Part 1 out of 2
E-Text prepared by Martin Adamson
By LEO TOLSTOY
Translated by CJ HOGARTH
A SLOW JOURNEY
Again two carriages stood at the front door of the house at
Petrovskoe. In one of them sat Mimi, the two girls, and their
maid, with the bailiff, Jakoff, on the box, while in the other--a
britchka--sat Woloda, myself, and our servant Vassili. Papa, who
was to follow us to Moscow in a few days, was standing bareheaded
on the entrance-steps. He made the sign of the cross at the
windows of the carriages, and said:
"Christ go with you! Good-bye."
Jakoff and our coachman (for we had our own horses) lifted their
caps in answer, and also made the sign of the cross.
"Amen. God go with us!"
The carriages began to roll away, and the birch-trees of the
great avenue filed out of sight.
I was not in the least depressed on this occasion, for my mind
was not so much turned upon what I had left as upon what was
awaiting me. In proportion as the various objects connected with
the sad recollections which had recently filled my imagination
receded behind me, those recollections lost their power, and gave
place to a consolatory feeling of life, youthful vigour,
freshness, and hope.
Seldom have I spent four days more--well, I will not say gaily,
since I should still have shrunk from appearing gay--but more
agreeably and pleasantly than those occupied by our journey.
No longer were my eyes confronted with the closed door of Mamma's
room (which I had never been able to pass without a pang), nor
with the covered piano (which nobody opened now, and at which I
could never look without trembling), nor with mourning dresses
(we had each of us on our ordinary travelling clothes), nor with
all those other objects which recalled to me so vividly our
irreparable loss, and forced me to abstain from any manifestation
of merriment lest I should unwittingly offend against HER memory.
On the contrary, a continual succession of new and exciting
objects and places now caught and held my attention, and the
charms of spring awakened in my soul a soothing sense of
satisfaction with the present and of blissful hope for the
Very early next morning the merciless Vassili (who had only just
entered our service, and was therefore, like most people in such
a position, zealous to a fault) came and stripped off my
counterpane, affirming that it was time for me to get up, since
everything was in readiness for us to continue our journey.
Though I felt inclined to stretch myself and rebel--though I
gladly have spent another quarter of an hour in sweet enjoyment
of my morning slumber--Vassili's inexorable face showed that he
would grant me no respite, but that he was ready to tear away the
counterpane twenty times more if necessary. Accordingly I
submitted myself to the inevitable and ran down into the
courtyard to wash myself at the fountain.
In the coffee-room, a tea-kettle was already surmounting the fire
which Milka the ostler, as red in the face as a crab, was blowing
with a pair of bellows. All was grey and misty in the courtyard,
like steam from a smoking dunghill, but in the eastern sky the
sun was diffusing a clear, cheerful radiance, and making the
straw roofs of the sheds around the courtyard sparkle with the
night dew. Beneath them stood our horses, tied to mangers, and I
could hear the ceaseless sound of their chewing. A curly-haired
dog which had been spending the night on a dry dunghill now rose
in lazy fashion and, wagging its tail, walked slowly across the
The bustling landlady opened the creaking gates, turned her
meditative cows into the street (whence came the lowing and
bellowing of other cattle), and exchanged a word or two with a
sleepy neighbour. Philip, with his shirt-sleeves rolled up, was
working the windlass of a draw-well, and sending sparkling fresh
water coursing into an oaken trough, while in the pool beneath it
some early-rising ducks were taking a bath. It gave me pleasure
to watch his strongly-marked, bearded face, and the veins and
muscles as they stood out upon his great powerful hands whenever
he made an extra effort. In the room behind the partition-wall
where Mimi and the girls had slept (yet so near to ourselves that
we had exchanged confidences overnight) movements now became
audible, their maid kept passing in and out with clothes, and, at
last the door opened and we were summoned to breakfast. Woloda,
however, remained in a state of bustle throughout as he ran to
fetch first one article and then another and urged the maid to
hasten her preparations.
The horses were put to, and showed their impatience by tinkling
their bells. Parcels, trunks, dressing-cases, and boxes were
replaced, and we set about taking our seats. Yet, every time that
we got in, the mountain of luggage in the britchka seemed to have
grown larger than before, and we had much ado to understand how
things had been arranged yesterday, and how we should sit now. A
tea-chest, in particular, greatly inconvenienced me, but Vassili
declared that "things will soon right themselves," and I had no
choice but to believe him.
The sun was just rising, covered with dense white clouds, and
every object around us was standing out in a cheerful, calm sort
of radiance. The whole was beautiful to look at, and I felt
comfortable and light of heart.
Before us the road ran like a broad, sinuous ribbon through
cornfields glittering with dew. Here and there a dark bush or
young birch-tree cast a long shadow over the ruts and scattered
grass-tufts of the track. Yet even the monotonous din of our
carriage-wheels and collar-bells could not drown the joyous song
of soaring larks, nor the combined odour of moth-eaten cloth,
dust, and sourness peculiar to our britchka overpower the fresh
scents of the morning. I felt in my heart that delightful impulse
to be up and doing which is a sign of sincere enjoyment.
As I had not been able to say my prayers in the courtyard of the
inn, but had nevertheless been assured once that on the very
first day when I omitted to perform that ceremony some misfortune
would overtake me, I now hastened to rectify the omission. Taking
off my cap, and stooping down in a corner of the britchka, I duly
recited my orisons, and unobtrusively signed the sign of the
cross beneath my coat. Yet all the while a thousand different
objects were distracting my attention, and more than once I
inadvertently repeated a prayer twice over.
Soon on the little footpath beside the road became visible some
slowly moving figures. They were pilgrims. On their heads they
had dirty handkerchiefs, on their backs wallets of birch-bark,
and on their feet bundles of soiled rags and heavy bast shoes.
Moving their staffs in regular rhythm, and scarcely throwing us a
glance, they pressed onwards with heavy tread and in single file.
"Where have they come from?" I wondered to myself, "and whither
are they bound? Is it a long pilgrimage they are making?" But
soon the shadows they cast on the road became indistinguishable
from the shadows of the bushes which they passed.
Next a carriage-and-four could be seen approaching us. In two
seconds the faces which looked out at us from it with smiling
curiosity had vanished. How strange it seemed that those faces
should have nothing in common with me, and that in all
probability they would never meet my eyes again!
Next came a pair of post-horses, with the traces looped up to
their collars. On one of them a young postillion-his lamb's wool
cap cocked to one side-was negligently kicking his booted legs
against the flanks of his steed as he sang a melancholy ditty.
Yet his face and attitude seemed to me to express such perfect
carelessness and indolent ease that I imagined it to be the
height of happiness to be a postillion and to sing melancholy
Far off, through a cutting in the road, there soon stood out
against the light-blue sky, the green roof of a village church.
Presently the village itself became visible, together with the
roof of the manor-house and the garden attached to it. Who lived
in that house? Children, parents, teachers? Why should we not
call there and make the acquaintance of its inmates?
Next we overtook a file of loaded waggons--a procession to which
our vehicles had to yield the road.
"What have you got in there?" asked Vassili of one waggoner who
was dangling his legs lazily over the splashboard of his
conveyance and flicking his whip about as he gazed at us with a
stolid, vacant look; but he only made answer when we were too far
off to catch what he said.
"And what have YOU got?" asked Vassili of a second waggoner who
was lying at full length under a new rug on the driving-seat of
his vehicle. The red poll and red face beneath it lifted
themselves up for a second from the folds of the rug, measured
our britchka with a cold, contemptuous look, and lay down again;
whereupon I concluded that the driver was wondering to himself
who we were, whence we had come, and whither we were going.
These various objects of interest had absorbed so much of my time
that, as yet, I had paid no attention to the crooked figures on
the verst posts as we passed them in rapid succession; but in
time the sun began to burn my head and back, the road to become
increasingly dusty, the impedimenta in the carriage to grow more
and more uncomfortable, and myself to feel more and more cramped.
Consequently, I relapsed into devoting my whole faculties to the
distance-posts and their numerals, and to solving difficult
mathematical problems for reckoning the time when we should
arrive at the next posting-house.
"Twelve versts are a third of thirty-six, and in all there are
forty-one to Lipetz. We have done a third and how much, then?",
and so forth, and so forth.
"Vassili," was my next remark, on observing that he was beginning
to nod on the box-seat, "suppose we change seats? Will you?"
Vassili agreed, and had no sooner stretched himself out in the
body of the vehicle than he began to snore. To me on my new
perch, however, a most interesting spectacle now became visible--
namely, our horses, all of which were familiar to me down to the
"Why is Diashak on the right today, Philip, not on the left?" I
asked knowingly. "And Nerusinka is not doing her proper share of
"One could not put Diashak on the left," replied Philip,
altogether ignoring my last remark. "He is not the kind of horse
to put there at all. A horse like the one on the left now is the
right kind of one for the job."
After this fragment of eloquence, Philip turned towards Diashak
and began to do his best to worry the poor animal by jogging at
the reins, in spite of the fact that Diashak was doing well and
dragging the vehicle almost unaided. This Philip continued to do
until he found it convenient to breathe and rest himself awhile
and to settle his cap askew, though it had looked well enough
I profited by the opportunity to ask him to let me have the reins
to hold, until, the whole six in my hand, as well as the whip, I
had attained complete happiness. Several times I asked whether I
was doing things right, but, as usual, Philip was never
satisfied, and soon destroyed my felicity.
The heat increased until a hand showed itself at the carriage
window, and waved a bottle and a parcel of eatables; whereupon
Vassili leapt briskly from the britchka, and ran forward to get
us something to eat and drink.
When we arrived at a steep descent, we all got out and ran down
it to a little bridge, while Vassili and Jakoff followed,
supporting the carriage on either side, as though to hold it up
in the event of its threatening to upset.
After that, Mimi gave permission for a change of seats, and
sometimes Woloda or myself would ride in the carriage, and
Lubotshka or Katenka in the britchka. This arrangement greatly
pleased the girls, since much more fun went on in the britchka.
Just when the day was at its hottest, we got out at a wood, and,
breaking off a quantity of branches, transformed our vehicle into
a bower. This travelling arbour then bustled on to catch the
carriage up, and had the effect of exciting Lubotshka to one of
those piercing shrieks of delight which she was in the habit of
At last we drew near the village where we were to halt and dine.
Already we could perceive the smell of the place--the smell of
smoke and tar and sheep-and distinguish the sound of voices,
footsteps, and carts. The bells on our horses began to ring less
clearly than they had done in the open country, and on both sides
the road became lined with huts--dwellings with straw roofs,
carved porches, and small red or green painted shutters to the
windows, through which, here and there, was a woman's face
looking inquisitively out. Peasant children clad in smocks only
stood staring open-eyed or, stretching out their arms to us, ran
barefooted through the dust to climb on to the luggage behind,
despite Philip's menacing gestures. Likewise, red-haired waiters
came darting around the carriages to invite us, with words and
signs, to select their several hostelries as our halting-place.
Presently a gate creaked, and we entered a courtyard. Four hours
of rest and liberty now awaited us.
II. THE THUNDERSTORM
The sun was sinking towards the west, and his long, hot rays were
burning my neck and cheeks beyond endurance, while thick clouds
of dust were rising from the road and filling the whole air. Not
the slightest wind was there to carry it away. I could not think
what to do. Neither the dust-blackened face of Woloda dozing in a
corner, nor the motion of Philip's back, nor the long shadow of
our britchka as it came bowling along behind us brought me any
relief. I concentrated my whole attention upon the distance-
posts ahead and the clouds which, hitherto dispersed over the
sky, were now assuming a menacing blackness, and beginning to
form themselves into a single solid mass.
From time to time distant thunder could be heard--a circumstance
which greatly increased my impatience to arrive at the inn where
we were to spend the night. A thunderstorm always communicated to
me an inexpressibly oppressive feeling of fear and gloom.
Yet we were still ten versts from the next village, and in the
meanwhile the large purple cloudbank--arisen from no one knows
where--was advancing steadily towards us. The sun, not yet
obscured, was picking out its fuscous shape with dazzling light,
and marking its front with grey stripes running right down to the
horizon. At intervals, vivid lightning could be seen in the
distance, followed by low rumbles which increased steadily in
volume until they merged into a prolonged roll which seemed to
embrace the entire heavens. At length, Vassili got up and covered
over the britchka, the coachman wrapped himself up in his cloak
and lifted his cap to make the sign of the cross at each
successive thunderclap, and the horses pricked up their ears and
snorted as though to drink in the fresh air which the flying
clouds were outdistancing. The britchka began to roll more
swiftly along the dusty road, and I felt uneasy, and as though
the blood were coursing more quickly through my veins. Soon the
clouds had veiled the face of the sun, and though he threw a last
gleam of light to the dark and terrifying horizon, he had no
choice but to disappear behind them.
Suddenly everything around us seemed changed, and assumed a
gloomy aspect. A wood of aspen trees which we were passing seemed
to be all in a tremble, with its leaves showing white against the
dark lilac background of the clouds, murmuring together in an
agitated manner. The tops of the larger trees began to bend to
and fro, and dried leaves and grass to whirl about in eddies over
the road. Swallows and white-breasted swifts came darting around
the britchka and even passing in front of the forelegs of the
horses. While rooks, despite their outstretched wings, were laid,
as it were, on their keels by the wind. Finally, the leather
apron which covered us began to flutter about and to beat against
the sides of the conveyance.
The lightning flashed right into the britchka as, cleaving the
obscurity for a second, it lit up the grey cloth and silk galloon
of the lining and Woloda's figure pressed back into a corner.
Next came a terrible sound which, rising higher and higher, and
spreading further and further, increased until it reached its
climax in a deafening thunderclap which made us tremble and hold
our breaths. "The wrath of God"--what poetry there is in that
simple popular conception!
The pace of the vehicle was continually increasing, and from
Philip's and Vassili's backs (the former was tugging furiously at
the reins) I could see that they too were alarmed.
Bowling rapidly down an incline, the britchka cannoned violently
against a wooden bridge at the bottom. I dared not stir and
expected destruction every moment.
Crack! A trace had given way, and, in spite of the ceaseless,
deafening thunderclaps, we had to pull up on the bridge.
Leaning my head despairingly against the side of the britchka, I
followed with a beating heart the movements of Philip's great
black fingers as he tied up the broken trace and, with hands and
the butt-end of the whip, pushed the harness vigorously back into
My sense of terror was increasing with the violence of the
thunder. Indeed, at the moment of supreme silence which generally
precedes the greatest intensity of a storm, it mounted to such a
height that I felt as though another quarter of an hour of this
emotion would kill me.
Just then there appeared from beneath the bridge a human being
who, clad in a torn, filthy smock, and supported on a pair of
thin shanks bare of muscles, thrust an idiotic face, a tremulous,
bare, shaven head, and a pair of red, shining stumps in place of
hands into the britchka.
"M-my lord! A copeck for--for God's sake!" groaned a feeble voice
as at each word the wretched being made the sign of the cross and
bowed himself to the ground.
I cannot describe the chill feeling of horror which penetrated my
heart at that moment. A shudder crept through all my hair, and my
eyes stared in vacant terror at the outcast.
Vassili, who was charged with the apportioning of alms during the
journey, was busy helping Philip, and only when everything had
been put straight and Philip had resumed the reins again had he
time to look for his purse. Hardly had the britchka begun to move
when a blinding flash filled the welkin with a blaze of light
which brought the horses to their haunches. Then, the flash was
followed by such an ear-splitting roar that the very vault of
heaven seemed to be descending upon our heads. The wind blew
harder than ever, and Vassili's cloak, the manes and tails of the
horses, and the carriage-apron were all slanted in one direction
as they waved furiously in the violent blast.
Presently, upon the britchka's top there fell some large drops of
rain--"one, two, three:" then suddenly, and as though a roll of
drums were being beaten over our heads, the whole countryside
resounded with the clatter of the deluge.
From Vassili's movements, I could see that he had now got his
purse open, and that the poor outcast was still bowing and making
the sign of the cross as he ran beside the wheels of the vehicle,
at the imminent risk of being run over, and reiterated from time
to time his plea, "For-for God's sake!" At last a copeck rolled
upon the ground, and the miserable creature--his mutilated arms,
with their sleeves wet through and through, held out before him--
stopped perplexed in the roadway and vanished from my sight.
The heavy rain, driven before the tempestuous wind, poured down
in pailfuls and, dripping from Vassili's thick cloak, formed a
series of pools on the apron. The dust became changed to a paste
which clung to the wheels, and the ruts became transformed into
At last, however, the lightning grew paler and more diffuse, and
the thunderclaps lost some of their terror amid the monotonous
rattling of the downpour. Then the rain also abated, and the
clouds began to disperse. In the region of the sun, a lightness
appeared, and between the white-grey clouds could be caught
glimpses of an azure sky.
Finally, a dazzling ray shot across the pools on the road, shot
through the threads of rain--now falling thin and straight, as
from a sieve--, and fell upon the fresh leaves and blades of
grass. The great cloud was still louring black and threatening on
the far horizon, but I no longer felt afraid of it--I felt only
an inexpressibly pleasant hopefulness in proportion, as trust in
life replaced the late burden of fear. Indeed, my heart was
smiling like that of refreshed, revivified Nature herself.
Vassili took off his cloak and wrung the water from it. Woloda
flung back the apron, and I stood up in the britchka to drink in
the new, fresh, balm-laden air. In front of us was the carriage,
rolling along and looking as wet and resplendent in the sunlight
as though it had just been polished. On one side of the road
boundless oatfields, intersected in places by small ravines which
now showed bright with their moist earth and greenery, stretched
to the far horizon like a checkered carpet, while on the other
side of us an aspen wood, intermingled with hazel bushes, and
parquetted with wild thyme in joyous profusion, no longer rustled
and trembled, but slowly dropped rich, sparkling diamonds from
its newly-bathed branches on to the withered leaves of last year.
From above us, from every side, came the happy songs of little
birds calling to one another among the dripping brushwood, while
clear from the inmost depths of the wood sounded the voice of the
cuckoo. So delicious was the wondrous scent of the wood, the
which follows a thunderstorm in spring, the scent of birch-trees,
violets, mushrooms, and thyme, that I could no longer remain in
the britchka. Jumping out, I ran to some bushes, and, regardless
of the showers of drops discharged upon me, tore off a few sprigs
of thyme, and buried my face in them to smell their glorious
Then, despite the mud which had got into my boots, as also the
fact that my stockings were soaked, I went skipping through the
puddles to the window of the carriage.
"Lubotshka! Katenka!" I shouted as I handed them some of the
thyme, "Just look how delicious this is!"
The girls smelt it and cried, "A-ah!" but Mimi shrieked to me to
go away, for fear I should be run over by the wheels.
"Oh, but smell how delicious it is!" I persisted.
III. A NEW POINT OF VIEW
Katenka was with me in the britchka; her lovely head inclined as
she gazed pensively at the roadway. I looked at her in silence
and wondered what had brought the unchildlike expression of
sadness to her face which I now observed for the first time
"We shall soon be in Moscow," I said at last. "How large do you
suppose it is?"
"I don't know," she replied.
"Well, but how large do you IMAGINE? As large as Serpukhov?"
"What do you say?"
Yet the instinctive feeling which enables one person to guess the
thoughts of another and serves as a guiding thread in
conversation soon made Katenka feel that her indifference was
disagreeable to me; wherefore she raised her head presently, and,
turning round, said:
"Did your Papa tell you that we girls too were going to live at
"Yes, he said that we should ALL live there,"
"ALL live there?"
"Yes, of course. We shall have one half of the upper floor, and
you the other half, and Papa the wing; but we shall all of us
dine together with Grandmamma downstairs."
"But Mamma says that your Grandmamma is so very grave and so
easily made angry?"
"No, she only SEEMS like that at first. She is grave, but not
bad-tempered. On the contrary, she is both kind and cheerful. If
you could only have seen the ball at her house!"
"All the same, I am afraid of her. Besides, who knows whether
Katenka stopped short, and once again became thoughtful.
"What?" I asked with some anxiety.
"Nothing, I only said that--"
"No. You said, 'Who knows whether we--'"
"And YOU said, didn't you, that once there was ever such a ball
"Yes. It is a pity you were not there. There were heaps of
guests--about a thousand people, and all of them princes or
generals, and there was music, and I danced-- But, Katenka" I
broke off, "you are not listening to me?"
"Oh yes, I am listening. You said that you danced--?"
"Why are you so serious?"
"Well, one cannot ALWAYS be gay."
"But you have changed tremendously since Woloda and I first went
to Moscow. Tell me the truth, now: why are you so odd?" My tone
"AM I so odd?" said Katenka with an animation which showed me
that my question had interested her. "I don't see that I am so at
"Well, you are not the same as you were before," I continued.
"Once upon a time any one could see that you were our equal in
everything, and that you loved us like relations, just as we did
you; but now you are always serious, and keep yourself apart from
"Oh, not at all."
"But let me finish, please," I interrupted, already conscious of
a slight tickling in my nose--the precursor of the tears which
usually came to my eyes whenever I had to vent any long pent-up
feeling. "You avoid us, and talk to no one but Mimi, as though
you had no wish for our further acquaintance."
"But one cannot always remain the same--one must change a little
sometimes," replied Katenka, who had an inveterate habit of
pleading some such fatalistic necessity whenever she did not know
what else to say.
I recollect that once, when having a quarrel with Lubotshka, who
had called her "a stupid girl," she (Katenka) retorted that
EVERYBODY could not be wise, seeing that a certain number of
stupid people was a necessity in the world. However, on the
present occasion, I was not satisfied that any such inevitable
necessity for "changing sometimes" existed, and asked further:
"WHY is it necessary?"
"Well, you see, we MAY not always go on living together as we are
doing now," said Katenka, colouring slightly, and regarding
Philip's back with a grave expression on her face. "My Mamma was
able to live with your mother because she was her friend; but
will a similar arrangement always suit the Countess, who, they
say, is so easily offended? Besides, in any case, we shall have
to separate SOME day. You are rich--you have Petrovskoe, while we
are poor--Mamma has nothing."
"You are rich," "we are poor"--both the words and the ideas which
they connoted seemed to me extremely strange. Hitherto, I had
conceived that only beggars and peasants were poor and could not
reconcile in my mind the idea of poverty and the graceful,
charming Katenka. I felt that Mimi and her daughter ought to live
with us ALWAYS and to share everything that we possessed. Things
ought never to be otherwise. Yet, at this moment, a thousand new
thoughts with regard to their lonely position came crowding into
my head, and I felt so remorseful at the notion that we were rich
and they poor, that I coloured up and could not look Katenka in
"Yet what does it matter," I thought, "that we are well off and
they are not? Why should that necessitate a separation? Why
should we not share in common what we possess?" Yet, I had a
feeling that I could not talk to Katenka on the subject, since a
certain practical instinct, opposed to all logical reasoning,
warned me that, right though she possibly was, I should do wrong
to tell her so.
"It is impossible that you should leave us. How could we ever
"Yet what else is there to be done? Certainly I do not WANT to do
it; yet, if it HAS to be done, I know what my plan in life will
"Yes, to become an actress! How absurd!" I exclaimed (for I knew
that to enter that profession had always been her favourite
"Oh no. I only used to say that when I was a little girl."
"Well, then? What?"
"To go into a convent and live there. Then I could walk out in a
black dress and velvet cap!" cried Katenka.
Has it ever befallen you, my readers, to become suddenly aware
that your conception of things has altered--as though every
object in life had unexpectedly turned a side towards you of
which you had hitherto remained unaware? Such a species of moral
change occurred, as regards myself, during this journey, and
therefore from it I date the beginning of my boyhood. For the
first time in my life, I then envisaged the idea that we--i.e.
our family--were not the only persons in the world; that not
every conceivable interest was centred in ourselves; and that
there existed numbers of people who had nothing in common with
us, cared nothing for us, and even knew nothing of our existence.
No doubt I had known all this before--only I had not known it
then as I knew it now; I had never properly felt or understood
Thought merges into conviction through paths of its own, as well
as, sometimes, with great suddenness and by methods wholly
different from those which have brought other intellects to the
same conclusion. For me the conversation with Katenka--striking
deeply as it did, and forcing me to reflect on her future
position--constituted such a path. As I gazed at the towns and
villages through which we passed, and in each house of which
lived at least one family like our own, as well as at the women
and children who stared with curiosity at our carriages and then
became lost to sight for ever, and the peasants and workmen who
did not even look at us, much less make us any obeisance, the
question arose for the first time in my thoughts, "Whom else do
they care for if not for us?" And this question was followed by
others, such as, "To what end do they live?" "How do they educate
their children?" "Do they teach their children and let them play?
What are their names?" and so forth.
IV. IN MOSCOW
From the time of our arrival in Moscow, the change in my
conception of objects, of persons, and of my connection with them
became increasingly perceptible. When at my first meeting with
Grandmamma, I saw her thin, wrinkled face and faded eyes, the
mingled respect and fear with which she had hitherto inspired me
gave place to compassion, and when, laying her cheek against
Lubotshka's head, she sobbed as though she saw before her the
corpse of her beloved daughter, my compassion grew to love.
I felt deeply sorry to see her grief at our meeting, even though
I knew that in ourselves we represented nothing in her eyes, but
were dear to her only as reminders of our mother--that every kiss
which she imprinted upon my cheeks expressed the one thought,
"She is no more--she is dead, and I shall never see her again."
Papa, who took little notice of us here in Moscow, and whose face
was perpetually preoccupied on the rare occasions when he came in
his black dress-coat to take formal dinner with us, lost much in
my eyes at this period, in spite of his turned-up ruffles, robes
de chambre, overseers, bailiffs, expeditions to the estate, and
Karl Ivanitch--whom Grandmamma always called "Uncle," and who
(Heaven knows why!) had taken it into his head to adorn the bald
pate of my childhood's days with a red wig parted in the middle--
now looked to me so strange and ridiculous that I wondered how I
could ever have failed to observe the fact before. Even between
the girls and ourselves there seemed to have sprung up an
invisible barrier. They, too, began to have secrets among
themselves, as well as to evince a desire to show off their ever-
lengthening skirts even as we boys did our trousers and ankle-
straps. As for Mimi, she appeared at luncheon, the first Sunday,
in such a gorgeous dress and with so many ribbons in her cap that
it was clear that we were no longer en campagne, and that
everything was now going to be different.
V. MY ELDER BROTHER
I was only a year and some odd months younger than Woloda, and
from the first we had grown up and studied and played together.
Hitherto, the difference between elder and younger brother had
never been felt between us, but at the period of which I am
speaking, I began to have a notion that I was not Woloda's equal
either in years, in tastes, or in capabilities. I even began to
fancy that Woloda himself was aware of his superiority and that
he was proud of it, and, though, perhaps, I was wrong, the idea
wounded my conceit--already suffering from frequent comparison
with him. He was my superior in everything--in games, in studies,
in quarrels, and in deportment. All this brought about an
estrangement between us and occasioned me moral sufferings which
I had never hitherto experienced.
When for the first time Woloda wore Dutch pleated shirts, I at
once said that I was greatly put out at not being given similar
ones, and each time that he arranged his collar, I felt that he
was doing so on purpose to offend me. But, what tormented me most
of all was the idea that Woloda could see through me, yet did not
choose to show it.
Who has not known those secret, wordless communications which
spring from some barely perceptible smile or movement--from a
casual glance between two persons who live as constantly together
as do brothers, friends, man and wife, or master and servant--
particularly if those two persons do not in all things cultivate
mutual frankness? How many half-expressed wishes, thoughts, and
meanings which one shrinks from revealing are made plain by a
single accidental glance which timidly and irresolutely meets the
However, in my own case I may have been deceived by my excessive
capacity for, and love of, analysis. Possibly Woloda did not feel
at all as I did. Passionate and frank, but unstable in his
likings, he was attracted by the most diverse things, and always
surrendered himself wholly to such attraction. For instance, he
suddenly conceived a passion for pictures, spent all his money on
their purchase, begged Papa, Grandmamma, and his drawing master
to add to their number, and applied himself with enthusiasm to
art. Next came a sudden rage for curios, with which he covered
his table, and for which he ransacked the whole house. Following
upon that, he took to violent novel-reading--procuring such
works by stealth, and devouring them day and night. Involuntarily
I was influenced by his whims, for, though too proud to imitate
him, I was also too young and too lacking in independence to
choose my own way. Above all, I envied Woloda his happy, nobly
frank character, which showed itself most strikingly when we
quarrelled. I always felt that he was in the right, yet could
not imitate him. For instance, on one occasion when his passion
for curios was at its height, I went to his table and
accidentally broke an empty many-coloured smelling-bottle.
"Who gave you leave to touch my things?" asked Woloda, chancing
to enter the room at that moment and at once perceiving the
disorder which I had occasioned in the orderly arrangement of the
treasures on his table. "And where is that smelling bottle?
"I let it fall, and it smashed to pieces; but what does that
"Well, please do me the favour never to DARE to touch my things
again," he said as he gathered up the broken fragments and looked
at them vexedly.
"And will YOU please do me the favour never to ORDER me to do
anything whatever," I retorted. "When a thing's broken, it's
broken, and there is no more to be said." Then I smiled, though I
hardly felt like smiling.
"Oh, it may mean nothing to you, but to me it means a good deal,"
said Woloda, shrugging his shoulders (a habit he had caught from
Papa). "First of all you go and break my things, and then you
laugh. What a nuisance a little boy can be!"
"LITTLE boy, indeed? Then YOU, I suppose, are a man, and ever so
"I do not intend to quarrel with you," said Woloda, giving me a
slight push. "Go away."
"Don't you push me!"
"I say again--don't you push me!"
Woloda took me by the hand and tried to drag me away from the
table, but I was excited to the last degree, and gave the table
such a push with my foot that I upset the whole concern, and
brought china and crystal ornaments and everything else with a
crash to the floor.
"You disgusting little brute!" exclaimed Woloda, trying to save
some of his falling treasures.
"At last all is over between us," I thought to myself as I strode
from the room. "We are separated now for ever."
It was not until evening that we again exchanged a word. Yet I
felt guilty, and was afraid to look at him, and remained at a
loose end all day.
Woloda, on the contrary, did his lessons as diligently as ever,
and passed the time after luncheon in talking and laughing with
the girls. As soon, again, as afternoon lessons were over I left
the room, for it would have been terribly embarrassing for me to
be alone with my brother. When, too, the evening class in history
was ended I took my notebook and moved towards the door. Just as
I passed Woloda, I pouted and pulled an angry face, though in
reality I should have liked to have made my peace with him. At
the same moment he lifted his head, and with a barely perceptible
and good-humouredly satirical smile looked me full in the face.
Our eyes met, and I saw that he understood me, while he, for his
part, saw that I knew that he understood me; yet a feeling
stronger than myself obliged me to turn away from him.
"Nicolinka," he said in a perfectly simple and anything but mock-
pathetic way, "you have been angry with me long enough. I am
sorry if I offended you," and he tendered me his hand.
It was as though something welled up from my heart and nearly
choked me. Presently it passed away, the tears rushed to my eyes,
and I felt immensely relieved.
"I too am so-rry, Wo-lo-da," I said, taking his hand. Yet he only
looked at me with an expression as though he could not understand
why there should be tears in my eyes.
None of the changes produced in my conception of things were so
striking as the one which led me to cease to see in one of our
chambermaids a mere servant of the female sex, but, on the
contrary, a WOMAN upon whom depended, to a certain extent, my
peace of mind and happiness. From the time of my earliest
recollection I can remember Masha an inmate of our house, yet
never until the occurrence of which I am going to speak--an
occurrence which entirely altered my impression of her--had I
bestowed the smallest attention upon her. She was twenty-five
years old, while I was but fourteen. Also, she was very
beautiful. But I hesitate to give a further description of her
lest my imagination should once more picture the bewitching,
though deceptive, conception of her which filled my mind during
the period of my passion. To be frank, I will only say that she
was extraordinarily handsome, magnificently developed, and a
woman--as also that I was but fourteen.
At one of those moments when, lesson-book in hand, I would pace
the room, and try to keep strictly to one particular crack in the
floor as I hummed a fragment of some tune or repeated some vague
formula--in short, at one of those moments when the mind leaves
off thinking and the imagination gains the upper hand and yearns
for new impressions--I left the schoolroom, and turned, with no
definite purpose in view, towards the head of the staircase.
Somebody in slippers was ascending the second flight of stairs.
Of course I felt curious to see who it was, but the footsteps
ceased abruptly, and then I heard Masha's voice say:
"Go away! What nonsense! What would Maria Ivanovna think if she
were to come now?"
"Oh, but she will not come," answered Woloda's voice in a
"Well, go away, you silly boy," and Masha came running up, and
fled past me.
I cannot describe the way in which this discovery confounded me.
Nevertheless the feeling of amazement soon gave place to a kind
of sympathy with Woloda's conduct. I found myself wondering less
at the conduct itself than at his ability to behave so agreeably.
Also, I found myself involuntarily desiring to imitate him.
Sometimes I would pace the landing for an hour at a time, with no
other thought in my head than to watch for movements from above.
Yet, although I longed beyond all things to do as Woloda had
done, I could not bring myself to the point. At other times,
filled with a sense of envious jealousy, I would conceal myself
behind a door and listen to the sounds which came from the
maidservants' room, until the thought would occur to my mind,
"How if I were to go in now and, like Woloda, kiss Masha? What
should I say when she asked me--ME with the huge nose and the
tuft on the top of my head--what I wanted?" Sometimes, too, I
could hear her saying to Woloda,
"That serves you right! Go away! Nicolas Petrovitch never comes
in here with such nonsense." Alas! she did not know that Nicolas
Petrovitch was sitting on the staircase just below and feeling
that he would give all he possessed to be in "that bold fellow
Woloda's" place! I was shy by nature, and rendered worse in that
respect by a consciousness of my own ugliness. I am certain that
nothing so much influences the development of a man as his
exterior--though the exterior itself less than his belief in its
plainness or beauty.
Yet I was too conceited altogether to resign myself to my fate. I
tried to comfort myself much as the fox did when he declared that
the grapes were sour. That is to say, I tried to make light of
the satisfaction to be gained from making such use of a pleasing
exterior as I believed Woloda to employ (satisfaction which I
nevertheless envied him from my heart), and endeavoured with
every faculty of my intellect and imagination to console myself
with a pride in my isolation.
VII. SMALL SHOT
"Good gracious! Powder!" exclaimed Mimi in a voice trembling with
alarm. "Whatever are you doing? You will set the house on fire in
a moment, and be the death of us all!" Upon that, with an
indescribable expression of firmness, Mimi ordered every one to
stand aside, and, regardless of all possible danger from a
premature explosion, strode with long and resolute steps to where
some small shot was scattered about the floor, and began to
trample upon it.
When, in her opinion, the peril was at least lessened, she called
for Michael and commanded him to throw the "powder" away into
some remote spot, or, better still, to immerse it in water; after
which she adjusted her cap and returned proudly to the drawing-
room, murmuring as she went, "At least I can say that they are
well looked after."
When Papa issued from his room and took us to see Grandmamma we
found Mimi sitting by the window and glancing with a grave,
mysterious, official expression towards the door. In her hand she
was holding something carefully wrapped in paper. I guessed that
that something was the small shot, and that Grandmamma had been
informed of the occurrence. In the room also were the maidservant
Gasha (who, to judge by her angry flushed face, was in a state of
great irritation) and Doctor Blumenthal--the latter a little man
pitted with smallpox, who was endeavouring by tacit, pacificatory
signs with his head and eyes to reassure the perturbed Gasha.
Grandmamma was sitting a little askew and playing that variety of
"patience" which is called "The Traveller"--two unmistakable
signs of her displeasure.
"How are you to-day, Mamma?" said Papa as he kissed her hand
respectfully. "Have you had a good night?"
"Yes, very good, my dear; you KNOW that I always enjoy sound
health," replied Grandmamma in a tone implying that Papa's
inquiries were out of place and highly offensive. "Please give me
a clean pocket-handkerchief," she added to Gasha.
"I HAVE given you one, madam," answered Gasha, pointing to the
snow-white cambric handkerchief which she had just laid on the
arm of Grandmamma's chair.
"No, no; it's a nasty, dirty thing. Take it away and bring me a
CLEAN one, my dear."
Gasha went to a cupboard and slammed the door of it back so
violently that every window rattled. Grandmamma glared angrily at
each of us, and then turned her attention to following the
movements of the servant. After the latter had presented her with
what I suspected to be the same handkerchief as before,
"And when do you mean to cut me some snuff, my dear?"
"When I have time."
"What do you say?"
"If you don't want to continue in my service you had better say
so at once. I would have sent you away long ago had I known that
you wished it."
"It wouldn't have broken my heart if you had!" muttered the woman
in an undertone.
Here the doctor winked at her again, but she returned his gaze so
firmly and wrathfully that he soon lowered it and went on playing
with his watch-key.
"You see, my dear, how people speak to me in my own house!" said
Grandmamma to Papa when Gasha had left the room grumbling.
"Well, Mamma, I will cut you some snuff myself," replied Papa,
though evidently at a loss how to proceed now that he had made
this rash promise.
"No, no, I thank you. Probably she is cross because she knows
that no one except herself can cut the snuff just as I like it.
Do you know, my dear," she went on after a pause, "that your
children very nearly set the house on fire this morning?"
Papa gazed at Grandmamma with respectful astonishment.
"Yes, they were playing with something or another. Tell him the
story," she added to Mimi.
Papa could not help smiling as he took the shot in his hand.
"This is only small shot, Mamma," he remarked, "and could never
"I thank you, my dear, for your instruction, but I am rather too
old for that sort of thing."
"Nerves, nerves!" whispered the doctor.
Papa turned to us and asked us where we had got the stuff, and
how we could dare to play with it.
"Don't ask THEM, ask that useless 'Uncle,' rather," put in
Grandmamma, laying a peculiar stress upon the word "UNCLE."
"What else is he for?"
"Woloda says that Karl Ivanitch gave him the powder himself,"
"Then you can see for yourself what use he is," continued
Grandmamma. " And where IS he--this precious 'Uncle'? How is one
to get hold of him? Send him here."
"He has gone an errand for me," said Papa.
"That is not at all right," rejoined Grandmamma. "He ought ALWAYS
to be here. True, the children are yours, not mine, and I have
nothing to do with them, seeing that you are so much cleverer
than I am; yet all the same I think it is time we had a regular
tutor for them, and not this 'Uncle' of a German--a stupid fellow
who knows only how to teach them rude manners and Tyrolean songs!
Is it necessary, I ask you, that they should learn Tyrolean
songs? However, there is no one for me to consult about it, and
you must do just as you like."
The word "NOW" meant "NOW THAT THEY HAVE NO MOTHER," and suddenly
awakened sad recollections in Grandmamma's heart. She threw a
glance at the snuff-box bearing Mamma's portrait and sighed.
"I thought of all this long ago," said Papa eagerly, "as well as
taking your advice on the subject. How would you like St. Jerome
to superintend their lessons?"
"Oh, I think he would do excellently, my friend," said Grandmamma
in a mollified tone, "He is at least a tutor comme il faut, and
knows how to instruct des enfants de bonne maison. He is not a
mere 'Uncle' who is good only for taking them out walking."
"Very well; I will talk to him to-morrow," said Papa. And, sure
enough, two days later saw Karl Ivanitch forced to retire in
favour of the young Frenchman referred to.
VIII. KARL IVANITCH'S HISTORY
THE evening before the day when Karl was to leave us for ever, he
was standing (clad, as usual, in his wadded dressing-gown and red
cap) near the bed in his room, and bending down over a trunk as
he carefully packed his belongings.
His behaviour towards us had been very cool of late, and he had
seemed to shrink from all contact with us. Consequently, when I
entered his room on the present occasion, he only glanced at me
for a second and then went on with his occupation. Even though I
proceeded to jump on to his bed (a thing hitherto always
forbidden me to do), he said not a word; and the idea that he
would soon be scolding or forgiving us no longer--no longer
having anything to do with us--reminded me vividly of the
impending separation. I felt grieved to think that he had ceased
to love us and wanted to show him my grief.
"Will you let me help you?" I said, approaching him.
He looked at me for a moment and turned away again. Yet the
expression of pain in his eyes showed that his coldness was not
the result of indifference, but rather of sincere and
"God sees and knows everything," he said at length, raising
himself to his full height and drawing a deep sigh. "Yes,
Nicolinka," he went on, observing, the expression of sincere pity
on my face, " my fate has been an unhappy one from the cradle,
and will continue so to the grave. The good that I have done to
people has always been repaid with evil; yet, though I shall
receive no reward here, I shall find one THERE" (he pointed
upwards). "Ah, if only you knew my whole story, and all that I
have endured in this life!--I who have been a bootmaker, a
soldier, a deserter, a factory hand, and a teacher! Yet now--now
I am nothing, and, like the Son of Man, have nowhere to lay my
head." Sitting down upon a chair, he covered his eyes with his
Seeing that he was in the introspective mood in which a man pays
no attention to his listener as he cons over his secret thoughts,
I remained silent, and, seating myself upon the bed, continued to
watch his kind face.
"You are no longer a child. You can understand things now, and I
will tell you my whole story and all that I have undergone. Some
day, my children, you may remember the old friend who loved you
He leant his elbow upon the table by his side, took a pinch of
snuff, and, in the peculiarly measured, guttural tone in which he
used to dictate us our lessons, began the story of his career.
Since he many times in later years repeated the whole to me
again--always in the same order, and with the same expressions
and the same unvarying intonation--I will try to render it
literally, and without omitting the innumerable grammatical
errors into which he always strayed when speaking in Russian.
Whether it was really the history of his life, or whether it was
the mere product of his imagination--that is to say, some
narrative which he had conceived during his lonely residence in
our house, and had at last, from endless repetition, come to
believe in himself--or whether he was adorning with imaginary
facts the true record of his career, I have never quite been able
to make out. On the one hand, there was too much depth of feeling
and practical consistency in its recital for it to be wholly
incredible, while, on the other hand, the abundance of poetical
beauty which it contained tended to raise doubts in the mind of
"Me vere very unhappy from ze time of my birth," he began with a
profound sigh. "Ze noble blot of ze Countess of Zomerblat flows
in my veins. Me vere born six veek after ze vetting. Ze man of my
Mutter (I called him 'Papa') vere farmer to ze Count von
Zomerblat. He coult not forget my Mutter's shame, ant loaft me
not. I had a youngster broser Johann ant two sister, pot me vere
strange petween my own family. Ven Johann mate several silly
trick Papa sayt, 'Wit sis chilt Karl I am never to have one
moment tranquil!' and zen he scoltet and ponishet me. Ven ze
sister quarrellet among zemselves Papa sayt, 'Karl vill never be
one opedient poy,' ant still scoltet ant ponishet me. My goot
Mamma alone loaft ant tenteret me. Often she sayt to me, 'Karl,
come in my room,' ant zere she kisset me secretly. 'Poorly,
poorly Karl!' she sayt. 'Nopoty loaf you, pot I will not exchange
you for somepoty in ze worlt, One zing your Mutter pegs you,
to rememper,' sayt she to me, 'learn vell, ant be efer one
honest man; zen Got will not forsake you.' Ant I triet so
to become. Ven my fourteen year hat expiret, ant me coult
partake of ze Holy Sopper, my Mutter sayt to my Vater, 'Karl
is one pig poy now, Kustaf. Vat shall we do wis him?' Ant
Papa sayt, 'Me ton't know.' Zen Mamma sayt, 'Let us give
him to town at Mister Schultzen's, and he may pea Schumacher,'
ant my Vater sayt, 'Goot !' Six year ant seven mons livet I
in town wis ze Mister Shoemaker, ant he loaft me. He sayt,
'Karl are one goot vorkman, ant shall soon become my Geselle.'
Pot-man makes ze proposition, ant Got ze deposition. In
ze year 1796 one conscription took place, ant each which vas
serviceable, from ze eighteens to ze twenty-first year, hat to go
"My Fater and my broser Johann come to town, ant ve go togezer to
throw ze lot for which shoult pe Soldat. Johann drew ze fatal
nomper, and me vas not necessary to pe Soldat. Ant Papa sayt, 'I
have only vun son, ant wis him I must now separate!'
"Den I take his hant, ant says, 'Why say you so, Papa? Come wis
me, ant I will say you somesing.' Ant Papa come, ant we seat
togezer at ze publics-house, ant me sayt, 'Vaiter, give us one
Bierkrug,' ant he gives us one. We trink altogezer, and broser
Johann also trink. 'Papa,' sayt me, 'ton't say zat you have only
one son, ant wis it you must separate, My heart was breaking ven
you say sis. Broser Johann must not serve; ME shall pe Soldat.
Karl is for nopoty necessary, and Karl shall pe Soldat.'
"'You is one honest man, Karl,' sayt Papa, ant kiss me. Ant me
IX. CONTINUATION OF KARL'S NARRATIVE
"Zat was a terrible time, Nicolinka," continued Karl Ivanitch,
"ze time of Napoleon. He vanted to conquer Germany, ant we
protected our Vaterland to ze last trop of plot. Me vere at Ulm,
me vere at Austerlitz, me vere at Wagram."
"Did you really fight?" I asked with a gaze of astonishment "Did
you really kill anybody?"
Karl instantly reassured me on this point,
"Vonce one French grenadier was left behint, ant fell to ze
sprang forvarts wis my gon, ant vere about to kill him, aber der
Franzose warf sein Gewehr hin und rief, 'Pardon'--ant I let him
"At Wagram, Napoleon cut us open, ant surrountet us in such a way
as zere vas no helping. Sree days hat we no provisions, ant stoot
in ze vater op to ze knees. Ze evil Napoleon neiser let us go
loose nor catchet us.
"On ze fours day zey took us prisoners--zank Got! ant sent us to
one fortress. Upon me vas one blue trousers, uniforms of very
goot clos, fifteen of Thalers, ant one silver clock which my
Vater hat given me, Ze Frans Soldaten took from me everysing. For
my happiness zere vas sree tucats on me which my Mamma hat sewn
in my shirt of flannel. Nopoty fount zem.
"I liket not long to stay in ze fortresses, ant resoluted to ron
away. Von day, von pig holitay, says I to the sergeant which hat
to look after us, 'Mister Sergeant, to-day is a pig holitay, ant
me vants to celeprate it. Pring here, if you please, two pottle
Mateira, ant we shall trink zem wis each oser.' Ant ze sergeant
says, 'Goot!' Ven ze sergeant pring ze Mateira ant we trink it
out to ze last trop, I taket his hant ant says, 'Mister Sergeant,
perhaps you have still one Vater and one Mutter?' He says, 'So I
have, Mister Mayer.' 'My Vater ant Mutter not seen me eight
year,' I goes on to him, 'ant zey know not if I am yet alive or
if my bones be reposing in ze grave. Oh, Mister Sergeant, I have
two tucats which is in my shirt of flannel. Take zem, ant let me
loose! You will pe my penefactor, ant my Mutter will be praying
for you all her life to ze Almighty Got!'
"Ze sergeant emptiet his glass of Mateira, ant says, 'Mister
Mayer, I loaf and pity you very much, pot you is one prisoner,
ant I one soldat.' So I take his hant ant says, 'Mister
"Ant ze sergeant says, 'You is one poor man, ant I will not take
your money, pot I will help you. Ven I go to sleep, puy one pail
of pranty for ze Soldaten, ant zey will sleep. Me will not look
after you.' Sis was one goot man. I puyet ze pail of pranty, ant
ven ze Soldaten was trunken me tresset in one olt coat, ant gang
in silence out of ze doon.
"I go to ze wall, ant will leap down, pot zere is vater pelow,
ant I will not spoil my last tressing, so I go to ze gate.
"Ze sentry go up and town wis one gon, ant look at me. 'Who goes
zere? ' ant I was silent. 'Who goes zere ze second time?' ant I
was silent. ' Who goes zere ze third time? ' ant I ron away, I
sprang in ze vater, climp op to ze oser site, ant walk on.
"Ze entire night I ron on ze vay, pot ven taylight came I was
afrait zat zey woult catch me, ant I hit myself in ze high corn.
Zere I kneelet town, zanket ze Vater in Heaven for my safety, ant
fall asleep wis a tranquil feeling.
"I wakenet op in ze evening, ant gang furser. At once one large
German carriage, wis two raven-black horse, came alongside me. In
ze carriage sit one well-tresset man, smoking pipe, ant look at
me. I go slowly, so zat ze carriage shall have time to pass me,
pot I go slowly, ant ze carriage go slowly, ant ze man look at
me. I go quick, ant ze carriage go quick, ant ze man stop its two
horses, ant look at me. 'Young man,' says he, 'where go you so
late?' I says, 'I go to Frankfort.' 'Sit in ze carriage--zere is
room enough, ant I will trag you,' he says. 'Bot why have you
nosing about you? Your boots is dirty, ant your beart not
shaven.' I seated wis him, ant says, 'lch bin one poor man, ant I
would like to pusy myself wis somesing in a manufactory. My
tressing is dirty because I fell in ze mud on ze roat.'
"'You tell me ontruse, young man,' says he. 'Ze roat is kvite dry
now.' I was silent. 'Tell me ze whole truse,' goes on ze goot
man--'who you are, ant vere you go to? I like your face, ant ven
you is one honest man, so I will help you.' Ant I tell all.
"'Goot, young man!' he says. 'Come to my manufactory of rope, ant
I will give you work ant tress ant money, ant you can live wis
os.' I says, 'Goot!'
"I go to ze manufactory of rope, ant ze goot man says to his
voman, 'Here is one yong man who defented his Vaterland, ant ron
away from prisons. He has not house nor tresses nor preat. He
will live wis os. Give him clean linen, ant norish him.'
"I livet one ant a half year in ze manufactory of rope, ant my
lantlort loaft me so much zat he would not let me loose. Ant I
felt very goot.
"I were zen handsome man--yong, of pig stature, with blue eyes
and romische nose--ant Missis L-- (I like not to say her name--
she was ze voman of my lantlort) was yong ant handsome laty. Ant
she fell in loaf wis me."
Here Karl Ivanitch made a long pause, lowered his kindly blue
eyes, shook his head quietly, and smiled as people always do
under the influence of a pleasing recollection.
"Yes," he resumed as he leant back in his arm-chair and adjusted
his dressing-gown, "I have experiencet many sings in my life, pot
zere is my witness,"--here he pointed to an image of the Saviour,
embroidered on wool, which was hanging over his bed--"zat nopoty
in ze worlt can say zat Karl Ivanitch has been one dishonest man,
I would not repay black ingratitude for ze goot which Mister L--
dit me, ant I resoluted to ron away. So in ze evening, ven all
were asleep, I writet one letter to my lantlort, ant laid it on
ze table in his room. Zen I taket my tresses, tree Thaler of
money, ant go mysteriously into ze street. Nopoty have seen me,
ant I go on ze roat."
X. CONCLUSION OF KARL'S NARRATIVE
"I had not seen my Mamma for nine year, ant I know not whether
she lived or whether her bones had long since lain in ze dark
grave. Ven I come to my own country and go to ze town I ask,
'Where live Kustaf Mayer who was farmer to ze Count von
Zomerblat? ' ant zey answer me, 'Graf Zomerblat is deat, ant
Kustaf Mayer live now in ze pig street, ant keep a public-house.'
So I tress in my new waistcoat and one noble coat which ze
manufacturist presented me, arranged my hairs nice, ant go to ze
public-house of my Papa. Sister Mariechen vas sitting on a pench,
and she ask me what I want. I says, 'Might I trink one glass of
pranty?' ant she says, 'Vater, here is a yong man who wish to
trink one glass of pranty.' Ant Papa says, 'Give him ze glass.' I
set to ze table, trink my glass of pranty, smoke my pipe, ant
look at Papa, Mariechen, ant Johann (who also come into ze shop).
In ze conversation Papa says, 'You know, perhaps, yong man, where
stants our army?' and I say, 'I myself am come from ze army, ant
it stants now at Wien.' 'Our son,' says Papa, 'is a Soldat, ant
now is it nine years since he wrote never one wort, and we know
not whether he is alive or dead. My voman cry continually for
him.' I still fumigate the pipe, ant say, 'What was your son's
name, and where servet he? Perhaps I may know him.' 'His name was
Karl Mayer, ant he servet in ze Austrian Jagers.' 'He were of pig
stature, ant a handsome man like yourself,' puts in Mariechen. I
say, 'I know your Karl.' 'Amalia,' exclaimet my Vater. 'Come
here! Here is yong man which knows our Karl!'--ant my dear Mutter
comes out from a back door. I knew her directly. 'You know our
Karl?' says she, ant looks at me, ant, white all over, trembles.
'Yes, I haf seen him,' I says, without ze corage to look at her,
for my heart did almost burst. 'My Karl is alive?' she cry. 'Zen
tank Got! Vere is he, my Karl? I woult die in peace if I coult
see him once more--my darling son! Bot Got will not haf it so.'
Then she cried, and I coult no longer stant it. 'Darling Mamma!'
I say, 'I am your son, I am your Karl!'--and she fell into my
Karl Ivanitch covered his eyes, and his lips were quivering.
"'Mutter,' sagte ich, 'ich bin ihr Sohn, ich bin ihr Karl!'--und
sie sturtzte mir in die Arme!'" he repeated, recovering a little
and wiping the tears from his eyes.
"Bot Got did not wish me to finish my tays in my own town. I were
pursuet by fate. I livet in my own town only sree mons. One
Suntay I sit in a coffee-house, ant trinket one pint of Pier, ant
fumigated my pipe, ant speaket wis some frients of Politik, of ze
Emperor Franz, of Napoleon, of ze war--ant anypoty might say his
opinion. But next to us sits a strange chentleman in a grey
Uberrock, who trink coffee, fumigate the pipe, ant says nosing.
Ven the night watchman shoutet ten o'clock I taket my hat, paid
ze money, and go home. At ze middle of ze night some one knock at
ze door. I rise ant says, 'Who is zere?' 'Open!' says someone. I
shout again, 'First say who is zere, ant I will open.' 'Open in
the name of the law!' say the someone behint the door. I now do
so. Two Soldaten wis gons stant at ze door, ant into ze room
steps ze man in ze grey Uberrock, who had sat with us in ze
coffeehouse. He were Spion! 'Come wis me,' says ze Spion, 'Very
goot!' say I. I dresset myself in boots, trousers, ant coat, ant
go srough ze room. Ven I come to ze wall where my gon hangs I
take it, ant says, 'You are a Spion, so defent you!' I give one
stroke left, one right, ant one on ze head. Ze Spion lay
precipitated on ze floor! Zen I taket my cloak-bag ant money, ant
jompet out of ze vintow. I vent to Ems, where I was acquainted
wis one General Sasin, who loaft me, givet me a passport from ze
Embassy, ant taket me to Russland to learn his chiltren. Ven
General Sasin tiet, your Mamma callet for me, ant says, 'Karl
Ivanitch, I gif you my children. Loaf them, ant I will never
leave you, ant will take care for your olt age.' Now is she teat,
ant all is forgotten! For my twenty year full of service I most
now go into ze street ant seek for a try crust of preat for my
olt age! Got sees all sis, ant knows all sis. His holy will be
done! Only-only, I yearn for you, my children!"--and Karl drew me
to him, and kissed me on the forehead.
XI. ONE MARK ONLY
The year of mourning over, Grandmamma recovered a little from her
grief, and once more took to receiving occasional guests,
especially children of the same age as ourselves.
On the 13th of December--Lubotshka's birthday--the Princess
Kornakoff and her daughters, with Madame Valakhin, Sonetchka,
Ilinka Grap, and the two younger Iwins, arrived at our house
Though we could hear the sounds of talking, laughter, and
movements going on in the drawing-room, we could not join the
party until our morning lessons were finished. The table of
studies in the schoolroom said, " Lundi, de 2 a 3, maitre
d'Histoire et de Geographie," and this infernal maitre d'Histoire
we must await, listen to, and see the back of before we could
gain our liberty. Already it was twenty minutes past two, and
nothing was to be heard of the tutor, nor yet anything to be seen
of him in the street, although I kept looking up and down it with
the greatest impatience and with an emphatic longing never to see
the maitre again.
"I believe he is not coming to-day," said Woloda, looking up for
a moment from his lesson-book.
"I hope he is not, please the Lord!" I answered, but in a
despondent tone. "Yet there he DOES come, I believe, all the
"Not he! Why, that is a GENTLEMAN," said Woloda, likewise looking
out of the window, "Let us wait till half-past two, and then ask
St. Jerome if we may put away our books."
"Yes, and wish them au revoir," I added, stretching my arms, with
the book clasped in my hands, over my head. Having hitherto idled
away my time, I now opened the book at the place where the lesson
was to begin, and started to learn it. It was long and difficult,
and, moreover, I was in the mood when one's thoughts refuse to be
arrested by anything at all. Consequently I made no progress.
After our last lesson in history (which always seemed to me a
peculiarly arduous and wearisome subject) the history master had
complained to St. Jerome of me because only two good marks stood
to my credit in the register --a very small total. St. Jerome had
then told me that if I failed to gain less than THREE marks at
the next lesson I should be severely punished. The next lesson
was now imminent, and I confess that I felt a little nervous.
So absorbed, however, did I become in my reading that the sound
of goloshes being taken off in the ante-room came upon me almost
as a shock. I had just time to look up when there appeared in the
doorway the servile and (to me) very disgusting face and form of
the master, clad in a blue frockcoat with brass buttons.
Slowly he set down his hat and books and adjusted the folds of
his coat (as though such a thing were necessary!), and seated
himself in his place.
"Well, gentlemen," he said, rubbing his hands, "let us first of
all repeat the general contents of the last lesson: after which I
will proceed to narrate the succeeding events of the middle
This meant "Say over the last lesson." While Woloda was answering
the master with the entire ease and confidence which come of
knowing a subject well, I went aimlessly out on to the landing,
and, since I was not allowed to go downstairs, what more natural
than that I should involuntarily turn towards the alcove on the
landing? Yet before I had time to establish myself in my usual
coign of vantage behind the door I found myself pounced upon by
Mimi--always the cause of my misfortunes!
"YOU here?" she said, looking severely, first at myself, and
then at the maidservants' door, and then at myself again.
I felt thoroughly guilty, firstly, because I was not in the
schoolroom, and secondly, because I was in a forbidden place. So
I remained silent, and, dropping my head, assumed a touching
expression of contrition.
"Indeed, this is TOO bad!" Mimi went on, "What are you doing
Still I said nothing.
"Well, it shall not rest where it is," she added, tapping the
banister with her yellow fingers. "I shall inform the Countess."
It was five minutes to three when I re-entered the schoolroom.
The master, as though oblivious of my presence or absence, was
explaining the new lesson to Woloda. When he had finished doing
this, and had put his books together (while Woloda went into the
other room to fetch his ticket), the comforting idea occurred to
me that perhaps the whole thing was over now, and that the master
had forgotten me.
But suddenly he turned in my direction with a malicious smile,
and said as he rubbed his hands anew, "I hope you have learnt
"Yes," I replied.
"Would you be so kind, then, as to tell me something about St.
Louis' Crusade?" he went on, balancing himself on his chair and
looking gravely at his feet. "Firstly, tell me something about
the reasons which induced the French king to assume the cross
(here he raised his eyebrows and pointed to the inkstand); then
explain to me the general characteristics of the Crusade (here he
made a sweeping gesture with his hand, as though to seize hold of
something with it); "and lastly, expound to me the influence of
this Crusade upon the European states in general" (drawing the
copy books to the left side of the table) "and upon the French
state in particular" (drawing one of them to the right, and
inclining his head in the same direction).
I swallowed a few times, coughed, bent forward, and was silent.
Then, taking a pen from the table, I began to pick it to pieces,
yet still said nothing.
"Allow me the pen--I shall want it," said the master. "Well?"
"Louis the-er-Saint was-was-a very good and wise king."
"King, He took it into his head to go to Jerusalem, and handed
over the reins of government to his mother,"
"What was her name?
I laughed in a rather forced manner.
"Well, is that all you know?" he asked again, smiling.
I had nothing to lose now, so I began chattering the first thing
that came into my head. The master remained silent as he gathered
together the remains of the pen which I had left strewn about the
table, looked gravely past my ear at the wall, and repeated from
time to time, "Very well, very well." Though I was conscious that
I knew nothing whatever and was expressing myself all wrong, I
felt much hurt at the fact that he never either corrected or
"What made him think of going to Jerusalem?" he asked at last,
repeating some words of my own.
"Because--because--that is to say--"
My confusion was complete, and I relapsed into silence, I felt
that, even if this disgusting history master were to go on
putting questions to me, and gazing inquiringly into my face, for
a year, I should never be able to enunciate another syllable.
After staring at me for some three minutes, he suddenly assumed a
mournful cast of countenance, and said in an agitated voice to
Woloda (who was just re-entering the room):
"Allow me the register. I will write my remarks."
He opened the book thoughtfully, and in his fine caligraphy
marked FIVE for Woloda for diligence, and the same for good
behaviour. Then, resting his pen on the line where my report was
to go, he looked at me and reflected. Suddenly his hand made a
decisive movement and, behold, against my name stood a clearly-
marked ONE, with a full stop after it! Another movement and in
the behaviour column there stood another one and another full
stop! Quietly closing the book, the master then rose, and moved
towards the door as though unconscious of my look of entreaty,
despair, and reproach.
"Michael Lavionitch!" I said.
"No!" he replied, as though knowing beforehand what I was about
to say. "It is impossible for you to learn in that way. I am not
going to earn my money for nothing."
He put on his goloshes and cloak, and then slowly tied a scarf
about his neck. To think that he could care about such trifles
after what had just happened to me! To him it was all a mere
stroke of the pen, but to me it meant the direst misfortune.
"Is the lesson over?" asked St. Jerome, entering.
"And was the master pleased with you?"
"How many marks did he give you?"
"And to Nicholas?"
I was silent.
"I think four," said Woloda. His idea was to save me for at least
today. If punishment there must be, it need not be awarded while
we had guests.
"Voyons, Messieurs!" (St. Jerome was forever saying "Voyons!")
"Faites votre toilette, et descendons."
XII. THE KEY
We had hardly descended and greeted our guests when luncheon was
announced. Papa was in the highest of spirits since for some
time past he had been winning. He had presented Lubotshka with a
silver tea service, and suddenly remembered, after luncheon, that
he had forgotten a box of bonbons which she was to have too.
"Why send a servant for it? YOU had better go, Koko," he said to
me jestingly. "The keys are in the tray on the table, you know.
Take them, and with the largest one open the second drawer on the
right. There you will find the box of bonbons. Bring it here."
"Shall I get you some cigars as well?" said I, knowing that he
always smoked after luncheon.
"Yes, do; but don't touch anything else."
I found the keys, and was about to carry out my orders, when I
was seized with a desire to know what the smallest of the keys on
the bunch belonged to.
On the table I saw, among many other things, a padlocked
portfolio, and at once felt curious to see if that was what the
key fitted. My experiment was crowned with success. The portfolio
opened and disclosed a number of papers. Curiosity so strongly
urged me also to ascertain what those papers contained that the
voice of conscience was stilled, and I began to read their
contents. . . .
My childish feeling of unlimited respect for my elders,
especially for Papa, was so strong within me that my intellect
involuntarily refused to draw any conclusions from what I had
seen. I felt that Papa was living in a sphere completely apart
from, incomprehensible by, and unattainable for, me, as well as
one that was in every way excellent, and that any attempt on my
part to criticise the secrets of his life would constitute
something like sacrilege.
For this reason, the discovery which I made from Papa's portfolio
left no clear impression upon my mind, but only a dim
consciousness that I had done wrong. I felt ashamed and confused.
The feeling made me eager to shut the portfolio again as quickly
as possible, but it seemed as though on this unlucky day I was
destined to experience every possible kind of adversity. I put
the key back into the padlock and turned it round, but not in the
right direction. Thinking that the portfolio was now locked, I
pulled at the key and, oh horror! found my hand come away with
only the top half of the key in it! In vain did I try to put the
two halves together, and to extract the portion that was sticking
in the padlock. At last I had to resign myself to the dreadful
thought that I had committed a new crime --one which would be
discovered to-day as soon as ever Papa returned to his study!
First of all, Mimi's accusation on the staircase, and then that
one mark, and then this key! Nothing worse could happen now. This
very evening I should be assailed successively by Grandmamma
(because of Mimi's denunciation), by St. Jerome (because of the
solitary mark), and by Papa (because of the matter of this key)--
yes, all in one evening!
"What on earth is to become of me? What have I done?" I exclaimed
as I paced the soft carpet. "Well," I went on with sudden
determination, "what MUST come, MUST--that's all;" and, taking up
the bonbons and the cigars, I ran back to the other part of the
The fatalistic formula with which I had concluded (and which was
one that I often heard Nicola utter during my childhood) always
produced in me, at the more difficult crises of my life, a
momentarily soothing, beneficial effect. Consequently, when I re-
entered the drawing-room, I was in a rather excited, unnatural
mood, yet one that was perfectly cheerful.
XIII. THE TRAITRESS
After luncheon we began to play at round games, in which I took a
lively part. While indulging in "cat and mouse", I happened to
cannon rather awkwardly against the Kornakoffs' governess, who
was playing with us, and, stepping on her dress, tore a large
hole in it. Seeing that the girls--particularly Sonetchka--were
anything but displeased at the spectacle of the governess angrily
departing to the maidservants' room to have her dress mended, I
resolved to procure them the satisfaction a second time.
Accordingly, in pursuance of this amiable resolution, I waited
until my victim returned, and then began to gallop madly round
her, until a favourable moment occurred for once more planting my
heel upon her dress and reopening the rent. Sonetchka and the
young princesses had much ado to restrain their laughter, which
excited my conceit the more, but St. Jerome, who had probably
divined my tricks, came up to me with the frown which I could
never abide in him, and said that, since I seemed disposed to
mischief, he would have to send me away if I did not moderate my
However, I was in the desperate position of a person who, having
staked more than he has in his pocket, and feeling that he can
never make up his account, continues to plunge on unlucky cards--
not because he hopes to regain his losses, but because it will
not do for him to stop and consider. So, I merely laughed in an
impudent fashion and flung away from my monitor.
After "cat and mouse", another game followed in which the
gentlemen sit on one row of chairs and the ladies on another, and
choose each other for partners. The youngest princess always
chose the younger Iwin, Katenka either Woloda or Ilinka, and
Sonetchka Seriosha --nor, to my extreme astonishment, did
Sonetchka seem at all embarrassed when her cavalier went and sat
down beside her. On the contrary, she only laughed her sweet,
musical laugh, and made a sign with her head that he had chosen
right. Since nobody chose me, I always had the mortification of
finding myself left over, and of hearing them say, "Who has been
left out? Oh, Nicolinka. Well, DO take him, somebody."
Consequently, whenever it came to my turn to guess who had chosen
me, I had to go either to my sister or to one of the ugly elder
princesses. Sonetchka seemed so absorbed in Seriosha that in her
eyes I clearly existed no longer. I do not quite know why I
called her "the traitress" in my thoughts, since she had never
promised to choose me instead of Seriosha, but, for all that, I
felt convinced that she was treating me in a very abominable
fashion. After the game was finished, I actually saw "the
traitress" (from whom I nevertheless could not withdraw my eyes)
go with Seriosha and Katenka into a corner, and engage in secret
confabulation. Stealing softly round the piano which masked the
conclave, I beheld the following:
Katenka was holding up a pocket-handkerchief by two of its
corners, so as to form a screen for the heads of her two
companions. "No, you have lost! You must pay the forfeit!" cried
Seriosha at that moment, and Sonetchka, who was standing in front
of him, blushed like a criminal as she replied, "No, I have NOT
lost! HAVE I, Mademoiselle Katherine?" "Well, I must speak the
truth," answered Katenka, "and say that you HAVE lost, my dear."
Scarcely had she spoken the words when Seriosha embraced
Sonetchka, and kissed her right on her rosy lips! And Sonetchka
smiled as though it were nothing, but merely something very
Horrors! The artful "traitress!"
XIV. THE RETRIBUTION
Instantly, I began to feel a strong contempt for the female sex
in general and Sonetchka in particular. I began to think that
there was nothing at all amusing in these games--that they were
only fit for girls, and felt as though I should like to make a
great noise, or to do something of such extraordinary boldness
that every one would be forced to admire it. The opportunity soon
arrived. St. Jerome said something to Mimi, and then left the
room, I could hear his footsteps ascending the staircase, and
then passing across the schoolroom, and the idea occurred to me
that Mimi must have told him her story about my being found on
the landing, and thereupon he had gone to look at the register.
(In those days, it must be remembered, I believed that St.
Jerome's whole aim in life was to annoy me.) Some where I have
read that, not infrequently, children of from twelve to fourteen
years of age--that is to say, children just passing from
childhood to adolescence--are addicted to incendiarism, or even
to murder. As I look back upon my childhood, and particularly
upon the mood in which I was on that (for myself) most unlucky
day, I can quite understand the possibility of such terrible
crimes being committed by children without any real aim in view--
without any real wish to do wrong, but merely out of curiosity or
under the influence of an unconscious necessity for action. There
are moments when the human being sees the future in such lurid
colours that he shrinks from fixing his mental eye upon it, puts
a check upon all his intellectual activity, and tries to feel
convinced that the future will never be, and that the past has
never been. At such moments--moments when thought does not shrink
from manifestations of will, and the carnal instincts alone
constitute the springs of life--I can understand that want of
experience (which is a particularly predisposing factor in this
connection) might very possibly lead a child, aye, without fear
or hesitation, but rather with a smile of curiosity on its face,
to set fire to the house in which its parents and brothers and
sisters (beings whom it tenderly loves) are lying asleep. It
would be under the same influence of momentary absence of
thought--almost absence of mind--that a peasant boy of seventeen
might catch sight of the edge of a newly-sharpened axe reposing
near the bench on which his aged father was lying asleep, face
downwards, and suddenly raise the implement in order to observe
with unconscious curiosity how the blood would come spurting out
upon the floor if he made a wound in the sleeper's neck. It is
under the same influence--the same absence of thought, the same
instinctive curiosity--that a man finds delight in standing on
the brink of an abyss and thinking to himself, "How if I were to
throw myself down?" or in holding to his brow a loaded pistol and
wondering, "What if I were to pull the trigger?" or in feeling,
when he catches sight of some universally respected personage,
that he would like to go up to him, pull his nose hard, and say,
"How do you do, old boy?"
Under the spell, then, of this instinctive agitation and lack of
reflection I was moved to put out my tongue, and to say that I
would not move, when St. Jerome came down and told me that I had
behaved so badly that day, as well as done my lessons so ill,
that I had no right to be where I was, and must go upstairs
At first, from astonishment and anger, he could not utter a word.
"C'est bien!" he exclaimed eventually as he darted towards me.
"Several times have I promised to punish you, and you have been
saved from it by your Grandmamma, but now I see that nothing but
the cane will teach you obedience, and you shall therefore taste
This was said loud enough for every one to hear. The blood rushed
to my heart with such vehemence that I could feel that organ
beating violently--could feel the colour rising to my cheeks and
my lips trembling. Probably I looked horrible at that moment,
for, avoiding my eye, St. Jerome stepped forward and caught me by
the hand. Hardly feeling his touch, I pulled away my hand in
blind fury, and with all my childish might struck him.
"What are you doing?" said Woloda, who had seen my behaviour, and
now approached me in alarm and astonishment.
"Let me alone!" I exclaimed, the tears flowing fast. "Not a
single one of you loves me or understands how miserable I am! You
are all of you odious and disgusting!" I added bluntly, turning
to the company at large.
At this moment St. Jerome--his face pale, but determined--
approached me again, and, with a movement too quick to admit of
any defence, seized my hands as with a pair of tongs, and dragged
me away. My head swam with excitement, and I can only remember
that, so long as I had strength to do it, I fought with head and
legs; that my nose several times collided with a pair of knees;
that my teeth tore some one's coat; that all around me I could
hear the shuffling of feet; and that I could smell dust and the
scent of violets with which St. Jerome used to perfume himself.
Five minutes later the door of the store-room closed behind me.
"Basil," said a triumphant but detestable voice, "bring me the
Could I at that moment have supposed that I should ever live to
survive the misfortunes of that day, or that there would ever
come a time when I should be able to look back upon those
As I sat there thinking over what I had done, I could not imagine
what the matter had been with me. I only felt with despair that I
was for ever lost.
At first the most profound stillness reigned around me--at least,
so it appeared to me as compared with the violent internal
emotion which I had been experiencing; but by and by I began to
distinguish various sounds. Basil brought something downstairs
which he laid upon a chest outside. It sounded like a broom-
stick. Below me I could hear St. Jerome's grumbling voice
(probably he was speaking of me), and then children's voices and
laughter and footsteps; until in a few moments everything seemed
to have regained its normal course in the house, as though nobody
knew or cared to know that here was I sitting alone in the dark
I did not cry, but something lay heavy, like a stone, upon my
heart. Ideas and pictures passed with extraordinary rapidity
before my troubled imagination, yet through their fantastic
sequence broke continually the remembrance of the misfortune
which had befallen me as I once again plunged into an
interminable labyrinth of conjectures as to the punishment, the
fate, and the despair that were awaiting me. The thought occurred
to me that there must be some reason for the general
dislike--even contempt--which I fancied to be felt for me by
others. I was firmly convinced that every one, from Grandmamma
down to the coachman Philip, despised me, and found pleasure in
my sufferings. Next an idea struck me that perhaps I was not the
son of my father and mother at all, nor Woloda's brother, but
only some unfortunate orphan who had been adopted by them out of
compassion, and this absurd notion not only afforded me a certain
melancholy consolation, but seemed to me quite probable. I found
it comforting to think that I was unhappy, not through my own
fault, but because I was fated to be so from my birth, and
conceived that my destiny was very much like poor Karl
"Why conceal the secret any longer, now that I have discovered
it?" I reflected. "To-morrow I will go to Papa and say to him,
'It is in vain for you to try and conceal from me the mystery of
my birth. I know it already.' And he will answer me, 'What else
could I do, my good fellow? Sooner or later you would have had to
know that you are not my son, but were adopted as such.
Nevertheless, so long as you remain worthy of my love, I will
never cast you out.' Then I shall say, 'Papa, though I have no
right to call you by that name, and am now doing so for the last
time, I have always loved you, and shall always retain that love.
At the same time, while I can never forget that you have been my
benefactor, I cannot remain longer in your house. Nobody here
loves me, and St. Jerome has wrought my ruin. Either he or I must
go forth, since I cannot answer for myself. I hate the man so
that I could do anything--I could even kill him.' Papa will begin
to entreat me, but I shall make a gesture, and say, 'No, no, my
friend and benefactor! We cannot live together. Let me go'--and
for the last time I shall embrace him, and say in French, 'O mon
pere, O mon bienfaiteur, donne moi, pour la derniere fois, ta
benediction, et que la volonte de Dieu soit faite!'"
I sobbed bitterly at these thoughts as I sat on a trunk in that
dark storeroom. Then, suddenly recollecting the shameful
punishment which was awaiting me, I would find myself back again
in actuality, and the dreams had fled. Soon, again, I began to
fancy myself far away from the house and alone in the world. I
enter a hussar regiment and go to war. Surrounded by the foe on
every side, I wave my sword, and kill one of them and wound
another--then a third,--then a fourth. At last, exhausted with
loss of blood and fatigue, I fall to the ground and cry,
"Victory!" The general comes to look for me, asking, "Where is
our saviour?" whereupon I am pointed out to him. He embraces me,
and, in his turn, exclaims with tears of joy, "Victory!" I
recover and, with my arm in a black sling, go to walk on the
boulevards. I am a general now. I meet the Emperor, who asks,
"Who is this young man who has been wounded?" He is told that it
is the famous hero Nicolas; whereupon he approaches me and says,
"My thanks to you! Whatsoever you may ask for, I will grant it."
To this I bow respectfully, and, leaning on my sword, reply, "I
am happy, most august Emperor, that I have been able to shed my
blood for my country. I would gladly have died for it. Yet, since
you are so generous as to grant any wish of mine, I venture to
ask of you permission to annihilate my enemy, the foreigner St.
Jerome" And then I step fiercely before St. Jerome and say, "YOU
were the cause of all my fortunes! Down now on your knees!"
Unfortunately this recalled to my mind the fact that at any
moment the REAL St. Jerome might be entering with the cane; so
that once more I saw myself, not a general and the saviour of my
country, but an unhappy, pitiful creature.
Then the idea of God occurred to me, and I asked Him boldly why
He had punished me thus, seeing that I had never forgotten to say
my prayers, either morning or evening. Indeed, I can positively
declare that it was during that hour in the store-room that I
took the first step towards the religious doubt which afterwards
assailed me during my youth (not that mere misfortune could
arouse me to infidelity and murmuring, but that, at moments of
utter contrition and solitude, the idea of the injustice of
Providence took root in me as readily as bad seed takes root in
land well soaked with rain). Also, I imagined that I was going to
die there and then, and drew vivid pictures of St. Jerome's
astonishment when he entered the store-room and found a corpse
there instead of myself! Likewise, recollecting what Natalia
Savishna had told me of the forty days during which the souls of
the departed must hover around their earthly home, I imagined
myself flying through the rooms of Grandmamma's house, and seeing
Lubotshka's bitter tears, and hearing Grandmamma's lamentations,
and listening to Papa and St. Jerome talking together. "He was a
fine boy," Papa would say with tears in his eyes. "Yes," St.
Jerome would reply, "but a sad scapegrace and good-for-nothing."
"But you should respect the dead," would expostulate Papa. "YOU
were the cause of his death; YOU frightened him until he could no
longer bear the thought of the humiliation which you were about
to inflict upon him. Away from me, criminal!" Upon that St.
Jerome would fall upon his knees and implore forgiveness, and
when the forty days were ended my soul would fly to Heaven, and
see there something wonderfully beautiful, white, and
transparent, and know that it was Mamma.
And that something would embrace and caress me. Yet, all at once,
I should feel troubled, and not know her. "If it be you," I
should say to her, "show yourself more distinctly, so that I may
embrace you in return." And her voice would answer me, "Do you
not feel happy thus?" and I should reply, "Yes, I do, but you
cannot REALLY caress me, and I cannot REALLY kiss your hand like
this." "But it is not necessary," she would say. "There can be
happiness here without that,"--and I should feel that it was so,
and we should ascend together, ever higher and higher, until--
Suddenly I feel as though I am being thrown down again, and find
myself sitting on the trunk in the dark store-room (my cheeks wet
with tears and my thoughts in a mist), yet still repeating the
words, "Let us ascend together, higher and higher." Indeed, it
was a long, long while before I could remember where I was, for
at that moment my mind's eye saw only a dark, dreadful,
illimitable void. I tried to renew the happy, consoling dream
which had been thus interrupted by the return to reality, but, to
my surprise, I found that, as soon as ever I attempted to
re-enter former dreams, their continuation became impossible,
while--which astonished me even more--they no longer gave me
XVI. "KEEP ON GRINDING, AND YOU'LL HAVE FLOUR"
I PASSED the night in the store-room, and nothing further
happened, except that on the following morning--a Sunday--I was
removed to a small chamber adjoining the schoolroom, and once
more shut up. I began to hope that my punishment was going to be
limited to confinement, and found my thoughts growing calmer
under the influence of a sound, soft sleep, the clear sunlight
playing upon the frost crystals of the windowpanes, and the
familiar noises in the street.
Nevertheless, solitude gradually became intolerable. I wanted to
move about, and to communicate to some one all that was lying
upon my heart, but not a living creature was near me. The
position was the more unpleasant because, willy-nilly, I could
hear St. Jerome walking about in his room, and softly whistling
some hackneyed tune. Somehow, I felt convinced that he was
whistling not because he wanted to, but because he knew it
At two o'clock, he and Woloda departed downstairs, and Nicola
brought me up some luncheon. When I told him what I had done and
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