Part 5 out of 5
there was nothing, I think, that could ... I had no notion of
offending you.... Forgive me.'
Zina´da looked him up and down coldly, and coldly smiled. 'Stay, then,
certainly,' she pronounced with a careless gesture of her arm.
'M'sieu Voldemar and I were needlessly incensed. It is your pleasure
to sting ... may it do you good.'
'Forgive me,' Malevsky repeated once more; while I, my thoughts
dwelling on Zina´da's gesture, said to myself again that no real queen
could with greater dignity have shown a presumptuous subject to the
The game of forfeits went on for a short time after this little scene;
every one felt rather ill at ease, not so much on account of this
scene, as from another, not quite definite, but oppressive feeling. No
one spoke of it, but every one was conscious of it in himself and in
his neighbour. Meidanov read us his verses; and Malevsky praised them
with exaggerated warmth. 'He wants to show how good he is now,' Lushin
whispered to me. We soon broke up. A mood of reverie seemed to have
come upon Zina´da; the old princess sent word that she had a headache;
Nirmatsky began to complain of his rheumatism....
I could not for a long while get to sleep. I had been impressed by
Zina´da's story. 'Can there have been a hint in it?' I asked myself:
'and at whom and at what was she hinting? And if there really is
anything to hint at ... how is one to make up one's mind? No, no, it
can't be,' I whispered, turning over from one hot cheek on to the
other.... But I remembered the expression of Zina´da's face during her
story.... I remembered the exclamation that had broken from Lushin in
the Neskutchny gardens, the sudden change in her behaviour to me, and
I was lost in conjectures. 'Who is he?' These three words seemed to
stand before my eyes traced upon the darkness; a lowering malignant
cloud seemed hanging over me, and I felt its oppressiveness, and
waited for it to break. I had grown used to many things of late; I had
learned much from what I had seen at the Zasyekins; their disorderly
ways, tallow candle-ends, broken knives and forks, grumpy Vonifaty,
and shabby maid-servants, the manners of the old princess--all
their strange mode of life no longer struck me.... But what I was
dimly discerning now in Zina´da, I could never get used to.... 'An
adventuress!' my mother had said of her one day. An adventuress--she,
my idol, my divinity? This word stabbed me, I tried to get away from
it into my pillow, I was indignant--and at the same time what would I
not have agreed to, what would I not have given only to be that lucky
fellow at the fountain!... My blood was on fire and boiling within
me. 'The garden ... the fountain,' I mused.... 'I will go into the
garden.' I dressed quickly and slipped out of the house. The night
was dark, the trees scarcely whispered, a soft chill air breathed
down from the sky, a smell of fennel trailed across from the kitchen
garden. I went through all the walks; the light sound of my own
footsteps at once confused and emboldened me; I stood still, waited
and heard my heart beating fast and loudly. At last I went up to the
fence and leaned against the thin bar. Suddenly, or was it my fancy, a
woman's figure flashed by, a few paces from me ... I strained my eyes
eagerly into the darkness, I held my breath. What was that? Did I hear
steps, or was it my heart beating again? 'Who is here?' I faltered,
hardly audibly. What was that again, a smothered laugh ... or a
rustling in the leaves ... or a sigh just at my ear? I felt afraid ...
'Who is here?' I repeated still more softly.
The air blew in a gust for an instant; a streak of fire flashed across
the sky; it was a star falling. 'Zina´da?' I wanted to call, but
the word died away on my lips. And all at once everything became
profoundly still around, as is often the case in the middle of the
night.... Even the grasshoppers ceased their churr in the trees--only
a window rattled somewhere. I stood and stood, and then went back to
my room, to my chilled bed. I felt a strange sensation; as though I
had gone to a tryst, and had been left lonely, and had passed close by
The following day I only had a passing glimpse of Zina´da: she was
driving somewhere with the old princess in a cab. But I saw Lushin,
who, however, barely vouchsafed me a greeting, and Malevsky. The young
count grinned, and began affably talking to me. Of all those who
visited at the lodge, he alone had succeeded in forcing his way into
our house, and had favourably impressed my mother. My father did not
take to him, and treated him with a civility almost insulting.
'Ah, _monsieur le page_,' began Malevsky, 'delighted to meet you. What
is your lovely queen doing?'
His fresh handsome face was so detestable to me at that moment, and he
looked at me with such contemptuous amusement that I did not answer
him at all.
'Are you still angry?' he went on. 'You've no reason to be. It wasn't
I who called you a page, you know, and pages attend queens especially.
But allow me to remark that you perform your duties very badly.'
'Pages ought to be inseparable from their mistresses; pages ought to
know everything they do, they ought, indeed, to watch over them,' he
added, lowering his voice, 'day and night.'
'What do you mean?'
'What do I mean? I express myself pretty clearly, I fancy. Day and
night. By day it's not so much matter; it's light, and people are
about in the daytime; but by night, then look out for misfortune. I
advise you not to sleep at nights and to watch, watch with all your
energies. You remember, in the garden, by night, at the fountain,
that's where there's need to look out. You will thank me.'
Malevsky laughed and turned his back on me. He, most likely, attached
no great importance to what he had said to me, he had a reputation
for mystifying, and was noted for his power of taking people in at
masquerades, which was greatly augmented by the almost unconscious
falsity in which his whole nature was steeped.... He only wanted to
tease me; but every word he uttered was a poison that ran through my
veins. The blood rushed to my head. 'Ah! so that's it!' I said to
myself; 'good! So there was reason for me to feel drawn into the
garden! That shan't be so!' I cried aloud, and struck myself on the
chest with my fist, though precisely what should not be so I could not
have said. 'Whether Malevsky himself goes into the garden,' I thought
(he was bragging, perhaps; he has insolence enough for that), 'or
some one else (the fence of our garden was very low, and there was
no difficulty in getting over it), anyway, if any one falls into
my hands, it will be the worse for him! I don't advise any one to
meet me! I will prove to all the world and to her, the traitress (I
actually used the word 'traitress') that I can be revenged!'
I returned to my own room, took out of the writing-table an English
knife I had recently bought, felt its sharp edge, and knitting my
brows with an air of cold and concentrated determination, thrust it
into my pocket, as though doing such deeds was nothing out of the way
for me, and not the first time. My heart heaved angrily, and felt
heavy as a stone. All day long I kept a scowling brow and lips tightly
compressed, and was continually walking up and down, clutching, with
my hand in my pocket, the knife, which was warm from my grasp, while I
prepared myself beforehand for something terrible. These new unknown
sensations so occupied and even delighted me, that I hardly thought
of Zina´da herself. I was continually haunted by Aleko, the young
gipsy--'Where art thou going, young handsome man? Lie there,' and
then, 'thou art all besprent with blood.... Oh, what hast thou
done?... Naught!' With what a cruel smile I repeated that 'Naught!' My
father was not at home; but my mother, who had for some time past been
in an almost continual state of dumb exasperation, noticed my gloomy
and heroic aspect, and said to me at supper, 'Why are you sulking like
a mouse in a meal-tub?' I merely smiled condescendingly in reply, and
thought, 'If only they knew!' It struck eleven; I went to my room, but
did not undress; I waited for midnight; at last it struck. 'The time
has come!' I muttered between my teeth; and buttoning myself up to the
throat, and even pulling my sleeves up, I went into the garden.
I had already fixed on the spot from which to keep watch. At the end
of the garden, at the point where the fence, separating our domain
from the Zasyekins,' joined the common wall, grew a pine-tree,
standing alone. Standing under its low thick branches, I could see
well, as far as the darkness of the night permitted, what took
place around. Close by, ran a winding path which had always seemed
mysterious to me; it coiled like a snake under the fence, which at
that point bore traces of having been climbed over, and led to a round
arbour formed of thick acacias. I made my way to the pine-tree, leaned
my back against its trunk, and began my watch.
The night was as still as the night before, but there were fewer
clouds in the sky, and the outlines of bushes, even of tall flowers,
could be more distinctly seen. The first moments of expectation were
oppressive, almost terrible. I had made up my mind to everything. I
only debated how to act; whether to thunder, 'Where goest thou? Stand!
show thyself--or death!' or simply to strike.... Every sound, every
whisper and rustle, seemed to me portentous and extraordinary.... I
prepared myself.... I bent forward.... But half-an-hour passed, an
hour passed; my blood had grown quieter, colder; the consciousness
that I was doing all this for nothing, that I was even a little
absurd, that Malevsky had been making fun of me, began to steal over
me. I left my ambush, and walked all about the garden. As if to taunt
me, there was not the smallest sound to be heard anywhere; everything
was at rest. Even our dog was asleep, curled up into a ball at the
gate. I climbed up into the ruins of the greenhouse, saw the open
country far away before me, recalled my meeting with Zina´da, and fell
I started.... I fancied I heard the creak of a door opening, then the
faint crack of a broken twig. In two bounds I got down from the ruin,
and stood still, all aghast. Rapid, light, but cautious footsteps
sounded distinctly in the garden. They were approaching me. 'Here he
is ... here he is, at last!' flashed through my heart. With spasmodic
haste, I pulled the knife out of my pocket; with spasmodic haste, I
opened it. Flashes of red were whirling before my eyes; my hair stood
up on my head in my fear and fury.... The steps were coming straight
towards me; I bent--I craned forward to meet him.... A man came into
view.... My God! it was my father! I recognised him at once, though
he was all muffled up in a dark cloak, and his hat was pulled down
over his face. On tip-toe he walked by. He did not notice me, though
nothing concealed me; but I was so huddled up and shrunk together that
I fancy I was almost on the level of the ground. The jealous Othello,
ready for murder, was suddenly transformed into a school-boy.... I was
so taken aback by my father's unexpected appearance that for the first
moment I did not notice where he had come from or in what direction he
disappeared. I only drew myself up, and thought, 'Why is it my father
is walking about in the garden at night?' when everything was still
again. In my horror I had dropped my knife in the grass, but I did not
even attempt to look for it; I was very much ashamed of myself. I was
completely sobered at once. On my way to the house, however, I went up
to my seat under the elder-tree, and looked up at Zina´da's window.
The small slightly-convex panes of the window shone dimly blue in the
faint light thrown on them by the night sky. All at once--their colour
began to change.... Behind them--I saw this, saw it distinctly--softly
and cautiously a white blind was let down, let down right to the
window-frame, and so stayed.
'What is that for?' I said aloud almost involuntarily when I found
myself once more in my room. 'A dream, a chance, or ...' The
suppositions which suddenly rushed into my head were so new and
strange that I did not dare to entertain them.
I got up in the morning with a headache. My emotion of the previous
day had vanished. It was replaced by a dreary sense of blankness and
a sort of sadness I had not known till then, as though something had
died in me.
'Why is it you're looking like a rabbit with half its brain removed?'
said Lushin on meeting me. At lunch I stole a look first at my father,
then at my mother: he was composed, as usual; she was, as usual,
secretly irritated. I waited to see whether my father would make some
friendly remarks to me, as he sometimes did.... But he did not even
bestow his everyday cold greeting upon me. 'Shall I tell Zina´da all?'
I wondered.... 'It's all the same, anyway; all is at an end between
us.' I went to see her, but told her nothing, and, indeed, I could not
even have managed to get a talk with her if I had wanted to. The old
princess's son, a cadet of twelve years old, had come from Petersburg
for his holidays; Zina´da at once handed her brother over to me.
'Here,' she said,' my dear Volodya,'--it was the first time she
had used this pet-name to me--'is a companion for you. His name is
Volodya, too. Please, like him; he is still shy, but he has a good
heart. Show him Neskutchny gardens, go walks with him, take him under
your protection. You'll do that, won't you? you're so good, too!' She
laid both her hands affectionately on my shoulders, and I was utterly
bewildered. The presence of this boy transformed me, too, into a
boy. I looked in silence at the cadet, who stared as silently at me.
Zina´da laughed, and pushed us towards each other. 'Embrace each
other, children!' We embraced each other. 'Would you like me to show
you the garden?' I inquired of the cadet. 'If you please,' he replied,
in the regular cadet's hoarse voice. Zina´da laughed again.... I had
time to notice that she had never had such an exquisite colour in her
face before. I set off with the cadet. There was an old-fashioned
swing in our garden. I sat him down on the narrow plank seat, and
began swinging him. He sat rigid in his new little uniform of stout
cloth, with its broad gold braiding, and kept tight hold of the cords.
'You'd better unbutton your collar,' I said to him. 'It's all right;
we're used to it,' he said, and cleared his throat. He was like his
sister. The eyes especially recalled her, I liked being nice to him;
and at the same time an aching sadness was gnawing at my heart. 'Now
I certainly am a child,' I thought; 'but yesterday....' I remembered
where I had dropped my knife the night before, and looked for it. The
cadet asked me for it, picked a thick stalk of wild parsley, cut a
pipe out of it, and began whistling. Othello whistled too.
But in the evening how he wept, this Othello, in Zina´da's arms, when,
seeking him out in a corner of the garden, she asked him why he was so
depressed. My tears flowed with such violence that she was frightened.
'What is wrong with you? What is it, Volodya?' she repeated; and
seeing I made no answer, and did not cease weeping, she was about to
kiss my wet cheek. But I turned away from her, and whispered through
my sobs, 'I know all. Why did you play with me?... What need had you
of my love?'
'I am to blame, Volodya ...' said Zina´da. 'I am very much to blame
...' she added, wringing her hands. 'How much there is bad and black
and sinful in me!... But I am not playing with you now. I love you;
you don't even suspect why and how.... But what is it you know?'
What could I say to her? She stood facing me, and looked at me; and I
belonged to her altogether from head to foot directly she looked at
me.... A quarter of an hour later I was running races with the cadet
and Zina´da. I was not crying, I was laughing, though my swollen
eyelids dropped a tear or two as I laughed. I had Zina´da's ribbon
round my neck for a cravat, and I shouted with delight whenever I
succeeded in catching her round the waist. She did just as she liked
I should be in a great difficulty, if I were forced to describe
exactly what passed within me in the course of the week after my
unsuccessful midnight expedition. It was a strange feverish time, a
sort of chaos, in which the most violently opposed feelings, thoughts,
suspicions, hopes, joys, and sufferings, whirled together in a kind
of hurricane. I was afraid to look into myself, if a boy of sixteen
ever can look into himself; I was afraid to take stock of anything; I
simply hastened to live through every day till evening; and at night I
slept ... the light-heartedness of childhood came to my aid. I did not
want to know whether I was loved, and I did not want to acknowledge to
myself that I was not loved; my father I avoided--but Zina´da I could
not avoid.... I burnt as in a fire in her presence ... but what did I
care to know what the fire was in which I burned and melted--it was
enough that it was sweet to burn and melt. I gave myself up to all my
passing sensations, and cheated myself, turning away from memories,
and shutting my eyes to what I foreboded before me.... This weakness
would not most likely have lasted long in any case ... a thunderbolt
cut it all short in a moment, and flung me into a new track
Coming in one day to dinner from a rather long walk, I learnt with
amazement that I was to dine alone, that my father had gone away and
my mother was unwell, did not want any dinner, and had shut herself
up in her bedroom. From the faces of the footmen, I surmised that
something extraordinary had taken place.... I did not dare to
cross-examine them, but I had a friend in the young waiter Philip,
who was passionately fond of poetry, and a performer on the guitar. I
addressed myself to him. From him I learned that a terrible scene had
taken place between my father and mother (and every word had been
overheard in the maids' room; much of it had been in French, but Masha
the lady's-maid had lived five years' with a dressmaker from Paris,
and she understood it all); that my mother had reproached my father
with infidelity, with an intimacy with the young lady next door, that
my father at first had defended himself, but afterwards had lost his
temper, and he too had said something cruel, 'reflecting on her age,'
which had made my mother cry; that my mother too had alluded to some
loan which it seemed had been made to the old princess, and had spoken
very ill of her and of the young lady too, and that then my father had
threatened her. 'And all the mischief,' continued Philip, 'came from
an anonymous letter; and who wrote it, no one knows, or else there'd
have been no reason whatever for the matter to have come out at all.'
'But was there really any ground,' I brought out with difficulty,
while my hands and feet went cold, and a sort of shudder ran through
my inmost being.
Philip winked meaningly. 'There was. There's no hiding those things;
for all that your father was careful this time--but there, you see,
he'd, for instance, to hire a carriage or something ... no getting on
without servants, either.'
I dismissed Philip, and fell on to my bed. I did not sob, I did not
give myself up to despair; I did not ask myself when and how this had
happened; I did not wonder how it was I had not guessed it before,
long ago; I did not even upbraid my father.... What I had learnt was
more than I could take in; this sudden revelation stunned me....
All was at an end. All the fair blossoms of my heart were roughly
plucked at once, and lay about me, flung on the ground, and trampled
My mother next day announced her intention of returning to the town.
In the morning my father had gone into her bedroom, and stayed there a
long while alone with her. No one had overheard what he said to her;
but my mother wept no more; she regained her composure, and asked for
food, but did not make her appearance nor change her plans. I remember
I wandered about the whole day, but did not go into the garden,
and never once glanced at the lodge, and in the evening I was the
spectator of an amazing occurrence: my father conducted Count Malevsky
by the arm through the dining-room into the hall, and, in the presence
of a footman, said icily to him: 'A few days ago your excellency was
shown the door in our house; and now I am not going to enter into any
kind of explanation with you, but I have the honour to announce to you
that if you ever visit me again, I shall throw you out of window. I
don't like your handwriting.' The count bowed, bit his lips, shrank
away, and vanished.
Preparations were beginning for our removal to town, to Arbaty Street,
where we had a house. My father himself probably no longer cared
to remain at the country house; but clearly he had succeeded in
persuading my mother not to make a public scandal. Everything was
done quietly, without hurry; my mother even sent her compliments to
the old princess, and expressed her regret that she was prevented by
indisposition from seeing her again before her departure. I wandered
about like one possessed, and only longed for one thing, for it all
to be over as soon as possible. One thought I could not get out of
my head: how could she, a young girl, and a princess too, after all,
bring herself to such a step, knowing that my father was not a free
man, and having an opportunity of marrying, for instance, Byelovzorov?
What did she hope for? How was it she was not afraid of ruining her
whole future? Yes, I thought, this is love, this is passion, this
is devotion ... and Lushin's words came back to me: to sacrifice
oneself for some people is sweet. I chanced somehow to catch sight
of something white in one of the windows of the lodge.... 'Can it be
Zina´da's face?' I thought ... yes, it really was her face. I could
not restrain myself. I could not part from her without saying a last
good-bye to her. I seized a favourable instant, and went into the
In the drawing-room the old princess met me with her usual slovenly
and careless greetings.
'How's this, my good man, your folks are off in such a hurry?' she
observed, thrusting snuff into her nose. I looked at her, and a load
was taken off my heart. The word 'loan,' dropped by Philip, had been
torturing me. She had no suspicion ... at least I thought so then.
Zina´da came in from the next room, pale, and dressed in black, with
her hair hanging loose; she took me by the hand without a word, and
drew me away with her.
'I heard your voice,' she began, 'and came out at once. Is it so easy
for you to leave us, bad boy?'
'I have come to say good-bye to you, princess,' I answered, 'probably
for ever. You have heard, perhaps, we are going away.'
Zina´da looked intently at me.
'Yes, I have heard. Thanks for coming. I was beginning to think I
should not see you again. Don't remember evil against me. I have
sometimes tormented you, but all the same I am not what you imagine
me.' She turned away, and leaned against the window.
'Really, I am not like that. I know you have a bad opinion of me.'
'Yes, you ... you.'
'I?' I repeated mournfully, and my heart throbbed as of old under the
influence of her overpowering, indescribable fascination. 'I? Believe
me, Zina´da Alexandrovna, whatever you did, however you tormented me,
I should love and adore you to the end of my days.'
She turned with a rapid motion to me, and flinging wide her arms,
embraced my head, and gave me a warm and passionate kiss. God knows
whom that long farewell kiss was seeking, but I eagerly tasted
its sweetness. I knew that it would never be repeated. 'Good-bye,
good-bye,' I kept saying ...
She tore herself away, and went out. And I went away. I cannot
describe the emotion with which I went away. I should not wish it
ever to come again; but I should think myself unfortunate had I never
experienced such an emotion.
We went back to town. I did not quickly shake off the past; I did
not quickly get to work. My wound slowly began to heal; but I had no
ill-feeling against my father. On the contrary he had, as it were,
gained in my eyes ... let psychologists explain the contradiction
as best they can. One day I was walking along a boulevard, and to
my indescribable delight, I came across Lushin. I liked him for his
straightforward and unaffected character, and besides he was dear to
me for the sake of the memories he aroused in me. I rushed up to him.
'Aha!' he said, knitting his brows,' so it's you, young man. Let me
have a look at you. You're still as yellow as ever, but yet there's
not the same nonsense in your eyes. You look like a man, not a
lap-dog. That's good. Well, what are you doing? working?'
I gave a sigh. I did not like to tell a lie, while I was ashamed to
tell the truth.
'Well, never mind,' Lushin went on, 'don't be shy. The great thing is
to lead a normal life, and not be the slave of your passions. What do
you get if not? Wherever you are carried by the tide--it's all a bad
look-out; a man must stand on his own feet, if he can get nothing but
a rock to stand on. Here, I've got a cough ... and Byelovzorov--have
you heard anything of him?'
'No. What is it?'
'He's lost, and no news of him; they say he's gone away to the
Caucasus. A lesson to you, young man. And it's all from not knowing
how to part in time, to break out of the net. You seem to have got off
very well. Mind you don't fall into the same snare again. Good-bye.'
'I shan't,' I thought.... 'I shan't see her again.' But I was destined
to see Zina´da once more.
My father used every day to ride out on horse-back. He had a splendid
English mare, a chestnut piebald, with a long slender neck and long
legs, an inexhaustible and vicious beast. Her name was Electric. No
one could ride her except my father. One day he came up to me in a
good humour, a frame of mind in which I had not seen him for a long
while; he was getting ready for his ride, and had already put on his
spurs. I began entreating him to take me with him.
'We'd much better have a game of leap-frog,' my father replied.
'You'll never keep up with me on your cob.'
'Yes, I will; I'll put on spurs too.'
'All right, come along then.'
We set off. I had a shaggy black horse, strong, and fairly spirited.
It is true it had to gallop its utmost, when Electric went at full
trot, still I was not left behind. I have never seen any one ride like
my father; he had such a fine carelessly easy seat, that it seemed
that the horse under him was conscious of it, and proud of its rider.
We rode through all the boulevards, reached the 'Maidens' Field,'
jumped several fences (at first I had been afraid to take a leap, but
my father had a contempt for cowards, and I soon ceased to feel fear),
twice crossed the river Moskva, and I was under the impression that
we were on our way home, especially as my father of his own accord
observed that my horse was tired, when suddenly he turned off away
from me at the Crimean ford, and galloped along the river-bank. I rode
after him. When he had reached a high stack of old timber, he slid
quickly off Electric, told me to dismount, and giving me his horse's
bridle, told me to wait for him there at the timber-stack, and,
turning off into a small street, disappeared. I began walking up and
down the river-bank, leading the horses, and scolding Electric, who
kept pulling, shaking her head, snorting and neighing as she went; and
when I stood still, never failed to paw the ground, and whining, bite
my cob on the neck; in fact she conducted herself altogether like a
spoilt thorough-bred. My father did not come back. A disagreeable damp
mist rose from the river; a fine rain began softly blowing up, and
spotting with tiny dark flecks the stupid grey timber-stack, which
I kept passing and repassing, and was deadly sick of by now. I
was terribly bored, and still my father did not come. A sort of
sentry-man, a Fin, grey all over like the timber, and with a huge
old-fashioned shako, like a pot, on his head, and with a halberd
(and how ever came a sentry, if you think of it, on the banks of
the Moskva!) drew near, and turning his wrinkled face, like an old
woman's, towards me, he observed, 'What are you doing here with the
horses, young master? Let me hold them.'
I made him no reply. He asked me for tobacco. To get rid of him (I was
in a fret of impatience, too), I took a few steps in the direction in
which my father had disappeared, then walked along the little street
to the end, turned the corner, and stood still. In the street, forty
paces from me, at the open window of a little wooden house, stood
my father, his back turned to me; he was leaning forward over the
window-sill, and in the house, half hidden by a curtain, sat a woman
in a dark dress talking to my father; this woman was Zina´da.
I was petrified. This, I confess, I had never expected. My first
impulse was to run away. 'My father will look round,' I thought,
'and I am lost ...' but a strange feeling--a feeling stronger than
curiosity, stronger than jealousy, stronger even than fear--held me
there. I began to watch; I strained my ears to listen. It seemed
as though my father were insisting on something. Zina´da would not
consent. I seem to see her face now--mournful, serious, lovely, and
with an inexpressible impress of devotion, grief, love, and a sort of
despair--I can find no other word for it. She uttered monosyllables,
not raising her eyes, simply smiling--submissively, but without
yielding. By that smile alone, I should have known my Zina´da of old
days. My father shrugged his shoulders, and straightened his hat on
his head, which was always a sign of impatience with him.... Then I
caught the words: '_Vous devez vous sÚparer de cette..._' Zina´da sat
up, and stretched out her arm.... Suddenly, before my very eyes, the
impossible happened. My father suddenly lifted the whip, with which
he had been switching the dust off his coat, and I heard a sharp blow
on that arm, bare to the elbow. I could scarcely restrain myself from
crying out; while Zina´da shuddered, looked without a word at my
father, and slowly raising her arm to her lips, kissed the streak of
red upon it. My father flung away the whip, and running quickly up
the steps, dashed into the house.... Zina´da turned round, and with
outstretched arms and downcast head, she too moved away from the
My heart sinking with panic, with a sort of awe-struck horror, I
rushed back, and running down the lane, almost letting go my hold
of Electric, went back to the bank of the river. I could not think
clearly of anything. I knew that my cold and reserved father was
sometimes seized by fits of fury; and all the same, I could never
comprehend what I had just seen.... But I felt at the time that,
however long I lived, I could never forget the gesture, the glance,
the smile, of Zina´da; that her image, this image so suddenly
presented to me, was imprinted for ever on my memory. I stared
vacantly at the river, and never noticed that my tears were streaming.
'She is beaten,' I was thinking,... 'beaten ... beaten....'
'Hullo! what are you doing? Give me the mare!' I heard my father's
voice saying behind me.
Mechanically I gave him the bridle. He leaped on to Electric ... the
mare, chill with standing, reared on her haunches, and leaped ten feet
away ... but my father soon subdued her; he drove the spurs into her
sides, and gave her a blow on the neck with his fist.... 'Ah, I've no
whip,' he muttered.
I remembered the swish and fall of the whip, heard so short a time
before, and shuddered.
'Where did you put it?' I asked my father, after a brief pause.
My father made no answer, and galloped on ahead. I overtook him. I
felt that I must see his face.
'Were you bored waiting for me?' he muttered through his teeth.
'A little. Where did you drop your whip?' I asked again.
My father glanced quickly at me. 'I didn't drop it,' he replied; 'I
threw it away.' He sank into thought, and dropped his head ... and
then, for the first, and almost for the last time, I saw how much
tenderness and pity his stern features were capable of expressing.
He galloped on again, and this time I could not overtake him; I got
home a quarter-of-an-hour after him.
'That's love,' I said to myself again, as I sat at night before my
writing-table, on which books and papers had begun to make their
appearance; 'that's passion!... To think of not revolting, of bearing
a blow from any one whatever ... even the dearest hand! But it seems
one can, if one loves.... While I ... I imagined ...'
I had grown much older during the last month; and my love, with all
its transports and sufferings, struck me myself as something small and
childish and pitiful beside this other unimagined something, which I
could hardly fully grasp, and which frightened me like an unknown,
beautiful, but menacing face, which one strives in vain to make out
clearly in the half-darkness....
A strange and fearful dream came to me that same night. I dreamed I
went into a low dark room.... My father was standing with a whip in
his hand, stamping with anger; in the corner crouched Zina´da, and not
on her arm, but on her forehead, was a stripe of red ... while behind
them both towered Byelovzorov, covered with blood; he opened his white
lips, and wrathfully threatened my father.
Two months later, I entered the university; and within six months my
father died of a stroke in Petersburg, where he had just moved with
my mother and me. A few days before his death he received a letter
from Moscow which threw him into a violent agitation.... He went to
my mother to beg some favour of her: and, I was told, he positively
shed tears--he, my father! On the very morning of the day when he
was stricken down, he had begun a letter to me in French. 'My son,'
he wrote to me, 'fear the love of woman; fear that bliss, that
poison....' After his death, my mother sent a considerable sum of
money to Moscow.
Four years passed. I had just left the university, and did not know
exactly what to do with myself, at what door to knock; I was hanging
about for a time with nothing to do. One fine evening I met Meidanov
at the theatre. He had got married, and had entered the civil service;
but I found no change in him. He fell into ecstasies in just the same
superfluous way, and just as suddenly grew depressed again.
'You know,' he told me among other things, 'Madame Dolsky's here.'
'What Madame Dolsky?'
'Can you have forgotten her?--the young Princess Zasyekin whom we were
all in love with, and you too. Do you remember at the country-house
near Neskutchny gardens?'
'She married a Dolsky?'
'And is she here, in the theatre?'
'No: but she's in Petersburg. She came here a few days ago. She's
'What sort of fellow is her husband?' I asked.
'A splendid fellow, with property. He's a colleague of mine in Moscow.
You can well understand--after the scandal ... you must know all
about it ...' (Meidanov smiled significantly) 'it was no easy task
for her to make a good marriage; there were consequences ... but with
her cleverness, everything is possible. Go and see her; she'll be
delighted to see you. She's prettier than ever.'
Meidanov gave me Zina´da's address. She was staying at the Hotel
Demut. Old memories were astir within me.... I determined next day to
go to see my former 'flame.' But some business happened to turn up; a
week passed, and then another, and when at last I went to the Hotel
Demut and asked for Madame Dolsky, I learnt that four days before, she
had died, almost suddenly, in childbirth.
I felt a sort of stab at my heart. The thought that I might have seen
her, and had not seen her, and should never see her--that bitter
thought stung me with all the force of overwhelming reproach. 'She is
dead!' I repeated, staring stupidly at the hall-porter. I slowly made
my way back to the street, and walked on without knowing myself where
I was going. All the past swam up and rose at once before me. So this
was the solution, this was the goal to which that young, ardent,
brilliant life had striven, all haste and agitation! I mused on
this; I fancied those dear features, those eyes, those curls--in the
narrow box, in the damp underground darkness--lying here, not far
from me--while I was still alive, and, maybe, a few paces from my
father.... I thought all this; I strained my imagination, and yet all
the while the lines:
'From lips indifferent of her death I heard,
Indifferently I listened to it, too,'
were echoing in my heart. O youth, youth! little dost thou care for
anything; thou art master, as it were, of all the treasures of the
universe--even sorrow gives thee pleasure, even grief thou canst turn
to thy profit; thou art self-confident and insolent; thou sayest, 'I
alone am living--look you!'--but thy days fly by all the while, and
vanish without trace or reckoning; and everything in thee vanishes,
like wax in the sun, like snow.... And, perhaps, the whole secret of
thy charm lies, not in being able to do anything, but in being able
to think thou wilt do anything; lies just in thy throwing to the
winds, forces which thou couldst not make other use of; in each of us
gravely regarding himself as a prodigal, gravely supposing that he
is justified in saying, 'Oh, what might I not have done if I had not
wasted my time!'
I, now ... what did I hope for, what did I expect, what rich future
did I foresee, when the phantom of my first love, rising up for an
instant, barely called forth one sigh, one mournful sentiment?
And what has come to pass of all I hoped for? And now, when the shades
of evening begin to steal over my life, what have I left fresher,
more precious, than the memories of the storm--so soon over--of early
morning, of spring?
But I do myself injustice. Even then, in those light-hearted young
days, I was not deaf to the voice of sorrow, when it called upon me,
to the solemn strains floating to me from beyond the tomb. I remember,
a few days after I heard of Zina´da's death, I was present, through
a peculiar, irresistible impulse, at the death of a poor old woman
who lived in the same house as we. Covered with rags, lying on hard
boards, with a sack under her head, she died hardly and painfully. Her
whole life had been passed in the bitter struggle with daily want; she
had known no joy, had not tasted the honey of happiness. One would
have thought, surely she would rejoice at death, at her deliverance,
her rest. But yet, as long as her decrepit body held out, as long as
her breast still heaved in agony under the icy hand weighing upon it,
until her last forces left her, the old woman crossed herself, and
kept whispering, 'Lord, forgive my sins'; and only with the last spark
of consciousness, vanished from her eyes the look of fear, of horror
of the end. And I remember that then, by the death-bed of that poor
old woman, I felt aghast for Zina´da, and longed to pray for her, for
my father--and for myself.
In one of the outlying streets of Moscow, in a grey house with white
columns and a balcony, warped all askew, there was once living a lady,
a widow, surrounded by a numerous household of serfs. Her sons were in
the government service at Petersburg; her daughters were married; she
went out very little, and in solitude lived through the last years of
her miserly and dreary old age. Her day, a joyless and gloomy day, had
long been over; but the evening of her life was blacker than night.
Of all her servants, the most remarkable personage was the porter,
Gerasim, a man full twelve inches over the normal height, of heroic
build, and deaf and dumb from his birth. The lady, his owner, had
brought him up from the village where he lived alone in a little hut,
apart from his brothers, and was reckoned about the most punctual
of her peasants in the payment of the seignorial dues. Endowed with
extraordinary strength, he did the work of four men; work flew apace
under his hands, and it was a pleasant sight to see him when he was
ploughing, while, with his huge palms pressing hard upon the plough,
he seemed alone, unaided by his poor horse, to cleave the yielding
bosom of the earth, or when, about St. Peter's Day, he plied his
scythe with a. furious energy that might have mown a young birch copse
up by the roots, or swiftly and untiringly wielded a flail over two
yards long; while the hard oblong muscles of his shoulders rose and
fell like a lever. His perpetual silence lent a solemn dignity to his
unwearying labour. He was a splendid peasant, and, except for his
affliction, any girl would have been glad to marry him.... But now
they had taken Gerasim to Moscow, bought him boots, had him made a
full-skirted coat for summer, a sheepskin for winter, put into his
hand a broom and a spade, and appointed him porter.
At first he intensely disliked his new mode of life. From his
childhood he had been used to field labour, to village life. Shut off
by his affliction from the society of men, he had grown up, dumb and
mighty, as a tree grows on a fruitful soil. When he was transported to
the town, he could not understand what was being done with him; he was
miserable and stupefied, with the stupefaction of some strong young
bull, taken straight from the meadow, where the rich grass stood up to
his belly, taken and put in the truck of a railway train, and there,
while smoke and sparks and gusts of steam puff out upon the sturdy
beast, he is whirled onwards, whirled along with loud roar and
whistle, whither--God knows! What Gerasim had to do in his new duties
seemed a mere trifle to him after his hard toil as a peasant; in
half-an-hour, all his work was done, and he would once more stand
stock-still in the middle of the courtyard, staring open-mouthed
at all the passers-by, as though trying to wrest from them the
explanation of his perplexing position; or he would suddenly go off
into some corner, and flinging a long way off the broom or the spade,
throw himself on his face on the ground, and lie for hours together
without stirring, like a caged beast. But man gets used to anything,
and Gerasim got used at last to living in town. He had little work to
do; his whole duty consisted in keeping the courtyard clean, bringing
in a barrel of water twice a day, splitting and dragging in wood for
the kitchen and the house, keeping out strangers, and watching at
night. And it must be said he did his duty zealously. In his courtyard
there was never a shaving lying about, never a speck of dust; if
sometimes, in the muddy season, the wretched nag, put under his charge
for fetching water, got stuck in the road, he would simply give it
a shove with his shoulder, and set not only the cart but the horse
itself moving. If he set to chopping wood, the axe fairly rang
like glass, and chips and chunks flew in all directions. And as for
strangers, after he had one night caught two thieves and knocked
their heads together--knocked them so that there was not the slightest
need to take them to the police-station afterwards--every one in the
neighbourhood began to feel a great respect for him; even those who
came in the day-time, by no means robbers, but simply unknown persons,
at the sight of the terrible porter, waved and shouted to him as
though he could hear their shouts. With all the rest of the servants,
Gerasim was on terms, hardly friendly--they were afraid of him--but
familiar; he regarded them as his fellows. They explained themselves
to him by signs, and he understood them, and exactly carried out all
orders, but knew his own rights too, and soon no one dared to take
his seat at the table. Gerasim was altogether of a strict and serious
temper, he liked order in everything; even the cocks did not dare to
fight in his presence, or woe betide them! directly he caught sight of
them, he would seize them by the legs, swing them ten times round in
the air like a wheel, and throw them in different directions. There
were geese, too, kept in the yard; but the goose, as is well known,
is a dignified and reasonable bird; Gerasim felt a respect for them,
looked after them, and fed them; he was himself not unlike a gander
of the steppes. He was assigned a little garret over the kitchen; he
arranged it himself to his own liking, made a bedstead in it of oak
boards on four stumps of wood for legs--a truly Titanic bedstead; one
might have put a ton or two on it--it would not have bent under the
load; under the bed was a solid chest; in a corner stood a little
table of the same strong kind, and near the table a three-legged
stool, so solid and squat that Gerasim himself would sometimes pick it
up and drop it again with a smile of delight. The garret was locked
up by means of a padlock that looked like a kalatch or basket-shaped
loaf, only black; the key of this padlock Gerasim always carried about
him in his girdle. He did not like people to come to his garret.
So passed a year, at the end of which a little incident befell
The old lady, in whose service he lived as porter, adhered in
everything to the ancient ways, and kept a large number of servants.
In her house were not only laundresses, sempstresses, carpenters,
tailors and tailoresses, there was even a harness-maker--he was
reckoned as a veterinary surgeon, too,--and a doctor for the servants;
there was a household doctor for the mistress; there was, lastly, a
shoemaker, by name Kapiton Klimov, a sad drunkard. Klimov regarded
himself as an injured creature, whose merits were unappreciated, a
cultivated man from Petersburg, who ought not to be living in Moscow
without occupation--in the wilds, so to speak; and if he drank, as he
himself expressed it emphatically, with a blow on his chest, it was
sorrow drove him to it. So one day his mistress had a conversation
about him with her head steward, Gavrila, a man whom, judging solely
from his little yellow eyes and nose like a duck's beak, fate itself,
it seemed, had marked out as a person in authority. The lady expressed
her regret at the corruption of the morals of Kapiton, who had, only
the evening before, been picked up somewhere in the street.
'Now, Gavrila,' she observed, all of a sudden, 'now, if we were to
marry him, what do you think, perhaps he would be steadier?'
'Why not marry him, indeed, 'm? He could be married, 'm,' answered
Gavrila, 'and it would be a very good thing, to be sure, 'm.'
'Yes; only who is to marry him?'
'Ay, 'm. But that's at your pleasure, 'm. He may, any way, so to say,
be wanted for something; he can't be turned adrift altogether.'
'I fancy he likes Tatiana.'
Gavrila was on the point of making some reply, but he shut his lips
'Yes!... let him marry Tatiana,' the lady decided, taking a pinch of
snuff complacently, 'Do you hear?'
'Yes, 'm,' Gavrila articulated, and he withdrew.
Returning to his own room (it was in a little lodge, and was almost
filled up with metal-bound trunks), Gavrila first sent his wife
away, and then sat down at the window and pondered. His mistress's
unexpected arrangement had clearly put him in a difficulty. At last he
got up and sent to call Kapiton. Kapiton made his appearance.... But
before reporting their conversation to the reader, we consider it not
out of place to relate in few words who was this Tatiana, whom it
was to be Kapiton's lot to marry, and why the great lady's order had
disturbed the steward.
Tatiana, one of the laundresses referred to above (as a trained and
skilful laundress she was in charge of the fine linen only), was
a woman of twenty-eight, thin, fair-haired, with moles on her left
cheek. Moles on the left cheek are regarded as of evil omen in
Russia--a token of unhappy life.... Tatiana could not boast of her
good luck. From her earliest youth she had been badly treated; she
had done the work of two, and had never known affection; she had been
poorly clothed and had received the smallest wages. Relations she had
practically none; an uncle she had once had, a butler, left behind in
the country as useless, and other uncles of hers were peasants--that
was all. At one time she had passed for a beauty, but her good looks
were very soon over. In disposition, she was very meek, or, rather,
scared; towards herself, she felt perfect indifference; of others, she
stood in mortal dread; she thought of nothing but how to get her work
done in good time, never talked to any one, and trembled at the very
name of her mistress, though the latter scarcely knew her by sight.
When Gerasim was brought from the country, she was ready to die with
fear on seeing his huge figure, tried all she could to avoid meeting
him, even dropped her eyelids when sometimes she chanced to run past
him, hurrying from the house to the laundry. Gerasim at first paid
no special attention to her, then he used to smile when she came his
way, then he began even to stare admiringly at her, and at last he
never took his eyes off her. She took his fancy, whether by the mild
expression of her face or the timidity of her movements, who can
tell? So one day she was stealing across the yard, with a starched
dressing-jacket of her mistress's carefully poised on her outspread
fingers ... some one suddenly grasped her vigorously by the elbow;
she turned round and fairly screamed; behind her stood Gerasim. With
a foolish smile, making inarticulate caressing grunts, he held out to
her a gingerbread cock with gold tinsel on his tail and wings. She was
about to refuse it, but he thrust it forcibly into her hand, shook his
head, walked away, and turning round, once more grunted something very
affectionately to her. From that day forward he gave her no peace;
wherever she went, he was on the spot at once, coming to meet her,
smiling, grunting, waving his hands; all at once he would pull a
ribbon out of the bosom of his smock and put it in her hand, or would
sweep the dust out of her way. The poor girl simply did not know how
to behave or what to do. Soon the whole household knew of the dumb
porter's wiles; jeers, jokes, sly hints were showered upon Tatiana. At
Gerasim, however, it was not every one who would dare to scoff; he did
not like jokes; indeed, in his presence, she, too, was left in peace.
Whether she liked it or not, the girl found herself to be under his
protection. Like all deaf-mutes, he was very suspicious, and very
readily perceived when they were laughing at him or at her. One day,
at dinner, the wardrobe-keeper, Tatiana's superior, fell to nagging,
as it is called, at her, and brought the poor thing to such a state
that she did not know where to look, and was almost crying with
vexation. Gerasim got up all of a sudden, stretched out his gigantic
hand, laid it on the wardrobe-maid's head, and looked into her face
with such grim ferocity that her head positively flopped upon the
table. Every one was still. Gerasim took up his spoon again and
went on with his cabbage-soup. 'Look at him, the dumb devil, the
wood-demon!' they all muttered in under-tones, while the wardrobe-maid
got up and went out into the maids' room. Another time, noticing that
Kapiton--the same Kapiton who was the subject of the conversation
reported above--was gossiping somewhat too attentively with Tatiana,
Gerasim beckoned him to him, led him into the cartshed, and taking
up a shaft that was standing in a corner by one end, lightly, but
most significantly, menaced him with it. Since then no one addressed
a word to Tatiana. And all this cost him nothing. It is true the
wardrobe-maid, as soon as she reached the maids' room, promptly
fell into a fainting-fit, and behaved altogether so skilfully that
Gerasim's rough action reached his mistress's knowledge the same day.
But the capricious old lady only laughed, and several times, to the
great offence of the wardrobe-maid, forced her to repeat 'how he bent
your head down with his heavy hand,' and next day she sent Gerasim
a rouble. She looked on him with favour as a strong and faithful
watchman. Gerasim stood in considerable awe of her, but, all the same,
he had hopes of her favour, and was preparing to go to her with a
petition for leave to marry Tatiana. He was only waiting for a new
coat, promised him by the steward, to present a proper appearance
before his mistress, when this same mistress suddenly took it into her
head to marry Tatiana to Kapiton.
The reader will now readily understand the perturbation of mind that
overtook the steward Gavrila after his conversation with his mistress.
'My lady,' he thought, as he sat at the window, 'favours Gerasim, to
be sure'--(Gavrila was well aware of this, and that was why he himself
looked on him with an indulgent eye)--'still he is a speechless
creature. I could not, indeed, put it before the mistress that
Gerasim's courting Tatiana. But, after all, it's true enough; he's a
queer sort of husband. But on the other hand, that devil, God forgive
me, has only got to find out they're marrying Tatiana to Kapiton,
he'll smash up everything in the house, 'pon my soul! There's no
reasoning with him; why, he's such a devil, God forgive my sins,
there's no getting over him no how ... 'pon my soul!'
Kapiton's entrance broke the thread of Gavrila's reflections. The
dissipated shoemaker came in, his hands behind him, and lounging
carelessly against a projecting angle of the wall, near the door,
crossed his right foot in front of his left, and tossed his head, as
much as to say, 'What do you want?'
Gavrila looked at Kapiton, and drummed with his fingers on the
window-frame. Kapiton merely screwed up his leaden eyes a little, but
he did not look down, he even grinned slightly, and passed his hand
over his whitish locks which were sticking up in all directions.
'Well, here I am. What is it?'
'You're a pretty fellow,' said Gavrila, and paused. 'A pretty fellow
you are, there's no denying!'
Kapiton only twitched his little shoulders.
'Are you any better, pray?' he thought to himself.
'Just look at yourself, now, look at yourself,' Gavrila went on
reproachfully; 'now, what ever do you look like?'
Kapiton serenely surveyed his shabby tattered coat, and his patched
trousers, and with special attention stared at his burst boots,
especially the one on the tip-toe of which his right foot so
gracefully poised, and he fixed his eyes again on the steward.
'Well?' repeated Gavrila. 'Well? And then you say well? You look like
old Nick himself, God forgive my saying so, that's what you look
Kapiton blinked rapidly.
'Go on abusing me, go on, if you like, Gavrila Andreitch,' he thought
to himself again.
'Here you've been drunk again,' Gavrila began, 'drunk again, haven't
you? Eh? Come, answer me!'
'Owing to the weakness of my health, I have exposed myself to
spirituous beverages, certainly,' replied Kapiton.
'Owing to the weakness of your health!... They let you off too easy,
that's what it is; and you've been apprenticed in Petersburg.... Much
you learned in your apprenticeship! You simply eat your bread in
'In that matter, Gavrila Andreitch, there is one to judge me, the Lord
God Himself, and no one else. He also knows what manner of man I be in
this world, and whether I eat my bread in idleness. And as concerning
your contention regarding drunkenness, in that matter, too, I am not
to blame, but rather a friend; he led me into temptation, but was
diplomatic and got away, while I....'
'While you were left, like a goose, in the street. Ah, you're a
dissolute fellow! But that's not the point,' the steward went on,
'I've something to tell you. Our lady...' here he paused a minute,
'it's our lady's pleasure that you should be married. Do you hear? She
imagines you may be steadier when you're married. Do you understand?'
'To be sure I do.'
'Well, then. For my part I think it would be better to give you a
good hiding. But there--it's her business. Well? are you agreeable?'
'Matrimony is an excellent thing for any one, Gavrila Andreitch; and,
as far as I am concerned, I shall be quite agreeable.'
'Very well, then,' replied Gavrila, while he reflected to himself:
'there's no denying the man expresses himself very properly. Only
there's one thing,' he pursued aloud: 'the wife our lady's picked out
for you is an unlucky choice.'
'Why, who is she, permit me to inquire?'
And Kapiton opened his eyes, and moved a little away from the wall.
'Well, what are you in such a taking for?... Isn't she to your taste,
'Not to my taste, do you say, Gavrila Andreitch! She's right enough, a
hard-working steady girl.... But you know very well yourself, Gavrila
Andreitch, why that fellow, that wild man of the woods, that monster
of the steppes, he's after her, you know....'
'I know, mate, I know all about it,' the butler cut him short in a
tone of annoyance: 'but there, you see....'
'But upon my soul, Gavrila Andreitch! why, he'll kill me, by God, he
will, he'll crush me like some fly; why, he's got a fist--why, you
kindly look yourself what a fist he's got; why, he's simply got a fist
like Minin Pozharsky's. You see he's deaf, he beats and does not hear
how he's beating! He swings his great fists, as if he's asleep. And
there's no possibility of pacifying him; and for why? Why, because, as
you know yourself, Gavrila Andreitch, he's deaf, and what's more, has
no more wit than the heel of my foot. Why, he's a sort of beast, a
heathen idol, Gavrila Andreitch, and worse ... a block of wood; what
have I done that I should have to suffer from him now? Sure it is,
it's all over with me now; I've knocked about, I've had enough to put
up with, I've been battered like an earthenware pot, but still I'm a
man, after all, and not a worthless pot.'
'I know, I know, don't go talking away....'
'Lord, my God!' the shoemaker continued warmly, 'when is the end?
when, O Lord! A poor wretch I am, a poor wretch whose sufferings are
endless! What a life, what a life mine's been, come to think of it!
In my young days, I was beaten by a German I was 'prentice to; in the
prime of life beaten by my own countrymen, and last of all, in ripe
years, see what I have been brought to....'
'Ugh, you flabby soul!' said Gavrila Andreitch. 'Why do you make so
many words about it?'
'Why, do you say, Gavrila Andreitch? It's not a beating I'm afraid of,
Gavrila Andreitch. A gentleman may chastise me in private, but give me
a civil word before folks, and I'm a man still; but see now, whom I've
to do with....'
'Come, get along,' Gavrila interposed impatiently. Kapiton turned away
and staggered off.
'But, if it were not for him,' the steward shouted after him, 'you
would consent for your part?'
'I signify my acquiescence,' retorted Kapiton as he disappeared.
His fine language did not desert him, even in the most trying
The steward walked several times up and down the room.
'Well, call Tatiana now,' he said at last.
A few instants later, Tatiana had come up almost noiselessly, and was
standing in the doorway.
'What are your orders, Gavrila Andreitch?' she said in a soft voice.
The steward looked at her intently.
'Well, Taniusha,' he said, 'would you like to be married? Our lady has
chosen a husband for you.'
'Yes, Gavrila Andreitch. And whom has she deigned to name as a husband
for me?' she added falteringly.
'Kapiton, the shoemaker.'
'He's a feather-brained fellow, that's certain. But it's just for that
the mistress reckons upon you.'
'There's one difficulty ... you know the deaf man, Gerasim, he's
courting you, you see. How did you come to bewitch such a bear? But
you see, he'll kill you, very like, he's such a bear....'
'He'll kill me, Gavrila Andreitch, he'll kill me, and no mistake.'
'Kill you.... Well, we shall see about that. What do you mean
by saying he'll kill you? Has he any right to kill you? tell me
'I don't know, Gavrila Andreitch, about his having any right or not.'
'What a woman! why, you've made him no promise, I suppose....'
'What are you pleased to ask of me?'
The steward was silent for a little, thinking, 'You're a meek soul!
Well, that's right,' he said aloud; 'we'll have another talk with you
later, now you can go, Taniusha; I see you're not unruly, certainly.'
Tatiana turned, steadied herself a little against the doorpost, and
'And, perhaps, our lady will forget all about this wedding by
to-morrow,' thought the steward; 'and here am I worrying myself for
nothing! As for that insolent fellow, we must tie him down, if it
comes to that, we must let the police know' ... 'Ustinya Fyedorovna!'
he shouted in a loud voice to his wife, 'heat the samovar, my good
soul....' All that day Tatiana hardly went out of the laundry. At
first she had started crying, then she wiped away her tears, and set
to work as before. Kapiton stayed till late at night at the ginshop
with a friend of his, a man of gloomy appearance, to whom he related
in detail how he used to live in Petersburg with a gentleman, who
would have been all right, except he was a bit too strict, and he had
a slight weakness besides, he was too fond of drink; and, as to the
fair sex, he didn't stick at anything. His gloomy companion merely
said yes; but when Kapiton announced at last that, in a certain event,
he would have to lay hands on himself to-morrow, his gloomy companion
remarked that it was bedtime. And they parted in surly silence.
Meanwhile, the steward's anticipations were not fulfilled. The old
lady was so much taken up with the idea of Kapiton's wedding, that
even in the night she talked of nothing else to one of her companions,
who was kept in her house solely to entertain her in case of
sleeplessness, and, like a night cabman, slept in the day. When
Gavrila came to her after morning tea with his report, her first
question was: 'And how about our wedding--is it getting on all right?'
He replied, of course, that it was getting on first rate, and that
Kapiton would appear before her to pay his reverence to her that
day. The old lady was not quite well; she did not give much time to
business. The steward went back to his own room, and called a council.
The matter certainly called for serious consideration. Tatiana would
make no difficulty, of course; but Kapiton had declared in the hearing
of all that he had but one head to lose, not two or three.... Gerasim
turned rapid sullen looks on every one, would not budge from the steps
of the maids' quarters, and seemed to guess that some mischief was
being hatched against him. They met together. Among them was an old
sideboard waiter, nicknamed Uncle Tail, to whom every one looked
respectfully for counsel, though all they got out of him was, 'Here's
a pretty pass! to be sure, to be sure, to be sure!' As a preliminary
measure of security, to provide against contingencies, they locked
Kapiton up in the lumber-room where the filter was kept; then
considered the question with the gravest deliberation, It would, to
be sure, be easy to have recourse to force. But Heaven save us! there
would be an uproar, the mistress would be put out--it would be awful!
What should they do? They thought and thought, and at last thought out
a solution. It had many a time been observed that Gerasim could not
bear drunkards.... As he sat at the gates, he would always turn away
with disgust when some one passed by intoxicated, with unsteady steps
and his cap on one side of his ear. They resolved that Tatiana should
be instructed to pretend to be tipsy, and should pass by Gerasim
staggering and reeling about. The poor girl refused for a long while
to agree to this, but they persuaded her at last; she saw, too, that
it was the only possible way of getting rid of her adorer. She went
out. Kapiton was released from the lumber-room; for, after all, he
had an interest in the affair. Gerasim was sitting on the curb-stone
at the gates, scraping the ground with a spade.... From behind every
corner, from behind every window-blind, the others were watching
him.... The trick succeeded beyond all expectations. On seeing
Tatiana, at first, he nodded as usual, making caressing, inarticulate
sounds; then he looked carefully at her, dropped his spade, jumped up,
went up to her, brought his face close to her face.... In her fright
she staggered more than ever, and shut her eyes.... He took her by the
arm, whirled her right across the yard, and going into the room where
the council had been sitting, pushed her straight at Kapiton. Tatiana
fairly swooned away.... Gerasim stood, looked at her, waved his hand,
laughed, and went off, stepping heavily, to his garret.... For the
next twenty-four hours, he did not come out of it. The postillion
Antipka said afterwards that he saw Gerasim through a. crack in the
wall, sitting on his bedstead, his face in his hand. From time to
time he uttered soft regular sounds; he was wailing a dirge, that is,
swaying backwards and forwards with his eyes shut, and shaking his
head as drivers or bargemen do when they chant their melancholy songs.
Antipka could not bear it, and he came away from the crack. When
Gerasim came out of the garret next day, no particular change could be
observed in him. He only seemed, as it were, more morose, and took not
the slightest notice of Tatiana or Kapiton. The same evening, they
both had to appear before their mistress with geese under their arms,
and in a week's time they were married. Even on the day of the wedding
Gerasim showed no change of any sort in his behaviour. Only, he came
back from the river without water, he had somehow broken the barrel on
the road; and at night, in the stable, he washed and rubbed down his
horse so vigorously, that it swayed like a blade of grass in the wind,
and staggered from one leg to the other under his fists of iron.
All this had taken place in the spring. Another year passed by, during
which Kapiton became a hopeless drunkard, and as being absolutely of
no use for anything, was sent away with the store waggons to a distant
village with his wife. On the day of his departure, he put a very good
face on it at first, and declared that he would always be at home,
send him where they would, even to the other end of the world; but
later on he lost heart, began grumbling that he was being taken to
uneducated people, and collapsed so completely at last that he could
not even put his own hat on. Some charitable soul stuck it on his
forehead, set the peak straight in front, and thrust it on with a slap
from above. When everything was quite ready, and the peasants already
held the reins in their hands, and were only waiting for the words
'With God's blessing!' to start, Gerasim came out of his garret,
went up to Tatiana, and gave her as a parting present a red cotton
handkerchief he had bought for her a year ago. Tatiana, who had up to
that instant borne all the revolting details of her life with great
indifference, could not control herself upon that; she burst into
tears, and as she took her seat in the cart, she kissed Gerasim three
times like a good Christian. He meant to accompany her as far as the
town-barrier, and did walk beside her cart for a while, but he stopped
suddenly at the Crimean ford, waved his hand, and walked away along
It was getting towards evening. He walked slowly, watching the water.
All of a sudden he fancied something was floundering in the mud close
to the bank. He stooped over, and saw a little white-and-black puppy,
who, in spite of all its efforts, could not get out of the water; it
was struggling, slipping back, and trembling all over its thin wet
little body. Gerasim looked at the unlucky little dog, picked it up
with one hand, put it into the bosom of his coat, and hurried with
long steps homewards. He went into his garret, put the rescued puppy
on his bed, covered it with his thick overcoat, ran first to the
stable for straw, and then to the kitchen for a cup of milk. Carefully
folding back the overcoat, and spreading out the straw, he set the
milk on the bedstead. The poor little puppy was not more than three
weeks old, its eyes were only just open--one eye still seemed rather
larger than the other; it did not know how to lap out of a cup, and
did nothing but shiver and blink. Gerasim took hold of its head softly
with two fingers, and dipped its little nose into the milk. The
pup suddenly began lapping greedily, sniffing, shaking itself, and
choking. Gerasim watched and watched it, and all at once he laughed
outright.... All night long he was waiting on it, keeping it covered,
and rubbing it dry. He fell asleep himself at last, and slept quietly
and happily by its side.
No mother could have looked after her baby as Gerasim looked after
his little nursling. At first, she--for the pup turned out to be
a bitch--was very weak, feeble, and ugly, but by degrees she grew
stronger and improved in looks, and thanks to the unflagging care of
her preserver, in eight months' time she was transformed into a very
pretty dog of the spaniel breed, with long ears, a bushy spiral tail,
and large expressive eyes. She was devotedly attached to Gerasim, and
was never a yard from his side; she always followed him about wagging
her tail. He had even given her a name--the dumb know that their
inarticulate noises call the attention of others. He called her Mumu.
All the servants in the house liked her, and called her Mumu, too. She
was very intelligent, she was friendly with every one, but was only
fond of Gerasim. Gerasim, on his side, loved her passionately, and he
did not like it when other people stroked her; whether he was afraid
for her, or jealous--God knows! She used to wake him in the morning,
pulling at his coat; she used to take the reins in her mouth, and
bring him up the old horse that carried the water, with whom she was
on very friendly terms. With a face of great importance, she used to
go with him to the river; she used to watch his brooms and spades,
and never allowed any one to go into his garret. He cut a little hole
in his door on purpose for her, and she seemed to feel that only in
Gerasim's garret she was completely mistress and at home; and directly
she went in, she used to jump with a satisfied air upon the bed.
At night she did not sleep at all, but she never barked without
sufficient cause, like some stupid house-dog, who, sitting on its
hind-legs, blinking, with its nose in the air, barks simply from
dulness, at the stars, usually three times in succession. No! Mumu's
delicate little voice was never raised without good reason; either
some stranger was passing close to the fence, or there was some
suspicious sound or rustle somewhere.... In fact, she was an excellent
watch-dog. It is true that there was another dog in the yard, a tawny
old dog with brown spots, called Wolf, but he was never, even at
night, let off the chain; and, indeed, he was so decrepit that he did
not even wish for freedom. He used to lie curled up in his kennel,
and only rarely uttered a sleepy, almost noiseless bark, which broke
off at once, as though he were himself aware of its uselessness. Mumu
never went into the mistress's house; and when Gerasim carried wood
into the rooms, she always stayed behind, impatiently waiting for him
at the steps, pricking up her ears and turning her head to right and
to left at the slightest creak of the door....
So passed another year. Gerasim went on performing his duties as
house-porter, and was very well content with his lot, when suddenly
an unexpected incident occurred.... One fine summer day the old lady
was walking up and down the drawing-room with her dependants. She was
in high spirits; she laughed and made jokes. Her servile companions
laughed and joked too, but they did not feel particularly mirthful;
the household did not much like it, when their mistress was in a
lively mood, for, to begin with, she expected from every one prompt
and complete participation in her merriment, and was furious if any
one showed a face that did not beam with delight, and secondly, these
outbursts never lasted long with her, and were usually followed by
a sour and gloomy mood. That day she had got up in a lucky hour; at
cards she took the four knaves, which means the fulfilment of one's
wishes (she used to try her fortune on the cards every morning), and
her tea struck her as particularly delicious, for which her maid was
rewarded by words of praise, and by twopence in money. With a sweet
smile on her wrinkled lips, the lady walked about the drawing-room and
went up to the window. A flower-garden had been laid out before the
window, and in the very middle bed, under a rose-bush, lay Mumu busily
gnawing a bone. The lady caught sight of her.
'Mercy on us!' she cried suddenly; 'what dog is that?'
The companion, addressed by the old lady, hesitated, poor thing, in
that wretched state of uneasiness which is common in any person in a
dependent position who doesn't know very well what significance to
give to the exclamation of a superior.
'I d ... d ... don't know,' she faltered: 'I fancy it's the dumb man's
'Mercy!' the lady cut her short: 'but it's a charming little dog!
order it to be brought in. Has he had it long? How is it I've never
seen it before?... Order it to be brought in.'
The companion flew at once into the hall.
'Boy, boy!' she shouted: 'bring Mumu in at once! She's in the
'Her name's Mumu then,' observed the lady: 'a very nice name.'
'Oh, very, indeed!' chimed in the companion. 'Make haste, Stepan!'
Stepan, a sturdily-built young fellow, whose duties were those of a
footman, rushed headlong into the flower-garden, and tried to capture
Mumu, but she cleverly slipped from his fingers, and with her tail in
the air, fled full speed to Gerasim, who was at that instant in the
kitchen, knocking out and cleaning a barrel, turning it upside down
in his hands like a child's drum. Stepan ran after her, and tried to
catch her just at her master's feet; but the sensible dog would not
let a stranger touch her, and with a bound, she got away. Gerasim
looked on with a smile at all this ado; at last, Stepan got up, much
amazed, and hurriedly explained to him by signs that the mistress
wanted the dog brought in to her. Gerasim was a little astonished;
he called Mumu, however, picked her up, and handed her over to
Stepan. Stepan carried her into the drawing-room, and put her down
on the parquette floor. The old lady began calling the dog to her
in a coaxing voice. Mumu, who had never in her life been in such
magnificent apartments, was very much frightened, and made a rush for
the door, but, being driven back by the obsequious Stepan, she began
trembling, and huddled close up against the wall.
'Mumu, Mumu, come to me, come to your mistress,' said the lady; 'come,
silly thing ... don't be afraid.'
'Come, Mumu, come to the mistress,' repeated the companions. 'Come
But Mumu looked round her uneasily, and did not stir.
'Bring her something to eat,' said the old lady. 'How stupid she is!
she won't come to her mistress. What's she afraid of?'
'She's not used to your honour yet,' ventured one of the companions in
a timid and conciliatory voice.
Stepan brought in a saucer of milk, and set it down before Mumu, but
Mumu would not even sniff at the milk, and still shivered, and looked
round as before.
'Ah, what a silly you are!' said the lady, and going up to her, she
stooped down, and was about to stroke her, but Mumu turned her head
abruptly, and showed her teeth. The lady hurriedly drew back her
A momentary silence followed. Mumu gave a faint whine, as though she
would complain and apologise.... The old lady moved back, scowling.
The dog's sudden movement had frightened her.
'Ah!' shrieked all the companions at once, 'she's not bitten you, has
she? Heaven forbid! (Mumu had never bitten any one in her life.) Ah!
'Take her away,' said the old lady in a changed voice. 'Wretched
little dog! What a spiteful creature!'
And, turning round deliberately, she went towards her boudoir. Her
companions looked timidly at one another, and were about to follow
her, but she stopped, stared coldly at them, and said, 'What's that
for, pray? I've not called you,' and went out.
The companions waved their hands to Stepan in despair. He picked up
Mumu, and flung her promptly outside the door, just at Gerasim's feet,
and half-an-hour later a profound stillness reigned in the house, and
the old lady sat on her sofa looking blacker than a thunder-cloud.
What trifles, if you think of it, will sometimes disturb any one!
Till evening the lady was out of humour; she did not talk to any
one, did not play cards, and passed a bad night. She fancied the
eau-de-Cologne they gave her was not the same as she usually had, and
that her pillow smelt of soap, and she made the wardrobe-maid smell
all the bed linen--in fact she was very upset and cross altogether.
Next morning she ordered Gavrila to be summoned an hour earlier than
'Tell me, please,' she began, directly the latter, not without some
inward trepidation, crossed the threshold of her boudoir, 'what dog
was that barking all night in our yard? It wouldn't let me sleep!'
'A dog, 'm ... what dog, 'm ... may be, the dumb man's dog, 'm,' he
brought out in a rather unsteady voice.
'I don't know whether it was the dumb man's or whose, but it wouldn't
let me sleep. And I wonder what we have such a lot of dogs for! I wish
to know. We have a yard dog, haven't we?'
'Oh yes, 'm, we have, 'm. Wolf, 'm.'
'Well, why more, what do we want more dogs for? It's simply
introducing disorder. There's no one in control in the house--that's
what it is. And what does the dumb man want with a dog? Who gave him
leave to keep dogs in my yard? Yesterday I went to the window, and
there it was lying in the flower--garden; it had dragged in some
nastiness it was gnawing, and my roses are planted there....'
The lady ceased.
'Let her be gone from to-day ... do you hear?'
'To-day. Now go. I will send for you later for the report.'
Gavrila went away.
As he went through the drawing-room, the steward by way of maintaining
order moved a bell from one table to another; he stealthily blew his
duck-like nose in the hall, and went into the outer-hall. In the
outer-hall, on a locker was Stepan asleep in the attitude of a slain
warrior in a battalion picture, his bare legs thrust out below the
coat which served him for a blanket. The steward gave him a shove,
and whispered some instructions to him, to which Stepan responded
with something between a yawn and a laugh. The steward went away,
and Stepan got up, put on his coat and his boots, went out and stood
on the steps. Five minutes had not passed before Gerasim made his
appearance with a huge bundle of hewn logs on his back, accompanied by
the inseparable Mumu. (The lady had given orders that her bedroom and
boudoir should be heated at times even in the summer.) Gerasim turned
sideways before the door, shoved it open with his shoulder, and
staggered into the house with his load. Mumu, as usual, stayed behind
to wait for him. Then Stepan, seizing his chance, suddenly pounced on
her, like a kite on a chicken, held her down to the ground, gathered
her up in his arms, and without even putting on his cap, ran out of
the yard with her, got into the first fly he met, and galloped off to
a market-place. There he soon found a purchaser, to whom he sold her
for a shilling, on condition that he would keep her for at least a
week tied up; then he returned at once. But before he got home, he got
off the fly, and going right round the yard, jumped over the fence
into the yard from a back street. He was afraid to go in at the gate
for fear of meeting Gerasim.
His anxiety was unnecessary, however; Gerasim was no longer in the
yard. On coming out of the house he had at once missed Mumu. He never
remembered her failing to wait for his return, and began running up
and down, looking for her, and calling her in his own way.... He
rushed up to his garret, up to the hay-loft, ran out into the street,
this way and that.... She was lost! He turned to the other serfs, with
the most despairing signs, questioned them about her, pointing to her
height from the ground, describing her with his hands.... Some of them
really did not know what had become of Mumu, and merely shook their
heads, others did know, and smiled to him for all response, while the
steward assumed an important air, and began scolding the coachmen.
Then Gerasim ran right away out of the yard.
It was dark by the time he came back. From his worn-out look, his
unsteady walk, and his dusty clothes, it might be surmised that he had
been running over half Moscow. He stood still opposite the windows of
the mistress' house, took a searching look at the steps where a group
of house-serfs were crowded together, turned away, and uttered once
more his inarticulate 'Mumu.' Mumu did not answer. He went away.
Every one looked after him, but no one smiled or said a word, and the
inquisitive postillion Antipka reported next morning in the kitchen
that the dumb man had been groaning all night.
All the next day Gerasim did not show himself, so that they were
obliged to send the coachman Potap for water instead of him, at which
the coachman Potap was anything but pleased. The lady asked Gavrila
if her orders had been carried out. Gavrila replied that they had.
The next morning Gerasim came out of his garret, and went about his
work. He came in to his dinner, ate it, and went out again, without
a greeting to any one. His face, which had always been lifeless, as
with all deaf-mutes, seemed now to be turned to stone. After dinner he
went out of the yard again, but not for long; he came back, and went
straight up to the hay-loft. Night came on, a clear moonlight night.
Gerasim lay breathing heavily, and incessantly turning from side to
side. Suddenly he felt something pull at the skirt of his coat. He
started, but did not raise his head, and even shut his eyes tighter.
But again there was a pull, stronger than before; he jumped up ...
before him, with an end of string round her neck, was Mumu, twisting
and turning. A prolonged cry of delight broke from his speechless
breast; he caught up Mumu, and hugged her tight in his arms, she
licked his nose and eyes, and beard and moustache, all in one
instant.... He stood a little, thought a minute, crept cautiously down
from the hay-loft, looked round, and having satisfied himself that no
one could see him, made his way successfully to his garret. Gerasim
had guessed before that his dog had not got lost by her own doing,
that she must have been taken away by the mistress' orders; the
servants had explained to him by signs that his Mumu had snapped at
her, and he determined to take his own measures. First he fed Mumu
with a bit of bread, fondled her, and put her to bed, then he fell to
meditating, and spent the whole night long in meditating how he could
best conceal her. At last he decided to leave her all day in the
garret, and only to come in now and then to see her, and to take her
out at night. The hole in the door he stopped up effectually with his
old overcoat, and almost before it was light he was already in the
yard, as though nothing had happened, even--innocent guile!--the
same expression of melancholy on his face. It did not even occur to
the poor deaf man that Mumu would betray herself by her whining; in
reality, every one in the house was soon aware that the dumb man's dog
had come back, and was locked up in his garret, but from sympathy with
him and with her, and partly, perhaps, from dread of him, they did not
let him know that they had found out his secret. The steward scratched
his hand, and gave a despairing wave of his hand, as much as to say,
'Well, well, God have mercy on him! If only it doesn't come to the
But the dumb man had never shown such energy as on that day; he
cleaned and scraped the whole courtyard, pulled up every single
weed with his own hand, tugged up every stake in the fence of the
flower-garden, to satisfy himself that they were strong enough, and
unaided drove them in again; in fact, he toiled and laboured so that
even the old lady noticed his zeal. Twice in the course of the day
Gerasim went stealthily in to see his prisoner when night came on, he
lay down to sleep with her in the garret, not in the hay-loft, and
only at two o'clock in the night he went out to take her a turn in the
fresh air. After walking about the courtyard a good while with her,
he was just turning back, when suddenly a rustle was heard behind
the fence on the side of the back street. Mumu pricked up her ears,
growled--went up to the fence, sniffed, and gave vent to a loud shrill
bark. Some drunkard had thought fit to take refuge under the fence for
the night. At that very time the old lady had just fallen asleep after
a prolonged fit of 'nervous agitation'; these fits of agitation always
overtook her after too hearty a supper. The sudden bark waked her up:
her heart palpitated, and she felt faint. 'Girls, girls!' she moaned.
'Girls!' The terrified maids ran into her bedroom. 'Oh, oh, I am
dying!' she said, flinging her arms about in her agitation. 'Again,
that dog again!... Oh, send for the doctor. They mean to be the death
of me.... The dog, the dog again! Oh!' And she let her head fall back,
which always signified a swoon. They rushed for the doctor, that
is, for the household physician, Hariton. This doctor, whose whole
qualification consisted in wearing soft-soled boots, knew how to
feel the pulse delicately. He used to sleep fourteen hours out of
the twenty-four, but the rest of the time he was always sighing, and
continually dosing the old lady with cherrybay drops. This doctor ran
up at once, fumigated the room with burnt feathers, and when the old
lady opened her eyes, promptly offered her a wineglass of the hallowed
drops on a silver tray. The old lady took them, but began again at
once in a tearful voice complaining of the dog, of Gavrila, and of her
fate, declaring that she was a poor old woman, and that every one had
forsaken her, no one pitied her, every one wished her dead. Meanwhile
the luckless Mumu had gone on barking, while Gerasim tried in vain to
call her away from the fence. 'There ... there ... again,' groaned
the old lady, and once more she turned up the whites of her eyes. The
doctor whispered to a maid, she rushed into the outer-hall, and shook
Stepan, he ran to wake Gavrila, Gavrila in a fury ordered the whole
household to get up.
Gerasim turned round, saw lights and shadows moving in the windows,
and with an instinct of coming trouble in his heart, put Mumu under
his arm, ran into his garret, and locked himself in. A few minutes
later five men were banging at his door, but feeling the resistance
of the bolt, they stopped. Gavrila ran up in a fearful state of mind,
and ordered them all to wait there and watch till morning. Then he
flew off himself to the maids' quarter, and through an old companion,
Liubov Liubimovna, with whose assistance he used to steal tea, sugar,
and other groceries and to falsify the accounts, sent word to the
mistress that the dog had unhappily run back from somewhere, but that
to-morrow she should be killed, and would the mistress be so gracious
as not to be angry and to overlook it. The old lady would probably
not have been so soon appeased, but the doctor had in his haste given
her fully forty drops instead of twelve. The strong dose of narcotic
acted; in a quarter of an hour the old lady was in a sound and
peaceful sleep; while Gerasim was lying with a white face on his bed,
holding Mumu's mouth tightly shut.
Next morning the lady woke up rather late. Gavrila was waiting
till she should be awake, to give the order for a final assault on
Gerasim's stronghold, while he prepared himself to face a fearful
storm. But the storm did not come off. The old lady lay in bed and
sent for the eldest of her dependent companions.
'Liubov Liubimovna,' she began in a subdued weak voice--she was fond
of playing the part of an oppressed and forsaken victim; needless to
say, every one in the house was made extremely uncomfortable at such
times--'Liubov Liubimovna, you see my position; go, my love to Gavrila
Andreitch, and talk to him a little Can he really prize some wretched
cur above the repose--the very life--of his mistress? I could not bear
to think so,' she added, with an expression of deep feeling. 'Go, my
love; be so good as to go to Gavrila Andreitch for me.'
Liubov Liubimovna went to Gavrila's room. What conversation passed
between them is not known, but a short time after, a whole crowd
of people was moving across the yard in the direction of Gerasim's
garret. Gavrila walked in front, holding his cap on with his hand,
though there was no wind. The footmen and cooks were close behind him;
Uncle Tail was looking out of a window, giving instructions, that is
to say, simply waving his hands. At the rear there was a crowd of
small boys skipping and hopping along; half of them were outsiders
who had run up. On the narrow staircase leading to the garret sat one
guard; at the door were standing two more with sticks. They began to
mount the stairs, which they entirely blocked up. Gavrila went up to
the door, knocked with his fist, shouting, 'Open the door!'
A stifled bark was audible, but there was no answer.
'Open the door, I tell you,' he repeated.
'But, Gavrila Andreitch,' Stepan observed from below, 'he's deaf, you
know--he doesn't hear.'
They all laughed.
'What are we to do?' Gavrila rejoined from above.
'Why, there's a hole there in the door,' answered Stepan, 'so you
shake the stick in there.'
Gavrila bent down.
'He's stuffed it up with a coat or something.'
'Well, you just push the coat in.'
At this moment a smothered bark was heard again.
'See, see--she speaks for herself,' was remarked in the crowd, and
again they laughed.
Gavrila scratched his ear.
'No, mate,' he responded at last, 'you can poke the coat in yourself,
if you like.'
'All right, let me.'
And Stepan scrambled up, took the stick, pushed in the coat, and began
waving the stick about in the opening, saying, 'Come out, come out!'
as he did so. He was still waving the stick, when suddenly the door
of the garret was flung open; all the crowd flew pell-mell down the
stairs instantly, Gavrila first of all. Uncle Tail locked the window.
'Come, come, come,' shouted Gavrila from the yard, 'mind what you're
Gerasim stood without stirring in his doorway. The crowd gathered at
the foot of the stairs. Gerasim, with his arms akimbo, looked down at
all these poor creatures in German coats; in his red peasant's shirt
he looked like a giant before them. Gavrila took a step forward.
'Mind, mate,' said he, 'don't be insolent.'
And he began to explain to him by signs that the mistress insists on
having his dog; that he must hand it over at once, or it would be the
worse for him.
Gerasim looked at him, pointed to the dog, made a motion with his hand
round his neck, as though he were pulling a noose tight, and glanced
with a face of inquiry at the steward.
'Yes, yes,' the latter assented, nodding; 'yes, just so.'
Gerasim dropped his eyes, then all of a sudden roused himself and
pointed to Mumu, who was all the while standing beside him, innocently
wagging her tail and pricking up her ears inquisitively. Then he
repeated the strangling action round his neck and significantly struck
himself on the breast, as though announcing he would take upon himself
the task of killing Mumu.
'But you'll deceive us,' Gavrila waved back in response.
Gerasim looked at him, smiled scornfully, struck himself again on the
breast, and slammed-to the door.
They all looked at one another in silence.
'What does that mean?' Gavrila began. 'He's locked himself in.'
'Let him be, Gavrila Andreitch,' Stepan advised; 'he'll do it if he's
promised. He's like that, you know.... If he makes a promise, it's a
certain thing. He's not like us others in that. The truth's the truth
with him. Yes, indeed.'
'Yes,' they all repeated, nodding their heads, 'yes--that's so--yes.'
Uncle Tail opened his window, and he too said, 'Yes.'
'Well, may be, we shall see,' responded Gavrila; 'any way, we won't
take off the guard. Here you, Eroshka!' he added, addressing a poor
fellow in a yellow nankeen coat, who considered himself to be a
gardener, 'what have you to do? Take a stick and sit here, and if
anything happens, run to me at once!'
Eroshka took a stick, and sat down on the bottom stair. The crowd
dispersed, all except a few inquisitive small boys, while Gavrila went
home and sent word through Liubov Liubimovna to the mistress, that
everything had been done, while he sent a postillion for a policeman
in case of need. The old lady tied a knot in her handkerchief,
sprinkled some eau-de-Cologne on it, sniffed at it, and rubbed her
temples with it, drank some tea, and, being still under the influence
of the cherrybay drops, fell asleep again.
An hour after all this hubbub the garret door opened, and Gerasim
showed himself. He had on his best coat; he was leading Mumu by a
string. Eroshka moved aside and let him pass. Gerasim went to the
gates. All the small boys in the yard stared at him in silence. He did
not even turn round; he only put his cap on in the street. Gavrila
sent the same Eroshka to follow him and keep watch on him as a spy.
Eroshka, seeing from a distance that he had gone into a cookshop with
his dog, waited for him to come out again.
Gerasim was well known at the cookshop, and his signs were understood.
He asked for cabbage soup with meat in it, and sat down with his arms
on the table. Mumu stood beside his chair, looking calmly at him with
her intelligent eyes. Her coat was glossy; one could see she had just
been combed down. They brought Gerasim the soup. He crumbled some
bread into it, cut the meat up small, and put the plate on the ground.
Mumu began eating in her usual refined way, her little muzzle daintily
held so as scarcely to touch her food. Gerasim gazed a long while at
her; two big tears suddenly rolled from his eyes; one fell on the
dog's brow, the other into the soup. He shaded his face with his hand.
Mumu ate up half the plateful, and came away from it, licking her
lips. Gerasim got up, paid for the soup, and went out, followed by the
rather perplexed glances of the waiter. Eroshka, seeing Gerasim, hid
round a corner, and letting him get in front, followed him again.
Gerasim walked without haste, still holding Mumu by a string. When he
got to the corner of the street, he stood still as though reflecting,
and suddenly set off with rapid steps to the Crimean Ford. On the
way he went into the yard of a house, where a lodge was being built,
and carried away two bricks under his arm. At the Crimean Ford, he
turned along the bank, went to a place where there were two little
rowing-boats fastened to stakes (he had noticed them there before),
and jumped into one of them with Mumu. A lame old man came out of a
shed in the corner of a kitchen-garden and shouted after him; but
Gerasim only nodded, and began rowing so vigorously, though against
stream, that in an instant he had darted two hundred yards away. The
old man stood for a while, scratched his back first with the left and
then with the right hand, and went back hobbling to the shed.
Gerasim rowed on and on. Moscow was soon left behind. Meadows
stretched each side of the bank, market gardens, fields, and copses;
peasants' huts began to make their appearance. There was the fragrance
of the country. He threw down his oars, bent his head down to Mumu,
who was sitting facing him on a dry cross seat--the bottom of the boat
was full of water--and stayed motionless, his mighty hands clasped
upon her back, while the boat was gradually carried back by the
current towards the town. At last Gerasim drew himself up hurriedly,
with a sort of sick anger in his face, he tied up the bricks he had
taken with string, made a running noose, put it round Mumu's neck,
lifted her up over the river, and for the last time looked at her....
she watched him confidingly and without any fear, faintly wagging her
tail. He turned away, frowned, and wrung his hands.... Gerasim heard
nothing, neither the quick shrill whine of Mumu as she fell, nor the
heavy splash of the water; for him the noisiest day was soundless and
silent as even the stillest night is not silent to us. When he opened
his eyes again, little wavelets were hurrying over the river, chasing
one another; as before they broke against the boat's side, and only
far away behind wide circles moved widening to the bank.
Directly Gerasim had vanished from Eroshka's sight, the latter
returned home and reported what he had seen.
'Well, then,' observed Stepan, 'he'll drown her. Now we can feel easy
about it. If he once promises a thing....'
No one saw Gerasim during the day. He did not have dinner at home.
Evening came on; they were all gathered together to supper, except
'What a strange creature that Gerasim is!' piped a fat laundrymaid;
'fancy, upsetting himself like that over a dog.... Upon my word!'
'But Gerasim has been here,' Stepan cried all at once, scraping up his
porridge with a spoon.
'Why, a couple of hours ago. Yes, indeed! I ran against him at the
gate; he was going out again from here; he was coming out of the
yard. I tried to ask him about his dog, but he wasn't in the best of
humours, I could see. Well, he gave me a shove; I suppose he only
meant to put me out of his way, as if he'd say, "Let me go, do!" but
he fetched me such a crack on my neck, so seriously, that--oh! oh!'
And Stepan, who could not help laughing, shrugged up and rubbed the
back of his head. 'Yes,' he added; 'he has got a fist; it's something
like a fist, there's no denying that!'
They all laughed at Stepan, and after supper they separated to go to
Meanwhile, at that very time, a gigantic figure with a bag on his
shoulders and a stick in his hand, was eagerly and persistently
stepping out along the T---- highroad. It was Gerasim. He was hurrying
on without looking round; hurrying homewards, to his own village, to
his own country. After drowning poor Mumu, he had run back to his
garret, hurriedly packed a few things together in an old horsecloth,
tied it up in a bundle, tossed it on his shoulder, and so was ready.
He had noticed the road carefully when he was brought to Moscow; the
village his mistress had taken him from lay only about twenty miles
off the highroad. He walked along it with a sort of invincible
purpose, a desperate and at the same time joyous determination. He
walked, his shoulders thrown back and his chest expanded; his eyes
were fixed greedily straight before him. He hastened as though his old
mother were waiting for him at home, as though she were calling him
to her after long wanderings in strange parts, among strangers. The
summer night, that was just drawing in, was still and warm; on one
side, where the sun had set, the horizon was still light and faintly
flushed with the last glow of the vanished day; on the other side a
blue-grey twilight had already risen up. The night was coming up from
that quarter. Quails were in hundreds around; corncrakes were calling
to one another in the thickets.... Gerasim could not hear them; he
could not hear the delicate night-whispering of the trees, by which
his strong legs carried him, but he smelt the familiar scent of the
ripening rye, which was wafted from the dark fields; he felt the wind,
flying to meet him--the wind from home--beat caressingly upon his
face, and play with his hair and his beard. He saw before him the
whitening road homewards, straight as an arrow. He saw in the sky
stars innumerable, lighting up his way, and stepped out, strong and
bold as a lion, so that when the rising sun shed its moist rosy light
upon the still fresh and unwearied traveller, already thirty miles lay
between him and Moscow.
In a couple of days he was at home, in his little hut, to the great
astonishment of the soldier's wife who had been put in there. After
praying before the holy pictures, he set off at once to the village
elder. The village elder was at first surprised; but the haycutting
had just begun; Gerasim was a first-rate mower, and they put a scythe
into his hand on the spot, and he went to mow in his old way, mowing
so that the peasants were fairly astounded as they watched his wide
sweeping strokes and the heaps he raked together....
In Moscow the day after Gerasim's flight they missed him. They went
to his garret, rummaged about in it, and spoke to Gavrila. He came,
looked, shrugged his shoulders, and decided that the dumb man had
either run away or had drowned himself with his stupid dog. They
gave information to the police, and informed the lady. The old lady
was furious, burst into tears, gave orders that he was to be found
whatever happened, declared she had never ordered the dog to be
destroyed, and, in fact, gave Gavrila such a rating that he could do
nothing all day but shake his head and murmur, 'Well!' until Uncle
Tail checked him at last, sympathetically echoing 'We-ell!' At last
the news came from the country of Gerasim's being there. The old
lady was somewhat pacified; at first she issued a mandate for him to
be brought back without delay to Moscow; afterwards, however, she
declared that such an ungrateful creature was absolutely of no use to
her. Soon after this she died herself; and her heirs had no thought to
spare for Gerasim; they let their mother's other servants redeem their
freedom on payment of an annual rent.
And Gerasim is living still, a lonely man in his lonely hut; he is
strong and healthy as before, and does the work of four men as before,
and as before is serious and steady. But his neighbours have observed
that ever since his return from Moscow he has quite given up the
society of women; he will not even look at them, and does not keep
even a single dog. 'It's his good luck, though,' the peasants reason;
'that he can get on without female folk; and as for a dog--what need
has he of a dog? you wouldn't get a thief to go into his yard for any
money!' Such is the fame of the dumb man's Titanic strength.