Part 3 out of 6
Whispered conversations were heard--lifeless words. The dead walked at
random, without any denned order. At the beginning the voices merged
into a general drone, and only afterwards, by straining one's ears, it
was possible to distinguish separate words and whole phrases.
"Be good yourself, that's the chief thing."
"For mercy's sake--what perversion, what immorality!"
"Plenty of food and plenty of clothes--what more can one want?"
"I haven't sinned much."
"That's what they deserve. Kisses are not for them."
In the beginning all the dead fused into one dark, grey mass. But
gradually, if one looked intently one could distinguish the separate
One nobleman who passed by had a cap with a red band on his head; he
was saying with calm and deliberation:
"The divine right of ownership should be inviolable. We and our
ancestors have built up the Russian land."
Another of the same class, who walked beside him, remarked:
"My motto--autocracy, orthodoxy, and nationality. My credo--a strong
A priest in a black vestment swung a censer, and cried in a tenor
"Every soul should submit to sovereign dominion. The hand that gives
will not grow poorer."
A wise muzhik passed by muttering:
"We know everything, but are not saying anything just yet. When you
don't know anything they leave you alone. Only you can't cover up your
mouth with a handkerchief."
Several soldiers walked past together. They bawled their indecorous
songs. Their faces were grey-red in colour. They stank of sweat,
putrescence, bad tobacco, and vodka.
"I have laid down my stomach for my faith, my Tsar, and my
Fatherland," a smart young colonel was saying.
After him came a thin man with the face of a Jesuit and cried out
"Russia for the Russians!"
A stout merchant kept on repeating:
"If you don't cheat you can't sell your goods. Even a fur coat might
be turned inside out. Your penny makes you well thought of anywhere."
An austere, freckled woman was saying:
"Beat me, seeing that I'm your woman, but there's no law that'll let
you tie up with a girl so long as you've got a wife living."
A muzhik walked at her side, a dirty, ill-smelling fellow, who said
nothing and hiccuped.
Once more there was a nobleman, large, stout, bristling,
savage-looking. He ranted:
"Hang them! Flog them!"
Trirodov turned to Kirsha:
"Don't be afraid, Kirsha--these are dead words."
Kirsha silently nodded his head.
A mistress and her servant-maid walked together and exchanged
"God didn't make all the trees in the forest alike. I am a white bone,
you are a black bone. I am a gentlewoman, you are a peasant-woman."
"You may be a gentlewoman, yet trash."
"Maybe trash, but still from the gentry."
Quite close to the magic line there was an apparent effort on the part
of an elegantly dressed woman and a young man of the breed of dandies
to emerge from the general throng. They had been only recently buried,
and they exhaled the odour of fresh corpses. The woman coquettishly
moved her half-putrefied lips and complained in a hoarse, creaking
"They've forced us to walk with all these _Khams_. They might
have let us walk separately from all this common folk."
[Footnote 16: See note on page 44.]
The dandy suddenly complained in a squeaking voice:
"Be careful, there, muzhik, don't nudge. What a dirty fellow!"
The muzhik had evidently only just jumped out of his grave; he was
barely awake, and he had not yet realized himself or understood his
condition. He was all dishevelled and in rags. His eyes were turbid.
Curses and indecent words issued from his dead lips. He was angry
because he had been disturbed, and he bawled:
"By what right? You are lying there and not doing any one any harm,
and are roused and made to walk along. What new rules have they got
for us--disturbing the dead! You've only just found your earth--when
up you must be and moving."
Unsteady on his feet, the muzhik continued to pour out his coarse
abuse; when he saw Trirodov he opened his eyes wide and went straight
to him. He was blindly conscious of being in the presence of a
stranger and an enemy and he wished to destroy him. Kirsha trembled
and grew pale. He clung to his father in fear. The quiet boy,
retaining his tranquil sadness, stood at their side, like an angel on
The muzhik touched the enchanted line. Pain and terror transpierced
him. He stared with his dead eyes, but quickly lowered them; as he was
unable to withstand the look of the living, he fell with his forehead
to the ground just beyond the line and begged for mercy.
"Go!" said Trirodov.
The muzhik rose to his feet and scampered away. But he soon paused,
and again burst out into abuse; then ran farther.
Two lean, poorly dressed boys, with green faces, walked by. The rags
which bound their feet hung loosely. One of them said:
"Do you understand? They tormented me, tyrannized over me. I ran away
and they caught me again--I had no strength left. I went to the garret
and strangled myself. I don't know what I shall get for it now."
The other green boy replied:
"As for me, I was beaten with salted rods. My hands are quite clean."
"Yes, you are lucky," said the first boy enviously. "You will get a
little golden wreath, but what will happen to me?"
"I will entreat the angels, the archangels, the cherubim and the
seraphim for you--give me but your full name and address."
"My sin is quite a big one, and my name is Mitka Sosipatrov, from
"Don't be afraid," said the birched boy. "As soon as they let me in to
the upper chambers, I will at once fall at the feet of the Virgin Mary
until you are forgiven."
"Yes, do me this great favour."
Kirsha stood pale. His eyes sparkled. He trembled from head to foot
and kept on repeating:
"Mamma, come to me! Mamma, come to me!"
A radiant apparition suddenly appeared in the throng, and Kirsha
throbbed with joy. Kirsha's mother passed by--all white, all lovely,
all gentle. She turned her tranquil eyes upon her dear ones and
"I will come."
Kirsha, transported with a quiet joy, stood motionless. His eyes
gleamed like the eyes of the quiet angel who stood there on guard.
Again the dead throng moved on. A governor passed by. All his figure
breathed might and majesty. Yet hardly awake, he grumbled:
"Make way for the Russian Governor! I'll have no patience with you. I
will not permit it! You cannot frighten me. What! Feed the hungry, you
He appeared, as it were, to awaken at these words; he looked around
him and said in great astonishment, as he shrugged his shoulders:
"What a strange disorder! How did I get into this crowd? Where is the
Then he suddenly bawled out:
"Let the Cossacks come!"
In response to the Governor's cry a detachment of Cossacks came
flying. Without noticing Trirodov and the children, they swept along
past them and savagely flourished their _nagaikas_. The dead,
pressed from behind by the Cossacks' horses, became a confused,
wavering mass, and answered with malignant laughter to the blows of
the _nagaikas_ upon their lifeless bodies.
[Footnote 17: Whips.]
The grey witch sat down on a near-by stone and shook with her hideous,
Elisaveta dressed herself up as a boy. She loved to do this and she
did it quite often; so tedious is the monotony of our lives that even
a change of dress furnishes a diversion!
Elisaveta put on a white sailor-jacket with a blue collar, and blue
knee-breeches which revealed the beauty and grace of her sunburnt
lower limbs; she put on a cap, took a fishing-rod and went to the
river. Elisaveta looked like a rather tall stripling of fourteen in
It was quiet and bright on the river's bank. Elisaveta sat down on a
stone at the edge, lowered her feet into the water, and watched the
float. A rowing-boat appeared. Elisaveta looked intently and saw that
it contained Stchemilov. The latter called out:
"I say, my lad, if you belong here, can you tell me if...."
Then he paused because Elisaveta was laughing.
"Well, who would have thought it--comrade Elisaveta?"
"You didn't recognize me, comrade?" asked Elisaveta with a merry
laugh, as she approached the landing-place where Stchemilov was
already fastening his boat.
"I must confess that I didn't know you at once," he replied, as he
pressed her hand warmly. "I have come for you. To-night we are to hold
our mass meeting."
"Is it really to-night?" asked Elisaveta.
She grew cold from agitation and confusion as she recalled that she
had promised to speak that evening.
"Yes, to-night," said Stchemilov; "I hope you haven't changed your
mind. You will speak, eh?"
"I thought it was to be to-morrow," she replied. "Just wait a moment.
I'll get a small bundle of clothes. I will change at your place."
She quickly and gaily tripped up the bank. Stchemilov whistled as he
sat waiting in the boat. Elisaveta soon reappeared, and deftly jumped
into the boat.
It was necessary to row past the whole length of the town. No one on
either bank recognized Elisaveta in her boy's attire. Stchemilov's
house, a cabin in the middle of a vegetable garden, stood on a steep
bank of the river, just along the edge of the town.
No one had yet arrived at the house. Elisaveta picked up a periodical
which lay on the table and asked:
"Tell me, comrade, how do you like these verses?"
Stchemilov looked at the periodical, open at a page which contained
Trirodov's verses. He smiled and said:
"What shall I say? His revolutionary poems are not bad. Nowadays,
however, everybody writes them. As for his other works, they are not
written about us. Noblemen's delights are not for us."
"It's a long time since I've been here," said Elisaveta. "What a mess
you've got here."
"A house without a mistress," answered Stchemilov, rather confused.
Elisaveta began to put things in order and to clean and to scrub. She
moved about with agile grace. Stchemilov admired her graceful limbs;
it was fascinating to watch the play of the muscles under the brown
skin of her calves. He exclaimed in a clear, almost ecstatic voice:
"How graceful you are, Elisaveta! Like a statue! I never saw such arms
"I feel embarrassed, comrade Aleksei. You praise me to my eyes as if I
were a charming piece of property."
Stchemilov suddenly flushed with embarrassment; his habitual
self-assurance appeared to have left him unexpectedly. He breathed
heavily and stammered out in confusion:
"Comrade Elisaveta, you are a fine person. Don't be offended at my
words. I love you. I know that for you social inequality is a silly
thing; and you know that for me your money is of no account. Now if I
am not repugnant to you...."
Elisaveta stood before him calm and yet sad, and as she dried her
hands, grown red from the cold water, with a towel, she said quietly:
"Forgive me, comrade Aleksei--you are right about my views, but I love
She herself did not know how these words came to be spoken. Love
another! So unexpectedly the secret of her heart revealed itself in
superficial words. But did he love her, that other one?
They were both flustered. Stchemilov strove heroically to control his
agitation. As he looked with his confused eyes into her clear blue
ones he said:
"Forgive me, Elisaveta, and forget what I have said. I didn't guess
right that time and did the wrong thing. I didn't think that you'd
love him. Don't be angry at me and don't despise me."
"Enough, Aleksei," said Elisaveta tenderly. "You know how I respect
you. We are friends. Give me your hand."
Stchemilov gave her hand a tight, comradely pressure, then bent down
and kissed it. Elisaveta drew nearer to him and kissed his lips with a
tranquil, innocent, delicious kiss, such as a sister gives a brother.
Then she snatched up her bundle and ran into the passage, one of the
doors of which led to a small storeroom where the literature was kept
in a trunk under the floor.
She ran into Kiril on the way.
"Is Aleksei home, my lad?"
"Yes," said Elisaveta; "enter, comrade Kiril."
When Kiril heard the familiar voice and, lifting his eyes, saw plaits
of hair wound around the lad's head, he was astonished. He was very
much embarrassed upon recognizing Elisaveta. She hid herself behind
the door of the storeroom, while Kiril blundered for a long time in
the dark hall, unable in his confusion to find the door.
Others began to come in: there was the school-instructor Bodeyev,
instructor Voronok of the town school, and the imported orator, who
came accompanied by Alkina.
Elisaveta was attired by now in a simple dark blue dress.
"It's time to start," said Stchemilov.
Once seated in the rowing-boat, the members of the party became silent
and slightly nervous. Only the new-comer was perfectly calm--he was
used to it. Near-sighted, he looked indifferently out of his
spectacles, now one side, now the other, and told bits of news while
smoking one cigarette after another. He was young, tall, and
flat-chested. He had a lean face, long, smooth, chestnut-coloured
hair, and a scant beard. His flat round cap, reddish in the sun, gave
him the look of an artisan.
It had begun to grow dark by the time they disembarked at the
appointed place. There was still a half-verst to go through the wood
on foot. The evening twilight seemed oppressed under the eternal
vaults of the wood; it hummed and rustled with barely audible noises
and the sad whisperings of stealthy beings.
They gathered at last in a large glade in the midst of a tall, dense
wood. The moon was already high in the sky, and the black shadows of
the trees crept across half of the glade. The trees were intensely
still and pensive, as if they wished to listen to the words of these
people who had collected at their feet. But they really did not care
to listen--they had their own life and were indifferent to all these
people. And they suffered neither joy nor sadness at sheltering in
their dark shade many young girls who were in love with the dream of
liberation--among them Elisaveta, who was also in love with this
dream, and who created for it a temple of young passion and
embroidered into this dream's design the image of a living man in a
mysterious house. She was deliciously in love and painfully agitated
by the sudden acknowledgment she made of her love in her poignantly
sweet words, "I love another."
In the dark shade of the trees were red glimmering cigarettes and
pipes. The odour of tobacco mingled with the fresh, nocturnal coolness
and gave it a sweet piquancy. Piquant also, in the nocturnal
stillness, were the sounds of the young, eager voices. And these
people had no concern with the mystery of the wood made audible in the
silence. The people behaved as if they were at home. They sat about
and walked and met each other and chatted. Sometimes, when the din of
talk grew too loud, the leaders of the meeting uttered their warnings.
Then the voices were lowered.
There were about three hundred people of all kinds--labouring men,
young people from schools, young Jews, and very many girls. All the
young Jews and Jewesses of the town had come. They were agitated more
than the rest and their speech nearly always passed into a violent
commotion. They awaited so much, they hoped so passionately! They were
so painfully in love with the dream of liberation!
Some of the instructresses from Trirodov's colony were also here,
among them the sad Nadezhda and the ecstatic Maria. There were quite a
number of schoolboys and schoolgirls present. These tried to act at
ease, to show that it was not their first occasion of the sort. There
were also many college students, both men and women. The young were
burning with joyous unrest. But all who had gathered were intensely
agitated. It was the sweet agitation of their dream of liberation; how
tenderly and how passionately they were in love with it! And in more
than one young heart virginal passion flowed together with the dream
of liberation; young passionate love flamed with a great fire in the
joy of liberation, making one of liberation and love, of revolt and
sacrifice, of wine and blood--what delicious mystery in love thirsting
and yielding! And more than one pair of eyes sparkled at the sight of
a beloved image, and more than one pair of lips whispered:
"And he's here!"
"And she's here!"
In the shade, under the trees, where indiscreet glances could not
penetrate, impatient lips met in a quick, timid kiss. And the first
"I'm not late, comrade?"
"No, comrade Natalya, you are in time."
"Let us go over there, comrade Valentine."
The names were pronounced tenderly. A man in a cap, black shirt,
and high boots, walked up to Elisaveta. He had a small black beard and
moustache, and his face, which was both familiar and unfamiliar, had
something in it that stirred her. He exclaimed:
"Elisaveta, you don't recognize me?"
[Footnote 18: Members of the Social Revolutionary Party are supposed
to wear black shirts, those of the Social Democratic Party red.]
She recognized him at once by his voice. A warmth suffused her. She
laughed and said joyously:
"I knew you by your voice alone. Your beard and moustache make you
"They are glued on," explained Trirodov.
They conversed. He heard some one whisper behind his back:
"That is comrade Elisaveta. She's considered the first beauty in our
Trirodov was for some reason overjoyed at these words, partly because
Elisaveta heard them and blushed so furiously that even the dim
moonlight could not hide her blushes.
A few detectives had also managed to find their way here, and there
was even one provocateur. These chattels alone knew that the police
had information about the meeting and that the wood would shortly be
encircled by the Cossacks.
Conversations were kept up among small groups for some time before the
meeting opened. The agitators discussed matters with labouring men who
were not in the party. The more interesting people were introduced to
the invited speaker.
Stchemilov's loud voice rang out:
"Comrades, attention. I propose comrade Abram as chairman."
"Agreed, agreed," came suppressed voices from every side.
Comrade Abram took his place on a high stump of a hewn-down tree. The
speeches began. Elisaveta was nervous until it came her turn to speak.
She was troubled with pain and fear because she knew that Trirodov
would hear her.
Proud, brave watchwords and bold instructions were heard. The
provocateur also made a speech. He urged them to an immediate armed
revolt. Some one's voice called out:
"Comrades--this man's a provocateur!"
There was a commotion. The provocateur shouted something in his
defence. He was promptly jostled out.
Then Stchemilov spoke; he was followed by the invited orator.
Elisaveta's agitation grew.
But when the chairman said, "Comrade Elisaveta, the word belongs to
you," she suddenly became calm and, having ascended the high stump
that served as the platform, began to speak. Her deep, measured voice
carried far. Some one seemed to echo it in the wood--it was like a
fantastic, restless din. A being beloved by her and near to her sat
there and listened; her beloved, near comrades also listened. Hundreds
of attentive eyes followed her, and the dear friendly looks,
converging like lances under a shield, held her very high in the pure
atmosphere of happiness.
The sweet moments of joy passed by like a short dream. She ended her
speech and came down among the audience, where she was received with
flattering comments and strong pressures of the hand--sometimes, it
must be confessed, a little over-strong.
"I say, comrade, you'll break my hand. How strong you are!"
And his face would also break into a joyous smile.
The speeches ended. The songs began. The wood re-echoed with proud,
brave words, with a song of freedom and revolt. Suddenly the song
stopped short, a confused murmur ran through the crowd. Some one
Some one shouted:
Some one ran. Some one shouted:
"Be calm, comrades!"
The Cossacks had hid themselves in the wood a couple of versts from
the meeting. Many of them had managed to take several drinks. As they
sat around their bonfires they began to sing a gay, noisy, indecent
song, but their officers enjoined silence.
A spy came running; he whispered something to the colonel. Soon a
command was given. The Cossacks jumped quickly on their horses and
rode away, leaving the half-consumed bonfire behind them. The dry
faggots and the grass smouldered a long time. The forest caught
[Footnote 19: Forest fires are one of the numerous problems of Russia.
They seem to be difficult to put out, and sometimes go on for weeks.
Hence the numerous references in the following pages to the constant
odour of forest flames.]
"What's the matter?" asked Elisaveta.
Some one whispered quickly:
"Do you hear, it's the Cossacks! I wonder which side they are coming
from. It's hard to tell which way to run."
"They are coming from town," said some one. "The only thing to do is
to go towards Opalikha."
The leaders began to give orders:
"Comrades, be calm. Scatter as quickly as possible. Don't jostle. The
road to Dubky is clear."
A number of horses' heads suddenly appeared from among the trees quiet
close to Elisaveta, and their dumb but good eyes looked on
incomprehensibly. The crowd of young people began to run, and carried
Elisaveta along with them. She was seized by a feeling of stupor. She
"What's the use of running? They'll overtake us and drive us wherever
But she had not enough strength to pause. They were all running, and
she with them. Another detachment of Cossacks appeared in front of
them. Cries and wails went up from the crowd, which began to scatter
in all directions. The Cossacks came on, as it were, in a broad chain.
Many managed to break through, some with blood-stained faces and torn
clothes. The others were driven forward from the rear and the sides
and gradually became a compact mass. It was evident that the Cossacks
were trying to get the crowd into the middle of the glade. Those who
had broken through the ring at the very beginning had some hope of
escape. There were about a hundred people in the ring. They were
driven towards the town, and those who tried to escape were lashed
with the _nagaika_.
A few shots resounded in the distance. The provocateur fired the first
shot--into the air. This aroused the anger of the Cossacks, who began
to shoot at those who ran.
Elisaveta and Alkina managed to escape the first ring together. But
they could hear all around them the cries of the Cossacks. They paused
and pressed close to an old oak, not knowing which way to turn. They
were joined by Trirodov.
"Follow me," he said to them; "I think I can find a less dangerous
"What has become of our invited speaker?" asked Alkina.
"Don't worry about that," was the impatient reply; "he was the first
to be attended to. He's out of danger now. You'd better go on
He walked confidently through the bushes and they followed him.
The sounds made by the patrols of Cossacks were heard on every side.
Suddenly the runners were confronted by the figure of a Cossack who
stepped out from the bushes. He aimed his _nagaika_ at Elisaveta,
but she, falling headlong, escaped the brunt of the blow. The Cossack
bent down, caught Elisaveta by her plait of hair, and began to drag
her after him. Elisaveta cried out from pain. Trirodov pulled out a
revolver and shot him almost without taking aim. The Cossack cried out
and let his victim go. All three then made their way through the
bushes. A deep hollow cut their progress short.
"Well, we are almost out of danger here," said Trirodov.
They lowered themselves, almost rolled down to the bottom of the
hollow. Their faces and hands bore scratches and their clothes were
torn. On one of the sloping sides of the hollow they found a deep
recess made by the rains, and now obscured by the bushes; and here
they hid themselves.
"Presently we'll make for the river-bank," said Trirodov. "We are
quite close to it."
Suddenly they heard the crackle of breaking twigs above them, followed
by a revolver-shot and outcries. A running figure defined itself in
"Kiril!" called Elisaveta in a whisper, "come here."
Kiril heard her, and threw himself through the bushes in the direction
of the hiding-place. Elisaveta could now see, quite close to her, his
fatigued, desperate eyes. There was a loud, near report of a revolver.
Kiril reeled; there was the sound of breaking twigs as he fell heavily
and rolled down the hollow.
Presently a running Cossack came down precipitately from above. He
brushed so closely past them that a twig caught by his body struck
Alkina's shoulder. But Alkina did not stir; pale, slender, and calm,
she stood tightly pressing her body against the almost perpendicular
wall of their refuge. The Cossack bent over Kiril, examined him
attentively, then muttered as he straightened himself:
"Well, there's no breath left in him. You're done for, my clever
Then he turned to climb back again. When the rustle of the parted
bushes ceased Trirodov said:
"Now we must walk carefully along this hollow until we come to the
river. There is a bend in the river here in the direction of the
town--we are bound to get somewhere almost across from my place. Then
we must find our way to the other side somehow or other."
Slowly and cautiously they made their way through the thick growths of
the hollow. They walked in the dark--Trirodov and the two with him,
his chance one and his fated one, sent him by the two Moirae, Aisa and
[Footnote 20: These two Greek Fates are important and recurring
symbols in Sologub's philosophy. The world of Aisa is the world of
chaos and chance, in which man is too often lost in trying to emerge
from it. The people who belong to Ananke are those who, acting of
necessity, define their world clearly and conquer chaos. Theirs is the
immutable truth. See also Introduction.]
The bushes became moist and a fresh breeze blew from the river. Then
Alkina came close to Trirodov and whispered to him:
"If you are glad that she loves you, tell me, and I will share your
Trirodov pressed her hand warmly.
The quiet, dim river lay before them. Beyond it the labours and
dangers of life created by the dream of liberation awaited them.
Soon the mist would rise above the river under the cold and witching
moon--soon the misty veil of fantasy would lighten the tedious and
commonplace life, and behind the veil of mist there would rise in dim
outlines another kind of life, creative and unattainable.
That night the streets of Skorodozh were alive with noises--which
gradually died away. The frightened townsmen sprang from their warm
beds, and peering through the half-opened blinds into the dark streets
saw those who had been caught in the woods led away in the custody of
the Cossacks. Then when the stamp of horses' hoofs and the hum of
human voices subsided, the residents quietly went back to their beds,
and were soon asleep. Lady Godiva would have been highly pleased with
such modest people: they looked, yet did not show themselves, and did
They went to bed again, and muttered something to their wives. The
freedom-loving bourgeois grumbled:
"They won't let you sleep. The horses' hoofs make such a noise. They
might employ bicycles instead of horses."
The night passed like a nightmare for many. It seemed to grip all life
with a cold apprehensiveness, and burdened one's soul with a hate
towards the earthly life which suffered agony from its bondage to the
flaming, exultant Dragon. Why did he exult? Was it because we beings
of the earth are evil and cruel, and love to torment, to see drops of
blood and tears?
Our dark, earthly nature is suffused with a cruel voluptuousness. Such
is the imperfection of the human breed that a single human vessel
contains all the deepest ecstasies of love and all the lowest delights
of lust, and the mixture is poisoned with shame and with pain--and
with the desire for shame and pain. From one fountain come both the
gladdening raptures and the gladdening lusts of the passions. We
torment others only because it gives us joy.
After the agonies on the way from the wood, after a search had been
made, many of the prisoners were dispatched to prison. Others were set
* * * * *
A restless, sluggish, and unfriendly morning rose over the city. From
the wood, just beyond the town, came the half-pleasant,
half-disagreeable odour of a forest fire.
The news about the two dead victims, Kiril and another workman,
Kliukin, a family man, soon spread. Their comrades were excited.
The corpses had been taken to the mortuary of the town hospital. A
large crowd, grave, silent, and resolute in mood, had gathered quite
early near the mortuary. It mostly consisted of labouring men, and
their wives and children. The large square in front of the hospital,
with its dirty, unpaved spots, its trampled grass, its grey, gloomy
little shops, appeared oppressed by an atmosphere of early morning
fatigue. The slant rays of the rising Dragon, veiled with a light
mist, fell upon the scowling faces of the crowd as indifferently as
upon the fence or the closed gates. The Ancient Dragon is not our sun.
The faces of those who stood near the closed gates were scowling. No
one was permitted to enter the hospital. Within, preparations were
going on for a secret burial of the victims. Tumultuous voices of
anger rose in the crowd.
A detachment of Cossacks soon appeared on the scene. They came on
quickly, and paused near the crowd. The beautiful smooth horses
trembled sensitively. The riders were handsome, sun-burnt, black-eyed,
and black-browed; their black hair, not cut in the military fashion,
was visible from under their high hats. The women in the crowd looked
at them now and then with involuntary admiration.
The tumult increased, the crowd continued to grow. The whole square
was alive with people. There seemed to be imminent danger of a bloody
Trirodov went that morning to the chief of the rural police and to the
officer of the gendarmerie. He wished to convince them that a secret
burial would only add to the workers' excitement. The chief listened
to him in a dull way, and kept on repeating:
"Impossible. I can't...."
He gazed down persistently. This caused his neck to look tight, poured
out like copper. And he kept on turning his ring round his finger as
if it were a talisman protecting him from hostile calumny.
The colonel of the gendarmes proved easier to deal with. In the end
Trirodov succeeded in obtaining an order for the surrender of the
bodies of the dead men to their families.
The chief of the rural police arrived in the square. The crowd greeted
him with discordant and angry cries. He stood up in his trap and
motioned with his hand. Every one grew silent. He addressed them:
"Would you like to bury them yourselves? Very well, you shall have
them. Only be careful that nothing happens which shouldn't happen. In
any case, the Cossacks will be present, in an emergency. And now I
will see that the bodies of your comrades are delivered to you."
The sun was already high when Elisaveta awoke. She quickly recalled
all that happened the night before. She took but little time in
dressing and, urged by a suppressed excitement, was soon on the way to
Trirodov in her carriage. Trirodov met her at the gates. He was
returning from town, and he told her briefly about his conferences
with the authorities. Elisaveta said resolutely:
"I want to see the family of the dead man."
"I don't know where they live. We shall have to see Voronok first. He
has all the information."
"Shall we find him at home now?"
"I think so," said Trirodov. "If he's at home we'll all start
They drove off. The dusty road trailed behind the rapid wheels, and
revealed vistas of depressing commonplaceness. The light dust, stirred
by the wheels into the sultry air, trailed behind the carriage like a
long serpent. The high flaming Dragon looked down from his
inaccessible sky with furious eyes upon the impoverished earth. There
was a thirst for blood in the hot glister of his rays, and there was a
soaring exultation because men had shed some priceless drops of the
wine of life. In the midst of these open, heat-swept spaces, Trirodov,
drawn at this moment into the crowded town life, was addressing his
companion in dull, everyday words:
"They searched many houses early this morning. They found a great deal
of literature at Stchemilov's. He's been arrested."
He also repeated the rumour of whippings at the police-station.
Elisaveta was silent.
Voronok's house was situated in a very convenient place, somewhere
between the centre of the town and the factory section. This house had
many visitors because Voronok was an assiduous worker in the local
Social Democratic Party. His chief function was to carry on propaganda
among the working men and the young, and incidentally to instil into
them party views and a true understanding of the aims of the working
Young boys used to come to Voronok, his pupils from the town school,
and these brought their comrades and acquaintances with them--those
whom they met at home or by chance. They were for the most part
charming, sincere, and intelligent youngsters, but very dishevelled
and very self-conscious. Voronok taught them very heartily and with
good results. They assimilated his teachings: a sympathy towards the
working proletariat, a hate towards the satiated bourgeois, a
consciousness of the irreconcilability of the interests of the two
classes, and a few random facts from history. The ragamuffins from the
town school invariably opened every visit to Voronok by complaining
against the school rules and the inspector. They complained chiefly
about trifles. They would say with an injured air:
"They compel us to wear official badges upon our caps."
"They treat us as if we were little children."
"They brand us, so that every one may know that we are the boys of the
"They force us to cut our hair; why should our hair worry them?"
Voronok sympathized with them fully. This helped him to keep them in a
state of revolt. Their no less unkempt friends, who did not go to
school, also found something to complain about--if not against their
parents, then against the police, indeed against anything that
occurred to them. But their complaints did not contain quite that
poison and steadiness which was instilled into the schoolboys with all
the force of a school. Voronok used to give both classes pamphlets
that cost a kopeck and were intensely strict in their party purity.
The younger of the working men also used to come to Voronok's house.
There were still others, a ragged, grumbling lot, who appeared to
carry an air of eternal injury with them, as if they had lost all
capacity for smiling and jesting. Voronok took great pains to read the
pamphlets with them, and to explain to them anything that was not
especially clear. Regular hours were allotted for these readings and
conversations. By such means Voronok succeeded in developing the
desired mood in his visitors; all the party shibboleths were
assimilated by them quickly and thoroughly. He also gave them books
for home reading. Many used to buy this literature occasionally.
In this manner, a flood of books and pamphlets continually poured
through Voronok's house. Sometimes he selected whole libraries, and
sent them by trustworthy people through the villages.
Elisaveta and Trirodov found Voronok at home. He did not much resemble
a party workman; he was gracious, spoke little, and produced the
impression of a reserved, well-trained man. He always wore starched
linen, a high collar, a fashionable tie and a bowler hat. He had his
hair trimmed short, and his beard was most neatly brushed.
"I will go with you, with pleasure," said Voronok amiably.
He seized his thin cane, put on his bowler hat, took a cursory glance
of himself in the mirror, and said again:
"I'm ready. But perhaps you'd like to rest?"
They declined, and the three of them started off. The painful silence
of the bright streets hovered about them stealthily and expectantly.
They seemed strangers among these wooden huts, depressing fences, and
the tottering little bridges. They wanted to ask:
"Why are we going?"
But this only seemed to bring them closer, and to make the quick beats
of their hearts more friendly. The whole picture of the life of the
poor was here in all its sordidness; dirty, malicious children played
here, and abused each other, and wrangled; a drunkard reeled; grey
buckets swung on a grey wooden yoke across the shoulders of a grey
woman in a worn grey dress.
There was everyday commonplaceness in the poverty of the house, where
lay the hastily prepared yellow corpse. A pale-faced woman stood at
its head, and wailed quietly and ceaselessly. Three pale, sandy-haired
children came in and looked at the visitors; their gaze was at once
strange and stupid, neither joyous nor sad, but dulled for ever.
Elisaveta went up to the woman. The blooming, rosy, graceful girl
stood at the side of the pale, tear-eyed woman, and was quietly saying
something to her; the latter was nodding her head and crooning
unnecessary, belated words. Trirodov turned quietly to Voronok:
"Is any money needed?"
Voronok whispered back:
"No, his comrades will bury him. We'll make a collection among
ourselves. Afterwards the family will need some money."
The day of the funeral arrived. The factories stopped work. There was
a clear sky, and under it the turbulent crowd; the light currents of
incense streamed in the air, and its sumptuous aroma mingled with the
light odour of the smoke that came from the forest cinders. The
schoolboys struck and went to the funeral. Some of the schoolgirls
came also. The more timid ones remained in school.
The children from Trirodov's colony decided to come. They brought two
wreaths with them. The quiet children came also. They kept by
themselves and were silent.
The entire town police were present at the funeral. Even police from
outlying districts were here. As always, petty provocateurs lurked
among the crowd.
The crowd moved calmly and solemnly. Above it the wreaths swung, the
red flowers glimmered vividly, the red ribbons fluttered. The Cossacks
rode alongside. There was austerity and suspicion in their looks--they
were prepared to suppress any demonstration. The chanting of a prayer
could be heard. Each time the subsided chant was renewed, the Cossacks
listened with great intentness. No--it was only the prayer again.
Elisaveta and Trirodov walked with the crowd behind the coffin. They
spoke of that which enraptures those who seek rapture and frightens
those who seek repose. Poignant were Elisaveta's impressions as she
stepped upon the sharp cobblestones of the dusty, littered pavement.
The road was long. The austere harmony was kept up for some time. At
last the cemetery was reached. Some dejected moments were passed in
waiting by the church. The last services were pronounced hurriedly.
The Cossacks moved about in bustling fashion, and as before formed a
circle around the throng.
The coffin was carried out of the church. The wreaths swung once more
above the crowd, which moved on chanting.
Suddenly the women's lament grew louder--the women's lament above the
grave. The instructor Bodeyev then stood at the head of the coffin. He
began in his shrilly-thin, but far-carrying voice:
"Comrades, we have gathered to-day at the grave of our brother...."
The colonel of the gendarmes went up to him, and said sternly:
"It is forbidden. I must ask you to do without speeches or
Bodeyev asked in astonishment:
"No, I must ask you not to. It is forbidden," said the colonel dryly.
Bodeyev shrugged his shoulders and remarked as he moved away:
"I submit to brute strength."
"To the law," the officer in the blue uniform corrected him sharply.
The dead man's comrades, crowding near the grave, followed one another
with handfuls of soil, which they threw on the coffin. The damp, heavy
soil struck the coffin with a hollow sound.
The grave was being filled up. Every one stood silently, and as
silently left the spot.
Then suddenly a voice was heard.
And in an instant the whole crowd began to sing words of a proud,
melancholy, revolutionary song. The Cossacks looked on morosely. The
command was given. The Cossacks quickly mounted their horses. The
singing stopped abruptly.
* * * * *
Once outside the cemetery gates, Elisaveta said:
"I am hungry!"
"Let's go to my place," suggested Trirodov.
"Thank you," said Elisaveta. "But I'd rather go to some tavern."
Trirodov looked at her in astonishment, but made no objection. He
understood her curiosity.
The tavern was crowded and noisy. Trirodov and Elisaveta sat down near
the window, at a small table covered with a dirty, spotted cloth. They
ordered cold meat and light beer.
At one of the tables, a young man in a red shirt sat drinking. He was
in a boastful mood. Behind his ear stuck a cigarette. The fellow
intruded upon his neighbours, and shouted:
"Well, who?" asked a young working man at the next table
"I am drunk!" exclaimed the drunkard in the red shirt. "And who am I,
do you know, eh?"
"Yes, who are you? What sort of a bird are you?" asked the young
working man in the black calico blouse derisively.
"I am Borodulin!" said the drunkard, and there was an expression on
his face as if he had pronounced a famous name.
His neighbours roared with laughter, and shouted coarse, derisive
words. The fellow in the red shirt cried angrily:
"What do you think? Is Borodulin, in your opinion, a peasant?"
The working man in the black blouse began to get annoyed. His lean
cheeks grew red. He sprang from his place, and shouted angrily:
"Well, who are you? Answer."
"I'm a peasant on my passport. An army reserve man. But that's not
all, I assure you," said Borodulin.
"Well, who then are you?" repeated the young working man angrily, as
he took a step towards him.
"And do you know what I am on my card? Can you guess?" asked
He blinked, and tried to look important. The comrades of the young
working man tried to dissuade him from pursuing his inquiries, and
whispered as they drew him away:
"Don't waste your time on him. He's a nobody."
"I'm a detective, that's what I am!" said Borodulin with his important
The working man in the black blouse spat contemptuously and walked
back to his table. Borodulin went on:
"You think I'm out of my senses. No, old chap, you're mistaken. I'm an
experienced man. What do you think of me now? I'm a detective. I can
arrest any one!"
The men at the neighbouring tables listened to him and exchanged
glances. Borodulin went on boasting.
"Suppose I put the police on to you?" asked a merchant at one of the
middle tables angrily. His small black eyes sparkled.
Borodulin burst out laughing, and shouted:
"I have the police in the hollow of my hand. That's where I have
The customers grumbled. Threats were heard:
"You'd better go away while you're still whole."
He paid his bill and left. Suddenly the sound of a crowd gathering in
the street was heard. From the window Elisaveta and Trirodov could see
the fellow in the red shirt sauntering backwards and forwards in the
street, only a few paces from the tavern, and annoying the passers-by.
He could be heard shouting:
"I'll report you! I'll arrest you! Hand over your ten kopecks."
Many, afraid of him, acceded to his request. Borodulin clutched at
every passer-by. He threw off the men's caps, he pinched the women,
while he pulled young boys by the ear. The women ran from him
shrieking. The more timid men also ran. The bolder ones paused in
menacing attitudes. These Borodulin did not dare to molest. Small boys
ran behind him in a crowd, laughing and hooting. Borodulin grumbled.
"You'd better look out. Do you know who I am?"
"Well, who are you?" asked a young fellow whom he jostled. "You're a
A crowd formed round them. Their faces were morose and unfriendly.
Borodulin was afraid, but he showed a bold front and boasted. He
"Two or three of you will be necessary!"
A sudden attack was made upon Borodulin. A young robust fellow sprang
forward from the crowd with a shout, an enormous cobblestone in his
"What's this dog showing his teeth for?"
He hit Borodulin on the head with the stone. It was unfortunately too
well aimed. Borodulin fell. Others attacked him as he lay there. The
workman who hit him with the stone made his escape.
Elisaveta and Trirodov were looking out of the window. Trirodov
The people in the street scattered in all directions. The mutilated
corpse lay in a pool of blood on the pavement.
Ostrov caused Trirodov a great deal of annoyance. More than once
Trirodov returned to the earlier circumstances of their acquaintance
and to their recent meeting at Skorodozh.
The week having elapsed, Ostrov paid Trirodov another visit. That
whole week Ostrov could not get rid of his confusion and uneasiness.
The details of his meeting with Trirodov became absurdly entangled in
his memory. He kept on forgetting the day of the week it was. The week
passed rather quickly for him. This was possibly due to his having
made several interesting acquaintances. He had become quite a
noticeable personage about town.
Ostrov made his visit late on Tuesday evening. He was received at
once, and led into a chamber on the ground floor. Trirodov came in
almost immediately. Not a little astonished, he asked unwillingly:
"Well, what can I do for you, Denis Alekseyevitch?"
"I've come for the money," said Ostrov gruffly. "To receive the
promised relief at your bountiful hands."
"I did not expect you until Wednesday," replied Trirodov.
"Why Wednesday when Tuesday is just as good?" said Ostrov with a
savage smile. "Or do you find it so hard to part with your cash? Have
you become a bourgeois, Giorgiy Sergeyevitch?"
Trirodov suddenly appeared to recall something as, with a tinge of
derision in his smile, he asked:
"I beg your pardon, Denis Alekseyevitch, I thought you were coming
to-morrow, as was arranged. I haven't the money ready for you."
Ostrov was annoyed. His broad face grew dark. He exclaimed, his eyes
red with anger:
"You asked me to come in a week, and I've come in a week. You don't
expect me to come here forty times, do you? I have other business.
You've promised me the money, and so hand it over. You must loosen
your purse-strings whether you like it or not."
He grew more savage with every word. In the end he struck the small
round white table that stood on slender legs in front of him with his
stout fist. Trirodov answered calmly:
"It is now Tuesday. That means the week is not up yet."
"What do you mean it isn't up?" said Ostrov. "I came to see you on
Tuesday. Do you count eight days in a week, in the French fashion? You
won't come off so easily."
"You came here on Wednesday," replied Trirodov. "And this is why I
haven't the money ready for you."
Ostrov was unable to grasp the situation. He looked at Trirodov with
some perplexity, and showed his irritation.
"What do you mean by saying that you haven't it ready? Why should you
get it ready? All you've got to do is to take it out of your safe,
count it out, and give it to me--that's the whole method of procedure.
It isn't as if it were a lot of money--it's a mere trifle."
"It may be a trifle for some people. It isn't at all a trifle for me,"
"Don't pretend that you're poor! Some one might think you were a
forsaken orphan! What do you expect us to believe?"
Trirodov rose from his seat, looked with stern intentness into
Ostrov's eyes, and said resolutely:
"In a word, I can't give you the money to-day. Try to come here
to-morrow about this time."
Ostrov rose involuntarily from his chair. He experienced a strange
sensation, as if he were being lifted from his seat by his collar and
forcibly led to the door. He fired his parting shot:
"Only don't think that you can pull wool over my eyes to-morrow. I'm
not the sort of a chap whom you can feed on promises."
His small eyes gleamed malignantly. His broad jaws trembled savagely.
His feet seemed to carry him to the door of themselves.
"No," answered Trirodov, "I do not intend to fool you. You will get
your money tomorrow."
* * * * *
Ostrov came at the same hour next evening. This time he was led into
"Well," asked Ostrov rather impudently, "do you mean to give me the
money? Or will you play the same farce once more?"
Trirodov pulled a bundle of bank-notes out of a drawer in his
writing-table, and said as he gave them to Ostrov:
"Please count them. There should be two thousand."
Ostrov whistled and said gruffly:
"That's too little. I asked for much more."
"That's all you'll get," said Trirodov resolutely. "It ought to last
you quite a while."
"Perhaps you will add a trifle," said Ostrov with a stupid smile.
"I can't," said Trirodov coldly.
"I can't leave town on this money," said Ostrov in a threatening
Trirodov frowned, and looked sternly at Ostrov. New thoughts began to
take shape in his mind, and he said:
"You won't find it to your advantage to remain, and everything you do
here will be known to me."
"Very well, I'll go away," said Ostrov with a stupid smile. He took
the money, counted it carefully, and put it into his greasy pocket. He
was about to take his leave, but Trirodov detained him.
"Don't go yet. We'll have a talk."
At the same instant a quiet boy in his white clothes appeared from
some dark corner. He paused behind Trirodov's chair, and looked at
Ostrov. His wide dark eyes, looking out of his pale face, brought
Ostrov into a state of painful dread. He lowered himself slowly into
the chair near the writing-table. His head felt giddy. Then a strange
mood of nonchalance and submission took possession of him. His face
bore an expression of apathetic readiness to do everything that he
might be commanded to do by some one stronger than himself--whose will
had conquered his. Trirodov looked attentively at Ostrov and said:
"Well, tell me what I want to know. I wish to hear from your own lips
what you are doing here, and what you are up to. You couldn't have
done much in such a short time, but you surely have found out
Ostrov sniggered rather stupidly, fidgeted as if he were sitting on
springs, and said:
"Very well, I'll tell you something interesting and won't charge you a
penny for it."
Trirodov, without taking off his heavy, fixed gaze from Ostrov's face,
The quiet boy looked with his eyes full of intense questioning
straight into Ostrov's eyes.
"Do you know who killed the Chief of Police?" asked Ostrov.
Trirodov was silent. Ostrov's whole body twitched as he kept up his
"He killed him and went away," went on Ostrov. "He made his escape by
taking advantage of the confusion and the darkness, as the newspapers
would say. The police have not caught him to this day, and the
authorities do not even know who he is."
"And do you know?" asked Trirodov in a cold, deliberate voice.
"I know, but I won't tell you," replied Ostrov rather venomously.
"You shall tell me," said Trirodov with conviction. Then he added in
even a more loud, determined, and commanding voice:
"Tell me, who killed the Chief of Police?"
Ostrov fell back into his chair. His red face became tinged with a
sudden grey pallor. His eyes, now bloodshot, half closed like those of
a prostrate doll with the eye mechanism in its stomach. There was
witheredness, almost lifelessness, in Ostrov's voice:
"Your friend?" asked Trirodov. "Well, go on."
"He is now being sought for," went on Ostrov in the same lifeless way.
"Why did Poltinin kill the Chief of Police?"
Ostrov resumed his stupid snigger, and said:
"It's a matter of very delicate politics. That means, it simply had to
be done. I won't tell you why. Indeed, I couldn't tell you if I really
wished to. I don't know myself, I can only venture to guess. But what
is a guess worth?"
"Yes," said Trirodov, "it is quite true that it is impossible for you
to know this. Continue your tale."
"This same affair," said Ostrov, "is a very profitable article for us
just now. Indeed, an article in the budget, as they say."
Trirodov's face did not reveal any astonishment, as Ostrov went on:
"We have Potseluytchikov among us, a very lively individual."
"A thief?" asked Trirodov abruptly.
Ostrov smiled almost consciously, and said:
"Not exactly a thief, still one's got to be careful with him. An able
man in his way."
Ostrov's eyes assumed a frankly insolent expression. Trirodov asked:
"What sort of relation has he to this article in your budget?"
"We send him out to the rich men of the place."
"To blackmail them?" asked Trirodov.
Ostrov replied with complete readiness:
"Precisely. Let us suppose that he comes to Mr. Moneybags. 'I have,'
he tells him, 'a thing to tell you in confidence, a thing of great
personal interest to you.' Left alone with Mr. Moneybags he says to
him: 'Five hundred roubles, if you please!' The other, it goes without
saying, is up on his hind legs. 'What for? What sort of demand is
this?' 'I mean what I say,' says the other chap. 'Otherwise,' he says,
'I will put your eldest son in gaol. I can prove that your eldest son
has had something to do with the murder of the gallant Chief of
"They give?" asked Trirodov.
"Some give, some escort you out of the door," replied Ostrov.
"A lovely crowd!" observed Trirodov contemptuously. "And what may you
be planning now?"
With the same involuntary obedience Ostrov told Trirodov how their
company was conspiring to steal a miracle-performing ikon from a
neighbouring monastery. The plan was to burn the ikon and to sell the
precious stones with which it was covered. It was a difficult affair,
as the ikon was under guard. But Ostrov's friends were counting on
taking advantage of one of the summer feasts, when the monks,
escorting distinguished pilgrims, would have drunk freely. The thieves
had still a month in which to make preparations for the theft; they
meant to make use of this time by becoming friendly with the monks,
and in this way familiarize themselves with all the conditions.
Trirodov, having listened without interrupting, said to Ostrov:
"Forget that you have told me all this. Goodbye."
Ostrov gave a start. He appeared as if he had just awakened. Without
comprehending the causes of his oppressive confusion he bade his host
goodbye and left.
Trirodov decided that the bishop of the local diocese must be warned
of the contemplated theft of the miracle-performing ikon.
Bishop Pelagius lived in the monastery in which the ikon of the Mother
of God, so revered by the people, was preserved. The relics of an old
sainted monk were preserved in the same monastery. Men came from all
ends of Russia to worship these holy relics. That was why this
monastery was considered wealthy.
Trirodov thought for a long time as to how he might best inform the
bishop of the contemplated theft. The thought of writing an anonymous
letter was repugnant to him. He decided that it was better to speak to
the bishop in person, or to write him a letter with his real name. But
then the question remained as to how to explain his own knowledge of
the conspiracy. He himself might be suspected as an accomplice of the
criminals. As it was, the local townsmen had none too friendly an eye
He dreaded entangling himself in this dark affair. He already began to
feel vexed with himself for his strange curiosity that impelled him to
question Ostrov about his affairs. It would have been better perhaps
if he were ignorant of the conspiracy. In any case, Trirodov saw
clearly that it was impossible for him to maintain silence. He thought
that the dark aspects of monastic life did not justify the evil deed
planned by Ostrov's companions. Besides, the consequences of this deed
might well prove very dangerous.
Trirodov decided that there was nothing left for him to do but to pay
a visit to the monastery. Once on the spot, he thought that some
opportunity of informing the bishop would occur to him. But as this
visit was very unpleasant to him, he delayed it a very long time.
Trirodov at last realized that he was in love with Elisaveta. He knew
too well the nature of this delicious and painful emotion. It had come
again and once more filled the world with light. He had looked
enigmatically upon this broad, eternally inaccessible world, full of
past memories and past people. But his love of Elisaveta meant his
love and acceptance of the world, the whole world.
This emotion aroused dismay in Trirodov. To the perplexities of the
past, not yet thrown off his shoulders, and to those of the present
begun with a strange, as yet unmeasured influence, were to be added
the perplexities of the future, of a new and unexpected bond. And was
not love in itself a means for realizing one's dreams?
Trirodov made effort to crush this new love in himself, and to forget
Elisaveta. He tried to keep away from the Rameyevs, not to come to
their house--but with each day his love only increased. His thoughts
and musings of Elisaveta grew more and more persistent. They became
interwoven with one another and grafted themselves on to his soul.
More and more a pencil in his hand guided itself to outline on paper
now her austere profile--softened by the youthful joy of
liberation--now her simple costume, now a rapid sketch of her
shoulders and neck, or the knot of her broad belt.
Again and again a strong hope awakened in him that he might strangle
and crush the gentle blossom of his delicious love. Several days had
already passed without his visiting the Rameyevs. He did not even come
on those days on which they grew accustomed to expect him.
Elisaveta thought this a deliberate incivility, and it hurt her
feelings. But whenever Piotr abused him she defended him. Her
imagination began to evoke more and more frequently the features of
his face: his deep, observing glance; his proud, ironic smile; his
pale face, clean-shaven like an actor's, and cold like a mask. How
sweetly and how bitterly she was in love with him--her sweet vision
betrayed itself in the gleam in her eyes.
Rameyev had grown fond of Trirodov, and he missed his presence. He
found it a pleasant diversion to chat with Trirodov, and even to
wrangle with him sometimes. He made two calls at Trirodov's house, and
did not find him in. Rameyev wrote several invitations. He received
courteous but evasive replies expressing regret at not being able to
One evening Rameyev growled at Piotr:
"He stopped coming because of your rudeness." Piotr replied sharply:
"Let him stay away. I'm very glad."
Rameyev looked at him sternly, and said:
"But I'm not glad. There's one interesting man in this wilderness, and
we frighten him away."
Piotr excused himself. He felt uneasy. He walked out of the house
alone, aimlessly, wishing only to escape his own relatives.
The sunset blazed for a long time, tormented itself with its
unwillingness to die; it lingered on as if it were its last day, and
at last expired. The whole sky became blue--exquisitely blue. But to
the north-west an edge of it was translucently green. The quiet stars
trembled in the blue heights. The moon, which had looked for some time
a pale white in the luminous clearness, now rose yellow and distinct.
Almost total darkness covered the earth. There was a coolness along
the bank of the river--after the hot day. There was an odour of a
forest fire, and it, too, softened its unpleasant, malignant
bitterness in the dark evening coolness. A green-haired, green-eyed
water-nymph bathed near the low, dark dam; she splashed about in the
water, which struck the obstruction with a brittle sound, and in
rhythmic response to it the stream laughed most sonorously.
Piotr walked quietly upon the path along the river-bank, and thought
of Elisaveta sadly and languorously--or rather, he recalled
her--evoked her in vision--involuntarily yielded himself to the
melancholy play of the nervous fantasies of his brain. The peaceful
silence of the evening, so much at one with him, said to him without
words, yet comprehensibly, that the pitch of his soul was too quiet,
too feeble for Elisaveta, who was so strong, so erect, and so simple.
He had so little audacity--so little daring. He only believed in
Christ, in Antichrist, in his love, in her indifference--he only
believed! He only sought for the truth, and could not create it--he
could evoke neither a god from nonentity, nor a devil from dialectical
argument; neither a conquering love from carnal emotions, nor a
conquering hate from stubborn "Noes." And he loved Elisaveta! He had
loved her a long time, with a jealous and helpless love.
He loved! What sadness! The languor of the springtide and the
joyousness of the morning breeze--the distant ringing of bells--tears
in one's eyes--and she will smile--pass by--the dear one! What
sadness! How dark everything is upon this earth--love as well as
Suddenly Piotr saw Trirodov quite near him. Trirodov was walking
straight upon Piotr, as if he did not see him; he moved quickly,
almost automatically, like a mechanical doll. He held a hat in the
hand that hung loose at his side--his face was pale--he had a wild
look--his eyes were aflame. He uttered disconnected words. He walked
so impetuously that Piotr had no time to turn aside. They came face to
face, almost colliding with one another. Trirodov gave a start when he
saw that he was not alone. His face had an expression of fright. Piotr
got out of his way awkwardly, but Trirodov walked rapidly up to him,
and looked intently as he turned his own back to the moonlight. Piotr,
involuntarily yielding to this movement, also turned round. The moon
now looked straight into Piotr's handsome face, which seemed pale and
strange in the cold, lifeless light.
Trirodov began in a trembling, agitated voice:
"Ah, that is you?"
"As you see," said Piotr in a tone of derision.
"I didn't expect to meet you here," said Trirodov. "I took you for...."
But he did not finish. Piotr, somewhat vexed, asked him:
Without replying to the question Trirodov inquired:
"But where? ... There's no one here. You didn't hear...?"
"I wasn't trained to eavesdropping," replied Piotr; "all the more
since these fragments of poetry are inaccessible to me."
"Who talks of eavesdropping?" exclaimed Trirodov. "No, I thought that
you had unwillingly heard some words which might have sounded strange,
enigmatic, or terrible in your ears."
"I came here by chance," said Piotr. "I was taking a mere stroll, and
was not here to listen to any one."
Trirodov looked attentively at Piotr; then lowered his head with a
sigh, and said quietly:
"Forgive me. My nerves are in a bad state. I have grown accustomed to
living with my fantasies, and in the peaceful society of my quiet
children. I love seclusion."
"Where did your quiet children come from?" asked Piotr somewhat
But Trirodov continued as though he had not heard.
"Please forgive me. I too often accept for reality that which exists
only in my imagination. Perhaps always. I live devoted to my dreams."
There was so poignant a sadness in these words and in the way they
were uttered that Piotr felt an involuntary pity for Trirodov. His
hate strangely vanished--as the moon vanishes at the rising of the
Trirodov said with quiet sadness:
"I have so many strange whims and ways. It is in vain that I go to see
people. It is far better for me to be alone with my innocent, quiet
children, with my secrets and dreams."
"Why better?" asked Piotr.
"I sometimes feel that people interfere with me," said Trirodov. "They
weary me in themselves--and no less with their petty, commonplace
affairs. And what are they to me? There is only one thing of which I
can be sure--that is myself. It is a great task to be with people.
They give me so little, and for that they thirstily and malignantly
drink my whole soul. How often have I left their company exhausted,
humiliated, crushed. What a holiday for me my solitude is, my sweet
solitude! If it were only with some one else!"
"Still you would rather it were with some one else!" replied Piotr
with sudden malice.
Trirodov looked at him steadily and said:
"Life is tragic. She destroys all illusions with the power of her
pitiless irony. You know, of course, that Elisaveta's soul is a tragic
soul, and that a great boldness is necessary in order to approach her,
and to say to her the great Yes of life. Yes, Elisaveta...."
Piotr's voice trembled as he shouted in jealous rage:
"Elisaveta! Why do you mention Elisaveta?"
Trirodov looked steadily at Piotr. He asked rather slowly--in a
strangely sounding voice:
"You are not afraid?"
"What is there to be afraid of?" replied Piotr morosely. "I am not at
all a tragic person. My path is clear to me, and I know who guides
"You don't know that," said Trirodov. "Besides, Elena is lovely. He
who fears to take the grand and the terrible, he who loves tender
melodies, for him there is Elena."
Piotr was silent. Some sort of new--perhaps alien--thoughts swarmed in
his head. He listened to them, and suddenly said:
"You haven't visited us for a long time, and you are very much liked
in our house. You would be welcome. You may come when you like, and
you may talk or be silent, as suits your mood."
Trirodov smiled in response.
Piotr Matov returned home quite late in a dazed state of mind. Every
one had already sat down to supper. Elisaveta glanced at him
curiously--as if she expected another person there instead of him.
"I've come late," said Piotr confusedly. "I don't know how I managed
to wander off so far."
He could not understand why he was so flustered. He barely recognized
Elisaveta dressed up as a boy in her sailor jacket and short breeches.
She sat so erect there, and smiled her abstract, indifferent smile.
Elena, blushing for some unknown reason, moved silently closer--and
there was a strange timorousness in her movement--a timorous desire.
Piotr complied with her wish, and sat down at her side. She looked at
him tenderly, lovingly. Her glances touched him. He thought:
"Why do I not love Elena? Or is it she alone that I really love?
Perhaps some mistake of the will had dimmed my eyes?"
He conversed with her gently and tenderly, and as he looked at her
again and again, a new love took spark in him. It was as if by some
prodigious power the strange being at the river-bank had instilled
this new love into him. Elena's heart beat joyfully.
After that evening Trirodov, suppressing his devotion to quiet
loneliness, once more began to visit the Rameyevs. He resisted no
longer the all-powerful desire to see Elisaveta, to look into the
depth of her blue eyes, to listen to the golden sonorousness of her
words, and to feel the breathing and the witchery of her fresh,
primitive strength. It was so pleasant to look upon her simple attire,
upon the trusting openness of her shoulders, upon the light tan of her
feet, and upon the austere outlines of her face.
Elisaveta's sunlit depth became transformed for Trirodov into a blue,
fathomless height. Elisaveta's love grew stronger; to grow stronger
was its desire, and it wished to surmount all intolerable obstacles.
Rameyev looked at Elisaveta and Trirodov, and he was consumed by a
strange, mature joy. He seemed to think:
"They will marry and bring me grandchildren."
There were already certain hours in which they expected him. He and
Elisaveta often remained alone. Something in their natures drew them
apart from other people, whether strangers or kin. They would go off
somewhere into a neglected part of the garden, where under the spread
net of superb black poplars the agreeable aroma of thyme reached them
with a gentle poignancy--and here they loved to chat with one another.
Had he been alone instead of with Elisaveta, he could not have
expressed his thoughts more simply or more candidly. They spoke of so
many things--they tried, as it were, to contain the whole world within
the rigid bounds of rapid words.
As they strolled along the high bank of the river, under the broad
shadows of the mighty black poplars and strange black maples, and
listened to the loud, cheerful twitter of the birds that came to the
bushes, Elisaveta said:
"The sensation of existence and of the fullness and joy of life is
delicious. A new sky seems to have opened above my head, and for the
first time the violets and the lilies of the valley besprinkled with
their first dew have begun to bloom for me; and for the first time
May-drinks made from herbs by young housewives taste delicious."
Trirodov smiled sadly and said:
"I feel the heavy burden of life. But what's to be done? I don't know
whether life can be made more easy and tranquil."
"Why desire ease and tranquillity in life?" asked Elisaveta. "I want
fire and passion, even if I perish. Let me become consumed in the fire
of rapture and revolt."
"Yes," said Trirodov, "it is necessary to discover all the
possibilities and forces within oneself, and then a new life may be
created. I wonder if life is necessary?"
"And what is necessary?" asked Elisaveta.
"I don't know," answered Trirodov sadly.
"What do you desire?" she asked again.
"Perhaps I desire nothing," said Trirodov. "There are moments when I
seem to expect nothing from life; I do what I do unwillingly, as if it
were a disagreeable action."
"How do you live then?" asked Elisaveta in astonishment.
"I live in a strange and unreal world. I live--but life goes past me,
always past me. Woman's love, the fire of youth, the stirring of young
hopes, remain for ever within the forbidden boundaries of unrealized
possibilities--who knows?--perhaps unrealizable."
The sad, flaming moments of silence were marked by the heavy beats of
Elisaveta's heart. She felt intensely vexed by these sad words of
weakness and of dejection, and she did not believe them. But Trirodov
went on speaking, and his beautiful but hopelessly sad words sounded
like a taunt to her:
"There is so much labour and so little consolation. Life passes by
like a dream--a senseless, tormenting dream."
"If only a radiant dream! If only a tempestuous dream!" exclaimed
Trirodov smiled and said:
"The time of awakening is drawing nearer. Old age comes with its
depression; and the empty, meaningless life wanders on towards unknown
borders. You ask yourself, and it seems hopeless to find a worthy
answer: 'Why do I live in this strange and chance form? Why have I
chosen my present lot? Why have I done this?'"
"Well, who is at fault here?" asked Elisaveta.
"The conscience, ripened to universal fullness, says that every fault
is my fault."
"And that every action is my action," added Elisaveta.
"An action is so impossible!" said Trirodov. "A miracle is impossible.
I wish to break loose from the claims of this dull existence."
"You speak of love," said Elisaveta, "as of a thing unrealized. But
you had a wife."
"Yes," said Trirodov sadly. "The short moments passed by rapidly. Was
there love? I cannot say. There was passion, a smouldering--and
"Life will again bring its delights to you," said Elisaveta
And Trirodov answered:
"Yes, it will be a different life, but what's that to me? If one could
only be quite different, and simple--say a small child, a boy with
bare feet, with a fishing-rod in his hands, his mouth yawning
good-naturedly. Only children really live. I envy them frightfully. I
envy frightfully the simple folk, the altogether simple folk, remote
from these cheerless comprehensions of the intellect. Children
live--only children. Ripeness already marks the beginning of death."
"To love--and to die?" asked Elisaveta with a smile.
She listened to the sound of these beautiful, sad words and repeated
"To love--and to die!"
And as she listened again, she heard him say:
"She loved--and she died."
"What was the name of your first wife?" asked Elisaveta.
She was amazed at herself for uttering the word "first," as there had
been only one; and her face became suffused slowly with pink.
Trirodov fell into thought; he appeared not to have heard her
question, and was silent. Elisaveta did not repeat it. He suddenly
smiled and said:
"You and I feel ourselves to be living people here, and what can there
be for us more certain than our life, our sensation of life? And yet
it is possible that you and I are not living people at all, but only
characters in a novel, and that the author of this novel is not at all
concerned with its external verisimilitude. His capricious imagination
had taken this dark earth for its material, and out of this dark,
sinful earth he grew these strange black maples and these mighty black
poplars and these twittering birds in the bushes and us."
Elisaveta looked at him in astonishment and said with a smile:
"I hope that the novel will be interesting and beautiful. Let it even
end in death! But tell me, why do you write so little?"
With unexpected passion, almost with exasperation, Trirodov replied:
"Why should I write volumes of tales on how they fell in love and why
they fell out of love, and all that? I write only that which comes
from myself, that which has not yet been said. So much has already
been said; it is far better to add a simple word of one's own than
write volumes of superfluities."
"Eternal themes are always one and the same," said Elisaveta. "Do they
not constitute the content of great art?"
"We never originate," said Trirodov. "We always appear in the world
with a ready inheritance. We are the eternal successors. That is why
we are not free. We see the world with others' eyes, the eyes of the
dead. But I live only when I make everything my own."
* * * * *
And while these two spent their hours in conversing, Piotr usually
made his way somewhere to the top of the house. He sometimes descended
with his eyes red--red from tears or from the vigorous, high wind. His
days dragged on miserably. His hate and jealousy of Trirodov now and
again tormented him.
Piotr sometimes made unpleasant, pitiful scenes before Elisaveta. He
loved her and he hated her. He would have killed her--had he dared!
And he had not the force to hate either Elisaveta or Trirodov to the
When he learned to know Trirodov better his hate lost something of its
venom, his malice no longer irritated him like nettles. He looked with
curiosity upon them and began to understand. The agony of his
unconscious fury was replaced by a clear contemplation of the
separating abyss; and this made him even more miserable.
He decided to go away; he made the decision again and again, but
always remained there--restless and yearning.
As for Misha, he fell quite in love with Trirodov. He liked to remain
with Elisaveta in order to talk about him.
One evening Piotr came to Trirodov's house. He did not like to go
there, for such antagonistic feelings wrestled in his soul! But common
courtesy made the visit necessary.
Again a discussion was started. In Piotr's opinion revolution was to
the detriment of religion and culture. It was a tedious, unnecessary
discussion. But Piotr could never resist uttering malicious words
against the extremes of the "liberating movement."
He felt awkward during the whole visit. He wished to handle something
all the time and to be doing something. His restlessness tormented him
in a strange way. Now he picked up one trifle from the table, now
another, and put it down again. He took a prism in his hand. Trirodov
trembled. He said something quietly and inaudibly. Piotr did not hear,
but kept on looking in astonishment at the heavy prism in his hand;
and as he turned it over and over he wondered at the reason of its
weight. Trirodov trembled nervously. Piotr, in turning the prism
rather awkwardly, struck it against the edge of the table. Trirodov
shivered, shouted something incoherently, and, snatching the prism
from Piotr's hands, said in an agitated voice:
"Please put it down!"
Piotr looked in astonishment at Trirodov, who was visibly confused.
Piotr smiled unwillingly and asked:
"Why, what is it?"
"How should I tell you!" said Trirodov. "It is connected with ...
Please forgive my sharpness. I thought you were going to drop it, and
I wanted to.... It seems like a whim.... Of course it is really
nothing ... but it is connected with an old episode in my life.
Really, I don't know why I keep these ugly things on my table. But
there are such intimate memories ... you understand.... Still, I'm so
Piotr listened in perplexity. Suddenly he realized that it was rude to
be silent for so long, and he made haste to say, not without
"Please don't think about it. I quite well understand that there are
things which.... But if you find it difficult or unpleasant to speak
about it, then please...."
Trirodov said a few more incoherent, confused words of apology to
Piotr and thanked him. He breathed a sigh of relief when Stchemilov
Piotr let loose his irritation at the new-comer with the ironic
"Again free? For how long?"
"I've skipped," answered Stchemilov calmly. "I'm leading an illegal
Piotr soon left.
"To-day?" asked Stchemilov. "Here?"
"Yes, we'll meet here to-day," replied Trirodov.
"He hasn't left yet, and there are several matters and reports to
attend to. It is necessary to arrange a meeting and to let various
people know about it."
"You have a convenient house here," said Stchemilov. "May I help
myself?" he added, pointing at the box of cigars as he lounged back
comfortably on the large sofa. "Most convenient," he repeated, as he
lit his cigar. "They don't suspect us as yet, but if they should pay
you a visit, there are so many exits and entrances here and
out-of-the-way nooks.... Very convenient indeed. It is easy to hide
things here--no comparison at all with my little trunk."
The town was in a state of unrest: strikes were in the air, patriotic
demonstrations were held. Its outer environs were visited by
suspicious-looking characters; these distributed proclamations, mostly
of an illiterate nature, in the villages. The proclamations threatened
incendiarism if the peasants did not revolt. The incendiaries were to
be "students," discharged from the factories on account of the
strikes. The peasants believed the announcement. In some of the
villages watchmen were engaged to catch the incendiaries at night.
Ostrov began to play a noticeable role in town. He quickly squandered
the money he received from Trirodov in drink and in other ways. He did
not dare as yet to visit Trirodov again, but appeared to be in an
expectant mood, and remained in town.
It was here that Ostrov met his old friend Yakov Poltinin.
Yakov Poltinin and two other members of the Black Hundred were sent
from the capital at the request of Kerbakh and Zherbenev. The apparent
purpose of this request was to establish a connexion between the local
section of the All-Russian Black Hundred union--organized by Kerbakh,
Zherbenev, and Konopatskaya, the wife of a general--with the central
office of the organization. The actual purpose, however, as understood
by all these respected folk, though they ventured to do little more
than hint of it to one another, was to establish--with the help of the
trio--a patriotic movement; in short, to strike a blow at the
Yakov Poltinin took Ostrov with him to visit the families of the
patriots. A company of suspicious characters was in town--ready to do
anything they were bidden. Yakov Poltinin led Ostrov also among this
In the course of the company's friendly carouse at Poltinin's
apartments in a dirty little house on the outskirts of the town, the
idea of stealing the sacred ikon came into some one's mind. Poltinin
"There's no end of precious stones on it of all sorts--diamonds,
sapphires, and rubies. It took hundred of years to collect them.
Little Mother Russia, orthodox Russia, has done her best."
The thief Potseluytchikov affirmed:
"It's certainly worth not less than two million."
"You're putting it on rather thick," declared Ostrov incredulously.
"Not at all," said Poltinin with a knowing look. "Two million is
putting it mildly--it's more likely worth three."
"And how are you going to dispose of it?" asked Ostrov.
"I know how," said Poltinin confidently. "Of course you'd get a trifle
compared with its real value--still we ought to get a half-million out
This was followed by blasphemous jests.
Yakov Poltinin had for some time entertained the secret ambition of
accomplishing something on a grand scale, something that would cause a
lot of talk. It is true the murder of the Chief of Police created a
deep impression. Still, it was hardly as important as the affair he
had in mind. To steal and destroy the miracle-working ikon--that would
be something to crow about! Poltinin said:
"The Socialist Revolutionaries are certain to be blamed for it.
Expropriation for party purposes--why not? As for us, no one will even
"The priests will never get over it," declared Molin, a former
instructor, who was a drunkard and a thief--a jail-bird deprived of
his legal rights.