Part 2 out of 2
what was awaiting me he said:
"Pshaw, sir! Don't be alarmed. 'Keep on grinding, and you'll have
Although this expression (which also in later days has more than
once helped me to preserve my firmness of mind) brought me a
little comfort, the fact that I received, not bread and water
only, but a whole luncheon, and even dessert, gave me much to
think about. If they had sent me no dessert, it would have meant
that my punishment was to be limited to confinement; whereas it
was now evident that I was looked upon as not yet punished--that
I was only being kept away from the others, as an evil-doer,
until the due time of punishment. While I was still debating the
question, the key of my prison turned, and St. Jerome entered
with a severe, official air.
"Come down and see your Grandmamma," he said without looking at
I should have liked first to have brushed my jacket, since it was
covered with dust, but St. Jerome said that that was quite
unnecessary, since I was in such a deplorable moral condition
that my exterior was not worth considering. As he led me through
the salon, Katenka, Lubotshka, and Woloda looked at me with much
the same expression as we were wont to look at the convicts who
on certain days filed past my grandmother's house. Likewise, when
I approached Grandmamma's arm-chair to kiss her hand, she
withdrew it, and thrust it under her mantilla.
"Well, my dear," she began after a long pause, during which she
regarded me from head to foot with the kind of expression which
makes one uncertain where to look or what to do, "I must say that
you seem to value my love very highly, and afford me great
consolation." Then she went on, with an emphasis on each word,
"Monsieur St. Jerome, who, at my request, undertook your
education, says that he can no longer remain in the house. And
why? Simply because of you." Another pause ensued. Presently she
continued in a tone which clearly showed that her speech had been
prepared beforehand, "I had hoped that you would be grateful for
all his care, and for all the trouble that he has taken with you,
that you would have appreciated his services; but you--you baby,
you silly boy!--you actually dare to raise your hand against him!
Very well, very good. I am beginning to think that you cannot
understand kind treatment, but require to be treated in a very
different and humiliating fashion. Go now directly and beg his
pardon," she added in a stern and peremptory tone as she pointed
to St. Jerome, "Do you hear me?"
I followed the direction of her finger with my eye, but on that
member alighting upon St. Jerome's coat, I turned my head away,
and once more felt my heart beating violently as I remained where
"What? Did you not hear me when I told you what to do?"
I was trembling all over, but I would not stir.
"Koko," went on my grandmother, probably divining my inward
sufferings, "Koko," she repeated in a voice tender rather than
harsh, "is this you?"
"Grandmamma, I cannot beg his pardon for--" and I stopped
suddenly, for I felt the next word refuse to come for the tears
that were choking me.
"But I ordered you, I begged of you, to do so. What is the matter
"I-I-I will not--I cannot!" I gasped, and the tears, long pent up
and accumulated in my breast, burst forth like a stream which
breaks its dikes and goes flowing madly over the country.
"C'est ainsi que vous obeissez a votre seconde mere, c'est ainsi
que vous reconnaissez ses bontes!" remarked St. Jerome quietly,
"Good God! If SHE had seen this!" exclaimed Grandmamma, turning
from me and wiping away her tears. "If she had seen this! It may
be all for the best, yet she could never have survived such
grief--never!" and Grandmamma wept more and more. I too wept, but
it never occurred to me to ask for pardon.
"Tranquillisez-vous au nom du ciel, Madame la Comtesse," said St.
Jerome, but Grandmamma heard him not. She covered her face with
her hands, and her sobs soon passed to hiccups and hysteria. Mimi
and Gasha came running in with frightened faces, salts and
spirits were applied, and the whole house was soon in a ferment.
"You may feel pleased at your work," said St. Jerome to me as he
led me from the room.
"Good God! What have I done?" I thought to myself. "What a
terribly bad boy I am!"
As soon as St. Jerome, bidding me go into his room, had returned
to Grandmamma, I, all unconscious of what I was doing, ran down
the grand staircase leading to the front door. Whether I intended
to drown myself, or whether merely to run away from home, I do
not remember. I only know that I went blindly on, my face covered
with my hands that I might see nothing.
"Where are you going to?" asked a well-known voice. "I want you,
I would have passed on, but Papa caught hold of me, and said
"Come here, you impudent rascal. How could you dare to do such a
thing as to touch the portfolio in my study?" he went on as he
dragged me into his room. "Oh! you are silent, eh?" and he pulled
"Yes, I WAS naughty," I said. "I don't know myself what came over
"So you don't know what came over you--you don't know, you don't
know? " he repeated as he pulled my ear harder and harder. "Will
you go and put your nose where you ought not to again--will you,
Although my ear was in great pain, I did not cry, but, on the
contrary, felt a sort of morally pleasing sensation. No sooner
did he let go of my ear than I seized his hand and covered it
with tears and kisses.
"Please whip me!" I cried, sobbing. "Please hurt me the more and
more, for I am a wretched, bad, miserable boy!"
"Why, what on earth is the matter with you?" he said, giving me a
slight push from him.
"No, I will not go away!" I continued, seizing his coat. "Every
one else hates me--I know that, but do YOU listen to me and
protect me, or else send me away altogether. I cannot live with
HIM. He tries to humiliate me--he tells me to kneel before him,
and wants to strike me. I can't stand it. I'm not a baby. I can't
stand it--I shall die, I shall kill myself. HE told Grandmamma
that I was naughty, and now she is ill--she will die through me.
It is all his fault. Please let me--W-why should-he-tor-ment me?"
The tears choked my further speech. I sat down on the sofa,
and, with my head buried on Papa's knees, sobbed until I thought
I should die of grief.
"Come, come! Why are you such a water-pump?" said Papa
compassionately, as he stooped over me.
"He is such a bully! He is murdering me! I shall die! Nobody
loves me at all!" I gasped almost inaudibly, and went into
Papa lifted me up, and carried me to my bedroom, where I fell
When I awoke it was late. Only a solitary candle burned in the
room, while beside the bed there were seated Mimi, Lubotshka, and
our doctor. In their faces I could discern anxiety for my health,
so, although I felt so well after my twelve-hours' sleep that I
could have got up directly, I thought it best to let them
continue thinking that I was unwell.
Yes, it was the real feeling of hatred that was mine now--not the
hatred of which one reads in novels, and in the existence of
which I do not believe--the hatred which finds satisfaction in
doing harm to a fellow-creature, but the hatred which consists of
an unconquerable aversion to a person who may be wholly deserving
of your esteem, yet whose very hair, neck, walk, voice, limbs,
movements, and everything else are disgusting to you, while all
the while an incomprehensible force attracts you towards him, and
compels you to follow his slightest acts with anxious attention.
This was the feeling which I cherished for St. Jerome, who had
lived with us now for a year and a half.
Judging coolly of the man at this time of day, I find that he was
a true Frenchman, but a Frenchman in the better acceptation of
the term. He was fairly well educated, and fulfilled his duties
to us conscientiously, but he had the peculiar features of fickle
egotism, boastfulness, impertinence, and ignorant self-assurance
which are common to all his countrymen, as well as entirely
opposed to the Russian character,
All this set me against him, Grandmamma had signified to him her
dislike for corporal punishment, and therefore he dared not beat
us, but he frequently THREATENED us, particularly myself, with
the cane, and would utter the word fouetter as though it were
fouatter in an expressive and detestable way which always gave me
the idea that to whip me would afford him the greatest possible
I was not in the least afraid of the bodily pain, for I had never
experienced it. It was the mere idea that he could beat me that
threw me into such paroxysms of wrath and despair.
True, Karl Ivanitch sometimes (in moments of exasperation) had
recourse to a ruler or to his braces, but that I can look back
upon without anger. Even if he had struck me at the time of which
I am now speaking (namely, when I was fourteen years old), I
should have submitted quietly to the correction, for I loved him,
and had known him all my life, and looked upon him as a member of
our family, but St. Jerome was a conceited, opinionated fellow
for whom I felt merely the unwilling respect which I entertained
for all persons older than myself. Karl Ivanitch was a comical
old "Uncle" whom I loved with my whole heart, but who, according
to my childish conception of social distinctions, ranked below
us, whereas St. Jerome was a well-educated, handsome young dandy
who was for showing himself the equal of any one.
Karl Ivanitch had always scolded and punished us coolly, as
though he thought it a necessary, but extremely disagreeable,
duty. St. Jerome, on the contrary, always liked to emphasise his
part as JUDGE when correcting us, and clearly did it as much for
his own satisfaction as for our good. He loved authority.
Nevertheless, I always found his grandiloquent French phrases
(which he pronounced with a strong emphasis on all the final
syllables) inexpressibly disgusting, whereas Karl, when angry,
had never said anything beyond, "What a foolish puppet-comedy it
is!" or "You boys are as irritating as Spanish fly!" (which he
always called "Spaniard" fly). St. Jerome, however, had names for
us like "mauvais sujet," "villain," "garnement," and so forth--
epithets which greatly offended my self-respect. When Karl
Ivanitch ordered us to kneel in the corner with our faces to the
wall, the punishment consisted merely in the bodily discomfort of
the position, whereas St. Jerome, in such cases, always assumed a
haughty air, made a grandiose gesture with his hand, and
exclaiming in a pseudo-tragic tone, "A genoux, mauvais sujet!"
ordered us to kneel with our faces towards him, and to crave his
pardon. His punishment consisted in humiliation.
However, on the present occasion the punishment never came, nor
was the matter ever referred to again. Yet, I could not forget
all that I had gone through--the shame, the fear, and the hatred
of those two days. From that time forth, St. Jerome appeared to
give me up in despair, and took no further trouble with me, yet I
could not bring myself to treat him with indifference. Every time
that our eyes met I felt that my look expressed only too plainly
my dislike, and, though I tried hard to assume a careless air, he
seemed to divine my hypocrisy, until I was forced to blush and
In short, it was a terrible trial to me to have anything to do
XVIII. THE MAIDSERVANTS' ROOM
I BEGAN to feel more and more lonely, until my chief solace lay
in solitary reflection and observation. Of the favourite subject
of my reflections I shall speak in the next chapter. The scene
where I indulged in them was, for preference, the maidservants'
room, where a plot suitable for a novel was in progress--a plot
which touched and engrossed me to the highest degree. The heroine
of the romance was, of course, Masha. She was in love with Basil,
who had known her before she had become a servant in our house,
and who had promised to marry her some day. Unfortunately, fate,
which had separated them five years ago, and afterwards reunited
them in Grandmamma's abode, next proceeded to interpose an
obstacle between them in the shape of Masha's uncle, our man
Nicola, who would not hear of his niece marrying that "uneducated
and unbearable fellow," as he called Basil. One effect of the
obstacle had been to make the otherwise slightly cool and
indifferent Basil fall as passionately in love with Masha as it
is possible for a man to be who is only a servant and a tailor,
wears a red shirt, and has his hair pomaded. Although his methods
of expressing his affection were odd (for instance, whenever he
met Masha he always endeavoured to inflict upon her some bodily
pain, either by pinching her, giving her a slap with his open
hand, or squeezing her so hard that she could scarcely breathe),
that affection was sincere enough, and he proved it by the fact
that, from the moment when Nicola refused him his niece's hand,
his grief led him to drinking, and to frequenting taverns, until
he proved so unruly that more than once he had to be sent to
undergo a humiliating chastisement at the police-station.
Nevertheless, these faults of his and their consequences only
served to elevate him in Masha's eyes, and to increase her love
for him. Whenever he was in the hands of the police, she would
sit crying the whole day, and complain to Gasha of her hard fate
(Gasha played an active part in the affairs of these unfortunate
lovers). Then, regardless of her uncle's anger and blows, she
would stealthily make her way to the police-station, there to
visit and console her swain.
Excuse me, reader, for introducing you to such company.
Nevertheless, if the cords of love and compassion have not wholly
snapped in your soul, you will find, even in that maidservants'
room, something which may cause them to vibrate again.
So, whether you please to follow me or not, I will return to the
alcove on the staircase whence I was able to observe all that
passed in that room. From my post I could see the stove-couch,
with, upon it, an iron, an old cap-stand with its peg bent
crooked, a wash-tub, and a basin. There, too, was the window,
with, in fine disorder before it, a piece of black wax, some
fragments of silk, a half-eaten cucumber, a box of sweets, and so
on. There, too, was the large table at which SHE used to sit in
the pink cotton dress which I admired so much and the blue
handkerchief which always caught my attention so. She would be
sewing-though interrupting her work at intervals to scratch her
head a little, to bite the end of her thread, or to snuff the
candle--and I would think to myself: "Why was she not born a
lady--she with her blue eyes, beautiful fair hair, and
magnificent bust? How splendid she would look if she were sitting
in a drawing-room and dressed in a cap with pink ribbons and a
silk gown--not one like Mimi's, but one like the gown which I saw
the other day on the Tverski Boulevard!" Yes, she would work at
the embroidery-frame, and I would sit and look at her in the
mirror, and be ready to do whatsoever she wanted--to help her on
with her mantle or to hand her food. As for Basil's drunken face
and horrid figure in the scanty coat with the red shirt showing
beneath it, well, in his every gesture, in his every movement of
his back, I seemed always to see signs of the humiliating
chastisements which he had undergone.
"Ah, Basil! AGAIN?" cried Masha on one occasion as she stuck her
needle into the pincushion, but without looking up at the person
who was entering.
"What is the good of a man like HIM?" was Basil's first remark.
"Yes. If only he would say something DECISIVE! But I am powerless
in the matter--I am all at odds and ends, and through his fault,
"Will you have some tea?" put in Madesha (another servant).
"No, thank you.--But why does he hate me so, that old thief of an
uncle of yours? Why? Is it because of the clothes I wear, or of
my height, or of my walk, or what? Well, damn and confound him!"
finished Basil, snapping his fingers.
"We must be patient," said Masha, threading her needle.
"You are so--"
"It is my nerves that won't stand it, that's all."
At this moment the door of Grandmamma's room banged, and Gasha's
angry voice could be heard as she came up the stairs.
"There!" she muttered with a gesture of her hands. "Try to please
people when even they themselves do not know what they want, and
it is a cursed life--sheer hard labour, and nothing else! If only
a certain thing would happen!--though God forgive me for thinking
"Good evening, Agatha Michaelovna," said Basil, rising to greet
"You here?" she answered brusquely as she stared at him, "That is
not very much to your credit. What do you come here for? Is the
maids' room a proper place for men?"
"I wanted to see how you were," said Basil soothingly.
"I shall soon be breathing my last--THAT'S how I am!" cried
Gasha, still greatly incensed.
"Oh, there's nothing to laugh at when I say that I shall soon be
dead. But that's how it will be, all the same. Just look at the
drunkard! Marry her, would he? The fool! Come, get out of here!"
and, with a stamp of her foot on the floor, Gasha retreated to
her own room, and banged the door behind her until the window
rattled again. For a while she could be heard scolding at
everything, flinging dresses and other things about, and pulling
the ears of her favourite cat. Then the door opened again, and
puss, mewing pitifully, was flung forth by the tail.
"I had better come another time for tea," said Basil in a
whisper--"at some better time for our meeting."
"No, no!" put in Madesha. "I'll go and fetch the urn at once."
"I mean to put an end to things soon," went on Basil, seating
himself beside Masha as soon as ever Madesha had left the room.
"I had much better go straight to the Countess, and say 'so-and-
so' or I will throw up my situation and go off into the world. Oh
dear, oh dear!"
"And am I to remain here?"
"Ah, there's the difficulty--that's what I feel so badly about,
You have been my sweetheart so long, you see. Ah, dear me!"
"Why don't you bring me your shirts to wash, Basil?" asked Masha
after a pause, during which she had been inspecting his wrist-
At this moment Grandmamma's bell rang, and Gasha issued from her
"What do you want with her, you impudent fellow?" she cried as
she pushed Basil (who had risen at her entrance) before her
towards the door. "First you lead a girl on, and then you want to
lead her further still. I suppose it amuses you to see her tears.
There's the door, now. Off you go! We want your room, not your
company. And what good can you see in him?" she went on, turning
to Masha. "Has not your uncle been walking into you to-day
already? No; she must stick to her promise, forsooth! 'I will
have no one but Basil,' Fool that you are!"
"Yes, I WILL have no one but him! I'll never love any one else! I
could kill myself for him!" poor Masha burst out, the tears
suddenly gushing forth.
For a while I stood watching her as she wiped away those tears.
Then I fell to contemplating Basil attentively, in the hope of
finding out what there was in him that she found so attractive;
yet, though I sympathised with her sincerely in her grief, I
could not for the life of me understand how such a charming
creature as I considered her to be could love a man like him.
"When I become a man," I thought to myself as I returned to my
room, "Petrovskoe shall be mine, and Basil and Masha my servants.
Some day, when I am sitting in my study and smoking a pipe, Masha
will chance to pass the door on her way to the kitchen with an
iron, and I shall say, 'Masha, come here,' and she will enter,
and there will be no one else in the room. Then suddenly Basil
too will enter, and, on seeing her, will cry, 'My sweetheart is
lost to me!' and Masha will begin to weep, Then I shall say,
'Basil, I know that you love her, and that she loves you. Here
are a thousand roubles for you. Marry her, and may God grant you
both happiness!' Then I shall leave them together."
Among the countless thoughts and fancies which pass, without
logic or sequence, through the mind and the imagination, there
are always some which leave behind them a mark so profound that,
without remembering their exact subject, we can at least recall
that something good has passed through our brain, and try to
retain and reproduce its effect. Such was the mark left upon my
consciousness by the idea of sacrificing my feelings to Masha's
happiness, seeing that she believed that she could attain it only
through a union with Basil.
PERHAPS people will scarcely believe me when I tell them what
were the dearest, most constant, objects of my reflections during
my boyhood, so little did those objects consort with my age and
position. Yet, in my opinion, contrast between a man's actual
position and his moral activity constitutes the most reliable
sign of his genuineness.
During the period when I was leading a solitary and self-centred
moral life, I was much taken up with abstract thoughts on man's
destiny, on a future life, and on the immortality of the soul,
and, with all the ardour of inexperience, strove to make my
youthful intellect solve those questions--the questions which
constitute the highest level of thought to which the human
intellect can tend, but a final decision of which the human
intellect can never succeed in attaining.
I believe the intellect to take the same course of development in
the individual as in the mass, as also that the thoughts which
serve as a basis for philosophical theories are an inseparable
part of that intellect, and that every man must be more or less
conscious of those thoughts before he can know anything of the
existence of philosophical theories. To my own mind those
thoughts presented themselves with such clarity and force that I
tried to apply them to life, in the fond belief that I was the
first to have discovered such splendid and invaluable truths.
Sometimes I would suppose that happiness depends, not upon
external causes themselves, but only upon our relation to them,
and that, provided a man can accustom himself to bearing
suffering, he need never be unhappy. To prove the latter
hypothesis, I would (despite the horrible pain) hold out a
Tatistchev's dictionary at arm's length for five minutes at a
time, or else go into the store-room and scourge my back with
cords until the tears involuntarily came to my eyes!
Another time, suddenly bethinking me that death might find me at
any hour or any minute, I came to the conclusion that man could
only be happy by using the present to the full and taking no
thought for the future. Indeed, I wondered how people had never
found that out before. Acting under the influence of the new
idea, I laid my lesson-books aside for two or three days, and,
reposing on my bed, gave myself up to novel-reading and the
eating of gingerbread-and-honey which I had bought with my last
Again, standing one day before the blackboard and smearing
figures on it with honey, I was struck with the thought, "Why is
symmetry so agreeable to the eye? What is symmetry? Of course it
is an innate sense," I continued; "yet what is its basis? Perhaps
everything in life is symmetry? But no. On the contrary, this is
life"--and I drew an oblong figure on the board--"and after life
the soul passes to eternity"--here I drew a line from one end of
the oblong figure to the edge of the board. "Why should there not
be a corresponding line on the other side? If there be an
eternity on one side, there must surely be a corresponding one on
the other? That means that we have existed in a previous life,
but have lost the recollection of it."
This conclusion--which seemed to me at the time both clear and
novel, but the arguments for which it would be difficult for me,
at this distance of time, to piece together--pleased me
extremely, so I took a piece of paper and tried to write it down.
But at the first attempt such a rush of other thoughts came
whirling though my brain that I was obliged to jump up and pace
the room. At the window, my attention was arrested by a driver
harnessing a horse to a water-cart, and at once my mind
concentrated itself upon the decision of the question, "Into what
animal or human being will the spirit of that horse pass at
death?" Just at that moment, Woloda passed through the room, and
smiled to see me absorbed in speculative thoughts. His smile at
once made me feel that all that I had been thinking about was
I have related all this as I recollect it in order to show the
reader the nature of my cogitations. No philosophical theory
attracted me so much as scepticism, which at one period brought
me to a state of mind verging upon insanity. I took the fancy
into my head that no one nor anything really existed in the world
except myself--that objects were not objects at all, but that
images of them became manifest only so soon as I turned my
attention upon them, and vanished again directly that I ceased to
think about them. In short, this idea of mine (that real objects
do not exist, but only one's conception of them) brought me to
Schelling's well-known theory. There were moments when the
influence of this idea led me to such vagaries as, for instance,
turning sharply round, in the hope that by the suddenness of the
movement I should come in contact with the void which I believed
to be existing where I myself purported to be!
What a pitiful spring of moral activity is the human intellect!
My faulty reason could not define the impenetrable. Consequently
it shattered one fruitless conviction after another--convictions
which, happily for my after life, I never lacked the courage to
abandon as soon as they proved inadequate. From all this weary
mental struggle I derived only a certain pliancy of mind, a
weakening of the will, a habit of perpetual moral analysis, and a
diminution both of freshness of sentiment and of clearness of
thought. Usually abstract thinking develops man's capacity for
apprehending the bent of his mind at certain moments and laying
it to heart, but my inclination for abstract thought developed my
consciousness in such a way that often when I began to consider
even the simplest matter, I would lose myself in a labyrinthine
analysis of my own thoughts concerning the matter in question.
That is to say, I no longer thought of the matter itself, but
only of what I was thinking about it. If I had then asked myself,
"Of what am I thinking?" the true answer would have been, "I am
thinking of what I am thinking;" and if I had further asked
myself, "What, then, are the thoughts of which I am thinking?"
I should have had to reply, "They are attempts to think of what
I am thinking concerning my own thoughts"--and so on.
Reason, with me, had to yield to excess of reason. Every
philosophical discovery which I made so flattered my conceit
that I often imagined myself to be a great man discovering new
truths for the benefit of humanity. Consequently, I looked down
with proud dignity upon my fellow-mortals. Yet, strange to
state, no sooner did I come in contact with those fellow-mortals
than I became filled with a stupid shyness of them, and, the
higher I happened to be standing in my own opinion, the less
did I feel capable of making others perceive my consciousness
of my own dignity, since I could not rid myself of a sense of
diffidence concerning even the simplest of my words and acts.
THE further I advance in the recital of this period of my life,
the more difficult and onerous does the task become. Too rarely
do I find among the reminiscences of that time any moments full
of the ardent feeling of sincerity which so often and so
cheeringly illumined my childhood. Gladly would I pass in haste
over my lonely boyhood, the sooner to arrive at the happy time
when once again a tender, sincere, and noble friendship marked
with a gleam of light at once the termination of that period and
the beginning of a phase of my youth which was full of the charm
of poetry. Therefore, I will not pursue my recollections from
hour to hour, but only throw a cursory glance at the most
prominent of them, from the time to which I have now carried my
tale to the moment of my first contact with the exceptional
personality that was fated to exercise such a decisive influence
upon my character and ideas.
Woloda was about to enter the University. Tutors came to give him
lessons independently of myself, and I listened with envy and
involuntary respect as he drew boldly on the blackboard with
white chalk and talked about "functions," "sines," and so forth--
all of which seemed to me terms pertaining to unattainable
wisdom. At length, one Sunday before luncheon all the tutors--and
among them two professors--assembled in Grandmamma's room, and in
the presence of Papa and some friends put Woloda through a
rehearsal of his University examination--in which, to
Grandmamma's delight, he gave evidence of no ordinary amount of
Questions on different subjects were also put to me, but on all
of them I showed complete ignorance, while the fact that the
professors manifestly endeavoured to conceal that ignorance from
Grandmamma only confused me the more. Yet, after all, I was only
fifteen, and so had a year before me in which to prepare for the
examinations. Woloda now came downstairs for luncheon only, and
spent whole days and evenings over his studies in his own room--
to which he kept, not from necessity, but because he preferred
its seclusion. He was very ambitious, and meant to pass the
examinations, not by halves, but with flying colours.
The first day arrived. Woloda was wearing a new blue frockcoat
with brass buttons, a gold watch, and shiny boots. At the door
stood Papa's phaeton, which Nicola duly opened; and presently,
when Woloda and St. Jerome set out for the University, the girls
--particularly Katenka--could be seen gazing with beaming faces
from the window at Woloda's pleasing figure as it sat in the
carriage. Papa said several times, "God go with him!" and
Grandmamma, who also had dragged herself to the window, continued
to make the sign of the cross as long as the phaeton was visible,
as well as to murmur something to herself.
When Woloda returned, every one eagerly crowded round him. "How
many marks? Were they good ones?" "Yes." But his happy face was
an answer in itself. He had received five marks-the maximum! The
next day, he sped on his way with the same good wishes and the
same anxiety for his success, and was welcomed home with the same
eagerness and joy.
This lasted for nine days. On the tenth day there was to be the
last and most difficult examination of all--the one in divinity.
We all stood at the window, and watched for him with greater
impatience than ever. Two o'clock, and yet no Woloda.
"Here they come, Papa! Here they come!" suddenly screamed
Lubotshka as she peered through the window.
Sure enough the phaeton was driving up with St. Jerome and
Woloda--the latter no longer in his grey cap and blue frockcoat,
but in the uniform of a student of the University, with its
embroidered blue collar, three-cornered hat, and gilded sword.
"Ah! If only SHE had been alive now! " exclaimed Grandmamma on
seeing Woloda in this dress, and swooned away.
Woloda enters the anteroom with a beaming face, and embraces
myself, Lubotshka, Mimi, and Katenka--the latter blushing to her
ears. He hardly knows himself for joy. And how smart he looks in
that uniform! How well the blue collar suits his budding, dark
moustache! What a tall, elegant figure is his, and what a
On that memorable day we all lunched together in Grandmamma's
room. Every face expressed delight, and with the dessert which
followed the meal the servants, with grave but gratified faces,
brought in bottles of champagne.
Grandmamma, for the first time since Mamma's death, drank a full
glass of the wine to Woloda's health, and wept for joy as she
looked at him.
Henceforth Woloda drove his own turn-out, invited his own
friends, smoked, and went to balls. On one occasion, I even saw
him sharing a couple of bottles of champagne with some guests in
his room, and the whole company drinking a toast, with each
glass, to some mysterious being, and then quarrelling as to who
should have the bottom of the bottle!
Nevertheless he always lunched at home, and after the meal would
stretch himself on a sofa and talk confidentially to Katenka: yet
from what I overheard (while pretending, of course, to pay no
attention) I gathered that they were only talking of the heroes
and heroines of novels which they had read, or else of jealousy
and love, and so on. Never could I understand what they found so
attractive in these conversations, nor why they smiled so happily
and discussed things with such animation.
Altogether I could see that, in addition to the friendship
natural to persons who had been companions from childhood, there
existed between Woloda and Katenka a relation which
differentiated them from us, and united them mysteriously to one
XXI. KATENKA AND LUBOTSHKA
Katenka was now sixteen years old--quite a grown-up girl; and
although at that age the angular figures, the bashfulness, and
the gaucherie peculiar to girls passing from childhood to youth
usually replace the comely freshness and graceful, half-developed
bloom of childhood, she had in no way altered. Still the blue
eyes with their merry glance were hers, the well-shaped nose with
firm nostrils and almost forming a line with the forehead, the
little mouth with its charming smile, the dimples in the rosy
cheeks, and the small white hands. To her, the epithet of it
girl," pure and simple, was pre-eminently applicable, for in her
the only new features were a new and "young-lady-like"
arrangement of her thick flaxen hair and a youthful bosom--the
latter an addition which at once caused her great joy and made
her very bashful.
Although Lubotshka and she had grown up together and received the
same education, they were totally unlike one another. Lubotshka
was not tall, and the rickets from which she had suffered had
shaped her feet in goose fashion and made her figure very bad.
The only pretty feature in her face was her eyes, which were
indeed wonderful, being large and black, and instinct with such
an extremely pleasing expression of mingled gravity and naivete
that she was bound to attract attention. In everything she was
simple and natural, so that, whereas Katenka always looked as
though she were trying to be like some one else, Lubotshka looked
people straight in the face, and sometimes fixed them so long
with her splendid black eyes that she got blamed for doing what
was thought to be improper. Katenka, on the contrary, always cast
her eyelids down, blinked, and pretended that she was short-
sighted, though I knew very well that her sight was excellent.
Lubotshka hated being shown off before strangers, and when a
visitor offered to kiss her she invariably grew cross, and said
that she hated "affection"; whereas, when strangers were present,
Katenka was always particularly endearing to Mimi, and loved to
walk about the room arm in arm with another girl. Likewise,
though Lubotshka was a terrible giggler, and sometimes ran about
the room in convulsions of gesticulating laughter, Katenka always
covered her mouth with her hands or her pocket-handkerchief when
she wanted to laugh. Lubotshka, again, loved to have grown-up men
to talk to, and said that some day she meant to marry a hussar,
but Katenka always pretended that all men were horrid, and that
she never meant to marry any one of them, while as soon as a male
visitor addressed her she changed completely, as though she were
nervous of something. Likewise, Lubotshka was continually at
loggerheads with Mimi because the latter wanted her to have her
stays so tight that she could not breathe or eat or drink in
comfort, while Katenka, on the contrary, would often insert her
finger into her waistband to show how loose it was, and always
ate very little. Lubotshka liked to draw heads; Katenka only
flowers and butterflies. The former could play Field's concertos
and Beethoven's sonatas excellently, whereas the latter indulged
in variations and waltzes, retarded the time, and used the pedals
continuously--not to mention the fact that, before she began, she
invariably struck three chords in arpeggio.
Nevertheless, in those days I thought Katenka much the grander
person of the two, and liked her the best.
Papa had been in a particularly good humour ever since Woloda had
passed into the University, and came much oftener to dine with
Grandmamma. However, I knew from Nicola that he had won a great
deal lately. Occasionally, he would come and sit with us in the
evening before going to the club. He used to sit down to the
piano and bid us group ourselves around him, after which he would
beat time with his thin boots (he detested heels, and never wore
them), and make us sing gipsy songs. At such times you should
have seen the quaint enthusiasm of his beloved Lubotshka, who
Sometimes, again, he would come to the schoolroom and listen with
a grave face as I said my lessons; yet by the few words which he
would let drop when correcting me, I could see that he knew even
less about the subject than I did. Not infrequently, too, he
would wink at us and make secret signs when Grandmamma was
beginning to scold us and find fault with us all round. "So much
for us children!" he would say. On the whole, however, the
impossible pinnacle upon which my childish imagination had placed
him had undergone a certain abasement. I still kissed his large
white hand with a certain feeling of love and respect, but I also
allowed myself to think about him and to criticise his behaviour
until involuntarily thoughts occurred to me which alarmed me by
their presence. Never shall I forget one incident in particular
which awakened thoughts of this kind, and caused me intense
astonishment. Late one evening, he entered the drawing-room in
his black dress-coat and white waistcoat, to take Woloda (who was
still dressing in his bedroom) to a ball. Grandmamma was also in
her bedroom, but had given orders that, before setting out,
Woloda was to come and say goodbye to her (it was her invariable
custom to inspect him before he went to a ball, and to bless him
and direct him as to his behaviour). The room where we were was
lighted by a solitary lamp. Mimi and Katenka were walking up and
down, and Lubotshka was playing Field's Second Concerto (Mamma's
favourite piece) at the piano. Never was there such a family
likeness as between Mamma and my sister--not so much in the face
or the stature as in the hands, the walk, the voice, the
favourite expressions, and, above all, the way of playing the
piano and the whole demeanour at the instrument. Lubotshka always
arranged her dress when sitting down just as Mamma had done, as
well as turned the leaves like her, tapped her fingers angrily
and said "Dear me!" whenever a difficult passage did not go
smoothly, and, in particular, played with the delicacy and
exquisite purity of touch which in those days caused the
execution of Field's music to be known characteristically as "jeu
perle" and to lie beyond comparison with the humbug of our modern
Papa entered the room with short, soft steps, and approached
Lubotshka. On seeing him she stopped playing.
"No, go on, Luba, go on," he said as he forced her to sit down
again. She went on playing, while Papa, his head on his hand, sat
near her for a while. Then suddenly he gave his shoulders a
shrug, and, rising, began to pace the room. Every time that he
approached the piano he halted for a moment and looked fixedly at
Lubotshka. By his walk and his every movement, I could see that
he was greatly agitated. Once, when he stopped behind Lubotshka,
he kissed her black hair, and then, wheeling quickly round,
resumed his pacing. The piece finished, Lubotshka went up to him
and said, "Was it well played?" whereupon, without answering, he
took her head in his two hands, and kissed her forehead and eyes
with such tenderness as I had never before seen him display.
"Why, you are crying!" cried Lubotshka suddenly as she ceased to
toy with his watch-chain and stared at him with her great black
eyes. "Pardon me, darling Papa! I had quite forgotten that it was
dear Mamma's piece which I was playing."
"No, no, my love; play it often," he said in a voice trembling
with emotion. "Ah, if you only knew how much good it does me to
share your tears!"
He kissed her again, and then, mastering his feelings and
shrugging his shoulders, went to the door leading to the corridor
which ran past Woloda's room.
"Waldemar, shall you be ready soon?" he cried, halting in the
middle of the passage. Just then Masha came along.
"Why, you look prettier every day," he said to her. She blushed
and passed on.
"Waldemar, shall you be ready soon?" he cried again, with a cough
and a shake of his shoulders, just as Masha slipped away and he
first caught sight of me.
I loved Papa, but the intellect is independent of the heart, and
often gives birth to thoughts which offend and are harsh and
incomprehensible to the feelings. And it was thoughts of this
kind that, for all I strove to put them away, arose at that
moment in my mind.
Grandmamma was growing weaker every day. Her bell, Gasha's
grumbling voice, and the slamming of doors in her room were
sounds of constant occurrence, and she no longer received us
sitting in the Voltairian arm-chair in her boudoir, but lying on
the bed in her bedroom, supported on lace-trimmed cushions. One
day when she greeted us, I noticed a yellowish-white swelling on
her hand, and smelt the same oppressive odour which I had smelt
five years ago in Mamma's room. The doctor came three times a
day, and there had been more than one consultation. Yet the
character of her haughty, ceremonious bearing towards all who
lived with her, and particularly towards Papa, never changed in
the least. She went on emphasising certain words, raising her
eyebrows, and saying "my dear," just as she had always done.
Then for a few days we did not see her at all, and one morning
St. Jerome proposed to me that Woloda and I should take Katenka
and Lubotshka for a drive during the hours generally allotted to
study. Although I observed that the street was lined with straw
under the windows of Grandmamma's room, and that some men in blue
stockings [Undertaker's men.] were standing at our gate, the
reason never dawned upon me why we were being sent out at that
unusual hour. Throughout the drive Lubotshka and I were in that
particularly merry mood when the least trifle, the least word or
movement, sets one off laughing.
A pedlar went trotting across the road with a tray, and we
laughed. Some ragged cabmen, brandishing their reins and driving
at full speed, overtook our sledge, and we laughed again. Next,
Philip's whip got caught in the side of the vehicle, and the way
in which he said, "Bother the thing!" as he drove to disentangle
it almost killed us with mirth. Mimi looked displeased, and said
that only silly people laughed for no reason at all, but
Lubotshka--her face purple with suppressed merriment--needed but
to give me a sly glance, and we again burst out into such Homeric
laughter, when our eyes met, that the tears rushed into them and
we could not stop our paroxysms, although they nearly choked us.
Hardly, again, had we desisted a little when I looked at
Lubotshka once more, and gave vent to one of the slang words
which we then affected among ourselves--words which always called
forth hilarity; and in a moment we were laughing again.
Just as we reached home, I was opening my mouth to make a
splendid grimace at Lubotshka when my eye fell upon a black
coffin-cover which was leaning against the gate--and my mouth
remained fixed in its gaping position.
"Your Grandmamma is dead," said St. Jerome as he met us. His face
was very pale.
Throughout the whole time that Grandmamma's body was in the house
I was oppressed with the fear of death, for the corpse served as
a forcible and disagreeable reminder that I too must die some
day--a feeling which people often mistake for grief. I had no
sincere regret for Grandmamma, nor, I think, had any one else,
since, although the house was full of sympathising callers,
nobody seemed to mourn for her from their hearts except one
mourner whose genuine grief made a great impression upon me,
seeing that the mourner in question was--Gasha! She shut herself
up in the garret, tore her hair and refused all consolation,
saying that, now that her mistress was dead, she only wished to
I again assert that, in matters of feeling, it is the unexpected
effects that constitute the most reliable signs of sincerity.
Though Grandmamma was no longer with us, reminiscences and gossip
about her long went on in the house. Such gossip referred mostly
to her will, which she had made shortly before her death, and of
which, as yet, no one knew the contents except her bosom friend,
Prince Ivan Ivanovitch. I could hear the servants talking
excitedly together, and making innumerable conjectures as to the
amount left and the probable beneficiaries: nor can I deny that
the idea that we ourselves were probably the latter greatly
Six weeks later, Nicola--who acted as regular news-agent to the
house--informed me that Grandmamma had left the whole of her
fortune to Lubotshka, with, as her trustee until her majority,
not Papa, but Prince Ivan Ivanovitch!
Only a few months remained before I was to matriculate for the
University, yet I was making such good progress that I felt no
apprehensions, and even took a pleasure in my studies. I kept in
good heart, and learnt my lessons fluently and intelligently. The
faculty I had selected was the mathematical one--probably, to
tell the truth, because the terms "tangent," "differentials,"
"integrals," and so forth, pleased my fancy.
Though stout and broad-shouldered, I was shorter than Woloda,
while my ugliness of face still remained and tormented me as much
as ever. By way of compensation, I tried to appear original. Yet
one thing comforted me, namely, that Papa had said that I had "an
INTELLIGENT face." I quite believed him.
St. Jerome was not only satisfied with me, but actually had taken
to praising me. Consequently, I had now ceased to hate him. In
fact, when, one day, he said that, with my "capacities" and my
"intellect," it would be shameful for me not to accomplish this,
that, or the other thing, I believe I almost liked him.
I had long ago given up keeping observation on the maidservants'
room, for I was now ashamed to hide behind doors. Likewise, I
confess that the knowledge of Masha's love for Basil had greatly
cooled my ardour for her, and that my passion underwent a final
cure by their marriage--a consummation to which I myself
contributed by, at Basil's request, asking Papa's consent to the
When the newly-married couple brought trays of cakes and
sweetmeats to Papa as a thank-offering, and Masha, in a cap with
blue ribbons, kissed each of us on the shoulder in token of her
gratitude, I merely noticed the scent of the rose pomade on her
hair, but felt no other sensation.
In general, I was beginning to get the better of my youthful
defects, with the exception of the principal one--the one of
which I shall often again have to speak in relating my life's
history--namely, the tendency to abstract thought.
XXV. WOLODA'S FRIENDS
Although, when in the society of Woloda's friends, I had to play
a part that hurt my pride, I liked sitting in his room when he
had visitors, and silently watching all they did. The two who
came most frequently to see him were a military adjutant called
Dubkoff and a student named Prince Nechludoff. Dubkoff was a
little dark-haired, highly-strung man who, though short of
stature and no longer in his first youth, had a pleasing and
invariably cheerful air. His was one of those limited natures
which are agreeable through their very limitations; natures
which cannot regard matters from every point of view, but which
are nevertheless attracted by everything. Usually the reasoning
of such persons is false and one-sided, yet always genuine and
taking; wherefore their narrow egotism seems both amiable and
excusable. There were two other reasons why Dubkoff had charms
for Woloda and myself--namely, the fact that he was of military
appearance, and, secondly (and principally), the fact that he was
of a certain age--an age with which young people are apt to
associate that quality of "gentlemanliness" which is so highly
esteemed at their time of life. However, he was in very truth un
homme comme il faut. The only thing which I did not like about it
all was that, in his presence, Woloda always seemed ashamed of my
innocent behaviour, and still more so of my youthfulness. As for
Prince Nechludoff, he was in no way handsome, since neither his
small grey eyes, his low, projecting forehead, nor his
disproportionately long hands and feet could be called good
features. The only good points about him were his unusually tall
stature, his delicate colouring, and his splendid teeth.
Nevertheless, his face was of such an original, energetic
character (owing to his narrow, sparkling eyes and ever-changing
expression--now stern, now childlike, now smiling
indeterminately) that it was impossible to help noticing it. As a
rule he was very shy, and would blush to the ears at the smallest
trifle, but it was a shyness altogether different from mine,
seeing that, the more he blushed, the more determined-looking he
grew, as though he were vexed at his own weakness.
Although he was on very good terms with Woloda and Dubkoff, it
was clearly chance which had united them thus, since their tastes
were entirely dissimilar. Woloda and Dubkoff seemed to be afraid
of anything like serious consideration or emotion, whereas
Nechludoff was beyond all things an enthusiast, and would often,
despite their sarcastic remarks, plunge into dissertations on
philosophical matters or matters of feeling. Again, the two
former liked talking about the fair objects of their adoration
(these were always numerous, and always shared by the friends in
common), whereas Nechludoff invariably grew annoyed when taxed
with his love for a certain red-haired lady.
Again, Woloda and Dubkoff often permitted themselves to criticise
their relatives, and to find amusement in so doing, but
Nechludoff flew into a tremendous rage when on one occasion they
referred to some weak points in the character of an aunt of his
whom he adored. Finally, after supper Woloda and Dubkoff would
usually go off to some place whither Nechludoff would not
accompany them; wherefore they called him "a dainty girl."
The very first time that I ever saw Prince Nechludoff I was
struck with his exterior and conversation. Yet, though I could
discern a great similarity between his disposition and my own (or
perhaps it was because I COULD so discern it), the impression
which he produced upon me at first was anything but agreeable. I
liked neither his quick glance, his hard voice, his proud
bearing, nor (least of all) the utter indifference with which he
treated me. Often, when conversing, I burned to contradict him,
to punish his pride by confuting him, to show him that I was
clever in spite of his disdainful neglect of my presence. But I
was invariably prevented from doing so by my shyness.
Woloda was lying reading a French novel on the sofa when I paid
my usual visit to his room after my evening lessons. He looked up
at me for a moment from his book, and then went on reading. This
perfectly simple and natural movement, however, offended me. I
conceived that the glance implied a question why I had come and a
wish to hide his thoughts from me (I may say that at that period
a tendency to attach a meaning to the most insignificant of acts
formed a prominent feature in my character). So I went to the
table and also took up a book to read. Yet, even before I had
actually begun reading, the idea struck me how ridiculous it was
that, although we had never seen one another all day, we should
have not a word to exchange.
"Are you going to stay in to-night, Woloda?"
"I don't know. Why?"
"Oh, because--" Seeing that the conversation did not promise to
be a success, I took up my book again, and began to read. Yet it
was a strange thing that, though we sometimes passed whole hours
together without speaking when we were alone, the mere presence
of a third--sometimes of a taciturn and wholly uninteresting
person--sufficed to plunge us into the most varied and engrossing
of discussions. The truth was that we knew one another too well,
and to know a person either too well or too little acts as a bar
"Is Woloda at home?" came in Dubkoff's voice from the ante-room.
"Yes!" shouted Woloda, springing up and throwing aside his book.
Dubkoff and Nechludoff entered.
"Are you coming to the theatre, Woloda?"
"No, I have no time," he replied with a blush.
"Oh, never mind that. Come along."
"But I haven't got a ticket."
"Tickets, as many as you like, at the entrance."
"Very well, then; I'll be back in a minute," said Woloda
evasively as he left the room. I knew very well that he wanted to
go, but that he had declined because he had no money, and had now
gone to borrow five roubles of one of the servants--to be repaid
when he got his next allowance.
"How do you do, DIPLOMAT?" said Dubkoff to me as he shook me by
the hand. Woloda's friends had called me by that nickname since
the day when Grandmamma had said at luncheon that Woloda must go
into the army, but that she would like to see me in the
diplomatic service, dressed in a black frock-coat, and with my
hair arranged a la coq (the two essential requirements, in her
opinion, of a DIPLOMAT).
"Where has Woloda gone to?" asked Nechludoff.
"I don't know," I replied, blushing to think that nevertheless
they had probably guessed his errand.
"I suppose he has no money? Yes, I can see I am right, O
diplomatist," he added, taking my smile as an answer in the
affirmative. "Well, I have none, either. Have you any, Dubkoff?"
"I'll see," replied Dubkoff, feeling for his pocket, and
rummaging gingerly about with his squat little fingers among his
small change. " Yes, here are five copecks-twenty, but that's
all," he concluded with a comic gesture of his hand.
At this point Woloda re-entered.
"Are we going?"
"What an odd fellow you are!" said Nechludoff. "Why don't you say
that you have no money? Here, take my ticket."
"But what are you going to do?"
"He can go into his cousin's box," said Dubkoff.
"No, I'm not going at all," replied Nechludoff.
"Because I hate sitting in a box."
"And for what reason?"
"I don't know. Somehow I feel uncomfortable there."
"Always the same! I can't understand a fellow feeling
uncomfortable when he is sitting with people who are fond of him.
It is unnatural, mon cher."
"But what else is there to be done si je suis tant timide? You
never blushed in your life, but I do at the least trifle," and he
blushed at that moment.
"Do you know what that nervousness of yours proceeds from?" said
Dubkoff in a protecting sort of tone, "D'un exces d'amour propre,
"What do you mean by 'exces d'amour propre'?" asked Nechludoff,
highly offended. "On the contrary, I am shy just because I have
TOO LITTLE amour propre. I always feel as though I were being
tiresome and disagreeable, and therefore--"
"Well, get ready, Woloda," interrupted Dubkoff, tapping my
brother on the shoulder and handing him his cloak. "Ignaz, get
your master ready."
"Therefore," continued Nechludoff, it often happens with me
But Dubkoff was not listening. "Tra-la-la-la," and he hummed a
"Oh, but I'm not going to let you off," went on Nechludoff. "I
mean to prove to you that my shyness is not the result of
"You can prove it as we go along."
"But I have told you that I am NOT going."
"Well, then, stay here and prove it to the DIPLOMAT, and he can
tell us all about it when we return."
"Yes, that's what I WILL do," said Nechludoff with boyish
obstinacy, "so hurry up with your return."
"Well, do you think I am egotistic?" he continued, seating
himself beside me.
True, I had a definite opinion on the subject, but I felt so
taken aback by this unexpected question that at first I could
make no reply.
"Yes, I DO think so," I said at length in a faltering voice, and
colouring at the thought that at last the moment had come when I
could show him that I was clever. "I think that EVERYBODY is
egotistic, and that everything we do is done out of egotism."
"But what do you call egotism?" asked Nechludoff--smiling, as I
thought, a little contemptuously.
"Egotism is a conviction that we are better and cleverer than any
one else," I replied.
"But how can we ALL be filled with this conviction?" he inquired.
"Well, I don't know if I am right or not--certainly no one but
myself seems to hold the opinion--but I believe that I am wiser
than any one else in the world, and that all of you know it."
"At least I can say for myself," observed Nechludoff, "that I
have met a FEW people whom I believe to excel me in wisdom."
"It is impossible," I replied with conviction.
"Do you really think so?" he said, looking at me gravely.
"Yes, really," I answered, and an idea crossed my mind which I
proceeded to expound further. "Let me prove it to you. Why do we
love ourselves better than any one else? Because we think
ourselves BETTER than any one else--more worthy of our own love.
If we THOUGHT others better than ourselves, we should LOVE them
better than ourselves: but that is never the case. And even if it
were so, I should still be right," I added with an involuntary
smile of complacency.
For a few minutes Nechludoff was silent.
"I never thought you were so clever," he said with a smile so
goodhumoured and charming that I at once felt happy.
Praise exercises an all-potent influence, not only upon the
feelings, but also upon the intellect; so that under the
influence of that agreeable sensation I straightway felt much
cleverer than before, and thoughts began to rush with
extraordinary rapidity through my head. From egotism we passed
insensibly to the theme of love, which seemed inexhaustible.
Although our reasonings might have sounded nonsensical to a
listener (so vague and one-sided were they), for ourselves they
had a profound significance. Our minds were so perfectly in
harmony that not a chord was struck in the one without awakening
an echo in the other, and in this harmonious striking of
different chords we found the greatest delight. Indeed, we felt
as though time and language were insufficient to express the
thoughts which seethed within us.
XXVII. THE BEGINNING OF OUR FRIENDSHIP
From that time forth, a strange, but exceedingly pleasant,
relation subsisted between Dimitri Nechludoff and myself. Before
other people he paid me scanty attention, but as soon as ever we
were alone, we would sit down together in some comfortable corner
and, forgetful both of time and of everything around us, fall to
We talked of a future life, of art, service, marriage, and
education; nor did the idea ever occur to us that very possibly
all we said was shocking nonsense. The reason why it never
occurred to us was that the nonsense which we talked was good,
sensible nonsense, and that, so long as one is young, one can
appreciate good nonsense, and believe in it. In youth the powers
of the mind are directed wholly to the future, and that future
assumes such various, vivid, and alluring forms under the
influence of hope--hope based, not upon the experience of the
past, but upon an assumed possibility of happiness to come--that
such dreams of expected felicity constitute in themselves the
true happiness of that period of our life. How I loved those
moments in our metaphysical discussions (discussions which formed
the major portion of our intercourse) when thoughts came
thronging faster and faster, and, succeeding one another at
lightning speed, and growing more and more abstract, at length
attained such a pitch of elevation that one felt powerless to
express them, and said something quite different from what one
had intended at first to say! How I liked those moments, too,
when, carried higher and higher into the realms of thought, we
suddenly felt that we could grasp its substance no longer and go
At carnival time Nechludoff was so much taken up with one
festivity and another that, though he came to see us several
times a day, he never addressed a single word to me. This
offended me so much that once again I found myself thinking him a
haughty, disagreeable fellow, and only awaited an opportunity to
show him that I no longer valued his company or felt any
particular affection for him. Accordingly, the first time that he
spoke to me after the carnival, I said that I had lessons to do,
and went upstairs, but a quarter of an hour later some one opened
the schoolroom door, and Nechludoff entered.
"Am I disturbing you?" he asked.
"No," I replied, although I had at first intended to say that I
had a great deal to do.
"Then why did you run away just now? It is a long while since we
had a talk together, and I have grown so accustomed to these
discussions that I feel as though something were wanting."
My anger had quite gone now, and Dimitri stood before me the same
good and lovable being as before.
"You know, perhaps, why I ran away?" I said.
"Perhaps I do," he answered, taking a seat near me. "However,
though it is possible I know why, I cannot say it straight out,
whereas YOU can."
"Then I will do so. I ran away because I was angry with you--
well, not angry, but grieved. I always have an idea that you
despise me for being so young."
"Well, do you know why I always feel so attracted towards you? "
he replied, meeting my confession with a look of kind
understanding, "and why I like you better than any of my other
acquaintances or than any of the people among whom I mostly have
to live? It is because I found out at once that you have the rare
and astonishing gift of sincerity."
"Yes, I always confess the things of which I am most ashamed--but
only to people in whom I trust," I said.
"Ah, but to trust a man you must be his friend completely, and we
are not friends yet, Nicolas. Remember how, when we were speaking
of friendship, we agreed that, to be real friends, we ought to
trust one another implicitly."
"I trust you in so far as that I feel convinced that you would
never repeat a word of what I might tell you," I said.
"Yet perhaps the most interesting and important thoughts of all
are just those which we never tell one another, while the mean
thoughts (the thoughts which, if we only knew that we had to
confess them to one another, would probably never have the
hardihood to enter our minds)-- Well, do you know what I am
thinking of, Nicolas?" he broke off, rising and taking my hand
with a smile. "I propose (and I feel sure that it would benefit
us mutually) that we should pledge our word to one another to
tell each other EVERYTHING. We should then really know each
other, and never have anything on our consciences. And, to guard
against outsiders, let us also agree never to speak of one
another to a third person. Suppose we do that?"
"I agree," I replied. And we did it. What the result was shall be
Kerr has said that every attachment has two sides: one loves, and
the other allows himself to be loved; one kisses, and the other
surrenders his cheek. That is perfectly true. In the case of our
own attachment it was I who kissed, and Dimitri who surrendered
his cheek--though he, in his turn, was ready to pay me a similar
salute. We loved equally because we knew and appreciated each
other thoroughly, but this did not prevent him from exercising
an influence over me, nor myself from rendering him adoration.
It will readily be understood that Nechludoff's influence caused
me to adopt his bent of mind, the essence of which lay in an
enthusiastic reverence for ideal virtue and a firm belief in
man's vocation to perpetual perfection. To raise mankind, to
abolish vice and misery, seemed at that time a task offering no
difficulties. To educate oneself to every virtue, and so to
achieve happiness, seemed a simple and easy matter.
Only God Himself knows whether those blessed dreams of youth were
ridiculous, or whose the fault was that they never became
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