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

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


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

Title: Orloff and his Wife - Tales of the Barefoot Brigade
Author: Gorky, Maxime, Hapgood, Isabel Florence
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Orloff and his Wife - Tales of the Barefoot Brigade" ***

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



in an extended version,also linking to free sources for
education worldwide ... MOOC's, educational materials,...)


ORLÓFF AND HIS WIFE

TALES OF THE BAREFOOT BRIGADE

BY

MAXIM GORKY


TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN

BY

ISABEL F. HAPGOOD


NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1901



[Author's Authorization]


[Maxim Gorky]



    CONTENTS

    Orlóff and His Wife (1897)[*]
    Konováloff (1896)
    The Khan and His Son (1896)
    The Exorcism (1896)
    Men with Pasts (1897)
    The Insolent Man (1897)
    Várenka Ólesoff (1897)
    Comrades (1897)

[*]Date of first publication.



ORLÓFF AND HIS WIFE


Almost every Saturday, just before the All-Night Vigil Service,[1]
from two windows in the cellar of merchant Petúnnikoff's old and
filthy house, opening on the narrow court-yard encumbered with various
utensils, and built up with wooden servants'-quarters ricketty with
age, broke forth the vehement shrieks of a woman:

[1] The evening service, composed of Vespers and Matins, which is
used on Saturdays, and on the Eves of most other Feast-days. Sunday
begins with sunset on Saturday, in the Holy Catholic Orthodox Church of
the East, and the appointed evening service is obligatory before the
Liturgy can be celebrated on Sunday morning.--Translator.

"Stop! Stop, you drunken devil!" the woman cried in a low contralto
voice.

"Let go!" replied a man's tenor voice.

"I won't, I won't. I'll give it to you, you monster!"

"You li-ie! You will let me go!"

"You may kill me--but I won't!"

"You? You li-ie, you heretic!"

"Heavens! He has murdered me ... he-eavens!"

"Will you let go?!"

"Beat away, you wild beast, beat me to death!"

"You can wait.... I won't do it all at once!"

At the first words of this dialogue, Sénka Tchízhik, the apprentice of
house-painter Sutchkóff, who ground paint whole days together in one of
the small sheds in the court-yard, flew headlong thence, his little
eyes, black as those of a mouse, sparkling, yelling at the top of his
voice:

"Shoemaker Orlóff and his wife are fighting! My eye! what a lively time
they're having!"

Tchízhik, who was passionately fond of all possible sorts of events,
rushed to the windows of the Orlóffs' lodgings, flung himself on the
ground on his stomach, and hanging down his shaggy, saucy head, with
its bold, thin face streaked with ochre and reddish-brown paint, he
gazed down with eager eyes into the dark, damp hole, which reeked of
mould, shoemakers' wax and musty leather. There, at the bottom of it,
two figures were jerking about in a fury, screaming hoarsely, groaning
and cursing.

"You'll kill me...." warned the woman, with a sigh.

"N-ne-ever m-mind!"--her husband soothed her confidently, and with
concentrated venom.

Dull, heavy blows on some soft object resounded, sighs, piercing
screams, the strained groaning of a man who is moving about a heavy
weight.

"Oh my! I-is-n't he just giving it to her with the last!" said Tchízhik
with a lisp, illustrating the course of events in the cellar, while
the audience which had gathered around him--tailors, messenger of the
courts Levtchénko, Kislyakóff the accordeon-player, and others who were
fond of gratuitous entertainments--kept asking Sénka, pulling, in their
impatience, at his legs and little breeches all impregnated with greasy
paints:

"Well? What's going on now? What's he doing to her?"

"He's sitting astride of her, and banging her snout against the floor,"
reported Sénka, curling up voluptuously with the impressions which he
was experiencing.

The spectators bent over also, to the Orlóffs' windows, being seized
with a burning desire to see all the details of the fight for
themselves; and although they had long known the ways which Grísha[2]
Orlóff employed in his war with his wife, still they expressed surprise:

[2] Grísha and Gríshka are the diminutives of Grigóry.--Translator.

"Akh, the devil! Has he smashed her up?"

"Her nose is all bloody ... and he keeps on banking her!" reported
Sénka, choking with delight.

"Akh, Lord my God!" cried the women.--"Akh, the tormenting-monster!"

The men judged more objectively.

"Without fail, he'll beat her to death!" said they. And the
accordeon-player announced in the tone of a seer:

"Remember my words--he'll disembowel her with a knife! One of these
days he'll get tired of cutting up in this fashion, and he'll put an
end to the music at one blow!"

"He's done!" reported Sénka, springing up from the ground, and bounding
away like a ball from the windows, to one side, to a nook where he took
up another post of observation, being aware that Grísha Orlóff would
immediately emerge into the court-yard.

The spectators rapidly dispersed, as they did not care to fall under
the eye of the savage shoemaker; now that the battle was over, he had
lost all interest in their eyes, and he was decidedly dangerous, to
boot.

And generally, there was not a living soul in the courtyard except
Sénka, when Orlóff made his appearance from his cellar. Breathing
heavily, in a torn shirt, with his hair rumpled all over his head,
with scratches on his perspiring and excited face, he scrutinized the
court-yard with a sidelong glance, with eyes suffused with blood,
and clasping his hands behind his back, he walked slowly to an old
carrier's sledge, which lay with runners upward, against the wall of
the wood-shed. Sometimes he whistled valiantly as he did so, and stared
about in all directions exactly as though he had the intention of
challenging the entire population of the Petúnnikoff house to a fight.
Then he seated himself on the runners of the sledge, wiped the blood
and sweat from his face with his shirt-sleeve, and fell into a fatigued
attitude, gazing dully at the wall of the house, which was dirty with
peeling stucco and decorated with motley-hued stripes of paint,--as
Sutchkóf's painters, on their return from work, had a habit of cleaning
their brushes against that part of the wall.

Orlóff was about thirty years of age. His bronzed, nervous face, with
delicate features, was adorned with a small, dark mustache, which
sharply shaded his full, red lips. His eyebrows almost met above his
large, cartilaginous nose; from beneath them gazed black eyes which
always blazed uneasily. His curly hair, tangled in front, fell behind
over a sinewy, light-brown neck. Of medium stature, and somewhat
round-shouldered from his work, muscular and ardent, he sat for a long
time on the sledge, in a sort of benumbed condition, and surveyed the
paint-bedaubed wall, breathing deeply with his healthy, swarthy breast.

The sun had already set, but it was stifling in the courtyard; it
smelled of oil-paints, tar, sour cabbage, and something rotten. From
all the windows in both stories of the house which opened on the
court-yard, poured songs and scolding; from time to time someone's
intoxicated countenance inspected Orlóff for a minute, being thrust
forth from behind a window-jamb and withdrawn with a laugh.

The painters made their appearance from their work; as they passed
Orlóff they cast furtive glances at him, exchanging winks among
themselves, and filling the courtyard with the lively dialect of
Kostromá, they made ready to go out, some to the bath, some to the
pot-house. From above, from the second story, tailors crept out into
the court--a half-clad, consumptive and bow-legged lot of men--and
began to make fun of the Kostromá painters for their mode of speech,
which rattled about like peas. The whole court was filled with noise,
with daring, lively laughter, with jests.... Orlóff sat in his corner
and maintained silence, not even casting a glance at anyone. No one
approached him, and no one could make up his mind to ridicule him, for
everyone knew that now he was--a raging wild beast.

He sat there, the prey to a dull and heavy wrath, which oppressed his
breast, made breathing difficult, and his nostrils quivered rapaciously
from time to time while his lips curled in a snarl, laying bare two
rows of large, strong, yellow teeth. Within him something dark and
formless was springing up, red, turbid spots swam before his eyes,
grief and a thirst for vódka sucked at his entrails. He knew that he
would feel better when he had had a drink, but it was still daylight,
and it mortified him to go to the dram-shop in such a tattered and
disreputable condition through the street where everybody knew him,
Grigóry Orlóff.

He knew his own value, and did not wish to go out as a general
laughing-stock, but neither could he go home to wash and dress himself.
There, on the floor, lay his wife whom he had unmercifully beaten, and
now she was repulsive to him in every way.

She was groaning there, and he felt that she was a martyr, and that
she was right, so far as he was concerned--he knew that. He knew,
also, that she was really in the right, and he was to blame, but this
still further augmented his hatred toward her, because, along with this
consciousness a dark, evil feeling was seething in his soul, and it was
more powerful than the consciousness. Everything within him was heavy
and confused, and, without any exertion of his will, he gave himself
over to the weight of his inward sensations, unable to disentangle
them, and knowing that nothing but half a bottle of vódka would afford
him relief.

Now Kislyakóff the accordeon-player comes along. He is clad in a
sleeveless cotton-velvet jacket, over a red silk shirt, with voluminous
trousers tucked into dandified boots. Under his arm is his accordeon
in a green bag, the ends of his small black mustache are twisted into
arrows, his cap is set dashingly on one side, and his whole countenance
is beaming with audacity and jollity. Orlóff loves him for his
audacity, for his playing, and for his merry character, and envies him
his easy, care-free life.

    "Congratulations, Grísha,[3] on your vi-ic-to-ory,
    And on your well-scra-a-atched cheek!"

[3] See footnote, p. 5.

Orlóff did not fly into a rage with him for this joke, although he had
already heard it fifty times, and besides, the accordeon-player did not
say it out of malice, but simply because he was fond of joking.

"What now, brother! Had another Plevna?"--asked Kislyakóff, halting for
a minute in front of the shoemaker.

"Ekh, Grísha, you're a ripe melon! You ought to go where the road for
all of us lies.... You and I might have a bite together....'

"I'm coming soon...." said Orlóff, without raising his head.

"I'll wait and suffer for you...."

And before long, Orlóff went off after him.

Then, from the cellar emerged a small, plump woman, clinging to the
wall as she went. Her head wad closely enveloped in a kerchief, and
from the aperture over the face, only one eye, and a bit of the cheek
and forehead peeped out. She walked, staggering, across the court, and
seated herself on the same spot where her husband had been sitting not
long before. Her appearance surprised no one--they had got used to it,
and everybody knew that there she would sit until Grísha, intoxicated
and in a repentant mood, should make his appearance from the dram-shop.
She came out into the court, because it was suffocating in the cellar,
and for the purpose of leading drunken Grísha down the stairs. The
staircase was half-decayed, and steep; Grísha had tumbled down it
one day, and had sprained his wrist, so that he had not worked for a
fortnight, and, during that time, they had pawned nearly all their
chattels to feed themselves.

From that time forth, Matréna had kept watch for him.

Now and then someone from the court would sit down beside her. Most
frequently of all, the person who did so was Levtchénko, a mustached
non-commissioned officer on the retired list, an argumentative and
sedate Little Russian, with close-cut hair and a blue nose. He would
seat himself, and inquire, with a yawn:

"Been banging each other round again?"

"What's that to you?" said Matréna, in a hostile and irritable manner.

"Oh, nothing!" explained the Little Russian, and after that, neither of
them spoke again for a long time.

Matryóna breathed heavily, and there was a rattling in her chest.

"Why are you always fighting? What scores have you to settle?"--the
Little Russian would begin to argue.

"That's our affair...." said Matréna Orlóff curtly.

"That's so, it is your affair...." assented Levtchénko, and he even
nodded his head in confirmation of what had been said.

"Then what are you poking your nose into my business for?" argued Mrs.
Orlóff[4] logically.

[4] "Mrs. Orlóff" is rather a stiff rendering of the feminine form
"Orlóya," minus all prefix, which is not at all disrespectful in
Russian, but is somewhat confusing in English.--Translator.

"Phew ... what a touchy woman you are! One can't say a word to you! As
I look at it--you and Grísha are a well-matched pair! He ought to give
you a good drubbing with a club every day--morning and night--that's
what he ought! Then neither of you would be such hedge-hogs...."

And off he went, in a towering rage, which thoroughly pleased her:--for
a long time past, a rumor had been going the rounds of the court-yard,
to the effect that the Little Russian was not making up to her for
nothing, and she was angry with him, with him and with all people who
intruded themselves on other folks' affairs. But the Little Russian
walked off to the corner of the court with his upright, soldierly gait,
alert and strong despite his forty years.

Then Tchízhik bobbed up under his feet from somewhere or other.

"She's a bitter radish too, that Aunty Orlíkha!" he confided to
Levtchénko, in an undertone, with a sly wink in the direction where
Matréna was sitting.

"Well, I'll prescribe that sort of a radish for you, when you need
one!" threatened the Little Russian, laughing behind his mustache. He
was fond of impudent Tchízhik, and listened attentively to him, being
aware that all the secrets of the court-yard were known to Tchízhik.

"You can't do any fishing round her,"--explained Tchízhik, paying no
attention to the threat.--"Maxím the painter tried it, and bang! she
let fly such a slap in the face at him! I heard it myself ... a healthy
whack! Straight in his ugly face ... just as though it had been a drum!"

Half-child, half-man, in spite of his fifteen years, lively and
impressionable, he eagerly absorbed, like a sponge, the dirt of the
life around him, and on his brow there was a thin wrinkle, which showed
that Sénka Tchízhik was given to thinking.

... It was dark in the court-yard. Above it shone a quadrangular bit
of blue sky, all glittering with stars, and surrounded by lofty roofs,
so that the court seemed to be a deep pit, when one looked up out of
it. In one corner of this pit sat a tiny female form, resting after her
beating, and awaiting her drunken husband....

*

The Orlóffs had been married three years. They had had a child, but
after living for about a year and a half, it died; neither of them
mourned it long, being consoled with the hope that they would have
another. The cellar, in which they had taken up their abode, was a
large, long, dark room with a vaulted ceiling. Directly at the door
stood a huge Russian stove, facing the windows; between it and the
wall a narrow passage led into a square space, lighted by two windows,
which opened on the court-yard. The light fell through them into the
cellar in slanting, turbid streaks, and the atmosphere in the room was
damp, dull, dead life pulsated somewhere, tar away, up above, but
only faint, ill-defined sounds of it were wafted hither, and fell,
together with the dust, into the Orlóffs' hole, in a sort of formless,
colorless flakes. Opposite the stove, against the wall, stood a wooden
double-bed, with print curtains of a cinnamon-brown dotted with pink
flowers; opposite the bed, against the other wall, was a table, on
which they drank tea and dined; and between the bed and the wall, the
husband and wife worked, in the two streaks of light.

Cockroaches travelled indolently over the walls, feeding on the
bread-crumbs with which various little pictures from old newspapers
were stuck to the plaster; melancholy flies flitted about everywhere,
buzzing tiresomely, and the little pictures, which they had covered
with specks, stood out like dark spots against the dirty-gray
background of the walls.

The Orlóffs' day began after this fashion: at six o'clock in the
morning, Matréna awoke, washed herself, and prepared the samovár,
which had more than once been crippled in the heat of battle, and was
covered all over with patches of lead. While the samovár was coming to
a boil, she put the room in order, went to the shop,[5] then roused her
husband; he rose, washed himself, and the samovár was already standing
on the table, hissing and purring. They sat down to drink tea, with
white bread, of which, together, they ate a pound.

[5] In Russian towns, people go or send, every morning, to the shops
for bread, cream, butter.--Translator.

Grigóry worked well, and he always had work; after tea he portioned it
out. He did the fine work, which required the hand of a master, his
wife prepared the waxed ends, pasted in the linings, put on the outside
layer on the heels, and did other trifling jobs of that sort. After
tea, they discussed their dinner. In winter, when it was necessary to
eat more, this was a tolerably interesting question; in summer, from
economy, they heated the oven only on feast-days, and not always then,
feeding themselves chiefly on a cold dish made of kvas,[6] with the
addition of onions, salt-fish, sometimes of meat, boiled in the oven of
someone in the court-yard. When they had finished their tea, they sat
down to work: Grigóry on a small kneading-trough, covered with leather,
and with a crack in the side, his wife by his side, on a low bench.

[6] A tart, non-intoxicating, liquor--thin beer--made by fermenting
sour rye bread, or rye meal. Sometimes raisins, straw or watermelon
juice are used to flavor it.--Translator.

At first they worked in silence,--what had they to talk about? They
exchanged a couple of words about their work, and maintained silence
for half an hour, or more, at a stretch. The hammer tapped, the
waxed-ends hissed, as they were drawn through the leather. Grigóry
yawned from time to time, and invariably concluded his yawn with a
prolonged roar or howl. Matréna sighed and held her peace. Sometimes
Orlóff started a song. He had a sharp voice, with a metallic ring,
but he knew how to sing. The words of the song were arranged in a
swift, plaintive recitative, and now burst impetuously from Grigóry's
breast, as though afraid to finish what they wished to say, now, all
of a sudden, lengthened out into mournful sighs, or--with a wail of
"ekh!"--flew in loud, melancholy strains, through the windows into the
court. Matréna sang an accompaniment to her husband, with her soft
contralto. The faces of both grew pensive, and sad, Grísha's dark eyes
became dimmed with moisture. His wife, absorbed in the sounds, seemed
to grow stupid, and sat as though half-dozing, swaying from side to
side, and sometimes the song seemed to choke her, and she broke off in
the middle of a note, and then went on with it, in harmony with her
husband. Neither of them was conscious of the presence of the other
while they were singing, and striving to pour forth in the words of
others the emptiness and dulness of their gloomy life; perhaps they
wished to give expression, in these words, to the half-conscious
thoughts and sensations, which sprang into life in their souls.

At times Gríshka improvised:

    "E-okh, thou life,... ekh, yea, thou, my thrice-accursed life....
    And thou, oh grief! Ekh, and thou, my cursed grief,
    Maledictions on thee, gri-i-ief!..."

Matréna did not like these improvisations, and, on such occasions, she
generally asked him:

"Why are you howling, like a dog before a corpse?"

For some reason, he instantly flew into a rage with her:

"You blunt-snouted pig! What can you understand? You marsh-spectre!"

"He howled, and howled, and now he has taken to barking...."

"Your business is to hold your tongue! Who am I--your foreman, I'd like
to know, that you meddle and read me lectures, hey?.... Just so!"

Matréna, perceiving that the sinews of his neck were becoming tense,
and that his eyes were blazing with wrath, held her peace, held it for
a long time, demonstratively evading a reply to the questions of her
husband, whose wrath died out as rapidly as it had flared up.

She turned away from his glances, which sought reconciliation with
her, awaited her smiles, and was completely filled with a palpitating
feeling of fear, lest he should fly into a passion with her again for
this play of hers with him. But, at the same time, she was incensed at
him, and was greatly pleased to observe his efforts to make peace with
her,--for this signified living, thinking, experiencing agitation.

They were both of them young and healthy, they loved each other, and
were proud of each other.... Gríshka was so strong, ardent, handsome,
and Matréna was white, plump, with a spark of fire in her gray
eyes,--"a buxom woman," as they called her in the court-yard. They
loved each other, but their life was so tiresome, they had hardly any
interests and impressions which could, occasionally, afford them the
possibility of getting a rest from each other, and might have satisfied
the natural demand of the human soul--to feel excitement, to think,
to glow--in short, to live. For under such conditions of lack of
external impressions and interests which lend a zest to life, husband
and wife--even when they are persons of highly cultivated minds--are
bound, inevitably, to become repulsive to each other. This law is as
inevitable as it is just. If the Orlóffs had had an aim in life, even
so limited an aim as the amassing of money, penny by penny, they would,
undoubtedly, in that case, have got along better together.

But they had not even that.

Being constantly under each other's eye, they had grown used to each
other, knew each other's every word and gesture. Day after day passed
by, and brought into their life nothing which might have diverted
their attention. Sometimes, on holidays, they went to visit others
as poor in spirit as themselves, and sometimes visitors came to see
them, ate, drank and, frequently--fought. And then again the colorless
days dragged by, like the links of an invisible chain of toil which
burdened the lives of these people, of tediousness, and senseless
irritation against each other.

Sometimes Gríshka said:

"What a life--a witch is its grandmother! And why was it ever given
to me? Work and tediousness, tediousness and work...." And after a
pause, with eyes cast upward toward the ceiling, and a wavering smile,
he resumed:--"My mother bore me, by the will of God ... there's
no gainsaying that! I learned my trade ... and why? Weren't there
shoemakers enough without me? Well, all right, I'm a shoemaker, and
what then? What satisfaction is there for me in that?... I sit in a pit
and sew.... Then I shall die. Now, there's the cholera coming, they
say.... Well, what of that? Grigóry Orlóff lived, made shoes--and died
of the cholera. What virtue is there in that? And why was it necessary
that I should live, make shoes and die, hey?"

Matréna made no reply, conscious that there was something terrible
about her husband's words; but, now and then, she begged him not to
utter such words, because they were contrary to God, Who must know
how to arrange a man's life. And sometimes, when she was not in good
spirits, she sceptically announced to her husband: "You'd better stop
drinking liquor--then you'd find life more cheerful, and such thoughts
wouldn't creep into your head. Other folks live,--they don't complain,
and they hoard up a little pile of money, and with it set up their own
work-shops, and then they live after their own hearts, like lords!"

"And you come out with those nonsensical words of yours, you devil's
doll! Use your brains--can I help drinking, if that is my only joy?
Others! How many such successful folks do you know? And was I like
that before my marriage? If you speak according to your conscience,
it's you who are sucking me, and harassing my life.... Ugh, you toad!"

Matréna was angered, but felt that her husband was right. In a state of
intoxication he was jolly and amiable,--the other people were the fruit
of her imagination,--and he had not been like that before his marriage.
He had been a jolly fellow then, engaging and kind. And now he had
become a regular wild beast.

"Why is it so? Am I really a burden to him?" she thought.

Her heart contracted at that bitter reflection, she felt sorry
for herself, and for him; she went up to him, and caressingly,
affectionately gazing into his eyes, pressed close to his breast.

"Well, now you're going to lick yourself, you cow ...." said Gríshka
surlily, and pretended that he wished to thrust her from him; but she
knew that he would not do it, and pressed closer and harder against
him. Then his eyes flashed, he flung his work on the floor, and setting
his wife on his knees, he kissed her much and long, sighing from a
full heart, and saying, in a low voice, as though afraid that someone
would overhear him: "E-ekh, Mótrya![7] Aï, aï, how ill you and I live
together ... we snarl at each other like wild beasts ... and why? Such
is my star ... a man is born beneath a star, and the star is his fate!"

[7] Mótrya is the diminutive for Matréna.--Translator.

But this explanation did not satisfy him, and straining his wife to his
breast, he sank into thought.

They sat thus for a long time, in the murky light and close air of
their cellar. She held her peace and sighed, but sometimes in such fair
moments as these, she recalled the undeserved insults and beatings
administered by him, and with quiet tears she complained to him of
them.

Then he, abashed by her fond reproaches, caressed her yet more
ardently, and she poured forth her heart in more and more complaints.
At last, this irritated him.

"Stop your jawing! How do you know but that it hurts me a thousand
times more than it does you when I thrash you. Do you understand? Well,
then, stop your noise! Give you and the dike of you free sway, and
they'd fly at one's throat. Drop the subject. What can you say to a man
if life has made a devil of him?"

At other times he softened under the flood of her quiet tears, and
passionate remonstrances, and explained, sadly and thoughtfully:

"What am I, with my character, to do? I insult you ... that's true. I
know that you and I are one soul--but sometimes I forget that. Do you
understand, Mótrya, that there are times when I can't bear the sight of
you?! Just as though I had had a surfeit of you. And, at such times,
such a vicious feeling comes up under my heart--I could tear you to
bits, and myself along with you. And the more in the right you are, as
against me, the more I want to thrash you...."

She hardly understood him, but the repentant, affectionate tone soothed
her.

"God grant, that we may get straight somehow, that we may get used to
each other"--she said, not recognizing the fact that they had long ago
got used to each other, and had drained each other.

"Now, if we only had had some children born to us--we should get along
better," she sometimes added, with a sigh.--"We should have had an
amusement, and an anxiety."

"Well, what ails you? Bear some...."

"Yes ... you see, I can't bear any, with these thrashings of yours. Yon
beat me awfully hard on the body and ribs.... If only you wouldn't use
your feet on me...."

"Come now,--" Grigóry gruffly and in confusion defended himself,--"can
a man stop to consider at such a time, where and with what he ought to
thrash? And I'm not the hangman, either,... and I don't beat you for my
amusement, but from grief...."

"And how was this grief bred in you?"--asked Matréna mournfully.

"Such is my fate, Mótrya!--" philosophized Gríshka.
"My fate, and the character of my soul.... Look, am I any worse than
the rest, than that Little Russian, for example? Only, the Little
Russian lives on and does not feel melancholy. He's alone, he has no
wife, nothing I should perish without you.... But he doesn't mind
it!... He smokes his pipe and smiles; he's contented, the devil, just
because he's smoking his pipe. But I can't do like that.... I was born,
evidently, with uneasiness in my heart. That's the sort of character
I have.... The Little Russian's is--like a stick, but mine is like--a
spring; when you press it, it shakes.... I go out, for instance, into
the street, I see this thing, that thing, a third thing, but I have
nothing myself. This angers me. The Little Russian--he wants nothing,
but I get mad, also, because he, that mustached devil, doesn't want
anything, while I.... I don't even know what I want ... everything!
So there now! Here I sit in a hole, and work all the time, and have
nothing. And there, again, it's your fault.... You're my wife, and what
is there about you that's interesting? One womans just like another
woman, with the whole lot of females.... I know everything in you; how
you will sneeze to-morrow--and I know it, because you have sneezed
before me a thousand times, probably..... And so what sort of life,
and what interest can I have? There's no interest. Well, and so I go
and sit in the dram-shop, because it's cheerful there."

"But why did you marry?"--asked Matréna.

"Why?"--Gríshka laughed.--"The devil knows why I did.... I oughtn't to
have done it, to tell the truth. It would have been better to start out
as a tramp.... Then, if you are hungry, you're free--go where you like!
March all over the world!"

"Then go, and set me at liberty," blurted out Matréna, on the verge of
bursting into tears.

"Where are you going?"--inquired Gríshka insinuatingly.

"That's my business."

"Whe-ere?" and his eyes lighted up with an evil glare. "Say!"

"Don't yell--I'm not afraid of you...."

"Have you got your eye on somebody else? Say?"

"Let me go!"

"Let you go where?"--bellowed Gríshka.

He had already grasped her by the hair, pushing the kerchief off her
head. Beatings exasperated her, but anger afforded her immense delight,
stirring up her whole soul, and, instead of extinguishing his jealousy
by a couple of words, she proceeded still further to enrage him,
smiling up into his face with strange, extremely significant smiles. He
flew into a fury, and beat her, beat her mercilessly.

But at night when, all broken, and crushed, she lay groaning beside
him in bed, he stared askance at her, and sighed heavily. He felt ill
at ease, his conscience tortured him, he understood that there was no
foundation for his jealousy, and that he had beaten her without cause.

"Come, that will do,..." he said abashed.--"Am I to blame, if I have
that sort of character? And you're nice, too.... Instead of persuading
me--you spur me on. Why did you find it necessary to do it?"

She held her peace, but she knew why, knew that now, all beaten and
wronged as she was, she might expect his caresses, the passionate and
tender caresses of reconciliation. For this she was ready to pay every
day with pain in her bruised sides.--And she was already weeping, with
the mere joy of anticipation, even before her husband succeeded in
touching her.

"Come, enough of that, Mótrya! Come, my darling, won't you? Have done,
forgive me, do!"--He smoothed her hair, kissed her, and gnashed his
teeth with the bitterness which filled his whole being.

Their windows were open, but the main wall of the neighboring house hid
the sky, and in their room, as always, it was dark, and stifling and
close.

"Ekh, life! Thou art a magnificent hard-labor prison!"--whispered
Gríshka, unable to express what he so painfully felt.--"It comes from
this hole, Mótrya. What are we? Something as though we were buried in
the earth before our death...."

"Let's move into another lodging,"--suggested Matréna, through sweet
tears, understanding his words literally.

"E-ekh! No you don't, aunty! If you betake yourself to a garret, you'll
still be in a hole,... it isn't the lodging that's the hole ... but
life--that's the hole!"

Matréna reflected, and began again:

"God willing, we may reform ourselves ... we shall get used to one
another."

"Yes, we'll reform.... You often say that.... But it doesn't
look like reform with us.... The rows get more frequent all the
time,--understand?"

That was unqualifiedly true. The intervals between their fights kept
growing shorter and shorter, and here, at last, every Saturday, Gríshka
began from early in the morning to screw himself up into a hostile mood
against his wife.

"This evening I'm going to cut work, and go to meet Lýsy in the
dram-shop.... I shall get drunk...." he announced.

Matréna, puckering up her eyes strangely, made no reply.

"You won't speak? Well then, just go on holding your tongue--it'll be
better for your health,--" he said warningly.

In the course of the day, with irritation which increased in proportion
as the evening drew near,--he reminded her several times of his
intention to get drunk, was conscious that it pained her to hear this,
and perceiving that she maintained a persistent silence, with a firm
gleam in her eyes, preparing for the struggle, he strode about the room
and raged all the more furiously.

In the evening, the herald of their unhappiness, Sénka Tchízhik,
proclaimed the "brattle."[8]

[8] Sénka twists his words, in a way which cannot always be reproduced.
This is a fair specimen.--Translator.

When he had finished beating his wife, Gríshka vanished, sometimes
for the whole night, sometimes he did not even put in an appearance
on Sunday. She, covered with bruises, greeted him morosely, with
taciturnity, but was filled with concealed compassion for him, all
tattered, and often battered also, in filth, with his eyes suffused
with blood.

She knew that he must get over his fit of intoxication, and she had
already supplied herself with half a bottle of vódka. He, also, knew
this.

"Give me a little glass...." he entreated hoarsely, drank off two or
three glasses, and sat down to his work.

The day passed with him in gnawings of conscience; often he could not
endure their sting, flung aside his work, and swore terrible oaths, as
he rushed about the room, or threw himself on the bed. Mótrya gave him
time to simmer down, and then they made peace.

Formerly, this reconciliation had had much that was subtle and sweet
about it, but, in the course of time, all this evaporated, and they
made peace almost for the sole reason that it was not convenient to
remain silent for the five whole days before Sunday.

"You feel sleepy," said Matréna, with a sigh.

"I do,"--assented Gríshka, and spat aside, with the air of a man to
whom it is a matter of utter indifference whether he feels sleepy or
not.--"And you're going to scamper off and leave me...." he completed
the picture of the future, looking searchingly into her eyes. For
some time past, she had taken to dropping them, which she had never
been in the habit of doing previously, and Gríshka, taking note of
this, frowned portentously, and softly gritted his teeth. But, privily
from her husband, she was still frequenting the fortune-tellers and
sorceresses, bringing back from them spells, in the form of roots and
embers. And when all this was of no avail, she had a prayer-service
celebrated to the holy great-martyr Vonifánty, who aids drunkards, and
as she knelt throughout the prayer-service, she wept burning tears,
noiselessly moving her quivering lips.

And more and more frequently did she feel toward her husband a savage,
cold hatred, which aroused black thoughts within her, and she had
ever less and less of pity for this man who, three years before,
had so enriched her life with his merry laughter, his caresses, his
affectionate speeches.

Thus these people, in reality, not at all a bad sort of people, lived
on, day after day--lived on, fatally anticipating something which
should finally smash to atoms their torturingly-foolish life.

*

One Monday morning, when the Orlóff pair had just begun to drink their
tea, the impressive form of a policeman made its appearance on the
threshold of the door which led into their cheerless abode. Orlóff
sprang from his seat and, with a glance of reproachful alarm at his
wife, as he endeavored to reconstruct in his fuddled head the events of
the last few days, he stared silently and fixedly at the visitor, with
troubled eyes, filled with the most horrible expectation.

"Here, this is the place,--" the policeman invited someone in.

"It's as dark as the pool under the mill-wheel, devil take merchant
Petúnnikoff,--" rang out a young, cheerful voice. Then the policeman
stood aside, and into the Orlóffs' room there stepped briskly a
student, in a white duck coat, cap in hand, with close-cut hair,
a large, sun-burned forehead, and merry brown eyes, which sparkled
laughingly from beneath his spectacles.

"Good morning!--" he exclaimed in a bass voice which had not yet grown
hoarse.--"I have the honor to introduce myself--the sanitary officer!
I have come to investigate how you live ... and to smell your air ...
your air is thoroughly foul!"

Orlóff breathed freely and cordially, and smiled cheerily. He took an
instantaneous liking to this noisy student: the fellow's face was so
healthy, rosy, kindly, covered on cheeks and chin with golden-brown
down. It smiled incessantly, with a peculiar, fresh and clear smile,
which seemed to render the Orlóffs' cellar brighter and more cheerful.

"Well then, Mr. and Mrs. Occupant!"--said the student without a
pause,--"you must empty your slop-bucket more frequently, that unsavory
smell comes from it. I would advise you, aunty, to wash it out very
often, and also to sprinkle unslaked lime in the corners, to purify the
air ... and lime is also good as a remedy for dampness. And why have
you so bored an aspect, uncle?"--he addressed himself to Orlóff, and
immediately seizing him by the hand, he began to feel his pulse.

The student's audacity stunned the Orlóffs. Matréna smiled
abstractedly, surveying him in silence. Grigóry also smiled, as he
admired his vivacious face, with its golden-brown down.

"How are your little bellies feeling?--" inquired the student. "Tell
me, without ceremony ... it's a matter of health, and if there's
anything out of order, we'll furnish you with some acid medicines,
which will remove all trouble at once."

"We're all right ... we're in good health," Grigóry finally imparted
the information, with a laugh.--"But if I don't look just as I should
... it's only on the outside ... for, to tell the truth, I haven't
quite got over my drunk."

"Exactly so, I discern with my nose that you, my good man, almost got
drunk yesterday--just a mere trifle, you know...."

He said this so humorously, and made such a grimace, to accompany it,
that Orlóff fairly split with loud and confidential laughter. Matréna
laughed also, covering her mouth with her apron. The student himself
laughed the most loudly and merrily of all, and he also stopped sooner
than the rest. And when the folds of skin around his chubby mouth,
evoked by the laughter, had smoothed themselves out,--his simple, frank
face became still more simple, somehow.

"It's the proper thing for a working man to drink, if he does it
moderately, but just at present, it would be better to refrain from
liquor altogether. Have you heard how some sickness or other is going
about among the people?"

And now, with a serious aspect, he began to explain in intelligible
language to the Orlóffs, about the cholera, and about the means of
fighting it. As he talked, he walked about the room, now feeling of
the wall with his hand, now casting a glance behind the door, into the
corner, where hung the wash-basin, and where stood a wash-trough[9]
filled with slops, and he even bent down and smelled under the stove,
to see what the odor was like. His voice broke, every now and then,
from bass notes into tenor notes, and the simple words of his remarks
seemed to fix themselves firmly, one after another, in the minds of his
hearers, without any effort on their part. His bright eyes sparkled,
and he seemed thoroughly permeated with the ardor of his youthful
passion for his work, which he executed so simply and so vigorously.

[9] The peasant wash-basin consists of a dosed vessel which is
suspended from the wall, and contains water. The water trickles through
a spout or faucet, on the hands--"running" water being regarded as the
only clean water. The tub in which clothes are washed is a long trough,
rounded at the bottom, and mounted on supports.--Translator.

Grigóry watched his operations with a smile of curiosity. Matréna
sniffed from time to time; the policeman had disappeared.

"So you are to attend to the lime to-day, Mr. and Mrs. Occupant.
There's a building going up alongside you, so the masons will give
you all you need for about five kopéks. And as for you, good man,
if you can't be moderate in your drinking, you must let it alone
altogether.... We-ell, good-by for the time being.... I'll look in on
you again."

And he vanished as swiftly as he had appeared, leaving as mementos of
his laughing eyes abashed and satisfied smiles on the countenances of
the Orlóff couple.

They remained silent for a minute, staring at each other, and as yet
unable to formulate the impression left by this unexpected invasion of
conscious energy into their dark, automatic life.

"A-aï!--" drawled Grigóry, shaking his head.--"So there's ... a
chemist! It is said that they are poisoning folks! But would a man
with a face like that occupy himself with that sort of thing? And then
again, his voice! And all the rest.... No, his manner was perfectly
frank, and immediately--'here now,--here I am!'--Lime ... is that
injurious? Citric acid ... what's that? Simply acid, and nothing more!
But the chief point is--cleanliness everywhere, in the air, and on the
floor, and in the slop-bucket.... Is it possible to poison a man by
such means? Akh, the devils! Poisoners, say they.... That hard-working
young fellow, hey? Fie! A workingman ought always to drink in
moderation, he says ... do you hear, Mótrya? So come now, pour me out a
little glass ... there's liquor on hand, isn't there?"

She very willingly poured him out half a cup of vódka from the bottle,
which she produced from some place known only to herself.

"That was really a nice fellow ... he had such a way of making one like
him,--" she said, smiling at the remembrance of the student.--"But
other fellows, the rest of them--who knows anything about them?
Perhaps, they actually are engaged...."

"But engaged for what, and again, by whom?--" exclaimed Grigóry.

"To exterminate the people.... They say there are so many poor
folks, that an order has been issued--to poison the superfluous
ones,"--Matréna communicated her information.

"Who says that?"

"Everybody says so.... The painters' cook said so, and a great many
other folks...."

"Well, they're fools! Would that be profitable? Just consider: they
are curing them! How is a body to understand that? They bury them!
And isn't that a loss? For a coffin is needed, and a grave, and other
things of that sort.... Everything is charged to the government
treasury.... Stuff and nonsense! If they wanted to make a clearing-out
and to reduce the number of people, they would have taken and sent
them off to Siberia--there's plenty of room for them all there! Or
to some uninhabited islands.... And after they had exiled them, they
would have ordered them to work there. Work and pay your taxes ...
understand? There's a clearing-out for you, and a very profitable
one, to boot.... Because an uninhabited island will yield no revenue,
if it isn't settled with people. And revenue is the first thing to the
public treasury, so it's not to its interest to destroy folks, and to
bury them at its expense.... Understand? And then, again, that student
... he's an impudent creature, that's a fact, but he had more to say
about the riot; but kill people off,... no-o, you couldn't hire him
to do that for any amount of pennies! Couldn't you see at a glance,
that he wouldn't be capable of such a thing? His phiz wasn't of that
calibre...."

All day long they talked about the student, and about everything he had
told them. They recalled the sound of his laugh, his face, discovered
that one button was missing from his white coat, and came near
quarrelling over the question: 'on which side of the breast?' Matréna
obstinately maintained that it was on the right side, her husband
said--on the left, and twice cursed her stoutly, but remembering in
season, that his wife had not turned the bottle bottom upward when
she poured the vódka into the cup, he yielded the point to her. Then
they decided that on the morrow, they would set to work to introduce
cleanliness into their quarters, and again inspired by a breath of
something fresh, they resumed their discussion of the student.

"Yes, what a go-ahead fellow he was, really now!"--said Grigóry
rapturously.--"He came in, just exactly as though he'd known us for
ten years.... He sniffed about everywhere, explained everything ...
and that was all! He didn't shout or make a row, although he's one
of the authorities, also, of course.... Akh, deuce take him! Do you
understand, Matréna, they're looking after us there, my dear. That's
evident at once.... They want to keep us sound, and nothing more,
nor less .... That's all nonsense about killing us off ... old wives'
tales.... 'How does your belly act?' says he.... And if they wanted to
kill us off, what the devil should he have wanted to know about the
action of my belly for? And how cleverly he explained all about those
... what's their name? those devils that crawl about in the bowels, you
know?"

"Something after the fashion of cock and bull stories," laughed
Matréna,--"I believe he only said that for the sake of frightening us,
and making folks more particular to keep clean...."

"Well, who knows, perhaps there's some truth in that for worms breed
from dampness.... Akh, you devil! What did he call those little bugs?
It isn't a cock and bull story at all, but ... why, I remember what
it is!... I've got the word on the tip of my tongue, but I don't
understand...."

And when they lay down to sleep, they were still talking about the
event of the day, with the same ingenuous enthusiasm with which
children communicate to one another their first experiences and the
impressions which have surprised them. Then they fell asleep, in the
midst of their discussion.

Early in the morning they were awakened. By their bedside stood the fat
cook of the painters, and her face, which was always red, now, contrary
to her wont, was gray and drawn.

"Why are you pampering yourselves?" she said hastily, making a rather
peculiar noise with her thick, red lips.--"We've got the cholera in
the court-yard.... The Lord has visited us!"--and she suddenly burst
out crying.

"Akh, you're ... lying, aren't you?" cried Grigóry.

"And I never carried out the slop-bucket last night," said Matréna
guiltily.

"My dear folks, I'm going to get my wages. I'm going away.... I'll go,
and go ... to the country," said the cook.

"Who's got it?" inquired Grigóry, getting out of bed.

"The accordeon-player! He's got it.... He drank water out of the
fountain last evening, do you hear, and he was seized in the night....
And it took him right in the belly, my good people, as though he'd
swallowed rat-poison...."

"The accordeon-player...." muttered Grigóry. He could not believe that
any disease could overcome the accordeon-player. Such a jolly, dashing
young fellow, and he had walked through the court like a peacock, as
usual, only last night.--"I'll go and take a look,"--Orlóff decided,
with an incredulous laugh.

Both women shrieked in affright:

"Grísha, why, it's catching!"

"What are you thinking of, my good man, where axe you going?"

Grigóry uttered a violent oath, thrust his legs into his trousers, and
dishevelled as he was, with shirt-collar unbuttoned, went toward the
door. His wife clutched him by the shoulder, from behind, he felt her
hands tremble, and suddenly flew into a rage, for some reason or other.

"I'll hit you in the snout! Get away!"--he roared, and went out, after
striking his wife in the breast.

The court-yard was dark and deserted, and Grigóry, as he proceeded
toward the accordeon-player's door, was simultaneously conscious of
a chill of terror, and of a keen satisfaction at the fact that he,
alone, out of all the denizens of the house, was going to the sick
accordeon-player. This satisfaction was still further augmented when
he perceived that the tailors were watching him from the second-story
windows. He even began to whistle, wagging his head about with a
dashing air. But a little disenchantment awaited him at the door of the
accordeon-player's little den, in the shape of Sénka Tchízhik.

Having opened the door half way, he had thrust his sharp nose into the
crack thus formed, and as was his wont, was taking his observations,
captivated to such a degree that he did not turn round until Orlóff
pulled his ear.

"Just see how it has racked him, Uncle Grigóry," he said in a whisper,
raising toward Orlóff his dirty little face, rendered still more peaked
than usual by the impressions he had undergone.--"And it's just as
though he had shrunk up and got disjointed with dryness--like a bad
cask ... by heaven!"

Orlóff, enveloped by the foul air, stood and listened in silence to
Tchízhik, endeavoring to peer, with, one eye, through the crack of the
door as it hung ajar.

"How would it do to give him some water to drink, Uncle Grigóry?"
suggested Tchízhik.

Orlóff glanced at the boy's face, which was excited almost to the
point of a nervous tremor, and felt something resembling a burst of
excitement within himself.

"Go along, fetch the water!" he ordered Tchízhik, and boldly flinging
the door wide open, he halted on the threshold, shrinking back a little.

Athwart the mist in his eyes, Grigóry beheld Kislyakóff:--the
accordeon-player, dressed in his best, lay with his breast on the
table, which he was clutching tightly with his hands, and his feet, in
their lacquered boots, moved feebly over the wet floor.

"Who is it?" he asked hoarsely and apathetically, as though his voice
had faded, and lost all its color.

Grigóry recovered himself, and stepping cautiously over the floor, he
advanced to him, trying to speak bravely and even jestingly.

"I, brother, Mítry Pávloff.... But what are you up to ... did you
overwork last night, pray?"--he surveyed Kislyakóff attentively and
curiously, and did not recognize him.

The accordeon-player's face had grown peaked all over, his cheek-bones
projected in two acute angles, his eyes, deeply sunken in his head, and
surrounded by greenish spots, were frightfully immovable and turbid.
The skin on his cheeks was of the hue which is seen on corpses in hot
summer weather. It was a completely dead, horrible face, and only the
slow movement of the jaws showed that it was still alive. Kislyakóff's
motionless eyes stared long at Grigóry's face, and their dead gaze
put the latter in a fright. Feeling his ribs with his hands, for some
reason or other, Orlóff stood three paces distant from the sick man,
and felt exactly as though someone were clutching him by the throat
with a damp, cold hand,--were clutching him and slowly strangling
him. And he wanted to get away, as speedily as possible, from this
room, hitherto so bright and comfortable, but now impregnated with a
suffocating odor of putrefaction, and with a strange chill.

"Well...." he was about to begin, preparatory to beating a retreat..
But the accordeon-player's gray face began to move in a strange way,
his lips, covered with a black efflorescence, parted, and he said with
his toneless voice:

"I ... am ... dying...."

The profound indifference, the inexplicable apathy of his three words
echoed in Orlóff's head and breast, like three dull blows. With a
senseless grimace on his countenance, he turned toward the door, but
Tchízhik came flying to meet him, all flushed and perspiring, with a
pail in his hand.

"Here it is ... from Spiridónoff's well ... they wouldn't let me have
it, the devils...."

He set the pail on the floor, rushed into a corner, reappeared, and
handing a glass to Orlóff, continued to prattle:

"They say you've got the cholera.... I say, well, what of that? You'll
have it too,... now it'll run the rounds, as it did in the suburbs...?
Whack! he gave me such a bang on the head that I yelled!"

Orlóff took the glass, dipped up water from the pail, and swallowed it
at one gulp. In his ears the dead words were ringing:

"I ... am ... dying...."

But Tchízhik hovered round him with swift darts, feeling himself
thoroughly in his proper sphere.

"Give me a drink...." said the accordeon-player, moving himself and the
table about on the floor.

Tchízhik hopped up to him, and held a glass of water to his black lips.
Grigóry, as he leaned against the wall by the door, listened, as in
a dream, to the sick man noisily drawing in the water; then he heard
Tchízhik propose that they should undress Kislyakóff, and put him to
bed, then the voice of the painters' cook rang out. Her broad face,
with an expression of terror and compassion, was gazing in from the
court-yard through a window, and she said in a snivelling tone:

"You ought to give him lamp-black and rum: a tea-glass full--two
spoonfuls of lamp-black, and fill it with rum to the brim."

But some invisible person suggested olive-oil with the brine from
cucumbers, and _aqua regia._

Orlóff suddenly became conscious that the heavy, oppressive gloom
within him was illuminated by some memory. He rubbed his brow hard, as
though endeavoring to increase the brilliancy of the light, and all at
once, he went swiftly thence, ran across the court-yard and disappeared
down the street.

"Heavens! And the shoemaker has got it too! He's run off to the
hospital,"--the cook commented upon his flight in a plaintively-shrill
voice.

Matréna, who was standing beside her, gazed with widely opened eyes,
and turning pale, she shook all over.

"You're mistaken," she said hoarsely, barely moving her white
lips,--"Grigóry won't fall ill of that accursed sickness.... He won't
yield to it...."

But the cook, howling wofully, had already disappeared somewhere, and
five minutes later a cluster of neighbors and passers-by was muttering
dully around the Petúnnikoff house. Over all faces the same, identical
sentiments flitted in turn: excitement, which was succeeded by hopeless
dejection, and something evil, which now and then made way for active
audacity. Tchízhik kept flying back and forth between the court and the
crowd, his bare feet twinkling, and reporting the course of events in
the accordeon-player's room.

The public, collected together in a dense knot, filled the dusty,
malodorous air of the street with the dull hum of their talk, and from
time to time a violent oath, launched at someone, broke forth from
their midst,--an oath as malicious as it was lacking in sense.

"Look ... that's Orlóff!"

Orlóff drove up to the gate on the box of a wagon with a white canvas
cover which was driven by a surly man all clad in white, also. This man
roared, in a dull bass voice:

"Get out of the way!"

And he drove straight at the people, who sprang aside in all directions
at his shout.

The aspect of this wagon, and the shout of its driver, rather subdued
the high-strung mood of the spectators,--all seemed to grow dark at
once, and many went swiftly away.

In the track of the wagon, the student who had visited the Orlóffs made
his appearance from somewhere or other. His cap had fallen back on the
nape of his neck, the perspiration streamed down his forehead in large
drops, he wore a long mantle, of dazzling whiteness, and the lower part
of its front was decorated with a large round hole, with reddish edges,
evidently just burned in some way.

"Well, Orlóff, where's the sick man?"--he asked loudly, casting a
sidelong glance at the public, which had assembled in a little niche by
the gate, and had greeted his appearance with great ill-will, although
they watched him not without curiosity.

Someone said, in a loud tone:

"Look at yourself ... you're just like a cook!".

Another voice, which was quieter and had a tinge of malice in it, made
promises:

"Just wait ... he'll give you a treat!"

There was a joker in the crowd, as there always is.

"He'll give you such soup that your belly will burst on the spot!"

A laugh rang out, though it was not merry, but obscured by a timorous
suspicion, it was not lively, though faces cleared somewhat.

"See, they ain't afraid of catching it themselves ... what's the
meaning of that?"--very significantly inquired a man with a strained
face and a glance filled with concentrated wrath.

And under the influence of this question, the countenances of the
public darkened again, and their murmurs became still duller....

"They're bringing him!"

"That Orlóff! Akh, the dog!"

"Isn't he afraid?"

"What's it to him? He's a drunkard..

"Carefully, carefully, Orlóff! Lift his feet higher ... so! Ready!
Drive off, Piótr!" ordered the student. "Tell the doctor I shall be
there soon. Well, sir, Mr. Orlóff, I request that you will help me to
exterminate the infection here.... By the way, you will learn how to do
it, in case of need.... Do you agree? Can you come?"

"I can," said Orlóff, casting a glance around him, and feeling a flood
of pride rising within him.

"And so can I," announced Tchízhik.

He had escorted the mournful wagon through the gate, and returned just
in the nick of time to offer his services. The student stared at him
through his glasses.

"Who are you, hey?"

"Apprentice ... to the house-painters...." explained Tchízhik.

"And are you afraid of the cholera?"

"I?" asked Sénka in surprise.--"The idea! I'm ... not afraid of
anything!"

"Re-eally? That's clever! Now, see here, my friends."--The student
seated himself on a cask which was lying on the ground, and rolling
himself to and fro on it, he began to say that it was indispensably
necessary that Orlóff and Tchízhik should give themselves a good
washing.

They formed a group, which was soon joined by Matréna, smiling timidly.
After her came the cook, wiping her wet eyes on her dirty apron. In a
short time, several persons from among the spectators approached this
group, as cautiously as cats approach sparrows. A small, dense ring of
men, about ten in number, formed around the student, and this inspired
him. Standing in the centre of these people, and briskly gesticulating,
he began something in the nature of a lecture, which now awoke smiles
on their faces, now aroused their concentrated attention, now keen
distrust and sceptical grins.

"The principal point in all diseases is--cleanliness of the body, and
of the air which you breathe, gentlemen,"--he assured his hearers.

"Oh Lord!" sighed the painted cook loudly.--"One must pray to Saint
Varvára the martyr to be delivered from sudden death...."

"Gentlemen live in the body and in the air, but still, they die
too,"--remarked one of the audience.

Orlóff stood beside his wife, and gazed at the face of the student,
pondering something deeply the while. Someone gave his shirt a tug,
from one side.

"Uncle Grigóry!"--whispered Sénka Tchízhik, raising himself on tiptoe,
his eyes sparkling, blazing like coals,--"now that Mítry Pávlovitch is
going to die, and he hasn't any relatives ... who'll get his accordeon?"

"Let me alone, you imp!" Orlóff warded him off.

Sénka stepped aside, and stared through the window of the
accordeon-player's little room, searching for something in it with an
eager glance.

"Lime, tar,"--the student enumerated loudly.

On the evening of that restless day, when the Orlóffs sat down to drink
tea, Matréna asked her husband, with curiosity:

"Where did you go with the student a little while ago?"

Grigóry looked into her face with eyes obscured by something, and
different from usual, and, without replying, began to pour his tea from
his glass into his saucer.

About mid-day, after he had finished scrubbing the accordeon-player's
rooms, Grigóry had gone off somewhere with the sanitary officer, had
returned at three o'clock thoughtful and taciturn, had thrown himself
down on the bed, and there he had lain, face upward, until tea-time,
never uttering a single word all that time, although his wife had made
many efforts to draw him into conversation. He even failed to swear at
her for nagging him, and this, in itself, was strange, she was not used
to it, and it provoked her.

With the instinct of a woman whose whole life is bound up in her
husband, she began to suspect that her husband had become interested in
something new, she was afraid of something, and therefore, was the more
passionately desirous of knowing what that thing was.

"Perhaps you don't feel well, Grísha?"

Grigóry poured the last gulp of tea from his saucer into his mouth,
wiped his mustache with his hand, pushed his empty glass over to his
wife without haste, and knitting his brows, he said:

"I went with the student to the barracks ... yes...."

"To the cholera barracks?" exclaimed Matréna, and tremblingly, with
lowered voice, she asked: "are there many of them there?"

"Fifty-three persons, counting in our man...."

"Well?"

"They're recovering by the score.... They can walk.... Yellow, thin...."

"Are they cholera-patients too? They're not, I suppose? ... They've put
some others in there, to justify themselves: as much as to say--"look,
we can cure!'"

"You're a fool!" said Grigóry with decision, and his eyes
flashed angrily.--"You're all stupid folks! Lack of education
and stupidity--that's all! You're enough to kill a man with your
ignorance.... You can't understand anything,"--he sharply moved toward
him his glass freshly filled with tea, and fell silent.

"Where did _you_ get so much education?"--inquired Matréna viciously, and
sighed.

Her husband, paying not the slightest heed to her words, remained
silent, thoughtful and morose. The samovár, which had burned out,
drawled a squeaking melody, full of irritating tediousness, an odor of
oil-paints, carbolic acid, and stirred-up cesspools floated through the
windows from the court-yard. The semi-twilight, the screeching of the
samovár, and the smells--everything in the room became densely merged
with one another, forming around the Orlóffs a setting which resembled
a nightmare, while the dark maw of the oven stared at the husband and
wife exactly as though it felt itself called upon to swallow them when
a convenient opportunity should present itself. The silence lasted for
a long time. Husband and wife nibbled away at their sugar, rattled
their crockery, swallowed their tea.[10] Matréna sighed, Grigóry tapped
the table with his finger.

[10] By way of economizing, the peasants do not put sugar into their
tea, but nibble at it, and thus sweeten their mouths, an inelegant and
inconvenient, but highly satisfactory method of operation.--Translator.

"You never saw such cleanliness as they have there!"--he suddenly
began, irritably.--"All the attendants, down to the very last one--wear
white. The sick people keep getting into the bath all the time.... They
give them wine ... six bottles and a half! As for the food--the very
smell of it would make you feel full-fed.... Care, anxiety.... They
treat them in a motherly way..? and all the rest of it.... So they do.
Please to understand: you live along upon the earth, and not even one
devil would take the trouble to spit on you, much less call in now and
then to inquire--what and how and, in general,... what your life is
like, that is to say, whether it suits you, or whether it is the right
sort for a man? Has he any means of breathing or not? But when you
begin to die--they not only do not permit it, but even put themselves
to expense. The barracks ... wine ... six bottles and a half! Haven't
people any sense? For the barracks and the wine cost a lot of money.
Couldn't that same money be used for improving life ... a little every
year?"

His wife made no attempt to understand his remarks, it was enough for
her to feel that they were new, and thence to deduce, with absolute
accuracy, that something new concerning her was also in progress in
Grigóry's mind. Convinced of this, she wished to learn, as promptly
as possible, how all this concerned her. Fear was mingled with this
desire, and hope, and a sort of hostility toward her husband.

"I suppose the people yonder know even more than you do,"--said she,
when he had finished, and pursed up her lips in a sceptical way.

Grigóry shrugged his shoulders, cast a furtive glance at her, and then,
after a pause, he began in a still more lofty tone:

"Whether they know or not, that's their business. But if I have to
die, without having seen any sort of life, I can reason about that.
Now see here, I'll tell you this: I don't want any more of this sort
of thing--that is to say, I won't consent to sit and wait for the
cholera to come and seize hold of me. I won't do it! Piótr Ivánovitch
says: 'go ahead, and meet it half way! Fate is against you--but you
can oppose it,--who'll get the upper hand? It's war! That's all there
is to say about it....' So, what now? I'm going to enter the barracks
as an orderly--and that's the end of it! Understand? I'm going to walk
straight into its maw.--You may swallow me, but I'll make a play with
my feet!... I shall not earn any the less there ... twenty rubles a
month for wages, and they may add a gratuity besides.... I may die?...
that's so, but I should die sooner here. And again, it's a change in my
life...." and the excited Orlóff banged the table so vehemently with
his fist, that all the crockery bounced up and down with a clatter.

Matréna, at the beginning of her husband's speech, had stared at him
with an expression of uneasiness, but by the time he had finished, she
had screwed up her eyes in a hostile manner.

"Did the student advise you to do that?" she asked staidly.

"I have wits of my own ... I can judge,"--for some reason, Grigóry
evaded a direct reply.

"Well, and did he advise you to separate from me?"--went on Matréna.

"From you?"--Grigóry was somewhat disconcerted--he had not yet
succeeded in thinking out that matter. Of course, one can leave a
woman in lodgings, as is generally done, but there are different sorts
of women. Matréna, was one of the dangerous sort. One must keep her
directly under his eyes. Settling down on this thought, Orlóff went on
with a scowl:--"The student ... what ails you? You will live here ...
and I shall be earning wages ... ye-es...."

"Just so,"--said the woman briefly and calmly, and laughed with that
very significant and purely feminine smile, which is capable of evoking
in a man thoughts of jealousy which pierce his heart.

Orlóff, who was nervous and quick of apprehension, felt this, but,
being loath to betray himself, out of self-love, he flung at his wife
the curt remark:

"Quack and grunt--make up all your speeches...." and he pricked up his
ears, in anticipation of what she would say.

But she smiled again, with that exasperating smile, and preserved
silence.

"Well, how is it to be?" inquired Grigóry, in a lofty tone.

"How is what to be?" said Matréna, indifferently wiping the cups.

"Viper! None of your shiftiness--I'll damage you!" Orlóff boiled
up.--"Perhaps I'm going to my death."

"I'm not sending you ... don't go...." interrupted Matréna.

"You'd be glad to send me off, I know!" exclaimed Orlóff ironically.

She made no reply. Her silence enraged him, but he restrained himself
from his customary expression of the feelings which such scenes called
forth in him. He restrained himself under the influence of a very
venomous thought, as it appeared to him, which flashed through his
brain. He even gave vent to a malicious smile. "I know you'd like to
have me tumble down even to the very depths of hell. Well, we shall
see which of us comes off best ... yes! I, also, can take such a
course--akh, I've no patience with you!"

He sprang up from the table, snatched up his cap from the window-sill,
and went off, leaving his wife dissatisfied with her policy,
disconcerted by his threats, and with a growing feeling within her of
alarm for the future. As she gazed out of the window, she whispered to
herself:

"Oh Lord! Queen of Heaven! All-Holy Birth-Giver of God!"

Besieged by a throng of disquieting problems, she remained sitting,
for a long time, at the table, endeavoring to foresee what Grigóry
would do. Before her stood the cleanly-washed table appurtenances; and
on the principal wall of the neighboring house opposite her windows,
the setting sun cast a reddish spot; reflected from the white wall,
it penetrated into the room, and the edge of the glass sugar-bowl
which stood in front of Matréna glittered. She stared at this faint
reflection, with contracted brow, until her eyes ached. Then, rising
from her chair, she cleared away the dishes and lay down on the bed.

She felt disgusted.

Grigóry arrived when it was already entirely dark. From his very
footsteps on the stairs she decided that he was in good spirits. He
swore at the darkness in the room, called to his wife, approached the
bed, and sat down on it. His wife raised herself, and sat beside him.

"Do you know I have something to tell you?"--asked Orlóff, laughing.

"Well, what is it?"

"You are going to take a position also!"

"Where?" she asked, with trembling voice.

"In the same barracks with me!" announced Orlóff triumphantly.

She threw her arms round his neck, and clasping him tightly, kissed him
straight on the lips. He had not expected this, and thrust her away.
She was pretending ... she didn't want to be with him at all, rogue
that she was! The viper was pretending, she regarded her husband as a
fool....

"What are you delighted about?"--he asked roughly and suspiciously,
conscious of a desire to hurl her to the floor.

"Because I am!" she replied, boldly.

"Pretence! I know you!"

"You're my Eruslán the Brave!"[11]

[11] The hero of a seventeenth century Russian fairy-tale, after the
Persian tale of "Rustem."--Translator.

"Stop that, I tell you ... or look out for yourself!"

"You're my darling little Grísha!"

"Well, what's the matter with you, anyhow?"

When her caresses had tamed him a little, he asked her anxiously:

"But you're not afraid?"

"Why, we shall be together," she replied simply.

It pleased him to hear this. He said to her:

"You brave little creature!"

And, at the same time, he pinched her side so hard that she shrieked.

*

The first day of the Orlóffs' service in the hospital coincided with
a very great influx of patients, and the two novices, accustomed,
as they were, to their slowly-moving existence, felt worried and
hampered in the midst of this seething activity which had seized them
in its grasp. Awkward, unable to comprehend orders, overwhelmed by
impressions, they immediately lost their heads, and although they
incessantly ran hither and thither, in the effort to work, they
hindered others rather than accomplished anything themselves. Several
times, Grigóry felt, with all his being, that he merited a stem shout
or a scolding for his incompetence, but, to his great amazement, no one
shouted at him.

When one of the doctors, a tall, black-mustached man, with a hooked
nose, and a huge wart over his right eyebrow, ordered Grigóry to assist
one of the patients to sit down in the bath-tub, Grigóry gripped the
sick man under the arms with so much zeal that the man groaned and
frowned.

"Don't break him to pieces, my dear fellow, he'll fit into the bath-tub
whole,...." said the doctor seriously.

Orlóff was abashed; but the sick man, a long, gaunt fellow, laughed
with all his might, and said hoarsely: "He's new to it.... He doesn't
know how."

Another doctor, an old man, with a pointed gray beard, and large,
brilliant eyes, gave the Orlóffs instructions, when they reached the
barracks, how to treat the patients, what to do in this case and that,
how to handle the sick people in transferring them. In conclusion, he
asked them whether they had been to the bath the day before, and gave
them white aprons. This doctor's voice was soft, he spoke rapidly; he
took a great liking to the married pair, but half an hour later they
had forgotten all his instructions, overwhelmed with the stormy life
of the barracks. All about them flitted people in white, orders were
issued, caught on the fly by the orderlies, the sick people rattled
in their throats, moaned and groaned, water flowed and splashed; and
all these sounds floated on the air, which was so thickly saturated
with penetrating odors that tickled the nostrils disagreeably, that it
seemed as though every word of the doctors, every sigh of the patients,
stunk also, and irritated the nose....

At first, it seemed to Orlóff that utterly restless chaos reigned
there, wherein he could not possibly find his place, and that he would
choke, grow deaf, fall ill.... But a few hours passed, and Grigóry,
invaded by the breath of energy everywhere disseminated, pricked up
his ears, and became permeated with a mighty desire to adjust himself
to his business as speedily as possible, conscious that he would feel
calmer and easier if he could turn in company with the rest.

"Corrosive sublimate!" shouted one doctor.

"More hot water in this bath-tub!" commanded a scraggy little medical
student, with red, inflamed eyelids.

"Here you ... what's your name? Orlóff ... yes! rub his feet....
There, that's the way ... you understand.... So-o, so-o.... More
lightly--you'll take the skin off.... Oï, how tired I am...."

Another long-haired and pock-marked student gave Grigóry orders and
showed him how to work.

"They've brought another patient!" the news passed from one to another.

"Orlóff, go and carry him in."

Grigóry displayed great zeal--all covered with perspiration, dizzy,
with dimmed eves and a heavy darkness in his head. At times, the
feeling of personal existence in him completely vanished under the
pressure of the mass of impressions which he underwent every moment.
The green spots under the clouded eyes on earth-colored faces, bones
which seemed to have been sharpened by the disease, the sticky,
malodorous skin, the strange convulsions of the hardly living
bodies--all this made his heart contract with grief, and caused a
nausea which he could, with difficulty, control.

Several times, in the corridor of the barracks, he caught a fleeting
glimpse of his wife; she had grown thin, and her face was gray and
abstracted. He even managed to ask her, with a voice which had grown
hoarse:

"Well, how goes it?"

She smiled faintly in reply, and silently disappeared.

A totally unaccustomed thought stung Grigóry: perhaps he had done wrong
in forcing his wife to come hither, to such filthy work. She would fall
ill of the infection.... And the next time he met her, he shouted at
her severely:

"See to it that you wash your hands often ... take care!"

"And what if I don't?"--she asked, teasingly, displaying her small,
white teeth.

This enraged him. A pretty place she had chosen for mirth, the fool!
And how mean they were, those women! But he did not succeed in saying
anything to her; catching his angry glance, Matréna went rapidly away
to the women's section.

And a minute later he was carrying his acquaintance the policeman
to the dead-house. The policeman rocked gently to and fro on the
stretcher, with his eyes fixed in a stare, from beneath contorted
brows, on the clear, hot sky. Grigóry gazed at him with dull terror in
his heart: The day before yesterday he had seen that policeman at his
post, and had even sworn at him as he went past--they had some little
accounts to settle between them. And now, here was this man, so healthy
and malicious, lying dead, all disfigured, drawn up with convulsions.

Orlóff felt that this was not right,--why should a man be born into the
world at all, if he must die, in one day, of such a dirty disease? He
gazed down upon the policeman from above, and pitied him. What would
become of his children ... three in all? The dead man had buried his
wife a year ago, and had not yet succeeded in marrying for the second
time.

He even ached, somewhere inside, with this pity. But, all at once, the
clenched left hand of the corpse slowly moved and straightened itself
out. At the same moment, the left side of the distorted mouth, which
had been half open up to now, closed.

"Halt!"--shouted Orlóff hoarsely, setting the stretcher down on the
ground.--"Be quick!"--he said in a whisper to the orderly who was
carrying the corpse with him. The latter turned round, cast a glance at
the dead man, and said angrily to Orlóff:

"What are you lying for? Don't you understand that he's only putting
himself in order for the coffin? You see how it has twisted him up? He
can't be put into the coffin like that. Hey there, carry him along!"

"Yes, but he is moving...." protested Orlóff.

"Carry him along, do you hear, you queer man! Don't you understand
words? I tell you: he's putting himself in order,--well, that means
that he's moving. This ignorance of yours may lead you into sin, if
you don't look out.... Look lively there! Can a man make such speeches
about a dead body? That signifies a riot, brother ... that's what it
is! Understand? In other words, hold your tongue, and don't utter a
syllable to anyone about his moving,--they're all like that. Otherwise,
the sow will tell it to the boar-pig, and the boar will tell it to
the whole town, well, and the result will be a riot--'they're
burying people alive!' The populace will come here, and tear us in
bits. There'll be about enough of you left for a breakfast-roll.[12]
Understand? Shunt him here, on the left."

[12] A _kalátch_--a delicious and favorite form of bread, particularly
good in Moscow.--Translator.

Prónin's calm voice and leisurely gait had a sobering effect upon
Grigóry.

"Only don't let your spirits sink, my good fellow-you'll get
used to it. We're well off here. Victuals, treatment and all the
rest--everything is just as it should be. We shall all be corpses, my
boy; it's the commonest thing in life. And, in the meanwhile, brisk up,
you know, and only don't get scared--that's the chief thing! Do you
drink vódka?"

"Yes," replied Orlóff.

"Well then. Yonder in the ditch I have a little bottle, in case of
need. Come and let's swallow a little of it." They went to the pit,
round the corner of the barracks, took a drink, and Prónin, pouring
some drops of mint on sugar, gave it to Orlóff, with the words:

"Eat that, otherwise you'll smell of vódka. They're strict here about
vódka. For it's injurious to drink it, they say."

"And have you got used to things here?" Grigóry asked him.

"I should think so! I've been here from the start. A lot of folks have
died here since I've been here--hundreds, to speak plainly. It's an
uneasy life, but a good life here, to tell the truth. It's a pious
work. Like the ambulance-corps in time of war ... you've heard about the
ambulance-corps and the sisters of mercy? I watched them during the
Turkish campaign. I was at Adragan and Kars. Well, my boy, they're
purer than we are, we soldiers and people in general. We fight, we
have guns, bullets, bayonets; but they--they walk about without any
weapons, as though they were in a green garden. They pick up our men,
or a Turk, and carry them to the field-hospital. And around them ...
zh-zhee! ti-in! fi-it! Sometimes the poor ambulance man gets it in the
neck--tchik!... and that's the end of him!..."

After this conversation, and a good swallow of vódka, Orlóff plucked up
a little courage.

"You've put your hand to the rope, don't say it's too thick,"--he
exhorted himself, as he rubbed a sick man's legs. Someone behind him
entreated piteously, in a moaning voice:

"A dri-ink! Oï, my dear fellow!"

And someone gabbled:

"Oho-ho-ho! Hotter! Mis-mister doctor, it relieves me! Christ reward
you,--I can feel! Permit him to pour in some more boiling water!"

"Give him some wine!" shouted Doctor Váshtchenko.

Orlóff worked away, lending an attentive ear to what went on around
him, and found that, as a matter of fact, everything was not so nasty
and strange as it had seemed to him a little while before, and that
chaos did not reign, but a great and intelligent power was acting
regularly. But he shuddered, nevertheless, when he recalled the
policeman, and cast a furtive glance through the window of the barracks
into the yard. He believed that the policeman was dead, but still there
was an element of wavering in this belief. Wouldn't the man suddenly
spring up and shout? And he remembered that he seemed to have heard
someone tell: that one day, somewhere or other, people who had died of
the cholera leaped out of their coffins and ran away.

As Orlóff ran to and fro in the barracks, now rubbing one patient, now
placing another in the bath-tub, he felt exactly as though gruel were
boiling in his brain. He recalled his wife: how was she getting on
yonder? Sometimes with this recollection mingled a transitory desire to
steal a minute to have a look at Matréna. But after this, Orlóff felt,
somehow, disconcerted at his desire, and exclaimed to himself:

"Come, bustle about, you fatmeated woman! You'll dry up, never fear....
You'll get rid of your intentions...."

He had always suspected that his wife cherished, in her heart of
hearts, intentions very insulting to him as a husband, and now and
then, when he rose in his suspicions to a sort of objectiveness, he
even admitted that there was some foundation for these intentions.
Her life, also, was tinged with yellow, and all sorts of trash creeps
into one's head with such a life. This objectiveness was generally
converted into certainty during the period of his suspicions. Then he
would ask himself: why had he found it necessary to crawl out of his
cellar into this boiling cauldron?--and he wondered at himself. But
all these thoughts worked round and round, somewhere deep within him,
and were fenced off, as it were, from the direct line of his work by
the strained attention which he devoted to the actions of the medical
staff. Never, in any sort of labor, had he beheld men wear themselves
out, as the men did here, and he reflected, more than once, as he
surveyed the exhausted faces of the doctors and students, that all
these men really did not get paid for doing nothing!

When relieved from duty, hardly able to stand on his feet, Orlóff went
out into the court-yard of the barracks, and lay down against its wall,
under the window of the apothecary's shop. There was a ringing in his
head, there was a pain under his shoulder-blades, and his legs ached
with the gnawing pangs of fatigue. He no longer thought of anything, or
wanted anything, he simply stretched himself out on the sod, stared at
the sky, in which hung magnificent clouds, richly adorned with the rays
of sunset, and fell into a sleep like death.

He dreamed that he and his wife were the guests of Doctor Váshtchenko
in a huge room, with rows of Vienna chairs ranged around the walls. On
the chairs all the patients from the barracks were sitting. The doctor
and Matréna were executing the "Russian Dance" in the middle of the
hall, while he himself was playing the accordeon and laughing heartily,
because the doctor's long legs would not bend at all, and the doctor, a
very grave and pompous man, was stalking about the hall after Matréna
exactly as a heron stalks over a marsh.

All at once the policeman made his appearance in the doorway.

"Aha!" he exclaimed saturninely and menacingly.--"Did you think,
Gríshka, that I was completely dead? You're playing the accordeon, but
you dragged me out to the dead-house! Come along with me, now! Get up!"
Seized with a fit of trembling, all bathed in perspiration, Orlóff
raised himself quickly and sat on the ground. Opposite, was squatting
Doctor Váshtchenko, who said to him reproachfully:

"What sort of an ambulance nurse are you, my friend, if you go to sleep
on the ground, and lie down on it upon your belly, to boot, hey? Now,
you'll take cold in your bowels,--you'll take to your cot, and the
first you know, you'll die.... It's not right, my friend,--you have a
place in the barracks to sleep. Why didn't they tell you so? Besides,
you are in a perspiration, and have a chill. Come along with me, now,
I'll give you something."

"I was so tired,..." muttered Orlóff.

"So much the worse. You must take care of your-self--it is a dangerous
time, and you are a valuable man."

Orlóff followed the doctor in silence along the corridor of the
barracks, in silence drank some sort of medicine out of a wine-glass,
drank something more out of another, frowned and spat.

"Come, go and have a sleep now.... Farewell for a while!" and the
doctor began to move his long, slender feet over the floor of the
corridor.

Orlóff looked after him, and suddenly ran after him, with a broad smile.

"I thank you humbly, doctor."

"What for?" and the doctor halted.

"For the work. Now I shall try with all my might to please you! Because
your anxiety is agreeable to me ... and ... you said I was a valuable
man ... and, altogether, I'm most si-sincerely grateful to you!" The
doctor gazed intently and in surprise at the agitated face of his
hospital orderly, and smiled also.

"You're a queer fellow! However, never mind,--you'll turn out
splendidly ... genuine. Go ahead, and do your best; it will not be for
me, but for the patients. We must wrest a man from the disease, tear
him out of its paws,--do you understand me? Well, then, go ahead and
try your best to conquer the disease. And, in the mean-while--go and
sleep!"

Orlóff was soon lying on his cot, and fell asleep with a pleasing
sensation of warmth in his bowels. He felt joyful, and was proud of his
very simple conversation with the doctor.

But he sank into slumber regretting that his wife had not heard that
conversation. He must tell her to-morrow.... That devil's pepper-pot
would not believe it, in all probability.

*

"Come and drink your tea, Grísha," his wife woke him in the morning.

He raised his head, and looked at her. She smiled at him. She was so
calm and fresh, with her hair smoothly brushed, and clad in her white
slip.

It pleased him to see her thus, and, at the same time, he reflected
that the other men in the barracks certainly must see her in the same
light.

"What do you mean--what tea? I have my own tea;--where am I to go?" he
asked gloomily.

"Come and drink it with me,"--she proposed, gazing at him with
caressing eyes.

Grigóry turned his eyes aside and said, curtly, that he would go.

She went away, but he lay down on his cot again, and began to think.

"What a woman! She invites me to drink tea, she's affectionate.... But
she has grown thin in one day." He felt sorry for her, and wanted to
do something which would please her. Should he buy something sweet to
eat with the tea? But while he was washing himself he rejected that
idea,--why pamper the woman? Let her live as she is!

They drank tea in a bright little den with two windows, which looked
out on the plain, all flooded with the golden radiance of the morning
sun. On the grass, under the windows, the dew was still glistening, far
away on the horizon in the nebulous rose-colored morning mist stood
the trees along the highway. The sky was clear, and the fragrance of
damp grass and earth floated in through the windows from the meadows.

The table stood against the wall between the windows, and at it sat
three persons: Grigóry and Matréna with the latter's companion,--a
tall, thin, elderly woman, with a pock-marked face, and kindly gray
eyes. They called her Felitzáta Egórovna; she was unmarried, the
daughter of a Collegiate Assessor, and could not drink tea made with
water from the hospital boiler, but always boiled her own samovár. As
she explained all this to Orlóff, in a cracked voice, she hospitably
suggested that he should sit by the window, and drink his fill of "the
really heavenly air," and then she disappeared somewhere.

"Well, did you get tired yesterday?" Orlóff asked his wife.

"Just frightfully tired!" replied Matréna with animation.--"I could
hardly stand on my feet, my head reeled, I couldn't understand what
was said to me, and the first I knew, I was lying at full length on
the floor, unconscious. I barely--barely held out until relief-time
came.... I kept praying; 'help, oh Lord,' I thought."

"And are you scared?"

"Of the sick people?"

"The sick people are nothing."

"I'm afraid of the dead people. Do you know...." she bent over to her
husband, and whispered to him in affright:--"they move after they are
dead.... God is my witness, they do!"

"I've se-een that!"--laughed Grigóry sceptically.--"Yesterday,
Nazároff the policeman came near giving me a box on the ear after his
death. I was carrying him to the dead-house, and he gave su-uch a
flourish with his left hand ... I hardly managed to get out of the way
... so there now!"--He was not telling the strict truth, but it seemed
to come out that way of itself, against his will.

He was greatly pleased at this tea-drinking in the bright, clean room,
with windows opening on a boundless expanse of green plain and blue
sky. And something else pleased him, also,--not exactly his wife, nor
yet himself. The result of it all was that he wished to show his best
side, to be the hero of the day which was just beginning.

"When I start in to work--even the sky will become hot, so it will! For
there is a cause for my doing so. In the first place, there are the
people here,--there aren't any more like them on earth, I can tell you
that!"

He narrated his conversation with the doctor, and as he again
exerted his fancy, unconsciously to himself--this fact still further
strengthened his mood.

"In the second place, there's the work itself. It's a great affair,
my friend, in the nature of war, for example. The cholera and
people--which is to get the better of the other? Brains are needed, and
everything must be just so. What's cholera? One must understand that,
and then--go ahead and give it what it can't endure! Doctor Váshtchenko
says to me: 'you're a valuable man in this matter, Orlóff,' says he.
'Don't get scared,' says he; 'and drive it up from the patient's legs
into his belly, and there,' says he, 'I'll nip it with something sour.
That's the end of it, and the man lives, and ought to be eternally
grateful to you and me, because who was it that took him away from
death? We!'"--And Orlóff proudly inflated his chest as he gazed at his
wife with kindling eyes.

She smiled pensively into his face; he was handsome, and bore a great
resemblance to his old self, the Grísha whom she had seen some time,
long ago, before their marriage.

"All of them in our division are just such hard-working, kind folks.
The woman doctor, a fa-at woman with spectacles, and then the female
medical students. They're nice people, they talk to a body so simply,
and you can understand everything they say."

"So that signifies that you're all right, satisfied?"--asked Grigóry,
whose excitement had somewhat cooled off.

"Do you mean me? Oh Lord! Judge for yourself: I get twelve rubles, and
you get twenty ... that makes thirty-eight a month![13] We're lodged
and fed! That means, that if people keep on getting sick until the
winter, how much shall we amass?... And then, God willing, we'll raise
ourselves out of that cellar...."

[13] A little less than half that amount in dollars.--Translator.

"We-ell now, that's a serious subject...." said Orlóff thoughtfully
and, after a pause, he exclaimed with the pathos of hope, as he slapped
his wife on the shoulder:--"Ekh, Matrénka,[14] isn't the sun shining
on us? Don't get scared now!"

[14] Another diminutive of Matréna.--Translator.

She flushed all over.

"If you'd only stop drinking...."

"As to that--hold your tongue! Suit your awl to your leather, your phiz
to your life.... With a different life, my conduct will be different."

"Oh Lord, if that might only happen!"--sighed his wife profoundly.

"Well now, hush up!"

"Grishenka!"[15]

[15] A third variation (Grísha, Gríshka), of Grigóry, in the
diminutive. '--Translator.

They parted with certain novel feelings toward each other, inspired by
hope, ready to work until their strength gave out, alert and cheerful.

Two or three days passed, and Orlóff had already won several flattering
mentions as a sagacious, smart young fellow, and along with this
he observed that Prónin and the other orderlies in the barracks
bore themselves toward him with envy, and a desire to make things
unpleasant for him. He was on his guard, and he also imbibed wrath
against fat-faced Prónin, with whom he had been inclined to strike up
a friendship and to chat, "according to his soul." At the same time,
he was embittered by the plain desire of his fellow-workers to do
him some injury.--"Ekh, the rascals!" he exclaimed to himself, and
quietly gritted his teeth, endeavoring not to let slip some convenient
opportunity to pay his friends off "with as good as they gave." And,
involuntarily, his thought halted at his wife:--with her he could talk
about everything, she would not be envious of his successes, and would
not burn his boots with carbolic acid, as Prónin had done.

All the working-days were as stormy and seething with activity as
the first had been, but Grigóry no longer became so fatigued, for
he expended his strength with more discernment with every day that
passed. He learned to distinguish the smell of the medicaments, and,
picking out from among them the odor of sulphate of ether, he inhaled
it with delight on the sly, when opportunity offered, finding that
the inhalation of ether had almost as agreeable an action as a good
glass of vódka. Catching the meaning of the medical staff at half a
word, always amiable and talkative, understanding how to entertain
the patients, he became more and more of a favorite with the doctors
and the medical students, and thus, under the combined influence of
all the impressions of his new mode of existence, a strange, exalted
mood was formed within him. He felt himself to be a man of special
qualities. In him beat the desire to do something which should attract
to him the attention of everyone, should astonish everyone, and force
them to the conviction that he had a right to the ambition which had
elevated him to such a pitch in his own eyes. This was the singular
ambition of the man who had suddenly realized that he was a man, and
who, as it were, still not quite firmly assured of the fact, wished to
confirm it, in some way, to himself and to others; this was ambition,
gradually transformed into a thirst for some disinterested exploit.

As the result of this incentive, Orlóff performed various risky feats,
such as straining himself by carrying a heavily-built patient from
his cot to the bath-tub single-handed, without waiting for assistance
from his fellow-orderlies, nursing the very dirtiest of the patients,
behaving in a daring sort of way in regard to the possibility of
contagion, and handling the dead with a simplicity which sometimes
passed over into cynicism. But all this did not satisfy him; he longed
for something on a greater scale, and this longing burned incessantly
within him, tortured him, and, at last, drove him to anguish.

Then he poured out his soul to his wife, because he had no one else.

One evening, when he and his wife were relieved from duty, they went
out into the fields, after they had drunk tea. The barracks stood far
away from the town, in the middle of a long, green plain, bounded
on one side by a dark strip of forest, on the other by the line of
buildings in the town; on the north the plain extended into the far
distance, and there its verdure became merged with the dull-blue
horizon; on the south it was intersected by a precipitous descent to
the river, and along the verge of this precipice ran the highway, along
which, at equal distances one from another, stood aged, wide-spreading
trees. The sun was setting, and the crosses on the churches of the
town, rising above the dark-green of the gardens, flamed in the sky,
reflecting sheaves of golden rays, and on the window-panes of the
houses which lay on the edge of the town the red glow of the sunset
was reflected also. A band of music was playing somewhere or other;
from the ravine, thickly overgrown with a fir-grove, a resinous
fragrance was wafted aloft; the forest, also, shed abroad on the air
its complicated, succulent perfume; light, fragrant waves of warm wind
floated caressingly toward the town, and in the wide, deserted plain
everything was very delightful, quiet and sweetly-melancholy.

The Orlóffs walked across the grass in silence, with pleasure inhaling
the pure air in place of the hospital odors.

"Where's that band playing, in the town, or in the camp?" inquired
Matréna softly, of her pensive husband.

She did not like to see him thoughtful--he seemed a stranger to her,
and far away from her at such moments. Of late, they had chanced to be
together so very little, and she prized these moments all the more.

"The band?"--Grigóry replied with another question, as though freeing
himself from a dream.--"Well, the devil take that band! You just ought
to hear the music in my soul ... that's something like!"

"What is it?" she asked tremulously, looking into his eyes.

"I don't know.... That is, I can't tell you ... and even if I could
would you be able to understand? My soul burns.... It pines for space
... so that I might develop myself to my full strength.... Ekhma!
I feel within myself invincible strength! That is to say, if this
cholera, for instance, could be transformed into a man ... into an epic
hero ... even Ilyá of Muróm himself;[16]--I'd grapple with it; 'Come
on, I'll fight thee to the death! Thou art a power, and I, Gríshka
Orlóff, am a power also,--now, let's see who'll get the best of the
other?' And I'd strangle it, even if it killed me too.... There'd be
a cross over me in the field, with the inscription: 'Grigóry Andréeff
Orlóff.... He freed Russia from the cholera.' Nothing more would be
necessary."

[16] For Ilyá of Muróm and the other famous epic heroes (_bogatyry_)
see: "The Epic Songs of Russia," by Isabel F. Hapgood. Charles
Scribner's Sons.

As he spoke, his face burned, and his eyes flashed.

"You're my strong man!" whispered Matréna, nestling close to his side.

"Do you understand ... I'd hurl myself on a hundred knives, if only it
would be of any use! If life could be lightened in that way. Because I
see people: Doctor Váshtchenko, student Khokhryakóff,--it's wonderful
how they work! They ought to have died long ago of fatigue.... Do you
think they do it for money? A man can't work like that for money!
The doctors, thank the Lord! have something of their own, and get a
little in addition.... Why, an old man fell ill lately, and so Doctor
Váshtchenko hammered away at him for four days, and never went home
once the whole time.... Money doesn't count in such a case; pity is the
cause. He's sorry for people--well, and so he doesn't spare himself
... for whose sake, you ask? For everybody's sake ... for the sake
of Míshka Úsoff,... Míshka's proper place is in jail, for everybody
knows that Míshka is a thief, and, perhaps, even worse.... They're
curing Míshka.... And they were glad when he got up from his cot, they
laughed.... So I want to feel that same joy, also ... and to have a
great deal of it.... I'd like to choke with it! Because it gives me the
heart-ache to see how they laugh over their work. I ache all over, and
catch fire. I will do something!... But how? Oh ... the devil!"

Orlóff waved his hand hopelessly, and again fell into thought.

Matréna said nothing, but her heart beat anxiously--this excitement of
her husband alarmed her, and in his words she plainly felt the great
passion of his longing, which she did not understand, because she did
not try to understand it. It was her husband, not a hero, who was dear
and necessary to her.

They reached the verge of the precipice, and sat down, side by side....
The tufted crests of the young birch-trees looked down upon them, and
in the bottom of the ravine there already lay a bluish mist, which
sent forth an odor of dampness, rotting leaves and pine-needles. From
time to time a puff of wind swept along the ravine, the branches of
the birch-trees, the little fir-trees, rocked, rocked to and fro,--the
whole ravine became filled with anxious, timorous whispering, and it
seemed as though someone who was tenderly beloved and guarded by the
trees had fallen asleep in the ravine, beneath their canopy, and they
were whispering together about him very, very softly, in order not to
awaken him. And in the town, lights shone forth, and stood out like
reddish flowers against the dark background of its gardens. And in
the sky the stars began to kindle their fires. The Orlóffs sat on in
silence,--he thoughtfully drummed on his knee with his fingers, she
gazed at him and sighed softly.

And suddenly clasping her arms about his neck, she laid her head on his
breast, and said in a whisper:

"My darling Gríshka! My dear one! How good you have become to me once
more, my brave man! You see, it seems as though it were the good time
... after our wedding,... you and I were living along ... you never
utter an unkind word to me, you are always talking with me, you open
your soul to me ... you don't bawl at me."

"And have you been fretting over that? I'll give you a thrashing, if
you want it,"--jested Grigóry affectionately, feeling in his soul an
influx of tenderness and pity for his wife.

He began softly to stroke her head with his hand, and this caress
pleased him,--it was so paternal--the caress of a father for a grown-up
child. Matréna did in fact resemble a child: she now climbed up on his
knees, and seated herself in his lap, in a soft, warm little ball.

"My dear one!"--she whispered.

He heaved a profound sigh, and words which were new both to his wife
and to himself flowed of themselves from his tongue.

"Eh, you poor little kitten! You're affectionate ... you see, anyway,
and there is no friend nearer than a husband. But you have kept waiting
your chance on one side.... You know, if I did hurt you sometimes, it
was because I was sad, Mótrya. We lived in a pit.... We did not see the
light, we hardly knew people at all. I've got out of the pit, and have
recovered my sight. I was like a blind man as regards life. And now
I understand that a wife, anyhow, is a man's closest friend in life.
Because people are snakes and reptiles, to tell the truth.... They're
always trying to deal wounds to other people.... For instance--Prónin,
Vasiukóff.... Well, they may go to the.... Hold your peace, Mótrya! We
shall get straightened out, all right, never fear.... We shall make our
way, and live with understanding.... Well? What do you think of it, my
little goose?"

She shed sweet tears of happiness, and replied to his question with
kisses.

"You are my only one!" he whispered, and kissed her in return.

They wiped away each other's tears with kisses, and both were conscious
of their briny taste. And for a long time Orlóff continued to talk in
words which were new for him.

It was completely dark now. The sky, magnificently adorned with
countless swarms of stars, looked down upon the earth with triumphant
sadness, and in the plain reigned silence like that of the sky.

*

They had got into the habit of drinking tea together. On the morning
after their talk in the fields, Orlóff presented himself in his wife's
room confused and surly over something. Felitzáta was not feeling well,
Matréna was alone in the room, and greeted her husband with a beaming
face, which immediately clouded over, and she asked him anxiously:

"What makes you like that? Are you ill?"

"No, never mind,"--he replied curtly, as he seated himself on a chair,
and drew toward him the tea which she had already poured out.

"But what is it?" persisted Matréna.

"I didn't sleep. I kept thinking.... You and I cackled together
pretty hard last night, and got silly-soft ... and now I'm ashamed of
myself.... There's no use in that. You women always try to get a man
into your hands, on such occasions ... so you do.... Only, don't you
dream of such a thing--you won't succeed..... You can't get around me,
and I won't yield to you.... So now you know it!"

He said all this very impressively, but did not look at his wife.
Matréna never took her eyes from his face all the time, and her lips
writhed strangely.

"Are you sorry that you came so near to me last night--is that
it?"--she asked quietly.--"Are you sorry that you kissed and caressed
me? What does this mean? It insults me to hear it ... it is very
bitter, you're breaking my heart with such speeches. What do you want?
Do you find me tiresome, am not I dear to you, or what?"

She gazed at him suspiciously, but in her tone resounded pain and a
challenge to her husband.

"N--no...." said Grigóry abashed, "I was only talking in general ...
You and I used to live in a hole, you know yourself what sort of
a life it was! It makes me sick even to think of it. And now that
we've got out of it--I feel afraid of something. Everything changed
so suddenly.... I'm like a stranger to myself, and you seem to be a
different person too. What is the meaning of this! And what will come
next?"

"What God sends, Grísha!"--said Matréna gravely.--"Only don't feel
sorry that you were kind last night."

"All right, drop it...." Grigóry stopped her as abashed as ever, and
still sighing.--"You see, I'm thinking that we shan't come to anything,
after all. And our former life was not flowery, and my present life is
not to my taste. And although I don't drink, don't beat you, and don't
swear...."

Matréna laughed convulsively.

"You have no time to worry about that now."

"I could always find time to get drunk,"--smiled Orlóff. "I don't feel
tempted to--: that's the wonder. And besides, in general, I feel ...
not exactly ashamed of it, and yet not exactly afraid of it.. he shook
his head, and began to meditate.

"The Lord only knows what is the matter with you," said Matréna, with a
heavy sigh.--"It's a pleasant life, though there's a lot of work; all
the doctors are fond of you, and you are behaving well ... really, I
don't know what to make of it. You're very uneasy."

"That's true, I'm uneasy.... Now, I was thinking in the night: Piótr
Ivánovitch says: all men are equals, and ain't I a man like the rest?
Yet Doctor Véshtchenko is better than I am, and Piótr Ivánovitch is
better, and so are many others.... That means, that they are not my
equals ... and I'm not on a level with them, I feel that.... They cured
Míshka Úsoff, and rejoiced at it.... And I don't understand that. On
the whole, why feel glad that a man has recovered? His life was worse
than the cholera convulsions, if you speak the truth. They understand
that, but they are glad.... And I would have liked to rejoice too, like
them, only I can't.... Because--as I said before ... what is there to
be glad about?"

"But they pity the people,"--returned Matréna,--"okh, how they pity
them! It's the same thing in our section ... a sick woman begins to
mend, and, oh, Lord, what goings on! And when a poor woman gets her
discharge, they give her advice, and money and medicines.... It even
makes me shed tears ... the kind people, the compassionate people!"

"Now you say--tears.... But I'm seized with amazement ... Nothing
less...." Orlóff shrugged his shoulders, and rubbed his head, and
stared in wonder at his wife.

Eloquence made its appearance in her, from somewhere, and she began
zealously to demonstrate to her husband, that people are entirely
worthy of compassion. Bending toward him, and gazing into his face with
affectionate eyes, she talked long to him about people, and the burden
of life, and he stared at her and thought:

"Eh, how she talks! Where does she get the words?"

"For you are compassionate yourself--you say, you would strangle the
cholera, if you had the power. But what for? Whom does it annoy?
People, not you: you have even begun to live better because it made its
appearance."

Orlóff suddenly burst out laughing.

"Why, that's so, certainly!--I am better off, that's true, isn't it?
Akh, you shrewd creature,--make the most of it! People die, and I live
better in consequence, hey?--That's what life is like! Pshaw!"

He rose, and went away, laughing, to his duty. As he was walking along
the corridor, he suddenly felt regret that no one except himself had
heard Matréna's speech. "She spoke cleverly! A woman, a woman, and yet
she understands something, too." And absorbed in an agreeable sort of
sensation, he entered his ward, greeted by the hoarse rattling and the
moans of the sick men.

With every passing day, the world of his feelings grew wider and wider,
and, along with this, his necessity for speech waxed greater. He could
not, of course, narrate as a whole what was taking place within him,
for the greater part of his sensations and thought were beyond his
grasp. An angry envy blazed up within him, because he could not rejoice
over people.

It was after this that the desire was kindled within him to perform
some wonderful deed, and astonish everyone thereby. He felt conscious
that his position in the barracks placed him between people, as it
were: the doctors and students were higher than he, the servitors were
lower,--what was he himself? And a sense of loneliness laid its grasp
upon him; then it seemed to him that Fate was playing with him, had
blown him out of his place, and was now carrying him through the air
like a feather. He began to feel sorry for himself, and went to his
wife. Sometimes he did not wish to do this, considering that frankness
toward her would lower him in her eyes, but he went, nevertheless. He
arrived gloomy, and now in a vicious, again in a sceptical mood, he
went away, almost always, petted and composed. His wife had words of
her own; they were not many, they were simple, but there was always a
great deal of feeling in them, and he observed, with astonishment, that
Matréna was coming to occupy a larger and larger place in his life,
that he had to think of her and talk with her "according to the soul,"
more and more frequently.

She in her turn understood this very well, indeed, and endeavored,
in every way, to broaden her growing significance in his life. Her
toilsome and energetic life in the barracks had increased her sense of
her own value greatly,--it came to pass unnoticed by Matréna. She did
not think, she did not reason, but when she recalled her former life,
in the cellar, in the narrow circle of cares for her husband and her
housekeeping, she involuntarily compared the past with the present,
and the gloomy picture of the cellar-existence gradually retreated
further and further from her. The authorities at the barracks liked
her; because of her intelligence, and knowledge of how to work, they
all treated her graciously, they all saw in her an individual; and this
was new for her, it gave her animation.

One day when she was on night-duty, the fat woman-doctor began to
question her about her life, and Matréna, as she was willingly and
frankly telling her about her life, suddenly paused and smiled.

"What are you laughing at?" asked the doctor.

"Why nothing.... I lived very badly ... and, you see, if you will
believe it, my dear madam,--I did not understand it ... up to this very
moment, I never understood how badly."

After this glance into the past, a strange feeling took form in Mrs.
Orlóff's breast toward her husband, she loved him exactly as much as
before--with the blind love of the female, but it began to seem to
her as though Grigóry were her debtor. At times, when she was talking
with him, she assumed a patronizing tone, for he often inspired her
with pity by his uneasy speeches. But, nevertheless, she was sometimes
seized with doubt as to the possibility of a quiet and peaceful
life with her husband, although, on the whole, she still believed
that Grigóry would become steady, and that this melancholy would be
extinguished in him.

They were fatally bound to grow nearer to each other, and--both were
young, fit for work, strong--they might have gone on and lived out
their days in the gray life of half-fed poverty, a life of exploiting
others, to the end completely absorbed in the pursuit of the kopék,
but they had been saved from this end by what Gríshka called his
"uneasiness in the heart," and was, in its essence, unable to reconcile
itself with every-day things.

On the morning of a gloomy September day a wagon drove into the
court-yard of the barracks, and Prónin took out of it a little boy, all
streaked with paints, bony, yellow, hardly breathing.

"From the Petúnnikoff house, in Damp street, again," the driver
reported, in answer to the query, whence the patient came.

"Tchízhik!" exclaimed Orlóff, in distress,--"akh, oh, Lord! Sénka!
Tchizh![16] Do you know me?"

[16] Tchizh means--a canary-bird. Tchízhik--a little
canary-bird.--Translator.

"Y--yes, I know you...." said Tchízhik, with an effort, as he lay on
the stretcher, and slowly rolled his eyes up under his brow, in order
to see Orlóff, who was walking at his head, and bending over him.

"Akh ... what a merry bird you were! How did you come to give
up?"--asked Orlóff. He was, somehow, strangely alarmed at the sight
of that dirty little boy, in the throes of the disease.--"Why did it
seize on this poor little boy?" he embodied in one question all his
sensations, and sadly shook his head.

Tchízhik made no reply, and shrugged his shoulders.

"I'm cold," said he, when they laid him on a cot, and began to remove
his rags, streaked all over with every sort of paint-color.

"Now, we're going to put you into hot water immediately ..." promised
Orlóff.--"And we'll cure you."

Tchízhik shook his little head, and whispered:

"You can't cure me.... Uncle Grigóry ... bend down your ... ear. I
stole the accordeon.... It's in the wood-shed ... Day before yesterday
I touched it, for the first time since I stole it. Akh, what an
accordeon it is! I hid it ... and then my belly began to ache....
So.... That means, that this is for my sin.... It's hanging on the
wall, under the stairs ... and I piled wood up over it.... So....
Uncle Grigóry ... give it.... The accordeon-player had a sister....
She asked about it.... Gi-ive it ... to ... her!..." He began to groan,
and to writhe in convulsions.

They did everything they could for him, but the gaunt, exhausted little
body would not retain life in it, and in the evening, Orlóff carried
him on the stretcher to the dead-house. As he carried him, he felt
exactly as though he had been wronged.

In the dead-house, Orlóff tried to straighten out Tchízhik's body, but
he did not succeed. Orlóff went away overwhelmed, mournful, bearing
with him the image of the merry lad distorted with the disease.

He was seized with a debilitating consciousness of his powerlessness in
the face of death, and his ignorance of it. Despite all the pains he
had taken over Tchízhik, despite the zealous labors of the doctors,...
the boy had died! This was outrageous.... It would seize upon him,
Orlóff, one of these days, and twist him up in convulsions.... And
that would be the end of him. He grew frightened, and, along with this
feeling, he was invaded by a sense of loneliness. He wanted to discuss
all this with some clever man. More than once, he tried to strike up
a comprehensive conversation with one or another of the students, but
no one had any time for philosophy, and Grigóry's attempts were not
crowned with success. He was obliged to go to his wife, and talk with
her. So he went to her, morose and sad.

She had only just come off duty, and was washing herself self in the
corner of the room, but the samovár was already standing on the table,
filling the air with steam and hissing.

Grigóry seated himself, in silence, at the table, and began to gaze at
his wife's bare, plump shoulders. The samovár bubbled away, splashing
water over; Matréna snorted; orderlies ran swiftly back and forth along
the corridor, and Grigóry tried to determine, from the walk, who was
passing.

All of a sudden, it seemed to him, as though Matréna's shoulders were
as cold, and covered with the same sort of sticky sweat as Tchízhik,
when the latter was writhing with convulsions on the hospital cot. He
shuddered, and said, in a dull voice:

"Sénka is dead...."

"Dead? The kingdom of heaven to the child Sénka, newly-appeared
before God!"[17] said Matréna prayerfully, and then she began to spit
fiercely--some of the soap had got into her mouth.

[17] The Holy Orthodox Catholic Church of the East, of which Russia
is now the most prominent representative, has four different
burial-services: one for ecclesiastics, one for laymen, which undergoes
certain changes if the burial takes place at Easter-tide (making the
third), and one for children, or "infants," meaning children under
eight years of age. All are very beautiful and touching. The above
exclamation is the general one.--Translator.

"I'm sorry for him," sighed Grigóry.

"He was a dreadful tease."

"He's dead, and that ends it! It's no business of yours now, what
sort of a fellow he was!... But it's a pity he died. He was bold and
lively.... The accordeon ... Hm!... He was a clever lad.... I sometimes
used to look at him and think: I'll take him as an apprentice, or
something of that sort.... He was an orphan ... he would have got used
to us, and have taken the place of a son to us.... For, you see, we
have no children.... No.... You're so healthy, yet you don't bear any
children.... You had one, and that was the end of it. Ekh, you woman!
If we had some squalling little brats, you'd see we shouldn't find
life so tiresome.... But now it's only live on, and work.... And for
what? To feed myself and you.... And of what use are we ... of what
use is food to us? In order that we may work.... So it turns out to
be a senseless circle.... But if we had children--that would be quite
another matter.... That it would."

He said this in a sad, dissatisfied tone, with his head drooping low.
Matréna stood before him and listened, gradually turning pale, as he
continued:

"I'm healthy, you're healthy, and still we have no children.... What's
the meaning of it? Why? Ye-es ... a man thinks and thinks about it ...
and then he takes to drink!"

"You lie!" said Matréna firmly and loudly.--"You lie! Don't you dare to
utter your dastardly words to me ... do you hear? Don't you dare! You
drink--because you choose to, out of self-indulgence, because you have
no self-control, and my childlessness has nothing whatever to do with
the matter; you lie, Gríshka!"

Grigóry was stunned. He flung himself back, against the back of his
chair, cast a glance at his wife, and did not recognize her. Never
before had he beheld her so infuriated, never had she looked at him
with such mercilessly-angry eyes, or spoken with such power in her
words.

"Come now, come!"--ejaculated Grigóry defiantly, clutching the
seat of his chair with his hands.--"Come now, talk some more!"

"And so I will! I wouldn't have spoken, only that reproach from you I
cannot endure! I don't bear you children, don't I? And I won't! I can't
any more.... I can't have any children!..." a sob was audible in her
shriek.

"Don't yell," her husband warned her.

"Why don't I bear children, hey? Come now, recall to your mind, Grísha,
how much have you beaten me? How many kicks in the side have you
showered on me?... reckon them up, do! How you have tortured, racked
me? Do you know how much blood flowed from me after your tortures?
My chemise used to be bloody clear up to my neck! And that's why I
bear no children, my dear husband! How can you reproach me for that,
hey? How is it that your ugly phiz isn't ashamed to look me in the
face? ... For you are a murderer! you have killed your children,
killed them yourself! and now you reproach me because I don't bear
any.... I have endured everything from you, I have forgiven you for
everything,--but those words I will never forgive, to all eternity!
When I am dying,--I'll call that to mind! Don't you understand that
you are to blame yourself, that you have destroyed me? Ain't I like
all women--don't I want children? Do you think I don't want them? Many
a night, when I couldn't sleep, I have prayed to the Lord God that He
would preserve the children in my body from you, you murderer! ... When
I see a strange child--I choke with bitterness, out of envy and pity
for myself.... I'd like! ... Queen of Heaven!... I used to pet that
Sénka on the sly.... What am I? O Lord! A barren woman...."

She began to sob. The words leaped from her mouth without sense of
coherence.

Her face was spotted all over, she trembled, and scratched her neck,
because the sobs gurgled in her throat. Keeping a stout grasp on
his chair, Grigóry, pale and crushed, sat opposite her, and with
widely-opened eyes stared at this woman, who was a stranger to him,
and he was afraid of her ... afraid that she would clutch him by the
throat and strangle him. Precisely that was what her terrible eyes,
blazing with wrath, promised him. She was twice as strong as he now,
and he felt it, and turned cowardly; he could not rise and strike her,
as he would have done, had he not understood that she had undergone
a transformation, as though she had imbibed vast strength from some
source.

"You have stung my very soul, Gríshka! Great is your sin toward me!
I have endured, I have held my peace ... because ... I love you ...
but your reproaches I cannot bear!... My strength is exhausted....
You heaven-sent husband of mine! For those words of yours, may you be
thrice accur...."

"Hold your tongue!--" thundered Gríshka, with a snarl. "You're
outrageous! Have you forgotten where we are? You accursed devil!"

There was a mist over Grigóry's eyes. He could not discern who it was
that was standing in the door-way, and talking in a bass voice; he
swore in vile language, thrust the man aside, and rushed out into the
fields. And Matréna, after standing still in the middle of the room for
a minute, reeling and as though struck with blindness, with her hands
outstretched before her, went to the cot, and fell upon it, with a
groan.

Darkness descended, and the golden moon, covering the fields with
shadows, peered curiously into the windows of the room from the sky,
from amid ragged, dark-blue clouds.

Soon a fine, drizzling rain began to beat upon the window-panes and the
walls of the barracks--the forerunner of the interminable autumn rains
which fill the soul with melancholy.

The pendulum of the clock ticked off the seconds with equable beat, the
raindrops lashed the panes. Hour after hour passed, and the rain still
descended, and on the cot, the woman lay motionless and stared, with
swollen eyes, at the ceiling. Her face was gloomy, stern, her teeth
were tightly clenched, her cheek-bones stood out prominently, and in
her eyes gleamed both terror and sadness. And the rain still rattled
against the walls and the window-panes; it seemed as though it were
whispering something wearisomely-monotonous, were trying to convince
someone of something, but had not sufficient passion to do it quickly,
handsomely, with force, and hoped to attain its end by a torturing,
interminable, colorless sermon, which lacked the sincere pathos of
faith.

The rain continued and was still pouring when the sky became overcast
with hues of approaching dawn, which presage an inclement day, and so
resemble the color of a knife, which has been long in use, and has
lost the gleam of its polish. But still Matréna could not sleep. In
the monotonous murmur of the rain, she heard a question which was both
anxious and alarming to her:

"What will happen now? What will happen now?"

It resounded importunately outside the windows, and an aching pain in
all her being responded to it.

"What will happen now?"

The woman was afraid to answer herself, although the answer kept
flashing up before her in the shape of a drunken husband, as fierce
as any wild beast. But it was difficult to part with her dream of a
calm, loving life; she had already got accustomed to this dream, and
she banished from her a menacing foreboding. And at the same time, the
consciousness flashed across her, that if this did happen--if Grigóry
should take to drink again, she could no longer live with him. She
saw him different, she herself had become a different person, and her
former life aroused in her both fear and disgust--novel sensations,
hitherto unknown to her. But she was a woman, and in the end, she began
to upbraid herself for this breach with her husband.

"And how did it come about?... O Lord!... It's just as though I had
torn myself off a hook ..."

In such contradictory, torturing reflections, another long hour passed
by. Day dawned. A heavy fog was swirling over the plain, and the sky
could not be seen through its gray mist.

"Mrs. Orlóff! Time to go on duty...."

Mechanically obeying this summons, shouted through the door of her
room, she slowly rose from her bed, washed herself in haste, and went
to the barracks, feeling weak and half ill. In the barracks she evoked
general surprise by the languor of her movements, and her gloomy face
with its dull eyes.

"Mrs. Orlóff! You seem to be ill?" one of the doctors said to her.

"It's nothing...."

"But tell me, don't stand on ceremony! you know, we can get a
substitute for you ..."

Matréna felt conscience-stricken, she did not wish to betray her pain
and terror to this person who was kind, but still a stranger to her,
nevertheless. And summoning up, from the depths of her tortured soul,
the remnants of her courage, she said to the woman-doctor, with a smile:

"It's nothing! I have had a little quarrel with my husband ... It will
pass off ... it isn't the first time...."

"You poor thing!"--sighed the doctor, who knew about her life.

Matréna wanted to fall down before her, bury her head in the doctor's
lap, and scream.... But she restrained herself, and only pressed her
lips tightly together, and passed her hand over her throat, as though
she were thrusting back into her breast the sobs which were on the
point of bursting forth.

When she was relieved from duty, she entered her room, and the first
thing she did, was to look out of the window. Across the fields, to the
barracks, a waggon was moving,--they must be bringing a sick person in
it. Fine rain was sifting down from the gray storm-clouds. Nothing else
was to be seen. Matréna turned away from the window, and with a heavy
sigh, seated herself at the table, engrossed by the thought:

"What will happen now?"--And her heart beat time to these words.

For a long time she sat there, alone, in a heavy semi-doze, and every
time the sound of footsteps in the corridor made her shudder, and
rising from her chair, she looked out of the door....

But when, at last, the door opened, and Grigóry entered, she did
not shudder, and did not rise, for she felt as though the autumnal
storm-clouds had suddenly descended upon her, from the sky, with all
their weight.

Grigóry halted at the door, flung his wet cap on the floor, and
stamping heavily with his feet, he approached his wife. He was
streaming with water. His face was red, his eyes were dim, and his
lips were stretched in a broad, stupid smile. As he walked, Matréna
heard the water seeping in his boots. He was pitiful, and she had not
imagined him in this aspect.

"Good!"--she said softly.

Grigóry waggled his head stupidly, and asked her:

"Would you like to have me bow down to your feet?"

She made no reply.

"You wouldn't? Well, that's your affair.... But I've been thinking all
the while: am I guilty toward you or not? It turns out--that I am. So
now I say: do you want me to bow down to your f-feet?"

She maintained silence, inhaling the odor of vódka which emanated from
him, and a bitter feeling gnawed at her soul.

"Now, see here, you--don't you make faces! Take your chance while I'm
peaceable...." said Grigóry, raising his voice.--"Come, are you going
to forgive me?"

"You're drunk," said Matréna, with a sigh.... Go and sleep...."

"You lie, I'm not drunk, I'm tired, I've been walking and walking and
thinking.... I've done a heap of thinking, brother ... oh! You look
out!"

He menaced her with his finger, laughing with a wry grimace.

"Why don't you speak?"

"I can't talk with you."

"You can't? Why not?"

All at once, he flared up, and his voice grew firmer.

"You screamed at me, you snarled at me yesterday ... well, and now I'm
asking your forgiveness. Understand that!"

He said this in a very ominous way, his lips quivered, and his nostrils
were inflated. Matréna knew what that meant, and the past rose up
before her in vivid colors: the cellar, the Saturday fights, the
anguish and suffocation of their life.

"I understand!"--she said, sharply.--"I see that you are ... turning
into a beast again now ... ekh, you disgusting creature!"

"I'm turning into a beast? That ... hasn't anything to do with the
case.... I say ... will you forgive me? What are you thinking about? Do
I need it--your forgiveness? I can get on capitally without it ... but
still, here, I want you to forgive me.... Understand?"

"Go away from me, Grigóry!" ... exclaimed the woman sadly, turning away
from him.

"Go away?"--laughed Grigóry maliciously.--"I'm to go away, so that you
will remain at liberty? Come now, I wo-on't! Have you seen this?"

He seized her by the shoulder, dragged-her toward him, and flourished a
knife in her face--a short, thick, sharp; piece of rusty iron.

"We-ell?"

"Ekh, if you would only cut my throat,"--said Matréna, with a deep
sigh, and freeing herself from his grasp, she turned away from him
again. Then he, also, staggered back from her, startled, not by her
words, but by the tone of them. He had heard those words from her lips
before, had heard them more than once--but she had never uttered them
in that manner. And the fact that she had turned away from him without
fearing the knife, also augmented his amazement and discomfiture.
Several seconds earlier it would have been easy for him to strike
her, but now he could not do it, and did not wish to do it. Almost
frightened by her indifference to his threat, he flung the knife on the
table, and with dull wrath he asked his wife:

"Devil! What is it you want?"

"I don't want anything!"--cried Matréna, sighing.--"And what do you
want? Did you come to kill me? Well, then, kill me!"

Grigóry looked at her, and held his peace, not knowing what he could do
now, and seeing nothing clearly in his tangled thoughts. He had come
with a definite intention to conquer his wife. On the preceding day,
during their clash, she had been stronger than he; he was conscious of
that, and it lowered him in his own eyes. It was imperatively necessary
that she should submit to him, he did not understand why, but he did
know solidly, that it was necessary. Passionate by nature, he had gone
through a great deal and had thought a great deal about the matter
during those four and twenty hours, and--being an ignorant man--he did
not know how to single out of the chaos those feelings which had been
aroused by the just accusation boldly hurled at him by his wife. He
understood that this was a revolt against him, and he had brought the
knife with him, in order to frighten Matréna; he would have killed her,
but she offered a less passive resistance to his desire to subjugate
her. But here she was in front of him, helpless, overwhelmed with grief
and yet stronger than he. It angered him to perceive this, and this
anger had a sobering effect upon him.

"Listen!"--he said,--"and don't you put on any conceited airs! You know
that I, in downright earnest ... will drive this into your ribs--and
that's the end of you! That will put an end to the whole matter!?..
It's very simple...."

Conscious that he was not saying the proper thing, Grigóry paused.
Matréna did not move, as she stood turned away from him. A
feverishly-rapid reckoning up of all that she had gone through with
her husband was in progress within her, and this imperative question
throbbed in her heart:

"What will happen now?"

"Mótrya!"--Grigóry began suddenly and softly, propping himself with
one hand on the table, and bending toward his wife.--"Am I to blame,
if ... everything isn't.. if it isn't as it should be?... This is very
disgusting to me!"

He twisted his head about and sighed.

"I'm so sick of it! I'm so cramped here on earth! Is this life? Come,
let's take the cholera patients,--what are they? Are they a support to
me? Some will die, and others will get well,... and I must go on living
again. How am I to live? it's not life--only convulsions ... isn't that
enough to make a man angry? I understand everything, you see, only
it's difficult for me to say that I can't live so ... but how I want
to live ... I don't know! They heal those sick people yonder, and give
them every attention--... but I'm healthy, and if my soul aches, am I
any the less valuable than they? Just think of it--I'm worse off than
a cholera patient.... I have convulsions in my heart--that's what the
trouble is!... And you shriek at me! Do you think I'm a wild beast?
A drunkard, and--that's the end of it? Ekh you ... you woman! you
wooden...."

He spoke quietly and persuasively, but she did not hear his speech
well, busy as she was in reviewing the past.

"Now you won't speak.. said Gríshka, lending an ear to something new
and powerful which was springing up within him.--"And why do you remain
silent? What do you want?"

"I want nothing from you!"--exclaimed Matréna ...--"Why do you hammer
away at me? Why do you torture me? What do you want?"

"What? Why ... that, of course..."

But Orlóff became conscious that he could not tell his wife exactly
what he wanted,--that everything should immediately become clear, so
to speak, both to him and to her. He comprehended that something had
formed between them which could not be removed by any words whatever ...

Then a wild anger flashed up suddenly and vividly within him.
Flourishing his arm, he dealt his wife a blow with his fist on the nape
of her neck, and roared, like a wild beast:

"What are you about, you witch, hey? Why are you playing? I'll kill
you, you carrion!"

The blow drove her, face down, upon the table, but she instantly sprang
to her feet, and, looking straight in her husband's face, with a gaze
of hatred, she said firmly, loudly and curtly:

"Beat away!"

"Shut up!"

"Beat! Well?"

"Akh, you devil!"

"Ho, Grigóry, there's been enough of that. I won't have any more of
it...."

"Shut up!"

"I won't allow you to jeer at me...."

He gnashed his teeth, and retreated from her a pace--perhaps with the
object of hitting her more conveniently.

But, at that moment, the door opened, and Doctor Yáshtchenko made his
appearance on the threshold.

"Wha-at's the meaning of this? Where are you, hey? What sort of a
performance are you going through with?"

His face was stem and astounded. Orlóff was not in the slightest degree
abashed at the sight of him, and he even bowed to him, saying:

"It's--.. disinfection between husband and wife."

And he laughed convulsively in the doctor's face.

"Why didn't you present yourself for duty?"--shouted the doctor
sharply, incensed by the laugh.

Gríshka shrugged his shoulders, and calmly declared:

"I was busy ... about my own affairs...."

"So ... yes! And who was making that row here last night?"

"We...."

"You? Very good.... You behave yourselves in domestic fashion ... you
prowl about without leave...."

"We're not serfs, so...."

"Silence! You've turned this into a dram-shop ... you beasts! I'll show
you where you are!"

A flood of wild daring, of passionate longing to overturn everything,
to tear the confusion out of his hunted soul, overwhelmed Gríshka, in a
burning tide. It seemed to him that he would now do something unusual,
and, at the same time, deliver his dark soul from the entanglements
which now held it in bondage. He shuddered, felt an agreeable sensation
of cold in his heart, and turning to the doctor with a sort of cat-like
grimace, he said:

"Don't you bother your gullet, don't yell.... I know where I am--in the
exterminating house!"

"Wha-at? What did you say?"--the astonished doctor bent toward him.

Gríshka understood that he had uttered a savage word, but he did not
cool down, for all that, but waxed all the hotter.

"Never mind, it will pass off! Digest that!... Matréna! Get ready to
go!"

"No, my dear fellow, stop! You must answer me...." uttered the doctor,
with ominous composure.--"You scoundrel, I'll give it to you for
this...."

Gríshka stared point-blank at him, and began to talk, with the
sensation that he was leaping off somewhere, and with every leap he
breathed more and more freely.

"Don't you shout, Andréi Stepánovitch ... don't swear.... You think
that, because there's cholera, you can order me about. 'Tis a vain
dream.... That you cure people, nobody needs to be told.--And what
I said about extermination was, of course, an idle word, and I was
angry.... But don't you yell so much, all the same...."

"No, you lie!"--said the doctor calmly.... "I'll give you a lesson ...
hey, there, come hither!"

People were already standing in the corridor.... Gríshka screwed up his
eyes, and set his teeth.

"No, I'm not lying, and I'm not afraid ... but if you want to give me a
lesson, I'll tell you for your convenience."

"We-ell? Say it...."

"I'll go to the town, and I'll spread the news: 'My lads! Do you know
how they cure the cholera?'"

"Wha-at?"--and the doctor opened his eyes widely.

"So when we had that disinfection there with limination ...."

"What are you saying, devil take you!"--cried the doctor in a dull
tone.--Irritation had given way in him to amazement in the presence
of that young fellow whom he had known as an industrious, far from
unintelligent workman, and who now, no one knew why, was foolishly and
stupidly running his neck into the noose....

"What nonsense are you chattering, you fool?"

"Fool!"--rang like an echo through Gríshka's whole being. He understood
that this verdict was just, and he became all the more angry.

"What am I saying? I know ... I don't care ...." he said, with wildly
flashing eyes....--"Now I understand why the like of me never cares
... and it's utterly useless for us to restrain ourselves in our
feelings.... Matréna, get ready!"

"I won't go!" announced Matréna firmly.

The doctor stared at them with round eyes, and rubbed his brow,
comprehending nothing.

"You're ... either a drunken man or a crazy man! Do you understand what
you are doing?" Gríshka would not, could not yield. In reply to the
doctor, he said, ironically:

"And how do you understand it? What are you doing? Disinfection, ha,
ha! You heal the sick ... while the well people die with the narrowness
of their life.... Matréna! I'll smash your pate! Go...."

"I won't go with you!"

She was pale, and unnaturally motionless, but her eyes gazed firmly
and coldly into her husband's face ... Gríshka, despite all his heroic
courage, turned away from her, and hanging his head, made no reply.

"Faugh!" and the doctor spat.--"The devil himself couldn't make out
the meaning of this.... Here you! Begone! Take yourself off, and be
thankful that I haven't been severe with you ... you ought to be
arrested ... you blockhead! Get out!"

Grigóry glanced, in silence, at the doctor, and then dropped his head
again. He would have felt better if they had thrashed him, or even
sent him to the police-station.... But the doctor was a kind man, and
perceived that Orlóff was almost irresponsible.

"For the last time, I ask you, will you go?" Gríshka hoarsely asked his
wife.

"No, I will not go,"--she answered, and bent down a little, as though
in expectation of a blow.

Gríshka waved his hand.

"Well ... the devil take the whole lot of you!--And what the devil do I
want you for, anyway?"

"You're a savage blockhead," began the doctor, argumentatively.

"Don't you bark!" shouted Gríshka.--"Well, you cursed trollop, I'm
going! I think we shall never see each other again ... but perhaps we
shall ... that will be as I choose! But if we do meet again--it won't
be good for you, I warn you!"

And Orlóff moved toward the door.

"Good-bye ... tragedian!..." said the doctor sardonically, when Gríshka
came on a level with him.

Grigóry halted, and raising his mournful flashing eyes to him, he said
in a repressed, low tone:

"Don't you touch me ... don't wind the spring up tight ... it has
unwound, and hasn't hit anybody ... so let it go at that."

He picked up his cap from the floor, stuck it on his head, bristled up,
and went out, without even glancing at his wife.

The doctor gazed searchingly at her. She stood before him pale, with an
insensible sort of face.--The doctor nodded his head in the direction
of Grigóry, and asked her:

"What is the matter with him?"

"I don't know...."

"Hm.... And where will he go now?"

"On a drunken spree!"--replied Mrs. Orlóff firmly.

The doctor frowned and went away.

Matréna looked out of the window. The figure of a man was moving
swiftly along, in the evening twilight, through wind and rain, from the
barracks to the town. The figure was alone, in the midst of the wet,
gray plain ... The face of Matréna Orlóff turned still paler, she went
into a corner, fell on her knees, and began to pray, zealously executing
ground-reverences,[18] sighing out her petitions in a passionate
whisper, and rubbing her breast and her throat with hands which
trembled with emotion.

[18] That is--touching the forehead to the floor.--Translator.

*

One day I was inspecting the trade-school in N.... My guide was a
well-known man, one of its founders. He conducted me over this model
school, and explained things to me:

"As you see, we have reason to boast.... Our nurseling is growing
and developing splendidly. The teaching corps are wonderfully well
matched. In the boot and shoe shop, for example, we have a woman
teacher, a plain female shoemaker, a peasant woman, that is to say,
even a very ordinary peasant woman, such a dainty, roguish creature,
but of irreproachable conduct.--However, devil take that side of the
matter.... Ye-es! So then, as I was saying, that shoemaker is a simple
little peasant woman, but how she does work!... how cleverly she
teaches her trade, with what love she treats the little children--it's
amazing! she's an invaluable worker.... She works for twelve rubles a
month, and lodgings at the school ... and she supports two orphans, to
hoot, on her scanty means! She's a very interesting figure, I must tell
you."

He praised the woman shoemaker so zealously that he evoked in me a
desire to make her acquaintance. This was soon arranged, and one day
Matréna Ivánovna Orlóff narrated to me the sad story of her life. For
a while, after she had separated from her husband, he gave her no
rest:--He came to her in a drunken condition, kicked up rows, spied on
her everywhere, and was merciless. She bore it patiently.

When the barracks were closed the woman doctor suggested to Matréna
Ivánovna that she should get a place at the school, and defend her
against her husband. Both undertakings were successful, and Mrs. Orlóff
entered upon a tranquil, laborious life: under the guidance of her
acquaintances, the women medical practitioners, she learned to read
and write, took two orphans out of the asylum to rear,--a girl and a
boy,--and was working away, content with herself, with grief and terror
recalling her past. She was perfectly devoted to her pupils, understood
the significance of her activity in a broad sense, discharged it in a
thoroughly competent manner, and had won general interest and sympathy
for herself among the managers of the school. But she was coughing with
a dry, suspicious cough, an ominous flush burned on her sunken cheeks,
and her gray eyes held much melancholy. Her married life with uneasy
Gríshka was taking effect.

But he had dropped his wife, and it was now the third year since he had
annoyed her. He sometimes made his appearance in N., but did not show
himself to Matréna. He was "on the tramp," as she defined to me his
manner of life.

I succeeded in making his acquaintance. I found him in one of the
dives of the town, and after two or three sittings, he and I became
friends. After repeating to me the story which his wife had told me, he
meditated for a little while, and then said:

"So you see, Maxím Savvátievitch, it raised me up, and then dashed me
down. So I never performed any heroic deed. Even to this day, I long to
distinguish myself in some way.... I'd like to mash up the whole earth
into dust or assemble a gang of comrades and kill off all the Jews ...
down to the very last one! Or, in general, something which would set me
up above all men, and so that I could spit on them from a height....
And say to them: 'Akh, you reptiles! Why do you live? How do you live?
You're a pack of hypocritical rascals, that's all you are!' And then,
I'd kick up my heels from above or there below, and ... they'd smash
into bits! Ye-es, so I would! Devil take it ... it's tiresome! And akh,
how tiresome and narrow life is to me!... I thought, when I got rid
of Matréshka:--'Co-ome now, Grínya,[19] sail away into freedom, the
anchor's weighed!' On the contrary, it didn't come out that way--the
channel was shallow! Stop! And I ran aground.... But I shan't dry up,
never fear! I shall display myself! How?--the devil only knows that!...
My wife? Well I consign her to all the devils! Does a man like me want
a wife?... What should I do with her ... when I feel drawn in all four
quarters at once?... I was born with uneasiness in my heart ... and
it is my fate to be a tramp! The very best position in the world is
free--and yet cramped! I've walked and ridden in all directions,... and
found no consolation.... Do I drink? Of course, and what of that? Vodka
extinguishes the heart, all the same.... And my heart bums with a great
fire.... Everything is repulsive--towns, villages, people of different
calibres ... Faugh! Can't anything better be invented? They're all down
on one another.... I'd like to choke the whole lot of them! Ekh, life,
you're the devil's great wisdom!"

[19] Another variation of Grigóry.--Translator.

The heavy door of the dram-shop where Orlóff and I were sitting, kept
opening incessantly, creaking in a voluptuous sort of way as it did so.
And the interior of the dram-shop aroused one's imagination of some
sort of wild beast's maw, which was slowly but inevitably devouring,
one after the other, the poor Russian people, the uneasy and the rest.



KONOVÁLOFF


As I carelessly ran my eye over the newspaper, it fell upon the name of
Konováloff, and as it arrested my attention, I read the following:

"Last night, Alexánder Ivánovitch Konováloff, petty burgher of the town
of Muróm, aged forty, hanged himself to the ventilator of the stove
in the general ward of the local prison. The suicide was arrested in
Pskóff, for vagrancy, and was forwarded by stages, under police escort,
to his native place. The prison authorities state that he was always
a quiet, reticent, thoughtful man. The prison doctor decided that
melancholia must be regarded as the cause which incited Konováloff to
suicide." I read this brief announcement in brevier type--it is the
custom to print notes about the destruction of insignificant people
in small type--I read it through, and reflected that I might be able
to throw a somewhat clearer light upon the cause which had led that
meditative man to go out of life, because I had known him, and, at one
time, had lived with him. Indeed, I had not even the right to remain
silent concerning him:--he was a splendid young fellow, and such as he
are not often met with on life's highway. I was eighteen years old when
I first met Konováloff. At that time, I was working in a bakery, as
assistant baker. The baker was a soldier from "the musical division,"
a terrible vódka-drinker, who frequently spoiled the dough, and when
he was drunk, was fond of playing tunes on his lips, and strumming out
various pieces with his fingers on anything that came handy. When the
proprietor of the bakery reprimanded him for having spoiled his wares,
or for being behindhand with them in the morning, he flew into a rage,
and cursed the proprietor, cursed him mercilessly, always calling his
attention, at the same time, to his musical talent.

"The dough has stood too long!"--he shouted, bristling up his long red
mustache, and making a noise with his thick lips, which were always
moist, for some reason or other.--"The crust is burned! The bread is
raw! Akh, the devil take you, you cock-eyed spectre! Was I born into
the world to do this work? Curse you and your work--I'm a musician!
Do you understand? If the viola-player got drunk, I used to play the
viola: if the hautboy man was under arrest, I blew the hautboy; if the
cornet-à-piston has fallen ill, who can take his place? Sutchkóff, I!
Glad to do my best, your Well-Born![1] Tim-tar-ram-ta-ddi! But you're a
p-peasant, _katzáp!_[2] Pay me my wages and discharge me!"

[1] The regulation reply of the soldier to an officer's greeting or
request--Translator.

[2] A nickname used by Little Russians for Great Russians--meaning,
in general "a soldier";--as the Great Russians call Little Russian
_Khokhól_ or "top-knot"--Translator.

And the proprietor, a corpulent, bloated man, with small squinting eyes
which were buried in fat, and a feminine face, stamped about the floor
with his short, fat legs, his huge body swaying heavily the while, and
roared, in a squealing voice:

"Ruiner! Destroyer! Christ-seller of a Judas! Oh Lord, why hast Thou
chastised me with such a man!" Spreading his short fingers wide apart,
he raised his hands to heaven, and all of a sudden roared loudly, in
an ear-splitting voice:--

"And what if I hand you over to the police for your mutiny?"

"Hand the servitor of the Tzar and the Fatherland over to the police?"
bellowed the soldier, and started to administer a drubbing to the
proprietor. The latter beat a retreat, spitting to one side in disgust,
snorting wrathfully and cursing. This was all that he could do--it was
summer, a season when it is extremely difficult to find a good baker in
the Vólga river-town.

Such scenes were of almost every day occurrence. The soldier drank,
spoiled the dough and played various marches and waltzes or "numbers,"
as he expressed it; the proprietor gnashed his teeth, and the result
of it all was, that I was obliged to work for two, which was not very
logical, and was very fatiguing.

And I was highly delighted when, one day, the following scene took
place between the proprietor and the soldier. "Well, soldier," said
the proprietor, making his appearance in the bakery with a beaming and
satisfied countenance, and his little eyes sparkled with a malicious
smile,--"well, soldier, puff out your lips, and play the campaign
march!"

"What's that for?!" gloomily said the soldier, who was lying on the tub
with the dough, and, as usual, was half drunk.

"Prepare to march, corporal!" said the proprietor exultantly.

"Whither?" inquired the soldier, lowering his legs off the tub, and
feeling that something was wrong.

"Wherever you like--to a Turkish woman or an English woman, as you
please."

"How am I to understand that?" shouted the soldier vehemently.

"You are to understand that I won't keep you another hour. Go upstairs,
get your wages, and take yourself off--march!"

The soldier had become accustomed to feel his strength, and the
helpless position of his master, and the latter's announcement somewhat
sobered him: he could not help understanding how difficult it would be
for him, with his knowledge of the trade, to find another place.

"Come now, you're lying!..." he said with alarm, rising to his feet.

"Get out with you,--get out...."

"Get out?"

"Clear out!"

"That means, I have worked myself out," and the soldier shook his head
sadly.... "You have sucked the blood out of me, sucked me dry, and now
you turn me out. That's clever! That's good! Akh, you ... spider!"

"I'm a spider, am I?" boiled up the proprietor.

"Yes, you are! A blood-sucking spider--that's what you are!" said the
soldier with conviction, and walked, reeling, toward the door.

The proprietor looked after him with a spiteful laugh, and his little
eyes glittered joyfully.

"Go along with you, now, and get a place with somebody! Ye-es! I've
given you such a character everywhere, my dear little dove, that
you may beg as you will--no one will take you! They won't hire you
anywhere.... I've settled your hash for you, you rotten-headed;,
stupid, infernal creature!"

"Have you already hired a new baker?" I inquired.

"A new one? No, he isn't new--he's the old one. He was my friend.
Ah, what a baker! Regular gold! But he's a drunkard also, eh, what a
drunkard! Only, he has long fits of hard drinking.... Now he'll come,
and set to work, and for three or four months he'll strain every sinew
and toil away like a bear! He'll know no sleep, no rest, and won't
stick at the wages, no matter what you give him. He'll work and sing!
He sings so, my dear fellow, that it's even impossible to listen to
him--your heart grows heavy with it. He sings, and sings--and then he
takes to drink again!"

The proprietor sighed, and waved his hand with a hopeless gesture.

"And when he starts in to drink--there's no stopping him. He drinks
until he falls ill, or has drunk himself stark naked.... Then he feels
ashamed of himself, probably, for he vanishes somewhere, like an
unclean spirit at the smell of incense.... And here he is.... Have you
really come, Lesá?"

"Yes," replied a deep, chest voice from the threshold. There, with
his shoulder propped against the jamb of the door, stood a tall,
broad-shouldered peasant, about thirty years of age. In costume, he was
a typical tramp; in face and figure, a genuine Slav--a rare specimen of
the race. He wore a red cotton shirt, incredibly dirty and tattered,
full trousers of coarse, home-made linen, and on one of his feet were
the remains of a rubber boot, while on the other was an old leather
boot-leg. His light, reddish-brown hair was tangled all over his head,
and small chips, straws and bits of paper stuck in the snarls: all
these things also adorned his luxuriant, light-reddish beard, which
covered his chest like a fan. His long, pallid, weary face was lighted
up by large, pensive blue eyes, which gazed at me with a caressing
smile. And his lips which were handsome, although a trifle pale, also
smiled beneath his reddish mustache. This smile seemed to say:

"This is the sort of fellow I am.... Don't condemn me...."

"Come in, Sashók, here's your helper," said the proprietor, rubbing his
hands, and affectionately eyeing over the mighty form of the new baker.
The latter stepped forward silently, and offered me his long hand, with
the powerful wrist of a legendary hero; we exchanged greetings; he
seated himself on the bench, stretched his legs out in front of him,
stared at them, and said to the proprietor:

"Buy me two changes of shirts, Nikola Nikítitch, and boot-slippers.[3]
And some linen for a cap."

[3] Shoes--or slippers--made from boots by cutting off the
legs.--Translator.

"You shall have them all, never fear! I have caps on hand; you shall
have shirts and trousers by this evening. Come now, set to work in the
meantime; I know you, I know what sort of a fellow you are. I don't
mean to insult you--no one can insult Konováloff ... because he never
insults anyone. Is the boss a wild beast? I have worked myself, and I
know how a radish makes the tears flow.... Well, stay here, my lads,
and I'll take myself off...."

We were left alone.

Konováloff sat on the bench and gazed about him with a smile, but
without saying a word. The bakery was located in a cellar, with a
vaulted ceiling, and its three windows were below the level of the
earth. There was not much light, and there was very little air, but,
on the other hand, there was a great deal of dampness, dirt and flour
dust. Along the walls stood long bins: one had dough on it, on another
the dough had just been mixed with yeast, the third was empty. Upon
each bin fell a dull streak of light from one of the windows. The huge
oven took up nearly one third of the bakery; beside it, on the filthy
floor, lay sacks of flour. In the oven long logs of wood were blazing
hotly, and their flame, reflected on the gray wall of the bakery,
surged and quivered, as though it were narrating some story without
sounds. The odor of fermenting dough and of humidity filled the rank
air.

The vaulted, soot-begrimed ceiling oppressed one with its weight, and
the combination of daylight and of the fire in the oven formed a sort
of vague illumination which was very trying to the eyes. Through the
windows, a dull roar poured in, and dust blew in from the street.
Konováloff surveyed everything, sighed, and turning half-way round to
me, inquired in a bored tone:

"Have you been working here long?"

I told him. Then we fell silent again, and inspected each other with
furtive, sidelong glances.

"What a jail!" he sighed.... "Shan't we go out into the street, and sit
at the gate?"

We went out to the gate, and sat down on the bench.

"We can breathe here, at least. I can't get used to this pit all at
once ... no I can't. Judge for yourself--I've just come from the
sea.... I've been working at the fishing stations on the Caspian. And,
all of a sudden, from that airy space--bang! into a hole!"

He looked at me with a melancholy smile, and ceased speaking, staring
intently at the people who passed by in carriages and on foot. In his
clear blue eyes shone much melancholy over something or other....
Twilight descended; it was stifling, noisy, dusty in the street, and
the houses cast shadows across the road. Konováloff sat with his
back resting against the wall, his arms folded across his chest, and
his fingers straying through the silky strands of his beard. I gazed
askance at his pallid, oval face, and thought: What sort of a man is
this? But I could not make up my mind to enter into conversation with
him, because he was my master, and also because he inspired me with a
strange sort of respect for him.

His brow was furrowed with three slender wrinkles, but sometimes they
were smoothed out, and disappeared, and I very much wished to know what
the man was thinking about.

"Come along: it must be time to set the third batch of dough to rise.
You mix the second, and, in the meantime, I'll set it, and then we'll
knead out the loaves."

When he and I had "weighed out" and placed in the pans one mountain
of dough, mixed another, and set the leavened dough for a third--we
sat down to drink tea, and then Konováloff, putting his hand into the
breast of his shirt, asked me:

"Do you know how to read? Here then, read this,"--and he thrust into
my hand a small smeared and crumpled sheet of paper.

"Dear Sásha,"[4] I read. "I salute and kiss you from afar. Things are
going badly with me, and life is tiresome, I can hardly wait for the
day when I shall elope with you, or shall live in your company; this
accursed life has bored me to the last degree, although, at first, I
liked it. You will understand that well, and I, also, had begun to
understand it, when I became acquainted with you. Please write to me as
soon as you can; I want very much to receive a little note from you.
And meanwhile, farewell until we meet again, but not good-bye, you
dear bearded friend of my soul. I will not write you any reproaches,
although I'm angry with you, because you are a pig--you went away
without taking leave of me. Nevertheless, you have never been anything
but good to me: you were the first of that sort, and I shall never
forget it. Can't you make an effort, Sásha, to have me excluded? The
girls told you that I would run away from you, if I were excluded; but
that is all nonsense, and a downright lie: If you would only take pity
on me, I would be like a dog to you, after my exclusion. It would be
so easy for you to do that, you know, but it's very difficult for me.
When you were with me, I wept because I was forced to live like that,
although I did not tell you so. Until we meet again. Your Kapitólina."

[4] Lesá and Sashók, as well as Sásha and Sáshka are diminutives of
Alexander.--Translator.

Konováloff took the letter from me, and began thoughtfully to turn it
about between the fingers of one hand, while he twisted his beard with
the other.

"And do you know how to write?"

"Yes."

"And have you ink?"

"Yes."

"Write a letter to her, for Christ's sake, won't you? She must consider
me a rascal, she must be thinking that I have forgotten her.... Write!"

"Very well. This very minute, if you like.... Who is she?"

"A woman of the town...? You can see for your-self--she writes about
her exclusion. That means, that I am to promise the police that I will
marry her, and then they will give her back her passport, and will take
her little book away from her, and from that time forth, she will be
free! Do you catch on?"

Half an hour later a touching epistle to her was ready.

"Come now, read it, and let's see how it has turned out?" begged
Konováloff impatiently.

This is the way it had turned out:

"Kápa! You must not think that I am a scoundrel, and that I have
forgotten you. No, I have not forgotten you, but I have simply been
on a spree, and have drunk up all my money. Now I have hired out in
a place again, and to-morrow I shall get the boss to advance me some
money, and I will send it to Philip, and he will have you excluded.
There will be money enough for your journey. And meanwhile--farewell
until we meet. Your Alexánder."

"Hm...." said Konováloff, scratching his head,--"you ain't much of a
writer. You haven't put any compassion into your letter, nor any tears.
And then, again--I asked you to curse me with all sorts of words, and
you haven't written a bit of that..

"But why should I?"

"So that she may see that I feel ashamed in her presence, that I
understand that I am to blame toward her. And what have you done!
You've written it just exactly as though you were scattering peas! Now,
you mix in some tears!"

I was compelled to mix some tears into the letter, which I managed
to do successfully. Konováloff was satisfied, and laying his hand
on my shoulder, he said cordially:

"There, that's stunning! Thanks! Evidently, you're a good lad ... which
means, that you and I are going to get along well together."

I had no doubt on that point, and asked him to tell me about Kapitólina.

"Kapitólina? She's a young girl--quite a child. She was the daughter
of a merchant in Vyátka.... Well, and she went astray. The longer it
lasted, the worse it got, and she went into one of those houses ... you
know? I came--and saw that she was still a mere child! Good Lord, I
said to myself, is it possible? Well, so I made acquaintance with her.
She began to cry. Says I: 'Never mind, have patience! I'll get you out
of this--only wait!' And I had everything ready, that is to say, the
money and all ... And, all of a sudden, I went on a spree, and found
myself in Astrakhan. A certain man told her where I was, and she wrote
me that letter, to Astrakhan...."

"Well, and what are you going to do about it,"--I asked him, "do you
intend to marry her?"

"Marry her,--how can I? If I have one of my drinking bouts, what sort
of a bridegroom would I be? No, this is what I mean to do. I'll get her
released--and then, she may go wherever she likes. She'll find a place
for herself ... perhaps she'll turn out a decent woman."

"She says she wants to live with you...."

"Oh, she's only fooling. They're all like that--all the women.... I
know them very well indeed. I've had a lot of different sorts. One,
even, was a merchant's wife, and rich! I was a groom in a circus, and
she cast her eyes on me. 'Come,' says she,--'and be my coachman.' About
that time I had got sick of the circus, so I consented, and went. Well,
and so.... She began to make up to me. They had a house, horses,
servants--they lived like the nobility. Her husband was a short, fat
man, after the style of our boss, but she was as thin and flexible
as a cat, and fiery. When she used to embrace me, and kiss me on the
lips--hot coals seemed to be sprinkled on my heart. And I'd get all
of a tremble, and even feel frightened. She used to kiss me, and cry
all the time; even her shoulders heaved. I would ask her: 'What ails
you, Vyérunka?' And she would say: 'You're a child, Sásha; you don't
understand anything.' She was stunning.... And she spoke the truth when
she said I didn't understand anything--I was pretty much of a fool, I
know. What I do--I don't understand. How I live--I don't think!"

He ceased speaking, and gazed at me with widely-opened eyes; in them
shone something which was not exactly fright, nor yet exactly a
query,--something troubled and meditative, which rendered his handsome
face still more melancholy and more beautiful ...

"Well, and how did you end matters with the merchant's wife?" I asked.

"Well, you see, sadness descends upon me. Such sadness, I must tell
you, brother, that at those times I simply can't live. It's as though
I were the only man on all the earth, and there were no living thing
anywhere except myself. And at such times, everything is repugnant
to me--every earthly thing; and I become a burden to myself, and
all people are a burden to me; if all of them were to fall dead, I
wouldn't give a sigh! It must be an ailment, with me. It made me take
to drinking ... before that, I did not drink. Well, so this sadness
came upon me, and I said to her, to that merchant's wife: 'Véra
Mikháilovna! Let me go, I can't stand it any longer!'-'What,' says
she, 'are you tired of me?'--And she laughed, you know, in such an
ugly way.--'No,' says I, 'I'm not tired of you, but I'm no match
for myself.' At first she didn't understand me, and she even began to
scream, and to rail.... Afterwards, she did understand. She dropped
her head, and said:'Well, then, go!...' and burst out crying. Her eyes
were black, and she was all swarthy. Her hair was black, also, and
curly. She was not of the merchant-class by birth, but the daughter
of a state official.... Ye-es ... I was sorry for her, but I was
repulsive even to myself at that time. Why did I knuckle under to a
woman?--anybody knows why.... Of course, she found life tiresome with
such a husband. He was exactly like a sack of flour.... She cried for
a long time--she had got used to me.... I used to pet her a lot: I
used to take her in my arms, and rock her. She would fall asleep, and
I would sit and gaze at her. People are very handsome in their sleep,
they are so simple; they breathe and smile, and that's all. And then
again--when we lived at the villa in the country, she and I used to
go driving together--she loved that with all her heart. We would come
to some little nook in the forest, tie the horses, and cool ourselves
off on the grass. She would order me to lie down, then she would put
my head on her knees, and read me some little book or other. I would
listen, and listen, until I fell asleep. She read nice stories, very
nice stories. One of them I shall never forget--about dumb Gerásim,[5]
and his beloved dog. He, that dumb fellow, was a persecuted man, and no
one loved him, except his dog. People laughed at him, and all that sort
of thing, and he went straight to his dog.... It was a very pitiful
story ... yes! But the affair took place in the days of serfdom....
And his lady-mistress says to him: 'Dumb man, go drown your dog, for
he howls.'--Well, so the dumb man went.... He took a boat, and put
the dog aboard it, and set out.... At this point, I used to feel the
cold shivers run over me. Oh Lord! The sole joy on earth of a dumb
man was being killed! What sort of behavior is that? Akh--they were
wonderful tales! And really--there was this good thing about it!
There are people for whom all the world consists of one thing--a dog,
for example. And why a dog? Because there is no one else to love such
a man, but the dog loves him. It is impossible for a man to live
without some sort of love;--that's why he is given a soul, that he
may love.... She read me a great many stories. She was a splendid
woman, and I'm sorry for her this minute.... If it hadn't been for my
planet,--I wouldn't have left her until she wished it herself, or until
her husband had found out about my performances with her. She was so
caressing--first of all; that is to say, not exactly caressing, in the
way of giving presents, but, so ... caressing after the fashion of the
heart. She would kiss me and she was just the same as any other woman
... and then, such a sort of fit would come over her ... so that it
was downright astonishing what a good person she was. She would look
straight into your soul, and talk to you like a nurse or a mother.
At such times, I was just like a five-year-old boy with her. But
nevertheless, I went away from her--because of that sadness! I pined
for some other place.... 'Good-bye,' says I, 'Véra Mikháilovna, forgive
me.'--'Good-bye, Sásha,' says she. And the queer woman--she bared my
arm to the elbow, and set her teeth into it, as though it had been
meat! I came near yelling! So she almost bit out a whole piece ... my
arm ached for three weeks afterwards. And here, you see, the mark is
there yet...."

[5] Iván S. Turgéneff's famous tale: "Mumu."--Translator.

Baring his arm, as muscular as that of a hero of epic song, white and
red, he showed it to me, with an amiably melancholy smile. On the
skin of the arm, near the elbow bend, a scar was plainly visible--two
semicircles, which almost met at the tips. Konováloff looked at them,
and shook his head, with a smile.

"The queer woman!" he repeated; "she bit me by way of a keepsake."

I had heard stories in this spirit before. Every member of the
"barefoot brigade" has, in his past, a "merchants wife," or "a young
lady of the nobility," and in the case of nearly all tramps, this
merchant's wife and this well-born young lady turn out to be thoroughly
fantastic figure, through countless repetitions, almost always
combining the most contradictory physical and psychical features. If
to-day she is blue-eyed, malicious and merry, you may expect to hear
of her a week later as black-eyed, amiable and tearful. And the tramp
generally talks about her in a sceptical tone, with a mass of details
which are degrading to her. But the story narrated by Konováloff did
not arouse in me the distrust created by tales I had heard in the past.
It rang true, it contained details with which I was unfamiliar--those
readings from books, that epithet of 'boy,' as applied to the mighty
form of Konováloff.

I pictured to myself the willowy woman, sleeping in his arms, with
her head clinging close to his broad breast--it was a fine picture,
and still further convinced me as to the truth of his story. And, in
conclusion, his sad soft tone as he recalled the "merchant's wife"--was
a unique tone. The genuine tramp never speaks in that tone either about
women or about anything else--he likes to show that there is nothing on
earth which he dares not revile.

"Why don't you say something? Do you think I am lying?"--inquired
Konováloff, and, for some reason, alarm rang out in his voice. He
stretched himself out on the sacks of flour, holding a glass of tea in
one hand, and with the other stroking his beard. His blue eyes gazed
at me searchingly and inquiringly, and the wrinkles lay sharply across
his brow.... "No, you'd better believe me.... What object have I in
lying? Even supposing that the like of us tramps are great hands at
telling yarns.... It can't be done my friend:--if a man has never
had anything good in life, surely he harms no one by making up with
himself some tale or other, and telling it as a fact. He keeps on
telling it, and comes to believe it himself, as though it had actually
happened--he believes it, and--well, it is agreeable to him. Many
folks live by that. You can't prevent it.... But I have told you the
truth, as it happened, so I have told it to you.... Is there anything
peculiar about that? A woman lives along, and gets bored, and the women
are all good-for-nothing creatures.... Supposing I am a coachman, that
makes no difference to a woman, because coachmen and gentlemen and
officers are all men.... And all are pigs in her sight, all seek one
and the same thing, and each one tries to take as much as he can, and
to pay as little as possible. And the simple man is even better, more
conscientious than the rest. And I'm very simple ... the women all
understand that very well about me,... they see that I will not offend
them--that is to say, I won't ... do ... I won't jeer at them. When a
woman sins, there's nothing she fears so much as a sneer, ridicule.
They are more shame-faced than we are. We take our own, and, as like as
not, go to the bazaar and tell about it, and begin to brag--'see here,
look how we have cheated one fool!' ... But a woman has nowhere to go,
no one will reckon her sin as a dashing deed. My good fellow, even the
most abandoned of them have more shame than we have."

I listened to him and thought: Was it possible that this man was true
to himself in making all these speeches which did not fit in with him
at all?

But he, thoughtfully riveting upon me his eyes, clear as those of a
child, went on talking, and astounded me more and more by his remarks.

It seemed to me that I was enveloped by something in the nature of a
fog, a warm fog, which cleansed my heart, already, even at that time,
greatly soiled with the mire of life.

The wood in the oven had burned down, and the bright pile of coals cast
a rosy glow on the wall of the bakery ... it quivered ...

Through the window peeped a tiny speck of the blue sky with two stars
in it. One of them--the large one--gleamed like an emerald, the other,
not far from it, was barely visible.

A week passed, and Konováloff and I had become friends. "You, also, are
a simple lad! That's good!"--he said to me, with a broad smile, as he
slapped me on the shoulder with his huge hand.

He worked artistically. It was a sight worth seeing--how he exercised
over a lump of dough weighing two hundred and fifty pounds, rolling it
about in the mould, or how, bent over the bin, he kneaded, his mighty
arms plunged to the elbows in the springy mass, which squeaked under
his fingers of steel.

At first, when I saw how swiftly he hurled into the oven the raw
loaves, which I could hardly toss fast enough from the moulds to his
shovel,--I was afraid that he would pile them one on top of the other;
but when he had baked three ovenfuls, and not one of the one hundred
and twenty loaves--superb, rosy, tall--showed any sign of a "crush," I
understood that I had to deal with an artist in his own line. He loved
to work, became absorbed in his business, grew depressed when the oven
baked badly, or when the dough rose slowly, waxed angry and reviled
the proprietor if the latter bought damp flour, and was as merry and
contented as a child if the loaves came out of the oven properly
rounded, tall, well-risen, with a moderately rosy hue, and thin, crisp
crust. He was accustomed to take the most successful loaf from the
shovel into his hand, and tossing it from palm to palm, scorching
himself in the operation, laugh gaily, as he said to me:

"Eh, what a beauty you and I have made...."

And I found it pleasant to watch this gigantic child, who put his whole
soul into his work, as every man, in every sort of work should do.

One day I asked him:

"Sásha, I am told that you sing well?"

He frowned and dropped his head.

"I do sing.... Only, I do it by fits and starts in streaks.... When
I begin to get sad, I shall begin to sing ... And if I begin to sing
... I shall begin to grieve. You'd better hold your tongue about that,
don't tease me. Don't you sing yourself? Akh, you ... what a piece you
are! You'd ... better wait for me ... and whistle, in the meanwhile.
Then we will both sing together. Is it a bargain?"

Of course, I assented, and whistled, when I wanted to sing. But
sometimes I broke off, and began to hum beneath my breath, as I kneaded
the dough, and rolled out the loaves. Konováloff listened to me, moved
his lips, and after a while, reminded me of my promise. And sometimes
he shouted roughly at me:

"Drop that! Don't groan!"

One day I took a small book out of my trunk, and, propping myself in
the window, I began to read.

Konováloff was dozing, stretched out on the bin with the doughy but
the rustle of the leaves, as I turned them over above his ear made him
open his eyes.

"What's that little book about?"

It was "The Villagers of Podlípovo."[5]

[5] Podlípovtzui"--a well-known heart-rending story, by
Ryeshétnikoff.--Translator.

"Read it aloud, won't you?" he entreated.

So I began to read, as I sat on the window-sill, and he sat up on the
bin, and leaning his head against my knees, he listened.--From time
to time I glanced across the book at his face, and met his eyes--they
cling to my memory yet--widely opened, intent, full of profound
attention ...

And his mouth, also, was half open, revealing two rows of white, even
teeth. His uplifted brows, the curving wrinkles on his lofty forehead,
his arms, with which he clasped his knees, his whole motionless,
attentive attitude warmed me up, and I endeavored, as intelligibly
and as picturesquely as possible, to narrate to him the sad story of
Sysóika and Pilá.

At last I got tired, and closed the book.

"Is that all?" Konováloff asked me, in a whisper.

"Less than half."

"Will you read it all aloud?"

"If you like."

"Ekh!"--He clasped his head in his hands, and began to rock back and
forth, as he sat on the board. He wanted to say something, he opened
and shut his mouth, sighing like a pair of bellows, and, for some
reason or other, puckering up his eyes. I had not expected this result,
and did not understand its meaning.

"How you read that!"--he began in a whisper.--"In different voices ...
How alive they all are. Apróska! She fairly squeals! Pilá ... what
fools! It made me feel ridiculous to hear that ... but I restrained
myself. What comes next? Where are they going? Lord God! How true
to nature it is! Why, they are just like real people ... the most
genuine sort of peasants.... And exactly as though they were alive,
and their voices, and their faces.... Listen, Maxím! Let's put the
bread in the oven, and then you go on reading!" We put the bread in the
oven, prepared another batch of loaves, and for another hour and forty
minutes I continued to read the book. Then there was another pause--the
bread was done, we took out the loaves, put in others, mixed some more
dough, set some more to rise ... and all this was done with feverish
haste, and almost in silence.

Konováloff, with brows knitted in a frown, flung rare and monosyllabic
orders at me, and hurried, hurried ...

Toward morning, we had finished the book, and I felt as though my
tongue had turned to wood.

Seated astride of a sack of flour, Konováloff stared me straight in the
face with strange eyes, and maintained silence, with his arms propped
on his knees.

"Is it good?" I asked.

He shook his head, puckered up his eyes, and again--for some reason in
a whisper--began:

"Who wrote that?"--In his eyes gleamed amazement not to be expressed in
words, and his face suddenly flushed with ardent feeling.

I told him who had written the book.

"Well--he's a man, that he is! How he grasped them! Didn't he? It's
downright terrible. It grips your heart, that is, it nips your
soul--it's so full of life. Well, now, what about him, that writer,
what happened to him for that?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, for example, did they give him a reward or anything there?"

"But what did they need to reward him for?" I inquired, with crafty
intent.

"For what? The book ... in the nature of a police document. As soon as
they read it ... they consider: Pilá, Sysóika ... what sort of folks
were they? Everybody feels sorry for them.... They're unenlightened,
innocent folks ... What a life they had! Well, and...."

Konováloff looked at me in confusion, and timidly asserted:

"Some sort of orders ought to be given about that. Surely, they are
human beings, and they ought to be supported."

In reply to this, I delivered a whole lecture to him ... But, alas! it
did not produce the effect on which I had reckoned.

Konováloff fell into meditation, drooped his head, rocked his whole
body about, and began to sigh, not interfering with a single word in
my attempt to play the part of a professor. I got tired, at last, and
paused.

Konováloff raised his head and gazed sorrowfully at me.

"And so they did not give him anything?" he inquired.

"Whom?" I asked, having entirely forgotten Ryeshétnikoff.

"The author?"

I was vexed. I made no reply, conscious that this vexation
was begetting in me irritation toward my peculiar audience,
which, evidently, did not regard himself as competent to settle
world-problems, and was inclined to interest himself in the fate of a
man rather than in the fates of humanity.

Konováloff, without waiting for my answer, took the book in his hands,
carefully turned it over, opened it, shut it, and putting it back in
its place, heaved a deep sigh.

"How wonderful it all is, oh Lord!" he said, in an undertone .... "A
man has written a book?... just paper and a few little dots, that's
all.... He wrote it ... and ... is he dead?"

"Yes," I answered curtly.

At that time, I could not endure philosophy, and still less
metaphysics; but Konováloff, without inquiring as to my tastes, went on:

"He is dead, but the book remains, and people read it. A man looks
at it with his eyes, and utters various words. And you listen, and
understand: folks have lived in the world--Pilá, and Sysóika and
Apróska.... And you feel sorry for those folks, although you never
have seen them, and they are nothing whatever to you! There may be
thousands of live folks just like them walking along the street, and
you see them, but you don't know anything about them ... and you care
nothing about them ... they walk on, and on.... But in the book there
are none of them ... still, you are so sorry for them that your very
heart aches.... How can a man understand that?--and so the author got
no reward, and is dead? Nothing happened to him?"

I fairly exploded with rage. I told him all about the rewards of
authors....

Konováloff listened to me, his eyes starting from their sockets with
amazement, as he smacked his lips with compassion.

"A pretty state of things!" he sighed, from a full breast, and gnawing
his left mustache, he hung his head with sorrow.

Then I began to talk about the fatal influence of the dram-shop on the
life of the Russian literary man, about the great and genuine talents
which had gone to perdition through vódka--the only consolation of
their hard-working lives.

"But is it possible that such men drink?" Konováloff asked me, in a
whisper. Distrust of me, together with terror, and pity for these
people flashed in his widely-opened eyes.--"They drink! How can they ...
after they have written books, take to drink?"

In my opinion, this was an irrelevant question, and I made no reply to
it.

"Of course, they do it afterwards,...." Konováloff settled the
point.--"Men live and watch life, and suck in the bitterness of others'
lives. They must have eyes of a special sort. And hearts, also....
They gaze at life, and grow sad.... And they pour out their grief in
their books--.... But this does them no good because their hearts are
touched--and you can't burn grief out of that even with fire ... all
that is left for them to do, is to extinguish it with vódka. Well, and
so they drink.... Have I got that right?"

I agreed with him, and this seemed to give him courage.

"Well, and in all justice,"--he continued, to develop the psychology
of authors,--"they ought to be distinguished for that. Isn't that
so? Because they understand more than others, and point out divers
disorders to others. Now take me, for instance, what am I? A
barefooted, naked tramp,... a drunkard and a crack-brained fellow.
There is no justification for my life. Why do I live on the earth, and
to whom on earth is my life of any use, if you stop to consider it? I
have no home of my own, no wife, no children--and I don't even feel
the want of any. I live and grieve.... What about? I don't know. It's
somewhat as though my mother had brought me into the world without
something which all other people possess ... something which is more
necessary than anything else to a man. I have no inward guide to my
path ... do you understand? How shall I express it? I haven't got the
right sort of spark ... or force, or whatever it is, in my soul. Well,
some piece or other has been left out of me--and that's all there is to
it! You understand? So I live along, and search for that missing piece,
and 'grieve for it, but what it is--is more than I know myself...."

"Why do you say this?" I asked.

He gazed at me, holding his hand to his head the while, and a powerful
effort was written on his face--the labor of a thought which is seeking
for itself a form.

"Why? Because--of the disorder of life.... That is to say ... here am
I living on, we'll say, and there's no place for me to go ... nothing
that I can hang on to ... and such a life is confusion."

"Well, and what comes next?" I pursued my inquiries as to the
connection between him and authors, which was incomprehensible to me.

"What next?... That's what I can't tell you.... But this is what I
think, that if some writer would cast an eye on me, then ... he might
be able to explain my life to me ... couldn't he? What do you think
about it?"

I thought I was capable myself of explaining his life to him, and
immediately set about this task, which, in my opinion, was easy and
clear. I began to discourse about conditions and surroundings, about
inequality in general, about people who are the victims of life, and
people who are life's priests.

Konováloff listened attentively. He sat opposite me, with his cheek
resting on his hand, and his large blue eyes widely opened, thoughtful
and intelligent, gradually clouded over, as with a thin mist, while
the folds lay more sharply across his forehead, and he seemed to be
holding his breath, all absorbed as he was in his desire to comprehend
my remarks.

All this was very flattering to me. With fervor I depicted to him his
life, and demonstrated to him, that he was not to blame for being what
he was; that is to say, that he, as a fact, was perfectly logical and
quite regularly founded on a long series of premises from the distant
past. He was the mournful victim of conditions, a being equal in
rights with all men, by his very nature, and reduced by a long line of
historical injustices to the degree of a social cipher. I wound up my
explanation with the remark, which I had already made several times:

"You have nothing to blame yourself for.... You have been wronged...."

He maintained silence, never taking his eyes from me; I beheld a
brilliant, kindly smile dawn in them, and waited, with impatience, to
see how he would reply to my speech.

The smile played over his lips, now he laughed affectionately, and
reaching toward me with a soft, feminine movement, he laid his hand on
my shoulder.

"How easily you talk about all that, brother! Only, whence comes your
knowledge of all these matters? Is it all from books? But you have read
a great lot of them, evidently--of books! Ekh, if I could only read
as many! But the chief point is--that you speak very compassionately.
This is the first time I have ever heard such a speech. It's wonderful!
Everybody accuses his neighbor of his bad luck, but you accuse life,
the whole order of things.

"According to you it appears that a man is not to blame, himself, for
anything whatever, but it is written in his fate that he is to be a
tramp--well, and so he is a tramp, and it's very queer about prisoners,
too: they steal because they have no work, but must eat.... How
pitiful all that is, according to your showing! You have a weak heart,
evidently!"

"Wait a bit!"--said I, "do you agree with me? Have I spoken truly?"

"You know best whether it is true or not--you can read and write.... It
is true, I suppose, if you apply it to others.... But as for me...."

"What then?"

"Well, I'm a special article.... Who's to blame if I drink? Pávelka, my
brother, doesn't drink,--he has a bakery of his own in Perm. But here
am I--I'm as good a workman as he is--but I'm a vagrant and a drunkard,
and I have no longer any standing or position in life ... Yet we are
the children of one mother. He is younger than I am. So it would appear
that there is something wrong about me.... That means, that I was
not born as a man should be born. You say yourself, that all men are
equals: a man is born, he lives out his appointed time, then he dies!
But I'm on a separate path.... And I'm not the only one--there are a
lot of us like that. We must be peculiar people, and don't fit into any
rule. We need a special account ... and special laws ... very strict
laws,--to exterminate us out of life! For we are of no use, and we
take up room in it, and stand in the way of other folks.... Who is to
blame for us?--We are, ourselves--before ourselves and before life....
Because we have no desire to live, and we have no feeling toward
ourselves.... Our mothers begot us in an unlucky hour--that's where the
trouble lies...."

I was overwhelmed by this unexpected confutation of my deductions....
He--that big man with the clear eyes of a child--set himself apart
from life in the ranks of the men who are useless in it, and therefore
subject to extermination, with so light a spirit, with such laughing
sadness, that I was positively stunned by his self-abasement, which I
had never, up to that moment, beheld in any member of the barefoot
brigade, who, as a whole, are beings torn loose from everything,
hostile to everything, and ready to try the force of their exasperated
scepticism on everyone.... I had encountered only men who threw
the blame on everything and complained of everything, persistently
thrusting themselves aside from the series of obvious facts which
obstinately confuted their personal infallibility, and who always
cast the responsibility of their bad luck on taciturn Fate, on wicked
people.... Konováloff did not blame Fate, and uttered not one word
about people. He alone was to blame for all the disorder of his
individual life, and the more persistently I endeavored to prove to
him that he was "the victim of circumstances and conditions," the more
persistently did he argue with me as to his own guilt toward himself
and toward life for his mournful lot.... This was original, and it
enraged me. But he experienced satisfaction in scourging himself; it
was with satisfaction and nothing else that his eyes beamed, when he
shouted at me, in a ringing baritone voice:

"Every man is the master of himself, and no one is to blame if I am a
scoundrel!"

In the mouth of an educated man, such remarks would not have surprised
me, for there is no ulcer which cannot be found in the tangled and
complicated psychical organism called "the intelligent man." But from
the lips of a tramp, although he was an intelligent man, amid the
scorned of fate, the naked, hungry and vicious creatures half men,
half beasts, who fill the filthy dens of the towns,--from the lips
of a tramp it was strange to hear these remarks. I was forced to the
conclusion that Konováloff really was--a special article,--but I did
not wish to admit it.

From the inner point of view, Konováloff was a typical representative,
down to the most petty detail, of the "golden horde";[6] but, alas!
the longer I inspected him, the more convinced did I become that I had
to deal with a variety which infringed upon my idea as to people who
ought, long ago, to have been accounted a class, and who thoroughly
merit attention, as hungering and thirsting in a powerful degree, as
very malicious and far from stupid....

[6] An organised band of high-grade thieves.--Translator.

Our dispute waxed hotter and hotter.

"But just wait," I shouted; "how can a man stand steady on his feet if
divers obscure powers press upon him from all sides?"

"Lean the harder!" cried my opponent loudly, growing warm, and flashing
his eyes.

"Yes, but what is one to lean against?"

"Find a point of support for yourself, and lean on it!"

"And why haven't you done that?"

"Why, don't I tell you, you queer man, that I myself am to blame for
my own life!... I didn't find my point of support! I'm seeking it, I'm
pining for it--but I can't find it!"

But we were obliged to look after the bread, so we set to work, each
continuing to demonstrate to the other the truth of his views. As a
matter of course, neither of us proved anything, and when we had
finished attending to the oven, we lay down to sleep.

Konováloff stretched himself out on the floor of the bakery, and soon
fell asleep. I lay on the sacks of flour, and looked down from above
upon his powerful, bearded figure, stretched out, in the fashion of an
epic hero, on a mat which had been thrown down near the bin. There was
an odor of hot bread, of fermented dough, of carbonic acid gas.... The
day dawned, and the gray sky peeped through the panes of the windows,
which were draped in shrouds of flour-dust. A peasant's cart rumbled
past, and the shepherd blew his horn to assemble his flock.

Konováloff snored. I watched his broad breast rise and fall, and
thought over various methods of converting him, as speedily as
possible, to my belief, but could hit upon nothing suitable, and fell
asleep.

In the morning, he and I rose, set the dough to rise, washed ourselves
and sat down on the bin to drink tea.

"Say, have you got a little book?" inquired Konováloff.

"Yes."

"Will you read it to me?"

"All right."

"That's good! Do you know what? I'll live here a month, I'll get some
money from the boss, and I'll give you half of it!"

"What for?"

"Buy some little books.... Buy some for yourself, after your own taste,
and buy me some ... about a couple. I want some about the peasants.
After the fashion of Pilá and Sysóika.... And let them be written
pathetically, you know, not to make fun of folks.... There are some
which are downright trash! Panfilka and Filátka--even with a picture in
the front--nonsense. Bureaucrats, various tales. I don't like all that
sort of thing. I didn't know there were any like that one you have."

"Do you want one about Sténka Rázin?"

"About Sténka?... Is it good?"

"Very good."

"Fetch it along!"

And soon I was reading aloud to him N. Kostomároff's "The Revolt of
Sténka Rázin" At first, this talented monograph, which is almost an
epic poem, did not please my bearded hearer.

"Why aren't there any conversations in it?" he asked, peeping into the
book. And when I explained the reason, he went so far as to yawn, and
tried to hide the yawn, but did not succeed, and he said to me, in a
confused and guilty way:

"Read away ... never mind. I didn't mean to...."

I was pleased with his delicate tact, and pretended not to have
observed anything, and that I did not, in the least, understand what he
was talking about.

But in proportion as the historian depicted, with his artistic brush,
the figure of Stepán Timoféevitch, and "the Prince of the Vólga
Volunteers" started out from the pages of the book, Konováloff became
transformed. In the beginning somewhat bored and indifferent, with
eyes veiled in indolent dreaminess,--he gradually and by degrees
imperceptible to me, presented himself to me in an astonishing, new
form. As he sat on the bin opposite me, clasping his knees in his arms,
and with his head laid upon them in such a way that his beard hid his
legs, he stared at me with greedy, strangely burning eyes from beneath
his sternly knit brows. There was not left in him a single trace of
that childlike ingenuousness which had always so surprised me in him,
and all that simplicity and feminine softness, which accorded so well
with his kindly blue eyes, were now darkened and dried up,... had
vanished somewhere. Something lion-like, fiery was contained in his
muscular figure, thus curled up in a ball. I stopped reading and gazed
at him.

"Read away,"--he said softly but impressively.

"What ails you?"

"Read!" he repeated, and there was an accent of irritation as well as
of entreaty in his tone.

I continued, casting an occasional glance at him, and noting that he
was becoming more and more inflamed. Something emanated from him which
excited and intoxicated me--a sort of glowing mist. The book, also,
exerted its influence.... And thus it was in a state of nervous tremor,
full of foreboding of something unusual, that I reached the point where
Sténka was captured.

"They captured him!" roared Konováloff.

Pain, affront, wrath, readiness to rescue Sténka resounded in his
mighty exclamation.

The sweat started out on his brow, and his eyes widened strangely. He
sprang from the bin, tall, excited, halted in front of me, laid his
hand on my shoulder, and said loudly and hastily:

"Wait! Don't read!... Tell me, what's coming next? No, stop, don't
speak! Do they execute him? Hey? Read quick, Maxím!"

One might have thought that Konováloff instead of Frólka was Rázin's
own brother. It seemed as though certain bonds of blood, unbroken and
uncongealed for the space of three centuries, united this tramp with
Sténka, and the tramp, with the full strength of his lively, mighty
body, with all the passion of his soul which was pining without "a
point of support," felt the anguish and wrath of the free falcon who
had been captured more than three hundred years before.

"Do go on reading, for Christ's sake!"

I read on, aroused and deeply moved, conscious that my heart was
beating hard, and in company with Konováloff, living over again
Sténka's anguish. And thus we came to the tortures.

Konováloff gnashed his teeth, and his blue eyes blazed like live coals.
He leaned over me from behind, and did not take his eyes from the book,
any more than I did. His breath buzzed above my ears, and blew my hair
into my eyes. I shook my head to put it out of the way. Konováloff
noticed this, and laid his heavy palm on my head.

"'Then Rázin gnashed his teeth so hard, that he spat them out on the
floor, along with the blood....'"

"Enough!--Go to the devil!" shouted Konováloff, and snatching the book
from my hand, he flung it on the floor with all his might, and dropped
down after it.

He wept, and, as he was ashamed of his tears, he bellowed in a queer
way, in order to keep from sobbing. He hid his head on his knees, and
cried, wiping his eyes on his dirty ticking trousers.

I sat in front of him, on the bin, and did not know what to say to
console him.

"Maxím!" said Konováloff, as he sat on the floor. "It's awful! Pilá ...
Sysóika. And now Sténka ... isn't it? What a fate!... And how he spit
out his teeth!... didn't he?"

And he trembled all over with emotion.

He was particularly impressed with the teeth which Sténka spit out, and
he kept referring to them, twitching his shoulders with pain as he did
so.

Both of us were like drunken men under the influence of the harsh and
poignant picture of the torture thus presented to us.

"Read it to me again, do you hear?" Konováloff entreated, picking up
the book from the floor, and handing it to me.--"And, see here now,
show me the place where it tells about the teeth?"

I showed him, and he riveted his eyes on the lines.

"So it is written: 'he spat out his teeth with the blood?' But the
letters are just like all the other letters.... O Lord! How it hurt
him, didn't it? Even his teeth.... And what will there be at the end?
The execution? Aha! Thank the Lord, they execute a man, all the same!"

He expressed his joy over the execution with so much passion, with so
much satisfaction in his eyes, that I shuddered at that compassion
which so violently desired death for the tortured Sténka.

The whole of that day passed for us in a strange sort of mist: we
talked incessantly about Sténka, recalled his life, the songs which had
been composed about him, his torments. A couple of times Konováloff
began to sing ballads, in a ringing baritone voice, and broke off
suddenly.

He and I were closer friends from that day forth.

*

I read "The Revolt of Sténka Rázin" to him several times more, "Tarás
Bulba"[7] and "Poor People."[8] My hearer was also greatly delighted
with "Tarás," but it could not obscure the vivid impression made on him
by Kostomároff's book. Konováloff did not understand Makár Dyévushkin,
and Várya. The language of Makár's letters appeared to him ridiculous,
and he bore himself sceptically toward Várya.

[7] N. V. Gógol's famous kazák epic. Tarás Bulba is an imaginary
character. The book has been translated into English by the translator
of this book.

[8] F. M. Dostoévsky's famous first book. There have been several
translations. Makár Dyévushkin and Várya are the principal--almost the
only--characters in "Poor People."

"Just look at that, she's making up to the old man! She's a sharp
one!... And he ... what a blockhead he was! But see here, Maxím, drop
that long-drawn-out thing. What is there to it? He's after her, and
she's after him.... They ruined a lot of paper ... well, off with them
to the pigs on the farm! It's neither pitiful nor funny: what was it
written for?"

I reminded him of the story about the Peasants of Podlípovo, but he did
not agree with me.

"Pilá and Sysóika--that's another pattern entirely! They are live
people, they live and struggle ... but what are these? They write
letters--they're tiresome! They're not even human beings, but just
so-so--a mere invention. Now if you were to put Tarás and Sténka
alongside of them ... Heavens! what feats they would have performed!
Then Pilá and Sysóika would have ... plucked up some spunk, I rather
think?"

He had no clear conception of time, and in his imagination, all his
beloved heroes existed contemporaneously, only--two of them dwelt in
Usólye, one among the "top-knots,"[9] on the Vólga.... I had great
difficulty in convincing him, that, had Pilá and Sysóika "gone down,"
following the Káma down-stream, they would not have met Sténka, and
that if Sténka had "kept on through the kazáks of the Don and the
Top-knots," he would not have found Bulba there.[10]

[9] The popular nickname, among the Great Russians, for the Little
Russians,--_kókhly_. Possibly the term is derived from the fact that
the famous kazáks of the Ukráina (Little Russia), known to history as
the Zaporózhian kazáks--or the kazáks dwelling "below the rapids" of
the Dnyépr river--shaved their heads, and wore only a top-knot of hair.

[10] Sténka Rázin, a kazák of the Don, turned pirate, ravaged the
Caspian Sea, the shores of Persia, and the Vólga, capturing towns and
stirring up a revolt against the government He was executed in Moscow,
in 1671. He is famous, not only in history, but also in legends, in
Epic Songs and in ballads.

Konováloff was chagrined when he came to understand the matter. I
tried to treat him to the history of Pugatchóff's revolt,[11] as I
was desirous of observing how he would bear himself toward Emélka.
Konováloff rejected Pugatchóff.

[11] Emelyan Pugatchóff, a kazák deserter and Old Ritualist (1778),
gave himself out as the Emperor Peter III. With the avowed intention of
marching to St. Petersburg, deposing "his wife" (the Empress Katherine
II.), and placing "his son" (afterwards the Emperor Paul I.) on the
throne, he raised a serious revolt in the Vólga provinces. It was
put down, with difficulty, by troops, and Pugatchóff was captured and
executed.--Translator.

"Akh, the branded rascal--just look at him! He sheltered himself
under the Tzar's name, and got up a revolution.... How many folks he
ruined, the dog!... Sténka?--that's quite another matter, brother.
But Pugatchóff, was just a nit, and nothing more. A mighty important
mess of victuals, truly! Aren't there any little books in the style of
Sténka? Hunt them up ... But fling away that calf of a Makár--he isn't
interesting. You'd better read over again, how they executed Sténka."

On holidays Konováloff and I went off to the river, or the meadows. We
took with us a little vódka, some bread, a book, and set off early in
the morning "for the free air," as Konováloff called these excursions.

We were especially fond of going to "the glass factory." For some
reason or other, this name had been given to a building which stood at
a short distance from the town, in the fields. It was a three-story,
stone house, with a ruined roof and broken window-frames, and cellars
which were filled, all summer long, with liquid, foul-smelling mud.
Greenish-gray in hue, half-ruined, as though it were sinking into the
earth, it gazed from the fields at the town with the dark eye-sockets
of its distorted windows, and seemed a blind singer of religious
ballads, hardly treated by Fate, who had been ejected from the city
limits, and was in a very pitiful and dying condition. Year after
year, the water, at its flood, undermined this house, but it stood
indestructibly firm; covered all over, from roof to foundation, with a
green crust of mould, guarded by puddles against frequent visits from
the police,--it stood on, and, although it had no roof, it afforded
shelter to various shady and homeless individuals.

There were always a great many of them in it; tattered, half-starved,
afraid of the light of the sun, they dwelt in this ruin like owls,
and Konováloff and I were always welcome guests among them, because
both he and I, when we left the bakery, each took with us a loaf of
bread, and on our way, purchased a measure of vódka, and a whole tray
of "hot-stuff "--liver, lights, heart and tripe. At a cost of two or
three rubles we provided a very filling treat for "the glass folks," as
Konováloff called them.

They repaid us for these treats by stories, wherein terrible,
soul-rending truth was fantastically intermingled with the most
ingenuous falsehood. Every tale presented itself to us like a bit
of lace, in which the black threads predominated--they represented
the truth;--and in which threads of brilliant hues were to be met
with--representing the falsehood. This lace fell over brain and heart,
and oppressed them both painfully, compressing them with its cruel,
torturing varied pattern. "The glass folks" loved us, after their own
fashion, and almost always were my attentive auditors. One day I read
to them: "For whom is Life in Russia Good?"[12], and together with
homeric laughter, I heard from them many valuable opinions on that
subject.

[12] By Nekrasoff.--Translator.

Every man, who has fought with life, who has been vanquished by it, and
who is suffering in the pitiless captivity of its mire, is more of a
philosopher than even Schopenhauer himself, because an abstract thought
never moulds itself in such an accurate and picturesque form, as does
the thought which is directly squeezed out of a man by suffering.
The knowledge of life possessed by these people whom life had flung
overboard, astonished me by its profundity, and I listened eagerly to
their stories, while Konováloff listened to them for the purpose of
arguing against the philosophy of the story-teller, and of dragging me
into a dispute with himself.

After listening to a story of life and fall, narrated by some
fantastically-unclothed fellow, with the physiognomy of a man, with
whom one must be strictly on his guard,--after listening to such
a story, which always bore the character of a justificatory and
defensive statement, Konováloff smiled thoughtfully and shook his head
negatively. This was noticed because it was done openly.

"Don't you believe me, Lesá?" exclaimed the storyteller in distress.

"Yes, I believe you ... How is it possible not to believe a man? And
even if you perceive that he is lying, believe him, that is to say,
listen, and try to understand why he lies? Sometimes a lie shows up
a man better than the truth does.... And besides, what truth can any
of us tell about ourselves? The nastiest.... But one can invent fine
things.... Isn't that true?"

"Yes...." assented the story-teller.... "But what were you shaking your
head at?"

"What about? Because you reason irregularly.... You tell your story
in such a way that a fellow is bound to understand that you yourself
didn't make your life what it is, but that your neighbors and various
passers-by made it. But where were you all that time? And why didn't
you offer any resistance to your fate? And the way it turns out is,
that we all of us complain about people, yet we are people ourselves,
and, of course, others may, also, complain of us. Other people
interfere with our lives--and that means that we, also, have interfered
with other people's lives, isn't that so? Well, then, how is that to be
explained?"

"Such a life must be constructed so that everyone will have plenty
of room in it, and no one will interfere with the rest," they
sententiously propounded to Konováloff in argument.

"But who ought to construct life?" he retorted triumphantly, and,
fearing that they would prove too sharp for him in answering his
question, he immediately answered it himself:--"We! We ourselves! And
how shall we construct life, if we don't understand it, and our life
has not been a success? So it turns out, brethren, that our sole prop
is--ourselves! Well, and we all know what we are like...."

They replied to him, defending themselves, but he obstinately repeated
his opinion: "no one was in anywise to blame concerning them, but each
one of us is responsible to himself for himself."

It was extremely difficult to drive him from his stand on this
proposition, and it was extremely difficult for these people to
master his point of view. On the one hand, in his presentation of the
matter, they appeared fully competent to construct a free life; on the
other--they appeared as weak, puny, decidedly incapable of anything,
except making complaints of one another.

It very frequently happened that these discussions, begun at mid-day,
ended about midnight, and Konováloff and I returned from "the glass
folks" through the darkness and in mud up to our knees.

One day we came near being drowned in a quagmire; on another, we fell
into the hands of the police round-up, and spent the night in the
station-house, together with a couple of score of assorted friends
from the "glass factory," who turned out to be suspicious characters,
from the point of view of the police. Sometimes we did not care to
philosophize, and then we went far a-field, in the meadows beyond the
river, where there were tiny lakes, abounding in small fish, which
entered them at the season of flood-water. Among the bushes, on the
shore of one of these lakes, we lighted a bonfire, which we required
merely for the purpose of augmenting the beauty of the surroundings,
and read a book, or talked about life. And sometimes Konováloff would
meditatively suggest:

"Maxím! Let's stare at the sky!"

We lay down on our backs, and gazed at the fathomless blue abyss above
us. At first, we heard the rustle of wings around us, and the plashing
of the water in the lake, we felt the earth under us, and around us
everything that was there at the moment.... Later on, the blue sky
seemed to be gradually drawing us toward it, enfolded our consciousness
in mist, we lost the sensation of existence, and, as though tearing
ourselves away from the earth, we seemed to be floating in the waste
expanse of the heavens, finding ourselves in a semi-conscious,
contemplative condition, and endeavoring not to disturb it either by a
word or a movement.

Thus we would lie for several hours at a stretch, and return home to
our work, renewed in body and soul, and refreshed by this union with
Nature.

Konováloff loved Nature with a profound, inexpressible love, which was
indicated only by the soft gleam of his eyes, and always, when he was
in the fields or on the river, he was completely permeated by a certain
pacifically-affectionate mood, which still further heightened his
resemblance to a little child. Sometimes he said, with a deep sigh, as
he gazed at the sky:

"Ekh ... How good it is!"

And in this exclamation there was always more meaning and feeling than
in the rhetorical figures of many poets, who go into raptures more for
the sake of maintaining their reputations as persons with an exquisite
sense of the beautiful, than out of genuine adoration before the
unspeakably caressing beauty of Nature ...

Like everything else, poetry loses its holy beauty and directness, when
it is turned into a profession.

*

Two months passed, day by day, in the course of which Konováloff and
I discussed many things and read a great deal. I read the "Revolt of
Sténka" so often to him, that he could narrate it fluently, in his own
words, page after page, from beginning to end.

This book had become for him what a fairy-tale sometimes becomes to an
impressionable child. He called the objects with which he had to deal
by the names of its heroes, and when, one day, one of the bread-moulds
fell from the shelf and broke, he exclaimed, sadly and angrily:

"Akh you, voevóda!"[13]

[13] Sometimes used to mean: "the governor of a province or town";
sometimes, "the commander of an army."--Translator.

Unsuccessful bread he nicknamed "Frólka," the yeast he christened
"Sténka's thoughts"; Sténka himself was the synonym for everything
exceptional, huge, unhappy, unsuccessful.

During all this time he hardly alluded to Kapitólina, whose letter I
had read, and to whom I had composed a reply, on the first day of our
acquaintance.

I knew that Konováloff had sent her money, to the care of a certain
Philip, with a request that the latter would act as surety for her to
the police, but no answer arrived, either from Philip or from the girl.

And all of a sudden, one evening when Konováloff and I were preparing
to place the bread in the oven, the door of the bakery opened, and
from out of the darkness of the damp ante-room a low-pitched, feminine
voice, which was both timid and irritable, exclaimed:

"Excuse me...."

"Whom do you want?" I inquired, while Konováloff, dropping the shovel
at his feet, plucked at his beard in confusion.

"Does baker Konováloff work here?"

She now stood on the threshold, and the light of the hanging-lamp fell
directly upon her head--on her white woollen kerchief. From beneath
the kerchief gazed around, pretty, snub-nosed little face, with plump
cheeks, and dimples in them from the smile of her full, red lips.

"Yes!" I answered her.

"Yes, yes!" Konováloff exulted suddenly and very noisily, it seemed,
throwing aside his shovel, and hastening forward, with huge strides,
toward the visitor.

"Sáshenka!" she sighed deeply, as she advanced to meet him.

They embraced, Konováloff bending low to reach her.

"Well, what now? How did you get here? Have you been here long? Hey?
So it's you! Are you free? That's good! Now do you see? I told you
... your way is open before you again! Go ahead boldly!"--Konováloff
hastily explained himself to her, as he still stood on the threshold,
without removing his arms, which encircled her neck and waist.

"Maxím ... you fight it out alone to-day, my boy, while I attend to the
ladies' department.... Where are you stopping, Kápa?"

"I came straight here to you...."

"He-e-ere? You can't possibly stay here--we bake bread here, and ...
it's utterly impossible! Our boss is the strictest sort of a man. I
must settle you for the night somewhere ... in lodgings, say. Come on!"

And they departed. I remained to struggle with the bread, and had no
expectation of seeing Konováloff before the next morning; but, to
my no small surprise, he made his appearance three hours later. My
astonishment was still further increased, when, on glancing at him,
with the anticipation of seeing the radiance of joy in his face, I
perceived that it was merely cross, bored, and fatigued.

"What's the matter with you?" I asked, intensely interested in this
mood of my friend, which was so unsuited to the event.

"Nothing," he replied dejectedly, and, after a pause, he spat with
considerable ferocity.

"No, but all the same?..." I persisted.

"Well, what business is it of yours?" he retorted wearily, stretching
himself at full length on the bin.--"All the same ... all the same....
All the same--she's a woman! There you have the whole thing!"

I had great difficulty in getting an explanation out of him, and, at
last, he gave it to me, approximately in the following words:

"I say--she's a woman! And if I hadn't been a fool, nothing would have
come of it. You understand? Well.... Now you say; a woman is also a
human being! Of course, she walks on her hind paws, doesn't eat grass,
talks with words, laughs ... in short, she isn't a beast. But, all
the same, she's no company for the likes of us men.... Ye-es! Why?
Well ... I don't know! I feel that she doesn't fit in, but why--is
more than I can understand.... Now, there she--Kapitólina,--this is
the line she takes up:--'I want to live with you'--that means with
me--'as your wife. I want,' says she, 'to be your watch-dog.... 'It's
perfectly absurd! Come, now, my dear girl,' says I, 'you're a fool;
just consider, what will it be like to live with me? In the first
place, there's my tippling; in the second place, I have no home; in the
third, I am a vagabond, and I can't live in one place....' and so forth
and so on, with a lot more, says I to her. But she--doesn't care a fig
about my tippling. 'All men who work at trades are bitter drunkards,'
says she, 'yet they have wives; you'll get a house,' says she, 'when
you have a wife, and then you won't run off anywhere....' Says I:
'Kápa, I can't possibly bring myself to do it, because I know that I
don't understand how to lead such a life, and I can't learn how.' And
says she, 'Then I'll jump into the river!' And says I to her: 'You
ffo-oo-oll!' Then she took to lashing me with her tongue, and didn't
she let it loose! 'Akh, you meddler, you brazen-faced monster, you
deceiver, you long-legged devil!' says she.... And she started in to
rail at me, and rail ... she simply seemed to be in such a rage at me,
that I came near taking to my heels. Then she began to cry. She cried
and upbraided me: 'Why did you take me out of that place,' says she,
'if you didn't want me? Why did you lure me away from that place,' says
she, 'and where am I to go now?' says she. 'You red-headed fool,' says
she.... Faugh! Well, and what am I to do with her now?"

"Well, and why did you get her away from that place, as a matter of
fact?" I inquired.

"Why? What a queer fellow you are! Because I was sorry for her,
apparently! You see, a man gets stuck in the mud ... and he feels sorry
for every passer-by. But set up a wife, and all the rest of it ... not
much! I won't consent to that. What sort of a family man would I make?
And if I could stick to that, I would have married long ago. What good
chances I have had! I might have married money.. and all that sort of
thing. But if this sort of thing is beyond my power, how am I to do it?
She's crying ... that's not a good thing ... of course.... But what am
I to do about it? I can't help it!"

He went so far as to shake his head in confirmation of his plaintive "I
can't." He rose from the bin, and ruffling his beard and his hair with
both hands, he began to stride about the bakery with drooping head, and
spitting in disgust.

"Maxím!" he began, in an entreating, disconcerted way, "couldn't you go
to her, sort of tell her the why and how of it ... hey? Do go, that's a
good fellow!"

"What am I to say to her?"

"Tell her the whole truth--Say 'He just can't do it. It isn't the right
thing for him to do ...' And see here, this is what you can say to her
... tell her ... 'there is something the matter with him.'"

"Is that the truth?" I laughed.

"We-ell ... no, it isn't the truth.... But it's a good excuse, isn't
it? Akh, devil take you! What a mess a wife is! Isn't that so? And I
never thought of such a thing, not even one little minute. Come, now,
what am I to do with a wife?"

He flourished his hands with so much perplexity and terror as he said
this, that it was clear he absolutely did not know what to do with
a wife! And, despite the comicality of his statement of this whole
affair, its dramatic side made me do some hard thinking over the
situation of my comrade and of this girl. Meanwhile, he continued to
stalk about the bakery, and talk to himself, as it were.

"And she doesn't please me now, it's awful how repulsive she is to me!
She's just sucking me in, and dragging me down somewhere, exactly like
a bottomless bog. A nice husband you've picked out for yourself! You're
not very clever, but you're a crafty girl."

This was the instinct of the vagabond beginning to speak in him,
aroused by the feeling of eternal striving after his freedom, which had
been assailed.

"No, you won't catch me with that sort of worm, I'm too big a fish for
that!" he exclaimed vauntingly.--"This is the way I'll take it, yes
... and, after all, what of it?"--And, coming to a halt in the middle
of the bakery, he sighed, and fell into thought. I watched the play
of expression on his excited countenance, and tried to divine what
conclusion he had arrived at.

"Maxím! Hey, there, let's be off for the Kubán!"

I had not expected this. I had certain literary--pedagogical designs
on him: I cherished the hope of teaching him to read and write, and of
imparting to him all that I knew myself at that time. It would have
been curious to observe how this experiment would turn out.... He had
given me his word not to move from the spot for the whole summer; this
had lightened my task, and now, all of a sudden ...

"Now you are talking nonsense!" I said to him, somewhat disconcerted.

"Well, what else is there for me to do?" he cried.

I began to tell him that, in all probability, Kapitólina's designs on
him were not so decidedly serious as he imagined, and that he must
watch and wait.

And, as it turned out, he had not so very long to wait.

We were sitting on the floor, with our backs to the windows, and
chatting. It was almost midnight, and an hour and a half or two hours
had elapsed since Konováloff's return. All at once, the crash of
breaking glass rang out behind us, and a pretty heavy stone thundered
noisily down upon the floor beside us. We both sprang to our feet in
affright, and rushed to the window.

"I missed fire!" screamed a shrill voice through the opening.--"My aim
was bad! If it hadn't been for that...."

"C-cco-ome 'long!" bellowed a fierce bass voice.--"C-cco-ome'l-llong,
and I'll settle him ... later on!"

A despairing, hysterical, and drunken laugh, shrill and
nerve-splitting, floated in from the street through the shattered
window.

"It's she!" said Konováloff, sorrowfully.

All I had been able to descry, so far, was a pair of legs hanging from
the sidewalk into the opening before the window. There they dangled and
bobbed about in a queer fashion, the heels striking against the brick
wall, as though in search of a support.

"C-co-ome'long, now!" jabbered the fierce bass voice.

"Let me go! Don't drag me, give me a chance to ease my heart. Good-bye,
Sáshka! Good-bye...." An unprintable curse followed these words.

On approaching closer to the window, I caught sight of Kapitólina.
Bending down very low, with her hands propped on the sidewalk, she
was trying to look into the bakery, and her dishevelled hair lay
in disorder over her shoulders and bosom. The white kerchief was
pushed on one side, the bodice of her gown was tom. Kapitólina was
horribly drunk, and was reeling from side to side, hiccoughing,
cursing, screaming hysterically, trembling all over, her garments all
dishevelled, her face red, intoxicated, drenched with tears.

Over her leaned the tall figure of a man, and he, resting one hand on
her shoulder, and the other against the wall of the house, kept on
roaring:

"C-cco-ome'long!" ...

"Sáshka! You have ruined me ... remember that! Curse you, you
red-headed devil! May you never behold an hour of God's sunshine! I did
hope ... I should reform ... you jeered at me, you gallow's-bird ...
all right! Let's make up! Ah!... He has hid himself! Shame on you, you
cursed ugly mug! ... Sásha ... dearest...."

"I haven't hid myself," said Konováloff, in a deep, thick voice,
approaching the window and climbing up on a bin.--"I'm not hiding ...
but there's no use in your going on like this ... I certainly meant
kindly by you; it will be a good thing, I thought, but you have rushed
off wildly, in the most utterly absurd way...."

"Sáshka! Can you kill me?"

"Why did you get drunk? Don't you know what would have happened ...
to-morrow?" ...

"Sáshka! Sáshka! Drown me!"

"Sto-o-op that! C-co-ome'long!"

"You scound-rrrel! Why did you pretend to be a good man?"

"What's all this noise, hey? Who are you?"

The whistle of the night-watchman interposed in this dialogue, drowned
it, then subsided.

"Why did I trust you, you devil!..." sobbed the girl under the window.

Then her legs suddenly quivered, flashed upward in haste, and vanished
in the gloom. A dull sound of voices and uproar rang out.

"I won't go to the station-house! Sá-ásha!" shrieked the girl
plaintively.

Feet trampled noisily along the pavement.

Whistles, a dull roaring, yells.

"Sá-ásha! Dear man!"

It appeared as though someone were being mercilessly tortured.... All
these noises retreated from us, grew fainter, duller, and died away,
like a nightmare. Stunned, crushed by this scene, which had been
enacted with astonishing swiftness, Konováloff and I stared into the
street through the darkness, and could not recover ourselves from the
weeping, roaring, curses, shouts of the police, groans of anguish. I
recalled individual sounds, and could hardly persuade myself that it
had all actually taken place. This brief but painful drama had come to
an end with terrible rapidity.

"That's all.. said Konováloff, with peculiar gentleness and simplicity,
after listening a while longer in silence in the dark night, which
gazed silently and sternly in at him through the window.

"How she gave it to me!..." he continued with amazement, after
the lapse of several seconds, retaining his former attitude on
the bin, kneeling and supporting his hands on the slope of the
window-sill.--"She has got into the hands of the police ... drunk ...
in company with some devil or other. She made up her mind quick!" He
heaved a deep sigh, descended from the bin, seated himself on the sacks
of flour, with his head clasped in his hands, rocked himself to and
fro, and asked me, in an undertone:

"Tell me, Maxím, what was it that took place there just now?... That is
to say, what share have I in it all now?"

I told him. It was all his affair, all the way through. First of all,
one must understand what he wants to do, and when he begins a thing, he
must set before himself its probable termination. He had not understood
this in the least, did not know it, and was thoroughly to blame in
every point. I was incensed at him--Kapitólina's groans and cries, that
drunken "C-come'long!" ... all these things still rang in my ears, and
I did not spare my comrade.

He listened to me with bowed head, and when I had finished, he raised
it, and on his countenance I read alarm and amazement.

"There you have it!" he exclaimed ... "That's clever! Well, and ...
what now? Hey? How is it? What am I to do with her?"

In the tone of his words there was so much purely-childish in the
sincerity of his confession of his fault toward the girl, and so
much helpless astonishment, that I immediately felt sorry for my
comrade, and reflected that, possibly, I had spoken very sharply and
dictatorially to him.

"And why did I move her from that place?" said Konováloff,
regretfully.--"Ekhma! She must be angry with me now ... for now I
have.... I'll go there, to the police-station, and I'll try ... I'll
see her--and all the rest of it. I'll say to her ... something or
other.... Shall I go?"

I remarked that not much was likely to come of his seeing her again.
What could he say to her? Moreover, intoxicated as she was, she was,
probably, fast asleep by this time.

But he fortified himself in his idea.

"I'll go, just wait. All the same, I wish her well ... indeed I do. And
what sort of people are they for her? I'll go.... Here, you, just ...
I'll be back before long."

And putting on his cap, he hastily quitted the bakery, without even
donning the boot-slippers, of which he was, generally, so vain.

I finished my work and lay down to sleep, but when I awoke in the
morning, and, according to my wont, cast a glance at the place where
Konováloff slept, he was not yet there.

He did not make his appearance until toward evening, when he presented
himself gloomy, dishevelled, with harsh lines on his brow, and a sort
of mist over his blue eyes. Without looking at me, he stepped up to the
bins, to see what I had been doing, and then lay down, in silence, upon
the floor.

"Well, did you see her?" I asked.

"That's what I went for."

"Well, what happened?"

"Nothing."

It was plain that he did not wish to talk. Assuming that this mood
of his would not last long, I did not bother him with questions. And
all that day he maintained silence, only flinging at me curt remarks
bearing on the work, when it was absolutely necessary, striding about
the bakery with drooping head, and still with the same beclouded eyes
with which he had arrived. Something seemed to have been extinguished
within him; he worked slowly and languidly, as though held in bondage
by his thoughts. At night, when we had already placed the last batch
of loaves in the oven, and had not gone to sleep, for fear of their
getting over-done, he asked me:

"Come, now, read me something about Sténka."

As the description of the tortures stirred him up more than anything
else, I began to read that passage to him. He listened, stretched out
motionless upon the floor, breast upward, and stared unwinkingly at the
smoke-begrimed vaults of the ceiling.

"Sténka died. So they set one man free," said Konováloff slowly.--"And
yet, in those days, a man could live. Life was free. There was
somewhere to go, a man could divert his spirit. Now we have silence,
and peaceableness ... order ... if you look at it so, from one side,
life has now even become perfectly peaceful. Books, reading and
writing.... And, nevertheless, a man lives without protection, and
there is no sort of guardianship over him. He sins in a forbidden
way, but it is impossible not to sin.... For there is order in the
streets, but in the soul there is--confusion. And nobody can understand
anybody."

"Sásha! On what terms are you with Kapitólina?" I asked.

"Hey?" He bristled up.--"With Kápa? Enough!" ... He waved his hand with
decision.

"That means--you have made an end of it?"

"I? No--she herself has made an end of it."

"How?"

"Very simply. She insisted on her point of view, and wouldn't see any
others whatever.... Just as before. Only, formerly, she did not drink,
and now she has taken to drinking.... Take the bread out while I get
some sleep."

Silence reigned in the bakery. The lamp smoked, the oven-door cracked
from time to time, and the crusts of baked bread on the shelves
cracked also, in drying. In the street, opposite our windows, the
night-watchmen were chatting. And still another sound, a strange sound,
reached the ear, now and then, from the street, like a sign-board
creaking somewhere, or someone groaning.

I took out the bread, and lay down to sleep, but I could not get to
sleep, and I lent an ear to all the nocturnal sounds, as I lay there,
with half-shut eyes. All at once, I beheld Konováloff rise noiselessly
from the floor, go to the shelf, take from it Kostomároff's book, open
it, and hold it up to his eyes. His thoughtful face was clearly visible
to me, and I watched him draw his fingers along the lines, shake his
head, turn over a leaf, and again stare intently at it, and then
transfer his eyes to me. There was an odd, strained, and interrogative
expression on his pensive, sunken face, and this face--an entirely new
one to me--he kept turned toward me for a long time.

I could not restrain my curiosity, and asked him what he was doing.

"Ah, I thought you were asleep...." he answered in confusion; then
he approached me, holding the book in his hand, sat down beside me,
and said, hesitatingly: "You see, I want to ask you about something
... Isn't there some book or other about the rules of life? That is
to say, instruction as to how a man ought to live? I want to have
my deeds explained to me--which are injurious, and which are of no
consequence ... You see, I am troubled about my deeds.... A deed which
seems to me good at the start, turns out bad in the end. Now, in that
matter of Kápa" He drew a long breath, and went on with an effort, and
inquiringly: "So, won't you search, and see if there isn't a little
book about deeds? And read it to me."

Several minutes of silence.

"Maxím!" ...

"What?"

"How black Kapitólina did paint me!"

"That's all right, now.... Say no more about it...."

"Of course, it's no matter now.... But, tell me ... was she right?"

This was a ticklish question, but, on reflection, I replied to it in
the affirmative.

"There, that's just what I think myself.... She was right ... yes...."
drawled Konováloff, sadly, and fell silent.

He fidgeted about for a long time on his mat, which was laid flat on
the floor, rose to his feet several times, smoked, sat down by the
window, and again lay down.

Then I fell asleep, and when I awoke he was no longer in the bakery,
and made his appearance only toward nightfall. He turned out to be
covered all over with some sort of dust, and in his clouded eyes a
fixed expression had congealed. Flinging his cap on a shelf he heaved a
sigh, and seated himself by my side.

"Where have you been?"

"I went to take a look at Kápka."

"Well, and what of it?"

"Stop that, brother! Didn't I tell you...."

"Evidently, you can't do anything with those people," I said, in the
endeavor to dispel his mood, and began to talk about the mighty power
of habit, and about everything else which seemed appropriate to the
occasion. Konováloff remained obstinately mute, and stared at the floor.

"No, there's no u-use! It is too much for me! I'm simply a man who
spreads infection.... I have not long to live in this world.... Such a
woful, poisonous breath emanates from me. And just as soon as I go near
a man, he immediately catches the infection from me. And woe is all
that I can bring to anyone ...? For, when you come to think of it, to
whom have I ever brought any satisfaction all my life long? To no one!
And I've had dealings with a great many people, too.... I'm a rotting
man."

"That's nonsense...."

"No, it's true!..." and he nodded his head with conviction.

I tried to convince him of the contrary, but from my remarks he drew
still greater certainty as to his unfitness for life.

Altogether, he had begun to undergo a swift, sharp change from the
moment of the affair with Kápka. He became meditative, lost his
interest in books, did not work with his previous ardor, became
taciturn and reserved.

During the intervals of freedom from work, he lay down on the floor,
and stared fixedly at the vault of the ceiling. His face grew thin, his
eyes lost their clear, childlike brilliancy.

"Sásha, what's the matter with you?" I asked him.

"My drunken spree is coming on," he explained simply.--"I shall soon
let myself loose ... that is, I shall begin to gulp down vódka.... I'm
all on fire inside, already ... like a burn, you know....
The time has come ... if it hadn't been for that same story, I might
have been able to hold out a little longer. But that affair is eating
me up.... How so? I wanted to do good to a person, and--all of a
sudden--it turns out entirely wrong! Yes, brother, a rule for one's
deeds is very necessary in life.... And couldn't such a set of rules
be invented, so that all men might act like one, and everyone might
understand the others? For it is utterly impossible to live at such
a distance from one another! Don't the wise people understand, that
order must be established on the earth, and men must be brought to a
clear knowledge?... E-ekhma!"

Absorbed in these thoughts as to the indispensability of a rule of
life, he did not listen to my remarks. I even noticed that he seemed to
hold somewhat aloof from me. One day, after listening for the hundredth
time to my project for reorganizing life, he appeared to become enraged
with me.

"Well, devil take you.... I've heard of that before.... The point
doesn't lie in life, but in man. The first thing is ... the man ... do
you understand? Well, and there's nothing more to it.... So, according
to you, it appears, that until all this has been made over, man, all
the same, must remain just as he is now. Also.... No, you make him over
first, show him his way.... Let things be bright and not cramped for
him on the earth--that's what you must seek after for man. Teach him to
find his path.... But that stuff of yours is ... mere fiction."

I retorted, he waxed hot or grew surly, and exclaimed weariedly:

"Eh, do stop!"

One day it chanced that he went away in the evening, and did not return
at night to work, nor the following day. In his place, the proprietor
made his appearance with a troubled face, and announced:

"Our Leksákha has gone off on a carouse. He's sitting in 'The Little
Wall.' We must hunt up a new baker...."

"But perhaps he will recover himself?!"

"Well, of course, just wait ... I know him...."

I went to "The Little Wall"--a dram-shop cleverly constructed in a
stone wall. It was distinguished by the peculiarity that it had no
windows, and that the light fell into it through a hole in the ceiling.
As a matter of fact, it was a square pit, excavated in the ground, and
covered overhead with boards. An earthy odor forever reigned within
it, along with cheap, domestic tobacco, and wódka grown bitter with
age--a symphony of odors which made one's head ache horribly after
half an hour's sojourn among them. But the steady patrons of this
den were accustomed to it--they were shady people, with no definite
occupations--as they became accustomed to a mass of things which are
intolerable to a man. And there they stuck, for whole days at a time,
waiting for some artisan on a spree, that they might ply him with drink
until he was stark naked.

Konováloff was sitting at a large table in the centre of the dram-shop,
surrounded by a circle of six gentlemen, in fantastically-tattered
costumes, with faces like those of the heroes of Hoffmann's "Tales,"
who were listening to him with respectful and flattering attention.

They were drinking beer and vódka together, and eating something which
resembled dry lumps of clay.

"Drink, my lads, drink, each one as much as he can. I have money and
clothing.... They'll last three days in all. I'll drink up everything
and ... enough! I don't want to work any more, and I don't want to live
here."

"It's the nastiest sort of a town," remarked someone, who looked like
Sir John Falstaff.

"Work?" inquired another, with a surprised and interrogative stare at
the ceiling.--"And was man born into this world for that?"

Then all of them began to yell at once, demonstrating to Konováloff his
right to drink up everything, and even elevating that right to the rank
of an express obligation--to drink away his all precisely with them.

"Ah, Maxím," jested Konováloff, on catching sight of me.--"Come on,
now, you book-reader and pharisee, take your whack! I've jumped the
track for good, my lad. Don't say a word! I mean to drink until I
haven't a stitch of clothes to my back.... When nothing is left on my
body but the hair, I'll stop. Pitch in, too, won't you?"

He was not drunk, as yet, but his blue eyes flashed with desperate
excitement and sorrow, and his luxuriant beard, which fell over his
chest in a silky fan, kept moving to and fro, because his lower lip was
twitching with a nervous quiver. His shirt-collar was unbuttoned, tiny
drops of perspiration gleamed on his forehead, and the hand which he
stretched out to me with a glass of liquor shook.

"Drop it, Sásha, let's leave this place together," I said, laying my
hand on his shoulder.

"Drop it?...." he burst out laughing.--"If you had come to me ten
years ago and said that ... perhaps I would have dropped it. But now
it's better for me not to drop it.... What else is there for me to do?
What? You see, I feel, I feel every movement of life ... but I can't
understand anything, and I don't know my way ... I feel ... and I
drink, because there's nothing else I can do.... Have a drink!"

His companions stared at me with open disapproval, and all twelve of
their eyes surveyed my figure with anything but a conciliatory air.

The poor fellows were afraid that I would carry off Konováloff,--and
the treat, which they had been awaiting, perhaps, for a whole week.

"Brethren! This is my chum ... a learned fellow, devil take him!
Maxím, can you read to us here about Sténka?... Akh, comrades, what
books there are in the world! About Pilá?... Hey, Maxím!... Comrades,
it isn't a book, but blood and tears. But, you know, Pilá ... that's
myself? Maxím!... And Sysóika, I ... By God! How it's plain to me!"

He stared at me with widely-opened eyes, in which lay terror, and his
lower lip quivered strangely. The company, not very willingly, made
room for me at the table. I sat down beside Konováloff, just at the
moment when he seized a glass of beer and vódka, half and half.

Evidently, he wished to stun himself as speedily as possible with this
mixture. After taking a drink, he picked up from his plate a piece of
the stuff which looked like clay, but was really boiled meat, inspected
it, and flung it over his shoulder against the wall of the dram-shop.

The company grumbled in an undertone, like a pack of hungry dogs over a
bone.

"I'm a lost man.... Why did my mother and father bring me into the
world? Nothing is known ... Darkness! Stifling closeness! That's
all.... Goodbye, Maxím, if you won't drink with me. I won't go to the
bakery. I have some money owing me from the boss--get it, and give it
to me, I'll spend it for liquor.... No! Take it yourself, for books....
Will you take it? You don't want to? Then don't.... But won't you take
it? You're a pig, if that's the case.... Get away from me! G-go a-way!"

He was getting intoxicated, and his eyes gleamed fiercely. The company
was quite ready to fling me out from among them by the scruff of the
neck, and I, not caring to wait for that, took myself off.

Three hours later I was again in "The Little Wall." Konováloff's party
had been augmented by two men. They were all drunk, he--the least of
all. He was drinking with his elbows resting on the table, and staring
at the sky through the opening in the ceiling. The drunken men were
listening to him, in various attitudes, and several of them were
hiccoughing.

*

Konováloff was singing in a baritone voice, which passed into a
falsetto on the high notes, as is the case with all artisan singers.
Supporting his cheek on his hand, he was feelingly producing mournful
roulades, and his face was pale with emotion, his eyes were half
closed, his throat was curved forward. Eight drunken, senseless,
crimson faces were gazing at him, and only from time to time did the
muttering and hiccoughing make themselves heard. Konováloff's voice
vibrated and wept, and moaned, and it was a sight pitiful to the verge
of tears, to behold this magnificent fellow singing his melancholy lay.

The heavy smell, the sweaty, drunken, ugly faces, two smoking kerosene
lamps and the planks which formed the walls of the dram-shop, black
with dirt and soot, its earthen floor and the twilight which filled
that pit--all these things were gloomy and painfully fantastic. It
seemed as though men who had been buried alive were banqueting in a
sepulchre, and one of them was singing, for the last time, before his
death, and bidding farewell to the sky. Hopeless sadness, calm despair,
everlasting anguish resounded in my comrade's song.

"Is Maxím here? Do you want to come with me as my assistant officer of
bandits? Go, my friend!----" he said, breaking off his elegy, as he
offered me his hand.... "I'm all ready, my lad!... I've collected a
gang for myself ... here it is ... there'll be more men later on....
We'll find them! This is n-nothing! We'll call ourselves Pilá and
Sysóika.... And we'll feed them every day on buckwheat groats and roast
beef ... isn't that good? Will you go? Take your books with you ... you
shall read about Sténka and about other people.... Friend! Akh, I'm
disgusted, I'm disgusted ... dis-gus-ted!..."

He banged his fist down on the table, with all his might. The glasses
and bottle rattled, and the company, recovering its senses, immediately
filled the dram-shop with an uproar which was frightful in its
indecency.

"Drink, my lads!" shouted Konováloff. "Drink! Ease your hearts ... do
your uttermost!"

I retreated from them, stood in the door which opened on the street,
listened to Konováloff orating with a twisting tongue, and when he
began to sing again, I went off to the bakery, and his uncouth,
drunken song moaned and wept after me for a long time in the nocturnal
stillness.

Two days later, Konováloff vanished from the town.

I happened to encounter him again.

*

A man must have been born in cultured society, in order to find within
himself the patience necessary to live out the whole of his life in
the midst of it, and never once desire to escape somewhere, away from
the sphere of all those oppressive conventions, legalized by custom,
of petty, malicious lies, from the sphere of sickly self-conceit, of
sectarianism of ideas, of all sorts of insincerity,--in a word, from
all that vanity of vanities which chills the emotions, and perverts the
mind. I was born and reared outside that circle of society, and for
that reason--a very agreeable one to me--I cannot take in its culture
in large doses, without a downright necessity of getting out of its
framework cropping up in me, and of refreshing myself, in some measure,
after the extreme intricacy and unhealthy refinement of that existence.

In the country it is almost as intolerably tedious and dull as it is
among educated people. The best thing one can do is to betake himself
to the dives of the towns, where, although everything is filthy, it is
still simple and sincere, or to set out for a walk over the fields and
roads of his native land, which is extremely curious, affords great
refreshment, and requires no outfit except good legs with plenty of
endurance.

Five years ago I undertook precisely that sort of a trip, and as I
tramped across holy Russia, without any definite plan of march, I
chanced to reach Feodósia. At that time they were beginning to build
the jetty there, and, in the expectation of earning a little money for
my journey, I betook myself to the spot where construction was under
way.

Being desirous of taking a look at the work first, as a picture, I
climbed a hill and seated myself there, gazing down upon the boundless,
mighty sea, and the tiny men who were forging fetters for it.

An extensive picture of man's labor was spread out before me:--the
whole rocky shore along the bay was dug up, there were holes and
piles of stone and lumber everywhere, wheelbarrows, strips of iron,
pile-drivers, and some other constructions of beams, and among all
these things men were hastening to and fro in every direction. After
having ripped up the mountain with dynamite, they were breaking it into
small pieces with pickaxes, clearing a space for a line of railway,
they were mixing cement in vast mortar-pits, and making out of it
stones almost a fathom in cubic measurement, lowering them into the
sea, erecting upon them a rampart against the titanic strength of its
turbulent waves. They seemed as tiny as worms against the background
of the dark-brown hill, disfigured by their hands, and like worms
they swarmed busily about among the heaps of rubbish, and bits of
wood in fragment of stone dust, and in the sultry heat, reaching to
thirty degrees[14] of the southern day. The chaos around them, and
the red-hot sky above them, imparted to them the appearance of being
engaged in burrowing into the hill, trying to escape into its bosom
from the fervor of the sun and the melancholy picture of destruction
which surrounded them.

In the suffocating air hung a mighty moaning murmur and uproar, the
blows of masons' hammers on stone, the wheels of the barrows screeched
dolefully, iron pile-drivers descended upon the wood of the piles, the
ballad of "The Little Oaken Cudgel" wailed out, the axes tapped away
as they rough-hewed the beams, and the dark, and gray, bustling little
figures of men shouted in all tones.

In one spot, a cluster of them, loudly chanting "heave-ho!", were
handling a huge fragment of rock, endeavoring to move it from its
resting-place; in another spot, a heavy beam was being raised, and the
men were shouting as they strained:

"Ca-a-atch ho-old!"--And the mountain, furrowed with cracks, repeated
dully: "Hold-old-old!"

[14] Réaumur. Feodósia is on the shore of the Black Sea, in the Crimea.
30° Réau. = 84° Fahrenheit.--Translator.

Along a broken line of boards, flung down here and there, moved a
long file of men, bending low over their barrows loaded with stone,
and coming slowly to meet them, with empty barrows, was another file,
who were dragging out one minute of rest into two.... By one of the
pile-drivers stood a dense, motley-hued throng of men, and one of them
was singing in a long-drawn, plaintive voice:

    "Ee-ekhma, comrades,'tis awfully hot
    Ee-ekh! On us no one has pity!
    O-oi there, little oaken cu-ud ge-el,
                   He-eave-ho-o!"

The throng hummed mightily, as they hauled away on the cables, and the
piece of cast-iron, flying up through the pipe of the pile-driver, fell
thence, giving out a dull, groaning sound, and the whole pile-driver
quivered.

On every spot of the open space between the mountain and the sea tiny
gray people hurried to and fro, filling the air with their shouts,
with dust, and the sour odor of man. Among them overseers were walking
about, clad in white duck coats with metal buttons, which shone in
the sun like someone's cold eyes. Over them were the cloudless,
mercilessly-hot heaven, volumes of dust and waves of sounds--the
symphony of toil, the only music which does not afford delight.

The sea stretched out to the misty horizon, and softly plashed its
transparent billows against the strand, so full of sound and movement.
All gleaming in the sunlight, it seemed to be smiling, with the
good-natured smile of a Gulliver, conscious that, if he so wished,
with one movement he could cause all the work of the Lilliputians to
disappear.

There it lay, dazzling the eyes with its radiance--great, powerful,
kind, and its mighty breath blew upon the beach, refreshing the weary
men who were toiling to put a restraint upon the freedom of its waves,
which now were so gently and musically caressing the disfigured shore.
It seemed to feel sorry for them:--its centuries of existence had
taught it to understand, that those who build are not the ones who
cherish evil designs against it; it long ago found out that they are
only slaves,-that their part is to wrestle with the elements face to
face. And in this struggle, the vengeance of the elements awaits them.
All they do is to build, they toil on forever, their sweat and blood
are the cement of all the constructions on the earth; but they receive
nothing for this, though they yield up all their forces to the eternal
propensity to construct--a propensity which creates marvels on the
earth, but, nevertheless, gives men no blood, and too little bread.
They also are elementary forces, and that is why the sea gazes, not
angrily but graciously, upon their labors from which they derive no
profit. These gray little worms, who have thus excavated the mountain,
are just the same thing as its drops, which are the first to fall upon
the cold and inaccessible cliffs of the shore, in the eternal effort of
the sea to extend its boundaries, and the first to perish as they are
dashed in fragments against these crags. In the mass, too, these drops
are nearly related to it, since they are exactly like the sea, as
mighty as it, as inclined to destruction, so soon as the breath of the
storm is wafted over them. In days of yore the sea also was acquainted
with the slaves, who erected pyramids in the desert, and the slaves of
Xerxes, that ridiculous man, who undertook to chastise the sea with
three hundred lashes, because it had destroyed his toy bridges. Slaves
have always been exactly alike, they have always been submissive, they
have always been ill-fed, and they have always accomplished the great
and the marvellous, sometimes enriching those who have set them to
work, most frequently cursing them, rarely rising up in revolt against
their masters ...

And, smiling with the calm smile of a Titan who is conscious of his
strength, the sea fanned with its vivifying breath the earth, that
Titan which is still spiritually blind, and enslaved and wofully
riddled, instead of aspiring to affinity with heaven. The waves ran
softly up the beach, sprinkled with a throng of men, engaged in
constructing a stone barrier to their eternal motion, and as they ran
they sang their ringing, gracious song about the past, about everything
which, in the course of the ages, they have beheld on the shores of
earth....

Among the laborers there were certain strange, spare, bronze figures,
in scarlet turbans, in fezzes, in short blue jackets, and in trousers
which were tight about the lower leg, but with full seats. These, as
I afterward learned, were Turks from Anatolia. Their guttural speech
mingled with the slow, drawling utterance of the men from Vyátka, with
the strong, quick phrases of the Bulgarians, with the soft dialect of
the Little Russians.

In Russia people were dying of starvation, and the famine had driven
hither representatives of nearly all the provinces which had been
overtaken by this disaster. They had separated into little groups,
in the endeavor of the natives of each place to cling together, and
only the cosmopolitan tramps were immediately discernible by their
independent aspect, and costumes, and their peculiar turn of speech,
which was that of men who still remained under the dominion of the
soil, having only temporarily severed their connection with it, who had
been torn from it by hunger, and had not yet forgotten it. They were in
all the groups: both among the Vyátkans and among the Little Russians
they felt themselves at home, but the majority of them were assembled
round the pile-driver, because the work there was light, in comparison
with the work of the barrow-men and of the diggers.

When I approached them, they were standing with their hands released
from a hawser, waiting for the contractor to repair something connected
with the pulley of the pile-driver, which, probably, was "eating into"
the rope. He was poking about up aloft on the wooden tower, and every
now and then he would shout down:

"Give way!"

Then they would tug lazily at the rope.

"Stop!... Give way once more! Stop! Go ahead!"

The leader of the singing,--a young fellow, long unshaved, with a
pock-marked face and a soldierly air,--shrugged his shoulders, squinted
his eyes to one side, cleared his throat, and started up:

    "Into the earth the pile-driver rams the stake...."

The verse which followed would not pass muster with even the most
lenient censor, and evoked an unanimous burst of laughter, which,
evidently, proved that it was an impromptu, composed on the spot by
the singer, who, as his comrades laughed, twirled his mustache with the
air of an artist who is accustomed to that sort of success with his
audience.

"Go a-he-ead!" roared the contractor fiercely from the summit of the
pile-driver.--"Stop your neighing!...

"Don't gape, Mitritch,--you'll burst!"--one of the workmen warned him.

The voice was familiar to me, and somewhere or other I had seen before
that tall, broad-shouldered figure, with the oval face, and large,
blue eyes. Was it Konováloff? But Konováloff had not the scar running
from the right temple to the bridge of the nose, which intersected the
lofty brow of this young fellow; Konováloff's hair was of a lighter
hue, and did not crisp in such small curls as this fellow's; Konováloff
had a handsome, broad beard, but this man was clean-shaven as to his
chin, and wore a thick mustache, whose ends drooped downward, in Little
Russian fashion. Yet, nevertheless, there was something about him which
I knew well. I made up my mind to enter into conversation with him, in
particular, as the person to whom I should apply, in order to "get a
job," and assumed a waiting attitude, until they should have finished
driving the pile.

"O-o-okh! O-o-okh!"--the crowd heaved a mighty sigh as they squatted
down, hauled away on the ropes, and again swiftly straightened
themselves up, as though on the point of tearing themselves from the
ground, and taking flight through the air. The pile-driver steamed and
quivered, above the heads of the crowd rose their bare, sun-burned,
hairy arms, hauling in unison on the rope; their muscles swelled out
like wens, but the piece of cast-iron, twenty puds in weight,[15]
flew upwards to a constantly lessening height, and its blow upon the
wood sounded more and more faintly. Anyone watching this work might
have thought that this was a throng of idolaters, engaged in prayer,
uplifting their arms, in despair and ecstasy, to their silent God, and
bowing down before him. Their faces, bathed in sweat, dirty, strained
in expression, with dishevelled hair, which clung to their damp brows,
their light-brown necks, their shoulders quivering with intensity of
effort,--all those bodies, barely covered with tattered shirts and
trousers of motley hues, filled the air roundabout them with their
hot exhalations, and melting together in one heavy mass of muscles,
moved restlessly about in the humid atmosphere, impregnated with the
sultriness of the southland, and the dense odor of sweat.

[15] Seven hundred and twenty pounds.--Translator.

"Enough!"--shouted someone, in an angry, cracked voice.

The hands of the workmen dropped the ropes, and they hung limply down
the sides of the pile-driver, while the laborers sank down heavily,
where they stood, upon the ground, wiping away the sweat, breathing
hard, feeling of their shoulders, and filling the air with a dull
murmur, which resembled the roaring of a huge, irritated wild beast.

"Fellow-countryman!"--I addressed myself to the young fellow whom I had
picked out.

He turned indolently toward me, ran his eyes over my face, and
puckering them up, stared intently at me.

"Konováloff!"

"Hold on...." he thrust my head backward with his hand, exactly as
though he were about to seize me by the throat, and suddenly lighted up
all over with a joyful, kindly smile.

"Maxím! Akh--curse you! My friend ... hey? And so you have broken loose
from your career? You have enlisted in the barefoot brigade? Well,
that's good! Now, it's truly fine! A vagabond--and that's all there is
to it! Have you been so long? Where do you come from? Now you and I
will tramp all over the earth! What a life ... that there behind us,
isn't it? Downright misery, long drawn out; you don't live, you rot!
But I've been roaming the fair world ever since then, my boy. What
places I've been in! What air I have breathed.... No, you've improved
cleverly ... one wouldn't know you again: from your clothing, one would
think you a soldier, from your phiz, a student! Well, what do you think
of it, isn't it fine to live so ... moving from place to place? For,
you see, I remember Sténka ... and Tarás, and Pilá ... everything."

He punched me in the ribs with his fist, slapped me on the shoulder
with his broad palm, exactly as though he were preparing a beefsteak
out of me. I could not interpose a single word into the volley of his
questions, and only smiled,--very foolishly, in all probability,--as
I gazed at his kind face, which was radiant with satisfaction over
our meeting. I, also, was very glad to see him; this meeting with him
recalled to me the beginning of my life, which, undoubtedly, was better
than its continuation.

At last, I managed, somehow, to ask my old friend, whence came that
scar on his brow and those curls on his head.

"Why that, you see ... was a scrape. I undertook, with a couple of my
chums, to make my way across the Roumanian frontier; we wanted to take
a look at things in Roumania. Well, so we set out from Kalúga,--which
is a small place in Bessarábia, close to the frontier. We went
quietly on our way--by night, of course. All of a sudden: 'Halt!' The
custom-house cordon had crawled straight down on it. Well, of course,
we took to our heels! Then one insignificant little soldier hit me a
whack over the pate. He didn't strike very hard, but, nevertheless, I
lay in hospital about a month. And what an affair it was! It turned
out that the soldier was from the same part of the country as myself!
We were both Muróm men.... He was brought to the hospital, too, not
long after--a smuggler had spoiled him by sticking a knife into his
belly. We made it up between us, and got things straightened out. The
soldier asks me: 'Did I slash you?'-'It must have been you, since
you confess it.'--'I had to,' says he; 'don't you cherish a grudge,'
says he, 'that's part of our service. We thought you were travelling
with smuggled goods. Here,' says he, 'this is the way they treated
me--they ripped my belly open. It can't be helped; life is a serious
game.'--Well, and so he and I struck up a friendship. He was a good
little soldier--was Yáshka Mázin.... And my curls? Curls? The curls, my
boy, came after the typhoid fever. I've had the typhoid fever. They put
me in jail in Kishinéff, with the intention of trying me for crossing
the frontier illegally, and there I developed typhoid fever.... I
lay there and lay there with it, and came near never getting up from
it. And, in all probability, I shouldn't have recovered, only the
nurse took a great deal of pains with me. I was simply astonished, my
boy--she fussed over me as though I were a baby, and what did she care
about me? 'Márya Petróvna,' I used to say to her, 'just drop that; I'm
downright ashamed.' But she only kept laughing. She was a nice girl....
She sometimes read me soul-saving books. 'Well, now,' says I, 'aren't
there any books;' says I, 'like ...' you know the sort. She brought a
book about an English sailor, who was saved from a shipwreck on an
uninhabited island, and created a new life for himself there. It was
interesting, awfully interesting! That book pleased me greatly; I'd
have liked to go there, to him. You understand, what sort of a life it
was? An island, the sea, the sky,--you live there alone by yourself,
and you have everything and you are entirely free! There was a savage
there, too. Well, I'd have drowned the savage--what the devil should I
want him for, hey? I don't get bored all alone. Have you read any such
book?"

"Wait. Well, and how did you get out of prison?"

"They let me out. They tried me, acquitted me, and released me. It was
very simple.... See here, I won't work any more to-day, devil take it!
It's all right, I've rattled my arms round hard enough, and it's time
to stop. I have three rubles on hand, and for this half day's work I
shall get forty kopéks.[16] See what a big capital! That means that
you're to come home to where we live. We're not in the barracks, but
yonder, in the vicinity of the town ... there's a hole there, so very
convenient for human habitation.... Two of us have our quarters in it,
but my chum is ailing ... he's bothered with fever.... Well, now, you
sit here while I go to the contractor ... I'll be back soon!"

[16] About half these amounts in dollars and cents.--Translator.

He rose swiftly, and walked off just at the moment when the men who
were driving piles took hold of the ropes, and began their work. I
remained sitting on a stone, looking at the noisy bustle which reigned
around me, and at the blue-green sea. Konováloff's tall form, slipping
swiftly among the laborers, the heaps of stone, lumber, and barrows,
vanished in the distance. He walked, flourishing his hands, clad in a
blue creton blouse, which was too short and too tight for him, crash
drawers, and heavy boot-slippers. His cap of chestnut curls waved over
his huge head. From time to time he turned round, and made some sort
of signals to me with his hands. He was so entirely new, somehow, so
animated, calmly confident, amiable, and powerful. Everywhere around
him men were at work, wood was cracking, stone was being laid, barrows
were screeching dolefully, clouds of dust were rising, something fell
with a roar, and men were shouting and swearing, sighing and singing
as though they were groaning. Amid all this confusion of sounds and
movements, the handsome figure of my friend, as it retreated from it
with firm strides, constantly tacking from side to side, stood out very
sharply, and seemed to present a hint of something which explained
Konováloff.

Three hours after we met, he and I were lying in the "hole, very
convenient for human habitation." As a matter of fact, the "hole" was
extremely convenient--stone had been taken out of the mountain at some
distant period, and a large, rectangular niche had been hewn out, in
which four persons could have lodged with perfect comfort. But it was
low-studded, and over its entrance hung a block of stone, which formed
a sort of pent-house, so that, in order to get into the hole, one was
forced to lie flat on the ground in front of it, and then shove himself
in. It was seven feet in depth, but it was not necessary to crawl into
it head foremost, and, indeed, this was risky, for the block of stone
over the entrance might slide down, and completely bury us there. We
did not wish this to happen, and managed in this way: we thrust our
legs and bodies into the hole, where it was very cool, but left our
heads out in the sun, in the opening of the hole, so that if the block
of stone should take a notion to fall, it would crush only our skulls.

The sick tramp had got the whole of himself out into the sun, and lay
a couple of paces from us, so that we could hear his teeth chattering
in a paroxysm of fever. He was a long, gaunt Little Russian: "from
Piltáva, and, prehaps, from Kieff...." he told me pensively.[17]

[17] "Piltáva," for Poltáva; and "prehaps" are respectively, actual and
approximated specimens of the Little Russian pronunciation; though this
brief sentence contains a third not easily reproduced.--Translator.

"A man lives so much in the world, that it's of no consequence if he
does forget where he was born ... and what difference does it make,
anyway? It's bad enough to be born, and knowing where.... doesn't make
it any the better!"

He rolled about on the ground, in the endeavor to wrap himself as
snugly as possible in a gray overcoat, patched together out of nothing
but holes, and swore very picturesquely, when he perceived that all his
efforts were futile--he swore, but continued to wrap himself up. He had
small, black eyes, which were constantly puckered up, as though he were
inspecting something very intently.

The sun baked the backs of our necks intolerably, and Konováloff
constructed from my military cloak something in the nature of a screen,
driving sticks into the ground, and stretching my costume over them.
Still, it was stifling. From afar there was wafted to us the dull
roar of toil on the bay, but we did not see it; to the right of us,
on the shore, lay the town in heavy masses of white houses, to our
left--was the sea,--in front of us, the sea again, extending off into
immeasurable distance, where marvellous, tender colors, never before
beheld, which soothed the eye and the soul by the indescribable beauty
of their tints, were intermingled, through soft half-tones, into a
fantastic mirage.

Konováloff gazed in that direction, smiled blissfully, and said to me:

"When the sun has set, we will light up a bonfire, and boil some water
for tea: we have bread, and meat. But, in the meanwhile, would you like
a cantaloupe or a watermelon?"

With his foot he rolled a watermelon out from a corner of the hole,
pulled a knife out of his pocket, and as he operated upon the
watermelon with it, he remarked: "Every time that I am by the sea, I
keep wondering why so few people settle down near it. They would be the
better for it, because it is soothing and sort of ... good thoughts
come from it into a man's soul. But come, tell how you have been living
yourself all these years."

I began to tell him. He listened; the ailing little Russian paid no
attention whatever to us, as he roasted himself in the sun, which was
already sinking into the sea. And in the far distance, the sea was
already covered with crimson and gold, and out of it, to meet the sun,
rose clouds of a pinkish-smoke color, with soft outlines. It seemed
as though mountains with white peaks, sumptuously adorned with snow
and rosy in the rays of the sunset, were rising from the depths of the
sea. From the bay floated the mournful melody of "The Little Oaken
Cudgel," and the roar of blasts of dynamite, which were destroying the
mountain.... The rocks and inequalities of the soil in front of us cast
shadows on the ground, and these, as they imperceptibly lengthened,
crept over us.

"It's downright no good for you to haunt the towns, Maxím,"--said
Konováloff persuasively, after he had listened to my epic
narrative.--"And what is it that draws you to them? The life there is
tainted and close. There's neither air, nor space, nor anything else
that a man needs. People? What the devil do you want with them? You're
an intelligent man, you can read and write, what are people to you?
What do you need from them? And then, there are people everywhere...."

"Ehe!" interposed the Little Russian, as he writhed on the ground like
an adder.--"There are people everywhere ... lots of them; a man can't
pass to his own place without treading on their feet. Why, they are
born in countless numbers! They're like mushrooms after a shower ...
and even the gentry eat them!" He spat philosophically, and again began
to chatter his teeth.

"Well, so far as you are concerned, I say it again,"--continued
Konováloff,--"don't you live in the towns. What is there there? Nothing
but ill-health and disorder. Books? Well, I think you must have read
books enough by this time! You certainly weren't born for that....
Yes, and books are--trash! Well, buy one, and put it in your wallet,
and start out. Do you want to go to Tashként with me? Or to Samarkánd,
or where? And then we'll have a try at the Amúr--is it a bargain?
I, my boy, have made up my mind to walk over the earth in various
directions--that's the very best thing to do.... You walk along,
and you're always seeing something new.... And you don't think of
anything.... The breeze blows in your face, and it seems to drive all
sorts of dust out of the soul. You feel light-hearted and free....
Nobody interferes with you: if you feel hungry, you come to a halt, and
earn half a ruble by some sort of work; if there isn't any work, you
ask for bread, and you'll get it. In that way, you'll see a great deal
of the world, at any rate.... All sorts of beauty.... Come on!"

The sun set. The clouds over the sea darkened, the sea also grew dim,
and wafted forth a refreshing coolness. Here and there stars shone
out, the hum of toil on the bay ceased, and only now and then were
exclamations of the men, soft as sighs, borne thence to us. And when
the light breeze breathed upon us, it brought with it the melancholy
sound of the breaking of the waves against the shore.

The nocturnal gloom speedily grew more dense, and the figure of the
Little Russian, which five minutes previously had perfectly definite
outlines, now looked like nothing but an uncouth clod ...

"We ought to have a fire...." he said, coughing.

"We will...."

Konováloff pulled out a pile of chips from somewhere or other, set fire
to them with a match, and thin tongues of flame began caressingly to
lick the yellow, resinous wood. Slender streams of smoke curled through
the night air, filled with the moisture and freshness of the sea. And
everything grew quieter round about: ... life seemed to have withdrawn
from us somewhither, and its sounds melted and were extinguished in
mist. The clouds dispersed, stars began to glitter in the dark-blue
sky, and upon the velvety surface of the sea, also, faintly flickered
the tiny lights of fishing-boats, and the reflections of the stars.
The fire in front of us blossomed out, like a huge, reddish-yellow
flower.... Konováloff thrust the teapot into it, and clasping his
knees, began to stare thoughtfully into the blaze. And the Little
Russian, like a big lizard, crawled up, and lay down near it.

"People have built towns, houses, have assembled together there in
heaps, and defile the earth, sigh, crowd one another.... A nice life
that! No, this is life, this, such as we...."

"Oho!"--the Little Russian shook his head,--"if we could only manage
to get a fur coat, or a warm hut in it for the winter, we'd live like
lords...." He screwed up one eye, and looked at Konováloff, with a
laugh.

"We-ell," said the latter abashed,--"winter--is ... a thrice-accursed
time. Towns really are needed for the winter ... you can't get along
without them.... But the big towns are no good, all the same....
Why cram people into such heaps, when two or three can't get along
together?--That's what I was talking about. Of course, when you come to
think of it, there's no room for a man either in the town, or in the
steppe, or anywhere else. But it's better not to think of such things
... you can't think out anything, and you only harrow your soul...."

Up to this point I had thought that Konováloff had been changed by his
vagrant life, that the excrescences of sadness which were on his heart
during the first period of our acquaintance had fallen away from him,
like a husk, from the action of the free air which he had breathed
during those years; but the tone of his last phrase rehabilitated
before me my friend as still the same man, seeking a point of support
for himself, whom I had known before. The same rust of ignorance in the
face of life, and venom of thoughts about it, were still corroding that
powerful form, which had been born, to its misfortune, with a sensitive
heart. There are many such "meditative" people in Russian life, and
they are all more unhappy than anyone else, because the heaviness of
their meditations is augmented by the blindness of their minds. I gazed
with compassion on my friend, but he, as though confirming my thought,
exclaimed, sadly:

"I have recalled that life of ours, Maxím, and all that--took place
there. How much ground I have covered since then in my roamings,
how much, of all sorts, I have seen ... No, for me there is nothing
suitable on earth! I have not found my place!"

"Then why were you born with a neck that no yoke will fit?" inquired
the Little Russian indifferently, taking the boiling teapot out of the
fire.

"No, do you tell me,..." inquired Konováloff,--"why I can't be easy? Hey?
Why do people live on, and feel all right, busy themselves with their
affairs, have wives, children, and all the rest of it ... they complain
of life, but they are easy. And they always want to do this, that, or
the other. But I--can't. Why do things disgust me?"

"There's that man jawing,"--remarked the Little Russian in
surprise.--"Well, will you feel any the easier for your jawing?"

"That's so,..." assented Konováloff sadly.

"I always say little, but I know what I'm talking about," uttered the
stoic, with a consciousness of his own dignity, yet without ceasing to
contend with his fever.

"Let's drop that subject.... I was born, well, that means, live on, and
don't argue...." said Konováloff, this time viciously.

The Little Russian considered it necessary to add:

"And don't force yourself anywhere; the time will come when, without
your will, you must be dragged in and ground to dust ... Lie still, and
hold your tongue.... Neither our tongues nor our hands are of any help
to us...."

He articulated this, began to cough, wriggled about, and took to
spitting into the fire with exasperation. Around us everything was
obscure, curtained with a thick veil of gloom. The sky above us was
dark, also, the moon had not yet risen. We felt rather than saw the
sea--so dense was the mist in front of us. It seemed as though a black
fog had been lowered over the earth. The fire went out ...

"Let's lie down to sleep?" suggested the Little Russian.

We made our way into the "hole," and lay down, with our heads
thrust out into the open air. We were silent. Konováloff remained
motionless, as though turned to stone, in the attitude in which he lay
down. The Little Russian thrashed about incessantly, and his teeth kept
chattering. I stared, for a long while, at the smouldering coals of the
fire: at first brilliant and large, the coals gradually grew smaller,
became covered with ashes, and disappeared beneath them. And soon
nothing was left of the fire, except the warm odor. I gazed and thought:

"We are all of us like that.... The point is, to blaze up as brightly
as possible!"

Three days later I took leave of Konováloff. I was going to the Kubán,
he did not wish to go. But we both parted with the conviction that we
should meet again on earth.

It has not come to pass....



THE KHAN AND HIS SON


"... In the Crimea there was a Khan Mosolaïma el Asvab, and he had a
son, Tolaïk Alhalla...."

With his back propped against the brilliant light-brown trunk of an
arbutus-tree, a blind beggar, a Tatár, began, in these words, one of
the ancient legends of the peninsula, which is rich in its memories,
and round about the storyteller, on stone fragments of the palace of
the khans, destroyed by time, sat a group of Tatárs in gay-colored
kaftans and flat caps embroidered with gold. It was evening, and the
sun was sinking softly into the sea; its red rays penetrated the dark
mass of verdure around the ruins, and fell in brilliant spots upon
the stones, overgrown with moss, enmeshed in the clinging greenery of
the ivy. The breeze rustled in a clump of aged plane-trees, and their
leaves fluttered as though brooks of water, invisible to the eye, were
rippling through the air.

The voice of the blind beggar was weak, and trembled, but his stony
face expressed in its wrinkles nothing except repose; the words he had
learned by heart flowed on, one after the other, and before the hearers
rose up a picture of past days, rich in the power of emotion.

"The Khan was old," said the blind man, "but he had a great many women
in his harem. And they loved the old man, because he still had a good
deal of strength and fire, and his caresses soothed and burned, and
women will always love those who know how to caress strongly, be the
man a gray-beard, or even if he have wrinkles on his countenance--for
there is beauty in strength, but not in a soft skin and a ruddy cheek.

"They all loved the Khan, but he loved a kazák-prisoner maid, from
the steppes of the Dnyépr, and always liked more to fondle her than
the other women of his harem, his great harem, where there were three
hundred women from divers lands, and they were all as beautiful as the
flowers of spring, and they all lived well. Many were the sweet and
dainty viands which the Khan ordered to be prepared for them, and he
always permitted them to dance and play whenever they desired to do
so..."

"But his kazák he often summoned to his own quarters in the tower, from
which the sea was visible, and where he had everything for the kazák
girl that a woman can want, that her life might be merry: sweet wine,
and various fabrics, and gold, and precious stones of all colors, and
music, and rare birds from distant countries, and the fiery caresses of
the amorous Khan. In this tower he amused himself with her for whole
days together, resting from the cares of his life, and knowing that
his son Alhalla would not lower the glory of the Khan, as he galloped
like a wolf over the Russian steppes, always returning thence with rich
booty, with fresh women, with fresh glory, leaving there, behind him,
terror and ashes, corpses and blood.

"Once he, Alhalla, returned from a raid on the Russians, and many
festivals were arranged in his honor; all the murzas of the island
assembled at them, and there were banquets and games, and they fired
arrows from their bows into the eyes of the prisoners, testing their
strength of arm, and again they drank, lauding the valor of Alhalla,
the terror of enemies, the mainstay of the Khanate. And the old Khan
rejoiced exceedingly at the glory of his son.--It was good for him,
that old man, to behold in his son such a dashing warrior, and to know
that when he, the old man, came to die, the Khanate would be in stout
hands.

"It was good for him to know that, and so, being desirous to show his
son the strength of his love, he said to him, in the presence of all
the murzas and beys there, at the feast, beaker in hand, he said:

"I Thou art a good son, Alhalla! Glory be to Allah, and glorified be
the name of his prophet!'

"And all glorified the name of the prophet in a chorus of mighty
voices. Then the Khan said:

"'Great is Allah! Already, during my lifetime, he has renewed my youth
in my gallant son, and now, with my aged eyes, I perceive that when
the sun shall be hidden from them,--and when the worms shall devour my
breast,--I shall still live on in my son! Great is Allah, and Mahomet
is his true prophet! I have a good son, his arm is strong, and his
heart is bold, and his mind is clear.... What wilt thou take from the
hand of thy father, Alhalla? Tell me, and I will give thee everything,
according to thy desire.'

"And the sound of the old Khan's voice had not yet died away when
Tolaïk Alhalla rose to his feet, and said, with flashing eyes, black as
the sea by night and blazing like the eyes of the mountain eagle:

"'Give me the Prussian prisoner, my sovereign father."

"The Khan spake not--for a space he said no word, for so long as was
required to crush the shudder in his heart,--and, after this pause, he
said, boldly and firmly:

"'Take her! Let us finish the feast, and then thou shalt take her.'

"Gallant Alhalla flushed all over, his eagle eyes flashed with the
greatness of his joy; he rose to his full height, and said to his
father-Khan:

"'I know what thou dost give me, sovereign father! I know ... I am thy
slave--thy son. Take my blood, a drop an hour--twenty deaths will I die
for thee!'

"'I require nothing!' said the Khan, and bowed his gray head, crowned
with the glory of long years and many feats, upon his breast.

"Speedily did they finish the feast, and the two went silently, side by
side, from the palace to the harem.

"The night was dark, and neither moon nor stars were visible for the
clouds which covered the heaven like a thick carpet.

"Long did the father and son walk through the darkness, and now the
Khan el Asvab spake:

"'Day by day my life is dying out, and my old heart beats more and more
feebly, and less and still ever less is there of fire in my breast.
The fervent caresses of the kazák woman have been the light and warmth
of my life.... Tell me, Tolaïk, tell me, is she so necessary to thee?
Take a hundred, take all my wives, save only her!...'

"Tolaïk Alhalla made no reply, but sighed.

"'How many days are left to me? Few are my days on earth.... She is
the last joy of my life,--that Russian girl. She knows me, she loves
me,--who will love me now, when I no longer have her--me, an old man,
who? Not one among them all, not one, Alhalla!'

"Alhalla said no word.

"'How shall I live, knowing that thou art embracing her, that she is
kissing thee? To a woman, there is no such thing as father or son,
Tolaïk! To a woman, we are all men, my son.... Painful will it be for
me to live out my days.... Bather let all the ancient wounds on my
body open again, Tolaïk, and let them shed my blood--rather let me not
survive this night, my son!'

"His son remained silent ... They halted at the door of the harem, and
silently, bowing their heads on their breasts, they stood long before
it. Gloom was round about them, and clouds raced across the sky, while
the wind shook the trees, as though it were singing some song to them.

"'I have loved her long, father!, said Alhalla softly.

"'I know ... and I know that she does not love thee,' said the Khan.

"'My heart is rent when I think of her.'

"'And with what is my aged heart filled now?'

"And again they fell silent. Alhalla sighed.

"''Tis plain that the wise mullah told me the truth-a woman is always
injurious to a man: when she is handsome, she arouses in others the
desire to possess her, and she delivers her husband over to the pangs
of jealousy; when she is ugly, her husband, envying others, suffers
from envy; but if die is neither handsome nor ugly,--a man imagines
her very handsome, and when he comes to understand that he has made a
mistake, he suffers again through her, that woman.'

"'Wisdom is not medicine for an aching heart ...' said the Khan.

"'Let us have compassion on each other, father ...'

"The Khan raised his head, and gazed sadly at his son.

"'Let us kill her,' said Tolaïk.

"'Thou lovest thyself more than her and me,--' said the Khan softly,
after meditating for a space.

"'Surely, it is the same with thee.'

"And again they fell silent.

"'Yes! And I, also,'--said the Khan mournfully. He had become a child
through grief.

"'Well, shall we kill her?'

"'I cannot give her up to thee, I cannot,' said the Khan.

"'And I cannot endure it any longer--tear out my heart, or give her to
me....'

"The Khan made no reply.

"'Or let us fling her into the sea from the mountain,'

"'Let us fling her into the sea from the mountain,' the Khan repeated
his son's words, like the echo of his son's voice.

"And then they entered the harem, where she already lay asleep upon
the floor, on a rich rug. They paused in front of her and gazed; long
did they gaze upon her. Tears trickled from the old Khan's eyes upon
his silvery beard and gleamed in it like pearls, but his son stood
with flashing eyes, and gnashing his teeth, to restrain his passion.
He aroused the kazák girl. She awoke, and on her face, tender and rosy
as the dawn, her blue eyes blossomed like corn-flowers. She did not
perceive Alhalla, and stretched out her scarlet lips to the Khan.

"'Kiss me, old eagle!'

"'Make ready ... thou must come with us,'--said the Khan softly.

"Then she saw Alhalla, and the tears in the eyes of her eagle, and she
understood all, for she was clever.

"'I come,' she said,--'I come. I am to belong neither to the one nor
to the other--is that what you have decided That is how the strong of
heart should decide. I come.'

"And silently they all three went toward the sea. Through narrow ways
they went, and the breeze rustled, rustled sonorously....

"She was tender, the girl, and wearied soon, but she was proud
also--and would not tell them so.

"And when the Khan's son observed that she did not keep pace with them,
he said to her:

"'Art thou afraid?'

"She gave him a flashing glance, and showed him her bleeding foot.

"'Come, I will carry thee!'--said Alhalla, reaching out his arms to
her. But she threw her arms around the neck of her old eagle. The Khan
raised her in his arms, like a feather, and carried her; and she, as
she sat in his arms, thrust aside the boughs of the trees from his
face, fearing that they would strike his eyes. Long did they journey
thus, and lo! the roar of the sea could be heard in the distance. Then
Tolaïk--he walked behind them in the path--said to his father:

"'Let me go on ahead, for I want to stab thee in the neck with my
dagger.'

"'Pass on--Allah will take vengeance on thee for thy desire, or forgive
thee--as he wills,--but I, thy father, forgive thee. I know what it
means to love.'

"And lo! the sea lay before them, yonder below, black and shoreless.
Its waves chanted dully at the very base of the cliff, and it was dark
and cold and terrible there below.

"'Farewell!' said the Khan, as he kissed the girl.

"'Farewell!' said Alhalla, and bowed low before her.

"'She glanced out afar, where the waves were singing, and staggered
back, pressing her hands to her breast ...

"'Throw me!' she said to them.

"Alhalla stretched out his hands to her and groaned, but the Khan took
her in his arms, pressed her close to his breast, kissed her, and
raising her high over his head,--he flung her from the cliff.

"There the waves were plashing and singing so noisily that neither of
them heard when she reached the water. They heard no cry, nothing. The
Khan sank down upon a stone, and began to gaze downward in silence into
the darkness and distance, where the sea merged into the clouds, whence
noisily floated the dull beating of the billows, whence flew the wind
which fluttered the Khan's gray beard. Tolaïk stood over him, covering
his face with his hands, motionless and silent as a stone. Time passed,
and athwart the sky the clouds floated past, one after another, driven
by the wind. Dark and heavy were they, as the thoughts of the aged
Khan, who lay on the lofty cliff above the sea.

"'Let us go, father,' said Tolaïk.

"'Wait,'--whispered the Khan, as though listening to something.

"And again much time elapsed, and still the waves beat below, and the
wind flew to the cliff, making a noise in the trees.

"'Let us go, father.'

"'Wait a little longer ...'

"More than once did Tolaïk Alhalla say:

"'Let us go, father.'

"But still the Khan stirred not from the place, where he had lost the
joy of his last days.

"But--all things have an end!--he rose, strong and proud, rose, knitted
his brows, and said in a dull tone:

"'Let us go.'

"They went, but the Khan speedily halted.

"'Why am I going and whither, Tolaïk?'--he asked his son.--? Why should
I live now, when all my life was in her? I am old, no one will love me
more, and if no one loves thee--it is senseless to live in the world.'

"'Thou hast glory and riches, father ...'

"'Give me but one kiss of hers, and take all that to thyself as reward.
All that is dead, the love of woman alone is alive. There is no such
love, there is no life in a man, a beggar is he, and pitiful are his
days. Farewell, my son, the blessing of Allah be on thy head, and
remain there all the days and nights of thy life.' And the Khan turned
his face seaward.

"'Father,'--said Tolaïk, 'father!...' He could say no more, for there
is nothing that one can say to a man on whom death smiles, and nothing
canst thou say to him which shall restore to his soul the love of life.

"'Let me go ...'

"'Allah ...'

"'He knows ...'

"With swift strides the Khan approached the brink, and hurled himself
down. His son did not hold him back, there was no time for that. And
again nothing was audible from the sea--neither shriek nor noise of the
Khan's fall. Only the waves plashed on there, and the wind hummed wild
songs.

"Long did Tolaïk Alhalla gaze below, and then he said aloud:

"'And grant me, also, as stout a heart, oh Allah!'

"'And then he went forth into the gloom of the night.

"Thus perished Khan Mosolaïma el Asvab, and Tolaïk Alhalla became Khan
of the Crimea."



THE EXORCISM


Along the village street, between rows of white-plastered cottages, a
strange procession is moving along, with wild howls.

A crowd of people is walking along, walking slowly, in dense
ranks,--moving like a huge wave, and in front of it strides a miserable
little horse, a comically woolly little nag, with head drooping low.
As it lifts a fore foot, it shakes its head strangely, as though it
wanted to thrust its woolly muzzle into the dust of the road, and
when it moves a hind foot, its crupper settles down toward the earth,
and it seems as though the horse were on the point of falling. Bound
to the front of the peasant cart, with a rope about her wrists, is a
small, entirely nude woman, almost a girl in years. She walks rather
strangely--sideways, her head, with its thick, dishevelled hair of a
dark chestnut hue, is raised and thrown a little backward, her eyes
are opened widely and are gazing off into the distance with a dull,
unintelligent look, which has nothing human about it. Her whole body
is covered with blue and dark-red spots, both circular and oblong;
her left breast, elastic, maidenly, is cleft, and from it the blood
is dripping.... It forms a crimson streak on her body, and down along
the left leg to the knee, while on her lower leg it is concealed by a
light-brown coating of dust It seems as though a long, narrow strip of
skin had been flayed from the woman's body, which must have undergone a
prolonged beating with a club,--it is monstrously swollen and horribly
blue all over.

The woman's feet, small and well-shaped, hardly tread the dust; her
whole body is terribly bent over, and sways from side to side, and
it is impossible to understand how she can still stand on her legs,
thickly covered, like her whole body, with bruises, why she does not
fall to the ground, and, suspended by her arms, is not dragged after
the cart along the hot, dusty road....

And in the cart stands a tall peasant in a white shirt, a black
lambskin cap, from beneath which, intersecting his brow, hangs a lock
of bright-red hair; in one hand he grasps the reins, in the other a
whip, and methodically bestows one lash upon the back of the nag, and
one upon the body of the little woman, already beaten until it has
lost the semblance of a human being. The eyes of the red-headed man
are suffused with blood, and gleam with evil triumph. His hair blends
with their greenish hue. His shirt-sleeves, stripped up to the elbow,
display strong, muscular arms, thickly overgrown with reddish hair; his
mouth, filled with sharp, white teeth, is open, and from time to time
the peasant shouts hoarsely:

"Gi-ive it to her ... the wi-itch! Hey! Gi-ive it to her! Aha! Here
goes!... Isn't that the thing, comrades?...."

And behind the cart and the woman bound to it, the crowd surges on in
billows, shouting, howling, whistling, laughing, shouting the hunting
cry ... teasing.... Wretched little boys are running alongside.
Now and then one of them darts ahead, and shouts foul words in the
woman's ear. Then a burst of laughter from the crowd drowns all other
sounds, and the piercing whistle of the whiplash through the air....
Women are walking there, with excited faces, and eyes sparkling with
satisfaction.... There are men, also, who shout something disgusting
to the man in the cart.... He turns round toward them, and roars with
laughter, opening his mouth very wide. A blow with the whip on the
woman's back.... The long, thin whip curls round her shoulders, and now
it lashes her under the armpit. Then the peasant who is flogging her
draws the lash strongly toward him; the woman utters a shrill cry, and,
throwing herself backward, falls on her back in the dust. Many of the
crowd spring toward her, and hide her from sight with their bodies, as
they bend over her.

The horse stops short, but, a moment later, moves on again, and the
unmercifully beaten woman moves along with the cart as before. And the
wretched nag, as it paces slowly onward, keeps shaking its woolly head,
as though it wanted to say:

"See how vile a thing it is to be a beast! They can force you to take
part in every sort of abominable thing!"

And the sky, the sky of the south, is perfectly clear,--there is not a
single cloud, and from it the summer sun lavishly pours out its burning
rays.

       *       *       *       *       *

This, which I have written above, is not an allegorical description
of the persecution and torture of a prophet, who has no honor in his
own country,--no, unfortunately, it is not that! It is called an
"exorcism." Thus do husbands punish their wives for infidelity; this
is a picture from life, a custom,--and I beheld it in the year 1891,
on the 15th of July, in the village of Kandybóvko, Government of
Khersón.



MEN WITH PASTS


I.

Vyézhaya (Entrance) Street consists of two rows of aged, one-story
hovels, squeezed closely one against the other, with leaning walls and
windows all awry; the hole-ridden roofs of these human habitations,
thus crippled by time, are mottled with patches of the inner bark of
the linden-tree, and overgrown with moss; above them, here and there,
project tall poles surmounted by starling-houses, and they are shaded
by the dusty verdure of elderberry bushes and crooked willows, the
scanty flora of the town suburbs inhabited by poverty.

The window-panes of the tiny houses, of a turbid-green hue through age,
stare at each other with the glances of cowardly sharpers. Up-hill,
through the middle of the street, crawls a winding cart-track, which
tacks back and forth among deep gullies, washed out by the rains. Here
and there lie heaps of broken bricks and other rubbish, overgrown
with high grass--representing the remnants or the beginnings of the
constructions, unsuccessfully undertaken by the inhabitants in their
fight with the floods of rain-water, which flow like torrents from
the town. Up above, on the crest of the hill, handsome stone houses
conceal themselves amid the luxuriant verdure of thick gardens, and
the belfries of churches rise proudly into the blue sky, their golden
crosses glitter dazzlingly in the sun.

During rains, the town sends its dirt down upon Vyézhaya Street; in
dry weather, it sprinkles it with dust,--and all these deformed little
houses look as though they, also, had been flung out of it, swept
forth, like rubbish, by some mighty hand.

Flattened down against the earth, they were sprinkled all over the
hill, half-decayed, infirm, decorated by sun, dust, and rain with that
dirty grayish hue which defies description that wood acquires with age.

At the extremity of this wretched street, flung out of the town to the
bottom of the hill, stood a long, two-story deserted house, which had
escheated to the town, and had been purchased from the town by merchant
Petúnnikoff. It was the last in the line, standing at the very foot
of the hill, and beyond it extended a wide plain, intersected, half a
verst from the house, by a steep declivity descending to the river.

This large and very aged house possessed the most gloomy aspect of all
among its neighbors. It was all askew, in its two rows of windows there
was not a single one which had preserved its regular shape, and the
splinters of glass in the shattered frames had the turbidly-greenish
hue of swamp water.

The walls between the windows were streaked with cracks and dark spots
of peeling stucco--as though time had written its biography on the
walls of the house in these hieroglyphs. The roof, which sloped toward
the street, still further increased its rueful aspect--it seemed as
though the house had bent down to the ground, and was submissively
awaiting from Fate the final blow which should convert it into dust,
into a shapeless heap of half-rotten fragments.

The gate stood open--one half of it, torn from its hinges, lay on the
ground, and through the crevices between its planks had sprouted the
grass, which thickly covered the desert courtyard of the house. At
the far end of this courtyard stood a low, smoke-begrimed building
with an iron roof, of one slant. The house itself was, of course,
uninhabitable, but in this building, which had formerly been the
blacksmith's shop, there was now installed a "night lodging-house,"
kept by Aristíd Fómitch Kuválda,[1] retired captain of cavalry.

[1] _Kuválda_ means a _mallet_; or, figuratively, _a
clown_.--Translator.

The interior of the night lodging-house presented a long, gloomy
burrow, four fathoms by ten; it was lighted on one side by four small,
square windows, and a broad door. Its unplastered brick walls were
black with soot, the ceiling, of barge-bottom wood,[2] was also smoked
until it was black; in the middle of the place stood a huge stove, for
which the forge served as foundation, and around the stove, and along
the walls, ran wide sleeping-shelves with heaps of all sorts of stuff,
which served the lodgers as beds. The wall reeked with smoke, the
earthen floor reeked with dampness, from the sleeping-shelves proceeded
an odor of sweaty and decaying rags.

[2] The barges for transporting wood, and so forth, on Russian rivers,
are put together with huge wooden pegs. After being unloaded, at their
destination, they are broken up, and the hole-riddled planks are sold
at a very low price.--Translator.

The quarters of the lodging-house's proprietor were on the stove; the
sleeping-shelves around the stove were the places of honor, and upon
them the night-lodgers who enjoyed the favor and friendship of the
proprietor disposed themselves.

The cavalry captain always spent the day at the door of the night
lodging-house, seated in something after the likeness of an arm-chair,
which he had put together, with his own hands, out of bricks; or
in the eating-house of Egór Vavíloff, which was situated slantwise
opposite the Petúnnikoff house; there the captain dined and drank vódka.

Before he hired these quarters, Aristíd Kuválda had had an employment
office for servants in the town; if we were to penetrate further back
in his past, we should discover that he had had a printing-office, and
before the printing-office he had--to use his own language--"simply
lived. And I lived magnificently, devil take it! I may say, that I
lived like a man who knows how!"

He was a broad-shouldered, tall man, fifty years of age, with a
pock-marked face which was bloated with intoxication, framed in a
broad, dirty-yellow beard. His eyes were gray, huge, audaciously
jolly; he spoke in a bass voice, with a rumbling in his throat,
and from his lips a German porcelain pipe, with a curved stem,
almost always projected. When he was angry, the nostrils of his
huge, hooked, bright-red nose became widely inflated, and his lips
quivered, revealing two rows of yellow teeth, as large as those of a
wolf. Long-armed, knock-kneed, always clad in a dirty and tattered
officer's cloak, a greasy cap with a red band but without a visor,
and in wretched felt boots, which reached to his knees--he was always
in a depressed state of drunken headache in the morning, while in the
evening he was jolly drunk. Drink as he would, he could not get dead
drunk, and he never lost his merry mood.

In the evenings, as he sat in his brick arm-chair, with his pipe in his
teeth, he received lodgers.

"Who are you?"--he inquired of the man who approached him, a tattered,
downtrodden individual who had been ejected from the town for
drunkenness, or who, for some other, no less solid reason, had gone
down hill.

The man replied.

"Present the legal document, in confirmation of your lies."

The document was presented, if there was one.[3] The captain thrust it
into his breast, rarely interesting himself in its contents, and said:

"Everything is in order. Two kopéks a night, ten kopéks a week, by
the month--thirty kopéks. Go and occupy a place, but look out that it
doesn't belong to somebody else, or you'll get thrashed. The people who
live in my house are stern...."

[3] "Document" or (literally) "paper," here, as often, means the
passport.--Translator.

Novices asked him:

"And you don't deal in bread, tea or anything eatable?"

"I deal only in a wall and a roof, and for that I pay my rascally
landlord, Judas[4] Petúnnikoff, merchant of the second Guild, five
rubles a month,"--explained Kuválda, in a business-like tone; "the
people who come to me are not used to luxury ... and if you are
accustomed to gobble every day,--there's the eating-house opposite. But
it would be better if you, you wreck, would break yourself of that bad
habit. You're not a nobleman, you know,--so why should you eat? Eat
yourself!"

[4] As the reader will perceive, later on, Petúnnikoff's name was not
_Iuda_ (Judas). This is Kuválda's sarcasm.--Translator.

For these and similar speeches, uttered in a tone of mock severity,
and always with laughing eyes, and for his courteous behavior to his
lodgers, the captain enjoyed wide popularity among the poor people
of the town. It often happened that a former patron of the captain
presented himself to him in the courtyard, no longer tattered and
oppressed, but in a more or less decent guise, and with a brisk
countenance.

"Good-day, your Well-Born! How's your health?"

"I'm well. I'm alive. Speak further."

"Don't you recognise me?"

"No."

"But you remember, I lived about a month with you in the winter ...
when that police round-up took place, and they gathered in three men!"

"We-ell now, brother, the police are constantly visiting my hospitable
roof!"

"Akh, oh Lord! It was the time when you made that insulting gesture at
the police-captain!"

"Wait, spit on all memories, and say simply, what do you want?"

"Won't you accept a little treat from me? When I lived with you that
time, you treated me, so...."

"Gratitude ought to be encouraged, my friend, for it is rarely met
with among men. You must be a fine young fellow, and although I don't
remember you in the least, I'll accompany you to the dram-shop with
pleasure, and drink to your success in life with delight."

"And you're just the same as ever ... always joking?"

"But what else could I do, living among you unfortunates?"

They went. Sometimes the captain's former patron returned to the
lodging-house completely unscrewed and shaken lose by the treat; on
the following day, they both treated each other again, and one fine
morning, the former patron awoke with the consciousness that he had
once more drunk up his last penny.

"Your Well-Born! A misfortune has befallen me! I've got into your squad
again. What am I to do now?"

"A situation on which you are not to be congratulated, but, since you
are in it, it's not proper to be stingy,"--argued the captain.--"You
must bear yourself with indifference toward everything, not spoiling
your life with philosophy, and not putting questions. It is always
stupid to philosophize, and to philosophize when one has a drunken
headache--is inexpressibly stupid. A drunken headache demands vódka,
and not gnawings of conscience and gnashing of teeth.?. spare your
teeth, or there won't be anything to beat you on. Here now, are twenty
kopéks for you,--go and bring a measure of vódka, five kopék's worth of
hot tripe or lights, a pound of bread, and two cucumbers. When we get
rid of our headache, we'll consider the situation of affairs."

The situation of affairs was defined with entire clearness, a couple
of days later, when the captain had not a kopék left out of the
three-ruble or five-ruble bank-note which he had had in his pocket on
the day when his grateful patron had made his appearance.

"We've arrived! Enough!"--said the cavalry captain. "Now that you and
I, you fool, have ruined ourselves with drink, let us try to enter
again upon the path of sobriety and virtue. How just is the saying: If
you don't sin, you don't repent, and if you don't repent, you won't be
saved. We have performed the first, but repentance is useless, so let's
save ourselves at once. Take yourself off to the river and work. If you
can't trust yourself, tell the contractor to retain your money, or give
it to me. When we have amassed a capital, I'll buy you some trousers
and the other things that are necessary to enable you to appear again
as a respectable and quiet toiler, persecuted by fate. In new trousers
you can go a long way! March!"

The patron took himself off to act as porter at the riverside, laughing
at the captain's long and wise speeches. He only dimly understood
their poignant wit, but he beheld before him the merry eyes, felt the
courageous spirit, and knew, that in the eloquent cavalry-captain he
had a hand which could uphold him in case of need.

And, as a matter of fact, after a month or two of hard labor the
patron, thanks to stem supervision of his conduct on the part of the
captain, was in possession of the material possibility of rising again
a step higher than the place to which he had descended through the
benevolent sympathy of that same captain.

"We-ell, my friend," said Kuválda, as he took a critical survey of his
restored patron,--"you have trousers and a pea-jacket. These articles
are of vast importance--trust my experience. As long as I had decent
trousers, I lived in the town, in the character of a respectable man,
but, devil take it, as soon as my trousers dropped off, I fell in
people's estimation, and was obliged to drop down here myself, from the
town. People, my very fine blockhead, judge of everything by its form,
but the essence of things is inaccessible to them, because of men's
inborn stupidity. Carve that on your nose, and when you have paid me
even one half of your debt, go in peace, and seek, and thou shalt find!"

"How much do I owe you, Aristíd Fómitch?" inquired the patron in
confusion.

"One ruble and seventy kopéks ... Now give me a ruble or seventy
kopéks, and I'll wait for the rest until you have stolen or earned more
than you have now."

"Thank you most sincerely for your kindness!" said the patron, much
affected. "What a good sort of fellow you are, really! Ekh, life did
wrong in treating you hardly.... I think you must have been a regular
eagle in your own place?!"

The captain could not exist without speeches of declamatory eloquence.

"What signifies 'in my own place?' No one knows his own place in life,
and everyone of us gets his head into someone else's harness. The place
for merchant Judas Petúnnikoff is among the hard-labor exiles, but he
walks about in broad day through the streets, and even wants to build
some sort of a factory. The place for our teacher is by the side of a
good wife, and in the midst of half a dozen children, but he is lying
around at Vavíloff's, in the dram-shop. And here are you--you're going
off to seek a place as a footman or a corridor-waiter,[5] but I see
that your place is among the soldiers, for you are stupid, you have
endurance, and you understand discipline. You see what sort of affair
it is? Life shuffles us like cards, and only accidentally--and that not
for long--do we fall into our own places!"

[5] This "corridor-waiter" in Russian hotels, prepares the samovár, or
makes coffee, in a small, up-stairs buffet, near the bedrooms of his
allotted section, and serres, with bread, butter and cream, or whatever
is ordered. It is also his duty to bring up all other meals which are
served in private rooms.--Translator.

Sometimes such conversations at parting served as prefaces to a
continuation of the acquaintance, which again began with a good
drinking-bout, and again reached the point where the patron had drunk
up his all, and was amazed; the captain gave him his revenge, and ...
both drank up their last penny.

Such repetitions of what had gone before, did not, in the least,
interfere with the kindly relations between the parties. The teacher
mentioned by the captain was precisely one of those patrons who had
reformed only to ruin himself again immediately. By his intellect, he
was a man who stood closer to the captain than all the rest, and,
possibly, it was precisely to this cause that he was indebted for the
fact that, after having descended to the night-lodging-house, he could
no longer raise himself.

With him alone could Aristíd Kuválda philosophize with the certainty
of being understood. He prized this, and when the reformed teacher
prepared to leave the lodging-house, after having earned a little
money, and with the intention of hiring a nook for himself in the
town,--Aristíd Kuválda escorted him with so much sorrow, spouted so
many melancholy tirades, that they both infallibly set out on a spree,
and drank up all they owned. In all probability, Kuválda deliberately
arranged the matter so that the teacher, despite all his desires,
could not get away from his lodging-house. Was it possible for Aristíd
Kuválda, a member of the gentry, with education, the remnants of which
even now glittered in his speech, from time to time, with a habit of
thinking developed by the vicissitudes of fate,--was it possible for
him not to desire and to try to behold always by his side a man of the
same sort as himself? We know how to have compassion on ourselves.

This teacher had once taught some branch in the Teachers' Institute of
some town on the Vólga, but, in consequence of several scrapes, had
been discharged from the institute. Then he had been a counting-house
clerk at a tanning factory, and had been obliged to quit that also.
He had been a librarian in some private library, he had tried a few
more professions, and, finally, after passing an examination as
attorney-at-law, he took to drinking like a fish, and hit upon the
cavalry captain. He was tall, round-shouldered, with a long, sharp
nose, and a perfectly bald head. In his bony, yellow face, with its
small, pointed beard, shone large, restlessly-melancholy eyes, deeply
sunk in their orbits, and the corners of his mouth drooped dolefully
downward. He earned his means of livelihood, or rather of drink, by
acting as reporter to the local newspapers. It did happen that he
earned as much as fifteen rubles a week. Then he gave the money to the
captain, and said:

"Enough! I'm going to return to the lap of culture. One week more of
work,--and I shall dress myself decently, and _addio, mio caro!_"

"Very laudable!... As I, from my soul, sympathize with your resolution,
Philip, I shall not give you a single glass during that entire
week,"--the captain gave him friendly warning.

"I shall be grateful!--You won't give even a single drop?"

The captain detected in his words something approaching a timid
entreaty for relaxation, and said, still more sternly:

"Even if you roar for it--I won't give it!"

"Well, that settles it"--sighed the teacher, and set off about his
reporting. A day later, or, at most, two days, defeated, weary and
thirsty he was staring at the captain from some nook, with mournful,
beseeching eyes, and waiting in trepidation, for the heart of his
friend to soften. The captain assumed a surly aspect, and uttered
speeches impregnated with deadly irony, on the theme of the disgrace of
having a weak character, about the beastly delight of drunkenness, and
on all other themes appropriate to the occasion. To do him justice--he
was sincerely carried away with his rôle as mentor and moralist; but
his steady customers at the night-lodging-house, being of a sceptical
cast of mind, said one to another, winking in the direction of the
captain, as they watched him and listened to his croaking speeches.

"The sly dog! He puts him off cleverly! 'I told you so,' says he, 'and
you wouldn't listen to me--now you may thank yourself!'"

But the teacher caught his friend somewhere in a dark corner, and
tightly clutching his dirty cloak, trembling all over, licking his dry
lips, he gazed in his face with a deeply-tragic glance inexpressible in
words.

"You can't?"--inquired the captain morosely.

The teacher nodded, in silent assent, and then dropped his head
dejectedly on his breast, trembling all over his long, gaunt body.

"Hold out one day more ... perhaps you'll reform?" suggested Kuválda.

The teacher sighed, and shook his head negatively, hopelessly. The
captain saw that his friend's gaunt body was all quivering with thirst
for the poison, and pulled the money out of his pocket.

"In the majority of cases, it is useless to contend with destiny,"--he
remarked as he did so, as though desirous of justifying himself to
someone.

But if the teacher did hold out the entire week, a touching scene of
the farewell of friends was enacted between him and the captain, and
its final act usually took place in Vavíloff's eating-house.

The teacher did not drink up the whole of his money: he spent at least
half of it on the children in Vyézhaya Street. Poor people are always
rich in children, and in this street, in its dust and holes, swarms
of dirty, tattered and half-starved little brats moved restlessly and
noisily about, all day long, from morning till night.

Children are the living flowers of earth, but in Vyézhaya Street they
had the appearance of flowers which had withered prematurely; it must
have been because they grew on soil which was poor in healthy juices.

So the teacher often collected them about him, and having purchased
rolls, eggs, apples and nuts, he walked with them into the fields, to
the river. There they disposed themselves on the ground, and, first
of all, hungrily devoured everything the teacher offered them, and
then began to play, filling the air for a whole verst[6] round about
with their careless noise and laughter. The long, gaunt figure of the
drunkard somehow shrunk together in the midst of these little folks,
who treated him with entire familiarity, as one of their own age. They
even addressed him simply as Philip, without adding to his name "uncle"
or "little uncle." As they flitted swiftly around him, they jostled
him, sprang upon his back, slapped him on his bald head, seized him
by the nose. All this must have delighted him, for he did not protest
against such liberties. On the whole, he talked very little with them,
and if he did speak, he did it as cautiously and even timidly as though
his words might spot them, or, in general, do them harm. He passed
several hours at a time, in the rôle of their plaything and comrade,
surveying their animated little faces with his mournfully-sad eyes, and
then, thoughtfully and slowly, he went away from them to Vavíloff's
tavern, and there, quickly and silently, he drank himself into a state
of unconsciousness.

[6] A verst is two-thirds of a mile.--Translator.

*

Almost every day, on his return from his reportorial work, the teacher
brought with him a newspaper, and a general assembly of all the men
with pasts formed around him. On catching sight of him, they moved
toward him from the various nooks of the courtyard, in an intoxicated
condition, or suffering from drunken headaches, diversely dishevelled,
but all equally wretched and dirty.

Alexéi Maxímovitch Símtzoff came: he was as fat as a cask, had been a
forester in the service of the Crown Estates, but was now a peddler
of matches, ink, blacking, and refuse lemons. He was an old man of
fifty, clad in a sail-cloth great-coat, and a broad-brimmed hat, which
sheltered his fat, red face, with its thick, white beard, from amid
which his tiny, crimson nose and his thick lips of the same color, and
his tearful, cynical little eyes peered forth upon God's world. They
called him "The Peg-top"; and this nickname accurately described his
round figure, and his speech, which resembled the humming of a top.

From somewhere in a corner, "The End" crawled forth,--a gloomy, taciturn
and desperate drunkard, formerly prison-superintendent Luká Antónovitch
Martyánoff, a man who subsisted by gambling at "Little Belt," at "Three
Little Leaves," at "Little Bank," and by other arts, equally witty, and
equally disliked by the police. He lowered his heavy body, which had
been more than once soundly beaten, heavily upon the grass, alongside
the teacher, flashed his black eyes, and stretching out his hand for
the bottle, inquired in a hoarse bass voice:

"May I?"

Mechanician Pável Sólntzeff made his appearance, a consumptive man,
thirty years of age. His left side had been smashed in a fight, and his
yellow, sharp face, like that of a fox, was constantly contorted by a
venomous smile. His thin lips disclosed two rows of yellow teeth, which
had been ruined by illness, and the rags on his narrow, bony shoulders
fluttered as though from a clothes-rack. His nickname was "The Gnawed
Bone." His business consisted in peddling linden-bast brushes, of his
own manufacture, and switches made of a certain sort of grass, which
were very convenient for cleaning clothes.

There came, also, a tall, bony man, of unknown extraction, with a
frightened expression in his large, round eyes, the left of which
squinted,--a taciturn, timid fellow, who had thrice been incarcerated
for theft, on the sentence of the judge of the peace, and the district
judge. His surname was Kisélnikoff, but he was called Tarás-and-a-Half,
because he was exactly one half taller than his inseparable friend,
Deacon Tarás, who had been unfrocked for drunkenness and depraved
conduct. The deacon was a short, thick man, with the chest of an epic
hero, and a round, shaggy head. He danced wonderfully well, and was
even more wonderful in his use of ribald language. He, in company
with Tarás-and-a-Half, had selected for his specialty wood-sawing on
the bank of the river, and in his leisure hours the deacon was wont
to narrate to his friend, and to anyone who cared to listen, tales
"of his own composition," as he announced. As they listened to these
tales, the heroes of which were always saints, kings, priests, and
generals, even the inhabitants of the night lodging-house spat with
squeamishness, and opened their eyes to their full extent in amazement
at the fantasies of the deacon, who narrated, with his eyes screwed
up, and with a dispassionate countenance, astonishingly shameless
things, and foully-fantastic adventures. The imagination of this man
was inexhaustible,--he could invent and talk all day long, from morning
till night, and never repeated himself, In his person a great poet may
have perished, possibly, or, at any rate, a remarkable story-teller,
who knew how to animate everything, and even invested the stones with a
soul by his vile but picturesque and powerful words.

There was also an awkward sort of youth, whom Kuválda called The
Meteor. One day he had made his appearance to spend the night, and from
that day forth he had remained among these men, to their astonishment.
At first they did not notice him,--by day, like the rest of them, he
went off to seek his livelihood, but in the evening he clung about this
amicable company, and at last the captain noticed him.

"Little boy! What are you doing in this land?"

The little boy answered boldly and briefly:

"I'm ... a tramp...."

The captain eyed him over critically. He was a longhaired young fellow,
with a rather foolish face, with high cheek-bones, adorned with a snub
nose. He wore a blue blouse without a belt, and on his head was stuck
the remains of a straw hat. His feet were bare.

"You're--a fool!" Aristíd Kuválda pronounced his decision.--"What axe
you knocking about here for? You're of no use to us.... Do you drink
vódka? No ... Well, and do you know how to steal? No, again. Go and
learn, and then come back when you have become a man...."

The young fellow laughed.

"No, I think I'll go on living with you."

"What for?"

"Oh, because...."

"Akh, you ... Meteor!" said the captain.

"Come, now, I'll knock his teeth out for him, in a minute," suggested
Martyánoff.

"And what for?" inquired the captain.

"Nothing...."

"And I'll take a stone and smash you over the head,"--announced the
young fellow deferentially.

Martyánoff would have given him a drubbing, had not Kuválda intervened.

"Let him alone.... He's a sort of relation to you, and to all of us, I
think. You want to knock his teeth out without sufficient foundation;
he, like yourself, wants to live with us, without sufficient
foundation. Well, and devil take him.... We all live without sufficient
foundation for it.... We live, but what for? Because! And he, also,
because ... let him alone."

"But you'd better go away from us, young man," advised the teacher,
surveying the young fellow with his mournful eyes.

The latter made no reply, and remained. Later on, they got used to
him, and ceased to notice him. But he lived among them, and observed
everything.

All the individuals enumerated above constituted the captain's General
Staff, and he, with good-humored irony, called them "the have-beens."
In addition to them, five or six men constantly inhabited the night,
lodging-house--ordinary tramps. They were men from the country, they
could not boast of any such pasts as "the have-beens," and although
they, no less than the rest, had experienced the vicissitudes of fate,
yet they were more unadulterated folks than those, not so horribly
shattered. It is possible that a respectable man of the cultured
class is higher than the same sort of man of the peasant class, but
the depraved man from a town is always immeasurably more foul and
disgusting than a depraved man from the country. This rule was made
sharply apparent by comparing the former educated men with the former
peasants who inhabited Kuválda's refuge.

An old rag-gatherer, Tyápa by name, was a conspicuous representative
of the former peasants. Long, and thin to deformity, he held his head
in such a manner that his chin rested on his chest, so that his shadow
reminded one, by its shape, of an oven-fork. From the front, his face
was not visible, in profile, nothing was to be seen except an aquiline
nose, a pendulous lower lip, and shaggy, gray eyebrows. He was the
captain's first lodger, in point of time, and they said of him that he
had a lot of money concealed somewhere. Precisely on account of this
money they had "scraped" his throat with a knife two years before, and
from that day forth he had hung his head in that strange manner. He
denied the existence of the money, he said that "they had scratched him
simply for nothing, out of impudence," and that since then he had found
it very convenient to gather rags and bones--his head was constantly
bent earthward. As he walked along, with a swaying, uncertain gait,
without a stick in his hand or a sack on his back--the insignia of his
profession--he looked like a man who was meditative to the point of
losing consciousness, but Kuválda was wont to say, at such moments,
pointing his finger at him:

"See there, it's the conscience of merchant Judas Petúnnikoff, which
has run away from him, and is seeking a refuge for itself! See how
frayed, and vile, and filthy that runaway conscience is!"

Tyápa spoke in a harsh voice, which hardly permitted one to understand
his remarks, and it must have been for that reason that he rarely
talked, and was very fond of solitude. But every time that some fresh
example of a man, who had been forced out of the country by poverty,
made his appearance in the night lodging-house, Tyápa, at the sight
of him, fell into melancholy ire and uneasiness. He persecuted the
unfortunate man with caustic jeers, which emerged from his throat in a
vicious rattle; he set some malicious tramp on him, and, in conclusion,
he threatened to thrash him with his own hands, and rob him by night,
and he almost always managed to make the frightened and disconcerted
peasant disappear from the lodging-house and never appear there again.

Then Tyápa calmed down, and tucked himself away in a corner, where
he mended his rags, or read a Bible, which was as old, dirty, and
tattered as himself. He crawled out of his nook again when the teacher
brought the newspaper and read it aloud. Generally, Tyápa listened to
all that was read in silence, and sighed deeply, asking no questions
about anything. But when the teacher folded up the paper, after he had
finished reading it, Tyápa extended his bony hand, and said:

"Give it to me...."

"What do you want with it?"

"Give it ... perhaps there's something about us in in...."

"About whom?"

"About the village...."

They laughed at him, and flung the paper at him. He took it, and read
that in such and such a village the grain had been beaten down by hail,
and in another thirty houses had been burned, and in a third a woman
had poisoned her family--everything which it is customary to write
about the country, and which depicts it as merely unfortunate, silly,
and evil. Tyápa read all this in a dull tone, and bellowed, expressing
by this sound, possibly compassion, possibly satisfaction.

He spent the greater part of Sunday, on which day he never went out to
gather rags, in reading his Bible. As he read, he bellowed and sighed.
He held the book supported on his chest, and was angry when anyone
touched it, or interfered with his reading.

"Hey, there, you necromancer,"--Kuválda said to him,--"what do you
understand? Drop it!"

"And what do you understand?"

"Just so, you sorcerer! Neither do I understand anything; but then, I
don't read books...."

"But I do read them...."

"Well, and you're stupid," ...--declared the captain.--"When insects
breed in the head, it's uncomfortable, but if thoughts crawl in it
also,--how will you live, you old toad?"

"Well, my time isn't very long,"--said Tyápa calmly.

One day the teacher tried to find out where he had learned to read and
write. Tyápa answered him curtly:

"In jail."

"Have you been there?"

"Yes...."

"What for?"

"Nothing.... I made a mistake.... And I brought this Bible from there.
A lady gave it to me.... The jail is a nice place, brother...."

"You don't say so? How's that?"

"It teaches you.... You see, I learned to read and write there.... I
got a book.... Everything ... is gratis...."

When the teacher made his appearance in the lodging-house, Tyápa
had already been living in it a long time. He stared long at the
teacher,--in order to look in a man's face Tyápa bent his whole body to
one side,--listened long to his remarks, and one day he sat down beside
him.

"Now, you're one of those ... you've been learned.... Have you read
the Bible?"

"Yes...."

"Exactly so.... Do you remember it?"

"Well ... yes...."

The old man bent his body on one side, and gazed at the teacher with
his gray, sullen, distrustful eyes.

"And do you remember whether there were Amalekites there?"

"Well?"

"Where are they now?"

"They have disappeared, Tyápa ... died out...."

The old man said nothing for a while, then asked another question:

"And the Philistines?"

"It's the same with them."

"Have they all died off?"

"Yes ... all...."

"Exactly.... And we shall all die off?"

"The time will come when we, also, shall die off,"--the teacher
predicted with indifference.

"And from which of the tribes of Israel do we come?"

The teacher looked at him, reflected, and then began to tell him about
the Cimmerians, the Scythians, the Huns, the Slavs.... The old man
curved himself still more on one side, and stared at him with terrified
eyes.

"You're inventing all that!"--he said hoarsely, when the teacher had
finished.

"Why am I inventing?"--asked the other, in surprise.

"What did you tell me the names of those people were? They're not in
the Bible."

He rose and went away, deeply offended, and muttering angrily.

"You've outlived your mind, Tyápa," the teacher called after him, with
conviction.

Then the old man turned again toward him, and stretching out his arm,
he menaced him with his hooked and dirty finger:

"Adam came from the Lord, and the Hebrews descended from Adam, which
signifies that all men are descended from the Hebrews.... And we,
also...."

"Well?"

"The Tatárs came from Ishmael ... and he came from a Hebrew...."

"Yes, but what do you want?"

"Nothing! Why did you lie?"

And he went away, leaving his interlocutor dumfounded. But a couple
of days later he again sat down beside him.

"You've had education ... well, and you ought to know--who are we?"

"Slavonians, Tyápa,"--replied the teacher, and began attentively to
await Tyápa's words, being desirous of understanding him.

"Speak according to the Bible--there are no such folks there. Who
are we--Babylonians? Or from Edom?" The teacher launched out upon
a criticism of the Bible. The old man listened to him long and
attentively, and interrupted:

"Hold on ... stop that! You mean to say, that among the people known
to God, there aren't any Russians? Are we people who aren't known to
God? Is that it? Those who are inscribed in the Bible--those the Lord
knew.... He annihilated them with fire and sword, he destroyed their
towns and villages, but he also sent the prophets to them, for their
instruction ... that is to say, he had pity on them. He dispersed the
Hebrews and the Tatárs, but he preserved them.... But how about us? Why
haven't we any prophets?

"I--I don't know!"--said the teacher slowly, trying to understand the
old man. But the latter laid his hand on the teacher's shoulder, began
to push him gently to and fro, and said hoarsely, as though he were
endeavoring to swallow something:

"Tell me, now!... You talk a great deal, as though you knew everything.
It disgusts me to listen to you ... you muddle my soul.... You'd better
have held your tongue!... Who are we? Exactly! Why haven't we any
prophets? Aha!--And where were we when Christ walked the earth? You
see! Ekh, you stupid! And you keep on lying ... could a whole nation
die out? The Russian people can't disappear--you're lying ... ifs
written down in the Bible, only it isn't known under what word.... You
know the nation, what ifs like? Ifs huge.... How many villages are
there on the earth? The whole nation lives there ... a genuine, great
nation.... And you say--it will die out.... A nation can't die out, a
man may ... but a nation is necessary to God, he is the creator of the
earth. The Amalekites didn't die--they're the Germans or the French
... but you ... ekh, you liar!... Come, now, tell me why God has passed
us over? Haven't we any treasure or prophets from the Lord? Who teaches
us?...."

Tyápa's speech was strangely forceful; ridicule, and reproach, and
profound faith resounded in it. He talked for a long time, and the
teacher, who was, as usual, the worse for liquor, and in a peaceable
mood, finally felt as uncomfortable in listening to him as though he
were being sawed in twain with a wooden saw. He listened to the old
man, watched his distorted countenance, felt this strange, crushing
power of words, and, all of a sudden, he felt sorry to the verge of
pain, for himself, and sad over something. He, also, felt a desire
to say something powerful, something confident, to the old man,
something which would interest Tyápa in his favor, would make him talk
not in that reproachfully-surly tone, but in a different,--a soft,
paternally-affectionate one. And the teacher felt something gurgling in
his breast, rising in his throat ... but he could find in himself no
powerful words.

"What sort of a man are you?... your soul is torn to rags ... and you
have said various words.... As though you knew.... You'd better have
held your tongue...."

"Ekh, Tyápa,"--exclaimed the teacher sadly,--"what you say is true....
And it's true ... about the nation!... It's huge ... but I am a
stranger to it ... and it's strange to me.... That's where the tragedy
of my life lies.... But--let me go! I shall suffer.... And there are no
prophets ... none!... I really do talk a great deal ... and that's of
no use to anybody.... But I will hold my tongue ... only, don't talk to
me like that.... Ekh, old man! you don't know ... you don't know ...
you can't understand...."

The teacher began to weep at last. He wept so easily and freely, with
such an abundance of tears, that he felt terribly pleased at the tears.

"You ought to go into a village ... you might ask for the place of
teacher or scribe there ... and you'd get enough to eat, and you'd get
aired. Why do you tarry?"--croaked Tyápa surlily.

But the teacher continued to weep, enjoying his tears.

From that time forth they became friends, and when the Men with Pasts
saw them together they said:

"The teacher's running after Tyápa ... he's steering his course to the
money."

"Kuválda put him up to that.... 'Find out,' says he, 'where the old
fellow's capital is....'"

It is possible that, when they talked thus, they thought otherwise.
There was one absurd characteristic about these men: they were fond
of displaying themselves, one to another, as worse than they were in
reality.

A man who has nothing good in him sometimes is not averse to strutting
in his bad qualities.

*

When all these men had assembled around the teacher with his newspaper,
the reading began.

"Well, sir," said the captain, "what does that nasty little newspaper
discuss to-day? Is there a feuilleton?"

"No," answered the teacher.

"Your publisher is getting grasping.... And is there a leading article?"

"Yes, there is one to-day ... Gulyáeff's, apparently."

"Aha! Let's have it; that rascal writes sensibly; he has an eye as
sharp as a nail."

"Assessment of real estate," reads the teacher.

"The appraisal of real estate,"--reads the teacher,--"which was made
more than fifteen years ago, and continues to serve at the present time
as the basis for the collection of an assessment, for the benefit of
the town...."

"That's ingenious,"--comments Captain Kuválda;--"'continues to serve'!
That's ridiculous. It's profitable for the merchant who runs the
town to have it continue to serve; well, and so it does continue to
serve...."

"The article is written on that theme,"--says the teacher.

"Yes? Strange! That's the theme for a feuilleton ... it must be written
about in a peppery way."

A small dispute blazes up. The audience listens attentively to him, for
only one bottle of vódka has been drunk thus far. After the leading
article, the city items and the court record are read. If a merchant
appears in these criminal sections either as an active or a suffering
personality--Aristíd Kuválda sincerely exults. If the merchant has
been plundered--very fine, only, it's a pity that he was robbed of so
little. If his horses have smashed him up,--it's delightful news, only
it's a great shame that he is still alive. If a merchant has lost his
suit in court,--magnificent, but it's sad that the court costs were not
imposed upon him in double measure.

"That would have been illegal,"--remarks the teacher.

"Illegal? But is the merchant himself legal?"--inquires Kuválda
bitterly.--"What's a merchant? Let us examine that coarse and awkward
phenomenon: first of all, every merchant is a peasant. He makes his
appearance from the village, and, after the lapse of a certain time,
he becomes a merchant. In order to become a merchant, he must have
money. Where can the peasant get money? It is well known that money is
not the reward of the labors of the upright. Hence, the peasant has
played the scoundrel, in one way or another. Hence, a merchant is a
scoundrelly-peasant!"

"That's clever!"--the audience expresses its approval of the orator's
deduction.

But Tyápa roars, as he rubs his chest. He roars in exactly the same way
when he drinks his first glass of vódka to cure his drunken headache.
The captain is radiant. The letters from correspondents are read. These
contain, for the captain, "an overflowing sea," to use his own words.
Everywhere he sees how evil a thing the merchant is making of life, and
how cleverly he crushes and spoils it. His speeches thunder out, and
annihilate the merchant. They listen to him with satisfaction in their
eyes, because he swears viciously.

"If only I wrote for the newspapers!"--he exclaims.--"Oh, I'd show up
the merchant in his true light ... I'll demonstrate that he's only an
animal, temporarily discharging the functions of a man. I understand
him! He? He's rough, he's stupid, he has no taste in life, he has
no idea of the fatherland, and knows nothing more elevated than a
five-kopék coin."

The Gnawed Bone, who knew the captain's weak side, and was fond of
exasperating people, put in venomously: "Yes, ever since the time
when noblemen began unanimously to die of starvation--real men are
disappearing from life...."

"You're right, you son of a spider and a toad; yes, ever since the
nobles fell, there are no people! There are only merchants ... and I
ha-a-ate them!"

"That's easily understood, because you, brother, also have been trodden
into dust by them...."

"I? I was ruined through my love of life ... you fool! I loved life.--.
but the merchant plunders it. I can't endure him, for precisely that
reason ... and not because I'm a nobleman. I'm not a nobleman, if you
want to know it, but simply a man who has seen better days. I don't
care a fig now for anything or anybody ... and all life is to me a
mistress who has abandoned me ... for which I despise her, and am
profoundly indifferent to her."

"You lie!"--says The Gnawed Bone.

"I lie?"--yells Aristíd Kuválda, red with wrath.

"Why shout?"--rings out Martyánoff's cold, gloomy bass.--"Why dispute?
What do we care for either merchant or nobleman?"

"Inasmuch as we are neither one thing nor the other," interpolates the
deacon.

"Stop it, Gnawed Bone,"--says the teacher pacifically.--"Why salt a
herring?"

He did not like quarrels, and, in general, did not like noise. When
passions flared up around him, his lips were contorted in a painful
grimace, and he calmly and persuasively endeavored to reconcile
everybody with everybody else, and if he did not succeed in this, he
left the company. Knowing this, the captain, if he was not particularly
drunk, would restrain himself, as he was not desirous of losing, in
the person of the teacher, the best listener to his speeches.

"I repeat,"--he continues, more quietly,--"I behold life in the hands
of enemies, enemies not only of the noblemen, but enemies of every
well-born man, greedy enemies, incapable of adorning life in any
way...."

"Nevertheless, brother,"--says the teacher,--"the merchants created
Genoa, Venice, Holland,--it was merchants, the merchants of England who
won India for their country, the Counts Stróganoff...."[7]

[7] Yermák Timoféevitch, the conqueror of Siberia, was in the service
of the Counts Stróganoff.--Translator.

"What have I to do with those merchants? I have in view Judas
Petúnnikoff, and along with him...."

"And what have you to do with them?" asks the teacher softly.

"Am not I alive? Aha! I am--hence I must feel indignant at the sight of
the way in which the savage people who fill it are spoiling it."

"And they laugh at the noble indignation of the cavalry captain, and
of the man on the retired list," teased The Gnawed Bone.

"Good! It's stupid, I agree.... As a man who has seen better days, I am
bound to obliterate in myself all the feelings and thoughts which were
formerly mine. That's true, I admit.... But wherewith shall I and all
of you--wherewith shall we arm ourselves, if we discard these feelings?"

"Now you're beginning to talk sensibly," the teacher encourages him.

"We require something else, different views of life, different feelings
... we require something new ... for we ourselves are a novelty in
life...."

"We undoubtedly do require that,"--says the teacher.

"Why?"--inquires The End.--"Isn't it all the same what we say or think?
We haven't long to live ... I'm forty years old, you're fifty ... not
one among us is under thirty. And even at twenty, you wouldn't live
long such a life."

"And how are we a novelty?"--grins The Gnawed Bone.--"The naked
brigade has always existed."

"And it founded Rome,"--says the teacher.

"Yes, of course,"--exults the captain.--"Romulus and Remus,--weren't
they members of the Golden Squad of robbers? And we, also, when our
hour comes, will found...."

"A breach of the public tranquillity and peace," interpolates The
Gnawed Bone. He laughs loudly, pleased with himself. His laugh is evil,
and soul-rending. Símtzoff, the deacon, and Tarás-and-a-Half join in.
The ingenuous eyes of the dirty little lad Meteor burn with clear
flame, and his cheeks flush. The End says, exactly as though he were
pounding on their heads with a hammer:

"All that's nonsense ... dreams ... rubbish!"

It was strange to see these people, driven out of life, tattered,
impregnated, with vódka and wrath, irony and dirt, thus engaged in
discussion.

To the captain such conversations were decidedly a feast for the heart.
He talked more than anybody else, and this afforded him the opportunity
of thinking himself better than all the rest. But, no matter how
low a man has fallen,--he will never deny himself the delight of
feeling himself stronger, more sensible, although even better fed
than his neighbor. Aristíd Kuválda abused this delight, but did not
get surfeited with it, to the dissatisfaction of The Gnawed Bone, The
Peg-top, and other "Have-beens," who took very little interest in such
questions.

But, on the other hand, politics was a universal favorite. A
conversation on the theme of the imperative necessity that India
should be conquered, or about the repression of England, might go on
interminably. With no less passion did they discuss the means for
radically exterminating the Hebrews from the face of the earth, but
in this question The Gnawed Bone always got the upper hand, and had
concocted wonderfully harsh projects, and the captain, who always
wished to be the leading personage, avoided this theme. They talked
readily, much, and evilly of women, but the teacher always came to
their rescue, and got angry if they smeared it on too thickly. They
yielded to him, for they all regarded him as an extraordinary man, and
they borrowed from him, on Saturdays, the money which he had earned
during the week.

Altogether, he enjoyed many privileges: for example, they did not beat
him on those rare occasions when the discussion wound up in a universal
thrashing match. He was permitted to bring women to the night
lodging-house; no one else enjoyed that right, for the captain warned
everyone:

"Don't you bring any women to my house.... Women, merchants, and
philosophy are the three causes of my had luck. I'll give any man a
sound drubbing whom I see making his appearance with a woman ... and
I'll thrash the woman too.... For indulging in philosophy, I'll tear
off the offender's head...."

He could tear off a head: in spite of his age, he possessed astonishing
strength. Moreover, every time that he fought, he was aided by
Martyánoff. Gloomy and taciturn as a grave-stone, when a general fight
was in progress the latter always placed himself back to back with
Kuválda, and then they formed an all-destroying and indestructible
machine.

One day, drunken Símtzoff, without rhyme or reason, wound his talons in
the teacher's hair and pulled out a lock of it. Kuválda, with one blow
of his fist, laid him out senseless for half an hour, and when he came
to himself he made him eat the teacher's hair. The man ate it, fearing
that he would be beaten to death.

In addition to reading the newspaper, discussions, and fighting,
card-playing formed one of their diversions. They played without
Martyánoff, because he could not play honestly, which he announced
himself, after he had been caught several times cheating.

"I can't help smuggling a card.... It's my habit...."

"That does happen,"--deacon Tarás confirmed his statement.--"I got into
the habit of beating my wife after the Liturgy on Sundays; so, you
know, when she died, such sadness overpowered me on Sundays as is even
incredible. I lived through one Sunday, and I saw that things were
bad! Another--I bore it. On the third--I hit my cook one blow.... She
took offence.... 'I'll hand you over to the justice of the peace,' says
she. Imagine my position! On the fourth Sunday I thrashed her as though
she were my wife! Then I paid her ten rubles, and went on beating her
after the plan I had established until I got married...."[8]

[8] The Parish (or White) Clergy, in the Holy Orthodox Church of the
East, beginning with the rank of Sub-Deacon, must be married--and must
be married before they are ordained. They cannot marry again. This rule
ceases with an Arch-Priest, which is the highest rank attainable by the
White Clergy. Bishops must be celibates.--Translator.

"Deacon,--you lie! How could you marry a second time?"--The Gnawed Bone
interrupted him.

"Hey? Why I did it so ... she looked after my household affairs...."

"Did you have any children?"--the teacher asked him.

"Five.... One was drowned.... The eldest, ... he was an amusing little
boy! Two died of diphtheria.... One daughter married some student or
other, and went with him to Siberia, and the other wanted to educate
herself, and died in Peter[9] ... of consumption, they say.... Ye-es
... there were five of them ... of course! We ecclesiastics are
fruitful...."

[9] The colloquial abbreviation for St. Petersburg.--Translator.

He began to explain precisely why this was so, arousing homeric
laughter by his narration. When they had laughed until they were tired,
Alexéi Maxímovitch Símtzoff remembered that he, also, had a daughter.

"Her name was Lídka.... She was such a fat girl...."

And it must have been that he could recall nothing further, for he
stared at them all, smiled apologetically ... and stopped talking.

These people talked little with one another about their pasts, referred
to them very rarely, and always in general terms, and in a more or less
sneering tone. Possibly, such an attitude toward the past was wise,
for, to the majority of people, the memory of the past relaxes energy
in the present, and undermines hope for the future.

*

But on rainy, overcast, cold days of autumn, these people with pasts
assembled in Vavíloff's tavern. There they were known, somewhat feared,
as thieves and bullies, rather despised as desperate drunkards, but, at
the same time, they were respected and listened to, being regarded as
very clever people. Vavíloff's tavern was the Club of Vyézhaya Street,
and the men with pasts were the intelligent portion of the Club.

On Saturday evenings, on Sundays from morning until night, the tavern
was full, and the people with a past were welcome guests there. They
brought with them, into the midst of the inhabitants of the street,
ground down with poverty and woe, their spirit, which contained some
element that lightened the lives of these people, exhausted and
distracted in their pursuit of a morsel of bread, drunkards of the same
stamp as the denizens of Kuválda's refuge, and outcasts from the town
equally with them. Skill in talking about everything and ridiculing
everything, fearlessness of opinion, harshness of speech, the absence
of fear in the presence of that which the entire street feared, the
challenging audacity of these men--could not fail to please the street.
Moreover, nearly all of them knew the laws, were able to give any bit
of advice, write a petition, help in cheating with impunity. For all
this they were paid with vódka, and flattering amazement at their
talents.

In their sympathies, the street was divided into two nearly equal
parties: one asserted that the "captain was a lot more of a man than
the teacher, a real warrior! His bravery and brains were huge!" The
other party was convinced that the teacher, in every respect, "tipped
the scales" over Kuválda. Kuválda's admirers were those petty burghers
who were known to the street as thoroughgoing drunkards, thieves,
and hair-brained fellows, to whom the path from the beggar's wallet
to the prison did not seem a dangerous road. The teacher was admired
by the more steady-going people, who cherished hopes of something,
who expected something, who were eternally busy about something, and
were rarely full-fed. The character of the relations of Kuválda and
the teacher toward the street is accurately defined by the following
example. One day, the subject under discussion in the tavern was an
ordinance of the city council, by which the inhabitants of Vyézhaya
Street were bound: to fill up the ruts and holes in their street, but
not to employ manure and the corpses of domestic animals for that
purpose, but to apply to that end only broken bricks and rubbish from
the place where some buildings were in process of erection.

"Where am I to get those same broken bricks, if, during the whole
course of my life I never have wanted to build anything but a
starling-house, and haven't yet got ready even for that?"--plaintively
remarked Mokéi Anísimoff, a man who peddled rusks, which his wife baked
for him.

The captain felt himself called upon to express his opinion upon the
matter in hand, and banged his fist down upon the table, thereby
attracting attention to himself.

"Where are you to get broken bricks and rubbish? Go, my lads, the
whole street-full of you, into town, and pull down the city hall. It's
so old that it's not fit for anything. Thus you will render double
service in beautifying the town--you will make Vyézhaya Street decent,
and you will force them to build a new city hall. Take the Mayor's
horses to cart the stuff, and seize his three daughters--they're
girls thoroughly suited to harness. Or tear down the house of Judas
Petúnnikoff, and pave the street with wood. By the way, Mokéi, I know
what your wife used to-day to bake your rolls:--the shutters from the
third window, and two steps from the porch of Judas' house."

When the audience had laughed their fill and had exercised their wits
on the captain's proposition, staid market-gardener Pavliúgin inquired:

"But what are we to do, anyway, Your Well-Born? ... Hey? What do you
think?..."

"I? Don't move hand or foot! If the street gets washed away--well, let
it!"

"Several houses are about to tumble down...."

"Don't hinder them, let them tumble down! If they do--squeeze a
contribution out of the town; if it won't give it,--go ahead and sue
it! Whence does the water flow? From the town? Well, then the town is
responsible for the destruction of the houses...."

"They say the water comes from the rains...."

"But the houses in the town don't tumble down on account of that? Hey?
It extorts taxes from you, and gives you no voice in discussing your
rights! It ruins your lives and your property, and then makes you do
the repairs! Thrash it from the front and the rear!"

And one half of the street, convinced by the radical Kuválda, decided
to wait until their wretched hovels should be washed away by rain-water
from the town.

The more sedate persons found in the teacher a man who drew up a
capital and convincing statement to the city council on their behalf.

In this statement the refusal of the street to comply with the city
council's ordinance was so solidly founded that the council granted
it. The street was permitted to use the rubbish which was left over
from repairs to the barracks, and five horses from the fire-wagon were
assigned to them to cart it.[8] More than this--it was recognized as
indispensable that, in due course, a drain-pipe should be laid through
the street. This, and many other things, created great popularity in
the street for the teacher. He wrote petitions, printed remarks in the
newspapers. Thus, for example, one day Vavíloff's patrons noticed that
the herrings and other victuals in Vavíloff's tavern were entirely
unsuited to their purpose. And so, two days later, as Vavíloff stood at
his lunch-counter, newspaper in hand, he publicly repented.

"It's just--that's the only thing I can say! It's a fact that I did buy
rusty herrings, herrings that weren't quite good. And the cabbage--had
rather forgotten itself ... that's so! Everybody knows that every man
wants to chase as many five-kopék pieces into his pocket as possible.
Well, and what of that? It has turned out exactly the other way; I made
the attempt, and a clever man has held me up to public scorn for my
greed.... Quits!"

This repentance produced a very good impression on the public, and
furnished Vavíloff with the opportunity of feeding the public with the
herrings and the cabbage, and all this the public devoured unheeding to
the sauce of their own impressions. A very significant fact, for it not
only augmented the prestige of the teacher, but it made the residents
acquainted with the power of the printed word. It happened that the
teacher was reading a lecture on practical morals in the tavern. "I
saw you,"--said he, addressing the painter Yáshka Tiúrin,--"I saw you,
Yákoff, beating your wife...."

Yáshka had already "touched himself up" with two glasses of vódka, and
was in an audaciously free-and-easy mood. The public looked at him, in
the expectation that he would immediately surprise them with some wild
trick, and silence reigned in the tavern.

"You saw me, did you? And were you pleased?"--inquired Yáshka.

The audience laughed discreetly.

"No, I wasn't,"--replied the teacher. His tone was so impressively
serious that the audience kept quiet.

"It struck me that I was doing my best,"--Yáshka braved it out,
foreseeing that the teacher would "floor" him.--"My wife was satisfied
... she can't get up to-day...."

The teacher thoughtfully traced some figures on the table with his
finger, and as he inspected them he said:

"You see, Yákoff, the reason I'm not pleased is this.... Let's make a
thorough examination into what you are doing, and what you may expect
from it. Your wife is with child: you beat her, yesterday, on her body
and on her sides--which means, that you beat not only her, but the
baby also. You might have killed him, and your wife would have died
in childbed, or from this, or have fallen into very bad health. It's
unpleasant and troublesome to worry over a sick wife, and it will cost
you dear, for illness requires medicines, and medicines require money.
But if you haven't yet killed the child, you certainly have crippled
it, and perhaps it will be born deformed; lopsided, or hunchbacked.
That means, that it will not be fit to work, but it is important for
you that he should be a worker. Even if he is born merely ailing,--and
that's bad--he will tie his mother down, and require doctoring. Do you
see what you have prepared for yourself? People who live by the toil of
their hands ought to be born healthy, and ought to bring forth healthy
children.... Am I speaking the truth?"

"Yes,"--the audience hacked him up.

"Well, I don't think ... that will happen,"--said Yáshka, somewhat
abashed at the prospect as depicted by the teacher.--"She's healthy
... you can't get through her to the child, can you now? For she, the
devil, is an awful witch!"--he exclaimed bitterly. "As soon as I do
anything ... she starts in to nag at me, as rust gnaws iron!"

"I understand, Yákoff, that you can't help beating your wife,"--the
teacher's calm, thoughtful voice made itself heard again;--"you have
many causes for that.... It's not your wife's character that is to
blame for your beating her so incautiously ... but your whole sad and
gloomy life...."

"There, now, that's so,"--ejaculated Yákoff,--"we really do live in
darkness like that in the bosom of a chimneysweep."

"You're enraged at life in general, but your wife suffers ... your
wife, the person who is nearest to you--and suffers without being to
blame toward you, simply because you are stronger than she is; she is
always at your elbow, she has no place to go to get away from you. You
see how ... foolish ... it is!"

"So it is ... devil take her! And what am I to do? Ain't I a man?"

"Exactly so, you are a man!... Well, this is what I want to say to you:
beat her, if you must, if you can't get along without it, but beat her
cautiously: remember, that you may injure her health, or the health of
the child. In general, it is never right to beat women who are with
child ... on the body, the breast, or the sides ... beat her on the
neck, or take a rope, and ... strike on the soft places...."

The orator finished his speech, and his deeply-sunken, dark eyes gazed
at his audience, and seemed to be apologizing to them or guiltily
asking them about something.

And the audience rustled with animation. This morality of a man who
had seen better days, the morality of the dram-shop and of misery, was
comprehensible to it.

"Well, brother Yáshka, do you understand?"

"That's what the truth is like!"

Yákoff understood: to beat his wife incautiously was--injurious to
himself.

He said nothing, replying to his comrades' jeers with an abashed smile.

"And then again--what is a wife?"--philosophized rusk-peddler Mokéi
Anísimoff:--"A wife's a friend, if you get rightly at the root of the
matter. She's in the nature of a chain, that has been riveted on you
for life ... and both you and she are, after a fashion, hard-labor
convicts. So try to walk evenly, in step with her ... and if you can't,
you will feel the chain...."

"Hold on,"--said Yákoff,--"you beat your wife, too, don't you?"

"And did I say that I didn't? I do.... One can't get along
otherwise.... Whom have I to thump my fists against--the wall?--when I
can't endure things any longer?"

"Well, there then, it's the same way with me...." said Yákoff.

"Well, what a cramped and doleful life is ours, my brethren! We haven't
space anywhere for a regular good swing of our arms!"

"And you must even beat your wife with care!"--moaned someone
humorously. And thus they went on talking until late at night, or until
they fell into a fight, which arose on the basis of intoxication, or of
the moods which these discussions inspired.

The rain dashed against the windows of the tavern, and the cold wind
howled wildly. Inside the tavern the air was close, impregnated with
smoke, but warm; outside all was damp, cold, and dark. The wind beat
upon the windows, as though it were impudently summoning all these men
forth from the tavern, and threatening to disperse them over the earth,
like dust. Sometimes, amid its roar, a repressed, hopeless groan became
audible, and then a cold, cruel laugh rang out. This music prompted to
melancholy thoughts about the close approach of winter, the accursed
short days without sunshine, the long nights, and the indispensable
necessity of having warm clothing and plenty to eat. One sleeps so
badly on an empty stomach during the endless winter nights. Winter was
coming, coming.... How were they to live?

These sorrowful meditations evoked in the inhabitants of Vyézhaya
Street an augmented thirst, and in the speeches of the men with pasts
the quantity of sighs increased and the number of wrinkles on their
foreheads, their voices became duller, their relations to one another
more blunt. And all of a sudden, savage wrath blazed up among them,
the exasperation of outcasts, tortured by their harsh fate, awoke. Or
they were conscious of the approach of that implacable enemy, which
converted their whole life into one cruel piece of stupidity. But this
enemy was intangible, for it was invisible.

And so they thrashed one another; they thrashed mercilessly, they
thrashed savagely, and again, having made peace, they began to drink,
drinking up everything that Vavíloff, who was not very exacting, would
accept as a pledge.

Thus, in dull wrath, in sadness which clutched at their hearts, in
ignorance as to the outcome of their wretched existence, they passed
the autumnal days, in anticipation of the still more inclement days of
winter.

At such times, Kuválda came to their aid with philosophy.

"Don't get down in the mouth, my boys! There's an end to
everything--that's the merit of life.--The winter will pass, and summer
will come again ... a splendid season, when, they say, the sparrows
have beer."--But his harangues had no effect--a starving man cannot be
fed to satiety with a swallow of water.

Deacon Tarás also tried to divert the public, by singing songs and
narrating his stories. He was more successful. Sometimes his efforts
led to the result that desperate, audacious mirth bubbled up in the
tavern; they sang, danced, roared with laughter, and, for the space of
several hours, resembled madmen. Only....

And then again they fell back into dull, indifferent despair, and sat
around the tavern tables, in the soot of the lamps and tobacco-smoke,
morose, tattered, languidly chatting together, listening to the
triumphant howl of the gale, and meditating as to how they might get
a drink of vódka, and drink until they lost their senses.

And all of them were profoundly opposed to each, and each concealed
within himself unreasonable wrath against all.



II.


Everything is comparative in this world, and there is for man no
situation so utterly bad that nothing could be worse.

On a bright day, toward the end of September, Captain Aristíd Kuválda
was sitting, as was his wont, in his arm-chair at the door of the night
lodging-house, and as he gazed at the stone[1] building erected by
merchant Petúnnikoff, next door to Vavíloff's tavern, he meditated.

The building, which was still surrounded by scaffolding, was intended
for a candle-factory, and had long been an eye-sore to the captain,
with the empty and dark hollows of its long row of windows, and that
spider's web of wood, which surrounded it, from foundation to roof.
Red, as though it were smeared with blood, it resembled some cruel
machine, which was not yet in working-order, but which had already
opened a row of deep, yawning maws, and was ready to engulf, masticate,
and devour. Vavíloff's gray wooden tavern, with its crooked roof,
overgrown with moss, leaned against one of the brick walls of the
factory, and looked like some huge parasite, which was driving its
suckers into it.

[1] "A stone building" does not mean literally stone in Russia, as it
does elsewhere. "Stone," in this connection, means brick, rubble, or
any other substance, with an external dressing of mastic, washed with
white or any gay hue. Briefly, not of wood.--Translator.

The captain reflected, that they would soon begin to build on the
site of the old house also. They would tear down the lodging-house,
too. He would be compelled to seek other quarters, and no others, so
convenient and so cheap, could be found. It was a pity, it was rather
sad, to move away from a place where he had been so long. But move he
must, merely because a certain merchant had taken it into his head
to manufacture candles and soap. And the captain felt, that if any
opportunity should present itself to him, of ruining the life of that
enemy, even temporarily--oh! with what delight would he ruin it!

On the previous evening, merchant Iván Andréevitch Petúnnikoff had been
in the courtyard of the night lodging-house with the architect and his
son. They had measured the courtyard, and had stuck little sticks
everywhere in the ground, which, after Petúnnikoff had departed, the
captain ordered The Meteor to pull out of the ground and throw away.

Before the captain's eyes stood that merchant--small, gaunt, in a
long garment which simultaneously resembled both an overcoat and an
undercoat, in a velvet cap, and tall, brilliantly-polished boots. His
bony face, with high cheek-bones, with its gray, wedge-shaped beard,
with a lofty brow furrowed with wrinkles, from beneath which sparkled
small, narrow, gray eyes, which always appeared to be on the watch for
something.... A pointed, cartilaginous nose, a small mouth, with thin
lips.... Altogether, the merchant's aspect was piously-rapacious, and
respectably-evil.

"A damned mixture of fox and hog!"--swore the captain to himself, and
recalled to mind Petúnnikoff's first phrase with regard to himself.
The merchant had come with a member of the town court to purchase the
house, and, catching sight of the captain, he had asked of his guide,
in alert Kostromá dialect:

"Isn't he a candle-end himself ... that lodger of yours?"

And from that day forth--now eighteen months gone by--they had vied
with one another in their cleverness at insulting man.

And on the preceding evening, a little "drill in vituperation," as the
captain designated his conversation with the merchant, had taken place
between them. After he had seen the architect off, the merchant had
stepped up to the captain.

"You're sitting?"--he asked, tugging with his hand at the visor of his
cap so that it was not possible to understand whether he was adjusting
it or intended to express a salutation.

"You're trotting about?"--said the captain, imitating his tone, and
made a movement with his lower jaw, which caused his beard to waggle,
and which a person who was not exacting might take for a bow, or for a
desire on the part of the captain to shift his pipe from one corner of
his mouth to the other.

"I have a great deal of money--so I trot about. Money demands that
it shall be put out in life, so I'm giving it circulation...." the
merchant mocked the captain a little, cunningly narrowing his little
eyes.

"The ruble doesn't serve you, that is to say, but you serve the
ruble,"--commented Kuválda, contending with a desire to give the
merchant a kick in the belly.

"Isn't it all the same thing? With it, with money, everything is
agreeable.... But if you haven't any...."

And the merchant eyed the captain over, with shamelessly-counterfeit
compassion. The captain's upper lip twitched, disclosing his large,
wolfish teeth.

"A man who has brains and conscience can get along without it ... It
generally makes its appearance precisely at the time when a man's
conscience begins to dry up ... The less conscience, the more money....

"That's true....? But, on the other hand, there are people who have
neither money, nor conscience...."

"Were you just the same when you were young?"--inquired Kuválda
innocently. It was now the turn of Petúnnikoff's nose to twitch. Iván
Andréevitch sighed, screwed up his little eyes, and said:

"In my youth, o-okh! I was forced to raise great weights!"

"I think...."

"I worked, okh, how I worked!"

"And you worked up a good many people!"

"Such as you? Noblemen? Never mind ... they learned plenty of prayers
to Christ from me...."

"You didn't murder, you merely stole?"--said the captain sharply.
Petúnnikoff turned green, and found it expedient to change the subject.

"You're a bad host, you sit, while your guest stands."

"Let him sit down, too," Kuválda gave permission.

"But there's nothing to sit on, you see...."

"Sit on the earth ... the earth accepts all sorts of rubbish...."

"I see that, from you.... But I shall leave you, you scold," said
Petúnnikoff, in a calm, equable voice, but his eyes poured forth cold
poison on the captain.

And he took his departure, leaving Kuválda with the pleasing
consciousness that the merchant was afraid of him. If he had not
been afraid of him, he would long ago have driven him out of the
night lodging-house. He would not have refrained from expelling him
for those five rubles a month! And the captain found it pleasant to
stare at Petúnnikoff's back, as he slowly left the courtyard. Then
the captain watched the merchant walk around his factory, walk over
the scaffoldings, upstairs and down. And he longed greatly to have
the merchant fall and break his bones. How many clever combinations
he had made of the fall, and the injuries, as he gazed at Petúnnikoff
climbing over the scaffoldings of his factory, like a spider over his
web! On the preceding evening, it had even seemed to him that one plank
trembled under the merchant's feet, and the captain sprang from his
seat in excitement.... But nothing happened.

And to-day, as always, before the eyes of Aristíd Kuválda rose aloft
that red building, so well-built, and solid, which had laid as firm a
hold upon the earth as though it were already sucking the juices out of
it. And it seemed to be laughing coldly and gloomily at the captain,
with the yawning holes of its walls. The sun poured its autumnal rays
upon it as lavishly as upon the wretched hovels of Vyézhaya Street.

"Is it really going to happen!"--exclaimed the captain mentally, as he
measured the wall of the factory with his eye.--"Akh, you rascal, devil
take you! If ..." and all startled and excited by his thought, Aristíd
Kuválda sprang up, and went hastily into Vavíloff's tavern, smiling and
muttering something to himself.

Vavíloff met him at the lunch-counter, with the friendly exclamation:

"We wish health to Your Well-Born!"

Of medium height, with a bald head surrounded by a wreath of curly
gray hair, with smoothly-shaven cheeks, and a mustache which bristled
straight up, clad in a greasy leather jacket, by his every movement he
permitted one to discern in him the former non-commissioned officer.

"Egór! Have you the deed of sale and the plan of the house?" inquired
Kuválda hastily.

"I have."

Vavíloff suspiciously narrowed his knavish eyes, and rivetted them
intently on the face of the captain, in which he perceived something
particular.

"Show them to me!"--cried the captain, banging the counter with his
fist, and dropping upon a stool alongside it.

"Why?"--asked Vavíloff, who had made up his mind, on beholding
Kuválda's excitement, that he would be on his guard.

"Bring them here quick, you blockhead!"

Vavíloff wrinkled up his brow, and raised his eyes scrutinizingly to
the ceiling.

"Where have I put them, those same papers?"

He found on the ceiling no information on that point; then the
non-commissioned officer fixed his eyes on his stomach, and with an
aspect of anxious meditation, began to drum on the bar with his fingers.

"Stop making faces!" shouted the captain at him, for he did not like
the man, considering the former soldier to be more adapted for a thief
than for a tavern-keeper. "Well, I've just called it to mind,'Ristíd
Fómitch. It appears that they were left in the district court. When I
entered into possession....

"Drop that, Egórka![2] In view of your own profit, show me immediately
the plan, the deed of purchase, and everything there is! Perhaps
you'll make several hundred rubles out of this--do you understand?"

[2] Diminutive of Egór (George).--Translator.

Vavíloff understood nothing, but the captain spoke so impressively,
with such a serious mien, that the underofficer's eyes began to blaze
with burning curiosity, and, saying that he would look and see whether
he had not the documents packed away in the house, he went out of the
door behind the lunch-counter. Two minutes later, he returned with the
documents in his hands, and with an expression of extreme amazement on
his face.

"On the contrary, the cursed things were in the house!"

"Ekh, you ... clown from a show-booth! And yet he used to be a soldier
... Kuválda did not let slip the opportunity to reproach him, as he
snatched from his hands a calico-covered pasteboard box, with the
blue title-deed. Then, unfolding the papers in front of him and still
further exciting the curiosity of Vavíloff, the captain began to read,
scrutinize, and at the same time to bellow in a very significant
manner. At last he rose with decision, and went to the door, leaving
the documents on the bar, and nodded to Vavíloff.

"Hold on ... don't put them away...."

Vavíloff gathered up the documents, laid them in the drawer of the
counter, locked it and gave it a jerk with his hand,--to make sure that
it was locked. Then, thoughtfully rubbing his bald spot, he emerged on
the porch of the tavern. There he beheld the captain, after pacing off
the front of the building, snap his fingers and again begin to measure
off the same line, anxious but not satisfied.

Vavíloff's face assumed a rather strained expression, then relaxed,
then suddenly beamed with joy.

"'Ristíd Fómitch! Is it possible?"--he exclaimed, when the captain came
opposite him.

"There's no 'is it possible' about it! More than an arshín[3] has been
cut off. That's on the front line, and as to the depth, I'll find that
out directly...."

[3] An _arshín_ (the Russian equivalent of the yard) is twenty-eight
inches.--Translator.

"The depth?... ten fathoms, twenty-eight inches!"

"So you've caught the idea, you shaven-face?"

"Certainly,' Ristíd Fómitch! Well, what an eye you have--you can see
three arshíns into the earth!" cried Vavíloff in ecstasy.

A few minutes later, they were sitting opposite each other in
Vavíloff's room, and the captain, as he annihilated beer in huge gulps,
said to the tavern-keeper:

"So, all the walls of the factory stand on your land. Act without any
mercy. The teacher will come, and we'll draw up a petition in haste
to the district judge. In order not to waste money on stamped paper,
we'll fix the value of the suit at the most modest figure, and we'll
ask to have the building tom down. This, you fool, is infringing on
the boundaries of another man's property ... a very pleasant event
for you! Tear away! And to tear down and remove such a huge thing is
an expensive job. Effect a compromise! You just squeeze Judas! We'll
reckon up, in the most accurate manner, how much it will cost to tear
it down--with the pressed brick, and the pit under the new foundation
... we'll reckon it all up! We'll even take our time into account!
And--please to hand over two tho-ou-sand rubles, pious Judas!"

"He won't give it!"--said Vavíloff slowly, anxiously, winking his eyes,
which were sparkling with greedy fire.

"You're mistaken! He will give it! Stir up your brains--what can he
do? Tear it down? But--see here, Egórka, don't you lower your price!
They'll buy you--don't sell yourself cheap! They'll try to frighten
you--don't be afraid! Trust in us...."

The captain's eyes blazed with savage joy, and his face, crimson with
excitement, twitched convulsively. He had kindled the tavern-keeper's
greed, and exhorting him to act as promptly as possible, he went away,
triumphant and implacably-ferocious.

*

In the evening, all the men with pasts learned of the captain's
discovery, and, as they hotly discussed the future actions of
Petúnnikoff, they depicted, in vivid colors, his amazement and wrath on
the day when the messenger of the court should hand him a copy of the
complaint. The captain felt himself a hero. He was happy, and everyone
around him was contented. The big throng of dark figures, clad in rags,
lay in the courtyard, and buzzed, and exulted, being enlivened by the
event. They all knew merchant Petúnnikoff, who had passed before them
many a time. Scornfully screwing up his eyes, he bestowed upon them the
same sort of attention that he did on any other sort of rubbish, strewn
about the courtyard. He reeked with good living, which irritated them,
and even his boots shone with scorn for them all. And now, one of them
was about to deal this merchant a severe blow in his pocket and his
self-conceit. Wasn't that good?

Mischief, in the eyes of these people, had much that was attractive
about it. It was the sole weapon which fitted their hand and their
strength. Each one of them had long ago reared up within him a
half-conscious, confused sentiment of keen hostility toward all people
who were well-fed and were not clad in rags, and in each one of them
this sentiment was in a different stage of its development. This it
was, which evoked in all the men with pasts a burning interest in the
war that Kuválda had declared against merchant Petúnnikoff.

For two weeks the night lodging-house lived in expectation of fresh
occurrences, and during that whole period Petúnnikoff never once made
his appearance at the new building. They found out that he was not in
town, and that the copy of the petition had not yet been served on him.
Kuválda battered away at the practice of the town court procedure. It
is not probable that that merchant has been ever, or by anyone awaited
with such strained impatience as that with which the vagrants awaited
him.

    "He cometh not, he cometh not, my da-ar-ling...."

"Ekh, it means that he lo-o-oves me not!"--sang Deacon Tarás, thrusting
out his cheek in humorously-afflicted fashion, as he gazed up the hill.

And lo! one day, toward evening, Petúnnikoff made his appearance.
He arrived in a well-built little cart, with his son in the rôle of
coachman--a rosy-cheeked young fellow, in a long, checked overcoat, and
dark glasses. They tied their horse to the scaffolding;--the son took
from his pocket a tape-measure in a case, gave the end to his father,
and they began to measure off the land, both silent and anxious.

"Aha-a!" ejaculated the captain triumphantly.

All who were present in the lodging-house poured out to the gate, and
looked on, audibly expressing their opinions as to what was taking
place.

"That's the result of being in the habit of stealing--a man steals even
by mistake, without any desire to steal, at the risk of losing more
than he steals.. condoled the captain, calling forth laughter and a
series of similar remarks from his staff.

"Oï, young fellow!"--exclaimed Petúnnikoff, at last, irritated by the
sneers,--" look out that I don't drag you before the judge of the peace
for your words!"

"Nothing will come of that without witnesses ... your own son can't
testify on behalf of his father...." said the captain warningly.

"Well, look out, all the same! You're a gallant bandit-chief, but we'll
manage to get satisfaction from you, nevertheless!"

And Petúnnikoff made a menacing gesture with his finger.... His son,
composed and absorbed in his calculations, paid no heed to this pack
of shady individuals, who were maliciously amusing themselves at his
father's expense. He did not so much as once glance in their direction.

"The young spider has had good training,"--remarked The Gnawed Bone,
who was minutely watching all the actions and movements of the younger
Petúnnikoff. After taking the measurements of everything that was
required, Iván Andréevitch scowled, seated himself in silence in
his cart, and drove off, but his son went, with firm tread, toward
Vavíloff's tavern, and disappeared inside it.

"Oho! He's a resolute young thief ... yes! Come now, what will happen
next?" asked Kuválda.

"The next thing is, that Petúnnikoff junior will buy Egór Vavíloff...."
said The Gnawed Bone confidently, and he smacked his lips delicately,
expressing complete satisfaction on his sharp face.

"You're glad of that, are you?"--inquired Kuválda harshly.

"It pleases me to see how folks are deceived in their reckoning,"
explained The Gnawed Bone with delight, screwing up his eyes and
rubbing his hands.

The captain spat angrily, and made no reply. And all of them, as they
stood at the gateway of the half-ruined house, maintained silence,
and stared at the door of the tavern. An hour and more passed in this
expectant silence. Then the door of the tavern opened, and Petúnnikoff
emerged from it, as calm as when he had entered it. He halted for a
minute, coughed, turned up his coat-collar, glanced at the men who were
watching him, and went up the street toward the town.

The captain followed him with his eyes, and, turning to The Gnawed
Bone, he grinned.

"I guess you were right, you son of a scorpion and a wood-louse....
You have a good nose for everything rascally ... that you have....
It's evident, from the ugly phiz of that young sharper alone, that
he has got his own way.... How much did Egórka get out of them? He
got something.... He's a bird of the same feather as they. He took
something, may I he thrice damned if he didn't! I arranged things for
him.' Tis bitter for me to realize my stupidity. Yes, life is all
against us, my brethren, scoundrels! And even when you spit in your
neighbor's eye, the spittle flies back into your own eyes."

Comforting himself with this sentiment, the worthy captain inspected
his staff. All were disenchanted, for all felt that what had taken
place between Vavíloff and Petúnnikoff had not been what they had
anticipated. And all were incensed at this. The consciousness
of inability to cause evil is more offensive to a man than the
consciousness of the impossibility to do good, because it is so easy
and simple to do evil.

"So,--what are we staying here for? There's nothing more for us to
expect ... except the bargain-treat, which I'm going to get out of
Egórka ..." said the captain, staring at the tavern with a scowl...."
The end has come to our prosperous and peaceful life[4] under the
roof of Judas. Judas will trample us under foot.... Of which. I make
announcement to the department of the unclad vagabonds entrusted to my
care...."

[4] "Prosperous and peaceful life" is a (sarcastic) quotation from the
"Many Years" (Long Life), which is proclaimed in church, at the end of
the service, on special occasions, in honor of royal or distinguished
persons.--Translator.

The End laughed gloomily.

"What are you laughing at, you jail-warden?"--inquired Kuválda.

"Where am I to go?"

"That's a big question, my dear soul.... Your fate will answer it for
you, don't be uneasy,"--said the captain thoughtfully, as he went
toward the lodging-house. The men with pasts moved slowly after him.

"We will await the critical moment," said the captain, as he walked
along among them.--"When they pitch us out of this, we'll hunt up
another den for ourselves. But, in the meanwhile, it doesn't pay to
spoil life with such thoughts.... At critical moments, a man becomes
more energetic ... and if life, with all its combinations, would make
the critical moment more frequent, if a man were forced every second to
tremble for the safety of his sound pate ... by God, life would be more
lively, and people would be more interesting!"

"That is to say, they would gnaw at one another's throats with more
fury,"--explained The Gnawed Bone, with a smile.

"Well, and what if they did?"--angrily exclaimed the captain, who was
not fond of having his ideas explained.

"Why, nothing ... that's good. When people want to get anywhere more
quickly, they lash the horses with the whip, and exasperate machines
with fire."

"Well, that's it! Let everything gallop to the devil far away! It would
please me if the earth were suddenly to blaze up, and bum to ashes, or
explode into fragments ... on condition that I was the last to perish,
and might look on at the others first...."

"That's savage!" grinned The Gnawed Bone.

"What of it? I'm a man who has seen better days ... isn't that so?
I'm an outcast--which means, that I'm free from all beaten paths and
fetters.... It means, that I don't care a fig for anything! By the
manner of my life, I'm bound to fling aside everything old ... all
manners and modes of relations to folks who exist well-fed, and finely
dressed, and who despise me because I've fallen behind them in the
matter of enough food and of costume ... and I'm bound to breed within
me something new--understand? The sort of thing, you know, which will
make the lords of life, after the pattern of Judas Petúnnikoff, who
pass me, feel a cold chill in their livers at the sight of my imposing
form!"

"What a brave tongue you've got!"--laughed The Gnawed Bone.

"Ekh, you ... paltry creature...." Kuválda eyed him over disdainfully.
"What do you understand? What do you know? Do you know how to think?
But I have thought ... and I've read books, in which you wouldn't be
able to understand a single word."

"I should think so! I couldn't sup cabbage-soup with a bast-slipper....
But though you have read books and thought, and I haven't done either,
we've come out pretty close together...."

"Go to the devil!"--shouted Kuválda.

His conversations with The Gnawed Bone always wound up in this
manner. On the whole, without the teacher--and he was aware of this
himself--his speeches only spoiled the air, and were dispersed on it
without bringing him either appreciation or attention; but he could
not refrain from talking. And now, after swearing at his interlocutor,
he felt himself alone among his own people. But he wanted to talk, and
therefore he turned to Símtzoff with the question:

"Well, and you, Alexéi Maxímovitch--where shall you lay your gray head?"

The old man smiled good-naturedly, rubbed his nose with his hand, and
said:

"I don't know ... I'll see about it! I'm of no great importance: I've
had a good time, and I shall again!"

"A worthy, though simple problem,"--the captain lauded him.

Símtzoff added, after a pause, that he would get settled more
promptly than the rest, because the women were very fond of him.
This was true: the old man always had two or three mistresses among
the women of the town, who supported him, for two or three days at a
stretch, on their scanty earnings. They frequently beat him, but he
bore it stoically; for some reason or other, they could not hurt him
much--perhaps, because they were sorry for him. He was a passionate
lover of women, and was wont to relate, that women were the cause of
all his misfortunes in life. The intimacy of his relations to women,
and the character of their relations to him were confirmed, both by
his frequent illnesses, and by his clothing, which was always well
mended, and cleaner than the clothing of his comrades. And now, as he
sat on the ground, at the door of the lodging-house, in a circle of his
comrades, he began boastfully to relate, that he had long since been
invited by The Radish to live with her, but he would not go to her, he
did not wish to desert the company.

He was listened to with interest, and not without envy. They all knew
The Radish--she lived not far away, under the hill, and only a short
time before this had spent several months in prison for her second case
of theft. She was a wet-nurse, who "had seen better days," a tall,
plump country woman, with a pock-marked face, and very handsome, though
always drunken, eyes.

"You don't say so, you old devil!"--swore The Gnawed Bone, as he gazed
at Símtzoff, who was smiling conceitedly.

"And why do they love me? Because I know what their souls delight
in...."

"We-ell?"--exclaimed Kuválda, interrogatively.

"I know how to make them feel sorry for me.... And when a woman feels
compassion--she'll even go so far as to cut a throat out of compassion.
Weep before her, beg her to kill you, she'll take compassion on you and
kill you...."

"I'll kill!" declared Martyánoff, resolutely, grinning in his gloomy
style.

"Whom?"--inquired The Gnawed Bone, moving away from him.

"It doesn't matter ... Petúnnikoff ... Egórka ... even you'd do!"

"Why?"--queried Kuválda, with great interest.

"I want to go to Siberia ... I'm tired of this ... mean life.... But
there a fellow will find out how he ought to live...."

"Ye-es, they'll show you there, in detail,"--assented the captain in a
melancholy way.

Nothing more was said about Petúnnikoff, and their approaching
expulsion from the night lodging-house. All of them were already
convinced that this expulsion was near at hand--at a distance of two
or three days, perhaps, and they regarded it as superfluous to bother
themselves with discussions on that subject. Discussing the matter
would not improve the situation, and, in conclusion, the weather was
not cold yet, although the rains were beginning--it was still possible
to sleep on any clod of earth, outside the town.

Arranging themselves in a circle on the grass, these men idly conducted
a long conversation on various subjects, passing freely from one theme
to another, and wasting just so much attention on the other man's
words as was required to keep up the conversation without a break.
It was tiresome to remain silent, but it was also tiresome to listen
attentively. This company of men with pasts had one great merit: in it
no one put any constraint upon himself, in the effort to appear better
than he was, and no one incited the others to exercise such constraint
over himself.

The August sun assiduously warmed the rags of these men, who had turned
to it their backs and their uncombed heads--a chaotic combination of
the vegetable kingdom with the mineral and the animal. In the corners
of the courtyard the grass grew luxuriantly,--tall burdocks sown with
clinging burs, and some other plants, which were of no use to anybody,
delighted the eyes of the men who were of no use to anybody.

*

But in Vavíloff's tavern the following scene had been enacted.

Petúnnikoff junior had entered it, in a leisurely manner, had looked
about him, frowned fastidiously, and slowly removing from his head his
gray hat, he had inquired of the tavern-keeper, who greeted him with a
respectful bow, and an amiable grin:

"Egór Teréntievitch Vavíloff--are you he?"

"Exactly so!"[5] replied the non-commissioned officer, resting both
hands on the counter, as though preparing to leap over it.

[5] The regulation reply, in the army, to a superior, is not plain
"da" (yes), but "tótchno tak!" The negative is correspondingly
regulated.--Translator.

"I have some business with you,"--announced Petúnnikoff.

"Perfectly delighted.... Please come to my rooms!"

They entered his rooms, and seated themselves--the visitor on the
waxed-cloth divan in front of the round table, the host on a chair
facing him. In one corner of the room burned a shrine-lamp in front of
a huge, treble-panelled image-case, around which, on the wall, more
holy pictures were also suspended. Their vestments were brilliantly
polished, and shone like new ones. In the room, closely set with
trunks, and ancient furniture of various sorts, there was an odor of
olive oil, tobacco, and sour cabbage. Petúnnikoff surveyed things,
and again made a grimace. Vavíloff, with a sigh, glanced at the holy
pictures, and then they fixedly regarded each other, and both made
a mutually good impression. Vavíloff's frankly-knavish eyes pleased
Petúnnikoff. Petúnnikoff's open, cold, resolute face, with its broad,
strong cheek-bones, and closely set white teeth, pleased Vavíloff.

"Well, sir, you know me, of course, and you can guess what I am going
to talk to you about!" began Petúnnikoff.

"About the suit ... I assume,"--said the non-commissioned officer
deferentially.

"Precisely. It is pleasant to see that you make no pretences,
but go straight to the point, like a man with a straight-forward
soul,"--Petúnnikoff encouraged his interlocutor.

"I'm a soldier, sir...." said the latter, modestly.

"That's evident. So, we will conduct the business in a simple,
straight-forward manner, in order to get through with it the more
promptly."

"Just so...."

"Very good.... Your suit is entirely legal, and, as a matter of course,
you will win it--that is the first thing which I consider it necessary
to state to you."

"I thank you sincerely,"--said the non-commissioned officer, winking
his eyes, in order to conceal the smile in them.

"But, tell me, why was it necessary for you to make acquaintance with
us, your future neighbors, in so harsh a manner ... straight from the
courts?..."

Vavíloff shrugged his shoulders, and made no reply.

"It would have been simpler to come to us, and arrange everything
peaceably ... wouldn't it? What do you think about it?"

"Of course, that would be more agreeable. But, you see ... there's one
hitch about it.... I did not act of my own free will ... but I was
instigated to do it.... Afterward, when I understood what would have
been the better way, it was already too late."

"Just so.... I assume that some lawyer or other put you up to it?"

"Something of that sort...."

"Aha! Well, sir, and so you wish to conclude the affair peaceably?"

"With the greatest pleasure!" exclaimed the soldier. Petúnnikoff
paused, looked at him, and then inquired, coldly and dryly:

"And why do you wish that?"

Vavíloff had not expected such a question, and could not reply at once.
In his opinion, it was an absurd question, and the soldier, with a
consciousness of his superiority, laughed in Petúnnikoff's face.

"It's plain enough why ... one must try to live at peace with people."

"Come,"--Petúnnikoff interrupted him,--"that's not precisely the fact.
I perceive that you do not clearly understand why you wished to make
peace with us.... I will tell you why."

The soldier was somewhat astonished. This young fellow, all clad in
checked material, and presenting a rather ridiculous figure in it,
talked just as company commander Rakshín had been wont to talk, after
he had, with angry hand, knocked out the soldiers' teeth, three at a
time.

"You want to make peace with us, because our vicinity is very
profitable to you! And it is profitable because we shall have not less
than one hundred and fifty workmen in our factory,--in course of time,
more. If one hundred of them drink a glass apiece after each weekly
pay-day, you will sell, in the course of a month, four hundred glasses
more than you are selling now. I have put it at the lowest figure.
Moreover, you have your eating-house. Apparently, you are anything but
stupid, and you are a man of experience; consider for yourself the
advantages of our proximity."

"That's true, sir...." Vavíloff nodded assent,--"I knew that."

"And what then?"--the merchant inquired loudly.

"Nothing, sir ... Let's make peace."

"I am very glad that you make up your mind so promptly. Here, I have
furnished myself with a notification to the courts of the withdrawal of
your claims against my father. Read it over, and sign it."

Vavíloff stared, with round eyes, at his interlocutor, and trembled,
foreseeing something very bad indeed.

"Excuse me ... I am to sign it? What does that mean?"

"Simply, you are to write your baptismal name and your surname, and
nothing more,"--explained Petúnnikoff, obligingly pointing out with his
finger the place where he was to sign.

"No--what's the meaning of tha-at! I wasn't talking about that.... I
meant to say--what compensation are you going to give me for my land?"

"But the land is of no use to you!" said Petúnnikoff, soothingly.

"Nevertheless, it's mine!" exclaimed the soldier.

"Of course.... How much do you want?"

"Why ... what is stated in the complaint...."

"What is written there,"--said Vavíloff timidly.

"Six hundred?"--Petúnnikoff laughed softly.--"Akh, you comical fellow!"

"I have the right ... I might even demand two thousand ... I can insist
on your tearing down.... That's what I will do.... For the value of
the suit is so small. I demand--that you shall tear the building down!"

"Go ahead.... Perhaps we will tear it down ... three years
hence, after having involved you in great expense for the suit.
And after we have paid, we'll open our own little dram-shop and
eating-house,--better ones than yours--and you'll be ruined, like the
Swede at Poltáva.[6] You shall be ruined, my good man, we'll take care
of that. We might begin to take steps about the dram-shop now, only it's
a bother, and time is valuable to us. And we're sorry for you--why take
the bread away from a man, for no cause whatever?"

[6] Charles XII of Sweden, defeated at Poltáva by Peter the
Great.--Translator.

Egór Teréntievitch set his teeth firmly, stared at his visitor, and
felt conscious that the visitor was the master of his fate. Vavíloff
commiserated himself, in the presence of this coldly-composed,
implacable figure in the ridiculous checked costume.

"Being in such close vicinity to us, and living in peace with us, my
old soldier, you might do a fine business. We would take care of that,
also. For example, I will even recommend you on the spot, to open a
little shop ... you know--cheap tobacco, matches, bread, cucumbers, and
so on.... All that would have a ready sale."

Vavíloff listened, and being anything but a stupid young fellow, he
comprehended that the very best thing he could do would be to yield to
his magnanimous enemy. He ought, properly, to have begun with that.
And, not knowing how to get rid of his wrath and sense of injury, he
swore aloud at Kuválda:

"You drunkard, an-athema, may the devil give it to you!"

"You're swearing at the lawyer who drew up your petition?"--calmly
inquired Petúnnikoff, and added, with a sigh:--"as a matter of fact, he
might have played you a sorry trick ... if we had not taken pity on
you."

"Ekh!" and the mortified soldier waved his hand in despair. "There
are two of them.... One planned, the other wrote.... The damned
correspondent!"

"And why do you call him a correspondent?"

"He writes in the newspapers.... They're your lodgers.... Nice people,
truly! Get rid of them, drive them away, for Christ's sake! Robbers!
They stir up everybody here in this street, they urge them on. There's
no living for them ... they're desperate men--the first you know,
they'll rob you or set fire to your house!"

"And that correspondent--who is he?" Petúnnikoff asked with interest.

"He? A drunkard! He used to be a teacher--they turned him out. He drank
up all he owned,... and now he writes for the papers, and composes
petitions. He's a very mean man!"

"Hm! And so he wrote your petition for you? Exactly so! Evidently, it
was he, also, who wrote about the disorders in construction--he found
that the scaffolding was not properly placed, or something of that
sort."

"It was he! I know it, it was he, the dog! He read it here, himself,
and bragged--'Here, I've caused Petúnnikoff a loss,' says he."

"We-ell.... Come, sir, so we intend to make peace?"

"I make peace?"

The soldier hung his head and meditated.

"Ekh, thou gloomy life of ours!"--he exclaimed, in an injured tone, as
he scratched the nape of his neck.

"You must get some education," Petúnnikoff advised him, as he lighted a
cigarette.

"Get some education? That's not the point, my good sir! There's no
liberty, that's what's the trouble! No, look here, what sort of a life
do I lead? I live in trepidation,... continually looking around me ...
completely deprived of freedom in the movements I wish to make! And
why? I'm afraid ... that spectre of a teacher writes about me in the
newspapers ... he brings the sanitary inspectors down on me, I have
to pay fines.... The first you know, those lodgers of yours will bum
down, murder, rob.... What can I do against them? They're not afraid
of the police.... If the police locked them up, they'd even be glad of
it--they'd get their bread for nothing...."

"We'll get rid of them ... if we unite with you," promised Petúnnikoff.

"How are we to unite?" asked Vavíloff sadly and sullenly.

"Name your terms."

"But why? Give ... six hundred, as stated in the claim...."

"Won't you take one hundred?"--inquired the merchant calmly, carefully
scrutinizing his interlocutor, and smiling gently, he added:--"I won't
give a ruble more."

After that, he removed his glasses, and began slowly to wipe them,
with a handkerchief which he took from his pocket. Vavíloff gazed at
him with grief in his heart, and, at the same time, was impressed with
respect for him. In the calm countenance of young Petúnnikoff, in his
gray eyes, in his broad cheek-bones, in the whole of his well-built
figure, there was a great deal of strength, self-reliant and well
disciplined by his brain. The way Petúnnikoff had talked to him also
pleased Vavíloff: simply with friendly tones in his voice, without any
pretensions to superiority, as though with his own brother, although
Vavíloff understood that he, a soldier, was not the peer of that man.
As he scrutinized him, almost admired him, the soldier, at last, could
not hold out, and feeling within him an impulse of curiosity, which,
for the moment, smothered all his sentiments, he deferentially asked
Petúnnikoff:

"Where were you pleased to be educated?"

"In the technological institute. Why?" and the latter turned smiling
eyes upon him.

"Nothing, sir, I only ... excuse me!"--The soldier dropped his
head, and suddenly, with ecstasy, envy, and even inspiration,
he exclaimed:--"We-ell! Here's education for you! In one
word--science--light! But people of my sort are like owls in the
sunlight in this world.... Ekh-ma! Your Well-Born! Come on, let's
finish that business!"

With a resolute gesture, he offered his hand to Petúnnikoff, and said
in a suppressed way:

"Well ... five hundred?"

"Not more than one hundred, Egór Teréntievitch,"--as though regretting
that he could not give more. Petúnnikoff shrugged his shoulders, as he
slapped his large, white hand into the hairy hand of the soldier.

They soon concluded the business, for the soldier suddenly advanced to
meet Petúnnikoff's wishes in great leaps, and the latter was immovably
firm. And when Vavíloff had received one hundred rubles, and had signed
the document, he flung the pen on the table, in exasperation, and
exclaimed:

"Well, now it remains for me to deal with that golden horde! They'll
ridicule me, and put me to shame, the devils!"

"Tell them that I have paid you the full sum mentioned in the
suit,"--suggested Petúnnikoff, calmly emitting from his mouth slender
streams of smoke and watching them.

"But will they believe that? They're clever scoundrels, also, just as
bad as ..." Vavíloff halted in time, disconcerted by the comparison
which he had almost uttered, and glanced in alarm at the merchant's
son. The latter smoked on, and was entirely absorbed in that
occupation. He soon took his departure, after promising Vavíloff, as he
said farewell, that he would destroy the nest of those restless people.
Vavíloff looked after him, and sighed, feeling strongly inclined to
shout something spiteful and insulting at the back of this man, who,
with firm steps, was mounting the hill along the road filled with pits
and obstructed with rubbish.

*

In the evening, the captain presented himself in the tavern. His brows
were severely contracted, and his right hand was energetically clenched
into a fist. Vavíloff smiled apologetically as he greeted him.

"We-ell, you worthy descendant of Cain and Judas, tell me...."

"We've come to a settlement...." said Vavíloff, sighing and lowering
his eyes.

"I don't doubt it. How many rubles did you get?" "Four hundred...."

"You're certainly lying.... But that's all the better for me....
Without further words, Egórka, pay me ten per cent for the discovery,
four rubles to the teacher for writing your petition, a bucket of vódka
to all of us, and a decent amount of luncheon. Hand over the money
instantly, the vódka and the rest at eight o'clock."

Vavíloff turned green, and stared at Kuválda with widely-opened eyes.

"That's nonsense! That's robbery! I won't give it.... What are you
thinking of, Aristíd Fómitch! No, you'd better restrain your appetite
until the next feast-day! What a man you are! No, now I'm in a position
not to fear you. Now I'm...."

Kuválda looked at his watch.

"I'll give you, Egórka, ten minutes for your dirty conversation. Put
an end to the wanderings of your tongue in that time, and give what I
demand. If you don't give it--I'll eat you alive! Did The End sell you
something? Did you read in the newspaper about the robbery at Básoff's?
You understand? You won't succeed in hiding anything--we'll prevent
that. And this very night.... Do you understand?"

"Aristíd Fómitch! What is this for?"--wailed the retired
non-commissioned officer.

"No words! Do you understand or not?"

Tall, gray-haired Kuválda, with his brows impressively knit, spoke
in an undertone, and his hoarse bass hummed ominously in the empty
tavern. Vavíloff had always been a little afraid of him, both as a
former military man and as a man who had nothing to lose. But now
Kuválda presented himself in a new light to him: he did not talk much
and hurriedly, as usual, and in what he did say in the tone of a
commander, who is confident that he will be obeyed, there resounded a
threat not uttered in jest. And Vavíloff felt that the captain would
ruin him, if he chose, would ruin him with pleasure. He must yield to
force. But, with a fierce trepidation in his heart, the soldier made
one more effort to escape punishment. He heaved a deep sigh, and began
submissively:

"Evidently, the saying is true: 'The peasant woman beats herself if
she doesn't reap clean....' I told you a lie about myself, Aristíd
Fómitch.... I wanted to appear cleverer than I am.... I received only
one hundred rubles...."

"Go on...." Kuválda flung at him.

"And not four hundred, as I told you.... Which signifies...."

"Which signifies nothing. I don't know when you were lying--a while
ago, or now. I get sixty-five rubles from you. That's moderate....
Well?..."

"Ekh, oh Lord my God! Aristíd Fómitch! I have always shown regard for
Your Well-Born, as far as was in my power."

"Well? Drop your talk, Egórka, grandson of Judas!"

"Very well.... I'll give it....? Only, God will punish you for this."

"Hold your tongue, you rotten pimple on the face of the earth!"--bawled
the captain, rolling his eyes ferociously.--"I am chastised by God....
He has placed me under the necessity of seeing you, of talking with
you.... I'll mash you on the spot, like a fly!" He shook his fist
under Vavíloff's nose, and gnashed his teeth, displaying them in a
snarl.

When he went away, Vavíloff began to grin awry, and wink his eyes at
frequent intervals. Then, down his cheeks trickled two big tears. They
were of a grayish hue, and when they disappeared in his mustache, two
others made their appearance to replace them. Then Vavíloff went off to
his own room, took up his stand there in front of the holy pictures,
and there he stood for a long time, without moving or wiping away the
tears from his wrinkled, cinnamon-brown cheeks.

Deacon Tarás, who was always drawn to the forests and fields, proposed
to the men with pasts that they should go out on the plain, to a
certain ravine, and there, in the lap of Nature, drink up Vavíloff's
vódka. But the captain and all the others unanimously cursed the deacon
and Nature, and decided to drink it at home, in their own courtyard.

"One, two, three ..." counted Aristíd Fómitch,--"our sum total is
thirteen; the teacher isn't here ... well, and several jolly dogs will
join us. We'll reckon it at twenty persons. At two cucumbers and a half
per brother, and a pound of bread and meat apiece--it won't be so bad!
We must have a bottle of vódka apiece ... there's sour cabbage, and
apples, and three watermelons. The question is, what the devil more do
we need, my fellow-scoundrels? So we'll make ready to devour Egórka
Vavíloff, for all this is his flesh and blood!"

They spread out the remains of some garments or other on the ground,
on them laid out the viands and liquor, and seated themselves around
them,--seated themselves sedately and in silence, with difficulty
restraining their greedy desire to drink which beamed in their eyes.

Evening drew near, its shadows descended upon the ground in the
courtyard of the lodging-house, disfigured with scraps, and the last
rays of the sun lighted up the roof of the half-ruined edifice. It was
cool and still.

"Let's start in, brothers!"--the captain gave the word of
command.--"How many cups have we? Six ... and there are thirteen of
us.... Alexéi Maxímovitch! Pour! Ready? Co-ome on, first platoon ...
fire!"

They drank, grunted, and began to eat.

"And the teacher isn't here ... this is the third day that I haven't
seen him. Has anybody seen him?"--inquired Kuválda.

"Nobody...."

"That's not like him! Well, no matter. Let's have another drink!...
Let's drink to the health of Aristíd Kuválda, my only friend, who, all
my life long, has never left me alone for a minute. Although, devil
take him, I should have been the gainer if he had deprived me of his
society for a while!"

"That's witty,"--said The Gnawed Bone, and coughed.

The captain, with a consciousness of his superiority, gazed at his
comrade, but said nothing, for he was eating.

After taking two drinks, the company grew lively all of a sudden--the
portions were inspiring. Tarás-and-a-Half expressed a desire to listen
to a story, but the deacon had got into a dispute with The Peg-top
about the advantages of thin women over fat ones, and paid no attention
to the other man's words, but demonstrated his views to The Peg-top
with the obduracy and heat of a man who is profoundly convinced of the
justice of his views. The ingenuous face of The Meteor, who was lying
on his stomach beside him, expressed emotion, as he relished the heady
little words of the deacon. Martyánoff, clasping his knees with his
huge hands, overgrown with black hair, stared silently and gloomily at
a bottle of vódka, and fished for his mustache with his tongue, in the
endeavor to bite it with his teeth. The Gnawed Bone was teasing Tyápa.

"I've already observed, you sorcerer, where you hide your money!"

"You're lucky...." said Tyápa hoarsely.

"I'm going to snatch it away ..."

"Take it...."

These people bored Kuválda: there was not among them a single companion
worthy to listen to his eloquence and capable of comprehending him.

"Where can the teacher be?"--he meditated aloud.

Martyánoff looked at him, and said:

"He'll come ..."

"I'm convinced that he'll come--but he won't drive up in a carriage.
Future convict, let's drink to your future. If you murder a man with
money, share it with me.... Then, my dear fellow, I'll go to America,
to those ... what's their name? Lampas?... Pampas! I'll go there, and
I'll wind up as president of the states. Then I'll declare war on all
Europe, and give it a sound drubbing. I'll buy an army ... in Europe,
also ... I'll invite the French, the Germans, the Turks, and so forth,
and with them I'll beat their own relatives ... as Ilyá of Muróm beat
the Tatár with a Tatár.... With money, one can be an Ilyá also ... and
annihilate Europe, and hire Judas Petúnnikoff as a lackey.... He'll do
it ... give him a hundred rubles a month, and he'll do it! But he'll
make a bad lackey, for he'll begin to steal...."

"And a thin woman is better than a fat one in this respect also, she
comes cheaper,"--said the deacon argumentatively. "My first wife used
to buy twelve arshíns for a dress, the second bought ten.... And so it
was with the food, also...."

Tarás-and-a-Half laughed apologetically, turned his head toward the
deacon, fixed his eyes on the latter's face, and said, in confusion:

"I, also, had a wife...."

"That may happen to anybody,"--remarked Kuválda.--"Continue your
lies...."

"She was thin, but she ate a great deal.... And she even died of
that...."

"You poisoned her, cock-eye!"--said The Gnawed Bone, with conviction.

"No, by God I didn't! She overate herself on sturgeon,"--said
Tarás-and-a-Half.

"And I tell you--that you poisoned her!"--reiterated The Gnawed Bone,
decisively.

It often happened thus with him: when he had once uttered some
piece of folly, he began to reiterate it, without quoting any
grounds in confirmation, and though he talked, at first, in a
capriciously-childish tone, he gradually worked up almost to a state of
frenzy.

The deacon stood up for his friend.

"No, he is incapable of poisoning ... there was no cause...."

"And I say that he did poison her!"--squealed The Gnawed Bone.

"Hold your tongues!"--shouted the captain menacingly. His ill-humor
had been converted into morose wrath. He stared at his friends with
savage eyes, and not descrying in their ugly physiognomies, already
half-drunk, anything which could supply further food for his wrath, he
hung his head on his breast, sat thus for a few minutes, and then lay
down on the ground, face upward. The Meteor was nibbling at a cucumber.
He had taken the cucumber into his hand, without looking at it, thrust
it up to the middle in his mouth, and immediately began to chew it with
his large, yellow teeth, so that the brine from the cucumber spattered
in all directions, bedewing his cheeks. Evidently, he was not hungry,
but this process of eating diverted him. Martyánoff sat motionless as
a statue, in the same attitude in which he had seated himself on the
ground, and he, also, was staring in a concentrated, gloomy way, at
a six-quart bottle of vódka, which was already half empty. Tyápa was
staring at the ground, and noisily chewing meat, which did not yield
to his aged teeth. The Gnawed Bone lay on his stomach, and coughed,
with his whole tiny body curled up in a ball. The rest--all taciturn,
obscure figures--were sitting and lying in various attitudes, and all
these men together, clad in their rags and the evening twilight, were
hardly distinguishable from the heaps of rubbish scattered over the
courtyard and overgrown with tall grass. Their ungainly attitudes and
their rags made them resemble deformed animals, created by a rough,
fantastic power, as a travesty on man.

    "There lived and dwelt in Súzdal town
    A gentlewoman of no account.
    And she was seized with a fit of cramps,
    Of mo-st unpleasant cramps!"

the deacon began to hum, in an undertone, as he embraced Alexéi
Maxímovitch, smiling beatifically into the latter's face.
Tarás-and-a-Half giggled voluptuously.

Night was at hand. In the sky, the stars were quietly kindling--up on
the hill, in the town, the lights in the street-lamps. The mournful
whistles of the steamers were wafted from the river, the door of
Vavíloff's tavern opened with a creaking and crashing of glass. Two
dark figures entered the courtyard, approached the group of men
gathered round the bottle, and one of them asked, hoarsely:

"Are you drinking?"

And the other, in an undertone, with envy and joy, said:

"Oh, what devils!"

Then a hand was extended across the head of the deacon, and grasped the
bottle, and the characteristic gurgling of vódka became audible, as it
was poured from the bottle into a cup. Then there was a loud grunting
noise ...

"Well, this is melancholy!"--ejaculated the deacon.--"Cock-eye! Let's
call to mind days of yore, let's sing 'By the rivers of Babylon!'"

"Does he know how?" inquired Símtzoff.

"He? He used to be a soloist in the Bishop's choir, my good fellow....
Come on, Cock-eye.... O-on-the-e-ri-i-iv-ers ...."

The deacon's voice was wild, hoarse, cracked, and his friend sang in a
squeaking falsetto.

Enveloped in the gloom, the empty house seemed to have increased in
size, or to have moved its whole mass of half-decayed wood nearer to
these men, who were awaking in it a dull echo by their wild singing. A
cloud, magnificent and dark, was slowly floating across the sky above
it. Some one of the men with pasts was snoring, the rest, still not
sufficiently intoxicated, were either eating and drinking in silence,
or chatting in an undertone, broken with prolonged pauses. None of them
were accustomed to this dejected mood at a banquet, which was rare as
to the abundance of vódka and of viands. For some reason or other, the
boisterous animation characteristic of the lodging-house's inhabitants
over a bottle did not flare up for a long time.

"You're ... dogs! Stop your howling," said the captain to the singers,
raising his head from the ground, and listening.--"Someone is driving
in this direction ... in a drozhky...."

A drozhky at that hour in Vyézhaya Street could not fail to arouse
general attention. Who from the town would run the risk of driving over
the ruts and pit-holes of the street--who was it, and why? All raised
their heads and listened. In the nocturnal silence the rumbling of
the wheels, as they came in contact with the splashers, was plainly
audible. It grew nearer and nearer. A voice rang out, roughly inquiring:

"Well, where is it?"

Someone answered:

"It must be that house, yonder."

"I won't go any further...."

"They're coming here!" exclaimed the captain.

"The police!" a tremulous murmur ran round.

"In a carriage! The fool!"--said Martyánoff in a dull tone.

Kuválda rose, and went to the gate.

The Gnawed Bone, stretching his head after him, began to listen.

"Is this the night lodging-house?" inquired someone, in a shaking voice.

"Yes, Aristíd Kuválda's.. boomed the dissatisfied bass voice of the
captain.

"There, there now ... has Títoff the reporter been living here?"

"Aha! Have you brought him?"

"Yes...."

"Drunk?"

"Ill!"

"That means, that he's very drunk. Hey there, teacher! get up!"

"Wait! I'll help you ... he's very ill. He has been lying ill in my
house for two days. Grasp him under the arm-pits.... The doctor has
been. He's in a very bad way...."

Tyápa rose, and slowly walked to the gate, but The Gnawed Bone grinned
and took a drink.

"Light up, there!" shouted the captain.

The Meteor went into the lodging-house and lighted the lamp. Then
from the door of the house a broad streak of light streamed across
the courtyard, and the captain, in company with a small man, led the
teacher along it to the lodging-house. His head hung flabbily on his
breast, his legs dragged along the ground, and his arms dangled in the
air, as though they were broken. With the aid of Tyápa, they laid him
in a heap on the sleeping-shelf, and he, trembling all over, stretched
himself out on it, with a quiet groan.

"He and I have been working on the same newspaper.... He's very
unfortunate. I said:--'Pray lie at my house, you will not incommode me
...' But he entreated me--'Take me home!' He got excited.... I thought
that was injurious to him, and so I have brought him ... home! He
really belongs here, does he?"

"And, in your opinion, has he a home somewhere else?" asked Kuválda
roughly, as he stared intently at his friend. "Tyápa, go and fetch some
cold water!"

"So now...." hesitated the little man.... "I suppose ... he does not
need me?"

"You?"--and the captain examined him critically.

The little man was dressed in a sack-coat, much the worse for wear, and
carefully buttoned clear up to the chin. There was fringe on the edges
of his trousers, his hat was red with age and crumpled, as was also his
gaunt, hungry face.

"No, he doesn't need you ... there are a great many of your sort
here...." said the captain, turning away from the little man.

"Farewell for the present, then!"--The little man went to the door, and
from that spot he quietly asked:

"If anything should happen ... please give notice at the editorial
office.... My name is Rýzhoff. I should like to write a brief obituary
... for, after all, you know, he was a worker on the press...."

"Hm! An obituary, you say? Twenty lines--twenty kopéks? I'll do better:
when he dies, I'll cut off one of his legs and send it to the editorial
office, addressed to you. That will be more profitable to you than
an obituary, It'll last you for two or three days ... his legs are
thick.... You've all been devouring him alive, surely you will eat him
when he's dead ... also,...."

The man gave a queer sort of snort, and vanished. The captain sat down
on the sleeping-shelf beside the teacher, felt the latter's brow and
breast with his hand, and called him by name:

"Philip!"

The dull sound re-echoed from the dirty walls of the night
lodging-house, and died away.

"This is awkward, brother!"--said the captain, softly smoothing the
dishevelled hair of the teacher with his hand. Then the captain
listened to his breathing, which was hot and spasmodic, scrutinized
his face, which was sunken and earthy in hue, sighed, and frowning
harshly, glanced around. The lamp was a bad one: its flame flickered,
and black shadows danced silently over the walls of the lodging-house.
The captain began to stare stubbornly at their silent play, and to
stroke his beard.

Tyápa arrived with a bucket of water, set it on the sleeping-shelf by
the teacher's head, and, taking his hand, he raised it on his own hand,
as though weighing it.

"The water is not needed," and the captain waved his hand.

"The priest is needed," announced the old rag-picker confidently.

"Nothing is needed," decided the captain.

They fell silent, gazing at the teacher.

"Let's go and have a drink, you old devil!"

"And he?"

"Can you help him?"

Tyápa turned his back on the teacher, and both of them went out into
the courtyard, to their company.

"What's going on there?"--inquired The Gnawed Bone, turning his sharp
face to the captain.

"Nothing in particular.... The man is dying ...." the captain curtly
informed him.

"Have they been beating him?" asked The Gnawed Bone, with interest.

The captain made no reply, for he was drinking vódka at the moment.

"It seems as though he knew that we have something wherewith to hold a
feast in commemoration of him," said The Gnawed Bone, as he lighted a
cigarette.

Someone laughed, someone else sighed deeply. But, on the whole, the
conversation between the captain and The Gnawed Bone did not produce
upon these men any perceptible impression; at all events, it could not
be seen that it had disturbed anyone, interested anyone, or set anyone
to thinking. All of them had treated the teacher as though he were a
remarkable man, but now many were already drunk, while others still
remained calm outwardly. The deacon alone suddenly straightened himself
up, made a noise with his lips, rubbed his forehead, and howled wildly:

"Whe-ere the just re-po-o-ose!"[8]

"Here, you!"--hissed The Gnawed Bone,--"what's that you're roaring?"

"Give him a whack in his ugly face!"--counselled the captain.

[8] A quotation from the Funeral and Requiem Services.--Translator.

"Fool!" rang out Tyápa's hoarse voice. "When a man is dyings one should
hold his tongue ... there should be quiet...."

It was quiet enough: both in heaven, which was covered with
storm-clouds and threatened rain, and on earth, enveloped in the gloomy
darkness of the autumnal night. From time to time the snores of those
who had fallen asleep, the gurgling of the vódka as it was poured out,
and munching were audible. The deacon kept muttering something. The
storm-clouds floated low, as though they were on the point of striking
the roof of the old house and overturning it on top of the group of men.

"Ah ... one's soul feels badly when a man whom he knows is dying,"
remarked the captain, with a hiccough, and bowed his head upon his
breast.

No one answered him.

"He was the best ... among us ... the cleverest,... the most decent....
I'm sorry for him...."

"Gi-i-ive re-est wi-i-ith the Sa-a-aints[9] ... sing, you cock-eyed
rogue!"--blustered the deacon, punching the ribs of his friend who was
slumbering by his side.

"Shut up!... you!"--exclaimed The Gnawed Bone in a whisper, as he
sprang to his feet.

[9] From the Funeral and Requiem Services.--Translator.

"I'll hit him over the noddle,"--suggested Martyánoff, raising his head
from the ground.

"Aren't you asleep?"--said Aristíd Fómitch, with unusual amiability.--"
Did you hear? The teacher's here...."

Martyánoff fidgeted heavily about on the ground, rose, looked at
the strip of light which proceeded from the door and windows of the
lodging-house, waggled his head, and sat down in silence by the
captain's side.

"Shall we take a drink?" suggested the latter.

Having found some glasses by the sense of feeling, they took a drink.

"I'll go and take a look.. said Tyápa; "perhaps he needs something...."

"He needs a coffin...." grinned the captain.

"Don't you talk about that," entreated The Gnawed Bone, in a low voice.

After Tyápa, The Meteor rose from the ground. The deacon, also,
attempted to rise, but rolled over on his side, and swore loudly.

When Tyápa went away the captain slapped Martyánoff on the shoulder,
and said in a low voice:

"So now, Martyánoff.... You ought to feel it more than the others....
You were ... however, devil take it. Are you sorry for Philip?"

"No,"--replied the former jail-warden, after a pause.--"I don't feel
anything of that sort, brother.... I've got out of the habit.... It's
abominable to live so. I'm speaking seriously when I say that I'll
murder somebody...."

"Yes?"--said the captain vaguely. "Well ... what of that? Let's have
another drink!"

"W-we are in-in-sig-ni-fi-cant fo-olks. I've had a drink--but I'll take
ano-therrr!"

Símtzoff now awoke, and began to sing in a blissful voice.

"Brethren! Who's there? Pour out a cupful for the old man!"

They poured it and handed it to him. After drinking it, he again rolled
over in a heap, knocking his head against someone's side.

The silence lasted for a couple of minutes--a silence as gloomy and
painful as the autumnal night. Then someone whispered....

"What?" the question rang out.

"I say, that he was a splendid fellow. Such a quiet head...." they said
in an undertone.

"And he had money, too,... and he didn't spare it for the fellows...."
and again silence reigned.

"He's dying!" Tyápa's shout resounded over the captain's head.

Aristíd Fómitch rose, and moving his feet with forced steadiness, he
went to the lodging-house.

"What are you going for?" Tyápa stopped
him.--"Don't go. For you're drunk ... and it isn't a good thing...."

The captain halted and meditated.

"What is good on this earth? Go to the devil!" And he gave Tyápa a
shove.

The shadows were still leaping along the walls of the night
lodging-house, as though engaged in mute conflict with one another. On
the sleeping-shelf, stretched out at full length[10] lay the teacher,
rattling in the throat. His eyes were wide open, his bare chest heaved
violently, froth was oozing from the corners of his mouth, and on his
face there was a strained expression, as though he were making an
effort to say something great, difficult--and was not able, and was
suffering inexpressibly in consequence.

The captain stood in front of him, with his hands clasped behind his
back, and stared at him for about a minute. Then he began to speak,
painfully contracting his brows:

"Philip! Say something to me ... throw a word of comfort to your
friend!... I love you, brother.... All men are beasts, but you were
for me--a man ... although you were a drunkard. Akh, how you did drink
vódka! Philip! It was exactly that which has ruined you.... And why?
You ought to have known how to control yourself ... and listen to me.
D-didn't I use to tell you...."

The mysterious, all-annihilating power called Death, as though insulted
by the presence of this intoxicated man at the gloomy and solemn scene
of its conflict with life, decided to make as speedy an end as possible
of its business, and the teacher, heaving a deep sigh, moaned softly,
shuddered, stretched himself out, and died.

The captain reeled on his legs, as he continued his speech.

"What's the matter with you? Do you want me to bring you some vódka?
But better not drink it, Philip.... Restrain yourself, conquer
yourself.... If you can't--drink! Why restrain yourself, to speak
plainly.... For whose sake, Philip? Isn't that so? For whose sake?..."

He grasped his foot, and drew him toward him.

"Ah, you are asleep, Philip? Well ... sleep on.... A quiet night to
you ... to-morrow I'll explain it all to you, and you'll be convinced
that it isn't necessary to deny yourself anything.... But now--sleep
... if you are not dead...."

He went out, accompanied by silence, and when he came to his men he
announced:

"He's asleep ... or dead ... I don't know ... I'm a l-lit-tle drunk...."

Tyápa bent over still further, making the sign of the cross on his
breast. Martyánoff writhed quietly, and lay down on the ground. The
Meteor, that stupid lad, began to whimper, softly and plaintively, like
an affronted woman. The Gnawed Bone began to wriggle swiftly over the
ground, saying in a low, spiteful, and sorrowful tone:

"The devil take the whole lot of you! Tormentors.... Well, he's dead!
Come, what of that? I ... why need I know that? Why must I be told
about that? The time will come ... when I shall die myself ... just as
much as he ... I, as much as the rest."

"That's true!" said the captain loudly, dropping heavily to the
ground.--"The time will come, and we shall all die, like the rest ...
ha-ha! How we pass our lives ... is a trifling matter! But we shall
die--like everybody. Therein lies the goal of life, believe my words.
For a man lives in order that he may die.... And he dies.... And if
that is so, what difference does it make why and how he dies, and how
he has lived? Am I right, Martyánoff? Let's have another drink ... and
another, as long as we are alive...."

The rain began to fall. Dense, stifling gloom covered the forms of
the men, as they wallowed on the earth, curled up in slumber or
intoxication. The streak of light proceeding from the lodging-house
paled, flickered, and suddenly vanished. Evidently, the wind had blown
out the lamp or the kerosene in it had burned down. The raindrops
tapped timidly, irresolutely, as they fell upon the iron roof of the
lodging-house. From the town, at the top of the hill, melancholy,
occasional strokes of a bell were wafted--it was the churches being
guarded.

The brazen sound, floating from the belfry, floated softly through the
darkness, and slowly died away in it, but before the darkness could
engulf its last, tremulously-sobbing note, another stroke began, and
again, through the silence of the night, the melancholy sigh of the
metal was borne forth.

*

Tyápa was the first to awaken in the morning.

Turning over on his back, he stared at the sky--only in this posture
did his deformed neck permit him to see the heaven overhead.

On that morning the sky was uniformly gray. There, on high, the dark,
cold gloom had thickened, it had extinguished the sun, and covering the
blue infinity, poured forth melancholy upon the earth. Tyápa crossed
himself, and raised himself on his elbow, in order to see whether any
of the vódka anywhere remained. The bottle was there, but it was empty.
Crawling across his comrades, Tyápa began to inspect the cups from
which they had drunk. He found one of them almost full, drank it down,
wiped his lips with his sleeve, and began to shake the captain by the
shoulder.

"Get up ... hey there! Do you hear?"

The captain raised his head, gazing at him with dim eyes.

"We must inform the police ... come, then, get up!"

"What's the matter?"--asked the captain, sleepily and angrily.

"The matter is, that he's dead...."

"Who's dead?"

"The learned man...."

"Philip? Ye-es!"

"And you've forgotten--ekhma!"--grunted Tyápa reproachfully.

The captain rose to his feet, yawned with a whizzing noise, and
stretched himself so hard that his bones creaked.

"Then, you go and report...."

"I won't go ... I don't like them,"--said Tyápa in a surly tone.

"Well, then, wake up the deacon yonder.... And I'll go and see about
things...."

"All right ... get up, deacon!"

The captain went into the lodging-house, and stood at the teacher's
feet. The dead man was lying stretched out at full length: his left
hand was on his breast, his right was flung back in such a manner as
though he had been flourishing it preparatory to dealing someone a
blow. The captain reflected, that if the teacher were to rise now, he
would be as tall as Tarás-and-a-Half. Then he seated himself on the
sleeping-shelf, at the feet of his friend, and calling to mind that
they had lived together for three years, he sighed. Tyápa entered,
holding his head, as a goat does, when he is about to butt. He sat down
on the other side of the teacher's feet, gazed at the latter's dark,
calm, serious face, with its tightly closed eyes, and said hoarsely:

"Yes ... there he is dead.... I shall die soon...."

"It's time you did,"--said the captain morosely.

"It is time!"--assented Tyápa.--"And you must die also.... Anyhow, it's
better than...."

"Perhaps it's worse? How do you know?"

"It can't be worse. You'll die, you'll have to deal with God.... But
with the people here.... But what do people signify?"

"Well, all right, don't rattle in your throat like that ..." Kuválda
angrily interrupted him.

And in the gloom which filled the night lodging-house an impressive
silence reigned.

For a long time they sat there in silence, at the feet of their dead
comrade, and glanced at him, now and then, both absorbed in thought.
Then Tyápa inquired:

"Shall you bury him?"

"I? No! Let the police bury him."

"Well! You'd better bury him, I think ... you know, you took his money
from Vavíloff for writing that petition.... I'll contribute, if there
isn't enough...."

"I have his money ... but I won't bury him."

"That's not well. You're robbing a corpse. I'll just tell everybody
that you want to devour his money...." menaced Tyápa.

"You're stupid, you old devil!"--said Kuválda scornfully.

"I'm not stupid.... Only, that isn't good, I say, not a friendly thing
to do."

"Well, it's all right, anyway. Get away with you!"

"You don't say so! And how much money is there?"

"Four rubles...." said Kuválda abstractedly.

"There, now! You might give me five rubles...."

"What a rascally old fellow you are ..." and the captain swore at
Tyápa, looking him indifferently in the face.

"What of that? Really, now, give it...."

"Go to the devil!... I'm going to build him a monument with the money."

"What's the good of that to him?"

"I'll buy a mill-stone and an anchor. I'll put the millstone on the
grave, and I'll fasten the anchor to it with a chain.... It will be
very heavy...."

"What for? You're getting whimsical...."

"Well ... it's no business of yours."

"I'll tell, see if I don't...." threatened Tyápa again.

Aristíd Fómitch gazed dully at him and made no reply. And again, for a
long time, they sat in silence, which always assumes an impressive and
mysterious coloring in the presence of the dead.

"Hark, there ... somebody's driving up!"--said Tyápa, as he rose, and
left the lodging-house.

The police captain of the district, the coroner, and the doctor soon
made their appearance at the door. All three, one after the other,
approached the teacher, and after taking a look at him went out,
rewarding Kuválda with sidelong and suspicious glances. He sat there,
paying no attention to them, until the police captain asked him,
nodding toward the teacher:

"What did he die of?"

"Ask him ... I think, from lack of practice...."

"What's that you say?"--inquired the police captain.

"I say--he died, in my opinion, from lack of practice, because he
wasn't used to the illness that seized upon him...."

"Hm ... yes! And was he ill long?"

"We might drag him out here, we can't see anything in there," suggested
the doctor, in a bored tone.--"Perhaps there are traces...."

"Here, you, there, call someone to carry him out,"--the police captain
ordered Kuválda.

"Call them yourself.... He doesn't bother me where he is...." retorted
Kuválda indifferently.

"Get along, there!"--shouted the policeman, with a savage face.

"Whoa!" parried Kuválda, not stirring from the spot and calmly
disclosing his teeth in a vicious snarl.

"I'll give it to you, devil take you!"--shouted the police captain,
enraged to such a degree that his face became suffused with blood.--"I
won't overlook this!..."

"A very good-morning, honored sirs!"--said merchant Petúnnikoff, in a
sweet voice, as he made his appearance in the doorway.

Taking them all in with one sharp glance, he shuddered, retreated a
pace, and removing his cap, began to cross himself vehemently. Then a
smile of malevolent triumph flitted across his countenance, and staring
point-blank at Kuválda he inquired respectfully:

"What's this here?--Can they have murdered the man?"

"Why, something of that sort," the coroner replied.

Petúnnikoff heaved a deep sigh, then crossed himself again, and said,
in a tone of distress:

"Ah, Lord my God! This is just what I was afraid of! Every time I
dropped in here to take a look ... áï, áï, áï! And when I got home,
I kept having such visions--God preserve everyone from such an
experience!--Many a time I have felt like turning that gentleman yonder
... the commander-in-chief of the golden horde, out of his quarters,
but I was always afraid to ... you know ... it's better to yield to
that sort of people ... I said to myself,... otherwise...."

He made an easy gesture with his hand in the air, then drew it across
his face, gathered his beard in his fist, and sighed again.

"Dangerous people. And that gentleman there is a sort of commander over
them ... a regular bandit chieftain."

"And we're going to examine him," said the police captain in an
extremely significant tone, as he gazed at the cavalry captain with
revengeful eyes. "He is well known to me!..."

"Yes, brother, you and I are old acquaintances...." assented Kuválda,
in a familiar tone.--"What a lot of bribes I've paid to you and to
your sprouts of under-officials to hold your tongues!"

"Gentlemen!"--cried the police captain,--"you hear him? I request that
you will bear this in mind! I won't overlook this.... Ah ... ah! So
that's it? Well, I'll give you cause to remember me! I'll ... put an
end to you, my friend!"

"Don't brag when you set out for the wars ... my friend,"--said Aristíd
Fómitch coolly.

The doctor, a young man in spectacles, stared at him with curiosity,
the coroner with ominous attention, Petúnnikoff with triumph, but the
police captain shouted and dashed about, as he flung himself on him.

The sinister form of Martyánoff made its appearance in the doorway of
the lodging-house. He stepped up quietly and stood behind Petúnnikoff,
so that his chin was just over the merchant's crown. On one side, from
behind him, peered the deacon, his small, swollen, red eyes opened to
their fullest extent.

"Come on, let's do something, gentlemen," suggested the doctor.

Martyánoff made a terrible grimace, and suddenly sneezed straight on
Petúnnikoff's head. Hie latter shrieked, squatted down, and sprang
to one side, almost knocking the police captain off his feet, as the
latter supported him, having opened his arms wide to receive him.

"You see?"--said the merchant, pointing at Martyánoff. "That's the sort
of people they are! Hey?"

Kuválda broke out into a roar of laughter. The doctor and the coroner
laughed, and new forms kept constantly approaching the door of the
night lodging-house. The half-awake, bloated physiognomies, with red,
swollen eyes, with dishevelled heads, unceremoniously scrutinized the
doctor, the coroner, and the police captain.

"Where are you crawling to!"--the policeman exhorted them, tugging at
their rags and pushing them away from the door. But he was one, and
they were many, and paying no heed to him, silent and threatening they
continued to advance, exhaling an odor of stale vódka. Kuválda looked
at them, then at the authorities, who were somewhat disconcerted by
the size of this ugly audience, and, with a grin, he remarked to the
authorities:

"Gentlemen! Perhaps you would like to make the acquaintance of my
lodgers and friends? You would? Never mind ... sooner or later, you'll
be forced to make acquaintance with them, in the discharge of your
duties...."

The doctor laughed in an embarrassed way. The coroner pressed his lips
tightly together, and the police captain saw what it was necessary to
do, and shouted outside:

"Sídoroff! Whistle ... when the men arrive, tell them to get a cart ..."

"Well, I must be going!"--said Petúnnikoff, moving forward from
somewhere in the corner.--"You will vacate my quarters to-day, sir....
I'm going to have this old shanty torn down.... Look out, or I'll apply
to the police ..."

The shrill whistle of the policeman rang out in the courtyard. At the
door of the night lodging-house its denizens stood in a dense mass,
yawning and scratching their heads.

"So, you don't want to make acquaintance?... That's impolite!..."
laughed Aristíd Kuválda.

Petúnnikoff took his purse out of his pocket, fumbled in it, pulled
out two five-kopék pieces, and, crossing himself, laid them at the feet
of the corpse.

"Bless, oh Lord ... for the burial of the sinner's dust...."

"Wha-at!" bawled the cavalry captain.--"You? For his burial? Take
it away! Take it away, I tell you ... you scou-oundrel! You dare to
contribute your stolen pennies to the burial of an honest man.... I'll
tear you to bits!"

"Your Well-Born!" shouted the merchant in alarm, seizing the police
captain by the elbow. The doctor and the coroner rushed out, the police
captain shouted loudly:

"Sídoroff, come here!"

The men with pasts formed a wall across the door, and with interest
lighting up their rumpled faces they watched and listened.

Kuválda shook his fist over Petúnnikoff's head, and roared, rolling his
blood-shot eyes ferociously. "Scoundrel and thief! Take your money!
You dirty creature ... take it, I say ... if you don't, I'll ram those
five-kopék pieces into your eyeballs--take it!"

Petúnnikoff stretched out a trembling hand toward his mite, and fending
off Kuválda's fist with the other hand, he said:

"Bear witness, Mr. Police Captain, and you, my good people."

"We're bad people, merchant," rang out The Gnawed Bone's trembling
voice.

The police captain, puffing out his face like a bladder, whistled
desperately, and held his other hand in the air over the head of
Petúnnikoff, who was wriggling about in front of him exactly as though
he were about to jump upon his body.

"If you like, Ill make you kiss the feet of this corpse, you base
viper? D-do you want to?"

And grasping Petúnnikoff by the collar, Kuválda hurled him to the door,
as though he had been a kitten. The men with pasts hastily stepped
aside, to make room for Petúnnikoff to fall. And he sprawled at their
feet, howling in rage and terror:

"Murder! Police ... I'm killed!"

Martyánoff slowly raised his foot, and took aim with it at the
merchant's head. The Gnawed Bone, with a voluptuous expression on
his countenance, spat in Petúnnikoff's face. The merchant contracted
himself into a small ball, and rolled, on all fours, into the
courtyard, encouraged by a roar of laughter. But two policemen had
already made their appearance in the courtyard, and the police captain,
pointing at Kuválda, shouted triumphantly:

"Arrest him! Bind him!"

"Bind him, my dear men!"--entreated Petúnnikoff.

"Don't you dare! I won't run away ... I'll go of myself, wherever it's
necessary...." said Kuválda, waving aside the policemen, who had run up
to him.

The men with pasts vanished, one by one. A cart drove into the
courtyard. Several dejected tatterdemalions had already carried the
teacher out of the lodging-house.

"I'll g-give it to you, my dear fellow ... just wait!"--the police
captain menaced Kuválda.

"Well, you bandit chief!"--inquired Petúnnikoff venomously, excited and
happy at the sight of his enemy, whose hands had been bound.

"Lead him off!" said the police captain, pointing at the cavalry
captain.

Kuválda, making no protest, silent and with knitted brows, moved from
the yard, and as he passed the teacher he bowed his head, but did not
look at him. Martyánoff, with his stony face, followed him. Merchant
Petúnnikoff's courtyard was speedily emptied.

"Go on, now!" and the cab-driver shook his reins over his horse's
crupper.

The cart moved off, jolting over the uneven ground of the courtyard.
The teacher, covered with some rag or other, lay stretched out in
it, face upward, and his belly quivered. It seemed as though the
teacher were laughing, in a quiet, satisfied way, delighted that, at
last, he was to leave the night lodging-house, never to return there
again.... Petúnnikoff, as he accompanied him with a glance, crossed
himself piously, and then began with his cap to beat off the dust and
rubbish which had clung to his clothing. And, in proportion as the
dust disappeared from his coat, a calm expression of satisfaction
with himself and confidence in himself made its appearance on his
countenance. From the courtyard he could see Aristíd Fómitch Kuválda
walking along the street, up the hill, with his hands bound behind him,
tall, gray-haired, in a cap with a red band, which resembled a streak
of blood.

Petúnnikoff smiled the smile of the conqueror, and went into the night
lodging-house, but suddenly halted, shuddering. In the door, facing
him, with a stick in his hand and a huge sack on his shoulder, stood a
terrible old man, bristling like a hedgehog with the rags which covered
his long body, bent beneath the weight of his burden, and with his head
bowed upon his breast exactly as though he were about to hurl himself
at the merchant.

"What do you want?" shouted Petúnnikoff.--"Who are you?"

"A man..." rang out a dull, hoarse voice.

This hoarse rattle rejoiced and reassured Petúnnikoff. He even smiled.

"A man! Akh, you queer fellow ... do such men exist?"

And stepping aside, he let the old man pass him, as the latter marched
straight at him, and muttered dully: "There are various sorts of men
... as God wills.... There are worse men than I ... worse than I ...
yes!"

The overcast sky gazed silently into the dirty courtyard, and at the
clean man, with the small, pointed, gray beard, who was walking over
the ground, measuring something with his footsteps and with his sharp
little eyes. On the roof of the old house a crow sat and croaked
triumphantly, as it stretched out its neck, and rocked to and fro. In
the stern, gray storm-clouds, which thickly covered the sky, there was
something strained and implacable, as though they, in preparing to
discharge a downpour of rain, were firmly resolved to wash away all the
filth from this unhappy, tortured, melancholy earth.



THE INSOLENT MAN


The irritated, angry editor was running to and fro in the large, light
editorial office of the "N---- Gazette," crumpling in his hand a copy
of the publication, spasmodically shouting and swearing. It was a
tiny figure, with a sharp, thin face, decorated with a little beard
and gold eyeglasses. Stamping loudly with his thin legs, encased in
gray trousers, he fairly whirled about the long table, which stood in
the middle of the room, and was loaded down with crumpled newspapers,
galley-proofs, and fragments of manuscript. At the table, with one
hand resting upon it, while with the other he wiped his brow, stood
the publisher--a tall, stout, fair-haired man, of middle age, and with
a faint grin on his white, well-fed face, he watched the editor with
merry, brilliant eyes. The maker-up, an angular man, with a yellow face
and a sunken chest, in a light-brown coat, which was very dirty and far
too long for him, was shrinking closely against the wall. He raised his
brows, and gazed at the ceiling with staring eyes, as though trying
to recall something, or in meditation, but a moment later, wrinkled
up his nose in a disenchanted way, and dropped his head dejectedly on
his breast. In the doorway stood the form of the office boy; men with
anxious, dissatisfied countenances kept entering and disappearing,
jostling him on their way. The voice of the editor, cross, irritated,
and ringing, sometimes rose to a squeal, and made the publisher frown
and the maker-up shudder in affright.

"No ... this is such a rascally piece of business! I'll start a
criminal suit against this scoundrel.... Has the proof-reader arrived?
Devil take it,--I ask--has the proof-reader arrived? Call all the
compositors here! Have you told them? No, just imagine, what will
happen now! All the newspapers will take it up.... Dis-grrrace! All
Russia will hear of it.... I won't let that scoundrel off!"

And raising his hands which held the newspaper to his head, the editor
stood rooted to the spot, as though endeavoring to wrap his head in the
paper, and thus protect it from the anticipated disgrace.

"Find him first,..." advised the publisher, with a dry laugh.

"I'll f-find him, sir! I'll f-find him!"--the editor's eyes blazed,
and starting on his gallop once more, and pressing the newspaper to
his breast, he began to tousle it fiercely.--"I'll find him, and I'll
roast him.... And where's that proof-reader?... Aha!... Here.... Now,
sir, I beg that you will favor me with your company, my dear sirs!
Hm!... 'The peaceful commanders of the leaden armies ...' ha, ha! Pass
in ... there, that's it!"

One after another the compositors entered the room. They already knew
what the trouble was, and each one of them had prepared himself to play
the part of the culprit, in view of which fact, they all unanimously
expressed in their grimy faces, impregnated with lead dust, complete
immobility and a sort of wooden composure. They huddled together, in
the corner of the room, in a dense group. The editor halted in front of
them, with his hands, clutching the newspaper, thrown behind his back.
He was shorter in stature than they, and he was obliged to hold back
his head, in order to look them in the face. He made this movement too
quickly, and his spectacles flew up on his forehead; thinking that they
were about to fall, he flung his hand into the air to catch them, but,
at that moment, they fell back again on the bridge of his nose.

"Devil take you..." he gritted his teeth.

Happy smiles beamed on the grimy countenances of the compositors.
Someone uttered a suppressed laugh. "I have not summoned you hither
that you may show your teeth at me!"--shouted the editor viciously,
turning livid.--"I should think you had disgraced the newspaper enough
already.... If there be an honest man among you, who understands what
a newspaper is, what the press is, let him tell who was the author of
this.... In the leading article...." The editor began nervously to
unfold the paper.

"But what's it all about?" said a voice, in which nothing but simple
curiosity was audible.

"Ah! You don't know? Well, then ... here ... 'Our factory legislation
has always served the press as a subject for hot discussion ... that
is to say, for the talking of stupid trash and nonsense!...' There,
now! Are you satisfied? Will the man who added that 'talking' be
pleased ... and, particularly--the word 'talking'! how grammatical and
witty!--well, sirs, which of you is the author of that 'stupid trash
and non-sense'?"

"Whose article is it? Yours? Well, and you are the author of all the
nonsense that is said in it,"--rang out the same calm voice which had
previously put the question to the editor.

This was insolent, and all involuntarily assumed that the person who
was to blame for the affair had been found. A movement took place in
the hall: the publisher drew nearer to the group, the editor raised
himself on tiptoe, in the endeavor to see over the heads of the
compositors into the face of the speaker. The compositors separated.
Before the editor stood a stoutly-built young fellow, in a blue blouse,
with a pock-marked face, and curling locks of hair which stood up in
a crest above his left temple. He stood with his hands thrust deeply
into the pockets of his trousers, and, indifferently riveting his gray,
mischievous eyes on the editor, he smiled faintly from out of his
curling, light-brown beard. Everybody looked at him:--the publisher,
with brows contracted in a scowl, the editor with amazement and wrath,
the maker-up with a suppressed smile. The faces of the compositors
expressed both badly-concealed satisfaction and alarm and curiosity.

"So ... it's you?"--inquired the editor, at last, pointing at the
pock-marked compositor with his finger and compressing his lips in a
highly significant manner.

"Yes ... it's I...." replied the latter, grinning in a particularly simple
and offensive manner.

"A-ah!... Very glad to know it! So it's you? Why did you put it in,
permit me to inquire?"

"But have I said that I did put it in?"--and the compositor glanced at
his comrades.

"It certainly was he, Mítry[1] Pávlovitch," the maker-up remarked to
the editor.

[1] Mítry--colloquial abbreviation of Dmítry.--Translator.

"Well, if I did, I did,"--assented the compositor, not without a
certain good-nature, and waving his hand he smiled again.

Again all remained silent. No one had expected so prompt and calm a
confession, and it acted upon them all as a surprise. Even the editor's
wrath was converted, for a moment, into amazement. The space around
the pock-marked man grew wider, the maker-up went off quickly to the
table, the compositors stepped aside ...

"Then you did it deliberately, intentionally?" inquired the publisher,
smiling, and staring at the pock-marked man with eyes round with
astonishment.

"Be so good as to answer!"--shouted the editor, flourishing the
crumpled newspaper.

"Don't shout ... I'm not afraid. A great many people have yelled at me,
and all without any cause! ..." and in the compositor's eyes sparkled a
daring, impudent light.... "Exactly so ..." he went on, shifting from
foot to foot, and now addressing the publisher,--"I put in the words
deliberately...."

"You hear?"--the editor appealed to the audience.

"Well, as a matter of fact, what did you mean by it, you devil's
doll!"--the publisher suddenly flared up.--"Do you understand how much
harm you have done me?"

"It's nothing to you.... I think it must even have increased the retail
sales. But here's the editor ... really, that bit didn't exactly suit
his taste."

The editor was fairly petrified with indignation; he stood in front of
that cool, malicious man, and flashed his eyes in silence, finding no
words wherewith to express his agitated feelings.

"Well, it will be the worse for you, brother, on account of
this!"--drawled the publisher malevolently, and, suddenly softening, he
slapped his knee with his hand.

In reality, he was pleased with what had happened, and with the
workman's insolent reply: the editor had always treated him rather
patronizingly, making no effort to conceal his consciousness of his own
mental superiority, and now he, that same conceited, self-confident
man, was thrown prostrate in the dust ... and by whom?

"I'll pay you off for your insolence to me, my dear soul!" he added.

"Why, you certainly won't overlook it so!" assented the compositor.

This tone and these words again produced a sensation. The compositors
exchanged glances with one another, the maker-up elevated his eyebrows,
and seemed to shrivel up, the editor retreated to the table, and
supporting himself on it with his hands, more disconcerted and offended
than angry, he stared intently at his foe.

"What's your name?" inquired the publisher, taking his notebook from
his pocket.

"Nikólka[2] Gvózdeff, Vasíly Ivánovitch!" the maker-up promptly stated.

[2] Colloquial for Nikolái.--Translator.

"And you, you lackey of Judas the Traitor, hold your tongue when you're
not spoken to,"--said the compositor, with a surly glance at the
maker-up.--"I have a tongue of my own,... I answer for myself.... My
name is Nikoláï Semyónovitch Gvózdeff. My residence ...."

"We'll find that out!"--promised the publisher.--"And now, take
yourself off to the devil! Get out, all of you!..."

With a heavy shuffling of feet, the compositors departed. Gvózdeff
followed them.

"Stop ... if you please...." said the editor softly, but distinctly,
and stretched out his hand after Gvózdeff.

Gvózdeff turned toward him, with an indolent movement leaned against
the door-jamb, and, as he twisted his beard, he riveted his insolent
eyes upon the editor's face.

"I want to ask you about something,"--began the editor. He tried to
maintain his composure, but this he did not succeed in doing: his voice
broke, and rose to a shriek.--"You have confessed ... that in creating
this scandal ... you had me in view. Yes? What is the meaning of that?
revenge on me? I ask you--what did you do it for? Do you understand me?
Can you answer me?"

Gvózdeff twitched his shoulders, curled his lips, and dropping his
head, remained silent for a minute. The publisher tapped his foot
impatiently, the maker-up stretched his neck forward, and the editor
bit his lips, and nervously cracked his fingers. All waited.

"I'll tell you, if you like.... Only, as I'm an uneducated man,
perhaps it won't be intelligible to you ... Well, in that case, pray
excuse me!... Now, here's the way the matter stands. You write various
articles, and inculcate on everybody philanthropy and all that sort
of thing.... I can't tell you all this in detail--I'm not much of a
hand at reading and writing.... I think you know yourself, what you
discourse about every day.... Well, and so I read your articles.
You make comments on us workingmen ... and I read it all.... And it
disgusts me to read it, for it's nothing but nonsense. Mere shameless
words, Mítry Pávlovitch! ... because you write--don't steal, but what
goes on in your own printing-office? Last week, Kiryákoff worked three
days and a half, earned three rubles and eighty kopéks[3] and fell ill.
His wife comes to the counting-room for the money, but the manager
tells her, that he won't give it to her, and that she owes one ruble
and twenty kopéks in fines. Now talk about not stealing! Why don't
you write about these ways of doing things? And about how the manager
yells, and thrashes the poor little boys for every trifle?... You can't
write about that, because you pursue the same policy yourself.... You
write that life in the world is hard for folks--and I'll just tell you,
that the reason you write all that, is because you don't know how to
do anything else. That's the whole truth of the matter.... And that's
why you don't see any of the brutal things that go on right under your
nose, but you narrate very well about the brutalities of the Turks. So
aren't they nonsense--those articles of yours? I've been wanting this
long time to put some words into your articles, just to shame you. And
it oughtn't to be needed again!"

[3] About $1.90.--Translator.

Gvózdeff felt himself a hero. He puffed out his chest proudly, held
his head very high, and without attempting to conceal his triumph, he
looked the editor straight in the face. But the editor shrank close
against the table, clutched it with his hands, flung himself back,
paling and flushing by turns, and smiling persistently in a scornful,
confused, vicious, and suffering manner. His widely-opened eyes winked
fast.

"A socialist?"--inquired the publisher, with apprehension and interest,
in a low voice, addressing the editor. The latter smiled a sickly
smile, but made no reply, and hung his head.

The maker-up went off to the window, where stood a tub in which grew a
huge filodendron, that cast upon the floor a pattern of shade, took up
his post behind the tub, and thence watched them all, with eyes which
were as small, black, and shifty as those of a mouse. They expressed a
certain impatient expectation, and now and then a little flash of joy
lighted them up. The publisher stared at the editor. The latter was
conscious of this, raised his head, and with an uneasy gleam in his
eyes, and a nervous quiver in his face, he shouted after the departing
Gvózdeff:

"Stop ... if you please! You have insulted me. But you are not in the
right--I hope you feel that? I am grateful to you for ... y-your ...
straightforwardness, with which you have spoken out, hut, I repeat...."

He tried to speak ironically, but instead of irony, something wan and
false rang in his words, and he paused, in order to tune himself up
to a defence which should be worthy of himself and of this judge, as
to whose right to sit in judgment upon him, the editor, he had never
before entertained a thought.

"Of course!"--and Gvózdeff nodded his head.--"The only one who is right
is the one who can say a great deal."

And, as he stood in the doorway, he cast a glance around him, with an
expression on his face which plainly showed how impatient he was to get
away from there.

"No, excuse me!"--cried the editor, elevating his tone, and raising his
hand.--"You have brought forward an accusation against me, but before
that, you arbitrarily punished me for what you regard as a fault toward
you on my part.... I have a right to defend myself, and I request that
you will listen to me."

"But what business have you with me? Defend yourself to the publisher,
if necessary. But what have you to say to me? If I have insulted you,
drag me before the justice of the peace. But--defend yourself--that's
another matter! Good-bye!"--He turned sharply about, and putting his
hands behind his back, he left the room.

He had on his feet heavy boots with large heels, with which he tramped
noisily, and his footsteps echoed resoundingly in the vast, shed-like
editorial room.

"There you have history and geography--a detailed statement of the
case!"--exclaimed the publisher, when Gvózdeff had slammed the door
behind him.

"Vasíly Ivánovitch, I am not to blame in this matter ...." began the
maker-up, throwing his hands apart apologetically, as he approached the
publisher with short, cautious steps. "I make up the pages, and I can't
possibly tell what the man on duty has put into them. I'm on my feet
all night.... I'm here, while my wife lies ill at home, and my children
... three of them ... have no one to look after them.... I may say that
I sell my blood, drop by drop, for thirty rubles a month.... And when
Gvózdeff was hired, I said to Feódor Pávlovitch: 'Feódor Pávlovitch,'
says I, 'I've known Nikólka ever since he was a little boy, and I'm
bound to tell you, that Nikólka is an insolent fellow and a thief,
a man without conscience. He has already been tried in the district
court,' says I, 'and has even been in prison....'"

"What was he in prison for?"--inquired the editor thoughtfully, without
looking at the narrator.

"For pigeons, sir ... that is to say, not because of the pigeons,
but for smashing locks. He smashed the locks of seven dove-cotes in
one night, sir!... and set all the flocks at liberty--scattered all
the birds, sir! A pair of dark-gray ones belonging to me disappeared
also,--one fancy tumbler, and a pouter. They were very valuable birds."

"Did he steal them?"--inquired the publisher with curiosity.

"No, he doesn't pamper himself in that way. He was tried for theft,
but he was acquitted. So he's--an insolent fellow..... He released the
birds, and delighted in it, and jeered at us fanciers.... He has been
thrashed more than once already. Once he even had to go to the hospital
after the thrashing.... And when he came out, he bred devils in my
gossip's stove."[4]

[4] The word means "fellow sponsor" or intimate friend--the precise
sense does not always appear from the context. But it is worth noting
that a man and a woman who stand sponsors for a child in baptism,
in the Eastern Catholic Church, thereby place themselves within
the forbidden degrees of relationship, and can never marry each
other.--Translator.

"Devils!" said the publisher in amazement.

"What twaddle!"--the editor shrugged his shoulders, knit his brows, and
again biting his lips, he relapsed into thought.

"It's perfectly true, only I didn't say it just right,"--said the
maker-up abashed.--"You see, he, Nikólka, is a stove-builder. He's a
jack-of-all-trades: he understands the lithographic trade, he has been
an engraver, and a plumber, also.... Well, then, my gossip--she has
a house of her own, and belongs to the ecclesiastical class--and she
hired him to rebuild her stove. Well, he rebuilt it all right; only,
the rascally fellow, he cemented into the wall a bottle filled with
quicksilver and needles ... and he put something else in, too. This
produced a sound--such a peculiar sound, you know, like a groan and a
sigh; and then folks began to say that devils had bred in the house.
When they heated the stove, the quicksilver in the bottle warmed up,
and began to roam about in it. And the needles scratched against the
glass, just as though somebody were gnashing his teeth. Besides the
needles, he had put various iron objects into the bottle, and they made
noises, too, after their own fashion,--the needle after its fashion,
the nail after its fashion, and the result was a regular devil's
music.... My gossip even tried to sell her house, but nobody would buy
it--who likes to have devils round, sir? She had three prayer-services
with blessing of holy water celebrated--it did no good. The woman
bawled; she had a daughter of marriageable age, a hundred head of
fowl, two cows, and a good farm ... and these devils must needs spoil
everything! She struggled and struggled, so that it was pitiful to
see. But I must say that Nikólka rescued her. 'Give me fifty rubles,'
says he, 'and I'll drive out the devils!' She gave him four to start
with,--and afterward, when he had pulled out the bottle, and confessed
what the matter was--well, good-bye! She's a very clever woman, and she
wanted to hand him over to the police, but he persuaded her not to....
And he has a lot of other artful dodges."

"And for one of those charming 'artful dodges' yesterday I shall have
to pay. I!"--ejaculated the editor nervously, and tearing himself from
his place, he again began to fling himself about the room.--"Oh my God!
How stupid, how coarse, how trivial it all is...."

"We-ell, you're making a great fuss over it!"--said the publisher
soothingly.--"Make a correction, explain how it happened.... He's a
very interesting young fellow, deuce take him! He put devils in the
stove, ha, ha! No, by heaven! We'll teach him a lesson, but he's a
rascal with a brain, and he arouses for himself some feeling of ... you
know!"--the publisher snapped his fingers over his head, and cast a
glance at the ceiling.

"Does it interest you?"--cried the editor sharply.

"Well, why not? Isn't it amusing? And he described you pretty
thoroughly. He's got wit, the beast!"--the publisher said, taking
revenge on the editor for his shout.--"How do you intend to pay him
off?"

The editor suddenly ran close up to the publisher.

"I shall not pay him off, sir! I can't, Vasíly Ivánovitch, because that
manufacturer of devils is in the right! The devil knows what goes on in
your printing-office, do you hear? But we!... but I have to play the
fool, thanks to you. He's in the right, a thousand times over!"

"And also in the addition which he made to your article?"--inquired the
publisher venomously, and pursed up his lips ironically.

"Well, and what if he was? And he was right, in that also, yes! You
must understand, Vasíly Ivánovitch, for, you know, we're a liberal
newspaper...."

"And we print an edition of two thousand, reckoning in those
gratuitously distributed and the exchanges,"--dryly interposed the
publisher.--"But our competitor disposes of nine thousand!"

"We-ell, sir?"

"I have nothing more to say!"

The editor waved his hand hopelessly, and again, with dimming eyes,
he began to pace up and down the room.

"A charming situation!"--he muttered, shrugging his shoulders.--"A
sort of universal chase! All the dogs hunting down one, and that one
muzzled! Ha, ha! And that unfortunate w-workman! Oh my God!"

"Why, spit on the whole business, my dear fellow, don't get worked up
over it!"--counselled Vasíly Ivánovitch suddenly, with a good-natured
grin, as though tired out with emotions and recriminations.--"It has
come and it will go, and you will re-establish your honor. The affair
is far more ridiculous than dramatic." He pacifically offered the
editor his plump hand, and was on the point of quitting the room for
the office.

All at once, the door leading into the office opened, and Gvózdeff made
his appearance on the threshold. He had his cap on, and smiled not
without a certain amount of courtesy.

"I have come to tell you, Mr. Editor, that if you want to sue me, say
so--for I'm going away from here, and I don't want to be brought back,
by stages, by the police."

"Take yourself off!"--howled the editor, almost sobbing with wrath, and
rushed to the other end of the room.

"That means, we're quits,"--said Gvózdeff, adjusting his cap on his
head, and coolly wheeling round on the threshold, he disappeared.

"O-oh, the beast!"--sighed Vasíly Ivánovitch, in rapture, to Gvózdeff's
back, and with a blissful smile he began, in a leisurely manner, to put
on his overcoat.

*

Two days after the scene described above, Gvózdeff, in a blue blouse,
confined with a leather strap, in trousers hanging freely, and laced
shoes, in a white cap worn over one ear, and the nape of his neck, and
with a knobby stick in his hand, was walking staidly along the "Hill."

The "Hill" presented a sloping descent to the river. In ancient times,
this slope had been covered with a dense grove. Now, almost the whole
of the grove had been felled, the gnarled oaks and elms, shattered by
thunderstorms, reared heavenward their aged hollow boles, spreading
far abroad their knotted boughs. Around their roots twined the young
sprouts, small bushes clung to their trunks, and everywhere amid the
greenery the rambling public had trodden winding paths, which crept
downward to the river all flooded with the radiance of the sun.
Horizontally intersecting the "Hill" ran a broad avenue--an abandoned
post-road,--and along this, chiefly, the public strolled, promenading
in two files, one going in each direction.

Gvózdeff had always been very fond of strolling back and forth along
this avenue, with the public, and of feeling himself one of them, and,
like them, freely breathing the air impregnated with the fragrance of
the foliage, of freely and lazily moving along, and being a part of
something great, and feeling himself equal to all the rest.

On this day, he was on the verge of being tipsy, and his resolute,
pock-marked face had a good-natured, sociable expression. From his
left temple his chestnut forelocks curled upward. Handsomely shading
his ear, they lay on the band of his cap, imparting to Gvózdeff the
dashing air of a young artisan, who is satisfied with himself, and even
ready, on the instant, to sing a song, to dance, and to fight, and not
averse to drinking every minute. With these characteristic forelocks
Nature herself seemed to be desirous of recommending Nikólka Gvózdeff
to everyone as a fiery young fellow, who was conscious of his own
value. Glancing about him approvingly, with his gray eyes puckered up,
Gvózdeff, in a perfectly peaceable manner, jostled the public, bore its
nudges with entire equanimity, excused himself, when he trod on the
ladies' trains, in company with the rest swallowed the thick dust, and
felt extremely well. Athwart the foliage of the trees, the sun could be
seen setting in the meadows beyond the river. The sky there was purple,
warm, and caressing, alluring one thither to the spot where it touched
the rim of the dark green fields. Beneath the feet of the promenaders
lay a tracery of shadows, and the throng of people trod upon them,
without noticing their beauty. Foppishly thrusting a cigarette into
the left corner of his lips, and idly emitting from the right corner
little streams of smoke, Gvózdeff scanned the public, feeling within
him a genuine desire to have a chat with someone, over a couple of mugs
of beer in the restaurant, at the foot of the "Hill." He encountered
none of his acquaintances, and no suitable opportunity for picking up
a new acquaintance presented itself; for some reason, the public was
gloomy, in spite of its being a festival and with clear weather, and
did not respond to his communicative mood, although he had, already,
more than once, stared into the faces of the people he met with a
good-natured smile, and with an expression of perfect readiness to
enter into conversation. All at once, in the mass of people's backs,
there flashed before his eyes the back of a head which was familiar
to him, smoothly clipped and flat as though chopped off--the nape of
the neck belonging to the editor--Dmítry Pávlovitch Istómin. Gvózdeff
smiled, when he remembered how he had ill-treated that man, and began
to gaze with pleasure at Dmítry Pávlovitch's low-crowned, gray hat. Now
and then the editor's hat disappeared behind other hats, and, for some
reason, this disquieted Gvózdeff; he raised himself on tiptoe, to catch
sight of it, and when he found it, he smiled again.

Thus, following the editor, he walked along, and recalled the time
when he, Gvózdeff, had been Nikólka the locksmith, and the editor--was
Mítka,[4] the deacon's son. They had had another comrade, Míshka,[5]
whom they had nicknamed the Sugar-bowl. There had also been Váska[6]
Zhúkoff, the son of an official, from the last house in the street.
It was a nice house,--old, all overgrown with moss, all stuck around
with additions. Váska's father had a very fine flock of pigeons.
The courtyard of the house was a fine place in which to play at
hide-and-seek, because Váska's father was miserly, and saved up in his
yard all sorts of rubbish--broken carriages, and casks, and boxes.
Now Váska was a physician, in the country, and on the site of the old
house stood railway freight-houses.... They had had other chums--all
little boys of from eight to ten years of age. They had all resided on
the outskirts of the town, in Back Damp Street, had lived on friendly
terms with each other, and in constant hostility with the horrid little
boys of the other streets. They had devastated gardens and vegetable
patches, they had played at knuckle-bones, at tip-cat, and other games,
and had studied in the parish school.... Twenty-five years had elapsed
since that time.

[4] Mítka--colloquial diminutive for Dmítry.--Translator.

[5] Míshka--colloquial diminutive for Mikháïl.--Translator.

[6] Váska--colloquial diminutive for Vasíly.--Translator.

Time had been--and passed, the little boys had been as saucy and
grimy-faced as Nikólka the locksmith,--and now they had become persons
of importance. But Nikólka the locksmith had stuck fast in Back Damp
Street. They, when they had finished the parish school, had got into
the gymnasium,--he had not got in.... And how would it do if he were to
address the editor? Say good-afternoon, and enter into conversation?
He might begin by begging pardon for the row, and then talk--so, about
life in general.

The editor's hat kept flitting in front of Gvózdeff's eyes, as though
alluring him to itself, and Gvózdeff made up his mind. Just at that
moment, the editor was walking alone, in a free space, which had formed
in the crowd. He was stepping along with his thin legs in their light
trousers, his head kept turning from side to side, his short-sighted
eyes were screwed up, as he scanned the public. Gvózdeff came almost
alongside of him, gazed askance at his face in an amiable way, awaiting
a favorable moment, in order to wish him a good-afternoon, and, at the
same time, experiencing a keen desire to know how the editor would bear
himself toward him.

"Good-afternoon, Mítry Pávlovitch!"

The editor turned toward him, with one hand raised his hat, with the
other adjusted the eyeglasses on his nose, surveyed Gvózdeff, and
scowled.

But this did not daunt Nikoláï Gvózdeff,--on the contrary, he leaned
toward the editor, in the most agreeable way possible, and flooding him
with the odor of vódka, he inquired:

"Are you taking a stroll?"

For a second, the editor halted; his lips and nostrils quivered
scornfully, and he nodded curtly at Gvózdeff:

"What do you want?"

"I? Nothing! I just thought ... it's fine weather to-day! And I'm very
anxious to have a talk with you about that occurrence."

"I don't wish to talk about anything with you!"--declared the editor,
hastening his steps.

Gvózdeff did the same.

"You don't wish to? I understand.. you are right--I understand that
very well indeed.... As I put you to confusion, of course, you must
have a grudge against me...."

"You, simply ... you're drunk...." the editor halted once more.--"And
if you don't leave me in peace, I'll summon the police."

Gvózdeff smiled affectionately.

"Well, why?"

The editor looked askance at him, with the anxious glance of a man
who has fallen into an unpleasant position, and does not know how to
extricate himself from it. The public were already staring at them
with curiosity. Several persons pricked up their ears, scenting an
approaching row. Istómin cast a helpless glance around him.

Gvózdeff observed it.

"Let's turn aside,"--said he, and, without awaiting the other's
consent, with his shoulder he dexterously thrust Istómin to one side,
away from the broad avenue, into a narrow path, which descended the
hill between the bushes. The editor made no protest against this
manoeuvre,--perhaps because he had no time, perhaps because, away from
the public, entirely alone, he hoped to rid himself more promptly and
simply of his companion. He walked quietly down the path, cautiously
planting his cane on the ground, and Gvózdeff followed him, and
breathed on his hat.

"There's a fallen tree not far from here, we'll sit on that.... Don't
be angry with me, Mítry Pávlovitch, for this conduct of mine. Excuse
me! For I did it out of anger.... Anger sometimes torments fellows
like me to such a degree that you can't extinguish it with liquor....
Well, and at such times, one gets insolent to somebody: he strikes a
passer-by in the snout, or does something else.... I don't repent,
what's done is done; but, perhaps, I understand very well indeed, that
I didn't keep within bounds that time ... I went too far...."

Whether this sincere explanation touched the editor, or whether
Gvózdeff's personality aroused his curiosity, or whether he
comprehended that he could not get rid of this man, at all events, he
asked Gvózdeff:

"What is it that you want to talk about?"

"Why ... about everything! My soul is afflicted within me, because I
feel that I'm an offence to myself.... Here, let's sit down."

"I have no time...."

"I know ... the newspaper! It's eating up half your life, you're
squandering all your health on it.... You see, I understand! What's he,
the publisher? He has put his money into the paper, but you have put
your blood!. You have already written your eyes out.... Sit down!"

Along the path, in front of them, lay a large stump--the half-decayed
remains of what had once been a mighty oak. The branches of a
hazel-bush bent over the tree, forming a green tent; athwart the
branches gleamed the sky, already arrayed in the hues of sunset; the
spicy odor of fresh foliage filled the air. Gvózdeff seated himself,
and turning to the editor, who still continued to stand, gazing about
him with indecision, he began again:

"I have been drinking a little to-day ... I find life tiresome, Mítry
Pávlovitch! I've lagged behind my comrades, the workingmen; somehow, my
thoughts take an entirely different direction. I caught sight of you
to-day, and remembered that you used to be a chum of mine, you know ...
ha, ha!"

He laughed, because the editor looked at him with a swift change of
expression on his face, which rendered him really ridiculous.

"A chum? When?"

"Long ago, Mítry Pávlovitch.... We used to live in Back Damp Street
then ... do you remember? We lived across the courtyard from each
other. And opposite us Míshka the Sugar-bowl--at the present time,
Mikháïl Efímovitch Khruléff, the examining magistrate,--deigned to
have his residence with his stem papa.... Do you remember Efímitch? He
used to shake you and me by our top-knots.... Come, sit down, do."

The editor nodded his head affirmatively, and seated himself by the
side of Gvózdeff. He regarded him with the intense gaze of a man who
is recalling to mind something that took place long ago, and has been
entirely forgotten, and he rubbed his forehead.

But Gvózdeff was carried away by his memories.

"What a life we led then! And why can't a man remain a child all his
life long? He grows up ... why? Then he grows into the earth. All his
life long he endures divers misfortunes ... he becomes irritated,
savage ... nonsense! He lives, he lives and--at the end of his life,
there's nothing to show but trash.... A coffin ... and nothing more....
But we used to live on then without any dark thoughts, merrily,--like
little birds--that's all that can be said of it! We flew over the
fences after the fruits of other people's labors.... Do you remember,
one day, in Mrs. Petróvsky's vegetable-patch, on a thieving expedition,
I stuffed a cucumber up your nose? You set up a yell, and I--took
to my heels.... You came with your mamma to my father, to complain,
and my father whipped me in proper style.... But Míshka--Mikháïl
Efímovitch...."

The editor listened, and against his will he smiled. He wished to
preserve his seriousness and dignity in the presence of this man who
had evinced an inclination to be familiar. But in these stories of
the bright days of childhood there was something touching, and in
Gvózdeff's tone, so far, the notes which menaced Dmítry Pávlovitch's
vanity did not ring out with especial sharpness. And everything round
about was delightful. Somewhere up above, shuffled the feet of the
promenading public on the sands of the paths, their voices were barely
audible, and once in a while a laugh resounded; but the breeze was
sighing,--and all those faint sounds were drowned in the melancholy
rustling of the foliage. And when the rustling died away, there ensued
moments of complete silence, as though everything round about were
lending an attentive ear to the words of Nikoláï Gvózdeff, as he
confusedly related the story of his youth....

"Do you remember Várka, the daughter of Kolokóltzoff the house-painter?
She's married now to Shapóshnikoff the printer. Such a fine lady ...
it scares one to pass her.... She was a sickly little lass in those
days.... Do you remember, how she disappeared one day, and all we boys,
from the whole street, searched the fields and ravines for her? We
found her in the camp and led her home through the plain.... There was
an awful uproar! Kolokóltzoff treated us to gingerbread, and Várka,
when she saw her mother, said: 'I've been with the well-born wife
of an officer, and she wants me to be her daughter!' He, he!... Her
daughter!... She was a splendid little girl!..."

From the river were wafted certain sounds, as though someone's mighty,
grief-laden breast were moaning. A steamer was passing, and in the air
floated the tumult of the water, churned up by its wheels. The sky
was rose-colored, but around Gvózdeff and the editor the twilight was
thickening.... The spring night drew gradually on. The silence became
complete, profound, and Gvózdeff lowered his voice, as though yielding
to its influence.... The editor listened to him mutely, calling up in
his mind pictures of the distant past. All this had been.... And all
this had been better than what was now. Only in childhood is a free
soul, which does not notice the weight of the chains that are called
the conditions of life, possible. Childhood knows not the sharp
inflammations of conscience, knows no other falsehood save the
harmless falsehood of the child. How much is unknown in the days of
childhood, and how good is that ignorance! One lives ... and gradually
the comprehension of life is enlarged ... why is it enlarged, if one
dies, without having understood anything?

"So you see, Mítry Pávlovitch, it turns out, that you and I are birds
from one and the same nest ... yes! But our flights are different....
And when I recollect, that surely all the difference between me and my
former comrades lies in the fact that I did not sit in the gymnasium
over my books,--I feel bitter and disgusted.... Does that constitute a
man? A man consists of his soul, of his relations to his neighbor, as
it is said.... Well, then,--you are my neighbor, and what value do I
possess for you? None whatever!--Isn't that so?"

The editor, enticed away by his own thoughts, must have misunderstood
his companion's question.

"It is!"--he said, in a sincere, abstracted tone. But Gvózdeff burst
out laughing, and he caught himself up:

"That is to say, excuse me? What, precisely, are you asking about?"

"Isn't it true that to you I'm--an empty spot.... Whether I exist or
not is all one to you--you don't care a fig.... What is my soul to you?
I live alone in the world, and all the people who know me are very
tired of me. Because, I have an evil character, and I'm very fond of
playing all sorts of practical jokes. But, you see, I have feeling and
brains too ... I feel offence in my position. In what way am I worse
than you? Only in my occupation...."

"Ye-es ... that is sad!" said the editor, contracting his brow, then he
paused, and resumed, in a rather soothing tone:--"But, you see, another
point of view must be applied to the case...."

"Mítry Pávlovitch! Why a point of view? One man should not pay
attention to another man according to the point of view, but according
to the impulse of the heart! What's that point of view? Is it possible
to cast me aside because of some point of view or other? But I am
cast aside in life--I make no headway in it.... Why? Because I'm not
learned? But surely, if you learned folks would not judge from a
point of view, but in some other way,--you ought not to forget me, a
berry from the same field as yourselves, but draw me up toward you
from below, where I rot in ignorance and exasperation of my feelings?
Or--from the point of view--oughtn't you to do it?"

Gvózdeff screwed up his eyes, and gazed triumphantly into the face
of his companion. He felt that he was showing himself to the best
advantage, and emitted all his philosophy, which he had thought out
during the long years of his laborious, unsystematic, and sterile
life. The editor was disconcerted by his companion's attack, and tried
simultaneously to decide--what sort of a man this was, and what reply
he ought to make to his speech. But Gvózdeff, intoxicated with himself,
continued:

"You clever people will give me a hundred answers, and the sum total
of them will be--no, you ought not! But I say--you ought! Why? Because
I and you folks are from one street and from one origin.... You are
not the real lords of life ... you're not noblemen.... From them,
fellows of my sort have nothing to gain. Those men would say: 6 Go to
the devil'--and you'd go. Because--they're aristocrats from ancient
times, but you're only aristocrats because you know grammar, and that
sort of thing.... But you--are my equal, and I can demand from you
information about my path in life. I'm of the petty burgher class, and
so is Khruléff, and you ... are a deacon's son...."

"But, permit me ..." said the editor beseechingly, "am I denying your
right to demand?"

But Gvózdeff was not in the least interested to know what the editor
denied or what he admitted; he wanted to have his say, and he felt
himself, at that moment, capable of expressing everything which had
ever agitated him....

"Now, you will be pleased to permit me!"--he said, in a mysterious sort
of whisper, bending closer to the editor, and flashing his excited
eyes.--"Do you think it's easy for me to toil now for my comrades, to
whom, in days gone by, I used to give bloody noses? Is it easy for me
to receive forty kopéks as a tip from examining-magistrate Khruléff,
for whom I put in a water-closet a year ago? Surely, he's a man of the
same rank as myself.... And his name was Míshka the Sugar-bowl ... he
has rotten teeth now, just as he had then...."

A heavy, choking lump rose in his throat: he paused for a moment, and
burst out swearing--with such loud and repulsively-cynical oaths that
the editor shuddered, and moved away from him. When he had got through,
swearing, Gvózdeff seemed to weaken, as though the fire within him
had died out. He listened to himself, and no longer felt conscious of
anything within him which he wished to say.

"That's all!"--he ejaculated dully.

He had suddenly become inwardly empty, and this sensation of emptiness
produced irritation in him.

The editor gazed askance at him in a thoughtful way, and silently
considered--what should he say to this young fellow? He must say
something nice, just, and sincere. But Dmítry Pávlovitch Istómin found
nothing of what was required in his head, at the given moment, nor in
his heart. For a long time past, all ideal and high-flown discussions
of "questions" had evoked in him a feeling of boredom and exhaustion.
He had come out to-day to rest, he had purposely avoided meeting
his acquaintances,--and all of a sudden, here was this man with his
harangues. Of course, there was a modicum of truth in his harangues,
as there is in everything which people say. They were curious, and
might serve as a very interesting theme for a feuilleton.... But,
nevertheless, he must say something to him.

"Everything you have said--is not new, you know,"--he began....--"The
injustice of man's relations to man, has long been a topic of
discussion.... But, really, these speeches of yours do present one
novelty--in the sense, that they were formerly uttered by people of
another sort.... You formulate your thoughts in a somewhat one-sided
and inaccurate manner...."

"There's your point of view again!"--laughed Gvózdeff
faintly.--"Ekh-ma, gentlemen, gentlemen! You are endowed with brains,
but as to heart evidently ... tell me something which will suit my
complaint on the spot ... so there, now!"

Having spoken thus, he hung his head, and awaited the answer. Sadness
had seized upon him.

Again Istómin glanced at him, with frowning brow, and conscious of a
strong desire to get away. It seemed to him that Gvózdeff was drunk,
and for that reason had weakened after his excited speeches. He looked
at the white cap, which had fallen on the nape of Gvózdeff's neck, at
his pock-marked face and aggressive top-knot; with a glance he measured
his whole powerful, sinewy figure, and thought to himself, that this
was a very typical workingman, and if....

"Well, what is it?"--inquired Gvózdeff.

"But what can I say to you? To speak frankly, I do not perceive at all
clearly, what you wish to hear."

"There, that's it exactly!... You can't make me any answer!"--grinned
Gvózdeff.

The editor heaved a sigh of relief, justly assuming that the
conversation was at an end, and that Gvózdeff would assault him with no
further questions.... And all at once he thought:

"And what if he beats me? He's so vicious!"

He recalled the expression of Gvózdeff's face yonder, in the editorial
room, during that stupid scene. And he cast a furtive glance of
suspicion at him.

It was already dark. The silence was broken by the sounds of songs,
wafted from afar on the river. People were singing in chorus, and
the tenor voices were very distinctly audible. Large beetles hurtled
through the air with a metallic ring. Through the foliage of the trees
the stars were visible ... now and then, one branch or another over
their heads began to quiver, for some reason, and the soft trembling of
the leaves made itself heard. "There will be dew...." said the editor,
cautiously. Gvózdeff shuddered, and turned toward him.

"What did you say?"

"There will be dew, I say; it's harmful...."

"A-ah!"

They fell silent. On the river resounded the shout: "Háy-eï! Ba-a-arge
a-ho-oo-oy!"

"I think I shall go. Farewell for the present." "And shan't we have a
drink of beer together?"--suggested Gvózdeff suddenly, and added, with
a grin:--"Do me the honor!"

"No, excuse me, I cannot just now. And then, it's time for me to be
going, you know...."

Gvózdeff rose from the tree, and stared sullenly at the editor.

The latter, rising also, offered him his hand. "So you don't want
to have a drink of beer with me? Well, devil take you!"--Gvózdeff
cut the interview short, slapping his cap in place with a harsh
gesture.--"Aristocracy! At two kopéks the pair! I'll get drunk by
myself...."

The editor bravely turned his back on his companion, and walked up the
path, without uttering a word. As he passed Gvózdeff, he drew his head
down strangely between his shoulders, as though afraid of hitting it
against something. Gvózdeff descended the hill with huge strides. From
the river resounded a cracked voice:

"Ba-a-arge a-ho-oy! De-e-evils!... Send off a bo-o-o-oat!"

And among the trees rang the faint echo:

"O-o-oat!"



VÁRENKA ÓLESOFF


I


... A few days after his appointment as instructor in one of the
provincial universities, Ippolít Sergyéevitch Polkánoff received a
telegram from his sister, from her estate in a distant forest district
on the Vólga.

The telegram briefly announced:

"My husband is dead. For God's sake, come at once to my assistance.
Elizavéta."

This alarming summons unpleasantly agitated Ippolít Sergyéevitch,
interfering with his projects and his frame of mind. He had already
decided to spend the summer in the country, at the house of one of his
comrades, and to do a great deal of work there, in order to prepare
himself to do justice to his lectures; and now, here it was necessary
to travel more than a thousand versts from St. Petersburg and from the
place of his appointment, in order to comfort a woman who had lost her
husband, with whom, judging from her own letters, her life had been far
from sweet.

He had seen his sister, for the last time, four years previously, had
corresponded with her rarely, and dong ago there had been established
between them those purely formal relations which are so common between
two relatives who are separated by distance, and by dissimilarity of
their life-interests.

The telegram evoked in him the memory of his sister's husband. The
latter was a stout, good-natured man, fond of eating and drinking. His
face was round, covered with a network of red veins, and his eyes were
merry and small; he had a way of roguishly screwing up his left eye,
and smiling sweetly, as he sang in atrocious French:

    "Regardez par ci, regardez par là...."

And Ippolít Sergyéevitch found it difficult to believe, that that jolly
young fellow was dead, because common-place people usually live a long
time.

His sister had borne herself toward the weaknesses of this man with a
half-scornful condescension; being anything but a stupid woman, she
had comprehended, that if you shoot at a stone, you merely lose your
arrows. And it was not likely that she was greatly afflicted by his
death.

But, nevertheless, it was not easy to refuse her request. He could
work at her house quite as well as anywhere else....

After further meditation in this direction, Ippolít Sergyéevitch
decided to go, and, a couple of weeks later, on a warm June evening,
fatigued with a journey of forty versts[1] by posting-wagon, from
the wharf to the village, he was seated at the table opposite his
sister, on a terrace which overlooked the park, drinking exquisite
tea.

Along the balustrade of the terrace, lilac and acacia bushes grew
luxuriantly; the slanting rays of the sun, penetrating through the
foliage, quivered in the air, in slender, golden ribbons. A tracery of
shadows lay upon the table, closely set with country viands; the air
was filled with the fragrance of the lindens, the lilacs, and the damp
earth, heated by the sun. In the park birds were chirping noisily; now
and then a bee or a wasp flew to the terrace and buzzed anxiously, as
it hovered about the table. Elizavéta Sergyéevna took a napkin in her
hand, and flourished it in the air, in vexation, chasing the bees and
the wasps off into the park.

[1] A verst is two-thirds of a mile.--Translator.

Ippolít Sergyéevitch had already succeeded in convincing himself
that his sister had not been particularly shocked by the fact of
her husband's death, that she was gazing at him, her brother, in a
searching way, and as she chatted with him, was concealing something
from him. He had become accustomed to think of her, as a woman entirely
engrossed in the cares of housekeeping, broken down with the disorders
of her wedded life, and he had expected to behold her nervous, pale and
exhausted. But now, as he looked at her oval face, covered with healthy
sunburn, calm, confident, and extremely enlivened by the intelligent
gleam of her large, bright eyes, he felt that he was pleasantly
disappointed; and as he lent an ear to her remarks, he tried to hear
the undercurrent, and to understand what it was she was withholding
from him.

"I was prepared for this,--" she said, in a high, calm contralto,
and her voice vibrated charmingly on the upper notes.--"After his
second shock, he complained almost daily of pains in the heart, of its
irregular beating, of insomnia ... but, nevertheless, when they brought
him home from the fields--I could scarcely stand on my feet.... They
tell me that he got very excited out there, and shouted...? and on the
day before he had been to visit Ólesoff--a landed proprietor, a retired
colonel, a drunkard and a cynic, broken down with the gout. By the way,
he has a daughter--there's a treasure, I can tell you I--You must make
her acquaintance...."

"If it cannot be avoided," interposed Ippolít Sergyéevitch, glancing at
his sister with a smile.

"It cannot! She is often at our house ... but now, of course, she will
come here more frequently than ever,--" she replied to him, with a
smile also.

"Is she on the lookout for a husband? I'm not fitted for the part."

His sister looked him steadily in the face, which was oval, thin, with
small, pointed, black beard, and a lofty, white brow.

"Why are you not fitted for the part? Of course, I am speaking in
general, without any idea in connection with Miss Ólesoff,--you will
understand why when you see her ... but, surely, you are thinking of
marrying?"

"Not just yet,--" he answered her briefly, raising from his glass his
light-gray eyes with a cold gleam.

"Yes,--" said Elizavéta Sergyéevna thoughtfully,--"at the age of
thirty it is both late and early, for a man to take that step...."

It pleased him that she had ceased to speak of her husband's death, but
why had she summoned him to her so loudly and in so frightened a manner?

"A man should marry at twenty or at forty," she said pensively,--"in
that way, there is less risk of deceiving oneself or of deceiving
another person ... but if you do make a mistake, then, in the first
case, you pay for it with the freshness of your feelings, and in the
second ... at least by your outward position, which is almost always
solid in the case of a man of forty."

It struck him that she was saying this more for herself than for him,
and he did not interrupt her, but leaned back in his arm-chair and
deeply inhaled the aromatic air.

"As I was saying--he had been at Ólesoff's on the day before, and, of
course, he drank there. Well, and so...." Elizavéta Sergyéevna shook
her head sadly.--"Now ... I am left alone ... although, after the
second year of my life with him, I felt myself inwardly quite alone.
But now my position is so strange! I am twenty-eight years old, I have
not lived, I have merely been attached to the service of my husband and
children,... the children are dead. And I ... what am I now? What am I
to do, and how am I to live? I would sell this estate, and go abroad,
but his brother lays claim to the inheritance, and there may be a
lawsuit. I will not give up what belongs to me, without legal grounds
for so doing, and I see none in the claim of his brother. What do you
think about it?..."

"I am not a lawyer, you know,--" laughed Ippolít Sergyéevitch.--"But
... tell me all about this, and we shall see. That brother--has he
written to you?"

"Yes ... and quite roughly. He is a gambler, a ruined man, who has sunk
very low ... my husband did not like him, although they had much in
common."

"We shall see!--" said Ippolít Sergyéevitch, and rubbed his hands with
satisfaction. He was delighted to know why his sister needed him, he
did not like anything that was not clear and definite. His first care
was the preservation of his inward equanimity, and if anything obscure
perturbed that equanimity,--a troubled disquietude and irritation arose
in his soul, which anxiously incited him to clear up the thing he did
not understand as promptly as possible.

"To speak frankly,"--explained Elizavéta softly, and without looking at
her brother,--"this stupid claim has alarmed me. I am so worn out,
Ippolít, I do so want to rest ... and here, something is beginning
again."

She sighed heavily, and taking his glass, she continued in a melancholy
tone, which tickled her brother's ears unpleasantly:

"Eight years of life with such a man as my deceased husband give me the
right, I think, to a rest. Any other woman in my place,--a woman with
a less developed sense of duty and respectability--would long ago have
broken that heavy chain, but I wore it, although I fainted under its
weight. But the death of my children--ah, Ippolít, if you only knew
what I endured when I lost them!"

He looked into her face with an expression of sympathy, but her plaints
did not touch his soul. He did not like her language, a bookish sort
of language, which was not natural to a person who feels deeply, and
her bright eyes flitted strangely from side to side, rarely coming to a
pause on anything. Her gestures were soft, and cautious, and an inward
chill breathed forth from her whole finely-formed figure.

Some sort of a merry bird perched on the balustrade of the terrace,
twittering, hopped along it, and flew away. The brother and sister
followed it with their eyes, as they sat a few seconds in silence.

"Does anyone come to see you? Do you read?"--asked the brother, as
he lighted a cigarette, thinking how delightful it would be to sit
in silence, on that magnificent quiet evening, in a comfortable
easy-chair, there on the terrace, listening to the quiet rustling of
the foliage and waiting for the night, which would come, and extinguish
the sounds, and light up the stars.

"Várenka comes, and once in a while, Mrs. Banártzeff ... do you
remember her? Liudmila Vasílievna ... she, also, is not happy with
her husband.. hut she understands how to avoid taking offence. A great
many men used to come to see my husband,--but not a single one of them
was interesting! Decidedly, there is not a soul with whom to exchange
a word ... agriculture, hunting, county tittle-tattle, gossip--that
is all they talk about.... However, there is one ... a bachelor of
law--Benkóvsky ... young, and very highly educated. You remember the
Benkóvskys? Wait! I think someone is coming."

"Who is coming ... that Benkóvsky?"--inquired Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

For some reason, his query set his sister to laughing; as she laughed,
she rose from her chair, and said in a voice that was new to him:

"Várenka!"

"Ah!"

"Let us see what you will say about her.... Here she has made the
conquest of everybody. But what a monster she is, from a spiritual
point of view! How-ever--you shall see for yourself."

"I don't care about it," he declared indifferently, stretching himself
out in his arm-chair.

"I will be back directly,"--said Elizavéta Sergyéevna, as she went away.

"But she will present herself without your help," he said with concern.

"Yes, I'll be back directly!" his sister called to him from the room.

He frowned, and remained in his chair, gazing into the park. The swift
beat of a horse's hoofs became audible, and the rumble of wheels on the
ground.

Before Ippolít Sergyéevitch's eyes stood rows of aged, gnarled linden
trees, maples, and oaks, enveloped in the evening twilight. Their
angular branches were interwoven one with another, forming overhead
a thick roof of fragrant verdure, and all of them, decrepit with
time, with rifted bark and broken boughs, seemed to form a living and
friendly family of beings, closely united in an aspiration upward,
toward the light. But their bark was thickly covered with a yellow
efflorescence of mould, at their roots young trees had sprung up
luxuriantly, and from this cause, on the old trees there were many dead
branches, which swung in the air like lifeless skeletons.

Ippolít Sergyéevitch gazed at them, and felt an inclination to doze off
there in his arm-chair, under the breath of the ancient park.

Between the trunks and boughs gleamed crimson patches of the horizon,
and against this vivid background, the trees seemed still more gloomy,
and wasted away. Along the avenue, which ran from the terrace into
the dusky distance, the thick shadows were slowly moving, and the
stillness increased every minute, inspiring confused fancies. Ippolít
Sergyéevitch' imagination, yielding to the sorcery of the evening,
depicted from the shadows the silhouette of a woman whom he knew, and
his own by her side. They walked in silence down the avenue, into the
distance, she pressed closely to him, and he felt the warmth of her
body.

"How do you do!"--rang out a thick chest voice.

He sprang to his feet, and looked round, somewhat disconcerted.

Before him stood a young girl, of medium stature, in a gray gown, over
her head was thrown something white and airy, like a bridal veil,--that
was all he noticed in that first moment.

She offered him her hand, inquiring:

"Ippolít Sergyéevitch, is it not? Miss Ólesoff.. I already knew that
you were to arrive to-day, and came to see what you were like. I have
never seen any learned men,--and I did not know what they might be
like."

A strong, warm, little hand pressed his hand, and he, somewhat abashed
by this unexpected attack, bowed to her in silence, was angry at
himself for his confusion, and thought that, when he should look at her
face, he would find there frank and coarse coquetry. But when he did
look at it, he beheld large, dark eyes, which were smiling artlessly
and caressingly, illuminating the handsome face. Ippolít Sergyéevitch
remembered that he had seen just that sort of a face, proud with
healthy beauty, in an old Italian picture. The same little mouth with
splendid lips, the same brow, arched and lofty, and the huge eyes
beneath it.

"Permit me ... I will order some lights ... pray be seated...." he
requested her.

"Don't trouble yourself, I am quite at home here," she said, seating
herself in his chair....

He stood at the table facing her, and gazed at her, feeling that this
was awkward, and that it behooved him to speak. But she, not in the
least confused by his steady gaze, spoke herself. She asked him how
he had come, whether he liked the country, whether he would remain
there long; he answered her in monosyllables, and various fragmentary
thoughts flashed through his mind. He was stunned, as it were, by a
blow, and his brain, always clear, now grew turbid in the presence of
feelings suddenly and chaotically aroused by force. His enchantment
with her struggled with irritation at himself, and curiosity struggled
with something that was akin to fear. But this young girl, blooming
with health, sat opposite him, leaning against the back of her chair,
closely enveloped in the material of her costume, which permitted a
glimpse of the magnificent outlines of her shoulders, bosom and torso,
and in a melodious voice full of masterful notes, uttered to him some
trivialities, such as are usual when two unacquainted persons meet
for the first time. Her dark chestnut hair curled charmingly, and her
eyebrows and eyes were darker than her hair. On her dark neck, around
her rosy, transparent ear, the skin quivered, announcing the swift
circulation of the blood in her veins, a dimple made its appearance
every time a smile disclosed her small, white teeth, and every fold
of her garments breathed forth an exasperating seduction. There was
something rapacious in the arch of her nose, and in her small teeth,
which shone forth from between ripe lips, and her attitude, full of
unstudied charm, reminded one of the grace of well-fed and petted
kittens.

It seemed to Ippolít Sergyéevitch that he had become two persons:
one half of his being was absorbed in this sensual beauty, and was
slavishly contemplating it, the second half was mechanically noting the
existence of the first, and feeling that it had lost its power over
it. He replied to the girl's questions, and put some questions to her
himself, not being in a condition to tear his eyes from her entrancing
figure. He had already called her, to himself, a luxurious female, and
had inwardly laughed at himself, but this did not annihilate his double
existence. Thus it went on, until his sister made her appearance on the
terrace, with the exclamation:

"See what a clever creature! I was hunting for her yonder, and she is
already...."

"I went round by the park."

"Have you made each other's acquaintance?"

"Oh, yes! I thought that Ippolít Sergyéevitch was bald, at least!"

"Shall I pour you some tea?"

"Please do."

Ippolít Sergyéevitch withdrew a little apart from them, and stood near
the steps which led down into the park. He passed his hand over his
face, and then drew his fingers across his eyes, as though he were
wiping the dust from his face and eyes. He was ashamed of himself for
having yielded to a burst of emotion, and this shame soon gave way to
irritation against the young girl. To himself, he characterized the
scene with her as a Kazák attack on a prospective husband, and he felt
like announcing himself to her as a man who was utterly indifferent to
her challenging beauty.

"I'm going to stay over night with you, and spend all day to-morrow
here.." she said to his sister.

"And how about Vasíly Stepánovitch?" asked his sister, in surprise.

"Aunt Lutchítzky is visiting us, she will look after him.... You know,
that papa is very fond of her."

"Excuse me,..." said Ippolít Sergyéevitch drily,--"I am extremely
fatigued, and will go and rest...."

He bowed and departed, and Várenka's exclamation of approbation
followed him:

"You ought to have done so long ago!"

In the tone of her exclamation he detected only good nature, but he set
it down as an attempt to ingratiate herself, and as false.

The room which had served his sister's husband as a study had
been prepared for him. In the middle of it stood a heavy, awkward
writing-table, before which was an oaken arm-chair; along one of the
walls, almost for its entire length, stretched a broad, ragged Turkish
divan, on the other, a harmonium, and two book-cases. Several large,
soft chairs, a small smoking table beside the divan, and a chess-table
at the window, completed the furniture of the room. The ceiling was
low and blackened with smoke. From the walls dark spots, which were
pictures and engravings of some sort, in coarse, gilded frames, peered
forth--everything was heavy, old, and emitted a disagreeable odor. On
the table stood a large lamp with a blue shade, and the light from it
fell upon the floor.

Ippolít Sergyéevitch halted at the edge of this circle of light, and
feeling a sensation of confused trepidation, glanced at the windows
of the room. There were two of them, and outside, in the gloom of
evening the dark silhouettes of the trees were outlined. He went to the
windows, and opened both of them. Then the room was filled with the
fragrance of the blossoming lindens, and with it floated in a burst of
hearty laughter in a chest voice.

On the divan a bed had been made up for him, and it occupied a little
more than half of the divan. He glanced at it, and began to undo his
necktie; but then, with an abrupt movement, he pushed an arm-chair to
the window, and seated himself in it, with a scowl.

This sensation of incomprehensible trepidation disquieted his mind,
and irritated him. The feeling of dissatisfaction with himself rarely
presented itself to him, but when it did, it never seized hold upon
him powerfully, or for long--he managed to get rid of it promptly. He
was convinced that a man should and can understand his emotions, and
develop or suppress them; and when people talked to him about the
mysterious complication of man's psychical life, he grinned ironically,
and called such opinions metaphysics. It was all the worse for him
now to feel that he was entering the sphere of some incomprehensible
emotions or other.

He asked himself: Is it possible that the meeting with this healthy and
handsome young girl--who must be extremely sensual and stupid,--was it
possible that this meeting could have such a strange influence upon
him? And after having carefully scrutinized the series of impressions
of that day, he was compelled to answer himself in the affirmative.
Yes, it was so because she had taken his mind unawares, because he
was extremely fatigued with the journey, and had been in a dreamy
mood which was quite unusual for him at the moment when she made her
appearance before him.

This reflection somewhat soothed him, and she immediately presented
herself to his eyes in her splendid, maidenly beauty. He contemplated
her, closing his eyes and nervously inhaling the smoke of his
cigarette, but as he contemplated her, he criticised.

"In reality,"--he reflected,--"she is vulgar: there is too much blood
and muscle in her healthy body, and there are too few nerves. Her
ingenuous face is not intelligent, and the pride which beams in the
frank gaze of her deep, dark eyes is the pride of a woman who is
convinced of her beauty, and is spoiled by the admiration of men. My
sister said that this Várenka makes a conquest of everybody."--Of
course, she was trying to make a conquest of him, also. But he had come
hither to work, and not to frolic, and she would soon understand that.

"But am not I thinking a great deal about her, for a first
encounter?"--flashed through his mind.

The disk of the moon, huge and blood-red in hue, was rising somewhere,
far away behind the trees of the park: it gazed forth from the darkness
like the eye of a monster, born of it. Faint sounds, coming from the
direction of the village, were borne upon the air.... Now and then,
in the grass beneath the window, a rustling resounded; it must be
a tortoise or a hedgehog on the prowl. A nightingale was singing
somewhere. And the moon mounted slowly in the sky, as though the
fateful necessity of its movement was understood by it and wearied it.

Flinging his cigarette, which had gone out, from the window, Ippolít
Sergyéevitch rose, undressed, and extinguished the lamp. Then the
darkness poured into the room from the garden, the trees moved up to
the windows, as though desirous of looking in; on the floor lay two
streaks of moonlight, still faint and turbid.

The springs of the divan creaked shrilly under the body of Ippolít
Sergyéevitch, and overcome by the pleasant coolness of the linen
sheets, he stretched himself out, and lay still on his back. Soon he
was dozing, and under his window he heard someone's cautious footsteps
and a thick whisper:

"... Má-arya ... Are you there? Hey?" ...

With a smile, he fell fast asleep.

And in the morning, when he awoke in the brilliant sunlight, which
filled his room, he smiled again at the memory of the preceding
evening, and of the young girl. He presented himself at tea carefully
dressed, cold and serious, as was befitting a learned man; but when he
saw that his sister was seated alone at the table, he involuntarily
burst out:

"But where is...."

His sister's sly smile stopped him before he had finished his
question, and he seated himself, in silence, at the table. Elizavéta
Sergyéevna scrutinized his costume in detail, smiling all the while,
and paying no heed to his involuntary scowl. Her significant smile
enraged him.

"She rose long ago, and she and I have been to bathe, and she must be
in the park now ... and will soon make her appearance,--" explained
Elizavéta Sergyéevna.

"How circumstantial you are,--" he said, with a laugh.--"Please
give orders to have my things unloaded immediately after tea."

"And have them taken out?"

"No, no, that's not necessary, I'll do that myself, otherwise
everything will get mixed up.... There are books and candy for you...."

"Thanks! That's nice of you ... and here comes Várenka!"

She made her appearance in the doorway, in a thin, white gown, which
fell from her shoulders to her feet in rich folds. Her costume
resembled a child's blouse, and in it she looked like a child. Pausing
for a second at the door, she asked:

"Have you been waiting for me?--" and approached the table as
noiselessly as a cloud.

Ippolít Sergyéevitch bowed to her in silence, and as he shook her hand,
her arm being bared to the elbow, he perceived a delicate odor of
violets which emanated from her.

"How you have scented yourself!" exclaimed Elizavéta Sergyéevna.

"Is it any more than I always do? You are fond of perfumes, Ippolít
Sergyéevitch? I am--awfully! When the violets are in bloom, I pluck
them every morning after my bath, and rub them in my hands,--I learned
that in the pro-gymnasium.... Do you like violets?"

He drank his tea, and did not glance at her, but he felt her eyes on
his face.

"I really have never thought about it--whether I like them or not,--"
he said drily, shrugging his shoulders, but as he involuntarily glanced
at her, he smiled.

Shaded by the snow-white material of her gown, her face flamed with
a magnificent flush, and her deep eyes beamed with clear joy. She
breathed forth health, freshness, unconscious happiness. She was as
good as a bright May morning in the north.

"You haven't thought about it?"--she exclaimed.--"But how is that ...
seeing that you are a botanist."

"But not a floriculturist,--" he explained briefly, and involuntarily
reflecting that this might be rude, he turned his eyes away from her
face.

"But are not botany and floriculture one and the same?--" she inquired,
after a pause.

His sister laughed unrestrainedly. And he suddenly became conscious
that this laugh made him writhe, for some reason, and he exclaimed
pityingly to himself:

"Yes, she is stupid!"

But later on, as he explained to her the difference between botany
and floriculture, he softened his verdict, and pronounced her merely
ignorant. As she listened to his intelligent and serious remarks, she
gazed at him with the eyes of an attentive pupil, and this pleased him.
As he talked, he often turned his eyes from her face to his sister's,
and in her gaze, which was immovably fixed on Várenka's face, he
discerned eager envy. This interfered with the speech, as it called
forth in him a sentiment allied to disdain for his sister.

"Ye-es,--" said the young girl slowly,--"so that's how it is! And is
botany an interesting science?"

"Hm! you see, one must look upon science from the point of view of its
utility to men,--" he explained, with a sigh. Her lack of development,
allied with her beauty, increased his compassion for her. But she,
meditatively tapping the edge of her cup with her teaspoon, asked him:

"Of what utility can it be, that you know how burdock grows?

"The same which we deduce from studying the phenomena of life in any
one man."

"A man and a burdock...." she smiled. "Does one man live like all the
rest?"

He found it strange that this uninteresting conversation did not
fatigue him.

"Do I eat and drink in the same way as the peasants?" she continued
seriously, contracting her brows. "And do many people live as I do?"

"How do you live?"--he inquired, foreseeing that this question would
change the course of the conversation. He wished to do so, because a
malicious, sneering element had now been added to the envy in the gaze
which his sister had fastened upon Várenka.

"How do I live?--" the girl suddenly flushed up.--"Well!--" And she
even closed her eyes with satisfaction. "You know, I wake up in the
morning, and if the day is bright, I immediately feel dreadfully gay!
It is as though I had received a costly and beautiful gift, which I
had long been wanting to possess.... I run and take my bath--we have
a river with springs--the water is cold, and it fairly nips the body!
There are very deep spots, and I plunge straight into them, head first,
from the bank--splash! It fairly bums one, all over.. you fly into the
water as from a precipice, and there is a ringing in your head....
You come to the surface, tear yourself out of the water, and the sun
looks down at you and laughs! Then I go home through the forest, I
gather flowers, I inhale the forest air until I am intoxicated; when I
arrive, tea is ready! I drink tea, and before me stand flowers.. and
the sun gazes at me.... Ah, if you only knew how I love the sun! Then
the day advances, and housekeeping cares begin.. everyone loves me at
home, they all understand and obey at once,--and everything whirls on
like a wheel until the evening .. then the sun sets, the moon and the
stars make their appearance ... how beautiful and how new this always is!
you understand! I cannot say it intelligibly.. why it is so good to
live!... But perhaps you feel just the same yourself, do you? Surely,
you understand why such a life is good and interesting?"

"Yes ... of course!--" he assented, ready to wipe the venomous smile
from his sister's face with his hand.

He looked at Várenka, and did not restrain himself from admiring her,
as she quivered with the desire to impart to him the strength of the
exultation which filled her being, but this ecstasy of hers heightened
his feeling of pity for her to the degree of a painfully-poignant
sensation. He beheld before him a being permeated with the charm of
vegetable life, full of rough poetry, overwhelmingly beautiful, but
not ennobled by brains. "And in the winter? Are you fond of winter? It
is all white, healthy, stimulating, it challenges you to contend with
it...."

A sharp ring of the bell interrupted her speech. Elizavéta Sergyéevna
had rung, and when a tall maid, with a round, kind face, and roguish
eyes, flew into the room, she said to her, in a weary voice:

"Clear away the dishes, Másha!"

Then she began to walk up and down the room, in a preoccupied way,
shuffling her feet.

All this somewhat sobered the enthusiastic young girl; she twitched her
shoulders as though she were shaking something from them, and rather
abashed she asked Ippolít Sergyéevitch:

"Have I bored you with my stupid tales?"

"Come, how can you say so?"--he protested.

"No, seriously,--I have made myself appear stupid to you?"--she
persisted.

"But why?!"--exclaimed Ippolít Sergyéevitch and was surprised that he
had said it so warmly and sincerely.

"I am wild ... that is to say, I am not cultivated ..." she said
apologetically.--"But I am very glad to talk with you ... because you are
a learned man, and so ... unlike what I imagined you to be."

"And what did you imagine me to be like?"--he queried, with a smile.

"I thought you would always be talking about various wise things..
why, and how, and this is not so, but this other way, and everybody
is stupid, and I alone am wise.... Papa had a friend visiting him, he
was a colonel too, like papa, and he was learned, like you.. But he
was a military learned man ... what do you call it ... of the General
Staff...? and he was frightfully puffed up ... in my opinion, he did not
even know anything, but simply bragged...."

"And you imagined that I was like that?"--enquired Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

She was disconcerted, blushed, and springing from her chair, she ran
about the room in an absurd way, saying in confusion:

"Akh, how can you think so ... now, could I...."

"Well, see here, my dear children...." remarked Elizavéta Sergyéevna,
scanning them with her eyes screwed up,--"I'm going off to attend to
something about the housekeeping, and I leave you ... to the will of
God!"

And she vanished, with a laugh, rustling her skirts as she went.
Ippolít Sergyéevitch looked after her reproachfully, and reflected,
that he must have a talk with her about her way of behaving toward this
really very charming, though undeveloped young girl.

"Do you know, I have an idea--would you like to go in the boat? We
will drive to the forest, and then have a stroll there, and be back by
dinner-time. Shall we? I'm awfully glad that the day is so bright, and
that I'm not at home.... For papa has another attack of gout, and I
should have been obliged to fuss about him. And papa is capricious when
he is ill."

Amazed at her frank egotism, he did not immediately reply to her in
the affirmative, and when he did reply, he recalled the intention,
which had arisen in him the evening before, and with which he had
emerged from his chamber that morning. But, surely, she had afforded
no ground, so far, for suspicion of a desire to conquer his heart?
In her speeches, everything was perceptible except coquetry. And, in
conclusion, why not spend one day with such ... an undoubtedly original
young girl?

"And do you know how to row? Never mind if you do it badly ... I will do
it myself, I am strong. And the boat is so light. Shall we go?"

They went out upon the terrace, and descended into the park. By the
side of his tall, thin figure, she appeared shorter and more plump. He
offered her his arm, but she declined it.

"Why? It is nice when one is tired, but otherwise, it only hinders one
in walking."

He smiled as he looked at her through his eyeglasses, and walked on,
adjusting his stride to her pace, which greatly pleased him. Her walk
was light and graceful,--her white gown floated around her form, but
not a single fold undulated. In one hand she held a parasol, with the
other she gesticulated freely and gracefully, as she told him about
the beauty of the suburbs of the village. Her arm, hared to the elbow,
was strong and brown, covered with a golden down, and as it moved
through the air, it compelled Ippolít Sergyéevitch's eyes to follow it
attentively.... And again, in the dark depths of his soul, a confused,
incomprehensible apprehension of something began to tremble. He tried
to annihilate it, asking himself: What had prompted him to follow this
young girl? And he answered himself:--curiosity, a calm and pure desire
to contemplate her beauty.

"Yonder is the river! Go and take your seat in the boat, and I will get
the oars at once...."

And she disappeared among the trees before he could ask her to show him
where he could find the oars.

In the still, cold water of the river, the trees were reflected
upside down; he seated himself in the boat, and gazed at them. These
spectral images were more splendid and beautiful than the living trees,
which stood on the bank, shading the water with their curved and
gnarled branches. Their reflection flattered them, thrusting into the
background what was deformed, and creating in the water a clear and
harmonious fantasy, on the foundation of the paltry reality, disfigured
by time.

As he admired the transparent picture, surrounded by the silence and
the gleam of the sun which was not yet hot, and drank in along with
the air the songs of the larks full of the joy of existence, Ippolít
Sergyéevitch felt springing into life within him a sensation of repose
which was novel and agreeable to him, which caressed his brain, and
lulled to sleep its constant and rebellious striving to understand and
to explain. Quiet peace reigned around, not a leaf quivered on the
trees, and in this peace the mute triumph of nature was unceasingly in
progress, life, always smitten with death but invincible, was being
soundlessly created, and death was working quietly, smiting all things,
but never winning the victory. And the blue sky shone in triumphant
beauty.

In the background of the picture in the water of the river, a white
beauty, with a smile on her face, made her appearance. She stood there,
with the oars in her hands, as though inviting him to go to her, mute,
very lovely, and she seemed to have dropped down from the sky.

Ippolít Sergyéevitch knew that it was Várenka, emerging from the park,
and that she was looking at him, but he did not wish to destroy the
enchantment by a sound or a movement.

"Say, what a dreamer you are!--" her astonished exclamation rang out on
the air.

Then, with regret, he turned away from the water, glanced at the girl,
who was descending vivaciously and easily to the shore, down the steep
path from the park. And his regret vanished with this glance at her,
for this girl was, in reality, enchantingly beautiful.

"I could not possibly have imagined that you were fond of dreaming! You
have such a stem, serious face.. You will steer: is that right? We will
row upstream.. it is more beautiful there ... and, in general, it is
more interesting to go against the current, because then you row, you
get exercise, you feel yourself...."

The boat, pushed out from the shore, rocked lazily on the sleepy water,
but a powerful stroke of the oars immediately put it alongside of the
bank, and rolling from side to side under a second stroke, it glided
lightly forward.

"We will row under the hilly shore, because it is shady there.." said
the young girl, as she cut the water with skilful strokes. "Only, the
current is weak here,... but on the Dnyépr,--Aunt Lutchítzky has an
estate there--it's a terror, I can tell you! It fairly tears the oars
out of your hands ... you haven't seen the rapids of the Dnyépr?..."

"Only the threshold of the door,"[2] Ippolít Sergyéevitch tried to pun.

[2] _Poróg_, a threshold,--porogt, rapide, in Russian.--Translator.

"I have been through them," she said, laughing.--"It was fine! One
day, they came near smashing the boat, and in that case, we should
infallibly have been drowned...."

"Well, that would not have been fine at all," said Ippolít Sergyéevitch
seriously.

"What of that? I'm not in the least afraid of death .. although I love
to live. Perhaps it will be as interesting there as it is here on
earth...."

"And perhaps there is nothing at all there.." he said, glancing at her
with curiosity.

"Well, how can there help being!"--she exclaimed, with conviction.
--"Of course there is!"

He decided not to interfere with her--let her go on philosophizing; at
the proper moment he would stop her, and make her spread out before him
the whole miserable little world of her imagination. She sat opposite
him, with her small feet resting against a cross-bar, nailed to the
bottom of the boat, and with every stroke of the oars, she bent
her body backward. Then, beneath the thin material of her gown, her
virgin bosom was outlined in relief, high, springy, quivering with the
exercise.

"She does not wear corsets," said Ippolít Sergyéevitch to himself,
dropping his eyes. But there they rested on her tiny feet. Pressed
against the bottom of the boat, her legs were tensely stretched, and at
such times their outlines were visible to the knees.

"Did she put on that idiotic dress on purpose?"--he said to himself in
vexation, and turned away, to look at the high shore.

They had passed the park, and now they were floating under a steep
cliff; from it swung curly pea-vines, the long slender wreaths of
pumpkin, with their velvety leaves, large yellow circles of the
sunflower, standing on the edge of the abyss, looked down into the
water. The other shore, low and smooth, stretched away into the
distance, to the green walls of the forest, and was thickly covered
with grass, succulent and brilliant in hue; pale blue and dark blue
flowers, as pretty as the eyes of children, peered caressingly forth
from it at the boat. And ahead of them stood the dark-green forest--and
the river pierced its way into it, like a piece of cold steel.

"Aren't you warm?" asked Várenka.

He glanced at her, and felt abashed:--upon her brow, beneath her
crown of waving hair, glistened drops of perspiration, and her breast
heaved high and rapidly.

"Pray forgive me!"--he exclaimed penitently.--"I forgot myself in
looking about me ... you are tired ... give me the oars!"

"I will not give them to you! Do you think I am tired? That is an
insult to me! We haven't gone two versts yet.... No, keep your seat ...
we will land presently, and take a stroll."

It was evident from her face, that it was useless to argue with her,
and shrugging his shoulders with vexation, he made no reply, thinking
to himself with displeasure: "It is plain that she considers me weak."

"You see--this is the road to our house,--" she pointed it out to him
on the shore, with a nod of her head.--"Here is the ford across the
river, and from here to our house is fourteen versts. It is fine on our
place, also, more beautiful than on your Polkánovka."

"Do you live in the country during the winter?" he asked.

"Why not? You see, I have the entire charge of the housekeeping, papa
never rises from his chair.... He is carried through the rooms."

"But you must find it tiresome to live in that way?"

"Why? I have an awful lot to do ... and only one assistant--Nikon,
papa's orderly. He is already an old man, and he drinks, besides, but
he's awfully strong, and knows his business. The peasants are afraid
of him he beats them, and they also once beat him terribly ... very
terribly! He is remarkably honest, and he's devoted to papa and me ...
he loves us like a dog! And I love him, too. Perhaps you have read a
romance, where the hero is an officer, Count Grammont, and he had an
orderly also, Sadi-Coco?"

"I have not read it,--" confessed the young savant modestly.

"You must be sure to read it--it is a good romance,--" she advised him
with conviction.--"When Nikon pleases me, I call him Sadi-Coco. At
first he used to get angry with me for that, but one day I read that
romance to him, and now he knows that it is flattering for him to be
like Sadi-Coco."

Ippolít Sergyéevitch looked at her, as a European looks at a delicately
executed but fantastically-deformed statue of a Chinaman; with a
mixture of amazement, compassion and curiosity. But she, with ardor,
related to him the feats of Sadi-Coco, filled with disinterested
devotion to Count Louis Grammont.

"Excuse me, Varvára[3] Vasílievna," he interrupted her,--"but have you
read the romances of the Russian writers?"

[3] Várenka it the caressing diminutive of Varvára.--Translator.

"Oh, yes! But I don't like them--they are tiresome, very tiresome! And
they always write things which I know just as well as they do. They
cannot invent anything interesting, and almost everything they say is
true."

"But don't you like the truth?"--asked Ippolít Sergyéevitch kindly.

"Ah, no indeed! I always speak the truth, straight to people's faces,
and...."

She paused, reflected, and inquired:

"What is there to like in that? It is my habit, how can one like it?"

He did not manage to say anything to her on this point, because she
quickly and loudly gave the command:

"Steer to the right ... be quick! To that oak-tree, yonder.... Aï, how
awkward you are!"

The boat did not obey his hand, and ran ashore broadside on, although
he churned the water forcibly with his oar.

"Never mind, never mind," she said, and suddenly rising to her feet,
she sprang over the side.

Ippolít Sergyéevitch uttered a low shriek, and stretched his arms
toward her, but she was standing uninjured on the shore, holding the
chain of the boat in her hands, and apologetically asking him:

"Did I frighten you?"

"I thought you would fall into the water,--" he said, softly.

"But could anyone fall there? And moreover, the water is not deep
there,--" she defended herself, dropping her eyes, and drawing the boat
to the bank. And he, as he sat at the stem, reflected that he ought to
have done that.

"Do you see what a forest there is?--" she said, when he had stepped
out on the bank, and stood beside her.--"Isn't it fine here? There are
no such beautiful forests around St. Petersburg, are there?"

In front of them lay a narrow road, hemmed in on both sides by tree
trunks of different sizes. Under their feet the gnarled roots, crushed
by the wheels of peasant-carts, lay outstretched, and over them was
a thick tent of boughs, with here and there, high aloft, blue scraps
of sky. The rays of sunlight, slender as violin-strings, quivered in
the air, obliquely intersecting this narrow, green corridor. The odor
of rotting foliage, of mushrooms and birch trees, surrounded them.
Birds flitted past, disturbing the solemn stillness of the forest with
their lively songs and anxious twittering. A woodpecker was tapping
somewhere, a bee was buzzing, and in front of them, as though showing
them the road, two butterflies fluttered, in pursuit of each other.

They strolled slowly on. Ippolít Sergyéevitch was silent, and did
not interfere with Várenka's finding words wherewith to express her
thoughts, while she said warmly to him:

"I don't like to read about the peasants; what can there be that is
interesting in their lives? I know them, I live with them, and I see
that people do not write accurately, do not write the truth about them.
They are described as such wretched creatures, but they are only base,
and there is nothing to pity them for. They want only one thing--to
cheat us, to steal something from us. They are always importuning us,
always moaning, they're disgusting, dirty ... and they're clever, oh!
they're even very cunning. Oh, if you only knew how they torture me
sometimes!"

She had warmed up to her theme now, and wrath and bad humor were
expressed on her face. Evidently, the peasants occupied a large
place in her life; she rose to hatred, as she depicted them. Ippolít
Sergyéevitch was astonished at the violence of her agitation but, as
he did not care to hear these sallies from the master's point of view,
he interrupted the young girl:

"You were speaking of the French writers...."

"Ah, yes! That is to say, about the Russian writers,--" she corrected
him, calming down,--"you ask, why the Russians write worse than
they,--that is dear enough! because they do not invent anything
interesting. The French writers have real heroes, who do not talk
like everybody else, and who behave differently. They are always
brave, in love, jolly ... but with us, the heroes are simple little
men, without daring, without fiery feelings,--ugly, pitiful little
creatures--the most real sort of men, and nothing more! Why are they
heroes? You will never understand that in a Russian book. The Russian
hero is a stupid, sluggish sort of fellow, he's always disgusted with
something, he's always thinking of something incomprehensible, and he
pities everybody, and he himself is pitiful, ve-ery pi-tiful indeed! He
meditates, and talks and then he goes to make a declaration of love,
and then he meditates again until he gets married ... and when he is
married, he says sour nonsense to his wife, and abandons her.... What
is there interesting in that? It even angers me, because it resembles
a deception--instead of a hero, there is always some sort of a stuffed
scarecrow stuck up in a romance! And never, while you are reading a
Russian book, can you forget real life,--is that nice? But when you
read the works of a Frenchman--you shudder for the heroes, you pity
them, you hate, you want to fight when they fight, you weep when
they perish ... you wait for the end of the romance with passionate
interest, and when you read it--you almost cry with vexation,
because that is all. You live--but in Russian books, it is utterly
incomprehensible why men live. Why write books, if you cannot narrate
anything unusual? Really, it is strange!"

"There is a great deal which might be said in reply to you, Varvára
Vasílievna,--" he stemmed the stormy tide of her speech.

"Well then, reply!--" she burst out, with a smile.--"Of course, you
will rout me!"

"I shall try. First of all, what Russian authors have you read?"

"Various ... but they are all alike. Take Saliás, for example ... he
imitates the French, but badly. However, he has Russian heroes also,
and can one write anything interesting about them? And I have read a
great many others--Mórdovtzeff, Márkevitch, Pazúkhin, I think--you
see, even from their names it is plain that they cannot write well!
You haven't read them? But have you read Fortuné de Boisgobey? Ponson
du Terrail? Arsène Houssaye? Pierre Zaconné? Dumas, Gaboriau, Borne?
How fine, good heavens! Wait ... do you know what pleases me most in
romances is the villains, those who so artfully weave various spiteful
plots, who murder and poison,... they're clever, strong ... and when,
at last, they are caught,--rage seizes upon me, and I even go so far as
to cry. Everybody hates the villain, everybody is against him--he is
alone against them all! That's--a hero! And those others, the virtuous
people, become disgusting, when they win.... And, in general, do you
know, people please me so long as they strongly desire something, march
forward somewhere, seek something, torment themselves ... but if they
have reached their goal, and have come to a halt, then they are no
longer interesting ... they are even insipid!"

Excited, and, probably, proud of what she had said to him, she walked
slowly by his side, raising her head prettily, and flashing her eyes.

He looked into her face, and nervously twisting his head, he sought
for a retort which should, at one stroke, tear from her mind that
coarse veil of dust which enveloped it. But, while feeling himself
bound to reply to her, he wished to listen longer to her ingenuous and
original chatter, to behold her again carried away with her opinions,
and sincerely laying bare her soul before him. He had never heard
such speeches; they were hideous and impossible in his eyes, but, at
the same time, everything she had said harmonized, to perfection,
with her rather rapacious beauty. Before him was an unpolished mind,
which offended him by its roughness, and a woman who was seductively
beautiful, who irritated his sensuality. These two forces crushed
him down with all the energy of their directness, and he must set up
something in opposition to them, otherwise, he felt--they might drive
him out of the wonted ruts of those views and moods, with which he had
dwelt in peace until he met her. He possessed a clear sense of logic,
and he had argued well with persons of his own circle. But how was he
to talk with her, and what ought he say to her, in order to urge her
mind into the right road, and ennoble her soul, which had been deformed
by stupid novels, and the society of the peasants, and of that soldier,
her drunken father?

"Ugh, how foolishly I have been talking!--" she exclaimed, with a
sigh.--"I have bored you, haven't I?"

"No, but...."

"You see, I'm very glad to know you. Until you came, I had no one to
talk with. Your sister does not like me, and is always angry with
me ... it must be became I give my father vódka, and because I thrashed
Nikon...."

"You?! You thrashed him? Eh.. how did you do that?"--said Ippolít
Sergyéevitch, in amazement.

"Very simply, I lashed him with papa's kazák whip, that's all! You
know, they were threshing the grain, there was an awful hurry, and he,
the beast, was drunk! Wasn't I angry! How dared he get drunk when the
work was seething, and his eyes were needed in every direction? Those
peasants, they...."

"But, listen, Varvára Vasílievna,--" he began, impressively and as
gently as possible,--"is it nice to beat a servant? Is that noble?
Reflect! Did those heroes, whom you adore, beat their admirers?...
Sadi-Coco...."

"Oh, indeed they did! One day, Count Louis gave Coco such a box on the
ear, that I even felt sorry for the poor little soldier. And what can
I do with them, except beat them? It's a good thing I am able to do it
... for I am strong! Feel what muscles I've got!"

Bending her arm at the elbow, she proudly offered it to him. He
laid his hand on her arm above her elbow, and pressed it hard with
his fingers, but immediately recollected himself, and in confusion,
blushing crimson, he looked around him. Everywhere the trees stood in
silence, and only....

In general, he was not modest with women, but this woman, by her
simplicity and trustfulness made him so, although she kindled in him a
feeling which was perilous to him.

"You have enviable health,--" he said, staring intently and
thoughtfully at her little, sun-burned hand, as it adjusted the folds
of her gown on her bosom.--"And I think that you have a very good
heart,--" he broke out, unexpectedly to himself.

"I don't know!"--she retorted, shaking her head.--"Hardly,--I have no
character: sometimes I feel sorry for people, even for those whom I
do not like."

"Only sometimes?--" he laughed.--"But, surely, they are always
deserving of pity and sympathy."

"What for?"--she inquired, smiling also.

"Cannot you see how unhappy they are? Take those peasants of yours, for
example. How difficult it is for them to live, and how much injustice,
woe, torture there is in their lives."

This burst hotly from him, and she looked attentively at his face, as
she said:

"You must be very good, if you speak like that. But, you see, you don't
know the peasants, you have not lived in the country. They are unhappy,
it is true--but who is to blame for that? They are crafty, and no one
prevents their becoming happy."

"But they have not even bread enough to satisfy their hunger!"

"I should think not! See what a lot of them there are...."

"Yes, there are a great many of them! But there is a great deal of
land, also ... for there are people who own tens of thousands of
desyatinas.[4] For instance, how much have you?"

[4] A _desyatína_ is 2.70 acres.--Translator.

"Five hundred and seventy-three desyatinas.. Well, and what of that? Is
it possible ... come, listen to me! Is it possible to give it to them?"

She gazed at him with the look of an adult on a child, and laughed
softly. This laughter confused and angered him.... There flashed up
within him the desire to convince her of the errors of her mind.

And, pronouncing his words distinctly, even sharply, he began to talk
to her about the injustice of the distribution of wealth, about the
majority of men's lack of rights, about the fatal struggle for a place
in life and for a morsel of bread, about the power of the rich and
the helplessness of the poor, and about the mind--the guide in life,
crushed by century-long injustice, and the host of prejudices, which
are advantageous to the powerful minority of people.

She maintained silence, as she walked along by his side, and gazed at
him with curiosity and surprise.

Around them reigned the dusky tranquillity of the forest, that
tranquillity across which sounds seem to slide, without disturbing
its melancholy harmony. The leaves of the aspens quivered nervously,
as though the trees were impatiently awaiting something passionately
longed for.

"The duty of every honest man," said Ippolít Sergyéevitch impressively,
"is to contribute to the conflict on behalf of the enslaved all his
brain, and all his heart, endeavoring either to put an end to the
tortures of the conflict, or to hasten its progress. For that genuine
heroism is required, and precisely in this conflict is where you ought
to look for it. Outside of it--there is no heroism. The heroes of this
fight are the only ones who are worthy of admiration and imitation ...
and you ought to direct your attention precisely to this spot, Varvára
Vasílievna, seek your heroes here, expend your strength here ... it
seems to me, that you might become a notably-steadfast defender of the
truth! But, first of all, you must read a great deal, you must learn
to understand life in its real aspect, unadorned by fancy ... you must
fling all those stupid romances into the fire...." He paused, and
wiping the perspiration from his brow, he waited--wearied with his long
speech--to see what she would say.

She was gazing into the distance, straight ahead of her, with her eyes
narrowed, and on her face quivered shadows. Five minutes of silence
were broken by her quiet exclamation:

"How well you talk!... Is it possible that everybody in the university
can talk so well?"

The young savant heaved a hopeless sigh, and expectation of her answer
gave place within him to a dull irritation against her, and compassion
for himself. Why would not she accept what was so logically clear for
every being endowed with the very smallest reasoning powers? What,
precisely, was lacking in his remarks, that they failed to strike home
to her feelings?

"You talk very well!--" she sighed, without waiting for him to reply,
and in her eyes he read genuine satisfaction.

"But do I speak truthfully?"--he asked.

"No!--" replied the young girl, without stopping to think.--"Although
you are a learned man, I shall argue with you. For, you see, I also
understand some things!--You speak so that it appears.. as though
people were building a house, and all of them were equals in the
work. And even not they only, but everything:--the bricks, and the
carpenters, and the trees, and the master of the house--with you,
everything is equal to everything else. But is that possible? The
peasant must work, you must teach, and the Governor must watch, to
see if everybody does what is necessary. And then you said, that life
is a battle ... well, where is it? On the contrary, people live very
peaceably. But if it is a battle, then there must be vanquished people.
But the general utility is something that I cannot understand. You say
that general utility consists in the equality of all men. But that is
not true! My papa is a colonel--how is he the equal of Nikon or of a
peasant? And you--you are a learned man, but are you the equal of our
teacher of the Russian language, who drank vódka, who was red-headed,
stupid, and blew his nose loudly, like a trumpet? Aha!"

She exulted, regarding her arguments as irresistible, while he admired
her joyous agitation, and felt satisfied with himself, because he had
caused her this joy.

But his mind strove to solve the problem why the solid thought,
unassailed by analysis, which he had aroused, worked in a direction
exactly opposite to the one in which he had thrust it?

"I like you and I do not like some other person ... where is the
equality?"

"You like me?--" Ippolít Sergyéevitch inquired, rather abruptly.

"Yes ... very much!" she nodded her head affirmatively, and immediately
asked:

"What of it?"

He was frightened for himself in the presence of the abyss of
ingenuousness which looked forth at him from her clear gaze.

"Can this be her way of coquetting?"--he thought--"she has read
romances enough, apparently, to understand herself as a woman...."

"Why do you ask about that?--" she persisted, gazing into his face with
curious eyes.

Her gaze confused him.

"Why?"--He shrugged his shoulders,--"I think it is natural. You are a
woman ... I am a man...." he explained, as calmly as he could.

"Well, and what of that? All the same, there is no reason why you
should know. You see, you are not preparing to marry me!"

She said this so simply, that he was not even disconcerted. It merely
struck him, that some power, with which it was useless to contend in
view of its blind, elemental character, was altering the work of his
brain from one direction to another. And, with a shade of playfulness,
he said to her:

"Who knows?... And then ... the desire to please, and the desire to
marry, or to get married--are not identical, as you surely must know."

She suddenly burst out into a loud laugh, and he immediately cooled
under her laughter, and mutely cursed both himself and her. Her bosom
quivered with rich, sincere mirth, which merrily shook the air, but he
remained silent, guiltily awaiting a retort to his playfulness.

"Okh! well, what sort ... what sort of a wife ... should I make for
you! It's as ridiculous ... as the ostrich and the bee! Ha, ha, ha!"

And he, also, broke into laughter,--not at her queer comparison, but at
his own failure to comprehend the springs which governed the movements
of her soul.

"You are a charming girl!"--he broke out sincerely.

"Give me your hand ... you walk very slowly, and I will pull you along!
It is time for us to turn back ... high time! We have been roaming for
four hours ... and Elizavéta Sergyéevna will be displeased with us,
because we are late for dinner...."

They went back. Ippolít Sergyéevitch felt himself bound to return to
his explanation of her errors, which did not permit him to feel as free
by her side as he would have liked to be. But first it was necessary
to suppress within himself that obscure uneasiness, which was dully
fermenting in him, impeding his intention to listen calmly to her
arguments, and to controvert them with decision. It would be so easy
for him to cut away the abnormal excrescence from her brain by the cold
logic of his mind, if that strange, enervating, nameless sensation
did not embarrass him. What was it? It resembled a disinclination to
introduce into the spiritual realm of this young girl ideas which were
foreign to her.... But such an evasion of his obligations would be
shameful in a man who was steadfast in his principles. And he regarded
himself in that light, and was profoundly convinced of the power of
his mind, and of its supremacy over feeling. "Is to-day Tuesday?" she
said.--"Yes, of course. That means, that three days hence the little
black gentleman will arrive...."

"Who will arrive, and where, did you say?"

"The little black gentleman, Benkóvsky, will come to us on Saturday."

"Why?"

She began to laugh, gazing searchingly at him.

"Don't you know? He's an official...."

"Ah! yes, my sister told me...."

"She told you?" said Várenka, becoming animated.--

"Well, tell me then--will they be married soon?"

"What do you mean by that? Why should they marry?"--asked Ippolít
Sergyéevitch disconcerted.

"Why?"--said Várenka, in amazement, with a vivid blush.--"Why, I don't
know. It's the regulation thing to do! But, oh Lord! Can it be possible
that you did not know about that?"

"I know nothing!--" ejaculated Ippolít Sergyéevitch with decision.

"And I have told you!"--she cried, in despair.--"A pretty thing, truly!
Please, my dear Ippolít Sergyéevitch, don't know anything about it now
... as though I had not said anything!"

"Very well! But permit me; I really do not know anything. I have
understood one thing--that my sister is going to marry Mr. Benkóvsky..
is that it?"

"Well, yes! That is to say, if she herself has not told you that,
perhaps it will not take place. You will not tell her about this?"

"I will not tell her, of course!" promised he.--"I came hither to a
funeral, and have hit upon a wedding, it seems? That is pleasant!"

"Please don't say a word about the wedding!--" she entreated him.--"You
don't know anything."

"That is perfectly true.--What sort of a person is this Mr. Benkóvsky?
May I inquire?"

"You may, about him! He's rather black of complexion, rather sweet, and
rather taciturn. He has little eyes, a little mustache, little lips,
little hands and a little fiddle. He loves tender little songs, and
little cheese patties. I always feel like rapping him over his little
snout."

"Well, you don't love him!" exclaimed Ippolít Sergyéevitch, feeling
sorry for Mr. Benkóvsky at this humiliating description of his exterior.

"And he does not love me! I ... I can't endure little, sweet, unassuming
men. A man ought to be tall, and strong; he ought to talk loudly, his
eyes should be large, fiery, and his emotions should be bold, and know
no impediments. He should will a thing and do it--that's a man!"

"Apparently, there are no more such!" said Ippolít Sergyéevitch, with
a dry laugh, feeling that her ideal of a man was repulsive to him, and
irritated him.

"There must be some!" she exclaimed with confidence.

"But Varvára Vasílievna, you have depicted a sort of wild beast! What
is there attractive about such a monster?"

"He's not a wild beast at all, but a strong man! Strength--that is what
is attractive. The men nowadays are born with rheumatism, with a cough,
with various diseases--is that nice? Would I find it interesting,
for example, to have for a husband a gentleman with pimples on his
face, like County Chief Kokóvitch? or a pretty little gentleman, like
Benkóvsky? Ora round-shouldered, gaunt hop-pole, like court-usher
Múkhin? Or Grísha Tchernonéboff, the merchant's son, a fat man, with
the asthma, and a bald head, and a red nose? What sort of children
could such trashy husbands have? For, you see, one must think of that
... mustn't one? For the children are a very important consideration!
But those men don't think.... They love nothing. They are good for
nothing, and I ... I would beat my husband if I were married to any of
those men!"

Ippolít Sergyéevitch stopped her, demonstrating that her judgment of
men was, in general, incorrect, because she had seen too few people.
And the men she had mentioned must not be regarded from the external
point of view alone--that was unjust. A man may have an ugly nose, but
a fine soul, pimples on his face, but a brilliant mind. He found it
tiresome and difficult to enunciate these elementary truths; until his
meeting with her, he had so rarely remembered their existence, that now
they all appeared to him musty and threadbare. He felt that all this
did not suit her, and that she would not accept it.

"There is the river!" she exclaimed joyfully, interrupting his speech.

And Ippolít Sergyéevitch reflected:

"She rejoices, because I am silenced."

Again they floated along the river, seated facing each other. Várenka
took possession of the oars, and rowed hastily, powerfully; the water
involuntarily gurgled under the boat, little waves flowed to the
shores. Ippolít Sergyéevitch watched the shores moving to meet the
boat, and felt exhausted with all he had said and heard during the
course of this expedition.

"See, how fast the boat is going!" Várenka said to him.

"Yes," he replied briefly, without turning his eyes to her. It made no
difference even without seeing her, he could picture to himself how
seductively her body was bending and her bosom was heaving.

The park came in sight ... Soon they were walking up its avenue, and
the graceful figure of Elizavéta Sergyéevna was coming to meet them,
with a significant smile. She held some papers in her hands, and said:

"Well, you _have_ had a long walk!"

"Have we been gone long! On the other hand, I have such an appetite,
that I--ugh! I could eat you!"

And Várenka, encircling Elizavéta Sergyéevna's waist, whirled her
lightly round her, laughing at the latter's cries.

The dinner was tasteless and tiresome, because Várenka was engrossed
with the process of satisfying her hunger, and maintained silence,
and Elizavéta Sergyéevna was angry with her brother, who observed the
searching glances which she directed at his face, every now and then.
Soon after dinner, Várenka drove off homeward, and Ippolít Sergyéevitch
went to his room, lay down on the divan, and began to meditate,
summing up the impressions of the day. He recalled the most trivial
details of the walk, and felt that a turbid sediment was being formed
from them, which was eating into his stable equilibrium of mind and
feeling. He even felt the physical novelty of his mood, in the shape of
a strange weight, which oppressed his heart--as though his blood had
coagulated during that time, and was circulating more slowly than was
its wont. This resembled fatigue, inclined him to revery, and formed
the preface to some desire which had not yet assumed form. And this was
disagreeable only because it remained a nameless sensation, despite
Ippolít Sergyéevitch's efforts to give it a name.

"I must wait to analyze it, until the fermentation has subsided...." he
came to the conclusion.

But a feeling of keen dissatisfaction with himself presented itself,
and he simultaneously reproached himself for having lost the ability
to control his emotions, and for having that day conducted himself in
a manner unbecoming a serious man. Alone with himself, he was always
firm and stem with himself, more so than when with other people.
Accordingly, he now began to scrutinize himself.

Indisputably, that young girl was stupefyingly beautiful, but to
behold her, and instantly to enter in the dark circle of some troubled
sensation or other--was too much for her, and was disgraceful for him,
for that was wantonness, a lack of strength of character. She strongly
stirred his sensuality,--yes, but he must contend against that.

"Must I?"--suddenly flashed into his head the curt, poignant question.

He frowned, and bore himself toward the question as though it had been
put by someone outside of himself. In any case, what was going on
within him was not the beginning of a passion for a woman, rather was
it a protest of his mind, which had been affronted by the encounter
from which he had not emerged as the conqueror, although his opponent
had been as weak as a child. He ought to have talked to that girl
figuratively, for it was evident that she did not understand a logical
argument. His duty was to exterminate her wild conceptions, to destroy
all those coarse and stupid fancies, with which her brain was soaked.
He must strip her mind of all those errors, purify, empty her soul,
and then she would be capable of accepting the truth and of holding it
within her.

"Can I do that?"--an irrelevant question again flashed up within
him. And again he evaded it.... What would she be like, when she had
accepted something new, and contrary to what was already in her? And
it seemed to him, that when her soul, freed from the captivity of
error, should have become permeated with harmonious teaching, foreign
to everything obscure and blinding,--that young girl would be doubly
beautiful.

When he was called to tea, he had already firmly made up his mind to
reconstruct her world, imposing this decision upon himself as a direct
obligation. Now he would meet her coldly and composedly, and would
impart to his intercourse with her a character of stem criticism of
everything that she should say, or should do.

"Well, how do you like Várenka?"--inquired his sister, when he emerged
on the terrace.

"Very charming girl," he replied, elevating his brows.

"Yes? So, that's it ... I thought you would be struck by her lack of
development."

"I really am rather surprised at that side of her,--" he
assented.--"But, to speak frankly, she is, in many ways, better than
the girls who are developed and who put on airs over that fact."

"Yes, she is handsome.. and a desirable bride ... she has five hundred
desyatinas of very fine land, about one hundred of building timber.
And, in addition, she will inherit a solid estate from her aunt. And
neither estate is mortgaged...."

He perceived that his sister was determined not to understand him, but
he did not care to explain to himself why she found this necessary.

"I do not look at her from that point of view,--" said he.

"Do so, then ... I seriously advise it."

"Thanks."

"You are a little out of temper, apparently?"

"On the contrary. But what of that?"

"Nothing. I want to know it, as an anxious sister."

She smiled prettily, and rather ingratiatingly. That smile reminded him
of Mr. Benkóvsky, and he, also, smiled at her.

"What are you laughing at?--" she inquired.

"And you, what are you laughing at?"

"I feel merry."

"I feel merry also, although I did not bury my wife two weeks ago,--"
he said, with a laugh.

But she put on a serious face, and sighed, as she said:

"Perhaps, in your soul, you condemn me for lack of feeling toward
my deceased husband. You think that I am egotistical? But, Ippolít,
you know what my husband was, I wrote to you what my life was like.
And I often said to myself:--'My God! and was I created merely for
the purpose of pleasing the coarse appetites of Nikoláï Stepánovitch
Banártzeff, when he has drunk himself into such a state of intoxication
that he cannot distinguish his wife from a simple peasant woman, or a
woman of the street?'"

"You don't say so!" ... exclaimed Ippolít Sergyéevitch, recalling her
letters, in which she had talked a great deal about her husband's lack
of character, his fondness for liquor, his indolence, and of all vices
except debauchery.

"Do you doubt it?--" she inquired reproachfully, and sighed.
--"Nevertheless, it is a fact. He was often in such a condition.... I do
not assert that he betrayed me, but I admit it. Could he be conscious,
whether I was with him, or some other woman, when he mistook the window
for the door? Yes.. and that was the way I lived for years...." She
talked long and tediously to him about her sad life, and he listened
and waited for her to tell him the thing that she wished to tell. And
it involuntarily occurred to him, that Várenka would never be likely to
complain of her life, however it might turn out for her.

"It seems to me that fate ought to reward me for those long years of
grief.... Perhaps it is near--my recompense."

Elizavéta Sergyéevna paused, and casting an interrogative glance at her
brother, she blushed slightly.

"What do you mean to say?"--he inquired, affectionately, bending toward
her.

"You see ... perhaps I shall ... marry again!"

"And you will do exactly right! I congratulate you!... But why are you
so disconcerted?"

"Really, I do not know!"

"Who is he?"

"I think I have mentioned him to you ... Benkóvsky ... the future
procurator ... and, in the meantime, a poet and dreamer.... Perhaps you
have come across his verses? He prints them...."

"I do not read verses. Is he a good man? However, of course he is
good...."

"I am sufficiently clever not to answer in the affirmative; but I think
I may say, without self-delusion, that he is capable of making up to me
for the past. He loves me.... I have invented a little philosophy for
myself ... perhaps it will seem rather harsh to you."

"Philosophize without fear, that's the fashion at present ..." jested
Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

"Men and women are two tribes, which are everlastingly at war" said
the woman softly,... "Confidence, friendship and other feelings of
that sort, are hardly possible between me and a man. But love is
possible.... And love is the victory of the one who loves the least
over the one who loves the most.... I have been conquered once, and
have paid for it ... now I have won the victory, and shall enjoy the
fruits of conquest...."

"It is a tolerably fierce sort of philosophy,..." Ippolít Sergyéevitch
interrupted her, feeling, with satisfaction, that Várenka could not
philosophize in that manner.

"Life has taught it to me.... You see, he is four years younger than I
am,... he has only just finished at the university,... I know that that
is dangerous for me ... and, how shall I express it?... I should like
to arrange matters with him in such a way, that my property-right
shall not be subjected to any risk."

"Yes ... so what then?" inquired Ippolít Sergyéevitch, becoming
attentive.

"So, you are to advise me as to how this is to be arranged. I do not
wish to give him any legal rights over my property ... and I would not
give him any over my person, if that could be avoided."

"It strikes me that that could be effected by a civil marriage.
However...."

"No, I reject a civil marriage...."

He looked at her, and thought, with a feeling of fastidiousness: "Well,
she is wise! If God created men, life re-creates them so easily, that
they certainly must have long ago become repulsive to him."

And his sister convincingly explained to him her view of marriage.

"Marriage ought to be a reasonable contract, excluding every risk. That
is precisely how I mean to deal with Benkóvsky. But, before taking
that step, I should like to clear up the legality of that vexatious
brother's claim. Please look over these documents."

"Will you permit me to undertake this matter to-morrow"--he inquired.

"Of course, when you like."

She continued, for a long time, to set forth her ideas to him,
then she told him a great deal about Benkóvsky. Of him she spoke
condescendingly, with a smile flitting over her lips, and, for some
reason, with her eyes puckered up, Ippolít listened to her, and was
amazed at the utter absence in himself of all sympathy for her fate, or
interest in her remarks.

The sun had already set when they parted, he, exhausted by her, to his
own room; she, animated by the conversation, with a confident sparkle
in her eyes,--to attend to her housekeeping.

When he arrived in his own quarters, Ippolít lighted the lamp, got a
book, and tried to read; but with the very first page, he comprehended
that it would please him equally well if he closed the book. Stretching
himself luxuriously, he closed it, and fidgetted about in his arm-chair,
seeking a comfortable attitude, but the chair was hard; then he betook
himself to the divan, and lay down on it. At first, he thought of
nothing at all; then, with vexation, he remembered, that he would soon
be obliged to make the acquaintance of Mr. Benkóvsky, and immediately
he smiled, as he recalled the sketch which Várenka had given of that
gentleman.

And soon she alone occupied his thoughts and his imagination. Among
other things, he thought:

"And what if I were to marry such a charming monster? I think she might
prove a very interesting wife if only for the reason that one does
not hear from her mouth the cheap wisdom of the popular books...."

But after having surveyed his position, in the character of Várenka's
husband, from all sides, he began to laugh, and categorically answered
himself:

"Never!"

And after that, he felt sad.



II


On Saturday morning, a little unpleasantness began for Ippolít
Sergyéevitch: as he was dressing himself, he had knocked the lamp off
of the little table to the floor, it had flown into fragments, and
several drops of kerosene from the broken reservoir had fallen into
one of his shoes, which he had not yet put on his feet. The shoes, of
course, had been cleaned, but it began to seem to Ippolít Sergyéevitch
that a repulsive, oily odor was streaming upon the air from the tea,
the bread, the butter, and even from the beautifully dressed hair of
his sister.

This spoiled his temper.

"Take off the shoe, and set it in the sun, then the kerosene will
evaporate,--" his sister advised him.--"And, in the meantime, put on my
husband's slippers, there is one pair which is perfectly new."

"Please don't worry. It will soon disappear."

"It is of the greatest importance to wait until it disappears. Really,
shall not I order the slippers to be brought?"

"No ... I don't want them. Throw them away."

"Why? They are nice slippers, of velvet ... they are fit to use."

He wanted to argue, the kerosene irritated him.

"What will they be good for? You will not wear them."

"Of course I shall not, but Alexander will."

"Who is he?"

"Why, Benkóvsky."

"Aha!--" he gave way to a hard laugh.--"That is very touching fidelity
on the part of your dead husband's slippers. And practical."

"You are malicious to-day."

She looked at him somewhat offended, but very searchingly, and, he,
catching that expression in her eyes, thought unpleasantly:

"She certainly imagines that I am irritated by Várenka's absence."

"Benkóvsky will arrive in time for dinner, probably,--" she informed
him, after a pause.

"I'm very glad to hear it,--" he replied, as he commented to himself:

"She wants me to be amiable toward my future brother-in-law."

And his irritation was augmented by a feeling of oppressive boredom.
But Elizavéta Sergyéevna said, as she carefully spread a thin layer of
butter on her bread:

"Practicalness, in my opinion, is a very praiseworthy quality.
Especially at the present moment, when impoverishment so oppresses
our brethren, who live upon the fruits of the earth. Why should not
Benkóvsky wear the slippers of my deceased husband?..."

"And his shroud also, if you removed the shroud from him, and have
preserved it,"--said Ippolít Sergyéevitch venomously to himself,
concentrating his attention upon the operation of transferring the
boiled cream from the cream-jug to his glass.

"And, altogether, my husband has left a very extensive and appropriate
wardrobe. And Benkóvsky is not spoiled. For you know how many of them
there are--three young fellows besides Alexander, and five young
girls. And the estate has about ten mortgages on it. You know, I
purchased their library, on very advantageous terms;--there are some
very valuable things in it. Look it over, and perhaps you will find
something you need.... Alexander subsists on a very paltry salary."

"Have you known him long?--" he asked her;--it was necessary to talk
about Benkóvsky, although he did not wish to do so.

"Four years, altogether, and so ... intimately, seven or eight months.
You will see that he is very nice. He is so tender, so easily excited,
and something of an idealist, a decadent, I think. However, all the
young generation are inclined to decadentism.... Some fall on the side
of idealism, others on the side of materialism ... and both sorts seem
very clever to me."

"There are men who profess 'scepticism of a hundred horse power,'
as one of my comrades has defined it,--" said Ippolít Sergyéevitch,
bending his face over his glass.

She laughed, as she said:

"That is witty, though it is also rather coarse. Really, I am on
the verge of scepticism myself, the healthy scepticism, you know,
which fetters the wings of all possible impulses, and seems to me
indispensable for ... the acquisition of correct views as to the life
of people."

He made haste to finish his tea, and went away, announcing that he had
to sort over the books which he had brought with him. But the odor of
kerosene lingered still in his chamber, in spite of the open doors.
He scowled, and taking a book, he went out into the park. There, in
the closely clustered family of ancient trees, wearied with gales and
thunderstorms, reigned a melancholy silence, which enervated the mind,
and he walked on, without opening his book, down the principal avenue,
thinking of nothing, desiring nothing.

Here was the river and the boat. Here he had seen Várenka reflected in
the water, and angelically beautiful in that reflection.

"Well, I'm just like a boy from the gymnasium!" he cried to himself,
conscious that the memory of her was agreeable to him.

After halting for a moment by the side of the river, he stepped into
the boat, seated himself in the stern, and began to gaze at that
picture in the water, which had been so lovely three days before.
It was equally beautiful to-day, but to-day, on its transparent
background the white figure of that strange young girl did not make
its appearance. Polkánoff lighted a cigarette, and immediately flung
it into the water, reflecting that, perhaps, he had done a foolish
thing in coming hither. As a matter of fact, of what use was he there?
Apparently, only for the sake of preserving his sister's good name,
to speak more simply, in order to enable his sister to receive Mr.
Benkóvsky into her house, without offending the proprieties. It was not
an important rôle.... And that Benkóvsky could not be very clever if he
really did love Polkánoff's sister, who was, if anything, too clever.

After having sat there for three hours in a semi-meditative condition,
his thoughts paralyzed, in a certain way, and gliding over subjects,
without sitting in judgment upon them, he rose, and went slowly to the
house, angry with himself for the uselessly wasted time, and firmly
resolving to set to work as speedily as possible. As he approached the
terrace, he beheld a slender young man, in a white blouse, girt with a
strap. The young man was standing with his back to the avenue, and was
looking at something, as he bent over the table. Ippolít Sergyéevitch
slackened his pace, wondering whether this could possibly be Benkóvsky?
Then the young man straightened up, with a graceful gesture flung back
the long locks of curling hair from his brow, and turned his face
toward the avenue.

"Why, he's a page of the Middle Ages!" exclaimed Ippolít Sergyéevitch
to himself.

Benkóvsky's face was oval, of a dead-white hue, and appeared jaded,
because of the strained gleam of his large, almond-shaped, black eyes,
deeply sunken in their orbits. His beautifully formed mouth was shaded
by a small, black mustache, and his arched brow by locks of carelessly
dishevelled, waving hair. He was small, below middle stature, but his
willowy figure, elegantly built, and finely proportioned, concealed
this defect. He looked at Ippolít Sergyéevitch as short-sighted persons
look, and there was something sympathetic, but sickly, about his pale
face. In a velvet beretta and costume, he really would seem like a page
who had escaped from a picture representing a court of the Middle Ages.

"Benkóvsky!"--he said, in a low tone, offering his white hand, with the
long, slender fingers of a musician, to Ippolít Sergyéevitch, as the
latter ascended the steps of the terrace.

The young savant shook his hand cordially.

For a moment, both preserved an awkward silence, then Ippolít
Sergyéevitch began to talk about the beauty of the park. The young man
answered him briefly, being anxious, evidently, merely to comply with
the demands of politeness, and exhibiting no interest whatever in his
companion.

Elizavéta Sergyéevna soon made her appearance, in a loose white gown,
with black lace on the collar, and girt at the waist with a long, black
cord, terminating in tassels. This costume harmonized well with her
calm countenance, imparting a majestic expression to its small, but
regular features. On her cheeks played a flush of satisfaction, and her
cold eyes had an animated look.

"Dinner will be ready at once,--" she announced.--"I am going to treat
you to ice-cream. But why are you so bored, Alexander Petróvitch? Yes!
You have not forgotten Schubert?"

"I have brought Schubert and the books,--" he replied frankly, and
meditatively admiring her.

Ippolít Sergyéevitch observed the expression of his face, and felt
awkward, comprehending that this charming young man must have made a
vow to himself not to recognize his existence.

"That's fine!"--exclaimed Elizavéta Sergyéevna, smiling at
Benkóvsky.--"Shall we play it after dinner?"

"If you like!"--and he bowed his head before her. This was gracefully
done, but, nevertheless, it made Ippolít Sergyéevitch grin inwardly.

"It does please me very much,"--declared his sister coquettishly.

"And are you fond of Schubert?"--inquired Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

"I love Beethoven best of all--he is the Shakspear of music,"--replied
Benkóvsky, turning his profile toward him.

Ippolít Sergyéevitch had heard Beethoven called the Shakspear of music
before, and the difference between him and Schubert constituted one of
those mysteries which did not interest him in the least. But this boy
did interest him, and he seriously inquired:

"Why do you place Beethoven, in particular, at the head of all?"

"Because he is more of an idealist than all the other musical composers
put together."

"Really? Do you, also, take that as the true view of the world?"

"Undoubtedly. And I know that you are an extreme materialist,--"
explained Benkóvsky, and his eyes gleamed strangely.

"He wants to argue!" thought Ippolít Sergyéevitch,--"But he's a nice
young fellow, straightforward, and, probably, strictly honorable."

And his sympathy for this idealist, who was condemned to wear the dead
man's slippers, increased.

"So, you and I are enemies?"--he inquired, with a smile.

"Gentlemen!"--Elizavéta Sergyéevna called to them from the
room.--"Don't forget that you have only just made each other's
acquaintance...."

Másha, the maid, was setting the table, with a clatter of dishes, and
she cast a furtive glance at Benkóvsky with eyes in which sparkled
artless rapture. Ippolít also gazed at him, reflecting that he must
treat this young fellow with all possible delicacy, and that it would
be well to avoid "ideal" conversations with him, because he would,
in all probability, get excited to the point of rage in arguments.
But Benkóvsky stared at him with a burning glitter in his eyes, and
a nervous quiver on his face.... Evidently, he was passionately
anxious to talk, and he restrained his desire with difficulty. Ippolít
Sergyéevitch made up his mind to confine himself to the bounds of
strictly official courtesy.

His sister, who was already seated at the table, tossed insignificant
phrases, in a jesting tone, now to one, now to the other: the men made
brief replies--one with the careless familiarity of a relative, the
other with the respect of the lover. And all three were seized with a
certain feeling of awkwardness and embarrassment, which made them keep
watch over one another, and over themselves.

Másha brought the first course out on the terrace.

"Please come to dinner, gentlemen!"--Elizavéta Sergyéevna invited them,
as she armed herself with the soup-ladle.--"Will you have a glass of
vódka?"

"Yes, I will!"--said Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

"And I will not, if you will excuse me," declared Benkóvsky.

"I willingly excuse you. But you will drink, will you not?"

"I do not wish to...."

"Touch glasses with a materialist,--" thought Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

Either the savory soup with patties, or Ippolít Sergyéevitch's
ceremonious manner seemed somewhat to cool and soften the sullen gleam
of the young man's black eyes, and when the second course was served he
began to talk:

"Perhaps my exclamation, in reply to your question, struck you as a
challenge--are we enemies? Perhaps it is impolite, but I assume that
people's relations to one another should be free from their official
falsehood, which everyone has accepted as the rule."

"I entirely agree with you," answered Ippolít Sergyéevitch, with
a smile.--"The more simply, the better. And your straightforward
declaration only pleased me, if you will permit me to express myself in
that way."

Benkóvsky smiled sadly, as he said:

"We really are enemies in the realm of ideas, but that defines itself
at once, of itself. Now, you say--c the more simply, the better,' and I
think so too, but I put one construction on those words, while you put
another...."

"Do we?"--inquired Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

"Undoubtedly, if you proceed in the straight line of logic from the
views set forth in your article."

"Of course I do...."

"There, you see.... And from my point of view, your idea of simplicity
would be coarse. But let us drop that question.... Tell me, in
regarding life merely as a mechanism, which has worked out everything,
including ideas, do not you feel conscious of an inward chill, and
is there not in your soul a single drop of compassion for all the
mysterious and enchantingly beautiful, which we degrade to simple
chemistry, to a commingling of atoms of material?"

"Hm!... I do not feel that chill, for my place is clear to me, in the
great mechanism of life, which is more poetical than all fantasies....
As for the metaphysical fermentation of sentiment and mind, that, you
know, is a matter of taste. So far, no one knows what beauty is. In any
case, it is proper to assume that it is a physiological sensation."

One talked in a low tone, full of pensiveness and sorrowful notes
of pity for his erring interlocutor; the other spoke calmly, with a
consciousness of his mental superiority, and with a desire not to
employ words which wounded the vanity of his opponent--words which are
so frequent in a discussion between two well-bred men, as to whose
truth is the nearer to the real truth. Elizavéta Sergyéevna smiled
slightly, as she watched the play of their countenances, and composedly
ate her dinner, carefully gnawing the bones of her game. Másha peeped
from behind the door, and, evidently, wished to understand what the
gentlemen were saying, for her face wore a strained expression, and her
eyes had become round, and lost their wonted expression of cunning and
amiability.

"You say--actuality, but what is it, when everything around us, and
we ourselves are merely chemistry and mechanism, working without
cessation? Everywhere motion, and everything is motion, and there
is not the hundredth part of a second of rest.--How shall I seize
actuality, how shall I recognize it, if I myself, at any given moment,
am not what I was, am not what I shall be the following moment? You,
I, we--are we merely material? But some day we shall lie beneath the
holy pictures, filling the air with the vile stench of corruption....
All that will remain of us on earth will be, perhaps, some faded
photographs, and they can never tell anyone about the joys and torments
of our existence, which has been swallowed up by the unknown. Is it not
terrible to believe that all we thinking and suffering beings live only
for the purpose of decaying?"

Ippolít Sergyéevitch listened attentively to his speech, and said to
himself:

"If you were convinced of the truth of your belief, you would be at
ease. But here you are, shouting. And it is not because you are an
idealist that you shout, my good fellow, but because you have weak
nerves."

But Benkóvsky, gazing into his face, with flaming eyes, went on:

"You talk about science,--very good!--I bow down before it as before
a mighty power which will loose the bonds of the mystery that fetters
me.... But by the light of it I behold myself on the same spot where
stood my distant ancestor, who believed that the thunder rumbles thanks
to the prophet Elijah. I do not believe in Elijah; I know that it
is caused by the action of electricity, but how is that any clearer
than Elijah? In that it is more complicated? It is as inexplicable
as motion, and all the other powers, which people are unsuccessfully
trying to substitute for one. And it sometimes seems to me, that the
entire business of science amounts to complicating conceptions--that
is all! I think, that it is good to believe; people laugh at me, they
say: 'It is not necessary to believe, but to know,' I want to know
what matter is, and they answer me, literally, thus: 'Matter is what
is contained in that locality of space, in which we render objective
the cause of the sensations that we receive,' Why talk like that? Can
that be given out as the answer to the question? It is a sneer at those
who are passionately and sincerely seeking an answer to the anxious
queries of their spirits.... I want to know the aim of existence--that
aspiration of my spirit is also ridiculed. But I am living, life is not
easy, and it gives me a right to demand a categorical answer from the
monopolists of wisdom--why do I live?"

Ippolít Sergyéevitch cast a sidelong glance at the face of Benkóvsky,
which was glowing with emotion, and recognized the fact that that
young man must be answered with words which should correspond with his
own words, in the matter of the strength of stormy feeling injected
into them. But, while he recognized this fact, he felt within himself
a desire to retort. But the poet's huge eyes grew still larger, a
passionate melancholy burned within them. He sighed, and his white,
elegant right hand, fluttered swiftly through the air, now convulsively
clenched into a fist and menacing, now as though clutching at something
in space, which it was powerless to grasp.

"But, while giving nothing, how much you have taken from life I You
reply to that with scorn.... But in it rings--what? The impossibility
of retorting with confidence, and, in addition, your inability to
pity people. For men are asking from you spiritual bread, and you are
offering them the stone of negation! You have stolen the soul of life,
and if there are in it no great feats of love and suffering, you are to
blame for that, for, the slaves of reason, you have surrendered your
soul into its power, and now it has turned cold, and is dying, ill and
poverty-stricken! But life is just as gloomy as ever, and its torments,
its woe, demand heroes.... Where are they?"

"What a hysterical creature he is!" exclaimed Ippolít Sergyéevitch to
himself, as with an unpleasant shiver, he gazed at this little hall of
nerves, which was quivering before him with melancholy excitement.--He
tried to stem the stormy eloquence of his future brother-in-law, but
did not succeed, for, possessed by the inspiration of his protest, the
young man heard nothing and, apparently, saw nothing. He must have
carried these complaints, which poured forth from his soul, about in
him for a long time, and was glad that he could have his say to one of
the men who, in his opinion, had ruined life.

Elizavéta Sergyéevna admired him, screwing up her light eyes, and in
them burned a spark of sensual desire.

"In all that you have so powerfully and beautifully said,--" began
Ippolít Sergyéevitch, in measured and amiable tones, taking advantage
of the involuntary pause of the weary orator, and desirous of soothing
him,--"in all this there indisputably does ring much true feeling, much
searching reason...."

"What can I say to him that is chilling and conciliatory?--" he said to
himself, with renewed force, as he wove his web of compliments.

But his sister rescued him from his trying situation. She had already
eaten her fill, and sat there, leaning against the back of her chair.
Her dark hair was arranged in antique fashion, but this coiffure, in
the form of a diadem, was very becoming to the masterful expression
of her countenance. Her lips, quivering with laughter, displayed a
strip of white teeth, as thin as the edge of a knife, and stopping her
brother with a graceful gesture, she said:

"Permit me to say a word! I know an apothegm of a certain wise man, and
it runs: 'Those are not in the right who speak--there is the truth,
neither are they in the right who reply to them--that is a lie, but
only Sabbaoth and Satan are right, in whose existence I do not believe,
but who must exist somewhere, for it is they who have organized life
in such a dual form, and it is life which has created them. You do not
understand? Yet I am speaking the same human language as you are. But I
compress the entire wisdom of the ages into one phrase, in order that
you may perceive the nothingness of your wisdom."

When she had finished her speech, she asked the men, with an
enchantingly brilliant smile:

"What do you think of that?"

Ippolít Sergyéevitch shrugged his shoulders in silence,--his sister's
words perturbed him, but he was delighted that she had curbed Benkóvsky.

But something strange happened with Benkóvsky. When Elizavéta
Sergyéevna began to speak, his face flamed with ecstasy, and, paling at
every word she uttered, it expressed something akin to terror at the
moment, when she put her question. He tried to make her some reply,
his lips trembled nervously, but no words proceeded from them. And
she, magnificent in her composure, watched the play of his face, and
it must have pleased her to behold the effect of her words on him, for
satisfaction beamed from her eyes.

"To me, at least, it seems as though the entire sumtotal of huge
folios of philosophy are contained in these words," she said, after a
pause.

"You are right, up to a certain point,--" said Ippolít Sergyéevitch,
with a wry smile,--"but, at the same time...."

"So, is it possible that a man is bound to quench the last sparks
of the Promethean fire which still burn in his soul, ennobling his
strivings?--" exclaimed Benkóvsky, gazing sadly at her.

"Why, if they yield anything positive ... anything agreeable to
you!--" she said, with a smile. "It seems to me that you are taking a
very dangerous criterion for the definition of the positive,--" drily
remarked her brother.

"Elizavéta Sergyéevna! You are a woman, tell me:--what echoes does the
great intellectual movement of woman awaken in your soul?--" inquired
Benkóvsky, warming up again.

"It is interesting...."

"Only that?"

"But I think that it ... how shall I express it to you?.. that it is
the aspiration of the superfluous women. They have remained outside
the bulwarks of life, because they are homely, or because they do
not recognize the power of their beauty, do not know the taste of
power over men.... They are superfluous, from a mass of causes!...
But--ice-cream is a necessity!" In silence he took the little green
dish out of her hands, and setting it in front of him, he began to
stare intently at the cold, white mass, nervously rubbing his brow with
his hand, which was trembling with suppressed emotion.

"There, you see that philosophy spoils not only the taste for life,
but even the appetite,--" jested Elizavéta Sergyéevna.

But her brother looked at her and thought, that she was playing an
unworthy game with that boy. In him the whole conversation had evoked a
dawning sensation of boredom, and, although he pitied Benkóvsky, this
pity did not comprise any warmth of heart, and therefore it was devoid
of energy.

"Sic visum Veneri!"--he decided, as he rose from the table, and lighted
a cigarette.

"Shall we play?" Elizavéta Sergyéevna asked Benkóvsky.

And when, in reply to her words, he bent his head submissively, they
went from the terrace into the house, whence soon resounded the
chords of the piano, and the sounds of a violin being tuned. Ippolít
Sergyéevitch sat in a comfortable arm-chair near the railing of
the terrace, protected from the sun by a lace-like curtain of wild
grapevine, which had climbed from the ground to the roof on cords that
had been strung for it, and heard everything which his sister and
Benkóvsky said.

"Have you written anything lately?"--inquired Elizavéta Sergyéevna, as
she struck the note for the violin.

"Yes, a little piece."

"Recite it!"

"Really, I do not wish to."

"Do you want me to entreat you?"

"Do I? No.... But I should like to recite the verses which are now
composing themselves within me...."

"Pray do!"

"Yes, I will recite them.... But they have only just presented
themselves.. and you have called them into life...."

"How agreeable it is to me to hear that!"

"I do not know.... Perhaps you are speaking with sincerity.... I do not
know...."

"Really, ought not I to go away?"--thought Ippolít Sergyéevitch. But he
was too indolent to move, and he remained, consoling himself with the
thought that they must be aware of his presence on the terrace.

    "Of thy calm beauty
    The cold gleam doth trouble me...."[1]

[1] These lines are very irregular, as to both rhyme and rhythm in the
original. They are hardly of sufficient merit to warrant a poetical
version.--Translator.

rang out the low voice of Benkóvsky.

    "Wilt thou laugh at my dreams?
    Thou understandest me not, perchance?"

mournfully inquired the youth.

"I'm afraid it's rather late in the day for you to ask about
that,"--thought Ippolít Sergyéevitch, with a sceptical smile.

    "In thine eyes there is no happiness,
    In thy words,--cold laughter do I hear.
    And strange to thee is the delirium mad I
    Of my soul...."

Benkóvsky paused, from emotion, or from lack of a rhyme.

    "But it is so splendid!
    In it is a whirlwind of songs, in it is my life!
    All permeated is it with stormy passion
    To solve the enigma of existence,
    To find for all men the road to happiness...."

"I must go!--" decided Ippolít Sergyéevitch, involuntarily brought to
his feet by the young man's hysterical moans, in which simultaneously
resounded a touching "farewell!" to the peace of his soul, and a
despairing "have mercy!" addressed to the woman.

    "Thy slave,--to thee I've raised a throne
    In the madness of my heart....
    And I await...."

"Your ruin, for--sic visum Veneri!"--Ippolít Sergyéevitch completed the
verse, as he walked down the avenue through the park.

He was astonished at his sister:--she did not seem handsome enough to
arouse such love in the young man. She certainly must have effected it
by the tactics of opposition. Then, one must acknowledge her steadfast
bearing, for Benkóvsky was handsome.... Perhaps he, as her brother, and
a well-bred man, ought to speak to her about the true character of her
relations to this boy, glowing with red-hot passion? But to what could
such a conversation lead, now? And he was not enough of an authority
on matters of Cupid and Venus to meddle with this affair.... But,
nevertheless, he must point out to Elizavéta the probable ruin of that
gentleman, if he, with her aid, did not succeed in quenching pretty
promptly the flame of his transports, and did not learn to feel more
normally, and to argue in a more healthy manner.

"And what would happen, if that torch of passion were to flare up
before Várenka's heart?"

But, after putting this question to himself, Ippolít Sergyéevitch did
not try to solve it, but began to wonder what the young girl was doing
at that particular moment? Perhaps she was slapping her Nikon in the
face, or rolling her sick father through the rooms in his arm-chair.
And as he represented her to himself engaged in those occupations, he
was offended, on her account. Yes, it was indispensably necessary to
open the eyes of that girl, to actuality, to acquaint her with the
intellectual tendencies of the day. What a pity that she lived so far
away, and it was impossible to see her more frequently, so that, day by
day, he might shake loose everything which barred off her mind from the
action of logic!

The park was full of stillness, and of fragrant coolness, from the
house floated the singing sounds of the violin, and the nervous notes
of the piano. One after another phrases of sweet entreaty, of tender
summons, of stormy ecstasy were showered over the park.

Music poured from heaven also--there the larks were singing. With
rumpled plumage, and black as a piece of coal, a starling sat on a
linden bough, and bristling up the feathers on his breast, he whistled
significantly, staring sidewise at the meditative man, who was
strolling slowly along the avenue, with his hands clasped behind his
back, and staring far away into the distance, with smiling eyes.

At tea, Benkóvsky was more reserved, and not so much like a crazy man;
Elizavéta Sergyéevna, also seemed to be warmed up by something.

On observing this, Ippolít Sergyéevitch felt himself guaranteed
against the breaking out of any abstract discussions, and so felt less
embarrassed.

"You tell me nothing about St. Petersburg, Ippolít,--" said Elizavéta
Sergyéevna.

"What is there to say about it? It is a very large and lively city....
The weather is damp there, but...."

"But the people are dry,"--interrupted Benkóvsky.

"Not all of them, by any means. There are many who have grown perfectly
soft, and are covered with the mould of very ancient moods; people
everywhere are tolerably varied!"

"Thank God that it is so!" exclaimed Benkóvsky.

"Yes, life would be intolerably tedious if it were not so!" assented
Elizavéta Sergyéevna.--"But in what favor does the country stand with
young people. Are they still speculating on a fall in stocks?"

"Yes, they are becoming somewhat disillusioned."

"That is a characteristic phenomenon for the educated class of our
days,--" said Benkóvsky, with a laugh.--"When the majority of that
class were of the nobility, it had no existence. But now-a-days,
when the son of every low-born extortioner, merchant or official,
who has read two or three popular little books, also belongs to the
educated class,--the country cannot arouse the interest of such an
'intelligéntzia,'[2] Do they know anything about it? Can it be for
them anything except a good place in which to spend the summer? For
them the country is a suburban villa ... and altogether, they are
villa-residents, by virtue of the essential quality of their souls.
They make their appearance, live on, and disappear, leaving behind them
in life divers papers, bits, scraps--the usual traces of their sojourn,
which villa-residents leave behind them in country fields. Others will
follow after them and annihilate this rubbish, and with it the memory
of the ignominious, soulless and impotent educated people of these
years of 1890."

[2] The popular word for the class in question. I leave it untranslated
here for the benefit of those who have already met with the
word.--Translator.

"And are those others repaired noblemen?" asked Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

"You have understood me, apparently,... in a way that is far from
flattering to you, if you will excuse me for saying so!" Benkóvsky
flared up.

"I merely inquired who these coming people are to be?" replied Ippolít
Sergyéevitch, shrugging his shoulders.

"They are--the young country! Its reformed generation, men who already
possess the developed sentiment of human dignity, who thirst for
knowledge, who are of an investigative turn of mind, ready to introduce
themselves to notice."

"I welcome them in advance," said Ippolít Sergyéevitch indifferently.

"Yes, it must be confessed, that the country is beginning to
produce a new impression on the world,--a conciliatory impression,"
remarked Elizavéta Sergyéevna.--"I have here some very interesting
children,--Iván and Grigóry Shákhoff, who have read almost half of my
library, and Akim Sozýreff, a man 'who understands everything,' as he
asserts. As a matter of fact, he has brilliant ideas! I put him to the
test--I gave him a work on physics, and said to him--' read this, and
explain to me the laws of the lever and of equilibrium and one week
later, he passed my examination with so much effect, that I was simply
astounded! And moreover, in reply to my commendations, he said: 'What
of that? You understand this, consequently, no one forbids me to do the
same-?--books are written for everybody!, What do you think of that?
But you see ... their idea of their dignity has been developed, so
far, only to the point of insolence and churlishness. They apply these
newly-born properties even to me, but I endure it, and do not complain
to the county chief, because I understand what fiery flowers might
blossom forth on that soil ... very likely, some fine morning, one
might wake up with nothing but the ashes of one's manor left."

Ippolít Sergyéevitch smiled. Benkóvsky glanced, sadly at the woman.

Touching superficially on themes, and not attacking one another's
vanity strongly, they conversed until ten o'clock, and then Elizavéta
Sergyéevna and Benkóvsky went off again to play, and Ippolít
Sergyéevitch bade them good night and retired to his own room,
observing that his future brother-in-law made not the slightest effort
to conceal the satisfaction he felt at getting rid of his betrothed's
brother.

... One discovers what he wishes to discover, and ennui makes its
appearance, as though by way of reward for an investigative turn
of mind. It was precisely this enervating sensation which Ippolít
Sergyéevitch experienced, when he seated himself at the table in
his chamber, with the intention of writing several letters to his
acquaintances. He understood the motives of his sister's peculiar
relations toward Benkóvsky, he understood, also, his rôle in her game.
All this was not nice, but, at the same time, it was all foreign to
him, in a way, and his soul was not disturbed by the parody on the
story of Pygmalion and Galatea which was being enacted in his presence,
although, in his mind, he condemned his sister. Tapping the handle of
his pen, in a melancholy way, against the table, he turned down the
light, and when the room was plunged in obscurity, he began to look out
of the window.

Dead silence reigned in the park, which was illuminated by the moon,
and through the window-panes, the moon had a greenish hue.

Under the windows, a shadow flitted past, and vanished, leaving behind
it a soft sound of rustling branches, quivering at the contact.
Stepping to the window, Ippolít Sergyéevitch opened it, and looked
out,--beyond the trees glimmered the white gown of Másha, the maid.

"What of that?"--he said to himself, with a smile,--"let the maid
love, if the mistress is only playing at love."

*

Slowly the days vanished--drops of time in the boundless ocean of
eternity--and they were all tediously monotonous. There were hardly
any impressions, and it was difficult to work, because the sultry
blaze of the sun, the narcotic perfumes of the park, and the pensive,
moonlight nights, all aroused meditative indolence in the soul. Ippolít
Sergyéevitch calmly enjoyed this purely-vegetable existence, postponing
from day to day his resolve to set to work seriously. Sometimes he felt
bored, he reproached himself for his inactivity, his lack of will, but
all this did not arouse in him the desire to work, and he explained to
himself his indolence as the effort of his organism to amass energy.
In the morning, on awaking from a deep, healthy slumber, he noted, as
he stretched himself luxuriously, how springy his muscles were, how
elastic was his skin, and how deeply and freely his lungs breathed.

The sad habit of philosophizing, which too frequently revealed itself
in his sister, irritated him, at first, but he gradually became
reconciled to this defect in Elizavéta Sergyéevna, and managed, so
cleverly and inoffensively to demonstrate to her the inutility of
philosophy, that she grew more reticent. Her inclination to argue
about everything produced an unpleasant impression on him--he perceived
that his sister was arguing, not from a natural impulse to explain to
herself her relation to life, but merely from a provident desire to
destroy and overthrow everything which might perturb the cold repose
of her soul. She had worked out for herself a scheme of practice, but
theories only interested her in so far as they were able to smooth over
before him her hard, sceptical, and even ironical relations toward
life and people. Although Ippolít Sergyéevitch comprehended all this,
he did not feel within him the slightest desire to reproach and shame
his sister; he condemned her in his own mind, but there was not in it
that something which would have permitted him to express aloud his
condemnation, for, as a matter of fact, his heart was no warmer than
his sister's.

Thus, almost every time, after a visit from Benkóvsky, Ippolít
Sergyéevitch promised himself that he would speak to his sister about
her relations toward that young man, but he did not keep his promise,
imperceptibly to himself refraining from meddling with that affair.
For, as yet, no one could tell which would be the suffering side,
when sound sense should awaken in that highly inflamed young man. And
this would happen--the young man was blazing too violently, and must,
infallibly, burn out. And his sister was bearing it firmly in mind,
that he was younger than she, so there was no cause for anxiety on her
score. But if she got her punishment--what then? That was quite proper,
if life is just....

Várenka came frequently. They rowed on the river, together, or in
company with his sister, but never with Benkóvsky; they strolled
in the forest, and once they drove to a monastery, twenty versts
away. The young girl continued to please him, and to upset him with
her odd remarks, but he always found her society agreeable. Her
ingenuousness perplexed him, and restrained the man within him; the
integrity of her nature aroused his amazement, but the simple-hearted
straightforwardness with which she put aside everything wherewith he
attempted to unsettle the peace of her soul, wounded his self-love.

And more and more frequently did he ask himself:

"But is it possible that I have not sufficient energy to drive out of
her head all these errors and stupidities?"

When he did not see her, he clearly felt the indispensable necessity of
liberating her mind from abnormal paths, he imposed this necessity upon
himself as an obligation, but when Várenka made her appearance--he did
not exactly forget his resolve, but he never placed it in the foremost
rank in his relations toward her. Sometimes he caught himself listening
to her, exactly as though he were desirous of learning something from
her, and he admitted that there was something about her which hampered
the freedom of his mind. It happened, on occasion, that when he had
ready prepared a retort which, by stunning her with its dearness and
force, would have convinced her of the obviousness of her error,--he
locked this retort up within him, as though afraid to utter it. When he
caught himself at this, he thought:

"Can this proceed from lack of confidence in my truth?"

And, of course, he convinced himself of the contrary. Another reason
why he found it difficult to talk to her was, that she hardly knew
even the alphabet of the generally accepted views. It was necessary
to begin at the foundations, and her persistent questions: "why?" and
"what for?" constantly led him off into the thickets of abstractions,
where she understood absolutely nothing. One day, worn out with his
contradictions, she set forth her philosophy to him in these words:

"God created me, like other people, in His own image and likeness ...
which signifies, that everything I do, I do according to His will, and
I live--as He wants me to.... Surely, He knows how I live? Well, and
that is all there is to be said, and it is useless for you to try to
pick a quarrel with me!"

More and more frequently did she irritate in him the glowing sensation
of the male, but he kept watch on himself, and with swift efforts,
which demanded from him constantly increasing consciousness, he
extinguished in himself these flashes of sensuality, he even endeavored
to conceal them from himself, and when he could no longer conceal them,
he said to himself, with a guilty laugh:

"What of it?--That's natural ... considering her beauty.... But I am a
man, and every day my organism is growing stronger under the influence
of this sun and air.. It is natural, but her oddities completely
guarantee me against being carried away by her...."

Season becomes incredibly active and pliable, when man's feeling
requires a mask, behind which to hide the crude truth of his questions.
Feeling, like every other power, straightforward and upright, when
it is shattered by life, or broken by excessive efforts to restrain
its outbursts with the cold bridle of reason, loses both uprightness
and straightforwardness, and remains merely crude. And then, being in
need of a screen for its weakness and coarseness, it betakes itself
for aid to the great capacity which reason possesses of imparting to a
lie the physiognomy of the truth. This capacity was well developed in
Ippolít Sergyéevitch, and with its aid, he successfully imparted to
his attraction toward Várenka the character of interest in her, pure
and free from all impulses. He would not have had the strength to love
her,--he knew that, but in the depths of his mind there flashed up the
hope of possessing her; without himself being aware of it, he expected
that she would be captivated by him. And as he argued with himself
about everything which did not lower him in his own eyes, he succeeded
in concealing within himself everything which might have evoked in him
a doubt as to his good breeding....

One day, at evening tea, his sister announced to him:

"Do you know--to-morrow is Várenka Ólesoff's birthday. We must drive
over there. I want to have a drive.... And it will be good for the
horses, too."

"Do drive over ... and congratulate her on my behalf,--" he said, feeling
that he, also, would like to go.

"But will not you drive with me?--" she inquired, glancing at him, with
curiosity.

"I? I don't know whether I care to.... I think I don't. But I may go,
all the same."

"It is not obligatory!--" remarked Elizavéta Sergyéevna, and dropped
her eyelids, to conceal the smile which gleamed in her eyes.

"I know that,--" said he, displeased.

A long pause ensued, during which Ippolít Sergyéevitch remarked to
himself, with severity, that he was conducting himself toward that
young girl exactly as though he were afraid that his self-control would
not resist her charms.

"She told me--that Várenka--that they have a very beautiful site
there,--" he said, and turned scarlet, knowing that his sister
understood him. But she did not betray this in any way--on the
contrary, she began to persuade him.

"Let us go, do, please! You will see, it really is magnificent at their
place. And it will be less awkward for me if you are there.... We will
not stay long, is that right?"

He assented, but his mood was spoiled.

"Why did I find it necessary to lie? What is there disgraceful or
unnatural in my wanting to see a pretty young girl once more?--" he
asked himself angrily. And he made no reply to these questions.

On the following morning, he awoke early, and the first sounds of the
day which his ear caught, were his sister's words:

.... "Ippolít will be astonished!"

They were accompanied by a loud laugh--only Várenka could laugh like
that. Ippolít Sergyéevitch, sitting up in bed, threw off the sheet,
and listened, smiling the while. That which instantaneously invaded
him and filled his soul could hardly be called joy, rather was it a
foreboding of joy near at hand, which pleasantly titillated the nerves.
And springing from his bed, he began to dress himself with a swiftness
which confused and perplexed him. What had happened? Could it be that
she, on her birthday, had come to invite him and his sister to her
house? What a darling girl!

When he entered the dining-room, Várenka dropped her eyes before him
with a penitently-comical manner, and without taking the hand which he
offered her, she began, in a timid voice:

"I am afraid, that you...."

"Just imagine!--" exclaimed Elizavéta Sergyéevna,--"she has run away
from home!"

"What do you mean by that?"--her brother asked her.

"On the sly--" explained Várenka.

"Ha, ha, ha!--" laughed Elizavéta Sergyéevna.

"But ... why?"--persisted Ippolít.

"I have run away from my suitors...." the young girl confessed, and
began to laugh also.--"Imagine, what frightful faces they will make!
Aunt Lutchítzky is awfully anxious to drive me into marriage!--she
sent them solemn invitations, and cooked and baked as much for them as
though I'd had a hundred wooers! And I helped her do it ... but to-day
I woke up, and jumped on my horse--and march! hither. I left them a
note to say that I had gone to the Shtcherbákoffs ... you understand?
twenty-three versts away, in exactly the opposite direction!"

He looked at her, and laughed, with a laugh which evoked a pleasing
warmth in his breast. Again she was clad in a full, white gown, whose
folds fell in tender streams from her shoulders to her feet, enveloping
her body in a cloud, as it were. Clear laughter quivered in her eyes,
and on her face played an animated flush.

"You do not like it?"--she asked him.

"What?"--he inquired briefly.

"What I have done? It was impolite, I understand that,--" she said,
becoming serious, and immediately burst out laughing again....

"I can imagine them! All dressed up, scented ... they'll get drunk with
grief--heavens, how drunk!"

"Are there many of them?--" asked Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

"Four...."

"The tea is poured!" announced Elizavéta Sergyéevna.

"You will have to pay for this prank, Várya.... Have you thought of
that?"

"No ... and I don't want to!--" she replied with decision, as she
seated herself at the table.--"That will take place--when I return to
them ... that is to say, this evening, for I'm going to spend the day
with you. Why should I think from morning on about what will not happen
until the evening? And who can do anything to me, and what can they
do? Papa? He will growl, but I can go away and not listen to, him....
Aunty?--she loves me passionately! They, do you think? Why, I can make
them crawl round me on all fours ... ha, ha, ha! That would be ...
ridiculous! I will try ... Tchernonéboff can't, because he has a big
belly!"

"Várya! You are losing your wits!"--Elizavéta Sergyéevna endeavored to
stop her.

"No, I shall not!--" promised the girl through her laughter, but she
did not stop soon, and kept on depicting her suitors, and captivating
the brother and sister by the genuineness of her animation.

Laughter resounded during the whole time they were drinking tea.
Elizavéta Sergyéevna laughed with a tinge of condescension toward
Várya. Ippolít Sergyéevitch tried to restrain himself, but could not.
After tea, they began to discuss how they should fill up the day which
had begun so merrily. Várenka suggested that they should row in the
boat, to the forest, and drink tea there, and Ippolít Sergyéevitch
immediately agreed with her. But his sister assumed a troubled
expression, and announced:

"I cannot take part in that--I must drive to Sánino to-day, and cannot
defer it. I had intended to drive to your house, Várya, and turn off
there on the way ... but now it is necessary that I should make the
trip expressly...."

Ippolít Sergyéevitch cast a suspicious glance at her--it struck
him that she had that moment invented this, for the purpose of
leaving Várya alone with him. But her face expressed nothing except
dissatisfaction and anxiety.

Várenka was grieved by her words, but soon recovered her animation:

"Well, what of that? So much the worse for you ... and we'll go, all
the same! Won't we? To-day I want to go far.... Only, see here--can
Grigóry and Másha go with us?"

"Grigóry can, of course! But Másha ... who will serve dinner?"

"And who will eat the dinner? You are going to the Benkóvskys, we shall
not return until evening."

"Very well, take Másha also."

Várenka hurried off somewhere or other. Ippolít Sergyéevitch lighted
a cigarette, went out on the terrace, and began to pace up and down
it. This expedition charmed him, but Grigóry and Másha seemed to him
superfluous. They would embarrass him--there was no doubt about that,
and he would not be able to talk freely in their presence.

Half an hour had not elapsed before Ippolít Sergyéevitch and Várya were
standing by the boat, while around it bustled Grigóry--a red-haired,
blue-eyed young fellow, with freckles on his face, and an aquiline
nose. Másha, as she packed the samovár and the various bundles in the
boat, said to him:

"Move quicker, you red-head; don't you see, the quality are waiting."

"Everything will be ready in a minute," replied the young fellow, in a
high tenor voice, as he fastened the row-locks, and winked at Másha.

Ippolít Sergyéevitch saw it, and divined who it was that had been
flitting past his windows by night.

"Do you know,--" said Várya, as she seated herself in the boat, and
indicated Grigóry by a nod,--"he also has the reputation of being a
learned man, with us.... He's a lawyer."

"You're just talking, Varvára Vasílievna,--" laughed Grigóry, showing
his strong white teeth.--"A lawyer!"

"Seriously, Ippolít Sergyéevitch, he knows all the Russian laws...."

"Do you, really, Grigóry?" asked Ippolít Sergyéevitch, with interest.

"The lady is joking ... the idea! Nobody knows them all, Varvára
Vasílievna."

"And how about the person who wrote them?"

"Mr. Speránsky? He died long, long ago...."[3]

[3] The well-known statesman, who influenced Alexander I between the
years 1806 and 1812.--Speránsky, the son of a poor village priest,
and socially (though not legally) on the level of the peasants, was
educated at an ecclesiastical academy, and became the professor of
mathematics and philosophy in the ecclesiastical school of St Alexander
Névsky, in St. Petersburg. Thence his rise was as follows: he became
the tutor of a nobleman's children; secretary to the Chancellor of
the Imperial Council; Secretary of State. He was an ardent admirer of
Napoleon I., as was Alexander I., and to this, no doubt, was due much
of his influence over the Emperor. The Code Napoléon was his ideal of
legislation, and formed the foundation for a scheme of reforms and
laws which he carried into effect, in part. He thereby antagonized all
classes of society: the aristocracy were offended by his boldness,
which they resented in a man of such low extraction, the peasants were
enraged by the increase in their taxes; and so forth. He was suddenly
sent into polite exile, as the governor of Nizhni Nóvgorod Province, in
March, 1812, but was speedily deprived of his office, and subjected to
strict surveillance. Later on, for a couple of years, his exile took
the form of the governorship of Siberia, whence he returned to St.
Petersburg in 1821. But he never recovered his standing or influence.
He had been created a Count by Alexander I., and, as the male line
of his descendants died out, his descendants in the female line,--the
Russian branch of the Princes Kantakiúzin (Cantacuzéne),--petitioned
the Emperor, in 1872, for permission to add the title of "Count
Speránsky" to their own title, which was granted.--Translator.

"Why, do you read?"--inquired Ippolít Sergyéevitch, attentively
scanning the intelligent, eagle-like face of the young man, who was
lightly tossing the oars into the boat.

"And as for the laws, as she say,"--and Grigóry indicated Várya
with his bold eyes.--"The tenth volume of them fell into my hands by
accident ... I looked through it, and saw that it was interesting and
necessary. I began to read.... And now I have the first volume...."
The first article in it is so straight, and says: 'no one,' it says,
'can excuse himself through ignorance of the laws,' Well, so I thought
to myself, that nobody does know them, and it isn't necessary for
everybody to know them all.... And the teacher is soon going to get me
the statutes about the peasants;--it's very interesting to read--and
see what they are like...."

"You see what he is?"--inquired Várenka.

"And do you read much?--" Ippolít Sergyéevitch pursued his inquiry, as
he recalled Gógol's Petrúshka.

"I read, when I have time. There are a great many little books here....
Elizavéta Sergyéevna alone must have as many as a thousand. Only, hers
are all romances, and various stories...."

The boat floated smoothly against the current, the shores moved to
meet it, and all around was intoxicatingly beautiful: bright, still,
fragrant. Ippolít Sergyéevitch gazed at Várenka's face, which was
turned with curiosity toward the broad-chested rower, while the latter,
cutting the mirror-like surface of the river in measured strokes,
chatted about his literary tastes, content that the learned gentleman
so gladly listened to him. Love and pride beamed in the eyes of Másha,
who was watching them from beneath her drooping lashes.

"I don't like to read about how the sun sets and rises ... and, in
general, about nature. I have seen those sunrises more than a thousand
times, I think.... I know all about the woods and the rivers, also;
why should I read about them? But that sort of thing is in every book
... and, in my opinion, it's entirely superfluous.... Everybody
understands the sunset after his own fashion.... And everybody has
his own eyes for that purpose. But about the life of people--that's
interesting. You read, and you say to yourself:--' and what would you
do yourself, if you were placed on that line?' Although you know that
the whole of it is false."

"What is false?"--asked Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

"Why, the little books. They're invented. About the peasant, for
example.... Are they the sort of folks they appear in books? Everybody
writes about them compassionately, and makes them out to be such petty
fools ... it isn't well! Folks read, and think and, as a matter of
fact, they can't understand the peasant ... because in the books he's
... terribly stupid, and bad...."

Várenka must have found these remarks tiresome, for she began to sing,
in a low tone, as she gazed at the shores with dimming eyes.

"See here--Ippolít Sergyéevitch, let's get out and go on foot through
the forest. But here we are, sitting and baking in the sun--is that the
way to take a pleasure trip? Grigóry and Másha can row on to Savyóloff
dell, land there, and prepare tea for us, and meet us.... Grigóry,
bring the boat to the shore. I'm awfully fond of eating and drinking in
the forest, in the air, in the sunshine.... One, somehow, feels like a
free vagabond...."

"There, you see," she said, with animation, as she sprang from the
boat upon the sandy shore,--"you touch earth, and immediately there
is something which ... raises the soul in revolt. Here I've got my
boots full of sand ... and have wet one foot in the water.... That's
unpleasant and pleasant, that means--it is good, because it makes one
feel oneself.... Look, how swiftly the boat has moved on!"

The river lay at their feet, and disturbed by the boat, it plashed
softly against the shore. The boat flew, like an arrow, in the
direction of the forest, leaving behind it a long wake, which glittered
like silver in the sunlight. They could see that Grigóry was laughing,
as he looked at Másha, while she was threatening him with her fist.

"That's a pair of lovers,"--remarked Várenka, with a smile;--"Másha
has already asked Elizavéta Sergyéevna's permission to marry Grigóry.
But Elizavéta Sergyéevna will not allow it, for the present; she does
not like married servants. But Grigóry's term of service ends in the
autumn, and then he'll take Másha away from you ... They're both
splendid people. Grigóry is begging me to sell him a small plot of
ground to be paid for in instalments ... or to let him have it on a
long lease ... he wants ten desyatinas. But I cannot, as long as papa
is alive, and it's a pity ... I know that he would pay me all, and
very punctually ... he's a good hand at everything ... a locksmith,
and a blacksmith, and he's serving at your place as under-coachman....
Kokóvitch--the county chief, and my suitor--says this to me about
him: 6 that's a dangerous beast, do you know--he doesn't respect his
superiors!'"

"Who is that Kokóvitch? A Pole?"[4]--inquired Ippolít Sergyéevitch,
admiring her grimaces.

[4] Várenka has mimicked Kokóvitch's pronunciation, which leads to
this question.--Translator.

"A Mordvinian, a Tchuvásh--I don't know! He has a frightfully long and
thick tongue, there isn't room for it in his mouth, and it interferes
with his speech.... Ugh! What mud!"

Their path was blocked by a puddle of water covered with green scum,
and surrounded by a border of greasy mud. Ippolít Sergyéevitch
inspected his feet, remarking:

"We must go around it."

"Aren't you going to jump over it? I thought it was already dried
up...." exclaimed Várenka, indignantly, stamping her foot.... "It is a
long way round, and then, I shall tear my gown there.... Try to leap
across it! It's easy, see--o-one!"

She sprang, and flung herself forward; it seemed to him that her gown
had been tom from her shoulders, and was fluttering through the air.
But she stood on the other side of the puddle, and cried, with regret:

"Aï, how I have spattered myself! Ho, do you go round it ... fie, how
horrid!"

He looked at her, and smiled wanly, catching within him a dark
thought which stimulated him, and feeling that his feet were sinking
into the sticky dampness. On the other side of the mud, Várenka was
shaking her gown, it emitted a soft rustle, and amid its fluttering,
Ippolít Sergyéevitch caught sight of dainty, striped stockings on the
well-formed little feet. For an instant, it seemed to him as though the
mud which separated them from each other, held a sense of warning for
him or for her. But he roughly tore himself away, calling this prick in
the heart stupid childishness, and hastily stepped aside from the road,
into the bushes which bordered it, where, nevertheless, he was obliged
to walk through water concealed by the grass. With wet feet, and a
resolve which was not yet clear to himself, he emerged beside her, and
she, showing him her gown, with a grimace, said:

"Look at that--is that nice? Bah!"

He looked--large, black spots smote the eye, as they triumphantly
decorated the white material.

"I love, and am accustomed to behold thee so sacredly pure, that even
a spot of mud on thy gown would cast a black shadow on my soul ..."
said Ippolít Sergyéevitch slowly, and ceasing, he began to gaze into
the astonished face of Várenka with a smile hovering over his lips.
Her eyes rested questioningly on his face, but he felt as though his
breast were filling up with burning froth, which was on the point of
being converted into wondrous words, such as he had never yet uttered
to anyone, for he had never known them until that moment.

"What was that you said?"--inquired Várenka firmly.

He shuddered, for her question sounded stem, and endeavoring to be
calm, he began seriously to explain to her: "I was reciting verses ...
in Russian they sound like prose ... but you hear that they are verses,
do you not? They are Italian verses, I think ... really, I do not
remember.... However, perhaps it was prose, from some romance.... It
just happened to come into my head...."

"How did it go--say it again?" she asked him, suddenly becoming
thoughtful.

"I love...." he paused, and wiped his brow with his hand.--"Will you
believe it? I have forgotten what I said! On my word of honor--I have
forgotten!"

"Well ... let us go on!--" and she moved forward with decision.

For several minutes Ippolít Sergyéevitch tried to understand and
explain to himself this strange scene, which had placed between him
and the young girl a barrier of mutual distrust--tried, and could get
nothing out of himself, except a consciousness of awkwardness before
Várenka. She walked by his side, in silence, and with bowed head, not
looking at him.

"How am I to explain it all to her?" Ippolít Sergyéevitch reflected.

Her silence was crushing; it seemed as though she were thinking of him,
and not thinking well of him. And unable to devise any explanation of
his outburst, he suddenly remarked, with forced cheerfulness:

"Your suitors ought to know how you are spending your time!"

She glanced at him, as though, by his words, he had called her
back from somewhere far away, but gradually, her face changed from
seriousness to simplicity, and an expression of childlike sweetness.

"Yes! It would--offend them! But they shall know, oh! they shall know!
And, perhaps they ... will think ill of me!"

"Are you afraid of that?"

"I? Of them?--" she inquired, softly but angrily.

"Pardon me for the question."

"Never mind.... You see, you do not know me ... you do not know how
repulsive they all are to me! Sometimes I feel like hurling them under
my feet, and trampling on their faces ... treading on their lips, so
that they could not say anything. Ugh! How detestable they all are!"

Wrath and heartlessness sparkled so clearly in her eyes, that it made
him uncomfortable to look at her, and he turned away, saying to her:

"How sad, that you are compelled to live among people whom you
detest.... Can it be, that there is not one among them who would ...
strike you as well-bred...."

"No! You know, there are frightfully few interesting people in the
world.... Everybody is so stupid, so uninspired, so repulsive...."

He smiled at her complaint, and said with a touch of irony, which was
incomprehensible even to himself:

"It is early yet for you to talk in that way. But wait a little,
and you will meet a man who will satisfy you ... you will find him
interesting in every way...."

"Who is he?"--she asked quickly, and even halted.

"Your future husband."

"But who is he?"

"How can I know that?--" Ippolít Sergyéevitch shrugged his shoulders,
feeling displeased at the animation of her questions.

"But tell me!"--she sighed, and moved on.

They were walking through bushes, which barely reached their shoulders;
the road ran through this underbrush, like a lost ribbon, all in
capricious curves. Now, in front of them, the dense forest made its
appearance. "And do you wish to marry?"--asked Ippolít Sergyéevitch.
"Yes.... I don't know! I'm not thinking about that...." she replied
simply. The glance of her beautiful eyes, fixed on the far distance,
was as concentrated as though she were recalling something far away and
dear to her.

"You ought to spend the winter in town,--there your beauty would
attract to you universal attention, and you would soon find what you
want.... For many would strongly desire to call you their wife,--" he
said, slowly, in a low tone, as he thoughtfully scanned her figure.

"It would be necessary that I should permit that!"

"How can you forbid men to desire it?"

"Ah, yes! Of course ... let them desire it...."

They walked a few steps in silence.

She, pensively gazing into the distance, still was intent on recalling
something, but he, for some reason, was counting the spots of mud on
the front of her gown. There were seven of them: three large ones,
which resembled stars, two, like commas in shape, and one, like a
daub from a brush. By their black color, and their arrangement on the
material, they signified something to him. But what--he did not know.

"Have you been in love?"--her voice suddenly rang out, serious and
searching.

"I?"--shuddered Ippolít Sergyéevitch.--"Yes ... only, it was long ago,
when I was a young fellow...."

"So have I, long ago," she informed him.

"Ah ... who was he?--" inquired Polkánoff,[5] not conscious of the
awkwardness of the question, and tearing off a branch which came under
his hand, he flung it far away from himself.

[5] It must be borne in mind that the surname is not used in Russian
speech or novels nearly as often as the Christian name followed by the
patronymic, which is more definite as to the precise individual, and
the precise member of the family.--Translator.

"He? He was a horse-thief.... Three years have passed since I saw him
last, I was seventeen years old then.... They caught him one day, beat
him, and brought him to our court-yard. He lay there, bound with ropes,
and said nothing, but looked at me.... I was standing on the porch of
the house. I remember, it was such a bright morning--it was early in
the morning, and everyone at our house was still asleep...."

She paused, buried in her memories.

"Under the cart there was a pool of blood--such a thick pool--and into
it fell heavy drops from him.... His name was Sáshka Rémezoff. The
peasants came into the court-yard, and as they looked at him, they
growled like dogs. All of them had evil eyes, but he, that Sáshka,
stared at them all quite calmly.... And I felt that he--although he
was beaten and bound--considered himself better than all of them. He
looked so ... his eyes were large, and brown. I felt sorry for him,
and afraid of him.... I went into the house, and poured him out a
glass of vódka.... Then I went out and gave it to him. But his hands
were bound, and he could not drink it ... and he said to me, raising
his head a little--and his head was all covered with blood: 'Put it in
my mouth, my lady,' I held it to his lips, and he drank so slowly, so
slowly, and said: 'Thank you, my lady! God grant you happiness!'--Then,
all at once, I whispered to him: 'Run!' But he answered aloud:--'If
I live, I certainly will run. You may trust me for that!'--And I was
awfully pleased, that he had said it so loudly, that, everyone in the
court-yard heard him. Then he said: 'My lady! Order them to wash my
face!, I told Dúnya, and she washed it ... although his face remained
blue and swollen from the blows ... yes! They soon carried him away,
and when the cart drove out of the courtyard, I looked at him, and he
bowed to me, and smiled with his eyes ... although he was very badly
bruised.... How I wept for him! How I prayed to God that he might run
away...."

"Do you mean ..." Ippolít Sergyéevitch ironically interrupted
her,--"that perhaps you are waiting for him to make his escape and
present himself before you, and then ... you will marry him?"

She either did not hear or did not understand the irony, for she
answered simply:

"Well, and why should he show himself here?"

"But if he did--would you marry him?"

"Marry a peasant? I don't know ...? no, I think not!"

Polkánoff waxed angry.

"You have ruined your brain with your romances, that's what I have to
say to you, Varvára Vasílievna.--" he remarked severely.

At the sound of his harsh voice, she glanced at his face with
amazement, and began, silently and attentively, to listen to his
stem, almost castigating words. And he demonstrated to her, how that
literature which she loved depraved mind and soul, always distorted
reality, was foreign to ennobling ideas, was indifferent to the sad
truth of life, to the desires and tortures of mankind. His voice
rang out harshly in the silence of the forest which surrounded
them, and frequently, in the wayside branches, a timorous rustling
resounded--some one was hiding there. From the foliage fragrant
twilight peered forth upon the road, now and then, athwart the forest,
a prolonged sound was wafted, which resembled a stifled sigh, and the
foliage quivered faintly, as in slumber.

"You must read and respect only those books which teach you to
understand the meaning of life, to understand the aspirations of men,
and the true motives of their actions. To understand people means,--to
pardon them their defects. You must know how badly people live, and
how well they might live, if they were only more sensible, and if they
paid more respect to the rights of one another. For, of course, all men
desire one thing--happiness, but they proceed toward it by different
paths, and those paths are, sometimes, very ignominious, but that is
only because they do not understand in what happiness consists. Hence,
it is the duty of all practical and honest literature, to explain to
men in what happiness consists, and how to attain to it. But those
books which you read, do not occupy themselves with such problems..
they merely lie, and lie crudely. Here, they have inculcated in you ...
an uncivilized notion of heroism.. And what is the result? Now you will
be seeking in life such people as those in the books...."

"No, of course I shall not!..." said the young girl seriously.--"I know
that there are no such men. But the books are nice precisely for the
reason that they depict that which does not exist. The commonplace is
everywhere ... all life is commonplace.... There is a great deal said
about suffering.... That certainly is false, but if it is false--why
is it not a good thing to say a great deal about that of which there
is so little! Here, you say, that in books one must seek?... exemplary
feelings and thoughts,... and that all men err, and do not understand
themselves.... But, surely, the books are written by men, also! And how
am I to know what I ought to believe, and what is best? And in those
books, which you assail, there is a great deal that is noble...."

"You have not understood me...." he exclaimed, with vexation.

"Really? And you are angry with me for that?--" she asked, in a
penitent tone.

"No! Of course, I am not angry ... as if there could be any question of
such a thing!"

"You are angry, I know it, I know it! For, you see, I always get
provoked myself, when people do not agree with me! But why do you
find it necessary that I should agree with you? And I think, also....
In general, why does everybody always quarrel and insist that others
should agree with them? Then there would be nothing whatever to talk
about."

She laughed, and in the midst of her laugh, she concluded:

"It's exactly as though everybody wanted to have only one word left out
of all the words--'yes!' It's awfully amusing!"

"You ask, why I find it necessary...."

"No, I understand; you have got used to teaching, so you regard it as
indispensable that no one should impede you with objections."

"That's not so at all!--" exclaimed Polkánoff bitterly.--"I wish to
arouse in you the faculty of criticising everything that goes on around
you, and in your own soul."

"Why?"--she inquired, ingenuously looking him straight in the eye.

"Good heavens! What do you mean by 'why'? In order that you may know
how to scrutinize your emotions, your thoughts, your actions.. in order
that you may bear yourself reasonably toward life, toward yourself."

"Well, that must be ... difficult. To scrutinize oneself, to criticise
oneself.. what for? And how is it to be done? Am I to split myself in
two, pray? I don't understand at all! You make it out, that truth is
known to you alone.... Let us assume that I know some truth, and that
everybody else knows some.... But, it appears, everyone is mistaken!
For you say, that truth is one for all men, don't you?... But look--see
what a beautiful glade!"

He gazed, and made no reply to her words. Within him raged a feeling
of dissatisfaction with himself, for his reason had been insulted by
this girl, who would not yield to his efforts to subdue her, to bring
her thoughts to a halt even for a moment, and then turn her into the
right road, directly opposed to the one along which she had been
proceeding up to this time, without encountering any opposition. He
had become accustomed to regard as stupid those people who did not
agree with him; at best, he set them down as devoid of the capacity of
development beyond that point, on which their mind already stood,--and
toward such people, he always bore himself with disdain, mingled with
compassion. But this young girl did not strike him as stupid, and did
not arouse in him his customary sentiments toward his opponents. Why
was this so, and what was she? And he answered himself: "Undoubtedly
merely, because she was so stunningly handsome.... Her wild speeches
might, really, not be regarded as a fault ... simply because they were
original, and originality, on the whole, is rarely met with, especially
in women."

As a man of lofty culture, he outwardly bore himself toward women as
beings who were mentally his equals, but in the depths of his own
soul, like all men, he thought of women sceptically and with irony. In
the heart of man there is much space for faith, but very little for
conviction.

They strolled slowly across the broad, almost perfectly circular
glade. The road cut across it, in two dark lines of wheel-ruts, and
disappeared again in the forest. In the centre of the glade, stood a
small clump of graceful young birch-trees, casting lace-like shadows
on the blades of the mown grass. Not far away from them, a half-ruined
hut, constructed of branches, bowed toward the earth; inside it one
could catch a glimpse of hay, and on it perched two daws. To Ippolít
Sergyéevitch they appeared entirely unnecessary and absurd, in the
midst of this tiny, lovely wilderness, surrounded on all sides by the
dark walls of the mysteriously mute forest. But the daws cast sidelong
glances at the people who were walking along the road, and in their
attitude there was a certain fearlessness and confidence,--as though,
perched there upon the hut, they were guarding the entrance to it, and
were conscious that they were thereby discharging their duty.

"Are not you fatigued?"--inquired Polkánoff, with a feeling akin to
anger, as he stared at the daws, pompous and sullen in their immobility.

"I? Fatigued with walking? It is a downright insult to hear that!
Moreover, it is not more than one verst further to the place where they
are awaiting us ... we shall enter the forest in a moment, and the road
runs down hill."

She told him how beautiful was the spot which was their goal, and he
felt that a soft, agreeable indolence was taking possession of him,
which prevented his paying due heed to her remarks.

"It is a pine forest there, and stands on a hillock, and is called
Savyóloff's Crest. The pine-trees are huge, and there are no branches
on their boles, except that away up aloft, each one has a dark-green
canopy. It is quiet in that forest, even painfully quiet, the ground is
all carpeted with pine needles, and the forest seems to have been swept
up neatly. When I ramble in it, I always think of God, for some reason
or other ... it must be awe-inspiring like that around His throne ...
and the angels do not sing praises to Him--that is not true! What need
has He of praises? Does not He know of Himself how great He is?"

A brilliant thought flashed through Ippolít Sergyéevitch's mind:

"What if I were to take advantage of dogma, to plough up the virgin
soil of her soul?"

But he instantly, and proudly rejected this involuntary confession of
his weakness before her. It would not be honorable to employ a force,
in whose existence he did not believe.

"You ... do not believe in God?"--she inquired, as though divining his
thought.

"What makes you think that?"

"Why ... none of the learned men do believe...."

"None of them, indeed!" he laughed, not caring to talk to her on that
subject. But she would not let him off.

"Isn't it true that all are unbelievers? But how is it that they do not
believe? Please to tell me about those who do not believe in Him at
all.... I do not understand how that can be. Whence has all this made
its appearance?"

He paused, arousing his mind, which had fallen into a sweet doze
beneath the sounds of her voice. Then he began to talk about the origin
of the world, as he understood it:

"Mighty, unknown powers are eternally moving, coming into conflict,
and their vast movement gives rise to the world which we see, in which
the life of thought and of the grass-blade are subjected to the same,
identical laws. This movement had no beginning, and will have no
end...."

The young girl listened attentively to him, and frequently asked him
to explain one point or another. He explained with pleasure, perceiving
the tension of thought in her face. She was thinking, thinking! But
when he had finished, she asked him ingenuously, after pausing for a
minute:

"So it was not begun from the beginning! But in the beginning was God.
How is that? There is simply no mention of Him there, and can that be
what is meant by not believing in Him?"

He wanted to retort, but he understood, from the expression of her
face, that that was useless at the moment. She was a believer--to that
her eyes, which were blazing with mystical fire, bore witness. Softly,
timidly, she told him something strange. He did not catch the beginning
of her speech.

"When you look at people, and see how hateful everything about them
is, and then remember God and the Last Judgment--your heart fairly
contracts! Because, assuredly, He can demand an accounting at any
time-to-day, to-morrow, an hour hence.... And, you know, it sometimes
seems to me--that it will be soon! It will be by day ... and first the
sun will be extinguished ... and then a new flame will flash up, and in
it He will appear."

Ippolít Sergyéevitch listened to her ravings, and said to himself:

"She possesses everything except the one thing which she ought to
have...."

Her remarks called forth pallor on her face, and there was terror in
her eyes. In this low-spirited condition she walked on for a long
time, so that the curiosity with which Ippolít Sergyéevitch had been
listening to her, began to die out, and give place to weariness.

But her delirium suddenly vanished, when a loud laugh was wafted to
their ears, as it rang out somewhere in the immediate vicinity.

"Do you hear that? It is Másha ... We have arrived!"

She hastened her pace, and shouted:

"Másha, á-oo!"

"Why does she shout?" thought Ippolít Sergyéevitch compassionately.

They emerged upon the bank of the river; it sloped down to the water,
and on it cheerful clumps of birch-trees and aspens were capriciously
scattered. And on the opposite shore, at the very water's edge, stood
the lofty, silent pines, filling the air with their heavy, resinous
fragrance. There everything was gloomy, motionless, monotonous, and
permeated with stem dignity, but on this side--the graceful birch-trees
rocked their supple branches to and fro, the silvery foliage of
the aspens quivered; the wild snow-ball, and hazel bushes stood in
luxuriant masses, reflected in the water; yonder the sand gleamed
yellow, sprinkled with reddish pine-needles; here, under their feet,
the second growth of grass, barely peeping forth from among the shorn
stalks, showed green, and the scent of new-mown hay emanated from the
haycocks which had been tossed up under the trees. The river, calm and
cold, reflected like a mirror these two worlds, so unlike one to the
other.

In the shade of a group of birches a gay-colored rug had been spread,
on it stood the samovár, emitting clouds of steam and blue smoke, and
beside it, squatting on her heels, Másha was busying herself, teapot in
hand. Her face was red and happy, her hair was damp.

"Have you been in bathing?" Várenka asked her, "And where is Grigóry?"

"He has gone to take a bath also. He'll soon be back."

"Well, I don't want him. I want to eat, drink, and ... eat and drink!
That I do! And how about you, Ippolít Sergyéevitch?"

"I shall not refuse, you know,--" he laughed.

"Be quick, Másha!"

"What do you command first? Chicken, the pasty...."

"Serve everything at once, and you may disappear! Perhaps someone is
waiting for you?"

"Just nobody at all," smiled Másha softly, gazing at her with grateful
eyes.

"Well, all right, go on pretending!"

*

"How simply she says all that," thought Ippolít Sergyéevitch, attacking
the chicken.--"Can it be that she is acquainted with the sense and the
details of such relations? Very likely, seeing that the country is so
frank and coarse in that sphere."

But Várenka, with a laugh, jested away to the confusion of Másha, who
stood before her with downcast eyes, and with a smile of happiness on
her face.

"Wait, he'll take you in hand!"--she threatened.

"Of co-ourse! And I shall give myself to him!... I ... you know ... I
put him...." and covering her face with her apron, she rocked to and
fro, in a fit of uncontrollable laughter.--"On the way, I pushed him
into the water!"

"Did you! That's a clever girl! And what did he do?"

"He swam after the boat.. and ... and he kept beseeching me, to ... let
him ... into the boat ... but I ... flung him ... a rope, from the
stern!"

The infectious laughter of the two women forced Ippolít Sergyéevitch
to burst into laughter also. He laughed not because he imagined to
himself Grigóry swimming after the boat, but because it did him good
to laugh. A sensation of freedom from himself pervaded him, and, now
and then, he seemed to be surprised at himself from somewhere in the
distance, that he had never before been so simply joyous as at that
moment. Then Másha vanished, and again they remained alone together.

Várenka half reclined on the rug, and drank tea, while Ippolít
Sergyéevitch gazed at her, as through the mist of dreams. Around them
reigned stillness, only the samovár hummed a pensive melody, and, from
time to time, something rustled in the grass.

"What makes you so taciturn?" inquired Várenka, casting an anxious
glance at him. "Perhaps you are bored?"

"No, I'm enjoying myself," he said slowly, "but I don't feel like
talking."

"That's the way I feel, too," and the girl grew animated,--"when it is
still, I don't like at all to chatter. For with words you cannot say
much, because there are feelings for which there are no words at all.
And when people say--'silence,' it is nonsense:--one cannot speak of
silence without destroying it,... can one?"

She paused, gazed at the pine forest, and pointing at it with her hand,
she said, with a quiet smile:

"See, the pines seem to be listening to something. There, among them,
it is still, so still. Sometimes it seems to me that the best way to
live is like that, in silence. But it is fine, too, in a thunderstorm
... akh, how fine! The sky is black, the lightning is vicious, it is
dark, the wind roars.. at such times I feel like going out into the
fields, and standing there, and singing--singing loudly, or running
through the rain, against the wind. It's the same in winter. Do you
know, I once got lost in a snow-storm and came near freezing to death."

"Tell me, how that happened," he requested her. He found it pleasant
to listen to her,--it seemed as though she were talking in a language
which was new to him, although comprehensible.

"I was driving from the town, late at night," she began, moving nearer
to him, and fixing her softly-smiling eyes upon his face.--"The
coachman was Yákoff, such a stem old peasant. And the snow-storm began,
a snow-storm of terrible force, and blew straight in our faces. The
wind came in gusts, and hurled a whole cloud of snow on us, so that the
horses backed, and Yákoff reeled on the box. Everything around seethed
as though in a kettle, and we were in a cold foam. We drove and drove,
and then I saw Yákoff take his cap from his head and cross himself.
'What's the matter?'--'Pray, my lady, to the Lord and to Varvára the
Great Martyr, she will help against sudden death.' He spoke simply, and
without fear, so that I was not frightened: I asked--'Have we lost our
way?'--'Yes,' said he.--'But perhaps we shall escape?'--'How are we
to escape, in such a blizzard! Now, I'm going to let go of the reins,
and perhaps the horses will find the way themselves; but do you call
God to mind, all the same!' He is very devout, that Yákoff. The horses
halted, and stood still, and the snow drifted over us. How cold it was!
The snow cut our faces. Yákoff moved from the box, and sat beside me,
so that both of us might be warmer, and we put the rug that was in the
sledge over our heads. I sat there and thought: 'Well, I am lost! And I
shall not eat the bonbons I have brought from the town....' But I was
not afraid, because Yákoff kept talking all the while. I remember that
he said: 'I'm sorry for you, my lady![6] 'Why should you perish?--'
'Why, you will be frozen also?--' 'I'm of no consequence, I've lived
my life, but here are you ...' and he kept on about me. He is very
fond of me, he even scolds sometimes, you know, growls at me, he's so
cross-grained:--'akh, you impious creature, you mad-cap, you shameless
weathercock!..."

[6] _Bárynya_, for a married woman of noble birth, _báryshmsya_, for an
unmarried woman, are more nearly equivalent to "mistress" and "young
mistress." But these are inconvenient, in many instances. In general,
they are used precisely as "my lady" is used by English people of the
lower class to those of superior rank.--Translator.

She assumed a surly mien, and spoke in a deep bass voice, drawling out
her words. The memory of Yákoff had diverted her from her story, and
Ippolít Sergyéevitch was obliged to ask her:

"And how did you find the road?"

"Why, the horses got chilled, and started ahead of their own accord,
and they went on, and on until they reached a village thirteen versts
away from ours. You know, our village is near here, about four versts
distant. If you were to go along the shore, and then by the footpath,
through the forest, to the right, you would come upon a hollow, and our
home-farm would be in sight. But by the highway, it is ten versts from
here."

Several saucy birds hovered around them, and perching upon the branches
of the bushes, twittered valiantly, as though imparting to one another
their impressions concerning these two persons, alone there in the
heart of the forest. From afar laughter, talking and the splash of oars
was wafted to them,--probably from Grigóry and Másha as they rowed on
the river.

"Suppose we call them, and go in that direction, among the
pines?"--suggested Várenka.

He assented, and placing her hand to her mouth like a trumpet, she
began to shout:

"Row thi-is wa-ay!"

Her bosom strained with the cry, and Ippolít Sergyéevitch admired her
in silence. He had to think of some-thing--of something very serious,
he felt,--but he did not wish to think, and this faint appeal of his
mind did not prevent his calmly and freely resigning himself to the
more powerful command of his feelings.

The boat came in sight. Grigóry's face was sly and rather guilty;
Másha's bore a fictitious expression of anger; but Várenka, as she took
her seat in the boat, glanced at them, and laughed, and then they both
began to laugh, confused and happy.

"Venus and her petted slaves," said Ippolít Sergyéevitch to himself.

In the pine forest it was solemn and still as in a temple, and the
mighty, stately tree-trunks stood like columns, supporting a heavy
vault of dark verdure. A warm, heavy odor of resin filled the air,
and under their feet the dry pine-needles crackled softly. In front,
behind, on every side, stood the reddish pines, and only here and
there, at their roots, through a layer of needles, did a pallid green
force its way. In the stillness and in silence the two people strolled
slowly amid this dumb life, turning now to the right, now to the left,
to avoid trees which barred their path.

"We shall not go astray?"--inquired Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

"I go astray?" said Várenka in surprise.--"I can always, everywhere
find the way I require ... all one has to do is to look at the sun."

He did not ask her how the sun pointed out the road to her, he did
not, in the least, wish to speak, although he felt, at times, that he
might say a very great deal to her. But these were internal impulses
of desire, flashing up on the surface of his calm mood, and dying out
again in a second, without agitating him. Várenka walked by his side,
and on her face he beheld the reflection of quiet ecstasy.

"Is this nice?" she asked him, now and then, and a caressing smile
caused her lips to quiver.

"Yes, very," he replied briefly, and again they fell silent, as they
roamed through the forest. It seemed to him that he was a young man,
devoutly in love, a stranger to sinful intentions, and to all inward
conflict with himself. But every time that his eyes fell upon the spots
of mud on her gown, a disquieting shadow fell upon his soul. And he did
not understand how this happened, that suddenly, all in a moment, when
such a shadow enveloped his consciousness, with a deep sigh, as though
casting off a weight, he said to her:

"What a beauty you are!"

She looked at him in amazement.

"What ails you? You have held your peace, held your peace--and then,
suddenly, you say that!"

Ippolít Sergyéevitch smiled faintly, disarmed by her composure.

"It is so beautiful here.. you know! The forest is beautiful ... and
you are like a fairy in it ... or, you are a goddess, and the forest is
your temple."

"No," she replied, with a smile, "it is not my forest, it belongs to
the Crown, but our forest is yonder, down the river."

And she pointed with her hand somewhere to one side.

"Is she jesting, or ... does not she understand?--" said Ippolít
Sergyéevitch to himself, and a persistent desire to talk to her about
her beauty began to blaze up within him. But she was pensive, calm, and
this restrained him during the entire time of their stroll.

They rambled on for a long time, but said little, for the soft,
peaceful impressions of that day had breathed into their souls a sweet
languor, in which all desires had sunk to rest, except the desire to
meditate in silence upon something inexpressible in words.

On their return home, they learned that Elizavéta Sergyéevna had not
yet arrived, and they began to drink tea, which Másha hastily prepared.
Immediately after tea, Várenka rode off homeward, having exacted from
him a promise to come to their manor with Elizavéta Sergyéevna. He
saw her off, and as he reached the terrace, he surprised in himself a
mournful sensation of having lost something which was indispensable
to him. As he sat at the table, whereon still stood his glass of tea,
which had grown cold, he sternly tried to bring himself up short, to
suppress this whole play of emotions excited by the day, but pity for
himself made its appearance, and he rejected all operations on himself.

"Why?" he said to himself--"can all this be serious? It is a frolic,
nothing more. It will not hurt her, it cannot hurt her, even if I
wished it. It somewhat interferes with my life ... but there is so much
that is young and beautiful about it...."

Then, smiling condescendingly to himself, he recalled his firm resolve
to develop her mind, and his unsuccessful efforts to do so.

"No, evidently, one must use different words with her. These
unadulterated natures are more inclined to yield their directness to
metaphysics ... defending themselves against logic by the armor of
blind, primitive feeling.... She is a strange girl!"

His sister found him engrossed in thoughts about her. She made her
appearance in noisy, animated mood,--such as he had not beheld her
hitherto. After ordering Másha to boil the samovár, she seated herself
opposite her brother, and began to tell him about the Benkóvskys.
"Forth from all the cracks of their ancient house peer the cruel eyes
of poverty, which is celebrating its victory over that family. In the
house, to all appearances, there is not a kopék of money, nor any
provisions; they sent to the village to get eggs for dinner. There
was no meat at dinner, and so old Benkóvsky talked a great deal about
vegetarianism, and about the possibility of the moral regeneration of
people on that basis. The whole place reeks of decay, and they are all
bad-tempered--from hunger, probably." She had gone to them with the
proposition that they should sell her a small plot of land which cut
into her estate.

"Why did you do that?" inquired Ippolít Sergyéevitch, with interest.

"Well, you can hardly appreciate the calculations which I am carrying
out. Imagine--it is on account of my future children,--" she said,
laughing. "Well, and how have you passed the time?"

"Agreeably."

She said nothing, but eyed him askance.

"Excuse me for the question ... aren't you a little bit afraid of being
captivated by Várenka?"

"What is there to fear?" he inquired, with an interest which was
incomprehensible to himself.

"The possibility of being strongly carried away?"

"Well, I am hardly capable of that.." he replied sceptically, and he
believed that he was speaking the truth.

"And if that is the case, it is very good indeed. A little--that is all
well enough, but you are rather cold ... too serious.. for your years.
And really.... I shall be glad if she stirs you up a little.... Perhaps
you would like to see her more frequently?..."

"She made me promise to go to their house, and begged you to do so...."
Ippolít Sergyéevitch informed her.

"When do you wish to go?"

"It makes no difference to me ... Whenever you find it convenient. You
are in good spirits to-day...."

"Is that very noticeable?"--she laughed.--"What of it? I have passed
the day pleasantly. On the whole ... I am afraid it will seem cynical
to you ... but the truth is, that since the day of my husband's
funeral, I feel that I am reviving to new life ... I am egotistical--of
course! But it is the joyous egotism of a person who has been released
from prison to freedom.... Condemn me ... but be just."

"How many accusations for such a short speech! You are glad and ... go
on being glad...." laughed Ippolít Sergyéevitch amiably.

"And you are kind and charming to-day," said she.--"You see--a little
happiness--and a person immediately becomes better, kinder. But some
over-wise people think that sufferings purify us ... I should like to
have life, by applying that theory to them, purify their minds from
error...."

"But if you were to make Várenka suffer--what would become of her?"
Ippolít Sergyéevitch asked himself.

They soon parted. She began to play, and he, going off to his own
room, lay down on his couch and began to reflect,--what sort of an
idea of him had that young girl formed? Did she consider him handsome?
Or clever? What was there about him that could please her? Something
attracted her to him--that was evident to him. But it was not likely
that he possessed in her eyes any value as a clever, learned man; she
so lightly brushed aside all his theories, views, exhortations. It was
more probable that he pleased her simply as a man.

And on arriving at this conclusion, Ippolít Sergyéevitch flushed with
proud joy. Closing his eyes, with a smile of satisfaction, he pictured
to himself this girl as submissive to him, conquered by him, ready to
do anything for him, timidly entreating him to take her, and teach her
to think, to live, to love.



III.


When Elizavéta Sergyéevna's cabriolet stopped at the porch of Colonel
Ólesoff's house, the tall, thin figure of a woman in a loose gray gown
made its appearance, and a bass voice rang out, with a strong burr on
the letter "r":

"A-ah! What a pleasant surprise!"

Ippolít Sergyéevitch even shivered at this greeting, which resembled a
bellow.

"My brother Ippolít ..." Elizavéta Sergyéevna introduced him, after she
and the woman had kissed each other.

"Margarita Rodiónovna Lutchítzky."

Five cold, sticky bones pressed Ippolít Sergyéevitch's fingers;
flashing gray eyes were riveted on his face, and Aunt Lutchítzky boomed
away in her bass voice, distinctly enunciating every phrase, as though
she were counting them, and were afraid of saying too much.

"I am very glad to make your acquaintance...."

Then she moved to one side, and laid her hand on the house-door.

"Pray, come in!"

Ippolít Sergyéevitch stepped across the threshold, and a hoarse cough
and an irritated exclamation were borne to meet him from some quarter:

"Devil take your stupidity! Go along, see, and tell me, who-o has
come...."

"Go in, go in, Elizavéta Sergyéevna," urged on her brother, perceiving
that he had halted, hesitatingly.--"It's the colonel shouting ... It is
we who have come, colonel!"

In the middle of a large room with a low ceiling, stood a massive
arm-chair, and in it was squeezed a big, lymphatic body, with a red,
wizened face, overgrown with gray moss. The upper part of this mass
turned heavily, emitting a choking snort. Behind the arm-chair rose the
shoulders of a tall, stout woman, who gazed into Ippolít Sergyéevitch's
face with lack-lustre eyes.

"I'm glad to see you ... is this your brother?... Colonel Vasíly
Ólesoff ... he beat the Turks and the Tekke Turkomans, and now he
himself is conquered by diseases ... ho, ho, ho! I'm glad to see you.
Varvára has been drumming in my ears all summer about your learning,
and all the rest of it ... Pray, come hither, into the drawing-room ...
Thékla, push me in!"

The wheels of the chair squeaked piercingly, the colonel lurched
forward, threw himself back, and broke into a hoarse cough, wagging his
head about as though he wanted it to break off.

"When your master coughs--stand still! Haven't I told you that a
thousand times?"

And Aunt Lutchítzky, seizing Thékla by the shoulder, crushed her down
to the floor.

The Polkánoffs stood and waited, until the heavily swaying body of
Ólesoff should have finished coughing. At last they moved forward, and
found themselves in a small room, where it was suffocating, dark and
cramped with a superabundance of softly-stuffed furniture in canvas
covers.

"Pray seat yourselves ... Thékla,--call your young mistress!" commanded
Aunt Lutchítzky.

"Elizavéta Sergyéevna, my dear, I am glad to see you!" announced the
colonel, staring at his guest from beneath his gray eyebrows which met
over his nose, with eyes as round as those of an owl. The colonel's
nose was comically huge, and its tip, purple and shining, mournfully
hid itself in the thick brush of his whiskers.

"I know that you are as glad to see me as I am to see you...." said his
visitor caressingly.

"Ho, ho, ho! That's a lie--begging your pardon! What pleasure is there
in seeing an old man, crippled with gout, and sick with an inexorable
thirst for vódka? Twenty-five years ago, one might really have rejoiced
at the sight of Váska Ólesoff ... and many women did rejoice ... but
now, I'm utterly useless to you, and you're utterly useless to me....
But when you are here, they give me vódka--and so, I'm glad to see you!"

"Don't talk much, or you'll begin to cough again...." Margarita
Bodiónovna warned him.

"Did you hear?--" the colonel turned to Ippolít Sergyéevitch.--"I must
not talk--it's injurious, I must not drink, it's injurious,--I must not
eat as much as I want,--it's injurious! Everything is injurious, devil
take it! And I see, that it's injurious for me to live! Ho, ho, ho! I
have lived too long ... I hope you may never have occasion to say the
same thing about yourself.... However, you will certainly die early,
you'll get the consumption,--you have an impossibly narrow chest...."

Ippolít Sergyéevitch looked, now at him, now at Aunt Lutchítzky, and
thought of Várenka:

"And what monsters she lives among!"

He had never tried to depict to himself the setting of her life, and
now he was crushed by what he beheld. The harsh, angular leanness
of Aunt Lutchítzky offended his eyes; he could not bear to look at
her long neck, covered with yellow skin, and every time she spoke
he began to be apprehensive of something, as though in anticipation
that the bass sounds, which emanated from this woman's broad bosom,
flat as a board, would rend her breast. And the rustle of Aunt
Lutchítzky's skirts seemed to him to be her bones rubbing against
each other. The colonel reeked with some sort of liquor, sweat, and
vile tobacco. Judging from the gleam in his eyes, he must often be
in a fury, and Ippolít Sergyéevitch, as he imagined him in a state
of exasperation, felt loathing for the old man. The rooms were not
comfortable, the wall-paper was smoke-begrimed, and the tiles of the
stoves were streaked with cracks, which, however, made them look like
marble. The paint had been rubbed off of the floors by the wheels of
the rolling-chair, the window-frames were awry, the panes were dull,
everything breathed forth an odor of age, perishing with exhaustion.

"It is sultry to-day,..." remarked Elizavéta Sergyéevna.

"There will be rain," declared Mrs. Lutchítzky categorically.

"Really?" said the visitor doubtfully.

"Trust to Margarita,--" said the old man hoarsely.--"She knows
everything that will take place.... She assures me so every day....
'You will die,' she says, 'and they will rob Várya, and break her
head....'--you see? I dispute it:--the daughter of Colonel Ólesoff will
not permit anyone to turn her head ... she'll do it herself; and that I
shall die--is true.. that is to say, it is as it should be. And you, my
learned gentleman, how do you feel yourself? A very small fish in a big
tank?"

"No, why should I? It is a beautiful wooded country ...." replied
Ippolít Sergyéevitch courteously.

"It is a beautiful wooded country here? Phew! That means that you
haven't seen anything beautiful on earth. The valley of Kazanlik in
Bulgaria is beautiful,... it is beautiful in Kherassan ... on the
Murgal river there is a spot like paradise itself... Ah! My precious
child!..."

Várenka brought with her an aroma of freshness into the musty
atmosphere of the drawing-room. Her form was enveloped in some sort
of mantle, of light lilac _sarpinka_.[1] In her hands she held a huge
bouquet of freshly-gathered flowers, and her face was beaming with
pleasure. "How nice that you have come to-day!--" she exclaimed, as she
greeted her guests.--"I was just preparing to go to you ... they have
been nagging me!"

[1] _Sarpinka_ is a very fine cotton goods, manufactured by German
colonists, in the Government of Sarátoff, on the lower Vólga. It is
almost invariably of two colors, like shot silk, is very durable and
pretty.--Translator.

And with a sweeping gesture, she designated her father and Margarita
Rodiónovna, who was sitting beside her visitor with such unnatural
rigidity, that her backbone seemed to have turned to stone, and to be
incapable of bending.

"Varvára! You're talking nonsense!" she cried sternly to the young
girl, with flashing eyes.

"Don't scream! If you do, I'll tell about Lieutenant Yákovleff, and his
fiery heart...."

"Ho, ho, ho! Várka[2]--be quiet! I'll tell it myself...."

[2] Várya, Várenka, Várka, are all diminutives of Varvára.--Translator.

"What sort of a place have I got into?"--meditated Ippolít
Sergyéevitch, gazing at his sister in amazement.

But, evidently, all this was familiar to her, and although a smile
of disdain quivered on the corners of her mouth, she looked on and
listened with composure.

"I will go and see about tea!"--announced Margarita Bodiónovna,
stretching herself upward, without bending her body, and disappeared,
after casting a glance of reproach at the colonel.

Várenka sat down in her aunt's place, and began to whisper something in
Elizavéta Sergyéevna's ear.

"Why has she such a passion for loose garments!" said Ippolít
Sergyéevitch to himself, casting a furtive glance at her figure, as it
bent toward his sister, in a fine pose. But the colonel rumbled away,
like a cracked double-bass:

"Of course, you are aware, that Margarita is the wife of my comrade,
Lieutenant-Colonel Lutchítzky, who was killed at Iski-Zagra. She
made the campaign with him, that she did! She's an energetic woman,
you know. Well, and in our regiment there was a Lieutenant Yákovleff
... such a delicate young lady he was ... his chest was crushed by a
Turkish volunteer, and consumption ensued, so that was the end of him!
Well, and when he fell ill, she nursed him for five months! What do
you think of that? hey? And, do you know, she gave him her word that
she would not marry. She was young, and handsome ... a very striking
woman. Very worthy men courted her, courted her seriously--Captain
Shmurló, a very fine young Little Russian, even took to drink and left
the service. I, also ... that is to say, I also proposed to her:--
'Margarita! marry me!' ... She would not ... it was very stupid of her,
but noble, of course. And then, when I was seized with the gout, she
presented herself, and said: 'You are alone in the world, I am alone
...' and so forth and so on. Touching and saintly. Eternal friendship,
and we snarl at each other all the time. She comes here every summer,
she even wants to sell her estate and settle down here forever, that is
to say, until I die. I appreciate it--but it's all ridiculous, isn't
it? Ho, ho, ho! For she was a passionate woman, and you see how he has
dried her up? Don't play with fire ... ho! She flies into a rage, you
know, when one narrates this poetry of her life, as she expresses it.
'Don't you dare,' says she, 'to insult the holy things of my heart with
your abominable tongue!' Ah! Ho, ho, ho! But, as a matter of fact, what
sort of a holy thing is it? A delusion of the mind ... the dreams of a
school-girl.... Life is simple, isn't it? Enjoy yourself, and die when
your time comes, that's the whole philosophy! But ... die when your
time comes! But here now, I have overlived the right time, I hope you
won't do that...."

Ippolít Sergyéevitch's head was reeling with the story, and the odor
which emanated from the colonel. But Várenka, paying no heed whatever
to him, and, probably, not comprehending how little agreeable the
conversation with her father was to him, was chatting, in a low tone,
with Elizavéta Sergyéevna, listening seriously and attentively to her.

"I invite you to drink tea!--" Margarita Rodiónovna's bass voice rang
out in the doorway.--"Varvára, wheel your father!"

Ippolít Sergyéevitch drew a breath of relief and followed Várenka, who
lightly pushed in front of her the heavy chair.

Tea was prepared in the English fashion, with a mass of cold viands. A
huge rare piece of roast beef was flanked by bottles of wine, and this
evoked a laugh of contentment on the part of the colonel. It seemed
as though even his half-dead legs, enveloped in bear-skin, quivered
with the anticipation of pleasure. He was rolled up to the table, and
stretching out his fat, trembling hands, overgrown with dark hair,
toward the bottles, he laughed aloud, shaking the air of the great
dining-room, set around with chairs plaited from osier twigs.

The tea-drinking lasted a torturingly long time, and throughout it
the colonel narrated military anecdotes, in a hoarse voice, Margarita
Bodiónovna interposed brief remarks in her bass, and Várenka chatted
softly but vivaciously with Elizavéta Sergyéevna.

"What is she talking about?"--thought Ippolít Sergyéevitch sadly,
delivered over to the colonel as a victim.

It seemed to him that she was paying too little attention to him
to-day. Was this coquetry? And he felt that he was on the point of
becoming angry with her. But now she cast a glance in his direction,
and uttered a ringing laugh.

"My sister has called her attention to me!" reflected Ippolít
Sergyéevitch, frowning with displeasure.

"Ippolít Sergyéevitch! Have you finished your tea?" inquired Várenka.

"Yes, long ago...."

"Would you like to take a stroll? I will show you some splendid places!"

"Let us go. And will you come too, Liza?"

"No! I find it pleasant to sit with Margarita Rodiónovna and the
Colonel."

"Ho, ho, ho! Agreeable to stand on the brink of the grave, into which
my half-dead body is rolling!" and the colonel roared with laughter.
"Why do you say that?"

"The next thing, she will be asking me--'don't you find it tiresome at
our house?'--" thought Ippolít Sergyéevitch, as he emerged with Várenka
from the house into the garden. But she asked him:

"How do you like papa?"

"Oh!"--exclaimed Ippolít Sergyéevitch softly. "He inspires respect!"

"Aha!" replied Várenka, with satisfaction.--"That's what everybody
says. He's frightfully brave! You know, he does not talk about himself,
but Aunt Lutchítzky was in the same regiment with him, and she said
that at Górny Dubnyák a ball crushed his horse's nostrils, and the
animal carried him straight in among the Turks. But the Turks pursued
him; he managed to wheel and gallop along their line; of course,
they killed the horse; he fell, and saw that four men were running
toward him ... One rushed up, and brandished the butt-end of a rifle
over him, but papa let fly,--whack! and the man fell at his feet. He
discharged a revolver straight in his face--bang! And then he pulled
his leg out from under the horse, and the other three rushed up, and
more after them, and our own soldiers flew to meet them, with Yákovleff
... you know who he was?... Papa seized the dead man's rifle, sprang
to his feet--and forward! But he was awfully strong, and that came
near ruining him; he hit the Turk over the head, and the gun broke,
and he had nothing but his sword left, but it was bad and dull, and a
Turk was trying to kill him with a bayonet-thrust in the breast. Then
papa grasped the strap of the rifle in his hand, and ran to meet his
own men, dragging the Turk after him. He understood that he was lost,
turned his face toward the foe, wrenched the gun away from the Turk,
and dashed at them--hurrah! Then Yákovleff rushed up with the soldiers,
and they set to work so heartily, that the Turks beat a retreat. They
gave papa the George[3] for that, but he flew into a rage, because they
did not give the George to a non-commissioned officer of his regiment,
who had saved Yákovleff twice and papa once in that fight, and refused
the cross. But when they gave it to the non-commissioned officer, then
he took it."

[3] The Order of St. George--the most prized of Russian Orders, because
it must be won by desperate, personal valor, on the field of battle.
The names of the members are inscribed in gold on the white marble
walls of the grand Hall of St. George, in the Great Palace, in the
Krémlin, at Moscow. The ribbon is orange and black.--Translator.

"You tell about that fight exactly as though you had taken part in
it...." remarked Ippolít Sergyéevitch, interrupting her narration.

"Ye-es...." she said slowly, sighing and puckering up her eyes.--"I
like war ... And I'm going, as a Sister of Mercy, if they begin to
fight...."

"Then I shall go as a soldier...."

"You?" she inquired, scanning his figure.--"Come, you are jesting,...
you would make a poor soldier.. you are so weak, so thin...."

This stung him.

"I am strong enough, I assure you...." he declared, as though warning
her.

"Well, you don't say so?" said Várenka composedly, not believing him.

A raging desire to seize her in his arms, and crush her to his breast
with all his might flamed up within him--to crush her so that the tears
would gush forth from her eyes. He cast a hasty glance around, twitched
his shoulders, and immediately felt ashamed of his impulse.

They walked through the garden along a path set with regular rows of
apple-trees, and behind them, at the end of the path, gazed forth the
windows of the house. Apples kept falling from the trees, striking the
earth dully, and voices resounded somewhere close at hand. One asked:

"I suppose he has come wooing too?"

But the other swore gruffly.

"Wait ..." Várenka stopped her companion, grasping his sleeve, "let's
hear what they have to say about us...."

He cast a harsh glance at her, and said:

"I am not fond of eavesdropping to the gossip of servants."

"But I love it...." declared Várenka, "when they are by themselves,
they always talk very interestingly about us, their masters...."

"It may be interesting, but it is not nice...." laughed Ippolít
Sergyéevitch.

"Why not? They always speak well of me."

"I congratulate you...."

He was the prey of a malicious impulse to speak sharply, rudely to
her, to wound her. To-day her conduct agitated him:--yonder, in the
house, she had paid no attention to him for a long time, just as though
she did not understand that he had come for her sake, and to see her,
and not to see her crippled father, and dried-up aunt. Then, when
she pronounced him a weakling, she had begun to look upon him with a
certain condescension.

"What is the meaning of all this?" he said to himself.--"If my
exterior does not please her, and I am not interesting from the
internal point of view--what has attracted her to me? A new face--and
nothing more?"

He believed that she was gravitating toward him, and thought that
he had to deal with coquetry under the guise of ingenuousness and
artlessness.

"Perhaps she considers me stupid ... and hopes that I shall grow
wiser...."

"My aunt is right ... it is going to rain!" said Várenka, gazing into
the distance,--"see, what a dark cloud ... and it is growing sultry, as
it always does before a thunder-storm...."

"That is unpleasant.." said Ippolít Sergyéevitch. "We must turn back,
and warn my sister...."

"Why?"

"That we may return home before it begins to rain...."

"Who is going to let you go? And you would not be able to get there
before the thunderstorm begins.... You will have to wait here."

"And what if the rain should last until night?"

"You will spend the night with us," said Várenka categorically.

"No, that is inconvenient...." protested Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

"Oh Lord! Is it so difficult to spend one night inconveniently?"

"I had not my own comfort in view...."

"Then don't worry yourself about other people--each person can take
care of himself."

They disputed and walked on, but the dark cloud swept swiftly to meet
them across the sky, and already the thunder was beginning to rumble
somewhere far away. An oppressive sultriness permeated the atmosphere,
as though the approaching thunder-cloud, condensing all the burning
heat of the day, were driving it before it. And the leaves on the trees
grew still, in eager expectation of the refreshing moisture.

"Shall we turn back?" suggested Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

"Yes, because it is stifling.... How I detest the time before something
is coming ... before a thunderstorm, before holidays. The thunderstorm
or the holiday is all well enough in itself, but it is tiresome to wait
for it. If everything could only be done at once ... you could lie down
and sleep--it is winter, and cold; you wake--and it is spring, with
flowers and sun ... or, the sun is shining, and, all at once, there is
darkness, thunder, a downpour...."

"Perhaps you would like to have a man also change as suddenly and
unexpectedly?" inquired Ippolít Sergyéevitch, with a laugh.

"A man should always be interesting...." she said, sententiously.

"But what do you mean by being interesting?"--exclaimed Ippolít
Sergyéevitch, with vexation.

"What do I mean? Why ... it is difficult to say I think that all
people would be interesting, if they were more ... lively ... yes,
more lively! If they laughed, sang, played more ... if they were more
daring, stronger ... even audacious ... even coarse.."

He listened attentively to her definitions, and asked himself:

"Is she recommending to me the programme of the relations which she
wishes me to bear toward her?..."

"There's no swiftness in people.. and everything ought to be done
swiftly, in order that life should be interesting ...." she explained,
with a serious face.

"Who knows? Perhaps you are right...." remarked Ippolít Sergyéevitch
softly. "That is to say, not entirely right...."

"Don't excuse yourself!--" she laughed.--"Why not entirely? It's either
entirely right or not right at all ... it's either good or bad ...
either handsome or homely ... that's the way to argue! But people say:
'she's quite nice, quite pretty ...' and it's simply out of cowardice
that they speak in that way ... they're afraid of the truth, for some
reason or other!"

"Well, you know, that by just this division into two, you insult far
too many!"

"How so?"

"By injustice...."

"A man always keeps coming back to that same justice! Just as though
all life were contained in it and one couldn't possibly get along
without it. But who wants it?" She cried out angrily and capriciously,
and her eyes kept contracting and emitting sparks.

"Everyone, Varvára Vasílievna! Everyone, from the peasant ... to
yourself...." said Ippolít Sergyéevitch didactically, as he watched her
agitation, and tried to explain it to himself.

"I don't want any justice!"--she rejected it with decision, and
even made a gesture with her hand, as though she were repelling
something.--"And if I do need it, I'll find it for myself ... Why
are you forever bothering yourself about people? And ... you simply
say that, in order to make me angry ... because to-day you are
consequential, and pompous...."

"I? I make you angry? Why?" said Ippolít Sergyéevitch, in amazement.

"How should I know? Because you are bored, probably .... But ...
you'd better stop it! I'm loaded to the muzzle.. even without your
interference! They have been feeding me on sermons the whole week, all
because of my suitors ... they have flooded me with every sort of venom
... and vile suspicions ... thanks to you!"

Her eyes flashed with a phosphorescent gleam, her nostrils quivered,
and she trembled all over with the agitation which had suddenly seized
upon her. Ippolít Sergyéevitch, with a mist in his eyes, and a rapid
beating of the heart, began hotly to defend her against herself.

"I did not mean to anger you...."

But, at that moment, the thunder crashed noisily over their heads--as
though some monstrously-large and coarsely-good-natured person were
laughing. Stunned by the terrific sound, they both shuddered, and
halted, for an instant, but immediately set out, at a rapid pace, for
the house. The foliage trembled on the trees, and a shadow fell upon
the earth from the thunder-cloud, which spread over the sky in a soft,
velvety canopy.

"But what a quarrel you and I have had!" said Várenka on the way.
--"I did not notice how the cloud was creeping up."

On the porch of the house stood Elizavéta Sergyéevna, and Aunt
Lutchítzky, with a large straw hat on her head, which made her look
like a sunflower.

"There is going to be a terrific thunderstorm," she announced, in her
impressive bass voice, straight in Ippolít Sergyéevitch's face, as
though she considered it her plain duty to assure him of the approach
of the tempest. Then she said:

"The colonel has fallen asleep...." and vanished.

"How does this please you?" asked Elizavéta Sergyéevna, indicating the
sky with a nod.--"I think we shall be obliged to spend the night here."

"If we do not incommode anyone...."

"That's just like a man!"--exclaimed Várenka staring at him with
amazement, and almost with pity.--

"You're always afraid of inconveniencing people, of being unjust ...
akh, oh Lord! Well, and you must find it tiresome to live ... always
on pins and needles! The way I think about it is--if you want to
inconvenience people, do it, if you want to be unjust, be unjust!..."

"And God Himself will decide who is in the right," interposed
Elizavéta Sergyéevna, smiling at her with a consciousness of her own
superiority.--"I think I must hide myself under the roof.... What are
you going to do?"

"We will watch the thunderstorm here,--won't we?" the girl asked,
addressing Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

He expressed his assent by a bow.

"Well, I am not fond of the grandiose phenomena of Nature.. if they are
likely to produce fever or a cold in the head. Moreover, one can enjoy
a thunderstorm through the window-panes ... aï!"

The lightning flashed; the gloom, rent by it, quivered, for a moment
revealing what it had engulfed, and then flowed together again. For
a couple of seconds, a crushing silence reigned, then the thunder
roared, like the discharge of a battery, and its rumblings rolled over
the house. The wind burst forth, and seizing the dust and rubbish
on the ground, and whirled around with everything it had gathered,
rising upward in a column. Straws, bits of paper, leaves flew about;
the martins clove the air with frightened squeaks, the foliage rustled
dully on the trees, on the iron roof of the house the dust could be
heard, giving rise to a noisy rattle.

Várenka watched this play of the storm from behind the jamb of the
door, and Ippolít Sergyéevitch, winking from the dust, stood behind
her. The porch was like a box, which is dark inside, but when the
lightning flashed, the girl's graceful figure was illuminated by a
bluish, spectral light.

"Look ... look!" cried Várenka, when the lightning rent the
thunder-cloud.... "did you see? The thunder-cloud seems to
smile--doesn't it? It greatly resembles a smile ... there are just such
surly and taciturn people--that sort of a man remains silent, keeps
silent for ever so long, and then, all of a sudden, he smiles:--his
eyes blaze, his teeth gleam.... And here comes the rain!"

On the roof the big, heavy drops of rain drummed, at long intervals, at
first, then closer and closer together, and, at last, with a roaring
noise.

"Let us go away..." said Ippolít Sergyéevitch "... you will get wet."

He found it awkward to stand so close to her, in that dense
darkness--awkward and disagreeable. And he thought, as he looked at her
neck:

"What if I were to kiss it?"

The lightnings flashed, lighting up half of the heaven, and by their
illumination Ippolít Sergyéevitch perceived that Várenka was waving
her arms, with cries of rapture, and standing, with her body leaning
backward, as though presenting her breast to the lightning. He seized
her from behind, by the waist, and almost laying his head on her
shoulder, he asked her, panting:

"What ... what ... is the matter with you?"

"Why, nothing!" she exclaimed with vexation, freeing herself from his
arms with a supple, powerful motion of her body.--"Good heavens, how
frightened you are ... and you a man!"

"I was alarmed for you," he said, in low tone, retreating into the
corner.

The contact with her seemed to burn his hands, and filled his breast
with inextinguishable fire of desire to embrace her, to embrace her
strongly, even to pain. He had lost his self-control, and he wanted to
quit the porch, and stand in the rain, where the big drops were lashing
the trees like scourges.

"I will go into the house," said he.

"Let us go," agreed Várenka with displeasure, and slipping noiselessly
past him, she went through the door.

"Ho, ho, ho!" the colonel greeted them.--"What? By order of the
commander of the elements you are arrested until further notice? Ho,
ho, ho!"

"This is a frightful thunderstorm," remarked Aunt Lutchítzky, with the
utmost seriousness, intently scanning the pale face of their guest.

"I do not like these mad fits of Nature!" said Elizavéta Sergyéevna,
with a scornful grimace on her cold face.--"Thunder-storms,
snow-storms;--why such a useless waste of a mass of energy?"

Ippolít Sergyéevitch, suppressing his emotion, hardly found the
strength to ask his sister calmly:

"Will it last long, do you think?"

"All night," Margarita Rodiónovna answered him.

"I think it will," assented his sister.

"You can't tear yourselves away from here!" declared Várenka, with a
laugh.

Polkánoff shuddered, feeling that there was something fatal in her
laugh.

"Yes, we shall be obliged to spend the night here," said Elizavéta
Sergyéevna.... "We cannot pass through the Kámoff thicket of young
trees, by night, without defacing the equipage ... by good luck...."

"There are plenty of chambers here," announced aunt Lutchítzky.

"Then ... I will beg you to excuse me! a thunderstorm has the most
shocking effect upon me!... I should like to know ... where I am to be
quartered ... I will go there, for a few minutes."

Ippolít's words, uttered in a low, broken voice, produced a general
alarm.

"Sal ammoniac!" boomed Margarita Rodiónovna, in her deep bass, and,
springing from her chair, she disappeared.

Várenka bustled about the room with astonishment written on her face,
and said to him:

"I'll show you directly ... I will assign you a place ... where it is
quiet...."

Elizavéta Sergyéevna was the most composed of them all, and asked him,
with a smile:

"Are you dizzy?"

And the colonel said, hoarsely:

"Fiddle-faddle! It will pass off! My comrade, Major Gortáloff, who was
killed by the Turks during a sortie, was a dashing fellow! Oh! a rare
fellow! A valiant young man! At Sístoff, he walked forward straight
on the bayonets, ahead of the soldiers, as calmly as though he were
leading a dance:--he hewed, slashed, shouted, broke his sword, seized a
club, and thrashed the Turks with that. He was a brave man, and there
aren't many such! But he, also, got nervous in a thunderstorm, like a
woman ... it was ridiculous! He turned pale, and reeled, as you do, and
cried 'akh,' and 'okh!' He was a hard drinker, and a jolly dog, twelve
vershóks tall[4] ... imagine how it became him!"

[4] A _vershók_ is 1 3/4 inches.--Translator.

Ippolít Sergyéevitch looked, and listened, made his excuses, calmed
them all, and cursed himself. His head really was swimming, and
when Margarita Rodiónovna thrust a smelling-bottle under his nose,
and commanded him: "Smell that!" ... he seized the salts, and began
inhaling the penetrating odor into his nostrils, feeling, that this
whole scene was comic, and was lowering him in Várenka's eyes.

The rain beat angrily against the window, the lightnings flashed in
their glare, the peals of thunder made the panes rattle in a frightened
way, and all this reminded the colonel of the uproar of battle.

"During the last Turkish campaign ... I don't remember where ... there
was just such a tumult as this. Thunder, a torrent of rain, lightning,
volleys of firing from the artillery, a scattered fire from the
infantry.... Lieutenant Vyákhireff took out a bottle of brandy, put the
neck in his lips, and--bul-bul-bul! And a bullet smashed the bottle to
flinders! The Lieutenant looked at the neck of the bottle in his hand,
and said: 'Devil take it, they are making war on bottles!' Ho, ho, ho!
But I said to him: 'You're mistaken, Lieutenant, the Turks are firing
at bottles, but it is you who are making war on bottles!' Ho, ho, ho!
Witty, wasn't it?"

"Do you feel better?" Aunt Lutchítzky asked Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

He thanked her, with clenched teeth, as he looked at them all
with mournfully-angry eyes, and remarked that Várenka was smiling
incredulously and with surprise at something which his sister was
whispering to her, with her ear bent toward her. At last he succeeded
in getting away from these people, and flinging himself on the divan in
the little chamber which had been assigned to him, he began to reduce
his emotions to order, to the sound of the rain.

Impotent wrath against himself struggled within him with the desire
to understand how it had come about, that he had lost the power of
self-control,--could the attraction toward that young girl be so deeply
seated within him? But he could not manage to settle down upon any one
thing, and pursue his thought to the end; a fierce tempest of excited
emotions was raging within him. At first he resolved, that he would
come to an explanation with her that very day, and immediately rejected
this resolve, when he remembered, that behind it stood the obligation
which he was reluctant to fulfil, of entering into definite relations
to Várenka, and, of course, he could not marry that beautiful monster!
He blamed himself for having gone so far in his infatuation for her,
and for having lacked boldness in his dealings with her. It seemed to
him, that she was entirely ready to give herself to him, and that she
was coldly playing with him, playing like a coquette. He called her
stupid, an animal, heartless, and answered himself, defending her. And
the rain dashed menacingly against the window, and the whole house
shook with the peals of thunder.

But there is no fire which does not die out! After a prolonged and
painful struggle, Ippolít Sergyéevitch succeeded in repressing himself
within the bounds of reason, and all his agitated emotions, beating a
retreat to some spot deep within his heart, gave way to confusion and
indignation at himself.

A young girl, irreparably spoiled by her abnormal surroundings,
inaccessible to the suggestions of sound sense, immovably steadfast
in her errors,--that strange young girl had turned him almost into an
animal, in the course of three months! And he felt himself crushed by
the disgrace of the fact. He had done all he could to render her human;
if he had not been able to do more, that was no fault of his. But
after he had done what he could, he ought to have gone away from her,
and he was to blame for not having taken his departure at the proper
time, and for having allowed her to evoke in him a shameful outburst of
sensuality.

"A less honorable man than myself would have been wiser than I, under
the given circumstances, I think." One unexpected thought stung him
painfully:

"Is it honor which restrains me? Perhaps, it is only weakness of
feeling? What if it is not feeling, but desire which agitates me
thus? Am I capable of loving, in general ... can I be a husband and a
father.. have I that within me which is required for those obligations?
Am I alive?--" As he meditated in this direction, he was conscious of a
coldness within him, and of something timid, which humiliated him.

He was soon summoned to supper.

Várenka greeted him with a searching glance, and the amiable query: "is
your headie better?"

"Yes, thank you...." he replied drily, seating himself at a distance
from her, and thinking to himself:

"She does not even know how to speak: 'is your headie better?' indeed!"

The colonel dozed, nodding his head, and sometimes snoring, all three
of the ladies sat in a row on the divan, and chatted about trifles. The
noise of the rain on the windows became more gentle, but that faint,
persistent sound clearly bore witness to the firm intention of the rain
to drench the earth for an interminably long time. The darkness stared
in at the windows, the room was close and the odor of kerosene from the
three lamps which were burning, mingling with the odor of the colonel,
increased the stifling atmosphere, and the nervous state of Ippolít
Sergyéevitch.

He looked at Várenka and reflected:

"She does not come near me ... why? I wonder whether Elizavéta ...
has been telling her some nonsense or other ... has been drawing
conclusions from her observations of me?"

In the dining-room, fat Thékla was bustling about. Her big eyes kept
peering into the drawing-room at Ippolít Sergyéevitch, who was silently
smoking a cigarette.

"My lady! Supper is ready...." she announced, with a sigh, slowly
presenting her figure in the drawing-room door.

"Let us go and eat ... Ippolít Sergyéevitch, if you please. Aunty, it
is not necessary to disturb papa, let him stay here and doze ... for if
he goes there, he will begin to drink again."

"That is sensible...." remarked Elizavéta Sergyéevna.

But Aunt Lutchítzky said, in a low voice, with a shrug of the shoulders:

"It's late in the day now, to think of that ... if he drinks, he'll
die all the sooner, but, on the other hand, he'll have some pleasure;
if he doesn't drink, he will live a year longer, but not so pleasantly."

"And that is sensible, also,..." remarked Elizavéta Sergyéevna.

At table, Ippolít Sergyéevitch sat beside Várenka, and noticed that the
girl's proximity was again arousing an agitation within him. He very
much desired to move so dose to her that he could touch her gown. And,
as he watched himself, according to his wont, he thought, that in his
infatuation for her there was much obstinacy of the flesh, but strength
of spirit....

"A withered heart!"--he cried bitterly to himself. And then he noticed,
almost with pride, that he was not afraid to speak the truth about
himself, and understood how to interpret every fluctuation of his "ego."

Engrossed with himself, he maintained silence.

At first Várenka addressed him frequently, but on receiving, in reply,
curt, monosyllabic words, she evidently lost all desire to converse
with him. Only after supper, when they were left entirely alone, did
she ask him simply:

"Why are you so depressed? Do you feel bored, or are you displeased
with me?"

He replied, that he did not feel depressed, much less was he displeased
with her.

"Then what is the matter with you?" she persisted.

"Nothing in particular, apparently ... but ... sometimes ... an excess
of attentions to a man tires him."

"An excess of attentions?" Várenka anxiously put a
counter-question.--"Whose? Papa's? For aunty has not been talking with
you."

He felt that he was blushing under this invulnerable artlessness, or
hopeless stupidity. But she, not waiting for his reply, suggested to
him, with a smile:

"Don't be like that, will you? Please! I have a dreadful dislike for
gloomy people.... Come, what do you think of this--let us play cards..
do you know how?"

"I play badly.. and, I must confess, that I am not fond of that form of
uselessly wasting time said Ippolít Sergyéevitch, feeling that he was
effecting a reconciliation with her.

"I don't like it either ... but what is one to do? You see how tiresome
it is here!" said the young girl bitterly.--"I know that you have
become as you are precisely because it is so tedious."

He began to assure her of the contrary, and the more he talked, the
more ardent did his words become, until, at last, before he knew what
he was doing, he wound up:

"If you like, I should not find it tiresome in a desert with you...."

"What am I to do for that?" she caught him up, and he perceived that
her wish to cheer him up was thoroughly sincere.

"You need do nothing,--" he replied, concealing deep within him the
reply which he would have liked to make.

"No, really, you came hither to rest, you have so much difficult work,
you require strength, and before your arrival, Liza said to me: 'You
and I will help the learned man to rest and divert himself....' But we
... what can I do? Really!... if I could get away from this tediousness
... I'd kiss you heartily!"

Things grew dark before his eyes, and all the blood flew to his heart
so stormily that he fairly reeled.

"Try it ... kiss me ... kiss me...." he said, in a low voice, as he
stood before her, without seeing her.

"Oho! So that's what you are like!" laughed Várenka, and vanished.

He hastened after her, and stopped short, clutching at the jamb of the
door, and his whole being yearned toward her.

A few seconds later he saw the colonel:--the old man was sleeping,
with his head resting on his shoulder, and snoring sweetly. It was
this sound which attracted Ippolít Sergyéevitch's attention. Then he
was compelled to convince himself that the monotonous and lugubrious
moaning was not resounding in his own breast, but outside the windows,
and that it was the rain weeping, and not his suffering heart. Then
anger flashed up within him.

"You are playing with me ... you are playing with me thus?" ... he
reiterated to himself, gritting his teeth, and he threatened her with
some humiliating chastisement. His breast was in a glow, but his feet
and his head stung him like sharp icicles.

Laughing merrily over something, the ladies entered, and, at the sight
of them, Ippolít Sergyéevitch inwardly pulled himself together. Aunt
Lutchítzky was laughing in a dull way, as though bubbles were bursting
somewhere in her chest. Várenka's face was animated by a roguish smile,
and Elizavéta Sergyéevna's laughter was condescendingly restrained.

"Perhaps they are laughing at me!" thought Ippolít Sergyéevitch.

The game of cards which Várenka had suggested did not take place, and
this afforded Ippolít Sergyéevitch the possibility of withdrawing
to his room, under the pretext of indisposition. As he left the
drawing-room, he felt three pairs of eyes fixed on his back, and knew
that they all expressed astonishment. He was not disconcerted by this,
being full of the desire to revenge himself on the naughty little
girl, to humiliate her, for having dared to indulge in such pranks, to
make her weep, and to gaze at her and laugh aloud at her tears. But
his feelings could not remain long at such a pitch of intensity, he
was accustomed to subject their fermentation to the power of reason,
and he never expressed them until they had cooled down. His vanity
was irritated to the point of suffering by the conviction that she
was playing with him: but, along with this, there again sprang up the
resolve, which had been suppressed by the recent scene, to pay off the
girl by utter neglect of her beauty. She must be made to feel of how
little consequence she was in his eyes,--it would be good for her, but
it must be a lesson, not vengeance, of course.

Such arguments always soothed him, but now there was in his breast
something which could not be put aside, which was oppressive, and he
simultaneously wished and did not wish to define this singular, almost
painful sensation.

"Damn all nameless sensations!" he exclaimed to himself.

But some drops of water, which fell from somewhere to the floor,
monotonously beat out:

"Tak ... tak...."

After sitting there an hour, in this state of conflict with himself in
the unsuccessful endeavor to comprehend what remained incomprehensible,
and was more powerful than all he did comprehend, he decided to go to
bed, and sleep, in order that he might depart on the morrow, free from
everything which so had worried and humiliated him. But, as he lay in
his bed, he involuntarily pictured to himself Várenka as he had beheld
her on the porch, with her arms uplifted, as though for an embrace,
with her bosom quivering with satisfaction at the flashing of the
lightning. And again he reflected, that if he had been bolder with her
... and then he stopped himself, and finished the thought thus:--then
he would have fastened about his neck a mistress who was indisputably
very beautiful, but frightfully inconvenient, burdensome, and stupid,
with the character of a wildcat, and with the coarsest sensuality, that
was certain!...

But all at once, in the midst of these thoughts, illuminated by a
surmise or a foreboding, he trembled all over, leaped swiftly to his
feet, and running to the door of his room, he unlocked it. Then,
smiling, he again lay down in his bed, and began to stare at the door,
thinking to himself, with hope and rapture:

"That does happen ... that does happen...."

He had read, somewhere, of its having happened once: she had entered
during the night, and had surrendered herself, asking nothing,
demanding nothing, simply for the sake of the sensation. Várenka..
assuredly, she had something in common with the heroine of that
story,--she was capable of acting thus. In her charming exclamation:
"So that's what you are like!"--there had, perhaps, rung for him, a
promise, which he had not understood And now, suddenly, she would come,
clad in white, all trembling with shame and desire!

He rose from his bed several times, lent an ear to the stillness of the
house, to the noise of the rain against the windows, and cooled his
fevered body. But everything was quiet, and the longed-for sound of
footsteps did not ring through the stillness.

"How will she enter?"--he said to himself, and he pictured her to
himself, on the threshold of the door, with a proud resolute face.--Of
course, she would give her beauty to him proudly! It was the gift
of an empress. But perhaps she would stand before him with drooping
head, abashed, modest, with tears in her eyes. Or, she would make her
appearance with a laugh, with a quiet laugh, at his torments, which
she knew, which she always noted, though she never showed him that she
noticed them, in order to trouble him, and to amuse herself.

In this condition, verging on the delirium of madness, depicting
sensuous scenes in his imagination, irritating his nerves, Ippolít
Sergyéevitch did not notice that the rain had ceased, and that the
stars were peering in through his window, from a clear sky. He was
awaiting the sound of footsteps, a woman's footsteps, which should
bring him pleasure. But they did not ring out through the slumberous
stillness. At times, and only for a brief moment, the hope of embracing
the young girl died out in him; then he heard, in the hurried beating
of his heart, a reproach to himself, and he recognized the fact that
his recent condition was one that was foreign to him, was disgraceful
to him, both painful and repulsive. But the inner world of a man is too
complicated and varied to permit of any one thing persistently holding
all aspirations in equilibrium, and therefore, in the life of every
man, there is an abyss, into which he will fall without warning, when
the time for it arrives. And the cautious, by the bitter irony of the
powers which govern life, fall the most deeply, and injure themselves
the most painfully.

He raved until morning dawned, tortured by passion, and when the sun
had already risen, footsteps did make themselves heard. He sat up in
bed, trembling, with swollen eyes, and waited, and felt that when she
did make her appearance, he would not be able to utter a single word
of gratitude to her. But the steps which were approaching his door were
slow, heavy....

And now the door opened softly ... Ippolít Sergyéevitch threw himself
back feebly on his pillow, and, closing his eyes, remained motionless.

"Have I waked you up? I want your boots ... and your trousers ..."
said fat Thékla, in a sleepy voice, as she approached the bed, with
the slowness of an ox. Sighing, yawning, and knocking against the
furniture, she gathered up his clothing, and went out, leaving behind
her an odor of the kitchen.

He lay there for a long time, broken and annihilated, indifferently
watching in himself the slow disappearance of the fragments of those
images which had racked his nerves all night.

Again the peasant woman entered, with his clothing, well-brushed, laid
it down, and went out, panting heavily. He began to dress himself,
without stopping to consider why it was necessary to do it so early.
Then, without reflecting, he decided to go and take a bath in the
river, and this animated him, to a certain degree. Treading softly
over the floors, he passed the room in which the colonel's snore was
booming, then the door of another chamber. He paused, for an instant,
before it, but after bestowing an attentive glance upon it, he felt
sure that it was not the one. And, at last, half asleep, he emerged
into the garden, and walked down the narrow path, knowing that it would
lead him to the river.

The weather was clear and fresh, the rays of the sun had not yet lost
the rosy hues of dawn. The starlings were chattering vivaciously with
one another as they pecked at the cherries. On the leaves, drops of dew
quivered like diamonds; falling to the earth, in joyous, sparkling
tears, they vanished. The earth was damp, but it had swallowed up all
the moisture which had fallen during the night, and nowhere was there
mud or a puddle visible:--Everything round about was pure, and fresh
and new--as though everything had been born that night, and everything
was quiet and motionless, as though it had not yet become used to life
on the earth, and, beholding the sun for the first time, in silent
astonishment it was admiring its marvellous beauty.

Ippolít Sergyéevitch gazed about him, and the shroud of mire which
had clothed his mind and soul during the night that was past began
to release him from its folds, making way for the pure breath of the
new-born day, filled with sweet and refreshing perfumes.

Here was the river, still rose-colored and gold in the rays of the
sun. The water, slightly turbid from the rain, faintly reflected the
verdure of the banks in its waves. Somewhere, close at hand, a fish was
splashing, and this splashing, and the songs of the birds were the only
sounds which broke the stillness of the morning. Had it not been damp,
he might have lain down on the ground, beside the river, under the
canopy of verdure, and remained there until his soul had regained its
composure from the emotions which he had experienced.

Ippolít Sergyéevitch walked along the shore, fantastically carved into
sandy promontories, and tiny bays surrounded with verdure, and a new
picture opened out before him almost every half-dozen paces. As he
strolled thus noiselessly, on the very edge of the water, he knew that
new and ever new scenes awaited him. And he scrutinized in detail the
outlines of every bay, and the forms of the trees, which bent over
them, as though desirous of ascertaining with certainty, precisely how
the details of this picture differed from those of the one he had just
left behind.

And, all at once, he came to a halt, dazzled.

Before him, up to her waist in the water, stood Várenka, with her head
bent over, squeezing her wet hair with her hands. Her body was rosy
with the cold and the rays of the sun, drops of water glistened on it
like silver scales. They trickled slowly from her shoulders and breast,
and fell into the water, and before falling, each drop glittered for a
long time in the sunlight, as though it did not wish to leave the body
which it had washed. And the water was streaming from her hair, passing
through the rosy fingers of the young girl with a tender dripping sound
which smote sweetly on the ear.

He gazed at her in ecstasy, with reverence, as at something holy--so
pure and harmonious was the beauty of this young girl, in the blooming
freshness of her youth, and he felt no other desire, save that of
gazing upon her. Above her head, on the branch of a hazel-bush, a
nightingale was sobbing and singing, but for him, the whole light of
the sun, and all sounds were concentrated in that young girl, amid
the waves. And the waves softly stroked her body, noiselessly and
caressingly passing around it, in their peaceful flow.

But the good is as brief as the beautiful is rare, and what he beheld,
he beheld for a few seconds only, for the girl suddenly raised her
head, and with an angry cry, she swiftly dropped into the water up to
her neck.

This movement of hers was reflected in his heart--it seemed to fall,
shuddering, into a cold which cramped him. The girl gazed at him with
flashing eyes, and a frown of anger intersected her brow, distorting
her face with fear, scorn and wrath. He heard her indignant voice:

"Begone ... go away! What are you doing? Aren't you ashamed of
yourself!..."

But her words floated to him from somewhere in the distance, dimly,
forbidding him nothing. And he bent over the water, stretching out
his arms, hardly able to stand on his feet, which were trembling with
his efforts to support his unnaturally-curved body, flaming with the
torture of passion. The whole of him, every fibre of his being, yearned
toward her, and now, at last, he fell upon his knees, which almost
touched the water.

She cried out in anger, made a movement to swim away, but halted,
saying in a low, agitated voice:

"Go away ... I will not tell anyone...."

"I cannot...." he tried to answer her, but his trembling lips refused
to utter the words, for they had no power to say anything.

"Have a care ... you! Go away!"--screamed the girl.--"You scoundrel!
You base man...."

What were these cries to him? He gazed into her eyes with his own drily
burning eyes, and kneeling there, he waited for her, and he would have
waited, had he known, that someone was brandishing an axe over his
head, to smash his skull.

"Oh! you ... disgusting dog ... come, I'll give it to you...."
whispered the young girl, with loathing, and suddenly dashed out of the
water toward him.

She grew before his eyes, grew, as she dazzled him with her
beauty,--and now she stood complete, to her very toes, before him,
very beautiful and wrathful; he saw this, and awaited her with eager
perturbation. Now she bent toward him ... he flourished his arms, but
embraced the air.

And at that moment, a blow in the face from something damp and heavy
blinded him, and he fell backward.

He began swiftly to rub his eyes--damp sand was under his fingers,
and upon his head, shoulders, and cheeks blows rained down. But the
blows did not evoke pain in him, but some other sentiment, and as
he shielded his head with his hands, he did so mechanically rather
than consciously. He heard angry sobs.... At last, overturned by a
powerful blow in the breast, he fell on his back. He was not beaten
again. The bushes rustled and grew still.... Incredibly long were
the seconds of sullen silence which ensued after that rustling died
out. The man still lay there motionless, crushed by his disgrace, and
filled with an instinctive longing to hide himself from his shame, he
pressed closely to the earth. When he opened his eyes, he perceived the
infinitely-deep, blue sky, and it seemed to him that it was swiftly
retreating further away from him, higher, higher ... and this made him
breathe so heavily that he groaned, and slowly sank away somewhere,
where there were no sensations.

... Thus he lay, until he felt cold; when he opened his eyes he saw
Várenka bending over him. Through her fingers tears were dripping upon
his face. He heard her voice:

... "Well--is this nice?... How will you go to the house in this
state?... all dirty, muddy, wet, and torn ... Ekh, you stupid!... Do say
that you tumbled into the water from the bank.... Aren't you ashamed of
yourself? For, you know, I might have killed you ... if I had happened
to get hold of something else."

And she said a great deal more to him, but all this did not, in the
least, diminish or augment what he felt. And he made no reply to her
words, until she told him that she was going. Then he asked softly:

"You?... I shall not see you ... anymore?"

And when he asked this he remembered and understood that he ought to
say to her: "Forgive me...."

But he did not manage to say it, because, with a wave of her hand, she
vanished among the trees.

He sat, with his back propped against the trunk of a tree, or
something, and stared dully at the turbid water of the river as it
flowed past his feet.

And it flowed slowly ... slowly ... slowly on....



COMRADES



I


The hot July sun shone dazzlingly over Smólkina, flooding its aged huts
with an abundant torrent of brilliant rays. There was an especially
great amount of sunlight on the roof of the village Elder's hut, which
had recently been covered afresh with smoothly planed boards, yellow
and fragrant. It was Sunday, and almost the entire population of the
village had come out into the street, thickly overgrown with grass, and
sprinkled with hillocks of dried mud. In front of the Elder's hut, a
large group of peasant men and women had assembled, some were sitting
on the earth, which was banked up around the foundation of the hut,
others flat on the ground, others, still, were standing; small children
were chasing one another in and out among them, every now and then
receiving from their elders angry shouts and raps.

The centre of the throng was a tall man, with long, drooping mustaches.
From his light-brown face, covered with a thick, blue mark of beard
and a network of deep wrinkles, from the locks of gray hair which hung
down beneath a dirty straw hat,--one might judge that this man was
fifty years of age. He was staring at the ground, and the nostrils of
his large, cartilaginous nose were quivering, and when he raised his
head, casting a glance at the windows of the Elder's hut, his eyes
became visible,--large, sad, even gloomy eyes, which were deeply sunken
in their orbits, while his thick eyebrows threw a shadow over the
dark pupils. He was clad in the cinnamon-brown, tattered cassock of
a monastic lay-brother, which barely covered his knees, and was girt
about him with a rope. On his back was a canvas wallet, in his right
hand, a long staff with an iron ferrule, with his left hand he clutched
at his breast. The people round about stared at him suspiciously,
sneeringly, with scorn, and, at last, with plain delight, that they had
succeeded in catching the wolf before he had managed to do any damage
to their flock. He had passed through the village, and, approaching
the window of the Elder's hut, he had asked for a drink. The Elder
had given him kvas[1] and had talked with him. But the wayfarer,
contrary to the habit of pilgrims, had answered very reluctantly....
The Elder had asked him if he had a passport, and it turned out that
he had not. And they had detained the wayfarer, resolved to send him
to the District Council. The Elder had selected the sótsky[2] as his
escort, and now, inside his hut, he was giving the latter instructions
concerning the journey, leaving the prisoner in the midst of the crowd,
who were making merry at his expense.

[1] See footnote on p. 13.--Translator.

[2] A sort of police-captain, elected by the peasants.--Translator.

As the prisoner had been brought to a halt at the trunk of a white
willow tree, so he remained standing, with his curved back resting
against it.

But now, on the porch of the hut, a wall-eyed old man, with a foxy
face, and a small, gray, wedge-shaped beard, made his appearance. He
lowered his booted feet sedately from step to step, and his round
little belly waggled solidly under his long shirt of sarpinka.[3] And
over his shoulders peered the square, bearded face of the policeman.

[3] See footnote on p. 242.

"You understand, Efímushka?" the Elder asked the policeman.

"What is there to understand? I understand all about it. That means,
that I, the policeman of Smólkina, am bound to conduct this man to the
Rural Chief, and--that's all there is to it!"--and having uttered his
speech with distinct articulation, and with comical importance, the
policeman winked at the spectators.

"And the document?"

"The document--lives in my breast."

"Well, all right!" said the Elder argumentatively, and he added, as he
scratched his ribs violently:

"Then go ahead, and God be with you!"

"Start up! Shall we march on, father?" the policeman smilingly asked
the prisoner.

"You might provide a conveyance," replied the latter, in a low tone to
the policeman's question. The Elder grinned.

"A con-ve-eyance! Get out with you! There are lots of tramps like you
cropping up in the fields and villages ... there wouldn't be horses
enough to go around for them all. So trot along on your own legs.
That's the way!"

"Never mind, father, we'll walk!"--said the policeman encouragingly....
"Do you think it's far from us? With God's blessing, not more than
twenty versts! Yes, and it can't be as much as that. You and I will
soon roll there. And there you can rest yourself."

"In the cooler..."[4] explained the Elder.

[4] This is not arbitrary slang, but a literal translation of the word,
_kholódnaya_--the cooler, or cold place.--Translator.

"That's nothing," the policeman hastened to remark ... "When a
man's tired he can rest even in jail. And then--the cooler--it's
refreshing ... after a hot day--it's very nice indeed there!"

The prisoner cast a surly glance at his escort--the latter smiled
frankly and cheerfully.

"Come on, now, respected father! Farewell, Vasíl Gavrílitch! Go along!"

"The Lord be with you, Efímushka!--Keep a sharp lookout!"

"Look as sharp--as though you had three eyes!" put in a young fellow in
the crowd.

"Lo-ook here now! Am I a baby, I'd like to know?"

And they set off, keeping close to the huts, in order to walk in the
strip of shade. The man in the cassock went first, with the loose but
swinging gait of a pedestrian accustomed to walking. The policeman,
with a stout cudgel in his hand, walked behind.

Efímushka was a small peasant, low of stature, squarely built, with a
broad, kindly face, framed in a light-brown beard which fell in tufts,
and began just below his clear, gray eyes. He was almost always smiling
at something, displaying strong, yellow teeth, and wrinkling the skin
between his eyebrows, as though he were on the point of sneezing. He
was clad in a long, full smock, whose skirts were tucked into his
girdle, in order that they might not entangle his legs, on his head was
stuck a dark-green cap without a visor, which was pulled down over his
brows in front, and bore a strong resemblance to a prison-cap.

His companion walked on, paying no attention to him, as though he were
not even conscious of his presence behind him. Their way led along a
narrow country road; it wound, in serpentine curves, through a waving
sea of rye, and the shadows of the travellers crept over the gold of
the ears.

On the horizon the crest of a forest shone blue, on the wayfarers'
left, the sown fields stretched out into the endless distance, and
among them la; the dark blot of a village, and beyond it, again, were
fields, which vanished in pale-blue mist.

On their right, from behind a clump of willows, the spire of a belfry,
still surrounded by scaffoldings, and not yet painted, pierced the blue
sky--it gleamed so brilliantly in the sun, that it was painful to look
at.

Larks were trilling in the sky, corn-flowers smiled among the rye, and
the weather was hot--almost stifling. The dust flew up from under the
travellers' feet.

Efímushka began to feel bored. Being a great chatterer by nature,
he could not hold his tongue for long, and clearing his throat, he
suddenly struck up, in a falsetto voice:

    "Hey--ekh--the-ere, and why-y is thi-i-is ...
    An' why do-oth sor-row gnaw my heart?"

"If your voice gives out, blow it up to its limits! Hm--ye-es ... but I
did use to sing ... The Víshenki teacher used to say,--'come on, now,
Efímushka, strike up!' And he and I burst into a flood of song! he was
a just young fellow...."

"Who was he?" inquired the man in the cassock, with a bass voice.

"Why, the Víshenki teacher...."

"Víshenki--was that his name?"

"Víshenki is the name of a village, brother. But the teacher's name
was Pável Mikháïlitch. He was a first-class man. He died three years
ago...."

"Was he young?"

"He was under thirty...."

"What did he die of?...."

"Of grief, I suppose."

Efímushka's companion cast a sidelong glance at him, and burst out
laughing.

"You see, my dear man, this is the way it was--he taught, he taught
seven years in succession, and then he began to cough. He coughed, and
coughed, and began to grieve.... Well, and with the grief, of course,
he began to drink vódka. But Father Alexéi did not like him, and
when he took to drink, that Father Alexéi sent off a document to the
town--thus and so, says he--the teacher drinks, and 'tis nothing but
a scandal. Then they sent another document from the town, in reply,
and a woman teacher. She was a very long woman, and bony, with a huge
nose. Well Pável Mikháïlitch sees that his business is done for. He was
grieved; 'here I've taught and taught,' says he ... 'akh, you devils!'
He went from the school straight to the hospital, and five days later,
he gave up his soul to God.... That's all...."

They walked on for some time in silence. The forest drew nearer to
the pedestrians with every step, growing before their very eyes, and
turning green from blue.

"Are we going through the forest?" inquired Efímushka's companion.

"We shall cut across the corner of it, about half a verst. But why? Hey?
What are you up to? I perceive that you are a goose, respected father!"

And Efímushka laughed, and wagged his head.

"What do you mean?" inquired the prisoner.

"Why, nothing. Akh, you stupid!" Shall we go through the forest?9 says
he. You're simple, my dear man, nobody with any sense would have asked
that question. Any sensible man would have walked straight up to the
forest, and then...."

"What?"

"Nothing! I see through you, brother. Ekh, you dear, sly humbug!
No--you drop that idea--about the forest! Do you think you can get the
better of me? Why, I could manage three such as you, and I could whip
you with one hand, while the other was bound to my body ... Do you
understand?"

"Yes! You fool!--" said the prisoner, curtly and significantly.

"What? Did I guess you?"--said Efímushka triumphantly.

"Blockhead! What have you guessed?" said the prisoner, with a wry smile.

"About the forest ... I understand!... 'I,' says he--that is
you,--'when we come to the forest, will cut him down'--meaning
me,--'I'll cut him down, and make off across the fields, and the
forests?' Isn't that it?"

"You're stupid ..." said the man who had been divined, shrugging his
shoulders.--"Come now, where could I go to?"

"Well, wherever you please--that's your affair."

"But where?--" Efímushka's companion was either angry, or was very
anxious to hear from his escort precisely where he could go.

"Wherever you please, I tell you!" repeated Efímushka calmly.

"I have no place to run to, brother, none!"--said his companion quietly.

"Oh, co-ome now!" ejaculated the escort incredulously, and even waved
his hand. "There's always some place to run to. The earth is big.
There's always room for one man on it."

"Well, what do you mean? Do you mean that I am to run away?"--inquired
the prisoner with curiosity, and he laughed.

"What a man you are! You're very fine! Is that proper? If you run away,
whom can they put in prison, instead of you? They'll put me there in
your place. No, I only said that by way of talking...."

"You're a blessed fool.. yet you seem a good sort of peasant,--" said
Efímushka's travelling-companion with a sigh. Efímushka hastened to
agree with him.

"That's just what some folks do call me, a blessed fool ... and
as for my being a good sort of a peasant--that's true too. I'm
straightforward, that's the chief thing. Some folks always act in
a roundabout way, with guile, but what's that to me? I'm a man who
is alone in the world. If you're guileful, you die, and if you live
uprightly, you die. So I try to be as straightforward as possible."

"You do well!"--remarked Efímushka's companion indifferently.

"Why not? Why should I begin to squirm in my soul, when I'm alone,
that's all there is to it. I'm a free man, brother. As I like, so I
live, I pass my life according to the law.... Ye-es.... And what is
your name?"

"My name? Well.. call me Pável Ivánoff, if you like...."

"Very well! Are you an ecclesiastic?"

"N-no...."

"Well, now? Why, I thought you were...."

"Did you think so from my dress?"

"Yes, exactly so! You're for all the world like a runaway monk, or a
disfrocked priest.... But your face doesn't suit, in the face you look
more like a soldier.... God knows what sort of a man you are"--and
Efímushka cast an inquisitive glance at the pilgrim. The latter sighed,
adjusted his hat on his head, mopped his perspiring brow, and asked the
policeman:

"Do you smoke tobacco?"

"Oh, mercy me! Of course I smoke!"

He pulled a dirty tobacco-pouch out of his bosom, and bending his head,
but not halting, he began to stuff tobacco into a clay pipe.

"There now, smoke that!"--The prisoner stopped, and bending toward
a match which his escort lighted, he drew in his cheeks. Blue smoke
floated up into the air.

"From what class do you come? Are you a petty burgher?"

"A noble...." said the prisoner briefly, and spat to one side, on the
ears of rye, already clothed in a golden glow.

"E-eh! That's clever! Then how do you come to be going about without a
passport?"

"Why, I'm just roaming."

"Well--well! That's practical! Your nobility is accustomed to this
wolfs life, I guess? E-ekh, you unfortunate!"

"Well, that will do ... stop your chatter,"--said the unfortunate
curtly.

But Efímushka, with growing curiosity and sympathy, scrutinized the
passportless man, and wagging his head thoughtfully, he went on:

"A-aï! How Fate does play with a man, when you come to think of it!
How, I suppose it is true that you are a nobleman, because you carry
yourself so magnificently. Have you been living long in this manner?"

The man with the magnificent carriage cast a surly glance at Efímushka,
and waved him off with his hand, as he would have treated a troublesome
wasp.

"Drop it, I say! Why are you persisting, like a woman?"

"Now, don't you get angry!"--remarked Efímushka soothingly. "I'm
speaking with pure motives ... I have a very kind heart...."

"Well, that's lucky for you ... But your tongue wags
incessantly--that's unlucky for me."

"Well, all right! I can hold my tongue ... a man can hold his tongue
if people don't want to listen to his conversation. But you're getting
angry without any cause.... Is it my fault that you have been compelled
to live the life of a vagabond?"

The prisoner halted, and set his teeth so tightly, that his cheek-bones
stood out like two acute angles, and the gray bristles on them stood
on end. He eyed Efímushka from head to foot, with eyes puckered up and
blazing with wrath.

But before Efímushka observed this pantomime, he began again to cover
the ground with long strides.

On the countenance of the loquacious policeman lay an impress of
pensiveness. He stared upward, at the spot whence the trills of the
larks poured forth, and whistled to them through his teeth, brandishing
his cudgel in time with his steps. They reached the edge of the forest.
It stood like a dark, motionless wall--not a sound was wafted from it
to greet the travellers. The sun was already setting, and its slanting
rays dyed the crests of the trees with crimson and gold. From the trees
breathed forth a fragrant dampness, the twilight, and concentrated
silence, which filled the forest gave birth to a feeling of awe.

When a forest stands before one's eyes, dark and motionless, when it
is completely submerged in mysterious stillness, and every tree seems
to be listening keenly to something--then the forest appears to be
full of something living, which is only temporarily keeping quiet. And
one waits, with the expectation that the next moment something vast
and incomprehensible to human understanding will emerge from it, will
emerge, and begin to speak in a mighty voice about the great mysteries
of Nature's creation....



II.


On reaching the edge of the forest, Efímushka and his companion decided
to take a rest, and seated themselves on the grass, near a large oak
stump. The prisoner slowly drew the wallet from his shoulders, and
indifferently inquired of the policeman:

"Would you like some bread?"

"If you give it, I'll chew it," replied Efímushka, with a smile.

And so they began, in silence, to chew their bread. Efímushka ate
slowly, sighing all the while, and gazing off somewhere into the
distance, across a field on his left, but his companion was entirely
engrossed in the process of satisfying his hunger, ate fast, and
munched noisily, measuring his crust of bread with his eyes. The field
darkened, the grain had already lost its golden hue, and had become
rosy-yellow, tufts of dark clouds crept up the sky from the southwest,
and shadows fell from them upon the plain,--fell, and crept over the
ears of grain to the forest, where sat the two dark human figures. And
the trees, also, cast dark shadows on the earth, and from the shadow
sadness breathed upon the soul.

"I thank thee, oh Lord!--" exclaimed Efímushka, gathering up from the
skirts of his smock the crumbs of bread, and licking them from his palm
with his tongue. "The Lord has fed me--no one saw it, and he who saw
it, took no offence! Friend! Shall we sit here a little hour? Shall we
get to the cooler soon enough?"

The friend shook his head.

"Well, then, see here.... This place is very beautiful, it's a
memorable spot to me ... Yonder, to the left, the manor of the
Tutchkóffs used to stand...."

"Where?" ... asked the prisoner quickly, turning in the direction in
which Efímushka waved his hand....

"Why, yonder--beyond the point of forest ... Everything around here
used to belong to them. They were the richest of gentry, but after the
Emancipation they went to decay.... I used to belong to them,--all of
us used to be their serfs. It was a big family ... The Colonel himself
was Alexánder Nikítitch Tutchkóff. There were children: four sons--what
has become of them all now? It's as if people were blown away by the
wind, like the leaves in autumn. Only Iván Alexándrovitch remains,--I'm
taking you to him now, he's our Rural Chief ... He's an old man...."

The prisoner began to laugh. He laughed in a low tone, with a peculiar
sort of internal laughter,--his chest and belly heaved, but his face
remained immovable, only through his grinning teeth broke forth dull
sounds, resembling a bark.

Efímushka shrivelled up apprehensively, and drawing his cudgel nearer
to his hand, he asked him:

"What's the matter with you? Have you got a fit, or what?... hey?"

"Nothing ... it will pass off," said the prisoner spasmodically but
amiably. "You were telling me, you know...."

"Well, ye-es! So you see, these Tutchkóff gentry were great folks, and
now they are gone.... Some have died, others have disappeared, and left
no trace behind them.... There was one in particular...? the youngest
of them all. His name was Víctor ... Vítya. He and I were chums.... At
the time when the Emancipation was proclaimed, he and I were fourteen
years old.... What a boy he was, may the Lord remember his soul for
good! Pure as a brook! Like it he streamed on all day long, and
rippled like it.... Where is he now? Is he alive or not?"

"How was he so good?" his companion softly asked Efímushka.

"In every way!"--exclaimed Efímushka.--"In beauty, brains, kind
heart.... Akh, you strange man! my darling, my ripe berry! you ought
to have seen us two in those days ... aï, aï, aï! What games we
played, how merry life was,--the sweetest of the sweet! He used to
shout--'Efímka![1]--let's go hunting!' He had a gun,--his father gave
it to him on his saint's day,--and I used to carry the gun. And we
would ramble about here in the forest for one day, two days, three
days! When we got home, he got a scolding and I got a thrashing;
and, behold, the next day, it was again: 'Efímka! let's go after
mushrooms!--' He and I killed birds by the thousand! We gathered
puds[2] of mushrooms! He used to catch butterflies and beetles, and
stick them on pins, in little boxes. It was a busy time! He taught me
to read and write ... 'Efímka,' says he, 'I'll teach you. Go ahead!--'
Well, and so I began. 'Say A,' says he! I yell--'A-A!' We laugh! At
first I looked on the matter as a joke--what does a peasant want with
reading and writing? Well, and he exhorted me: 'Your mind is given to
you, you fool, so that you may learn.... If you know how to read and
write,' says he, 'you'll know how a man must live, and where to seek
the truth.' ... Of course, a little child is apt, evidently he had
heard that sort of speech from his elders, and began to talk like that
himself.... It was all nonsense, of course.... That sort of knowledge
is in the heart, and the heart will point out about the right....
It--the heart--is quick-sighted. Well, and so he taught me, and he got
so interested in that matter, that he wouldn't let me rest! I was worn
out! I entreated him! 'Vítya,' says I, 'reading and writing are beyond
my power, I can't conquer them,' says I. Then ho-ow he did roar at me!?
I'll thrash you with papa's kazák whip,--learn your lesson!--' 'Akh,
have mercy! I'll learn....' Once I ran away from my lesson. I just
jumped up and took to my heels! Then he hunted me all day long, with
his gun--he wanted to shoot me. He said to me afterward--' if I had
met you that day,' says he, 'I'd have shot you!' You see what a sharp
fellow he was! Inflexible, fiery--a real gentleman.... He was fond of
me; he had a flaming soul.... Once my daddy decorated my back with
the reins, and when he, that Vítya, saw it, he came to our hut,--and
my heavens!--what a row! he turned all pale, and shook all over, and
clenched his fists, and wanted to go after daddy in the loft! 'How
dared you do it?' says he. Daddy says--'I'm his father! Aha!--' 'Well,
very good, father, I won't come to an agreement with you, until your
back is just like Efímka's.' He burst out crying after these words and
ran away.... Well, and what do you say to that, father? For he kept
his word. Evidently, he instigated the house-servants, or something of
that sort, only, one day daddy came home grunting; he tried to take off
his shirt, but it had dried fast to his back.... Father was very angry
with me that time--'all on account of you,' says he, 'I'm suffering,
you nobleman's toady.' And he gave me a healthy licking. But as for my
being a nobleman's toady, he was wrong about that,--I wasn't anything
of the sort...."

[1] Efímushka and Efímka are both diminutives of
Efím,--Euthymus.--Translator.

[2] A _pud_ is thirty-six pounds.--Translator.

"That's true, Efímka, you were not!" said the prisoner in confirmation,
and trembled all over. "It's immediately apparent that you could not
be a nobleman's toady," he added rather hastily.

"Exactly so!" exclaimed Efímushka ... "I simply loved him, that Vítya
... He was just the sort of a child whom everyone loved,--and not I
alone.... He used to make various remarks ... I don't remember what
they were, more than thirty years have passed since those days--Akh,
oh Lord! where is he now? I think, that if he is still alive, he must
be either occupying a very lofty place, or ... be seething in the very
gulf of misery.... Such is human life! It boils and boils, and nothing
sensible ever comes of it ... And people disappear ... and one feels
sorry for the people, deadly sorry!--" Efímushka, sighing heavily, hung
his head upon his breast. The silence lasted for a minute.

"And are you sorry for me?" asked the prisoner merrily. Merrily is
the only way to describe his manner of asking, his whole face was
illuminated by such a fine, kind smile ...

"Yes, you queer man!--" exclaimed Efímushka,--"how can I help being
sorry for you? What are you, when you stop to think about it? If you
tramp about in this way, evidently, it is because you have nothing
of your own on earth, neither nook nor chip ... But perhaps you
are bearing a great sin with you--who knows? you're an unfortunate
man--that's the only word for it...."

"Exactly so,--" said the prisoner.

And again they fell silent. The sun had set now, and the shadows had
grown more dense. The air smelled of damp earth, and flowers, and
forest mould ... They sat for a long time, thus silent.

"Well, however beautiful it is here, we must go on ... We have still
eight versts to walk.... Come on there, father, get up!"

"Let us sit a little longer,--" entreated the father.

"Well, I have no objection, I'm fond of being near the forest by night
myself ... Only, when shall we get to the Rural Chief? He'll scold
me--tell me I'm late."

"Never mind, he won't scold...."

"Do you mean to speak a word for me?--" grinned the policeman.

"Yes."

"You don't say so?"

"Why not?"

"You're a joker! He'll pepper you!"

"Will he thrash me?"

"He's fierce! And clever--he'll give you a whack in the ear, and it
will be as good as a scythe through your legs."

"Well, we'll give him as good as he sends," said the prisoner
confidently, tapping his escort on the shoulder in a friendly way.

This was familiar, and Efímushka did not like it. Look at it as you
might, he was one of the authorities, and that goose must not forget
that Efímushka had his brass shield of office in his breast. Efímushka
rose to his feet, took his stick in his hand, hung the shield outside,
in the very middle of his breast, and said sternly:

"Get up, come along!"

"I won't!" said the prisoner.

Efímushka was abashed, and, with starting eyes, he made no reply for a
minute, not understanding how the prisoner had come to be such a jester
all of a sudden.

"Well, don't loll there, come along!" he repeated more gently.

"I won't come along!" repeated the prisoner, with decision.

"Do you mean that you won't come with me?" shouted Efímushka, in wrath
and amazement.

"Exactly that. I want to spend the night here with you ... Come now,
light a fire."

"I'll teach you to spend the night! I'll light such a fire in your
ribs--I'll make it pleasant for you!" menaced Efímushka. But, in the
depths of his soul, he was amazed. The man said, "I won't go"--but he
offered no opposition, did not begin a fight, but simply lay still on
the ground, and nothing more. What was he to do?

"Don't yell, Efím,--" the prisoner calmly advised him.

Again Efímushka was reduced to silence, and shifting from foot to foot,
over his prisoner, he stared at him with bursting eyes. And the man
stared at him, stared and smiled. Efímushka pondered heavily what he
was to do next.

And what had made this vagabond, hitherto so surly and cross, now
suddenly turn so amiable? And what if he were to fall upon him, bind
his hands, give him a cut or two across the throat, and so end it all?
And in the very severest tone of authority which he had at his command,
Efímushka said:

"Well, you burnt-out scrap, see here--you've put on airs enough, and
I've had enough of it! Get up! Or I'll bind you, and then you'll go,
never fear! Understand? Well? Look out--I'll thrash you!"

"Me, do you mean?" laughed the prisoner.

"Whom do you suppose?"

"You, Efím Grýzloff, will thrash Vítya Tutchkóff?"

"Akh--you're firing high!--" exclaimed Efímushka, in
astonishment,--"but who are you, anyway? What sort of an exhibition are
you going through with me?"

"Come, stop shouting, Efímushka, it's time you recognized me,--" said
the prisoner, with a calm smile, and rose to his feet,--"won't you
exchange greetings!"

Efímushka staggered back from the hand which was extended to him, and
stared, with all his eyes, into the face of his prisoner. Then his lips
quivered, and his whole face wrinkled up....

"Viktor Alexándrovitch, and is it really you?" he asked in a whisper.

"If you like--I will show you my papers? But the best way of all is--to
recall old times.... Come now ... how you fell into the wolfs hole, in
the Ramén pine woods? And how I climbed a tree for a bird's nest, and
hung head downward from a bough? And how we stole cream from the old
dairy-woman, Petróvna? And the fairy-tales she used to tell us?"

Efímushka sat down heavily on the ground, and began to laugh in a
confused manner.

"Do you believe me?" the prisoner asked him, and sat down beside him,
gazing into his face, and laying his hand on the other's shoulder.
Efímushka remained dumb. It had become completely dark around them.
A confused rustling and whispering arose in the forest. Far away,
somewhere in the underbrush, a nocturnal bird was moaning. A dark cloud
crept over the forest, with an almost imperceptible movement.

"Well, Efím,--aren't you glad to see me? Or are you glad? Ekh, you ...
saintly soul! You are exactly as you were when you were a child ...
aren't you, Efím? Come, say something, you dear monster!"

Efímushka began to blow his nose violently on the tail of his smock....

"Come, brother! Aï, aï, aï!--" the prisoner shook his head
reproachfully. "What ails you? Shame on you! You're almost fifty years
old, and you busy yourself with such a nonsensical matter! Stop it!--"
and embracing the policeman's shoulders, he shook him gently. The
policeman began to laugh in a quivering tone, and, at last, he began
to speak, but without looking at his companion:

"Well, what's the matter with me?... I'm glad ... So it is really you?
How am I to believe it? You, and ... such an affair! Vítya ... and in
such a guise! In the cooler.... Without a passport ... You nourish
yourself on bread.... You have no tobacco.... Oh Lord! Is that right?
If it had been I, and you had been the policeman ... it would have been
easier to bear! But now, how has it turned out? How can I look you
in the eye? I have always remembered you with joy ... Vítya,--I have
thought, and my very heart leaped with gladness. But now--what have you
come to! Oh, Lord ... why, if I were to tell the folks, they wouldn't
believe me...."

He muttered his broken phrases, with his eyes riveted obstinately on
his feet, and his hand kept clutching at his breast and at his throat.

"But don't you tell the folks about all this, it's not necessary. And
stop grieving--is it any fault of yours? Don't worry about me ... I
have my papers, I did not show them to the Elder, because I did not
wish to have them recognize me there.... My brother Iván will not put
me in prison, but, on the contrary, he will help me to get oh my feet
... I shall stay with him, and you and I will go hunting again together
... You see how well everything is arranging itself."

Vítya said this affectionately, in the tone with which grown-up people
soothe grieving children. Out of the forest, to meet the dark cloud,
rose the moon, and the edge of the cloud, silvered by her rays, took
on soft, opalescent hues. The quails were calling among the grain, a
corncrake was chattering somewhere ... The night mist grew denser and
denser.

"That's a fact...." began Efímushka, softly, "Iván Alexándrovitch will
rejoice to see his own brother, and you, of course, will adapt yourself
to life again ... That's all true.... And we will go hunting ... Only,
everything isn't as it should be ... I thought you were doing great
deeds in life! But instead ... just see...."

Vítya Tutchkóff burst out laughing.

"I have done deeds enough, brother Efímushka ... I have run through my
share of the estate, I have not grown rich in the service, I have been
an actor, I have been a clerk in the timber trade, then I kept actors
myself ... then I was burnt out, I got over head and ears in debt, and
got mixed up in a scandal ... ekh! I've done every sort of thing....
And everything has been a failure!"

The prisoner waved his hand, and began to laugh good-humoredly.

"I'm no longer a gentleman, brother Efímushka.... I've cured myself of
that. Now you and I will begin to live! Won't we? Come, now! Gather
your wits together."

"Why, I don't mind..." began Efímushka, in a suppressed voice,--"only,
I'm ashamed. Here I've been saying all sorts of things to you ...
nonsensical words, and, in general ... a peasant--everybody knows what
he's like ... So we are to pass the night here, you say? I'll just
build a fire...."

"All right, go ahead...."

The prisoner stretched himself out on the ground, breast upward, and
the policeman vanished into the border of the forest, whence there
immediately proceeded a crackling and a rustling of branches. Efímushka
speedily made his appearance, with an armful of dry brush-wood, and a
moment later a serpent of fire began to crawl merrily among the twigs
on the little hillock.

The old comrades gazed thoughtfully at it, as they sat opposite each
other, and smoked the pipe by turns.

"It's exactly as it used to be,"--remarked Efímushka sadly.

"Only the times are different,"--said Tutchkóff.

"Ye-es, life has become harsher in character.... Here ... it has ...
broken you up...."

"Well, that isn't certain, as yet--whether it has conquered me, or I
have conquered it...." laughed Tutchkóff.

They fell silent.

"Ah? Oh Lord God! Vítya! And here's a nice Sunday greeting!"[1]
exclaimed Efímushka bitterly.

"Eh, enough of that! What's past is past,--" Tutchkóff comforted him
philosophically.

Behind them rose the dark wall of the forest, which was softly
whispering about something, the fire crackled merrily, around it the
shadows danced noiselessly, and over the plain lay impenetrable mist.

[1] It is customary to congratulate one another on Sundays and
holidays. In the higher circles of society, kisses are often
exchanged.--Translator.


THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Orloff and his Wife - Tales of the Barefoot Brigade" ***

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

We also ask that you:

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

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

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

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



Home