Part 4 out of 9
Mayakin winked his eyes and said:
"Then he has no mind."
WHEN Foma arrived in the city he was seized with sad, revengeful
anger. He was burning with a passionate desire to insult
Medinskaya, to abuse her. His teeth firmly set together, his hands
thrust deep into his pockets, he walked for a few hours in
succession about the deserted rooms of his house, he sternly
knitted his brow, and constantly threw his chest forward. His
breast was too narrow to hold his heart, which was filled with
wrath. He stamped the floor with heavy and measured steps, as
though he were forging his anger.
"The vile wretch--disguised herself as an angel!" Pelageya vividly
arose in his memory, and he whispered malignantly and bitterly:
"Though a fallen woman, she is better. She did not play the
hypocrite. She at once unfolded her soul and her body, and her
heart is surely just as her breast--white and sound."
Sometimes Hope would whisper timidly in his ear:
"Perhaps all that was said of her was a lie."
But he recalled the eager certainty of his godfather, and the power
of his words, and this thought perished. He set his teeth more
firmly together and threw his chest still more forward. Evil
thoughts like splinters of wood stuck into his heart, and his heart
was shattered by the acute pain they caused.
By disparaging Medinskaya, Mayakin made her more accessible to his
godson, and Foma soon understood this. A few days passed, and
Foma's agitated feelings became calm, absorbed by the spring
business cares. The sorrow for the loss of the individual deadened
the spite he owed the woman, and the thought of the woman's
accessibility increased his passion for her. And somehow, without
perceiving it himself, he suddenly understood and resolved that he
ought to go up to Sophya Pavlovna and tell her plainly, openly,
just what he wanted of her--that's all! He even felt a certain joy
at this resolution, and he boldly started off to Medinskaya,
thinking on the way only how to tell her best all that was
The servants of Medinskaya were accustomed to his visits, and to
his question whether the lady was at home the maid replied:
"Please go into the drawing-room. She is there alone."
He became somewhat frightened, but noticing in the mirror his
stately figure neatly clad with a frock-coat, and his swarthy,
serious face in a frame of a downy black beard, set with large dark
eyes--he raised his shoulders and confidently stepped forward
through the parlour. Strange sounds of a string instrument were
calmly floating to meet him; they seemed to burst into quiet,
cheerless laughter, complaining of something, tenderly stirring the
heart, as though imploring it for attention and having no hopes of
getting it. Foma did not like to hear music--it always filled him
with sadness. Even when the "machine" in the tavern played some sad
tune, his heart filled with melancholy anguish, and he would either
ask them to stop the "machine" or would go away some little
distance feeling that he could not listen calmly to these tunes
without words, but full of lamentation and tears. And now he
involuntarily stopped short at the door of the drawing-room.
A curtain of long strings of parti-coloured glass beads hung over
the door. The beads had been strung so as to form a fantastic
figure of some kind of plants; the strings were quietly shaking and
it seemed that pale shadows of flowers were soaring in the air.
This transparent curtain did not hide the inside of the drawing-
room from Foma's eyes. Seated on a couch in her favourite corner,
Medinskaya played the mandolin. A large Japanese umbrella, fastened
up to the wall, shaded the little woman in black by its mixture of
colours; the high bronze lamp under a red lamp-shade cast on her
the light of sunset. The mild sounds of the slender strings were
trembling sadly in the narrow room, which was filled with soft and
fragrant twilight. Now the woman lowered the mandolin on her knees
and began running her fingers over the strings, also to examine
fixedly something before her. Foma heaved a sigh.
A soft sound of music soared about Medinskaya, and her face was
forever changing as though shadows were falling on it, falling and
melting away under the flash of her eyes.
Foma looked at her and saw that when alone she was not quite so
good-looking as in the presence of people--now her face looked
older, more serious--her eyes had not the expression of kindness
and gentleness, they had a rather tired and weary look. And her
pose, too, was weary, as if the woman were about to stir but could
not. Foma noticed that the feeling which prompted him to come to
her was now changing in his heart into some other feeling. He
scraped with his foot along the floor and coughed.
"Who is that?" asked the woman, starting with alarm. And the
strings trembled, issuing an alarmed sound.
"It is I," said Foma, pushing aside the strings of the beads.
"Ah! But how quietly you've entered. I am glad to see you. Be
seated! Why didn't you come for such a long time?"
Holding out her hand to him, she pointed with the other at a small
armchair beside her, and her eyes were gaily smiling.
"I was out on the bay inspecting my steamers," said Foma, with
exaggerated ease, moving his armchair nearer to the couch.
"Is there much snow yet on the fields?"
"As much as one may want. But it is already melting considerably.
There is water on the roads everywhere."
He looked at her and smiled. Evidently Medinskaya noticed the ease
of his behaviour and something new in his smile, for she adjusted
her dress and drew farther away from him. Their eyes met--and
Medinskaya lowered her head.
"Melting!" said she, thoughtfully, examining the ring on her little
"Ye-es, streams everywhere." Foma informed her, admiring his boots.
"That's good. Spring is coming."
Now it won't be delayed long."
"Spring is coming," repeated Medinskaya, softly, as if listening to
the sounds of her words.
"People will start to fall in love," said Foma, with a smile, and
for some reason or other firmly rubbed his hands.
"Are you preparing yourself?" asked Medinskaya, drily.
"I have no need for it. I have been ready long ago. I am already in
love for all my life."
She cast a glance at him, and started to play again, looking at the
strings and saying pensively:
"Spring. How good it is that you are but beginning to live. The
heart is full of power, and there is nothing dark in it."
"Sophya Pavlovna!" exclaimed Foma, softly.She interrupted him with
a caressing gesture.
"Wait, dearest! Today I can tell you something good. Do you know, a
person who has lived long has such moments that when he looks into
his heart he unexpectedly finds there something long forgotten. For
years it lay somewhere in the depth of his heart, but lost none of
the fragrance of youth, and when memory touches it, then spring
comes over that person, breathing upon him the vivifying freshness
of the morning of his life. This is good, though it is very sad."
The strings trembled and wept under the touch of her fingers, and
it seemed to Foma that their sounds and the soft voice of the woman
were touching his heart gently and caressingly. But, still firm in
his decision, he listened to her words and, not knowing their
"You may speak! And I won't believe anything you may say."
This thought irritated him. And he felt sorry that he could not
listen to her words as attentively and trustfully as before.
"Are you thinking of how it is necessary to live?" asked the woman.
"Sometimes I think of it, and then I forget again. I have no time
for it!" said Foma and smiled. "And then, what is there to think
of? It is simple. You see how others live. Well, consequently, you
must imitate them."
"Ah, don't do this! Spare yourself. You are so good! There is
something peculiar in you; what--I do not know. But it can be felt.
And it seems to me, it will be very hard for you to get along in
life. I am sure, you will not go along the usual way of the people
of your circle. No! You cannot be pleased with a life which is
wholly devoted to gain, to hunts after the rouble, to this business
of yours. Oh, no! I know, you will have a desire for something
else, will you not?"
She spoke quickly, with a look of alarm in her eyes. Looking at
her, Foma thought:
"What is she driving at?"
And he answered her slowly:
"Perhaps I will have a desire for something else. Perhaps I have it
Drawing up closer to him, she looked into his face and spoke
"Listen! Do not live like all other people! Arrange your life
somehow differently. You are strong, young. You are good!"
"And if I am good then there must be good for me!" exclaimed Foma,
feeling that he was seized with agitation, and that his heart was
beginning to beat with anxiety.
"Ah, but that is not the case! Here on earth it is worse for the
good people than for the bad ones!" said Medinskaya, sadly.
And again the trembling notes of music began to dance at the touch
of her fingers. Foma felt that if he did not start to say at once
what was necessary, he would tell her nothing later.
"God bless me!" he said to himself, and in a lowered voice,
strengthening his heart, began:
"Sophya Pavlovna! Enough! I have something to say. I have come to
tell you: 'Enough!' We must deal fairly, openly. At first you have
attracted me to yourself, and now you are fencing away from me. I
cannot understand what you say. My mind is dull, but I can feel
that you wish to hide yourself. I can see it--do you understand now
what brought me here?"
His eyes began to flash and with each word his voice became warmer
and louder. She moved her body forward and said with alarm:
"No, I won't, I will speak!"
"I know what you want to say."
"You don't know it all!" said Foma, threateningly, rising to his
feet. "But I know everything about you--everything."
"Yes? Then the better it is for me," said Medinskaya, calmly.
She also arose from the couch, as though about to go away
somewhere, but after a few seconds she again seated herself on the
couch. Her face was serious, her lips were tightly compressed, but
her eyes were lowered, and Foma could not see their expression. He
thought that when he told her, "I know everything about you!" she
would be frightened, she would feel ashamed and confused, would ask
his forgiveness for having made sport of him. Then he would embrace
her and forgive her. But that was not the case; it was he who was
confused by her calmness. He looked at her, searching for words to
resume his speech, but found them not.
"It is better," she repeated firmly and drily. "So you have learned
everything, have you? And, of course, you've censured me, as I
deserve. I understand. I am guilty before you. But no, I cannot
She became silent and suddenly, lifting her hands with a nervous
gesture, clasped her head, and began to adjust her hair.
Foma heaved a deep sigh. Her words had killed in him a certain
hope--a hope, whose presence in his heart he only felt now that it
was dead. And shaking his head, he said, with bitter reproach:
"There was a time when I looked at you and thought, 'How beautiful
she is, how good, the dove!' And now you say yourself, 'I am
The voice of the youth broke down. And the woman began to laugh
"How fine and how ridiculous you are, and what a pity that you
cannot understand all this!"
The youth looked at her, feeling himself disarmed by her caressing
words and melancholy smile. That cold, harsh something, which he
had in his heart against her, was now melting before the warm light
of her eyes. The woman now seemed to him small, defenseless, like a
child. She was saying something in a gentle voice as though
imploring, and forever smiling, but he paid no attention to her
"I've come to you," said he, interrupting her words, "without pity.
I meant to tell you everything. And yet I said nothing. I don't
feel like doing it. My heart sank. You are breathing upon me so
strangely. Eh, I should not have seen you! What are you to me? It
would be better for me to go away, it seems."
"Wait, dearest, don't go away!" said the woman, hastily, holding
out her hand to him. "Why so severe? Do not be angry at me! What am
I to you? You need a different friend, a woman just as simple-
minded and sound-souled as you are. She must be gay, healthy. I--I
am already an old woman. I am forever worrying. My life is so empty
and so weary, so empty! Do you know, when a person has grown
accustomed to live merrily, and then cannot be merry, he feels bad!
He desires to live cheerfully, he desires to laugh, yet he does not
laugh--it is life that is laughing at him. And as to men. Listen!
Like a mother, I advise you, I beg and implore you--obey no one
except your own heart! Live in accordance with its promptings. Men
know nothing, they cannot tell you anything that is true. Do not
Trying to speak as plainly and intelligibly as possible, she was
agitated, and her words came incoherently hurriedly one after
another. A pitiful smile played on her lips all the time, and her
face was not beautiful.
"Life is very strict. It wants all people to submit to its
requests, and only the very strong ones can resist it with
impunity. It is yet questionable whether they can do it! Oh, if you
knew how hard it is to live. Man goes so far that he begins to fear
his own self. He is split into judge and criminal--he judges his
own self and seeks justification before himself. And he is willing
to pass days and nights with those that despise him, and that are
repulsive to him--just to avoid being alone with himself."
Foma lifted his head and said distrustfully, with surprise:
"I cannot understand what it is! Lubov also says the same."
"Which Lubov? What does she say?"
"My foster-sister. She says the same,--she is forever complaining
of life. It is impossible to live, she says."
"Oh, she is yet young! And it is a great happiness that she already
speaks of this."
"Happiness!" Foma drawled out mockingly. "It must be a fine
happiness that makes people sigh and complain."
"You'd better listen to complaints. There is always much wisdom in
these complaints of men. Oh! There is more wisdom in these
complaints than anywhere else. You listen to these,--they will
teach you to find your way."
Foma heard the woman's voice, which sounded convincing; and
perplexed, looked about him. Everything had long been familiar to
him, but today it looked somewhat new to him. A mass of trifles
filled the room, all the walls were covered with pictures and
shelves, bright and beautiful objects were staring from every
corner. The reddish light of the lamp filled one with melancholy.
Twilight wrapped everything in the room, and only here and there
the gold of the frames, or the white spots of marble flashed dimly.
Heavy fabrics were motionlessly hanging before the doors. All this
embarrassed and almost choked Foma; he felt as though he had lost
his way. He was sorry for the woman. But she also irritated him.
"Do you hear how I speak to you? I wish I were your mother, or your
sister. Never before did anybody awaken in me so warm and kindred a
feeling as you have done. And you, you look at me in such an
unfriendly way. Do you believe me? Yes? No?"
He looked at her and said with a sigh:
"I don't know. I used to believe you."
"And now?" she asked hastily.
"And now--it is best for me to go! I don't understand anything, and
yet I long to understand. I do not even understand myself. On my
way to you I knew what to say, and here all is confused. You have
put me up on the rack, you have set me on edge. And then you tell
me--'I am as a mother to you'--which means--begone!"
"Understand me, I feel sorry for you!" the woman exclaimed softly.
Foma's irritation against her was growing stronger and stronger,
and as he went on speaking to her, his words became absurd. While
he spoke, he kept on moving his shoulders as though tearing
something that entangled him.
"Sorry? What for? I do not need it. Eh, I cannot speak well! It is
bad to be dumb. But--I would have told you! You did not treat me
properly--indeed, why have you so enticed a man? Am I a plaything
"I only wanted to see you by my side," said the woman simply, in a
He did not hear these words.
"And when it came to the point, you were frightened and you shut
yourself off from me. You began to repent. Ha, ha! Life is bad! And
why are you always complaining of some life? What life? Man is
life, and except man there is no life. You have invented some other
monster. You have done this to deceive the eye, to justify
yourself. You do some mischief, you lose yourself in different
inventions and foolishnesses and then you sigh! Ah, life! Oh, life!
And have you not done it yourself? And covering yourself with
complaints, you confuse others. You have lost your way, very well,
but why do you want to lead me astray? Is it wickedness that speaks
in you: 'I feel bad,' you say, 'let him also feel bad--there, I'll
besprinkle his heart with my poisonous tears!' Isn't that so? Eh!
God has given you the beauty of an angel, but your heart--where is
Standing before her, he trembled in every limb, and examined her
from head to foot with reproachful looks. Now his words came freely
from his heart, he spoke not loud, but with power and pleasure. Her
head raised, the woman stared into his face, with wide-open eyes.
Her lips were trembling and deep wrinkles appeared at the corners
of her mouth.
"A beautiful person should lead a good life. While of you they say
things." Foma's voice broke down; he raised his hand and concluded
in a dull voice:
"Goodbye!" said Medinskaya, softly.
He did not give her his hand, but, turning abruptly, he walked away
from her. But already at the door he felt that he was sorry for
her, and he glanced at her across his shoulder. There, in the
corner, she stood alone, her head bent, her hands hanging
Understanding that he could not leave her thus, he became confused,
and said softly, but without repenting:
"Perhaps I said something offensive--forgive me! For after all I
love you," and he heaved a deep sigh.
The woman burst into soft, nervous laughter.
"No, you have not offended me. God speed you."
"Well, then goodbye!" repeated Foma in a still lower voice.
"Yes," replied the woman, also in a low voice.
Foma pushed aside the strings of beads with his hand; they swung
back noisily and touched his cheeks. He shuddered at this cold
touch and went out, carrying away a heavy, perplexed feeling in his
breast, with his heart beating as though a soft but strong net were
cast over it.
It was night by this time; the moon was shining and the frost
covered the puddles with coatings of dull silver. Foma walked along
the sidewalk, he broke these with his cane, and they cracked
mournfully. The shadows of the houses fell on the road in black
squares, and the shadows of the trees--in wonderful patterns. And
some of them looked like thin hands, helplessly clutching the
"What is she doing now?" thought Foma, picturing to himself the
woman, alone, in the corner of a narrow room, in the reddish half-
"It is best for me to forget her," he decided. But he could not
forget her; she stood before him, provoking in him now intense
pity, now irritation and even anger. And her image was so clear,
and the thoughts of her were so painful, as though he was carrying
this woman in his breast. A cab was coming from the opposite side,
filling the silence of the night with the jarring of the wheels on
the cobble-stones and with their creaking on the ice. When the cab
was passing across a moonlit strip, the noise was louder and more
brisk, and in the shadows it was heavier and duller. The driver and
the passenger in it were shaking and hopping about; for some reason
or other they both bent forward and together with the horse formed
one big, black mass. The street was speckled with spots of light
and shade, but in the distance the darkness seemed thick as though
the street were fenced off by a wall, rising from earth to the
skies. Somehow it occurred to Foma that these people did not know
whither they were going. And he, too, did not know whither he was
going. His house rose before his imagination--six big rooms, where
he lived alone. Aunt Anfisa had gone to the cloister, perhaps never
to return--she might die there. At home were Ivan, the old deaf
dvornik, the old maid, Sekleteya, his cook and servant, and a
black, shaggy dog, with a snout as blunt as that of a sheat-fish.
And the dog, too, was old.
"Perhaps I really ought to get married," thought Foma, with a sigh.
But the very thought of how easy it was for him to get married made
him ill at ease, and even ridiculous in his own eyes. It were but
necessary to ask his godfather tomorrow for a bride,--and before a
month would pass, a woman would live with him in his house. And she
would be near him day and night. He would say to her: "Let's go for
a walk! " and she would go. He would tell her: "Let's go to sleep!"
and again she would go. Should she desire to kiss him, she would
kiss him, even though he did not like it. And if he should tell
her: "Go away, I don't want it," she would feel offended. What
would he speak to her about? What would she tell him? He thought
and pictured to himself young ladies of his acquaintance, daughters
of merchants. Some of them were very pretty, and he knew that any
one of them would marry him willingly. But he did not care to have
any of them as his wife. How awkward and shameful it must be when a
girl becomes a wife. And what does the newly-married couple say to
each other after the wedding, in the bedroom? Foma tried to think
what he would say in such a case, and confused, he began to laugh,
finding no appropriate words. Then he recalled Luba Mayakin. She
would surely be first to say something, uttering some
unintelligible words, which were foreign to herself. Somehow it
seemed to him that all her words were foreign, and she did not
speak as was proper for a girl of her age, appearance and descent.
And here his thoughts rested on Lubov's complaints. His gait became
slower; he was now astounded by the fact that all the people that
were near to him and with whom he talked a great deal, always spoke
to him of life. His father, his aunt, his godfather, Lubov, Sophya
Pavlovna, all these either taught him to understand life, or
complained of it. He recalled the words said by the old man on the
steamer about Fate, and many other remarks on life, reproaches and
bitter complaints against it, which he happened to hear from all
sorts of people.
"What does it mean?" he thought, "what is life, if it is not man?
And man always speaks as if life were something else, something
outside of man, and that something hinders him from living. Perhaps
it is the devil?"
A painful feeling of fear fell on the youth; he shuddered and
hastily looked around. The street was deserted and quiet; the dark
windows of the houses stared dimly into the dark of night, and
along the walls and fences Foma's shadow followed him.
"Driver!" he cried out aloud, quickening his steps. The shadow
started and crawled after him, frightened, black, silent. It seemed
to Foma that there was a cold breath behind him, and that something
huge, invisible, and terrible was overtaking him. Frightened, he
almost ran to meet the cab, which appeared noisily from the
darkness, and when he seated himself in the cab, he dared not look
back, though he wished to do so.
ABOUT a week passed since Foma spoke to Medinskaya. And her image
stood fixedly before Foma by night and by day, awakening in his
heart a gnawing feeling of anxiety. He longed to go to her, and was
so much afflicted over her that even his bones were aching from the
desire of his heart to be near her again. But he was sternly
silent; he frowned and did not care to yield to this desire,
industriously occupying himself with his affairs and provoking in
himself a feeling of anger against the woman. He felt that if he
went up to her, he would no longer find her to be the same as he
had left her; something must have changed within her after that
conversation, and she would no longer receive him as cordially as
before, would not smile at him the clear smile that used to awaken
in him strange thoughts and hopes. Fearing that all this was lost
and that something else must have taken its place, he restrained
himself and suffered.
His work and his longing for the woman did not hinder him from
thinking of life. He did not philosophize about this enigma, which
was already stirring a feeling of alarm in his heart; he was not
able to argue, but he began to listen attentively to everything
that men said of life, and he tried to remember their words. They
did not make anything clear to him; nay, they increased his
perplexity and prompted him to regard them suspiciously. They were
clever, cunning and sensible--he saw it; in dealings with them it
was always necessary to be on one's guard; he knew already that in
important matters none of them spoke as they thought. And watching
them carefully, he felt that their sighs and their complaints of
life awakened in him distrust. Silently he looked at everybody with
suspicion, and a thin wrinkle masked his forehead.
One morning his godfather said to him on the Exchange:
"Anany has arrived. He would like to see you. Go up to him toward
evening, and see that you hold your tongue. Anany will try to
loosen it in order to make you talk on business matters. He is
cunning, the old devil; he is a holy fox; he'll lift his eyes
toward heaven, and meanwhile will put his paw into your pocket and
grab your purse. Be on your guard."
"Do we owe him anything?" asked Foma.
"Of course! We haven't paid yet for the barge, and then fifty five-
fathom beams were taken from him not long ago. If he wants
everything at once--don't give. A rouble is a sticky thing; the
longer it turns about in your hand, the more copecks will stick to
it. A rouble is like a good pigeon--it goes up in the air, you turn
around and see--it has brought a whole flock with it into the
"But how can we help paying it now, if he demands it?"
"Let him cry and ask for it--and you roar--but don't give it to
I'll go up there soon."
Anany Savvich Shchurov was a rich lumber-dealer, had a big saw-
mill, built barges and ran rafts. He had had dealings with Ignat,
and Foma had more than once seen this tall, heavily-bearded, long-
armed, white-haired old man, who kept himself as erect as a pine-
tree. His big, handsome figure, his open face and his clear eyes
called forth in Foma a feeling of respect for Shchurov, although he
heard it rumoured that this lumber-dealer had gained his wealth not
by honest toil and that he was leading an evil life at home, in an
obscure village of the forest district; and Ignat had told Foma
that when Shchurov was young and was but a poor peasant, he
sheltered a convict in the bath-house, in his garden, and that
there the convict made counterfeit money for him. Since that time
Anany began to grow rich. One day his bathhouse burned down, and in
the ashes they discovered the corpse of a man with a fractured
skull. There was a rumour in the village that Shchurov himself had
killed his workman--killed and then burned him. Such things had
happened more than once with the good-looking old man; but similar
rumours were on foot with reference to many a rich man in town--
they had all, it was said, hoarded up their millions by way of
robberies, murders and, mainly, by passing counterfeit money. Foma
had heard such stories in his childhood and he never before
considered whether they were true or not.
He also knew that Shchurov had got rid of two wives--one of them
died during the first night of the wedding, in Anany's embraces.
Then he took his son's wife away from him, and his son took to
drink for grief and would have perished in drunkenness had he not
come to himself in time and gone off to save himself in a
hermitage, in Irgiz. And when his mistress-daughter-in-law had
passed away, Shchurov took into his house a dumb beggar-girl, who
was living with him to this day, and who had recently borne him a
dead child. On his way to the hotel, where Anany stayed, Foma
involuntarily recalled all this, and felt that Shchurov had become
strangely interesting to him.
When Foma opened the door and stopped respectfully on the threshold
of the small room, whose only window overlooked the rusty roof of
the neighbouring house, he noticed that the old Shchurov had just
risen from sleep, and sitting on his bed, leaning his hands against
it, he stared at the ground; and he was so bent that his long,
white beard fell over his knees. But even bent, he was large.
"Who entered?" asked Anany in a hoarse and angry voice, without
lifting his head.
"I. How do you do, Anany Savvich?"
The old man raised his head slowly and, winking his large eyes,
looked at Foma.
"Ignat's son, is that right?"
"Well, come over here, sit down by the window. Let me see how
you've grown up. Will you not have a glass of tea with me?"
"I wouldn't mind."
"Waiter!" cried the old man, expanding his chest, and, taking his
beard in his hand, he began to examine Foma in silence. Foma also
looked at him stealthily.
The old man's lofty forehead was all covered with wrinkles, and its
skin was dark. Gray, curly locks covered his temples and his sharp-
pointed ears; his calm blue eyes lent the upper part of his face a
wise and good expression. But his cheeks and his lips were thick
and red, and seemed out of place on his face. His thin, long nose
was turned downward as though it wished to hide itself in his white
moustache; the old man moved his lips, and from beneath them small,
yellow teeth were gleaming. He had on a pink calico shirt, a silk
belt around his waist, and black, loose trousers, which were tucked
into his boots. Foma stared at his lips and thought that the old
man was surely such as he was said to be.
"As a boy you looked more like your father," said Shchurov
suddenly, and sighed. Then, after a moment's silence, he asked: "Do
you remember your father? Do you ever pray for him? You must, you
must pray!" he went on, after he heard Foma's brief answer. "Ignat
was a terrible sinner, and he died without repentance, taken
unawares. He was a great sinner!"
"He was not more sinful than others," replied Foma, angrily,
offended in his father's behalf.
"Than who, for instance?" demanded Shchurov, strictly.
"Are there not plenty of sinners?"
"There is but one man on earth more sinful than was the late Ignat-
-and that is that cursed heathen, your godfather Yashka,"
ejaculated the old man.
"Are you sure of it?" inquired Foma, smiling.
"I? Of course, I am!" said Shchurov, confidently, nodding his head,
and his eyes became somewhat darker. "I will also appear before the
Lord, and that not sinless. I shall bring with me a heavy burden
before His holy countenance. I have been pleasing the devil myself,
only I trust to God for His mercy, while Yashka believes in
nothing, neither in dreams, nor in the singing of birds. Yashka
does not believe in God, this I know! And for his non-belief he
will yet receive his punishment on earth."
"Are you sure of this, too?"
"Yes, I am. And don't you think I also know that you consider it
ludicrous to listen to me. What a sagacious fellow, indeed! But he
who has committed many sins is always wise. Sin is a teacher.
That's why Yashka Mayakin is extraordinarily clever."
Listening to the old man's hoarse and confident voice, Foma
"He is scenting death, it seems."
The waiter, a small man, with a face which was pale and
characterless, brought in the samovar and quickly hastened out of
the room, with short steps. The old man was undoing some bundles on
the window-sill and said, without looking at Foma:
"You are bold, and the look of your eyes is dark. Before, there
used to be more light-eyed people, because then the souls used to
be brighter. Before, everything was simpler--both the people and
the sins, and now everything has become complicated. Eh, eh!"
He made tea, seated himself opposite Foma and went on again:
"Your father at your age was a water-pumper and stayed with the
fleet near our village. At your age Ignat was as clear to me as
glass. At a single glance you could tell what sort of a man he was.
While you--here I am looking at you, but cannot see what you are.
Who are you? You don't know it yourself, my lad, and that's why
you'll suffer. Everybody nowadays must suffer, because they do not
know themselves. Life is a mass of wind-fallen trees, and you must
know how to find your way through it. Where is it? All are going
astray, and the devil is delighted. Are you married?"
"Not yet," said Foma.
"There again, you are not married, and yet, I'm quite sure, you are
not pure any longer. Well, are you working hard in your business?"
"Sometimes. Meanwhile I am with my godfather."
"What sort of work is it you have nowadays?" said the old man,
shaking his head, and his eyes were constantly twinkling, now
turning dark, now brightening up again. "You have no labour now! In
former years the merchant travelled with horses on business. Even
at night, in snowstorms, he used to go! Murderers used to wait for
him on the road and kill him. And he died a martyr, washing his
sins away with blood. Now they travel by rail; they are sending
telegrams, or they've even invented something that a man may speak
in his office and you can hear him five miles away. There the devil
surely has a hand in it! A man sits, without motion, and commits
sins merely because he feels lonesome, because he has nothing to
do: the machine does all his work. He has no work, and without toil
man is ruined! He has provided himself with machines and thinks it
is good! While the machine is the devil's trap for you. He thus
catches you in it. While toiling, you find no time for sin, but
having a machine--you have freedom. Freedom kills a man, even as
the sunbeams kill the worm, the dweller of the depth of earth.
Freedom kills man!"
And pronouncing his words distinctly and positively, the old Anany
struck the table four times with his finger. His face beamed
triumphantly, his chest rose high, and over it the silver hair of
his beard shook noiselessly. Dread fell on Foma as he looked at him
and listened to his words, for there was a ring of firm faith in
them, and it was the power of this faith that confused Foma. He had
already forgotten all he knew about the old man, all of which he
had but a while ago believed to be true.
"Whoever gives freedom to his body, kills his soul!" said Anany,
looking at Foma so strangely as if he saw behind him somebody, who
was grieved and frightened by his words; and whose fear and pain
delighted him. "All you people of today will perish through
freedom. The devil has captured you--he has taken toil away from
you, and slipped machines and telegrams into your hands. How
freedom eats into the souls of men! Just tell me, why are the
children worse than their fathers? Because of their freedom, yes.
That's why they drink and lead depraved lives with women. They have
less strength because they have less work, and they have not the
spirit of cheerfulness because they have no worries. Cheerfulness
comes in time of rest, while nowadays no one is getting tired."
"Well," said Foma, softly, "they were leading depraved lives and
drinking just as much in former days as now, I suppose."
"Do you know it? You should keep silence!" cried Anany, flashing
his eyes sternly. "In former days man had more strength, and the
sins were according to his strength. While you, of today, have less
strength, and more sins, and your sins are more disgusting. Then
men were like oak-trees. And God's judgment will also be in
accordance with their strength. Their bodies will be weighed, and
angels will measure their blood, and the angels of God will see
that the weight of the sins does not exceed the weight of the body
and the blood. Do you understand? God will not condemn the wolf for
devouring a sheep, but if a miserable rat should be guilty of the
sheep's death, God will condemn the rat!"
"How can a man tell how God will judge man?" asked Foma,
thoughtfully. "A visible trial is necessary."
"Why a visible trial?"
"That people might understand."
"Who, but the Lord, is my judge?"
Foma glanced at the old man and lowering his head, became silent.
He again recalled the fugitive convict, who was killed and burnt by
Shchurov, and again he believed that it really was so. And the
women--his wives and his mistresses--had surely been hastened
toward their graves by this old man's caresses; he had crushed them
with his bony chest, drunk the sap of their life with these thick
lips of his which were scarlet yet from the clotted blood of the
women, who died in the embraces of his long sinewy arms. And now,
awaiting death, which was already somewhere beside him, he counts
his sins, judges others, and perhaps judges himself, and says:
"Who, but the Lord, is my judge?"
"Is he afraid or not?" Foma asked himself and became pensive,
stealthily scrutinising the old man.
"Yes, my lad! Think," spoke Shchurov, shaking his head, "think, how
you are to live. The capital in your heart is small, and your
habits are great, see that you are not reduced to bankruptcy before
your own self! Ho-ho-ho!"
"How can you tell what and how much I have within my heart?" said
Foma, gloomily, offended by his laughter.
"I can see it! I know everything, because I have lived long! Oh-ho-
ho! How long I have lived! Trees have grown up and been cut down,
and houses built out of them, and even the houses have grown old.
While I have seen all this and am still alive, and when, at times,
I recall my life, I think, 'Is it possible that one man could
accomplish so much? Is it possible that I have witnessed all
this?'" The old man glanced at Foma sternly, shook his head and
It became quiet. Outside the window something was softly rustling
on the roof of the house; the rattle of wheels and the muffled
sounds of conversation were heard from below, from the street. The
samovar on the table sang a sad tune. Shchurov was fixedly staring
into his glass of tea, stroking his beard, and one could hear that
something rattled in his breast, as if some burden was turning
about in it.
"It's hard for you to live without your father, isn't it?" said he.
"I am getting used to it," replied Foma.
"You are rich, and when Yakov dies, you will be richer still. He'll
leave everything to you."
"I don't need it."
"To whom else should he leave it? He has but one daughter, and you
ought to marry that daughter, and that she is your godsister and
foster-sister--no matter! That can be arranged--and then you would
be married. What good is there in the life you are now leading? I
suppose you are forever running about with the girls?"
"You don't say! Eh, eh, eh! the merchant is passing away. A certain
forester told me--I don't know whether he lied or not--that in
former days the dogs were wolves, and then degenerated into dogs.
It is the same with our calling; we will soon also be dogs. We will
take up science, put stylish hats on our heads, we'll do everything
that is necessary in order to lose our features, and there will be
nothing by which to distinguish us from other people. It has become
a custom to make Gymnasium students of all children. The merchants,
the nobles, the commoners--all are adjusted to match the same
colour. They dress them in gray and teach them all the same
subjects. They grow man even as they grow a tree. Why do they do
it? No one knows. Even a log could be told from another by its knot
at least, while here they want to plane the people over so that all
of them should look alike. The coffin is already waiting for us old
people. Ye-es! It may be that about fifty years hence, no one will
believe that I lived in this world. I, Anany, the son of Savva, by
the surname of Shchurov. So! And that I, Anany, feared no one, save
God. And that in my youth I was a peasant, that all the land I
possessed then was two desyatins and a quarter; while toward my old
age I have hoarded up eleven thousand desyatins, all forests, and
perhaps two millions in cash."
"There, they always speak of money!" said Foma, with
dissatisfaction. "What joy does man derive from money?""Mm,"
bellowed Shchurov. "You will make a poor merchant, if you do not
understand the power of money."
"Who does understand it?" asked Foma.
"I!" said Shchurov, with confidence. "And every clever man. Yashka
understands it. Money? That is a great deal, my lad! Just spread it
out before you and think, 'What does it contain?' Then will you
know that all this is human strength, human mind. Thousands of
people have put their life into your money and thousands more will
do it. And you can throw it all into the fire and see how the money
is burning, and at that moment you will consider yourself master."
"But nobody does this."
"Because fools have no money. Money is invested in business.
Business gives bread to the masses. And you are master over all
those masses. Wherefore did God create man? That man should pray to
Him. He was alone and He felt lonesome, so He began to desire
power, and as man was created in the image of the Lord, man also
desires power. And what, save money, can give power? That's the
way. Well, and you--have you brought me money?"
"No," answered Foma. From the words of the old man Foma's head was
heavy and troubled, and he was glad that the conversation had, at
last, turned to business matters.
"That isn't right," said Shchurov, sternly knitting his brow. "It
is overdue--you must pay.
"You'll get a half of it tomorrow."
"Why a half? Why not all?"
"We are badly in need of money now."
"And haven't you any? But I also need it."
"Wait a little."
"Eh, my lad, I will not wait! You are not your father. Youngsters
like you, milksops, are an unreliable lot. In a month you may break
up the whole business. And I would be the loser for it. You give me
all the money tomorrow, or I'll protest the notes. It wouldn't take
me long to do it!"
Foma looked at Shchurov, with astonishment. It was not at all that
same old man, who but a moment ago spoke so sagaciously about the
devil. Then his face and his eyes seemed different, and now he
looked fierce, his lips smiled pitilessly, and the veins on his
cheeks, near his nostrils, were eagerly trembling. Foma saw that if
he did not pay him at once, Shchurov would indeed not spare him and
would dishonour the firm by protesting the notes.
"Evidently business is poor?" grinned Shchurov. "Well, tell the
truth--where have you squandered your father's money?"
Foma wanted to test the old man:
"Business is none too brisk," said he, with a frown. "We have no
contracts. We have received no earnest money, and so it is rather
"So-o! Shall I help you out?"
"Be so kind. Postpone the day of payment," begged Foma, modestly
lowering his eyes.
"Mm. Shall I assist you out of my friendship for your father? Well,
be it so, I'll do it."
"And for how long will you postpone it?" inquired Foma.
"For six months."
"I thank you humbly."
"Don't mention it. You owe me eleven thousand six hundred roubles.
Now listen: rewrite the notes for the amount of fifteen thousand,
pay me the interest on this sum in advance. And as security I'll
take a mortgage on your two barges."
Foma rose from the chair and said, with a smile:
"Send me the notes tomorrow. I'll pay you in full."
Shchurov also rose from his chair and, without lowering his eyes at
Foma's sarcastic look, said, calmly scratching his chest:
"That's all right."
"Thank you for your kindness."
"That's nothing! You don't give me a chance, or I would have shown
you my kindness!" said the old man lazily, showing his teeth.
"Yes! If one should fall into your hands--"
"He'd find it warm--"
"I am sure you'd make it warm for him."
"Well, my lad, that will do!" said Shchurov, sternly. "Though you
consider yourself quite clever, it is rather too soon. You've
gained nothing, and already you began to boast! But you just win
from me--then you may shout for joy. Goodbye. Have all the money
"Don't let that trouble you. Goodbye!"
"God be with you!"
When Foma came out of the room he heard that the old man gave a
slow, loud yawn, and then began to hum in a rather hoarse bass:
"Open for us the doors of mercy. Oh blessed Virgin Mary!"
Foma carried away with him from the old man a double feeling.
Shchurov pleased him and at the same time was repulsive to him.
He recalled the old man's words about sin, thought of the power of
his faith in the mercy of the Lord, and the old man aroused in Foma
a feeling akin to respect.
"He, too, speaks of life; he knows his sins; but does not weep over
them, does not complain of them. He has sinned--and he is willing
to stand the consequences. Yes. And she?" He recalled Medinskaya,
and his heart contracted with pain.
"And she is repenting. It is hard to tell whether she does it
purposely, in order to hide from justice, or whether her heart is
really aching. 'Who, but the Lord,' says he, 'is to judge me?'
That's how it is."
It seemed to Foma that he envied Anany, and the youth hastened to
recall Shchurov's attempts to swindle him. This called forth in him
an aversion for the old man He could not reconcile his feelings
and, perplexed, he smiled.
"Well, I have just been at Shchurov's," he said, coming to Mayakin
and seating himself by the table.
Mayakin, in a greasy morning-gown, a counting-board in his hand,
began to move about in his leather-covered arm-chair impatiently,
and said with animation:
"Pour out some tea for him, Lubava! Tell me, Foma, I must be in the
City Council at nine o'clock; tell me all about it, make haste!"
Smiling, Foma related to him how Shchurov suggested to rewrite the
"Eh!" exclaimed Yakov Tarasovich regretfully, with a shake of the
head. "You've spoilt the whole mass for me, dear! How could you be
so straightforward in your dealings with the man? Psha! The devil
drove me to send you there! I should have gone myself. I would have
turned him around my finger!"
"Hardly! He says, 'I am an oak.'"
"An oak? And I am a saw. An oak! An oak is a good tree, but its
fruits are good for swine only. So it comes out that an oak is
simply a blockhead."
"But it's all the same, we have to pay, anyway."
"Clever people are in no hurry about this; while you are ready to
run as fast as you can to pay the money. What a merchant you are!"
Yakov Tarasovich was positively dissatisfied with his godson. He
frowned and in an angry manner ordered his daughter, who was
silently pouring out tea:
"Push the sugar nearer to me. Don't you see that I can't reach it?"
Lubov's face was pale, her eyes seemed troubled, and her hands
moved lazily and awkwardly. Foma looked at her and thought:
"How meek she is in the presence of her father."
"What did he speak to you about?" asked Mayakin.
"Well, of course! His own affair is dearest to each and every man.
And he is a manufacturer of sins. Both in the galleys and in hell
they have long been weeping and longing for him, waiting for him
"He speaks with weight," said Foma, thoughtfully, stirring his tea.
"Did he abuse me?" inquired Mayakin, with a malicious grimace.
"And what did you do?"
"Mm! And what did you hear?"
"'The strong,' he says, ' will be forgiven; but there is no
forgiveness for the weak.'"
"Just think of it! What wisdom! Even the fleas know that."
For some reason or another, the contempt with which Mayakin
regarded Shchurov, irritated Foma, and, looking into the old man's
face, he said with a grin:
"But he doesn't like you."
"Nobody likes me, my dear," said Mayakin, proudly. "There is no
reason why they should like me. I am no girl. But they respect me.
And they respect only those they fear." And the old man winked at
his godson boastfully.
"He speaks with weight," repeated Foma. "He is complaining. 'The
real merchant,' says he, 'is passing away. All people are taught
the same thing,' he says: 'so that all may be equal, looking
"Does he consider it wrong?"
"Fo-o-o-l!" Mayakin drawled out, with contempt.
"Why? Is it good?" asked Foma, looking at his godfather
"We do not know what is good; but we can see what is wise. When we
see that all sorts of people are driven together in one place and
are all inspired there with one and the same idea--then must we
acknowledge that it is wise. Because--what is a man in the empire?
Nothing more than a simple brick, and all bricks must be of the
same size. Do you understand? And those people that are of equal
height and weight--I can place in any position I like."
"And whom does it please to be a brick?" said Foma, morosely.
"It is not a question of pleasing, it is a matter of fact. If you
are made of hard material, they cannot plane you. It is not
everybody's phiz that you can rub off. But some people, when beaten
with a hammer, turn into gold. And if the head happens to crack--
what can you do?It merely shows it was weak."
"He also spoke about toil. 'Everything,' he says, 'is done by
machinery, and thus are men spoiled."'
"He is out of his wits!" Mayakin waved his hand disdainfully. "I am
surprised, what an appetite you have for all sorts of nonsense!
What does it come from?"
"Isn't that true, either?" asked Foma, breaking into stern
"What true thing can he know? A machine! The old blockhead should
have thought--'what is the machine made of?' Of iron! Consequently,
it need not be pitied; it is wound up--and it forges roubles for
you. Without any words, without trouble, you set it into motion and
it revolves. While a man, he is uneasy and wretched; he is often
very wretched. He wails, grieves, weeps, begs. Sometimes he gets
drunk. Ah, how much there is in him that is superfluous to me!
While a machine is like an arshin (yardstick), it contains exactly
so much as the work required. Well, I am going to dress. It is
He rose and went away, loudly scraping with his slippers along the
floor. Foma glanced after him and said softly, with a frown:
"The devil himself could not see through all this. One says this,
the other, that."
"It is precisely the same with books," said Lubov in a low voice.
Foma looked at her, smiling good-naturedly. And she answered him
with a vague smile.
Her eyes looked fatigued and sad.
"You still keep on reading?" asked Foma.
"Yes," the girl answered sadly.
"And are you still lonesome?"
"I feel disgusted, because I am alone. There's no one here to say a
She said nothing to this, but, lowering her head, she slowly began
to finger the fringes of the towel.
"You ought to get married," said Foma, feeling that he pitied her.
"Leave me alone, please," answered Lubov, wrinkling her forehead.
"Why leave you alone? You will get married, I am sure."
"There!" exclaimed the girl softly, with a sigh. "That's just what
I am thinking of--it is necessary. That is, I'll have to get
married. But how? Do you know, I feel now as though a mist stood
between other people and myself--a thick, thick mist!"
"That's from your books," Foma interposed confidently.
"Wait! And I cease to understand what is going on about me. Nothing
pleases me. Everything has become strange to me. Nothing is as it
should be. Everything is wrong. I see it. I understand it, yet I
cannot say that it is wrong, and why it is so."
"It is not so, not so," muttered Foma. "That's from your books.
Yes. Although I also feel that it's wrong. Perhaps that is because
we are so young and foolish."
"At first it seemed to me," said Lubov, not listening to him, "that
everything in the books was clear to me. But now--"
"Drop your books," suggested Foma, with contempt.
"Ah, don't say that! How can I drop them? You know how many
different ideas there are in the world! O Lord! They're such ideas
that set your head afire. According to a certain book everything
that exists on earth is rational."
"Everything?" asked Foma.
"Everything! While another book says the contrary is true."
"Wait! Now isn't this nonsense?"
"What were you discussing?" asked Mayakin, appearing at the door,
in a long frock-coat and with several medals on his collar and his
"Just so," said Lubov, morosely.
"We spoke about books," added Foma.
"What kind of books?"
"The books she is reading. She read that everything on earth is
"Well, and I say it is a lie!"
"Yes." Yakov Tarasovich became thoughtful, he pinched his beard and
winked his eyes a little.
"What kind of a book is it?" he asked his daughter, after a pause.
"A little yellow-covered book," said Lubov, unwillingly.
"Just put that book on my table. That is said not without
reflection--everything on earth is rational! See someone thought of
it. Yes. It is even very cleverly expressed. And were it not for
the fools, it might have been perfectly correct. But as fools are
always in the wrong place, it cannot be said that everything on
earth is rational. And yet, I'll look at the book. Maybe there is
common sense in it. Goodbye, Foma! Will you stay here, or do you
want to drive with me?"
"I'll stay here a little longer."
Lubov and Foma again remained alone.
"What a man your father is," said Foma, nodding his head toward the
direction of his godfather.
"Well, what kind of a man do you think he is?"
"He retorts every call, and wants to cover everything with his
"Yes, he is clever. And yet he does not understand how painful my
life is," said Lubov, sadly.
"Neither do I understand it. You imagine too much."
"What do I imagine?" cried the girl, irritated.
"Why, all these are not your own ideas. They are someone else's."
"Someone else's. Someone else's."
She felt like saying something harsh; but broke down and became
silent. Foma looked at her and, setting Medinskaya by her side,
"How different everything is--both men and women--and you never
They sat opposite each other; both were lost in thought, and
neither one looked at the other. It was getting dark outside, and
in the room it was quite dark already. The wind was shaking the
linden-trees, and their branches seemed to clutch at the walls of
the house, as though they felt cold and implored for shelter in the
"Luba!" said Foma, softly.
She raised her head and looked at him.
"Do you know, I have quarrelled with Medinskaya."
"Why?" asked Luba, brightening up.
"So. It came about that she offended me. Yes, she offended me."
"Well, it's good that you've quarrelled with her," said the girl,
approvingly, "for she would have turned your head. She is a vile
creature; she is a coquette, even worse than that. Oh, what things
I know about her!"
"She's not at all a vile creature," said Foma, morosely. "And you
don't know anything about her. You are all lying!"
"Oh, I beg your pardon!"
"No. See here, Luba," said Foma, softly, in a beseeching tone,
"don't speak ill of her in my presence. It isn't necessary. I know
everything. By God! She told me everything herself."
"Herself!" exclaimed Luba, in astonishment. "What a strange woman
she is! What did she tell you?"
"That she is guilty," Foma ejaculated with difficulty, with a wry
"Is that all?" There was a ring of disappointment in the girl's
question; Foma heard it and asked hopefully:
"Isn't that enough?"
"What will you do now?"
"That's just what I am thinking about."
"Do you love her very much?"
Foma was silent. He looked into the window and answered confusedly:
"I don't know. But it seems to me that now I love her more than
"Than before the quarrel?"
"I wonder how one can love such a woman!" said the girl, shrugging
"Love such a woman? Of course! Why not?" exclaimed Foma.
"I can't understand it. I think, you have become attached to her
just because you have not met a better woman."
"No, I have not met a better one!" Foma assented, and after a
moment's silence said shyly, "Perhaps there is none better."
"Among our people," Lubov interposed.
"I need her very badly! Because, you see, I feel ashamed before
"Oh, in general, I fear her; that is, I would not want her to think
ill of me, as of others. Sometimes I feel disgusted. I think--
wouldn't it be a great idea to go out on such a spree that all my
veins would start tingling. And then I recall her and I do not
venture. And so everything else, I think of her, 'What if she finds
it out?' and I am afraid to do it."
"Yes," the girl drawled out thoughtfully, "that shows that you love
her. I would also be like this. If I loved, I would think of him--
of what he might say..."
"And everything about her is so peculiar," Foma related softly.
"She speaks in a way all her own. And, God! How beautiful she is!
And then she is so small, like a child."
"And what took place between you?" asked Lubov.
Foma moved his chair closer to her, and stooping, he lowered his
voice for some reason or other, and began to relate to her all that
had taken place between him and Medinskaya. He spoke, and as he
recalled the words he said to Medinskaya, the sentiments that
called forth the words were also awakened in him.
"I told her, 'Oh, you! why did you make sport of me?'" he said
angrily and with reproach.
And Luba, her cheeks aflame with animation, spurred him on, nodding
her head approvingly:
"That's it! That's good! Well, and she?"
"She was silent!" said Foma, sadly, with a shrug of the shoulders.
"That is, she said different things; but what's the use?"
He waved his hand and became silent. Luba, playing with her braid,
was also silent. The samovar had already become cold. And the
dimness in the room was growing thicker and thicker, outside the
window it was heavy with darkness, and the black branches of the
linden-trees were shaking pensively.
"You might light the lamp," Foma went on.
"How unhappy we both are," said Luba, with a sigh.
Foma did not like this.
"I am not unhappy," he objected in a firm voice. "I am simply--not
yet accustomed to life."
"He who knows not what he is going to do tomorrow, is unhappy,"
said Luba, sadly. "I do not know it, neither do you. Whither go?
Yet go we must, Why is it that my heart is never at ease? Some kind
of a longing is always quivering within it."
"It is the same with me," said Foma. " I start to reflect, but on
what? I cannot make it clear to myself. There is also a painful
gnawing in my heart. Eh! But I must go up to the club."
"Don't go away," Luba entreated.
"I must. Somebody is waiting there for me. I am going. Goodbye!"
"Till we meet again!" She held out her hand to him and sadly looked
into his eyes.
"Will you go to sleep now?" asked Foma, firmly shaking her hand.
"I'll read a little."
"You're to your books as the drunkard to his whisky," said the
youth, with pity.
"What is there that is better?"
Walking along the street he looked at the windows of the house and
in one of them he noticed Luba's face. It was just as vague as
everything that the girl told him, even as vague as her longings.
Foma nodded his head toward her and with a consciousness of his
superiority over her, thought:
"She has also lost her way, like the other one."
At this recollection he shook his head, as though he wanted to
frighten away the thought of Medinskaya, and quickened his steps.
Night was coming on, and the air was fresh. A cold, invigorating
wind was violently raging in the street, driving the dust along the
sidewalks and throwing it into the faces of the passers-by. It was
dark, and people were hastily striding along in the darkness. Foma
wrinkled his face, for the dust filled his eyes, and thought:
"If it is a woman I meet now--then it will mean that Sophya
Pavlovna will receive me in a friendly way, as before. I am going
to see her tomorrow. And if it is a man--I won't go tomorrow, I'll
But it was a dog that came to meet him, and this irritated Foma to
such an extent that he felt like striking him with his cane.
In the refreshment-room of the club, Foma was met by the jovial
Ookhtishchev. He stood at the door, and chatted with a certain
stout, whiskered man; but, noticing Gordyeeff, he came forward to
meet him, saying, with a smile:
"How do you do, modest millionaire!" Foma rather liked him for his
jolly mood, and was always pleased to meet him.
Firmly and kind-heartedly shaking Ookhtishchev's hand, Foma asked
"And what makes you think that I am modest?"
"What a question! A man, who lives like a hermit, who neither
drinks, nor plays, nor likes any women. By the way, do you know,
Foma Ignatyevich, that peerless patroness of ours is going abroad
tomorrow for the whole summer?"
"Sophya Pavlovna?" asked Foma, slowly. "Of course! The sun of my
life is setting. And, perhaps, of yours as well?"
Ookhtishchev made a comical, sly grimace and looked into Foma's
And Foma stood before him, feeling that his head was lowering on
his breast, and that he was unable to hinder it.
"Yes, the radiant Aurora."
"Is Medinskaya going away?" a deep bass voice asked. "That's fine!
I am glad."
"May I know why?" exclaimed Ookhtishchev. Foma smiled sheepishly
and stared in confusion at the whiskered man, Ookhtishchev's
That man was stroking his moustache with an air of importance, and
deep, heavy, repulsive words fell from his lips on Foma's ears.
"Because, you see, there will be one co-cot-te less in town."
"Shame, Martin Nikitich!" said Ookhtishchev, reproachfully,
knitting his brow.
"How do you know that she is a coquette?" asked Foma, sternly,
coming closer to the whiskered man. The man measured him with a
scornful look, turned aside and moving his thigh, drawled out:
"I didn't say--coquette."
"Martin Nikitich, you mustn't speak that way about a woman who--"
began Ookhtishchev in a convincing tone, but Foma interrupted him:
"Excuse me, just a moment! I wish to ask the gentleman, what is the
meaning of the word he said?"
And as he articulated this firmly and calmly, Foma thrust his hands
deep into his trousers-pockets, threw his chest forward, which at
once gave his figure an attitude of defiance. The whiskered
gentleman again eyed Foma with a sarcastic smile.
"Gentlemen!" exclaimed Ookhtishchev, softly.
"I said, co-cot-te," pronounced the whiskered man, moving his lips
as if he tasted the word. "And if you don't understand it, I can
explain it to you."
"You had better explain it," said Foma, with a deep sigh, not
lifting his eyes off the man.
Ookhtishchev clasped his hands and rushed aside.
"A cocotte, if you want to know it, is a prostitute," said the
whiskered man in a low voice, moving his big, fat face closer to
Foma gave a soft growl and, before the whiskered man had time to
move away, he clutched with his right hand his curly, grayish hair.
With a convulsive movement of the hand, Foma began to shake the
man's head and his big, solid body; lifting up his left hand, he
spoke in a dull voice, keeping time to the punishment:
"Don't abuse a person--in his absence. Abuse him--right in his
face--straight in his eyes."
He experienced a burning delight, seeing how comically the stout
arms were swinging in the air, and how the legs of the man, whom he
was shaking, were bending under him, scraping against the floor.
His gold watch fell out of the pocket and dangled on the chain,
over his round paunch. Intoxicated with his own strength and with
the degradation of the sedate man, filled with the burning feeling
of malignancy, trembling with the happiness of revenge, Foma
dragged him along the floor and in a dull voice, growled wickedly,
in wild joy. In these moments he experienced a great feeling--the
feeling of emancipation from the wearisome burden which had long
oppressed his heart with grief and morbidness. He felt that he was
seized by the waist and shoulders from behind, that someone seized
his hand and bent it, trying to break it; that someone was crushing
his toes; but he saw nothing, following with his bloodshot eyes the
dark, heavy mass moaning and wriggling in his hand. Finally, they
tore him away and downed him, and, as through a reddish mist, he
noticed before him on the floor, at his feet, the man he had
thrashed. Dishevelled, he was moving his legs over the floor,
attempting to rise; two dark men were holding him by the arms, his
hands were dangling in the air like broken wings, and, in a voice
that was choking with sobs, he cried to Foma:
"You mustn't beat me! You mustn't! I have an...
Order. You rascal! Oh, rascal! I have children.
Everybody knows me! Scoundrel! Savage, 0--0--0! You may expect a
And Ookhtishchev spoke loudly in Foma's ear:
"Come, my dear boy, for God's sake!"
"Wait, I'll give him a kick in the face," begged Foma. But he was
dragged off. There was a buzzing in his ears, his heart beat fast,
but he felt relieved and well. At the entrance of the club he
heaved a deep sigh of relief and said to Ookhtishchev, with a good-
"I gave him a sound drubbing, didn't I?"
"Listen! "exclaimed the gay secretary, indignantly. "You must
pardon me but that was the act of a savage! The devil take it. I
never witnessed such a thing before!"
"My dear man!" said Foma, friendly, "did he not deserve the
drubbing? Is he not a scoundrel? How can he speak like that behind
a person's back? No! Let him go to her and tell it plainly to her
"Excuse me. The devil take you! But it wasn't for her alone that
you gave him the drubbing?"
"That is, what do you mea,--not for her alone? For whom then?"
asked Foma, amazed.
"For whom? I don't know. Evidently you had old accounts to settle!
0h Lord! That was a scene! I shall not forget it in all my life!"
"He--that man--who is he?" asked Foma, and suddenly burst out
laughing. "How he roared, the fool!"
Ookhtishchev looked fixedly into his face and asked:
"Tell me, is it true, that you don't know whom you've thrashed? And
is it really only for Sophya Pavlovna?"
"It is, by God!" avowed Foma.
"So, the devil knows what the result may be!" He stopped short,
shrugged his shoulders perplexedly, waved his hand, and again began
to pace the sidewalk, looking at Foma askance. "You'll pay for
this, Foma Ignatyevich."
"Will he take me to court?"
"Would to God he does. He is the Vice-Governor's son-in-law,"
"Is that so?" said Foma, slowly, and made a long face.
"Yes. To tell the truth, he is a scoundrel and a rascal. According
to this fact I must admit, that he deserves a drubbing. But taking
into consideration the fact that the lady you defended is also--"
"Sir!" said Foma, firmly, placing his hand on Ookhtishchev's
shoulder, "I have always liked you, and you are now walking with
me. I understand it and can appreciate it. But do not speak ill of
her in my presence. Whatever she may be in your opinion, in my
opinion, she is dear to me. To me she is the best woman. So I am
telling you frankly. Since you are going with me, do not touch her.
I consider her good, therefore she is good."
There was great emotion in Foma's voice. Ookhtishchev looked at him
and said thoughtfully:
"You are a queer man, I must confess."
"I am a simple man--a savage. I have given him a thrashing and now
I feel jolly, and as to the result, let come what will.'
"I am afraid that it will result in something bad. Do you know--to
be frank, in return for your frankness--I also like you, although--
Mm! It is rather dangerous to be with you. Such a knightly temper
may come over you and one may get a thrashing at your hands."
"How so? This was but the first time. I am not going to beat people
every day, am I?" said Foma, confused. His companion began to
"What a monster you are! Listen to me--it is savage to fight--you
must excuse me, but it is abominable. Yet, I must tell you, in this
case you made a happy selection. You have thrashed a rake, a cynic,
a parasite--a man who robbed his nephews with impunity."
"Well, thank God for that!" said Foma with satisfaction. "Now I
have punished him a little."
"A little? Very well, let us suppose it was a little. But listen to
me, my child, permit me to give you advice. I am a man of the law.
He, that Kayazev, is a rascal! True! But you must not thrash even a
rascal, for he is a social being, under the paternal custody of the
law. You cannot touch him until he transgresses the limits of the
penal code. But even then, not you, but we, the judges, will give
him his due. While you must have patience."
"And will he soon fall into your hands?" inquired Foma, naively.
"It is hard to tell. Being far from stupid, he will probably never
be caught, and to the end of his days he will live with you and me
in the same degree of equality before the law. 0h God, what I am
telling you!" said Ookhtishchev, with a comical sigh.
"Betraying secrets?" grinned Foma.
"It isn't secrets; but I ought not to be frivolous. De-e-evil! But
then, this affair enlivened me. Indeed, Nemesis is even then true
to herself when she simply kicks like a horse."
Foma stopped suddenly, as though he had met an obstacle on his way.
"Nemesis--the goddess of Justice," babbled Ookhtishchev. "What's
the matter with you?"
"And it all came about," said Foma, slowly, in a dull voice,
"because you said that she was going away."
"Yes, she is going away. Well?"
He stood opposite Foma and stared at him, with a smile in his eyes.
Gordyeeff was silent, with lowered head, tapping the stone of the
sidewalk with his cane.
"Come," said Ookhtishchev.
Foma started, saying indifferently:
"Well, let her go. And I am alone." Ookhtishchev, waving his cane,
began to whistle, looking at his companion.
"Sha'n't I be able to get along without her?" asked Foma, looking
somewhere in front of him and then, after a pause, he answered
himself softly and irresolutely:
"Of course, I shall."
"Listen to me!" exclaimed Ookhtishchev. "I'll give you some good
advice. A man must be himself. While you, you are an epic man, so
to say, and the lyrical is not becoming to you. It isn't your
"Speak to me more simply, sir," said Foma, having listened
attentively to his words.
"More simply? Very well. I want to say, give up thinking of this
little lady. She is poisonous food for you."
"She told me the same," put in Foma, gloomily.
"She told you?" Ookhtishchev asked and became thoughtful. "Now,
I'll tell you, shouldn't we perhaps go and have supper?"
"Let's go," Foma assented. And he suddenly roared obdurately,
clinching his fists and waving them in the air: "Well, let us go,
and I'll get wound up; I'll break loose, after all this, so you
can't hold me back!"
"What for? We'll do it modestly."
"No! wait!" said Foma, anxiously, seizing him by the shoulder.
"What's that? Am I worse than other people? Everybody lives,
whirls, hustles about, has his own point. While I am weary.
Everybody is satisfied with himself. And as to their complaining,
they lie, the rascals! They are simply pretending for beauty's
sake. I have no reason to pretend. I am a fool. I don't understand
anything, my dear fellow. I simply wish to live! I am unable to
think. I feel disgusted; one says this, another that! Pshaw! But
she, eh! If you knew. My hope was in her. I expected of her--just
what I expected, I cannot tell; but she is the best of women! And I
had so much faith in her--when sometimes she spoke such peculiar
words, all her own. Her eyes, my dear boy, are so beautiful! 0h
Lord! I was ashamed to look upon them, and as I am telling you, she
would say a few words, and everything would become clear to me. For
I did not come to her with love alone--I came to her with all my
soul! I sought--I thought that since she was so beautiful,
consequently, I might become a man by her side!"
Ookhtishchev listened to the painful, unconnected words that burst
from his companion's lips. He saw how the muscles of his face
contracted with the effort to express his thoughts, and he felt
that behind this bombast there was a great, serious grief. There
was something intensely pathetic in the powerlessness of this
strong and savage youth, who suddenly started to pace the sidewalk
with big, uneven steps. Skipping along after him with his short
legs, Ookhtishchev felt it his duty somehow to calm Foma.
Everything Foma had said and done that evening awakened in the
jolly secretary a feeling of lively curiosity toward Foma, and then
he felt flattered by the frankness of the young millionaire. This
frankness confused him with its dark power; he was disconcerted by
its pressure, and though, in spite of his youth, he had a stock of
words ready for all occasions in life, it took him quite awhile to
"I feel that everything is dark and narrow about me," said
Gordyeeff. "I feel that a burden is falling on my shoulders, but
what it is I cannot understand! It puts a restraint on me, and it
checks the freedom of my movements along the road of life.
Listening to people, you hear that each says a different thing. But
she could have said--"
"Eh, my dear boy!" Ookhtishchev interrupted Foma, gently taking his
arm. "That isn't right! You have just started to live and already
you are philosophizing! No, that is not right! Life is given us to
live! Which means--live and let others live. That's the philosophy!
And that woman. Bah! Is she then the only one in the world? The
world is large enough. If you wish, I'll introduce you to such a
virile woman, that even the slightest trace of your philosophy
would at once vanish from your soul! Oh, a remarkable woman! And
how well she knows how to avail herself of life! Do you know,
there's also something epic about her? She is beautiful; a Phryne,
I may say, and what a match she would be to you! Ah, devil! It is
really a splendid idea. I'll make you acquainted with her! We must
drive one nail out with another."
"My conscience does not allow it," said Foma, sadly and sternly.
"So long as she is alive, I cannot even look at women."
"Such a robust and healthy young man. Ho, ho!" exclaimed
Ookhtishchev, and in the tone of a teacher began to argue with Foma
that it was essential for him to give his passion an outlet in a
good spree, in the company of women.
"This will be magnificent, and it is indispensable to you. You may
believe me. And as to conscience, you must excuse me. You don't
define it quite properly. It is not conscience that interferes with
you, but timidity, I believe. You live outside of society. You are
bashful, and awkward. Youare dimly conscious of all this, and it is
this consciousness that you mistake for conscience. In this case
there can be no question about conscience. What has conscience to
do here, since it is natural for man to enjoy himself, since it is
his necessity and his right?"
Foma walked on, regulating his steps to those of his companion, and
staring along the road, which lay between two rows of buildings,
resembled an enormous ditch, and was filled with darkness. It
seemed that there was no end to the road and that something dark,
inexhaustible and suffocating was slowly flowing along it in the
distance. Ookhtishchev's kind, suasive voice rang monotonously in
Foma's ears, and though he was not listening to his words, he felt
that they were tenacious in their way; that they adhered to him,
and that he was involuntarily memorizing them. Notwithstanding that
a man walked beside him, he felt as though he were alone, straying
in the dark. And the darkness seized him and slowly drew him along,
and he felt that he was drawn somewhere, and yet had no desire to
stop. Some sort of fatigue hindered his thinking; there was no
desire in him to resist the admonitions of his companion--and why
should he resist them?
"It isn't for everyone to philosophize," said Ookhtishchev,
swinging his cane in the air, and somewhat carried away by his
wisdom. "For if everybody were to philosophize, who would live? And
we live but once! And therefore it were best to make haste to live.
By God! That's true! But what's the use of talking? Would you
permit me to give you a shaking up? Let's go immediately to a
pleasure-house I know. Two sisters live there. Ah, how they live!
You will come?"
"Well, I'll go," said Foma, calmly, and yawned. "Isn't it rather
late?" he asked, looking up at the sky which was covered with
"It's never too late to go to see them!" exclaimed Ookhtishchev,
ON the third day after the scene in the club, Foma found himself
about seven versts from the town, on the timber-wharf of the
merchant Zvantzev, in the company of the merchant's son of
Ookhtishchev-- a sedate, bald-headed and red-nosed gentleman with
side whiskers-- and four ladies. The young Zvantzev wore
eyeglasses, was thin and pale, and when he stood, the calves of
his legs were forever trembling as though they were disgusted at
supporting the feeble body, clad in a long, checked top-coat with
a cape, in whose folds a small head in a jockey cap was comically
shaking. The gentleman with the side whiskers called him Jean and
pronounced this name as though he was suffering from an
inveterate cold. Jean's lady was a tall, stout woman with a showy
bust. Her head was compressed on the sides, her low forehead
receded, her long, sharp-pointed nose gave her face an expression
somewhat bird-like. And this ugly face was perfectly motionless,
and the eyes alone, small, round and cold, were forever smiling a
penetrating and cunning smile. Ookhtishchev's lady's name was
Vera; she was a tall, pale woman with red hair. She had so much
hair, that it seemed as though the woman had put on her head an
enormous cap which was coming down over her ears, her cheeks and
her high forehead, from under which her large blue eyes looked
forth calmly and lazily.
The gentleman with the side whiskers sat beside a young, plump,
buxom girl, who constantly giggled in a ringing voice at
something which he whispered in her ear as he leaned over her
And Foma's lady was a stately brunette, clad all in black. Dark-
complexioned, with wavy locks, she kept her head so erect and
high and looked at everything about her with such condescending
haughtiness, that it was at once evident that she considered
herself the most important person there.
The company were seated on the extreme link of the raft,
extending far into the smooth expanse of the river. Boards were
spread out on the raft and in the centre stood a crudely
constructed table; empty bottles, provision baskets, candy-
wrappers and orange peels were scattered about everywhere. In the
corner of the raft was a pile of earth, upon which a bonfire was
burning, and a peasant in a short fur coat, squatting, warmed his
hands over the fire, and cast furtive glances at the people
seated around the table. They had just finished eating their
sturgeon soup, and now wines and fruits were before them on the
Fatigued with a two-days' spree and with the dinner that had just
been finished, the company was in a weary frame of mind. They all
gazed at the river, chatting, but their conversation was now and
again interrupted by long pauses.
The day was clear and bright and young, as in spring. The cold,
clear sky stretched itself majestically over the turbid water of
the gigantically-wide, overflowing river, which was as calm as
the sky and as vast as the sea. The distant, mountainous shore
was tenderly bathed in bluish mist. Through it, there, on the
mountain tops, the crosses of churches were flashing like big
stars. The river was animated at the mountainous shore; steamers
were going hither and thither, and their noise came in deep moans
toward the rafts and into the meadows, where the calm flow of the
waves filled the air with soft and faint sounds. Gigantic barges
stretched themselves one after another against the current, like
huge pigs, tearing asunder the smooth expanse of the river. Black
smoke came in ponderous puffs from the chimneys of the steamers,
slowly melting in the fresh air, which was full of bright
sunshine. At times a whistle resounded--it was like the roar of
some huge, enraged animal, embittered by toil. And on the meadows
near the rafts, all was calm and silent. Solitary trees that had
been drowned by the flood, were now already covered with light-
green spangles of foliage. Covering their roots and reflecting
their tops, the water gave them the appearance of globes, and it
seemed as though the slightest breeze would send them floating,
fantastically beautiful, down the mirror-like bosom of the river.
The red-haired woman, pensively gazing into the distance, began
to sing softly and sadly:
"Along the Volga river
A little boat is flo-o-oating."
The brunette, snapping her large, stern eyes with contempt,
said, without looking at her: "We feel gloomy enough without
"Don't touch her. Let her sing!" entreated Foma, kindly, looking
into his lady's face. He was pale some spark seemed to flash up
in his eyes now and then, and an indefinite, indolent smile
played about his lips.
"Let us sing in chorus!" suggested the man with the side
"No, let these two sing!" exclaimed Ookhtishchev with enthusiasm.
"Vera, sing that song! You know, 'I will go at dawn.' How is it?
The giggling girl glanced at the brunette and asked her
"Shall I sing, Sasha?"
"I shall sing myself," announced Foma's companion, and turning
toward the lady with the birdlike face, she ordered:
"Vassa, sing with me!"
Vassa immediately broke off her conversation with Zvantzev,
stroked her throat a little with her hand and fixed her round
eyes on the face of her sister. Sasha rose to her feet, leaned
her hand against the table, and her head lifted haughtily, began
to declaim in a powerful, almost masculine voice:
"Life on earth is bright to him,
Who knows no cares or woe,
And whose heart is not consumed
By passion's ardent glow!"
Her sister nodded her head and slowly, plaintively began to moan
in a deep contralto:
"Ah me! Of me the maiden fair."
Flashing her eyes at her sister, Sasha exclaimed in her low-
"Like a blade of grass my heart has withered."
The two voices mingled and floated over the water in melodious,
full sounds, which quivered from excess of power. One of them was
complaining of the unbearable pain in the heart, and intoxicated
by the poison of its plaint, it sobbed with melancholy and
impotent grief; sobbed, quenching with tears the fire of the
suffering. The other--the lower, more masculine voice--rolled
powerfully through the air, full of the feeling of bloody
mortification and of readiness to avenge. Pronouncing the words
distinctly, the voice came from her breast in a deep stream, and
each word reeked with boiling blood, stirred up by outrage,
poisoned by offence and mightily demanding vengeance.
"I will requite him,"
sang Vassa, plaintively, closing her eyes.
"I will inflame him,
I'll dry him up,"
Sasha promised sternly and confidently, wafting into the air
strong, powerful tones, which sounded like blows. And suddenly,
tempo of the song and striking a higher pitch, she began to sing,
slowly as her sister, voluptuous and exultant threats:
"Drier than the raging wind,
Drier than the mown-down grass,
Oi, the mown and dried-up grass."
Resting his elbows on the table, Foma bent his head, and with
knitted brow, gazed into the face of the woman, into her black,
half-shut eyes Staring fixedly into the distance, her eyes
flashed so brightly and malignantly that, because of their light,
the velvety voice, that burst from the woman's chest, seemed to
him also black and flashing, like her eyes. He recalled her
caresses and thought:
"How does she come to be such as she is? It is even fearful to be
Ookhtishchev, sitting close to his lady, an expression of
happiness on his face, listened to the song and was radiant with
satisfaction. The gentleman with the side whiskers and Zvantzev
were drinking wine, softly whispering something as they leaned
toward each other. The red-headed woman was thoughtfully
examining the palm of Ookhtishchev's hand, holding it in her own,
and the jolly girl became sad. She drooped her head low and