Part 2 out of 4
handwriting in which the other part of the manuscript was written, the
editor considers that he is justified in concluding that the above
lines were added subsequently by another person, especially since it
has come to his (the editor's) knowledge that Mr. Tchulkaturin actually
did die on the night between the 1st and 2nd of April in the year 18--,
at his native place, Sheep's Springs.
* * * * *
A TOUR IN THE FOREST
The sight of the vast pinewood, embracing the whole horizon, the sight
of the 'Forest,' recalls the sight of the ocean. And the sensations it
arouses are the same; the same primaeval untouched force lies
outstretched in its breadth and majesty before the eyes of the
spectator. From the heart of the eternal forest, from the undying bosom
of the waters, comes the same voice: 'I have nothing to do with
thee,'--nature says to man, 'I reign supreme, while do thou bestir
thyself to thy utmost to escape dying.' But the forest is gloomier and
more monotonous than the sea, especially the pine forest, which is
always alike and almost soundless. The ocean menaces and caresses, it
frolics with every colour, speaks with every voice; it reflects the
sky, from which too comes the breath of eternity, but an eternity as it
were not so remote from us.... The dark, unchanging pine-forest keeps
sullen silence or is filled with a dull roar--and at the sight of it
sinks into man's heart more deeply, more irresistibly, the sense of his
own nothingness. It is hard for man, the creature of a day, born
yesterday, and doomed to death on the morrow, it is hard for him to
bear the cold gaze of the eternal Isis, fixed without sympathy upon
him: not only the daring hopes and dreams of youth are humbled and
quenched within him, enfolded by the icy breath of the elements;
no--his whole soul sinks down and swoons within him; he feels that the
last of his kind may vanish off the face of the earth--and not one
needle will quiver on those twigs; he feels his isolation, his
feebleness, his fortuitousness;--and in hurried, secret panic, he turns
to the petty cares and labours of life; he is more at ease in that
world he has himself created; there he is at home, there he dares yet
believe in his own importance and in his own power.
Such were the ideas that came into my mind, some years ago, when,
standing on the steps of a little inn on the bank of the marshy little
river Ressetta, I first gazed upon the forest. The bluish masses of
fir-forest lay in long, continuous ridges before me; here and there was
the green patch of a small birch-copse; the whole sky-line was hugged
by the pine-wood; nowhere was there the white gleam of a church, nor
bright stretches of meadow--it was all trees and trees, everywhere the
ragged edge of the tree-tops, and a delicate dim mist, the eternal mist
of the forest, hung over them in the distance. It was not indolent
repose this immobility of life suggested; no--the absence of life,
something dead, even in its grandeur, was what came to me from every
side of the horizon. I remember big white clouds were swimming by,
slowly and very high up, and the hot summer day lay motionless upon the
silent earth. The reddish water of the stream glided without a splash
among the thick reeds: at its bottom could be dimly discerned round
cushions of pointed moss, and its banks sank away in the swampy mud,
and sharply reappeared again in white hillocks of fine crumbling sand.
Close by the little inn ran the trodden highroad.
On this road, just opposite the steps, stood a cart, loaded with boxes
and hampers. Its owner, a thin pedlar with a hawk nose and mouse-like
eyes, bent and lame, was putting in it his little nag, lame like
himself. He was a gingerbread-seller, who was making his way to the
fair at Karatchev. Suddenly several people appeared on the road, others
straggled after them ... at last, quite a crowd came trudging into
sight; all of them had sticks in their hands and satchels on their
shoulders. From their fatigued yet swinging gait, and from their
sun-burnt faces, one could see they had come from a long distance. They
were leatherworkers and diggers coming back from working for hire.
An old man of seventy, white all over, seemed to be their leader. From
time to time he turned round and with a quiet voice urged on those who
lagged behind. 'Now, now, now, lads,' he said, 'no--ow.' They all
walked in silence, in a sort of solemn hush. Only one of them, a little
man with a wrathful air, in a sheepskin coat wide open, and a lambswool
cap pulled right over his eyes, on coming up to the gingerbread man,
suddenly inquired: 'How much is the gingerbread, you tomfool?'
'What sort of gingerbread will it be, worthy sir?' the disconcerted
gingerbread--man responded in a thin, little voice. 'Some are a
farthing--and others cost a halfpenny. Have you a halfpenny in your
'But I guess it will sweeten the belly too much,' retorted the
sheepskin, and he retreated from the cart.
'Hurry up, lads, hurry up,' I heard the old man's voice: 'it's far yet
to our night's rest.'
'An uneducated folk,' said the gingerbread-man, with a squint at me,
directly all the crowd had trudged past: 'is such a dainty for the
likes of them?'
And quickly harnessing his horse, he went down to the river, where a
little wooden ferry could be seen. A peasant in a white felt 'schlik'
(the usual headgear in the forest) came out of a low mud hut to meet
him, and ferried him over to the opposite bank. The little cart, with
one wheel creaking from time to time, crawled along the trodden and
deeply rutted road.
I fed my horses, and I too was ferried over. After struggling for a
couple of miles through the boggy prairie, I got at last on to a narrow
raised wooden causeway to a clearing in the forest. The cart jolted
unevenly over the round beams of the causeway: I got out and went along
on foot. The horses moved in step snorting and shaking their heads from
the gnats and flies. The forest took us into its bosom. On the
outskirts, nearer to the prairie, grew birches, aspens, limes, maples,
and oaks. Then they met us more rarely, the dense firwood moved down on
us in an unbroken wall. Further on were the red, bare trunks of pines,
and then again a stretch of mixed copse, overgrown with underwood of
hazelnut, mountain ash, and bramble, and stout, vigorous weeds. The
sun's rays threw a brilliant light on the tree-tops, and, filtering
through the branches, here and there reached the ground in pale streaks
and patches. Birds I scarcely heard--they do not like great forests.
Only from time to time there came the doleful, thrice-repeated call of
a hoopoe, and the angry screech of a nuthatch or a jay; a silent,
always solitary bird kept fluttering across the clearing, with a flash
of golden azure from its lovely feathers. At times the trees grew
further apart, ahead of us the light broke in, the cart came out on a
cleared, sandy, open space. Thin rye was growing over it in rows,
noiselessly nodding its pale ears. On one side there was a dark,
dilapidated little chapel, with a slanting cross over a well. An unseen
brook was babbling peaceably with changing, ringing sounds, as though
it were flowing into an empty bottle. And then suddenly the road was
cut in half by a birch-tree recently fallen, and the forest stood
around, so old, lofty, and slumbering, that the air seemed pent in. In
places the clearing lay under water. On both sides stretched a forest
bog, all green and dark, all covered with reeds and tiny alders. Ducks
flew up in pairs--and it was strange to see those water-birds darting
rapidly about among the pines. 'Ga, ga, ga, ga,' their drawn-out call
kept rising unexpectedly. Then a shepherd drove a flock through the
underwood: a brown cow with short, pointed horns broke noisily through
the bushes and stood stockstill at the edge of the clearing, her big,
dark eyes fixed on the dog running before me. A slight breeze brought
the delicate, pungent smell of burnt wood. A white smoke in the
distance crept in eddying rings over the pale, blue forest air, showing
that a peasant was charcoal-burning for a glass-factory or for a
foundry. The further we went on, the darker and stiller it became all
round us. In the pine-forest it is always still; there is only, high
overhead, a sort of prolonged murmur and subdued roar in the tree-tops.
One goes on and on, and this eternal murmur of the forest never ceases,
and the heart gradually begins to sink, and a man longs to come out
quickly into the open, into the daylight; he longs to draw a full
breath again, and is oppressed by the fragrant damp and decay....
For about twelve miles we drove on at a walking pace, rarely at a trot.
I wanted to get by daylight to Svyatoe, a hamlet lying in the very
heart of the forest. Twice we met peasants with stripped bark or long
logs on carts.
'Is it far to Svyatoe?' I asked one of them.
'No, not far.'
'It'll be a little over two miles.'
Another hour and a half went by. We were still driving on and on. Again
we heard the creak of a laden cart. A peasant was walking beside it.
'How far, brother, is it still to Svyatoe?'
'How far to Svyatoe?'
The sun was already setting when at last I got out of the forest and
saw facing me a little village. About twenty homesteads were grouped
close about an old wooden church, with a single green cupola, and tiny
windows, brilliantly red in the evening glow. This was Svyatoe. I drove
into its outskirts. A herd returning homewards overtook my cart, and
with lowing, grunting and bleating moved by us. Young girls and
bustling peasant women came to meet their beasts. Whiteheaded boys with
merry shrieks went in chase of refractory pigs. The dust swirled along
the street in light clouds, flushed crimson as they rose higher in the
I stopped at the house of the village elder, a crafty and clever
'forester,' one of those foresters of whom they say he can see two
yards into the ground. Early next morning, accompanied by the village
elder's son, and another peasant called Yegor, I set off in a little
cart with a pair of peasant's horses, to shoot woodcocks and moorhens.
The forest formed a continuous bluish ring all round the sky-line;
there was reckoned to be two hundred acres, no more, of ploughed land
round Svyatoe; but one had to go some five miles to find good places
for game. The elder's son was called Kondrat. He was a flaxen-haired,
rosy-cheeked young fellow, with a good-natured, peaceable expression of
face, obliging and talkative. He drove the horses. Yegor sat by my
side. I want to say a few words about him.
He was considered the cleverest sportsman in the whole district. Every
step of the ground for fifty miles round he had been over again and
again. He seldom fired at a bird, for lack of powder and shot; but it
was enough for him to decoy a moorhen or to detect the track of a
grouse. Yegor had the character of being a straightforward fellow and
'no talker.' He did not care for talking and never exaggerated the
number of birds he had taken--a trait rare in a sportsman. He was of
medium height, thin, and had a pale, long face, and big, honest eyes.
All his features, especially his straight and never-moving lips, were
expressive of untroubled serenity. He gave a slight, as it were inward
smile, whenever he uttered a word--very sweet was that quiet smile. He
never drank spirits, and worked industriously; but nothing prospered
with him. His wife was always ailing, his children didn't live; he got
poorer and poorer and could never pick up again. And there is no
denying that a passion for the chase is no good for a peasant, and any
one who 'plays with a gun' is sure to be a poor manager of his land.
Either from constantly being in the forest, face to face with the stern
and melancholy scenery of that inhuman country, or from the peculiar
cast and formation of his character, there was noticeable in every
action of Yegor's a sort of modest dignity and stateliness--stateliness
it was, and not melancholy--the stateliness of a majestic stag. He had
in his time killed seven bears, lying in wait for them in the oats. The
last he had only succeeded in killing on the fourth night of his
ambush; the bear persisted in not turning sideways to him, and he had
only one bullet. Yegor had killed him the day before my arrival. When
Kondrat brought me to him, I found him in his back yard; squatting on
his heels before the huge beast, he was cutting the fat out with a
short, blunt knife.
'What a fine fellow you've knocked over there!' I observed.
Yegor raised his head and looked first at me, then at the dog, who had
come with me.
'If it's shooting you've come after, sir, there are woodcocks at
Moshnoy--three coveys, and five of moorhens,' he observed, and set to
With Yegor and with Kondrat I went out the next day in search of sport.
We drove rapidly over the open ground surrounding Svyatoe, but when we
got into the forest we crawled along at a walking pace once more.
'Look, there's a wood-pigeon,' said Kondrat suddenly, turning to me:
'better knock it over!'
Yegor looked in the direction Kondrat pointed, but said nothing. The
wood-pigeon was over a hundred paces from us, and one can't kill it at
forty paces; there is such strength in its feathers. A few more remarks
were made by the conversational Kondrat; but the forest hush had its
influence even on him; he became silent. Only rarely exchanging a word
or two, looking straight ahead, and listening to the puffing and
snorting of the horses, we got at last to 'Moshnoy.' That is the name
given to the older pine-forest, overgrown in places by fir saplings. We
got out; Kondrat led the cart into the bushes, so that the gnats should
not bite the horses. Yegor examined the cock of his gun and crossed
himself: he never began anything without the sign of the cross.
The forest into which we had come was exceedingly old. I don't know
whether the Tartars had wandered over it, but Russian thieves or
Lithuanians, in disturbed times, might certainly have hidden in its
recesses. At a respectful distance from one another stood the mighty
pines with their slightly curved, massive, pale-yellow trunks. Between
them stood in single file others, rather younger. The ground was
covered with greenish moss, sprinkled all over with dead pine-needles;
blueberries grew in dense bushes; the strong perfume of the berries,
like the smell of musk, oppressed the breathing. The sun could not
pierce through the high network of the pine-branches; but it was
stiflingly hot in the forest all the same, and not dark; like big drops
of sweat the heavy, transparent resin stood out and slowly trickled
down the coarse bark of the trees. The still air, with no light or
shade in it, stung the face. Everything was silent; even our footsteps
were not audible; we walked on the moss as on a carpet. Yegor in
particular moved as silently as a shadow; even the brushwood did not
crackle under his feet. He walked without haste, from time to time
blowing a shrill note on a whistle; a woodcock soon answered back, and
before my eyes darted into a thick fir-tree. But in vain Yegor pointed
him out to me; however much I strained my eyes, I could not make him
out. Yegor had to take a shot at him. We came upon two coveys of
moorhens also. The cautious birds rose at a distance with an abrupt,
heavy sound. We succeeded, however, in killing three young ones.
At one _meidan_ [Footnote 1: _Meidan_ is the name given to a place
where tar has been made.--Author's Note.] Yegor suddenly stopped and
called me up.
'A bear has been trying to get water,' he observed, pointing to a
broad, fresh scratch, made in the very middle of a hole covered with
'Is that the print of his paw?' I inquired.
'Yes; but the water has dried up. That's the track of him too on that
pine; he has been climbing after honey. He has cut into it with his
claws as if with a knife.'
We went on making our way into the inner-most depths of the forest.
Yegor only rarely looked upwards, and walked on serenely and
confidently. I saw a high, round rampart, enclosed by a half-choked-up
'What's that? a _meidan_ too?' I inquired.
'No,' answered Yegor; 'here's where the thieves' town stood.'
'Long ago; our grandfathers remember it. Here they buried their
treasure. And they took a mighty oath: on human blood.'
We went on another mile and a half; I began to feel thirsty.
'Sit down a little while,' said Yegor: 'I will go for water; there is a
well not far from here.'
He went away; I was left alone.
I sat down on a felled stump, leaned my elbows on my knees, and after a
long stillness, raised my head and looked around me. Oh, how still and
sullenly gloomy was everything around me--no, not gloomy even, but
dumb, cold, and menacing at the same time! My heart sank. At that
instant, at that spot, I had a sense of death breathing upon me, I felt
I almost touched its perpetual closeness. If only one sound had
vibrated, one momentary rustle had arisen, in the engulfing stillness
of the pine-forest that hemmed me in on all sides! I let my head sink
again, almost in terror; it was as though I had looked in, where no man
ought to look.... I put my hand over my eyes--and all at once, as
though at some mysterious bidding, I began to remember all my life....
There passed in a flash before me my childhood, noisy and peaceful,
quarrelsome and good-hearted, with hurried joys and swift sorrows; then
my youth rose up, vague, queer, self-conscious, with all its mistakes
and beginnings, with disconnected work, and agitated indolence....
There came back, too, to my memory the comrades who shared those early
aspirations ... then like lightning in the night there came the gleam
of a few bright memories ... then the shadows began to grow and bear
down on me, it was darker and darker about me, more dully and quietly
the monotonous years ran by--and like a stone, dejection sank upon my
heart. I sat without stirring and gazed, gazed with effort and
perplexity, as though I saw all my life before me, as though scales had
fallen from my eyes. Oh, what have I done! my lips involuntarily
murmured in a bitter whisper. O life, life, where, how have you gone
without a trace? How have you slipped through my clenched fingers? Have
you deceived me, or was it that I knew not how to make use of your
gifts? Is it possible? is this fragment, this poor handful of dusty
ashes, all that is left of you? Is this cold, stagnant, unnecessary
something--I, the I of old days? How? The soul was athirst for
happiness so perfect, she rejected with such scorn all that was small,
all that was insufficient, she waited: soon happiness would burst on
her in a torrent--and has not one drop moistened the parched lips? Oh,
my golden strings, you that once so delicately, so sweetly quivered,--I
have never, it seems, heard your music ... you had but just
sounded--when you broke. Or, perhaps, happiness, the true happiness of
all my life, passed close by me, smiled a resplendent smile upon
me--and I failed to recognise its divine countenance. Or did it really
visit me, sit at my bedside, and is forgotten by me, like a dream? Like
a dream, I repeated disconsolately. Elusive images flitted over my
soul, awakening in it something between pity and bewilderment ... you
too, I thought, dear, familiar, lost faces, you, thronging about me in
this deadly solitude, why are you so profoundly and mournfully silent?
From what abyss have you arisen? How am I to interpret your enigmatic
glances? Are you greeting me, or bidding me farewell? Oh, can it be
there is no hope, no turning back? Why are these heavy, belated drops
trickling from my eyes? O heart, why, to what end, grieve more? try to
forget if you would have peace, harden yourself to the meek acceptance
of the last parting, to the bitter words 'good-bye' and 'for ever.' Do
not look back, do not remember, do not strive to reach where it is
light, where youth laughs, where hope is wreathed with the flowers of
spring, where dovelike delight soars on azure wings, where love, like
dew in the sunrise, flashes with tears of ecstasy; look not where is
bliss, and faith and power--that is not our place!
'Here is water for you,' I heard Yegor's musical voice behind me:
'drink, with God's blessing.'
I could not help starting; this living speech shook me, sent a
delightful tremor all through me. It was as though I had fallen into
unknown, dark depths, where all was hushed about me, and nothing could
be heard but the soft, persistent moan of some unending grief.... I was
faint and could not struggle, and all at once there floated down to me
a friendly voice, and some mighty hand with one pull drew me up into
the light of day. I looked round, and with unutterable consolation saw
the serene and honest face of my guide. He stood easily and gracefully
before me, and with his habitual smile held out a wet flask full of
clear liquid.... I got up.
'Let's go on; lead the way,' I said eagerly. We set off and wandered a
long while, till evening. Directly the noonday heat was over, it became
cold and dark so rapidly in the forest that one felt no desire to
remain in it.
'Away, restless mortals,' it seemed whispering sullenly from each pine.
We came out, but it was some time before we could find Kondrat. We
shouted, called to him, but he did not answer. All of a sudden, in the
profound stillness of the air, we heard his 'wo, wo,' sound distinctly
in a ravine close to us.... The wind, which had suddenly sprung up, and
as suddenly dropped again, had prevented him from hearing our calls.
Only on the trees which stood some distance apart were traces of its
onslaught to be seen; many of the leaves were blown inside out, and
remained so, giving a variegated look to the motionless foliage. We got
into the cart, and drove home. I sat, swaying to and fro, and slowly
breathing in the damp, rather keen air; and all my recent reveries and
regrets were drowned in the one sensation of drowsiness and fatigue, in
the one desire to get back as soon as possible to the shelter of a warm
house, to have a good drink of tea with cream, to nestle into the soft,
yielding hay, and to sleep, to sleep, to sleep....
The next morning the three of us set off to the 'Charred Wood.' Ten
years before, several thousand acres in the 'Forest' had been burnt
down, and had not up to that time grown again; here and there, young
firs and pines were shooting up, but for the most part there was
nothing but moss and ashes. In this 'Charred Wood,' which is reckoned
to be about nine miles from Svyatoe, there are all sorts of berries
growing in great profusion, and it is a favourite haunt of grouse, who
are very fond of strawberries and bilberries.
We were driving along in silence, when suddenly Kondrat raised his
'Ah!' he exclaimed: 'why, that's never Efrem standing yonder! 'Morning
to you, Alexandritch,' he added, raising his voice, and lifting his
A short peasant in a short, black smock, with a cord round the waist,
came out from behind a tree, and approached the cart.
'Why, have they let you off?' inquired Kondrat.
'I should think so!' replied the peasant, and he grinned. 'You don't
catch them keeping the likes of me.'
'And what did Piotr Filippitch say to it?'
'Filippov, is it? Oh, he's all right.'
'You don't say so! Why, I thought, Alexandritch--well, brother, thought
I, now you 're the goose that must lie down in the frying-pan!'
'On account of Piotr Filippov, hey? Get along! We've seen plenty like
him. He tries to pass for a wolf, and then slinks off like a
dog.--Going shooting your honour, hey?' the peasant suddenly inquired,
turning his little, screwed-up eyes rapidly upon me, and at once
dropping them again.
'And whereabouts, now?'
'To the Charred Wood,' said Kondrat.
'You 're going to the Charred Wood? mind you don't get into the fire.'
'I've seen a lot of woodcocks,' the peasant went on, seeming all the
while to be laughing, and making Kondrat no answer. 'But you'll never
get there; as the crow flies it'll be fifteen miles. Why, even Yegor
here--not a doubt but he's as at home in the forest as in his own
back-yard, but even he won't make his way there. Hullo, Yegor, you
honest penny halfpenny soul!' he shouted suddenly.
'Good morning, Efrem,' Yegor responded deliberately.
I looked with curiosity at this Efrem. It was long since I had seen
such a queer face. He had a long, sharp nose, thick lips, and a scanty
beard. His little blue eyes positively danced, like little imps. He
stood in a free-and-easy pose, his arms akimbo, and did not touch his
'Going home for a visit, eh?' Kondrat questioned him.
'Go on! on a visit! It's not the weather for that, my lad; it's set
fair. It's all open and free, my dear; one may lie on the stove till
winter time, not a dog will stir. When I was in the town, the clerk
said: "Give us up," says he, "'Lexandritch; you just get out of the
district, we'll let you have a passport, first-class one ..." but
there, I'd pity on you Svyatoe fellows: you'd never get another thief
'You will have your joke, uncle, you will, upon my word,' he said, and
he shook the reins. The horses started off.
'Wo,' said Efrem. The horses stopped. Kondrat did not like this prank.
'Enough of your nonsense, Alexandritch,' he observed in an undertone:
'don't you see we're out with a gentleman? You mind; he'll be angry.'
'Get on with you, sea-drake! What should he be angry about? He's a
good-natured gentleman. You see, he'll give me something to drink. Hey,
master, give a poor scoundrel a dram! Won't I drink it!' he added,
shrugging his shoulder up to his ear, and grating his teeth.
I could not help smiling, gave him a copper, and told Kondrat to drive
'Much obliged, your honour,' Efrem shouted after us in soldierly
fashion. 'And you'll know, Kondrat, for the future from whom to learn
manners. Faint heart never wins; 'tis boldness gains the day. When you
come back, come to my place, d'ye hear? There'll be drinking going on
three days at home; there'll be some necks broken, I can tell you; my
wife's a devil of a woman; our yard's on the side of a precipice....
Ay, magpie, have a good time till your tail gets pinched.' And with a
sharp whistle, Efrem plunged into the bushes.
'What sort of man is he?' I questioned Kondrat, who, sitting in the
front, kept shaking his head, as though deliberating with himself.
'That fellow?' replied Kondrat, and he looked down. 'That fellow?' he
'Yes. Is he of your village?'
'Yes, he's a Svyatoe man. He's a fellow.... You wouldn't find the like
of him, if you hunted for a hundred miles round. A thief and
cheat--good Lord, yes! Another man's property simply, as it were, takes
his eye. You may bury a thing underground, and you won't hide it from
him; and as to money, you might sit on it, and he'd get it from under
you without your noticing it.'
'What a bold fellow he is!'
'Bold? Yes, he's not afraid of any one. But just look at him; he's a
beast by his physiognomy; you can see by his nose.' (Kondrat often used
to drive with gentlemen, and had been in the chief town of the
province, and so liked on occasion to show off his attainments.)
'There's positively no doing anything with him. How many times they've
taken him off to put him in the prison!--it's simply trouble thrown
away. They start tying him up, and he'll say, "Come, why don't you
fasten that leg? fasten that one too, and a little tighter: I'll have a
little sleep meanwhile; and I shall get home before your escort." And
lo and behold! there he is back again, yes, back again, upon my soul!
Well as we all about here know the forest, being used to it from
childhood, we're no match for him there. Last summer he came at night
straight across from Altuhin to Svyatoe, and no one had ever been known
to walk it--it'll be over thirty miles. And he steals honey too; no one
can beat him at that; and the bees don't sting him. There's not a hive
he hasn't plundered.'
'I expect he doesn't spare the wild bees either?'
'Well, no, I won't lay a false charge against him. That sin's never
been observed in him. The wild bees' nest is a holy thing with us. A
hive is shut in by fences; there's a watch kept; if you get the
honey--it's your luck; but the wild bee is a thing of God's, not
guarded; only the bear touches it.'
'Because he is a bear,' remarked Yegor.
'Is he married?'
'To be sure. And he has a son. And won't he be a thief too, the son!
He's taken after his father. And he's training him now too. The other
day he took a pot with some old coppers in it, stolen somewhere, I've
no doubt, went and buried it in a clearing in the forest, and went home
and sent his son to the clearing. "Till you find the pot," says he, "I
won't give you anything to eat, or let you into the place." The son
stayed the whole day in the forest, and spent the night there, but he
found the pot. Yes, he's a smart chap, that Efrem. When he's at home,
he's a civil fellow, presses every one; you may eat and drink as you
will, and there'll be dancing got up at his place and merry-making of
all sorts. And when he comes to the meeting--we have a parish meeting,
you know, in our village--well, no one talks better sense than he does;
he'll come up behind, listen, say a word as if he chopped it off, and
away again; and a weighty word it'll be, too. But when he's about in
the forest, ah! that means trouble! We've to look out for mischief.
Though, I must say, he doesn't touch his own people unless he's in a
fix. If he meets a Svyatoe man: "Go along with you, brother," he'll
shout, a long way away; "the forest devil's upon me: I shall kill
you!"--it's a bad business!'
'What can you all be thinking about? A whole district can't get even
with one man?'
'Well, that's just how it is, any way.'
'Is he a sorcerer, then?'
'Who can say! Here, some days ago, he crept round at night to the
deacon's near, after the honey, and the deacon was watching the hive
himself. Well, he caught him, and in the dark he gave him a good
hiding. When he'd done, Efrem, he says to him: "But d'you know who it
is you've been beating?" The deacon, when he knew him by his voice, was
"Well, my good friend," says Efrem, "you won't get off so easily for
this." The deacon fell down at his feet. "Take," says he, "what you
please." "No," says he. "I'll take it from you at my own time and as I
choose." And what do you think? Since that day the deacon's as though
he'd been scalded; he wanders about like a ghost. "It's taken," says
he, "all the heart out of me; it was a dreadful, powerful saying, to be
sure, the brigand fastened upon me." That's how it is with him, with
'That deacon must be a fool,' I observed.
'A fool? Well, but what do you say to this? There was once an order
issued to seize this fellow, Efrem. We had a police commissary then, a
sharp man. And so a dozen chaps went off into the forest to take Efrem.
They look, and there he is coming to meet them.... One of them shouts,
"Here he is, hold him, tie him!" But Efrem stepped into the forest and
cut himself a branch, two fingers' thickness, like this, and then out
he skips into the road again, looking so frightful, so terrible, and
gives the command like a general at a review: "On your knees!" All of
them fairly fell down. "But who," says he, "shouted hold him, tie him?
You, Seryoga?" The fellow simply jumped up and ran ... and Efrem after
him, and kept swinging his branch at his heels.... For nearly a mile he
stroked him down. And afterwards he never ceased to regret: "Ah," he'd
say, "it is annoying I didn't lay him up for the confession." For it
was just before St. Philip's day. Well, they changed the police
commissary soon after, but it all ended the same way.'
'Why did they all give in to him?'
'Why! well, it is so....'
'He has frightened you all, and now he does as he likes with you.'
'Frightened, yes.... He'd frighten any one. And he's a wonderful hand
at contrivances, my goodness, yes! I once came upon him in the forest;
there was a heavy rain falling; I was for edging away.... But he looked
at me, and beckoned to me with his hand like this. "Come along," says
he, "Kondrat, don't be afraid. Let me show you how to live in the
forest, and to keep dry in the rain." I went up to him, and he was
sitting under a fir-tree, and he'd made a fire of damp twigs: the smoke
hung about in the fir-tree, and kept the rain from dripping through. I
was astonished at him then. And I'll tell you what he contrived one
time' (and Kondrat laughed); 'he really did do a funny thing. They'd
been thrashing the oats at the thrashing-floor, and they hadn't
finished; they hadn't time to rake up the last heap; well, they 'd set
two watch-men by it for the night, and they weren't the boldest-hearted
of the chaps either. Well, they were sitting and gossiping, and Efrem
takes and stuffs his shirt-sleeves full of straw, ties up the
wrist-bands, and puts the shirt up over his head. And so he steals up
in that shape to the thrashing-floor, and just pops out from behind the
corner and gives them a peep of his horns. One chap says to the other:
"Do you see?" "Yes," says the other, and didn't he give a screech all
of a sudden ... and then the fences creaked and nothing more was seen
of them. Efrem shovelled up the oats into a bag and dragged it off
home. He told the story himself afterwards. He put them to shame, he
did, the chaps.... He did really!'
Kondrat laughed again. And Yegor smiled. 'So the fences creaked and
that was all?' he commented. 'There was nothing more seen of them,'
Kondrat assented. 'They were simply gone in a flash.'
We were all silent again. Suddenly Kondrat started and sat up.
'Eh, mercy upon us!' he ejaculated; 'surely it's never a fire!'
'Where, where?' we asked.
'Yonder, see, in front, where we 're going.... A fire it is! Efrem
there, Efrem--why, he foretold it! If it's not his doing, the damned
I glanced in the direction Kondrat was pointing. Two or three miles
ahead of us, behind a green strip of low fir saplings, there really was
a thick column of dark blue smoke slowly rising from the ground,
gradually twisting and coiling into a cap-shaped cloud; to the right
and left of it could be seen others, smaller and whiter.
A peasant, all red and perspiring, in nothing but his shirt, with his
hair hanging dishevelled about his scared face, galloped straight
towards us, and with difficulty stopped his hastily bridled horse.
'Mates,' he inquired breathlessly, 'haven't you seen the foresters?'
'No, we haven't. What is it? is the forest on fire?'
'Yes. We must get the people together, or else if it gets to Trosnoe
The peasant tugged with his elbows, pounded with his heels on the
horse's sides.... It galloped off.
Kondrat, too, whipped up his pair. We drove straight towards the smoke,
which was spreading more and more widely; in places it suddenly grew
black and rose up high. The nearer we moved to it, the more indefinite
became its outlines; soon all the air was clouded over, there was a
strong smell of burning, and here and there between the trees, with a
strange, weird quivering in the sunshine, gleamed the first pale red
tongues of flame.
'Well, thank God,' observed Kondrat, 'it seems it's an overground
'Overground? One that runs along over the earth. With an underground
fire, now, it's a difficult job to deal. What's one to do, when the
earth's on fire for a whole yard's depth? There's only one means of
safety--digging ditches,--and do you suppose that's easy? But an
overground fire's nothing. It only scorches the grasses and burns the
dry leaves! The forest will be all the better for it. Ouf, though,
mercy on us, look how it flares!'
We drove almost up to the edge of the fire. I got down and went to meet
it. It was neither dangerous nor difficult. The fire was running over
the scanty pine-forest against the wind; it moved in an uneven line,
or, to speak more accurately, in a dense jagged wall of curved tongues.
The smoke was carried away by the wind. Kondrat had told the truth; it
really was an overground fire, which only scorched the grass and passed
on without finishing its work, leaving behind it a black and smoking,
but not even smouldering, track. At times, it is true, when the fire
came upon a hole filled with dry wood and twigs, it suddenly and with a
kind of peculiar, rather vindictive roar, rose up in long, quivering
points; but it soon sank down again and ran on as before, with a slight
hiss and crackle. I even noticed, more than once, an oak-bush, with dry
hanging leaves, hemmed in all round and yet untouched, except for a
slight singeing at its base. I must own I could not understand why the
dry leaves were not burned. Kondrat explained to me that it was owing
to the fact that the fire was overground, 'that's to say, not angry.'
'But it's fire all the same,' I protested. 'Overground fire,' repeated
Kondrat. However, overground as it was, the fire, none the less,
produced its effect: hares raced up and down with a sort of disorder,
running back with no sort of necessity into the neighbourhood of the
fire; birds fell down in the smoke and whirled round and round; horses
looked back and neighed, the forest itself fairly hummed--and man felt
discomfort from the heat suddenly beating into his face....
'What are we looking at?' said Yegor suddenly, behind my back. 'Let's
'But where are we to go?' asked Kondrat.
'Take the left, over the dry bog; we shall get through.'
We turned to the left, and got through, though it was sometimes
difficult for both the horses and the cart.
The whole day we wandered over the Charred Wood. At evening--the sunset
had not yet begun to redden in the sky, but the shadows from the trees
already lay long and motionless, and in the grass one could feel that
chill that comes before the dew--I lay down by the roadside near the
cart in which Kondrat, without haste, was harnessing the horses after
their feed, and I recalled my cheerless reveries of the day before.
Everything around was as still as the previous evening, but there was
not the forest, stifling and weighing down the spirit. On the dry moss,
on the crimson grasses, on the soft dust of the road, on the slender
stems and pure little leaves of the young birch-trees, lay the clear
soft light of the no longer scorching, sinking sun. Everything was
resting, plunged in soothing coolness; nothing was yet asleep, but
everything was getting ready for the restoring slumber of evening and
night-time. Everything seemed to be saying to man: 'Rest, brother of
ours; breathe lightly, and grieve not, thou too, at the sleep close
before thee.' I raised my head and saw at the very end of a delicate
twig one of those large flies with emerald head, long body, and four
transparent wings, which the fanciful French call 'maidens,' while our
guileless people has named them 'bucket-yokes.' For a long while, more
than an hour, I did not take my eyes off her. Soaked through and
through with sunshine, she did not stir, only from time to time turning
her head from side to side and shaking her lifted wings ... that was
all. Looking at her, it suddenly seemed to me that I understood the
life of nature, understood its clear and unmistakable though, to many,
still mysterious significance. A subdued, quiet animation, an
unhasting, restrained use of sensations and powers, an equilibrium of
health in each separate creature--there is her very basis, her
unvarying law, that is what she stands upon and holds to. Everything
that goes beyond this level, above or below--it makes no
difference--she flings away as worthless. Many insects die as soon as
they know the joys of love, which destroy the equilibrium. The sick
beast plunges into the thicket and expires there alone: he seems to
feel that he no longer has the right to look upon the sun that is
common to all, nor to breathe the open air; he has not the right to
live;--and the man who from his own fault or from the fault of others
is faring ill in the world--ought, at least, to know how to keep
'Well, Yegor!' cried Kondrat all at once. He had already settled
himself on the box of the cart and was shaking and playing with the
reins. 'Come, sit down. What are you so thoughtful about? Still about
'About the cow? What cow?' I repeated, and looked at Yegor: calm and
stately as ever, he certainly did seem thoughtful, and was gazing away
into the distance towards the fields already beginning to get dark.
'Don't you know?' answered Kondrat; 'his last cow died last night. He
has no luck.--What are you going to do?'....
Yegor sat down on the box, without speaking, and we drove off. 'That
man knows how to bear in silence,' I thought.
It happened in Petersburg, in the winter, on the first day of the
carnival. I had been invited to dinner by one of my schoolfellows, who
enjoyed in his youth the reputation of being as modest as a maiden, and
turned out in the sequel a person by no means over rigid in his
conduct. He is dead now, like most of my schoolfellows. There were to
be present at the dinner, besides me, Konstantin Alexandrovitch Asanov,
and a literary celebrity of those days. The literary celebrity kept us
waiting for him, and finally sent a note that he was not coming, and in
place of him there turned up a little light-haired gentleman, one of
the everlasting uninvited guests with whom Petersburg abounds.
The dinner lasted a long while; our host did not spare the wine, and by
degrees our heads were affected. Everything that each of us kept hidden
in his heart--and who is there that has not something hidden in his
heart?--came to the surface. Our host's face suddenly lost its modest
and reserved expression; his eyes shone with a brazen-faced impudence,
and a vulgar grin curved his lips; the light-haired gentleman laughed
in a feeble way, with a senseless crow; but Asanov surprised me more
than any one. The man had always been conspicuous for his sense of
propriety, but now he began by suddenly rubbing his hand over his
forehead, giving himself airs, boasting of his connections, and
continually alluding to a certain uncle of his, a very important
personage.... I positively should not have known him; he was
unmistakably jeering at us ... he all but avowed his contempt for our
society. Asanov's insolence began to exasperate me.
'Listen,' I said to him; 'if we are such poor creatures to your
thinking, you'd better go and see your illustrious uncle. But possibly
he's not at home to you.'
Asanov made me no reply, and went on passing his hand across his
'What a set of people!' he said again; 'they've never been in any
decent society, never been acquainted with a single decent woman, while
I have here,' he cried, hurriedly pulling a pocket-book out of his
side-pocket and tapping it with his hand, 'a whole pack of letters from
a girl whom you wouldn't find the equal of in the whole world.'
Our host and the light-haired gentleman paid no attention to Asanov's
last words; they were holding each other by their buttons, and both
relating something; but I pricked up my ears.
'Oh, you 're bragging, Mr. nephew of an illustrious personage,' I said,
going up to Asanov; 'you haven't any letters at all.'
'Do you think so?' he retorted, and he looked down loftily at me;
'what's this, then?' He opened the pocket-book, and showed me about a
dozen letters addressed to him.... A familiar handwriting, I
fancied.... I feel the flush of shame mounting to my cheeks ... my
self-love is suffering horribly.... No one likes to own to a mean
action.... But there is nothing for it: when I began my story, I knew I
should have to blush to my ears in the course of it. And so, I am bound
to harden my heart and confess that....
Well, this was what passed: I took advantage of the intoxicated
condition of Asanov, who had carelessly dropped the letters on the
champagne-stained tablecloth (my own head was dizzy enough too), and
hurriedly ran my eyes over one of the letters....
My heart stood still.... Alas! I was myself in love with the girl who
had written to Asanov, and I could have no doubt now that she loved
him. The whole letter, which was in French, expressed tenderness and
'Mon cher ami Constantin!' so it began ... and it ended with the words:
'be careful as before, and I will be yours or no one's.'
Stunned as by a thunderbolt, I sat for a few instants motionless; at
last I regained my self-possession, jumped up, and rushed out of the
A quarter of an hour later I was back at home in my own lodgings.
* * * * *
The family of the Zlotnitskys was one of the first whose acquaintance I
made on coming to Petersburg from Moscow. It consisted of a father and
mother, two daughters, and a son. The father, a man already grey, but
still vigorous, who had been in the army, held a fairly important
position, spent the morning in a government office, went to sleep after
dinner, and in the evening played cards at his club.... He was seldom
at home, spoke little and unwillingly, looked at one from under his
eyebrows with an expression half surly, half indifferent, and read
nothing except books of travels and geography. Sometimes he was unwell,
and then he would shut himself up in his own room, and paint little
pictures, or tease the old grey parrot, Popka. His wife, a sickly,
consumptive woman, with hollow black eyes and a sharp nose, did not
leave her sofa for days together, and was always embroidering
cushion-covers in canvas. As far as I could observe, she was rather
afraid of her husband, as though she had somehow wronged him at some
time or other. The elder daughter, Varvara, a plump, rosy, fair-haired
girl of eighteen, was always sitting at the window, watching the people
that passed by. The son, who was being educated in a government school,
was only seen at home on Sundays, and he, too, did not care to waste
his words. Even the younger daughter, Sophia, the girl with whom I was
in love, was of a silent disposition. In the Zlotnitskys' house there
reigned a perpetual stillness; it was only broken by the piercing
screams of Popka, but visitors soon got used to these, and were
conscious again of the burden and oppression of the eternal stillness.
Visitors, however, seldom looked in upon the Zlotnitskys; their house
was a dull one. The very furniture, the red paper with yellow patterns
in the drawing-room, the numerous rush-bottomed chairs in the
dining-room, the faded wool-work cushions, embroidered with figures of
girls and dogs, on the sofa, the branching lamps, and the
gloomy-looking portraits on the walls--everything inspired an
involuntary melancholy, about everything there clung a sense of chill
and flatness. On my arrival in Petersburg, I had thought it my duty to
call on the Zlotnitskys. They were relations of my mother's. I managed
with difficulty to sit out an hour with them, and it was a long while
before I went there again. But by degrees I took to going oftener and
oftener. I was drawn there by Sophia, whom I had not cared for at
first, and with whom I finally fell in love.
She was a slender, almost thin, girl of medium height, with a pale
face, thick black hair, and big brown eyes, always half closed. Her
severe and well-defined features, especially her tightly shut lips,
showed determination and strength of will. At home they knew her to be
a girl with a will of her own....
'She's like her eldest sister, like Katerina,' Madame Zlotnitsky said
one day, as she sat alone with me (in her husband's presence she did
not dare to mention the said Katerina). 'You don't know her; she's in
the Caucasus, married. At thirteen, only fancy, she fell in love with
her husband, and announced to us at the time that she would never marry
any one else. We did everything we could--nothing was of any use. She
waited till she was three-and-twenty, and braved her father's anger,
and so married her idol. There is no saying what Sonitchka might not
do! The Lord preserve her from such stubbornness! But I am afraid for
her; she's only sixteen now, and there's no turning her....'
Mr. Zlotnitsky came in, and his wife was instantly silent.
What had captivated me in Sophia was not her strength of will--no; but
with all her dryness, her lack of vivacity and imagination, she had a
special charm of her own, the charm of straightforwardness, genuine
sincerity, and purity of heart. I respected her as much as I loved
her.... It seemed to me that she too looked with friendly eyes on me;
to have my illusions as to her feeling for me shattered, and her love
for another man proved conclusively, was a blow to me.
The unlooked-for discovery I had made astonished me the more as Asanov
was not often at the Zlotnitskys' house, much less so than I, and had
shown no marked preference for Sonitchka. He was a handsome, dark
fellow, with expressive but rather heavy features, with brilliant,
prominent eyes, with a large white forehead, and full red lips under
fine moustaches. He was very discreet, but severe in his behaviour,
confident in his criticisms and utterances, and dignified in his
silence. It was obvious that he thought a great deal of himself. Asanov
rarely laughed, and then with closed teeth, and he never danced. He was
rather loosely and clumsily built. He had at one time served in the
--th regiment, and was spoken of as a capable officer.
'A strange thing!' I ruminated, lying on the sofa; 'how was it I
noticed nothing?' ... 'Be careful as before': those words in Sophia's
letter suddenly recurred to my memory. 'Ah!' I thought: 'that's it!
What a sly little hussy! And I thought her open and sincere.... Wait a
bit, that's all; I'll let you know....'
But at this point, if I can trust my memory, I began weeping bitterly,
and could not get to sleep all night.
* * * * *
Next day at two o'clock I set off to the Zlotnitskys'. The father was
not at home, and his wife was not sitting in her usual place; after the
pancake festival of the preceding day, she had a headache, and had gone
to lie down in her bedroom. Varvara was standing with her shoulder
against the window, looking into the street; Sophia was walking up and
down the room with her arms folded across her bosom; Popka was
'Ah! how do you do?' said Varvara lazily, directly I came into the
room, and she added at once in an undertone, 'There goes a peasant with
a tray on his head.' ... (She had the habit of keeping up a running
commentary on the passers-by to herself.)
'How do you do?' I responded; 'how do you do, Sophia Nikolaevna? Where
is Tatiana Vassilievna?'
'She has gone to lie down,' answered Sophia, still pacing the room.
'We had pancakes,' observed Varvara, without turning round. 'Why didn't
you come? ... Where can that clerk be going?' 'Oh, I hadn't time.'
('Present arms!' the parrot screeched shrilly.) 'How Popka is shrieking
'He always does shriek like that,' observed Sophia.
We were all silent for a time.
'He has gone in at the gate,' said Varvara, and she suddenly got up on
the window-sill and opened the window.
'What are you about?' asked Sophia.
'There's a beggar,' responded Varvara. She bent down, picked up a
five-copeck piece from the window; the remains of a fumigating pastille
still stood in a grey heap of ashes on the copper coin, as she flung it
into the street; then she slammed the window to and jumped heavily down
to the floor....
'I had a very pleasant time yesterday,' I began, seating myself in an
arm-chair. 'I dined with a friend of mine; Konstantin Alexandritch was
there.... (I looked at Sophia; not an eyebrow quivered on her face.)
'And I must own,' I continued, 'we'd a good deal of wine; we emptied
eight bottles between the four of us.'
'Really!' Sophia articulated serenely, and she shook her head.
'Yes,' I went on, slightly irritated at her composure: 'and do you know
what, Sophia Nikolaevna, it's a true saying, it seems, that in wine is
'Konstantin Alexandritch made us laugh. Only fancy, he began all at
once passing his hand over his forehead like this, and saying: "I'm a
fine fellow! I've an uncle a celebrated man!"....'
'Ha, ha!' came Varvara's short, abrupt laugh.
....'Popka! Popka! Popka!' the parrot dinned back at her.
Sophia stood still in front of me, and looked me straight in the face.
'And you, what did you say?' she asked; 'don't you remember?'
I could not help blushing.
'I don't remember! I expect I was pretty absurd too. It certainly is
dangerous to drink,' I added with significant emphasis; 'one begins
chattering at once, and one's apt to say what no one ought to know.
One's sure to be sorry for it afterwards, but then it's too late.'
'Why, did you let out some secret?' asked Sophia.
'I am not referring to myself.'
Sophia turned away, and began walking up and down the room again. I
stared at her, raging inwardly. 'Upon my word,' I thought, 'she is a
child, a baby, and how she has herself in hand! She's made of stone,
simply. But wait a bit....'
'Sophia Nikolaevna ...' I said aloud.
'What is it?'
'Won't you play me something on the piano? By the way, I've something I
want to say to you,' I added, dropping my voice.
Sophia, without saying a word, walked into the other room; I followed
her. She came to a standstill at the piano.
'What am I to play you?' she inquired.
'What you like ... one of Chopin's nocturnes.'
Sophia began the nocturne. She played rather badly, but with feeling.
Her sister played nothing but polkas and waltzes, and even that very
seldom. She would go sometimes with her indolent step to the piano, sit
down, let her coat slip from her shoulders down to her elbows (I never
saw her without a coat), begin playing a polka very loud, and without
finishing it, begin another, then she would suddenly heave a sigh, get
up, and go back again to the window. A queer creature was that Varvara!
I sat down near Sophia.
'Sophia Nikolaevna,' I began, watching her intently from one side. 'I
ought to tell you a piece of news, news disagreeable to me.'
'News? what is it?'
'I'll tell you.... Up till now I have been mistaken in you, completely
'How was that?' she rejoined, going on playing, and keeping her eyes
fixed on her fingers.
'I imagined you to be open; I imagined that you were incapable of
hypocrisy, of hiding your feelings, deceiving....'
Sophia bent her face closer over the music.
'I don't understand you.'
'And what's more,' I went on; 'I could never have conceived that you,
at your age, were already quite capable of acting a part in such
Sophia's hands faintly trembled above the keys. 'Why are you saying
this?' she said, still not looking at me; 'I play a part?'
'Yes, you do.' (She smiled ... I was seized with spiteful fury.) ...
'You pretend to be indifferent to a man and ... and you write letters
to him,' I added in a whisper.
Sophia's cheeks grew white, but she did not turn to me: she played the
nocturne through to the end, got up, and closed the piano.
'Where are you going?' I asked her in some perplexity. 'You have no
answer to make me?'
'What answer can I make you? I don't know what you 're talking
about.... And I am not good at pretending....'
She began putting by the music.
The blood rushed to my head. 'No; you know what I am talking about,' I
said, and I too got up from my seat; 'or if you like, I will remind you
directly of some of your expressions in one letter: "be as careful as
Sophia gave a faint start.
'I never should have expected this of you,' she said at last.
'I never should have expected,' I retorted, 'that you, Sophia
Nikolaevna, would have deigned to notice a man who ...'
Sophia turned with a rapid movement to me; I instinctively stepped back
a little from her; her eyes, always half closed, were so wide open that
they looked immense, and they glittered wrathfully under her frowning
'Oh! if that's it,' she said, 'let me tell you that I love that man,
and that it's absolutely no consequence to me what you think about him
or about my love for him. And what business is it of yours? ... What
right have you to speak of this? If I have made up my mind ...'
She stopped speaking, and went hurriedly out of the room. I stood
still. I felt all of a sudden so uncomfortable and so ashamed that I
hid my face in my hands. I realised all the impropriety, all the
baseness of my behaviour, and, choked with shame and remorse, I stood
as it were in disgrace. 'Mercy,' I thought, 'what I've done!'
'Anton Nikititch,' I heard the maid-servant saying in the outer-room,
'get a glass of water, quick, for Sophia Nikolaevna.'
'What's wrong?' answered the man.
'I fancy she's crying....'
I started up and went into the drawing-room for my hat.
'What were you talking about to Sonitchka?' Varvara inquired
indifferently, and after a brief pause she added in an undertone,
'Here's that clerk again.'
I began saying good-bye.
'Why are you going? Stay a little; mamma is coming down directly.'
'No; I can't now,' I said: 'I had better call and see her another
At that instant, to my horror, to my positive horror, Sophia walked
with resolute steps into the drawing-room. Her face was paler than
usual, and her eyelids were a little red. She never even glanced at me.
'Look, Sonia,' observed Varvara; 'there's a clerk keeps continually
passing our house.'
'A spy, perhaps...' Sophia remarked coldly and contemptuously.
This was too much. I went away, and I really don't know how I got home.
I felt very miserable, wretched and miserable beyond description. In
twenty-four hours two such cruel blows! I had learned that Sophia loved
another man, and I had for ever forfeited her respect. I felt myself so
utterly annihilated and disgraced that I could not even feel indignant
with myself. Lying on the sofa with my face turned to the wall, I was
revelling in the first rush of despairing misery, when I suddenly heard
footsteps in the room. I lifted my head and saw one of my most intimate
friends, Yakov Pasinkov.
I was ready to fly into a rage with any one who had come into my room
that day, but with Pasinkov I could never be angry. Quite the contrary;
in spite of the sorrow devouring me, I was inwardly rejoiced at his
coming, and I nodded to him. He walked twice up and down the room, as
his habit was, clearing his throat, and stretching out his long limbs;
then he stood a minute facing me in silence, and in silence he seated
himself in a corner.
I had known Pasinkov a very long while, almost from childhood. He had
been brought up at the same private school, kept by a German,
Winterkeller, at which I had spent three years. Yakov's father, a poor
major on the retired list, a very honest man, but a little deranged
mentally, had brought him, when a boy of seven, to this German; had
paid for him for a year in advance, and had then left Moscow and been
lost sight of completely.... From time to time there were dark, strange
rumours about him. Eight years later it was known as a positive fact
that he had been drowned in a flood when crossing the Irtish. What had
taken him to Siberia, God knows. Yakov had no other relations; his
mother had long been dead. He was simply left stranded on
Winterkeller's hands. Yakov had, it is true, a distant relation, a
great-aunt; but she was so poor, that she was afraid at first to go to
her nephew, for fear she should have the care of him thrust upon her.
Her fears turned out to be groundless; the kind-hearted German kept
Yakov with him, let him study with his other pupils, fed him (dessert,
however, was not offered him except on Sundays), and rigged him out in
clothes cut out of the cast-off morning-gowns--usually
snuff-coloured--of his mother, an old Livonian lady, still alert and
active in spite of her great age. Owing to all these circumstances, and
owing generally to Yakov's inferior position in the school, his
schoolfellows treated him in rather a casual fashion, looked down upon
him, and used to call him 'mammy's dressing-gown,' the 'nephew of the
mob-cap' (his aunt invariably wore a very peculiar mob-cap with a bunch
of yellow ribbons sticking straight upright, like a globe artichoke,
upon it), and sometimes the 'son of Yermak' (because his father had,
like that hero, been drowned in the Irtish). But in spite of those
nicknames, in spite of his ridiculous garb, and his absolute
destitution, every one was fond of him, and indeed it was impossible
not to be fond of him; a sweeter, nobler nature, I imagine, has never
existed upon earth. He was very good at lessons too.
When I saw him first, he was sixteen years old, and I was only just
thirteen. I was an exceedingly selfish and spoilt boy; I had grown up
in a rather wealthy house, and so, on entering the school, I lost no
time in making friends with a little prince, an object of special
solicitude to Winterkeller, and with two or three other juvenile
aristocrats; while I gave myself great airs with all the rest. Pasinkov
I did not deign to notice at all. I regarded the long, gawky lad, in a
shapeless coat and short trousers, which showed his coarse thread
stockings, as some sort of page-boy, one of the house-serfs--at best, a
person of the working class. Pasinkov was extremely courteous and
gentle to everybody, though he never sought the society of any one. If
he were rudely treated, he was neither humiliated nor sullen; he simply
withdrew and held himself aloof, with a sort of regretful look, as it
were biding his time. This was just how he behaved with me. About two
months passed. One bright summer day I happened to go out of the
playground after a noisy game of leap-frog, and walking into the garden
I saw Pasinkov sitting on a bench under a high lilac-bush. He was
reading. I glanced at the cover of the book as I passed, and read
_Schiller's Werke_ on the back. I stopped short.
'Do you mean to say you know German?' I questioned Pasinkov....
I feel ashamed to this day as I recall all the arrogance there was in
the very sound of my voice.... Pasinkov softly raised his small but
expressive eyes and looked at me.
'Yes,' he answered; 'do you?'
'I should hope so!' I retorted, feeling insulted at the question, and I
was about to go on my way, but something held me back.
'What is it you are reading of Schiller?' I asked, with the same
'At this moment I am reading "Resignation," a beautiful poem. Would you
like me to read it to you? Come and sit here by me on the bench.'
I hesitated a little, but I sat down. Pasinkov began reading. He knew
German far better than I did. He had to explain the meaning of several
lines for me. But already I felt no shame at my ignorance and his
superiority to me. From that day, from the very hour of our reading
together in the garden, in the shade of the lilac-bush, I loved
Pasinkov with my whole soul, I attached myself to him and fell
completely under his sway.
I have a vivid recollection of his appearance in those days. He changed
very little, however, later on. He was tall, thin, and rather awkwardly
built, with a long back, narrow shoulders, and a hollow chest, which
made him look rather frail and delicate, although as a fact he had
nothing to complain of on the score of health. His large, dome-shaped
head was carried a little on one side; his soft, flaxen hair straggled
in lank locks about his slender neck. His face was not handsome, and
might even have struck one as absurd, owing to the long, full, and
reddish nose, which seemed almost to overhang his wide, straight mouth.
But his open brow was splendid; and when he smiled, his little grey
eyes gleamed with such mild and affectionate goodness, that every one
felt warmed and cheered at heart at the very sight of him. I remember
his voice too, soft and even, with a peculiar sort of sweet huskiness
in it. He spoke, as a rule, little, and with noticeable difficulty. But
when he warmed up, his words flowed freely, and--strange to say!--his
voice grew still softer, his glance seemed turned inward and lost its
fire, while his whole face faintly glowed. On his lips the words
'goodness,' 'truth,' 'life,' 'science,' 'love,' however
enthusiastically they were uttered, never rang with a false note.
Without strain, without effort, he stepped into the realm of the ideal;
his pure soul was at any moment ready to stand before the 'holy shrine
of beauty'; it awaited only the welcoming call, the contact of another
soul.... Pasinkov was an idealist, one of the last idealists whom it
has been my lot to come across. Idealists, as we all know, are all but
extinct in these days; there are none of them, at any rate, among the
young people of to day. So much the worse for the young people of
About three years I spent with Pasinkov, 'soul in soul,' as the saying
I was the confidant of his first love. With what grateful sympathy and
intentness I listened to his avowal! The object of his passion was a
niece of Winterkeller's, a fair-haired, pretty little German, with a
chubby, almost childish little face, and confidingly soft blue eyes.
She was very kind and sentimental: she loved Mattison, Uhland, and
Schiller, and repeated their verses very sweetly in her timid, musical
voice. Pasinkov's love was of the most platonic. He only saw his
beloved on Sundays, when she used to come and play at forfeits with the
Winterkeller children, and he had very little conversation with her.
But once, when she said to him, 'mein lieber, lieber Herr Jacob!' he
did not sleep all night from excess of bliss. It never even struck him
at the time that she called all his schoolfellows 'mein lieber.' I
remember, too, his grief and dejection when the news suddenly reached
us that Fräulein Frederike--that was her name--was going to be married
to Herr Kniftus, the owner of a prosperous butcher's shop, a very
handsome man, and well educated too; and that she was marrying him, not
simply in submission to parental authority, but positively from love.
It was a bitter blow for Pasinkov, and his sufferings were particularly
severe on the day of the young people's first visit. The former
Fräulein, now Frau, Frederike presented him, once more addressing him
as 'lieber Herr Jacob,' to her husband, who was all splendour from top
to toe; his eyes, his black hair brushed up into a tuft, his forehead
and his teeth, and his coat buttons, and the chain on his waistcoat,
everything, down to the boots on his rather large, turned-out feet,
shone brilliantly. Pasinkov pressed Herr Kniftus's hand, and wished him
(and the wish was sincere, that I am certain) complete and enduring
happiness. This took place in my presence. I remember with what
admiration and sympathy I gazed at Yakov. I thought him a hero!.... And
afterwards, what mournful conversations passed between us. 'Seek
consolation in art,' I said to him. 'Yes,' he answered me; 'and in
poetry.' 'And in friendship,' I added. 'And in friendship,' he
repeated. Oh, happy days!...
It was a grief to me to part from Pasinkov. Just before I left school,
he had, after prolonged efforts and difficulties, after a
correspondence often amusing, succeeded in obtaining his certificates
of birth and baptism and his passport, and had entered the university.
He still went on living at Winterkeller's expense; but instead of
home-made jackets and breeches, he was provided now with ordinary
attire, in return for lessons on various subjects, which he gave the
younger pupils. Pasinkov was unchanged in his behaviour to me up to the
end of my time at the school, though the difference in our ages began
to be more noticeable, and I, I remember, grew jealous of some of his
new student friends. His influence on me was most beneficial. It was a
pity it did not last longer. To give a single instance: as a child I
was in the habit of telling lies.... In Yakov's presence I could not
bring my tongue to utter an untruth. What I particularly loved was
walking alone with him, or pacing by his side up and down the room,
listening while he, not looking at me, read poetry in his soft, intense
voice. It positively seemed to me that we were slowly, gradually,
getting away from the earth, and soaring away to some radiant, glorious
land of mystery.... I remember one night. We were sitting together
under the same lilac-bush; we were fond of that spot. All our
companions were asleep; but we had softly got up, dressed, fumbling in
the dark, and stealthily stepped out 'to dream.' It was fairly warm out
of doors, but a fresh breeze blew now and then and made us huddle
closer together. We talked, we talked a lot, and with much warmth--so
much so, that we positively interrupted each other, though we did not
argue. In the sky gleamed stars innumerable. Yakov raised his eyes, and
pressing my hand he softly cried out:
'Above our heads
The sky with the eternal stars....
Above the stars their Maker....'
A thrill of awe ran through me; I felt cold all over, and sank on his
shoulder.... My heart was full.... Where are those raptures? Alas!
where youth is.
In Petersburg I met Yakov again eight years after. I had only just been
appointed to a position in the service, and some one had got him a
little post in some department. Our meeting was most joyful. I shall
never forget the moment when, sitting alone one day at home, I suddenly
heard his voice in the passage....
How I started; with what throbbing at the heart I leaped up and flung
myself on his neck, without giving him time to take off his fur
overcoat and unfasten his scarf! How greedily I gazed at him through
bright, involuntary tears of tenderness! He had grown a little older
during those seven years; lines, delicate as if they had been traced by
a needle, furrowed his brow here and there, his cheeks were a little
more hollow, and his hair was thinner; but he had hardly more beard,
and his smile was just the same as ever; and his laugh, a soft, inward,
as it were breathless laugh, was the same too....
Mercy on us! what didn't we talk about that day! ... The favourite
poems we read to one another! I began begging him to move and come and
live with me, but he would not consent. He promised, however, to come
every day to see me, and he kept his word.
In soul, too, Pasinkov was unchanged. He showed himself just the same
idealist as I had always known him. However rudely life's chill, the
bitter chill of experience, had closed in about him, the tender flower
that had bloomed so early in my friend's heart had kept all its pure
beauty untouched. There was no trace of sadness even, no trace even of
melancholy in him; he was quiet, as he had always been, but
everlastingly glad at heart.
In Petersburg he lived as in a wilderness, not thinking of the future,
and knowing scarcely any one. I took him to the Zlotnitskys'. He used
to go and see them rather often. Not being self-conscious, he was not
shy, but in their house, as everywhere, he said very little; they liked
him, however. Even the tedious old man, Tatiana Vassilievna's husband,
was friendly to him, and both the silent girls were soon quite at home
Sometimes he would arrive, bringing with him in the back pocket of his
coat some book that had just come out, and for a long time would not
make up his mind to read, but would keep stretching his neck out on one
side, like a bird, looking about him as though inquiring, 'could he?'
At last he would establish himself in a corner (he always liked sitting
in corners), would pull out a book and set to reading, at first in a
whisper, then louder and louder, occasionally interrupting himself with
brief criticisms or exclamations. I noticed that Varvara was readier to
sit by him and listen than her sister, though she certainly did not
understand much; literature was not in her line. She would sit opposite
Pasinkov, her chin in her hands, staring at him--not into his eyes, but
into his whole face--and would not utter a syllable, but only heave a
noisy, sudden sigh. Sometimes in the evenings we used to play forfeits,
especially on Sundays and holidays. We were joined on these occasions
by two plump, short young ladies, sisters, and distant relations of the
Zlotnitskys, terribly given to giggling, and a few lads from the
military school, very good-natured, quiet fellows. Pasinkov always used
to sit beside Tatiana Vassilievna, and with her, judge what was to be
done to the one who had to pay a forfeit.
Sophia did not like the kisses and such demonstrations, with which
forfeits are often paid, while Varvara used to be cross if she had to
look for anything or guess something. The young ladies giggled
incessantly--laughter seemed to bubble up by some magic in them,--I
sometimes felt positively irritated as I looked at them, but Pasinkov
only smiled and shook his head. Old Zlotnitsky took no part in our
games, and even looked at us rather disapprovingly from the door of his
study. Only once, utterly unexpectedly, he came in to us, and proposed
that whoever had next to pay a forfeit should waltz with him; we, of
course, agreed. It happened to be Tatiana Vassilievna who had to pay
the forfeit. She crimsoned all over, and was confused and abashed like
a girl of fifteen; but her husband at once told Sophia to go to the
piano, while he went up to his wife, and waltzed two rounds with her of
the old-fashioned _trois temps_ waltz. I remember how his bilious,
gloomy face, with its never-smiling eyes, kept appearing and
disappearing as he slowly turned round, his stern expression never
relaxing. He waltzed with a long step and a hop, while his wife
pattered rapidly with her feet, and huddled up with her face close to
his chest, as though she were in terror. He led her to her place, bowed
to her, went back to his room and shut the door. Sophia was just
getting up, but Varvara asked her to go on, went up to Pasinkov, and
holding out her hand, with an awkward smile, said, 'Will you like a
turn?' Pasinkov was surprised, but he jumped up--he was always
distinguished by the most delicate courtesy--and took Varvara by the
waist, but he slipped down at the first step, and leaving hold of his
partner at once, rolled right under the pedestal on which the parrot's
cage was standing.... The cage fell, the parrot was frightened and
shrieked, 'Present arms!' Every one laughed.... Zlotnitsky appeared at
his study door, looked grimly at us, and slammed the door to. From that
time forth, one had only to allude to this incident before Varvara, and
she would go off into peals of laughter at once, and look at Pasinkov,
as though anything cleverer than his behaviour on that occasion it was
impossible to conceive.
Pasinkov was very fond of music. He used often to beg Sophia to play
him something, and to sit on one side listening, and now and then
humming in a thin voice the most pathetic passages. He was particularly
fond of Schubert's Constellation. He used to declare that when he heard
the air played he could always fancy that with the sounds long rays of
azure light came pouring down from on high, straight upon him. To this
day, whenever I look upon a cloudless sky at night, with the softly
quivering stars, I always recall Schubert's melody and Pasinkov.... An
excursion into the country comes back to my mind. We set out, a whole
party of us, in two hired four-wheel carriages, to Pargolovo. I
remember we took the carriages from the Vladimirsky; they were very
old, and painted blue, with round springs, and a wide box-seat, and
bundles of hay inside; the brown, broken-winded horses that drew us
along at a slow trot were each lame in a different leg. We strolled a
long while about the pinewoods round Pargolovo, drank milk out of
earthenware pitchers, and ate wild strawberries and sugar. The weather
was exquisite. Varvara did not care for long walks: she used soon to
get tired; but this time she did not lag behind us. She took off her
hat, her hair came down, her heavy features lighted up, and her cheeks
were flushed. Meeting two peasant girls in the wood, she sat down
suddenly on the ground, called them to her, did not patronise them, but
made them sit down beside her. Sophia looked at them from some distance
with a cold smile, and did not go up to them. She was walking with
Asanov. Zlotnitsky observed that Varvara was a regular hen for sitting.
Varvara got up and walked away. In the course of the walk she several
times went up to Pasinkov, and said to him, 'Yakov Ivanitch, I want to
tell you something,' but what she wanted to tell him--remained unknown.
But it's high time for me to get back to my story.
* * * * *
I was glad to see Pasinkov; but when I recalled what I had done the day
before, I felt unutterably ashamed, and I hurriedly turned away to the
wall again. After a brief pause, Yakov asked me if I were unwell.
'I'm quite well,' I answered through my teeth; 'only my head aches.'
Yakov made no reply, and took up a book. More than an hour passed by; I
was just coming to the point of confessing everything to Yakov ...
suddenly there was a ring at the outer bell of my flat.
The door on to the stairs was opened.... I listened.... Asanov was
asking my servant if I were at home.
Pasinkov got up; he did not care for Asanov, and telling me in a
whisper that he would go and lie down on my bed, he went into my
A minute later Asanov entered.
From the very sight of his flushed face, from his brief, cool bow, I
guessed that he had not come to me without some set purpose in his
mind. 'What is going to happen?' I wondered.
'Sir,' he began, quickly seating himself in an armchair, 'I have come
to you for you to settle a matter of doubt for me.'
'And that is?'
'That is: I wish to know whether you are an honest man.'
I flew into a rage. 'What's the meaning of that?' I demanded.
'I'll tell you what's the meaning of it,' he retorted, underlining as
it were each word. 'Yesterday I showed you a pocket-book containing
letters from a certain person to me.... To-day you repeated to that
person, with reproach--with reproach, observe--some expressions from
those letters, without having the slightest right to do so. I should
like to know what explanation you can give of this?'
'And I should like to know what right you have to cross-examine me,' I
answered, trembling with fury and inward shame.
'You chose to boast of your uncle, of your correspondence; I'd nothing
to do with it. You've got all your letters all right, haven't you?'
'The letters are all right; but I was yesterday in a condition in which
you could easily----'
'In short, sir,' I began, speaking intentionally as loud as I could, 'I
beg you to leave me alone, do you hear? I don't want to know anything
about it, and I'm not going to give you any explanation. You can go to
that person for explanations!' I felt that my head was beginning to go
Asanov turned upon me a look to which he obviously tried to impart an
air of scornful penetration, pulled his moustaches, and got up slowly.
'I know now what to think,' he observed; 'your face is the best
evidence against you. But I must tell you that that's not the way
honourable people behave.... To read a letter on the sly, and then to
go and worry an honourable girl....'
'Will you go to the devil!' I shouted, stamping, 'and send me a second;
I don't mean to talk to you.'
'Kindly refrain from telling me what to do,' Asanov retorted frigidly;
'but I certainly will send a second to you.'
He went away. I fell on the sofa and hid my face in my hands. Some one
touched me on the shoulder; I moved my hands--before me was standing
'What's this? is it true?' ... he asked me. 'You read another man's
I had not the strength to answer, but I nodded in assent.
Pasinkov went to the window, and standing with his back to me, said
slowly: 'You read a letter from a girl to Asanov. Who was the girl?'
'Sophia Zlotnitsky,' I answered, as a prisoner on his trial answers the
For a long while Pasinkov did not utter a word.
'Nothing but passion could to some extent excuse you,' he began at
last. 'Are you in love then with the younger Zlotnitsky?'
Pasinkov was silent again for a little.
'I thought so. And you went to her to-day and began reproaching
'Yes, yes, yes!...' I articulated desperately. 'Now you can despise
Pasinkov walked a couple of times up and down the room.
'And she loves him?' he queried.
'She loves him....'
Pasinkov looked down, and gazed a long while at the floor without
'Well, it must be set right,' he began, raising his head,' things can't
be left like this.'
And he took up his hat.
'Where are you going?'
I jumped up from the sofa.
'But I won't let you. Good heavens! how can you! what will he think?'
Pasinkov looked at me.
'Why, do you think it better to keep this folly up, to bring ruin on
yourself, and disgrace on the girl?'
'But what are you going to say to Asanov?'
'I'll try and explain things to him, I'll tell him you beg his
'But I don't want to apologise to him!'
'You don't? Why, aren't you in fault?'
I looked at Pasinkov; the calm and severe, though mournful, expression
of his face impressed me; it was new to me. I made no reply, and sat
down on the sofa.
Pasinkov went out.
In what agonies of suspense I waited for his return! With what cruel
slowness the time lingered by! At last he came back--late.
'Well?' I queried in a timid voice.
'Thank goodness!' he answered; 'it's all settled.'
'You have been at Asanov's?'
'Well, and he?--made a great to-do, I suppose?' I articulated with an
'No, I can't say that. I expected more ... He ... he's not such a
vulgar fellow as I thought.'
'Well, and have you seen any one else besides?' I asked, after a brief
'I've been at the Zlotnitskys'.'
'Ah!...' (My heart began to throb. I did not dare look Pasinkov in the
face.) 'Well, and she?'
'Sophia Nikolaevna is a reasonable, kind-hearted girl.... Yes, she is a
kind-hearted girl. She felt awkward at first, but she was soon at ease.
But our whole conversation only lasted five minutes.'
'And you ... told her everything ... about me ... everything?'
'I told her what was necessary.'
'I shall never be able to go and see them again now!' I pronounced
'Why? No, you can go occasionally. On the contrary, you are absolutely
bound to go and see them, so that nothing should be thought....'
'Ah, Yakov, you will despise me now!' I cried, hardly keeping back my
'Me! Despise you? ...' (His affectionate eyes glowed with love.)
'Despise you ... silly fellow! Don't I see how hard it's been for you,
how you're suffering?'
He held out his hand to me; I fell on his neck and broke into sobs.
After a few days, during which I noticed that Pasinkov was in very low
spirits, I made up my mind at last to go to the Zlotnitskys'. What I
felt, as I stepped into their drawing-room, it would be difficult to
convey in words; I remember that I could hardly distinguish the persons
in the room, and my voice failed me. Sophia was no less ill at ease;
she obviously forced herself to address me, but her eyes avoided mine
as mine did hers, and every movement she made, her whole being,
expressed constraint, mingled ... why conceal the truth? with secret
aversion. I tried, as far as possible, to spare her and myself from
such painful sensations. This meeting was happily our last--before her
marriage. A sudden change in my fortunes carried me off to the other
end of Russia, and I bade a long farewell to Petersburg, to the
Zlotnitsky family, and, what was most grievous of all for me, to dear
Seven years had passed by. I don't think it necessary to relate all
that happened to me during that period. I moved restlessly about over
Russia, and made my way into the remotest wilds, and thank God I did!
The wilds are not so much to be dreaded as some people suppose, and in
the most hidden places, under the fallen twigs and rotting leaves in
the very heart of the forest, spring up flowers of sweet fragrance.
One day in spring, as I was passing on some official duties through a
small town in one of the outlying provinces of Eastern Russia, through
the dim little window of my coach I saw standing before a shop in the
square a man whose face struck me as exceedingly familiar. I looked
attentively at the man, and to my great delight recognised him as
Elisei, Pasinkov's servant.
I at once told the driver to stop, jumped out of the coach, and went up
'Hullo, friend!' I began, with difficulty concealing my excitement;
'are you here with your master?'
'Yes, I'm with my master,' he responded slowly, and then suddenly cried
out: 'Why, sir, is it you? I didn't know you.'
'Are you here with Yakov Ivanitch?'
'Yes, sir, with him, to be sure ... whom else would I be with?'
'Take me to him quickly.'
'To be sure! to be sure! This way, please, this way ... we're stopping
here at the tavern.' Elisei led me across the square, incessantly
repeating--'Well, now, won't Yakov Ivanitch be pleased!'
This man, of Kalmuck extraction, and hideous, even savage appearance,
but the kindest-hearted creature and by no means a fool, was
passionately devoted to Pasinkov, and had been his servant for ten
'Is Yakov Ivanitch quite well?' I asked him.
Elisei turned his dusky, yellow little face to me.
'Ah, sir, he's in a poor way ... in a poor way, sir! You won't know his
honour.... He's not long for this world, I'm afraid. That's how it is
we've stopped here, or we had been going on to Odessa for his health.'
'Where do you come from?'
'From Siberia, sir.'
'Yes, sir. Yakov Ivanitch was sent to a post out there. It was there
his honour got his wound.'
'Do you mean to say he went into the military service?'
'Oh no, sir. He served in the civil service.'
'What a strange thing!' I thought.
Meanwhile we had reached the tavern, and Elisei ran on in front to
announce me. During the first years of our separation, Pasinkov and I
had written to each other pretty often, but his last letter had reached
me four years before, and since then I had heard nothing of him.
'Please come up, sir!' Elisei shouted to me from the staircase; 'Yakov
Ivanitch is very anxious to see you.'
I ran hurriedly up the tottering stairs, went into a dark little
room--and my heart sank.... On a narrow bed, under a fur cloak, pale as
a corpse, lay Pasinkov, and he was stretching out to me a bare, wasted
hand. I rushed up to him and embraced him passionately.
'Yasha!' I cried at last; 'what's wrong with you?'
'Nothing,' he answered in a faint voice; 'I'm a bit feeble. What chance
brought you here?'
I sat down on a chair beside Pasinkov's bed, and, never letting his
hands out of my hands, I began gazing into his face. I recognised the
features I loved; the expression of the eyes and the smile were
unchanged; but what a wreck illness had made of him!
He noticed the impression he was making on me.
'It's three days since I shaved,' he observed; 'and, to be sure, I've
not been combed and brushed, but except for that ... I'm not so bad.'
'Tell me, please, Yasha,' I began; 'what's this Elisei's been telling
me ... you were wounded?'
'Ah! yes, it's quite a history,' he replied. 'I'll tell you it later.
Yes, I was wounded, and only fancy what by?--an arrow.'
'Yes, an arrow; only not a mythological one, not Cupid's arrow, but a
real arrow of very flexible wood, with a sharply-pointed tip at one
end.... A very unpleasant sensation is produced by such an arrow,
especially when it sticks in one's lungs.'
'But however did it come about? upon my word!...'
'I'll tell you how it happened. You know there always was a great deal
of the absurd in my life. Do you remember my comical correspondence
about getting my passport? Well, I was wounded in an absurd fashion
too. And if you come to think of it, what self-respecting person in our
enlightened century would permit himself to be wounded by an arrow? And
not accidentally--observe--not at sports of any sort, but in a battle.'
'But you still don't tell me ...'
'All right, wait a minute,' he interrupted. 'You know that soon after
you left Petersburg I was transferred to Novgorod. I was a good time at
Novgorod, and I must own I was bored there, though even there I came
across one creature....' (He sighed.) ... 'But no matter about that
now; two years ago I got a capital little berth, some way off, it's
true, in the Irkutsk province, but what of that! It seems as though my
father and I were destined from birth to visit Siberia. A splendid
country, Siberia! Rich, fertile--every one will tell you the same. I
liked it very much there. The natives were put under my rule; they're a
harmless lot of people; but as my ill-luck would have it, they took it
into their heads, a dozen of them, not more, to smuggle in contraband
goods. I was sent to arrest them. Arrest them I did, but one of them,
crazy he must have been, thought fit to defend himself, and treated me
to the arrow.... I almost died of it; however, I got all right again.
Now, here I am going to get completely cured.... The government--God
give them all good health!--have provided the cash.'
Pasinkov let his head fall back on the pillow, exhausted, and ceased
speaking. A faint flush suffused his cheeks. He closed his eyes.
'He can't talk much,' Elisei, who had not left the room, murmured in an
A silence followed; nothing was heard but the sick man's painful
'But here,' he went on, opening his eyes, 'I've been stopping a
fortnight in this little town.... I caught cold, I suppose. The
district doctor here is attending me--you'll see him; he seems to know
his business. I'm awfully glad it happened so, though, or how should we
have met?' (And he took my hand. His hand, which had just before been
cold as ice, was now burning hot.) 'Tell me something about yourself,'
he began again, throwing the cloak back off his chest. 'You and I
haven't seen each other since God knows when.'
I hastened to carry out his wish, so as not to let him talk, and
started giving an account of myself. He listened to me at first with
great attention, then asked for drink, and then began closing his eyes
again and turning his head restlessly on the pillow. I advised him to
have a little nap, adding that I should not go on further till he was
well again, and that I should establish myself in a room beside him.
'It's very nasty here ...' Pasinkov was beginning, but I stopped his
mouth, and went softly out. Elisei followed me.
'What is it, Elisei? Why, he's dying, isn't he?' I questioned the
Elisei simply made a gesture with his hand, and turned away.
Having dismissed my driver, and rapidly moved my things into the next
room, I went to see whether Pasinkov was asleep. At the door I ran up
against a tall man, very fat and heavily built. His face, pock-marked
and puffy, expressed laziness--and nothing else; his tiny little eyes
seemed, as it were, glued up, and his lips looked polished, as though
he were just awake.
'Allow me to ask,' I questioned him, 'are you not the doctor?'
The fat man looked at me, seeming with an effort to lift his
overhanging forehead with his eyebrows.
'Yes, sir,' he responded at last.
'Do me the favour, Mr. Doctor, won't you, please, to come this way into
my room? Yakov Ivanitch, is, I believe, now asleep. I am a friend of
his and should like to have a little talk with you about his illness,
which makes me very uneasy.'
'Very good,' answered the doctor, with an expression which seemed to
try and say, 'Why talk so much? I'd have come anyway,' and he followed
'Tell me, please,' I began, as soon as he had dropped into a chair, 'is
my friend's condition serious? What do you think?'
'Yes,' answered the fat man, tranquilly.
'And...is it very serious?'
'Yes, it's serious.'
'So that he may...even die?'
I confess I looked almost with hatred at the fat man.
'Good heavens!' I began; 'we must take some steps, call a consultation,
or something. You know we can't...Mercy on us!'
'A consultation?--quite possible; why not? It's possible. Call in Ivan
The doctor spoke with difficulty, and sighed continually. His stomach
heaved perceptibly when he spoke, as it were emphasising each word.
'Who is Ivan Efremitch?'
'The parish doctor.'
'Shouldn't we send to the chief town of the province? What do you
think? There are sure to be good doctors there.'
'Well! you might.'
'And who is considered the best doctor there?'
'The best? There was a doctor Kolrabus there ... only I fancy he's been
transferred somewhere else. Though I must own there's no need really to
'Even the best doctor will be of no use to your friend.'
'Why, is he so bad?'
'Yes, he's run down.' 'In what way precisely is he ill?'
'He received a wound.... The lungs were affected in consequence ... and
then he's taken cold too, and fever was set up ... and so on. And
there's no reserve force; a man can't get on, you know yourself, with
no reserve force.'
We were both silent for a while.
'How about trying homoeopathy?...' said the fat man, with a sidelong
glance at me.
'Homoeopathy? Why, you're an allopath, aren't you?'
'What of that? Do you think I don't understand homoeopathy? I
understand it as well as the other! Why, the chemist here among us
treats people homeopathically, and he has no learned degree whatever.'
'Oh,' I thought, 'it's a bad look-out!...'
'No, doctor,' I observed, 'you had better treat him according to your
'As you please.'
The fat man got up and heaved a sigh.
'You are going to him? 'I asked.
'Yes, I must have a look at him.'
And he went out.
I did not follow him; to see him at the bedside of my poor, sick friend
was more than I could stand. I called my man and gave him orders to
drive at once to the chief town of the province, to inquire there for
the best doctor, and to bring him without fail. There was a slight
noise in the passage. I opened the door quickly.
The doctor was already coming out of Pasinkov's room.
'Well?' I questioned him in a whisper.
'It's all right. I have prescribed a mixture.'
'I have decided, doctor, to send to the chief town. I have no doubt of
your skill, but as you're aware, two heads are better than one.'
'Well, that's very praiseworthy!' responded the fat man, and he began
to descend the staircase. He was obviously tired of me.
I went in to Pasinkov.
'Have you seen the local Aesculapius?' he asked.
'Yes,' I answered.
'What I like about him,' remarked Pasinkov, 'is his astounding
composure. A doctor ought to be phlegmatic, oughtn't he? It's so
encouraging for the patient.'
I did not, of course, try to controvert this.
Towards the evening, Pasinkov, contrary to my expectations, seemed
better. He asked Elisei to set the samovar, announced that he was going
to regale me with tea, and drink a small cup himself, and he was
noticeably more cheerful. I tried, though, not to let him talk, and
seeing that he would not be quiet, I asked him if he would like me to
read him something. 'Just as at Winterkeller's--do you remember?' he
answered. 'If you will, I shall be delighted. What shall we read? Look,
there are my books in the window.'...