Part 5 out of 6
Kirsha walked into the room quietly. He walked up to his father and
"Are you looking at the cemetery?"
Trirodov laid his hand silently on the boy's head. Kirsha said:
"There is a boy in one of the graves who is not dead."
"How do you know?" asked Trirodov.
But he knew what Kirsha's answer would be. Kirsha said:
"Grisha told me that Egorka was not quite dead. He is asleep; but he
"Yes," said Trirodov.
"And will he come to you?" asked Kirsha.
"Yes," was the answer.
"When will he come?" asked Kirsha again.
Trirodov said with a smile:
"Rouse Grisha and ask him whether the sleeper has yet begun to wake in
Kirsha walked away. Trirodov looked in silence at the distant
cemetery, where the dark, bereaved night stooped sadly over the
"And where are you, my happy beloved?"
A quiet rustle made itself audible behind the doors: the little
house-sprites moved quietly near the walls, and whispered and waited.
Awakened by a low sigh, Grisha arose. He walked out into the garden
and stood listening with downcast eyes near the railing. He was
smiling, but without joy. Who knew whether the other would rejoice?
Kirsha walked up to him and, indicating the cemetery with a movement
of his head, asked:
"Is he alive? Has he awakened?"
"Yes," said Grisha. "Egorushka is sighing in his grave; he's just
Kirsha ran home to his father and repeated to him Grisha's words.
"We must make haste," said Trirodov.
He again experienced an agitation with which he had been long
familiar. He felt in himself an ebb and flow as of some strange power.
A kind of marvellous energy, gathered by some means known to himself
alone, issued slowly from him. A mysterious current passed between
himself and the grave where the boy who had departed from life lay in
the throes of death-sleep; it cast a spell upon the sleeper and caused
him to stir.
Trirodov quickly descended the stairway into the room where the quiet
children slept. His light footsteps were barely audible, and his feet
felt the cold that came from the planked floor. The quiet children lay
upon their beds motionlessly, as if they did not breathe. It seemed as
if there were many of them, and that they slept eternally in the
endless darkness of that quiet bedchamber.
Trirodov paused seven times, and each time one of the sleepers awoke
at his one glance. Three boys and four girls answered his call. They
stood there tranquilly, looked at Trirodov and waited.
"Follow me!" said Trirodov.
They walked after him, the white quiet ones, and the rustle of their
light footsteps was barely heard.
Kirsha waited in the garden--and he seemed earthly and dark among the
white, quiet children.
They walked quickly upon the Navii path like gliding, nocturnal
shadows, one after another, the whole ten of them, with Grisha
leading. The dew fell upon their naked feet, and the ground under
their feet was soft, warm, and sad.
Egorka awoke in his grave. It was dark and somewhat stuffy. His head
felt oppressed as under a weight. There sounded in his ears the
"Rise, come to me."
Fear assailed him. His eyes looked but did not see. It was hard to
breathe. He recalled something, and all that he recalled was like a
horrible delirium. Then came the sudden awful realization:
"I am in a grave, in a coffin."
He groaned, and his heart began to thump. His throat, as if clutched
by some one's fingers, shivered convulsively. His eyes dilated widely,
and the flaming darkness of the nailed-up coffin swept before them. As
he tossed about in the tight coffin, tormented by his dread, Egorka
moaned, and whispered in a dull voice:
"Three house-sprites, three wood-sprites, three fallen sprites!"
The gate to the burial-ground was open. Trirodov and the children
entered. They were among the poor graves--simple little mounds and
wooden crosses. It was gloomy, damp, and quiet. There was a smell of
grass--a graveyard reverie. The crosses gleamed white in the mist. A
poignant silence hovered there, and the whole cemetery seemed filled
with the dark reverie of the dead. Poignant feelings were
re-experienced deliciously and painfully.
Nowhere does the soil feel so near to one as in a graveyard--it is the
sacred soil of repose. They walked quietly, the whole ten of them, one
after another, and felt the coolness and the softness of the ground
under their bare feet. They passed near a grave. The little mound was
quiet and poor, and it seemed as if the earth were crying, wailing,
The boys, dimly discernible in the darkness against the lumps of black
earth, began to dig the grave. The little girls stood very quietly,
one at each of the four sides, and seemed engrossed in the nocturnal
silence. The watchmen slept like the dead, and the dead slept, keeping
a powerless watch over their graves.
Slowly the little coffin began to show. The low moan became audible.
The boys already jumped into the grave. They bent over the poor little
coffin. Though it was half-covered with earth, the boys already felt
the tremors of its cover under their feet.
The cover, hammered down with nails, yielded easily to the exertions
of the small, childish hands, and fell to the side against the grave's
earthen wall. The coffin opened as simply as the door of a room opens.
Egorka was already losing his consciousness. When the boys first
looked at him he was lying on his side. He stirred faintly.
He breathed in the air as if with short, broken sighs. He shivered. He
turned over on his back.
The fresh air blew into his face like a young rapture of deliverance.
There was a sudden instant of joy--and it went out like a flame. Why
indeed, should he rejoice? The tranquil, unjoyous ones bent over him.
Again to live? His soul felt strange, quiet, indifferent. Some one
said affectionately over him:
"Rise, dear one, come to us; we will show you that which you have not
seen and will teach you that which is secret."
The stars of the far sky looked into his eyes, and some one's near,
affectionate eyes bent over him. Many, many gentle, cool hands
stretched out to him; they took him, helped him up and lifted him out.
He stood in a circle. They looked at him. His arms again folded
themselves across his breast, as in the grave--as, if the habit had
been assimilated for ages. One of the little girls rearranged them and
straightened them out.
Suddenly Egorka asked:
"What is this? A little grave?"
"This is your grave, but you will be with us and with our master."
"And the grave?" asked Egorka.
"We will fill it up again," replied Grisha.
The boys began to fill up the grave. Egorka looked on in quiet
astonishment as lumps of earth fell into the grave and the little
mound kept on growing. The ground was smoothed down and the cross
placed as before. Egorka walked up to it and read the inscription:
"Boy Giorgiy Antipov."
Then the year, month, and date of his death.
He was faintly astonished, but an ominous indifference already made
captive his soul.
Some one touched his shoulder and asked something. Egorka was silent.
He looked as if he did not understand.
"Come to me," said Trirodov quietly to him.
The little girl who always said "No" took Egorka by the hand and led
him away. They went back by the same road as they came. The darkness
closed after them.
Egorka remained with the quiet children. He had no passport, and his
life was different.
Trirodov returned home. Like one returned from a grave, he felt happy
and light-hearted. His heart was consumed with exultation and
resolution. He recalled the talk he had had that day with Elisaveta.
There rose before him the proud joyous vision of life transfigured by
the force of creative art, of life created by the proud will.
If love, or what seemed like love, came to him, why should he resist
it? Whether it was a true emotion, or an illusion, was it not all the
same? The will, exulting above the world, would determine everything
as it wanted. It would have the power to erect a beautiful love over
the helplessness of the exhausted senses.
That which has so long weighed in the scales of consciousness, that
which has so long and so desperately wrestled in the dark region of
the unconscious now stood at a clear decision. Let the word "Yes" he
said. Once more Yes. For a new grief? For a glorious triumph? It was
all the same. If only he believed in her--and she in him. So much did
one mean to the other now.
Trirodov sat down at the table. He smiled, and for a few moments
seemed lost in thought. Then he wrote quickly upon a light blue sheet
"Elisaveta, I want your love. Love me, dear one, love me. I forget my
knowledge, I reject my doubts, I become again as simple and as humble
as a communicant of a radiant kingdom, like my dear children--and I
only want your nearness and your kisses. Upon the earth, dear to our
heart, I will pass by, in simple and joyous humility, with bare feet,
like you--in order that I may come to you as you come to me. Love me.
There was a slight rustle behind the door. It seemed as if the whole
house were filled with the quiet children.
Trirodov sealed the letter. He wished to take it at once and leave it
on the sill of her open window. He walked quietly, immersed in the
wood's darkness--and his feet felt the contact of warm moss, the
dew-wet grass, and the simple, rough, beloved earth. A refreshing
breeze blew from the river in the night coolness, but now and then
there came a sickly, pungent gust of the forest fire.
* * * * *
Elisaveta could not fall asleep. She rose from her bed. She stood by
the window, and yielded her naked body to the transparent embraces of
the nocturnal breeze. She thought of something, mused of something.
And all her thoughts and musings joined in one dancing circle around
Should she wait? He was a weary, sad man, and he would not say the
sweet words for fear of appearing ridiculous, and of receiving a cold
"Why should I wait?" she thought. "Or don't I dare decide my fate like
a queen, to call him to me, and to demand his love? Why should I
And she decided:
"I will tell him myself--I love you, I love you, come to me, love me."
Elisaveta whispered the delicious words, entrusting her passionate
reveries to the nocturnal silence. The dark eyes of the nocturnal
guest who brought tempting reveries were aflame. The quiet splashing
laughter of the water-nymph behind the reeds under the moon mingled
with the quiet, delicious laughter of the nocturnal enchantress who
had flaming eyes, burning lips, and a naked body formed from the coils
of white flame. Her flaming body was like Elisaveta's body, and the
black lightnings of the invisible sorceress were like the blue
lightnings of Elisaveta's eyes. She tempted Elisaveta, and called to
"Go to him, go. Fall naked at his feet, kiss his feet, laugh for him,
dance for him, tire yourself out for his sake, be a slave to him, be a
thing in his hands--cling to him, and kiss him, and look into his
eyes, and yield yourself up to him. Go, go, hurry, run, he is
approaching even now--do you see him? It is he who has just come out
of the wood--do you see? It is his feet that show white in the grass.
Fling the door wide open and run as you are to meet him."
Elisaveta saw Trirodov coming. Her heart began to beat with such pain
and such delight. She walked away from the window. She waited. She
heard his footsteps on the sand under the window. Something flashed
through the window and fell on the floor. The footsteps retreated.
Elisaveta picked up the letter, lit a candle, and read the beloved
blue sheet of paper. The nocturnal enchantress whispered to her:
"He's going away. Hurry. You will know how sweet are the first kisses
of love. Go to him, run after him, don't look for tiresome robes."
Elisaveta impetuously flung the door open on the veranda, and ran down
the broad steps into the garden. She ran after Trirodov and shouted:
It was like the outcry of passionate desire. Trirodov paused, saw her,
impetuously white and clear in the moonlight. Elisaveta fell into his
arms and kissed him and laughed, and kept on repeating without end:
"I love you, I love you, I love you."
And they kissed, and they laughed, and said something to one another.
The red and white roses of her strong, graceful body were chaste and
uncrumpled. The words they said to one another were chaste and sacred.
The chaste moon looked down on them, and the stars also, as they spoke
the words that bound them to one another. There were vows and rites
not less durable than any other kind. There were smiles, kisses,
tender words--in these consist the eternal rite and the eternal
The sky began to lighten and a new dew fell on a new dawn, and when
the sunrise had extended its rapturous flames the sun rose--only then
Elisaveta returned to her room. But she could not sleep. She went into
Elena's room. Elena had only just awakened. Elisaveta lay down at her
side under the bed-cover, and told her about her great love, her great
joy. Elena rejoiced and laughed and kissed her sister without end.
Then Elisaveta put on her morning dress, and went to her father--to
tell him about her joy, her happiness.
As for Trirodov, oppressed by morning fatigue, he walked home across
the moist grass--and his soul was filled with perplexity and dread.
Later in the day he drove to the Rameyevs. He brought as a gift to
Elisaveta a photograph he had taken of his first wife--upon her nude
body was a bronze belt, its ends coming down to the knees being joined
up in the front; upon her dark hair was a narrow round strip of gold.
A slender, graceful body--a melancholy smile--intense dark eyes.
"Father knows," said Elisaveta. "Father is glad. Let us go to him."
When Elisaveta and Trirodov were once more alone, a dark thought came
into Elisaveta's mind. She became pensively sad, and asked:
"What of the sleeper in the grave?"
"He has awakened," replied Trirodov. "He's in my house. We've dug up
his grave just in time to save his mother from having any qualms of
"What do you mean?"
"Early this morning the coroner had the grave dug up. They found the
empty coffin. Luckily, I found out about this in time, before new
stupid talk might arise, and gave them the necessary explanation."
"What of the boy?" asked Elisaveta.
"He will remain with me. He does not wish to go to his mother, and he
is not particularly necessary to her--she will receive money for him."
Trirodov said all this in a dry, cold voice.
The news that Elisaveta would become Trirodov's wife acted differently
on her relatives. Rameyev liked Trirodov, and was glad because of the
closer connexion; he was a little sorry for Piotr, but thought it was
well that the matter had come to a decision, and Piotr would no longer
torment himself by entertaining false hopes. Nevertheless Rameyev was
disturbed for some unknown reason.
Elena loved Elisaveta and shared her joy. She loved Piotr, and was,
therefore, even more glad; she pitied him--and, therefore, loved him
even more. She loved him so deeply, and entertained such hopes of his
love, that her pity for him became serene and radiant. She looked at
Piotr with loving eyes.
Piotr was in a state of despair. But Elena's eyes aroused in him a
sweet agitation for a new love. His wearied heart thirsted, and
suffered intensely from deceived hopes.
Misha was strangely distraught. He flushed, and ran off more than
usual with his fishing-rod to the river; there he wept. Now he
impetuously embraced Elisaveta, now Trirodov. He felt ashamed and
bitter. He knew that Elisaveta did not even suspect his love, and that
she looked at him as at an infant. Sometimes in his helplessness he
hated her. He said to Piotr:
"I shouldn't walk about with a long face if I were you. She is not
worthy of your love. She puts on airs. Elena is much better. Elena is
a dear, while the other fancies all sorts of things."
Piotr walked away from him in silence. And it was well that there was
some one who did not scold, and with whom it was possible to ease his
soul. Misha, too, wanted to be with Elisaveta, and it made him feel
ashamed and depressed.
Miss Harrison did not express her opinion. Many things had already
shocked her, and she grew accustomed to bear herself indifferently to
everything that happened here. Trirodov, in her opinion, was an
adventurer, a man with a doubtful reputation, and a dark past.
Elisaveta was the most tranquil of all.
Piotr's gloomy appearance disturbed Rameyev. He wanted to comfort him
if only with words. Luckily, people believe even in words! They must
believe in something.
Rameyev and Piotr happened to find themselves alone. Rameyev said:
"I must confess that I once thought Elisaveta loved you. Or that she
might love you, if you wished it strongly."
Piotr said with a gloomy smile:
"I too may be pardoned for the error. All the more since M. Trirodov
does not lack lovers."
"Any one may be pardoned for mistakes," answered Rameyev calmly,
"though they may be painful enough sometimes."
Piotr grumbled something. Rameyev continued:
"I have been observing Elisaveta very attentively of late. And listen
to what I say--pardon me for my frankness--I have come to the
conclusion that you'd be better off with Elena. Perhaps you have also
erred in your feelings."
Piotr replied with a bitter smile:
"Why, of course--Elena is more simple. She doesn't read philosophic
books, she doesn't wear over-classical frocks; and doesn't detest any
"Why drag self-love into everything?" asked Rameyev. "Elena is not as
simple as you think. She is a very intelligent girl, though without
pretensions to a deep and broad outlook--and she is good, attractive,
"In fact, quite a match for me," observed Piotr with an ironic smile.
"As for that," said Rameyev, "you are not limited to choosing a
charming wife from among my daughters."
"That's not so easy," said Piotr with dejected irony. "But I see no
need of insisting. Besides, the same thing might happen with Elena.
She might come across a more brilliant match. And there are not a few
charlatans in this world of the Trirodov brand."
"Elena loves you," said Rameyev. "Surely you have noticed it?"
Piotr laughed. He assumed a gaiety--or did he actually feel gay and
joyous at the sudden thought of the charming Elena? Of course she
loved him! But he asked:
"Why do you think, my dear uncle, that I need a wife at all costs? May
God be with her!"
"You are in love generally, as is common in your years," said Rameyev.
"Perhaps," said Piotr, "but Elisaveta's choice revolts me."
"Why should it?" asked Rameyev.
"For many reasons," replied Piotr. "For one thing, he presented her
with a photograph of his dead wife, a naked beauty. Why? Is it right
to make universal that which is intimate? She revealed her body to
her husband, and not for Elisaveta and for us."
[Footnote 27: In a poem in prose which serves as an introduction to
his Complete Works, Sologub says: "Born not the first time, and not
the first to complete a circle of external transformations, I simply
and calmly reveal my soul. I reveal it in the hope _that the
intimate part of me shall become the universal_."--Translator.]
"You would do away with many fine pictures if you had your way," said
"I am not so simple as not to be able to make a distinction," replied
Piotr animatedly. "In the one case it is pure art, always sacred; in
the other there is an effort to inflame the feelings with pornographic
pictures. And don't you notice it yourself, uncle, that Elisaveta has
poisoned herself with this sweet poison, and has become terribly
passionate and insufficiently modest?"
"I do not find this at all," said Rameyev dryly.
"She is in love--so what's to be done? If there is sensuality in
people, what is to be done with nature? Shall the whole world be
maimed in order to gratify a decrepit morality?"
"Uncle, I did not suspect you of being such an amoralist," said Piotr
"There is morality and morality," replied Rameyev, not without some
confusion. "I do not uphold depravity, but nevertheless demand freedom
of thought and feeling. A free feeling is always innocent."
"And what will you say of those naked girls in his woods--is that also
innocent?" asked Piotr rather spitefully.
"Of course," replied Rameyev. "His problem is to lull to sleep the
beast in man, and to awaken the man."
"I have heard his discourses," said Piotr, showing his annoyance, "and
I do not believe them in the slightest. I'm only astonished that
others can believe such nonsense. And I don't believe either in his
poetry or in his chemistry. He has too many secrets and mysteries, too
many cunning mechanisms in his doors and his corridors. Then there are
his quiet children--that I do not understand at all. Where have they
come from? What does he do with them? There is something nasty behind
"That's a work of the imagination," answered Rameyev. "We see him
often, we can always go to him, and we haven't seen or heard anything
in his house or in his colony to confirm the town tattle about him."
Piotr recalled the evening that he met Trirodov on the river-bank. His
sad but determined eyes suddenly flared up in Piotr's memory--and the
poison of his spite grew weaker. He seemed affected as by a strange
bewitchment, as if some one persistently yet quietly urged him to
believe that the ways of Trirodov were fair and clean. Piotr closed
his eyes--and the radiant vision appeared before him of the semi-nude
girls of the wood, who filed past him, and sanctified him by the
serenity and the peace of their chaste eyes. Piotr sighed and said
quietly, as if fatigued:
"I have no cause to say these malicious words. Perhaps you are right.
But it is so hard for me!"
Nevertheless this conversation did much to soothe Piotr. Thoughts
about Elena returned to him oftener and oftener, and became more and
It so happened that, acting upon some unspoken yet understood
agreement, every one tried to direct Piotr's attention to Elena. Piotr
submitted to this general influence, and was affectionate and gentle
with Elena. Elena expectantly waited for his love; and at night,
turning her blazing face and loosened locks in the direction of the
nymph's laughter, she would whisper:
"I love you, I love you, I love you!"
And when left alone with Piotr, she would look at him with
love-frightened eyes, all rosy like the spring, and pulsating with
expectancy; and with every sigh of her tender breast, and with all the
life of her passionate body she would repeat the same unspoken words:
"I love you, I love you, I love you." And Piotr began to understand
that he had met his fate in Elena, and that whether he willed it or
not he would grow to love her. This presentiment of a new love was
like a sweet gnawing in a heart wounded by treacherous love.
The local police department was not very skilful in tracking down
thieves and murderers. And it did not occupy itself much with this
ungrateful business. It had other things to think of in those
turbulent days. Instead, it turned its ill-disposed attention to
Trirodov's educational colony--thanks to the efforts of Ostrov and his
friends and patrons.
The neighbourhood of Trirodov's estate began to teem with detectives.
They assumed various guises, and though they employed all their
cunning to escape observation they did not succeed in fooling any one.
Of limited intelligence, they fulfilled their duties without
inspiration, tediously, greyly, and dully.
Soon the children learned to recognize the detectives. Even at a
distance they would say at the sight of a suspicious character:
"There goes a detective!"
Upon seeing him again they would say:
"There goes our detective!"
Of the uniformed police the first to make inquiries at Trirodov's
colony was a sergeant. He was fairly drunk It happened on the same day
that Egorka returned home to his mother.
The sergeant entered the outer courtyard, the gates of which happened
to have been left open by chance. A strong smell of vodka came from
him. With the suspicious eye of an inexperienced spy he examined the
barns, the ice-cellar, and the kitchen. He wondered stupidly at the
cleanliness of the yard and the tidiness of the new buildings.
The sergeant was about to enter the kitchen in order to talk with some
one about the business on which he had been sent, when quite suddenly
he saw a young girl, one of the instructresses, Zinaida. She walked
without haste in the yard, in a white-blue costume that reached to her
knees. Zinaida had a cheerful, simple, sunburnt face. Her strong, bare
arms swung lightly as she walked. It seemed as if the graceful girl
were carried upon the earth without visible effort.
The chaste openness of her chaste body naturally aroused hideous
thoughts in the half-drunken idiot. And was it possible to be
otherwise in our dark days? Even in the tale of a poet in love with
beauty, the nudity of a chaste body calls out the judgment of
hypocrites and the rage of people with perverted imaginations, as if
it were the arrogant nudity of a prostitute. The austere virtue of
these people is attached to them externally. It cannot withstand any
kind of temptation or enticement. They know this, and cautiously guard
themselves from seduction. But in secret they console their miserable
imaginations with unclean pictures of back-street lewdness, cheap, and
regulated, and almost undangerous for their health and the welfare of
The police sergeant, upon seeing the young girl, so lightly dressed,
gave a lewd smile. His unclean desire stirred in his coarse body under
its slovenly sweaty dress. He beckoned Zinaida to him with his crooked
dirty finger and gave an idiotic laugh. He pushed his faded cap down
to the back of his head.
The young girl walked up to the police sergeant with a light easy
gait. Thus walk queens of beloved free lands, barefoot virgins crowned
with white flowers, queens of lands of which our too Parisian age does
The police sergeant whiffed his shag, vodka, and garlic at Zinaida,
and smiling lasciviously, so that the green and the yellow of his
crooked teeth showed conspicuously, he said:
"Look-a-here, my pretty girl--d'ye live here?"
Zinaida ingenuously marvelled at his red, dirty hands, at his red,
provokingly perspiring face, his big, heavy, mud-bedraggled boots, and
all those external tokens of the deformity of our poor, coarse life.
They so quickly became unused to this deformity here in the valley of
their beloved, innocent, tranquil life.
Zinaida replied with an involuntary smile:
"Yes, I live here in this colony."
The police sergeant asked:
"Are you the cook? Or the laundress? What a nice piece of sugar-candy
He burst into a shrill, neighing laugh, and was about to begin his
offensively affectionate tactics--he lifted his open, tawny hand, and
aimed his forefinger with a black border on a thick yellow finger-nail
towards a place where he might jab, pinch, or tickle the barefoot,
bare-armed girl. But Zinaida, smiling and frowning at the same time,
edged away from him and answered:
"I'm an instructress in this school--Zinaida Ouzlova."
The sergeant drawled out:
"An instructress! You are fibbing!"
He did not believe at first that she was an instructress. He thought
that she was the cook, or the washerwoman, who had tucked up her dress
in order to wash, scour, or cook more conveniently; and that she was
joking with him. But after he had scrutinized her face more intently,
a face such as a cook does not have, and her hands, such as a
washerwoman does not have--he suddenly believed.
With astonishment and curiosity Zinaida eyed this strange, coarse,
offensively affectionate creature with the heavy sabre in a black
sheath dangling about his legs, and asked:
"And who are you?"
The sergeant replied with a very important air:
"I am the local police sergeant."
He tried to look dignified.
"What is it you want here?" asked Zinaida.
The sergeant turned to her with a wink and asked:
"Now tell me, my beauty, have you a runaway boy from town here? His
mother is looking for him, and she's notified the police. If he's here
with you, we've got to return him to town."
"Yes," said Zinaida. "A town boy did spend a week with us here. We
sent him home only to-day. He's very likely with his mother now."
The sergeant smiled incredulously, and asked:
"You're not fibbing?"
Zinaida shrugged her shoulders. She looked sternly at the man, and
said in astonishment:
"What are you saying? How is it possible to tell an untruth? And why
should I tell you an untruth?"
"How is one to tell?" growled the sergeant. "Once I begin to believe
you there are lots of things you might say."
"I've told you the truth," asserted Zinaida once more.
"Well, just be careful," said the sergeant with dignity. "We'll find
out all the same. You are sure you've returned him home?"
"Yes, home to his mother," replied Zinaida.
"Very well, I shall report that to the Captain of the police." He told
a lie for dignity's sake. It was the Commissary of the police who sent
him here, and not the Captain. But it was all the same to Zinaida. She
had got quite accustomed to thinking mostly about the children and her
work. The stern reference to the police authorities did not impress
her very much.
The police sergeant left. He kept up his broad smile. He looked back
several times at the instructress. He was gay and flustered all the
way to town. His thoughts were coarse and detestable. Such are the
thoughts of the savages who take shelter in the grey expanses of our
towns--savages who hide under all sorts of masks, and who strut about
in all sorts of clothes.
Zinaida looked sadly after the police sergeant. Coarse recollections
of former days revived in her soul, now full of delicious soothings of
a different, blessed existence created by Trirodov in the quiet
coolness of the beloved wood. Then Zinaida sighed as if awakened from
a midday nightmare. She went quietly her own way.
In the course of several days Trirodov's colony was visited by the
Commissary of the police. He comprehended and considered the chaste
world of the Prosianiya Meadows in the same way as the illiterate
sergeant. Only this consideration expressed itself in a milder form.
The Commissary of the police tried to be very amiable. He paid awkward
compliments to Trirodov and his instructresses. But when he looked at
the instructresses the Commissary smiled as detestably as the
sergeant. His small, narrow eyes, which resembled those of a Kalmyk,
became oily with pleasure. His cheeks became covered with a brick-red
When the girls walked off to one side he gave a wink at Trirodov in
their direction, and said in a _sotto voce_:
"A flower garden, eh?"
Trirodov looked severely at the Commissary, who became flustered and
rather angry. He said:
"I have come to you, I'm sorry to say, on unpleasant business."
Indeed, he came under the pretext of discussing the arrangements of
Egorka's position. Incidentally, he hinted that the illegal opening of
Egorka's grave might give cause to an official investigation. Trirodov
gave the Commissary a bribe and treated him to lunch. The Commissary
of the police left in high spirits.
At last Trirodov had a visit from the Captain of the police. He had a
gloomy, inaccessible look. He began quite bluntly about the illegal
digging up of Egorka's grave. Trirodov said:
"Surely it was impossible to leave a live boy to suffocate in a
The Captain replied in a rather austere voice:
"You should have notified the Prior of the cemetery church of your
suspicions. He would have done all there was to be done."
"But think how much time would have been lost in going after the
priest," said Trirodov.
The Captain, without listening, replied:
"It's irregular. What would become of us if every one should take it
into his head to open up graves! A chap might do it to steal
something, and when he's caught he might say that he's heard the
corpse was alive and turning in its grave."
"You know very well," retorted Trirodov, "that we didn't go there with
the object of robbery."
But the Captain reiterated harshly and sternly:
Trirodov invited the Captain to dinner. The Captain's bribe was, of
course, considerably larger than the Commissary's. After a sumptuous
dinner and drinks, and the bribe, the Captain suddenly became softer
than wax. He began to dwell on the difficulties and annoyances of his
position. Then Trirodov mentioned the search that had been made
lately, and the beating the instructress Maria received at the police
station. The Captain flushed with embarrassment and said with some
"Upon my honour, it didn't depend upon me. I must follow orders. Our
new Vice-Governor--forgive the expression--is a regular butcher.
That's how he's made his career."
"Is it possible to make one's career by such means?" asked Trirodov.
The Captain spoke animatedly--and it was evident that the career of
the new Vice-Governor agitated his official heart considerably.
"The facts must be familiar to you," he said. "He killed his friend
when he was drunk, was confined in a lunatic asylum, and how he ever
got out is beyond comprehension. With the help of patronage he was
given a position in the District Government and showed himself to be
such an asp that every one marvelled. He quickly galloped into a
councillorship. He subdued the peasants. Of course you must have heard
"Who hasn't heard about it?" asked Trirodov quietly.
"The newspapers have certainly published enough about him," the
Captain continued. "Sometimes they added a trifle, but this was to his
good. It turned every one's attention to him. He was made
Vice-Governor, and now he has redoubled his efforts, and is trying to
distinguish himself further. He has an eye on the governorship. He is
sure to go a long way. Our own Governor is on his guard on his
account. I need not tell you what a powerful arm our Governor has in
Petersburg. Nevertheless he can't decide to thwart Ardalyon
[Footnote 28: Readers of "The Little Demon" will have no trouble in
recognizing in Ardalyon Borisovitch an old acquaintance--Peredonov.]
"And yet in spite of that you...."
"Do please consider what a time we are living in," said the Captain.
"There never was anything like it. There is such an unrest among the
peasants that may God have mercy on us. Only the other day they played
the deuce on Khavriukin's farm. They carried away everything that
could be carried away. The muzhiks even took away all the live stock.
A pitiful case. Khavriukin is considered among the better masters in
our government. He held the peasants in the palm of his hand. And now
they've paid him back!"
"Howsoever it may have happened," said Trirodov, "still you did whip
my instructress. That was rather shocking."
"Please!" exclaimed the Captain. "I will personally ask her pardon.
Like an honest man."
Trirodov sent for Maria. Maria came. The Captain of the police poured
out his apologies before her, and covered her sunburnt hands with
kisses. Maria was silent. Her face was pale, and her eyes were aflame
The Captain thought cautiously:
"Such a woman would not stop at murder."
He made haste to take his leave.
The educational police also conferred its presence on Trirodov's
school in the person of the Inspector of the National Schools.
The local Inspector of the National Schools, Leonty Andreyevitch
Shabalov, had served all his life in remote, wooded places, and was
for that reason quite an uncivilized being. Tall, robust, shaggy,
unharmonious, he resembled even in external appearance a bear of
Vologda or Olonetz. His face was overgrown with a thick beard. His
thick hair crept down his low forehead towards his eyebrows. His back
was broad and somewhat stooped, like a huge trough.
Shabalov frequently said to the instructors and instructresses in his
district in a hoarse drawl:
"Batenka (or "golubushka" if it happened to be an
instructress), brilliant instructors are not necessary. I don't like
clever men and women, I'm no respecter of modern ladies and dandies.
The chief thing, batenka, in life and in service, is not to put on
airs. In my opinion, batenka, if you perform your State obligations
and conduct yourself peacefully you will find yourself well off. The
educational programme has been worked out by people not more stupid
than you and me, so that you and I needn't spend our time
philosophizing about programmes. That's what I think, batenka!"
[Footnote 29: Diminutive for father, and used in the sense of "my good
[Footnote 30: "Golubushka" is "little dove." English equivalent as
used here: "my dear."]
But, notwithstanding all his respect for educational programmes,
Shabalov knew the educational business badly. It would be truer to say
that he did not know it at all. He was hardly interested in it. He was
not even very literate. He received his inspector's position as a
reward for his piety, patriotism, and correct mode of thinking, rather
than for his labours in the interest of public instruction. He had
served in his youth as a class assistant in the gymnasia. There, by a
steady attendance at the gymnasia chapel and the reading of the
apostles in a stentorian voice, he turned upon himself the attention
of an old bigot of a general's wife. She procured him the inspector's
There was no way in which he could help the young and
little-experienced instructors. When he visited the schools he limited
himself to a superficial examination and gave the pupils several
stupid questions, mostly on matters of piety, of "love towards the
Fatherland and national pride."
[Footnote 31: Title of standard didactic work by Karamzin
Above all, Shabalov loved to collect rumours and gossip. He did this
with great ability and zeal. Every one knew this weakness of his.
Consequently there were many eager to gossip and to inform against
some one. There were even a number of informers among the instructors
and instructresses who wished to gain favour and promotion. Once it
was reported to Shabalov that teachers of both sexes in some of the
neighbouring schools had gathered one holiday eve in one of the
schools and sang songs there. He immediately sent them all a
notification composed as follows:
The School District of Rouban.
16_th of September_, 1904.
Inspector of the National Schools of the first
section of the Skorodozh Government. To
Instructor of the Vikhliaevsky one-class
rural school, Ksenofont Polupavlov:
"Dear Sir, It has come to my knowledge
that on the evening of the 7th of September you
participated at a meeting of instructors and
instructresses, which had been arranged without
the necessary permit, and that you sang there
with them songs of a worldly and reprehensible
character. Therefore, dear sir, I beg you in
the future not to permit yourself similar actions
unbecoming to your schoolmaster's vocation,
and I herewith warn you that at a repetition of
such behaviour you will be immediately discharged
from the service.
On another occasion he wrote to the same instructor:
"On the occasion of an inspection of the schools
of the section intrusted to me, a number of instructors
and instructresses, and you, dear sir,
among that number, have transgressed the limits
of the programme ratified for Primary Schools
by the authorities, in imparting to your pupils
facts from history and geography unnecessary to
the people; and therefore, in confirmation of
certain verbal instructions I have already made
to you in person, I beg you in the future to
maintain strictly the established programmes;
and I warn you that if you fail to comply you
will be discharged from the service."
Shabalov was particularly displeased with the participation of certain
instructors and instructresses in the local pedagogical circle. This
circle was initiated in the town of Skorodozh some three years before
by the gymnasia instructor Bodeyev and the town school instructor
Voronok. The circle discussed various questions of upbringing,
instruction, and school affairs generally which interested in those
years many teachers and parents. Some of the members read their
reports here. It was particularly provoking to Shabalov that these
reports occasionally recounted certain episodes in school life and
eccentricities of the educational authorities. Shabalov wanted to
discharge the audacious ones. The District School Council did not
agree with him. Then followed a long and unpleasant discussion, out of
which Shabalov did not issue as conqueror.
Trirodov found it painful and difficult to talk with Shabalov.
Shabalov said in a slow, creaking voice:
"Giorgiy Sergeyevitch, you will have to send your wards to town for
"Why is it necessary?" asked Trirodov.
Shabalov laughed his creaking "he-he" laugh and said:
"Well, it's necessary. We'll give them certificates."
"What's the use of your certificates to them?" asked Trirodov. "They
need knowledge and not certificates. Your certificates won't feed
"The certificates are necessary for military service," explained
"They will remain pupils here," said Trirodov, "until they are ready
for practical work or for scientific and artistic occupations. Then
some of them will go to technical schools, others to universities.
Why, then, should they have certificates for a course in a Primary
Shabalov repeated dully and stubbornly:
"Things are not done that way. Your school is counted among the
Primary Schools. Those who have completed the course should receive
certificates. How else can it be?--judge for yourself! And if you wish
to go beyond the primary course, then you'll have to procure for
yourself a private gymnasia or a professional school, or, if you like,
a commercial one. But what you want is impossible. And, of course,
you'd have to engage real teachers in place of your cheap barefoots."
"My barefoots," retorted Trirodov, "have the same diplomas and
learning as the real teachers, to use your expression. It is strange
that you do not know or realize that fact. And they receive such ample
pay from me that I should hesitate to call them cheap. Generally
speaking, it seems to me that in its relation to private schools the
so-called educational council would do well to limit itself to an
external police surveillance of a purely negative character. They
should merely see whether we commit anything of a criminal nature. But
what business have you with the direction of schools? You have so few
schools of your own, and yet they are so poor that you have quite a
time to attend to them."
Shabalov, somewhat subdued, replied:
"Still, the examination will have to be held. Surely you understand
that? And the Headmaster of the National Schools is anxious to be
present at the examination. We have our instructions from the
Ministry, and it is impossible to discuss the matter. Our business is
to execute orders."
"Come here yourselves if it is absolutely necessary to hold an
examination," said Trirodov coldly.
"Very well," said Shabalov upon reflection. "I will report your wish
to the Headmaster of the National Schools. I don't know how he will
look upon the matter, but I will make my report."
Then he reflected again briefly. He rubbed his back, covered by its
blue official frock, against the back of his chair--the greasy, faded
cloth against the handsome dark-green leather--and said:
"If the Headmaster agrees to it, we will appoint the day and send you
the notification, that you may expect us."
In the course of a few days Shabalov sent the announcement that the
examination in Trirodov's school was appointed to be held on May 30,
at ten o'clock in the morning, on the premises.
This meddling on the part of the educational police annoyed Trirodov,
but he had to submit to it.
Kirsha was acquainted with many boys in town. Some of them were pupils
of the gymnasia, some of the town school. Kirsha was also acquainted
with some of the students who attended the girls' gymnasia. He told
his father a great deal about the affairs and ways of these
institutions. His information contained much that was singular and
The personality of the Headmaster of the National Schools, Doulebov,
particularly interested Trirodov of late. The schools under his
guidance included the school established by Trirodov, though Doulebov
contributed nothing to the school. He conducted himself with complete
indifference to the aspersions cast at Priest Zakrasin and did not
defend him before the Diocesan Bishop. He and his subordinate, the
Inspector, showered official papers upon Trirodov and demanded various
reports in the established form, so that Trirodov had to prevail upon
a small official of the Exchequer to come evenings and copy out all
this absurd nonsense. But neither Doulebov nor Shabalov looked in even
once into Trirodov's school. When Trirodov happened to be in the
Headmaster's office the conversation usually turned on documents
concerning the instructresses and various petty formalities.
The calumnies of Ostrov and of his friends in the Black Hundred
disturbed Doulebov. To avoid unpleasantness Doulebov decided to take
advantage of the first opportunity to close Trirodov's school.
The Headmaster of the National Schools, Actual State Councillor,
Grigory Vladimirovitch Doulebov, had his eye on a higher position in
the educational department. That was why he tried to gain favour by
showing a meticulous attentiveness to his duties. His perseverance was
astonishing. He never gave an impression of haste. His reception of
subordinates and petitioners, announced on a placard on his door to
take place on Thursdays between one and three, actually began at
eleven in the morning, and continued until late in the evening.
Doulebov spoke with each visitor slowly and showed his interest in the
But Doulebov, of course, knew very well that however great was his
attentiveness to his duties, that in itself would not take him very
far. It was indispensable to cultivate the proper personages. Doulebov
had no influential aunts and grandmothers, and he had to make efforts
on his own behalf. And in the whole course of his twenty-five years'
service, beginning as a gymnasia instructor, Doulebov uninterruptedly
and skilfully concerned himself with establishing improved relations
with all who were higher in rank than he or equal with him. He even
made an effort to keep on good terms with the younger set--that was
for an emergency; for--who can tell?--the younger sometimes go ahead
of the old, and, being young, they might do one an injury--or a good
service--when the opportunity offered.
Never to commit an untactful action--in that consisted the chief
precept of Doubelov's life. He knew very well that this or that action
was not good in itself, and that the chief thing was "how they would
look upon it"--they, that is, the authorities. The authorities were
favourably inclined towards Doulebov. He had already been almost
promised an assistantship to the head of the Educational District.
Doulebov adopted an attitude towards his subordinates consistent with
this personal attitude. To those who acted respectfully towards him
and his wife he gave his patronage and made efforts to improve their
position. He defended them in unpleasant situations, though very
cautiously, in order not to hurt his own position. He was not very
fond of those who were disrespectful and independent, and he hindered
them all he could.
Recognizing a rising luminary in the newly appointed Vice-Governor,
who lately had been a Councillor in the District Government, Doulebov
tried to come into agreeable relations with him also. But he conducted
himself towards him very cautiously, so that he might not be suspected
of too intimate relations with this evil, morose, badly trained man
and his vulgar wife.
Doulebov had pleasant manners, a youngish face, and a slender voice
which resembled the squeal of a young pig. He was light and agile in
his movements. No one had ever seen him drunk, and as a visitor he
either did not drink at all or limited himself to a glass of Madeira.
He was always accompanied by his wife. It was said that she managed
all his affairs, and that Doulebov obeyed her implicitly in
The wife of the Headmaster, Zinaida Grigorievna, was a plump,
energetic, and shrewish woman. Her short hair was beginning to get
grey. She was very jealous of her influence and maintained it with
At Doulebov's invitation the Vice-Governor visited the town school. In
inviting the Vice-Governor Doulebov had especially in view the idea of
taking him to the Trirodov school. In the event of the school being
closed, he wanted to say that it was done at the instigation of the
governmental authorities. But Doulebov did not wish to invite the
Vice-Governor direct to Trirodov's school, so as to give no one any
reason for saying that he did it on purpose. That was why he persuaded
the Vice-Governor to come to the examination at the town school on the
eve of the day appointed for the examinations at the Trirodov school.
The town school was situated in one of the dirty side streets. Its
exterior was highly unattractive. The dirty, dilapidated wooden
structure seemed as if it were built for a tavern rather than for a
school. This did not prevent Doulebov from saying to the inspector of
"The new Vice-Governor will visit you to-day. I invited him to you
because you have such a fine school."
Inspector Poterin, fawning before Doulebov and his wife, said in a
"Our building is anything but showy."
Doulebov smiled amiably and replied encouragingly:
"The building is not the important thing. The school itself is good.
The instruction is to be valued and not the walls."
The Vice-Governor arrived rather late, at eleven, together with
Zherbenev, who was an honorary overseer of the school.
There was a very tense feeling in the school. The instructors and the
students alike trembled before the authorities. Stupid and vulgar
scenes with the Headmaster in the town school were common with
Doulebov and did not embarrass him. As for Doulebov and his wife, they
were fully alive to their importance. They had received only two or
three days before definite news of the appointment of Doulebov as
assistant to the head of the Educational Department.
Inspector Shabalov arrived at the school very early that day. He
occupied himself with attentions to Zinaida Grigorievna Doulebova, to
whom he showed various services with an unexpected and rather vulgar
The instructor-inspector, Mikhail Prokopievitch Poterin, conducted
himself like a lackey. It was even evident at times that he trembled
before the Doulebovs. What reason had he to be afraid? He was a great
patriot--a member of the Black Hundred. He accepted bribes, beat his
pupils, drank considerably--and he always got off easily.
Zinaida Grigorievna Doulebova examined the graduating classes in
French and English. These studies were optional. Inspector Poterin's
wife gave instruction in French. She had not yet fully mastered the
Berlitz method, and looked at the Doulebovs cringingly. But at heart
she was bitter--at her poverty, abjectness, and dependence.
Poterin knew no languages; but he was also present here, and hissed
malignantly at those who answered awkwardly or did not answer at all:
Doulebova sat motionless and made no sign that she heard this zealous
hissing and these coarse words. She would give freedom to her tongue
later, at luncheon.
A luncheon had been prepared for the visitors and the instructors. It
cost Poterin's wife much trouble and anxiety. The table was set in the
large room, where on ordinary days the small boys made lively and
wrangled in recess-time. They were excluded on this day, and raised a
Doulebova sat at the head of the table, between the Vice-Governor and
Zherbenev; Doulebov sat next to the Vice-Governor. A pie was brought
in; then tea. Zinaida Grigorievna abused the instructors' wives and
the instructresses. She loved gossip--indeed, who does not? The
instructors' wives gossiped to her.
During the luncheon the small boys, having resumed their places in the
neighbouring class, sang:
_What songs, what songs,
Our Russia does sing.
Do what you like--though you burst,
Frenchman, you'll never sing like that_.
And other songs in the same spirit.
Doulebov wiped his face with his right hand--like a cat licking its
paw--and piped out:
"I hear that the Marquis Teliatnikov is to pay us a visit soon."
"We are not within his jurisdiction," said Poterin.
But his whole face became distorted with apprehension.
"All the same," said Doulebov in his thin voice, "he possesses great
powers. He can do what he likes."
The Vice-Governor looked gloomily at Poterin and said morosely:
"He's going to pull you all up."
Poterin grew deathly pale and broke out into perspiration. The
conversation about the Marquis Teliatnikov continued, and the local
revolutionary ferment was mentioned in the course of it.
Revolutionary proclamations had appeared in all the woods of the
neighbourhood. Large pieces of bark were cut off the trees and
proclamations pasted on. It was impossible to remove these bills,
which were overrun by a thin, transparent coating of resin. The
zealous preservers of order had either to chop out or to scrape off
the obnoxious places with a knife.
"I think," said Doulebova, "that it must be an idea of our chemist,
"Of course." She was confirmed in her suggestion by the cringing,
dry-looking instructress of German.
Zinaida Grigorievna turned towards Poterina in order to show favour to
her hostess by her conversation, and asked her with an amused smile:
"How do you like our celebrated Decadent?"
The instructress tried to understand. An expression of fear showed on
her flat, dull face. She asked timidly:
"Whom do you mean, Zinaida Grigorievna?"
"Whom else could I mean but Mr. Trirodov," replied Doulebova
The malice was all on Trirodov's account, but nevertheless Poterina
trembled with fear.
"Ah, yes, Trirodov; how then, how then...." she repeated in a worried,
flustered way, and was at a loss what to say.
Doulebova said bitingly:
"Well, I don't think he laughs very often. He ought to be to your
"To my taste!" exclaimed Poterina with a flushed face. "What are you
saying, Zinaida Grigorievna! As the old saying goes: 'The Tsar's
servant has been bent into a harness arch!'"
"Yes, he always looks askance at you and talks to no one," said the
wife of the instructor Krolikov; "but he is a very kind man."
Doulebova turned her malignant glance upon her. Krolikova grew pale
with fear, and guessed that she had not said the right thing. She
"He is a kind man in his words."
Doulebova smiled at her benevolently.
"Do you know what I think?" said Zherbenev, addressing himself to
Doulebova. "I have seen many men in my time, I may say without
boasting; and in my opinion, it is a very bad sign that he looks
askance at you."
"Of course!" agreed Poterina. "That is the honest truth!"
"Let a man look me straight in my face," went on Zherbenev. "But the
Zherbenev did not finish his sentence. Doulebova said:
"Frankly, I don't like your poet. I can't understand him. There is
something strange about him--something disagreeable."
"He's altogether suspicious," said Zherbenev with the look of a person
who knew a great deal.
It was asserted that Trirodov and others were collecting money for an
armed revolt. At this they looked significantly at Voronok. Voronok
retorted, but he was not heard. There was an outburst of malignant
remarks against Trirodov. It was said that there was a secret
underground printing establishment in Trirodov's house, and that not
only the instructresses worked there but also Trirodov's young wards.
The women exclaimed in horror:
"They are mere tots!"
"What do you think of your tots now?"
"There are no children nowadays."
"I've just heard," said Voronok, "that a nine-year-old boy is kept in
confinement by the police."
"The young rebel!" said the Vice-Governor savagely.
"Yes, and I've also heard," said Poterin, "that a thirteen-year-old
boy has been arrested. Such a little beggar, and already in revolt."
The Vice-Governor said morosely:
"He's going with his grandfather to Siberia."
"Why?" asked Voronok with a flushed face.
"He laughed," growled the Vice-Governor morosely.
Doulebov turned to Poterin and asked in a loud voice:
"And I hope you have no rebels in your school."
"No, thank God, I have nothing of that kind," replied Poterin. "But,
to tell the truth, the children are very loose nowadays."
Doulebov, with a patronizing amiableness, said again to him:
"You have a good school. Everything is in exemplary order."
Poterin grew radiant and boasted:
"Yes, I know how to pull them up. I treat them sternly."
"A salutary sternness," said Doulebov.
Encouraged by these words, the instructor-inspector asked:
"Do you think one might also beat them?"
Doulebov avoided a direct answer. He wiped his face with his
hand--like a cat using its paw--and changed the subject.
They began touching recollections about the good old times. They began
to relate how, where, and whom they birched.
"They birch even now," said Shabalov with a quiet joy.
After luncheon they went into the assembly room. Some of them began to
smoke. Instructor Mouralov's wife took advantage of an opportune
moment to speak to Doulebova. She cautiously stole up to her when she
saw her standing aside and told her that Poterin took bribes. Separate
phrases and words were distinguished from the rest of the
"Have you noticed, Zinaida Grigorievna?"
"Our inspector is parading in gloves."
"Gloves! Yellow ones!"
"What of that?"
"Out of bribes."
Zinaida Grigorievna was overjoyed, and grew animated. For a long time
the whispers of the malicious women were audible, and between their
whispers their hissing, snake-like laughter.
Then the women, together with Shabalov and Voronok, went off to finish
the examination. Doulebov and the Vice-Governor went in to look at the
library. Poterin accompanied them. Everything was in order. The thick
volumes of Katkov quietly slumbered; the dust had been wiped from
them on the eve of the Vice-Governor's visit.
[Footnote 32: Mikhail Katkov (1820-1887), a celebrated reactionary and
Poterin made use of an opportunity to make insinuations against the
instructors. He reported that Voronok did not go to church, and that
he collected schoolboys at his own house in order to read something or
other to them.
"I shall have to have a talk with him," said Doulebov. "Ask him into
your study and I will talk to him. In the meantime, show Ardalyon
Borisovitch the laboratory."
Doulebov and Voronok spoke for a long time in Poterin's study.
"I don't question your convictions," said the Headmaster, "but I must
make it clear to you that it is impossible to introduce politics into
schools. Children cannot discuss such questions; it does them harm."
"Agents' reports are not always to be believed," said Voronok
Doulebov flushed slightly and said in an annoyed manner.
"We don't maintain agents, but we have many acquaintances. We have
lived here a long time. It is impossible not to hear what is told us."
The honorary overseer, Zherbenev, invited all who attended the
examination to his house to dinner. Only Voronok refused the
invitation. But Zherbenev invited others to the dinner--the general's
widow, Glafira Pavlovna, and Kerbakh among them. It was a long and
lavish dinner. The guests drank much during and after the meal. Every
one got tipsy. Doulebov alone remained sober. The liqueurs only made
him look slightly ruddier--he was very fond of them.
The members of the Black Hundred took advantage of the occasion to say
something malicious about Trirodov to Doulebov and the Vice-Governor.
The Trirodov school began to be discussed rather vulgarly.
"He's taken up photography; quite keen on it."
"He calls in children, makes them take everything off, and photographs
"Yes, and he's got naked children running about in the woods."
"Children? The instructresses too!"
"They may not be exactly naked, but they are always running about
"Just like peasant women," said Zherbenev.
"Yes," said the Vice-Governor. "It is very immoral for women to go
about barefoot. It must be stopped."
"They are poor people," said some one.
"It is pornography!" said the Vice-Governor savagely.
And every one suddenly believed him. The Vice-Governor said morosely:
"He's lodged a complaint against us for whipping his instructress. But
he is lying; he's whipped her himself. We have no need of whipping
girls--but he does it because he's a corrupt man."
Some one made the observation that Trirodov was friends with dangerous
sects, at which Kerbakh remarked:
"He now has horses and carriages, but I know a man who knew him when
he had only his shirt. It is rather suspicious as to where he got his
Glafira Pavlovna looked at Shabalov and whispered to Doulebov:
"I know he is a patriot, but he has terrible manners."
"I know he is very stupid and undeveloped, but zealous. If directed
properly he can be very useful."
* * * * *
Next morning the Headmaster of the National Schools, accompanied by
the Vice-Governor and Shabalov, started in their carriages from the
Headmaster's offices and drove off to Trirodov's school in the
Prosianiya Meadows. They had not yet fully recovered from the previous
day's carouse. They carried on their indecent, half-tipsy
conversations in the midst of nature's loveliness. They looked like a
lot of picnickers.
Zinaida Grigorievna and Kerbakh, who were in one carriage, were
engaged in a malicious conversation. They tore their acquaintances to
shreds. She began with Poterin's gloves. Then she related about the
suicide of another inspector's mistress; she drowned herself because
she was about to have a child. Then she told about a third inspector
who got drunk in a bath-house and got into a tussle there with the
mayor of the town.
Shabalov was riding in a trap with Zherbenev.
"It would be good to have a tasty snack," he said.
"We are sure to get something there," replied Zherbenev confidently.
The visitors were all confident that they were being awaited. Zinaida
"The most interesting part of it will be hidden of course."
"Yes, but we'll investigate."
It was a fresh, early morning. The road went through the wood. They
had now driven for a long time. It seemed as if the same meadows and
woods, copses, streams, and bridges repeated themselves again and
again. They began to ask the drivers:
"Are you sure you're going the right way?"
"Perhaps you've lost your way."
"I think it's in that direction."
The two towers of Trirodov's house soon became visible. They appeared
to the right, and yet it was impossible to find the way to them. For a
long time they blundered. The roads spread and branched out at this
point. At last the driver of the first carriage stopped his horses,
and behind it the other carriages came to a standstill.
"I'll have to ask some one," said the driver. "There's some sort of a
boy coming this way."
A ten-year-old, barefoot boy could be seen coming down the road from
the wood. Shabalov shouted savagely at him:
The boy glanced at the carriages and calmly walked on. Shabalov cried
more furiously this time:
"Stop, you young brat! Off with your cap! Don't you see that gentlemen
are coming--why don't you bow to them?"
The boy paused. He looked in astonishment at the variety of carriages
and did not take his cap off. Doulebova decided:
"He's simply an idiot!"
"Well, we shall make him talk," said Kerbakh.
He left his carriage and, going up to the boy, asked him:
"Do you know where Trirodov's school is?"
The boy silently pointed to one of the roads with his hand. Then he
ran off quickly, and disappeared somewhere among the bushes.
At last the road went along a fence. Everything all around seemed
deserted and quiet. Evidently no one awaited the visitors or had
arranged to meet them.
Finally they reached the gates of the enclosure. They looked around.
It was very quiet. No one was visible anywhere. Shabalov jumped out of
his trap and began to look for the bell. Madame Doulebova said in
"What do you think of that?"
They tried to open the small gate by themselves but were unable.
Shabalov cried out:
"Open the gate! You devils, demons, sinners!"
Madame Doulebova tried to soothe Shabalov, who justified himself:
"Forgive me, Zinaida Grigorievna. It is most annoying. If I had come
myself I shouldn't have minded waiting, though even then it would have
been discourteous--being, after all, an official. And here the higher
authorities have announced their coming, and these people pay
absolutely no attention to it."
At last the small gate opened, suddenly and noiselessly. A boy,
sunburnt and barefoot, in a white shirt and short white breeches,
stood on the threshold. The angry Doulebov said in his thin, shrill
"Is this Trirodov's school?"
"Yes," said the boy.
The visitors entered and found themselves in a small glade. Three
barefoot girls slowly came to meet them. These were instructresses.
Nadezhda Vestchezerova looked with her large dark eyes at Madame
Doulebova, who whispered to the Vice-Governor:
"Have a look at her. This girl had a scandal in her life, but he's
taken her on."
Doulebova knew every one in town, and she knew especially well those
who have had an unpleasant experience of some sort.
Presently Trirodov appeared in a white summer suit. He looked with an
ironic smile at the gaily dressed party of visitors.
The visitors were met with courtesy; but the Headmaster was displeased
because no honour was shown them and no special preparations were
evident. The instructresses were dressed as simply as always. Doulebov
was especially displeased because both the instructresses and their
pupils walked about barefoot. The naivete of the children irritated
the visitors. The children looked at the party indifferently. Some of
them nodded a greeting, others did not.
"Take off your cap!" shouted Shabalov.
The boy pulled his cap off and reached it out to Shabalov with the
Shabalov growled savagely:
Then he turned away. The boy looked at him in astonishment.
Doulebov, and even more his wife, were terribly annoyed because they
had not put on more clothes for their visitors, not even shoes. The
Vice-Governor looked dully and savagely. Everything displeased him at
once. Doulebov asked with a frown:
"Surely they are not always like that?"
"Always, Vladimir Grigorievitch," replied Trirodov. "They have got
used to it."
"But it is indecent!" said Madame Doulebova.
"It is the one thing that is decent," retorted Trirodov.
The windows of the house in the small glade were wide open. The
twitter of birds was audible and the fresh, delicious aroma of flowers
entered in. It was here the children gathered, and the miserable farce
of the examination began. Doulebov stood up before an ikon on one side
of the room, assumed a stately air, and exclaimed:
"Children, rise to prayer."
The children rose. Doulebov thrust a finger forward towards a
dark-eyed boy's breast and shouted:
The thin, shrill outcry and the movement of the finger towards the
child's breast were so unexpected by the boy that he trembled and gave
a choking sound. Some one behind him laughed, another gave an amused
chuckle. Doulebova exchanged glances with Kerbakh and shrugged her
shoulders; her face expressed horror.
The boy quickly recovered himself and read the prayer.
"Sit down, children," ordered Doulebov.
The children resumed their places, while the elders seated themselves
at a table in the order of their rank--the Vice-Governor and Doulebov
in the middle, with the others to their right and left. Doulebova
looked round with an anxious, angry expression. At last she said in a
bass voice, extraordinarily coarse for a woman:
"Shut the windows. The birds are making a noise, and the wind too; it
is impossible to do anything."
Trirodov looked at her in astonishment. He said quietly to Nadezhda:
"Close the windows. Our guests can't stand fresh air."
The windows were shut. The children looked with melancholy tedium at
the depressing window-panes.
Writing exercises were given. A little tale was read aloud from a
reader brought by Shabalov. Doulebov asked the class to compose it in
their own words.
The boys and girls were about to pick up their pens, but Doulebov
stopped them and delivered a long and tedious dissertation on how to
write the given composition. Then he said:
"Now you can write it."
The children wrote. It was quiet. The writers handed in their papers
to their instructresses. Doulebov and Shabalov looked them over there
and then. They tried to find mistakes, but there were few. Then
dictation was given.
Doulebova looked morosely the whole while and blinked often. Trirodov
tried to enter into conversation with her, but the angry dame answered
so haughtily that it was with great difficulty he refrained from
smiling, and finally he left the malicious woman to herself.
After the written exercises Trirodov asked the uninvited guests to
"It was such a long journey here," said Doulebov as if he were
explaining why he did not refuse the invitation to eat.
The children scattered a short way into the wood, while the elders
went into a neighbouring house, where the luncheon was ready. The
conversation during luncheon was constrained and captious. The
Doulebovs tried all sorts of pinpricks and coarse insinuations; their
companions followed suit. Every one tried to outdo the other in saying
caustic, spiteful things.
Doulebov looked with simulated horror at Trirodov's instructresses who
happened to be present, and whispered to Kerbakh:
"Their feet are soiled with earth."
After luncheon they returned to the school. All resumed their former
places. Then the oral examination began. Doulebov bent over the
roll-call and called out three boys at once. Each of them was
questioned first about the Holy Scriptures, and immediately afterwards
about the Russian language and arithmetic.
The examiners cavilled at everything. Nothing satisfied Doulebov. He
gave questions the answers to which were bound to make evident whether
higher feelings were being instilled in the children--of love for the
Fatherland, of allegiance to the Tsar, and of devotion to the Orthodox
Church. He asked one boy:
"Which country is better, Russia or France?"
The boy thought a while and said:
"I don't know. It depends upon which place a man is used to--there he
is better off."
Doulebova laughed viperously. Shabalov said in a preceptorial manner:
"The orthodox _matushka_ Russia! Is it possible to compare
any kingdom with ours? Have you heard how our native land is called?
Holy Russia, Mother Russia, the holy Russian soil. And you are an
idiot, blockhead, a little swine. If you don't like your Fatherland
what are you good for?"
[Footnote 33: Little Mother.]
The boy flushed. Tiny tears gleamed in his eyes. Doulebov asked:
"Now tell me what is the very best faith in this world."
The boy fell into thought. Shabalov asked malignantly:
"Can't you answer even that?"
The boy said:
"When one believes sincerely, then it is the very best faith for him."
"What a blockhead!" said Shabalov with conviction.
Trirodov looked at him in astonishment. He said quietly:
"The sincerity of religious mood is surely the best indication of a
"We'll discuss that later," piped out Doulebov sternly. "This is not a
"As you like," said Trirodov with a smile. "It is all the same to me
when you discuss it."
Doulebov, red with agitation, rose from his chair and, going up to
Trirodov, said to him:
"It is absolutely necessary that I should have a talk with you."
"At your service," said Trirodov, not without some astonishment.
"Please continue," said Doulebov to Shabalov.
Doulebov and Trirodov went into the next room. Their conversation soon
assumed a very sharp character. Doulebov made some savage accusations
and said rather vehemently:
"I have heard improper things about your school, but, indeed, the
reality exceeds all expectations."
"What is there precisely improper?" asked Trirodov. "In what way has
reality surpassed gossip?"
"I don't collect gossip," squealed Doulebov excitedly. "I see with my
own eyes. This is not a school but a pornography!"
His voice had already passed into piggish tones. He struck the table
with his palm. There was the hard sound of the wedding-ring against
the wood. Trirodov said:
"I too have heard that you were a man with self-control. But this is
not the first time to-day that I've noticed your violent movements."
Doulebov made an effort to recover himself. He said more quietly:
"It is a revolting pornography!"
"And what do you call pornography?" asked Trirodov.
"Don't you know?" said Doulebov with a sarcastic smile.
"Yes, I know," said Trirodov. "In my conception every written lechery
and disfigurement of beautiful truth to gratify the low instincts of
the man-beast--that is pornography. Your thrice-assured State
school--that is the true example of pornography."
"They walk about naked here!" squealed Doulebov.
"They will be healthier and cleaner than those children who leave your
"Even your instructresses walk about naked. You've taken on depraved
girls as instructresses."
Trirodov replied calmly:
"That's a lie!"
The Headmaster said sharply and excitedly:
"Your school--if this awful, impossible establishment can be called a
school--will be closed at once. I will make the application to the
Trirodov replied sharply:
"That you can do."
Soon the visitors left in an ugly frame of mind. Doulebova hissed and
waxed indignant the whole way back.
"He's clearly a dangerous man," observed Kerbakh.
Piotr and Rameyev arrived at Trirodov's together. Rameyev more than
once said to Piotr that he had been very rude to Trirodov, and that he
ought to smooth out matters somehow. Piotr agreed very unwillingly.
Once more they talked about the war. Trirodov asked Rameyev:
"I think you see only a political significance in this war."
[Footnote 34: The Russo-Japanese War.]
"And do you disagree with me?" asked Rameyev.
"No," said Trirodov, "I admit that. But, in my opinion, aside from the
stupid and criminal actions of these or other individuals, there are
more general causes. History has its own dialectic. Whether or not a
war had taken place is all the same: there would have been a fated
collision in any case, in one or another form; there would have begun
the decisive struggle between two worlds, two comprehensions of the
world, two moralities, Buddha and Christ."
"The teachings of Buddhism resemble those of Christianity
considerably," said Piotr. "That is its only value."
"Yes," said Trirodov. "There appears to be a great resemblance at the
first glance; but actually these two systems are as opposite as the
poles. They are the affirmation and the denial of life, its Yes and
its No, its irony and its lyricism. The affirmation, Yes, is
Christianity; the denial, No, is Buddhism."
"That seems to me to be too much of a generalization," said Rameyev.
"I generalize for the sake of clearness. The present moment in history
is especially convenient. It is history's zenith hour. Now that
Christianity has revealed the eternal contradiction of the world, we
are passing through the poignant struggle of those two world
"And not the struggle of the classes?" asked Rameyev.
"Yes," said Trirodov, "there is also the struggle of the classes, to
whatever degree two inimical factors enter into the struggle--social
justice and the real relation of forces--a common morality, which is
always static, and a common dynamism. The Christian element is in
morality, the Buddhistic in dynamism. Indeed, the weakness of Europe
consists in that its life has already for a long time nourished itself
on a substance Buddhistic in origin."
Piotr said confidently, in the voice of a young prophet:
"In this duel Christianity will triumph--not the historic
Christianity, of course, and not the present, but the Christianity of
St. John and the Apocalypse. And it will triumph only then when
everything will appear lost, and the world will be in the power of the
"I don't think that will happen," said Trirodov quietly.
"I suppose you think Buddha will triumph," said Piotr in vexation.
"No," replied Trirodov calmly.
"The devil, perhaps!" exclaimed Piotr.
"Petya!" exclaimed Rameyev reproachfully.
Trirodov lowered his head slightly, as if he were confused, and said
"We see two currents, equally powerful. It would be strange that
either one of them should conquer. That is impossible. It is
impossible to destroy half of the whole historical energy."
"However," said Piotr, "if neither Christ nor Buddha conquers, what
awaits us? Or is that fool Guyau right when he speaks of the
irreligiousness of future generations?"
[Footnote 35: A reference to J. M. Guyau's book, "Non-Religion of the
"There will be a synthesis," replied Trirodov. "You will accept it for
"This contradictory mixture is worse than forty devils!" exclaimed
The visitors soon left.
Kirsha came without being called--confused and agitated by an
indefinable something. He was silent, and his dark eyes flamed with
sadness and fear. He walked up to the window, looked out in an
attitude of expectancy. He seemed to see something in the distance.
There was a look of apprehension in his dark, wide-open eyes, as if
they were fixed on a strange distant vision. Thus people look during a
Kirsha turned to his father and, growing pale, said quietly:
"Father, a visitor has come to you from quite afar. How strange that
he has come in a simple carriage and in ordinary clothes! I wonder why
he has come?"
They could hear the crunching sound of the sand under the iron hoops
of the wheels of the calash which had just entered the gates. Kirsha's
face wore a gloomy expression. It was difficult to comprehend what was
in his soul--was it a reproach?--astonishment?--fear?
Trirodov went to the window. A man of about forty, impressive for his
appearance of calm and self-assurance, stepped out of the calash.
Trirodov recognized his visitor at the first glance, though he had
never met him before in society. He knew him well, but only from
portraits he had seen of him, from his literary works, and from the
stories of his admirers and articles about him. In his youth Trirodov
had had some slight relations with him through friends, but this was
interrupted. He had not even met him.
Trirodov suddenly felt both cheerful and sad. He reflected:
"Why has he come to me? What does he want of me? And why should he
suddenly think of me? Our roads have diverged so much, we have become
such strangers to one another."
There was his disturbing curiosity:
"I'll see and hear him for the first time."
And the mutinous protest: