Ivan S. Turgenev
Part 5 out of 7
truth if I were to say that I had no mysterious fear, no
misgivings at heart . . . Everything in front of us is enveloped
in darkness and we are plunging into that darkness. I need not
tell you what we are going for and what we have chosen to do.
Mariana and I are not in search of happiness or vain delight; we
want to enter the fight together, side by side, supporting each
other. Our aim is clear to us, but we do not know the roads that
lead to it. Shall we find, if not help and sympathy at any rate,
the opportunity to work? Mariana is a wonderfully honest girl.
Should we be fated to perish, I will not blame myself for having
enticed her away, because now no other life is possible for her.
But, Vladimir, Vladimir! I feel so miserable. . . I am torn by
doubt, not in my feelings towards her, of course, but . . . I do
not know! And it is too late to turn back. Stretch out your hands
to us from afar, and wish us patience, the power of self-
sacrifice, and love . . . most of all love. And ye, Russian
people, unknown to us, but beloved by us with all the force of
our beings, with our hearts' blood, receive us in your midst, be
kind to us, and teach us what we may expect from you. Goodbye,
Having finished these few lines Nejdanov set out for the village.
The following night, before daybreak, he stood on the outskirts of
the birch grove, not far from Sipiagin's garden. A little further
on behind the tangled branches of a nut-bush stood a peasant cart
harnessed to a pair of unbridled horses. Inside, under the seat
of plaited rope, a little grey old peasant was lying asleep on a
bundle of hay, covered up to the ears with an old patched coat.
Nejdanov kept looking eagerly at the road, at the clumps of
laburnums at the bottom of the garden; the still grey night lay
around; the little stars did their best to outshine one another
and were lost in the vast expanse of sky. To the east the rounded
edges of the spreading clouds were tinged with a faint flush of
dawn. Suddenly Nejdanov trembled and became alert. Something
squeaked near by, the opening of a gate was heard; a tiny
feminine creature, wrapped up in a shawl with a bundle slung over
her bare arm, walked slowly out of the deep shadow of the
laburnums into the dusty road, and crossing over as if on tip-
toe, turned towards the grove. Nejdanov rushed towards her.
"Mariana?" he whispered.
"It's I!" came a soft reply from under the shawl.
"This way, come with me," Nejdanov responded, seizing her
awkwardly by the bare arm, holding the bundle.
She trembled as if with cold. He led her up to the cart and woke
the peasant. The latter jumped up quickly, instantly took his
seat on the box, put his arms into the coat sleeves, and seized
the rope that served as reins. The horses moved; he encouraged
them cautiously in a voice still hoarse from a heavy sleep.
Nejdanov placed Mariana on the seat, first spreading out his
cloak for her to sit on, wrapped her feet in a rug, as the hay
was rather damp, and sitting down beside her, gave the order to
start. The peasant pulled the reins, the horses came out of the
grove, snorting and shaking themselves, and bumping and rattling
its small wheels the cart rolled out on to the road. Nejdanov had
his arm round Mariana's waist, while she, raising the shawl with
her cold fingers and turning her smiling face towards him,
exclaimed: "How beautifully fresh the air is, Aliosha!"
"Yes," the peasant replied, "there'll be a heavy dew!"
There was already such a heavy dew that the axles of the cart
wheels as they caught in the tall grass along the roadside shook
off whole showers of tiny drops and the grass looked silver-grey.
Mariana again trembled from the cold.
"How cold it is!" she said gaily. "But freedom, Aliosha, freedom!
SOLOMIN rushed out to the factory gates as soon as he was
informed that some sort of gentleman, with a lady, who had arrived
in a cart, was asking for him. Without a word of greeting to his
visitors, merely nodding his head to them several times, he told
the peasant to drive into the yard, and asking him to stop before
his own little dwelling, helped Mariana out of the cart. Nejdanov
jumped out after her. Solomin conducted them both through a long
dark passage, up a narrow, crooked little staircase at the back
of the house, up to the second floor. He opened a door and they
all went into a tiny neat little room with two windows.
"I'm so glad you've come!" Solomin exclaimed, with his habitual
smile, which now seemed even broader and brighter than usual.
"Here are your rooms. This one and another adjoining it. Not
much to look at, but never mind, one can live here and there's no
one to spy on you. Just under your window there is what my
employer calls a flower garden, but which I should call a kitchen
garden. It lies right up against the wall and there are hedges to
right and left. A quiet little spot. Well, how are you, my dear
lady? And how are you, Nejdanov?"
He shook hands with them both. They stood motionless, not taking
off their things, and with silent, half-bewildered, half-joyful
emotion gazed straight in front of them.
"Well? Why don't you take your things off?" Solomin asked. "Have
you much luggage?"
Mariana held up her little bundle.
"I have only this."
"I have a portmanteau and a bag, which I left in the cart. I'll
"Don't bother, don't bother." Solomin opened the door. "Pavel!"
he shouted down the dark staircase, "run and fetch the things
from the cart!"
"All right!" answered the never-failing Pavel.
Solomin turned to Mariana, who had taken off her shawl and was
unfastening her cloak.
"Did everything go off happily?" he asked.
"Quite . . . not a soul saw us. I left a letter for Madame
Sipiagina. Vassily Fedotitch, I didn't bring any clothes with me,
because you're going to send us ..." (Mariana wanted to say to
the people, but hesitated). "They wouldn't have been of any use
in any case. I have money to buy what is necessary."
"We'll see to that later on . . . Ah!" he exclaimed, pointing to
Pavel who was at that moment coming in together with Nejdanov and
the luggage from The cart, "I can recommend you my best friend
here. You may rely on him absolutely, as you would on me. Have
you told Tatiana about the samovar?" he added in an undertone.
"It will soon be ready," Pavel replied; "and cream and
"Tatiana is Pavel's wife and just as reliable as he is," Solomin
continued. "Until you get used to things, my dear lady, she will
look after you."
Mariana flung her cloak on to a couch covered with leather, which
was standing in a corner of the room.
"Will you please call me Mariana, Vassily Fedotitch; I don't want
to be a lady, neither do I want servants. . . I did not go away
from there to be waited on. Don't look at my dress--I hadn't any
other. I must change all that now."
Her dress of fine brown cloth was very simple, but made by a St.
Petersburg dressmaker. It fitted beautifully round her waist and
shoulders and had altogether a fashionable air.
"Well, not a servant if you like, but a help, in the American
fashion. But you must have some tea. It's early yet, but you are
both tired, no doubt. I have to be at the factory now on
business, but will look in later on. If you want anything, ask
Pavel or Tatiana."
Mariana held out both her hands to him quickly.
"How can we thank you enough, Vassily Fedotitch?" She looked at
him with emotion. Solomin stroked one of her hands gently. "I
should say it's not worth thanking for, but that wouldn't be
true. I had better say that your thanks give me the greatest of
pleasure. So we are quits. Good morning. Come along, Pavel."
Mariana and Nejdanov were left alone.
She rushed up to him and looked at him with the same expression
with which she had looked at Solomin, only with even greater
delight, emotion, radiance: "Oh, my dear!" she exclaimed. "We are
beginning a new life . . . at last! At last! You can't believe
how this poor little room, where we are to spend a few days,
seems sweet and charming compared to those hateful palaces! Are
Nejdanov took her hands and pressed them against his breast.
"I am happy, Mariana, to begin this new life with you! You will
be my guiding star, my support, my strength--"
"Dear, darling Aliosha! But stop--we must wash and tidy ourselves
a little. I will go into my room . . . and you . . . stay here. I
won't be a minute--"
Mariana went into the other room and shut the door. A minute
later she opened it half-way and, putting her head through, said:
"Isn't Solomin nice!" Then she shut the door again and the key
turned in the lock.
Nejdanov went up to the window and looked out into the garden...
One old, very old, apple tree particularly attracted his
attention. He shook himself, stretched, opened his portmanteau,
but took nothing out of it; he became lost in thought. . .
A quarter of an hour later Mariana returned with a beaming,
freshly-washed face, brimming over with gaiety, and a few minutes
later Tatiana, Pavel's wife, appeared with the samovar, tea
things, rolls, and cream.
In striking contrast to her gipsy-like husband she was a typical
Russian-- buxom, with masses of flaxen hair, which she wore in a
thick plait twisted round a horn comb. She had coarse though
pleasant features, good-natured grey eyes, and was dressed in a
very neat though somewhat faded print dress. Her hands were clean
and well-shaped, though large. She bowed composedly, greeted them
in a firm, clear accent without any sing-song about it, and set
to work arranging the tea things.
Mariana went up to her.
"Let me help you, Tatiana. Only give me a napkin."
Don't bother, miss, we are used to it. Vassily Fedotitch told me
to. If you want anything please let us know. We shall be
delighted to do anything we can."
"Please don't call me miss, Tatiana. I am dressed like a lady,
but I am . . . I am quite--"
Tatiana's penetrating glance disconcerted Mariana; she ceased.
"And what are you then?" Tatiana asked in her steady voice.
"If you really want to know . . . I am certainly a lady by birth.
But I want to get rid of all that. I want to become like all
"Oh, I see! You want to become simplified, like so many do
"What did you say, Tatiana? To become simplified?"
"Yes, that's a word that has sprung up among us. To become
simplified means to be like the common people. Teaching the
people is all very well in its way, but it must be a difficult
task, very difficult! I hope you'll get on."
"To become simplified!" Mariana repeated. "Do you hear, Aliosha,
you and I have now become simplified!"
"Is he your husband or your brother?" Tatiana asked, carefully
washing the cups with her large, skilful hands as she looked from
one to the other with a kindly smile.
"No," Mariana replied; "he is neither my husband nor my brother."
Tatiana raised her head.
"Then you are just living together freely? That also happens very
often now. At one time it was to be met with only among
nonconformists, but nowadays other folks do it too. Where there
is God's blessing you can live in peace without the priest's aid.
We have some living like that at the factory. Not the worst of
"What nice words you use, Tatiana! 'Living together freely' . . .
I like that. I'll tell you what I want to ask of you, Tatiana. I
want to make or buy a dress, something like yours, only a little
plainer. Then I want shoes and stockings and a kerchief--
everything like you have. I've got some money."
"That's quite easy, miss. . . There, there, don't be cross. I
won't call you miss if you don't like it. But what am I to call
"Call me Mariana."
"And what is your father's Christian name?"
"Why do you want my father's name? Call me simply Mariana, as I
call you Tatiana."
"I don't like to somehow. You had better tell me."
"As you like. My father's name was Vikent. And what was your
"He was called Osip."
"Then I shall call you Tatiana Osipovna."
"And I'll call you Mariana Vikentievna. That will be splendid."
"Won't you take a cup of tea with us, Tatiana Osipovna?"
"For once I will, Mariana Vikentievna, although Egoritch will
scold me afterwards."
"Who is Egoritch?"
"Pavel, my husband."
"Sit down, Tatiana Osipovna."
"Thank you, Mariana Vikentievna."
Tatiana sat down and began sipping her tea and nibbling pieces of
sugar. She kept turning the lump of sugar round in her fingers,
screwing up her eye on the side on which she bit it. Mariana
entered into conversation with her and she replied quite at her
ease, asked questions in her turn, and volunteered various pieces
of information. She simply worshipped Solomin and put her husband
only second to him. She did not, however, care for the factory
"It's neither town nor country here. I wouldn't stop an hour if
it were not for Vassily Fedotitch!"
Mariana listened to her attentively, while Nejdanov, sitting a
little to one side, watched her and wondered at her interest. For
Mariana it was all so new, but it seemed to him that he had seen
crowds of women like Tatiana and spoken to them hundreds of
"Do you know, Tatiana Osipovna?" Mariana began at last; "you
think that we want to teach the people, but we want to serve
"Serve them? Teach them; that's the best thing you can do for
them. Look at me, for instance. When I married Egoritch I didn't
so much as know how to read and write. Now I've learned, thanks to
Vassily Fedotitch. He didn't teach me himself, he paid an old man
to do it. It was he who taught me. You see I'm still young,
although I'm grown up."
Mariana was silent.
"I wanted to learn some sort of trade, Tatiana Osipovna," Mariana
began; "we must talk about that later on. I'm not good at sewing,
but if I could learn to cook, then I could go out as a cook."
Tatiana became thoughtful.
"Why a cook? Only rich people and merchants keep cooks; the poor
do their own cooking. And to cook at a mess for workmen . . . why
you couldn't do that!"
"But I could live in a rich man's house and get to know poor
people. How else can I get to know them? I shall not always have
such an opportunity as I have with you."
Tatiana turned her empty cup upside down on the saucer.
"It's a difficult matter," she said at last with a sigh, "and
can't be settled so easily. I'll do what I can, but I'm not very
clever. We must talk it over with Egoritch. He's clever if you
like! Reads all sorts of books and has everything at his fingers'
ends." At this point she glanced at Mariana who was rolling up a
"You'll excuse me, Mariana Vikentievna, but if you really want to
become simplified you must give that up." She pointed to the
cigarette. "If you want to be a cook, that would never do. Everyone would see at once that you are a lady."
Mariana threw the cigarette out of the window.
"I won't smoke any more. . . It's quite easy to give that up.
Women of the people don't smoke, so I suppose I ought not to."
"That's quite true, Mariana Vikentievna. Our men indulge in it,
but not the women. And here's Vassily Fedotitch coming to see
you. Those are his steps. You ask him. He'll arrange everything
for you in the best possible way."
Solomin's voice was heard at the door.
"Can I come in?"
"Come in, come in!" Mariana called out.
"It's an English habit of mine," Solomin observed as he came in.
"Well, and how are you getting on? Not homesick yet, eh? I see
you're having tea with Tatiana. You listen to her, she's a
sensible person. My employer is coming today. It's rather a
nuisance. He's staying to dinner. But it can't be helped. He's
"What sort of a man is he?" Nejdanov asked, coming out of his
"Oh, he's not bad . . . knows what he's about. One of the new
generation. He's very polite, wears cuffs, and has his eyes about
him no less than the old sort. He would skin a flint with his own
hands and say, 'Turn to this side a little, please . . . there is
still a living spot here . . . I must clean it!' He's nice enough
to me, because I'm necessary to him. I just looked in to say that
I may not get a chance of seeing you again today. Dinner will be
brought to you here, and please don't show yourselves in the yard.
Do you think the Sipiagins will make a search for you, Mariana?
Will they make a hunt?"
"I don't think so," Mariana replied.
"And I think they will," Nejdanov remarked.
"It doesn't matter either way," Solomin continued. "You must be a
little careful at first, but in a short time you can do as you
"Yes; only there's one thing," Nejdanov observed, "Markelov must
know where I am; he must be informed."
"I am afraid it must be done--for the cause. He must always know
my whereabouts. I've given my word. But he's quite safe, you
Very well. We can send Pavel."
"And will my clothes be ready for me?"
"Your special costume you mean? Why, of course. . . the same
masquerade. It's not expensive at any rate. Goodbye. You must be
tired. Come, Tatiana."
Mariana and Nejdanov were left alone again.
FIRST they clasped each other's hands, then Mariana offered to
help him tidy his room. She immediately began unpacking his
portmanteau and bag, declining his offer of help on the ground
that she must get used to work and wished to do it all herself.
She hung his clothes on nails which she discovered in the table
drawer and knocked into the wall with the back of a hairbrush for
want of a hammer. Then she arranged his linen in a little old
chest of drawers standing in between the two windows.
"What is this? " she asked suddenly. "Why, it's a revolver. Is it
loaded? What do you want it for?"
"It is not loaded . . . but you had better give it to me. You
want to know why I have it? How can one get on without a revolver
in our calling?"
She laughed and went on with her work, shaking each thing out
separately and beating it with her hand; she even stood two pairs
of boots under the sofa; the few books, packet of papers, and
tiny copy-book of verses she placed triumphantly upon a three-
cornered table, calling it a writing and work table, while the
other, a round one, she called a dining and tea table. Then she
took up the copy-book of verses in both hands and, raising it on
a level with her face, looked over the edge at Nejdanov and said
with a smile:
"We will read this together when we have some time to spare,
"Give it to me! I'll burn it!" Nejdanov burst out. "That's all
it's fit for!
"Then why did you take it with you? No, I won't let you burn it.
However, authors are always threatening to burn their things, but
they never do. I will put it in my room."
Nejdanov was just about to protest when Mariana rushed into the
next room with the copy-book and came back without it.
She sat down beside him, but instantly got up again. "You have
not yet been in my room; would you like to see it? It's quite as
nice as yours. Come and look."
Nejdanov rose and followed her. Her room, as she called it, was
somewhat smaller than his, but the furniture was altogether
smarter and newer. Some flowers in a crystal vase stood on the
window-sill and there was an iron bedstead in a corner.
"Isn't Solomin a darling!" Mariana exclaimed. "But we mustn't get
too spoiled. I don't suppose we shall often have rooms like these.
Do you know what I've been thinking? It would be rather nice if
we could get a place together so that we need not part! It will
probably be difficult," she added after a pause; "but we must
think of it. But all the same, you won't go back to St.
Petersburg, will you?
"What should I do in St. Petersburg? Attend lectures at the
university or give lessons? That's no use to me now."
"We must ask Solomin," Mariana observed. "He will know best."
They went back to the other room and sat down beside each other
again. They praised Solomin, Tatiana, Pavel; spoke of the
Sipiagins and how their former life had receded from them far
into the distance, as if enveloped in a mist; then they clasped
each other's hand again, exchanged tender glances; wondered what
class they had better go among first, and how to behave so that
people should not suspect them.
Nejdanov declared that the less they thought about that, and the
more naturally they behaved, the better.
"Of course! We want to become simple, as Tatiana says."
"I didn't mean it in that sense," Nejdanov began; "I meant that
we must not be self-conscious."
Mariana suddenly burst out laughing.
"Do you remember, Aliosha, how I said that we had both become
Nejdanov also laughed, repeated "simplified," and began musing.
Mariana too became pensive.
"Aliosha!" she exclaimed.
"What is it?"
"It seems to me that we are both a little uncomfortable. Young--
des nouveaux maries," she explained, "when away on their
honeymoon no doubt feel as we do. They are happy . . . all is
well with them-- but they feel uncomfortable."
Nejdanov gave a forced smile.
"You know very well, Mariana, that we are not young in that
Mariana rose from her chair and stood before him.
"That depends on yourself."
"Aliosha, you know, dear, that when you tell me, as a man of
honour . . . and I will believe you because I know you are
honourable; when you tell me that you love me with that love. . .
the love that gives one person the right over another's life,
when you tell me that--I am yours."
Nejdanov blushed and turned away a little.
"When I tell you that. . .
"Yes, then! But you see, Aliosha, you don't say that to me now...
Oh yes, Aliosha, you are truly an honourable man. Enough of
this! Let us talk of more serious things."
"But I do love you, Mariana!"
"I don't doubt that . . . and shall wait. But there, I have not
quite finished arranging your writing table. Here is something
wrapped up, something hard."
Nejdanov sprang up from his chair.
"Don't touch that, Mariana. . . Leave it alone, please!
Mariana looked at him over her shoulder and raised her eyebrows
Is it a mystery? A secret? Have you a secret?
"Yes . . . yes . . ." Nejdanov stammered out, and added by way of
explanation, "it's a portrait."
The word escaped him unawares. The packet Mariana held in her
hand was her own portrait, which Markelov had given Nejdanov.
"A portrait?" she drawled out. "Is it a woman's?
She handed him the packet, which he took so clumsily that it
slipped out of his hand and fell open.
"Why . . . it's my portrait! "Mariana exclaimed quickly. "I
suppose I may look at my own portrait." She took it out of
"Did you do it?
"No . . . I didn't."
"Who then? Markelov?"
"Yes, you've guessed right."
"Then how did it come to be in your possession?"
"He gave it to me."
Nejdanov told her when and under what circumstances. While he
was speaking Mariana glanced from him to the portrait. The same
thought flashed across both their minds. "If HE were in this
room, then HE would have the right to demand . . ." But neither
Mariana nor Nejdanov gave expression to this thought in words,
perhaps because each was conscious what was in the other's mind.
Mariana quietly wrapped the portrait up again in its paper and
put it on the table.
"What a good man he is!" she murmured. "I wonder where he is
"Why, at home of course. Tomorrow or the day after I must go and
see him about some books and pamphlets. He promised to give me
some, but evidently forgot to do so before I left."
"And do you think, Aliosha, that when he gave you this portrait
he renounced everything... absolutely everything?"
I think so."
"Do you think you will find him at home?"
"Ah!" Mariana lowered her eyes and dropped her hands at her
sides. "But here comes Tatiana with our dinner," she exclaimed
suddenly. "Isn't she a dear!"
Tatiana appeared with the knives and forks, serviettes, plates
and dishes. While laying the table she related all the news
about the factory. "The master came from Moscow by rail and
started running from floor to floor like a madman. Of course he
doesn't understand anything and does it only for show-- to set an
example so to speak. Vassily Fedotitch treats him like a child.
The master wanted to make some unpleasantness, but Vassily
Fedotitch soon shut him up. 'I'll throw it up this minute,' he
said, so he soon began to sing small. They are having dinner now.
The master brought someone with him. A Moscow swell who does
nothing but admire everything. He must be very rich, I think, by
the way he holds his tongue and shakes his head. And so stout,
very stout! A real swell! No wonder there's a saying that 'Moscow
lies at the foot of Russia and everything rolls down to her.'"
"How you notice everything!" Mariana exclaimed.
"Yes, I do rather," Tatiana observed. "Well, here is your dinner.
Come and have it and I'll sit and look at you for a little
Mariana and Nejdanov sat down to table, whilst Tatiana sat down
on the window-sill and rested her cheek in her hand.
"I watch you . . ." she observed. "And what dear, young, tender
creatures you are. You're so nice to look at that it quite makes
my heart ache. Ah, my dear! You are taking a heavier burden on
your shoulders than you can bear. It's people like you that the
tsar's folk are ready to put into prison."
"Nothing of the kind. Don't frighten us," Nejdanov remarked. "You
know the old saying, 'As you make your bed so you must lie on
"Yes, I know. But the beds are so narrow nowadays that you can't
get out of them!"
"Have you any children?" Mariana asked to change the subject.
"Yes, I have a boy. He goes to school now. I had a girl too, but
she's gone, the little bird! An accident happened to her. She
fell under a wheel. If only it had killed her at once! But no,
she suffered a long while. Since then I've become more tender-
hearted. Before I was as wild and hard as a tree!"
"Why, did you not love your Pavel?"
"But that's not the same. Only a girl's feelings. And you--do you
"Of course I do."
"Ever so much."
"Really? . . ." Tatiana looked from one to the other, but said
"I'll tell you what I would like. Could you get me some coarse,
strong wool? I want to knit some stockings. . .plain ones."
Tatiana promised to have everything done, and clearing the table,
went out of the room with her firm, quiet step.
"Well, what shall we do now?" Mariana asked, turning to Nejdanov,
and without, waiting for a reply, continued, "Since our real work
does not begin until tomorrow, let us devote this evening to
literature. Would you like to? We can read your poems. I will be
a severe critic, I promise you."
It took Nejdanov a long time before he consented, but he gave in
at last and began reading aloud out of his copybook. Mariana sat
close to him and gazed into his face as he read. She had been
right; she turned out to be a very severe critic. Very few of the
verses pleased her. She preferred the purely lyrical, short ones,
to the didactic, as she expressed it. Nejdanov did not read well.
He had not the courage to attempt any style, and at the same time
wanted to avoid a dry tone. It turned out neither the one thing
nor the other. Mariana interrupted him suddenly by asking if he
knew Dobrolubov's beautiful poem, which begins, "To die for me no
terror holds." She read it to him--also not very well--in a
somewhat childish manner.
[To die for me no terror holds,
Yet one fear presses on my mind,
That death should on me helpless play
A satire of the bitter kind.
For much I fear that o'er my corpse
The scalding tears of friends shall flow,
And that, too late, they should with zeal
Fresh flowers upon my body throw.
That fate sardonic should recall
The ones I loved to my cold side,
And make me lying in the ground,
The object of love once denied.
That all my aching heart's desires,
So vainly sought for from my birth,
Should crowd unbidden, smiling kind
Above my body's mound of earth.]
Nejdanov thought that it was too sad and too bitter. He could not
have written a poem like that, he added, as he had no fears of
any one weeping over his grave . . . there would be no tears.
"There will be if I outlive you," Mariana observed slowly, and
lifting her eyes to the ceiling she asked, in a whisper, as if
speaking to herself:
"How did he do the portrait of me? From memory?"
Nejdanov turned to her quickly.
"Yes, from memory."
Mariana was surprised at his reply. It seemed to her that she
merely thought the question. "It is really wonderful . . ." she
continued in the same tone of voice. "Why, he can't draw at all.
What was I talking about?" she added aloud. "Oh yes, it was about
Dobrolubov's poems. One ought to write poems like Pushkin's, or
even like Dobrolubov's. It is not poetry exactly, but something
nearly as good."
"And poems like mine one should not write at all. Isn't that so?"
"Poems like yours please your friends, not because they are good,
but because you are a good man and they are like you."
"You have completely buried them and me with them!" Mariana
slapped his hand and called him naughty. Soon after she announced
that she was tired and wanted to go to bed.
"By the way," she added, shaking back her short thick curls, "do
you know that I have a hundred and thirty roubles? And how much
Oh, then we are rich . . . for simplified folk. Well, good night,
She went out, but in a minute or two her door opened slightly and
he heard her say, "Goodnight!" then more softly another "Goodnight!" and the key turned in the lock.
Nejdanov sank on to the sofa and covered his face with his hands.
Then he got up quickly, went to her door and knocked.
"What is it?" was heard from within.
"Not till tomorrow, Mariana . . . not till tomorrow!"
"Till tomorrow," she replied softly.
EARLY the next morning Nejdanov again knocked at Mariana's door.
"It is I," he replied in answer to her "Who's that? "Can you come
out to me?"
"In a minute."
She came out and uttered a cry of alarm. At first she did not
recognise him. He had on a long-skirted, shabby, yellowish nankin
coat, with small buttons and a high waist; his hair was dressed
in the Russian fashion with a parting straight down the middle;
he had a blue kerchief round his neck, in his hand he held a cap
with a broken peak, on his feet a pair of dirty leather boots.
"Heavens!" Mariana exclaimed. "How ugly you look!" and thereupon
threw her arms round him and kissed him quickly. "But why did you
get yourself up like this? You look like some sort of shopkeeper,
or pedlar, or a retired servant. Why this long coat? Why not
simply like a peasant?"
"Why?" Nejdanov began. He certainly did look like some sort of
fishmonger in that garb, was conscious of it himself, and was
annoyed and embarrassed at heart. He felt uncomfortable, and not
knowing what to do with his hands, kept patting himself on the
breast with the fingers outspread, as though he were brushing
"Because as a peasant I should have been recognised at once Pavel
says, and that in this costume I look as if I had been born to it
. . . which is not very flattering to my vanity, by the way."
"Are you going to begin at once?" Mariana asked eagerly.
"Yes, I shall try, though in reality--"
"You are lucky!" Mariana interrupted him.
"This Pavel is a wonderful fellow," Nejdanov continued. "He can
see through and through you in a second, and will suddenly screw
up his face as if he knew nothing, and would not interfere with
anything for the world. He works for the cause himself, yet
laughs at it the whole time. He brought me the books from
Markelov; he knows him and calls him Sergai Mihailovitch; and as
for Solomin, he would go through fire and water for him."
"And so would Tatiana," Mariana observed. "Why are people so
devoted to him?"
Nejdanov did not reply.
"What sort of books did Pavel bring you?" Mariana asked.
"Oh, nothing new. 'The Story of the Four Brothers,' and then the
ordinary, well-known ones, which are far better I think."
Mariana looked around uneasily.
"I wonder what has become of Tatiana? She promised to come
"Here I am! " Tatiana exclaimed, coming in with a bundle in her
hand. She had heard Mariana's exclamation from behind the door.
"There's plenty of time. See what I've brought you!"
Mariana flew towards her.
"Have you brought it?"
Tatiana patted the bundle.
"Everything is here, quite ready. You have only to put the things
on and go out to astonish the world."
"Come along, come along, Tatiana Osipovna, you are a dear--"
Mariana led her off to her own room.
Left alone, Nejdanov walked up and down the room once or twice
with a peculiarly shuffling gait (he imagined that all
shopkeepers walked like that), then he carefully sniffed at this
sleeves, the inside of his cap, made a grimace, looked at himself
in the little looking-glass hanging in between the windows, and
shook his head; he certainly did not look very prepossessing. "So
much the better," he thought. Then he took several pamphlets,
thrust them into his side pocket, and began to practise speaking
like a shopkeeper. "That sounds like it," he thought, "but after
all there is no need of acting, my get-up is convincing enough."
Just then he recollected a German exile, who had to make his
escape right across Russia with only a poor knowledge of the
language. But thanks to a merchant's cap which he had bought in a
provincial town, he was taken everywhere for a merchant and had
successfully made his way across the frontier.
At this moment Solomin entered.
"I say!" he exclaimed. "Arrayed in all your war paint? Excuse me,
my dear fellow, but in that garb one can hardly speak to you
"Please don't. I had long meant to ask you--"
"But it's early as yet. It doesn't matter if you only want to get
used to it, only you must not go out yet. My employer is still
here. He's in bed."
"I'll go out later on," Nejdanov responded. "I'll explore the
neighbourhood a little, until further orders come."
"Capital! But I tell you what, Alexai . . . I may call you
Alexai, may I not?"
"Certainly, or Lexy if you like," Nejdanov added with a smile.
"No; there is no need to overdo things. Listen. Good counsel is
better than money, as the saying goes. I see that you have
pamphlets. Distribute them wherever you like, only not in the
factory on any account!"
"In the first place, because it won't be safe for you; in the
second, because I promised the owner not to do that sort of thing
here. You see the place is his after all, and then something has
already been done . . . a school and so on. You might do more
harm than good. Further than that, you may do as you like, I
shall not hinder you. But you must not interfere with my
"Caution is always useful," Nejdanov remarked with a sarcastic
Solomin smiled his characteristic broad smile.
"Yes, my dear Alexai, it's always useful. But what do I see?
Where are we?"
The last words referred to Mariana, who at that moment appeared
in the doorway of her room in a print dress that had been washed
a great many times, with a yellow kerchief over her shoulders and
a red one on her head. Tatiana stood behind her, smiling good-
naturedly. Mariana seemed younger and brighter in her simple
garment and looked far better than Nejdanov in his long-skirted
"Vassily Fedotitch, don't laugh, please," Mariana implored,
turning as red as a poppy.
"There's a nice couple!" Tatiana exclaimed, clapping her hands.
"But you, my dear, don't be angry, you look well enough, but
beside my little dove you're nowhere."
"And, really, she is charming," Nejdanov thought; "oh, how I love
"Look now," Tatiana continued, "she insisted on changing rings
with me. She has given me a golden ring and taken my silver one."
"Girls of the people do not wear gold rings," Mariana observed.
"I'll take good care of it, my dear; don't be afraid."
"Well, sit down, sit down both of you," Solomin began; he had
been standing all the while with his head bent a little to one
side, gazing at Mariana. "In olden days, if you remember, people
always sat down before starting on a journey. And you have both a
long and wearisome one before you."
Mariana, still crimson, sat down, then Nejdanov and Solomin, and
last of all Tatiana took her seat on a thick block of wood.
Solomin looked at each of them in turn.
"Let us step back a pace,
Let us step back a bit,
To see with what grace
And how nicely we sit,"
he said with a frown. Suddenly he burst out laughing, but so
good-naturedly that no one was in the least offended, on the
contrary, they all began to feel merry too. Only Nejdanov rose
"I must go now," he said; "this is all very nice, but rather like
a farce. Don't be uneasy," he added, turning to Solomin. "I shall
not interfere with your people. I'll try my tongue on the folk
around about and will tell you all about it when I come back,
Mariana, if there is anything to tell. Wish me luck!"
"Why not have a cup of tea first? " Tatiana remarked.
"No thanks. If I want any I can go into an eating-house or into a
Tatiana shook her head.
"Goodbye, goodbye . . . good luck to you!" Nejdanov added,
entering upon his role of small shopkeeper. But before he had
reached the door Pavel thrust his head in from the passage under
his very nose, and handing him a thin, long staff, cut out all
the way down like a screw, he said:
"Take this, Alexai Dmitritch, and lean on it as you walk. And the
farther you hold it away from yourself the better it will look."
Nejdanov took the staff without a word and went out. Tatiana
wanted to go out too, but Mariana stopped her.
"Wait a minute, Tatiana Osipovna. I want you."
"I'll be back directly with the samovar. Your friend has gone off
without tea, he was in such a mighty hurry. But that is no reason
why you should not have any. Later on things will be clearer."
Tatiana went out and Solomin also rose. Mariana was standing with
her back to him, but when at last she turned towards him, rather
surprised that he had not said a single word, she saw in his
face, in his eyes that were fixed on her, an expression she had
not seen there before; an expression of inquiry, anxiety, almost
of curiosity. She became confused and blushed again. Solomin,
too, was ashamed of what she had read in his face and began
talking louder than was his wont.
"Well, well, Mariana, and so you have made a beginning."
"What sort of beginning, Vassily Fedotitch? Do you call this a
beginning? Alexai was right. It's as if we were acting a farce."
Solomin sat down again.
"But, Mariana . . . what did you picture the beginning to be
like? Not standing behind the barricades waving a flag and
shouting, 'Hurrah for the republic!' Besides, that is not a
woman's work. Now, today you will begin teaching some Lukeria,
something good for her, and a difficult matter it will be,
because you won't understand your Lukeria and she won't
understand you, and on top of it she will imagine that what you
are teaching is of no earthly use to her. In two or three weeks
you will try your hand on another Lukeria, and meanwhile you will
be washing a baby here, teaching another the alphabet, or handing
some sick man his medicine. That will be your beginning."
"But sisters of mercy do that, Vassily Fedotitch! What is the use
of all this, then?" Mariana pointed to herself and round about
with a vague gesture. "I dreamt of something else."
"Did you want to sacrifice yourself? "
Mariana's eyes glistened.
Yes, yes, yes!"
Mariana shrugged her shoulders.
"What of Nejdanov? We shall go together. . . or I will go
Solomin looked at her intently.
"Do you know, Mariana . . . excuse the coarse expression . . .
but, to my mind, combing the scurfy head of a gutter child is a
sacrifice; a great sacrifice of which not many people are
"I would not shirk that, Vassily Fedotitch."
"I know you would not. You are capable of doing that and will do
it, until something else turns up.
"But for that sort of thing I must learn of Tatiana!"
"You could not do better. You will be washing pots and plucking
chickens . . . And, who knows, maybe you will save your country
in that way!"
"You are laughing at me, Vassily Fedotitch."
Solomin shook his head slowly.
"My dear Mariana, believe me, I am not laughing at you. What I
said was the simple truth. You are already, all you Russian
women, more capable and higher than we men."
Mariana raised her eyes.
"I would like to live up to your idea of us, Solomin . . . and
then I should be ready to die."
Solomin stood up.
"No, it is better to live! That's the main thing. By the way,
would you like to know what is happening at the Sipiagins? Won't
they do anything? You have only to drop Pavel a hint and he will
find out everything in a twinkling."
Mariana was surprised.
"What a wonderful person he is!"
"Yes, he certainly is wonderful. And should you want to marry
Alexai, he will arrange that too with Zosim, the priest. You
remember I told you about him. But perhaps it is not necessary as
yet, eh? "
No, not yet."
"Very well." Solomin went up to the door dividing the two rooms,
Mariana's and Nejdanov's, and examined the lock.
"What are you doing?" Mariana asked. "Does it lock all right?
Yes," Mariana whispered.
Solomin turned to her. She did not raise her eyes.
"Then there is no need to bother about the Sipiagins," he
continued gaily, "is there?"
Solomin was about to go out.
"Vassily Fedotitch . . ."
"Yes. . ."
"Why is it you are so talkative with me when you are usually so
silent? You can't imagine what pleasure it gives me."
"Why?" Solomin took both her soft little hands in his big hard
ones. "Why, did you ask? Well, I suppose it must be because I
love you so much. Good-bye."
He went out. Mariana stood pensive looking after him. In a little
while she went to find Tatiana who had not yet brought the
samovar. She had tea with her, washed some pots, plucked a
chicken, and even combed out some boy's tangled head of hair.
Before dinner she returned to her own rooms and soon afterwards
He came in tired and covered with dust and dropped on to the
sofa. She immediately sat down beside him.
Well, tell me what happened."
You remember the two lines," he responded in a weary voice:
"It would have been so funny
Were it not so sad."
"Do you remember?"
"Of course I do."
"Well, these lines apply admirably to my first expedition,
excepting that it was more funny than sad. I've come to the
conclusion that there is nothing easier than to act a part. No
one dreamed of suspecting me. There was one thing, however, that
I had not thought of. You must be prepared with some sort of yarn
beforehand, or else when any one asks you where you've come from
and why you've come, you don't know what to say. But, however,
even that is not so important. You've only to stand a drink and
lie as much as you like."
"And you? Did you lie?"
"Of course I did, as much as I could. And then I've discovered
that absolutely everyone you come across is discontented, only
no one cares to find out the remedy for this discontent. I made a
very poor show at propaganda, only succeeded in leaving a couple
of pamphlets in a room and shoving a third into a cart. What may
come of them the Lord only knows! I ran across four men whom I
offered some pamphlets. The first asked if it was a religious
book and refused to take it; the second could not read, but took
it home to his children for the sake of the picture on the cover;
the third seemed hopeful at first, but ended by abusing me
soundly and also not taking it; the fourth took a little book,
thanked me very much, but I doubt if he understood a single word
I said to him. Besides that, a dog bit my leg, a peasant woman
threatened me with a poker from the door of her hut, shouting,
'Ugh! you pig! You Moscow rascals! There's no end to you!' and
then a soldier shouted after me, 'Hi, there! We'll make mince-
meat of you!' and he got drunk at my expense!"
"Well, and what else?
"What else? I've got a blister on my foot; one of my boots is
horribly large. And now I'm as hungry as a wolf and my head is
splitting from the vodka."
"Why, did you drink much?"
"No, only a little to set the example, but I've been in five
public-houses. I can't endure this beastliness, vodka. Goodness
knows why our people drink it. If one must drink this stuff in
order to become simplified, then I had rather be excused!"
"And so no one suspected you?"
"No one, with the exception, perhaps, of a bar-man, a stout
individual with pale eyes, who did look at me somewhat
suspiciously. I overheard him saying to his wife, "Keep an eye on
that carroty-haired one with the squint.' (I was not aware until
that moment that I had a squint.) 'There's something wrong about
him. See how he's sticking over his vodka.' What he meant by
'sticking' exactly, I didn't understand, but it could hardly have
been to my credit. It reminded me of the mauvais ton in Gogol's
"Revisor", do you remember? Perhaps because I tried to pour my
vodka under the table. Oh dear! It is difficult for an aesthetic
creature like me to come in contact with real life."
"Never mind. Better luck next time," Mariana said consolingly.
"But I am glad you see the humorous side of this, your first
attempt. You were not really bored, were you?"
"No, it was rather amusing. But I know that I shall think it all
over now and it will make me miserable."
"But I won't let you think about it! I will tell you everything I
did. Dinner will be here in a minute. By the way, I must tell you
that I washed the saucepan Tatiana cooked the soup in . . . I'll
tell you everything, every little detail."
And so she did. Nejdanov listened and could not take his eyes off
her. She stopped several times to ask why he looked at her so
intently, but he was silent.
After dinner she offered to read Spielhagen aloud to him, but had
scarcely got through one page when he got up suddenly and fell at
her feet. She stood up; he flung both his arms round her knees
and began uttering passionate, disconnected, and despairing
words. He wanted to die, he knew he would soon die . . . She did
not stir, did not resist. She calmly submitted to his passionate
embraces, and calmly, even affectionately, glanced down upon him.
She laid both her hands on his head, feverishly pressed to the
fold of her dress, but her calmness had a more powerful effect on
him than if she had repulsed him. He got up murmuring: "Forgive
me, Mariana, for today and for yesterday. Tell me again that you
are prepared to wait until I am worthy of your love, and forgive
"I gave you my word. I never change."
"Thank you, dear. Goodbye."
Nejdanov went out and Mariana locked the door of her room.
A FORTNIGHT later, in the same room, Nejdanov sat bending over
his three-legged table, writing to his friend Silin by the dim
light of a tallow candle. (It was long past midnight. Muddy
garments lay scattered on the sofa, on the floor, just where they
had been thrown off. A fine drizzly rain pattered against the
window-panes and a strong, warm wind moaned about the roof of the
MY DEAR VLADIMIR,--I am writing to you without giving my address
and will send this letter by a messenger to a distant posting-
station as my being here is a secret, and to disclose it might
mean the ruin not of myself alone. It is enough for you to know
that for the last two weeks I have been living in a large factory
together with Mariana. We ran away from the Sipiagins on the day
on which I last wrote to you. A friend has given us shelter here.
For convenience sake I will call him Vassily. He is the chief
here and an excellent man. Our stay is only of a temporary
nature; we will move on when the time for action comes. But,
however, judging by events so far, the time is hardly likely ever
to come! Vladimir, I am horribly miserable. I must tell you
before everything that although Mariana and I ran away together,
we have so far been living like brother and sister. She loves me
and told me she would be mine if I feel I have the right to ask
it of her.
Vladimir, I do not feel that I have the right! She trusts me,
believes in my honour--I cannot deceive her. I know that I never
loved nor will ever love any one more than her (of that I am
convinced), but for all that, how can I unite her fate forever
with mine? A living being to a corpse? Well, if not a complete
corpse, at any rate, a half-dead creature. Where would one's
conscience be? I can hear you say that if passion was strong
enough the conscience would be silent. But that is just the
point; I am a corpse, an honest, well-meaning corpse if you like,
but a corpse nevertheless. Please do not say that I always
exaggerate. Everything I have told you is absolutely true.
Mariana is very reserved and is at present wrapped up in her
activities in which she believes, and I?
Well, enough of love and personal happiness and all that. It is
now a fortnight since I have been going among "the people," and
really it would be impossible to imagine anything more stupid
than they are. Of course the fault lies probably more in me than
in the work itself. I am not a fanatic. I am not one of those who
regenerate themselves by contact with the people and do not lay
them on my aching bosom like a flannel bandage--I want to
influence them. But how? How can it be done? When I am among them
I find myself listening all the time, taking things in, but when
it comes to saying anything--I am at a loss for a word! I feel
that I am no good, a bad actor in a part that does not suit him.
Conscientiousness or scepticism are absolutely of no use, nor is
a pitiful sort of humour directed against oneself. It is worse
than useless! I find it disgusting to look at the filthy rags I
carry about on me, the masquerade as Vassily calls it! They say
you must first learn the language of the people, their habits and
customs, but rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, I say! You have only to
BELIEVE in what you say and say what you like! I once happened to
hear a sectarian prophet delivering a sermon. Goodness only knows
what arrant nonsense he talked, a sort of gorgeous mix-up of
ecclesiastical learning, interspersed with peasant expressions,
not even in decent Russian, but in some outlandish dialect, but
he took one by storm with his enthusiasm--went straight to the
heart. There he stood with flashing eyes, the voice deep and
firm, with clenched fist--as though he were made of iron! No one
understood what he was saying, but everyone bowed down before
him and followed him. But when I begin to speak, I seem like a
culprit begging for forgiveness. I ought to join the sectarians,
although their wisdom is not great . . . but they have faith,
Mariana too has faith. She works from morning until night
with Tatiana--a peasant woman here, as good as can be and not by
any means stupid; she says, by the way, that we want to become
simplified and calls us simple souls. Mariana is about working
with this woman from morning until night, scarcely sitting down
for a moment, just like a regular ant! She is delighted that her
hands are turning red and rough, and in the midst of these humble
occupations is looking forward to the scaffold! She has even
attempted to discard shoes; went out somewhere barefoot and came
back barefoot. I heard her washing her feet for a long time
afterwards and then saw her come out, treading cautiously; they
were evidently sore, poor thing, but her face was radiant with
smiles as though she had found a treasure or been illuminated by
the sun. Yes, Mariana is a brick! But when I try to talk to her
of my feelings, a certain shame comes over me somehow, as though
I were violating something that was not my own, and then that
glance . . . Oh, that awful devoted, irresistible glance! "Take
me," it seems to say, "BUT REMEMBER. . . ." Enough of this! Is
there not something higher and better in this world? In other
words, put on your filthy coat and go among the people. . . Oh,
yes, I am just going.
How I loathe this irritability, sensitiveness, impressionable-
ness, fastidiousness, inherited from my aristocratic father! What
right had he to bring me into this world, endowed with qualities
quite unsuited to the sphere in which I must live? To create a
bird and throw it in the water? An aesthetic amidst filth! A
democrat, a lover of the people, yet the very smell of their
filthy vodka makes me feel sick!
But it's too bad blaming my father. He was not responsible for my
becoming a democrat.
Yes, Vladimir, I am in a bad plight. Grey, depressing thoughts
are continually haunting me. Can it be, you will be asking me,
that I have not met with anything consoling, any good living
personality, however ignorant he might not be? How shall I tell
you? I have run across someone--a decent clever chap, but
unfortunately, however hard I may try to get nearer him, he has
no need of either me or my pamphlets--that is the root of the
matter! Pavel, a factoryhand here (he is Vassily's right hand, a
clever fellow with his head screwed on the right way, a future
"head," I think I wrote to you about him), well this Pavel has a
friend, a peasant called Elizar, also a smart chap, as free and
courageous as one would wish, but as soon as we get together
there seems a dead wall between us! His face spells one big "No!"
Then there was another man I ran across--he was a rather
quarrelsome type by the way. "Don't you try to get around me,
sir," he said. "What I want to know is would you give up your
land now, or not?" "But I'm not a gentleman," I remonstrated. "
Bless you!" he exclaimed, "you a common man and no more sense
than that! Leave me alone, please!
Another thing I've noticed is that if anyone listens to you
readily and takes your pamphlets at once, he is sure to be of an
undesirable, brainless sort. Or you may chance upon some
frightfully talkative individual who can do nothing but keep on
repeating some favourite expression. One such nearly drove me
mad; everything with him was "production." No matter what you
said to him he came out with his "production," damn him! Just one
Do you remember some time ago there used to be a great deal of talk about "superfluous" people-- Hamlets? Such "superfluous people" are now to be met with among the peasants! They have their own characteristics of course and are for the most part inclined to consumption. They are interesting types and come to us readily, but as far as the cause is concerned they are ineffective, like all other Hamlets. Well, what can one do? Start a secret printing press? There are pamphlets enough as it is, some that say," Cross yourself and take up the hatchet," and
others that say simply, "Take up the hatchet" without the
crossing. Or should one write novels of peasant life with plenty
of padding? They wouldn't get published, you know. Perhaps it
might be better to take up the hatchet after all? But against
whom, with whom, and what for? So that our state soldier may
shoot us down with the state rifle? It would only be a
complicated form of suicide! It would be better to make an end of
yourself--you would at any rate know when and how, and choose the
spot to aim at.
I am beginning to think that if some war were to break out, some
people's war--I would go and take part in it, not so as to free
others (free others while one's own are groaning under the
yoke!!), but to make an end of myself.
Our friend Vassily, who gave us shelter here, is a lucky man. He
belongs to our camp, but is so calm and quiet. He doesn't want to
hurry over things. I should have quarrelled with another, but I
can't with him. The secret lies not in his convictions, but in
the man himself. Vassily has a character that you can't kindle,
but he's all right nevertheless. He is with us a good deal, with
Mariana. What surprises me is that although I love her and she
loves me (I see you smiling at this, but the fact remains!) we
have nothing to talk about, while she is constantly discussing
and arguing with him and listening too. I am not jealous of him;
he is trying to find a place for her somewhere, at any rate, she
keeps on asking him to do so, but it makes me feel bitter to look
at them both. And would you believe it--I have only to drop a
hint about marrying and she would agree at once and the priest
Zosim would put in an appearance, "Isaiah, rejoice!" and the rest
of it. But this would not make it any easier for me and NOTHING
WOULD BE CHANGED BY IT . . . Whatever you do, there is no way
out of it! Life has cut me short, my dear Vladimir, as our little
drunken tailor used to say, you remember, when he used to
complain about his wife.
I have a feeling that it can't go on somehow, that something is
Have I not again and again said that the time has come for
action? Well, so here we are in the thick of it.
I can't remember if I told you anything about another friend of
mine--a relative of the Sipiagins. He will get himself into such
a mess that it won't be easy for him to get out of it.
I quite meant finishing this letter and am still going on. It
seems to me that nothing matters and yet I scribble verses. I
don't read them to Mariana and she is not very anxious to hear
them, but you have sometimes praised my poor attempts and most of
all you'll keep them to yourself. I have been struck by a common
phenomenon in Russia. . . But, however, let the verses speak for
After long absence I return to my native land,
Finding no striking change there.
The same dead, senseless stagnation; crumbling houses, crumbling
And the same filth, dirt, poverty, and misery.
Unchanged the servile glance, now insolent, now dejected.
Free have our people become, and the free arm
Hangs as before like a whip unused.
All, all as before. In one thing only may we equal
Europe, Asia, and the World!
Never before has such a fearful sleep oppressed our land.
All are asleep, on all sides are they;
Through town and country, in carts and in sledges,
By day or night, sitting or standing,
The merchant and the official, and the sentinel at his post
In biting snow and burning heat--all sleep.
The judged ones doze, and the judge snores,
And peasants plough and reap like dead men,
Father, mother, children; all are asleep.
He who beats, and he who is beaten.
Alone the tavern of the tsar ne'er closes a relentless eye.
So, grasping tight in hand the bottle,
His brow at the Pole and his heel in the Caucasus,
Holy Russia, our fatherland, lies in eternal sleep.
I am sorry, Vladimir. I never meant to write you such a
melancholy letter without a few cheering words at the end. (You
will no doubt tumble across some defects in the lines!) When
shall I write to you again? Shall I ever write? But whatever
happens to me I am sure you will never forget,
Your devoted friend,
P.S.--Our people are asleep. . . But I have a feeling that if
anything does wake them, it will not be what we think.
After writing the last line, Nejdanov flung down the pen. "Well,
now you must try and sleep and forget all this nonsense,
scribbler!" he exclaimed, and lay down on the bed. But it was
long before he fell asleep.
The next morning Mariana woke him passing through his room on her
way to Tatiana. He had scarcely dressed when she came back. She
seemed excited, her face expressing delight and anxiety at the
"Do you know, Aliosha, they say that in the province of T., quite
near here, it has already begun!"
"What? What has begun? Who said so?"
"Pavel. They say the peasants are rising, refusing to pay taxes,
collecting in mobs."
"Have you heard that yourself?"
"Tatiana told me. But here is Pavel himself. You had better ask
Pavel came in and confirmed what Mariana had said.
"There is certainly some disturbance in T.," he began, shaking
his beard and screwing up his bright black eyes. "Sergai
Mihailovitch must have had a hand in it. He hasn't been home for
Nejdanov took his cap.
"Where are you off to?" Mariana asked.
"Why there of course," he replied, not raising his eyes and
frowning, "I am going to T."
"Then I will come with you. You'll take me, won't you? Just let
me get a shawl."
"It's not a woman's work," Nejdanov said irritably with his eyes
still fixed on the floor.
"No, no! You do well to go, or Markelov would think you a coward
. . . but I'm coming with you."
"I am not a coward," Nejdanov observed gloomily.
"I meant to say that he would have thought us both cowards. I am
coming with you."
Mariana went into her own room to get a shawl, while Pavel gave
an inward ha, ha, and quickly vanished. He ran to warn Solomin.
Mariana had not yet appeared, when Solomin came into Nejdanov's
room. The latter was standing with his face to the window, his
forehead resting on the palm of his hand and his elbow on the
window-pane. Solomin touched him on the shoulder. He turned around
quickly; dishevelled and unwashed, Nejdanov had a strange wild
look. Solomin, too, had changed during the last days. His face
was yellow and drawn and his upper front teeth showed slightly--
he, too, seemed agitated as far as it was possible for his well-
balanced temperament to be so.
"Markelov could not control himself after all," he began. "This
may turn out badly both for him and for others."
"I want to go and see what's going on there," Nejdanov observed.
"And I too," Mariana added as she appeared in the doorway.
Solomin turned to her quickly.
"I would not advise you to go, Mariana. You may give yourself
away--and us, without meaning to, and without the slightest
necessity. Let Nejdanov go and see how the land lies, if he wants
to-- and the sooner he's back the better! But why should you go?"
"I don't want to be parted from him."
"You will be in his way."
Mariana looked at Nejdanov. He was standing motionless with a set
sullen expression on his face.
"But supposing there should be danger?" she asked.
"Don't be afraid . . . when there's danger I will let you go."
Mariana took off her shawl without a word and sat down. Solomin
then turned to Nejdanov.
"It would be a good thing for you to look about a little, Alexai.
I dare say they exaggerate. Only do be careful. But, however, you
will not be going alone. Come back as quickly as you can. Will
you promise? Nejdanov? Will you promise?"
"I suppose so, since everybody here obeys you, including
Nejdanov went out without saying goodbye. Pavel appeared from
somewhere out of the darkness and ran down the stairs before him
with a great clatter of his hob-nailed boots. Was HE then to
Solomin sat down beside Mariana.
"You heard Nejdanov's last word?"
"Yes. He is annoyed that I listen to you more than to him. But
it's quite true. I love him and listen to you. He is dear to me...
and you are near to me.
Solomin stroked her hand gently.
"This is a very unpleasant business," he observed at last. "If
Markelov is mixed up in it then he's a lost man."
"Yes. He doesn't do things by halves--and won't hide things for
the sake of others."
"Lost! " Mariana whispered again as the tears rolled down her
cheeks. "Oh, Vassily Fedotitch! I feel so sorry for him. But what
makes you think that he won't succeed? Why must he inevitably be
"Because in such enterprises the first always perish even if they
come off victorious. And in this thing not only the first and
second, but the tenth and twentieth will perish--"
"Then we shall never live to see it?
"What you have in your mind--never. We shall never see it with
our eyes; with these living eyes of ours. But with our spiritual
. . . but that is another matter. We may see it in that way now;
there is nothing to hinder us."
"Then why do you--"
"Why do you follow this road?"
"Because there is no other. I mean that my aims are the same as
Markelov's--but our paths are different."
"Poor Sergai Mihailovitch!" Mariana exclaimed sadly. Solomin
passed his hand cautiously over hers.
"There, there, we know nothing as yet. We'll see what news Pavel
brings back. In our calling one must be brave. The English have a
proverb 'Never say die.' A very good proverb, I think, much
better than our Russian, 'When trouble knocks, open the gates
wide!' We mustn't meet trouble half way."
Solomin stood up.
"And the place you were going to find me?" Mariana asked
suddenly. The tears were still shining on her cheeks, but there
was no sadness in her eyes. Solomin sat down again.
"Are you in such a great hurry to get away from here?
"Oh, no! Only I wanted to do something useful."
"You are useful here, Mariana. Don't leave us yet, wait a little
longer. What is it?" Solomin asked of Tatiana who was just coming
"Some sort of female is asking for Alexai Dmitritch," Tatiana
replied, laughing and gesticulating with her hands.
"I said that there was no such person living here, that we did
not know him at all, when she--"
"Who is she? "
"Why the female of course. She wrote her name on this piece of
paper and asked me to bring it here and let her in, saying that
if Alexai Dmitritch was really not at home, she could wait for
On the paper was written in large letters "Mashurina."
"Show her in," Solomin said. "You don't mind my asking her in
here, Mariana, do you? She is also one of us."
"Not at all."
A few moments later Mashurina appeared in the doorway, in the
same dress in which we saw her at the beginning of the first
"Is Nejdanov not at home?" she asked, then catching sight of
Solomin, came up to him and extended her hand.
"How do you do, Solomin?" She threw a side-glance at Mariana.
"He will be back directly," Solomin said. " But tell me how you
came to know--"
"Markelov told me. Besides several people in the town already
know that he's here."
"Yes. Somebody must have let it out. Besides Nejdanov has been
"For all the dressing up!" Solomin muttered to himself. "Allow me
to introduce you," he said aloud, "Miss Sinitska, Miss Mashurina!
Won't you sit down?"
Mashurina nodded her head slightly and sat down. "I have a letter
for Nejdanov and a message for you, Solomin."
"What message? And from whom?"
"From someone who is well known to you . . . Well, is
everything ready here?"
Mashurina opened her tiny eyes as wide as she could.
"Is that what I am to say?"
Mashurina became thoughtful and pulled a cigarette out of her
"Can I have a light?"
"Here is a match."
Mashurina lighted her cigarette.
"They expected something different," she began, "Altogether
different from what you have here. However, that is your affair.
I am not going to stay long. I only want to see Nejdanov and give
him the letter."
"Where are you going to?
"A long way from here." (She was going to Geneva, but did not
want Solomin to know as she did not quite trust him, and besides
a stranger was present. Mashurina, who scarcely knew a word of
German, was being sent to Geneva to hand over to a person
absolutely unknown to her a piece of cardboard with a vine-branch
sketched on it and two hundred and seventy-nine roubles.)
"And where is Ostrodumov? Is he with you?"
"No, but he's quite near. Got stuck on the way. He'll be here
when he's wanted. Pemien can look after himself. There is no need
to worry about him."
"How did you get here?"
"In a cart of course. How else could I have come? Give me another
Solomin gave her a light.
"Vassily Fedotitch!" A voice called out suddenly from the other
side of the door. "Can you come out?"
"Who is it? What do you want?"
"Do come, please," the voice repeated insistently. "Some new
workmen have come. They're trying to explain something, and Pavel
Egoritch is not there."
Solomin excused himself and went out. Mashurina fixed her gaze on
Mariana and stared at her for so long that the latter began to
"Excuse me," Mashurina exclaimed suddenly in her hard abrupt
voice, "I am a plain woman and don't know how to put these
things. Don't be angry with me. You need not tell me if you don't
wish to. Are you the girl who ran away from the Sipiagins?"
"Yes," Mariana replied, a little surprised.
"Please give me your hand ... and forgive me. You must be good
since he loves you."
Mariana pressed Mashurina's hand.
"Have you known him long?"
"I knew him in St. Petersburg. That was what made me talk to you.
Sergai Mihailovitch has also told me--"
"Oh Markelov! Is it long since you've seen him?
"No, not long. But he's gone away now."
"Where he was ordered."
"Oh, Miss Mashurina, I fear for him."
"In the first place, I'm not miss. You ought to cast off such
manners. In the second, you say . . . 'I fear,' and that you must
also cast aside. If you do not fear for yourself, you will leave
off fearing for others. You must not think of yourself, nor fear
for yourself. I dare say it's easy for me to talk like that. I am
ugly, while you are beautiful. It must be so much harder for
you." (Mariana looked down and turned away.) "Sergai Mihailovitch
told me . . . He knew I had a letter for Nejdanov. . . 'Don't
go to the factory,' he said, 'don't take the letter. It will
upset everything there. Leave them alone! They are both happy...
Don't interfere with them!' I should be glad not to interfere,
but what shall I do about the letter?"
"Give it to him by all means," Mariana put in. "How awfully good
Sergai Mihailovitch is! Will they kill him, Mashurina . . . or
send him to Siberia?"
"Well, what then? Don't people come back from Siberia? And as for
losing one's life; it is not all like honey to everybody. To
some it is sweet, to others bitter. His life has not been over-
Mashurina gave Mariana a fixed searching look.
"How beautiful you are!" she exclaimed, "just like a bird! I
don't think Alexai is coming... I'll give you the letter. It's
no use waiting any longer.
"I will give it him, you may be sure."
Mashurina rested her cheek in her hand and for a long, long time
did not speak.
"Tell me," she began, "forgive me for asking . . . do you love
Mashurina shook her heavy head.
"There is no need to ask if he loves you. However, I had better
be going, otherwise I shall be late. Tell him that I was here. . .
give him my kind regards. Tell him Mashurina was here. You
won't forget my name, will you? Mashurina. And the letter . . .
but say, where have I put it?
Mashurina stood up, turned round as though she were rummaging in
her pockets for the letter, and quickly raising a small piece of
folded paper to her lips, swallowed it. "Oh, dear me! What have I
done with it? Have I lost it? I must have dropped it. Dear me!
Supposing some one should find it! I can't find it anywhere. It's
turned out exactly as Sergai Mihailovitch wanted after all!"
"Look again," Mariana whispered. Mashurina waved her hand.
"It's no good. I've lost it."
Mariana came up to her.
"Well, then, kiss me."
Mashurina suddenly put her arms about Mariana and pressed her to
her bosom with more than a woman's strength.
"I would not have done this for anybody," she said, a lump rising
in her throat, "against my conscience . . . the first time! Tell
him to be more careful . . . And you too. Be cautious. It will
soon be very dangerous for everybody here, very dangerous. You
had better both go away, while there's still time . . . Goodbye!"
she added loudly with some severity. "Just one more thing. . .
tell him . . . no, it's not necessary. It's nothing."
Mashurina went out, banging the door behind her, while Mariana
stood perplexed in the middle of the room.
"What does it all mean? " she exclaimed at last. "This woman
loves him more than I do! What did she want to convey by her
hints? And why did Solomin disappear so suddenly, and why didn't
he come back again?"
She began pacing up and down the room. A curious sensation of
fear, annoyance, and amazement took possession of her. Why did
she not go with Nejdanov? Solomin had persuaded her not to . . .
but where is Solomin? And what is going on around here? Of course
Mashurina did not give her the letter because of her love for
Nejdanov. But how could she decide to disregard orders? Did she
want to appear magnanimous? What right had she? And why was she,
Mariana, so touched by her act? An unattractive woman interests
herself in a young man . . . What is there extraordinary about
it? And why should Mashurina assume that Mariana's attachment to
Nejdanov is stronger than the feelings of duty? And did Mariana
ask for such a sacrifice? And what could the letter have
contained? A call for speedy action? Well, and what then?
And Markelov? He is in danger . . . and what are we doing?
Markelov spares us both, gives us the opportunity of being happy,
does not part us. . . What makes him do it? Is it also
magnaminity. . . or contempt?
And did we run away from that hateful house merely to live like
Thus Mariana pondered, while the feeling of agitation and
annoyance grew stronger and stronger within her. Her pride was
hurt. Why had everyone forsaken her? EVERYONE. This stout woman
had called her a bird, a beauty... why not quite plainly, a doll?
And why did Nejdanov not go alone, but with Pavel? It's just as
if he needed someone to look after him! And what are really
Solomin's convictions? It's quite clear that he's not a
revolutionist! And could any one really think that he does not
treat the whole thing seriously?
These were the thoughts that whirled round, chasing one another
and becoming entangled in Mariana's feverish brain. Pressing her
lips closely together and folding her arms like a man, she sat
down by the window at last and remained immovable, straight up in
her chair, all alertness and intensity, ready to spring up at any
moment. She had no desire to go to Tatiana and work; she wanted
to wait alone. And she sat waiting obstinately, almost angrily.
From time to time her mood seemed strange and incomprehensible
even to herself . . . Never mind. "Am I jealous? " flashed
across her mind, but remembering poor Mashurina's figure she
shrugged her shoulders and dismissed the idea.
Mariana had been waiting for a long time when suddenly she heard
the sound of two persons' footsteps coming up the stairs. She
fixed her eyes on the door . . . the steps drew nearer. The door
opened and Nejdanov, supported under the arm by Pavel, appeared
in the doorway. He was deadly pale, without a cap, his
dishevelled hair hung in wet tufts over his forehead, he stared
vacantly straight in front of him. Pavel helped him across the
room (Nejdanov's legs were weak and shaky) and made him sit down
on the couch.
Mariana sprang up from her seat.
"What is the meaning of this? What's the matter with him? Is he
As he settled Nejdanov, Pavel answered her with a smile, looking
at her over his shoulder.
"You needn't worry. He'll soon be all right. It's only because
he's not used to it."
"What's the matter? " Mariana persisted.
"He's only a little tipsy. Been drinking on an empty stomach;
Mariana bent over Nejdanov. He was half lying on the couch, his
head sunk on his breast, his eyes closed. He smelled of vodka; he
was quite drunk.
"Alexai!" escaped her lips.
He raised his heavy eyelids with difficulty, and tried to smile.
"Well, Mariana!" he stammered out, "you've always talked of sim-
plif-ication . . . so here I am quite simplified. Because the
people are always drunk . . . and so . . ."
He ceased, then muttered something indistinctly to himself,
closed his eyes, and fell asleep. Pavel stretched him carefully
on the couch.
"Don't worry, Mariana Vikentievna," he repeated. "He'll sleep an
hour or two and wake up as fresh as can be."
Mariana wanted to ask how this had happened, but her questions
would have detained Pavel and she wanted to be alone . . . she
did not wish Pavel to see him in this disgusting state before
her. She walked away to the window while Pavel, who instantly
understood her, carefully covered Nejdanov's legs with the skirts
of his coat, put a pillow under his head, and observing once
again, "It's nothing," went out on tiptoe.
Mariana looked round. Nejdanov's head was buried in the pillow
and on his pale face there was an expression of fixed intensity
as on the face of one dangerously ill.
"I wonder how it happened?" she thought.
IT happened like this.
Sitting down beside Pavel in the cart, Nejdanov fell into a state
of great excitement. As soon as they rolled out of the courtyard
onto the high road leading to T. he began shouting out the most
absurd things to the peasants he met on the way. "Why are you
asleep? Rouse yourself! The time has come! Down with the taxes!
Down with the landlords!"
Some of the peasants stared at him in amazement, others passed on
without taking any notice of him, thinking that he was drunk; one
even said when he got home that he had met a Frenchman on the way
who was jabbering away at something he did not understand.
Nejdanov had common sense enough to know that what he was doing
was unutterably stupid and absurd had he not got himself up to
such a pitch of excitement that he was no longer able to
discriminate between sense and nonsense. Pavel tried to quiet
him, saying that it was impossible to go on like that; that they
were quite near a large village, the first on the borders of T.,
and that there they could look around. . . . But Nejdanov would
not calm down, and at the same time his face bore a sad, almost
despairing, expression. Their horse was an energetic, round
little thing, with a clipped mane on its scraggy neck. It tugged
at the reins, and its strong little legs flew as fast as they
could, just as if it were conscious of bearing important people
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