Part 4 out of 7
"Come now, what is it that distresses you so?" he said. "Is it because
I know all? Or do you think your misconduct with Sarudine so dreadful
that you are afraid to acknowledge it? I really don't understand you.
But, if Sarudine won't marry you, well--that is a thing to be thankful
for. You know now, and you must have known before, what a base, common
fellow he really is, in spite of his good looks and his fitness for
amours. All that he has is beauty, and you have now had your fill of
"He of mine, not I of his!" she faltered. "Ah I well yes, perhaps I
had! Oh! my God, what shall I do?"
"And now you are pregnant...."
Lida shut her eyes and bowed her head.
"Of course, it's a bad business," continued Sanine, gently. "In the
first place, giving birth to children is a nasty, painful affair; in
the second place, and what really matters, people would persecute you
incessantly. After all, Lidotschka, my Lidotschka," he said with a
sudden access of affection, "you've not done harm to anybody; and, if
you were to bring a dozen babies into the world, the only person to
suffer thereby would be yourself."
Sanine paused to reflect, as he folded his arms across his chest and
bit the ends of his moustache.
"I could tell you what you ought to do, but you are too weak and too
foolish to follow my advice. You are not plucky enough. Anyhow, it is
not worth while to commit suicide. Look at the sun shining, at the
calm, flowing stream. Once dead, remember, every one would know what
your condition had been. Of what good, then, would that be to you? It
is not because you are pregnant that you want to die, but because you
are afraid of what other folk will say. The terrible part of your
trouble lies, not in the actual trouble itself, but because you put it
between yourself and your life which, as you think, ought to end. But,
in reality, that will not alter life a jot. You do not fear folk who
are remote, but those who are close to you, especially those who love
you and who regard your surrender as utterly shocking because it was
made in a wood, or a meadow, instead of in a lawful marriage-bed. They
will not be slow to punish you for your offence, so, of what good are
they to you? They are stupid, cruel, brainless people. Why should you
die because of stupid, cruel, brainless people?"
Lida looked up at him with her great questioning eyes in which Sanine
could detect a spark of comprehension.
"But what am I to do? Tell me, what ... what ..." she murmured huskily.
"For you there are two ways open: you must get rid of this child that
nobody wants, and whose birth, as you must see yourself, will only
Lida's eyes expressed wild horror.
"To kill a being that knows the joy of living and the terror of death
is a grave injustice," he continued; "but a germ, an unconscious mass
of flesh and blood ..."
Lida experienced a strange sensation. At first shame overwhelmed her,
such shame as if she were completely stripped, while brutal fingers
touched her. She dared not look at her brother, fearing that for very
shame they would both expire. But Sanine's grey eyes wore a calm
expression, and his voice was firm and even in tone, as if he were
talking of ordinary matters. It was this quiet strength of utterance
and the profound truth of his words that removed Lida's shame and fear.
Yet suddenly despair prevailed, as she clasped her forehead, while the
flimsy sleeves of her dress fluttered like the wings of a startled
"I cannot, no, I cannot!" she faltered, "I dare say you're right, but I
cannot! It is so awful!"
"Well, well, if you can't," said Sanine, as he knelt down, and gently
drew away her hands from her face, "we must contrive to hide it,
somehow. I will see to it that Sarudine has to leave the town, and you
--well, you shall marry Novikoff, and be happy. I know that if you had
never met this dashing young officer, you would have accepted Sascha
Novikoff. I am certain of it." At the mention of Novikoff's name Lida
saw light through the gloom. Because Sarudine had made her unhappy, and
she was convinced that Novikoff would never have done so, for an
instant it seemed to her that all could easily be set right. She would
at once get up, go back, say something or other, and life in all its
radiant beauty would again lie before her. Again she would live, again
she would love, only this time it would be a better life, a deeper,
purer love. Yet immediately afterwards she recollected that this was
impossible, for she had been soiled and degraded by an ignoble,
A gross word, which she scarcely knew and had never uttered, suddenly
came into her mind. She applied it to herself. It was as if she had
received a box on the ears.
"Great heavens! Am I really a ...? Yes, yes, of course, I am!"
"What did you say?" she murmured, ashamed of her own resonant voice.
"Well, what is it to be?" asked Sanine, as he glanced at her pretty
hair falling in disorder about her white neck flecked by sunlight
breaking through the network of leaves. A sudden fear seized him that
he would not succeed in persuading her, and that this young, beautiful
woman, fitted to bestow such joy upon others, might vanish into the
dark, senseless void. Lida was silent. She strove to repress her
longing to live, which, despite her will, had mastered her whole
trembling frame. After all that had occurred, it seemed to her shameful
not only to live, but to wish to live. Yet her body, strong and full of
vitality, rejected so distorted an idea as if it were poison.
"Why this silence?" asked Sanine.
"Because it is impossible.... It would be a vile thing to do!... I...."
"Don't talk such nonsense!" retorted Sanine impatiently.
Lida looked up at him again, and in her tearful eyes there was a
glimmer of hope.
Sanine broke off a twig, which he bit and then flung away.
"A vile thing!" he went on, "A vile thing! My words amaze you. Yet why?
The question is one that neither you nor I can ever rightly answer.
Crime! What is a crime? If a mother's life is in danger when giving
birth to a child, and that living child, to save its mother, is
destroyed that is not a crime, but an unfortunate necessity! But to
suppress something that does not yet exist, that is called a crime, a
horrible deed. Yes, a horrible deed, even though the mother's life,
and, what is more, her happiness, depends upon it! Why must it be so?
Nobody knows, but everybody loudly maintains that view, crying,
'Bravo!'" Sanine laughed sarcastically. "Oh! you men, you men! Men
create for themselves phantoms, shadows, illusions, and are the first
to suffer by them. But they all exclaim, 'Oh! Man is a masterpiece,
noblest of all; man is the crown, the King of creation;' but a king
that has never yet reigned, a suffering king that quakes at his own
For a moment, Sanine paused.
"After all, that is not the main point. You say that it is a vile
thing. I don't know; perhaps it is. If Novikoff were to hear of your
trouble, it would grieve him terribly; in fact, he might shoot himself,
but yet he would love you, just the same. In that case, the blame would
be his. But if he were a really intelligent man, he would not attach
the slightest importance to the fact that you had already (excuse the
expression!) slept with somebody else. Neither your body nor your soul
have suffered thereby. Good Lord! Why, he might marry a widow himself,
for instance! Therefore it is not that which prevents him, but the
confused notions with which his head is filled. And, as regards
yourself, if it were only possible for human beings to love once in
their lives, then, a second attempt to do so would certainly prove
futile and unpleasant. But this is not so. To fall in love, or to be
loved, is just as delightful and desirable. You will get to love
Novikoff, and, if you don't, well, we'll travel together, my
Lidotschka; one can live, can't one, anywhere, after all?"
Lida sighed and strove to overcome her final scruples.
"Perhaps ... everything will come right again," she murmured.
"Novikoff... he's so good and kind ... nice-looking, too, isn't he?
Yes ... no... I don't know what to say."
"If you had drowned yourself, what then? The powers of good and evil
would have neither gained nor lost thereby. Your corpse, bloated,
disfigured, and covered with slime, would have been dragged from the
river, and buried. That would have been all!"
Lida had a lurid vision of greenish, turbid water with slimy, trailing
weeds and gruesome bubbles floating round her.
"No, no, never!" she thought, turning pale. "I would rather bear all
the shame of it ... and Novikoff ... everything ... anything but
"Ah! look how scared you are!" said Sanine, laughing.
Lida smiled through her tears, and her very smile consoled her.
"Whatever happens, I mean to live!" she said with passionate energy.
"Good!" exclaimed Sanine, as he jumped up. "Nothing is more awful than
the thought of death. But so long as you can bear the burden without
losing perception of the sights and sounds of life, I say live! Am I
not right? Now, give me your paw!"
Lida held out her hand. The shy, feminine gesture betokened childish
"That's right ... What a pretty little hand you've got."
Lida smiled and said nothing.
But Sanine's words had not proved ineffectual. Hers was a vigorous,
buoyant vitality; the crisis through which she had just passed had
strained that vitality to the utmost. A little more pressure, and the
string would have snapped. But the pressure was not applied, and her
whole being vibrated once more with an impetuous, turbulent desire to
live. She looked above, around her, in ecstasy, listening to the
immense joy pulsating on every side; in the sunlight, in the green
meadows, the shining stream, the calm, smiling face of her brother, and
in herself. It was as if she now could see and hear all this for the
first time. "To be alive!" cried a gladsome voice within her.
"All right!" said Sanine. "I will help you in your trouble, and stand
by you when you fight your battles. And now, as you're such a beauty,
you must give me a kiss."
Lida smiled; a smile mysterious as that of a wood-nymph. Sanine put his
arms round her waist, and, as her warm supple form thrilled at his
touch, his fond embrace became almost vehement. A strange, indefinable
sense of joy overcame Lida, as she yearned for life ampler and more
intense. It mattered not to her what she did. She slowly put both arms
round her brother's neck and, with half-closed eyes, set her lips tight
to give the kiss.
She felt unspeakably happy beneath Sanine's burning caress, and in that
moment cared not who it was that kissed her, just as a flower warmed by
the sun never asks whence comes such warmth.
"What is the matter with me?" she thought, pleasurably alarmed. "Ah!
yes! I wanted to drown myself ... how silly! And for what? Oh! that's
nice! Again! Again! Now, I'll kiss you! It's lovely! And I don't care
what happens so long as I'm alive, alive!"
"There, now, you see," said Sanine, releasing her. "All good things are
just good, and one mustn't make them out to be anything else."
Lida smiled absently, and slowly re-arranged her hair. Sanine handed
her the parasol and glove. To find the other glove was missing at first
surprised her, but instantly recollecting the reason, she felt greatly
amused at the absurd importance which she had given to that trifling
"Ah! well, that's over!" she thought, and walked with her brother along
the river-bank. Fiercely the sun's rays beat upon her round, ripe
Novikoff, when he opened the door himself to Sanine, looked far from
pleased at the prospect of such a visit. Everything that reminded him
of Lida and of his shattered dream of bliss caused him pain.
Sanine noticed this, and came into the room smiling affably. All there
was in disorder, as if scattered by a whirlwind. Scraps of paper,
straw, and rubbish of all sorts covered the floor. On the bed and the
chairs lay books, linen, surgical instruments and a portmanteau.
"Going away?" asked Sanine, in surprise. "Where?" Novikoff avoided the
other's glance and continued to overhaul the things, vexed at his own
confusion. At last he said:
"Yes, I've got to leave this place. I've had my official notice."
Sanine looked at him and then at the portmanteau. After another glance
his features relaxed in a broad smile.
Novikoff was silent, oppressed by his sense of utter loneliness and his
inconsolable grief. Lost in his thoughts, he proceeded to wrap up a
pair of boots together with some glass tubes.
"If you pack like that," said Sanine, "when you arrive you'll find
yourself minus either tubes or boots."
Novikoff's tear-stained eyes flashed back a reply. They said, "Ah!
leave me alone! Surely you can see how sad I am!"
Sanine understood, and was silent.
The dreamy summer twilight-hour had come, and above the verdant garden
the sky, clear as crystal, grew paler. At last Sanine spoke.
"Instead of going the deuce knows where, I think it would be much more
sensible if you were to marry Lida."
Novikoff turned round trembling.
"I must ask you to stop making such stupid jokes!" he said in a shrill,
hard voice. It rang out through the dusk, and echoed among the dreaming
"Why so furious?" asked Sanine.
"Look here!" began Novikoff hoarsely. In his eyes there was such an
expression of rage that Sanine scarcely recognized him.
"Do you mean to say that it wouldn't be a lucky thing for you to marry
Lida?" continued Sanine merrily.
"Shut up!" cried the other, staggering forward, and brandishing an old
boot over Sanine's head.
"Now then! Gently! Are you mad?" said Sanine sharply, as he stepped
Novikoff flung the boot away in disgust, breathing hard.
"With that boot you were actually going to ..." Sanine stopped, and
shook his head. He pitied his friend, though such behaviour seemed to
him utterly ridiculous.
"It's your fault," stammered Novikoff in confusion.
And then, suddenly, he felt full of trust and sympathy for Sanine,
strong and calm as he was. He himself resembled a little school-boy,
eager to tell some one of his trouble. Tears filled his eyes.
"If you only knew how sad at heart I am," he murmured, striving to
conquer his emotion.
"My dear fellow, I know all about it--everything," said Sanine kindly.
"No! You can't know all!" said Novikoff, as he sat down beside the
other. He thought that no one could possibly feel such sorrow as his.
"Yes, yes, I do," replied Sanine, "I swear that I do; and if you'll
promise not to attack me with your old boot, I will prove what I say.
"Yes, yes! Forgive me, Volodja!" said Novikoff, calling Sanine by his
first name which he had never done before. This touched Sanine, and he
felt the more anxious to help his friend.
"Well, then, listen," he began, as he placed his hand in confidential
fashion on the other's knee. "Let us be quite frank. You are going
away, because Lida refused you, and because, at Sarudine's the other
day, you had an idea that it was she who came to see him in private."
Novikoff bent forward, too distressed to speak. It was as if Sanine had
re-opened an agonizing wound. The latter, noticing Novikoff's
agitation, thought Inwardly, "You good-natured old fool!"
Then he continued:
"As to the relations between Lida and Sarudine, I can affirm nothing
positively, for I know nothing, but I don't believe that...." He did
not finish the sentence when he saw how dark the other's face became.
"Their intimacy," he went on, "is of such recent date that nothing
serious can have happened, especially if one considers Lida's
character. You, of course, know what she is."
There rose up before Novikoff the image of Lida, as he had once known
and loved her; of Lida, the proud, high-spirited girl, lustrous-eyed,
and crowned with serene, consummate beauty as with a radiant aureole.
He shut his eyes, and put faith in Sanine's words.
"Well, and if they really did flirt a bit, that's over and ended now.
After all, what is it to you if a girl like Lida, young and fancy-free,
has had a little amusement of this sort? Without any great effort of
memory I expect you could recall at least a dozen such flirtations of a
far more dangerous kind, too."
Novikoff glanced trustfully at Sanine, afraid to speak, lest the faint
spark of hope within him should be extinguished. At last he stammered
"You know, if I ..."; but he got no further. Words failed him, and
tears choked his utterance.
"Well, if you what?" asked Sanine loudly, and his eyes shone. "I can
but tell you this, that there is not and there never has been anything
between Lida and Sarudine."
Novikoff looked at him in amazement.
"I ... well ... I thought ..." he began, feeling, to his dismay, that
he could no longer believe what Sanine said.
"You thought a lot of nonsense!" replied Sanine sharply. "You ought to
know Lida better than that. What sort of love can there be with all
that hesitation and shilly-shallying?"
Novikoff, overjoyed, grasped the other's hand.
Then, suddenly Sanine's face wore a furious expression as he closely
watched the effect of his words upon his companion.
Novikoff showed obvious pleasure at the thought of the woman he desired
being immaculate. Into those honest sorrowful eyes, there came a look
of animal jealousy and concupiscence.
"Oho!" exclaimed Sanine threateningly, as he got up. "Then what I have
to tell you is this: Lida has not only fallen in love with Sarudine,
but she has also had illicit relations with him, and is now
There was dead silence in the room. Novikoff smiled a strange, sickly
smile and rubbed his hands. From his trembling lips there issued a
faint cry. Sanine stood over him, looking straight into his eyes. The
wrinkled corners of his mouth showed suppressed anger.
"Well, why don't you speak?" he asked.
Novikoff looked up for a moment, but instantly avoided the other's
glance, his features being still distorted by a vacuous smile.
"Lida has just gone through a terrible ordeal," said Sanine in a low
voice, as if soliloquising. If I had not chanced to overtake her, she
would not be living now, and what yesterday was a healthful, handsome
girl would now be lying in the river-mud, a bloated corpse, devoured by
crabs. The question is not one of her death--we must each of us die
some day--yet how sad to think that with her all the brightness and joy
created for others by her personality would also have perished. Of
course, Lida is not the only one in all the world; but, my God! if
there were no girlish loveliness left, it would be as sad and gloomy as
"For my part, I am eager to commit murder when I see a poor girl
brought to ruin in this senseless way. Personally, it is a matter of
utter indifference to me whether you marry Lida or go to the devil, but
I must tell you that you are an idiot. If you had got one sound idea in
your head, would you worry yourself and others so much merely because a
young woman, free to pick and choose, had become the mistress of a man
who was unworthy of her, and by following her sexual impulse had
achieved her own complete development? Nor are you the only idiot, let
me tell you. There are millions of your sort who make life into a
prison, without sunshine or warmth! How often have you given rein to
your lust in company with some harlot, the sharer of your sordid
debauch? In Lida's case it was passion, the poetry of youth, and
strength, and beauty. By what right, then, do you shrink from her, you
that call yourself an intelligent, sensible man? What has her past to
do with you? Is she less beautiful? Or less fitted for loving, or for
being loved? Is it that you yourself wanted to be the first to possess
her? Now then, speak!"
"You know very well that it is not that!" said Novikoff, as his lips
"Ah! yes, but it is!" cried Sanine. "What else could it be, pray?"
Novikoff was silent. All was darkness within his Soul, yet, as a
distant ray of light through the gloom there came the thought of pardon
Sanine, watching him, seemed to read what was passing through his mind.
"I see," he began, in a subdued tone, "that you Contemplate sacrificing
yourself for her. 'I will descend to her level, and protect her from
the mob,' and so on. That's what you are saying to your virtuous self,
waxing big in your own eyes as a worm does in carrion. But it's all a
sham; nothing else but a lie! You're not in the least capable of self-
sacrifice. If, for instance, Lida had been disfigured by small-pox,
perhaps you might have worked yourself up to such a deed of heroism.
But after a couple of days you would have embittered her life, either
spurning her or deserting her, or overwhelming her reproaches. At
present your attitude towards yourself is one of adoration, as if you
were an _ikon_. Yes, yes, your face is transfigured, and every one
would say, 'Oh! look, there's a saint.' Yet you have lost nothing which
you desired. Lida's limbs are the same as before; so are her passion
and her splendid vitality. But of course, it is extremely convenient
and also agreeable to provide oneself with enjoyment while piously
imagining that one is doing a noble deed. I should rather say it was!"
At these words, Novikoff's self-pity gave place to a nobler sentiment.
"You take me to be worse than I am," he said reproachfully. "I am not
so wanting in feeling as you think. I won't deny that I have certain
prejudices, but I love Lida Petrovna, and if I were quite sure that she
loved me, do you think that I should take a long while to make up my
mind, because ..."
His voice failed him at this last word.
Sanine suddenly became quite calm. Crossing the room, he stood at the
open window, lost in thought.
"Just now she is very sad," he said, "and will hardly be thinking of
love. If she loves you or not, how can I tell? But it seems to me that
if you came to her as the second man who did not condemn her for her
brief amour, well.... Anyway, there's no knowing what she'll say!"
Novikoff sat there, as one in a dream. Sadness and joy produced within
his heart a sense of happiness as gentle and elusive as the light in an
"Let us go to her," said Sanine. "Whatever happens, it will please her
to see a human face amid so many false masks that hide grimacing
brutes. You're a bit of a fool, my friend, but in your stupidity there
is something which others haven't got. And to think that for ever so
long the world founded its hopes and happiness upon such folly! Come,
let us go!"
Novikoff smiled timidly. "I am very willing to go to her. But will she
care to see me?"
"Don't think about that," said Sanine, as he placed both hands on the
other's shoulders. "If you are minded to do what's right, then, do it,
and the future will take care of itself."
"All right; let us go," exclaimed Novikoff with decision. In the
doorway he stopped and looking Sanine full in the face he said with
"Look here, if it is in my power, I will do my best to make her happy.
This sounds commonplace, I know, but I can't express my feelings in any
"No matter, my friend," replied Sanine cordially, "I understand."
The glow of summer lay on the town. Calm were the nights when the
large, lustrous moon shone overhead and the air, heavy with odours from
field and garden, pleasurably soothed the languid senses.
In the daytime people worked, or were engaged in politics or art; in
eating, drinking, bathing, conversing. Yet, when the heat grew less,
and the bustle and turmoil had ceased, while on the dim horizon the
moon's round mysterious disc rose slowly above meadow and field,
shedding on roofs and gardens a strange, cold light, then folk began to
breathe more freely, and to live anew, having cast off, as it were, an
And, where youth predominated, life became ampler and more free. The
gardens were filled with the melody of nightingales, the meadow-grasses
quivered in response to the light touch of a maiden's gown, while
shadows deepened, and in the warm dusk eyes grew brighter and voices
more tender, for love was in the languid, fragrant air.
Yourii Svarogitsch and Schafroff were both keenly interested in
politics, and in a recently formed society for mutual education, Yourii
read all the latest books, and believed that he had now found his
vocation in life, and a way to end all his doubts. Yet, however much he
read, and despite all his activities, life had no charm for him, being
barren and dreary. Only when in robust health, and when the physical
part of him was roused by the prospect of falling in love, did life
seem really desirable. Formerly all pretty young women had interested
him in equal measure, yet among the rest he now singled out one in whom
the charms of all the others were united, standing apart in her
loveliness as a young birch tree stands in springtime on the border of
She was tall and shapely, her head was gracefully poised on her white,
smooth shoulders, and her voice, in speech sonorous, was in singing
sweet. Although her own talents for music and poetry were eminently
pleasing to her, it was in physical effort that her intense vitality
found its fullest expression. She longed to crush something against her
bosom, to stamp her foot on the ground, to laugh and sing, and to
contemplate good-looking young men. There were times when, in the blaze
of noon or in the pale moonlight, she felt as if she must suddenly take
off all clothing, rush across the grass, and plunge into the river to
seek some one that with tender accents she longed to allure. Her
presence troubled Yourii. In her company he became more eloquent, his
pulses beat faster, and his brain was more alert. All day long his
thoughts were of her, and in the evening it was she that he sought,
though he never admitted to himself that he did so. He was for ever
analysing his feelings, each sentiment withering as a blossom in the
frost. Whenever he asked himself what it was that attracted him to Sina
Karsavina, the answer was always "the sexual instinct, and nothing
else." Without knowing why, this explanation provoked intense self-
Yet a tacit understanding had been established between them and, like
two mirrors, the emotions of the one were reflected in the other.
Sina Karsavina never troubled to analyse her sentiments which, if they
caused her slight apprehension, yet pleased her vastly. She jealously
hid them from others, being determined to keep them entirely to
herself. It distressed her much that she could not discover what was
really at work in the handsome young fellow's heart. At times it seemed
to her that there was nothing between them, and then she grieved as if
for the loss of something precious. Nevertheless she was not averse to
receiving the attentions of other men, and her belief that Yourii loved
her gave her the elated manner of a bride-elect, making her doubly
attractive to other admirers. She was powerfully fascinated by the
presence of Sanine, whose broad shoulders, calm eyes, and deliberate
manner won her regard. When Sina became aware of his effect upon her,
she accused herself of want of self-control if not of immodesty;
nevertheless she always continued to observe him with great interest.
On the very evening that Lida had undergone such a terrible ordeal,
Yourii and Sina met at the library. They merely exchanged greetings,
and went about their business, she to choose books, and he to look at
the latest Petersburg newspapers. They happened, however, to leave the
building together and walked along the lonely, moonlit streets side by
side. All was silent as the grave, and one could only hear at intervals
the watchman's rattle, and the distant bark of a dog.
On reaching the boulevard they were aware of a merry party sitting
under the tress. They heard laughter; and the gleam of a lighted
cigarette revealed for an instant a fair moustache. Just as they passed
a man's voice sang:
_The heart affair lady
Is wayward as the wind across the wheat_...
When they got within a short distance of Sina's home they sat down on a
bench where it was very dark. In front of them lay the broad street,
all white in the moonlight, and the church topped by a cross that
gleamed as a star above the black linden trees.
"Look! How pretty that is!" exclaimed Sina, as she pointed to the
church. Yourii glanced admiringly at her white shoulder which, in the
costume of Little Russia that she wore, was exposed to view. He longed
to clasp her in his arms and kiss her full red lips. It seemed as if he
must do so, and as if she expected and desired this. But he let the
propitious moment pass, laughing gently, almost mockingly, to himself.
"Why do you laugh?"
"Oh! I don't know!--nothing!" replied Yourii nervously, trying to
They were both silent as they listened to faint sounds that came to
them through the darkness.
"Have you ever been in love?" asked Sina, suddenly.
"Yes," said Yourii slowly. 'Suppose I tell her?' he thought. Then,
aloud, "I am in love now."
"With whom?" she asked, fearing to hear the answer, while yet certain
that she knew it.
"With you, of course," replied Yourii, vainly assuming playful tone as
he leant forward and gazed into her eyes, that shone strangely in the
gloom. They expressed surprise and expectancy. Yourii longed to embrace
her, yet again his courage failed him, and he pretended to stifle a
"He's only in fun!" thought Sina, growing suddenly cool.
She felt hurt at such hesitation on Yourii's part. To keep back her
tears, she clenched her teeth, and in an altered tone exclaimed
"Nonsense!" as she quickly got up.
"I am speaking quite seriously," began Yourii, with unnatural
earnestness. "I love you, believe me, I do, passionately!"
Sina took up her books without saying a word.
"Why, why does he talk like this?" she thought to herself. "I've let
him see that I care, and now he despises me."
Yourii bent down to pick up a book that had fallen.
"It is time to go home," she said coldly. Yourii felt grieved that she
wanted to go just at that moment, but he thought at the same time that
he had played his part quite successfully, and without in the least
appearing commonplace. Then he said, impressively: "Au revoir!"
She held out her hand. He swiftly bent over it and kissed it. Sina
started back, uttering a faint cry: "What are you doing?"
Though his lips had only just touched her soft little hand, his emotion
was so great that he could only smile feebly as she hurried away, and
soon he heard the click of her garden gate. As he walked homewards his
face wore the same silly smile, while he breathed the pure night air,
and felt strong, and glad of heart.
On reaching his room, narrow and stuffy as a prison-cell, Yourii found
life as dreary as ever, and his little love-episode seemed to him
"I stole a kiss from her! What bliss! How heroic of me! How exquisitely
romantic! In the moonlight the hero beguiles the fair maid with burning
words and kisses! Bah! what rubbish! In such a cursed little hole as
this one insensibly becomes a shallow fool."
When he lived in a city, Yourii imagined that the country was the real
place for him where he could associate with peasants and share in their
rustic toil beneath a burning sun. Now that he had the chance to do
this, village life seemed insufferable to him, and he longed for the
stimulus of a town where alone his energies could have scope.
"The stir and bustle of a city! The thrill of passionate eloquence!" so
he rapturously phrased it to himself; yet he soon checked such boyish
"After all, what does it mean? What are politics and science? Great as
ideals in the distance, yes! But in the life of each individual they're
only a trade, like anything else! Strife! Titanic efforts! The
conditions of modern existence make all that impossible. I suffer, I
strive, I surmount obstacles! Well, what then? Where's the end of it?
Not in my lifetime, at any rate! Prometheus wished to give fire to
mankind, and he did so. That was a triumph, if you like! But what about
us? The most we do is to throw faggots on a fire that we have never
kindled, and which by us will never be put out."
It suddenly struck him that if things were wrong it was because he,
Yourii, was not a Prometheus. Such a thought, in itself most
distressing, yet gave him another opportunity for morbid self-torture.
"What sort of a Prometheus am I? Always looking at everything from a
personal, egotistic point of view. It is I, always I; always for
myself. I am every bit as weak and insignificant as the other people
that I heartily Despise."
This comparison was so displeasing to him that his thoughts became
confused, and for a while he sat brooding over the subject,
endeavouring to find a justification of some kind.
"No, I am not like the others," he said to himself, feeling, in a
sense, relieved, "because I think about these things. Fellows like
Riasantzeff and Novikoff and Sanine would never dream of doing so. They
have not the remotest intention of criticising themselves, being
perfectly happy and self-satisfied, like Zarathustra's triumphant pigs.
The whole of life is summed up in their own infinitesimal _ego_; and by
their spirit of shallowness it is that I am infected. Ah, well! when
you are with wolves you've got to howl. That is only natural."
Yourii began to walk up and down the room, and, as often happens, his
change of position brought with it a change in his train of thought.
"Very well. That's so. All the same, a good many things have to be
considered. For instance, what is my position with regard to Sina
Karsavina? Whether I love her or not it doesn't much matter. The
question is, what will come of it all? Suppose I marry her, or become
closely attached to her. Will that make me happy? To betray her would
be a crime, and if I love her ... Well, then, I can ... In all
probability she would have children." He blushed at the thought.
"There's nothing wrong about that, only it would be a tie, and I should
lose my freedom. A family man! Domestic bliss! No, that's not in my
"One ... two ... three," he counted, as he tried each time to step
across two boards and set his foot on the third one. "If I could be
sure that she would not have children, or that I should get so fond of
them that my whole life would be devoted to them! No; how terribly
commonplace! Riasantzeff would be fond of his children, too. What
difference would there then be between us? A life of self-sacrifice!
That is the real life! Yes, but of sacrifice for whom? And in what way?
No matter what road I choose nor at what goal I aim, show me the pure
and perfect ideal for which it were worth while to die! No, it is not
that I am weak; it is because life itself is not worthy of sacrifice
nor of enthusiasm. Consequently there is no sense in living at all."
Never before had this conclusion seemed so absolutely convincing to
him. On his table lay a revolver, and each time he passed it, while
walking up and down, its polished steel caught his eye.
He took it up and examined it carefully. It was loaded. He placed the
barrel against his temple.
"There! Like that!" he thought. "Bang! And it's all over. Is it a wise
or a stupid thing to shoot oneself? Is suicide a cowardly act? Then I
suppose that I am a coward!"
The contact of cold steel on his heated brow was at once pleasant and
"What about Sina?" he asked himself. "Ah! well, I shall never get her,
and so I leave to some one else this enjoyment." The thought of Sina
awoke tender memories, which he strove to repress as sentimental folly.
"Why should I not do it?" His heart seemed to stop beating. Then once
more, and deliberately this time, he put the revolver to his brow and
pulled the trigger, His blood ran cold; there was a buzzing in his ears
and the room seemed to whirl round.
The weapon did not go off; only the click of the trigger could be
heard. Half fainting, his hand dropped to his side. Every fibre within
him quivered, his head swam, his lips were parched, and his hand
trembled so much that when he laid down the revolver it rattled against
"A fine fellow I am!" he thought as, recovering himself, he went to the
glass to see what he looked like.
"Then I'm a coward, am I?" "No," he thought proudly, "I am not! I did
it right enough. How could I help it if the thing didn't go off?"
His own vision looked out at him from the mirror; rather a solemn,
grave one, he thought. Trying to persuade himself that he attached no
importance to what he had just done, he put out his tongue and moved
away from the glass.
"Fate would not have it so," he said aloud, and the sound of the words
seemed to cheer him.
"I wonder if anyone saw me?" he thought, as he looked round in alarm.
Yet all was still, and nothing could be heard moving behind the closed
door. To him it was as if nothing in the world existed and suffered in
this terrible solitude but himself. He put out the lamp, and to his
amazement perceived through a chink in the shutter the first red rays
of dawn. Then he lay down to sleep, and in dream was aware of something
gigantic that bent over him, exhaling fiery breath.
Gently, caressingly, the dusk, fragrant with the scent of blossoms,
descended. Sanine sat at a table near the window, striving to read in
the waning light a favourite tale of his. It described the lonely,
tragic death of an old bishop, who, clad in his sacerdotal vestments
and holding a jewelled cross, expired amid the odour of incense.
In the room the temperature was as cool as that outside, for the soft
evening breeze played round Sanine's powerful frame, filling his lungs,
and lightly caressing his hair. Absorbed in his book, he read on, while
his lips moved from time to time, and he seemed like a big boy
devouring some story of adventures among Indians. Yet, the more he
read, the sadder became his thoughts. How much there was in this world
that was senseless and absurd! How dense and uncivilized men were, and
how far ahead of them in ideas he was!
The door opened and some one entered. Sanine looked up. "Aha!" he
exclaimed, as he shut the book, "what's the news?"
Novikoff smiled sadly, as he took the other's hand.
"Oh! nothing," he said, as he approached the window, "It's all just the
same as ever it was."
From where he sat Sanine could only see Novikoff's tall figure
silhouetted against the evening sky, and for a long while he gazed at
him without speaking.
When Sanine first took his friend to see Lida, who now no longer
resembled the proud, high-spirited girl of heretofore, neither she nor
Novikoff said a word to each other about all that lay nearest to their
hearts. He knew that, after having spoken, they would be unhappy, yet
doubly so if they kept silence. What to him was plain and easy they
could only accomplish, he felt sure, after much suffering. "Be it so,"
thought he, "for suffering purifies and ennobles." Now, however, the
propitious moment for them had come.
Novikoff stood at the window, silently watching the sunset. His mood
was a strange one, begotten of grief for what was lost, and of longing
for joy that was near. In this soft twilight he pictured to himself
Lida, sad, and covered with shame. If he had but the courage to do it,
this very moment he would kneel before her, with kisses warm her cold
little hands, and by his great, all-forgiving love rouse her to a new
life. Yet the power to go to her failed him.
Of this Sanine was conscious. He rose slowly, and said,
"Lida is in the garden. Shall we go to her?"
Novikoff's heart beat faster. Within it, joy and grief seemed strangely
blended. His expression changed Somewhat, and he nervously fingered his
"Well, what do you say? Shall we go?" repeated Sanine calmly, as if he
had decided to do something important. Novikoff felt that Sanine knew
all that was troubling him, and, though in a measure comforted, he Was
yet childishly abashed.
"Come along!" said Sanine gently, as taking hold of Novikoff's
shoulders he pushed him towards the door.
"Yes ... I ..." murmured the latter.
A sudden impulse to embrace Sanine almost overcame him, but he dared
not and could but glance at him with tearful eyes. It was dark in the
warm, fragrant garden, and the trunks of the trees formed Gothic arches
against the pale green of the sky.
A faint mist hovered above the parched surface of the lawn. It was as
if an unseen presence wandered along the silent walks and amid the
motionless trees, at whose approach the slumbering leaves and blossoms
softly trembled. The sunset still flamed in the west behind the river
which flowed in shining curves through the dark meadows. At the edge of
the stream sat Lida. Her graceful figure bending forward above the
water seemed like that of some mournful spirit in the dusk. The sense
of confidence inspired by the voice of her brother forsook her as
quickly as it had come, and once more shame and fear overwhelmed her.
She was obsessed by the thought that she had no right to happiness, nor
yet to live. She spent whole days in the garden, book in hand, unable
to look her mother in the face. A thousand times she said to herself
that her mother's anguish would be as nothing to what she herself was
now suffering, yet whenever she approached her parent her voice
faltered, and in her eyes there was a guilty look. Her blushes and
strange confusion of manner at last aroused her mother's suspicion, to
avoid whose searching glances and anxious questionings Lida preferred
to spend her days in solitude. Thus, on this evening she was seated by
the river, watching the sunset and brooding over her grief. Life, as it
seemed to her, was still incomprehensible. Her view of it was blurred
as by some hideous phantom. A series of books which she had read had
served to give her greater freedom of thought. As she believed, her
conduct was not only natural but almost worthy of praise. She had
brought harm to no one thereby, only providing herself and another with
sensual enjoyment. Without such enjoyment there would be no youth, and
life itself would be barren and desolate as a leafless tree in autumn.
The thought that her union with a man had not been sanctioned by the
church seemed to her ridiculous. By the free mind of a man such claims
had long been swept aside. She ought really to find joy in this new
life, just as a flower on some bright morning rejoices at the touch of
the pollen borne to it on the breeze. Yet she felt unutterably
degraded, and baser than the basest.
All such grand, noble ideas and eternal verities melted like wax at the
thought of her day of infamy that was at hand. And instead of trampling
underfoot the folk that she despised, her one thought was how best she
might avoid or deceive them.
While concealing her grief from others, Lida felt herself attracted to
Novikoff as a flower to the sunlight. The suggestion that he was to
save her seemed base, almost criminal. It galled her to think that she
should depend upon his affection and forgiveness, yet stronger far than
pride was the passionate longing to live.
Her attitude towards human stupidity was one of fear rather than
disdain; she could not look Novikoff in the face, but trembled before
him, like a slave. Her plight was pitiable as that of a helpless bird
whose wings have been clipped, and that can never fly again.
At times, when her suffering seemed intolerable, she thought with naive
astonishment of her brother. She knew that, for him, nothing was
sacred, that he looked at her, his sister, with the eyes of a male, and
that he was selfish and immoral. Nevertheless he was the only man in
whose presence she felt herself absolutely free, and with whom she
could openly discuss the most intimate secrets of her life. She had
been seduced. Well, what of that? She had had an intrigue. Very good.
It was at her own wish. People would despise and humiliate her; what
did it matter? Before her lay life, and sunshine, and the wide world;
and, as for men, there were plenty to be had. Her mother would grieve.
Well, that was her own affair. Lida had never known what her mother's
youth had been, and after her death there would be no further
supervision. They had met by chance on life's road, and had gone part
of the way together. Was that any reason why they should mutually
oppose each other?
Lida saw plainly that she would never have the same freedom which her
brother possessed. That she had ever thought so was due to the
influence of this calm, strong man whom she affectionately admired.
Strange thoughts came to her, thoughts of an illicit nature.
"If he were not my brother, but a stranger!..." she said to herself, as
she hastily strove to suppress the shameful and yet alluring
Then she remembered Novikoff and like a humble slave longed for his
pardon and his love. She heard steps and looked round. Novikoff and
Sanine came to her silently across the grass. She could not discern
their faces in the dusk, yet she felt that the dreaded moment was at
hand. She turned very pale, and it seemed as if life was about to end.
"There!" said Sanine, "I have brought Novikoff to you. He will tell you
himself all that he has to tell. Stay here quietly, while I will go and
get some tea."
Turning on his heel, he walked swiftly away, and for a moment they
watched his white shirt as he disappeared in the gloom. So great was
the silence that they could hardly believe that he had gone farther
than the shadow of the surrounding trees.
"Lidia Petrovna," said Novikoff gently, in a voice so sad and touching
that it went to her heart.
"Poor fellow," she thought, "how good he is."
"I know everything, Lidia Petrovna," continued Novikoff, "but I love
you just as much as ever. Perhaps some day you will learn to love me.
Tell me, will you be my wife?"
"I had better not say too much about _that_," he thought, "she must
never know what a sacrifice I am making for her."
Lida was silent. In such stillness one could hear the rippling of the
"We are both unhappy," said Novikoff, conscious that these words came
from the depth of his heart. "Together perhaps we may find life
Lida's eyes were filled with tears of gratitude as she turned towards
him and murmured, "Perhaps."
Yet her eyes said, God knows I will be a good wife to you, and love and
Novikoff read their message. He knelt down impetuously, and seizing her
hand, kissed it passionately. Roused by such emotion, Lida forgot her
"That's over!" she thought, "and I shall be happy again! Dear, good
fellow!" Weeping for joy, she gave him both her hands, and bending over
his head she kissed his soft, silky hair which she had always admired.
A vision rose before her of Sarudine, but it instantly vanished.
When Sanine returned, having given them enough time, as he thought, for
a mutual explanation, he found them seated, hand in hand, engaged in
"Aha! I see how it is!" said Sanine gravely.
"Thank God, and be happy."
He was about to say something else, but sneezed loudly instead.
"It's damp out here. Mind you don't catch cold," he added, rubbing his
Lida laughed. The echo of her voice across the river Hounded charming.
"I must go," said Sanine, after a pause.
"Where are you going?" asked Novikoff.
"Svarogitsch and that officer who admires Tolstoi, what's his name? a
lanky German fellow, have called for me."
"You mean Von Deitz," said Lida, laughing.
"That's the man. They wanted us all to come with them to a meeting, but
I said that you were not at home."
"Why did you do that?" asked Lida, still laughing; "we might have gone,
"No, you stop here," replied Sanine. "If I had anybody to keep me
company, I should do the same."
With that he left them.
Night came on apace, and the first trembling star were mirrored in the
swiftly flowing stream.
The evening was dark and sultry. Above the trees clouds chased each
other across the sky, hurrying onward as to some mysterious goal. In
pale green spaces overhead faint stars glimmered and then vanished.
Above, all was commotion, while the earth seemed waiting, as in
breathless suspense. Amid this silence, human voices in dispute sounded
harsh and shrill.
"Anyhow," exclaimed Von Deitz, blundering along in unwieldy fashion,
"Christianity has enriched mankind with an imperishable boon, being the
only system of morals that is complete and comprehensible."
"Quite so," replied Yourii, who walked behind the last speaker tossing
his head defiantly, and glaring at the officer's back, "but in its
conflict with the bestial instincts of mankind Christianity has proved
itself to be as impotent as all the other religions."
"How do you mean, 'proved itself to be'?" exclaimed Von Deitz angrily.
"To Christianity belongs the future, and to suggest that it is
"There is no future for Christianity," broke in Yourii vehemently. "If
at the zenith of its development Christianity could not triumph, but
became the tool of a shameless gang of impostors, it would be nothing
short of absurd to expect a miracle nowadays, when even the word
Christianity sounds grotesque. History is inexorable; what has once
disappeared from the scene can never return."
"Do you mean to say that Christianity has disappeared from the scene?"
shrieked Von Deitz.
"Certainly, I do," continued Yourii obstinately. "You seem as surprised
as if such an idea were utterly impossible. Just as the law of Moses
has passed away, just as Buddha and the gods of Greece are dead, so,
too, Christ is dead. It is but the law of evolution. Why should you be
so amazed? You don't believe in the divinity of his doctrine, do you?"
"No, of course not," retorted Von Deitz, less irritated at the question
than at Yourii's offensive tone.
"Then how can you maintain that a man is able to create eternal laws?"
"Idiot!" thought Yourii, agreeably convinced that the other was
infinitely less intelligent than he, and would never be able to
comprehend what was as plain and clear as noonday.
"Supposing it were so," rejoined Von Deitz, nettled, in his turn. "The
future will nevertheless have Christianity as its basis. It has not
perished, but, like seed in the soil ..."
"I was not talking about that," said Yourii, confused somewhat, and
thus the more vexed, "what I meant to say ..."
"No, excuse me, but that's what you said...."
"If I said no, then I meant no! How absurd you are!" interrupted
Yourii, rendered more furious by the thought that this stupid Von Deitz
should for a moment presume to think himself the cleverer. "I meant to
"That may be. I am sorry if I misunderstood you." Von Deitz shrugged
his narrow shoulders, with an air of condescension, as much as to say
that he had got the best of the argument.
This was not lost upon Yourii, whose fury almost choked him.
"I do not deny that Christianity has played an enormous part ..."
"Ah! now you contradict yourself," exclaimed Von Deitz, more triumphant
than ever, being intensely pleased to feel how incomparably superior he
was to Yourii, who obviously had not the remotest conception of what
was so neatly and definitely set out in his own brain.
"To _you_ it may seem that I am contradicting myself," said Yourii
bitterly, "but, as a matter of fact, my Contention is a perfectly
logical one, and it is not my fault if you don't wish to understand me.
I said before, and I say again, that Christianity is played out, and it
is vain to look to it for salvation."
Yes, yes; but do you mean to deny the salutary influence of
Christianity, that is to say, as the basis of social order? ..."
"No, I don't deny that."
"But I do," interposed Sanine, who till now had walked behind them in
silence. His voice sounded calm and pleasant, in strange contrast to
the harsh accent of the disputants.
Yourii was silent. This good-tempered, mocking tone of voice annoyed
him, yet he had no answer ready. He was not fond of arguing with
Sanine, for his usual vocabulary proved useless in such an encounter.
Every time it seemed as if he were trying to break down a wall while
standing on smooth ice.
Von Deitz, however, stumbling along and rattling his spurs, exclaimed
"May I ask why?"
"Because I do," replied Sanine coolly.
"Because you do! If one asserts a thing, one ought to prove it."
"Why must I prove it? There is no need to prove anything. It is my own
personal conviction, but I have not the slightest wish to convince you.
Besides, it would be useless."
"According to your line of reasoning," observed Yourii cautiously, "one
had better make a bonfire of all literature."
"Oh no I Why do that?" replied Sanine. "Literature is a very great, and
a very interesting thing. Real literature, such as I mean, is not
polemical after the manner of some prig who, having nothing to do,
endeavours to convince everybody that he is extremely intelligent.
Literature reconstructs life, and penetrates even to the very life-
blood of humanity, from generation to generation. To destroy literature
would be to take away all colour from life and make it insipid."
Von Deitz stopped short, letting Yourii pass him, and then he asked
"Oh! pray tell me more I What you were saying just now interests me
"What I said was simple enough. I can explain my point at greater
length, if you wish. In my opinion Christianity has played a sorry part
in the life of humanity. At the very moment when human beings felt that
their lot was unbearable, and when the down-trodden and oppressed,
coming to their senses, had determined to upset the monstrously unjust
order of things, and to destroy all human parasites--then, I say,
Christianity made its appearance, gentle, humble, and promising much.
It condemned strife, held out visions of eternal bliss, lulled mankind
to sweet slumber, and preached a religion of non-resistance to ill-
treatment; in short, it acted as a safety-valve for all this pent-up
wrath. Those of powerful character, nurtured amid a spirit of revolt,
and longing to shake off the yoke of centuries, lost all their fire.
Like imbeciles, they walked into the arena and, with courage worthy of
a better aim, courted destruction. Naturally, their enemies wished for
nothing better. And now it will need centuries of infamous oppression
before the flame of revolt shall again be lighted. Christianity has
clothed human individuality, too obstinate ever to accept slavery, with
a garb of penitence, hiding under it all the colours of liberty. It
deceived the strong who to-day could have captured fortune and
happiness, transferring life's centre of gravity to the future, to a
dreamland that does not exist, and that none of them will ever see. And
thus all the charm of life vanished; bravery, passion, beauty, all were
dead; duty alone remained, and the dream of a future golden age--golden
maybe, for others, coming after. Yes, Christianity has played a sorry
part; and the name of Christ ..."
"Well! I never!" broke in Von Deitz, as he stopped short, waving his
long arms in the dusk. "That's really a bit too much!"
"Yet, have you never thought what a hideous era of bloodshed would have
supervened if Christianity had Dot averted it?" asked Yourii nervously.
"Ha! ha!" replied Sanine, with a disdainful gesture, "at first, under
the cloak of Christianity, the arena was drenched with the blood of the
martyrs, and then, later, people were massacred and shut up in prisons
and mad-houses. And now, every day, more blood is spilt than ever could
be shed by a universal revolution. The worst of it all is that each
betterment in the life of humanity has always been achieved by
bloodshed, anarchy and revolt, though men always affect to make
humanitarianism and love of one's neighbour the basis of their lives
and actions. The whole thing results in a stupid tragedy; false,
hypocritical, neither flesh nor fowl. For my part, I should prefer an
immediate world-catastrophe to a dull, vegetable-existence lasting
probably another two thousand years."
Yourii was silent. Strange to say, his thoughts were not fixed upon the
speaker's words, but upon the speaker's personality. The latter's
absolute assurance he considered offensive, in fact insupportable.
"Would you, please, tell me," he began, irresistibly impelled to wound
Sanine, "why you always talk as if you were teaching little children?"
Von Deitz, feeling uneasy at this speech, uttered something
conciliatory, and rattled his spurs.
"What do you mean by that?" asked Sanine sharply, "why are you so
Yourii felt that his speech was discourteous, and that he ought not to
go any farther, yet his wounded self-respect drove him to add:
"Such a tone is really most unpleasant."
"It is my usual tone," replied Sanine, partly annoyed, and partly
anxious to appease the other.
"Well, it is not always a suitable one," continued Yourii, raising his
voice, "I really fail to see what gives you such assurance."
"Probably the consciousness of being more intelligent than you are,"
replied Sanine, now quite calm.
Yourii stood still, trembling from head to foot.
"Look here!" he exclaimed hoarsely.
"Don't get angry!" interposed Sanine. "I had no wish to offend you, and
only expressed my candid opinion. It is the same opinion that you have
of me, and that Von Deitz has of both of us, and so on. It is only
Sanine spoke in such a frank, friendly way that to show further
displeasure would have been absurd. Yourii was silent, and Von Deitz,
being still concerned on his behalf, again rattled his spurs and
"At any rate I don't tell you my opinion to your face," murmured
"No; and that is where you are wrong. I was listening to your
discussion just now, and the offensive spirit prompted every word you
said. It is merely a question of form. I say what I think, but you
don't say what you think; and that is not in the least interesting. If
we were all more sincere, it would be far more amusing for everybody."
Von Deitz laughed loudly.
"What an original idea!" he exclaimed.
Yourii did not reply. His anger had subsided, and he felt almost
pleased, though it irked him to think that he had got the worst of it,
and would not admit this.
"Such a state of things might be somewhat too primitive," added Von
"Then, you had rather that it were complicated and obscure?" asked
Von Deitz shrugged his shoulders, lost in thought.
Leaving the boulevard behind them, they passed along the dreary streets
lying outside the town, though they were better lighted than the
boulevard. The wood-pavement stood out clearly against the black
ground, and above loomed the pale cloud-covered heaven, where here and
there stars gleamed.
"Here we are," said Von Deitz as he opened a low door and disappeared
through it. Immediately afterwards they heard the hoarse bark of a dog,
and a voice exclaiming, "Lie down, Sultan." Before them lay a large
empty courtyard at the farther side of which they discerned a black
mass. It was a steam mill, and its narrow chimney pointed sadly to the
sky. Round about it were dark sheds, but no trees, except in a small
garden in front of the adjoining house. Through an open window a ray of
light touched their green leaves.
"A dismal kind of place," said Sanine.
"I suppose the mill has been here a long while?" asked Yourii.
"Oh! yes, for ever so long!" replied Von Deitz who, as he passed,
looked through the lighted window, and in a tone of satisfaction said,
"Oho! Quite a lot of people, already."
Yourii and Sanine also looked in at the window and saw heads moving in
a dim cloud of blue smoke. A broad-shouldered man with curly hair leant
over the sill and called out, "Who's there?"
"Friends!" replied Yourii.
As they went up the steps they pushed against some one who shocks hands
with them in friendly fashion.
"I was afraid that you wouldn't come!" said a cheery voice in a strong
"Soloveitchik--Sanine," said Von Deitz, introducing the two, and
grasping the former's cold, trembling hand.
Soloveitchik laughed nervously.
"So pleased to meet you!" he said. "I have heard so much about you,
and, you know--" He stumbled backwards still holding Sanine's hand. In
doing so he fell Against Yourii, and trod on Von Deitz's foot.
"I beg your pardon, Jakof Adolfovitch!" he exclaimed, as he proceeded
to shake Von Deitz's hand with great energy. Thus it was some time
before in the darkness they could find the door. In the ante-room, on
tows of nails put up specially for this evening by orderly
Soloveitchik, hung hats and caps, while close to the window were dark
green bottles containing beer. Even the ante-room was filled with
In the light Soloveitchik appeared to be a young dark-eyed Jew with
curly hair, small features, and bad teeth which, as he was continually
smiling, were always displayed.
The newcomers were greeted with a noisy chorus of welcome. Yourii saw
Sina Karsavina sitting on the window-sill, and instantly everything
seemed to him bright and joyous, as if the meeting were not in a stuffy
room full of smoke, but at a festival amid fair green meadows in
Sina, slightly confused, smiled at him pleasantly.
"Well, sirs, I think we are all here, now," exclaimed Soloveitchik,
trying to speak in a loud, cheery way with his feeble, unsteady voice,
and gesticulating in ludicrous fashion.
"I beg your pardon, Yourii Nicolaijevitch; I seem to be always pushing
against you," he said, laughing, as he lurched forward in an endeavour
to be polite.
Yourii good-humouredly squeezed his arm.
"That's all right," he said.
"We're not all here, but deuce take the others!" cried a burly, good-
looking student. His loud tradesman's voice made one feel that he was
used to ordering others about.
Soloveitchik sprang forward to the table and rang a little bell. He
smiled once more, and this time for sheer satisfaction at having
thought of using a bell.
"Oh I none of that!" growled the student. "You've always got some silly
nonsense of that sort. It's not necessary in the least."
"Well ... I thought ... that...." stammered Soloveitchik, as, looking
embarrassed, he put the bell in his pocket.
"I think that the table should be placed in the middle of the room,"
said the student.
"Yes, yes, I am going to move it directly!" replied Soloveitchik, as he
hurriedly caught hold of the edge of the table.
"Mind the lamp!" cried Dubova.
"That's not the way to move it!" exclaimed the student, slapping his
"Let me help you," said Sanine.
"Thank you! Please!" replied Soloveitchik eagerly.
Sanine set the table in the middle of the room, and as he did so, the
eyes of all were fixed on his strong back and muscular shoulders which
showed through his thin shirt.
"Now, Goschienko, as the initiator of this meeting, it is for you to
make the opening speech," said the pale-faced Dubova, and from the
expression in her eyes it was hard to say if she were in earnest, or
only laughing at the student.
"Ladies and gentlemen," began Goschienko, raising his voice, "everybody
knows why we have met here to-night, and so we can dispense with any
"As a matter of fact," said Sanine, "I don't know why I came here,
but," he added, laughing, "it may have been because I was told that
there would be some beer."
Goschienko glanced contemptuously at him over the lamp, and continued:
"Our association is formed for the purpose of self-education by means
of mutual readings, and debates, and independent discussions--"
"Mutual readings? I don't understand," interrupted Dubova in a tone of
voice that might have been thought ironical.
Goschienko blushed slightly.
"I meant to say readings in which all take part. Thus, the aim of our
association is for the development of individual opinion which shall
lead to the formation in town of a league in sympathy with the social
"Aha!" drawled Ivanoff, as he scratched the back of his head.
"But with that we shall deal later on. At the commencement we shall not
set ourselves to solve such great--"
"Or small ..." prompted Dubova.
"Problems," continued Goschienko, affecting not to hear. "We shall
begin by making out a programme of such works as we intend to read, and
I propose to devote the present evening to this purpose."
"Soloveitchik, are your workmen coming?" asked Dubova.
"Yes, of course they are!" replied Soloveitchik, jumping up as if he
had been stung. "We have already sent to fetch them."
"Soloveitchik, don't shout like that!" exclaimed Goschienko.
"Here they are!" said Schafroff, who was listening to Goschienko's
words with almost reverent attention.
Outside, the gate creaked, and again the dog's gruff bark was heard.
"They've come!" cried Soloveitchik as he rushed out of the room.
"Lie down, Sultan!" he shouted from the house-door.
There was a sound of heavy footseps of coughing, and of men's voices.
Then a young student from the Polytechnic School entered, very like
Goschienko, except that he was dark and plain. With him, looking
awkward and shy, came two workmen, with grimy hands, and wearing short
jackets over their dirty red shirts. One of them was very tall and
gaunt, whose clean-shaven, sallow face bore the mark of years of semi-
starvation, perpetual care and suppressed hatred. The other had the
appearance of an athlete, being broad-shouldered and comely, with curly
hair. He looked about him as a young peasant might do when first coming
to a town. Pushing past them, Soloveitchik began solemnly, "Gentlemen,
"Oh! that'll do!" cried Goschienko, interrupting him, as usual. "Good
"Pistzoff and Koudriavji," said the Polytechnic student.
The men strode cautiously into the room, stiffly grasping the hands
held out to give them a singularly courteous welcome. Pistzoff smiled
confusedly, and Koudriavji moved his long neck about as if the collar
of his shirt were throttling him. Then they sat down by the window,
"Why hasn't Nicolaieff come?" asked Goschienko sharply.
"Nicolaieff was not able to come," replied Pistzoff.
"Nicolaieff is blind drunk," added Koudriavji in a dry voice.
"Oh! I see," said Goschienko, as he shook his head. This movement on
his part, which seemed to express compassion, exasperated Yourii, who
saw in the big student a personal enemy.
"He chose the better part," observed Ivanoff.
Again the dog barked in the courtyard.
"Some one else is coming," said Dubova.
"Probably, the police," remarked Goschienko with feigned indifference.
"I am sure that you would not mind if it were the police," cried
Sanine looked at her intelligent eyes, and the plait of fair hair
falling over her shoulder, which almost made her face attractive.
"A smart girl, that!" he thought.
Soloveitchik jumped up as if to run out, but, recollecting himself,
pretended to take a cigarette from the table. Goschienko noticed this,
and, without replying to Dubova, said:
"How fidgety you are, Soloveitchik!"
Soloveitchik turned crimson and blinked his eyes ruefully. He felt
vaguely conscious that his zeal did not deserve to be so severely
rebuked. Then Novikoff noisily entered.
"Here I am!" he exclaimed, with a cheery smile.
"So I see," replied Sanine.
Novikoff shook the other's hand and whispered hurriedly, as if by way
of excuse, "Lidia Petrovna has got visitors."
"Have we only come here to talk?" asked the Polytechnic student with
some irritation. "Do let us make a start."
"Then you have not begun yet?" said Novikoff, evidently pleased. He
shook hands with the two workmen, who hastily rose from their seats. It
was embarrassing to meet the doctor as a fellow-comrade, when at the
hospital he was wont to treat them as his inferiors.
Goschienko, looking rather annoyed, then began.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are naturally all desirous to widen our
outlook, and to broaden our views of life; and, believing that the best
method of self-culture and of self-development lies in a systematic
course of reading and an interchange of opinions regarding the books
read, we have decided to start this little club...."
"That's right," sighed Pistzoff approvingly, as he looked round at the
company with his bright, dark eyes.
"The question now arises: What books ought we to read? Possibly some
one here present could make a suggestion regarding the programme that
should be adopted?"
Schafroff put on his glasses and slowly stood up. In his hand he held a
"I think," he began in his dry, uninteresting voice, "I think that our
programme should be divided into two parts. For the purpose of
intellectual development two elements are undoubtedly necessary: the
study of life from Its earliest stages, and the study of life as it
"Schafroff's getting quite eloquent," cried Dubova.
"Knowledge of the former can be gained by reading standard books of
historical and scientific value, and knowledge of the latter, by
_belles lettres_, which bring us face to face with life."
"If you go on talking to us like this, we shall soon fall fast asleep."
Dubova could not resist making this remark, and in her eyes there was a
roguish twinkle. "I am trying to speak in such a way as to be
understood by all," replied Schafroff gently.
"Very well! Speak as best you can!" said Dubova with a gesture
expressing her resignation.
Sina Karsavina laughed at Schafroff, too, in her pretty way, tossing
back her head and showing her white, shapely throat. Hers was a rich,
"I have drawn up a programme--but perhaps it would bore you if I read
it out?" said Schafroff, with a furtive glance at Dubova. "I propose to
begin with 'The Origin of the Family' side by side with Darwin's works,
and, in literature, we could take Tolstoi."
"Of course, Tolstoi!" said Von Deitz, looking extremely pleased with
himself as he proceeded to light a cigarette.
Schafroff paused until the cigarette was lighted, and then continued
"Tchekhof, Ibsen, Knut Hamsun--"
"But we've read them all!" exclaimed Sina Karsavina.
Her delightful voice thrilled Yourii, and he said:
"Of course! Schafroff forgets that this is not a Sunday school. What a
strange jumble, too! Tolstoi and Knut Hamsun--"
Schafroff blandly adduced certain arguments in support of his
programme, yet in so diffuse a way that no one could understand him.
"No," said Yourii with emphasis, delighted to observe Sina Karsavina
looking at him, "No, I don't agree with you." He then proceeded to
expound his own views on the subject, and the more he spoke, the more
he strove to win Sina's approval, mercilessly attacking Schafroff's
scheme, and even those points with which he himself was in sympathy.
The burly Goschienko now gave his views on the subject. He considered
himself the cleverest, most eloquent and most cultured of them all;
moreover in a little club like this, which he had organized, he
expected to play first fiddle. Yourii's success annoyed him, and he
felt bound to go against him. Being ignorant of Svarogitsch's opinions,
he could not oppose them _en bloc_, but only fixed upon certain weak
points in his argument with which he stubbornly disagreed.
Thereupon a lengthy and apparently interminable discussion ensued. The
Polytechnic student, Ivanoff, and Novikoff all began to argue at once,
and through clouds of tobacco-smoke hot, angry faces could be seen,
while words and phrases were hopelessly blent in a bewildering chaos
devoid at last of all meaning.
Dubova gazed at the lamp, listening and dreaming. Sina Karsavina paid
no attention, but opened the window facing the garden, and, folding her
arms, leaned over the sill and looked out at the night. At first she
could distinguish nothing, but gradually out of the gloom the dark
trees emerged, and she saw the light on the garden-fence and the grass.
A soft, refreshing breeze fanned her shoulders and lightly touched her
Looking upwards, Sina could watch the swift procession of the clouds.
She thought of Yourii and of her love. Her mood, if pleasurably
pensive, was yet a little sad. It was so good to rest there, exposed to
the cool night wind, and listen with all her heart to the voice of one
man which to her ears sounded clearer and more masterful than the rest.
Meanwhile the din grew greater, and it was evident that each person
thought himself more cultivated and intelligent than his neighbours and
was striving to convert them. Matters at last became so unpleasant that
the most peaceable among them lost their tempers.
"If you judge like that," shouted Yourii, his eyes flashing, for he was
anxious not to yield in the presence of Sina, though she could only
hear his voice, "then we must go back to the origin of all ideas...."
"What ought we, then, in your opinion to read?" said the hostile
"What you ought to read? Why, Confucius, the Gospels, Ecclesiastes ..."
"The Psalms and the Apocrypha," was the Polytechnic student's mocking
Goschienko laughed maliciously, oblivious of the fact himself had never
read one of these works.
"Of what good would that be?" asked Schafroff in a tone of
"It's like they do in church!" tittered Pistzoff.
Yourii's face flushed.
"I am not joking. If you wish to be logical, then ..."
"Ah! but what did you say to me just now about Christ?" cried Von Deitz
"What did I say?...If one wishes to study life, and to form some
definite conception of the mutual relationship of man to man, surely
the best way is to get a thorough knowledge of the Titanic work of
those who, representing the best models of humanity, devoted their
lives to the solution of the simplest and most complex problems with
regard to human relationships."
"There I don't agree with you," retorted Goschienko.
"But I do," cried Novikoff hotly.
Once more all was confusion and senseless uproar, during which it was
impossible to hear either the beginning or the end of any utterance.
Reduced to silence by this war of words, Soloveitchik sat in a corner
and listened. At first the expression on his face was one of intense,
almost childish interest, but after a while his doubt and distress were
shown by lines at the corners of his mouth and of his eyes.
Sanine drank, smoked, and said nothing. He looked thoroughly bored, and
when amid the general clamour some of the voices became unduly violent,
he got up, and extinguishing his cigarette, said:
"I say, do you know, this is getting uncommonly boring!"
"Yes, indeed!" cried Dubova.
"Sheer vanity and vexation of spirit!" said Ivanoff, who had been
waiting for a fitting moment to drag in this favourite phrase of his.
"In what way?" asked the Polytechnic student, angrily.
Sanine took no notice of him, but, turning to Yourii, said:
"Do you really believe that you can get a conception of life from any
"Most certainly I do," replied Yourii, in a tone of surprise.
"Then you are wrong," said Sanine. "If this were really so, one could
mould the whole of humanity according to one type by giving people
works to read of one tendency. A conception of life is only obtained
from life itself, in its entirety, of which literature and human
thought are but an infinitesimal part. No theory of life can help one
to such a conception, for this depends upon the mood or frame of mind
of each individual, which is consequently apt to vary so long as man
lives. Thus, it is impossible to form such a hard and fast conception
of life as you seem anxious to ..."
"How do you mean--'impossible'?" cried Yourii angrily.
Sanine again looked bored, as he answered:
"Of course it's impossible. If a conception of life were the outcome of
a complete, definite theory, then the progress of human thought would
soon be arrested; in fact it would cease. But such a thing is
inadmissible. Every moment of life speaks its new word, its new message
to us, and, to this we must listen and understand it, without first of
all fixing limits for ourselves. After all, what's the good of
discussing it? Think what you like. I would merely ask why you, who
have read hundreds of books from Ecclesiastes to Marx, have not yet
been able to form any definite conception of life?"
"Why do you suppose that I have not?" asked Yourii, and his dark eyes
flashed menacingly. "Perhaps my conception of life may be a wrong one,
but I have it."
"Very well, then," said Sanine, "why seek to acquire another?"
"Hush!" cried Koudriavji contemptuously, as his neck twitched.
"How clever he is!" thought Sina Karsavina, full of naive admiration
for Sanine. She looked at him, and then at Svarogitsch, feeling almost
bashful, and yet strangely glad. It was as if the two disputants were
arguing as to who should possess her.
"Thus, it follows," continued Sanine, "that you do not need what you
are vainly seeking. To me it is evident that every person here to-night
is endeavouring to force the others to accept his views, being himself
mortally afraid lest others should persuade him to think as they do.
Well, to be quite frank, that is boring."
"One moment! Allow me!" exclaimed Goschienko.
"Oh I that will do!" said Sanine, with a gesture of annoyance. "I
expect that you have a most wonderful conception of life, and have read
heaps of books. One can see that directly. Yet you lose your temper
because everybody doesn't agree with you; and, what is more, you behave
rudely to Soloveitchik, who has certainly never done you any harm."
Goschienko was silent, looking utterly amazed, as if Sanine had said
something most extraordinary.
"Yourii Nicolaijevitch," said Sanine cheerily, "you must not be angry
with me because I spoke somewhat bluntly just now. I can see that in
your soul discord reigns."
"Discord?" exclaimed Yourii, reddening. He did not know whether he
ought to be angry or riot. Just as it had done during their walk to the
meeting, Sanine's calm, friendly voice pleasantly impressed him.
"Ah! you know yourself that it is so!" replied Sanine, with a smile.
"But it won't do to pay any attention to such childish nonsense. Life's
really too short."
"Look here," shouted Goschienko, purple with rage, "You take far too
much upon yourself!"
"Not more than you do."
"Think it out for yourself," said Sanine. "What you say and do is far
ruder and more unamiable than anything that I say."
"I don't understand you!"
"That's not my fault."
To this Sanine made no reply, but taking up his cap, said:
"I'm off. It is getting a bit too dull for me."
"You're right! And there's no more beer!" added Ivanoff, as he moved
towards the ante-room.
"We shan't get along like this; that's very clear," said Dubova.
"Walk back with me, Yourii Nicolaijevitch," cried Sina.
Then, turning to Sanine, she said "Au revoir!"
For a moment their eyes met. Sina felt pleasurably alarmed.
"Alas!" cried Dubova, as she went out, "our little club has collapsed
before it has even been properly started."
"But why is that?" said a mournful voice, as Soloveitchik, who was
getting in every one's way, stumbled forward.
Until this moment his existence had been ignored, and many were struck
by the forlorn expression of his countenance.
"I say, Soloveitchik," said Sanine pensively, "one day I must come and
see you, and we'll have a chat,"
"By all means! Pray do so!" said Soloveitchik, bowing effusively.
On coming out of the lighted room, the darkness seemed so intense that
nobody was able to see anybody else, and only voices were recognizable.
The two workmen kept aloof from the others, and, when they were at some
distance, Pistzoff laughed and said:
"It's always like that, with them. They meet together, and are going to
do such wonders, and then each wants to have it his own way. That big
chap was the only one I liked."
"A lot you understand when clever folk of that sort talk together!"
replied Koudriavji testily, twisting his neck about as if he were being
Pistzoff whistled mockingly in lieu of answer.
Soloveitchik stood at the door for some time, looking up to the
starless sky and rubbing his thin fingers.
The wind whistled round the gloomy tin-roofed sheds, bending the tree-
tops that were huddled together like a troop of ghosts. Overhead, as if
driven by some resistless force, the clouds raced onward, ever onward.
They formed black masses against the horizon, some being piled up to
insuperable heights. It was as though, far away in the distance, they
were awaited by countless armies that, with sable banners all unfurled,
had gone forth in their dreadful might to some wild conflict of the
elements. From time to time the restless wind seemed to bring with it
the clamour of the distant fray.
With childish awe Soloveitchik gazed upwards. Never before had he felt
how small he was, how puny, how almost infinitesimal when confronted
with this tremendous chaos.
"My God! My God!" he sighed.
In the presence of the sky and the night he was not the same man as
when among his fellows. There was not a trace of that restless, awkward
manner, now; the unsightly teeth were concealed by the sensitive lips
of a youthful Jew in whose dark eyes the expression was grave and sad.
He went slowly indoors, extinguished an unnecessary lamp, and clumsily
set the table and the chairs in their places again. The room was still
full of tobacco-smoke, and the floor was covered with cigarette ends
Soloveitchik at once fetched a broom and began to sweep out the rooms,
for he took a pride in keeping his little home clean and neat. Then he
got a bucket of water from a cupboard, and broke bread into it.
Carrying this in one hand, the other being outstretched to maintain his
balance, he walked across the yard, taking short steps. In order to see
better, he had placed a lamp close to the window, yet it was so dark in
the yard that Soloveitchik felt relieved when he reached the dog's
kennel. Sultan's shaggy form, invisible in the gloom, advanced to meet
him, and a chain rattled ominously.
"Ah! Sultan! Kusch! Kusch!" exclaimed Soloveitchik, in order to give
himself courage. In the darkness, Sultan thrust his cold, moist nose
into his master's hand.
"There you are!" said Soloveitchik, as he set down the bucket.
Sultan sniffed, and began to eat voraciously, while his master stood
beside him and gazed mournfully at the surrounding gloom.
"Ah! what can I do?" he thought. "How can I force people to alter
their opinions? I myself expected to be told how to live, and how to
think. God has not given me the voice of a prophet, so, in what way can
Sultan gave a grunt of satisfaction.
"Eat away, old boy, eat away!" said Soloveitchik. "I would let you
loose for a little run, but I haven't got the key, and I'm so tired."
Then to himself, "What clever, well-informed people those are! They
know such a lot; good Christians, very likely; and here am I.... Ah!
well, perhaps it's my own fault. I should have liked to say a word to
them, but I didn't know how to do it."
From the distance, beyond the town, there came the sound of a long,
plaintive whistle. Sultan raised his head, and listened. Large drops
fell from his muzzle into the pail.
"Eat away," said Soloveitchik, "That's the train!"
Sultan heaved a sigh.
"I wonder if men will ever live like that! Perhaps they can't," said
Soloveitchik aloud, as he shrugged his shoulders, despairingly. There,
in the darkness he imagined that he could see a multitude of men, vast,
unending as eternity, sinking ever deeper in the gloom; a succession of
centuries without beginning and without end; an unbroken chain of
wanton suffering for which remedy there was none; and, on high, where
God dwelt, silence, eternal silence.
Sultan knocked against the pail, and upset it. Then, as he wagged his
tail, the chain rattled slightly.
"Gobbled it all up, eh?"
Soloveitchik patted the dog's shaggy coat and felt its warm body writhe
in joyous response to his touch. Then he went back to the house.
He could hear Sultan's chain rattle, and the yard seemed less gloomy
than before, while blacker and more sinister was the mill with its tall
chimney and narrow sheds that looked like coffins. From the window a
broad ray of light fell across the garden, illuminating in mystic
fashion the frail little flowers that shrank beneath the turbulent
heaven with its countless banners, black and ominous, unfolded to the
Overcome by grief, unnerved by a sense of solitude and of some
irreparable loss, Soloveitchik went back into his room, sat down at the
table, and wept.
Volochine owned immense works in St. Petersburg upon which the
existence of thousands of his _employes_ depended.
At the present time, while a strike was in progress, be had turned his
back upon the crowd of hungry, dirty malcontents, and was enjoying a
trip in the provinces. Libertine as he was, he thought of nothing but
women, and in young, fresh, provincial women he displayed an intense,
in fact, an absorbing interest. He pictured them as delightfully shy
and timid, yet sturdy as a woodland mushroom, and their provocative
perfume of youth and purity he scented from afar.
Volochine had clothed his puny little body in virgin white, after
sprinkling himself from head to foot with various essences; and,
although he did not exactly approve of Sarudine's society, he hailed a
_droschky_ and hastened to the latter's rooms.
Sarudine was sitting at the window, drinking cold tea.
"What a lovely evening!" he kept saying to himself, as he looked out on
the garden. But his thoughts were elsewhere. He felt ashamed and
He was afraid of Lida. Since their interview, he had not set eyes on
her. To him she seemed another Lida now, unlike the one that had
surrendered to his passion.
"Anyhow," he thought, "the matter is not at an end yet. The child must
be got rid of ... or shall I treat the whole thing as a joke? I wonder
what she is doing now?"
He seemed to see before him Lida's handsome, inscrutable eyes, and her
lips tightly compressed, vindictive, menacing.
"She may be going to pay me out? A girl of that sort isn't one to be
trifled with. At all costs I shall have to ..."
The prospect of a huge scandal vaguely suggested itself, striking
terror to his craven heart.
"After all," he thought, "what could she possibly do?" Then suddenly it
all seemed quite clear and simple. "Perhaps she'll drown herself? Let
her go to the deuce! I didn't force her to do it! They'll say that she
was my mistress--well, what of that? It only proves that I am a good-
looking fellow. I never said that I would marry her. Upon my word, it's
too silly!" Sarudine shrugged his shoulders, yet the sense of
oppression was not lessened. "People will talk, I expect, and I shan't
be able to show myself," he thought, while his hand trembled slightly
as he held the glass of cold, over-sweetened tea to his lips.
He was as smart and well-groomed and scented as ever, yet it seemed as
if, on his face, his white jacket, and his hands, and even on his
heart, there was a foul stain which became even greater.
"Bah! After a while it will all blow over. And it's not the first time,
either!" Thus he sought to soothe his conscience, but an inward voice
refused to accept such consolation.
Volochine entered gingerly, his boots creaking loudly, and his
discoloured teeth revealed by a condescending smile. The room was
instantly filled with an odour of musk and of tobacco, quite
overpowering the fresh scents of the garden.
"Ah! how do you do, Pavel Lvovitsch!" cried Sarudine as he hastily
Volochine shook hands, sat down by the window and proceeded to light a
cigar. He looked so elegant and self-possessed, that Sarudine felt
somewhat envious, and endeavoured to assume an equally careless
demeanour; but ever since Lida had flung the word "brute" in his face,
he had felt ill at ease, as if every one had heard the insult and was
secretly mocking him.
Volochine smiled, and chatted about various trifling matters. Yet he
found it difficult to keep up such superficial conversation. "Woman"
was the theme that he longed to approach, and it underlay all his stale
jokes and stories of the strike at his St. Petersburg factory.
As he lighted another cigar he took the opportunity of looking hard at
Sarudine. Their eyes met, and they instantly understood each other.
Volochine adjusted his _pince-nez_ and smiled a smile that found its
reflection In Sarudine's face which suddenly acquired a look of lust.
"I don't expect you waste much of your time, do you?" said Volochine,
with a knowing wink.
"Oh! as for that, well, what else is there to do?" replied Sarudine,