Part 1 out of 4
Produced by William Flis, Keren Vergon, and Distributed Proofreaders
DREAM TALES AND PROSE POEMS
_Translated from the Russian by CONSTANCE GARNETT_
THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE
POEMS IN PROSE
In the spring of 1878 there was living in Moscow, in a small wooden house
in Shabolovka, a young man of five-and-twenty, called Yakov Aratov.
With him lived his father's sister, an elderly maiden lady, over fifty,
Platonida Ivanovna. She took charge of his house, and looked after his
household expenditure, a task for which Aratov was utterly unfit. Other
relations he had none. A few years previously, his father, a provincial
gentleman of small property, had moved to Moscow together with him and
Platonida Ivanovna, whom he always, however, called Platosha; her nephew,
too, used the same name. On leaving the country-place where they had always
lived up till then, the elder Aratov settled in the old capital, with the
object of putting his son to the university, for which he had himself
prepared him; he bought for a trifle a little house in one of the outlying
streets, and established himself in it, with all his books and scientific
odds and ends. And of books and odds and ends he had many--for he was a
man of some considerable learning ... 'an out-and-out eccentric,' as his
neighbours said of him. He positively passed among them for a sorcerer; he
had even been given the title of an 'insectivist.' He studied chemistry,
mineralogy, entomology, botany, and medicine; he doctored patients gratis
with herbs and metallic powders of his own invention, after the method of
Paracelsus. These same powders were the means of his bringing to the grave
his pretty, young, too delicate wife, whom he passionately loved, and by
whom he had an only son. With the same powders he fairly ruined his son's
health too, in the hope and intention of strengthening it, as he detected
anaemia and a tendency to consumption in his constitution inherited from
his mother. The name of 'sorcerer' had been given him partly because he
regarded himself as a descendant--not in the direct line, of course--of the
great Bruce, in honour of whom he had called his son Yakov, the Russian
form of James.
He was what is called a most good-natured man, but of melancholy
temperament, pottering, and timid, with a bent for everything mysterious
and occult.... A half-whispered ah! was his habitual exclamation; he even
died with this exclamation on his lips, two years after his removal to
His son, Yakov, was in appearance unlike his father, who had been plain,
clumsy, and awkward; he took more after his mother. He had the same
delicate pretty features, the same soft ash-coloured hair, the same little
aquiline nose, the same pouting childish lips, and great greenish-grey
languishing eyes, with soft eyelashes. But in character he was like his
father; and the face, so unlike the father's face, wore the father's
expression; and he had the triangular-shaped hands and hollow chest of the
old Aratov, who ought, however, hardly to be called old, since he never
reached his fiftieth year. Before his death, Yakov had already entered the
university in the faculty of physics and mathematics; he did not, however,
complete his course; not through laziness, but because, according to his
notions, you could learn no more in the university than you could studying
alone at home; and he did not go in for a diploma because he had no idea of
entering the government service. He was shy with his fellow-students, made
friends with scarcely any one, especially held aloof from women, and lived
in great solitude, buried in books. He held aloof from women, though he
had a heart of the tenderest, and was fascinated by beauty.... He had even
obtained a sumptuous English keepsake, and (oh shame!) gloated adoringly
over its 'elegantly engraved' representations of the various ravishing
Gulnaras and Medoras.... But his innate modesty always kept him in check.
In the house he used to work in what had been his father's study, it was
also his bedroom, and his bed was the very one in which his father had
breathed his last.
The mainstay of his whole existence, his unfailing friend and companion,
was his aunt Platosha, with whom he exchanged barely a dozen words in the
day, but without whom he could not stir hand or foot. She was a long-faced,
long-toothed creature, with pale eyes, and a pale face, with an invariable
expression, half of dejection, half of anxious dismay. For ever garbed in
a grey dress and a grey shawl, she wandered about the house like a spirit,
with noiseless steps, sighed, murmured prayers--especially one favourite
one, consisting of three words only, 'Lord, succour us!'--and looked after
the house with much good sense, taking care of every halfpenny, and buying
everything herself. Her nephew she adored; she was in a perpetual fidget
over his health--afraid of everything--not for herself but for him; and
directly she fancied the slightest thing wrong, she would steal in softly,
and set a cup of herb tea on his writing-table, or stroke him on the
spine with her hands, soft as wadding. Yakov was not annoyed by these
attentions--though the herb tea he left untouched--he merely nodded his
head approvingly. However, his health was really nothing to boast of. He
was very impressionable, nervous, fanciful, suffered from palpitations of
the heart, and sometimes from asthma; like his father, he believed that
there are in nature and in the soul of man, mysteries which may sometimes
be divined, but to which one can never penetrate; he believed in the
existence of certain powers and influences, sometimes beneficent, but more
often malignant,... and he believed too in science, in its dignity and
importance. Of late he had taken a great fancy to photography. The smell of
the chemicals used in this pursuit was a source of great uneasiness to his
old aunt--not on her own account again, but on Yasha's, on account of his
chest; but for all the softness of his temper, there was not a little
obstinacy in his composition, and he persisted in his favourite pursuit.
Platosha gave in, and only sighed more than ever, and murmured, 'Lord,
succour us!' whenever she saw his fingers stained with iodine.
Yakov, as we have already related, had held aloof from his fellow-students;
with one of them he had, however, become fairly intimate, and saw him
frequently, even after the fellow-student had left the university and
entered the service, in a position involving little responsibility. He had,
in his own words, got on to the building of the Church of our Saviour,
though, of course, he knew nothing whatever of architecture. Strange to
say, this one solitary friend of Aratov's, by name Kupfer, a German, so far
Russianised that he did not know one word of German, and even fell foul
of 'the Germans,' this friend had apparently nothing in common with him.
He was a black-haired, red-cheeked young man, very jovial, talkative, and
devoted to the feminine society Aratov so assiduously avoided. It is true
Kupfer both lunched and dined with him pretty often, and even, being a
man of small means, used to borrow trifling sums of him; but this was not
what induced the free and easy German to frequent the humble little house
in Shabolovka so diligently. The spiritual purity, the idealism of Yakov
pleased him, possibly as a contrast to what he was seeing and meeting every
day; or possibly this very attachment to the youthful idealist betrayed him
of German blood after all. Yakov liked Kupfer's simple-hearted frankness;
and besides that, his accounts of the theatres, concerts, and balls, where
he was always in attendance--of the unknown world altogether, into which
Yakov could not make up his mind to enter--secretly interested and even
excited the young hermit, without, however, arousing any desire to learn
all this by his own experience. And Platosha made Kupfer welcome; it is
true she thought him at times excessively unceremonious, but instinctively
perceiving and realising that he was sincerely attached to her precious
Yasha, she not only put up with the noisy guest, but felt kindly towards
At the time with which our story is concerned, there was in Moscow a
certain widow, a Georgian princess, a person of somewhat dubious, almost
suspicious character. She was close upon forty; in her youth she had
probably bloomed with that peculiar Oriental beauty, which fades so
quickly; now she powdered, rouged, and dyed her hair yellow. Various
reports, not altogether favourable, nor altogether definite, were in
circulation about her; her husband no one had known, and she had never
stayed long in any one town. She had no children, and no property, yet
she kept open house, in debt or otherwise; she had a salon, as it is
called, and received a rather mixed society, for the most part young men.
Everything in her house from her own dress, furniture, and table, down
to her carriage and her servants, bore the stamp of something shoddy,
artificial, temporary,... but the princess herself, as well as her guests,
apparently desired nothing better. The princess was reputed a devotee
of music and literature, a patroness of artists and men of talent, and
she really was interested in all these subjects, even to the point of
enthusiasm, and an enthusiasm not altogether affected. There was an
unmistakable fibre of artistic feeling in her. Moreover she was very
approachable, genial, free from presumption or pretentiousness, and,
though many people did not suspect it, she was fundamentally good-natured,
soft-hearted, and kindly disposed.... Qualities rare--and the more precious
for their rarity--precisely in persons of her sort! 'A fool of a woman!' a
wit said of her: 'but she'll get into heaven, not a doubt of it! Because
she forgives everything, and everything will be forgiven her.' It was said
of her too that when she disappeared from a town, she always left as many
creditors behind as persons she had befriended. A soft heart readily turned
in any direction.
Kupfer, as might have been anticipated, found his way into her house, and
was soon on an intimate--evil tongues said a too intimate--footing with
her. He himself always spoke of her not only affectionately but with
respect; he called her a heart of gold--say what you like! and firmly
believed both in her love for art and her comprehension of art! One day
after dinner at the Aratovs', in discussing the princess and her evenings,
he began to persuade Yakov to break for once from his anchorite seclusion,
and to allow him, Kupfer, to present him to his friend. Yakov at first
would not even hear of it. 'But what do you imagine?' Kupfer cried at last:
'what sort of presentation are we talking about? Simply, I take you, just
as you are sitting now, in your everyday coat, and go with you to her for
an evening. No sort of etiquette is necessary there, my dear boy! You're
learned, you know, and fond of literature and music'--(there actually was
in Aratov's study a piano on which he sometimes struck minor chords)--'and
in her house there's enough and to spare of all those goods!... and you'll
meet there sympathetic people, no nonsense about them! And after all, you
really can't at your age, with your looks (Aratov dropped his eyes and
waved his hand deprecatingly), yes, yes, with your looks, you really can't
keep aloof from society, from the world, like this! Why, I'm not going to
take you to see generals! Indeed, I know no generals myself!... Don't be
obstinate, dear boy! Morality is an excellent thing, most laudable.... But
why fall a prey to asceticism? You're not going in for becoming a monk!'
Aratov was, however, still refractory; but Kupfer found an unexpected ally
in Platonida Ivanovna. Though she had no clear idea what was meant by the
word asceticism, she too was of opinion that it would be no harm for dear
Yasha to take a little recreation, to see people, and to show himself.
'Especially,' she added, 'as I've perfect confidence in Fyodor Fedoritch!
He'll take you to no bad place!...' 'I'll bring him back in all his maiden
innocence,' shouted Kupfer, at which Platonida Ivanovna, in spite of her
confidence, cast uneasy glances upon him. Aratov blushed up to his ears,
but ceased to make objections.
It ended by Kupfer taking him next day to spend an evening at the
princess's. But Aratov did not remain there long. To begin with, he found
there some twenty visitors, men and women, sympathetic people possibly,
but still strangers, and this oppressed him, even though he had to do very
little talking; and that, he feared above all things. Secondly, he did not
like their hostess, though she received him very graciously and simply.
Everything about her was distasteful to him: her painted face, and her
frizzed curls, and her thickly-sugary voice, her shrill giggle, her way
of rolling her eyes and looking up, her excessively low-necked dress, and
those fat, glossy fingers with their multitude of rings!... Hiding himself
away in a corner, he took from time to time a rapid survey of the faces
of all the guests, without even distinguishing them, and then stared
obstinately at his own feet. When at last a stray musician with a worn
face, long hair, and an eyeglass stuck into his contorted eyebrow sat down
to the grand piano and flinging his hands with a sweep on the keys and his
foot on the pedal, began to attack a fantasia of Liszt on a Wagner motive,
Aratov could not stand it, and stole off, bearing away in his heart a
vague, painful impression; across which, however, flitted something
incomprehensible to him, but grave and even disquieting.
Kupfer came next day to dinner; he did not begin, however, expatiating
on the preceding evening, he did not even reproach Aratov for his hasty
retreat, and only regretted that he had not stayed to supper, when there
had been champagne! (of the Novgorod brand, we may remark in parenthesis).
Kupfer probably realised that it had been a mistake on his part to disturb
his friend, and that Aratov really was a man 'not suited' to that circle
and way of life. On his side, too, Aratov said nothing of the princess, nor
of the previous evening. Platonida Ivanovna did not know whether to rejoice
at the failure of this first experiment or to regret it. She decided at
last that Yasha's health might suffer from such outings, and was comforted.
Kupfer went away directly after dinner, and did not show himself again
for a whole week. And it was not that he resented the failure of his
suggestion, the good fellow was incapable of that, but he had obviously
found some interest which was absorbing all his time, all his thoughts; for
later on, too, he rarely appeared at the Aratovs', had an absorbed look,
spoke little and quickly vanished.... Aratov went on living as before; but
a sort of--if one may so express it--little hook was pricking at his soul.
He was continually haunted by some reminiscence, he could not quite tell
what it was himself, and this reminiscence was connected with the evening
he had spent at the princess's. For all that he had not the slightest
inclination to return there again, and the world, a part of which he had
looked upon at her house, repelled him more than ever. So passed six weeks.
And behold one morning Kupfer stood before him once more, this time with
a somewhat embarrassed countenance. 'I know,' he began with a constrained
smile, 'that your visit that time was not much to your taste; but I hope
for all that you'll agree to my proposal ... that you won't refuse me my
'What is it?' inquired Aratov.
'Well, do you see,' pursued Kupfer, getting more and more heated: 'there
is a society here of amateurs, artistic people, who from time to time get
up readings, concerts, even theatrical performances for some charitable
'And the princess has a hand in it?' interposed Aratov.
'The princess has a hand in all good deeds, but that's not the point. We
have arranged a literary and musical matinee ... and at this matinee you
may hear a girl ... an extraordinary girl! We cannot make out quite yet
whether she is to be a Rachel or a Viardot ... for she sings exquisitely,
and recites and plays.... A talent of the very first rank, my dear boy! I'm
not exaggerating. Well then, won't you take a ticket? Five roubles for a
seat in the front row.'
'And where has this marvellous girl sprung from?' asked Aratov.
Kupfer grinned. 'That I really can't say.... Of late she's found a home
with the princess. The princess you know is a protector of every one of
that sort.... But you saw her, most likely, that evening.'
Aratov gave a faint inward start ... but he said nothing.
'She has even played somewhere in the provinces,' Kupfer continued, 'and
altogether she's created for the theatre. There! you'll see for yourself!'
'What's her name?' asked Aratov.
'Clara?' Aratov interrupted a second time. 'Impossible!'
'Why impossible? Clara ... Clara Militch; it's not her real name ... but
that's what she's called. She's going to sing a song of Glinka's ... and of
Tchaykovsky's; and then she'll recite the letter from _Yevgeny Oniegin_.
Well; will you take a ticket?'
'And when will it be?'
'To-morrow ... to-morrow, at half-past one, in a private drawing-room, in
Ostozhonka.... I will come for you. A five-rouble ticket?... Here it is ...
no, that's a three-rouble one. Here ... and here's the programme.... I'm
one of the stewards.'
Aratov sank into thought. Platonida Ivanovna came in at that instant, and
glancing at his face, was in a flutter of agitation at once. 'Yasha,' she
cried, 'what's the matter with you? Why are you so upset? Fyodor Fedoritch,
what is it you've been telling him?'
Aratov did not let his friend answer his aunt's question, but hurriedly
snatching the ticket held out to him, told Platonida Ivanovna to give
Kupfer five roubles at once.
She blinked in amazement.... However, she handed Kupfer the money in
silence. Her darling Yasha had ejaculated his commands in a very imperative
'I tell you, a wonder of wonders!' cried Kupfer, hurrying to the door.
'Wait till to-morrow.'
'Has she black eyes?' Aratov called after him.
'Black as coal!' Kupfer shouted cheerily, as he vanished.
Aratov went away to his room, while Platonida Ivanovna stood rooted to the
spot, repeating in a whisper, 'Lord, succour us! Succour us, Lord!'
The big drawing-room in the private house in Ostozhonka was already half
full of visitors when Aratov and Kupfer arrived. Dramatic performances had
sometimes been given in this drawing-room, but on this occasion there was
no scenery nor curtain visible. The organisers of the matinee had confined
themselves to fixing up a platform at one end, putting upon it a piano,
a couple of reading-desks, a few chairs, a table with a bottle of water
and a glass on it, and hanging red cloth over the door that led to the
room allotted to the performers. In the first row was already sitting the
princess in a bright green dress. Aratov placed himself at some distance
from her, after exchanging the barest of greetings with her. The public
was, as they say, of mixed materials; for the most part young men from
educational institutions. Kupfer, as one of the stewards, with a white
ribbon on the cuff of his coat, fussed and bustled about busily; the
princess was obviously excited, looked about her, shot smiles in all
directions, talked with those next her ... none but men were sitting
near her. The first to appear on the platform was a flute-player of
consumptive appearance, who most conscientiously dribbled away--what am I
saying?--piped, I mean--a piece also of consumptive tendency; two persons
shouted bravo! Then a stout gentleman in spectacles, of an exceedingly
solid, even surly aspect, read in a bass voice a sketch of Shtchedrin; the
sketch was applauded, not the reader; then the pianist, whom Aratov had
seen before, came forward and strummed the same fantasia of Liszt; the
pianist gained an encore. He bowed with one hand on the back of the chair,
and after each bow he shook back his hair, precisely like Liszt! At last
after a rather long interval the red cloth over the door on to the platform
stirred and opened wide, and Clara Militch appeared. The room resounded
with applause. With hesitating steps, she moved forward on the platform,
stopped and stood motionless, clasping her large handsome ungloved hands in
front of her, without a courtesy, a bend of the head, or a smile.
She was a girl of nineteen, tall, rather broad-shouldered, but well-built.
A dark face, of a half-Jewish half-gipsy type, small black eyes under thick
brows almost meeting in the middle, a straight, slightly turned-up nose,
delicate lips with a beautiful but decided curve, an immense mass of black
hair, heavy even in appearance, a low brow still as marble, tiny ears ...
the whole face dreamy, almost sullen. A nature passionate, wilful--hardly
good-tempered, hardly very clever, but gifted--was expressed in every
For some time she did not raise her eyes; but suddenly she started, and
passed over the rows of spectators a glance intent, but not attentive,
absorbed, it seemed, in herself.... 'What tragic eyes she has!' observed
a man sitting behind Aratov, a grey-headed dandy with the face of a Revel
harlot, well known in Moscow as a prying gossip and writer for the papers.
The dandy was an idiot, and meant to say something idiotic ... but he spoke
the truth. Aratov, who from the very moment of Clara's entrance had never
taken his eyes off her, only at that instant recollected that he really had
seen her at the princess's; and not only that he had seen her, but that he
had even noticed that she had several times, with a peculiar insistency,
gazed at him with her dark intent eyes. And now too--or was it his
fancy?--on seeing him in the front row she seemed delighted, seemed to
flush, and again gazed intently at him. Then, without turning round, she
stepped away a couple of paces in the direction of the piano, at which
her accompanist, a long-haired foreigner, was sitting. She had to render
Glinka's ballad: 'As soon as I knew you ...' She began at once to sing,
without changing the attitude of her hands or glancing at the music. Her
voice was soft and resonant, a contralto; she uttered the words distinctly
and with emphasis, and sang monotonously, with little light and shade, but
with intense expression. 'The girl sings with conviction,' said the same
dandy sitting behind Aratov, and again he spoke the truth. Shouts of 'Bis!'
'Bravo!' resounded over the room; but she flung a rapid glance on Aratov,
who neither shouted nor clapped--he did not particularly care for her
singing--gave a slight bow, and walked out without taking the hooked arm
proffered her by the long-haired pianist. She was called back ... not very
soon, she reappeared, with the same hesitating steps approached the piano,
and whispering a couple of words to the accompanist, who picked out and
put before him another piece of music, began Tchaykovsky's song: 'No, only
he who knows the thirst to see.'... This song she sang differently from
the first--in a low voice, as though she were tired ... and only at the
line next the last, 'He knows what I have suffered,' broke from her in a
ringing, passionate cry. The last line, 'And how I suffer' ... she almost
whispered, with a mournful prolongation of the last word. This song
produced less impression on the audience than the Glinka ballad; there was
much applause, however.... Kupfer was particularly conspicuous; folding his
hands in a peculiar way, in the shape of a barrel, at each clap he produced
an extraordinarily resounding report. The princess handed him a large,
straggling nosegay for him to take it to the singer; but she, seeming not
to observe Kupfer's bowing figure, and outstretched hand with the nosegay,
turned and went away, again without waiting for the pianist, who skipped
forward to escort her more hurriedly than before, and when he found himself
so unjustifiably deserted, tossed his hair as certainly Liszt himself had
never tossed his!
During the whole time of the singing, Aratov had been watching Clara's
face. It seemed to him that her eyes, through the drooping eyelashes, were
again turned upon him; but he was especially struck by the immobility of
the face, the forehead, the eyebrows; and only at her outburst of passion
he caught through the hardly-parted lips the warm gleam of a close row of
white teeth. Kupfer came up to him.
'Well, my dear boy, what do you think of her?' he asked, beaming all over
'It's a fine voice,' replied Aratov; 'but she doesn't know how to sing yet;
she's no real musical knowledge.' (Why he said this, and what conception he
had himself of 'musical knowledge,' the Lord only knows!)
Kupfer was surprised. 'No musical knowledge,' he repeated slowly.... 'Well,
as to that ... she can acquire that. But what soul! Wait a bit, though; you
shall hear her in Tatiana's letter.'
He hurried away from Aratov, while the latter said to himself, 'Soul! with
that immovable face!' He thought that she moved and held herself like one
hypnotised, like a somnambulist. And at the same time she was unmistakably
... yes! unmistakably looking at him.
Meanwhile the matinee went on. The fat man in spectacles appeared again;
in spite of his serious exterior, he fancied himself a comic actor, and
recited a scene from Gogol, this time without eliciting a single token
of approbation. There was another glimpse of the flute-player; another
thunder-clap from the pianist; a boy of twelve, frizzed and pomaded, but
with tear-stains on his cheeks, thrummed some variations on a fiddle. What
seemed strange was that in the intervals of the reading and music, from the
performers' room, sounds were heard from time to time of a French horn; and
yet this instrument never was brought into requisition. In the sequel it
appeared that the amateur, who had been invited to perform on it, had lost
courage at the moment of facing the public. At last Clara Militch made her
She held a volume of Pushkin in her hand; she did not, however, glance at
it once during her recitation.... She was obviously nervous, the little
book shook slightly in her fingers. Aratov observed also the expression
of weariness which now overspread all her stern features. The first line,
'I write to you ... what more?' she uttered exceedingly simply, almost
naively, and with a naive, genuine, helpless gesture held both hands out
before her. Then she began to hurry a little; but from the beginning of the
lines: 'Another! no! To no one in the whole world I have given my heart!'
she mastered her powers, gained fire; and when she came to the words, 'My
whole life has but been a pledge of a meeting true with thee,' her hitherto
thick voice rang out boldly and enthusiastically, while her eyes just
as boldly and directly fastened upon Aratov. She went on with the same
fervour, and only towards the end her voice dropped again; and in it, and
in her face, the same weariness was reflected again. The last four lines
she completely 'murdered,' as it is called; the volume of Pushkin suddenly
slid out of her hand, and she hastily withdrew.
The audience fell to applauding desperately, encoring.... One
Little-Russian divinity student bellowed in so deep a bass, 'Mill-itch!
Mill-itch!' that his neighbour civilly and sympathetically advised him,
'to take care of his voice, it would be the making of a protodeacon.' But
Aratov at once rose and made for the door. Kupfer overtook him.... 'I say,
where are you off to?' he called; 'would you like me to present you to
Clara?' 'No, thanks,' Aratov returned hurriedly, and he went homewards
almost at a run.
He was agitated by strange sensations, incomprehensible to himself. In
reality, Clara's recitation, too, had not been quite to his taste ...
though he could not quite tell why. It disturbed him, this recitation;
it struck him as crude and inharmonious.... It was as though it broke
something within him, forced itself with a certain violence upon him. And
those fixed, insistent, almost importunate looks--what were they for? what
did they mean?
Aratov's modesty did not for one instant admit of the idea that he might
have made an impression on this strange girl, that he might have inspired
in her a sentiment akin to love, to passion!... And indeed, he himself had
formed a totally different conception of the still unknown woman, the girl
to whom he was to give himself wholly, who would love him, be his bride,
his wife.... He seldom dwelt on this dream--in spirit as in body he was
virginal; but the pure image that arose at such times in his fancy was
inspired by a very different figure, the figure of his dead mother, whom he
scarcely remembered, but whose portrait he treasured as a sacred relic. The
portrait was a water-colour, painted rather unskilfully by a lady who had
been a neighbour of hers; but the likeness, as every one declared, was a
striking one. Just such a tender profile, just such kind, clear eyes and
silken hair, just such a smile and pure expression, was the woman, the
girl, to have, for whom as yet he scarcely dared to hope....
But this swarthy, dark-skinned creature, with coarse hair, dark eyebrows,
and a tiny moustache on her upper lip, she was certainly a wicked, giddy
... 'gipsy' (Aratov could not imagine a harsher appellation)--what was she
And yet Aratov could not succeed in getting out of his head this
dark-skinned gipsy, whose singing and reading and very appearance were
displeasing to him. He was puzzled, he was angry with himself. Not long
before he had read Sir Walter Scott's novel, _St. Ronan's Well_ (there
was a complete edition of Sir Walter Scott's works in the library of his
father, who had regarded the English novelist with esteem as a serious,
almost a scientific, writer). The heroine of that novel is called Clara
Mowbray. A poet who flourished somewhere about 1840, Krasov, wrote a poem
on her, ending with the words:
'Unhappy Clara! poor frantic Clara!
Unhappy Clara Mowbray!'
Aratov knew this poem also.... And now these words were incessantly
haunting his memory.... 'Unhappy Clara! Poor, frantic Clara!' ... (This
was why he had been so surprised when Kupfer told him the name of Clara
Platosha herself noticed, not a change exactly in Yasha's temper--no change
in reality took place in it--but something unsatisfactory in his looks and
in his words. She cautiously questioned him about the literary matinee at
which he had been present; muttered, sighed, looked at him from in front,
from the side, from behind; and suddenly clapping her hands on her thighs,
she exclaimed: 'To be sure, Yasha; I see what it is!'
'Why? what?' Aratov queried.
'You've met for certain at that matinee one of those long-tailed
creatures'--this was how Platonida Ivanovna always spoke of all
fashionably-dressed ladies of the period--'with a pretty dolly face;
and she goes prinking _this_ way ... and pluming _that_ way'--Platonida
presented these fancied manoeuvres in mimicry--'and making saucers like
this with her eyes'--and she drew big, round circles in the air with her
forefinger--'You're not used to that sort of thing. So you fancied ... but
that means nothing, Yasha ... no-o-thing at all! Drink a cup of posset at
night ... it'll pass off!... Lord, succour us!'
Platosha ceased speaking, and left the room.... She had hardly ever uttered
such a long and animated speech in her life.... While Aratov thought,
'Auntie's right, I dare say.... I'm not used to it; that's all ...'--it
actually was the first time his attention had ever happened to be drawn to
a person of the female sex ... at least he had never noticed it before--'I
mustn't give way to it.'
And he set to work on his books, and at night drank some lime-flower tea;
and positively slept well that night, and had no dreams. The next morning
he took up his photography again as though nothing had happened....
But towards evening his spiritual repose was again disturbed.
And this is what happened. A messenger brought him a note, written in a
large irregular woman's hand, and containing the following lines:
'If you guess who it is writes to you, and if it is not a bore to you, come
to-morrow after dinner to the Tversky boulevard--about five o'clock--and
wait. You shall not be kept long. But it is very important. Do come.'
There was no signature. Aratov at once guessed who was his correspondent,
and this was just what disturbed him. 'What folly,' he said, almost aloud;
'this is too much. Of course I shan't go.' He sent, however, for the
messenger, and from him learnt nothing but that the note had been handed
him by a maid-servant in the street. Dismissing him, Aratov read the letter
through and flung it on the ground.... But, after a little while, he picked
it up and read it again: a second time he cried, 'Folly!'--he did not,
however, throw the note on the floor again, but put it in a drawer. Aratov
took up his ordinary occupations, first one and then another; but nothing
he did was successful or satisfactory. He suddenly realised that he was
eagerly expecting Kupfer! Did he want to question him, or perhaps even to
confide in him?... But Kupfer did not make his appearance. Then Aratov took
down Pushkin, read Tatiana's letter, and convinced himself again that the
'gipsy girl' had not in the least understood the real force of the letter.
And that donkey Kupfer shouts: Rachel! Viardot! Then he went to his piano,
as it seemed, unconsciously opened it, and tried to pick out by ear the
melody of Tchaykovsky's song; but he slammed it to again directly in
vexation, and went up to his aunt to her special room, which was for ever
baking hot, smelled of mint, sage, and other medicinal herbs, and was
littered up with such a multitude of rugs, side-tables, stools, cushions,
and padded furniture of all sorts, that any one unused to it would have
found it difficult to turn round and oppressive to breathe in it. Platonida
Ivanovna was sitting at the window, her knitting in her hands (she was
knitting her darling Yasha a comforter, the thirty-eighth she had made him
in the course of his life!), and was much astonished to see him. Aratov
rarely went up to her, and if he wanted anything, used always to call, in
his delicate voice, from his study: 'Aunt Platosha!' However, she made him
sit down, and sat all alert, in expectation of his first words, watching
him through her spectacles with one eye, over them with the other. She did
not inquire after his health nor offer him tea, as she saw he had not come
for that. Aratov was a little disconcerted ... then he began to talk ...
talked of his mother, of how she had lived with his father and how his
father had got to know her. All this he knew very well ... but it was just
what he wanted to talk about. Unluckily for him, Platosha did not know
how to keep up a conversation at all; she gave him very brief replies, as
though she suspected that was not what Yasha had come for.
'Eh!' she repeated, hurriedly, almost irritably plying her
knitting-needles. 'We all know: your mother was a darling ... a darling
that she was.... And your father loved her as a husband should, truly and
faithfully even in her grave; and he never loved any other woman': she
added, raising her voice and taking off her spectacles.
'And was she of a retiring disposition?' Aratov inquired, after a short
'Retiring! to be sure she was. As a woman should be. Bold ones have sprung
'And were there no bold ones in your time?'
'There were in our time too ... to be sure there were! But who were they? A
pack of strumpets, shameless hussies. Draggle-tails--for ever gadding about
after no good.... What do they care? It's little they take to heart. If
some poor fool comes in their way, they pounce on him. But sensible folk
looked down on them. Did you ever see, pray, the like of such in our
Aratov made no reply, and went back to his study. Platonida Ivanovna looked
after him, shook her head, put on her spectacles again, and again took
up her comforter ... but more than once sank into thought, and let her
knitting-needles fall on her knees.
Aratov up till very night kept telling himself, no! no! but with the same
irritation, the same exasperation, he fell again into musing on the note,
on the 'gipsy girl,' on the appointed meeting, to which he would certainly
not go! And at night she gave him no rest. He was continually haunted
by her eyes--at one time half-closed, at another wide open--and their
persistent gaze fixed straight upon him, and those motionless features with
their dominating expression....
The next morning he again, for some reason, kept expecting Kupfer; he was
on the point of writing a note to him ... but did nothing, however,...
and spent most of the time walking up and down his room. He never for
one instant admitted to himself even the idea of going to this idiotic
rendezvous ... and at half-past three, after a hastily swallowed dinner,
suddenly throwing on his cloak and thrusting his cap on his head, he dashed
out into the street, unseen by his aunt, and turned towards the Tversky
Aratov found few people walking in it. The weather was damp and rather
cold. He tried not to reflect on what he was doing, to force himself to
turn his attention to every object that presented itself, and, as it were,
persuaded himself that he had simply come out for a walk like the other
people passing to and fro.... The letter of the day before was in his
breast-pocket, and he was conscious all the while of its presence there. He
walked twice up and down the boulevard, scrutinised sharply every feminine
figure that came near him--and his heart throbbed.... He felt tired and sat
down on a bench. And suddenly the thought struck him: 'What if that letter
was not written by her, but to some one else by some other woman?' In
reality this should have been a matter of indifference to him ... and yet
he had to admit to himself that he did not want this to be so. 'That would
be too silly,' he thought, 'even sillier than _this_!' A nervous unrest
began to gain possession of him; he began to shiver--not outwardly, but
inwardly. He several times took his watch out of his waistcoat pocket,
looked at the face, put it back, and each time forgot how many minutes it
was to five. He fancied that every passer-by looked at him in a peculiar
way, with a sort of sarcastic astonishment and curiosity. A wretched little
dog ran up, sniffed at his legs, and began wagging its tail. He threatened
it angrily. He was particularly annoyed by a factory lad in a greasy smock,
who seated himself on a seat on the other side of the boulevard, and by
turns whistling, scratching himself, and swinging his feet in enormous
tattered boots, persistently stared at him. 'And his master,' thought
Aratov, 'is waiting for him, no doubt, while he, lazy scamp, is kicking up
his heels here....'
But at that very instant he felt that some one had come up and was standing
close behind him ... there was a breath of something warm from behind....
He looked round.... She!
He knew her at once, though a thick, dark blue veil hid her features. He
instantaneously leapt up from the seat, but stopped short, and could not
utter a word. She too was silent. He felt great embarrassment; but her
embarrassment was no less. Aratov, even through the veil, could not help
noticing how deadly pale she had turned. Yet she was the first to speak.
'Thanks,' she began in an unsteady voice, 'thanks for coming. I did not
expect ...' She turned a little away and walked along the boulevard. Aratov
walked after her.
'You have, perhaps, thought ill of me,' she went on, without turning her
head; 'indeed, my conduct is very strange.... But I had heard so much about
you ... but no! I ... that was not the reason.... If only you knew....
There was so much I wanted to tell you, my God!... But how to do it ... how
to do it!'
Aratov was walking by her side, a little behind her; he could not see her
face; he saw only her hat and part of her veil ... and her long black
shabby cape. All his irritation, both with her and with himself, suddenly
came back to him; all the absurdity, the awkwardness of this interview,
these explanations between perfect strangers in a public promenade,
suddenly struck him.
'I have come on your invitation,' he began in his turn. 'I have come, my
dear madam' (her shoulders gave a faint twitch, she turned off into a side
passage, he followed her), 'simply to clear up, to discover to what strange
misunderstanding it is due that you are pleased to address me, a stranger
to you ... who ... only _guessed_, to use your expression in your letter,
that it was you writing to him ... guessed it because during that literary
matinee, you saw fit to pay him such ... such obvious attention.'
All this little speech was delivered by Aratov in that ringing but unsteady
voice in which very young people answer at examinations on a subject in
which they are well prepared.... He was angry; he was furious.... It was
just this fury which loosened his ordinarily not very ready tongue.
She still went on along the walk with rather slower steps.... Aratov, as
before, walked after her, and as before saw only the old cape and the hat,
also not a very new one. His vanity suffered at the idea that she must now
be thinking: 'I had only to make a sign--and he rushed at once!'
Aratov was silent ... he expected her to answer him; but she did not utter
'I am ready to listen to you,' he began again, 'and shall be very glad if I
can be of use to you in any way ... though I am, I confess, surprised ...
considering the retired life I lead....'
At these last words of his, Clara suddenly turned to him, and he beheld
such a terrified, such a deeply-wounded face, with such large bright tears
in the eyes, such a pained expression about the parted lips, and this face
was so lovely, that he involuntarily faltered, and himself felt something
akin to terror and pity and softening.
'Ah, why ... why are you like that?' she said, with an irresistibly
genuine and truthful force, and how movingly her voice rang out! 'Could my
turning to you be offensive to you?... is it possible you have understood
nothing?... Ah, yes! you have understood nothing, you did not understand
what I said to you, God knows what you have been imagining about me, you
have not even dreamed what it cost me--to write to you!... You thought of
nothing but yourself, your own dignity, your peace of mind!... But is it
likely I' ... (she squeezed her hands raised to her lips so hard, that the
fingers gave a distinct crack).... 'As though I made any sort of demands of
you, as though explanations were necessary first....
"My dear madam,... I am, I confess, surprised,... if I can be of any use"
... Ah! I am mad!--I was mistaken in you--in your face!... when I saw you
the first time ...! Here ... you stand.... If only one word. What, not one
She ceased.... Her face suddenly flushed, and as suddenly took a wrathful
and insolent expression. 'Mercy! how idiotic this is!' she cried suddenly,
with a shrill laugh. 'How idiotic our meeting is! What a fool I am!... and
you too.... Ugh!'
She gave a contemptuous wave of her hand, as though motioning him out of
her road, and passing him, ran quickly out of the boulevard, and vanished.
The gesture of her hand, the insulting laugh, and the last exclamation,
at once carried Aratov back to his first frame of mind, and stifled the
feeling that had sprung up in his heart when she turned to him with tears
in her eyes. He was angry again, and almost shouted after the retreating
girl: 'You may make a good actress, but why did you think fit to play off
this farce on me?'
He returned home with long strides, and though he still felt anger and
indignation all the way, yet across these evil, malignant feelings,
unconsciously, the memory forced itself of the exquisite face he had seen
for a single moment only.... He even put himself the question, 'Why did
I not answer her when she asked of me only a word? I had not time,' he
thought. 'She did not let me utter the word ... and what word could I have
But he shook his head at once, and murmured reproachfully, 'Actress!'
And again, at the same time, the vanity of the inexperienced nervous youth,
at first wounded, was now, as it were, flattered at having any way inspired
such a passion....
'Though by now,' he pursued his reflections, 'it's all over, of course....
I must have seemed absurd to her.'...
This idea was disagreeable to him, and again he was angry ... both with her
... and with himself. On reaching home, he shut himself up in his study. He
did not want to see Platosha. The good old lady came twice to his locked
door, put her ear to the keyhole, and only sighed and murmured her prayer.
'It has begun!' she thought.... 'And he only five-and-twenty! Ah, it's
early, it's early!'
All the following day Aratov was in very low spirits. 'What is it,
Yasha?' Platonida Ivanovna said to him: 'you seem somehow all loose ends
to-day!'... In her own peculiar idiom the old lady's expression described
fairly accurately Aratov's mental condition. He could not work and he did
not know himself what he wanted. At one time he was eagerly on the watch
for Kupfer, again he suspected that it was from Kupfer that Clara had got
his address ... and from where else could she 'have heard so much about
him'? Then he wondered: was it possible his acquaintance with her was
to end like this? Then he fancied she would write to him again; then he
asked himself whether he ought not to write her a letter, explaining
everything, since he did not at all like leaving an unfavourable
impression of himself.... But exactly what to explain? Then he stirred
up in himself almost a feeling of repulsion for her, for her insistence,
her impertinence; and then again he saw that unutterably touching face
and heard an irresistible voice; then he recalled her singing, her
recitation--and could not be sure whether he had been right in his
wholesale condemnation of it. In fact, he was all loose ends! At last he
was heartily sick of it, and resolved to keep a firm hand over himself, as
it is called, and to obliterate the whole incident, as it was unmistakably
hindering his studies and destroying his peace of mind. It turned out not
so easy to carry out this resolution ... more than a week passed by before
he got back into his old accustomed groove. Luckily Kupfer did not turn up
at all; he was in fact out of Moscow. Not long before the incident, Aratov
had begun to work at painting in connection with his photographic plans; he
set to work upon it now with redoubled zest.
So, imperceptibly, with a few (to use the doctors' expression) 'symptoms
of relapse,' manifested, for instance, in his once almost deciding to call
upon the princess, two months passed ... then three months ... and Aratov
was the old Aratov again. Only somewhere down below, under the surface of
his life, something like a dark and burdensome secret dogged him wherever
he went. So a great fish just caught on the hook, but not yet drawn up,
will swim at the bottom of a deep stream under the very boat where the
angler sits with a stout rod in his hand.
And one day, skimming through a not quite new number of the _Moscow
Gazette_, Aratov lighted upon the following paragraph:
'With the greatest regret,' wrote some local contributor from Kazan, 'we
must add to our dramatic record the news of the sudden death of our gifted
actress Clara Militch, who had succeeded during the brief period of her
engagement in becoming a favourite of our discriminating public. Our regret
is the more poignant from the fact that Miss Militch by her own act cut
short her young life, so full of promise, by means of poison. And this
dreadful deed was the more awful through the talented actress taking the
fatal drug in the theatre itself. She had scarcely been taken home when to
the universal grief, she expired. There is a rumour in the town that an
unfortunate love affair drove her to this terrible act.'
Aratov slowly laid the paper on the table. In outward appearance he
remained perfectly calm ... but at once something seemed to strike him a
blow in the chest and the head--and slowly the shock passed on through all
his limbs. He got up, stood still on the spot, and sat down again, again
read through the paragraph. Then he got up again, lay down on the bed,
and clasping his hands behind, stared a long while at the wall, as though
dazed. By degrees the wall seemed to fade away ... vanished ... and he
saw facing him the boulevard under the grey sky, and _her_ in her black
cape ... then her on the platform ... saw himself even close by her. That
something which had given him such a violent blow in the chest at the first
instant, began mounting now ... mounting into his throat.... He tried to
clear his throat; tried to call some one--but his voice failed him--and,
to his own astonishment, tears rushed in torrents from his eyes ... what
called forth these tears? Pity? Remorse? Or was it simply his nerves could
not stand the sudden shock?
Why, she was nothing to him? was she?
'But, perhaps, it's not true after all,' the thought came as a sudden
relief to him. 'I must find out! But from whom? From the princess? No, from
Kupfer ... from Kupfer? But they say he's not in Moscow--no matter, I must
try him first!'
With these reflections in his head, Aratov dressed himself in haste, called
a cab and drove to Kupfer's.
Though he had not expected to find him, he found him. Kupfer had, as a
fact, been away from Moscow for some time, but he had now been back a week,
and was indeed on the point of setting off to see Aratov. He met him with
his usual heartiness, and was beginning to make some sort of explanation
... but Aratov at once cut him short with the impatient question, 'Have you
heard it? Is it true?'
'Is what true?' replied Kupfer, puzzled.
'About Clara Militch?'
Kupfer's face expressed commiseration. 'Yes, yes, my dear boy, it's true;
she poisoned herself! Such a sad thing!'
Aratov was silent for a while. 'But did you read it in the paper too?' he
asked--'or perhaps you have been in Kazan yourself?'
'I have been in Kazan, yes; the princess and I accompanied her there. She
came out on the stage there, and had a great success. But I didn't stay up
to the time of the catastrophe ... I was in Yaroslav at the time.'
'Yes--I escorted the princess there.... She is living now at Yaroslav.'
'But you have trustworthy information?'
'Trustworthy ... I have it at first-hand!--I made the acquaintance of her
family in Kazan. But, my dear boy ... this news seems to be upsetting you?
Why, I recollect you didn't care for Clara at one time? You were wrong,
though! She was a marvellous girl--only what a temper! I was terribly
broken-hearted about her!'
Aratov did not utter a word, he dropped into a chair, and after a brief
pause, asked Kupfer to tell him ... he stammered.
'What?' inquired Kupfer.
'Oh ... everything,' Aratov answered brokenly, 'all about her family ...
and the rest of it. Everything you know!'
'Why, does it interest you? By all means!' And Kupfer, whose face showed no
traces of his having been so terribly broken-hearted about Clara, began his
From his account Aratov learnt that Clara Militch's real name was Katerina
Milovidov; that her father, now dead, had held the post of drawing-master
in a school in Kazan, had painted bad portraits and holy pictures of the
regulation type; that he had besides had the character of being a drunkard
and a domestic tyrant; that he had left behind him, first a widow, of a
shopkeeper's family, a quite stupid body, a character straight out of an
Ostrovsky comedy; and secondly, a daughter much older than Clara and not
like her--a very clever girl, and enthusiastic, only sickly, a remarkable
girl--and very advanced in her ideas, my dear boy! That they were living,
the widow and daughter, fairly comfortably, in a decent little house,
obtained by the sale of the bad portraits and holy pictures; that Clara ...
or Katia, if you like, from her childhood up impressed every one with her
talent, but was of an insubordinate, capricious temper, and used to be for
ever quarrelling with her father; that having an inborn passion for the
theatre, at sixteen she had run away from her parent's house with an
'With an actor?' put in Aratov.
'No, not with an actor, with an actress, to whom she became attached....
It's true this actress had a protector, a wealthy gentleman, no longer
young, who did not marry her simply because he happened to be married--and
indeed I fancy the actress was a married woman.' Furthermore Kupfer
informed Aratov that Clara had even before her coming to Moscow acted and
sung in provincial theatres, that, having lost her friend the actress--the
gentleman, too, it seemed, had died, or else he had made it up with his
wife--Kupfer could not quite remember this--she had made the acquaintance
of the princess, 'that heart of gold, whom you, my dear Yakov Andreitch,'
the speaker added with feeling, 'were incapable of appreciating properly';
that at last Clara had been offered an engagement in Kazan, and that she
had accepted it, though before then she used to declare that she would
never leave Moscow! But then how the people of Kazan liked her--it was
really astonishing! Whatever the performance was, nothing but nosegays and
presents! nosegays and presents! A wholesale miller, the greatest swell in
the province, had even presented her with a gold inkstand! Kupfer related
all this with great animation, without giving expression, however, to any
special sentimentality, and interspersing his narrative with the questions,
'What is it to you?' and 'Why do you ask?' when Aratov, who listened to him
with devouring attention, kept asking for more and more details. All was
told at last, and Kupfer was silent, rewarding himself for his exertions
with a cigar.
'And why did she take poison?' asked Aratov. 'In the paper it was
Kupfer waved his hand. 'Well ... that I can't say ... I don't know. But the
paper tells a lie. Clara's conduct was exemplary ... no love affairs of any
kind.... And indeed how should there be with her pride! She was proud--as
Satan himself--and unapproachable! A headstrong creature! Hard as rock!
You'll hardly believe it--though I knew her so well--I never saw a tear in
'But I have,' Aratov thought to himself.
'But there's one thing,' continued Kupfer, 'of late I noticed a great
change in her: she grew so dull, so silent, for hours together there was
no getting a word out of her. I asked her even, "Has any one offended you,
Katerina Semyonovna?" For I knew her temper; she could never swallow an
affront! But she was silent, and there was no doing anything with her! Even
her triumphs on the stage didn't cheer her up; bouquets fairly showered
on her ... but she didn't even smile! She gave one look at the gold
inkstand--and put it aside! She used to complain that no one had written
the real part for her, as she conceived it. And her singing she'd given up
altogether. It was my fault, my dear boy!... I told her that you thought
she'd no musical knowledge. But for all that ... why she poisoned
herself--is incomprehensible! And the way she did it!...'
'In what part had she the greatest success?'... Aratov wanted to know in
what part she had appeared for the last time, but for some reason he asked
a different question.
'In Ostrovosky's _Gruna_, as far as I remember. But I tell you again she'd
no love affairs! You may be sure of that from one thing. She lived in her
mother's house.... You know the sort of shopkeeper's houses: in every
corner a holy picture and a little lamp before it, a deadly stuffiness,
a sour smell, nothing but chairs along the walls in the drawing-room, a
geranium in the window, and if a visitor drops in, the mistress sighs and
groans, as if they were invaded by an enemy. What chance is there for
gallantry or love-making? Sometimes they wouldn't even admit me. Their
servant, a muscular female, in a red sarafan, with an enormous bust, would
stand right across the passage, and growl, "Where are you coming?" No,
I positively can't understand why she poisoned herself. Sick of life, I
suppose,' Kupfer concluded his cogitations philosophically.
Aratov sat with downcast head. 'Can you give me the address of that house
in Kazan?' he said at last.
'Yes; but what do you want it for? Do you want to write a letter there?'
'Perhaps.' 'Well, you know best. But the old lady won't answer, for she
can't read and write. The sister, though, perhaps ... Oh, the sister's a
clever creature! But I must say again, I wonder at you, my dear boy! Such
indifference before ... and now such interest! All this, my boy, comes from
too much solitude!'
Aratov made no reply, and went away, having provided himself with the Kazan
When he was on his way to Kupfer's, excitement, bewilderment, expectation
had been reflected on his face.... Now he walked with an even gait, with
downcast eyes, and hat pulled over his brows; almost every one who met him
sent a glance of curiosity after him ... but he did not observe any one who
passed ... it was not as on the Tversky boulevard!
'Unhappy Clara! poor frantic Clara!' was echoing in his soul.
The following day Aratov spent, however, fairly quietly. He was even able
to give his mind to his ordinary occupations. But there was one thing:
both during his work and during his leisure he was continually thinking
of Clara, of what Kupfer had told him the evening before. It is true that
his meditations, too, were of a fairly tranquil character. He fancied
that this strange girl interested him from the psychological point of
view, as something of the nature of a riddle, the solution of which was
worth racking his brains over. 'Ran away with an actress living as a
kept mistress,' he pondered, 'put herself under the protection of that
princess, with whom she seems to have lived--and no _love affairs_'? It's
incredible!... Kupfer talked of pride! But in the first place we know'
(Aratov ought to have said: we have read in books),...'we know that pride
can exist side by side with levity of conduct; and secondly, how came she,
if she were so proud, to make an appointment with a man who might treat
her with contempt ... and did treat her with it ... and in a public place,
moreover ... in a boulevard!' At this point Aratov recalled all the scene
in the boulevard, and he asked himself, Had he really shown contempt for
Clara? 'No,' he decided,... 'it was another feeling ... a feeling of doubt
... lack of confidence, in fact!' 'Unhappy Clara!' was again ringing in his
head. 'Yes, unhappy,' he decided again.... 'That's the most fitting word.
And, if so, I was unjust. She said truly that I did not understand her. A
pity! Such a remarkable creature, perhaps, came so close ... and I did not
take advantage of it, I repulsed her.... Well, no matter! Life's all before
me. There will be, very likely, other meetings, perhaps more interesting!
'But on what grounds did she fix on _me_ of all the world?' He glanced into
a looking-glass by which he was passing. 'What is there special about me?
I'm not a beauty, am I? My face ... is like any face.... She was not a
beauty either, though.
'Not a beauty ... and such an expressive face! Immobile ... and yet
expressive! I never met such a face.... And talent, too, she has ... that
is, she had, unmistakable. Untrained, undeveloped, even coarse, perhaps ...
but unmistakable talent. And in that case I was unjust to her.' Aratov was
carried back in thought to the literary musical matinee ... and he observed
to himself how exceedingly clearly he recollected every word she had sung
of recited, every intonation of her voice.... 'That would not have been so
had she been without talent. And now it is all in the grave, to which she
has hastened of herself.... But I've nothing to do with that ... I'm not to
blame! It would be positively ridiculous to suppose that I'm to blame.'
It again occurred to Aratov that even if she had had 'anything of the sort'
in her mind, his behaviour during their interview must have effectually
disillusioned her.... 'That was why she laughed so cruelly, too, at
parting. Besides, what proof is there that she took poison because of
unrequited love? That's only the newspaper correspondents, who ascribe
every death of that sort to unrequited love! People of a character like
Clara's readily feel life repulsive ... burdensome. Yes, burdensome. Kupfer
was right; she was simply sick of life.
'In spite of her successes, her triumphs?' Aratov mused. He got a positive
pleasure from the psychological analysis to which he was devoting himself.
Remote till now from all contact with women, he did not even suspect all
the significance for himself of this intense realisation of a woman's soul.
'It follows,' he pursued his meditations, 'that art did not satisfy her,
did not fill the void in her life. Real artists exist only for art, for
the theatre.... Everything else is pale beside what they regard as their
vocation.... She was a dilettante.'
At this point Aratov fell to pondering again. 'No, the word dilettante did
not accord with that face, the expression of that face, those eyes....'
And Clara's image floated again before him, with eyes, swimming in tears,
fixed upon him, with clenched hands pressed to her lips....
'Ah, no, no,' he muttered, 'what's the use?'
So passed the whole day. At dinner Aratov talked a great deal with
Platosha, questioned her about the old days, which she remembered, but
described very badly, as she had so few words at her command, and except
her dear Yasha, had scarcely ever noticed anything in her life. She could
only rejoice that he was nice and good-humoured to-day; towards evening
Aratov was so far calm that he played several games of cards with his aunt.
So passed the day ... but the night!
It began well; he soon fell asleep, and when his aunt went into him
on tip-toe to make the sign of the cross three times over him in his
sleep--she did so every night--he lay breathing as quietly as a child. But
before dawn he had a dream.
He dreamed he was on a bare steppe, strewn with big stones, under a
lowering sky. Among the stones curved a little path; he walked along it.
Suddenly there rose up in front of him something of the nature of a thin
cloud. He looked steadily at it; the cloud turned into a woman in a white
gown with a bright sash round her waist. She was hurrying away from him. He
saw neither her face nor her hair ... they were covered by a long veil. But
he had an intense desire to overtake her, and to look into her face. Only,
however much he hastened, she went more quickly than he.
On the path lay a broad flat stone, like a tombstone. It blocked up the
way. The woman stopped. Aratov ran up to her; but yet he could not see her
eyes ... they were shut. Her face was white, white as snow; her hands hung
lifeless. She was like a statue.
Slowly, without bending a single limb, she fell backwards, and sank down
upon the tombstone.... And then Aratov lay down beside her, stretched out
straight like a figure on a monument, his hands folded like a dead man's.
But now the woman suddenly rose, and went away. Aratov tried to get up too
... but he could neither stir nor unclasp his hands, and could only gaze
after her in despair.
Then the woman suddenly turned round, and he saw bright living eyes, in a
living but unknown face. She laughed, she waved her hand to him ... and
still he could not move.
She laughed once more, and quickly retreated, merrily nodding her head, on
which there was a crimson wreath of tiny roses.
Aratov tried to cry out, tried to throw off this awful nightmare....
Suddenly all was darkness around ... and the woman came back to him. But
this was not the unknown statue ... it was Clara. She stood before him,
crossed her arms, and sternly and intently looked at him. Her lips were
tightly pressed together, but Aratov fancied he heard the words, 'If you
want to know what I am, come over here!'
'Where?' he asked.
'Here!' he heard the wailing answer. 'Here!'
Aratov woke up.
He sat up in bed, lighted the candle that stood on the little table by his
bedside--but did not get up--and sat a long while, chill all over, slowly
looking about him. It seemed to him as if something had happened to him
since he went to bed; that something had taken possession of him ...
something was in control of him. 'But is it possible?' he murmured
unconsciously. 'Does such a power really exist?'
He could not stay in his bed. He quickly dressed, and till morning he was
pacing up and down his room. And, strange to say, of Clara he never thought
for a moment, and did not think of her, because he had decided to go next
day to Kazan!
He thought only of the journey, of how to manage it, and what to take with
him, and how he would investigate and find out everything there, and would
set his mind at rest. 'If I don't go,' he reasoned with himself, 'why, I
shall go out of my mind!' He was afraid of that, afraid of his nerves. He
was convinced that when once he had seen everything there with his own
eyes, every obsession would vanish like that nightmare. 'And it will be
a week lost over the journey,' he thought; 'what is a week? else I shall
never shake it off.'
The rising sun shone into his room; but the light of day did not drive
away the shadows of the night that lay upon him, and did not change his
Platosha almost had a fit when he informed her of his intention. She
positively sat down on the ground ... her legs gave way beneath her. 'To
Kazan? why to Kazan?' she murmured, her dim eyes round with astonishment.
She would not have been more surprised if she had been told that her Yasha
was going to marry the baker woman next door, or was starting for America.
'Will you be long in Kazan?' 'I shall be back in a week,' answered Aratov,
standing with his back half-turned to his aunt, who was still sitting on
Platonida Ivanovna tried to protest more, but Aratov answered her in an
utterly unexpected and unheard-of way: 'I'm not a child,' he shouted,
and he turned pale all over, his lips trembled, and his eyes glittered
wrathfully. 'I'm twenty-six, I know what I'm about, I'm free to do what I
like! I suffer no one ... Give me the money for the journey, pack my box
with my clothes and linen ... and don't torture me! I'll be back in a week,
Platosha,' he added, in a somewhat softer tone.
Platosha got up, sighing and groaning, and, without further protest,
crawled to her room. Yasha had alarmed her. 'I've no head on my shoulders,'
she told the cook, who was helping her to pack Yasha's things; 'no head at
all, but a hive full of bees all a-buzz and a-hum! He's going off to Kazan,
my good soul, to Ka-a-zan!' The cook, who had observed their dvornik the
previous evening talking for a long time with a police officer, would have
liked to inform her mistress of this circumstance, but did not dare, and
only reflected, 'To Kazan! if only it's nowhere farther still!' Platonida
Ivanovna was so upset that she did not even utter her usual prayer. 'In
such a calamity the Lord God Himself cannot aid us!'
The same day Aratov set off for Kazan.
He had no sooner reached that town and taken a room in a hotel than he
rushed off to find out the house of the widow Milovidov. During the whole
journey he had been in a sort of benumbed condition, which had not,
however, prevented him from taking all the necessary steps, changing at
Nizhni-Novgorod from the railway to the steamer, getting his meals at the
stations etc., etc. He was convinced as before that _there_ everything
would be solved; and therefore he drove away every sort of memory and
reflection, confining himself to one thing, the mental rehearsal of the
_speech_, in which he would lay before the family of Clara Militch the real
cause of his visit. And now at last he reached the goal of his efforts, and
sent up his name. He was admitted ... with perplexity and alarm--still he
The house of the widow Milovidov turned out to be exactly as Kupfer had
described it; and the widow herself really was like one of the tradesmen's
wives in Ostrovsky, though the widow of an official; her husband had held
his post under government. Not without some difficulty, Aratov, after a
preliminary apology for his boldness, for the strangeness of his visit,
delivered the speech he had prepared, explaining that he was anxious to
collect all the information possible about the gifted artist so early lost,
that he was not led to this by idle curiosity, but by profound sympathy
for her talent, of which he was the devoted admirer (he said that, devoted
admirer!) that, in fact, it would be a sin to leave the public in ignorance
of what it had lost--and why its hopes were not realised. Madame Milovidov
did not interrupt Aratov; she did not understand very well what this
unknown visitor was saying to her, and merely opened her eyes rather
wide and rolled them upon him, thinking, however, that he had a quiet
respectable air, was well dressed ... and not a pickpocket ... hadn't come
'You are speaking of Katia?' she inquired, directly Aratov was silent.
'Yes ... of your daughter.'
'And you have come from Moscow for this?'
'Yes, from Moscow.'
'Only on this account?'
Madame Milovidov gave herself a sudden shake. 'Why, are you an author? Do
you write for the newspapers?'
'No, I'm not an author--and hitherto I have not written for the
The widow bowed her head. She was puzzled.
'Then, I suppose ... it's from your own interest in the matter?' she asked
suddenly. Aratov could not find an answer for a minute.
'Through sympathy, from respect for talent,' he said at last.
The word 'respect' pleased Madame Milovidov. 'Eh!' she pronounced with a
sigh ... 'I'm her mother, any way--and terribly I'm grieved for her....
Such a calamity all of a sudden!... But I must say it: a crazy girl she
always was--and what a way to meet with her end! Such a disgrace.... Only
fancy what it was for a mother? we must be thankful indeed that they gave
her a Christian burial....' Madame Milovidov crossed herself. 'From a child
up she minded no one--she left her parent's house ... and at last--sad to
say!--turned actress! Every one knows I never shut my doors upon her; I
loved her, to be sure! I was her mother, any way! she'd no need to live
with strangers ... or to go begging!...' Here the widow shed tears ... 'But
if you, my good sir,' she began, again wiping her eyes with the ends of
her kerchief, 'really have any idea of the kind, and you are not intending
anything dishonourable to us, but on the contrary, wish to show us respect,
you'd better talk a bit with my other daughter. She'll tell you everything
better than I can.... Annotchka! called Madame Milovidov, 'Annotchka, come
here! Here is a worthy gentleman from Moscow wants to have a talk about
There was a sound of something moving in the next room; but no one
appeared. 'Annotchka!' the widow called again, 'Anna Semyonovna! come here,
I tell you!'
The door softly opened, and in the doorway appeared a girl no longer very
young, looking ill--and plain--but with very soft and mournful eyes. Aratov
got up from his seat to meet her, and introduced himself, mentioning his
friend Kupfer. 'Ah! Fyodor Fedoritch?' the girl articulated softly, and
softly she sank into a chair.
'Now, then, you must talk to the gentleman,' said Madam Milovidov, getting
up heavily: 'he's taken trouble enough, he's come all the way from Moscow
on purpose--he wants to collect information about Katia. And will you, my
good sir,' she added, addressing Aratov--'excuse me ... I'm going to look
after my housekeeping. You can get a very good account of everything from
Annotchka; she will tell you about the theatre ... and all the rest of it.
She is a clever girl, well educated: speaks French, and reads books, as
well as her sister did. One may say indeed she gave her her education ...
she was older--and so she looked after it.'
Madame Milovidov withdrew. On being left alone with Anna Semyonovna, Aratov
repeated his speech to her; but realising at the first glance that he had
to do with a really cultivated girl, not a typical tradesman's daughter, he
went a little more into particulars and made use of different expressions;
but towards the end he grew agitated, flushed and felt that his heart was
throbbing. Anna listened to him in silence, her hands folded on her lap;
a mournful smile never left her face ... bitter grief, still fresh in its
poignancy, was expressed in that smile.
'You knew my sister?' she asked Aratov.
'No, I did not actually know her,' he answered. 'I met her and heard her
once ... but one need only hear and see your sister once to ...'
'Do you wish to write her biography?' Anna questioned him again.
Aratov had not expected this inquiry; however, he replied promptly, 'Why
not? But above all, I wanted to acquaint the public ...'
Anna stopped him by a motion of her hand.
'What is the object of that? The public caused her plenty of suffering
as it is; and indeed Katia had only just begun life. But if you
yourself--(Anna looked at him and smiled again a smile as mournful but more
friendly ... as though she were saying to herself, Yes, you make me feel I
can trust you) ... if you yourself feel such interest in her, let me ask
you to come and see us this afternoon ... after dinner. I can't just now
... so suddenly ... I will collect my strength ... I will make an effort
... Ah, I loved her too much!'
Anna turned away; she was on the point of bursting into sobs.
Aratov rose hurriedly from his seat, thanked her for her offer, said he
should be sure ... oh, very sure!--to come--and went off, carrying away
with him an impression of a soft voice, gentle and sorrowful eyes, and
burning in the tortures of expectation.
Aratov went back the same day to the Milovidovs and spent three whole hours
in conversation with Anna Semyonovna. Madame Milovidov was in the habit
of lying down directly after dinner--at two o'clock--and resting till
evening tea at seven. Aratov's talk with Clara's sister was not exactly a
conversation; she did almost all the talking, at first with hesitation,
with embarrassment, then with a warmth that refused to be stifled. It was
obvious that she had adored her sister. The confidence Aratov had inspired
in her grew and strengthened; she was no longer stiff; twice she even
dropped a few silent tears before him. He seemed to her to be worthy to
hear an unreserved account of all she knew and felt ... in her own secluded
life nothing of this sort had ever happened before!... As for him ... he
drank in every word she uttered.
This was what he learned ... much of it of course, half-said ... much he
filled in for himself.
In her early years, Clara had undoubtedly been a disagreeable child; and
even as a girl, she had not been much gentler; self-willed, hot-tempered,
sensitive, she had never got on with her father, whom she despised for
his drunkenness and incapacity. He felt this and never forgave her for
it. A gift for music showed itself early in her; her father gave it no
encouragement, acknowledging no art but painting, in which he himself was
so conspicuously unsuccessful though it was the means of support of himself
and his family. Her mother Clara loved,... but in a careless way, as though
she were her nurse; her sister she adored, though she fought with her
and had even bitten her.... It is true she fell on her knees afterwards
and kissed the place she had bitten. She was all fire, all passion, and
all contradiction; revengeful and kind; magnanimous and vindictive; she
believed in fate--and did not believe in God (these words Anna whispered
with horror); she loved everything beautiful, but never troubled herself
about her own looks, and dressed anyhow; she could not bear to have young
men courting her, and yet in books she only read the pages which treated of
love; she did not care to be liked, did not like caresses, but never forgot
a caress, just as she never forgot a slight; she was afraid of death and
killed herself! She used to say sometimes, 'Such a one as I want I shall
never meet ... and no other will I have!' 'Well, but if you meet him?' Anna
would ask. 'If I meet him ... I will capture him.' 'And if he won't let
himself be captured?' 'Well, then ... I will make an end of myself. It will
prove I am no good.' Clara's father--he used sometimes when drunk to ask
his wife, 'Who got you your blackbrowed she-devil there? Not I!'--Clara's
father, anxious to get her off his hands as soon as possible, betrothed
her to a rich young shopkeeper, a great blockhead, one of the so-called
'refined' sort. A fortnight before the wedding-day--she was only sixteen
at the time--she went up to her betrothed, her arms folded and her fingers
drumming on her elbows--her favourite position--and suddenly gave him a
slap on his rosy cheek with her large powerful hand! He jumped and merely
gaped; it must be said he was head over ears in love with her.... He asked:
'What's that for?' She laughed scornfully and walked off. 'I was there in
the room,' Anna related, 'I saw it all, I ran after her and said to her,
"Katia, why did you do that, really?" And she answered me: "If he'd been a
real man he would have punished me, but he's no more pluck than a drowned
hen! And then he asks, 'What's that for?' If he loves me, and doesn't bear
malice, he had better put up with it and not ask, 'What's that for?' I will
never be anything to him--never, never!" And indeed she did not marry him.
It was soon after that she made the acquaintance of that actress, and left
her home. Mother cried, but father only said, "A stubborn beast is best
away from the flock!" And he did not bother about her, or try to find her
out. My father did not understand Katia. On the day before her flight,'
added Anna, 'she almost smothered me in her embraces, and kept repeating:
"I can't, I can't help it!... My heart's torn, but I can't help it! your
cage is too small ... it cramps my wings! And there's no escaping one's
'After that,' observed Anna, 'we saw each other very seldom.... When my
father died, she came for a couple of days, would take nothing of her
inheritance, and vanished again. She was unhappy with us ... I could see
that. Afterwards she came to Kazan as an actress.'
Aratov began questioning Anna about the theatre, about the parts in which
Clara had appeared, about her triumphs.... Anna answered in detail, but
with the same mournful, though keen fervour. She even showed Aratov a
photograph, in which Clara had been taken in the costume of one of her
parts. In the photograph she was looking away, as though turning from the
spectators; her thick hair tied with a ribbon fell in a coil on her bare
arm. Aratov looked a long time at the photograph, thought it like, asked
whether Clara had taken part in public recitations, and learnt that she had
not; that she had needed the excitement of the theatre, the scenery ... but
another question was burning on his lips.
'Anna Semyonovna!' he cried at last, not loudly, but with a peculiar force,
'tell me, I implore you, tell me why did she ... what led her to this
Anna looked down. 'I don't know,' she said, after a pause of some instants.
'By God, I don't know!' she went on strenuously, supposing from Aratov's
gesture that he did not believe her.... 'since she came back here certainly
she was melancholy, depressed. Something must have happened to her in
Moscow--what, I could never guess. But on the other hand, on that fatal day
she seemed as it were ... if not more cheerful, at least more serene than
usual. Even I had no presentiment,' added Anna with a bitter smile, as
though reproaching herself for it.
'You see,' she began again, 'it seemed as though at Katia's birth it had
been decreed that she was to be unhappy. From her early years she was
convinced of it. She would lean her head on her hand, sink into thought,
and say, "I shall not live long!" She used to have presentiments. Imagine!
she used to see beforehand, sometimes in a dream and sometimes awake, what
was going to happen to her! "If I can't live as I want to live, then I
won't live,"... was a saying of hers too.... "Our life's in our own hands,
you know." And she proved that!'
Anna hid her face in her hands and stopped speaking. 'Anna Semyonovna,'
Aratov began after a short pause, 'you have perhaps heard to what the
newspapers ascribed ... "To an unhappy love affair?"' Anna broke in,
at once pulling away her hands from her face. 'That's a slander, a
fabrication!... My pure, unapproachable Katia ... Katia!... and unhappy,
unrequited love? And shouldn't I have known of it?... Every one was in love
with her ... while she ... And whom could she have fallen in love with
here? Who among all the people here, who was worthy of her? Who was up to
the standard of honesty, truth, purity ... yes, above all, of purity which
she, with all her faults, always held up as an ideal before her?... She
Anna's voice broke.... Her fingers were trembling. All at once she flushed
crimson ... crimson with indignation, and for that instant, and that
instant only, she was like her sister.
Aratov was beginning an apology.
'Listen,' Anna broke in again. 'I have an intense desire that you should
not believe that slander, and should refute it, if possible! You want
to write an article or something about her: that's your opportunity for
defending her memory! That's why I talk so openly to you. Let me tell you;
Katia left a diary ...'
Aratov trembled. 'A diary?' he muttered.
'Yes, a diary ... that is, only a few pages. Katia was not fond of writing
... for months at a time she would write nothing, and her letters were so
short. But she was always, always truthful, she never told a lie.... She,
with her pride, tell a lie! I ... I will show you this diary! You shall
see for yourself whether there is the least hint in it of any unhappy love
Anna quickly took out of a table-drawer a thin exercise-book, ten pages,
no more, and held it out to Aratov. He seized it eagerly, recognised the
irregular sprawling handwriting, the handwriting of that anonymous letter,
opened it at random, and at once lighted upon the following lines.
'Moscow, Tuesday ... June.--Sang and recited at a literary matinee. To-day
is a vital day for me. _It must decide my fate._ (These words were twice
underlined.) I saw again....' Here followed a few lines carefully erased.
And then, 'No! no! no!.... Must go back to the old way, if only ...'
Aratov dropped the hand that held the diary, and his head slowly sank upon
'Read it!' cried Anna. 'Why don't you read it? Read it through from the
beginning.... It would take only five minutes to read it all, though the
diary extends over two years. In Kazan she used to write down nothing at
Aratov got up slowly from his chair and flung himself on his knees before
She was simply petrified with wonder and dismay.
'Give me ... give me that diary,' Aratov began with failing voice, and he
stretched out both hands to Anna. 'Give it me ... and the photograph ...
you are sure to have some other one, and the diary I will return.... But I
want it, oh, I want it!...'
In his imploring words, in his contorted features there was something so
despairing that it looked positively like rage, like agony.... And he was
in agony, truly. He could not himself have foreseen that such pain could be
felt by him, and in a frenzy he implored forgiveness, deliverance ...
'Give it me,' he repeated.
'But ... you ... you were in love with my sister?' Anna said at last.
Aratov was still on his knees.
'I only saw her twice ... believe me!... and if I had not been impelled
by causes, which I can neither explain nor fully understand myself,... if
there had not been some power over me, stronger than myself.... I should
not be entreating you ... I should not have come here. I want ... I must
... you yourself said I ought to defend her memory!'
'And you were not in love with my sister?' Anna asked a second time.
Aratov did not at once reply, and he turned aside a little, as though in
'Well, then! I was! I was--I'm in love now,' he cried in the same tone of
Steps were heard in the next room.
'Get up ... get up ...' said Anna hurriedly. 'Mamma is coming.'
'And take the diary and the photograph, in God's name! Poor, poor Katia!...
But you will give me back the diary,' she added emphatically. 'And if you
write anything, be sure to send it me.... Do you hear?'
The entrance of Madame Milovidov saved Aratov from the necessity of a
reply. He had time, however, to murmur, 'You are an angel! Thanks! I will
send anything I write....'
Madame Milovidov, half awake, did not suspect anything. So Aratov left
Kazan with the photograph in the breast-pocket of his coat. The diary he
gave back to Anna; but, unobserved by her, he cut out the page on which
were the words underlined.
On the way back to Moscow he relapsed again into a state of petrifaction.
Though he was secretly delighted that he had attained the object of his
journey, still all thoughts of Clara he deferred till he should be back at
home. He thought much more about her sister Anna. 'There,' he thought, 'is
an exquisite, charming creature. What delicate comprehension of everything,
what a loving heart, what a complete absence of egoism! And how girls like
that spring up among us, in the provinces, and in such surroundings too!
She is not strong, and not good-looking, and not young; but what a splendid
helpmate she would be for a sensible, cultivated man! That's the girl I
ought to have fallen in love with!' Such were Aratov's reflections ... but
on his arrival in Moscow things put on quite a different complexion.
Platonida Ivanovna was unspeakably rejoiced at her nephew's return. There
was no terrible chance she had not imagined during his absence. 'Siberia at
least!' she muttered, sitting rigidly still in her little room; 'at least
for a year!' The cook too had terrified her by the most well-authenticated
stories of the disappearance of this and that young man of the
neighbourhood. The perfect innocence and absence of revolutionary ideas in
Yasha did not in the least reassure the old lady. 'For indeed ... if you
come to that, he studies photography ... and that's quite enough for them
to arrest him!' 'And behold, here was her darling Yasha back again, safe
and sound. She observed, indeed, that he seemed thinner, and looked hollow
in the face; natural enough, with no one to look after him! but she did not
venture to question him about his journey. She asked at dinner. 'And is
Kazan a fine town?' 'Yes,' answered Aratov. 'I suppose they're all Tartars
living there?' 'Not only Tartars.' 'And did you get a Kazan dressing-gown
while you were there?' 'No, I didn't.' With that the conversation ended.
But as soon as Aratov found himself alone in his own room, he quickly felt
as though something were enfolding him about, as though he were once more
_in the power_, yes, in the power of another life, another being. Though he
had indeed said to Anna in that sudden delirious outburst that he was in
love with Clara, that saying struck even him now as senseless and frantic.
No, he was not in love; and how could he be in love with a dead woman, whom
he had not even liked in her lifetime, whom he had almost forgotten? No,
but he was in _her_ power ... he no longer belonged to himself. He was
_captured_. So completely captured, that he did not even attempt to free
himself by laughing at his own absurdity, nor by trying to arouse if not
a conviction, at least a hope in himself that it would all pass, that it
was nothing but nerves, nor by seeking for proofs, nor by anything! 'If
I meet him, I will capture him,' he recalled those words of Clara's Anna
had repeated to him. Well, he was captured. But was not she dead? Yes,
her body was dead ... but her soul?... is not that immortal?... does it
need corporeal organs to show its power? Magnetism has proved to us the
influence of one living human soul over another living human soul.... Why
should not this influence last after death, if the soul remains living? But
to what end? What can come of it? But can we, as a rule, apprehend what is
the object of all that takes place about us? These ideas so absorbed Aratov
that he suddenly asked Platosha at tea-time whether she believed in the
immortality of the soul. She did not for the first minute understand what
his question was, then she crossed herself and answered. 'She should think
so indeed! The soul not immortal!' 'And, if so, can it have any influence
after death?' Aratov asked again. The old lady replied that it could ...
pray for us, that is to say; at least, when it had passed through all its
ordeals, awaiting the last dread judgment. But for the first forty days the
soul simply hovered about the place where its death had occurred.
'The first forty days?'
'Yes; and then the ordeals follow.'
Aratov was astounded at his aunt's knowledge, and went off to his room.
And again he felt the same thing, the same power over him. This power
showed itself in Clara's image being constantly before him to the minutest
details, such details as he seemed hardly to have observed in her lifetime;
he saw ... saw her fingers, her nails, the little hairs on her cheeks near
her temples, the little mole under her left eye; he saw the slight movement
of her lips, her nostrils, her eyebrows ... and her walk, and how she held
her head a little on the right side ... he saw everything. He did not by
any means take a delight in it all, only he could not help thinking of it
and seeing it. The first night after his return he did not, however, dream
of her ... he was very tired, and slept like a log. But directly he waked
up, she came back into his room again, and seemed to establish herself
in it, as though she were the mistress, as though by her voluntary death
she had purchased the right to it, without asking him or needing his
permission. He took up her photograph, he began reproducing it, enlarging
it. Then he took it into his head to fit it to the stereoscope. He had
a great deal of trouble to do it ... at last he succeeded. He fairly
shuddered when through the glass he looked upon her figure, with the
semblance of corporeal solidity given it by the stereoscope. But the figure
was grey, as though covered with dust ... and moreover the eyes--the eyes
looked always to one side, as though turning away. A long, long while
he stared at them, as though expecting them to turn to him ... he even
half-closed his eyelids on purpose ... but the eyes remained immovable, and
the whole figure had the look of some sort of doll. He moved away, flung
himself in an armchair, took out the leaf from her diary, with the words
underlined, and thought, 'Well, lovers, they say, kiss the words traced
by the hand of the beloved--but I feel no inclination to do that--and the
handwriting I think ugly. But that line contains my sentence.' Then he
recalled the promise he had made Anna about the article. He sat down to
the table, and set to work upon it, but everything he wrote struck him
as so false, so rhetorical ... especially so false ... as though he did
not believe in what he was writing nor in his own feelings.... And Clara
herself seemed so utterly unknown and uncomprehended! She seemed to
withhold herself from him. 'No!' he thought, throwing down the pen ...
'either authorship's altogether not my line, or I must wait a little!' He
fell to recalling his visit to the Milovidovs, and all Anna had told him,
that sweet, delightful Anna.... A word she had uttered--'pure'--suddenly
struck him. It was as though something scorched him, and shed light. 'Yes,'
he said aloud, 'she was pure, and I am pure.... That's what gave her this
Thoughts of the immortality of the soul, of the life beyond the grave
crowded upon him again. Was it not said in the Bible: 'Death, where is thy
sting?' And in Schiller: 'And the dead shall live!' (Auch die Todten sollen
And too, he thought, in Mitskevitch: 'I will love thee to the end of time
... and beyond it!' And an English writer had said: 'Love is stronger than
death.' The text from Scripture produced particular effect on Aratov....
He tried to find the place where the words occurred.... He had no Bible;
he went to ask Platosha for one. She wondered, she brought out, however, a
very old book in a warped leather binding, with copper clasps, covered with
candle wax, and handed it over to Aratov. He bore it off to his own room,
but for a long time he could not find the text ... he stumbled, however, on
another: 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life
for his friends' (S. John xv. 13).
He thought: 'That's not right. It ought to be: Greater _power_ hath no
'But if she did not lay down her life for me at all? If she made an end of
herself simply because life had become a burden to her? What if, after all,
she did not come to that meeting for anything to do with love at all?'
But at that instant he pictured to himself Clara before their parting on
the boulevard.... He remembered the look of pain on her face, and the tears
and the words, 'Ah, you understood nothing!'
No! he could have no doubt why and for whom she had laid down her life....
So passed that whole day till night-time.
Aratov went to bed early, without feeling specially sleepy, but he hoped
to find repose in bed. The strained condition of his nerves brought about
an exhaustion far more unbearable than the bodily fatigue of the journey
and the railway. However, exhausted as he was, he could not get to sleep.
He tried to read ... but the lines danced before his eyes. He put out the
candle, and darkness reigned in his room. But still he lay sleepless, with
his eyes shut.... And it began to seem to him some one was whispering
in his ear.... 'The beating of the heart, the pulse of the blood,' he
thought.... But the whisper passed into connected speech. Some one was
talking in Russian hurriedly, plaintively, and indistinctly. Not one
separate word could he catch.... But it was the voice of Clara.
Aratov opened his eyes, raised himself, leaned on his elbow.... The voice
grew fainter, but kept up its plaintive, hurried talk, indistinct as
It was unmistakably Clara's voice.
Unseen fingers ran light arpeggios up and down the keys of the piano ...
then the voice began again. More prolonged sounds were audible ... as it
were moans ... always the same over and over again. Then apart from the
rest the words began to stand out ... 'Roses ... roses ... roses....'
'Roses,' repeated Aratov in a whisper. 'Ah, yes! it's the roses I saw on
that woman's head in the dream.'... 'Roses,' he heard again.
'Is that you?' Aratov asked in the same whisper. The voice suddenly ceased.
Aratov waited ... and waited, and dropped his head on the pillow.
'Hallucinations of hearing,' he thought. 'But if ... if she really were
here, close at hand?... If I were to see her, should I be frightened? or
glad? But what should I be frightened of? or glad of? Why, of this, to be
sure; it would be a proof that there is another world, that the soul is
immortal. Though, indeed, even if I did see something, it too might be a
hallucination of the sight....'
He lighted the candle, however, and in a rapid glance, not without a
certain dread, scanned the whole room ... and saw nothing in it unusual. He
got up, went to the stereoscope ... again the same grey doll, with its eyes
averted. The feeling of dread gave way to one of annoyance. He was, as it
were, cheated in his expectations ... the very expectation indeed struck
him as absurd.
'Well, this is positively idiotic!' he muttered, as he got back into bed,
and blew out the candle. Profound darkness reigned once more.
Aratov resolved to go to sleep this time.... But a fresh sensation started
up in him. He fancied some one was standing in the middle of the room, not
far from him, and scarcely perceptibly breathing. He turned round hastily
and opened his eyes.... But what could be seen in impenetrable darkness? He
began to feel for a match on his little bedside table ... and suddenly it
seemed to him that a sort of soft, noiseless hurricane was passing over the
whole room, over him, through him, and the word 'I!' sounded distinctly in
Some instants passed before he succeeded in getting the candle alight.
Again there was no one in the room; and he now heard nothing, except the
uneven throbbing of his own heart. He drank a glass of water, and stayed
still, his head resting on his hand. He was waiting.
He thought: 'I will wait. Either it's all nonsense ... or she is here. She
is not going to play cat and mouse with me like this!' He waited, waited
long ... so long that the hand on which he was resting his head went numb
... but not one of his previous sensations was repeated. Twice his eyes
closed.... He opened them promptly ... at least he believed that he opened
them. Gradually they turned towards the door and rested on it. The candle
burned dim, and it was once more dark in the room ... but the door made
a long streak of white in the half darkness. And now this patch began to
move, to grow less, to disappear ... and in its place, in the doorway
appeared a woman's figure. Aratov looked intently at it ... Clara! And this
time she was looking straight at him, coming towards him.... On her head
was a wreath of red roses.... He was all in agitation, he sat up....
Before him stood his aunt in a nightcap adorned with a broad red ribbon,
and in a white dressing-jacket.
'Platosha!' he said with an effort. 'Is that you?'
'Yes, it's I,' answered Platonida Ivanovna ... 'I, Yasha darling, yes.'
'What have you come for?'
'You waked me up. At first you kept moaning as it were ... and then you
cried out all of a sudden, "Save me! help me! "'
'I cried out?'
'Yes, and such a hoarse cry, "Save me!" I thought, Mercy on us! He's never
ill, is he? And I came in. Are you quite well?'
'Well, you must have had a bad dream then. Would you like me to burn a
Aratov once more stared intently at his aunt, and laughed aloud.... The
figure of the good old lady in her nightcap and dressing-jacket, with her
long face and scared expression, was certainly very comic. All the
mystery surrounding him, oppressing him--everything weird was sent flying
'No, Platosha dear, there's no need,' he said. 'Please forgive me for
unwittingly troubling you. Sleep well, and I will sleep too.'
Platonida Ivanovna remained a minute standing where she was, pointed to the
candle, grumbled, 'Why not put it out ... an accident happens in a minute?'
and as she went out, could not refrain, though only at a distance, from
making the sign of the cross over him.
Aratov fell asleep quickly, and slept till morning. He even got up in a
happy frame of mind ... though he felt sorry for something.... He felt
light and free. 'What romantic fancies, if you come to think of it!'
he said to himself with a smile. He never once glanced either at the
stereoscope, or at the page torn out of the diary. Immediately after
breakfast, however, he set off to go to Kupfer's.
What drew him there ... he was dimly aware.
Aratov found his sanguine friend at home. He chatted a little with him,
reproached him for having quite forgotten his aunt and himself, listened to
fresh praises of that heart of gold, the princess, who had just sent Kupfer
from Yaroslav a smoking-cap embroidered with fish-scales ... and all at
once, sitting just opposite Kupfer and looking him straight in the face, he
announced that he had been a journey to Kazan.
'You have been to Kazan; what for?'
'Oh, I wanted to collect some facts about that ... Clara Militch.'
'The one that poisoned herself?'
Kupfer shook his head. 'Well, you are a chap! And so quiet about it! Toiled
a thousand miles out there and back ... for what? Eh? If there'd been
some woman in the case now! Then I can understand anything! anything! any
madness!' Kupfer ruffled up his hair. 'But simply to collect materials, as
it's called among you learned people.... I'd rather be excused! There are
statistical writers to do that job! Well, and did you make friends with the
old lady and the sister? Isn't she a delightful girl?'
'Delightful,' answered Aratov, 'she gave me a great deal of interesting
'Did she tell you exactly how Clara took poison?'
'You mean ... how?'
'Yes, in what manner?'
'No ... she was still in such grief ... I did not venture to question her
too much. Was there anything remarkable about it?'
'To be sure there was. Only fancy; she had to appear on the stage that very
day, and she acted her part. She took a glass of poison to the theatre
with her, drank it before the first act, and went through all that act
afterwards. With the poison inside her! Isn't that something like strength
of will? Character, eh? And, they say, she never acted her part with such
feeling, such passion! The public suspected nothing, they clapped, and
called for her.... And directly the curtain fell, she dropped down there,
on the stage. Convulsions ... and convulsions, and within an hour she was
dead! But didn't I tell you all about it? And it was in the papers too!'
Aratov's hands had grown suddenly cold, and he felt an inward shiver.
'No, you didn't tell me that,' he said at last. 'And you don't know what
play it was?
Kupfer thought a minute. 'I did hear what the play was ... there is a
betrayed girl in it.... Some drama, it must have been. Clara was created
for dramatic parts.... Her very appearance ... But where are you off to?'
Kupfer interrupted himself, seeing that Aratov was reaching after his hat.
'I don't feel quite well,' replied Aratov. 'Good-bye ... I'll come in
Kupfer stopped him and looked into his face. 'What a nervous fellow you
are, my boy! Just look at yourself.... You're as white as chalk.'
'I'm not well,' repeated Aratov, and, disengaging himself from Kupfer's
detaining hands, he started homewards. Only at that instant it became
clear to him that he had come to Kupfer with the sole object of talking of
'Unhappy Clara, poor frantic Clara....'
On reaching home, however, he quickly regained his composure to a certain
The circumstances accompanying Clara's death had at first given him a
violent shock ... but later on this performance 'with the poison inside
her,' as Kupfer had expressed it, struck him as a kind of monstrous pose, a
piece of bravado, and he was already trying not to think about it, fearing
to arouse a feeling in himself, not unlike repugnance. And at dinner, as he
sat facing Platosha, he suddenly recalled her midnight appearance, recalled
that abbreviated dressing-jacket, the cap with the high ribbon--and why
a ribbon on a nightcap?--all the ludicrous apparition which, like the
scene-shifter's whistle in a transformation scene, had dissolved all his
visions into dust! He even forced Platosha to repeat her description of how
she had heard his scream, had been alarmed, had jumped up, could not for a
minute find either his door or her own, and so on. In the evening he played
a game of cards with her, and went off to his room rather depressed, but
again fairly composed.
Aratov did not think about the approaching night, and was not afraid of
it: he was sure he would pass an excellent night. The thought of Clara
had sprung up within him from time to time; but he remembered at once how
'affectedly' she had killed herself, and turned away from it. This piece of
'bad taste' blocked out all other memories of her. Glancing cursorily into
the stereoscope, he even fancied that she was averting her eyes because she
was ashamed. Opposite the stereoscope on the wall hung a portrait of his
mother. Aratov took it from its nail, scrutinised it a long while, kissed
it and carefully put it away in a drawer. Why did he do that? Whether it
was that it was not fitting for this portrait to be so close to that woman
... or for some other reason Aratov did not inquire of himself. But his
mother's portrait stirred up memories of his father ... of his father, whom
he had seen dying in this very room, in this bed. 'What do you think of all
this, father?' he mentally addressed himself to him. 'You understand all
this; you too believed in Schiller's world of spirits. Give me advice!'
'Father would have advised me to give up all this idiocy,' Aratov said
aloud, and he took up a book. He could not, however, read for long, and
feeling a sort of heaviness all over, he went to bed earlier than usual, in
the full conviction that he would fall asleep at once.
And so it happened ... but his hopes of a quiet night were not realised.
It had not struck midnight, when he had an extraordinary and terrifying
He dreamed that he was in a rich manor-house of which he was the owner. He
had lately bought both the house and the estate attached to it. And he kept
thinking, 'It's nice, very nice now, but evil is coming!' Beside him moved
to and fro a little tiny man, his steward; he kept laughing, bowing, and
trying to show Aratov how admirably everything was arranged in his house
and his estate. 'This way, pray, this way, pray,' he kept repeating,
chuckling at every word; 'kindly look how prosperous everything is with
you! Look at the horses ... what splendid horses!' And Aratov saw a row
of immense horses. They were standing in their stalls with their backs to
him; their manes and tails were magnificent ... but as soon as Aratov went
near, the horses' heads turned towards him, and they showed their teeth
viciously. 'It's very nice,' Aratov thought! 'but evil is coming!' 'This
way, pray, this way,' the steward repeated again, 'pray come into the
garden: look what fine apples you have!' The apples certainly were fine,
red, and round; but as soon as Aratov looked at them, they withered and
fell ... 'Evil is coming,' he thought. 'And here is the lake,' lisped the
steward, 'isn't it blue and smooth? And here's a little boat of gold ...
will you get into it?... it floats of itself.' 'I won't get into it,'
thought Aratov, 'evil is coming!' and for all that he got into the boat. At
the bottom lay huddled up a little creature like a monkey; it was holding
in its paws a glass full of a dark liquid. 'Pray don't be uneasy,' the
steward shouted from the bank ... 'It's of no consequence! It's death!
Good luck to you!' The boat darted swiftly along ... but all of a sudden
a hurricane came swooping down on it, not like the hurricane of the
night before, soft and noiseless--no; a black, awful, howling hurricane!
Everything was confusion. And in the midst of the whirling darkness Aratov
saw Clara in a stage-dress; she was lifting a glass to her lips, listening
to shouts of 'Bravo! bravo!' in the distance, and some coarse voice shouted
in Aratov's ear: 'Ah! did you think it would all end in a farce? No; it's a
tragedy! a tragedy!'
Trembling all over, Aratov awoke. In the room it was not dark.... A faint
light streamed in from somewhere, and showed every thing in the gloom and
stillness. Aratov did not ask himself whence this light came.... He felt
one thing only: Clara was there, in that room ... he felt her presence ...
he was again and for ever in her power!
The cry broke from his lips, 'Clara, are you here?'
'Yes!' sounded distinctly in the midst of the lighted, still room.
Aratov inaudibly repeated his question....
'Yes!' he heard again.
'Then I want to see you!' he cried, and he jumped out of bed.
For some instants he stood in the same place, pressing his bare feet on
the chill floor. His eyes strayed about. 'Where? where?' his lips were
Nothing to be seen, not a sound to be heard.... He looked round him, and
noticed that the faint light that filled the room came from a night-light,