A Hero of Our Time
M. Y. Lermontov
Part 3 out of 5
"What use have I for you?" was the answer.
In the meantime my Undine had sprung
into the boat. She beckoned to her companion
with her hand. He placed something in the
blind boy's hand and added:
"There, buy yourself some gingerbreads."
"Is this all?" said the blind boy.
"Well, here is some more."
The money fell and jingled as it struck the
The blind boy did not pick it up. Yanko took
his seat in the boat; the wind was blowing from
the shore; they hoisted the little sail and sped
rapidly away. For a long time the white sail
gleamed in the moonlight amid the dark waves.
Still the blind boy remained seated upon the
shore, and then I heard something which sounded
like sobbing. The blind boy was, in fact, weeping,
and for a long, long time his tears flowed. . .
I grew heavy-hearted. For what reason should
fate have thrown me into the peaceful circle of
honourable smugglers? Like a stone cast into a
smooth well, I had disturbed their quietude,
and I barely escaped going to the bottom like a
I returned home. In the hall the burnt-out
candle was spluttering on a wooden platter, and
my Cossack, contrary to orders, was fast asleep,
with his gun held in both hands. I left him at
rest, took the candle, and entered the hut.
Alas! my cashbox, my sabre with the silver
chasing, my Daghestan dagger -- the gift of a
friend -- all had vanished! It was then that I
guessed what articles the cursed blind boy had
been dragging along. Roughly shaking the
Cossack, I woke him up, rated him, and lost my
temper. But what was the good of that?
And would it not have been ridiculous to com-
plain to the authorities that I had been robbed
by a blind boy and all but drowned by an
Thank heaven an opportunity of getting away
presented itself in the morning, and I left
What became of the old woman and the poor
blind boy I know not. And, besides, what are the
joys and sorrows of mankind to me -- me, a
travelling officer, and one, moreover, with an
order for post-horses on Government business?
BOOK IV THE SECOND EXTRACT FROM PECHORIN'S DIARY
I ONCE happened to spend a couple of weeks
in a Cossack village on our left flank. A
battalion of infantry was stationed there; and
it was the custom of the officers to meet at each
other's quarters in turn and play cards in the
On one occasion -- it was at Major S----'s --
finding our game of Boston not sufficiently ab-
sorbing, we threw the cards under the table
and sat on for a long time, talking. The con-
versation, for once in a way, was interesting.
The subject was the Mussulman tradition that
a man's fate is written in heaven, and we dis-
cussed the fact that it was gaining many votaries,
even amongst our own countrymen. Each of us
related various extraordinary occurrences, pro or
"What you have been saying, gentlemen,
proves nothing," said the old major. "I presume
there is not one of you who has actually been a
witness of the strange events which you are citing
in support of your opinions?"
"Not one, of course," said many of the guests.
"But we have heard of them from trustworthy
people." . . .
"It is all nonsense!" someone said. "Where
are the trustworthy people who have seen the
Register in which the appointed hour of our
death is recorded? . . . And if predestination
really exists, why are free will and reason granted
us? Why are we obliged to render an account
of our actions?"
At that moment an officer who was sitting in a
corner of the room stood up, and, coming slowly
to the table, surveyed us all with a quiet and
solemn glance. He was a native of Servia, as was
evident from his name.
The outward appearance of Lieutenant Vulich
was quite in keeping with his character. His
height, swarthy complexion, black hair, piercing
black eyes, large but straight nose -- an attribute of
his nation -- and the cold and melancholy smile
which ever hovered around his lips, all seemed to
concur in lending him the appearance of a man
apart, incapable of reciprocating the thoughts
and passions of those whom fate gave him for
He was brave; talked little, but sharply;
confided his thoughts and family secrets to no
one; drank hardly a drop of wine; and never
dangled after the young Cossack girls, whose
charm it is difficult to realise without having
seen them. It was said, however, that the
colonel's wife was not indifferent to those ex-
pressive eyes of his; but he was seriously angry
if any hint on the subject was made.
There was only one passion which he did not
conceal -- the passion for gambling. At the green
table he would become oblivious of everything.
He usually lost, but his constant ill success only
aroused his obstinacy. It was related that, on one
occasion, during a nocturnal expedition, he was
keeping the bank on a pillow, and had a terrific run
of luck. Suddenly shots rang out. The alarm was
sounded; all but Vulich jumped up and rushed
"Stake, va banque!" he cried to one of the
most ardent gamblers.
"Seven," the latter answered as he hurried
Notwithstanding the general confusion, Vulich
calmly finished the deal -- seven was the card.
By the time he reached the cordon a violent
fusillade was in progress. Vulich did not trouble
himself about the bullets or the sabres of the
Chechenes, but sought for the lucky gambler.
"Seven it was!" he cried out, as at length he
perceived him in the cordon of skirmishers who
were beginning to dislodge the enemy from the
wood; and going up to him, he drew out his
purse and pocket-book and handed them to the
winner, notwithstanding the latter's objections
on the score of the inconvenience of the payment.
That unpleasant duty discharged, Vulich dashed
forward, carried the soldiers along after him,
and, to the very end of the affair, fought the
Chechenes with the utmost coolness.
When Lieutenant Vulich came up to the table,
we all became silent, expecting to hear, as usual,
"Gentlemen!" he said -- and his voice was
quiet though lower in tone than usual -- "gentle-
men, what is the good of futile discussions?
You wish for proofs? I propose that we try the
experiment on ourselves: whether a man can of
his own accord dispose of his life, or whether the
fateful moment is appointed beforehand for each
of us. Who is agreeable?"
"Not I. Not I," came from all sides.
"There's a queer fellow for you! He does get
strange ideas into his head!"
"I propose a wager," I said in jest.
"What sort of wager?"
"I maintain that there is no such thing as
predestination," I said, scattering on the table a
score or so of ducats -- all I had in my pocket.
"Done," answered Vulich in a hollow voice.
"Major, you will be judge. Here are fifteen
ducats, the remaining five you owe me, kindly
add them to the others."
"Very well," said the major; "though,
indeed, I do not understand what is the question
at issue and how you will decide it!"
Without a word Vulich went into the major's
bedroom, and we followed him. He went up to
the wall on which the major's weapons were hang-
ing, and took down at random one of the pistols
-- of which there were several of different cali-
bres. We were still in the dark as to what he
meant to do. But, when he cocked the pistol
and sprinkled powder in the pan, several of the
officers, crying out in spite of themselves, seized
him by the arms.
"What are you going to do?" they exclaimed.
"This is madness!"
"Gentlemen!" he said slowly, disengaging
his arm. "Who would like to pay twenty ducats
They were silent and drew away.
Vulich went into the other room and sat by
the table; we all followed him. With a sign
he invited us to sit round him. We obeyed in
silence -- at that moment he had acquired a
certain mysterious authority over us. I stared
fixedly into his face; but he met my scrutinising
gaze with a quiet and steady glance, and his
pallid lips smiled. But, notwithstanding his
composure, it seemed to me that I could read the
stamp of death upon his pale countenance. I
have noticed -- and many old soldiers have cor-
roborated my observation -- that a man who is
to die in a few hours frequently bears on his
face a certain strange stamp of inevitable fate,
so that it is difficult for practised eyes to be
"You will die to-day!" I said to Vulich.
He turned towards me rapidly, but answered
slowly and quietly:
"May be so, may be not." . . .
Then, addressing himself to the major, he asked:
"Is the pistol loaded?"
The major, in the confusion, could not quite
"There, that will do, Vulich!" exclaimed
somebody. "Of course it must be loaded, if it
was one of those hanging on the wall there over
our heads. What a man you are for joking!"
"A silly joke, too!" struck in another.
"I wager fifty rubles to five that the pistol is
not loaded!" cried a third.
A new bet was made.
I was beginning to get tired of it all.
"Listen," I said, "either shoot yourself, or
hang up the pistol in its place and let us go to bed."
"Yes, of course!" many exclaimed. "Let
us go to bed."
"Gentlemen, I beg of you not to move," said
Vulich, putting the muzzle of the pistol to his
We were all petrified.
"Mr. Pechorin," he added, "take a card and
throw it up in the air."
I took, as I remember now, an ace of hearts off
the table and threw it into the air. All held their
breath. With eyes full of terror and a certain
vague curiosity they glanced rapidly from the
pistol to the fateful ace, which slowly descended,
quivering in the air. At the moment it touched
the table Vulich pulled the trigger . . . a flash
in the pan!
"Thank God!" many exclaimed. "It wasn't
"Let us see, though," said Vulich.
He cocked the pistol again, and took aim at a
forage-cap which was hanging above the window.
A shot rang out. Smoke filled the room; when
it cleared away, the forage-cap was taken down.
It had been shot right through the centre,
and the bullet was deeply embedded in the
For two or three minutes no one was able to
utter a word. Very quietly Vulich poured my
ducats from the major's purse into his own.
Discussions arose as to why the pistol had not
gone off the first time. Some maintained that
probably the pan had been obstructed; others
whispered that the powder had been damp the
first time, and that, afterwards, Vulich had
sprinkled some fresh powder on it; but I
maintained that the last supposition was wrong,
because I had not once taken my eyes off the
"You are lucky at play!" I said to Vulich. . .
"For the first time in my life!" he answered,
with a complacent smile. "It is better than
'bank' and 'shtoss.'"
"But, on the other hand, slightly more
"Well? Have you begun to believe in pre-
"I do believe in it; only I cannot understand
now why it appeared to me that you must
inevitably die to-day!"
And this same man, who, such a short time
before, had with the greatest calmness aimed
a pistol at his own forehead, now suddenly fired
up and became embarrassed.
"That will do, though!" he said, rising to his
feet. "Our wager is finished, and now your
observations, it seems to me, are out of place."
He took up his cap and departed. The whole
affair struck me as being strange -- and not
without reason. Shortly after that, all the officers
broke up and went home, discussing Vulich's
freaks from different points of view, and, doubt-
less, with one voice calling me an egoist for having
taken up a wager against a man who wanted to
shoot himself, as if he could not have found a
convenient opportunity without my intervention.
I returned home by the deserted byways of the
village. The moon, full and red like the glow of
a conflagration, was beginning to make its appear-
ance from behind the jagged horizon of the
house-tops; the stars were shining tranquilly in
the deep, blue vault of the sky; and I was struck by
the absurdity of the idea when I recalled to mind
that once upon a time there were some exceed-
ingly wise people who thought that the stars of
heaven participated in our insignificant squabbles
for a slice of ground, or some other imaginary
rights. And what then? These lamps, lighted,
so they fancied, only to illuminate their battles
and triumphs, are burning with all their former
brilliance, whilst the wiseacres themselves, to-
gether with their hopes and passions, have long
been extinguished, like a little fire kindled at the
edge of a forest by a careless wayfarer! But, on the
other hand, what strength of will was lent them
by the conviction that the entire heavens, with
their innumerable habitants, were looking at them
with a sympathy, unalterable, though mute! . . .
And we, their miserable descendants, roaming
over the earth, without faith, without pride,
without enjoyment, and without terror -- except
that involuntary awe which makes the heart shrink
at the thought of the inevitable end -- we are no
longer capable of great sacrifices, either for the
good of mankind or even for our own happiness,
because we know the impossibility of such
happiness; and, just as our ancestors used to
fling themselves from one delusion to another,
we pass indifferently from doubt to doubt,
without possessing, as they did, either hope or
even that vague though, at the same time, keen
enjoyment which the soul encounters at every
struggle with mankind or with destiny.
These and many other similar thoughts passed
through my mind, but I did not follow them up,
because I do not like to dwell upon abstract
ideas -- for what do they lead to? In my early
youth I was a dreamer; I loved to hug to my
bosom the images -- now gloomy, now rainbow-
hued -- which my restless and eager imagination
drew for me. And what is there left to me of all
these? Only such weariness as might be felt after
a battle by night with a phantom -- only a con-
fused memory full of regrets. In that vain
contest I have exhausted the warmth of soul and
firmness of will indispensable to an active life. I
have entered upon that life after having already
lived through it in thought, and it has become
wearisome and nauseous to me, as the reading of
a bad imitation of a book is to one who has long
been familiar with the original.
The events of that evening produced a some-
what deep impression upon me and excited my
nerves. I do not know for certain whether I now
believe in predestination or not, but on that
evening I believed in it firmly. The proof was
startling, and I, notwithstanding that I had
laughed at our forefathers and their obliging
astrology, fell involuntarily into their way of
thinking. However, I stopped myself in time
from following that dangerous road, and, as I have
made it a rule not to reject anything decisively
and not to trust anything blindly, I cast meta-
physics aside and began to look at what was
beneath my feet. The precaution was well-timed.
I only just escaped stumbling over something
thick and soft, but, to all appearance, inanimate.
I bent down to see what it was, and, by the light
of the moon, which now shone right upon the
road, I perceived that it was a pig which had
been cut in two with a sabre. . . I had hardly
time to examine it before I heard the sound of
steps, and two Cossacks came running out of a
byway. One of them came up to me and
enquired whether I had seen a drunken Cossack
chasing a pig. I informed him that I had not met
the Cossack and pointed to the unhappy
victim of his rabid bravery.
"The scoundrel!" said the second Cossack.
"No sooner does he drink his fill of chikhir
than off he goes and cuts up anything that comes in
his way. Let us be after him, Eremeich, we
must tie him up or else" . . .
 A Caucasian wine.
They took themselves off, and I continued my
way with greater caution, and at length arrived at
my lodgings without mishap.
I was living with a certain old Cossack under-
officer whom I loved, not only on account of his
kindly disposition, but also, and more especially,
on account of his pretty daughter, Nastya.
Wrapped up in a sheepskin coat she was
waiting for me, as usual, by the wicket gate.
The moon illumined her charming little lips, now
turned blue by the cold of the night. Recognizing
me she smiled; but I was in no mood to linger
"Good night, Nastya!" I said, and passed on.
She was about to make some answer, but only
I fastened the door of my room after me,
lighted a candle, and threw myself on the bed;
but, on that occasion, slumber caused its presence
to be awaited longer than usual. By the time I
fell asleep the east was beginning to grow pale,
but I was evidently predestined not to have my
sleep out. At four o'clock in the morning two
fists knocked at my window. I sprang up.
"What is the matter?"
"Get up -- dress yourself!"
I dressed hurriedly and went out.
"Do you know what has happened?" said three
officers who had come for me, speaking all in one
They were deadly pale.
"No, what is it?"
"Vulich has been murdered!"
I was petrified.
"Yes, murdered!" they continued. "Let us
lose no time and go!"
"But where to?"
"You will learn as we go."
We set off. They told me all that had hap-
pened, supplementing their story with a variety
of observations on the subject of the strange
predestination which had saved Vulich from
imminent death half an hour before he actually
met his end.
Vulich had been walking alone along a dark
street, and the drunken Cossack who had cut up
the pig had sprung out upon him, and perhaps
would have passed him by without noticing
him, had not Vulich stopped suddenly and
"Whom are you looking for, my man?"
"You!" answered the Cossack, striking him
with his sabre; and he cleft him from the
shoulder almost to the heart. . .
The two Cossacks who had met me and
followed the murderer had arrived on the scene
and raised the wounded man from the ground.
But he was already as his last gasp and said these
three words only -- "he was right!"
I alone understood the dark significance of
those words: they referred to me. I had
involuntarily foretold his fate to poor Vulich.
My instinct had not deceived me; I had indeed
read on his changed countenance the signs of
The murderer had locked himself up in an
empty hut at the end of the village; and thither
we went. A number of women, all of them
weeping, were running in the same direction; at
times a belated Cossack, hastily buckling on his
dagger, sprang out into the street and overtook
us at a run. The tumult was dreadful.
At length we arrived on the scene and found a
crowd standing around the hut, the door and
shutters of which were locked on the inside.
Groups of officers and Cossacks were engaged in
heated discussions; the women were shrieking,
wailing and talking all in one breath. One of the
old women struck my attention by her meaning
looks and the frantic despair expressed upon her
face. She was sitting on a thick plank, leaning
her elbows on her knees and supporting her head
with her hands. It was the mother of the
murderer. At times her lips moved. . . Was
it a prayer they were whispering, or a curse?
Meanwhile it was necessary to decide upon
some course of action and to seize the criminal.
Nobody, however, made bold to be the first to
I went up to the window and looked in through
a chink in the shutter. The criminal, pale of
face, was lying on the floor, holding a pistol in his
right hand. The blood-stained sabre was beside
him. His expressive eyes were rolling in terror;
at times he shuddered and clutched at his head,
as if indistinctly recalling the events of yesterday.
I could not read any sign of great determination
in that uneasy glance of his, and I told the major
that it would be better at once to give orders to
the Cossacks to burst open the door and rush in,
than to wait until the murderer had quite
recovered his senses.
At that moment the old captain of the Cossacks
went up to the door and called the murderer by
name. The latter answered back.
"You have committed a sin, brother Ephi-
mych!" said the captain, "so all you can do now
is to submit."
"I will not submit!" answered the Cossack.
"Have you no fear of God! You see, you
are not one of those cursed Chechenes, but an
honest Christian! Come, if you have done it in
an unguarded moment there is no help for it!
You cannot escape your fate!"
"I will not submit!" exclaimed the Cossack
menacingly, and we could hear the snap of the
"Hey, my good woman!" said the Cossack
captain to the old woman. "Say a word to your
son -- perhaps he will lend an ear to you. . .
You see, to go on like this is only to make God
angry. And look, the gentlemen here have
already been waiting two hours."
The old woman gazed fixedly at him and shook
"Vasili Petrovich," said the captain, going up
to the major; "he will not surrender. I know
him! If it comes to smashing in the door he will
strike down several of our men. Would it not be
better if you ordered him to be shot? There is
a wide chink in the shutter."
At that moment a strange idea flashed through
my head -- like Vulich I proposed to put fate to
"Wait," I said to the major, "I will take
Bidding the captain enter into a conversation
with the murderer and setting three Cossacks at
the door ready to force it open and rush to my
aid at a given signal, I walked round the hut and
approached the fatal window. My heart was
"Aha, you cursed wretch!" cried the captain.
"Are you laughing at us, eh? Or do you think
that we won't be able to get the better of you?"
He began to knock at the door with all his
might. Putting my eye to the chink, I followed
the movements of the Cossack, who was not
expecting an attack from that direction. I
pulled the shutter away suddenly and threw
myself in at the window, head foremost. A shot
rang out right over my ear, and the bullet tore off
one of my epaulettes. But the smoke which filled
the room prevented my adversary from finding
the sabre which was lying beside him. I seized
him by the arms; the Cossacks burst in; and
three minutes had not elapsed before they had
the criminal bound and led off under escort.
The people dispersed, the officers congratulated
me -- and indeed there was cause for congratula-
After all that, it would hardly seem possible
to avoid becoming a fatalist? But who knows
for certain whether he is convinced of anything
or not? And how often is a deception of the
senses or an error of the reason accepted as a
conviction! . . . I prefer to doubt everything.
Such a disposition is no bar to decision of
character; on the contrary, so far as I am
concerned, I always advance more boldly when I
do not know what is awaiting me. You see,
nothing can happen worse than death -- and from
death there is no escape.
On my return to the fortress I related to
Maksim Maksimych all that I had seen and
experienced; and I sought to learn his opinion
on the subject of predestination.
At first he did not understand the word. I
explained it to him as well as I could, and then he
said, with a significant shake of the head:
"Yes, sir, of course! It was a very ingenious
trick! However, these Asiatic pistols often
miss fire if they are badly oiled or if you don't
press hard enough on the trigger. I confess I
don't like the Circassian carbines either. Some-
how or other they don't suit the like of us: the
butt end is so small, and any minute you may
get your nose burnt! On the other hand, their
sabres, now -- well, all I need say is, my best
respects to them!"
Afterwards he said, on reflecting a little:
"Yes, it is a pity about the poor fellow! The
devil must have put it into his head to start a
conversation with a drunken man at night!
However, it is evident that fate had written it
so at his birth!"
I could not get anything more out of Maksim
Maksimych; generally speaking, he had no
liking for metaphysical disputations.
BOOK V THE THIRD EXTRACT FROM PECHORIN'S DIARY
YESTERDAY I arrived at Pyatigorsk.
I have engaged lodgings at the extreme
end of the town, the highest part, at the foot of
Mount Mashuk: during a storm the clouds will
descend on to the roof of my dwelling.
This morning at five o'clock, when I opened
my window, the room was filled with the fra-
grance of the flowers growing in the modest little
front-garden. Branches of bloom-laden bird-
cherry trees peep in at my window, and now and
again the breeze bestrews my writing-table with
their white petals. The view which meets my
gaze on three sides is wonderful: westward
towers five-peaked Beshtau, blue as "the last
cloud of a dispersed storm," and northward rises
Mashuk, like a shaggy Persian cap, shutting in
the whole of that quarter of the horizon. Eastward
the outlook is more cheery: down below are dis-
played the varied hues of the brand-new, spotlessly
clean, little town, with its murmuring, health-
giving springs and its babbling, many-tongued
throng. Yonder, further away, the mountains
tower up in an amphitheatre, ever bluer and
mistier; and, at the edge of the horizon, stretches
the silver chain of snow-clad summits, begin-
ning with Kazbek and ending with two-peaked
Elbruz. . . Blithe is life in such a land! A feeling
akin to rapture is diffused through all my veins.
The air is pure and fresh, like the kiss of a child;
the sun is bright, the sky is blue -- what more could
one possibly wish for? What need, in such a place
as this, of passions, desires, regrets?
 Pushkin. Compare Shelley's Adonais, xxxi. 3: "as the
last cloud of an expiring storm."
However, it is time to be stirring. I will go to
the Elizaveta spring -- I am told that the whole
society of the watering-place assembles there in
. . . . .
Descending into the middle of the town, I
walked along the boulevard, on which I met a few
melancholy groups slowly ascending the moun-
tain. These, for the most part, were the families
of landed-gentry from the steppes -- as could be
guessed at once from the threadbare, old-
fashioned frock-coats of the husbands and the
exquisite attire of the wives and daughters.
Evidently they already had all the young men of
the watering-place at their fingers' ends, because
they looked at me with a tender curiosity. The
Petersburg cut of my coat misled them; but they
soon recognised the military epaulettes, and
turned away with indignation.
The wives of the local authorities -- the host-
esses, so to speak, of the waters -- were more
graciously inclined. They carry lorgnettes, and
they pay less attention to a uniform -- they have
grown accustomed in the Caucasus to meeting a
fervid heart beneath a numbered button and a
cultured intellect beneath a white forage-cap.
These ladies are very charming, and long continue
to be charming. Each year their adorers are
exchanged for new ones, and in that very fact, it
may be, lies the secret of their unwearying
Ascending by the narrow path to the Elizaveta
spring, I overtook a crowd of officials and military
men, who, as I subsequently learned, compose a
class apart amongst those who place their hopes
in the medicinal waters. They drink -- but not
water -- take but few walks, indulge in only mild
flirtations, gamble, and complain of boredom.
They are dandies. In letting their wicker-
sheathed tumblers down into the well of sulphur-
ous water they assume academical poses. The
officials wear bright blue cravats; the military men
have ruffs sticking out above their collars. They
affect a profound contempt for provincial ladies,
and sigh for the aristocratic drawing-rooms of the
capitals -- to which they are not admitted.
Here is the well at last! . . . Upon the small
square adjoining it a little house with a red roof
over the bath is erected, and somewhat further
on there is a gallery in which the people
walk when it rains. Some wounded officers
were sitting -- pale and melancholy -- on a bench,
with their crutches drawn up. A few ladies,
their tumbler of water finished, were walking
with rapid steps to and fro about the square.
There were two or three pretty faces amongst
them. Beneath the avenues of the vines with
which the slope of Mashuk is covered, occasional
glimpses could be caught of the gay-coloured hat
of a lover of solitude for two -- for beside that hat
I always noticed either a military forage-cap or
the ugly round hat of a civilian. Upon the steep
cliff, where the pavilion called "The Aeolian
Harp" is erected, figured the lovers of scenery,
directing their telescopes upon Elbruz. Amongst
them were a couple of tutors, with their pupils
who had come to be cured of scrofula.
Out of breath, I came to a standstill at the
edge of the mountain, and, leaning against the
corner of a little house, I began to examine the
picturesque surroundings, when suddenly I heard
behind me a familiar voice.
"Pechorin! Have you been here long?"
I turned round. Grushnitski! We embraced.
I had made his acquaintance in the active service
detachment. He had been wounded in the foot by
a bullet and had come to the waters a week or so
Grushnitski is a cadet; he has only been a year
in the service. From a kind of foppery peculiar
to himself, he wears the thick cloak of a common
soldier. He has also the soldier's cross of St.
George. He is well built, swarthy and black-
haired. To look at him, you might say he was
a man of twenty-five, although he is scarcely
twenty-one. He tosses his head when he speaks,
and keeps continually twirling his moustache
with his left hand, his right hand being occupied
with the crutch on which he leans. He speaks
rapidly and affectedly; he is one of those people
who have a high-sounding phrase ready for every
occasion in life, who remain untouched by simple
beauty, and who drape themselves majestically
in extraordinary sentiments, exalted passions
and exceptional sufferings. To produce an effect
is their delight; they have an almost insensate
fondness for romantic provincial ladies. When
old age approaches they become either peaceful
landed-gentry or drunkards -- sometimes both.
Frequently they have many good qualities, but
they have not a grain of poetry in their com-
position. Grushnitski's passion was declamation.
He would deluge you with words so soon as the
conversation went beyond the sphere of ordinary
ideas. I have never been able to dispute with him.
He neither answers your questions nor listens to
you. So soon as you stop, he begins a lengthy
tirade, which has the appearance of being in some
sort connected with what you have been saying,
but which is, in fact, only a continuation of his
He is witty enough; his epigrams are fre-
quently amusing, but never malicious, nor to the
point. He slays nobody with a single word; he
has no knowledge of men and of their foibles,
because all his life he has been interested in
nobody but himself. His aim is to make himself
the hero of a novel. He has so often endeavoured
to convince others that he is a being created not
for this world and doomed to certain mysterious
sufferings, that he has almost convinced himself
that such he is in reality. Hence the pride with
which he wears his thick soldier's cloak. I have
seen through him, and he dislikes me for that
reason, although to outward appearance we are
on the friendliest of terms. Grushnitski is looked
upon as a man of distinguished courage. I
have seen him in action. He waves his sabre,
shouts, and hurls himself forward with his eyes
shut. That is not what I should call Russian
courage! . . .
I reciprocate Grushnitski's dislike. I feel
that some time or other we shall come into
collision upon a narrow road, and that one of us
will fare badly.
His arrival in the Caucasus is also the result
of his romantic fanaticism. I am convinced
that on the eve of his departure from his paternal
village he said with an air of gloom to some pretty
neighbour that he was going away, not so much
for the simple purpose of serving in the army as of
seeking death, because . . . and hereupon, I am
sure, he covered his eyes with his hand and
continued thus, "No, you -- or thou -- must not
know! Your pure soul would shudder! And
what would be the good? What am I to
you? Could you understand me?" . . . and
He has himself told me that the motive which
induced him to enter the K---- regiment must
remain an everlasting secret between him and
However, in moments when he casts aside the
tragic mantle, Grushnitski is charming and
entertaining enough. I am always interested
to see him with women -- it is then that he puts
forth his finest efforts, I think!
We met like a couple of old friends. I began
to question him about the personages of note and
as to the sort of life which was led at the waters.
"It is a rather prosaic life," he said, with a
sigh. "Those who drink the waters in the
morning are inert -- like all invalids, and those who
drink the wines in the evening are unendurable --
like all healthy people! There are ladies who
entertain, but there is no great amusement to be
obtained from them. They play whist, they
dress badly and speak French dreadfully! The
only Moscow people here this year are Princess
Ligovski and her daughter -- but I am not
acquainted with them. My soldier's cloak is like
a seal of renunciation. The sympathy which it
arouses is as painful as charity."
At that moment two ladies walked past us in
the direction of the well; one elderly, the other
youthful and slender. I could not obtain a good
view of their faces on account of their hats, but
they were dressed in accordance with the strict
rules of the best taste -- nothing superfluous.
The second lady was wearing a high-necked dress
of pearl-grey, and a light silk kerchief was wound
round her supple neck. Puce-coloured boots
clasped her slim little ankle so charmingly, that
even those uninitiated into the mysteries of
beauty would infallibly have sighed, if only from
wonder. There was something maidenly in her
easy, but aristocratic gait, something eluding
definition yet intelligible to the glance. As she
walked past us an indefinable perfume, like that
which sometimes breathes from the note of a
charming woman, was wafted from her.
"Look!" said Grushnitski, "there is Princess
Ligovski with her daughter Mary, as she calls her
after the English manner. They have been here
only three days."
"You already know her name, though?"
"Yes, I heard it by chance," he answered, with
a blush. "I confess I do not desire to make their
acquaintance. These haughty aristocrats look
upon us army men just as they would upon
savages. What care they if there is an intellect
beneath a numbered forage-cap, and a heart
beneath a thick cloak?"
"Poor cloak!" I said, with a laugh. "But who
is the gentleman who is just going up to them
and handing them a tumbler so officiously?"
"Oh, that is Raevich, the Moscow dandy. He
is a gambler; you can see as much at once from
that immense gold chain coiling across his sky-
blue waistcoat. And what a thick cane he has!
Just like Robinson Crusoe's -- and so is his beard
too, and his hair is done like a peasant's."
"You are embittered against the whole human
"And I have cause to be" . . .
At that moment the ladies left the well and
came up to where we were. Grushnitski suc-
ceeded in assuming a dramatic pose with the aid
of his crutch, and in a loud tone of voice answered
me in French:
"Mon cher, je hais les hommes pour ne pas les
mepriser, car autrement la vie serait une farce
The pretty Princess Mary turned round and
favoured the orator with a long and curious
glance. Her expression was quite indefinite, but
it was not contemptuous, a fact on which I
inwardly congratulated Grushnitski from my
"She is an extremely pretty girl," I said. "She
has such velvet eyes -- yes, velvet is the word. I
should advise you to appropriate the expression
when speaking of her eyes. The lower and upper
lashes are so long that the sunbeams are not
reflected in her pupils. I love those eyes without
a glitter, they are so soft that they appear to
caress you. However, her eyes seem to be her
only good feature. . . Tell me, are her teeth
white? That is most important! It is a pity
that she did not smile at that high-sounding
phrase of yours."
"You are speaking of a pretty woman just as
you might of an English horse," said Grushnitski
"Mon cher," I answered, trying to mimic his
tone, "je meprise les femmes, pour ne pas les
aimer, car autrement la vie serait un melodrame
I turned and left him. For half an hour or so
I walked about the avenues of the vines, the
limestone cliffs and the bushes hanging between
them. The day grew hot, and I hurried home-
wards. Passing the sulphur spring, I stopped at
the covered gallery in order to regain my breath
under its shade, and by so doing I was afforded the
opportunity of witnessing a rather interesting
scene. This is the position in which the dramatis
personae were disposed: Princess Ligovski and
the Moscow dandy were sitting on a bench
in the covered gallery -- apparently engaged in
serious conversation. Princess Mary, who had
doubtless by this time finished her last tumbler,
was walking pensively to and fro by the well.
Grushnitski was standing by the well itself;
there was nobody else on the square.
I went up closer and concealed myself behind
a corner of the gallery. At that moment Grush-
nitski let his tumbler fall on the sand and made
strenuous efforts to stoop in order to pick it up;
but his injured foot prevented him. Poor
fellow! How he tried all kinds of artifices, as he
leaned on his crutch, and all in vain! His
expressive countenance was, in fact, a picture of
Princess Mary saw the whole scene better
Lighter than a bird she sprang towards him,
stooped, picked up the tumbler, and handed it to
him with a gesture full of ineffable charm. Then
she blushed furiously, glanced round at the
gallery, and, having assured herself that her
mother apparently had not seen anything, im-
mediately regained her composure. By the time
Grushnitski had opened his mouth to thank her
she was a long way off. A moment after, she came
out of the gallery with her mother and the dandy,
but, in passing by Grushnitski, she assumed a most
decorous and serious air. She did not even turn
round, she did not even observe the passionate
gaze which he kept fixed upon her for a long time
until she had descended the mountain and was
hidden behind the lime trees of the boulevard. . .
Presently I caught glimpses of her hat as she
walked along the street. She hurried through
the gate of one of the best houses in Pyatigorsk;
her mother walked behind her and bowed adieu to
Raevich at the gate.
It was only then that the poor, passionate
cadet noticed my presence.
"Did you see?" he said, pressing my hand
vigorously. "She is an angel, simply an angel!"
"Why?" I inquired, with an air of the purest
"Did you not see, then?"
"No. I saw her picking up your tumbler. If
there had been an attendant there he would have
done the same thing -- and quicker too, in the hope
of receiving a tip. It is quite easy, however, to
understand that she pitied you; you made such a
terrible grimace when you walked on the wounded
"And can it be that seeing her, as you did,
at that moment when her soul was shining in her
eyes, you were not in the least affected?"
I was lying, but I wanted to exasperate him. I
have an innate passion for contradiction -- my
whole life has been nothing but a series of melan-
choly and vain contradictions of heart or reason.
The presence of an enthusiast chills me with a
twelfth-night cold, and I believe that constant
association with a person of a flaccid and phleg-
matic temperament would have turned me into
an impassioned visionary. I confess, too, that
an unpleasant but familiar sensation was coursing
lightly through my heart at that moment. It
was -- envy. I say "envy" boldly, because I am
accustomed to acknowledge everything to myself.
It would be hard to find a young man who, if his
idle fancy had been attracted by a pretty woman
and he had suddenly found her openly singling
out before his eyes another man equally unknown
to her -- it would be hard, I say, to find such a
young man (living, of course, in the great world
and accustomed to indulge his self-love) who
would not have been unpleasantly taken aback
in such a case.
In silence Grushnitski and I descended the
mountain and walked along the boulevard, past
the windows of the house where our beauty had
hidden herself. She was sitting by the window.
Grushnitski, plucking me by the arm, cast upon
her one of those gloomily tender glances which
have so little effect upon women. I directed my
lorgnette at her, and observed that she smiled at
his glance and that my insolent lorgnette made
her downright angry. And how, indeed, should
a Caucasian military man presume to direct his
eyeglass at a princess from Moscow? . . .
THIS morning the doctor came to see me.
His name is Werner, but he is a Russian.
What is there surprising in that? I have known
a man named Ivanov, who was a German.
Werner is a remarkable man, and that for many
reasons. Like almost all medical men he is a
sceptic and a materialist, but, at the same time,
he is a genuine poet -- a poet always in deeds and
often in words, although he has never written
two verses in his life. He has mastered all the
living chords of the human heart, just as one
learns the veins of a corpse, but he has never
known how to avail himself of his knowledge. In
like manner, it sometimes happens that an
excellent anatomist does not know how to cure a
fever. Werner usually made fun of his patients
in private; but once I saw him weeping over a
dying soldier. . . He was poor, and dreamed
of millions, but he would not take a single step
out of his way for the sake of money. He once
told me that he would rather do a favour to an
enemy than to a friend, because, in the latter
case, it would mean selling his beneficence, whilst
hatred only increases proportionately to the
magnanimity of the adversary. He had a
malicious tongue; and more than one good,
simple soul has acquired the reputation of a
vulgar fool through being labelled with one of his
epigrams. His rivals, envious medical men of the
watering-place, spread the report that he was in
the habit of drawing caricatures of his patients.
The patients were incensed, and almost all of
them discarded him. His friends, that is to
say all the genuinely well-bred people who were
serving in the Caucasus, vainly endeavoured to
restore his fallen credit.
His outward appearance was of the type which,
at the first glance, creates an unpleasant impres-
sion, but which you get to like in course of
time, when the eye learns to read in the ir-
regular features the stamp of a tried and lofty
soul. Instances have been known of women
falling madly in love with men of that sort, and
having no desire to exchange their ugliness for the
beauty of the freshest and rosiest of Endymions.
We must give women their due: they possess an
instinct for spiritual beauty, for which reason,
possibly, men such as Werner love women so
Werner was small and lean and as weak as a
baby. One of his legs was shorter than the other,
as was the case with Byron. In comparison with
his body, his head seemed enormous. His hair was
cropped close, and the unevennesses of his cranium,
thus laid bare, would have struck a phrenologist
by reason of the strange intertexture of con-
tradictory propensities. His little, ever restless,
black eyes seemed as if they were endeavouring
to fathom your thoughts. Taste and neatness
were to be observed in his dress. His small, lean,
sinewy hands flaunted themselves in bright-yellow
gloves. His frock-coat, cravat and waistcoat were
invariably of black. The young men dubbed him
Mephistopheles; he pretended to be angry at the
nickname, but in reality it flattered his vanity.
Werner and I soon understood each other and
became friends, because I, for my part, am ill-
adapted for friendship. Of two friends, one is
always the slave of the other, although frequently
neither acknowledges the fact to himself. Now,
the slave I could not be; and to be the master
would be a wearisome trouble, because, at the
same time, deception would be required. Besides,
I have servants and money!
Our friendship originated in the following
circumstances. I met Werner at S----, in the
midst of a numerous and noisy circle of young
people. Towards the end of the evening the
conversation took a philosophico-metaphysical
turn. We discussed the subject of convictions,
and each of us had some different conviction to
"So far as I am concerned," said the doctor,
"I am convinced of one thing only" . . .
"And that is --?" I asked, desirous of
learning the opinion of a man who had been silent
"Of the fact," he answered, "that sooner or
later, one fine morning, I shall die."
"I am better off than you," I said. "In addi-
tion to that, I have a further conviction, namely,
that, one very nasty evening, I had the misfor-
tune to be born."
All the others considered that we were talking
nonsense, but indeed not one of them said any-
thing more sensible. From that moment we
singled each other out amongst the crowd. We
used frequently to meet and discuss abstract
subjects in a very serious manner, until each
observed that the other was throwing dust in his
eyes. Then, looking significantly at each other --
as, according to Cicero, the Roman augurs used
to do -- we would burst out laughing heartily and,
having had our laugh, we would separate, well
content with our evening.
I was lying on a couch, my eyes fixed upon the
ceiling and my hands clasped behind my head,
when Werner entered my room. He sat down in
an easy chair, placed his cane in a corner, yawned,
and announced that it was getting hot out of
doors. I replied that the flies were bothering
me -- and we both fell silent.
"Observe, my dear doctor," I said, "that, but
for fools, the world would be a very dull place.
Look! Here are you and I, both sensible men!
We know beforehand that it is possible to dispute
ad infinitum about everything -- and so we do not
dispute. Each of us knows almost all the other's
secret thoughts: to us a single word is a whole
history; we see the grain of every one of our
feelings through a threefold husk. What is sad,
we laugh at; what is laughable, we grieve at;
but, to tell the truth, we are fairly indifferent,
generally speaking, to everything except our-
selves. Consequently, there can be no inter-
change of feelings and thoughts between us;
each of us knows all he cares to know about the
other, and that knowledge is all he wants. One
expedient remains -- to tell the news. So tell me
Fatigued by this lengthy speech, I closed my
eyes and yawned. The doctor answered after
"There is an idea, all the same, in that non-
sense of yours."
"Two," I replied.
"Tell me one, and I will tell you the other."
"Very well, begin!" I said, continuing to
examine the ceiling and smiling inwardly.
"You are anxious for information about some
of the new-comers here, and I can guess who it is,
because they, for their part, have already been
inquiring about you."
"Doctor! Decidedly it is impossible for us to
hold a conversation! We read into each other's
"Now the other idea?" . . .
"Here it is: I wanted to make you relate
something, for the following reasons: firstly,
listening is less fatiguing than talking; secondly,
the listener cannot commit himself; thirdly, he
can learn another's secret; fourthly, sensible
people, such as you, prefer listeners to speakers.
Now to business; what did Princess Ligovski tell
you about me?"
"You are quite sure that it was Princess
Ligovski . . . and not Princess Mary?" . . .
"Because Princess Mary inquired about Grush-
"You are gifted with a fine imagination!
Princess Mary said that she was convinced that
the young man in the soldier's cloak had been
reduced to the ranks on account of a duel" . . .
"I hope you left her cherishing that pleasant
delusion" . . .
"Of course" . . .
"A plot!" I exclaimed in rapture. "We will
make it our business to see to the denouement of
this little comedy. It is obvious that fate is
taking care that I shall not be bored!"
"I have a presentiment," said the doctor,
"that poor Grushnitski will be your victim."
"Princess Ligovski said that your face was
familiar to her. I observed that she had probably
met you in Petersburg -- somewhere in society. . .
I told her your name. She knew it well. It appears
that your history created a great stir there. . .
She began to tell us of your adventures, most
likely supplementing the gossip of society with
observations of her own. . . Her daughter listened
with curiosity. In her imagination you have be-
come the hero of a novel in a new style. . . I
did not contradict Princess Ligovski, although
I knew that she was talking nonsense."
"Worthy friend!" I said, extending my hand
The doctor pressed it feelingly and continued:
"If you like I will present you" . . .
"Good heavens!" I said, clapping my hands.
"Are heroes ever presented? In no other way do
they make the acquaintance of their beloved than
by saving her from certain death!" . . .
"And you really wish to court Princess Mary?"
"Not at all, far from it! . . . Doctor, I triumph
at last! You do not understand me! . . .
It vexes me, however," I continued after a
moment's silence. "I never reveal my secrets
myself, but I am exceedingly fond of their being
guessed, because in that way I can always disavow
them upon occasion. However, you must describe
both mother and daughter to me. What sort of
people are they?"
"In the first place, Princess Ligovski is a
woman of forty-five," answered Werner. "She
has a splendid digestion, but her blood is out of
order -- there are red spots on her cheeks. She
has spent the latter half of her life in Moscow,
and has grown stout from leading an inactive life
there. She loves spicy stories, and sometimes
says improper things herself when her daughter is
out of the room. She has declared to me that her
daughter is as innocent as a dove. What does
that matter to me? . . . I was going to answer
that she might be at her ease, because I would
never tell anyone. Princess Ligovski is taking the
cure for her rheumatism, and the daughter, for
goodness knows what. I have ordered each of
them to drink two tumblers a day of sulphurous
water, and to bathe twice a week in the diluted
bath. Princess Ligovski is apparently unac-
customed to giving orders. She cherishes respect
for the intelligence and attainments of her
daughter, who has read Byron in English and
knows algebra: in Moscow, evidently, the ladies
have entered upon the paths of erudition -- and
a good thing, too! The men here are generally so
unamiable, that, for a clever woman, it must be
intolerable to flirt with them. Princess Ligovski
is very fond of young people; Princess Mary looks
on them with a certain contempt -- a Moscow
habit! In Moscow they cherish only wits of
not less than forty."
"You have been in Moscow, doctor?"
"Yes, I had a practice there."
"But I think I have told everything. . .
No, there is something else: Princess Mary, it
seems, loves to discuss emotions, passions, etcetera.
She was in Petersburg for one winter, and disliked
it -- especially the society: no doubt she was
"You have not seen anyone with them to-
"On the contrary, there was an aide-de-camp,
a stiff guardsman, and a lady -- one of the latest
arrivals, a relation of Princess Ligovski on the
husband's side -- very pretty, but apparently
very ill. . . Have you not met her at the well?
She is of medium height, fair, with regular
features; she has the complexion of a con-
sumptive, and there is a little black mole on her
right cheek. I was struck by the expressiveness
of her face."
"A mole!" I muttered through my teeth.
"Is it possible?"
The doctor looked at me, and, laying his hand
on my heart, said triumphantly:
"You know her!"
My heart was, in fact, beating more violently
"It is your turn, now, to triumph," I said.
"But I rely on you: you will not betray me.
I have not seen her yet, but I am convinced that
I recognise from your portrait a woman whom I
loved in the old days. . . Do not speak a word
to her about me; if she asks any questions, give
a bad report of me."
"Be it so!" said Werner, shrugging his
When he had departed, my heart was com-
pressed with terrible grief. Has destiny brought
us together again in the Caucasus, or has she come
hither on purpose, knowing that she would meet
me? . . . And how shall we meet? . . . And
then, is it she? . . . My presentiments have
never deceived me. There is not a man in the
world over whom the past has acquired such a
power as over me. Every recollection of bygone
grief or joy strikes my soul with morbid effect,
and draws forth ever the same sounds. . . I
am stupidly constituted: I forget nothing -- no-
After dinner, about six o'clock, I went on to the
boulevard. It was crowded. The two princesses
were sitting on a bench, surrounded by young
men, who were vying with each other in paying
them attention. I took up my position on another
bench at a little distance off, stopped two Dragoon
officers whom I knew, and proceeded to tell them
something. Evidently it was amusing, because
they began to laugh loudly like a couple of mad-
men. Some of those who were surrounding
Princess Mary were attracted to my side by
curiosity, and gradually all of them left her and
joined my circle. I did not stop talking; my
anecdotes were clever to the point of absurdity,
my jests at the expense of the queer people
passing by, malicious to the point of frenzy. I
continued to entertain the public till sunset.
Princess Mary passed by me a few times, arm-in-
arm with her mother, and accompanied by a
certain lame old man. A few times her glance
as it fell upon me expressed vexation, while en-
deavouring to express indifference. . .
"What has he been telling you?" she in-
quired of one of the young men, who had gone
back to her out of politeness. "No doubt
a most interesting story -- his own exploits in
battle?" . . .
This was said rather loudly, and probably with
the intention of stinging me.
"Aha!" I thought to myself. "You are
downright angry, my dear Princess. Wait awhile,
there is more to follow."
Grushnitski kept following her like a beast of
prey, and would not let her out of his sight. I
wager that to-morrow he will ask somebody to
present him to Princess Ligovski. She will be
glad, because she is bored.
IN the course of two days my affairs have
gained ground tremendously. Princess Mary
positively hates me. Already I have had repeated
to me two or three epigrams on the subject of
myself -- rather caustic, but at the same time
very flattering. She finds it exceedingly strange
that I, who am accustomed to good society, and
am so intimate with her Petersburg cousins and
aunts, do not try to make her acquaintance.
Every day we meet at the well and on the boule-
vard. I exert all my powers to entice away her
adorers, glittering aides-de-camp, pale-faced
visitors from Moscow, and others -- and I almost
always succeed. I have always hated entertaining
guests: now my house is full every day; they
dine, sup, gamble, and alas! my champagne
triumphs over the might of Princess Mary's
I met her yesterday in Chelakhov's shop. She
was bargaining for a marvellous Persian rug, and
implored her mother not to be niggardly: the
rug would be such an ornament to her boudoir. . .
I outbid her by forty rubles, and bought it over
her head. I was rewarded with a glance in which
the most delightful fury sparkled. About dinner-
time, I ordered my Circassian horse, covered with
that very rug, purposely to be led past her
windows. Werner was with the princesses at the
time, and told me that the effect of the scene
was most dramatic. Princess Mary wishes to
preach a crusade against me, and I have even
noticed that, already, two of the aides-de-camp
salute me very coldly, when they are in her pre-
sence -- they dine with me every day, however.
Grushnitski has assumed an air of mystery; he
walks with his arms folded behind his back and
does not recognise anyone. His foot has got well
all at once, and there is hardly a sign of a limp.
He has found an opportunity of entering into
conversation with Princess Ligovski and of
paying Princess Mary some kind of a compliment.
The latter is evidently not very fastidious, for,
ever since, she answers his bow with a most
"Are you sure you do not wish to make the
Ligovskis' acquaintance?" he said to me yester-
"Good gracious! The pleasantest house at the
waters! All the best society of Pyatigorsk is to
be found there" . . .
"My friend, I am terribly tired of even other
society than that of Pyatigorsk. So you visit the
"Not yet. I have spoken to Princess Mary
once or twice, but that is all. You know it is
rather awkward to go and visit them without
being invited, although that is the custom here. . .
It would be a different matter if I was wearing
epaulettes" . . .
"Good heavens! Why, you are much more
interesting as it is! You simply do not know how
to avail yourself of your advantageous position. . .
Why, that soldier's cloak makes a hero and a
martyr of you in the eyes of any lady of senti-
Grushnitski smiled complacently.
"What nonsense!" he said.
"I am convinced," I continued, "that Princess
Mary is in love with you already."
He blushed up to the ears and looked big.
Oh, vanity! Thou art the lever with which
Archimedes was to lift the earthly sphere! . . .
"You are always jesting!" he said, pretending
to be angry. "In the first place, she knows so
little of me as yet" . . .
"Women love only those whom they do not
"But I have no pretensions whatsoever to
pleasing her. I simply wish to make the ac-
quaintance of an agreeable household; and it
would be extremely ridiculous if I were to cherish
the slightest hope. . . With you, now, for instance,
it is a different matter! You Petersburg con-
querors! You have but to look -- and women
melt. . . But do you know, Pechorin, what
Princess Mary said of you?" . . .
"What? She has spoken to you already
about me?" . . .
"Do not rejoice too soon, though. The other
day, by chance, I entered into conversation with
her at the well; her third word was, 'Who is that
gentleman with such an unpleasant, heavy
glance? He was with you when' . . . she
blushed, and did not like to mention the day,
remembering her own delightful little exploit.
'You need not tell me what day it was,' I
answered; 'it will ever be present to my
memory!' . . . Pechorin, my friend, I cannot
congratulate you, you are in her black books. . .
And, indeed, it is a pity, because Mary is a
charming girl!" . . .
It must be observed that Grushnitski is one of
those men who, in speaking of a woman with
whom they are barely acquainted, call her my
Mary, my Sophie, if she has had the good fortune
to please them.
I assumed a serious air and answered:
"Yes, she is good-looking. . . Only be care-
ful, Grushnitski! Russian ladies, for the most
part, cherish only Platonic love, without mingling
any thought of matrimony with it; and Platonic
love is exceedingly embarrassing. Princess Mary
seems to be one of those women who want to be
amused. If she is bored in your company for two
minutes on end -- you are lost irrevocably. Your
silence ought to excite her curiosity, your con-
versation ought never to satisfy it completely;
you should alarm her every minute; ten times, in
public, she will slight people's opinion for you and
will call that a sacrifice, and, in order to requite
herself for it, she will torment you. Afterwards
she will simply say that she cannot endure you.
If you do not acquire authority over her, even her
first kiss will not give you the right to a second.
She will flirt with you to her heart's content, and,
in two years' time, she will marry a monster, in
obedience to her mother, and will assure herself
that she is unhappy, that she has loved only one
man -- that is to say, you -- but that Heaven was
not willing to unite her to him because he wore a
soldier's cloak, although beneath that thick, grey
cloak beat a heart, passionate and noble" . . .
Grushnitski smote the table with his fist
and fell to walking to and fro across the
I laughed inwardly and even smiled once or
twice, but fortunately he did not notice. It is
evident that he is in love, because he has grown
even more confiding than heretofore. Moreover,
a ring has made its appearance on his finger, a
silver ring with black enamel of local workman-
ship. It struck me as suspicious. . . I began
to examine it, and what do you think I saw? The
name Mary was engraved on the inside in small
letters, and in a line with the name was the date
on which she had picked up the famous tumbler.
I kept my discovery a secret. I do not want to
force confessions from him, I want him, of his
own accord, to choose me as his confidant -- and
then I will enjoy myself! . . .
. . . . .
To-day I rose late. I went to the well. I
found nobody there. The day grew hot. White,
shaggy cloudlets were flitting rapidly from the
snow-clad mountains, giving promise of a thunder-
storm; the summit of Mount Mashuk was
smoking like a just extinguished torch; grey
wisps of cloud were coiling and creeping like
snakes around it, arrested in their rapid sweep
and, as it were, hooked to its prickly brushwood.
The atmosphere was charged with electricity. I
plunged into the avenue of the vines leading to
I felt low-spirited. I was thinking of the lady
with the little mole on her cheek, of whom the
doctor had spoken to me. . . "Why is she
here?" I thought. "And is it she? And what
reason have I for thinking it is? And why am I
so certain of it? Is there not many a woman
with a mole on her cheek?" Reflecting in such
wise I came right up to the grotto. I looked in
and I saw that a woman, wearing a straw hat and
wrapped in a black shawl, was sitting on a stone
seat in the cold shade of the arch. Her head was
sunk upon her breast, and the hat covered her face.
I was just about to turn back, in order not
to disturb her meditations, when she glanced
"Vera!" I exclaimed involuntarily.
She started and turned pale.
"I knew that you were here," she said.
I sat down beside her and took her hand. A
long-forgotten tremor ran through my veins at
the sound of that dear voice. She gazed into my
face with her deep, calm eyes. Mistrust and
something in the nature of reproach were ex-
pressed in her glance.
"We have not seen each other for a long time,"
"A long time, and we have both changed in
"Consequently you love me no longer?" . . .
"I am married!" . . . she said.
"Again? A few years ago, however, that
reason also existed, but, nevertheless" . . .
She plucked her hand away from mine and her
"Perhaps you love your second husband?" . . .
She made no answer and turned her head
"Or is he very jealous?"
She remained silent.
"What then? He is young, handsome and,
I suppose, rich -- which is the chief thing -- and
you are afraid?" . . .
I glanced at her and was alarmed. Profound
despair was depicted upon her countenance;
tears were glistening in her eyes.
"Tell me," she whispered at length, "do you
find it very amusing to torture me? I ought to
hate you. Since we have known each other, you
have given me naught but suffering" . . .
Her voice shook; she leaned over to me, and
let her head sink upon my breast.
"Perhaps," I reflected, "it is for that very
reason that you have loved me; joys are forgotten,
but sorrows never" . . .
I clasped her closely to my breast, and so we
remained for a long time. At length our lips drew
closer and became blent in a fervent, intoxicating
kiss. Her hands were cold as ice; her head was
And hereupon we embarked upon one of those
conversations which, on paper, have no sense,
which it is impossible to repeat, and impossible
even to retain in memory. The meaning of the
sounds replaces and completes the meaning of the
words, as in Italian opera.
She is decidedly averse to my making the
acquaintance of her husband, the lame old man
of whom I had caught a glimpse on the boulevard.
She married him for the sake of her son. He is
rich, and suffers from attacks of rheumatism. I
did not allow myself even a single scoff at his
expense. She respects him as a father, and will
deceive him as a husband. . . A strange thing,
the human heart in general, and woman's heart
Vera's husband, Semyon Vasilevich G----v,
is a distant relation of Princess Ligovski. He
lives next door to her. Vera frequently visits the
Princess. I have given her my promise to make
the Ligovskis' acquaintance, and to pay court to
Princess Mary in order to distract attention from
Vera. In such way, my plans have been not a little
deranged, but it will be amusing for me. . .
Amusing! . . . Yes, I have already passed
that period of spiritual life when happiness alone
is sought, when the heart feels the urgent
necessity of violently and passionately loving
somebody. Now my only wish is to be loved, and
that by very few. I even think that I would be
content with one constant attachment. A
wretched habit of the heart! . . .
One thing has always struck me as strange. I
have never made myself the slave of the woman
I have loved. On the contrary, I have always
acquired an invincible power over her will and
heart, without in the least endeavouring to do so.
Why is this? Is it because I never esteem any-
thing highly, and she has been continually afraid
to let me out of her hands? Or is it the magnetic
influence of a powerful organism? Or is it,
simply, that I have never succeeded in meeting a
woman of stubborn character?
I must confess that, in fact, I do not love
women who possess strength of character. What
business have they with such a thing?
Indeed, I remember now. Once and once only
did I love a woman who had a firm will which I
was never able to vanquish. . . We parted as
enemies -- and then, perhaps, if I had met her
five years later we would have parted other-
wise. . .
Vera is ill, very ill, although she does not
admit it. I fear she has consumption, or that
disease which is called "fievre lente" -- a quite un-
Russian disease, and one for which there is no
name in our language.
The storm overtook us while in the grotto and
detained us half an hour longer. Vera did not
make me swear fidelity, or ask whether I had
loved others since we had parted. . . She trusted
in me anew with all her former unconcern, and I
will not deceive her: she is the only woman in the
world whom it would never be within my power
to deceive. I know that we shall soon have to
part again, and perchance for ever. We will both
go by different ways to the grave, but her memory
will remain inviolable within my soul. I have
always repeated this to her, and she believes me,
although she says she does not.
At length we separated. For a long time I
followed her with my eyes, until her hat was
hidden behind the shrubs and rocks. My heart
was painfully contracted, just as after our first
parting. Oh, how I rejoiced in that emotion!
Can it be that youth is about to come back to me,
with its salutary tempests, or is this only the fare-
well glance, the last gift -- in memory of itself? . . .
And to think that, in appearance, I am still a
boy! My face, though pale, is still fresh;
my limbs are supple and slender; my hair is thick
and curly, my eyes sparkle, my blood boils. . .
Returning home, I mounted on horseback and
galloped to the steppe. I love to gallop on a fiery
horse through the tall grass, in the face of the
desert wind; greedily I gulp down the fragrant
air and fix my gaze upon the blue distance,
endeavouring to seize the misty outlines of
objects which every minute grow clearer and
clearer. Whatever griefs oppress my heart,
whatever disquietudes torture my thoughts -- all
are dispersed in a moment; my soul becomes at
ease; the fatigue of the body vanquishes the
disturbance of the mind. There is not a woman's
glance which I would not forget at the sight of
the tufted mountains, illumined by the southern
sun; at the sight of the dark-blue sky, or in
hearkening to the roar of the torrent as it falls
from cliff to cliff.
I believe that the Cossacks, yawning on their
watch-towers, when they saw me galloping thus
needlessly and aimlessly, were long tormented by
that enigma, because from my dress, I am sure,
they took me to be a Circassian. I have, in fact,
been told that when riding on horseback, in my
Circassian costume, I resemble a Kabardian more
than many a Kabardian himself. And, indeed,
so far as regards that noble, warlike garb, I am a
perfect dandy. I have not a single piece of gold
lace too much; my weapon is costly, but simply
wrought; the fur on my cap is neither too long
nor too short; my leggings and shoes are matched
with all possible accuracy; my tunic is white;
my Circassian jacket, dark-brown. I have long
studied the mountaineer seat on horseback, and
in no way is it possible to flatter my vanity so much
as by acknowledging my skill in horsemanship in
the Cossack mode. I keep four horses -- one for
myself and three for my friends, so that I may
not be bored by having to roam about the fields
all alone; they take my horses with pleasure, and
never ride with me.
It was already six o'clock in the evening, when I
remembered that it was time to dine. My horse
was jaded. I rode out on to the road leading from
Pyatigorsk to the German colony, to which the
society of the watering-place frequently rides
en piquenique. The road meanders between
bushes and descends into little ravines, through
which flow noisy brooks beneath the shade of tall
grasses. All around, in an amphitheatre, rise the
blue masses of Mount Beshtau and the Zmeiny,
Zhelezny and Lysy Mountains. Descending
into one of those ravines, I halted to water my
horse. At that moment a noisy and glittering
cavalcade made its appearance upon the road --
the ladies in black and dark-blue riding habits, the
cavaliers in costumes which formed a medley of
the Circassian and Nizhegorodian. In front
rode Grushnitski with Princess Mary.
 The Snake, the Iron and the Bald Mountains.
 Nizhegorod is the "government" of which Nizhniy-
Novgorod is the capital.
The ladies at the watering-place still believe in
attacks by Circassians in broad daylight; for that
reason, doubtless, Grushnitski had slung a sabre
and a pair of pistols over his soldier's cloak. He
looked ridiculous enough in that heroic attire.
I was concealed from their sight by a tall bush,
but I was able to see everything through the
leaves, and to guess from the expression of their
faces that the conversation was of a sentimental
turn. At length they approached the slope;
Grushnitski took hold of the bridle of the
Princess's horse, and then I heard the conclusion
of their conversation:
"And you wish to remain all your life in the
Caucasus?" said Princess Mary.
"What is Russia to me?" answered her
cavalier. "A country in which thousands of
people, because they are richer than I, will look
upon me with contempt, whilst here -- here this
thick cloak has not prevented my acquaintance
with you" . . .
"On the contrary" . . . said Princess Mary,
Grushnitski's face was a picture of delight. He
"Here, my life will flow along noisily, un-
observed, and rapidly, under the bullets of the
savages, and if Heaven were every year to send me
a single bright glance from a woman's eyes --
like that which --"
At that moment they came up to where I was.
I struck my horse with the whip and rode out
from behind the bush. . .
"Mon Dieu, un circassien!" . . . exclaimed
Princess Mary in terror.
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