Part 1 out of 3
Scanning and first proofing by Martin Adamson
By Leo Tolstoy
Translated by CJ Hogarth
THE TUTOR, KARL IVANITCH
On the 12th of August, 18-- (just three days after my tenth
birthday, when I had been given such wonderful presents), I was
awakened at seven o'clock in the morning by Karl Ivanitch
slapping the wall close to my head with a fly-flap made of sugar
paper and a stick. He did this so roughly that he hit the image
of my patron saint suspended to the oaken back of my bed, and the
dead fly fell down on my curls. I peeped out from under the
coverlet, steadied the still shaking image with my hand, flicked
the dead fly on to the floor, and gazed at Karl Ivanitch with
sleepy, wrathful eyes. He, in a parti-coloured wadded dressing-
gown fastened about the waist with a wide belt of the same
material, a red knitted cap adorned with a tassel, and soft
slippers of goat skin, went on walking round the walls and taking
aim at, and slapping, flies.
"Suppose," I thought to myself," that I am only a small boy,
yet why should he disturb me? Why does he not go killing flies
around Woloda's bed? No; Woloda is older than I, and I am the
youngest of the family, so he torments me. That is what he thinks
of all day long--how to tease me. He knows very well that he has
woken me up and frightened me, but he pretends not to notice it.
Disgusting brute! And his dressing-gown and cap and tassel too--
they are all of them disgusting."
While I was thus inwardly venting my wrath upon Karl Ivanitch, he
had passed to his own bedstead, looked at his watch (which hung
suspended in a little shoe sewn with bugles), and deposited the
fly-flap on a nail, then, evidently in the most cheerful mood
possible, he turned round to us.
"Get up, children! It is quite time, and your mother is already
in the drawing-room," he exclaimed in his strong German accent.
Then he crossed over to me, sat down at my feet, and took his
snuff-box out of his pocket. I pretended to be asleep. Karl
Ivanitch sneezed, wiped his nose, flicked his fingers, and began
amusing himself by teasing me and tickling my toes as he said
with a smile, "Well, well, little lazy one!"
For all my dread of being tickled, I determined not to get out of
bed or to answer him,. but hid my head deeper in the pillow,
kicked out with all my strength, and strained every nerve to keep
"How kind he is, and how fond of us!" I thought to myself,
Yet to think that I could be hating him so just now!"
I felt angry, both with myself and with Karl Ivanitch, I wanted
to laugh and to cry at the same time, for my nerves were all on
"Leave me alone, Karl!" I exclaimed at length, with tears in my
eyes, as I raised my head from beneath the bed-clothes.
Karl Ivanitch was taken aback, He left off tickling my feet, and
asked me kindly what the matter was, Had I had a disagreeable
dream? His good German face and the sympathy with which he sought
to know the cause of my tears made them flow the faster. I felt
conscience-stricken, and could not understand how, only a minute
ago, I had been hating Karl, and thinking his dressing-gown and
cap and tassel disgusting. On the contrary, they looked eminently
lovable now. Even the tassel seemed another token of his
goodness. I replied that I was crying because I had had a bad
dream, and had seen Mamma dead and being buried. Of course it was
a mere invention, since I did not remember having dreamt anything
at all that night, but the truth was that Karl's sympathy as he
tried to comfort and reassure me had gradually made me believe
that I HAD dreamt such a horrible dream, and so weep the more--
though from a different cause to the one he imagined
When Karl Ivanitch had left me, I sat up in bed and proceeded to
draw my stockings over my little feet. The tears had quite dried
now, yet the mournful thought of the invented dream was still
haunting me a little. Presently Uncle [This term is often applied
by children to old servants in Russia] Nicola came in--a neat
little man who was always grave, methodical, and respectful, as
well as a great friend of Karl's, He brought with him our
clothes and boots--at least, boots for Woloda, and for myself the
old detestable, be-ribanded shoes. In his presence I felt ashamed
to cry, and, moreover, the morning sun was shining so gaily
through the window, and Woloda, standing at the washstand as he
mimicked Maria Ivanovna (my sister's governess), was laughing so
loud and so long, that even the serious Nicola--a towel over his
shoulder, the soap in one hand, and the basin in the other--could
not help smiling as he said, "Will you please let me wash you,
Vladimir Petrovitch?" I had cheered up completely.
"Are you nearly ready?" came Karl's voice from the schoolroom.
The tone of that voice sounded stern now, and had nothing in it of
the kindness which had just touched me so much. In fact, in the
schoolroom Karl was altogether a different man from what he was
at other times. There he was the tutor. I washed and dressed
myself hurriedly, and, a brush still in my hand as I smoothed my
wet hair, answered to his call. Karl, with spectacles on nose
and a book in his hand, was sitting, as usual, between the door
and one of the windows. To the left of the door were two shelves--
one of them the children's (that is to say, ours), and the other
one Karl's own. Upon ours were heaped all sorts of books--lesson
books and play books--some standing up and some lying down. The
only two standing decorously against the wall were two large
volumes of a Histoire des Voyages, in red binding. On that shelf
could be seen books thick and thin and books large and small, as
well as covers without books and books without covers, since
everything got crammed up together anyhow when play time arrived
and we were told to put the "library" (as Karl called these
shelves) in order The collection of books on his own shelf was,
if not so numerous as ours, at least more varied. Three of them
in particular I remember, namely, a German pamphlet (minus a
cover) on Manuring Cabbages in Kitchen-Gardens, a History of the
Seven Years' War (bound in parchment and burnt at one corner),
and a Course of Hydrostatics. Though Karl passed so much of his
time in reading that he had injured his sight by doing so, he
never read anything beyond these books and The Northern Bee.
Another article on Karl's shelf I remember well. This was a
round piece of cardboard fastened by a screw to a wooden stand,
with a sort of comic picture of a lady and a hairdresser glued to
the cardboard. Karl was very clever at fixing pieces of cardboard
together, and had devised this contrivance for shielding his weak
eyes from any very strong light.
I can see him before me now--the tall figure in its wadded
dressing-gown and red cap (a few grey hairs visible beneath the
latter) sitting beside the table; the screen with the
hairdresser shading his face; one hand holding a book, and the
other one resting on the arm of the chair. Before him lie his
watch, with a huntsman painted on the dial, a check cotton
handkerchief, a round black snuff-box, and a green spectacle-
case, The neatness and orderliness of all these articles show
clearly that Karl Ivanitch has a clear conscience and a quiet
Sometimes, when tired of running about the salon downstairs, I
would steal on tiptoe to the schoolroom and find Karl sitting
alone in his armchair as, with a grave and quiet expression on
his face, he perused one of his favourite books. Yet sometimes,
also, there were moments when he was not reading, and when the
spectacles had slipped down his large aquiline nose, and the
blue, half-closed eyes and faintly smiling lips seemed to be
gazing before them with a curious expression, All would be quiet
in the room--not a sound being audible save his regular breathing
and the ticking of the watch with the hunter painted on the dial.
He would not see me, and I would stand at the door and think:
"Poor, poor old man! There are many of us, and we can play
together and be happy, but he sits there all alone, and has
nobody to be fond of him. Surely he speaks truth when he says
that he is an orphan. And the story of his life, too--how terrible
it is! I remember him telling it to Nicola, How dreadful to be in
his position!" Then I would feel so sorry for him that I would
go to him, and take his hand, and say, "Dear Karl Ivanitch!" and
he would be visibly delighted whenever I spoke to him like this,
and would look much brighter.
On the second wall of the schoolroom hung some maps--mostly torn,
but glued together again by Karl's hand. On the third wall (in
the middle of which stood the door) hung, on one side of the
door, a couple of rulers (one of them ours--much bescratched, and
the other one his--quite a new one), with, on the further side of
the door, a blackboard on which our more serious faults were
marked by circles and our lesser faults by crosses. To the left
of the blackboard was the corner in which we had to kneel when
naughty. How well I remember that corner--the shutter on the
stove, the ventilator above it, and the noise which it made when
turned! Sometimes I would be made to stay in that corner till my
back and knees were aching all over, and I would think to myself.
"Has Karl Ivanitch forgotten me? He goes on sitting quietly in
his arm-chair and reading his Hydrostatics, while I--!" Then, to
remind him of my presence, I would begin gently turning the
ventilator round. Or scratching some plaster off the wall; but if
by chance an extra large piece fell upon the floor, the fright of
it was worse than any punishment. I would glance round at Karl,
but he would still be sitting there quietly, book in hand, and
pretending that he had noticed nothing.
In the middle of the room stood a table, covered with a torn
black oilcloth so much cut about with penknives that the edge of
the table showed through. Round the table stood unpainted chairs
which, through use, had attained a high degree of polish. The
fourth and last wall contained three windows, from the first of
which the view was as follows, Immediately beneath it there ran a
high road on which every irregularity, every pebble, every rut
was known and dear to me. Beside the road stretched a row of
lime-trees, through which glimpses could be caught of a wattled
fence, with a meadow with farm buildings on one side of it and a
wood on the other--the whole bounded by the keeper's hut at the
further end of the meadow, The next window to the right
overlooked the part of the terrace where the "grownups" of the
family used to sit before luncheon. Sometimes, when Karl was
correcting our exercises, I would look out of that window and see
Mamma's dark hair and the backs of some persons with her, and
hear the murmur of their talking and laughter. Then I would feel
vexed that I could not be there too, and think to myself, "When
am I going to be grown up, and to have no more lessons, but sit
with the people whom I love instead of with these horrid
dialogues in my hand?" Then my anger would change to sadness,
and I would fall into such a reverie that I never heard Karl when
he scolded me for my mistakes.
At last, on the morning of which I am speaking, Karl Ivanitch
took off his dressing-gown, put on his blue frockcoat with its
creased and crumpled shoulders, adjusted his tie before the
looking-glass, and took us down to greet Mamma.
Mamma was sitting in the drawing-room and making tea. In one hand
she was holding the tea-pot, while with the other one she was
drawing water from the urn and letting it drip into the tray.
Yet though she appeared to be noticing what she doing, in
reality she noted neither this fact nor our entry.
However vivid be one's recollection of the past, any attempt to
recall the features of a beloved being shows them to one's vision
as through a mist of tears--dim and blurred. Those tears are the
tears of the imagination. When I try to recall Mamma as she was
then, I see, true, her brown eyes, expressive always of love and
kindness, the small mole on her neck below where the small hairs
grow, her white embroidered collar, and the delicate, fresh hand
which so often caressed me, and which I so often kissed; but her
general appearance escapes me altogether.
To the left of the sofa stood an English piano, at which my dark-
haired sister Lubotshka was sitting and playing with manifest
effort (for her hands were rosy from a recent washing in cold
water) Clementi's "Etudes." Then eleven years old, she was
dressed in a short cotton frock and white lace-frilled trousers,
and could take her octaves only in arpeggio. Beside her was
sitting Maria Ivanovna, in a cap adorned with pink ribbons and a
blue shawl, Her face was red and cross, and it assumed an
expression even more severe when Karl Ivanitch entered the room.
Looking angrily at him without answering his bow, she went on
beating time with her foot and counting, " One, two, three--one,
two, three," more loudly and commandingly than ever.
Karl Ivanitch paid no attention to this rudeness, but went, as
usual, with German politeness to kiss Mamma's hand, She drew
herself up, shook her head as though by the movement to chase
away sad thoughts from her, and gave Karl her hand, kissing him
on his wrinkled temple as he bent his head in salutation.
"I thank you, dear Karl Ivanitch," she said in German, and then,
still using the same language asked him how we (the children) had
slept. Karl Ivanitch was deaf in one ear, and the added noise of
the piano now prevented him from hearing anything at all. He
moved nearer to the sofa, and, leaning one hand upon the table
and lifting his cap above his head, said with, a smile which in
those days always seemed to me the perfection of politeness:
"You, will excuse me, will you not, Natalia Nicolaevna?"
The reason for this was that, to avoid catching cold, Karl never
took off his red cap, but invariably asked permission, on
entering the drawing-room, to retain it on his head.
"Yes, pray replace it, Karl Ivanitch," said Mamma, bending
towards him and raising her voice, "But I asked you whether the
children had slept well? "
Still he did not hear, but, covering his bald head again with the
red cap, went on smiling more than ever,
"Stop a moment, Mimi." said Mamma (now smiling also) to Maria
Ivanovna. "It is impossible to hear anything."
How beautiful Mamma's face was when she smiled! It made her so
infinitely more charming, and everything around her seemed to
grow brighter! If in the more painful moments of my life I could
have seen that smile before my eyes, I should never have known
what grief is. In my opinion, it is in the smile of a face that
the essence of what we call beauty lies. If the smile heightens
the charm of the face, then the face is a beautiful one. If the
smile does not alter the face, then the face is an ordinary one.
But if the smile spoils the face, then the face is an ugly one
Mamma took my head between her hands, bent it gently backwards,
looked at me gravely, and said: "You have been crying this
I did not answer. She kissed my eyes, and said again in German:
"Why did you cry?"
When talking to us with particular intimacy she always used this
language, which she knew to perfection.
"I cried about a dream, Mamma" I replied, remembering the
invented vision, and trembling involuntarily at the recollection.
Karl Ivanitch confirmed my words, but said nothing as to the
subject of the dream. Then, after a little conversation on the
weather, in which Mimi also took part, Mamma laid some lumps of
sugar on the tray for one or two of the more privileged servants,
and crossed over to her embroidery frame, which stood near one of
"Go to Papa now, children," she said, "and ask him to come to
me before he goes to the home farm."
Then the music, the counting, and the wrathful looks from Mimi
began again, and we went off to see Papa. Passing through the
room which had been known ever since Grandpapa's time as "the
pantry," we entered the study,
He was standing near his writing-table, and pointing angrily to
some envelopes, papers, and little piles of coin upon it as he
addressed some observations to the bailiff, Jakoff Michaelovitch,
who was standing in his usual place (that is to say, between the
door and the barometer) and rapidly closing and unclosing the
fingers of the hand which he held behind his back, The more angry
Papa grew, the more rapidly did those fingers twirl, and when
Papa ceased speaking they came to rest also. Yet, as soon as ever
Jakoff himself began to talk, they flew here, there, and
everywhere with lightning rapidity. These movements always
appeared to me an index of Jakoff's secret thoughts, though his
face was invariably placid, and expressive alike of dignity and
submissiveness, as who should say, "I am right, yet let it be as
you wish." On seeing us, Papa said, "Directly--wait a moment,"
and looked towards the door as a hint for it to be shut.
"Gracious heavens! What can be the matter with you to-day,
Jakoff?" he went on with a hitch of one shoulder (a habit of
his). "This envelope here with the 800 roubles enclosed,"--Jacob
took out a set of tablets, put down "800" and remained looking
at the figures while he waited for what was to come next--"is for
expenses during my absence. Do you understand? From the mill you
ought to receive 1000 roubles. Is not that so? And from the
Treasury mortgage you ought to receive some 8000 roubles. From
the hay--of which, according to your calculations, we shall be
able to sell 7000 poods [The pood = 40 lbs.]at 45 copecks a piece
there should come in 3000, Consequently the
sum-total that you ought to have in hand soon is--how much?--12,000
roubles. Is that right?"
"Precisely," answered Jakoff, Yet by the extreme rapidity with
which his fingers were twitching I could see that he had an
objection to make. Papa went on:
"Well, of this money you will send 10,000 roubles to the
Petrovskoe local council, As for the money already at the office,
you will remit it to me, and enter it as spent on this present
date." Jakoff turned over the tablet marked "12,000," and put
down "21,000"--seeming, by his action, to imply that
12,000 roubles had been turned over in the same fashion as he had
turned the tablet. "And this envelope with the enclosed money,"
concluded Papa, "you will deliver for me to the person to whom
it is addressed."
I was standing close to the table, and could see the address. It
was "To Karl Ivanitch Mayer." Perhaps Papa had an idea that I
had read something which I ought not, for he touched my shoulder
with his hand and made me aware, by a slight movement, that I
must withdraw from the table. Not sure whether the movement was
meant for a caress or a command, I kissed the large, sinewy hand
which rested upon my shoulder.
"Very well," said Jakoff. "And what are your orders about the
accounts for the money from Chabarovska?" (Chabarovska was
"Only that they are to remain in my office, and not to be taken
thence without my express instructions."
For a minute or two Jakoff was silent. Then his fingers began to
twitch with extraordinary rapidity, and, changing the expression
of deferential vacancy with which he had listened to his orders
for one of shrewd intelligence, he turned his tablets back and
"Will you allow me to inform you, Peter Alexandritch," he said,
with frequent pauses between his words, "that, however much you
wish it, it is out of the question to repay the local council
now. You enumerated some items, I think, as to what ought to come
in from the mortgage, the mill, and the hay (he jotted down each
of these items on his tablets again as he spoke)." Yet I fear
that we must have made a mistake somewhere in the accounts." Here
he paused a while, and looked gravely at Papa.
"Well, will you be good enough to look for yourself? There is the
account for the mill. The miller has been to me twice to ask for
time, and I am afraid that he has no money whatever in hand. He
is here now. Would you like to speak to him?"
"No. Tell me what he says," replied Papa, showing by a movement
of his head that he had no desire to have speech with the miller,
"Well, it is easy enough to guess what he says. He declares that
there is no grinding to be got now, and that his last remaining
money has gone to pay for the dam. What good would it do for us
to turn him out? As to what you were pleased to say about the
mortgage, you yourself are aware that your money there is locked
up and cannot be recovered at a moment's notice. I was sending a
load of flour to Ivan Afanovitch to-day, and sent him a letter as
well, to which he replies that he would have been glad to oblige
you, Peter Alexandritch, were it not that the matter is out of
his hands now, and that all the circumstances show that it would
take you at least two months to withdraw the money. From the
hay I understood you to estimate a return of 3000 roubles?"
(Here Jakoff jotted down "3000" on his tablets, and then looked
for a moment from the figures to Papa with a peculiar expression
on his face.) "Well, surely you see for yourself how little that
is? And even then we should lose if we were to sell the stuff
now, for you must know that--"
It was clear that he would have had many other arguments to
adduce had not Papa interrupted him,
"I cannot make any change in my arrangements," said Papa. "Yet
if there should REALLY have to be any delay in the recovery of
these sums, we could borrow what we wanted from the Chabarovska
"Very well, sir." The expression of Jakoff's face and the way in
which he twitched his fingers showed that this order had given
him great satisfaction. He was a serf, and a most zealous,
devoted one, but, like all good bailiffs, exacting and
parsimonious to a degree in the interests of his master. Moreover,
he had some queer notions of his own. He was forever endeavouring
to increase his master's property at the expense of his
mistress's, and to prove that it would be impossible to avoid
using the rents from her estates for the benefit of Petrovskoe
(my father's village, and the place where we lived). This point
he had now gained and was delighted in consequence.
Papa then greeted ourselves, and said that if we stayed much
longer in the country we should become lazy boys; that we were
growing quite big now, and must set about doing lessons in
"I suppose you know that I am starting for Moscow to-night?" he
went on, "and that I am going to take you with me? You will live
with Grandmamma, but Mamma and the girls will remain here. You
know, too, I am sure, that Mamma's one consolation will be to
hear that you are doing your lessons well and pleasing every one
The preparations which had been in progress for some days past
had made us expect some unusual event, but this news left us
thunderstruck, Woloda turned red, and, with a shaking voice,
delivered Mamma's message to Papa.
"So this was what my dream foreboded!" I thought to myself.
"God send that there come nothing worse!" I felt terribly sorry
to have to leave Mamma, but at the same rejoiced to think that I
should soon be grown up, "If we are going to-day, we shall
probably have no lessons to do, and that will be splendid,
However, I am sorry for Karl Ivanitch, for he will certainly be
dismissed now. That was why that envelope had been prepared for
him. I think I would almost rather stay and do lessons here than
leave Mamma or hurt poor Karl. He is miserable enough already."
As these thoughts crossed my mind I stood looking sadly at the
black ribbons on my shoes, After a few words to Karl Ivanitch
about the depression of the barometer and an injunction to Jakoff
not to feed the hounds, since a farewell meet was to be held
after luncheon, Papa disappointed my hopes by sending us off to
lessons--though he also consoled us by promising to take us out
On my way upstairs I made a digression to the terrace. Near the
door leading on to it Papa's favourite hound, Milka, was lying in
the sun and blinking her eyes.
"Miloshka," I cried as I caressed her and kissed her nose, we
are going away today. Good-bye. Perhaps we shall never see each
other again." I was crying and laughing at the same time.
Karl Ivanitch was in a bad temper, This was clear from his
contracted brows, and from the way in which he flung his
frockcoat into a drawer, angrily donned his old dressing-gown
again, and made deep dints with his nails to mark the place in
the book of dialogues to which we were to learn by heart. Woloda
began working diligently, but I was too distracted to do anything
at all. For a long while I stared vacantly at the book; but tears
at the thought of the impending separation kept rushing to my
eyes and preventing me from reading a single word. When at length
the time came to repeat the dialogues to Karl (who listened to
us with blinking eyes--a very bad sign), I had no sooner reached
the place where some one asks, "Wo kommen Sie her?"
("Where do you come from?") and some one else
answers him, "lch komme vom Kaffeehaus" ("I come from the
coffee-house"), than I burst into tears and, for sobbing, could
not pronounce, "Haben Sie die Zeitung nicht gelesen?" (Have you
not read the newspaper?") at all. Next, when we came to our
writing lesson, the tears kept falling from my eyes and, making a
mess on the paper, as though some one had written on blotting-
paper with water, Karl was very angry. He ordered me to go down
upon my knees, declared that it was all obstinacy and " puppet-
comedy playing" (a favourite expression of his) on my part,
threatened me with the ruler, and commanded me to say that I was
sorry. Yet for sobbing and crying I could not get a word out. At
last--conscious, perhaps, that he was unjust--he departed to
Nicola's pantry, and slammed the door behind him. Nevertheless
their conversation there carried to the schoolroom.
"Have you heard that the children are going to Moscow, Nicola?"
"Yes. How could I help hearing it?"
At this point Nicola seemed to get up for Karl said, "Sit down,
Nicola," and then locked the door. However, I came out of my
corner and crept to the door to listen.
"However much you may do for people, and however fond of them
you may be, never expect any gratitude, Nicola," said Karl
warmly. Nicola, who was shoe-cobbling by the window, nodded his
head in assent.
"Twelve years have I lived in this house," went on Karl,
lifting his eyes and his snuff-box towards the ceiling, "and
before God I can say that I have loved them, and worked for them,
even more than if they had been my own children. You recollect,
Nicola, when Woloda had the fever? You recollect how, for nine
days and nights, I never closed my eyes as I sat beside his bed?
Yes, at that time I was 'the dear, good Karl Ivanitch'--I was wanted
then; but now"--and he smiled ironically--"the children are
growing up, and must go to study in earnest. Perhaps they never
learnt anything with me, Nicola? Eh?"
"I am sure they did," replied Nicola, laying his awl down and
straightening a piece of thread with his hands.
"No, I am wanted no longer, and am to be turned out. What good
are promises and gratitude? Natalia Nicolaevna"--here he laid his
hand upon his heart--"I love and revere, but what can SHE I do
here? Her will is powerless in this house."
He flung a strip of leather on the floor with an angry gesture.
"Yet I know who has been playing tricks here, and why I am no
longer wanted. It is because I do not flatter and toady as
certain people do. I am in the habit of speaking the truth in all
places and to all persons," he continued proudly, "God be with
these children, for my leaving them will benefit them little,
whereas I--well, by God's help I may be able to earn a crust of
bread somewhere. Nicola, eh?"
Nicola raised his head and looked at Karl as though to consider
whether he would indeed be able to earn a crust of bread, but he
said nothing. Karl said a great deal more of the same kind--in
particular how much better his services had been appreciated at a
certain general's where he had formerly lived (I regretted to
hear that). Likewise he spoke of Saxony, his parents, his friend
the tailor, Schonheit (beauty), and so on.
I sympathised with his distress, and felt dreadfully sorry that
he and Papa (both of whom I loved about equally) had had a
difference. Then I returned to my corner, crouched down upon my
heels, and fell to thinking how a reconciliation between them
might be effected.
Returning to the study, Karl ordered me to get up and prepare to
write from dictation. When I was ready he sat down with a
dignified air in his arm-chair, and in a voice which seemed to
come from a profound abyss began to dictate: "Von al-len Lei-
den-shaf-ten die grau-samste ist. Have you written that? " He
paused, took a pinch of snuff, and began again: "Die grausamste
ist die Un-dank-bar-keit [The most cruel of all passions is
ingratitude.] a capital U, mind."
The last word written, I looked at him, for him to go on,
"Punctum" (stop), he concluded, with a faintly perceptible
smile, as he signed to us to hand him our copy-books.
Several times, and in several different tones, and always with an
expression of the greatest satisfaction, did he read out that
sentence, which expressed his predominant thought at the moment,
Then he set us to learn a lesson in history, and sat down near
the window. His face did not look so depressed now, but, on the
contrary, expressed eloquently the satisfaction of a man who had
avenged himself for an injury dealt him.
By this time it was a quarter to one o'clock, but Karl Ivanitch
never thought of releasing us, He merely set us a new lesson to
learn. My fatigue and hunger were increasing in equal
proportions, so that I eagerly followed every sign of the
approach of luncheon. First came the housemaid with a cloth to
wipe the plates, Next, the sound of crockery resounded in the
dining-room, as the table was moved and chairs placed round it,
After that, Mimi, Lubotshka, and Katenka. (Katenka was Mimi's
daughter, and twelve years old) came in from the garden, but
Foka (the servant who always used to come and announce luncheon)
was not yet to be seen. Only when he entered was it lawful to
throw one's books aside and run downstairs.
Hark! Steps resounded on the staircase, but they were not
Foka's. Foka's I had learnt to study, and knew the creaking
of his boots well. The door opened, and a figure unknown to
me made its appearance,
The man who now entered the room was about fifty years old, with
a pale, attenuated face pitted with smallpox, long grey hair, and
a scanty beard of a reddish hue. Likewise he was so tall that, on
coming through the doorway, he was forced not only to bend his
head, but to incline his whole body forward. He was dressed in a
sort of smock that was much torn, and held in his hand a stout
staff. As he entered he smote this staff upon the floor, and,
contracting his brows and opening his mouth to its fullest
extent, laughed in a dreadful, unnatural way. He had lost the
sight of one eye, and its colourless pupil kept rolling about and
imparting to his hideous face an even more repellent expression
than it otherwise bore.
"Hullo, you are caught!" he exclaimed as he ran to Woloda with
little short steps and, seizing him round the head, looked at it
searchingly. Next he left him, went to the table, and, with a
perfectly serious expression on his face, began to blow under the
oil-cloth, and to make the sign of the cross over it, "O-oh,
what a pity! O-oh, how it hurts! They are angry! They fly from
me!" he exclaimed in a tearful choking voice as he glared at
Woloda and wiped away the streaming tears with his sleeve, His
voice was harsh and rough, all his movements hysterical and
spasmodic, and his words devoid of sense or connection (for he
used no conjunctions). Yet the tone of that voice was so
heartrending, and his yellow, deformed face at times so sincere
and pitiful in its expression, that, as one listened to him, it
was impossible to repress a mingled sensation of pity, grief, and
This was the idiot Grisha. Whence he had come, or who were his
parents, or what had induced him to choose the strange life which
he led, no one ever knew. All that I myself knew was that from
his fifteenth year upwards he had been known as an imbecile who
went barefooted both in winter and summer, visited convents, gave
little images to any one who cared to take them, and spoke
meaningless words which some people took for prophecies; that
nobody remembered him as being different; that at, rate intervals
he used to call at Grandmamma's house; and that by some people
he was said to be the outcast son of rich parents and a pure,
saintly soul, while others averred that he was a mere peasant
and an idler.
At last the punctual and wished-for Foka arrived, and we went
downstairs. Grisha followed us sobbing and continuing to talk
nonsense, and knocking his staff on each step of the staircase.
When we entered the drawing-room we found Papa and Mamma walking
up and down there, with their hands clasped in each other's, and
talking in low tones. Maria Ivanovna was sitting bolt upright in
an arm-chair placed at tight angles to the sofa, and giving some
sort of a lesson to the two girls sitting beside her. When Karl
Ivanitch entered the room she looked at him for a moment, and
then turned her eyes away with an expression which seemed to say,
"You are beneath my notice, Karl Ivanitch." It was easy to see
from the girls' eyes that they had important news to communicate
to us as soon as an opportunity occurred (for to leave their
seats and approach us first was contrary to Mimi's rules). It was
for us to go to her and say, "Bon jour, Mimi," and then make her
a low bow; after which we should possibly be permitted to enter
into conversation with the girls.
What an intolerable creature that Mimi was! One could hardly say
a word in her presence without being found fault with. Also
whenever we wanted to speak in Russian, she would say, "Parlez,
donc, francais," as though on purpose to annoy us, while, if
there was any particularly nice dish at luncheon which we wished
to enjoy in peace, she would keep on ejaculating, "Mangez, donc,
avec du pain!" or, "Comment est-ce que vous tenez votre
fourchette?" "What has SHE got to do with us?" I used to think
to myself. "Let her teach the girls. WE have our Karl Ivanitch."
I shared to the full his dislike of "certain people."
"Ask Mamma to let us go hunting too," Katenka whispered to me,
as she caught me by the sleeve just when the elders of the family
were making a move towards the dining-room.
"Very well. I will try."
Grisha likewise took a seat in the dining-room, but at a little
table apart from the rest. He never lifted his eyes from his
plate, but kept on sighing and making horrible grimaces, as he
muttered to himself: "What a pity! It has flown away! The dove
is flying to heaven! The stone lies on the tomb!" and so forth.
Ever since the morning Mamma had been absent-minded, and Grisha's
presence, words, and actions seemed to make her more so.
"By the way, there is something I forgot to ask you," she said,
as she handed Papa a plate of soup,
"What is it?"
"That you will have those dreadful dogs of yours tied up, They
nearly worried poor Grisha to death when he entered the
courtyard, and I am sure they will bite the children some day."
No sooner did Grisha hear himself mentioned that he turned
towards our table and showed us his torn clothes. Then, as he went
on with his meal, he said: "He would have let them tear me in
pieces, but God would not allow it! What a sin to let the dogs
loose--a great sin! But do not beat him, master; do not beat him!
It is for God to forgive! It is past now!"
"What does he say?" said Papa, looking at him gravely and
sternly. "I cannot understand him at all."
"I think he is saying," replied Mamma, "that one of the
huntsmen set the dogs on him, but that God would not allow him to
be torn in pieces, Therefore he begs you not to punish the man."
"Oh, is that it? " said Papa, "How does he know that I intended
to punish the huntsman? You know, I am pot very fond of fellows
like this," he added in French, "and this one offends me
particularly. Should it ever happen that--"
"Oh, don't say so," interrupted Mamma, as if frightened by some
thought. "How can you know what he is?"
"I think I have plenty of opportunities for doing so, since no
lack of them come to see you--all of them the same sort, and
probably all with the same story."
I could see that Mamma's opinion differed from his, but that she
did not mean to quarrel about it.
"Please hand me the cakes," she said to him, "Are they good to-
day or not?"
"Yes, I AM angry," he went on as he took the cakes and put them
where Mamma could not reach them, "very angry at seeing
supposedly reasonable and educated people let themselves be
deceived," and he struck the table with his fork.
"I asked you to hand me the cakes," she repeated with
"And it is a good thing," Papa continued as he put the hand
aside, "that the police run such vagabonds in. All they are good
for is to play upon the nerves of certain people who are already
not over-strong in that respect," and he smiled, observing that
Mamma did not like the conversation at all. However, he handed
her the cakes.
"All that I have to say," she replied, "is that one can hardly
believe that a man who, though sixty years of age, goes
barefooted winter and summer, and always wears chains of two
pounds' weight, and never accepts the offers made to him to live
a quiet, comfortable life--it is difficult to believe that such a
man should act thus out of laziness." Pausing a moment, she added
with a sigh: "As to predictions, je suis payee pour y croire, I
told you, I think, that Grisha prophesied the very day and hour
of poor Papa's death?"
"Oh, what HAVE you gone and done?" said Papa, laughing and
putting his hand to his cheek (whenever he did this I used to
look for something particularly comical from him). "Why did you
call my attention to his feet? I looked at them, and now can eat
Luncheon was over now, and Lubotshka and Katenka were winking at
us, fidgeting about in their chairs, and showing great
restlessness. The winking, of course, signified, "Why don't you
ask whether we too may go to the hunt?" I nudged Woloda, and
Woloda nudged me back, until at last I took heart of grace, and
began (at first shyly, but gradually with more assurance) to ask
if it would matter much if the girls too were allowed to enjoy
the sport. Thereupon a consultation was held among the elder
folks, and eventually leave was granted--Mamma, to make things
still more delightful, saying that she would come too,
PREPARATIONS FOR THE CHASE
During dessert Jakoff had been sent for, and orders given him to
have ready the carriage, the hounds, and the saddle-horses--every
detail being minutely specified, and every horse called by its
own particular name. As Woloda's usual mount was lame, Papa
ordered a "hunter" to be saddled for him; which term, "hunter"
so horrified Mamma's ears, that she imagined it to be some kind
of an animal which would at once run away and bring about
Woloda's death. Consequently, in spite of all Papa's and Woloda's
assurances (the latter glibly affirming that it was nothing, and
that he liked his horse to go fast), poor Mamma continued to
exclaim that her pleasure would be quite spoilt for her.
When luncheon was over, the grown-ups had coffee in the study,
while we younger ones ran into the garden and went chattering
along the undulating paths with their carpet of yellow leaves.
We talked about Woloda's riding a hunter and said what a shame it
was that Lubotshka, could not run as fast as Katenka, and what
fun it would be if we could see Grisha's chains, and so forth;
but of the impending separation we said not a word. Our chatter
was interrupted by the sound of the carriage driving up, with a
village urchin perched on each of its springs. Behind the
carriage rode the huntsmen with the hounds, and they, again,
were followed by the groom Ignat on the steed intended for
Woloda, with my old horse trotting alongside. After running to
the garden fence to get a sight of all these interesting
objects, and indulging in a chorus of whistling and hallooing,
we rushed upstairs to dress--our one aim being to make ourselves
look as like the huntsmen as possible. The obvious way to do this
was to tuck one's breeches inside one's boots. We lost no time
over it all, for we were in a hurry to run to the entrance steps
again there to feast our eyes upon the horses and hounds, and to
have a chat with the huntsmen. The day was exceedingly warm
while, though clouds of fantastic shape had been gathering on the
horizon since morning and driving before a light breeze across
the sun, it was clear that, for all their menacing blackness,
they did not really intend to form a thunderstorm and spoil our
last day's pleasure. Moreover, towards afternoon some of them
broke, grew pale and elongated, and sank to the horizon again,
while others of them changed to the likeness of white transparent
fish-scales. In the east, over Maslovska, a single lurid mass was
louring, but Karl Ivanitch (who always seemed to know the ways of
the heavens) said that the weather would still continue to be
fair and dry.
In spite of his advanced years, it was in quite a sprightly
manner that Foka came out to the entrance steps. to give the
order "Drive up." In fact, as he planted his legs firmly apart
and took up his station between the lowest step and the spot
where the coachman was to halt, his mien was that of a man who
knew his duties and had no need to be reminded of them by
anybody. Presently the ladies, also came out, and after a little
discussions as to seats and the safety of the girls (all of which
seemed to me wholly superfluous), they settled themselves in the
vehicle, opened their parasols, and started. As the carriage was,
driving away, Mamma pointed to the hunter and asked nervously "Is
that the horse intended for Vladimir Petrovitch?" On the
groom answering in the affirmative, she raised her hands in
horror and turned her head away. As for myself, I was burning
with impatience. Clambering on to the back of my steed (I was
just tall enough to see between its ears), I proceeded to perform
evolutions in the courtyard.
"Mind you don't ride over the hounds, sir," said one of the
"Hold your tongue, It is not the first time I have been one of
the party." I retorted with dignity.
Although Woloda had plenty of pluck, he was not altogether free
from apprehensions as he sat on the hunter. Indeed, he more than
once asked as he patted it, "Is he quiet?" He looked very well
on horseback--almost a grown-up young man, and held himself so
upright in the saddle that I envied him since my shadow seemed to
show that I could not compare with him in looks.
Presently Papa's footsteps sounded on the flagstones, the whip
collected the hounds, and the huntsmen mounted their steeds.
Papa's horse came up in charge of a groom, the hounds of his
particular leash sprang up from their picturesque attitudes to
fawn upon him, and Milka, in a collar studded with beads, came
bounding joyfully from behind his heels to greet and sport with
the other dogs. Finally, as soon as Papa had mounted we rode
AT the head of the cavalcade rode Turka, on a hog-backed roan. On
his head he wore a shaggy cap, while, with a magnificent horn
slung across his shoulders and a knife at his belt, he looked so
cruel and inexorable that one would have thought he was going to
engage in bloody strife with his fellow men rather than to hunt a
small animal. Around the hind legs of his horse the hounds
gambolled like a cluster of checkered, restless balls. If one of
them wished to stop, it was only with the greatest difficulty
that it could do so, since not only had its leash-fellow also to
be induced to halt, but at once one of the huntsmen would wheel
round, crack his whip, and shout to the delinquent,
"Back to the pack, there!"
Arrived at a gate, Papa told us and the huntsmen to continue our
way along the road, and then rode off across a cornfield. The
harvest was at its height. On the further side of a large,
shining, yellow stretch of cornland lay a high purple belt of
forest which always figured in my eyes as a distant, mysterious
region behind which either the world ended or an uninhabited
waste began. This expanse of corn-land was dotted with swathes
and reapers, while along the lanes where the sickle had passed
could be seen the backs of women as they stooped among the tall,
thick grain or lifted armfuls of corn and rested them against the
shocks. In one corner a woman was bending over a cradle, and the
whole stubble was studded with sheaves and cornflowers. In
another direction shirt-sleeved men were standing on waggons,
shaking the soil from the stalks of sheaves, and stacking them
for carrying. As soon as the foreman (dressed in a blouse and
high boots, and carrying a tally-stick) caught sight of Papa, he
hastened to take off his lamb's-wool cap and, wiping his red
head, told the women to get up. Papa's chestnut horse went
trotting along with a prancing gait as it tossed its head and
swished its tail to and fro to drive away the gadflies and
countless other insects which tormented its flanks, while his two
greyhounds--their tails curved like sickles--went springing
gracefully over the stubble. Milka was always first, but every
now and then she would halt with a shake of her head to await the
whipper-in. The chatter of the peasants; the rumbling of horses
and waggons; the joyous cries of quails; the hum of insects as
they hung suspended in the motionless air; the smell of the soil
and grain and steam from our horses; the thousand different
lights and shadows which the burning sun cast upon the yellowish-
white cornland; the purple forest in the distance; the white
gossamer threads which were floating in the air or resting on the
soil-all these things I observed and heard and felt to the core.
Arrived at the Kalinovo wood, we found the carriage awaiting us
there, with, beside it, a one-horse waggonette driven by the
butler--a waggonette in which were a tea-urn, some apparatus for
making ices, and many other attractive boxes and bundles, all
packed in straw! There was no mistaking these signs, for they
meant that we were going to have tea, fruit, and ices in the open
air. This afforded us intense delight, since to drink tea in a
wood and on the grass and where none else had ever drunk tea
before seemed to us a treat beyond expressing.
When Turka arrived at the little clearing where the carriage was
halted he took Papa's detailed instructions as to how we were to
divide ourselves and where each of us was to go (though, as a
matter of fact, he never acted according to such instructions,
but always followed his own devices). Then he unleashed the
hounds, fastened the leashes to his saddle, whistled to the pack,
and disappeared among the young birch trees the liberated hounds
jumping about him in high delight, wagging their tails, and
sniffing and gambolling with one another as they dispersed
themselves in different directions.
"Has anyone a pocket-handkerchief to spare?" asked Papa. I took
mine from my pocket and offered it to him.
"Very well, Fasten it to this greyhound here."
"Gizana?" I asked, with the air of a connoisseur.
"Yes. Then run him along the road with you. When you come to a
little clearing in the wood stop and look about you, and don't
come back to me without a hare."
Accordingly I tied my handkerchief round Gizana's soft neck, and
set off running at full speed towards the appointed spot, Papa
laughing as he shouted after me, "Hurry up, hurry up or you'll
be late! "
Every now and then Gizana kept stopping, pricking up his ears,
and listening to the hallooing of the beaters. Whenever he did
this I was not strong enough to move him, and could do no more
than shout, "Come on, come on!" Presently he set off so fast
that I could not restrain him, and I encountered more than one
fall before we reached our destination. Selecting there a level,
shady spot near the roots of a great oak-tree, I lay down on the
turf, made Gizana crouch beside me, and waited. As usual, my
imagination far outstripped reality. I fancied that I was
pursuing at least my third hare when, as a matter of fact, the
first hound was only just giving tongue. Presently, however,
Turka's voice began to sound through the wood in louder and more
excited tones, the baying of a hound came nearer and nearer, and
then another, and then a third, and then a fourth, deep throat
joined in the rising and falling cadences of a chorus, until the
whole had united their voices in one continuous, tumultuous
burst of melody. As the Russian proverb expresses it, "The
forest had found a tongue, and the hounds were burning as with
My excitement was so great that I nearly swooned where I stood.
My lips parted themselves as though smiling, the perspiration
poured from me in streams, and, in spite of the tickling
sensation caused by the drops as they trickled over my chin, I
never thought of wiping them away. I felt that a crisis was
approaching. Yet the tension was too unnatural to last. Soon the
hounds came tearing along the edge of the wood, and then--behold,
they were racing away from me again, and of hares there was not a
sign to be seen! I looked in every direction and Gizana did the
same--pulling at his leash at first and whining. Then he lay down
again by my side, rested his muzzle on my knees, and resigned
himself to disappointment. Among the naked roots of the oak-tree
under which I was sitting. I could see countless ants swarming
over the parched grey earth and winding among the acorns,
withered oak-leaves, dry twigs, russet moss, and slender, scanty
blades of grass. In serried files they kept pressing forward on
the level track they had made for themselves--some carrying
burdens, some not. I took a piece of twig and barred their way.
Instantly it was curious to see how they made light of the
obstacle. Some got past it by creeping underneath, and some by
climbing over it. A few, however, there were (especially those
weighted with loads) who were nonplussed what to do. They either
halted and searched for a way round, or returned whence they had
come, or climbed the adjacent herbage, with the evident intention
of reaching my hand and going up the sleeve of my jacket. From
this interesting spectacle my attention was distracted by the
yellow wings of a butterfly which was fluttering alluringly
before me. Yet I had scarcely noticed it before it flew away to a
little distance and, circling over some half-faded blossoms of
white clover, settled on one of them. Whether it was the sun's
warmth that delighted it, or whether it was busy sucking nectar
from the flower, at all events it seemed thoroughly comfortable.
It scarcely moved its wings at all, and pressed itself down into
the clover until I could hardly see its body. I sat with my chin
on my hands and watched it with intense interest.
Suddenly Gizana sprang up and gave me such a violent jerk that I
nearly rolled over. I looked round. At the edge of the wood a
hare had just come into view, with one ear bent down and the
other one sharply pricked, The blood rushed to my head, and I
forgot everything else as I shouted, slipped the dog, and rushed
towards the spot. Yet all was in vain. The hare stopped, made a
rush, and was lost to view.
How confused I felt when at that moment Turka stepped from the
undergrowth (he had been following the hounds as they ran along
the edges of the wood)! He had seen my mistake (which had
consisted in my not biding my time), and now threw me a
contemptuous look as he said, "Ah, master!" And you should have
heard the tone in which he said it! It would have been a relief
to me if he had then and there suspended me to his saddle instead
of the hare. For a while I could only stand miserably where I
was, without attempting to recall the dog, and ejaculate as I
slapped my knees, "Good heavens! What a fool I was!" I could
hear the hounds retreating into the distance, and baying along
the further side of the wood as they pursued the hare, while
Turka rallied them with blasts on his gorgeous horn: yet I did
WE PLAY GAMES
THE hunt was over, a cloth had been spread in the shade of some
young birch-trees, and the whole party was disposed around it.
The butler, Gabriel, had stamped down the surrounding grass,
wiped the plates in readiness, and unpacked from a basket a
quantity of plums and peaches wrapped in leaves.
Through the green branches of the young birch-trees the sun
glittered and threw little glancing balls of light upon the
pattern of my napkin, my legs, and the bald moist head of
Gabriel. A soft breeze played in the leaves of the trees above
us, and, breathing softly upon my hair and heated face,
refreshed me beyond measure, When we had finished the fruit and
ices, nothing remained to be done around the empty cloth, so,
despite the oblique, scorching rays of the sun, we rose and
proceeded to play.
"Well, what shall it be?" said Lubotshka, blinking in the
sunlight and skipping about the grass, "Suppose we play
"No, that's a tiresome game," objected Woloda, stretching
himself lazily on the turf and gnawing some leaves, "Always
Robinson! If you want to play at something, play at building a
Woloda was giving himself tremendous airs. Probably he was proud
of having ridden the hunter, and so pretended to be very tired.
Perhaps, also, he had too much hard-headedness and too little
imagination fully to enjoy the game of Robinson. It was a game
which consisted of performing various scenes from The Swiss
Family Robinson, a book which we had recently been reading.
"Well, but be a good boy. Why not try and please us this time?"
the girls answered. "You may be Charles or Ernest or the father,
whichever you like best," added Katenka as she tried to raise him
from the ground by pulling at his sleeve.
"No, I'm not going to; it's a tiresome game," said Woloda again,
though smiling as if secretly pleased.
"It would be better to sit at home than not to play at
ANYTHING," murmured Lubotshka, with tears in her eyes. She was a
"Well, go on, then. Only, DON'T cry; I can't stand that sort of
Woloda's condescension did not please us much. On the contrary,
his lazy, tired expression took away all the fun of the game.
When we sat on the ground and imagined that we were sitting in a
boat and either fishing or rowing with all our might, Woloda
persisted in sitting with folded hands or in anything but a
fisherman's posture. I made a remark about it, but he replied
that, whether we moved our hands or not, we should neither gain
nor lose ground--certainly not advance at all, and I was forced to
agree with him. Again, when I pretended to go out hunting, and,
with a stick over my shoulder, set off into the wood, Woloda only
lay down on his back with his hands under his head, and said that
he supposed it was all the same whether he went or not. Such
behaviour and speeches cooled our ardour for the game and were
very disagreeable--the more so since it was impossible not to
confess to oneself that Woloda was right, I myself knew that it
was not only impossible to kill birds with a stick, but to shoot
at all with such a weapon. Still, it was the game, and if we were
once to begin reasoning thus, it would become equally impossible
for us to go for drives on chairs. I think that even Woloda
himself cannot at that moment have forgotten how, in the long
winter evenings, we had been used to cover an arm-chair with a
shawl and make a carriage of it--one of us being the coachman,
another one the footman, the two girls the passengers, and three
other chairs the trio of horses abreast. With what ceremony we
used to set out, and with what adventures we used to meet on the
way! How gaily and quickly those long winter evenings used to
pass! If we were always to judge from reality, games would be
nonsense; but if games were nonsense, what else would there be
left to do?
A FIRST ESSAY IN LOVE
PRETENDING to gather some "American fruit" from a tree,
Lubotshka suddenly plucked a leaf upon which was a huge
caterpillar, and throwing the insect with horror to the ground,
lifted her hands and sprang away as though afraid it would spit
at her. The game stopped, and we crowded our heads together as we
stooped to look at the curiosity.
I peeped over Katenka's shoulder as she was trying to lift the
caterpillar by placing another leaf in its way. I had observed
before that the girls had a way of shrugging their shoulders
whenever they were trying to put a loose garment straight on
their bare necks, as well as that Mimi always grew angry on
witnessing this manoeuvre and declared it to be a chambermaid's
trick. As Katenka bent over the caterpillar she made that very
movement, while at the same instant the breeze lifted the fichu
on her white neck. Her shoulder was close to my lips, I looked at
it and kissed it, She did not turn round, but Woloda remarked
without raising his head, "What spooniness!" I felt the tears
rising to my eyes, and could not take my gaze from Katenka. I had
long been used to her fair, fresh face, and had always been fond
of her, but now I looked at her more closely, and felt more fond
of her, than I had ever done or felt before.
When we returned to the grown-ups, Papa informed us, to our great
joy, that, at Mamma's entreaties, our departure was to be
postponed until the following morning. We rode home beside the
carriage--Woloda and I galloping near it, and vieing with one
another in our exhibition of horsemanship and daring. My shadow
looked longer now than it had done before, and from that I judged
that I had grown into a fine rider. Yet my complacency was soon
marred by an unfortunate occurrence, Desiring to outdo Woloda
before the audience in the carriage, I dropped a little behind.
Then with whip and spur I urged my steed forward, and at the
same time assumed a natural, graceful attitude, with the intention
of whooting past the carriage on the side on which Katenka was
seated. My only doubt was whether to halloo or not as I did so.
In the event, my infernal horse stopped so abruptly when just
level with the carriage horses that I was pitched forward on
to its neck and cut a very sorry figure!
THE SORT OF MAN MY FATHER WAS
Papa was a gentleman of the last century, with all the chivalrous
character, self-reliance, and gallantry of the youth of that
time. Upon the men of the present day he looked with a contempt
arising partly from inborn pride and partly from a secret feeling
of vexation that, in this age of ours, he could no longer enjoy
the influence and success which had been his in his youth. His
two principal failings were gambling and gallantry, and he had
won or lost, in the course of his career, several millions of
Tall and of imposing figure, he walked with a curiously quick,
mincing gait, as well as had a habit of hitching one of his
shoulders. His eyes were small and perpetually twinkling, his
nose large and aquiline, his lips irregular and rather oddly
(though pleasantly) compressed, his articulation slightly
defective and lisping, and his head quite bald. Such was my
father's exterior from the days of my earliest recollection. It
was an exterior which not only brought him success and made him a
man a bonnes fortunes but one which pleased people of all ranks
and stations. Especially did it please those whom he desired to
At all junctures he knew how to take the lead, for, though not
deriving from the highest circles of society, he had always mixed
with them, and knew how to win their respect. He possessed in the
highest degree that measure of pride and self-confidence which,
without giving offence, maintains a man in the opinion of the
world. He had much originality, as well as the ability to use it
in such a way that it benefited him as much as actual worldly
position or fortune could have done. Nothing in the universe
could surprise him, and though not of eminent attainments in
life, he seemed born to have acquired them. He understood so
perfectly how to make both himself and others forget and keep at
a distance the seamy side of life, with all its petty troubles
and vicissitudes, that it was impossible not to envy him. He was
a connoisseur in everything which could give ease and pleasure,
as well as knew how to make use of such knowledge. Likewise he
prided himself on the brilliant connections which he had formed
through my mother's family or through friends of his youth, and
was secretly jealous of any one of a higher rank than himself--any
one, that is to say, of a rank higher than a retired lieutenant
of the Guards. Moreover, like all ex-officers, he refused to
dress himself in the prevailing fashion, though he attired
himself both originally and artistically--his invariable wear
being light, loose-fitting suits, very fine shirts, and large
collars and cuffs. Everything seemed to suit his upright figure
and quiet, assured air. He was sensitive to the pitch of
sentimentality, and, when reading a pathetic passage, his voice
would begin to tremble and the tears to come into his eyes, until
he had to lay the book aside. Likewise he was fond of music, and
could accompany himself on the piano as he sang the love songs of
his friend A- or gipsy songs or themes from operas; but he had no
love for serious music, and would frankly flout received opinion
by declaring that, whereas Beethoven's sonatas wearied him and
sent him to sleep, his ideal of beauty was "Do not wake me,
youth" as Semenoff sang it, or "Not one" as the gipsy Taninsha
rendered that ditty. His nature was essentially one of those
which follow public opinion concerning what is good, and consider
only that good which the public declares to be so. [It may be
noted that the author has said earlier in the chapter that his
father possessed "much originality."] God only knows whether he
had any moral convictions. His life was so full of amusement that
probably he never had time to form any, and was too successful
ever to feel the lack of them.
As he grew to old age he looked at things always from a fixed
point of view, and cultivated fixed rules--but only so long as
that point or those rules coincided with expediency, The mode of
life which offered some passing degree of interest--that, in his
opinion, was the right one and the only one that men ought to
affect. He had great fluency of argument; and this, I think,
increased the adaptability of his morals and enabled him to speak
of one and the same act, now as good, and now, with abuse, as
IN THE DRAWING-ROOM AND THE STUDY
Twilight had set in when we reached home. Mamma sat down to the
piano, and we to a table, there to paint and draw in colours and
pencil. Though I had only one cake of colour, and it was blue, I
determined to draw a picture of the hunt. In exceedingly vivid
fashion I painted a blue boy on a blue horse, and--but here I
stopped, for I was uncertain whether it was possible also to
paint a blue HARE. I ran to the study to consult Papa, and as he
was busy reading he never lifted his eyes from his book when I
asked, "Can there be blue hares?" but at once replied, "There
can, my boy, there can." Returning to the table I painted in my
blue hare, but subsequently thought it better to change it into a
blue bush. Yet the blue bush did not wholly please me, so I
changed it into a tree, and then into a rick, until, the whole
paper having now become one blur of blue, I tore it angrily in
pieces, and went off to meditate in the large arm-chair.
Mamma was playing Field's second concerto. Field, it may be said,
had been her master. As I dozed, the music brought up before my
imagination a kind of luminosity, with transparent dream-shapes.
Next she played the "Sonate Pathetique" of Beethoven, and I at
once felt heavy, depressed, and apprehensive. Mamma often played
those two pieces, and therefore I well recollect the feelings
they awakened in me. Those feelings were a reminiscence--of what?
Somehow I seemed to remember something which had never been.
Opposite to me lay the study door, and presently I saw Jakoff
enter it, accompanied by several long-bearded men in kaftans.
Then the door shut again.
"Now they are going to begin some business or other," I thought.
I believed the affairs transacted in that study to be the most
important ones on earth. This opinion was confirmed by the fact
that people only approached the door of that room on tiptoe and
speaking in whispers. Presently Papa's resonant voice sounded
within, and I also scented cigar smoke--always a very attractive
thing to me. Next, as I dozed, I suddenly heard a creaking of
boots that I knew, and, sure enough, saw Karl Ivanitch go on
tiptoe, and with a depressed, but resolute, expression on his
face and a written document in his hand, to the study door and
knock softly. It opened, and then shut again behind him.
"I hope nothing is going to happen," I mused. "Karl Ivanitch is
offended, and might be capable of anything--" and again I dozed
Nevertheless something DID happen. An hour later I was disturbed
by the same creaking of boots, and saw Karl come out, and
disappear up the stairs, wiping away a few tears from his cheeks
with his pocket handkerchief as he went and muttering something
between his teeth. Papa came out behind him and turned aside into
"Do you know what I have just decided to do?" he asked gaily as
he laid a hand upon Mamma's shoulder.
"What, my love?"
"To take Karl Ivanitch with the children. There will be room
enough for him in the carriage. They are used to him, and he
seems greatly attached to them. Seven hundred roubles a year
cannot make much difference to us, and the poor devil is not at
all a bad sort of a fellow." I could not understand why Papa
should speak of him so disrespectfully.
"I am delighted," said Mamma, "and as much for the children's
sake as his own. He is a worthy old man."
"I wish you could have seen how moved he was when I told him
that he might look upon the 500 roubles as a present! But the
most amusing thing of all is this bill which he has just handed
me. It is worth seeing," and with a smile Papa gave Mamma a paper
inscribed in Karl's handwriting. "Is it not capital? " he
The contents of the paper were as follows: [The joke of this bill
consists chiefly in its being written in very bad Russian, with
continual mistakes as to plural and singular, prepositions and so
"Two book for the children--70 copeck. Coloured paper, gold
frames, and a pop-guns, blockheads [This word has a double
meaning in Russian.] for cutting out several box for presents--6
roubles, 55 copecks. Several book and a bows, presents for the
childrens--8 roubles, 16 copecks. A gold watches promised to me by
Peter Alexandrovitch out of Moscow, in the years 18-- for 140
roubles. Consequently Karl Mayer have to receive 139 rouble, 79
copecks, beside his wage."
If people were to judge only by this bill (in which Karl Ivanitch
demanded repayment of all the money he had spent on presents, as
well as the value of a present promised to himself), they would
take him to have been a callous, avaricious egotist yet they
would be wrong.
It appears that he had entered the study with the paper in his
hand and a set speech in his head, for the purpose of declaiming
eloquently to Papa on the subject of the wrongs which he believed
himself to have suffered in our house, but that, as soon as ever
he began to speak in the vibratory voice and with the expressive
intonations which he used in dictating to us, his eloquence
wrought upon himself more than upon Papa; with the result that,
when he came to the point where he had to say, "however sad it
will be for me to part with the children," he lost his self-
command utterly, his articulation became choked, and he was
obliged to draw his coloured pocket-handkerchief from his pocket.
"Yes, Peter Alexandrovitch," he said, weeping (this formed no
part of the prepared speech), "I am grown so used to the
children that I cannot think what I should do without them. I
would rather serve you without salary than not at all," and with
one hand he wiped his eyes, while with the other he presented the
Although I am convinced that at that moment Karl Ivanitch was
speaking with absolute sincerity (for I know how good his heart
was), I confess that never to this day have I been able quite to
reconcile his words with the bill.
"Well, if the idea of leaving us grieves you, you may be sure
that the idea of dismissing you grieves me equally," said Papa,
tapping him on the shoulder. Then, after a pause, he added, "But
I have changed my mind, and you shall not leave us."
Just before supper Grisha entered the room. Ever since he had
entered the house that day he had never ceased to sigh and weep--a
portent, according to those who believed in his prophetic powers,
that misfortune was impending for the household. He had now come
to take leave of us, for to-morrow (so he said) he must be moving
on. I nudged Woloda, and we moved towards the door.
"What is the matter?" he said.
"This--that if we want to see Grisha's chains we must go upstairs
at once to the men-servants' rooms. Grisha is to sleep in the
second one, so we can sit in the store-room and see everything."
"All right. Wait here, and I'll tell the girls."
The girls came at once, and we ascended the stairs, though the
question as to which of us should first enter the store-room gave
us some little trouble. Then we cowered down and waited.
WE all felt a little uneasy in the thick darkness, so we pressed
close to one another and said nothing. Before long Grisha arrived
with his soft tread, carrying in one hand his staff and in the
other a tallow candle set in a brass candlestick. We scarcely
ventured to breathe.
"Our Lord Jesus Christ! Holy Mother of God! Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost!" he kept repeating, with the different intonations
and abbreviations which gradually become peculiar to persons who
are accustomed to pronounce the words with great frequency.
Still praying, he placed his staff in a corner and looked at the
bed; after which he began to undress. Unfastening his old black
girdle, he slowly divested himself of his torn nankeen kaftan,
and deposited it carefully on the back of a chair. His face had
now lost its usual disquietude and idiocy. On the contrary, it
had in it something restful, thoughtful, and even grand, while
all his movements were deliberate and intelligent.
Next, he lay down quietly in his shirt on the bed, made the sign
of the cross towards every side of him, and adjusted his chains
beneath his shirt--an operation which, as we could see from his
face, occasioned him considerable pain. Then he sat up again,
looked gravely at his ragged shirt, and rising and taking the
candle, lifted the latter towards the shrine where the images of
the saints stood. That done, he made the sign of the cross again,
and turned the candle upside down, when it went out with a
Through the window (which overlooked the wood) the moon (nearly
full) was shining in such a way that one side of the tall white
figure of the idiot stood out in the pale, silvery moonlight,
while the other side was lost in the dark shadow which covered
the floor, walls, and ceiling. In the courtyard the watchman was
tapping at intervals upon his brass alarm plate. For a while
Grisha stood silently before the images and, with his large hands
pressed to his breast and his head bent forward, gave occasional
sighs. Then with difficulty he knelt down and began to pray.
At first he repeated some well-known prayers, and only accented a
word here and there. Next, he repeated thee same prayers, but
louder and with increased accentuation. Lastly he repeated them
again and with even greater emphasis, as well as with an evident
effort to pronounce them in the old Slavonic Church dialect.
Though disconnected, his prayers were very touching. He prayed
for all his benefactors (so he called every one who had received
him hospitably), with, among them, Mamma and ourselves. Next he
prayed for himself, and besought God to forgive him his sins, at
the same time repeating, "God forgive also my enemies!" Then,
moaning with the effort, he rose from his knees--only to fall to
the floor again and repeat his phrases afresh. At last he
regained his feet, despite the weight of the chains, which
rattled loudly whenever they struck the floor.
Woloda pinched me rudely in the leg, but I took no notice of that
(except that I involuntarily touched the place with my hand), as
I observed with a feeling of childish astonishment, pity, and
respect the words and gestures of Grisha. Instead of the laughter
and amusement which I had expected on entering the store-room, I
felt my heart beating and overcome.
Grisha continued for some time in this state of religious ecstasy
as he improvised prayers and repeated again and yet again, "Lord,
have mercy upon me!" Each time that he said, "Pardon me,
Lord, and teach me to do what Thou wouldst have done," he
pronounced the words with added earnestness and emphasis, as
though he expected an immediate answer to his petition, and then
fell to sobbing and moaning once more. Finally, he went down on
his knees again, folded his arms upon his breast, and remained
silent. I ventured to put my head round the door (holding my
breath as I did so), but Grisha still made no movement except for
the heavy sighs which heaved his breast. In the moonlight I could
see a tear glistening on the white patch of his blind eye.
"Yes, Thy will be done!" he exclaimed suddenly, with an
expression which I cannot describe, as, prostrating himself with
his forehead on the floor, he fell to sobbing like a child.
Much sand has run out since then, many recollections of the past
have faded from my memory or become blurred in indistinct
visions, and poor Grisha himself has long since reached the end
of his pilgrimage; but the impression which he produced upon me,
and the feelings which he aroused in my breast, will never leave
my mind. O truly Christian Grisha, your faith was so strong that
you could feel the actual presence of God; your love so great
that the words fell of themselves from your lips. You had no
reason to prove them, for you did so with your earnest praises of
His majesty as you fell to the ground speechless and in tears!
Nevertheless the sense of awe with which I had listened to Grisha
could not last for ever. I had now satisfied my curiosity, and,
being cramped with sitting in one position so long, desired to
join in the tittering and fun which I could hear going on in the
dark store-room behind me. Some one took my hand and whispered,
"Whose hand is this?" Despite the darkness, I knew by the touch
and the low voice in my ear that it was Katenka. I took her by
the arm, but she withdrew it, and, in doing so, pushed a cane
chair which was standing near. Grisha lifted his head looked
quietly about him, and, muttering a prayer, rose and made the
sign of the cross towards each of the four corners of the room.
In days gone by there used to run about the seignorial courtyard
of the country-house at Chabarovska a girl called Natashka. She
always wore a cotton dress, went barefooted, and was rosy, plump,
and gay. It was at the request and entreaties of her father, the
clarionet player Savi, that my grandfather had "taken her
upstairs"--that is to say, made her one of his wife's female
servants. As chamber-maid, Natashka so distinguished herself by
her zeal and amiable temper that when Mamma arrived as a baby and
required a nurse Natashka was honoured with the charge of her. In
this new office the girl earned still further praises and rewards
for her activity, trustworthiness, and devotion to her young
mistress. Soon, however, the powdered head and buckled shoes of
the young and active footman Foka (who had frequent opportunities
of courting her, since they were in the same service) captivated
her unsophisticated, but loving, heart. At last she ventured to
go and ask my grandfather if she might marry Foka, but her master
took the request in bad part, flew into a passion, and punished
poor Natashka by exiling her to a farm which he owned in a remote
quarter of the Steppes. At length, when she had been gone six
months and nobody could be found to replace her, she was recalled
to her former duties. Returned, and with her dress in rags, she
fell at Grandpapa's feet, and besought him to restore her his
favour and kindness, and to forget the folly of which she had
been guilty--folly which, she assured him, should never recur
again. And she kept her word.
From that time forth she called herself, not Natashka, but
Natalia Savishna, and took to wearing a cap, All the love in her
heart was now bestowed upon her young charge. When Mamma had a
governess appointed for her education, Natalia was awarded the
keys as housekeeper, and henceforth had the linen and provisions
under her care. These new duties she fulfilled with equal
fidelity and zeal. She lived only for her master's advantage.
Everything in which she could detect fraud, extravagance, or
waste she endeavoured to remedy to the best of her power. When
Mamma married and wished in some way to reward Natalia Savishna
for her twenty years of care and labour, she sent for her and,
voicing in the tenderest terms her attachment and love, presented
her with a stamped charter of her (Natalia's) freedom, [It will
be remembered that this was in the days of serfdom] telling her
at the same time that, whether she continued to serve in the
household or not, she should always receive an annual pension Of
300 roubles. Natalia listened in silence to this. Then, taking
the document in her hands and regarding it with a frown, she
muttered something between her teeth, and darted from the room,
slamming the door behind her. Not understanding the reason for
such strange conduct, Mamma followed her presently to her room,
and found her sitting with streaming eyes on her trunk, crushing
her pocket-handkerchief between her fingers, and looking
mournfully at the remains of the document, which was lying torn to
pieces on the floor.
"What is the matter, dear Natalia Savishna?" said Mamma, taking
"Nothing, ma'am," she replied; "only--only I must have
displeased you somehow, since you wish to dismiss me from the
house. Well, I will go."
She withdrew her hand and, with difficulty restraining her tears,
rose to leave the room, but Mamma stopped her, and they wept a
while in one another's arms.
Ever since I can remember anything I can remember Natalia
Savishna and her love and tenderness; yet only now have I learnt
to appreciate them at their full value. In early days it never
occurred to me to think what a rare and wonderful being this old
domestic was. Not only did she never talk, but she seemed never
even to think, of herself. Her whole life was compounded of love
and self-sacrifice. Yet so used was I to her affection and
singleness of heart that I could not picture things otherwise. I
never thought of thanking her, or of asking myself, "Is she also
happy? Is she also contented?" Often on some pretext or another
I would leave my lessons and run to her room, where, sitting
down, I would begin to muse aloud as though she were not there.
She was forever mending something, or tidying the shelves which
lined her room, or marking linen, so that she took no heed of the
nonsense which I talked--how that I meant to become a general, to
marry a beautiful woman, to buy a chestnut horse, to, build
myself a house of glass, to invite Karl Ivanitch's relatives to
come and visit me from Saxony, and so forth; to all of which she
would only reply, "Yes, my love, yes." Then, on my rising, and
preparing to go, she would open a blue trunk which had pasted on
the inside of its lid a coloured picture of a hussar which had
once adorned a pomade bottle and a sketch made by Woloda, and
take from it a fumigation pastille, which she would light and
shake for my benefit, saying:
"These, dear, are the pastilles which your grandfather (now in
Heaven) brought back from Otchakov after fighting against the
Turks." Then she would add with a sigh: "But this is nearly the
The trunks which filled her room seemed to contain almost
everything in the world. Whenever anything was wanted, people
said, "Oh, go and ask Natalia Savishna for it," and, sure
enough, it was seldom that she did not produce the object
required and say, "See what comes of taking care of everything!"
Her trunks contained thousands of things which nobody in the
house but herself would have thought of preserving.
Once I lost my temper with her. This was how it happened.
One day after luncheon I poured myself out a glass of kvass, and
then dropped the decanter, and so stained the tablecloth.
"Go and call Natalia, that she may come and see what her darling
has done," said Mamma.
Natalia arrived, and shook her head at me when she saw the damage
I had done; but Mamma whispered something in her car, threw a
look at myself, and then left the room.
I was just skipping away, in the sprightliest mood possible, when
Natalia darted out upon me from behind the door with the
tablecloth in her hand, and, catching hold of me, rubbed my
face hard with the stained part of it, repeating, "Don't thou go
and spoil tablecloths any more!"
I struggled hard, and roared with temper.
"What?" I said to myself as I fled to the drawing-room in a
mist of tears, "To think that Natalia Savishna-just plain
Natalia-should say 'THOU' to me and rub my face with a wet
tablecloth as though I were a mere servant-boy! It is
Seeing my fury, Natalia departed, while I continued to strut
about and plan how to punish the bold woman for her offence. Yet
not more than a few moments had passed when Natalia returned and,
stealing to my side, began to comfort me,
"Hush, then, my love. Do not cry. Forgive me my rudeness. It was
wrong of me. You WILL pardon me, my darling, will you not? There,
there, that's a dear," and she took from her handkerchief a
cornet of pink paper containing two little cakes and a grape, and
offered it me with a trembling hand. I could not look the kind
old woman in the face, but, turning aside, took the paper, while
my tears flowed the faster--though from love and shame now, not
ON the day after the events described, the carriage and the
luggage-cart drew up to the door at noon. Nicola, dressed for the
journey, with his breeches tucked into his boots and an old
overcoat belted tightly about him with a girdle, got into the
cart and arranged cloaks and cushions on the seats. When he
thought that they were piled high enough he sat down on them, but
finding them still unsatisfactory, jumped up and arranged them
"Nicola Dimitvitch, would you be so good as to take master's
dressing-case with you? " said Papa's valet, suddenly standing up
in the carriage, " It won't take up much room."
"You should have told me before, Michael Ivanitch," answered
Nicola snappishly as he hurled a bundle with all his might to the
floor of the cart. "Good gracious! Why, when my head is going
round like a whirlpool, there you come along with your dressing-
case!" and he lifted his cap to wipe away the drops of
perspiration from his sunburnt brow.
The courtyard was full of bareheaded peasants in kaftans or
simple shirts, women clad in the national dress and wearing
striped handkerchiefs, and barefooted little ones--the latter
holding their mothers' hands or crowding round the entrance-
steps. All were chattering among themselves as they stared at the
carriage. One of the postillions, an old man dressed in a winter
cap and cloak, took hold of the pole of the carriage and tried it
carefully, while the other postillion (a young man in a white
blouse with pink gussets on the sleeves and a black lamb's-wool
cap which he kept cocking first on one side and then on the other
as he arranged his flaxen hair) laid his overcoat upon the box,
slung the reins over it, and cracked his thonged whip as he
looked now at his boots and now at the other drivers where they
stood greasing the wheels of the cart--one driver lifting up each
wheel in turn and the other driver applying the grease. Tired
post-horses of various hues stood lashing away flies with their
tails near the gate--some stamping their great hairy legs,
blinking their eyes, and dozing, some leaning wearily against
their neighbours, and others cropping the leaves and stalks of
dark-green fern which grew near the entrance-steps. Some of the
dogs were lying panting in the sun, while others were slinking
under the vehicles to lick the grease from the wheels. The air
was filled with a sort of dusty mist, and the horizon was lilac-
grey in colour, though no clouds were to be seen, A strong wind
from the south was raising volumes of dust from the roads and
fields, shaking the poplars and birch-trees in the garden, and
whirling their yellow leaves away. I myself was sitting at a
window and waiting impatiently for these various preparations to
come to an end.
As we sat together by the drawing-room table, to pass the last
few moments en famille, it never occurred to me that a sad moment
was impending. On the contrary, the most trivial thoughts were
filling my brain. Which driver was going to drive the carriage
and which the cart? Which of us would sit with Papa, and which
with Karl Ivanitch? Why must I be kept forever muffled up in a
scarf and padded boots?
"Am I so delicate? Am I likely to be frozen?" I thought to
myself. "I wish it would all come to an end, and we could take
our seats and start."
"To whom shall I give the list of the children's linen?" asked
Natalia Savishna of Mamma as she entered the room with a paper in
her hand and her eyes red with weeping.
"Give it to Nicola, and then return to say good-bye to them,"
replied Mamma. The old woman seemed about to say something more,
but suddenly stopped short, covered her face with her
handkerchief, and left the room. Something seemed to prick at my
heart when I saw that gesture of hers, but impatience to be off
soon drowned all other feeling, and I continued to listen
indifferently to Papa and Mamma as they talked together. They
were discussing subjects which evidently interested neither of
them. What must be bought for the house? What would Princess
Sophia or Madame Julie say? Would the roads be good?--and so
Foka entered, and in the same tone and with the same air as
though he were announcing luncheon said, "The carriages are
ready." I saw Mamma tremble and turn pale at the announcement,
just as though it were something unexpected.
Next, Foka was ordered to shut all the doors of the room. This
amused me highly. As though we needed to be concealed from some
one! When every one else was seated, Foka took the last remaining
chair. Scarcely, however, had he done so when the door creaked
and every one looked that way. Natalia Savishna entered hastily,
and, without raising her eyes, sat own on the same chair as
Foka. I can see them before me now-Foka's bald head and wrinkled,
set face, and, beside him, a bent, kind figure in a cap from
beneath which a few grey hairs were straggling. The pair settled
themselves together on the chair, but neither of them looked
I continued preoccupied and impatient. In fact, the ten minutes
during which we sat there with closed doors seemed to me an hour.
At last every one rose, made the sign of the cross, and began to
say good-bye. Papa embraced Mamma, and kissed her again and
"But enough," he said presently. "We are not parting for ever."
"No, but it is-so-so sad! " replied Mamma, her voice trembling
When I heard that faltering voice, and saw those quivering lips
and tear-filled eyes, I forgot everything else in the world. I
felt so ill and miserable that I would gladly have run away
rather than bid her farewell. I felt, too, that when she was
embracing Papa she was embracing us all. She clasped Woloda to
her several times, and made the sign of the cross over him; after
which I approached her, thinking that it was my turn.
Nevertheless she took him again and again to her heart, and
blessed him. Finally I caught hold of her, and, clinging to her,
wept--wept, thinking of nothing in the world but my grief.
As we passed out to take our seats, other servants pressed round
us in the hall to say good-bye. Yet their requests to shake hands
with us, their resounding kisses on our shoulders, [The fashion
in which inferiors salute their superiors in Russia.] and the
odour of their greasy heads only excited in me a feeling akin to
impatience with these tiresome people. The same feeling made me
bestow nothing more than a very cross kiss upon Natalia's cap
when she approached to take leave of me. It is strange that I
should still retain a perfect recollection of these servants'
faces, and be able to draw them with the most minute accuracy in
my mind, while Mamma's face and attitude escape me entirely. It
may be that it is because at that moment I had not the heart to
look at her closely. I felt that if I did so our mutual grief
would burst forth too unrestrainedly.
I was the first to jump into the carriage and to take one of the
hinder seats. The high back of the carriage prevented me from
actually seeing her, yet I knew by instinct that Mamma was still
"Shall I look at her again or not?" I said to myself. "Well,
just for the last time," and I peeped out towards the entrance-
steps. Exactly at that moment Mamma moved by the same impulse,
came to the opposite side of the carriage, and called me by name.
Rearing her voice behind me. I turned round, but so hastily that
our heads knocked together. She gave a sad smile, and kissed me
convulsively for the last time.
When we had driven away a few paces I determined to look at her
once more. The wind was lifting the blue handkerchief from her
head as, bent forward and her face buried in her hands, she moved
slowly up the steps. Foka was supporting her. Papa said nothing
as he sat beside me. I felt breathless with tears--felt a sensation
in my throat as though I were going to choke, just as we came out
on to the open road I saw a white handkerchief waving from the
terrace. I waved mine in return, and the action of so doing
calmed me a little. I still went on crying. but the thought that
my tears were a proof of my affection helped to soothe and
After a little while I began to recover, and to look with
interest at objects which we passed and at the hind-quarters of
the led horse which was trotting on my side. I watched how it
would swish its tail, how it would lift one hoof after the other,
how the driver's thong would fall upon its back, and how all its
legs would then seem to jump together and the back-band, with the
rings on it, to jump too--the whole covered with the horse's foam.
Then I would look at the rolling stretches of ripe corn, at the
dark ploughed fields where ploughs and peasants and horses with
foals were working, at their footprints, and at the box of the
carriage to see who was driving us; until, though my face was
still wet with tears, my thoughts had strayed far from her with
whom I had just parted--parted, perhaps, for ever. Yet ever and
again something would recall her to my memory. I remembered too
how, the evening before, I had found a mushroom under the birch-
trees, how Lubotshka had quarrelled with Katenka as to whose it
should be, and how they had both of them wept when taking leave
of us. I felt sorry to be parted from them, and from Natalia
Savishna, and from the birch-tree avenue, and from Foka. Yes,
even the horrid Mimi I longed for. I longed for everything at
home. And poor Mamma!--The tears rushed to my eyes again. Yet even
this mood passed away before long.
HAPPY, happy, never-returning time of childhood! How can we help
loving and dwelling upon its recollections? They cheer and
elevate the soul, and become to one a source of higher
Sometimes, when dreaming of bygone days, I fancy that, tired out
with running about, I have sat down, as of old, in my high arm-
chair by the tea-table. It is late, and I have long since drunk
my cup of milk. My eyes are heavy with sleep as I sit there and
listen. How could I not listen, seeing that Mamma is speaking to
somebody, and that the sound of her voice is so melodious and
kind? How much its echoes recall to my heart! With my eyes veiled
with drowsiness I gaze at her wistfully. Suddenly she seems to
grow smaller and smaller, and her face vanishes to a point; yet I
can still see it--can still see her as she looks at me and smiles.
Somehow it pleases me to see her grown so small. I blink and
blink, yet she looks no larger than a boy reflected in the pupil
of an eye. Then I rouse myself, and the picture fades. Once more
I half-close my eyes, and cast about to try and recall the dream,
but it has gone,
I rise to my feet, only to fall back comfortably into the
"There! You are failing asleep again, little Nicolas," says
Mamma. "You had better go to by-by."
"No, I won't go to sleep, Mamma," I reply, though almost
inaudibly, for pleasant dreams are filling all my soul. The sound
sleep of childhood is weighing my eyelids down, and for a few
moments I sink into slumber and oblivion until awakened by some
one. I feel in my sleep as though a soft hand were caressing me.
I know it by the touch, and, though still dreaming, I seize hold
of it and press it to my lips. Every one else has gone to bed,
and only one candle remains burning in the drawing-room. Mamma
has said that she herself will wake me. She sits down on the arm
of the chair in which I am asleep, with her soft hand stroking my
hair, and I hear her beloved, well-known voice say in my ear:
"Get up, my darling. It is time to go by-by."
No envious gaze sees her now. She is not afraid to shed upon me
the whole of her tenderness and love. I do not wake up, yet I
kiss and kiss her hand.
"Get up, then, my angel."
She passes her other arm round my neck, and her fingers tickle me
as they move across it. The room is quiet and in half-darkness,
but the tickling has touched my nerves and I begin to awake.
Mamma is sitting near me--that I can tell--and touching me; I can
hear her voice and feel her presence. This at last rouses me to
spring up, to throw my arms around her neck, to hide my head in
her bosom, and to say with a sigh:
"Ah, dear, darling Mamma, how much I love you!"
She smiles her sad, enchanting smile, takes my head between her
two hands, kisses me on the forehead, and lifts me on to her lap.
"Do you love me so much, then?" she says. Then, after a few
moments' silence, she continues: "And you must love me always,
and never forget me. If your Mamma should no longer be here, will
you promise never to forget her--never, Nicolinka? and she kisses
me more fondly than ever.
"Oh, but you must not speak so, darling Mamma, my own darling
Mamma!" I exclaim as I clasp her knees, and tears of joy and
love fall from my eyes.
How, after scenes like this, I would go upstairs, and stand
before the ikons, and say with a rapturous feeling, "God bless
Papa and Mamma!" and repeat a prayer for my beloved mother which
my childish lips had learnt to lisp-the love of God and of her
blending strangely in a single emotion!
After saying my prayers I would wrap myself up in the bedclothes.
My heart would feel light, peaceful, and happy, and one dream
would follow another. Dreams of what? They were all of them
vague, but all of them full of pure love and of a sort of
expectation of happiness. I remember, too, that I used to think
about Karl Ivanitch and his sad lot. He was the only unhappy
being whom I knew, and so sorry would I feel for him, and so much
did I love him, that tears would fall from my eyes as I thought,
"May God give him happiness, and enable me to help him and to
lessen his sorrow. I could make any sacrifice for him!" Usually,
also, there would be some favourite toy--a china dog or hare--
stuck into the bed-corner behind the pillow, and it would please
me to think how warm and comfortable and well cared-for it was
there. Also, I would pray God to make every one happy, so that
every one might be contented, and also to send fine weather to-
morrow for our walk. Then I would turn myself over on to the
other side, and thoughts and dreams would become jumbled and
entangled together until at last I slept soundly and peacefully,
though with a face wet with tears.
Do in after life the freshness and light-heartedness, the craving
for love and for strength of faith, ever return which we
experience in our childhood's years? What better time is there in
our lives than when the two best of virtues--innocent gaiety and a
boundless yearning for affection--are our sole objects of pursuit?
Where now are our ardent prayers? Where now are our best gifts--
the pure tears of emotion which a guardian angel dries with a
smile as he sheds upon us lovely dreams of ineffable childish
joy? Can it be that life has left such heavy traces upon one's
heart that those tears and ecstasies are for ever vanished? Can
it be that there remains to us only the recollection of them?
RATHER less than a month after our arrival in Moscow I was
sitting upstairs in my Grandmamma's house and doing some writing
at a large table. Opposite to me sat the drawing master, who was
giving a few finishing touches to the head of a turbaned Turk,
executed in black pencil. Woloda, with out-stretched neck, was
standing behind the drawing master and looking over his shoulder.
The head was Woloda's first production in pencil and to-day--
Grandmamma's name-day--the masterpiece was to be presented to her.
"Aren't you going to put a little more shadow there? " said
Woloda to the master as he raised himself on tiptoe and pointed
to the Turk's neck.
"No, it is not necessary," the master replied as he put pencil
and drawing-pen into a japanned folding box. "It is just right
now, and you need not do anything more to it. As for you,
Nicolinka " he added, rising and glancing askew at the Turk,
"won't you tell us your great secret at last? What are you going
to give your Grandmamma? I think another head would be your best
gift. But good-bye, gentlemen," and taking his hat and cardboard
I too had thought that another head than the one at which I had
been working would be a better gift; so, when we were told that
Grandmamma's name-day was soon to come round and that we must
each of us have a present ready for her, I had taken it into my
head to write some verses in honour of the occasion, and had
forthwith composed two rhymed couplets, hoping that the rest
would soon materialise. I really do not know how the idea--one so
peculiar for a child--came to occur to me, but I know that I liked
it vastly, and answered all questions on the subject of my gift
by declaring that I should soon have something ready for
Grandmamma, but was not going to say what it was.
Contrary to my expectation, I found that, after the first two
couplets executed in the initial heat of enthusiasm, even my most
strenuous efforts refused to produce another one. I began to read
different poems in our books, but neither Dimitrieff nor
Derzhavin could help me. On the contrary, they only confirmed my
sense of incompetence. Knowing, however, that Karl Ivanitch was
fond of writing verses, I stole softly upstairs to burrow among
his papers, and found, among a number of German verses, some in
the Russian language which seemed to have come from his own pen.
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