Part 2 out of 3
To-day be faithful, and for ever--
Aye, still beyond the grave--remember
That I have well loved thee.
These verses (which were written in a fine, round hand on thin
letter-paper) pleased me with the touching sentiment with which
they seemed to be inspired. I learnt them by heart, and decided
to take them as a model. The thing was much easier now. By the
time the name-day had arrived I had completed a twelve-couplet
congratulatory ode, and sat down to the table in our school-room
to copy them out on vellum.
Two sheets were soon spoiled--not because I found it necessary to
alter anything (the verses seemed to me perfect), but because,
after the third line, the tail-end of each successive one would
go curving upward and making it plain to all the world that the
whole thing had been written with a want of adherence to the
horizontal--a thing which I could not bear to see.
The third sheet also came out crooked, but I determined to make
it do. In my verses I congratulated Grandmamma, wished her many
happy returns, and concluded thus:
Endeavouring you to please and cheer,
We love you like our Mother dear."
This seemed to me not bad, yet it offended my car somehow.
"Lo-ve you li-ike our Mo-ther dear," I repeated to myself. "What
other rhyme could I use instead of 'dear'? Fear? Steer? Well, it
must go at that. At least the verses are better than Karl
Accordingly I added the last verse to the rest. Then I went into
our bedroom and recited the whole poem aloud with much feeling
and gesticulation. The verses were altogether guiltless of metre,
but I did not stop to consider that. Yet the last one displeased
me more than ever. As I sat on my bed I thought:
"Why on earth did I write 'like our Mother dear'? She is not
here, and therefore she need never have been mentioned. True, I
love and respect Grandmamma, but she is not quite the same as--
Why DID I write that? What did I go and tell a lie for? They may
be verses only, yet I needn't quite have done that."
At that moment the tailor arrived with some new clothes for us.
"Well, so be it!" I said in much vexation as I crammed the
verses hastily under my pillow and ran down to adorn myself in
the new Moscow garments.
They fitted marvellously-both the brown jacket with yellow
buttons (a garment made skin-tight and not "to allow room for
growth," as in the country) and the black trousers (also close-
fitting so that they displayed the figure and lay smoothly over
"At last I have real trousers on!" I thought as I looked at my
legs with the utmost satisfaction. I concealed from every one the
fact that the new clothes were horribly tight and uncomfortable,
but, on the contrary, said that, if there were a fault, it was
that they were not tight enough. For a long while I stood before
the looking-glass as I combed my elaborately pomaded head, but,
try as I would, I could not reduce the topmost hairs on the crown
to order. As soon as ever I left off combing them, they sprang up
again and radiated in different directions, thus giving my face
a ridiculous expression.
Karl Ivanitch was dressing in another room, and I heard some one
bring him his blue frockcoat and under-linen. Then at the door
leading downstairs I heard a maid-servant's voice, and went to
see what she wanted. In her hand she held a well-starched shirt
which she said she had been sitting up all night to get ready. I
took it, and asked if Grandmamma was up yet.
"Oh yes, she has had her coffee, and the priest has come. My
word, but you look a fine little fellow! " added the girl with a
smile at my new clothes.
This observation made me blush, so I whirled round on one leg,
snapped my fingers, and went skipping away, in the hope that by
these manoeuvres I should make her sensible that even yet she had
not realised quite what a fine fellow I was.
However, when I took the shirt to Karl I found that he did not
need it, having taken another one. Standing before a small
looking-glass, he tied his cravat with both hands--trying, by
various motions of his head, to see whether it fitted him
comfortably or not--and then took us down to see Grandmamma. To
this day I cannot help laughing when I remember what a smell of
pomade the three of us left behind us on the staircase as we
Karl was carrying a box which he had made himself, Woloda, his
drawing, and I my verses, while each of us also had a form of
words ready with which to present his gift. Just as Karl opened
the door, the priest put on his vestment and began to say
During the ceremony Grandmamma stood leaning over the back of a
chair, with her head bent down. Near her stood Papa. He turned
and smiled at us as we hurriedly thrust our presents behind our
backs and tried to remain unobserved by the door. The whole
effect of a surprise, upon which we had been counting, was
entirely lost. When at last every one had made the sign of the
cross I became intolerably oppressed with a sudden, invincible,
and deadly attack of shyness, so that the courage to, offer my
present completely failed me. I hid myself behind Karl Ivanitch,
who solemnly congratulated Grandmamma and, transferring his box
from his right hand to his left, presented it to her. Then he
withdrew a few steps to make way for Woloda. Grandmamma seemed
highly pleased with the box (which was adorned with a gold
border), and smiled in the most friendly manner in order to
express her gratitude. Yet it was evident that, she did not know
where to set the box down, and this probably accounts for the
fact that she handed it to Papa, at the same time bidding him
observe how beautifully it was made.
His curiosity satisfied, Papa handed the box to the priest, who
also seemed particularly delighted with it, and looked with
astonishment, first at the article itself, and then at the artist
who could make such wonderful things. Then Woloda presented his
Turk, and received a similarly flattering ovation on all sides.
It was my turn now, and Grandmamma turned to me with her kindest
smile. Those who have experienced what embarrassment is know that
it is a feeling which grows in direct proportion to delay, while
decision decreases in similar measure. In other words the longer
the condition lasts, the more invincible does it become, and the
smaller does the power of decision come to be.
My last remnants of nerve and energy had forsaken me while Karl
and Woloda had been offering their presents, and my shyness now
reached its culminating point, I felt the blood rushing from my
heart to my head, one blush succeeding another across my face,
and drops of perspiration beginning to stand out on my brow and
nose. My ears were burning, I trembled from head to foot, and,
though I kept changing from one foot to the other, I remained
rooted where I stood.
"Well, Nicolinka, tell us what you have brought?" said Papa.
"Is it a box or a drawing? "
There was nothing else to be done. With a trembling hand held out
the folded, fatal paper, but my voiced failed me completely and I
stood before Grandmamma in silence. I could not get rid of the
dreadful idea that, instead of a display of the expected drawing,
some bad verses of mine were about to be read aloud before every
one, and that the words "our Mother dear " would clearly prove
that I had never loved, but had only forgotten, her. How shall I
express my sufferings when Grandmamma began to read my poetry
aloud?--when, unable to decipher it, she stopped half-way and
looked at Papa with a smile (which I took to be one of
ridicule)?--when she did not pronounce it as I had meant it to be
pronounced?--and when her weak sight not allowing her to finish
it, she handed the paper to Papa and requested him to read it all
over again from the beginning? I fancied that she must have done
this last because she did not like to read such a lot of stupid,
crookedly written stuff herself, yet wanted to point out to Papa
my utter lack of feeling. I expected him to slap me in the face
with the verses and say, "You bad boy! So you have forgotten
your Mamma! Take that for it!" Yet nothing of the sort happened.
On the contrary, when the whole had been read, Grandmamma said,
"Charming!" and kissed me on the forehead. Then our presents,
together with two cambric pocket-handkerchiefs and a snuff-box
engraved with Mamma's portrait, were laid on the table
attached to the great Voltairian arm-chair in which Grandmamma
"The Princess Barbara Ilinitsha!" announced one of the two
footmen who used to stand behind Grandmamma's carriage, but
Grandmamma was looking thoughtfully at the portrait on the snuff-
box, and returned no answer.
"Shall I show her in, madam?" repeated the footman.
THE PRINCESS KORNAKOFF
"Yes, show her in," said Grandmamma, settling herself as far back
in her arm-chair as possible. The Princess was a woman of about
forty-five, small and delicate, with a shrivelled skin and
disagreeable, greyish-green eyes, the expression of which
contradicted the unnaturally suave look of the rest of her face.
Underneath her velvet bonnet, adorned with an ostrich feather,
was visible some reddish hair, while against the unhealthy colour
of her skin her eyebrows and eyelashes looked even lighter and
redder that they would other wise have done. Yet, for all that,
her animated movements, small hands, and peculiarly dry features
communicated something aristocratic and energetic to her general
appearance. She talked a great deal, and, to judge from her
eloquence, belonged to that class of persons who always speak as
though some one were contradicting them, even though no one else
may be saying a word. First she would raise her voice, then lower
it and then take on a fresh access of vivacity as she looked at
the persons present, but not participating in the conversation,
with an air of endeavouring to draw them into it.
Although the Princess kissed Grandmamma's hand and repeatedly
called her "my good Aunt," I could see that Grandmamma did not
care much about her, for she kept raising her eyebrows in a
peculiar way while listening to the Princess's excuses why
Prince Michael had been prevented from calling, and
congratulating Grandmamma "as he would like so-much to have
done." At length, however, she answered the Princess's French
with Russian, and with a sharp accentuation of certain words.
"I am much obliged to you for your kindness," she said. "As for
Prince Michael's absence, pray do not mention it. He has so much
else to do. Besides, what pleasure could he find in coming to see
an old woman like me?" Then, without allowing the Princess time
to reply, she went on: "How are your children my dear?"
"Well, thank God, Aunt, they grow and do their lessons and play--
particularly my eldest one, Etienne, who is so wild that it is
almost impossible to keep him in order. Still, he is a clever and
promising boy. Would you believe it, cousin" this last to Papa,
since Grandmamma altogether uninterested in the Princess's
children, had turned to us, taken my verses out from beneath the
presentation box, and unfolded them again), "would you believe
it, but one day not long ago--" and leaning over towards Papa, the
Princess related something or other with great vivacity. Then,
her tale concluded, she laughed, and, with a questioning look at
Papa, went on:
"What a boy, cousin! He ought to have been whipped, but the
trick was so spirited and amusing that I let him off." Then the
Princess looked at Grandmamma and laughed again.
"Ah! So you WHIP your children, do you" said Grandmamma, with a
significant lift of her eyebrows, and laying a peculiar stress on
the word "WHIP."
"Alas, my good Aunt," replied the Princess in a sort of tolerant
tone and with another glance at Papa, "I know your views on the
subject, but must beg to be allowed to differ with them. However
much I have thought over and read and talked about the matter, I
have always been forced to come to the conclusion that children
must be ruled through FEAR. To make something of a child, you
must make it FEAR something. Is it not so, cousin? And what,
pray, do children fear so much as a rod?"
As she spoke she seemed, to look inquiringly at Woloda and
myself, and I confess that I did not feel altogether comfortable.
"Whatever you may say," she went on, "a boy of twelve, or even
of fourteen, is still a child and should be whipped as such; but
with girls, perhaps, it is another matter."
"How lucky it is that I am not her son!" I thought to myself.
"Oh, very well," said Grandmamma, folding up my verses and
replacing them beneath the box (as though, after that exposition
of views, the Princess was unworthy of the honour of listening to
such a production). "Very well, my dear," she repeated "But
please tell me how, in return, you can look for any delicate
sensibility from your children?"
Evidently Grandmamma thought this argument unanswerable, for she
cut the subject short by adding:
"However, it is a point on which people must follow their own
The Princess did not choose to reply, but smiled condescendingly,
and as though out of indulgence to the strange prejudices of a person
whom she only PRETENDED to revere.
"Oh, by the way, pray introduce me to your young people," she
went on presently as she threw us another gracious smile.
Thereupon we rose and stood looking at the Princess, without in
the least knowing what we ought to do to show that we were being
"Kiss the Princess's hand," said Papa.
"Well, I hope you will love your old aunt," she said to Woloda,
kissing his hair, "even though we are not near relatives. But I
value friendship far more than I do degrees of relationship," she
added to Grandmamma, who nevertheless, remained hostile, and
"Eh, my dear? Is that what they think of relationships nowadays?"
"Here is my man of the world," put in Papa, indicating Woloda;
"and here is my poet," he added as I kissed the small, dry hand of
the Princess, with a vivid picture in my mind of that same hand
holding a rod and applying it vigorously.
"WHICH one is the poet?" asked the Princess.
"This little one," replied Papa, smiling; "the one with the
tuft of hair on his top-knot."
"Why need he bother about my tuft?" I thought to myself as I
retired into a corner. "Is there nothing else for him to talk
I had strange ideas on manly beauty. I considered Karl Ivanitch
one of the handsomest men in the world, and myself so ugly that I
had no need to deceive myself on that point. Therefore any remark
on the subject of my exterior offended me extremely. I well
remember how, one day after luncheon (I was then six years of
age), the talk fell upon my personal appearance, and how Mamma
tried to find good features in my face, and said that I had
clever eyes and a charming smile; how, nevertheless, when Papa
had examined me, and proved the contrary, she was obliged to
confess that I was ugly; and how, when the meal was over and I
went to pay her my respects, she said as she patted my cheek;
"You know, Nicolinka, nobody will ever love you for your face
alone, so you must try all the more to be a good and clever boy."
Although these words of hers confirmed in me my conviction that I
was not handsome, they also confirmed in me an ambition to be
just such a boy as she had indicated. Yet I had my moments of
despair at my ugliness, for I thought that no human being with
such a large nose, such thick lips, and such small grey eyes as
mine could ever hope to attain happiness on this earth. I used to
ask God to perform a miracle by changing me into a beauty, and
would have given all that I possessed, or ever hoped to possess,
to have a handsome face,
PRINCE IVAN IVANOVITCH
When the Princess had heard my verses and overwhelmed the writer
of them with praise, Grandmamma softened to her a little. She
began to address her in French and to cease calling her "my
dear." Likewise she invited her to return that evening with her
children. This invitation having been accepted, the Princess took
her leave. After that, so many other callers came to congratulate
Grandmamma that the courtyard was crowded all day long with
"Good morning, my dear cousin," was the greeting of one guest in
particular as he entered the room and kissed Grandmamma's hand,
He was a man of seventy, with a stately figure clad in a
military uniform and adorned with large epaulettes, an
embroidered collar, and a white cross round the neck. His face,
with its quiet and open expression, as well as the simplicity and
ease of his manners, greatly pleased me, for, in spite of the
thin half-circle of hair which was all that was now left to him,
and the want of teeth disclosed by the set of his upper lip, his
face was a remarkably handsome one.
Thanks to his fine character, handsome exterior, remarkable
valour, influential relatives, and, above all, good fortune,
Prince, Ivan Ivanovitch had early made himself a career. As that
career progressed, his ambition had met with a success which left
nothing more to be sought for in that direction. From his
earliest youth upward he had prepared himself to fill the exalted
station in the world to which fate actually called him later;
wherefore, although in his prosperous life (as in the lives of
all) there had been failures, misfortunes, and cares, he had
never lost his quietness of character, his elevated tone of
thought, or his peculiarly moral, religious bent of mind.
Consequently, though he had won the universal esteem of his
fellows, he had done so less through his important position than
through his perseverance and integrity. While not of specially
distinguished intellect, the eminence of his station (whence he
could afford to look down upon all petty questions) had caused
him to adopt high points of view. Though in reality he was kind
and sympathetic, in manner he appeared cold and haughty--probably
for the reason that he had forever to be on his guard against the
endless claims and petitions of people who wished to profit
through his influence. Yet even then his coldness was mitigated
by the polite condescension of a man well accustomed to move in
the highest circles of society. Well-educated, his culture was
that of a youth of the end of the last century. He had read
everything, whether philosophy or belles lettres, which that age
had produced in France, and loved to quote from Racine,
Corneille, Boileau, Moliere, Montaigne, and Fenelon. Likewise he
had gleaned much history from Segur, and much of the old classics
from French translations of them; but for mathematics, natural
philosophy, or contemporary literature he cared nothing whatever.
However, he knew how to be silent in conversation, as well as
when to make general remarks on authors whom he had never read--
such as Goethe, Schiller, and Byron. Moreover, despite his
exclusively French education, he was simple in speech and hated
originality (which he called the mark of an untutored nature).
Wherever he lived, society was a necessity to him, and, both in
Moscow and the country he had his reception days, on which
practically "all the town" called upon him. An introduction
from him was a passport to every drawing-room; few young and
pretty ladies in society objected to offering him their rosy
cheeks for a paternal salute; and people even in the highest
positions felt flattered by invitations to his parties.
The Prince had few friends left now like Grandmamma--that is to
say, few friends who were of the same standing as himself, who
had had the same sort of education, and who saw things from the
same point of view: wherefore he greatly valued his intimate,
long-standing friendship with her, and always showed her the
I hardly dared to look at the Prince, since the honour paid him
on all sides, the huge epaulettes, the peculiar pleasure with
which Grandmamma received him, and the fact that he alone, seemed
in no way afraid of her, but addressed her with perfect freedom
(even being so daring as to call her "cousin"), awakened in me
a feeling of reverence for his person almost equal to that which
I felt for Grandmamma herself.
On being shown my verses, he called me to his side, and said:
"Who knows, my cousin, but that he may prove to be a second
Derzhavin?" Nevertheless he pinched my cheek so hard that I was
only prevented from crying by the thought that it must be meant
for a caress.
Gradually the other guests dispersed, and with them Papa and
Woloda. Thus only Grandmamma, the Prince, and myself were left in
"Why has our dear Natalia Nicolaevna not come to-day" asked the
Prince after a silence.
"Ah, my friend," replied Grandmamma, lowering her voice and
laying a hand upon the sleeve of his uniform, "she would
certainly have come if she had been at liberty to do what she
likes. She wrote to me that Peter had proposed bringing her with
him to town, but that she had refused, since their income had not
been good this year, and she could see no real reason why the
whole family need come to Moscow, seeing that Lubotshka was as
yet very young and that the boys were living with me--a fact, she
said, which made her feel as safe about them as
though she had been living with them herself."
"True, it is good for the boys to be here," went on Grandmamma,
yet in a tone which showed clearly that she did not think it was
so very good, "since it was more than time that they should be
sent to Moscow to study, as well as to learn how to comport
themselves in society. What sort of an education could they have
got in the country? The eldest boy will soon be thirteen, and the
second one eleven. As yet, my cousin, they are quite untaught,
and do not know even how to enter a room."
"Nevertheless" said the Prince, "I cannot understand these
complaints of ruined fortunes. He has a very handsome income, and
Natalia has Chabarovska, where we used to act plays, and which I
know as well as I do my own hand. It is a splendid property, and
ought to bring in an excellent return."
"Well," said Grandmamma with a sad expression on her face, "I do
not mind telling you, as my most intimate friend, that all this
seems to me a mere pretext on his part for living alone, for
strolling about from club to club, for attending dinner-parties,
and for resorting to--well, who knows what? She suspects nothing;
you know her angelic sweetness and her implicit trust of him in
everything. He had only to tell her that the children must go to
Moscow and that she must be left behind in the country with a
stupid governess for company, for her to believe him! I almost
think that if he were to say that the children must be whipped
just as the Princess Barbara whips hers, she would believe even
that!" and Grandmamma leant back in her arm-chair with an
expression of contempt. Then, after a moment of silence, during
which she took her handkerchief out of her pocket to wipe away a
few tears which had stolen down her cheeks, she went, on:
"Yes, my friend, I often think that he cannot value and
understand her properly, and that, for all her goodness and love
of him and her endeavours to conceal her grief (which, however as
I know only too well, exists). She cannot really he happy with
him. Mark my words if he does not--" Here Grandmamma buried her
face in the handkerchief.
"Ah, my dear old friend," said the Prince reproachfully. "I think
you are unreasonable. Why grieve and weep over imagined evils?
That is not right. I have known him a long time, and feel sure
that he is an attentive, kind, and excellent husband, as well as
(which is the chief thing of all) a perfectly honourable man."
At this point, having been an involuntary auditor of a
conversation not meant for my ears, I stole on tiptoe out of the
room, in a state of great distress.
"Woloda, Woloda! The Iwins are just coming." I shouted on seeing
from the window three boys in blue overcoats, and followed by a
young tutor, advancing along the pavement opposite our house.
The Iwins were related to us, and of about the same age as
ourselves. We had made their acquaintance soon after our arrival
in Moscow. The second brother, Seriosha, had dark curly hair, a
turned-up, strongly pronounced nose, very bright red lips (which,
never being quite shut, showed a row of white teeth), beautiful
dark-blue eyes, and an uncommonly bold expression of face. He
never smiled but was either wholly serious or laughing a clear,
merry, agreeable laugh. His striking good looks had captivated me
from the first, and I felt an irresistible attraction towards
him. Only to see him filled me with pleasure, and at one time my
whole mental faculties used to be concentrated in the wish that I
might do so. If three or four days passed without my seeing him I
felt listless and ready to cry. Awake or asleep, I was forever
dreaming of him. On going to bed I used to see him in my dreams,
and when I had shut my eyes and called up a picture of him I
hugged the vision as my choicest delight. So much store did I set
upon this feeling for my friend that I never mentioned it to any
one. Nevertheless, it must have annoyed him to see my admiring
eyes constantly fixed upon him, or else he must have felt no
reciprocal attraction, for he always preferred to play and talk
with Woloda. Still, even with that I felt satisfied, and wished
and asked for nothing better than to be ready at any time to make
any sacrifice for him. Likewise, over and above the strange
fascination which he exercised upon me, I always felt another
sensation, namely, a dread of making him angry, of offending him,
of displeasing him. Was this because his face bore such a haughty
expression, or because I, despising my own exterior, over-rated
the beautiful in others, or, lastly (and most probably), because
it is a common sign of affection? At all events, I felt as much
fear, of him as I did love. The first time that he spoke to me I
was so overwhelmed with sudden happiness that I turned pale, then
red, and could not utter a word. He had an ugly habit of blinking
when considering anything seriously, as well as of twitching his
nose and eyebrows. Consequently every one thought that this habit
marred his face. Yet I thought it such a nice one that I
involuntarily adopted it for myself, until, a few days after I
had made his acquaintance, Grandmamma suddenly asked me whether
my eyes were hurting me, since I was winking like an owl! Never a
word of affection passed between us, yet he felt his power over
me, and unconsciously but tyrannically, exercised it in all our
childish intercourse. I used to long to tell him all that was in
my heart, yet was too much afraid of him to be frank in any way,
and, while submitting myself to his will, tried to appear merely
careless and indifferent. Although at times his influence seemed
irksome and intolerable, to throw it off was beyond my strength.
I often think with regret of that fresh, beautiful feeling of
boundless, disinterested love which came to an end without having
ever found self-expression or return. It is strange how, when a
child, I always longed to be like grown-up people, and yet how I
have often longed, since childhood's days, for those days to come
back to me! Many times, in my relations with Seriosha, this wish
to resemble grown-up people put a rude check upon the love that
was waiting to expand, and made me repress it. Not only was I
afraid of kissing him, or of taking his hand and saying how glad
I was to see him, but I even dreaded calling him "Seriosha" and
always said "Sergius" as every one else did in our house. Any
expression of affection would have seemed like evidence of
childishness, and any one who indulged in it, a baby. Not having
yet passed through those bitter experiences which enforce upon
older years circumspection and coldness, I deprived myself of the
pure delight of a fresh, childish instinct for the absurd purpose
of trying to resemble grown-up people.
I met the Iwins in the ante-room, welcomed them, and then ran to
tell Grandmamma of their arrival with an expression as happy as
though she were certain to be equally delighted. Then, never
taking my eyes off Seriosha, I conducted the visitors to the
drawing-room, and eagerly followed every movement of my
favourite. When Grandmamma spoke to and fixed her penetrating
glance upon him, I experienced that mingled sensation of pride
and solicitude which an artist might feel when waiting for
revered lips to pronounce a judgment upon his work.
With Grandmamma's permission, the Iwins' young tutor, Herr Frost,
accompanied us into the little back garden, where he seated
himself upon a bench, arranged his legs in a tasteful attitude,
rested his brass-knobbed cane between them, lighted a cigar, and
assumed the air of a man well-pleased with himself. He was a,
German, but of a very different sort to our good Karl Ivanitch.
In the first place, he spoke both Russian and French correctly,
though with a hard accent Indeed, he enjoyed--especially among the
ladies--the reputation of being a very accomplished fellow. In the
second place, he wore a reddish moustache, a large gold pin set
with a ruby, a black satin tie, and a very fashionable suit.
Lastly, he was young, with a handsome, self-satisfied face and
fine muscular legs. It was clear that he set the greatest store
upon the latter, and thought them beyond compare, especially as
regards the favour of the ladies. Consequently, whether sitting
or standing, he always tried to exhibit them in the most
favourable light. In short, he was a type of the young German-
Russian whose main desire is to be thought perfectly gallant and
In the little garden merriment reigned. In fact, the game of
"robbers" never went better. Yet an incident occurred which came
near to spoiling it. Seriosha was the robber, and in pouncing
upon some travellers he fell down and knocked his leg so badly
against a tree that I thought the leg must be broken.
Consequently, though I was the gendarme and therefore bound to
apprehend him, I only asked him anxiously, when I reached him, if
he had hurt himself very much. Nevertheless this threw him into a
passion, and made him exclaim with fists clenched and in a voice
which showed by its faltering what pain he was enduring, "Why,
whatever is the matter? Is this playing the game properly? You
ought to arrest me. Why on earth don't you do so?" This he
repeated several times, and then, seeing Woloda and the elder
Iwin (who were taking the part of the travellers) jumping and
running about the path, he suddenly threw himself upon them with
a shout and loud laughter to effect their capture. I cannot
express my wonder and delight at this valiant behaviour of my
hero. In spite of the severe pain, he had not only refrained from
crying, but had repressed the least symptom of suffering and kept
his eye fixed upon the game! Shortly after this occurrence
another boy, Ilinka Grap, joined our party. We went upstairs, and
Seriosha gave me an opportunity of still further appreciating and
taking delight in his manly bravery and fortitude. This was how
Ilinka was the son of a poor foreigner who had been under certain
obligations to my Grandpapa, and now thought it incumbent upon
him to send his son to us as frequently as possible. Yet if he
thought that the acquaintance would procure his son any
advancement or pleasure, he was entirely mistaken, for not only
were we anything but friendly to Ilinka, but it was seldom that
we noticed him at all except to laugh at him. He was a boy of
thirteen, tall and thin, with a pale, birdlike face, and a quiet,
good-tempered expression. Though poorly dressed, he always had
his head so thickly pomaded that we used to declare that on warm
days it melted and ran down his neck. When I think of him now, it
seems to me that he was a very quiet, obliging, and good-
tempered boy, but at the time I thought him a creature so
contemptible that he was not worth either attention or pity.
Upstairs we set ourselves to astonish each other with gymnastic
tours de force. Ilinka watched us with a faint smile of
admiration, but refused an invitation to attempt a similar feat,
saying that he had no strength.
Seriosha was extremely captivating. His face and eyes glowed with
laughter as he surprised us with tricks which we had never seen
before. He jumped over three chairs put together, turned
somersaults right across the room, and finally stood on his head
on a pyramid of Tatistchev's dictionaries, moving his legs about
with such comical rapidity that it was impossible not to help
bursting with merriment.
After this last trick he pondered for a moment (blinking his
eyes as usual), and then went up to Ilinka with a very serious
"Try and do that," he said. "It is not really difficult."
Ilinka, observing that the general attention was fixed upon him,
blushed, and said in an almost inaudible voice that he could not
do the feat.
"Well, what does he mean by doing nothing at all? What a girl
the fellow is! He has just GOT to stand on his head," and
Seriosha, took him by the hand.
"Yes, on your head at once! This instant, this instant!" every
one shouted as we ran upon Ilinka and dragged him to the
dictionaries, despite his being visibly pale and frightened.
"Leave me alone! You are tearing my jacket!" cried the unhappy
victim, but his exclamations of despair only encouraged us the
more. We were dying with laughter, while the green jacket was
bursting at every seam.
Woloda and the eldest Iwin took his head and placed it on the
dictionaries, while Seriosha, and I seized his poor, thin legs
(his struggles had stripped them upwards to the knees), and with
boisterous, laughter held them uptight--the youngest Iwin
superintending his general equilibrium.
Suddenly a moment of silence occurred amid our boisterous
laughter--a moment during which nothing was to be heard in the
room but the panting of the miserable Ilinka. It occurred to me
at that moment that, after all, there was nothing so very comical
and pleasant in all this.
"Now, THAT'S a boy!" cried Seriosha, giving Ilinka a smack with
his hand. Ilinka said nothing, but made such desperate movements
with his legs to free himself that his foot suddenly kicked
Seriosha in the eye: with the result that, letting go of Ilinka's
leg and covering the wounded member with one hand, Seriosha hit
out at him with all his might with the other one. Of course
Ilinka's legs slipped down as, sinking exhausted to the floor and
half-suffocated with tears, he stammered out:
"Why should you bully me so?"
The poor fellow's miserable figure, with its streaming tears,
ruffled hair, and crumpled trousers revealing dirty boots,
touched us a little, and we stood silent and trying to smile,
Seriosha was the first to recover himself.
"What a girl! What a gaby!" he said, giving Ilinka a slight
kick. "He can't take things in fun a bit. Well, get up, then."
"You are an utter beast! That's what YOU are!" said Ilinka,
turning miserably away and sobbing.
"Oh, oh! Would it still kick and show temper, then?" cried
Seriosha, seizing a dictionary and throwing it at the unfortunate
boy's head. Apparently it never occurred to Ilinka to take refuge
from the missile; he merely guarded his head with his hands.
"Well, that's enough now," added Seriosha, with a forced laugh.
"You DESERVE to be hurt if you can't take things in fun. Now
let's go downstairs."
I could not help looking with some compassion at the miserable
creature on the floor as, his face buried in the dictionary, he
lay there sobbing almost as though he were in a fit.
"Oh, Sergius!" I said. "Why have you done this?"
"Well, you did it too! Besides, I did not cry this afternoon
when I knocked my leg and nearly broke it."
"True enough," I thought. "Ilinka is a poor whining sort of a
chap, while Seriosha is a boy--a REAL boy."
It never occurred to my mind that possibly poor Ilinka was
suffering far less from bodily pain than from the thought that
five companions for whom he may have felt a genuine liking had,
for no reason at all, combined to hurt and humiliate him.
I cannot explain my cruelty on this occasion. Why did I not step
forward to comfort and protect him? Where was the pitifulness
which often made me burst into tears at the sight of a young bird
fallen from its nest, or of a puppy being thrown over a wall, or
of a chicken being killed by the cook for soup?
Can it be that the better instinct in me was overshadowed by my
affection for Seriosha and the desire to shine before so brave a
boy? If so, how contemptible were both the affection and the
desire! They alone form dark spots on the pages of my youthful
PREPARATIONS FOR THE PARTY
To judge from the extraordinary activity in the pantry, the
shining cleanliness which imparted such a new and festal guise
to certain articles in the salon and drawing-room which I had
long known as anything but resplendent, and the arrival of some
musicians whom Prince Ivan would certainly not have sent for
nothing, no small amount of company was to be expected that
At the sound of every vehicle which chanced to pass the house I
ran to the window, leaned my head upon my arms, and peered with
impatient curiosity into the street.
At last a carriage stopped at our door, and, in the full belief
that this must be the Iwins, who had promised to come early, I at
once ran downstairs to meet them in the hall.
But, instead of the Iwins, I beheld from behind the figure of the
footman who opened the door two female figures-one tall and
wrapped in a blue cloak trimmed with marten, and the other one
short and wrapped in a green shawl from beneath which a pair of
little feet, stuck into fur boots, peeped forth.
Without paying any attention to my presence in the hall (although
I thought it my duty, on the appearance of these persons to
salute them), the shorter one moved towards the taller, and stood
silently in front of her. Thereupon the tall lady untied the
shawl which enveloped the head of the little one, and unbuttoned
the cloak which hid her form; until, by the time that the footmen
had taken charge of these articles and removed the fur boots,
there stood forth from the amorphous chrysalis a charming girl of
twelve, dressed in a short muslin frock, white pantaloons, and
smart black satin shoes. Around her, white neck she wore a narrow
black velvet ribbon, while her head was covered with flaxen curls
which so perfectly suited her beautiful face in front and her
bare neck and shoulders behind that I, would have believed
nobody, not even Karl Ivanitch, if he, or she had told me that
they only hung so nicely because, ever since the morning, they
had been screwed up in fragments of a Moscow newspaper and then
warmed with a hot iron. To me it seemed as though she must have
been born with those curls.
The most prominent feature in her face was a pair of unusually
large half-veiled eyes, which formed a strange, but pleasing,
contrast to the small mouth. Her lips were closed, while her eyes
looked so grave that the general expression of her face gave one
the impression that a smile was never to be looked for from her:
wherefore, when a smile did come, it was all the more pleasing.
Trying to escape notice, I slipped through the door of the salon,
and then thought it necessary to be seen pacing to and fro,
seemingly engaged in thought, as though unconscious of the
arrival of guests.
BY the time, however, that the ladies had advanced to the middle
of the salon I seemed suddenly to awake from my reverie and told
them that Grandmamma was in the drawing room, Madame Valakhin,
whose face pleased me extremely (especially since it bore a great
resemblance to her daughter's), stroked my head kindly.
Grandmamma seemed delighted to see Sonetchka, She invited her to
come to her, put back a curl which had fallen over her brow, and
looking earnestly at her said, "What a charming child!"
Sonetchka blushed, smiled, and, indeed, looked so charming that I
myself blushed as I looked at her.
"I hope you are going to enjoy yourself here, my love," said
Grandmamma." Pray be as merry and dance as much as ever you can.
See, we have two beaux for her already," she added, turning to
Madame Valakhin, and stretching out her hand to me.
This coupling of Sonetchka and myself pleased me so much that I
Feeling, presently, that, my embarrassment was increasing, and
hearing the sound of carriages approaching, I thought it wise to
retire. In the hall I encountered the Princess Kornakoff, her
son, and an incredible number of daughters. They had all of them
the same face as their mother, and were very ugly. None of them
arrested my attention. They talked in shrill tones as they took
off their cloaks and boas, and laughed as they bustled about--
probably at the fact that there were so many of them!
Etienne was a boy of fifteen, tall and plump, with a sharp face,
deep-set bluish eyes, and very large hands and feet for his age.
Likewise he was awkward, and had a nervous, unpleasing voice.
Nevertheless he seemed very pleased with himself, and was, in my
opinion, a boy who could well bear being beaten with rods.
For a long time we confronted one another without speaking as we
took stock of each other. When the flood of dresses had swept
past I made shift to begin a conversation by asking him whether
it had not been very close in the carriage.
"I don't know," he answered indifferently. "I never ride inside
it, for it makes me feel sick directly, and Mamma knows that.
Whenever we are driving anywhere at night-time I always sit on
the box. I like that, for then one sees everything. Philip gives
me the reins, and sometimes the whip too, and then the people
inside get a regular--well, you know," he added with a significant
gesture "It's splendid then."
"Master Etienne," said a footman, entering the hall, "Philip
wishes me to ask you where you put the whip."
"Where I put it? Why, I gave it back to him."
"But he says that you did not."
"Well, I laid it across the carriage-lamps!"
"No, sir, he says that you did not do that either. You had
better confess that you took it and lashed it to shreds. I
suppose poor Philip will have to make good your mischief out of
his own pocket." The footman (who looked a grave and honest man)
seemed much put out by the affair, and determined to sift it to
the bottom on Philip's behalf.
Out of delicacy I pretended to notice nothing and turned aside,
but the other footmen present gathered round and looked
approvingly at the old servant.
"Hm--well, I DID tear it in pieces," at length confessed Etienne,
shrinking from further explanations. "However, I will pay for
it. Did you ever hear anything so absurd?" he added to me as he
drew me towards the drawing-room.
"But excuse me, sir; HOW are you going to pay for it? I know
your ways of paying. You have owed Maria Valericana twenty
copecks these eight months now, and you have owed me something
for two years, and Peter for--"
"Hold your tongue, will you! " shouted the young fellow, pale
with rage "I shall report you for this."
"Oh, you may do so," said the footman. "Yet it is not fair,
your highness," he added, with a peculiar stress on the title, as
he departed with the ladies' wraps to the cloak-room. We
ourselves entered the salon.
"Quite right, footman," remarked someone approvingly from the
ball behind us.
Grandmamma had a peculiar way of employing, now the second person
singular, now the second person plural, in order to indicate her
opinion of people. When the young Prince Etienne went up to her
she addressed him as "YOU," and altogether looked at him with
such an expression of contempt that, had I been in his place, I
should have been utterly crestfallen. Etienne, however, was
evidently not a boy of that sort, for he not only took no notice
of her reception of him, but none of her person either. In fact,
he bowed to the company at large in a way which, though not
graceful, was at least free from embarrassment.
Sonetchka now claimed my whole attention. I remember that, as I
stood in the salon with Etienne and Woloda, at a spot whence we
could both see and be seen by Sonetchka, I took great pleasure in
talking very loud (and all my utterances seemed to me both bold
and comical) and glancing towards the door of the drawing-room,
but that, as soon as ever we happened to move to another spot
whence we could neither see nor be seen by her, I became dumb, and
thought the conversation had ceased to be enjoyable. The rooms were
now full of people--among them (as at all children's parties) a number
of elder children who wished to dance and enjoy themselves very
much, but who pretended to do everything merely in order to give
pleasure to the mistress of the house.
When the Iwins arrived I found that, instead of being as
delighted as usual to meet Seriosha, I felt a kind of vexation
that he should see and be seen by Sonetchka.
BEFORE THE MAZURKA
"HULLO, Woloda! So we are going to dance to-night," said
Seriosha, issuing from the drawing-room and taking out of his
pocket a brand new pair of gloves. "I suppose it IS necessary to
put on gloves? "
"Goodness! What shall I do? We have no gloves," I thought to
myself. "I must go upstairs and search about." Yet though I
rummaged in every drawer, I only found, in one of them, my green
travelling mittens, and, in another, a single lilac-coloured
glove, a thing which could be of no use to me, firstly, because
it was very old and dirty, secondly, because it was much too
large for me, and thirdly (and principally), because the middle
finger was wanting--Karl having long ago cut it off to wear over a
However, I put it on--not without some diffident contemplation of
the blank left by the middle finger and of the ink-stained edges
round the vacant space.
"If only Natalia Savishna had been here," I reflected, "we
should certainly have found some gloves. I can't go downstairs in
this condition. Yet, if they ask me why I am not dancing, what am
I to say? However, I can't remain here either, or they will be
sending upstairs to fetch me. What on earth am I to do?" and I
wrung my hands.
"What are you up to here?" asked Woloda as he burst into the
room. "Go and engage a partner. The dancing will be beginning
"Woloda," I said despairingly, as I showed him my hand with
two fingers thrust into a single finger of the dirty glove,
"Woloda, you, never thought of this."
"Of what? " he said impatiently. "Oh, of gloves," he added with
a careless glance at my hand. "That's nothing. We can ask
Grandmamma what she thinks about it," and without further ado he
departed downstairs. I felt a trifle relieved by the coolness
with which he had met a situation which seemed to me so grave,
and hastened back to the drawing-room, completely forgetful of
the unfortunate glove which still adorned my left hand.
Cautiously approaching Grandmamma's arm-chair, I asked her in a
"Grandmamma, what are we to do? We have no gloves."
"What, my love?"
"We have no gloves," I repeated, at the same time bending over
towards her and laying both hands on the arm of her chair,
" But what is that? " she cried as she caught hold of my left
hand. "Look, my dear! " she continued, turning to Madame
Valakhin. "See how smart this young man has made himself to
dance with your daughter!"
As Grandmamma persisted in retaining hold of my hand and gazing
with a mock air of gravity and interrogation at all around her,
curiosity was soon aroused, and a general roar of laughter
I should have been infuriated at the thought that Seriosha was
present to see this, as I scowled with embarrassment and
struggled hard to free my hand, had it not been that somehow
Sonetchka's laughter (and she was laughing to such a degree that
the tears were standing in her eyes and the curls dancing about
her lovely face) took away my feeling of humiliation. I felt that
her laughter was not satirical, but only natural and free; so
that, as we laughed together and looked at one another, there
seemed to begin a kind of sympathy between us. Instead of turning
out badly, therefore, the episode of the glove served only to set
me at my ease among the dreaded circle of guests, and to make me
cease to feel oppressed with shyness. The sufferings of shy
people proceed only from the doubts which they feel concerning
the opinions of their fellows. No sooner are those opinions
expressed (whether flattering or the reverse) than the agony
How lovely Sonetchka looked when she was dancing a quadrille as
my vis-a-vis, with, as her partner, the loutish Prince Etienne!
How charmingly she smiled when, en chaine, she accorded me her
hand! How gracefully the curls, around her head nodded to the
rhythm, and how naively she executed the jete assemble with her
In the fifth figure, when my partner had to leave me for the
other side and I, counting the beats, was getting ready to dance
my solo, she pursed her lips gravely and looked in another
direction; but her fears for me were groundless. Boldly I
performed the chasse en avant and chasse en arriere glissade,
until, when it came to my turn to move towards her and I, with a
comic gesture, showed her the poor glove with its crumpled
fingers, she laughed heartily, and seemed to move her tiny feet
more enchantingly than ever over the parquetted floor.
How well I remember how we formed the circle, and how, without
withdrawing her hand from mine, she scratched her little nose
with her glove! All this I can see before me still. Still can I
hear the quadrille from "The Maids of the Danube" to which we
danced that night.
The second quadrille, I danced with Sonetchka herself; yet when
we went to sit down together during the interval, I felt overcome
with shyness and as though I had nothing to say. At last, when my
silence had lasted so long that I began to be afraid that she
would think me a stupid boy, I decided at all hazards to
counteract such a notion.
"Vous etes une habitante de Moscou?" I began, and, on receiving
an affirmative answer, continued. "Et moi, je n'ai encore jamais
frequente la capitale" (with a particular emphasis on the word
"frequente"). Yet I felt that, brilliant though this
introduction might be as evidence of my profound knowledge of the
French language, I could not long keep up the conversation in
that manner. Our turn for dancing had not yet arrived, and
silence again ensued between us. I kept looking anxiously at her
in the hope both of discerning what impression I had produced and
of her coming to my aid.
"Where did you get that ridiculous glove of yours?" she asked
me all of a sudden, and the question afforded me immense
satisfaction and relief. I replied that the glove belonged to
Karl Ivanitch, and then went on to speak ironically of his
appearance, and to describe how comical he looked in his red cap,
and how he and his green coat had once fallen plump off a horse
into a pond.
The quadrille was soon over. Yet why had I spoken ironically of
poor Karl Ivanitch? Should I, forsooth, have sunk in Sonetchka's
esteem if, on the contrary, I had spoken of him with the love and
respect which I undoubtedly bore him?
The quadrille ended, Sonetchka said, "Thank you," with as lovely
an expression on her face as though I had really conferred, upon
her a favour. I was delighted. In fact I hardly knew myself for
joy and could not think whence I derived such case and confidence
and even daring.
"Nothing in the world can abash me now," I thought as I wandered
carelessly about the salon. "I am ready for anything."
Just then Seriosha came and requested me to be his vis-a-vis.
"Very well," I said. "I have no partner as yet, but I can soon
Glancing round the salon with a confident eye, I saw that every
lady was engaged save one--a tall girl standing near the drawing-
room door. Yet a grown-up young man was approaching her-probably
for the same purpose as myself! He was but two steps from her,
while I was at the further end of the salon. Doing a glissade
over the polished floor, I covered the intervening space, and in
a brave, firm voice asked the favour of her hand in the
quadrille. Smiling with a protecting air, the young lady accorded
me her hand, and the tall young man was left without a partner. I
felt so conscious of my strength that I paid no attention to his
irritation, though I learnt later that he had asked somebody who
the awkward, untidy boy was who, had taken away his lady from
AFTERWARDS the same young man formed one of the first couple in a
mazurka. He sprang to his feet, took his partner's hand, and
then, instead of executing the pas de Basques which Mimi had
taught us, glided forward till he arrived at a corner of the
room, stopped, divided his feet, turned on his heels, and, with
a spring, glided back again. I, who had found no partner for this
particular dance and was sitting on the arm of Grandmamma's
chair, thought to myself:
"What on earth is he doing? That is not what Mimi taught us. And
there are the Iwins and Etienne all dancing in the same way-
without the pas de Basques! Ah! and there is Woloda too! He too
is adopting the new style, and not so badly either. And there is
Sonetchka, the lovely one! Yes, there she comes!" I felt
immensely happy at that moment.
The mazurka came to an end, and already some of the guests were
saying good-bye to Grandmamma. She was evidently tired, yet she
assured them that she felt vexed at their early departure.
Servants were gliding about with plates and trays among the
dancers, and the musicians were carelessly playing the same tune
for about the thirteenth time in succession, when the young lady
whom I had danced with before, and who was just about to join in
another mazurka, caught sight of me, and, with a kindly smile,
led me to Sonetchka And one of the innumerable Kornakoff
princesses, at the same time asking me, "Rose or Hortie?"
"Ah, so it's YOU!" said Grandmamma as she turned round in her
armchair. "Go and dance, then, my boy."
Although I would fain have taken refuge behind the armchair
rather than leave its shelter, I could not refuse; so I got up,
said, "Rose," and looked at Sonetchka. Before I had time to
realise it, however, a hand in a white glove laid itself on mine,
and the Kornakoff girl stepped forth with a pleased smile and
evidently no suspicion that I was ignorant of the steps of the
dance. I only knew that the pas de Basques (the only figure of it
which I had been taught) would be out of place. However, the
strains of the mazurka falling upon my ears, and imparting their
usual impulse to my acoustic nerves (which, in their turn,
imparted their usual impulse to my feet), I involuntarily, and to
the amazement of the spectators, began executing on tiptoe the
sole (and fatal) pas which I had been taught.
So long as we went straight ahead I kept fairly right, but when
it came to turning I saw that I must make preparations to arrest
my course. Accordingly, to avoid any appearance of awkwardness, I
stopped short, with the intention of imitating the " wheel about"
which I had seen the young man perform so neatly.
Unfortunately, just as I divided my feet and prepared to make a
spring, the Princess Kornakoff looked sharply round at my legs
with such an expression of stupefied amazement and curiosity that
the glance undid me. Instead of continuing to dance, I remained
moving my legs up and down on the same spot, in a sort of
extraordinary fashion which bore no relation whatever either to
form or rhythm. At last I stopped altogether. Every-one was
looking at me--some with curiosity, some with
astonishment, some with disdain, and some with compassion,
Grandmamma alone seemed unmoved.
"You should not dance if you don't know the step," said Papa's
angry voice in my ear as, pushing me gently aside, he took my
partner's hand, completed the figures with her to the admiration
of every one, and finally led her back to, her place. The mazurka
was at an end.
Ah me! What had I done to be punished so heavily?
"Every one despises me, and will always despise me," I thought to
myself. "The way is closed for me to friendship, love, and fame!
All, all is lost!"
Why had Woloda made signs to me which every one saw, yet which
could in no way help me? Why had that disgusting princess looked
at my legs? Why had Sonetchka--she was a darling, of course!--yet
why, oh why, had she smiled at that moment?
Why had Papa turned red and taken my hand? Can it be that he was
ashamed of me?
Oh, it was dreadful! Alas, if only Mamma had been there she would
never have blushed for her Nicolinka!
How on the instant that dear image led my imagination captive! I
seemed to see once more the meadow before our house, the tall
lime-trees in the garden, the clear pond where the ducks swain,
the blue sky dappled with white clouds, the sweet-smelling ricks
of hay. How those memories--aye, and many another quiet, beloved
recollection--floated through my mind at that time!
AFTER THE MAZURKA
At supper the young man whom I have mentioned seated himself
beside me at the children's table, and treated me with an amount
of attention which would have flattered my self-esteem had I been
able, after the occurrence just related, to give a thought to
anything beyond my failure in the mazurka. However, the young man
seemed determined to cheer me up. He jested, called me "old
boy," and finally (since none of the elder folks were looking at
us) began to help me to wine, first from one bottle and then from
another and to force me to drink it off quickly.
By the time (towards the end of supper) that a servant had poured
me out a quarter of a glass of champagne, and the young man had
straightway bid him fill it up and urged me to drink the beverage
off at a draught, I had begun to feel a grateful warmth diffusing
itself through my body. I also felt well-disposed towards my kind
patron, and began to laugh heartily at everything. Suddenly the
music of the Grosvater dance struck up, and every one rushed from
the table. My friendship with the young man had now outlived its
day; so, whereas he joined a group of the older folks, I
approached Madame Valakhin hear what she and her daughter had to
say to one another.
"Just HALF-an-hour more? " Sonetchka was imploring her.
"Impossible, my dearest."
"Yet, only to please me--just this ONCE? " Sonetchka went on
"Well, what if I should be ill to-morrow through all this
dissipation?" rejoined her mother, and was incautious enough to
"There! You DO consent, and we CAN stay after all!" exclaimed
Sonetchka, jumping for joy.
"What is to be done with such a girl?" said Madame. "Well, run
away and dance. See," she added on perceiving myself, "here is a
cavalier ready waiting for you."
Sonetchka gave me her hand, and we darted off to the salon, The
wine, added to Sonetchka's presence and gaiety, had at once made
me forget all about the unfortunate end of the mazurka. I kept
executing the most splendid feats with my legs--now imitating a
horse as he throws out his hoofs in the trot, now stamping like a
sheep infuriated at a dog, and all the while laughing regardless
Sonetchka also laughed unceasingly, whether we were whirling
round in a circle or whether we stood still to watch an old lady
whose painful movements with her feet showed the difficulty she
had in walking. Finally Sonetchka nearly died of merriment when I
jumped half-way to the ceiling in proof of my skill.
As I passed a mirror in Grandmamma's boudoir and glanced at
myself I could see that my face was all in a perspiration and my
hair dishevelled--the top-knot, in particular, being more erect
than ever. Yet my general appearance looked so happy, healthy,
and good-tempered that I felt wholly pleased with myself.
"If I were always as I am now," I thought, "I might yet be able
to please people with my looks." Yet as soon as I glanced at my
partner's face again, and saw there not only the expression of
happiness, health, and good temper which had just pleased me in
my own, but also a fresh and enchanting beauty besides, I felt
dissatisfied with myself again. I understood how silly of me it
was to hope to attract the attention of such a wonderful being as
Sonetchka. I could not hope for reciprocity--could not even think
of it, yet my heart was overflowing with happiness. I could not
imagine that the feeling of love which was filling my soul so
pleasantly could require any happiness still greater, or wish for
more than that that happiness should never cease. I felt
perfectly contented. My heart beat like that of a dove, with the
blood constantly flowing back to it, and I almost wept for joy.
As we passed through the hall and peered into a little dark
store-room beneath the staircase I thought: "What bliss it would
be if I could pass the rest of my life with her in that dark
corner, and never let anybody know that we were there!"
"It HAS been a delightful evening, hasn't it?" I asked her in a
low, tremulous voice. Then I quickened my steps--as much out of
fear of what I had said as out of fear of what I had meant to
"Yes, VERY! " she answered, and turned her face to look at me
with an expression so kind that I ceased to be afraid. I went on:
"Particularly since supper. Yet if you could only know how I
regret" (I had nearly said "how miserable I am at") your
going, and to think that we shall see each other no more!"
"But why SHOULDN'T we?" she asked, looking gravely at the
corner of her pocket-handkerchief, and gliding her fingers over a
latticed screen which we were passing. "Every Tuesday and Friday
I go with Mamma to the Iverskoi Prospect. I suppose you go for
walks too sometimes?"
"Well, certainly I shall ask to go for one next Tuesday, and.
if they won't take me I shall go by myself--even without my hat,
if necessary. I know the way all right. "
"Do you know what I have just thought of?" she went on. "You
know, I call some of the boys who come to see us THOU. Shall you
and I call each other THOU too? Wilt THOU?" she added, bending
her head towards me and looking me straight in the eyes.
At this moment a more lively section of the Grosvater dance
"Give me your hand," I said, under the impression that the music
and din would drown my exact words, but she smilingly replied,
"THY hand, not YOUR hand." Yet the dance was over before I had
succeeded in saying THOU, even though I kept conning over
phrases in which the pronoun could be employed--and employed more
than once. All that I wanted was the courage to say it.
"Wilt THOU?" and "THY hand" sounded continually in my ears,
and caused in me a kind of intoxication I could hear and see
nothing but Sonetchka. I watched her mother take her curls, lay
them flat behind her ears (thus disclosing portions of her
forehead and temples which I had not yet seen), and wrap her up
so completely in the green shawl that nothing was left visible
but the tip of her nose. Indeed, I could see that, if her little
rosy fingers had not made a small, opening near her mouth, she
would have been unable to breathe. Finally I saw her leave her
mother's arm for an instant on the staircase, and turn and nod to
us quickly before she disappeared through the doorway.
Woloda, the Iwins, the young Prince Etienne, and myself were all
of us in love with Sonetchka and all of us standing on the
staircase to follow her with our eyes. To whom in particular she
had nodded I do not know, but at the moment I firmly believed it
to be myself. In taking leave of the Iwins, I spoke quite
unconcernedly, and even coldly, to Seriosha before I finally
shook hands with him. Though he tried to appear absolutely
indifferent, I think that he understood that from that day forth
he had lost both my affection and his power over me, as well as
that he regretted it.
"How could I have managed to be so long and so passionately
devoted to Seriosha?" I asked myself as I lay in bed that night.
"He never either understood, appreciated, or deserved my love.
But Sonetchka! What a darling SHE is! 'Wilt THOU?'--'THY hand'!"
I crept closer to the pillows, imagined to myself her lovely
face, covered my head over with the bedclothes, tucked the
counterpane in on all sides, and, thus snugly covered, lay quiet
and enjoying the warmth until I became wholly absorbed in
pleasant fancies and reminiscences.
If I stared fixedly at the inside of the sheet above me I found
that I could see her as clearly as I had done an hour ago could
talk to her in my thoughts, and, though it was a conversation of
irrational tenor, I derived the greatest delight from it, seeing
that "THOU" and "THINE" and "for THEE" and "to THEE"
occurred in it incessantly. These fancies were so vivid that I
could not sleep for the sweetness of my emotion, and felt as
though I must communicate my superabundant happiness to some one.
"The darling!" I said, half-aloud, as I turned over; then,
"Woloda, are you asleep?"
"No," he replied in a sleepy voice. "What's the matter?"
"I am in love, Woloda--terribly in love with Sonetchka"
"Well? Anything else?" he replied, stretching himself.
"Oh, but you cannot imagine what I feel just now, as I lay
covered over with the counterpane, I could see her and talk to
her so clearly that it was marvellous! And, do you know, while I
was lying thinking about her--I don't know why it was, but all at
once I felt so sad that I could have cried."
Woloda made a movement of some sort.
"One thing only I wish for," I continued; "and that is that I
could always be with her and always be seeing her. Just that. You
are in love too, I believe. Confess that you are."
It was strange, but somehow I wanted every one to be in love with
Sonetchka, and every one to tell me that they were so.
"So that's how it is with you? " said Woloda, turning round to
me. "Well, I can understand it."
"I can see that you cannot sleep," I remarked, observing by his
bright eyes that he was anything but drowsy. "Well, cover
yourself over SO" (and I pulled the bedclothes over him), "and
then let us talk about her. Isn't she splendid? If she were to
say to me, 'Nicolinka, jump out of the window,' or 'jump into the
fire,' I should say, 'Yes, I will do it at once and rejoice in
doing it.' Oh, how glorious she is!"
I went on picturing her again and again to my imagination, and,
to enjoy the vision the better, turned over on my side and buried
my head in the pillows, murmuring, "Oh, I want to cry, Woloda."
"What a fool you are!" he said with a slight laugh. Then, after
a moment's silence he added: "I am not like you. I think I would
rather sit and talk with her."
"Ah! Then you ARE in love with her!" I interrupted.
"And then," went on Woloda, smiling tenderly, "kiss her fingers
and eyes and lips and nose and feet--kiss all of her."
"How absurd!" I exclaimed from beneath the pillows.
"Ah, you don't understand things," said Woloda with contempt.
"I DO understand. It's you who don't understand things, and you
talk rubbish, too," I replied, half-crying.
"Well, there is nothing to cry about," he concluded. "She is
only a girl."
ON the 16th of April, nearly six months after the day just
described, Papa entered our schoolroom and told us that that
night we must start with him for our country house. I felt a pang
at my heart when I heard the news, and my thoughts at once turned
to Mamma, The cause of our unexpected departure was the following
"PETROVSKOE, 12th April.
"Only this moment (i.e. at ten o'clock in the evening) have I
received your dear letter of the 3rd of April, but as usual, I
answer it at once. Fedor brought it yesterday from town, but, as
it was late, he did not give it to Mimi till this morning, and
Mimi (since I was unwell) kept it from me all day. I have been a
little feverish. In fact, to tell the truth, this is the fourth
day that I have been in bed.
"Yet do not be uneasy. I feel almost myself again now, and if
Ivan Vassilitch should allow me, I think of getting up to-morrow.
"On Friday last I took the girls for a drive, and, close to the
little bridge by the turning on to the high road (the place which
always makes me nervous), the horses and carriage stuck fast in
the mud. Well, the day being fine, I thought that we would walk a
little up the road until the carriage should be extricated, but
no sooner had we reached the chapel than I felt obliged to sit
down, I was so tired, and in this way half-an-hour passed while
help was being sent for to get the carriage dug out. I felt cold,
for I had only thin boots on, and they had been wet through.
After luncheon too, I had alternate cold and hot fits, yet still
continued to follow our ordinary routine
"When tea was over I sat down to the piano to play a duct with
Lubotshka. (you would be astonished to hear what progress she has
made!), but imagine my surprise when I found that I could not
count the beats! Several times I began to do so, yet always felt
confused in my head, and kept hearing strange noises in my ears.
I would begin 'One-two-three--' and then suddenly go on '-eight-
fifteen,' and so on, as though I were talking nonsense and could
not help it. At last Mimi came to my assistance and forced me to
retire to bed. That was how my illness began, and it was all
through my own fault. The next day I had a good deal of fever,
and our good Ivan Vassilitch came. He has not left us since, but
promises soon to restore me to the world."
"What a wonderful old man he is! While I was feverish and
delirious he sat the whole night by my bedside without once
closing his eyes; and at this moment (since he knows I am busy
writing) he is with the girls in the divannaia, and I can hear
him telling them German stories, and them laughing as they listen
"'La Belle Flamande,' as you call her, is now spending her second
week here as my guest (her mother having gone to pay a visit
somewhere), and she is most attentive and attached to me, She
even tells me her secret affairs. Under different circumstances
her beautiful face, good temper, and youth might have made a most
excellent girl of her, but in the society in which according to
her own account, she moves she will be wasted. The idea has more
than once occurred to me that, had I not had so many children of
my own, it would have been a deed of mercy to have adopted her.
"Lubotshka had meant to write to you herself, but she has torn
up three sheets of paper, saying: 'I know what a quizzer Papa
always is. If he were to find a single fault in my letter he
would show it to everybody.' Katenka is as charming as usual, and
Mimi, too, is good, but tiresome.
"Now let me speak of more serious matters. You write to me that
your affairs are not going well this winter, and that you wish
to break into the revenues of Chabarovska. It seems to me strange
that you should think it necessary to ask my consent. Surely what
belongs to me belongs no less to you? You are so kind-hearted,
dear, that, for fear of worrying me, you conceal the real state
of things, but I can guess that you have lost a great deal at
cards, as also that you are afraid of my being angry at that.
Yet, so long as you can tide over this crisis, I shall not think
much of it, and you need not be uneasy, I have grown accustomed
to no longer relying, so far as the children are concerned, upon
your gains at play, nor yet--excuse me for saying so--upon your
income. Therefore your losses cause me as little anxiety as your
gains give me pleasure. What I really grieve over is your unhappy
passion itself for gambling--a passion which bereaves me of part
of your tender affection and obliges me to tell you such bitter
truths as (God knows with what pain) I am now telling you. I
never cease. to beseech Him that He may preserve us, not from
poverty (for what is poverty?), but from the terrible juncture
which would arise should the interests of the children, which I
am called upon to protect, ever come into collision with our own.
Hitherto God has listened to my prayers. You have never yet
overstepped the limit beyond which we should be obliged either to
sacrifice property which would no longer belong to us, but to the
children, or-- It is terrible to think of, but the dreadful
misfortune at which I hint is forever hanging over our heads.
Yes, it is the heavy cross which God has given us both to carry.
"Also, you write about the children, and come back to our old
point of difference by asking my consent to your placing them at
a boarding-school. You know my objection to that kind of
education. I do not know, dear, whether you will accede to my
request, but I nevertheless beseech you, by your love for me, to
give me your promise that never so long as I am alive, nor yet
after my death (if God should see fit to separate us), shall such
a thing be done.
"Also you write that our affairs render it indispensable for you
to visit St. Petersburg. The Lord go with you! Go and return as,
soon as possible. Without you we shall all of us be lonely.
"Spring is coming in beautifully. We keep the door on to the
terrace always open now, while the path to the orangery is dry
and the peach-trees are in full blossom. Only here and there is
there a little snow remaining, The swallows are arriving, and to-
day Lubotshka brought me the first flowers. The doctor says that
in about three days' time I shall be well again and able to take
the open air and to enjoy the April sun. Now, au revoir, my
dearest one. Do not he alarmed, I beg of you, either on account
of my illness or on account of your losses at play. End the
crisis as soon as possible, and then return here with the
children for the summer. I am making wonderful plans for our
passing of it, and I only need your presence to realise them."
The rest of the letter was written in French, as well as in a
strange, uncertain hand, on another piece of paper. I transcribe
it word for word:
"Do not believe what I have just written to you about my
illness. It is more serious than any one knows. I alone know that
I shall never leave my bed again. Do not, therefore, delay a
minute in coming here with the children. Perhaps it may yet be
permitted me to embrace and bless them. It is my last wish that
it should be so. I know what a terrible blow this will be to you,
but you would have had to hear it sooner or later--if not from me,
at least from others. Let us try to, bear the Calamity with
fortitude, and place our trust in the mercy of God. Let us submit
ourselves to His will. Do not think that what I am writing is
some delusion of my sick imagination. On the contrary, I am
perfectly clear at this moment, and absolutely calm. Nor must you
comfort yourself with the false hope that these are the unreal,
confused feelings of a despondent spirit, for I feel indeed, I
know, since God has deigned to reveal it to me--that I have now
but a very short time to live. Will my love for you and the
children cease with my life? I know that that can never be. At
this moment I am too full of that love to be capable of believing
that such a feeling (which constitutes a part of my very
existence) can ever, perish. My soul can never lack its love for
you; and I know that that love will exist for ever, since such a
feeling could never have been awakened if it were not to be
eternal. I shall no longer be with you, yet I firmly believe that
my love will cleave to you always, and from that thought I glean
such comfort that I await the approach of death calmly and
without fear. Yes, I am calm, and God knows that I have ever
looked, and do look now, upon death as no mere than the passage
to a better life. Yet why do tears blind my eyes? Why should the
children lose a mother's love? Why must you, my husband,
experience such a heavy and unlooked-for blow? Why must I die
when your love was making life so inexpressibly happy for me?
"But His holy will be done!
"The tears prevent my writing more. It may be that I shall never
see you again. I thank you, my darling beyond all price, for all
the felicity with which you have surrounded me in this life. Soon
I shall appear before God Himself to pray that He may reward you.
Farewell, my dearest! Remember that, if I am no longer here, my
love will none the less NEVER AND NOWHERE fail you. Farewell,
Woloda--farewell, my pet! Farewell, my Benjamin, my little
Nicolinka! Surely they will never forget me?"
With this letter had come also a French note from Mimi, in which
the latter said:
"The sad circumstances of which she has written to you are but
too surely confirmed by the words of the doctor. Yesterday
evening she ordered the letter to be posted at once, but,
thinking at she did so in delirium, I waited until this morning,
with the intention of sealing and sending it then. Hardly had I
done so when Natalia Nicolaevna asked me what I had done with the
letter and told me to burn it if not yet despatched. She is
forever speaking of it, and saying that it will kill you. Do not
delay your departure for an instant if you wish to see the angel
before she leaves us. Pray excuse this scribble, but I have not
slept now for three nights. You know how much I love her."
Later I heard from Natalia Savishna (who passed the whole of the
night of the 11th April at Mamma's bedside) that, after writing
the first part of the letter, Mamma laid it down upon the table
beside her and went to sleep for a while,
"I confess," said Natalia Savishna, "that I too fell asleep in
the arm-chair, and let my knitting slip from my hands. Suddenly,
towards one o'clock in the morning, I heard her saying something;
whereupon I opened my eyes and looked at her. My darling was
sitting up in bed, with her hands clasped together and streams of
tears gushing from her eyes.
"'It is all over now,' she said, and hid her face in her hands.
"I sprang to my feet, and asked what the matter was.
"'Ah, Natalia Savishna, if you could only know what I have just
seen!' she said; yet, for all my asking, she would say no more,
beyond commanding me to hand her the letter. To that letter she
added something, and then said that it must be sent off directly.
From that moment she grew, rapidly worse."
WHAT AWAITED US AT THE COUNTRY-HOUSE
On the 18th of April we descended from the carriage at the front
door of the house at Petrovskoe. All the way from Moscow Papa had
been preoccupied, and when Woloda had asked him "whether Mamma
was ill" he had looked at him sadly and nodded an affirmative.
Nevertheless he had grown more composed during the journey, and
it was only when we were actually approaching the house that his
face again began to grow anxious, until, as he leaped from the
carriage and asked Foka (who had run breathlessly to meet us),
"How is Natalia Nicolaevna now?" his voice, was trembling, and
his eyes had filled with tears. The good, old Foka looked at
us, and then lowered his gaze again. Finally he said as he
opened the hall-door and turned his head aside: "It is the
sixth day since she has not left her bed."
Milka (who, as we afterwards learned, had never ceased to whine
from the day when Mamma was taken ill) came leaping, joyfully to
meet Papa, and barking a welcome as she licked his hands, but
Papa put her aside, and went first to the drawing-room, and then
into the divannaia, from which a door led into the bedroom. The
nearer he approached the latter, the more, did his movements
express the agitation that he felt. Entering the divannaia he
crossed it on tiptoe, seeming to hold his breath. Even then he
had to stop and make the sign of the cross before he could summon
up courage to turn the handle. At the same moment Mimi, with
dishevelled hair and eyes red with weeping came hastily out of
"Ah, Peter Alexandritch!" she said in a whisper and with a
marked expression of despair. Then, observing that Papa was
trying to open the door, she whispered again:
"Not here. This door is locked. Go round to the door on the
Oh, how terribly all this wrought upon my imagination, racked as
it was by grief and terrible forebodings!
So we went round to the other side. In the corridor we met the
gardener, Akim, who had been wont to amuse us with his grimaces,
but at this moment I could see nothing comical in him. Indeed,
the sight of his thoughtless, indifferent face struck me more
painfully than anything else. In the maidservants' hall, through
which we had to pass, two maids were sitting at their work, but
rose to salute us with an expression so mournful that I felt
Passing also through Mimi's room, Papa opened the door of the
bedroom, and we entered. The two windows on the right were
curtained over, and close to them was seated, Natalia Savishna,
spectacles on nose and engaged in darning stockings. She did not
approach us to kiss me as she had been used to do, but just rose
and looked at us, her tears beginning to flow afresh. Somehow it
frightened me to see every one, on beholding us, begin to cry,
although they had been calm enough before.
On the left stood the bed behind a screen, while in the great
arm-chair the doctor lay asleep. Beside the bed a young, fair-
haired and remarkably beautiful girl in a white morning wrapper
was applying ice to Mamma's head, but Mamma herself I could not
see. This girl was "La Belle Flamande" of whom Mamma had
written, and who afterwards played so important a part in our
family life. As we entered she disengaged one of her hands,
straightened the pleats of her dress on her bosom, and
whispered, " She is insensible," Though I was in an agony of
grief, I observed at that moment every little detail.
It was almost dark in the room, and very hot, while the air was
heavy with the mingled, scent of mint, eau-de-cologne, camomile,
and Hoffman's pastilles. The latter ingredient caught my
attention so strongly that even now I can never hear of it, or
even think of it, without my memory carrying me back to that
dark, close room, and all the details of that dreadful time.
Mamma's eyes were wide open, but they could not see us. Never
shall I forget the terrible expression in them--the expression of
agonies of suffering!
Then we were taken away.
When, later, I was able to ask Natalia Savishna about Mamma's
last moments she told me the following:
"After you were taken out of the room, my beloved one struggled
for a long time, as though some one were trying to strangle her.
Then at last she laid her head back upon the pillow, and slept
softly, peacefully, like an angel from Heaven. I went away for a
moment to see about her medicine, and just as I entered the room
again my darling was throwing the bedclothes from off her and
calling for your Papa. He stooped over her, but strength failed
her to say what she wanted to. All she could do was to open her
lips and gasp, 'My God, my God! The children, the children!' I
would have run to fetch you, but Ivan Vassilitch stopped me,
saying that it would only excite her--it were best not to do so.
Then suddenly she stretched her arms out and dropped them again.
What she meant by that gesture the good God alone knows, but I
think that in it she was blessing you--you the children whom she
could not see. God did not grant her to see her little ones
before her death. Then she raised herself up--did my love, my
darling--yes, just so with her hands, and exclaimed in a voice
which I cannot bear to remember, 'Mother of God, never forsake
"Then the pain mounted to her heart, and from her eyes it as,
plain that she suffered terribly, my poor one! She sank back upon
the pillows, tore the bedclothes with her teeth, and wept--wept--"
"Yes and what then?" I asked but Natalia Savishna could say no
more. She turned away and cried bitterly.
Mamma had expired in terrible agonies.
LATE the following evening I thought I would like to look at her
once more; so, conquering an involuntary sense of fear, I gently
opened the door of the salon and entered on tiptoe.
In the middle of the room, on a table, lay the coffin, with wax
candles burning all round it on tall silver candelabra. In the
further corner sat the chanter, reading the Psalms in a low,
monotonous voice. I stopped at the door and tried to look, but my
eyes were so weak with crying, and my nerves so terribly on edge,
that I could distinguish nothing. Every object seemed to mingle
together in a strange blur--the candles, the brocade, the velvet,
the great candelabra, the pink satin cushion trimmed with lace,
the chaplet of flowers, the ribboned cap, and something of a
transparent, wax-like colour. I mounted a chair to see her face,
yet where it should have been I could see only that wax-like,
transparent something. I could not believe it to be her face.
Yet, as I stood grazing at it, I at last recognised the well-
known, beloved features. I shuddered with horror to realise that
it WAS she. Why were those eyes so sunken? What had laid that
dreadful paleness upon her cheeks, and stamped the black spot
beneath the transparent skin on one of them? Why was the
expression of the whole face so cold and severe? Why were the
lips so white, and their outline so beautiful, so majestic, so
expressive of an unnatural calm that, as I looked at them, a
chill shudder ran through my hair and down my back?
Somehow, as I gazed, an irrepressible, incomprehensible power
seemed to compel me to keep my eyes fixed upon that lifeless
face. I could not turn away, and my imagination began to picture
before me scenes of her active life and happiness. I forgot that
the corpse lying before me now--the THING at which I was gazing
unconsciously as at an object which had nothing in common with my
dreams--was SHE. I fancied I could see her--now here, now there,
alive, happy, and smiling. Then some well-known feature in the
face at which I was gazing would suddenly arrest my attention,
and in a flash I would recall the terrible reality and shudder-
though still unable to turn my eyes away.
Then again the dreams would replace reality--then again the
reality put to flight the dreams. At last the consciousness of
both left me, and for a while I became insensible.
How long I remained in that condition I do not know, nor yet how
it occurred. I only know that for a time I lost all sense of
existence, and experienced a kind of vague blissfulness which
though grand and sweet, was also sad. It may be that, as it
ascended to a better world, her beautiful soul had looked down
with longing at the world in which she had left us--that it had
seen my sorrow, and, pitying me, had returned to earth on the
wings of love to console and bless me with a heavenly smile of
The door creaked as the chanter entered who was to relieve his
predecessor. The noise awakened me, and my first thought was
that, seeing me standing on the chair in a posture which had
nothing touching in its aspect, he might take me for an unfeeling
boy who had climbed on to the chair out of mere curiosity:
wherefore I hastened to make the sign of the cross, to bend down
my head, and to burst out crying. As I recall now my impressions
of that episode I find that it was only during my moments of
self-forgetfulness that my grief was wholehearted. True, both
before and after the funeral I never ceased to cry and to look
miserable, yet I feel conscience-stricken when I recall that
grief of mine, seeing that always present in it there was an
element of conceit--of a desire to show that I was more grieved
than any one else, of an interest which I took in observing the
effect, produced upon others by my tears, and of an idle
curiosity leading me to remark Mimi's bonnet and the faces of all
present. The mere circumstance that I despised myself for not
feeling grief to the exclusion of everything else, and that I
endeavoured to conceal the fact, shows that my sadness was
insincere and unnatural. I took a delight in feeling that I was
unhappy, and in trying to feel more so. Consequently this
egotistic consciousness completely annulled any element of
sincerity in my woe.
That night I slept calmly and soundly (as is usual after any
great emotion), and awoke with my tears dried and my nerves
restored. At ten o'clock we were summoned to attend the pre-
The room was full of weeping servants and peasants who had come
to bid farewell to their late mistress. During the service I
myself wept a great deal, made frequent signs of the cross, and
performed many genuflections, but I did not pray with, my soul,
and felt, if anything, almost indifferent, My thoughts were
chiefly centred upon the new coat which I was wearing (a garment
which was tight and uncomfortable) and upon how to avoid soiling
my trousers at the knees. Also I took the most minute notice of
Papa stood at the head of the coffin. He was as white as snow,
and only with difficulty restrained his tears. His tall figure in
its black frockcoat, his pale, expressive face, the graceful,
assured manner in which, as usual, he made the sign of the cross
or bowed until he touched the floor with his hand [A custom of
the Greek funeral rite.] or took the candle from the priest or
went to the coffin--all were exceedingly effective; yet for some
reason or another I felt a grudge against him for that very
ability to appear effective at such a moment. Mimi stood leaning
against the wall as though scarcely able to support herself. Her
dress was all awry and covered with feathers, and her cap cocked
to one side, while her eyes were red with weeping, her legs
trembling under her, and she sobbed incessantly in a heartrending
manner as ever and again she buried her face in her handkerchief
or her hands. I imagine that she did this to check her continual
sobbing without being seen by the spectators. I remember, too,
her telling Papa, the evening before, that Mamma's death had come
upon her as a blow from which she could never hope to recover;
that with Mamma she had lost everything; but that "the angel,"
as she called my mother, had not forgotten her when at the point
of death, since she had declared her wish to render her (Mimi's)
and Katenka's fortunes secure for ever. Mimi had shed bitter
tears while relating this, and very likely her sorrow, if not
wholly pure and disinterested, was in the main sincere.
Lubotshka, in black garments and suffused with tears, stood with
her head bowed upon her breast. She rarely looked at the coffin,
yet whenever she did so her face expressed a sort of childish
fear. Katenka stood near her mother, and, despite her lengthened
face, looked as lovely as ever. Woloda's frank nature was frank
also in grief. He stood looking grave and as though he were
staring at some object with fixed eyes. Then suddenly his lips
would begin to quiver, and he would hastily make the sign of the
cross, and bend his head again.
Such of those present as were strangers I found intolerable. In
fact, the phrases of condolence with which they addressed Papa
(such, for instance, as that "she is better off now" "she was
too good for this world," and so on) awakened in me something
like fury. What right had they to weep over or to talk about her?
Some of them, in referring to ourselves, called us "orphans"--
just as though it were not a matter of common knowledge that
children who have lost their mother are known as orphans!
Probably (I thought) they liked to be the first to give us that
name, just as some people find pleasure in being the first to
address a newly-married girl as "Madame."
In a far corner of the room, and almost hidden by the open door,
of the dining-room, stood a grey old woman with bent knees. With
hands clasped together and eyes lifted to heaven, she prayed
only--not wept. Her soul was in the presence of
God, and she was asking Him soon to reunite her to her whom she
had loved beyond all beings on this earth, and whom she
steadfastly believed that she would very soon meet again.
"There stands one who SINCERELY loved her," I thought to myself,
and felt ashamed.
The requiem was over. They uncovered the face of the deceased,
and all present except ourselves went to the coffin to give her
the kiss of farewell.
One of the last to take leave of her departed mistress was a
peasant woman who was holding by the hand a pretty little girl of
five whom she had brought with her, God knows for what reason.
Just at a moment when I chanced to drop my wet handkerchief and
was stooping to pick it up again, a loud, piercing scream
startled me, and filled me with such terror that, were I to live
a hundred years more, I should never forget it. Even now the
recollection always sends a cold shudder through my frame. I
raised my head. Standing on the chair near the coffin was the
peasant woman, while struggling and fighting in her arms was the
little girl, and it was this same poor child who had screamed
with such dreadful, desperate frenzy as, straining her terrified
face away, she still, continued to gaze with dilated eyes at the
face of the corpse. I too screamed in a voice perhaps more
dreadful still, and ran headlong from the room.
Only now did I understand the source of the strong, oppressive
smell which, mingling with the scent of the incense, filled the
chamber, while the thought that the face which, but a few days
ago, had been full of freshness and beauty--the face which I loved
more than anything else in all the world--was now capable of
inspiring horror at length revealed to me, as though for the
first time, the terrible truth, and filled my soul with despair.
Mamma was no longer with us, but our life went on as usual. We
went to bed and got up at the same times and in the same rooms;
breakfast, luncheon, and supper continued to be at their usual
hours; everything remained standing in its accustomed place;
nothing in the house or in our mode of life was altered: only,
she was not there.
Yet it seemed to me as though such a, misfortune ought to have
changed everything. Our old mode of life appeared like an insult
to her memory. It recalled too vividly her presence.
The day before the funeral I felt as though I should like to rest
a little after luncheon, and accordingly went to Natalia
Savishna's room with the intention of installing myself
comfortably under the warm, soft down of the quilt on her bed.
When I entered I found Natalia herself lying on the bed and
apparently asleep, but, on hearing my footsteps, she raised
herself up, removed the handkerchief which had been protecting
her face from the flies, and, adjusting her cap, sat forward on
the edge of the bed. Since it frequently happened that I came to
lie down in her room, she guessed my errand at once, and said:
"So you have come to rest here a little, have you? Lie down,
then, my dearest."
"Oh, but what is the matter with you, Natalia Savishna?" I
exclaimed as I forced her back again. "I did not come for that.
No, you are tired yourself, so you LIE down."
"I am quite rested now, darling," she said (though I knew that
it was many a night since she had closed her eyes). "Yes, I am
indeed, and have no wish to sleep again," she added with a deep
I felt as though I wanted to speak to her of our misfortune,
since I knew her sincerity and love, and thought that it would be
a consolation to me to weep with her.
"Natalia Savishna," I said after a pause, as I seated myself
upon the bed, "who would ever have thought of this? "
The old woman looked at me with astonishment, for she did not
quite understand my question.
"Yes, who would ever have thought of it?" I repeated.
"Ah, my darling," she said with a glance of tender compassion,
"it is not only 'Who would ever have thought of it?' but 'Who,
even now, would ever believe it?' I am old, and my bones should
long ago have gone to rest rather than that I should have lived
to see the old master, your Grandpapa, of blessed memory, and
Prince Nicola Michaelovitch, and his two brothers, and your
sister Amenka all buried before me, though all younger than
myself--and now my darling, to my never-ending sorrow, gone home
before me! Yet it has been God's will. He took her away because
she was worthy to be taken, and because He has need of the good
This simple thought seemed to me a consolation, and I pressed
closer to Natalia, She laid her hands upon my head as she looked
upward with eyes expressive of a deep, but resigned, sorrow. In
her soul was a sure and certain hope that God would not long
separate her from the one upon whom the whole strength of her
love had for many years been concentrated.
"Yes, my dear," she went on, "it is a long time now since I
used to nurse and fondle her, and she used to call me Natasha.
She used to come jumping upon me, and caressing and kissing me,
and say, 'MY Nashik, MY darling, MY ducky,' and I used to answer
jokingly, 'Well, my love, I don't believe that you DO love me.
You will be a grown-up young lady soon, and going away to be
married, and will leave your Nashik forgotten.' Then she would
grow thoughtful and say, 'I think I had better not marry if my
Nashik cannot go with me, for I mean never to leave her.' Yet,
alas! She has left me now! Who was there in the world she did not
love? Yes, my dearest, it must never be POSSIBLE for you to
forget your Mamma. She was not a being of earth--she was an angel
from Heaven. When her soul has entered the heavenly kingdom she
will continue to love you and to be proud of you even there."
"But why do you say 'when her soul has entered the heavenly
kingdom'?" I asked. "I believe it is there now."
"No, my dearest," replied Natalia as she lowered her voice and
pressed herself yet closer to me, "her soul is still here," and
she pointed upwards. She spoke in a whisper, but with such an
intensity of conviction that I too involuntarily raised my eyes
and looked at the ceiling, as though expecting to see something
there. 'Before the souls of the just enter Paradise they have to
undergo forty trials for forty days, and during that time they
hover around their earthly home." [A Russian popular legend.]
She went on speaking for some time in this strain--speaking with
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