Part 4 out of 4
Slowly the day lagged by, then the evening, at last the night came. I
did nothing; I even tried not to move: one thought was stuck in my
head like a nail. At dinner my father, who was, as I have said,
naturally gentle, and who was a little ashamed of his harshness--boys
of sixteen are not slapped in the face--tried to be affectionate to
me; but I rejected his overtures, not from slowness to forgive, as he
imagined at the time, but simply that I was afraid of my feelings
getting the better of me; I wanted to preserve untouched all the heat
of my vengeance, all the hardness of unalterable determination. I went
to bed very early; but of course I did not sleep and did not even shut
my eyes, but on the contrary opened them wide, though I did pull the
quilt over my head. I did not consider beforehand how to act. I had no
plan of any kind; I only waited till everything should be quiet in the
house. I only took one step: I did not remove my stockings. My aunt's
room was on the second floor. One had to pass through the dining-room
and the hall, go up the stairs, pass along a little passage and
there ... on the right was the door! I must not on any account take
with me a candle or a lantern; in the corner of my aunt's room a little
lamp was always burning before the ikon shrine; I knew that. So I
should be able to see. I still lay with staring eyes and my mouth open
and parched; the blood was throbbing in my temples, in my ears, in my
throat, in my back, all over me! I waited ... but it seemed as though
some demon were mocking me; time passed and passed but still silence
did not reign.
Never, I thought, had David been so late getting to sleep.... David,
the silent David, even began talking to me! Never had they gone on so
long banging, talking, walking about the house! And what could they be
talking about? I wondered; as though they had not had the whole day to
talk in! Sounds outside persisted, too; first a dog barked on a
shrill, obstinate note; then a drunken peasant was making an uproar
somewhere and would not be pacified; then gates kept creaking; then a
wretched cart on racketty wheels kept passing and passing and seeming
as though it would never pass! However, these sounds did not worry me:
on the contrary, I was glad of them; they seemed to distract my
attention. But now at last it seemed as though all were tranquil. Only
the pendulum of our old clock ticked gravely and drowsily in the
dining-room and there was an even drawn-out sound like the hard
breathing of people asleep. I was on the point of getting up, then
again something rustled ... then suddenly sighed, something soft fell
down ... and a whisper glided along the walls.
Or was there nothing of the sort--and was it only imagination mocking
At last all was still. It was the very heart, the very dead of night.
The time had come! Chill with anticipation, I threw off the
bedclothes, let my feet down to the floor, stood up ... one step; a
second.... I stole along, my feet, heavy as though they did not belong
to me, trod feebly and uncertainly. Stay! what was that sound? Someone
sawing, somewhere, or scraping ... or sighing? I listened ... I felt my
cheeks twitching and cold watery tears came into my eyes. Nothing! ...
I stole on again. It was dark but I knew the way. All at once I
stumbled against a chair.... What a bang and how it hurt! It hit me
just on my leg.... I stood stock still. Well, did that wake them? Ah!
here goes! Suddenly I felt bold and even spiteful. On! On! Now the
dining-room was crossed, then the door was groped for and opened at
one swing. The cursed hinge squeaked, bother it! Then I went up the
stairs, one! two! one! two! A step creaked under my foot; I looked at
it spitefully, just as though I could see it. Then I stretched for the
handle of another door. This one made not the slightest sound! It flew
open so easily, as though to say, "Pray walk in." ... And now I was in
In the corridor there was a little window high up under the ceiling, a
faint light filtered in through the dark panes. And in that glimmer of
light I could see our little errand girl lying on the floor on a mat,
both arms behind her tousled head; she was sound asleep, breathing
rapidly and the fatal door was just behind her head. I stepped across
the mat, across the girl ... who opened that door? ... I don't know,
but there I was in my aunt's room. There was the little lamp in one
corner and the bed in the other and my aunt in her cap and night
jacket on the bed with her face towards me. She was asleep, she did
not stir, I could not even hear her breathing. The flame of the little
lamp softly flickered, stirred by the draught of fresh air, and
shadows stirred all over the room, even over the motionless wax-like
yellow face of my aunt....
And there was the watch! It was hanging on a little embroidered
cushion on the wall behind the bed. What luck, only think of it!
Nothing to delay me! But whose steps were those, soft and rapid behind
my back? Oh! no! it was my heart beating! ... I moved my legs
forward.... Good God! something round and rather large pushed against
me below my knee, once and again! I was ready to scream, I was ready
to drop with horror.... A striped cat, our own cat, was standing
before me arching his back and wagging his tail. Then he leapt on the
bed--softly and heavily--turned round and sat without purring, exactly
like a judge; he sat and looked at me with his golden pupils. "Puss,
puss," I whispered, hardly audibly. I bent across my aunt, I had
already snatched the watch. She suddenly sat up and opened her eyelids
wide.... Heavenly Father, what next? ... but her eyelids quivered and
closed and with a faint murmur her head sank on the pillow.
A minute later I was back again in my own room, in my own bed and the
watch was in my hands....
More lightly than a feather I flew back! I was a fine fellow, I was a
thief, I was a hero, I was gasping with delight, I was hot, I was
gleeful--I wanted to wake David at once to tell him all about it--and,
incredible as it sounds, I fell asleep and slept like the dead! At
last I opened my eyes.... It was light in the room, the sun had risen.
Luckily no one was awake yet. I jumped up as though I had been
scalded, woke David and told him all about it. He listened, smiled.
"Do you know what?" he said to me at last, "let's bury the silly watch
in the earth, so that it may never be seen again." I thought his idea
best of all. In a few minutes we were both dressed; we ran out into
the orchard behind our house and under an old apple tree in a deep
hole, hurriedly scooped out in the soft, springy earth with David's
big knife, my godfather's hated present was hidden forever, so that it
never got into the hands of the disgusting Trankvillitatin after all!
We stamped down the hole, strewed rubbish over it and, proud and
happy, unnoticed by anyone, went home again, got into our beds and
slept another hour or two--and such a light and blissful sleep!
You can imagine the uproar there was that morning, as soon as my aunt
woke up and missed the watch! Her piercing shriek is ringing in my
ears to this day. "Help! Robbed! Robbed!" she squealed, and alarmed
the whole household. She was furious, while David and I only smiled to
ourselves and sweet was our smile to us. "Everyone, everyone must be
well thrashed!" bawled my aunt. "The watch has been stolen from under
my head, from under my pillow!" We were prepared for anything, we
expected trouble.... But contrary to our expectations we did not get
into trouble at all. My father certainly did fume dreadfully at first,
he even talked of the police; but I suppose he was bored with the
enquiry of the day before and suddenly, to my aunt's indescribable
amazement, he flew out not against us but against her.
"You sicken me worse than a bitter radish, Pelageya Petrovna," he
shouted, "with your watch. I don't want to hear any more about it! It
can't be lost by magic, you say, but what's it to do with me? It may
be magic for all I care! Stolen from you? Well, good luck to it then!
What will Nastasey Nastasyeitch say? Damnation take him, your
Nastasyeitch! I get nothing but annoyances and unpleasantness from
him! Don't dare to worry me again! Do you hear?"
My father slammed the door and went off to his own room. David and I
did not at first understand the allusion in his last words; but
afterwards we found out that my father was just then violently
indignant with my godfather, who had done him out of a profitable job.
So my aunt was left looking a fool. She almost burst with vexation,
but there was no help for it. She had to confine herself to repeating
in a sharp whisper, twisting her mouth in my direction whenever she
passed me, "Thief, thief, robber, scoundrel." My aunt's reproaches
were a source of real enjoyment to me. It was very agreeable, too, as
I crossed the flower-garden, to let my eye with assumed indifference
glide over the very spot where the watch lay at rest under the
apple-tree; and if David were close at hand to exchange a meaning
grimace with him....
My aunt tried setting Trankvillitatin upon me; but I appealed to
David. He told the stalwart divinity student bluntly that he would rip
up his belly with a knife if he did not leave me alone....
Trankvillitatin was frightened; though, according to my aunt, he was a
grenadier and a cavalier he was not remarkable for valour. So passed
five weeks.... But do you imagine that the story of the watch ended
there? No, it did not; only to continue my story I must introduce a
new character; and to introduce that new character I must go back a
My father had for many years been on very friendly, even intimate
terms with a retired government clerk called Latkin, a lame little man
in poor circumstances with queer, timid manners, one of those
creatures of whom it is commonly said that they are crushed by God
Himself. Like my father and Nastasey, he was engaged in the humbler
class of legal work and acted as legal adviser and agent. But
possessing neither a presentable appearance nor the gift of words and
having little confidence in himself, he did not venture to act
independently but attached himself to my father. His handwriting was
"regular beadwork," he knew the law thoroughly and had mastered all
the intricacies of the jargon of petitions and legal documents. He had
managed various cases with my father and had shared with him gains and
losses and it seemed as though nothing could shake their friendship,
and yet it broke down in one day and forever. My father quarrelled
with his colleague for good. If Latkin had snatched a profitable job
from my father, after the fashion of Nastasey, who replaced him later
on, my father would have been no more indignant with him than with
Nastasey, probably less. But Latkin, under the influence of an
unexplained, incomprehensible feeling, envy, greed--or perhaps even a
momentary fit of honesty--"gave away" my father, betrayed him to their
common client, a wealthy young merchant, opening this careless young
man's eyes to a certain--well, piece of sharp practice, destined to
bring my father considerable profit. It was not the money loss,
however great--no--but the betrayal that wounded and infuriated my
father; he could not forgive treachery.
"So he sets himself up for a saint!" he repeated, trembling all over
with anger, his teeth chattering as though he were in a fever. I
happened to be in the room and was a witness of this ugly scene.
"Good. Amen, from today. It's all over between us. There's the ikon
and there's the door! Neither you in my house nor I in yours. You are
too honest for us. How can we keep company with you? But may you have
no house nor home!"
It was in vain that Latkin entreated my father and bowed down before
him; it was in vain that he tried to explain to him what filled his
own soul with painful perplexity. "You know it was with no sort of
profit to myself, Porfiry Petrovitch," he faltered: "why, I cut my own
throat!" My father remained implacable. Latkin never set foot in our
house again. Fate itself seemed determined to carry out my father's
last cruel words. Soon after the rupture (which took place two years
before the beginning of my story), Latkin's wife, who had, it is true,
been ill for a long time, died; his second daughter, a child three
years old, became deaf and dumb in one day from terror; a swarm of
bees had settled on her head; Latkin himself had an apoplectic stroke
and sank into extreme and hopeless poverty. How he struggled on, what
he lived upon--it is hard to imagine. He lived in a dilapidated hovel
at no great distance from our house. His elder daughter Raissa lived
with him and kept house, so far as that was possible. This Raissa is
the character whom I must now introduce into our story.
When her father was on friendly terms with mine, we used to see her
continually. She would sit with us for hours at a time, either sewing,
or spinning with her delicate, rapid, clever fingers. She was a
well-made, rather thin girl, with intelligent brown eyes and a long,
white, oval face. She talked little but sensibly in a soft, musical
voice, barely opening her mouth and not showing her teeth. When she
laughed--which happened rarely and never lasted long--they were all
suddenly displayed, big and white as almonds. I remember her gait, too,
light, elastic, with a little skip at each step. It always seemed to me
that she was going down a flight of steps, even when she was walking on
level ground. She held herself erect with her arms folded tightly over
her bosom. And whatever she was doing, whatever she undertook, if she
were only threading a needle or ironing a petticoat--the effect was
always beautiful and somehow--you may not believe it--touching. Her
Christian name was Raissa, but we used to call her Black-lip: she had
on her upper lip a birthmark; a little dark-bluish spot, as though she
had been eating blackberries; but that did not spoil her: on the
contrary. She was just a year older than David. I cherished for her a
feeling akin to respect, but we were not great friends. But between
her and David a friendship had sprung up, a strange, unchildlike but
good friendship. They somehow suited each other.
Sometimes they did not exchange a word for hours together, but both
felt that they were happy and happy because they were together. I had
never met a girl like her, really. There was something attentive and
resolute about her, something honest and mournful and charming. I
never heard her say anything very intelligent, but I never heard her
say anything commonplace, and I have never seen more intelligent eyes.
After the rupture between her family and mine I saw her less
frequently: my father sternly forbade my visiting the Latkins, and she
did not appear in our house again. But I met her in the street, in
church and Black-lip always aroused in me the same feeling--respect
and even some wonder, rather than pity. She bore her misfortunes very
well indeed. "The girl is flint," even coarse-witted, Trankvillitatin
said about her once, but really she ought to have been pitied: her
face acquired a careworn, exhausted expression, her eyes were hollow
and sunken, a burden beyond her strength lay on her young shoulders.
David saw her much oftener than I did; he used to go to their house.
My father gave him up in despair: he knew that David would not obey
him, anyway. And from time to time Raissa would appear at the hurdle
fence of our garden which looked into a lane and there have an
interview with David; she did not come for the sake of conversation,
but told him of some new difficulty or trouble and asked his advice.
The paralysis that had attacked Latkin was of a rather peculiar kind.
His arms and legs had grown feeble, but he had not lost the use of
them, and his brain indeed worked perfectly; but his speech was
muddled and instead of one word he would pronounce another: one had to
guess what it was he wanted to say.... "Tchoo--tchoo--tchoo," he
would stammer with an effort--he began every sentence with
"Tchoo--tchoo--tchoo, some scissors, some scissors," ... and the word
scissors meant bread.... My father, he hated with all the strength left
him--he attributed all his misfortunes to my father's curse and called
him alternately the butcher and the diamond-merchant. "Tchoo, tchoo,
don't you dare to go to the butcher's, Vassilyevna." This was what he
called his daughter though his own name was Martinyan. Every day he
became more exacting; his needs increased.... And how were those needs
to be satisfied? Where could the money be found? Sorrow soon makes one
old: but it was horrible to hear some words on the lips of a girl of
I remember I happened to be present at a
conversation with David over the fence, on the
very day of her mother's death.
"Mother died this morning at daybreak," she
said, first looking round with her dark expressive eyes and then
fixing them on the ground.
"Cook undertook to get a coffin cheap but she's not to be trusted; she
may spend the money on drink, even. You might come and look after her,
Davidushka, she's afraid of you."
"I will come," answered David. "I will see to it. And how's your
"He cries; he says: 'you must spoil me, too.' Spoil must mean bury.
Now he has gone to sleep." Raissa suddenly gave a deep sigh. "Oh,
Davidushka, Davidushka!" She passed her half-clenched fist over her
forehead and her eyebrows, and the action was so bitter ... and as
sincere and beautiful as all her actions.
"You must take care of yourself, though," David observed; "you haven't
slept at all, I expect.... And what's the use of crying? It doesn't
"I have no time for crying," answered Raissa.
"That's a luxury for the rich, crying," observed David.
Raissa was going, but she turned back.
"The yellow shawl's being sold, you know; part of mother's dowry. They
are giving us twelve roubles; I think that is not much."
"It certainly is not much."
"We shouldn't sell it," Raissa said after a brief pause, "but you see
we must have money for the funeral."
"Of course you must. Only you mustn't spend money at random. Those
priests are awful! But I say, wait a minute. I'll come. Are you going?
I'll be with you soon. Goodbye, darling."
"Good-bye, Davidushka, darling."
"Mind now, don't cry!"
"As though I should cry! It's either cooking the dinner or crying. One
or the other."
"What! does she cook the dinner?" I said to David, as soon as Raissa
was out of hearing, "does she do the cooking herself?"
"Why, you heard that the cook has gone to buy a coffin."
"She cooks the dinner," I thought, "and her hands are always so clean
and her clothes so neat.... I should like to see her there at work in
the kitchen.... She is an extraordinary girl!"
I remember another conversation at the fence. That time Raissa brought
with her her little deaf and dumb sister. She was a pretty child with
immense, astonished-looking eyes and a perfect mass of dull, black
hair on her little, head (Raissa's hair, too, was black and hers, too,
was without lustre). Latkin had by then been struck down by paralysis.
"I really don't know what to do," Raissa began. "The doctor has
written a prescription. We must go to the chemist's; and our peasant
(Latkin had still one serf) has brought us wood from the village and a
goose. And the porter has taken it away, 'you are in debt to me,' he
"Taken the goose?" asked David.
"No, not the goose. He says it is an old one; it is no good for
anything; he says that is why our peasant brought it us, but he is
taking the wood."
"But he has no right to," exclaimed David.
"He has no right to, but he has taken it. I went up to the garret,
there we have got a very, very old trunk. I began rummaging in it and
what do you think I found? Look!"
She took from under her kerchief a rather large field glass in a
copper setting, covered with morocco, yellow with age. David, as a
connoisseur of all sorts of instruments, seized upon it at once.
"It's English," he pronounced, putting it first to one eye and then to
the other. "A marine glass."
"And the glasses are perfect," Raissa went on. "I showed it to father;
he said, 'Take it and pawn it to the diamond-merchant'! What do you
think, would they give us anything for it? What do we want a telescope
for? To look at ourselves in the looking-glass and see what beauties
we are? But we haven't a looking-glass, unluckily."
And Raissa suddenly laughed aloud. Her sister, of course, could not
hear her. But most likely she felt the shaking of her body: she clung
to Raissa's hand and her little face worked with a look of terror as
she raised her big eyes to her sister and burst into tears.
"That's how she always is," said Raissa, "she
doesn't like one to laugh.
"Come, I won't, Lyubotchka, I won't," she added, nimbly squatting on
her heels beside the child and passing her fingers through her hair.
The laughter vanished from Raissa's face and her lips, the corners of
which twisted upwards in a particularly charming way, became
motionless again. The child was pacified. Raissa got up.
"So you will do what you can, about the glass I mean, Davidushka. But
I do regret the wood, and the goose, too, however old it may be."
"They would certainly give you ten roubles," said David, turning the
telescope in all directions. "I will buy it of you, what could be
better? And here, meanwhile, are fifteen kopecks for the chemist's....
Is that enough?"
"I'll borrow that from you," whispered Raissa, taking the fifteen
kopecks from him.
"What next? Perhaps you would like to pay interest? But you see I have
a pledge here, a very fine thing.... First-rate people, the English."
"They say we are going to war with them."
"No," answered David, "we are fighting the French now."
"Well, you know best. Take care of it, then. Good-bye, friends."
Here is another conversation that took place beside the same fence.
Raissa seemed more worried than usual.
"Five kopecks for a cabbage, and a tiny little one, too," she said,
propping her chin on her hand. "Isn't it dear? And I haven't had the
money for my sewing yet."
"Who owes it you?" asked David.
"Why, the merchant's wife who lives beyond the rampart."
"The fat woman who goes about in a green blouse?"
"I say, she is fat! She can hardly breathe for fat. She positively
steams in church, and doesn't pay her debts!"
"She will pay, only when? And do you know, Davidushka, I have fresh
troubles. Father has taken it into his head to tell me his dreams--you
know he cannot say what he means: if he wants to say one word, it
comes out another. About food or any everyday thing we have got used
to it and understand; but it is not easy to understand the dreams even
of healthy people, and with him, it's awful! 'I am very happy,' he
says; 'I was walking about all among white birds to-day; and the Lord
God gave me a nosegay and in the nosegay was Andryusha with a little
knife,' he calls our Lyubotchka, Andryusha; 'now we shall both be
quite well,' he says. 'We need only one stroke with the little knife,
like this!' and he points to his throat. I don't understand him, but I
say, 'All right, dear, all right,' but he gets angry and tries to
explain what he means. He even bursts into tears."
"But you should have said something to him," I put in; "you should
have made up some lie."
"I can't tell lies," answered Raissa, and even flung up her hands.
And indeed she could not tell lies.
"There is no need to tell lies," observed David, "but there is no need
to kill yourself, either. No one will say thank you for it, you know."
Raissa looked at him intently.
"I wanted to ask you something, Davidushka; how ought I to spell
"What sort of 'while'?"
"Why, for instance: I hope you will live a long _while_."
"No," I put in, "w-h-i-l-e."
"Well, it does not matter. Spell it with an h, then! What does matter
is, that you should live a long while."
"I should like to write correctly," observed Raissa, and she flushed a
When she flushed she was amazingly pretty at once.
"It may be of use.... How father wrote in his day ... wonderfully! He
taught me. Well, now he can hardly make out the letters."
"You only live, that's all I want," David repeated, dropping his voice
and not taking his eyes off her. Raissa glanced quickly at him and
flushed still more.
"You live and as for spelling, spell as you like.... Oh, the devil,
the witch is coming!" (David called my aunt the witch.) "What ill-luck
has brought her this way? You must go, darling."
Raissa glanced at David once more and ran away.
David talked to me of Raissa and her family very rarely and
unwillingly, especially from the time when he began to expect his
father's return. He thought of nothing but him and how we should live
together afterwards. He had a vivid memory of him and used to describe
him to me with particular pleasure.
"He is big and strong; he can lift three hundred-weight with one
hand.... When he shouted: 'Where's the lad?' he could be heard all
over the house. He's so jolly and kind ... and a brave man! Nobody can
intimidate him. We lived so happily together before we were ruined.
They say he has gone quite grey, and in old days his hair was as red
as mine. He was a strong man."
David would never admit that we might remain in Ryazan.
"You will go away," I observed, "but I shall stay."
"Nonsense, we shall take you with us."
"And how about my father?"
"You will cast off your father. You will be ruined if you don't."
David made me no answer but merely knitted his white brows.
"So when we go away with father," he began again, "he will get a good
situation and I shall marry."
"Well, that won't be just directly," I said.
"No, why not? I shall marry soon."
"Yes, I; why not?"
"You haven't fixed on your wife, I suppose."
"Of course, I have."
"Who is she?"
"What a senseless fellow you are, really? Raissa, of course."
"Raissa!" I repeated in amazement; "you are joking!"
"I am not given to joking, and don't like it."
"Why, she is a year older than you are."
"What of it? but let's drop the subject."
"Let me ask one question," I said. "Does she know that you mean to
"But haven't you declared your feelings?"
"What is there to declare? When the time comes I shall tell her. Come,
David got up and went out of the room. When I was alone, I pondered ...
and pondered ... and came to the conclusion that David would act
like a sensible and practical man; and indeed I felt flattered at the
thought of being the friend of such a practical man!
And Raissa in her everlasting black woollen dress suddenly seemed to
me charming and worthy of the most devoted love.
David's father still did not come and did not even send a letter. It
had long been summer and June was drawing to its end. We were wearing
ourselves out in suspense.
Meanwhile there began to be rumours that Latkin had suddenly become
much worse, and that his family were likely to die of hunger or else
the house would fall in and crush them all under the roof.
David's face even looked changed and he became so ill-tempered and
surly that there was no going near him. He began to be more often
absent from home, too. I did not meet Raissa at all. From time to
time, I caught a glimpse of her in the distance, rapidly crossing the
street with her beautiful, light step, straight as an arrow, with her
arms crossed, with her dark, clever eyes under her long brows, with an
anxious expression on her pale, sweet face--that was all. My aunt with
the help of her Trankvillitatin pitched into me as before, and as
before reproachfully whispered in my ear: "You are a thief, sir, a
thief!" But I took no notice of her; and my father was very busy, and
occupied with his writing and driving all over the place and did not
want to hear anything.
One day, passing by the familiar apple-tree, more from habit than
anything I cast a furtive glance in the direction of the little spot I
knew so well, and it suddenly struck me that there was a change in the
surface of the soil that concealed our treasure ... as though there
were a little protuberance where there had been a hollow, and the bits
of rubbish were disarranged. "What does that mean?" I wondered. "Can
someone have guessed our secret and dug up the watch?"
I had to make certain with my own eyes. I felt, of course, the most
complete indifference in regard to the watch that lay rusting in the
bosom of the earth; but was not prepared to let anyone else make use
of it! And so next day I got up before dawn again and arming myself
with a knife went into the orchard, sought out the marked spot under
the apple-tree, began digging--and after digging a hole a yard deep
was forced to the conviction that the watch was gone, that someone had
got hold of it, taken it away, stolen it!
But who could have dug it up except David?
Who else knew where it was?
I filled in the hole and went back to the house. I felt deeply
"Supposing," I thought, "that David needs the watch to save his future
wife or her father from dying of starvation.... Say what you like, the
watch was worth something.... Why did he not come to me and say:
'Brother' (in David's place I should have certainly begun by saying
brother), 'brother, I need money; you have none, I know, but let me
make use of that watch which we buried together under the old
apple-tree? It is of no use to anyone and I shall be so grateful to
you, brother!' With what joy I should have consented. But to act
secretly, treacherously, not to trust his friend.... No! No passion, no
necessity would justify that!"
I repeat, I felt horribly injured. I began by a display of coldness
But David was not one of the sort to notice this and be upset by it.
I began dropping hints.
But David appeared not to understand my hints in the least!
I said before him how base in my eyes was the man who having a friend
and understanding all that was meant by that sacred sentiment
"friendship," was yet so devoid of generosity as to have recourse to
deception; as though it were possible to conceal anything.
As I uttered these last words I laughed scornfully.
But David did not turn a hair. At last I asked him straight out: "What
did he think, had our watch gone for some time after being buried in
the earth or had it stopped at once?"
He answered me: "The devil only knows! What a thing to wonder about!"
I did not know what to think! David evidently had something on his
mind ... but not the abduction of the watch. An unexpected incident
showed me his innocence.
One day I came home by a side lane which I usually avoided as the
house in which my enemy Trankvillitatin lodged was in it; but on this
occasion Fate itself led me that way. Passing the open window of an
eating-house, I suddenly heard the voice of our servant, Vassily, a
young man of free and easy manners, "a lazy fellow and a scamp," as my
father called him, but also a great conqueror of female hearts which
he charmed by his wit, his dancing and his playing on the tambourine.
"And what do you suppose they've been up to?" said Vassily, whom I
could not see but heard distinctly; he was, most likely, sitting close
by, near the window with a companion over the steaming tea--and as
often happens with people in a closed room, spoke in a loud voice
without suspecting that anyone passing in the street could hear every
word: "They buried it in the ground!"
"Nonsense!" muttered another voice.
"I tell you they did, our young gentlemen are extraordinary!
Especially that Davidka, he's a regular Aesop! I got up at daybreak
and went to the window.... I looked out and, what do you think! Our
two little dears were coming along the orchard bringing that same
watch and they dug a hole under the apple-tree and there they buried
it, as though it had been a baby! And they smoothed the earth over
afterwards, upon my soul they did, the young rakes!"
"Ah! plague take them," Vassily's companion commented. "Too well off,
I suppose. Well, did you dig up the watch?"
"To be sure I did. I have got it now. Only it won't do to show it for
a time. There's been no end of a fuss over it. Davidka stole it that
very night from under our old lady's back."
"I tell you, he did. He's a desperate fellow. So it won't do to show
it. But when the officers come down I shall sell it or stake it at
I didn't stay to hear more: I rushed headlong home and straight to
"Brother!" I began, "brother, forgive me! I have wronged you! I
suspected you! I blamed you! You see how agitated I am! Forgive me!"
"What's the matter with you?" asked David. "Explain!"
"I suspected that you had dug up our watch under the apple-tree."
"The watch again! Why, isn't it there?"
"It's not there; I thought you had taken it, to help your friends. And
it was all Vassily."
I repeated to David all that I had overheard under the window of the
But how to describe my amazement! I had, of course, expected David to
be indignant, but I had not for a moment anticipated the effect it
produced on him! I had hardly finished my story when he flew into an
indescribable fury! David, who had always taken up a scornful attitude
to the whole "vulgar," as he called it, business of the watch; David,
who had more than once declared that it wasn't worth a rotten egg,
jumped up from his seat, got hot all over, ground his teeth and
clenched his fists. "We can't let this pass!" he said at last; "how
dare he take someone else's property? Wait a bit, I'll show him. I
won't let thieves off so easily!"
I confess I don't understand to this day what can have so infuriated
David. Whether he had been irritated before and Vassily's action had
simply poured oil on the flames, or whether my suspicions had wounded
him, I cannot say, but I had never seen him in such excitement. I
stood before him with my mouth open merely wondering how it was that
his breathing was so hard and laboured.
"What do you intend to do?" I asked at last.
"You shall see after dinner, when your father lies down. I'll find
this scoffer, I'll talk to him."
"Well," thought I, "I should not care to be in that scoffer's shoes!
What will happen? Merciful heavens?"
This is what did happen:
As soon as that drowsy, stifling stillness prevailed, which to this
day lies like a feather bed on the Russian household and the Russian
people in the middle of the day after dinner is eaten, David went to
the servants' rooms (I followed on his heels with a sinking heart) and
called Vassily out. The latter was at first unwilling to come, but
ended by obeying and following us into the garden.
David stood close in front of him. Vassily was a whole head taller.
"Vassily Terentyev," my comrade began in a firm voice, "six weeks ago
you took from under this very apple-tree the watch we hid there. You
had no right to do so; it does not belong to you. Give it back at
Vassily was taken aback, but at once recovered himself.
"What watch? What are you talking about? God bless you! I have no
"I know what I am saying and don't tell lies. You've got the watch,
give it back."
"I've not got your watch."
"Then how was it that in the eating-house, you ..." I began, but David
"Vassily Terentyev!" he pronounced in a hollow, threatening voice, "we
know for a fact that you have the watch. You are told honourably to
give it back and if you don't ..."
Vassily sniggered insolently.
"Then what will you do with me then? Eh?"
"What will we do? We will both fight with you till you beat us or we
"Fight? That's not for a gentleman! To fight with a servant!"
David suddenly caught hold of Vassily's waistcoat.
"But we are not going to fight you with our fists," he articulated,
grinding his teeth. "Understand that! I'll give you a knife and take
one myself.... And then we shall see who does for which? Alexey!" he
began commanding me, "run for my big knife, you know the one with the
bone handle--it's lying on the table and the other's in my pocket."
Vassily positively collapsed. David stood holding him by the
"Mercy on us! ... Mercy on us, David Yegoritch!" he muttered; tears
actually came into his eyes. "What do you mean, what are you saying?
Let me go."
"I won't let you go. And we shall have no mercy on you! If you get
away from us today, we shall begin again to-morrow. Alyoshka, where's
"David Yegoritch," wailed Vassily, "don't commit murder.... What are
you doing! The watch ... I certainly ... I was joking. I'll give it to
you this minute. What a thing, to be sure! First you are going to slit
Hrisanf Lukitch's belly, then mine. Let me go, David Yegoritch....
Kindly take the watch. Only don't tell your papa."
David let go his hold of Vassily's waistcoat. I looked into his face:
certainly not only Vassily might have been frightened by it. It looked
so weary ... and cold ... and angry....
Vassily dashed into the house and promptly returned with the watch in
his hand. He gave it to David without a word and only on going back
into the house exclaimed aloud in the doorway:
"Tfoo! here's a go."
He still looked panic-stricken. David tossed his head and walked into
our room. Again I followed on his heels. "A Suvorov! He's a regular
Suvorov!" I thought to myself. In those days, in 1801, Suvorov was
our great national hero.
David shut the door after him, put the watch on the table, folded his
arms and--oh, wonder!--laughed. Looking at him I laughed, too.
"What a wonderful performance!" he began. "We can't get rid of this
watch anyway. It's bewitched, really. And why was I so furious about
"Yes, why?" I repeated. "You ought to have let Vassily keep it...."
"Well, no," interposed David. "That's nonsense. But what are we to do
We both stared at the watch and pondered. Adorned with a chain of pale
blue beads (the luckless Vassily in his haste had not removed this
chain which belonged to him) it was calmly doing its work: ticking
somewhat irregularly, it is true, and slowly moving its copper minute
"Shall we bury it again? Or put it in the stove," I suggested at last.
"Or, I tell you what: shouldn't we take it to Latkin?"
"No," answered David. "That's not the thing. I know what: they have
set up a committee at the governor's office and are collecting
subscriptions for the benefit of the people of Kasimov. The town has
been burnt to ashes with all its churches. And I am told they take
anything, not only bread and money, but all sorts of things. Shall we
send the watch there?"
"Yes! yes!" I answered. "A splendid idea. But I thought that since
your friends are in want...."
"No, no; to the committee; the Latkins will manage without it. To the
"Well, if it is to be the committee, let it be. Only, I imagine, we
must write something to the governor."
David glanced at me. "Do you think so?"
"Yes, of course; there is no need to write much. But just a few
"For instance ... begin like this: 'Being' ... or better: 'Moved
"'Moved by' ... very good."
"Then we must say: 'herewith our mite' ..."
"'Mite' ... that's good, too. Well, take your pen, sit down and write,
"First I must make a rough copy," I observed.
"All right, a rough copy, only write, write.... And meanwhile I will
clean it with some whitening."
I took a sheet of paper, mended a pen, but before I had time to write
at the top of the sheet "To His Excellency, the illustrious Prince"
(our governer was at that time Prince X), I stopped, struck by the
extraordinary uproar ... which had suddenly arisen in the house. David
noticed the hubbub, too, and he, too, stopped, holding the watch in
his left hand and a rag with whitening in his right. We looked at each
other. What was that shrill cry. It was my aunt shrieking ... and
that? It was my father's voice, hoarse with anger. "The watch! the
watch!" bawled someone, surely Trankvillitatin. We heard the thud of
feet, the creak of the floor, a regular rabble running ... moving
straight upon us. I was numb with terror and David was as white as
chalk, but he looked proud as an eagle. "Vassily, the scoundrel, has
betrayed us," he whispered through his teeth. The door was flung wide
open, and my father in his dressing gown and without his cravat, my
aunt in her dressing jacket, Trankvillitatin, Vassily, Yushka, another
boy, and the cook, Agapit--all burst into the room.
"Scoundrels!" shouted my father, gasping for breath.... "At last we
have found you out!" And seeing the watch in David's hands: "Give it
here!" yelled my father, "give me the watch!"
But David, without uttering a word, dashed to the open window and
leapt out of it into the yard and then off into the street.
Accustomed to imitate my paragon in everything, I jumped out, too, and
ran after David....
"Catch them! Hold them!" we heard a medley of frantic shouts behind
But we were already racing along the street bareheaded, David in
advance and I a few paces behind him, and behind us the clatter and
uproar of pursuit.
Many years have passed since the date of these events; I have
reflected over them more than once--and to this day I can no more
understand the cause of the fury that took possession of my father
(who had so lately been so sick of the watch that he had forbidden it
to be mentioned in his hearing) than I can David's rage at its having
been stolen by Vassily! One is tempted to imagine that there was some
mysterious power connected with it. Vassily had not betrayed us as
David assumed--he was not capable of it: he had been too much
scared--it was simply that one of our maids had seen the watch in his
hands and had promptly informed our aunt. The fat was in the fire!
And so we darted down the street, keeping to the very middle of it.
The passers-by who met us stopped or stepped aside in amazement. I
remember a retired major craned out of the window of his flat--and,
crimson in the face, his bulky person almost overbalancing, hallooed
furiously. Shouts of "Stop! hold them" still resounded behind us.
David ran flourishing the watch over his head and from time to time
leaping into the air; I jumped, too, whenever he did.
"Where?" I shouted to David, seeing that he was turning into a side
street--and I turned after him.
"To the Oka!" he shouted. "To throw it into the water, into the river.
To the devil!"
"Stop! stop!" they shouted behind.
But we were already flying along the side street, already a whiff of
cool air was meeting us--and the river lay before us, and the steep
muddy descent to it, and the wooden bridge with a train of waggons
stretching across it, and a garrison soldier with a pike beside the
flagstaff; soldiers used to carry pikes in those days. David reached
the bridge and darted by the soldier who tried to give him a blow on
the legs with his pike and hit a passing calf. David instantly leaped
on to the parapet; he uttered a joyful exclamation.... Something
white, something blue gleamed in the air and shot into the water--it
was the silver watch with Vassily's blue bead chain flying into the
water.... But then something incredible happened. After the watch
David's feet flew upwards--and head foremost, with his hands thrust
out before him and the lapels of his jacket fluttering, he described
an arc in the air (as frightened frogs jump on hot days from a high
bank into a pond) and instantly vanished behind the parapet of the
bridge ... and then flop! and a tremendous splash below.
What happened to me I am utterly unable to describe. I was some steps
from David when he leapt off the parapet ... but I don't even remember
whether I cried out; I don't think that I was even frightened: I was
stunned, stupefied. I could not stir hand or foot. People were running
and hustling round me; some of them seemed to be people I knew. I had
a sudden glimpse of Trofimitch, the soldier with the pike dashed off
somewhere, the horses and the waggons passed by quickly, tossing up
their noses covered with string. Then everything was green before my
eyes and someone gave me a violent shove on my head and all down my
back ... I fell fainting.
I remember that I came to myself afterwards and seeing that no one was
paying any attention to me went up to the parapet but not on the side
that David had jumped. It seemed terrible to me to approach it, and as
I began gazing into the dark blue muddy swollen river, I remember that
I noticed a boat moored to the bridge not far from the bank, and
several people in the boat, and one of these, who was drenched all
over and sparkling in the sun, bending over the edge of the boat was
pulling something out of the water, something not very big, oblong, a
dark thing which at first I took to be a portmanteau or a basket; but
when I looked more intently I saw that the thing was--David. Then in
violent excitement I shouted at the top of my voice and ran towards
the boat, pushing my way through the people, but when I had run down
to it I was overcome with timidity and began looking about me. Among
the people who were crowding about it I recognised Trankvillitatin,
the cook Agapit with a boot in his hand, Yushka, Vassily ... the wet
and shining man held David's body under the arms, drew him out of the
boat and laid him on his back on the mud of the bank. Both David's
hands were raised to the level of his face as though he were trying to
hide himself from strange eyes; he did not stir but lay as though
standing at attention, with his heels together and his stomach out.
His face was greenish--his eyes were staring and water was dripping
from his hair. The wet man who had pulled him out, a factory hand,
judging by his clothes, began describing how he had done it, shivering
with cold and continually throwing back his hair from his forehead as
he talked. He told his story in a very proper and painstaking way.
"What do I see, friends? This young lad go flying from the bridge....
Well! ... I ran down at once the way of the current for I knew he had
fallen into mid-stream and it would carry him under the bridge and
there ... talk of the devil! ... I looked: something like a fur cap was
floating and it was his head. Well, quick as thought, I was in the
water and caught hold of him.... It didn't need much cleverness for
Two or three words of approval were audible in the crowd.
"You ought to have something to warm you now. Come along and we will
have a drink," said someone.
But at this point all at once somebody pushed forward abruptly: it was
"What are you doing, good Christians?" he cried, tearfully. "We must
bring him to by rolling him; it's our young gentleman!"
"Roll him, roll him," shouted the crowd, which was continually
"Hang him up by the feet! it's the best way!"
"Lay him with his stomach on the barrel and roll him backwards and
forwards.... Take him, lads."
"Don't dare to touch him," put in the soldier with the pike. "He must
be taken to the police station."
"Low brute," Trofimitch's bass voice rang out.
"But he is alive," I shouted at the top of my voice and almost with
horror. I had put my face near to his. "So that is what the drowned
look like," I thought, with a sinking heart.... And all at once I saw
David's lips stir and a little water oozed from them....
At once I was pushed back and dragged away; everyone rushed up to him.
"Roll him, roll him," voices clamoured.
"No, no, stay," shouted Vassily. "Take him home.... Take him home!"
"Take him home," Trankvillitatin himself chimed in.
"We will bring him to. We can see better there," Vassily went on....
(I have liked him from that day.) "Lads, haven't you a sack? If not we
must take him by his head and his feet...."
"Stay! Here's a sack! Lay him on it! Catch hold! Start! That's fine.
As though he were driving in a chaise."
A few minutes later David, borne in triumph on the sack, crossed the
threshold of our house again.
He was undressed and put to bed. He began to give signs of life while
in the street, moaned, moved his hands.... Indoors he came to himself
completely. But as soon as all anxiety for his life was over and there
was no reason to worry about him, indignation got the upper hand
again: everyone shunned him, as though he were a leper.
"May God chastise him! May God chastise him!" my aunt shrieked, to be
heard all over the house. "Get rid of him, somehow, Porfiry
Petrovitch, or he will do some mischief beyond all bearing."
"Upon my word, he is a viper; he is possessed with a devil,"
Trankvillitatin chimed in.
"The wickedness, the wickedness!" cackled my aunt, going close to the
door of our room so that David might be sure to hear her. "First of
all he stole the watch and then flung it into the water ... as though
to say, no one should get it...."
Everyone, everyone was indignant.
"David," I asked him as soon as we were left alone, "what did you do
"So you are after that, too," he answered in a voice that was still
weak; his lips were blue and he looked as though he were swollen all
over. "What did I do?"
"But what did you jump into the water for?"
"Jump! I lost my balance on the parapet, that was all. If I had known
how to swim I should have jumped on purpose. I shall certainly learn.
But the watch now--ah...."
But at that moment my father walked with a majestic step into our
"You, my fine fellow," he said, addressing me, "I shall certainly
whip, you need have no doubt about that, though you are too big to lie
on the bench now."
Then he went up to the bed on which David was lying. "In Siberia," he
began in an impressive and dignified tone, "in Siberia, sir, in penal
servitude, in the mines, there are people living and dying who are
less guilty, less criminal than you. Are you a suicide or simply a
thief or altogether a fool? Be so kind as to tell me just that!"
"I am not a suicide and I am not a thief," answered David, "but the
truth's the truth: there are good men in Siberia, better than you or
I ... who should know that, if not you?"
My father gave a subdued gasp, drew back a step, looked intently at
David, spat on the floor and, slowly crossing himself, walked away.
"Don't you like that?" David called after him and put his tongue out.
Then he tried to get up but could not.
"I must have hurt myself somehow," he said, gasping and frowning. "I
remember the water dashed me against a post."
"Did you see Raissa?" he added suddenly.
"No. I did not.... Stay, stay, stay! Now I remember, wasn't it she
standing on the bank by the bridge? ... Yes ... yes ... a dark
dress ... a yellow kerchief on her head, yes it must have been
"Well, and afterwards.... Did you see her?"
"Afterwards ... I don't know, I had no thought to spare for her....
You jumped in ..."
David was suddenly roused. "Alyosha, darling, go to her at once, tell
her I am all right, that there's nothing the matter with me. Tomorrow
I shall be with them. Go as quickly as you can, brother, for my sake!"
David held out both hands to me.... His red hair, by now dry, stuck up
in amusing tufts.... But the softened expression of his face seemed
the more genuine for that. I took my cap and went out of the house,
trying to avoid meeting my father and reminding him of his promise.
"Yes, indeed," I reflected as I walked towards the Latkins', "how was
it that I did not notice Raissa? What became of her? She must have
And all at once I remembered that the very moment of David's fall, a
terrible piercing shriek had rung in my ears.
"Was not that Raissa? But how was it I did not see her afterwards?"
Before the little house in which Latkin lodged there stretched a
waste-ground overgrown with nettles and surrounded by a broken hurdle.
I had scarcely clambered over the hurdle (there was no gate anywhere)
when the following sight met my eyes: Raissa, with her elbows on her
knees and her chin propped on her clasped hands, was sitting on the
lowest step in front of the house; she was looking fixedly straight
before her; near her stood her little dumb sister with the utmost
composure brandishing a little whip, while, facing the steps with his
back to me, old Latkin, in torn and shabby drawers and high felt
boots, was trotting and prancing up and down, capering and jerking his
elbows. Hearing my footsteps he suddenly turned round and squatted
on his heels--then at once, skipping up to me, began speaking
very rapidly in a trembling voice, incessantly repeating,
"Tchoo--tchoo--tchoo!" I was dumbfoundered. I had not seen him for a
long time and should not, of course, have known him if I had met him
anywhere else. That red, wrinkled, toothless face, those lustreless
round eyes and touzled grey hair, those jerks and capers, that
senseless halting speech! What did it mean? What inhuman despair was
torturing this unhappy creature? What dance of death was this?
"Tchoo--tchoo," he muttered, wriggling incessantly. "See Vassilyevna
here came in tchoo--tchoo, just now.... Do you hear? With a trough on
the roof" (he slapped himself on the head with his hand), "and there
she sits like a spade, and she is cross-eyed, cross-eyed, like
Andryushka; Vassilyevna is cross-eyed" (he probably meant to say
dumb), "tchoo! My Vassilyevna is cross-eyed! They are both on the same
cork now. You may wonder, good Christians! I have only these two
little boats! Eh?"
Latkin was evidently conscious that he was not saying the right thing
and made terrible efforts to explain to me what was the matter. Raissa
did not seem to hear what her father was saying and the little sister
went on lashing the whip.
"Good-bye, diamond-merchant, good-bye, good-bye," Latkin drawled
several times in succession, making a low bow, seeming delighted at
having at last got hold of an intelligible word.
My head began to go round.
"What does it all mean?" I asked of an old woman who was looking out
of the window of the little house.
"Well, my good gentleman," she answered in a sing-song voice, "they
say some man--the Lord only knows who--went and drowned himself and
she saw it. Well, it gave her a fright or something; when she came
home she seemed all right though; but when she sat down on the
step--here, she has been sitting ever since like an image, it's no good
talking to her. I suppose she has lost her speech, too. Oh, dear! Oh,
"Good-bye, good-bye," Latkin kept repeating, still with the same bow.
I went up to Raissa and stood directly facing her.
"Raissa, dear, what's the matter with you?"
She made no answer, she seemed not to notice me. Her face had not
grown pale, had not changed--but had turned somehow stony and there
was a look in it as though she were just falling asleep.
"She is cross-eyed, cross-eyed," Latkin muttered in my ear.
I took Raissa by the hand. "David is alive," I cried, more loudly than
before. "Alive and well; David's alive, do you understand? He was
pulled out of the water; he is at home now and told me to say that he
will come to you to-morrow; he is alive!" As it were with effort
Raissa turned her eyes on me; she blinked several times, opening them
wider and wider, then leaned her head on one side and flushed slightly
all over while her lips parted ... she slowly drew in a deep breath,
winced as though in pain and with fearful effort articulated:
"Da ... Dav ... a ... alive," got up impulsively and rushed away.
"Where are you going?" I exclaimed. But with a faint laugh she ran
staggering across the waste-ground....
I, of course, followed her, while behind me a wail rose up in unison
from the old man and the child.... Raissa darted straight to our
"Here's a day!" I thought, trying not to lose sight of the black dress
that was fluttering before me. "Well!"
Passing Vassily, my aunt, and even Trankvillitatin, Raissa ran into
the room where David was lying and threw herself on his neck. "Oh ...
oh ... Da ... vidushka," her voice rang out from under her loose
Flinging wide his arms David embraced her and nestled his head against
"Forgive me, my heart," I heard his voice saying.
And both seemed swooning with joy.
"But why did you go home, Raissa, why didn't you stay?" I said to
her.... She still kept her head bowed. "You would have seen that he
"Ah, I don't know! Ah, I don't know. Don't ask. I don't know, I don't
remember how I got home. I only remember: I saw you in the air ...
something seemed to strike me ... and what happened afterwards ..."
"Seemed to strike you," repeated David, and we all three suddenly
burst out laughing together. We were very happy.
"What may be the meaning of this, may I ask," we heard behind us a
threatening voice, the voice of my father. He was standing in the
doorway. "Will there ever be an end to these fooleries? Where are we
living? Are we in the Russian Empire or the French Republic?"
He came into the room.
"Anyone who wants to be rebellious and immoral had better go to
France! And how dare _you_ come here?" he said, turning to Raissa,
who, quietly sitting up and turning to face him, was evidently taken
aback but still smiled as before, a friendly and blissful smile.
"The daughter of my sworn enemy! How dare you? And hugging him, too!
Away with you at once, or ..."
"Uncle," David brought out, and he sat up in bed. "Don't insult
Raissa. She is going away, only don't insult her."
"And who are you to teach me? I am not insulting her, I am not in ...
sul ... ting her! I am simply turning her out of the house. I have an
account to settle with you, too, presently. You have made away with
other people's property, have attempted to take your own life, have
put me to expense."
"To what expense?" David interrupted.
"What expense? You have ruined your clothes. Do you count that as
nothing? And I had to tip the men who brought you. You have given the
whole family a fright and are you going to be unruly now? And if this
young woman, regardless of shame and honour itself ..."
David made a dash as though to get out of bed.
"Don't insult her, I tell you."
"Hold your tongue."
"Don't dare ..."
"Hold your tongue!"
"Don't dare to insult my betrothed," cried David at the top of his
voice, "my future wife!"
"Betrothed!" repeated my father, with round eyes. "Betrothed! Wife!
Ho, ho, ho! ..." ("Ha, ha, ha," my aunt echoed behind the door.) "Why,
how old are you? He's been no time in the world, the milk is hardly
dry on his lips, he is a mere babe and he is going to be married! But
I ... but you ..."
"Let me go, let me go," whispered Raissa, and she made for the door.
She looked more dead than alive.
"I am not going to ask permission of you," David went on shouting,
propping himself up with his fists on the edge of the bed, "but of my
own father who is bound to be here one day soon; he is a law to me,
but you are not; but as for my age, if Raissa and I are not old
enough ... we will bide our time whatever you may say...."
"AiŽ, aiŽ, Davidka, don't forget yourself," my father interrupted.
"Just look at yourself. You are not fit to be seen. You have lost all
sense of decency."
David put his hand to the front of his shirt.
"Whatever you may say ..." he repeated.
"Oh, shut his mouth, Porfiry Petrovitch," piped my aunt from behind
the door, "shut his mouth, and as for this hussy, this baggage ...
But something extraordinary must have cut short my aunt's eloquence at
that moment: her voice suddenly broke off and in its place we heard
another, feeble and husky with old age....
"Brother," this weak voice articulated, "Christian soul."
We all turned round.... In the same costume
in which I had just seen him, thin, pitiful
and wild looking, Latkin stood before us like an
"God!" he pronounced in a sort of childish way, pointing upwards with
a bent and trembling finger and gazing impotently at my father, "God
has chastised me, but I have come for Va ... for Ra ... yes, yes, for
Raissotchka.... What ... tchoo! what is there for me? Soon
underground--and what do you call it? One little stick, another ...
cross-beam--that's what I ... want, but you, brother, diamond-merchant
... mind ... I'm a man, too!"
Raissa crossed the room without a word and taking his arm buttoned his
"Let us go, Vassilyevna," he said; "they are all saints here, don't
come to them and he lying there in his case"--he pointed to David--"is
a saint, too, but you and I are sinners, brother. Come. Tchoo....
Forgive an old man with a pepper pot, gentleman! We have stolen
together!" he shouted suddenly; "stolen together, stolen together!" he
repeated, with evident satisfaction that his tongue had obeyed him at
Everyone in the room was silent. "And where is ... the ikon here," he
asked, throwing back his head and turning up his eyes; "we must
cleanse ourselves a bit."
He fell to praying to one of the corners, crossing himself fervently
several times in succession, tapping first one shoulder and then the
other with his fingers and hurriedly repeating:
"Have mercy me, oh, Lor ... me, oh, Lor ... me, oh, Lor ..." My
father, who had not taken his eyes off Latkin, and had not uttered a
word, suddenly started, stood beside him and began crossing himself,
too. Then he turned to him, bowed very low so that he touched the
floor with one hand, saying, "You forgive me, too, Martinyan
Gavrilitch," kissed him on the shoulder. Latkin in response smacked
his lips in the air and blinked: I doubt whether he quite knew what he
was doing. Then my father turned to everyone in the room, to David, to
Raissa and to me:
"Do as you like, act as you think best," he brought out in a soft and
mournful voice, and he withdrew.
My aunt was running up to him, but he cried out sharply and gruffly to
her. He was overwhelmed.
"Me, oh, Lor ... me, oh, Lor ... mercy!" Latkin repeated. "I am a
"Good-bye, Davidushka," said Raissa, and she, too, went out of the
room with the old man.
"I will be with you tomorrow," David called after her, and, turning
his face to the wall, he whispered: "I am very tired; it will be as
well to have some sleep now," and was quiet.
It was a long while before I went out of the room. I kept in hiding. I
could not forget my father's threats. But my apprehensions turned out
to be unnecessary. He met me and did not utter a word. He seemed to
feel awkward himself. But night soon came on and everything was quiet
in the house.
Next morning David got up as though nothing were the matter and not
long after, on the same day, two important events occurred: in the
morning old Latkin died, and towards evening my uncle, Yegor, David's
father, arrived in Ryazan. Without sending any letter in advance,
without warning anyone, he descended on us like snow on our heads. My
father was completely taken aback and did not know what to offer to
his dear guest and where to make him sit. He rushed about as though
delirious, was flustered as though he were guilty; but my uncle did
not seem to be much touched by his brother's fussy solicitude; he kept
repeating: "What's this for?" or "I don't want anything." His manner
with my aunt was even colder; she had no great liking for him, indeed.
In her eyes he was an infidel, a heretic, a Voltairian ... (he had in
fact learnt French to read Voltaire in the original). I found my Uncle
Yegor just as David had described him. He was a big heavy man with a
broad pock-marked face, grave and serious. He always wore a hat with
feathers in it, cuffs, a frilled shirt front and a snuff-coloured vest
and a sword at his side. David was unspeakably delighted to see him--
actually looked brighter in the face and better looking, and his
eyes looked different: merrier, keener, more shining; but he did his
utmost to moderate his joy and not to show it in words: he was afraid
of being too soft. The first night after Uncle Yegor's arrival, father
and son shut themselves up in the room that had been assigned to my
uncle and spent a long time talking together in a low voice; next
morning I saw that my uncle looked particularly affectionately and
trustfully at his son: he seemed very much pleased with him. David
took him to the requiem service for Latkin; I went to it, too, my
father did not hinder my going but remained at home himself. Raissa
impressed me by her calm: she looked pale and much thinner but did not
shed tears and spoke and behaved with perfect simplicity; and with all
that, strange to say, I saw a certain grandeur in her; the unconscious
grandeur of sorrow forgetful of itself! Uncle Yegor made her
acquaintance on the spot, in the church porch; from his manner to her,
it was evident that David had already spoken of her. He was as pleased
with her as with his son: I could read that in David's eyes when he
looked at them both. I remember how his eyes sparkled when his father
said, speaking of her: "She's a clever girl; she'll make a capable
woman." At the Latkins' I was told that the old man had quietly
expired like a candle that has burnt out, and that until he had lost
power and consciousness, he kept stroking his daughter's head and
saying something unintelligible but not gloomy, and he was smiling to
the end. My father went to the funeral and to the service in the
church and prayed very devoutly; Trankvillitatin actually sang in the
Beside the grave Raissa suddenly broke into sobs and sank forward on
the ground; but she soon recovered herself. Her little deaf and dumb
sister stared at everyone and everything with big, bright, rather
wild-looking eyes; from time to time she huddled up to Raissa, but
there was no sign of terror about her. The day after the funeral Uncle
Yegor, who, judging from appearances, had not come back from Siberia
with empty hands (he paid for the funeral and liberally rewarded
David's rescuer) but who told us nothing of his doings there or of his
plans for the future, Uncle Yegor suddenly informed my father that he
did not intend to remain in Ryazan, but was going to Moscow with his
son. My father, from a feeling of propriety, expressed regret and even
tried--very faintly it is true--to induce my uncle to alter his
decision, but at the bottom of his heart, I think he was really much
The presence of his brother with whom he had very little in common,
who did not even condescend to reproach him, whose feeling for him was
more one of simple disgust than disdain--oppressed him ... and parting
with David could not have caused him much regret. I, of course, was
utterly crushed by the separation; I was utterly desolate at first and
lost all support in life and all interest in it.
And so my uncle went away and took with him not only David but, to the
great astonishment and even indignation of our whole street, Raissa
and her little sister, too.... When she heard of this, my aunt
promptly called him a Turk, and called him a Turk to the end of her
And I was left alone, alone ... but this story is not about me.
So this is the end of my tale of the watch. What more have I to tell
you? Five years after David was married to his Black-lip, and in 1812,
as a lieutenant of artillery, he died a glorious death on the
battlefield of Borodino in defence of the Shevardinsky redoubt.
Much water has flowed by since then and I have had many watches; I
have even attained the dignity of a real repeater with a second hand
and the days of the week on it. But in a secret drawer of my writing
table there is preserved an old-fashioned silver watch with a rose on
the face; I bought it from a Jewish pedlar, struck by its likeness to
the watch which was once presented to me by my godfather. From time to
time, when I am alone and expect no one, I take it out of the drawer
and looking at it remember my young days and the companion of those
days that have fled never to return.