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Poor Folk by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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how they could all find room there. On every bridge were old
women selling damp gingerbread or withered apples, and every
woman looked as damp and dirty as her wares. In short, the
Fontanka is a saddening spot for a walk, for there is wet granite
under one's feet, and tall, dingy buildings on either side of
one, and wet mist below and wet mist above. Yes, all was dark and
gloomy there this evening.

By the time I had returned to Gorokhovaia Street darkness had
fallen and the lamps had been lit. However, I did not linger long
in that particular spot, for Gorokhovaia Street is too noisy a
place. But what sumptuous shops and stores it contains!
Everything sparkles and glitters, and the windows are full of
nothing but bright colours and materials and hats of different
shapes. One might think that they were decked merely for display;
but no,--people buy these things, and give them to their wives!
Yes, it IS a sumptuous place. Hordes of German hucksters are
there, as well as quite respectable traders. And the quantities
of carriages which pass along the street! One marvels that the
pavement can support so many splendid vehicles, with windows like
crystal, linings made of silk and velvet, and lacqueys dressed in
epaulets and wearing swords! Into some of them I glanced, and saw
that they contained ladies of various ages. Perhaps they were
princesses and countesses! Probably at that hour such folk would
be hastening to balls and other gatherings. In fact, it was
interesting to be able to look so closely at a princess or a
great lady. They were all very fine. At all events, I had never
before seen such persons as I beheld in those carriages. . . .

Then I thought of you. Ah, my own, my darling, it is often that I
think of you and feel my heart sink. How is it that YOU are so
unfortunate, Barbara? How is it that YOU are so much worse off
than other people? In my eyes you are kind-hearted, beautiful,
and clever-- why, then, has such an evil fate fallen to your lot?
How comes it that you are left desolate--you, so good a human
being! While to others happiness comes without an invitation at
all? Yes, I know--I know it well--that I ought not to say it, for
to do so savours of free-thought; but why should that raven,
Fate, croak out upon the fortunes of one person while she is yet
in her mother's womb, while another person it permits to go forth
in happiness from the home which has reared her? To even an idiot
of an Ivanushka such happiness is sometimes granted. "You, you
fool Ivanushka," says Fate, "shall succeed to your grandfather's
money-bags, and eat, drink, and be merry; whereas YOU (such and
such another one) shall do no more than lick the dish, since that
is all that you are good for." Yes, I know that it is wrong to
hold such opinions, but involuntarily the sin of so doing grows
upon one's soul. Nevertheless, it is you, my darling, who ought
to be riding in one of those carriages. Generals would have come
seeking your favour, and, instead of being clad in a humble
cotton dress, you would have been walking in silken and golden
attire. Then you would not have been thin and wan as now, but
fresh and plump and rosy-cheeked as a figure on a sugar-cake.
Then should I too have been happy--happy if only I could look at
your lighted windows from the street, and watch your shadow--
happy if only I could think that you were well and happy, my
sweet little bird! Yet how are things in reality? Not only have
evil folk brought you to ruin, but there comes also an old rascal
of a libertine to insult you! Just because he struts about in a
frockcoat, and can ogle you through a gold-mounted lorgnette, the
brute thinks that everything will fall into his hands--that you
are bound to listen to his insulting condescension! Out upon him!
But why is this? It is because you are an orphan, it is because
you are unprotected, it is because you have no powerful friend to
afford you the decent support which is your due. WHAT do such
facts matter to a man or to men to whom the insulting of an
orphan is an offence allowed? Such fellows are not men at all,
but mere vermin, no matter what they think themselves to be. Of
that I am certain. Why, an organ-grinder whom I met in
Gorokhovaia Street would inspire more respect than they do, for
at least he walks about all day, and suffers hunger--at least he
looks for a stray, superfluous groat to earn him subsistence, and
is, therefore, a true gentleman, in that he supports himself. To
beg alms he would be ashamed; and, moreover, he works for the
benefit of mankind just as does a factory machine. "So far as in
me lies," says he, "I will give you pleasure." True, he is a
pauper, and nothing but a pauper; but, at least he is an
HONOURABLE pauper. Though tired and hungry, he still goes on
working--working in his own peculiar fashion, yet still doing
honest labour. Yes, many a decent fellow whose labour may be
disproportionate to its utility pulls the forelock to no one, and
begs his bread of no one. I myself resemble that organ-grinder.
That is to say, though not exactly he, I resemble him in this
respect, that I work according to my capabilities, and so far as
in me lies. More could be asked of no one; nor ought I to be
adjudged to do more.

Apropos of the organ-grinder, I may tell you, dearest, that today
I experienced a double misfortune. As I was looking at the
grinder, certain thoughts entered my head and I stood wrapped in
a reverie. Some cabmen also had halted at the spot, as well as a
young girl, with a yet smaller girl who was dressed in rags and
tatters. These people had halted there to listen to the organ-
grinder, who was playing in front of some one's windows. Next, I
caught sight of a little urchin of about ten--a boy who would
have been good-looking but for the fact that his face was pinched
and sickly. Almost barefooted, and clad only in a shirt, he was
standing agape to listen to the music--a pitiful childish figure.
Nearer to the grinder a few more urchins were dancing, but in the
case of this lad his hands and feet looked numbed, and he kept
biting the end of his sleeve and shivering. Also, I noticed that
in his hands he had a paper of some sort. Presently a gentleman
came by, and tossed the grinder a small coin, which fell straight
into a box adorned with a representation of a Frenchman and some
ladies. The instant he heard the rattle of the coin, the boy
started, looked timidly round, and evidently made up his mind
that I had thrown the money; whereupon, he ran to me with his
little hands all shaking, and said in a tremulous voice as he
proffered me his paper: "Pl-please sign this." I turned over the
paper, and saw that there was written on it what is usual under
such circumstances. "Kind friends I am a sick mother with three
hungry children. Pray help me. Though soon I shall be dead, yet,
if you will not forget my little ones in this world, neither will
I forget you in the world that is to come." The thing seemed
clear enough; it was a matter of life and death. Yet what was I
to give the lad? Well, I gave him nothing. But my heart ached for
him. I am certain that, shivering with cold though he was, and
perhaps hungry, the poor lad was not lying. No, no, he was not

The shameful point is that so many mothers take no care of their
children, but send them out, half-clad, into the cold. Perhaps
this lad's mother also was a feckless old woman, and devoid of
character? Or perhaps she had no one to work for her, but was
forced to sit with her legs crossed--a veritable invalid? Or
perhaps she was just an old rogue who was in the habit of sending
out pinched and hungry boys to deceive the public? What would
such a boy learn from begging letters? His heart would soon be
rendered callous, for, as he ran about begging, people would pass
him by and give him nothing. Yes, their hearts would be as stone,
and their replies rough and harsh. "Away with you!" they would
say. "You are seeking but to trick us." He would hear that from
every one, and his heart would grow hard, and he would shiver in
vain with the cold, like some poor little fledgling that has
fallen out of the nest. His hands and feet would be freezing, and
his breath coming with difficulty; until, look you, he would
begin to cough, and disease, like an unclean parasite, would worm
its way into his breast until death itself had overtaken him--
overtaken him in some foetid corner whence there was no chance of
escape. Yes, that is what his life would become.

There are many such cases. Ah, Barbara, it is hard to hear "For
Christ's sake!" and yet pass the suppliant by and give nothing,
or say merely: "May the Lord give unto you!" Of course, SOME
supplications mean nothing (for supplications differ greatly in
character). Occasionally supplications are long, drawn-out and
drawling, stereotyped and mechanical--they are purely begging
supplications. Requests of this kind it is less hard to refuse,
for they are purely professional and of long standing. "The
beggar is overdoing it," one thinks to oneself. "He knows the
trick too well." But there are other supplications which voice a
strange, hoarse, unaccustomed note, like that today when I took
the poor boy's paper. He had been standing by the kerbstone
without speaking to anybody-- save that at last to myself he
said, "For the love of Christ give me a groat!" in a voice so
hoarse and broken that I started, and felt a queer sensation in
my heart, although I did not give him a groat. Indeed, I had not
a groat on me. Rich folk dislike hearing poor people complain of
their poverty. "They disturb us," they say, "and are impertinent
as well. Why should poverty be so impertinent? Why should its
hungry moans prevent us from sleeping?"

To tell you the truth, my darling, I have written the foregoing
not merely to relieve my feelings, but, also, still more, to give
you an example of the excellent style in which I can write. You
yourself will recognise that my style was formed long ago, but of
late such fits of despondency have seized upon me that my style
has begun to correspond to my feelings; and though I know that
such correspondence gains one little, it at least renders one a
certain justice. For not unfrequently it happens that, for some
reason or another, one feels abased, and inclined to value
oneself at nothing, and to account oneself lower than a
dishclout; but this merely arises from the fact that at the time
one is feeling harassed and depressed, like the poor boy who
today asked of me alms. Let me tell you an allegory, dearest, and
do you hearken to it. Often, as I hasten to the office in the
morning, I look around me at the city--I watch it awaking,
getting out of bed, lighting its fires, cooking its breakfast,
and becoming vocal; and at the sight, I begin to feel smaller, as
though some one had dealt me a rap on my inquisitive nose. Yes,
at such times I slink along with a sense of utter humiliation in
my heart. For one would have but to see what is passing within
those great, black, grimy houses of the capital, and to penetrate
within their walls, for one at once to realise what good reason
there is for self-depredation and heart-searching. Of course, you
will note that I am speaking figuratively rather than literally.

Let us look at what is passing within those houses. In some dingy
corner, perhaps, in some damp kennel which is supposed to be a
room, an artisan has just awakened from sleep. All night he has
dreamt--IF such an insignificant fellow is capable of dreaming?--
about the shoes which last night he mechanically cut out. He is a
master-shoemaker, you see, and therefore able to think of nothing
but his one subject of interest. Nearby are some squalling
children and a hungry wife. Nor is he the only man that has to
greet the day in this fashion. Indeed, the incident would be
nothing--it would not be worth writing about, save for another
circumstance. In that same house ANOTHER person--a person of
great wealth-may also have been dreaming of shoes; but, of shoes
of a very different pattern and fashion (in a manner of speaking,
if you understand my metaphor, we are all of us shoemakers).
This, again, would be nothing, were it not that the rich person
has no one to whisper in his ear: "Why dost thou think of such
things? Why dost thou think of thyself alone, and live only for
thyself--thou who art not a shoemaker? THY children are not
ailing. THY wife is not hungry. Look around thee. Can'st thou not
find a subject more fitting for thy thoughts than thy shoes?"
That is what I want to say to you in allegorical language,
Barbara. Maybe it savours a little of free-thought, dearest; but,
such ideas WILL keep arising in my mind and finding utterance in
impetuous speech. Why, therefore, should one not value oneself at
a groat as one listens in fear and trembling to the roar and
turmoil of the city? Maybe you think that I am exaggerating
things--that this is a mere whim of mine, or that I am quoting
from a book? No, no, Barbara. You may rest assured that it is not
so. Exaggeration I abhor, with whims I have nothing to do, and of
quotation I am guiltless.

I arrived home today in a melancholy mood. Sitting down to the
table, I had warmed myself some tea, and was about to drink a
second glass of it, when there entered Gorshkov, the poor lodger.
Already, this morning, I had noticed that he was hovering around
the other lodgers, and also seeming to want to speak to myself.
In passing I may say that his circumstances are infinitely worse
than my own; for, only think of it, he has a wife and children!
Indeed, if I were he, I do not know what I should do. Well, he
entered my room, and bowed to me with the pus standing, as usual,
in drops on his eyelashes, his feet shuffling about, and his
tongue unable, at first, to articulate a word. I motioned him to
a chair (it was a dilapidated enough one, but I had no other),
and asked him to have a glass of tea. To this he demurred--for
quite a long time he demurred, but at length he accepted the
offer. Next, he was for drinking the tea without sugar, and
renewed his excuses, but upon the sugar I insisted. After long
resistance and many refusals, he DID consent to take some, but
only the smallest possible lump; after which, he assured me that
his tea was perfectly sweet. To what depths of humility can
poverty reduce a man! "Well, what is it, my good sir?" I inquired
of him; whereupon he replied: "It is this, Makar Alexievitch. You
have once before been my benefactor. Pray again show me the
charity of God, and assist my unfortunate family. My wife and
children have nothing to eat. To think that a father should have
to say this!" I was about to speak again when he interrupted me.
"You see," he continued, "I am afraid of the other lodgers here.
That is to say, I am not so much afraid of, as ashamed to address
them, for they are a proud, conceited lot of men. Nor would I
have troubled even you, my friend and former benefactor, were it
not that I know that you yourself have experienced misfortune and
are in debt; wherefore, I have ventured to come and make this
request of you, in that I know you not only to be kind-hearted,
but also to be in need, and for that reason the more likely to
sympathise with me in my distress." To this he added an apology
for his awkwardness and presumption. I replied that, glad though
I should have been to serve him, I had nothing, absolutely
nothing, at my disposal. "Ah, Makar Alexievitch," he went on,
"surely it is not much that I am asking of you? My-my wife and
children are starving. C-could you not afford me just a
grivennik? " At that my heart contracted, "How these people put
me to shame!" thought I. But I had only twenty kopecks left, and
upon them I had been counting for meeting my most pressing
requirements. "No, good sir, I cannot," said I. "Well, what you
will," he persisted. "Perhaps ten kopecks?" Well I got out my
cash-box, and gave him the twenty. It was a good deed. To think
that such poverty should exist! Then I had some further talk with
him. "How is it," I asked him, "that, though you are in such
straits, you have hired a room at five roubles?" He replied that
though, when he engaged the room six months ago, he paid three
months' rent in advance, his affairs had subsequently turned out
badly, and never righted themselves since. You see, Barbara, he
was sued at law by a merchant who had defrauded the Treasury in
the matter of a contract. When the fraud was discovered the
merchant was prosecuted, but the transactions in which he had
engaged involved Gorshkov, although the latter had been guilty
only of negligence, want of prudence, and culpable indifference
to the Treasury's interests. True, the affair had taken place
some years ago, but various obstacles had since combined to
thwart Gorshkov. "Of the disgrace put upon me," said he to me, "I
am innocent. True, I to a certain extent disobeyed orders, but
never did I commit theft or embezzlement." Nevertheless the
affair lost him his character. He was dismissed the service, and
though not adjudged capitally guilty, has been unable since to
recover from the merchant a large sum of money which is his by
right, as spared to him (Gorshkov) by the legal tribunal. True,
the tribunal in question did not altogether believe in Gorshkov,
but I do so. The matter is of a nature so complex and crooked
that probably a hundred years would be insufficient to unravel
it; and, though it has now to a certain extent been cleared up,
the merchant still holds the key to the situation. Personally I
side with Gorshkov, and am very sorry for him. Though lacking a
post of any kind, he still refuses to despair, though his
resources are completely exhausted. Yes, it is a tangled affair,
and meanwhile he must live, for, unfortunately, another child
which has been born to him has entailed upon the family fresh
expenses. Also, another of his children recently fell ill and
died-- which meant yet further expense. Lastly, not only is his
wife in bad health, but he himself is suffering from a complaint
of long standing. In short, he has had a very great deal to
undergo. Yet he declares that daily he expects a favourable issue
to his affair--that he has no doubt of it whatever. I am terribly
sorry for him, and said what I could to give him comfort, for he
is a man who has been much bullied and misled. He had come to me
for protection from his troubles, so I did my best to soothe him.
Now, goodbye, my darling. May Christ watch over you and preserve
your health. Dearest one, even to think of you is like medicine
to my ailing soul. Though I suffer for you, I at least suffer
gladly.--Your true friend,


September 9th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I am beside myself as I take up my
pen, for a most terrible thing has happened. My head is whirling
round. Ah, beloved, how am I to tell you about it all? I had
never foreseen what has happened. But no-- I cannot say that I
had NEVER foreseen it, for my mind DID get an inkling of what was
coming, through my seeing something very similar to it in a

I will tell you the whole story--simply, and as God may put it
into my heart. Today I went to the office as usual, and, upon
arrival, sat down to write. You must know that I had been engaged
on the same sort of work yesterday, and that, while executing it,
I had been approached by Timothei Ivanovitch with an urgent
request for a particular document. "Makar Alexievitch," he had
said, "pray copy this out for me. Copy it as quickly and as
carefully as you can, for it will require to be signed today."
Also let me tell you, dearest, that yesterday I had not been
feeling myself, nor able to look at anything. I had been troubled
with grave depression--my breast had felt chilled, and my head
clouded. All the while I had been thinking of you, my darling.
Well, I set to work upon the copying, and executed it cleanly and
well, except for the fact that, whether the devil confused my
mind, or a mysterious fate so ordained, or the occurrence was
simply bound to happen, I left out a whole line of the document,
and thus made nonsense of it! The work had been given me too late
for signature last night, so it went before his Excellency this
morning. I reached the office at my usual hour, and sat down
beside Emelia Ivanovitch. Here I may remark that for a long time
past I have been feeling twice as shy and diffident as I used to
do; I have been finding it impossible to look people in the face.
Let only a chair creak, and I become more dead than alive. Today,
therefore, I crept humbly to my seat and sat down in such a
crouching posture that Efim Akimovitch (the most touchy man in
the world) said to me sotto voce: "What on earth makes you sit
like that, Makar Alexievitch?" Then he pulled such a grimace that
everyone near us rocked with laughter at my expense. I stopped my
ears, frowned, and sat without moving, for I found this the best
method of putting a stop to such merriment. All at once I heard a
bustle and a commotion and the sound of someone running towards
us. Did my ears deceive me? It was I who was being summoned in
peremptory tones! My heart started to tremble within me, though I
could not say why. I only know that never in my life before had
it trembled as it did then. Still I clung to my chair- -and at
that moment was hardly myself at all. The voices were coming
nearer and nearer, until they were shouting in my ear:
"Dievushkin! Dievushkin! Where is Dievushkin?" Then at length I
raised my eyes, and saw before me Evstafi Ivanovitch. He said to
me: "Makar Alexievitch, go at once to his Excellency. You have
made a mistake in a document." That was all, but it was enough,
was it not? I felt dead and cold as ice--I felt absolutely
deprived of the power of sensation; but, I rose from my seat and
went whither I had been bidden. Through one room, through two
rooms, through three rooms I passed, until I was conducted into
his Excellency's cabinet itself. Of my thoughts at that moment I
can give no exact account. I merely saw his Excellency standing
before me, with a knot of people around him. I have an idea that
I did not salute him--that I forgot to do so. Indeed, so panic-
stricken was I, that my teeth were chattering and my knees
knocking together. In the first place, I was greatly ashamed of
my appearance (a glance into a mirror on the right had frightened
me with the reflection of myself that it presented), and, in the
second place, I had always been accustomed to comport myself as
though no such person as I existed. Probably his Excellency had
never before known that I was even alive. Of course, he might
have heard, in passing, that there was a man named Dievushkin in
his department; but never for a moment had he had any intercourse
with me.

He began angrily: "What is this you have done, sir? Why are you
not more careful? The document was wanted in a hurry, and you
have gone and spoiled it. What do you think of it?"--the last
being addressed to Evstafi Ivanovitch. More I did not hear,
except for some flying exclamations of "What negligence and
carelessness! How awkward this is!" and so on. I opened my mouth
to say something or other; I tried to beg pardon, but could not.
To attempt to leave the room, I had not the hardihood. Then there
happened something the recollection of which causes the pen to
tremble in my hand with shame. A button of mine--the devil take
it!--a button of mine that was hanging by a single thread
suddenly broke off, and hopped and skipped and rattled and rolled
until it had reached the feet of his Excellency himself--this
amid a profound general silence! THAT was what came of my
intended self-justification and plea for mercy! THAT was the only
answer that I had to return to my chief!

The sequel I shudder to relate. At once his Excellency's
attention became drawn to my figure and costume. I remembered
what I had seen in the mirror, and hastened to pursue the button.
Obstinacy of a sort seized upon me, and I did my best to arrest
the thing, but it slipped away, and kept turning over and over,
so that I could not grasp it, and made a sad spectacle of myself
with my awkwardness. Then there came over me a feeling that my
last remaining strength was about to leave me, and that all, all
was lost--reputation, manhood, everything! In both ears I seemed
to hear the voices of Theresa and Phaldoni. At length, however, I
grasped the button, and, raising and straightening myself, stood
humbly with clasped hands--looking a veritable fool! But no.
First of all I tried to attach the button to the ragged threads,
and smiled each time that it broke away from them, and smiled
again. In the beginning his Excellency had turned away, but now
he threw me another glance, and I heard him say to Evstafi
Ivanovitch: "What on earth is the matter with the fellow? Look at
the figure he cuts! Who to God is he? Ah, beloved, only to hear
that, "Who to God is he? Truly I had made myself a marked man! In
reply to his Excellency Evstafi murmured: "He is no one of any
note, though his character is good. Besides, his salary is
sufficient as the scale goes." "Very well, then; but help him out
of his difficulties somehow," said his Excellency. "Give him a
trifle of salary in advance." "It is all forestalled," was the
reply. "He drew it some time ago. But his record is good. There
is nothing against him." At this I felt as though I were in Hell
fire. I could actually have died! "Well, well," said his
Excellency, "let him copy out the document a second time.
Dievushkin, come here. You are to make another copy of this
paper, and to make it as quickly as possible." With that he
turned to some other officials present, issued to them a few
orders, and the company dispersed. No sooner had they done so
than his Excellency hurriedly pulled out a pocket-book, took
thence a note for a hundred roubles, and, with the words, "Take
this. It is as much as I can afford. Treat it as you like,"
placed the money in my hand! At this, dearest, I started and
trembled, for I was moved to my very soul. What next I did I
hardly know, except that I know that I seized his Excellency by
the hand. But he only grew very red, and then--no, I am not
departing by a hair's-breadth from the truth--it is true-- that
he took this unworthy hand in his, and shook it! Yes, he took
this hand of mine in his, and shook it, as though I had been his
equal, as though I had been a general like himself! "Go now," he
said. "This is all that I can do for you. Make no further
mistakes, and I will overlook your fault."

What I think about it is this: I beg of you and of Thedora, and
had I any children I should beg of them also, to pray ever to God
for his Excellency. I should say to my children: "For your father
you need not pray; but for his Excellency, I bid you pray until
your lives shall end." Yes, dear one--I tell you this in all
solemnity, so hearken well unto my words--that though, during
these cruel days of our adversity, I have nearly died of distress
of soul at the sight of you and your poverty, as well as at the
sight of myself and my abasement and helplessness, I yet care
less for the hundred roubles which his Excellency has given me
than for the fact that he was good enough to take the hand of a
wretched drunkard in his own and press it. By that act he
restored me to myself. By that act he revived my courage, he made
life forever sweet to me. . . . Yes, sure am I that, sinner
though I be before the Almighty, my prayers for the happiness and
prosperity of his Excellency will yet ascend to the Heavenly
Throne! . . .

But, my darling, for the moment I am terribly agitated and
distraught. My heart is beating as though it would burst my
breast, and all my body seems weak. . . . I send you forty-five
roubles in notes. Another twenty I shall give to my landlady, and
the remaining thirty-five I shall keep--twenty for new clothes
and fifteen for actual living expenses. But these experiences of
the morning have shaken me to the core, and I must rest awhile.
It is quiet, very quiet, here. My breath is coming in jerks--deep
down in my breast I can hear it sobbing and trembling. . . . I
will come and see you soon, but at the moment my head is aching
with these various sensations. God sees all things, my darling,
my priceless treasure!--Your steadfast friend,


September 10th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--I am unspeakably rejoiced at your
good fortune, and fully appreciate the kindness of your superior.
Now, take a rest from your cares. Only do not AGAIN spend money
to no advantage. Live as quietly and as frugally as possible, and
from today begin always to set aside something, lest misfortune
again overtake you. Do not, for God's sake, worry yourself--
Thedora and I will get on somehow. Why have you sent me so much
money? I really do not need it--what I had already would have
been quite sufficient. True, I shall soon be needing further
funds if I am to leave these lodgings, but Thedora is hoping
before long to receive repayment of an old debt. Of course, at
least TWENTY roubles will have to be set aside for indispensable
requirements, but theremainder shall be returned to you. Pray
take care of it, Makar Alexievitch. Now, goodbye. May your life
continue peacefully, and may you preserve your health and
spirits. I would have written to you at greater length had I not
felt so terribly weary. Yesterday I never left my bed. I am glad
that you have promised to come and see me. Yes, you MUST pay me a

B. D.

September 11th.

MY DARLING BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I implore you not to leave me now
that I am once more happy and contented. Disregard what Thedora
says, and I will do anything in the world for you. I will behave
myself better, even if only out of respect for his Excellency,
and guard my every action. Once more we will exchange cheerful
letters with one another, and make mutual confidence of our
thoughts and joys and sorrows (if so be that we shall know any
more sorrows?). Yes, we will live twice as happily and
comfortably as of old. Also, we will exchange books. . . . Angel
of my heart, a great change has taken place in my fortunes--a
change very much for the better. My landlady has become more
accommodating; Theresa has recovered her senses; even Phaldoni
springs to do my bidding. Likewise, I have made my peace with
Rataziaev. He came to see me of his own accord, the moment that
he heard the glad tidings. There can be no doubt that he is a
good fellow, that there is no truth in the slanders that one
hears of him. For one thing, I have discovered that he never had
any intention of putting me and yourself into a book. This he
told me himself, and then read to me his latest work. As for his
calling me "Lovelace," he had intended no rudeness or indecency
thereby. The term is merely one of foreign derivation, meaning a
clever fellow, or, in more literary and elegant language, a
gentleman with whom one must reckon. That is all; it was a mere
harmless jest, my beloved. Only ignorance made me lose my temper,
and I have expressed to him my regret. . . . How beautiful is the
weather today, my little Barbara! True, there was a slight frost
in the early morning, as though scattered through a sieve, but it
was nothing, and the breeze soon freshened the air. I went out to
buy some shoes, and obtained a splendid pair. Then, after a
stroll along the Nevski Prospect, I read "The Daily Bee". This
reminds me that I have forgotten to tell you the most important
thing of all. It happened like this:

This morning I had a talk with Emelia Ivanovitch and Aksenti
Michaelovitch concerning his Excellency. Apparently, I am not the
only person to whom he has acted kindly and been charitable, for
he is known to the whole world for his goodness of heart. In many
quarters his praises are to be heard; in many quarters he has
called forth tears of gratitude. Among other things, he undertook
the care of an orphaned girl, and married her to an official, the
son of a poor widow, and found this man place in a certain
chancellory, and in other ways benefited him. Well, dearest, I
considered it to be my duty to add my mite by publishing abroad
the story of his Excellency's gracious treatment of myself.
Accordingly, I related the whole occurrence to my interlocutors,
and concealed not a single detail. In fact, I put my pride into
my pocket--though why should I feel ashamed of having been elated
by such an occurrence? "Let it only be noised afield," said I to
myself, and it will resound greatly to his Excellency's credit.--
So I expressed myself enthusiastically on the subject and never
faltered. On the contrary, I felt proud to have such a story to
tell. I referred to every one concerned (except to yourself, of
course, dearest)--to my landlady, to Phaldoni, to Rataziaev, to
Markov. I even mentioned the matter of my shoes! Some of those
standing by laughed--in fact every one present did so, but
probably it was my own figure or the incident of my shoes--more
particularly the latter--that excited merriment, for I am sure it
was not meant ill-naturedly. My hearers may have been young men,
or well off; certainly they cannot have been laughing with evil
intent at what I had said. Anything against his Excellency CANNOT
have been in their thoughts. Eh, Barbara?

Even now I cannot wholly collect my faculties, so upset am I by
recent events. . . . Have you any fuel to go on with, Barbara?
You must not expose yourself to cold. Also, you have depressed my
spirits with your fears for the future. Daily I pray to God on
your behalf. Ah, HOW I pray to Him! . . . Likewise, have you any
woollen stockings to wear, and warm clothes generally? Mind you,
if there is anything you need, you must not hurt an old man's
feelings by failing to apply to him for what you require. The bad
times are gone now, and the future is looking bright and fair.

But what bad times they were, Barbara, even though they be gone,
and can no longer matter! As the years pass on we shall gradually
recover ourselves. How clearly I remember my youth! In those days
I never had a kopeck to spare. Yet, cold and hungry though I was,
I was always light-hearted. In the morning I would walk the
Nevski Prospect, and meet nice-looking people, and be happy all
day. Yes, it was a glorious, a glorious time! It was good to be
alive, especially in St. Petersburg. Yet it is but yesterday that
I was beseeching God with tears to pardon me my sins during the
late sorrowful period--to pardon me my murmurings and evil
thoughts and gambling and drunkenness. And you I remembered in my
prayers, for you alone have encouraged and comforted me, you
alone have given me advice and instruction. I shall never forget
that, dearest. Today I gave each one of your letters a kiss. . .
. Goodbye, beloved. I have been told that there is going to be a
sale of clothing somewhere in this neighbourhood. Once more
goodbye, goodbye, my angel-Yours in heart and soul,


September 15th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--I am in terrible distress. I feel
sure that something is about to happen. The matter, my beloved
friend, is that Monsieur Bwikov is again in St. Petersburg, for
Thedora has met him. He was driving along in a drozhki, but, on
meeting Thedora, he ordered the coachman to stop, sprang out, and
inquired of her where she was living; but this she would not tell
him. Next, he said with a smile that he knew quite well who was
living with her (evidently Anna Thedorovna had told him);
whereupon Thedora could hold out no longer, but then and there,
in the street, railed at and abused him--telling him that he was
an immoral man, and the cause of all my misfortunes. To this he
replied that a person who did not possess a groat must surely be
rather badly off; to which Thedora retorted that I could always
either live by the labour of my hands or marry--that it was not
so much a question of my losing posts as of my losing my
happiness, the ruin of which had led almost to my death. In reply
he observed that, though I was still quite young, I seemed to
have lost my wits, and that my "virtue appeared to be under a
cloud" (I quote his exact words). Both I and Thedora had thought
that he does not know where I live; but, last night, just as I
had left the house to make a few purchases in the Gostinni Dvor,
he appeared at our rooms (evidently he had not wanted to find me
at home), and put many questions to Thedora concerning our way of
living. Then, after inspecting my work, he wound up with: "Who is
this tchinovnik friend of yours?" At the moment you happened to
be passing through the courtyard, so Thedora pointed you out, and
the man peered at you, and laughed. Thedora next asked him to
depart--telling him that I was still ill from grief, and that it
would give me great pain to see him there; to which, after a
pause, he replied that he had come because he had had nothing
better to do. Also, he was for giving Thedora twenty-five
roubles, but, of course, she declined them. What does it all
mean? Why has he paid this visit? I cannot understand his getting
to know about me. I am lost in conjecture. Thedora, however, says
that Aksinia, her sister-in-law (who sometimes comes to see her),
is acquainted with a laundress named Nastasia, and that this
woman has a cousin in the position of watchman to a department of
which a certain friend of Anna Thedorovna's nephew forms one of
the staff. Can it be, therefore, that an intrigue has been
hatched through THIS channel? But Thedora may be entirely
mistaken. We hardly know what to think. What if he should come
again? The very thought terrifies me. When Thedora told me of
this last night such terror seized upon me that I almost swooned
away. What can the man be wanting? At all events, I refuse to
know such people. What have they to do with my wretched self? Ah,
how I am haunted with anxiety, for every moment I keep thinking
that Bwikov is at hand! WHAT will become of me? WHAT MORE has
fate in store for me? For Christ's sake come and see me, Makar
Alexievitch! For Christ's sake come and see me soon!

September 18th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--Today there took place in this
house a most lamentable, a most mysterious, a most unlooked-for
occurrence. First of all, let me tell you that poor Gorshkov has
been entirely absolved of guilt. The decision has been long in
coming, but this morning he went to hear the final resolution
read. It was entirely in his favour. Any culpability which had
been imputed to him for negligence and irregularity was removed
by the resolution. Likewise, he was authorised to recover of the
merchant a large sum of money. Thus, he stands entirely
justified, and has had his character cleansed from all stain. In
short, he could not have wished for a more complete vindication.
When he arrived home at three o'clock he was looking as white as
a sheet, and his lips were quivering. Yet there was a smile on
his face as he embraced his wife and children. In a body the rest
of us ran to congratulate him, and he was greatly moved by the
act. Bowing to us, he pressed our hands in turn. As he did so I
thought, somehow, that he seemed to have grown taller and
straighter, and that the pus-drops seemed to have disappeared
from his eyelashes. Yet how agitated he was, poor fellow! He
could not rest quietly for two minutes together, but kept picking
up and then dropping whatsoever came to his hand, and bowing and
smiling without intermission, and sitting down and getting up,
and again sitting down, and chattering God only knows what about
his honour and his good name and his little ones. How he did
talk--yes, and weep too! Indeed, few of ourselves could refrain
from tears; although Rataziaev remarked (probably to encourage
Gorshkov) that honour mattered nothing when one had nothing to
eat, and that money was the chief thing in the world, and that
for it alone ought God to be thanked. Then he slapped Gorshkov on
the shoulder, but I thought that Gorshkov somehow seemed hurt at
this. He did not express any open displeasure, but threw
Rataziaev a curious look, and removed his hand from his shoulder.
ONCE upon a time he would not have acted thus; but characters
differ. For example, I myself should have hesitated, at such a
season of rejoicing, to seem proud, even though excessive
deference and civility at such a moment might have been construed
as a lapse both of moral courage and of mental vigour. However,
this is none of my business. All that Gorshkov said was: "Yes,
money IS a good thing, glory be to God!" In fact, the whole time
that we remained in his room he kept repeating to himself: "Glory
be to God, glory be to God!" His wife ordered a richer and more
delicate meal than usual, and the landlady herself cooked it, for
at heart she is not a bad woman. But until the meal was served
Gorshkov could not remain still. He kept entering everyone's room
in turn (whether invited thither or not), and, seating himself
smilingly upon a chair, would sometimes say something, and
sometimes not utter a word, but get up and go out again. In the
naval officer's room he even took a pack of playing-cards into
his hand, and was thereupon invited to make a fourth in a game;
but after losing a few times, as well as making several blunders
in his play, he abandoned the pursuit. "No," said he, "that is
the sort of man that I am--that is all that I am good for," and
departed. Next, encountering myself in the corridor, he took my
hands in his, and gazed into my face with a rather curious air.
Then he pressed my hands again, and moved away still smiling,
smiling, but in an odd, weary sort of manner, much as a corpse
might smile. Meanwhile his wife was weeping for joy, and
everything in their room was decked in holiday guise. Presently
dinner was served, and after they had dined Gorshkov said to his
wife: "See now, dearest, I am going to rest a little while;" and
with that went to bed. Presently he called his little daughter to
his side, and, laying his hand upon the child's head, lay a long
while looking at her. Then he turned to his wife again, and asked
her: "What of Petinka? Where is our Petinka?" whereupon his wife
crossed herself, and replied: "Why, our Petinka is dead!" "Yes,
yes, I know--of course," said her husband. "Petinka is now in the
Kingdom of Heaven." This showed his wife that her husband was not
quite in his right senses--that the recent occurrence had upset
him; so she said: "My dearest, you must sleep awhile." "I will do
so," he replied, "--at once--I am rather--" And he turned over,
and lay silent for a time. Then again he turned round and tried
to say something, but his wife could not hear what it was. "What
do you say?" she inquired, but he made no reply. Then again she
waited a few moments until she thought to herself, "He has gone
to sleep," and departed to spend an hour with the landlady. At
the end of that hour she returned-- only to find that her husband
had not yet awoken, but was still lying motionless. "He is
sleeping very soundly," she reflected as she sat down and began
to work at something or other. Since then she has told us that
when half an hour or so had elapsed she fell into a reverie.
What she was thinking of she cannot remember, save that she had
forgotten altogether about her husband. Then she awoke with a
curious sort of sensation at her heart. The first thing that
struck her was the deathlike stillness of the room. Glancing at
the bed, she perceived her husband to be lying in the same
position as before. Thereupon she approached him, turned the
coverlet back, and saw that he was stiff and cold-- that he had
died suddenly, as though smitten with a stroke. But of what
precisely he died God only knows. The affair has so terribly
impressed me that even now I cannot fully collect my thoughts. It
would scarcely be believed that a human being could die so
simply--and he such a poor, needy wretch, this Gorshkov! What a
fate, what a fate, to be sure! His wife is plunged in tears and
panic-stricken, while his little daughter has run away somewhere
to hide herself. In their room, however, all is bustle and
confusion, for the doctors are about to make an autopsy on the
corpse. But I cannot tell you things for certain; I only know
that I am most grieved, most grieved. How sad to think that one
never knows what even a day, what even an hour, may bring forth!
One seems to die to so little purpose! .-Your own


September 19th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I hasten to let you know that
Rataziaev has found me some work to do for a certain writer--the
latter having submitted to him a large manuscript. Glory be to
God, for this means a large amount of work to do. Yet, though the
copy is wanted in haste, the original is so carelessly written
that I hardly know how to set about my task. Indeed, certain
parts of the manuscript are almost undecipherable. I have agreed
to do the work for forty kopecks a sheet. You see therefore (and
this is my true reason for writing to you), that we shall soon be
receiving money from an extraneous source. Goodbye now, as I must
begin upon my labours.--Your sincere friend,


September 23rd.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--I have not written to you these
three days past for the reason that I have been so worried and

Three days ago Bwikov came again to see me. At the time I was
alone, for Thedora had gone out somewhere. As soon as I opened
the door the sight of him so terrified me that I stood rooted to
the spot, and could feel myself turning pale. Entering with his
usual loud laugh, he took a chair, and sat down. For a long while
I could not collect my thoughts; I just sat where I was, and went
on with my work. Soon his smile faded, for my appearance seemed
somehow to have struck him. You see, of late I have grown thin,
and my eyes and cheeks have fallen in, and my face has become as
white as a sheet; so that anyone who knew me a year ago would
scarcely recognise me now. After a prolonged inspection, Bwikov
seemed to recover his spirits, for he said something to which I
duly replied. Then again he laughed. Thus he sat for a whole
hour- -talking to me the while, and asking me questions about one
thing and another. At length, just before he rose to depart, he
took me by the hand, and said (to quote his exact words):
"Between ourselves, Barbara Alexievna, that kinswoman of yours
and my good friend and acquaintance--I refer to Anna Thedorovna -
is a very bad woman " (he also added a grosser term of
opprobrium). "First of all she led your cousin astray, and then
she ruined yourself. I also have behaved like a villain, but such
is the way of the world." Again he laughed. Next, having remarked
that, though not a master of eloquence, he had always considered
that obligations of gentility obliged him to have with me a clear
and outspoken explanation, he went on to say that he sought my
hand in marriage; that he looked upon it as a duty to restore to
me my honour; that he could offer me riches; that, after
marriage, he would take me to his country seat in the Steppes,
where we would hunt hares; that he intended never to visit St.
Petersburg again, since everything there was horrible, and he had
to entertain a worthless nephew whom he had sworn to disinherit
in favour of a legal heir; and, finally, that it was to obtain
such a legal heir that he was seeking my hand in marriage.
Lastly, he remarked that I seemed to be living in very poor
circumstances (which was not surprising, said he, in view of the
kennel that I inhabited); that I should die if I remained a month
longer in that den; that all lodgings in St. Petersburg were
detestable; and that he would be glad to know if I was in want of

So thunderstruck was I with the proposal that I could only burst
into tears. These tears he interpreted as a sign of gratitude,
for he told me that he had always felt assured of my good sense,
cleverness, and sensibility, but that hitherto he had hesitated
to take this step until he should have learned precisely how I
was getting on. Next he asked me some questions about YOU; saying
that he had heard of you as a man of good principle, and that
since he was unwilling to remain your debtor, would a sum of five
hundred roubles repay you for all you had done for me? To this I
replied that your services to myself had been such as could never
be requited with money; whereupon, he exclaimed that I was
talking rubbish and nonsense; that evidently I was still young
enough to read poetry; that romances of this kind were the
undoing of young girls, that books only corrupted morality, and
that, for his part, he could not abide them. "You ought to live
as long as I have done," he added, "and THEN you will see what
men can be."

With that he requested me to give his proposal my favourable
consideration--saying that he would not like me to take such an
important step unguardedly, since want of thought and impetuosity
often spelt ruin to youthful inexperience, but that he hoped to
receive an answer in the affirmative. "Otherwise," said he, "I
shall have no choice but to marry a certain merchant's daughter
in Moscow, in order that I may keep my vow to deprive my nephew
of the inheritance.--Then he pressed five hundred roubles into my
hand--to buy myself some bonbons, as he phrased it--and wound up
by saying that in the country I should grow as fat as a doughnut
or a cheese rolled in butter; that at the present moment he was
extremely busy; and that, deeply engaged in business though he
had been all day, he had snatched the present opportunity of
paying me a visit. At length he departed.

For a long time I sat plunged in reflection. Great though my
distress of mind was, I soon arrived at a decision.... My friend,
I am going to marry this man; I have no choice but to accept his
proposal. If anyone could save me from this squalor, and restore
to me my good name, and avert from me future poverty and want and
misfortune, he is the man to do it. What else have I to look for
from the future? What more am I to ask of fate? Thedora declares
that one need NEVER lose one's happiness; but what, I ask HER,
can be called happiness under such circumstances as mine? At all
events I see no other road open, dear friend. I see nothing else
to be done. I have worked until I have ruined my health. I cannot
go on working forever. Shall I go out into the world? Nay; I am
worn to a shadow with grief, and become good for nothing. Sickly
by nature, I should merely be a burden upon other folks. Of
course this marriage will not bring me paradise, but what else
does there remain, my friend--what else does there remain? What
other choice is left?

I had not asked your advice earlier for the reason that I wanted
to think the matter over alone. However, the decision which you
have just read is unalterable, and I am about to announce it to
Bwikov himself, who in any case has pressed me for a speedy
reply, owing to the fact (so he says) that his business will not
wait nor allow him to remain here longer, and that therefore, no
trifle must be allowed to stand in its way. God alone knows
whether I shall be happy, but my fate is in His holy, His
inscrutable hand, and I have so decided. Bwikov is said to be
kind-hearted. He will at least respect me, and perhaps I shall be
able to return that respect. What more could be looked for from
such a marriage?

I have now told you all, Makar Alexievitch, and feel sure that
you will understand my despondency. Do not, however, try to
divert me from my intention, for all your efforts will be in
vain. Think for a moment; weigh in your heart for a moment all
that has led me to take this step. At first my anguish was
extreme, but now I am quieter. What awaits me I know not. What
must be must be, and as God may send....

Bwikov has just arrived, so I am leaving this letter unfinished.
Otherwise I had much else to say to you. Bwikov is even now at
the door! ...

September 23rd.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I hasten to reply to you--I hasten
to express to you my extreme astonishment. . . . In passing, I
may mention that yesterday we buried poor Gorshkov. . . .

Yes, Bwikov has acted nobly, and you have no choice but to accept
him. All things are in God's hands. This is so, and must always
be so; and the purposes of the Divine Creator are at once good
and inscrutable, as also is Fate, which is one with Him. . . .

Thedora will share your happiness--for, of course, you will be
happy, and free from want, darling, dearest, sweetest of angels!
But why should the matter be so hurried? Oh, of course--Monsieur
Bwikov's business affairs. Only a man who has no affairs to see
to can afford to disregard such things. I got a glimpse of
Monsieur Bwikov as he was leaving your door. He is a fine-looking
man--a very fine-looking man; though that is not the point that I
should most have noticed had I been quite myself at the time. . .

In the future shall we be able to write letters to one another? I
keep wondering and wondering what has led you to say all that you
have said. To think that just when twenty pages of my copying are
completed THIS has happened! . . . I suppose you will be able to
make many purchases now--to buy shoes and dresses and all sorts
of things? Do you remember the shops in Gorokhovaia Street of
which I used to speak? . . .

But no. You ought not to go out at present--you simply ought not
to, and shall not. Presently, you will he able to buy many, many
things, and to, keep a carriage. Also, at present the weather is
bad. Rain is descending in pailfuls, and it is such a soaking
kind of rain that--that you might catch cold from it, my darling,
and the chill might go to your heart. Why should your fear of
this man lead you to take such risks when all the time I am here
to do your bidding? So Thedora declares great happiness to be
awaiting you, does she? She is a gossiping old woman, and
evidently desires to ruin you.

Shall you be at the all-night Mass this evening, dearest? I
should like to come and see you there. Yes, Bwikov spoke but the
truth when he said that you are a woman of virtue, wit, and good
feeling. Yet I think he would do far better to marry the
merchant's daughter. What think YOU about it? Yes, 'twould be far
better for him. As soon as it grows dark tonight I mean to come
and sit with you for an hour. Tonight twilight will close in
early, so I shall soon be with you. Yes, come what may, I mean to
see you for an hour. At present, I suppose, you are expecting
Bwikov, but I will come as soon as he has gone. So stay at home
until I have arrived, dearest.


September 27th.

DEAR MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH, -Bwikov has just informed me that I must
have at least three dozen linen blouses; so I must go at once and
look for sempstresses to make two out of the three dozen, since
time presses. Indeed, Monsieur Bwikov is quite angry about the
fuss which these fripperies are entailing, seeing that there
remain but five days before the wedding, and we are to depart on
the following day. He keeps rushing about and declaring that no
time ought to be wasted on trifles. I am terribly worried, and
scarcely able to stand on my feet. There is so much to do, and,
perhaps, so much that were better left undone! Moreover, I have
no blond or other lace; so THERE is another item to be purchased,
since Bwikov declares that he cannot have his bride look like a
cook, but, on the contrary, she must "put the noses of the great
ladies out of joint." That is his expression. I wish, therefore,
that you would go to Madame Chiffon's, in Gorokhovaia Street, and
ask her, in the first place, to send me some sempstresses, and,
in the second place, to give herself the trouble of coming in
person, as I am too ill to go out. Our new flat is very cold, and
still in great disorder. Also, Bwikov has an aunt who is at her
last gasp through old age, and may die before our departure. He
himself, however, declares this to be nothing, and says that she
will soon recover. He is not yet living with me, and I have to go
running hither and thither to find him. Only Thedora is acting as
my servant, together with Bwikov's valet, who oversees
everything, but has been absent for the past three days.

Each morning Bwikov goes to business, and loses his temper.
Yesterday he even had some trouble with the police because of his
thrashing the steward of these buildings. . . I have no one to
send with this letter so I am going to post it. . . Ah! I had
almost forgotten the most important point--which is that I should
like you to go and tell Madame Chiffon that I wish the blond lace
to be changed in conformity with yesterday's patterns, if she
will be good enough to bring with her a new assortment. Also say
that I have altered my mind about the satin, which I wish to be
tamboured with crochet-work; also, that tambour is to be used
with monograms on the various garments. Do you hear? Tambour, not
smooth work. Do not forget that it is to be tambour. Another
thing I had almost forgotten, which is that the lappets of the
fur cloak must be raised, and the collar bound with lace. Please
tell her these things, Makar Alexievitch.--Your friend,

B. D.

P.S.--I am so ashamed to trouble you with my commissions! This is
the third morning that you will have spent in running about for
my sake. But what else am I to do? The whole place is in
disorder, and I myself am ill. Do not be vexed with me, Makar
Alexievitch. I am feeling so depressed! What is going to become
of me, dear friend, dear, kind, old Makar Alexievitch? I dread to
look forward into the future. Somehow I feel apprehensive; I am
living, as it were, in a mist. Yet, for God's sake, forget none
of my commissions. I am so afraid lest you should make a mistake!
Remember that everything is to be tambour work, not smooth.

September 27th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I have carefully fulfilled your
commissions. Madame Chiffon informs me that she herself had
thought of using tambour work as being more suitable (though I
did not quite take in all she said). Also, she has informed me
that, since you have given certain directions in writing, she has
followed them (though again I do not clearly remember all that
she said--I only remember that she said a very great deal, for
she is a most tiresome old woman). These observations she will
soon be repeating to you in person. For myself, I feel absolutely
exhausted, and have not been to the office today. . .

Do not despair about the future, dearest. To save you trouble I
would visit every shop in St. Petersburg. You write that you dare
not look forward into the future. But by tonight, at seven
o'clock, you will have learned all, for Madame Chiffon will have
arrived in person to see you. Hope on, and everything will order
itself for the best. Of course, I am referring only to these
accursed gewgaws, to these frills and fripperies! Ah me, ah me,
how glad I shall be to see you, my angel! Yes, how glad I shall
be! Twice already today I have passed the gates of your abode.
Unfortunately, this Bwikov is a man of such choler that--Well,
things are as they are.


September 28th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--For God's sake go to the
jeweller's, and tell him that, after all, he need not make the
pearl and emerald earrings. Monsieur Bwikov says that they will
cost him too much, that they will burn a veritable hole in his
pocket. In fact, he has lost his temper again, and declares that
he is being robbed. Yesterday he added that, had he but known,
but foreseen, these expenses, he would never have married. Also,
he says that, as things are, he intends only to have a plain
wedding, and then to depart. "You must not look for any dancing
or festivity or entertainment of guests, for our gala times are
still in the air." Such were his words. God knows I do not want
such things, but none the less Bwikov has forbidden them. I made
him no answer on the subject, for he is a man all too easily
irritated. What, what is going to become ofme?

B. D.

September 28th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--All is well as regards the
jeweller. Unfortunately, I have also to say that I myself have
fallen ill, and cannot rise from bed. Just when so many things
need to be done, I have gone and caught a chill, the devil take
it! Also I have to tell you that, to complete my misfortunes, his
Excellency has been pleased to become stricter. Today he railed
at and scolded Emelia Ivanovitch until the poor fellow was quite
put about. That is the sum of my news.

No--there is something else concerning which I should like to
write to you, but am afraid to obtrude upon your notice. I am a
simple, dull fellow who writes down whatsoever first comes into
his head--Your friend,


September 29th.

MY OWN BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--Today, dearest, I saw Thedora, who
informed me that you are to be married tomorrow, and on the
following day to go away--for which purpose Bwikov has ordered a

Well, of the incident of his Excellency, I have already told you.
Also I have verified the bill from the shop in Gorokhovaia
Street. It is correct, but very long. Why is Monsieur Bwikov so
out of humour with you? Nay, but you must be of good cheer, my
darling. I am so, and shall always be so, so long as you are
happy. I should have come to the church tomorrow, but, alas,
shall be prevented from doing so by the pain in my loins. Also, I
would have written an account of the ceremony, but that there
will be no one to report to me the details. . . .

Yes, you have been a very good friend to Thedora, dearest. You
have acted kindly, very kindly, towards her. For every such deed
God will bless you. Good deeds never go unrewarded, nor does
virtue ever fail to win the crown of divine justice, be it early
or be it late. Much else should I have liked to write to you.
Every hour, every minute I could occupy in writing. Indeed I
could write to you forever! Only your book, "The Stories of
Bielkin", is left to me. Do not deprive me of it, I pray you, but
suffer me to keep it. It is not so much because I wish to read
the book for its own sake, as because winter is coming on, when
the evenings will be long and dreary, and one will want to read
at least SOMETHING.

Do you know, I am going to move from my present quarters into
your old ones, which I intend to rent from Thedora; for I could
never part with that good old woman. Moreover, she is such a
splendid worker. Yesterday I inspected your empty room in detail,
and inspected your embroidery-frame, with the work still hanging
on it. It had been left untouched in its corner. Next, I
inspected the work itself, of which there still remained a few
remnants, and saw that you had used one of my letters for a spool
upon which to wind your thread. Also, on the table I found a
scrap of paper which had written on it, "My dearest Makar
Alexievitch I hasten to--" that was all. Evidently, someone had
interrupted you at an interesting point. Lastly, behind a screen
there was your little bed. . . . Oh darling of darlings!!! . . .
Well, goodbye now, goodbye now, but for God's sake send me
something in answer to this letter!


September 3Oth.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--All is over! The die is cast! What
my lot may have in store I know not, but I am submissive to the
will of God. Tomorrow, then, we depart. For the last time, I take
my leave of you, my friend beyond price, my benefactor, my dear
one! Do not grieve for me, but try to live happily. Think of me
sometimes, and may the blessing of Almighty God light upon you!
For myself, I shall often have you in remembrance, and recall you
in my prayers. Thus our time together has come to an end. Little
comfort in my new life shall I derive from memories of the past.
The more, therefore, shall I cherish the recollection of you, and
the dearer will you ever be to my heart. Here, you have been my
only friend; here, you alone have loved me. Yes, I have seen all,
I have known all--I have throughout known how well you love me. A
single smile of mine, a single stroke from my pen, has been able
to make you happy. . . . But now you must forget me. . . . How
lonely you will be! Why should you stay here at all, kind,
inestimable, but solitary, friend of mine?

To your care I entrust the book, the embroidery frame, and the
letter upon which I had begun. When you look upon the few words
which the letter contains you will be able mentally to read in
thought all that you would have liked further to hear or receive
from me--all that I would so gladly have written, but can never
now write. Think sometimes of your poor little Barbara who loved
you so well. All your letters I have left behind me in the top
drawer of Thedora's chest of drawers. . . You write that you are
ill, but Monsieur Bwikov will not let me leave the house today;
so that I can only write to you. Also, I will write again before
long. That is a promise. Yet God only knows when I shall be able
to do so. . . .

Now we must bid one another forever farewell, my friend, my
beloved, my own! Yes, it must be forever! Ah, how at this moment
I could embrace you! Goodbye, dear friend--goodbye, goodbye! May
you ever rest well and happy! To the end I shall keep you in my
prayers. How my heart is aching under its load of sorrow! . . .
Monsieur Bwikov is just calling for me. . . .--Your ever loving


P.S.--My heart is full! It is full to bursting of tears! Sorrow
has me in its grip, and is tearing me to pieces. Goodbye. My God,
what grief! Do not, do not forget your poor Barbara!

en route, you are now just about to depart! Would that they had
torn my heart out of my breast rather than have taken you away
from me! How could you allow it? You weep, yet you go! And only
this moment I have received from you a letter stained with your
tears! It must be that you are departing unwillingly; it must be
that you are being abducted against your will; it must be that
you are sorry for me; it must be that--that you LOVE me! . . .

Yet how will it fare with you now? Your heart will soon have
become chilled and sick and depressed. Grief will soon have
sucked away its life; grief will soon have rent it in twain! Yes,
you will die where you be, and be laid to rest in the cold, moist
earth where there is no one to bewail you. Monsieur Bwikov will
only be hunting hares! . . .

Ah, my darling, my darling! WHY did you come to this decision?
How could you bring yourself to take such a step? What have you
done, have you done, have you done? Soon they will be carrying
you away to the tomb; soon your beauty will have become defiled,
my angel. Ah, dearest one, you are as weak as a feather. And
where have I been all this time? What have I been thinking of? I
have treated you merely as a forward child whose head was aching.
Fool that I was, I neither saw nor understood. I have behaved as
though, right or wrong, the matter was in no way my concern. Yes,
I have been running about after fripperies! . . . Ah, but I WILL
leave my bed. Tomorrow I WILL rise sound and well, and be once
more myself. . . .

Dearest, I could throw myself under the wheels of a passing
vehicle rather than that you should go like this. By what right
is it being done? . . . I will go with you; I will run behind
your carriage if you will not take me--yes, I will run, and run
so long as the power is in me, and until my breath shall have
failed. Do you know whither you are going? Perhaps you will not
know, and will have to ask me? Before you there lie the Steppes,
my darling--only the Steppes, the naked Steppes, the Steppes that
are as bare as the palm of my hand. THERE there live only
heartless old women and rude peasants and drunkards. THERE the
trees have already shed their leaves. THERE there abide but rain
and cold. Why should you go thither? True, Monsieur Bwikov will
have his diversions in that country--he will be able to hunt the
hare; but what of yourself? Do you wish to become a mere estate
lady? Nay; look at yourself, my seraph of heaven. Are you in any
way fitted for such a role? How could you play it? To whom should
I write letters? To whom should I send these missives? Whom
should I call "my darling"? To whom should I apply that name of
endearment? Where, too, could I find you?

When you are gone, Barbara, I shall die--for certain I shall die,
for my heart cannot bear this misery. I love you as I love the
light of God; I love you as my own daughter; to you I have
devoted my love in its entirety; only for you have I lived at
all; only because you were near me have I worked and copied
manuscripts and committed my views to paper under the guise of
friendly letters.

Perhaps you did not know all this, but it has been so. How, then,
my beloved, could you bring yourself to leave me? Nay, you MUST
not go--it is impossible, it is sheerly, it is utterly,
impossible. The rain will fall upon you, and you are weak, and
will catch cold. The floods will stop your carriage. No sooner
will it have passed the city barriers than it will break down,
purposely break down. Here, in St. Petersburg, they are bad
builders of carriages. Yes, I know well these carriage-builders.
They are jerry-builders who can fashion a toy, but nothing that
is durable. Yes, I swear they can make nothing that is durable. . . .
All that I can do is to go upon my knees before Monsieur Bwikov,
and to tell him all, to tell him all. Do you also tell
him all, dearest, and reason with him. Tell him that you MUST
remain here, and must not go. Ah, why did he not marry that
merchant's daughter in Moscow? Let him go and marry her now. She
would suit him far better and for reasons which I well know. Then
I could keep you. For what is he to you, this Monsieur Bwikov?
Why has he suddenly become so dear to your heart? Is it because he
can buy you gewgaws? What are THEY? What use are THEY? They are
so much rubbish. One should consider human life rather than mere

Nevertheless, as soon as I have received my next instalment of
salary I mean to buy you a new cloak. I mean to buy it at a shop
with which I am acquainted. Only, you must wait until my next
installment is due, my angel of a Barbara. Ah, God, my God! To
think that you are going away into the Steppes with Monsieur
Bwikov--that you are going away never to return! . . . Nay, nay,
but you SHALL write to me. You SHALL write me a letter as soon as
you have started, even if it be your last letter of all, my
dearest. Yet will it be your last letter? How has it come about
so suddenly, so irrevocably, that this letter should be your
last? Nay, nay; I will write, and you shall write--yes, NOW, when
at length I am beginning to improve my style. Style? I do not
know what I am writing. I never do know what I am writing. I
could not possibly know, for I never read over what I have
written, nor correct its orthography. At the present moment, I am
writing merely for the sake of writing, and to put as much as
possible into this last letter of mine. . . .

Ah, dearest, my pet, my own darling!...

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