Part 7 out of 9
dark moustache and with his cap on the back of his head, sang an
accompaniment softly. Two others tugged at a stick, testing their
strength. Several busied themselves with the basket containing
beer and provisions; a tall man with a grayish beard threw
branches on the fire, which was enveloped in thick, whitish
smoke. The damp branches, falling on the fire, crackled and
rustled plaintively, and the accordion teasingly played a lively
tune, while the falsetto of the singer reinforced and completed
its loud tones.
Apart from them all, on the brink of a small ravine, lay three
young fellows, and before them stood Yozhov, who spoke in a
"You bear the sacred banner of labour. And I, like yourselves, am
a private soldier in the same army. We all serve Her Majesty, the
Press. And we must live in firm, solid friendship."
"That's true, Nikolay Matveyich!" some one's thick voice
interrupted him. "And we want to ask you to use your influence
with the publisher! Use your influence with him! Illness and
drunkenness cannot be treated as one and the same thing. And,
according to his system, it comes out thus; if one of us gets
drunk he is fined to the amount of his day's earnings; if he
takes sick the same is done. We ought to be permitted to present
the doctor's certificate, in case of sickness, to make it
certain; and he, to be just, ought to pay the substitute at least
half the wages of the sick man. Otherwise, it is hard for us.
What if three of us should suddenly be taken sick at once?"
"Yes; that is certainly reasonable," assented Yozhov. "But, my
friends, the principle of cooperation--"
Foma ceased listening to the speech of his friend, for his
attention was diverted by the conversation of others. Two men
were talking; one was a tall consumptive, poorly dressed and
angry-looking man; the other a fair-haired and fair-bearded young
"In my opinion," said the tall man sternly, and coughing, "it is
foolish! How can men like us marry? There will be children. Do we
have enough to support them? The wife must be clothed--and then
you can't tell what sort of a woman you may strike."
"She's a fine girl," said the fair-haired man, softly. "Well,
it's now that she is fine. A betrothed girl is one thing, a wife
quite another. But that isn't the main point. You can try--
perhaps she will really be good. But then you'll be short of
means. You will kill yourself with work, and you will ruin her,
too. Marriage is an impossible thing for us. Do you mean to say
that we can support a family on such earnings? Here, you see, I
have only been married four years, and my end is near. I have
seen no joy--nothing but worry and care."
He began to cough, coughed for a long time, with a groan, and
when he had ceased, he said to his comrade in a choking voice:
"Drop it, nothing will come of it!"
His interlocutor bent his head mournfully, while Foma thought:
"He speaks sensibly. It's evident he can reason well."
The lack of attention shown to Foma somewhat offended him and
aroused in him at the same time a feeling of respect for these
men with dark faces impregnated with lead-dust. Almost all of
them were engaged in practical serious conversation, and their
remarks were studded with certain peculiar words. None of them
fawned upon him, none bothered him with ov, with his back to the
fire, and he saw before him a row of brightly illuminated,
cheerful and simple faces. They were all excited from drinking,
but were not yet intoxicated; they laughed, jested, tried to
sing, drank, and ate cucumbers, white bread and sausages. All
this had for Foma a particularly pleasant flavour; he grew
bolder, seized by the general good feeling, and he longed to say
something good to these people, to please them all in some way or
other. Yozhov, sitting by his side, moved about on the ground,
jostled him with his shoulder and, shaking his head, muttered
Brethren!" shouted the stout fellow. "Let's strike up the student
song. Well, one, two!"
"Swift as the waves,"
Someone roared in his bass voice:
"Are the days of our life."
"Friends!" said Yozhov, rising to his feet, a glass in his hand.
He staggered, and leaned his other hand against Foma's head. The
started song was broken off, and all turned their heads toward
"Working men! Permit me to say a few words, words from the heart.
I am happy in your company! I feel well in your midst. That is
because you are men of toil, men whose right to happiness is not
subject to doubt, although it is not recognised. In your
ennobling midst, 0h honest people, the lonely man, who is
poisoned by life, breathes so easily, so freely."
Yozhov's voice quivered and quaked, and his head began to shake.
Foma felt that something warm trickled down on his hand, and he
looked up at the wrinkled face of Yozhov, who went on speaking,
trembling in every limb:
"I am not the only one. There are many like myself, intimidated
by fate, broken and suffering. We are more unfortunate than you
are, because we are weaker both in body and in soul, but we are
stronger than you because we are armed with knowledge, which we
have no opportunity to apply. We are gladly ready to come to you
and resign ourselves to you and help you to live. There is
nothing else for us to do! Without you we are without ground to
stand on; without us, you are without light! Comrades! we were
created by Fate itself to complete one another!"
"What does he beg of them?" thought Foma, listening to Yozhov's
words with perplexity. And examining the faces of the compositors
he saw that they also looked at the orator inquiringly,
"The future is yours, my friends!" said Yozhov, faintly, shaking
his head mournfully as though feeling sorry for the future, and
yielding to these people against his will the predominance over
it. "The future belongs to the men of honest toil. You have a
great task before you! You have to create a new culture,
everything free, vital and bright! I, who am one of you in flesh
and in spirit; who am the son of a soldier; I propose a toast to
your future! Hurrah!"
Yozhov emptied his glass and sank heavily to the ground. The
compositors unanimously took up his broken exclamation, and a
powerful, thundering shout rolled through the air, causing the
leaves on the trees to tremble.
"Let's start a song now," proposed the stout fellow again.
"Come on!" chimed in two or three voices. A noisy dispute ensued
as to what to sing. Yozhov listened to the noise, and, turning
his head from one side to another, scrutinized them all.
"Brethren," Yozhov suddenly cried again, "answer me. Say a few
words in reply to my address of welcome."
Again--though not at once--all became silent, some looking at him
with curiosity, others concealing a grin, still others with an
expression of dissatisfaction plainly written on their faces. And
he again rose from the ground and said, hotly:
"Two of us here are cast away by life--I and that other one. We
both desire the same regard for man and the happiness of feeling
ourselves useful unto others. Comrades! And that big, stupid man-
"Nikolay Matveyich, you had better not insult our guest!" said
someone in a deep, displeased voice.
"Yes, that's unnecessary," affirmed the stout fellow, who had
invited Foma to the fireside. "Why use offensive language?"
A third voice rang out loudly and distinctly:
"We have come together to enjoy ourselves--to take a rest."
"Fools!" laughed Yozhov, faintly. "Kind-hearted fools! Do you
pity him? But do you know who he is? He is of those people who
suck your blood."
"That will do, Nikolay Matveyich!" they cried to Yozhov. And all
began to talk, paying no further attention to him. Foma felt so
sorry for his friend that he did not even take offence. He saw
that these people who defended him from Yozhov's attacks were now
purposely ignoring the feuilleton-writer, and he understood that
this would pain Yozhov if he were to notice it. And in order to
take his friend away from possible unpleasantness, he nudged him
in the side and said, with a kind-hearted laugh:
"Well, you grumbler, shall we have a drink? Or is it time to go
"Home? Where is the home of the man who has no place among men?"
asked Yozhov, and shouted again: "Comrades!"
Unanswered, his shout was drowned in the general murmur. Then he
drooped his head and said to Foma:
"Let's go from here."
"Let's go. Though I don't mind sitting a little longer. It's
interesting. They behave so nobly, the devils. By God!"
"I can't bear it any longer. I feel cold. I am suffocating."
"Well, come then."
Foma rose to his feet, removed his cap, and, bowing to the
compositors, said loudly and cheerfully:
"Thank you, gentlemen, for your hospitality! Good-bye!"
They immediately surrounded him and spoke to him persuasively:
"Stay here! Where are you going? We might sing all together, eh?"
"No, I must go, it would be disagreeable to my friend to go
alone. I am going to escort him. I wish you a jolly feast!"
"Eh, you ought to wait a little!" exclaimed the stout fellow, and
"Some one will escort him home!"
The consumptive also remarked in a low voice:
"You stay here. We'll escort him to town, and get him into a cab
and--there you are!"
Foma felt like staying there, and at the same time was afraid of
something. While Yozhov rose to his feet, and, clutching at the
sleeves of his overcoat, muttered:
"Come, the devil take them!"
"Till we meet again, gentlemen! I'm going!" said Foma and
departed amid exclamations of polite regret.
"Ha, ha, ha!" Yozhov burst out laughing when he had got about
twenty steps away from the fire. "They see us off with sorrow,
but they are glad that I am going away. I hindered them from
turning into beasts."
"It's true, you did disturb them," said Foma. "Why do you make
such speeches? People have come out to enjoy themselves, and you
obtrude yourself upon them. That bores them!"
"Keep quiet! You don't understand anything!" cried Yozhov,
harshly. "You think I am drunk? It's my body that is intoxicated,
but my soul is sober, it is always sober; it feels everything.
Oh, how much meanness there is in the world, how much stupidity
and wretchedness! And men--these stupid, miserable men."
Yozhov paused, and, clasping his head with his hands, stood for
"Yes!" drawled out Foma. "They are very much unlike one another.
Now these men, how polite they are, like gentlemen. And they
reason correctly, too, and all that sort of thing. They have
common sense. Yet they are only labourers."
In the darkness behind them the men struck up a powerful choral
song. Inharmonious at first, it swelled and grew until it rolled
in a huge, powerful wave through the invigorating nocturnal air,
above the deserted field.
"My God!" said Yozhov, sadly and softly, heaving a sigh. "Whereby
are we to live? Whereon fasten our soul? Who shall quench its
thirsts for friendship brotherhood, love, for pure and sacred
"These simple people," said Foma, slowly and pensively, without
listening to his companion s words, absorbed as he was in his own
thoughts, "if one looks into these people, they're not so bad!
It's even very--it is interesting. Peasants, labourers, to look
at them plainly, they are just like horses. They carry burdens,
they puff and blow."
"They carry our life on their backs," exclaimed Yozhov with
irritation. "They carry it like horses, submissively, stupidly.
And this submissiveness of theirs is our misfortune, our curse!"
And Foma, carried away by his own thought, argued:
"They carry burdens, they toil all their life long for mere
trifles. And suddenly they say something that wouldn't come into
your mind in a century. Evidently they feel. Yes, it is
interesting to be with them."
Staggering, Yozhov walked in silence for a long time, and
suddenly he waved his hand in the air and began to declaim in a
dull, choking voice, which sounded as though it issued from his
"Life has cruelly deceived me,
I have suffered so much pain."
"These, dear boy, are my own verses," said he, stopping short and
nodding his head mournfully. "How do they run? I've forgotten.
There is something there about dreams, about sacred and pure
longings, which are smothered within my breast by the vapour of
"The buried dreams within my breast
Will never rise again."
"Brother! You are happier than I, because you are stupid. While
"Don't be rude!" said Foma, irritated. "You would better listen
how they are singing."
"I don't want to listen to other people's songs," said Yozhov,
with a shake of the head. "I have my own, it is the song of a
soul rent in pieces by life."
And he began to wail in a wild voice:
The buried dreams within my breast
Will never rise again. . .
How great their number is!"
"There was a whole flower garden of bright, living dreams and
hopes. They perished, withered and perished. Death is within my
heart. The corpses of my dreams are rotting there. Oh! oh!"
Yozhov burst into tears, sobbing like a woman. Foma pitied him,
and felt uncomfortable with him. He jerked at his shoulder
impatiently, and said:
"Stop crying! Come, how weak you are, brother!" Clasping his head
in his hand Yozhov straightened up his stooping frame, made an
effort and started again mournfully and wildly:
"How great their number is!
Their sepulchre how narrow!
I clothed them all in shrouds of rhyme
And many sad and solemn songs
O'er them I sang from time to time!"
"0h, Lord!" sighed Foma in despair. "Stop that, for Christ's
sake! By God, how sad!"
In the distance the loud choral song was rolling through the
darkness and the silence. Some one was whistling, keeping time to
the refrain, and this shrill sound, which pierced the ear, ran
ahead of the billow of powerful voices. Foma looked in that
direction and saw the tall, black wall of forest, the bright
fiery spot of the bonfire shining upon it, and the misty figures
surrounding the fire. The wall of forest was like a breast, and
the fire like a bloody wound in it. It seemed as though the
breast was trembling, as the blood coursed down in burning
streams. Embraced in dense gloom from all sides the people seemed
on the background of the forest, like little children; they, too,
seemed to burn, illuminated by the blaze of the bonfire. They
waved their hands and sang their songs loudly, powerfully.
And Yozhov, standing beside Foma, spoke excitedly:
"You hard-hearted blockhead! Why do you repulse me? You ought to
listen to the song of the dying soul, and weep over it, for, why
was it wounded, why is it dying? Begone from me, begone! You
think I am drunk? I am poisoned, begone!"
Without lifting his eyes off the forest and the fire, so
beautiful in the darkness, Foma made a few steps aside from
Yozhov and said to him in a low voice:
"Don't play the fool. Why do you abuse me at random?"
"I want to remain alone, and finish singing my song."
Staggering, he, too, moved aside from Foma, and after a few
seconds again exclaimed in a sobbing voice:
"My song is done! And nevermore
Shall I disturb their sleep of death,
Oh Lord, 0h Lord, repose my soul!
For it is hopeless in its wounds,
Oh Lord, repose my soul."
Foma shuddered at the sounds of their gloomy wailing, and he
hurried after Yozhov; but before he overtook him the little
feuilleton-writer uttered a hysterical shriek, threw himself
chest down upon the ground and burst out sobbing plaintively and
softly, even as sickly children cry.
"Nikolay!" said Foma, lifting him by the shoulders. "Cease
crying; what's the matter? 0h Lord. Nikolay! Enough, aren't you
But Yozhov was not ashamed; he struggled on the ground, like a
fish just taken from the water, and when Foma had lifted him to
his feet, he pressed close to Foma's breast, clasping his sides
with his thin arms, and kept on sobbing.
"Well, that's enough!" said Foma, with his teeth tightly
clenched. "Enough, dear."
And agitated by the suffering of the man who was wounded by the
narrowness of life, filled with wrath on his account, he turned
his face toward the gloom where the lights of the town were
glimmering, and, in an outburst of wrathful grief, roared in a
deep, loud voice:
"A-a-ana-thema! Be cursed! Just wait. You, too, shall choke! Be
"LUBAVKA!" said Mayakin one day when he came home from the
Exchange, "prepare yourself for this evening. I am going to bring
you a bridegroom! Prepare a nice hearty little lunch for us. Put
out on the table as much of our old silverware as possible, also
bring out the fruit-vases, so that he is impressed by our table!
Let him see that each and everything we have is a rarity!"
Lubov was sitting by the window darning her father's socks, and
her head was bent low over her work.
"What is all this for, papa?" she asked, dissatisfied and
"Why, for sauce, for flavour. And then, it's in due order. For a
girl is not a horse; you can't dispose of her without the
All aflush with offence, Lubov tossed her head nervously, and
flinging her work aside, cast a glance at her father; and, taking
up the socks again, she bent her head still lower over them. The
old man paced the room to and fro, plucking at his fiery beard
with anxiety; his eyes stared somewhere into the distance, and it
was evident that he was all absorbed in some great complicated
thought. The girl understood that he would not listen to her and
would not care to comprehend how degrading his words were for
her. Her romantic dreams of a husband-friend, an educated man,
who would read with her wise books and help her to find herself
in her confused desires, these dreams were stifled by her
father's inflexible resolution to marry her to Smolin. They had
been killed and had become decomposed, settling down as a bitter
sediment in her soul. She had been accustomed to looking upon
herself as better and higher than the average girl of the
merchant class, than the empty and stupid girl who thinks of
nothing but dresses, and who marries almost always according to
the calculation of her parents, and but seldom in accordance with
the free will of her heart. And now she herself is about to marry
merely because it was time, and also because her father needed a
son-in-law to succeed him in his business. And her father
evidently thought that she, by herself, was hardly capable of
attracting the attention of a man, and therefore adorned her with
silver. Agitated, she worked nervously, pricked her fingers,
broke needles, but maintained silence, being aware that whatever
she should say would not reach her father's heart.
And the old man kept on pacing the room to and fro, now humming
psalms softly, now impressively instructing his daughter how to
behave with the bridegroom. And then he also counted something on
his fingers, frowned and smiled.
"Mm! So! Try me, 0h Lord, and judge me. From the unjust and the
false man, deliver me. Yes! Put on your mother's emeralds,
"Enough, papa!" exclaimed the girl, sadly. "Pray, leave that
"Don't you kick! Listen to what I'm telling you."
And he was again absorbed in his calculations, snapping his green
eyes and playing with his fingers in front of his face.
"That makes thirty-five percent. Mm! The fellow's a rogue. Send
down thy light and thy truth."
"Papa!" exclaimed Lubov, mournfully and with fright.
"You--are you pleased with him?"
"Smolin? Yes, he's a rogue, he's a clever fellow, a splendid
merchant! Well, I'm off now. So be on your guard, arm yourself."
When Lubov remained alone she flung her work aside and leaned
against the back of her chair, closing her eyes tightly. Her
hands firmly clasped together lay on her knees, and their fingers
twitched. Filled with the bitterness of offended vanity, she felt
an alarming fear of the future, and prayed in silence:
"My God! 0h Lord! If he were only a kind man! Make him kind,
sincere. 0h Lord! A strange man comes, examines you, and takes
you unto himself for years, if you please him! How disgraceful
that is, how terrible. 0h Lord, my God! If I could only run away!
If I only had someone to advise me what to do! Who is he? How can
I learn to know him? I cannot do anything! And I have thought,
ah, how much I have thought! I have read. To what purpose have I
read? Why should I know that it is possible to live otherwise, so
as I cannot live? And it may be that were it not for the books my
life would be easier, simpler. How painful all this is! What a
wretched, unfortunate being I am! Alone. If Taras at least were
At the recollection of her brother she felt still more grieved,
still more sorry for herself. She had written to Taras a long,
exultant letter, in which she had spoken of her love for him, of
her hope in him; imploring her brother to come as soon as
possible to see his father, she had pictured to him plans of
arranging to live together, assuring Taras that their father was
extremely clever and understood everything; she told about his
loneliness, had gone into ecstasy over his aptitude for life and
had, at the same time, complained of his attitude toward her.
For two weeks she impatiently expected a reply, and when she had
received and read it she burst out sobbing for joy and
disenchantment. The answer was dry and short; in it Taras said
that within a month he would be on the Volga on business and
would not fail to call on his father, if the old man really had
no objection to it. The letter was cold, like a block of ice;
with tears in her eyes she perused it over and over again,
rumpled it, creased it, but it did not turn warmer on this
account, it only became wet. From the sheet of stiff note paper
which was covered with writing in a large, firm hand, a wrinkled
and suspiciously frowning face, thin and angular like that of her
father, seemed to look at her.
On Yakov Tarasovich the letter of his son made a different
impression. On learning the contents of Taras's reply the old man
started and hastily turned to his daughter with animation and
with a peculiar smile:
"Well, let me see it! Show it to me! He-he! Let's read how wise
men write. Where are my spectacles? Mm! 'Dear sister!' Yes."
The old man became silent; he read to himself the message of his
son, put it on the table, and, raising his eyebrows, silently
paced the room to and fro, with an expression of amazement on his
countenance. Then he read the letter once more, thoughtfully
tapped the table with his fingers and spoke:
"That letter isn't bad--it is sound, without any unnecessary
words. Well? Perhaps the man has really grown hardened in the
cold. The cold is severe there. Let him come, we'll take a look
at him. It's interesting. Yes. In the psalm of David concerning
the mysteries of his son it is said: 'When Thou hast returned my
enemy'--I've forgotten how it reads further. 'My enemy's weapons
have weakened in the end, and his memory hath perished amid
noise. Well, we'll talk it over with him without noise.
The old man tried to speak calmly and with a contemptuous smile,
but the smile did not come; his wrinkles quivered irritably, and
his small eyes had a particularly clear brilliancy.
"Write to him again, Lubovka. 'Come along!' write him, 'don't be
afraid to come!'"
Lubov wrote Taras another letter, but this time it was shorter
and more reserved, and now she awaited a reply from day to day,
attempting to picture to herself what sort of man he must be,
this mysterious brother of hers. Before she used to think of him
with sinking heart, with that solemn respect with which believers
think of martyrs, men of upright life; now she feared him, for he
had acquired the right to be judge over men and life at the price
of painful sufferings, at the cost of his youth, which was ruined
in exile. On coming, he would ask her:
"You are marrying of your own free will, for love, are you not?"
What should she tell him? Would he forgive her faint-heartedness?
And why does she marry? Can it really be possible that this is
all she can do in order to change her life?
Gloomy thoughts sprang up one after another in the head of the
girl and confused and tortured her, impotent as she was to set up
against them some definite, all-conquering desire. Though she was
in an anxious and compressing her lips. Smolin rose from his
chair, made a step toward her and bowed respectfully. She was
rather pleased with this low and polite bow, also with the costly
frock coat, which fitted Smolin's supple figure splendidly. He
had changed but slightly--he was the same red-headed, closely-
cropped, freckled youth; only his moustache had become long, and
his eyes seemed to have grown larger.
"Now he's changed, eh?" exclaimed Mayakin to his daughter,
pointing at the bridegroom. And Smolin shook hands with her, and
smiling, said in a ringing baritone voice:
"I venture to hope that you have not forgotten your old friend?"
It's all right! You can talk of this later," said the old man,
scanning his daughter with his eyes.
"Lubova, you can make your arrangements here, while we finish our
little conversation. Well then, African Mitrich, explain
"You will pardon me, Lubov Yakovlevna, won't you?" asked Smolin,
"Pray do not stand upon ceremony," said Lubov. "He's polite and
clever," she remarked to herself; and, as she walked about in the
room from the table to the sideboard, she began to listen
attentively to Smolin's words. He spoke softly, confidently, with
a simplicity, in which was felt condescendence toward the
interlocutor. "Well then, for four years I have carefully studied
the condition of Russian leather in foreign markets. It's a sad
and horrid condition! About thirty years ago our leather was
considered there as the standard, while now the demand for it is
constantly falling off, and, of course, the price goes hand in
hand with it. And that is perfectly natural. Lacking the capital
and knowledge all these small leather producers are not able to
raise their product to the proper standard, and, at the same
time, to reduce the price. Their goods are extremely bad and
dear. And they are all to blame for having spoiled Russia's
reputation as manufacturer of the best leather. In general, the
petty producer, lacking the technical knowledge and capital, is
consequently placed in a position where he is unable to improve
his products in proportion to the development of the technical
side. Such a producer is a misfortune for the country, the
parasite of her commerce."
"Hm!" bellowed the old man, looking at his guest with one eye,
and watching his daughter with the other. "So that now your
intention is to build such a great factory that all the others
will go to the dogs?"
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Smolin, warding off the old man's words with
an easy wave of the hand. "Why wrong others? What right have I to
do so? My aim is to raise the importance and price of Russian
leather abroad, and so equipped with the knowledge as to the
manufacture, I am building a model factory, and fill the markets
with model goods. The commercial honour of the country!"
"Does it require much capital, did you say?" asked Mayakin,
"About three hundred thousand."
"Father won't give me such a dowry," thought Lubov.
"My factory will also turn out leather goods, such as trunks,
foot-wear, harnesses, straps and so forth."
"And of what per cent, are you dreaming?"
"I am not dreaming, I am calculating with all the exactness
possible under conditions in Russia," said Smolin, impressively.
"The manufacturer should be as strictly practical as the mechanic
who is creating a machine. The friction of the tiniest screw must
be taken into consideration, if you wish to do a serious thing
seriously. I can let you read a little note which I have drawn
up, based upon my personal study of cattle-breeding and of the
consumption of meat in Russia."
"How's that!" laughed Mayakin. "Bring me that note, it's
interesting! It seems you did not spend your time for nothing in
Western Europe. And now, let's eat something, after the Russian
"How are you passing the time, Lubov Yakovlevna?" asked Smolin,
arming himself with knife and fork.
"She is rather lonesome here with me," replied Mayakin for his
daughter. "My housekeeper, all the household is on her shoulders,
so she has no time to amuse herself."
"And no place, I must add," said Lubov. "I am not fond of the
balls and entertainments given by the merchants."
"And the theatre?" asked Smolin.
"I seldom go there. I have no one to go with."
"The theatre!" exclaimed the old man. "Tell me, pray, why has it
become the fashion then to represent the merchant as a savage
idiot? It is very amusing, but it is incomprehensible, because it
is false! Am I a fool, if I am master in the City Council, master
in commerce, and also owner of that same theatre? You look at the
merchant on the stage and you see--he isn't life-life! Of course,
when they present something historical, such as: 'Life for the
Czar,' with song and dance, or 'Hamlet,' 'The Sorceress,' or
'Vasilisa,' truthful reproduction is not required, because
they're matters of the past and don't concern us. Whether true or
not, it matters little so long as they're good, but when you
represent modern times, then don't lie! And show the man as he
Smolin listened to the old man's words with a covetous smile on
his lips, and cast at Lubov glances which seemed to invite her to
refute her father. Somewhat embarrassed, she said:
"And yet, papa, the majority of the merchant class is uneducated
"Yes," remarked Smolin with regret, nodding his head
affirmatively, "that is the sad truth."
"Take Foma, for instance," went on the girl.
"0h!" exclaimed Mayakin. "Well, you are young folks, you can have
books in your hands."
"And do you not take interest in any of the societies?" Smolin
asked Lubov. "You have so many different societies here."
"Yes," said Lubov with a sigh, "but I live rather apart from
"Housekeeping!" interposed the father. "We have here such a store
of different things, everything has to be kept clean, in order,
and complete as to number."
With a self-satisfied air he nodded first at the table, which was
set with brilliant crystal and silverware, and then at the
sideboard, whose shelves were fairly breaking under the weight of
the articles, and which reminded one of the display in a store
window. Smolin noted all these and an ironical smile began to
play upon his lips. Then he glanced at Lubov's face: in his look
she caught something friendly, sympathetic to her. A faint flush
covered her cheeks, and she said to herself with timid joy:
The light of the heavy bronze lamp now seemed to flash more
brilliantly on the sides of the crystal vases, and it became
brighter in the room.
"I like our dear old town!" said Smolin, looking at the girl with
a kindly smile, "it is so beautiful, so vigorous; there is
cheerfulness about it that inspires one to work. Its very
picturesqueness is somewhat stimulating. In it one feels like
leading a dashing life. One feels like working much and
seriously. And then, it is an intelligent town. Just see what a
practical newspaper is published here. By the way, we intend to
"Whom do you mean by You?" asked Mayakin.
"I, Urvantzov, Shchukin--"
"That's praiseworthy!" said the old man, rapping the table with
his hand. "That's very practical! It is time to stop their
mouths, it was high time long ago! Particularly that Yozhov; he's
like a sharp-toothed saw. Just put the thumb-screw on him! And do
Smolin again cast at Lubov a smiling glance, and her heart
trembled with joy once more. With flushing face she said to her
father, inwardly addressing herself to the bridegroom:
"As far as I can understand, African Dmitreivich, he wishes to
buy the newspaper not at all for the sake of stopping its mouth
as you say."
"What then can be done with it?" asked the old man, shrugging his
shoulders. "There's nothing in it but empty talk and agitation.
Of course, if the practical people, the merchants themselves,
take to writing for it--"
"The publication of a newspaper," began Smolin, instructively,
interrupting the old man, "looked at merely from the commercial
point of view, may be a very profitable enterprise. But aside
from this, a newspaper has another more important aim--that is,
to protect the right of the individual and the interests of
industry and commerce."
"That's just what I say, if the merchant himself will manage the
newspaper, then it will be useful."
"Excuse me, papa," said Lubov.
She began to feel the need of expressing herself before Smolin;
she wanted to assure him that she understood the meaning of his
words, that she was not an ordinary merchant-daughter, interested
in dresses and balls only. Smolin pleased her. This was the first
time she had seen a merchant who had lived abroad for a long
time, who reasoned so impressively, who bore himself so properly,
who was so well dressed, and who spoke to her father, the
cleverest man in town, with the condescending tone of an adult
towards a minor.
"After the wedding I'll persuade him to take me abroad," thought
Lubov, suddenly, and, confused at this thought she forgot what
she was about to say to her father. Blushing deeply, she was
silent for a few seconds, seized with fear lest Smolin might
interpret this silence in a way unflattering to her.
"On account of your conversation, you have forgotten to offer
some wine to our guest," she said at last, after a few seconds of
"That's your business. You are hostess," retorted the old man.
"0h, don't disturb yourself!" exclaimed Smolin, with animation.
"I hardly drink at all."
"Really?" asked Mayakin.
"I assure you! Sometimes I drink a wine glass or two in case of
fatigue or illness. But to drink wine for pleasure's sake is
incomprehensible to me. There are other pleasures more worthy of
a man of culture."
"You mean ladies, I suppose?" asked the old man with a wink.
Smolin's cheeks and neck became red with the colour which leaped
to his face. With apologetic eyes he glanced at Lubov, and said
to her father drily:
"I mean the theatre, books, music."
Lubov became radiant with joy at his words.
The old man looked askance at the worthy young man, smiled keenly
and suddenly blurted out:
"Eh, life is going onward! Formerly the dog used to relish a
crust, now the pug dog finds the cream too thin; pardon me for my
sour remark, but it is very much to the point. It does not
exactly refer to yourself, but in general."
Lubov turned pale and looked at Smolin with fright. He was calm,
scrutinising an ancient salt box, decorated with enamel; he
twisted his moustache and looked as though he had not heard the
old man's words. But his eyes grew darker, and his lips were
compressed very tightly, and his clean-shaven chin obstinately
"And so, my future leading manufacturer," said Mayakin, as though
nothing had happened, "three hundred thousand roubles, and your
business will flash up like a fire?"
"And within a year and a half I shall send out the first lot of
goods, which will be eagerly sought for," said Smolin, simply,
with unshakable confidence, and he eyed the old man with a cold
and firm look.
"So be it; the firm of Smolin and Mayakin, and that's all? So.
Only it seems rather late for me to start a new business, doesn't
it? I presume the grave has long been prepared for me; what do
you think of it?"
Instead of an answer Smolin burst into a rich, but indifferent
and cold laughter, and then said:
"Oh, don't say that."
The old man shuddered at his laughter, and started back with
fright, with a scarcely perceptible movement of his body. After
Smolin's words all three maintained silence for about a minute.
"Yes," said Mayakin, without lifting his head, which was bent
low. "It is necessary to think of that. I must think of it."
Then, raising his head, he closely scrutinised his daughter and
the bridegroom, and, rising from his chair, he said sternly and
brusquely: "I am going away for awhile to my little cabinet. You
surely won't feel lonesome without me."
And he went out with bent back and drooping head, heavily
scraping with his feet.
The young people, thus left alone, exchanged a few empty phrases,
and, evidently conscious that these only helped to remove them
further from each other, they maintained a painful, awkward and
expectant silence. Taking an orange, Lubov began to peel it with
exaggerated attention, while Smolin, lowering his eyes, examined
his moustaches, which he carefully stroked with his left hand,
toyed with a knife and suddenly asked the girl in a lowered
"Pardon me for my indiscretion. It is evidently really difficult
for you, Lubov Yakovlevna, to live with your father. He's a man
with old-fashioned views and, pardon me, he's rather hard-
Lubov shuddered, and, casting at the red-headed man a grateful
"It isn't easy, but I have grown accustomed to it. He also has
his good qualities."
"Oh, undoubtedly! But to you who are so young, beautiful and
educated, to you with your views... You see, I have heard
something about you."
He smiled so kindly and sympathetically, and his voice was so
soft, a breath of soul-cheering warmth filled the room. And in
the heart of the girl there blazed up more and more brightly the
timid hope of finding happiness, of being freed from the close
captivity of solitude.
A DENSE, grayish fog lay over the river, and a steamer, now and
then uttering a dull whistle, was slowly forging up against the
current. Damp and cold clouds, of a monotone pallor, enveloped
the steamer from all sides and drowned all sounds, dissolving
them in their troubled dampness. The brazen roaring of the
signals came out in a muffled, melancholy drone, and was oddly
brief as it burst forth from the whistle. The sound seemed to
find no place for itself in the air, which was soaked with heavy
dampness, and fell downward, wet and choked. And the splashing of
the steamer's wheels sounded so fantastically dull that it seemed
as though it were not begotten near by, at the sides of the
vessel, but somewhere in the depth, on the dark bottom of the
river. From the steamer one could see neither the water, nor the
shore, nor the sky; a leaden-gray gloominess enwrapped it on all
sides; devoid of shadings, painfully monotonous, the gloominess
was motionless, it oppressed the steamer with immeasurable
weight, slackened its movements and seemed as though preparing
itself to swallow it even as it was swallowing the sounds. In
spite of the dull blows of the paddles upon the water and the
measured shaking of the body of the vessel, it seemed that the
steamer was painfully struggling on one spot, suffocating in
agony, hissing like a fairy tale monster breathing his last,
howling in the pangs of death, howling with pain, and in the fear
Lifeless were the steamer lights. About the lantern on the mast a
yellow motionless spot had formed; devoid of lustre, it hung in
the fog over the steamer, illuminating nothing save the gray
mist. The red starboard light looked like a huge eye crushed out
by some one's cruel fist, blinded, overflowing with blood. Pale
rays of light fell from the steamer's windows into the fog, and
only tinted its cold, cheerless dominion over the vessel, which
was pressed on all sides by the motionless mass of stifling
The smoke from the funnel fell downwards, and, together with
fragments of the fog, penetrated into all the cracks of the deck,
where the third-class passengers were silently muffling
themselves in their rags, and forming groups, like sheep. From
near the machinery were wafted deep, strained groans, the
jingling of bells, the dull sounds of orders and the abrupt words
of the machinist:
"Yes--slow! Yes--half speed!"
On the stern, in a corner, blocked up by barrels of salted fish,
a group of people was assembled, illuminated by a small electric
lamp. Those were sedate, neatly and warmly clad peasants. One of
them lay on a bench, face down; another sat at his feet, still
another stood, leaning his back against a barrel, while two
others seated themselves flat on the deck. Their faces, pensive
and attentive, were turned toward a round-shouldered man in a
short cassock, turned yellow, and a torn fur cap. That man sat on
some boxes with his back bent, and staring at his feet, spoke in
a low, confident voice:
"There will come an end to the long forbearance of the Lord, and
then His wrath will burst forth upon men. We are like worms
before Him, and how are we then to ward off His wrath, with what
wailing shall we appeal to His mercy?"
Oppressed by his gloominess, Foma had come down on the deck from
his cabin, and, for some time, had been standing in the shadow of
some wares covered with tarpaulin, and listened to the admonitive
and gentle voice of the preacher. Pacing the deck he had chanced
upon this group, and attracted by the figure of the pilgrim, had
paused near it. There was something familiar to him in that
large, strong body, in that stern, dark face, in those large,
calm eyes. The curly, grayish hair, falling from under the skull-
cap, the unkempt bushy beard, which fell apart in thick locks,
the long, hooked nose, the sharp-pointed ears, the thick lips--
Foma had seen all these before, but could not recall when and
"Yes, we are very much in arrears before the Lord!" remarked one
of the peasants, heaving a deep sigh.
"We must pray," whispered the peasant who lay on the bench, in a
scarcely audible voice.
"Can you scrape your sinful wretchedness off your soul with words
of prayer?" exclaimed someone loudly, almost with despair in his
No one of those that formed the group around the pilgrim turned
at this voice, only their heads sank lower on their breasts, and
for a long time these people sat motionless and speechless:
The pilgrim measured his audience with a serious and meditative
glance of his blue eyes, and said softly:
"Ephraim the Syrian said: 'Make thy soul the central point of thy
thoughts and strengthen thyself with thy desire to be free from
And again he lowered his head, slowly fingering the beads of the
"That means we must think," said one of the peasants; "but when
has a man time to think during his life on earth?"
"Confusion is all around us."
"We must flee to the desert," said the peasant who lay on the
"Not everybody can afford it."
The peasants spoke, and became silent again. A shrill whistle
resounded, a little bell began to jingle at the machine.
Someone's loud exclamation rang out:
"Eh, there! To the water-measuring poles."
"0h Lord! 0h Queen of Heaven!"--a deep sigh was heard.
And a dull, half-choked voice shouted:
Fragments of the fog burst forth upon the deck and floated over
it like cold, gray smoke.
"Here, kind people, give ear unto the words of King David," said
the pilgrim, and shaking his head, began to read distinctly:
"'Lead me, Oh Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies;
make thy way straight before my face. For there is no
faithfulness in their mouths; their inward part is very
wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with
their tongue. Destroy thou them, 0h God; let them fall by their
"Eight! seven!" Like moans these exclamations resounded in the
The steamer began to hiss angrily, and slackened its speed. The
noise of the hissing of the steam deafened the pilgrim's words,
and Foma saw only the movement of his lips.
"Get off!" a loud, angry shout was heard. "It's my place!"
"Here you have yours!"
"I'll rap you on the jaw; then you'll find your place. What a
An uproar ensued. The peasants who were listening to the pilgrim
turned their heads toward the direction where the row was going
on, and the pilgrim heaved a sigh and became silent. Near the
machine a loud and lively dispute blazed up as though dry
branches, thrown upon a dying bonfire, had caught the flame.
"I'll give it to you, devils! Get away, both of you."
"Take them away to the captain."
"Ha! ha! ha! That's a fine settlement for you!"
"That was a good rap he gave him on the neck!"
"The sailors are a clever lot."
"Eight! nine!" shouted the man with the measuring pole.
"Yes, increase speed!" came the loud exclamation of the engineer.
Swaying because of the motion of the steamer, Foma stood leaning
against the tarpaulin, and attentively listened to each and every
sound about him. And everything was blended into one picture,
which was familiar to him. Through fog and uncertainty,
surrounded on all sides by gloom impenetrable to the eye, life of
man is moving somewhere slowly and heavily. And men are grieved
over their sins, they sigh heavily, and then fight for a warm
place, and asking each other for the sake of possessing the
place, they also receive blows from those who strive for order in
life. They timidly search for a free road toward the goal.
The wailing cry is softly wafted over the vessel. "And the holy
prayer of the pilgrim is deafened by the tumult of life. And
there is no relief from sorrow, there is no joy for him who
reflects on his fate."
Foma felt like speaking to this pilgrim, in whose softly uttered
words there rang sincere fear of God, and all manner of fear for
men before His countenance. The kind, admonitive voice of the
pilgrim possessed a peculiar power, which compelled Foma to
listen to its deep tones.
"I'd like to ask him where he lives," thought Foma, fixedly
scrutinizing the huge stooping figure. "And where have I seen him
before? Or does he resemble some acquaintance of mine?"
Suddenly it somehow struck Foma with particular vividness that
the humble preacher before him was no other than the son of old
Anany Shchurov. Stunned by this conjecture, he walked up to the
pilgrim and seating himself by his side, inquired freely:
"Are you from Irgiz, father?"
The pilgrim raised his head, turned his face toward Foma slowly
and heavily, scrutinized him and said in a calm and gentle voice:
"I was on the Irgiz, too."
"Are you a native of that place?"
"Are you now coming from there?"
"No, I am coming from Saint Stephen."
The conversation broke off. Foma lacked the courage to ask the
pilgrim whether he was not Shchurov.
"We'll be late on account of the fog," said some one.
"How can we help being late!"
All were silent, looking at Foma. Young, handsome, neatly and
richly dressed, he aroused the curiosity of the bystanders by his
sudden appearance among them; he was conscious of this curiosity,
he understood that they were all waiting for his words, that they
wanted to understand why he had come to them, and all this
confused and angered him.
"It seems to me that I've met you before somewhere, father," said
he at length.
The pilgrim replied, without looking at him:
"I would like to speak to you," announced Foma, timidly, in a low
"Well, then, speak."
"Come with me."
"To my cabin."
The pilgrim looked into Foma's face, and, after a moment's
On leaving, Foma felt the looks of the peasants on his back, and
now he was pleased to know that they were interested in him.
In the cabin he asked gently:
"Would you perhaps eat something? Tell me. I will order it."
"God forbid. What do you wish?"
This man, dirty and ragged, in a cassock turned red with age, and
covered with patches, surveyed the cabin with a squeamish look,
and when he seated himself on the plush-covered lounge, he turned
the skirt of the cassock as though afraid to soil it by the
"What is your name, father?" asked Foma, noticing the expression
of squeamishness on the pilgrim's face.
"Why Mikhail?" asked the pilgrim.
"There was in our town the son of a certain merchant Shchurov, he
also went off to the Irgiz. And his name was Mikhail."
Foma spoke and fixedly looked at Father Miron; but the latter was
as calm as a deaf-mute--
"I never met such a man. I don't remember, I never met him," said
he, thoughtfully. "So you wished to inquire about him?"
"No, I never met Mikhail Shchurov. Well, pardon me for Christ's
sake!" and rising from the lounge, the pilgrim bowed to Foma and
went toward the door.
"But wait awhile, sit down, let's talk a little!" exclaimed Foma,
rushing at him uneasily. The pilgrim looked at him searchingly
and sank down on the lounge. From the distance came a dull sound,
like a deep groan, and immediately after it the signal whistle of
the steamer drawled out as in a frightened manner over Foma's and
his guest's heads. From the distance came a more distant reply,
and the whistle overhead again gave out abrupt, timorous sounds.
Foma opened the window. Through the fog, not far from their
steamer, something was moving along with deep noise; specks of
fantastic lights floated by, the fog was agitated and again sank
into dead immobility.
"How terrible!" exclaimed Foma, shutting the window.
"What is there to be afraid of?" asked the pilgrim. "You see! It
is neither day nor night, neither darkness nor light! We can see
nothing, we are sailing we know not whither, we are straying on
"Have inward fire within you, have light within your soul, and
you shall see everything," said the pilgrim, sternly and
Foma was displeased with these cold words and looked at the
pilgrim askance. The latter sat with drooping head, motionless,
as though petrified in thought and prayer. The beads of his
rosary were softly rustling in his hands.
The pilgrim's attitude gave birth to easy courage in Foma's
breast, and he said:
"Tell me, Father Miron, is it good to live, having full freedom,
without work, without relatives, a wanderer, like yourself?"
Father Miron raised his head and softly burst into the caressing
laughter of a child. All his face, tanned from wind and sunburn,
brightened up with inward joy, was radiant with tranquil joy; he
touched Foma's knee with his hand and said in a sincere tone:
"Cast aside from you all that is worldly, for there is no
sweetness in it. I am telling you the right word--turn away from
evil. Do you remember it is said:
'Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the
ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners.' Turn away, refresh
your soul with solitude and fill yourself with the thought of
God. For only by the thought of Him can man save his soul from
"That isn't the thing!" said Foma. "I have no need of working out
my salvation. Have I sinned so much? Look at others. What I would
like is to comprehend things."
"And you will comprehend if you turn away from the world. Go
forth upon the free road, on the fields, on the steppes, on the
plains, on the mountains. Go forth and look at the world from
afar, from your freedom."
"That's right!" cried Foma. "That's just what I think. One can
see better from the side!"
And Miron, paying no attention to his words, spoke softly, as
though of some great mystery, known only to him, the pilgrim:
"The thick slumbering forests around you will start to rustle in
sweet voices about the wisdom of the Lord; God's little birds
will sing before you of His holy glory, and the grasses of the
steppe will burn incense to the Holy Virgin."
The pilgrim's voice now rose and quivered from excess of emotion,
now sank to a mysterious whisper. He seemed as though grown
younger; his eyes beamed so confidently and clearly, and all his
face was radiant with the happy smile of a man who has found
expression for his joy and was delighted while he poured it
"The heart of God throbs in each and every blade of grass; each
and every insect of the air and of the earth, breathes His holy
spirit. God, the Lord, Jesus Christ, lives everywhere! What
beauty there is on earth, in the fields and in the forests! Have
you ever been on the Kerzhenz? An incomparable silence reigns
there supreme, the trees, the grass there are like those of
Foma listened, and his imagination, captivated by the quiet,
charming narrative, pictured to him those wide fields and dense
forests, full of beauty and soul-pacifying silence.
"You look at the sky, as you rest somewhere under a little bush,
and the sky seems to descend upon you as though longing to
embrace you. Your soul is warm, filled with tranquil joy, you
desire nothing, you envy nothing. And it actually seems to you
that there is no one on earth save you and God."
The pilgrim spoke, and his voice and sing-song speech reminded
Foma of the wonderful fairy-tales of Aunt Anfisa. He felt as
though, after a long journey on a hot day, he drank the clear,
cold water of a forest brook, water that had the fragrance of the
grasses and the flowers it has bathed. Even wider and wider grew
the pictures as they unfolded upon him; here is a path through
the thick, slumbering forest; the fine sunbeams penetrate through
the branches of the trees, and quiver in the air and under the
feet of the wanderer. There is a savoury odour of fungi and
decaying foliage; the honeyed fragrance of the flowers, the
intense odour of the pine-tree invisibly rise in the air and
penetrate the breast in a warm, rich stream. All is silence: only
the birds are singing, and the silence is so wonderful that it
seems as though even the birds were singing in your breast. You
go, without haste, and your life goes on like a dream. While here
everything is enveloped in a gray, dead fog, and we are foolishly
struggling about in it, yearning for freedom and light. There
below they have started to sing something in scarcely audible
voices; it was half song, half prayer. Again someone is shouting,
scolding. And still they seek the way:
"Seven and a half. Seven!"
"And you have no care," spoke the pilgrim, and his voice murmured
like a brook. "Anybody will give you a crust of bread; and what
else do you need in your freedom? In the world, cares fall upon
the soul like fetters."
"You speak well," said Foma with a sigh.
"My dear brother!" exclaimed the pilgrim, softly, moving still
closer toward him. "Since the soul has awakened, since it yearns
toward freedom, do not lull it to sleep by force; hearken to its
voice. The world with its charms has no beauty and holiness
whatever, wherefore, then, obey its laws? In John Chrysostom it
is said: 'The real shechinah is man!' Shechinah is a Hebrew word
and it means the holy of holies. Consequently--"
A prolonged shrill sound of the whistle drowned his voice. He
listened, rose quickly from the lounge and said:
"We are nearing the harbour. That's what the whistle meant. I
must be off! Well, goodbye, brother! May God give you strength
and firmness to act according to the will of your soul! Goodbye,
my dear boy!"
He made a low bow to Foma. There was something feminine,
caressing and soft in his farewell words and bow. Foma also bowed
low to him, bowed and remained as though petrified, standing with
drooping head, his hand leaning against the table.
"Come to see me when you are in town," he asked the pilgrim, who
was hastily turning the handle of the cabin door.
"I will! I will come! Goodbye! Christ save you!"
When the steamer's side touched the wharf Foma came out on the
deck and began to look downward into the fog. From the steamer
people were walking down the gang-planks, but Foma could not
discern the pilgrim among those dark figures enveloped in the
dense gloom. All those that left the steamer looked equally
indistinct, and they all quickly disappeared from sight, as
though they had melted in the gray dampness. One could see
neither the shore nor anything else solid; the landing bridge
rocked from the commotion caused by the steamer; above it the
yellow spot of the lantern was swaying; the noise of the
footsteps and the bustle of the people were dull.
The steamer put off and slowly moved along into the clouds. The
pilgrim, the harbour, the turmoil of people's voices--all
suddenly disappeared like a dream, and again there remained only
the dense gloom and the steamer heavily turning about in it. Foma
stared before him into the dead sea of fog and thought of the
blue, cloudless and caressingly warm sky--where was it?
On the next day, about noon, he sat In Yozhov's small room and
listened to the local news from the mouth of his friend. Yozhov
had climbed on the table, which was piled with newspapers, and,
swinging his feet, narrated:
"The election campaign has begun. The merchants are putting your
godfather up as mayor--that old devil! Like the devil, he is
immortal, although he must be upwards of a hundred and fifty
years old already. He marries his daughter to Smolin. You
remember that red-headed fellow. They say that he is a decent
man, but nowadays they even call clever scoundrels decent men,
because there are no men. Now Africashka plays the enlightened
man; he has already managed to get into intelligent society,
donated something to some enterprise or another and thus at once
came to the front. Judging from his face, he is a sharper of the
highest degree, but he will play a prominent part, for he knows
how to adapt himself. Yes, friend, Africashka is a liberal. And a
liberal merchant is a mixture of a wolf and a pig with a toad and
"The devil take them all!" said Foma, waving his hand
indifferently. "What have I to do with them? How about yourself--
do you still keep on drinking?"
"I do! Why shouldn't I drink?"
Half-clad and dishevelled, Yozhov looked like a plucked bird,
which had just had a fight and had not yet recovered from the
excitement of the conflict.
"I drink because, from time to time, I must quench the fire of my
wounded heart. And you, you damp stump, you are smouldering
little by little?"
"I have to go to the old man," said Foma, wrinkling his face.
"I don't feel like going. He'll start to lecture me."
"Then don't go!"
"But I must."
"Why do you always play the buffoon? " said Foma, with
displeasure, "as though you were indeed merry."
"By God, I feel merry!" exclaimed Yozhov, jumping down from the
table. "What a fine roasting I gave a certain gentleman in the
paper yesterday! And then--I've heard a clever anecdote: A
company was sitting on the sea-shore philosophizing at length
upon life. And a Jew said to them: 'Gentlemen, why do you employ
so many different words? I'll tell it to you all at once: Our
life is not worth a single copeck, even as this stormy sea! '"
"Eh, the devil take you!" said Foma. "Good-bye. I am going."
"Go ahead! I am in a fine frame of mind to-day and I will not
moan with you. All the more so considering you don't moan, but
Foma went away, leaving Yozhov singing at the top of his voice:
"Beat the drum and fear not."
"Drum? You are a drum yourself;" thought Foma, with irritation,
as he slowly came out on the street.
At the Mayakins he was met by Luba. Agitated and animated, she
suddenly appeared before him, speaking quickly:
"You? My God! How pale you are! How thin you've grown! It seems
you have been leading a fine life."
Then her face became distorted with alarm and she exclaimed
almost in a whisper:
"Ah, Foma. You don't know. Do you hear? Someone is ringing the
bell. Perhaps it is he."
And she rushed out of the room, leaving behind her in the air the
rustle of her silk gown, and the astonished Foma, who had not
even had a chance to ask her where her father was. Yakov
Tarasovich was at home. Attired in his holiday clothes, in a long
frock coat with medals on his breast, he stood on the threshold
with his hands outstretched, clutching at the door posts. His
green little eyes examined Foma, and, feeling their look upon
him, Foma raised his head and met them.
"How do you do, my fine gentleman?" said the old man, shaking his
head reproachfully. "Where has it pleased you to come from, may I
ask? Who has sucked off that fat of yours? Or is it true that a
pig looks for a puddle, and Foma for a place which is worse?"
"Have you no other words for me?" asked Foma, sternly, looking
straight into the old man's face. And suddenly he noticed that
his godfather shuddered, his legs trembled, his eyes began to
blink repeatedly, and his hands clutched the door posts with an
effort. Foma advanced toward him, presuming that the old man was
feeling ill, but Yakov Tarasovich said in a dull and angry voice:
"Stand aside. Get out of the way."
And his face assumed its usual expression.
Foma stepped back and found himself side by side with a rather
short, stout man, who bowed to Mayakin, and said in a hoarse
"How do you do, papa?"
"How are you, Taras Yakovlich, how are you?" said the old man,
bowing, smiling distractedly, and still clinging to the door
Foma stepped aside in confusion, seated himself in an armchair,
and, petrified with curiosity, wide-eyed, began to watch the
meeting of father and son.
The father, standing in the doorway, swayed his feeble body,
leaning his hands against the door posts, and, with his head bent
on one side and eyes half shut, stared at his son in silence. The
son stood about three steps away from him; his head already gray,
was lifted high; he knitted his brow and gazed at his father with
large dark eyes. His small, black, pointed beard and his small
moustache quivered on his meagre face, with its gristly nose,
like that of his father. And the hat, also, quivered in his hand.
From behind his shoulder Foma saw the pale, frightened and joyous
face of Luba--she looked at her father with beseeching eyes and
it seemed she was on the point of crying out. For a few moments
all were silent and motionless, crushed as they were by the
immensity of their emotions. The silence was broken by the low,
but dull and quivering voice of Yakov Tarasovich:
"You have grown old, Taras."
The son laughed in his father's face silently, and, with a swift
glance, surveyed him from head to foot.
The father tearing his hands from the door posts, made a step
toward his son and suddenly stopped short with a frown. Then
Taras Mayakin, with one huge step, came up to his father and gave
him his hand.
"Well, let us kiss each other," suggested the father, softly.
The two old men convulsively clasped each other in their arms,
exchanged warm kisses and then stepped apart. The wrinkles of the
older man quivered, the lean face of the younger was immobile,
almost stern. The kisses had changed nothing in the external side
of this scene, only Lubov burst into a sob of joy, and Foma
awkwardly moved about in his seat, feeling as though his breath
were failing him.
"Eh, children, you are wounds to the heart--you are not its joy,"
complained Yakov Tarasovich in a ringing voice, and he evidently
invested a great deal in these words, for immediately after he
had pronounced them he became radiant, more courageous, and he
said briskly, addressing himself to his daughter:
"Well, have you melted with joy? You had better go and prepare
something for us--tea and so forth. We'll entertain the prodigal
son. You must have forgotten, my little old man, what sort of a
man your father is?"
Taras Mayakin scrutinized his parent with a meditative look of
his large eyes and he smiled, speechless, clad in black,
wherefore the gray hair on his head and in his beard told more
"Well, be seated. Tell me--how have you lived, what have you
done? What are you looking at? Ah! That's my godson. Ignat
Gordyeeff's son, Foma. Do you remember Ignat?"
"I remember everything," said Taras.
"Oh! That's good, if you are not bragging. Well, are you
"I am a widower."
"Have you any children?"
"They died. I had two."
"That's a pity. I would have had grandchildren."
"May I smoke?" asked Taras.
"Go ahead. Just look at him, you're smoking cigars."
"Don't you like them?"
"I? Come on, it's all the same to me. I say that it looks rather
aristocratic to smoke cigars."
"And why should we consider ourselves lower than the
aristocrats?" said Taras, laughing.
"Do, I consider ourselves lower?" exclaimed the old man. "I
merely said it because it looked ridiculous to me, such a sedate
old fellow, with beard trimmed in foreign fashion, cigar in his
mouth. Who is he? My son--he-he-he!" the old man tapped Taras on
the shoulder and sprang away from him, as though frightened lest
he were rejoicing too soon, lest that might not be the proper way
to treat that half gray man. And he looked searchingly and
suspiciously into his son's large eyes, which were surrounded by
Taras smiled in his father's face an affable and warm smile, and
said to him thoughtfully:
"That's the way I remember you--cheerful and lively. It looks as
though you had not changed a bit during all these years."
The old man straightened himself proudly, and, striking his
breast with his fist, said:
"I shall never change, because life has no power over him who
knows his own value. Isn't that so?"
"Oh! How proud you are!"
"I must have taken after my son," said the old man with a cunning
grimace. "Do you know, dear, my son was silent for seventeen
years out of pride."
"That's because his father would not listen to him," Taras
"It's all right now. Never mind the past. Only God knows which of
us is to blame. He, the upright one, He'll tell it to you--wait!
I shall keep silence. This is not the time for us to discuss that
matter. You better tell me-- what have you been doing all these
years? How did you come to that soda factory? How have you made
"That's a long story," said Taras with a sigh; and emitting from
his mouth a great puff of smoke, he began slowly: "When I
acquired the possibility to live at liberty, I entered the office
of the superintendent of the gold mines of the Remezovs."
"I know; they're very rich. Three brothers. I know them all. One
is a cripple, the other a fool, and the third a miser. Go on!"
"I served under him for two years. And then I married his
daughter," narrated Mayakin in a hoarse voice.
"The superintendent's? That wasn't foolish at all." Taras became
thoughtful and was silent awhile. The old man looked at his sad
face and understood his son.
"And so you lived with your wife happily," he said. "Well, what
can you do? To the dead belongs paradise, and the living must
live on. You are not so very old as yet. Have you been a widower
"This is the third year."
"So? And how did you chance upon the soda factory?"
"That belongs to my father-in-law."
"Aha! What is your salary?"
"About five thousand."
"Mm. That's not a stale crust. Yes, that's a galley slave for
Taras glanced at his father with a firm look and asked him drily:
"By the way, what makes you think that I was a convict?"
The old man glanced at his son with astonishment, which was
quickly changed into joy:
"Ah! What then? You were not? The devil take them! Then--how was
it? Don't take offence! How could I know? They said you were in
Siberia! Well, and there are the galleys!"
"To make an end of this once for all," said Taras, seriously and
impressively, clapping his hand on his knee, "I'll tell you right
now how it all happened. I was banished to Siberia to settle
there for six years, and, during all the time of my exile, I
lived in the mining region of the Lena. In Moscow I was
imprisoned for about nine months. That's all!"
"So-o! But what does it mean?" muttered Yakov Tarasovich, with
confusion and joy.
"And here they circulated that absurd rumour."
"That's right--it is absurd indeed!" said the old man,
"And it did a pretty great deal of harm on a certain occasion."
"Really? Is that possible?"
"Yes. I was about to go into business for myself, and my credit
was ruined on account of--"
"Pshaw!" said Yakov Tarasovich, as he spat angrily. "Oh, devil!
Come, come, is that possible?"
Foma sat all this time in his corner, listening to the
conversation between the Mayakins, and, blinking perplexedly, he
fixedly examined the newcomer. Recalling Lubov's bearing toward
her brother, and influenced, to a certain degree, by her stories
about Taras, he expected to see in him something unusual,
something unlike the ordinary people. He had thought that Taras
would speak in some peculiar way, would dress in a manner
peculiar to himself; and in general he would be unlike other
people. While before him sat a sedate, stout man, faultlessly
dressed, with stern eyes, very much like his father in face, and
the only difference between them was that the son had a cigar in
his mouth and a black beard. He spoke briefly in a business-like
way of everyday things--where was, then, that peculiar something
about him? Now he began to tell his father of the profits in the
manufacture of soda. He had not been a galley slave--Lubov had
lied! And Foma was very much pleased when he pictured to himself
how he would speak to Lubov about her brother.
Now and then she appeared in the doorway during the conversation
between her father and her brother. Her face was radiant with
happiness, and her eyes beamed with joy as she looked at the
black figure of Taras, clad in such a peculiarly thick frock
coat, with pockets on the sides and with big buttons. She walked
on tiptoe, and somehow always stretched her neck toward her
brother. Foma looked at her questioningly, but she did not notice
him, constantly running back and forth past the door, with plates
and bottles in her hands.
It so happened that she glanced into the room just when her
brother was telling her father about the galleys. She stopped as
though petrified, holding a tray in her outstretched hands and
listened to everything her brother said about the punishment
inflicted upon him. She listened, and slowly walked away, without
catching Foma's astonished and sarcastic glance. Absorbed in his
reflections on Taras, slightly offended by the lack of attention
shown him, and by the fact that since the handshake at the
introduction Taras had not given him a single glance, Foma ceased
for awhile to follow the conversation of the Mayakins, and
suddenly he felt that someone seized him by the shoulder. He
trembled and sprang to his feet, almost felling his godfather,
who stood before him with excited face:
"There--look! That is a man! That's what a Mayakin is! They have
seven times boiled him in lye; they have squeezed oil out of him,
and yet he lives! Understand? Without any aid--alone--he made his
way and found his place and--he is proud! That means Mayakin! A
Mayakin means a man who holds his fate in his own hands. Do you
understand? Take a lesson from him! Look at him! You cannot find
another like him in a hundred; you'd have to look for one in a
thousand. What? Just bear this in mind: You cannot forge a
Mayakin from man into either devil or angel."
Stupefied by this tempestuous shock, Foma became confused and did
not know what to say in reply to the old man's noisy song of
praise. He saw that Taras, calmly smoking his cigar, was looking
at his father, and that the corners of his lips were quivering
with a smile. His face looked condescendingly contented, and all
his figure somewhat aristocratic and haughty. He seemed to be
amused by the old man's joy.
And Yakov Tarasovich tapped Foma on the chest with his finger and
"I do not know him, my own son. He has not opened his soul to me.
It may be that such a difference had grown up between us that not
only an eagle, but the devil himself cannot cross it. Perhaps his
blood has overboiled; that there is not even the scent of the
father's blood in it. But he is a Mayakin! And I can feel it at
once! I feel it and say: 'Today thou forgivest Thy servant, 0h
The old man was trembling with the fever of his exultation, and
fairly hopped as he stood before Foma.
"Calm yourself, father!" said Taras, slowly rising from his chair
and walking up to his father. "Why confuse the young man? Come,
let us sit down."
He gave Foma a fleeting smile, and, taking his father by the arm,
led him toward the table.
"I believe in blood," said Yakov Tarasovich; "in hereditary
blood. Therein lies all power! My father, I remember, told me:
'Yashka, you are my genuine blood!' There. The blood of the
Mayakins is thick--it is transferred from father to father and no
woman can ever weaken it. Let us drink some champagne! Shall we?
Very well, then! Tell me more--tell me about yourself. How is it
there in Siberia?"
And again, as though frightened and sobered by some thought, the
old man fixed his searching eyes upon the face of his son. And a
few minutes later the circumstantial but brief replies of his son
again aroused in him a noisy joy. Foma kept on listening and
watching, as he sat quietly in his corner.
"Gold mining, of course, is a solid business," said Taras,
calmly, with importance, "but it is a rather risky operation and
one requiring a large capital. The earth says not a word about
what it contains within it. It is very profitable to deal with
foreigners. Dealings with them, under any circumstances, yield an
enormous percentage. That is a perfectly infallible enterprise.
But a weary one, it must be admitted. It does not require much
brains; there is no room in it for an extraordinary man; a man
with great enterprising power cannot develop in it."
Lubov entered and invited them all into the dining-room. When the
Mayakins stepped out Foma imperceptibly tugged Lubov by the
sleeve, and she remained with him alone, inquiring hastily:
"What is it?"
"Nothing," said Foma, with a smile. "I want to ask you whether
you are glad?"
"Of course I am!" exclaimed Lubov.
"And what about?"
"That is, what do you mean?"
"Just so. What about?"
"You're queer!" said Lubov, looking at him with astonishment.
"Can't you see?"
"What?" asked Foma, sarcastically.
"What's the trouble with you?" said Lubov, looking at him
"Eh, you!" drawled out Foma, with contemptuous pity. "Can your
father, can the merchant class beget anything good? Can you
expect a radish to bring forth raspberries? And you lied to me.
Taras is this, Taras is that. What is in him? A merchant, like
the other merchants, and his paunch is also that of the real
merchant. He-he!" He was satisfied, seeing that the girl,
confused by his words, was biting her lips, now flushing, now
"You--you, Foma," she began, in a choking voice, and suddenly
stamping her foot, she cried:
"Don't you dare to speak to me!"
On reaching the threshold of the room, she turned her angry face
to him, and ejaculated in a low voice, emphatically:
"Oh, you malicious man!"
Foma burst into laughter. He did not feel like going to the
table, where three happy people were engaged in a lively
conversation. He heard their merry voices, their contented
laughter, the rattle of the dishes, and he understood that, with
that burden on his heart, there was no place for him beside them.
Nor was there a place for him anywhere. If all people only hated
him, even as Lubov hated him now, he would feel more at ease in
their midst, he thought. Then he would know how to behave with
them, would find something to say to them. While now he could not
understand whether they were pitying him or whether they were
laughing at him, because he had lost his way and could not
conform himself to anything. As he stood awhile alone in the
middle of the room, he unconsciously resolved to leave this house
where people were rejoicing and where he was superfluous. On
reaching the street, he felt himself offended by the Mayakins.
After all, they were the only people near to him in the world.
Before him arose his godfather's face, on which the wrinkles
quivered with agitation, and illuminated by the merry glitter of
his green eyes, seemed to beam with phosphoric light.
"Even a rotten trunk of a tree stands out in the dark!" reflected
Foma, savagely. Then he recalled the calm and serious face of
Taras and beside it the figure of Lubov bowing herself hastily
toward him. That aroused in him feelings of envy and sorrow.
"Who will look at me like that? There is not a soul to do it."
He came to himself from his broodings on the shore, at the
landing-places, aroused by the bustle of toil. All sorts of
articles and wares were carried and carted in every direction;
people moved about hastily, care-worn, spurring on their horses
excitedly, shouting at one another, filling the street with
unintelligible bustle and deafening noise of hurried work. They
busied themselves on a narrow strip of ground, paved with stone,
built up on one side with tall houses, and the other side cut off
by a steep ravine at the river, and their seething bustle made
upon Foma an impression as though they had all prepared
themselves to flee from this toil amid filth and narrowness and
tumult--prepared themselves to flee and were now hastening to
complete the sooner the unfinished work which would not release
them. Huge steamers, standing by the shore and emitting columns
of smoke from their funnels, were already awaiting them. The
troubled water of the river, closely obstructed with vessels, was
softly and plaintively splashing against the shore, as though
imploring for a minute of rest and repose.
"Your Honour!" a hoarse cry rang out near Foma's ears,
"contribute some brandy in honour of the building!"
Foma glanced at the petitioner indifferently; he was a huge,
bearded fellow, barefooted, with a torn shirt and a bruised,
"Get away!" muttered Foma, and turned away from him.
"Merchant! When you die you can't take your money with you. Give
me for one glass of brandy, or are you too lazy to put your hand
into your pocket?"
Foma again looked at the petitioner; the latter stood before him,
covered more with mud than with clothes, and, trembling with
intoxication, waited obstinately, staring at Foma with blood-
shot, swollen eyes.
"Is that the way to ask?" inquired Foma.
"How else? Would you want me to go down on my knees before you
for a ten-copeck piece?" asked the bare-footed man, boldly.
"There!" and Foma gave him a coin.
"Thanks! Fifteen copecks. Thanks! And if you give me fifteen more
I'll crawl on all fours right up to that tavern. Do you want me
to?" proposed the barefooted man.
"Go, leave me alone!" said Foma, waving him off with his hand.
"He who gives not when he may, when he fain would, shall have
nay," said the barefooted man, and stepped aside.
Foma looked at him as he departed, and said to himself:
"There is a ruined man and yet how bold he is. He asks alms as
though demanding a debt. Where do such people get so much
And heaving a deep sigh, he answered himself:
"From freedom. The man is not fettered. What is there that he
should regret? What does he fear? And what do I fear? What is
there that I should regret?"
These two questions seemed to strike Foma's heart and called
forth in him a dull perplexity. He looked at the movement of the
working people and kept on thinking: What did he regret? What did
"Alone, with my own strength, I shall evidently never come out
anywhere. Like a fool I shall keep on tramping about among
people, mocked and offended by all. If they would only jostle me
aside; if they would only hate me, then--then--I would go out
into the wide world! Whether I liked or not, I would have to go!"
From one of the landing wharves the merry "dubinushka"
["Dubinushka," or the "Oaken Cudgel," is a song popular with the
Russian workmen.] had already been smiting the air for a long
time. The carriers were doing a certain work, which required
brisk movements, and were adapting the song and the refrain to
"In the tavern sit great merchants
Drinking liquors strong,"
narrated the leader, in a bold recitative. The company joined in
"Oh, dubinushka, heave-ho!"
And then the bassos smote the air with deep sounds:
"It goes, it goes."
And the tenors repeated:
"It goes, it goes."
Foma listened to the song and directed his footsteps toward it,
on the wharf. There he noticed that the carriers, formed in two
rows, were rolling out of the steamer's hold huge barrels of
salted fish. Dirty, clad in red blouses, unfastened at the
collar, with mittens on their hands, with arms bare to the elbow,
they stood over the hold, and, merrily jesting, with faces
animated by toil, they pulled the ropes, all together, keeping
time to their song. And from the hold rang out the high, laughing
voice of the invisible leader:
"But for our peasant throats
There is not enough vodka."
And the company, like one huge pair of lungs, heaved forth loudly
and in unison:
"Oh, dubinushka, heave-ho!"
Foma felt pleased and envious as he looked at this work, which
was as harmonious as music. The slovenly faces of the carriers
beamed with smiles, the work was easy, it went on smoothly, and
the leader of the chorus was in his best vein. Foma thought that
it would be fine to work thus in unison, with good comrades, to
the tune of a cheerful song, to get tired from work to drink a
glass of vodka and eat fat cabbage soup, prepared by the stout,
sprightly matron of the company.
"Quicker, boys, quicker!" rang out beside him someone's
unpleasant, hoarse voice.
Foma turned around. A stout man, with an enormous paunch, tapped
on the boards of the landing bridge with his cane, as he looked
at the carriers with his small eyes and said:
"Bawl less and work faster."
His face and neck were covered with perspiration; he wiped it off
every now and then with his left hand and breathed heavily, as
though he were going uphill.
Foma cast at the man a hostile look and thought:
"Others are working and he is sweating. And I am still worse than
he. I'm like a crow on the fence, good for nothing."
From each and every impression there immediately stood out in his
mind the painful thought of his unfitness for life. Everything
that attracted his attention contained something offensive to
him, and this something fell like a brick upon his breast. At one
side of him, by the freight scales, stood two sailors, and one of
them, a square-built, red-faced fellow, was telling the other:
"As they rushed on me it began for fair, my dear chap! There were
four of them--I was alone! But I didn't give in to them, because
I saw that they would beat me to death! Even a ram will kick out
if you fleece it alive. How I tore myself away from them! They
all rolled away in different directions."
"But you came in for a sound drubbing all the same?" inquired the
"Of course! I caught it. I swallowed about five blows. But what's
the difference? They didn't kill me. Well, thank God for it!"
"To the stern, devils, to the stern, I'm telling you!" roared the
perspiring man in a ferocious voice at two carriers who were
rolling a barrel of fish along the deck.
"What are you yelling for?" Foma turned to him sternly, as he had
started at the shout.