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

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By Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol

Introduction by John Cournos


     Taras Bulba
     St. John’s Eve
     The Cloak
     How the Two Ivans Quarrelled
     The Mysterious Portrait
     The Calash


Russian literature, so full of enigmas, contains no greater creative
mystery than Nikolai Vasil’evich Gogol (1809-1852), who has done for
the Russian novel and Russian prose what Pushkin has done for Russian
poetry. Before these two men came Russian literature can hardly have
been said to exist. It was pompous and effete with pseudo-classicism;
foreign influences were strong; in the speech of the upper circles there
was an over-fondness for German, French, and English words. Between them
the two friends, by force of their great genius, cleared away the debris
which made for sterility and erected in their stead a new structure out
of living Russian words. The spoken word, born of the people, gave soul
and wing to literature; only by coming to earth, the native earth, was
it enabled to soar. Coming up from Little Russia, the Ukraine, with
Cossack blood in his veins, Gogol injected his own healthy virus into
an effete body, blew his own virile spirit, the spirit of his race, into
its nostrils, and gave the Russian novel its direction to this very day.

More than that. The nomad and romantic in him, troubled and restless
with Ukrainian myth, legend, and song, impressed upon Russian
literature, faced with the realities of modern life, a spirit titanic
and in clash with its material, and produced in the mastery of this
every-day material, commonly called sordid, a phantasmagoria intense
with beauty. A clue to all Russian realism may be found in a Russian
critic’s observation about Gogol: “Seldom has nature created a man so
romantic in bent, yet so masterly in portraying all that is unromantic
in life.” But this statement does not cover the whole ground, for it is
easy to see in almost all of Gogol’s work his “free Cossack soul” trying
to break through the shell of sordid to-day like some ancient demon,
essentially Dionysian. So that his works, true though they are to our
life, are at once a reproach, a protest, and a challenge, ever calling
for joy, ancient joy, that is no more with us. And they have all the joy
and sadness of the Ukrainian songs he loved so much. Ukrainian was to
Gogol “the language of the soul,” and it was in Ukrainian songs rather
than in old chronicles, of which he was not a little contemptuous, that
he read the history of his people. Time and again, in his essays and in
his letters to friends, he expresses his boundless joy in these songs:
“O songs, you are my joy and my life! How I love you. What are the
bloodless chronicles I pore over beside those clear, live chronicles!
I cannot live without songs; they... reveal everything more and more
clearly, oh, how clearly, gone-by life and gone-by men.... The songs
of Little Russia are her everything, her poetry, her history, and her
ancestral grave. He who has not penetrated them deeply knows nothing of
the past of this blooming region of Russia.”

Indeed, so great was his enthusiasm for his own land that after
collecting material for many years, the year 1833 finds him at work on
a history of “poor Ukraine,” a work planned to take up six volumes; and
writing to a friend at this time he promises to say much in it that has
not been said before him. Furthermore, he intended to follow this work
with a universal history in eight volumes with a view to establishing,
as far as may be gathered, Little Russia and the world in proper
relation, connecting the two; a quixotic task, surely. A poet,
passionate, religious, loving the heroic, we find him constantly
impatient and fuming at the lifeless chronicles, which leave him cold as
he seeks in vain for what he cannot find. “Nowhere,” he writes in 1834,
“can I find anything of the time which ought to be richer than any
other in events. Here was a people whose whole existence was passed in
activity, and which, even if nature had made it inactive, was compelled
to go forward to great affairs and deeds because of its neighbours, its
geographic situation, the constant danger to its existence.... If the
Crimeans and the Turks had had a literature I am convinced that no
history of an independent nation in Europe would prove so interesting as
that of the Cossacks.” Again he complains of the “withered chronicles”;
it is only the wealth of his country’s song that encourages him to go on
with its history.

Too much a visionary and a poet to be an impartial historian, it is
hardly astonishing to note the judgment he passes on his own work,
during that same year, 1834: “My history of Little Russia’s past is an
extraordinarily made thing, and it could not be otherwise.” The deeper
he goes into Little Russia’s past the more fanatically he dreams of
Little Russia’s future. St. Petersburg wearies him, Moscow awakens no
emotion in him, he yearns for Kieff, the mother of Russian cities, which
in his vision he sees becoming “the Russian Athens.” Russian history
gives him no pleasure, and he separates it definitely from Ukrainian
history. He is “ready to cast everything aside rather than read Russian
history,” he writes to Pushkin. During his seven-year stay in St.
Petersburg (1829-36) Gogol zealously gathered historical material and,
in the words of Professor Kotlyarevsky, “lived in the dream of becoming
the Thucydides of Little Russia.” How completely he disassociated
Ukrainia from Northern Russia may be judged by the conspectus of his
lectures written in 1832. He says in it, speaking of the conquest of
Southern Russia in the fourteenth century by Prince Guedimin at the head
of his Lithuanian host, still dressed in the skins of wild beasts, still
worshipping the ancient fire and practising pagan rites: “Then Southern
Russia, under the mighty protection of Lithuanian princes, completely
separated itself from the North. Every bond between them was broken;
two kingdoms were established under a single name--Russia--one under the
Tatar yoke, the other under the same rule with Lithuanians. But actually
they had no relation with one another; different laws, different
customs, different aims, different bonds, and different activities gave
them wholly different characters.”

This same Prince Guedimin freed Kieff from the Tatar yoke. This city had
been laid waste by the golden hordes of Ghengis Khan and hidden for a
very long time from the Slavonic chronicler as behind an impenetrable
curtain. A shrewd man, Guedimin appointed a Slavonic prince to rule
over the city and permitted the inhabitants to practise their own
faith, Greek Christianity. Prior to the Mongol invasion, which brought
conflagration and ruin, and subjected Russia to a two-century bondage,
cutting her off from Europe, a state of chaos existed and the separate
tribes fought with one another constantly and for the most petty
reasons. Mutual depredations were possible owing to the absence of
mountain ranges; there were no natural barriers against sudden attack.
The openness of the steppe made the people war-like. But this very
openness made it possible later for Guedimin’s pagan hosts, fresh from
the fir forests of what is now White Russia, to make a clean sweep
of the whole country between Lithuania and Poland, and thus give the
scattered princedoms a much-needed cohesion. In this way Ukrainia was
formed. Except for some forests, infested with bears, the country was
one vast plain, marked by an occasional hillock. Whole herds of wild
horses and deer stampeded the country, overgrown with tall grass, while
flocks of wild goats wandered among the rocks of the Dnieper. Apart from
the Dnieper, and in some measure the Desna, emptying into it, there were
no navigable rivers and so there was little opportunity for a commercial
people. Several tributaries cut across, but made no real boundary line.
Whether you looked to the north towards Russia, to the east towards the
Tatars, to the south towards the Crimean Tatars, to the west towards
Poland, everywhere the country bordered on a field, everywhere on a
plain, which left it open to the invader from every side. Had there been
here, suggests Gogol in his introduction to his never-written history
of Little Russia, if upon one side only, a real frontier of mountain or
sea, the people who settled here might have formed a definite political
body. Without this natural protection it became a land subject to
constant attack and despoliation. “There where three hostile nations
came in contact it was manured with bones, wetted with blood. A single
Tatar invasion destroyed the whole labour of the soil-tiller; the
meadows and the cornfields were trodden down by horses or destroyed
by flame, the lightly-built habitations reduced to the ground, the
inhabitants scattered or driven off into captivity together with cattle.
It was a land of terror, and for this reason there could develop in it
only a warlike people, strong in its unity and desperate, a people whose
whole existence was bound to be trained and confined to war.”

This constant menace, this perpetual pressure of foes on all sides,
acted at last like a fierce hammer shaping and hardening resistance
against itself. The fugitive from Poland, the fugitive from the Tatar
and the Turk, homeless, with nothing to lose, their lives ever exposed
to danger, forsook their peaceful occupations and became transformed
into a warlike people, known as the Cossacks, whose appearance towards
the end of the thirteenth century or at the beginning of the fourteenth
was a remarkable event which possibly alone (suggests Gogol) prevented
any further inroads by the two Mohammedan nations into Europe. The
appearance of the Cossacks was coincident with the appearance in Europe
of brotherhoods and knighthood-orders, and this new race, in spite of
its living the life of marauders, in spite of turnings its foes’ tactics
upon its foes, was not free of the religious spirit of its time; if it
warred for its existence it warred not less for its faith, which was
Greek. Indeed, as the nation grew stronger and became conscious of its
strength, the struggle began to partake something of the nature of a
religious war, not alone defensive but aggressive also, against the
unbeliever. While any man was free to join the brotherhood it was
obligatory to believe in the Greek faith. It was this religious unity,
blazed into activity by the presence across the borders of unbelieving
nations, that alone indicated the germ of a political body in this
gathering of men, who otherwise lived the audacious lives of a band
of highway robbers. “There was, however,” says Gogol, “none of the
austerity of the Catholic knight in them; they bound themselves to no
vows or fasts; they put no self-restraint upon themselves or mortified
their flesh, but were indomitable like the rocks of the Dnieper among
which they lived, and in their furious feasts and revels they forgot
the whole world. That same intimate brotherhood, maintained in robber
communities, bound them together. They had everything in common--wine,
food, dwelling. A perpetual fear, a perpetual danger, inspired them with
a contempt towards life. The Cossack worried more about a good measure
of wine than about his fate. One has to see this denizen of the frontier
in his half-Tatar, half-Polish costume--which so sharply outlined the
spirit of the borderland--galloping in Asiatic fashion on his horse, now
lost in thick grass, now leaping with the speed of a tiger from ambush,
or emerging suddenly from the river or swamp, all clinging with mud, and
appearing an image of terror to the Tatar....”

Little by little the community grew and with its growing it began to
assume a general character. The beginning of the sixteenth century found
whole villages settled with families, enjoying the protection of the
Cossacks, who exacted certain obligations, chiefly military, so that
these settlements bore a military character. The sword and the plough
were friends which fraternised at every settler’s. On the other hand,
Gogol tells us, the gay bachelors began to make depredations across the
border to sweep down on Tatars’ wives and their daughters and to marry
them. “Owing to this co-mingling, their facial features, so different
from one another’s, received a common impress, tending towards the
Asiatic. And so there came into being a nation in faith and place
belonging to Europe; on the other hand, in ways of life, customs, and
dress quite Asiatic. It was a nation in which the world’s two extremes
came in contact; European caution and Asiatic indifference, niavete and
cunning, an intense activity and the greatest laziness and indulgence,
an aspiration to development and perfection, and again a desire to
appear indifferent to perfection.”

All of Ukraine took on its colour from the Cossack, and if I have drawn
largely on Gogol’s own account of the origins of this race, it was
because it seemed to me that Gogol’s emphasis on the heroic rather than
on the historical--Gogol is generally discounted as an historian--would
give the reader a proper approach to the mood in which he created “Taras
Bulba,” the finest epic in Russian literature. Gogol never wrote either
his history of Little Russia or his universal history. Apart from
several brief studies, not always reliable, the net result of his many
years’ application to his scholarly projects was this brief epic
in prose, Homeric in mood. The sense of intense living, “living
dangerously”--to use a phrase of Nietzsche’s, the recognition of courage
as the greatest of all virtues--the God in man, inspired Gogol, living
in an age which tended toward grey tedium, with admiration for his more
fortunate forefathers, who lived in “a poetic time, when everything was
won with the sword, when every one in his turn strove to be an active
being and not a spectator.” Into this short work he poured all his love
of the heroic, all his romanticism, all his poetry, all his joy. Its
abundance of life bears one along like a fast-flowing river. And it
is not without humour, a calm, detached humour, which, as the critic
Bolinsky puts it, is not there merely “because Gogol has a tendency to
see the comic in everything, but because it is true to life.”

Yet “Taras Bulba” was in a sense an accident, just as many other works
of great men are accidents. It often requires a happy combination
of circumstances to produce a masterpiece. I have already told in my
introduction to “Dead Souls” (1) how Gogol created his great realistic
masterpiece, which was to influence Russian literature for generations
to come, under the influence of models so remote in time or place
as “Don Quixote” or “Pickwick Papers”; and how this combination of
influences joined to his own genius produced a work quite new and
original in effect and only remotely reminiscent of the models which
have inspired it. And just as “Dead Souls” might never have been written
if “Don Quixote” had not existed, so there is every reason to believe
that “Taras Bulba” could not have been written without the “Odyssey.”
 Once more ancient fire gave life to new beauty. And yet at the time
Gogol could not have had more than a smattering of the “Odyssey.”
 The magnificent translation made by his friend Zhukovsky had not yet
appeared and Gogol, in spite of his ambition to become a historian, was
not equipped as a scholar. But it is evident from his dithyrambic letter
on the appearance of Zhukovsky’s version, forming one of the famous
series of letters known as “Correspondence with Friends,” that he was
better acquainted with the spirit of Homer than any mere scholar could
be. That letter, unfortunately unknown to the English reader, would make
every lover of the classics in this day of their disparagement dance
with joy. He describes the “Odyssey” as the forgotten source of all that
is beautiful and harmonious in life, and he greets its appearance in
Russian dress at a time when life is sordid and discordant as a thing
inevitable, “cooling” in effect upon a too hectic world. He sees in its
perfect grace, its calm and almost childlike simplicity, a power for
individual and general good. “It combines all the fascination of a fairy
tale and all the simple truth of human adventure, holding out the
same allurement to every being, whether he is a noble, a commoner, a
merchant, a literate or illiterate person, a private soldier, a lackey,
children of both sexes, beginning at an age when a child begins to love
a fairy tale--all might read it or listen to it, without tedium.” Every
one will draw from it what he most needs. Not less than upon these
he sees its wholesome effect on the creative writer, its refreshing
influence on the critic. But most of all he dwells on its heroic
qualities, inseparable to him from what is religious in the “Odyssey”;
and, says Gogol, this book contains the idea that a human being,
“wherever he might be, whatever pursuit he might follow, is threatened
by many woes, that he must need wrestle with them--for that very purpose
was life given to him--that never for a single instant must he despair,
just as Odysseus did not despair, who in every hard and oppressive
moment turned to his own heart, unaware that with this inner scrutiny
of himself he had already said that hidden prayer uttered in a moment of
distress by every man having no understanding whatever of God.” Then he
goes on to compare the ancient harmony, perfect down to every detail of
dress, to the slightest action, with our slovenliness and confusion and
pettiness, a sad result--considering our knowledge of past experience,
our possession of superior weapons, our religion given to make us holy
and superior beings. And in conclusion he asks: Is not the “Odyssey” in
every sense a deep reproach to our nineteenth century?

 (1) Everyman’s Library, No. 726.

An understanding of Gogol’s point of view gives the key to “Taras
Bulba.” For in this panoramic canvas of the Setch, the military
brotherhood of the Cossacks, living under open skies, picturesquely and
heroically, he has drawn a picture of his romantic ideal, which if far
from perfect at any rate seemed to him preferable to the grey tedium of
a city peopled with government officials. Gogol has written in “Taras
Bulba” his own reproach to the nineteenth century. It is sad and joyous
like one of those Ukrainian songs which have helped to inspire him to
write it. And then, as he cut himself off more and more from the world
of the past, life became a sadder and still sadder thing to him; modern
life, with all its gigantic pettiness, closed in around him, he began to
write of petty officials and of petty scoundrels, “commonplace heroes”
 he called them. But nothing is ever lost in this world. Gogol’s
romanticism, shut in within himself, finding no outlet, became a flame.
It was a flame of pity. He was like a man walking in hell, pitying. And
that was the miracle, the transfiguration. Out of that flame of pity the
Russian novel was born.


Evenings on the Farm near the Dikanka, 1829-31; Mirgorod, 1831-33; Taras
Bulba, 1834; Arabesques (includes tales, The Portrait and A Madman’s
Diary), 1831-35; The Cloak, 1835; The Revizor (The Inspector-General),
1836; Dead Souls, 1842; Correspondence with Friends, 1847; Letters,
1847, 1895, 4 vols. 1902.

ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS: Cossack Tales (The Night of Christmas Eve, Tarass
Boolba), trans. by G. Tolstoy, 1860; St. John’s Eve and Other Stories,
trans. by Isabel F. Hapgood, New York, Crowell, 1886; Taras Bulba: Also
St. John’s Eve and Other Stories, London, Vizetelly, 1887; Taras Bulba,
trans. by B. C. Baskerville, London, Scott, 1907; The Inspector: a
Comedy, Calcutta, 1890; The Inspector-General, trans. by A. A. Sykes,
London, Scott, 1892; Revizor, trans. for the Yale Dramatic Association
by Max S. Mandell, New Haven, Conn., 1908; Home Life in Russia
(adaptation of Dead Souls), London, Hurst, 1854; Tchitchikoff’s
Journey’s; or Dead Souls, trans. by Isabel F. Hapgood, New York,
Crowell, 1886; Dead Souls, London, Vizetelly, 1887; Dead Souls, London,
Maxwell 1887; Dead Souls, London, Fisher Unwin, 1915; Dead Souls,
London, Everyman’s Library (Intro. by John Cournos), 1915; Meditations
on the Divine Liturgy, trans. by L. Alexeieff, London, A. R. Mowbray and
Co., 1913.

LIVES, etc.: (Russian) Kotlyarevsky (N. A.), 1903; Shenrok (V. I.),
Materials for a Biography, 1892; (French) Leger (L.), Nicholas Gogol,



“Turn round, my boy! How ridiculous you look! What sort of a priest’s
cassock have you got on? Does everybody at the academy dress like that?”

With such words did old Bulba greet his two sons, who had been absent
for their education at the Royal Seminary of Kief, and had now returned
home to their father.

His sons had but just dismounted from their horses. They were a couple
of stout lads who still looked bashful, as became youths recently
released from the seminary. Their firm healthy faces were covered with
the first down of manhood, down which had, as yet, never known a razor.
They were greatly discomfited by such a reception from their father, and
stood motionless with eyes fixed upon the ground.

“Stand still, stand still! let me have a good look at you,” he
continued, turning them around. “How long your gaberdines are! What
gaberdines! There never were such gaberdines in the world before. Just
run, one of you! I want to see whether you will not get entangled in the
skirts, and fall down.”

“Don’t laugh, don’t laugh, father!” said the eldest lad at length.

“How touchy we are! Why shouldn’t I laugh?”

“Because, although you are my father, if you laugh, by heavens, I will
strike you!”

“What kind of son are you? what, strike your father!” exclaimed Taras
Bulba, retreating several paces in amazement.

“Yes, even my father. I don’t stop to consider persons when an insult is
in question.”

“So you want to fight me? with your fist, eh?”

“Any way.”

“Well, let it be fisticuffs,” said Taras Bulba, turning up his sleeves.
“I’ll see what sort of a man you are with your fists.”

And father and son, in lieu of a pleasant greeting after long
separation, began to deal each other heavy blows on ribs, back, and
chest, now retreating and looking at each other, now attacking afresh.

“Look, good people! the old man has gone man! he has lost his senses
completely!” screamed their pale, ugly, kindly mother, who was standing
on the threshold, and had not yet succeeded in embracing her darling
children. “The children have come home, we have not seen them for over a
year; and now he has taken some strange freak--he’s pommelling them.”

“Yes, he fights well,” said Bulba, pausing; “well, by heavens!” he
continued, rather as if excusing himself, “although he has never tried
his hand at it before, he will make a good Cossack! Now, welcome, son!
embrace me,” and father and son began to kiss each other. “Good lad! see
that you hit every one as you pommelled me; don’t let any one escape.
Nevertheless your clothes are ridiculous all the same. What rope is this
hanging there?--And you, you lout, why are you standing there with your
hands hanging beside you?” he added, turning to the youngest. “Why don’t
you fight me? you son of a dog!”

“What an idea!” said the mother, who had managed in the meantime to
embrace her youngest. “Who ever heard of children fighting their own
father? That’s enough for the present; the child is young, he has had
a long journey, he is tired.” The child was over twenty, and about six
feet high. “He ought to rest, and eat something; and you set him to

“You are a gabbler!” said Bulba. “Don’t listen to your mother, my lad;
she is a woman, and knows nothing. What sort of petting do you need? A
clear field and a good horse, that’s the kind of petting for you! And do
you see this sword? that’s your mother! All the rest people stuff your
heads with is rubbish; the academy, books, primers, philosophy, and all
that, I spit upon it all!” Here Bulba added a word which is not used in
print. “But I’ll tell you what is best: I’ll take you to Zaporozhe
(1) this very week. That’s where there’s science for you! There’s your
school; there alone will you gain sense.”

 (1) The Cossack country beyond (za) the falls (porozhe) of the

“And are they only to remain home a week?” said the worn old mother
sadly and with tears in her eyes. “The poor boys will have no chance of
looking around, no chance of getting acquainted with the home where they
were born; there will be no chance for me to get a look at them.”

“Enough, you’ve howled quite enough, old woman! A Cossack is not born
to run around after women. You would like to hide them both under your
petticoat, and sit upon them as a hen sits on eggs. Go, go, and let
us have everything there is on the table in a trice. We don’t want any
dumplings, honey-cakes, poppy-cakes, or any other such messes: give us
a whole sheep, a goat, mead forty years old, and as much corn-brandy as
possible, not with raisins and all sorts of stuff, but plain scorching
corn-brandy, which foams and hisses like mad.”

Bulba led his sons into the principal room of the hut; and two pretty
servant girls wearing coin necklaces, who were arranging the apartment,
ran out quickly. They were either frightened at the arrival of the young
men, who did not care to be familiar with anyone; or else they merely
wanted to keep up their feminine custom of screaming and rushing away
headlong at the sight of a man, and then screening their blushes for
some time with their sleeves. The hut was furnished according to the
fashion of that period--a fashion concerning which hints linger only in
the songs and lyrics, no longer sung, alas! in the Ukraine as of yore by
blind old men, to the soft tinkling of the native guitar, to the
people thronging round them--according to the taste of that warlike and
troublous time, of leagues and battles prevailing in the Ukraine after
the union. Everything was cleanly smeared with coloured clay. On the
walls hung sabres, hunting-whips, nets for birds, fishing-nets,
guns, elaborately carved powder-horns, gilded bits for horses, and
tether-ropes with silver plates. The small window had round dull
panes, through which it was impossible to see except by opening the one
moveable one. Around the windows and doors red bands were painted. On
shelves in one corner stood jugs, bottles, and flasks of green and
blue glass, carved silver cups, and gilded drinking vessels of various
makes--Venetian, Turkish, Tscherkessian, which had reached Bulba’s cabin
by various roads, at third and fourth hand, a thing common enough in
those bold days. There were birch-wood benches all around the room,
a huge table under the holy pictures in one corner, and a huge stove
covered with particoloured patterns in relief, with spaces between it
and the wall. All this was quite familiar to the two young men, who
were wont to come home every year during the dog-days, since they had
no horses, and it was not customary to allow students to ride afield on
horseback. The only distinctive things permitted them were long locks of
hair on the temples, which every Cossack who bore weapons was entitled
to pull. It was only at the end of their course of study that Bulba had
sent them a couple of young stallions from his stud.

Bulba, on the occasion of his sons’ arrival, ordered all the sotniks or
captains of hundreds, and all the officers of the band who were of any
consequence, to be summoned; and when two of them arrived with his
old comrade, the Osaul or sub-chief, Dmitro Tovkatch, he immediately
presented the lads, saying, “See what fine young fellows they are! I
shall send them to the Setch (2) shortly.” The guests congratulated
Bulba and the young men, telling them they would do well and that there
was no better knowledge for a young man than a knowledge of that same
Zaporozhian Setch.

 (2) The village or, rather, permanent camp of the Zaporozhian

“Come, brothers, seat yourselves, each where he likes best, at the
table; come, my sons. First of all, let’s take some corn-brandy,” said
Bulba. “God bless you! Welcome, lads; you, Ostap, and you, Andrii. God
grant that you may always be successful in war, that you may beat
the Musselmans and the Turks and the Tatars; and that when the Poles
undertake any expedition against our faith, you may beat the Poles.
Come, clink your glasses. How now? Is the brandy good? What’s
corn-brandy in Latin? The Latins were stupid: they did not know there
was such a thing in the world as corn-brandy. What was the name of the
man who wrote Latin verses? I don’t know much about reading and writing,
so I don’t quite know. Wasn’t it Horace?”

“What a dad!” thought the elder son Ostap. “The old dog knows
everything, but he always pretends the contrary.”

“I don’t believe the archimandrite allowed you so much as a smell of
corn-brandy,” continued Taras. “Confess, my boys, they thrashed you well
with fresh birch-twigs on your backs and all over your Cossack bodies;
and perhaps, when you grew too sharp, they beat you with whips. And not
on Saturday only, I fancy, but on Wednesday and Thursday.”

“What is past, father, need not be recalled; it is done with.”

“Let them try it know,” said Andrii. “Let anybody just touch me, let any
Tatar risk it now, and he’ll soon learn what a Cossack’s sword is like!”

“Good, my son, by heavens, good! And when it comes to that, I’ll go with
you; by heavens, I’ll go too! What should I wait here for? To become a
buckwheat-reaper and housekeeper, to look after the sheep and swine, and
loaf around with my wife? Away with such nonsense! I am a Cossack; I’ll
have none of it! What’s left but war? I’ll go with you to Zaporozhe to
carouse; I’ll go, by heavens!” And old Bulba, growing warm by degrees
and finally quite angry, rose from the table, and, assuming a dignified
attitude, stamped his foot. “We will go to-morrow! Wherefore delay? What
enemy can we besiege here? What is this hut to us? What do we want with
all these things? What are pots and pans to us?” So saying, he began to
knock over the pots and flasks, and to throw them about.

The poor old woman, well used to such freaks on the part of her husband,
looked sadly on from her seat on the wall-bench. She did not dare say a
word; but when she heard the decision which was so terrible for her, she
could not refrain from tears. As she looked at her children, from whom
so speedy a separation was threatened, it is impossible to describe the
full force of her speechless grief, which seemed to quiver in her eyes
and on her lips convulsively pressed together.

Bulba was terribly headstrong. He was one of those characters which
could only exist in that fierce fifteenth century, and in that
half-nomadic corner of Europe, when the whole of Southern Russia,
deserted by its princes, was laid waste and burned to the quick by
pitiless troops of Mongolian robbers; when men deprived of house
and home grew brave there; when, amid conflagrations, threatening
neighbours, and eternal terrors, they settled down, and growing
accustomed to looking these things straight in the face, trained
themselves not to know that there was such a thing as fear in the world;
when the old, peacable Slav spirit was fired with warlike flame, and
the Cossack state was instituted--a free, wild outbreak of Russian
nature--and when all the river-banks, fords, and like suitable places
were peopled by Cossacks, whose number no man knew. Their bold comrades
had a right to reply to the Sultan when he asked how many they were,
“Who knows? We are scattered all over the steppes; wherever there is a
hillock, there is a Cossack.”

It was, in fact, a most remarkable exhibition of Russian strength,
forced by dire necessity from the bosom of the people. In place of the
original provinces with their petty towns, in place of the warring
and bartering petty princes ruling in their cities, there arose great
colonies, kurens (3), and districts, bound together by one common danger
and hatred against the heathen robbers. The story is well known how
their incessant warfare and restless existence saved Europe from the
merciless hordes which threatened to overwhelm her. The Polish kings,
who now found themselves sovereigns, in place of the provincial princes,
over these extensive tracts of territory, fully understood, despite the
weakness and remoteness of their own rule, the value of the Cossacks,
and the advantages of the warlike, untrammelled life led by them. They
encouraged them and flattered this disposition of mind. Under their
distant rule, the hetmans or chiefs, chosen from among the Cossacks
themselves, redistributed the territory into military districts. It
was not a standing army, no one saw it; but in case of war and general
uprising, it required a week, and no more, for every man to appear on
horseback, fully armed, receiving only one ducat from the king; and in
two weeks such a force had assembled as no recruiting officers would
ever have been able to collect. When the expedition was ended, the army
dispersed among the fields and meadows and the fords of the Dnieper;
each man fished, wrought at his trade, brewed his beer, and was once
more a free Cossack. Their foreign contemporaries rightly marvelled at
their wonderful qualities. There was no handicraft which the Cossack was
not expert at: he could distil brandy, build a waggon, make powder,
and do blacksmith’s and gunsmith’s work, in addition to committing wild
excesses, drinking and carousing as only a Russian can--all this he was
equal to. Besides the registered Cossacks, who considered themselves
bound to appear in arms in time of war, it was possible to collect at
any time, in case of dire need, a whole army of volunteers. All that was
required was for the Osaul or sub-chief to traverse the market-places
and squares of the villages and hamlets, and shout at the top of his
voice, as he stood in his waggon, “Hey, you distillers and beer-brewers!
you have brewed enough beer, and lolled on your stoves, and stuffed
your fat carcasses with flour, long enough! Rise, win glory and warlike
honours! You ploughmen, you reapers of buckwheat, you tenders of sheep,
you danglers after women, enough of following the plough, and soiling
your yellow shoes in the earth, and courting women, and wasting your
warlike strength! The hour has come to win glory for the Cossacks!”
 These words were like sparks falling on dry wood. The husbandman broke
his plough; the brewers and distillers threw away their casks and
destroyed their barrels; the mechanics and merchants sent their trade
and their shop to the devil, broke pots and everything else in their
homes, and mounted their horses. In short, the Russian character here
received a profound development, and manifested a powerful outwards

 (3) Cossack villages. In the Setch, a large wooden barrack.

Taras was one of the band of old-fashioned leaders; he was born
for warlike emotions, and was distinguished for his uprightness of
character. At that epoch the influence of Poland had already begun to
make itself felt upon the Russian nobility. Many had adopted Polish
customs, and began to display luxury in splendid staffs of servants,
hawks, huntsmen, dinners, and palaces. This was not to Taras’s taste. He
liked the simple life of the Cossacks, and quarrelled with those of his
comrades who were inclined to the Warsaw party, calling them serfs of
the Polish nobles. Ever on the alert, he regarded himself as the legal
protector of the orthodox faith. He entered despotically into any
village where there was a general complaint of oppression by the revenue
farmers and of the addition of fresh taxes on necessaries. He and his
Cossacks executed justice, and made it a rule that in three cases it
was absolutely necessary to resort to the sword. Namely, when the
commissioners did not respect the superior officers and stood before
them covered; when any one made light of the faith and did not observe
the customs of his ancestors; and, finally, when the enemy were
Mussulmans or Turks, against whom he considered it permissible, in every
case, to draw the sword for the glory of Christianity.

Now he rejoiced beforehand at the thought of how he would present
himself with his two sons at the Setch, and say, “See what fine young
fellows I have brought you!” how he would introduce them to all his old
comrades, steeled in warfare; how he would observe their first exploits
in the sciences of war and of drinking, which was also regarded as one
of the principal warlike qualities. At first he had intended to send
them forth alone; but at the sight of their freshness, stature, and
manly personal beauty his martial spirit flamed up and he resolved to go
with them himself the very next day, although there was no necessity for
this except his obstinate self-will. He began at once to hurry about and
give orders; selected horses and trappings for his sons, looked through
the stables and storehouses, and chose servants to accompany them on
the morrow. He delegated his power to Osaul Tovkatch, and gave with it
a strict command to appear with his whole force at the Setch the very
instant he should receive a message from him. Although he was jolly, and
the effects of his drinking bout still lingered in his brain, he forgot
nothing. He even gave orders that the horses should be watered, their
cribs filled, and that they should be fed with the finest corn; and then
he retired, fatigued with all his labours.

“Now, children, we must sleep, but to-morrow we shall do what God wills.
Don’t prepare us a bed: we need no bed; we will sleep in the courtyard.”

Night had but just stole over the heavens, but Bulba always went to
bed early. He lay down on a rug and covered himself with a sheepskin
pelisse, for the night air was quite sharp and he liked to lie warm when
he was at home. He was soon snoring, and the whole household speedily
followed his example. All snored and groaned as they lay in different
corners. The watchman went to sleep the first of all, he had drunk so
much in honour of the young masters’ home-coming.

The mother alone did not sleep. She bent over the pillow of her
beloved sons, as they lay side by side; she smoothed with a comb their
carelessly tangled locks, and moistened them with her tears. She gazed
at them with her whole soul, with every sense; she was wholly merged in
the gaze, and yet she could not gaze enough. She had fed them at her
own breast, she had tended them and brought them up; and now to see them
only for an instant! “My sons, my darling sons! what will become of you!
what fate awaits you?” she said, and tears stood in the wrinkles which
disfigured her once beautiful face. In truth, she was to be pitied, as
was every woman of that period. She had lived only for a moment of love,
only during the first ardour of passion, only during the first flush of
youth; and then her grim betrayer had deserted her for the sword, for
his comrades and his carouses. She saw her husband two or three days in
a year, and then, for several years, heard nothing of him. And when
she did see him, when they did live together, what a life was hers! She
endured insult, even blows; she felt caresses bestowed only in pity;
she was a misplaced object in that community of unmarried warriors, upon
which wandering Zaporozhe cast a colouring of its own. Her pleasureless
youth flitted by; her ripe cheeks and bosom withered away unkissed and
became covered with premature wrinkles. Love, feeling, everything that
is tender and passionate in a woman, was converted in her into maternal
love. She hovered around her children with anxiety, passion, tears, like
the gull of the steppes. They were taking her sons, her darling sons,
from her--taking them from her, so that she should never see them again!
Who knew? Perhaps a Tatar would cut off their heads in the very first
skirmish, and she would never know where their deserted bodies might
lie, torn by birds of prey; and yet for each single drop of their blood
she would have given all hers. Sobbing, she gazed into their eyes, and
thought, “Perhaps Bulba, when he wakes, will put off their departure for
a day or two; perhaps it occurred to him to go so soon because he had
been drinking.”

The moon from the summit of the heavens had long since lit up the whole
courtyard filled with sleepers, the thick clump of willows, and the tall
steppe-grass, which hid the palisade surrounding the court. She still
sat at her sons’ pillow, never removing her eyes from them for a moment,
nor thinking of sleep. Already the horses, divining the approach of
dawn, had ceased eating and lain down upon the grass; the topmost leaves
of the willows began to rustle softly, and little by little the
rippling rustle descended to their bases. She sat there until daylight,
unwearied, and wishing in her heart that the night might prolong itself
indefinitely. From the steppes came the ringing neigh of the horses, and
red streaks shone brightly in the sky. Bulba suddenly awoke, and sprang
to his feet. He remembered quite well what he had ordered the night
before. “Now, my men, you’ve slept enough! ‘tis time, ‘tis time! Water
the horses! And where is the old woman?” He generally called his wife
so. “Be quick, old woman, get us something to eat; the way is long.”

The poor old woman, deprived of her last hope, slipped sadly into the

Whilst she, with tears, prepared what was needed for breakfast, Bulba
gave his orders, went to the stable, and selected his best trappings for
his children with his own hand.

The scholars were suddenly transformed. Red morocco boots with silver
heels took the place of their dirty old ones; trousers wide as the Black
Sea, with countless folds and plaits, were kept up by golden girdles
from which hung long slender thongs, with tassles and other tinkling
things, for pipes. Their jackets of scarlet cloth were girt by flowered
sashes into which were thrust engraved Turkish pistols; their swords
clanked at their heels. Their faces, already a little sunburnt, seemed
to have grown handsomer and whiter; their slight black moustaches now
cast a more distinct shadow on this pallor and set off their healthy
youthful complexions. They looked very handsome in their black sheepskin
caps, with cloth-of-gold crowns.

When their poor mother saw them, she could not utter a word, and tears
stood in her eyes.

“Now, my lads, all is ready; no delay!” said Bulba at last. “But we must
first all sit down together, in accordance with Christian custom before
a journey.”

All sat down, not excepting the servants, who had been standing
respectfully at the door.

“Now, mother, bless your children,” said Bulba. “Pray God that they may
fight bravely, always defend their warlike honour, always defend the
faith of Christ; and, if not, that they may die, so that their breath
may not be longer in the world.”

“Come to your mother, children; a mother’s prayer protects on land and

The mother, weak as mothers are, embraced them, drew out two small
holy pictures, and hung them, sobbing, around their necks. “May God’s
mother--keep you! Children, do not forget your mother--send some little
word of yourselves--” She could say no more.

“Now, children, let us go,” said Bulba.

At the door stood the horses, ready saddled. Bulba sprang upon his
“Devil,” which bounded wildly, on feeling on his back a load of over
thirty stone, for Taras was extremely stout and heavy.

When the mother saw that her sons were also mounted, she rushed towards
the younger, whose features expressed somewhat more gentleness than
those of his brother. She grasped his stirrup, clung to his saddle, and
with despair in her eyes, refused to loose her hold. Two stout Cossacks
seized her carefully, and bore her back into the hut. But before the
cavalcade had passed out of the courtyard, she rushed with the speed of
a wild goat, disproportionate to her years, to the gate, stopped a
horse with irresistible strength, and embraced one of her sons with mad,
unconscious violence. Then they led her away again.

The young Cossacks rode on sadly, repressing their tears out of fear of
their father, who, on his side, was somewhat moved, although he strove
not to show it. The morning was grey, the green sward bright, the birds
twittered rather discordantly. They glanced back as they rode. Their
paternal farm seemed to have sunk into the earth. All that was visible
above the surface were the two chimneys of their modest hut and the tops
of the trees up whose trunks they had been used to climb like squirrels.
Before them still stretched the field by which they could recall the
whole story of their lives, from the years when they rolled in its dewy
grass down to the years when they awaited in it the dark-browed Cossack
maiden, running timidly across it on quick young feet. There is the
pole above the well, with the waggon wheel fastened to its top, rising
solitary against the sky; already the level which they have traversed
appears a hill in the distance, and now all has disappeared. Farewell,
childhood, games, all, all, farewell!


All three horsemen rode in silence. Old Taras’s thoughts were far away:
before him passed his youth, his years--the swift-flying years, over
which the Cossack always weeps, wishing that his life might be all
youth. He wondered whom of his former comrades he should meet at the
Setch. He reckoned up how many had already died, how many were still
alive. Tears formed slowly in his eyes, and his grey head bent sadly.

His sons were occupied with other thoughts. But we must speak further of
his sons. They had been sent, when twelve years old, to the academy at
Kief, because all leaders of that day considered it indispensable to
give their children an education, although it was afterwards utterly
forgotten. Like all who entered the academy, they were wild, having been
brought up in unrestrained freedom; and whilst there they had acquired
some polish, and pursued some common branches of knowledge which gave
them a certain resemblance to each other.

The elder, Ostap, began his scholastic career by running away in the
course of the first year. They brought him back, whipped him well, and
set him down to his books. Four times did he bury his primer in the
earth; and four times, after giving him a sound thrashing, did they buy
him a new one. But he would no doubt have repeated this feat for the
fifth time, had not his father given him a solemn assurance that he
would keep him at monastic work for twenty years, and sworn in advance
that he should never behold Zaporozhe all his life long, unless he
learned all the sciences taught in the academy. It was odd that the man
who said this was that very Taras Bulba who condemned all learning, and
counselled his children, as we have seen, not to trouble themselves at
all about it. From that moment, Ostap began to pore over his tiresome
books with exemplary diligence, and quickly stood on a level with the
best. The style of education in that age differed widely from the manner
of life. The scholastic, grammatical, rhetorical, and logical subtle
ties in vogue were decidedly out of consonance with the times, never
having any connection with, and never being encountered in, actual life.
Those who studied them, even the least scholastic, could not apply their
knowledge to anything whatever. The learned men of those days were
even more incapable than the rest, because farther removed from all
experience. Moreover, the republican constitution of the academy,
the fearful multitude of young, healthy, strong fellows, inspired the
students with an activity quite outside the limits of their learning.
Poor fare, or frequent punishments of fasting, with the numerous
requirements arising in fresh, strong, healthy youth, combined to arouse
in them that spirit of enterprise which was afterwards further developed
among the Zaporozhians. The hungry student running about the streets of
Kief forced every one to be on his guard. Dealers sitting in the bazaar
covered their pies, their cakes, and their pumpkin-rolls with their
hands, like eagles protecting their young, if they but caught sight of
a passing student. The consul or monitor, who was bound by his duty to
look after the comrades entrusted to his care, had such frightfully wide
pockets to his trousers that he could stow away the whole contents
of the gaping dealer’s stall in them. These students constituted an
entirely separate world, for they were not admitted to the higher
circles, composed of Polish and Russian nobles. Even the Waiwode, Adam
Kisel, in spite of the patronage he bestowed upon the academy, did not
seek to introduce them into society, and ordered them to be kept more
strictly in supervision. This command was quite superfluous, for neither
the rector nor the monkish professors spared rod or whip; and the
lictors sometimes, by their orders, lashed their consuls so severely
that the latter rubbed their trousers for weeks afterwards. This was to
many of them a trifle, only a little more stinging than good vodka with
pepper: others at length grew tired of such constant blisters, and ran
away to Zaporozhe if they could find the road and were not caught on the
way. Ostap Bulba, although he began to study logic, and even theology,
with much zeal, did not escape the merciless rod. Naturally, all
this tended to harden his character, and give him that firmness which
distinguishes the Cossacks. He always held himself aloof from his

He rarely led others into such hazardous enterprises as robbing a
strange garden or orchard; but, on the other hand, he was always among
the first to join the standard of an adventurous student. And
never, under any circumstances, did he betray his comrades; neither
imprisonment nor beatings could make him do so. He was unassailable by
any temptations save those of war and revelry; at least, he scarcely
ever dreamt of others. He was upright with his equals. He was
kind-hearted, after the only fashion that kind-heartedness could exist
in such a character and at such a time. He was touched to his very heart
by his poor mother’s tears; but this only vexed him, and caused him to
hang his head in thought.

His younger brother, Andrii, had livelier and more fully developed
feelings. He learned more willingly and without the effort with which
strong and weighty characters generally have to make in order to apply
themselves to study. He was more inventive-minded than his brother, and
frequently appeared as the leader of dangerous expeditions; sometimes,
thanks to the quickness of his mind, contriving to escape punishment
when his brother Ostap, abandoning all efforts, stripped off his
gaberdine and lay down upon the floor without a thought of begging for
mercy. He too thirsted for action; but, at the same time, his soul was
accessible to other sentiments. The need of love burned ardently within
him. When he had passed his eighteenth year, woman began to present
herself more frequently in his dreams; listening to philosophical
discussions, he still beheld her, fresh, black-eyed, tender; before him
constantly flitted her elastic bosom, her soft, bare arms; the very gown
which clung about her youthful yet well-rounded limbs breathed into his
visions a certain inexpressible sensuousness. He carefully concealed
this impulse of his passionate young soul from his comrades, because in
that age it was held shameful and dishonourable for a Cossack to think
of love and a wife before he had tasted battle. On the whole, during the
last year, he had acted more rarely as leader to the bands of students,
but had roamed more frequently alone, in remote corners of Kief, among
low-roofed houses, buried in cherry orchards, peeping alluringly at the
street. Sometimes he betook himself to the more aristocratic streets,
in the old Kief of to-day, where dwelt Little Russian and Polish nobles,
and where houses were built in more fanciful style. Once, as he was
gaping along, an old-fashioned carriage belonging to some Polish noble
almost drove over him; and the heavily moustached coachman, who sat on
the box, gave him a smart cut with his whip. The young student fired up;
with thoughtless daring he seized the hind-wheel with his powerful hands
and stopped the carriage. But the coachman, fearing a drubbing, lashed
his horses; they sprang forward, and Andrii, succeeding happily in
freeing his hands, was flung full length on the ground with his face
flat in the mud. The most ringing and harmonious of laughs resounded
above him. He raised his eyes and saw, standing at a window, a beauty
such as he had never beheld in all his life, black-eyed, and with
skin white as snow illumined by the dawning flush of the sun. She was
laughing heartily, and her laugh enhanced her dazzling loveliness. Taken
aback he gazed at her in confusion, abstractedly wiping the mud from
his face, by which means it became still further smeared. Who could
this beauty be? He sought to find out from the servants, who, in
rich liveries, stood at the gate in a crowd surrounding a young
guitar-player; but they only laughed when they saw his besmeared face
and deigned him no reply. At length he learned that she was the daughter
of the Waiwode of Koven, who had come thither for a time. The following
night, with the daring characteristic of the student, he crept through
the palings into the garden and climbed a tree which spread its branches
upon the very roof of the house. From the tree he gained the roof, and
made his way down the chimney straight into the bedroom of the beauty,
who at that moment was seated before a lamp, engaged in removing the
costly earrings from her ears. The beautiful Pole was so alarmed on
suddenly beholding an unknown man that she could not utter a single
word; but when she perceived that the student stood before her with
downcast eyes, not daring to move a hand through timidity, when she
recognised in him the one who had fallen in the street, laughter again
overpowered her.

Moreover, there was nothing terrible about Andrii’s features; he was
very handsome. She laughed heartily, and amused herself over him for
a long time. The lady was giddy, like all Poles; but her eyes--her
wondrous clear, piercing eyes--shot one glance, a long glance. The
student could not move hand or foot, but stood bound as in a sack, when
the Waiwode’s daughter approached him boldly, placed upon his head her
glittering diadem, hung her earrings on his lips, and flung over him
a transparent muslin chemisette with gold-embroidered garlands. She
adorned him, and played a thousand foolish pranks, with the childish
carelessness which distinguishes the giddy Poles, and which threw the
poor student into still greater confusion.

He cut a ridiculous feature, gazing immovably, and with open mouth, into
her dazzling eyes. A knock at the door startled her. She ordered him
to hide himself under the bed, and, as soon as the disturber was gone,
called her maid, a Tatar prisoner, and gave her orders to conduct him to
the garden with caution, and thence show him through the fence. But our
student this time did not pass the fence so successfully. The watchman
awoke, and caught him firmly by the foot; and the servants, assembling,
beat him in the street, until his swift legs rescued him. After that
it became very dangerous to pass the house, for the Waiwode’s domestics
were numerous. He met her once again at church. She saw him, and smiled
pleasantly, as at an old acquaintance. He saw her once more, by chance;
but shortly afterwards the Waiwode departed, and, instead of the
beautiful black-eyed Pole, some fat face or other gazed from the window.
This was what Andrii was thinking about, as he hung his head and kept
his eyes on his horse’s mane.

In the meantime the steppe had long since received them all into its
green embrace; and the high grass, closing round, concealed them, till
only their black Cossack caps appeared above it.

“Eh, eh, why are you so quiet, lads?” said Bulba at length, waking from
his own reverie. “You’re like monks. Now, all thinking to the Evil One,
once for all! Take your pipes in your teeth, and let us smoke, and spur
on our horses so swiftly that no bird can overtake us.”

And the Cossacks, bending low on their horses’ necks, disappeared in the
grass. Their black caps were no longer to be seen; a streak of trodden
grass alone showed the trace of their swift flight.

The sun had long since looked forth from the clear heavens and inundated
the steppe with his quickening, warming light. All that was dim and
drowsy in the Cossacks’ minds flew away in a twinkling: their hearts
fluttered like birds.

The farther they penetrated the steppe, the more beautiful it became.
Then all the South, all that region which now constitutes New Russia,
even as far as the Black Sea, was a green, virgin wilderness. No plough
had ever passed over the immeasurable waves of wild growth; horses
alone, hidden in it as in a forest, trod it down. Nothing in nature
could be finer. The whole surface resembled a golden-green ocean, upon
which were sprinkled millions of different flowers. Through the tall,
slender stems of the grass peeped light-blue, dark-blue, and lilac
star-thistles; the yellow broom thrust up its pyramidal head; the
parasol-shaped white flower of the false flax shimmered on high. A
wheat-ear, brought God knows whence, was filling out to ripening.
Amongst the roots of this luxuriant vegetation ran partridges with
outstretched necks. The air was filled with the notes of a thousand
different birds. On high hovered the hawks, their wings outspread, and
their eyes fixed intently on the grass. The cries of a flock of wild
ducks, ascending from one side, were echoed from God knows what distant
lake. From the grass arose, with measured sweep, a gull, and skimmed
wantonly through blue waves of air. And now she has vanished on high,
and appears only as a black dot: now she has turned her wings, and
shines in the sunlight. Oh, steppes, how beautiful you are!

Our travellers halted only a few minutes for dinner. Their escort of ten
Cossacks sprang from their horses and undid the wooden casks of brandy,
and the gourds which were used instead of drinking vessels. They ate
only cakes of bread and dripping; they drank but one cup apiece to
strengthen them, for Taras Bulba never permitted intoxication upon the
road, and then continued their journey until evening.

In the evening the whole steppe changed its aspect. All its varied
expanse was bathed in the last bright glow of the sun; and as it grew
dark gradually, it could be seen how the shadow flitted across it and it
became dark green. The mist rose more densely; each flower, each blade
of grass, emitted a fragrance as of ambergris, and the whole steppe
distilled perfume. Broad bands of rosy gold were streaked across the
dark blue heaven, as with a gigantic brush; here and there gleamed,
in white tufts, light and transparent clouds: and the freshest,
most enchanting of gentle breezes barely stirred the tops of the
grass-blades, like sea-waves, and caressed the cheek. The music which
had resounded through the day had died away, and given place to another.
The striped marmots crept out of their holes, stood erect on their
hind legs, and filled the steppe with their whistle. The whirr of the
grasshoppers had become more distinctly audible. Sometimes the cry of
the swan was heard from some distant lake, ringing through the air like
a silver trumpet. The travellers, halting in the midst of the plain,
selected a spot for their night encampment, made a fire, and hung over
it the kettle in which they cooked their oatmeal; the steam rising and
floating aslant in the air. Having supped, the Cossacks lay down to
sleep, after hobbling their horses and turning them out to graze. They
lay down in their gaberdines. The stars of night gazed directly down
upon them. They could hear the countless myriads of insects which filled
the grass; their rasping, whistling, and chirping, softened by the fresh
air, resounded clearly through the night, and lulled the drowsy ear. If
one of them rose and stood for a time, the steppe presented itself to
him strewn with the sparks of glow-worms. At times the night sky
was illumined in spots by the glare of burning reeds along pools or
river-bank; and dark flights of swans flying to the north were suddenly
lit up by the silvery, rose-coloured gleam, till it seemed as though red
kerchiefs were floating in the dark heavens.

The travellers proceeded onward without any adventure. They came across
no villages. It was ever the same boundless, waving, beautiful steppe.
Only at intervals the summits of distant forests shone blue, on one
hand, stretching along the banks of the Dnieper. Once only did Taras
point out to his sons a small black speck far away amongst the grass,
saying, “Look, children! yonder gallops a Tatar.” The little head with
its long moustaches fixed its narrow eyes upon them from afar, its
nostrils snuffing the air like a greyhound’s, and then disappeared like
an antelope on its owner perceiving that the Cossacks were thirteen
strong. “And now, children, don’t try to overtake the Tatar! You would
never catch him to all eternity; he has a horse swifter than my Devil.”
 But Bulba took precautions, fearing hidden ambushes. They galloped along
the course of a small stream, called the Tatarka, which falls into the
Dnieper; rode into the water and swam with their horses some distance
in order to conceal their trail. Then, scrambling out on the bank, they
continued their road.

Three days later they were not far from the goal of their journey. The
air suddenly grew colder: they could feel the vicinity of the Dnieper.
And there it gleamed afar, distinguishable on the horizon as a dark
band. It sent forth cold waves, spreading nearer, nearer, and finally
seeming to embrace half the entire surface of the earth. This was that
section of its course where the river, hitherto confined by the rapids,
finally makes its own away and, roaring like the sea, rushes on at will;
where the islands, flung into its midst, have pressed it farther
from their shores, and its waves have spread widely over the earth,
encountering neither cliffs nor hills. The Cossacks, alighting from
their horses, entered the ferry-boat, and after a three hours’ sail
reached the shores of the island of Khortitz, where at that time stood
the Setch, which so often changed its situation.

A throng of people hastened to the shore with boats. The Cossacks
arranged the horses’ trappings. Taras assumed a stately air, pulled his
belt tighter, and proudly stroked his moustache. His sons also inspected
themselves from head to foot, with some apprehension and an undefined
feeling of satisfaction; and all set out together for the suburb, which
was half a verst from the Setch. On their arrival, they were deafened by
the clang of fifty blacksmiths’ hammers beating upon twenty-five anvils
sunk in the earth. Stout tanners seated beneath awnings were scraping
ox-hides with their strong hands; shop-keepers sat in their booths, with
piles of flints, steels, and powder before them; Armenians spread out
their rich handkerchiefs; Tatars turned their kabobs upon spits; a Jew,
with his head thrust forward, was filtering some corn-brandy from a
cask. But the first man they encountered was a Zaporozhetz (1) who was
sleeping in the very middle of the road with legs and arms outstretched.
Taras Bulba could not refrain from halting to admire him. “How
splendidly developed he is; phew, what a magnificent figure!” he
said, stopping his horse. It was, in fact, a striking picture. This
Zaporozhetz had stretched himself out in the road like a lion; his
scalp-lock, thrown proudly behind him, extended over upwards of a foot
of ground; his trousers of rich red cloth were spotted with tar, to show
his utter disdain for them. Having admired to his heart’s content, Bulba
passed on through the narrow street, crowded with mechanics exercising
their trades, and with people of all nationalities who thronged this
suburb of the Setch, resembling a fair, and fed and clothed the Setch
itself, which knew only how to revel and burn powder.

 (1) Sometimes written Zaporovian.

At length they left the suburb behind them, and perceived some scattered
kurens (2), covered with turf, or in Tatar fashion with felt. Some were
furnished with cannon. Nowhere were any fences visible, or any of those
low-roofed houses with verandahs supported upon low wooden pillars, such
as were seen in the suburb. A low wall and a ditch, totally unguarded,
betokened a terrible degree of recklessness. Some sturdy Zaporozhtzi
lying, pipe in mouth, in the very road, glanced indifferently at them,
but never moved from their places. Taras threaded his way carefully
among them, with his sons, saying, “Good-day, gentles.”--“Good-day
to you,” answered the Zaporozhtzi. Scattered over the plain were
picturesque groups. From their weatherbeaten faces, it was plain that
all were steeled in battle, and had faced every sort of bad weather. And
there it was, the Setch! There was the lair from whence all those men,
proud and strong as lions, issued forth! There was the spot whence
poured forth liberty and Cossacks all over the Ukraine.

 (2) Enormous wooden sheds, each inhabited by a troop or kuren.

The travellers entered the great square where the council generally met.
On a huge overturned cask sat a Zaporozhetz without his shirt; he was
holding it in his hands, and slowly sewing up the holes in it. Again
their way was stopped by a whole crowd of musicians, in the midst of
whom a young Zaporozhetz was dancing, with head thrown back and arms
outstretched. He kept shouting, “Play faster, musicians! Begrudge
not, Thoma, brandy to these orthodox Christians!” And Thoma, with his
blackened eye, went on measuring out without stint, to every one who
presented himself, a huge jugful.

About the youthful Zaporozhetz four old men, moving their feet quite
briskly, leaped like a whirlwind to one side, almost upon the musicians’
heads, and, suddenly, retreating, squatted down and drummed the hard
earth vigorously with their silver heels. The earth hummed dully all
about, and afar the air resounded with national dance tunes beaten by
the clanging heels of their boots.

But one shouted more loudly than all the rest, and flew after the others
in the dance. His scalp-lock streamed in the wind, his muscular chest
was bare, his warm, winter fur jacket was hanging by the sleeves, and
the perspiration poured from him as from a pig. “Take off your jacket!”
 said Taras at length: “see how he steams!”--“I can’t,” shouted the
Cossack. “Why?”--“I can’t: I have such a disposition that whatever I
take off, I drink up.” And indeed, the young fellow had not had a
cap for a long time, nor a belt to his caftan, nor an embroidered
neckerchief: all had gone the proper road. The throng increased; more
folk joined the dancer: and it was impossible to observe without emotion
how all yielded to the impulse of the dance, the freest, the wildest,
the world has ever seen, still called from its mighty originators, the

“Oh, if I had no horse to hold,” exclaimed Taras, “I would join the
dance myself.”

Meanwhile there began to appear among the throng men who were respected
for their prowess throughout all the Setch--old greyheads who had been
leaders more than once. Taras soon found a number of familiar
faces. Ostap and Andrii heard nothing but greetings. “Ah, it is
you, Petcheritza! Good day, Kozolup!”--“Whence has God brought you,
Taras?”--“How did you come here, Doloto? Health to you, Kirdyaga!
Hail to you, Gustui! Did I ever think of seeing you, Remen?” And these
heroes, gathered from all the roving population of Eastern Russia,
kissed each other and began to ask questions. “But what has become of
Kasyan? Where is Borodavka? and Koloper? and Pidsuitok?” And in reply,
Taras Bulba learned that Borodavka had been hung at Tolopan, that
Koloper had been flayed alive at Kizikirmen, that Pidsuitok’s head had
been salted and sent in a cask to Constantinople. Old Bulba hung his
head and said thoughtfully, “They were good Cossacks.”


Taras Bulba and his sons had been in the Setch about a week. Ostap and
Andrii occupied themselves but little with the science of war. The Setch
was not fond of wasting time in warlike exercises. The young generation
learned these by experience alone, in the very heat of battles, which
were therefore incessant. The Cossacks thought it a nuisance to fill up
the intervals of this instruction with any kind of drill, except
perhaps shooting at a mark, and on rare occasions with horse-racing and
wild-beast hunts on the steppes and in the forests. All the rest of
the time was devoted to revelry--a sign of the wide diffusion of moral
liberty. The whole of the Setch presented an unusual scene: it was one
unbroken revel; a ball noisily begun, which had no end. Some busied
themselves with handicrafts; others kept little shops and traded;
but the majority caroused from morning till night, if the wherewithal
jingled in their pockets, and if the booty they had captured had not
already passed into the hands of the shopkeepers and spirit-sellers.
This universal revelry had something fascinating about it. It was not
an assemblage of topers, who drank to drown sorrow, but simply a wild
revelry of joy. Every one who came thither forgot everything, abandoned
everything which had hitherto interested him. He, so to speak, spat
upon his past and gave himself recklessly up to freedom and the
good-fellowship of men of the same stamp as himself--idlers having
neither relatives nor home nor family, nothing, in short, save the free
sky and the eternal revel of their souls. This gave rise to that wild
gaiety which could not have sprung from any other source. The tales and
talk current among the assembled crowd, reposing lazily on the ground,
were often so droll, and breathed such power of vivid narration, that
it required all the nonchalance of a Zaporozhetz to retain his immovable
expression, without even a twitch of the moustache--a feature which to
this day distinguishes the Southern Russian from his northern brethren.
It was drunken, noisy mirth; but there was no dark ale-house where a
man drowns thought in stupefying intoxication: it was a dense throng of

The only difference as regarded the students was that, instead of
sitting under the pointer and listening to the worn-out doctrines of a
teacher, they practised racing with five thousand horses; instead of the
field where they had played ball, they had the boundless borderlands,
where at the sight of them the Tatar showed his keen face and the Turk
frowned grimly from under his green turban. The difference was that,
instead of being forced to the companionship of school, they themselves
had deserted their fathers and mothers and fled from their homes; that
here were those about whose neck a rope had already been wound, and who,
instead of pale death, had seen life, and life in all its intensity;
those who, from generous habits, could never keep a coin in their
pockets; those who had thitherto regarded a ducat as wealth, and whose
pockets, thanks to the Jew revenue-farmers, could have been turned wrong
side out without any danger of anything falling from them. Here were
students who could not endure the academic rod, and had not carried away
a single letter from the schools; but with them were also some who knew
about Horace, Cicero, and the Roman Republic. There were many leaders
who afterwards distinguished themselves in the king’s armies; and there
were numerous clever partisans who cherished a magnanimous conviction
that it was of no consequence where they fought, so long as they did
fight, since it was a disgrace to an honourable man to live without
fighting. There were many who had come to the Setch for the sake of
being able to say afterwards that they had been there and were therefore
hardened warriors. But who was not there? This strange republic was a
necessary outgrowth of the epoch. Lovers of a warlike life, of golden
beakers and rich brocades, of ducats and gold pieces, could always find
employment there. The lovers of women alone could find naught, for no
woman dared show herself even in the suburbs of the Setch.

It seemed exceedingly strange to Ostap and Andrii that, although a crowd
of people had come to the Setch with them, not a soul inquired, “Whence
come these men? who are they? and what are their names?” They had come
thither as though returning to a home whence they had departed only an
hour before. The new-comer merely presented himself to the Koschevoi, or
head chief of the Setch, who generally said, “Welcome! Do you believe in
Christ?”--“I do,” replied the new-comer. “And do you believe in the
Holy Trinity?”--“I do.”--“And do you go to church?”--“I do.” “Now cross
yourself.” The new-comer crossed himself. “Very good,” replied the
Koschevoi; “enter the kuren where you have most acquaintances.” This
concluded the ceremony. And all the Setch prayed in one church, and were
willing to defend it to their last drop of blood, although they would
not hearken to aught about fasting or abstinence. Jews, Armenians,
and Tatars, inspired by strong avarice, took the liberty of living and
trading in the suburbs; for the Zaporozhtzi never cared for bargaining,
and paid whatever money their hand chanced to grasp in their pocket.
Moreover, the lot of these gain-loving traders was pitiable in the
extreme. They resembled people settled at the foot of Vesuvius; for when
the Zaporozhtzi lacked money, these bold adventurers broke down their
booths and took everything gratis. The Setch consisted of over sixty
kurens, each of which greatly resembled a separate independent republic,
but still more a school or seminary of children, always ready for
anything. No one had any occupation; no one retained anything for
himself; everything was in the hands of the hetman of the kuren, who,
on that account, generally bore the title of “father.” In his hands were
deposited the money, clothes, all the provisions, oatmeal, grain, even
the firewood. They gave him money to take care of. Quarrels amongst the
inhabitants of the kuren were not unfrequent; and in such cases they
proceeded at once to blows. The inhabitants of the kuren swarmed into
the square, and smote each other with their fists, until one side had
finally gained the upper hand, when the revelry began. Such was the
Setch, which had such an attraction for young men.

Ostap and Andrii flung themselves into this sea of dissipation with
all the ardour of youth, forgot in a trice their father’s house, the
seminary, and all which had hitherto exercised their minds, and gave
themselves wholly up to their new life. Everything interested them--the
jovial habits of the Setch, and its chaotic morals and laws, which even
seemed to them too strict for such a free republic. If a Cossack stole
the smallest trifle, it was considered a disgrace to the whole Cossack
community. He was bound to the pillar of shame, and a club was laid
beside him, with which each passer-by was bound to deal him a blow until
in this manner he was beaten to death. He who did not pay his debts was
chained to a cannon, until some one of his comrades should decide
to ransom him by paying his debts for him. But what made the deepest
impression on Andrii was the terrible punishment decreed for murder. A
hole was dug in his presence, the murderer was lowered alive into it,
and over him was placed a coffin containing the body of the man he had
killed, after which the earth was thrown upon both. Long afterwards the
fearful ceremony of this horrible execution haunted his mind, and the
man who had been buried alive appeared to him with his terrible coffin.

Both the young Cossacks soon took a good standing among their fellows.
They often sallied out upon the steppe with comrades from their kuren,
and sometimes too with the whole kuren or with neighbouring kurens, to
shoot the innumerable steppe-birds of every sort, deer, and goats. Or
they went out upon the lakes, the river, and its tributaries allotted to
each kuren, to throw their nets and draw out rich prey for the enjoyment
of the whole kuren. Although unversed in any trade exercised by a
Cossack, they were soon remarked among the other youths for their
obstinate bravery and daring in everything. Skilfully and accurately
they fired at the mark, and swam the Dnieper against the current--a
deed for which the novice was triumphantly received into the circle of

But old Taras was planning a different sphere of activity for them.
Such an idle life was not to his mind; he wanted active employment. He
reflected incessantly how to stir up the Setch to some bold enterprise,
wherein a man could revel as became a warrior. At length he went one day
to the Koschevoi, and said plainly:--

“Well, Koschevoi, it is time for the Zaporozhtzi to set out.”

“There is nowhere for them to go,” replied the Koschevoi, removing his
short pipe from his mouth and spitting to one side.

“What do you mean by nowhere? We can go to Turkey or Tatary.”

“Impossible to go either to Turkey or Tatary,” replied the Koschevoi,
putting his pipe coolly into his mouth again.

“Why impossible?”

“It is so; we have promised the Sultan peace.”

“But he is a Mussulman; and God and the Holy Scriptures command us to
slay Mussulmans.”

“We have no right. If we had not sworn by our faith, it might be done;
but now it is impossible.”

“How is it impossible? How can you say that we have no right? Here are
my two sons, both young men. Neither has been to war; and you say that
we have no right, and that there is no need for the Zaporozhtzi to set
out on an expedition.”

“Well, it is not fitting.”

“Then it must be fitting that Cossack strength should be wasted in vain,
that a man should disappear like a dog without having done a single good
deed, that he should be of no use to his country or to Christianity!
Why, then, do we live? What the deuce do we live for? just tell me that.
You are a sensible man, you were not chosen as Koschevoi without reason:
so just tell me what we live for?”

The Koschevoi made no reply to this question. He was an obstinate
Cossack. He was silent for a while, and then said, “Anyway, there will
not be war.”

“There will not be war?” Taras asked again.


“Then it is no use thinking about it?”

“It is not to be thought of.”

“Wait, you devil’s limb!” said Taras to himself; “you shall learn to
know me!” and he at once resolved to have his revenge on the Koschevoi.

Having made an agreement with several others, he gave them liquor; and
the drunken Cossacks staggered into the square, where on a post hung
the kettledrums which were generally beaten to assemble the people. Not
finding the sticks, which were kept by the drummer, they seized a piece
of wood and began to beat. The first to respond to the drum-beat was the
drummer, a tall man with but one eye, but a frightfully sleepy one for
all that.

“Who dares to beat the drum?” he shouted.

“Hold your tongue! take your sticks, and beat when you are ordered!”
 replied the drunken men.

The drummer at once took from his pocket the sticks which he had brought
with him, well knowing the result of such proceedings. The drum rattled,
and soon black swarms of Cossacks began to collect like bees in the
square. All formed in a ring; and at length, after the third summons,
the chiefs began to arrive--the Koschevoi with staff in hand, the symbol
of his office; the judge with the army-seal; the secretary with his
ink-bottle; and the osaul with his staff. The Koschevoi and the chiefs
took off their caps and bowed on all sides to the Cossacks, who stood
proudly with their arms akimbo.

“What means this assemblage? what do you wish, gentles?” said the
Koschevoi. Shouts and exclamations interrupted his speech.

“Resign your staff! resign your staff this moment, you son of Satan!
we will have you no longer!” shouted some of the Cossacks in the crowd.
Some of the sober ones appeared to wish to oppose this, but both sober
and drunken fell to blows. The shouting and uproar became universal.

The Koschevoi attempted to speak; but knowing that the self-willed
multitude, if enraged, might beat him to death, as almost always
happened in such cases, he bowed very low, laid down his staff, and hid
himself in the crowd.

“Do you command us, gentles, to resign our insignia of office?” said
the judge, the secretary, and the osaul, as they prepared to give up the
ink-horn, army-seal, and staff, upon the spot.

“No, you are to remain!” was shouted from the crowd. “We only wanted
to drive out the Koschevoi because he is a woman, and we want a man for

“Whom do you now elect as Koschevoi?” asked the chiefs.

“We choose Kukubenko,” shouted some.

“We won’t have Kukubenko!” screamed another party: “he is too young; the
milk has not dried off his lips yet.”

“Let Schilo be hetman!” shouted some: “make Schilo our Koschevoi!”

“Away with your Schilo!” yelled the crowd; “what kind of a Cossack is he
who is as thievish as a Tatar? To the devil in a sack with your drunken

“Borodaty! let us make Borodaty our Koschevoi!”

“We won’t have Borodaty! To the evil one’s mother with Borodaty!”

“Shout Kirdyanga!” whispered Taras Bulba to several.

“Kirdyanga, Kirdyanga!” shouted the crowd. “Borodaty, Borodaty!
Kirdyanga, Kirdyanga! Schilo! Away with Schilo! Kirdyanga!”

All the candidates, on hearing their names mentioned, quitted the
crowd, in order not to give any one a chance of supposing that they were
personally assisting in their election.

“Kirdyanga, Kirdyanga!” echoed more strongly than the rest.


They proceeded to decide the matter by a show of hands, and Kirdyanga

“Fetch Kirdyanga!” they shouted. Half a score of Cossacks immediately
left the crowd--some of them hardly able to keep their feet, to such an
extent had they drunk--and went directly to Kirdyanga to inform him of
his election.

Kirdyanga, a very old but wise Cossack, had been sitting for some time
in his kuren, as if he knew nothing of what was going on.

“What is it, gentles? What do you wish?” he inquired.

“Come, they have chosen you for Koschevoi.”

“Have mercy, gentles!” said Kirdyanga. “How can I be worthy of such
honour? Why should I be made Koschevoi? I have not sufficient capacity
to fill such a post. Could no better person be found in all the army?”

“Come, I say!” shouted the Zaporozhtzi. Two of them seized him by the
arms; and in spite of his planting his feet firmly they finally dragged
him to the square, accompanying his progress with shouts, blows from
behind with their fists, kicks, and exhortations. “Don’t hold back, you
son of Satan! Accept the honour, you dog, when it is given!” In this
manner Kirdyanga was conducted into the ring of Cossacks.

“How now, gentles?” announced those who had brought him, “are you agreed
that this Cossack shall be your Koschevoi?”

“We are all agreed!” shouted the throng, and the whole plain trembled
for a long time afterwards from the shout.

One of the chiefs took the staff and brought it to the newly elected
Koschevoi. Kirdyanga, in accordance with custom, immediately refused
it. The chief offered it a second time; Kirdyanga again refused it, and
then, at the third offer, accepted the staff. A cry of approbation rang
out from the crowd, and again the whole plain resounded afar with the
Cossacks’ shout. Then there stepped out from among the people the four
oldest of them all, white-bearded, white-haired Cossacks; though there
were no very old men in the Setch, for none of the Zaporozhtzi ever died
in their beds. Taking each a handful of earth, which recent rain had
converted into mud, they laid it on Kirdyanga’s head. The wet earth
trickled down from his head on to his moustache and cheeks and smeared
his whole face. But Kirdyanga stood immovable in his place, and thanked
the Cossacks for the honour shown him.

Thus ended the noisy election, concerning which we cannot say whether it
was as pleasing to the others as it was to Bulba; by means of it he had
revenged himself on the former Koschevoi. Moreover, Kirdyanga was an old
comrade, and had been with him on the same expeditions by sea and land,
sharing the toils and hardships of war. The crowd immediately dispersed
to celebrate the election, and such revelry ensued as Ostap and Andrii
had not yet beheld. The taverns were attacked and mead, corn-brandy, and
beer seized without payment, the owners being only too glad to escape
with whole skins themselves. The whole night passed amid shouts, songs,
and rejoicings; and the rising moon gazed long at troops of musicians
traversing the streets with guitars, flutes, tambourines, and the church
choir, who were kept in the Setch to sing in church and glorify the
deeds of the Zaporozhtzi. At length drunkenness and fatigue began to
overpower even these strong heads, and here and there a Cossack could
be seen to fall to the ground, embracing a comrade in fraternal fashion;
whilst maudlin, and even weeping, the latter rolled upon the earth with
him. Here a whole group would lie down in a heap; there a man would
choose the most comfortable position and stretch himself out on a log of
wood. The last, and strongest, still uttered some incoherent speeches;
finally even they, yielding to the power of intoxication, flung
themselves down and all the Setch slept.


But next day Taras Bulba had a conference with the new Koschevoi as to
the method of exciting the Cossacks to some enterprise. The Koschevoi,
a shrewd and sensible Cossack, who knew the Zaporozhtzi thoroughly, said
at first, “Oaths cannot be violated by any means”; but after a pause
added, “No matter, it can be done. We will not violate them, but let
us devise something. Let the people assemble, not at my summons, but of
their own accord. You know how to manage that; and I will hasten to the
square with the chiefs, as though we know nothing about it.”

Not an hour had elapsed after their conversation, when the drums again
thundered. The drunken and senseless Cossacks assembled. A myriad
Cossack caps were sprinkled over the square. A murmur arose, “Why? What?
Why was the assembly beaten?” No one answered. At length, in one
quarter and another, it began to be rumoured about, “Behold, the Cossack
strength is being vainly wasted: there is no war! Behold, our leaders
have become as marmots, every one; their eyes swim in fat! Plainly,
there is no justice in the world!” The other Cossacks listened at first,
and then began themselves to say, “In truth, there is no justice in the
world!” Their leaders seemed surprised at these utterances. Finally the
Koschevoi stepped forward: “Permit me, Cossacks, to address you.”

“Do so!”

“Touching the matter in question, gentles, none know better than
yourselves that many Zaporozhtzi have run in debt to the Jew ale-house
keepers and to their brethren, so that now they have not an atom of
credit. Again, touching the matter in question, there are many young
fellows who have no idea of what war is like, although you know,
gentles, that without war a young man cannot exist. How make a
Zaporozhetz out of him if he has never killed a Mussulman?”

“He speaks well,” thought Bulba.

“Think not, however, gentles, that I speak thus in order to break the
truce; God forbid! I merely mention it. Besides, it is a shame to
see what sort of church we have for our God. Not only has the church
remained without exterior decoration during all the years which by God’s
mercy the Setch has stood, but up to this day even the holy pictures
have no adornments. No one has even thought of making them a silver
frame; they have only received what some Cossacks have left them in
their wills; and these gifts were poor, since they had drunk up nearly
all they had during their lifetime. I am making you this speech,
therefore, not in order to stir up a war against the Mussulmans; we have
promised the Sultan peace, and it would be a great sin in us to break
this promise, for we swore it on our law.”

“What is he mixing things up like that for?” said Bulba to himself.

“So you see, gentles, that war cannot be begun; honour does not permit
it. But according to my poor opinion, we might, I think, send out a few
young men in boats and let them plunder the coasts of Anatolia a little.
What do you think, gentles?”

“Lead us, lead us all!” shouted the crowd on all sides. “We are ready to
lay down our lives for our faith.”

The Koschevoi was alarmed. He by no means wished to stir up all
Zaporozhe; a breach of the truce appeared to him on this occasion
unsuitable. “Permit me, gentles, to address you further.”

“Enough!” yelled the Cossacks; “you can say nothing better.”

“If it must be so, then let it be so. I am the slave of your will. We
know, and from Scripture too, that the voice of the people is the voice
of God. It is impossible to devise anything better than the whole nation
has devised. But here lies the difficulty; you know, gentles, that
the Sultan will not permit that which delights our young men to go
unpunished. We should be prepared at such a time, and our forces should
be fresh, and then we should fear no one. But during their absence the
Tatars may assemble fresh forces; the dogs do not show themselves in
sight and dare not come while the master is at home, but they can bite
his heels from behind, and bite painfully too. And if I must tell you
the truth, we have not boats enough, nor powder ready in sufficient
quantity, for all to go. But I am ready, if you please; I am the slave
of your will.”

The cunning hetman was silent. The various groups began to discuss the
matter, and the hetmans of the kurens to take counsel together; few were
drunk fortunately, so they decided to listen to reason.

A number of men set out at once for the opposite shore of the Dnieper,
to the treasury of the army, where in strictest secrecy, under water and
among the reeds, lay concealed the army chest and a portion of the
arms captured from the enemy. Others hastened to inspect the boats and
prepare them for service. In a twinkling the whole shore was
thronged with men. Carpenters appeared with axes in their hands. Old,
weatherbeaten, broad-shouldered, strong-legged Zaporozhtzi, with black
or silvered moustaches, rolled up their trousers, waded up to their
knees in water, and dragged the boats on to the shore with stout ropes;
others brought seasoned timber and all sorts of wood. The boats were
freshly planked, turned bottom upwards, caulked and tarred, and then
bound together side by side after Cossack fashion, with long strands of
reeds, so that the swell of the waves might not sink them. Far along the
shore they built fires and heated tar in copper cauldrons to smear the
boats. The old and the experienced instructed the young. The blows and
shouts of the workers rose all over the neighbourhood; the bank shook
and moved about.

About this time a large ferry-boat began to near the shore. The mass of
people standing in it began to wave their hands from a distance. They
were Cossacks in torn, ragged gaberdines. Their disordered garments, for
many had on nothing but their shirts, with a short pipe in their mouths,
showed that they had either escaped from some disaster or had caroused
to such an extent that they had drunk up all they had on their bodies.
A short, broad-shouldered Cossack of about fifty stepped out from the
midst of them and stood in front. He shouted and waved his hand more
vigorously than any of the others; but his words could not be heard for
the cries and hammering of the workmen.

“Whence come you!” asked the Koschevoi, as the boat touched the shore.
All the workers paused in their labours, and, raising their axes and
chisels, looked on expectantly.

“From a misfortune!” shouted the short Cossack.

“From what?”

“Permit me, noble Zaporozhtzi, to address you.”


“Or would you prefer to assemble a council?”

“Speak, we are all here.”

The people all pressed together in one mass.

“Have you then heard nothing of what has been going on in the hetman’s

“What is it?” inquired one of the kuren hetmans.

“Eh! what! Evidently the Tatars have plastered up your ears so that you
might hear nothing.”

“Tell us then; what has been going on there?”

“That is going on the like of which no man born or christened ever yet
has seen.”

“Tell us what it is, you son of a dog!” shouted one of the crowd,
apparently losing patience.

“Things have come to such a pass that our holy churches are no longer

“How not ours?”

“They are pledged to the Jews. If the Jew is not first paid, there can
be no mass.”

“What are you saying?”

“And if the dog of a Jew does not make a sign with his unclean hand over
the holy Easter-bread, it cannot be consecrated.”

“He lies, brother gentles. It cannot be that an unclean Jew puts his
mark upon the holy Easter-bread.”

“Listen! I have not yet told all. Catholic priests are going about all
over the Ukraine in carts. The harm lies not in the carts, but in the
fact that not horses, but orthodox Christians (1), are harnessed to
them. Listen! I have not yet told all. They say that the Jewesses are
making themselves petticoats out of our popes’ vestments. Such are the
deeds that are taking place in the Ukraine, gentles! And you sit here
revelling in Zaporozhe; and evidently the Tatars have so scared you that
you have no eyes, no ears, no anything, and know nothing that is going
on in the world.”

 (1) That is of the Greek Church. The Poles were Catholics.

“Stop, stop!” broke in the Koschevoi, who up to that moment had stood
with his eyes fixed upon the earth like all Zaporozhtzi, who, on
important occasions, never yielded to their first impulse, but kept
silence, and meanwhile concentrated inwardly all the power of their
indignation. “Stop! I also have a word to say. But what were you
about? When your father the devil was raging thus, what were you doing
yourselves? Had you no swords? How came you to permit such lawlessness?”

“Eh! how did we come to permit such lawlessness? You would have tried
when there were fifty thousand of the Lyakhs (2) alone; yes, and it is
a shame not to be concealed, when there are also dogs among us who have
already accepted their faith.”

 (2) Lyakhs, an opprobrious name for the Poles.

“But your hetman and your leaders, what have they done?”

“God preserve any one from such deeds as our leaders performed!”

“How so?”

“Our hetman, roasted in a brazen ox, now lies in Warsaw; and the
heads and hands of our leaders are being carried to all the fairs as a
spectacle for the people. That is what our leaders did.”

The whole throng became wildly excited. At first silence reigned all
along the shore, like that which precedes a tempest; and then suddenly
voices were raised and all the shore spoke:--

“What! The Jews hold the Christian churches in pledge! Roman Catholic
priests have harnessed and beaten orthodox Christians! What! such
torture has been permitted on Russian soil by the cursed unbelievers!
And they have done such things to the leaders and the hetman? Nay, this
shall not be, it shall not be.” Such words came from all quarters. The
Zaporozhtzi were moved, and knew their power. It was not the excitement
of a giddy-minded folk. All who were thus agitated were strong, firm
characters, not easily aroused, but, once aroused, preserving their
inward heat long and obstinately. “Hang all the Jews!” rang through the
crowd. “They shall not make petticoats for their Jewesses out of popes’
vestments! They shall not place their signs upon the holy wafers! Drown
all the heathens in the Dnieper!” These words uttered by some one in
the throng flashed like lightning through all minds, and the crowd flung
themselves upon the suburb with the intention of cutting the throats of
all the Jews.

The poor sons of Israel, losing all presence of mind, and not being in
any case courageous, hid themselves in empty brandy-casks, in ovens, and
even crawled under the skirts of their Jewesses; but the Cossacks found
them wherever they were.

“Gracious nobles!” shrieked one Jew, tall and thin as a stick, thrusting
his sorry visage, distorted with terror, from among a group of his
comrades, “gracious nobles! suffer us to say a word, only one word. We
will reveal to you what you never yet have heard, a thing more important
than I can say--very important!”

“Well, say it,” said Bulba, who always liked to hear what an accused man
had to say.

“Gracious nobles,” exclaimed the Jew, “such nobles were never seen, by
heavens, never! Such good, kind, and brave men there never were in the
world before!” His voice died away and quivered with fear. “How was it
possible that we should think any evil of the Zaporozhtzi? Those men
are not of us at all, those who have taken pledges in the Ukraine. By
heavens, they are not of us! They are not Jews at all. The evil one
alone knows what they are; they are only fit to be spit upon and cast
aside. Behold, my brethren, say the same! Is it not true, Schloma? is it
not true, Schmul?”

“By heavens, it is true!” replied Schloma and Schmul, from among the
crowd, both pale as clay, in their ragged caps.

“We never yet,” continued the tall Jew, “have had any secret intercourse
with your enemies, and we will have nothing to do with Catholics;
may the evil one fly away with them! We are like own brothers to the

“What! the Zaporozhtzi are brothers to you!” exclaimed some one in
the crowd. “Don’t wait! the cursed Jews! Into the Dnieper with them,
gentles! Drown all the unbelievers!”

These words were the signal. They seized the Jews by the arms and began
to hurl them into the waves. Pitiful cries resounded on all sides; but
the stern Zaporozhtzi only laughed when they saw the Jewish legs, cased
in shoes and stockings, struggling in the air. The poor orator who had
called down destruction upon himself jumped out of the caftan, by which
they had seized him, and in his scant parti-coloured under waistcoat
clasped Bulba’s legs, and cried, in piteous tones, “Great lord! gracious
noble! I knew your brother, the late Doroscha. He was a warrior who was
an ornament to all knighthood. I gave him eight hundred sequins when he
was obliged to ransom himself from the Turks.”

“You knew my brother?” asked Taras.

“By heavens, I knew him. He was a magnificent nobleman.”

“And what is your name?”


“Good,” said Taras; and after reflecting, he turned to the Cossacks and
spoke as follows: “There will always be plenty of time to hang the Jew,
if it proves necessary; but for to-day give him to me.”

So saying, Taras led him to his waggon, beside which stood his Cossacks.
“Crawl under the waggon; lie down, and do not move. And you, brothers,
do not surrender this Jew.”

So saying, he returned to the square, for the whole crowd had long since
collected there. All had at once abandoned the shore and the preparation
of the boats; for a land-journey now awaited them, and not a sea-voyage,
and they needed horses and waggons, not ships. All, both young and old,
wanted to go on the expedition; and it was decided, on the advice of
the chiefs, the hetmans of the kurens, and the Koschevoi, and with
the approbation of the whole Zaporozhtzian army, to march straight to
Poland, to avenge the injury and disgrace to their faith and to Cossack
renown, to seize booty from the cities, to burn villages and grain, and
spread their glory far over the steppe. All at once girded and armed
themselves. The Koschevoi grew a whole foot taller. He was no longer
the timid executor of the restless wishes of a free people, but their
untrammelled master. He was a despot, who know only to command. All the
independent and pleasure-loving warriors stood in an orderly line, with
respectfully bowed heads, not venturing to raise their eyes, when the
Koschevoi gave his orders. He gave these quietly, without shouting and
without haste, but with pauses between, like an experienced man deeply
learned in Cossack affairs, and carrying into execution, not for the
first time, a wisely matured enterprise.

“Examine yourselves, look well to yourselves; examine all your
equipments thoroughly,” he said; “put your teams and your tar-boxes (3)
in order; test your weapons. Take not many clothes with you: a shirt and
a couple of pairs of trousers to each Cossack, and a pot of oatmeal
and millet apiece--let no one take any more. There will be plenty of
provisions, all that is needed, in the waggons. Let every Cossack have
two horses. And two hundred yoke of oxen must be taken, for we shall
require them at the fords and marshy places. Keep order, gentles, above
all things. I know that there are some among you whom God has made so
greedy that they would like to tear up silk and velvet for foot-cloths.
Leave off such devilish habits; reject all garments as plunder, and take
only weapons: though if valuables offer themselves, ducats or silver,
they are useful in any case. I tell you this beforehand, gentles, if any
one gets drunk on the expedition, he will have a short shrift: I will
have him dragged by the neck like a dog behind the baggage waggons, no
matter who he may be, even were he the most heroic Cossack in the whole
army; he shall be shot on the spot like a dog, and flung out, without
sepulture, to be torn by the birds of prey, for a drunkard on the march
deserves no Christian burial. Young men, obey the old men in all things!
If a ball grazes you, or a sword cuts your head or any other part,
attach no importance to such trifles. Mix a charge of powder in a cup of
brandy, quaff it heartily, and all will pass off--you will not even have
any fever; and if the wound is large, put simple earth upon it, mixing
it first with spittle in your palm, and that will dry it up. And now to
work, to work, lads, and look well to all, and without haste.”

 (3) The Cossack waggons have their axles smeared with tar instead of

So spoke the Koschevoi; and no sooner had he finished his speech than
all the Cossacks at once set to work. All the Setch grew sober. Nowhere
was a single drunken man to be found, it was as though there never had
been such a thing among the Cossacks. Some attended to the tyres of the
wheels, others changed the axles of the waggons; some carried sacks of
provisions to them or leaded them with arms; others again drove up the
horses and oxen. On all sides resounded the tramp of horses’ hoofs,
test-shots from the guns, the clank of swords, the lowing of oxen,
the screech of rolling waggons, talking, sharp cries and urging-on of
cattle. Soon the Cossack force spread far over all the plain; and he who
might have undertaken to run from its van to its rear would have had
a long course. In the little wooden church the priest was offering up
prayers and sprinkling all worshippers with holy water. All kissed the
cross. When the camp broke up and the army moved out of the Setch, all
the Zaporozhtzi turned their heads back. “Farewell, our mother!” they
said almost in one breath. “May God preserve thee from all misfortune!”

As he passed through the suburb, Taras Bulba saw that his Jew, Yankel,
had already erected a sort of booth with an awning, and was selling
flint, screwdrivers, powder, and all sorts of military stores needed on
the road, even to rolls and bread. “What devils these Jews are!” thought
Taras; and riding up to him, he said, “Fool, why are you sitting here?
do you want to be shot like a crow?”

Yankel in reply approached nearer, and making a sign with both hands, as
though wishing to impart some secret, said, “Let the noble lord but
keep silence and say nothing to any one. Among the Cossack waggons is
a waggon of mine. I am carrying all sorts of needful stores for the
Cossacks, and on the journey I will furnish every sort of provisions at
a lower price than any Jew ever sold at before. ‘Tis so, by heavens! by
heavens, ‘tis so!”

Taras Bulba shrugged his shoulders in amazement at the Jewish nature,
and went on to the camp.


All South-west Poland speedily became a prey to fear. Everywhere the
rumour flew, “The Zaporozhtzi! The Zaporozhtzi have appeared!” All
who could flee did so. All rose and scattered after the manner of that
lawless, reckless age, when they built neither fortresses nor castles,
but each man erected a temporary dwelling of straw wherever he happened
to find himself. He thought, “It is useless to waste money and labour on
an izba, when the roving Tatars will carry it off in any case.” All was
in an uproar: one exchanged his plough and oxen for a horse and gun, and
joined an armed band; another, seeking concealment, drove off his cattle
and carried off all the household stuff he could. Occasionally, on the
road, some were encountered who met their visitors with arms in their
hands; but the majority fled before their arrival. All knew that it was
hard to deal with the raging and warlike throng known by the name of
the Zaporozhian army; a body which, under its independent and disorderly
exterior, concealed an organisation well calculated for times of battle.
The horsemen rode steadily on without overburdening or heating their
horses; the foot-soldiers marched only by night, resting during the day,
and selecting for this purpose desert tracts, uninhabited spots, and
forests, of which there were then plenty. Spies and scouts were sent
ahead to study the time, place, and method of attack. And lo! the
Zaporozhtzi suddenly appeared in those places where they were least
expected: then all were put to the sword; the villages were burned; and
the horses and cattle which were not driven off behind the army killed
upon the spot. They seemed to be fiercely revelling, rather than
carrying out a military expedition. Our hair would stand on end nowadays
at the horrible traits of that fierce, half-civilised age, which the
Zaporozhtzi everywhere exhibited: children killed, women’s breasts cut
open, the skin flayed from the legs up to the knees, and the victim then
set at liberty. In short, the Cossacks paid their former debts in
coin of full weight. The abbot of one monastery, on hearing of their
approach, sent two monks to say that they were not behaving as they
should; that there was an agreement between the Zaporozhtzi and the
government; that they were breaking faith with the king, and violating
all international rights. “Tell your bishop from me and from all the
Zaporozhtzi,” said the Koschevoi, “that he has nothing to fear: the
Cossacks, so far, have only lighted and smoked their pipes.” And the
magnificent abbey was soon wrapped in the devouring flames, its tall
Gothic windows showing grimly through the waves of fire as they parted.
The fleeing mass of monks, women, and Jews thronged into those towns
where any hope lay in the garrison and the civic forces. The aid sent
in season by the government, but delayed on the way, consisted of a
few troops which either were unable to enter the towns or, seized with
fright, turned their backs at the very first encounter and fled on
their swift horses. However, several of the royal commanders, who had
conquered in former battles, resolved to unite their forces and confront
the Zaporozhtzi.

And here, above all, did our young Cossacks, disgusted with pillage,
greed, and a feeble foe, and burning with the desire to distinguish
themselves in presence of their chiefs, seek to measure themselves in
single combat with the warlike and boastful Lyakhs, prancing on their
spirited horses, with the sleeves of their jackets thrown back and
streaming in the wind. This game was inspiriting; they won at it many
costly sets of horse-trappings and valuable weapons. In a month the
scarcely fledged birds attained their full growth, were completely
transformed, and became men; their features, in which hitherto a trace
of youthful softness had been visible, grew strong and grim. But it was
pleasant to old Taras to see his sons among the foremost. It seemed
as though Ostap were designed by nature for the game of war and the
difficult science of command. Never once losing his head or becoming
confused under any circumstances, he could, with a cool audacity almost
supernatural in a youth of two-and-twenty, in an instant gauge the
danger and the whole scope of the matter, could at once devise a means
of escaping, but of escaping only that he might the more surely conquer.
His movements now began to be marked by the assurance which comes from
experience, and in them could be detected the germ of the future leader.
His person strengthened, and his bearing grew majestically leonine.
“What a fine leader he will make one of these days!” said old Taras. “He
will make a splendid leader, far surpassing even his father!”

Andrii gave himself up wholly to the enchanting music of blades and
bullets. He knew not what it was to consider, or calculate, or to
measure his own as against the enemy’s strength. He gazed on battle with
mad delight and intoxication: he found something festal in the moments
when a man’s brain burns, when all things wave and flutter before his
eyes, when heads are stricken off, horses fall to the earth with a sound
of thunder, and he rides on like a drunken man, amid the whistling of
bullets and the flashing of swords, dealing blows to all, and heeding
not those aimed at himself. More than once their father marvelled too
at Andrii, seeing him, stirred only by a flash of impulse, dash at
something which a sensible man in cold blood never would have attempted,
and, by the sheer force of his mad attack, accomplish such wonders as
could not but amaze even men grown old in battle. Old Taras admired and
said, “And he too will make a good warrior if the enemy does not
capture him meanwhile. He is not Ostap, but he is a dashing warrior,

The army decided to march straight on the city of Dubno, which, rumour
said, contained much wealth and many rich inhabitants. The journey was
accomplished in a day and a half, and the Zaporozhtzi appeared before
the city. The inhabitants resolved to defend themselves to the utmost
extent of their power, and to fight to the last extremity, preferring to
die in their squares and streets, and on their thresholds, rather than
admit the enemy to their houses. A high rampart of earth surrounded the
city; and in places where it was low or weak, it was strengthened by a
wall of stone, or a house which served as a redoubt, or even an oaken
stockade. The garrison was strong and aware of the importance of their
position. The Zaporozhtzi attacked the wall fiercely, but were met with
a shower of grapeshot. The citizens and residents of the town evidently
did not wish to remain idle, but gathered on the ramparts; in their eyes
could be read desperate resistance. The women too were determined to
take part in the fray, and upon the heads of the Zaporozhians rained
down stones, casks of boiling water, and sacks of lime which blinded
them. The Zaporozhtzi were not fond of having anything to do with
fortified places: sieges were not in their line. The Koschevoi ordered
them to retreat, saying, “It is useless, brother gentles; we will
retire: but may I be a heathen Tatar, and not a Christian, if we do not
clear them out of that town! may they all perish of hunger, the dogs!”
 The army retreated, surrounded the town, and, for lack of something to
do, busied themselves with devastating the surrounding country, burning
the neighbouring villages and the ricks of unthreshed grain, and turning
their droves of horses loose in the cornfields, as yet untouched by the
reaping-hook, where the plump ears waved, fruit, as luck would have it,
of an unusually good harvest which should have liberally rewarded all
tillers of the soil that season.

With horror those in the city beheld their means of subsistence
destroyed. Meanwhile the Zaporozhtzi, having formed a double ring of
their waggons around the city, disposed themselves as in the Setch in
kurens, smoked their pipes, bartered their booty for weapons, played
at leapfrog and odd-and-even, and gazed at the city with deadly
cold-bloodedness. At night they lighted their camp fires, and the cooks
boiled the porridge for each kuren in huge copper cauldrons; whilst
an alert sentinel watched all night beside the blazing fire. But the
Zaporozhtzi soon began to tire of inactivity and prolonged sobriety,
unaccompanied by any fighting. The Koschevoi even ordered the allowance
of wine to be doubled, which was sometimes done in the army when no
difficult enterprises or movements were on hand. The young men, and
Taras Bulba’s sons in particular, did not like this life. Andrii was
visibly bored. “You silly fellow!” said Taras to him, “be patient, you
will be hetman one day. He is not a good warrior who loses heart in an
important enterprise; but he who is not tired even of inactivity, who
endures all, and who even if he likes a thing can give it up.” But hot
youth cannot agree with age; the two have different natures, and look at
the same thing with different eyes.

But in the meantime Taras’s band, led by Tovkatch, arrived; with him
were also two osauls, the secretary, and other regimental officers: the
Cossacks numbered over four thousand in all. There were among them many
volunteers, who had risen of their own free will, without any summons,
as soon as they had heard what the matter was. The osauls brought to
Taras’s sons the blessing of their aged mother, and to each a picture
in a cypress-wood frame from the Mezhigorski monastery at Kief. The two
brothers hung the pictures round their necks, and involuntarily grew
pensive as they remembered their old mother. What did this blessing
prophecy? Was it a blessing for their victory over the enemy, and then
a joyous return to their home with booty and glory, to be everlastingly
commemorated in the songs of guitar-players? or was it...? But the
future is unknown, and stands before a man like autumnal fogs rising
from the swamps; birds fly foolishly up and down in it with flapping
wings, never recognising each other, the dove seeing not the vulture,
nor the vulture the dove, and no one knowing how far he may be flying
from destruction.

Ostap had long since attended to his duties and gone to the kuren.
Andrii, without knowing why, felt a kind of oppression at his heart. The
Cossacks had finished their evening meal; the wonderful July night had
completely fallen; still he did not go to the kuren, nor lie down to
sleep, but gazed unconsciously at the whole scene before him. In the sky
innumerable stars twinkled brightly. The plain was covered far and wide
with scattered waggons with swinging tar-buckets, smeared with tar, and
loaded with every description of goods and provisions captured from the
foe. Beside the waggons, under the waggons, and far beyond the waggons,
Zaporozhtzi were everywhere visible, stretched upon the grass. They
all slumbered in picturesque attitudes; one had thrust a sack under
his head, another his cap, and another simply made use of his comrade’s
side. Swords, guns, matchlocks, short pipe-stems with copper mountings,
iron awls, and a flint and steel were inseparable from every Cossack.
The heavy oxen lay with their feet doubled under them like huge whitish
masses, and at a distance looked like gray stones scattered on the
slopes of the plain. On all sides the heavy snores of sleeping warriors
began to arise from the grass, and were answered from the plain by the
ringing neighs of their steeds, chafing at their hobbled feet. Meanwhile
a certain threatening magnificence had mingled with the beauty of the
July night. It was the distant glare of the burning district afar.
In one place the flames spread quietly and grandly over the sky; in
another, suddenly bursting into a whirlwind, they hissed and flew
upwards to the very stars, and floating fragments died away in the most
distant quarter of the heavens. Here the black, burned monastery like
a grim Carthusian monk stood threatening, and displaying its dark
magnificence at every flash; there blazed the monastery garden. It
seemed as though the trees could be heard hissing as they stood wrapped
in smoke; and when the fire burst forth, it suddenly lighted up the ripe
plums with a phosphoric lilac-coloured gleam, or turned the yellowing
pears here and there to pure gold. In the midst of them hung black
against the wall of the building, or the trunk of a tree, the body of
some poor Jew or monk who had perished in the flames with the structure.
Above the distant fires hovered a flock of birds, like a cluster of
tiny black crosses upon a fiery field. The town thus laid bare seemed to
sleep; the spires and roofs, and its palisade and walls, gleamed quietly
in the glare of the distant conflagrations. Andrii went the rounds of
the Cossack ranks. The camp-fires, beside which the sentinels sat, were
ready to go out at any moment; and even the sentinels slept, having
devoured oatmeal and dumplings with true Cossack appetites. He was
astonished at such carelessness, thinking, “It is well that there is no
strong enemy at hand and nothing to fear.” Finally he went to one of
the waggons, climbed into it, and lay down upon his back, putting his
clasped hands under his head; but he could not sleep, and gazed long at
the sky. It was all open before him; the air was pure and transparent;
the dense clusters of stars in the Milky Way, crossing the sky like a
belt, were flooded with light. From time to time Andrii in some degree
lost consciousness, and a light mist of dream veiled the heavens from
him for a moment; but then he awoke, and they became visible again.

During one of these intervals it seemed to him that some strange human
figure flitted before him. Thinking it to be merely a vision which would
vanish at once, he opened his eyes, and beheld a withered, emaciated
face bending over him, and gazing straight into his own. Long coal-black
hair, unkempt, dishevelled, fell from beneath a dark veil which had
been thrown over the head; whilst the strange gleam of the eyes, and the
death-like tone of the sharp-cut features, inclined him to think that
it was an apparition. His hand involuntarily grasped his gun; and he
exclaimed almost convulsively: “Who are you? If you are an evil spirit,
avaunt! If you are a living being, you have chosen an ill time for your
jest. I will kill you with one shot.”

In answer to this, the apparition laid its finger upon its lips and
seemed to entreat silence. He dropped his hands and began to look more
attentively. He recognised it to be a woman from the long hair, the
brown neck, and the half-concealed bosom. But she was not a native
of those regions: her wide cheek-bones stood out prominently over her
hollow cheeks; her small eyes were obliquely set. The more he gazed at
her features, the more he found them familiar. Finally he could restrain
himself no longer, and said, “Tell me, who are you? It seems to me that
I know you, or have seen you somewhere.”

“Two years ago in Kief.”

“Two years ago in Kief!” repeated Andrii, endeavouring to collect in
his mind all that lingered in his memory of his former student life. He
looked intently at her once more, and suddenly exclaimed at the top of
his voice, “You are the Tatar! the servant of the lady, the Waiwode’s

“Sh!” cried the Tatar, clasping her hands with a supplicating glance,
trembling all over, and turning her head round in order to see whether
any one had been awakened by Andrii’s loud exclamation.

“Tell me, tell me, why are you here?” said Andrii almost breathlessly,
in a whisper, interrupted every moment by inward emotion. “Where is the
lady? is she alive?”

“She is now in the city.”

“In the city!” he exclaimed, again almost in a shriek, and feeling all
the blood suddenly rush to his heart. “Why is she in the city?”

“Because the old lord himself is in the city: he has been Waiwode of
Dubno for the last year and a half.”

“Is she married? How strange you are! Tell me about her.”

“She has eaten nothing for two days.”


“And not one of the inhabitants has had a morsel of bread for a long
while; all have long been eating earth.”

Andrii was astounded.

“The lady saw you from the city wall, among the Zaporozhtzi. She said to
me, ‘Go tell the warrior: if he remembers me, let him come to me; and do
not forget to make him give you a bit of bread for my aged mother, for
I do not wish to see my mother die before my very eyes. Better that I
should die first, and she afterwards! Beseech him; clasp his knees, his
feet: he also has an aged mother, let him give you the bread for her

Many feelings awoke in the young Cossack’s breast.

“But how came you here? how did you get here?”

“By an underground passage.”

“Is there an underground passage?”



“You will not betray it, warrior?”

“I swear it by the holy cross!”

“You descend into a hole, and cross the brook, yonder among the reeds.”

“And it leads into the city?”

“Straight into the monastery.”

“Let us go, let us go at once.”

“A bit of bread, in the name of Christ and of His holy mother!”

“Good, so be it. Stand here beside the waggon, or, better still, lie
down in it: no one will see you, all are asleep. I will return at once.”

And he set off for the baggage waggons, which contained the provisions
belonging to their kuren. His heart beat. All the past, all that had
been extinguished by the Cossack bivouacks, and by the stern battle of
life, flamed out at once on the surface and drowned the present in its
turn. Again, as from the dark depths of the sea, the noble lady rose
before him: again there gleamed in his memory her beautiful arms, her
eyes, her laughing mouth, her thick dark-chestnut hair, falling in curls
upon her shoulders, and the firm, well-rounded limbs of her maiden form.
No, they had not been extinguished in his breast, they had not vanished,
they had simply been laid aside, in order, for a time, to make way for
other strong emotions; but often, very often, the young Cossack’s deep
slumber had been troubled by them, and often he had lain sleepless on
his couch, without being able to explain the cause.

His heart beat more violently at the thought of seeing her again, and
his young knees shook. On reaching the baggage waggons, he had quite
forgotten what he had come for; he raised his hand to his brow and
rubbed it long, trying to recollect what he was to do. At length he
shuddered, and was filled with terror as the thought suddenly occurred
to him that she was dying of hunger. He jumped upon the waggon and
seized several large loaves of black bread; but then he thought, “Is
this not food, suited to a robust and easily satisfied Zaporozhetz, too
coarse and unfit for her delicate frame?” Then he recollected that the
Koschevoi, on the previous evening, had reproved the cooks for having
cooked up all the oatmeal into porridge at once, when there was plenty
for three times. Sure that he would find plenty of porridge in the
kettles, he drew out his father’s travelling kettle and went with it
to the cook of their kuren, who was sleeping beside two big cauldrons,
holding about ten pailfuls, under which the ashes still glowed. Glancing
into them, he was amazed to find them empty. It must have required
supernatural powers to eat it all; the more so, as their kuren numbered
fewer than the others. He looked into the cauldron of the other
kurens--nothing anywhere. Involuntarily the saying recurred to his mind,
“The Zaporozhtzi are like children: if there is little they eat it,
if there is much they leave nothing.” What was to be done? There was,
somewhere in the waggon belonging to his father’s band, a sack of
white bread, which they had found when they pillaged the bakery of
the monastery. He went straight to his father’s waggon, but it was not
there. Ostap had taken it and put it under his head; and there he lay,
stretched out on the ground, snoring so that the whole plain rang again.
Andrii seized the sack abruptly with one hand and gave it a jerk, so
that Ostap’s head fell to the ground. The elder brother sprang up in his
sleep, and, sitting there with closed eyes, shouted at the top of his
lungs, “Stop them! Stop the cursed Lyakhs! Catch the horses! catch
the horses!”--“Silence! I’ll kill you,” shouted Andrii in terror,
flourishing the sack over him. But Ostap did not continue his speech,
sank down again, and gave such a snore that the grass on which he lay
waved with his breath.

Andrii glanced timidly on all sides to see if Ostap’s talking in his
sleep had waked any of the Cossacks. Only one long-locked head was
raised in the adjoining kuren, and after glancing about, was dropped
back on the ground. After waiting a couple of minutes he set out with
his load. The Tatar woman was lying where he had left her, scarcely
breathing. “Come, rise up. Fear not, all are sleeping. Can you take one
of these loaves if I cannot carry all?” So saying, he swung the sack on
to his back, pulled out another sack of millet as he passed the waggon,
took in his hands the loaves he had wanted to give the Tatar woman to
carry, and, bending somewhat under the load, went boldly through the
ranks of sleeping Zaporozhtzi.

“Andrii,” said old Bulba, as he passed. His heart died within him. He
halted, trembling, and said softly, “What is it?”

“There’s a woman with you. When I get up I’ll give you a sound
thrashing. Women will lead you to no good.” So saying, he leaned his
hand upon his hand and gazed intently at the muffled form of the Tatar.

Andrii stood there, more dead than alive, not daring to look in his
father’s face. When he did raise his eyes and glance at him, old Bulba
was asleep, with his head still resting in the palm of his hand.

Andrii crossed himself. Fear fled from his heart even more rapidly than
it had assailed it. When he turned to look at the Tatar woman, she stood
before him, muffled in her mantle, like a dark granite statue, and the
gleam of the distant dawn lighted up only her eyes, dull as those of
a corpse. He plucked her by the sleeve, and both went on together,
glancing back continually. At length they descended the slope of a small
ravine, almost a hole, along the bottom of which a brook flowed lazily,
overgrown with sedge, and strewed with mossy boulders. Descending into
this ravine, they were completely concealed from the view of all the
plain occupied by the Zaporovian camp. At least Andrii, glancing back,
saw that the steep slope rose behind him higher than a man. On its
summit appeared a few blades of steppe-grass; and behind them, in the
sky, hung the moon, like a golden sickle. The breeze rising on the
steppe warned them that the dawn was not far off. But nowhere was
the crow of the cock heard. Neither in the city nor in the devastated
neighbourhood had there been a cock for a long time past. They crossed
the brook on a small plank, beyond which rose the opposite bank, which
appeared higher than the one behind them and rose steeply. It seemed as
though this were the strong point of the citadel upon which the besieged
could rely; at all events, the earthen wall was lower there, and no
garrison appeared behind it. But farther on rose the thick monastery
walls. The steep bank was overgrown with steppe-grass, and in the narrow
ravine between it and the brook grew tall reeds almost as high as a man.
At the summit of the bank were the remains of a wattled fence, which
had formerly surrounded some garden, and in front of it were visible
the wide leaves of the burdock, from among which rose blackthorn, and
sunflowers lifting their heads high above all the rest. Here the Tatar
flung off her slippers and went barefoot, gathering her clothes up
carefully, for the spot was marshy and full of water. Forcing their way
among the reeds, they stopped before a ruined outwork. Skirting this
outwork, they found a sort of earthen arch--an opening not much larger
than the opening of an oven. The Tatar woman bent her head and went
first. Andrii followed, bending low as he could, in order to pass with
his sacks; and both soon found themselves in total darkness.


Andrii could hardly move in the dark and narrow earthen burrow, as he
followed the Tatar, dragging after him his sacks of bread. “It will soon
be light,” said his guide: “we are approaching the spot where I placed a
light.” And in fact the dark earthen walls began to be gradually lit up.
They reached a widening in the passage where, it seemed, there had once
been a chapel; at least, there was a small table against the wall, like
an altar, and above, the faded, almost entirely obliterated picture of a
Catholic Madonna. A small silver lamp hanging before it barely illumined
it. The Tatar stooped and picked up from the ground a copper candlestick
which she had left there, a candlestick with a tall, slender stem, and
snuffers, pin, and extinguisher hanging about it on chains. She lighted
it at the silver lamp. The light grew stronger; and as they went on, now
illumined by it, and again enveloped in pitchy shadow, they suggested a
picture by Gerard Dow.

The warrior’s fresh, handsome countenance, overflowing with health and
youth, presented a strong contrast to the pale, emaciated face of his
companion. The passage grew a little higher, so that Andrii could hold
himself erect. He gazed with curiosity at the earthen walls. Here and
there, as in the catacombs at Kief, were niches in the walls; and in
some places coffins were standing. Sometimes they came across human
bones which had become softened with the dampness and were crumbling
into dust. It was evident that pious folk had taken refuge here from the
storms, sorrows, and seductions of the world. It was extremely damp
in some places; indeed there was water under their feet at intervals.
Andrii was forced to halt frequently to allow his companion to rest, for
her fatigue kept increasing. The small piece of bread she had swallowed
only caused a pain in her stomach, of late unused to food; and she often
stood motionless for minutes together in one spot.

At length a small iron door appeared before them. “Glory be to God, we
have arrived!” said the Tatar in a faint voice, and tried to lift her
hand to knock, but had no strength to do so. Andrii knocked hard at the
door in her stead. There was an echo as though a large space lay beyond
the door; then the echo changed as if resounding through lofty arches.
In a couple of minutes, keys rattled, and steps were heard descending
some stairs. At length the door opened, and a monk, standing on the
narrow stairs with the key and a light in his hands, admitted them.
Andrii involuntarily halted at the sight of a Catholic monk--one of
those who had aroused such hate and disdain among the Cossacks that they
treated them even more inhumanly than they treated the Jews.

The monk, on his part, started back on perceiving a Zaporovian Cossack,
but a whisper from the Tatar reassured him. He lighted them in, fastened
the door behind them, and led them up the stairs. They found themselves
beneath the dark and lofty arches of the monastery church. Before one of
the altars, adorned with tall candlesticks and candles, knelt a priest
praying quietly. Near him on each side knelt two young choristers in
lilac cassocks and white lace stoles, with censers in their hands. He
prayed for the performance of a miracle, that the city might be saved;
that their souls might be strengthened; that patience might be given
them; that doubt and timid, weak-spirited mourning over earthly
misfortunes might be banished. A few women, resembling shadows, knelt
supporting themselves against the backs of the chairs and dark wooden
benches before them, and laying their exhausted heads upon them. A few
men stood sadly, leaning against the columns upon which the wide arches
rested. The stained-glass window above the altar suddenly glowed with
the rosy light of dawn; and from it, on the floor, fell circles of blue,
yellow, and other colours, illuminating the dim church. The whole altar
was lighted up; the smoke from the censers hung a cloudy rainbow in the
air. Andrii gazed from his dark corner, not without surprise, at the
wonders worked by the light. At that moment the magnificent swell of
the organ filled the whole church. It grew deeper and deeper, expanded,
swelled into heavy bursts of thunder; and then all at once, turning into
heavenly music, its ringing tones floated high among the arches, like
clear maiden voices, and again descended into a deep roar and thunder,
and then ceased. The thunderous pulsations echoed long and tremulously
among the arches; and Andrii, with half-open mouth, admired the wondrous

Then he felt some one plucking the shirt of his caftan. “It is time,”
 said the Tatar. They traversed the church unperceived, and emerged upon
the square in front. Dawn had long flushed the heavens; all announced
sunrise. The square was empty: in the middle of it still stood wooden
pillars, showing that, perhaps only a week before, there had been a
market here stocked with provisions. The streets, which were unpaved,
were simply a mass of dried mud. The square was surrounded by small,
one-storied stone or mud houses, in the walls of which were visible
wooden stakes and posts obliquely crossed by carved wooden beams, as was
the manner of building in those days. Specimens of it can still be
seen in some parts of Lithuania and Poland. They were all covered with
enormously high roofs, with a multitude of windows and air-holes. On
one side, close to the church, rose a building quite detached from and
taller than the rest, probably the town-hall or some official structure.
It was two stories high, and above it, on two arches, rose a belvedere
where a watchman stood; a huge clock-face was let into the roof.

The square seemed deserted, but Andrii thought he heard a feeble groan.
Looking about him, he perceived, on the farther side, a group of two
or three men lying motionless upon the ground. He fixed his eyes more
intently on them, to see whether they were asleep or dead; and, at the
same moment, stumbled over something lying at his feet. It was the dead
body of a woman, a Jewess apparently. She appeared to be young, though
it was scarcely discernible in her distorted and emaciated features.
Upon her head was a red silk kerchief; two rows of pearls or pearl beads
adorned the beads of her head-dress, from beneath which two long curls
hung down upon her shrivelled neck, with its tightly drawn veins. Beside
her lay a child, grasping convulsively at her shrunken breast, and
squeezing it with involuntary ferocity at finding no milk there. He
neither wept nor screamed, and only his gently rising and falling body
would have led one to guess that he was not dead, or at least on
the point of breathing his last. They turned into a street, and were
suddenly stopped by a madman, who, catching sight of Andrii’s precious
burden, sprang upon him like a tiger, and clutched him, yelling,
“Bread!” But his strength was not equal to his madness. Andrii repulsed
him and he fell to the ground. Moved with pity, the young Cossack flung
him a loaf, which he seized like a mad dog, gnawing and biting it; but
nevertheless he shortly expired in horrible suffering, there in the
street, from the effect of long abstinence. The ghastly victims of
hunger startled them at every step. Many, apparently unable to endure
their torments in their houses, seemed to run into the streets to see
whether some nourishing power might not possibly descend from the air.
At the gate of one house sat an old woman, and it was impossible to say
whether she was asleep or dead, or only unconscious; at all events, she
no longer saw or heard anything, and sat immovable in one spot, her head
drooping on her breast. From the roof of another house hung a worn
and wasted body in a rope noose. The poor fellow could not endure the
tortures of hunger to the last, and had preferred to hasten his end by a
voluntary death.

At the sight of such terrible proofs of famine, Andrii could not refrain
from saying to the Tatar, “Is there really nothing with which they can
prolong life? If a man is driven to extremities, he must feed on what he
has hitherto despised; he can sustain himself with creatures which are
forbidden by the law. Anything can be eaten under such circumstances.”

“They have eaten everything,” said the Tatar, “all the animals. Not a
horse, nor a dog, nor even a mouse is to be found in the whole city.
We never had any store of provisions in the town: they were all brought
from the villages.”

“But how can you, while dying such a fearful death, still dream of
defending the city?”

“Possibly the Waiwode might have surrendered; but yesterday morning the
commander of the troops at Buzhana sent a hawk into the city with a note
saying that it was not to be given up; that he was coming to its rescue
with his forces, and was only waiting for another leader, that they
might march together. And now they are expected every moment. But we
have reached the house.”

Andrii had already noticed from a distance this house, unlike the
others, and built apparently by some Italian architect. It was
constructed of thin red bricks, and had two stories. The windows of the
lower story were sheltered under lofty, projecting granite cornices.
The upper story consisted entirely of small arches, forming a gallery;
between the arches were iron gratings enriched with escutcheons; whilst
upon the gables of the house more coats-of-arms were displayed. The
broad external staircase, of tinted bricks, abutted on the square.
At the foot of it sat guards, who with one hand held their halberds
upright, and with the other supported their drooping heads, and in this
attitude more resembled apparitions than living beings. They neither
slept nor dreamed, but seemed quite insensible to everything; they even
paid no attention to who went up the stairs. At the head of the stairs,
they found a richly-dressed warrior, armed cap-a-pie, and holding a
breviary in his hand. He turned his dim eyes upon them; but the Tatar
spoke a word to him, and he dropped them again upon the open pages
of his breviary. They entered the first chamber, a large one, serving
either as a reception-room, or simply as an ante-room; it was filled
with soldiers, servants, secretaries, huntsmen, cup-bearers, and the
other servitors indispensable to the support of a Polish magnate’s
estate, all seated along the walls. The reek of extinguished candles was
perceptible; and two were still burning in two huge candlesticks, nearly
as tall as a man, standing in the middle of the room, although morning
had long since peeped through the wide grated window. Andrii wanted to
go straight on to the large oaken door adorned with a coat-of-arms and
a profusion of carved ornaments, but the Tatar pulled his sleeve and
pointed to a small door in the side wall. Through this they gained a
corridor, and then a room, which he began to examine attentively. The
light which filtered through a crack in the shutter fell upon several
objects--a crimson curtain, a gilded cornice, and a painting on the
wall. Here the Tatar motioned to Andrii to wait, and opened the door
into another room from which flashed the light of a fire. He heard a
whispering, and a soft voice which made him quiver all over. Through
the open door he saw flit rapidly past a tall female figure, with a long
thick braid of hair falling over her uplifted hands. The Tatar returned
and told him to go in.

He could never understand how he entered and how the door was shut
behind him. Two candles burned in the room and a lamp glowed before the
images: beneath the lamp stood a tall table with steps to kneel upon
during prayer, after the Catholic fashion. But his eye did not seek
this. He turned to the other side and perceived a woman, who appeared to
have been frozen or turned to stone in the midst of some quick movement.
It seemed as though her whole body had sought to spring towards him, and
had suddenly paused. And he stood in like manner amazed before her. Not
thus had he pictured to himself that he should find her. This was not
the same being he had formerly known; nothing about her resembled her
former self; but she was twice as beautiful, twice as enchanting,
now than she had been then. Then there had been something unfinished,
incomplete, about her; now here was a production to which the artist
had given the finishing stroke of his brush. That was a charming, giddy
girl; this was a woman in the full development of her charms. As
she raised her eyes, they were full of feeling, not of mere hints
of feeling. The tears were not yet dry in them, and framed them in a
shining dew which penetrated the very soul. Her bosom, neck, and arms
were moulded in the proportions which mark fully developed loveliness.
Her hair, which had in former days waved in light ringlets about her
face, had become a heavy, luxuriant mass, a part of which was caught
up, while part fell in long, slender curls upon her arms and breast. It
seemed as though her every feature had changed. In vain did he seek
to discover in them a single one of those which were engraved in his
memory--a single one. Even her great pallor did not lessen her
wonderful beauty; on the contrary, it conferred upon it an irresistible,
inexpressible charm. Andrii felt in his heart a noble timidity,
and stood motionless before her. She, too, seemed surprised at the
appearance of the Cossack, as he stood before her in all the beauty and
might of his young manhood, and in the very immovability of his limbs
personified the utmost freedom of movement. His eyes beamed with clear
decision; his velvet brows curved in a bold arch; his sunburnt cheeks
glowed with all the ardour of youthful fire; and his downy black
moustache shone like silk.

“No, I have no power to thank you, noble sir,” she said, her silvery
voice all in a tremble. “God alone can reward you, not I, a weak woman.”
 She dropped her eyes, her lids fell over them in beautiful, snowy
semicircles, guarded by lashes long as arrows; her wondrous face bowed
forward, and a delicate flush overspread it from within. Andrii knew not
what to say; he wanted to say everything. He had in his mind to say it
all ardently as it glowed in his heart--and could not. He felt something
confining his mouth; voice and words were lacking; he felt that it was
not for him, bred in the seminary and in the tumult of a roaming life,
to reply fitly to such language, and was angry with his Cossack nature.

At that moment the Tatar entered the room. She had cut up the bread
which the warrior had brought into small pieces on a golden plate, which
she placed before her mistress. The lady glanced at her, at the bread,
at her again, and then turned her eyes towards Andrii. There was a great
deal in those eyes. That gentle glance, expressive of her weakness and
her inability to give words to the feeling which overpowered her, was
far more comprehensible to Andrii than any words. His heart suddenly
grew light within him, all seemed made smooth. The mental emotions and
the feelings which up to that moment he had restrained with a heavy
curb, as it were, now felt themselves released, at liberty, and anxious
to pour themselves out in a resistless torrent of words. Suddenly the
lady turned to the Tatar, and said anxiously, “But my mother? you took
her some?”

“She is asleep.”

“And my father?”

“I carried him some; he said that he would come to thank the young lord
in person.”

She took the bread and raised it to her mouth. With inexpressible
delight Andrii watched her break it with her shining fingers and eat
it; but all at once he recalled the man mad with hunger, who had expired
before his eyes on swallowing a morsel of bread. He turned pale and,
seizing her hand, cried, “Enough! eat no more! you have not eaten for
so long that too much bread will be poison to you now.” And she at once
dropped her hand, laid her bread upon the plate, and gazed into his eyes
like a submissive child. And if any words could express--But neither
chisel, nor brush, nor mighty speech is capable of expressing what is
sometimes seen in glances of maidens, nor the tender feeling which takes
possession of him who receives such maiden glances.

“My queen!” exclaimed Andrii, his heart and soul filled with emotion,
“what do you need? what do you wish? command me! Impose on me the most
impossible task in all the world: I fly to fulfil it! Tell me to do that
which it is beyond the power of man to do: I will fulfil it if I destroy
myself. I will ruin myself. And I swear by the holy cross that ruin for
your sake is as sweet--but no, it is impossible to say how sweet! I have
three farms; half my father’s droves of horses are mine; all that my
mother brought my father, and which she still conceals from him--all
this is mine! Not one of the Cossacks owns such weapons as I; for the
pommel of my sword alone they would give their best drove of horses and
three thousand sheep. And I renounce all this, I discard it, I throw it
aside, I will burn and drown it, if you will but say the word, or even
move your delicate black brows! But I know that I am talking madly and
wide of the mark; that all this is not fitting here; that it is not for
me, who have passed my life in the seminary and among the Zaporozhtzi,
to speak as they speak where kings, princes, and all the best of noble
knighthood have been. I can see that you are a different being from the
rest of us, and far above all other boyars’ wives and maiden daughters.”

With growing amazement the maiden listened, losing no single word, to
the frank, sincere language in which, as in a mirror, the young, strong
spirit reflected itself. Each simple word of this speech, uttered in a
voice which penetrated straight to the depths of her heart, was clothed
in power. She advanced her beautiful face, pushed back her troublesome
hair, opened her mouth, and gazed long, with parted lips. Then she tried
to say something and suddenly stopped, remembering that the warrior
was known by a different name; that his father, brothers, country, lay
beyond, grim avengers; that the Zaporozhtzi besieging the city were
terrible, and that the cruel death awaited all who were within its
walls, and her eyes suddenly filled with tears. She seized a silk
embroidered handkerchief and threw it over her face. In a moment it was
all wet; and she sat for some time with her beautiful head thrown back,
and her snowy teeth set on her lovely under-lip, as though she suddenly
felt the sting of a poisonous serpent, without removing the handkerchief
from her face, lest he should see her shaken with grief.

“Speak but one word to me,” said Andrii, and he took her satin-skinned
hand. A sparkling fire coursed through his veins at the touch, and he
pressed the hand lying motionless in his.

But she still kept silence, never taking the kerchief from her face, and
remaining motionless.

“Why are you so sad? Tell me, why are you so sad?”

She cast away the handkerchief, pushed aside the long hair which fell
over her eyes, and poured out her heart in sad speech, in a quiet voice,
like the breeze which, rising on a beautiful evening, blows through the
thick growth of reeds beside the stream. They rustle, murmur, and
give forth delicately mournful sounds, and the traveller, pausing in
inexplicable sadness, hears them, and heeds not the fading light, nor
the gay songs of the peasants which float in the air as they return from
their labours in meadow and stubble-field, nor the distant rumble of the
passing waggon.

“Am not I worthy of eternal pity? Is not the mother that bore me
unhappy? Is it not a bitter lot which has befallen me? Art not thou a
cruel executioner, fate? Thou has brought all to my feet--the highest
nobles in the land, the richest gentlemen, counts, foreign barons, all
the flower of our knighthood. All loved me, and any one of them would
have counted my love the greatest boon. I had but to beckon, and the
best of them, the handsomest, the first in beauty and birth would have
become my husband. And to none of them didst thou incline my heart, O
bitter fate; but thou didst turn it against the noblest heroes of our
land, and towards a stranger, towards our enemy. O most holy mother of
God! for what sin dost thou so pitilessly, mercilessly, persecute me?
In abundance and superfluity of luxury my days were passed, the richest
dishes and the sweetest wine were my food. And to what end was it all?
What was it all for? In order that I might at last die a death more
cruel than that of the meanest beggar in the kingdom? And it was not
enough that I should be condemned to so horrible a fate; not enough
that before my own end I should behold my father and mother perish
in intolerable torment, when I would have willingly given my own life
twenty times over to save them; all this was not enough, but before my
own death I must hear words of love such as I had never before dreamed
of. It was necessary that he should break my heart with his words; that
my bitter lot should be rendered still more bitter; that my young
life should be made yet more sad; that my death should seem even more
terrible; and that, dying, I should reproach thee still more, O cruel
fate! and thee--forgive my sin--O holy mother of God!”

As she ceased in despair, her feelings were plainly expressed in her
face. Every feature spoke of gnawing sorrow and, from the sadly bowed
brow and downcast eyes to the tears trickling down and drying on her
softly burning cheeks, seemed to say, “There is no happiness in this

“Such a thing was never heard of since the world began. It cannot be,”
 said Andrii, “that the best and most beautiful of women should suffer so
bitter a fate, when she was born that all the best there is in the world
should bow before her as before a saint. No, you will not die, you shall
not die! I swear by my birth and by all there is dear to me in the
world that you shall not die. But if it must be so; if nothing, neither
strength, nor prayer, nor heroism, will avail to avert this cruel
fate--then we will die together, and I will die first. I will die before
you, at your beauteous knees, and even in death they shall not divide

“Deceive not yourself and me, noble sir,” she said, gently shaking her
beautiful head; “I know, and to my great sorrow I know but too well,
that it is impossible for you to love me. I know what your duty is, and
your faith. Your father calls you, your comrades, your country, and we
are your enemies.”

“And what are my father, my comrades, my country to me?” said Andrii,
with a quick movement of his head, and straightening up his figure like
a poplar beside the river. “Be that as it may, I have no one, no one!”
 he repeated, with that movement of the hand with which the Cossack
expresses his determination to do some unheard-of deed, impossible to
any other man. “Who says that the Ukraine is my country? Who gave it to
me for my country? Our country is the one our soul longs for, the one
which is dearest of all to us. My country is--you! That is my native
land, and I bear that country in my heart. I will bear it there all my
life, and I will see whether any of the Cossacks can tear it thence. And
I will give everything, barter everything, I will destroy myself, for
that country!”

Astounded, she gazed in his eyes for a space, like a beautiful statue,
and then suddenly burst out sobbing; and with the wonderful feminine
impetuosity which only grand-souled, uncalculating women, created for
fine impulses of the heart, are capable of, threw herself upon his neck,
encircling it with her wondrous snowy arms, and wept. At that moment
indistinct shouts rang through the street, accompanied by the sound of
trumpets and kettledrums; but he heard them not. He was only conscious
of the beauteous mouth bathing him with its warm, sweet breath, of the
tears streaming down his face, and of her long, unbound perfumed hair,
veiling him completely in its dark and shining silk.

At that moment the Tatar ran in with a cry of joy. “Saved, saved!” she
cried, beside herself. “Our troops have entered the city. They have
brought corn, millet, flour, and Zaporozhtzi in chains!” But no one
heard that “our troops” had arrived in the city, or what they had
brought with them, or how they had bound the Zaporozhtzi. Filled with
feelings untasted as yet upon earth, Andrii kissed the sweet mouth which
pressed his cheek, and the sweet mouth did not remain unresponsive. In
this union of kisses they experienced that which it is given to a man to
feel but once on earth.

And the Cossack was ruined. He was lost to Cossack chivalry. Never again
will Zaporozhe, nor his father’s house, nor the Church of God, behold
him. The Ukraine will never more see the bravest of the children who
have undertaken to defend her. Old Taras may tear the grey hair from his
scalp-lock, and curse the day and hour in which such a son was born to
dishonour him.


Noise and movement were rife in the Zaporozhian camp. At first, no one
could account for the relieving army having made its way into the city;
but it afterwards appeared that the Pereyaslavsky kuren, encamped before
the wide gate of the town, had been dead drunk. It was no wonder that
half had been killed, and the other half bound, before they knew what it
was all about. Meantime the neighbouring kurens, aroused by the tumult,
succeeded in grasping their weapons; but the relieving force had already
passed through the gate, and its rear ranks fired upon the sleepy and
only half-sober Zaporozhtzi who were pressing in disorder upon them, and
kept them back.

The Koschevoi ordered a general assembly; and when all stood in a ring
and had removed their caps and became quiet, he said: “See what happened
last night, brother gentles! See what drunkenness has led to! See what
shame the enemy has put upon us! It is evident that, if your allowances
are kindly doubled, then you are ready to stretch out at full length,
and the enemies of Christ can not only take your very trousers off you,
but sneeze in your faces without your hearing them!”

The Cossacks all stood with drooping heads, knowing that they were
guilty; only Kukubenko, the hetman of the Nezamisky kuren, answered
back. “Stop, father!” said he; “although it is not lawful to make
a retort when the Koschevoi speaks before the whole army, yet it is
necessary to say that that was not the state of the case. You have not
been quite just in your reprimand. The Cossacks would have been guilty,
and deserving of death, had they got drunk on the march, or when engaged
on heavy toilsome labour during war; but we have been sitting here
unoccupied, loitering in vain before the city. There was no fast or
other Christian restraint; how then could it be otherwise than that a
man should get drunk in idleness? There is no sin in that. But we had
better show them what it is to attack innocent people. They first beat
us well, and now we will beat them so that not half a dozen of them will
ever see home again.”

The speech of the hetman of the kuren pleased the Cossacks. They raised
their drooping heads upright and many nodded approvingly, muttering,
“Kukubenko has spoken well!” And Taras Bulba, who stood not far from the
Koschevoi, said: “How now, Koschevoi? Kukubenko has spoken truth. What
have you to say to this?”

“What have I to say? I say, Blessed be the father of such a son! It
does not need much wisdom to utter words of reproof; but much wisdom
is needed to find such words as do not embitter a man’s misfortune, but
encourage him, restore to him his spirit, put spurs to the horse of his
soul, refreshed by water. I meant myself to speak words of comfort to
you, but Kukubenko has forestalled me.”

“The Koschevoi has also spoken well!” rang through the ranks of the
Zaporozhtzi. “His words are good,” repeated others. And even the
greyheads, who stood there like dark blue doves, nodded their heads and,
twitching their grey moustaches, muttered softly, “That was well said.”

“Listen now, gentles,” continued the Koschevoi. “To take the city, by
scaling its walls, or undermining them as the foreign engineers do,
is not proper, not Cossack fashion. But, judging from appearances,
the enemy entered the city without many provisions; they had not many
waggons with them. The people in the city are hungry; they will all eat
heartily, and the horses will soon devour the hay. I don’t know whether
their saints will fling them down anything from heaven with hayforks;
God only knows that though there are a great many Catholic priests among
them. By one means or another the people will seek to leave the city.
Divide yourselves, therefore, into three divisions, and take up your
posts before the three gates; five kurens before the principal gate, and
three kurens before each of the others. Let the Dadikivsky and Korsunsky
kurens go into ambush and Taras and his men into ambush too. The
Titarevsky and Timoschevsky kurens are to guard the baggage train on
the right flank, the Scherbinovsky and Steblikivsky on the left, and to
select from their ranks the most daring young men to face the foe. The
Lyakhs are of a restless nature and cannot endure a siege, and perhaps
this very day they will sally forth from the gates. Let each hetman
inspect his kuren; those whose ranks are not full are to be recruited
from the remains of the Pereyaslavsky kuren. Inspect them all anew. Give
a loaf and a beaker to each Cossack to strengthen him. But surely every
one must be satiated from last night; for all stuffed themselves so
that, to tell the truth, I am only surprised that no one burst in the
night. And here is one further command: if any Jew spirit-seller sells a
Cossack so much as a single jug of brandy, I will nail pig’s ears to his
very forehead, the dog, and hang him up by his feet. To work, brothers,
to work!”

Thus did the Koschevoi give his orders. All bowed to their girdles, and
without putting on their caps set out for their waggons and camps. It
was only when they had gone some distance that they covered themselves.
All began to equip themselves: they tested their swords, poured powder
from the sacks into their powder-flasks, drew up and arranged the
waggons, and looked to their horses.

On his way to his band, Taras wondered what had become of Andrii; could
he have been captured and found while asleep with the others? But no,
Andrii was not the man to go alive into captivity. Yet he was not to be
seen among the slaughtered Cossacks. Taras pondered deeply and went past
his men without hearing that some one had for some time been calling
him by name. “Who wants me?” he said, finally arousing himself from
his reflections. Before him stood the Jew, Yankel. “Lord colonel! lord
colonel!” said the Jew in a hasty and broken voice, as though desirous
of revealing something not utterly useless, “I have been in the city,
lord colonel!”

Taras looked at the Jew, and wondered how he had succeeded in getting
into the city. “What enemy took you there?”

“I will tell you at once,” said Yankel. “As soon as I heard the uproar
this morning, when the Cossacks began to fire, I seized my caftan and,
without stopping to put it on, ran at the top of my speed, thrusting
my arms in on the way, because I wanted to know as soon as possible the
cause of the noise and why the Cossacks were firing at dawn. I ran to
the very gate of the city, at the moment when the last of the army was
passing through. I looked, and in command of the rearguard was Cornet
Galyandovitch. He is a man well known to me; he has owed me a hundred
ducats these three years past. I ran after him, as though to claim the
debt of him, and so entered the city with them.”

“You entered the city, and wanted him to settle the debt!” said Bulba;
“and he did not order you to be hung like a dog on the spot?”

“By heavens, he did want to hang me,” replied the Jew; “his servants had
already seized me and thrown a rope about my neck. But I besought the
noble lord, and said that I would wait for the money as long as his
lordship liked, and promised to lend him more if he would only help me
to collect my debts from the other nobles; for I can tell my lord that
the noble cornet had not a ducat in his pocket, although he has farms
and estates and four castles and steppe-land that extends clear to
Schklof; but he has not a penny, any more than a Cossack. If the Breslau
Jews had not equipped him, he would never have gone on this campaign.
That was the reason he did not go to the Diet.”

“What did you do in the city? Did you see any of our people?”

“Certainly, there are many of them there: Itzok, Rachum, Samuel,
Khaivalkh, Evrei the pawnbroker--”

“May they die, the dogs!” shouted Taras in a rage. “Why do you name your
Jewish tribe to me? I ask you about our Zaporozhtzi.”

“I saw none of our Zaporozhtzi; I saw only Lord Andrii.”

“You saw Andrii!” shouted Bulba. “What is he doing? Where did you see
him? In a dungeon? in a pit? dishonoured? bound?”

“Who would dare to bind Lord Andrii? now he is so grand a knight.
I hardly recognised him. Gold on his shoulders and his belt, gold
everywhere about him; as the sun shines in spring, when every bird
twitters and sings in the orchard, so he shines, all gold. And his
horse, which the Waiwode himself gave him, is the very best; that horse
alone is worth two hundred ducats.”

Bulba was petrified. “Why has he put on foreign garments?”

“He put them on because they were finer. And he rides about, and the
others ride about, and he teaches them, and they teach him; like the
very grandest Polish noble.”

“Who forced him to do this?”

“I should not say that he had been forced. Does not my lord know that he
went over to them of his own free will?”

“Who went over?”

“Lord Andrii.”

“Went where?”

“Went over to their side; he is now a thorough foreigner.”

“You lie, you hog’s ear!”

“How is it possible that I should lie? Am I a fool, that I should lie?
Would I lie at the risk of my head? Do not I know that Jews are hung
like dogs if they lie to nobles?”

“Then it means, according to you, he has betrayed his native land and
his faith?”

“I do not say that he has betrayed anything; I merely said that he had
gone over to the other side.”

“You lie, you imp of a Jew! Such a deed was never known in a Christian
land. You are making a mistake, dog!”

“May the grass grow upon the threshold of my house if I am mistaken!
May every one spit upon the grave of my father, my mother, my father’s
father, and my mother’s father, if I am mistaken! If my lord wished I
can even tell him why he went over to them.”


“The Waiwode has a beautiful daughter. Holy Father! what a beauty!”
 Here the Jew tried his utmost to express beauty by extending his hands,
screwing up his eyes, and twisting his mouth to one side as though
tasting something on trial.

“Well, what of that?”

“He did it all for her, he went there for her sake. When a man is in
love, then all things are the same to him; like the sole of a shoe which
you can bend in any direction if you soak it in water.”

Bulba reflected deeply. He remembered the power of weak woman--how
she had ruined many a strong man, and that this was the weak point in
Andrii’s nature--and stood for some time in one spot, as though rooted
there. “Listen, my lord, I will tell my lord all,” said the Jew. “As
soon as I heard the uproar, and saw them going through the city gate,
I seized a string of pearls, in case of any emergency. For there
are beauties and noble-women there; ‘and if there are beauties and
noble-women,’ I said to myself, ‘they will buy pearls, even if they have
nothing to eat.’ And, as soon as ever the cornet’s servants had set me
at liberty, I hastened to the Waiwode’s residence to sell my pearls. I
asked all manner of questions of the lady’s Tatar maid; the wedding
is to take place immediately, as soon as they have driven off the
Zaporozhtzi. Lord Andrii has promised to drive off the Zaporovians.”

“And you did not kill him on the spot, you devil’s brat?” shouted Bulba.

“Why should I kill him? He went over of his own free will. What is his
crime? He liked it better there, so he went there.”

“And you saw him face to face?”

“Face to face, by heavens! such a magnificent warrior! more splendid
than all the rest. God bless him, he knew me, and when I approached him
he said at once--”

“What did he say?”

“He said--First he beckoned me with his finger, and then he said,
‘Yankel!’ Lord Andrii said, ‘Yankel, tell my father, tell my brother,
tell all the Cossacks, all the Zaporozhtzi, everybody, that my father
is no longer my father, nor my brother my brother, nor my comrades my
comrades; and that I will fight them all, all.’”

“You lie, imp of a Jew!” shouted Taras, beside himself. “You lie, dog! I
will kill you, Satan! Get away from here! if not, death awaits you!” So
saying, Taras drew his sword.

The terrified Jew set off instantly, at the full speed of his thin,
shrunken legs. He ran for a long time, without looking back, through the
Cossack camp, and then far out on the deserted plain, although Taras
did not chase him at all, reasoning that it was foolish to thus vent his
rage on the first person who presented himself.

Then he recollected that he had seen Andrii on the previous night
traversing the camp with some woman, and he bowed his grey head. Still
he would not believe that so disgraceful a thing could have happened,
and that his own son had betrayed his faith and soul.

Finally he placed his men in ambush in a wood--the only one which had
not been burned by the Cossacks--whilst the Zaporozhians, foot and
horse, set out for the three gates by three different roads. One
after another the kurens turned out: Oumansky, Popovichesky, Kanevsky,
Steblikovsky, Nezamaikovsky, Gurgazif, Titarevsky, Tomischevsky. The
Pereyaslavsky kuren alone was wanting. Its Cossacks had smoked and drank
to their destruction. Some awoke to find themselves bound in the enemy’s
hands; others never woke at all but passed in their sleep into the
damp earth; and the hetman Khlib himself, minus his trousers and
accoutrements, found himself in the camp of the Lyakhs.

The uproar among the Zaporozhtzi was heard in the city. All the besieged
hastened to the ramparts, and a lively scene was presented to the
Cossacks. The handsome Polish heroes thronged on the wall. The brazen
helmets of some shone like the sun, and were adorned with feathers white
as swans. Others wore pink and blue caps, drooping over one ear, and
caftans with the sleeves thrown back, embroidered with gold. Their
weapons were richly mounted and very costly, as were their equipments.
In the front rank the Budzhakovsky colonel stood proudly in his red cap
ornamented with gold. He was a tall, stout man, and his rich and ample
caftan hardly covered him. Near the side gate stood another colonel. He
was a dried-up little man, but his small, piercing eyes gleamed sharply
from under his thick and shaggy brows, and as he turned quickly on all
sides, motioning boldly with his thin, withered hand, and giving out his
orders, it was evident that, in spite of his little body, he understood
military science thoroughly. Not far from him stood a very tall cornet,
with thick moustaches and a highly-coloured complexion--a noble fond
of strong mead and hearty revelry. Behind them were many nobles who had
equipped themselves, some with their own ducats, some from the royal
treasury, some with money obtained from the Jews, by pawning everything
they found in their ancestral castles. Many too were parasites, whom the
senators took with them to dinners for show, and who stole silver cups
from the table and the sideboard, and when the day’s display was over
mounted some noble’s coach-box and drove his horses. There were folk of
all kinds there. Sometimes they had not enough to drink, but all were
equipped for war.

The Cossack ranks stood quietly before the walls. There was no gold
about them, save where it shone on the hilt of a sword or the mountings
of a gun. The Zaporozhtzi were not given to decking themselves out
gaily for battle: their coats-of-mail and garments were plain, and their
black-bordered red-crowned caps showed darkly in the distance.

Two men--Okhrim Nasch and Mikiga Golokopuitenko--advanced from the
Zaporozhian ranks. One was quite young, the other older; both fierce in
words, and not bad specimens of Cossacks in action. They were followed
by Demid Popovitch, a strongly built Cossack who had been hanging
about the Setch for a long time, after having been in Adrianople and
undergoing a great deal in the course of his life. He had been burned,
and had escaped to the Setch with blackened head and singed moustaches.
But Popovitch recovered, let his hair grow, raised moustaches thick
and black as pitch, and was a stout fellow, according to his own biting

“Red jackets on all the army, but I should like to know what sort of men
are under them,” he cried.

“I will show you,” shouted the stout colonel from above. “I will capture
the whole of you. Surrender your guns and horses, slaves. Did you see
how I caught your men?--Bring out a Zaporozhetz on the wall for them to

And they let out a Zaporozhetz bound with stout cords.

Before them stood Khlib, the hetman of the Pereyaslavsky kuren, without
his trousers or accoutrements, just as they had captured him in his
drunken sleep. He bowed his head in shame before the Cossacks at his
nakedness, and at having been thus taken like a dog, while asleep. His
hair had turned grey in one night.

“Grieve not, Khlib: we will rescue you,” shouted the Cossacks from

“Grieve not, friend,” cried the hetman Borodaty. “It is not your fault
that they caught you naked: that misfortune might happen to any man. But
it is a disgrace to them that they should have exposed you to dishonour,
and not covered your nakedness decently.”

“You seem to be a brave army when you have people who are asleep to
fight,” remarked Golokopuitenko, glancing at the ramparts.

“Wait a bit, we’ll singe your top-knots for you!” was the reply.

“I should like to see them singe our scalp locks!” said Popovitch,
prancing about before them on his horse; and then, glancing at his
comrades, he added, “Well, perhaps the Lyakhs speak the truth: if that
fat-bellied fellow leads them, they will all find a good shelter.”

“Why do you think they will find a good shelter?” asked the Cossacks,
knowing that Popovitch was probably preparing some repartee.

“Because the whole army will hide behind him; and the devil himself
couldn’t help you to reach any one with your spear through that belly of

The Cossacks laughed, some of them shaking their heads and saying, “What
a fellow Popovitch is for a joke! but now--” But the Cossacks had not
time to explain what they meant by that “now.”

“Fall back, fall back quickly from the wall!” shouted the Koschevoi,
seeing that the Lyakhs could not endure these biting words, and that the
colonel was waving his hand.

The Cossacks had hardly retreated from the wall before the grape-shot
rained down. On the ramparts all was excitement, and the grey-haired
Waiwode himself appeared on horseback. The gates opened and the garrison
sallied forth. In the van came hussars in orderly ranks, behind them the
horsemen in armour, and then the heroes in brazen helmets; after whom
rode singly the highest nobility, each man accoutred as he pleased.
These haughty nobles would not mingle in the ranks with others, and
such of them as had no commands rode apart with their own immediate
following. Next came some more companies, and after these the cornet,
then more files of men, and the stout colonel; and in the rear of the
whole force the little colonel.

“Keep them from forming in line!” shouted the Koschevoi; “let all the
kurens attack them at once! Block the other gate! Titarevsky kuren, fall
on one flank! Dyadovsky kuren, charge on the other! Attack them in
the rear, Kukubenko and Palivod! Check them, break them!” The Cossacks
attacked on all sides, throwing the Lyakhs into confusion and getting
confused themselves. They did not even give the foe time to fire, it
came to swords and spears at once. All fought hand to hand, and each man
had an opportunity to distinguish himself.

Demid Popovitch speared three soldiers, and struck two of the highest
nobles from their saddles, saying, “Good horses! I have long wanted
just such horses.” And he drove the horses far afield, shouting to the
Cossacks standing about to catch them. Then he rushed again into the
fray, fell upon the dismounted nobles, slew one, and throwing his lasso
round the neck of the other, tied him to his saddle and dragged him over
the plain, after having taken from him his sword from its rich hilt and
removed from his girdle a whole bag of ducats.

Kobita, a good Cossack, though still very young, attacked one of the
bravest men in the Polish army, and they fought long together. They
grappled, and the Cossack mastering his foe, and throwing him down,
stabbed him in the breast with his sharp Turkish knife. But he did not
look out for himself, and a bullet struck him on the temple. The man who
struck him down was the most distinguished of the nobles, the handsomest
scion of an ancient and princely race. Like a stately poplar, he
bestrode his dun-coloured steed, and many heroic deeds did he perform.
He cut two Cossacks in twain. Fedor Korzh, the brave Cossack, he
overthrew together with his horse, shooting the steed and picking off
the rider with his spear. Many heads and hands did he hew off; and slew
Kobita by sending a bullet through his temple.

“There’s a man I should like to measure strength with!” shouted
Kukubenko, the hetman of the Nezamaikovsky kuren. Spurring his horse,
he dashed straight at the Pole’s back, shouting loudly, so that all who
stood near shuddered at the unearthly yell. The boyard tried to wheel
his horse suddenly and face him, but his horse would not obey him;
scared by the terrible cry, it bounded aside, and the Lyakh received
Kukubenko’s fire. The ball struck him in the shoulder-blade, and he
rolled from his saddle. Even then he did not surrender and strove to
deal his enemy a blow, but his hand was weak. Kukubenko, taking his
heavy sword in both hands, thrust it through his mouth. The sword,
breaking out two teeth, cut the tongue in twain, pierced the windpipe,
and penetrated deep into the earth, nailing him to the ground. His
noble blood, red as viburnum berries beside the river, welled forth in
a stream staining his yellow, gold-embroidered caftan. But Kukubenko had
already left him, and was forcing his way, with his Nezamaikovsky kuren,
towards another group.

“He has left untouched rich plunder,” said Borodaty, hetman of the
Oumansky kuren, leaving his men and going to the place where the
nobleman killed by Kukubenko lay. “I have killed seven nobles with my
own hand, but such spoil I never beheld on any one.” Prompted by greed,
Borodaty bent down to strip off the rich armour, and had already secured
the Turkish knife set with precious stones, and taken from the foe’s
belt a purse of ducats, and from his breast a silver case containing a
maiden’s curl, cherished tenderly as a love-token. But he heeded not how
the red-faced cornet, whom he had already once hurled from the saddle
and given a good blow as a remembrance, flew upon him from behind. The
cornet swung his arm with all his might, and brought his sword down upon
Borodaty’s bent neck. Greed led to no good: the head rolled off, and the
body fell headless, sprinkling the earth with blood far and wide; whilst
the Cossack soul ascended, indignant and surprised at having so soon
quitted so stout a frame. The cornet had not succeeded in seizing the
hetman’s head by its scalp-lock, and fastening it to his saddle, before
an avenger had arrived.

As a hawk floating in the sky, sweeping in great circles with his mighty
wings, suddenly remains poised in air, in one spot, and thence darts
down like an arrow upon the shrieking quail, so Taras’s son Ostap darted
suddenly upon the cornet and flung a rope about his neck with one cast.
The cornet’s red face became a still deeper purple as the cruel
noose compressed his throat, and he tried to use his pistol; but his
convulsively quivering hand could not aim straight, and the bullet flew
wild across the plain. Ostap immediately unfastened a silken cord which
the cornet carried at his saddle bow to bind prisoners, and having with
it bound him hand and foot, attached the cord to his saddle and dragged
him across the field, calling on all the Cossacks of the Oumansky kuren
to come and render the last honours to their hetman.

When the Oumantzi heard that the hetman of their kuren, Borodaty, was
no longer among the living, they deserted the field of battle, rushed to
secure his body, and consulted at once as to whom they should select as
their leader. At length they said, “But why consult? It is impossible to
find a better leader than Bulba’s son, Ostap; he is younger than all
the rest of us, it is true; but his judgment is equal to that of the

Ostap, taking off his cap, thanked his comrades for the honour, and did
not decline it on the ground of youth or inexperience, knowing that war
time is no fitting season for that; but instantly ordered them straight
to the fray, and soon showed them that not in vain had they chosen him
as hetman. The Lyakhs felt that the matter was growing too hot for them,
and retreated across the plain in order to form again at its other
end. But the little colonel signalled to the reserve of four hundred,
stationed at the gate, and these rained shot upon the Cossacks. To
little purpose, however, their shot only taking effect on the Cossack
oxen, which were gazing wildly upon the battle. The frightened oxen,
bellowing with fear, dashed into the camp, breaking the line of waggons
and trampling on many. But Taras, emerging from ambush at the moment
with his troops, headed off the infuriated cattle, which, startled by
his yell, swooped down upon the Polish troops, overthrew the cavalry,
and crushed and dispersed them all.

“Thank you, oxen!” cried the Zaporozhtzi; “you served us on the march,
and now you serve us in war.” And they attacked the foe with
fresh vigour killing many of the enemy. Several distinguished
themselves--Metelitza and Schilo, both of the Pisarenki, Vovtuzenko, and
many others. The Lyakhs seeing that matters were going badly for them
flung away their banners and shouted for the city gates to be opened.
With a screeching sound the iron-bound gates swung open and received the
weary and dust-covered riders, flocking like sheep into a fold. Many of
the Zaporozhtzi would have pursued them, but Ostap stopped his Oumantzi,
saying, “Farther, farther from the walls, brother gentles! it is
not well to approach them too closely.” He spoke truly; for from the
ramparts the foe rained and poured down everything which came to
hand, and many were struck. At that moment the Koschevoi came up and
congratulated him, saying, “Here is the new hetman leading the army like
an old one!” Old Bulba glanced round to see the new hetman, and beheld
Ostap sitting on his horse at the head of the Oumantzi, his cap on one
side and the hetman’s staff in his hand. “Who ever saw the like!” he
exclaimed; and the old man rejoiced, and began to thank all the Oumantzi
for the honour they had conferred upon his son.

The Cossacks retired, preparing to go into camp; but the Lyakhs showed
themselves again on the city ramparts with tattered mantles. Many rich
caftans were spotted with blood, and dust covered the brazen helmets.

“Have you bound us?” cried the Zaporozhtzi to them from below.

“We will do so!” shouted the big colonel from above, showing them a
rope. The weary, dust-covered warriors ceased not to threaten, nor the
most zealous on both sides to exchange fierce remarks.

At length all dispersed. Some, weary with battle, stretched themselves
out to rest; others sprinkled their wounds with earth, and bound them
with kerchiefs and rich stuffs captured from the enemy. Others, who were
fresher, began to inspect the corpses and to pay them the last honours.
They dug graves with swords and spears, brought earth in their caps and
the skirts of their garments, laid the Cossacks’ bodies out decently,
and covered them up in order that the ravens and eagles might not claw
out their eyes. But binding the bodies of the Lyakhs, as they came
to hand, to the tails of horses, they let these loose on the plain,
pursuing them and beating them for some time. The infuriated horses flew
over hill and hollow, through ditch and brook, dragging the bodies of
the Poles, all covered with blood and dust, along the ground.

All the kurens sat down in circles in the evening, and talked for a long
time of their deeds, and of the achievements which had fallen to the
share of each, for repetition by strangers and posterity. It was long
before they lay down to sleep; and longer still before old Taras,
meditating what it might signify that Andrii was not among the foe,
lay down. Had the Judas been ashamed to come forth against his own
countrymen? or had the Jew been deceiving him, and had he simply gone
into the city against his will? But then he recollected that there were
no bounds to a woman’s influence upon Andrii’s heart; he felt ashamed,
and swore a mighty oath to himself against the fair Pole who had
bewitched his son. And he would have kept his oath. He would not have
looked at her beauty; he would have dragged her forth by her thick and
splendid hair; he would have trailed her after him over all the plain,
among all the Cossacks. Her beautiful shoulders and bosom, white as
fresh-fallen snow upon the mountain-tops, would have been crushed to
earth and covered with blood and dust. Her lovely body would have been
torn to pieces. But Taras, who did not foresee what God prepares for
man on the morrow, began to grow drowsy, and finally fell asleep. The
Cossacks still talked among themselves; and the sober sentinel stood all
night long beside the fire without blinking and keeping a good look out
on all sides.


The sun had not ascended midway in the heavens when all the army
assembled in a group. News had come from the Setch that during the
Cossacks’ absence the Tatars had plundered it completely, unearthed the
treasures which were kept concealed in the ground, killed or carried
into captivity all who had remained behind, and straightway set out,
with all the flocks and droves of horses they had collected, for
Perekop. One Cossack only, Maksin Galodukha, had broken loose from the
Tatars’ hands, stabbed the Mirza, seized his bag of sequins, and on
a Tatar horse, in Tatar garments, had fled from his pursuers for
two nights and a day and a half, ridden his horse to death, obtained
another, killed that one too, and arrived at the Zaporozhian camp upon
a third, having learned upon the road that the Zaporozhtzi were before
Dubno. He could only manage to tell them that this misfortune had taken
place; but as to how it happened--whether the remaining Zaporozhtzi had
been carousing after Cossack fashion, and had been carried drunk into
captivity, and how the Tatars were aware of the spot where the treasures
of the army were concealed--he was too exhausted to say. Extremely
fatigued, his body swollen, and his face scorched and weatherbeaten, he
had fallen down, and a deep sleep had overpowered him.

In such cases it was customary for the Cossacks to pursue the robbers at
once, endeavouring to overtake them on the road; for, let the prisoners
once be got to the bazaars of Asia Minor, Smyrna, or the island of
Crete, and God knows in what places the tufted heads of Zaporozhtzi
might not be seen. This was the occasion of the Cossacks’ assembling.
They all stood to a man with their caps on; for they had not met to
listen to the commands of their hetman, but to take counsel together as
equals among equals. “Let the old men first advise,” was shouted to the
crowd. “Let the Koschevoi give his opinion,” cried others.

The Koschevoi, taking off his cap and speaking not as commander, but as
a comrade among comrades, thanked all the Cossacks for the honour, and
said, “There are among us many experienced men and much wisdom; but
since you have thought me worthy, my counsel is not to lose time in
pursuing the Tatars, for you know yourselves what the Tatar is. He will
not pause with his stolen booty to await our coming, but will vanish in
a twinkling, so that you can find no trace of him. Therefore my advice
is to go. We have had good sport here. The Lyakhs now know what Cossacks
are. We have avenged our faith to the extent of our ability; there is
not much to satisfy greed in the famished city, and so my advice is to

“To go,” rang heavily through the Zaporozhian kurens. But such words
did not suit Taras Bulba at all; and he brought his frowning, iron-grey
brows still lower down over his eyes, brows like bushes growing on dark
mountain heights, whose crowns are suddenly covered with sharp northern

“No, Koschevoi, your counsel is not good,” said he. “You cannot say
that. You have evidently forgotten that those of our men captured by the
Lyakhs will remain prisoners. You evidently wish that we should not heed
the first holy law of comradeship; that we should leave our brethren to
be flayed alive, or carried about through the towns and villages after
their Cossack bodies have been quartered, as was done with the hetman
and the bravest Russian warriors in the Ukraine. Have the enemy not
desecrated the holy things sufficiently without that? What are we? I
ask you all what sort of a Cossack is he who would desert his comrade in
misfortune, and let him perish like a dog in a foreign land? If it has
come to such a pass that no one has any confidence in Cossack honour,
permitting men to spit upon his grey moustache, and upbraid him with
offensive words, then let no one blame me; I will remain here alone.”

All the Zaporozhtzi who were there wavered.

“And have you forgotten, brave comrades,” said the Koschevoi, “that
the Tatars also have comrades of ours in their hands; that if we do not
rescue them now their lives will be sacrificed in eternal imprisonment
among the infidels, which is worse than the most cruel death? Have you
forgotten that they now hold all our treasure, won by Christian blood?”

The Cossacks reflected, not knowing what to say. None of them wished to
deserve ill repute. Then there stepped out in front of them the oldest
in years of all the Zaporozhian army, Kasyan Bovdug. He was respected by
all the Cossacks. Twice had he been chosen Koschevoi, and had also been
a stout warrior; but he had long been old, and had ceased to go upon
raids. Neither did the old man like to give advice to any one; but loved
to lie upon his side in the circle of Cossacks, listening to tales
of every occurrence on the Cossack marches. He never joined in the
conversation, but only listened, and pressed the ashes with his finger
in his short pipe, which never left his mouth; and would sit so long
with his eyes half open, that the Cossacks never knew whether he were
asleep or still listening. He always stayed at home during their raids,
but this time the old man had joined the army. He had waved his hand in
Cossack fashion, and said, “Wherever you go, I am going too; perhaps I
may be of some service to the Cossack nation.” All the Cossacks became
silent when he now stepped forward before the assembly, for it was long
since any speech from him had been heard. Every one wanted to know what
Bovdug had to say.

“It is my turn to speak a word, brother gentles,” he began: “listen,
my children, to an old man. The Koschevoi spoke well as the head of the
Cossack army; being bound to protect it, and in respect to the treasures
of the army he could say nothing wiser. That is so! Let that be my first
remark; but now listen to my second. And this is my second remark: Taras
spoke even more truly. God grant him many years, and that such leaders
may be plentiful in the Ukraine! A Cossack’s first duty and honour is to
guard comradeship. Never in all my life, brother gentles, have I heard
of any Cossack deserting or betraying any of his comrades. Both those
made captive at the Setch and these taken here are our comrades. Whether
they be few or many, it makes no difference; all are our comrades,
and all are dear to us. So this is my speech: Let those to whom the
prisoners captured by the Tatars are dear set out after the Tatars; and
let those to whom the captives of the Poles are dear, and who do
not care to desert a righteous cause, stay behind. The Koschevoi, in
accordance with his duty, will accompany one half in pursuit of the
Tatars, and the other half can choose a hetman to lead them. But if
you will heed the words of an old man, there is no man fitter to be
the commanding hetman than Taras Bulba. Not one of us is his equal in

Thus spoke Bovdug, and paused; and all the Cossacks rejoiced that the
old man had in this manner brought them to an agreement. All flung up
their caps and shouted, “Thanks, father! He kept silence for a long,
long time, but he has spoken at last. Not in vain did he say, when we
prepared for this expedition, that he might be useful to the Cossack
nation: even so it has come to pass!”

“Well, are you agreed upon anything?” asked the Koschevoi.

“We are all agreed!” cried the Cossacks.

“Then the council is at an end?”

“At an end!” cried the Cossacks.

“Then listen to the military command, children,” said the Koschevoi,
stepping forward, and putting on his cap; whilst all the Cossacks took
off theirs, and stood with uncovered heads, and with eyes fixed upon the
earth, as was always the custom among them when the leader prepared to
speak. “Now divide yourselves, brother gentles! Let those who wish to go
stand on the right, and those who wish to stay, on the left. Where the
majority of a kuren goes there its officers are to go: if the minority
of a kuren goes over, it must be added to another kuren.”

Then they began to take up their positions, some to the right and some
to the left. Whither the majority of a kuren went thither the hetman
went also; and the minority attached itself to another kuren. It came
out pretty even on both sides. Those who wished to remain were nearly
the whole of the Nezamaikovsky kuren, the entire Oumansky kuren, the
entire Kanevsky kuren, and the larger half of the Popovitchsky, the
Timoschevsky and the Steblikivsky kurens. All the rest preferred to go
in pursuit of the Tatars. On both sides there were many stout and brave
Cossacks. Among those who decided to follow the Tatars were Tcherevaty,
and those good old Cossacks Pokotipole, Lemisch, and Prokopovitch Koma.
Demid Popovitch also went with that party, because he could not sit long
in one place: he had tried his hand on the Lyakhs and wanted to try it
on the Tatars also. The hetmans of kurens were Nostiugan, Pokruischka,
Nevnimsky, and numerous brave and renowned Cossacks who wished to test
their swords and muscles in an encounter with the Tatars. There were
likewise many brave Cossacks among those who preferred to remain,
including the kuren hetmans, Demitrovitch, Kukubenko, Vertikhvist,
Balan, and Ostap Bulba. Besides these there were plenty of stout and
distinguished warriors: Vovtuzenko, Tcherevitchenko, Stepan Guska,
Okhrim Guska, Vikola Gonstiy, Zadorozhniy, Metelitza, Ivan Zakrutiguba,
Mosiy Pisarenko, and still another Pisarenko, and many others. They were
all great travellers; they had visited the shores of Anatolia, the salt
marshes and steppes of the Crimea, all the rivers great and small which
empty into the Dnieper, and all the fords and islands of the Dnieper;
they had been in Moldavia, Wallachia, and Turkey; they had sailed all
over the Black Sea, in their double-ruddered Cossack boats; they had
attacked with fifty skiffs in line the tallest and richest ships; they
had sunk many a Turkish galley, and had burnt much, very much powder in
their day; more than once they had made foot-bandages from velvets and
rich stuffs; more than once they had beaten buckles for their girdles
out of sequins. Every one of them had drunk and revelled away what would
have sufficed any other for a whole lifetime, and had nothing to show
for it. They spent it all, like Cossacks, in treating all the world, and
in hiring music that every one might be merry. Even now few of them
had amassed any property: some caskets, cups, and bracelets were hidden
beneath the reeds on the islands of the Dnieper in order that the Tatars
might not find them if by mishap they should succeed in falling suddenly
on the Setch; but it would have been difficult for the Tatars to find
them, for the owners themselves had forgotten where they had buried
them. Such were the Cossacks who wished to remain and take vengeance on
the Lyakhs for their trusty comrades and the faith of Christ. The old
Cossack Bovdug wished also to remain with them, saying, “I am not of
an age to pursue the Tatars, but this is a place to meet a good Cossack
death. I have long prayed God that when my life was to end I might end
it in battle for a holy and Christian cause. And so it has come to
pass. There can be no more glorious end in any other place for the aged

When they had all separated, and were ranged in two lines on opposite
sides, the Koschevoi passed through the ranks, and said, “Well, brother
gentles, are the two parties satisfied with each other?”

“All satisfied, father!” replied the Cossacks.

“Then kiss each other, and bid each other farewell; for God knows
whether you will ever see each other alive again. Obey your hetman,
but you know yourselves what you have to do: you know yourselves what
Cossack honour requires.”

And all the Cossacks kissed each other. The hetmans first began it.
Stroking down their grey moustaches, they kissed each other, making the
sign of the cross, and then, grasping hands firmly, wanted to ask of
each other, “Well, brother, shall we see one another again or not?” But
they did not ask the question: they kept silence, and both grey-heads
were lost in thought. Then the Cossacks took leave of each other to the
last man, knowing that there was a great deal of work before them all.
Yet they were not obliged to part at once: they would have to wait until
night in order not to let the Lyakhs perceive the diminution in the
Cossack army. Then all went off, by kurens, to dine.

After dinner, all who had the prospect of the journey before them lay
down to rest, and fell into a deep and long sleep, as though foreseeing
that it was the last sleep they should enjoy in such security. They
slept even until sunset; and when the sun had gone down and it had grown
somewhat dusky, began to tar the waggons. All being in readiness, they
sent the waggons ahead, and having pulled off their caps once more to
their comrades, quietly followed the baggage train. The cavalry,
without shouts or whistles to the horses, tramped lightly after the
foot-soldiers, and all soon vanished in the darkness. The only sound was
the dull thud of horses’ hoofs, or the squeak of some wheel which had
not got into working order, or had not been properly tarred amid the

Their comrades stood for some time waving their hands, though nothing
was visible. But when they returned to their camping places and saw by
the light of the gleaming stars that half the waggons were gone,
and many of their comrades, each man’s heart grew sad; all became
involuntarily pensive, and drooped their heads towards the earth.

Taras saw how troubled were the Cossack ranks, and that sadness,
unsuited to brave men, had begun to quietly master the Cossack hearts;
but he remained silent. He wished to give them time to become accustomed
to the melancholy caused by their parting from their comrades; but,
meanwhile, he was preparing to rouse them at one blow, by a loud
battle-cry in Cossack fashion, in order that good cheer might return
to the soul of each with greater strength than before. Of this only the
Slav nature, a broad, powerful nature, which is to others what the sea
is to small rivulets, is capable. In stormy times it roars and thunders,
raging, and raising such waves as weak rivers cannot throw up; but
when it is windless and quiet, it spreads its boundless glassy surface,
clearer than any river, a constant delight to the eye.

Taras ordered his servants to unload one of the waggons which stood
apart. It was larger and stronger than any other in the Cossack camp;
two stout tires encircled its mighty wheels. It was heavily laden,
covered with horsecloths and strong wolf-skins, and firmly bound with
tightly drawn tarred ropes. In the waggon were flasks and casks of
good old wine, which had long lain in Taras’s cellar. He had brought it
along, in case a moment should arrive when some deed awaited them worthy
of being handed down to posterity, so that each Cossack, to the very
last man, might quaff it, and be inspired with sentiments fitting to the
occasion. On receiving his command, the servants hastened to the waggon,
hewed asunder the stout ropes with their swords, removed the thick
wolf-skins and horsecloths, and drew forth the flasks and casks.

“Take them all,” said Bulba, “all there are; take them, that every one
may be supplied. Take jugs, or the pails for watering the horses; take
sleeve or cap; but if you have nothing else, then hold your two hands

All the Cossacks seized something: one took a jug, another a pail,
another a sleeve, another a cap, and another held both hands. Taras’s
servants, making their way among the ranks, poured out for all from the
casks and flasks. But Taras ordered them not to drink until he should
give the signal for all to drink together. It was evident that he wished
to say something. He knew that however good in itself the wine might be
and however fitted to strengthen the spirit of man, yet, if a suitable
speech were linked with it, then the strength of the wine and of the
spirit would be doubled.

“I treat you, brother gentles,” thus spoke Bulba, “not in honour of
your having made me hetman, however great such an honour may be, nor in
honour of our parting from our comrades. To do both would be fitting at
a fitting time; but the moment before us is not such a time. The
work before us is great both in labour and in glory for the Cossacks.
Therefore let us drink all together, let us drink before all else to the
holy orthodox faith, that the day may finally come when it may be spread
over all the world, and that everywhere there may be but one faith,
and that all Mussulmans may become Christians. And let us also drink
together to the Setch, that it may stand long for the ruin of the
Mussulmans, and that every year there may issue forth from it young men,
each better, each handsomer than the other. And let us drink to our own
glory, that our grandsons and their sons may say that there were once
men who were not ashamed of comradeship, and who never betrayed each
other. Now to the faith, brother gentles, to the faith!”

“To the faith!” cried those standing in the ranks hard by, with thick
voices. “To the faith!” those more distant took up the cry; and all,
both young and old, drank to the faith.

“To the Setch!” said Taras, raising his hand high above his head.

“To the Setch!” echoed the foremost ranks. “To the Setch!” said the
old men, softly, twitching their grey moustaches; and eagerly as young
hawks, the youths repeated, “To the Setch!” And the distant plain heard
how the Cossacks mentioned their Setch.

“Now a last draught, comrades, to the glory of all Christians now living
in the world!”

And every Cossack drank a last draught to the glory of all Christians in
the world. And among all the ranks in the kurens they long repeated, “To
all the Christians in the world!”

The pails were empty, but the Cossacks still stood with their hands
uplifted. Although the eyes of all gleamed brightly with the wine,
they were thinking deeply. Not of greed or the spoils of war were they
thinking now, nor of who would be lucky enough to get ducats, fine
weapons, embroidered caftans, and Tcherkessian horses; but they
meditated like eagles perched upon the rocky crests of mountains, from
which the distant sea is visible, dotted, as with tiny birds, with
galleys, ships, and every sort of vessel, bounded only by the scarcely
visible lines of shore, with their ports like gnats and their forests
like fine grass. Like eagles they gazed out on all the plain, with their
fate darkling in the distance. All the plain, with its slopes and roads,
will be covered with their white projecting bones, lavishly washed with
their Cossack blood, and strewn with shattered waggons and with broken
swords and spears; the eagles will swoop down and tear out their Cossack
eyes. But there is one grand advantage: not a single noble deed will be
lost, and the Cossack glory will not vanish like the tiniest grain of
powder from a gun-barrel. The guitar-player with grey beard falling upon
his breast, and perhaps a white-headed old man still full of ripe, manly
strength will come, and will speak his low, strong words of them. And
their glory will resound through all the world, and all who are born
thereafter will speak of them; for the word of power is carried afar,
ringing like a booming brazen bell, in which the maker has mingled much
rich, pure silver, that is beautiful sound may be borne far and wide
through the cities, villages, huts, and palaces, summoning all betimes
to holy prayer.


In the city, no one knew that one-half of the Cossacks had gone in
pursuit of the Tatars. From the tower of the town hall the sentinel only
perceived that a part of the waggons had been dragged into the forest;
but it was thought that the Cossacks were preparing an ambush--a view
taken by the French engineer also. Meanwhile, the Koschevoi’s words
proved not unfounded, for a scarcity of provisions arose in the city.
According to a custom of past centuries, the army did not separate as
much as was necessary. They tried to make a sortie; but half of those
who did so were instantly killed by the Cossacks, and the other
half driven back into the city with no results. But the Jews availed
themselves of the opportunity to find out everything; whither and
why the Zaporozhtzi had departed, and with what leaders, and which
particular kurens, and their number, and how many had remained on the
spot, and what they intended to do; in short, within a few minutes all
was known in the city.

The besieged took courage, and prepared to offer battle. Taras had
already divined it from the noise and movement in the city, and hastened
about, making his arrangements, forming his men, and giving orders and
instructions. He ranged the kurens in three camps, surrounding them
with the waggons as bulwarks--a formation in which the Zaporozhtzi were
invincible--ordered two kurens into ambush, and drove sharp stakes,
broken guns, and fragments of spears into a part of the plain, with a
view to forcing the enemy’s cavalry upon it if an opportunity should
present itself. When all was done which was necessary, he made a speech
to the Cossacks, not for the purpose of encouraging and freshening up
their spirits--he knew their souls were strong without that--but simply
because he wished to tell them all he had upon his heart.

“I want to tell you, brother gentles, what our brotherhood is. You have
heard from your fathers and grandfathers in what honour our land has
always been held by all. We made ourselves known to the Greeks, and we
took gold from Constantinople, and our cities were luxurious, and we
had, too, our temples, and our princes--the princes of the Russian
people, our own princes, not Catholic unbelievers. But the Mussulmans
took all; all vanished, and we remained defenceless; yea, like a widow
after the death of a powerful husband: defenceless was our land as well
as ourselves! Such was the time, comrades, when we joined hands in a
brotherhood: that is what our fellowship consists in. There is no more
sacred brotherhood. The father loves his children, the mother loves her
children, the children love their father and mother; but this is not
like that, brothers. The wild beast also loves its young. But a man can
be related only by similarity of mind and not of blood. There have been
brotherhoods in other lands, but never any such brotherhoods as on our
Russian soil. It has happened to many of you to be in foreign lands. You
look: there are people there also, God’s creatures, too; and you talk
with them as with the men of your own country. But when it comes to
saying a hearty word--you will see. No! they are sensible people,
but not the same; the same kind of people, and yet not the same! No,
brothers, to love as the Russian soul loves, is to love not with the
mind or anything else, but with all that God has given, all that is
within you. Ah!” said Taras, and waved his hand, and wiped his grey
head, and twitched his moustache, and then went on: “No, no one else
can love in that way! I know that baseness has now made its way into
our land. Men care only to have their ricks of grain and hay, and their
droves of horses, and that their mead may be safe in their cellars;
they adopt, the devil only knows what Mussulman customs. They speak
scornfully with their tongues. They care not to speak their real
thoughts with their own countrymen. They sell their own things to their
own comrades, like soulless creatures in the market-place. The favour
of a foreign king, and not even a king, but the poor favour of a Polish
magnate, who beats them on the mouth with his yellow shoe, is dearer
to them than all brotherhood. But the very meanest of these vile men,
whoever he may be, given over though he be to vileness and slavishness,
even he, brothers, has some grains of Russian feeling; and they will
assert themselves some day. And then the wretched man will beat his
breast with his hands; and will tear his hair, cursing his vile life
loudly, and ready to expiate his disgraceful deeds with torture. Let
them know what brotherhood means on Russian soil! And if it has come to
the point that a man must die for his brotherhood, it is not fit that
any of them should die so. No! none of them. It is not a fit thing for
their mouse-like natures.”

Thus spoke the hetman; and after he had finished his speech he still
continued to shake his head, which had grown grey in Cossack service.
All who stood there were deeply affected by his speech, which went to
their very hearts. The oldest in the ranks stood motionless, their grey
heads drooping. Tears trickled quietly from their aged eyes; they
wiped them slowly away with their sleeves, and then all, as if with
one consent, waved their hands in the air at the same moment, and shook
their experienced heads. For it was evident that old Taras recalled to
them many of the best-known and finest traits of the heart in a man
who has become wise through suffering, toil, daring, and every earthly
misfortune, or, though unknown to them, of many things felt by young,
pure spirits, to the eternal joy of the parents who bore them.

But the army of the enemy was already marching out of the city, sounding
drums and trumpets; and the nobles, with their arms akimbo, were riding
forth too, surrounded by innumerable servants. The stout colonel gave
his orders, and they began to advance briskly on the Cossack camps,
pointing their matchlocks threateningly. Their eyes flashed, and they
were brilliant with brass armour. As soon as the Cossacks saw that they
had come within gunshot, their matchlocks thundered all together, and
they continued to fire without cessation.

The detonations resounded through the distant fields and meadows,
merging into one continuous roar. The whole plain was shrouded in smoke,
but the Zaporozhtzi continued to fire without drawing breath--the rear
ranks doing nothing but loading the guns and handing them to those in
front, thus creating amazement among the enemy, who could not understand
how the Cossacks fired without reloading. Amid the dense smoke which
enveloped both armies, it could not be seen how first one and then
another dropped: but the Lyakhs felt that the balls flew thickly, and
that the affair was growing hot; and when they retreated to escape from
the smoke and see how matters stood, many were missing from their ranks,
but only two or three out of a hundred were killed on the Cossack
side. Still the Cossacks went on firing off their matchlocks without a
moment’s intermission. Even the foreign engineers were amazed at tactics
heretofore unknown to them, and said then and there, in the presence of
all, “These Zaporozhtzi are brave fellows. That is the way men in other
lands ought to fight.” And they advised that the cannons should at once
be turned on the camps. Heavily roared the iron cannons with their wide
throats; the earth hummed and trembled far and wide, and the smoke lay
twice as heavy over the plain. They smelt the reek of the powder among
the squares and streets in the most distant as well as the nearest
quarters of the city. But those who laid the cannons pointed them too
high, and the shot describing too wide a curve flew over the heads
of the camps, and buried themselves deep in the earth at a distance,
tearing the ground, and throwing the black soil high in the air. At
the sight of such lack of skill the French engineer tore his hair, and
undertook to lay the cannons himself, heeding not the Cossack bullets
which showered round him.

Taras saw from afar that destruction menaced the whole Nezamaikovsky
and Steblikivsky kurens, and gave a ringing shout, “Get away from the
waggons instantly, and mount your horses!” But the Cossacks would not
have succeeded in effecting both these movements if Ostap had not
dashed into the middle of the foe and wrenched the linstocks from six
cannoneers. But he could not wrench them from the other four, for the
Lyakhs drove him back. Meanwhile the foreign captain had taken the lunt
in his own hand to fire the largest cannon, such a cannon as none of the
Cossacks had ever beheld before. It looked horrible with its wide mouth,
and a thousand deaths poured forth from it. And as it thundered,
the three others followed, shaking in fourfold earthquake the dully
responsive earth. Much woe did they cause. For more than one Cossack
wailed the aged mother, beating with bony hands her feeble breast;
more than one widow was left in Glukhof, Nemirof, Chernigof, and other
cities. The loving woman will hasten forth every day to the bazaar,
grasping at all passers-by, scanning the face of each to see if there
be not among them one dearer than all; but though many an army will
pass through the city, never among them will a single one of all their
dearest be.

Half the Nezamaikovsky kuren was as if it had never been. As the hail
suddenly beats down a field where every ear of grain shines like purest
gold, so were they beaten down.

How the Cossacks hastened thither! How they all started up! How raged
Kukubenko, the hetman, when he saw that the best half of his kuren was
no more! He fought his way with his remaining Nezamaikovtzi to the very
midst of the fray, cut down in his wrath, like a cabbage, the first man
he met, hurled many a rider from his steed, piercing both horse and man
with his lance; and making his way to the gunners, captured some of
the cannons. Here he found the hetman of the Oumansky kuren, and Stepan
Guska, hard at work, having already seized the largest cannon. He left
those Cossacks there, and plunged with his own into another mass of the
foe, making a lane through it. Where the Nezamaikovtzi passed there was
a street; where they turned about there was a square as where streets
meet. The foemen’s ranks were visibly thinning, and the Lyakhs
falling in sheaves. Beside the waggons stood Vovtuzenko, and in front
Tcherevitchenko, and by the more distant ones Degtyarenko; and behind
them the kuren hetman, Vertikhvist. Degtyarenko had pierced two Lyakhs
with his spear, and now attacked a third, a stout antagonist. Agile and
strong was the Lyakh, with glittering arms, and accompanied by fifty
followers. He fell fiercely upon Degtyarenko, struck him to the earth,
and, flourishing his sword above him, cried, “There is not one of you
Cossack dogs who has dared to oppose me.”

“Here is one,” said Mosiy Schilo, and stepped forward. He was a
muscular Cossack, who had often commanded at sea, and undergone many
vicissitudes. The Turks had once seized him and his men at Trebizond,
and borne them captives to the galleys, where they bound them hand and
foot with iron chains, gave them no food for a week at a time, and made
them drink sea-water. The poor prisoners endured and suffered all, but
would not renounce their orthodox faith. Their hetman, Mosiy Schilo,
could not bear it: he trampled the Holy Scriptures under foot, wound the
vile turban about his sinful head, and became the favourite of a pasha,
steward of a ship, and ruler over all the galley slaves. The poor slaves
sorrowed greatly thereat, for they knew that if he had renounced his
faith he would be a tyrant, and his hand would be the more heavy and
severe upon them. So it turned out. Mosiy Schilo had them put in new
chains, three to an oar. The cruel fetters cut to the very bone; and
he beat them upon the back. But when the Turks, rejoicing at having
obtained such a servant, began to carouse, and, forgetful of their
law, got all drunk, he distributed all the sixty-four keys among the
prisoners, in order that they might free themselves, fling their chains
and manacles into the sea, and, seizing their swords, in turn kill the
Turks. Then the Cossacks collected great booty, and returned with glory
to their country; and the guitar-players celebrated Mosiy Schilo’s
exploits for a long time. They would have elected him Koschevoi, but
he was a very eccentric Cossack. At one time he would perform some feat
which the most sagacious would never have dreamed of. At another, folly
simply took possession of him, and he drank and squandered everything
away, was in debt to every one in the Setch, and, in addition to that,
stole like a street thief. He carried off a whole Cossack equipment from
a strange kuren by night and pawned it to the tavern-keeper. For this
dishonourable act they bound him to a post in the bazaar, and laid a
club beside him, in order that every one who passed should, according
to the measure of his strength, deal him a blow. But there was not one
Zaporozhetz out of them all to be found who would raise the club against
him, remembering his former services. Such was the Cossack, Mosiy

“Here is one who will kill you, dog!” he said, springing upon the Lyakh.
How they hacked away! their shoulder-plates and breast-plates bent
under their blows. The hostile Lyakh cut through Schilo’s shirt of mail,
reaching the body itself with his blade. The Cossack’s shirt was dyed
purple: but Schilo heeded it not. He brandished his brawny hand, heavy
indeed was that mighty fist, and brought the pommel of his sword down
unexpectedly upon his foeman’s head. The brazen helmet flew into pieces
and the Lyakh staggered and fell; but Schilo went on hacking and cutting
gashes in the body of the stunned man. Kill not utterly thine enemy,
Cossack: look back rather! The Cossack did not turn, and one of the dead
man’s servants plunged a knife into his neck. Schilo turned and tried to
seize him, but he disappeared amid the smoke of the powder. On all sides
rose the roar of matchlocks. Schilo knew that his wound was mortal. He
fell with his hand upon his wound, and said, turning to his comrades,
“Farewell, brother gentles, my comrades! may the holy Russian land stand
forever, and may it be eternally honoured!” And as he closed his failing
eyes, the Cossack soul fled from his grim body. Then Zadorozhniy came
forward with his men, Vertikhvist issued from the ranks, and Balaban
stepped forth.

“What now, gentles?” said Taras, calling to the hetmans by name: “there
is yet powder in the power-flasks? The Cossack force is not weakened?
the Cossacks do not yield?”

“There is yet powder in the flasks, father; the Cossack force is not
weakened yet: the Cossacks yield not!”

And the Cossacks pressed vigorously on: the foemen’s ranks were
disordered. The short colonel beat the assembly, and ordered eight
painted standards to be displayed to collect his men, who were scattered
over all the plain. All the Lyakhs hastened to the standards. But they
had not yet succeeded in ranging themselves in order, when the hetman
Kukubenko attacked their centre again with his Nezamaikovtzi and fell
straight upon the stout colonel. The colonel could not resist the
attack, and, wheeling his horse about, set out at a gallop; but
Kukubenko pursued him for a considerable distance cross the plain and
prevented him from joining his regiment.

Perceiving this from the kuren on the flank, Stepan Guska set out
after him, lasso in hand, bending his head to his horse’s neck. Taking
advantage of an opportunity, he cast his lasso about his neck at the
first attempt. The colonel turned purple in the face, grasped the cord
with both hands, and tried to break it; but with a powerful thrust
Stepan drove his lance through his body, and there he remained pinned to
the earth. But Guska did not escape his fate. The Cossacks had but time
to look round when they beheld Stepan Guska elevated on four spears. All
the poor fellow succeeded in saying was, “May all our enemies perish,
and may the Russian land rejoice forever!” and then he yielded up his

The Cossacks glanced around, and there was Metelitza on one side,
entertaining the Lyakhs by dealing blows on the head to one and another;
on the other side, the hetman Nevelitchkiy was attacking with his men;
and Zakrutibuga was repulsing and slaying the enemy by the waggons.
The third Pisarenko had repulsed a whole squadron from the more distant
waggons; and they were still fighting and killing amongst the other
waggons, and even upon them.

“How now, gentles?” cried Taras, stepping forward before them all: “is
there still powder in your flasks? Is the Cossack force still strong? do
the Cossacks yield?”

“There is still powder in the flasks, father; the Cossack force is still
strong: the Cossacks yield not!”

But Bovdug had already fallen from the waggons; a bullet had struck him
just below the heart. The old man collected all his strength, and said,
“I sorrow not to part from the world. God grant every man such an end!
May the Russian land be forever glorious!” And Bovdug’s spirit flew
above, to tell the old men who had gone on long before that men still
knew how to fight on Russian soil, and better still, that they knew how
to die for it and the holy faith.

Balaban, hetman of a kuren, soon after fell to the ground also from a
waggon. Three mortal wounds had he received from a lance, a bullet,
and a sword. He had been one of the very best of Cossacks, and had
accomplished a great deal as a commander on naval expeditions; but more
glorious than all the rest was his raid on the shores of Anatolia. They
collected many sequins, much valuable Turkish plunder, caftans, and
adornments of every description. But misfortune awaited them on their
way back. They came across the Turkish fleet, and were fired on by the
ships. Half the boats were crushed and overturned, drowning more than
one; but the bundles of reeds bound to the sides, Cossack fashion, saved
the boats from completely sinking. Balaban rowed off at full speed,
and steered straight in the face of the sun, thus rendering himself
invisible to the Turkish ships. All the following night they spent in
baling out the water with pails and their caps, and in repairing the
damaged places. They made sails out of their Cossack trousers, and,
sailing off, escaped from the fastest Turkish vessels. And not only did
they arrive unharmed at the Setch, but they brought a gold-embroidered
vesture for the archimandrite at the Mezhigorsky Monastery in Kief,
and an ikon frame of pure silver for the church in honour of
the Intercession of the Virgin Mary, which is in Zaporozhe. The
guitar-players celebrated the daring of Balaban and his Cossacks for
a long time afterwards. Now he bowed his head, feeling the pains which
precede death, and said quietly, “I am permitted, brother gentles, to
die a fine death. Seven have I hewn in pieces, nine have I pierced with
my lance, many have I trampled upon with my horse’s hoofs; and I no
longer remember how many my bullets have slain. May our Russian land
flourish forever!” and his spirit fled.

Cossacks, Cossacks! abandon not the flower of your army. Already
was Kukubenko surrounded, and seven men only remained of all the
Nezamaikovsky kuren, exhausted and with garments already stained with
their blood. Taras himself, perceiving their straits, hastened to
their rescue; but the Cossacks arrived too late. Before the enemies
who surrounded him could be driven off, a spear was buried just below
Kukubenko’s heart. He sank into the arms of the Cossacks who caught him,
and his young blood flowed in a stream, like precious wine brought from
the cellar in a glass vessel by careless servants, who, stumbling at the
entrance, break the rich flask. The wine streams over the ground, and
the master, hastening up, tears his hair, having reserved it, in order
that if God should grant him, in his old age, to meet again the comrade
of his youth, they might over it recall together former days, when a man
enjoyed himself otherwise and better than now. Kukubenko cast his eyes
around, and said, “I thank God that it has been my lot to die before
your eyes, comrades. May they live better who come after us than we have
lived; and may our Russian land, beloved by Christ, flourish forever!”
 and his young spirit fled. The angels took it in their arms and bore it
to heaven: it will be well with him there. “Sit down at my right hand,
Kukubenko,” Christ will say to him: “you never betrayed your comrades,
you never committed a dishonourable act, you never sold a man into
misery, you preserved and defended my church.” The death of Kukubenko
saddened them all. The Cossack ranks were terribly thinned. Many brave
men were missing, but the Cossacks still stood their ground.

“How now, gentles,” cried Taras to the remaining kurens: “is there still
powder in your flasks? Are your swords blunted? Are the Cossack forces
wearied? Have the Cossacks given way?”

“There is still an abundance of powder; our swords are still sharp; the
Cossack forces are not wearied, and the Cossacks have not yet yielded.”

And the Cossacks again strained every nerve, as though they had suffered
no loss. Only three kuren hetmans still remained alive. Red blood flowed
in streams everywhere; heaps of their bodies and of those of the enemy
were piled high. Taras looked up to heaven, and there already hovered a
flock of vultures. Well, there would be prey for some one. And there the
foe were raising Metelitza on their lances, and the head of the second
Pisarenko was dizzily opening and shutting its eyes; and the mangled
body of Okhrim Guska fell upon the ground. “Now,” said Taras, and waved
a cloth on high. Ostap understood this signal and springing quickly
from his ambush attacked sharply. The Lyakhs could not withstand this
onslaught; and he drove them back, and chased them straight to the spot
where the stakes and fragments of spears were driven into the earth. The
horses began to stumble and fall and the Lyakhs to fly over their heads.
At that moment the Korsuntzi, who had stood till the last by the baggage
waggons, perceived that they still had some bullets left, and suddenly
fired a volley from their matchlocks. The Lyakhs became confused, and
lost their presence of mind; and the Cossacks took courage. “The victory
is ours!” rang Cossack voices on all sides; the trumpets sounded and the
banner of victory was unfurled. The beaten Lyakhs ran in all directions
and hid themselves. “No, the victory is not yet complete,” said Taras,
glancing at the city gate; and he was right.

The gates opened, and out dashed a hussar band, the flower of all the
cavalry. Every rider was mounted on a matched brown horse from the
Kabardei; and in front rode the handsomest, the most heroic of them all.
His black hair streamed from beneath his brazen helmet; and from his
arm floated a rich scarf, embroidered by the hands of a peerless beauty.
Taras sprang back in horror when he saw that it was Andrii. And the
latter meanwhile, enveloped in the dust and heat of battle, eager to
deserve the scarf which had been bound as a gift upon his arm, flew on
like a greyhound; the handsomest, most agile, and youngest of all the
band. The experienced huntsman urges on the greyhound, and he springs
forward, tossing up the snow, and a score of times outrunning the hare,
in the ardour of his course. And so it was with Andrii. Old Taras paused
and observed how he cleared a path before him, hewing away and dealing
blows to the right and the left. Taras could not restrain himself, but
shouted: “Your comrades! your comrades! you devil’s brat, would you kill
your own comrades?” But Andrii distinguished not who stood before him,
comrades or strangers; he saw nothing. Curls, long curls, were what
he saw; and a bosom like that of a river swan, and a snowy neck and
shoulders, and all that is created for rapturous kisses.

“Hey there, lads! only draw him to the forest, entice him to the forest
for me!” shouted Taras. Instantly thirty of the smartest Cossacks
volunteered to entice him thither; and setting their tall caps firmly
spurred their horses straight at a gap in the hussars. They attacked the
front ranks in flank, beat them down, cut them off from the rear ranks,
and slew many of them. Golopuitenko struck Andrii on the back with his
sword, and immediately set out to ride away at the top of his speed.
How Andrii flew after him! How his young blood coursed through all his
veins! Driving his sharp spurs into his horse’s flanks, he tore along
after the Cossacks, never glancing back, and not perceiving that only
twenty men at the most were following him. The Cossacks fled at full
gallop, and directed their course straight for the forest. Andrii
overtook them, and was on the point of catching Golopuitenko, when a
powerful hand seized his horse’s bridle. Andrii looked; before him stood
Taras! He trembled all over, and turned suddenly pale, like a student
who, receiving a blow on the forehead with a ruler, flushes up like
fire, springs in wrath from his seat to chase his comrade, and suddenly
encounters his teacher entering the classroom; in the instant his
wrathful impulse calms down and his futile anger vanishes. In this wise,
in an instant, Andrii’s wrath was as if it had never existed. And he
beheld before him only his terrible father.

“Well, what are we going to do now?” said Taras, looking him straight
in the eyes. But Andrii could make no reply to this, and stood with his
eyes fixed on the ground.

“Well, son; did your Lyakhs help you?”

Andrii made no answer.

“To think that you should be such a traitor! that you should betray your
faith! betray your comrades! Dismount from your horse!”

Obedient as a child, he dismounted, and stood before Taras more dead
than alive.

“Stand still, do not move! I gave you life, I will also kill you!” said
Taras, and, retreating a step backwards, he brought his gun up to his
shoulder. Andrii was white as a sheet; his lips moved gently, and he
uttered a name; but it was not the name of his native land, nor of his
mother, nor his brother; it was the name of the beautiful Pole. Taras

Like the ear of corn cut down by the reaping-hook, like the young lamb
when it feels the deadly steel in its heart, he hung his head and rolled
upon the grass without uttering a word.

The murderer of his son stood still, and gazed long upon the lifeless
body. Even in death he was very handsome; his manly face, so short a
time ago filled with power, and with an irresistible charm for every
woman, still had a marvellous beauty; his black brows, like sombre
velvet, set off his pale features.

“Is he not a true Cossack?” said Taras; “he is tall of stature, and
black-browed, his face is that of a noble, and his hand was strong in
battle! He is fallen! fallen without glory, like a vile dog!”

“Father, what have you done? Was it you who killed him?” said Ostap,
coming up at this moment.

Taras nodded.

Ostap gazed intently at the dead man. He was sorry for his brother, and
said at once: “Let us give him honourable burial, father, that the foe
may not dishonour his body, nor the birds of prey rend it.”

“They will bury him without our help,” said Taras; “there will be plenty
of mourners and rejoicers for him.”

And he reflected for a couple of minutes, whether he should fling him to
the wolves for prey, or respect in him the bravery which every brave man
is bound to honour in another, no matter whom? Then he saw Golopuitenko
galloping towards them and crying: “Woe, hetman, the Lyakhs have been
reinforced, a fresh force has come to their rescue!” Golopuitenko had
not finished speaking when Vovtuzenko galloped up: “Woe, hetman! a fresh
force is bearing down upon us.”

Vovtuzenko had not finished speaking when Pisarenko rushed up without
his horse: “Where are you, father? The Cossacks are seeking for
you. Hetman Nevelitchkiy is killed, Zadorozhniy is killed, and
Tcherevitchenko: but the Cossacks stand their ground; they will not die
without looking in your eyes; they want you to gaze upon them once more
before the hour of death arrives.”

“To horse, Ostap!” said Taras, and hastened to find his Cossacks, to
look once more upon them, and let them behold their hetman once more
before the hour of death. But before they could emerge from the wood,
the enemy’s force had already surrounded it on all sides, and horsemen
armed with swords and spears appeared everywhere between the trees.
“Ostap, Ostap! don’t yield!” shouted Taras, and grasping his sword he
began to cut down all he encountered on every side. But six suddenly
sprang upon Ostap. They did it in an unpropitious hour: the head of one
flew off, another turned to flee, a spear pierced the ribs of a third;
a fourth, more bold, bent his head to escape the bullet, and the bullet
striking his horse’s breast, the maddened animal reared, fell back upon
the earth, and crushed his rider under him. “Well done, son! Well done,
Ostap!” cried Taras: “I am following you.” And he drove off those
who attacked him. Taras hewed and fought, dealing blows at one after
another, but still keeping his eye upon Ostap ahead. He saw that eight
more were falling upon his son. “Ostap, Ostap! don’t yield!” But they
had already overpowered Ostap; one had flung his lasso about his neck,
and they had bound him, and were carrying him away. “Hey, Ostap, Ostap!”
 shouted Taras, forcing his way towards him, and cutting men down like
cabbages to right and left. “Hey, Ostap, Ostap!” But something at that
moment struck him like a heavy stone. All grew dim and confused before
his eyes. In one moment there flashed confusedly before him heads,
spears, smoke, the gleam of fire, tree-trunks, and leaves; and then he
sank heavily to the earth like a felled oak, and darkness covered his


“I have slept a long while!” said Taras, coming to his senses, as if
after a heavy drunken sleep, and trying to distinguish the objects about
him. A terrible weakness overpowered his limbs. The walls and corners
of a strange room were dimly visible before him. At length he perceived
that Tovkatch was seated beside him, apparently listening to his every

“Yes,” thought Tovkatch, “you might have slept forever.” But he said
nothing, only shook his finger, and motioned him to be silent.

“But tell me where I am now?” asked Taras, straining his mind, and
trying to recollect what had taken place.

“Be silent!” cried his companion sternly. “Why should you want to
know? Don’t you see that you are all hacked to pieces? Here I have been
galloping with you for two weeks without taking a breath; and you have
been burnt up with fever and talking nonsense. This is the first time
you have slept quietly. Be silent if you don’t wish to do yourself an

But Taras still tried to collect his thoughts and to recall what had
passed. “Well, the Lyakhs must have surrounded and captured me. I had no
chance of fighting my way clear from the throng.”

“Be silent, I tell you, you devil’s brat!” cried Tovkatch angrily, as a
nurse, driven beyond her patience, cries out at her unruly charge. “What
good will it do you to know how you got away? It is enough that you did
get away. Some people were found who would not abandon you; let that
be enough for you. It is something for me to have ridden all night
with you. You think that you passed for a common Cossack? No, they have
offered a reward of two thousand ducats for your head.”

“And Ostap!” cried Taras suddenly, and tried to rise; for all at once he
recollected that Ostap had been seized and bound before his very eyes,
and that he was now in the hands of the Lyakhs. Grief overpowered him.
He pulled off and tore in pieces the bandages from his wounds, and threw
them far from him; he tried to say something, but only articulated some
incoherent words. Fever and delirium seized upon him afresh, and he
uttered wild and incoherent speeches. Meanwhile his faithful comrade
stood beside him, scolding and showering harsh, reproachful words upon
him without stint. Finally, he seized him by the arms and legs, wrapped
him up like a child, arranged all his bandages, rolled him in an
ox-hide, bound him with bast, and, fastening him with ropes to his
saddle, rode with him again at full speed along the road.

“I’ll get you there, even if it be not alive! I will not abandon your
body for the Lyakhs to make merry over you, and cut your body in twain
and fling it into the water. Let the eagle tear out your eyes if it must
be so; but let it be our eagle of the steppe and not a Polish eagle, not
one which has flown hither from Polish soil. I will bring you, though it
be a corpse, to the Ukraine!”

Thus spoke his faithful companion. He rode without drawing rein, day
and night, and brought Taras still insensible into the Zaporozhian Setch
itself. There he undertook to cure him, with unswerving care, by the aid
of herbs and liniments. He sought out a skilled Jewess, who made Taras
drink various potions for a whole month, and at length he improved.
Whether it was owing to the medicine or to his iron constitution gaining
the upper hand, at all events, in six weeks he was on his feet. His
wounds had closed, and only the scars of the sabre-cuts showed how
deeply injured the old Cossack had been. But he was markedly sad and
morose. Three deep wrinkles engraved themselves upon his brow and never
more departed thence. Then he looked around him. All was new in the
Setch; all his old companions were dead. Not one was left of those who
had stood up for the right, for faith and brotherhood. And those who had
gone forth with the Koschevoi in pursuit of the Tatars, they also had
long since disappeared. All had perished. One had lost his head in
battle; another had died for lack of food, amid the salt marshes of the
Crimea; another had fallen in captivity and been unable to survive the
disgrace. Their former Koschevoi was no longer living, nor any of his
old companions, and the grass was growing over those once alert with
power. He felt as one who had given a feast, a great noisy feast. All
the dishes had been smashed in pieces; not a drop of wine was left
anywhere; the guests and servants had all stolen valuable cups and
platters; and he, like the master of the house, stood sadly thinking
that it would have been no feast. In vain did they try to cheer Taras
and to divert his mind; in vain did the long-bearded, grey-haired
guitar-players come by twos and threes to glorify his Cossack deeds. He
gazed grimly and indifferently at everything, with inappeasable grief
printed on his stolid face; and said softly, as he drooped his head, “My
son, my Ostap!”

The Zaporozhtzi assembled for a raid by sea. Two hundred boats were
launched on the Dnieper, and Asia Minor saw those who manned them, with
their shaven heads and long scalp-locks, devote her thriving shores to
fire and sword; she saw the turbans of her Mahometan inhabitants strewn,
like her innumerable flowers, over the blood-sprinkled fields, and
floating along her river banks; she saw many tarry Zaporozhian trousers,
and strong hands with black hunting-whips. The Zaporozhtzi ate up and
laid waste all the vineyards. In the mosques they left heaps of dung.
They used rich Persian shawls for sashes, and girded their dirty
gaberdines with them. Long afterwards, short Zaporozhian pipes were
found in those regions. They sailed merrily back. A ten-gun Turkish ship
pursued them and scattered their skiffs, like birds, with a volley from
its guns. A third part of them sank in the depths of the sea; but the
rest again assembled, and gained the mouth of the Dnieper with twelve
kegs full of sequins. But all this did not interest Taras. He went off
upon the steppe as though to hunt; but the charge remained in his gun,
and, laying down the weapon, he would seat himself sadly on the shores
of the sea. He sat there long with drooping head, repeating continually,
“My Ostap, my Ostap!” Before him spread the gleaming Black Sea; in
the distant reeds the sea-gull screamed. His grey moustache turned to
silver, and the tears fell one by one upon it.

At last Taras could endure it no longer. “Whatever happens, I must go
and find out what he is doing. Is he alive, or in the grave? I will
know, cost what it may!” Within a week he found himself in the city
of Ouman, fully armed, and mounted, with lance, sword, canteen, pot of
oatmeal, powder horn, cord to hobble his horse, and other equipments.
He went straight to a dirty, ill-kept little house, the small windows
of which were almost invisible, blackened as they were with some unknown
dirt. The chimney was wrapped in rags; and the roof, which was full
of holes, was covered with sparrows. A heap of all sorts of refuse lay
before the very door. From the window peered the head of a Jewess, in a
head-dress with discoloured pearls.

“Is your husband at home?” said Bulba, dismounting, and fastening his
horse’s bridle to an iron hook beside the door.

“He is at home,” said the Jewess, and hastened out at once with a
measure of corn for the horse, and a stoup of beer for the rider.

“Where is your Jew?”

“He is in the other room at prayer,” replied the Jewess, bowing and
wishing Bulba good health as he raised the cup to his lips.

“Remain here, feed and water my horse, whilst I go speak with him alone.
I have business with him.”

This Jew was the well-known Yankel. He was there as revenue-farmer and
tavern-keeper. He had gradually got nearly all the neighbouring noblemen
and gentlemen into his hands, had slowly sucked away most of their
money, and had strongly impressed his presence on that locality. For a
distance of three miles in all directions, not a single farm remained in
a proper state. All were falling in ruins; all had been drunk away,
and poverty and rags alone remained. The whole neighbourhood was
depopulated, as if after a fire or an epidemic; and if Yankel had lived
there ten years, he would probably have depopulated the Waiwode’s whole

Taras entered the room. The Jew was praying, enveloped in his dirty
shroud, and was turning to spit for the last time, according to the
forms of his creed, when his eye suddenly lighted on Taras standing
behind him. The first thing that crossed Yankel’s mind was the two
thousand ducats offered for his visitor’s head; but he was ashamed of
his avarice, and tried to stifle within him the eternal thought of gold,
which twines, like a snake, about the soul of a Jew.

“Listen, Yankel,” said Taras to the Jew, who began to bow low before
him, and as he spoke he shut the door so that they might not be seen,
“I saved your life: the Zaporozhtzi would have torn you to pieces like a
dog. Now it is your turn to do me a service.”

The Jew’s face clouded over a little.

“What service? If it is a service I can render, why should I not render

“Ask no questions. Take me to Warsaw.”

“To Warsaw? Why to Warsaw?” said the Jew, and his brows and shoulders
rose in amazement.

“Ask me nothing. Take me to Warsaw. I must see him once more at any
cost, and say one word to him.”

“Say a word to whom?”

“To him--to Ostap--to my son.”

“Has not my lord heard that already--”

“I know, I know all. They offer two thousand ducats for my head. They
know its value, fools! I will give you five thousand. Here are two
thousand on the spot,” and Bulba poured out two thousand ducats from a
leather purse, “and the rest when I return.”

The Jew instantly seized a towel and concealed the ducats under it. “Ai,
glorious money! ai, good money!” he said, twirling one gold piece in his
hand and testing it with his teeth. “I don’t believe the man from
whom my lord took these fine gold pieces remained in the world an hour
longer; he went straight to the river and drowned himself, after the
loss of such magnificent gold pieces.”

“I should not have asked you, I might possibly have found my own way
to Warsaw; but some one might recognise me, and then the cursed Lyakhs
would capture me, for I am not clever at inventions; whilst that is just
what you Jews are created for. You would deceive the very devil. You
know every trick: that is why I have come to you; and, besides, I could
do nothing of myself in Warsaw. Harness the horse to your waggon at once
and take me.”

“And my lord thinks that I can take the nag at once, and harness him,
and say ‘Get up, Dapple!’ My lord thinks that I can take him just as he
is, without concealing him?”

“Well, hide me, hide me as you like: in an empty cask?”

“Ai, ai! and my lord thinks he can be concealed in an empty cask? Does
not my lord know that every man thinks that every cast he sees contains

“Well, let them think it is brandy.”

“Let them think it is brandy?” said the Jew, and grasped his ear-locks
with both hands, and then raised them both on high.

“Well, why are you so frightened?”

“And does not my lord know that God has made brandy expressly for every
one to sip? They are all gluttons and fond of dainties there: a nobleman
will run five versts after a cask; he will make a hole in it, and as
soon as he sees that nothing runs out, he will say, ‘A Jew does not
carry empty casks; there is certainly something wrong. Seize the Jew,
bind the Jew, take away all the Jew’s money, put the Jew in prison!’
Then all the vile people will fall upon the Jew, for every one takes a
Jew for a dog; and they think he is not a man, but only a Jew.”

“Then put me in the waggon with some fish over me.”

“I cannot, my lord, by heaven, I cannot: all over Poland the people are
as hungry as dogs now. They will steal the fish, and feel my lord.”

“Then take me in the fiend’s way, only take me.”

“Listen, listen, my lord!” said the Jew, turning up the ends of his
sleeves, and approaching him with extended arms. “This is what we
will do. They are building fortresses and castles everywhere: French
engineers have come from Germany, and so a great deal of brick and stone
is being carried over the roads. Let my lord lie down in the bottom of
the waggon, and over him I will pile bricks. My lord is strong and well,
apparently, so he will not mind if it is a little heavy; and I will make
a hole in the bottom of the waggon in order to feed my lord.”

“Do what you will, only take me!”

In an hour, a waggon-load of bricks left Ouman, drawn by two sorry nags.
On one of them sat tall Yankel, his long, curling ear-locks flowing
from beneath his Jewish cap, as he bounced about on the horse, like a
verst-mark planted by the roadside.


At the time when these things took place, there were as yet on the
frontiers neither custom-house officials nor guards--those bugbears
of enterprising people--so that any one could bring across anything he
fancied. If any one made a search or inspection, he did it chiefly
for his own pleasure, especially if there happened to be in the waggon
objects attractive to his eye, and if his own hand possessed a certain
weight and power. But the bricks found no admirers, and they entered the
principal gate unmolested. Bulba, in his narrow cage, could only hear
the noise, the shouts of the driver, and nothing more. Yankel, bouncing
up and down on his dust-covered nag, turned, after making several
detours, into a dark, narrow street bearing the names of the Muddy and
also of the Jews’ street, because Jews from nearly every part of Warsaw
were to be found here. This street greatly resembled a back-yard turned
wrong side out. The sun never seemed to shine into it. The black wooden
houses, with numerous poles projecting from the windows, still further
increased the darkness. Rarely did a brick wall gleam red among them;
for these too, in many places, had turned quite black. Here and there,
high up, a bit of stuccoed wall illumined by the sun glistened with
intolerable whiteness. Pipes, rags, shells, broken and discarded tubs:
every one flung whatever was useless to him into the street, thus
affording the passer-by an opportunity of exercising all his five senses
with the rubbish. A man on horseback could almost touch with his hand
the poles thrown across the street from one house to another, upon which
hung Jewish stockings, short trousers, and smoked geese. Sometimes a
pretty little Hebrew face, adorned with discoloured pearls, peeped out
of an old window. A group of little Jews, with torn and dirty garments
and curly hair, screamed and rolled about in the dirt. A red-haired Jew,
with freckles all over his face which made him look like a sparrow’s
egg, gazed from a window. He addressed Yankel at once in his gibberish,
and Yankel at once drove into a court-yard. Another Jew came along,
halted, and entered into conversation. When Bulba finally emerged from
beneath the bricks, he beheld three Jews talking with great warmth.

Yankel turned to him and said that everything possible would be done;
that his Ostap was in the city jail, and that although it would be
difficult to persuade the jailer, yet he hoped to arrange a meeting.

Bulba entered the room with the three Jews.

The Jews again began to talk among themselves in their incomprehensible
tongue. Taras looked hard at each of them. Something seemed to have
moved him deeply; over his rough and stolid countenance a flame of hope
spread, of hope such as sometimes visits a man in the last depths of his
despair; his aged heart began to beat violently as though he had been a

“Listen, Jews!” said he, and there was a triumphant ring in his words.
“You can do anything in the world, even extract things from the bottom
of the sea; and it has long been a proverb, that a Jew will steal from
himself if he takes a fancy to steal. Set my Ostap at liberty! give him
a chance to escape from their diabolical hands. I promised this man five
thousand ducats; I will add another five thousand: all that I have, rich
cups, buried gold, houses, all, even to my last garment, I will part
with; and I will enter into a contract with you for my whole life, to
give you half of all the booty I may gain in war.”

“Oh, impossible, dear lord, it is impossible!” said Yankel with a sigh.

“Impossible,” said another Jew.

All three Jews looked at each other.

“We might try,” said the third, glancing timidly at the other two. “God
may favour us.”

All three Jews discussed the matter in German. Bulba, in spite of
his straining ears, could make nothing of it; he only caught the word
“Mardokhai” often repeated.

“Listen, my lord!” said Yankel. “We must consult with a man such as
there never was before in the world... ugh, ugh! as wise as Solomon; and
if he will do nothing, then no one in the world can. Sit here: this is
the key; admit no one.” The Jews went out into the street.

Taras locked the door, and looked out from the little window upon the
dirty Jewish street. The three Jews halted in the middle of the street
and began to talk with a good deal of warmth: a fourth soon joined them,
and finally a fifth. Again he heard repeated, “Mardokhai, Mardokhai!”
 The Jews glanced incessantly towards one side of the street; at length
from a dirty house near the end of it emerged a foot in a Jewish shoe
and the skirts of a caftan. “Ah! Mardokhai, Mardokhai!” shouted the Jews
in one voice. A thin Jew somewhat shorter than Yankel, but even more
wrinkled, and with a huge upper lip, approached the impatient group; and
all the Jews made haste to talk to him, interrupting each other. During
the recital, Mardokhai glanced several times towards the little window,
and Taras divined that the conversation concerned him.

Mardokhai waved his hands, listened, interrupted, spat frequently to one
side, and, pulling up the skirts of his caftan, thrust his hand into his
pocket and drew out some jingling thing, showing very dirty trousers in
the operation. Finally all the Jews set up such a shouting that the
Jew who was standing guard was forced to make a signal for silence, and
Taras began to fear for his safety; but when he remembered that Jews can
only consult in the street, and that the demon himself cannot understand
their language, he regained his composure.

Two minutes later the Jews all entered the room together. Mardokhai
approached Taras, tapped him on the shoulder, and said, “When we set to
work it will be all right.” Taras looked at this Solomon whom the world
had never known and conceived some hope: indeed, his face might well
inspire confidence. His upper lip was simply an object of horror; its
thickness being doubtless increased by adventitious circumstances. This
Solomon’s beard consisted only of about fifteen hairs, and they were on
the left side. Solomon’s face bore so many scars of battle, received for
his daring, that he had doubtless lost count of them long before, and
had grown accustomed to consider them as birthmarks.

Mardokhai departed, accompanied by his comrades, who were filled with
admiration at his wisdom. Bulba remained alone. He was in a strange,
unaccustomed situation for the first time in his life; he felt uneasy.
His mind was in a state of fever. He was no longer unbending, immovable,
strong as an oak, as he had formerly been: but felt timid and weak. He
trembled at every sound, at every fresh Jewish face which showed itself
at the end of the street. In this condition he passed the whole day.
He neither ate nor drank, and his eye never for a moment left the small
window looking on the street. Finally, late at night, Mardokhai and
Yankel made their appearance. Taras’s heart died within him.

“What news? have you been successful?” he asked with the impatience of a
wild horse.

But before the Jews had recovered breath to answer, Taras perceived that
Mardokhai no longer had the locks, which had formerly fallen in greasy
curls from under his felt cap. It was evident that he wished to say
something, but he uttered only nonsense which Taras could make nothing
of. Yankel himself put his hand very often to his mouth as though
suffering from a cold.

“Oh, dearest lord!” said Yankel: “it is quite impossible now! by
heaven, impossible! Such vile people that they deserve to be spit upon!
Mardokhai here says the same. Mardokhai has done what no man in the
world ever did, but God did not will that it should be so. Three
thousand soldiers are in garrison here, and to-morrow the prisoners are
all to be executed.”

Taras looked the Jew straight in the face, but no longer with impatience
or anger.

“But if my lord wishes to see his son, then it must be early to-morrow
morning, before the sun has risen. The sentinels have consented, and one
gaoler has promised. But may he have no happiness in the world, woe
is me! What greedy people! There are none such among us: I gave fifty
ducats to each sentinel and to the gaoler.”

“Good. Take me to him!” exclaimed Taras, with decision, and with all
his firmness of mind restored. He agreed to Yankel’s proposition that he
should disguise himself as a foreign count, just arrived from Germany,
for which purpose the prudent Jew had already provided a costume. It
was already night. The master of the house, the red-haired Jew with
freckles, pulled out a mattress covered with some kind of rug, and
spread it on a bench for Bulba. Yankel lay upon the floor on a similar
mattress. The red-haired Jew drank a small cup of brandy, took off his
caftan, and betook himself--looking, in his shoes and stockings, very
like a lean chicken--with his wife, to something resembling a cupboard.
Two little Jews lay down on the floor beside the cupboard, like a couple
of dogs. But Taras did not sleep; he sat motionless, drumming on the
table with his fingers. He kept his pipe in his mouth, and puffed out
smoke, which made the Jew sneeze in his sleep and pull his coverlet over
his nose. Scarcely was the sky touched with the first faint gleams of
dawn than he pushed Yankel with his foot, saying: “Rise, Jew, and give
me your count’s dress!”

In a moment he was dressed. He blackened his moustache and eyebrows, put
on his head a small dark cap; even the Cossacks who knew him best would
not have recognised him. Apparently he was not more than thirty-five.
A healthy colour glowed on his cheeks, and his scars lent him an air of
command. The gold-embroidered dress became him extremely well.

The streets were still asleep. Not a single one of the market folk as
yet showed himself in the city, with his basket on his arm. Yankel and
Bulba made their way to a building which presented the appearance of a
crouching stork. It was large, low, wide, and black; and on one side a
long slender tower like a stork’s neck projected above the roof. This
building served for a variety of purposes; it was a barrack, a jail, and
the criminal court. The visitors entered the gate and found themselves
in a vast room, or covered courtyard. About a thousand men were sleeping
here. Straight before them was a small door, in front of which sat two
sentries playing at some game which consisted in one striking the palm
of the other’s hand with two fingers. They paid little heed to the new
arrivals, and only turned their heads when Yankel said, “It is we, sirs;
do you hear? it is we.”

“Go in!” said one of them, opening the door with one hand, and holding
out the other to his comrade to receive his blows.

They entered a low and dark corridor, which led them to a similar room
with small windows overhead. “Who goes there?” shouted several voices,
and Taras beheld a number of warriors in full armour. “We have been
ordered to admit no one.”

“It is we!” cried Yankel; “we, by heavens, noble sirs!” But no one
would listen to him. Fortunately, at that moment a fat man came up, who
appeared to be a commanding officer, for he swore louder than all the

“My lord, it is we! you know us, and the lord count will thank you.”

“Admit them, a hundred fiends, and mother of fiends! Admit no one else.
And no one is to draw his sword, nor quarrel.”

The conclusion of this order the visitors did not hear. “It is we, it is
I, it is your friends!” Yankel said to every one they met.

“Well, can it be managed now?” he inquired of one of the guards, when
they at length reached the end of the corridor.

“It is possible, but I don’t know whether you will be able to gain
admission to the prison itself. Yana is not here now; another man is
keeping watch in his place,” replied the guard.

“Ai, ai!” cried the Jew softly: “this is bad, my dear lord!”

“Go on!” said Taras, firmly, and the Jew obeyed.

At the arched entrance of the vaults stood a heyduke, with a moustache
trimmed in three layers: the upper layer was trained backwards, the
second straight forward, and the third downwards, which made him greatly
resemble a cat.

The Jew shrank into nothing and approached him almost sideways: “Your
high excellency! High and illustrious lord!”

“Are you speaking to me, Jew?”

“To you, illustrious lord.”

“Hm, but I am merely a heyduke,” said the merry-eyed man with the
triple-tiered moustache.

“And I thought it was the Waiwode himself, by heavens! Ai, ai, ai!”
 Thereupon the Jew twisted his head about and spread out his fingers.
“Ai, what a fine figure! Another finger’s-breadth and he would be
a colonel. The lord no doubt rides a horse as fleet as the wind and
commands the troops!”

The heyduke twirled the lower tier of his moustache, and his eyes

“What a warlike people!” continued the Jew. “Ah, woe is me, what a
fine race! Golden cords and trappings that shine like the sun; and the
maidens, wherever they see warriors--Ai, ai!” Again the Jew wagged his

The heyduke twirled his upper moustache and uttered a sound somewhat
resembling the neighing of a horse.

“I pray my lord to do us a service!” exclaimed the Jew: “this prince
has come hither from a foreign land, and wants to get a look at the
Cossacks. He never, in all his life, has seen what sort of people the
Cossacks are.”

The advent of foreign counts and barons was common enough in Poland:
they were often drawn thither by curiosity to view this half-Asiatic
corner of Europe. They regarded Moscow and the Ukraine as situated in
Asia. So the heyduke bowed low, and thought fit to add a few words of
his own.

“I do not know, your excellency,” said he, “why you should desire to
see them. They are dogs, not men; and their faith is such as no one

“You lie, you son of Satan!” exclaimed Bulba. “You are a dog yourself!
How dare you say that our faith is not respected? It is your heretical
faith which is not respected.”

“Oho!” said the heyduke. “I can guess who you are, my friend; you are
one of the breed of those under my charge. So just wait while I summon
our men.”

Taras realised his indiscretion, but vexation and obstinacy hindered
him from devising a means of remedying it. Fortunately Yankel managed to
interpose at this moment:--

“Most noble lord, how is it possible that the count can be a Cossack? If
he were a Cossack, where could have he obtained such a dress, and such a
count-like mien?”

“Explain that yourself.” And the heyduke opened his wide mouth to shout.

“Your royal highness, silence, silence, for heaven’s sake!” cried
Yankel. “Silence! we will pay you for it in a way you never dreamed of:
we will give you two golden ducats.”

“Oho! two ducats! I can’t do anything with two ducats. I give my barber
two ducats for only shaving the half of my beard. Give me a hundred
ducats, Jew.” Here the heyduke twirled his upper moustache. “If you
don’t, I will shout at once.”

“Why so much?” said the Jew, sadly, turning pale, and undoing his
leather purse; but it was lucky that he had no more in it, and that the
heyduke could not count over a hundred.

“My lord, my lord, let us depart quickly! Look at the evil-minded
fellow!” said Yankel to Taras, perceiving that the heyduke was turning
the money over in his hand as though regretting that he had not demanded

“What do you mean, you devil of a heyduke?” said Bulba. “What do you
mean by taking our money and not letting us see the Cossacks? No, you
must let us see them. Since you have taken the money, you have no right
to refuse.”

“Go, go to the devil! If you won’t, I’ll give the alarm this moment.
Take yourselves off quickly, I say!”

“My lord, my lord, let us go! in God’s name let us go! Curse him! May he
dream such things that he will have to spit,” cried poor Yankel.

Bulba turned slowly, with drooping head, and retraced his steps,
followed by the complaints of Yankel who was sorrowing at the thought of
the wasted ducats.

“Why be angry? Let the dog curse. That race cannot help cursing. Oh, woe
is me, what luck God sends to some people! A hundred ducats merely for
driving us off! And our brother: they have torn off his ear-locks, and
they made wounds on his face that you cannot bear to look at, and yet no
one will give him a hundred gold pieces. O heavens! Merciful God!”

But this failure made a much deeper impression on Bulba, expressed by a
devouring flame in his eyes.

“Let us go,” he said, suddenly, as if arousing himself; “let us go to
the square. I want to see how they will torture him.”

“Oh, my lord! why go? That will do us no good now.”

“Let us go,” said Bulba, obstinately; and the Jew followed him, sighing
like a nurse.

The square on which the execution was to take place was not hard to
find: for the people were thronging thither from all quarters. In
that savage age such a thing constituted one of the most noteworthy
spectacles, not only for the common people, but among the higher
classes. A number of the most pious old men, a throng of young girls,
and the most cowardly women, who dreamed the whole night afterwards of
their bloody corpses, and shrieked as loudly in their sleep as a
drunken hussar, missed, nevertheless, no opportunity of gratifying their
curiosity. “Ah, what tortures!” many of them would cry, hysterically,
covering their eyes and turning away; but they stood their ground for a
good while, all the same. Many a one, with gaping mouth and outstretched
hands, would have liked to jump upon other folk’s heads, to get a
better view. Above the crowd towered a bulky butcher, admiring the whole
process with the air of a connoisseur, and exchanging brief remarks with
a gunsmith, whom he addressed as “Gossip,” because he got drunk in the
same alehouse with him on holidays. Some entered into warm discussions,
others even laid wagers. But the majority were of the species who, all
the world over, look on at the world and at everything that goes on
in it and merely scratch their noses. In the front ranks, close to the
bearded civic-guards, stood a young noble, in warlike array, who had
certainly put his whole wardrobe on his back, leaving only his torn
shirt and old shoes at his quarters. Two chains, one above the other,
hung around his neck. He stood beside his mistress, Usisya, and glanced
about incessantly to see that no one soiled her silk gown. He explained
everything to her so perfectly that no one could have added a word. “All
these people whom you see, my dear Usisya,” he said, “have come to see
the criminals executed; and that man, my love, yonder, holding the
axe and other instruments in his hands, is the executioner, who will
despatch them. When he begins to break them on the wheel, and torture
them in other ways, the criminals will still be alive; but when he cuts
off their heads, then, my love, they will die at once. Before that, they
will cry and move; but as soon as their heads are cut off, it will be
impossible for them to cry, or to eat or drink, because, my dear, they
will no longer have any head.” Usisya listened to all this with terror
and curiosity.

The upper stories of the houses were filled with people. From the
windows in the roof peered strange faces with beards and something
resembling caps. Upon the balconies, beneath shady awnings, sat the
aristocracy. The hands of smiling young ladies, brilliant as white
sugar, rested on the railings. Portly nobles looked on with dignity.
Servants in rich garb, with flowing sleeves, handed round various
refreshments. Sometimes a black-eyed young rogue would take her cake or
fruit and fling it among the crowd with her own noble little hand. The
crowd of hungry gentles held up their caps to receive it; and some tall
noble, whose head rose amid the throng, with his faded red jacket and
discoloured gold braid, and who was the first to catch it with the
aid of his long arms, would kiss his booty, press it to his heart, and
finally put it in his mouth. The hawk, suspended beneath the balcony in
a golden cage, was also a spectator; with beak inclined to one side,
and with one foot raised, he, too, watched the people attentively. But
suddenly a murmur ran through the crowd, and a rumour spread, “They are
coming! they are coming! the Cossacks!”

They were bare-headed, with their long locks floating in the air. Their
beards had grown, and their once handsome garments were worn out, and
hung about them in tatters. They walked neither timidly nor surlily, but
with a certain pride, neither looking at nor bowing to the people. At
the head of all came Ostap.

What were old Taras’s feelings when thus he beheld his Ostap? What
filled his heart then? He gazed at him from amid the crowd, and lost
not a single movement of his. They reached the place of execution. Ostap
stopped. He was to be the first to drink the bitter cup. He glanced at
his comrades, raised his hand, and said in a loud voice: “God grant
that none of the heretics who stand here may hear, the unclean dogs, how
Christians suffer! Let none of us utter a single word.” After this he
ascended the scaffold.

“Well done, son! well done!” said Bulba, softly, and bent his grey head.

The executioner tore off his old rags; they fastened his hands and feet
in stocks prepared expressly, and--We will not pain the reader with a
picture of the hellish tortures which would make his hair rise upright
on his head. They were the outcome of that coarse, wild age, when men
still led a life of warfare which hardened their souls until no sense of
humanity was left in them. In vain did some, not many, in that age make
a stand against such terrible measures. In vain did the king and many
nobles, enlightened in mind and spirit, demonstrate that such severity
of punishment could but fan the flame of vengeance in the Cossack
nation. But the power of the king, and the opinion of the wise, was as
nothing before the savage will of the magnates of the kingdom, who, by
their thoughtlessness and unconquerable lack of all far-sighted policy,
their childish self-love and miserable pride, converted the Diet into
the mockery of a government. Ostap endured the torture like a giant. Not
a cry, not a groan, was heard. Even when they began to break the bones
in his hands and feet, when, amid the death-like stillness of the crowd,
the horrible cracking was audible to the most distant spectators;
when even his tormentors turned aside their eyes, nothing like a groan
escaped his lips, nor did his face quiver. Taras stood in the crowd
with bowed head; and, raising his eyes proudly at that moment, he said,
approvingly, “Well done, boy! well done!”

But when they took him to the last deadly tortures, it seemed as though
his strength were failing. He cast his eyes around.

O God! all strangers, all unknown faces! If only some of his relatives
had been present at his death! He would not have cared to hear the sobs
and anguish of his poor, weak mother, nor the unreasoning cries of a
wife, tearing her hair and beating her white breast; but he would have
liked to see a strong man who might refresh him with a word of wisdom,
and cheer his end. And his strength failed him, and he cried in the
weakness of his soul, “Father! where are you? do you hear?”

“I hear!” rang through the universal silence, and those thousands of
people shuddered in concert. A detachment of cavalry hastened to search
through the throng of people. Yankel turned pale as death, and when the
horsemen had got within a short distance of him, turned round in terror
to look for Taras; but Taras was no longer beside him; every trace of
him was lost.


They soon found traces of Taras. An army of a hundred and twenty
thousand Cossacks appeared on the frontier of the Ukraine. This was no
small detachment sallying forth for plunder or in pursuit of the Tatars.
No: the whole nation had risen, for the measure of the people’s patience
was over-full; they had risen to avenge the disregard of their rights,
the dishonourable humiliation of themselves, the insults to the faith of
their fathers and their sacred customs, the outrages upon their church,
the excesses of the foreign nobles, the disgraceful domination of the
Jews on Christian soil, and all that had aroused and deepened the stern
hatred of the Cossacks for a long time past. Hetman Ostranitza, young,
but firm in mind, led the vast Cossack force. Beside him was seen his
old and experienced friend and counsellor, Gunya. Eight leaders led
bands of twelve thousand men each. Two osauls and a bunchuzhniy assisted
the hetman. A cornet-general carried the chief standard, whilst many
other banners and standards floated in the air; and the comrades of the
staff bore the golden staff of the hetman, the symbol of his office.
There were also many other officials belonging to the different bands,
the baggage train and the main force with detachments of infantry and
cavalry. There were almost as many free Cossacks and volunteers as there
were registered Cossacks. The Cossacks had risen everywhere. They came
from Tchigirin, from Pereyaslaf, from Baturin, from Glukhof, from the
regions of the lower Dnieper, and from all its upper shores and islands.
An uninterrupted stream of horses and herds of cattle stretched across
the plain. And among all these Cossacks, among all these bands, one was
the choicest; and that was the band led by Taras Bulba. All contributed
to give him an influence over the others: his advanced years, his
experience and skill in directing an army, and his bitter hatred of the
foe. His unsparing fierceness and cruelty seemed exaggerated even to the
Cossacks. His grey head dreamed of naught save fire and sword, and his
utterances at the councils of war breathed only annihilation.

It is useless to describe all the battles in which the Cossacks
distinguished themselves, or the gradual courses of the campaign. All
this is set down in the chronicles. It is well known what an army raised
on Russian soil, for the orthodox faith, is like. There is no power
stronger than faith. It is threatening and invincible like a rock, and
rising amidst the stormy, ever-changing sea. From the very bottom of the
sea it rears to heaven its jagged sides of firm, impenetrable stone. It
is visible from everywhere, and looks the waves straight in the face
as they roll past. And woe to the ship which is dashed against it! Its
frame flies into splinters, everything in it is split and crushed, and
the startled air re-echoes the piteous cries of the drowning.

In the pages of the chronicles there is a minute description of how the
Polish garrisons fled from the freed cities; how the unscrupulous Jewish
tavern-keepers were hung; how powerless was the royal hetman, Nikolai
Pototzky, with his numerous army, against this invincible force; how,
routed and pursued, he lost the best of his troops by drowning in a
small stream; how the fierce Cossack regiments besieged him in the
little town of Polon; and how, reduced to extremities, he promised,
under oath, on the part of the king and the government, its full
satisfaction to all, and the restoration of all their rights and
privileges. But the Cossacks were not men to give way for this. They
already knew well what a Polish oath was worth. And Pototzky would never
more have pranced on his six-thousand ducat horse from the Kabardei,
attracting the glances of distinguished ladies and the envy of the
nobility; he would never more have made a figure in the Diet, by giving
costly feasts to the senators--if the Russian priests who were in the
little town had not saved him. When all the popes, in their brilliant
gold vestments, went out to meet the Cossacks, bearing the holy pictures
and the cross, with the bishop himself at their head, crosier in hand
and mitre on his head, the Cossacks all bowed their heads and took off
their caps. To no one lower than the king himself would they have shown
respect at such an hour; but their daring fell before the Church of
Christ, and they honoured their priesthood. The hetman and leaders
agreed to release Pototzky, after having extracted from him a solemn
oath to leave all the Christian churches unmolested, to forswear the
ancient enmity, and to do no harm to the Cossack forces. One leader
alone would not consent to such a peace. It was Taras. He tore a handful
of hair from his head, and cried:

“Hetman and leaders! Commit no such womanish deed. Trust not the Lyakhs;
slay the dogs!”

When the secretary presented the agreement, and the hetman put his hand
to it, Taras drew a genuine Damascene blade, a costly Turkish sabre
of the finest steel, broke it in twain like a reed, and threw the two
pieces far away on each side, saying, “Farewell! As the two pieces of
this sword will never reunite and form one sword again, so we, comrades,
shall nevermore behold each other in this world. Remember my parting
words.” As he spoke his voice grew stronger, rose higher, and acquired a
hitherto unknown power; and his prophetic utterances troubled them all.
“Before the death hour you will remember me! Do you think that you have
purchased peace and quiet? do you think that you will make a great show?
You will make a great show, but after another fashion. They will flay
the skin from your head, hetman, they will stuff it with bran, and
long will it be exhibited at fairs. Neither will you retain your heads,
gentles. You will be thrown into damp dungeons, walled about with stone,
if they do not boil you alive in cauldrons like sheep. And you, men,” he
continued, turning to his followers, “which of you wants to die his true
death? not through sorrows and the ale-house; but an honourable Cossack
death, all in one bed, like bride and groom? But, perhaps, you would
like to return home, and turn infidels, and carry Polish priests on your

“We will follow you, noble leader, we will follow you!” shouted all his
band, and many others joined them.

“If it is to be so, then follow me,” said Taras, pulling his cap farther
over his brows. Looking menacingly at the others, he went to his
horse, and cried to his men, “Let no one reproach us with any insulting
speeches. Now, hey there, men! we’ll call on the Catholics.” And then
he struck his horse, and there followed him a camp of a hundred waggons,
and with them many Cossack cavalry and infantry; and, turning, he
threatened with a glance all who remained behind, and wrath was in his
eye. The band departed in full view of all the army, and Taras continued
long to turn and glower.

The hetman and leaders were uneasy; all became thoughtful, and remained
silent, as though oppressed by some heavy foreboding. Not in vain had
Taras prophesied: all came to pass as he had foretold. A little later,
after the treacherous attack at Kaneva, the hetman’s head was mounted on
a stake, together with those of many of his officers.

And what of Taras? Taras made raids all over Poland with his band,
burned eighteen towns and nearly forty churches, and reached Cracow.
He killed many nobles, and plundered some of the richest and finest
castles. The Cossacks emptied on the ground the century-old mead and
wine, carefully hoarded up in lordly cellars; they cut and burned the
rich garments and equipments which they found in the wardrobes.
“Spare nothing,” was the order of Taras. The Cossacks spared not the
black-browed gentlewomen, the brilliant, white-bosomed maidens: these
could not save themselves even at the altar, for Taras burned them with
the altar itself. Snowy hands were raised to heaven from amid fiery
flames, with piteous shrieks which would have moved the damp earth
itself to pity and caused the steppe-grass to bend with compassion
at their fate. But the cruel Cossacks paid no heed; and, raising the
children in the streets upon the points of their lances, they cast them
also into the flames.

“This is a mass for the soul of Ostap, you heathen Lyakhs,” was all
that Taras said. And such masses for Ostap he had sung in every village,
until the Polish Government perceived that Taras’s raids were more than
ordinary expeditions for plunder; and Pototzky was given five regiments,
and ordered to capture him without fail.

Six days did the Cossacks retreat along the by-roads before their
pursuers; their horses were almost equal to this unchecked flight, and
nearly saved them. But this time Pototzky was also equal to the task
intrusted to him; unweariedly he followed them, and overtook them on the
bank of the Dniester, where Taras had taken possession of an abandoned
and ruined castle for the purpose of resting.

On the very brink of the Dniester it stood, with its shattered ramparts
and the ruined remnants of its walls. The summit of the cliff was strewn
with ragged stones and broken bricks, ready at any moment to detach
themselves. The royal hetman, Pototzky, surrounded it on the two sides
which faced the plain. Four days did the Cossacks fight, tearing down
bricks and stones for missiles. But their stones and their strength
were at length exhausted, and Taras resolved to cut his way through the
beleaguering forces. And the Cossacks would have cut their way through,
and their swift steeds might again have served them faithfully, had not
Taras halted suddenly in the very midst of their flight, and shouted,
“Halt! my pipe has dropped with its tobacco: I won’t let those heathen
Lyakhs have my pipe!” And the old hetman stooped down, and felt in the
grass for his pipe full of tobacco, his inseparable companion on all his
expeditions by sea and land and at home.

But in the meantime a band of Lyakhs suddenly rushed up, and seized him
by the shoulders. He struggled with all might; but he could not scatter
on the earth, as he had been wont to do, the heydukes who had seized
him. “Oh, old age, old age!” he exclaimed: and the stout old Cossack
wept. But his age was not to blame: nearly thirty men were clinging to
his arms and legs.

“The raven is caught!” yelled the Lyakhs. “We must think how we can show
him the most honour, the dog!” They decided, with the permission of the
hetman, to burn him alive in the sight of all. There stood hard by a
leafless tree, the summit of which had been struck by lightning. They
fastened him with iron chains and nails driven through his hands high up
on the trunk of the tree, so that he might be seen from all sides; and
began at once to place fagots at its foot. But Taras did not look at
the wood, nor did he think of the fire with which they were preparing to
roast him: he gazed anxiously in the direction whence his Cossacks were
firing. From his high point of observation he could see everything as in
the palm of his hand.

“Take possession, men,” he shouted, “of the hillock behind the wood:
they cannot climb it!” But the wind did not carry his words to them.
“They are lost, lost!” he said in despair, and glanced down to where
the water of the Dniester glittered. Joy gleamed in his eyes. He saw the
sterns of four boats peeping out from behind some bushes; exerted all
the power of his lungs, and shouted in a ringing tone, “To the bank, to
the bank, men! descend the path to the left, under the cliff. There are
boats on the bank; take all, that they may not catch you.”

This time the breeze blew from the other side, and his words were
audible to the Cossacks. But for this counsel he received a blow on the
head with the back of an axe, which made everything dance before his

The Cossacks descended the cliff path at full speed, but their pursuers
were at their heels. They looked: the path wound and twisted, and made
many detours to one side. “Comrades, we are trapped!” said they. All
halted for an instant, raised their whips, whistled, and their Tatar
horses rose from the ground, clove the air like serpents, flew over
the precipice, and plunged straight into the Dniester. Two only did not
alight in the river, but thundered down from the height upon the stones,
and perished there with their horses without uttering a cry. But the
Cossacks had already swum shoreward from their horses, and unfastened
the boats, when the Lyakhs halted on the brink of the precipice,
astounded by this wonderful feat, and thinking, “Shall we jump down to
them, or not?”

One young colonel, a lively, hot-blooded soldier, own brother to the
beautiful Pole who had seduced poor Andrii, did not reflect long, but
leaped with his horse after the Cossacks. He made three turns in the air
with his steed, and fell heavily on the rocks. The sharp stones tore him
in pieces; and his brains, mingled with blood, bespattered the shrubs
growing on the uneven walls of the precipice.

When Taras Bulba recovered from the blow, and glanced towards the
Dniester, the Cossacks were already in the skiffs and rowing away. Balls
were showered upon them from above but did not reach them. And the old
hetman’s eyes sparkled with joy.

“Farewell, comrades!” he shouted to them from above; “remember me, and
come hither again next spring and make merry in the same fashion! What!
cursed Lyakhs, have ye caught me? Think ye there is anything in the
world that a Cossack fears? Wait; the time will come when ye shall learn
what the orthodox Russian faith is! Already the people scent it far and
near. A czar shall arise from Russian soil, and there shall not be a
power in the world which shall not submit to him!” But fire had already
risen from the fagots; it lapped his feet, and the flame spread to the
tree.... But can any fire, flames, or power be found on earth which are
capable of overpowering Russian strength?

Broad is the river Dniester, and in it are many deep pools, dense
reed-beds, clear shallows and little bays; its watery mirror gleams,
filled with the melodious plaint of the swan, the proud wild goose
glides swiftly over it; and snipe, red-throated ruffs, and other birds
are to be found among the reeds and along the banks. The Cossacks rowed
swiftly on in the narrow double-ruddered boats--rowed stoutly, carefully
shunning the sand bars, and cleaving the ranks of the birds, which took
wing--rowed, and talked of their hetman.



Thoma Grigroovitch had one very strange eccentricity: to the day of
his death he never liked to tell the same thing twice. There were times
when, if you asked him to relate a thing afresh, he would interpolate
new matter, or alter it so that it was impossible to recognise it. Once
upon a time, one of those gentlemen who, like the usurers at our yearly
fairs, clutch and beg and steal every sort of frippery, and issue mean
little volumes, no thicker than an A B C book, every month, or even
every week, wormed this same story out of Thoma Grigorovitch, and the
latter completely forgot about it. But that same young gentleman, in the
pea-green caftan, came from Poltava, bringing with him a little book,
and, opening it in the middle, showed it to us. Thoma Grigorovitch
was on the point of setting his spectacles astride of his nose, but
recollected that he had forgotten to wind thread about them and stick
them together with wax, so he passed it over to me. As I understand
nothing about reading and writing, and do not wear spectacles, I
undertook to read it. I had not turned two leaves when all at once he
caught me by the hand and stopped me.

“Stop! tell me first what you are reading.”

I confess that I was a trifle stunned by such a question.

“What! what am I reading, Thoma Grigorovitch? Why, your own words.”

“Who told you that they were my words?”

“Why, what more would you have? Here it is printed: ‘Related by such and
such a sacristan.’”

“Spit on the head of the man who printed that! he lies, the dog of a
Moscow pedlar! Did I say that? ‘’Twas just the same as though one hadn’t
his wits about him!’ Listen. I’ll tell the tale to you on the spot.”

We moved up to the table, and he began.


My grandfather (the kingdom of heaven be his! may he eat only wheaten
rolls and poppy-seed cakes with honey in the other world!) could tell a
story wonderfully well. When he used to begin a tale you could not
stir from the spot all day, but kept on listening. He was not like the
story-teller of the present day, when he begins to lie, with a tongue as
though he had had nothing to eat for three days, so that you snatch your
cap and flee from the house. I remember my old mother was alive then,
and in the long winter evenings when the frost was crackling out of
doors, and had sealed up hermetically the narrow panes of our cottage,
she used to sit at her wheel, drawing out a long thread in her hand,
rocking the cradle with her foot, and humming a song, which I seem to
hear even now.

The lamp, quivering and flaring up as though in fear of something,
lighted up our cottage; the spindle hummed; and all of us children,
collected in a cluster, listened to grandfather, who had not crawled
off the stove for more than five years, owing to his great age. But the
wondrous tales of the incursions of the Zaporozhian Cossacks and the
Poles, the bold deeds of Podkova, of Poltar-Kozhukh, and Sagaidatchnii,
did not interest us so much as the stories about some deed of old which
always sent a shiver through our frames and made our hair rise upright
on our heads. Sometimes such terror took possession of us in consequence
of them, that, from that evening forward, Heaven knows how wonderful
everything seemed to us. If one chanced to go out of the cottage after
nightfall for anything, one fancied that a visitor from the other world
had lain down to sleep in one’s bed; and I have often taken my own
smock, at a distance, as it lay at the head of the bed, for the Evil One
rolled up into a ball! But the chief thing about grandfather’s stories
was, that he never lied in all his life; and whatever he said was so,
was so.

I will now tell you one of his wonderful tales. I know that there are a
great many wise people who copy in the courts, and can even read
civil documents, but who, if you were to put into their hand a simple
prayer-book, could not make out the first letter in it, and would show
all their teeth in derision. These people laugh at everything you tell
them. Along comes one of them--and doesn’t believe in witches! Yes,
glory to God that I have lived so long in the world! I have seen
heretics to whom it would be easier to lie in confession than it would
be to our brothers and equals to take snuff, and these folk would deny
the existence of witches! But let them just dream about something, and
they won’t even tell what it was! There, it is no use talking about

No one could have recognised the village of ours a little over a hundred
years ago; it was a hamlet, the poorest kind of a hamlet. Half a score
of miserable farmhouses, unplastered and badly thatched, were scattered
here and there about the fields. There was not a yard or a decent shed
to shelter animals or waggons. That was the way the wealthy lived:
and if you had looked for our brothers, the poor--why, a hole in the
ground--that was a cabin for you! Only by the smoke could you tell that
a God-created man lived there. You ask why they lived so? It was not
entirely through poverty: almost every one led a raiding Cossack life,
and gathered not a little plunder in foreign lands; it was rather
because it was little use building up a good wooden house. Many
folk were engaged in raids all over the country--Crimeans, Poles,
Lithuanians! It was quite possible that their own countrymen might make
a descent and plunder everything. Anything was possible.

In this hamlet a man, or rather a devil in human form, often made his
appearance. Why he came, and whence, no one knew. He prowled about, got
drunk, and suddenly disappeared as if into the air, leaving no trace
of his existence. Then, behold, he seemed to have dropped from the sky
again, and went flying about the street of the village, of which no
trace now remains, and which was not more than a hundred paces from
Dikanka. He would collect together all the Cossacks he met; then
there were songs, laughter, and cash in plenty, and vodka flowed like
water.... He would address the pretty girls, and give them ribbons,
earrings, strings of beads--more than they knew what to do with. It
is true that the pretty girls rather hesitated about accepting his
presents: God knows, perhaps, what unclean hands they had passed
through. My grandfather’s aunt, who kept at that time a tavern, in which
Basavriuk (as they called this devil-man) often caroused, said that no
consideration on the earth would have induced her to accept a gift from
him. But then, again, how avoid accepting? Fear seized on every one when
he knit his shaggy brows, and gave a sidelong glance which might send
your feet God knows whither: whilst if you did accept, then the next
night some fiend from the swamp, with horns on his head, came and began
to squeeze your neck, if there was a string of beads upon it; or bite
your finger, if there was a ring upon it; or drag you by the hair, if
ribbons were braided in it. God have mercy, then, on those who held
such gifts! But here was the difficulty: it was impossible to get rid of
them; if you threw them into the water, the diabolical ring or necklace
would skim along the surface and into your hand.

There was a church in the village--St. Pantelei, if I remember rightly.
There lived there a priest, Father Athanasii of blessed memory.
Observing that Basavriuk did not come to church, even at Easter, he
determined to reprove him and impose penance upon him. Well, he hardly
escaped with his life. “Hark ye, sir!” he thundered in reply, “learn
to mind your own business instead of meddling in other people’s, if you
don’t want that throat of yours stuck with boiling kutya (1).” What was
to be done with this unrepentant man? Father Athanasii contented
himself with announcing that any one who should make the acquaintance
of Basavriuk would be counted a Catholic, an enemy of Christ’s orthodox
church, not a member of the human race.

 (1) A dish of rice or wheat flour, with honey and raisins, which is
    brought to the church on the celebration of memorial masses.

In this village there was a Cossack named Korzh, who had a labourer whom
people called Peter the Orphan--perhaps because no one remembered either
his father or mother. The church elder, it is true, said that they had
died of the pest in his second year; but my grandfather’s aunt would not
hear of that, and tried with all her might to furnish him with parents,
although poor Peter needed them about as much as we need last year’s
snow. She said that his father had been in Zaporozhe, and had been taken
prisoner by the Turks, amongst whom he underwent God only knows what
tortures, until having, by some miracle, disguised himself as a eunuch,
he made his escape. Little cared the black-browed youths and maidens
about Peter’s parents. They merely remarked, that if he only had a new
coat, a red sash, a black lambskin cap with a smart blue crown on his
head, a Turkish sabre by his side, a whip in one hand and a pipe with
handsome mountings in the other, he would surpass all the young men. But
the pity was, that the only thing poor Peter had was a grey gaberdine
with more holes in it than there are gold pieces in a Jew’s pocket. But
that was not the worst of it. Korzh had a daughter, such a beauty as I
think you can hardly have chanced to see. My grandfather’s aunt used
to say--and you know that it is easier for a woman to kiss the Evil One
than to call any one else a beauty--that this Cossack maiden’s cheeks
were as plump and fresh as the pinkest poppy when, bathed in God’s dew,
it unfolds its petals, and coquets with the rising sun; that her brows
were evenly arched over her bright eyes like black cords, such as our
maidens buy nowadays, for their crosses and ducats, off the Moscow
pedlars who visit the villages with their baskets; that her little
mouth, at sight of which the youths smacked their lips, seemed made to
warble the songs of nightingales; that her hair, black as the raven’s
wing, and soft as young flax, fell in curls over her shoulders, for
our maidens did not then plait their hair in pigtails interwoven with
pretty, bright-hued ribbons. Eh! may I never intone another alleluia in
the choir, if I would not have kissed her, in spite of the grey which is
making its way through the old wool which covers my pate, and of the old
woman beside me, like a thorn in my side! Well, you know what happens
when young men and maidens live side by side. In the twilight the heels
of red boots were always visible in the place where Pidorka chatted with
her Peter. But Korzh would never have suspected anything out of the
way, only one day--it is evident that none but the Evil One could have
inspired him--Peter took into his head to kiss the maiden’s rosy lips
with all his heart, without first looking well about him; and that same
Evil One--may the son of a dog dream of the holy cross!--caused the old
grey-beard, like a fool, to open the cottage door at that same moment.
Korzh was petrified, dropped his jaw, and clutched at the door for
support. Those unlucky kisses completely stunned him.

Recovering himself, he took his grandfather’s hunting whip from the
wall, and was about to belabour Peter’s back with it, when Pidorka’s
little six-year-old brother Ivas rushed up from somewhere or other, and,
grasping his father’s legs with his little hands, screamed out, “Daddy,
daddy! don’t beat Peter!” What was to be done? A father’s heart is not
made of stone. Hanging the whip again on the wall, he led Peter quietly
from the house. “If you ever show yourself in my cottage again, or even
under the windows, look out, Peter, for, by heaven, your black moustache
will disappear; and your black locks, though wound twice about your
ears, will take leave of your pate, or my name is not Terentiy Korzh.”
 So saying, he gave him such a taste of his fist in the nape of his neck,
that all grew dark before Peter, and he flew headlong out of the place.

So there was an end of their kissing. Sorrow fell upon our turtle
doves; and a rumour grew rife in the village that a certain Pole,
all embroidered with gold, with moustaches, sabre, spurs, and pockets
jingling like the bells of the bag with which our sacristan Taras goes
through the church every day, had begun to frequent Korzh’s house. Now,
it is well known why a father has visitors when there is a black-browed
daughter about. So, one day, Pidorka burst into tears, and caught the
hand of her brother Ivas. “Ivas, my dear! Ivas, my love! fly to Peter,
my child of gold, like an arrow from a bow. Tell him all: I would have
loved his brown eyes, I would have kissed his fair face, but my fate
decrees otherwise. More than one handkerchief have I wet with burning
tears. I am sad and heavy at heart. And my own father is my enemy. I
will not marry the Pole, whom I do not love. Tell him they are making
ready for a wedding, but there will be no music at our wedding:
priests will sing instead of pipes and viols. I shall not dance with my
bridegroom: they will carry me out. Dark, dark will be my dwelling of
maple wood; and, instead of chimneys, a cross will stand upon the roof.”

Peter stood petrified, without moving from the spot, when the innocent
child lisped out Pidorka’s words to him. “And I, wretched man, had
thought to go to the Crimea and Turkey, to win gold and return to thee,
my beauty! But it may not be. We have been overlooked by the evil eye. I
too shall have a wedding, dear one; but no ecclesiastics will be present
at that wedding. The black crow instead of the pope will caw over me;
the bare plain will be my dwelling; the dark blue cloud my roof-tree.
The eagle will claw out my brown eyes: the rain will wash my Cossack
bones, and the whirlwinds dry them. But what am I? Of what should I
complain? ‘Tis clear God willed it so. If I am to be lost, then so be
it!” and he went straight to the tavern.

My late grandfather’s aunt was somewhat surprised at seeing Peter at the
tavern, at an hour when good men go to morning mass; and stared at him
as though in a dream when he called for a jug of brandy, about half a
pailful. But the poor fellow tried in vain to drown his woe. The vodka
stung his tongue like nettles, and tasted more bitter than wormwood. He
flung the jug from him upon the ground.

“You have sorrowed enough, Cossack,” growled a bass voice behind him.
He looked round--it was Basavriuk! Ugh, what a face! His hair was like
a brush, his eyes like those of a bull. “I know what you lack: here it
is.” As he spoke he jingled a leather purse which hung from his girdle
and smiled diabolically. Peter shuddered. “Ha, ha, ha! how it shines!”
 he roared, shaking out ducats into his hands: “ha, ha, ha! how it
jingles! And I only ask one thing for a whole pile of such shiners.”

“It is the Evil One!” exclaimed Peter. “Give me them! I’m ready for

They struck hands upon it, and Basavriuk said, “You are just in time,
Peter: to-morrow is St. John the Baptist’s day. Only on this one night
in the year does the fern blossom. I will await you at midnight in the
Bear’s ravine.”

I do not believe that chickens await the hour when the housewife brings
their corn with as much anxiety as Peter awaited the evening. He kept
looking to see whether the shadows of the trees were not lengthening,
whether the sun was not turning red towards setting; and, the longer he
watched, the more impatient he grew. How long it was! Evidently, God’s
day had lost its end somewhere. But now the sun has set. The sky is red
only on one side, and it is already growing dark. It grows colder in the
fields. It gets gloomier and gloomier, and at last quite dark. At last!
With heart almost bursting from his bosom, he set out and cautiously
made his way down through the thick woods into the deep hollow called
the Bear’s ravine. Basavriuk was already waiting there. It was so dark
that you could not see a yard before you. Hand in hand they entered
the ravine, pushing through the luxuriant thorn-bushes and stumbling at
almost every step. At last they reached an open spot. Peter looked about
him: he had never chanced to come there before. Here Basavriuk halted.

“Do you see before you three hillocks? There are a great many kinds of
flowers upon them. May some power keep you from plucking even one of
them. But as soon as the fern blossoms, seize it, and look not round, no
matter what may seem to be going on behind thee.”

Peter wanted to ask some questions, but behold Basavriuk was no longer
there. He approached the three hillocks--where were the flowers? He saw
none. The wild steppe-grass grew all around, and hid everything in its
luxuriance. But the lightning flashed; and before him was a whole bed of
flowers, all wonderful, all strange: whilst amongst them there were
also the simple fronds of fern. Peter doubted his senses, and stood
thoughtfully before them, arms akimbo.

“What manner of prodigy is this? why, one can see these weeds ten times
a day. What is there marvellous about them? Devil’s face must be mocking

But behold! the tiny flower-bud of the fern reddened and moved as though
alive. It was a marvel in truth. It grew larger and larger, and glowed
like a burning coal. The tiny stars of light flashed up, something burst
softly, and the flower opened before his eyes like a flame, lighting the
others about it.

“Now is the time,” thought Peter, and extended his hand. He saw hundreds
of hairy hands reach also for the flower from behind him, and there was
a sound of scampering in his rear. He half closed his eyes, and plucked
sharply at the stalk, and the flower remained in his hand.

All became still.

Upon a stump sat Basavriuk, quite blue like a corpse. He did not move so
much as a finger. Hi eyes were immovably fixed on something visible
to him alone; his mouth was half open and speechless. Nothing stirred
around. Ugh! it was horrible! But then a whistle was heard which made
Peter’s heart grow cold within him; and it seemed to him that the grass
whispered, and the flowers began to talk among themselves in delicate
voices, like little silver bells, while the trees rustled in murmuring
contention;--Basavriuk’s face suddenly became full of life, and his eyes
sparkled. “The witch has just returned,” he muttered between his
teeth. “Hearken, Peter: a charmer will stand before you in a moment; do
whatever she commands; if not--you are lost forever.”

Then he parted the thorn-bushes with a knotty stick and before him
stood a tiny farmhouse. Basavriuk smote it with his fist, and the wall
trembled. A large black dog ran out to meet them, and with a whine
transformed itself into a cat and flew straight at his eyes.

“Don’t be angry, don’t be angry, you old Satan!” said Basavriuk,
employing such words as would have made a good man stop his ears.
Behold, instead of a cat, an old woman all bent into a bow, with a
face wrinkled like a baked apple, and a nose and chin like a pair of

“A fine charmer!” thought Peter; and cold chills ran down his back. The
witch tore the flower from his hand, stooped and muttered over it for a
long time, sprinkling it with some kind of water. Sparks flew from her
mouth, and foam appeared on her lips.

“Throw it away,” she said, giving it back to Peter.

Peter threw it, but what wonder was this? The flower did not fall
straight to the earth, but for a long while twinkled like a fiery ball
through the darkness, and swam through the air like a boat. At last
it began to sink lower and lower, and fell so far away that the little
star, hardly larger than a poppy-seed, was barely visible. “There!”
 croaked the old woman, in a dull voice: and Basavriuk, giving him a
spade, said, “Dig here, Peter: you will find more gold than you or Korzh
ever dreamed of.”

Peter spat on his hands, seized the spade, pressed his foot on it, and
turned up the earth, a second, a third, a fourth time. The spade clinked
against something hard, and would go no further. Then his eyes began to
distinguish a small, iron-bound coffer. He tried to seize it; but the
chest began to sink into the earth, deeper, farther, and deeper still:
whilst behind him he heard a laugh like a serpent’s hiss.

“No, you shall not have the gold until you shed human blood,” said the
witch, and she led up to him a child of six, covered with a white sheet,
and indicated by a sign that he was to cut off his head.

Peter was stunned. A trifle, indeed, to cut off a man’s, or even an
innocent child’s, head for no reason whatever! In wrath he tore off the
sheet enveloping the victim’s head, and behold! before him stood Ivas.
The poor child crossed his little hands, and hung his head. Peter flew
at the witch with the knife like a madman, and was on the point of
laying hands on her.

“What did you promise for the girl?” thundered Basavriuk; and like
a shot he was on his back. The witch stamped her foot: a blue flame
flashed from the earth and illumined all within it. The earth became
transparent as if moulded of crystal; and all that was within it became
visible, as if in the palm of the hand. Ducats, precious stones in
chests and pots, were piled in heaps beneath the very spot they stood
on. Peter’s eyes flashed, his mind grew troubled.... He grasped the
knife like a madman, and the innocent blood spurted into his eyes.
Diabolical laughter resounded on all sides. Misshapen monsters flew past
him in flocks. The witch, fastening her hands in the headless trunk,
like a wolf, drank its blood. His head whirled. Collecting all his
strength, he set out to run. Everything grew red before him. The trees
seemed steeped in blood, and burned and groaned. The sky glowed and
threatened. Burning points, like lightning, flickered before his eyes.
Utterly exhausted, he rushed into his miserable hovel and fell to the
ground like a log. A death-like sleep overpowered him.

Two days and two nights did Peter sleep, without once awakening. When he
came to himself, on the third day, he looked long at all the corners of
his hut, but in vain did he endeavour to recollect what had taken place;
his memory was like a miser’s pocket, from which you cannot entice a
quarter of a kopek. Stretching himself, he heard something clash at
his feet. He looked, there were two bags of gold. Then only, as if in
a dream, he recollected that he had been seeking for treasure, and that
something had frightened him in the woods.

Korzh saw the sacks--and was mollified. “A fine fellow, Peter, quite
unequalled! yes, and did I not love him? Was he not to me as my own
son?” And the old fellow repeated this fiction until he wept over it
himself. Pidorka began to tell Peter how some passing gipsies had stolen
Ivas; but he could not even recall him--to such a degree had the Devil’s
influence darkened his mind! There was no reason for delay. The Pole was
dismissed, and the wedding-feast prepared; rolls were baked, towels and
handkerchiefs embroidered; the young people were seated at table;
the wedding-loaf was cut; guitars, cymbals, pipes, viols sounded, and
pleasure was rife.

A wedding in the olden times was not like one of the present day. My
grandfather’s aunt used to tell how the maidens--in festive head-dresses
of yellow, blue, and pink ribbons, above which they bound gold braid; in
thin chemisettes embroidered on all the seams with red silk, and strewn
with tiny silver flowers; in morocco shoes, with high iron heels--danced
the gorlitza as swimmingly as peacocks, and as wildly as the whirlwind;
how the youths--with their ship-shaped caps upon their heads, the crowns
of gold brocade, and two horns projecting, one in front and another
behind, of the very finest black lambskin; in tunics of the finest blue
silk with red borders--stepped forward one by one, their arms akimbo
in stately form, and executed the gopak; how the lads--in tall Cossack
caps, and light cloth gaberdines, girt with silver embroidered belts,
their short pipes in their teeth--skipped before them and talked
nonsense. Even Korzh as he gazed at the young people could not help
getting gay in his old age. Guitar in hand, alternately puffing at his
pipe and singing, a brandy-glass upon his head, the greybeard began the
national dance amid loud shouts from the merry-makers.

What will not people devise in merry mood? They even began to disguise
their faces till they did not look like human beings. On such occasions
one would dress himself as a Jew, another as the Devil: they would begin
by kissing each other, and end by seizing each other by the hair. God be
with them! you laughed till you held your sides. They dressed
themselves in Turkish and Tatar garments. All upon them glowed like a
conflagration, and then they began to joke and play pranks....

An amusing thing happened to my grandfather’s aunt, who was at this
wedding. She was wearing an ample Tatar robe, and, wine-glass in hand,
was entertaining the company. The Evil One instigated one man to pour
vodka over her from behind. Another, at the same moment, evidently not
by accident, struck a light, and held it to her. The flame flashed up,
and poor aunt, in terror, flung her dress off, before them all. Screams,
laughter, jests, arose as if at a fair. In a word, the old folks could
not recall so merry a wedding.

Pidorka and Peter began to live like a gentleman and lady. There was
plenty of everything and everything was fine.... But honest folk shook
their heads when they marked their way of living. “From the Devil
no good can come,” they unanimously agreed. “Whence, except from the
tempter of orthodox people, came this wealth? Where else could he have
got such a lot of gold from? Why, on the very day that he got rich, did
Basavriuk vanish as if into thin air?”

Say, if you can, that people only imagine things! A month had not
passed, and no one would have recognised Peter. He sat in one spot,
saying no word to any one; but continually thinking and seemingly trying
to recall something. When Pidorka succeeded in getting him to speak, he
appeared to forget himself, and would carry on a conversation, and even
grow cheerful; but if he inadvertently glanced at the sacks, “Stop,
stop! I have forgotten,” he would cry, and again plunge into reverie and
strive to recall something. Sometimes when he sat still a long time in
one place, it seemed to him as though it were coming, just coming back
to mind, but again all would fade away. It seemed as if he was sitting
in the tavern: they brought him vodka; vodka stung him; vodka was
repulsive to him. Some one came along and struck him on the shoulder;
but beyond that everything was veiled in darkness before him. The
perspiration would stream down his face, and he would sit exhausted in
the same place.

What did not Pirdorka do? She consulted the sorceresses; and they poured
out fear, and brewed stomach ache (2)--but all to no avail. And so the
summer passed. Many a Cossack had mowed and reaped; many a Cossack, more
enterprising than the rest, had set off upon an expedition. Flocks of
ducks were already crowding the marshes, but there was not even a hint
of improvement.

 (2) “To pour out fear” refers to a practice resorted to in case of
    fear. When it is desired to know what caused this, melted lead or
    wax is poured into water, and the object whose form it assumes is
    the one which frightened the sick person; after this, the fear
    departs. Sonyashnitza is brewed for giddiness and pain in the
    bowels. To this end, a bit of stump is burned, thrown into a jug,
    and turned upside down into a bowl filled with water, which is
    placed on the patient’s stomach: after an incantation, he is given
    a spoonful of this water to drink.

It was red upon the steppes. Ricks of grain, like Cossack’s caps, dotted
the fields here and there. On the highway were to be encountered waggons
loaded with brushwood and logs. The ground had become more solid, and
in places was touched with frost. Already had the snow begun to fall
and the branches of the trees were covered with rime like rabbit-skin.
Already on frosty days the robin redbreast hopped about on the
snow-heaps like a foppish Polish nobleman, and picked out grains of
corn; and children, with huge sticks, played hockey upon the ice; while
their fathers lay quietly on the stove, issuing forth at intervals
with lighted pipes in their lips, to growl, in regular fashion, at the
orthodox frost, or to take the air, and thresh the grain spread out in
the barn. At last the snow began to melt, and the ice slipped away: but
Peter remained the same; and, the more time went on, the more morose he
grew. He sat in the cottage as though nailed to the spot, with the sacks
of gold at his feet. He grew averse to companionship, his hair grew
long, he became terrible to look at; and still he thought of but
one thing, still he tried to recall something, and got angry and
ill-tempered because he could not. Often, rising wildly from his seat,
he gesticulated violently and fixed his eyes on something as though
desirous of catching it: his lips moving as though desirous of uttering
some long-forgotten word, but remaining speechless. Fury would take
possession of him: he would gnaw and bite his hands like a man half
crazy, and in his vexation would tear out his hair by the handful,
until, calming down, he would relapse into forgetfulness, as it were,
and then would again strive to recall the past and be again seized with
fury and fresh tortures. What visitation of God was this?

Pidorka was neither dead not alive. At first it was horrible for her to
remain alone with him in the cottage; but, in course of time, the poor
woman grew accustomed to her sorrow. But it was impossible to recognise
the Pidorka of former days. No blushes, no smiles: she was thin and worn
with grief, and had wept her bright eyes away. Once some one who took
pity on her advised her to go to the witch who dwelt in the Bear’s
ravine, and enjoyed the reputation of being able to cure every disease
in the world. She determined to try that last remedy: and finally
persuaded the old woman to come to her. This was on St. John’s Eve, as
it chanced. Peter lay insensible on the bench, and did not observe the
newcomer. Slowly he rose, and looked about him. Suddenly he trembled in
every limb, as though he were on the scaffold: his hair rose upon his
head, and he laughed a laugh that filled Pidorka’s heart with fear.

“I have remembered, remembered!” he cried, in terrible joy; and,
swinging a hatchet round his head, he struck at the old woman with all
his might. The hatchet penetrated the oaken door nearly four inches. The
old woman disappeared; and a child of seven, covered in a white sheet,
stood in the middle of the cottage.... The sheet flew off. “Ivas!” cried
Pidorka, and ran to him; but the apparition became covered from head to
foot with blood, and illumined the whole room with red light....

She ran into the passage in her terror, but, on recovering herself a
little, wished to help Peter. In vain! the door had slammed to behind
her, so that she could not open it. People ran up, and began to knock:
they broke in the door, as though there were but one mind among them.
The whole cottage was full of smoke; and just in the middle, where Peter
had stood, was a heap of ashes whence smoke was still rising. They flung
themselves upon the sacks: only broken potsherds lay there instead of
ducats. The Cossacks stood with staring eyes and open mouths, as if
rooted to the earth, not daring to move a hair, such terror did this
wonder inspire in them.

I do not remember what happened next. Pidorka made a vow to go upon a
pilgrimage, collected the property left her by her father, and in a few
days it was as if she had never been in the village. Whither she had
gone, no one could tell. Officious old women would have despatched
her to the same place whither Peter had gone; but a Cossack from Kief
reported that he had seen, in a cloister, a nun withered to a mere
skeleton who prayed unceasingly. Her fellow-villagers recognised her as
Pidorka by the tokens--that no one heard her utter a word; and that
she had come on foot, and had brought a frame for the picture of God’s
mother, set with such brilliant stones that all were dazzled at the

But this was not the end, if you please. On the same day that the Evil
One made away with Peter, Basavriuk appeared again; but all fled from
him. They knew what sort of a being he was--none else than Satan,
who had assumed human form in order to unearth treasures; and, since
treasures do not yield to unclean hands, he seduced the young. That same
year, all deserted their earthen huts and collected in a village; but
even there there was no peace on account of that accursed Basavriuk.

My late grandfather’s aunt said that he was particularly angry with
her because she had abandoned her former tavern, and tried with all
his might to revenge himself upon her. Once the village elders were
assembled in the tavern, and, as the saying goes, were arranging the
precedence at the table, in the middle of which was placed a small
roasted lamb, shame to say. They chattered about this, that, and the
other--among the rest about various marvels and strange things. Well,
they saw something; it would have been nothing if only one had seen it,
but all saw it, and it was this: the sheep raised his head, his goggling
eyes became alive and sparkled; and the black, bristling moustache,
which appeared for one instant, made a significant gesture at those
present. All at once recognised Basavriuk’s countenance in the sheep’s
head; my grandfather’s aunt thought it was on the point of asking for
vodka. The worthy elders seized their hats and hastened home.

Another time, the church elder himself, who was fond of an occasional
private interview with my grandfather’s brandy-glass, had not succeeded
in getting to the bottom twice, when he beheld the glass bowing very
low to him. “Satan take you, let us make the sign of the cross over
you!”--And the same marvel happened to his better half. She had just
begun to mix the dough in a huge kneading-trough when suddenly the
trough sprang up. “Stop, stop! where are you going?” Putting its arms
akimbo, with dignity, it went skipping all about the cottage--you may
laugh, but it was no laughing matter to our grandfathers. And in vain
did Father Athanasii go through all the village with holy water,
and chase the Devil through all the streets with his brush. My late
grandfather’s aunt long complained that, as soon as it was dark, some
one came knocking at her door and scratching at the wall.

Well! All appears to be quiet now in the place where our village stands;
but it was not so very long ago--my father was still alive--that
I remember how a good man could not pass the ruined tavern which
a dishonest race had long managed for their own interest. From the
smoke-blackened chimneys smoke poured out in a pillar, and rising high
in the air, rolled off like a cap, scattering burning coals over the
steppe; and Satan (the son of a dog should not be mentioned) sobbed so
pitifully in his lair that the startled ravens rose in flocks from the
neighbouring oak-wood and flew through the air with wild cries.


In the department of--but it is better not to mention the department.
There is nothing more irritable than departments, regiments, courts of
justice, and, in a word, every branch of public service. Each individual
attached to them nowadays thinks all society insulted in his person.
Quite recently a complaint was received from a justice of the peace, in
which he plainly demonstrated that all the imperial institutions were
going to the dogs, and that the Czar’s sacred name was being taken in
vain; and in proof he appended to the complaint a romance in which the
justice of the peace is made to appear about once every ten lines,
and sometimes in a drunken condition. Therefore, in order to avoid all
unpleasantness, it will be better to describe the department in question
only as a certain department.

So, in a certain department there was a certain official--not a very
high one, it must be allowed--short of stature, somewhat pock-marked,
red-haired, and short-sighted, with a bald forehead, wrinkled cheeks,
and a complexion of the kind known as sanguine. The St. Petersburg
climate was responsible for this. As for his official status, he was
what is called a perpetual titular councillor, over which, as is well
known, some writers make merry, and crack their jokes, obeying the
praiseworthy custom of attacking those who cannot bite back.

His family name was Bashmatchkin. This name is evidently derived from
“bashmak” (shoe); but when, at what time, and in what manner, is not
known. His father and grandfather, and all the Bashmatchkins, always
wore boots, which only had new heels two or three times a year. His name
was Akakiy Akakievitch. It may strike the reader as rather singular
and far-fetched, but he may rest assured that it was by no means
far-fetched, and that the circumstances were such that it would have
been impossible to give him any other.

This is how it came about.

Akakiy Akakievitch was born, if my memory fails me not, in the evening
of the 23rd of March. His mother, the wife of a Government official
and a very fine woman, made all due arrangements for having the child
baptised. She was lying on the bed opposite the door; on her right
stood the godfather, Ivan Ivanovitch Eroshkin, a most estimable man,
who served as presiding officer of the senate, while the godmother, Anna
Semenovna Byelobrushkova, the wife of an officer of the quarter, and
a woman of rare virtues. They offered the mother her choice of three
names, Mokiya, Sossiya, or that the child should be called after the
martyr Khozdazat. “No,” said the good woman, “all those names are poor.”
 In order to please her they opened the calendar to another place;
three more names appeared, Triphiliy, Dula, and Varakhasiy. “This is
a judgment,” said the old woman. “What names! I truly never heard the
like. Varada or Varukh might have been borne, but not Triphiliy and
Varakhasiy!” They turned to another page and found Pavsikakhiy and
Vakhtisiy. “Now I see,” said the old woman, “that it is plainly fate.
And since such is the case, it will be better to name him after his
father. His father’s name was Akakiy, so let his son’s be Akakiy too.”
 In this manner he became Akakiy Akakievitch. They christened the child,
whereat he wept and made a grimace, as though he foresaw that he was to
be a titular councillor.

In this manner did it all come about. We have mentioned it in order that
the reader might see for himself that it was a case of necessity, and
that it was utterly impossible to give him any other name. When and how
he entered the department, and who appointed him, no one could remember.
However much the directors and chiefs of all kinds were changed, he
was always to be seen in the same place, the same attitude, the same
occupation; so that it was afterwards affirmed that he had been born
in undress uniform with a bald head. No respect was shown him in the
department. The porter not only did not rise from his seat when he
passed, but never even glanced at him, any more than if a fly had flown
through the reception-room. His superiors treated him in coolly despotic
fashion. Some sub-chief would thrust a paper under his nose without
so much as saying, “Copy,” or “Here’s a nice interesting affair,” or
anything else agreeable, as is customary amongst well-bred officials.
And he took it, looking only at the paper and not observing who handed
it to him, or whether he had the right to do so; simply took it, and set
about copying it.

The young officials laughed at and made fun of him, so far as their
official wit permitted; told in his presence various stories concocted
about him, and about his landlady, an old woman of seventy; declared
that she beat him; asked when the wedding was to be; and strewed bits of
paper over his head, calling them snow. But Akakiy Akakievitch answered
not a word, any more than if there had been no one there besides
himself. It even had no effect upon his work: amid all these annoyances
he never made a single mistake in a letter. But if the joking became
wholly unbearable, as when they jogged his hand and prevented his
attending to his work, he would exclaim, “Leave me alone! Why do you
insult me?” And there was something strange in the words and the voice
in which they were uttered. There was in it something which moved to
pity; so much that one young man, a new-comer, who, taking pattern by
the others, had permitted himself to make sport of Akakiy, suddenly
stopped short, as though all about him had undergone a transformation,
and presented itself in a different aspect. Some unseen force repelled
him from the comrades whose acquaintance he had made, on the supposition
that they were well-bred and polite men. Long afterwards, in his gayest
moments, there recurred to his mind the little official with the bald
forehead, with his heart-rending words, “Leave me alone! Why do you
insult me?” In these moving words, other words resounded--“I am thy
brother.” And the young man covered his face with his hand; and many a
time afterwards, in the course of his life, shuddered at seeing how
much inhumanity there is in man, how much savage coarseness is concealed
beneath delicate, refined worldliness, and even, O God! in that man whom
the world acknowledges as honourable and noble.

It would be difficult to find another man who lived so entirely for his
duties. It is not enough to say that Akakiy laboured with zeal: no,
he laboured with love. In his copying, he found a varied and agreeable
employment. Enjoyment was written on his face: some letters were even
favourites with him; and when he encountered these, he smiled, winked,
and worked with his lips, till it seemed as though each letter might
be read in his face, as his pen traced it. If his pay had been in
proportion to his zeal, he would, perhaps, to his great surprise, have
been made even a councillor of state. But he worked, as his companions,
the wits, put it, like a horse in a mill.

Moreover, it is impossible to say that no attention was paid to him. One
director being a kindly man, and desirous of rewarding him for his long
service, ordered him to be given something more important than mere
copying. So he was ordered to make a report of an already concluded
affair to another department: the duty consisting simply in changing
the heading and altering a few words from the first to the third person.
This caused him so much toil that he broke into a perspiration, rubbed
his forehead, and finally said, “No, give me rather something to copy.”
 After that they let him copy on forever.

Outside this copying, it appeared that nothing existed for him. He gave
no thought to his clothes: his undress uniform was not green, but a sort
of rusty-meal colour. The collar was low, so that his neck, in spite of
the fact that it was not long, seemed inordinately so as it emerged from
it, like the necks of those plaster cats which wag their heads, and are
carried about upon the heads of scores of image sellers. And something
was always sticking to his uniform, either a bit of hay or some trifle.
Moreover, he had a peculiar knack, as he walked along the street, of
arriving beneath a window just as all sorts of rubbish were being flung
out of it: hence he always bore about on his hat scraps of melon rinds
and other such articles. Never once in his life did he give heed to what
was going on every day in the street; while it is well known that his
young brother officials train the range of their glances till they
can see when any one’s trouser straps come undone upon the opposite
sidewalk, which always brings a malicious smile to their faces. But
Akakiy Akakievitch saw in all things the clean, even strokes of his
written lines; and only when a horse thrust his nose, from some unknown
quarter, over his shoulder, and sent a whole gust of wind down his neck
from his nostrils, did he observe that he was not in the middle of a
page, but in the middle of the street.

On reaching home, he sat down at once at the table, supped his cabbage
soup up quickly, and swallowed a bit of beef with onions, never noticing
their taste, and gulping down everything with flies and anything else
which the Lord happened to send at the moment. His stomach filled, he
rose from the table, and copied papers which he had brought home. If
there happened to be none, he took copies for himself, for his own
gratification, especially if the document was noteworthy, not on account
of its style, but of its being addressed to some distinguished person.

Even at the hour when the grey St. Petersburg sky had quite dispersed,
and all the official world had eaten or dined, each as he could, in
accordance with the salary he received and his own fancy; when all were
resting from the departmental jar of pens, running to and fro from their
own and other people’s indispensable occupations, and from all the work
that an uneasy man makes willingly for himself, rather than what is
necessary; when officials hasten to dedicate to pleasure the time which
is left to them, one bolder than the rest going to the theatre; another,
into the street looking under all the bonnets; another wasting his
evening in compliments to some pretty girl, the star of a small official
circle; another--and this is the common case of all--visiting his
comrades on the fourth or third floor, in two small rooms with an
ante-room or kitchen, and some pretensions to fashion, such as a lamp or
some other trifle which has cost many a sacrifice of dinner or pleasure
trip; in a word, at the hour when all officials disperse among the
contracted quarters of their friends, to play whist, as they sip their
tea from glasses with a kopek’s worth of sugar, smoke long pipes, relate
at times some bits of gossip which a Russian man can never, under any
circumstances, refrain from, and, when there is nothing else to talk of,
repeat eternal anecdotes about the commandant to whom they had sent word
that the tails of the horses on the Falconet Monument had been cut off,
when all strive to divert themselves, Akakiy Akakievitch indulged in
no kind of diversion. No one could ever say that he had seen him at any
kind of evening party. Having written to his heart’s content, he lay
down to sleep, smiling at the thought of the coming day--of what God
might send him to copy on the morrow.

Thus flowed on the peaceful life of the man, who, with a salary of four
hundred rubles, understood how to be content with his lot; and thus it
would have continued to flow on, perhaps, to extreme old age, were
it not that there are various ills strewn along the path of life for
titular councillors as well as for private, actual, court, and every
other species of councillor, even for those who never give any advice or
take any themselves.

There exists in St. Petersburg a powerful foe of all who receive a
salary of four hundred rubles a year, or thereabouts. This foe is no
other than the Northern cold, although it is said to be very healthy.
At nine o’clock in the morning, at the very hour when the streets are
filled with men bound for the various official departments, it begins to
bestow such powerful and piercing nips on all noses impartially that the
poor officials really do not know what to do with them. At an hour when
the foreheads of even those who occupy exalted positions ache with the
cold, and tears start to their eyes, the poor titular councillors are
sometimes quite unprotected. Their only salvation lies in traversing as
quickly as possible, in their thin little cloaks, five or six streets,
and then warming their feet in the porter’s room, and so thawing all
their talents and qualifications for official service, which had become
frozen on the way.

Akakiy Akakievitch had felt for some time that his back and shoulders
suffered with peculiar poignancy, in spite of the fact that he tried
to traverse the distance with all possible speed. He began finally
to wonder whether the fault did not lie in his cloak. He examined it
thoroughly at home, and discovered that in two places, namely, on the
back and shoulders, it had become thin as gauze: the cloth was worn to
such a degree that he could see through it, and the lining had fallen
into pieces. You must know that Akakiy Akakievitch’s cloak served as an
object of ridicule to the officials: they even refused it the noble name
of cloak, and called it a cape. In fact, it was of singular make: its
collar diminishing year by year, but serving to patch its other parts.
The patching did not exhibit great skill on the part of the tailor,
and was, in fact, baggy and ugly. Seeing how the matter stood, Akakiy
Akakievitch decided that it would be necessary to take the cloak to
Petrovitch, the tailor, who lived somewhere on the fourth floor up
a dark stair-case, and who, in spite of his having but one eye, and
pock-marks all over his face, busied himself with considerable success
in repairing the trousers and coats of officials and others; that is to
say, when he was sober and not nursing some other scheme in his head.

It is not necessary to say much about this tailor; but, as it is the
custom to have the character of each personage in a novel clearly
defined, there is no help for it, so here is Petrovitch the tailor. At
first he was called only Grigoriy, and was some gentleman’s serf; he
commenced calling himself Petrovitch from the time when he received
his free papers, and further began to drink heavily on all holidays,
at first on the great ones, and then on all church festivities without
discrimination, wherever a cross stood in the calendar. On this point he
was faithful to ancestral custom; and when quarrelling with his wife, he
called her a low female and a German. As we have mentioned his wife, it
will be necessary to say a word or two about her. Unfortunately, little
is known of her beyond the fact that Petrovitch has a wife, who wears
a cap and a dress; but cannot lay claim to beauty, at least, no one but
the soldiers of the guard even looked under her cap when they met her.

Ascending the staircase which led to Petrovitch’s room--which staircase
was all soaked with dish-water, and reeked with the smell of spirits
which affects the eyes, and is an inevitable adjunct to all dark
stairways in St. Petersburg houses--ascending the stairs, Akakiy
Akakievitch pondered how much Petrovitch would ask, and mentally
resolved not to give more than two rubles. The door was open; for the
mistress, in cooking some fish, had raised such a smoke in the kitchen
that not even the beetles were visible. Akakiy Akakievitch passed
through the kitchen unperceived, even by the housewife, and at length
reached a room where he beheld Petrovitch seated on a large unpainted
table, with his legs tucked under him like a Turkish pasha. His feet
were bare, after the fashion of tailors who sit at work; and the first
thing which caught the eye was his thumb, with a deformed nail thick and
strong as a turtle’s shell. About Petrovitch’s neck hung a skein of silk
and thread, and upon his knees lay some old garment. He had been trying
unsuccessfully for three minutes to thread his needle, and was enraged
at the darkness and even at the thread, growling in a low voice, “It
won’t go through, the barbarian! you pricked me, you rascal!”

Akakiy Akakievitch was vexed at arriving at the precise moment when
Petrovitch was angry; he liked to order something of Petrovitch when the
latter was a little downhearted, or, as his wife expressed it, “when
he had settled himself with brandy, the one-eyed devil!” Under such
circumstances, Petrovitch generally came down in his price very readily,
and even bowed and returned thanks. Afterwards, to be sure, his wife
would come, complaining that her husband was drunk, and so had fixed
the price too low; but, if only a ten-kopek piece were added, then the
matter was settled. But now it appeared that Petrovitch was in a sober
condition, and therefore rough, taciturn, and inclined to demand, Satan
only knows what price. Akakiy Akakievitch felt this, and would gladly
have beat a retreat; but he was in for it. Petrovitch screwed up his
one eye very intently at him, and Akakiy Akakievitch involuntarily said:
“How do you do, Petrovitch?”

“I wish you a good morning, sir,” said Petrovitch, squinting at Akakiy
Akakievitch’s hands, to see what sort of booty he had brought.

“Ah! I--to you, Petrovitch, this--” It must be known that Akakiy
Akakievitch expressed himself chiefly by prepositions, adverbs, and
scraps of phrases which had no meaning whatever. If the matter was a
very difficult one, he had a habit of never completing his sentences; so
that frequently, having begun a phrase with the words, “This, in fact,
is quite--” he forgot to go on, thinking that he had already finished

“What is it?” asked Petrovitch, and with his one eye scanned
Akakievitch’s whole uniform from the collar down to the cuffs, the back,
the tails and the button-holes, all of which were well known to him,
since they were his own handiwork. Such is the habit of tailors; it is
the first thing they do on meeting one.

“But I, here, this--Petrovitch--a cloak, cloth--here you see,
everywhere, in different places, it is quite strong--it is a little
dusty, and looks old, but it is new, only here in one place it is a
little--on the back, and here on one of the shoulders, it is a little
worn, yes, here on this shoulder it is a little--do you see? that is
all. And a little work--”

Petrovitch took the cloak, spread it out, to begin with, on the
table, looked hard at it, shook his head, reached out his hand to
the window-sill for his snuff-box, adorned with the portrait of some
general, though what general is unknown, for the place where the face
should have been had been rubbed through by the finger, and a square
bit of paper had been pasted over it. Having taken a pinch of snuff,
Petrovitch held up the cloak, and inspected it against the light,
and again shook his head once more. After which he again lifted the
general-adorned lid with its bit of pasted paper, and having stuffed his
nose with snuff, closed and put away the snuff-box, and said finally,
“No, it is impossible to mend it; it’s a wretched garment!”

Akakiy Akakievitch’s heart sank at these words.

“Why is it impossible, Petrovitch?” he said, almost in the pleading
voice of a child; “all that ails it is, that it is worn on the
shoulders. You must have some pieces--”

“Yes, patches could be found, patches are easily found,” said
Petrovitch, “but there’s nothing to sew them to. The thing is completely
rotten; if you put a needle to it--see, it will give way.”

“Let it give way, and you can put on another patch at once.”

“But there is nothing to put the patches on to; there’s no use in
strengthening it; it is too far gone. It’s lucky that it’s cloth; for,
if the wind were to blow, it would fly away.”

“Well, strengthen it again. How will this, in fact--”

“No,” said Petrovitch decisively, “there is nothing to be done with it.
It’s a thoroughly bad job. You’d better, when the cold winter weather
comes on, make yourself some gaiters out of it, because stockings
are not warm. The Germans invented them in order to make more money.”
 Petrovitch loved, on all occasions, to have a fling at the Germans. “But
it is plain you must have a new cloak.”

At the word “new,” all grew dark before Akakiy Akakievitch’s eyes,
and everything in the room began to whirl round. The only thing he saw
clearly was the general with the paper face on the lid of Petrovitch’s
snuff-box. “A new one?” said he, as if still in a dream: “why, I have no
money for that.”

“Yes, a new one,” said Petrovitch, with barbarous composure.

“Well, if it came to a new one, how would it--?”

“You mean how much would it cost?”


“Well, you would have to lay out a hundred and fifty or more,” said
Petrovitch, and pursed up his lips significantly. He liked to produce
powerful effects, liked to stun utterly and suddenly, and then to glance
sideways to see what face the stunned person would put on the matter.

“A hundred and fifty rubles for a cloak!” shrieked poor Akakiy
Akakievitch, perhaps for the first time in his life, for his voice had
always been distinguished for softness.

“Yes, sir,” said Petrovitch, “for any kind of cloak. If you have a
marten fur on the collar, or a silk-lined hood, it will mount up to two

“Petrovitch, please,” said Akakiy Akakievitch in a beseeching tone, not
hearing, and not trying to hear, Petrovitch’s words, and disregarding
all his “effects,” “some repairs, in order that it may wear yet a little

“No, it would only be a waste of time and money,” said Petrovitch; and
Akakiy Akakievitch went away after these words, utterly discouraged. But
Petrovitch stood for some time after his departure, with significantly
compressed lips, and without betaking himself to his work, satisfied
that he would not be dropped, and an artistic tailor employed.

Akakiy Akakievitch went out into the street as if in a dream. “Such an
affair!” he said to himself: “I did not think it had come to--” and then
after a pause, he added, “Well, so it is! see what it has come to
at last! and I never imagined that it was so!” Then followed a
long silence, after which he exclaimed, “Well, so it is! see what
already--nothing unexpected that--it would be nothing--what a strange
circumstance!” So saying, instead of going home, he went in exactly
the opposite direction without himself suspecting it. On the way, a
chimney-sweep bumped up against him, and blackened his shoulder, and a
whole hatful of rubbish landed on him from the top of a house which was
building. He did not notice it; and only when he ran against a watchman,
who, having planted his halberd beside him, was shaking some snuff from
his box into his horny hand, did he recover himself a little, and that
because the watchman said, “Why are you poking yourself into a man’s
very face? Haven’t you the pavement?” This caused him to look about him,
and turn towards home.

There only, he finally began to collect his thoughts, and to survey
his position in its clear and actual light, and to argue with himself,
sensibly and frankly, as with a reasonable friend with whom one can
discuss private and personal matters. “No,” said Akakiy Akakievitch, “it
is impossible to reason with Petrovitch now; he is that--evidently his
wife has been beating him. I’d better go to him on Sunday morning; after
Saturday night he will be a little cross-eyed and sleepy, for he will
want to get drunk, and his wife won’t give him any money; and at such
a time, a ten-kopek piece in his hand will--he will become more fit
to reason with, and then the cloak, and that--” Thus argued Akakiy
Akakievitch with himself, regained his courage, and waited until the
first Sunday, when, seeing from afar that Petrovitch’s wife had left the
house, he went straight to him.

Petrovitch’s eye was, indeed, very much askew after Saturday: his head
drooped, and he was very sleepy; but for all that, as soon as he knew
what it was a question of, it seemed as though Satan jogged his memory.
“Impossible,” said he: “please to order a new one.” Thereupon Akakiy
Akakievitch handed over the ten-kopek piece. “Thank you, sir; I will
drink your good health,” said Petrovitch: “but as for the cloak, don’t
trouble yourself about it; it is good for nothing. I will make you a
capital new one, so let us settle about it now.”

Akakiy Akakievitch was still for mending it; but Petrovitch would not
hear of it, and said, “I shall certainly have to make you a new one, and
you may depend upon it that I shall do my best. It may even be, as the
fashion goes, that the collar can be fastened by silver hooks under a

Then Akakiy Akakievitch saw that it was impossible to get along without
a new cloak, and his spirit sank utterly. How, in fact, was it to be
done? Where was the money to come from? He might, to be sure, depend,
in part, upon his present at Christmas; but that money had long been
allotted beforehand. He must have some new trousers, and pay a debt of
long standing to the shoemaker for putting new tops to his old boots,
and he must order three shirts from the seamstress, and a couple of
pieces of linen. In short, all his money must be spent; and even if the
director should be so kind as to order him to receive forty-five rubles
instead of forty, or even fifty, it would be a mere nothing, a mere drop
in the ocean towards the funds necessary for a cloak: although he
knew that Petrovitch was often wrong-headed enough to blurt out some
outrageous price, so that even his own wife could not refrain from
exclaiming, “Have you lost your senses, you fool?” At one time he would
not work at any price, and now it was quite likely that he had named a
higher sum than the cloak would cost.

But although he knew that Petrovitch would undertake to make a cloak
for eighty rubles, still, where was he to get the eighty rubles from? He
might possibly manage half, yes, half might be procured, but where was
the other half to come from? But the reader must first be told where
the first half came from. Akakiy Akakievitch had a habit of putting, for
every ruble he spent, a groschen into a small box, fastened with a lock
and key, and with a slit in the top for the reception of money. At the
end of every half-year he counted over the heap of coppers, and changed
it for silver. This he had done for a long time, and in the course of
years, the sum had mounted up to over forty rubles. Thus he had one half
on hand; but where was he to find the other half? where was he to get
another forty rubles from? Akakiy Akakievitch thought and thought, and
decided that it would be necessary to curtail his ordinary expenses, for
the space of one year at least, to dispense with tea in the evening; to
burn no candles, and, if there was anything which he must do, to go
into his landlady’s room, and work by her light. When he went into the
street, he must walk as lightly as he could, and as cautiously, upon the
stones, almost upon tiptoe, in order not to wear his heels down in too
short a time; he must give the laundress as little to wash as possible;
and, in order not to wear out his clothes, he must take them off, as
soon as he got home, and wear only his cotton dressing-gown, which had
been long and carefully saved.

To tell the truth, it was a little hard for him at first to accustom
himself to these deprivations; but he got used to them at length, after
a fashion, and all went smoothly. He even got used to being hungry in
the evening, but he made up for it by treating himself, so to say, in
spirit, by bearing ever in mind the idea of his future cloak. From that
time forth his existence seemed to become, in some way, fuller, as if he
were married, or as if some other man lived in him, as if, in fact, he
were not alone, and some pleasant friend had consented to travel along
life’s path with him, the friend being no other than the cloak, with
thick wadding and a strong lining incapable of wearing out. He became
more lively, and even his character grew firmer, like that of a man who
has made up his mind, and set himself a goal. From his face and gait,
doubt and indecision, all hesitating and wavering traits disappeared of
themselves. Fire gleamed in his eyes, and occasionally the boldest and
most daring ideas flitted through his mind; why not, for instance,
have marten fur on the collar? The thought of this almost made him
absent-minded. Once, in copying a letter, he nearly made a mistake, so
that he exclaimed almost aloud, “Ugh!” and crossed himself. Once, in
the course of every month, he had a conference with Petrovitch on the
subject of the cloak, where it would be better to buy the cloth, and
the colour, and the price. He always returned home satisfied, though
troubled, reflecting that the time would come at last when it could all
be bought, and then the cloak made.

The affair progressed more briskly than he had expected. Far beyond all
his hopes, the director awarded neither forty nor forty-five rubles for
Akakiy Akakievitch’s share, but sixty. Whether he suspected that Akakiy
Akakievitch needed a cloak, or whether it was merely chance, at
all events, twenty extra rubles were by this means provided. This
circumstance hastened matters. Two or three months more of hunger and
Akakiy Akakievitch had accumulated about eighty rubles. His heart,
generally so quiet, began to throb. On the first possible day, he went
shopping in company with Petrovitch. They bought some very good cloth,
and at a reasonable rate too, for they had been considering the matter
for six months, and rarely let a month pass without their visiting the
shops to inquire prices. Petrovitch himself said that no better cloth
could be had. For lining, they selected a cotton stuff, but so firm
and thick that Petrovitch declared it to be better than silk, and even
prettier and more glossy. They did not buy the marten fur, because it
was, in fact, dear, but in its stead, they picked out the very best of
cat-skin which could be found in the shop, and which might, indeed, be
taken for marten at a distance.

Petrovitch worked at the cloak two whole weeks, for there was a great
deal of quilting: otherwise it would have been finished sooner. He
charged twelve rubles for the job, it could not possibly have been
done for less. It was all sewed with silk, in small, double seams; and
Petrovitch went over each seam afterwards with his own teeth, stamping
in various patterns.

It was--it is difficult to say precisely on what day, but probably
the most glorious one in Akakiy Akakievitch’s life, when Petrovitch at
length brought home the cloak. He brought it in the morning, before
the hour when it was necessary to start for the department. Never did a
cloak arrive so exactly in the nick of time; for the severe cold had set
in, and it seemed to threaten to increase. Petrovitch brought the cloak
himself as befits a good tailor. On his countenance was a significant
expression, such as Akakiy Akakievitch had never beheld there. He
seemed fully sensible that he had done no small deed, and crossed a gulf
separating tailors who only put in linings, and execute repairs,
from those who make new things. He took the cloak out of the pocket
handkerchief in which he had brought it. The handkerchief was fresh
from the laundress, and he put it in his pocket for use. Taking out the
cloak, he gazed proudly at it, held it up with both hands, and flung it
skilfully over the shoulders of Akakiy Akakievitch. Then he pulled it
and fitted it down behind with his hand, and he draped it around
Akakiy Akakievitch without buttoning it. Akakiy Akakievitch, like an
experienced man, wished to try the sleeves. Petrovitch helped him on
with them, and it turned out that the sleeves were satisfactory also. In
short, the cloak appeared to be perfect, and most seasonable. Petrovitch
did not neglect to observe that it was only because he lived in a narrow
street, and had no signboard, and had known Akakiy Akakievitch so long,
that he had made it so cheaply; but that if he had been in business on
the Nevsky Prospect, he would have charged seventy-five rubles for the
making alone. Akakiy Akakievitch did not care to argue this point with
Petrovitch. He paid him, thanked him, and set out at once in his new
cloak for the department. Petrovitch followed him, and, pausing in the
street, gazed long at the cloak in the distance, after which he went to
one side expressly to run through a crooked alley, and emerge again into
the street beyond to gaze once more upon the cloak from another point,
namely, directly in front.

Meantime Akakiy Akakievitch went on in holiday mood. He was conscious
every second of the time that he had a new cloak on his shoulders; and
several times he laughed with internal satisfaction. In fact, there were
two advantages, one was its warmth, the other its beauty. He saw nothing
of the road, but suddenly found himself at the department. He took off
his cloak in the ante-room, looked it over carefully, and confided it
to the especial care of the attendant. It is impossible to say precisely
how it was that every one in the department knew at once that Akakiy
Akakievitch had a new cloak, and that the “cape” no longer existed.
All rushed at the same moment into the ante-room to inspect it. They
congratulated him and said pleasant things to him, so that he began at
first to smile and then to grow ashamed. When all surrounded him, and
said that the new cloak must be “christened,” and that he must give
a whole evening at least to this, Akakiy Akakievitch lost his head
completely, and did not know where he stood, what to answer, or how to
get out of it. He stood blushing all over for several minutes, and was
on the point of assuring them with great simplicity that it was not a
new cloak, that it was so and so, that it was in fact the old “cape.”

At length one of the officials, a sub-chief probably, in order to show
that he was not at all proud, and on good terms with his inferiors,
said, “So be it, only I will give the party instead of Akakiy
Akakievitch; I invite you all to tea with me to-night; it happens quite
a propos, as it is my name-day.” The officials naturally at once offered
the sub-chief their congratulations and accepted the invitations with
pleasure. Akakiy Akakievitch would have declined, but all declared that
it was discourteous, that it was simply a sin and a shame, and that he
could not possibly refuse. Besides, the notion became pleasant to him
when he recollected that he should thereby have a chance of wearing his
new cloak in the evening also.

That whole day was truly a most triumphant festival day for Akakiy
Akakievitch. He returned home in the most happy frame of mind, took off
his cloak, and hung it carefully on the wall, admiring afresh the
cloth and the lining. Then he brought out his old, worn-out cloak, for
comparison. He looked at it and laughed, so vast was the difference.
And long after dinner he laughed again when the condition of the “cape”
 recurred to his mind. He dined cheerfully, and after dinner wrote
nothing, but took his ease for a while on the bed, until it got dark.
Then he dressed himself leisurely, put on his cloak, and stepped out
into the street. Where the host lived, unfortunately we cannot say:
our memory begins to fail us badly; and the houses and streets in St.
Petersburg have become so mixed up in our head that it is very difficult
to get anything out of it again in proper form. This much is certain,
that the official lived in the best part of the city; and therefore
it must have been anything but near to Akakiy Akakievitch’s residence.
Akakiy Akakievitch was first obliged to traverse a kind of wilderness of
deserted, dimly-lighted streets; but in proportion as he approached the
official’s quarter of the city, the streets became more lively, more
populous, and more brilliantly illuminated. Pedestrians began to appear;
handsomely dressed ladies were more frequently encountered; the men
had otter skin collars to their coats; peasant waggoners, with their
grate-like sledges stuck over with brass-headed nails, became rarer;
whilst on the other hand, more and more drivers in red velvet caps,
lacquered sledges and bear-skin coats began to appear, and carriages
with rich hammer-cloths flew swiftly through the streets, their wheels
scrunching the snow. Akakiy Akakievitch gazed upon all this as upon
a novel sight. He had not been in the streets during the evening for
years. He halted out of curiosity before a shop-window to look at a
picture representing a handsome woman, who had thrown off her shoe,
thereby baring her whole foot in a very pretty way; whilst behind her
the head of a man with whiskers and a handsome moustache peeped through
the doorway of another room. Akakiy Akakievitch shook his head and
laughed, and then went on his way. Why did he laugh? Either because he
had met with a thing utterly unknown, but for which every one cherishes,
nevertheless, some sort of feeling; or else he thought, like many
officials, as follows: “Well, those French! What is to be said? If they
do go in anything of that sort, why--” But possibly he did not think at

Akakiy Akakievitch at length reached the house in which the sub-chief
lodged. The sub-chief lived in fine style: the staircase was lit by
a lamp; his apartment being on the second floor. On entering the
vestibule, Akakiy Akakievitch beheld a whole row of goloshes on the
floor. Among them, in the centre of the room, stood a samovar or
tea-urn, humming and emitting clouds of steam. On the walls hung all
sorts of coats and cloaks, among which there were even some with beaver
collars or velvet facings. Beyond, the buzz of conversation was audible,
and became clear and loud when the servant came out with a trayful of
empty glasses, cream-jugs, and sugar-bowls. It was evident that the
officials had arrived long before, and had already finished their first
glass of tea.

Akakiy Akakievitch, having hung up his own cloak, entered the inner
room. Before him all at once appeared lights, officials, pipes, and
card-tables; and he was bewildered by the sound of rapid conversation
rising from all the tables, and the noise of moving chairs. He halted
very awkwardly in the middle of the room, wondering what he ought to do.
But they had seen him. They received him with a shout, and all thronged
at once into the ante-room, and there took another look at his cloak.
Akakiy Akakievitch, although somewhat confused, was frank-hearted, and
could not refrain from rejoicing when he saw how they praised his cloak.
Then, of course, they all dropped him and his cloak, and returned, as
was proper, to the tables set out for whist.

All this, the noise, the talk, and the throng of people was rather
overwhelming to Akakiy Akakievitch. He simply did not know where he
stood, or where to put his hands, his feet, and his whole body. Finally
he sat down by the players, looked at the cards, gazed at the face of
one and another, and after a while began to gape, and to feel that it
was wearisome, the more so as the hour was already long past when he
usually went to bed. He wanted to take leave of the host; but they
would not let him go, saying that he must not fail to drink a glass
of champagne in honour of his new garment. In the course of an hour,
supper, consisting of vegetable salad, cold veal, pastry, confectioner’s
pies, and champagne, was served. They made Akakiy Akakievitch drink two
glasses of champagne, after which he felt things grow livelier.

Still, he could not forget that it was twelve o’clock, and that he
should have been at home long ago. In order that the host might not
think of some excuse for detaining him, he stole out of the room
quickly, sought out, in the ante-room, his cloak, which, to his sorrow,
he found lying on the floor, brushed it, picked off every speck upon it,
put it on his shoulders, and descended the stairs to the street.

In the street all was still bright. Some petty shops, those permanent
clubs of servants and all sorts of folk, were open. Others were shut,
but, nevertheless, showed a streak of light the whole length of the
door-crack, indicating that they were not yet free of company, and that
probably some domestics, male and female, were finishing their stories
and conversations whilst leaving their masters in complete ignorance
as to their whereabouts. Akakiy Akakievitch went on in a happy frame of
mind: he even started to run, without knowing why, after some lady, who
flew past like a flash of lightning. But he stopped short, and went on
very quietly as before, wondering why he had quickened his pace. Soon
there spread before him those deserted streets, which are not cheerful
in the daytime, to say nothing of the evening. Now they were even more
dim and lonely: the lanterns began to grow rarer, oil, evidently, had
been less liberally supplied. Then came wooden houses and fences: not
a soul anywhere; only the snow sparkled in the streets, and mournfully
veiled the low-roofed cabins with their closed shutters. He approached
the spot where the street crossed a vast square with houses barely
visible on its farther side, a square which seemed a fearful desert.

Afar, a tiny spark glimmered from some watchman’s box, which seemed
to stand on the edge of the world. Akakiy Akakievitch’s cheerfulness
diminished at this point in a marked degree. He entered the square, not
without an involuntary sensation of fear, as though his heart warned him
of some evil. He glanced back and on both sides, it was like a sea about
him. “No, it is better not to look,” he thought, and went on, closing
his eyes. When he opened them, to see whether he was near the end of
the square, he suddenly beheld, standing just before his very nose, some
bearded individuals of precisely what sort he could not make out. All
grew dark before his eyes, and his heart throbbed.

“But, of course, the cloak is mine!” said one of them in a loud voice,
seizing hold of his collar. Akakiy Akakievitch was about to shout
“watch,” when the second man thrust a fist, about the size of a man’s
head, into his mouth, muttering, “Now scream!”

Akakiy Akakievitch felt them strip off his cloak and give him a push
with a knee: he fell headlong upon the snow, and felt no more. In a few
minutes he recovered consciousness and rose to his feet; but no one was
there. He felt that it was cold in the square, and that his cloak was
gone; he began to shout, but his voice did not appear to reach to the
outskirts of the square. In despair, but without ceasing to shout,
he started at a run across the square, straight towards the watchbox,
beside which stood the watchman, leaning on his halberd, and apparently
curious to know what kind of a customer was running towards him and
shouting. Akakiy Akakievitch ran up to him, and began in a sobbing voice
to shout that he was asleep, and attended to nothing, and did not see
when a man was robbed. The watchman replied that he had seen two men
stop him in the middle of the square, but supposed that they were
friends of his; and that, instead of scolding vainly, he had better
go to the police on the morrow, so that they might make a search for
whoever had stolen the cloak.

Akakiy Akakievitch ran home in complete disorder; his hair, which
grew very thinly upon his temples and the back of his head, wholly
disordered; his body, arms, and legs covered with snow. The old woman,
who was mistress of his lodgings, on hearing a terrible knocking, sprang
hastily from her bed, and, with only one shoe on, ran to open the door,
pressing the sleeve of her chemise to her bosom out of modesty; but when
she had opened it, she fell back on beholding Akakiy Akakievitch in such
a state. When he told her about the affair, she clasped her hands, and
said that he must go straight to the district chief of police, for his
subordinate would turn up his nose, promise well, and drop the matter
there. The very best thing to do, therefore, would be to go to the
district chief, whom she knew, because Finnish Anna, her former cook,
was now nurse at his house. She often saw him passing the house; and
he was at church every Sunday, praying, but at the same time gazing
cheerfully at everybody; so that he must be a good man, judging from all
appearances. Having listened to this opinion, Akakiy Akakievitch betook
himself sadly to his room; and how he spent the night there any one who
can put himself in another’s place may readily imagine.

Early in the morning, he presented himself at the district chief’s; but
was told that this official was asleep. He went again at ten and was
again informed that he was asleep; at eleven, and they said: “The
superintendent is not at home;” at dinner time, and the clerks in the
ante-room would not admit him on any terms, and insisted upon knowing
his business. So that at last, for once in his life, Akakiy Akakievitch
felt an inclination to show some spirit, and said curtly that he must
see the chief in person; that they ought not to presume to refuse him
entrance; that he came from the department of justice, and that when he
complained of them, they would see.

The clerks dared make no reply to this, and one of them went to call
the chief, who listened to the strange story of the theft of the coat.
Instead of directing his attention to the principal points of the
matter, he began to question Akakiy Akakievitch: Why was he going
home so late? Was he in the habit of doing so, or had he been to some
disorderly house? So that Akakiy Akakievitch got thoroughly confused,
and left him without knowing whether the affair of his cloak was in
proper train or not.

All that day, for the first time in his life, he never went near the
department. The next day he made his appearance, very pale, and in his
old cape, which had become even more shabby. The news of the robbery of
the cloak touched many; although there were some officials present who
never lost an opportunity, even such a one as the present, of ridiculing
Akakiy Akakievitch. They decided to make a collection for him on the
spot, but the officials had already spent a great deal in subscribing
for the director’s portrait, and for some book, at the suggestion of the
head of that division, who was a friend of the author; and so the sum
was trifling.

One of them, moved by pity, resolved to help Akakiy Akakievitch with
some good advice at least, and told him that he ought not to go to the
police, for although it might happen that a police-officer, wishing
to win the approval of his superiors, might hunt up the cloak by some
means, still his cloak would remain in the possession of the police if
he did not offer legal proof that it belonged to him. The best thing
for him, therefore, would be to apply to a certain prominent personage;
since this prominent personage, by entering into relations with the
proper persons, could greatly expedite the matter.

As there was nothing else to be done, Akakiy Akakievitch decided to go
to the prominent personage. What was the exact official position of the
prominent personage remains unknown to this day. The reader must
know that the prominent personage had but recently become a prominent
personage, having up to that time been only an insignificant person.
Moreover, his present position was not considered prominent in
comparison with others still more so. But there is always a circle of
people to whom what is insignificant in the eyes of others, is important
enough. Moreover, he strove to increase his importance by sundry
devices; for instance, he managed to have the inferior officials meet
him on the staircase when he entered upon his service; no one was to
presume to come directly to him, but the strictest etiquette must be
observed; the collegiate recorder must make a report to the government
secretary, the government secretary to the titular councillor, or
whatever other man was proper, and all business must come before him in
this manner. In Holy Russia all is thus contaminated with the love of
imitation; every man imitates and copies his superior. They even say
that a certain titular councillor, when promoted to the head of some
small separate room, immediately partitioned off a private room for
himself, called it the audience chamber, and posted at the door a lackey
with red collar and braid, who grasped the handle of the door and opened
to all comers; though the audience chamber could hardly hold an ordinary

The manners and customs of the prominent personage were grand and
imposing, but rather exaggerated. The main foundation of his system
was strictness. “Strictness, strictness, and always strictness!” he
generally said; and at the last word he looked significantly into the
face of the person to whom he spoke. But there was no necessity for
this, for the half-score of subordinates who formed the entire force of
the office were properly afraid; on catching sight of him afar off
they left their work and waited, drawn up in line, until he had passed
through the room. His ordinary converse with his inferiors smacked of
sternness, and consisted chiefly of three phrases: “How dare you?” “Do
you know whom you are speaking to?” “Do you realise who stands before

Otherwise he was a very kind-hearted man, good to his comrades, and
ready to oblige; but the rank of general threw him completely off his
balance. On receiving any one of that rank, he became confused, lost his
way, as it were, and never knew what to do. If he chanced to be amongst
his equals he was still a very nice kind of man, a very good fellow in
many respects, and not stupid; but the very moment that he found himself
in the society of people but one rank lower than himself he became
silent; and his situation aroused sympathy, the more so as he felt
himself that he might have been making an incomparably better use of
his time. In his eyes there was sometimes visible a desire to join some
interesting conversation or group; but he was kept back by the thought,
“Would it not be a very great condescension on his part? Would it not
be familiar? and would he not thereby lose his importance?” And in
consequence of such reflections he always remained in the same dumb
state, uttering from time to time a few monosyllabic sounds, and thereby
earning the name of the most wearisome of men.

To this prominent personage Akakiy Akakievitch presented himself, and
this at the most unfavourable time for himself though opportune for
the prominent personage. The prominent personage was in his cabinet
conversing gaily with an old acquaintance and companion of his childhood
whom he had not seen for several years and who had just arrived when it
was announced to him that a person named Bashmatchkin had come. He asked
abruptly, “Who is he?”--“Some official,” he was informed. “Ah, he can
wait! this is no time for him to call,” said the important man.

It must be remarked here that the important man lied outrageously:
he had said all he had to say to his friend long before; and the
conversation had been interspersed for some time with very long pauses,
during which they merely slapped each other on the leg, and said, “You
think so, Ivan Abramovitch!” “Just so, Stepan Varlamitch!” Nevertheless,
he ordered that the official should be kept waiting, in order to show
his friend, a man who had not been in the service for a long time, but
had lived at home in the country, how long officials had to wait in his

At length, having talked himself completely out, and more than that,
having had his fill of pauses, and smoked a cigar in a very comfortable
arm-chair with reclining back, he suddenly seemed to recollect, and said
to the secretary, who stood by the door with papers of reports, “So it
seems that there is a tchinovnik waiting to see me. Tell him that he may
come in.” On perceiving Akakiy Akakievitch’s modest mien and his worn
undress uniform, he turned abruptly to him and said, “What do you want?”
 in a curt hard voice, which he had practised in his room in private, and
before the looking-glass, for a whole week before being raised to his
present rank.

Akakiy Akakievitch, who was already imbued with a due amount of fear,
became somewhat confused: and as well as his tongue would permit,
explained, with a rather more frequent addition than usual of the word
“that,” that his cloak was quite new, and had been stolen in the most
inhuman manner; that he had applied to him in order that he might, in
some way, by his intermediation--that he might enter into correspondence
with the chief of police, and find the cloak.

For some inexplicable reason this conduct seemed familiar to the
prominent personage. “What, my dear sir!” he said abruptly, “are you not
acquainted with etiquette? Where have you come from? Don’t you know
how such matters are managed? You should first have entered a complaint
about this at the court below: it would have gone to the head of the
department, then to the chief of the division, then it would have been
handed over to the secretary, and the secretary would have given it to

“But, your excellency,” said Akakiy Akakievitch, trying to collect
his small handful of wits, and conscious at the same time that he
was perspiring terribly, “I, your excellency, presumed to trouble you
because secretaries--are an untrustworthy race.”

“What, what, what!” said the important personage. “Where did you get
such courage? Where did you get such ideas? What impudence towards
their chiefs and superiors has spread among the young generation!” The
prominent personage apparently had not observed that Akakiy Akakievitch
was already in the neighbourhood of fifty. If he could be called a young
man, it must have been in comparison with some one who was twenty. “Do
you know to whom you speak? Do you realise who stands before you? Do you
realise it? do you realise it? I ask you!” Then he stamped his foot and
raised his voice to such a pitch that it would have frightened even a
different man from Akakiy Akakievitch.

Akakiy Akakievitch’s senses failed him; he staggered, trembled in every
limb, and, if the porters had not run to support him, would have
fallen to the floor. They carried him out insensible. But the prominent
personage, gratified that the effect should have surpassed his
expectations, and quite intoxicated with the thought that his word could
even deprive a man of his senses, glanced sideways at his friend
in order to see how he looked upon this, and perceived, not without
satisfaction, that his friend was in a most uneasy frame of mind, and
even beginning, on his part, to feel a trifle frightened.

Akakiy Akakievitch could not remember how he descended the stairs and
got into the street. He felt neither his hands nor feet. Never in his
life had he been so rated by any high official, let alone a strange one.
He went staggering on through the snow-storm, which was blowing in the
streets, with his mouth wide open; the wind, in St. Petersburg fashion,
darted upon him from all quarters, and down every cross-street. In a
twinkling it had blown a quinsy into his throat, and he reached home
unable to utter a word. His throat was swollen, and he lay down on his
bed. So powerful is sometimes a good scolding!

The next day a violent fever showed itself. Thanks to the generous
assistance of the St. Petersburg climate, the malady progressed more
rapidly than could have been expected: and when the doctor arrived, he
found, on feeling the sick man’s pulse, that there was nothing to be
done, except to prescribe a fomentation, so that the patient might not
be left entirely without the beneficent aid of medicine; but at the same
time, he predicted his end in thirty-six hours. After this he turned to
the landlady, and said, “And as for you, don’t waste your time on him:
order his pine coffin now, for an oak one will be too expensive for
him.” Did Akakiy Akakievitch hear these fatal words? and if he heard
them, did they produce any overwhelming effect upon him? Did he
lament the bitterness of his life?--We know not, for he continued in a
delirious condition. Visions incessantly appeared to him, each stranger
than the other. Now he saw Petrovitch, and ordered him to make a cloak,
with some traps for robbers, who seemed to him to be always under the
bed; and cried every moment to the landlady to pull one of them from
under his coverlet. Then he inquired why his old mantle hung before him
when he had a new cloak. Next he fancied that he was standing before
the prominent person, listening to a thorough setting-down, and saying,
“Forgive me, your excellency!” but at last he began to curse, uttering
the most horrible words, so that his aged landlady crossed herself,
never in her life having heard anything of the kind from him, the more
so as those words followed directly after the words “your excellency.”
 Later on he talked utter nonsense, of which nothing could be made: all
that was evident being, that his incoherent words and thoughts hovered
ever about one thing, his cloak.

At length poor Akakiy Akakievitch breathed his last. They sealed up
neither his room nor his effects, because, in the first place, there
were no heirs, and, in the second, there was very little to inherit
beyond a bundle of goose-quills, a quire of white official paper, three
pairs of socks, two or three buttons which had burst off his trousers,
and the mantle already known to the reader. To whom all this fell, God
knows. I confess that the person who told me this tale took no interest
in the matter. They carried Akakiy Akakievitch out and buried him.

And St. Petersburg was left without Akakiy Akakievitch, as though he had
never lived there. A being disappeared who was protected by none, dear
to none, interesting to none, and who never even attracted to himself
the attention of those students of human nature who omit no opportunity
of thrusting a pin through a common fly, and examining it under the
microscope. A being who bore meekly the jibes of the department, and
went to his grave without having done one unusual deed, but to whom,
nevertheless, at the close of his life appeared a bright visitant in the
form of a cloak, which momentarily cheered his poor life, and upon whom,
thereafter, an intolerable misfortune descended, just as it descends
upon the mighty of this world!

Several days after his death, the porter was sent from the department
to his lodgings, with an order for him to present himself there
immediately; the chief commanding it. But the porter had to return
unsuccessful, with the answer that he could not come; and to the
question, “Why?” replied, “Well, because he is dead! he was buried four
days ago.” In this manner did they hear of Akakiy Akakievitch’s death at
the department, and the next day a new official sat in his place, with a
handwriting by no means so upright, but more inclined and slanting.

But who could have imagined that this was not really the end of Akakiy
Akakievitch, that he was destined to raise a commotion after death,
as if in compensation for his utterly insignificant life? But so it
happened, and our poor story unexpectedly gains a fantastic ending.

A rumour suddenly spread through St. Petersburg that a dead man had
taken to appearing on the Kalinkin Bridge and its vicinity at night in
the form of a tchinovnik seeking a stolen cloak, and that, under the
pretext of its being the stolen cloak, he dragged, without regard to
rank or calling, every one’s cloak from his shoulders, be it cat-skin,
beaver, fox, bear, sable; in a word, every sort of fur and skin which
men adopted for their covering. One of the department officials saw
the dead man with his own eyes and immediately recognised in him Akakiy
Akakievitch. This, however, inspired him with such terror that he ran
off with all his might, and therefore did not scan the dead man closely,
but only saw how the latter threatened him from afar with his finger.
Constant complaints poured in from all quarters that the backs and
shoulders, not only of titular but even of court councillors, were
exposed to the danger of a cold on account of the frequent dragging off
of their cloaks.

Arrangements were made by the police to catch the corpse, alive or dead,
at any cost, and punish him as an example to others in the most severe
manner. In this they nearly succeeded; for a watchman, on guard in
Kirushkin Alley, caught the corpse by the collar on the very scene of
his evil deeds, when attempting to pull off the frieze coat of a retired
musician. Having seized him by the collar, he summoned, with a shout,
two of his comrades, whom he enjoined to hold him fast while he himself
felt for a moment in his boot, in order to draw out his snuff-box and
refresh his frozen nose. But the snuff was of a sort which even a corpse
could not endure. The watchman having closed his right nostril with his
finger, had no sooner succeeded in holding half a handful up to the left
than the corpse sneezed so violently that he completely filled the eyes
of all three. While they raised their hands to wipe them, the dead man
vanished completely, so that they positively did not know whether they
had actually had him in their grip at all. Thereafter the watchmen
conceived such a terror of dead men that they were afraid even to seize
the living, and only screamed from a distance, “Hey, there! go your
way!” So the dead tchinovnik began to appear even beyond the Kalinkin
Bridge, causing no little terror to all timid people.

But we have totally neglected that certain prominent personage who may
really be considered as the cause of the fantastic turn taken by this
true history. First of all, justice compels us to say that after the
departure of poor, annihilated Akakiy Akakievitch he felt something like
remorse. Suffering was unpleasant to him, for his heart was accessible
to many good impulses, in spite of the fact that his rank often
prevented his showing his true self. As soon as his friend had left his
cabinet, he began to think about poor Akakiy Akakievitch. And from
that day forth, poor Akakiy Akakievitch, who could not bear up under an
official reprimand, recurred to his mind almost every day. The thought
troubled him to such an extent that a week later he even resolved to
send an official to him, to learn whether he really could assist
him; and when it was reported to him that Akakiy Akakievitch had died
suddenly of fever, he was startled, hearkened to the reproaches of his
conscience, and was out of sorts for the whole day.

Wishing to divert his mind in some way, and drive away the disagreeable
impression, he set out that evening for one of his friends’ houses,
where he found quite a large party assembled. What was better, nearly
every one was of the same rank as himself, so that he need not feel
in the least constrained. This had a marvellous effect upon his mental
state. He grew expansive, made himself agreeable in conversation, in
short, he passed a delightful evening. After supper he drank a couple
of glasses of champagne--not a bad recipe for cheerfulness, as every
one knows. The champagne inclined him to various adventures; and he
determined not to return home, but to go and see a certain well-known
lady of German extraction, Karolina Ivanovna, a lady, it appears, with
whom he was on a very friendly footing.

It must be mentioned that the prominent personage was no longer a young
man, but a good husband and respected father of a family. Two sons, one
of whom was already in the service, and a good-looking, sixteen-year-old
daughter, with a rather retrousse but pretty little nose, came every
morning to kiss his hand and say, “Bonjour, papa.” His wife, a still
fresh and good-looking woman, first gave him her hand to kiss, and then,
reversing the procedure, kissed his. But the prominent personage, though
perfectly satisfied in his domestic relations, considered it stylish to
have a friend in another quarter of the city. This friend was scarcely
prettier or younger than his wife; but there are such puzzles in the
world, and it is not our place to judge them. So the important personage
descended the stairs, stepped into his sledge, said to the coachman,
“To Karolina Ivanovna’s,” and, wrapping himself luxuriously in his
warm cloak, found himself in that delightful frame of mind than which
a Russian can conceive no better, namely, when you think of nothing
yourself, yet when the thoughts creep into your mind of their own
accord, each more agreeable than the other, giving you no trouble either
to drive them away or seek them. Fully satisfied, he recalled all the
gay features of the evening just passed, and all the mots which had made
the little circle laugh. Many of them he repeated in a low voice, and
found them quite as funny as before; so it is not surprising that he
should laugh heartily at them. Occasionally, however, he was interrupted
by gusts of wind, which, coming suddenly, God knows whence or why, cut
his face, drove masses of snow into it, filled out his cloak-collar like
a sail, or suddenly blew it over his head with supernatural force, and
thus caused him constant trouble to disentangle himself.

Suddenly the important personage felt some one clutch him firmly by the
collar. Turning round, he perceived a man of short stature, in an old,
worn uniform, and recognised, not without terror, Akakiy Akakievitch.
The official’s face was white as snow, and looked just like a corpse’s.
But the horror of the important personage transcended all bounds when he
saw the dead man’s mouth open, and, with a terrible odour of the grave,
gave vent to the following remarks: “Ah, here you are at last! I have
you, that--by the collar! I need your cloak; you took no trouble about
mine, but reprimanded me; so now give up your own.”

The pallid prominent personage almost died of fright. Brave as he was in
the office and in the presence of inferiors generally, and although, at
the sight of his manly form and appearance, every one said, “Ugh! how
much character he had!” at this crisis, he, like many possessed of an
heroic exterior, experienced such terror, that, not without cause, he
began to fear an attack of illness. He flung his cloak hastily from his
shoulders and shouted to his coachman in an unnatural voice, “Home at
full speed!” The coachman, hearing the tone which is generally employed
at critical moments and even accompanied by something much more
tangible, drew his head down between his shoulders in case of an
emergency, flourished his whip, and flew on like an arrow. In a little
more than six minutes the prominent personage was at the entrance of his
own house. Pale, thoroughly scared, and cloakless, he went home instead
of to Karolina Ivanovna’s, reached his room somehow or other, and passed
the night in the direst distress; so that the next morning over their
tea his daughter said, “You are very pale to-day, papa.” But papa
remained silent, and said not a word to any one of what had happened to
him, where he had been, or where he had intended to go.

This occurrence made a deep impression upon him. He even began to say:
“How dare you? do you realise who stands before you?” less frequently
to the under-officials, and if he did utter the words, it was only after
having first learned the bearings of the matter. But the most noteworthy
point was, that from that day forward the apparition of the dead
tchinovnik ceased to be seen. Evidently the prominent personage’s cloak
just fitted his shoulders; at all events, no more instances of his
dragging cloaks from people’s shoulders were heard of. But many active
and apprehensive persons could by no means reassure themselves, and
asserted that the dead tchinovnik still showed himself in distant parts
of the city.

In fact, one watchman in Kolomna saw with his own eyes the apparition
come from behind a house. But being rather weak of body, he dared
not arrest him, but followed him in the dark, until, at length, the
apparition looked round, paused, and inquired, “What do you want?” at
the same time showing a fist such as is never seen on living men. The
watchman said, “It’s of no consequence,” and turned back instantly. But
the apparition was much too tall, wore huge moustaches, and, directing
its steps apparently towards the Obukhoff bridge, disappeared in the
darkness of the night.




A fine pelisse has Ivan Ivanovitch! splendid! And what lambskin! deuce
take it, what lambskin! blue-black with silver lights. I’ll forfeit, I
know not what, if you find any one else owning such a one. Look at it,
for heaven’s sake, especially when he stands talking with any one! look
at him side-ways: what a pleasure it is! To describe it is impossible:
velvet! silver! fire! Nikolai the Wonder-worker, saint of God! why have
I not such a pelisse? He had it made before Agafya Fedosyevna went to
Kief. You know Agafya Fedosyevna who bit the assessor’s ear off?

Ivan Ivanovitch is a very handsome man. What a house he has in Mirgorod!
Around it on every side is a balcony on oaken pillars, and on the
balcony are benches. Ivan Ivanovitch, when the weather gets too warm,
throws off his pelisse and his remaining upper garments, and sits, in
his shirt sleeves, on the balcony to observe what is going on in the
courtyard and the street. What apples and pears he has under his
very windows! You have but to open the window and the branches force
themselves through into the room. All this is in front of the house;
but you should see what he has in the garden. What is there not there?
Plums, cherries, every sort of vegetable, sunflowers, cucumbers, melons,
peas, a threshing-floor, and even a forge.

A very fine man, Ivan Ivanovitch! He is very fond of melons: they
are his favourite food. As soon as he has dined, and come out on his
balcony, in his shirt sleeves, he orders Gapka to bring two melons, and
immediately cuts them himself, collects the seeds in a paper, and begins
to eat. Then he orders Gapka to fetch the ink-bottle, and, with his own
hand, writes this inscription on the paper of seeds: “These melons were
eaten on such and such a date.” If there was a guest present, then it
reads, “Such and such a person assisted.”

The late judge of Mirgorod always gazed at Ivan Ivanovitch’s house with
pleasure. The little house is very pretty. It pleases me because sheds
and other little additions are built on to it on all sides; so that,
looking at it from a distance, only roofs are visible, rising one above
another, and greatly resembling a plate full of pancakes, or, better
still, fungi growing on the trunk of a tree. Moreover, the roof is all
overgrown with weeds: a willow, an oak, and two apple-trees lean their
spreading branches against it. Through the trees peep little windows
with carved and white-washed shutters, which project even into the

A very fine man, Ivan Ivanovitch! The commissioner of Poltava knows him
too. Dorosh Tarasovitch Pukhivotchka, when he leaves Khorola, always
goes to his house. And when Father Peter, the Protopope who lives at
Koliberdas, invites a few guests, he always says that he knows of no one
who so well fulfils all his Christian duties and understands so well how
to live as Ivan Ivanovitch.

How time flies! More than ten years have already passed since he became
a widower. He never had any children. Gapka has children and they run
about the court-yard. Ivan Ivanovitch always gives each of them a cake,
or a slice of melon, or a pear.

Gapka carries the keys of the storerooms and cellars; but the key of
the large chest which stands in his bedroom, and that of the centre
storeroom, Ivan Ivanovitch keeps himself; Gapka is a healthy girl, with
ruddy cheeks and calves, and goes about in coarse cloth garments.

And what a pious man is Ivan Ivanovitch! Every Sunday he dons his
pelisse and goes to church. On entering, he bows on all sides, generally
stations himself in the choir, and sings a very good bass. When the
service is over, Ivan Ivanovitch cannot refrain from passing the poor
people in review. He probably would not have cared to undertake
this tiresome work if his natural goodness had not urged him to it.
“Good-day, beggar!” he generally said, selecting the most crippled old
woman, in the most patched and threadbare garments. “Whence come you, my
poor woman?”

“I come from the farm, sir. ‘Tis two days since I have eaten or drunk:
my own children drove me out.”

“Poor soul! why did you come hither?”

“To beg alms, sir, to see whether some one will not give me at least
enough for bread.”

“Hm! so you want bread?” Ivan Ivanovitch generally inquired.

“How should it be otherwise? I am as hungry as a dog.”

“Hm!” replied Ivan Ivanovitch usually, “and perhaps you would like
butter too?”

“Yes; everything which your kindness will give; I will be content with

“Hm! Is butter better than bread?”

“How is a hungry person to choose? Anything you please, all is good.”
 Thereupon the old woman generally extended her hand.

“Well, go with God’s blessing,” said Ivan Ivanovitch. “Why do you stand
there? I’m not beating you.” And turning to a second and a third with
the same questions, he finally returns home, or goes to drink a little
glass of vodka with his neighbour, Ivan Nikiforovitch, or the judge, or
the chief of police.

Ivan Ivanovitch is very fond of receiving presents. They please him

A very fine man too is Ivan Nikiforovitch. They are such friends as the
world never saw. Anton Prokofievitch Pupopuz, who goes about to this
hour in his cinnamon-coloured surtout with blue sleeves and dines every
Sunday with the judge, was in the habit of saying that the Devil himself
had bound Ivan Ivanovitch and Ivan Nikiforovitch together with a rope:
where one went, the other followed.

Ivan Nikiforovitch has never married. Although it was reported that
he was married it was completely false. I know Ivan Nikiforovitch very
well, and am able to state that he never even had any intention of
marrying. Where do all these scandals originate? In the same way it
was rumoured that Ivan Nikiforovitch was born with a tail! But this
invention is so clumsy and at the same time so horrible and indecent
that I do not even consider it necessary to refute it for the benefit of
civilised readers, to whom it is doubtless known that only witches, and
very few even of these, have tails. Witches, moreover, belong more to
the feminine than to the masculine gender.

In spite of their great friendship, these rare friends are not always
agreed between themselves. Their characters can best be judged by
comparing them. Ivan Ivanovitch has the usual gift of speaking in an
extremely pleasant manner. Heavens! How he does speak! The feeling can
best be described by comparing it to that which you experience when some
one combs your head or draws his finger softly across your heel. You
listen and listen until you drop your head. Pleasant, exceedingly
pleasant! like the sleep after a bath. Ivan Nikiforovitch, on the
contrary, is more reticent; but if he once takes up his parable, look
out for yourself! He can talk your head off.

Ivan Ivanovitch is tall and thin: Ivan Nikiforovitch is rather shorter
in stature, but he makes it up in thickness. Ivan Ivanovitch’s head is
like a radish, tail down; Ivan Nikiforovitch’s like a radish with the
tail up. Ivan Ivanovitch lolls on the balcony in his shirt sleeves after
dinner only: in the evening he dons his pelisse and goes out somewhere,
either to the village shop, where he supplies flour, or into the fields
to catch quail. Ivan Nikiforovitch lies all day at his porch: if the day
is not too hot he generally turns his back to the sun and will not go
anywhere. If it happens to occur to him in the morning he walks through
the yard, inspects the domestic affairs, and retires again to his room.
In early days he used to call on Ivan Ivanovitch. Ivan Ivanovitch is a
very refined man, and never utters an impolite word. Ivan Nikiforovitch
is not always on his guard. On such occasions Ivan Ivanovitch usually
rises from his seat, and says, “Enough, enough, Ivan Nikiforovitch! It’s
better to go out at once than to utter such godless words.”

Ivan Ivanovitch gets into a terrible rage if a fly falls into his
beet-soup. Then he is fairly beside himself; he flings away his plate
and the housekeeper catches it. Ivan Nikiforovitch is very fond of
bathing; and when he gets up to the neck in water, orders a table and a
samovar, or tea urn, to be placed on the water, for he is very fond of
drinking tea in that cool position. Ivan Ivanovitch shaves twice a
week; Ivan Nikiforovitch once. Ivan Ivanovitch is extremely curious. God
preserve you if you begin to tell him anything and do not finish it! If
he is displeased with anything he lets it be seen at once. It is very
hard to tell from Ivan Nikiforovitch’s countenance whether he is pleased
or angry; even if he is rejoiced at anything, he will not show it. Ivan
Ivanovitch is of a rather timid character: Ivan Nikiforovitch, on the
contrary, has, as the saying is, such full folds in his trousers that
if you were to inflate them you might put the courtyard, with its
storehouses and buildings, inside them.

Ivan Ivanovitch has large, expressive eyes, of a snuff colour, and a
mouth shaped something like the letter V; Ivan Nikiforovitch has small,
yellowish eyes, quite concealed between heavy brows and fat cheeks; and
his nose is the shape of a ripe plum. If Ivanovitch treats you to snuff,
he always licks the cover of his box first with his tongue, then taps
on it with his finger and says, as he raises it, if you are an
acquaintance, “Dare I beg you, sir, to give me the pleasure?” if a
stranger, “Dare I beg you, sir, though I have not the honour of
knowing your rank, name, and family, to do me the favour?” but Ivan
Nikiforovitch puts his box straight into your hand and merely adds, “Do
me the favour.” Neither Ivan Ivanovitch nor Ivan Nikiforovitch loves
fleas; and therefore, neither Ivan Ivanovitch nor Ivan Nikiforovitch
will, on no account, admit a Jew with his wares, without purchasing of
him remedies against these insects, after having first rated him well
for belonging to the Hebrew faith.

But in spite of numerous dissimilarities, Ivan Ivanovitch and Ivan
Nikiforovitch are both very fine fellows.



One morning--it was in July--Ivan Ivanovitch was lying on his balcony.
The day was warm; the air was dry, and came in gusts. Ivan Ivanovitch
had been to town, to the mower’s, and at the farm, and had succeeded in
asking all the muzhiks and women whom he met all manner of questions.
He was fearfully tired and had laid down to rest. As he lay there, he
looked at the storehouse, the courtyard, the sheds, the chickens running
about, and thought to himself, “Heavens! What a well-to-do man I am!
What is there that I have not? Birds, buildings, granaries, everything
I take a fancy to; genuine distilled vodka; pears and plums in the
orchard; poppies, cabbages, peas in the garden; what is there that I
have not? I should like to know what there is that I have not?”

As he put this question to himself, Ivan Ivanovitch reflected; and
meantime his eyes, in their search after fresh objects, crossed the
fence into Ivan Nikiforovitch’s yard and involuntarily took note of
a curious sight. A fat woman was bringing out clothes, which had been
packed away, and spreading them out on the line to air. Presently an
old uniform with worn trimmings was swinging its sleeves in the air
and embracing a brocade gown; from behind it peeped a court-coat, with
buttons stamped with coats-of-arms, and moth-eaten collar; and white
kersymere pantaloons with spots, which had once upon a time clothed Ivan
Nikiforovitch’s legs, and might now possibly fit his fingers. Behind
them were speedily hung some more in the shape of the letter pi. Then
came a blue Cossack jacket, which Ivan Nikiforovitch had had made twenty
years before, when he was preparing to enter the militia, and allowed
his moustache to grow. And one after another appeared a sword,
projecting into the air like a spit, and the skirts of a grass-green
caftan-like garment, with copper buttons the size of a five-kopek piece,
unfolded themselves. From among the folds peeped a vest bound with gold,
with a wide opening in front. The vest was soon concealed by an old
petticoat belonging to his dead grandmother, with pockets which would
have held a water-melon.

All these things piled together formed a very interesting spectacle
for Ivan Ivanovitch; while the sun’s rays, falling upon a blue or green
sleeve, a red binding, or a scrap of gold brocade, or playing in
the point of a sword, formed an unusual sight, similar to the
representations of the Nativity given at farmhouses by wandering bands;
particularly that part where the throng of people, pressing close
together, gaze at King Herod in his golden crown or at Anthony leading
his goat.

Presently the old woman crawled, grunting, from the storeroom, dragging
after her an old-fashioned saddle with broken stirrups, worn leather
holsters, and saddle-cloth, once red, with gilt embroidery and copper

“Here’s a stupid woman,” thought Ivan Ivanovitch. “She’ll be dragging
Ivan Nikiforovitch out and airing him next.”

Ivan Ivanovitch was not so far wrong in his surmise. Five minutes later,
Ivan Nikiforovitch’s nankeen trousers appeared, and took nearly half the
yard to themselves. After that she fetched out a hat and a gun. “What’s
the meaning of this?” thought Ivan Ivanovitch. “I never knew Ivan
Nikiforovitch had a gun. What does he want with it? Whether he shoots,
or not, he keeps a gun! Of what use is it to him? But it’s a splendid
thing. I have long wanted just such a one. I should like that gun very
much: I like to amuse myself with a gun. Hello, there, woman, woman!”
 shouted Ivan Ivanovitch, beckoning to her.

The old woman approached the fence.

“What’s that you have there, my good woman?”

“A gun, as you see.”

“What sort of a gun?”

“Who knows what sort of a gun? If it were mine, perhaps I should know
what it is made of; but it is my master’s, therefore I know nothing of

Ivan Ivanovitch rose, and began to examine the gun on all sides, and
forgot to reprove the old woman for hanging it and the sword out to air.

“It must be iron,” went on the old woman.

“Hm, iron! why iron?” said Ivan Ivanovitch. “Has your master had it

“Yes; long, perhaps.”

“It’s a nice gun!” continued Ivan Ivanovitch. “I will ask him for it.
What can he want with it? I’ll make an exchange with him for it. Is your
master at home, my good woman?”


“What is he doing? lying down?”

“Yes, lying down.”

“Very well, I will come to him.”

Ivan Ivanovitch dressed himself, took his well-seasoned stick for the
benefit of the dogs, for, in Mirgorod, there are more dogs than people
to be met in the street, and went out.

Although Ivan Nikiforovitch’s house was next door to Ivan Ivanovitch’s,
so that you could have got from one to the other by climbing the fence,
yet Ivan Ivanovitch went by way of the street. From the street it
was necessary to turn into an alley which was so narrow that if two
one-horse carts chanced to meet they could not get out, and were forced
to remain there until the drivers, seizing the hind-wheels, dragged them
back in opposite directions into the street, whilst pedestrians
drew aside like flowers growing by the fence on either hand. Ivan
Ivanovitch’s waggon-shed adjoined this alley on one side; and on the
other were Ivan Nikiforovitch’s granary, gate, and pigeon-house.

Ivan Ivanovitch went up to the gate and rattled the latch. Within arose
the barking of dogs; but the motley-haired pack ran back, wagging their
tails when they saw the well-known face. Ivan Ivanovitch traversed
the courtyard, in which were collected Indian doves, fed by Ivan
Nikiforovitch’s own hand, melon-rinds, vegetables, broken wheels,
barrel-hoops, and a small boy wallowing with dirty blouse--a picture
such as painters love. The shadows of the fluttering clothes covered
nearly the whole of the yard and lent it a degree of coolness. The woman
greeted him with a bend of her head and stood, gaping, in one spot.
The front of the house was adorned with a small porch, with its roof
supported on two oak pillars--a welcome protection from the sun, which
at that season in Little Russia loves not to jest, and bathes the
pedestrian from head to foot in perspiration. It may be judged how
powerful Ivan Ivanovitch’s desire to obtain the coveted article was when
he made up his mind, at such an hour, to depart from his usual custom,
which was to walk abroad only in the evening.

The room which Ivan Ivanovitch entered was quite dark, for the shutters
were closed; and the ray of sunlight passing through a hole made in one
of them took on the colours of the rainbow, and, striking the opposite
wall, sketched upon it a parti-coloured picture of the outlines of
roofs, trees, and the clothes suspended in the yard, only upside down.
This gave the room a peculiar half-light.

“God assist you!” said Ivan Ivanovitch.

“Ah! how do you do, Ivan Ivanovitch?” replied a voice from the corner
of the room. Then only did Ivan Ivanovitch perceive Ivan Nikiforovitch
lying upon a rug which was spread on the floor. “Excuse me for appearing
before you in a state of nature.”

“Not at all. You have been asleep, Ivan Nikiforovitch?”

“I have been asleep. Have you been asleep, Ivan Ivanovitch?”

“I have.”

“And now you have risen?”

“Now I have risen. Christ be with you, Ivan Nikiforovitch! How can you
sleep until this time? I have just come from the farm. There’s very fine
barley on the road, charming! and the hay is tall and soft and golden!”

“Gorpina!” shouted Ivan Nikiforovitch, “fetch Ivan Ivanovitch some
vodka, and some pastry and sour cream!”

“Fine weather we’re having to-day.”

“Don’t praise it, Ivan Ivanovitch! Devil take it! You can’t get away
from the heat.”

“Now, why need you mention the devil! Ah, Ivan Nikiforovitch! you will
recall my words when it’s too late. You will suffer in the next world
for such godless words.”

“How have I offended you, Ivan Ivanovitch? I have not attacked your
father nor your mother. I don’t know how I have insulted you.”

“Enough, enough, Ivan Nikiforovitch!”

“By Heavens, Ivan Ivanovitch, I did not insult you!”

“It’s strange that the quails haven’t come yet to the whistle.”

“Think what you please, but I have not insulted you in any way.”

“I don’t know why they don’t come,” said Ivan Ivanovitch, as if he did
not hear Ivan Nikiforovitch; “it is more than time for them already; but
they seem to need more time for some reason.”

“You say that the barley is good?”

“Splendid barley, splendid!”

A silence ensued.

“So you are having your clothes aired, Ivan Nikiforovitch?” said Ivan
Ivanovitch at length.

“Yes; those cursed women have ruined some beautiful clothes; almost new
they were too. Now I’m having them aired; the cloth is fine and good.
They only need turning to make them fit to wear again.”

“One thing among them pleased me extremely, Ivan Nikiforovitch.”

“What was that?”

“Tell me, please, what use do you make of the gun that has been put to
air with the clothes?” Here Ivan Ivanovitch offered his snuff. “May I
ask you to do me the favour?”

“By no means! take it yourself; I will use my own.” Thereupon Ivan
Nikiforovitch felt about him, and got hold of his snuff-box. “That
stupid woman! So she hung the gun out to air. That Jew at Sorotchintzi
makes good snuff. I don’t know what he puts in it, but it is so very
fragrant. It is a little like tansy. Here, take a little and chew it;
isn’t it like tansy?”

“Ivan Nikiforovitch, I want to talk about that gun; what are you going
to do with it? You don’t need it.”

“Why don’t I need it? I might want to go shooting.”

“God be with you, Ivan Nikiforovitch! When will you go shooting? At the
millennium, perhaps? So far as I know, or any one can recollect, you
never killed even a duck; yes, and you are not built to go shooting. You
have a dignified bearing and figure; how are you to drag yourself about
the marshes, especially when your garment, which it is not polite to
mention in conversation by name, is being aired at this very moment? No;
you require rest, repose.” Ivan Ivanovitch as has been hinted at above,
employed uncommonly picturesque language when it was necessary to
persuade any one. How he talked! Heavens, how he could talk! “Yes, and
you require polite actions. See here, give it to me!”

“The idea! The gun is valuable; you can’t find such guns anywhere
nowadays. I bought it of a Turk when I joined the militia; and now,
to give it away all of a sudden! Impossible! It is an indispensable

“Indispensable for what?”

“For what? What if robbers should attack the house?... Indispensable
indeed! Glory to God! I know that a gun stands in my storehouse.”

“A fine gun that! Why, Ivan Nikiforovitch, the lock is ruined.”

“What do you mean by ruined? It can be set right; all that needs to be
done is to rub it with hemp-oil, so that it may not rust.”

“I see in your words, Ivan Nikiforovitch, anything but a friendly
disposition towards me. You will do nothing for me in token of

“How can you say, Ivan Ivanovitch, that I show you no friendship? You
ought to be ashamed of yourself. Your oxen pasture on my steppes and I
have never interfered with them. When you go to Poltava, you always ask
for my waggon, and what then? Have I ever refused? Your children climb
over the fence into my yard and play with my dogs--I never say anything;
let them play, so long as they touch nothing; let them play!”

“If you won’t give it to me, then let us make some exchange.”

“What will you give me for it?” Thereupon Ivan Nikiforovitch raised
himself on his elbow, and looked at Ivan Ivanovitch.

“I will give you my dark-brown sow, the one I have fed in the sty. A
magnificent sow. You’ll see, she’ll bring you a litter of pigs next

“I do not see, Ivan Ivanovitch, how you can talk so. What could I do
with your sow? Make a funeral dinner for the devil?”

“Again! You can’t get along without the devil! It’s a sin! by Heaven,
it’s a sin, Ivan Nikiforovitch!”

“What do you mean, Ivan Ivanovitch, by offering the deuce knows what
kind of a sow for my gun?”

“Why is she ‘the deuce knows what,’ Ivan Nikiforovitch?”

“Why? You can judge for yourself perfectly well; here’s the gun, a known
thing; but the deuce knows what that sow is like! If it had not been you
who said it, Ivan Ivanovitch, I might have put an insulting construction
on it.”

“What defect have you observed in the sow?”

“For what do you take me--for a sow?”

“Sit down, sit down! I won’t--No matter about your gun; let it rot and
rust where it stands in the corner of the storeroom. I don’t want to say
anything more about it!”

After this a pause ensued.

“They say,” began Ivan Ivanovitch, “that three kings have declared war
against our Tzar.”

“Yes, Peter Feodorovitch told me so. What sort of war is this, and why
is it?”

“I cannot say exactly, Ivan Nikiforovitch, what the cause is. I suppose
the kings want us to adopt the Turkish faith.”

“Fools! They would have it,” said Ivan Nikiforovitch, raising his head.

“So, you see, our Tzar has declared war on them in consequence. ‘No,’
says he, ‘do you adopt the faith of Christ!’”

“Oh, our people will beat them, Ivan Ivanovitch!”

“They will. So you won’t exchange the gun, Ivan Nikiforovitch?”

“It’s a strange thing to me, Ivan Ivanovitch, that you, who seem to be
a man distinguished for sense, should talk such nonsense. What a fool I
should be!”

“Sit down, sit down. God be with it! let it burst! I won’t mention it

At this moment lunch was brought in.

Ivan Ivanovitch drank a glass and ate a pie with sour cream. “Listen,
Ivan Nikiforovitch: I will give you, besides the sow, two sacks of
oats. You did not sow any oats. You’ll have to buy some this year in any

“By Heaven, Ivan Ivanovitch, I must tell you you are very foolish! Who
ever heard of swapping a gun for two sacks of oats? Never fear, you
don’t offer your coat.”

“But you forget, Ivan Nikiforovitch, that I am to give you the sow too.”

“What! two sacks of oats and a sow for a gun?”

“Why, is it too little?”

“For a gun?”

“Of course, for a gun.”

“Two sacks for a gun?”

“Two sacks, not empty, but filled with oats; and you’ve forgotten the

“Kiss your sow; and if you don’t like that, then go to the Evil One!”

“Oh, get angry now, do! See here; they’ll stick your tongue full of
red-hot needles in the other world for such godless words. After a
conversation with you, one has to wash one’s face and hands and fumigate
one’s self.”

“Excuse me, Ivan Ivanovitch; my gun is a choice thing, a most curious
thing; and besides, it is a very agreeable decoration in a room.”

“You go on like a fool about that gun of yours, Ivan Nikiforovitch,”
 said Ivan Ivanovitch with vexation; for he was beginning to be really

“And you, Ivan Ivanovitch, are a regular goose!”

If Ivan Nikiforovitch had not uttered that word they would not have
quarrelled, but would have parted friends as usual; but now things took
quite another turn. Ivan Ivanovitch flew into a rage.

“What was that you said, Ivan Nikiforovitch?” he said, raising his

“I said you were like a goose, Ivan Ivanovitch!”

“How dare you, sir, forgetful of decency and the respect due to a man’s
rank and family, insult him with such a disgraceful name!”

“What is there disgraceful about it? And why are you flourishing your
hands so, Ivan Ivanovitch?”

“How dared you, I repeat, in disregard of all decency, call me a goose?”

“I spit on your head, Ivan Ivanovitch! What are you screeching about?”

Ivan Ivanovitch could no longer control himself. His lips quivered; his
mouth lost its usual V shape, and became like the letter O; he glared
so that he was terrible to look at. This very rarely happened with Ivan
Ivanovitch: it was necessary that he should be extremely angry at first.

“Then, I declare to you,” exclaimed Ivan Ivanovitch, “that I will no
longer know you!”

“A great pity! By Heaven, I shall never weep on that account!” retorted
Ivan Nikiforovitch. He lied, by Heaven, he lied! for it was very
annoying to him.

“I will never put my foot inside your house gain!”

“Oho, ho!” said Ivan Nikiforovitch, vexed, yet not knowing himself what
to do, and rising to his feet, contrary to his custom. “Hey, there,
woman, boy!” Thereupon there appeared at the door the same fat woman
and the small boy, now enveloped in a long and wide coat. “Take Ivan
Ivanovitch by the arms and lead him to the door!”

“What! a nobleman?” shouted Ivan Ivanovitch with a feeling of vexation
and dignity. “Just do it if you dare! Come on! I’ll annihilate you and
your stupid master. The crows won’t be able to find your bones.” Ivan
Ivanovitch spoke with uncommon force when his spirit was up.

The group presented a striking picture: Ivan Nikiforovitch standing
in the middle of the room; the woman with her mouth wide open and a
senseless, terrified look on her face, and Ivan Ivanovitch with uplifted
hand, as the Roman tribunes are depicted. This was a magnificent
spectacle: and yet there was but one spectator; the boy in the ample
coat, who stood quite quietly and picked his nose with his finger.

Finally Ivan Ivanovitch took his hat. “You have behaved well, Ivan
Nikiforovitch, extremely well! I shall remember it.”

“Go, Ivan Ivanovitch, go! and see that you don’t come in my way: if you
do, I’ll beat your ugly face to a jelly, Ivan Ivanovitch!”

“Take that, Ivan Nikiforovitch!” retorted Ivan Ivanovitch, making an
insulting gesture and banged the door, which squeaked and flew open
again behind him.

Ivan Nikiforovitch appeared at it and wanted to add something more; but
Ivan Ivanovitch did not glance back and hastened from the yard.



And thus two respectable men, the pride and honour of Mirgorod, had
quarrelled, and about what? About a bit of nonsense--a goose. They would
not see each other, broke off all connection, though hitherto they had
been known as the most inseparable friends. Every day Ivan Ivanovitch
and Ivan Nikiforovitch had sent to inquire about each other’s health,
and often conversed together from their balconies and said such charming
things as did the heart good to listen to. On Sundays, Ivan
Ivanovitch, in his lambskin pelisse, and Ivan Nikiforovitch, in his
cinnamon-coloured nankeen spencer, used to set out for church almost arm
in arm; and if Ivan Ivanovitch, who had remarkably sharp eyes, was
the first to catch sight of a puddle or any dirt in the street, which
sometimes happened in Mirgorod, he always said to Ivan Nikiforovitch,
“Look out! don’t put your foot there, it’s dirty.” Ivan Nikiforovitch,
on his side, exhibited the same touching tokens of friendship; and
whenever he chanced to be standing, always held out his hand to Ivan
Ivanovitch with his snuff-box, saying: “Do me the favour!” And what
fine managers both were!--And these two friends!--When I heard of it, it
struck me like a flash of lightning. For a long time I would not believe
it. Ivan Ivanovitch quarrelling with Ivan Nikiforovitch! Such worthy
people! What is to be depended upon, then, in this world?

When Ivan Ivanovitch reached home, he remained for some time in a state
of strong excitement. He usually went, first of all, to the stable to
see whether his mare was eating her hay; for he had a bay mare with a
white star on her forehead, and a very pretty little mare she was too;
then to feed the turkeys and the little pigs with his own hand, and
then to his room, where he either made wooden dishes, for he could make
various vessels of wood very tastefully, quite as well as any turner, or
read a book printed by Liubia, Garia, and Popoff (Ivan Ivanovitch could
never remember the name, because the serving-maid had long before torn
off the top part of the title-page while amusing the children), or
rested on the balcony. But now he did not betake himself to any of his
ordinary occupations. Instead, on encountering Gapka, he at once began
to scold her for loitering about without any occupation, though she was
carrying groats to the kitchen; flung a stick at a cock which came upon
the balcony for his customary treat; and when the dirty little boy, in
his little torn blouse, ran up to him and shouted: “Papa, papa! give me
a honey-cake,” he threatened him and stamped at him so fiercely that the
frightened child fled, God knows whither.

But at last he bethought himself, and began to busy himself about his
every-day duties. He dined late, and it was almost night when he lay
down to rest on the balcony. A good beet-soup with pigeons, which Gapka
had cooked for him, quite drove from his mind the occurrences of the
morning. Again Ivan Ivanovitch began to gaze at his belongings with
satisfaction. At length his eye rested on the neighbouring yard; and he
said to himself, “I have not been to Ivan Nikiforovitch’s to-day: I’ll
go there now.” So saying, Ivan Ivanovitch took his stick and his hat,
and directed his steps to the street; but scarcely had he passed through
the gate than he recollected the quarrel, spit, and turned back. Almost
the same thing happened at Ivan Nikiforovitch’s house. Ivan Ivanovitch
saw the woman put her foot on the fence, with the intention of climbing
over into his yard, when suddenly Ivan Nikiforovitch’s voice was heard
crying: “Come back! it won’t do!” But Ivan Ivanovitch found it very
tiresome. It is quite possible that these worthy men would have made
their peace next day if a certain occurrence in Ivan Nikiforovitch’s
house had not destroyed all hopes and poured oil upon the fire of enmity
which was ready to die out.


On the evening of that very day, Agafya Fedosyevna arrived at Ivan
Nikiforovitch’s. Agafya Fedosyevna was not Ivan Nikiforovitch’s
relative, nor his sister-in-law, nor even his fellow-godparent. There
seemed to be no reason why she should come to him, and he was not
particularly glad of her company; still, she came, and lived on him for
weeks at a time, and even longer. Then she took possession of the keys
and took the management of the whole house into her own hands. This was
extremely displeasing to Ivan Nikiforovitch; but he, to his amazement,
obeyed her like a child; and although he occasionally attempted to
dispute, yet Agafya Fedosyevna always got the better of him.

I must confess that I do not understand why things are so arranged, that
women should seize us by the nose as deftly as they do the handle of a
teapot. Either their hands are so constructed or else our noses are good
for nothing else. And notwithstanding the fact that Ivan Nikiforovitch’s
nose somewhat resembled a plum, she grasped that nose and led him about
after her like a dog. He even, in her presence, involuntarily altered
his ordinary manner of life.

Agafya Fedosyevna wore a cap on her head, and a coffee-coloured cloak
with yellow flowers and had three warts on her nose. Her figure was like
a cask, and it would have been as hard to tell where to look for her
waist as for her to see her nose without a mirror. Her feet were small
and shaped like two cushions. She talked scandal, ate boiled beet-soup
in the morning, and swore extremely; and amidst all these various
occupations her countenance never for one instant changed its
expression, which phenomenon, as a rule, women alone are capable of

As soon as she arrived, everything went wrong.

“Ivan Nikiforovitch, don’t you make peace with him, nor ask his
forgiveness; he wants to ruin you; that’s the kind of man he is! you
don’t know him yet!” That cursed woman whispered and whispered, and
managed so that Ivan Nikiforovitch would not even hear Ivan Ivanovitch

Everything assumed another aspect. If his neighbour’s dog ran into
the yard, it was beaten within an inch of its life; the children, who
climbed over the fence, were sent back with howls, their little shirts
stripped up, and marks of a switch behind. Even the old woman, when
Ivan Ivanovitch ventured to ask her about something, did something so
insulting that Ivan Ivanovitch, being an extremely delicate man, only
spit, and muttered, “What a nasty woman! even worse than her master!”

Finally, as a climax to all the insults, his hated neighbour built
a goose-shed right against his fence at the spot where they usually
climbed over, as if with the express intention of redoubling the
insult. This shed, so hateful to Ivan Ivanovitch, was constructed with
diabolical swiftness--in one day.

This aroused wrath and a desire for revenge in Ivan Ivanovitch. He
showed no signs of bitterness, in spite of the fact that the shed
encroached on his land; but his heart beat so violently that it was
extremely difficult for him to preserve his calm appearance.

He passed the day in this manner. Night came--Oh, if I were a painter,
how magnificently I would depict the night’s charms! I would describe
how all Mirgorod sleeps; how steadily the myriads of stars gaze down
upon it; how the apparent quiet is filled far and near with the barking
of dogs; how the love-sick sacristan steals past them, and scales the
fence with knightly fearlessness; how the white walls of the houses,
bathed in the moonlight, grow whiter still, the overhanging trees
darker; how the shadows of the trees fall blacker, the flowers and
the silent grass become more fragrant, and the crickets, unharmonious
cavaliers of the night, strike up their rattling song in friendly
fashion on all sides. I would describe how, in one of the little,
low-roofed, clay houses, the black-browed village maid, tossing on
her lonely couch, dreams with heaving bosom of some hussar’s spurs
and moustache, and how the moonlight smiles upon her cheeks. I would
describe how the black shadows of the bats flit along the white road
before they alight upon the white chimneys of the cottages.

But it would hardly be within my power to depict Ivan Ivanovitch as he
crept out that night, saw in hand; or the various emotions written on
his countenance! Quietly, most quietly, he crawled along and climbed
upon the goose-shed. Ivan Nikiforovitch’s dogs knew nothing, as yet, of
the quarrel between them; and so they permitted him, as an old friend,
to enter the shed, which rested upon four oaken posts. Creeping up to
the nearest post he applied his saw and began to cut. The noise
produced by the saw caused him to glance about him every moment, but
the recollection of the insult restored his courage. The first post was
sawed through. Ivan Ivanovitch began upon the next. His eyes burned and
he saw nothing for terror.

All at once he uttered an exclamation and became petrified with fear. A
ghost appeared to him; but he speedily recovered himself on perceiving
that it was a goose, thrusting its neck out at him. Ivan Ivanovitch spit
with vexation and proceeded with his work. The second post was sawed
through; the building trembled. His heart beat so violently when he
began on the third, that he had to stop several times. The post was more
than half sawed through when the frail building quivered violently.

Ivan Ivanovitch had barely time to spring back when it came down with
a crash. Seizing his saw, he ran home in the greatest terror and flung
himself upon his bed, without having sufficient courage to peep from
the window at the consequences of his terrible deed. It seemed to him
as though Ivan Nikiforovitch’s entire household--the old woman, Ivan
Nikiforovitch, the boy in the endless coat, all with sticks, and led by
Agafya Fedosyevna--were coming to tear down and destroy his house.

Ivan Ivanovitch passed the whole of the following day in a perfect
fever. It seemed to him that his detested neighbour would set fire to
his house at least in revenge for this; and so he gave orders to Gapka
to keep a constant lookout, everywhere, and see whether dry straw
were laid against it anywhere. Finally, in order to forestall Ivan
Nikiforovitch, he determined to enter a complaint against him before the
district judge of Mirgorod. In what it consisted can be learned from the
following chapter.



A wonderful town is Mirgorod! How many buildings are there with straw,
rush, and even wooden roofs! On the right is a street, on the left a
street, and fine fences everywhere. Over them twine hop-vines, upon them
hang pots; from behind them the sunflowers show their sun-like heads,
poppies blush, fat pumpkins peep; all is luxury itself! The fence
is invariably garnished with articles which render it still more
picturesque: woman’s widespread undergarments of checked woollen stuff,
shirts, or trousers. There is no such thing as theft or rascality in
Mirgorod, so everybody hangs upon his fence whatever strikes his fancy.
If you go on to the square, you will surely stop and admire the view:
such a wonderful pool is there! The finest you ever saw. It occupies
nearly the whole of the square. A truly magnificent pool! The houses
and cottages, which at a distance might be mistaken for hayricks, stand
around it, lost in admiration of its beauty.

But I agree with those who think that there is no better house than that
of the district judge. Whether it is of oak or birch is nothing to the
point; but it has, my dear sirs, eight windows! eight windows in a row,
looking directly on the square and upon that watery expanse which I have
just mentioned, and which the chief of police calls a lake. It alone
is painted the colour of granite. All the other houses in Mirgorod
are merely whitewashed. Its roof is of wood, and would have been even
painted red, had not the government clerks eaten the oil which had been
prepared for that purpose, as it happened during a fast; and so the
roof remained unpainted. Towards the square projects a porch, which the
chickens frequently visit, because that porch is nearly always strewn
with grain or something edible, not intentionally, but through the
carelessness of visitors.

The house is divided into two parts: one of which is the court-room; the
other the jail. In the half which contains the court-room are two neat,
whitewashed rooms, the front one for clients, the other having a table
adorned with ink-spots, and with a looking-glass upon it, and four oak
chairs with tall backs; whilst along the wall stand iron-bound chests,
in which are preserved bundles of papers relating to district law-suits.
Upon one of the chests stood at that time a pair of boots, polished with

The court had been open since morning. The judge, a rather stout man,
though thinner than Ivan Nikiforovitch, with a good-natured face, a
greasy dressing-gown, a pipe, and a cup of tea, was conversing with the
clerk of the court.

The judge’s lips were directly under his nose, so that he could snuff
his upper lip as much as he liked. It served him instead of a snuff-box,
for the snuff intended for his nose almost always lodged upon it. So the
judge was talking with the assistant. A barefooted girl stood holding
a tray with cups at once side of them. At the end of the table, the
secretary was reading the decision in some case, but in such a mournful
and monotonous voice that the condemned man himself would have fallen
asleep while listening to it. The judge, no doubt, would have been the
first to do so had he not entered into an engrossing conversation while
it was going on.

“I expressly tried to find out,” said the judge, sipping his already
cold tea from the cup, “how they manage to sing so well. I had a
splendid thrush two years ago. Well, all of a sudden he was completely
done for, and began to sing, God knows what! He got worse and worse and
worse and worse as time went on; he began to rattle and get hoarse--just
good for nothing! And this is how it happened: a little lump, not so big
as a pea, had come under his throat. It was only necessary to prick that
little swelling with a needle--Zachar Prokofievitch taught me that; and,
if you like, I’ll just tell you how it was. I went to him--”

“Shall I read another, Demyan Demyanovitch?” broke in the secretary, who
had not been reading for several minutes.

“Have you finished already? Only think how quickly! And I did not hear a
word of it! Where is it? Give it me and I’ll sign it. What else have you

“The case of Cossack Bokitok for stealing a cow.”

“Very good; read it!--Yes, so I went to him--I can even tell you in
detail how he entertained me. There was vodka, and dried sturgeon,
excellent! Yes, not our sturgeon,” there the judge smacked his tongue
and smiled, upon which his nose took a sniff at its usual snuff-box,
“such as our Mirgorod shops sell us. I ate no herrings, for, as you
know, they give me heart-burn; but I tasted the caviare--very fine
caviare, too! There’s no doubt it, excellent! Then I drank some
peach-brandy, real gentian. There was saffron-brandy also; but, as you
know, I never take that. You see, it was all very good. In the first
place, to whet your appetite, as they say, and then to satisfy it--Ah!
speak of an angel,” exclaimed the judge, all at once, catching sight of
Ivan Ivanovitch as he entered.

“God be with us! I wish you a good-morning,” said Ivan Ivanovitch,
bowing all round with his usual politeness. How well he understood
the art of fascinating everybody in his manner! I never beheld such
refinement. He knew his own worth quite well, and therefore looked for
universal respect as his due. The judge himself handed Ivan Ivanovitch
a chair; and his nose inhaled all the snuff resting on his upper lip,
which, with him, was always a sign of great pleasure.

“What will you take, Ivan Ivanovitch?” he inquired: “will you have a cup
of tea?”

“No, much obliged,” replied Ivan Ivanovitch, as he bowed and seated

“Do me the favour--one little cup,” repeated the judge.

“No, thank you; much obliged for your hospitality,” replied Ivan
Ivanovitch, and rose, bowed, and sat down again.

“Just one little cup,” repeated the judge.

“No, do not trouble yourself, Demyan Demyanovitch.” Whereupon Ivan
Ivanovitch again rose, bowed, and sat down.

“A little cup!”

“Very well, then, just a little cup,” said Ivan Ivanovitch, and reached
out his hand to the tray. Heavens! What a height of refinement there
was in that man! It is impossible to describe what a pleasant impression
such manners produce!

“Will you not have another cup?”

“I thank you sincerely,” answered Ivan Ivanovitch, turning his cup
upside down upon the tray and bowing.

“Do me the favour, Ivan Ivanovitch.”

“I cannot; much obliged.” Thereupon Ivan Ivanovitch bowed and sat down.

“Ivan Ivanovitch, for the sake of our friendship, just one little cup!”

“No: I am extremely indebted for your hospitality.” So saying, Ivan
Ivanovitch bowed and seated himself.

“Only a cup, one little cup!”

Ivan Ivanovitch put his hand out to the tray and took a cup. Oh, the
deuce! How can a man contrive to support his dignity!

“Demyan Demyanovitch,” said Ivan Ivanovitch, swallowing the last drain,
“I have pressing business with you; I want to enter a complaint.”

Then Ivan Ivanovitch set down his cup, and drew from his pocket a
sheet of stamped paper, written over. “A complaint against my enemy, my
declared enemy.”

“And who is that?”

“Ivan Nikiforovitch Dovgotchkun.”

At these words, the judge nearly fell off his chair. “What do you say?”
 he exclaimed, clasping his hands; “Ivan Ivanovitch, is this you?”

“You see yourself that it is I.”

“The Lord and all the saints be with you! What! You! Ivan Ivanovitch!
you have fallen out with Ivan Nikiforovitch! Is it your mouth which says
that? Repeat it! Is not some one hid behind you who is speaking instead
of you?”

“What is there incredible about it? I can’t endure the sight of him: he
has done me a deadly injury--he has insulted my honour.”

“Holy Trinity! How am I to believe my mother now? Why, every day, when I
quarrel with my sister, the old woman says, ‘Children, you live together
like dogs. If you would only take pattern by Ivan Ivanovitch and Ivan
Nikiforovitch, they are friends indeed! such friends! such worthy
people!’ There you are with your friend! Tell me what this is about. How
is it?”

“It is a delicate business, Demyan Demyanovitch; it is impossible to
relate it in words: be pleased rather to read my plaint. Here, take it
by this side; it is more convenient.”

“Read it, Taras Tikhonovitch,” said the judge, turning to the secretary.

Taras Tikhonovitch took the plaint; and blowing his nose, as all
district judges’ secretaries blow their noses, with the assistance of
two fingers, he began to read:--

“From the nobleman and landed proprietor of the Mirgorod District,
Ivan Pererepenko, son of Ivan, a plaint: concerning which the following
points are to be noted:--

“1. Ivan Dovgotchkun, son of Nikifor, nobleman, known to all the world
for his godless acts, which inspire disgust, and in lawlessness exceed
all bounds, on the seventh day of July of this year 1810, inflicted upon
me a deadly insult, touching my personal honour, and likewise tending to
the humiliation and confusion of my rank and family. The said nobleman,
of repulsive aspect, has also a pugnacious disposition, and is full to
overflowing with blasphemy and quarrelsome words.”

Here the reader paused for an instant to blow his nose again; but the
judge folded his hands in approbation and murmured to himself, “What a
ready pen! Lord! how this man does write!”

Ivan Ivanovitch requested that the reading might proceed, and Taras
Tikhonovitch went on:--

“The said Ivan Dovgotchkun, son of Nikifor, when I went to him with a
friendly proposition, called me publicly by an epithet insulting and
injurious to my honour, namely, a goose, whereas it is known to the
whole district of Mirgorod, that I never was named after that disgusting
creature, and have no intention of ever being named after it. The proof
of my noble extraction is that, in the baptismal register to be found in
the Church of the Three Bishops, the day of my birth, and likewise the
fact of my baptism, are inscribed. But a goose, as is well known to
every one who has any knowledge of science, cannot be inscribed in
the baptismal register; for a goose is not a man but a fowl; which,
likewise, is sufficiently well known even to persons who have not been
to college. But the said evil-minded nobleman, being privy to all these
facts, affronted me with the aforesaid foul word, for no other purpose
than to offer a deadly insult to my rank and station.

“2. And the same impolite and indecent nobleman, moreover, attempted
injury to my property, inherited by me from my father, a member of
the clerical profession, Ivan Pererepenko, son of Onisieff, of blessed
memory, inasmuch that he, contrary to all law, transported directly
opposite my porch a goose-shed, which was done with no other intention
that to emphasise the insult offered me; for the said shed had, up
to that time, stood in a very suitable situation, and was still
sufficiently strong. But the loathsome intention of the aforesaid
nobleman consisted simply in this: viz., in making me a witness of
unpleasant occurrences; for it is well known that no man goes into a
shed, much less into a goose-shed, for polite purposes. In the execution
of his lawless deed, the two front posts trespassed on my land, received
by me during the lifetime of my father, Ivan Pererepenko, son of
Onisieff, of blessed memory, beginning at the granary, thence in a
straight line to the spot where the women wash the pots.

“3. The above-described nobleman, whose very name and surname inspire
thorough disgust, cherishes in his mind a malicious design to burn me in
my own house. Which the infallible signs, hereinafter mentioned, fully
demonstrate; in the first place, the said wicked nobleman has begun to
emerge frequently from his apartments, which he never did formerly on
account of his laziness and the disgusting corpulence of his body; in
the second place, in his servants’ apartments, adjoining the fence,
surrounding my own land, received by me from my father of blessed
memory, Ivan Pererepenko, son of Onisieff, a light burns every day, and
for a remarkably long period of time, which is also a clear proof of the
fact. For hitherto, owing to his repulsive niggardliness, not only the
tallow-candle but also the grease-lamp has been extinguished.

“And therefore I pray that the said nobleman, Ivan Dovgotchkun, son of
Nikifor, being plainly guilty of incendiarism, of insult to my rank,
name, and family, and of illegal appropriation of my property, and,
worse than all else, of malicious and deliberate addition to my
surname, of the nickname of goose, be condemned by the court, to fine,
satisfaction, costs, and damages, and, being chained, be removed to
the town jail, and that judgment be rendered upon this, my plaint,
immediately and without delay.

“Written and composed by Ivan Pererepenko, son of Ivan, nobleman, and
landed proprietor of Mirgorod.”

After the reading of the plaint was concluded, the judge approached
Ivanovitch, took him by the button, and began to talk to him after this
fashion: “What are you doing, Ivan Ivanovitch? Fear God! throw away
that plaint, let it go! may Satan carry it off! Better take Ivan
Nikiforovitch by the hand and kiss him, buy some Santurinski or
Nikopolski liquor, make a punch, and call me in. We will drink it up
together and forget all unpleasantness.”

“No, Demyan Demyanovitch! it’s not that sort of an affair,” said Ivan
Ivanovitch, with the dignity which always became him so well; “it is
not an affair which can be arranged by a friendly agreement. Farewell!
Good-day to you, too, gentlemen,” he continued with the same dignity,
turning to them all. “I hope that my plaint will lead to proper action
being taken;” and out he went, leaving all present in a state of

The judge sat down without uttering a word; the secretary took a pinch
of snuff; the clerks upset some broken fragments of bottles which served
for inkstands; and the judge himself, in absence of mind, spread out a
puddle of ink upon the table with his finger.

“What do you say to this, Dorofei Trofimovitch?” said the judge, turning
to the assistant after a pause.

“I’ve nothing to say,” replied the clerk.

“What things do happen!” continued the judge. He had not finished saying
this before the door creaked and the front half of Ivan Nikiforovitch
presented itself in the court-room; the rest of him remaining in the
ante-room. The appearance of Ivan Nikiforovitch, and in court too,
seemed so extraordinary that the judge screamed; the secretary stopped
reading; one clerk, in his frieze imitation of a dress-coat, took his
pen in his lips; and the other swallowed a fly. Even the constable on
duty and the watchman, a discharged soldier who up to that moment had
stood by the door scratching about his dirty tunic, with chevrons on its
arm, dropped his jaw and trod on some one’s foot.

“What chance brings you here? How is your health, Ivan Nikiforovitch?”

But Ivan Nikiforovitch was neither dead nor alive; for he was stuck fast
in the door, and could not take a step either forwards or backwards. In
vain did the judge shout into the ante-room that some one there should
push Ivan Nikiforovitch forward into the court-room. In the ante-room
there was only one old woman with a petition, who, in spite of all the
efforts of her bony hands, could accomplish nothing. Then one of the
clerks, with thick lips, a thick nose, eyes which looked askance and
intoxicated, broad shoulders, and ragged elbows, approached the front
half of Ivan Nikiforovitch, crossed his hands for him as though he had
been a child, and winked at the old soldier, who braced his knee against
Ivan Nikiforovitch’s belly, so, in spite of the latter’s piteous moans,
he was squeezed out into the ante-room. Then they pulled the bolts,
and opened the other half of the door. Meanwhile the clerk and his
assistant, breathing hard with their friendly exertions, exhaled such
a strong odour that the court-room seemed temporarily turned into a

“Are you hurt, Ivan Nikiforovitch? I will tell my mother to send you
a decoction of brandy, with which you need but to rub your back and
stomach and all your pains will disappear.”

But Ivan Nikiforovitch dropped into a chair, and could utter no word
beyond prolonged oh’s. Finally, in a faint and barely audible voice
from fatigue, he exclaimed, “Wouldn’t you like some?” and drawing his
snuff-box from his pocket, added, “Help yourself, if you please.”

“Very glad to see you,” replied the judge; “but I cannot conceive
what made you put yourself to so much trouble, and favour us with so
unexpected an honour.”

“A plaint!” Ivan Nikiforovitch managed to ejaculate.

“A plaint? What plaint?”

“A complaint...” here his asthma entailed a prolonged pause--“Oh! a
complaint against that rascal--Ivan Ivanovitch Pererepenko!”

“And you too! Such particular friends! A complaint against such a
benevolent man?”

“He’s Satan himself!” ejaculated Ivan Nikiforovitch abruptly.

The judge crossed himself.

“Take my plaint, and read it.”

“There is nothing to be done. Read it, Taras Tikhonovitch,” said the
judge, turning to the secretary with an expression of displeasure, which
caused his nose to sniff at his upper lip, which generally occurred only
as a sign of great enjoyment. This independence on the part of his nose
caused the judge still greater vexation. He pulled out his handkerchief,
and rubbed off all the snuff from his upper lip in order to punish it
for its daring.

The secretary, having gone through the usual performance, which he
always indulged in before he began to read, that is to say, blowing his
nose without the aid of a pocket-handkerchief, began in his ordinary
voice, in the following manner:--

“Ivan Dovgotchkun, son of Nikifor, nobleman of the Mirgorod District,
presents a plaint, and begs to call attention to the following points:--

“1. Through his hateful malice and plainly manifested ill-will, the
person calling himself a nobleman, Ivan Pererepenko, son of Ivan,
perpetrates against me every manner of injury, damage, and like spiteful
deeds, which inspire me with terror. Yesterday afternoon, like a brigand
and thief, with axes, saws, chisels, and various locksmith’s tools, he
came by night into my yard and into my own goose-shed located within it,
and with his own hand, and in outrageous manner, destroyed it; for which
very illegal and burglarious deed on my side I gave no manner of cause.

“2. The same nobleman Pererepenko has designs upon my life; and on the
7th of last month, cherishing this design in secret, he came to me, and
began, in a friendly and insidious manner, to ask of me a gun which was
in my chamber, and offered me for it, with the miserliness peculiar to
him, many worthless objects, such as a brown sow and two sacks of oats.
Divining at that time his criminal intentions, I endeavoured in every
way to dissuade him from it: but the said rascal and scoundrel, Ivan
Pererepenko, son of Ivan, abused me like a muzhik, and since that time
has cherished against me an irreconcilable enmity. His sister was well
known to every one as a loose character, and went off with a regiment
of chasseurs which was stationed at Mirgorod five years ago; but she
inscribed her husband as a peasant. His father and mother too were
not law-abiding people, and both were inconceivable drunkards. The
afore-mentioned nobleman and robber, Pererepenko, in his beastly and
blameworthy actions, goes beyond all his family, and under the guise of
piety does the most immoral things. He does not observe the fasts; for
on the eve of St. Philip’s this atheist bought a sheep, and next day
ordered his mistress, Gapka, to kill it, alleging that he needed tallow
for lamps and candles at once.

“Therefore I pray that the said nobleman, a manifest robber,
church-thief, and rascal, convicted of plundering and stealing, may be
put in irons, and confined in the jail or the government prison, and
there, under supervision, deprived of his rank and nobility, well
flogged, and banished to forced labour in Siberia, and that he may be
commanded to pay damages and costs, and that judgment may be rendered on
this my petition.

“To this plaint, Ivan Dovgotchkun, son of Nikifor, noble of the Mirgorod
district, has set his hand.”

As soon as the secretary had finished reading, Ivan Nikiforovitch seized
his hat and bowed, with the intention of departing.

“Where are you going, Ivan Nikiforovitch?” the judge called after him.
“Sit down a little while. Have some tea. Orishko, why are you standing
there, you stupid girl, winking at the clerks? Go, bring tea.”

But Ivan Nikiforovitch, in terror at having got so far from home, and at
having undergone such a fearful quarantine, made haste to crawl through
the door, saying, “Don’t trouble yourself. It is with pleasure that I--”
 and closed it after him, leaving all present stupefied.

There was nothing to be done. Both plaints were entered; and the affair
promised to assume a sufficiently serious aspect when an unforeseen
occurrence lent an added interest to it. As the judge was leaving the
court in company with the clerk and secretary, and the employees were
thrusting into sacks the fowls, eggs, loaves, pies, cracknels, and other
odds and ends brought by the plaintiffs--just at that moment a brown sow
rushed into the room and snatched, to the amazement of the spectators,
neither a pie nor a crust of bread but Ivan Nikiforovitch’s plaint,
which lay at the end of the table with its leaves hanging over. Having
seized the document, mistress sow ran off so briskly that not one of
the clerks or officials could catch her, in spite of the rulers and
ink-bottles they hurled after her.

This extraordinary occurrence produced a terrible muddle, for there had
not even been a copy taken of the plaint. The judge, that is to say,
his secretary and the assistant debated for a long time upon such an
unheard-of affair. Finally it was decided to write a report of the
matter to the governor, as the investigation of the matter pertained
more to the department of the city police. Report No. 389 was despatched
to him that same day; and also upon that day there came to light a
sufficiently curious explanation, which the reader may learn from the
following chapter.



As soon as Ivan Ivanovitch had arranged his domestic affairs and stepped
out upon the balcony, according to his custom, to lie down, he saw, to
his indescribable amazement, something red at the gate. This was the red
facings of the chief of police’s coat, which were polished equally with
his collar, and resembled varnished leather on the edges.

Ivan Ivanovitch thought to himself, “It’s not bad that Peter
Feodorovitch has come to talk it over with me.” But he was very
much surprised to see that the chief was walking remarkably fast and
flourishing his hands, which was very rarely the case with him. There
were eight buttons on the chief of police’s uniform: the ninth, torn off
in some manner during the procession at the consecration of the church
two years before, the police had not been able to find up to this time:
although the chief, on the occasion of the daily reports made to him by
the sergeants, always asked, “Has that button been found?” These eight
buttons were strewn about him as women sow beans--one to the right and
one to the left. His left foot had been struck by a ball in the last
campaign, and so he limped and threw it out so far to one side as to
almost counteract the efforts of the right foot. The more briskly the
chief of police worked his walking apparatus the less progress he made
in advance. So while he was getting to the balcony, Ivan Ivanovitch
had plenty of time to lose himself in surmises as to why the chief was
flourishing his hands so vigorously. This interested him the more, as
the matter seemed one of unusual importance; for the chief had on a new

“Good morning, Peter Feodorovitch!” cried Ivan Ivanovitch, who was, as
has already been stated, exceedingly curious, and could not restrain his
impatience as the chief of police began to ascend to the balcony, yet
never raised his eyes, and kept grumbling at his foot, which could not
be persuaded to mount the step at the first attempt.

“I wish my good friend and benefactor, Ivan Ivanovitch, a good-day,”
 replied the chief.

“Pray sit down. I see that you are weary, as your lame foot hinders--”

“My foot!” screamed the chief, bestowing upon Ivan Ivanovitch a glance
such as a giant might cast upon a pigmy, a pedant upon a dancing-master:
and he stretched out his foot and stamped upon the floor with it. This
boldness cost him dear; for his whole body wavered and his nose struck
the railing; but the brave preserver of order, with the purpose of
making light of it, righted himself immediately, and began to feel in
his pocket as if to get his snuff-box. “I must report to you, my dear
friend and benefactor, Ivan Ivanovitch, that never in all my days have I
made such a march. Yes, seriously. For instance, during the campaign of
1807--Ah! I will tell to you how I crawled through the enclosure to see
a pretty little German.” Here the chief closed one eye and executed a
diabolically sly smile.

“Where have you been to-day?” asked Ivan Ivanovitch, wishing to cut the
chief short and bring him more speedily to the object of his visit. He
would have very much liked to inquire what the chief meant to tell him,
but his extensive knowledge of the world showed him the impropriety of
such a question; and so he had to keep himself well in hand and await a
solution, his heart, meanwhile, beating with unusual force.

“Ah, excuse me! I was going to tell you--where was I?” answered the
chief of police. “In the first place, I report that the weather is fine

At these last words, Ivan Ivanovitch nearly died.

“But permit me,” went on the chief. “I have come to you to-day about a
very important affair.” Here the chief’s face and bearing assumed the
same careworn aspect with which he had ascended to the balcony.

Ivan Ivanovitch breathed again, and shook as if in a fever, omitting
not, as was his habit, to put a question. “What is the important matter?
Is it important?”

“Pray judge for yourself; in the first place I venture to report to
you, dear friend and benefactor, Ivan Ivanovitch, that you--I beg you
to observe that, for my own part, I should have nothing to say; but the
rules of government require it--that you have transgressed the rules of

“What do you mean, Peter Feodorovitch? I don’t understand at all.”

“Pardon me, Ivan Ivanovitch! how can it be that you do not understand?
Your own beast has destroyed an important government document; and you
can still say, after that, that you do not understand!”

“What beast?”

“Your own brown sow, with your permission, be it said.”

“How can I be responsible? Why did the door-keeper of the court open the

“But, Ivan Ivanovitch, your own brown sow. You must be responsible.”

“I am extremely obliged to you for comparing me to a sow.”

“But I did not say that, Ivan Ivanovitch! By Heaven! I did not say so!
Pray judge from your own clear conscience. It is known to you without
doubt, that in accordance with the views of the government, unclean
animals are forbidden to roam about the town, particularly in the
principal streets. Admit, now, that it is prohibited.”

“God knows what you are talking about! A mighty important business that
a sow got into the street!”

“Permit me to inform you, Ivan Ivanovitch, permit me, permit me,
that this is utterly inadvisable. What is to be done? The authorities
command, we must obey. I don’t deny that sometimes chickens and geese
run about the street, and even about the square, pray observe, chickens
and geese; but only last year, I gave orders that pigs and goats were
not to be admitted to the public squares, which regulations I directed
to be read aloud at the time before all the people.”

“No, Peter Feodorovitch, I see nothing here except that you are doing
your best to insult me.”

“But you cannot say that, my dearest friend and benefactor, that I have
tried to insult you. Bethink yourself: I never said a word to you last
year when you built a roof a whole foot higher than is allowed by law.
On the contrary, I pretended not to have observed it. Believe me, my
dearest friend, even now, I would, so to speak--but my duty--in a word,
my duty demands that I should have an eye to cleanliness. Just judge for
yourself, when suddenly in the principal street--”

“Fine principal streets yours are! Every woman goes there and throws
down any rubbish she chooses.”

“Permit me to inform you, Ivan Ivanovitch, that it is you who are
insulting me. That does sometimes happen, but, as a rule, only besides
fences, sheds, or storehouses; but that a filthy sow should intrude
herself in the main street, in the square, now is a matter--”

“What sort of a matter? Peter Feodorovitch! surely a sow is one of God’s

“Agreed. Everybody knows that you are a learned man, that you are
acquainted with sciences and various other subjects. I never studied the
sciences: I began to learn to write in my thirteenth year. Of course you
know that I was a soldier in the ranks.”

“Hm!” said Ivan Ivanovitch.

“Yes,” continued the chief of police, “in 1801 I was in the Forty-second
Regiment of chasseurs, lieutenant in the fourth company. The commander
of our company was, if I may be permitted to mention it, Captain
Eremeeff.” Thereupon the chief of police thrust his fingers into the
snuff-box which Ivan Ivanovitch was holding open, and stirred up the

Ivan Ivanovitch answered, “Hm!”

“But my duty,” went on the chief of police, “is to obey the commands
of the authorities. Do you know, Ivan Ivanovitch, that a person
who purloins a government document in the court-room incurs capital
punishment equally with other criminals?”

“I know it; and, if you like, I can give you lessons. It is so decreed
with regard to people, as if you, for instance, were to steal a
document; but a sow is an animal, one of God’s creatures.”

“Certainly; but the law reads, ‘Those guilty of theft’--I beg of you to
listen most attentively--‘Those guilty!’ Here is indicated neither race
nor sex nor rank: of course an animal can be guilty. You may say what
you please; but the animal, until the sentence is pronounced by the
court, should be committed to the charge of the police as a transgressor
of the law.”

“No, Peter Feodorovitch,” retorted Ivan Ivanovitch coolly, “that shall
not be.”

“As you like: only I must carry out the orders of the authorities.”

“What are you threatening me with? Probably you want to send that
one-armed soldier after her. I shall order the woman who tends the door
to drive him off with the poker: he’ll get his last arm broken.”

“I dare not dispute with you. In case you will not commit the sow to
the charge of the police, then do what you please with her: kill her for
Christmas, if you like, and make hams of her, or eat her as she is.
Only I should like to ask you, in case you make sausages, to send me a
couple, such as your Gapka makes so well, of blood and lard. My Agrafena
Trofimovna is extremely fond of them.”

“I will send you a couple of sausages if you permit.”

“I shall be extremely obliged to you, dear friend and benefactor. Now
permit me to say one word more. I am commissioned by the judge, as well
as by all our acquaintances, so to speak, to effect a reconciliation
between you and your friend, Ivan Nikiforovitch.”

“What! with that brute! I to be reconciled to that clown! Never! It
shall not be, it shall not be!” Ivan Ivanovitch was in a remarkably
determined frame of mind.

“As you like,” replied the chief of police, treating both nostrils to
snuff. “I will not venture to advise you; but permit me to mention--here
you live at enmity, and if you make peace...”

But Ivan Ivanovitch began to talk about catching quail, as he usually
did when he wanted to put an end to a conversation. So the chief
of police was obliged to retire without having achieved any success



In spite of all the judge’s efforts to keep the matter secret, all
Mirgorod knew by the next day that Ivan Ivanovitch’s sow had stolen Ivan
Nikiforovitch’s petition. The chief of police himself, in a moment of
forgetfulness, was the first to betray himself. When Ivan Nikiforovitch
was informed of it he said nothing: he merely inquired, “Was it the
brown one?”

But Agafya Fedosyevna, who was present, began again to urge on Ivan
Nikiforovitch. “What’s the matter with you, Ivan Nikiforovitch? People
will laugh at you as at a fool if you let it pass. How can you remain a
nobleman after that? You will be worse than the old woman who sells the
honeycakes with hemp-seed oil you are so fond of.”

And the mischief-maker persuaded him. She hunted up somewhere a
middle-aged man with dark complexion, spots all over his face, and a
dark-blue surtout patched on the elbows, a regular official scribbler.
He blacked his boots with tar, wore three pens behind his ear, and
a glass vial tied to his buttonhole with a string instead of an
ink-bottle: ate as many as nine pies at once, and put the tenth in his
pocket, and wrote so many slanders of all sorts on a single sheet of
stamped paper that no reader could get through all at one time without
interspersing coughs and sneezes. This man laboured, toiled, and wrote,
and finally concocted the following document:--

“To the District Judge of Mirgorod, from the noble, Ivan Dovgotchkun,
son of Nikifor.

“In pursuance of my plaint which was presented by me, Ivan Dovgotchkun,
son of Nikifor, against the nobleman, Ivan Pererepenko, son of Ivan,
to which the judge of the Mirgorod district court has exhibited
indifference; and the shameless, high-handed deed of the brown sow being
kept secret, and coming to my ears from outside parties.

“And the said neglect, plainly malicious, lies incontestably at the
judge’s door; for the sow is a stupid animal, and therefore unfitted
for the theft of papers. From which it plainly appears that the said
frequently mentioned sow was not otherwise than instigated to the
same by the opponent, Ivan Pererepenko, son of Ivan, calling himself a
nobleman, and already convicted of theft, conspiracy against life,
and desecration of a church. But the said Mirgorod judge, with
the partisanship peculiar to him, gave his private consent to this
individual; for without such consent the said sow could by no possible
means have been admitted to carry off the document; for the judge of the
district court of Mirgorod is well provided with servants: it was
only necessary to summon a soldier, who is always on duty in the
reception-room, and who, although he has but one eye and one somewhat
damaged arm, has powers quite adequate to driving out a sow, and to
beating it with a stick, from which is credibly evident the criminal
neglect of the said Mirgorod judge and the incontestable sharing of the
Jew-like spoils therefrom resulting from these mutual conspirators. And
the aforesaid robber and nobleman, Ivan Pererepenko, son of Ivan, having
disgraced himself, finished his turning on his lathe. Wherefore, I, the
noble Ivan Dovgotchkun, son of Nikifor, declare to the said district
judge in proper form that if the said brown sow, or the man Pererepenko,
be not summoned to the court, and judgment in accordance with justice
and my advantage pronounced upon her, then I, Ivan Dovgotchkun, son of
Nikifor, shall present a plaint, with observance of all due formalities,
against the said district judge for his illegal partisanship to the
superior courts.

“Ivan Dovgotchkun, son of Nikifor, noble of the Mirgorod District.”

This petition produced its effect. The judge was a man of timid
disposition, as all good people generally are. He betook himself to the
secretary. But the secretary emitted from his lips a thick “Hm,” and
exhibited on his countenance that indifferent and diabolically equivocal
expression which Satan alone assumes when he sees his victim hastening
to his feet. One resource remained to him, to reconcile the two friends.
But how to set about it, when all attempts up to that time had been so
unsuccessful? Nevertheless, it was decided to make another effort; but
Ivan Ivanovitch declared outright that he would not hear of it, and even
flew into a violent passion; whilst Ivan Nikiforovitch, in lieu of an
answer, turned his back and would not utter a word.

Then the case went on with the unusual promptness upon which courts
usually pride themselves. Documents were dated, labelled, numbered,
sewed together, registered all in one day, and the matter laid on the
shelf, where it continued to lie, for one, two, or three years. Many
brides were married; a new street was laid out in Mirgorod; one of the
judge’s double teeth fell out and two of his eye-teeth; more children
than ever ran about Ivan Ivanovitch’s yard; Ivan Nikiforovitch, as a
reproof to Ivan Ivanovitch, constructed a new goose-shed, although a
little farther back than the first, and built himself completely off
from his neighbour, so that these worthy people hardly ever beheld each
other’s faces; but still the case lay in the cabinet, which had become
marbled with ink-pots.

In the meantime a very important event for all Mirgorod had taken place.
The chief of police had given a reception. Whence shall I obtain the
brush and colours to depict this varied gathering and magnificent feast?
Take your watch, open it, and look what is going on inside. A fearful
confusion, is it not? Now, imagine almost the same, if not a greater,
number of wheels standing in the chief of police’s courtyard. How many
carriages and waggons were there! One was wide behind and narrow in
front; another narrow behind and wide in front. One was a carriage and a
waggon combined; another neither a carriage nor a waggon. One resembled
a huge hayrick or a fat merchant’s wife; another a dilapidated Jew or a
skeleton not quite freed from the skin. One was a perfect pipe with long
stem in profile; another, resembling nothing whatever, suggested some
strange, shapeless, fantastic object. In the midst of this chaos of
wheels rose coaches with windows like those of a room. The drivers, in
grey Cossack coats, gaberdines, and white hare-skin coats, sheepskin
hats and caps of various patterns, and with pipes in their hands, drove
the unharnessed horses through the yard.

What a reception the chief of police gave! Permit me to run through
the list of those who were there: Taras Tarasovitch, Evpl Akinfovitch,
Evtikhiy Evtikhievitch, Ivan Ivanovitch--not that Ivan Ivanovitch
but another--Gabba Bavrilonovitch, our Ivan Ivanovitch, Elevferiy
Elevferievitch, Makar Nazarevitch, Thoma Grigorovitch--I can say no
more: my powers fail me, my hand stops writing. And how many ladies were
there! dark and fair, tall and short, some fat like Ivan Nikiforovitch,
and some so thin that it seemed as though each one might hide herself
in the scabbard of the chief’s sword. What head-dresses! what costumes!
red, yellow, coffee-colour, green, blue, new, turned, re-made dresses,
ribbons, reticules. Farewell, poor eyes! you will never be good for
anything any more after such a spectacle. And how long the table was
drawn out! and how all talked! and what a noise they made! What is
a mill with its driving-wheel, stones, beams, hammers, wheels, in
comparison with this? I cannot tell you exactly what they talked about,
but presumably of many agreeable and useful things, such as the weather,
dogs, wheat, caps, and dice. At length Ivan Ivanovitch--not our Ivan
Ivanovitch, but the other, who had but one eye--said, “It strikes me as
strange that my right eye,” this one-eyed Ivan Ivanovitch always spoke
sarcastically about himself, “does not see Ivan Nikiforovitch, Gospodin

“He would not come,” said the chief of police.

“Why not?”

“It’s two years now, glory to God! since they quarrelled; that is, Ivan
Ivanovitch and Ivan Nikiforovitch; and where one goes, the other will
not go.”

“You don’t say so!” Thereupon one-eyed Ivan Ivanovitch raised his eye
and clasped his hands. “Well, if people with good eyes cannot live in
peace, how am I to live amicably, with my bad one?”

At these words they all laughed at the tops of their voices. Every one
liked one-eyed Ivan Ivanovitch, because he cracked jokes in that style.
A tall, thin man in a frieze coat, with a plaster on his nose, who up to
this time had sat in the corner, and never once altered the expression
of his face, even when a fly lighted on his nose, rose from his seat,
and approached nearer to the crowd which surrounded one-eyed Ivan
Ivanovitch. “Listen,” said Ivan Ivanovitch, when he perceived that quite
a throng had collected about him; “suppose we make peace between our
friends. Ivan Ivanovitch is talking with the women and girls; let us
send quietly for Ivan Nikiforovitch and bring them together.”

Ivan Ivanovitch’s proposal was unanimously agreed to; and it was decided
to send at once to Ivan Nikiforovitch’s house, and beg him, at any rate,
to come to the chief of police’s for dinner. But the difficult question
as to who was to be intrusted with this weighty commission rendered
all thoughtful. They debated long as to who was the most expert in
diplomatic matters. At length it was unanimously agreed to depute Anton
Prokofievitch to do this business.

But it is necessary, first of all, to make the reader somewhat
acquainted with this noteworthy person. Anton Prokofievitch was a truly
good man, in the fullest meaning of the term. If any one in Mirgorod
gave him a neckerchief or underclothes, he returned thanks; if any one
gave him a fillip on the nose, he returned thanks too. If he was asked,
“Why, Anton Prokofievitch, do you wear a light brown coat with blue
sleeves?” he generally replied, “Ah, you haven’t one like it! Wait a
bit, it will soon fade and will be alike all over.” And, in point
of fact, the blue cloth, from the effects of the sun, began to turn
cinnamon colour, and became of the same tint as the rest of the coat.
But the strange part of it was that Anton Prokofievitch had a habit of
wearing woollen clothing in summer and nankeen in winter.

Anton Prokofievitch had no house of his own. He used to have one on
the outskirts of the town; but he sold it, and with the purchase-money
bought a team of brown horses and a little carriage in which he drove
about to stay with the squires. But as the horses were a deal of trouble
and money was required for oats, Anton Prokofievitch bartered them for
a violin and a housemaid, with twenty-five paper rubles to boot.
Afterwards Anton Prokofievitch sold the violin, and exchanged the girl
for a morocco and gold tobacco-pouch; now he has such a tobacco-pouch as
no one else has. As a result of this luxury, he can no longer go about
among the country houses, but has to remain in the town and pass the
night at different houses, especially of those gentlemen who take
pleasure in tapping him on the nose. Anton Prokofievitch is very fond of
good eating, and plays a good game at cards. Obeying orders always
was his forte; so, taking his hat and cane, he set out at once on his

But, as he walked along, he began to ponder in what manner he should
contrive to induce Ivan Nikiforovitch to come to the assembly. The
unbending character of the latter, who was otherwise a worthy man,
rendered the undertaking almost hopeless. How, indeed, was he to
persuade him to come, when even rising from his bed cost him so great
an effort? But supposing that he did rise, how could he get him to come,
where, as he doubtless knew, his irreconcilable enemy already was? The
more Anton Prokofievitch reflected, the more difficulties he perceived.
The day was sultry, the sun beat down, the perspiration poured from
him in streams. Anton Prokofievitch was a tolerably sharp man in many
respects though they did tap him on the nose. In bartering, however,
he was not fortunate. He knew very well when to play the fool, and
sometimes contrived to turn things to his own profit amid circumstances
and surroundings from which a wise man could rarely escape without loss.

His ingenious mind had contrived a means of persuading Ivan
Nikiforovitch; and he was proceeding bravely to face everything when
an unexpected occurrence somewhat disturbed his equanimity. There is
no harm, at this point, in admitting to the reader that, among other
things, Anton Prokofievitch was the owner of a pair of trousers of such
singular properties that whenever he put them on the dogs always bit his
calves. Unfortunately, he had donned this particular pair of trousers;
and he had hardly given himself up to meditation before a fearful
barking on all sides saluted his ears. Anton Prokofievitch raised such
a yell, no one could scream louder than he, that not only did the
well-known woman and the occupant of the endless coat rush out to meet
him, but even the small boys from Ivan Ivanovitch’s yard. But although
the dogs succeeded in tasting only one of his calves, this sensibility
diminished his courage, and he entered the porch with a certain amount
of timidity.



“Ah! how do you do? Why do you irritate the dogs?” said Ivan
Nikiforovitch, on perceiving Anton Prokofievitch; for no one spoke
otherwise than jestingly with Anton Prokofievitch.

“Hang them! who’s been irritating them?” retorted Anton Prokofievitch.

“You have!”

“By Heavens, no! You are invited to dinner by Peter Feodorovitch.”


“He invited you in a more pressing manner than I can tell you. ‘Why,’
says he, ‘does Ivan Nikiforovitch shun me like an enemy? He never comes
round to have a chat, or make a call.’”

Ivan Nikiforovitch stroked his beard.

“‘If,’ says he, ‘Ivan Nikiforovitch does not come now, I shall not know
what to think: surely, he must have some design against me. Pray, Anton
Prokofievitch, persuade Ivan Nikiforovitch!’ Come, Ivan Nikiforovitch,
let us go! a very choice company is already met there.”

Ivan Nikiforovitch began to look at a cock, which was perched on the
roof, crowing with all its might.

“If you only knew, Ivan Nikiforovitch,” pursued the zealous ambassador,
“what fresh sturgeon and caviare Peter Feodorovitch has had sent to
him!” Whereupon Ivan Nikiforovitch turned his head and began to listen
attentively. This encouraged the messenger. “Come quickly: Thoma
Grigorovitch is there too. Why don’t you come?” he added, seeing that
Ivan Nikiforovitch still lay in the same position. “Shall we go, or

“I won’t!”

This “I won’t” startled Anton Prokofievitch. He had fancied that his
alluring representations had quite moved this very worthy man; but
instead, he heard that decisive “I won’t.”

“Why won’t you?” he asked, with a vexation which he very rarely
exhibited, even when they put burning paper on his head, a trick which
the judge and the chief of police were particularly fond of indulging

Ivan Nikiforovitch took a pinch of snuff.

“Just as you like, Ivan Nikiforovitch. I do not know what detains you.”

“Why don’t I go?” said Ivan Nikiforovitch at length: “because that
brigand will be there!” This was his ordinary way of alluding to Ivan
Ivanovitch. “Just God! and is it long?”

“He will not be there, he will not be there! May the lightning kill me
on the spot!” returned Anton Prokofievitch, who was ready to perjure
himself ten times in an hour. “Come along, Ivan Nikiforovitch!”

“You lie, Anton Prokofievitch! he is there!”

“By Heaven, by Heaven, he’s not! May I never stir from this place if
he’s there! Now, just think for yourself, what object have I in lying?
May my hands and feet wither!--What, don’t you believe me now? May I
perish right here in your presence! Don’t you believe me yet?”

Ivan Nikiforovitch was entirely reassured by these asseverations, and
ordered his valet, in the boundless coat, to fetch his trousers and
nankeen spencer.

To describe how Ivan Nikiforovitch put on his trousers, how they wound
his neckerchief about his neck, and finally dragged on his spencer,
which burst under the left sleeve, would be quite superfluous. Suffice
it to say, that during the whole of the time he preserved a becoming
calmness of demeanour, and answered not a word to Anton Prokofievitch’s
proposition to exchange something for his Turkish tobacco-pouch.

Meanwhile, the assembly awaited with impatience the decisive moment when
Ivan Nikiforovitch should make his appearance and at length comply with
the general desire that these worthy people should be reconciled to
each other. Many were almost convinced that Ivan Nikiforovitch would
not come. Even the chief of police offered to bet with one-eyed Ivan
Ivanovitch that he would not come; and only desisted when one-eyed Ivan
Ivanovitch demanded that he should wager his lame foot against his own
bad eye, at which the chief of police was greatly offended, and the
company enjoyed a quiet laugh. No one had yet sat down to the table,
although it was long past two o’clock, an hour before which in Mirgorod,
even on ceremonial occasions, every one had already dined.

No sooner did Anton Prokofievitch show himself in the doorway, then
he was instantly surrounded. Anton Prokofievitch, in answer to all
inquiries, shouted the all-decisive words, “He will not come!” No sooner
had he uttered them than a hailstorm of reproaches, scoldings, and,
possibly, even fillips were about to descend upon his head for the ill
success of his mission, when all at once the door opened, and--Ivan
Nikiforovitch entered.

If Satan himself or a corpse had appeared, it would not have caused such
consternation amongst the company as Ivan Nikiforovitch’s unexpected
arrival created. But Anton Prokofievitch only went off into a fit of
laughter, and held his sides with delight at having played such a joke
upon the company.

At all events, it was almost past the belief of all that Ivan
Nikiforovitch could, in so brief a space of time, have attired himself
like a respectable gentleman. Ivan Ivanovitch was not there at the
moment: he had stepped out somewhere. Recovering from their amazement,
the guests expressed an interest in Ivan Nikiforovitch’s health, and
their pleasure at his increase in breadth. Ivan Nikiforovitch kissed
every one, and said, “Very much obliged!”

Meantime, the fragrance of the beet-soup was wafted through the
apartment, and tickled the nostrils of the hungry guests very agreeably.
All rushed headlong to table. The line of ladies, loquacious and silent,
thin and stout, swept on, and the long table soon glittered with all
the hues of the rainbow. I will not describe the courses: I will make no
mention of the curd dumplings with sour cream, nor of the dish of pig’s
fry that was served with the soup, nor of the turkey with plums and
raisins, nor of the dish which greatly resembled in appearance a boot
soaked in kvas, nor of the sauce, which is the swan’s song of the
old-fashioned cook, nor of that other dish which was brought in all
enveloped in the flames of spirit, and amused as well as frightened the
ladies extremely. I will say nothing of these dishes, because I like to
eat them better than to spend many words in discussing them.

Ivan Ivanovitch was exceedingly pleased with the fish dressed with
horse-radish. He devoted himself especially to this useful and
nourishing preparation. Picking out all the fine bones from the fish,
he laid them on his plate; and happening to glance across the
table--Heavenly Creator; but this was strange! Opposite him sat Ivan

At the very same instant Ivan Nikiforovitch glanced up also--No, I can
do no more--Give me a fresh pen with a fine point for this picture! mine
is flabby. Their faces seemed to turn to stone whilst still retaining
their defiant expression. Each beheld a long familiar face, to which it
should have seemed the most natural of things to step up, involuntarily,
as to an unexpected friend, and offer a snuff-box, with the words, “Do
me the favour,” or “Dare I beg you to do me the favour?” Instead of
this, that face was terrible as a forerunner of evil. The perspiration
poured in streams from Ivan Ivanovitch and Ivan Nikiforovitch.

All the guests at the table grew dumb with attention, and never once
took their eyes off the former friends. The ladies, who had been busy
up to that time on a sufficiently interesting discussion as to the
preparation of capons, suddenly cut their conversation short. All was
silence. It was a picture worthy of the brush of a great artist.

At length Ivan Ivanovitch pulled out his handkerchief and began to blow
his nose; whilst Ivan Nikiforovitch glanced about and his eye rested on
the open door. The chief of police at once perceived this movement, and
ordered the door to be fastened. Then both of the friends began to eat,
and never once glanced at each other again.

As soon as dinner was over, the two former friends both rose from their
seats, and began to look for their hats, with a view to departure. Then
the chief beckoned; and Ivan Ivanovitch--not our Ivan Ivanovitch, but
the other with the one eye--got behind Ivan Nikiforovitch, and the
chief stepped behind Ivan Ivanovitch, and the two began to drag them
backwards, in order to bring them together, and not release them till
they had shaken hands with each other. Ivan Ivanovitch, the one-eyed,
pushed Ivan Nikiforovitch, with tolerable success, towards the spot
where stood Ivan Ivanovitch. But the chief of police directed his
course too much to one side, because he could not steer himself with his
refractory leg, which obeyed no orders whatever on this occasion, and,
as if with malice and aforethought, swung itself uncommonly far, and in
quite the contrary direction, possibly from the fact that there had been
an unusual amount of fruit wine after dinner, so that Ivan Ivanovitch
fell over a lady in a red gown, who had thrust herself into the very
midst, out of curiosity.

Such an omen forboded no good. Nevertheless, the judge, in order to set
things to rights, took the chief of police’s place, and, sweeping all
the snuff from his upper lip with his nose, pushed Ivan Ivanovitch
in the opposite direction. In Mirgorod this is the usual manner of
effecting a reconciliation: it somewhat resembles a game of ball. As
soon as the judge pushed Ivan Ivanovitch, Ivan Ivanovitch with the one
eye exerted all his strength, and pushed Ivan Nikiforovitch, from whom
the perspiration streamed like rain-water from a roof. In spite of the
fact that the friends resisted to the best of their ability, they
were nevertheless brought together, for the two chief movers received
reinforcements from the ranks of their guests.

Then they were closely surrounded on all sides, not to be released until
they had decided to give one another their hands. “God be with you, Ivan
Nikiforovitch and Ivan Ivanovitch! declare upon your honour now, that
what you quarrelled about were mere trifles, were they not? Are you not
ashamed of yourselves before people and before God?”

“I do not know,” said Ivan Nikiforovitch, panting with fatigue,
though it is to be observed that he was not at all disinclined to a
reconciliation, “I do not know what I did to Ivan Ivanovitch; but why
did he destroy my coop and plot against my life?”

“I am innocent of any evil designs!” said Ivan Ivanovitch, never looking
at Ivan Nikiforovitch. “I swear before God and before you, honourable
noblemen, I did nothing to my enemy! Why does he calumniate me and
insult my rank and family?”

“How have I insulted you, Ivan Ivanovitch?” said Ivan Nikiforovitch.
One moment more of explanation, and the long enmity would have been
extinguished. Ivan Nikiforovitch was already feeling in his pocket for
his snuff-box, and was about to say, “Do me the favour.”

“Is it not an insult,” answered Ivan Ivanovitch, without raising his
eyes, “when you, my dear sir, insulted my honour and my family with a
word which it is improper to repeat here?”

“Permit me to observe, in a friendly manner, Ivan Ivanovitch,” here Ivan
Nikiforovitch touched Ivan Ivanovitch’s button with his finger, which
clearly indicated the disposition of his mind, “that you took offence,
the deuce only knows at what, because I called you a ‘goose’--”

It occurred to Ivan Nikiforovitch that he had made a mistake in uttering
that word; but it was too late: the word was said. Everything went to
the winds. It, on the utterance of this word without witnesses, Ivan
Ivanovitch lost control of himself and flew into such a passion as God
preserve us from beholding any man in, what was to be expected now? I
put it to you, dear readers, what was to be expected now, when the fatal
word was uttered in an assemblage of persons among whom were ladies, in
whose presence Ivan Ivanovitch liked to be particularly polite? If Ivan
Nikiforovitch had set to work in any other manner, if he had only said
bird and not goose, it might still have been arranged, but all was at an

He gave one look at Ivan Nikiforovitch, but such a look! If that look
had possessed active power, then it would have turned Ivan Nikiforovitch
into dust. The guests understood the look and hastened to separate them.
And this man, the very model of gentleness, who never let a single poor
woman go by without interrogating her, rushed out in a fearful rage.
Such violent storms do passions produce!

For a whole month nothing was heard of Ivan Ivanovitch. He shut himself
up at home. His ancestral chest was opened, and from it were taken
silver rubles, his grandfather’s old silver rubles! And these rubles
passed into the ink-stained hands of legal advisers. The case was sent
up to the higher court; and when Ivan Ivanovitch received the joyful
news that it would be decided on the morrow, then only did he look out
upon the world and resolve to emerge from his house. Alas! from that
time forth the council gave notice day by day that the case would be
finished on the morrow, for the space of ten years.

Five years ago, I passed through the town of Mirgorod. I came at a bad
time. It was autumn, with its damp, melancholy weather, mud and mists.
An unnatural verdure, the result of incessant rains, covered with a
watery network the fields and meadows, to which it is as well suited
as youthful pranks to an old man, or roses to an old woman. The weather
made a deep impression on me at the time: when it was dull, I was dull;
but in spite of this, when I came to pass through Mirgorod, my heart
beat violently. God, what reminiscences! I had not seen Mirgorod for
twenty years. Here had lived, in touching friendship, two inseparable
friends. And how many prominent people had died! Judge Demyan
Demyanovitch was already gone: Ivan Ivanovitch, with the one eye, had
long ceased to live.

I entered the main street. All about stood poles with bundles of straw
on top: some alterations were in progress. Several dwellings had been
removed. The remnants of board and wattled fences projected sadly here
and there. It was a festival day. I ordered my basket chaise to stop in
front of the church, and entered softly that no one might turn round. To
tell the truth, there was no need of this: the church was almost empty;
there were very few people; it was evident that even the most pious
feared the mud. The candles seemed strangely unpleasant in that gloomy,
or rather sickly, light. The dim vestibule was melancholy; the long
windows, with their circular panes, were bedewed with tears of rain. I
retired into the vestibule, and addressing a respectable old man,
with greyish hair, said, “May I inquire if Ivan Nikiforovitch is still

At that moment the lamp before the holy picture burned up more brightly
and the light fell directly upon the face of my companion. What was my
surprise, on looking more closely, to behold features with which I was
acquainted! It was Ivan Nikiforovitch himself! But how he had changed!

“Are you well, Ivan Nikiforovitch? How old you have grown!”

“Yes, I have grown old. I have just come from Poltava to-day,” answered
Ivan Nikiforovitch.

“You don’t say so! you have been to Poltava in such bad weather?”

“What was to be done? that lawsuit--”

At this I sighed involuntarily.

Ivan Nikiforovitch observed my sigh, and said, “Do not be troubled: I
have reliable information that the case will be decided next week, and
in my favour.”

I shrugged my shoulders, and went to seek news of Ivan Ivanovitch.

“Ivan Ivanovitch is here,” some one said to me, “in the choir.”

I saw a gaunt form. Was that Ivan Ivanovitch? His face was covered with
wrinkles, his hair was perfectly white; but the pelisse was the same as
ever. After the first greetings were over, Ivan Ivanovitch, turning to
me with a joyful smile which always became his funnel-shaped face, said,
“Have you been told the good news?”

“What news?” I inquired.

“My case is to be decided to-morrow without fail: the court has
announced it decisively.”

I sighed more deeply than before, made haste to take my leave, for I was
bound on very important business, and seated myself in my kibitka.

The lean nags known in Mirgorod as post-horses started, producing with
their hoofs, which were buried in a grey mass of mud, a sound very
displeasing to the ear. The rain poured in torrents upon the Jew seated
on the box, covered with a rug. The dampness penetrated through and
through me. The gloomy barrier with a sentry-box, in which an old
soldier was repairing his weapons, was passed slowly. Again the same
fields, in some places black where they had been dug up, in others of
a greenish hue; wet daws and crows; monotonous rain; a tearful sky,
without one gleam of light!... It is gloomy in this world, gentlemen!



Nowhere did so many people pause as before the little picture-shop
in the Shtchukinui Dvor. This little shop contained, indeed, the
most varied collection of curiosities. The pictures were chiefly
oil-paintings covered with dark varnish, in frames of dingy yellow.
Winter scenes with white trees; very red sunsets, like raging
conflagrations, a Flemish boor, more like a turkey-cock in cuffs than a
human being, were the prevailing subjects. To these must be added a few
engravings, such as a portrait of Khozreff-Mirza in a sheepskin cap, and
some generals with three-cornered hats and hooked noses. Moreover,
the doors of such shops are usually festooned with bundles of those
publications, printed on large sheets of bark, and then coloured by
hand, which bear witness to the native talent of the Russian.

On one was the Tzarevna Miliktrisa Kirbitievna; on another the city of
Jerusalem. There are usually but few purchasers of these productions,
but gazers are many. Some truant lackey probably yawns in front of them,
holding in his hand the dishes containing dinner from the cook-shop for
his master, who will not get his soup very hot. Before them, too, will
most likely be standing a soldier wrapped in his cloak, a dealer
from the old-clothes mart, with a couple of penknives for sale, and a
huckstress, with a basketful of shoes. Each expresses admiration in
his own way. The muzhiks generally touch them with their fingers; the
dealers gaze seriously at them; serving boys and apprentices laugh, and
tease each other with the coloured caricatures; old lackeys in frieze
cloaks look at them merely for the sake of yawning away their time
somewhere; and the hucksters, young Russian women, halt by instinct to
hear what people are gossiping about, and to see what they are looking

At the time our story opens, the young painter, Tchartkoff, paused
involuntarily as he passed the shop. His old cloak and plain attire
showed him to be a man who was devoted to his art with self-denying
zeal, and who had no time to trouble himself about his clothes. He
halted in front of the little shop, and at first enjoyed an inward laugh
over the monstrosities in the shape of pictures.

At length he sank unconsciously into a reverie, and began to ponder
as to what sort of people wanted these productions? It did not seem
remarkable to him that the Russian populace should gaze with rapture
upon “Eruslanoff Lazarevitch,” on “The Glutton” and “The Carouser,”
 on “Thoma and Erema.” The delineations of these subjects were easily
intelligible to the masses. But where were there purchases for those
streaky, dirty oil-paintings? Who needed those Flemish boors, those red
and blue landscapes, which put forth some claims to a higher stage of
art, but which really expressed the depths of its degradation? They did
not appear the works of a self-taught child. In that case, in spite of
the caricature of drawing, a sharp distinction would have manifested
itself. But here were visible only simple dullness, steady-going
incapacity, which stood, through self-will, in the ranks of art, while
its true place was among the lowest trades. The same colours, the same
manner, the same practised hand, belonging rather to a manufacturing
automaton than to a man!

He stood before the dirty pictures for some time, his thoughts at length
wandering to other matters. Meanwhile the proprietor of the shop, a
little grey man, in a frieze cloak, with a beard which had not been
shaved since Sunday, had been urging him to buy for some time, naming
prices, without even knowing what pleased him or what he wanted. “Here,
I’ll take a silver piece for these peasants and this little landscape.
What painting! it fairly dazzles one; only just received from the
factory; the varnish isn’t dry yet. Or here is a winter scene--take the
winter scene; fifteen rubles; the frame alone is worth it. What a winter
scene!” Here the merchant gave a slight fillip to the canvas, as if to
demonstrate all the merits of the winter scene. “Pray have them put
up and sent to your house. Where do you live? Here, boy, give me some

“Hold, not so fast!” said the painter, coming to himself, and perceiving
that the brisk dealer was beginning in earnest to pack some pictures
up. He was rather ashamed not to take anything after standing so long
in front of the shop; so saying, “Here, stop! I will see if there is
anything I want here!” he stooped and began to pick up from the floor,
where they were thrown in a heap, some worn, dusty old paintings. There
were old family portraits, whose descendants, probably could not be
found on earth; with torn canvas and frames minus their gilding; in
short, trash. But the painter began his search, thinking to himself,
“Perhaps I may come across something.” He had heard stories about
pictures of the great masters having been found among the rubbish in
cheap print-sellers’ shops.

The dealer, perceiving what he was about, ceased his importunities,
and took up his post again at the door, hailing the passers-by with,
“Hither, friends, here are pictures; step in, step in; just received
from the makers!” He shouted his fill, and generally in vain, had a long
talk with a rag-merchant, standing opposite, at the door of his shop;
and finally, recollecting that he had a customer in his shop, turned
his back on the public and went inside. “Well, friend, have you chosen
anything?” said he. But the painter had already been standing motionless
for some time before a portrait in a large and originally magnificent
frame, upon which, however, hardly a trace of gilding now remained.

It represented an old man, with a thin, bronzed face and high
cheek-bones; the features seemingly depicted in a moment of convulsive
agitation. He wore a flowing Asiatic costume. Dusty and defaced as the
portrait was, Tchartkoff saw, when he had succeeded in removing the
dirt from the face, traces of the work of a great artist. The portrait
appeared to be unfinished, but the power of the handling was striking.
The eyes were the most remarkable picture of all: it seemed as though
the full power of the artist’s brush had been lavished upon them. They
fairly gazed out of the portrait, destroying its harmony with their
strange liveliness. When he carried the portrait to the door, the
eyes gleamed even more penetratingly. They produced nearly the same
impression on the public. A woman standing behind him exclaimed, “He
is looking, he is looking!” and jumped back. Tchartkoff experienced
an unpleasant feeling, inexplicable even to himself, and placed the
portrait on the floor.

“Well, will you take the portrait?” said the dealer.

“How much is it?” said the painter.

“Why chaffer over it? give me seventy-five kopeks.”


“Well, how much will you give?”

“Twenty kopeks,” said the painter, preparing to go.

“What a price! Why, you couldn’t buy the frame for that! Perhaps you
will decide to purchase to-morrow. Sir, sir, turn back! Add ten kopeks.
Take it, take it! give me twenty kopeks. To tell the truth, you are my
only customer to-day, and that’s the only reason.”

Thus Tchartkoff quite unexpectedly became the purchaser of the old
portrait, and at the same time reflected, “Why have I bought it? What
is it to me?” But there was nothing to be done. He pulled a twenty-kopek
piece from his pocket, gave it to the merchant, took the portrait under
his arm, and carried it home. On the way thither, he remembered that
the twenty-kopek piece he had given for it was his last. His thoughts at
once became gloomy. Vexation and careless indifference took possession
of him at one and the same moment. The red light of sunset still
lingered in one half the sky; the houses facing that way still gleamed
with its warm light; and meanwhile the cold blue light of the moon grew
brighter. Light, half-transparent shadows fell in bands upon the ground.
The painter began by degrees to glance up at the sky, flushed with a
transparent light; and at the same moment from his mouth fell the words,
“What a delicate tone! What a nuisance! Deuce take it!” Re-adjusting the
portrait, which kept slipping from under his arm, he quickened his pace.

Weary and bathed in perspiration, he dragged himself to Vasilievsky
Ostroff. With difficulty and much panting he made his way up the stairs
flooded with soap-suds, and adorned with the tracks of dogs and cats.
To his knock there was no answer: there was no one at home. He leaned
against the window, and disposed himself to wait patiently, until at
last there resounded behind him the footsteps of a boy in a blue blouse,
his servant, model, and colour-grinder. This boy was called Nikita,
and spent all his time in the streets when his master was not at home.
Nikita tried for a long time to get the key into the lock, which was
quite invisible, by reason of the darkness.

Finally the door was opened. Tchartkoff entered his ante-room, which was
intolerably cold, as painters’ rooms always are, which fact, however,
they do not notice. Without giving Nikita his coat, he went on into
his studio, a large room, but low, fitted up with all sorts of artistic
rubbish--plaster hands, canvases, sketches begun and discarded, and
draperies thrown over chairs. Feeling very tired, he took off his cloak,
placed the portrait abstractedly between two small canvasses, and threw
himself on the narrow divan. Having stretched himself out, he finally
called for a light.

“There are no candles,” said Nikita.

“What, none?”

“And there were none last night,” said Nikita. The artist recollected
that, in fact, there had been no candles the previous evening, and
became silent. He let Nikita take his coat off, and put on his old worn

“There has been a gentleman here,” said Nikita.

“Yes, he came for money, I know,” said the painter, waving his hand.

“He was not alone,” said Nikita.

“Who else was with him?”

“I don’t know, some police officer or other.”

“But why a police officer?”

“I don’t know why, but he says because your rent is not paid.”

“Well, what will come of it?”

“I don’t know what will come of it: he said, ‘If he won’t pay, why, let
him leave the rooms.’ They are both coming again to-morrow.”

“Let them come,” said Tchartkoff, with indifference; and a gloomy mood
took full possession of him.

Young Tchartkoff was an artist of talent, which promised great things:
his work gave evidence of observation, thought, and a strong inclination
to approach nearer to nature.

“Look here, my friend,” his professor said to him more than once, “you
have talent; it will be a shame if you waste it: but you are impatient;
you have but to be attracted by anything, to fall in love with it, you
become engrossed with it, and all else goes for nothing, and you won’t
even look at it. See to it that you do not become a fashionable artist.
At present your colouring begins to assert itself too loudly; and your
drawing is at times quite weak; you are already striving after the
fashionable style, because it strikes the eye at once. Have a care!
society already begins to have its attraction for you: I have seen you
with a shiny hat, a foppish neckerchief.... It is seductive to paint
fashionable little pictures and portraits for money; but talent is
ruined, not developed, by that means. Be patient; think out every piece
of work, discard your foppishness; let others amass money, your own will
not fail you.”

The professor was partly right. Our artist sometimes wanted to enjoy
himself, to play the fop, in short, to give vent to his youthful
impulses in some way or other; but he could control himself withal. At
times he would forget everything, when he had once taken his brush in
his hand, and could not tear himself from it except as from a delightful
dream. His taste perceptibly developed. He did not as yet understand all
the depths of Raphael, but he was attracted by Guido’s broad and rapid
handling, he paused before Titian’s portraits, he delighted in the
Flemish masters. The dark veil enshrouding the ancient pictures had not
yet wholly passed away from before them; but he already saw something
in them, though in private he did not agree with the professor that the
secrets of the old masters are irremediably lost to us. It seemed to him
that the nineteenth century had improved upon them considerably, that
the delineation of nature was more clear, more vivid, more close. It
sometimes vexed him when he saw how a strange artist, French or German,
sometimes not even a painter by profession, but only a skilful dauber,
produced, by the celerity of his brush and the vividness of his
colouring, a universal commotion, and amassed in a twinkling a funded
capital. This did not occur to him when fully occupied with his own
work, for then he forgot food and drink and all the world. But when dire
want arrived, when he had no money wherewith to buy brushes and colours,
when his implacable landlord came ten times a day to demand the rent for
his rooms, then did the luck of the wealthy artists recur to his hungry
imagination; then did the thought which so often traverses Russian
minds, to give up altogether, and go down hill, utterly to the bad,
traverse his. And now he was almost in this frame of mind.

“Yes, it is all very well, to be patient, be patient!” he exclaimed,
with vexation; “but there is an end to patience at last. Be patient! but
what money have I to buy a dinner with to-morrow? No one will lend me
any. If I did bring myself to sell all my pictures and sketches, they
would not give me twenty kopeks for the whole of them. They are useful;
I feel that not one of them has been undertaken in vain; I have learned
something from each one. Yes, but of what use is it? Studies, sketches,
all will be studies, trial-sketches to the end. And who will buy, not
even knowing me by name? Who wants drawings from the antique, or the
life class, or my unfinished love of a Psyche, or the interior of my
room, or the portrait of Nikita, though it is better, to tell the truth,
than the portraits by any of the fashionable artists? Why do I worry,
and toil like a learner over the alphabet, when I might shine as
brightly as the rest, and have money, too, like them?”

Thus speaking, the artist suddenly shuddered, and turned pale. A
convulsively distorted face gazed at him, peeping forth from the
surrounding canvas; two terrible eyes were fixed straight upon him; on
the mouth was written a menacing command of silence. Alarmed, he tried
to scream and summon Nikita, who already was snoring in the ante-room;
but he suddenly paused and laughed. The sensation of fear died away in
a moment; it was the portrait he had bought, and which he had quite
forgotten. The light of the moon illuminating the chamber had fallen
upon it, and lent it a strange likeness to life.

He began to examine it. He moistened a sponge with water, passed it over
the picture several times, washed off nearly all the accumulated and
incrusted dust and dirt, hung it on the wall before him, wondering yet
more at the remarkable workmanship. The whole face had gained new life,
and the eyes gazed at him so that he shuddered; and, springing back,
he exclaimed in a voice of surprise: “It looks with human eyes!” Then
suddenly there occurred to him a story he had heard long before from his
professor, of a certain portrait by the renowned Leonardo da Vinci, upon
which the great master laboured several years, and still regarded as
incomplete, but which, according to Vasari, was nevertheless deemed by
all the most complete and finished product of his art. The most finished
thing about it was the eyes, which amazed his contemporaries; the very
smallest, barely visible veins in them being reproduced on the canvas.

But in the portrait now before him there was something singular. It was
no longer art; it even destroyed the harmony of the portrait; they were
living, human eyes! It seemed as though they had been cut from a living
man and inserted. Here was none of that high enjoyment which takes
possession of the soul at the sight of an artist’s production, no matter
how terrible the subject he may have chosen.

Again he approached the portrait, in order to observe those wondrous
eyes, and perceived, with terror, that they were gazing at him. This
was no copy from Nature; it was life, the strange life which might have
lighted up the face of a dead man, risen from the grave. Whether it was
the effect of the moonlight, which brought with it fantastic thoughts,
and transformed things into strange likenesses, opposed to those of
matter-of-fact day, or from some other cause, but it suddenly became
terrible to him, he knew not why, to sit alone in the room. He draw back
from the portrait, turned aside, and tried not to look at it; but his
eye involuntarily, of its own accord, kept glancing sideways towards it.
Finally, he became afraid to walk about the room. It seemed as though
some one were on the point of stepping up behind him; and every time
he turned, he glanced timidly back. He had never been a coward; but his
imagination and nerves were sensitive, and that evening he could not
explain his involuntary fear. He seated himself in one corner, but even
then it seemed to him that some one was peeping over his shoulder into
his face. Even Nikita’s snores, resounding from the ante-room, did not
chase away his fear. At length he rose from the seat, without raising
his eyes, went behind a screen, and lay down on his bed. Through
the cracks of the screen he saw his room lit up by the moon, and the
portrait hanging stiffly on the wall. The eyes were fixed upon him in a
yet more terrible and significant manner, and it seemed as if they
would not look at anything but himself. Overpowered with a feeling
of oppression, he decided to rise from his bed, seized a sheet, and,
approaching the portrait, covered it up completely.

Having done this, he lay done more at ease on his bed, and began to
meditate upon the poverty and pitiful lot of the artist, and the thorny
path lying before him in the world. But meanwhile his eye glanced
involuntarily through the joint of the screen at the portrait muffled in
the sheet. The light of the moon heightened the whiteness of the sheet,
and it seemed to him as though those terrible eyes shone through the
cloth. With terror he fixed his eyes more steadfastly on the spot, as if
wishing to convince himself that it was all nonsense. But at length he
saw--saw clearly; there was no longer a sheet--the portrait was quite
uncovered, and was gazing beyond everything around it, straight at
him; gazing as it seemed fairly into his heart. His heart grew cold. He
watched anxiously; the old man moved, and suddenly, supporting himself
on the frame with both arms, raised himself by his hands, and, putting
forth both feet, leapt out of the frame. Through the crack of the
screen, the empty frame alone was now visible. Footsteps resounded
through the room, and approached nearer and nearer to the screen. The
poor artist’s heart began beating fast. He expected every moment, his
breath failing for fear, that the old man would look round the screen
at him. And lo! he did look from behind the screen, with the very same
bronzed face, and with his big eyes roving about.

Tchartkoff tried to scream, and felt that his voice was gone; he tried
to move; his limbs refused their office. With open mouth, and failing
breath, he gazed at the tall phantom, draped in some kind of a flowing
Asiatic robe, and waited for what it would do. The old man sat down
almost on his very feet, and then pulled out something from among the
folds of his wide garment. It was a purse. The old man untied it, took
it by the end, and shook it. Heavy rolls of coin fell out with a dull
thud upon the floor. Each was wrapped in blue paper, and on each was
marked, “1000 ducats.” The old man protruded his long, bony hand from
his wide sleeves, and began to undo the rolls. The gold glittered. Great
as was the artist’s unreasoning fear, he concentrated all his attention
upon the gold, gazing motionless, as it made its appearance in the bony
hands, gleamed, rang lightly or dully, and was wrapped up again. Then he
perceived one packet which had rolled farther than the rest, to the very
leg of his bedstead, near his pillow. He grasped it almost convulsively,
and glanced in fear at the old man to see whether he noticed it.

But the old man appeared very much occupied: he collected all his rolls,
replaced them in the purse, and went outside the screen without looking
at him. Tchartkoff’s heart beat wildly as he heard the rustle of the
retreating footsteps sounding through the room. He clasped the roll
of coin more closely in his hand, quivering in every limb. Suddenly he
heard the footsteps approaching the screen again. Apparently the old man
had recollected that one roll was missing. Lo! again he looked round
the screen at him. The artist in despair grasped the roll with all his
strength, tried with all his power to make a movement, shrieked--and

He was bathed in a cold perspiration; his heart beat as hard as it was
possible for it to beat; his chest was oppressed, as though his last
breath was about to issue from it. “Was it a dream?” he said, seizing
his head with both hands. But the terrible reality of the apparition
did not resemble a dream. As he woke, he saw the old man step into the
frame: the skirts of the flowing garment even fluttered, and his hand
felt plainly that a moment before it had held something heavy. The
moonlight lit up the room, bringing out from the dark corners here
a canvas, there the model of a hand: a drapery thrown over a chair;
trousers and dirty boots. Then he perceived that he was not lying in
his bed, but standing upright in front of the portrait. How he had come
there, he could not in the least comprehend. Still more surprised was
he to find the portrait uncovered, and with actually no sheet over it.
Motionless with terror, he gazed at it, and perceived that the living,
human eyes were fastened upon him. A cold perspiration broke out upon
his forehead. He wanted to move away, but felt that his feet had in some
way become rooted to the earth. And he felt that this was not a dream.
The old man’s features moved, and his lips began to project towards him,
as though he wanted to suck him in. With a yell of despair he jumped
back--and awoke.

“Was it a dream?” With his heart throbbing to bursting, he felt about
him with both hands. Yes, he was lying in bed, and in precisely the
position in which he had fallen asleep. Before him stood the screen.
The moonlight flooded the room. Through the crack of the screen, the
portrait was visible, covered with the sheet, as it should be, just as
he had covered it. And so that, too, was a dream? But his clenched fist
still felt as though something had been held in it. The throbbing of
his heart was violent, almost terrible; the weight upon his breast
intolerable. He fixed his eyes upon the crack, and stared steadfastly
at the sheet. And lo! he saw plainly the sheet begin to open, as though
hands were pushing from underneath, and trying to throw it off. “Lord
God, what is it!” he shrieked, crossing himself in despair--and awoke.

And was this, too, a dream? He sprang from his bed, half-mad, and could
not comprehend what had happened to him. Was it the oppression of a
nightmare, the raving of fever, or an actual apparition? Striving to
calm, as far as possible, his mental tumult, and stay the wildly rushing
blood, which beat with straining pulses in every vein, he went to the
window and opened it. The cool breeze revived him. The moonlight lay on
the roofs and the white walls of the houses, though small clouds passed
frequently across the sky. All was still: from time to time there struck
the ear the distant rumble of a carriage. He put his head out of the
window, and gazed for some time. Already the signs of approaching dawn
were spreading over the sky. At last he felt drowsy, shut to the window,
stepped back, lay down in bed, and quickly fell, like one exhausted,
into a deep sleep.

He awoke late, and with the disagreeable feeling of a man who has been
half-suffocated with coal-gas: his head ached painfully. The room was
dim: an unpleasant moisture pervaded the air, and penetrated the cracks
of his windows. Dissatisfied and depressed as a wet cock, he seated
himself on his dilapidated divan, not knowing what to do, what to set
about, and at length remembered the whole of his dream. As he recalled
it, the dream presented itself to his mind as so oppressively real that
he even began to wonder whether it were a dream, whether there were not
something more here, whether it were not really an apparition. Removing
the sheet, he looked at the terrible portrait by the light of day. The
eyes were really striking in their liveliness, but he found nothing
particularly terrible about them, though an indescribably unpleasant
feeling lingered in his mind. Nevertheless, he could not quite convince
himself that it was a dream. It struck him that there must have been
some terrible fragment of reality in the vision. It seemed as though
there were something in the old man’s very glance and expression which
said that he had been with him that night: his hand still felt the
weight which had so recently lain in it as if some one had but just
snatched it from him. It seemed to him that, if he had only grasped the
roll more firmly, it would have remained in his hand, even after his

“My God, if I only had a portion of that money!” he said, breathing
heavily; and in his fancy, all the rolls of coin, with their fascinating
inscription, “1000 ducats,” began to pour out of the purse. The rolls
opened, the gold glittered, and was wrapped up again; and he sat
motionless, with his eyes fixed on the empty air, as if he were
incapable of tearing himself from such a sight, like a child who sits
before a plate of sweets, and beholds, with watering mouth, other people
devouring them.

At last there came a knock on the door, which recalled him unpleasantly
to himself. The landlord entered with the constable of the district,
whose presence is even more disagreeable to poor people than is the
presence of a beggar to the rich. The landlord of the little house in
which Tchartkoff lived resembled the other individuals who own houses
anywhere in the Vasilievsky Ostroff, on the St. Petersburg side, or
in the distant regions of Kolomna--individuals whose character is as
difficult to define as the colour of a threadbare surtout. In his youth
he had been a captain and a braggart, a master in the art of flogging,
skilful, foppish, and stupid; but in his old age he combined all these
various qualities into a kind of dim indefiniteness. He was a widower,
already on the retired list, no longer boasted, nor was dandified, nor
quarrelled, but only cared to drink tea and talk all sorts of nonsense
over it. He walked about his room, and arranged the ends of the tallow
candles; called punctually at the end of each month upon his lodgers for
money; went out into the street, with the key in his hand, to look at
the roof of his house, and sometimes chased the porter out of his den,
where he had hidden himself to sleep. In short, he was a man on the
retired list, who, after the turmoils and wildness of his life, had only
his old-fashioned habits left.

“Please to see for yourself, Varukh Kusmitch,” said the landlord,
turning to the officer, and throwing out his hands, “this man does not
pay his rent, he does not pay.”

“How can I when I have no money? Wait, and I will pay.”

“I can’t wait, my good fellow,” said the landlord angrily, making a
gesture with the key which he held in his hand. “Lieutenant-Colonel
Potogonkin has lived with me seven years, seven years already; Anna
Petrovna Buchmisteroff rents the coach-house and stable, with the
exception of two stalls, and has three household servants: that is
the kind of lodgers I have. I say to you frankly, that this is not an
establishment where people do not pay their rent. Pay your money at
once, please, or else clear out.”

“Yes, if you rented the rooms, please to pay,” said the constable, with
a slight shake of the head, as he laid his finger on one of the buttons
of his uniform.

“Well, what am I to pay with? that’s the question. I haven’t a groschen
just at present.”

“In that case, satisfy the claims of Ivan Ivanovitch with the fruits
of your profession,” said the officer: “perhaps he will consent to take

“No, thank you, my good fellow, no pictures. Pictures of holy subjects,
such as one could hang upon the walls, would be well enough; or some
general with a star, or Prince Kutusoff’s portrait. But this fellow has
painted that muzhik, that muzhik in his blouse, his servant who grinds
his colours! The idea of painting his portrait, the hog! I’ll thrash
him well: he took all the nails out of my bolts, the scoundrel! Just
see what subjects! Here he has drawn his room. It would have been well
enough had he taken a clean, well-furnished room; but he has gone and
drawn this one, with all the dirt and rubbish he has collected. Just see
how he has defaced my room! Look for yourself. Yes, and my lodgers
have been with me seven years, the lieutenant-colonel, Anna Petrovna
Buchmisteroff. No, I tell you, there is no worse lodger than a painter:
he lives like a pig--God have mercy!”

The poor artist had to listen patiently to all this. Meanwhile the
officer had occupied himself with examining the pictures and studies,
and showed that his mind was more advanced than the landlord’s, and that
he was not insensible to artistic impressions.

“Heh!” said he, tapping one canvas, on which was depicted a naked woman,
“this subject is--lively. But why so much black under her nose? did she
take snuff?”

“Shadow,” answered Tchartkoff gruffly, without looking at him.

“But it might have been put in some other place: it is too conspicuous
under the nose,” observed the officer. “And whose likeness is this?” he
continued, approaching the old man’s portrait. “It is too terrible.
Was he really so dreadful? Ah! why, he actually looks at one! What a
thunder-cloud! From whom did you paint it?”

“Ah! it is from a--” said Tchartkoff, but did not finish his sentence:
he heard a crack. It seems that the officer had pressed too hard on the
frame of the portrait, thanks to the weight of his constable’s hands.
The small boards at the side caved in, one fell on the floor, and with
it fell, with a heavy crash, a roll of blue paper. The inscription
caught Tchartkoff’s eye--“1000 ducats.” Like a madman, he sprang to pick
it up, grasped the roll, and gripped it convulsively in his hand, which
sank with the weight.

“Wasn’t there a sound of money?” inquired the officer, hearing the noise
of something falling on the floor, and not catching sight of it, owing
to the rapidity with which Tchartkoff had hastened to pick it up.

“What business is it of yours what is in my room?”

“It’s my business because you ought to pay your rent to the landlord
at once; because you have money, and won’t pay, that’s why it’s my

“Well, I will pay him to-day.”

“Well, and why wouldn’t you pay before, instead of giving trouble to
your landlord, and bothering the police to boot?”

“Because I did not want to touch this money. I will pay him in full
this evening, and leave the rooms to-morrow. I will not stay with such a

“Well, Ivan Ivanovitch, he will pay you,” said the constable, turning to
the landlord. “But in case you are not satisfied in every respect this
evening, then you must excuse me, Mr. Painter.” So saying, he put on
his three-cornered hat, and went into the ante-room, followed by the
landlord hanging his head, and apparently engaged in meditation.

“Thank God, Satan has carried them off!” said Tchartkoff, as he heard
the outer door of the ante-room close. He looked out into the ante-room,
sent Nikita off on some errand, in order to be quite alone, fastened the
door behind him, and, returning to his room, began with wildly beating
heart to undo the roll.

In it were ducats, all new, and bright as fire. Almost beside himself,
he sat down beside the pile of gold, still asking himself, “Is not this
all a dream?” There were just a thousand in the roll, the exterior of
which was precisely like what he had seen in his dream. He turned them
over, and looked at them for some minutes. His imagination recalled
up all the tales he had heard of hidden hoards, cabinets with secret
drawers, left by ancestors for their spendthrift descendants, with firm
belief in the extravagance of their life. He pondered this: “Did
not some grandfather, in the present instance, leave a gift for his
grandchild, shut up in the frame of a family portrait?” Filled with
romantic fancies, he began to think whether this had not some secret
connection with his fate? whether the existence of the portrait was not
bound up with his own, and whether his acquisition of it was not due to
a kind of predestination?

He began to examine the frame with curiosity. On one side a cavity was
hollowed out, but concealed so skilfully and neatly by a little board,
that, if the massive hand of the constable had not effected a breach,
the ducats might have remained hidden to the end of time. On examining
the portrait, he marvelled again at the exquisite workmanship, the
extraordinary treatment of the eyes. They no longer appeared terrible
to him; but, nevertheless, each time he looked at them a disagreeable
feeling involuntarily lingered in his mind.

“No,” he said to himself, “no matter whose grandfather you were, I’ll
put a glass over you, and get you a gilt frame.” Then he laid his hand
on the golden pile before him, and his heart beat faster at the touch.
“What shall I do with them?” he said, fixing his eyes on them. “Now I
am independent for at least three years: I can shut myself up in my room
and work. I have money for colours now; for food and lodging--no one
will annoy and disturb me now. I will buy myself a first-class lay
figure, I will order a plaster torso, and some model feet, I will have
a Venus. I will buy engravings of the best pictures. And if I work three
years to satisfy myself, without haste or with the idea of selling, I
shall surpass all, and may become a distinguished artist.”

Thus he spoke in solitude, with his good judgment prompting him; but
louder and more distinct sounded another voice within him. As he glanced
once more at the gold, it was not thus that his twenty-two years and
fiery youth reasoned. Now everything was within his power on which he
had hitherto gazed with envious eyes, had viewed from afar with longing.
How his heart beat when he thought of it! To wear a fashionable coat, to
feast after long abstinence, to hire handsome apartments, to go at once
to the theatre, to the confectioner’s, to... other places; and seizing
his money, he was in the street in a moment.

First of all he went to the tailor, was clothed anew from head to foot,
and began to look at himself like a child. He purchased perfumes and
pomades; hired the first elegant suite of apartments with mirrors and
plateglass windows which he came across in the Nevsky Prospect, without
haggling about the price; bought, on the impulse of the moment, a costly
eye-glass; bought, also on the impulse, a number of neckties of every
description, many more than he needed; had his hair curled at the
hairdresser’s; rode through the city twice without any object whatever;
ate an immense quantity of sweetmeats at the confectioner’s; and went
to the French Restaurant, of which he had heard rumours as indistinct as
though they had concerned the Empire of China. There he dined, casting
proud glances at the other visitors, and continually arranging his curls
in the glass. There he drank a bottle of champagne, which had been known
to him hitherto only by hearsay. The wine rather affected his head; and
he emerged into the street, lively, pugnacious, and ready to raise
the Devil, according to the Russian expression. He strutted along the
pavement, levelling his eye-glass at everybody. On the bridge he caught
sight of his former professor, and slipped past him neatly, as if he did
not see him, so that the astounded professor stood stock-still on
the bridge for a long time, with a face suggestive of a note of

All his goods and chattels, everything he owned, easels, canvas,
pictures, were transported that same evening to his elegant quarters. He
arranged the best of them in conspicuous places, threw the worst into
a corner, and promenaded up and down the handsome rooms, glancing
constantly in the mirrors. An unconquerable desire to take the bull
by the horns, and show himself to the world at once, had arisen in his
mind. He already heard the shouts, “Tchartkoff! Tchartkoff! Tchartkoff
paints! What talent Tchartkoff has!” He paced the room in a state of

The next day he took ten ducats, and went to the editor of a popular
journal asking his charitable assistance. He was joyfully received
by the journalist, who called him on the spot, “Most respected sir,”
 squeezed both his hands, and made minute inquiries as to his name,
birthplace, residence. The next day there appeared in the journal, below
a notice of some newly invented tallow candles, an article with the
following heading:--


“We hasten to delight the cultivated inhabitants of the capital with a
discovery which we may call splendid in every respect. All are agreed
that there are among us many very handsome faces, but hitherto there
has been no means of committing them to canvas for transmission to
posterity. This want has now been supplied: an artist has been found
who unites in himself all desirable qualities. The beauty can now feel
assured that she will be depicted with all the grace of her charms,
airy, fascinating, butterfly-like, flitting among the flowers of spring.
The stately father of a family can see himself surrounded by his family.
Merchant, warrior, citizen, statesman--hasten one and all, wherever you
may be. The artist’s magnificent establishment (Nevsky Prospect, such
and such a number) is hung with portraits from his brush, worthy of Van
Dyck or Titian. We do not know which to admire most, their truth and
likeness to the originals, or the wonderful brilliancy and freshness of
the colouring. Hail to you, artist! you have drawn a lucky number in the
lottery. Long live Andrei Petrovitch!” (The journalist evidently liked
familiarity.) “Glorify yourself and us. We know how to prize you.
Universal popularity, and with it wealth, will be your meed, though some
of our brother journalists may rise against you.”

The artist read this article with secret satisfaction; his face beamed.
He was mentioned in print; it was a novelty to him: he read the lines
over several times. The comparison with Van Dyck and Titian flattered
him extremely. The praise, “Long live Andrei Petrovitch,” also pleased
him greatly: to be spoken of by his Christian name and patronymic in
print was an honour hitherto totally unknown to him. He began to pace
the chamber briskly, now he sat down in an armchair, now he sprang
up, and seated himself on the sofa, planning each moment how he would
receive visitors, male and female; he went to his canvas and made a
rapid sweep of the brush, endeavouring to impart a graceful movement to
his hand.

The next day, the bell at his door rang. He hastened to open it. A lady
entered, accompanied by a girl of eighteen, her daughter, and followed
by a lackey in a furred livery-coat.

“You are the painter Tchartkoff?”

The artist bowed.

“A great deal is written about you: your portraits, it is said, are the
height of perfection.” So saying, the lady raised her glass to her eyes
and glanced rapidly over the walls, upon which nothing was hanging. “But
where are your portraits?”

“They have been taken away” replied the artist, somewhat confusedly:
“I have but just moved into these apartments; so they are still on the
road, they have not arrived.”

“You have been in Italy?” asked the lady, levelling her glass at him, as
she found nothing else to point it at.

“No, I have not been there; but I wish to go, and I have deferred it for
a while. Here is an arm-chair, madame: you are fatigued?”

“Thank you: I have been sitting a long time in the carriage. Ah, at last
I behold your work!” said the lady, running to the opposite wall,
and bringing her glass to bear upon his studies, sketches, views and
portraits which were standing there on the floor. “It is charming. Lise!
Lise, come here. Rooms in the style of Teniers. Do you see? Disorder,
disorder, a table with a bust upon it, a hand, a palette; dust, see how
the dust is painted! It is charming. And here on this canvas is a woman
washing her face. What a pretty face! Ah! a little muzhik! So you do not
devote yourself exclusively to portraits?”

“Oh! that is mere rubbish. I was trying experiments, studies.”

“Tell me your opinion of the portrait painters of the present day. Is it
not true that there are none now like Titian? There is not that strength
of colour, that--that--What a pity that I cannot express myself in
Russian.” The lady was fond of paintings, and had gone through all the
galleries in Italy with her eye-glass. “But Monsieur Nohl--ah, how
well he paints! what remarkable work! I think his faces have been more
expression than Titian’s. You do not know Monsieur Nohl?”

“Who is Nohl?” inquired the artist.

“Monsieur Nohl. Ah, what talent! He painted her portrait when she was
only twelve years old. You must certainly come to see us. Lise, you
shall show him your album. You know, we came expressly that you might
begin her portrait immediately.”

“What? I am ready this very moment.” And in a trice he pulled forward an
easel with a canvas already prepared, grasped his palette, and fixed
his eyes on the daughter’s pretty little face. If he had been acquainted
with human nature, he might have read in it the dawning of a childish
passion for balls, the dawning of sorrow and misery at the length of
time before dinner and after dinner, the heavy traces of uninterested
application to various arts, insisted upon by her mother for the
elevation of her mind. But the artist saw only the tender little face,
a seductive subject for his brush, the body almost as transparent as
porcelain, the delicate white neck, and the aristocratically slender
form. And he prepared beforehand to triumph, to display the delicacy of
his brush, which had hitherto had to deal only with the harsh features
of coarse models, and severe antiques and copies of classic masters. He
already saw in fancy how this delicate little face would turn out.

“Do you know,” said the lady with a positively touching expression of
countenance, “I should like her to be painted simply attired, and
seated among green shadows, like meadows, with a flock or a grove in
the distance, so that it could not be seen that she goes to balls
or fashionable entertainments. Our balls, I must confess, murder the
intellect, deaden all remnants of feeling. Simplicity! would there
were more simplicity!” Alas, it was stamped on the faces of mother and
daughter that they had so overdanced themselves at balls that they had
become almost wax figures.

Tchartkoff set to work, posed his model, reflected a bit, fixed upon the
idea, waved his brush in the air, settling the points mentally, and then
began and finished the sketching in within an hour. Satisfied with it,
he began to paint. The task fascinated him; he forgot everything, forgot
the very existence of the aristocratic ladies, began even to display
some artistic tricks, uttering various odd sounds and humming to himself
now and then as artists do when immersed heart and soul in their work.
Without the slightest ceremony, he made the sitter lift her head, which
finally began to express utter weariness.

“Enough for the first time,” said the lady.

“A little more,” said the artist, forgetting himself.

“No, it is time to stop. Lise, three o’clock!” said the lady, taking out
a tiny watch which hung by a gold chain from her girdle. “How late it

“Only a minute,” said Tchartkoff innocently, with the pleading voice of
a child.

But the lady appeared to be not at all inclined to yield to his artistic
demands on this occasion; she promised, however, to sit longer the next

“It is vexatious, all the same,” thought Tchartkoff to himself: “I had
just got my hand in;” and he remembered no one had interrupted him or
stopped him when he was at work in his studio on Vasilievsky Ostroff.
Nikita sat motionless in one place. You might even paint him as long
as you pleased; he even went to sleep in the attitude prescribed him.
Feeling dissatisfied, he laid his brush and palette on a chair, and
paused in irritation before the picture.

The woman of the world’s compliments awoke him from his reverie. He flew
to the door to show them out: on the stairs he received an invitation to
dine with them the following week, and returned with a cheerful face to
his apartments. The aristocratic lady had completely charmed him. Up to
that time he had looked upon such beings as unapproachable, born solely
to ride in magnificent carriages, with liveried footmen and stylish
coachmen, and to cast indifferent glances on the poor man travelling
on foot in a cheap cloak. And now, all of a sudden, one of these very
beings had entered his room; he was painting her portrait, was invited
to dinner at an aristocratic house. An unusual feeling of pleasure took
possession of him: he was completely intoxicated, and rewarded himself
with a splendid dinner, an evening at the theatre, and a drive through
the city in a carriage, without any necessity whatever.

But meanwhile his ordinary work did not fall in with his mood at all. He
did nothing but wait for the moment when the bell should ring. At last
the aristocratic lady arrived with her pale daughter. He seated them,
drew forward the canvas with skill, and some efforts of fashionable
airs, and began to paint. The sunny day and bright light aided him not a
little: he saw in his dainty sitter much which, caught and committed
to canvas, would give great value to the portrait. He perceived that he
might accomplish something good if he could reproduce, with accuracy,
all that nature then offered to his eyes. His heart began to beat faster
as he felt that he was expressing something which others had not even
seen as yet. His work engrossed him completely: he was wholly taken up
with it, and again forgot the aristocratic origin of the sitter. With
heaving breast he saw the delicate features and the almost transparent
body of the fair maiden grow beneath his hand. He had caught every
shade, the slight sallowness, the almost imperceptible blue tinge under
the eyes--and was already preparing to put in the tiny mole on the brow,
when he suddenly heard the mother’s voice behind him.

“Ah! why do you paint that? it is not necessary: and you have made it
here, in several places, rather yellow; and here, quite so, like dark

The artist undertook to explain that the spots and yellow tinge would
turn out well, that they brought out the delicate and pleasing tones of
the face. He was informed that they did not bring out tones, and would
not turn out well at all. It was explained to him that just to-day Lise
did not feel quite well; that she never was sallow, and that her face
was distinguished for its fresh colouring.

Sadly he began to erase what his brush had put upon the canvas. Many
a nearly imperceptible feature disappeared, and with it vanished too
a portion of the resemblance. He began indifferently to impart to the
picture that commonplace colouring which can be painted mechanically,
and which lends to a face, even when taken from nature, the sort of cold
ideality observable on school programmes. But the lady was satisfied
when the objectionable tone was quite banished. She merely expressed
surprise that the work lasted so long, and added that she had heard that
he finished a portrait completely in two sittings. The artist could not
think of any answer to this. The ladies rose, and prepared to depart.
He laid aside his brush, escorted them to the door, and then stood
disconsolate for a long while in one spot before the portrait.

He gazed stupidly at it; and meanwhile there floated before his mind’s
eye those delicate features, those shades, and airy tints which he had
copied, and which his brush had annihilated. Engrossed with them, he
put the portrait on one side and hunted up a head of Psyche which he had
some time before thrown on canvas in a sketchy manner. It was a pretty
little face, well painted, but entirely ideal, and having cold, regular
features not lit up by life. For lack of occupation, he now began to
tone it up, imparting to it all he had taken note of in his aristocratic
sitter. Those features, shadows, tints, which he had noted, made their
appearance here in the purified form in which they appear when the
painter, after closely observing nature, subordinates himself to her,
and produces a creation equal to her own.

Psyche began to live: and the scarcely dawning thought began, little
by little, to clothe itself in a visible form. The type of face of the
fashionable young lady was unconsciously transferred to Psyche, yet
nevertheless she had an expression of her own which gave the picture
claims to be considered in truth an original creation. Tchartkoff gave
himself up entirely to his work. For several days he was engrossed by it
alone, and the ladies surprised him at it on their arrival. He had not
time to remove the picture from the easel. Both ladies uttered a cry of
amazement, and clasped their hands.

“Lise, Lise! Ah, how like! Superb, superb! What a happy thought, too, to
drape her in a Greek costume! Ah, what a surprise!”

The artist could not see his way to disabuse the ladies of their error.
Shamefacedly, with drooping head, he murmured, “This is Psyche.”

“In the character of Psyche? Charming!” said the mother, smiling, upon
which the daughter smiled too. “Confess, Lise, it pleases you to be
painted in the character of Psyche better than any other way? What a
sweet idea! But what treatment! It is Correggio himself. I must say
that, although I had read and heard about you, I did not know you had
so much talent. You positively must paint me too.” Evidently the lady
wanted to be portrayed as some kind of Psyche too.

“What am I to do with them?” thought the artist. “If they will have it
so, why, let Psyche pass for what they choose:” and added aloud, “Pray
sit a little: I will touch it up here and there.”

“Ah! I am afraid you will... it is such a capital likeness now!”

But the artist understood that the difficulty was with respect to the
sallowness, and so he reassured them by saying that he only wished
to give more brilliancy and expression to the eyes. In truth, he was
ashamed, and wanted to impart a little more likeness to the original,
lest any one should accuse him of actual barefaced flattery. And the
features of the pale young girl at length appeared more closely in
Psyche’s countenance.

“Enough,” said the mother, beginning to fear that the likeness might
become too decided. The artist was remunerated in every way, with
smiles, money, compliments, cordial pressures of the hand, invitations
to dinner: in short, he received a thousand flattering rewards.

The portrait created a furore in the city. The lady exhibited it to her
friends, and all admired the skill with which the artist had preserved
the likeness, and at the same time conferred more beauty on the
original. The last remark, of course, was prompted by a slight tinge of
envy. The artist was suddenly overwhelmed with work. It seemed as if the
whole city wanted to be painted by him. The door-bell rang incessantly.
From one point of view, this might be considered advantageous, as
presenting to him endless practice in variety and number of faces. But,
unfortunately, they were all people who were hard to get along with,
either busy, hurried people, or else belonging to the fashionable
world, and consequently more occupied than any one else, and therefore
impatient to the last degree. In all quarters, the demand was merely
that the likeness should be good and quickly executed. The artist
perceived that it was a simple impossibility to finish his work; that it
was necessary to exchange power of treatment for lightness and rapidity,
to catch only the general expression, and not waste labour on delicate

Moreover, nearly all of his sitters made stipulations on various points.
The ladies required that mind and character should be represented in
their portraits; that all angles should be rounded, all unevenness
smoothed away, and even removed entirely if possible; in short, that
their faces should be such as to cause every one to stare at them with
admiration, if not fall in love with them outright. When they sat to
him, they sometimes assumed expressions which greatly amazed the artist;
one tried to express melancholy; another, meditation; a third wanted to
make her mouth appear small on any terms, and puckered it up to such an
extent that it finally looked like a spot about as big as a pinhead.
And in spite of all this, they demanded of him good likenesses and
unconstrained naturalness. The men were no better: one insisted on being
painted with an energetic, muscular turn to his head; another, with
upturned, inspired eyes; a lieutenant of the guard demanded that Mars
should be visible in his eyes; an official in the civil service drew
himself up to his full height in order to have his uprightness expressed
in his face, and that his hand might rest on a book bearing the words in
plain characters, “He always stood up for the right.”

At first such demands threw the artist into a cold perspiration. Finally
he acquired the knack of it, and never troubled himself at all about
it. He understood at a word how each wanted himself portrayed. If a
man wanted Mars in his face, he put in Mars: he gave a Byronic turn
and attitude to those who aimed at Byron. If the ladies wanted to be
Corinne, Undine, or Aspasia, he agreed with great readiness, and threw
in a sufficient measure of good looks from his own imagination, which
does no harm, and for the sake of which an artist is even forgiven a
lack of resemblance. He soon began to wonder himself at the rapidity and
dash of his brush. And of course those who sat to him were in ecstasies,
and proclaimed him a genius.

Tchartkoff became a fashionable artist in every sense of the word.
He began to dine out, to escort ladies to picture galleries, to dress
foppishly, and to assert audibly that an artist should belong to
society, that he must uphold his profession, that artists mostly dress
like showmakers, do not know how to behave themselves, do not maintain
the highest tone, and are lacking in all polish. At home, in his studio,
he carried cleanliness and spotlessness to the last extreme, set up two
superb footmen, took fashionable pupils, dressed several times a day,
curled his hair, practised various manners of receiving his callers, and
busied himself in adorning his person in every conceivable way, in order
to produce a pleasing impression on the ladies. In short, it would soon
have been impossible for any one to have recognised in him the modest
artist who had formerly toiled unknown in his miserable quarters in the
Vasilievsky Ostroff.

He now expressed himself decidedly concerning artists and art; declared
that too much credit had been given to the old masters; that even
Raphael did not always paint well, and that fame attached to many of his
works simply by force of tradition: that Michael Angelo was a braggart
because he could boast only a knowledge of anatomy; that there was no
grace about him, and that real brilliancy and power of treatment and
colouring were to be looked for in the present century. And there,
naturally, the question touched him personally. “I do not understand,”
 said he, “how others toil and work with difficulty: a man who labours
for months over a picture is a dauber, and no artist in my opinion; I
don’t believe he has any talent: genius works boldly, rapidly. Here is
this portrait which I painted in two days, this head in one day, this
in a few hours, this in little more than an hour. No, I confess I do not
recognise as art that which adds line to line; that is a handicraft,
not art.” In this manner did he lecture his visitors; and the visitors
admired the strength and boldness of his works, uttered exclamations on
hearing how fast they had been produced, and said to each other, “This
is talent, real talent! see how he speaks, how his eyes gleam! There is
something really extraordinary in his face!”

It flattered the artist to hear such reports about himself. When printed
praise appeared in the papers, he rejoiced like a child, although this
praise was purchased with his money. He carried the printed slips about
with him everywhere, and showed them to friends and acquaintances as
if by accident. His fame increased, his works and orders multiplied.
Already the same portraits over and over again wearied him, by the same
attitudes and turns, which he had learned by heart. He painted them now
without any great interest in his work, brushing in some sort of a head,
and giving them to his pupil’s to finish. At first he had sought to
devise a new attitude each time. Now this had grown wearisome to him.
His brain was tired with planning and thinking. It was out of his power;
his fashionable life bore him far away from labour and thought. His work
grew cold and colourless; and he betook himself with indifference to
the reproduction of monotonous, well-worn forms. The eternally
spick-and-span uniforms, and the so-to-speak buttoned-up faces of the
government officials, soldiers, and statesmen, did not offer a wide
field for his brush: it forgot how to render superb draperies and
powerful emotion and passion. Of grouping, dramatic effect and its lofty
connections, there was nothing. In face of him was only a uniform, a
corsage, a dress-coat, and before which the artist feels cold and
all imagination vanishes. Even his own peculiar merits were no longer
visible in his works, yet they continued to enjoy renown; although
genuine connoisseurs and artists merely shrugged their shoulders when
they saw his latest productions. But some who had known Tchartkoff in
his earlier days could not understand how the talent of which he had
given such clear indications in the outset could so have vanished; and
strove in vain to divine by what means genius could be extinguished in a
man just when he had attained to the full development of his powers.

But the intoxicated artist did not hear these criticisms. He began to
attain to the age of dignity, both in mind and years: to grow stout, and
increase visibly in flesh. He often read in the papers such phrases as,
“Our most respected Andrei Petrovitch; our worthy Andrei Petrovitch.”
 He began to receive offers of distinguished posts in the service,
invitations to examinations and committees. He began, as is usually
the case in maturer years, to advocate Raphael and the old masters, not
because he had become thoroughly convinced of their transcendent
merits, but in order to snub the younger artists. His life was already
approaching the period when everything which suggests impulse contracts
within a man; when a powerful chord appeals more feebly to the spirit;
when the touch of beauty no longer converts virgin strength into fire
and flame, but when all the burnt-out sentiments become more vulnerable
to the sound of gold, hearken more attentively to its seductive music,
and little by little permit themselves to be completely lulled to sleep
by it. Fame can give no pleasure to him who has stolen it, not won it;
so all his feelings and impulses turned towards wealth. Gold was his
passion, his ideal, his fear, his delight, his aim. The bundles of
bank-notes increased in his coffers; and, like all to whose lot falls
this fearful gift, he began to grow inaccessible to every sentiment
except the love of gold. But something occurred which gave him a
powerful shock, and disturbed the whole tenor of his life.

One day he found upon his table a note, in which the Academy of Painting
begged him, as a worthy member of its body, to come and give his opinion
upon a new work which had been sent from Italy by a Russian artist
who was perfecting himself there. The painter was one of his former
comrades, who had been possessed with a passion for art from his
earliest years, had given himself up to it with his whole soul,
estranged himself from his friends and relatives, and had hastened to
that wonderful Rome, at whose very name the artist’s heart beats wildly
and hotly. There he buried himself in his work from which he permitted
nothing to entice him. He visited the galleries unweariedly, he stood
for hours at a time before the works of the great masters, seizing and
studying their marvellous methods. He never finished anything without
revising his impressions several times before these great teachers,
and reading in their works silent but eloquent counsels. He gave each
impartially his due, appropriating from all only that which was most
beautiful, and finally became the pupil of the divine Raphael alone, as
a great poet, after reading many works, at last made Homer’s “Iliad”
 his only breviary, having discovered that it contains all one wants, and
that there is nothing which is not expressed in it in perfection. And
so he brought away from his school the grand conception of creation, the
mighty beauty of thought, the high charm of that heavenly brush.

When Tchartkoff entered the room, he found a crowd of visitors already
collected before the picture. The most profound silence, such as rarely
settles upon a throng of critics, reigned over all. He hastened to
assume the significant expression of a connoisseur, and approached the
picture; but, O God! what did he behold!

Pure, faultless, beautiful as a bride, stood the picture before him.
The critics regarded this new hitherto unknown work with a feeling
of involuntary wonder. All seemed united in it: the art of Raphael,
reflected in the lofty grace of the grouping; the art of Correggio,
breathing from the finished perfection of the workmanship. But more
striking than all else was the evident creative power in the artist’s
mind. The very minutest object in the picture revealed it; he had caught
that melting roundness of outline which is visible in nature only to
the artist creator, and which comes out as angles with a copyist. It was
plainly visible how the artist, having imbibed it all from the external
world, had first stored it in his mind, and then drawn it thence, as
from a spiritual source, into one harmonious, triumphant song. And it
was evident, even to the uninitiated, how vast a gulf there was fixed
between creation and a mere copy from nature. Involuntary tears stood
ready to fall in the eyes of those who surrounded the picture. It seemed
as though all joined in a silent hymn to the divine work.

Motionless, with open mouth, Tchartkoff stood before the picture. At
length, when by degrees the visitors and critics began to murmur and
comment upon the merits of the work, and turning to him, begged him to
express an opinion, he came to himself once more. He tried to assume an
indifferent, everyday expression; strove to utter some such commonplace
remark as; “Yes, to tell the truth, it is impossible to deny the
artist’s talent; there is something in it;” but the speech died upon his
lips, tears and sobs burst forth uncontrollably, and he rushed from the
room like one beside himself.

In a moment he stood in his magnificent studio. All his being, all his
life, had been aroused in one instant, as if youth had returned to
him, as if the dying sparks of his talent had blazed forth afresh.
The bandage suddenly fell from his eyes. Heavens! to think of having
mercilessly wasted the best years of his youth, of having extinguished,
trodden out perhaps, that spark of fire which, cherished in his breast,
might perhaps have been developed into magnificence and beauty, and
have extorted too, its meed of tears and admiration! It seemed as though
those impulses which he had known in other days re-awoke suddenly in his

He seized a brush and approached his canvas. One thought possessed him
wholly, one desire consumed him; he strove to depict a fallen angel.
This idea was most in harmony with his frame of mind. The perspiration
started out upon his face with his efforts; but, alas! his
figures, attitudes, groups, thoughts, arranged themselves stiffly,
disconnectedly. His hand and his imagination had been too long confined
to one groove; and the fruitless effort to escape from the bonds
and fetters which he had imposed upon himself, showed itself in
irregularities and errors. He had despised the long, wearisome ladder to
knowledge, and the first fundamental law of the future great man, hard
work. He gave vent to his vexation. He ordered all his later productions
to be taken out of his studio, all the fashionable, lifeless pictures,
all the portraits of hussars, ladies, and councillors of state.

He shut himself up alone in his room, would order no food, and devoted
himself entirely to his work. He sat toiling like a scholar. But how
pitifully wretched was all which proceeded from his hand! He was stopped
at every step by his ignorance of the very first principles: simple
ignorance of the mechanical part of his art chilled all inspiration
and formed an impassable barrier to his imagination. His brush returned
involuntarily to hackneyed forms: hands folded themselves in a set
attitude; heads dared not make any unusual turn; the very garments
turned out commonplace, and would not drape themselves to any
unaccustomed posture of the body. And he felt and saw this all himself.

“But had I really any talent?” he said at length: “did not I deceive
myself?” Uttering these words, he turned to the early works which he had
painted so purely, so unselfishly, in former days, in his wretched cabin
yonder in lonely Vasilievsky Ostroff. He began attentively to examine
them all; and all the misery of his former life came back to him. “Yes,”
 he cried despairingly, “I had talent: the signs and traces of it are
everywhere visible--”

He paused suddenly, and shivered all over. His eyes encountered other
eyes fixed immovably upon him. It was that remarkable portrait which he
had bought in the Shtchukinui Dvor. All this time it had been covered
up, concealed by other pictures, and had utterly gone out of his mind.
Now, as if by design, when all the fashionable portraits and paintings
had been removed from the studio, it looked forth, together with the
productions of his early youth. As he recalled all the strange events
connected with it; as he remembered that this singular portrait had
been, in a manner, the cause of his errors; that the hoard of money
which he had obtained in such peculiar fashion had given birth in his
mind to all the wild caprices which had destroyed his talent--madness
was on the point of taking possession of him. At once he ordered the
hateful portrait to be removed.

But his mental excitement was not thereby diminished. His whole being
was shaken to its foundation; and he suffered that fearful torture which
is sometimes exhibited when a feeble talent strives to display itself
on a scale too great for it and cannot do so. A horrible envy took
possession of him--an envy which bordered on madness. The gall flew
to his heart when he beheld a work which bore the stamp of talent. He
gnashed his teeth, and devoured it with the glare of a basilisk. He
conceived the most devilish plan which ever entered into the mind of
man, and he hastened with the strength of madness to carry it into
execution. He began to purchase the best that art produced of every
kind. Having bought a picture at a great price, he transported it to his
room, flung himself upon it with the ferocity of a tiger, cut it, tore
it, chopped it into bits, and stamped upon it with a grin of delight.

The vast wealth he had amassed enabled him to gratify this devilish
desire. He opened his bags of gold and unlocked his coffers. No monster
of ignorance ever destroyed so many superb productions of art as did
this raging avenger. At any auction where he made his appearance, every
one despaired at once of obtaining any work of art. It seemed as if an
angry heaven had sent this fearful scourge into the world expressly
to destroy all harmony. Scorn of the world was expressed in his
countenance. His tongue uttered nothing save biting and censorious
words. He swooped down like a harpy into the street: and his
acquaintances, catching sight of him in the distance, sought to turn
aside and avoid a meeting with him, saying that it poisoned all the rest
of the day.

Fortunately for the world and art, such a life could not last long:
his passions were too overpowering for his feeble strength. Attacks of
madness began to recur more frequently, and ended at last in the most
frightful illness. A violent fever, combined with galloping consumption,
seized upon him with such violence, that in three days there remained
only a shadow of his former self. To this was added indications of
hopeless insanity. Sometimes several men were unable to hold him. The
long-forgotten, living eyes of the portrait began to torment him, and
then his madness became dreadful. All the people who surrounded his bed
seemed to him horrible portraits. The portrait doubled and quadrupled
itself; all the walls seemed hung with portraits, which fastened their
living eyes upon him; portraits glared at him from the ceiling, from the
floor; the room widened and lengthened endlessly, in order to make room
for more of the motionless eyes. The doctor who had undertaken to attend
him, having learned something of his strange history, strove with all
his might to fathom the secret connection between the visions of
his fancy and the occurrences of his life, but without the slightest
success. The sick man understood nothing, felt nothing, save his own
tortures, and gave utterance only to frightful yells and unintelligible
gibberish. At last his life ended in a final attack of unutterable
suffering. Nothing could be found of all his great wealth; but when they
beheld the mutilated fragments of grand works of art, the value of which
exceeded a million, they understood the terrible use which had been made
of it.


A THRONG of carriages and other vehicles stood at the entrance of a
house in which an auction was going on of the effects of one of those
wealthy art-lovers who have innocently passed for Maecenases, and in
a simple-minded fashion expended, to that end, the millions amassed by
their thrifty fathers, and frequently even by their own early labours.
The long saloon was filled with the most motley throng of visitors,
collected like birds of prey swooping down upon an unburied corpse.
There was a whole squadron of Russian shop-keepers from the Gostinnui
Dvor, and from the old-clothes mart, in blue coats of foreign make.
Their faces and expressions were a little more natural here, and did not
display that fictitious desire to be subservient which is so marked in
the Russian shop-keeper when he stands before a customer in his shop.
Here they stood upon no ceremony, although the saloons were full of
those very aristocrats before whom, in any other place, they would have
been ready to sweep, with reverence, the dust brought in by their feet.
They were quite at their ease, handling pictures and books without
ceremony, when desirous of ascertaining the value of the goods,
and boldly upsetting bargains mentally secured in advance by noble
connoisseurs. There were many of those infallible attendants of auctions
who make it a point to go to one every day as regularly as to take their
breakfast; aristocratic connoisseurs who look upon it as their duty not
to miss any opportunity of adding to their collections, and who have no
other occupation between twelve o’clock and one; and noble gentlemen,
with garments very threadbare, who make their daily appearance without
any selfish object in view, but merely to see how it all goes off.

A quantity of pictures were lying about in disorder: with them were
mingled furniture, and books with the cipher of the former owner, who
never was moved by any laudable desire to glance into them. Chinese
vases, marble slabs for tables, old and new furniture with curving
lines, with griffins, sphinxes, and lions’ paws, gilded and ungilded,
chandeliers, sconces, all were heaped together in a perfect chaos of

The auction appeared to be at its height.

The surging throng was competing for a portrait which could not but
arrest the attention of all who possessed any knowledge of art. The
skilled hand of an artist was plainly visible in it. The portrait, which
had apparently been several times restored and renovated, represented
the dark features of an Asiatic in flowing garments, and with a strange
and remarkable expression of countenance; but what struck the buyers
more than anything else was the peculiar liveliness of the eyes. The
more they were looked at, the more did they seem to penetrate into the
gazer’s heart. This peculiarity, this strange illusion achieved by the
artist, attracted the attention of nearly all. Many who had been bidding
gradually withdrew, for the price offered had risen to an incredible
sum. There remained only two well-known aristocrats, amateurs of
painting, who were unwilling to forego such an acquisition. They grew
warm, and would probably have run the bidding up to an impossible sum,
had not one of the onlookers suddenly exclaimed, “Permit me to interrupt
your competition for a while: I, perhaps, more than any other, have a
right to this portrait.”

These words at once drew the attention of all to him. He was a tall
man of thirty-five, with long black curls. His pleasant face, full of
a certain bright nonchalance, indicated a mind free from all wearisome,
worldly excitement; his garments had no pretence to fashion: all
about him indicated the artist. He was, in fact, B. the painter, a man
personally well known to many of those present.

“However strange my words may seem to you,” he continued, perceiving
that the general attention was directed to him, “if you will listen to
a short story, you may possibly see that I was right in uttering them.
Everything assures me that this is the portrait which I am looking for.”

A natural curiosity illuminated the faces of nearly all present; and
even the auctioneer paused as he was opening his mouth, and with hammer
uplifted in the air, prepared to listen. At the beginning of the story,
many glanced involuntarily towards the portrait; but later on, all bent
their attention solely on the narrator, as his tale grew gradually more

“You know that portion of the city which is called Kolomna,” he began.
“There everything is unlike anything else in St. Petersburg. Retired
officials remove thither to live; widows; people not very well off, who
have acquaintances in the senate, and therefore condemn themselves to
this for nearly the whole of their lives; and, in short, that whole list
of people who can be described by the words ash-coloured--people whose
garments, faces, hair, eyes, have a sort of ashy surface, like a day
when there is in the sky neither cloud nor sun. Among them may be
retired actors, retired titular councillors, retired sons of Mars, with
ruined eyes and swollen lips.

“Life in Kolomna is terribly dull: rarely does a carriage appear,
except, perhaps, one containing an actor, which disturbs the universal
stillness by its rumble, noise, and jingling. You can get lodgings
for five rubles a month, coffee in the morning included. Widows
with pensions are the most aristocratic families there; they conduct
themselves well, sweep their rooms often, chatter with their friends
about the dearness of beef and cabbage, and frequently have a young
daughter, a taciturn, quiet, sometimes pretty creature; an ugly dog, and
wall-clocks which strike in a melancholy fashion. Then come the actors
whose salaries do not permit them to desert Kolomna, an independent
folk, living, like all artists, for pleasure. They sit in their
dressing-gowns, cleaning their pistols, gluing together all sorts of
things out of cardboard, playing draughts and cards with any friend who
chances to drop in, and so pass away the morning, doing pretty nearly
the same in the evening, with the addition of punch now and then. After
these great people and aristocracy of Kolomna, come the rank and file.
It is as difficult to put a name to them as to remember the multitude of
insects which breed in stale vinegar. There are old women who get drunk,
who make a living by incomprehensible means, like ants, dragging old
clothes and rags from the Kalinkin Bridge to the old clothes-mart,
in order to sell them for fifteen kopeks--in short, the very dregs of
mankind, whose conditions no beneficent, political economist has devised
any means of ameliorating.

“I have mentioned them in order to point out how often such people find
themselves under the necessity of seeking immediate temporary assistance
and having recourse to borrowing. Hence there settles among them a
peculiar race of money-lenders who lend small sums on security at an
enormous percentage. Among these usurers was a certain... but I must not
omit to mention that the occurrence which I have undertaken to relate
occurred the last century, in the reign of our late Empress Catherine
the Second. So, among the usurers, at that epoch, was a certain
person--an extraordinary being in every respect, who had settled in that
quarter of the city long before. He went about in flowing Asiatic garb;
his dark complexion indicated a Southern origin, but to what particular
nation he belonged, India, Greece, or Persia, no one could say with
certainty. Of tall, almost colossal stature, with dark, thin, ardent
face, heavy overhanging brows, and an indescribably strange colour in
his large eyes of unwonted fire, he differed sharply and strongly from
all the ash-coloured denizens of the capital.

“His very dwelling was unlike the other little wooden houses. It was
of stone, in the style of those formerly much affected by Genoese
merchants, with irregular windows of various sizes, secured with iron
shutters and bars. This usurer differed from other usurers also in that
he could furnish any required sum, from that desired by the poor old
beggar-woman to that demanded by the extravagant grandee of the court.
The most gorgeous equipages often halted in front of his house, and from
their windows sometimes peeped forth the head of an elegant high-born
lady. Rumour, as usual, reported that his iron coffers were full of
untold gold, treasures, diamonds, and all sorts of pledges, but
that, nevertheless, he was not the slave of that avarice which is
characteristic of other usurers. He lent money willingly, and on very
favourable terms of payment apparently, but, by some curious method of
reckoning, made them mount to an incredible percentage. So said rumour,
at any rate. But what was strangest of all was the peculiar fate of
those who received money from him: they all ended their lives in some
unhappy way. Whether this was simply the popular superstition, or the
result of reports circulated with an object, is not known. But several
instances which happened within a brief space of time before the eyes of
every one were vivid and striking.

“Among the aristocracy of that day, one who speedily drew attention
to himself was a young man of one of the best families who had made a
figure in his early years in court circles, a warm admirer of everything
true and noble, zealous in his love for art, and giving promise of
becoming a Maecenas. He was soon deservedly distinguished by the
Empress, who conferred upon him an important post, fully proportioned
to his deserts--a post in which he could accomplish much for science
and the general welfare. The youthful dignitary surrounded himself
with artists, poets, and learned men. He wished to give work to all,
to encourage all. He undertook, at his own expense, a number of useful
publications; gave numerous orders to artists; offered prizes for
the encouragement of different arts; spent a great deal of money, and
finally ruined himself. But, full of noble impulses, he did not wish to
relinquish his work, sought to raise a loan, and finally betook himself
to the well-known usurer. Having borrowed a considerable sum from him,
the man in a short time changed completely. He became a persecutor
and oppressor of budding talent and intellect. He saw the bad side in
everything produced, and every word he uttered was false.

“Then, unfortunately, came the French Revolution. This furnished him
with an excuse for every kind of suspicion. He began to discover a
revolutionary tendency in everything; to concoct terrible and unjust
accusations, which made scores of people unhappy. Of course, such
conduct could not fail in time to reach the throne. The kind-hearted
Empress was shocked; and, full of the noble spirit which adorns crowned
heads, she uttered words still engraven on many hearts. The Empress
remarked that not under a monarchical government were high and noble
impulses persecuted; not there were the creations of intellect, poetry,
and art contemned and oppressed. On the other hand, monarchs alone
were their protectors. Shakespeare and Moliere flourished under their
magnanimous protection, while Dante could not find a corner in his
republican birthplace. She said that true geniuses arise at the epoch
of brilliancy and power in emperors and empires, but not in the time of
monstrous political apparitions and republican terrorism, which, up to
that time, had never given to the world a single poet; that poet-artists
should be marked out for favour, since peace and divine quiet alone
compose their minds, not excitement and tumult; that learned men, poets,
and all producers of art are the pearls and diamonds in the imperial
crown: by them is the epoch of the great ruler adorned, and from them it
receives yet greater brilliancy.

“As the Empress uttered these words she was divinely beautiful for the
moment, and I remember old men who could not speak of the occurrence
without tears. All were interested in the affair. It must be remarked,
to the honour of our national pride, that in the Russian’s heart
there always beats a fine feeling that he must adopt the part of the
persecuted. The dignitary who had betrayed his trust was punished in an
exemplary manner and degraded from his post. But he read a more dreadful
punishment in the faces of his fellow-countrymen: universal scorn. It
is impossible to describe what he suffered, and he died in a terrible
attack of raving madness.

“Another striking example also occurred. Among the beautiful women
in which our northern capital assuredly is not poor, one decidedly
surpassed the rest. Her loveliness was a combination of our Northern
charms with those of the South, a gem such as rarely makes its
appearance on earth. My father said that he had never beheld anything
like it in the whole course of his life. Everything seemed to be united
in her, wealth, intellect, and wit. She had throngs of admirers, the
most distinguished of them being Prince R., the most noble-minded of
all young men, the finest in face, and an ideal of romance in his
magnanimous and knightly sentiments. Prince R. was passionately in love,
and was requited by a like ardent passion.

“But the match seemed unequal to the parents. The prince’s family
estates had not been in his possession for a long time, his family was
out of favour, and the sad state of his affairs was well known to all.
Of a sudden the prince quitted the capital, as if for the purpose of
arranging his affairs, and after a short interval reappeared, surrounded
with luxury and splendour. Brilliant balls and parties made him known
at court. The lady’s father began to relent, and the wedding took place.
Whence this change in circumstances, this unheard-of-wealth, came, no
one could fully explain; but it was whispered that he had entered into
a compact with the mysterious usurer, and had borrowed money of him.
However that may have been, the wedding was a source of interest to the
whole city, and the bride and bridegroom were objects of general envy.
Every one knew of their warm and faithful love, the long persecution
they had had to endure from every quarter, the great personal worth of
both. Ardent women at once sketched out the heavenly bliss which the
young couple would enjoy. But it turned out very differently.

“In the course of a year a frightful change came over the husband.
His character, up to that time so noble, became poisoned with jealous
suspicions, irritability, and inexhaustible caprices. He became a tyrant
to his wife, a thing which no one could have foreseen, and indulged in
the most inhuman deeds, and even in blows. In a year’s time no one would
have recognised the woman who, such a little while before, had dazzled
and drawn about her throngs of submissive adorers. Finally, no longer
able to endure her lot, she proposed a divorce. Her husband flew into a
rage at the very suggestion. In the first outburst of passion, he chased
her about the room with a knife, and would doubtless have murdered her
then and there, if they had not seized him and prevented him. In a fit
of madness and despair he turned the knife against himself, and ended
his life amid the most horrible sufferings.

“Besides these two instances which occurred before the eyes of all the
world, stories circulated of many more among the lower classes, nearly
all of which had tragic endings. Here an honest sober man became a
drunkard; there a shopkeeper’s clerk robbed his master; again, a
driver who had conducted himself properly for a number of years cut
his passenger’s throat for a groschen. It was impossible that such
occurrences, related, not without embellishments, should not inspire a
sort of involuntary horror amongst the sedate inhabitants of Kolomna.
No one entertained any doubt as to the presence of an evil power in the
usurer. They said that he imposed conditions which made the hair rise on
one’s head, and which the miserable wretch never afterward dared
reveal to any other being; that his money possessed a strange power of
attraction; that it grew hot of itself, and that it bore strange marks.
And it is worthy of remark, that all the colony of Kolomna, all these
poor old women, small officials, petty artists, and insignificant people
whom we have just recapitulated, agreed that it was better to endure
anything, and to suffer the extreme of misery, rather than to have
recourse to the terrible usurer. Old women were even found dying of
hunger, who preferred to kill their bodies rather than lose their soul.
Those who met him in the street experienced an involuntary sense of
fear. Pedestrians took care to turn aside from his path, and gazed long
after his tall, receding figure. In his face alone there was sufficient
that was uncommon to cause any one to ascribe to him a supernatural
nature. The strong features, so deeply chiselled; the glowing bronze of
his complexion; the incredible thickness of his brows; the intolerable,
terrible eyes--everything seemed to indicate that the passions of other
men were pale compared to those raging within him. My father stopped
short every time he met him, and could not refrain each time from
saying, ‘A devil, a perfect devil!’ But I must introduce you as speedily
as possible to my father, the chief character of this story.

“My father was a remarkable man in many respects. He was an artist
of rare ability, a self-taught artist, without teachers or schools,
principles and rules, carried away only by the thirst for perfection,
and treading a path indicated by his own instincts, for reasons unknown,
perchance, even to himself. Through some lofty and secret instinct
he perceived the presence of a soul in every object. And this secret
instinct and personal conviction turned his brush to Christian subjects,
grand and lofty to the last degree. His was a strong character: he was
an honourable, upright, even rough man, covered with a sort of hard rind
without, not entirely lacking in pride, and given to expressing himself
both sharply and scornfully about people. He worked for very small
results; that is to say, for just enough to support his family and
obtain the materials he needed; he never, under any circumstances,
refused to aid any one, or to lend a helping hand to a poor artist; and
he believed with the simple, reverent faith of his ancestors. At length,
by his unintermitting labour and perseverance in the path he had marked
out for himself, he began to win the approbation of those who honoured
his self-taught talent. They gave him constant orders for churches, and
he never lacked employment.

“One of his paintings possessed a strong interest for him. I no longer
recollect the exact subject: I only know that he needed to represent
the Spirit of Darkness in it. He pondered long what form to give him: he
wished to concentrate in his face all that weighs down and oppresses a
man. In the midst of his meditations there suddenly occurred to his
mind the image of the mysterious usurer; and he thought involuntarily,
‘That’s how I ought to paint the Devil!’ Imagine his amazement when one
day, as he was at work in his studio, he heard a knock at the door, and
directly after there entered that same terrible usurer.

“‘You are an artist?’ he said to my father abruptly.

“‘I am,’ answered my father in surprise, waiting for what should come

“‘Good! Paint my portrait. I may possibly die soon. I have no children;
but I do not wish to die completely, I wish to live. Can you paint a
portrait that shall appear as though it were alive?’

“My father reflected, ‘What could be better! he offers himself for the
Devil in my picture.’ He promised. They agreed upon a time and price;
and the next day my father took palette and brushes and went to the
usurer’s house. The lofty court-yard, dogs, iron doors and locks, arched
windows, coffers, draped with strange covers, and, last of all, the
remarkable owner himself, seated motionless before him, all produced
a strange impression on him. The windows seemed intentionally so
encumbered below that they admitted the light only from the top. ‘Devil
take him, how well his face is lighted!’ he said to himself, and began
to paint assiduously, as though afraid that the favourable light would
disappear. ‘What power!’ he repeated to himself. ‘If I only accomplish
half a likeness of him, as he is now, it will surpass all my other
works: he will simply start from the canvas if I am only partly true to
nature. What remarkable features!’ He redoubled his energy; and began
himself to notice how some of his sitter’s traits were making their
appearance on the canvas.

“But the more closely he approached resemblance, the more conscious he
became of an aggressive, uneasy feeling which he could not explain
to himself. Notwithstanding this, he set himself to copy with literal
accuracy every trait and expression. First of all, however, he busied
himself with the eyes. There was so much force in those eyes, that it
seemed impossible to reproduce them exactly as they were in nature.
But he resolved, at any price, to seek in them the most minute
characteristics and shades, to penetrate their secret. As soon,
however, as he approached them in resemblance, and began to redouble
his exertions, there sprang up in his mind such a terrible feeling of
repulsion, of inexplicable expression, that he was forced to lay aside
his brush for a while and begin anew. At last he could bear it no
longer: he felt as if these eyes were piercing into his soul, and
causing intolerable emotion. On the second and third days this grew
still stronger. It became horrible to him. He threw down his brush, and
declared abruptly that he could paint the stranger no longer. You should
have seen how the terrible usurer changed countenance at these words.
He threw himself at his feet, and besought him to finish the portrait,
saying that his fate and his existence depended on it; that he had
already caught his prominent features; that if he could reproduce
them accurately, his life would be preserved in his portrait in a
supernatural manner; that by that means he would not die completely;
that it was necessary for him to continue to exist in the world.

“My father was frightened by these words: they seemed to him strange and
terrible to such a degree, that he threw down his brushes and palette
and rushed headlong from the room.

“The thought of it troubled him all day and all night; but the next
morning he received the portrait from the usurer, by a woman who was the
only creature in his service, and who announced that her master did not
want the portrait, and would pay nothing for it, and had sent it back.
On the evening of the same day he learned that the usurer was dead, and
that preparations were in progress to bury him according to the rites of
his religion. All this seemed to him inexplicably strange. But from that
day a marked change showed itself in his character. He was possessed by
a troubled, uneasy feeling, of which he was unable to explain the cause;
and he soon committed a deed which no one could have expected of him.
For some time the works of one of his pupils had been attracting the
attention of a small circle of connoisseurs and amateurs. My father
had perceived his talent, and manifested a particular liking for him
in consequence. Suddenly the general interest in him and talk about him
became unendurable to my father who grew envious of him. Finally, to
complete his vexation, he learned that his pupil had been asked to paint
a picture for a recently built and wealthy church. This enraged him.
‘No, I will not permit that fledgling to triumph!’ said he: ‘it is
early, friend, to think of consigning old men to the gutters. I still
have powers, God be praised! We’ll soon see which will put down the

“And this straightforward, honourable man employed intrigues which
he had hitherto abhorred. He finally contrived that there should be a
competition for the picture which other artists were permitted to enter
into. Then he shut himself up in his room, and grasped his brush with
zeal. It seemed as if he were striving to summon all his strength up for
this occasion. And, in fact, the result turned out to be one of his best
works. No one doubted that he would bear off the palm. The pictures were
placed on exhibition, and all the others seemed to his as night to day.
But of a sudden, one of the members present, an ecclesiastical personage
if I mistake not, made a remark which surprised every one. ‘There
is certainly much talent in this artist’s picture,’ said he, ‘but no
holiness in the faces: there is even, on the contrary, a demoniacal look
in the eyes, as though some evil feeling had guided the artist’s hand.’
All looked, and could not but acknowledge the truth of these words. My
father rushed forward to his picture, as though to verify for himself
this offensive remark, and perceived with horror that he had bestowed
the usurer’s eyes upon nearly all the figures. They had such a
diabolical gaze that he involuntarily shuddered. The picture was
rejected; and he was forced to hear, to his indescribable vexation, that
the palm was awarded to his pupil.

“It is impossible to describe the state of rage in which he returned
home. He almost killed my mother, he drove the children away, broke
his brushes and easels, tore down the usurer’s portrait from the
wall, demanded a knife, and ordered a fire to be built in the chimney,
intending to cut it in pieces and burn it. A friend, an artist, caught
him in the act as he entered the room--a jolly fellow, always satisfied
with himself, inflated by unattainable wishes, doing daily anything
that came to hand, and taking still more gaily to his dinner and little

“‘What are you doing? What are you preparing to burn?’ he asked, and
stepped up to the portrait. ‘Why, this is one of your very best works.
It is the usurer who died a short time ago: yes, it is a most perfect
likeness. You did not stop until you had got into his very eyes. Never
did eyes look as these do now.’

“‘Well, I’ll see how they look in the fire!’ said my father, making a
movement to fling the portrait into the grate.

“‘Stop, for Heaven’s sake!’ exclaimed his friend, restraining him: ‘give
it to me, rather, if it offends your eyes to such a degree.’ My father
resisted, but yielded at length; and the jolly fellow, well pleased with
his acquisition, carried the portrait home with him.

“When he was gone, my father felt more calm. The burden seemed to have
disappeared from his soul in company with the portrait. He was surprised
himself at his evil feelings, his envy, and the evident change in his
character. Reviewing his acts, he became sad at heart; and not without
inward sorrow did he exclaim, ‘No, it was God who punished me! my
picture, in fact, was meant to ruin my brother-man. A devilish feeling
of envy guided my brush, and that devilish feeling must have made itself
visible in it.’

“He set out at once to seek his former pupil, embraced him warmly,
begged his forgiveness, and endeavoured as far as possible to excuse
his own fault. His labours continued as before; but his face was more
frequently thoughtful. He prayed more, grew more taciturn, and expressed
himself less sharply about people: even the rough exterior of his
character was modified to some extent. But a certain occurrence soon
disturbed him more than ever. He had seen nothing for a long time of the
comrade who had begged the portrait of him. He had already decided to
hunt him up, when the latter suddenly made his appearance in his room.
After a few words and questions on both sides, he said, ‘Well, brother,
it was not without cause that you wished to burn that portrait. Devil
take it, there’s something horrible about it! I don’t believe in
sorcerers; but, begging your pardon, there’s an unclean spirit in it.’

“‘How so?’ asked my father.

“‘Well, from the very moment I hung it up in my room I felt such
depression--just as if I wanted to murder some one. I never knew in
my life what sleeplessness was; but I suffered not from sleeplessness
alone, but from such dreams!--I cannot tell whether they were dreams, or
what; it was as if a demon were strangling one: and the old man appeared
to me in my sleep. In short, I can’t describe my state of mind. I had a
sensation of fear, as if expecting something unpleasant. I felt as if I
could not speak a cheerful or sincere word to any one: it was just as
if a spy were sitting over me. But from the very hour that I gave that
portrait to my nephew, who asked for it, I felt as if a stone had been
rolled from my shoulders, and became cheerful, as you see me now. Well,
brother, you painted the very Devil!’

“During this recital my father listened with unswerving attention, and
finally inquired, ‘And your nephew now has the portrait?’

“‘My nephew, indeed! he could not stand it!’ said the jolly fellow: ‘do
you know, the soul of that usurer has migrated into it; he jumps out
of the frame, walks about the room; and what my nephew tells of him is
simply incomprehensible. I should take him for a lunatic, if I had not
undergone a part of it myself. He sold it to some collector of pictures;
and he could not stand it either, and got rid of it to some one else.’

“This story produced a deep impression on my father. He grew seriously
pensive, fell into hypochondria, and finally became fully convinced that
his brush had served as a tool of the Devil; and that a portion of the
usurer’s vitality had actually passed into the portrait, and was now
troubling people, inspiring diabolical excitement, beguiling painters
from the true path, producing the fearful torments of envy, and so
forth. Three catastrophes which occurred afterwards, three sudden deaths
of wife, daughter, and infant son, he regarded as a divine punishment on
him, and firmly resolved to withdraw from the world.

“As soon as I was nine years old, he placed me in an academy of
painting, and, paying all his debts, retired to a lonely cloister,
where he soon afterwards took the vows. There he amazed every one by the
strictness of his life, and his untiring observance of all the monastic
rules. The prior of the monastery, hearing of his skill in painting,
ordered him to paint the principal picture in the church. But the humble
brother said plainly that he was unworthy to touch a brush, that his was
contaminated, that with toil and great sacrifice must he first purify
his spirit in order to render himself fit to undertake such a task. He
increased the rigours of monastic life for himself as much as possible.
At last, even they became insufficient, and he retired, with the
approval of the prior, into the desert, in order to be quite alone.
There he constructed himself a cell from branches of trees, ate only
uncooked roots, dragged about a stone from place to place, stood in one
spot with his hands lifted to heaven, from the rising until the going
down of the sun, reciting prayers without cessation. In this manner
did he for several years exhaust his body, invigorating it, at the same
time, with the strength of fervent prayer.

“At length, one day he returned to the cloister, and said firmly to
the prior, ‘Now I am ready. If God wills, I will finish my task.’ The
subject he selected was the Birth of Christ. A whole year he sat over
it, without leaving his cell, barely sustaining himself with coarse
food, and praying incessantly. At the end of the year the picture was
ready. It was a really wonderful work. Neither prior nor brethren knew
much about painting; but all were struck with the marvellous holiness of
the figures. The expression of reverent humility and gentleness in
the face of the Holy Mother, as she bent over the Child; the deep
intelligence in the eyes of the Holy Child, as though he saw something
afar; the triumphant silence of the Magi, amazed by the Divine Miracle,
as they bowed at his feet: and finally, the indescribable peace which
emanated from the whole picture--all this was presented with such
strength and beauty, that the impression it made was magical. All the
brethren threw themselves on their knees before it; and the prior,
deeply affected, exclaimed, ‘No, it is impossible for any artist, with
the assistance only of earthly art, to produce such a picture: a holy,
divine power has guided thy brush, and the blessing of Heaven rested
upon thy labour!’

“By that time I had completed my education at the academy, received
the gold medal, and with it the joyful hope of a journey to Italy--the
fairest dream of a twenty-year-old artist. It only remained for me
to take leave of my father, from whom I had been separated for twelve
years. I confess that even his image had long faded from my memory. I
had heard somewhat of his grim saintliness, and rather expected to
meet a hermit of rough exterior, a stranger to everything in the world,
except his cell and his prayers, worn out, tried up, by eternal fasting
and penance. But how great was my surprise when a handsome old man stood
before me! No traces of exhaustion were visible on his countenance: it
beamed with the light of a heavenly joy. His beard, white as snow,
and his thin, almost transparent hair of the same silvery hue, fell
picturesquely upon his breast, and upon the folds of his black gown,
even to the rope with which his poor monastic garb was girded. But
most surprising to me of all was to hear from his mouth such words
and thoughts about art as, I confess, I long shall bear in mind, and I
sincerely wish that all my comrades would do the same.

“‘I expected you, my son,’ he said, when I approached for his blessing.
‘The path awaits you in which your life is henceforth to flow. Your path
is pure--desert it not. You have talent: talent is the most priceless
of God’s gifts--destroy it not. Search out, subject all things to your
brush; but in all see that you find the hidden soul, and most of all,
strive to attain to the grand secret of creation. Blessed is the elect
one who masters that! There is for him no mean object in nature. In
lowly themes the artist creator is as great as in great ones: in the
despicable there is nothing for him to despise, for it passes through
the purifying fire of his mind. An intimation of God’s heavenly paradise
is contained for the artist in art, and by that alone is it higher
than all else. But by as much as triumphant rest is grander than every
earthly emotion, by so much is the lofty creation of art higher than
everything else on earth. Sacrifice everything to it, and love it with
passion--not with the passion breathing with earthly desire, but a
peaceful, heavenly passion. It cannot plant discord in the spirit,
but ascends, like a resounding prayer, eternally to God. But there are
moments, dark moments--’ He paused, and I observed that his bright face
darkened, as though some cloud crossed it for a moment. ‘There is one
incident of my life,’ he said. ‘Up to this moment, I cannot understand
what that terrible being was of whom I painted a likeness. It was
certainly some diabolical apparition. I know that the world denies the
existence of the Devil, and therefore I will not speak of him. I will
only say that I painted him with repugnance: I felt no liking for my
work, even at the time. I tried to force myself, and, stifling every
emotion in a hard-hearted way, to be true to nature. I have been
informed that this portrait is passing from hand to hand, and sowing
unpleasant impressions, inspiring artists with feelings of envy, of dark
hatred towards their brethren, with malicious thirst for persecution and
oppression. May the Almighty preserve you from such passions! There is
nothing more terrible.’

“He blessed and embraced me. Never in my life was I so grandly moved.
Reverently, rather than with the feeling of a son, I leaned upon his
breast, and kissed his scattered silver locks.

“Tears shone in his eyes. ‘Fulfil my one request, my son,’ said he,
at the moment of parting. ‘You may chance to see the portrait I have
mentioned somewhere. You will know it at once by the strange eyes, and
their peculiar expression. Destroy it at any cost.’

“Judge for yourselves whether I could refuse to promise, with an oath,
to fulfil this request. In the space of fifteen years I had never
succeeded in meeting with anything which in any way corresponded to the
description given me by my father, until now, all of a sudden, at an

The artist did not finish his sentence, but turned his eyes to the
wall in order to glance once more at the portrait. The entire throng
of auditors made the same movement, seeking the wonderful portrait with
their eyes. But, to their extreme amazement, it was no longer on the
wall. An indistinct murmur and exclamation ran through the crowd, and
then was heard distinctly the word, “stolen.” Some one had succeeded in
carrying it off, taking advantage of the fact that the attention of the
spectators was distracted by the story. And those present long remained
in a state of surprise, not knowing whether they had really seen those
remarkable eyes, or whether it was simply a dream which had floated
for an instant before their eyesight, strained with long gazing at old


The town of B---- had become very lively since a cavalry regiment
had taken up its quarters in it. Up to that date it had been mortally
wearisome there. When you happened to pass through the town and glanced
at its little mud houses with their incredibly gloomy aspect, the pen
refuses to express what you felt. You suffered a terrible uneasiness
as if you had just lost all your money at play, or had committed some
terrible blunder in company. The plaster covering the houses, soaked by
the rain, had fallen away in many places from their walls, which from
white had become streaked and spotted, whilst old reeds served to thatch

Following a custom very common in the towns of South Russia, the chief
of police has long since had all the trees in the gardens cut down to
improve the view. One never meets anything in the town, unless it is
a cock crossing the road, full of dust and soft as a pillow. At the
slightest rain this dust is turned into mud, and then all the streets
are filled with pigs. Displaying to all their grave faces, they utter
such grunts that travellers only think of pressing their horses to get
away from them as soon as possible. Sometimes some country gentleman of
the neighbourhood, the owner of a dozen serfs, passes in a vehicle which
is a kind of compromise between a carriage and a cart, surrounded by
sacks of flour, and whipping up his bay mare with her colt trotting by
her side. The aspect of the marketplace is mournful enough. The tailor’s
house sticks out very stupidly, not squarely to the front but sideways.
Facing it is a brick house with two windows, unfinished for fifteen
years past, and further on a large wooden market-stall standing by
itself and painted mud-colour. This stall, which was to serve as a
model, was built by the chief of police in the time of his youth, before
he got into the habit of falling asleep directly after dinner, and of
drinking a kind of decoction of dried goose-berries every evening. All
around the rest of the market-place are nothing but palings. But in
the centre are some little sheds where a packet of round cakes, a stout
woman in a red dress, a bar of soap, some pounds of bitter almonds,
some lead, some cotton, and two shopmen playing at “svaika,” a game
resembling quoits, are always to be seen.

But on the arrival of the cavalry regiment everything changed. The
streets became more lively and wore quite another aspect. Often from
their little houses the inhabitants would see a tall and well-made
officer with a plumed hat pass by, on his way to the quarters of one of
his comrades to discuss the chances of promotion or the qualities of a
new tobacco, or perhaps to risk at play his carriage, which might indeed
be called the carriage of all the regiment, since it belonged in turn
to every one of them. To-day it was the major who drove out in it,
to-morrow it was seen in the lieutenant’s coach-house, and a week later
the major’s servant was again greasing its wheels. The long hedges
separating the houses were suddenly covered with soldiers’ caps exposed
to the sun, grey frieze cloaks hung in the doorways, and moustaches
harsh and bristling as clothes brushes were to be met with in all the
streets. These moustaches showed themselves everywhere, but above all
at the market, over the shoulders of the women of the place who flocked
there from all sides to make their purchases. The officers lent great
animation to society at B--.

Society consisted up till then of the judge who was living with a
deacon’s wife, and of the chief of police, a very sensible man, but one
who slept all day long from dinner till evening, and from evening till

This general liveliness was still further increased when the town of
B---- became the residence of the general commanding the brigade to
which the regiment belonged. Many gentlemen of the neighbourhood, whose
very existence no one had even suspected, began to come into the town
with the intention of calling on the officers, or, perhaps, of playing
bank, a game concerning which they had up till then only a very confused
notion, occupied as they were with their crops and the commissions
of their wives and their hare-hunting. I am very sorry that I cannot
recollect for what reason the general made up his mind one fine day to
give a grand dinner. The preparations were overwhelming. The clatter of
knives in the kitchen was heard as far as the town gates. The whole of
the market was laid under contributions, so much so that the judge and
the deacon’s wife found themselves obliged that day to be satisfied with
hasty puddings and cakes of flour. The little courtyard of the house
occupied by the general was crowded with vehicles. The company only
consisted of men, officers and gentlemen of the neighbourhood.

Amongst these latter was above all conspicuous Pythagoras Pythagoravitch
Tchertokoutski, one of the leading aristocrats of the district of B--,
the most fiery orator at the nobiliary elections and the owner of a
very elegant turn-out. He had served in a cavalry regiment and had even
passed for one of its most accomplished officers, having constantly
shown himself at all the balls and parties wherever his regiment was
quartered. Information respecting him may be asked of all the young
ladies in the districts of Tamboff and Simbirsk. He would very probably
have further extended his reputation in other districts if he had not
been obliged to leave the service in consequence of one of those affairs
which are spoken of as “a very unpleasant business.” Had he given or
received a blow? I cannot say with certainty, but what is indisputable
is that he was asked to send in his resignation. However, this accident
had no unpleasant effect upon the esteem in which he had been held up
till then.

Tchertokoutski always wore a coat of a military cut, spurs and
moustache, in order not to have it supposed that he had served in
the infantry, a branch of the service upon which he lavished the most
contemptuous expressions. He frequented the numerous fairs to which
flock the whole of the population of Southern Russia, consisting of
nursemaids, tall girls, and burly gentlemen who go there in vehicles
of such strange aspect that no one has ever seen their match even in a
dream. He instinctively guessed the spot in which a regiment of cavalry
was to be found and never failed to introduce himself to the officers.
On perceiving them he bounded gracefully from his light phaeton and soon
made acquaintance with them. At the last election he had given to the
whole of the nobility a grand dinner during which he declared that if
he were elected marshal he would put all gentlemen on the best possible
footing. He usually behaved after the fashion of a great noble. He had
married a rather pretty lady with a dowry of two hundred serfs and some
thousands of rubles. This money was at once employed in the purchase of
six fine horses, some gilt bronze locks, and a tame monkey. He further
engaged a French cook. The two hundred peasants of the lady, as well as
two hundred more belonging to the gentleman, were mortgaged to the bank.
In a word, he was a regular nobleman. Besides himself, several other
gentlemen were amongst the general’s guests, but it is not worth while
speaking of them. The officers of the regiment, amongst whom were the
colonel and the fat major, formed the majority of those present.
The general himself was rather stout; a good officer, nevertheless,
according to his subordinates. He had a rather deep bass voice.

The dinner was magnificent; there were sturgeons, sterlets, bustards,
asparagus, quail, partridges, mushrooms. The flavour of all these dishes
supplied an irrefutable proof of the sobriety of the cook during the
twenty-four hours preceding the dinner. Four soldiers, who had been
given him as assistants, had not ceased working all night, knife in
hand, at the composition of ragouts and jellies. The immense quantity
of long-necked bottles, mingled with shorter ones, holding claret and
madeira; the fine summer day, the wide-open windows, the plates piled
up with ice on the table, the crumpled shirt-fronts of the gentlemen in
plain clothes, and a brisk and noisy conversation, now dominated by the
general’s voice, and now besprinkled with champagne, were all in perfect
harmony. The guests rose from the table with a pleasant feeling
of repletion, and, after having lit their pipes, all stepped out,
coffee-cups in hand, on to the verandah.

“We can see her now,” said the general. “Here, my dear fellow,” added
he, addressing his aide-de-camp, an active well-made young officer,
“have the bay mare brought here. You shall see for yourselves,

At these words the general took a long pull at his pipe.

“She is not quite recovered yet; there is not a decent stable in this
cursed little place. But she is not bad looking--” puff--puff, the
general here let out the smoke which he had kept in his mouth till
then--“the little mare.”

“It is long since your excellency--” puff--puff--puff--“condescended to
buy her?” asked Tchertokoutski.

Puff--puff--puff--puff. “Not very long, I had her from the breeding
establishment two years ago.”

“And did your excellency condescend to take her ready broken, or to have
her broken in here yourself?”

Puff--puff--puff--puff. “Here.”

As he spoke the general disappeared behind a cloud of smoke.

At that moment a soldier jumped out of the stable. The trampling of a
horse’s hoofs was heard, and another soldier with immense moustaches,
and wearing a long white tunic, appeared, leading by the bridle the
terrified and quivering mare, which, suddenly rearing, lifted him off
his feet.

“Come, come, Agrafena Ivanovna,” said he, leading her towards the

The mare’s name was Agrafena Ivanovna. Strong and bold as a Southern
beauty, she suddenly became motionless.

The general began to look at her with evident satisfaction, and left off
smoking. The colonel himself went down the steps and patted her neck.
The major ran his hand down her legs, and all the other officers clicked
their tongues at her.

Tchertokoutski left the verandah to take up a position beside the mare.
The soldier who held her bridle drew himself up and stared fixedly at
the guests.

“She is very fine, very fine,” said Tchertokoutski, “a very well-shaped
beast. Will your excellency allow me to ask whether she is a good goer?”

“She goes well, but that idiot of a doctor, deuce take him, has given
her some balls which have made her sneeze for the last two days.”

“She is a fine beast, a very fine beast. Has your excellency a turn-out
to match the horse?”

“Turn-out! but she’s a saddle horse.”

“I know. I put the question, your excellency, to know if you have an
equipage worthy of your other horses?”

“No, I have not much in the way of equipages; I must admit that, for
some time past, I have been wanting to buy a calash, such as they build
now-a-days. I have written about it to my brother who is now at St.
Petersburg, but I do not know whether he will be able to send me one.”

“It seems to me, your excellency,” remarked the colonel, “that there are
no better calashes than those of Vienna.”

“You are right.” Puff--puff--puff.

“I have an excellent calash, your excellency, a real Viennese calash,”
 said Tchertokoutski.

“That in which you came?”

“Oh no, I make use of that for ordinary service, but the other is
something extraordinary. It is as light as a feather, and if you sit in
it, it seems as if your nurse was rocking you in a cradle.”

“It is very comfortable then?”

“Extremely comfortable; the cushions, the springs, and everything else
are perfect.”

“Ah! that is good.”

“And what a quantity of things can be packed away in it. I have never
seen anything like it, your excellency. When I was still in the service
there was room enough in the body to stow away ten bottles of rum,
twenty pounds of tobacco, six uniforms, and two pipes, the longest pipes
imaginable, your excellency; and in the pockets inside you could stow
away a whole bullock.”

“That is very good.”

“It cost four thousand rubles, your excellency.”

“It ought to be good at that price. Did you buy it yourself?”

“No, your excellency, I had it by chance. It was bought by one of my
oldest friends, a fine fellow with whom you would be very well pleased.
We are very intimate. What is mine is his, and what is his is mine.
I won it of him at cards. Would your excellency have the kindness to
honour me at dinner to-morrow? You could see my calash.”

“I don’t know what to say. Alone I could not--but if you would allow me
to come with these officers--”

“I beg of them to come too. I shall esteem it a great honour, gentlemen,
to have the pleasure of seeing you at my house.”

The colonel, the major, and the other officers thanked Tchertokoutski.

“I am of opinion myself, your excellency, that if one buys anything it
should be good; it is not worth the trouble of getting, if it turns out
bad. If you do me the honour of calling on me to-morrow, I will show you
some improvements I have introduced on my estate.”

The general looked at him, and puffed out a fresh cloud of smoke.

Tchertokoutski was charmed with his notion of inviting the officers,
and mentally ordered in advance all manner of dishes for their
entertainment. He smiled at these gentlemen, who on their part appeared
to increase their show of attention towards him, as was noticeable from
the expression of their eyes and the little half-nods they bestowed upon
him. His bearing assumed a certain ease, and his voice expressed his
great satisfaction.

“Your excellency will make the acquaintance of the mistress of the

“That will be most agreeable to me,” said the general, twirling his

Tchertokoutski was firmly resolved to return home at once in order to
make all necessary preparations in good time. He had already taken his
hat, but a strange fatality caused him to remain for some time at
the general’s. The card tables had been set out, and all the company,
separating into groups of four, scattered itself about the room. Lights
were brought in. Tchertokoutski did not know whether he ought to sit
down to whist. But as the officers invited him, he thought that the
rules of good breeding obliged him to accept. He sat down. I do not
know how a glass of punch found itself at his elbow, but he drank it
off without thinking. After playing two rubbers, he found another glass
close to his hand which he drank off in the same way, though not without

“It is really time for me to go, gentlemen.”

He began to play a fresh rubber. However, the conversation which was
going on in every corner of the room took an especial turn. Those who
were playing whist were quiet enough, but the others talked a great
deal. A captain had taken up his position on a sofa, and leaning against
a cushion, pipe in mouth, he captivated the attention of a circle
of guests gathered about him by his eloquent narrative of amorous
adventures. A very stout gentleman whose arms were so short that they
looked like two potatoes hanging by his sides, listened to him with a
very satisfied expression, and from time to time exerted himself to
pull his tobacco-pouch out of his coat-tail pocket. A somewhat
brisk discussion on cavalry drill had arisen in another corner, and
Tchertokoutski, who had twice already played a knave for a king, mingled
in the conversation by calling out from his place: “In what year?” or
“What regiment?” without noticing that very often his question had no
application whatever. At length, a few minutes before supper, play came
to an end. Tchertokoutski could remember that he had won a great deal,
but he did not take up his winnings, and after rising stood for some
time in the position of a man who has no handkerchief in his pocket.

They sat down to supper. As might be expected, wine was not lacking, and
Tchertokoutski kept involuntarily filling his glass with it, for he was
surrounded with bottles. A lengthy conversation took place at table,
but the guests carried it on after a strange fashion. A colonel, who
had served in 1812, described a battle which had never taken place; and
besides, no one ever could make out why he took a cork and stuck it into
a pie. They began to break-up at three in the morning. The coachmen
were obliged to take several of them in their arms like bundles; and
Tchertokoutski himself, despite his aristocratic pride, bowed so low to
the company, that he took home two thistles in his moustache.

The coachman who drove him home found every one asleep. He routed out,
after some trouble, the valet, who, after having ushered his master
through the hall, handed him over to a maid-servant. Tchertokoutski
followed her as well as he could to the best room, and stretched himself
beside his pretty young wife, who was sleeping in a night-gown as white
as snow. The shock of her husband falling on the bed awoke her--she
stretched out her arms, opened her eyes, closed them quickly, and then
opened them again quite wide, with a half-vexed air. Seeing that her
husband did not pay the slightest attention to her, she turned over on
the other side, rested her fresh and rosy cheek on her hand, and went to
sleep again.

It was late--that is, according to country customs--when the lady awoke
again. Her husband was snoring more loudly than ever. She recollected
that he had come home at four o’clock, and not wishing to awaken him,
got up alone, and put on her slippers, which her husband had had sent
for her from St. Petersburg, and a white dressing-gown which fell
about her like the waters of a fountain. Then she passed into her
dressing-room, and after washing in water as fresh as herself, went to
her toilet table. She looked at herself twice in the glass, and
thought she looked very pretty that morning. This circumstance, a very
insignificant one apparently, caused her to stay two hours longer than
usual before her glass. She dressed herself very tastefully and went
into the garden.

The weather was splendid: it was one of the finest days of the summer.
The sun, which had almost reached the meridian, shed its most ardent
rays; but a pleasant coolness reigned under the leafy arcades; and the
flowers, warmed by the sun, exhaled their sweetest perfume. The pretty
mistress of the house had quite forgotten that it was noon at least, and
that her husband was still asleep. Already she heard the snores of two
coachmen and a groom, who were taking their siesta in the stable, after
having dined copiously. But she was still sitting in a bower from which
the deserted high road could be seen, when all at once her attention was
caught by a light cloud of dust rising in the distance. After looking at
it for some moments, she ended by making out several vehicles, closely
following one another. First came a light calash, with two places, in
which was the general, wearing his large and glittering epaulettes, with
the colonel. This was followed by another with four places, containing
the captain, the aide-de-camp and two lieutenants. Further on, came the
celebrated regimental vehicle, the present owner of which was the major,
and behind that another in which were packed five officers, one on his
comrade’s knees, the procession being closed by three more on three fine

“Are they coming here?” thought the mistress of the house. “Good
heavens, yes! they are leaving the main road.”

She gave a cry, clasped her hands, and ran straight across the
flower-beds to her bedroom, where her husband was still sleeping

“Get up! get up! get up at once,” she cried, pulling him by the arm.

“What--what’s the matter?” murmured Tchertokoutski, stretching his limbs
without opening his eyes.

“Get up, get up. Visitors have come, do you hear? visitors.”

“Visitors, what visitors?” After saying these words he uttered a little
plaintive grunt like that of a sucking calf: “M-m-m. Let me kiss you.”

“My dear, get up at once, for heaven’s sake. The general has come
with all his officers. Ah! goodness, you have got a thistle in your

“The general! Has he come already? But why the deuce did not they wake
me? And the dinner, is the dinner ready?”

“What dinner?”

“But haven’t I ordered a dinner?”

“A dinner! You got home at four o’clock in the morning and you did not
answer a single word to all my questions. I did not wake you, since you
had so little sleep.”

Tchertokoutski, his eyes staring out of his head, remained motionless
for some moments as though a thunderbolt had struck him. All at once he
jumped out of bed in his shirt.

“Idiot that I am,” he exclaimed, clasping his hand to his forehead; “I
had invited them to dinner. What is to be done? are they far off?”

“They will be here in a moment.”

“My dear, hide yourself. Ho there, somebody. Hi there, you girl. Come
here, you fool; what are you afraid of? The officers are coming here;
tell them I am not at home, that I went out early this morning, that
I am not coming back. Do you understand? Go and repeat it to all the
servants. Be off, quick.”

Having uttered these words, he hurriedly slipped on his dressing-gown,
and ran off to shut himself up in the coach-house, which he thought
the safest hiding-place. But he fancied that he might be noticed in the
corner in which he had taken refuge.

“This will be better,” said he to himself, letting down the steps of
the nearest vehicle, which happened to be the calash. He jumped inside,
closed the door, and, as a further precaution, covered himself with the
leather apron. There he remained, wrapped in his dressing-gown, in a
doubled-up position.

During this time the equipages had drawn up before the porch. The
general got out of his carriage and shook himself, followed by the
colonel, arranging the feathers in his hat. After him came the stout
major, his sabre under his arm, and the slim lieutenants, whilst the
mounted officers also alighted.

“The master is not at home,” said a servant appearing at the top of a
flight of steps.

“What! not at home; but he is coming home for dinner, is he not?”

“No, he is not; he has gone out for the day and will not be back till
this time to-morrow.”

“Bless me,” said the general; “but what the deuce--”

“What a joke,” said the colonel laughing.

“No, no, such things are inconceivable,” said the general angrily. “If
he could not receive us, why did he invite us?”

“I cannot understand, your excellency, how it is possible to act in such
a manner,” observed a young officer.

“What?” said the general, who always made an officer under the rank of
captain repeat his remarks twice over.

“I wondered, your excellency, how any one could do such a thing.”

“Quite so; if anything has happened he ought to have let us know.”

“There is nothing to be done, your excellency, we had better go back
home,” said the colonel.

“Certainly, there is nothing to be done. However, we can see the calash
without him; probably he has not taken it with him. Come here, my man.”

“What does your excellency want?”

“Show us your master’s new calash.”

“Have the kindness to step this way to the coach-house.”

The general entered the coach-house followed by his officers.

“Let me pull it a little forward, your excellency,” said the servant,
“it is rather dark here.”

“That will do.”

The general and his officers walked around the calash, carefully
inspecting the wheels and springs.

“There is nothing remarkable about it,” said the general; “it is a very
ordinary calash.”

“Nothing to look at,” added the colonel; “there is absolutely nothing
good about it.”

“It seems to me, your excellency, that it is not worth four thousand
rubles,” remarked a young officer.


“I said, your excellency, that I do not think that it is worth four
thousand rubles.”

“Four thousand! It is not worth two. Perhaps, however, the inside is
well fitted. Unbutton the apron.”

And Tchertokoutski appeared before the officers’ eyes, clad in his
dressing-gown and doubled up in a singular fashion.

“Hullo, there you are,” said the astonished general.

Then he covered Tchertokoutski up again and went off with his officers.

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