Part 2 out of 7
clay, and of some one breathing hard. He held the light aloft.
"Sinaida Karsavina!" he exclaimed in amazement.
"Her very self!" replied Sina gaily, as she caught up her dress and
jumped lightly over a hole. Yourii was glad that she, this merry,
handsome girl, had come, and he greeted her with laughing eyes.
"Let us go on," said Sina shyly.
Yourii obediently advanced. No thoughts of danger troubled him now, and
he was specially careful to light the way for his companion. He
perceived several exits, but all were blocked. In one corner lay a few
rotten planks, that looked like the remains of some old coffin.
"Not very interesting, eh?" said Yourii, unconsciously lowering his
voice. The mass of earth oppressed him.
"Oh! yes it is!" whispered Sina, and as she looked round her wide eyes
gleamed in the candle-light. She was nervous, and instinctively kept
close to Yourii for protection. This Yourii noticed. He felt a strange
sympathy for his fair, frail companion.
"It is like being buried alive," she continued. "We might scream, but
nobody would hear us."
"Of course not," laughed Yourii.
Then a sudden thought caused his brain to reel. This beautiful girl, so
fresh, so desirable, was at his mercy. No one could see or hear
them.... To Yourii such a thought seemed unutterably base. He quickly
banished it, and said:
"Suppose we try?"
His voice trembled. Could Sina have read his thoughts?
"Try what?" she asked. "Suppose I fire?" said Yourii, producing his
"Will the earth fall in on us?"
"I don't know," he replied, though he felt certain that nothing would
happen. "Are you afraid?"
"Oh no! Fire away!" said Sina, as she retreated a step or so. Holding
out the revolver, he fired. There was a flash, and a dense cloud of
smoke enveloped them, as the echo of the report slowly died away.
"There! That's all," said Yourii.
"Let us go back."
They retraced their steps, but as Sina walked on in front of Yourii the
sight of her round, firm hips again brought sensuous thoughts to his
mind that he found it hard to ignore.
"I say, Sina Karsavina!" His voice faltered. "I am going to ask you an
interesting psychological question. How was it that you did not feel
afraid to come here with me? You said yourself that if we screamed no
one would hear us.... You don't know me in the least!"
Sina blushed in the darkness and was silent. At last she murmured.
"Because I thought that you were to be trusted."
"And suppose that you had been mistaken?"
"Then, I should ... have drowned myself," said Sina almost inaudibly.
The words filled Yourii with pity. His passion subsided, and he felt
"What a good little girl!" he thought, sincerely touched by such frank,
Proud of her reply, and gratified by his silent approval, Sina smiled
at him, as they returned to the entrance of the cavern. Meanwhile she
kept wondering why his question had not seemed offensive or shameful to
her, but, on the contrary, quite agreeable.
After waiting a while at the entrance, and making sundry jokes at the
expense of Sina and Yourii, the others wandered along the river-bank.
The men lit cigarettes and threw the matches into the water, watching
these make large circles on the surface of the stream. Lida, with arms
a-kimbo, tripped along, singing softly as she went, and her pretty
little feet in dainty yellow shoes now and again executed an impromptu
dance. Lialia picked flowers, which she flung at Riasantzeff, caressing
him with her eyes.
"What do you say to a drink?" Ivanoff asked Sanine.
"Splendid idea!" replied the other.
Getting into the boat, they uncorked several bottles of beer and
proceeded to drink.
"Shocking intemperance!" cried Lialia, pelting them with tufts of
"First-rate stuff!" said Ivanoff, smacking his lips.
"I have often wondered why people are so dead against alcohol," he said
jestingly. "In my opinion only a drunken man lives his life as it ought
to be lived."
"That is, like a brute!" replied Novikoff from the bank.
"Very likely," said Sanine, "but at any rate a drunken man only does
just that which he wants to do. If he has a mind to sing, he sings; if
he wants to dance, he dances; and is not ashamed to be merry and
"And he fights too, sometimes," remarked Riasantzeff.
"Yes, so he does. That is, when men don't understand how to drink."
"And do you like fighting when you are drunk?" asked Novikoff.
"No," replied Sanine, "I'd rather fight when I am sober, but when I'm
drunk I'm the most good-natured person imaginable, for I have forgotten
so much that is mean and vile."
"Everybody is not like that," said Riasantzeff.
"I'm sorry for them, that's all," replied Sanine. "Besides, what others
are like does not interest me in the least."
"One can hardly say that," observed Novikoff.
"Why not, if it is the truth?"
"A fine truth, indeed!" exclaimed Lialia, shaking her head.
"The finest I know, anyhow," replied Ivanoff for Sanine.
Lida, who had been singing loudly, suddenly stopped, looking vexed.
"They don't seem in any hurry," she said.
"Why should they hurry?" replied Ivanoff, "It is a great mistake to do
anything in a hurry."
"And Sina, I suppose she is the heroine _sans peur et sans reproche_?"
said Lida ironically.
Tanaroff's thoughts were too much for him at this juncture. He burst
out laughing, and then looked thoroughly sheepish. Lida, her hands on
her hips and swaying gracefully to and fro, turned to look at him.
"I dare say they are enjoying themselves," she observed with a shrug of
"Hark!" said Riasantzeff, as the sound of firing reached them.
"That was a shot," exclaimed Schafroff.
"What's the meaning of it?" cried Lialia, as she nervously clung to her
"Don't be frightened! If it is a wolf, at this time of year they are
tame, and would never attack two people." Thus Riasantzeff sought to
reassure her, while secretly annoyed at Yourii's childish freak.
"Tomfoolery!" growled Schafroff, who was equally vexed.
"They are coming, they are coming! Don't worry!" said Lida
A sound of footsteps could now be heard, and soon Sina and Yourii
emerged from the darkness.
Yourii blew out the light and smiled uneasily, as he was not sure of
his reception. He was covered with yellow clay, and Sina's shoulder
bore traces of this, for she had rubbed against the side of the cavern.
"Well?" asked Semenoff languidly.
"It was quite interesting in there," said Yourii half apologetically.
"Only the passage does not lead very far. It has been filled up. We saw
some rotten planks lying about."
"Did you hear us fire?" asked Sina, and her eyes sparkled.
"My friends," shouted Ivanoff, interrupting, "we have drunk all the
beer, and our souls are abundantly refreshed. Let us be going."
By the time that the boat reached a broader part of the stream the moon
had already risen. It was a strangely calm, clear evening. Above and
below, in the heaven as in the river, the golden stars gleamed. It was
as if the boat was suspended between two fathomless spaces. The dark
woods at the edge of the stream had a look of mystery. A nightingale
sang, and all listened in silence, not believing it to be a bird, but
rather some joyous dreamer in the gloom. Removing her large straw hat,
Sina Karsavina now began to sing a Russian popular air, sweet and sad
like all Russian songs. Her voice, a high soprano, though not powerful,
was sympathetic in quality.
Ivanoff muttered, "That's sweet!" and Sanine exclaimed "Charming!" When
she had finished they all clapped their hands and the sound was echoed
strangely in the dark woods on either side.
"Sing something else, Sinotschka!" cried Lialia; "or, better still,
recite one of your own poems."
"So you're a poetess, too?" asked Ivanoff. "How many gifts does the
good God bestow upon his creatures!"
"Is that a bad thing?" asked Sina in confusion.
"No, it's a very good thing," replied Sanine.
"If a girl's got youth and good looks, what does she want with poetry,
I should like to know?" observed Ivanoff.
"Never mind! Recite something, Sinotschka, do!" cried Lialia, amorous
Sina smiled, and looked away self-consciously before she began to
recite in her clear, musical voice the following lines:
_Oh! love, my own true love,
To thee I'll never tell it,
Never to thee I'll tell my burning love!
But I will close these amorous eyes,
And they shall guard my secret well.
Only by days of yearning is it known.
The calm blue nights, the golden stars,
The dreaming woods that whisper in the night,
These, yes, they know it, but are dumb;
They will not show the mystery of my great love_.
Once more there was great enthusiasm, and they all loudly applauded
Sina, not because her little poem was a good one, but because it was
expressive of their mood, and because they were all longing for love
and love's delicious sorrow.
"O Night, O Day! O lustrous eyes of Sina, I pray you tell me that it is
I, the happy man!" cried Ivanoff ecstatically in a deep bass voice
which startled them all.
"Well, I can assure you that it is not you," replied Semenoff.
"Ah! woe is me!" wailed Ivanoff; and everybody laughed.
"Are my verses bad?" Sina asked Yourii.
He did not think that they had much originality, for they reminded him
of hundreds of similar effusions. But Sina was so pretty and looked at
him with those dark eyes of hers in such a pleading way that he gravely
"I thought them quite charming and melodious."
Sina smiled, surprised that such praise could please her so much.
"Ah I you don't know my Sinotschka yet!" said Lialia, "she is all that
is beautiful and melodious."
"You don't say so!" exclaimed Ivanoff.
"Yes, indeed I do!" persisted Lialia. "Her voice is beautiful and
melodious, and so are her poems; she herself is a beauty; her name,
even, is beautiful and melodious."
"Oh! my goodness! What more can you say than that!" cried Ivanoff. "But
I am quite of your opinion."
At all these compliments Sina blushed with pleasure and confusion.
"It is time to go home," said Lida abruptly. She did not like to hear
Sina praised, for she considered herself far prettier, cleverer, and
"Are you going to sing something?" asked Sanine.
"No," she replied, "I am not in voice."
"It really is time to be going," observed Riasantzeff, for he
remembered that early next morning he must be in the dissecting-room of
the hospital. All the others wished that they could have stayed for a
while. On their homeward way they were silent, feeling tired and
contented. As before, though unseen, the tall stems of the grasses bent
beneath the carriage-wheels, and the dust soon settled on the white
road again. The bare grey fields looked vast and limitless in the faint
light of the moon.
Three days afterwards, late in the evening, Lida came home sad, tired,
and heavy-hearted. On reaching her room, she stood still, with hands
clasped, and stared at the floor. She suddenly realized, to her horror,
that in her relations with Sarudine she had gone too far. For the first
time since that strange moment of irreparable weakness she perceived
what a humiliating hold this empty-headed officer had over her,
inferior as he was to herself in every way. She must now come if he
called; she could no longer trifle with him as she liked, submitting to
his kisses or laughingly resisting them. Now, like a slave, she must
endure and obey.
How this had come about she could not comprehend. As always, she had
ruled him, had borne with his amorous attentions; all had been as
agreeable, amusing, and exciting, as heretofore. Then came a moment
when her whole frame seemed on fire and her brain clouded as by a mist,
annihilating all except the one mad desire to plunge into the abyss. It
was as if the earth gave way beneath her feet; she lost control of her
limbs, conscious only of two magnetic eyes that gazed boldly into hers.
Her whole being was thrilled and shaken with passion; she became the
sacrifice of overwhelming lust; and yet she longed once more that such
passionate experiences might be repeated. At the very thought of it all
Lida trembled; she raised her shoulders and hid her face in her hands.
With faltering steps she crossed the room and opened the window. For a
long while she gazed at the moon that hung just above the garden, and
in distant foliage a nightingale sang. Grief oppressed her. She felt
strangely agitated by a sense of remorse and of wounded pride to think
that she had ruined her life for a silly, shallow man, and that her
false step had been foolish, base, and, indeed, accidental. The future
seemed threatening; but she sought to dissipate her fears by obstinate
"Well, I did it, and there's an end of it!" she said to herself,
frowning, and striving to find some sort of grim satisfaction from this
hackneyed phrase. "What nonsense it all is! I wanted to do it and I did
it; and I felt so happy--oh, so happy! It would have been silly not to
enjoy myself when the moment came. I must not think of it; it can't be
She languidly withdrew from the window and began to undress, letting
her clothes slip from her on to the floor. "After all, one only lives
once," she thought, shivering at the touch of the cool night air on her
bare shoulders and arms. "What should I have gained by waiting till I
was lawfully married? And of what good would that have been to me? It's
all the same thing! What is there to worry about?"
All at once it seemed to her that in this hazard she had got all that
was best and most interesting; and that now, free as a bird an eventful
life of happiness and pleasure lay before her.
"I'll love if I will; if I don't, then I won't!" sang Lida softly to
herself, thinking meanwhile that her voice was a much better one than
Sina Karsavina's. "Oh! it's all nonsense! If I like, I'll give myself
to the devil!" Thus she made sudden answer to her thoughts, holding her
bare arms above her head so that her bosom shook.
"Aren't you asleep yet, Lida?" said Sanine's voice outside the window.
Lida started back in alarm, and then, with a smile, flung a shawl round
her shoulders as she approached the window.
"What a fright you gave me!" she said.
Sanine came nearer and leant with both elbows on the window-sill. His
eyes shone, and he smiled.
"There was no need for that!" he muttered playfully.
Lida looked round.
"Without a shawl you looked much nicer," he said in a low voice,
Lida looked at him in amazement, and instinctively drew the shawl
tighter round her.
Sanine laughed. In confusion, she also leant upon the window-sill, and
now she felt his breath on her cheek.
"What a beauty you are!" he said.
Lida glanced swiftly at him, fearful of what she thought she could read
in his face. With her whole body she felt that her brother's eyes were
fixed upon her, and she turned away in horror. It was so terrible, so
loathsome, that her heart seemed frozen. Every man looked at her just
like that, and she liked it, but for her brother to do so was
incredible, impossible. Recovering herself, she said, smiling:
"Yes, I know."
Sanine calmly watched her. The shawl and her chemise had slipped when
she leant on the window-sill, and partly disclosed her tender bosom,
white in the moonlight.
"Men always build up a Wall of China between themselves and happiness,"
he said in a low, trembling voice. Lida was terrified.
"How do you mean?" she asked faintly, her eyes still fixed on the
garden for fear of encountering his. To her it seemed that something
was going to happen of which one hardly dared to think. Yet she had no
doubt as to what it was. It was awful, hideous, and yet interesting.
Her brain was on fire; she could scarcely see, as with horror and yet
with curiosity she felt hot breath against her cheek that stirred her
hair and sent shivers through her frame.
"Why, like this!" replied Sanine, and his voice faltered.
As if by an electric shock, Lida started backwards and, without knowing
what she did, leant over the table and blew out the light.
"It is bed-time," she said, and shut the window.
The light having been extinguished, it seemed less dark out of doors,
and Sanine's figure was clearly discernible, his features appearing
blueish in the moonlight. He stood in the long, dew-drenched grass and
Lida left the window and sat down mechanically on her bed. She trembled
in every limb, unable to collect her thoughts, and the sound of
Sanine's footsteps on the grass outside set her heart beating
"Am I going mad?" she asked herself in disgust. "How awful! A chance
phrase like that to put such thoughts into my head! Is this erotomania?
Am I really so bad, so depraved? I must have sunk very low to think of
such a thing!"
Burying her face in the pillows, she wept bitterly.
"Why am I weeping?" she thought, not knowing the reason for such
tears, but feeling miserable, humiliated, and unhappy. She wept because
she had yielded herself to Sarudine, because she was no longer a proud,
pure maiden, and because of that insulting, horrible look in her
brother's eyes. Formerly he would never have looked at her like that.
It was, so she thought, because she had fallen.
But the bitterest, most harassing thought of all was that she had now
become a woman, and that as long as she was young, strong, and good-
looking her best powers must be at the service of men and devoted to
their gratification, while the greater the enjoyment she procured for
them and for herself the more would they despise her.
"Why should they? Who gave them this right? Am I not free just as much
as they are?" she asked herself, as she gazed into the dreary darkness
of her room. "Shall I never get to know another, better life?"
Her whole youthful physique imperiously told her that she had a right
to take from life all that was interesting, pleasurable and necessary
to her; and that she had a right to do whatever she chose with her
strong, beautiful body that belonged to her alone. But this idea was
lost in a tangle of confused and conflicting thoughts.
For some time past Yourii Svarogitsch had been working at painting, of
which he was fond, and to which he devoted all his spare time. It had
once been his dream to become an artist, but want of money, in the
first place, and also his political activity prevented this, so that
now he painted occasionally, as a pastime, without any special end in
For this reason, indeed, and because he had no training, art gave him
no pleasant satisfaction; it was a source of chagrin and of
disenchantment. Whenever his work did not prove successful, he became
irritable and depressed; if, on the other hand, it came out well, he
fell into a sort of gloomy reverie, conscious of the futility of his
efforts that brought him neither happiness nor success. Yourii had
taken a great fancy to Sina Karsavina. He liked tall, well-formed young
women with fine voices and romantic eyes. He thought her beauty and
purity of soul were what attracted him, though really it was because
she was handsome and desirable. However, he tried to persuade himself
that, for him, her charm was a spiritual, not a physical one, this
being, as he thought, a nobler, finer definition, though it was
precisely this maidenly purity and innocence of hers which fired his
blood and aroused desire. Ever since the evening when he first met her,
he had felt a vague yet vehement longing to sully her innocence, a
longing indeed that the presence of any handsome woman provoked.
And now that his thoughts were set on a comely girl, blithe, wholesome,
and full of the joy of life, Yourii had an idea that he would paint
Life. As most new ideas were wont to do, this one stirred him to
enthusiasm, and on this occasion he believed that he would bring his
task to a successful end.
Having prepared a huge canvas, he set to work with feverish haste, as
if he dreaded delay. When he first touched the canvas with colour,
producing a harmonious and pleasing effect, he felt a thrill of
delight, and the picture that was to be stood clearly before him with
all its details. As, however, the work progressed, so technical
difficulties became more numerous, and with these Yourii felt unable to
cope. All that in his imagination seemed luminous and beautiful and
strong, became thin and feeble on the canvas. Details no longer
fascinated him, but were annoying and depressing. In fact, he ignored
them and began to paint in a broad, slap-dash style. Thus, instead of a
clear, powerful portrayal of life, the picture became ever more plain
of a tawdry, slovenly female. There was nothing original or charming
about such a dull stereotyped piece of work, so he thought; a veritable
imitation of a Moukh drawing, banal in idea as in execution; and, as
usual, Yourii became sad and gloomy.
Had it not for some reason or other seemed shameful to weep, he would
have wept, hiding his face in the pillow, and sobbing aloud. He longed
to complain to some one about something, but not about his own
incompetence. Instead of this he gazed ruefully at the picture thinking
that life generally was tedious and sad and feeble, containing nothing
of interest to him, personally. It horrified him to look forward to
living, as he would have to do, for many years in this little town.
"Why, it is simply death!" thought Yourii, as his brow grew cold as
ice. Then he felt a desire to paint "Death." Seizing a knife, he
angrily began to scrape off his picture of "Life." It vexed him that
that which he had wrought with such enthusiasm should disappear with
such difficulty. The colour did not come off easily; the knife slipped
and twice cut the canvas. Then he found that chalk would make no mark
on the oil paint. This greatly troubled him. With a brush he commenced
to sketch in his subject in ochre, and then painted slowly, carelessly,
in a spiritless, dejected way. His present work, however, did not lose,
but gained by such slipshod methods and by the dull, heavy colour
scheme. The original idea of "Death" soon disappeared of itself; and so
Yourii proceeded to depict "Old Age" as a lean hag tottering along a
rough road in the dusk. The sun had sunk, and against the livid sky
sombre crosses were seen _en silhouette_. Beneath the weight of a heavy
black coffin the woman's bony shoulders were bent, and her expression
was mournful and despairing, as with one foot she touched the brink of
an open grave. It was a picture appalling in its misery and gloom. At
lunch-time they sent for Yourii, but he did not go, and continued
working. Later on, Novikoff came to tell him something, but he neither
listened nor replied. Novikoff sighed, and sat down on the sofa. He
liked to be quiet and think matters over. He only came to see Yourii
because, at home, by himself, he was sad and worried. Lida's refusal
still distressed him, and he could not be sure if he felt grieved or
humiliated. As a straightforward, indolent fellow, he had so far heard
nothing of the local gossip concerning Lida and Sarudine. He was not
jealous, but only sorrowful that the dream which brought happiness so
near to him had fled.
Novikoff thought that his life was a failure, but it never occurred to
him to end it, since to live on was futile. On the contrary, now that
his life had become a torture to him, he considered that it was his
duty to devote it to others, putting his own happiness aside. Without
being able to account for it, he had a vague desire to throw up
everything and go to St. Petersburg where he could renew his connection
with "the party" and rush headlong to death. This was a fine, lofty
thought, so he believed, and the knowledge that it was his lessened his
grief, and even gladdened him. He became grand in his own eyes, crowned
as with a shining aureole, and his sadly reproachful attitude towards
Lida almost moved him to tears.
Then he suddenly felt bored. Yourii went on painting, and gave him no
attention whatever. Novikoff got up lazily and approached the picture.
It was still unfinished, and for that reason produced the effect of a
somewhat powerful sketch. Yourii had got as far as he could go.
Novikoff thought it was wonderful, as with open mouth he gazed in
childish admiration at the artist.
"Well?" said Yourii, stepping backwards.
Personally, he thought it the most interesting picture that he had ever
seen, though certainly it had defects both obvious and considerable.
Why he was of this opinion he could not tell, but if Novikoff had
thought the picture a bad one, he would have felt thoroughly hurt and
annoyed. However, Novikoff murmured ecstatically,
"Ve ... ry fine indeed!"
Yourii felt as if he were a genius despising his own work. He sighed
and flung down his brush which stained the edge of the couch, and he
moved away without looking at the picture.
"Ah! my friend!" he exclaimed. He was on the point of confessing to
himself and to Novikoff the doubt which destroyed his pleasure in
succeeding, as he felt that he could never do anything with what was
now a promising sketch. However, after a moment of reflection he merely
"All that is of no use at all!"
Novikoff thought that this was pose on his friend's part, and mindful
of his own bitter disappointment he inwardly observed:
Then after a while he asked:
"How do you mean that it is of no use?"
To this question Yourii could give no exact answer, and he remained
silent. Novikoff examined the picture once more, and then lay down on
"I read your article in the _Krai_," he said. "It was pretty hot."
"The deuce take it!" replied Yourii, angrily, yet unable to account for
his anger, as he remembered Semenoff's words. "What good will it do? It
won't stop executions and robberies and violence; they will go on just
as before. Articles won't help matters. For what purpose, pray? To be
read by two or three idiots! Much good that is! After all, what
business is it of mine? And why dash one's brains out against a wall?"
Passing before his eyes, Yourii seemed to see the early years of his
political activity; the secret meetings, propaganda, risks and
reverses, his own enthusiasm and the profound apathy of those whom he
was so eager to save. He walked up and down the room, gesticulating.
"Then, it is not worth while doing anything," drawled Novikoff, and,
thinking of Sanine, he added,
"Egoists, that's all you are!"
"No, it's not!" replied Yourii vehemently, influenced by his memories
of the past and by the dusk that gave a grey look to all things in the
"If one speaks of Humanity, of what good are all our efforts in the
cause of constitutions or of revolutions if one cannot even
approximately estimate what humanity really requires? Perhaps in this
liberty of which we dream lie the germs of future degeneracy, and man,
having realized his ideal, will go back, walking once more on all
fours? Thus, all would have to be recommenced. And if I care for
nothing but myself, what then? What do I gain by it? The most I could
do would be to get fame by my talents and achievements, intoxicated by
the respect of my inferiors, that is to say by the respect of those
whom I do not esteem and whose veneration ought to be valueless to me.
And then? To go on living, living, until the grave--nothing after that!
And the crown of laurels would fit my skull so closely, that I should
soon find it irksome!"
"Always about himself!" muttered Novikoff, mockingly.
Yourii did not hear him, being morbidly pleased with his own eloquence.
There was a beautiful gloom about his utterances, so he thought; they
seemed to ennoble him, to heighten his sense of self-respect.
"At the worst, I should become a genius misjudged, a ridiculous
dreamer, a theme for humorous tales, a foolish individual, of no use to
"Aha!" cried Novikoff, as he rose from the couch, "Of no use to
anybody. You admit that yourself, then?"
"How absurd you are!" exclaimed Yourii, "do you really think that I
don't know for what to live and in what to believe? Possibly I should
gladly submit to crucifixion if I believed that my death could save the
world. But I don't believe this; and whatever I did would never alter
the course of history; moreover, my help would be so slight, so
insignificant, that the world would not have suffered a jot if I had
never existed. Yet, for the sake of such infinitesimal help, I am
obliged to live, and suffer, and sorrowfully wait for death."
Yourii did not perceive that he was now talking of something quite
different, replying, not to Novikoff, but to his own strange,
depressing thoughts. Suddenly he remembered Semenoff, and stopped
short. A cold shiver ran down his spine.
"The fact is, I dread the inevitable," he said in a low tone, as he
looked stolidly at the darkening window. "It is natural, I know, and
that I can do nothing to avoid it, but yet it is awful--hideous!"
Novikoff, though inwardly horrified at the truth of such a statement,
"Death is a necessary physiological phenomenon."
"What a fool!" thought Yourii, as he irritably exclaimed,
"Good gracious me! What does it matter if our death is necessary to
anyone else or not?"
"How about your crucifixion?"
"That is a different thing," replied Yourii, with some hesitation.
"You are contradicting yourself," observed Novikoff in a slightly
This greatly annoyed Yourii. Thrusting his fingers through his unkempt
black hair, he vehemently retorted:
"I never contradict myself. It stands to reason that if, of my own free
will, I choose to die--"
"It's all the same," continued Novikoff obdurately, in the same tone.
"All of you want fireworks, applause, and the rest of it. It's nothing
else but egoism!"
"What if it is? That won't alter matters."
The discussion became confused. Yourii felt that he had not meant to
say that, but the thread escaped him which a moment before had seemed
so clear and tense. He paced up and down the room, endeavouring to
overcome his vexation, as he said to himself.
"Sometimes one is not in the humour. At other times one can speak as
clearly as if the words were set before one's eyes. Sometimes I seem to
be tongue-tied, and I express myself clumsily. Yes, that often
They were both silent. Yourii at last stopped by the window and took up
"Let us go for a stroll," he said.
"All right," Novikoff readily assented, secretly hoping, while joyful
yet distressed, that he might meet Lida Sanine.
They walked up and down the boulevard once or twice, meeting no one
they knew, and they listened to the band which was playing as usual in
the garden. It was a very poor performance; the music being harsh and
discordant, but at a distance it sounded languorous and sad. They only
met men and women joking and laughing, whose noisy merriment seemed at
variance with the mournful music and the dreary evening. It irritated
Yourii. At the end of the boulevard Sanine joined them, greeting them
effusively. Yourii did not like him, so conversation was scarcely
brisk. Sanine kept on laughing at everybody he saw. Later on they met
Ivanoff, and Sanine went off with him.
"Where are you going?" asked Novikoff.
"To treat my friend," replied Ivanoff, producing a bottle of vodka
which he showed to them in triumph.
To Yourii this vodka and laughter seemed singularly coarse and vulgar.
He turned away in disgust. Sanine observed this, but said nothing.
"God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men," exclaimed Ivanoff
Yourii reddened, "A stale joke like that into the bargain!" he thought,
as, shrugging his shoulders contemptuously, he walked away.
"Novikoff, guileless Pharisee, come along with us!" cried Ivanoff.
"What for?" "To have a drink."
Novikoff glanced round him ruefully, but Lida was not to be seen.
"Lida is at home, doing penance for her sins!" laughed Sanine.
"What nonsense!" exclaimed Novikoff testily. "I've got to see a
"Who is quite able to die without your help," said Ivanoff. "For that
matter, we can polish off the vodka without your help, either."
"Suppose I get drunk?" thought Novikoff. "All right! I'll come," he
As they went away, Yourii could hear at a distance Ivanoff's gruff bass
voice and Sanine's careless, merry laugh. He walked once more along the
boulevard. Girlish voices called to him through the dusk. Sina
Karsavina and the school-mistress Dubova were sitting on a bench. It
was now getting dark, and their figures were hardly discernible. They
wore dark dresses, were without hats, and carried books in their hands.
Yourii hastened to join them.
"Where have you been?" he asked.
"At the library," replied Sina.
Without speaking, her companion moved to make room for Yourii who would
have preferred to sit next to Sina, but, being shy, he took a seat
beside the ugly schoolteacher, Dubova.
"Why do you look so utterly miserable?" asked Dubova, pursing up her
thin, dry lips, as was her wont.
"What makes you think that I am miserable? On the contrary I am in
excellent spirits. Somewhat bored, perhaps."
"Ah! that's because you've nothing to do," said Dubova.
"Have you so much to do, then?"
"At any rate, I have not the time to weep." "I am not weeping, am I?"
"Well," said Dubova, teasing him, "you're in the sulks."
"My life," replied Yourii, "has caused me to forget what laughing is."
This was said in such a bitter tone that there was a sudden silence.
"A friend of mine told me that my life is most instructive," said
Yourii after a pause, though no one had ever made such a statement to
"In what way?" asked Sina cautiously.
"As an example of how not to live."
"Oh! do tell us all about it. Perhaps we might profit by the lesson,"
Yourii considered that his life was an absolute failure, and that he
himself was the most luckless and wretched of men. In such a belief
there lay a certain mournful solace, and it was pleasant to him to
complain about his own life and mankind in general. To men he never
spoke of such things, feeling instinctively that they would not believe
him, but to women, especially if they were young and pretty, he was
ever ready to talk at length about himself. He was good-looking, and
talked well, so women always felt for him affectionate pity. On this
occasion also, if jocular at the outset, Yourii relapsed into his usual
tone; discoursing at great length about his own life. From his own
description he appeared to be a man of extraordinary powers, cramped
and crushed by the force of circumstances, misunderstood by his party,
and one who by unlucky chance and human folly was doomed to be just a
mere student in exile instead of a leader of the people! Like all
extremely self-satisfied persons Yourii entirely failed to perceive
that all this in no way proved his extraordinary powers, and that men
of genius were surrounded by just such associates, and hampered by just
such misfortunes. It seemed to him that he alone was the victim of an
inexorable destiny. As he talked well and with great vivacity and
point, what he said sounded true enough, so that girls believed him,
pitied him, and sympathized with him in his misfortunes. The band was
still playing its sad, discordant tunes, the evening was gloomy and
depressing, and they all three felt in a melancholy mood. When Yourii
ceased talking, Dubova, meditating on her own dull, monotonous
existence and vanishing youth without joy or love, asked him in a low
"Tell me, Yourii, has the thought of suicide never crossed your mind?"
"Why do you ask me that?"
"Oh! well, I don't know ..."
They said no more.
"You are on the committee, aren't you?" asked Sina eagerly.
"Yes," replied Yourii curtly, as if unwilling to admit the fact, but in
reality pleased to do so, because he thought that to this charming girl
he would appear weirdly interesting. He then walked back with them to
their house, and on the way they laughed and talked much. All
depression had vanished.
"How nice he is!" said Sina, when Yourii had gone.
Dubova shook her finger threateningly:
"Mind that you don't fall in love with him."
"What an idea!" laughed Sina, though secretly afraid.
Yourii reached home in a brighter, more hopeful mood. He went to look
at the picture that he had begun. It produced no impression upon him,
and he lay down contentedly to sleep. That night in dreams he had
visions of fair women, radiant and alluring.
On the following evening Yourii went to the same spot where he had met
Sina Karsavina and her companion. Throughout the day he had thought
with pleasure of his talk with them on the previous evening, and he
hoped to meet them again, discuss the same subjects, and perceive the
same look of sympathy and tenderness in Sina's gentle eyes.
It was a calm evening. The air was warm, and a slight dust floated
above the streets. Except for one or two passers-by, the boulevard was
absolutely deserted. Yourii walked slowly along, his eyes fixed on the
"How boring!" he thought. "What am I to do?"
Suddenly Schafroff, the student, walking briskly, and, swinging his
arm, approached him with a friendly smile on his face.
"Why are you dawdling along like this, eh?" he asked, stopping short,
and giving Yourii a big, strong hand.
"Oh! I am bored to death, and there's nothing to do. Where are you
going?" asked Yourii, in a languid, patronizing tone. He always spoke
thus to Schafroff, because, as a former member of the revolutionary
committee he looked upon the lad as just an amateur revolutionist.
Schafroff smiled as one thoroughly pleased with himself.
"We have got a lecture to-day," he said, pointing to a packet of thin
pamphlets in coloured wrappers. Yourii mechanically took one, and,
opening it, read the long, dry preface to a popular Socialistic
address, once well known to him, but which he had quite forgotten.
"Where is the lecture to be given?" he asked with the same slightly
contemptuous smile as he handed back the pamphlet.
"At the school," replied Schafroff, mentioning the one at which Sina
Karsavina and Dubova were teachers. Yourii remembered that Lialia had
once told him about these lectures, but he had paid no attention.
"May I come with you?" he asked.
"Why, of course!" replied Schafroff, eager to assent to this proposal.
He looked upon Yourii as a real agitator, and, over-estimating his
political abilities, felt a reverence for him that bordered on
"I am greatly interested in such matters." Yourii felt it necessary to
say this, being all the while glad that he had now got an engagement
for the evening, and that he would see Sina again.
"Why, yes, of course," said Schafroff.
"Then, let us go."
They walked quickly along the boulevard and crossed the bridge, from
each side of which came humid airs, and they soon reached the school
where people had already assembled.
In the large, dark room with its rows of benches and desks the white
cloth used for the magic lantern was dimly visible, and there were
sounds of suppressed laughter. At the window, through which could be
seen the dark green boughs of trees in twilight, stood Lialia and
Dubova. They gleefully greeted Yourii.
"I am so glad that you have come!" said Lialia.
Dubova shook him vigorously by the hand.
"Why don't you begin?" asked Yourii, as he furtively glanced round,
hoping to see Sina.
"So Sinaida Pavlovna doesn't attend these lectures?" he observed with
At that moment a lucifer-match flashed close to the lecturer's desk on
the platform, illuminating Sina's features. The light shone upon her
pretty fresh face; she was smiling gaily.
"Don't I attend these lectures?" she exclaimed, as, bending down to
Yourii, she held out her hand. He gladly grasped it without speaking,
and leaning lightly on him she sprang from the platform. He felt her
sweet, wholesome breath close to his face.
"It is time to begin," said Schafroff, who came in from the adjoining
The school attendant with heavy tread walked round the room, lighting
one by one the large lamps which soon shed a bright light. Schafroff
opened the door leading to the passage, and said in a loud voice: "This
Shyly at first, and then in noisy haste, the people entered the
lecture-room. Yourii scrutinized them closely; his keen interest as a
propagandist was roused. There Were old folk, young men, and children.
No one sat in the front row; but, later on, it was filled by several
ladies whom Yourii did not know; by the fat school-inspector; and by
masters and mistresses of the elementary school for boys and girls. The
rest of the room was full of men in caftans and long coats, soldiers,
peasants, women, and a great many children in coloured shirts and
Yourii sat beside Sina at a desk and listened while Schafroff read,
calmly, but badly, a paper on universal suffrage. He had a hard,
monotonous voice and everything he read sounded like a column of
statistics. Yet everybody listened attentively with the exception of
the intellectual people in the front row, who soon grew restless and
began whispering to each other. This annoyed Yourii, and he felt sorry
that Schafroff should read so badly. The latter was obviously tired, so
Yourii said to Sina:
"Suppose I finish reading it for him? What do you say?"
Sina shot a kindly glance at him from beneath her drooping eye-lashes.
"Oh! yes, do read! I wish you would."
"Do you think it will matter?" he whispered, smiling at her as if she
were his accomplice.
"Matter? Not in the least. Everybody will be delighted."
During a pause, she suggested this to Schafroff, who being tired and
aware how badly he had read, accepted with pleasure.
"Of course! By all means!" he exclaimed, as usual, giving up his place
Yourii was fond of reading, and read excellently. Without looking at
anyone, he walked to the desk on the platform and began in a loud, well
modulated voice. Twice he looked down at Sina, and each time he
encountered her bright, expressive glance. He smiled at her in pleasure
and confusion, and then, turning to his book, began to read louder and
with greater emphasis. To him it seemed as if he were doing a most
excellent and interesting thing. When he had finished, there was some
applause in the front seats. Yourii bowed gravely, and as he left the
platform he smiled at Sina as much as to say, "I did that for your
sake." There was some murmuring, and a noise of chairs being pushed
back as the listeners rose to go. Yourii was introduced to two ladies
who complimented him on his performance. Then the lamps were put out
and the room became dark.
"Thank you very much," said Schafroff as he warmly shook Yourii's hand.
"I wish that we always had some one to read to us like that."
Lecturing was his business, and so he felt obliged to Yourii as if the
latter had done him a personal service, although he thanked him in the
name of the people. Schafroff laid stress on the word "people." "So
little is done here for the people," he said, as if he were telling
Yourii a great secret, "and if anything _is_ done, it is in a half-
hearted, careless way. It is most extraordinary. To amuse a parcel of
bored gentlefolk dozens of first-rate actors, singers and lecturers are
engaged, but for the people a lecturer like myself is quite good
enough." Schafroff smiled at his own bland irony. "Everybody's quite
satisfied. What more do they want?"
"That is quite true," said Dubova. "Whole columns in the newspapers are
devoted to actors and their wonderful performances; it is positively
revolting; whereas here ..."
"Yet what a good work we're doing!" said Schafroff, with conviction, as
he gathered his pamphlets together.
"Sancta Simplicitas!" ejaculated Yourii inwardly.
Sina's presence, however, and his own success inclined him to be
tolerant. Indeed Schafroff's utter ingenuousness almost touched him.
"Where shall we go now?" asked Dubova, as they came out into the
Outside it was not nearly so dark as in the lecture-room, and in the
sky a few stars shone.
"Schafroff and I are going to the Ratoffs," said Dubova. "Will you take
"With pleasure," said Yourii.
Sina lodged with Dubova in a small house that stood in a large, barren-
looking garden. All the way thither she and Yourii talked of the
lecture and its impression upon them, so that Yourii felt more and more
convinced that he had done a good and great thing. As they reached the
house, Sina said:
"Won't you come in for a moment?" Yourii gladly accepted. She opened
the gate, and they crossed a little grass-grown courtyard beyond which
lay the garden.
"Go into the garden, will you?" said Sina, laughing. "I would ask you
to come indoors, but I am afraid things are rather untidy, as I have
been out ever since the morning."
She went in, and Yourii sauntered towards the green, fragrant garden.
He did not go far, but stopped to look round with intense curiosity at
the dark windows of the house, as if something were happening there,
something strangely beautiful and mysterious. Sina appeared in the
doorway. Yourii hardly recognized her. She had changed her black dress,
and now wore the costume of Little Russia, a thin bodice cut low, with
short sleeves and a blue skirt.
"Here I am!" she said, smiling.
"So I see!" replied Yourii with a certain mysterious emphasis that she
alone could appreciate.
She smiled once more, and looked sideways, as they walked along the
garden-path between long grasses and branches of lilac. The trees were
small ones, most of them being cherry-trees, whose young leaves had an
odour of resinous gum. Behind the garden there was a meadow where wild
flowers bloomed amid the long grass.
"Let us sit down here," said Sina.
They sat down by the, fence that was falling to pieces, and looked
across the meadow at the dying sunset. Yourii caught hold of a slender
lilac-branch, from which fell a shower of dew.
"Shall I sing something to you?" asked Sina.
"Oh! yes, do!" replied Yourii.
As on the evening of the picnic, Sina breathed deeply, and her comely
bust was clearly denned beneath the thin bodice, as she began to sing,
"Oh, beauteous Star of Love." Pure and passionate, her notes floated
out on the evening air. Yourii remained motionless, gazing at her, with
bated breath. She felt that his eyes were upon her, and, closing her
own, she sang on with greater sweetness and fervour. There was silence
everywhere as if all things were listening; Yourii thought of the
mysterious hush of woodlands in spring when a nightingale sings.
As Sina ceased on a clear, high note, the silence seemed yet more
intense. The sunset light had faded; the sky grew dark and more vast.
The leaves and the grass quivered imperceptibly; across the meadow and
through the garden there passed a soft, perfumed breeze; faint as a
sigh. Sina's eyes, shining in the gloom, turned to Yourii.
"Why so silent?" she asked.
"It is almost too delightful here!" he murmured, and again he grasped
a dewy branch of lilac.
"Yes, it is very beautiful," replied Sina dreamily.
"In fact it is beautiful to be alive," she added.
A thought, vague and disquieting, crossed Yourii's mind, but it
vanished without taking any clear shape. Some one loudly whistled twice
on the other side of the meadow, and then came silence, as before.
"Do you like Schafroff?" asked Sina suddenly, being inwardly amused at
so apparently inept a question.
Yourii felt a momentary pang of jealousy, but with a slight effort he
replied gravely. "He's a good fellow."
"How devoted he is to his work!"
Yourii was silent.
A faint grey mist rose from the meadow and the grass grew paler in the
"It is getting damp," said Sina, shivering slightly.
Yourii unconsciously looked at her round, soft shoulders, feeling
instantly confused, and she, aware of his glance became confused also,
although it was pleasant to her.
"Let us go."
Regretfully they returned along the narrow garden-path, each brushing
lightly against the other at times as they walked. All around seemed
dark and deserted, and Yourii fancied that now the garden's own life
was about to begin, a life mysterious and to all unknown. Yonder, amid
the trees and across the dew-laden grass strange shadows soon would
steal, as the dusk deepened, and voices whispered in green, silent
places. This he said to Sina, and her dark eyes wistfully peered into
the gloom. If, so Yourii thought, she were suddenly to fling all her
clothing aside, and rush all white and nude and joyous over the dewy
grass towards the dim thicket, this would not be in the least strange,
but beautiful and natural; nor would it disturb the life of the green,
dark garden, but would make this more complete. This, too, he had a
wish to tell her, but he dared not do so, and spoke instead of the
people and of lectures. But their conversation flagged, and then
ceased, as if they were only wasting words. Thus they reached the
gateway in silence, smiling to themselves, brushing the dew from the
branches with their shoulders. Everything seemed as calm and happy and
pensive as they were themselves. As before, the courtyard was dark and
solitary, but the outer gate was open, and a sound of hasty footsteps
in the house could be heard, and of the opening and shutting of
"Olga has come back," said Sina.
"Oh! Sina, is that you?" asked Dubova from within, and the tone of her
voice suggested some sinister occurrence. Pale and agitated, she
appeared in the doorway.
"Where were you? I have been looking for you. Semenoff is dying!" she
"What!" exclaimed Sina, horror-struck.
"Yes, he is dying. He broke a blood-vessel. Anatole Pavlovitch says
that he's done for. They have taken him to the hospital. It was
dreadfully sudden. There We were, at the Raton's', having tea, and he
was so merry, arguing with Novikoff about something or other. Then he
suddenly began to cough, stood up, and staggered, and the blood spurted
out, on to the table-cloth, and into a little saucer of jam ... all
black, and clotted...."
"Does he know it himself?" asked Yourii with grim interest. He
instantly remembered the moonlit night, the sombre shadow, and the
weak, broken voice, saying, "You will be alive, and you'll pass my
grave, and stop, whilst I ..."
"Yes, he seems to know," replied Dubova, with a nervous movement of the
hands. "He looked at us all, and asked 'What is it?' And then he shook
from head to foot and said, 'Already!' ... Oh! isn't it awful?" "It's
All were silent.
It was now quite dark, yet, though the sky was clear, to them it seemed
suddenly to have grown gloomy and sad.
"Death is a horrible thing!" said Yourii, turning pale.
Dubova sighed, and gazed into vacancy. Sina's chin trembled, and she
smiled helplessly. She could not feel so shocked as the others; young
as she was, and full of life, she could not fix her thoughts on death.
To her it was incredible, inconceivable that on a beautiful summer
evening, radiantly pleasant such as this, some one should have to
suffer and to die. It was natural, of course, but, for some reason or
other, to her it seemed wrong. She was ashamed to have such a feeling,
and strove to suppress it, endeavouring to appear sympathetic, an
effort which made her distress seem greater than that of her
"Oh! poor fellow! ... is he really...?"
Sina wanted to ask: "Is he really going to die very soon?" but the
words stuck in her throat, and she plied Dubova with fatuous and
"Anatole Pavlovitch says that he will die to-night or to-morrow
morning," replied Dubova, in a dull voice.
"Shall we go to him?" whispered Sina. "Or do you think that we had
better not? I don't know."
This was the question uppermost in the minds of them all. Should they
go and see Semenoff die? Was it a right or wrong thing to do? They all
wanted to go, and yet were fearful of what they should see. Yourii
shrugged his shoulders.
"Let us go," he said. "Very likely they won't admit us, and perhaps,
"Perhaps he might wish to see some one," added Dubova, as if relieved.
"Come on! We'll go!" said Sina with decision.
"Schafroff and Novikoff are there," added Dubova, as if to justify
Sina ran indoors to fetch her hat and coat, and then they went sadly
through the town to the large, grey, three-storied building, the
hospital where Semenoff lay dying.
The long, vaulted passages were dark, and smelt strongly of iodoform
and carbolic. As they passed the section for the insane, they heard a
strident, angry voice, but no one was visible. They felt scared, and
anxiously hastened towards a dark little window. An old, grey-haired
peasant, with a long white beard and wearing a large apron came
clattering along the passage in his heavy top-boots to meet them.
"Who is it that you wish to see?" he asked, stopping short.
"A student has been brought here--Semenoff--to-day!" stammered Dubova.
"No. 6, please, upstairs," said the attendant, and passed on. They
could hear him spit noisily on the flooring and then wipe it with his
foot. Upstairs it was brighter and cleaner; and the ceiling was not
vaulted. A door with "Doctors' Room" inscribed on it stood ajar. A
lamp was burning in this room where a jingling of bottles and glasses
could be heard. Yourii looked inside, and called out. The jingling
ceased, and Riasantzeff appeared, looking fresh and hearty, as usual.
"Ah!" he exclaimed in a cheery voice, being evidently accustomed to
events such as that which saddened his visitors. "I am on duty to-day.
How do you do, ladies?" Yet, frowning suddenly, he added with grave
significance, "He seems to be still unconscious. Let us go to him.
Novikoff and the others are there."
As they walked in single file along the clean, bare passage, past big
white doors with black numbers on them, Riasantzeff said:
"A priest has been sent for. It's astonishing how quickly the end came.
I was amazed. But latterly he caught cold, you know, and that was what
did it. Here we are."
Riasantzeff opened a white door and went in, the others following in
awkward fashion as they pushed against each other on the threshold.
The room was clean and spacious. Four of the six beds in it were empty,
each one having its coarse grey coverlet folded neatly, and strangely
suggestive of a coffin. On the fifth bed sat a little wizened old man
in a dressing-gown, who glanced timidly at the newcomers; and on the
sixth bed, beneath a similar coarse coverlet, lay Semenoff. At his
side, in a bent posture, sat Novikoff, while Ivanoff and Schafroff
stood by the window. To all of them it seemed odd and painful to shake
hands in the presence of the dying man, yet not to do so seemed equally
embarrassing, as though by such omission they hinted that death was
near. Some greeted each other, and some refrained, while all stood
still gazing with grim curiosity at Semenoff.
He breathed slowly and with difficulty. How different he looked from
the Semenoff they knew! Indeed, he hardly seemed to be alive. Though
his features and his limbs were the same, they now appeared strangely
rigid and dreadful to behold. That which naturally gave life and
movement to the bodies of other human beings no longer seemed to exist
in his. Something horrible was being swiftly, secretly accomplished
within his motionless frame, an important work that could not be
postponed. All that remained to him of life was, as it were,
concentrated upon this work, observing it with keen, inexplicable
The lamp hanging from the ceiling shone clearly upon the dying man's
lifeless visage. All standing there gazed upon it, holding their breath
as if fearing to disturb something infinitely solemn; and in such
silence the laboured, sibilant breathing of the patient sounded
The door opened, and with short, senile steps a fat little priest
entered, accompanied by his psalm-singer, a dark, gaunt man. With these
came Sanine. The priest, coughing slightly, bowed to the doctors and to
all present, who acknowledged his greeting with excessive politeness,
and then remained perfectly silent as before. Without noticing anybody,
Sanine took up his position by the window, eyeing Semenoff and the
others with great curiosity as he sought to discern what the patient
and those about him actually felt and thought. Semenoff remained
motionless, breathing just as before.
"He is unconscious, is he?" asked the priest gently, without addressing
anyone in particular.
"Yes," replied Novikoff, hastily.
Sanine murmured something unintelligible. The priest looked
questioningly at him, but, as Sanine remained silent, he turned away,
smoothed his hair back, donned his stole and in high-pitched, unctuous
tones began to chant the prayers for the dying.
The psalm-singer had a bass voice, hoarse and disagreeable, so that the
vocal contrast was a painfully discordant one as the sound of this
chanting rose to the lofty ceiling. No sooner had it commenced than the
eyes of all were fixed in terror upon the dying man. Novikoff, standing
nearest to him, thought that Semenoff's eye-lids moved slightly, as if
the sightless eyeballs had been turned in the direction of the
chanting. To the others, however, Semenoff appeared as strangely
motionless as before.
At the first notes Sina began to cry, gently but persistently, letting
the tears course down her youthful, pretty face. All the others looked
at her, and Dubova in her turn began to weep. To the men's eyes tears
also rose, which by clenching their teeth they strove to keep back.
Every time the chanting grew louder, the girls wept more freely. Sanine
frowned, and shrugged his shoulders irritably, thinking how intolerable
to Semenoff, if he heard it, such wailing must be when to healthy
normal men it was so utterly depressing.
"Not so loud!" he said to the priest irritably.
The latter amiably bent forward to hear this remark, and, when he
understood it, he frowned and only sang louder. His companion glared at
Sanine and the others all looked at him as well, in fear and
astonishment, as if he had said something offensive. Sanine showed his
annoyance by a gesture, but said nothing.
When the chanting ceased, and the priest had wrapped up the crucifix in
his stole, the suspense was more painful than ever. Semenoff lay there
as rigid, as motionless as before. Suddenly the same thought, dreadful
but irresistible, came into the minds of all. If only it could all end
quickly! If only Semenoff would die! In fear and shame they sought to
suppress this wish, exchanging timid glances.
"If only this were all over!" said Sanine in an undertone. "Ghastly,
"Yes!" replied Ivanoff.
They spoke almost in whispers, and it was plain that Semenoff could not
hear them, but yet all the others looked shocked.
Schafroff was about to say something, but at that moment a new sound,
indescribably plaintive, echoed through the room, sending a shiver
"Ee--ee--ee!" moaned Semenoff.
And, as if he had got that mode of expression which he wanted, he
continued to give out this long-drawn note, only interrupted by his
laboured, hoarse breathing.
At first the others could not conceive what had happened to him, but
soon Sina and Dubova and Novikoff began to weep. Slowly and solemnly
the priest resumed his chanting. His fat good-tempered face showed
evident sympathy and emotion. A few minutes passed. Suddenly Semenoff
"It is all over," murmured the priest.
Then slowly, and with much effort, Semenoff moved his tightly-glued
lips, and his face became contracted as if by a smile, The onlookers
heard his hollow, weird voice that, issuing from the depth of his
chest, sounded as if it came through a coffin-lid.
"Silly old fool!" he said, looking hard at the priest. His whole body
trembled, his eyes rolled madly in their sockets, and he stretched
himself at full length.
They had all heard these words, but no one moved; and for a moment the
sorrowful expression vanished from the priest's fat, moist face. He
looked about him anxiously, but encountered no one's glance. Only
Semenoff again moved his lips, yet no sound escaped from them, while
one side drooped of his thin, fair moustache. Once more he stretched
his limbs, and became longer and more terrible. There was no sound, nor
the slightest movement whatever. Nobody wept now. The approach of death
had been more grievous, more appalling than its actual advent; and it
seemed strange that so harrowing a scene should have ended so simply
and swiftly. For a few moments they stood beside the bed and looked at
the dead, peaked features, as if they expected something else to
happen. Wishful to rouse within themselves a sense of horror and pity,
they watched Novikoff intently as he closed the dead man's eyes and
crossed his hands on his breast. Then they went out quietly and
cautiously. In the passages lamps were now lighted, and all seemed so
familiar and simple that every one breathed more freely. The priest
went first, tripping along with short steps. Desiring to say a few
words of consolation to the young people, he sighed, and then began
"Dear, dear! It is very sad. Such a young man, too. Alas! it is plain
that he died unrepentant. But God is merciful, you know--"
"Yes, yes, of course," replied Schafroff, who walked next to him and
wished to be polite.
"Does his family know?" asked the priest.
"I really can't tell you," said Schafroff.
They all looked at each other in astonishment, as it seemed odd and not
altogether decent to be unable to say who Semenoff's people were.
"His sister is at the high school, I believe," observed Sine.
"Ah! I see! Well, good-bye!" said the priest, slightly raising his hat
with his plump fingers.
"Good-bye!" they replied in unison.
On reaching the street, they sighed, as if relieved.
"Where shall we go now?" asked Schafroff.
After brief hesitation, they all took leave of each other, and went
their different ways.
When Semenoff saw the blood, and felt the awful void around him and
within him; when they lifted him up, carried him away, laid him down,
and did all for him that throughout his life he had been in the habit
of doing, then he knew that he was going to die, and wondered why he
felt not the least fear of death.
Dubova had spoken of his terror because she herself was terrified,
assuming that, if the healthy dreaded death, the dying must dread it
far more. His pallor and his wild look, the result of loss of blood and
weakness, she took to be an expression of fear. But, in reality this
was not so. At all times, and especially since he knew that he had got
consumption, Semenoff had dreaded death. At the outset of his malady,
he was in a state of abject terror, much as that of a condemned man for
whom hope of a reprieve there was none. It almost seemed to him as if
from that moment the world no longer existed; all in it that formerly
he found fair, and pleasant, and gay had vanished. All around him was
dying, dying, and every moment, every second, might bring about
something fearful, unendurable, hideous as a black, yawning abyss. It
was as an abyss, huge, fathomless, and sombre as night, that Semenoff
imagined death. Wherever he went, whatever he did, this black gulf was
ever before him; in its impenetrable gloom all sounds, all colours, all
emotions were lost. Such a state of mind was appalling, yet it did not
last long; and, as the days went by, as Semenoff approached death, the
more remote and vague and incomprehensible did it seem to him.
Everything around him, sounds, colours, and emotions, now once more
regained their former value for him. The sun shone as brightly as ever;
folk went about their business as usual, and Semenoff himself had
important things, as also trivial ones, to do. Just as before, he rose
in the morning, washed with scrupulous care, and ate his midday meal,
finding food pleasant or unpleasant to his taste. As before, the sun
and the moon were a joy to him, and rain or damp an annoyance; as
before, he played billiards in the evening with Novikoff and others; as
before, he read books, some being interesting, and some both foolish
and dull. That all things remained unchanged was irritating, even
painful to him at first. Nature, his environment, and he himself, all
were the same; and he strove to alter this by compelling people to be
interested in him and in his death, to comprehend his appalling
position, to realize that all was at an end. When, however, he told his
acquaintances of this, he perceived that he ought not to have done so.
They appeared astonished at first, and then sceptical, professing to
doubt the accuracy of the doctor's diagnosis. Finally, they endeavoured
to banish the unpleasant impression by abruptly changing the subject,
and Semenoff found himself talking with them about all sorts of things,
but never about death.
Then he sought to live in seclusion, to become absorbed in himself, and
in solitude to suffer, having full, steadfast consciousness of his
impending doom. Yet, as in his life and his daily surroundings, all
remained the same as formerly, it seemed absurd to imagine that it
could be otherwise, or that he, Semenoff, would no longer exist as at
the present. The thought of death, which at first had made so deep a
wound, grew less poignant; the soul oppressed found freedom. Moments of
complete forgetfulness became more and more frequent, and life once
again lay before him, rich in colour, in movement, in sound.
It was only at night-time, when alone, that he was haunted by the sense
of a black abyss. After he had put out the lamp, something devoid of
form or features rose up slowly above him in the gloom, and whispered,
"Sh ... sh ... sh!" without ceasing, while to this whispering another
voice, as from within him, made hideous answer. Then he felt that he
was gradually becoming part of this murmuring and this abysmal chaos.
His life in it seemed as a faint, flickering flame that might at any
moment fade for ever. Then he decided to keep a lamp burning in his
room throughout the night. In the light, the strange whisperings
ceased, the darkness vanished; nor had he the impression of being
poised above a yawning abyss, because light made him conscious of a
thousand trivial and ordinary details in his life; the chairs, the
light, the inkstand, his own feet, an unfinished letter, an _ikon_,
with its lamp that he had never lighted, boots that he had forgotten to
put outside the door, and many other everyday things that surrounded
Yet, even then, he could hear whisperings that came from the corners of
the room which the light of the lamp did not reach, and again the black
gulf yawned to receive him. He was afraid to look into the darkness, or
even to think of it, for then, in a moment, dreadful gloom surrounded
him, veiling the lamp, hiding the world as with a cold, dense mist from
his view. It was this that tortured, that appalled him. He felt as if
he must cry like a child, or beat his head against the wall. But as the
days went past, and Semenoff drew nearer to death, he grew more used to
such impressions. They only became stronger and more awful if by a word
or a gesture, by the sight of a funeral or of a graveyard, he was
reminded that he, too, must die. Anxious to avoid such warnings, he
never went into any street that led to the cemetery, nor ever slept on
his back with hands folded across his breast.
He had two lives, as it were; his former life, ample and obvious, which
could not give a thought to death, but ignored it, being concerned
about its own affairs, While hoping to live on for ever, cost what it
might; and another life, mysterious, indefinite, obscure, that, as a
worm in an apple, secretly gnawed at the core of his former life,
poisoning it, making it insufferable.
It was owing to this double life that Semenoff, when at last he found
himself face to face with death and knew that his end was nigh, felt
scarcely any fear. "Already?" That is all he asked, in order to know
exactly what to expect.
When in the faces of those around him he read the answer to his
question, he merely wondered that the end should seem so simple, so
natural, like that of some heavy task, which had overtaxed his powers.
At the same time, by a new and strange inner consciousness he perceived
that it could not be otherwise, and that death was the normal result of
his enfeebled vitality. He only felt sorry that he would never see
anything again. As they took him in a _droschky_ to the hospital, he
gazed about him with wide-opened eyes, striving to note everything at a
glance, grieved that he could not firmly fix in his memory every little
detail of this world with its ample sky, its human beings, its verdure,
and its distant blue horizons. Equally dear, in fact, unspeakably
precious to him, were all the little things that he had never noticed,
as well as those which he had always found full of beauty and
importance; the heaven, dark and vast, with its golden stars, the
driver's gaunt back, in its shabby smock; Novikoff's troubled
countenance; the dusty road; houses with their lighted windows; the
dark trees that silently stayed behind; the jolting wheels; the soft
evening breeze--all that he could see, and hear, and feel.
Later on, in the hospital, his eyes wandered swiftly round the large
room, watching every movement, every figure intently until prevented by
physical pain which produced a sense of utter isolation. His
perceptions were now concentrated in his chest, the source of all his
suffering. Gradually, very gradually, he began to drift away from life.
When now he saw something, it seemed to him strange and meaningless.
The last fight between life and death had begun; it filled his whole
being; it created a new world, strange and lonely, a world of terror,
agony and despairing conflict. Now and again there were more lucid
moments; the pain ceased; his breathing was deeper and calmer, and
through the white veil sounds and shapes became more or less plain. But
all seemed faint and futile, as if they came from afar. He heard sounds
plainly, and then again they were inaudible; the figures moved
noiselessly as those in a cinematograph; familiar faces appeared
strange and he could not recollect them.
On the adjoining bed a man with a quaint, clean-shaven face was reading
aloud, but why he read, or to whom he read, Semenoff never troubled to
think. He distinctly heard that the parliamentary elections had been
postponed, and that an attempt had been made to assassinate a Grand
Duke, but the words were empty and meaningless; like bubbles, they
burst and vanished, leaving no trace. The man's lips moved, his teeth
gleamed, his round eyes rolled, the paper rustled, and the lamp shone
from the ceiling round which large, black, fierce-looking flies
revolved. In Semenoff's brain something seemed to flame upwards,
illuminating all that surrounded him. He was suddenly conscious that
all was now of no account to him, and that all the work and business in
the world could not add one single hour to his life; but that he must
die. Once more he sank down into the waves of black mist; again the
silent conflict began between two terrible and secret forces, the one
convulsively striving to destroy the other.
The second time that Semenoff regained consciousness was when he heard
weeping and chanting. This seemed to him utterly unnecessary, having no
sort of relation to all that was going on within him. For a moment,
however, it lighted up the flame in his brain, and Semenoff clearly
perceived the mock-mournful face of a man who was absolutely
uninteresting to him. That was the last sign of life. What followed was
for those living wholly beyond the pale of their thought or
"Come to my place, and we will hold a memorial service for the
departed," said Ivanoff to Sanine. The latter nodded his acceptance. On
the way, they bought vodka and _hors d'oeuvres,_ and overtook Yourii
Svarogitsch, who was walking slowly along the boulevard, looking much
Semenoff's death had made a confused and painful impression upon him
which he found it necessary, yet almost impossible, to analyse.
"After all, it is simple enough!" said Yourii to himself, endeavouring
to draw a straight, short line in his mind. "Man never existed before
he was born; that does not seem to be terrible nor incomprehensible.
Man's existence ends when he dies. That is equally simple and easy to
comprehend. Death, the complete stoppage of the machine that creates
vital force, is perfectly comprehensible; there is nothing terrible
about it. There was once a boy named Youra who went to college and
fought with his comrades, who amused himself by chopping off the heads
of thistles and lived his own special and interesting life in his own
special way. This Youra died, and in his place quite another man walks
and thinks, the student, Yourii Svarogitsch. If they were to meet,
Youra would not understand Yourii, and might even hate him as a
possible tutor ready to cause him no end of annoyance. Therefore,
between them there is a gulf, and therefore, if the boy Youra is dead,
I am dead myself, though till now I never noticed it. That is how it
is. Quite natural and simple, after all! If one reflects, what do we
lose by dying? Life, at any rate, contains more sadness than happiness.
True it has its pleasures and it is hard to lose them, but death rids
us of so many ills, that in the end we gain by it. That's simple, and
not so terrible, is it?" said Yourii, aloud, with a sigh of relief; but
suddenly he started, as another thought seemed to sting him. "No, a
whole world, full of life and extraordinarily complicated, suddenly
transformed into nothing? No, that is not the transformation of the boy
Youra into Yourii Svarogitsch! That is absurd and revolting, and
therefore terrible and incomprehensible!"
With all his might Yourii strove to form a conception of this state
which no man finds it possible to support, yet which every man
supports, just as Semenoff had done.
"He did not die of fear, either," thought Yourii, smiling at the
strangeness of such a reflection. "No, he was laughing at us all, with
our priest, and our chanting, and tears. How was it that Semenoff could
laugh, knowing that in a few moments all would be at an end? Was he a
hero? No; it was not a question of heroism. Then death is not as
terrible as I thought."
While he was musing thus Ivanoff suddenly hailed him in a loud voice.
"Ah! it's you! Where are you going?" asked Yourii, shuddering.
"To say a mass for our departed friend," replied Ivanoff, with brutal
jocularity. "You had better come with us. What's the good of being
Feeling sad and dispirited, Yourii did not find Sanine and Ivanoff as
distasteful to him as usual.
"Very well, I will," he replied, but suddenly recollecting his
superiority, he thought to himself, "what have I really in common with
such fellows? Am I to drink their vodka, and talk commonplaces?"
He was on the point of turning back, but he felt such an utter horror
of solitude that he went along with them. Ivanoff and Sanine proffered
no remarks, and thus in silence they reached the former's lodging. It
was already quite dark. At the door, the figure of a man could be dimly
seen. He had a thick stick with a crooked handle.
"Oh! it's Uncle Peter Ilitsch!" exclaimed Ivanoff gleefully.
"Yes! that's he!" replied the figure, in a deep, resonant voice. Yourii
remembered that Ivanoff's uncle was an old, drunken church chorister.
He had a grey moustache like one of the soldiers at the time of
Nicholas the First, and his shabby black coat had a most unpleasant
"Boum! Boum!" His voice seemed to come out of a barrel, when Ivanoff
introduced him to Yourii, who awkwardly shook hands with him, hardly
knowing what to say to such a person. He recollected, however, that for
him all men should be equal, so he politely gave precedence to the old
singer as they went in.
Ivanoff's lodging was more like an old lumber-room than a place for
human habitation, being very dusty and untidy. But when his host had
lighted the lamp, Yourii perceived that the walls were covered with
engravings of pictures by Vasnetzoff, and that what had seemed rubbish
were books piled up in heaps. He still felt somewhat ill at ease, and,
to hide this, he began to examine the engravings attentively.
"Do you like Vasnetzoff?" asked Ivanoff as, without waiting for an
answer, he left the room to fetch a plate. Sanine told Peter Ilitsch
that Semenoff was dead. "God rest his soul!" droned the latter. "Ah!
well, it's all over for him now."
Yourii glanced wistfully at him, and felt a sudden sympathy for the old
Ivanoff now brought in bread, salted cucumbers, and glasses, which he
placed on the table that was covered with a newspaper. Then, with a
swift, scarcely perceptible movement, he uncorked the bottle, not a
drop of its contents being spilt.
"Very neat!" exclaimed Ilitsch approvingly.
"You can tell in a minute if a man knows what he's about," said
Ivanoff, with a self-complacent air, as he filled the glasses with the
"Now gentlemen," said he, raising his voice as he took up his glass.
"To the repose of the departed, &c.!"
With that they began to eat, and more vodka was consumed. They talked
little, and drank the more. Soon the atmosphere of the little room grew
hot and oppressive. Peter Ilitsch lighted a cigarette, and the air was
filled with the bluish fumes of bad tobacco. The drink and the smoke
and the heat made Yourii feel dizzy. Again he thought of Semenoff.
"There's something dreadful about death," he said.
"Why?" asked Peter Ilitsch. "Death? Ho! ho!! It's absolutely necessary.
Death? Suppose one went on living for ever? Ho! ho!! You mustn't talk
like that! Eternal life, indeed! What would eternal life be, eh?"
Yourii at once tried to imagine what living for ever would be like. He
saw an endless grey stripe that stretched aimlessly away into space, as
though swept onward from one wave to another. All conception of colour,
sound and emotion was blurred and dimmed, being merged and fused in one
grey turbid stream that flowed on placidly, eternally. This was not
life, but everlasting death. The thought of it horrified him.
"Yes, of course," he murmured.
"It appears to have made a great impression upon you," said Ivanoff.
"Upon whom does it not make an impression?" asked Yourii. Ivanoff shook
his head vaguely, and began to tell Ilitsch about Semenoff's last
moments. It was now insufferably close in the room. Yourii watched
Ivanoff, as his red lips sipped the vodka that shone in the lamplight.
Everything seemed to be going round and round.
"A--a--a--a--a!" whispered a voice in his ear, a strange small voice.
"No! death is an awful thing!" he said again, without noticing that he
was replying to the mysterious voice. "You're over-nervous about it,"
observed Ivanoff contemptuously.
"Aren't you?" said Yourii.
"I? N--no! Certainly, I don't want to die, as there's not much fun in
it, and living is far jollier. But, if one has to die, I should like it
to be quickly, without any fuss or nonsense."
"You have not tried yet!" laughed Sanine.
"No; that's quite true!" replied the other.
"Ah! well," continued Yourii, "one has heard all that before. Say what
you will, death is death, horrible in itself, and sufficient to rob a
man of all pleasure in life who thinks of such a violent and inevitable
end to it. What is the meaning of life?"
"It has no meaning," cried Ivanoff irritably.
"No, that is impossible," replied Yourii, "everything is too wisely and
carefully arranged, and--"
"In my opinion," said Sanine, "there's nothing good anywhere."
"How can you say that? What about Nature?"
"Nature! Ha, ha!" Sanine laughed feebly, and waved his hand in
derision. "It is customary, I know, to say that Nature is perfect. The
truth is, that Nature is just as defective as mankind. Without any
great effort of imagination any of us could present a world a hundred
times better than this one. Why should we not have perpetual warmth and
light, and a garden ever verdant and ever gay? As to the meaning of
life, of course it has a meaning of some sort, because the aim implies
the march of things; without an aim all would be chaos, But this aim
lies outside the pale of our existence, in the very basis of the
universe. That is certain. We cannot be the origin nor the end of the
universe. Our role is a passive, and auxiliary one. By the mere fact of
living we fulfil our mission. Our life is necessary; thus our death is
"How should I know?" replied Sanine, "and, besides, what do I care? My
life means my sensations, pleasant or unpleasant; what is outside those
limits; well, to the deuce with it all! Whatever hypothesis we may like
to invent, it will always remain an hypothesis upon which it would be
folly to construct life. Let him who likes worry about it; as for me, I
mean to live!"
"Let us all have a drink on the strength of it!" suggested Ivanoff.
"But you believe in God, don't you?" said Ilitsch, looking at Sanine
with bleared eyes. "Nowadays nobody believes in anything--not even in
that which is easy of belief."
Sanine laughed. "Yes, I believe in God. As a child I did that, and
there's no need to dispute or to affirm any reasons for doing so. It's
the most profitable thing, really, for if there is a God, I offer Him
sincere faith, and, if there isn't, well, all the better for me."
"But on belief or on unbelief all life is based?" said Yourii.
Sanine shook his head, and smiled complacently.
"No, my life is not based on such things," he said.
"On what, then?" asked Yourii, languidly. "A--a--a! I mustn't drink any
more," he thought to himself, as he drew his hand across his cold,
moist brow. If Sanine made any reply he did not hear it. His head was
in a whirl, and for a moment he felt quite overcome.
"I believe that God exists," continued Sanine, "though I am not
certain, absolutely certain. But whether He does or not, I do not know
Him, nor can I tell what He requires of me. How could I possibly know
this, even though I professed the most ardent faith in Him? God is God,
and, not being human, cannot be judged by human standards. His created
world around us contains all; good and evil, life and death, beauty and
ugliness--everything, in fact, and thus all sense and all exact
definition are lost to us, for His sense is not human, nor His ideas of
good and evil human, either. Our conception of God must always be an
idolatrous one, and we shall always give to our fetish the physiognomy
and the garb suitable to the climatic conditions of the country in
which we live. Absurd, isn't it."
"Yes, you're right," grunted Ivanoff, "quite right!"
"Then, what is the good of living?" asked Yourii, as he pushed back his
glass in disgust, "or of dying, either?"
"One thing I know," replied Sanine, "and that is, that I don't want my
life to be a miserable one. Thus, before all things, one must satisfy
one's natural desires. Desire is everything. When a man's desires
cease, his life ceases, too, and if he kills his desires, then he kills
"But his desires may be evil?"
"Well, what then."
"Then ... they must just be evil," replied Sanine blandly, as he looked
Yourii full in the face with his clear, blue eyes.
Ivanoff raised his eyebrows incredulously and said nothing. Yourii was
silent also. For some reason or other he felt embarrassed by those
clear, blue eyes, though he tried to keep looking at them.
For a few moments there was complete silence, so that one could plainly
hear a night-moth desperately beating against the window-pane. Peter
Ilitsch shook his head mournfully, and his drink-besotted visage
drooped towards the stained, dirty newspaper. Sanine smiled again. This
perpetual smile irritated and yet fascinated Yourii.
"What clear eyes he has!" thought he.
Suddenly Sanine rose, opened the window, and let out the moth. A wave
of cool, pleasant air, as from soft wings, swept through the room.
"Yes," said Ivanoff, in answer to his own thought, "there are no two
men alike, so, on the strength of that, let's have another drink."
"No." said Yourii, shaking his head, "I won't have any more."
"I never drink much."
The vodka and the heat had made his head ache. He longed to get out
into the fresh air.
"I must be going," he said, getting up.
"Where? Come on, have another drink!"
"No really, I ought to--" stammered Yourii, looking for his cap.
As Yourii shut the door he heard Sanine saying to Ilitsch, "Of course
you're not like children; they can't distinguish good from bad; they
are simple and natural; and that is why they--" Then the door was
closed, and all was still.
High in the heavens shone the moon, and the cool night-air touched
Yourii's brow. All seemed beautiful and romantic, and as he walked
through the quiet moonlit streets the thought to him was dreadful that
in some dark, silent chamber Semenoff lay on a table, yellow and stiff.
Yet, somehow, Yourii could not recall those grievous thoughts that had
recently oppressed him, and had shrouded the whole world in gloom. His
mood was now of one tranquil sadness, and he felt impelled to gaze at
the moon. As he crossed a white deserted square he suddenly thought of
"What sort of man is that?" he asked himself.
Annoyed to think that there was a man whom he, Yourii, could not
instantly define, he felt a certain malicious pleasure in disparaging
"A phrase-maker, that's all he is! Formerly the fellow posed as a
pessimist, disgusted with life and bent upon airing impossible views of
his own; now, he's trifling with animalism."
From Sanine Yourii's thoughts reverted to himself. He came to the
conclusion that he trifled with nothing but that his thoughts, his
sufferings, his whole personality, were original, and quite different
from those of other men.
This was most agreeable; yet something seemed to be missing. Once more
he thought of Semenoff. It was grievous to know that he should never
set eyes upon him again, and though he had never felt any affection for
Semenoff, he now had become near and dear to him. Tears rose to his
eyes. He pictured the dead student lying in the grave, a mass of
corruption, and he remembered these words of his:
"You'll be living, and breathing this air, and enjoying this moonlight,
and you'll go past my grave where I lie."
"Here, under my feet, like human beings, too," thought Yourii, looking
down at the dust. "I am trampling on brains, and hearts, and human
eyes! Oh!... And I shall die, too, and others will walk over me,
thinking just as I think now. Ah! before it is too late, one must live,
one must live! Yes; but live in the right way, so that not a moment of
one's life be lost. Yet how is one to do that?"
The market-place lay white and bare in the moonlight. All was silent in
_Never more shall singer's lute
Tidings of him tell_.
Yourii hummed this softly to himself. Then he said, aloud: "How
tedious, sad, and dreadful it all is!" as if complaining to some one.
The sound of his own voice alarmed him, and he turned round to see if
he had been overheard. "I am drunk," he thought.
Silent and serene, the night looked down.
While Sina Karsavina and Dubova were absent on a visit, Yourii's life
seemed uneventful and monotonous. His father was engaged, either at the
club or with household matters, and Lialia and Riasantzeff found the
presence of a third person embarrassing, so that Yourii avoided their
society. It thus became his habit to go to bed early and not to rise
till the midday meal. All day long, when in his room, or in the garden,
he brooded over matters, waiting for a supreme access of energy that
should spur him on to do some great work.
This "great work" each day assumed a different form. Now it was a
picture, or, again, it was a series of articles that should show the
world what a huge mistake the social democrats had made in not giving
Yourii a leading role in their party. Or else it was an article in
favour of adherence to the people and of strenuous co-operation with
it--a very broad, imposing treatment of the subject. Each day, however,
as it passed, brought nothing but boredom. Once or twice Novikoff and
Schafroff came to see him. Yourii also attended lectures and paid
visits, yet all this seemed to him empty and aimless. It was not what
he sought, or fancied that he sought.
One day he went to see Riasantzeff. The doctor had large, airy rooms
filled with all such things as an athletic, healthy man needs for his
amusement; Indian clubs, dumb-bells, rapiers, fishing-rods, nets,
tobacco-pipes, and much else that savoured of wholesome, manly
Riasantzeff received him with frank cordiality, chatted pleasantly,
offered him cigarettes, and finally asked him to go out shooting with
"I have not got a gun," said Yourii.
"Have one of mine. I have got five," replied Riasantzeff. To him,
Yourii was the brother of Lialia, and he was anxious to be as kind to
him as possible. He therefore insisted upon Yourii's acceptance of one
of his guns, eagerly displaying them all, taking them to pieces, and
explaining their make. He even fired at a target in the yard, so that
at last Yourii laughingly accepted a gun and some cartridges, much to
"That's first-rate!" he said, "I had meant to get some duck-shooting
to-morrow, so we'll go together, shall we?"
"I should like it very much," replied Yourii.
When he got home he spent nearly two hours examining his gun, fingering
the lock, and taking aim at the lamp. He then carefully greased his old
On the following day, towards evening, Riasantzeff, fresh, hearty as
ever, drove up in a _droschky_ with a smart bay to fetch Yourii.
"Are you ready?" he called out to him through the open window.