Part 5 out of 7
shrugging his shoulders slightly.
Then they both laughed, and for a while were silent. Volochine was
eager to have details of the other's conquests. A little vein just
below his left knee throbbed convulsively. Sarudine, however, was not
thinking of such piquant details, but of the distressing events of the
last few days. He turned towards the garden and drummed with his
fingers on the window-sill.
Yet Volochine was evidently waiting, and Sarudine felt that he must
keep to the desired theme of conversation.
"Of course, I know," he began, with an exaggerated air of nonchalance,
"I know that to you men-about-town these country wenches are
extraordinarily attractive. But you're wrong. They're fresh and plump,
it's true, but they've no _chic_; they don't know how to make love
In a moment Volochine was all animation. His eyes sparkled, and there
was a change in the tone of his voice.
"No, that's quite true. But after a while all that sort of thing is apt
to become boring. Our Petersburg women are not well made. You know what
I mean? They're just bundles of nerves; they've no limbs on them. Now
"Yes, you're right," said Sarudine, growing interested in his turn, as
he twirled his moustache complacently.
"Take off her corset, and the smartest Petersburg woman becomes--Oh! by
the way, have you heard the latest?" said Volochine, interrupting
"No, I dare say not," replied Sarudine, leaning forward, eagerly.
"Well," said the other, "it's an awfully good story about a Parisian
_cocotte_." Then, with much wealth of detail, Volochine proceeded to
relate a spicy anecdote that pleased his companion vastly.
"Yes," said Volochine in conclusion, as he rolled his eyes, "shape's
everything in a woman. If she hasn't got that, well, for me she simply
Sarudine thought of Lida's beauty, and he shrank from discussing it
with Volochine. However, after a pause, he observed with much
"Every one to his taste. What I like most in a woman; is the back; that
sinuous line, don't you know...."
"Yes," drawled Volochine nervously.
"Some women, especially very young ones, have got ..."
The orderly now entered treading clumsily in his heavy boots. He had
come to light the lamp, and during the process of striking matches and
jingling the glass shade, Sarudine and Volochine were silent.
As the flame of the lamp rose, only their glittering eyes and the
glowing cigarette-ends could be seen. When the soldier had gone out,
they returned to their subject, the word "Woman" forming the theme of
talk that became at times grotesque in its obscenity. Sarudine's
instinctive longing to boast, and to eclipse Volochine led him at last
to speak of the splendid woman who had yielded to his charms, and
gradually to reveal his own secret lasciviousness. Before the eyes of
Volochine, Lida was exhibited as in a state of nudity, her physical
attributes and her passion all being displayed as though she were some
animal for sale at a fair. By their filthy thoughts she was touched and
polluted and held up to ridicule. Their love of woman knew no gratitude
for the enjoyment given to them; they merely strove to humiliate and
insult the sex, to inflict upon it indescribable pain.
The smoke-laden atmosphere of the room had become stifling. Their
bodies at fever heat, exhaled an unwholesome odour, as their eyes
gleamed and their voices sounded shrill and rabid as those of wild
Beyond the window lay the calm, clear moonlit night. Bur for them the
world with all its wealth of colour and sound had vanished; all that
their eyes beheld was a vision of woman in her nude loveliness. Soon
their imagination became so heated that they felt a burning desire to
see Lida, whom now they had dubbed Lidka, by way of being familiar.
Sarudine had the horses harnessed, and they drove to a house situated
on the outskirts of the town.
A letter sent by Sarudine to Lida on the day following their interview
fell by chance into Maria Ivanovna's hands. It contained a request for
the permission to see her, and awkwardly suggested that sundry matters
might be satisfactorily arranged. Its pages cast, so Maria Ivanovna
thought, an ugly, shameful shadow upon the pure image of her daughter.
In her first perplexity and distress, she remembered her own youth with
its love, its deceptions, and the grievous episodes of her married
life. A long chain of suffering forged by a life based on rigid laws of
morality dragged its slow length along, even to the confines of old
age. It was like a grey band, marred in places by monotonous days of
care and disappointment.
Yet the thought that her daughter had broken through the solid wall
surrounding this grey, dusty life, and had plunged into the lurid
whirlpool where joy and sorrow and death were mingled, filled the old
woman with horror and rage.
"Vile, wicked girl!" she thought, as despairingly she let her hands
fall into her lap. Suddenly it consoled her to imagine that possibly
things had not gone too far, and her face assumed a dull, almost a
cunning expression. She read and re-read the letter, yet could gather
nothing from its frigid, affected style.
Feeling how helpless she was, the old woman wept bitterly; and then,
having set her cap straight, she asked the maid-servant:
"Dounika, is Vladimir Petrovitch at home?"
"What?" shouted Dounika.
"Fool! I asked if the young gentleman was at home."
"He's just gone into the study. He's writing a letter!" replied
Dounika, looking radiant, as if this letter were the reason for unusual
Maria Ivanovna looked hard at the girl, and an evil light flashed from
her faded eyes.
"Toad! if you dare to fetch and carry letters again, I'll give you a
lesson that you'll never forget."
Sanine was seated at the table, writing. His mother was so little used
to seeing him write, that, in spite of her grief, she was interested.
"What's that you're writing?"
"A letter," replied Sanine, looking up, gaily.
"Oh! to a journalist I know. I think of joining the staff of his
"So you write for the papers?"
Sanine smiled. "I do everything."
"But why do you want to go there?"
"Because I'm tired of living here with you, mother," said Sanine
Maria Ivanovna felt somewhat hurt.
"Thank you," she said.
Sanine looked attentively at her, and felt inclined to tell her not to
be so silly as to imagine that a man, especially one who had no
employment, could care to remain always in the same place. But it irked
him to have to say such a thing; and he was silent.
Maria Ivanovna took out her pocket-handkerchief and crumpled it
nervously in her fingers. If it had not been for Sarudine's letter and
her consequent distress and anxiety, she would have bitterly resented
her son's rudeness. But, as it was, she merely said:
"Ah! yes, the one slinks out of the house like a wolf, and the
A gesture of resignation completed the sentence.
Sanine looked up quickly, and put down his pen.
"What do you know about it?" he asked.
Suddenly Maria Ivanovna felt ashamed that she had read the letter to
Lida. Turning very red, she replied unsteadily, but with some
"Thank God, I am not blind! I can see."
"See? You can see nothing," said Sanine, after a moment's reflection,
"and, to prove it allow me to congratulate you on the engagement of
your daughter. She was going to tell you herself, but, after all, it
comes to the same thing."
"What!" exclaimed Maria Ivanovna, drawing herself up. "Lida is going to
"To Novikoff, of course."
"Yes, but what about Sarudine?"
"Oh! he can go to the devil!" exclaimed Sanine angrily. "What's that to
do with you? Why meddle with other people's affairs?"
"Yes, but I don't quite understand, Volodja!" said his mother,
bewildered, while yet in her heart she could hear the joyous refrain,
"Lida's going to be married, going to be married!"
Sanine shrugged his shoulders.
"What is that you don't understand? She was in love with one man, and
now she's in love with another; and to-morrow she'll be in love with a
third. Well, God bless her!"
"What's that you say?" cried Maria Ivanovna indignantly.
Sanine leant against the table and folded his arms.
"In the course of your life did you yourself only love one man?" he
Maria Ivanovna rose. Her wrinkled face wore a look of chilling pride.
"One shouldn't speak to one's mother like that," she said sharply.
"How do you mean, who?"
"Who shouldn't speak?" said Sanine, as he looked at her from head to
foot. For the first time he noticed how dull and vacant was the
expression in her eyes, and how absurdly her cap was placed upon her
head, like a cock's comb.
"Nobody ought to speak to me like that!" she said huskily.
"Anyhow, I've done so!" replied Sanine, recovering his good temper, and
resuming his pen.
"You've had your share of life," he said, "and you've up right to
prevent Lida from having hers."
Maria Ivanovna said nothing, but stared in amazement at her son, while
her cap looked droller than ever.
She hastily checked all memories of her past youth with its joyous
nights of love, fixing upon this one question in her mind. "How dare he
speak thus to his mother?" Yet before she could come to any decision,
Sanine turned round, and taking her hand said kindly:
"Don't let that worry you, but, you must keep Sarudine out of the
house, for the fellow's quite capable of playing us a dirty trick."
Maria Ivanovna was at once appeased.
"God bless you, my boy," she said. "I am very glad, for I have always
liked Sacha Novikoff. Of course, we can't receive Sarudine; it wouldn't
do, because of Sacha."
"No, just that! Because of Sacha," said Sanine with a humorous look in
"And where is Lida?" asked his mother.
"In her room."
"And Sacha?" She pronounced the pet name lovingly.
"I really don't know. He went to ..." At that moment Dounika appeared
in the doorway, and said:
"Victor Sergejevitsch is here, and another gentleman."
"Turn them out of the house," said Sanine.
Dounika smiled sheepishly.
"Oh! Sir, I can't do that, can I?"
"Of course you can! What business brings them here?"
Dounika hid her face, and went out.
Drawing herself up to her full height, Maria Ivanovna seemed almost
younger, though her eyes looked malevolent. With astonishing ease her
point of view had undergone a complete change, as if by playing a trump
card she had suddenly scored. Kindly as her feelings for Sarudine had
been while she hoped to have him as a son-in-law, they swiftly cooled
when she realized that another was to marry Lida, and that Sarudine had
only made love to her.
As his mother turned to go, Sanine, who noticed her stony profile and
forbidding expression, said to himself, "There's an old hen for you!"
Folding up his letter he followed her out, curious to see what turn
matters would take.
With exaggerated politeness Sarudine and Volochine rose to salute the
old lady, yet the former showed none of his wonted ease of manner when
at the Sanines'. Volochine indeed felt slightly uncomfortable, because
he had come expressly to see Lida, and was obliged to conceal his
Despite his simulated ease, Sarudine looked obviously anxious. He felt
that he ought not to have come. He dreaded meeting Lida, yet he could
on no account let Volochine see this, to whom he wished to pose as a
"Dear Maria Ivanovna," began Sarudine, smiling affectedly, "allow me to
introduce to you my good friend, Paul Lvovitch Volochine."
"Charmed!" said Maria Ivanovna, with frigid politeness, and Sarudine
observed the hostile look in her eyes, which somewhat unnerved him. "We
ought not to have come," he thought, at last aware of the fact, which
in Volochine's society he had forgotten. Lida might come in at any
moment, Lida, the mother of his child; what should he say to her? How
should he look her in the face? Perhaps her mother knew all? He
fidgeted nervously on his chair; lit a cigarette, shrugged his
shoulders, moved his legs, and looked about him right and left.
"Are you making a long stay?" asked Maria Ivanovna of Volochine, in a
cold, formal voice.
"Oh! no," he replied, as he stared complacently at this provincial
person, thrusting his cigar into the corner of his mouth so that the
smoke rose right into her face.
"It must be rather dull for you, here, after Petersburg."
"On the contrary, I think it is delightful. There is something so
patriarchal about this little town."
"You ought to visit the environs, which are charming for excursions and
picnics. There's boating and bathing, too."
"Of course, madam, of course!" drawled Volochine, who was already
The conversation languished, and they all seemed to be wearing smiling
masks behind which lurked hostile eyes. Volochine winked at Sarudine in
the most unmistakable manner; and this was not lost upon Sanine, who
from his corner was watching them closely.
The thought that Volochine would no longer regard him as a smart,
dashing, dare-devil sort of fellow gave Sarudine some of his old
"And where is Lidia Petrovna?" he asked carelessly.
Maria Ivanovna looked at him in surprise and anger. Her eyes seemed to
say: "What is that to you, since you are not going to marry her?"
"I don't know. Probably in her room," she coldly replied.
Volochine shot another glance at his companion.
"Can't you manage to make Lida come down quickly?" it said. "This old
woman's becoming a bore."
Sarudine opened his mouth and feebly twisted his moustache.
"I have heard so many flattering things about your daughter," began
Volochine, smiling, and rubbing his hands, as he bent forward to Maria
Ivanovna, "that I hope to have the honour of being introduced to her."
Maria Ivanovna wondered what this insolent little _roue_ could have
heard about her own pure Lida, her darling child, and again she had a
terrible presentiment of the latter's downfall. It utterly unnerved
her, and for the moment her eyes had a softer, more human expression.
"If they are not turned out of the house," thought Sanine, at this
juncture, "they will only cause further distress to Lida and Novikoff."
"I hear that you are going away?" he suddenly said, looking pensively
at the floor.
Sarudine wondered that so simple an expedient had occurred to him
before. "That's it! A good idea. Two months' leave!" he thought, before
"Yes, I was thinking of doing so. One wants a change you know. By
stopping too long in one place, you are apt to get rusty."
Sanine laughed outright. The whole conversation, not one word of which
expressed their real thoughts and feelings, all this deceit, which
deceived nobody, amused him immensely; and with a sudden sense of
gaiety and freedom he got up, and said:
"Well, I should think that the sooner you went, the better!"
In a moment as if from each a stiff, heavy garb had fallen off, the
other three persons became changed. Maria Ivanovna looked pale and
shrunken, Volochine's eyes expressed animal fear, and Sarudine slowly
and irresolutely rose.
"What do you mean?" he asked in a hoarse voice.
Volochine tittered, and looked about nervously for his hat.
Sanine did not reply to the question, but maliciously handed Volochine
the hat. From the latter's open mouth a stifled sound escaped like a
"What do you mean by that?" cried Sarudine angrily, aware that he was
losing his temper. "A scandal!" he thought to himself.
"I mean what I say," replied Sanine. "Your presence here is utterly
unnecessary, and we shall all be delighted to see the last of you."
Sarudine took a step forward. He looked extremely uncomfortable, and
his white teeth gleamed threateningly, like those of a wild beast.
"Aha! That's it, is it?" he muttered, breathing hard.
"Get out!" said Sanine contemptuously, yet in so terrible a tone that
Sarudine glared, and voluntarily drew back.
"I don't know what the deuce it all means!" said Volochine, under his
breath, as with shoulders raised he hurried to the door.
But there, in the door-way, stood Lida. She was dressed in a style
quite different from her usual one. Instead of a fashionable coiffure,
she wore her hair in a thick plait hanging down her back. Instead of an
elegant costume she was wearing a loose gown of diaphanous texture, the
simplicity of which alluringly heightened the beauty of her form.
As she smiled, her likeness to Sanine became more remarkable, and, in
her sweet, girlish voice she said calmly:
"Here I am. Why are you hurrying away? Victor Sergejevitsch, do put
down your cap!"
Sanine was silent, and looked at his sister in amazement. "Whatever
does she mean?" he thought to himself.
As soon as she appeared, a mysterious influence, at once irresistible
and tender, seemed to make itself felt. Like a lion-tamer in a cage
filled with wild beasts, Lida stood there, and the men at once became
gentle and submissive.
"Well, do you know, Lidia Petrovna ..." stammered Sarudine.
At the sound of his voice, Lida's face assumed a plaintive, helpless
expression, and as she glanced swiftly at him there was great grief at
her heart not unmixed with tenderness and hope. Yet in a moment such
feelings were effaced by a fierce desire to show Sarudine how much he
had lost in losing her; to let him see that she was still beautiful, in
spite of all the sorrow and shame that he had caused her to endure.
"I don't want to know anything," she replied in an imperious, almost a
stagy voice, as for a moment she closed her eyes.
Upon Volochine, her appearance produced an extraordinary effect, as his
sharp little tongue darted out from his dry lips, and his eyes grew
smaller and his whole frame vibrated from sheer physical excitement.
"You haven't introduced us," said Lida, looking round at Sarudine.
"Volochine ... Pavel Lvovitsch ..." stammered the officer.
"And this beauty," he said to himself, "was my mistress." He felt
honestly pleased to think this, at the same time being anxious to show
off before Volochine, while yet bitterly conscious of an irrevocable
Lida languidly addressed her mother.
"There is some one who wants to speak to you," she said.
"Oh! I can't go now," replied Maria Ivanovna.
"But they are waiting," persisted Lida, almost hysterically.
Maria Ivanovna got up quickly.
Sanine watched Lida, and his nostrils were dilated.
"Won't you come into the garden? It's so hot in here," said Lida, and
without looking round to see if they were coming, she walked out
through the veranda.
As if hypnotized, the men followed her, bound, seemingly, with the
tresses of her hair, so that she could draw them whither she wished.
Volochine walked first, ensnared by her beauty, and apparently
oblivious of aught else.
Lida sat down in the rocking-chair under the linden-tree and stretched
out her pretty little feet clad in black open-work stockings and tan
shoes. It was as if she had two natures; the one overwhelmed with
modesty and shame, the other, full of self-conscious coquetry. The
first nature prompted her to look with disgust upon men, and life, and
"Well, Pavel Lvovitsch," she asked, as her eyelids drooped, "What
impression has our poor little out-of-the-way town made upon you?"
"The impression which probably he experiences who in the depth of the
forest suddenly beholds a radiant flower," replied Volochine, rubbing
Then began talk which was thoroughly vapid and insincere, the spoken
being false, and the unspoken, true. Sanine sat silently listening to
this mute but sincere conversation, as expressed by faces, hands, feet
and tremulous accents. Lida was unhappy, Volochine longed for all her
beauty, while Sarudine loathed Lida, Sanine, Volochine, and the world
generally. He wanted to go, yet he could not make a move. He was for
doing something outrageous, yet he could only smoke cigarette after
cigarette, while dominated by the desire to proclaim Lida his mistress
to all present.
"And how do you like being here? Are you not sorry to have left
Petersburg behind you?" asked Lida, suffering meanwhile intense
torture, and wondering why she did not get up and go.
"_Mais au contraire_!" lisped Volochine, as he waved his hand in a
finicking fashion and gazed ardently at Lida.
"Come! come! no pretty speeches!" said Lida, coquettishly, while to
Sarudine her whole being seemed to say:
"You think that I am wretched, don't you? and utterly crushed? But I am
nothing of the kind, my friend. Look at me!"
"Oh, Lidia Petrovna!" said Sarudine, "you surely don't call that a
"I beg your pardon?" asked Lida drily, as if she had not heard, and
then, in a different tone, she again addressed Volochine.
"Do tell me something about life in Petersburg. Here, we don't live, we
Sarudine saw that Volochine was smiling to himself, as if he did not
believe that the former had ever been on intimate terms with Lida.
"Ah! Ah! Ah! Very good!" he said to himself, as he bit his lip
"Oh! our famous Petersburg life!" Volochine, who chattered with ease,
looked like a silly little monkey babbling of things that it did not
"Who knows?" he thought to himself, his gaze riveted on Lida's
"I assure you on my word of honour that our life is extremely dull and
colourless. Until to-day I thought that life, generally, was always
dull, whether in the town or in the country."
"Not really!" exclaimed Lida, as she half closed her eyes.
"What makes life worth living is ... a beautiful woman! And the women
in big towns! If you could only see what they were like! Do you know, I
feel convinced that if the world is ever saved it will be by beauty."
This last phrase Volochine unexpectedly added, believing it to be most
apt and illuminating. The expression of his face was one of stupidity
and greed, as he kept reverting to his pet theme, Woman. Sarudine
alternately flushed and pale with jealousy, found it impossible to
remain in one place, but walked restlessly up and down the path.
"Our women are all alike ... stereotyped and made-up. To find one whose
beauty is worthy of adoration, it is to the provinces that one must go,
where the soil, untilled as yet, produces the most splendid flowers."
Sanine scratched the nape of his neck, and crossed his legs.
"Ah! of what good is it if they bloom here, since there is no one
worthy to pluck them?" replied Lida.
"Aha!" thought Sanine, suddenly becoming interested, "so that's what
she's driving at!"
This word-play, where sentiment and grossness were so obviously
involved, he found extremely diverting.
"Is it possible?"
"Why, of course! I mean what I say, who is it that plucks our
unfortunate blossoms? What men are those whom we set up as heroes?"
rejoined Lida bitterly.
"Aren't you rather too hard upon us?" asked Sarudine.
"No, Lidia Petrovna is right!" exclaimed Volochine, but, glancing at
Sarudine, his eloquence suddenly subsided. Lida laughed outright.
Filled with shame and grief and revenge, her burning eyes were set on
her seducer, and seemed to pierce him through and through. Volochine
again began to babble, while Lida interrupted him with laughter that
concealed her tears.
"I think that we ought to be going," said Sarudine, at last, who felt
that the situation was becoming intolerable. He could not tell why, but
everything, Lida's laughter, her scornful eyes and trembling hands were
all to him as so many secret boxes on the ear. His growing hatred of
her, and his jealousy of Volochine as well as the consciousness of all
that he had lost, served to exhaust him utterly.
"Already?" asked Lida.
Volochine smiled sweetly, licking his lips with the tip of his tongue.
"It can't be helped! Victor Sergejevitsch apparently is not quite
himself," he said in a mocking tone, proud of his conquest.
So they took their leave; and, as Sarudine bent over Lida's hand, he
"This is good-bye!"
Never had he hated Lida as much as at this moment.
In Lida's heart there arose a vague, fleeting desire to bid tender
farewell to all those bygone hours of love which had once been theirs.
But this feeling she swiftly repressed, as she said in a loud, harsh
"Good-bye! _Bon voyage_! Don't forget us, Pavel Lvovitsch!"
As they were going, Volochine's remark could be distinctly heard.
"How charming she is! She intoxicates one, like champagne!"
When they had gone, Lida sat down again in the rocking-chair. Her
position was a different one, now, for she bent forward, trembling all
over, and her silent tears fell fast.
"Come, come! What's the matter?" said Sanine, as he took hold of her
"Oh! don't! What an awful thing life is!" she exclaimed, as her head
sank lower, and she covered her face with her hands, while the soft
plait of hair, slipping over her shoulder, hung down in front.
"For shame!" said Sanine. "What's the use of crying about such
"Are there really no other ... better men, then?" murmured Lida.
"No, certainly not. Man is vile by nature. Expect nothing good from
him.... And then the harm that he does to you will not make you
Lida looked up at him with beautiful tear-stained eyes.
"Do you expect nothing good from your fellow-men, either?"
"Of course not," replied Sanine, "I live alone."
On the following day Dounika, bare-headed and barefooted, came running
to Sanine who was gardening.
"Vladimir Petrovitch," she exclaimed, and her silly face had a scared
look, "the officers have come, and they wish to speak to you." She
repeated the words like a lesson that she had learnt by heart.
Sanine was not surprised. He had been expecting a challenge from
"Are they very anxious to see me?" he asked in a jocular tone.
Dounika, however, must have had an inkling of something dreadful, for
instead of hiding her face she gazed at Sanine in sympathetic
Sanine propped his spade against a tree, tightened his belt and walked
towards the house with his usual jaunty step.
'What fools they are! What absolute idiots!' he said to himself, as he
thought of Sarudine and his seconds. By this no insult was intended; it
was just the sincere expression of his own opinion.
Passing through the house, he saw Lida coming out of her room. She
stood on the threshold; her face white as a shroud, and her eyes,
anxious and distressful. Her lips moved, yet no sound escaped from
them. At that moment she felt that she was the guiltiest, most
miserable woman in all the world.
In an arm-chair in the morning-room sat Maria Ivanovna, looking utterly
helpless and panic-stricken. Her cap that resembled a cock's comb was
poised sideways on her head, and she gazed in terror at Sanine, unable
to utter a word. He smiled at her and was inclined to stop for a
moment, yet he preferred to proceed.
Tanaroff and Von Deitz were sitting in the drawing-room bolt upright,
with their heads close together, as if in their white tunics and tight
riding-breeches they felt extremely uncomfortable. As Sanine entered
they both rose slowly and with some hesitation, apparently uncertain
how to behave.
"Good day, gentlemen," said Sanine in a loud voice, as he held out his
Von Deitz hesitated, but Tanaroff bowed in such an exaggerated way that
for an instant Sanine caught sight of the closely cropped hair at the
back of his neck.
"How can I be of service to you?" continued Sanine, who had noticed
Tanaroff's excessive politeness, and was surprised at the assurance
with which he played his part in this absurd comedy.
Von Deitz drew himself up and sought to give an expression of _hauteur_
to his horse-like countenance; unsuccessfully, however, owing to his
confusion. Strange to say, it was Tanaroff, usually so stupid and shy,
who addressed Sanine in firm, decisive fashion.
"Our friend, Victor Sergejevitsch Sarudine has done us the honour of
asking us to represent him in a certain matter which concerns you and
himself." The sentence was delivered with automatic precision.
"Oho!" said Sanine with comic gravity, as he opened his mouth wide.
"Yes, sir," continued Tanaroff, frowning slightly. "He considers that
your behaviour towards him was not--er--quite ..."
"Yes, yes, I understand," interrupted Sanine, losing patience.
"I very nearly kicked him out of the house, so that 'not--er--quite' is
hardly the right way of putting it."
The speech was lost upon Tanaroff, who went on:
"Well, sir, he insists on your taking back your words."
"Yes, yes," chimed in the lanky Von Deitz, who kept shifting the
position of his feet, like a stork.
"Take them back? How can I do that? 'As uncaged bird is spoken word!'"
Too perplexed to reply, Tanaroff looked Sanine full in the face.
"What evil eyes he has!" thought the latter.
"This is no joking matter," began Tanaroff, looking flushed and angry.
"Are you prepared to retract your words, or are you not?"
Sanine at first was silent.
"What an utter idiot!" he thought, as he took a chair and sat down.
"Possibly I might be willing to retract my words in order to please and
pacify Sarudine," he began, speaking seriously, "the more so as I
attach not the slightest importance to them. But, in the first place,
Sarudine, being a fool, would not understand my motive, and, instead of
holding his tongue, would brag about it. In the second place, I
thoroughly dislike Sarudine, so that, under these circumstances, I
don't see that there is any sense in my retractation."
"Very well, then..." hissed Tanaroff through his teeth.
Von Deitz stared in amazement, and his long face turned yellow.
"In that case..." began Tanaroff, in a louder and would-be threatening
Sanine felt fresh hatred for the fellow as he looked at his narrow
forehead and his tight breeches.
"Yes, yes, I know all about it," he interrupted. "But one thing, let me
tell you; I don't intend to fight Sarudine."
Von Deitz turned round sharply.
Tanaroff drew himself up, and said in a tone of contempt.
"Why not, pray?"
Sanine burst out laughing. His hatred had vanished as swiftly as it had
"Well, this is why. First of all, I have no wish to kill Sarudine, and
secondly, I have even less desire to be killed myself."
"But ..." began Tanaroff scornfully.
"I won't, and there's an end of it!" said Sanine, as he rose. "Why,
indeed? I don't feel inclined to give you any explanation. That were
too much to expect, really!"
Tanaroff's profound contempt for the man who refused to fight a duel
was blended with the implicit belief that only an officer could
possibly possess the pluck and the fine sense of honour necessary to do
such a thing. That is why Sanine's refusal did not surprise him in the
least; in fact, he was secretly pleased.
"That is your affair," he said, in an unmistakably contemptuous tone,
"but I must warn you that ..."
"Yes, yes, I know, but I advise Sarudine not to ..."
"Not to--what?" asked Tanaroff, as he picked up his cap from the
"I advise him not to touch me, or else I'll give him such a thrashing
"Look here!" cried Von Deitz, in a fury. "I'm not going to stand
this... You ... you are simply laughing at us. Don't you understand
that to refuse to accept a challenge is ... is ..."
He was as red as a lobster, his eyes were starting from his head, and
there was foam on his lips.
Sanine looked curiously at his mouth, and said:
"And this is the man whose calls himself a disciple of Tolstoi!"
Von Deitz winced, and tossed his head.
"I must beg of you," he spluttered, ashamed all the while at thus
addressing a man with whom till now he had been on friendly terms. "I
must beg of you not to mention that. It has nothing whatever to do with
"Hasn't it! though?" replied Sanine. "It has a great deal to do with
"Yes, but I must ask you," croaked Von Deitz, becoming hysterical.
"Really, this is too much! In short ..."
"Oh! That'll do!" replied Sanine, drawing back in disgust from Von
Deitz, from whose mouth saliva spurted. "Think what you like; I don't
care. And tell Sarudine that he is an ass!"
"You've no right, sir, I say, you've no right," shouted Von Deitz.
"Very good, very good," said Tanaroff, quite satisfied
"Let us go."
"No!" cried the other, plaintively, as he waved his lanky arms. "How
dare he? ... what business I ... It's simply ..."
Sanine looked at him, and, making a contemptuous gesture, walked out of
"We will deliver your message to our brother-officer," said Tanaroff,
calling after him.
"As you please," said Sanine, without looking round. He could hear
Tanaroff trying to pacify the enraged Von Deitz, and thought to
himself, "As a rule the fellow's an utter fool, but put him on his
hobby-horse, and he becomes quite sensible."
"The matter cannot be allowed to rest thus!" cried the implacable Von
Deitz, as they went out.
From the door of her room, Lida gently called "Volodja!"
Sanine stood still.
"What is it?"
"Come here; I want to speak to you."
Sanine entered Lida's little room where, owing to the trees in front of
the window, soft green twilight reigned. There was a feminine odour of
perfume and powder.
"How nice it is in here," said Sanine, with a sigh of relief.
Lida stood facing the window, and green reflected lights from the
garden flickered round her cheeks and shoulders.
"What do you want with me?" he asked kindly.
Lida was silent, and she breathed heavily.
"Why, what is the matter?"
"Are you--not going to fight a duel?" she asked hoarsely, without
Lida was silent.
"Well, what of that?" said Sanine.
Lida's chin trembled. She turned sharply round and murmured quickly:
"I can't understand that, I can't..."
"Oh!" exclaimed Sanine, frowning. "Well, I'm very sorry for you."
Human stupidity and malice surrounded him on all sides. To find such
qualities alike in bad folk and good folk, in handsome people as in
ugly, proved utterly disheartening.
He turned on his heels and went out.
Lida watched him go, and then, holding her head with both hands, she
flung herself upon the bed. The long black plait lay at full length
along the white coverlet. At this moment Lida, strong, supple and
beautiful in spite of her despair, looked younger, more full of life
than ever. Through the window came warmth and radiance from the garden,
and the room was bright and pleasant. Yet of all this Lida saw nothing.
It was one of those strangely beautiful evenings in late summer that
descend upon earth from the majestic azure vaults of heaven. The sun
had set, but the light was still distinct, and the air pure and clear.
There was a heavy dew, and the dust which had slowly risen formed long
gauze-like strips of cloud against the sky. The atmosphere was sultry
and yet fresh. Sounds floated hither and thither, as if borne on rapid
Sanine, hatless, and wearing his blue shirt that at the shoulders was
slightly faded, sauntered along the dusty road and turned down the
little grass-grown side-street leading to Ivanoff's lodging.
At the window, making cigarettes, sat Ivanoff, broad-shouldered and
sedate, with his long, straw-coloured hair carefully brushed back.
Humid airs floated towards him from the garden where grass and foliage
gained new lustre in the evening dew. The strong odour of tobacco was
an inducement to sneeze.
"Good evening," said Sanine, leaning on the windowsill. "Good evening."
"To-day I have been challenged to fight a duel," said Sanine.
"What fun!" replied Ivanoff carelessly. "With whom, and why?"
"With Sarudine. I turned him out of the house, and he considers himself
"Oho! Then you'll have to meet him," said Ivanoff. "I'll be your
second, and you shall shoot his nose off."
"Why? The nose is a noble part of one's physiognomy. I am not going to
fight," rejoined Sanine, laughing.
"A good thing, too. Duelling is quite unnecessary."
"My sister Lida doesn't think so," said Sanine.
"Because she's a goose," replied Ivanoff. "What a lot of tomfoolery
people choose to believe, don't they?"
So saying, he finished making the last cigarette, which he lighted,
putting the others in his leather cigarette-case.
Then he blew away the tobacco left on the window-sill, and, vaulting
over it, joined Sanine.
"What shall we do this evening?" he asked.
"Let us go and see Soloveitchik," suggested Sanine.
"I don't like him. He is such a worm."
Sanine shrugged his shoulders.
"Not worse than others. Come along."
"All right," said Ivanoff, who always agreed to anything that Sanine
proposed. So they both went along the street together.
Soloveitchik, however, was not at home. The door was shut, and the
courtyard dreary and deserted. Only Sultan rattled his chain and barked
at these strangers who had invaded his yard. "What a ghastly place!"
exclaimed Ivanoff. "Let us go to the boulevard."
They turned back, shutting the gate after them. Sultan barked two or
three times and then sat in front of his kennel, sadly gazing at the
desolate yard, the silent mill and the little white footpaths across
the dusty turf.
In the public garden the band was playing, as usual, and there was a
pleasant breeze on the boulevard, where promenaders abounded. Lit up by
bright feminine toilettes, the dark throng moved now in the direction
of the shady gardens, and now towards the main entrance of massive
On entering the garden arm-in-arm, Sanine and Ivanoff instantly
encountered Soloveitchik who was walking pensively along, his hands
behind his back, and his eyes on the ground.
"We have just been to your place," said Sanine.
Soloveitchik blushed and smiled, as he timidly replied:
"Oh! I beg your pardon! I am so sorry, but I never thought that you
were coming, or else I would have stayed at home. I am just out for a
little walk." His wistful eyes shone.
"Come along with us," said Sanine, kindly, as he took hold of his arm.
Soloveitchik, apparently delighted, accepted the proffered arm, thrust
his cap on the back of his head, and walked along as if, instead of
Sanine's arm, it was something precious that he was holding. His mouth
seemed to reach from ear to ear.
Purple-faced, and with distended cheeks, the members of the regimental
band flung out their deafening, brazen notes upon the air, stimulated
in their efforts by a smartly-dressed bandmaster who looked like a pert
little sparrow, and who zealously flourished his _baton_. Grouped round
the band-stand were clerks, shopmen, schoolboys in Hessian boots, and
little girls wearing brightly-coloured handkerchiefs round their heads.
In the main walks and side-walks, as if engaged in an endless
quadrille, there moved a vivacious throng, composed of officers,
students, and ladies.
They soon met Dubova, Schafroff, and Yourii Svarogitsch, and exchanged
smiles as they passed. Then, after they had strolled through the entire
garden, they again met, Sina Karsavina being now one of the party,
looking charmingly graceful in her light summer dress.
"Why are you walking by yourselves, like that?" if asked Dubova.
"Come; and join us."
"Let us go down one of the side-walks," suggested Schafroff. "Here,
it's so terribly crowded."
Laughing and chatting, the young people accordingly turned aside into a
more shady, quieter avenue. As they reached the end of it and were
about to turn, Sarudine, Tanaroff and Volochine suddenly came round the
corner. Sanine saw at once that Sarudine had not expected to meet him
here, and that he was considerably disconcerted. His handsome face grew
dark, and he drew himself up to his full height. Tanaroff laughed
"That little jackanapes is still here," said Ivanoff, as be stared at
Volochine. The latter had not noticed them, being so much interested in
Sina, who walked first, that he turned round in passing to look at her.
"So he is!" said Sanine, laughing.
Sarudine thought that this laughter was meant for him, and he winced,
as if struck by a whip. Flushed with anger, and impelled as by some
irresistible force, he left his companions, and rapidly approached
"What is it?" said the latter, suddenly becoming serious, while his
eyes were fixed on the little riding-whip in Sarudine's trembling hand.
"You fool!" he thought to himself, as much in pity as in anger.
"I should like a word with you," began Sarudine, hoarsely. "Did you
receive my challenge?"
"Yes," replied Sanine, intently watching every movement of the
"And you have decided to refuse ... er ... to act as any decent man is
bound to act under the circumstances?" asked Sarudine. His voice was
muffled, though loud in tone. To himself it seemed a strange one, as
uncanny as the cold handle of the whip in his moist fingers. But he had
not the strength to turn aside from the path that lay before him.
Suddenly in the garden there seemed to be no air whatever. All the
others stood still, perplexed, and expectant.
"Oh! what the deuce--" began Ivanoff, endeavouring to interpose.
"Of course I refuse," said Sanine in a strangely calm voice, looking
the other straight in the eyes.
Sarudine breathed hard, as if he were lifting a heavy weight.
"Once more I ask you--do you refuse?" His voice had a hard, metallic
Soloveitchik turned very pale. "Oh, dear! Oh! dear! He's going to hit
him!" he thought.
"What ... what is the matter?" he stammered, as he endeavoured to
Scarcely noticing him, Sarudine roughly pushed him aside. He saw
nothing else in front of him but Sanine's cold, calm eyes.
"I have already told you so," said Sanine, in the same tone.
To Sarudine everything seemed whirling round. He heard behind him hasty
footsteps, and the startled cry of a woman. With a sense of despair
such as one who falls headlong into a chasm might feel, he clumsily and
threateningly flourished the whip.
At that same moment Sanine, using all his strength, struck him full in
the face with his clenched fist.
"Good!" exclaimed Ivanoff involuntarily.
Sarudine's head hung limply on one side. Something hot that stabbed his
brain and eyes like sharp needles flooded his mouth and nose.
"Ah!" he groaned, and sank helplessly forward on his hands, dropping
the whip, while his cap fell off. He saw nothing, he heard nothing,
being only conscious of the horrible disgrace, and of a dull burning
pain in his eye.
"Oh! God!" screamed Sina Karsavina, holding her head with both hands,
and shutting her eyes tightly.
Horrified and disgusted at the sight of Sarudine crouching there on all
fours, Yourii, followed by Schafroff, rushed at Sanine. Volochine,
losing his _pince-nez_ as he Stumbled over a bush, ran away as fast as
he could across the damp grass, so that his spotless trousers instantly
became black up to the knees.
Tanaroff ground his teeth with fury, and also dashed forward, but
Ivanoff caught him by the shoulders and pulled him back. "That's all
right!" said Sanine scornfully. "Let him come." He stood with legs
apart, breathing hard, and big drops of sweat were on his brow.
Sarudine slowly staggered to his feet. Faint, incoherent words escaped
from his quivering, swollen lips, vague words of menace that to Sanine
sounded singularly ridiculous. The whole left side of Sarudine's face
had instantly became swollen. His eye was no longer visible; blood was
flowing from his nose and mouth, his lips twitched, and his whole body
shook as if in the grip of a fever. Of the smart, handsome officer
nothing remained. That awful blow had robbed him of all that was human;
it had left only something piteous, terrifying, disfigured. He made no
attempt to go away nor to defend himself. His teeth rattled, and, while
he spat blood, he mechanically brushed the sand from his knees. Then,
reeling forward, he fell down again.
"Oh! how horrible! How horrible!" exclaimed Sina Karsavina, hurrying
away from the spot.
"Come along!" said Sanine to Ivanoff, looking upwards to avoid so
revolting a sight.
"Come along, Soloveitchik."
But Soloveitchik did not stir. Wide-eyed he stared at Sarudine, at the
blood, and the dirty sand on the snow-white tunic, trembling all the
while, as his lips moved feebly.
Ivanoff angrily pulled him along, but Soloveitchik shook him off with
surprising vehemence, and he then clung to the trunk of a tree, as if
he wished to resist being dragged away by main force.
"Oh! why, why, did you do that?" he whimpered.
"What a blackguardly thing to do!" shouted Yourii in Sanine's face.
"Yes, blackguardly!" rejoined Sanine, with a scornful smile. "Would it
have been better, do you suppose, to have let him hit me?"
Then, with a careless gesture, he walked rapidly along the avenue.
Ivanoff looked at Yourii in disdain, lit a cigarette, and slowly
followed Sanine. Even his broad back and smooth hair told one plainly
how little such a scene as this affected him.
"How stupid and brutal man can be!" he murmured to himself.
Sanine glanced round once, and then walked faster.
"Just like brutes," said Yourii, as he went away. He looked back, and
the garden which he had always thought beautiful, and dim, and
mysterious, seemed now, after what had happened, to have been shut off
from the rest of the world, a sombre, dreary place.
Schafroff breathed hard, and looked nervously over his spectacles in
all directions, as if he thought that at any moment, something equally
dreadful might again occur.
In a moment Sarudine's life had undergone a complete change. Careless,
easy, and gay as it had been before, so now it seemed to him distorted,
dire, and unendurable. The laughing mask had fallen; the hideous face
of a monster was revealed.
Tanaroff had taken him home in a _droschky_. On the way he exaggerated
his pain and weakness so as not to have to open his eyes. In this way
he thought that he would avoid the shame levelled at him by thousands
of eyes so soon as they encountered his.
The slim, blue back of the _droschky_ driver, the passers-by,
malicious, inquisitive faces at windows, even Tanaroff's arm round his
waist were all, as he imagined, silent expressions of undisguised
contempt. So intensely painful did this sensation become, that at last
Sarudine almost fainted. He felt as if he were losing his reason, and
he longed to die. His brain refused to recognize what had happened. He
kept thinking that there was a mistake, some misunderstanding, and that
his plight was not as desperate and deplorable as he imagined. Yet the
actual fact remained, and ever darker grew his despair.
Sarudine felt that he was being supported, that he was in pain, and
that his hands were blood-stained and dirty. It really surprised him to
know that he was still conscious of it all. At times, when the vehicle
turned a sharp corner, and swayed to one side, he partially opened his
eyes, and perceived, as if through tears, familiar streets, and houses,
and people, and the church. Nothing had become changed, yet all seemed
hostile, strange, and infinitely remote.
Passers-by stopped and stared. Sarudine instantly shut his eyes in
shame and despair. The drive seemed endless. "Faster! faster!" he
thought anxiously. Then, however, he pictured to himself the faces of
his man-servant, of his landlady, and of the neighbours, which made him
wish that the journey might never end. Just to drive on, drive on,
anywhere, like that, with eyes closed!
Tanaroff was horribly ashamed of this procession. Very red and
confused, he looked straight in front of him, and strove to give
onlookers the impression that he had nothing whatever to do with the
At first he professed to sympathize with Sarudine, but soon relapsed
into silence, occasionally through his clenched teeth urging the
coachman to drive quicker. From this, as also from the irresolute
support of his arm, which at times almost pushed him away, Sarudine
knew exactly what Tanaroff felt. It was this knowledge that a man whom
he held to be so absolutely his inferior should feel ashamed of him,
which convinced Sarudine that all was now at an end.
He could not cross the courtyard without assistance. Tanaroff and the
scared, trembling orderly almost had to carry him. If there were other
onlookers, Sarudine did not see them. They made up a bed for him on the
sofa and stood there, helpless and irresolute. This irritated him
intensely. At last, recovering himself, the servant fetched some hot
water and a towel, and carefully washed the blood from Sarudine's face
and hands. His master avoided his glance, but in the soldier's eyes
there was nothing malicious or scornful; only such fear and pity as
some kind-hearted old nurse might feel.
"Oh! however did this happen, your Excellency? Oh, dear! Oh, dear! What
have they been doing to him?" he murmured.
"It's no business of yours!" hissed Tanaroff angrily; glancing round
immediately afterwards, in confusion. He went to the window and
mechanically took out a cigarette, but uncertain if, while Sarudine lay
there, he ought to smoke, he hurriedly thrust his cigarette-case into
"Shall I fetch the doctor?" asked the orderly, standing at attention,
and unabashed by the rude answer that he had received.
Tanaroff stretched out his fingers irresolutely.
"I don't know," he said in an altered voice, as he again looked round.
Sarudine had heard these words, and was horrified to think that the
doctor would see his battered face. "I don't want anybody," he
murmured feebly, trying to persuade himself and the others that he was
going to die.
Cleansed now from blood and dirt, his face was no longer horrible to
behold, but called rather for compassion.
From mere animal curiosity Tanaroff hastily glanced at him, and then,
in a moment, looked elsewhere. Almost imperceptible as this movement
had been, Sarudine noticed it with unutterable anguish and despair. He
shut his eyes tighter, and exclaimed, in a broken, tearful voice:
"Leave me! Leave me! Oh! Oh!"
Tanaroff glanced again at him. Suddenly a feeling of irritation and
contempt possessed him.
"He's actually going to cry now!" he thought, with a certain malicious
Sarudine's eyes were closed, and he lay quite still. Tanaroff drummed
lightly on the window-sill with his fingers, twirled his moustache,
looked round first, and then, out of the window, feeling selfishly
eager to get away.
"I can't very well, just yet," he thought. "What a damned bore! Better
wait until he goes to sleep."
Another quarter of an hour passed, and Sarudine appeared to be
restless. To Tanaroff such suspense was intolerable. At last the
sufferer lay motionless.
"Aha! he's asleep," thought Tanaroff, inwardly pleased. "Yes, I'm sure
that he is."
He moved cautiously across the room so that the jingling of his spurs
was scarcely audible. Suddenly Sarudine opened his eyes. Tanaroff stood
still, but Sarudine had already guessed his intention, and the former
knew that he had been detected in the act. Now something strange
occurred. Sarudine shut his eyes and pretended to be asleep. Tanaroff
tried to persuade himself that this was the case, while yet perfectly
well aware that each was watching the other; and so, in an awkward,
stooping posture, he crept out of the room on tiptoe, feeling like a
The door closed gently behind him. In such wise were the bonds of
friendship that had bound these two men together broken once and for
all. They both felt that a gulf now lay between them that could never
be bridged; in this world henceforth they could be nothing to each
In the outer room Tanaroff breathed more freely. He had no regret that
all was at end between himself and the man with whom for many years his
life had been spent.
"Look here!" said he to the servant as if, for form's sake, it behoved
him to speak, "I am now going. If anything should happen--well ... you
"Very good, sir," replied the soldier, looking scared.
"So now you know.... And see that the bandage is frequently changed."
He hurried down the steps, and, after closing the garden-gate, he drew
a deep breath when he saw before him the broad, silent street. It was
now nearly dark, and Tanaroff was glad that no one could notice his
"I may even be mixed up in this horrid affair myself," he thought, and
his heart sank as he approached the boulevard. "After all, what have I
got to do with it?"
Thus he sought to pacify himself, endeavouring to forget how Ivanoff
had flung him aside with such force that he almost fell down.
"Deuce take it! What a nasty business! It's all that fool of a
Sarudine! Why did he ever associate with such _canaille_?"
The more he brooded over the whole unpleasantness of this incident, the
more his commonplace figure, as he strutted along in his tightly-
fitting breeches, smart boots, and white tunic, assumed a threatening
In every passer-by he was ready to detect ridicule and scorn; indeed,
at the slightest provocation he would have wildly drawn his sword.
However, he met but few folk that, like furtive shadows, passed swiftly
along the outskirts of the darkening boulevard. On reaching home he
became somewhat calmer, and then he thought again of what Ivanoff had
"Why didn't I hit him? I ought to have given him one in the jaw. I
might have used my sword. I had my revolver, too, in my pocket. I ought
to have shot him like a dog. How came I to forget the revolver? Well,
after all, perhaps it's just as well that I didn't. Suppose I had
killed him? It would have been a matter for the police. One of those
other fellows might have had a revolver, too! A pretty state of things,
eh? At all events, nobody knows that I had a weapon on me, and by
degrees, the whole thing will blow over."
Tanaroff looked cautiously round before he drew out his revolver and
placed it in the table drawer.
"I shall have to go to the colonel at once, and explain to him that I
had nothing whatever to do with the matter," he thought, as he locked
the drawer. Then an irresistible impulse seized him to go to the
officer's mess, and, as an eye-witness, describe exactly what took
place. The officers had already heard about the affair in the public
gardens, and they hurried back to the brilliantly lighted mess-rooms to
give vent in heated language to their indignation. They were really
rather pleased at Sarudine's discomfiture, since often enough his
smartness and elegance in dress and demeanour had served to put them in
Tanaroff was hailed with undisguised curiosity. He felt that he was the
hero of the hour as he began to give a detailed account of the whole
incident. In his narrow black eyes there was a look of hatred for the
friend who had always been his superior. He thought of the money
incident, and of Sarudine's condescending attitude towards him, and he
revenged himself for past slights by a minute description of his
Meanwhile, forsaken and alone, Sarudine lay there upon his couch.
His soldier-servant, who had learnt the whole truth elsewhere, moved
noiselessly about, looking sad and anxious as before. He set the tea-
things ready, fetched some wine, and drove the dog out of the room as
it leaped about for joy at the sight of its master.
After a while the man came back on tiptoe. "Your Excellency had better
have a little wine," he whispered.
"Eh? What?" exclaimed Sarudine, opening his eyes and shutting them
again instantly. In a tone which he thought severe, but which was
really piteous, he could just move his swollen lips sufficiently to
say: "Bring me the looking-glass."
The servant sighed, brought the mirror, and held a candle close to it.
"Why does he want to look at himself?" he thought.
When Sarudine looked in the glass he uttered an involuntary cry. In the
dark mirror a terribly disfigured face confronted him. One side of it
was black and blue, his eye was swollen, and his moustache stuck out
like bristles on his puffy check.
"Here! Take it away!" murmured Sarudine, and he sobbed hysterically.
"Your Excellency mustn't take it so to heart. You'll soon be all right
again," said the kindly soldier, as he proffered water in a sticky
glass which smelt of tea.
Sarudine could not drink; his teeth rattled helplessly against the rim
of the glass, and the water was spilt over his coat.
"Go away!" he feebly moaned.
His servant, so he thought, was the only man in the world who
sympathized with him, yet that kindlier feeling towards him was
speedily extinguished by the intolerable consciousness that his
serving-man had cause to pity him.
Almost in tears, the soldier blinked his eyes and, going out, sat down
on the steps leading to the garden. Fawning upon him, the dog thrust
its pretty nose against his knee and looked up at him gravely with
dark, questioning eyes. He gently stroked its soft, wavy coat. Overhead
shone the silent stars. A sense of fear came over him, as the presage
of some great, inevitable mischance.
"Life's a sad thing!" he thought bitterly, remembering for a moment his
own native village.
Sarudine turned hastily over on the sofa and lay motionless, without
noticing that the compress, now grown warm, had slipped off his face.
"Now all is at an end!" he murmured hysterically, "What is at an end?
Everything! My whole life--done for! Why? Because I've been insulted--
struck like a dog! My face struck with the fist! I can never remain in
the regiment, never!"
He could clearly see himself there, in the avenue, hobbling on all
fours, cowed and ridiculous, as he uttered feeble, senseless threats.
Again and again he mentally rehearsed that awful incident with ever
increasing torture, and, as if illuminated, all the details stood out
vividly before his eyes. That which most irritated him was his
recollection of Sina Karsavina's white dress, of which he caught a
glimpse at the very moment when he was vowing futile vengeance.
"Who was it that lifted me up?" He tried to turn his thoughts into
another channel. "Was it Tanaroff? Or that Jew boy who was with them!
It must have been Tanaroff. Anyhow, it doesn't matter in the least.
What matters is that my whole life is ruined, and that I shall have to
leave the regiment. And the duel? What about that? He won't fight. I
shall have to leave the regiment."
Sarudine recollected how a regimental committee had forced two brother-
officers, married men, to resign because they had refused to fight a
"I shall be asked to resign in the same way. Quite civilly, without
shaking hands ... the very fellows that.... Nobody will feel flattered
now to be seen walking arm-in-arm with me in the boulevard, or envy me,
or imitate my manner. But, after all, that's nothing. It's the shame,
the dishonour of it. Why? Because I was struck in the face? It has
happened to me before when I was a cadet. That big fellow, Schwartz,
gave me a hiding, and knocked out one of my teeth. Nobody thought
anything about it, but we shook hands afterwards, and became the best
of friends. Nobody despised me then. Why should it be different now?
Surely it is just the same thing! On that occasion, too, blood was
spilt, and I fell down. So that ..."
To these despairing questions Sarudine could find no answer.
"If he had accepted my challenge and had shot me in the face, that
would have been worse, and much more painful. Yet no one would have
despised me in that case; on the contrary, I should have had sympathy
and admiration. Thus there is a difference between a bullet and the
fist. What difference is there, and why should there be any?"
His thoughts came swiftly, incoherently, yet his suffering, and
irreparable misfortune would seem to have roused something new and
latent within him of which in his careless years of selfish enjoyment
he had never been conscious.
"Von Deitz, for instance, was always saying, 'If one smite thee on the
right cheek, turn to him the left.' But how did he come back that day
from Sanine's? Shouting angrily, and waving his arms because the fellow
wouldn't accept my challenge! The others are really to blame for my
wanting to hit him with the riding-whip. My mistake was that I didn't
do it in time. The whole thing's absurdly unjust. However, there it is;
the disgrace remains; and I shall have to leave the regiment."
With both hands pressed to his aching brow, Sarudine tossed from side
to side, for the pain in his eye was excruciating. Then, in a fit of
fury, he muttered:
"Get a revolver, rush at him, and put a couple of bullets through his
head ... and then, as he lies there, stamp on his face, on his eyes, on
The compress fell to the floor with a dull thud. Sarudine, startled,
opened his eyes and, in the dimly-lighted room, saw a basin with water,
a towel, and the dark window, that like an awful eye, stared at him
"No, no, there's no help for it now," he thought, in dull despair.
"They all saw it; saw how I was struck in the face, and how I crawled
along on all fours. Oh! the shame of it! Struck like that, in the face!
No, it's too much! I shall never be free or happy again!"
And again through his mind there flashed a new, keen thought.
"After all, have I ever been free? No. That's just why I've come to
grief now, because my life has never been free; because I've never
lived it in my own way. Of my own free will should I ever have wanted
to fight a duel, or to hit him with the whip? Nobody would have struck
me, and everything would have been all right. Who first imagined, and
when, that an insult could only be wiped out with blood? Not I,
certainly. Well, I've wiped it out, or rather, it's been wiped out with
my blood, hasn't it? I don't know what it all means, but I know this,
that I shall have to leave the regiment!"
His thoughts would fain have taken another direction, yet, like birds
with clipped wings, they always fell back again, back to the one
central fact that he had been grossly insulted, and would be obliged to
leave the regiment.
He remembered having once seen a fly that had fallen into syrup
crawling over the floor, dragging its sticky legs and wings along with
the utmost difficulty. It was plain that the wretched insect must die,
though it still struggled, and made frantic efforts to regain its feet.
At the time he had turned away from it in disgust, and now he saw it
again, as in a feverish dream. Then he suddenly thought of a fight that
he had once witnessed between two peasants, when one, with a terrific
blow in the face, felled the other, an elderly, grey-haired man. He got
up, wiped his bloody nose on his sleeve, exclaiming with emphasis,
"What a fool!"
"Yes, I remember seeing that," thought Sarudine, "and then they had
drinks together at the 'Crown.'"
The night drew near to its end. In silence so strange, so oppressive,
it seemed as if Sarudine were the one living, suffering soul left on
earth. On the table the guttering candle was still burning with a
faint, steady, flame. Lost in the gloom of his disordered thoughts
Sarudine stared at it with glittering, feverish eyes.
Amid the wild chaos of impressions and recollections there was one
thing which stood out clearly from all others. It was the sense of his
utter solitude that stabbed his heart like a dagger. Millions of men at
that moment were merrily enjoying life, laughing and joking; some, it
might be, were even talking about him. But he, only he, was alone.
Vainly he sought to recall familiar faces. Yet pale, and strange, and
cold, they appeared to him, and their eyes had a look of curiosity and
malevolent glee. Then, in his dejection, he thought of Lida.
He pictured her as he had seen her last; her large, sad eyes; the thin
blouse that lightly veiled her soft bosom; her hair in a single loose
plait. In her face Sarudine saw neither malice nor contempt. Those dark
eyes gazed at him in sorrowful reproach. He remembered how he had
repulsed her at the moment of her supreme distress. The sense of having
lost her wounded him like a knife.
"She suffered then far more than I do now.... I thrust her from me....
I almost wanted her to drown herself; wanted her to die."
As to a last anchor that should save him, his whole soul turned to her.
He yearned for her caresses, her sympathy. For an instant it seemed to
him as if all his actual sufferings would efface the past; yet he knew,
alas! that Lida would never, never come back to him, and that all was
at an end. Before him lay nothing but the blank, abysmal void!
Raising his arm, Sarudine pressed his hand against his brow. He lay
there, motionless, with eyes closed and teeth clenched, striving to see
nothing, to hear nothing, to feel nothing. But after a little while his
hand dropped, and he sat up. His head ached terribly, his tongue seemed
on fire, and he trembled from head to foot. Then he rose and staggered
to the table.
"I have lost everything; my life, Lida, everything!"
It flashed across him that this life of his, after all, had not been
either good, or glad, or sane, but foolish, perverted and base.
Sarudine, the handsome Sarudine, entitled to all that was best and most
enjoyable in life, no longer existed. There was only a feeble,
emasculated body left to bear all this pain and dishonour.
"To live on is impossible," he thought, "for that would mean the entire
effacement of the past. I should have to begin a new life, to become
quite a different man, and that I cannot do!"
His head fell forward on the table, and in the weird, flickering
candlelight he lay there, motionless.
On that same evening Sanine went to see Soloveitchik. The little Jew
was sitting alone on the steps of his house, gazing at the bare,
deserted space in front of it where several disused pathways crossed
the withered grass. Depressing indeed was the sight of the vacant
sheds, with their huge, rusty locks, and of the black windows of the
mill. The whole scene spoke mournfully of life and activity that long
Sanine instantly noticed the changed expression of Soloveitchik's face.
He no longer smiled, but seemed anxious and worried. His dark eyes had
a questioning look.
"Ah! good evening," he said, as in apathetic fashion he took the
other's hand. Then he continued gazing at the calm evening sky, against
which the black roofs of the sheds stood out in ever sharper relief.
Sanine sat down on the opposite side of the steps, lighted a cigarette,
and silently watched Soloveitchik, whose strange demeanour interested
"What do you do with yourself here?" he asked, after a while.
Languidly the other turned to him his large, sad eyes.
"I just live here, that's all. When the mill was at work, I used to be
in the office. But now it's closed, and everybody's gone away except
"Don't you find it lonely, to be all by yourself, like this?"
Soloveitchik was silent.
Then, shrugging his shoulders, he said: "It's all the same to me."
They remained silent. There was no sound but the rattling of the dog's
"It's not the place that's lonely," exclaimed Soloveitchik with sudden
vehemence. "But it's here I feel it, and here," He touched his forehead
and his breast.
"What's the matter with you?" asked Sanine calmly.
"Look here," continued Soloveitchik, becoming more excited, "you struck
a man to-day, and smashed his face in. Perhaps you have ruined his
whole life. Pray don't be offended at my speaking to you like this. I
have thought a great deal about it all, sitting here, as you see, and
wondering, wondering. Now, if I ask you something, will you answer me?"
For a moment his features were contorted by his usual set smile.
"Ask me whatever you like," replied Sanine, kindly. "You're afraid of
offending me, eh? That won't offend me, I assure you. What's done is
done; and, if I thought that I had done wrong, I should be the first to
"I wanted to ask you this," said Soloveitchik, quivering with
excitement. "Do you realize that perhaps you might have killed that
"There's not much doubt about that," replied Sanine. "It would have
been difficult for a man like Sarudine to get out of the mess unless he
killed me, or I killed him. But, as regards killing me, he missed the
psychological moment, so to speak; and at present he's not in a fit
condition to do me harm. Later on he won't have the pluck. He's played
"And you calmly tell me all this?"
"What do you mean by 'calmly?'" asked Sanine. "I couldn't look on
calmly and see a chicken killed, much less a man. It was painful to me
to hit him. To be conscious of one's own strength is pleasant, of
course, but it was nevertheless a horrible experience--horrible,
because such an act in itself was brutal. Yet my conscience is calm. I
was but the instrument of fate. Sarudine has come to grief because the
whole bent of his life was bound to bring about a catastrophe; and the
marvel is that others of his sort do not share his fate. These are the
men who learn to kill their fellow-creatures and to pamper their own
bodies, not knowing why or wherefore. They are lunatics, idiots! Let
them loose, and they would cut their own throats and those of other
folk as well. Am I to blame because I protected myself from a madman of
"Yes, but you have killed him," was Soloveitchik's obstinate reply.
"In that case you had better appeal to the good God who made us meet."
"You could have stopped him by seizing hold of his hands."
Sanine raised his head.
"In a moment like that one doesn't reflect. And how would that have
helped matters? His code of honour demanded revenge at any price. I
could not have held his hands for ever. It would only have been an
additional insult, nothing more."
Soloveitchik limply waved his hand, and did not reply. Imperceptibly
the darkness closed round them. The fires of sunset paled, and beneath
the deserted sheds the shadows grew deeper, as if in these lonely
places mysterious, dreadful beings were about to take up their abode
during the night. Their noiseless footsteps may have made Sultan
uneasy, for he suddenly crept out of his kennel and sat in front of it,
rattling his chain.
"Perhaps you're right," observed Soloveitchik sadly, "but was it
absolutely necessary? Would it not have been better if you had borne
"Better?" said Sanine. "A blow's always a painful thing. And why? For
"Oh! do, please, hear me out," interrupted Soloveitchik, with a
pleading gesture. "It might have been better--"
"For Sarudine, certainly,"
"No, for you, too; for you, too."
"Oh! Soloveitchik," replied Sanine, with a touch of annoyance, "a truce
to that silly old notion about moral victory; and a false notion, too.
Moral victory does not consist in offering one's cheek to the smiter,
but in being right before one's own conscience. How this is achieved is
a matter of chance, of circumstances. There is nothing so horrible as
slavery. Yet most horrible of all is it when a man whose inmost soul
rebels against coercion and force yet submits thereto in the name of
some power that is mightier than he."
Soloveitchik clasped his head with both hands, as one distraught.
"I've not got the brains to understand it all," he said plaintively.
"And I don't in the least know how I ought to live."
"Why should you know? Live as the bird flies. If it wants to move its
right wing, it moves it. If it wants to fly round a tree, it does so."
"Yes, a bird may do that, but I'm not a bird; I'm a man," said
Soloveitchik with naive earnestness.
Sanine laughed outright, and for a moment the merry sound echoed
through the gloomy courtyard.
Soloveitchik shook his head. "No," he murmured sadly, "all that's only
talk. You can't tell me how I ought to live. Nobody can tell me that."
"That's very true. Nobody can tell you that. The art of living implies
a talent; and he who does not possess that talent perishes or makes
shipwreck of his life."
"How calmly you say that! As if you knew everything! Pray don't be
offended, but have you always been like that--always so calm?" asked
Soloveitchik, keenly interested.
"Oh! no; though certainly my temperament has usually been calm enough,
but there were times when I was harassed by doubts of all kinds. At one
time, indeed, I dreamed that the ideal life for me was the Christian
Sanine paused, and Soloveitchik leaned forward eagerly as if to hear
something of the utmost importance.
"At that time I had a comrade, a student of mathematics, Ivan Lande by
name. He was a wonderful man, of indomitable moral force; a Christian,
not from conviction, but by nature. In his life all Christianity was
mirrored. If struck, he did not strike back; he treated every man as
his brother, and in woman he did not recognize the sexual attraction.
Do you remember Semenoff?"
Soloveitchik nodded, as with childish pleasure.
"Well, at that time Semenoff was very ill. He was living in the Crimea,
where he gave lessons. There, solitude and the presentiment of his
approaching death drove him to despair. Lande heard of this, and
determined to go thither and save this lost soul. He had no money, and
no one was willing to lend any to a reputed madman. So he went on foot,
and, after walking over a thousand versts, died on the way, and thus
sacrificed his life for others."
"And you, oh! do tell me," cried Soloveitchik with flashing eyes, "do
you recognize the greatness of such a man?"
"He was much talked about at the time," replied Sanine thoughtfully.
"Some did not look upon him as a Christian, and for that reason
condemned him. Others said that he was mad and not devoid of self-
conceit, while some denied that he had any moral force; and, since he
would not fight, they declared that he was neither prophet nor
conqueror. I judge him otherwise. At that time he influenced me to the
point of folly. One day a student boxed my ears, and I became almost
mad with rage. But Lande stood there, and I just looked at him and--
Well, I don't know how it was, but I got up without speaking, and
walked out of the room. First of all I felt intensely proud of what I
had done, and secondly I hated the student from the bottom of my heart.
Not because he had struck me, but because to him my conduct must have
been supremely gratifying. By degrees the falseness of my position
became clear to me, and this set me thinking. For a couple of weeks I
was like one demented, and after that I ceased to feel proud of my
false moral victory. At the first ironical remark on the part of my
adversary I thrashed him until he became unconscious. This brought
about an estrangement between Lande and myself. When I came to examine
his life impartially, I found it astonishingly poor and miserable."
"Oh! how can you say that?" cried Soloveitchik. "How was it possible
for you to estimate the wealth of his spiritual emotions?"
"Such emotions were very monotonous. His life's happiness consisted in
the acceptance of every misfortune without a murmur, and its wealth, in
the total renunciation of life's joys and material benefits. He was a
beggar by choice, a fantastic personage whose life was sacrificed to an
idea of which he himself had no clear conception."
Soloveitchik wrung his hands.
"Oh! you cannot imagine how it distresses me to hear this!" he
"Really, Soloveitchik, you're quite hysterical," said Sanine, in
surprise. "I have not told you anything extraordinary. Possibly the
subject is, to you, a painful one?"
"Oh! most painful. I am always thinking, thinking, till my head seems
as if it would burst. Was all that really an error, nothing more? I
grope about, as in a dark room, and there is no one to tell me what I
ought to do. Why do we live? Tell me that."
"Why? That nobody knows."
"And should we not live for the future, so that later on, at least,
mankind may have a golden age?"
"There will never be a golden age. If the world and mankind could
become better all in a moment, then, perhaps, a golden age would be
possible. But that cannot be. Progress towards improvement is slow, and
man can only see the step in front of him, and that immediately behind
him. You and I have not lived the life of a Roman slave, nor that of
some savage of the Stone Age, and therefore we cannot appreciate the
boon of our civilization. Thus, if there should ever be a golden age,
the men of that period will not perceive any difference between their
lives and those of their ancestors. Man moves along an endless road,
and to wish to level the road to happiness would be like adding new
units to a number that is infinite."
"Then you believe that it all means nothing--that all is of no avail?"
"Yes, that is what I think."
"But what about your friend Lande? You yourself were--"
"I loved Lande," said Sanine gravely, "not because he was a Christian,
but because he was sincere, and never swerved from his path, being
undaunted by obstacles either ridiculous or formidable. It was as a
personality that I prized Lande. When he died, his worth ceased to
"And don't you think that such men have an ennobling influence upon
life? Might not such men have followers or disciples?"
"Why should life be ennobled? Tell me that, first of all. And,
secondly, one doesn't want disciples. Men like Lande are born so.
Christ was splendid; Christians, however, are but a sorry crew. The
idea of his doctrine was a beautiful one, but they have made of it a
Tired with talking, Sanine said no more. Soloveitchik remained silent
also. There was great stillness around them, while overhead the stars
seemed to maintain a conversation wordless and unending. Then
Soloveitchik suddenly whispered something that sounded so weird that
Sanine, shuddering, exclaimed:
"What's that you said?"
"Tell me," muttered Soloveitchik, "tell me what you think. Suppose a
man can't see his way clear, but is always thinking and worrying, as
everything only perplexes and terrifies him--tell me, wouldn't it be
better for him to die?"
"Well," replied Sanine, who clearly read the other's thoughts, "perhaps
death in that case would be better. Thinking and worrying are of no
avail. He only ought to live who finds joy in living; but for him who
suffers, death is best."
"That is what I thought, too," exclaimed Soloveitchik, and he excitedly
grasped Sanine's hand. His face looked ghastly in the gloom; his eyes
were like two black holes.
"You are a dead man," said Sanine with inward apprehension, as he rose
to go; "and for a dead man the best place is the grave. Good-bye."
Soloveitchik apparently did not hear him, but sat there motionless.
Sanine waited for a while and then slowly walked away. At the gate he
stopped to listen, but could hear nothing. Soloveitchik's figure looked
blurred and indistinct in the darkness. Sanine, as if in response to a
strange presentiment, said to himself:
"After all, it comes to the same thing whether he lives on like this or
dies. If it's not to-day, then it will be to-morrow." He turned sharply
round; the gate creaked on its hinges, and he found himself in the
On reaching the boulevard he heard, at a distance, some one running
along and sobbing as if in great distress. Sanine stood still. Out of
the gloom a figure emerged, and rapidly approached him. Again Sanine
felt a sinister presentiment.
"What's the matter?" he called out.
The figure stopped for a moment, and Sanine was confronted by a soldier
whose dull face showed great distress.
"What has happened?" exclaimed Sanine.
The soldier murmured something and ran on, wailing as he went. As a
phantom he vanished in the night.
"That was Sarudine's servant," thought Sanine, and then it flashed
"Sarudine has shot himself!"
For a moment he peered into the darkness, and his brow grew cold.
Between the dread mystery of night and the soul of this stalwart man a
conflict, brief yet terrible, was in progress.
The town was asleep; the glimmering roadways lay bare and white beneath
the sombre trees; the windows were like dull, watchful eyes glaring at
the gloom. Sanine tossed his head and smiled, as he looked calmly in
front of him.
"I am not guilty," he said aloud. "One more or less--"
Erect and resolute, he strode onward, an imposing spectre in the silent
The news that two persons had committed suicide on the same night
spread rapidly through the little town. It was Ivanoff who told Yourii.
The latter had just come back from a lesson, and was at work upon a
portrait of Lialia. She posed for him in a light-coloured blouse, open
at the neck, and her pretty shell-pink arms showed through the semi-
transparent stuff. The room was filled with sunlight which lit up her
golden hair, and heightened the charm of her girlish grace.
"Good day," said Ivanoff, as, entering, he flung his hat on to a chair.
"Ah! it's you. Well, what's the news?" asked Yourii, smiling.
He was in a contented, happy mood, for at last he had got some teaching
which made him less dependent upon his father, and the society of his
bright, charming sister served to cheer him, also.
"Oh! lots of news," said Ivanoff, with a vague look in his eyes. "One
man has hanged himself, and another has blown his brains out, and the
devil's got hold of a third."
"What on earth do you mean?" exclaimed Yourii.
"The third catastrophe is my own invention, just to heighten the
effect; but as regards the other two, the news is correct. Sarudine
shot himself last night, and I have just heard that Soloveitchik has
committed suicide by hanging."
"Impossible!" cried Lialia, jumping up. Her eyes expressed horror and
Yourii hurriedly laid aside his palette, and approached Ivanoff.
"You're not joking?"
As usual, he put on an air of philosophic indifference, yet evidently
he was much shocked at what had happened.
"Why did he shoot himself? Because Sanine struck him?"
"Does Sanine know?" asked Lialia anxiously.
"Yes. Sanine heard about it last night," replied Ivanoff.
"And what does he say?" exclaimed Yourii.
Ivanoff shrugged his shoulders. He was in no mood to discuss Sanine
with Yourii, and he answered, not without irritation.
"Nothing. What has it to do with him?"
"Anyhow, he was the cause of it," said Lialia.
"Yes, but what business had that fool to attack him? It is not Sanine's
fault. The whole affair is deplorable, but it is entirely due to
"Oh! I think that the real reason lies deeper," said Yourii sadly.
"Sarudine lived in a certain set that..."
Ivanoff shrugged his shoulders.
"Yes, and the very fact that he lived in, and was influenced by, such
an idiotic set is only proof positive that he was a fool."
Yourii rubbed his hands and said nothing. It pained him to hear the
dead man spoken of thus.
"Well I can understand why Sarudine did it," said Lialia, "but
Soloveitchik? I never would have thought it possible! What was the