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Poor Folk by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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know not how I contrived even to write as much of them as I did;
and now I have not the strength to write further of my past, nor
the desire to give it a single thought. Such recollections are
terrible to me. Most difficult of all is it for me to speak of my
poor mother, who left her destitute daughter a prey to villains.
My heart runs blood whenever I think of it; it is so fresh in my
memory that I cannot dismiss it from my thoughts, nor rest for
its insistence, although a year has now elapsed since the events
took place. But all this you know.

Also, I have told you what Anna Thedorovna is now intending. She
accuses me of ingratitude, and denies the accusations made
against herself with regard to Monsieur Bwikov. Also, she keeps
sending for me, and telling me that I have taken to evil courses,
but that if I will return to her, she will smooth over matters
with Bwikov, and force him to confess his fault. Also, she says
that he desires to give me a dowry. Away with them all! I am
quite happy here with you and good Thedora, whose devotion to me
reminds me of my old nurse, long since dead. Distant kinsman
though you may be, I pray you always to defend my honour. Other
people I do not wish to know, and would gladly forget if I could.
. . . What are they wanting with me now? Thedora declares it all
to be a trick, and says that in time they will leave me alone.
God grant it be so!

B. D.

June 21st.

MY OWN, MY DARLING,--I wish to write to you, yet know not where
to begin. Things are as strange as though we were actually living
together. Also I would add that never in my life have I passed
such happy days as I am spending at present. 'Tis as though God
had blessed me with a home and a family of my own! Yes, you are
my little daughter, beloved. But why mention the four sorry
roubles that I sent you? You needed them; I know that from
Thedora herself, and it will always be a particular pleasure to
me to gratify you in anything. It will always be my one happiness
in life. Pray, therefore, leave me that happiness, and do not
seek to cross me in it. Things are not as you suppose. I have now
reached the sunshine since, in the first place, I am living so
close to you as almost to be with you (which is a great
consolation to my mind), while, in the second place, a neighbour
of mine named Rataziaev (the retired official who gives the
literary parties) has today invited me to tea. This evening,
therefore, there will be a gathering at which we shall discuss
literature! Think of that my darling! Well, goodbye now. I have
written this without any definite aim in my mind, but solely to
assure you of my welfare. Through Theresa I have received your
message that you need an embroidered cloak to wear, so I will go
and purchase one. Yes, tomorrow I mean to purchase that
embroidered cloak, and so give myself the pleasure of having
satisfied one of your wants. I know where to go for such a
garment. For the time being I remain your sincere friend,


June 22nd.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I have to tell you that a sad
event has happened in this house--an event to excite one's utmost
pity. This morning, about five o'clock, one of Gorshkov's
children died of scarlatina, or something of the kind. I have
been to pay the parents a visit of condolence, and found them
living in the direst poverty and disorder. Nor is that
surprising, seeing that the family lives in a single room, with
only a screen to divide it for decency's sake. Already the coffin
was standing in their midst--a plain but decent shell which had
been bought ready-made. The child, they told me, had been a boy
of nine, and full of promise. What a pitiful spectacle! Though
not weeping, the mother, poor woman, looked broken with grief.
After all, to have one burden the less on their shoulders may
prove a relief, though there are still two children left--a babe
at the breast and a little girl of six! How painful to see these
suffering children, and to be unable to help them! The father,
clad in an old, dirty frockcoat, was seated on a dilapidated
chair. Down his cheeks there were coursing tears--though less
through grief than owing to a long-standing affliction of the
eyes. He was so thin, too! Always he reddens in the face when he
is addressed, and becomes too confused to answer. A little girl,
his daughter, was leaning against the coffin--her face looking so
worn and thoughtful, poor mite! Do you know, I cannot bear to see
a child look thoughtful. On the floor there lay a rag doll, but
she was not playing with it as, motionless, she stood there with
her finger to her lips. Even a bon-bon which the landlady had
given her she was not eating. Is it not all sad, sad, Barbara?


June 25th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH--I return you your book. In my
opinion it is a worthless one, and I would rather not have it in
my possession. Why do you save up your money to buy such trash?
Except in jest, do such books really please you? However, you
have now promised to send me something else to read. I will share
the cost of it. Now, farewell until we meet again. I have nothing
more to say.

B. D.

June 26th.

MY DEAR LITTLE BARBARA--To tell you the truth, I myself have not
read the book of which you speak. That is to say, though I began
to read it, I soon saw that it was nonsense, and written only to
make people laugh. "However," thought I, "it is at least a
CHEERFUL work, and so may please Barbara." That is why I sent it

Rataziaev has now promised to give me something really literary
to read; so you shall soon have your book, my darling. He is a
man who reflects; he is a clever fellow, as well as himself a
writer--such a writer! His pen glides along with ease, and in
such a style (even when he is writing the most ordinary, the most
insignificant of articles) that I have often remarked upon the
fact, both to Phaldoni and to Theresa. Often, too, I go to spend
an evening with him. He reads aloud to us until five o'clock in
the morning, and we listen to him. It is a revelation of things
rather than a reading. It is charming, it is like a bouquet of
flowers--there is a bouquet of flowers in every line of each
page. Besides, he is such an approachable, courteous, kind-
hearted fellow! What am I compared with him? Why, nothing, simply
nothing! He is a man of reputation, whereas I--well, I do not
exist at all. Yet he condescends to my level. At this very moment
I am copying out a document for him. But you must not think that
he finds any DIFFICULTY in condescending to me, who am only a
copyist. No, you must not believe the base gossip that you may
hear. I do copying work for him simply in order to please myself,
as well as that he may notice me--a thing that always gives me
pleasure. I appreciate the delicacy of his position. He is a
good--a very good--man, and an unapproachable writer.

What a splendid thing is literature, Barbara--what a splendid
thing! This I learnt before I had known Rataziaev even for three
days. It strengthens and instructs the heart of man. . . . No
matter what there be in the world, you will find it all written
down in Rataziaev's works. And so well written down, too!
Literature is a sort of picture--a sort of picture or mirror. It
connotes at once passion, expression, fine criticism, good
learning, and a document. Yes, I have learned this from Rataziaev
himself. I can assure you, Barbara, that if only you could be
sitting among us, and listening to the talk (while, with the rest
of us, you smoked a pipe), and were to hear those present begin
to argue and dispute concerning different matters, you would feel
of as little account among them as I do; for I myself figure
there only as a blockhead, and feel ashamed, since it takes me a
whole evening to think of a single word to interpolate--and even
then the word will not come! In a case like that a man regrets
that, as the proverb has it, he should have reached man's estate
but not man's understanding. . . . What do I do in my spare time?
I sleep like a fool, though I would far rather be occupied with
something else--say, with eating or writing, since the one is
useful to oneself, and the other is beneficial to one's fellows.
You should see how much money these fellows contrive to save! How
much, for instance, does not Rataziaev lay by? A few days'
writing, I am told, can earn him as much as three hundred
roubles! Indeed, if a man be a writer of short stories or
anything else that is interesting, he can sometimes pocket five
hundred roubles, or a thousand, at a time! Think of it, Barbara!
Rataziaev has by him a small manuscript of verses, and for it he
is asking--what do you think? Seven thousand roubles! Why, one
could buy a whole house for that sum! He has even refused five
thousand for a manuscript, and on that occasion I reasoned with
him, and advised him to accept the five thousand. But it was of
no use. "For," said he, "they will soon offer me seven thousand,"
and kept to his point, for he is a man of some determination.

Suppose, now, that I were to give you an extract from "Passion in
Italy" (as another work of his is called). Read this, dearest
Barbara, and judge for yourself:

"Vladimir started, for in his veins the lust of passion had
welled until it had reached boiling point.

"'Countess,' he cried, 'do you know how terrible is this
adoration of mine, how infinite this madness? No! My fancies have
not deceived me--I love you ecstatically, diabolically, as a
madman might! All the blood that is in your husband's body could
never quench the furious, surging rapture that is in my soul! No
puny obstacle could thwart the all-destroying, infernal flame
which is eating into my exhausted breast! 0h Zinaida, my

"'Vladimir!' she whispered, almost beside herself, as she sank
upon his bosom.

"'My Zinaida!' cried the enraptured Smileski once more.

"His breath was coming in sharp, broken pants. The lamp of love
was burning brightly on the altar of passion, and searing the
hearts of the two unfortunate sufferers.

"'Vladimir!' again she whispered in her intoxication, while her
bosom heaved, her cheeks glowed, and her eyes flashed fire.

"Thus was a new and dread union consummated.

"Half an hour later the aged Count entered his wife's boudoir.

"'How now, my love?' said he. 'Surely it is for some welcome
guest beyond the common that you have had the samovar [Tea-urn.]
thus prepared?' And he smote her lightly on the cheek."

What think you of THAT, Barbara? True, it is a little too
outspoken--there can be no doubt of that; yet how grand it is,
how splendid! With your permission I will also quote you an
extract from Rataziaev's story, Ermak and Zuleika:

"'You love me, Zuleika? Say again that you love me, you love me!'

"'I DO love you, Ermak,' whispered Zuleika.

"'Then by heaven and earth I thank you! By heaven and earth you
have made me happy! You have given me all, all that my tortured
soul has for immemorial years been seeking! 'Tis for this that
you have led me hither, my guiding star--'tis for this that you
have conducted me to the Girdle of Stone! To all the world will I
now show my Zuleika, and no man, demon or monster of Hell, shall
bid me nay! Oh, if men would but understand the mysterious
passions of her tender heart, and see the poem which lurks in
each of her little tears! Suffer me to dry those tears with my
kisses! Suffer me to drink of those heavenly drops, 0h being who
art not of this earth!'

"'Ermak,' said Zuleika, 'the world is cruel, and men are unjust.
But LET them drive us from their midst--let them judge us, my
beloved Ermak! What has a poor maiden who was reared amid the
snows of Siberia to do with their cold, icy, self-sufficient
world? Men cannot understand me, my darling, my sweetheart.'

"'Is that so? Then shall the sword of the Cossacks sing and
whistle over their heads!' cried Ermak with a furious look in his

What must Ermak have felt when he learnt that his Zuleika had
been murdered, Barbara?--that, taking advantages of the cover of
night, the blind old Kouchoum had, in Ermak's absence, broken
into the latter's tent, and stabbed his own daughter in mistake
for the man who had robbed him of sceptre and crown?

"'Oh that I had a stone whereon to whet my sword!' cried Ermak in
the madness of his wrath as he strove to sharpen his steel blade
upon the enchanted rock. 'I would have his blood, his blood! I
would tear him limb from limb, the villain!'"

Then Ermak, unable to survive the loss of his Zuleika, throws
himself into the Irtisch, and the tale comes to an end.

Here, again, is another short extract--this time written in a
more comical vein, to make people laugh:

"Do you know Ivan Prokofievitch Zheltopuzh? He is the man who
took a piece out of Prokofi Ivanovitch's leg. Ivan's character is
one of the rugged order, and therefore, one that is rather
lacking in virtue. Yet he has a passionate relish for radishes
and honey. Once he also possessed a friend named Pelagea
Antonovna. Do you know Pelagea Antonovna? She is the woman who
always puts on her petticoat wrong side outwards."

What humour, Barbara--what purest humour! We rocked with laughter
when he read it aloud to us. Yes, that is the kind of man he is.
Possibly the passage is a trifle over-frolicsome, but at least it
is harmless, and contains no freethought or liberal ideas. In
passing, I may say that Rataziaev is not only a supreme writer,
but also a man of upright life--which is more than can be said
for most writers.

What, do you think, is an idea that sometimes enters my head? In
fact, what if I myself were to write something? How if suddenly a
book were to make its appearance in the world bearing the title
of "The Poetical Works of Makar Dievushkin"? What THEN, my angel?
How should you view, should you receive, such an event? I may say
of myself that never, after my book had appeared, should I have
the hardihood to show my face on the Nevski Prospect; for would
it not be too dreadful to hear every one saying, "Here comes the
literateur and poet, Dievushkin--yes, it is Dievushkin himself"?
What, in such a case, should I do with my feet (for I may tell
you that almost always my shoes are patched, or have just been
resoled, and therefore look anything but becoming)? To think that
the great writer Dievushkin should walk about in patched
footgear! If a duchess or a countess should recognise me, what
would she say, poor woman? Perhaps, though, she would not notice
my shoes at all, since it may reasonably be supposed that
countesses do not greatly occupy themselves with footgear,
especially with the footgear of civil service officials (footgear
may differ from footgear, it must be remembered). Besides, I
should find that the countess had heard all about me, for my
friends would have betrayed me to her--Rataziaev among the first
of them, seeing that he often goes to visit Countess V., and
practically lives at her house. She is said to be a woman of
great intellect and wit. An artful dog, that Rataziaev!

But enough of this. I write this sort of thing both to amuse
myself and to divert your thoughts. Goodbye now, my angel. This
is a long epistle that I am sending you, but the reason is that
today I feel in good spirits after dining at Rataziaev's. There I
came across a novel which I hardly know how to describe to you.
Do not think the worse of me on that account, even though I bring
you another book instead (for I certainly mean to bring one). The
novel in question was one of Paul de Kock's, and not a novel for
you to read. No, no! Such a work is unfit for your eyes. In fact,
it is said to have greatly offended the critics of St.
Petersburg. Also, I am sending you a pound of bonbons--bought
specially for yourself. Each time that you eat one, beloved,
remember the sender. Only, do not bite the iced ones, but suck
them gently, lest they make your teeth ache. Perhaps, too, you
like comfits? Well, write and tell me if it is so. Goodbye,
goodbye. Christ watch over you, my darling!--Always your faithful


June 27th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH--Thedora tells me that, should I
wish, there are some people who will be glad to help me by
obtaining me an excellent post as governess in a certain house.
What think you, my friend? Shall I go or not? Of course, I should
then cease to be a burden to you, and the post appears to be a
comfortable one. On the other hand, the idea of entering a
strange house appals me. The people in it are landed gentry, and
they will begin to ask me questions, and to busy themselves about
me. What answers shall I then return? You see, I am now so unused
to society--so shy! I like to live in a corner to which I have
long grown used. Yes, the place with which one is familiar is
always the best. Even if for companion one has but sorrow, that
place will still be the best.... God alone knows what duties the
post will entail. Perhaps I shall merely be required to act as
nursemaid; and in any case, I hear that the governess there has
been changed three times in two years. For God's sake, Makar
Alexievitch, advise me whether to go or not. Why do you never
come near me now? Do let my eyes have an occasional sight of you.
Mass on Sundays is almost the only time when we see one another.
How retiring you have become! So also have I, even though, in a
way, I am your kinswoman. You must have ceased to love me, Makar
Alexievitch. I spend many a weary hour because of it. Sometimes,
when dusk is falling, I find myself lonely--oh, so lonely!
Thedora has gone out somewhere, and I sit here and think, and
think, and think. I remember all the past, its joys and its
sorrows. It passes before my eyes in detail, it glimmers at me as
out of a mist; and as it does so, well-known faces appear, which
seem actually to be present with me in this room! Most frequently
of all, I see my mother. Ah, the dreams that come to me! I feel
that my health is breaking, so weak am I. When this morning I
arose, sickness took me until I vomited and vomited. Yes, I feel,
I know, that death is approaching. Who will bury me when it has
come? Who will visit my tomb? Who will sorrow for me? And now it
is in a strange place, in the house of a stranger, that I may
have to die! Yes, in a corner which I do not know! ... My God,
how sad a thing is life! ... Why do you send me comfits to eat?
Whence do you get the money to buy them? Ah, for God's sake keep
the money, keep the money. Thedora has sold a carpet which I have
made. She got fifty roubles for it, which is very good--I had
expected less. Of the fifty roubles I shall give Thedora three,
and with the remainder make myself a plain, warm dress. Also, I
am going to make you a waistcoat--to make it myself, and out of
good material.

Also, Thedora has brought me a book--"The Stories of Bielkin"--
which I will forward you, if you would care to read it. Only, do
not soil it, nor yet retain it, for it does not belong to me. It
is by Pushkin. Two years ago I read these stories with my mother,
and it would hurt me to read them again. If you yourself have any
books, pray let me have them--so long as they have not been
obtained from Rataziaev. Probably he will be giving you one of
his own works when he has had one printed. How is it that his
compositions please you so much, Makar Alexievitch? I think them
SUCH rubbish!

--Now goodbye. How I have been chattering on! When feeling sad, I
always like to talk of something, for it acts upon me like
medicine--I begin to feel easier as soon as I have uttered what
is preying upon my heart. Good bye, good-bye, my friend--Your own

B. D.

June 28th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA--Away with melancholy! Really,
beloved, you ought to be ashamed of yourself! How can you allow
such thoughts to enter your head? Really and truly you are quite
well; really and truly you are, my darling. Why, you are blooming
--simply blooming. True, I see a certain touch of pallor in your
face, but still you are blooming. A fig for dreams and visions!
Yes, for shame, dearest! Drive away those fancies; try to despise
them. Why do I sleep so well? Why am I never ailing? Look at ME,
beloved. I live well, I sleep peacefully, I retain my health, I
can ruffle it with my juniors. In fact, it is a pleasure to see
me. Come, come, then, sweetheart! Let us have no more of this. I
know that that little head of yours is capable of any fancy--that
all too easily you take to dreaming and repining; but for my
sake, cease to do so.

Are you to go to these people, you ask me? Never! No, no, again
no! How could you think of doing such a thing as taking a
journey? I will not allow it--I intend to combat your intention
with all my might. I will sell my frockcoat, and walk the streets
in my shirt sleeves, rather than let you be in want. But no,
Barbara. I know you, I know you. This is merely a trick, merely a
trick. And probably Thedora alone is to blame for it. She appears
to be a foolish old woman, and to be able to persuade you to do
anything. Do not believe her, my dearest. I am sure that you know
what is what, as well as SHE does. Eh, sweetheart? She is a
stupid, quarrelsome, rubbish-talking old woman who brought her
late husband to the grave. Probably she has been plaguing you as
much as she did him. No, no, dearest; you must not take this
step. What should I do then? What would there be left for ME to
do? Pray put the idea out of your head. What is it you lack here?
I cannot feel sufficiently overjoyed to be near you, while, for
your part, you love me well, and can live your life here as
quietly as you wish. Read or sew, whichever you like--or read and
do not sew. Only, do not desert me. Try, yourself, to imagine how
things would seem after you had gone. Here am I sending you
books, and later we will go for a walk. Come, come, then, my
Barbara! Summon to your aid your reason, and cease to babble of

As soon as I can I will come and see you, and then you shall tell
me the whole story. This will not do, sweetheart; this certainly
will not do. Of course, I know that I am not an educated man, and
have received but a sorry schooling, and have had no inclination
for it, and think too much of Rataziaev, if you will; but he is
my friend, and therefore, I must put in a word or two for him.
Yes, he is a splendid writer. Again and again I assert that he
writes magnificently. I do not agree with you about his works,
and never shall. He writes too ornately, too laconically, with
too great a wealth of imagery and imagination. Perhaps you have
read him without insight, Barbara? Or perhaps you were out of
spirits at the time, or angry with Thedora about something, or
worried about some mischance? Ah, but you should read him
sympathetically, and, best of all, at a time when you are feeling
happy and contented and pleasantly disposed-- for instance, when
you have a bonbon or two in your mouth. Yes, that is the way to
read Rataziaev. I do not dispute (indeed, who would do so?) that
better writers than he exist--even far better; but they are good,
and he is good too--they write well, and he writes well. It is
chiefly for his own sake that he writes, and he is to be approved
for so doing.

Now goodbye, dearest. More I cannot write, for I must hurry away
to business. Be of good cheer, and the Lord God watch over you!--
Your faithful friend,


P.S--Thank you so much for the book, darling! I will read it
through, this volume of Pushkin, and tonight come to you.

MY DEAR MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH--No, no, my friend, I must not go on
living near you. I have been thinking the matter over, and come
to the conclusion that I should be doing very wrong to refuse so
good a post. I should at least have an assured crust of bread; I
might at least set to work to earn my employers' favour, and even
try to change my character if required to do so. Of course it is
a sad and sorry thing to have to live among strangers, and to be
forced to seek their patronage, and to conceal and constrain
one's own personality-- but God will help me. I must not remain
forever a recluse, for similar chances have come my way before. I
remember how, when a little girl at school, I used to go home on
Sundays and spend the time in frisking and dancing about.
Sometimes my mother would chide me for so doing, but I did not
care, for my heart was too joyous, and my spirits too buoyant,
for that. Yet as the evening of Sunday came on, a sadness as of
death would overtake me, for at nine o'clock I had to return to
school, where everything was cold and strange and severe--where
the governesses, on Mondays, lost their tempers, and nipped my
ears, and made me cry. On such occasions I would retire to a
corner and weep alone; concealing my tears lest I should be
called lazy. Yet it was not because I had to study that I used to
weep, and in time I grew more used to things, and, after my
schooldays were over, shed tears only when I was parting with
friends. . . .

It is not right for me to live in dependence upon you. The
thought tortures me. I tell you this frankly, for the reason that
frankness with you has become a habit. Cannot I see that daily,
at earliest dawn, Thedora rises to do washing and scrubbing, and
remains working at it until late at night, even though her poor
old bones must be aching for want of rest? Cannot I also see that
YOU are ruining yourself for me, and hoarding your last kopeck
that you may spend it on my behalf? You ought not so to act, my
friend, even though you write that you would rather sell your all
than let me want for anything. I believe in you, my friend--I
entirely believe in your good heart; but, you say that to me now
(when, perhaps, you have received some unexpected sum or
gratuity) and there is still the future to be thought of. You
yourself know that I am always ailing--that I cannot work as you
do, glad though I should be of any work if I could get it; so
what else is there for me to do? To sit and repine as I watch you
and Thedora? But how would that be of any use to you? AM I
necessary to you, comrade of mine? HAVE I ever done you any good?
Though I am bound to you with my whole soul, and love you dearly
and strongly and wholeheartedly, a bitter fate has ordained that
that love should be all that I have to give--that I should be
unable, by creating for you subsistence, to repay you for all
your kindness. Do not, therefore, detain me longer, but think the
matter out, and give me your opinion on it. In expectation of
which I remain your sweetheart,

B. D.

July 1st.

Rubbish, rubbish, Barbara!--What you say is sheer rubbish. Stay
here, rather, and put such thoughts out of your head. None of
what you suppose is true. I can see for myself that it is not.
Whatsoever you lack here, you have but to ask me for it. Here you
love and are loved, and we might easily be happy and contented
together. What could you want more? What have you to do with
strangers? You cannot possibly know what strangers are like. I
know it, though, and could have told you if you had asked me.
There is a stranger whom I know, and whose bread I have eaten. He
is a cruel man, Barbara--a man so bad that he would be unworthy
of your little heart, and would soon tear it to pieces with his
railings and reproaches and black looks. On the other hand, you
are safe and well here--you are as safe as though you were
sheltered in a nest. Besides, you would, as it were, leave me
with my head gone. For what should I have to do when you were
gone? What could I, an old man, find to do? Are you not necessary
to me? Are you not useful to me? Eh? Surely you do not think that
you are not useful? You are of great use to me, Barbara, for you
exercise a beneficial influence upon my life. Even at this
moment, as I think of you, I feel cheered, for always I can write
letters to you, and put into them what I am feeling, and receive
from you detailed answers.... I have bought you a wardrobe, and
also procured you a bonnet; so you see that you have only to give
me a commission for it to be executed. . . . No-- in what way are
you not useful? What should I do if I were deserted in my old
age? What would become of me? Perhaps you never thought of that,
Barbara--perhaps you never said to yourself, "How could HE get on
without me?" You see, I have grown so accustomed to you. What
else would it end in, if you were to go away? Why, in my hiking
to the Neva's bank and doing away with myself. Ah, Barbara,
darling, I can see that you want me to be taken away to the
Volkovo Cemetery in a broken-down old hearse, with some poor
outcast of the streets to accompany my coffin as chief mourner,
and the gravediggers to heap my body with clay, and depart and
leave me there. How wrong of you, how wrong of you, my beloved!
Yes, by heavens, how wrong of you! I am returning you your book,
little friend; and ,if you were to ask of me my opinion of it, I
should say that never before in my life had I read a book so
splendid. I keep wondering how I have hitherto contrived to
remain such an owl. For what have I ever done? From what wilds
did I spring into existence? I KNOW nothing--I know simply
NOTHING. My ignorance is complete. Frankly, I am not an educated
man, for until now I have read scarcely a single book--only "A
Portrait of Man" (a clever enough work in its way), "The Boy Who
Could Play Many Tunes Upon Bells", and "Ivik's Storks". That is
all. But now I have also read "The Station Overseer" in your
little volume; and it is wonderful to think that one may live and
yet be ignorant of the fact that under one's very nose there may
be a book in which one's whole life is described as in a picture.
Never should I have guessed that, as soon as ever one begins to
read such a book, it sets one on both to remember and to consider
and to foretell events. Another reason why I liked this book so
much is that, though, in the case of other works (however clever
they be), one may read them, yet remember not a word of them (for
I am a man naturally dull of comprehension, and unable to read
works of any great importance),--although, as I say, one may read
such works, one reads such a book as YOURS as easily as though it
had been written by oneself, and had taken possession of one's
heart, and turned it inside out for inspection, and were
describing it in detail as a matter of perfect simplicity. Why, I
might almost have written the book myself! Why not, indeed? I can
feel just as the people in the book do, and find myself in
positions precisely similar to those of, say, the character
Samson Virin. In fact, how many good-hearted wretches like Virin
are there not walking about amongst us? How easily, too, it is
all described! I assure you, my darling, that I almost shed tears
when I read that Virin so took to drink as to lose his memory,
become morose, and spend whole days over his liquor; as also that
he choked with grief and wept bitterly when, rubbing his eyes
with his dirty hand, he bethought him of his wandering lamb, his
daughter Dunasha! How natural, how natural! You should read the
book for yourself. The thing is actually alive. Even I can see
that; even I can realise that it is a picture cut from the very
life around me. In it I see our own Theresa (to go no further)
and the poor Tchinovnik--who is just such a man as this Samson
Virin, except for his surname of Gorshkov. The book describes
just what might happen to ourselves--to myself in particular.
Even a count who lives in the Nevski Prospect or in Naberezhnaia
Street might have a similar experience, though he might APPEAR to
be different, owing to the fact that his life is cast on a higher
plane. Yes, just the same things might happen to him--just the
same things. . . . Here you are wishing to go away and leave us;
yet, be careful lest it would not be I who had to pay the penalty
of your doing so. For you might ruin both yourself and me. For
the love of God, put away these thoughts from you, my darling,
and do not torture me in vain. How could you, my poor little
unfledged nestling, find yourself food, and defend yourself from
misfortune, and ward off the wiles of evil men? Think better of
it, Barbara, and pay no more heed to foolish advice and calumny,
but read your book again, and read it with attention. It may do
you much good.

I have spoken of Rataziaev's "The Station Overseer". However, the
author has told me that the work is old-fashioned, since,
nowadays, books are issued with illustrations and embellishments
of different sorts (though I could not make out all that he
said). Pushkin he adjudges a splendid poet, and one who has done
honour to Holy Russia. Read your book again, Barbara, and follow
my advice, and make an old man happy. The Lord God Himself will
reward you. Yes, He will surely reward you.--Your faithful


MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Today Thedora came to me with
fifteen roubles in silver. How glad was the poor woman when I
gave her three of them! I am writing to you in great haste, for I
am busy cutting out a waistcoat to send to you--buff, with a
pattern of flowers. Also I am sending you a book of stories; some
of which I have read myself, particularly one called "The Cloak."
. . . You invite me to go to the theatre with you. But will it
not cost too much? Of course we might sit in the gallery. It is a
long time (indeed I cannot remember when I last did so) since I
visited a theatre! Yet I cannot help fearing that such an
amusement is beyond our means. Thedora keeps nodding her head,
and saying that you have taken to living above your income. I
myself divine the same thing by the amount which you have spent
upon me. Take care, dear friend, that misfortune does not come of
it, for Thedora has also informed me of certain rumours
concerning your inability to meet your landlady's bills. In fact,
I am very anxious about you. Now, goodbye, for I must hasten away
to see about another matter--about the changing of the ribands on
my bonnet.

P.S--Do you know, if we go to the theatre, I think that I shall
wear my new hat and black mantilla. Will that not look nice?

July 7th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA--SO much for yesterday! Yes,
dearest, we have both been caught playing the fool, for I have
become thoroughly bitten with the actress of whom I spoke. Last
night I listened to her with all my ears, although, strangely
enough, it was practically my first sight of her, seeing that
only once before had I been to the theatre. In those days I lived
cheek by jowl with a party of five young men--a most noisy crew-
and one night I accompanied them, willy-nilly, to the theatre,
though I held myself decently aloof from their doings, and only
assisted them for company's sake. How those fellows talked to me
of this actress! Every night when the theatre was open, the
entire band of them (they always seemed to possess the requisite
money) would betake themselves to that place of entertainment,
where they ascended to the gallery, and clapped their hands, and
repeatedly recalled the actress in question. In fact, they went
simply mad over her. Even after we had returned home they would
give me no rest, but would go on talking about her all night, and
calling her their Glasha, and declaring themselves to be in love
with "the canary-bird of their hearts." My defenseless self, too,
they would plague about the woman, for I was as young as they.
What a figure I must have cut with them on the fourth tier of the
gallery! Yet, I never got a sight of more than just a corner of
the curtain, but had to content myself with listening. She had a
fine, resounding, mellow voice like a nightingale's, and we all
of us used to clap our hands loudly, and to shout at the top of
our lungs. In short, we came very near to being ejected. On the
first occasion I went home walking as in a mist, with a single
rouble left in my pocket, and an interval of ten clear days
confronting me before next pay-day. Yet, what think you, dearest?
The very next day, before going to work, I called at a French
perfumer's, and spent my whole remaining capital on some eau-de-
Cologne and scented soap! Why I did so I do not know. Nor did I
dine at home that day, but kept walking and walking past her
windows (she lived in a fourth-storey flat on the Nevski
Prospect). At length I returned to my own lodging, but only to
rest a short hour before again setting off to the Nevski Prospect
and resuming my vigil before her windows. For a month and a half
I kept this up--dangling in her train. Sometimes I would hire
cabs, and discharge them in view of her abode; until at length I
had entirely ruined myself, and got into debt. Then I fell out of
love with her--I grew weary of the pursuit. . . . You see,
therefore, to what depths an actress can reduce a decent man. In
those days I was young. Yes, in those days I was VERY young.

M. D.

July 8th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--The book which I received from you
on the 6th of this month I now hasten to return, while at the
same time hastening also to explain matters to you in this
accompanying letter. What a misfortune, my beloved, that you
should have brought me to such a pass! Our lots in life are
apportioned by the Almighty according to our human deserts. To
such a one He assigns a life in a general's epaulets or as a
privy councillor--to such a one, I say, He assigns a life of
command; whereas to another one, He allots only a life of
unmurmuring toil and suffering. These things are calculated
according to a man's CAPACITY. One man may be capable of one
thing, and another of another, and their several capacities are
ordered by the Lord God himself. I have now been thirty years in
the public service, and have fulfilled my duties irreproachably,
remained abstemious, and never been detected in any unbecoming
behaviour. As a citizen, I may confess--I confess it freely--I
have been guilty of certain shortcomings; yet those shortcomings
have been combined with certain virtues. I am respected by my
superiors, and even his Excellency has had no fault to find with
me; and though I have never been shown any special marks of
favour, I know that every one finds me at least satisfactory.
Also, my writing is sufficiently legible and clear. Neither too
rounded nor too fine, it is a running hand, yet always suitable.
Of our staff only Ivan Prokofievitch writes a similar hand. Thus
have I lived till the grey hairs of my old age; yet I can think
of no serious fault committed. Of course, no one is free from
MINOR faults. Everyone has some of them, and you among the rest,
my beloved. But in grave or in audacious offences never have I
been detected, nor in infringements of regulations, nor in
breaches of the public peace. No, never! This you surely know,
even as the author of your book must have known it. Yes, he also
must have known it when he sat down to write. I had not expected
this of you, my Barbara. I should never have expected it.

What? In future I am not to go on living peacefully in my little
corner, poor though that corner be I am not to go on living, as
the proverb has it, without muddying the water, or hurting any
one, or forgetting the fear of the Lord God and of oneself? I am
not to see, forsooth, that no man does me an injury, or breaks
into my home--I am not to take care that all shall go well with
me, or that I have clothes to wear, or that my shoes do not
require mending, or that I be given work to do, or that I possess
sufficient meat and drink? Is it nothing that, where the pavement
is rotten, I have to walk on tiptoe to save my boots? If I write
to you overmuch concerning myself, is it concerning ANOTHER man,
rather, that I ought to write--concerning HIS wants, concerning
HIS lack of tea to drink (and all the world needs tea)? Has it
ever been my custom to pry into other men's mouths, to see what
is being put into them? Have I ever been known to offend any one
in that respect? No, no, beloved! Why should I desire to insult
other folks when they are not molesting ME? Let me give you an
example of what I mean. A man may go on slaving and slaving in
the public service, and earn the respect of his superiors (for
what it is worth), and then, for no visible reason at all, find
himself made a fool of. Of course he may break out now and then
(I am not now referring only to drunkenness), and (for example)
buy himself a new pair of shoes, and take pleasure in seeing his
feet looking well and smartly shod. Yes, I myself have known what
it is to feel like that (I write this in good faith). Yet I am
nonetheless astonished that Thedor Thedorovitch should neglect
what is being said about him, and take no steps to defend
himself. True, he is only a subordinate official, and sometimes
loves to rate and scold; yet why should he not do so--why should
he not indulge in a little vituperation when he feels like it?
Suppose it to be NECESSARY, for FORM'S sake, to scold, and to set
everyone right, and to shower around abuse (for, between
ourselves, Barbara, our friend cannot get on WITHOUT abuse--so
much so that every one humours him, and does things behind his
back)? Well, since officials differ in rank, and every official
demands that he shall be allowed to abuse his fellow officials in
proportion to his rank, it follows that the TONE also of official
abuse should become divided into ranks, and thus accord with the
natural order of things. All the world is built upon the system
that each one of us shall have to yield precedence to some other
one, as well as to enjoy a certain power of abusing his fellows.
Without such a provision the world could not get on at all, and
simple chaos would ensue. Yet I am surprised that our Thedor
should continue to overlook insults of the kind that he endures.

Why do I do my official work at all? Why is that necessary? Will
my doing of it lead anyone who reads it to give me a greatcoat,
or to buy me a new pair of shoes? No, Barbara. Men only read the
documents, and then require me to write more. Sometimes a man
will hide himself away, and not show his face abroad, for the
mere reason that, though he has done nothing to be ashamed of, he
dreads the gossip and slandering which are everywhere to be
encountered. If his civic and family life have to do with
literature, everything will be printed and read and laughed over
and discussed; until at length, he hardly dare show his face in
the street at all, seeing that he will have been described by
report as recognisable through his gait alone! Then, when he has
amended his ways, and grown gentler (even though he still
continues to be loaded with official work), he will come to be
accounted a virtuous, decent citizen who has deserved well of his
comrades, rendered obedience to his superiors, wished noone any
evil, preserved the fear of God in his heart, and died lamented.
Yet would it not be better, instead of letting the poor fellow
die, to give him a cloak while yet he is ALIVE--to give it to
this same Thedor Thedorovitch (that is to say, to myself)? Yes,
'twere far better if, on hearing the tale of his subordinate's
virtues, the chief of the department were to call the deserving
man into his office, and then and there to promote him, and to
grant him an increase of salary. Thus vice would be punished,
virtue would prevail, and the staff of that department would live
in peace together. Here we have an example from everyday,
commonplace life. How, therefore, could you bring yourself to
send me that book, my beloved? It is a badly conceived work,
Barbara, and also unreal, for the reason that in creation such a
Tchinovnik does not exist. No, again I protest against it, little
Barbara; again I protest.--Your most humble, devoted servant,

M. D.

July 27th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Your latest conduct and letters
had frightened me, and left me thunderstruck and plunged in
doubt, until what you have said about Thedor explained the
situation. Why despair and go into such frenzies, Makar
Alexievitch? Your explanations only partially satisfy me. Perhaps
I did wrong to insist upon accepting a good situation when it was
offered me, seeing that from my last experience in that way I
derived a shock which was anything but a matter for jesting. You
say also that your love for me has compelled you to hide yourself
in retirement. Now, how much I am indebted to you I realised when
you told me that you were spending for my benefit the sum which
you are always reported to have laid by at your bankers; but, now
that I have learnED that you never possessed such a fund, but
that, on hearing of my destitute plight, and being moved by it,
you decided to spend upon me the whole of your salary--even to
forestall it--and when I had fallen ill, actually to sell your
clothes--when I learnED all this I found myself placed in the
harassing position of not knowing how to accept it all, nor what
to think of it. Ah, Makar Alexievitch! You ought to have stopped
at your first acts of charity--acts inspired by sympathy and the
love of kinsfolk, rather than have continued to squander your
means upon what was unnecessary. Yes, you have betrayed our
friendship, Makar Alexievitch, in that you have not been open
with me; and, now that I see that your last coin has been spent
upon dresses and bon-bons and excursions and books and visits to
the theatre for me, I weep bitter tears for my unpardonable
improvidence in having accepted these things without giving so
much as a thought to your welfare. Yes, all that you have done to
give me pleasure has become converted into a source of grief, and
left behind it only useless regret. Of late I have remarked that
you were looking depressed; and though I felt fearful that
something unfortunate was impending, what has happened would
otherwise never have entered my head. To think that your better
sense should so play you false, Makar Alexievitch! What will
people think of you, and say of you? Who will want to know you?
You whom, like everyone else, I have valued for your goodness of
heart and modesty and good sense--YOU, I say, have now given way
to an unpleasant vice of which you seem never before to have been
guilty. What were my feelings when Thedora informed me that you
had been discovered drunk in the street, and taken home by the
police? Why, I felt petrified with astonishment--although, in
view of the fact that you had failed me for four days, I had been
expecting some such extraordinary occurrence. Also, have you
thought what your superiors will say of you when they come to
learn the true reason of your absence? You say that everyone is
laughing at you, that every one has learnED of the bond which
exists between us, and that your neighbours habitually refer to
me with a sneer. Pay no attention to this, Makar Alexievitch; for
the love of God, be comforted. Also, the incident between you and
the officers has much alarmed me, although I had heard certain
rumours concerning it. Pray explain to me what it means. You
write, too, that you have been afraid to be open with me, for the
reason that your confessions might lose you my friendship. Also,
you say that you are in despair at the thought of being unable to
help me in my illness, owing to the fact that you have sold
everything which might have maintained me, and preserved me in
sickness, as well as that you have borrowed as much as it is
possible for you to borrow, and are daily experiencing
unpleasantness with your landlady. Well, in failing to reveal all
this to me you chose the worse course. Now, however, I know all.
You have forced me to recognise that I have been the cause of
your unhappy plight, as well as that my own conduct has brought
upon myself a twofold measure of sorrow. The fact leaves me
thunderstruck, Makar Alexievitch. Ah, friend, an infectious
disease is indeed a misfortune, for now we poor and miserable
folk must perforce keep apart from one another, lest the
infection be increased. Yes, I have brought upon you calamities
which never before in your humble, solitary life you had
experienced. This tortures and exhausts me more than I can tell
to think of.

Write to me quite frankly. Tell me how you came to embark upon
such a course of conduct. Comfort, oh, comfort me if you can. It
is not self-love that prompts me to speak of my own comforting,
but my friendship and love for you, which will never fade from my
heart. Goodbye. I await your answer with impatience. You have
thought but poorly of me, Makar Alexievitch.--Your friend and


July 28th.

MY PRICELESS BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--What am I to say to you, now
that all is over, and we are gradually returning to our old
position? You say that you are anxious as to what will be thought
of me. Let me tell you that the dearest thing in life to me is my
self-respect; wherefore, in informing you of my misfortunes and
misconduct, I would add that none of my superiors know of my
doings, nor ever will know of them, and that therefore, I still
enjoy a measure of respect in that quarter. Only one thing do I
fear-- I fear gossip. Garrulous though my landlady be, she said
but little when, with the aid of your ten roubles, I today paid
her part of her account; and as for the rest of my companions,
they do not matter at all. So long as I have not borrowed money
from them, I need pay them no attention. To conclude my
explanations, let me tell you that I value your respect for me
above everything in the world, and have found it my greatest
comfort during this temporary distress of mine. Thank God, the
first shock of things has abated, now that you have agreed not to
look upon me as faithless and an egotist simply because I have
deceived you. I wish to hold you to myself, for the reason that I
cannot bear to part with you, and love you as my guardian angel.
. . . I have now returned to work, and am applying myself
diligently to my duties. Also, yesterday Evstafi Ivanovitch
exchanged a word or two with me. Yet I will not conceal from you
the fact that my debts are crushing me down, and that my wardrobe
is in a sorry state. At the same time, these things do not REALLY
matter and I would bid you not despair about them. Send me,
however, another half-rouble if you can (though that half-rouble
will stab me to the heart--stab me with the thought that it is
not I who am helping you, but YOU who are helping ME). Thedora
has done well to get those fifteen roubles for you. At the
moment, fool of an old man that I am, I have no hope of acquiring
any more money; but as soon as ever I do so, I will write to you
and let you know all about it. What chiefly worries me is the
fear of gossip. Goodbye, little angel. I kiss your hands, and
beseech you to regain your health. If this is not a detailed
letter, the reason is that I must soon be starting for the
office, in order that, by strict application to duty, I may make
amends for the past. Further information concerning my doings (as
well as concerning that affair with the officers) must be
deferred until tonight.--Your affectionate and respectful friend,


July 28th.

DEAREST LITTLE BARBARA,--It is YOU who have committed a fault--
and one which must weigh heavily upon your conscience. Indeed,
your last letter has amazed and confounded me,--so much so that,
on once more looking into the recesses of my heart, I perceive
that I was perfectly right in what I did. Of course I am not now
referring to my debauch (no, indeed!), but to the fact that I
love you, and to the fact that it is unwise of me to love you--
very unwise. You know not how matters stand, my darling. You know
not why I am BOUND to love you. Otherwise you would not say all
that you do. Yet I am persuaded that it is your head rather than
your heart that is speaking. I am certain that your heart thinks
very differently.

What occurred that night between myself and those officers I
scarcely know, I scarcely remember. You must bear in mind that
for some time past I have been in terrible distress--that for a
whole month I have been, so to speak, hanging by a single thread.
Indeed, my position has been most pitiable. Though I hid myself
from you, my landlady was forever shouting and railing at me.
This would not have mattered a jot--the horrible old woman might
have shouted as much as she pleased--had it not been that, in the
first place, there was the disgrace of it, and, in the second
place, she had somehow learned of our connection, and kept
proclaiming it to the household until I felt perfectly deafened,
and had to stop my ears. The point, however, is that other people
did not stop their ears, but, on the contrary, pricked them.
Indeed, I am at a loss what to do.

Really this wretched rabble has driven me to extremities. It all
began with my hearing a strange rumour from Thedora--namely, that
an unworthy suitor had been to visit you, and had insulted you
with an improper proposal. That he had insulted you deeply I knew
from my own feelings, for I felt insulted in an equal degree.
Upon that, my angel, I went to pieces, and, losing all self-
control, plunged headlong. Bursting into an unspeakable frenzy, I
was at once going to call upon this villain of a seducer--though
what to do next I knew not, seeing that I was fearful of giving
you offence. Ah, what a night of sorrow it was, and what a time
of gloom, rain, and sleet! Next, I was returning home, but found
myself unable to stand upon my feet. Then Emelia Ilyitch happened
to come by. He also is a tchinovnik--or rather, was a tchinovnik,
since he was turned out of the service some time ago. What he was
doing there at that moment I do not know; I only know that I went
with him. . . . Surely it cannot give you pleasure to read of the
misfortunes of your friend--of his sorrows, and of the
temptations which he experienced? . . . On the evening of the
third day Emelia urged me to go and see the officer of whom I
have spoken, and whose address I had learned from our dvornik.
More strictly speaking, I had noticed him when, on a previous
occasion, he had come to play cards here, and I had followed him
home. Of course I now see that I did wrong, but I felt beside
myself when I heard them telling him stories about me. Exactly
what happened next I cannot remember. I only remember that
several other officers were present as well as he. Or it may be
that I saw everything double--God alone knows. Also, I cannot
exactly remember what I said. I only remember that in my fury I
said a great deal. Then they turned me out of the room, and threw
me down the staircase--pushed me down it, that is to say. How I
got home you know. That is all. Of course, later I blamed myself,
and my pride underwent a fall; but no extraneous person except
yourself knows of the affair, and in any case it does not matter.
Perhaps the affair is as you imagine it to have been, Barbara?
One thing I know for certain, and that is that last year one of
our lodgers, Aksenti Osipovitch, took a similar liberty with
Peter Petrovitch, yet kept the fact secret, an absolute secret.
He called him into his room (I happened to be looking through a
crack in the partition-wall), and had an explanation with him in
the way that a gentleman should--noone except myself being a
witness of the scene; whereas, in my own case, I had no
explanation at all. After the scene was over, nothing further
transpired between Aksenti Osipovitch and Peter Petrovitch, for
the reason that the latter was so desirous of getting on in life
that he held his tongue. As a result, they bow and shake hands
whenever they meet. . . . I will not dispute the fact that I have
erred most grievously--that I should never dare to dispute, or
that I have fallen greatly in my own estimation; but, I think I
was fated from birth so to do--and one cannot escape fate, my
beloved. Here, therefore, is a detailed explanation of my
misfortunes and sorrows, written for you to read whenever you may
find it convenient. I am far from well, beloved, and have lost
all my gaiety of disposition, but I send you this letter as a
token of my love, devotion, and respect, Oh dear lady of my
affections.-- Your humble servant,


July 29th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--I have read your two letters, and
they make my heart ache. See here, dear friend of mine. You pass
over certain things in silence, and write about a PORTION only of
your misfortunes. Can it be that the letters are the outcome of a
mental disorder? . . . Come and see me, for God's sake. Come
today, direct from the office, and dine with us as you have done
before. As to how you are living now, or as to what settlement
you have made with your landlady, I know not, for you write
nothing concerning those two points, and seem purposely to have
left them unmentioned. Au revoir, my friend. Come to me today
without fail. You would do better ALWAYS to dine here. Thedora is
an excellent cook. Goodbye --Your own,


August 1st.

MY DARLING BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--Thank God that He has sent you a
chance of repaying my good with good. I believe in so doing, as
well as in the sweetness of your angelic heart. Therefore, I will
not reproach you. Only I pray you, do not again blame me because
in the decline of my life I have played the spendthrift. It was
such a sin, was it not?--such a thing to do? And even if you
would still have it that the sin was there, remember, little
friend, what it costs me to hear such words fall from your lips.
Do not be vexed with me for saying this, for my heart is
fainting. Poor people are subject to fancies--this is a provision
of nature. I myself have had reason to know this. The poor man is
exacting. He cannot see God's world as it is, but eyes each
passer-by askance, and looks around him uneasily in order that he
may listen to every word that is being uttered. May not people be
talking of him? How is it that he is so unsightly? What is he
feeling at all? What sort of figure is he cutting on the one side
or on the other? It is matter of common knowledge, my Barbara,
that the poor man ranks lower than a rag, and will never earn the
respect of any one. Yes, write about him as you like--let
scribblers say what they choose about him-- he will ever remain
as he was. And why is this? It is because, from his very nature,
the poor man has to wear his feelings on his sleeve, so that
nothing about him is sacred, and as for his self-respect--! Well,
Emelia told me the other day that once, when he had to collect
subscriptions, official sanction was demanded for every single
coin, since people thought that it would be no use paying their
money to a poor man. Nowadays charity is strangely administered.
Perhaps it has always been so. Either folk do not know how to
administer it, or they are adept in the art--one of the two.
Perhaps you did not know this, so I beg to tell it you. And how
comes it that the poor man knows, is so conscious of it all? The
answer is--by experience. He knows because any day he may see a
gentleman enter a restaurant and ask himself, "What shall I have
to eat today? I will have such and such a dish," while all the
time the poor man will have nothing to eat that day but gruel.
There are men, too--wretched busybodies--who walk about merely to
see if they can find some wretched tchinovnik or broken-down
official who has got toes projecting from his boots or his hair
uncut! And when they have found such a one they make a report of
the circumstance, and their rubbish gets entered on the file....
But what does it matter to you if my hair lacks the shears? If
you will forgive me what may seem to you a piece of rudeness, I
declare that the poor man is ashamed of such things with the
sensitiveness of a young girl. YOU, for instance, would not care
(pray pardon my bluntness) to unrobe yourself before the public
eye; and in the same way, the poor man does not like to be pried
at or questioned concerning his family relations, and so forth. A
man of honour and self-respect such as I am finds it painful and
grievous to have to consort with men who would deprive him of

Today I sat before my colleagues like a bear's cub or a plucked
sparrow, so that I fairly burned with shame. Yes, it hurt me
terribly, Barbara. Naturally one blushes when one can see one's
naked toes projecting through one's boots, and one's buttons
hanging by a single thread! As though on purpose, I seemed, on
this occasion, to be peculiarly dishevelled. No wonder that my
spirits fell. When I was talking on business matters to Stepan
Karlovitch, he suddenly exclaimed, for no apparent reason, "Ah,
poor old Makar Alexievitch!" and then left the rest unfinished.
But I knew what he had in his mind, and blushed so hotly that
even the bald patch on my head grew red. Of course the whole
thing is nothing, but it worries me, and leads to anxious
thoughts. What can these fellows know about me? God send that
they know nothing! But I confess that I suspect, I strongly
suspect, one of my colleagues. Let them only betray me! They
would betray one's private life for a groat, for they hold
nothing sacred.

I have an idea who is at the bottom of it all. It is Rataziaev.
Probably he knows someone in our department to whom he has
recounted the story with additions. Or perhaps he has spread it
abroad in his own department, and thence, it has crept and
crawled into ours. Everyone here knows it, down to the last
detail, for I have seen them point at you with their fingers
through the window. Oh yes, I have seen them do it. Yesterday,
when I stepped across to dine with you, the whole crew were
hanging out of the window to watch me, and the landlady exclaimed
that the devil was in young people, and called you certain
unbecoming names. But this is as nothing compared with
Rataziaev's foul intention to place us in his books, and to
describe us in a satire. He himself has declared that he is going
to do so, and other people say the same. In fact, I know not what
to think, nor what to decide. It is no use concealing the fact
that you and I have sinned against the Lord God.... You were
going to send me a book of some sort, to divert my mind--were you
not, dearest? What book, though, could now divert me? Only such
books as have never existed on earth. Novels are rubbish, and
written for fools and for the idle. Believe me, dearest, I know
it through long experience. Even should they vaunt Shakespeare to
you, I tell you that Shakespeare is rubbish, and proper only for
lampoons--Your own,


August 2nd.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Do not disquiet yourself. God will
grant that all shall turn out well. Thedora has obtained a
quantity of work, both for me and herself, and we are setting
about it with a will. Perhaps it will put us straight again.
Thedora suspects my late misfortunes to be connected with Anna
Thedorovna; but I do not care--I feel extraordinarily cheerful
today. So you are thinking of borrowing more money? If so, may
God preserve you, for you will assuredly be ruined when the time
comes for repayment! You had far better come and live with us
here for a little while. Yes, come and take up your abode here,
and pay no attention whatever to what your landlady says. As for
the rest of your enemies and ill-wishers, I am certain that it is
with vain imaginings that you are vexing yourself. . . . In
passing, let me tell you that your style differs greatly from
letter to letter. Goodbye until we meet again. I await your
coming with impatience--Your own,

B. D.

August 3rd.

MY ANGEL, BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I hasten to inform you, 0h light of
my life, that my hopes are rising again. But, little daughter of
mine--do you really mean it when you say that I am to indulge in
no more borrowings? Why, I could not do without them. Things
would go badly with us both if I did so. You are ailing.
Consequently, I tell you roundly that I MUST borrow, and that I
must continue to do so.

Also, I may tell you that my seat in the office is now next to
that of a certain Emelia Ivanovitch. He is not the Emelia whom
you know, but a man who, like myself, is a privy councillor, as
well as represents, with myself, the senior and oldest official
in our department. Likewise he is a good, disinterested soul, and
one that is not over-talkative, though a true bear in appearance
and demeanour. Industrious, and possessed of a handwriting purely
English, his caligraphy is, it must be confessed, even worse than
my own. Yes, he is a good soul. At the same time, we have never
been intimate with one another. We have done no more than
exchange greetings on meeting or parting, borrow one another's
penknife if we needed one, and, in short, observe such bare
civilities as convention demands. Well, today he said to me,
"Makar Alexievitch, what makes you look so thoughtful?" and
inasmuch as I could see that he wished me well, I told him all--
or, rather, I did not tell him EVERYTHING, for that I do to no
man (I have not the heart to do it); I told him just a few
scattered details concerning my financial straits. "Then you
ought to borrow," said he. "You ought to obtain a loan of Peter
Petrovitch, who does a little in that way. I myself once borrowed
some money of him, and he charged me fair and light interest."
Well, Barbara, my heart leapt within me at these words. I kept
thinking and thinking, --if only God would put it into the mind
of Peter Petrovitch to be my benefactor by advancing me a loan!"
I calculated that with its aid I might both repay my landlady and
assist yourself and get rid of my surroundings (where I can
hardly sit down to table without the rascals making jokes about
me). Sometimes his Excellency passes our desk in the office. He
glances at me, and cannot but perceive how poorly I am dressed.
Now, neatness and cleanliness are two of his strongest points.
Even though he says nothing, I feel ready to die with shame when
he approaches. Well, hardening my heart, and putting my
diffidence into my ragged pocket, I approached Peter Petrovitch,
and halted before him more dead than alive. Yet I was hopeful,
and though, as it turned out, he was busily engaged in talking to
Thedosei Ivanovitch, I walked up to him from behind, and plucked
at his sleeve. He looked away from me, but I recited my speech
about thirty roubles, et cetera, et cetera, of which, at first,
he failed to catch the meaning. Even when I had explained matters
to him more fully, he only burst out laughing, and said nothing.
Again I addressed to him my request; whereupon, asking me what
security I could give, he again buried himself in his papers, and
went on writing without deigning me even a second glance. Dismay
seized me. "Peter Petrovitch," I said, "I can offer you no
security," but to this I added an explanation that some salary
would, in time, be due to me, which I would make over to him, and
account the loan my first debt. At that moment someone called him
away, and I had to wait a little. On returning, he began to mend
his pen as though he had not even noticed that I was there. But I
was for myself this time. "Peter Petrovitch," I continued, "can
you not do ANYTHING?" Still he maintained silence, and seemed not
to have heard me. I waited and waited. At length I determined to
make a final attempt, and plucked him by the sleeve. He muttered
something, and, his pen mended, set about his writing. There was
nothing for me to do but to depart. He and the rest of them are
worthy fellows, dearest--that I do not doubt-- but they are also
proud, very proud. What have I to do with them? Yet I thought I
would write and tell you all about it. Meanwhile Emelia
Ivanovitch had been encouraging me with nods and smiles. He is a
good soul, and has promised to recommend me to a friend of his
who lives in Viborskaia Street and lends money. Emelia declares
that this friend will certainly lend me a little; so tomorrow,
beloved, I am going to call upon the gentleman in question. . . .
What do you think about it? It would be a pity not to obtain a
loan. My landlady is on the point of turning me out of doors, and
has refused to allow me any more board. Also, my boots are
wearing through, and have lost every button--and I do not possess
another pair! Could anyone in a government office display greater
shabbiness? It is dreadful, my Barbara--it is simply dreadful!


August 4th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--For God's sake borrow some money
as soon as you can. I would not ask this help of you were it not
for the situation in which I am placed. Thedora and myself cannot
remain any longer in our present lodgings, for we have been
subjected to great unpleasantness, and you cannot imagine my
state of agitation and dismay. The reason is that this morning we
received a visit from an elderly--almost an old--man whose breast
was studded with orders. Greatly surprised, I asked him what he
wanted (for at the moment Thedora had gone out shopping);
whereupon he began to question me as to my mode of life and
occupation, and then, without waiting for an answer, informed me
that he was uncle to the officer of whom you have spoken; that he
was very angry with his nephew for the way in which the latter
had behaved, especially with regard to his slandering of me right
and left; and that he, the uncle, was ready to protect me from
the young spendthrift's insolence. Also, he advised me to have
nothing to say to young fellows of that stamp, and added that he
sympathised with me as though he were my own father, and would
gladly help me in any way he could. At this I blushed in some
confusion, but did not greatly hasten to thank him. Next, he took
me forcibly by the hand, and, tapping my cheek, said that I was
very good-looking, and that he greatly liked the dimples in my
face (God only knows what he meant!). Finally he tried to kiss
me, on the plea that he was an old man, the brute! At this moment
Thedora returned; whereupon, in some confusion, he repeated that
he felt a great respect for my modesty and virtue, and that he
much wished to become acquainted with me; after which he took
Thedora aside, and tried, on some pretext or another, to give her
money (though of course she declined it). At last he took himself
off--again reiterating his assurances, and saying that he
intended to return with some earrings as a present; that he
advised me to change my lodgings; and, that he could recommend me
a splendid flat which he had in his mind's eye as likely to cost
me nothing. Yes, he also declared that he greatly liked me for my
purity and good sense; that I must beware of dissolute young men;
and that he knew Anna Thedorovna, who had charged him to inform
me that she would shortly be visiting me in person. Upon that, I
understood all. What I did next I scarcely know, for I had never
before found myself in such a position; but I believe that I
broke all restraints, and made the old man feel thoroughly
ashamed of himself--Thedora helping me in the task, and well-nigh
turning him neck and crop out of the tenement. Neither of us
doubt that this is Anna Thedorovna's work-- for how otherwise
could the old man have got to know about us?

Now, therefore, Makar Alexievitch, I turn to you for help. Do
not, for God's sake, leave me in this plight. Borrow all the
money that you can get, for I have not the wherewithal to leave
these lodgings, yet cannot possibly remain in them any longer. At
all events, this is Thedora's advice. She and I need at least
twenty-five roubles, which I will repay you out of what I earn by
my work, while Thedora shall get me additional work from day to
day, so that, if there be heavy interest to pay on the loan, you
shall not be troubled with the extra burden. Nay, I will make
over to you all that I possess if only you will continue to help
me. Truly, I grieve to have to trouble you when you yourself are
so hardly situated, but my hopes rest upon you, and upon you
alone. Goodbye, Makar Alexievitch. Think of me, and may God speed
you on your errand!


August 4th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--These unlooked-for blows have
shaken me terribly, and these strange calamities have quite
broken my spirit. Not content with trying to bring you to a bed
of sickness, these lickspittles and pestilent old men are trying
to bring me to the same. And I assure you that they are
succeeding--I assure you that they are. Yet I would rather die
than not help you. If I cannot help you I SHALL die; but, to
enable me to help you, you must flee like a bird out of the nest
where these owls, these birds of prey, are seeking to peck you to
death. How distressed I feel, my dearest! Yet how cruel you
yourself are! Although you are enduring pain and insult, although
you, little nestling, are in agony of spirit, you actually tell
me that it grieves you to disturb me, and that you will work off
your debt to me with the labour of your own hands! In other
words, you, with your weak health, are proposing to kill yourself
in order to relieve me to term of my financial embarrassments!
Stop a moment, and think what you are saying. WHY should you sew,
and work, and torture your poor head with anxiety, and spoil your
beautiful eyes, and ruin your health? Why, indeed? Ah, little
Barbara, little Barbara! Do you not see that I shall never be any
good to you, never any good to you? At all events, I myself see
it. Yet I WILL help you in your distress. I WILL overcome every
difficulty, I WILL get extra work to do, I WILL copy out
manuscripts for authors, I WILL go to the latter and force them
to employ me, I WILL so apply myself to the work that they shall
see that I am a good copyist (and good copyists, I know, are
always in demand). Thus there will be no need for you to exhaust
your strength, nor will I allow you to do so--I will not have you
carry out your disastrous intention. . . Yes, little angel, I
will certainly borrow some money. I would rather die than not do
so. Merely tell me, my own darling, that I am not to shrink from
heavy interest, and I will not shrink from it, I will not shrink
from it--nay, I will shrink from nothing. I will ask for forty
roubles, to begin with. That will not be much, will it, little
Barbara? Yet will any one trust me even with that sum at the
first asking? Do you think that I am capable of inspiring
confidence at the first glance? Would the mere sight of my face
lead any one to form of me a favourable opinion? Have I ever been
able, remember you, to appear to anyone in a favourable light?
What think you? Personally, I see difficulties in the way, and
feel sick at heart at the mere prospect. However, of those forty
roubles I mean to set aside twenty-five for yourself, two for my
landlady, and the remainder for my own spending. Of course, I
ought to give more than two to my landlady, but you must remember
my necessities, and see for yourself that that is the most that
can be assigned to her. We need say no more about it. For one
rouble I shall buy me a new pair of shoes, for I scarcely know
whether my old ones will take me to the office tomorrow morning.
Also, a new neck-scarf is indispensable, seeing that the old one
has now passed its first year; but, since you have promised to
make of your old apron not only a scarf, but also a shirt-front,
I need think no more of the article in question. So much for
shoes and scarves. Next, for buttons. You yourself will agree
that I cannot do without buttons; nor is there on my garments a
single hem unfrayed. I tremble when I think that some day his
Excellency may perceive my untidiness, and say--well, what will
he NOT say? Yet I shall never hear what he says, for I shall have
expired where I sit--expired of mere shame at the thought of
having been thus exposed. Ah, dearest! . . . Well, my various
necessities will have left me three roubles to go on with. Part
of this sum I shall expend upon a half-pound of tobacco--for I
cannot live without tobacco, and it is nine days since I last put
a pipe into my mouth. To tell the truth, I shall buy the tobacco
without acquainting you with the fact, although I ought not so to
do. The pity of it all is that, while you are depriving yourself
of everything, I keep solacing myself with various amenities--
which is why I am telling you this, that the pangs of conscience
may not torment me. Frankly, I confess that I am in desperate
straits--in such straits as I have never yet known. My landlady
flouts me, and I enjoy the respect of noone; my arrears and debts
are terrible; and in the office, though never have I found the
place exactly a paradise, noone has a single word to say to me.
Yet I hide, I carefully hide, this from every one. I would hide
my person in the same way, were it not that daily I have to
attend the office where I have to be constantly on my guard
against my fellows. Nevertheless, merely to be able to CONFESS
this to you renews my spiritual strength. We must not think of
these things, Barbara, lest the thought of them break our
courage. I write them down merely to warn you NOT to think of
them, nor to torture yourself with bitter imaginings. Yet, my
God, what is to become of us? Stay where you are until I can come
to you; after which I shall not return hither, but simply
disappear. Now I have finished my letter, and must go and shave
myself, inasmuch as, when that is done, one always feels more
decent, as well as consorts more easily with decency. God speed
me! One prayer to Him, and I must be off.


August 5th.

DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH, - You must not despair. Away with
melancholy! I am sending you thirty kopecks in silver, and regret
that I cannot send you more. Buy yourself what you most need
until tomorrow. I myself have almost nothing left, and what I am
going to do I know not. Is it not dreadful, Makar Alexievitch?
Yet do not be downcast--it is no good being that. Thedora
declares that it would not be a bad thing if we were to remain in
this tenement, since if we left it suspicions would arise, and
our enemies might take it into their heads to look for us. On the
other hand, I do not think it would be well for us to remain
here. If I were feeling less sad I would tell you my reason.

What a strange man you are, Makar Alexievitch! You take things so
much to heart that you never know what it is to be happy. I read
your letters attentively, and can see from them that, though you
worry and disturb yourself about me, you never give a thought to
yourself. Yes, every letter tells me that you have a kind heart;
but I tell YOU that that heart is overly kind. So I will give you
a little friendly advice, Makar Alexievitch. I am full of
gratitude towards you--I am indeed full for all that you have
done for me, I am most sensible of your goodness; but, to think
that I should be forced to see that, in spite of your own
troubles (of which I have been the involuntary cause), you live
for me alone--you live but for MY joys and MY sorrows and MY
affection! If you take the affairs of another person so to heart,
and suffer with her to such an extent, I do not wonder that you
yourself are unhappy. Today, when you came to see me after
office-work was done, I felt afraid even to raise my eyes to
yours, for you looked so pale and desperate, and your face had so
fallen in. Yes, you were dreading to have to tell me of your
failure to borrow money--you were dreading to have to grieve and
alarm me; but, when you saw that I came very near to smiling, the
load was, I know, lifted from your heart. So do not be
despondent, do not give way, but allow more rein to your better
sense. I beg and implore this of you, for it will not be long
before you see things take a turn for the better. You will but
spoil your life if you constantly lament another person's sorrow.
Goodbye, dear friend. I beseech you not to be over-anxious about

B. D.

August 5th.

MY DARLING LITTLE BARBARA,--This is well, this is well, my angel!
So you are of opinion that the fact that I have failed to obtain
any money does not matter? Then I too am reassured, I too am
happy on your account. Also, I am delighted to think that you are
not going to desert your old friend, but intend to remain in your
present lodgings. Indeed, my heart was overcharged with joy when
I read in your letter those kindly words about myself, as well as
a not wholly unmerited recognition of my sentiments. I say this
not out of pride, but because now I know how much you love me to
be thus solicitous for my feelings. How good to think that I may
speak to you of them! You bid me, darling, not be faint-hearted.
Indeed, there is no need for me to be so. Think, for instance, of
the pair of shoes which I shall be wearing to the office
tomorrow! The fact is that over-brooding proves the undoing of a
man--his complete undoing. What has saved me is the fact that it
is not for myself that I am grieving, that I am suffering, but
for YOU. Nor would it matter to me in the least that I should
have to walk through the bitter cold without an overcoat or
boots--I could bear it, I could well endure it, for I am a simple
man in my requirements; but the point is--what would people say,
what would every envious and hostile tongue exclaim, when I was
seen without an overcoat? It is for OTHER folk that one wears an
overcoat and boots. In any case, therefore, I should have needed
boots to maintain my name and reputation; to both of which my
ragged footgear would otherwise have spelled ruin. Yes, it is so,
my beloved, and you may believe an old man who has had many years
of experience, and knows both the world and mankind, rather than
a set of scribblers and daubers.

But I have not yet told you in detail how things have gone with
me today. During the morning I suffered as much agony of spirit
as might have been experienced in a year. 'Twas like this: First
of all, I went out to call upon the gentleman of whom I have
spoken. I started very early, before going to the office. Rain
and sleet were falling, and I hugged myself in my greatcoat as I
walked along. "Lord," thought I, "pardon my offences, and send me
fulfilment of all my desires;" and as I passed a church I crossed
myself, repented of my sins, and reminded myself that I was
unworthy to hold communication with the Lord God. Then I retired
into myself, and tried to look at nothing; and so, walking
without noticing the streets, I proceeded on my way. Everything
had an empty air, and everyone whom I met looked careworn and
preoccupied, and no wonder, for who would choose to walk abroad
at such an early hour, and in such weather? Next a band of ragged
workmen met me, and jostled me boorishly as they passed; upon
which nervousness overtook me, and I felt uneasy, and tried hard
not to think of the money that was my errand. Near the
Voskresenski Bridge my feet began to ache with weariness, until I
could hardly pull myself along; until presently I met with
Ermolaev, a writer in our office, who, stepping aside, halted,
and followed me with his eyes, as though to beg of me a glass of
vodka. "Ah, friend," thought I, "go YOU to your vodka, but what
have I to do with such stuff?" Then, sadly weary, I halted for a
moment's rest, and thereafter dragged myself further on my way.
Purposely I kept looking about me for something upon which to
fasten my thoughts, with which to distract, to encourage myself;
but there was nothing. Not a single idea could I connect with any
given object, while, in addition, my appearance was so draggled
that I felt utterly ashamed of it. At length I perceived from
afar a gabled house that was built of yellow wood. This, I
thought, must be the residence of the Monsieur Markov whom Emelia
Ivanovitch had mentioned to me as ready to lend money on
interest. Half unconscious of what I was doing, I asked a
watchman if he could tell me to whom the house belonged;
whereupon grudgingly, and as though he were vexed at something,
the fellow muttered that it belonged to one Markov. Are ALL
watchmen so unfeeling? Why did this one reply as he did? In any
case I felt disagreeably impressed, for like always answers to
like, and, no matter what position one is in, things invariably
appear to correspond to it. Three times did I pass the house and
walk the length of the street; until the further I walked, the
worse became my state of mind. "No, never, never will he lend me
anything!" I thought to myself, "He does not know me, and my
affairs will seem to him ridiculous, and I shall cut a sorry
figure. However, let fate decide for me. Only, let Heaven send
that I do not afterwards repent me, and eat out my heart with
remorse!" Softly I opened the wicket-gate. Horrors! A great
ragged brute of a watch-dog came flying out at me, and foaming at
the mouth, and nearly jumping out his skin! Curious is it to note
what little, trivial incidents will nearly make a man crazy, and
strike terror to his heart, and annihilate the firm purpose with
which he has armed himself. At all events, I approached the house
more dead than alive, and walked straight into another
catastrophe. That is to say, not noticing the slipperiness of the
threshold, I stumbled against an old woman who was filling milk-
jugs from a pail, and sent the milk flying in every direction!
The foolish old dame gave a start and a cry, and then demanded of
me whither I had been coming, and what it was I wanted; after
which she rated me soundly for my awkwardness. Always have I
found something of the kind befall me when engaged on errands of
this nature. It seems to be my destiny invariably to run into
something. Upon that, the noise and the commotion brought out the
mistress of the house--an old beldame of mean appearance. I
addressed myself directly to her: "Does Monsieur Markov live
here?" was my inquiry. "No," she replied, and then stood looking
at me civilly enough. "But what want you with him?" she
continued; upon which I told her about Emelia Ivanovitch and the
rest of the business. As soon as I had finished, she called her
daughter--a barefooted girl in her teens-- and told her to summon
her father from upstairs. Meanwhile, I was shown into a room
which contained several portraits of generals on the walls and
was furnished with a sofa, a large table, and a few pots of
mignonette and balsam. "Shall I, or shall I not (come weal, come
woe) take myself off?" was my thought as I waited there. Ah, how
I longed to run away! "Yes," I continued, "I had better come
again tomorrow, for the weather may then be better, and I shall
not have upset the milk, and these generals will not be looking
at me so fiercely." In fact, I had actually begun to move towards
the door when Monsieur Markov entered--a grey-headed man with
thievish eyes, and clad in a dirty dressing-gown fastened with a
belt. Greetings over, I stumbled out something about Emelia
Ivanovitch and forty roubles, and then came to a dead halt, for
his eyes told me that my errand had been futile. "No." said he,
"I have no money. Moreover, what security could you offer?" I
admitted that I could offer none, but again added something about
Emelia, as well as about my pressing needs. Markov heard me out,
and then repeated that he had no money. " Ah," thought I, "I
might have known this--I might have foreseen it!" And, to tell
the truth, Barbara, I could have wished that the earth had opened
under my feet, so chilled did I feel as he said what he did, so
numbed did my legs grow as shivers began to run down my back.
Thus I remained gazing at him while he returned my gaze with a
look which said, "Well now, my friend? Why do you not go since
you have no further business to do here?" Somehow I felt
conscience-stricken. "How is it that you are in such need of
money?" was what he appeared to be asking; whereupon ,I opened my
mouth (anything rather than stand there to no purpose at all!)
but found that he was not even listening. "I have no money,"
again he said, "or I would lend you some with pleasure." Several
times I repeated that I myself possessed a little, and that I
would repay any loan from him punctually, most punctually, and
that he might charge me what interest he liked, since I would
meet it without fail. Yes, at that moment I remembered our
misfortunes, our necessities, and I remembered your half-rouble.
"No," said he, "I can lend you nothing without security," and
clinched his assurance with an oath, the robber!

How I contrived to leave the house and, passing through
Viborskaia Street, to reach the Voskresenski Bridge I do not
know. I only remember that I feltterribly weary, cold, and
starved, and that it was ten o'clock before I reached the office.
Arriving, I tried to clean myself up a little, but Sniegirev, the
porter, said that it was impossible for me to do so, and that I
should only spoil the brush, which belonged to the Government.
Thus, my darling, do such fellows rate me lower than the mat on
which they wipe their boots! What is it that will most surely
break me? It is not the want of money, but the LITTLE worries of
life--these whisperings and nods and jeers. Anyday his Excellency
himself may round upon me. Ah, dearest, my golden days are gone.
Today I have spent in reading your letters through; and the
reading of them has made me sad. Goodbye, my own, and may the
Lord watch over you!


P.S.--To conceal my sorrow I would have written this letter half
jestingly; but, the faculty of jesting has not been given me. My
one desire, however, is to afford you pleasure. Soon I will come
and see you, dearest. Without fail I will come and see you.

August 11th.

O Barbara Alexievna, I am undone--we are both of us undone! Both
of us are lost beyond recall! Everything is ruined--my
reputation, my self-respect, all that I have in the world! And
you as much as I. Never shall we retrieve what we have lost. I--
I have brought you to this pass, for I have become an outcast, my
darling. Everywhere I am laughed at and despised. Even my
landlady has taken to abusing me. Today she overwhelmed me with
shrill reproaches, and abased me to the level of a hearth-brush.
And last night, when I was in Rataziaev's rooms, one of his
friends began to read a scribbled note which I had written to
you, and then inadvertently pulled out of my pocket. Oh beloved,
what laughter there arose at the recital! How those scoundrels
mocked and derided you and myself! I walked up to them and
accused Rataziaev of breaking faith. I said that he had played
the traitor. But he only replied that I had been the betrayer in
the case, by indulging in various amours. "You have kept them
very dark though, Mr. Lovelace!" said he-- and now I am known
everywhere by this name of "Lovelace." They know EVERYTHING about
us, my darling, EVERYTHING--both about you and your affairs and
about myself; and when today I was for sending Phaldoni to the
bakeshop for something or other, he refused to go, saying that it
was not his business. "But you MUST go," said I. "I will not," he
replied. "You have not paid my mistress what you owe her, so I am
not bound to run your errands." At such an insult from a raw
peasant I lost my temper, and called him a fool; to which he
retorted in a similar vein. Upon this I thought that he must be
drunk, and told him so; whereupon he replied: "WHAT say you that
I am? Suppose you yourself go and sober up, for I know that the
other day you went to visit a woman, and that you got drunk with
her on two grivenniks." To such a pass have things come! I feel
ashamed to be seen alive. I am, as it were, a man proclaimed; I
am in a worse plight even than a tramp who has lost his passport.
How misfortunes are heaping themselves upon me! I am lost--I am
lost for ever!

M. D.

August 13th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--It is true that misfortune is
following upon misfortune. I myself scarcely know what to do.
Yet, no matter how you may be fairing, you must not look for help
from me, for only today I burned my left hand with the iron! At
one and the same moment I dropped the iron, made a mistake in my
work, and burned myself! So now I can no longer work. Also, these
three days past, Thedora has been ailing. My anxiety is becoming
positively torturous. Nevertheless, I send you thirty kopecks--
almost the last coins that I have left to me, much as I should
have liked to have helped you more when you are so much in need.
I feel vexed to the point of weeping. Goodbye, dear friend of
mine. You will bring me much comfort if only you will come and
see me today.

B. D.

August 14th.

What is the matter with you, Makar Alexievitch? Surely you cannot
fear the Lord God as you ought to do? You are not only driving me
to distraction but also ruining yourself with this eternal
solicitude for your reputation. You are a man of honour, nobility
of character, and self-respect, as everyone knows; yet, at any
moment, you are ready to die with shame! Surely you should have
more consideration for your grey hairs. No, the fear of God has
departed from you. Thedora has told you that it is out of my
power to render you anymore help. See, therefore, to what a pass
you have brought me! Probably you think it is nothing to me that
you should behave so badly; probably you do not realise what you
have made me suffer. I dare not set foot on the staircase here,
for if I do so I am stared at, and pointed at, and spoken about
in the most horrible manner. Yes, it is even said of me that I am
"united to a drunkard." What a thing to hear! And whenever you
are brought home drunk folk say, "They are carrying in that
tchinovnik." THAT is not the proper way to make me help you. I
swear that I MUST leave this place, and go and get work as a cook
or a laundress. It is impossible for me to stay here. Long ago I
wrote and asked you to come and see me, yet you have not come.
Truly my tears and prayers must mean NOTHING to you, Makar
Alexievitch! Whence, too, did you get the money for your
debauchery? For the love of God be more careful of yourself, or
you will be ruined. How shameful, how abominable of you! So the
landlady would not admit you last night, and you spent the night
on the doorstep? Oh, I know all about it. Yet if only you could
have seen my agony when I heard the news! . . . Come and see me,
Makar Alexievitch, and we will once more be happy together. Yes,
we will read together, and talk of old times, and Thedora shall
tell you of her pilgrimages in former days. For God's sake
beloved, do not ruin both yourself and me. I live for you alone;
it is for your sake alone that I am still here. Be your better
self once more--the self which still can remain firm in the face
of misfortune. Poverty is no crime; always remember that. After
all, why should we despair? Our present difficulties will pass
away, and God will right us. Only be brave. I send you two
grivenniks for the purchase of some tobacco or anything else that
you need; but ,for the love of heaven, do not spend the money
foolishly. Come you and see me soon; come without fail. Perhaps
you may be ashamed to meet me, as you were before, but you NEED
not feel like that--such shame would be misplaced. Only do bring
with you sincere repentance and trust in God, who orders all
things for the best.

B. D.

August 19th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA, -Yes, I AM ashamed to meet you, my
darling--I AM ashamed. At the same time, what is there in all
this? Why should we not be cheerful again? Why should I mind the
soles of my feet coming through my boots? The sole of one's foot
is a mere bagatelle--it will never be anything but just a base,
dirty sole. And shoes do not matter, either. The Greek sages used
to walk about without them, so why should we coddle ourselves
with such things? Yet why, also, should I be insulted and
despised because of them? Tell Thedora that she is a rubbishy,
tiresome, gabbling old woman, as well as an inexpressibly foolish
one. As for my grey hairs, you are quite wrong about them,
inasmuch as I am not such an old man as you think. Emelia sends
you his greeting. You write that you are in great distress, and
have been weeping. Well, I too am in great distress, and have
been weeping. Nay, nay. I wish you the best of health and
happiness, even as I am well and happy myself, so long as I may
remain, my darling,--Your friend,


August 21st.

feel that I have sinned against you. Yet also I feel, from what
you say, that it is no use for me so to feel. Even before I had
sinned I felt as I do now; but I gave way to despair, and the
more so as recognised my fault. Darling, I am not cruel or
hardhearted. To rend your little soul would be the act of a
blood-thirsty tiger, whereas I have the heart of a sheep. You
yourself know that I am not addicted to bloodthirstiness, and
therefore that I cannot really be guilty of the fault in
question, seeing that neither my mind nor my heart have
participated in it.

Nor can I understand wherein the guilt lies. To me it is all a
mystery. When you sent me those thirty kopecks, and thereafter
those two grivenniks, my heart sank within me as I looked at the
poor little money. To think that though you had burned your hand,
and would soon be hungry, you could write to me that I was to buy
tobacco! What was I to do? Remorselessly to rob you, an orphan,
as any brigand might do? I felt greatly depressed, dearest. That
is to say, persuaded that I should never do any good with my
life, and that I was inferior even to the sole of my own boot, I
took it into my head that it was absurd for me to aspire at all--
rather, that I ought to account myself a disgrace and an
abomination. Once a man has lost his self-respect, and has
decided to abjure his better qualities and human dignity, he
falls headlong, and cannot choose but do so. It is decreed of
fate, and therefore I am not guilty in this respect.

That evening I went out merely to get a breath of fresh air, but
one thing followed another-- the weather was cold, all nature was
looking mournful, and I had fallen in with Emelia. This man had
spent everything that he possessed, and, at the time I met him,
had not for two days tasted a crust of bread. He had tried to
raise money by pawning, but what articles he had for the purpose
had been refused by the pawnbrokers. It was more from sympathy
for a fellow-man than from any liking for the individual that I
yielded. That is how the fault arose, dearest.

He spoke of you, and I mingled my tears with his. Yes, he is a
man of kind, kind heart--a man of deep feeling. I often feel as
he did, dearest, and, in addition, I know how beholden to you I
am. As soon as ever I got to know you I began both to realise
myself and to love you; for until you came into my life I had
been a lonely man--I had been, as it were, asleep rather than
alive. In former days my rascally colleagues used to tell me that
I was unfit even to be seen; in fact, they so disliked me that at
length I began to dislike myself, for, being frequently told that
I was stupid, I began to believe that I really was so. But the
instant that YOU came into my life, you lightened the dark places
in it, you lightened both my heart and my soul. Gradually, I
gained rest of spirit, until I had come to see that I was no
worse than other men, and that, though I had neither style nor
brilliancy nor polish, I was still a MAN as regards my thoughts
and feelings. But now, alas! pursued and scorned of fate, I have
again allowed myself to abjure my own dignity. Oppressed of
misfortune, I have lost my courage. Here is my confession to you,
dearest. With tears I beseech you not to inquire further into the
matter, for my heart is breaking, and life has grown indeed hard
and bitter for me--Beloved, I offer you my respect, and remain
ever your faithful friend,


September 3rd.

The reason why I did not finish my last letter, Makar
Alexievitch, was that I found it so difficult to write. There are
moments when I am glad to be alone--to grieve and repine without
any one to share my sorrow: and those moments are beginning to
come upon me with ever-increasing frequency. Always in my
reminiscences I find something which is inexplicable, yet
strongly attractive-so much so that for hours together I remain
insensible to my surroundings, oblivious of reality. Indeed, in
my present life there is not a single impression that I
encounter--pleasant or the reverse-- which does not recall to my
mind something of a similar nature in the past. More particularly
is this the case with regard to my childhood, my golden
childhood. Yet such moments always leave me depressed. They
render me weak, and exhaust my powers of fancy; with the result
that my health, already not good, grows steadily worse.

However, this morning it is a fine, fresh, cloudless day, such as
we seldom get in autumn. The air has revived me and I greet it
with joy. Yet to think that already the fall of the year has
come! How I used to love the country in autumn! Then but a child,
I was yet a sensitive being who loved autumn evenings better than
autumn mornings. I remember how beside our house, at the foot of
a hill, there lay a large pond, and how the pond--I can see it
even now!--shone with a broad, level surface that was as clear as
crystal. On still evenings this pond would be at rest, and not a
rustle would disturb the trees which grew on its banks and
overhung the motionless expanse of water. How fresh it used to
seem, yet how cold! The dew would be falling upon the turf,
lights would be beginning to shine forth from the huts on the
pond's margin, and the cattle would be wending their way home.
Then quietly I would slip out of the house to look at my beloved
pond, and forget myself in contemplation. Here and there a
fisherman's bundle of brushwood would be burning at the water's
edge, and sending its light far and wide over the surface. Above,
the sky would be of a cold blue colour, save for a fringe of
flame-coloured streaks on the horizon that kept turning ever
paler and paler; and when the moon had come out there would be
wafted through the limpid air the sounds of a frightened bird
fluttering, of a bulrush rubbing against its fellows in the
gentle breeze, and of a fish rising with a splash. Over the dark
water there would gather a thin, transparent mist; and though, in
the distance, night would be looming, and seemingly enveloping
the entire horizon, everything closer at hand would be standing
out as though shaped with a chisel--banks, boats, little islands,
and all. Beside the margin a derelict barrel would be turning
over and over in the water; a switch of laburnum, with yellowing
leaves, would go meandering through the reeds; and a belated gull
would flutter up, dive again into the cold depths, rise once
more, and disappear into the mist. How I would watch and listen
to these things! How strangely good they all would seem! But I
was a mere infant in those days--a mere child.

Yes, truly I loved autumn-tide--the late autumn when the crops
are garnered, and field work is ended, and the evening gatherings
in the huts have begun, and everyone is awaiting winter. Then
does everything become more mysterious, the sky frowns with
clouds, yellow leaves strew the paths at the edge of the naked
forest, and the forest itself turns black and blue--more
especially at eventide when damp fog is spreading and the trees
glimmer in the depths like giants, like formless, weird phantoms.
Perhaps one may be out late, and had got separated from one's
companions. Oh horrors! Suddenly one starts and trembles as one
seems to see a strange-looking being peering from out of the
darkness of a hollow tree, while all the while the wind is
moaning and rattling and howling through the forest--moaning with
a hungry sound as it strips the leaves from the bare boughs, and
whirls them into the air. High over the tree-tops, in a
widespread, trailing, noisy crew, there fly, with resounding
cries, flocks of birds which seem to darken and overlay the very
heavens. Then a strange feeling comes over one, until one seems
to hear the voice of some one whispering: "Run, run, little
child! Do not be out late, for this place will soon have become
dreadful! Run, little child! Run!" And at the words terror will
possess one's soul, and one will rush and rush until one's breath
is spent--until, panting, one has reached home.

At home, however, all will look bright and bustling as we
children are set to shell peas or poppies, and the damp twigs
crackle in the stove, and our mother comes to look fondly at our
work, and our old nurse, Iliana, tells us stories of bygone days,
or terrible legends concerning wizards and dead men. At the
recital we little ones will press closer to one another, yet
smile as we do so; when suddenly, everyone becomes silent. Surely
somebody has knocked at the door? . . . But nay, nay; it is only
the sound of Frolovna's spinning-wheel. What shouts of laughter
arise! Later one will be unable to sleep for fear of the strange
dreams which come to visit one; or, if one falls asleep, one will
soon wake again, and, afraid to stir, lie quaking under the
coverlet until dawn. And in the morning, one will arise as fresh
as a lark and look at the window, and see the fields overlaid
with hoarfrost, and fine icicles hanging from the naked branches,
and the pond covered over with ice as thin as paper, and a white
steam rising from the surface, and birds flying overhead with
cheerful cries. Next, as the sun rises, he throws his glittering
beams everywhere, and melts the thin, glassy ice until the whole
scene has come to look bright and clear and exhilarating; and as
the fire begins to crackle again in the stove, we sit down to the
tea-urn, while, chilled with the night cold, our black dog,
Polkan, will look in at us through the window, and wag his tail
with a cheerful air. Presently, a peasant will pass the window in
his cart bound for the forest to cut firewood, and the whole
party will feel merry and contented together. Abundant grain lies
stored in the byres, and great stacks of wheat are glowing
comfortably in the morning sunlight. Everyone is quiet and happy,
for God has blessed us with a bounteous harvest, and we know that
there will be abundance of food for the wintertide. Yes, the
peasant may rest assured that his family will not want for aught.
Song and dance will arise at night from the village girls, and on
festival days everyone will repair to God's house to thank Him
with grateful tears for what He has done . . . . Ah, a golden
time was my time of childhood! . . .

Carried away by these memories, I could weep like a child.
Everything, everything comes back so clearly to my recollection!
The past stands out so vividly before me! Yet in the present
everything looks dim and dark! How will it all end?--how? Do you
know, I have a feeling, a sort of sure premonition, that I am
going to die this coming autumn; for I feel terribly, oh so
terribly ill! Often do I think of death, yet feel that I should
not like to die here and be laid to rest in the soil of St.
Petersburg. Once more I have had to take to my bed, as I did last
spring, for I have never really recovered. Indeed I feel so
depressed! Thedora has gone out for the day, and I am alone. For
a long while past I have been afraid to be left by myself, for I
keep fancying that there is someone else in the room, and that
that someone is speaking to me. Especially do I fancy this when
I have gone off into a reverie, and then suddenly awoken from it,
and am feeling bewildered. That is why I have made this letter
such a long one; for, when I am writing, the mood passes away.
Goodbye. I have neither time nor paper left for more, and must
close. Of the money which I saved to buy a new dress and hat,
there remains but a single rouble; but, I am glad that you have
been able to pay your landlady two roubles, for they will keep
her tongue quiet for a time. And you must repair your wardrobe.

Goodbye once more. I am so tired! Nor can I think why I am
growing so weak--why it is that even the smallest task now
wearies me? Even if work should come my way, how am I to do it?
That is what worries me above all things.

B. D.

September 5th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA,--Today I have undergone a variety of
experiences. In the first place, my head has been aching, and
towards evening I went out to get a breath of fresh air along the
Fontanka Canal. The weather was dull and damp, and even by six
o'clock, darkness had begun to set in. True, rain was not
actually falling, but only a mist like rain, while the sky was
streaked with masses of trailing cloud. Crowds of people were
hurrying along Naberezhnaia Street, with faces that looked
strange and dejected. There were drunken peasants; snub-nosed old
harridans in slippers; bareheaded artisans; cab drivers; every
species of beggar; boys; a locksmith's apprentice in a striped
smock, with lean, emaciated features which seemed to have been
washed in rancid oil; an ex-soldier who was offering penknives
and copper rings for sale; and so on, and so on. It was the hour
when one would expect to meet no other folk than these. And what
a quantity of boats there were on the canal. It made one wonder

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