across a novel which I
hardly know how to describe to you. Do not think the worse of me on that
account, even though I bring you another book instead (for I certainly
mean to bring one). The novel in question was one of Paul de Kock's, and
not a novel for you to read. No, no! Such a work is unfit for your
eyes. In fact, it is said to have greatly offended the critics of St.
Petersburg. Also, I am sending you a pound of bonbons--bought specially
for yourself. Each time that you eat one, beloved, remember the sender.
Only, do not bite the iced ones, but suck them gently, lest they make
your teeth ache. Perhaps, too, you like comfits? Well, write and tell
me if it is so. Goodbye, goodbye. Christ watch over you, my
darling!--Always your faithful friend,


June 27th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH--Thedora tells me that, should I wish,
there are some people who will be glad to help me by obtaining me an
excellent post as governess in a certain house. What think you, my
friend? Shall I go or not? Of course, I should then cease to be a burden
to you, and the post appears to be a comfortable one. On the other hand,
the idea of entering a strange house appals me. The people in it are
landed gentry, and they will begin to ask me questions, and to busy
themselves about me. What answers shall I then return? You see, I am now
so unused to society--so shy! I like to live in a corner to which I have
long grown used. Yes, the place with which one is familiar is always the
best. Even if for companion one has but sorrow, that place will still be
the best.... God alone knows what duties the post will entail. Perhaps
I shall merely be required to act as nursemaid; and in any case, I hear
that the governess there has been changed three times in two years. For
God's sake, Makar Alexievitch, advise me whether to go or not. Why do
you never come near me now? Do let my eyes have an occasional sight of
you. Mass on Sundays is almost the only time when we see one another.
How retiring you have become! So also have I, even though, in a way, I
am your kinswoman. You must have ceased to love me, Makar Alexievitch. I
spend many a weary hour because of it. Sometimes, when dusk is falling,
I find myself lonely--oh, so lonely! Thedora has gone out somewhere, and
I sit here and think, and think, and think. I remember all the past, its
joys and its sorrows. It passes before my eyes in detail, it glimmers at
me as out of a mist; and as it does so, well-known faces appear, which
seem actually to be present with me in this room! Most frequently of
all, I see my mother. Ah, the dreams that come to me! I feel that my
health is breaking, so weak am I. When this morning I arose, sickness
took me until I vomited and vomited. Yes, I feel, I know, that death is
approaching. Who will bury me when it has come? Who will visit my tomb?
Who will sorrow for me? And now it is in a strange place, in the house
of a stranger, that I may have to die! Yes, in a corner which I do not
know!... My God, how sad a thing is life!... Why do you send me comfits
to eat? Whence do you get the money to buy them? Ah, for God's sake keep
the money, keep the money. Thedora has sold a carpet which I have made.
She got fifty roubles for it, which is very good--I had expected less.
Of the fifty roubles I shall give Thedora three, and with the remainder
make myself a plain, warm dress. Also, I am going to make you a
waistcoat--to make it myself, and out of good material.

Also, Thedora has brought me a book--"The Stories of Bielkin"--which I
will forward you, if you would care to read it. Only, do not soil it,
nor yet retain it, for it does not belong to me. It is by Pushkin. Two
years ago I read these stories with my mother, and it would hurt me
to read them again. If you yourself have any books, pray let me have
them--so long as they have not been obtained from Rataziaev. Probably he
will be giving you one of his own works when he has had one printed.
How is it that his compositions please you so much, Makar Alexievitch? I
think them SUCH rubbish!

--Now goodbye. How I have been chattering on! When feeling sad, I always
like to talk of something, for it acts upon me like medicine--I begin
to feel easier as soon as I have uttered what is preying upon my heart.
Good bye, good-bye, my friend--Your own

B. D.

June 28th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA--Away with melancholy! Really, beloved,
you ought to be ashamed of yourself! How can you allow such thoughts to
enter your head? Really and truly you are quite well; really and truly
you are, my darling. Why, you are blooming--simply blooming. True, I see
a certain touch of pallor in your face, but still you are blooming. A
fig for dreams and visions! Yes, for shame, dearest! Drive away those
fancies; try to despise them. Why do I sleep so well? Why am I never
ailing? Look at ME, beloved. I live well, I sleep peacefully, I retain
my health, I can ruffle it with my juniors. In fact, it is a pleasure
to see me. Come, come, then, sweetheart! Let us have no more of this.
I know that that little head of yours is capable of any fancy--that all
too easily you take to dreaming and repining; but for my sake, cease to
do so.

Are you to go to these people, you ask me? Never! No, no, again no! How
could you think of doing such a thing as taking a journey? I will not
allow it--I intend to combat your intention with all my might. I will
sell my frockcoat, and walk the streets in my shirt sleeves, rather than
let you be in want. But no, Barbara. I know you, I know you. This is
merely a trick, merely a trick. And probably Thedora alone is to
blame for it. She appears to be a foolish old woman, and to be able to
persuade you to do anything. Do not believe her, my dearest. I am sure
that you know what is what, as well as SHE does. Eh, sweetheart? She is
a stupid, quarrelsome, rubbish-talking old woman who brought her late
husband to the grave. Probably she has been plaguing you as much as she
did him. No, no, dearest; you must not take this step. What should I do
then? What would there be left for ME to do? Pray put the idea out
of your head. What is it you lack here? I cannot feel sufficiently
overjoyed to be near you, while, for your part, you love me well, and
can live your life here as quietly as you wish. Read or sew, whichever
you like--or read and do not sew. Only, do not desert me. Try, yourself,
to imagine how things would seem after you had gone. Here am I sending
you books, and later we will go for a walk. Come, come, then, my
Barbara! Summon to your aid your reason, and cease to babble of trifles.

As soon as I can I will come and see you, and then you shall tell me the
whole story. This will not do, sweetheart; this certainly will not do.
Of course, I know that I am not an educated man, and have received but a
sorry schooling, and have had no inclination for it, and think too much
of Rataziaev, if you will; but he is my friend, and therefore, I must
put in a word or two for him. Yes, he is a splendid writer. Again and
again I assert that he writes magnificently. I do not agree with
you about his works, and never shall. He writes too ornately, too
laconically, with too great a wealth of imagery and imagination. Perhaps
you have read him without insight, Barbara? Or perhaps you were out of
spirits at the time, or angry with Thedora about something, or worried
about some mischance? Ah, but you should read him sympathetically, and,
best of all, at a time when you are feeling happy and contented and
pleasantly disposed--for instance, when you have a bonbon or two in your
mouth. Yes, that is the way to read Rataziaev. I do not dispute (indeed,
who would do so?) that better writers than he exist--even far better;
but they are good, and he is good too--they write well, and he writes
well. It is chiefly for his own sake that he writes, and he is to be
approved for so doing.

Now goodbye, dearest. More I cannot write, for I must hurry away to
business. Be of good cheer, and the Lord God watch over you!--Your
faithful friend,


P.S--Thank you so much for the book, darling! I will read it through,
this volume of Pushkin, and tonight come to you.

MY DEAR MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH--No, no, my friend, I must not go on living
near you. I have been thinking the matter over, and come to the
conclusion that I should be doing very wrong to refuse so good a post. I
should at least have an assured crust of bread; I might at least set to
work to earn my employers' favour, and even try to change my character
if required to do so. Of course it is a sad and sorry thing to have to
live among strangers, and to be forced to seek their patronage, and to
conceal and constrain one's own personality--but God will help me. I
must not remain forever a recluse, for similar chances have come my way
before. I remember how, when a little girl at school, I used to go home
on Sundays and spend the time in frisking and dancing about. Sometimes
my mother would chide me for so doing, but I did not care, for my heart
was too joyous, and my spirits too buoyant, for that. Yet as the evening
of Sunday came on, a sadness as of death would overtake me, for at nine
o'clock I had to return to school, where everything was cold and strange
and severe--where the governesses, on Mondays, lost their tempers, and
nipped my ears, and made me cry. On such occasions I would retire to a
corner and weep alone; concealing my tears lest I should be called lazy.
Yet it was not because I had to study that I used to weep, and in time I
grew more used to things, and, after my schooldays were over, shed tears
only when I was parting with friends....

It is not right for me to live in dependence upon you. The thought
tortures me. I tell you this frankly, for the reason that frankness
with you has become a habit. Cannot I see that daily, at earliest dawn,
Thedora rises to do washing and scrubbing, and remains working at it
until late at night, even though her poor old bones must be aching for
want of rest? Cannot I also see that YOU are ruining yourself for me,
and hoarding your last kopeck that you may spend it on my behalf? You
ought not so to act, my friend, even though you write that you would
rather sell your all than let me want for anything. I believe in you, my
friend--I entirely believe in your good heart; but, you say that to me
now (when, perhaps, you have received some unexpected sum or gratuity)
and there is still the future to be thought of. You yourself know that I
am always ailing--that I cannot work as you do, glad though I should be
of any work if I could get it; so what else is there for me to do? To
sit and repine as I watch you and Thedora? But how would that be of any
use to you? AM I necessary to you, comrade of mine? HAVE I ever done
you any good? Though I am bound to you with my whole soul, and love you
dearly and strongly and wholeheartedly, a bitter fate has ordained that
that love should be all that I have to give--that I should be unable,
by creating for you subsistence, to repay you for all your kindness. Do
not, therefore, detain me longer, but think the matter out, and give me
your opinion on it. In expectation of which I remain your sweetheart,

B. D.

July 1st.

Rubbish, rubbish, Barbara!--What you say is sheer rubbish. Stay here,
rather, and put such thoughts out of your head. None of what you suppose
is true. I can see for myself that it is not. Whatsoever you lack here,
you have but to ask me for it. Here you love and are loved, and we might
easily be happy and contented together. What could you want more? What
have you to do with strangers? You cannot possibly know what strangers
are like. I know it, though, and could have told you if you had asked
me. There is a stranger whom I know, and whose bread I have eaten. He
is a cruel man, Barbara--a man so bad that he would be unworthy of your
little heart, and would soon tear it to pieces with his railings and
reproaches and black looks. On the other hand, you are safe and well
here--you are as safe as though you were sheltered in a nest. Besides,
you would, as it were, leave me with my head gone. For what should I
have to do when you were gone? What could I, an old man, find to do? Are
you not necessary to me? Are you not useful to me? Eh? Surely you do not
think that you are not useful? You are of great use to me, Barbara, for
you exercise a beneficial influence upon my life. Even at this moment,
as I think of you, I feel cheered, for always I can write letters to
you, and put into them what I am feeling, and receive from you detailed
answers.... I have bought you a wardrobe, and also procured you a
bonnet; so you see that you have only to give me a commission for it to
be executed.... No--in what way are you not useful? What should I do
if I were deserted in my old age? What would become of me? Perhaps you
never thought of that, Barbara--perhaps you never said to yourself, "How
could HE get on without me?" You see, I have grown so accustomed to you.
What else would it end in, if you were to go away? Why, in my hiking to
the Neva's bank and doing away with myself. Ah, Barbara, darling, I
can see that you want me to be taken away to the Volkovo Cemetery in
a broken-down old hearse, with some poor outcast of the streets to
accompany my coffin as chief mourner, and the gravediggers to heap my
body with clay, and depart and leave me there. How wrong of you, how
wrong of you, my beloved! Yes, by heavens, how wrong of you! I am
returning you your book, little friend; and, if you were to ask of me
my opinion of it, I should say that never before in my life had I read
a book so splendid. I keep wondering how I have hitherto contrived to
remain such an owl. For what have I ever done? From what wilds did
I spring into existence? I KNOW nothing--I know simply NOTHING. My
ignorance is complete. Frankly, I am not an educated man, for until now
I have read scarcely a single book--only "A Portrait of Man" (a clever
enough work in its way), "The Boy Who Could Play Many Tunes Upon Bells",
and "Ivik's Storks". That is all. But now I have also read "The Station
Overseer" in your little volume; and it is wonderful to think that one
may live and yet be ignorant of the fact that under one's very nose
there may be a book in which one's whole life is described as in a
picture. Never should I have guessed that, as soon as ever one begins to
read such a book, it sets one on both to remember and to consider and to
foretell events. Another reason why I liked this book so much is that,
though, in the case of other works (however clever they be), one may
read them, yet remember not a word of them (for I am a man naturally
dull of comprehension, and unable to read works of any great
importance),--although, as I say, one may read such works, one reads
such a book as YOURS as easily as though it had been written by oneself,
and had taken possession of one's heart, and turned it inside out for
inspection, and were describing it in detail as a matter of perfect
simplicity. Why, I might almost have written the book myself! Why not,
indeed? I can feel just as the people in the book do, and find myself
in positions precisely similar to those of, say, the character Samson
Virin. In fact, how many good-hearted wretches like Virin are there not
walking about amongst us? How easily, too, it is all described! I assure
you, my darling, that I almost shed tears when I read that Virin so took
to drink as to lose his memory, become morose, and spend whole days over
his liquor; as also that he choked with grief and wept bitterly when,
rubbing his eyes with his dirty hand, he bethought him of his wandering
lamb, his daughter Dunasha! How natural, how natural! You should read
the book for yourself. The thing is actually alive. Even I can see that;
even I can realise that it is a picture cut from the very life around
me. In it I see our own Theresa (to go no further) and the poor
Tchinovnik--who is just such a man as this Samson Virin, except for
his surname of Gorshkov. The book describes just what might happen to
ourselves--to myself in particular. Even a count who lives in the Nevski
Prospect or in Naberezhnaia Street might have a similar experience,
though he might APPEAR to be different, owing to the fact that his life
is cast on a higher plane. Yes, just the same things might happen to
him--just the same things.... Here you are wishing to go away and leave
us; yet, be careful lest it would not be I who had to pay the penalty of
your doing so. For you might ruin both yourself and me. For the love of
God, put away these thoughts from you, my darling, and do not torture me
in vain. How could you, my poor little unfledged nestling, find yourself
food, and defend yourself from misfortune, and ward off the wiles of
evil men? Think better of it, Barbara, and pay no more heed to
foolish advice and calumny, but read your book again, and read it with
attention. It may do you much good.

I have spoken of Rataziaev's "The Station Overseer". However, the author
has told me that the work is old-fashioned, since, nowadays, books are
issued with illustrations and embellishments of different sorts (though
I could not make out all that he said). Pushkin he adjudges a splendid
poet, and one who has done honour to Holy Russia. Read your book again,
Barbara, and follow my advice, and make an old man happy. The Lord God
Himself will reward you. Yes, He will surely reward you.--Your faithful


MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Today Thedora came to me with fifteen
roubles in silver. How glad was the poor woman when I gave her three of
them! I am writing to you in great haste, for I am busy cutting out a
waistcoat to send to you--buff, with a pattern of flowers. Also I
am sending you a book of stories; some of which I have read myself,
particularly one called "The Cloak." ... You invite me to go to the
theatre with you. But will it not cost too much? Of course we might sit
in the gallery. It is a long time (indeed I cannot remember when I last
did so) since I visited a theatre! Yet I cannot help fearing that such
an amusement is beyond our means. Thedora keeps nodding her head, and
saying that you have taken to living above your income. I myself divine
the same thing by the amount which you have spent upon me. Take care,
dear friend, that misfortune does not come of it, for Thedora has also
informed me of certain rumours concerning your inability to meet your
landlady's bills. In fact, I am very anxious about you. Now, goodbye,
for I must hasten away to see about another matter--about the changing
of the ribands on my bonnet.

P.S.--Do you know, if we go to the theatre, I think that I shall wear my
new hat and black mantilla. Will that not look nice?

July 7th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA--SO much for yesterday! Yes, dearest, we
have both been caught playing the fool, for I have become thoroughly
bitten with the actress of whom I spoke. Last night I listened to her
with all my ears, although, strangely enough, it was practically my
first sight of her, seeing that only once before had I been to the
theatre. In those days I lived cheek by jowl with a party of five young
men--a most noisy crew--and one night I accompanied them, willy-nilly,
to the theatre, though I held myself decently aloof from their doings,
and only assisted them for company's sake. How those fellows talked to
me of this actress! Every night when the theatre was open, the entire
band of them (they always seemed to possess the requisite money) would
betake themselves to that place of entertainment, where they ascended
to the gallery, and clapped their hands, and repeatedly recalled the
actress in question. In fact, they went simply mad over her. Even after
we had returned home they would give me no rest, but would go on
talking about her all night, and calling her their Glasha, and declaring
themselves to be in love with "the canary-bird of their hearts." My
defenseless self, too, they would plague about the woman, for I was as
young as they. What a figure I must have cut with them on the fourth
tier of the gallery! Yet, I never got a sight of more than just a corner
of the curtain, but had to content myself with listening. She had a
fine, resounding, mellow voice like a nightingale's, and we all of us
used to clap our hands loudly, and to shout at the top of our lungs. In
short, we came very near to being ejected. On the first occasion I went
home walking as in a mist, with a single rouble left in my pocket, and
an interval of ten clear days confronting me before next pay-day. Yet,
what think you, dearest? The very next day, before going to work, I
called at a French perfumer's, and spent my whole remaining capital on
some eau-de-Cologne and scented soap! Why I did so I do not know. Nor
did I dine at home that day, but kept walking and walking past her
windows (she lived in a fourth-storey flat on the Nevski Prospect).
At length I returned to my own lodging, but only to rest a short hour
before again setting off to the Nevski Prospect and resuming my vigil
before her windows. For a month and a half I kept this up--dangling in
her train. Sometimes I would hire cabs, and discharge them in view of
her abode; until at length I had entirely ruined myself, and got into
debt. Then I fell out of love with her--I grew weary of the pursuit....
You see, therefore, to what depths an actress can reduce a decent man.
In those days I was young. Yes, in those days I was VERY young.

M. D.

July 8th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--The book which I received from you on
the 6th of this month I now hasten to return, while at the same time
hastening also to explain matters to you in this accompanying letter.
What a misfortune, my beloved, that you should have brought me to such a
pass! Our lots in life are apportioned by the Almighty according to our
human deserts. To such a one He assigns a life in a general's epaulets
or as a privy councillor--to such a one, I say, He assigns a life of
command; whereas to another one, He allots only a life of unmurmuring
toil and suffering. These things are calculated according to a man's
CAPACITY. One man may be capable of one thing, and another of another,
and their several capacities are ordered by the Lord God himself. I
have now been thirty years in the public service, and have fulfilled my
duties irreproachably, remained abstemious, and never been detected
in any unbecoming behaviour. As a citizen, I may confess--I confess
it freely--I have been guilty of certain shortcomings; yet those
shortcomings have been combined with certain virtues. I am respected by
my superiors, and even his Excellency has had no fault to find with me;
and though I have never been shown any special marks of favour, I know
that every one finds me at least satisfactory. Also, my writing is
sufficiently legible and clear. Neither too rounded nor too fine, it
is a running hand, yet always suitable. Of our staff only Ivan
Prokofievitch writes a similar hand. Thus have I lived till the grey
hairs of my old age; yet I can think of no serious fault committed. Of
course, no one is free from MINOR faults. Everyone has some of them, and
you among the rest, my beloved. But in grave or in audacious offences
never have I been detected, nor in infringements of regulations, nor in
breaches of the public peace. No, never! This you surely know, even as
the author of your book must have known it. Yes, he also must have
known it when he sat down to write. I had not expected this of you, my
Barbara. I should never have expected it.

What? In future I am not to go on living peacefully in my little corner,
poor though that corner be I am not to go on living, as the proverb has
it, without muddying the water, or hurting any one, or forgetting the
fear of the Lord God and of oneself? I am not to see, forsooth, that
no man does me an injury, or breaks into my home--I am not to take care
that all shall go well with me, or that I have clothes to wear, or that
my shoes do not require mending, or that I be given work to do, or
that I possess sufficient meat and drink? Is it nothing that, where
the pavement is rotten, I have to walk on tiptoe to save my boots? If I
write to you overmuch concerning myself, is it concerning ANOTHER man,
rather, that I ought to write--concerning HIS wants, concerning HIS
lack of tea to drink (and all the world needs tea)? Has it ever been
my custom to pry into other men's mouths, to see what is being put into
them? Have I ever been known to offend any one in that respect? No, no,
beloved! Why should I desire to insult other folks when they are not
molesting ME? Let me give you an example of what I mean. A man may go on
slaving and slaving in the public service, and earn the respect of his
superiors (for what it is worth), and then, for no visible reason at
all, find himself made a fool of. Of course he may break out now and
then (I am not now referring only to drunkenness), and (for example)
buy himself a new pair of shoes, and take pleasure in seeing his feet
looking well and smartly shod. Yes, I myself have known what it is
to feel like that (I write this in good faith). Yet I am nonetheless
astonished that Thedor Thedorovitch should neglect what is being said
about him, and take no steps to defend himself. True, he is only a
subordinate official, and sometimes loves to rate and scold; yet why
should he not do so--why should he not indulge in a little vituperation
when he feels like it? Suppose it to be NECESSARY, for FORM'S sake,
to scold, and to set everyone right, and to shower around abuse (for,
between ourselves, Barbara, our friend cannot get on WITHOUT abuse--so
much so that every one humours him, and does things behind his back)?
Well, since officials differ in rank, and every official demands that
he shall be allowed to abuse his fellow officials in proportion to his
rank, it follows that the TONE also of official abuse should become
divided into ranks, and thus accord with the natural order of things.
All the world is built upon the system that each one of us shall have to
yield precedence to some other one, as well as to enjoy a certain power
of abusing his fellows. Without such a provision the world could not
get on at all, and simple chaos would ensue. Yet I am surprised that our
Thedor should continue to overlook insults of the kind that he endures.

Why do I do my official work at all? Why is that necessary? Will my
doing of it lead anyone who reads it to give me a greatcoat, or to buy
me a new pair of shoes? No, Barbara. Men only read the documents, and
then require me to write more. Sometimes a man will hide himself away,
and not show his face abroad, for the mere reason that, though he has
done nothing to be ashamed of, he dreads the gossip and slandering which
are everywhere to be encountered. If his civic and family life have to
do with literature, everything will be printed and read and laughed
over and discussed; until at length, he hardly dare show his face in
the street at all, seeing that he will have been described by report as
recognisable through his gait alone! Then, when he has amended his ways,
and grown gentler (even though he still continues to be loaded with
official work), he will come to be accounted a virtuous, decent citizen
who has deserved well of his comrades, rendered obedience to his
superiors, wished noone any evil, preserved the fear of God in his
heart, and died lamented. Yet would it not be better, instead of letting
the poor fellow die, to give him a cloak while yet he is ALIVE--to give
it to this same Thedor Thedorovitch (that is to say, to myself)? Yes,
'twere far better if, on hearing the tale of his subordinate's virtues,
the chief of the department were to call the deserving man into his
office, and then and there to promote him, and to grant him an increase
of salary. Thus vice would be punished, virtue would prevail, and the
staff of that department would live in peace together. Here we have an
example from everyday, commonplace life. How, therefore, could you bring
yourself to send me that book, my beloved? It is a badly conceived
work, Barbara, and also unreal, for the reason that in creation such
a Tchinovnik does not exist. No, again I protest against it, little
Barbara; again I protest.--Your most humble, devoted servant,

M. D.

July 27th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Your latest conduct and letters had
frightened me, and left me thunderstruck and plunged in doubt, until
what you have said about Thedor explained the situation. Why despair
and go into such frenzies, Makar Alexievitch? Your explanations only
partially satisfy me. Perhaps I did wrong to insist upon accepting
a good situation when it was offered me, seeing that from my last
experience in that way I derived a shock which was anything but a matter
for jesting. You say also that your love for me has compelled you
to hide yourself in retirement. Now, how much I am indebted to you I
realised when you told me that you were spending for my benefit the sum
which you are always reported to have laid by at your bankers; but, now
that I have learned that you never possessed such a fund, but that, on
hearing of my destitute plight, and being moved by it, you decided to
spend upon me the whole of your salary--even to forestall it--and when I
had fallen ill, actually to sell your clothes--when I learned all this
I found myself placed in the harassing position of not knowing how to
accept it all, nor what to think of it. Ah, Makar Alexievitch! You ought
to have stopped at your first acts of charity--acts inspired by sympathy
and the love of kinsfolk, rather than have continued to squander your
means upon what was unnecessary. Yes, you have betrayed our friendship,
Makar Alexievitch, in that you have not been open with me; and, now that
I see that your last coin has been spent upon dresses and bon-bons and
excursions and books and visits to the theatre for me, I weep bitter
tears for my unpardonable improvidence in having accepted these things
without giving so much as a thought to your welfare. Yes, all that you
have done to give me pleasure has become converted into a source of
grief, and left behind it only useless regret. Of late I have remarked
that you were looking depressed; and though I felt fearful that
something unfortunate was impending, what has happened would otherwise
never have entered my head. To think that your better sense should so
play you false, Makar Alexievitch! What will people think of you, and
say of you? Who will want to know you? You whom, like everyone else, I
have valued for your goodness of heart and modesty and good sense--YOU,
I say, have now given way to an unpleasant vice of which you seem never
before to have been guilty. What were my feelings when Thedora informed
me that you had been discovered drunk in the street, and taken home by
the police? Why, I felt petrified with astonishment--although, in view
of the fact that you had failed me for four days, I had been expecting
some such extraordinary occurrence. Also, have you thought what your
superiors will say of you when they come to learn the true reason of
your absence? You say that everyone is laughing at you, that every
one has learnED of the bond which exists between us, and that your
neighbours habitually refer to me with a sneer. Pay no attention to
this, Makar Alexievitch; for the love of God, be comforted. Also, the
incident between you and the officers has much alarmed me, although
I had heard certain rumours concerning it. Pray explain to me what it
means. You write, too, that you have been afraid to be open with me, for
the reason that your confessions might lose you my friendship. Also, you
say that you are in despair at the thought of being unable to help me in
my illness, owing to the fact that you have sold everything which might
have maintained me, and preserved me in sickness, as well as that you
have borrowed as much as it is possible for you to borrow, and are daily
experiencing unpleasantness with your landlady. Well, in failing to
reveal all this to me you chose the worse course. Now, however, I know
all. You have forced me to recognise that I have been the cause of your
unhappy plight, as well as that my own conduct has brought upon myself
a twofold measure of sorrow. The fact leaves me thunderstruck, Makar
Alexievitch. Ah, friend, an infectious disease is indeed a misfortune,
for now we poor and miserable folk must perforce keep apart from one
another, lest the infection be increased. Yes, I have brought upon you
calamities which never before in your humble, solitary life you had
experienced. This tortures and exhausts me more than I can tell to think

Write to me quite frankly. Tell me how you came to embark upon such
a course of conduct. Comfort, oh, comfort me if you can. It is not
self-love that prompts me to speak of my own comforting, but my
friendship and love for you, which will never fade from my heart.
Goodbye. I await your answer with impatience. You have thought but
poorly of me, Makar Alexievitch.--Your friend and lover,


July 28th.

MY PRICELESS BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--What am I to say to you, now that all
is over, and we are gradually returning to our old position? You say
that you are anxious as to what will be thought of me. Let me tell you
that the dearest thing in life to me is my self-respect; wherefore, in
informing you of my misfortunes and misconduct, I would add that none
of my superiors know of my doings, nor ever will know of them, and that
therefore, I still enjoy a measure of respect in that quarter. Only one
thing do I fear--I fear gossip. Garrulous though my landlady be, she
said but little when, with the aid of your ten roubles, I today paid her
part of her account; and as for the rest of my companions, they do not
matter at all. So long as I have not borrowed money from them, I need
pay them no attention. To conclude my explanations, let me tell you
that I value your respect for me above everything in the world, and have
found it my greatest comfort during this temporary distress of mine.
Thank God, the first shock of things has abated, now that you have
agreed not to look upon me as faithless and an egotist simply because I
have deceived you. I wish to hold you to myself, for the reason that I
cannot bear to part with you, and love you as my guardian angel....
I have now returned to work, and am applying myself diligently to my
duties. Also, yesterday Evstafi Ivanovitch exchanged a word or two with
me. Yet I will not conceal from you the fact that my debts are crushing
me down, and that my wardrobe is in a sorry state. At the same time,
these things do not REALLY matter and I would bid you not despair about
them. Send me, however, another half-rouble if you can (though that
half-rouble will stab me to the heart--stab me with the thought that it
is not I who am helping you, but YOU who are helping ME). Thedora has
done well to get those fifteen roubles for you. At the moment, fool of
an old man that I am, I have no hope of acquiring any more money; but as
soon as ever I do so, I will write to you and let you know all about it.
What chiefly worries me is the fear of gossip. Goodbye, little angel. I
kiss your hands, and beseech you to regain your health. If this is not
a detailed letter, the reason is that I must soon be starting for the
office, in order that, by strict application to duty, I may make amends
for the past. Further information concerning my doings (as well as
concerning that affair with the officers) must be deferred until
tonight.--Your affectionate and respectful friend,


July 28th.

DEAREST LITTLE BARBARA,--It is YOU who have committed a fault--and one
which must weigh heavily upon your conscience. Indeed, your last letter
has amazed and confounded me,--so much so that, on once more looking
into the recesses of my heart, I perceive that I was perfectly right
in what I did. Of course I am not now referring to my debauch (no,
indeed!), but to the fact that I love you, and to the fact that it is
unwise of me to love you--very unwise. You know not how matters stand,
my darling. You know not why I am BOUND to love you. Otherwise you would
not say all that you do. Yet I am persuaded that it is your head rather
than your heart that is speaking. I am certain that your heart thinks
very differently.

What occurred that night between myself and those officers I scarcely
know, I scarcely remember. You must bear in mind that for some time past
I have been in terrible distress--that for a whole month I have been, so
to speak, hanging by a single thread. Indeed, my position has been most
pitiable. Though I hid myself from you, my landlady was forever shouting
and railing at me. This would not have mattered a jot--the horrible old
woman might have shouted as much as she pleased--had it not been that,
in the first place, there was the disgrace of it, and, in the second
place, she had somehow learned of our connection, and kept proclaiming
it to the household until I felt perfectly deafened, and had to stop my
ears. The point, however, is that other people did not stop their ears,
but, on the contrary, pricked them. Indeed, I am at a loss what to do.

Really this wretched rabble has driven me to extremities. It all began
with my hearing a strange rumour from Thedora--namely, that an unworthy
suitor had been to visit you, and had insulted you with an improper
proposal. That he had insulted you deeply I knew from my own feelings,
for I felt insulted in an equal degree. Upon that, my angel, I went to
pieces, and, losing all self-control, plunged headlong. Bursting into an
unspeakable frenzy, I was at once going to call upon this villain of a
seducer--though what to do next I knew not, seeing that I was fearful of
giving you offence. Ah, what a night of sorrow it was, and what a time
of gloom, rain, and sleet! Next, I was returning home, but found myself
unable to stand upon my feet. Then Emelia Ilyitch happened to come
by. He also is a tchinovnik--or rather, was a tchinovnik, since he was
turned out of the service some time ago. What he was doing there at that
moment I do not know; I only know that I went with him.... Surely it
cannot give you pleasure to read of the misfortunes of your friend--of
his sorrows, and of the temptations which he experienced?... On the
evening of the third day Emelia urged me to go and see the officer of
whom I have spoken, and whose address I had learned from our dvornik.
More strictly speaking, I had noticed him when, on a previous occasion,
he had come to play cards here, and I had followed him home. Of course
I now see that I did wrong, but I felt beside myself when I heard
them telling him stories about me. Exactly what happened next I cannot
remember. I only remember that several other officers were present as
well as he. Or it may be that I saw everything double--God alone knows.
Also, I cannot exactly remember what I said. I only remember that in my
fury I said a great deal. Then they turned me out of the room, and threw
me down the staircase--pushed me down it, that is to say. How I got home
you know. That is all. Of course, later I blamed myself, and my pride
underwent a fall; but no extraneous person except yourself knows of the
affair, and in any case it does not matter. Perhaps the affair is as you
imagine it to have been, Barbara? One thing I know for certain, and that
is that last year one of our lodgers, Aksenti Osipovitch, took a similar
liberty with Peter Petrovitch, yet kept the fact secret, an absolute
secret. He called him into his room (I happened to be looking through a
crack in the partition-wall), and had an explanation with him in the
way that a gentleman should--noone except myself being a witness of the
scene; whereas, in my own case, I had no explanation at all. After the
scene was over, nothing further transpired between Aksenti Osipovitch
and Peter Petrovitch, for the reason that the latter was so desirous of
getting on in life that he held his tongue. As a result, they bow and
shake hands whenever they meet.... I will not dispute the fact that I
have erred most grievously--that I should never dare to dispute, or that
I have fallen greatly in my own estimation; but, I think I was fated
from birth so to do--and one cannot escape fate, my beloved. Here,
therefore, is a detailed explanation of my misfortunes and sorrows,
written for you to read whenever you may find it convenient. I am far
from well, beloved, and have lost all my gaiety of disposition, but I
send you this letter as a token of my love, devotion, and respect, Oh
dear lady of my affections.--Your humble servant,


July 29th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--I have read your two letters, and they
make my heart ache. See here, dear friend of mine. You pass over certain
things in silence, and write about a PORTION only of your misfortunes.
Can it be that the letters are the outcome of a mental disorder?... Come
and see me, for God's sake. Come today, direct from the office, and dine
with us as you have done before. As to how you are living now, or as to
what settlement you have made with your landlady, I know not, for you
write nothing concerning those two points, and seem purposely to have
left them unmentioned. Au revoir, my friend. Come to me today without
fail. You would do better ALWAYS to dine here. Thedora is an excellent
cook. Goodbye--Your own,


August 1st.

MY DARLING BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--Thank God that He has sent you a chance
of repaying my good with good. I believe in so doing, as well as in the
sweetness of your angelic heart. Therefore, I will not reproach you.
Only I pray you, do not again blame me because in the decline of my life
I have played the spendthrift. It was such a sin, was it not?--such a
thing to do? And even if you would still have it that the sin was there,
remember, little friend, what it costs me to hear such words fall from
your lips. Do not be vexed with me for saying this, for my heart is
fainting. Poor people are subject to fancies--this is a provision of
nature. I myself have had reason to know this. The poor man is exacting.
He cannot see God's world as it is, but eyes each passer-by askance, and
looks around him uneasily in order that he may listen to every word that
is being uttered. May not people be talking of him? How is it that he
is so unsightly? What is he feeling at all? What sort of figure is
he cutting on the one side or on the other? It is matter of common
knowledge, my Barbara, that the poor man ranks lower than a rag, and
will never earn the respect of any one. Yes, write about him as you
like--let scribblers say what they choose about him--he will ever remain
as he was. And why is this? It is because, from his very nature, the
poor man has to wear his feelings on his sleeve, so that nothing about
him is sacred, and as for his self-respect--! Well, Emelia told me the
other day that once, when he had to collect subscriptions, official
sanction was demanded for every single coin, since people thought that
it would be no use paying their money to a poor man. Nowadays charity
is strangely administered. Perhaps it has always been so. Either folk do
not know how to administer it, or they are adept in the art--one of the
two. Perhaps you did not know this, so I beg to tell it you. And how
comes it that the poor man knows, is so conscious of it all? The answer
is--by experience. He knows because any day he may see a gentleman enter
a restaurant and ask himself, "What shall I have to eat today? I will
have such and such a dish," while all the time the poor man will
have nothing to eat that day but gruel. There are men, too--wretched
busybodies--who walk about merely to see if they can find some wretched
tchinovnik or broken-down official who has got toes projecting from his
boots or his hair uncut! And when they have found such a one they make
a report of the circumstance, and their rubbish gets entered on the
file.... But what does it matter to you if my hair lacks the shears? If
you will forgive me what may seem to you a piece of rudeness, I declare
that the poor man is ashamed of such things with the sensitiveness of a
young girl. YOU, for instance, would not care (pray pardon my bluntness)
to unrobe yourself before the public eye; and in the same way, the poor
man does not like to be pried at or questioned concerning his family
relations, and so forth. A man of honour and self-respect such as I
am finds it painful and grievous to have to consort with men who would
deprive him of both.

Today I sat before my colleagues like a bear's cub or a plucked sparrow,
so that I fairly burned with shame. Yes, it hurt me terribly, Barbara.
Naturally one blushes when one can see one's naked toes projecting
through one's boots, and one's buttons hanging by a single thread!
As though on purpose, I seemed, on this occasion, to be peculiarly
dishevelled. No wonder that my spirits fell. When I was talking on
business matters to Stepan Karlovitch, he suddenly exclaimed, for no
apparent reason, "Ah, poor old Makar Alexievitch!" and then left the
rest unfinished. But I knew what he had in his mind, and blushed so
hotly that even the bald patch on my head grew red. Of course the whole
thing is nothing, but it worries me, and leads to anxious thoughts. What
can these fellows know about me? God send that they know nothing! But
I confess that I suspect, I strongly suspect, one of my colleagues. Let
them only betray me! They would betray one's private life for a groat,
for they hold nothing sacred.

I have an idea who is at the bottom of it all. It is Rataziaev. Probably
he knows someone in our department to whom he has recounted the
story with additions. Or perhaps he has spread it abroad in his own
department, and thence, it has crept and crawled into ours. Everyone
here knows it, down to the last detail, for I have seen them point at
you with their fingers through the window. Oh yes, I have seen them do
it. Yesterday, when I stepped across to dine with you, the whole crew
were hanging out of the window to watch me, and the landlady exclaimed
that the devil was in young people, and called you certain unbecoming
names. But this is as nothing compared with Rataziaev's foul intention
to place us in his books, and to describe us in a satire. He himself has
declared that he is going to do so, and other people say the same.
In fact, I know not what to think, nor what to decide. It is no use
concealing the fact that you and I have sinned against the Lord God....
You were going to send me a book of some sort, to divert my mind--were
you not, dearest? What book, though, could now divert me? Only such
books as have never existed on earth. Novels are rubbish, and written
for fools and for the idle. Believe me, dearest, I know it through long
experience. Even should they vaunt Shakespeare to you, I tell you that
Shakespeare is rubbish, and proper only for lampoons--Your own,


August 2nd.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Do not disquiet yourself. God will grant
that all shall turn out well. Thedora has obtained a quantity of work,
both for me and herself, and we are setting about it with a will.
Perhaps it will put us straight again. Thedora suspects my late
misfortunes to be connected with Anna Thedorovna; but I do not care--I
feel extraordinarily cheerful today. So you are thinking of borrowing
more money? If so, may God preserve you, for you will assuredly be
ruined when the time comes for repayment! You had far better come and
live with us here for a little while. Yes, come and take up your abode
here, and pay no attention whatever to what your landlady says. As for
the rest of your enemies and ill-wishers, I am certain that it is with
vain imaginings that you are vexing yourself.... In passing, let me tell
you that your style differs greatly from letter to letter. Goodbye until
we meet again. I await your coming with impatience--Your own,

B. D.

August 3rd.

MY ANGEL, BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I hasten to inform you, Oh light of my
life, that my hopes are rising again. But, little daughter of mine--do
you really mean it when you say that I am to indulge in no more
borrowings? Why, I could not do without them. Things would go badly with
us both if I did so. You are ailing. Consequently, I tell you roundly
that I MUST borrow, and that I must continue to do so.

Also, I may tell you that my seat in the office is now next to that of a
certain Emelia Ivanovitch. He is not the Emelia whom you know, but a
man who, like myself, is a privy councillor, as well as represents, with
myself, the senior and oldest official in our department. Likewise he is
a good, disinterested soul, and one that is not over-talkative, though
a true bear in appearance and demeanour. Industrious, and possessed of
a handwriting purely English, his caligraphy is, it must be confessed,
even worse than my own. Yes, he is a good soul. At the same time, we
have never been intimate with one another. We have done no more than
exchange greetings on meeting or parting, borrow one another's penknife
if we needed one, and, in short, observe such bare civilities as
convention demands. Well, today he said to me, "Makar Alexievitch,
what makes you look so thoughtful?" and inasmuch as I could see that
he wished me well, I told him all--or, rather, I did not tell him
EVERYTHING, for that I do to no man (I have not the heart to do it); I
told him just a few scattered details concerning my financial straits.
"Then you ought to borrow," said he. "You ought to obtain a loan of
Peter Petrovitch, who does a little in that way. I myself once borrowed
some money of him, and he charged me fair and light interest." Well,
Barbara, my heart leapt within me at these words. I kept thinking and
thinking,--if only God would put it into the mind of Peter Petrovitch
to be my benefactor by advancing me a loan! I calculated that with its
aid I might both repay my landlady and assist yourself and get rid of my
surroundings (where I can hardly sit down to table without the rascals
making jokes about me). Sometimes his Excellency passes our desk in
the office. He glances at me, and cannot but perceive how poorly I am
dressed. Now, neatness and cleanliness are two of his strongest points.
Even though he says nothing, I feel ready to die with shame when he
approaches. Well, hardening my heart, and putting my diffidence into my
ragged pocket, I approached Peter Petrovitch, and halted before him more
dead than alive. Yet I was hopeful, and though, as it turned out, he
was busily engaged in talking to Thedosei Ivanovitch, I walked up to him
from behind, and plucked at his sleeve. He looked away from me, but I
recited my speech about thirty roubles, et cetera, et cetera, of which,
at first, he failed to catch the meaning. Even when I had explained
matters to him more fully, he only burst out laughing, and said nothing.
Again I addressed to him my request; whereupon, asking me what security
I could give, he again buried himself in his papers, and went on writing
without deigning me even a second glance. Dismay seized me. "Peter
Petrovitch," I said, "I can offer you no security," but to this I added
an explanation that some salary would, in time, be due to me, which
I would make over to him, and account the loan my first debt. At
that moment someone called him away, and I had to wait a little. On
returning, he began to mend his pen as though he had not even noticed
that I was there. But I was for myself this time. "Peter Petrovitch," I
continued, "can you not do ANYTHING?" Still he maintained silence, and
seemed not to have heard me. I waited and waited. At length I determined
to make a final attempt, and plucked him by the sleeve. He muttered
something, and, his pen mended, set about his writing. There was nothing
for me to do but to depart. He and the rest of them are worthy fellows,
dearest--that I do not doubt--but they are also proud, very proud. What
have I to do with them? Yet I thought I would write and tell you all
about it. Meanwhile Emelia Ivanovitch had been encouraging me with nods
and smiles. He is a good soul, and has promised to recommend me to a
friend of his who lives in Viborskaia Street and lends money. Emelia
declares that this friend will certainly lend me a little; so tomorrow,
beloved, I am going to call upon the gentleman in question.... What do
you think about it? It would be a pity not to obtain a loan. My landlady
is on the point of turning me out of doors, and has refused to allow me
any more board. Also, my boots are wearing through, and have lost every
button--and I do not possess another pair! Could anyone in a government
office display greater shabbiness? It is dreadful, my Barbara--it is
simply dreadful!


August 4th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--For God's sake borrow some money as
soon as you can. I would not ask this help of you were it not for the
situation in which I am placed. Thedora and myself cannot remain any
longer in our present lodgings, for we have been subjected to great
unpleasantness, and you cannot imagine my state of agitation and
dismay. The reason is that this morning we received a visit from an
elderly--almost an old--man whose breast was studded with orders.
Greatly surprised, I asked him what he wanted (for at the moment Thedora
had gone out shopping); whereupon he began to question me as to my
mode of life and occupation, and then, without waiting for an answer,
informed me that he was uncle to the officer of whom you have spoken;
that he was very angry with his nephew for the way in which the latter
had behaved, especially with regard to his slandering of me right and
left; and that he, the uncle, was ready to protect me from the young
spendthrift's insolence. Also, he advised me to have nothing to say to
young fellows of that stamp, and added that he sympathised with me as
though he were my own father, and would gladly help me in any way he
could. At this I blushed in some confusion, but did not greatly hasten
to thank him. Next, he took me forcibly by the hand, and, tapping my
cheek, said that I was very good-looking, and that he greatly liked the
dimples in my face (God only knows what he meant!). Finally he tried to
kiss me, on the plea that he was an old man, the brute! At this moment
Thedora returned; whereupon, in some confusion, he repeated that he felt
a great respect for my modesty and virtue, and that he much wished to
become acquainted with me; after which he took Thedora aside, and tried,
on some pretext or another, to give her money (though of course she
declined it). At last he took himself off--again reiterating his
assurances, and saying that he intended to return with some earrings as
a present; that he advised me to change my lodgings; and, that he could
recommend me a splendid flat which he had in his mind's eye as likely to
cost me nothing. Yes, he also declared that he greatly liked me for my
purity and good sense; that I must beware of dissolute young men; and
that he knew Anna Thedorovna, who had charged him to inform me that she
would shortly be visiting me in person. Upon that, I understood all.
What I did next I scarcely know, for I had never before found myself in
such a position; but I believe that I broke all restraints, and made the
old man feel thoroughly ashamed of himself--Thedora helping me in the
task, and well-nigh turning him neck and crop out of the tenement.
Neither of us doubt that this is Anna Thedorovna's work--for how
otherwise could the old man have got to know about us?

Now, therefore, Makar Alexievitch, I turn to you for help. Do not, for
God's sake, leave me in this plight. Borrow all the money that you can
get, for I have not the wherewithal to leave these lodgings, yet cannot
possibly remain in them any longer. At all events, this is Thedora's
advice. She and I need at least twenty-five roubles, which I will repay
you out of what I earn by my work, while Thedora shall get me additional
work from day to day, so that, if there be heavy interest to pay on the
loan, you shall not be troubled with the extra burden. Nay, I will make
over to you all that I possess if only you will continue to help me.
Truly, I grieve to have to trouble you when you yourself are so hardly
situated, but my hopes rest upon you, and upon you alone. Goodbye, Makar
Alexievitch. Think of me, and may God speed you on your errand!


August 4th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--These unlooked-for blows have shaken me
terribly, and these strange calamities have quite broken my spirit.
Not content with trying to bring you to a bed of sickness, these
lickspittles and pestilent old men are trying to bring me to the same.
And I assure you that they are succeeding--I assure you that they are.
Yet I would rather die than not help you. If I cannot help you I SHALL
die; but, to enable me to help you, you must flee like a bird out of the
nest where these owls, these birds of prey, are seeking to peck you to
death. How distressed I feel, my dearest! Yet how cruel you yourself
are! Although you are enduring pain and insult, although you, little
nestling, are in agony of spirit, you actually tell me that it grieves
you to disturb me, and that you will work off your debt to me with the
labour of your own hands! In other words, you, with your weak health,
are proposing to kill yourself in order to relieve me to term of my
financial embarrassments! Stop a moment, and think what you are saying.
WHY should you sew, and work, and torture your poor head with anxiety,
and spoil your beautiful eyes, and ruin your health? Why, indeed? Ah,
little Barbara, little Barbara! Do you not see that I shall never be any
good to you, never any good to you? At all events, I myself see it. Yet
I WILL help you in your distress. I WILL overcome every difficulty, I
WILL get extra work to do, I WILL copy out manuscripts for authors,
I WILL go to the latter and force them to employ me, I WILL so apply
myself to the work that they shall see that I am a good copyist (and
good copyists, I know, are always in demand). Thus there will be no need
for you to exhaust your strength, nor will I allow you to do so--I will
not have you carry out your disastrous intention... Yes, little angel,
I will certainly borrow some money. I would rather die than not do
so. Merely tell me, my own darling, that I am not to shrink from heavy
interest, and I will not shrink from it, I will not shrink from it--nay,
I will shrink from nothing. I will ask for forty roubles, to begin with.
That will not be much, will it, little Barbara? Yet will any one trust
me even with that sum at the first asking? Do you think that I am
capable of inspiring confidence at the first glance? Would the mere
sight of my face lead any one to form of me a favourable opinion? Have I
ever been able, remember you, to appear to anyone in a favourable light?
What think you? Personally, I see difficulties in the way, and feel sick
at heart at the mere prospect. However, of those forty roubles I mean
to set aside twenty-five for yourself, two for my landlady, and the
remainder for my own spending. Of course, I ought to give more than
two to my landlady, but you must remember my necessities, and see for
yourself that that is the most that can be assigned to her. We need say
no more about it. For one rouble I shall buy me a new pair of shoes, for
I scarcely know whether my old ones will take me to the office tomorrow
morning. Also, a new neck-scarf is indispensable, seeing that the old
one has now passed its first year; but, since you have promised to make
of your old apron not only a scarf, but also a shirt-front, I need think
no more of the article in question. So much for shoes and scarves. Next,
for buttons. You yourself will agree that I cannot do without buttons;
nor is there on my garments a single hem unfrayed. I tremble when I
think that some day his Excellency may perceive my untidiness, and
say--well, what will he NOT say? Yet I shall never hear what he says,
for I shall have expired where I sit--expired of mere shame at the
thought of having been thus exposed. Ah, dearest!... Well, my various
necessities will have left me three roubles to go on with. Part of
this sum I shall expend upon a half-pound of tobacco--for I cannot live
without tobacco, and it is nine days since I last put a pipe into my
mouth. To tell the truth, I shall buy the tobacco without acquainting
you with the fact, although I ought not so to do. The pity of it all is
that, while you are depriving yourself of everything, I keep solacing
myself with various amenities--which is why I am telling you this, that
the pangs of conscience may not torment me. Frankly, I confess that I
am in desperate straits--in such straits as I have never yet known. My
landlady flouts me, and I enjoy the respect of noone; my arrears and
debts are terrible; and in the office, though never have I found the
place exactly a paradise, noone has a single word to say to me. Yet I
hide, I carefully hide, this from every one. I would hide my person in
the same way, were it not that daily I have to attend the office where
I have to be constantly on my guard against my fellows. Nevertheless,
merely to be able to CONFESS this to you renews my spiritual strength.
We must not think of these things, Barbara, lest the thought of them
break our courage. I write them down merely to warn you NOT to think of
them, nor to torture yourself with bitter imaginings. Yet, my God, what
is to become of us? Stay where you are until I can come to you; after
which I shall not return hither, but simply disappear. Now I have
finished my letter, and must go and shave myself, inasmuch as, when that
is done, one always feels more decent, as well as consorts more easily
with decency. God speed me! One prayer to Him, and I must be off.


August 5th.

DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--You must not despair. Away with melancholy!
I am sending you thirty kopecks in silver, and regret that I cannot send
you more. Buy yourself what you most need until tomorrow. I myself have
almost nothing left, and what I am going to do I know not. Is it not
dreadful, Makar Alexievitch? Yet do not be downcast--it is no good being
that. Thedora declares that it would not be a bad thing if we were to
remain in this tenement, since if we left it suspicions would arise, and
our enemies might take it into their heads to look for us. On the other
hand, I do not think it would be well for us to remain here. If I were
feeling less sad I would tell you my reason.

What a strange man you are, Makar Alexievitch! You take things so much
to heart that you never know what it is to be happy. I read your letters
attentively, and can see from them that, though you worry and disturb
yourself about me, you never give a thought to yourself. Yes, every
letter tells me that you have a kind heart; but I tell YOU that that
heart is overly kind. So I will give you a little friendly advice, Makar
Alexievitch. I am full of gratitude towards you--I am indeed full for
all that you have done for me, I am most sensible of your goodness;
but, to think that I should be forced to see that, in spite of your own
troubles (of which I have been the involuntary cause), you live for me
alone--you live but for MY joys and MY sorrows and MY affection! If you
take the affairs of another person so to heart, and suffer with her to
such an extent, I do not wonder that you yourself are unhappy. Today,
when you came to see me after office-work was done, I felt afraid even
to raise my eyes to yours, for you looked so pale and desperate, and
your face had so fallen in. Yes, you were dreading to have to tell me
of your failure to borrow money--you were dreading to have to grieve and
alarm me; but, when you saw that I came very near to smiling, the load
was, I know, lifted from your heart. So do not be despondent, do not
give way, but allow more rein to your better sense. I beg and implore
this of you, for it will not be long before you see things take a turn
for the better. You will but spoil your life if you constantly lament
another person's sorrow. Goodbye, dear friend. I beseech you not to be
over-anxious about me.

B. D.

August 5th.

MY DARLING LITTLE BARBARA,--This is well, this is well, my angel! So you
are of opinion that the fact that I have failed to obtain any money does
not matter? Then I too am reassured, I too am happy on your account.
Also, I am delighted to think that you are not going to desert your old
friend, but intend to remain in your present lodgings. Indeed, my heart
was overcharged with joy when I read in your letter those kindly words
about myself, as well as a not wholly unmerited recognition of my
sentiments. I say this not out of pride, but because now I know how much
you love me to be thus solicitous for my feelings. How good to
think that I may speak to you of them! You bid me, darling, not be
faint-hearted. Indeed, there is no need for me to be so. Think, for
instance, of the pair of shoes which I shall be wearing to the office
tomorrow! The fact is that over-brooding proves the undoing of a
man--his complete undoing. What has saved me is the fact that it is not
for myself that I am grieving, that I am suffering, but for YOU. Nor
would it matter to me in the least that I should have to walk through
the bitter cold without an overcoat or boots--I could bear it, I could
well endure it, for I am a simple man in my requirements; but the point
is--what would people say, what would every envious and hostile tongue
exclaim, when I was seen without an overcoat? It is for OTHER folk that
one wears an overcoat and boots. In any case, therefore, I should have
needed boots to maintain my name and reputation; to both of which my
ragged footgear would otherwise have spelled ruin. Yes, it is so,
my beloved, and you may believe an old man who has had many years of
experience, and knows both the world and mankind, rather than a set of
scribblers and daubers.

But I have not yet told you in detail how things have gone with me
today. During the morning I suffered as much agony of spirit as might
have been experienced in a year. 'Twas like this: First of all, I went
out to call upon the gentleman of whom I have spoken. I started very
early, before going to the office. Rain and sleet were falling, and
I hugged myself in my greatcoat as I walked along. "Lord," thought I,
"pardon my offences, and send me fulfilment of all my desires;" and as
I passed a church I crossed myself, repented of my sins, and reminded
myself that I was unworthy to hold communication with the Lord God. Then
I retired into myself, and tried to look at nothing; and so, walking
without noticing the streets, I proceeded on my way. Everything had an
empty air, and everyone whom I met looked careworn and preoccupied, and
no wonder, for who would choose to walk abroad at such an early hour,
and in such weather? Next a band of ragged workmen met me, and jostled
me boorishly as they passed; upon which nervousness overtook me, and
I felt uneasy, and tried hard not to think of the money that was
my errand. Near the Voskresenski Bridge my feet began to ache with
weariness, until I could hardly pull myself along; until presently I met
with Ermolaev, a writer in our office, who, stepping aside, halted, and
followed me with his eyes, as though to beg of me a glass of vodka. "Ah,
friend," thought I, "go YOU to your vodka, but what have I to do with
such stuff?" Then, sadly weary, I halted for a moment's rest, and
thereafter dragged myself further on my way. Purposely I kept looking
about me for something upon which to fasten my thoughts, with which to
distract, to encourage myself; but there was nothing. Not a single idea
could I connect with any given object, while, in addition, my appearance
was so draggled that I felt utterly ashamed of it. At length I perceived
from afar a gabled house that was built of yellow wood. This, I thought,
must be the residence of the Monsieur Markov whom Emelia Ivanovitch had
mentioned to me as ready to lend money on interest. Half unconscious
of what I was doing, I asked a watchman if he could tell me to whom the
house belonged; whereupon grudgingly, and as though he were vexed at
something, the fellow muttered that it belonged to one Markov. Are ALL
watchmen so unfeeling? Why did this one reply as he did? In any case I
felt disagreeably impressed, for like always answers to like, and, no
matter what position one is in, things invariably appear to correspond
to it. Three times did I pass the house and walk the length of the
street; until the further I walked, the worse became my state of mind.
"No, never, never will he lend me anything!" I thought to myself, "He
does not know me, and my affairs will seem to him ridiculous, and I
shall cut a sorry figure. However, let fate decide for me. Only, let
Heaven send that I do not afterwards repent me, and eat out my heart
with remorse!" Softly I opened the wicket-gate. Horrors! A great ragged
brute of a watch-dog came flying out at me, and foaming at the mouth,
and nearly jumping out his skin! Curious is it to note what little,
trivial incidents will nearly make a man crazy, and strike terror to his
heart, and annihilate the firm purpose with which he has armed himself.
At all events, I approached the house more dead than alive, and walked
straight into another catastrophe. That is to say, not noticing the
slipperiness of the threshold, I stumbled against an old woman who
was filling milk-jugs from a pail, and sent the milk flying in every
direction! The foolish old dame gave a start and a cry, and then
demanded of me whither I had been coming, and what it was I wanted;
after which she rated me soundly for my awkwardness. Always have I found
something of the kind befall me when engaged on errands of this nature.
It seems to be my destiny invariably to run into something. Upon that,
the noise and the commotion brought out the mistress of the house--an
old beldame of mean appearance. I addressed myself directly to her:
"Does Monsieur Markov live here?" was my inquiry. "No," she replied, and
then stood looking at me civilly enough. "But what want you with him?"
she continued; upon which I told her about Emelia Ivanovitch and
the rest of the business. As soon as I had finished, she called her
daughter--a barefooted girl in her teens--and told her to summon her
father from upstairs. Meanwhile, I was shown into a room which contained
several portraits of generals on the walls and was furnished with a
sofa, a large table, and a few pots of mignonette and balsam. "Shall I,
or shall I not (come weal, come woe) take myself off?" was my thought as
I waited there. Ah, how I longed to run away! "Yes," I continued, "I had
better come again tomorrow, for the weather may then be better, and I
shall not have upset the milk, and these generals will not be looking at
me so fiercely." In fact, I had actually begun to move towards the door
when Monsieur Markov entered--a grey-headed man with thievish eyes, and
clad in a dirty dressing-gown fastened with a belt. Greetings over, I
stumbled out something about Emelia Ivanovitch and forty roubles, and
then came to a dead halt, for his eyes told me that my errand had been
futile. "No." said he, "I have no money. Moreover, what security
could you offer?" I admitted that I could offer none, but again added
something about Emelia, as well as about my pressing needs. Markov heard
me out, and then repeated that he had no money. "Ah," thought I, "I
might have known this--I might have foreseen it!" And, to tell the
truth, Barbara, I could have wished that the earth had opened under my
feet, so chilled did I feel as he said what he did, so numbed did my
legs grow as shivers began to run down my back. Thus I remained gazing
at him while he returned my gaze with a look which said, "Well now,
my friend? Why do you not go since you have no further business to do
here?" Somehow I felt conscience-stricken. "How is it that you are in
such need of money?" was what he appeared to be asking; whereupon, I
opened my mouth (anything rather than stand there to no purpose at all!)
but found that he was not even listening. "I have no money," again he
said, "or I would lend you some with pleasure." Several times I repeated
that I myself possessed a little, and that I would repay any loan
from him punctually, most punctually, and that he might charge me what
interest he liked, since I would meet it without fail. Yes, at that
moment I remembered our misfortunes, our necessities, and I remembered
your half-rouble. "No," said he, "I can lend you nothing without
security," and clinched his assurance with an oath, the robber!

How I contrived to leave the house and, passing through Viborskaia
Street, to reach the Voskresenski Bridge I do not know. I only remember
that I felt terribly weary, cold, and starved, and that it was ten
o'clock before I reached the office. Arriving, I tried to clean myself
up a little, but Sniegirev, the porter, said that it was impossible for
me to do so, and that I should only spoil the brush, which belonged to
the Government. Thus, my darling, do such fellows rate me lower than
the mat on which they wipe their boots! What is it that will most
surely break me? It is not the want of money, but the LITTLE worries
of life--these whisperings and nods and jeers. Any day his Excellency
himself may round upon me. Ah, dearest, my golden days are gone. Today I
have spent in reading your letters through; and the reading of them has
made me sad. Goodbye, my own, and may the Lord watch over you!


P.S.--To conceal my sorrow I would have written this letter half
jestingly; but, the faculty of jesting has not been given me. My one
desire, however, is to afford you pleasure. Soon I will come and see
you, dearest. Without fail I will come and see you.

August 11th.

O Barbara Alexievna, I am undone--we are both of us undone! Both of
us are lost beyond recall! Everything is ruined--my reputation, my
self-respect, all that I have in the world! And you as much as I. Never
shall we retrieve what we have lost. I--I have brought you to this pass,
for I have become an outcast, my darling. Everywhere I am laughed at
and despised. Even my landlady has taken to abusing me. Today she
overwhelmed me with shrill reproaches, and abased me to the level of a
hearth-brush. And last night, when I was in Rataziaev's rooms, one of
his friends began to read a scribbled note which I had written to
you, and then inadvertently pulled out of my pocket. Oh beloved, what
laughter there arose at the recital! How those scoundrels mocked and
derided you and myself! I walked up to them and accused Rataziaev of
breaking faith. I said that he had played the traitor. But he only
replied that I had been the betrayer in the case, by indulging in
various amours. "You have kept them very dark though, Mr. Lovelace!"
said he--and now I am known everywhere by this name of "Lovelace." They
know EVERYTHING about us, my darling, EVERYTHING--both about you and
your affairs and about myself; and when today I was for sending Phaldoni
to the bakeshop for something or other, he refused to go, saying that
it was not his business. "But you MUST go," said I. "I will not," he
replied. "You have not paid my mistress what you owe her, so I am not
bound to run your errands." At such an insult from a raw peasant I lost
my temper, and called him a fool; to which he retorted in a similar
vein. Upon this I thought that he must be drunk, and told him so;
whereupon he replied: "WHAT say you that I am? Suppose you yourself go
and sober up, for I know that the other day you went to visit a woman,
and that you got drunk with her on two grivenniks." To such a pass have
things come! I feel ashamed to be seen alive. I am, as it were, a man
proclaimed; I am in a worse plight even than a tramp who has lost his
passport. How misfortunes are heaping themselves upon me! I am lost--I
am lost for ever!

M. D.

August 13th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--It is true that misfortune is following
upon misfortune. I myself scarcely know what to do. Yet, no matter how
you may be fairing, you must not look for help from me, for only today I
burned my left hand with the iron! At one and the same moment I dropped
the iron, made a mistake in my work, and burned myself! So now I can no
longer work. Also, these three days past, Thedora has been ailing.
My anxiety is becoming positively torturous. Nevertheless, I send you
thirty kopecks--almost the last coins that I have left to me, much as I
should have liked to have helped you more when you are so much in need.
I feel vexed to the point of weeping. Goodbye, dear friend of mine. You
will bring me much comfort if only you will come and see me today.

B. D.

August 14th.

What is the matter with you, Makar Alexievitch? Surely you cannot
fear the Lord God as you ought to do? You are not only driving me to
distraction but also ruining yourself with this eternal solicitude for
your reputation. You are a man of honour, nobility of character, and
self-respect, as everyone knows; yet, at any moment, you are ready to
die with shame! Surely you should have more consideration for your grey
hairs. No, the fear of God has departed from you. Thedora has told you
that it is out of my power to render you anymore help. See, therefore,
to what a pass you have brought me! Probably you think it is nothing to
me that you should behave so badly; probably you do not realise what you
have made me suffer. I dare not set foot on the staircase here, for if
I do so I am stared at, and pointed at, and spoken about in the most
horrible manner. Yes, it is even said of me that I am "united to a
drunkard." What a thing to hear! And whenever you are brought home drunk
folk say, "They are carrying in that tchinovnik." THAT is not the proper
way to make me help you. I swear that I MUST leave this place, and go
and get work as a cook or a laundress. It is impossible for me to stay
here. Long ago I wrote and asked you to come and see me, yet you have
not come. Truly my tears and prayers must mean NOTHING to you, Makar
Alexievitch! Whence, too, did you get the money for your debauchery? For
the love of God be more careful of yourself, or you will be ruined. How
shameful, how abominable of you! So the landlady would not admit you
last night, and you spent the night on the doorstep? Oh, I know all
about it. Yet if only you could have seen my agony when I heard the
news!... Come and see me, Makar Alexievitch, and we will once more be
happy together. Yes, we will read together, and talk of old times, and
Thedora shall tell you of her pilgrimages in former days. For God's sake
beloved, do not ruin both yourself and me. I live for you alone; it
is for your sake alone that I am still here. Be your better self once
more--the self which still can remain firm in the face of misfortune.
Poverty is no crime; always remember that. After all, why should we
despair? Our present difficulties will pass away, and God will right
us. Only be brave. I send you two grivenniks for the purchase of some
tobacco or anything else that you need; but, for the love of heaven, do
not spend the money foolishly. Come you and see me soon; come without
fail. Perhaps you may be ashamed to meet me, as you were before, but you
NEED not feel like that--such shame would be misplaced. Only do bring
with you sincere repentance and trust in God, who orders all things for
the best.

B. D.

August 19th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,-Yes, I AM ashamed to meet you, my
darling--I AM ashamed. At the same time, what is there in all this? Why
should we not be cheerful again? Why should I mind the soles of my feet
coming through my boots? The sole of one's foot is a mere bagatelle--it
will never be anything but just a base, dirty sole. And shoes do not
matter, either. The Greek sages used to walk about without them, so why
should we coddle ourselves with such things? Yet why, also, should I
be insulted and despised because of them? Tell Thedora that she is a
rubbishy, tiresome, gabbling old woman, as well as an inexpressibly
foolish one. As for my grey hairs, you are quite wrong about them,
inasmuch as I am not such an old man as you think. Emelia sends you
his greeting. You write that you are in great distress, and have been
weeping. Well, I too am in great distress, and have been weeping. Nay,
nay. I wish you the best of health and happiness, even as I am well and
happy myself, so long as I may remain, my darling,--Your friend,


August 21st.

MY DEAR AND KIND BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I feel that I am guilty, I feel
that I have sinned against you. Yet also I feel, from what you say, that
it is no use for me so to feel. Even before I had sinned I felt as I do
now; but I gave way to despair, and the more so as recognised my fault.
Darling, I am not cruel or hardhearted. To rend your little soul would
be the act of a blood-thirsty tiger, whereas I have the heart of a
sheep. You yourself know that I am not addicted to bloodthirstiness,
and therefore that I cannot really be guilty of the fault in question,
seeing that neither my mind nor my heart have participated in it.

Nor can I understand wherein the guilt lies. To me it is all a mystery.
When you sent me those thirty kopecks, and thereafter those two
grivenniks, my heart sank within me as I looked at the poor little
money. To think that though you had burned your hand, and would soon be
hungry, you could write to me that I was to buy tobacco! What was I to
do? Remorselessly to rob you, an orphan, as any brigand might do? I
felt greatly depressed, dearest. That is to say, persuaded that I should
never do any good with my life, and that I was inferior even to the
sole of my own boot, I took it into my head that it was absurd for me to
aspire at all--rather, that I ought to account myself a disgrace and an
abomination. Once a man has lost his self-respect, and has decided to
abjure his better qualities and human dignity, he falls headlong, and
cannot choose but do so. It is decreed of fate, and therefore I am not
guilty in this respect.

That evening I went out merely to get a breath of fresh air, but one
thing followed another--the weather was cold, all nature was looking
mournful, and I had fallen in with Emelia. This man had spent everything
that he possessed, and, at the time I met him, had not for two days
tasted a crust of bread. He had tried to raise money by pawning,
but what articles he had for the purpose had been refused by the
pawnbrokers. It was more from sympathy for a fellow-man than from any
liking for the individual that I yielded. That is how the fault arose,

He spoke of you, and I mingled my tears with his. Yes, he is a man
of kind, kind heart--a man of deep feeling. I often feel as he did,
dearest, and, in addition, I know how beholden to you I am. As soon as
ever I got to know you I began both to realise myself and to love you;
for until you came into my life I had been a lonely man--I had been, as
it were, asleep rather than alive. In former days my rascally colleagues
used to tell me that I was unfit even to be seen; in fact, they so
disliked me that at length I began to dislike myself, for, being
frequently told that I was stupid, I began to believe that I really was
so. But the instant that YOU came into my life, you lightened the dark
places in it, you lightened both my heart and my soul. Gradually, I
gained rest of spirit, until I had come to see that I was no worse
than other men, and that, though I had neither style nor brilliancy nor
polish, I was still a MAN as regards my thoughts and feelings. But now,
alas! pursued and scorned of fate, I have again allowed myself to abjure
my own dignity. Oppressed of misfortune, I have lost my courage. Here is
my confession to you, dearest. With tears I beseech you not to inquire
further into the matter, for my heart is breaking, and life has grown
indeed hard and bitter for me--Beloved, I offer you my respect, and
remain ever your faithful friend,


September 3rd.

The reason why I did not finish my last letter, Makar Alexievitch, was
that I found it so difficult to write. There are moments when I am glad
to be alone--to grieve and repine without any one to share my sorrow:
and those moments are beginning to come upon me with ever-increasing
frequency. Always in my reminiscences I find something which is
inexplicable, yet strongly attractive--so much so that for hours together
I remain insensible to my surroundings, oblivious of reality. Indeed,
in my present life there is not a single impression that I
encounter--pleasant or the reverse--which does not recall to my mind
something of a similar nature in the past. More particularly is this the
case with regard to my childhood, my golden childhood. Yet such moments
always leave me depressed. They render me weak, and exhaust my powers of
fancy; with the result that my health, already not good, grows steadily

However, this morning it is a fine, fresh, cloudless day, such as we
seldom get in autumn. The air has revived me and I greet it with joy.
Yet to think that already the fall of the year has come! How I used
to love the country in autumn! Then but a child, I was yet a sensitive
being who loved autumn evenings better than autumn mornings. I remember
how beside our house, at the foot of a hill, there lay a large pond, and
how the pond--I can see it even now!--shone with a broad, level surface
that was as clear as crystal. On still evenings this pond would be at
rest, and not a rustle would disturb the trees which grew on its banks
and overhung the motionless expanse of water. How fresh it used to seem,
yet how cold! The dew would be falling upon the turf, lights would be
beginning to shine forth from the huts on the pond's margin, and the
cattle would be wending their way home. Then quietly I would slip out
of the house to look at my beloved pond, and forget myself in
contemplation. Here and there a fisherman's bundle of brushwood would be
burning at the water's edge, and sending its light far and wide over
the surface. Above, the sky would be of a cold blue colour, save for a
fringe of flame-coloured streaks on the horizon that kept turning ever
paler and paler; and when the moon had come out there would be wafted
through the limpid air the sounds of a frightened bird fluttering, of a
bulrush rubbing against its fellows in the gentle breeze, and of a fish
rising with a splash. Over the dark water there would gather a thin,
transparent mist; and though, in the distance, night would be looming,
and seemingly enveloping the entire horizon, everything closer at hand
would be standing out as though shaped with a chisel--banks, boats,
little islands, and all. Beside the margin a derelict barrel would be
turning over and over in the water; a switch of laburnum, with yellowing
leaves, would go meandering through the reeds; and a belated gull
would flutter up, dive again into the cold depths, rise once more, and
disappear into the mist. How I would watch and listen to these things!
How strangely good they all would seem! But I was a mere infant in those
days--a mere child.

Yes, truly I loved autumn-tide--the late autumn when the crops are
garnered, and field work is ended, and the evening gatherings in the
huts have begun, and everyone is awaiting winter. Then does everything
become more mysterious, the sky frowns with clouds, yellow leaves strew
the paths at the edge of the naked forest, and the forest itself turns
black and blue--more especially at eventide when damp fog is spreading
and the trees glimmer in the depths like giants, like formless, weird
phantoms. Perhaps one may be out late, and had got separated from one's
companions. Oh horrors! Suddenly one starts and trembles as one seems to
see a strange-looking being peering from out of the darkness of a hollow
tree, while all the while the wind is moaning and rattling and howling
through the forest--moaning with a hungry sound as it strips the leaves
from the bare boughs, and whirls them into the air. High over the
tree-tops, in a widespread, trailing, noisy crew, there fly, with
resounding cries, flocks of birds which seem to darken and overlay the
very heavens. Then a strange feeling comes over one, until one seems to
hear the voice of some one whispering: "Run, run, little child! Do not
be out late, for this place will soon have become dreadful! Run, little
child! Run!" And at the words terror will possess one's soul, and one
will rush and rush until one's breath is spent--until, panting, one has
reached home.

At home, however, all will look bright and bustling as we children are
set to shell peas or poppies, and the damp twigs crackle in the stove,
and our mother comes to look fondly at our work, and our old nurse,
Iliana, tells us stories of bygone days, or terrible legends concerning
wizards and dead men. At the recital we little ones will press closer
to one another, yet smile as we do so; when suddenly, everyone becomes
silent. Surely somebody has knocked at the door?... But nay, nay; it
is only the sound of Frolovna's spinning-wheel. What shouts of laughter
arise! Later one will be unable to sleep for fear of the strange dreams
which come to visit one; or, if one falls asleep, one will soon wake
again, and, afraid to stir, lie quaking under the coverlet until dawn.
And in the morning, one will arise as fresh as a lark and look at the
window, and see the fields overlaid with hoarfrost, and fine icicles
hanging from the naked branches, and the pond covered over with ice
as thin as paper, and a white steam rising from the surface, and birds
flying overhead with cheerful cries. Next, as the sun rises, he throws
his glittering beams everywhere, and melts the thin, glassy ice until
the whole scene has come to look bright and clear and exhilarating; and
as the fire begins to crackle again in the stove, we sit down to the
tea-urn, while, chilled with the night cold, our black dog, Polkan, will
look in at us through the window, and wag his tail with a cheerful air.
Presently, a peasant will pass the window in his cart bound for
the forest to cut firewood, and the whole party will feel merry and
contented together. Abundant grain lies stored in the byres, and
great stacks of wheat are glowing comfortably in the morning sunlight.
Everyone is quiet and happy, for God has blessed us with a bounteous
harvest, and we know that there will be abundance of food for the
wintertide. Yes, the peasant may rest assured that his family will not
want for aught. Song and dance will arise at night from the village
girls, and on festival days everyone will repair to God's house to thank
Him with grateful tears for what He has done.... Ah, a golden time was
my time of childhood!...

Carried away by these memories, I could weep like a child. Everything,
everything comes back so clearly to my recollection! The past stands out
so vividly before me! Yet in the present everything looks dim and dark!
How will it all end?--how? Do you know, I have a feeling, a sort of
sure premonition, that I am going to die this coming autumn; for I feel
terribly, oh so terribly ill! Often do I think of death, yet feel that
I should not like to die here and be laid to rest in the soil of St.
Petersburg. Once more I have had to take to my bed, as I did last
spring, for I have never really recovered. Indeed I feel so depressed!
Thedora has gone out for the day, and I am alone. For a long while past
I have been afraid to be left by myself, for I keep fancying that there
is someone else in the room, and that that someone is speaking to me.
Especially do I fancy this when I have gone off into a reverie, and then
suddenly awoken from it, and am feeling bewildered. That is why I have
made this letter such a long one; for, when I am writing, the mood
passes away. Goodbye. I have neither time nor paper left for more, and
must close. Of the money which I saved to buy a new dress and hat, there
remains but a single rouble; but, I am glad that you have been able to
pay your landlady two roubles, for they will keep her tongue quiet for a
time. And you must repair your wardrobe.

Goodbye once more. I am so tired! Nor can I think why I am growing so
weak--why it is that even the smallest task now wearies me? Even if work
should come my way, how am I to do it? That is what worries me above all

B. D.

September 5th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA,--Today I have undergone a variety of experiences. In
the first place, my head has been aching, and towards evening I went out
to get a breath of fresh air along the Fontanka Canal. The weather was
dull and damp, and even by six o'clock, darkness had begun to set in.
True, rain was not actually falling, but only a mist like rain, while
the sky was streaked with masses of trailing cloud. Crowds of people
were hurrying along Naberezhnaia Street, with faces that looked strange
and dejected. There were drunken peasants; snub-nosed old harridans in
slippers; bareheaded artisans; cab drivers; every species of beggar;
boys; a locksmith's apprentice in a striped smock, with lean, emaciated
features which seemed to have been washed in rancid oil; an ex-soldier
who was offering penknives and copper rings for sale; and so on, and
so on. It was the hour when one would expect to meet no other folk than
these. And what a quantity of boats there were on the canal. It made
one wonder how they could all find room there. On every bridge were
old women selling damp gingerbread or withered apples, and every woman
looked as damp and dirty as her wares. In short, the Fontanka is a
saddening spot for a walk, for there is wet granite under one's feet,
and tall, dingy buildings on either side of one, and wet mist below and
wet mist above. Yes, all was dark and gloomy there this evening.

By the time I had returned to Gorokhovaia Street darkness had fallen
and the lamps had been lit. However, I did not linger long in that
particular spot, for Gorokhovaia Street is too noisy a place. But
what sumptuous shops and stores it contains! Everything sparkles and
glitters, and the windows are full of nothing but bright colours and
materials and hats of different shapes. One might think that they were
decked merely for display; but no,--people buy these things, and give
them to their wives! Yes, it IS a sumptuous place. Hordes of German
hucksters are there, as well as quite respectable traders. And the
quantities of carriages which pass along the street! One marvels that
the pavement can support so many splendid vehicles, with windows like
crystal, linings made of silk and velvet, and lacqueys dressed in
epaulets and wearing swords! Into some of them I glanced, and saw that
they contained ladies of various ages. Perhaps they were princesses and
countesses! Probably at that hour such folk would be hastening to balls
and other gatherings. In fact, it was interesting to be able to look so
closely at a princess or a great lady. They were all very fine. At
all events, I had never before seen such persons as I beheld in those

Then I thought of you. Ah, my own, my darling, it is often that I think
of you and feel my heart sink. How is it that YOU are so unfortunate,
Barbara? How is it that YOU are so much worse off than other people? In
my eyes you are kind-hearted, beautiful, and clever--why, then, has
such an evil fate fallen to your lot? How comes it that you are left
desolate--you, so good a human being! While to others happiness comes
without an invitation at all? Yes, I know--I know it well--that I ought
not to say it, for to do so savours of free-thought; but why should that
raven, Fate, croak out upon the fortunes of one person while she is yet
in her mother's womb, while another person it permits to go forth in
happiness from the home which has reared her? To even an idiot of
an Ivanushka such happiness is sometimes granted. "You, you fool
Ivanushka," says Fate, "shall succeed to your grandfather's money-bags,
and eat, drink, and be merry; whereas YOU (such and such another one)
shall do no more than lick the dish, since that is all that you are
good for." Yes, I know that it is wrong to hold such opinions, but
involuntarily the sin of so doing grows upon one's soul. Nevertheless,
it is you, my darling, who ought to be riding in one of those carriages.
Generals would have come seeking your favour, and, instead of being
clad in a humble cotton dress, you would have been walking in silken
and golden attire. Then you would not have been thin and wan as now,
but fresh and plump and rosy-cheeked as a figure on a sugar-cake. Then
should I too have been happy--happy if only I could look at your lighted
windows from the street, and watch your shadow--happy if only I could
think that you were well and happy, my sweet little bird! Yet how are
things in reality? Not only have evil folk brought you to ruin, but
there comes also an old rascal of a libertine to insult you! Just
because he struts about in a frockcoat, and can ogle you through a
gold-mounted lorgnette, the brute thinks that everything will fall into
his hands--that you are bound to listen to his insulting condescension!
Out upon him! But why is this? It is because you are an orphan, it is
because you are unprotected, it is because you have no powerful friend
to afford you the decent support which is your due. WHAT do such facts
matter to a man or to men to whom the insulting of an orphan is an
offence allowed? Such fellows are not men at all, but mere vermin, no
matter what they think themselves to be. Of that I am certain. Why,
an organ-grinder whom I met in Gorokhovaia Street would inspire more
respect than they do, for at least he walks about all day, and suffers
hunger--at least he looks for a stray, superfluous groat to earn him
subsistence, and is, therefore, a true gentleman, in that he supports
himself. To beg alms he would be ashamed; and, moreover, he works for
the benefit of mankind just as does a factory machine. "So far as in me
lies," says he, "I will give you pleasure." True, he is a pauper, and
nothing but a pauper; but, at least he is an HONOURABLE pauper. Though
tired and hungry, he still goes on working--working in his own peculiar
fashion, yet still doing honest labour. Yes, many a decent fellow whose
labour may be disproportionate to its utility pulls the forelock to no
one, and begs his bread of no one. I myself resemble that organ-grinder.
That is to say, though not exactly he, I resemble him in this respect,
that I work according to my capabilities, and so far as in me lies. More
could be asked of no one; nor ought I to be adjudged to do more.

Apropos of the organ-grinder, I may tell you, dearest, that today
I experienced a double misfortune. As I was looking at the grinder,
certain thoughts entered my head and I stood wrapped in a reverie. Some
cabmen also had halted at the spot, as well as a young girl, with a
yet smaller girl who was dressed in rags and tatters. These people had
halted there to listen to the organ-grinder, who was playing in front
of some one's windows. Next, I caught sight of a little urchin of about
ten--a boy who would have been good-looking but for the fact that his
face was pinched and sickly. Almost barefooted, and clad only in a
shirt, he was standing agape to listen to the music--a pitiful childish
figure. Nearer to the grinder a few more urchins were dancing, but
in the case of this lad his hands and feet looked numbed, and he kept
biting the end of his sleeve and shivering. Also, I noticed that in his
hands he had a paper of some sort. Presently a gentleman came by, and
tossed the grinder a small coin, which fell straight into a box adorned
with a representation of a Frenchman and some ladies. The instant he
heard the rattle of the coin, the boy started, looked timidly round, and
evidently made up his mind that I had thrown the money; whereupon, he
ran to me with his little hands all shaking, and said in a tremulous
voice as he proffered me his paper: "Pl-please sign this." I turned over
the paper, and saw that there was written on it what is usual under
such circumstances. "Kind friends I am a sick mother with three hungry
children. Pray help me. Though soon I shall be dead, yet, if you will
not forget my little ones in this world, neither will I forget you in
the world that is to come." The thing seemed clear enough; it was a
matter of life and death. Yet what was I to give the lad? Well, I gave
him nothing. But my heart ached for him. I am certain that, shivering
with cold though he was, and perhaps hungry, the poor lad was not lying.
No, no, he was not lying.

The shameful point is that so many mothers take no care of their
children, but send them out, half-clad, into the cold. Perhaps this
lad's mother also was a feckless old woman, and devoid of character? Or
perhaps she had no one to work for her, but was forced to sit with her
legs crossed--a veritable invalid? Or perhaps she was just an old rogue
who was in the habit of sending out pinched and hungry boys to deceive
the public? What would such a boy learn from begging letters? His heart
would soon be rendered callous, for, as he ran about begging, people
would pass him by and give him nothing. Yes, their hearts would be as
stone, and their replies rough and harsh. "Away with you!" they would
say. "You are seeking but to trick us." He would hear that from every
one, and his heart would grow hard, and he would shiver in vain with the
cold, like some poor little fledgling that has fallen out of the
nest. His hands and feet would be freezing, and his breath coming with
difficulty; until, look you, he would begin to cough, and disease, like
an unclean parasite, would worm its way into his breast until death
itself had overtaken him--overtaken him in some foetid corner whence
there was no chance of escape. Yes, that is what his life would become.

There are many such cases. Ah, Barbara, it is hard to hear "For Christ's
sake!" and yet pass the suppliant by and give nothing, or say merely:
"May the Lord give unto you!" Of course, SOME supplications mean
nothing (for supplications differ greatly in character). Occasionally
supplications are long, drawn-out and drawling, stereotyped and
mechanical--they are purely begging supplications. Requests of this kind
it is less hard to refuse, for they are purely professional and of long
standing. "The beggar is overdoing it," one thinks to oneself. "He knows
the trick too well." But there are other supplications which voice a
strange, hoarse, unaccustomed note, like that today when I took the poor
boy's paper. He had been standing by the kerbstone without speaking to
anybody--save that at last to myself he said, "For the love of Christ
give me a groat!" in a voice so hoarse and broken that I started, and
felt a queer sensation in my heart, although I did not give him a groat.
Indeed, I had not a groat on me. Rich folk dislike hearing poor people
complain of their poverty. "They disturb us," they say, "and are
impertinent as well. Why should poverty be so impertinent? Why should
its hungry moans prevent us from sleeping?"

To tell you the truth, my darling, I have written the foregoing not
merely to relieve my feelings, but, also, still more, to give you an
example of the excellent style in which I can write. You yourself will
recognise that my style was formed long ago, but of late such fits of
despondency have seized upon me that my style has begun to correspond
to my feelings; and though I know that such correspondence gains one
little, it at least renders one a certain justice. For not unfrequently
it happens that, for some reason or another, one feels abased, and
inclined to value oneself at nothing, and to account oneself lower than
a dishclout; but this merely arises from the fact that at the time one
is feeling harassed and depressed, like the poor boy who today asked of
me alms. Let me tell you an allegory, dearest, and do you hearken to it.
Often, as I hasten to the office in the morning, I look around me at
the city--I watch it awaking, getting out of bed, lighting its fires,
cooking its breakfast, and becoming vocal; and at the sight, I begin to
feel smaller, as though some one had dealt me a rap on my inquisitive
nose. Yes, at such times I slink along with a sense of utter humiliation
in my heart. For one would have but to see what is passing within those
great, black, grimy houses of the capital, and to penetrate within
their walls, for one at once to realise what good reason there is for
self-depredation and heart-searching. Of course, you will note that I am
speaking figuratively rather than literally.

Let us look at what is passing within those houses. In some dingy
corner, perhaps, in some damp kennel which is supposed to be a room, an
artisan has just awakened from sleep. All night he has dreamt--IF such
an insignificant fellow is capable of dreaming?--about the shoes which
last night he mechanically cut out. He is a master-shoemaker, you see,
and therefore able to think of nothing but his one subject of interest.
Nearby are some squalling children and a hungry wife. Nor is he the
only man that has to greet the day in this fashion. Indeed, the incident
would be nothing--it would not be worth writing about, save for another
circumstance. In that same house ANOTHER person--a person of great
wealth-may also have been dreaming of shoes; but, of shoes of a
very different pattern and fashion (in a manner of speaking, if you
understand my metaphor, we are all of us shoemakers). This, again, would
be nothing, were it not that the rich person has no one to whisper in
his ear: "Why dost thou think of such things? Why dost thou think of
thyself alone, and live only for thyself--thou who art not a shoemaker?
THY children are not ailing. THY wife is not hungry. Look around thee.
Can'st thou not find a subject more fitting for thy thoughts than thy
shoes?" That is what I want to say to you in allegorical language,
Barbara. Maybe it savours a little of free-thought, dearest; but, such
ideas WILL keep arising in my mind and finding utterance in impetuous
speech. Why, therefore, should one not value oneself at a groat as one
listens in fear and trembling to the roar and turmoil of the city? Maybe
you think that I am exaggerating things--that this is a mere whim of
mine, or that I am quoting from a book? No, no, Barbara. You may rest
assured that it is not so. Exaggeration I abhor, with whims I have
nothing to do, and of quotation I am guiltless.

I arrived home today in a melancholy mood. Sitting down to the table, I
had warmed myself some tea, and was about to drink a second glass of it,
when there entered Gorshkov, the poor lodger. Already, this morning,
I had noticed that he was hovering around the other lodgers, and also
seeming to want to speak to myself. In passing I may say that his
circumstances are infinitely worse than my own; for, only think of it,
he has a wife and children! Indeed, if I were he, I do not know what
I should do. Well, he entered my room, and bowed to me with the pus
standing, as usual, in drops on his eyelashes, his feet shuffling about,
and his tongue unable, at first, to articulate a word. I motioned him to
a chair (it was a dilapidated enough one, but I had no other), and asked
him to have a glass of tea. To this he demurred--for quite a long time
he demurred, but at length he accepted the offer. Next, he was for
drinking the tea without sugar, and renewed his excuses, but upon
the sugar I insisted. After long resistance and many refusals, he DID
consent to take some, but only the smallest possible lump; after which,
he assured me that his tea was perfectly sweet. To what depths of
humility can poverty reduce a man! "Well, what is it, my good sir?" I
inquired of him; whereupon he replied: "It is this, Makar Alexievitch.
You have once before been my benefactor. Pray again show me the charity
of God, and assist my unfortunate family. My wife and children have
nothing to eat. To think that a father should have to say this!" I was
about to speak again when he interrupted me. "You see," he continued,
"I am afraid of the other lodgers here. That is to say, I am not so much
afraid of, as ashamed to address them, for they are a proud, conceited
lot of men. Nor would I have troubled even you, my friend and former
benefactor, were it not that I know that you yourself have experienced
misfortune and are in debt; wherefore, I have ventured to come and make
this request of you, in that I know you not only to be kind-hearted, but
also to be in need, and for that reason the more likely to sympathise
with me in my distress." To this he added an apology for his awkwardness
and presumption. I replied that, glad though I should have been to
serve him, I had nothing, absolutely nothing, at my disposal. "Ah, Makar
Alexievitch," he went on, "surely it is not much that I am asking of
you? My-my wife and children are starving. C-could you not afford me
just a grivennik?" At that my heart contracted, "How these people put me
to shame!" thought I. But I had only twenty kopecks left, and upon them
I had been counting for meeting my most pressing requirements. "No, good
sir, I cannot," said I. "Well, what you will," he persisted. "Perhaps
ten kopecks?" Well I got out my cash-box, and gave him the twenty. It
was a good deed. To think that such poverty should exist! Then I had
some further talk with him. "How is it," I asked him, "that, though you
are in such straits, you have hired a room at five roubles?" He replied
that though, when he engaged the room six months ago, he paid three
months' rent in advance, his affairs had subsequently turned out badly,
and never righted themselves since. You see, Barbara, he was sued at
law by a merchant who had defrauded the Treasury in the matter of a
contract. When the fraud was discovered the merchant was prosecuted, but
the transactions in which he had engaged involved Gorshkov, although
the latter had been guilty only of negligence, want of prudence, and
culpable indifference to the Treasury's interests. True, the affair had
taken place some years ago, but various obstacles had since combined
to thwart Gorshkov. "Of the disgrace put upon me," said he to me, "I am
innocent. True, I to a certain extent disobeyed orders, but never did
I commit theft or embezzlement." Nevertheless the affair lost him
his character. He was dismissed the service, and though not adjudged
capitally guilty, has been unable since to recover from the merchant a
large sum of money which is his by right, as spared to him (Gorshkov)
by the legal tribunal. True, the tribunal in question did not altogether
believe in Gorshkov, but I do so. The matter is of a nature so complex
and crooked that probably a hundred years would be insufficient to
unravel it; and, though it has now to a certain extent been cleared up,
the merchant still holds the key to the situation. Personally I side
with Gorshkov, and am very sorry for him. Though lacking a post of any
kind, he still refuses to despair, though his resources are completely
exhausted. Yes, it is a tangled affair, and meanwhile he must live, for,
unfortunately, another child which has been born to him has entailed
upon the family fresh expenses. Also, another of his children recently
fell ill and died--which meant yet further expense. Lastly, not only is
his wife in bad health, but he himself is suffering from a complaint of
long standing. In short, he has had a very great deal to undergo. Yet he
declares that daily he expects a favourable issue to his affair--that he
has no doubt of it whatever. I am terribly sorry for him, and said what
I could to give him comfort, for he is a man who has been much bullied
and misled. He had come to me for protection from his troubles, so I did
my best to soothe him. Now, goodbye, my darling. May Christ watch over
you and preserve your health. Dearest one, even to think of you is like
medicine to my ailing soul. Though I suffer for you, I at least suffer
gladly.--Your true friend,


September 9th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I am beside myself as I take up my pen,
for a most terrible thing has happened. My head is whirling round. Ah,
beloved, how am I to tell you about it all? I had never foreseen what
has happened. But no--I cannot say that I had NEVER foreseen it, for my
mind DID get an inkling of what was coming, through my seeing something
very similar to it in a dream.

I will tell you the whole story--simply, and as God may put it into my
heart. Today I went to the office as usual, and, upon arrival, sat down
to write. You must know that I had been engaged on the same sort of
work yesterday, and that, while executing it, I had been approached by
Timothei Ivanovitch with an urgent request for a particular document.
"Makar Alexievitch," he had said, "pray copy this out for me. Copy it
as quickly and as carefully as you can, for it will require to be signed
today." Also let me tell you, dearest, that yesterday I had not been
feeling myself, nor able to look at anything. I had been troubled with
grave depression--my breast had felt chilled, and my head clouded. All
the while I had been thinking of you, my darling. Well, I set to work
upon the copying, and executed it cleanly and well, except for the
fact that, whether the devil confused my mind, or a mysterious fate so
ordained, or the occurrence was simply bound to happen, I left out a
whole line of the document, and thus made nonsense of it! The work had
been given me too late for signature last night, so it went before his
Excellency this morning. I reached the office at my usual hour, and sat
down beside Emelia Ivanovitch. Here I may remark that for a long time
past I have been feeling twice as shy and diffident as I used to do; I
have been finding it impossible to look people in the face. Let only
a chair creak, and I become more dead than alive. Today, therefore, I
crept humbly to my seat and sat down in such a crouching posture that
Efim Akimovitch (the most touchy man in the world) said to me sotto
voce: "What on earth makes you sit like that, Makar Alexievitch?" Then
he pulled such a grimace that everyone near us rocked with laughter at
my expense. I stopped my ears, frowned, and sat without moving, for I
found this the best method of putting a stop to such merriment. All at
once I heard a bustle and a commotion and the sound of someone running
towards us. Did my ears deceive me? It was I who was being summoned in
peremptory tones! My heart started to tremble within me, though I could
not say why. I only know that never in my life before had it trembled
as it did then. Still I clung to my chair--and at that moment was hardly
myself at all. The voices were coming nearer and nearer, until they were
shouting in my ear: "Dievushkin! Dievushkin! Where is Dievushkin?" Then
at length I raised my eyes, and saw before me Evstafi Ivanovitch. He
said to me: "Makar Alexievitch, go at once to his Excellency. You have
made a mistake in a document." That was all, but it was enough, was
it not? I felt dead and cold as ice--I felt absolutely deprived of the
power of sensation; but, I rose from my seat and went whither I had
been bidden. Through one room, through two rooms, through three rooms I
passed, until I was conducted into his Excellency's cabinet itself. Of
my thoughts at that moment I can give no exact account. I merely saw his
Excellency standing before me, with a knot of people around him. I have
an idea that I did not salute him--that I forgot to do so. Indeed,
so panic-stricken was I, that my teeth were chattering and my knees
knocking together. In the first place, I was greatly ashamed of my
appearance (a glance into a mirror on the right had frightened me with
the reflection of myself that it presented), and, in the second place, I
had always been accustomed to comport myself as though no such person
as I existed. Probably his Excellency had never before known that I was
even alive. Of course, he might have heard, in passing, that there was
a man named Dievushkin in his department; but never for a moment had he
had any intercourse with me.

He began angrily: "What is this you have done, sir? Why are you not
more careful? The document was wanted in a hurry, and you have gone
and spoiled it. What do you think of it?"--the last being addressed
to Evstafi Ivanovitch. More I did not hear, except for some flying
exclamations of "What negligence and carelessness! How awkward this is!"
and so on. I opened my mouth to say something or other; I tried to
beg pardon, but could not. To attempt to leave the room, I had not
the hardihood. Then there happened something the recollection of which
causes the pen to tremble in my hand with shame. A button of mine--the
devil take it!--a button of mine that was hanging by a single thread
suddenly broke off, and hopped and skipped and rattled and rolled until
it had reached the feet of his Excellency himself--this amid a profound
general silence! THAT was what came of my intended self-justification
and plea for mercy! THAT was the only answer that I had to return to my

The sequel I shudder to relate. At once his Excellency's attention
became drawn to my figure and costume. I remembered what I had seen
in the mirror, and hastened to pursue the button. Obstinacy of a sort
seized upon me, and I did my best to arrest the thing, but it slipped
away, and kept turning over and over, so that I could not grasp it, and
made a sad spectacle of myself with my awkwardness. Then there came over
me a feeling that my last remaining strength was about to leave me, and
that all, all was lost--reputation, manhood, everything! In both ears I
seemed to hear the voices of Theresa and Phaldoni. At length, however, I
grasped the button, and, raising and straightening myself, stood humbly
with clasped hands--looking a veritable fool! But no. First of all I
tried to attach the button to the ragged threads, and smiled each time
that it broke away from them, and smiled again. In the beginning his
Excellency had turned away, but now he threw me another glance, and I
heard him say to Evstafi Ivanovitch: "What on earth is the matter with
the fellow? Look at the figure he cuts! Who to God is he?" Ah, beloved,
only to hear that, "Who to God is he?" Truly I had made myself a marked
man! In reply to his Excellency Evstafi murmured: "He is no one of any
note, though his character is good. Besides, his salary is sufficient as
the scale goes." "Very well, then; but help him out of his difficulties
somehow," said his Excellency. "Give him a trifle of salary in advance."
"It is all forestalled," was the reply. "He drew it some time ago. But
his record is good. There is nothing against him." At this I felt as
though I were in Hell fire. I could actually have died! "Well, well,"
said his Excellency, "let him copy out the document a second time.
Dievushkin, come here. You are to make another copy of this paper, and
to make it as quickly as possible." With that he turned to some
other officials present, issued to them a few orders, and the company
dispersed. No sooner had they done so than his Excellency hurriedly
pulled out a pocket-book, took thence a note for a hundred roubles, and,
with the words, "Take this. It is as much as I can afford. Treat it as
you like," placed the money in my hand! At this, dearest, I started
and trembled, for I was moved to my very soul. What next I did I hardly
know, except that I know that I seized his Excellency by the hand.
But he only grew very red, and then--no, I am not departing by a
hair's-breadth from the truth--it is true--that he took this unworthy
hand in his, and shook it! Yes, he took this hand of mine in his, and
shook it, as though I had been his equal, as though I had been a general
like himself! "Go now," he said. "This is all that I can do for you.
Make no further mistakes, and I will overlook your fault."

What I think about it is this: I beg of you and of Thedora, and had
I any children I should beg of them also, to pray ever to God for his
Excellency. I should say to my children: "For your father you need not
pray; but for his Excellency, I bid you pray until your lives shall
end." Yes, dear one--I tell you this in all solemnity, so hearken well
unto my words--that though, during these cruel days of our adversity,
I have nearly died of distress of soul at the sight of you and your
poverty, as well as at the sight of myself and my abasement and
helplessness, I yet care less for the hundred roubles which his
Excellency has given me than for the fact that he was good enough to
take the hand of a wretched drunkard in his own and press it. By that
act he restored me to myself. By that act he revived my courage, he made
life forever sweet to me.... Yes, sure am I that, sinner though I be
before the Almighty, my prayers for the happiness and prosperity of his
Excellency will yet ascend to the Heavenly Throne!...

But, my darling, for the moment I am terribly agitated and distraught.
My heart is beating as though it would burst my breast, and all my body
seems weak.... I send you forty-five roubles in notes. Another twenty
I shall give to my landlady, and the remaining thirty-five I shall
keep--twenty for new clothes and fifteen for actual living expenses. But
these experiences of the morning have shaken me to the core, and I
must rest awhile. It is quiet, very quiet, here. My breath is coming in
jerks--deep down in my breast I can hear it sobbing and trembling....
I will come and see you soon, but at the moment my head is aching with
these various sensations. God sees all things, my darling, my priceless
treasure!--Your steadfast friend,


September 10th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--I am unspeakably rejoiced at your good
fortune, and fully appreciate the kindness of your superior. Now, take
a rest from your cares. Only do not AGAIN spend money to no advantage.
Live as quietly and as frugally as possible, and from today begin always
to set aside something, lest misfortune again overtake you. Do not, for
God's sake, worry yourself--Thedora and I will get on somehow. Why have
you sent me so much money? I really do not need it--what I had already
would have been quite sufficient. True, I shall soon be needing further
funds if I am to leave these lodgings, but Thedora is hoping before long
to receive repayment of an old debt. Of course, at least TWENTY roubles
will have to be set aside for indispensable requirements, but the
remainder shall be returned to you. Pray take care of it, Makar
Alexievitch. Now, goodbye. May your life continue peacefully, and may
you preserve your health and spirits. I would have written to you at
greater length had I not felt so terribly weary. Yesterday I never left
my bed. I am glad that you have promised to come and see me. Yes, you
MUST pay me a visit.

B. D.

September 11th.

MY DARLING BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I implore you not to leave me now that
I am once more happy and contented. Disregard what Thedora says, and I
will do anything in the world for you. I will behave myself better, even
if only out of respect for his Excellency, and guard my every action.
Once more we will exchange cheerful letters with one another, and make
mutual confidence of our thoughts and joys and sorrows (if so be that
we shall know any more sorrows?). Yes, we will live twice as happily
and comfortably as of old. Also, we will exchange books.... Angel of my
heart, a great change has taken place in my fortunes--a change very much
for the better. My landlady has become more accommodating; Theresa has
recovered her senses; even Phaldoni springs to do my bidding. Likewise,
I have made my peace with Rataziaev. He came to see me of his own
accord, the moment that he heard the glad tidings. There can be no doubt
that he is a good fellow, that there is no truth in the slanders that
one hears of him. For one thing, I have discovered that he never had
any intention of putting me and yourself into a book. This he told me
himself, and then read to me his latest work. As for his calling me
"Lovelace," he had intended no rudeness or indecency thereby. The term
is merely one of foreign derivation, meaning a clever fellow, or, in
more literary and elegant language, a gentleman with whom one must
reckon. That is all; it was a mere harmless jest, my beloved. Only
ignorance made me lose my temper, and I have expressed to him my
regret.... How beautiful is the weather today, my little Barbara! True,
there was a slight frost in the early morning, as though scattered
through a sieve, but it was nothing, and the breeze soon freshened the
air. I went out to buy some shoes, and obtained a splendid pair. Then,
after a stroll along the Nevski Prospect, I read "The Daily Bee". This
reminds me that I have forgotten to tell you the most important thing of
all. It happened like this:

This morning I had a talk with Emelia Ivanovitch and Aksenti
Michaelovitch concerning his Excellency. Apparently, I am not the only
person to whom he has acted kindly and been charitable, for he is known
to the whole world for his goodness of heart. In many quarters his
praises are to be heard; in many quarters he has called forth tears
of gratitude. Among other things, he undertook the care of an orphaned
girl, and married her to an official, the son of a poor widow, and found
this man place in a certain chancellory, and in other ways benefited
him. Well, dearest, I considered it to be my duty to add my mite by
publishing abroad the story of his Excellency's gracious treatment of
myself. Accordingly, I related the whole occurrence to my interlocutors,
and concealed not a single detail. In fact, I put my pride into my
pocket--though why should I feel ashamed of having been elated by such
an occurrence? "Let it only be noised afield," said I to myself, and it
will resound greatly to his Excellency's credit.--So I expressed myself
enthusiastically on the subject and never faltered. On the contrary,
I felt proud to have such a story to tell. I referred to every one
concerned (except to yourself, of course, dearest)--to my landlady, to
Phaldoni, to Rataziaev, to Markov. I even mentioned the matter of my
shoes! Some of those standing by laughed--in fact every one present did
so, but probably it was my own figure or the incident of my shoes--more
particularly the latter--that excited merriment, for I am sure it was
not meant ill-naturedly. My hearers may have been young men, or well
off; certainly they cannot have been laughing with evil intent at what
I had said. Anything against his Excellency CANNOT have been in their
thoughts. Eh, Barbara?

Even now I cannot wholly collect my faculties, so upset am I by recent
events.... Have you any fuel to go on with, Barbara? You must not expose
yourself to cold. Also, you have depressed my spirits with your fears
for the future. Daily I pray to God on your behalf. Ah, HOW I pray
to Him!... Likewise, have you any woollen stockings to wear, and warm
clothes generally? Mind you, if there is anything you need, you must
not hurt an old man's feelings by failing to apply to him for what you
require. The bad times are gone now, and the future is looking bright
and fair.

But what bad times they were, Barbara, even though they be gone, and
can no longer matter! As the years pass on we shall gradually recover
ourselves. How clearly I remember my youth! In those days I never had
a kopeck to spare. Yet, cold and hungry though I was, I was always
light-hearted. In the morning I would walk the Nevski Prospect, and meet
nice-looking people, and be happy all day. Yes, it was a glorious, a
glorious time! It was good to be alive, especially in St. Petersburg.
Yet it is but yesterday that I was beseeching God with tears to pardon
me my sins during the late sorrowful period--to pardon me my murmurings
and evil thoughts and gambling and drunkenness. And you I remembered in
my prayers, for you alone have encouraged and comforted me, you alone
have given me advice and instruction. I shall never forget that,
dearest. Today I gave each one of your letters a kiss.... Goodbye,
beloved. I have been told that there is going to be a sale of clothing
somewhere in this neighbourhood. Once more goodbye, goodbye, my
angel--Yours in heart and soul,


September 15th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--I am in terrible distress. I feel sure
that something is about to happen. The matter, my beloved friend, is
that Monsieur Bwikov is again in St. Petersburg, for Thedora has met
him. He was driving along in a drozhki, but, on meeting Thedora, he
ordered the coachman to stop, sprang out, and inquired of her where she
was living; but this she would not tell him. Next, he said with a
smile that he knew quite well who was living with her (evidently Anna
Thedorovna had told him); whereupon Thedora could hold out no longer,
but then and there, in the street, railed at and abused him--telling him
that he was an immoral man, and the cause of all my misfortunes. To
this he replied that a person who did not possess a groat must surely be
rather badly off; to which Thedora retorted that I could always either
live by the labour of my hands or marry--that it was not so much a
question of my losing posts as of my losing my happiness, the ruin of
which had led almost to my death. In reply he observed that, though
I was still quite young, I seemed to have lost my wits, and that my
"virtue appeared to be under a cloud" (I quote his exact words). Both
I and Thedora had thought that he does not know where I live; but,
last night, just as I had left the house to make a few purchases in the
Gostinni Dvor, he appeared at our rooms (evidently he had not wanted to
find me at home), and put many questions to Thedora concerning our way
of living. Then, after inspecting my work, he wound up with: "Who is
this tchinovnik friend of yours?" At the moment you happened to be
passing through the courtyard, so Thedora pointed you out, and the man
peered at you, and laughed. Thedora next asked him to depart--telling
him that I was still ill from grief, and that it would give me great
pain to see him there; to which, after a pause, he replied that he had
come because he had had nothing better to do. Also, he was for giving
Thedora twenty-five roubles, but, of course, she declined them. What
does it all mean? Why has he paid this visit? I cannot understand his
getting to know about me. I am lost in conjecture. Thedora, however,
says that Aksinia, her sister-in-law (who sometimes comes to see her),
is acquainted with a laundress named Nastasia, and that this woman has
a cousin in the position of watchman to a department of which a certain
friend of Anna Thedorovna's nephew forms one of the staff. Can it be,
therefore, that an intrigue has been hatched through THIS channel? But
Thedora may be entirely mistaken. We hardly know what to think. What if
he should come again? The very thought terrifies me. When Thedora told
me of this last night such terror seized upon me that I almost swooned
away. What can the man be wanting? At all events, I refuse to know such
people. What have they to do with my wretched self? Ah, how I am haunted
with anxiety, for every moment I keep thinking that Bwikov is at hand!
WHAT will become of me? WHAT MORE has fate in store for me? For Christ's
sake come and see me, Makar Alexievitch! For Christ's sake come and see
me soon!

September 18th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--Today there took place in this house
a most lamentable, a most mysterious, a most unlooked-for occurrence.
First of all, let me tell you that poor Gorshkov has been entirely
absolved of guilt. The decision has been long in coming, but this
morning he went to hear the final resolution read. It was entirely in
his favour. Any culpability which had been imputed to him for negligence
and irregularity was removed by the resolution. Likewise, he was
authorised to recover of the merchant a large sum of money. Thus, he
stands entirely justified, and has had his character cleansed from
all stain. In short, he could not have wished for a more complete
vindication. When he arrived home at three o'clock he was looking as
white as a sheet, and his lips were quivering. Yet there was a smile on
his face as he embraced his wife and children. In a body the rest of us
ran to congratulate him, and he was greatly moved by the act. Bowing to
us, he pressed our hands in turn. As he did so I thought, somehow, that
he seemed to have grown taller and straighter, and that the pus-drops
seemed to have disappeared from his eyelashes. Yet how agitated he was,
poor fellow! He could not rest quietly for two minutes together, but
kept picking up and then dropping whatsoever came to his hand, and
bowing and smiling without intermission, and sitting down and getting
up, and again sitting down, and chattering God only knows what about his
honour and his good name and his little ones. How he did talk--yes, and
weep too! Indeed, few of ourselves could refrain from tears; although
Rataziaev remarked (probably to encourage Gorshkov) that honour mattered
nothing when one had nothing to eat, and that money was the chief thing
in the world, and that for it alone ought God to be thanked. Then he
slapped Gorshkov on the shoulder, but I thought that Gorshkov somehow
seemed hurt at this. He did not express any open displeasure, but threw
Rataziaev a curious look, and removed his hand from his shoulder. ONCE
upon a time he would not have acted thus; but characters differ. For
example, I myself should have hesitated, at such a season of rejoicing,
to seem proud, even though excessive deference and civility at such a
moment might have been construed as a lapse both of moral courage and of
mental vigour. However, this is none of my business. All that Gorshkov
said was: "Yes, money IS a good thing, glory be to God!" In fact, the
whole time that we remained in his room he kept repeating to himself:
"Glory be to God, glory be to God!" His wife ordered a richer and more
delicate meal than usual, and the landlady herself cooked it, for at
heart she is not a bad woman. But until the meal was served Gorshkov
could not remain still. He kept entering everyone's room in turn
(whether invited thither or not), and, seating himself smilingly upon
a chair, would sometimes say something, and sometimes not utter a word,
but get up and go out again. In the naval officer's room he even took a
pack of playing-cards into his hand, and was thereupon invited to make
a fourth in a game; but after losing a few times, as well as making
several blunders in his play, he abandoned the pursuit. "No," said he,
"that is the sort of man that I am--that is all that I am good for," and
departed. Next, encountering myself in the corridor, he took my hands in
his, and gazed into my face with a rather curious air. Then he pressed
my hands again, and moved away still smiling, smiling, but in an odd,
weary sort of manner, much as a corpse might smile. Meanwhile his wife
was weeping for joy, and everything in their room was decked in holiday
guise. Presently dinner was served, and after they had dined Gorshkov
said to his wife: "See now, dearest, I am going to rest a little while;"
and with that went to bed. Presently he called his little daughter to
his side, and, laying his hand upon the child's head, lay a long while
looking at her. Then he turned to his wife again, and asked her: "What
of Petinka? Where is our Petinka?" whereupon his wife crossed herself,
and replied: "Why, our Petinka is dead!" "Yes, yes, I know--of course,"
said her husband. "Petinka is now in the Kingdom of Heaven." This showed
his wife that her husband was not quite in his right senses--that the
recent occurrence had upset him; so she said: "My dearest, you must
sleep awhile." "I will do so," he replied, "--at once--I am rather--"
And he turned over, and lay silent for a time. Then again he turned
round and tried to say something, but his wife could not hear what it
was. "What do you say?" she inquired, but he made no reply. Then again
she waited a few moments until she thought to herself, "He has gone to
sleep," and departed to spend an hour with the landlady. At the end
of that hour she returned--only to find that her husband had not yet
awoken, but was still lying motionless. "He is sleeping very soundly,"
she reflected as she sat down and began to work at something or other.
Since then she has told us that when half an hour or so had elapsed she
fell into a reverie. What she was thinking of she cannot remember, save
that she had forgotten altogether about her husband. Then she awoke with
a curious sort of sensation at her heart. The first thing that struck
her was the deathlike stillness of the room. Glancing at the bed,
she perceived her husband to be lying in the same position as before.
Thereupon she approached him, turned the coverlet back, and saw that he
was stiff and cold--that he had died suddenly, as though smitten with a
stroke. But of what precisely he died God only knows. The affair has so
terribly impressed me that even now I cannot fully collect my
thoughts. It would scarcely be believed that a human being could die so
simply--and he such a poor, needy wretch, this Gorshkov! What a
fate, what a fate, to be sure! His wife is plunged in tears and
panic-stricken, while his little daughter has run away somewhere to hide
herself. In their room, however, all is bustle and confusion, for the
doctors are about to make an autopsy on the corpse. But I cannot
tell you things for certain; I only know that I am most grieved, most
grieved. How sad to think that one never knows what even a day,
what even an hour, may bring forth! One seems to die to so little
purpose!--Your own


September 19th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I hasten to let you know that Rataziaev
has found me some work to do for a certain writer--the latter having
submitted to him a large manuscript. Glory be to God, for this means a
large amount of work to do. Yet, though the copy is wanted in haste, the
original is so carelessly written that I hardly know how to set about my
task. Indeed, certain parts of the manuscript are almost undecipherable.
I have agreed to do the work for forty kopecks a sheet. You see
therefore (and this is my true reason for writing to you), that we shall
soon be receiving money from an extraneous source. Goodbye now, as I
must begin upon my labours.--Your sincere friend,


September 23rd.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--I have not written to you these three
days past for the reason that I have been so worried and alarmed.

Three days ago Bwikov came again to see me. At the time I was alone, for
Thedora had gone out somewhere. As soon as I opened the door the sight
of him so terrified me that I stood rooted to the spot, and could feel
myself turning pale. Entering with his usual loud laugh, he took a
chair, and sat down. For a long while I could not collect my thoughts;
I just sat where I was, and went on with my work. Soon his smile faded,
for my appearance seemed somehow to have struck him. You see, of late I
have grown thin, and my eyes and cheeks have fallen in, and my face has
become as white as a sheet; so that anyone who knew me a year ago would
scarcely recognise me now. After a prolonged inspection, Bwikov seemed
to recover his spirits, for he said something to which I duly replied.
Then again he laughed. Thus he sat for a whole hour--talking to me the
while, and asking me questions about one thing and another. At length,
just before he rose to depart, he took me by the hand, and said (to
quote his exact words): "Between ourselves, Barbara Alexievna, that
kinswoman of yours and my good friend and acquaintance--I refer to
Anna Thedorovna--is a very bad woman," (he also added a grosser term
of opprobrium). "First of all she led your cousin astray, and then she
ruined yourself. I also have behaved like a villain, but such is the way
of the world." Again he laughed. Next, having remarked that, though
not a master of eloquence, he had always considered that obligations of
gentility obliged him to have with me a clear and outspoken explanation,
he went on to say that he sought my hand in marriage; that he looked
upon it as a duty to restore to me my honour; that he could offer me
riches; that, after marriage, he would take me to his country seat in
the Steppes, where we would hunt hares; that he intended never to visit
St. Petersburg again, since everything there was horrible, and he had to
entertain a worthless nephew whom he had sworn to disinherit in favour
of a legal heir; and, finally, that it was to obtain such a legal heir
that he was seeking my hand in marriage. Lastly, he remarked that
I seemed to be living in very poor circumstances (which was not
surprising, said he, in view of the kennel that I inhabited); that I
should die if I remained a month longer in that den; that all lodgings
in St. Petersburg were detestable; and that he would be glad to know if
I was in want of anything.

So thunderstruck was I with the proposal that I could only burst into
tears. These tears he interpreted as a sign of gratitude, for he told
me that he had always felt assured of my good sense, cleverness, and
sensibility, but that hitherto he had hesitated to take this step until
he should have learned precisely how I was getting on. Next he asked me
some questions about YOU; saying that he had heard of you as a man of
good principle, and that since he was unwilling to remain your debtor,
would a sum of five hundred roubles repay you for all you had done for
me? To this I replied that your services to myself had been such as
could never be requited with money; whereupon, he exclaimed that I was
talking rubbish and nonsense; that evidently I was still young enough to
read poetry; that romances of this kind were the undoing of young girls,
that books only corrupted morality, and that, for his part, he could not
abide them. "You ought to live as long as I have done," he added, "and
THEN you will see what men can be."

With that he requested me to give his proposal my favourable
consideration--saying that he would not like me to take such an
important step unguardedly, since want of thought and impetuosity often
spelt ruin to youthful inexperience, but that he hoped to receive an
answer in the affirmative. "Otherwise," said he, "I shall have no choice
but to marry a certain merchant's daughter in Moscow, in order that
I may keep my vow to deprive my nephew of the inheritance."--Then he
pressed five hundred roubles into my hand--to buy myself some bonbons,
as he phrased it--and wound up by saying that in the country I should
grow as fat as a doughnut or a cheese rolled in butter; that at the
present moment he was extremely busy; and that, deeply engaged in
business though he had been all day, he had snatched the present
opportunity of paying me a visit. At length he departed.

For a long time I sat plunged in reflection. Great though my distress
of mind was, I soon arrived at a decision.... My friend, I am going to
marry this man; I have no choice but to accept his proposal. If anyone
could save me from this squalor, and restore to me my good name, and
avert from me future poverty and want and misfortune, he is the man to
do it. What else have I to look for from the future? What more am I to
ask of fate? Thedora declares that one need NEVER lose one's happiness;
but what, I ask HER, can be called happiness under such circumstances as
mine? At all events I see no other road open, dear friend. I see nothing
else to be done. I have worked until I have ruined my health. I cannot
go on working forever. Shall I go out into the world? Nay; I am worn to
a shadow with grief, and become good for nothing. Sickly by nature, I
should merely be a burden upon other folks. Of course this marriage will
not bring me paradise, but what else does there remain, my friend--what
else does there remain? What other choice is left?

I had not asked your advice earlier for the reason that I wanted to
think the matter over alone. However, the decision which you have just
read is unalterable, and I am about to announce it to Bwikov himself,
who in any case has pressed me for a speedy reply, owing to the fact (so
he says) that his business will not wait nor allow him to remain here
longer, and that therefore, no trifle must be allowed to stand in its
way. God alone knows whether I shall be happy, but my fate is in His
holy, His inscrutable hand, and I have so decided. Bwikov is said to be
kind-hearted. He will at least respect me, and perhaps I shall be
able to return that respect. What more could be looked for from such a

I have now told you all, Makar Alexievitch, and feel sure that you will
understand my despondency. Do not, however, try to divert me from my
intention, for all your efforts will be in vain. Think for a moment;
weigh in your heart for a moment all that has led me to take this step.
At first my anguish was extreme, but now I am quieter. What awaits me I
know not. What must be must be, and as God may send....

Bwikov has just arrived, so I am leaving this letter unfinished.
Otherwise I had much else to say to you. Bwikov is even now at the

September 23rd.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I hasten to reply to you--I hasten to
express to you my extreme astonishment.... In passing, I may mention
that yesterday we buried poor Gorshkov....

Yes, Bwikov has acted nobly, and you have no choice but to accept him.
All things are in God's hands. This is so, and must always be so; and
the purposes of the Divine Creator are at once good and inscrutable, as
also is Fate, which is one with Him....

Thedora will share your happiness--for, of course, you will be happy,
and free from want, darling, dearest, sweetest of angels! But why should
the matter be so hurried? Oh, of course--Monsieur Bwikov's business
affairs. Only a man who has no affairs to see to can afford to disregard
such things. I got a glimpse of Monsieur Bwikov as he was leaving your
door. He is a fine-looking man--a very fine-looking man; though that is
not the point that I should most have noticed had I been quite myself at
the time....

In the future shall we be able to write letters to one another? I keep
wondering and wondering what has led you to say all that you have said.
To think that just when twenty pages of my copying are completed THIS
has happened!... I suppose you will be able to make many purchases
now--to buy shoes and dresses and all sorts of things? Do you remember
the shops in Gorokhovaia Street of which I used to speak?...

But no. You ought not to go out at present--you simply ought not to, and
shall not. Presently, you will he able to buy many, many things, and to,
keep a carriage. Also, at present the weather is bad. Rain is descending
in pailfuls, and it is such a soaking kind of rain that--that you might
catch cold from it, my darling, and the chill might go to your heart.
Why should your fear of this man lead you to take such risks when
all the time I am here to do your bidding? So Thedora declares great
happiness to be awaiting you, does she? She is a gossiping old woman,
and evidently desires to ruin you.

Shall you be at the all-night Mass this evening, dearest? I should like
to come and see you there. Yes, Bwikov spoke but the truth when he said
that you are a woman of virtue, wit, and good feeling. Yet I think he
would do far better to marry the merchant's daughter. What think YOU
about it? Yes, 'twould be far better for him. As soon as it grows dark
tonight I mean to come and sit with you for an hour. Tonight twilight
will close in early, so I shall soon be with you. Yes, come what may,
I mean to see you for an hour. At present, I suppose, you are expecting
Bwikov, but I will come as soon as he has gone. So stay at home until I
have arrived, dearest.


September 27th.

DEAR MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Bwikov has just informed me that I must have
at least three dozen linen blouses; so I must go at once and look for
sempstresses to make two out of the three dozen, since time presses.
Indeed, Monsieur Bwikov is quite angry about the fuss which these
fripperies are entailing, seeing that there remain but five days before
the wedding, and we are to depart on the following day. He keeps rushing
about and declaring that no time ought to be wasted on trifles. I am
terribly worried, and scarcely able to stand on my feet. There is
so much to do, and, perhaps, so much that were better left undone!
Moreover, I have no blond or other lace; so THERE is another item to be
purchased, since Bwikov declares that he cannot have his bride look
like a cook, but, on the contrary, she must "put the noses of the great
ladies out of joint." That is his expression. I wish, therefore, that
you would go to Madame Chiffon's, in Gorokhovaia Street, and ask her, in
the first place, to send me some sempstresses, and, in the second place,
to give herself the trouble of coming in person, as I am too ill to
go out. Our new flat is very cold, and still in great disorder. Also,
Bwikov has an aunt who is at her last gasp through old age, and may die
before our departure. He himself, however, declares this to be nothing,
and says that she will soon recover. He is not yet living with me, and
I have to go running hither and thither to find him. Only Thedora
is acting as my servant, together with Bwikov's valet, who oversees
everything, but has been absent for the past three days.

Each morning Bwikov goes to business, and loses his temper. Yesterday
he even had some trouble with the police because of his thrashing the
steward of these buildings... I have no one to send with this letter so
I am going to post it... Ah! I had almost forgotten the most important
point--which is that I should like you to go and tell Madame Chiffon
that I wish the blond lace to be changed in conformity with yesterday's
patterns, if she will be good enough to bring with her a new assortment.
Also say that I have altered my mind about the satin, which I wish to
be tamboured with crochet-work; also, that tambour is to be used with
monograms on the various garments. Do you hear? Tambour, not smooth
work. Do not forget that it is to be tambour. Another thing I had almost
forgotten, which is that the lappets of the fur cloak must be raised,
and the collar bound with lace. Please tell her these things, Makar
Alexievitch.--Your friend,

B. D.

P.S.--I am so ashamed to trouble you with my commissions! This is the
third morning that you will have spent in running about for my sake. But
what else am I to do? The whole place is in disorder, and I myself
am ill. Do not be vexed with me, Makar Alexievitch. I am feeling so
depressed! What is going to become of me, dear friend, dear, kind, old
Makar Alexievitch? I dread to look forward into the future. Somehow I
feel apprehensive; I am living, as it were, in a mist. Yet, for God's
sake, forget none of my commissions. I am so afraid lest you should make
a mistake! Remember that everything is to be tambour work, not smooth.

September 27th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I have carefully fulfilled your
commissions. Madame Chiffon informs me that she herself had thought of
using tambour work as being more suitable (though I did not quite take
in all she said). Also, she has informed me that, since you have given
certain directions in writing, she has followed them (though again I do
not clearly remember all that she said--I only remember that she said
a very great deal, for she is a most tiresome old woman). These
observations she will soon be repeating to you in person. For myself, I
feel absolutely exhausted, and have not been to the office today...

Do not despair about the future, dearest. To save you trouble I would
visit every shop in St. Petersburg. You write that you dare not look
forward into the future. But by tonight, at seven o'clock, you will have
learned all, for Madame Chiffon will have arrived in person to see you.
Hope on, and everything will order itself for the best. Of course, I
am referring only to these accursed gewgaws, to these frills and
fripperies! Ah me, ah me, how glad I shall be to see you, my angel! Yes,
how glad I shall be! Twice already today I have passed the gates of your
abode. Unfortunately, this Bwikov is a man of such choler that--Well,
things are as they are.


September 28th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--For God's sake go to the jeweller's,
and tell him that, after all, he need not make the pearl and emerald
earrings. Monsieur Bwikov says that they will cost him too much, that
they will burn a veritable hole in his pocket. In fact, he has lost his
temper again, and declares that he is being robbed. Yesterday he added
that, had he but known, but foreseen, these expenses, he would never
have married. Also, he says that, as things are, he intends only to have
a plain wedding, and then to depart. "You must not look for any dancing
or festivity or entertainment of guests, for our gala times are still in
the air." Such were his words. God knows I do not want such things, but
none the less Bwikov has forbidden them. I made him no answer on the
subject, for he is a man all too easily irritated. What, what is going
to become of me?

B. D.

September 28th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--All is well as regards the jeweller.
Unfortunately, I have also to say that I myself have fallen ill, and
cannot rise from bed. Just when so many things need to be done, I have
gone and caught a chill, the devil take it! Also I have to tell you
that, to complete my misfortunes, his Excellency has been pleased to
become stricter. Today he railed at and scolded Emelia Ivanovitch until
the poor fellow was quite put about. That is the sum of my news.

No--there is something else concerning which I should like to write
to you, but am afraid to obtrude upon your notice. I am a simple,
dull fellow who writes down whatsoever first comes into his head--Your


September 29th.

MY OWN BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--Today, dearest, I saw Thedora, who informed
me that you are to be married tomorrow, and on the following day to go
away--for which purpose Bwikov has ordered a post-chaise....

Well, of the incident of his Excellency, I have already told you. Also
I have verified the bill from the shop in Gorokhovaia Street. It is
correct, but very long. Why is Monsieur Bwikov so out of humour with
you? Nay, but you must be of good cheer, my darling. I am so, and shall
always be so, so long as you are happy. I should have come to the church
tomorrow, but, alas, shall be prevented from doing so by the pain in my
loins. Also, I would have written an account of the ceremony, but that
there will be no one to report to me the details....

Yes, you have been a very good friend to Thedora, dearest. You have
acted kindly, very kindly, towards her. For every such deed God will
bless you. Good deeds never go unrewarded, nor does virtue ever fail to
win the crown of divine justice, be it early or be it late. Much else
should I have liked to write to you. Every hour, every minute I could
occupy in writing. Indeed I could write to you forever! Only your book,
"The Stories of Bielkin", is left to me. Do not deprive me of it, I pray
you, but suffer me to keep it. It is not so much because I wish to read
the book for its own sake, as because winter is coming on, when the
evenings will be long and dreary, and one will want to read at least

Do you know, I am going to move from my present quarters into your old
ones, which I intend to rent from Thedora; for I could never part with
that good old woman. Moreover, she is such a splendid worker.
Yesterday I inspected your empty room in detail, and inspected your
embroidery-frame, with the work still hanging on it. It had been left
untouched in its corner. Next, I inspected the work itself, of which
there still remained a few remnants, and saw that you had used one of my
letters for a spool upon which to wind your thread. Also, on the table
I found a scrap of paper which had written on it, "My dearest Makar
Alexievitch I hasten to--" that was all. Evidently, someone had
interrupted you at an interesting point. Lastly, behind a screen there
was your little bed.... Oh darling of darlings!!!... Well, goodbye now,
goodbye now, but for God's sake send me something in answer to this


September 30th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--All is over! The die is cast! What my lot
may have in store I know not, but I am submissive to the will of God.
Tomorrow, then, we depart. For the last time, I take my leave of you, my
friend beyond price, my benefactor, my dear one! Do not grieve for me,
but try to live happily. Think of me sometimes, and may the blessing
of Almighty God light upon you! For myself, I shall often have you in
remembrance, and recall you in my prayers. Thus our time together
has come to an end. Little comfort in my new life shall I derive
from memories of the past. The more, therefore, shall I cherish the
recollection of you, and the dearer will you ever be to my heart. Here,
you have been my only friend; here, you alone have loved me. Yes, I have
seen all, I have known all--I have throughout known how well you love
me. A single smile of mine, a single stroke from my pen, has been able
to make you happy.... But now you must forget me.... How lonely you will
be! Why should you stay here at all, kind, inestimable, but solitary,
friend of mine?

To your care I entrust the book, the embroidery frame, and the letter
upon which I had begun. When you look upon the few words which the
letter contains you will be able mentally to read in thought all that
you would have liked further to hear or receive from me--all that I
would so gladly have written, but can never now write. Think sometimes
of your poor little Barbara who loved you so well. All your letters I
have left behind me in the top drawer of Thedora's chest of drawers...
You write that you are ill, but Monsieur Bwikov will not let me leave
the house today; so that I can only write to you. Also, I will write
again before long. That is a promise. Yet God only knows when I shall be
able to do so....

Now we must bid one another forever farewell, my friend, my beloved,
my own! Yes, it must be forever! Ah, how at this moment I could embrace
you! Goodbye, dear friend--goodbye, goodbye! May you ever rest well and
happy! To the end I shall keep you in my prayers. How my heart is
aching under its load of sorrow!... Monsieur Bwikov is just calling for
me....--Your ever loving


P.S.--My heart is full! It is full to bursting of tears! Sorrow has me
in its grip, and is tearing me to pieces. Goodbye. My God, what grief!
Do not, do not forget your poor Barbara!

route, you are now just about to depart! Would that they had torn my
heart out of my breast rather than have taken you away from me! How
could you allow it? You weep, yet you go! And only this moment I have
received from you a letter stained with your tears! It must be that
you are departing unwillingly; it must be that you are being abducted
against your will; it must be that you are sorry for me; it must be
that--that you LOVE me!...

Yet how will it fare with you now? Your heart will soon have become
chilled and sick and depressed. Grief will soon have sucked away its
life; grief will soon have rent it in twain! Yes, you will die where you
be, and be laid to rest in the cold, moist earth where there is no one
to bewail you. Monsieur Bwikov will only be hunting hares!...

Ah, my darling, my darling! WHY did you come to this decision? How could
you bring yourself to take such a step? What have you done, have you
done, have you done? Soon they will be carrying you away to the tomb;
soon your beauty will have become defiled, my angel. Ah, dearest one,
you are as weak as a feather. And where have I been all this time? What
have I been thinking of? I have treated you merely as a forward child
whose head was aching. Fool that I was, I neither saw nor understood.
I have behaved as though, right or wrong, the matter was in no way my
concern. Yes, I have been running about after fripperies!... Ah, but I
WILL leave my bed. Tomorrow I WILL rise sound and well, and be once more

Dearest, I could throw myself under the wheels of a passing vehicle
rather than that you should go like this. By what right is it being
done?... I will go with you; I will run behind your carriage if you will
not take me--yes, I will run, and run so long as the power is in me, and
until my breath shall have failed. Do you know whither you are going?
Perhaps you will not know, and will have to ask me? Before you there
lie the Steppes, my darling--only the Steppes, the naked Steppes, the
Steppes that are as bare as the palm of my hand. THERE there live only
heartless old women and rude peasants and drunkards. THERE the trees
have already shed their leaves. THERE there abide but rain and cold. Why
should you go thither? True, Monsieur Bwikov will have his diversions in
that country--he will be able to hunt the hare; but what of yourself? Do
you wish to become a mere estate lady? Nay; look at yourself, my seraph
of heaven. Are you in any way fitted for such a role? How could you
play it? To whom should I write letters? To whom should I send these
missives? Whom should I call "my darling"? To whom should I apply that
name of endearment? Where, too, could I find you?

When you are gone, Barbara, I shall die--for certain I shall die, for my
heart cannot bear this misery. I love you as I love the light of God;
I love you as my own daughter; to you I have devoted my love in its
entirety; only for you have I lived at all; only because you were near
me have I worked and copied manuscripts and committed my views to paper
under the guise of friendly letters.

Perhaps you did not know all this, but it has been so. How, then, my
beloved, could you bring yourself to leave me? Nay, you MUST not go--it
is impossible, it is sheerly, it is utterly, impossible. The rain will
fall upon you, and you are weak, and will catch cold. The floods will
stop your carriage. No sooner will it have passed the city barriers than
it will break down, purposely break down. Here, in St. Petersburg, they
are bad builders of carriages. Yes, I know well these carriage-builders.
They are jerry-builders who can fashion a toy, but nothing that is
durable. Yes, I swear they can make nothing that is durable.... All that
I can do is to go upon my knees before Monsieur Bwikov, and to tell him
all, to tell him all. Do you also tell him all, dearest, and reason with
him. Tell him that you MUST remain here, and must not go. Ah, why did he
not marry that merchant's daughter in Moscow? Let him go and marry her
now. She would suit him far better and for reasons which I well know.
Then I could keep you. For what is he to you, this Monsieur Bwikov? Why
has he suddenly become so dear to your heart? Is it because he can buy
you gewgaws? What are THEY? What use are THEY? They are so much rubbish.
One should consider human life rather than mere finery.

Nevertheless, as soon as I have received my next instalment of salary I
mean to buy you a new cloak. I mean to buy it at a shop with which I
am acquainted. Only, you must wait until my next installment is due, my
angel of a Barbara. Ah, God, my God! To think that you are going away
into the Steppes with Monsieur Bwikov--that you are going away never
to return!... Nay, nay, but you SHALL write to me. You SHALL write me
a letter as soon as you have started, even if it be your last letter of
all, my dearest. Yet will it be your last letter? How has it come about
so suddenly, so irrevocably, that this letter should be your last? Nay,
nay; I will write, and you shall write--yes, NOW, when at length I am
beginning to improve my style. Style? I do not know what I am writing. I
never do know what I am writing. I could not possibly know, for I never
read over what I have written, nor correct its orthography. At the
present moment, I am writing merely for the sake of writing, and to put
as much as possible into this last letter of mine....

Ah, dearest, my pet, my own darling!...

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