A Hero of Our Time
M. Y. Lermontov
Part 2 out of 5
"'You are pining for your kinsfolk?'
"'I have none!'
"Sometimes for whole days not a word could
be drawn from her but 'Yes' and 'No.'
"So I straightway proceeded to talk to
Pechorin about her."
"'LISTEN, Maksim Maksimych,' said Pech-
orin. 'Mine is an unfortunate dis-
position; whether it is the result of my up-
bringing or whether it is innate -- I know not.
I only know this, that if I am the cause of un-
happiness in others I myself am no less unhappy.
Of course, that is a poor consolation to them --
only the fact remains that such is the case.
In my early youth, from the moment I ceased
to be under the guardianship of my relations, I
began madly to enjoy all the pleasures which
money could buy -- and, of course, such pleasures
became irksome to me. Then I launched out
into the world of fashion -- and that, too, soon
palled upon me. I fell in love with fashionable
beauties and was loved by them, but my imagina-
tion and egoism alone were aroused; my heart
remained empty. . . I began to read, to study --
but sciences also became utterly wearisome to me.
I saw that neither fame nor happiness depends
on them in the least, because the happiest
people are the uneducated, and fame is good
fortune, to attain which you have only to be
smart. Then I grew bored. . . Soon after-
wards I was transferred to the Caucasus; and
that was the happiest time of my life. I hoped
that under the bullets of the Chechenes boredom
could not exist -- a vain hope! In a month I
grew so accustomed to the buzzing of the bullets
and to the proximity of death that, to tell the
truth, I paid more attention to the gnats -- and
I became more bored than ever, because I had
lost what was almost my last hope. When I saw
Bela in my own house; when, for the first time,
I held her on my knee and kissed her black locks, I,
fool that I was, thought that she was an angel
sent to me by sympathetic fate. . . Again
I was mistaken; the love of a savage is little
better than that of your lady of quality, the
barbaric ignorance and simplicity of the one
weary you as much as the coquetry of the other.
I am not saying that I do not love her still; I
am grateful to her for a few fairly sweet moments;
I would give my life for her -- only I am bored
with her. . . Whether I am a fool or a villain
I know not; but this is certain, I am also most
deserving of pity -- perhaps more than she. My
soul has been spoiled by the world, my imagination
is unquiet, my heart insatiate. To me everything
is of little moment. I become as easily accus-
tomed to grief as to joy, and my life grows emptier
day by day. One expedient only is left to me --
"'As soon as I can, I shall set off -- but not to
Europe. Heaven forfend! I shall go to America,
to Arabia, to India -- perchance I shall die some-
where on the way. At any rate, I am convinced
that, thanks to storms and bad roads, that last
consolation will not quickly be exhausted!'
"For a long time he went on speaking thus,
and his words have remained stamped upon my
memory, because it was the first time that I had
heard such things from a man of five-and-twenty
-- and Heaven grant it may be the last. Isn't it
astonishing? Tell me, please," continued the
staff-captain, appealing to me. "You used to
live in the Capital, I think, and that not so very
long ago. Is it possible that the young men there
are all like that?"
I replied that there were a good many people
who used the same sort of language, that, prob-
ably, there might even be some who spoke in all
sincerity; that disillusionment, moreover, like
all other vogues, having had its beginning in the
higher strata of society, had descended to the
lower, where it was being worn threadbare,
and that, now, those who were really and truly
bored strove to conceal their misfortune as if it
were a vice. The staff-captain did not under-
stand these subtleties, shook his head, and smiled
"Anyhow, I suppose it was the French who
introduced the fashion?"
"No, the English."
"Aha, there you are!" he answered. "They
always have been arrant drunkards, you know!"
Involuntarily I recalled to mind a certain lady,
living in Moscow, who used to maintain that
Byron was nothing more nor less than a drunkard.
However, the staff-captain's observation was
more excusable; in order to abstain from strong
drink, he naturally endeavoured to convince
himself that all the misfortunes in the world are
the result of drunkenness.
MEANWHILE the staff-captain continued
"Kazbich never put in an appearance again;
but somehow -- I don't know why -- I could not
get the idea out of my head that he had had a
reason for coming, and that some mischievous
scheme was in his mind.
"Well, one day Pechorin tried to persuade
me to go boar-hunting with him. For a long
time I refused. What novelty was a wild boar
"However, off he dragged me, all the same.
We took four or five soldiers and set out early
in the morning. Up till ten o'clock we scurried
about the reeds and the forest -- there wasn't a
wild beast to be found!
"'I say, oughtn't we to be going back?' I
said. 'What's the use of sticking at it? It is
evident enough that we have happened on an
"But, in spite of heat and fatigue, Pechorin
didn't like to return empty-handed. . . That
is just the kind of man he was; whatever he set
his heart on he had to have -- evidently, in his
childhood, he had been spoiled by an indulgent
mother. At last, at midday, we discovered one
of those cursed wild boars -- Bang! Bang! -- No
good! -- Off it went into the reeds. That was
an unlucky day, to be sure! . . . So, after a
short rest, we set off homeward. . .
"We rode in silence, side by side, giving the
horses their head. We had almost reached the
fortress, and only the brushwood concealed it
from view. Suddenly a shot rang out. . . We
glanced at each other, both struck with the self-
same suspicion. . . We galloped headlong in
the direction of the shot, looked, and saw the
soldiers clustered together on the rampart and
pointing towards a field, along which a rider was
flying at full speed, holding something white
across his saddle. Grigori Aleksandrovich yelled
like any Chechene, whipped his gun from its
cover, and gave chase -- I after him.
"Luckily, thanks to our unsuccessful hunt,
our horses were not jaded; they strained under
the saddle, and with every moment we drew
nearer and nearer. . . At length I recognised
Kazbich, only I could not make out what it was
that he was holding in front of him.
"Then I drew level with Pechorin and shouted
"'It is Kazbich!'
"He looked at me, nodded, and struck his
horse with his whip.
"At last we were within gunshot of Kazbich.
Whether it was that his horse was jaded or
not so good as ours, I don't know, but, in
spite of all his efforts, it did not get along very
fast. I fancy at that moment he remembered his
"I looked at Pechorin. He was taking aim
as he galloped. . .
"'Don't shoot,' I cried. 'Save the shot!
We will catch up with him as it is.'
"Oh, these young men! Always taking fire
at the wrong moment! The shot rang out and
the bullet broke one of the horse's hind legs. It
gave a few fiery leaps forward, stumbled, and
fell to its knees. Kazbich sprang off, and then
we perceived that it was a woman he was holding
in his arms -- a woman wrapped in a veil. It
was Bela -- poor Bela! He shouted something
to us in his own language and raised his dagger
over her. . . Delay was useless; I fired in my
turn, at haphazard. Probably the bullet struck
him in the shoulder, because he dropped his
hand suddenly. When the smoke cleared off, we
could see the wounded horse lying on the ground
and Bela beside it; but Kazbich, his gun flung
away, was clambering like a cat up the cliff,
through the brushwood. I should have liked
to have brought him down from there -- but I
hadn't a charge ready. We jumped off our
horses and rushed to Bela. Poor girl! She was
lying motionless, and the blood was pouring in
streams from her wound. The villain! If he
had struck her to the heart -- well and good,
everything would at least have been finished there
and then; but to stab her in the back like
that -- the scoundrel! She was unconscious. We
tore the veil into strips and bound up the
wound as tightly as we could. In vain Pechorin
kissed her cold lips -- it was impossible to bring
"Pechorin mounted; I lifted Bela from the
ground and somehow managed to place her
before him on his saddle; he put his arm round
her and we rode back.
"'Look here, Maksim Maksimych,' said
Grigori Aleksandrovich, after a few moments of
silence. 'We will never bring her in alive like this.'
"'True!' I said, and we put our horses to a
"A CROWD was awaiting us at the fortress
gate. Carefully we carried the wounded
girl to Pechorin's quarters, and then we sent for
the doctor. The latter was drunk, but he came,
examined the wound, and announced that she
could not live more than a day. He was mistaken,
"She recovered?" I asked the staff-captain,
seizing him by the arm, and involuntarily re-
"No," he replied, "but the doctor was so far
mistaken that she lived two days longer."
"Explain, though, how Kazbich made off
"It was like this: in spite of Pechorin's pro-
hibition, she went out of the fortress and down
to the river. It was a very hot day, you know,
and she sat on a rock and dipped her feet in
the water. Up crept Kazbich, pounced upon her,
silenced her, and dragged her into the bushes.
Then he sprang on his horse and made off.
In the meantime she succeeded in crying out,
the sentries took the alarm, fired, but wide of the
mark; and thereupon we arrived on the scene."
"But what did Kazbich want to carry her off
"Good gracious! Why, everyone knows these
Circassians are a race of thieves; they can't keep
their hands off anything that is left lying about!
They may not want a thing, but they will steal
it, for all that. Still, you mustn't be too hard on
them. And, besides, he had been in love with
her for a long time."
"And Bela died?"
"Yes, she died, but she suffered for a long time,
and we were fairly knocked up with her, I can
tell you. About ten o'clock in the evening she
came to herself. We were sitting by her bed.
As soon as ever she opened her eyes she began to
"'I am here beside you, my janechka' (that is,
'my darling'), he answered, taking her by the
"'I shall die,' she said.
"We began to comfort her, telling her that
the doctor had promised infallibly to cure her.
She shook her little head and turned to the wall --
she did not want to die! . . .
"At night she became delirious, her head
burned, at times a feverish paroxysm convulsed
her whole body. She talked incoherently about
her father, her brother; she yearned for the
mountains, for her home. . . Then she spoke
of Pechorin also, called him various fond names,
or reproached him for having ceased to love his
He listened to her in silence, his head sunk
in his hands; but yet, during the whole time, I
did not notice a single tear-drop on his lashes. I
do not know whether he was actually unable to
weep or was mastering himself; but for my
part I have never seen anything more pitiful.
"Towards morning the delirium passed off.
For an hour or so she lay motionless, pale, and so
weak that it was hardly possible to observe that
she was breathing. After that she grew better
and began to talk: only about what, think you?
Such thoughts come only to the dying! . . .
She lamented that she was not a Christian,
that in the other world her soul would
never meet the soul of Grigori Aleksandrovich,
and that in Paradise another woman would be
his companion. The thought occurred to me
to baptize her before her death. I told her my
idea; she looked at me undecidedly, and for a
long time was unable to utter a word. Finally
she answered that she would die in the faith
in which she had been born. A whole day passed
thus. What a change that day made in her!
Her pale cheeks fell in, her eyes grew ever so
large, her lips burned. She felt a consuming
heat within her, as though a red-hot blade was
piercing her breast.
"The second night came on. We did not
close our eyes or leave the bedside. She
suffered terribly, and groaned; and directly the
pain began to abate she endeavoured to assure
Grigori Aleksandrovich that she felt better,
tried to persuade him to go to bed, kissed his
hand and would not let it out of hers. Before
the morning she began to feel the death agony
and to toss about. She knocked the bandage off,
and the blood flowed afresh. When the wound
was bound up again she grew quiet for a moment
and begged Pechorin to kiss her. He fell on his
knees beside the bed, raised her head from the
pillow, and pressed his lips to hers -- which were
growing cold. She threw her trembling arms
closely round his neck, as if with that kiss she
wished to yield up her soul to him. -- No, she
did well to die! Why, what would have become
of her if Grigori Aleksandrovich had abandoned
her? And that is what would have happened,
sooner or later.
"During half the following day she was calm,
silent and docile, however much the doctor
tortured her with his fomentations and mixtures.
"'Good heavens!' I said to him, 'you know
you said yourself that she was certain to die,
so what is the good of all these preparations of
"'Even so, it is better to do all this,' he replied,
'so that I may have an easy conscience.'
"A pretty conscience, forsooth!
"After midday Bela began to suffer from
thirst. We opened the windows, but it was
hotter outside than in the room; we placed
ice round the bed -- all to no purpose. I knew
that that intolerable thirst was a sign of the
approaching end, and I told Pechorin so.
"'Water, water!' she said in a hoarse voice,
raising herself up from the bed.
"Pechorin turned pale as a sheet, seized a
glass, filled it, and gave it to her. I covered my
eyes with my hands and began to say a prayer --
I can't remember what. . . Yes, my friend,
many a time have I seen people die in hospitals
or on the field of battle, but this was something
altogether different! Still, this one thing grieves
me, I must confess: she died without even once
calling me to mind. Yet I loved her, I should
think, like a father! . . . Well, God forgive
her! . . . And, to tell the truth, what am I
that she should have remembered me when she
was dying? . . .
"As soon as she had drunk the water, she grew
easier -- but in about three minutes she breathed
her last! We put a looking-glass to her lips -- it
"I led Pechorin from the room, and we went
on to the fortress rampart. For a long time we
walked side by side, to and fro, speaking not a
word and with our hands clasped behind our
backs. His face expressed nothing out of the
common -- and that vexed me. Had I been in his
place, I should have died of grief. At length he
sat down on the ground in the shade and began
to draw something in the sand with his stick.
More for form's sake than anything, you know,
I tried to console him and began to talk. He
raised his head and burst into a laugh! At that
laugh a cold shudder ran through me. . . I
went away to order a coffin.
"I confess it was partly to distract my thoughts
that I busied myself in that way. I possessed a
little piece of Circassian stuff, and I covered the
coffin with it, and decked it with some Circassian
silver lace which Grigori Aleksandrovich had
bought for Bela herself.
"Early next morning we buried her behind the
fortress, by the river, beside the spot where she
had sat for the last time. Around her little
grave white acacia shrubs and elder-trees have
now grown up. I should have liked to erect a
cross, but that would not have done, you know --
after all, she was not a Christian."
"And what of Pechorin?" I asked.
"Pechorin was ill for a long time, and grew
thin, poor fellow; but we never spoke of Bela
from that time forth. I saw that it would be dis-
agreeable to him, so what would have been the
use? About three months later he was appointed
to the E---- Regiment, and departed for
Georgia. We have never met since. Yet, when
I come to think of it, somebody told me not long
ago that he had returned to Russia -- but it was
not in the general orders for the corps. Besides,
to the like of us news is late in coming."
Hereupon -- probably to drown sad memories --
he launched forth into a lengthy dissertation
on the unpleasantness of learning news a year
I did not interrupt him, nor did I listen.
In an hour's time a chance of proceeding on
our journey presented itself. The snowstorm
subsided, the sky became clear, and we set off.
On the way I involuntarily let the conversation
turn on Bela and Pechorin.
"You have not heard what became of Kaz-
bich?" I asked.
"Kazbich? In truth, I don't know. I have
heard that with the Shapsugs, on our right flank,
there is a certain Kazbich, a dare-devil fellow
who rides about at a walking pace, in a red tunic,
under our bullets, and bows politely whenever
one hums near him -- but it can scarcely be the
same person!" . . .
In Kobi, Maksim Maksimych and I parted
company. I posted on, and he, on account of
his heavy luggage, was unable to follow me.
We had no expectation of ever meeting again,
but meet we did, and, if you like, I will tell you
how -- it is quite a history. . . You must
acknowledge, though, that Maksim Maksimych
is a man worthy of all respect. . . If you
admit that, I shall be fully rewarded for my,
perhaps, too lengthy story.
BOOK II MAKSIM MAKSIMYCH
AFTER parting with Maksim Maksimych, I
galloped briskly through the gorges of the
Terek and Darial, breakfasted in Kazbek, drank
tea in Lars, and arrived at Vladikavkaz in time
for supper. I spare you a description of the
mountains, as well as exclamations which convey
no meaning, and word-paintings which convey
no image -- especially to those who have never
been in the Caucasus. I also omit statistical
observations, which I am quite sure nobody
I put up at the inn which is frequented by all
who travel in those parts, and where, by the way,
there is no one you can order to roast your
pheasant and cook your cabbage-soup, because
the three veterans who have charge of the inn
are either so stupid, or so drunk, that it is
impossible to knock any sense at all out of
I was informed that I should have to stay
there three days longer, because the "Adventure"
had not yet arrived from Ekaterinograd and
consequently could not start on the return
journey. What a misadventure! . . . But a
bad pun is no consolation to a Russian, and, for
the sake of something to occupy my thoughts,
I took it into my head to write down the story
about Bela, which I had heard from Maksim
Maksimych -- never imagining that it would be
the first link in a long chain of novels: you see
how an insignificant event has sometimes dire
results! . . . Perhaps, however, you do not
know what the "Adventure" is? It is a convoy
-- composed of half a company of infantry, with
a cannon -- which escorts baggage-trains through
Kabardia from Vladikavkaz to Ekaterinograd.
 In Russian -- okaziya=occasion, adventure, etc.; chto za
The first day I found the time hang on my
hands dreadfully. Early next morning a vehicle
drove into the courtyard. . . Aha! Maksim
Maksimych! . . . We met like a couple of old
friends. I offered to share my own room with
him, and he accepted my hospitality without
standing upon ceremony; he even clapped me
on the shoulder and puckered up his mouth by
way of a smile -- a queer fellow, that! . . .
Maksim Maksimych was profoundly versed in
the culinary art. He roasted the pheasant
astonishingly well and basted it successfully with
cucumber sauce. I was obliged to acknowledge
that, but for him, I should have had to remain on
a dry-food diet. A bottle of Kakhetian wine
helped us to forget the modest number of dishes
-- of which there was one, all told. Then we lit
our pipes, took our chairs, and sat down -- I by
the window, and he by the stove, in which a fire
had been lighted because the day was damp and
cold. We remained silent. What had we to
talk about? He had already told me all that
was of interest about himself and I had nothing
to relate. I looked out of the window. Here
and there, behind the trees, I caught glimpses of
a number of poor, low houses straggling along
the bank of the Terek, which flowed seaward in
an ever-widening stream; farther off rose the
dark-blue, jagged wall of the mountains, behind
which Mount Kazbek gazed forth in his high-
priest's hat of white. I took a mental farewell
of them; I felt sorry to leave them. . .
Thus we sat for a considerable time. The sun
was sinking behind the cold summits and a
whitish mist was beginning to spread over the
valleys, when the silence was broken by the
jingling of the bell of a travelling-carriage and
the shouting of drivers in the street. A few
vehicles, accompanied by dirty Armenians, drove
into the courtyard of the inn, and behind them
came an empty travelling-carriage. Its light
movement, comfortable arrangement, and elegant
appearance gave it a kind of foreign stamp. Be-
hind it walked a man with large moustaches. He
was wearing a Hungarian jacket and was rather
well dressed for a manservant. From the bold
manner in which he shook the ashes out of his pipe
and shouted at the coachman it was impossible to
mistake his calling. He was obviously the spoiled
servant of an indolent master -- something in the
nature of a Russian Figaro.
"Tell me, my good man," I called to him out
of the window. "What is it? -- Has the 'Ad-
venture' arrived, eh?"
He gave me a rather insolent glance, straight-
ened his cravat, and turned away. An Armenian,
who was walking near him, smiled and answered
for him that the "Adventure" had, in fact,
arrived, and would start on the return journey
the following morning.
"Thank heavens!" said Maksim Maksimych,
who had come up to the window at that moment.
"What a wonderful carriage!" he added;
"probably it belongs to some official who is
going to Tiflis for a judicial inquiry. You can
see that he is unacquainted with our little
mountains! No, my friend, you're not serious!
They are not for the like of you; why, they
would shake even an English carriage to bits! --
But who could it be? Let us go and find
We went out into the corridor, at the end of
which there was an open door leading into a
side room. The manservant and a driver were
dragging portmanteaux into the room.
"I say, my man!" the staff-captain asked him:
"Whose is that marvellous carriage? -- Eh? --
A beautiful carriage!"
Without turning round the manservant
growled something to himself as he undid a
portmanteau. Maksim Maksimych grew angry.
"I am speaking to you, my friend!"
he said, touching the uncivil fellow on the
"Whose carriage? -- My master's."
"And who is your master?"
"What did you say? What? Pechorin? --
Great Heavens! . . . Did he not serve in the
Caucasus?" exclaimed Maksim Maksimych,
plucking me by the sleeve. His eyes were
sparkling with joy.
"Yes, he served there, I think -- but I have not
been with him long."
"Well! Just so! . . . Just so! . . . Grigori
Aleksandrovich? . . . that is his name, of
course? Your master and I were friends," he
added, giving the manservant a friendly clap on
the shoulder with such force as to cause him to
"Excuse me, sir, you are hindering me," said
the latter, frowning.
"What a fellow you are, my friend! Why,
don't you know, your master and I were bosom
friends, and lived together? . . . But where has
he put up?"
The servant intimated that Pechorin had
stayed to take supper and pass the night at
"But won't he be looking in here in the
evening?" said Maksim Maksimych. "Or, you,
my man, won't you be going over to him for
something? . . . If you do, tell him that
Maksim Maksimych is here; just say that -- he'll
know! -- I'll give you half a ruble for a tip!"
The manservant made a scornful face on
hearing such a modest promise, but he assured
Maksim Maksimych that he would execute his
"He'll be sure to come running up directly!"
said Maksim Maksimych, with an air of triumph.
"I will go outside the gate and wait for him!
Ah, it's a pity I am not acquainted with
Maksim Maksimych sat down on a little bench
outside the gate, and I went to my room. I
confess that I also was awaiting this Pechorin's
appearance with a certain amount of impatience
-- although, from the staff-captain's story, I had
formed a by no means favourable idea of him.
Still, certain traits in his character struck me as
remarkable. In an hour's time one of the
old soldiers brought a steaming samovar and a
"Won't you have some tea, Maksim Mak-
simych?" I called out of the window.
"Thank you. I am not thirsty, somehow."
"Oh, do have some! It is late, you know,
"No, thank you" . . .
"Well, just as you like!"
I began my tea alone. About ten minutes
afterwards my old captain came in.
"You are right, you know; it would be better
to have a drop of tea -- but I was waiting for
Pechorin. His man has been gone a long time
now, but evidently something has detained
The staff-captain hurriedly sipped a cup of
tea, refused a second, and went off again outside
the gate -- not without a certain amount of dis-
quietude. It was obvious that the old man was
mortified by Pechorin's neglect, the more so
because a short time previously he had been
telling me of their friendship, and up to an hour
ago had been convinced that Pechorin would
come running up immediately on hearing his
It was already late and dark when I opened
the window again and began to call Maksim
Maksimych, saying that it was time to go to
bed. He muttered something through his
teeth. I repeated my invitation -- he made no
I left a candle on the stove-seat, and, wrapping
myself up in my cloak, I lay down on the couch
and soon fell into slumber; and I would have
slept on quietly had not Maksim Maksimych
awakened me as he came into the room. It was
then very late. He threw his pipe on the table,
began to walk up and down the room, and to
rattle about at the stove. At last he lay down,
but for a long time he kept coughing, spitting,
and tossing about.
"The bugs are biting you, are they not?"
"Yes, that is it," he answered, with a heavy
I woke early the next morning, but Maksim
Maksimych had anticipated me. I found him
sitting on the little bench at the gate.
"I have to go to the Commandant," he
said, "so, if Pechorin comes, please send for
me." . . .
I gave my promise. He ran off as if his limbs
had regained their youthful strength and supple-
The morning was fresh and lovely. Golden
clouds had massed themselves on the mountain-
tops like a new range of aerial mountains. Before
the gate a wide square spread out; behind it the
bazaar was seething with people, the day being
Sunday. Barefooted Ossete boys, carrying
wallets of honeycomb on their shoulders, were
hovering around me. I cursed them; I had
other things to think of -- I was beginning to
share the worthy staff-captain's uneasiness.
Before ten minutes had passed the man we
were awaiting appeared at the end of the square.
He was walking with Colonel N., who accom-
panied him as far as the inn, said good-bye to him,
and then turned back to the fortress. I im-
mediately despatched one of the old soldiers for
Pechorin's manservant went out to meet him
and informed him that they were going to put to
at once; he handed him a box of cigars, received
a few orders, and went off about his business. His
master lit a cigar, yawned once or twice, and sat
down on the bench on the other side of the gate.
I must now draw his portrait for you.
He was of medium height. His shapely, slim
figure and broad shoulders gave evidence of a
strong constitution, capable of enduring all the
hardships of a nomad life and changes of climates,
and of resisting with success both the demoral-
ising effects of life in the Capital and the
tempests of the soul. His velvet overcoat, which
was covered with dust, was fastened by the
two lower buttons only, and exposed to view
linen of dazzling whiteness, which proved that
he had the habits of a gentleman. His gloves,
soiled by travel, seemed as though made ex-
pressly for his small, aristocratic hand, and when
he took one glove off I was astonished at the
thinness of his pale fingers. His gait was care-
less and indolent, but I noticed that he did not
swing his arms -- a sure sign of a certain secretive-
ness of character. These remarks, however, are
the result of my own observations, and I have not
the least desire to make you blindly believe in
them. When he was in the act of seating himself
on the bench his upright figure bent as if there
was not a single bone in his back. The attitude
of his whole body was expressive of a certain
nervous weakness; he looked, as he sat, like one
of Balzac's thirty-year-old coquettes resting in
her downy arm-chair after a fatiguing ball.
From my first glance at his face I should not
have supposed his age to be more than twenty-
three, though afterwards I should have put it
down as thirty. His smile had something of a
child-like quality. His skin possessed a kind of
feminine delicacy. His fair hair, naturally curly,
most picturesquely outlined his pale and noble
brow, on which it was only after lengthy observa-
tion that traces could be noticed of wrinkles,
intersecting each other: probably they showed
up more distinctly in moments of anger or
mental disturbance. Notwithstanding the light
colour of his hair, his moustaches and eyebrows
were black -- a sign of breeding in a man, just as
a black mane and a black tail in a white horse.
To complete the portrait, I will add that he had
a slightly turned-up nose, teeth of dazzling
whiteness, and brown eyes -- I must say a few
words more about his eyes.
In the first place, they never laughed when he
laughed. Have you not happened, yourself, to
notice the same peculiarity in certain people? . . .
It is a sign either of an evil disposition or of deep
and constant grief. From behind his half-
lowered eyelashes they shone with a kind of
phosphorescent gleam -- if I may so express my-
self -- which was not the reflection of a fervid
soul or of a playful fancy, but a glitter like to
that of smooth steel, blinding but cold. His
glance -- brief, but piercing and heavy -- left the
unpleasant impression of an indiscreet question
and might have seemed insolent had it not been
so unconcernedly tranquil.
It may be that all these remarks came into my
mind only after I had known some details of his
life, and it may be, too, that his appearance
would have produced an entirely different im-
pression upon another; but, as you will not hear
of him from anyone except myself, you will have
to rest content, nolens volens, with the descrip-
tion I have given. In conclusion, I will say that,
speaking generally, he was a very good-looking
man, and had one of those original types of
countenance which are particularly pleasing to
The horses were already put to; now and then
the bell jingled on the shaft-bow; and the
manservant had twice gone up to Pechorin with
the announcement that everything was ready,
but still there was no sign of Maksim Maksimych.
Fortunately Pechorin was sunk in thought as he
gazed at the jagged, blue peaks of the Caucasus,
and was apparently by no means in a hurry for
 The duga.
I went up to him.
"If you care to wait a little longer," I said,
"you will have the pleasure of meeting an old
"Oh, exactly!" he answered quickly. "They
told me so yesterday. Where is he, though?"
I looked in the direction of the square and
there I descried Maksim Maksimych running as
hard as he could. In a few moments he was
beside us. He was scarcely able to breathe;
perspiration was rolling in large drops from his
face; wet tufts of grey hair, escaping from
under his cap, were glued to his forehead; his
knees were shaking. . . He was about to throw
himself on Pechorin's neck, but the latter, rather
coldly, though with a smile of welcome, stretched
out his hand to him. For a moment the staff-
captain was petrified, but then eagerly seized
Pechorin's hand in both his own. He was still
unable to speak.
"How glad I am to see you, my dear Maksim
Maksimych! Well, how are you?" said
"And . . . thou . . . you?" murmured
the old man, with tears in his eyes. "What an
age it is since I have seen you! . . . But where
are you off to?" . . .
 "Thou" is the form of address used in speaking to
an intimate friend, etc. Pechorin had used the more formal
"I am going to Persia -- and farther." . . .
"But surely not immediately? . . . Wait a
little, my dear fellow! . . . Surely we are not
going to part at once? . . . What a long time
it is since we have seen each other!" . . .
"It is time for me to go, Maksim Maksimych,"
was the reply.
"Good heavens, good heavens! But where
are you going to in such a hurry? There was so
much I should have liked to tell you! So much
to question you about! . . . Well, what of your-
self? Have you retired? . . . What? . . .
How have you been getting along?"
"Getting bored!" answered Pechorin,
"You remember the life we led in the fortress?
A splendid country for hunting! You were
awfully fond of shooting, you know! . . . And
Bela?" . . .
Pechorin turned just the slightest bit pale and
averted his head.
"Yes, I remember!" he said, almost im-
mediately forcing a yawn.
Maksim Maksimych began to beg him to stay
with him for a couple of hours or so longer.
"We will have a splendid dinner," he said.
"I have two pheasants; and the Kakhetian wine
is excellent here . . . not what it is in Georgia,
of course, but still of the best sort. . . We will
have a talk. . . You will tell me about your
life in Petersburg. . . Eh?" . . .
"In truth, there's nothing for me to tell, dear
Maksim Maksimych. . . However, good-bye,
it is time for me to be off. . . I am in a hurry. . .
I thank you for not having forgotten me," he
added, taking him by the hand.
The old man knit his brows. He was
grieved and angry, although he tried to hide
"Forget!" he growled. "I have not for-
gotten anything. . . Well, God be with you! . . .
It is not like this that I thought we should meet."
"Come! That will do, that will do!" said
Pechorin, giving him a friendly embrace. "Is
it possible that I am not the same as I used to
be? . . . What can we do? Everyone must
go his own way. . . Are we ever going to
meet again? -- God only knows!"
While saying this he had taken his seat in the
carriage, and the coachman was already gathering
up the reins.
"Wait, wait!" cried Maksim Maksimych
suddenly, holding on to the carriage door. "I
was nearly forgetting altogether. Your papers
were left with me, Grigori Aleksandrovich. . .
I drag them about everywhere I go. . . I
thought I should find you in Georgia, but this
is where it has pleased Heaven that we should
meet. What's to be done with them?" . . .
"Whatever you like!" answered Pechorin.
"Good-bye." . . .
"So you are off to Persia? . . . But when will
you return?" Maksim Maksimych cried after
By this time the carriage was a long way off,
but Pechorin made a sign with his hand which
might be interpreted as meaning:
"It is doubtful whether I shall return, and
there is no reason, either, why I should!"
The jingle of the bell and the clatter of the
wheels along the flinty road had long ceased to
be audible, but the poor old man still remained
standing in the same place, deep in thought.
"Yes," he said at length, endeavouring to
assume an air of indifference, although from
time to time a tear of vexation glistened on his
eyelashes. "Of course we were friends -- well,
but what are friends nowadays? . . . What
could I be to him? I'm not rich; I've no rank;
and, moreover, I'm not at all his match in years! --
See what a dandy he has become since he has
been staying in Petersburg again! . . . What a
carriage! . . . What a quantity of luggage! . . .
And such a haughty manservant too!" . . .
These words were pronounced with an ironical
"Tell me," he continued, turning to me,
"what do you think of it? Come, what the
devil is he off to Persia for now? . . . Good
Lord, it is ridiculous -- ridiculous! . . . But I
always knew that he was a fickle man, and one
you could never rely on! . . . But, indeed, it
is a pity that he should come to a bad end . . .
yet it can't be otherwise! . . . I always did say
that there is no good to be got out of a man who
forgets his old friends!" . . .
Hereupon he turned away in order to hide his
agitation and proceeded to walk about the court-
yard, around his cart, pretending to be examining
the wheels, whilst his eyes kept filling with tears
"Maksim Maksimych," I said, going up to
him, "what papers are these that Pechorin left
"Goodness knows! Notes of some sort" . . .
"What will you do with them?"
"What? I'll have cartridges made of them."
"Hand them over to me instead."
He looked at me in surprise, growled some-
thing through his teeth, and began to rummage
in his portmanteau. Out he drew a writing-book
and threw it contemptuously on the ground;
then a second -- a third -- a tenth shared the same
fate. There was something childish in his
vexation, and it struck me as ridiculous and
pitiable. . .
"Here they are," he said. "I congratulate
you on your find!" . . .
"And I may do anything I like with them?"
"Yes, print them in the newspapers, if you like.
What is it to me? Am I a friend or relation of
his? It is true that for a long time we lived
under one roof . . . but aren't there plenty of
people with whom I have lived?" . . .
I seized the papers and lost no time in carry-
ing them away, fearing that the staff-captain
might repent his action. Soon somebody came
to tell us that the "Adventure" would set off in
an hour's time. I ordered the horses to be
I had already put my cap on when the staff-
captain entered the room. Apparently he had
not got ready for departure. His manner was
somewhat cold and constrained.
"You are not going, then, Maksim Maksim-
"But why not?"
"Well, I have not seen the Commandant yet,
and I have to deliver some Government things."
"But you did go, you know."
"I did, of course," he stammered, "but he
was not at home . . . and I did not wait."
I understood. For the first time in his life,
probably, the poor old man had, to speak by the
book, thrown aside official business 'for the sake
of his personal requirements' . . . and how he
had been rewarded!
"I am very sorry, Maksim Maksimych, very
sorry indeed," I said, "that we must part sooner
"What should we rough old men be thinking
of to run after you? You young men are
fashionable and proud: under the Circassian
bullets you are friendly enough with us . . . but
when you meet us afterwards you are ashamed
even to give us your hand!"
"I have not deserved these reproaches, Maksim
"Well, but you know I'm quite right. How-
ever, I wish you all good luck and a pleasant
We took a rather cold farewell of each other.
The kind-hearted Maksim Maksimych had be-
come the obstinate, cantankerous staff-captain!
And why? Because Pechorin, through ab-
sent-mindedness or from some other cause,
had extended his hand to him when Maksim
Maksimych was going to throw himself on his
neck! Sad it is to see when a young man loses
his best hopes and dreams, when from before
his eyes is withdrawn the rose-hued veil through
which he has looked upon the deeds and feelings
of mankind; although there is the hope that
the old illusions will be replaced by new ones,
none the less evanescent, but, on the other hand,
none the less sweet. But wherewith can they be
replaced when one is at the age of Maksim
Maksimych? Do what you will, the heart
hardens and the soul shrinks in upon itself.
I departed -- alone.
FOREWORD TO BOOKS III, IV, AND V
CONCERNING PECHORIN'S DIARY
I LEARNED not long ago that Pechorin had
died on his way back from Persia. The news
afforded me great delight; it gave me the right
to print these notes; and I have taken advantage
of the opportunity of putting my name at the
head of another person's productions. Heaven
grant that my readers may not punish me for
such an innocent deception!
I must now give some explanation of the
reasons which have induced me to betray to the
public the inmost secrets of a man whom I never
knew. If I had even been his friend, well and
good: the artful indiscretion of the true friend
is intelligible to everybody; but I only saw
Pechorin once in my life -- on the high-road --
and, consequently, I cannot cherish towards him
that inexplicable hatred, which, hiding its face
under the mask of friendship, awaits but the
death or misfortune of the beloved object to
burst over its head in a storm of reproaches,
admonitions, scoffs and regrets.
On reading over these notes, I have become
convinced of the sincerity of the man who has so
unsparingly exposed to view his own weaknesses
and vices. The history of a man's soul, even the
pettiest soul, is hardly less interesting and
useful than the history of a whole people;
especially when the former is the result of the
observations of a mature mind upon itself, and
has been written without any egoistical desire
of arousing sympathy or astonishment. Rous-
seau's Confessions has precisely this defect -- he
read it to his friends.
And, so, it is nothing but the desire to be useful
that has constrained me to print fragments of
this diary which fell into my hands by chance.
Although I have altered all the proper names,
those who are mentioned in it will probably recog-
nise themselves, and, it may be, will find some
justification for actions for which they have
hitherto blamed a man who has ceased henceforth
to have anything in common with this world.
We almost always excuse that which we under-
I have inserted in this book only those portions
of the diary which refer to Pechorin's sojourn in
the Caucasus. There still remains in my hands
a thick writing-book in which he tells the story
of his whole life. Some time or other that, too,
will present itself before the tribunal of the
world, but, for many and weighty reasons, I do
not venture to take such a responsibility upon
Possibly some readers would like to know my
own opinion of Pechorin's character. My answer
is: the title of this book. "But that is malicious
irony!" they will say. . . I know not.
BOOK III THE FIRST EXTRACT FROM PECHORIN'S DIARY
TAMAN is the nastiest little hole of all the
seaports of Russia. I was all but starved
there, to say nothing of having a narrow escape
of being drowned.
I arrived late at night by the post-car. The
driver stopped the tired troika at the gate of the
only stone-built house that stood at the entrance
to the town. The sentry, a Cossack from the
Black Sea, hearing the jingle of the bell, cried out,
sleepily, in his barbarous voice, "Who goes there?"
An under-officer of Cossacks and a headborough
came out. I explained that I was an officer
bound for the active-service detachment on
Government business, and I proceeded to demand
official quarters. The headborough conducted us
round the town. Whatever hut we drove up to
we found to be occupied. The weather was cold;
I had not slept for three nights; I was tired
out, and I began to lose my temper.
 Team of three horses abreast.
 Desyatnik, a superintendent of ten (men or
huts), i.e. an officer like the old English tithing-man or
"Take me somewhere or other, you
scoundrel!" I cried; "to the devil himself, so
long as there's a place to put up at!"
"There is one other lodging," answered the
headborough, scratching his head. "Only you
won't like it, sir. It is uncanny!"
Failing to grasp the exact signification of the
last phrase, I ordered him to go on, and, after a
lengthy peregrination through muddy byways,
at the sides of which I could see nothing but old
fences, we drove up to a small cabin, right on the
shore of the sea.
The full moon was shining on the little reed-
thatched roof and the white walls of my new
dwelling. In the courtyard, which was sur-
rounded by a wall of rubble-stone, there stood
another miserable hovel, smaller and older than
the first and all askew. The shore descended
precipitously to the sea, almost from its very
walls, and down below, with incessant murmur,
plashed the dark-blue waves. The moon gazed
softly upon the watery element, restless but
obedient to it, and I was able by its light to
distinguish two ships lying at some distance
from the shore, their black rigging motionless
and standing out, like cobwebs, against the pale
line of the horizon.
"There are vessels in the harbour," I said to
myself. "To-morrow I will set out for Gelen-
I had with me, in the capacity of soldier-
servant, a Cossack of the frontier army. Order-
ing him to take down the portmanteau and dis-
miss the driver, I began to call the master of the
house. No answer! I knocked -- all was silent
within! . . . What could it mean? At length
a boy of about fourteen crept out from the hall.
"Where is the master?"
"There isn't one."
"What! No master?"
"And the mistress?"
"She has gone off to the village."
"Who will open the door for me, then?" I
said, giving it a kick.
The door opened of its own accord, and a
breath of moisture-laden air was wafted from
the hut. I struck a lucifer match and held it
to the boy's face. It lit up two white eyes.
He was totally blind, obviously so from birth.
He stood stock-still before me, and I began to
examine his features.
I confess that I have a violent prejudice against
all blind, one-eyed, deaf, dumb, legless, armless,
hunchbacked, and such-like people. I have
observed that there is always a certain strange
connection between a man's exterior and his
soul; as, if when the body loses a limb, the soul
also loses some power of feeling.
And so I began to examine the blind boy's
face. But what could be read upon a face
from which the eyes are missing?. . . For a
long time I gazed at him with involuntary
compassion, when suddenly a scarcely perceptible
smile flitted over his thin lips, producing, I
know not why, a most unpleasant impression
upon me. I began to feel a suspicion that the
blind boy was not so blind as he appeared to be.
In vain I endeavoured to convince myself that
it was impossible to counterfeit cataracts; and
besides, what reason could there be for doing
such a thing? But I could not help my sus-
picions. I am easily swayed by prejudice. . .
"You are the master's son?" I asked at
"Who are you, then?"
"An orphan -- a poor boy."
"Has the mistress any children?"
"No, her daughter ran away and crossed the
sea with a Tartar."
"What sort of a Tartar?"
"The devil only knows! A Crimean Tartar, a
boatman from Kerch."
I entered the hut. Its whole furniture con-
sisted of two benches and a table, together with
an enormous chest beside the stove. There was
not a single ikon to be seen on the wall -- a bad
sign! The sea-wind burst in through the broken
window-pane. I drew a wax candle-end from my
portmanteau, lit it, and began to put my things
out. My sabre and gun I placed in a corner, my
pistols I laid on the table. I spread my felt cloak
out on one bench, and the Cossack his on the
other. In ten minutes the latter was snoring,
but I could not go to sleep -- the image of the
boy with the white eyes kept hovering before me
in the dark.
About an hour passed thus. The moon shone
in at the window and its rays played along the
earthen floor of the hut. Suddenly a shadow
flitted across the bright strip of moonshine which
intersected the floor. I raised myself up a little
and glanced out of the window. Again somebody
ran by it and disappeared -- goodness knows
where! It seemed impossible for anyone to
descend the steep cliff overhanging the shore,
but that was the only thing that could have
happened. I rose, threw on my tunic, girded on a
dagger, and with the utmost quietness went out
of the hut. The blind boy was coming towards
me. I hid by the fence, and he passed by me
with a sure but cautious step. He was carrying a
parcel under his arm. He turned towards the
harbour and began to descend a steep and narrow
"On that day the dumb will cry out and the
blind will see," I said to myself, following him
just close enough to keep him in sight.
Meanwhile the moon was becoming overcast
by clouds and a mist had risen upon the sea. The
lantern alight in the stern of a ship close at hand
was scarcely visible through the mist, and by
the shore there glimmered the foam of the waves,
which every moment threatened to submerge it.
Descending with difficulty, I stole along the
steep declivity, and all at once I saw the blind
boy come to a standstill and then turn down to
the right. He walked so close to the water's
edge that it seemed as if the waves would straight-
way seize him and carry him off. But, judging
by the confidence with which he stepped from
rock to rock and avoided the water-channels,
this was evidently not the first time that he had
made that journey. Finally he stopped, as
though listening for something, squatted down
upon the ground, and laid the parcel beside him.
Concealing myself behind a projecting rock on
the shore, I kept watch on his movements.
After a few minutes a white figure made its
appearance from the opposite direction. It came
up to the blind boy and sat down beside him.
At times the wind wafted their conversation to me.
"Well?" said a woman's voice. "The storm
is violent; Yanko will not be here."
"Yanko is not afraid of the storm!" the other
"The mist is thickening," rejoined the woman's
voice, sadness in its tone.
"In the mist it is all the easier to slip past the
guardships," was the answer.
"And if he is drowned?"
"Well, what then? On Sunday you won't
have a new ribbon to go to church in."
An interval of silence followed. One thing,
however, struck me -- in talking to me the blind
boy spoke in the Little Russian dialect, but now
he was expressing himself in pure Russian.
"You see, I am right!" the blind boy went on,
clapping his hands. "Yanko is not afraid of sea,
nor winds, nor mist, nor coastguards! Just
listen! That is not the water plashing, you
can't deceive me -- it is his long oars."
The woman sprang up and began anxiously to
gaze into the distance.
"You are raving!" she said. "I cannot see
I confess that, much as I tried to make out in
the distance something resembling a boat, my
efforts were unsuccessful. About ten minutes
passed thus, when a black speck appeared between
the mountains of the waves! At one time it
grew larger, at another smaller. Slowly rising
upon the crests of the waves and swiftly de-
scending from them, the boat drew near to the
"He must be a brave sailor," I thought,
"to have determined to cross the twenty versts
of strait on a night like this, and he must have
had a weighty reason for doing so."
Reflecting thus, I gazed with an involuntary
beating of the heart at the poor boat. It dived
like a duck, and then, with rapidly swinging oars --
like wings -- it sprang forth from the abyss amid
the splashes of the foam. "Ah!" I thought,
"it will be dashed against the shore with all its
force and broken to pieces!" But it turned
aside adroitly and leaped unharmed into a little
creek. Out of it stepped a man of medium height,
wearing a Tartar sheepskin cap. He waved his
hand, and all three set to work to drag something
out of the boat. The cargo was so large that, to
this day, I cannot understand how it was that the
boat did not sink.
Each of them shouldered a bundle, and they
set off along the shore, and I soon lost sight
of them. I had to return home; but I confess
I was rendered uneasy by all these strange
happenings, and I found it hard to await the
My Cossack was very much astonished when,
on waking up, he saw me fully dressed. I did
not, however, tell him the reason. For some time
I stood at the window, gazing admiringly at
the blue sky all studded with wisps of cloud,
and at the distant shore of the Crimea, stretching
out in a lilac-coloured streak and ending in a
cliff, on the summit of which the white tower
of the lighthouse was gleaming. Then I betook
myself to the fortress, Phanagoriya, in order to
ascertain from the Commandant at what hour
I should depart for Gelenjik.
But the Commandant, alas! could not give
me any definite information. The vessels lying
in the harbour were all either guard-ships or
merchant-vessels which had not yet even begun
to take in lading.
"Maybe in about three or four days' time a
mail-boat will come in," said the Commandant,
"and then we shall see."
I returned home sulky and wrathful. My
Cossack met me at the door with a frightened
"Things are looking bad, sir!" he said.
"Yes, my friend; goodness only knows when
we shall get away!"
Hereupon he became still more uneasy, and,
bending towards me, he said in a whisper:
"It is uncanny here! I met an under-officer
from the Black Sea to-day -- he's an acquaintance
of mine -- he was in my detachment last year.
When I told him where we were staying, he said,
'That place is uncanny, old fellow; they're
wicked people there!' . . . And, indeed, what
sort of a blind boy is that? He goes everywhere
alone, to fetch water and to buy bread at the
bazaar. It is evident they have become accus-
tomed to that sort of thing here."
"Well, what then? Tell me, though, has
the mistress of the place put in an appear-
"During your absence to-day, an old woman
and her daughter arrived."
"What daughter? She has no daughter!"
"Goodness knows who it can be if it isn't her
daughter; but the old woman is sitting over
there in the hut now."
I entered the hovel. A blazing fire was burning
in the stove, and they were cooking a dinner
which struck me as being a rather luxurious one
for poor people. To all my questions the old
woman replied that she was deaf and could not
hear me. There was nothing to be got out of
her. I turned to the blind boy who was sitting
in front of the stove, putting twigs into the
"Now, then, you little blind devil," I said,
taking him by the ear. "Tell me, where were
you roaming with the bundle last night, eh?"
The blind boy suddenly burst out weeping,
shrieking and wailing.
"Where did I go? I did not go anywhere. . .
With the bundle?. . . What bundle?"
This time the old woman heard, and she began
"Hark at them plotting, and against a poor
boy too! What are you touching him for?
What has he done to you?"
I had enough of it, and went out, firmly
resolved to find the key to the riddle.
I wrapped myself up in my felt cloak and,
sitting down on a rock by the fence, gazed into
the distance. Before me stretched the sea,
agitated by the storm of the previous night, and
its monotonous roar, like the murmur of a town
over which slumber is beginning to creep,
recalled bygone years to my mind, and trans-
ported my thoughts northward to our cold
Capital. Agitated by my recollections, I became
oblivious of my surroundings.
About an hour passed thus, perhaps even
longer. Suddenly something resembling a song
struck upon my ear. It was a song, and the
voice was a woman's, young and fresh -- but,
where was it coming from?. . . I listened;
it was a harmonious melody -- now long-drawn-
out and plaintive, now swift and lively. I looked
around me -- there was nobody to be seen. I
listened again -- the sounds seemed to be falling
from the sky. I raised my eyes. On the roof of
my cabin was standing a young girl in a striped
dress and with her hair hanging loose -- a regular
water-nymph. Shading her eyes from the sun's
rays with the palm of her hand, she was gazing
intently into the distance. At one time, she would
laugh and talk to herself, at another, she would
strike up her song anew.
I have retained that song in my memory,
word for word:
At their own free will
They seem to wander
O'er the green sea yonder,
Those ships, as still
They are onward going,
With white sails flowing.
And among those ships
My eye can mark
My own dear barque:
By two oars guided
With sails) it slips.
The storm-wind raves:
And the old ships -- see!
With wings spread free,
Over the waves
They scatter and flee!
The sea I will hail
With obeisance deep:
"Thou base one, hark!
Thou must not fail
My little barque
From harm to keep!"
For lo! 'tis bearing
Most precious gear,
And brave and daring
The arms that steer
Within the dark
My little barque.
Involuntarily the thought occurred to me
that I had heard the same voice the night before.
I reflected for a moment, and when I looked up
at the roof again there was no girl to be seen.
Suddenly she darted past me, with another song
on her lips, and, snapping her fingers, she ran
up to the old woman. Thereupon a quarrel
arose between them. The old woman grew
angry, and the girl laughed loudly. And then I
saw my Undine running and gambolling again.
She came up to where I was, stopped, and gazed
fixedly into my face as if surprised at my presence.
Then she turned carelessly away and went
quietly towards the harbour. But this was not
all. The whole day she kept hovering around
my lodging, singing and gambolling without a
moment's interruption. Strange creature! There
was not the slightest sign of insanity in her face;
on the contrary, her eyes, which were continually
resting upon me, were bright and piercing.
Moreover, they seemed to be endowed with a
certain magnetic power, and each time they looked
at me they appeared to be expecting a question.
But I had only to open my lips to speak, and away
she would run, with a sly smile.
Certainly never before had I seen a woman
like her. She was by no means beautiful; but,
as in other matters, I have my own prepossessions
on the subject of beauty. There was a good
deal of breeding in her. . . Breeding in women,
as in horses, is a great thing: a discovery, the
credit of which belongs to young France. It --
that is to say, breeding, not young France --
is chiefly to be detected in the gait, in the hands
and feet; the nose, in particular, is of the greatest
significance. In Russia a straight nose is rarer
than a small foot.
My songstress appeared to be not more than
eighteen years of age. The unusual suppleness of
her figure, the characteristic and original way she
had of inclining her head, her long, light-brown
hair, the golden sheen of her slightly sunburnt
neck and shoulders, and especially her straight
nose -- all these held me fascinated. Although
in her sidelong glances I could read a certain
wildness and disdain, although in her smile there
was a certain vagueness, yet -- such is the force
of predilections -- that straight nose of hers
drove me crazy. I fancied that I had found
Goethe's Mignon -- that queer creature of his
German imagination. And, indeed, there was a
good deal of similarity between them; the same
rapid transitions from the utmost restlessness to
complete immobility, the same enigmatical
speeches, the same gambols, the same strange
Towards evening I stopped her at the door
and entered into the following conversation
"Tell me, my beauty," I asked, "what were
you doing on the roof to-day?"
"I was looking to see from what direction the
wind was blowing."
"What did you want to know for?"
"Whence the wind blows comes happiness."
"Well? Were you invoking happiness with
"Where there is singing there is also happi-
"But what if your song were to bring you
"Well, what then? Where things won't be
better, they will be worse; and from bad to good
again is not far."
"And who taught you that song?"
"Nobody taught me; it comes into my head
and I sing; whoever is to hear it, he will hear it,
and whoever ought not to hear it, he will not
"What is your name, my songstress?"
"He who baptized me knows."
"And who baptized you?"
"How should I know?"
"What a secretive girl you are! But look here,
I have learned something about you" -- she
neither changed countenance nor moved her lips,
as though my discovery was of no concern to her --
"I have learned that you went to the shore
And, thereupon, I very gravely retailed to her all
that I had seen, thinking that I should embarrass
her. Not a bit of it! She burst out laughing
"You have seen much, but know little; and
what you do know, see that you keep it under lock
"But supposing, now, I was to take it into my
head to inform the Commandant?" and here I
assumed a very serious, not to say stern, de-
She gave a sudden spring, began to sing, and
hid herself like a bird frightened out of a thicket.
My last words were altogether out of place.
I had no suspicion then how momentous they
were, but afterwards I had occasion to rue
As soon as the dusk of evening fell, I ordered
the Cossack to heat the teapot, campaign fashion.
I lighted a candle and sat down by the table,
smoking my travelling-pipe. I was just about to
finish my second tumbler of tea when suddenly
the door creaked and I heard behind me the
sound of footsteps and the light rustle of a dress.
I started and turned round.
It was she -- my Undine. Softly and without
saying a word she sat down opposite to me and
fixed her eyes upon me. Her glance seemed
wondrously tender, I know not why; it re-
minded me of one of those glances which, in
years gone by, so despotically played with my
life. She seemed to be waiting for a question,
but I kept silence, filled with an inexplicable
sense of embarrassment. Mental agitation was
evinced by the dull pallor which overspread
her countenance; her hand, which I noticed
was trembling slightly, moved aimlessly about
the table. At one time her breast heaved, and
at another she seemed to be holding her breath.
This little comedy was beginning to pall upon
me, and I was about to break the silence in a
most prosaic manner, that is, by offering her a
glass of tea; when suddenly, springing up, she
threw her arms around my neck, and I felt her
moist, fiery lips pressed upon mine. Darkness
came before my eyes, my head began to swim.
I embraced her with the whole strength of
youthful passion. But, like a snake, she glided
from between my arms, whispering in my ear
as she did so:
"To-night, when everyone is asleep, go out
to the shore."
Like an arrow she sprang from the room.
In the hall she upset the teapot and a candle
which was standing on the floor.
"Little devil!" cried the Cossack, who
had taken up his position on the straw and had
contemplated warming himself with the remains
of the tea.
It was only then that I recovered my senses.
In about two hours' time, when all had grown
silent in the harbour, I awakened my Cossack.
"If I fire a pistol," I said, "run to the
He stared open-eyed and answered mechanic-
"Very well, sir."
I stuffed a pistol in my belt and went out. She
was waiting for me at the edge of the cliff. Her
attire was more than light, and a small kerchief
girded her supple waist.
"Follow me!" she said, taking me by the
hand, and we began to descend.
I cannot understand how it was that I did not
break my neck. Down below we turned to the
right and proceeded to take the path along which
I had followed the blind boy the evening before.
The moon had not yet risen, and only two little
stars, like two guardian lighthouses, were twink-
ling in the dark-blue vault of heaven. The heavy
waves, with measured and even motion, rolled
one after the other, scarcely lifting the solitary
boat which was moored to the shore.
"Let us get into the boat," said my com-
I hesitated. I am no lover of sentimental
trips on the sea; but this was not the time to
draw back. She leaped into the boat, and I
after her; and I had not time to recover my
wits before I observed that we were adrift.
"What is the meaning of this?" I said angrily.
"It means," she answered, seating me on the
bench and throwing her arms around my waist,
"it means that I love you!" . . .
Her cheek was pressed close to mine. and I felt
her burning breath upon my face. Suddenly
something fell noisily into the water. I clutched
at my belt -- my pistol was gone! Ah, now a
terrible suspicion crept into my soul, and the
blood rushed to my head! I looked round. We
were about fifty fathoms from the shore, and
I could not swim a stroke! I tried to thrust
her away from me, but she clung like a cat to
my clothes, and suddenly a violent wrench all but
threw me into the sea. The boat rocked, but I
righted myself, and a desperate struggle began.
Fury lent me strength, but I soon found that
I was no match for my opponent in point of
agility. . .
"What do you want?" I cried, firmly
squeezing her little hands.
Her fingers crunched, but her serpent-like
nature bore up against the torture, and she did
not utter a cry.
"You saw us," she answered. "You will tell
And, with a supernatural effort, she flung me
on to the side of the boat; we both hung half
overboard; her hair touched the water. The
decisive moment had come. I planted my knee
against the bottom of the boat, caught her by
the tresses with one hand and by the throat
with the other; she let go my clothes, and, in
an instant, I had thrown her into the waves.
It was now rather dark; once or twice her head
appeared for an instant amidst the sea foam,
and I saw no more of her.
I found the half of an old oar at the bottom of
the boat, and somehow or other, after lengthy
efforts, I made fast to the harbour. Making my
way along the shore towards my hut, I involun-
tarily gazed in the direction of the spot where,
on the previous night, the blind boy had awaited
the nocturnal mariner. The moon was already
rolling through the sky, and it seemed to me
that somebody in white was sitting on the shore.
Spurred by curiosity, I crept up and crouched
down in the grass on the top of the cliff. By
thrusting my head out a little way I was able
to get a good view of everything that was happen-
ing down below, and I was not very much aston-
ished, but almost rejoiced, when I recognised
my water-nymph. She was wringing the sea-
foam from her long hair. Her wet garment out-
lined her supple figure and her high bosom.
Soon a boat appeared in the distance; it drew
near rapidly; and, as on the night before, a
man in a Tartar cap stepped out of it, but he
now had his hair cropped round in the Cossack
fashion, and a large knife was sticking out behind
his leather belt.
"Yanko," the girl said, "all is lost!"
Then their conversation continued, but so
softly that I could not catch a word of it.
"But where is the blind boy?" said Yanko at
last, raising his voice.
"I have told him to come," was the reply.
After a few minutes the blind boy appeared,
dragging on his back a sack, which they placed
in the boat.
"Listen!" said Yanko to the blind boy.
"Guard that place! You know where I mean?
There are valuable goods there. Tell" -- I
could not catch the name -- "that I am no longer
his servant. Things have gone badly. He will
see me no more. It is dangerous now. I will
go seek work in another place, and he will never be
able to find another dare-devil like me. Tell
him also that if he had paid me a little better
for my labours, I would not have forsaken him.
For me there is a way anywhere, if only the
wind blows and the sea roars."
After a short silence Yanko continued.
"She is coming with me. It is impossible for
her to remain here. Tell the old woman that
it is time for her to die; she has been here a
long time, and the line must be drawn somewhere.
As for us, she will never see us any more."
"And I?" said the blind boy in a plaintive
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