The Schoolmistress and Other Stories
Part 3 out of 4
it directly. I'll heap up some hay for you, and then
you go to sleep, and God bless you, your honor."
A little later the examining magistrate was sitting in the
kitchen drinking tea, while Loshadin, the constable, was standing
at the door talking. He was an old man about sixty, short and
very thin, bent and white, with a naive smile on his face
and watery eyes, and he kept smacking with his lips as though he
were sucking a sweetmeat. He was wearing a short sheepskin coat
and high felt boots, and held his stick in his hands all the
time. The youth of the examining magistrate aroused his
compassion, and that was probably why he addressed him
"The elder gave orders that he was to be informed when the police
superintendent or the examining magistrate came," he said, "so I
suppose I must go now. . . . It's nearly three miles to the
_volost_, and the storm, the snowdrifts, are something terrible
-- maybe one won't get there before midnight. Ough! how the wind
"I don't need the elder," said Lyzhin. "There is nothing for him
to do here."
He looked at the old man with curiosity, and asked:
"Tell me, grandfather, how many years have you been constable? "
"How many? Why, thirty years. Five years after the Freedom I
began going as constable, that's how I reckon it. And from that
time I have been going every day since. Other people have
holidays, but I am always going. When it's Easter and the church
bells are ringing and Christ has risen, I still go about with my
bag -- to the treasury, to the post, to the police
superintendent's lodgings, to the rural captain, to the tax
inspector, to the municipal office, to the gentry, to the
peasants, to all orthodox Christians. I carry parcels, notices,
tax papers, letters, forms of different sorts, circulars, and to
be sure, kind gentleman, there are all sorts of forms nowadays,
so as to note down the numbers -- yellow, white, and red -- and
every gentleman or priest or well-to-do peasant must write down
a dozen times in the year how much he has sown and harvested, how
many quarters or poods he has of rye, how many of oats, how many
of hay, and what the weather's like, you know, and insects, too,
of all sorts. To be sure you can write what you like, it's only a
regulation, but one must go and give out the notices and then go
again and collect them. Here, for instance, there's no need to
cut open the gentleman; you know yourself it's a silly thing,
it's only dirtying your hands, and here you have been put to
trouble, your honor; you have come because it's the regulation;
you can't help it. For thirty years I have been going round
according to regulation. In the summer it is all right, it is
warm and dry; but in winter and autumn it's uncomfortable At
times I have been almost drowned and almost frozen; all sorts of
things have happened -- wicked people set on me in the forest and
took away my bag; I have been beaten, and I have been before a
court of law."
"What were you accused of?"
"How do you mean?"
"Why, you see, Hrisanf Grigoryev, the clerk, sold the contractor
some boards belonging to someone else -- cheated him, in fact. I
was mixed up in it. They sent me to the tavern for vodka; well,
the clerk did not share with me -- did not even offer me a glass;
but as through my poverty I was -- in appearance, I mean -- not a
man to be relied upon, not a man of any worth, we were both
brought to trial; he was sent to prison, but, praise God! I was
acquitted on all points. They read a notice, you know, in the
court. And they were all in uniforms -- in the court, I mean. I
can tell you, your honor, my duties for anyone not used to them
are terrible, absolutely killing; but to me it is nothing. In
fact, my feet ache when I am not walking. And at home it is worse
for me. At home one has to heat the stove for the clerk in the
_volost_ office, to fetch water for him, to clean his boots."
"And what wages do you get?" Lyzhin asked.
"Eighty-four roubles a year."
"I'll bet you get other little sums coming in. You do, don't
"Other little sums? No, indeed! Gentlemen nowadays don't often
give tips. Gentlemen nowadays are strict, they take offense at
anything. If you bring them a notice they are offended, if you
take off your cap before them they are offended. 'You have come
to the wrong entrance,' they say. 'You are a drunkard,' they say.
'You smell of onion; you are a blockhead; you are the son of a
bitch.' There are kind-hearted ones, of course; but what does one
get from them? They only laugh and call one all sorts of names.
Mr. Altuhin, for instance, he is a good-natured gentleman; and if
you look at him he seems sober and in his right mind, but so soon
as he sees me he shouts and does not know what he means himself.
He gave me such a name 'You,' said he, . . ." The constable
uttered some word, but in such a low voice that it was impossible
to make out what he said.
"What?" Lyzhin asked. "Say it again."
" 'Administration,' " the constable repeated aloud. "He has been
calling me that for a long while, for the last six years. 'Hullo,
Administration!' But I don't mind; let him, God bless him!
Sometimes a lady will send one a glass of vodka and a bit of pie
and one drinks to her health. But peasants give more; peasants
are more kind-hearted, they have the fear of God in their hearts:
one will give a bit of bread, another a drop of cabbage soup,
another will stand one a glass. The village elders treat one to
tea in the tavern. Here the witnesses have gone to their tea.
'Loshadin,' they said, 'you stay here and keep watch for us,' and
they gave me a kopeck each. You see, they are frightened, not
being used to it, and yesterday they gave me fifteen kopecks and
offered me a glass."
"And you, aren't you frightened?"
"I am, sir; but of course it is my duty, there is no getting away
from it. In the summer I was taking a convict to the town, and he
set upon me and gave me such a drubbing! And all around were
fields, forest -- how could I get away from him? It's just the
same here. I remember the gentleman, Mr. Lesnitsky, when he was
so high, and I knew his father and mother. I am from the village
of Nedoshtchotova, and they, the Lesnitsky family, were not more
than three-quarters of a mile from us and less
than that, their ground next to ours, and Mr. Lesnitsky had a
sister, a God-fearing and tender-hearted lady. Lord keep the soul
of Thy servant Yulya, eternal memory to her! She was never
married, and when she was dying she divided all her property;
she left three hundred acres to the monastery, and six hundred
to the commune of peasants of Nedoshtchotova to commemorate her
soul; but her brother hid the will, they do say burnt it in the
stove, and took all this land for himself. He thought, to
be sure, it was for his benefit; but -- nay, wait a bit, you
won't get on in the world through injustice, brother. The
gentleman did not go to confession for twenty years after. He
kept away from the church, to be sure, and died impenitent. He
burst. He was a very fat man, so he burst lengthways. Then
everything was taken from the young master, from Seryozha, to pay
the debts -- everything there was. Well, he had not gone very far
in his studies, he couldn't do anything, and the president
of the Rural Board, his uncle -- 'I'll take him' -- Seryozha, I
mean -- thinks he, 'for an agent; let him collect the insurance,
that's not a difficult job,' and the gentleman was young and
proud, he wanted to be living on a bigger scale and in better
style and with more freedom. To be sure it was a come-down for
him to be jolting about the district in a wretched cart and
talking to the peasants; he would walk and keep looking on the
ground, looking on the ground and saying nothing; if you
called his name right in his ear, 'Sergey Sergeyitch!' he would
look round like this, 'Eh?' and look down on the ground again,
and now you see he has laid hands on himself. There's no sense in
it, your honor, it's not right, and there's no making out what's
the meaning of it, merciful Lord! Say your father was rich and
you are poor; it is mortifying, there's no doubt about it, but
there, you must make up your mind to it. I used to live in good
style, too; I had two horses, your honor, three cows, I used to
keep twenty head of sheep; but the time has come, and I am left
with nothing but a wretched bag, and even that is not mine but
Government property. And now in our Nedoshtchotova, if the truth
is to be told, my house is the worst of the lot. Makey had four
footmen, and now Makey is a footman himself. Petrak had four
laborers, and now Petrak is a laborer himself."
"How was it you became poor?" asked the examining magistrate.
"My sons drink terribly. I could not tell you how they drink, you
wouldn't believe it."
Lyzhin listened and thought how he, Lyzhin, would go back sooner
or later to Moscow, while this old man would stay here for ever,
and would always be walking and walking. And how many times in
his life he would come across such battered, unkempt old men,
not "men of any worth," in whose souls fifteen kopecks, glasses
of vodka, and a profound belief that you can't get on in this
life by dishonesty, were equally firmly rooted.
Then he grew tired of listening, and told the old man to bring
him some hay for his bed, There was an iron bedstead with a
pillow and a quilt in the traveler's room, and it could be
fetched in ; but the dead man had been lying by it for nearly
three days (and perhaps sitting on it just before his death),
and it would be disagreeable to sleep upon it now. . . .
"It's only half-past seven," thought Lyzhin, glancing at his
watch. "How awful it is!"
He was not sleepy, but having nothing to do to pass away the
time, he lay down and covered himself with a rug. Loshadin went
in and out several times, clearing away the tea-things; smacking
his lips and sighing, he kept tramping round the table; at
last he took his little lamp and went out, and, looking at his
long, gray-headed, bent figure from behind, Lyzhin thought:
"Just like a magician in an opera."
It was dark. The moon must have been behind the clouds, as the
windows and the snow on the window-frames could be seen
"Oo-oo-oo!" sang the storm, "Oo-oo-oo-oo!"
"Ho-ho-ly sa-aints!" wailed a woman in the loft, or it sounded
like it. "Ho-ho-ly sa-aints!"
"B-booh!" something outside banged against the wall. "Trah!"
The examining magistrate listened: there was no woman up there,
it was the wind howling. It was rather cold, and he put his fur
coat over his rug. As he got warm he thought how remote all this
-- the storm, and the hut, and the old man, and the dead body
lying in the next room -- how remote it all was from the life he
desired for himself, and how alien it all was to him, how petty,
how uninteresting. If this man had killed himself in Moscow or
somewhere in the neighborhood, and he had had to hold an inquest
on him there, it would have been interesting, important, and
perhaps he might even have been afraid to sleep in the next room
to the corpse. Here, nearly a thousand miles from Moscow, all
this was seen somehow in a different light; it was not life,
they were not human beings, but something only existing
"according to the regulation," as Loshadin said; it would leave
not the faintest trace in the memory, and would be forgotten as
soon as he, Lyzhin, drove away from Syrnya. The fatherland, the
real Russia, was Moscow, Petersburg; but here he was in the
provinces, the colonies. When one dreamed of playing a leading
part, of becoming a popular figure, of being, for instance,
examining magistrate in particularly important cases or
prosecutor in a circuit court, of being a society lion, one
always thought of Moscow. To live, one must be in Moscow; here
one cared for nothing, one grew easily resigned to one's
insignificant position, and only expected one thing of life --
to get away quickly, quickly. And Lyzhin mentally moved about the
Moscow streets, went into the familiar houses, met his kindred,
his comrades, and there was a sweet pang at his heart at the
thought that he was only twenty-six, and that if in five or ten
years he could break away from here and get to Moscow, even then
it would not be too late and he would still have a whole life
before him. And as he sank into unconsciousness, as his thoughts
began to be confused, he imagined the long corridor of the court
at Moscow, himself delivering a speech, his sisters, the
orchestra which for some reason kept droning: "Oo-oo-oo-oo!
"Booh! Trah!" sounded again. "Booh!"
And he suddenly recalled how one day, when he was talking to the
bookkeeper in the little office of the Rural Board, a thin, pale
gentleman with black hair and dark eyes walked in; he had a
disagreeable look in his eyes such as one sees in people who
have slept too long after dinner, and it spoilt his delicate,
intelligent profile; and the high boots he was wearing did not
suit him, but looked clumsy. The bookkeeper had introduced him:
"This is our insurance agent."
"So that was Lesnitsky, . . . this same man," Lyzhin reflected
He recalled Lesnitsky's soft voice, imagined his gait, and it
seemed to him that someone was walking beside him now with a step
All at once he felt frightened, his head turned cold.
"Who's there?" he asked in alarm.
"What do you want here?"
"I have come to ask, your honor -- you said this evening that you
did not want the elder, but I am afraid he may be angry. He told
me to go to him. Shouldn't I go?"
"That's enough, you bother me," said Lyzhin with vexation, and he
covered himself up again.
"He may be angry. . . . I'll go, your honor. I hope you will be
comfortable," and Loshadin went out.
In the passage there was coughing and subdued voices. The
witnesses must have returned.
"We'll let those poor beggars get away early to-morrow, . . ."
thought the examining magistrate; "we'll begin the inquest as
soon as it is daylight."
He began sinking into forgetfulness when suddenly there were
steps again, not timid this time but rapid and noisy. There was
the slam of a door, voices, the scratching of a match. . . .
"Are you asleep? Are you asleep?" Dr. Startchenko was asking him
hurriedly and angrily as he struck one match after another; he
was covered with snow, and brought a chill air in with him. "Are
you asleep? Get up! Let us go to Von Taunitz's. He has sent his
own horses for you. Come along. There, at any rate, you will have
supper, and sleep like a human being. You see I have come for you
myself. The horses are splendid, we shall get there in twenty
"And what time is it now?"
"A quarter past ten."
Lyzhin, sleepy and discontented, put on his felt overboots, his
furlined coat, his cap and hood, and went out with the doctor.
There was not a very sharp frost, but a violent and piercing wind
was blowing and driving along the street the clouds of snow
which seemed to be racing away in terror: high drifts were heaped
up already under the fences and at the doorways. The doctor and
the examining magistrate got into the sledge, and the white
coachman bent over them to button up the cover. They were both
They drove through the village. "Cutting a feathery furrow,"
thought the examining magistrate, listlessly watching the action
of the trace horse's legs. There were lights in all the huts, as
though it were the eve of a great holiday: the peasants had not
gone to bed because they were afraid of the dead body. The
coachman preserved a sullen silence, probably he had felt dreary
while he was waiting by the Zemstvo hut, and now he, too, was
thinking of the dead man.
"At the Von Taunitz's," said Startchenko, "they all set upon me
when they heard that you were left to spend the night in the hut,
and asked me why I did not bring you with me."
As they drove out of the village, at the turning the coachman
suddenly shouted at the top of his voice: "Out of the way!"
They caught a glimpse of a man: he was standing up to his knees
in the snow, moving off the road and staring at the horses. The
examining magistrate saw a stick with a crook, and a beard and a
bag, and he fancied that it was Loshadin, and even fancied that
he was smiling. He flashed by and disappeared.
The road ran at first along the edge of the forest, then along a
broad forest clearing; they caught glimpses of old pines and a
young birch copse, and tall, gnarled young oak trees standing
singly in the clearings where the wood had lately been cut; but
soon it was all merged in the clouds of snow. The coachman said
he could see the forest; the examining magistrate could see
nothing but the trace horse. The wind blew on their backs.
All at once the horses stopped.
"Well, what is it now?" asked Startchenko crossly.
The coachman got down from the box without a word and began
running round the sledge, treading on his heels; he made larger
and larger circles, getting further and further away from the
sledge, and it looked as though he were dancing; at last he came
back and began to turn off to the right.
"You've got off the road, eh?" asked Startchenko.
"It's all ri-ight. . . ."
Then there was a little village and not a single light in it.
Again the forest and the fields. Again they lost the road, and
again the coachman got down from the box and danced round the
sledge. The sledge flew along a dark avenue, flew swiftly on.
And the heated trace horse's hoofs knocked against the sledge .
Here there was a fearful roaring sound from the trees, and
nothing could be seen, as though they were flying on into space;
and all at once the glaring light at the entrance and the
windows flashed upon their eyes, and they heard the good-natured,
drawn-out barking of dogs. They had arrived.
While they were taking off their fur coats and their felt boots
below, "Un Petit Verre de Clicquot" was being played upon the
piano overhead, and they could hear the children beating time
with their feet. Immediately on going in they were aware of the
snug warmth and special smell of the old apartments of a mansion
where, whatever the weather outside, life is so warm and clean
"That's capital!" said Von Taunitz, a fat man with an incredibly
thick neck and with whiskers, as he shook the examining
magistrate's hand. "That's capital! You are very welcome,
delighted to make your acquaintance. We are colleagues to some
extent, you know. At one time I was deputy prosecutor; but not
for long, only two years. I came here to look after the estate,
and here I have grown old -- an old fogey, in fact. You are very
welcome," he went on, evidently restraining his voice so as not
to speak too loud; he was going upstairs with his guests. "I have
no wife, she's dead. But here, I will introduce my daughters,"
and turning round, he shouted down the stairs in a voice of
thunder: "Tell Ignat to have the sledge ready at eight o'clock
His four daughters, young and pretty girls, all wearing gray
dresses and with their hair done up in the same style, and their
cousin, also young and attractive, with her children, were in the
drawingroom. Startchenko, who knew them already, began at once
begging them to sing something, and two of the young ladies spent
a long time declaring they could not sing and that they had no
music; then the cousin sat down to the piano, and with trembling
voices, they sang a duet from "The Queen of Spades." Again "Un
Petit Verre de Clicquot" was played, and the children skipped
about, beating time with their feet. And Startchenko pranced
about too. Everybody laughed.
Then the children said good-night and went off to bed. The
examining magistrate laughed, danced a quadrille, flirted, and
kept wondering whether it was not all a dream? The kitchen of the
Zemstvo hut, the heap of hay in the corner, the rustle of the
beetles, the revolting poverty-stricken surroundings, the voices
of the witnesses, the wind, the snow storm, the danger of being
lost; and then all at once this splendid, brightly lighted room,
the sounds of the piano, the lovely girls, the curly-headed
children, the gay, happy laughter -- such a transformation seemed
to him like a fairy tale, and it seemed incredible that such
transitions were possible at the distance of some two miles in
the course of one hour. And dreary thoughts prevented him from
enjoying himself, and he kept thinking this was not life here,
but bits of life fragments, that everything here was accidental,
that one could draw no conclusions from it; and he even felt
sorry for these girls, who were living and would end their lives
in the wilds, in a province far away from the center of culture,
where nothing is accidental, but everything is in accordance with
reason and law, and where, for instance, every suicide is
intelligible, so that one can explain why it has happened and
what is its significance in the general scheme of things. He
imagined that if the life surrounding him here in the wilds were
not intelligible to him, and if he did not see it, it meant that
it did not exist at all.
At supper the conversation turned on Lesnitsky
"He left a wife and child," said Startchenko. "I would forbid
neurasthenics and all people whose nervous system is out of order
to marry, I would deprive them of the right and possibility of
multiplying their kind. To bring into the world nervous, invalid
children is a crime."
"He was an unfortunate young man," said Von Taunitz, sighing
gently and shaking his head. "What a lot one must suffer and
think about before one brings oneself to take one's own life, . .
. a young life! Such a misfortune may happen in any family, and
that is awful. It is hard to bear such a thing, insufferable. . .
And all the girls listened in silence with grave faces, looking
at their father. Lyzhin felt that he, too, must say something,
but he couldn't think of anything, and merely said:
"Yes, suicide is an undesirable phenomenon."
He slept in a warm room, in a soft bed covered with a quilt under
which there were fine clean sheets, but for some reason did not
feel comfortable: perhaps because the doctor and Von Taunitz
were, for a long time, talking in the adjoining room, and
overhead he heard, through the ceiling and in the stove, the
wind roaring just as in the Zemstvo hut, and as plaintively
Von Taunitz's wife had died two years before, and he was still
unable to resign himself to his loss and, whatever he was talking
about, always mentioned his wife; and there was no trace of a
prosecutor left about him now.
"Is it possible that I may some day come to such a condition?"
thought Lyzhin, as he fell asleep, still hearing through the wall
his host's subdued, as it were bereaved, voice.
The examining magistrate did not sleep soundly. He felt hot and
uncomfortable, and it seemed to him in his sleep that he was not
at Von Taunitz's, and not in a soft clean bed, but still in the
hay at the Zemstvo hut, hearing the subdued voices of the
witnesses; he fancied that Lesnitsky was close by, not fifteen
paces away. In his dreams he remembered how the insurance agent,
black-haired and pale, wearing dusty high boots, had come into
the bookkeeper's office. "This is our insurance agent.
. . ."
Then he dreamed that Lesnitsky and Loshadin the constable were
walking through the open country in the snow, side by side,
supporting each other; the snow was whirling about their heads,
the wind was blowing on their backs, but they walked on,
singing: We go on, and on, and on. . . ."
The old man was like a magician in an opera, and both of them
were singing as though they were on the stage:
"We go on, and on, and on! . . . You are in the warmth, in the
light and snugness, but we are walking in the frost and the
storm, through the deep snow. . . . We know nothing of ease, we
know nothing of joy. . . . We bear all the burden of this life,
yours and ours. . . . Oo-oo-oo! We go on, and on, and on. . . ."
Lyzhin woke and sat up in bed. What a confused, bad dream! And
why did he dream of the constable and the agent together? What
nonsense! And now while Lyzhin's heart was throbbing violently
and he was sitting on his bed, holding his head in his hands, it
seemed to him that there really was something in common between
the lives of the insurance agent and the constable. Don't they
really go side by side holding each other up? Some tie unseen,
but significant and essential, existed between them, and even
between them and Von Taunitz and between all men -- all men; in
this life, even in the remotest desert, nothing is accidental,
everything is full of one common idea, everything has one soul,
one aim, and to understand it it is not enough to think, it is
not enough to reason, one must have also, it seems, the gift of
insight into life, a gift which is evidently not bestowed on all.
And the unhappy man who had broken down, who had killed himself
-- the "neurasthenic," as the doctor called him -- and the old
peasant who spent every day of his life going from one man to
another, were only accidental, were only fragments of life for
one who thought of his own life as accidental, but were parts of
one organism -- marvelous and rational -- for one who thought of
his own life as part of that universal whole and understood it.
So thought Lyzhin, and it was a thought that had long lain hidden
in his soul, and only now it was unfolded broadly and clearly to
He lay down and began to drop asleep; and again they were going
along together, singing: "We go on, and on, and on. . . . We take
from life what is hardest and bitterest in it, and we leave you
what is easy and joyful; and sitting at supper, you can coldly
and sensibly discuss why we suffer and perish, and why we are not
as sound and as satisfied as you."
What they were singing had occurred to his mind before, but the
thought was somewhere in the background behind his other
thoughts, and flickered timidly like a faraway light in foggy
weather. And he felt that this suicide and the peasant's
sufferings lay upon his conscience, too; to resign himself to the
fact that these people, submissive to their fate, should take up
the burden of what was hardest and gloomiest in life -- how awful
it was! To accept this, and to desire for himself a life full of
light and movement among happy and contented people, and to be
continually dreaming of such, means dreaming of fresh suicides of
men crushed by toil and anxiety, or of men weak and outcast whom
people only talk of sometimes at supper with annoyance or
mockery, without going to their help. . . . And again:
"We go on, and on, and on . . ." as though someone were beating
with a hammer on his temples.
He woke early in the morning with a headache, roused by a noise;
in the next room Von Taunitz was saying loudly to the doctor:
"It's impossible for you to go now. Look what's going on outside.
Don't argue, you had better ask the coachman; he won't take you
in such weather for a million."
"But it's only two miles," said the doctor in an imploring voice.
"Well, if it were only half a mile. If you can't, then you can't.
Directly you drive out of the gates it is perfect hell, you would
be off the road in a minute. Nothing will induce me to let you
go, you can say what you like."
"It's bound to be quieter towards evening," said the peasant who
was heating the stove.
And in the next room the doctor began talking of the rigorous
climate and its influence on the character of the Russian, of the
long winters which, by preventing movement from place to place,
hinder the intellectual development of the people; and Lyzhin
listened with vexation to these observations and looked out of
window at the snow drifts which were piled on the fence. He gazed
at the white dust which covered the whole visible expanse, at the
trees which bowed their heads despairingly to right and then to
left, listened to the howling and the banging, and thought
"Well, what moral can be drawn from it? It's a blizzard and that
is all about it. . . ."
At midday they had lunch, then wandered aimlessly about the
house; they went to the windows.
"And Lesnitsky is lying there," thought Lyzhin, watching the
whirling snow, which raced furiously round and round upon the
drifts. "Lesnitsky is lying there, the witnesses are waiting. . .
They talked of the weather, saying that the snowstorm usually
lasted two days and nights, rarely longer. At six o'clock they
had dinner, then they played cards, sang, danced; at last they
had supper. The day was over, they went to bed.
In the night, towards morning, it all subsided. When they got up
and looked out of window, the bare willows with their weakly
drooping branches were standing perfectly motionless; it was dull
and still, as though nature now were ashamed of its orgy, of its
mad nights, and the license it had given to its passions. The
horses, harnessed tandem, had been waiting at the front door
since five o'clock in the morning. When it was fully daylight the
doctor and the examining magistrate put on their fur coats and
felt boots, and, saying good-by to their host, went out.
At the steps beside the coachman stood the familiar figure of the
constable, Ilya Loshadin, with an old leather bag across his
shoulder and no cap on his head, covered with snow all over, and
his face was red and wet with perspiration. The footman who had
come out to help the gentlemen and cover their legs looked at him
sternly and said:
"What are you standing here for, you old devil? Get away!"
"Your honor, the people are anxious," said Loshadin, smiling
naively all over his face, and evidently pleased at seeing
at last the people he had waited for so long. "The people are
very uneasy, the children are crying. . . . They thought, your
honor, that you had gone back to the town again. Show us the
heavenly mercy, our benefactors! . . ."
The doctor and the examining magistrate said nothing, got into
the sledge, and drove to Syrnya.
THE FIRST-CLASS PASSENGER
A FIRST-CLASS passenger who had just dined at the station and
drunk a little too much lay down on the velvet-covered seat,
stretched himself out luxuriously, and sank into a doze. After a
nap of no more than five minutes, he looked with oily eyes at
his _vis-a-vis,_ gave a smirk, and said:
"My father of blessed memory used to like to have his heels
tickled by peasant women after dinner. I am just like him, with
this difference, that after dinner I always like my tongue and my
brains gently stimulated. Sinful man as I am, I like empty
talk on a full stomach. Will you allow me to have a chat with
"I shall be delighted," answered the _vis-a-vis._
"After a good dinner the most trifling subject is sufficient to
arouse devilishly great thoughts in my brain. For instance, we
saw just now near the refreshment bar two young men, and you
heard one congratulate the other on being celebrated. 'I
congratulate you,' he said; 'you are already a celebrity and are
beginning to win fame.' Evidently actors or journalists of
microscopic dimensions. But they are not the point. The question
that is occupying my mind at the moment, sir, is exactly what is
to be understood by the word _fame_ or _charity_. What do you
think? Pushkin called fame a bright patch on a ragged garment; we
all understand it as Pushkin does -- that is, more or less
subjectively -- but no one has yet given a clear, logical
definition of the word. . . . I would give a good deal for such a
"Why do you feel such a need for it?"
"You see, if we knew what fame is, the means of attaining it
might also perhaps be known to us," said the first-class
passenger, after a moment's thought. I must tell you, sir, that
when I was younger I strove after celebrity with every fiber of
my being. To be popular was my craze, so to speak. For the sake of
it I studied, worked, sat up at night, neglected my meals. And I
fancy, as far as I can judge without partiality, I had all the
natural gifts for attaining it. To begin with, I am an engineer
by profession. In the course of my life I have built in Russia
some two dozen magnificent bridges, I have laid aqueducts for
three towns; I have worked in Russia, in England, in Belgium. . .
. Secondly, I am the author of several special treatises in my
own line. And thirdly, my dear sir, I have from a boy had a
weakness for chemistry. Studying that science in my leisure
hours, I discovered methods of obtaining certain organic acids,
so that you will find my name in all the foreign manuals of
chemistry. I have always been in the service, I have risen to the
grade of actual civil councilor, and I have an unblemished
record. I will not fatigue your attention by enumerating my works
and my merits, I will only say that I have done far more than some
celebrities. And yet here I am in my old age, I am getting ready
for my coffin, so to say, and I am as celebrated as that black dog
yonder running on the embankment."
"How can you tell? Perhaps you are celebrated."
"H'm! Well, we will test it at once. Tell me, have you ever heard
the name Krikunov?"
The _vis-a-vis_ raised his eyes to the ceiling, thought a minute,
"No, I haven't heard it, . . ." he said.
"That is my surname. You, a man of education, getting on in
years, have never heard of me -- a convincing proof! It is
evident that in my efforts to gain fame I have not done the right
thing at all: I did not know the right way to set to work, and,
trying to catch fame by the tail, got on the wrong side of her."
"What is the right way to set to work?"
"Well, the devil only knows! Talent, you say? Genius?
Originality? Not a bit of it, sir!. . . People have lived and
made a career side by side with me who were worthless, trivial,
and even contemptible compared with me. They did not do one-tenth
of the work I did, did not put themselves out, were not
distinguished for their talents, and did not make an effort to be
celebrated, but just look at them! Their names are continually in
the newspapers and on men's lips! If you are not tired of
listening I will illustrate it by an example. Some years ago I
built a bridge in the town of K. I must tell you that the
dullness of that scurvy little town was terrible. If it had not
been for women and cards I believe I should have gone out of my
mind. Well, it's an old story: I was so bored that I got into an
affair with a singer. Everyone was enthusiastic about her, the
devil only knows why; to my thinking she was -- what shall I say?
-- an ordinary, commonplace creature, like lots of others. The
hussy was empty-headed, ill-tempered, greedy, and what's more,
she was a fool.
"She ate and drank a vast amount, slept till five o clock in the
afternoon -- and I fancy did nothing else. She was looked upon as
a cocotte, and that was indeed her profession; but when people
wanted to refer to her in a literary fashion, they called her an
actress and a singer. I used to be devoted to the theatre, and
therefore this fraudulent pretense of being an actress made me
furiously indignant. My young lady had not the slightest right to
call herself an actress or a singer. She was a creature entirely
devoid of talent, devoid of feeling -- a pitiful creature one may
say. As far as I can judge she sang disgustingly. The whole charm
of her 'art' lay in her kicking up her legs on every suitable
occasion, and not being embarrassed when people walked into her
dressing-room. She usually selected translated vaudevilles, with
singing in them, and opportunities for disporting herself in male
attire, in tights. In fact it was -- ough! Well, I ask your
attention. As I remember now, a public ceremony took place to
celebrate the opening of the newly constructed bridge. There was
a religious service, there were speeches, telegrams, and so on. I
hung about my cherished creation, you know, all the while afraid
that my heart would burst with the excitement of an author. Its
an old story and there's no need for false modesty, and so I will
tell you that my bridge was a magnificent work! It was not a
bridge but a picture, a perfect delight! And who would not have
been excited when the whole town came to the opening? 'Oh,' I
thought, 'now the eyes of all the public will be on me! Where
shall I hide myself?' Well, I need not have worried myself, sir
-- alas! Except the official personages, no one took the
slightest notice of me. They stood in a crowd on the river-bank,
gazed like sheep at the bridge, and did not concern themselves to
know who had built it. And it was from that time, by the way,
that I began to hate our estimable public -- damnation take
them! Well, to continue. All at once the public became agitated;
a whisper ran through the crowd, . . . a smile came on their
faces, their shoulders began to move. 'They must have seen me,' I
thought. A likely idea! I looked, and my singer, with a train of
young scamps, was making her way through the crowd. The eyes of
the crowd were hurriedly following this procession. A whisper
began in a thousand voices: 'That's so-and-so. . . . Charming!
Bewitching!' Then it was they noticed me. . . . A couple of
young milksops, local amateurs of the scenic art, I presume,
looked at me, exchanged glances, and whispered: 'That's her
lover!' How do you like that? And an unprepossessing individual
in a top-hat, with a chin that badly needed shaving, hung round
me, shifting from one foot to the other, then turned to me with
"'Do you know who that lady is, walking on the other bank? That's
so-and-so. . . . Her voice is beneath all criticism, but she has
a most perfect mastery of it! . . .'
" 'Can you tell me,' I asked the unprepossessing individual, 'who
built this bridge?'
" 'I really don't know,' answered the individual; some engineer,
" 'And who built the cathedral in your town?' I asked again.
" 'I really can't tell you.'
"Then I asked him who was considered the best teacher in K., who
the best architect, and to all my questions the unprepossessing
individual answered that he did not know.
" 'And tell me, please,' I asked in conclusion, with whom is that
" 'With some engineer called Krikunov.'
"Well, how do you like that, sir? But to proceed. There are no
minnesingers or bards nowadays, and celebrity is created almost
exclusively by the newspapers. The day after the dedication of
the bridge, I greedily snatched up the local _Messenger,_ and
looked for myself in it. I spent a long time running my eyes over
all the four pages, and at last there it was -- hurrah! I began
reading: 'Yesterday in beautiful weather, before a vast concourse
of people, in the presence of His Excellency the Governor of the
province, so-and-so, and other dignitaries, the ceremony of the
dedication of the newly constructed bridge took place,' and so
on. . . . Towards the end: Our talented actress so-and-so, the
favorite of the K. public, was present at the dedication looking
very beautiful. I need not say that her arrival created a
sensation. The star was wearing . . .' and so on. They might have
given me one word! Half a word. Petty as it seems, I actually
cried with vexation!
"I consoled myself with the reflection that the provinces are
stupid, and one could expect nothing of them and for celebrity
one must go to the intellectual centers -- to Petersburg and to
Moscow. And as it happened, at that very time there was a work
of mine in Petersburg which I had sent in for a competition. The
date on which the result was to be declared was at hand.
"I took leave of K. and went to Petersburg. It is a long journey
from K. to Petersburg, and that I might not be bored on the
journey I took a reserved compartment and -- well -- of course, I
took my singer. We set off, and all the way we were eating,
drinking champagne, and -- tra-la--la! But behold, at last we
reach the intellectual center. I arrived on the very day the
result was declared, and had the satisfaction, my dear sir, of
celebrating my own success: my work received the first prize.
Hurrah! Next day I went out along the Nevsky and spent seventy
kopecks on various newspapers. I hastened to my hotel room, lay
down on the sofa, and, controlling a quiver of excitement, made
haste to read. I ran through one newspaper -- nothing. I ran
through a second -- nothing either; my God! At last, in the
fourth, I lighted upon the following paragraph: 'Yesterday the
well-known provincial actress so-and-so arrived by express in
Petersburg. We note with pleasure that the climate of the South
has had a beneficial effect on our fair friend; her charming
stage appearance. . .' and I don't remember the rest! Much lower
down than that paragraph I found, printed in the smallest type:
first prize in the competition was adjudged to an engineer
called so-and-so.' That was all! And to make things better, they
even misspelt my name: instead of Krikunov it was Kirkutlov. So
much for your intellectual center! But that was not all. . . . By
the time I left Petersburg, a month later, all the newspapers
were vying with one another in discussing our incomparable,
divine, highly talented actress, and my mistress was referred to,
not by her surname, but by her Christian name and her father's. .
"Some years later I was in Moscow. I was summoned there by a
letter, in the mayor's own handwriting, to undertake a work for
which Moscow, in its newspapers, had been clamoring for over a
hundred years. In the intervals of my work I delivered five
public lectures, with a philanthropic object, in one of the
museums there. One would have thought that was enough to make one
known to the whole town for three days at least, wouldn't one?
But, alas! not a single Moscow gazette said a word about me
There was something about houses on fire, about an operetta,
sleeping town councilors, dr unken shop keepers -- about
everything; but about my work, my plans, my lectures -- mum. And
a nice set they are in Moscow! I got into a tram. . . . It was
packed full; there were ladies and military men and students of
both sexes, creatures of all sorts in couples.
"'I am told the town council has sent for an engineer to plan
such and such a work!' I said to my neighbor, so loudly that all
the tram could hear. 'Do you know the name of the engineer?'
"My neighbor shook his head. The rest of the public took a
cursory glance at me, and in all their eyes I read: 'I don't
"'I am told that there is someone giving lectures in such and
such a museum?' I persisted, trying to get up a conversation. 'I
hear it is interesting.'
"No one even nodded. Evidently they had not all of them heard of
the lectures, and the ladies were not even aware of the existence
of the museum. All that would not have mattered, but imagine, my
dear sir, the people suddenly leaped to their feet and struggled
to the windows. What was it? What was the matter?
"'Look, look!' my neighbor nudged me. 'Do you see that dark man
getting into that cab? That's the famous runner, King!'
"And the whole tram began talking breathlessly of the runner who
was then absorbing the brains of Moscow.
"I could give you ever so many other examples, but I think that
is enough. Now let us assume that I am mistaken about myself,
that I am a wretchedly boastful and incompetent person; but apart
from myself I might point to many of my contemporaries, men
remarkable for their talent and industry, who have nevertheless
died unrecognized. Are Russian navigators, chemists, physicists,
mechanicians, and agriculturists popular with the public? Do our
cultivated masses know anything of Russian artists,
sculptors, and literary men? Some old literary hack,
hard-working and talented, will wear away the doorstep of the
publishers' offices for thirty-three years, cover reams of paper,
be had up for libel twenty times, and yet not step beyond his
ant-heap. Can you mention to me a single representative of our
literature who would have become celebrated if the rumor had not
been spread over the earth that he had been killed in a duel,
gone out of his mind, been sent into exile, or had cheated at
The first-class passenger was so excited that he dropped his
cigar out of his mouth and got up.
"Yes," he went on fiercely, "and side by side with these people I
can quote you hundreds of all sorts of singers, acrobats,
buffoons, whose names are known to every baby. Yes!"
The door creaked, there was a draught, and an individual of
forbidding aspect, wearing an Inverness coat, a top-hat, and blue
spectacles, walked into the carriage. The individual looked round
at the seats, frowned, and went on further.
"Do you know who that is?" there came a timid whisper from the
furthest corner of the compartment.
That is N. N., the famous Tula cardsharper who was had up in
connection with the Y. bank affair."
"There you are!" laughed the first-class passenger. He knows a
Tula cardsharper, but ask him whether he knows Semiradsky,
Tchaykovsky, or Solovyov the philosopher -- he'll shake his head.
. . . It swinish!"
Three minutes passed in silence.
"Allow me in my turn to ask you a question," said the _vis-a-vis_
timidly, clearing his throat. Do you know the name of Pushkov?"
"Pushkov? H'm! Pushkov. . . . No, I don't know it!"
"That is my name,. . ." said the _vis-a-vis,_, overcome with
embarrassment. "Then you don't know it? And yet I have been a
professor at one of the Russian universities for thirty-five
years, . . . a member of the Academy of Sciences, . . . have
published more than one work. . . ."
The first-class passenger and the _vis-a-vis_ looked at each
other and burst out laughing.
A TRAGIC ACTOR
IT was the benefit night of Fenogenov, the tragic actor. They
were acting "Prince Serebryany." The tragedian himself was
playing Vyazemsky; Limonadov, the stage manager, was playing
Morozov; Madame Beobahtov, Elena. The performance was a grand
success. The tragedian accomplished wonders indeed. When he was
carrying off Elena, he held her in one hand above his head as he
dashed across the stage. He shouted, hissed, banged with his
feet, tore his coat across his chest. When he refused to fight
Morozov, he trembled all over as nobody ever trembles in reality,
and gasped loudly. The theatre shook with applause. There were
endless calls. Fenogenov was presented with a silver
cigarette-case and a bouquet tied with long ribbons. The ladies
waved their handkerchiefs and urged their men to applaud, many
shed tears. . . . But the one who was the most enthusiastic and
most excited was Masha, daughter of Sidoretsky the police
captain. She was sitting in the first row of the stalls beside
her papa; she was ecstatic and could not take her eyes off the
stage even between the acts. Her delicate little hands and feet
were quivering, her eyes were full of tears, her cheeks turned
paler and paler. And no wonder -- she was at the theatre for the
first time in her life.
"How well they act! how splendidly!" she said to her papa the
police captain, every time the curtain fell. How good Fenogenov
And if her papa had been capable of reading faces he would have
read on his daughter's pale little countenance a rapture that was
almost anguish. She was overcome by the acting, by the play, by
the surroundings. When the regimental band began playing between
the acts, she closed her eyes, exhausted.
"Papa!" she said to the police captain during the last interval,
"go behind the scenes and ask them all to dinner to-morrow!"
The police captain went behind the scenes, praised them for all
their fine acting, and complimented Madame Beobahtov.
"Your lovely face demands a canvas, and I only wish I could wield
And with a scrape, he thereupon invited the company to dinner.
"All except the fair sex," he whispered. "I don't want the
actresses, for I have a daughter."
Next day the actors dined at the police captain's. Only three
turned up, the manager Limonadov, the tragedian Fenogenov, and
the comic man Vodolazov; the others sent excuses. The dinner was
a dull affair. Limonadov kept telling the police captain how
much he respected him, and how highly he thought of all persons
in authority; Vodolazov mimicked drunken merchants and Armenians;
and Fenogenov (on his passport his name was Knish), a tall, stout
Little Russian with black eyes and frowning brow,
declaimed "At the portals of the great," and "To be or not to
be." Limonadov, with tears in his eyes, described his interview
with the former Governor, General Kanyutchin. The police captain
listened, was bored, and smiled affably. He was well satisfied,
although Limonadov smelt strongly of burnt feathers, and
Fenogenov was wearing a hired dress coat and boots trodden down
at heel. They pleased his daughter and made her lively, and that
was enough for him. And Masha never took her eyes off the
actors. She had never before seen such clever, exceptional
In the evening the police captain and Masha were at the theatre
again. A week later the actors dined at the police captain's
again, and after that came almost every day either to dinner or
supper. Masha became more and more devoted to the theatre, and
went there every evening.
She fell in love with the tragedian. One fine morning, when the
police captain had gone to meet the bishop, Masha ran away with
Limonadov's company and married her hero on the way. After
celebrating the wedding, the actors composed a long and touching
letter and sent it to the police captain.
It was the work of their combined efforts.
"Bring out the motive, the motive!" Limonadov kept saying as he
dictated to the comic man. "Lay on the respect. . . . These
official chaps like it. Add something of a sort . . . to draw a
The answer to this letter was most discomforting. The police
captain disowned his daughter for marrying, as he said, "a
stupid, idle Little Russian with no fixed home or occupation."
And the day after this answer was received M asha was writing to
"Papa, he beats me! Forgive us!"
He had beaten her, beaten her behind the scenes, in the presence
of Limonadov, the washerwoman, and two lighting men. He
remembered how, four days before the wedding, he was sitting in
the London Tavern with the whole company, and all were talking
about Masha. The company were advising him to "chance it," and
Limonadov, with tears in his eyes urged: "It would be stupid and
irrational to let slip such an opportunity! Why, for a sum like
that one would go to Siberia, let alone getting married! When
you marry and have a theatre of your own, take me into your
company. I shan't be master then, you'll be master."
Fenogenov remembered it, and muttered with clenched fists:
"If he doesn't send money I'll smash her! I won't let myself be
made a fool of, damn my soul!"
At one provincial town the company tried to give Masha the slip,
but Masha found out, ran to the station, and got there when the
second bell had rung and the actors had all taken their seats.
"I've been shamefully treated by your father," said the
tragedian; "all is over between us!"
And though the carriage was full of people, she went down on her
knees and held out her hands, imploring him:
"I love you! Don't drive me away, Kondraty Ivanovitch," she
besought him. "I can't live without you!"
They listened to her entreaties, and after consulting together,
took her into the company as a "countess" -- the name they used
for the minor actresses who usually came on to the stage in
crowds or in dumb parts. To begin with Masha used to play
maid-servants and pages, but when Madame Beobahtov, the flower of
Limonadov's company, eloped, they made her _ingenue_. She acted
badly, lisped, and was nervous. She soon grew used to it,
however, and began to be liked by the audience. Fenogenov was
"To call her an actress!" he used to say. "She has no figure, no
deportment, nothing whatever but silliness."
In one provincial town the company acted Schiller's " Robbers."
Fenogenov played Franz, Masha, Amalie. The tragedian shouted and
quivered. Masha repeated her part like a well-learnt lesson, and
the play would have gone off as they generally did had
it not been for a trifling mishap. Everything went well up to
the point where Franz declares his love for Amalie and she seizes
his sword. The tragedian shouted, hissed, quivered, and squeezed
Masha in his iron embrace. And Masha, instead of repulsing him
and crying "Hence! " trembled in his arms like a bird and did not
move, . . .she seemed petrified.
"Have pity on me!" she whispered in his ear. "Oh, have pity on
me! I am so miserable!"
"You don't know your part! Listen to the prompter!" hissed the
tragedian, and he thrust his sword into her hand.
After the performance, Limonadov and Fenogenov were sitting in
the ticket box-office engaged in conversation.
"Your wife does not learn her part, you are right there," the
manager was saying. "She doesn't know her line. . . . Every man
has his own line, . . . but she doesn't know hers. . . ."
Fenogenov listened, sighed, and scowled and scowled.
Next morning, Masha was sitting in a little general shop writing:
"Papa, he beats me! Forgive us! Send us some money!"
A COLLEGIATE assessor called Miguev stopped at a telegraph-post
in the course of his evening walk and heaved a deep sigh. A week
before, as he was returning home from his evening walk, he had
been overtaken at that very spot by his former housemaid, Agnia,
who said to him viciously:
"Wait a bit! I'll cook you such a crab that'll teach you to ruin
innocent girls! I'll leave the baby at your door, and I'll have
the law of you, and I'll tell your wife, too. . . ."
And she demanded that he should put five thousand roubles into
the bank in her name. Miguev remembered it, heaved a sigh, and
once more reproached himself with heartfelt repentance for the
momentary infatuation which had caused him so much worry and
When he reached his bungalow, he sat down to rest on the
doorstep. It was just ten o'clock, and a bit of the moon peeped
out from behind the clouds. There was not a soul in the street
nor near the bungalows; elderly summer visitors were already
going to bed, while young ones were walking in the wood. Feeling
in both his pockets for a match to light his cigarette, Miguev
brought his elbow into contact with something soft. He looked
idly at his right elbow, and his face was instantly contorted by
a look of as much horror as though he had seen a snake beside
him. On the step at the very door lay a bundle. Something oblong
in shape was wrapped up in something -- judging by the feel of
it, a wadded quilt. One end of the bundle was a little open, and
the collegiate assessor, putting in his hand, felt something damp
and warm. He leaped on to his feet in horror, and looked about
him like a criminal trying to escape from his warders. . . .
"She has left it!" he muttered wrathfully through his teeth,
clenching his fists. "Here it lies. . . . Here lies my
transgression! O Lord!"
He was numb with terror, anger, and shame. . . What was he to do
now? What would his wife say if she found out? What would his
colleagues at the office say? His Excellency would be sure to dig
him in the ribs, guffaw, and say: "I congratulate you! . . .
He-he-he! Though your beard is gray, your heart is gay. . . . You
are a rogue, Semyon Erastovitch!" The whole colony of summer
visitors would know his secret now, and probably the respectable
mothers of families would shut their doors to him.
Such incidents always get into the papers, and the humble name
of Miguev would be published all over Russia. . . .
The middle window of the bungalow was open and he could
distinctly hear his wife, Anna Filippovna, laying the table for
supper; in the yard close to the gate Yermolay, the porter, was
plaintively strumming on the balalaika. The baby had only to wake
up and begin to cry, and the secret would be discovered. Miguev
was conscious of an overwhelming desire to make haste.
"Haste, haste! . . ." he muttered, "this minute, before anyone
sees. I'll carry it away and lay it on somebody's doorstep. . .
Miguev took the bundle in one hand and quietly, with a deliberate
step to avoid awakening suspicion, went down the street. . . .
"A wonderfully nasty position!" he reflected, trying to assume an
air of unconcern. "A collegiate assessor walking down the street
with a baby! Good heavens! if anyone sees me and understands the
position, I am done for. . . . I'd better put it on this
doorstep. . . . No, stay, the windows are open and perhaps
someone is looking. Where shall I put it? I know! I'll take it to
the merchant Myelkin's.. .. Merchants are rich people and
tenderhearted; very likely they will say thank you and adopt
And Miguev made up his mind to take the baby to Myelkin's,
although the merchant's villa was in the furthest street, close
to the river.
"If only it does not begin screaming or wriggle out of the
bundle," thought the collegiate assessor. "This is indeed a
pleasant surprise! Here I am carrying a human being under my arm
as though it were a portfolio. A human being, alive, with soul,
with feelings like anyone else. . . . If by good luck the
Myelkins adopt him, he may turn out somebody. . . . Maybe he will
become a professor, a great general, an author. . . . Anything
may happen! Now I am carrying him under my arm like a bundle of
rubbish, and perhaps in thirty or forty years I may not dare to
sit down in his presence. . . .
As Miguev was walking along a narrow, deserted alley, beside a
long row of fences, in the thick black shade of the lime trees,
it suddenly struck him that he was doing something very cruel and
"How mean it is really!" he thought. "So mean that one can't
imagine anything meaner. . . . Why are we shifting this poor baby
from door to door? It's not its fault that it's been born. It's
done us no harm. We are scoundrels. . . . We take our pleasure,
and the innocent babies have to pay the penalty. Only to think of
all this wretched business!
I've done wrong and the child has a cruel fate before it. If I
lay it at the Myelkins' door, they'll send it to the foundling
hospital, and there it will grow up among strangers, in
mechanical routine, . . . no love, no petting, no spoiling. . . .
And then he'll be apprenticed to a shoemaker, . . . he'll take to
drink, will learn to use filthy language, will go hungry. A
shoemaker! and he the son of a collegiate assessor, of good
family. . . . He is my flesh and blood, . . . "
Miguev came out of the shade of the lime trees into the bright
moonlight of the open road, and opening the bundle, he looked at
"Asleep!" he murmured. "You little rascal! why, you've an
aquiline nose like your father's. . . . He sleeps and doesn't
feel that it's his own father looking at him! . . . It's a drama,
my boy. . . Well, well, you must forgive me. Forgive me, old
boy. . . . It seems it's your fate. . . ."
The collegiate assessor blinked and felt a spasm running down his
cheeks. . . . He wrapped up the baby, put him under his arm, and
strode on. All the way to the Myelkins' villa social questions
were swarming in his brain and conscience was gnawing in his
"If I were a decent, honest man, he thought, "I should damn
everything, go with this baby to Anna Filippovna, fall on my
knees before her, and say: 'Forgive me! I have sinned! Torture
me, but we won't ruin an innocent child. We have no children; let
us adopt him!" She's a good sort, she'd consent. . . . And then
my child would be with me. . . . Ech!"
He reached the Myelkins' villa and stood still hesitating. He
imagined himself in the parlor at home, sitting reading the paper
while a little boy with an aquiline nose played with the tassels
of his dressing gown. At the same time visions forced themselves
on his brain of his winking colleagues, and of his Excellency
digging him in the ribs and guffawing. . . . Besides the pricking
of his conscience, there was something warm, sad, and tender in
his heart. . . .
Cautiously the collegiate assessor laid the baby on the verandah
step and waved his hand. Again he felt a spasm run over his face.
. . .
"Forgive me, old fellow! I am a scoundrel, he muttered. "Don't
remember evil against me."
He stepped back, but immediately cleared his throat resolutely
"Oh, come what will! Damn it all! I'll take him, and let people
say what they like!"
Miguev took the baby and strode rapidly back.
"Let them say what they like," he thought. "I'll go at once, fall
on my knees, and say: 'Anna Filippovna!' Anna is a good sort,
she'll understand. . . . And we'll bring him up. . . . If it's a
boy we'll call him Vladimir, and if it's a girl we'll call her
Anna! Anyway, it will be a comfort in our old age."
And he did as he determined. Weeping and almost faint with shame
and terror, full of hope and vague rapture, he went into his
bungalow, went up to his wife, and fell on his knees before her.
"Anna Filippovna!" he said with a sob, and he laid the baby on
the floor. "Hear me before you punish. . . . I have sinned! This
is my child. . . . You remember Agnia? Well, it was the devil
drove me to it. . . ."
And, almost unconscious with shame and terror, he jumped up
without waiting for an answer, and ran out into the open air as
though he had received a thrashing. . . .
"I'll stay here outside till she calls me," he thought. "I'll
give her time to recover, and to think it over. . . ."
The porter Yermolay passed him with his balalaika, glanced at him
and shrugged his shoulders. A minute later he passed him again,
and again he shrugged his shoulders.
"Here's a go! Did you ever!" he muttered grinning. "Aksinya, the
washer-woman, was here just now, Semyon Erastovitch. The silly
woman put her baby down on the steps here, and while she was
indoors with me, someone took and carried off the baby. . .
Who'd have thought it!"
"What? What are you saying?" shouted Miguev at the top of his
Yermolay, interpreting his master's wrath in his own fashion,
scratched his head and heaved a sigh.
"I am sorry, Semyon Erastovitch," he said, "but it's the summer
holidays, . . . one can't get on without . . . without a woman, I
mean. . . ."
And glancing at his master's eyes glaring at him with anger and
astonishment, he cleared his throat guiltily and went on:
"It's a sin, of course, but there -- what is one to do?. . .
You've forbidden us to have strangers in the house, I know, but
we've none of our own now. When Agnia was here I had no women to
see me, for I had one at home; but now, you can see for
yourself, sir, . . . one can't help having strangers. In Agnia's
time, of course, there was nothing irregular, because. . ."
"Be off, you scoundrel!" Miguev shouted at him, stamping, and he
went back into the room.
Anna Filippovna, amazed and wrathful, was sitting as before, her
tear-stained eyes fixed on the baby. . . .
"There! there!" Miguev muttered with a pale face, twisting his
lips into a smile. "It was a joke. . . . It's not my baby, . . .
it's the washer-woman's! . . . I . . . I was joking. . . . Take
it to the porter."
"HONORED Sir, Father and Benefactor!" a petty clerk called
Nevyrazimov was writing a rough copy of an Easter congratulatory
letter. "I trust that you may spend this Holy Day even as many
more to come, in good health and prosperity. And to your family
also I . . ."
The lamp, in which the kerosene was getting low, was smoking and
smelling. A stray cockroach was running about the table in alarm
near Nevyrazimov's writing hand. Two rooms away from the office
Paramon the porter was for the third time cleaning his
best boots, and with such energy that the sound of the
blacking-brush and of his expectorations was audible in all the
"What else can I write to him, the rascal?" Nevyrazimov wondered,
raising his eyes to the smutty ceiling.
On the ceiling he saw a dark circle -- the shadow of the
lamp-shade. Below it was the dusty cornice, and lower still the
wall, which had once been painted a bluish muddy color. And the
office seemed to him such a place of desolation that he felt
sorry, not only for himself, but even for the cockroach.
"When I am off duty I shall go away, but he'll be on duty here
all his cockroach-life," he thought, stretching. "I am bored!
Shall I clean my boots?"
And stretching once more, Nevyrazimov slouched lazily to the
porter's room. Paramon had finished cleaning his boots. Crossing
himself with one hand and holding the brush in the other, he was
standing at the open window-pane, listening.
"They're ringing," he whispered to Nevyrazimov, looking at him
with eyes intent and wide open. "Already!"
Nevyrazimov put his ear to the open pane and listened. The Easter
chimes floated into the room with a whiff of fresh spring air.
The booming of the bells mingled with the rumble of carriages,
and above the chaos of sounds rose the brisk tenor tones
of the nearest church and a loud shrill laugh.
"What a lot of people!" sighed Nevyrazimov, looking down into the
street, where shadows of men flitted one after another by the
illumination lamps. "They're all hurrying to the midnight
service. . . . Our fellows have had a drink by now, you may be
sure, and are strolling about the town. What a lot of laughter,
what a lot of talk! I'm the only unlucky one, to have to sit here
on such a day: And I have to do it every year!"
"Well, nobody forces you to take the job. It's not your turn to
be on duty today, but Zastupov hired you to take his place. When
other folks are enjoying themselves you hire yourself out. It's
"Devil a bit of it! Not much to be greedy over -- two roubles is
all he gives me; a necktie as an extra. . . . It's poverty, not
greediness. And it would be jolly, now, you know, to be going
with a party to the service, and then to break the fast. . . .
To drink and to have a bit of supper and tumble off to sleep. . .
. One sits down to the table, there's an Easter cake and the
samovar hissing, and some charming little thing beside you. . . .
You drink a glass and chuck her under the chin, and it's first-
rate. . . . You feel you're somebody. . . . Ech h-h! . . . I've
made a mess of things! Look at that hussy driving by in her
carriage, while I have to sit here and brood."
"We each have our lot in life, Ivan Danilitch. Please God, you'll
be promoted and drive about in your carriage one day."
"I? No, brother, not likely. I shan't get beyond a 'titular,' not
if I try till I burst. I'm not an educated man."
"Our General has no education either, but . . ."
"Well, but the General stole a hundred thousand before he got his
position. And he's got very different manners and deportment from
me, brother. With my manners and deportment one can't get far!
And such a scoundrelly surname, Nevyrazimov! It's a hopeless
position, in fact. One may go on as one is, or one may hang
oneself . . ."
He moved away from the window and walked wearily about the rooms.
The din of the bells grew louder and louder. . . . There was no
need to stand by the window to hear it. And the better he could
hear the bells and the louder the roar of the carriages, the
darker seemed the muddy walls and the smutty cornice and the more
the lamp smoked.
"Shall I hook it and leave the office?" thought Nevyrazimov.
But such a flight promised nothing worth having. . . . After
coming out of the office and wandering about the town,
Nevyrazimov would have gone home to his lodging, and in his
lodging it was even grayer and more depressing than in the
office. . . .
Even supposing he were to spend that day pleasantly and with
comfort, what had he beyond? Nothing but the same gray walls, the
same stop-gap duty and complimentary letters. . . .
Nevyrazimov stood still in the middle of the office and sank into
thought. The yearning for a new, better life gnawed at his heart
with an intolerable ache. He had a passionate longing to find
himself suddenly in the street, to mingle with the living crowd,
to take part in the solemn festivity for the sake of which all
those bells were clashing and those carriages were rumbling. He
longed for what he had known in childhood -- the family circle,
the festive faces of his own people, the white cloth, light,
warmth . . . ! He thought of the carriage in which the lady had
just driven by, the overcoat in which the head clerk was so
smart, the gold chain that adorned the secretary's chest. . . .
He thought of a warm bed, of the Stanislav order, of new boots,
of a uniform without holes in the elbows. . . . He thought of all
those things because he had none of them.
"Shall I steal?" he thought. "Even if stealing is an easy
matter, hiding is what's difficult. Men run away to America, they
say, with what they've stolen, but the devil knows where that
blessed America is. One must have education even to steal, it
The bells died down. He heard only a distant noise of carriages
and Paramon's cough, while his depression and anger grew more and
more intense and unbearable. The clock in the office struck
"Shall I write a secret report? Proshkin did, and he rose
Nevyrazimov sat down at his table and pondered. The lamp in which
the kerosene had quite run dry was smoking violently and
threatening to go out. The stray cockroach was still running
about the table and had found no resting-place.
"One can always send in a secret report, but how is one to make
it up? I should want to make all sorts of innuendoes and
insinuations, like Proshkin, and I can't do it. If I made up
anything I should be the first to get into trouble for it. I'm an
ass, damn my soul!"
And Nevyrazimov, racking his brain for a means of escape from his
hopeless position, stared at the rough copy he had written. The
letter was written to a man whom he feared and hated with his
whole soul, and from whom he had for the last ten years been
trying to wring a post worth eighteen roubles a month, instead of
the one he had at sixteen roubles.
"Ah, I'll teach you to run here, you devil!" He viciously slapped
the palm of his hand on the cockroach, who had the misfortune to
catch his eye. "Nasty thing!"
The cockroach fell on its back and wriggled its legs in despair.
Nevyrazimov took it by one leg and threw it into the lamp. The
lamp flared up and spluttered.
And Nevyrazimov felt better.
IN the village church of Verhny Zaprudy mass was just over. The
people had begun moving and were trooping out of church. The only
one who did not move was Andrey Andreyitch, a shopkeeper and old
inhabitant of Verhny Zaprudy. He stood waiting, with his elbows
on the railing of the right choir. His fat and shaven face,
covered with indentations left by pimples, expressed on this
occasion two contradictory feelings: resignation in the face of
inevitable destiny, and stupid, unbounded disdain for
the smocks and striped kerchiefs passing by him. As it was
Sunday, he was dressed like a dandy. He wore a long cloth
overcoat with yellow bone buttons, blue trousers not thrust into
his boots, and sturdy goloshes -- the huge clumsy goloshes only
seen on the feet of practical and prudent persons of firm
His torpid eyes, sunk in fat, were fixed upon the ikon stand. He
saw the long familiar figures of the saints, the verger Matvey
puffing out his cheeks and blowing out the candles, the darkened
candle stands, the threadbare carpet, the sacristan Lopuhov
running impulsively from the altar and carrying the holy bread to
the churchwarden. . . . All these things he had seen for years,
and seen over and over again like the five fingers of his hand. .
. . There was only one thing, however, that was somewhat strange
and unusual. Father Grigory, still in his vestments, was standing
at the north door, twitching his thick eyebrows angrily.
"Who is it he is winking at? God bless him!" thought the
shopkeeper. "And he is beckoning with his finger! And he stamped
his foot! What next! What's the matter, Holy Queen and Mother!
Whom does he mean it for?"
Andrey Andreyitch looked round and saw the church completely
deserted. There were some ten people standing at the door, but
they had their backs to the altar.
"Do come when you are called! Why do you stand like a graven
image?" he heard Father Grigory's angry voice. "I am calling
The shopkeeper looked at Father Grigory's red and wrathful face,
and only then realized that the twitching eyebrows and beckoning
finger might refer to him. He started, left the railing, and
hesitatingly walked towards the altar, tramping with his heavy
"Andrey Andreyitch, was it you asked for prayers for the rest of
Mariya's soul?" asked the priest, his eyes angrily transfixing
the shopkeeper's fat, perspiring face.
"Then it was you wrote this? You?" And Father Grigory angrily
thrust before his eyes the little note.
And on this little note, handed in by Andrey Andreyitch before
mass, was written in big, as it were staggering, letters:
"For the rest of the soul of the servant of God, the harlot
"Yes, certainly I wrote it, . . ." answered the shopkeeper.
"How dared you write it?" whispered the priest, and in his husky
whisper there was a note of wrath and alarm.
The shopkeeper looked at him in blank amazement; he was
perplexed, and he, too, was alarmed. Father Grigory had never in
his life spoken in such a tone to a leading resident of Verhny
Zaprudy. Both were silent for a minute, staring into each other's
face. The shopkeeper's amazement was so great that his fat face
spread in all directions like spilt dough.
"How dared you?" repeated the priest.
"Wha . . . what?" asked Andrey Andreyitch in bewilderment.
"You don't understand?" whispered Father Grigory, stepping back
in astonishment and clasping his hands. "What have you got on
your shoulders, a head or some other object? You send a note up
to the altar, and write a word in it which it would be unseemly
even to utter in the street! Why are you rolling your eyes?
Surely you know the meaning of the word?"
"Are you referring to the word harlot?" muttered the shopkeeper,
flushing crimson and blinking. "But you know, the Lord in His
mercy . . . forgave this very thing, . . . forgave a harlot. . .
. He has prepared a place for her, and indeed from the life of
the holy saint, Mariya of Egypt, one may see in what sense the
word is used -- excuse me . . ."
The shopkeeper wanted to bring forward some other argument in his
justification, but took fright and wiped his lips with his sleeve
"So that's what you make of it!" cried Father Grigory, clasping
his hands. "But you see God has forgiven her -- do you
understand? He has forgiven, but you judge her, you slander her,
call her by an unseemly name, and whom! Your own deceased
daughter! Not only in Holy Scripture, but even in worldly
literature you won't read of such a sin! I tell you again,
Andrey, you mustn't be over-subtle! No, no, you mustn't be
over-subtle, brother! If God has given you an inquiring mind, and
if you cannot direct it, better not go into things. . . . Don't
go into things, and hold your peace!"
"But you know, she, . . . excuse my mentioning it, was an
actress!" articulated Andrey Andreyitch, overwhelmed.
"An actress! But whatever she was, you ought to forget it all now
she is dead, instead of writing it on the note."
"Just so, . . ." the shopkeeper assented.
"You ought to do penance," boomed the deacon from the depths of
the altar, looking contemptuously at Andrey Andreyitch's
embarrassed face, "that would teach you to leave off being so
clever! Your daughter was a well-known actress. There were even
notices of her death in the newspapers. . . . Philosopher!"
"To be sure, . . . certainly," muttered the shopkeeper, "the word
is not a seemly one; but I did not say it to judge her, Father
Grigory, I only meant to speak spiritually, . . . that it might
be clearer to you for whom you were praying. They write
in the memorial notes the various callings, such as the infant
John, the drowned woman Pelagea, the warrior Yegor, the murdered
Pavel, and so on. . . . I meant to do the same."
"It was foolish, Andrey! God will forgive you, but beware another
time. Above all, don't be subtle, but think like other people.
Make ten bows and go your way."
"I obey," said the shopkeeper, relieved that the lecture was
over, and allowing his face to resume its expression of
importance and dignity. "Ten bows? Very good, I understand. But
now, Father, allow me to ask you a favor. . . . Seeing that I am,
anyway, her father, . . . you know yourself, whatever she was,
she was still my daughter, so I was, . . . excuse me, meaning to
ask you to sing the requiem today. And allow me to ask you,
"Well, that's good," said Father Grigory, taking off his
vestments. "That I commend. I can approve of that! Well, go your
way. We will come out immediately."
Andrey Andreyitch walked with dignity from the altar, and with a
solemn, requiem-like expression on his red face took his stand in
the middle of the church. The verger Matvey set before him a
little table with the memorial food upon it, and a little later
the requiem service began.
There was perfect stillness in the church. Nothing could be heard
but the metallic click of the censer and slow singing. . . . Near
Andrey Andreyitch stood the verger Matvey, the midwife
Makaryevna, and her one-armed son Mitka. There was no one else.
The sacristan sang badly in an unpleasant, hollow bass, but the
tune and the words were so mournful that the shopkeeper little by
little lost the expression of dignity and was plunged in sadness.
He thought of his Mashutka, . . . he remembered
she had been born when he was still a lackey in the service of
the owner of Verhny Zaprudy. In his busy life as a lackey he had
not noticed how his girl had grown up. That long period during
which she was being shaped into a graceful creature, with
a little flaxen head and dreamy eyes as big as kopeck-pieces
passed unnoticed by him. She had been brought up like all the
children of favorite lackeys, in ease and comfort in the company
of the young ladies. The gentry, to fill up their idle time,
had taught her to read, to write, to dance; he had had no hand
in her bringing up. Only from time to time casually meeting her
at the gate or on the landing of the stairs, he would remember
that she was his daughter, and would, so far as he had leisure
for it, begin teaching her the prayers and the scripture. Oh,
even then he had the reputation of an authority on the church
rules and the holy scriptures! Forbidding and stolid as her
father's face was, yet the girl listened readily. She repeated
the prayers after him yawning, but on the other hand, when he,
hesitating and trying to express himself elaborately, began
telling her stories, she was all attention. Esau's pottage, the
punishment of Sodom, and the troubles of the boy Joseph made her
turn pale and open her blue eyes wide.
Afterwards when he gave up being a lackey, and with the money he
had saved opened a shop in the village, Mashutka had gone away to
Moscow with his master's family. . . .
Three years before her death she had come to see her father. He
had scarcely recognized her. She was a graceful young woman with
the manners of a young lady, and dressed like one. She talked
cleverly, as though from a book, smoked, and slept till midday.
When Andrey Andreyitch asked her what she was doing, she had
announced, looking him boldly straight in the face: "I am an
actress." Such frankness struck the former flunkey as the acme of
cynicism. Mashutka had begun boasting of her successes and her
stage life; but seeing that her father only turned crimson and
threw up his hands, she ceased. And they spent a fortnight
together without speaking or looking at one another till the day
she went away. Before she went away she asked her father to come
for a walk on the bank of the river. Painful as it was for him to
walk in the light of day, in the sight of all honest people, with
a daughter who was an actress, he yielded to her request.
"What a lovely place you live in!" she said enthusiastically.
"What ravines and marshes! Good heavens, how lovely my native
And she had burst into tears.
"The place is simply taking up room, . . ." Andrey Andreyvitch
had thought, looking blankly at the ravines, not understanding
his daughter's enthusiasm. "There is no more profit from them
than milk from a billy-goat."
And she had cried and cried, drawing her breath greedily with her
whole chest, as though she felt she had not a long time left to
Andrey Andreyitch shook his head like a horse that has been
bitten, and to stifle painful memories began rapidly crossing
himself. . . .
"Be mindful, O Lord," he muttered, "of Thy departed servant, the
harlot Mariya, and forgive her sins, voluntary or involuntary. .
The unseemly word dropped from his lips again, but he did not
notice it: what is firmly imbedded in the consciousness cannot be
driven out by Father Grigory's exhortations or even knocked out
by a nail. Makaryevna sighed and whispered something, drawing in
a deep breath, while one-armed Mitka was brooding over something.
. . .
"Where there is no sickness, nor grief, nor sighing," droned the
sacristan, covering his right cheek with his hand.
Bluish smoke coiled up from the censer and bathed in the broad,
slanting patch of sunshine which cut across the gloomy, lifeless
emptiness of the church. And it seemed as though the soul of the
dead woman were soaring into the sunlight together with the
smoke. The coils of smoke like a child's curls eddied round and
round, floating upwards to the window and, as it were, holding
aloof from the woes and tribulations of which that poor soul was
IN THE COACH-HOUSE
IT was between nine and ten o'clock in the evening. Stepan the
coachman, Mihailo the house-porter, Alyoshka the coachman's
grandson, who had come up from the village to stay with his
grandfather, and Nikandr, an old man of seventy, who used to come
into the yard every evening to sell salt herrings, were sitting
round a lantern in the big coach-house, playing "kings." Through
the wide-open door could be seen the whole yard, the big house,
where the master's family lived, the gates, the cellars, and the
porter's l odge. It was all shrouded in the darkness of night,
and only the four windows of one of the lodges which was let were
brightly lit up. The shadows of the coaches and sledges with
their shafts tipped upwards stretched from the walls to the
doors, quivering and cutting across the shadows cast by the
lantern and the players. . . . On the other side of the thin
partition that divided the coach-house from the stable were the
horses. There was a scent of hay, and a disagreeable smell of
salt herrings coming from old Nikandr.
The porter won and was king; he assumed an attitude such as was
in his opinion befitting a king, and blew his nose loudly on a
"Now if I like I can chop off anybody's head," he said. Alyoshka,
a boy of eight with a head of flaxen hair, left long uncut, who
had only missed being king by two tricks, looked angrily and with
envy at the porter. He pouted and frowned.
"I shall give you the trick, grandfather," he said, pondering
over his cards; "I know you have got the queen of diamonds."
"Well, well, little silly, you have thought enough!"
Alyoshka timidly played the knave of diamonds. At that moment a
ring was heard from the yard.
"Oh, hang you!" muttered the porter, getting up. "Go and open the
gate, O king!"
When he came back a little later, Alyoshka was already a prince,
the fish-hawker a soldier, and the coachman a peasant.
"It's a nasty business," said the porter, sitting down to the
cards again. "I have just let the doctors out. They have not
"How could they? Just think, they would have to pick open the
brains. If there is a bullet in the head, of what use are
"He is lying unconscious," the porter went on. "He is bound to
die. Alyoshka, don't look at the cards, you little puppy, or I
will pull your ears! Yes, I let the doctors out, and the father
and mother in. . . They have only just arrived. Such crying and
wailing, Lord preserve us! They say he is the only son. . . .
It's a grief!"
All except Alyoshka, who was absorbed in the game, looked round
at the brightly lighted windows of the lodge.
"I have orders to go to the police station tomorrow," said the
porter. "There will be an inquiry . . . But what do I know about
it? I saw nothing of it. He called me this morning, gave me a
letter, and said: 'Put it in the letter-box for me.' And his
eyes were red with crying. His wife and children were not at
home. They had gone out for a walk. So when I had gone with the
letter, he put a bullet into his forehead from a revolver. When I
came back his cook was wailing for the whole yard to hear."
"It's a great sin," said the fish-hawker in a husky voice, and he
shook his head, "a great sin!"
"From too much learning," said the porter, taking a trick; "his
wits outstripped his wisdom. Sometimes he would sit writing
papers all night. . . . Play, peasant! . . . But he was a nice
gentleman. And so white skinned, black-haired and tall! . . .
He was a good lodger."
"It seems the fair sex is at the bottom of it," said the
coachman, slapping the nine of trumps on the king of diamonds.
"It seems he was fond of another man's wife and disliked his own;
it does happen."
"The king rebels," said the porter.
At that moment there was again a ring from the yard. The
rebellious king spat with vexation and went out. Shadows like
dancing couples flitted across the windows of the lodge. There
was the sound of voices and hurried footsteps in the yard.
"I suppose the doctors have come again," said the coachman. "Our
Mihailo is run off his legs. . . ."
A strange wailing voice rang out for a moment in the air.
Alyoshka looked in alarm at his grandfather, the coachman; then
at the windows, and said:
"He stroked me on the head at the gate yesterday, and said, 'What
district do you come from, boy?' Grandfather, who was that howled
His grandfather trimmed the light in the lantern and made no
"The man is lost," he said a little later, with a yawn. "He is
lost, and his children are ruined, too. It's a disgrace for his
children for the rest of their lives now."
The porter came back and sat down by the lantern.
"He is dead," he said. "They have sent to the almshouse for the
old women to lay him out."
"The kingdom of heaven and eternal peace to him!" whispered the
coachman, and he crossed himself.
Looking at him, Alyoshka crossed himself too.
"You can't pray for such as him," said the fish-hawker.
"It's a sin."
"That's true," the porter assented. "Now his soul has gone
straight to hell, to the devil. . . ."
"It's a sin," repeated the fish-hawker; "such as he have no
funeral, no requiem, but are buried like carrion with no
The old man put on his cap and got up.
"It was the same thing at our lady's," he said, pulling his cap
on further. "We were serfs in those days; the younger son of our
mistress, the General's lady, shot himself through the mouth with
a pistol, from too much learning, too. It seems that by law such
have to be buried outside the cemetery, without priests, without
a requiem service; but to save disgrace our lady, you know,
bribed the police and the doctors, and they gave her a paper to
say her son had done it when delirious, not knowing what he was
doing. You can do anything with money. So he had a funeral with
priests and every honor, the music played, and he was buried in
the church; for the deceased General had built that church with
his own money, and all his family were buried there. Only this
is what happened, friends. One month passed, and then another,
and it was all right. In the third month they informed the
General's lady that the watchmen had come from that same church.
What did they want? They were brought to her, they fell at her
feet. 'We can't go on serving, your excellency,' they said. 'Look
out for other watchmen and graciously dismiss us.' 'What for?'
'No,' they said, 'we can't possibly; your son howls under the
church all night.' "
Alyoshka shuddered, and pressed his face to the coachman's back
so as not to see the windows.
"At first the General's lady would not listen," continued the old
man. "'All this is your fancy, you simple folk have such
notions,' she said. 'A dead man cannot howl.' Some time
afterwards the watchmen came to her again, and with them the
sacristan. So the sacristan, too, had heard him howling. The
General's lady saw that it was a bad job; she locked herself in
her bedroom with the watchmen. 'Here, my friends, here are
twenty-five roubles for you, and for that go by night in secret,
so that no one should hear or see you, dig up my unhappy son, and
bury him,' she said, 'outside the cemetery.' And I suppose she
stood them a glass . . . And the watchmen did so. The stone with
the inscription on it is there to this day, but he himself, the
General's son, is outside the cemetery. . . . O Lord, forgive us
our transgressions!" sighed the fish-hawker. "There is only one
day in the year when one may pray for such people: the Saturday
before Trinity. . . . You mustn't give alms
to beggars for their sake, it is a sin, but you may feed the
birds for the rest of their souls. The General's lady used to go
out to the crossroads every three days to feed the birds. Once at
the cross-roads a black dog suddenly appeared; it ran up
to the bread, and was such a . . . we all know what that dog
was. The General's lady was like a half-crazy creature for five
days afterwards, she neither ate nor drank. . . . All at once she
fell on her knees in the garden, and prayed and prayed. .
. . Well, good-by, friends, the blessing of God and the Heavenly
Mother be with you. Let us go, Mihailo, you'll open the gate for
The fish-hawker and the porter went out. The coachman and
Alyoshka went out too, so as not to be left in the coach-house.
"The man was living and is dead!" said the coachman, looking
towards the windows where shadows were still flitting to and fro.
"Only this morning he was walking about the yard, and now he is
"The time will come and we shall die too," said the porter,
walking away with the fish -hawker, and at once they both
vanished from sight in the darkness.
The coachman, and Alyoshka after him, somewhat timidly went up to
the lighted windows. A very pale lady with large tear stained
eyes, and a fine-looking gray headed man were moving two
card-tables into the middle of the room, probably with the
intention of laying the dead man upon them, and on the green
cloth of the table numbers could still be seen written in chalk.
The cook who had run about the yard wailing in the morning was
now standing on a chair, stretching up to try and cover the
looking glass with a towel.
"Grandfather what are they doing?" asked Alyoshka in a whisper.
"They are just going to lay him on the tables," answered his
grandfather. "Let us go, child, it is bedtime."
The coachman and Alyoshka went back to the coach-house. They said
their prayers, and took off their boots. Stepan lay down in a
corner on the floor, Alyoshka in a sledge. The doors of the coach
house were shut, there was a horrible stench from the
extinguished lantern. A little later Alyoshka sat up and looked
about him; through the crack of the door he could still see a
light from those lighted windows.
"Grandfather, I am frightened!" he said.
"Come, go to sleep, go to sleep! . . ."
"I tell you I am frightened!"
"What are you frightened of? What a baby!"
They were silent.
Alyoshka suddenly jumped out of the sledge and, loudly weeping,
ran to his grandfather.
"What is it? What's the matter?" cried the coachman in a fright,
getting up also.
"Who is howling?"
"I am frightened, grandfather, do you hear?"
The coachman listened.
"It's their crying," he said. "Come! there, little silly! They
are sad, so they are crying."
"I want to go home, . . ." his grandson went on sobbing and
trembling all over. "Grandfather, let us go back to the village,
to mammy; come, grandfather dear, God will give you the heavenly
kingdom for it. . . ."
"What a silly, ah! Come, be quiet, be quiet! Be quiet, I will
light the lantern, . . . silly!"
The coachman fumbled for the matches and lighted the lantern. But
the light did not comfort Alyoshka.
"Grandfather Stepan, let's go to the village!" he besought him,
weeping. "I am frightened here; oh, oh, how frightened I am! And
why did you bring me from the village, accursed man?"
"Who's an accursed man? You mustn't use such disrespectable words
to your lawful grandfather. I shall whip you."
"Do whip me, grandfather, do; beat me like Sidor's goat, but only
take me to mammy, for God's mercy! . . ."
"Come, come, grandson, come!" the coachman said kindly. "It's all
right, don't be frightened. . . .I am frightened myself. . . .
Say your prayers!"
The door creaked and the porter's head appeared. "Aren't you
asleep, Stepan?" he asked. "I shan't get any sleep all night," he
said, coming in. "I shall be opening and shutting the gates all
night. . . . What are you crying for, Alyoshka?"
"He is frightened," the coachman answered for his grandson.
Again there was the sound of a wailing voice in the air. The
"They are crying. The mother can't believe her eyes. . . . It's
dreadful how upset she is."
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