Ivan S. Turgenev
Part 2 out of 7
and tried to laugh carelessly--but it did not come off somehow.
Only Anna Zaharovna, who secretly worshipped him, was on his
side, and became even angrier than before with the unwelcome
neighbour separating her from Kolia.
Soon after this dinner came to an end. The company went out on
the terrace to drink coffee. Sipiagin and Kollomietzev lit up
cigars. Sipiagin offered Nejdanov a regalia, but the latter
"Why, of course!" Sipiagin exclaimed; "I've forgotten that you
only smoke your own particular cigarettes!
"A curious taste!" Kollomietzev muttered between his teeth.
Nejdanov very nearly burst out, "I know the difference between a
regalia and a cigarette quite well, but I don't want to be under
an obligation to anyone!" but he contained himself and held his
peace. He put down this second piece of insolence to his enemy's
"Mariana!" Madame Sipiagin suddenly called, "don't be on ceremony
with our new friend . . . smoke your cigarette if you like. All
the more so, as I hear," she added, turning to Nejdanov, "that
among you all young ladies smoke."
"Yes," Nejdanov remarked dryly. This was the first remark he had
made to Madame Sipiagina.
"I don't smoke," she continued, screwing up her velvety eyes
caressingly. "I suppose I am behind the times."
Mariana slowly and carefully took out a cigarette, a box of
matches, and began to smoke, as if on purpose to spite her aunt.
Nejdanov took a light from Mariana and also began smoking.
It was a beautiful evening. Kolia and Anna Zaharovna went into
the garden; the others remained for some time longer on the
terrace enjoying the fresh air. The conversation was very lively.
Kollomietzev condemned modern literature, and on this subject,
too, Sipiagin showed himself a liberal. He insisted on the utter
freedom and independence of literature, pointed out its uses,
instanced Chateaubriand, whom the Emperor Alexander Pavlitch had
invested with the order of St. Andrew! Nejdanov did not take part
in the discussion; Madame Sipiagina watched him with an
expression of approval and surprise at his modesty.
They all went in to drink tea in the drawing room.
"Alexai Dmitritch," Sipiagin said to Nejdanov, "we are addicted
to the bad habit of playing cards in the evening, and even play a
forbidden game, stukushka. . . . I won't ask you to join us, but
perhaps Mariana will be good enough to play you something on the
piano. You like music, I hope." And without waiting for an answer
Sipiagin took up a pack of cards. Mariana sat down at the piano
and played, rather indifferently, several of Mendelssohn's "Songs
Without Words." Charmant! Charmant! quel touché! Kollomietzev
called out from the other end of the room, but the exclamation
was only due to politeness, and Nejdanov, in spite of Sipiagin's
remark, showed no passion for music.
Meanwhile Sipiagin, his wife, Kollomietzev, and Anna Zaharovna
sat down to cards. Kolia came to say goodnight, and, receiving
his parents' blessing and a large glass of milk instead of tea,
went off to bed. His father called after him to inform him that
tomorrow he was to begin his lessons with Alexai Dmitritch. A
little later, seeing Nejdanov wandering aimlessly about the room
and turning over the photographic albums, apparently without any
interest, Sipiagin begged him not to be on ceremony and retire if
he wished, as he was probably tired after the journey, and to
remember that the ruling principle of their house was liberty.
Nejdanov took advantage of this and bowing to all present went
out. In the doorway he knocked against Mariana, and, looking into
her eyes, was convinced a second time that they would be
comrades, although she showed no sign of pleasure at seeing him,
but, on the contrary, frowned heavily.
When he went in, his room was filled with a sweet freshness; the
windows had stood wide open all day. In the garden, opposite his
window, a nightingale was trilling out its sweet song; the
evening sky became covered with the warm glow of the rising moon
behind the rounded tops of the lime trees. Nejdanov lit a candle;
a grey moth fluttered in from the dark garden straight to the
flame; she circled round it, whilst a gentle breeze from without
blew on them both, disturbing the yellow-bluish flame of the
"How strange!" Nejdanov thought, lying in bed; "they seem good,
liberal-minded people, even humane . . . but I feel so troubled
in my heart. This chamberlain . Kollomietzev. . . . However,
morning is wiser than evening . . . It's no good being
At this moment the watchman knocked loudly with his stick and
called out, "I say there--"
"Take care," answered another doleful voice. "Fugh! Heavens! It's
like being in prison!" Nejdanov exclaimed.
NEJDANOV awoke early and, without waiting for a servant, dressed
and went out into the garden. It was very large and beautiful
this garden, and well kept. Hired labourers were scraping the
paths with their spades, through the bright green shrubs a
glimpse of kerchiefs could be seen on the heads of the peasant
girls armed with rakes. Nejdanov wandered down to the pond; the
early morning mist had already lifted, only a few curves in its
banks still remained in obscurity. The sun, not yet far above the
horizon, threw a rosy light over the steely silkiness of its
broad surface. Five carpenters were busy about the raft, a newly-
painted boat was lightly rocking from side to side, creating a
gentle ripple over the water. The men rarely spoke, and then in
somewhat preoccupied tones. Everything was submerged in the
morning stillness, and everyone was occupied with the morning
work; the whole gave one a feeling of order and regularity of
everyday life. Suddenly, at the other end of the avenue,
Nejdanov got a vision of the very incarnation of order and
regularity-- Sipiagin himself.
He wore a brown coat, something like a dressing gown, and a
checkered cap; he was leaning on an English bamboo cane, and his
newly-shaven face shone with satisfaction; he was on the round of
inspecting his estate. Sipiagin greeted Nejdanov kindly.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "I see you are one of the early birds!" (He
evidently wanted to express his approval by this old saying,
which was a little out of place, of the fact that Nejdanov, like
himself, did not like lying in bed long.) "At eight o'clock we
all take tea in the dining room, and we usually breakfast at
twelve. I should like you to give Kolia his first lesson in
Russian grammar at ten o'clock, and a lesson in history at two. I
don't want him to have any lessons tomorrow, as it will he his
name-day, hut I would like you to begin today."
Nejdanov bowed his head, and Sipiagin took leave of him in the
French fashion, quickly lifting his hand several times to his
lips and nose, and walked away, whistling and waving his cane
energetically, not at all like an important official and state
dignitary, but like a jolly Russian country gentleman.
Until eight o'clock Nejdanov stayed in the garden, enjoying the
shadows cast by the old trees, the fresh air, the singing of the
birds, until the sound of a gong called him to the house. On his
entrance he found the whole company already assembled in the
dining room. Valentina Mihailovna greeted him in a friendly
manner; she seemed to him marvellously beautiful in her morning
gown. Mariana looked stern and serious as usual.
Exactly at ten o'clock Nejdanov gave Kolia his first lesson
before Valentina Mihailovna, who had asked him if she might he
present, and sat very quietly the whole time. Kolia proved an
intelligent boy; after the inevitable moments of incertitude and
discomfort, the lesson went off very well, and Valentina
Mihailovna was evidently satisfied with Nejdanov, and spoke to
him several times kindly. He tried to hold aloof a little--but
not too much so. Valentina Mihailovna was also present at the
second lesson, this time on Russian history. She announced, with
a smile, that in this subject she needed instruction almost as
much as Kolia. She conducted herself just as quietly as she had
done at the first lesson.
Between two and five o'clock Nejdanov stayed in his own room
writing letters to his St. Petersburg friends. He was neither
bored nor in despair; his overstrained nerves had calmed down
somewhat. However, they were set on edge again at dinner,
although Kollomietzev was not present, and the kind attention of
host and hostess remained unchanged; but it was this very
attention that made Nejdanov angry. To make matters worse, the
old maiden lady, Anna Zaharovna, was obviously antagonistic,
Mariana continued serious, and Kolia rather unceremoniously
kicked him under the table. Sipiagin also seemed out of sorts. He
was extremely dissatisfied with the manager of his paper mill, a
German, to whom he paid a large salary. Sipiagin began by abusing
Germans in general, then announced that he was somewhat of a
Slavophil, though not a fanatic, and mentioned a certain young
Russian, by the name of Solomin, who, it was said, had
successfully established another mill belonging to a neighbouring
merchant; he was very anxious to meet this Solomin.
Kollomietzev came in the evening; his own estate was only about
ten miles away from "Arjanov," the name of Sipiagin's village.
There also came a certain justice of the peace, a squire, of the
kind so admirably described in the two famous lines of Lermontov--
Behind a cravat, frock coat to the heels
Moustache, squeaky voice--and heavy glance.
Another guest arrived, with a dejected look, without a tooth in
his head, but very accurately dressed. After him came the local
doctor, a very bad doctor, who was fond of coming out with
learned expressions. He assured everyone, for instance, that he
liked Kukolnik better than Pushkin because there was a great deal
of "protoplasm" about him. They all sat down to play cards.
Nejdanov retired to his own room, and read and wrote until
The following day, the 9th of May, was Kolia's patron-saint's
Although the church was not a quarter of a mile off, the whole
household drove to mass in three open carriages with footmen at
the back. Everything was very festive and gorgeous. Sipiagin
decorated himself with his order, Valentina Mihailovna was
dressed in a beautiful pale lavender-coloured Parisian gown, and
during the service read her prayers out of a tiny little prayer
hook bound in red velvet. This little book was a matter of great
concern among several old peasants, one of whom, unable to
contain himself any longer, asked of his neighbour: "What is she
doing? Lord have mercy on us! Is she casting a spell? " The sweet
scent of the flowers, which filled the whole church, mingled with
the smell of the peasant's coats, tarred boots and shoes, the
whole being drowned by the delicious, overpowering scent of
In the choir the clerks and sacristans tried their very
hardest to sing well, and with the help of the men from the
factory attempted something like a concert! There was a moment
when an almost painful sensation came over the congregation. The
tenor's voice (it belonged to one of the men from the factory,
who was in the last stages of consumption) rose high above the
rest, and without the slightest restraint trilled out long
chromatic flat minor notes; they were terrible these notes! but
to stop them would have meant the whole concert going to pieces.
. . . However, the thing went off without any mishap. Father
Kiprian, a priest of the most patriarchal appearance, dressed in
the full vestments of the church, delivered his sermon out of a
copy-book. Unfortunately, the conscientious father had considered
it necessary to introduce the names of several very wise Assyrian
kings, which caused him some trouble in pronunciation. He
succeeded in showing a certain amount of learning, but perspired
very much in the effort!
Nejdanov, who for a long time had not been inside a church, stood
in a corner amidst the peasant women, who kept casting sidelong
glances at him in between crossing themselves, bowing piously to
the ground, and wiping their babies' noses. But the peasant girls
in their new coats and beaded head-dresses, and the boys in their
embroidered shirts, with girdles round their waists, stared
intently at the new worshipper, turning their faces straight
towards him...Nejdanov, too, looked at them, and many things rose
up in his mind.
After mass, which lasted a very long time--the service of St.
Nikolai the Miraculous is well known to he one of the longest in
the Orthodox Church--all the clergy, at Sipiagin's invitation,
returned to his house, and, after going through several
additional ceremonies, such as sprinkling the room with holy
water, they all sat down to an abundant breakfast, interspersed
with the usual congratulations and rather wearisome talk. The
host and hostess, who never took breakfast at such an early hour,
broke the rule on this occasion. Sipiagin even went so far as to
relate an anecdote, quite proper, of course, but nevertheless
amusing, in spite of his dignity and red ribbon, and caused
Father Kiprian to be filled with gratitude and amazement. To show
that he, too, could tell something worth hearing on occasion, the
good father related a conversation he had had with the bishop,
when the latter, on a tour round his diocese, had invited all the
clergy of the district to come and see him at the monastery in
the town. " He is very severe with us," Father Kiprian assured
everyone. "First he questioned us about our parish, about our
arrangements, and then he began to examine us. . . . He turned to
me also: 'What is your church's dedication day?' 'The
Transfiguration of our Lord,' I replied. 'Do you know the hymn
for that day? " I think so.' 'Sing it.' 'Thou wert transfigured
on the mountain, Christ our Lord,' I began. 'Stop! Do you know
the meaning of the Transfiguration?' 'To be quite brief,' I
replied, 'our Lord wished to show himself to His disciples in
all His glory.' 'Very well,' he said, 'here is a little image in
memory of me.' I fell at his feet. ' I thank you, your Holiness.
. . .' I did not go away from him emptyhanded."
"I have the honour of knowing his Holiness personally," Sipiagin
said solemnly. "A most worthy pastor!"
"Most worthy!" Father Kiprian agreed; "only he puts too much
faith in the ecclesiastical superintendents! "
Valentina Mihailovna referred to the peasant school, and spoke of
Mariana as the future schoolmistress; the deacon (who had been
appointed supervisor of the school), a man of strong athletic
build, with long waving hair, bearing a faint resemblance to the
well-groomed tail of an Orlov race courser, quite forgetting his
vocal powers, gave forth such a volume of sound as to confuse
himself and frighten everybody else. Soon after this the clergy
took their leave.
Kolia, in his new coat decorated with golden buttons, was the
hero of the day. He was given presents, he was congratulated, his
hands were kissed at the front door and at the back door by
servants, workmen from the factory, old women and young girls and
peasants; the latter, in memory of the days of serfdom, hung
around the tables in front of the house, spread out with pies and
small bottles of vodka. The happy boy was shy and pleased and
proud, all at the same time; he caressed his parents and ran out
of the room. At dinner Sipiagin ordered champagne, and before
drinking his son's health made a speech. He spoke of the
significance of "serving the land," and indicated the road he
wished his Nikolai to follow (he did not use the diminutive of
the boy's name), of the duty he owed, first to his family;
secondly to his class, to society; thirdly to the people--" Yes,
my dear ladies and gentlemen, to the people; and fourthly, to the
government!" By degrees Sipiagin became quite eloquent, with his
hand under the tail of his coat in imitation of Robert Peel. He
pronounced the word "science " with emotion, and finished his
speech by the Latin exclamation, laboremus! which he instantly
translated into Russian. Kolia, with a glass in his hand, went
over to thank his father and to be kissed by the others.
Nejdanov exchanged glances with Mariana again. . .
They no doubt felt the same, but they did not speak to each
However, Nejdanov was more amused than annoyed with the whole
proceeding, and the amiable hostess, Valentina Mihailovna, seemed
to him to be an intelligent woman, who was aware that she was
playing a part, but pleased to think that there was someone else
intelligent enough to understand her. Nejdanov probably had no
suspicion of the degree in which he was flattered by her attitude
On the following day lessons were renewed, and life fell back in
its ordinary rut.
A week flew by in this way. Nejdanov's thoughts and experiences
during that time may be best gathered from an extract of a letter
he wrote to a certain Silin, an old school chum and his best
friend. Silin did not live in St. Petersburg, but in a distant
provincial town, with an old relative on whom he was entirely
dependent. His position was such that he could hardly dream of
ever getting away from there. He was a man of very poor health,
timid, of limited capacity, but of an extraordinarily pure
nature. He did not interest himself in politics, but read
anything that came in his way, played on the flute as a resource
against boredom, and was afraid of young ladies. Silin was
passionately fond of Nejdanov--he had an affectionate heart in
general. Nejdanov did not express himself to anyone as freely as
he did to Vladimir Silin; when writing to him he felt as if he
were communicating to some dear and intimate soul, dwelling in
another world, or to his own conscience. Nejdanov could not for a
moment conceive of the idea of living together again with Silin, as
comrades in the same town. He would probably have lost interest
in him, as there was little in common between them, but he wrote
him long letters gladly with the fullest confidence. With others,
on paper at any rate, he was not himself, but this never happened
when writing to Silin. The latter was not a master in the art of
writing, and responded only in short clumsy sentences, but
Nejdanov had no need of lengthy replies; he knew quite well that
his friend swallowed every word of his, as the dust in the road
swallows each drop of rain, that he would keep his secrets
sacredly, and that in his hopeless solitude he had no other
interests but his, Nejdanov's, interests. He had never told anyone
of his relation with Silin, a relation that was very dear to him.
"Well, my dear friend, my pure-hearted Vladimir!" Thus he wrote
to him; he always called him pure-hearted, and not without good
cause. "Congratulate me; I have fallen upon green pasture, and
can rest awhile and gather strength. I am living in the house of
a rich statesman, Sipiagin, as tutor to his little son; I eat
well (have never eaten so well in my life!), sleep well, and
wander about the beautiful country--but, above all, I have for a
time crept out from under the wing of my St. Petersburg friends.
At first it was horribly boring, but I feel a bit better now. I
shall soon have to go into harness again, that is, put up with
the consequences of what I have undertaken (the reason I was
allowed to come here). For a time, at any rate, I can enjoy the
delights of a purely animal existence, expand in the waist, and
write verses if the mood seizes me. I will give you my
observations another time. The estate seems to me well managed on
the whole, with the exception, perhaps, of the factory, which is
not quite right; some of the peasants are unapproachable, and the
hired servants have servile faces--but we can talk about these
things later on. My host and hostess are courteous, liberal-
minded people; the master is for ever condescending, and bursts
out from time to time in torrents of eloquence, a most highly
cultured person! His lady, a picturesque beauty, who has all her
wits about her, keeps such a close watch on one, and is so soft!
I should think she has not a bone in her body! I am rather afraid
of her, you know what sort of a ladies' man I make! There are
neighbours--but uninteresting ones; then there is an old lady in
the house who makes me feel uncomfortable. . . . Above all, I am
interested in a certain young lady, but whether she is a relative
or simply a companion here the Lord only knows! I have scarcely
exchanged a couple of words with her, but I feel that we are
birds of a feather. . ."
Here followed a description of Mariana's personal appearance and
of all her habits; then he continued:
"That she is unhappy, proud, ambitious, reserved, but above all
unhappy, I have not the smallest doubt. But why she is unhappy, I
have as yet failed to discover. That she has an upright nature is
quite evident, but whether she is good-natured or not remains to
be seen. Are there really any good-natured women other than
stupid ones? Is goodness essential? However, I know little about
women. The lady of the house does not like her, and I believe it
is mutual on either side. . . . But which of them is in the right
is difficult to say. I think that the mistress is probably in the
wrong . . . because she is so awfully polite to her; the other's
brows twitch nervously when she is speaking to her patroness. She
is a most highly-strong individual, like myself, and is just as
easily upset as I am, although perhaps not in the same way.
"When all this can be disentangled, I will write to you again.
"She hardly ever speaks to me, as I have already told you, but in
the few words she has addressed to me (always rather sudden and
unexpected) there was a ring of rough sincerity which I liked. By
the way, how long is that relative of yours going to bore you to
death? When is he going to die?
"Have you read the article in the "European Messenger" about the
latest impostors in the province of Orenburg? It happened in
1834, my dear! I don't like the journal, and the writer of the
article is a conservative, but the thing is interesting and
calculated to give one ideas. . .
MAY had reached its second half; the first hot summer days had
already set in.
After his history lesson one day, Nejdanov wandered out into the
garden, and from thence into a birch wood adjoining it on one
side. Certain parts of this wood had been cleared by merchants
about fifteen years ago, but these clearings were already densely
overgrown by young birches, whose soft silver trunks encircled by
grey rings rose as straight as pillars, and whose bright green
leaves sparkled as if they had just been washed and polished. The
grass shot up in sharp tongues through the even layers of last
years' fallen leaves. Little narrow paths ran here and there,
from which yellow-beaked blackbirds rose with startled cries,
flying close to the earth into the wood as hard as they could go.
After wandering about for half an hour, Nejdanov sat down on the
stump of a tree, surrounded by old greyish splinters, lying in
heaps, exactly as they had fallen when cut down by the axe. Many
a time had these splinters been covered by the winter's snow and
been thawed by the spring sun, but nobody had touched them.
Nejdanov leaned against a solid wall of young birches casting a
heavy though mild shade. He was not thinking of anything in
particular, but gave himself up to those peculiar sensations of
spring which in the heart of young and old alike are always mixed
with a certain degree of sadness--the keen sadness of awaiting in
the young and of settled regret in the old.
Nejdanov was suddenly awakened by approaching footsteps.
It did not sound like the footsteps of one person, nor like a
peasant in heavy boots, or a barefooted peasant woman; it seemed
as if two people were advancing at a slow, measured pace. The
slight rustling of a woman's dress was heard.
Suddenly a deep man's voice was heard to say:
Is this your last word? Never?
"Never!" a familiar woman's voice repeated, and a moment later
from a bend in the path, hidden from view by a young tree,
Mariana appeared, accompanied by a swarthy man with black eyes,
an individual whom Nejdanov had never seen before.
They both stood still as if rooted to the spot on catching sight
of him, and he was so taken aback that he did not rise from the
stump he was sitting on. Mariana blushed to the roots of her
hair, but instantly gave a contemptuous smile. It was difficult
to say whether the smile was meant for herself, for having
blushed, or for Nejdanov. Her companion scowled--a sinister gleam
was seen in the yellowish whites of his troubled eyes. He
exchanged glances with Mariana, and without saying a word they
turned their backs on Nejdanov and walked away as slowly as they
had come, while Nejdanov followed them with a look of amazement.
Half an hour later he returned home to his room, and when, at the
sound of the gong, he appeared in the drawing room, the dark-eyed
stranger whom he had seen in the wood was already there. Sipiagin
introduced Nejdanov to him as his beaufrere'a, Valentina
Mihailovna's brother--Sergai Mihailovitch Markelov.
"I hope you will get to know each other and be friends,
gentlemen," Sipiagin exclaimed with the amiable, stately, though
absent-minded smile characteristic of him.
Markelov bowed silently; Nejdanov responded in a similar way, and
Sipiagin, throwing back his head slightly and shrugging his
shoulders, walked away, as much as to say, "I've brought you
together, but whether you become friends or not is a matter of
equal indifference to me!
Valentina Mihailovna came up to the silent pair, standing
motionless, and introduced them to each other over again; she
then turned to her brother with that peculiarly bright, caressing
expression which she seemed able to summon at will into her
"Why, my dear Serge, you've quite forgotten us! You did not even
come on Kolia's name-day. Are you so very busy? My brother is
making some sort of new arrangement with his peasants," she
remarked, turning to Nejdanov. "So very original--three parts of
everything for them and one for himself; even then he thinks that
he gets more than his share."
"My sister is fond of joking," Markelov said to Nejdanov in his
turn, "but I am prepared to agree with her; for one man to take a
quarter of what belongs to a hundred, is certainly too much."
"Do you think that I am fond of joking, Alexai Dmitritch?" Madame
Sipiagina asked with that same caressing softness in her voice
and in her eyes.
Nejdanov was at a loss for a reply, but just then Kollomietzev
was announced. The hostess went to meet him, and a few moments
later a servant appeared and announced in a sing-song voice that
dinner was ready.
At dinner Nejdanov could not keep his eyes off Mariana and
Markelov. They sat side by side, both with downcast eyes,
compressed lips, and an expression of gloomy severity on their
angry faces. Nejdanov wondered how Markelov could possibly be
Madame Sipiagina's brother; they were so little like each other.
There was only one point of resemblance between them, their dark
complexions; but the even colour of Valentina Mihailovna's face,
arms, and shoulders constituted one of her charms, while in her
brother it reached to that shade of swarthiness which polite
people call "bronze," but which to the Russian eye suggests a
brown leather boot-leg.
Markelov had curly hair, a somewhat hooked nose, thick lips,
sunken cheeks, a narrow chest, and sinewy hands. He was dry and
sinewy all over, and spoke in a curt, harsh, metallic voice. The
sleepy look in his eyes, the gloomy expression, denoted a bilious
temperament! He ate very little, amused himself by making bread
pills, and every now and again would fix his eyes on Kollomietzev.
The latter had just returned from town, where he had been to see the
governor upon a rather unpleasant matter for himself, upon which he
kept a tacit silence, but was very voluble about everything else.
Sipiagin sat on him somewhat when he went a little too far, but laughed
a good deal at his anecdotes and bon mots, although he thought qu'il
est un affreux reactionnaire. Kollomietzev declared, among other things,
how he went into raptures at what the peasants, oui, oui! les simples
mougiks! call lawyers. "Liars! Liars!" he shouted with delight. "Ce peupie
russe est delicieux!" He then went on to say how once, when going
through a village school, he asked one of the children what a
babugnia was, and nobody could tell him, not even the teacher
himself. He then asked what a pithecus was, and no one knew even
that, although he had quoted the poet Himnitz, 'The weakwitted
pithecus that mocks the other beasts.' Such is the deplorable
condition of our peasant schools!
"But," Valentina Mihailovna remarked, "I don't know myself what
are these animals!"
"Madame!" Kollomietzev exclaimed, "there is no necessity for you
"Then why should the peasants know?"
"Because it is better for them to know about these animals than
about Proudhon or Adam Smith!"
Here Sipiagin again intervened, saying that Adam Smith was one of
the leading lights in human thought, and that it would be well to
imbibe his principles (he poured himself out a glass of wine)
with the (he lifted the glass to his nose and sniffed at it)
mother's milk! He swallowed the wine. Kollomietzev also drank a
glass and praised it highly.
Markelov payed no special attention to Kollomietzev 's talk, but
glanced interrogatively at Nejdanov once or twice; he flicked one
of his little bread pills, which just missed the nose of the
Sipiagin left his brother-in-law in peace; neither did Valentina
Mihailovna speak to him; it was evident that both husband and
wife considered Markelov an eccentric sort of person whom it was
better not to provoke.
After dinner Markelov went into the billiard room to smoke a
pipe, and Nejdanov withdrew into his own room.
In the corridor he ran against Mariana. He wanted to slip past
her, when she stopped him with a quick movement of the hand.
"Mr. Nejdanov," she said in a somewhat unsteady tone of voice,
"it ought to be all the same to me what you think of me, but
still I find it.. . I find it.. ." (she could not think of a
fitting word) "I find it necessary to tell you that when you met
me in the wood today with Mr. Markelov . . . you must no doubt
have thought, when you saw us both confused, that we had come
there by appointment."
"It did seem a little strange to me--" Nejdanov began. "Mr.
Markelov," Mariana interrupted him, "proposed to me . . . and I
refused him. That is all I wanted to say to you. Goodnight.
Think what you like of me."
She turned away and walked quickly down the corridor.
Nejdanov entered his own room and sat down by the window musing.
"What a strange girl--why this wild issue, this uninvited
explanation? Is it a desire to be original, or simply
affectation--or pride? Pride, no doubt. She can't endure the
idea... the faintest suspicion, that anyone should have a wrong
opinion of her. What a strange girl!"
Thus Nejdanov pondered, while he was being discussed on the
terrace below; every word could be heard distinctly.
I have a feeling," Kollomietzev declared, "a feeling, that he's a
revolutionist. When I served on a special commission at the
governor-general's of Moscow avec Ladisias, I learned to scent
these gentlemen as well as nonconformists. I believe in instinct
above everything." Here Kollomietzev related how he had once
caught an old sectarian by the heel somewhere near Moscow, on
whom he had looked in, accompanied by the police, and who nearly
jumped out of his cottage window. "He was sitting quite quietly
on his bench until that moment, the blackguard!"
Kollomietzev forgot to add that this old man, when put into
prison, refused to take any food and starved himself to death.
"And your new tutor," Kollomietzev went on zealously, "is a
revolutionist, without a shadow of a doubt! Have you noticed that
he is never the first to bow to anyone?"
"Why should he?" Madame Sipiagina asked; "on the contrary, that
is what I like about him."
"I am a guest in the house in which he serves," Kollomietzev
exclaimed, "yes, serves for money, comme un salarie. . . .
Consequently I am his superior. . . . He ought to bow to me
"My dear Kollomietzev, you are very particular," Sipiagin put in,
laying special stress on the word dear. "I thought, if you'll
forgive my saying so, that we had outgrown all that. I pay for
his services, his work, but he remains a free man."
"He does not feel the bridle, le frein! All these revolutionists
are like that. I tell you I can smell them from afar! Only
Ladisias can compare with me in this respect. If this tutor were
to fall into my hands wouldn't I give it to him! I would make him
sing a very different tune! How he would begin touching his cap
to me--it would be a pleasure to see him!"
"Rubbish, you swaggering little braggart!" Nejdanov almost
shouted from above, but at this moment the door opened and, to
his great astonishment, Markelov entered the room.
NEJDANOV rose to meet him, and Markelov, coming straight up to
him, without any form of greeting, asked him if he was Alexai
Dmitritch, a student of the St. Petersburg University.
"Yes," Nejdanov replied.
Markelov took an unsealed letter out of a side pocket.
"In that case, please read this. It is from Vassily
Nikolaevitch," he added, lowering his voice significantly.
Nejdanov unfolded and read the letter. It was a semi-official
circular in which Sergai Markelov was introduced as one of "us,"
and absolutely trustworthy; then followed some advice about the
urgent necessity of united action in the propaganda of their
well-known principles. The circular was addressed to Nejdanov, as
being a person worthy of confidence.
Nejdanov extended his hand to Markelov, offered him a chair, and
sat down himself.
Markelov, without saying a word, began lighting a cigarette;
Nejdanov followed his example.
"Have you managed to come in contact with the peasants here?"
Markelov asked at last.
"No, I haven't had time as yet."
"How long have you been here?"
"About a fortnight."
"Have you much to do?"
"Not very much."
Markelov gave a severe cough.
"H'm! The people here are stupid enough. A most ignorant lot.
They must be enlightened. They're wretchedly poor, but one can't
make them understand the cause of their poverty."
"Your brother-in-law's old serfs, as far as one can judge, do not
seem to be poor," Nejdanov remarked.
"My brother-in-law knows what he is about; he is a perfect master
at humbugging people. His peasants are certainly not so badly
off; but he has a factory; that is where we must turn our
attention. The slightest dig there will make the ants move. Have
you any books with you?"
"Yes, a few."
"I will get you some more. How is it you have so few?"
Nejdanov made no reply. Markelov also ceased, and began sending
out puffs of smoke through his nostrils.
"What a pig this Kollomietzev is!" he exclaimed suddenly. "At
dinner I could scarcely keep from rushing at him and smashing his
impudent face as a warning to others. But no, there are more
important things to be done just now. There is no time to waste
getting angry with fools for saying stupid things. The time has
now come to prevent them doing stupid things."
Nejdanov nodded his head and Markelov went on smoking. "Among the
servants here there is only one who is any good," he began again.
"Not your man, Ivan, he has no more sense than a fish, but
another one, Kirill, the butler." (Kirill was known to be a
confirmed drunkard.) "He is a drunken debauchee, but we can't be
too particular. What do you think of my sister?" he asked,
suddenly fixing his yellowish eyes on Nejdanov. "She is even more
artful than my brother-in-law. What do you think of her?"
"I think that she is a very kind and pleasant lady...besides, she
is very beautiful."
"H'm! With what subtlety you St. Petersburg gentlemen express
yourselves! I can only marvel at it. Well, and what about--" he
began, but his face darkened suddenly, and he did not finish the
sentence. "I see that we must have a good talk," he went on. "It
is quite impossible here. Who knows! They may be listening at the
door. I have a suggestion. Today is Saturday; you won't be
giving lessons to my nephew tomorrow, will you?"
"I have a rehearsal with him at three o'clock."
"A rehearsal! It sounds like the stage. My sister, no doubt,
invented the word. Well, no matter. Would you like to come home
with me now? My village is about ten miles off. I have some
excellent horses who will get us there in a twinkling. You could
stay the night and the morning, and I could bring you back by
three o'clock tomorrow. Will you come?"
"With pleasure," Nejdanov replied. Ever since Markelov's
appearance he had been in a state of great excitement and
embarrassment. This sudden intimacy made him feel ill at ease,
but he was nevertheless drawn to him. He felt certain that the
man before him was of a sufficiently blunt nature, but for all
that honest and full of strength. Moreover, the strange meeting
in the wood, Mariana's unexpected explanation...
"Very well!" Markelov exclaimed. "You can get ready while I
order the carriage to be brought out. By the way, I hope you
won't have to ask permission of our host and hostess."
"I must tell them. I don't think it would be wise to go away
without doing so."
"I'll tell them," Markelov said. "They are engrossed in their
cards just now and will not notice your absence. My brother-in-
law aims only at governmental folk, and the only thing he can do
well is to play at cards. However, it is said that many succeed
in getting what they want through such means. You'll get ready,
won't you? I'll make all arrangements immediately."
Markelov withdrew, and an hour later Nejdanov sat by his side on
the broad leather-cushioned seat of his comfortable old carriage.
The little coachman on the box kept on whistling in wonderfully
pleasant bird-like notes; three piebald horses, with plaited
manes and tails, flew like the wind over the smooth even road;
and already enveloped in the first shadows of the night (it was
exactly ten o'clock when they started), trees, bushes, fields,
meadows, and ditches, some in the foreground, others in the
background, sailed swiftly towards them.
Markelov's tiny little village, Borsionkov, consisting of about
two hundred acres in all, and bringing him in an income of seven
hundred roubles a year, was situated about three miles away from
the provincial town, seven miles off from Sipiagin's village. To
get to Borsionkov from Sipiagin's, one had to go through the
town. Our new friends had scarcely time to exchange a hundred
words when glimpses of the mean little dwellings of shopkeepers
on the outskirts of the town flashed past them, little dwellings
with shabby wooden roofs, from which faint patches of light could
be seen through crooked little windows; the wheels soon rattled
over the town bridge, paved with cobble stones; the carriage gave
a jerk, rocked from side to side, and swaying with every jolt,
rolled past the stupid two-storied stone houses, with imposing
frontals, inhabited by merchants, past the church, ornamented
with pillars, past the shops.... It was Saturday night and the
streets were already deserted-- only the taverns were still filled
with people. Hoarse drunken voices issued from them, singing,
accompanied by the hideous sounds of a concertina. Every now and
again a door opened suddenly, letting forth the red reflection of
a rush-light and a filthy, overpowering smell of alcohol. Almost
before every tavern door stood little peasant carts, harnessed
with shaggy, big-bellied, miserable-looking hacks, whose heads
were bowed submissively as if asleep; a tattered, unbelted
peasant in a big winter cap, hanging like a sack at the back of
his head, came out of a tavern door, and leaning his breast
against the shafts, stood there helplessly fumbling at something
with his hands; or a meagre-looking factory worker, his cap awry,
his shirt unfastened, barefooted, his boots having been left
inside, would take a few uncertain steps, stop still, scratch his
back, groan suddenly, and turn in again...
"Drink will be the ruin of the Russian!" Markelov remarked
"It's from grief, Sergai Mihailovitch," the coachman said without
turning round. He ceased whistling on passing each tavern and
seemed to sink into his own thoughts.
"Go on! Go on!" Markelov shouted angrily, vigorously tugging at
his own coat collar. They drove through the wide market square
reeking with the smell of rush mats and cabbages, past the
governor's house with coloured sentry boxes standing at the gate,
past a private house with turrets, past the boulevard newly
planted with trees that were already dying, past the hotel court-
yard, filled with the barking of dogs and the clanging of chains,
and so on through the town gates, where they overtook a long,
long line of waggons, whose drivers had taken advantage of the
evening coolness, then out into the open country, where they
rolled along more swiftly and evenly over the broad road, planted
on either side with willows.
We must now say a few words about Markelov. He was six years
older than his sister, Madame Sipiagina, and had been educated at
an artillery school, which he left as an ensign, but sent in his
resignation when he had reached the rank of lieutenant, owing to
a certain unpleasantness that passed between him and his
commanding officer, a German. Ever since then he always detested
Germans, especially Russian Germans. He quarrelled with his
father on account of his resignation, and never saw him again
until just before his death, after which he inherited the little
property and settled on it. In St. Petersburg he often came in
contact with various brilliant people of advanced views, whom he
simply worshipped, and who finally brought him around to their way
of thinking. Markelov had read little, mostly books relating to
the thing that chiefly interested him, and was especially
attached to Herzen. He retained his military habits, and lived
like a Spartan and a monk. A few years ago he fell passionately
in love with a girl who threw him over in a most unceremonious
manner and married an adjutant, also a German. He consequently
hated adjutants too. He tried to write a series of special
articles on the shortcomings of our artillery, but had not the
remotest idea of exposition and never finished a single article;
he continued, however, covering large sheets of grey paper with
his large, awkward, childish handwriting. Markelov was a man
obstinate and fearless to desperation, never forgiving or
forgetting, with a constant sense of injury done to himself and
to all the oppressed, and prepared for anything. His limited mind
was for ever knocking against one point; what was beyond his
comprehension did not exist, but he loathed and despised all
deceit and falsehood. With the upper classes, with the
"reactionaries" as he called them, he was severe and even rude,
but with the people he was simple, and treated a peasant like a
brother. He managed his property fairly well, his head was full
of all sorts of socialist schemes, which he could no more put
into practice than he could finish his articles on the
shortcomings of the artillery. He never succeeded in anything,
and was known in his regiment as "the failure." Of a sincere,
passionate, and morbid nature, he could at a given moment appear
merciless, blood-thirsty, deserving to be called a brute; at
another, he would be ready to sacrifice himself without a
moment's hesitation and without any idea of reward.
At about two miles away from the town the carriage plunged
suddenly into the soft darkness of an aspen wood, amidst the
rustling of invisible leaves, the fresh moist odour of the
forest, with faint patches of light from above and a mass of
tangled shadows below. The moon had already risen above the
horizon, broad and red like a copper shield. Emerging from the
trees, the carriage came upon a small low farm house. Three
illuminated windows stood out sharply on the front of the house,
which shut out the moon's disc; the wide, open gate looked as if
it was never shut. Two white stage-horses, attached to the back
of a high trap, were standing in the courtyard, half in
obscurity; two puppies, also white, rushed out from somewhere and
gave forth piercing, though harmless, barks. People were seen
moving in the house--the carriage rolled up to the doorstep, and
Markelov, climbing out and feeling with difficulty for the iron
carriage step, put on, as is usually the case, by the domestic
blacksmith in the most inconvenient possible place, said to
Nejdanov: "Here we are at home. You will find guests here whom
you know very well, but little expect to meet. Come in.
THE guests turned out to be no other than our old friends
Mashurina and Ostrodumov. They were both sitting in the poorly-
furnished drawing room of Markelov's house, smoking and drinking
beer by the light of a kerosene lamp. Neither of them showed the
least astonishment when Nejdanov came in, knowing beforehand that
Markelov had intended bringing him back, but Nejdanov was very
much surprised on seeing them. On his entrance Ostrodumov merely
muttered "Good evening," whilst Mashurina turned scarlet and
extended her hand. Markelov began to explain that they had come
from St. Petersburg about a week ago, Ostrodumov to remain in the
province for some time for propaganda purposes, while Mashurina
was to go on to K. to meet someone, also in connection with the
cause. He then went on to say that the time had now come for them
to do something practical, and became suddenly heated, although
no one had contradicted him. He bit his lips, and in a hoarse,
excited tone of voice began condemning the horrors that were
taking place, saying that everything was now in readiness for
them to start, that none but cowards could hold back, that a
certain amount of violence was just as necessary as the prick of
the lancet to the abscess, however ripe it might be! The lancet
simile was not original, but one that he had heard somewhere. He
seemed to like it, and made use of it on every possible occasion.
Losing all hope of Mariana's love, it seemed that he no longer
cared for anything, and was only eager to get to work, to enter
the field of action as soon as possible. He spoke harshly,
angrily, but straight to the point like the blow of an axe, his
words falling from his pale lips monotonously, ponderously, like
the savage bark of a grim old watch dog. He said that he was well
acquainted with both the peasants and factory men of the
neighbourhood, and that there were possible people among them.
Instanced a certain Eremy, who, he declared, was prepared to go
anywhere at a moment's notice. This man, Eremy, who belonged to
the village Goloplok, was constantly on his lips. At nearly every
tenth word he thumped his right hand on the table and waved the
left in the air, the forefinger standing away from the others.
This sinewy, hairy hand, the finger, hoarse voice, flashing eyes,
all produced a strong impression on his hearers.
Markelov had scarcely spoken to Nejdanov on the journey, and all
his accumulated wrath burst forth now. Ostrodumov and Mashurina
expressed their approval every now and again by a look, a smile,
a short exclamation, but a strange feeling came over Nejdanov. He
tried to make some sort of objection at first, pointing out the
danger of hasty action and mentioned certain former premature
attempts. He marvelled at the way in which everything was settled
beyond a shadow of a doubt, without taking into consideration the
special circumstances, or even trying to find out what the masses
really wanted. At last his nerves became so highly strung that
they trembled like the strings of an instrument, and with a sort
of despair, almost with tears in his eyes, he began speaking at
the top of his voice, in the same strain as Markelov, going even
farther than he had done. What inspired him would be difficult to
say; was it remorse for having been inactive of late, annoyance
with himself and with others, a desire to drown the gnawings of
an inner pain, or merely to show off before his comrades, whom he
had not seen for some time, or had Markelov's words really had
some effect upon him, fired his blood? They talked until
daybreak; Ostrodumov and Mashurina did not once rise from their
seats, while Markelov and Nejdanov remained on their feet all
the time. Markelov stood on the same spot for all the world like
a sentinel, and Nejdanov walked up and down the room with nervous
strides, now slowly, now hurriedly. They spoke of the necessary
means and measures to be employed, of the part each must take
upon himself, selected and tied up various bundles of pamphlets
and leaflets, mentioned a certain merchant, Golushkin, a
nonconformist, as a very possible man, although uneducated, then
a young propagandist, Kisliakov, who was very clever, but had an
exaggerated idea of his own capabilities, and also spoke of
"Is that the man who manages a cotton factory?" Nejdanov asked,
recalling what Sipiagin had said of him at table.
"Yes, that is the man," Markelov replied. "You should get to know
him. We have not sounded him as yet, but I believe he is an
extremely capable man."
Eremy of Goloplok was mentioned again, together with Sipiagin's
servant, Kirill, and a certain Mendely, known under the name of
"Sulks." The latter it seemed was not to be relied upon. He was
very bold when sober, but a coward when drunk, and was nearly
"And what about your own people?" Nejdanov asked of Markelov.
"Are there any reliable men among them?"
Markelov thought there were, but did not mention anyone by name,
however. He went on to talk of the town tradespeople, of the
public-school boys, who they thought might come in useful if
matters were to come to fisticuffs. Nejdanov also inquired about
the gentry of the neighbourhood, and learned from Markelov that
there were five or six possible young men--among them, but,
unfortunately, the most radical of them was a German, "and you
can't trust a German, you know, he is sure to deceive you sooner
or later!" They must wait and see what information Kisliakov
would gather. Nejdanov also asked about the military, but
Markelov hesitated, tugged at his long whiskers, and announced at
last that with regard to them nothing certain was known as yet,
unless Kisliakov had made any discoveries.
"Who is this Kisliakov? " Nejdanov asked impatiently.
Markelov smiled significantly.
"He's a wonderful person," he declared. "I know very little of
him, have only met him twice, but you should see what letters he
writes! Marvellous letters! I will show them to you and you can
judge for yourself. He is full of enthusiasm. And what activity
the man is capable of! He has rushed over the length and breadth
of Russia five or six times, and written a twelve-page letter
from every place!
Nejdanov looked questioningly at Ostrodumov, but the latter was
sitting like a statue, not an eyebrow twitching. Mashurina was
also motionless, a bitter smile playing on her lips.
Nejdanov went on to ask Markelov if he had made any socialist
experiments on his own estate, but here Ostrodumov interrupted
"What is the good of all that?" he asked. "All the same, it will
have to be altered afterwards."
The conversation turned to political channels again. The
mysterious inner pain again began gnawing at Nejdanov's heart,
but the keener the pain, the more positively and loudly he spoke.
He had drunk only one glass of beer, but it seemed to him at
times that he was quite intoxicated. His head swam around and his
heart beat feverishly.
When the discussion came to an end at last at about four o'clock
in the morning, and they all passed by the servant asleep in the
anteroom on their way to their own rooms, Nejdanov, before
retiring to bed, stood for a long time motionless, gazing
straight before him. He was filled with wonder at the proud,
heart-rending note in all that Markelov had said. The man's
vanity must have been hurt, he must have suffered, but how nobly
he forgot his own personal sorrows for that which he held to be
the truth. "He is a limited soul," Nejdanov thought, " but is it
not a thousand times better to be like that than such . . . such
as I feel myself to be?
He immediately became indignant at his own self-depreciation.
"What made me think that? Am I not also capable of self-
sacrifice? Just wait, gentlemen, and you too, Paklin. I will show
you all that although I am aesthetic and write verses--"
He pushed back his hair with an angry gesture, ground his teeth,
undressed hurriedly, and jumped into the cold, damp bed.
"Goodnight, I am your neighbour," Mashurina's voice was heard
from the other side of the door.
"Goodnight," Nejdanov responded, and remembered suddenly that
during the whole evening she had not taken her eyes off him.
"What does she want? " he muttered to himself, and instantly felt
ashamed. "If only I could get to sleep!
But it was difficult for him to calm his overwrought nerves, and
the sun was already high when at last he fell into a heavy,
In the morning he got up late with a bad headache. He dressed,
went up to the window of his attic, and looked out upon
Markelov's farm. It was practically a mere nothing; the tiny
little house was situated in a hollow by the side of a wood. A
small barn, the stables, cellar, and a little hut with a half-
bare thatched roof, stood on one side; on the other a small pond,
a strip of kitchen garden, a hemp field, another hut with a roof
like the first one; in the distance yet another barn, a tiny
shed, and an empty thrashing floor--this was all the "wealth"
that met the eye. It all seemed poor and decaying, not exactly as
if it had been allowed to run wild, but as though it had never
flourished, like a young tree that had not taken root well.
When Nejdanov went downstairs, Mashurina was sitting in the
dining room at the samovar, evidently waiting for him. She told
him that Ostrodumov had gone away on business, in connection with
the cause, and would not be back for about a fortnight, and that
their host had gone to look after his peasants. As it was already
at the end of May, and there was no urgent work to be done,
Markelov had thought of felling a small birch wood, with such
means as he had at his command, and had gone down there to see
Nejdanov felt a strange weariness at heart. So much had been said
the night before about the impossibility of holding back any
longer, about the necessity of making a beginning. "But how could
one begin, now, at once?" he asked himself. It was useless
talking it over with Mashurina, there was no hesitation for her.
She knew that she had to go to K., and beyond that she did not
look ahead. Nejdanov was at a loss to know what to say to her,
and as soon as he finished his tea took his hat and went out in
the direction of the birch wood. On the way he fell in with some
peasants carting manure, a few of Markelov's former serfs. He
entered into conversation with them, but was very little the
wiser for it. They, too, seemed weary, but with a normal physical
weariness, quite unlike the sensation experienced by him. They
spoke of their master as a kind-hearted gentleman, but rather
odd, and predicted his ruin, because be would go his own way,
instead of doing as his forefathers had done before him. "And
he's so clever, you know, you can't understand what he says,
however hard you may try. But he's a good sort." A little farther
on Nejdanov came across Markelov himself.
He as surrounded by a whole crowd of labourers, and one could see
from the distance that he was trying to explain something to them
as hard as he could, but suddenly threw up his arms in despair,
as if it were of no use. His bailiff, a small, short-sighted
young man without a trace of authority or firmness in his
bearing, was walking beside him, and merely kept on repeating,
"Just so, sir," to Markelov's great disgust, who had expected
more independence from him. Nejdanov went up to Markelov, and on
looking into his face was struck by the same expression of
spiritual weariness he was himself suffering from. Soon after
greeting one another, Markelov began talking again of last
night's "problems" (more briefly this time), about the impending
revolution, the weary expression never once leaving his face. He
was smothered in perspiration and dust, his voice was hoarse, and
his clothes were covered all over with bits of wood shavings and
pieces of green moss. The labourers stood by silently, half
afraid and half amused. Nejdanov glanced at Markelov, and
Ostrodumov's remark, "What is the good of it all? All the same,
it will have to be altered afterwards," flashed across his mind.
One of the men, who had been fined for some offence, began
begging Markelov to let him off. The latter got angry, shouted
furiously, but forgave him in the end. "All the same, it will
have to be altered afterwards."
Nejdanov asked him for horses and a conveyance to take him home.
Markelov seemed surprised at the request, but promised to have
everything ready in good time. They turned back to the house
together, Markelov staggering as he walked.
"What is the matter with you? " Nejdanov asked.
"I am simply worn out!" Markelov began furiously. "No matter what
you do, you simply can't make these people understand anything!
They are utterly incapable of carrying out an order, and do not
even understand plain Russian. If you talk of 'part', they know
what that means well enough, but the word 'participation' is
utterly beyond their comprehension, just as if it did not belong
to the Russian language. They've taken it into their heads that I
want to give them a part of the land!"
Markelov had tried to explain to the peasants the principles of
cooperation with a view to introducing it on his estate, but
they were completely opposed to it. "The pit was deep enough
before, but now there's no seeing the bottom of it," one of them
remarked, and all the others gave forth a sympathetic sigh, quite
crushing poor Markelov. He dismissed the men and went into the
house to see about a conveyance and lunch.
The whole of Markelov's household consisted of a man servant, a
cook, a coachman, and a very old man with hairy ears, in a long-
skirted linen coat, who had once been his grandfather's valet.
This old man was for ever gazing at Markelov with a most woe-
begone expression on his face. He was too old to do anything, but
was always present, huddled together by the door.
After a lunch of hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, and cold hash (the
man handing them pepper in an old pomade pot and vinegar in an
old eau-de-cologne bottle), Nejdanov took his seat in the same
carriage in which he had come the night before. This time it was
harnessed to two horses, not three, as the third had been newly
shod, and was a little lame.
Markelov had spoken very little during the meal, had eaten
nothing whatever, and breathed with difficulty. He let fall a few
bitter remarks about his farm and threw up his arms in despair.
"All the same, it will have to be altered afterwards!
Mashurina asked Nejdanov if she might come with him as far as the
town, where she had a little shopping to do. "I can walk back
afterwards or, if need be, ask the first peasant I meet for a
lift in his cart."
Markelov accompanied them to the door, saying that he would soon
send for Nejdanov again, and then.., then (he trembled suddenly,
but pulled himself together) they would have to settle things
definitely. Solomin must also come. He (Markelov) was only
waiting to hear from Vassily Nikolaevitch, and that as soon as he
heard from him there would be nothing to hinder them from making
a "beginning," as the masses (the same masses who failed to
understand the word "participation") refused to wait any longer!
"Oh, by the way, what about those letters you wanted to show me?
What is the fellow's name . . . Kisliakov?" Nejdanov asked.
"Later on... I will show them to you later on. We can do it all
at the same time."
The carriage moved.
"Hold yourself in readiness!" Markelov's voice was heard again,
as he stood on the doorstep. And by his side, with the same
hopeless dejection in his face, straightening his bent back, his
hands clasped behind him, diffusing an odour of rye bread and
mustiness, not hearing a single word that was being said around
him, stood the model servant, his grandfather's decrepit old
Mashurina sat smoking silently all the way, but when they reached
the town gates she gave a loud sigh.
"I feel so sorry for Sergai Mihailovitch," she remarked, her face
"He is over-worked, and it seems to me his affairs are in a bad
way," Nejdanov said.
"I was not thinking of that."
"What were you thinking of then?"
"He is so unhappy and so unfortunate. It would be difficult to
find a better man than he is, but he never seems to get on."
Nejdanov looked at her.
"Do you know anything about him?"
"Nothing whatever, but you can see for yourself. Goodbye, Alexai
Dmitritch." Mashurina clambered out of the carriage.
An hour later Nejdanov was rolling up the courtyard leading to
Sipiagin's house. He did not feel well after his sleepless night
and the numerous discussions and explanations.
A beautiful face smiled to him out of the window. It was Madame
Sipiagina welcoming him back home.
"What glorious eyes she has!" he thought.
A GREAT many people came to dinner. When it was over, Nejdanov
took advantage of the general bustle and slipped away to his own
room. He wanted to be alone with his own thoughts, to arrange the
impressions he had carried away from his recent journey.
Valentina Mihailovna had looked at him intently several times
during dinner, but there had been no opportunity of speaking to
him. Mariana, after the unexpected freak which had so bewildered
him, was evidently repenting of it, and seemed to avoid him.
Nejdanov took up a pen to write to his friend Silin, but he did
not know what to say to him. There were so many conflicting
thoughts and sensations crowding in upon him that he did not
attempt to disentangle them, and put them off for another day.
Kollomietzev had made one of the guests at dinner. Never before
had this worthy shown so much insolence and snobbish contemptuousness
as on this occasion, but Nejdanov simply ignored him.
He was surrounded by a sort of mist, which seemed to hang before
him like a filmy curtain, separating him from the rest of the
world. And through this film, strange to say, he perceived only
three faces--women's faces--and all three were gazing at him
intently. They were Madame Sipiagina, Mashurina, and Mariana.
What did it mean? Why particularly these three? What had they in
common, and what did they want of him?
He went to bed early, but could not fall asleep. He was haunted
by sad and gloomy reflections about the inevitable end-- death.
These thoughts were familiar to him, many times had he turned
them over this way and that, first shuddering at the probability
of annihilation, then welcoming it, almost rejoicing in it.
Suddenly a peculiarly familiar agitation took possession of him...
He mused awhile, sat down at the table, and wrote down the
following lines in his sacred copy-book, without a single
When I die, dear friend, remember
This desire I tell to thee:
Burn thou to the last black ember
All my heart has writ for me.
Let the fairest flowers surround me,
Sunlight laugh about my bed,
Let the sweetest of musicians
To the door of death be led.
Bid them sound no strain of sadness--
Muted string or muffled drum;
Come to me with songs of gladness--
Whirling in the wild waltz come!
I would hear--ere yet I hear not--
Trembling strings their cadence keep,
Chords that quiver: so I also
Tremble as I fall asleep.
Memories of life and laughter,
Memories of earthly glee,
As I go to the hereafter
All my lullaby shall be.
When he wrote the word "friend" he thought of Silin. He read the
verses over to himself in an undertone, and was surprised at what
had come from his pen. This scepticism, this indifference, this
almost frivolous lack of faith--how did it all agree with his
principles? How did it agree with what he had said at Markelov's?
He thrust the copybook into the table drawer and went back to
bed. But he did not fall asleep until dawn, when the larks had
already begun to twitter and the sky was turning paler.
On the following day, soon after he had finished his lesson and
was sitting in the billiard room, Madame Sipiagina entered,
looked round cautiously, and coming up to him with a smile,
invited him to come into her boudoir. She had on a white barege
dress, very simple, but extremely pretty. The embroidered frills
of her sleeves came down as far as the elbow, a broad ribbon
encircled her waist, her hair fell in thick curls about her neck.
Everything about her was inviting and caressing, with a sort of
restrained, yet encouraging, caressiveness, everything; the
subdued lustre of her half-closed eyes, the soft indolence of her
voice, her gestures, her very walk. She conducted Nejdanov into
her boudoir, a cosy, charming room, filled with the scent of
flowers and perfumes, the pure freshness of feminine garments,
the constant presence of a woman. She made him sit down in an
armchair, sat down beside him, and began questioning him about
his visit, about Markelov's way of living, with much tact and
sweetness. She showed a genuine interest in her brother, although
she had not once mentioned him in Nejdanov's presence. One could
gather from what she said that the impression Mariana had made on
her brother had not escaped her notice. She seemed a little
disappointed, but whether it was due to the fact that Mariana did
not reciprocate his feelings, or that his choice should have
fallen upon a girl so utterly unlike him, was not quite clear.
But most of all she evidently strove to soften Nejdanov, to
arouse his confidence towards her, to break down his shyness; she
even went so far as to reproach him a little for having a false
idea of her.
Nejdanov listened to her, gazed at her arms, her shoulders, and
from time to time cast a look at her rosy lips and her unruly,
massive curls. His replies were brief at first; he felt a curious
pressure in his throat and chest, but by degrees this sensation
gave way to another, just as disturbing, but not devoid of a
certain sweetness. . . . He was surprised that such a beautiful
aristocratic lady of important position should take the trouble
to interest herself in him, a simple student, and not only
interest herself, but flirt with him a little besides. He
wondered, but could not make out her object in doing so. To tell
the truth, he was little concerned about the object. Madame
Sipiagina went on to speak of Kolia, and assured Nejdanov that
she wished to become better acquainted with him only so that she
might talk to him seriously about her son, get to know his views
on the education of Russian children. It might have seemed a
little curious that such a wish should have come upon her so
suddenly, but the root of the matter did not lie in what
Valentina Mihailovna had said. She had been seized by a wave of
sensuousness, a desire to conquer and bring to her feet this
rebellious young man.
Here it is necessary to go back a little. Valentina Mihailovna
was the daughter of a general who had been neither over-wise nor
over-industrious in his life. He had received only one star and a
buckle as a reward for fifty years' service. She was a Little
Russian, intriguing and sly, endowed, like many of her
countrywomen, with a very simple and even stupid exterior, from
which she knew how to extract the maximum of advantage. Valentina
Mihailovna's parents were not rich, but they had managed to
educate her at the Smolny Convent, where, although considered a
republican, she was always in the foreground and very well
treated on account of her excellent behaviour and
industriousness. On leaving the convent she settled with her
mother (her brother had gone into the country, and her father,
the general with the star and buckle, had died) in a very clean,
but extremely chilly, apartment, in which you could see your own
breath as you talked. Valentina Mihailovna used to make fun of it
and declare it was like being in church. She was very brave in
bearing with all the discomforts of a poor, pinched existence,
having a wonderfully sweet temper. With her mother's help, she
managed both to keep up and make new connections and acquaintances,
and was even spoken of in the highest circles as a very nice well-bred
girl. She had several suitors, had fixed upon Sipiagin from them all,
and had very quickly and ingeniously made him fall in love with her.
However, he was soon convinced that he could not have made a better
choice. She was intelligent, rather good than ill-natured, at bottom
cold and indifferent, but unable to endure the idea that anyone should
be indifferent to her.
Valentina Mihailovna was possessed of that peculiar charm, the
characteristic of all "charming" egoists, in which there is
neither poetry nor real sensitiveness, but which is often full of
superficial gentleness, sympathy, sometimes even tenderness. But
these charming egoists must not be thwarted. They are very
domineering and cannot endure independence in others. Women like
Madame Sipiagina excite and disturb people of inexperienced and
passionate natures, but are fond of a quiet and peaceful life
themselves. Virtue comes easy to them, they are placid of
temperament, but a constant desire to command, to attract, and to
please gives them mobility and brilliance. They have an iron
will, and a good deal of their fascination is due to this will.
It is difficult for a man to hold his ground when the mysterious
sparks of tenderness begin to kindle, as if involuntarily, in one
of these unstirred creatures; he waits for the hour to come when
the ice will melt, but the rays only play over the transparent
surface, and never does he see it melt or its smoothness
It cost Madame Sipiagina very little to flirt, knowing full well
that it involved no danger for herself, but to take the lustre
out of another's eyes and see them sparkle again, to see
another's cheeks become flushed with desire and dread, to hear
another's voice tremble and break down, to disturb another's
soul--oh, how sweet it was to her soul! How delightful it was
late at night, when she lay down in her snow-white bed to an
untroubled sleep, to remember all these agitated words and looks
and sighs. With what a self-satisfied smile she retired into
herself, into the consciousness of her inaccessibility, her
invulnerability, and with what condescension she abandoned
herself to the lawful embrace of her well-bred husband! It was so
pleasant that for a little time she was filled with emotion,
ready to do some kind deed, to help a fellow creature. . .
Once, after a secretary of legation, who was madly in love with
her, had attempted to cut his throat, she founded a small alms-
house! She had prayed for him fervently, although her religious
feelings from earliest childhood had not been strongly developed.
And so she talked to Nejdanov, doing everything she could to
bring him to her feet. She allowed him to come near her, she
revealed herself to him, as it were, and with a sweet curiosity,
with a half-maternal tenderness, she watched this handsome,
interesting, stern radical softening towards her quietly and
awkwardly. A day, an hour, a minute later and all this would have
vanished without leaving a trace, but for the time being it was
pleasant, amusing, rather pathetic, and even a little sad.
Forgetting his origin, and knowing that such interest is always
appreciated by lonely people happening to fall among strangers,
she began questioning him about his youth, about his family...
But guessing from his curt replies that she had made a mistake,
Valentina Mihailovna tried to smooth things over and began to
unfold herself still more before him, as a rose unfolds its
fragrant petals on a hot summer's noon, closing them again
tightly at the first approach of the evening coolness.
She could not fully smooth over her blunder, however. Having been
touched on a sensitive spot, Nejdanov could not regain his former
confidence. That bitterness which he always carried, always felt
at the bottom of his heart, stirred again, awakening all his
democratic suspicions and reproaches. "That is not what I've come
here for," he thought, recalling Paklin's admonition. He took
advantage of a pause in the conversation, got up, bowed slightly,
and went out "very foolishly" as he could not help saying to
His confusion did not escape Valentina Mihailovna's notice, and
judging by the smile with which she accompanied him, she had put
it down to her own advantage.
In the billiard room Nejdanov came across Mariana. She was
standing with her back to the window, not far from the door of
Madame Sipiagina's boudoir, with her arms tightly folded. Her
face was almost in complete shadow, but she fixed her fearless
eyes on Nejdanov so penetratingly, and her tightly closed lips
expressed so much contempt and insulting pity, that he stood
still in amazement.
"Have you anything to say to me?" he asked involuntarily.
Mariana did not reply for a time.
"No . . . yes I have, though not now."
"You must wait awhile. Perhaps--tomorrow, perhaps--never. I know
so little--what are you really like?"
"But," Nejdanov began, "I sometimes feel . . . that between us--"
"But you hardly know me at all," Mariana interrupted him. "Well,
wait a little. Tomorrow, perhaps. Now I have to go to . . . my
mistress. Goodbye, till tomorrow."
Nejdanov took a step or two in advance, but turned back suddenly.
"By the way, Mariana Vikentievna . . . may I come to school with
you one day before it closes? I should like to see what you do
"With pleasure. . . But it was not the school about which I
wished to speak to you."
"What was it then?"
"Tomorrow," Mariana repeated.
But she did not wait until the next day, and the conversation
between her and Nejdanov took place on that same evening in one
of the linden avenues not far from the terrace.
SHE came up to him first.
"Mr. Nejdanov," she began, "it seems that you are quite enchanted
with Valentina Mihailovna."
She turned down the avenue without waiting for a reply; he walked
by her side.
"What makes you think so?"
"Is it not a fact? In that case she behaved very foolishly today.
I can imagine how concerned she must have been, and how she
tried to cast her wary nets!"
Nejdanov did not utter a word, but looked at his companion
"Listen," she continued, "it's no use pretending; I don't like
Valentina Mihailovna, and you know that well enough. I may seem
unjust . . . but I want you to hear me first--"
Mariana's voice gave way. She suddenly flushed with emotion;
under emotion she always gave one the impression of being angry.
"You are no doubt asking yourself, 'Why does this tiresome young
lady tell me all this?' just as you must have done when I spoke
to you . . . about Mr. Markelov."
She bent down, tore off a small mushroom, broke it to pieces, and
threw it away.
"You are quite mistaken, Mariana Vikentievna," Nejdanov remarked.
"On the contrary, I am pleased to think that I inspire you with
This was not true, the idea had only just occurred to him.
Mariana glanced at him for a moment. Until then she had
persistently looked away from him.
"It is not that you inspire me with confidence exactly," she went
on pensively; "you are quite a stranger to me. But your position-
-and mine--are very similar. We are both alike-- unhappy; that is a
bond between us."
"Are you unhappy?" Nejdanov asked.
"And you, are you not?" Mariana asked in her turn. Nejdanov did
not say anything.
"Do you know my story?" she asked quickly. "The story of my
father's exile? Don't you? Well, here it is: He was arrested,
tried, convicted, deprived of his rank and everything . . . and
sent to Siberia, where he died. My mother died too. My uncle, Mr.
Sipiagin, my mother's brother, brought me up. . . I am dependent
upon him-- he is my benefactor and-- Valentina Mihailovna
is my benefactress. . . . I pay them back with base ingratitude
because I have an unfeeling heart. . . But the bread of charity
is bitter-- and I can't bear insulting condescensions-- and can't
endure to be patronised. I can't hide things, and when I'm
constantly being hurt I only keep from crying out because I'm too
proud to do so."
As she uttered these disjointed sentences, Mariana walked faster
and faster. Suddenly she stopped. "Do you know that my aunt, in
order to get rid of me, wants to marry me to that hateful
Kollomietzev? She knows my ideas. . . in her eyes I'm almost a
nihilist-- and he! It's true he doesn't care for me. . . I'm not
good-looking enough, but it's possible to sell me. That would
also be considered charity."
"Why didn't you--" Nejdanov began, but stopped short.
Mariana looked at him for an instant.
"You wanted to ask why I didn't accept Mr. Markelov, isn't that
so? Well, what could I do? He's a good man, but it's not my fault
that I don't love him."
Mariana walked on ahead, as if she wished to save her companion
the necessity of saying anything to this unexpected confession.
They both reached the end of the avenue. Mariana turned quickly
down a narrow path leading into a dense fir grove; Nejdanov
followed her. He was under the influence of a twofold
astonishment; first, it puzzled him that this shy girl should
suddenly become so open and frank with him, and secondly, that he
was not in the least surprised at this frankness, that he looked
upon it, in fact, as quite natural.
Mariana turned round suddenly, stopped in the middle of the path
with her face about a yard from Nejdanov's, and looked straight
into his eyes.
"Alexai Dmitritch," she said, "please don't think my aunt is a
bad woman. She is not. She is deceitful all over, she's an
actress, a poser-- she wants everyone to bow down before her as a
beauty and worship her as a saint! She will invent a pretty
speech, say it to one person, repeat it to a second, a third,
with an air as if it had only just come to her by inspiration,
emphasising it by the use of her wonderful eyes! She understands
herself very well-- she is fully conscious of looking like a
Madonna, and knows that she does not love a living soul! She
pretends to be forever worrying over Kolia, when in reality does
nothing but talk about him with clever people. She does not wish
harm to any one... is all kindness, but let every bone in your
body be broken before her very eyes . . . and she wouldn't care a
straw! She would not move a finger to save you, and if by any
chance it should happen to be necessary or useful to her. . .then
heaven have mercy on you. . . ."
Mariana ceased. Her wrath was choking her. She could not contain
herself, and had resolved on giving full vent to it, but words
failed her. Mariana belonged to a particular class of unfortunate
beings, very plentiful in Russia, whom justice satisfies, but
does not rejoice, while injustice, against which they are very
sensitive, revolts them to their innermost being. All the time
she was speaking, Nejdanov watched her intently. Her flushed
face, her short, untidy hair, the tremulous twitching of her thin
lips, struck him as menacing, significant, and beautiful. A ray
of sunlight, broken by a net of branches, lay across her forehead
like a patch of gold. And this tongue of fire seemed to be in
keeping with the keen expression of her face, her fixed wide-open
eyes, the earnest sound of her voice.
"Tell me why you think me unhappy," Nejdanov observed at last.
"Do you know anything about me?
"What do you know? Has anyone been talking to you about me?
"I know about your birth."
"Who told you?
"Why, Valentina Mihailovna, of course, whom you admire so much.
She mentioned in my presence, just in passing you know, but quite
intentionally, that there was a very interesting incident in your
life. She was not condoling the fact, but merely mentioned it as
a person of advanced views who is above prejudice. You need not
be surprised; in the same way she tells every visitor that comes
that my father was sent to Siberia for taking bribes. However
much she may think herself an aristocrat, she is nothing more
than a mere scandal-monger and a poser. That is your Sistine
"Why is she mine in particular?
Mariana turned away and resumed her walk down the path.
"Because you had such a long conversation together," she said, a
lump rising in her throat.
"I scarcely said a word the whole time," Nejdanov observed. "It
was she who did the talking."
Mariana walked on in silence. A turn in the path brought them to
the end of the grove in front of which lay a small lawn; a
weeping silver birch stood in the middle, its hollow trunk
encircled by a round seat. Mariana sat down on this seat and
Nejdanov seated himself at her side. The long hanging branches
covered with tiny green leaves were waving gently over their
heads. Around them masses of lily-of-the-valley could be seen
peeping out from amidst the fine grass. The whole place was
filled with a sweet scent, refreshing after the very heavy
resinous smell of the pine trees.
"So you want to see the school," Mariana began; " I must warn you
that you will not find it very exciting. You have heard that our
principal master is the deacon. He is not a bad fellow, but you
can't imagine what nonsense he talks to the children. There is a
certain boy among them, called Garacy, an orphan of nine years
old, and, would you believe it, he learns better than any of the
With the change of conversation, Mariana herself seemed to
change. She turned paler, became more composed, and her face
assumed an expression of embarrassment, as if she were repenting
of her outburst. She evidently wished to lead Nejdanov into
discussing some "question" or other about the school, the
peasants, anything, so as not to continue in the former strain.
But he was far from "questions" at this moment.
"Mariana Vikentievna," he began; "to be quite frank with you, I
little expected all that has happened between us." (At the word
"happened" she drew herself up.) "It seems to me that we have
suddenly become very . . . very intimate. That is as it should
be. We have for some time past been getting closer to one
another, only we have not expressed it in words. And so I will
also speak to you frankly. It is no doubt wretched for you here,
but surely your uncle, although he is limited, seems a kind man,
as far as one can judge. Doesn't he understand your position and
take your part?"
"My uncle, in the first place, is not a man, he's an official, a
senator, or a minister, I forget which; and in the second, I
don't want to complain and speak badly of people for nothing. It
is not at all hard for me here, that is, nobody interferes with
me; my aunt's petty pin-pricks are in reality nothing to me. . .
I am quite free."
Nejdanov looked at her in amazement.
"In that case . . . everything that you have just told me--"
"You may laugh at me if you like," she said. "If I am unhappy--it
is not as a result of my own sorrows. It sometimes seems to me
that I suffer for the miserable, poor and oppressed in the whole
of Russia. . . No, it's not exactly that. I suffer-- I am
indignant for them, I rebel for them. . . I am ready to go to the
stake for them. I am unhappy because I am a 'young lady,' a
parasite, that I am completely unable to do anything . . .
anything! When my father was sent to Siberia and I remained with
my mother in Moscow, how I longed to go to him! It was not that I
loved or respected him very much, but I wanted to know, to see
with my own eyes, how the exiled and banished live. . . How I
loathed myself and all these placid, rich, well-fed people! And
afterwards, when he returned home, broken in body and soul, and
began humbly busying himself, trying to work . . . oh . . . how
terrible it was! It was a good thing that he died . . . and my
poor mother too. But, unfortunately, I was left behind. . . .
What for? Only to feel that I have a bad nature, that I am
ungrateful, that there is no peace for me, that I can do nothing--
nothing for anything or anybody!"
Mariana turned away-- her hand slid on to the seat. Nejdanov felt
sorry for her; he touched the drooping hand. Mariana pulled it
away quickly; not that Nejdanov's action seemed unsuitable to
her, but that he should on no account think that she was asking
Through the branches of the pines a glimpse of a woman's dress
could be seen. Mariana drew herself up.
"Look, your Madonna has sent her spy. That maid has to keep a
watch on me and inform her mistress where I am and with whom. My
aunt very likely guessed that I was with you, and thought it
improper, especially after the sentimental scene she acted before
you this afternoon. Anyhow, it's time we were back. Let us go."
Mariana got up. Nejdanov rose also. She glanced at him over her
shoulder, and suddenly there passed over her face an almost
childish expression, making her embarrassment seem charming.
"You are not angry with me, are you? You don't think I have been
trying to win your sympathy, do you? No, I'm sure you don't," she
went on before Nejdanov had time to make any reply; "you are like
me, just as unhappy, and your nature . . . is bad, like mine. We
can go to the school together tomorrow. We are excellent friends
now, aren't we?
When Mariana and Nejdanov drew near to the house, Valentina
Mihailovna looked at them from the balcony through her lorgnette,
shook her head slowly with a smile on her lips, then returning
through the open glass door into the drawing-room, where Sipiagin
was already seated at preferences with their toothless neighbour,
who had dropped in to tea, she drawled out, laying stress on each
syllable: "How damp the air is! It's not good for one's health!"
Mariana and Nejdanov exchanged glances; Sipiagin, who had just
scored a trick from his partner, cast a truly ministerial glance
at his wife, looking her over from top to toe, then transferred
this same cold, sleepy, but penetrating glance to the young
couple coming in from the dark garden.
Two more weeks went by; everything in its accustomed order.
Sipiagin fixed everyone's daily occupation, if not like a
minister, at any rate like the director of a department, and was,
as usual, haughty, humane, and somewhat fastidious. Kolia
continued taking lessons; Anna Zaharovna, still full of spite,
worried about him constantly; visitors came and went, talked,
played at cards, and did not seem bored. Valentina Mihailovna
continued amusing herself with Nejdanov, although her customary
affability had become mixed with a certain amount of good-natured
sarcasm. Nejdanov had become very intimate with Mariana, and
discovered that her temper was even enough and that one could
discuss most things with her without hitting against any violent
opposition. He had been to the school with her once or twice, but
with the first visit had become convinced that he could do
nothing there. It was under the entire control of the deacon,
with Sipiagin's full consent. The good father did not teach
grammar badly, although his method was rather old-fashioned, but
at examinations he would put the most absurd questions. For
instance, he once asked Garacy how he would explain the
expression, "The waters are dark under the firmament," to which
Garacy had to answer, by the deacon's own order, "It cannot be
explained." However, the school was soon closed for the summer,
not to be opened again until the autumn.
Bearing in mind the suggestion of Paklin and others, Nejdanov did
all he could to come in contact with the peasants, but soon found
that he was only learning to understand them, in so far as he
could make any observation and doing no propaganda whatever!
Nejdanov had lived in a town all his life and, consequently,
between him and the country people there existed a gulf that
could not be crossed. He once happened to exchange a few words
with the drunken Kirill, and even with Mendely the Sulky, hut
besides abuse about things in general he got nothing out of them.
Another peasant, called Fituvy, completely nonplussed him. This
peasant had an unusually energetic countenance, almost like some
brigand. "Well, this one seems hopeful at any rate," Nejdanov
thought. But it turned out that Fituvy was a miserable wretch,
from whom the mir had taken away his land, because he, a strong
healthy man, WOULD NOT work. "I can't," he sobbed out, with deep
inward groans, "I can't work! Kill me or I'll lay hands on
myself!" And he ended by begging alms in the streets! With a face
out of a canvas of Rinaldo Rinaldini!
As for the factory men, Nejdanov could not get hold of them at all;
these fellows were either too sharp or too gloomy. He wrote a long
letter to his friend Silin about the whole thing, in which he bitterly
regretted his incapacity, putting it down to the vile education
he had received and to his hopelessly aesthetic nature! He
suddenly came to the conclusion that his vocation in the field of
propaganda lay not in speaking, but in writing. But all the
pamphlets he planned did not work out somehow. Whatever he
attempted to put down on paper, according to him, was too drawn
out, artificial in tone and style, and once or twice--oh horror!
he actually found himself wandering off into verse, or on a
sceptical, personal effusion. He even decided to speak about this
difficulty to Mariana, a very sure sign of confidence and
intimacy! He was again surprised to find her sympathetic, not
towards his literary attempts, certainly, but to the moral
weakness he was suffering from, a weakness with which she, too,
was somewhat familiar. Mariana's contempt for aestheticism was no
less strong than his, but for all that the main reason why she
did not accept Markelov was because there was not the slightest
trace of the aesthetic in his nature!
She did not for a moment admit this to herself. It is often the
case that what is strongest in us remains only a half-suspected
Thus the days went by slowly, with little variety, but with
A curious change was taking place in Nejdanov. He felt
dissatisfied with himself, that is, with his inactivity, and his
words had a constant ring of bitter self-reproach. But in the
innermost depths of his being there lurked a sense of happiness
very soothing to his soul. Was it a result of the peaceful
country life, the summer, the fresh air, dainty food, beautiful
home, or was it due to the fact that for the first time in his
life he was tasting the sweetness of contact with a woman's soul?
It would he difficult to say. But he felt happy, although he
complained, and quite sincerely, to his friend Silin.
The mood, however, was abruptly destroyed in a single day.
On the morning of this day Nejdanov received a letter from
Vassily Nikolaevitch, instructing him, together with Markelov, to
lose no time in coming to an understanding with Solomin and a
certain merchant Golushkin, an Old Believer, living at S. This
letter upset Nejdanov very much; it contained a note of reproach
at his inactivity. The bitterness which had shown itself only in
his words now rose with full force from the depths of his soul.
Kollomietzev came to dinner, disturbed and agitated. "Would you
believe it!" he shouted almost in tears, "what horrors I've read
in the papers! My friend, my beloved Michael, the Servian prince,
has been assassinated by some blackguards in Belgrade. This is
what these Jacobins and revolutionists will bring us to if a firm
stop is not put to them all!" Sipiagin permitted himself to
remark that this horrible murder was probably not the work of
Jacobins, "of whom there could hardly be any in Servia," but
might have been committed by some of the followers of the
Karageorgievsky party, enemies of Obrenovitch. Kollomietzev would
not hear of this, and began to relate, in the same tearful voice,
how the late prince had loved him and what a beautiful gun he had
given him! Having spent himself somewhat and got rather
irritable, he at last turned from foreign Jacobins to home-bred
nihilists and socialists, and ended by flying into a passion. He
seized a large roll, and breaking it in half over his soup plate,
in the manner of the stylish Parisian in the "Cafe-Riche,"
announced that he would like to tear limb from limb, reduce to
ashes, all those who objected to anybody or to anything! These
were his very words. "It is high time! High time!" he announced,
raising the spoon to his mouth; "yes, high time!" he repeated,
giving his glass to the servant, who was pouring out sherry. He
spoke reverentially about the great Moscow publishers, and
Ladislas, notre bon et cher Ladislas, did not leave his lips. At
this point, he fixed his eyes on Nejdanov, seeming to say:
"There, this is for you! Make what you like of it! I mean this
for you! And there's a lot more to come yet!" The latter, no
longer able to contain himself, objected at last, and began in a
slightly unsteady tone of voice (not due to fear, of course)
defending the ideals, the hopes, the principles of the modern
generation. Kollomietzev soon went into a squeak--his anger
always expressed itself in falsetto--and became abusive.
Sipiagin, with a stately air, began taking Nejdanov's part;
Valentina Mihailovna, of course, sided with her husband; Anna
Zaharovna tried to distract Kolia's attention, looking furiously
at everybody; Mariana did not move, she seemed turned to stone.
Nejdanov, hearing the name of Ladislas pronounced at least for
the twentieth time, suddenly flared up and thumping the palm of
his hand on the table burst out:
"What an authority! As if we do not know who this Ladislas is! A
born spy, nothing more!"
"W-w-w-what--what--did you say? " Kollomietzev stammered cut,
choking with rage. "How dare you express yourself like that of a
man who is respected by such people as Prince Blasenkramf and
Nejdanov shrugged his shoulders.
"A very nice recommendation! Prince Kovrishkin, that enthusiastic
"Ladislas is my friend," Kollomietzev screamed, "my comrade--and
"So much the worse for you," Nejdanov interrupted him. "It means
that you share his way of thinking, in which case my words apply
to you too."
Kollomietzev turned deadly pale with passion.
"W-what? How? You--ought to be-- on the spot--"
"What would you like to do with me ON THE SPOT?" Nejdanov asked
with sarcastic politeness. Heaven only knows what this skirmish
between these two enemies might have led to, had not Sipiagin
himself put a stop to it at the very outset. Raising his voice
and putting on a serious air, in which it was difficult to say
what predominated most, the gravity of an important statesman or
the dignity of a host, he announced firmly that he did not wish
to hear at his table such immoderate expressions, that he had
long ago made it a rule, a sacred rule, he added, to respect
every sort of conviction, so long as (at this point he raised his
forefinger ornamented with a signet ring) it came within the
limits of decent behaviour; that if he could not help, on the one
hand, condemning Mr. Nejdanov's intemperate words, for which only
his extreme youth could be blamed, he could not, on the other,
agree with Mr. Kollomietzev's embittered attack on people of an
opposite camp, an attack, he felt sure, that was only due to an
over-amount of zeal for the general welfare of society.
"Under my roof," he wound up, "under the Sipiagin's roof, there
are no Jacobins and no spies, only honest, well-meaning people,
who, once learning to understand one another, would most
certainly clasp each other by the hand!"
Neither Nejdanov nor Kollomietzev ventured on another word, but
they did not, however, clasp each other's hands. Their moment for
a mutual understanding had not arrived. On the contrary, they had
never yet experienced such a strong antipathy to one another.
Dinner ended in an awkward, unpleasant silence. Sipiagin
attempted to relate some diplomatic anecdote, but stopped half-
way through. Mariana kept looking down at her plate persistently,
not wishing to betray her sympathy with what Nejdanov had said.
She was by no means afraid, but did not wish to give herself away
before Madame Sipiagina. She felt the latter's keen, penetrating
glance fixed on her. And, indeed, Madame Sipiagina did not take
her eyes either off her or Nejdanov. His unexpected outburst at
first came as a surprise to the intelligent lady, but the next
moment a light suddenly dawned upon her, so that she involuntarily
murmured, "Ah!" She suddenly divined that Nejdanov was slipping away
from her, this same Nejdanov who, a short time ago, was ready to come
to her arms. "Something has happened. . . . Is it Mariana? Of course
it's Mariana. . .She likes him . . . and he--"
"Something must be done." Thus she concluded her reflections,
while Kollomietzev was choking with indignation. Even when
playing preference two hours later, he pronounced the word
"Pass!" or "I buy!" with an aching heart. A hoarse tremulo of
wounded pride could be detected in his voice, although he
pretended to scorn such things! Sipiagin was the only one really
pleased with the scene. It had afforded him an opportunity of
showing off the power of his eloquence and of calming the rising
storm. He knew Latin, and Virgil's Quos ego was not unfamiliar to
him. He did not consciously compare himself to Neptune, but
thought of him with a kind of sympathetic feeling.
As soon as it was convenient for him to do so, Nejdanov retired
to his own room and locked himself in. He did not want to see anyone,
anyone except Mariana. Her room was situated at the very
end of a long corridor, intersecting the whole of the upper
story. Nejdanov had only once been there for a few moments, but
it seemed to him that she would not mind if he knocked at her
door, now that she even wished to speak to him herself. It was
already fairly late, about ten o'clock. The host and hostess had
not considered it necessary to disturb him after what had taken
place at the dinner table. Valentina Mihailovna inquired once or
twice about Mariana, as she too had disappeared soon after
dinner. "Where is Mariana Vikentievna?" she asked first in
Russian, then in French, addressing herself to no one in
particular, but rather to the walls, as people often do when
greatly astonished, but she soon became absorbed in the game.
Nejdanov paced up and down the room several times, then turned
down the corridor and knocked gently at Mariana's door. There was
no response. He knocked again-- then he turned the handle of the
door. It was locked. But he had hardly got back to his own room
and sat down, when the door creaked softly and Mariana's voice
was heard: "Alexai Dmitritch, was that YOU, that came to me?
He jumped up instantly and rushed out into the corridor. Mariana
was standing at his door with a candle in her hand, pale and
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