Part 3 out of 4
The monk had received a letter from Lisa's father announcing the visit of his
daughter, and telling him in what a state of excitement the young girl was.
He also expressed the hope in that letter that the monk would influence
her in the right way, urging her not to depart from the golden mean,
and to live like a good Christian without trying to upset the present
conditions of her life.
The monk received Lisa after he had seen many other people,
and being very tired, began by quietly recommending her to be modest
and to submit to her present conditions of life and to her parents.
Lisa listened silently, blushing and flushed with excitement.
When he had finished admonishing her, she began saying with tears
in her eyes, timidly at first, that Christ bade us leave father
and mother to follow Him. Getting more and more excited,
she told him her conception of Christ. The monk smiled slightly,
and replied as he generally did when admonishing his penitents;
but after a while he remained silent, repeating with heavy sighs,
"O God!" Then he said, "Well, come to confession to-morrow,"
and blessed her with his wrinkled hands.
The next day Lisa came to confession, and without renewing
their interrupted conversation, he absolved her and refused
to dispose of her fortune, giving no reasons for doing so.
Lisa's purity, her devotion to God and her ardent soul, impressed the
monk deeply. He had desired long ago to renounce the world entirely;
but the brotherhood, which drew a large income from his work as
a preacher, insisted on his continuing his activity. He gave way,
although he had a vague feeling that he was in a false position.
It was rumoured that he was a miracle-working saint, whereas in
reality he was a weak man, proud of his success in the world.
When the soul of Lisa was revealed to him, he saw clearly into his
own soul. He discovered how different he was to what he wanted to be,
and realised the desire of his heart.
Soon after Lisa's visit he went to live in a separate cell as a hermit,
and for three weeks did not officiate again in the church of the friary.
After the celebration of the mass, he preached a sermon denouncing his own
sins and those of the world, and urging all to repent.
From that day he preached every fortnight, and his sermons attracted
increasing audiences. His fame as a preacher spread abroad.
His sermons were extraordinarily fearless and sincere, and deeply
impressed all who listened to him.
VASSILY was actually carrying out the object he bad in leaving the prison.
With the help of a few friends he broke into the house of the rich
merchant Krasnopuzov, whom he knew to be a miser and a debauchee.
Vassily took out of his writing-desk thirty thousand roubles,
and began disposing of them as he thought right. He even gave up drink,
so as not to spend that money on himself, but to distribute it to the poor;
helping poor girls to get married; paying off people's debts,
and doing this all without ever revealing himself to those he helped;
his only desire was to distribute his money in the right way.
As he also gave bribes to the police, he was left in peace for
a long time.
His heart was singing for joy. When at last he was arrested and put
to trial, he confessed with pride that he had robbed the fat merchant.
"The money," he said, "was lying idle in that fool's desk, and he did
not even know how much he had, whereas I have put it into circulation
and helped a lot of good people."
The counsel for the defence spoke with such good humour
and kindness that the jury felt inclined to discharge Vassily,
but sentenced him nevertheless to confinement in prison.
He thanked the jury, and assured them that he would find his
way out of prison before long.
NATALIA IVANOVNA SVENTIZKY'S telegram proved useless.
The committee appointed to deal with the petitions in the
Emperor's name, decided not even to make a report to the Czar.
But one day when the Sventizky case was discussed at
the Emperor's luncheon-table, the chairman of the committee,
who was present, mentioned the telegram which had been received
from Sventizky's widow.
"C'est tres gentil de sa part," said one of the ladies of the imperial family.
The Emperor sighed, shrugged his shoulders, adorned with epaulettes.
"The law," he said; and raised his glass for the groom of the chamber
to pour out some Moselle.
All those present pretended to admire the wisdom of the sovereign's words.
There was no further question about the telegram. The two peasants,
the old man and the young boy, were hanged by a Tartar hangman from Kazan,
a cruel convict and a murderer.
The old man's wife wanted to dress the body of her husband
in a white shirt, with white bands which serve as stockings,
and new boots, but she was not allowed to do so.
The two men were buried together in the same pit outside
the church-yard wall.
"Princess Sofia Vladimirovna tells me he is a very remarkable preacher,"
remarked the old Empress, the Emperor's mother, one day to her son:
"Faites le venir. Il peut precher a la cathedrale."
"No, it would be better in the palace church," said the Emperor,
and ordered the hermit Isidor to be invited.
All the generals, and other high officials, assembled in the church
of the imperial palace; it was an event to hear the famous preacher.
A thin and grey old man appeared, looked at those present, and said:
"In the name of God, the Son, and the Holy Ghost," and began to speak.
At first all went well, but the longer he spoke the worse it became.
"Il devient de plus en plus aggressif," as the Empress put it afterwards.
He fulminated against every one. He spoke about the executions
and charged the government with having made so many necessary.
How can the government of a Christian country kill men?
Everybody looked at everybody else, thinking of the bad taste of the sermon,
and how unpleasant it must be for the Emperor to listen to it; but nobody
expressed these thoughts aloud.
When Isidor had said Amen, the metropolitan approached,
and asked him to call on him.
After Isidor had had a talk with the metropolitan and with
the attorney-general, he was immediately sent away to a friary,
not his own, but one at Suzdal, which had a prison attached to it;
the prior of that friary was now Father Missael.
EVERY one tried to look as if Isidor's sermon contained nothing unpleasant,
and nobody mentioned it. It seemed to the Czar that the hermit's words
had not made any impression on himself; but once or twice during that day
he caught himself thinking of the two peasants who had been hanged,
and the widow of Sventizky who had asked an amnesty for them. That day the
Emperor had to be present at a parade; after which he went out for a drive;
a reception of ministers came next, then dinner, after dinner the theatre.
As usual, the Czar fell asleep the moment his head touched the pillow.
In the night an awful dream awoke him: he saw gallows in a large field
and corpses dangling on them; the tongues of the corpses were protruding,
and their bodies moved and shook. And somebody shouted, "It is you--you who
have done it!" The Czar woke up bathed in perspiration and began to think.
It was the first time that he had ever thought of the responsibilities
which weighed on him, and the words of old Isidor came back to his mind. . . .
But only dimly could he see himself as a mere human being,
and he could not consider his mere human wants and duties,
because of all that was required of him as Czar.
As to acknowledging that human duties were more obligatory
than those of a Czar--he had not strength for that.
HAVING served his second term in the prison, Prokofy, who had formerly worked
on the Sventizky estate, was no longer the brisk, ambitious, smartly dressed
fellow he had been. He seemed, on the contrary, a complete wreck.
When sober he would sit idle and would refuse to do any work, however much
his father scolded him; moreover, he was continually seeking to get hold of
something secretly, and take it to the public-house for a drink. When he came
home he would continue to sit idle, coughing and spitting all the time.
The doctor on whom he called, examined his chest and shook his head.
"You, my man, ought to have many things which you have not got."
"That is usually the case, isn't it?
"Take plenty of milk, and don't smoke."
"These are days of fasting, and besides we have no cow."
Once in spring he could not get any sleep; he was longing
to have a drink. There was nothing in the house he could
lay his hand on to take to the public-house. He put
on his cap and went out. He walked along the street up
to the house where the priest and the deacon lived together.
The deacon's harrow stood outside leaning against the hedge.
Prokofy approached, took the harrow upon his shoulder,
and walked to an inn kept by a woman, Petrovna. She might
give him a small bottle of vodka for it. But he had hardly
gone a few steps when the deacon came out of his house.
It was already dawn, and he saw that Prokofy was carrying
away his harrow.
"Hey, what's that?" cried the deacon.
The neighbours rushed out from their houses.
Prokofy was seized, brought to the police station, and then
sentenced to eleven months' imprisonment. It was autumn,
and Prokofy had to be transferred to the prison hospital.
He was coughing badly; his chest was heaving from the exertion;
and he could not get warm. Those who were stronger contrived
not to shiver; Prokofy on the contrary shivered day and night,
as the superintendent would not light the fires in the hospital
till November, to save expense.
Prokofy suffered greatly in body, and still more in soul.
He was disgusted with his surroundings, and hated every one--the deacon,
the superintendent who would not light the fires, the guard, and the man
who was lying in the bed next to his, and who had a swollen red lip.
He began also to hate the new convict who was brought into hospital.
This convict was Stepan. He was suffering from some disease on his head,
and was transferred to the hospital and put in a bed at Prokofy's side.
After a time that hatred to Stepan changed, and Prokofy became,
on the contrary, extremely fond of him; he delighted in talking to him.
It was only after a talk with Stepan that his anguish would cease
for a while. Stepan always told every one he met about his last murder,
and how it had impressed him.
"Far from shrieking, or anything of that kind," he said to Prokofy,
"she did not move. 'Kill me! There I am,' she said.
'But it is not my soul you destroy, it is your own.'"
"Well, of course, it is very dreadful to kill. I had one day
to slaughter a sheep, and even that made me half mad. I have not
destroyed any living soul; why then do those villains kill me?
I have done no harm to anybody . . ."
"That will be taken into consideration."
"By God, to be sure."
"I have not seen anything yet showing that God exists,
and I don't believe in Him, brother. I think when a man dies,
grass will grow over the spot, and that is the end of it."
"You are wrong to think like that. I have murdered so
many people, whereas she, poor soul, was helping everybody.
And you think she and I are to have the same lot?
Oh no! Only wait."
"Then you believe the soul lives on after a man is dead?"
"To be sure; it truly lives."
Prokofy suffered greatly when death drew near. He could hardly breathe.
But in the very last hour he felt suddenly relieved from all pain.
He called Stepan to him. "Farewell, brother," he said. "Death has come,
I see. I was so afraid of it before. And now I don't mind.
I only wish it to come quicker."
IN the meanwhile, the affairs of Eugene Mihailovich
had grown worse and worse. Business was very slack.
There was a new shop in the town; he was losing his customers,
and the interest had to be paid. He borrowed again on interest.
At last his shop and his goods were to be sold up.
Eugene Mihailovich and his wife applied to every one they knew,
but they could not raise the four hundred roubles they needed
to save the shop anywhere.
They had some hope of the merchant Krasnopuzov, Eugene Mihailovich's
wife being on good terms with his mistress. But news came
that Krasnopuzov had been robbed of a huge sum of money.
Some said of half a million roubles. "And do you know who is
said to be the thief?" said Eugene Mihailovich to his wife.
"Vassily, our former yard-porter. They say he is squandering
the money, and the police are bribed by him."
"I knew he was a villain. You remember how he did not mind
perjuring himself? But I did not expect it would go so far."
"I hear he has recently been in the courtyard of our house.
Cook says she is sure it was he. She told me he helps poor
girls to get married."
"They always invent tales. I don't believe it."
At that moment a strange man, shabbily dressed, entered the shop.
"What is it you want?"
"Here is a letter for you."
"You will see yourself."
"Don't you require an answer? Wait a moment."
"I cannot." The strange man handed the letter and disappeared.
"How extraordinary!" said Eugene Mihailovich, and tore open the envelope.
To his great amazement several hundred rouble notes fell out.
"Four hundred roubles!" he exclaimed, hardly believing his eyes.
"What does it mean?"
The envelope also contained a badly-spelt letter,
addressed to Eugene Mihailovich. "It is said in the Gospels,"
ran the letter, "do good for evil. You have done me much harm;
and in the coupon case you made me wrong the peasants greatly.
But I have pity for you. Here are four hundred notes.
Take them, and remember your porter Vassily."
"Very extraordinary!" said Eugene Mihailovich to his wife and to himself.
And each time he remembered that incident, or spoke about it to his wife,
tears would come to his eyes.
FOURTEEN priests were kept in the Suzdal friary prison,
chiefly for having been untrue to the orthodox faith.
Isidor had been sent to that place also. Father Missael
received him according to the instructions he had been given,
and without talking to him ordered him to be put into a separate
cell as a serious criminal. After a fortnight Father Missael,
making a round of the prison, entered Isidor's cell, and asked
him whether there was anything he wished for.
"There is a great deal I wish for," answered Isidor; "but I
cannot tell you what it is in the presence of anybody else.
Let me talk to you privately."
They looked at each other, and Missael saw he had nothing to be
afraid of in remaining alone with Isidor. He ordered Isidor
to be brought into his own room, and when they were alone,
he said,--"Well, now you can speak."
Isidor fell on his knees.
"Brother," said Isidor. "What are you doing to yourself!
Have mercy on your own soul. You are the worst villain in the world.
You have offended against all that is sacred . . ."
A month after Missael sent a report, asking that Isidor should be
released as he had repented, and he also asked for the release
of the rest of the prisoners. After which he resigned his post.
TEN years passed. Mitia Smokovnikov had finished his
studies in the Technical College; he was now an engineer
in the gold mines in Siberia, and was very highly paid.
One day he was about to make a round in the district.
The governor offered him a convict, Stepan Pelageushkine,
to accompany him on his journey.
"A convict, you say? But is not that dangerous?"
"Not if it is this one. He is a holy man. You may ask anybody,
they will all tell you so."
"Why has he been sent here?"
The governor smiled. "He had committed six murders, and yet
he is a holy man. I go bail for him."
Mitia Smokovnikov took Stepan, now a bald-headed, lean, tanned man,
with him on his journey. On their way Stepan took care of Smokovnikov,
like his own child, and told him his story; told him why he had been
sent here, and what now filled his life.
And, strange to say, Mitia Smokovnikov, who up to that time
used to spend his time drinking, eating, and gambling,
began for the first time to meditate on life. These thoughts
never left him now, and produced a complete change in his habits.
After a time he was offered a very advantageous position.
He refused it, and made up his mind to buy an estate with the money
he had, to marry, and to devote himself to the peasantry,
helping them as much as he could.
HE carried out his intentions. But before retiring to his
estate he called on his father, with whom he had been on
bad terms, and who had settled apart with his new family.
Mitia Smokovnikov wanted to make it up. The old man wondered
at first, and laughed at the change he noticed in his son;
but after a while he ceased to find fault with him, and thought
of the many times when it was he who was the guilty one.
AFTER THE DANCE
AFTER THE DANCE
"--AND you say that a man cannot, of himself, understand what is good
and evil; that it is all environment, that the environment swamps the man.
But I believe it is all chance. Take my own case . . ."
Thus spoke our excellent friend, Ivan Vasilievich, after a
conversation between us on the impossibility of improving individual
character without a change of the conditions under which men live.
Nobody had actually said that one could not of oneself understand
good and evil; but it was a habit of Ivan Vasilievich to answer
in this way the thoughts aroused in his own mind by conversation,
and to illustrate those thoughts by relating incidents in his own life.
He often quite forgot the reason for his story in telling it;
but he always told it with great sincerity and feeling.
He did so now.
"Take my own case. My whole life was moulded, not by environment,
but by something quite different."
"By what, then?" we asked.
"Oh, that is a long story. I should have to tell you about
a great many things to make you understand."
"Well, tell us then."
Ivan Vasilievich thought a little, and shook his head.
"My whole life," he said, "was changed in one night, or, rather, morning."
"Why, what happened?" one of us asked.
"What happened was that I was very much in love. I have been
in love many times, but this was the most serious of all.
It is a thing of the past; she has married daughters now.
It was Varinka B----." Ivan Vasilievich mentioned her surname.
"Even at fifty she is remarkably handsome; but in her youth,
at eighteen, she was exquisite--tall, slender, graceful,
and stately. Yes, stately is the word; she held herself
very erect, by instinct as it were; and carried her head high,
and that together with her beauty and height gave her a
queenly air in spite of being thin, even bony one might say.
It might indeed have been deterring had it not been for her smile,
which was always gay and cordial, and for the charming light
in her eyes and for her youthful sweetness."
"What an entrancing description you give, Ivan Vasilievich!"
"Description, indeed! I could not possibly describe her
so that you could appreciate her. But that does not matter;
what I am going to tell you happened in the forties.
I was at that time a student in a provincial university.
I don't know whether it was a good thing or no, but we had
no political clubs, no theories in our universities then.
We were simply young and spent our time as young men do,
studying and amusing ourselves. I was a very gay,
lively, careless fellow, and had plenty of money too.
I had a fine horse, and used to go tobogganing with
the young ladies. Skating had not yet come into fashion.
I went to drinking parties with my comrades--in those days
we drank nothing but champagne--if we had no champagne we
drank nothing at all. We never drank vodka, as they do now.
Evening parties and balls were my favourite amusements.
I danced well, and was not an ugly fellow."
"Come, there is no need to be modest," interrupted a lady near him.
"We have seen your photograph. Not ugly, indeed! You were
a handsome fellow."
"Handsome, if you like. That does not matter. When my love
for her was at its strongest, on the last day of the carnival,
I was at a ball at the provincial marshal's, a good-natured old man,
rich and hospitable, and a court chamberlain. The guests
were welcomed by his wife, who was as good-natured as himself.
She was dressed in puce-coloured velvet, and had a diamond
diadem on her forehead, and her plump, old white shoulders
and bosom were bare like the portraits of Empress Elizabeth,
the daughter of Peter the Great.
"It was a delightful ball. It was a splendid room,
with a gallery for the orchestra, which was famous at the time,
and consisted of serfs belonging to a musical landowner.
The refreshments were magnificent, and the champagne flowed
in rivers. Though I was fond of champagne I did not drink
that night, because without it I was drunk with love.
But I made up for it by dancing waltzes and polkas till I was
ready to drop--of course, whenever possible, with Varinka.
She wore a white dress with a pink sash, white shoes, and white
kid gloves, which did not quite reach to her thin pointed elbows.
A disgusting engineer named Anisimov robbed me of the mazurka
with her--to this day I cannot forgive him. He asked her
for the dance the minute she arrived, while I had driven
to the hair-dresser's to get a pair of gloves, and was late.
So I did not dance the mazurka with her, but with a German
girl to whom I had previously paid a little attention; but I
am afraid I did not behave very politely to her that evening.
I hardly spoke or looked at her, and saw nothing but the tall,
slender figure in a white dress, with a pink sash,
a flushed, beaming, dimpled face, and sweet, kind eyes.
I was not alone; they were all looking at her with admiration,
the men and women alike, although she outshone all of them.
They could not help admiring her.
"Although I was not nominally her partner for the mazurka,
I did as a matter of fact dance nearly the whole time with her.
She always came forward boldly the whole length of the room
to pick me out. I flew to meet her without waiting to
be chosen, and she thanked me with a smile for my intuition.
When I was brought up to her with somebody else, and she
guessed wrongly, she took the other man's hand with a shrug
of her slim shoulders, and smiled at me regretfully.
"Whenever there was a waltz figure in the mazurka, I waltzed
with her for a long time, and breathing fast and smiling,
she would say, 'Encore'; and I went on waltzing and waltzing,
as though unconscious of any bodily existence."
"Come now, how could you be unconscious of it with your arm round her waist?
You must have been conscious, not only of your own existence, but of hers,"
said one of the party.
Ivan Vasilievich cried out, almost shouting in anger:
"There you are, moderns all over! Nowadays you think
of nothing but the body. It was different in our day.
The more I was in love the less corporeal was she in my eyes.
Nowadays you think of nothing but the body. It was different
in our day. The more I was in love the less corporeal was
she in my eyes. Nowadays you set legs, ankles, and I don't
know what. You undress the women you are in love with.
In my eyes, as Alphonse Karr said--and he was a good writer--'
the one I loved was always draped in robes of bronze.'
We never thought of doing so; we tried to veil her nakedness,
like Noah's good-natured son. Oh, well, you can't understand."
"Don't pay any attention to him. Go on," said one of them.
"Well, I danced for the most part with her, and did not notice
how time was passing. The musicians kept playing the same mazurka
tunes over and over again in desperate exhaustion--you know what it
is towards the end of a ball. Papas and mammas were already getting
up from the card-tables in the drawing-room in expectation of supper,
the men-servants were running to and fro bringing in things.
It was nearly three o'clock. I had to make the most of the last minutes.
I chose her again for the mazurka, and for the hundredth time we
danced across the room.
"'The quadrille after supper is mine,' I said, taking her to her place.
"'Of course, if I am not carried off home,' she said, with a smile.
"'I won't give you up,' I said.
"'Give me my fan, anyhow,' she answered.
"'I am so sorry to part with it,' I said, handing her a cheap white fan.
"'Well, here's something to console you,' she said, plucking a feather
out of the fan, and giving it to me.
"I took the feather, and could only express my rapture and gratitude with
my eyes. I was not only pleased and gay, I was happy, delighted; I was good,
I was not myself but some being not of this earth, knowing nothing of evil.
I hid the feather in my glove, and stood there unable to tear myself
away from her.
"'Look, they are urging father to dance,' she said to me,
pointing to the tall, stately figure of her father, a colonel
with silver epaulettes, who was standing in the doorway
with some ladies.
"'Varinka, come here!' exclaimed our hostess, the lady with
the diamond ferronniere and with shoulders like Elizabeth,
in a loud voice.
"'Varinka went to the door, and I followed her.
"'Persuade your father to dance the mazurka with you,
ma chere.--Do, please, Peter Valdislavovich,' she said,
turning to the colonel.
"Varinka's father was a very handsome, well-preserved old man.
He had a good colour, moustaches curled in the style of
Nicolas I., and white whiskers which met the moustaches.
His hair was combed on to his forehead, and a bright smile,
like his daughter's, was on his lips and in his eyes.
He was splendidly set up, with a broad military chest,
on which he wore some decorations, and he had powerful shoulders
and long slim legs. He was that ultra-military type produced
by the discipline of Emperor Nicolas I.
"When we approached the door the colonel was just refusing to dance,
saying that he had quite forgotten how; but at that instant he smiled,
swung his arm gracefully around to the left, drew his sword from its sheath,
handed it to an obliging young man who stood near, and smoothed his suede
glove on his right hand.
"'Everything must be done according to rule,' he said with a smile.
He took the hand of his daughter, and stood one-quarter turned,
waiting for the music.
"At the first sound of the mazurka, he stamped one foot smartly,
threw the other forward, and, at first slowly and smoothly,
then buoyantly and impetuously, with stamping of feet and clicking
of boots, his tall, imposing figure moved the length of the room.
Varinka swayed gracefully beside him, rhythmically and easily,
making her steps short or long, with her little feet in their
white satin slippers.
"All the people in the room followed every movement of the couple.
As for me I not only admired, I regarded them with enraptured sympathy.
I was particularly impressed with the old gentleman's boots.
They were not the modern pointed affairs, but were made of cheap leather,
squared-toed, and evidently built by the regimental cobbler.
In order that his daughter might dress and go out in society,
he did not buy fashionable boots, but wore home-made ones, I thought,
and his square toes seemed to me most touching. It was obvious
that in his time he had been a good dancer; but now he was too heavy,
and his legs had not spring enough for all the beautiful steps
he tried to take. Still, he contrived to go twice round the room.
When at the end, standing with legs apart, he suddenly clicked
his feet together and fell on one knee, a bit heavily, and she
danced gracefully around him, smiling and adjusting her skirt,
the whole room applauded.
"Rising with an effort, he tenderly took his daughter's face between
his hands. He kissed her on the forehead, and brought her to me,
under the impression that I was her partner for the mazurka.
I said I was not. 'Well, never mind. just go around the room
once with her,' he said, smiling kindly, as he replaced his sword
in the sheath.
"As the contents of a bottle flow readily when the first drop has
been poured, so my love for Varinka seemed to set free the whole force
of loving within me. In surrounding her it embraced the world.
I loved the hostess with her diadem and her shoulders like Elizabeth,
and her husband and her guests and her footmen, and even the engineer
Anisimov who felt peevish towards me. As for Varinka's father,
with his home-made boots and his kind smile, so like her own,
I felt a sort of tenderness for him that was almost rapture.
"After supper I danced the promised quadrille with her,
and though I had been infinitely happy before, I grew still
happier every moment.
"We did not speak of love. I neither asked myself nor her whether
she loved me. It was quite enough to know that I loved her.
And I had only one fear--that something might come to interfere
with my great joy.
"When I went home, and began to undress for the night,
I found it quite out of the question. held the little feather
out of her fan in my hand, and one of her gloves which she
gave me when I helped her into the carriage after her mother.
Looking at these things, and without closing my eyes I could see
her before me as she was for an instant when she had to choose
between two partners. She tried to guess what kind of person
was represented in me, and I could hear her sweet voice as
she said, 'Pride--am I right?' and merrily gave me her hand.
At supper she took the first sip from my glass of champagne,
looking at me over the rim with her caressing glance.
But, plainest of all, I could see her as she danced with her father,
gliding along beside him, and looking at the admiring observers
with pride and happiness.
"He and she were united in my mind in one rush of pathetic tenderness.
"I was living then with my brother, who has since died.
He disliked going out, and never went to dances; and besides,
he was busy preparing for his last university examinations,
and was leading a very regular life. He was asleep.
I looked at him, his head buried in the pillow and half
covered with the quilt; and I affectionately pitied him,
pitied him for his ignorance of the bliss I was experiencing.
Our serf Petrusha had met me with a candle, ready to undress me,
but I sent him away. His sleepy face and tousled hair seemed
to me so touching. Trying not to make a noise, I went to my
room on tiptoe and sat down on my bed. No, I was too happy;
I could not sleep. Besides, it was too hot in the rooms.
Without taking off my uniform, I went quietly into the hall,
put on my overcoat, opened the front door and stepped out
into the street.
"It was after four when I had left the ball; going home and stopping there
a while had occupied two hours, so by the time I went out it was dawn.
It was regular carnival weather--foggy, and the road full of water-soaked
snow just melting, and water dripping from the eaves. Varinka's family lived
on the edge of town near a large field, one end of which was a parade ground:
at the other end was a boarding-school for young ladies. I passed through
our empty little street and came to the main thoroughfare, where I met
pedestrians and sledges laden with wood, the runners grating the road.
The horses swung with regular paces beneath their shining yokes, their backs
covered with straw mats and their heads wet with rain; while the drivers,
in enormous boots, splashed through the mud beside the sledges. All this,
the very horses themselves, seemed to me stimulating and fascinating,
full of suggestion.
"When I approached the field near their house, I saw at one end
of it, in the direction of the parade ground, something very huge
and black, and I heard sounds of fife and drum proceeding from it.
My heart had been full of song, and I had heard in imagination
the tune of the mazurka, but this was very harsh music.
It was not pleasant.
"'What can that be?' I thought, and went towards the sound
by a slippery path through the centre of the field.
Walking about a hundred paces, I began to distinguish many black
objects through the mist. They were evidently soldiers.
'It is probably a drill,' I thought.
"So I went along in that direction in company with a blacksmith,
who wore a dirty coat and an apron, and was carrying something.
He walked ahead of me as we approached the place. The soldiers
in black uniforms stood in two rows, facing each other motionless,
their guns at rest. Behind them stood the fifes and drums,
incessantly repeating the same unpleasant tune.
"'What are they doing?' I asked the blacksmith, who halted at my side.
"'A Tartar is being beaten through the ranks for his attempt to desert,'
said the blacksmith in an angry tone, as he looked intently at the far
end of the line.
"I looked in the same direction, and saw between the files something horrid
approaching me. The thing that approached was a man, stripped to the waist,
fastened with cords to the guns of two soldiers who were leading him.
At his side an officer in overcoat and cap was walking, whose figure had
a familiar look. The victim advanced under the blows that rained upon him
from both sides, his whole body plunging, his feet dragging through the snow.
Now he threw himself backward, and the subalterns who led him thrust
him forward. Now he fell forward, and they pulled him up short;
while ever at his side marched the tall officer, with firm and nervous pace.
It was Varinka's father, with his rosy face and white moustache.
"At each stroke the man, as if amazed, turned his face,
grimacing with pain, towards the side whence the blow came,
and showing his white teeth repeated the same words over and over.
But I could only hear what the words were when he came quite near.
He did not speak them, he sobbed them out,--"'Brothers, have mercy
on me! Brothers, have mercy on me!' But the brothers had,
no mercy, and when the procession came close to me, I saw how a
soldier who stood opposite me took a firm step forward and lifting
his stick with a whirr, brought it down upon the man's back.
The man plunged forward, but the subalterns pulled him back,
and another blow came down from the other side, then from this
side and then from the other. The colonel marched beside him,
and looking now at his feet and now at the man, inhaled the air,
puffed out his cheeks, and breathed it out between his protruded lips.
When they passed the place where I stood, I caught a glimpse between
the two files of the back of the man that was being punished.
It was something so many-coloured, wet, red, unnatural, that I
could hardly believe it was a human body.
"'My God!"' muttered the blacksmith.
The procession moved farther away. The blows continued to rain upon
the writhing, falling creature; the fifes shrilled and the drums beat,
and the tall imposing figure of the colonel moved along-side the man,
just as before. Then, suddenly, the colonel stopped, and rapidly
approached a man in the ranks.
"'I'll teach you to hit him gently,' I heard his furious voice say.
'Will you pat him like that? Will you?' and I saw how his strong
hand in the suede glove struck the weak, bloodless, terrified soldier
for not bringing down his stick with sufficient strength on the red
neck of the Tartar.
"'Bring new sticks!' he cried, and looking round, he saw me.
Assuming an air of not knowing me, and with a ferocious, angry frown,
he hastily turned away. I felt so utterly ashamed that I didn't know
where to look. It was as if I had been detected in a disgraceful act.
I dropped my eyes, and quickly hurried home. All the way I had the drums
beating and the fifes whistling in my ears. And I heard the words,
'Brothers, have mercy on me!' or 'Will you pat him? Will you?'
My heart was full of physical disgust that was almost sickness.
So much so that I halted several times on my way, for I had the feeling
that I was going to be really sick from all the horrors that possessed
me at that sight. I do not remember how I got home and got to bed.
But the moment I was about to fall asleep I heard and saw again all
that had happened, and I sprang up.
"'Evidently he knows something I do not know,' I thought about the colonel.
'If I knew what he knows I should certainly grasp--understand--what I have
just seen, and it would not cause me such suffering.'
"But however much I thought about it, I could not understand the thing
that the colonel knew. It was evening before I could get to sleep,
and then only after calling on a friend and drinking till I;
was quite drunk.
"Do you think I had come to the conclusion that the deed I had
witnessed was wicked? Oh, no. Since it was done with such assurance,
and was recognised by every one as indispensable, they doubtless knew
something which I did not know. So I thought, and tried to understand.
But no matter, I could never understand it, then or afterwards.
And not being able to grasp it, I could not enter the service
as I had intended. I don't mean only the military service:
I did not enter the Civil Service either. And so I have been
of no use whatever, as you can see."
"Yes, we know how useless you've been," said one of us.
"Tell us, rather, how many people would be of any use at all
if it hadn't been for you."
"Oh, that's utter nonsense," said Ivan Vasilievich, with genuine annoyance.
"Well; and what about the love affair?
"My love? It decreased from that day. When, as often happened,
she looked dreamy and meditative, I instantly recollected
the colonel on the parade ground, and I felt so awkward
and uncomfortable that I began to see her less frequently.
So my love came to naught. Yes; such chances arise, and they
alter and direct a man's whole life," he said in summing up.
"And you say . . ."
ALYOSHA THE POT
ALYOSHA THE POT
ALYOSHA was the younger brother. He was called the Pot,
because his mother had once sent him with a pot of milk to the
deacon's wife, and he had stumbled against something and broken it.
His mother had beaten him, and the children had teased him.
Since then he was nicknamed the Pot. Alyosha was a tiny,
thin little fellow, with ears like wings, and a huge nose.
"Alyosha has a nose that looks like a dog on a hill!" the children
used to call after him. Alyosha went to the village school,
but was not good at lessons; besides, there was so little time
to learn. His elder brother was in town, working for a merchant,
so Alyosha had to help his father from a very early age.
When he was no more than six he used to go out with the girls
to watch the cows and sheep in the pasture, and a little
later he looked after the horses by day and by night.
And at twelve years of age he had already begun to plough and to
drive the cart. The skill was there though the strength was not.
He was always cheerful. Whenever the children made fun of him,
he would either laugh or be silent. When his father scolded
him he would stand mute and listen attentively, and as soon
as the scolding was over would smile and go on with his work.
Alyosha was nineteen when his brother was taken as a soldier.
So his father placed him with the merchant as a yard-porter. He
was given his brother's old boots, his father's old coat and cap,
and was taken to town. Alyosha was delighted with his clothes,
but the merchant was not impressed by his appearance.
"I thought you would bring me a man in Simeon's place,"
he said, scanning Alyosha; "and you've brought me THIS!
What's the good of him?"
"He can do everything; look after horses and drive. He's a good one to work.
He looks rather thin, but he's tough enough. And he's very willing."
"He looks it. All right; we'll see what we can do with him."
So Alyosha remained at the merchant's.
The family was not a large one. It consisted of the merchant's wife:
her old mother: a married son poorly educated who was in his
father's business: another son, a learned one who had finished school
and entered the University, but having been expelled, was living at home:
and a daughter who still went to school.
They did not take to Alyosha at first. He was uncouth, badly dressed,
and had no manner, but they soon got used to him. Alyosha worked
even better than his brother had done; he was really very willing.
They sent him on all sorts of errands, but he did everything quickly
and readily, going from one task to another without stopping.
And so here, just as at home, all the work was put upon his shoulders.
The more he did, the more he was given to do. His mistress,
her old mother, the son, the daughter, the clerk, and the cook--
all ordered him about, and sent him from one place to another.
"Alyosha, do this! Alyosha, do that! What! have you forgotten, Alyosha?
Mind you don't forget, Alyosha!" was heard from morning till night.
And Alyosha ran here, looked after this and that, forgot nothing,
found time for everything, and was always cheerful.
His brother's old boots were soon worn out, and his master scolded
him for going about in tatters with his toes sticking out.
He ordered another pair to be bought for him in the market.
Alyosha was delighted with his new boots, but was angry with his feet
when they ached at the end of the day after so much running about.
And then he was afraid that his father would be annoyed when he came
to town for his wages, to find that his master had deducted the cost
of the boots.
In the winter Alyosha used to get up before daybreak.
He would chop the wood, sweep the yard, feed the cows and horses,
light the stoves, clean the boots, prepare the samovars and polish
them afterwards; or the clerk would get him to bring up the goods;
or the cook would set him to knead the bread and clean
the saucepans. Then he was sent to town on various errands,
to bring the daughter home from school, or to get some olive
oil for the old mother. "Why the devil have you been so long?"
first one, then another, would say to him. Why should they go?
Alyosha can go. "Alyosha! Alyosha!" And Alyosha ran here
and there. He breakfasted in snatches while he was working,
and rarely managed to get his dinner at the proper hour.
The cook used to scold him for being late, but she was sorry
for him all the same, and would keep something hot for his
dinner and supper.
At holiday times there was more work than ever, but Alyosha liked
holidays because everybody gave him a tip. Not much certainly,
but it would amount up to about sixty kopeks [1s 2d]--
his very own money. For Alyosha never set eyes on his wages.
His father used to come and take them from the merchant,
and only scold Alyosha for wearing out his boots.
When he had saved up two roubles [4s], by the advice of the cook he bought
himself a red knitted jacket, and was so happy when he put it on,
that he couldn't close his mouth for joy. Alyosha was not talkative;
when he spoke at all, he spoke abruptly, with his head turned away.
When told to do anything, or asked if he could do it, he would say yes
without the smallest hesitation, and set to work at once.
Alyosha did not know any prayer; and had forgotten what his mother had
taught him. But he prayed just the same, every morning and every evening,
prayed with his hands, crossing himself.
He lived like this for about a year and a half, and towards the end
of the second year a most startling thing happened to him.
He discovered one day, to his great surprise, that, in addition
to the relation of usefulness existing between people, there was
also another, a peculiar relation of quite a different character.
Instead of a man being wanted to clean boots, and go on errands
and harness horses, he is not wanted to be of any service at all,
but another human being wants to serve him and pet him.
Suddenly Alyosha felt he was such a man.
He made this discovery through the cook Ustinia.
She was young, had no parents, and worked as hard as Alyosha.
He felt for the first time in his life that he--not his services,
but he himself--was necessary to another human being.
When his mother used to be sorry for him, he had taken
no notice of her. It had seemed to him quite natural,
as though he were feeling sorry for himself.
But here was Ustinia, a perfect stranger, and sorry for him.
She would save him some hot porridge, and sit watching him,
her chin propped on her bare arm, with the sleeve rolled up,
while he was eating it. When he looked at her she would begin
to laugh, and he would laugh too.
This was such a new, strange thing to him that it frightened Alyosha.
He feared that it might interfere with his work.
But he was pleased, nevertheless, and when he glanced at the trousers
that Ustinia had mended for him, he would shake his head and smile.
He would often think of her while at work, or when running on errands.
"A fine girl, Ustinia!" he sometimes exclaimed.
Ustinia used to help him whenever she could, and he helped her.
She told him all about her life; how she had lost her parents;
how her aunt had taken her in and found a place for her in the town;
how the merchant's son had tried to take liberties with her,
and how she had rebuffed him. She liked to talk, and Alyosha
liked to listen to her. He had heard that peasants who came up
to work in the towns frequently got married to servant girls.
On one occasion she asked him if his parents intended marrying him soon.
He said that he did not know; that he did not want to marry any
of the village girls.
"Have you taken a fancy to some one, then?"
"I would marry you, if you'd be willing."
"Get along with you, Alyosha the Pot; but you've found your tongue,
haven't you?" she exclaimed, slapping him on the back with a towel
she held in her hand. "Why shouldn't I?"
At Shrovetide Alyosha's father came to town for his wages.
It had come to the ears of the merchant's wife that Alyosha
wanted to marry Ustinia, and she disapproved of it.
"What will be the use of her with a baby?" she thought,
and informed her husband.
The merchant gave the old man Alyosha's wages.
"How is my lad getting on?" he asked. "I told you he was willing."
"That's all right, as far as it goes, but he's taken some sort
of nonsense into his head. He wants to marry our cook.
Now I don't approve of married servants. We won't have them
in the house."
"Well, now, who would have thought the fool would think of
such a thing?" the old man exclaimed. "But don't you worry.
I'll soon settle that."
He went into the kitchen, and sat down at the table waiting for his son.
Alyosha was out on an errand, and came back breathless.
"I thought you had some sense in you; but what's this you've
taken into your head?" his father began.
"How, nothing? They tell me you want to get married.
You shall get married when the time comes. I'll find you
a decent wife, not some town hussy."
His father talked and talked, while Alyosha stood still and sighed.
When his father had quite finished, Alyosha smiled.
"All right. I'll drop it."
"Now that's what I call sense."
When he was left alone with Ustinia he told her what his father had said.
(She had listened at the door.)
"It's no good; it can't come off. Did you hear? He was angry--
won't have it at any price."
Ustinia cried into her apron.
Alyosha shook his head.
"What's to be done? We must do as we're told."
"Well, are you going to give up that nonsense, as your father told you?"
his mistress asked, as he was putting up the shutters in the evening.
"To be sure we are," Alyosha replied with a smile, and then
burst into tears.
From that day Alyosha went about his work as usual,
and no longer talked to Ustinia about their getting married.
One day in Lent the clerk told him to clear the snow from the roof.
Alyosha climbed on to the roof and swept away all the snow;
and, while he was still raking out some frozen lumps from the gutter,
his foot slipped and he fell over. Unfortunately he did
not fall on the snow, but on a piece of iron over the door.
Ustinia came running up, together with the merchant's daughter.
"Have you hurt yourself, Alyosha?"
"Ah! no, it's nothing."
But he could not raise himself when he tried to, and began to smile.
He was taken into the lodge. The doctor arrived, examined him,
and asked where he felt the pain.
"I feel it all over," he said. "But it doesn't matter.
I'm only afraid master will be annoyed. Father ought to be told."
Alyosha lay in bed for two days, and on the third day they sent
for the priest.
"Are you really going to die?" Ustinia asked.
"Of course I am. You can't go on living for ever.
You must go when the time comes." Alyosha spoke rapidly as usual.
"Thank you, Ustinia. You've been very good to me. What a lucky
thing they didn't let us marry! Where should we have been now?
It's much better as it is."
When the priest came, he prayed with his bands and with his heart.
"As it is good here when you obey and do no harm to others,
so it will be there," was the thought within it.
He spoke very little; he only said he was thirsty, and he seemed
full of wonder at something.
He lay in wonderment, then stretched himself, and died.
"As a daughter she no longer exists for me. Can't you understand?
She simply doesn't exist. Still, I cannot possibly leave her
to the charity of strangers. I will arrange things so that she
can live as she pleases, but I do not wish to hear of her.
Who would ever have thought . . . the horror of it, the horror of it."
He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and raised his eyes.
These words were spoken by Prince Michael Ivanovich to his
brother Peter, who was governor of a province in Central Russia.
Prince Peter was a man of fifty, Michael's junior by ten years.
On discovering that his daughter, who had left his house
a year before, had settled here with her child, the elder
brother had come from St. Petersburg to the provincial town,
where the above conversation took place.
Prince Michael Ivanovich was a tall, handsome, white-haired, fresh
coloured man, proud and attractive in appearance and bearing.
His family consisted of a vulgar, irritable wife, who wrangled with him
continually over every petty detail, a son, a ne'er-do-well, spendthrift
and roue--yet a "gentleman," according to his father's code, two daughters,
of whom the elder had married well, and was living in St. Petersburg;
and the younger, Lisa--his favourite, who had disappeared from home
a year before. Only a short while ago he had found her with her child
in this provincial town.
Prince Peter wanted to ask his brother how, and under what circumstances,
Lisa had left home, and who could possibly be the father of her child.
But he could not make up his mind to inquire.
That very morning, when his wife had attempted to condole with
her brother-in-law, Prince Peter had observed a look of pain
on his brother's face. The look had at once been masked by an
expression of unapproachable pride, and he had begun to question
her about their flat, and the price she paid. At luncheon,
before the family and guests, he had been witty and sarcastic as usual.
Towards every one, excepting the children, whom he treated with almost
reverent tenderness, he adopted an attitude of distant hauteur.
And yet it was so natural to him that every one somehow acknowledged
his right to be haughty.
In the evening his brother arranged a game of whist.
When he retired to the room which had been made ready for him,
and was just beginning to take out his artificial teeth,
some one tapped lightly on the door with two fingers.
"Who is that?"
"C'est moi, Michael."
Prince Michael Ivanovich recognised the voice of his sister-in-law, frowned,
replaced his teeth, and said to himself, "What does she want?"
Aloud he said, "Entrez."
His sister-in-law was a quiet, gentle creature, who bowed
in submission to her husband's will. But to many she seemed
a crank, and some did not hesitate to call her a fool.
She was pretty, but her hair was always carelessly dressed,
and she herself was untidy and absent-minded. She had, also,
the strangest, most unaristocratic ideas, by no means fitting
in the wife of a high official. These ideas she would express
most unexpectedly, to everybody's astonishment, her husband's
no less than her friends'.
"Fous pouvez me renvoyer, mais je ne m'en irai pas, je vous le dis d'avance,"
she began, in her characteristic, indifferent way.
"Dieu preserve," answered her brother-in-law, with his usual somewhat
exaggerated politeness, and brought forward a chair for her.
"Ca ne vous derange pas?" she asked, taking out a cigarette.
"I'm not going to say anything unpleasant, Michael.
I only wanted to say something about Lisochka."
Michael Ivanovich sighed--the word pained him; but mastering himself
at once, he answered with a tired smile. "Our conversation can only
be on one subject, and that is the subject you wish to discuss." He
spoke without looking at her, and avoided even naming the subject.
But his plump, pretty little sister-in-law was unabashed.
She continued to regard him with the same gentle, imploring look
in her blue eyes, sighing even more deeply.
"Michael, mon bon ami, have pity on her. She is only human."
"I never doubted that," said Michael Ivanovich with a bitter smile.
"She is your daughter."
"She was--but my dear Aline, why talk about this?"
"Michael, dear, won't you see her? I only wanted to say,
that the one who is to blame--"
Prince Michael Ivanovich flushed; his face became cruel.
"For heaven's sake, let us stop. I have suffered enough.
I have now but one desire, and that is to put her in such
a position that she will be independent of others, and that
she shall have no further need of communicating with me.
Then she can live her own life, and my family and I need know
nothing more about her. That is all I can do."
"Michael, you say nothing but 'I'! She, too, is 'I.'"
"No doubt; but, dear Aline, please let us drop the matter.
I feel it too deeply."
Alexandra Dmitrievna remained silent for a few moments, shaking her head.
"And Masha, your wife, thinks as you do?"
Alexandra Dmitrievna made an inarticulate sound.
"Brisons la dessus et bonne nuit," said he. But she did not go.
She stood silent a moment. Then,--"Peter tells me you
intend to leave the money with the woman where she lives.
Have you the address?"
"Don't leave it with the woman, Michael! Go yourself.
Just see how she lives. If you don't want to see her, you need not.
HE isn't there; there is no one there."
Michael Ivanovich shuddered violently.
"Why do you torture me so? It's a sin against hospitality!"
Alexandra Dmitrievna rose, and almost in tears, being touched
by her own pleading, said, "She is so miserable, but she
is such a dear."
He got up, and stood waiting for her to finish.
She held out her hand.
"Michael, you do wrong," said she, and left him.
For a long while after she had gone Michael Ivanovich walked to and fro
on the square of carpet. He frowned and shivered, and exclaimed, "Oh, oh!"
And then the sound of his own voice frightened him, and he was silent.
His wounded pride tortured him. His daughter--his--brought up
in the house of her mother, the famous Avdotia Borisovna,
whom the Empress honoured with her visits, and acquaintance
with whom was an honour for all the world! His daughter--;
and he had lived his life as a knight of old, knowing neither
fear nor blame. The fact that he had a natural son born
of a Frenchwoman, whom he had settled abroad, did not lower
his own self-esteem. And now this daughter, for whom he had
not only done everything that a father could and should do;
this daughter to whom he had given a splendid education and
every opportunity to make a match in the best Russian society--
this daughter to whom he had not only given all that a girl
could desire, but whom he had really LOVED; whom he had admired,
been proud of--this daughter had repaid him with such disgrace,
that he was ashamed and could not face the eyes of men!
He recalled the time when she was not merely his child, and a
member of his family, but his darling, his joy and his pride.
He saw her again, a little thing of eight or nine, bright,
intelligent, lively, impetuous, graceful, with brilliant black
eyes and flowing auburn hair. He remembered how she used
to jump up on his knees and hug him, and tickle his neck;
and how she would laugh, regardless of his protests, and continue
to tickle him, and kiss his lips, his eyes, and his cheeks.
He was naturally opposed to all demonstration, but this impetuous
love moved him, and he often submitted to her petting.
He remembered also how sweet it was to caress her. To remember
all this, when that sweet child had become what she now was,
a creature of whom he could not think without loathing.
He also recalled the time when she was growing into womanhood,
and the curious feeling of fear and anger that he experienced
when he became aware that men regarded her as a woman.
He thought of his jealous love when she came coquettishly
to him dressed for a ball, and knowing that she was pretty.
He dreaded the passionate glances which fell upon her,
that she not only did not understand but rejoiced in.
"Yes," thought he, "that superstition of woman's purity!
Quite the contrary, they do not know shame--they lack this
sense." He remembered how, quite inexplicably to him,
she had refused two very good suitors. She had become more
and more fascinated by her own success in the round of gaieties
she lived in.
But this success could not last long. A year passed, then two, then three.
She was a familiar figure, beautiful--but her first youth had passed,
and she had become somehow part of the ball-room furniture. Michael Ivanovich
remembered how he had realised that she was on the road to spinsterhood,
and desired but one thing for her. He must get her married off as quickly
as possible, perhaps not quite so well as might have been arranged earlier,
but still a respectable match.
But it seemed to him she had behaved with a pride that bordered on insolence.
Remembering this, his anger rose more and more fiercely against her.
To think of her refusing so many decent men, only to end in this disgrace.
"Oh, oh!" he groaned again.
Then stopping, he lit a cigarette, and tried to think of other things.
He would send her money, without ever letting her see him. But memories
came again. He remembered--it was not so very long ago, for she was more
than twenty then--her beginning a flirtation with a boy of fourteen,
a cadet of the Corps of Pages who had been staying with them in the country.
She had driven the boy half crazy; he had wept in his distraction.
Then how she had rebuked her father severely, coldly, and even rudely,
when, to put an end to this stupid affair, he had sent the boy away.
She seemed somehow to consider herself insulted. Since then father
and daughter had drifted into undisguised hostility.
"I was right," he said to himself. "She is a wicked and shameless woman."
And then, as a last ghastly memory, there was the letter from Moscow,
in which she wrote that she could not return home; that she was
a miserable, abandoned woman, asking only to be forgiven and forgotten.
Then the horrid recollection of the scene with his wife came to him;
their surmises and their suspicions, which became a certainty.
The calamity had happened in Finland, where they had let her visit
her aunt; and the culprit was an insignificant Swede, a student,
an empty-headed, worthless creature--and married.
All this came back to him now as he paced backwards and forwards on
the bedroom carpet, recollecting his former love for her, his pride
in her. He recoiled with terror before the incomprehensible fact
of her downfall, and he hated her for the agony she was causing him.
He remembered the conversation with his sister-in-law, and tried to imagine
how he might forgive her. But as soon as the thought of "him" arose,
there surged up in his heart horror, disgust, and wounded pride.
He groaned aloud, and tried to think of something else.
"No, it is impossible; I will hand over the money to Peter to give
her monthly. And as for me, I have no longer a daughter."
And again a curious feeling overpowered him: a mixture of self-pity
at the recollection of his love for her, and of fury against her
for causing him this anguish.
DURING the last year Lisa had without doubt lived through more
than in all the preceding twenty-five. Suddenly she had realised
the emptiness of her whole life. It rose before her, base and sordid--
this life at home and among the rich set in St. Petersburg--
this animal existence that never sounded the depths, but only touched
the shallows of life.
It was well enough for a year or two, or perhaps even three.
But when it went on for seven or eight years, with its parties,
balls, concerts, and suppers; with its costumes and coiffures
to display the charms of the body; with its adorers old and young,
all alike seemingly possessed of some unaccountable right to
have everything, to laugh at everything; and with its summer months
spent in the same way, everything yielding but a superficial pleasure,
even music and reading merely touching upon life's problems,
but never solving them--all this holding out no promise of change,
and losing its charm more and more--she began to despair.
She had desperate moods when she longed to die.
Her friends directed her thoughts to charity.
On the one hand, she saw poverty which was real and repulsive,
and a sham poverty even more repulsive and pitiable;
on the other, she saw the terrible indifference of the lady
patronesses who came in carriages and gowns worth thousands.
Life became to her more and more unbearable. She yearned
for something real, for life itself--not this playing at living,
not this skimming life of its cream. Of real life there was none.
The best of her memories was her love for the little cadet Koko.
That had been a good, honest, straight-forward impulse,
and now there was nothing like it. There could not be.
She grew more and more depressed, and in this gloomy mood
she went to visit an aunt in Finland. The fresh scenery
and surroundings, the people strangely different to her own,
appealed to her at any rate as a new experience.
How and when it all began she could not clearly remember.
Her aunt had another guest, a Swede. He talked of his work,
his people, the latest Swedish novel. Somehow, she herself did
not know how that terrible fascination of glances and smiles began,
the meaning of which cannot be put into words.
These smiles and glances seemed to reveal to each, not only the soul
of the other, but some vital and universal mystery. Every word they spoke
was invested by these smiles with a profound and wonderful significance.
Music, too, when they were listening together, or when they sang duets,
became full of the same deep meaning. So, also, the words in the books they
read aloud. Sometimes they would argue, but the moment their eyes met,
or a smile flashed between them, the discussion remained far behind.
They soared beyond it to some higher plane consecrated to themselves.
How it had come about, how and when the devil, who had seized hold of
them both, first appeared behind these smiles and glances, she could not say.
But, when terror first seized her, the invisible threads that bound them
were already so interwoven that she had no power to tear herself free.
She could only count on him and on his honour. She hoped that he would
not make use of his power; yet all the while she vaguely desired it.
Her weakness was the greater, because she had nothing to support
her in the struggle. She was weary of society life and she
had no affection for her mother. Her father, so she thought,
had cast her away from him, and she longed passionately
to live and to have done with play. Love, the perfect love
of a woman for a man, held the promise of life for her.
Her strong, passionate nature, too, was dragging her thither.
In the tall, strong figure of this man, with his fair hair
and light upturned moustache, under which shone a smile
attractive and compelling, she saw the promise of that life
for which she longed. And then the smiles and glances, the hope
of something so incredibly beautiful, led, as they were bound
to lead, to that which she feared but unconsciously awaited.
Suddenly all that was beautiful, joyous, spiritual, and full of promise
for the future, became animal and sordid, sad and despairing.
She looked into his eyes and tried to smile, pretending that
she feared nothing, that everything was as it should be;
but deep down in her soul she knew it was all over.
She understood that she had not found in him what she had sought;
that which she had once known in herself and in Koko. She told
him that he must write to her father asking her hand in marriage.
This he promised to do; but when she met him next he said it
was impossible for him to write just then. She saw something
vague and furtive in his eyes, and her distrust of him grew.
The following day he wrote to her, telling her that he was
already married, though his wife had left him long since;
that he knew she would despise him for the wrong he had done her,
and implored her forgiveness. She made him come to see her.
She said she loved him; that she felt herself bound to him for
ever whether he was married or not, and would never leave him.
The next time they met he told her that he and his parents were
so poor that he could only offer her the meanest existence.
She answered that she needed nothing, and was ready to go
with him at once wherever he wished. He endeavoured
to dissuade her, advising her to wait; and so she waited.
But to live on with this secret, with occasional meetings,
and merely corresponding with him, all hidden from her family,
was agonising, and she insisted again that he must take her away.
At first, when she returned to St. Petersburg, be wrote promising
to come, and then letters ceased and she knew no more of him.
She tried to lead her old life, but it was impossible.
She fell ill, and the efforts of the doctors were unavailing;
in her hopelessness she resolved to kill herself.
But how was she to do this, so that her death might seem natural?
She really desired to take her life, and imagined that she had
irrevocably decided on the step. So, obtaining some poison,
she poured it into a glass, and in another instant would have
drunk it, had not her sister's little son of five at that very
moment run in to show her a toy his grandmother had given him.
She caressed the child, and, suddenly stopping short,
burst into tears.
The thought overpowered her that she, too, might have been
a mother had he not been married, and this vision of motherhood
made her look into her own soul for the first time. She began
to think not of what others would say of her, but of her own life.
To kill oneself because of what the world might say was easy;
but the moment she saw her own life dissociated from the world,
to take that life was out of the question. She threw away the poison,
and ceased to think of suicide.
Then her life within began. It was real life, and despite the torture of it,
had the possibility been given her, she would not have turned back from it.
She began to pray, but there was no comfort in prayer; and her suffering was
less for herself than for her father, whose grief she foresaw and understood.
Thus months dragged along, and then something happened which entirely
transformed her life. One day, when she was at work upon a quilt,
she suddenly experienced a strange sensation. No--it seemed impossible.
Motionless she sat with her work in hand. Was it possible that this was IT.
Forgetting everything, his baseness and deceit, her mother's querulousness,
and her father's sorrow, she smiled. She shuddered at the recollection
that she was on the point of killing it, together with herself.
She now directed all her thoughts to getting away--somewhere where
she could bear her child--and become a miserable, pitiful mother,
but a mother withal. Somehow she planned and arranged it all,
leaving her home and settling in a distant provincial town,
where no one could find her, and where she thought she would be far
from her people. But, unfortunately, her father's brother received
an appointment there, a thing she could not possibly foresee.
For four months she had been living in the house of a midwife--
one Maria Ivanovna; and, on learning that her uncle had come to the town,
she was preparing to fly to a still remoter hiding-place.
MICHAEL IVANOVICH awoke early next morning. He entered his
brother's study, and handed him the cheque, filled in for a sum
which he asked him to pay in monthly instalments to his daughter.
He inquired when the express left for St. Petersburg.
The train left at seven in the evening, giving him time
for an early dinner before leaving. He breakfasted with his
sister-in-law, who refrained from mentioning the subject
which was so painful to him, but only looked at him timidly;
and after breakfast he went out for his regular morning walk.
Alexandra Dmitrievna followed him into the hall.
"Go into the public gardens, Michael--it is very charming there,
and quite near to Everything," said she, meeting his sombre looks
with a pathetic glance.
Michael Ivanovich followed her advice and went to the public gardens,
which were so near to Everything, and meditated with annoyance
on the stupidity, the obstinacy, and heartlessness of women.
"She is not in the very least sorry for me," he thought
of his sister-in-law. "She cannot even understand my sorrow.
And what of her?" He was thinking of his daughter.
"She knows what all this means to me--the torture.
What a blow in one's old age! My days will be shortened by it!
But I'd rather have it over than endure this agony.
And all that 'pour les beaux yeux d'un chenapan'--oh!" he moaned;
and a wave of hatred and fury arose in him as he thought
of what would be said in the town when every one knew.
(And no doubt every one knew already.) Such a feeling
of rage possessed him that he would have liked to beat it
into her head, and make her understand what she had done.
These women never understand. "It is quite near Everything,"
suddenly came to his mind, and getting out his notebook, he found
her address. Vera Ivanovna Silvestrova, Kukonskaya Street,
Abromov's house. She was living under this name.
He left the gardens and called a cab.
"Whom do you wish to see, sir?" asked the midwife, Maria Ivanovna,
when he stepped on the narrow landing of the steep, stuffy staircase.
"Does Madame Silvestrova live here?"
"Vera Ivanovna? Yes; please come in. She has gone out;
she's gone to the shop round the corner. But she'll be back
in a minute."
Michael Ivanovich followed the stout figure of Maria Ivanovna into
a tiny parlour, and from the next room came the screams of a baby,
sounding cross and peevish, which filled him with disgust.
They cut him like a knife.
Maria Ivanovna apologised, and went into the room, and he could hear
her soothing the child. The child became quiet, and she returned.
"That is her baby; she'll be back in a minute. You are a friend
of hers, I suppose?"
"Yes--a friend--but I think I had better come back later on,"
said Michael Ivanovich, preparing to go. It was too unbearable,
this preparation to meet her, and any explanation seemed impossible.
He had just turned to leave, when he heard quick, light steps on the stairs,
and he recognised Lisa's voice.
"Maria Ivanovna--has he been crying while I've been gone--I was--"
Then she saw her father. The parcel she was carrying fell from her hands.
"Father!" she cried, and stopped in the doorway, white and trembling.
He remained motionless, staring at her. She had grown so thin.
Her eyes were larger, her nose sharper, her hands worn and bony.
He neither knew what to do, nor what to say. He forgot all his grief
about his dishonour. He only felt sorrow, infinite sorrow for her;
sorrow for her thinness, and for her miserable rough clothing;
and most of all, for her pitiful face and imploring eyes.
"Father--forgive," she said, moving towards him.
"Forgive--forgive me," he murmured; and he began to sob like a child,
kissing her face and hands, and wetting them with his tears.
In his pity for her he understood himself. And when he saw himself
as he was, he realised how he had wronged her, how guilty he had
been in his pride, in his coldness, even in his anger towards her.
He was glad that it was he who was guilty, and that he had
nothing to forgive, but that he himself needed forgiveness.
She took him to her tiny room, and told him how she lived;
but she did not show him the child, nor did she mention the past,
knowing how painful it would be to him.
He told her that she must live differently.
"Yes; if I could only live in the country," said she.
"We will talk it over," he said. Suddenly the child began to wail
and to scream. She opened her eyes very wide; and, not taking them
from her father's face, remained hesitating and motionless.
"Well--I suppose you must feed him," said Michael Ivanovich,
and frowned with the obvious effort.
She got up, and suddenly the wild idea seized her to show him whom she
loved so deeply the thing she now loved best of all in the world.
But first she looked at her father's face. Would he be angry or not?
His face revealed no anger, only suffering.
"Yes, go, go," said he; "God bless you. Yes. I'll come
again to-morrow, and we will decide. Good-bye, my darling--
good-bye." Again he found it hard to swallow the lump
in his throat.
When Michael Ivanovich returned to his brother's house,
Alexandra Dmitrievna immediately rushed to him.
"Have you seen?" she asked, guessing from his expression
that something had happened.
"Yes," he answered shortly, and began to cry. "I'm getting old and stupid,"
said he, mastering his emotion.
"No; you are growing wise--very wise."
THERE ARE NO GUILTY PEOPLE
THERE ARE NO GUILTY PEOPLE
MINE is a strange and wonderful lot! The chances are that there
is not a single wretched beggar suffering under the luxury
and oppression of the rich who feels anything like as keenly as I
do either the injustice, the cruelty, and the horror of their
oppression of and contempt for the poor; or the grinding humiliation
and misery which befall the great majority of the workers,
the real producers of all that makes life possible. I have felt
this for a long time, and as the years have passed by the feeling
has grown and grown, until recently it reached its climax.
Although I feel all this so vividly, I still live on amid
the depravity and sins of rich society; and I cannot leave it,
because I have neither the knowledge nor the strength to do so.
I cannot. I do not know how to change my life so that my
physical needs--food, sleep, clothing, my going to and fro--
may be satisfied without a sense of shame and wrongdoing
in the position which I fill.
There was a time when I tried to change my position, which was not
in harmony with my conscience; but the conditions created by the past,
by my family and its claims upon me, were so complicated that they would
not let me out of their grasp, or rather, I did not know how to free myself.
I had not the strength. Now that I am over eighty and have become feeble,
I have given up trying to free myself; and, strange to say, as my feebleness
increases I realise more and more strongly the wrongfulness of my position,
and it grows more and more intolerable to me.
It has occurred to me that I do not occupy this position for nothing:
that Providence intended that I should lay bare the truth of my feelings,
so that I might atone for all that causes my suffering, and might
perhaps open the eyes of those--or at least of some of those--
who are still blind to what I see so clearly, and thus might lighten
the burden of that vast majority who, under existing conditions,
are subjected to bodily and spiritual suffering by those who deceive
them and also deceive themselves. Indeed, it may be that the
position which I occupy gives me special facilities for revealing
the artificial and criminal relations which exist between men--
for telling the whole truth in regard to that position without
confusing the issue by attempting to vindicate myself, and without
rousing the envy of the rich and feelings of oppression in the hearts
of the poor and downtrodden. I am so placed that I not only have
no desire to vindicate myself; but, on the contrary, I find it
necessary to make an effort lest I should exaggerate the wickedness
of the great among whom I live, of whose society I am ashamed,
whose attitude towards their fellow-men I detest with my whole soul,
though I find it impossible to separate my lot from theirs.
But I must also avoid the error of those democrats and others who,
in defending the oppressed and the enslaved, do not see their
failings and mistakes, and who do not make sufficient allowance
for the difficulties created, the mistakes inherited from the past,
which in a degree lessens the responsibility of the upper classes.
Free from desire for self-vindication, free from fear
of an emancipated people, free from that envy and hatred
which the oppressed feel for their oppressors, I am in
the best possible position to see the truth and to tell it.
Perhaps that is why Providence placed me in such a position.
I will do my best to turn it to account.
Alexander Ivanovich Volgin, a bachelor and a clerk in a Moscow
bank at a salary of eight thousand roubles a year, a man much
respected in his own set, was staying in a country-house. His host
was a wealthy landowner, owning some twenty-five hundred acres,
and had married his guest's cousin. Volgin, tired after an
evening spent in playing vint* for small stakes with [* A game
of cards similar to auction bridge.] members of the family,
went to his room and placed his watch, silver cigarette-case,
pocket-book, big leather purse, and pocket-brush and comb
on a small table covered with a white cloth, and then,
taking off his coat, waistcoat, shirt, trousers, and underclothes,
his silk socks and English boots, put on his nightshirt
and dressing-gown. His watch pointed to midnight.
Volgin smoked a cigarette, lay on his face for about five
minutes reviewing the day's impressions; then, blowing out
his candle, he turned over on his side and fell asleep
about one o'clock, in spite of a good deal of restlessness.
Awaking next morning at eight he put on his slippers and
dressing-gown, and rang the bell.
The old butler, Stephen, the father of a
family and the grandfather of six grandchildren, who had served
in that house for thirty years, entered the room hurriedly,
with bent legs, carrying in the newly blackened boots which Volgin had
taken off the night before, a well-brushed suit, and a clean shirt.
The guest thanked him, and then asked what the weather was like
(the blinds were drawn so that the sun should not prevent
any one from sleeping till eleven o'clock if he were so
inclined), and whether his hosts had slept well. He glanced
at his watch--it was still early--and began to wash and dress.
His water was ready, and everything on the washing-stand
and dressing-table was ready for use and properly laid out--
his soap, his tooth and hair brushes, his nail scissors and files.
He washed his hands and face in a leisurely fashion,
cleaned and manicured his nails, pushed back the skin with
the towel, and sponged his stout white body from head to foot.
Then he began to brush his hair. Standing in front of the mirror,
he first brushed his curly beard, which was beginning to turn grey,
with two English brushes, parting it down the middle.
Then he combed his hair, which was already showing signs
of getting thin, with a large tortoise-shell comb.
Putting on his underlinen, his socks, his boots, his trousers--
which were held up by elegant braces--and his waistcoat,
he sat down coatless in an easy chair to rest after dressing,
lit a cigarette, and began to think where he should go for a walk
that morning--to the park or to Littleports (what a funny
name for a wood!). He thought he would go to Littleports.
Then he must answer Simon Nicholaevich's letter; but there was
time enough for that. Getting up with an air of resolution,
he took out his watch. It was already five minutes to nine.
He put his watch into his waistcoat pocket, and his purse--
with all that was left of the hundred and eighty roubles
he had taken for his journey, and for the incidental expenses
of his fortnight's stay with his cousin--and then he placed
into his trouser pocket his cigarette-case and electric
cigarette-lighter, and two clean handkerchiefs into his
coat pockets, and went out of the room, leaving as usual
the mess and confusion which he had made to be cleared up
by Stephen, an old man of over fifty. Stephen expected Volgin
to "remunerate" him, as he said, being so accustomed to the work
that he did not feel the slightest repugnance for it.
Glancing at a mirror, and feeling satisfied with his appearance,
Volgin went into the dining-room.
There, thanks to the efforts of the housekeeper, the footman,
and under-butler--the latter had risen at dawn in order to run
home to sharpen his son's scythe--breakfast was ready.
On a spotless white cloth stood a boiling, shiny, silver samovar
(at least it looked like silver), a coffee-pot, hot milk,
cream, butter, and all sorts of fancy white bread and biscuits.
The only persons at table were the second son of the house,
his tutor (a student), and the secretary. The host,
who was an active member of the Zemstvo and a great farmer,
had already left the house, having gone at eight o'clock
to attend to his work. Volgin, while drinking his coffee,
talked to the student and the secretary about the weather,
and yesterday's vint, and discussed Theodorite's peculiar
behaviour the night before, as he had been very rude to his
father without the slightest cause. Theodorite was the grown-up
son of the house, and a ne'er-do-well. His name was Theodore,
but some one had once called him Theodorite either as a joke
or to tease him; and, as it seemed funny, the name stuck to him,
although his doings were no longer in the least amusing.
So it was now. He had been to the university, but left it in his
second year, and joined a regiment of horse guards; but he gave
that up also, and was now living in the country, doing nothing,
finding fault, and feeling discontented with everything.
Theodorite was still in bed: so were the other members
of the household--Anna Mikhailovna, its mistress; her sister,
the widow of a general; and a landscape painter who lived
with the family.
Volgin took his panama hat from the hall table (it had cost
twenty roubles) and his cane with its carved ivory handle,
and went out. Crossing the veranda, gay with flowers,
he walked through the flower garden, in the centre of which was
a raised round bed, with rings of red, white, and blue flowers,
and the initials of the mistress of the house done in carpet
bedding in the centre. Leaving the flower garden Volgin entered
the avenue of lime trees, hundreds of years old, which peasant
girls were tidying and sweeping with spades and brooms.
The gardener was busy measuring, and a boy was bringing
something in a cart. Passing these Volgin went into the park
of at least a hundred and twenty-five acres, filled with fine
old trees, and intersected by a network of well-kept walks.
Smoking as he strolled Volgin took his favourite path past
the summer-house into the fields beyond. It was pleasant
in the park, but it was still nicer in the fields.
On the right some women who were digging potatoes formed
a mass of bright red and white colour; on the left were
wheat fields, meadows, and grazing cattle; and in the foreground,
slightly to the right, were the dark, dark oaks of Littleports.
Volgin took a deep breath, and felt glad that he was alive,
especially here in his cousin's home, where he was so thoroughly
enjoying the rest from his work at the bank.
"Lucky people to live in the country," he thought. "True, what with
his farming and his Zemstvo, the owner of the estate has very little
peace even in the country, but that is his own lookout." Volgin
shook his head, lit another cigarette, and, stepping out firmly
with his powerful feet clad in his thick English boots, began to think
of the heavy winter's work in the bank that was in front of him.
"I shall be there every day from ten to two, sometimes even till five.
And the board meetings . . . And private interviews with clients.
. . . Then the Duma. Whereas here. . . . It is delightful.
It may be a little dull, but it is not for long." He smiled.
After a stroll in Littleports he turned back, going straight across
a fallow field which was being ploughed. A herd of cows, calves, sheep,
and pigs, which belonged to the village community, was grazing there.
The shortest way to the park was to pass through the herd.
He frightened the sheep, which ran away one after another, and were
followed by the pigs, of which two little ones stared solemnly at him.
The shepherd boy called to the sheep and cracked his whip.
"How far behind Europe we are," thought Volgin, recalling his frequent
holidays abroad. "You would not find a single cow like that anywhere
in Europe." Then, wanting to find out where the path which branched
off from the one he was on led to and who was the owner of the herd,
he called to the boy.
"Whose herd is it?"
The boy was so filled with wonder, verging on terror,
when he gazed at the hat, the well-brushed beard, and above all
the gold-rimmed eyeglasses, that he could not reply at once.
When Volgin repeated his question the boy pulled himself together,
and said, "Ours." "But whose is 'ours'?" said Volgin,
shaking his head and smiling. The boy was wearing shoes
of plaited birch bark, bands of linen round his legs, a dirty,
unbleached shirt ragged at the shoulder, and a cap the peak
of which had been torn.
"Whose is 'ours'?"
"The Pirogov village herd."
"How old are you?
"I don't know."
"Can you read?"
"No, I can't."
"Didn't you go to school?"
"Yes, I did."
"Couldn't you learn to read?"
"Where does that path lead?"
The boy told him, and Volgin went on towards the house, thinking how he would
chaff Nicholas Petrovich about the deplorable condition of the village schools
in spite of all his efforts.
On approaching the house Volgin looked at his watch, and saw that it
was already past eleven. He remembered that Nicholas Petrovich was
going to drive to the nearest town, and that he had meant to give
him a letter to post to Moscow; but the letter was not written.
The letter was a very important one to a friend, asking him to bid
for him for a picture of the Madonna which was to be offered
for sale at an auction. As he reached the house he saw at the door
four big, well-fed, well-groomed, thoroughbred horses harnessed
to a carriage, the black lacquer of which glistened in the sun.
The coachman was seated on the box in a kaftan, with a silver belt,
and the horses were jingling their silver bells from time to time.
A bare-headed, barefooted peasant in a ragged kaftan stood at the front door.
He bowed. Volgin asked what he wanted.
"I have come to see Nicholas Petrovich."
"Because I am in distress--my horse has died."
Volgin began to question him. The peasant told him how he was situated.
He had five children, and this had been his only horse.
Now it was gone. He wept.
"What are you going to do?"
"To beg." And he knelt down, and remained kneeling in spite
of Volgin's expostulations.
"What is your name?"
"Mitri Sudarikov," answered the peasant, still kneeling.
Volgin took three roubles from his purse and gave them to the peasant,
who showed his gratitude by touching the ground with his forehead,
and then went into the house. His host was standing in the hall.
"Where is your letter?" he asked, approaching Volgin;
"I am just off."
"I'm awfully sorry, I'll write it this minute, if you will let me.
I forgot all about it. It's so pleasant here that one can forget anything."
"All right, but do be quick. The horses have already been standing
a quarter of an hour, and the flies are biting viciously.
Can you wait, Arsenty?" he asked the coachman.
"Why not?" said the coachman, thinking to himself, "why do they order
the horses when they aren't ready? The rush the grooms and I had--
just to stand here and feed the flies."
"Directly, directly," Volgin went towards his room, but turned back to ask
Nicholas Petrovich about the begging peasant.
"Did you see him?--He's a drunkard, but still he is to be pitied.
Do be quick!"
Volgin got out his case, with all the requisites for writing,
wrote the letter, made out a cheque for a hundred and eighty roubles,
and, sealing down the envelope, took it to Nicholas Petrovich.
Volgin read the newspapers till luncheon. He only read the Liberal papers:
The Russian Gazette, Speech, sometimes The Russian Word--but he would not
touch The New Times, to which his host subscribed.
While he was scanning at his ease the political news, the Tsar's doings,
the doings of President, and ministers and decisions in the Duma, and was just
about to pass on to the general news, theatres, science, murders and cholera,
he heard the luncheon bell ring.
Thanks to the efforts of upwards of ten human beings--
counting laundresses, gardeners, cooks, kitchen-maids, butlers
and footmen--the table was sumptuously laid for eight,
with silver waterjugs, decanters, kvass, wine, mineral waters,
cut glass, and fine table linen, while two men-servants were
continually hurrying to and fro, bringing in and serving,
and then clearing away the hors d'oeuvre and the various hot
and cold courses.
The hostess talked incessantly about everything that she had
been doing, thinking, and saying; and she evidently considered
that everything that she thought, said, or did was perfect,
and that it would please every one except those who were fools.
Volgin felt and knew that everything she said was stupid,
but it would never do to let it be seen, and so he kept
up the conversation. Theodorite was glum and silent;
the student occasionally exchanged a few words with the widow.
Now and again there was a pause in the conversation, and then
Theodorite interposed, and every one became miserably depressed.
At such moments the hostess ordered some dish that had not
been served, and the footman hurried off to the kitchen,
or to the housekeeper, and hurried back again. Nobody felt
inclined either to talk or to eat. But they all forced
themselves to eat and to talk, and so luncheon went on.
The peasant who had been begging because his horse had
died was named Mitri Sudarikov. He had spent the whole
day before he went to the squire over his dead horse.
First of all he went to the knacker, Sanin, who lived in a
village near. The knacker was out, but he waited for him,
and it was dinner-time when he had finished bargaining
over the price of the skin. Then he borrowed a neighbour's
horse to take his own to a field to be buried, as it is
forbidden to bury dead animals near a village. Adrian would
not lend his horse because he was getting in his potatoes,
but Stephen took pity on Mitri and gave way to his persuasion.
He even lent a hand in lifting the dead horse into the cart.
Mitri tore off the shoes from the forelegs and gave them
to his wife. One was broken, but the other one was whole.
While he was digging the grave with a spade which was
very blunt, the knacker appeared and took off the skin;
and the carcass was then thrown into the hole and covered up.
Mitri felt tired, and went into Matrena's hut, where he drank
half a bottle of vodka with Sanin to console himself.
Then he went home, quarrelled with his wife, and lay down to sleep
on the hay. He did not undress, but slept just as he was,
with a ragged coat for a coverlet. His wife was in the hut
with the girls--there were four of them, and the youngest
was only five weeks old. Mitri woke up before dawn as usual.
He groaned as the memory of the day before broke in upon him--
how the horse had struggled and struggled, and then fallen down.
Now there was no horse, and all he had was the price of the skin,
four roubles and eighty kopeks. Getting up he arranged the linen
bands on his legs, and went through the yard into the hut.
His wife was putting straw into the stove with one hand,
with the other she was holding a baby girl to her breast,
which was hanging out of her dirty chemise.
Mitri crossed himself three times, turning towards the corner in
which the ikons hung, and repeated some utterly meaningless words,
which he called prayers, to the Trinity and the Virgin, the Creed
and our Father.
"Isn't there any water?"
"The girl's gone for it. I've got some tea. Will you go up
to the squire?"
"Yes, I'd better." The smoke from the stove made him cough.
He took a rag off the wooden bench and went into the porch.
The girl had just come back with the water. Mitri filled his mouth