Virgin Soil
Ivan S. Turgenev

Part 7 out of 7

complain, I only want to justify myself. Some very sorrowful
moments are in store for you tomorrow. But what could I do? There
was no other alternative. Goodbye, Mariana, my dear good girl!
Goodbye, Solomin! I leave her in your charge. Be happy together;
live for the sake of others. And you, Mariana, think of me only
when you are happy. Think of me as a man who had also some good
in him, but for whom it was better to die than to live. Did I
really love you? I don't know, dear friend. But I do know that I
never loved anyone more than you, and that it would have been
more terrible for me to die had I not that feeling for you to
carry away with me to the grave. Mariana, if you ever come across
a Miss Mashurina-- Solomin knows her, and by the way, I think
you've met her too-- tell her that I thought of her with
gratitude just before the end. She will understand. But I must
tear myself away at last. I looked out of the window just now and
saw a lovely star amidst the swiftly moving clouds. No matter how
quickly they chased one another, they could not hide it from
view. That star reminded me of you, Mariana. At this moment you
are asleep in the next room, unsuspecting . . . I went to your
door, listened, and fancied I heard your pure, calm breathing . .
. Goodbye! goodbye! goodbye, my children, my friends!--Yours, A.

"Dear me! how is it that in my final letter I made no mention of
our great cause? I suppose lying is of no use when you're on the
point of death. Forgive this postscript, Mariana . . . The
falsehood lies in me, not in the thing in which you believe! One
more word. You might have thought perhaps, Mariana, that I put an
end to myself merely because I was afraid of going to prison, but
believe me that is not true. There is nothing terrible about
going to prison in itself, but being shut up there for a cause in
which you have no faith is unthinkable. It was not fear of prison
that drove me to this, Mariana. Goodbye! goodbye! my dear, pure

Mariana and Solomin each read the letter in turn. She then put
her own portrait and the two letters into her pocket and remained
standing motionless.

"Let us go, Mariana; everything is ready. We must fulfil his
wish," Solomin said to her.

Mariana drew near to Nejdanov and pressed her lips against his
forehead which was already turning cold.

"Come," she said, turning to Solomin. They went out, hand in

When the police arrived at the factory a few hours later, they
found Nejdanov's corpse. Tatiana had laid out the body, put a
white pillow under his head, crossed his arms, and even placed a
bunch of flowers on a little table beside him. Pavel, who had
been given all the needful instructions, received the police
officers with the greatest respect and as great a contempt, so
that those worthies were not quite sure whether to thank or
arrest him. He gave them all the details of the suicide, regaled
them with Swiss cheese and Madeira, but as for the whereabouts of
Vassily Fedotitch and the young lady, he knew nothing of that. He
was most effusive in his assurances that Vassily Fedotitch was
never away for long at a time on account of his work, that he was
sure to be back either today or tomorrow, and that he would let
them know as soon as he arrived. They might depend on him!

So the officers went away no wiser than they had come, leaving a
guard in charge of the body and promising to send a coroner.


Two days after these events, a cart drove up the courtyard of the
worthy Father Zosim, containing a man and woman who are already
known to the reader. The following day they were legally married.
Soon afterwards they disappeared, and the good father never
regretted what he had done. Solomin had left a letter in Pavel's
charge, addressed to the proprietor of the factory, giving a full
statement of the condition of the business (it turned out most
flourishing) and asking for three months' leave. The letter was
dated two days before Nejdanov's death, from which might be
gathered that Solomin had considered it necessary even then to go
away with him and Mariana and hide for a time. Nothing was
revealed by the inquiry held over the suicide. The body was
buried. Sipiagin gave up searching for his niece.

Nine months later Markelov was tried. At the trial he was just as
calm as he had been at the governor's. He carried himself with
dignity, but was rather depressed. His habitual hardness had
toned down somewhat, not from any cowardice; a nobler element had
been at work. He did not defend himself, did not regret what he
had done, blamed no one, and mentioned no names. His emaciated
face with the lustreless eyes retained but one expression:
submission to his fate and firmness. His brief, direct, truthful
answers aroused in his very judges a feeling akin to pity. Even
the peasants who had seized him and were giving evidence against
him shared this feeling and spoke of him as a good, simple-
hearted gentleman. But his guilt could not possibly be passed
over; he could not escape punishment, and he himself seemed to
look upon it as his due. Of his few accomplices, Mashurina
disappeared for a time. Ostrodumov was killed by a shopkeeper he
was inciting to revolt, who had struck him an "awkward" blow.
Golushkin, in consideration of his penitence (he was nearly
frightened out of his wits), was let off lightly. Kisliakov was
kept under arrest for about a month, after which he was released
and even allowed to continue "galloping" from province of
province. Nejdanov died, Solomin was under suspicion, but for
lack of sufficient evidence was left in peace. (He did not,
however, avoid trial and appeared when wanted.) Mariana was not
even mentioned; Paklin came off splendidly; indeed no notice was
taken of him.

A year and a half had gone by--it was the winter of 1870. In St.
Petersburg--the very same St. Petersburg where the chamberlain
Sipiagin, now a privy councillor, was beginning to play such an
important part; where his wife patronised the arts, gave musical
evenings, and founded charitable cook-shops; where Kollomietzev
was considered one of the most hopeful members of the ministerial
department--a little man was limping along one of the streets of
the Vassily island, attired in a shabby coat with a catskin
collar. This was no other than our old friend Paklin. He had
changed a great deal since we last saw him. On his temples a few
strands of silvery hair peeped out from under his fur cap. A
tall, stout woman, closely muffled in a dark cloth coat, was
coming towards him on the pavement. Paklin looked at her
indifferently and passed on. Suddenly he stopped, threw up his
arms as though struck by something, turned back quickly, and
overtaking her peeped under her hat.

"Mashurina!" he exclaimed in an undertone.

The lady looked at him haughtily and walked on without saying a

"Dear Mashurina, I recognised you at once," Paklin continued,
hobbling along beside her; "don't be afraid, I won't give you
away! I am so glad to see you! I'm Paklin, Sila Paklin, you know,
Nejdanov's friend. Do come home with me. I live quite near here.
Do come!"

"Io sono contessa Rocca di Santo Fiume!" the lady said softly,
but in a wonderfully pure Russian accent.

"Contessa! nonsense! Do come in and let us talk about old times--

"Where do you live? "the Italian countess asked suddenly in
Russian. "I'm in a hurry."

"In this very street; in that grey three-storied house over
there. It's so nice of you not to have snubbed me! Give me your
hand, come on. Have you been here long? How do you come to be a
countess? Have you married an Italian count?

Mashurina had not married an Italian count. She had been provided
with a passport made out in the name of a certain Countess Rocca
di Santo Fiume, who had died a short time ago, and had come quite
calmly to Russia, though she did not know a single word of
Italian and had the most typical of Russian faces.

Paklin brought her to his humble little lodging. His humpbacked
sister who shared it with him came out to greet them from behind
the partition dividing the kitchen from the passage.

"Here, Snapotchka," he said, "let me introduce you to a great
friend of mine. We should like some tea as soon as you can get

Mashurina, who would on no account have come had not Paklin
mentioned Nejdanov, bowed, then taking off her hat and passing
her masculine hand through her closely cropped hair, sat down in
silence. She had scarcely changed at all; even her dress was the
same she had worn two years ago; only her eyes wore a fixed, sad
expression, giving a pathetic look to her usually hard face.
Snandulia went out for the samovar, while Paklin sat down
opposite Mashurina and stroked her knee sympathetically. His head
dropped on his breast, he could not speak from choking, and the
tears glistened in his eyes. Mashurina sat erect and motionless,
gazing severely to one side.

"Those were times!" Paklin began at last. "As I look at you
everything comes back to me, the living and the dead. Even my
little poll-parrots are no more . . .I don't think you knew them,
by the way. They both died on the same day,as I always predicted
they would. And Nejdanov... poor Nejdanov! I suppose you know--"

"Yes, I know," Mashurina interrupted him, still looking away.

"And do you know about Ostrodumov too?"

Mashurina merely nodded her head. She wanted him to go on talking
about Nejdanov, but could not bring herself to ask him. He
understood her, however.

"I was told that he mentioned you in the letter he left. Was it

"Yes," Mashurina replied after a pause.

"What a splendid chap he was! He didn't fall into the right rut
somehow. He was about as fitted to be a revolutionist as I am! Do
you know what he really was? The idealist of realism. Do you
understand me?"

Mashurina flung him a rapid glance. She did not understand him
and did not want to understand him. It seemed to her impertinent
that he should compare himself to Nejdanov. "Let him brag!" she
thought, though he was not bragging at all, but rather
depreciating himself, according to his own ideas.

"Some fellow called Silin sought me out; Nejdanov, it seems, had
left a letter for him too. Well, he wanted to know if Alexai had
left any papers, but we hunted through all his things and found
nothing. He must have burned everything, even his poems. Did you
know that he wrote verses? I'm sorry they were destroyed; there
must have been some good things among them. They all vanished
with him-- became lost in the general whirl, dead and gone for
ever. Nothing was left except the memories of his friends-- until
they, too, vanish in their turn!"

Paklin ceased.

"Do you remember the Sipiagins?" he began again; "those
respectable, patronising, loathsome swells are now at the very
height of power and glory." Mashurina, of course, did not
remember the Sipiagins, but Paklin hated them so much that he
could not keep from abusing them on every possible occasion.
"They say there's such a high tone in their house! they're always
talking about virtue! It's a bad sign, I think. Reminds me rather
of an over-scented sick room. There must be some bad smell to
conceal. Poor Alexai! It was they who ruined him!"

"And what is Solomin doing?" Mashurina asked. She had suddenly
ceased wishing to hear Paklin talk about him.

"Solomin!" Paklin exclaimed. "He's a clever chap! turned out well
too. He's left the old factory and taken all the best men with
him. There was one fellow there called Pavel-- could do anything;
he's taken him along too. They say he has a small factory of his
own now, somewhere near Perm, run on cooperative lines. He's all
right! he'll stick to anything he undertakes. Got some grit in
him! His strength lies in the fact that he doesn't attempt to
cure all the social ills with one blow. What a rum set we are to
be sure, we Russians! We sit down quietly and wait for something
or someone to come along and cure us all at once; heal all our
wounds, pull out all our diseases, like a bad tooth. But who or
what is to work this magic spell, Darwinism, the land, the
Archbishop Perepentiev, a foreign war, we don't know and don't
care, but we must have our tooth pulled out for us! It's nothing
but mere idleness, sluggishness, want of thinking. Solomin, on
the other hand, is different; he doesn't go in for pulling teeth-
- he knows what he's about!"

Mashurina gave an impatient wave of the hand, as though she
wished to dismiss the subject.

"And that girl," she began, "I forget her name . . . the one who
ran away with Nejdanov-- what became of her?"

"Mariana? She's Solomin's wife now. They married over a year ago.
It was merely for the sake of formality at first, but now they
say she really is his wife."

Mashurina gave another impatient gesture. There was a time when
she was jealous of Mariana, but now she was indignant with her
for having been false to Nejdanov's memory.

"I suppose they have a baby by now," she said in an offhanded

"I really don't know. But where are you off to?" Paklin asked,
seeing that she had taken up her hat. "Do stay a little longer;
my sister will bring us some tea directly."

It was not so much that he wanted Mashurina to stay, as that he
could not let an opportunity slip by of giving utterance to what
had accumulated and was boiling over in his breast. Since his
return to St. Petersburg he had seen very little of people,
especially of the younger generation. The Nejdanov affair had
scared him; he grew more cautious, avoided society, and the young
generation on their side looked upon him with suspicion. Once
someone had even called him a traitor to his face.

As he was not fond of associating with the elder generation, it
sometimes fell to his lot to be silent for weeks. To his sister
he could not speak out freely, not because he considered her too
stupid to understand him-- oh, no! he had the highest opinion of
her intelligence-- but as soon as he began letting off some of
his pet fireworks she would look at him with those sad
reproachful eyes of hers, making him feel quite ashamed. And
really, how is a man to go through life without letting off just
a few squibs every now and again? So life in St. Petersburg
became insupportable to Paklin and he longed to remove to Moscow.
Speculations of all sorts-- ideas, fancies, and sarcasms-- were
stored up in him like water in a closed mill. The floodgates
could not be opened and the water grew stagnant. With the
appearance of Mashurina the gates opened wide, and all his pent-
up ideas came pouring out with a rush. He talked about St.
Petersburg, St. Petersburg life, the whole of Russia. No one was
spared! Mashurina was very little interested in all this, but she
did not contradict or interrupt, and that was all he wanted of

"Yes," he began, "a fine time we are living in, I can assure you!
Society in a state of absolute stagnation; everyone bored to
death! As for literature, it's been reduced to a complete vacuum
swept clean! Take criticism for example. If a promising young
critic has to say, 'It's natural for a hen to lay eggs,' it takes
him at least twenty whole pages to expound this mighty truth, and
even then he doesn't quite manage it! They're as puffed up as
feather-beds, these fine gentlemen, as soft-soapy as can be, and
are always in raptures over the merest commonplaces! As for
science, ha, ha, ha! we too have our learned Kant! [The word kant
in Russian means a kind of braid or piping.] on the collars of
our engineers! And it's no better in art! You go to a concert and
listen to our national singer Agremantsky. Everyone is raving
about him. But he has no more voice than a cat! Even Skoropikin,
you know, our immortal Aristarchus, rings his praises. 'Here is
something,' he declares, 'quite unlike Western art! ' Then he
raves about our insignificant painters too! 'At one time, I bowed
down before Europe and the Italians,' he says, 'but I've heard
Rossini and seen Raphael and confess I was not at all impressed.'
And our young men just go about repeating what he says and feel
quite satisfied with themselves. And meanwhile the people are
dying of hunger, crushed down by taxes. The only reform that has
been accomplished is that the men have taken to wearing caps and
the women have left off their head-dresses! And the poverty! the
drunkenness! the usury!"

But at this point Mashurina yawned and Paklin saw that he must
change the subject.

"You haven't told me yet," he said, turning to her," where you've
been these two years; when you came back, what you've been doing
with yourself, and how you managed to turn into an Italian

"There is no need for you to know all that," she put in. "It can
hardly have any interest for you now. You see, you are no longer
of our camp."

Paklin felt a pang and gave a forced laugh to hide his confusion.

"As you please," he said; "I know I'm regarded as out-of-date by
the present generation, and really I can hardly count myself . .
. of those ranks--" He did not finish the sentence. "Here comes
Snapotchka with the tea. Take a cup with us and stay a little
longer. Perhaps I may tell you something of interest to you."

Mashurina took a cup of tea and began sipping it with a lump of
sugar in her mouth.

Paklin laughed heartily.

"It's a good thing the police are not here to see an Italian

"Rocca di Santo Fiume," Mashurina put in solemnly, sipping the
hot tea.

"Contessa Rocca di Santo Fiume!" Paklin repeated after her; "and
drinking her tea in the typical Russian way! That's rather
suspicious, you know! The police would be on the alert in an

"Some fellow in uniform bothered me when I was abroad," Mashurina
remarked. "He kept on asking so many questions until I couldn't
stand it any longer. 'Leave me alone, for heaven's sake!' I said
to him at last."

"In Italian?

"Oh no, in Russian."

"And what did he do?"

"Went away, of course."

"Bravo!" Paklin exclaimed. "Well, countess, have another cup.
There is just one other thing I wanted to say to you. It seemed
to me that you expressed yourself rather contemptuously of
Solomin. But I tell you that people like him are the real men!
It's difficult to understand them at first, but, believe me,
they're the real men. The future is in their hands. They are not
heroes, not even 'heroes of labour' as some crank of an American,
or Englishman, called them in a book he wrote for the edification
of us heathens, but they are robust, strong, dull men of the
people. They are exactly what we want just now. You have only to
look at Solomin. A head as clear as the day and a body as strong
as an ox. Isn't that a wonder in itself? Why, any man with us in
Russia who has had any brains, or feelings, or a conscience, has
always been a physical wreck. Solomin's heart aches just as ours
does; he hates the same things that we hate, but his nerves are
of iron and his body is under his full control. He's a splendid
man, I tell you! Why, think of it! here is a man with ideals, and
no nonsense about him; educated and from the people, simple, yet
all there . . . What more do you want?

"It's of no consequence," Paklin continued, working himself up
more and more, without noticing that Mashurina had long ago
ceased listening to him and was looking away somewhere, "it's of
no consequence that Russia is now full of all sorts of queer
people, fanatics, officials, generals plain and decorated,
Epicureans, imitators, all manner of cranks. I once knew a lady,
a certain Havrona Prishtekov, who, one fine day, suddenly turned
a legitimist and assured everybody that when she died they had
only to open her body and the name of Henry V. would be found
engraven on her heart! All these people do not count, my dear
lady; our true salvation lies with the Solomins, the dull, plain,
but wise Solomins! Remember that I say this to you in the winter
of 1870, when Germany is preparing to crush France--"

"Silishka," Snandulia's soft voice was heard from behind Paklin,
"I think in your speculations about the future you have quite
forgotten our religion and its influence. And besides," she added
hastily, " Miss Mashurina is not listening to you. You had much
better offer her some more tea."

Paklin pulled himself up.

"Why, of course . . . do have some more tea."

But Mashurina fixed her dark eyes upon him and said pensively:

"You don't happen to have any letter of Nejdanov s . . . or his

"I have a photograph and quite a good one too. I believe it's in
the table drawer. I'll get it in a minute."

He began rummaging about in the drawer, while Snandulia went up
to Mashurina and with a long, intent look full of sympathy,
clasped her hand like a comrade.

"Here it is! " Paklin exclaimed and handed her the photograph.

Mashurina thrust it into her pocket quickly, scarcely glancing at
it, and without a word of thanks, flushing bright red, she put on
her hat and made for the door.

"Are you going?" Paklin asked. "Where do you live? You might tell
me that at any rate."

"Wherever I happen to be."

"I understand. You don't want me to know. Tell me at least, are
you still working under Vassily Nikolaevitch?"

"What does it matter to you? "Or someone else, perhaps Sidor
Sidoritch?" Mashurina did not reply.

"Or is your director some anonymous person?" Mashurina had
already stepped across the threshold. "Perhaps it is someone

She slammed the door.

Paklin stood for a long time motionless before this closed door.

"Anonymous Russia!" he said at last.


Back to Full Books