Part 3 out of 7
"Yes . . . I--" he murmured.
"Come," she said, turning down the corridor, but before reaching
the end she stopped and pushed open a low door. Nejdanov looked
into a small, almost bare room.
"We had better go in here, Alexai Dmitritch, no one will disturb
Nejdanov obeyed. Mariana put the candlestick on a window-sill and
turned to him.
"I understand why you wanted to see me," she began. "It is
wretched for you to live in this house, and for me too."
"Yes, I wanted to see you, Mariana Vikentievna," Nejdanov
replied, " but I do not feel wretched here since I've come to
Mariana smiled pensively.
"Thank you, Alexai Dmitritch. But tell me, do you really intend
stopping here after all that has happened?"
"I don't think they will keep me-- I shall be dismissed," Nejdanov
"But don't you intend going away of your own accord?"
"Do you want to know the truth? Because you are here." Mariana
lowered her head and moved a little further down the room.
"Besides," Nejdanov continued, "I MUST stay here. You know
nothing-- but I want-- I feel that I must tell you everything." He
approached Mariana and seized her hand; she did not take it away,
but only looked straight into his face. "Listen!" he exclaimed
with sudden force, "Listen!"
And instantly, without stopping to sit down, although there were
two or three chairs in the room, still standing before her and
holding her hand, with heated enthusiasm and with an eloquence,
surprising even to himself, he began telling her all his plans,
his intentions, his reason for having accepted Sipiagin's offer,
about all his connections, acquaintances, about his past, things
that he had always kept hidden from everybody. He told her about
Vassily Nikolaevitch's letters, everything-- even about Silin! He
spoke hurriedly, without a single pause or the smallest
hesitation, as if he were reproaching himself for not having
entrusted her with all his secrets before-- as if he were begging
her pardon. She listened to him attentively, greedily; she was
bewildered at first, but this feeling soon wore off. Her heart
was overflowing with gratitude, pride, devotion, resoluteness.
Her face and eyes shone; she laid her other hand on Nejdanov's--
her lips parted in ecstasy. She became marvellously beautiful!
He ceased at last, and suddenly seemed to see THIS face for the
first time, although it was so dear and so familiar to him. He
gave a deep sigh.
"Ah! how well I did to tell you everything!" He was scarcely able
to articulate the words.
"Yes, how well-- how well!" she repeated, also in a whisper. She
imitated him unconsciously-- her voice, too, gave way. "And it
means," she continued, "that I am at your disposal, that I want
to be useful to your cause, that I am ready to do anything that
may be necessary, go wherever you may want me to, that I have
always longed with my whole soul for all the things that you
She also ceased. Another word-- and her emotion would have
dissolved into tears. All the strength and force of her nature
suddenly softened as wax. She was consumed with a thirst for
activity, for self-sacrifice, for immediate self-sacrifice.
A sound of footsteps was heard from the other side of the door--
light, rapid, cautious footsteps.
Mariana suddenly drew herself up and disengaged her hands; her
mood changed, she became quite cheerful, a certain audacious,
scornful expression flitted across her face.
"I know who is listening behind the door at this moment," she
remarked, so loudly that every word could be heard distinctly in
the corridor; "Madame Sipiagina is listening to us . . . but it
makes no difference to me."
The footsteps ceased.
"Well?" Mariana asked, turning to Nejdanov. "What shall I do? How
shall I help you? Tell me. . . tell me quickly! What shall I do?"
"I don't know yet," Nejdanov replied. "I have received a note
"When did you receive it? When? "
"This evening. He and I must go and see Solomin at the factory
"Yes . . . yes. . . . What a splendid man Markelov is! Now he's a
"No--not like you."
She turned away suddenly.
"Oh! Don't you understand what you have become for me, and what I
am feeling at this moment?"
Nejdanov's heart beat violently; he looked down. This girl who
loved him--a poor, homeless wretch, who trusted him, who was
ready to follow him, pursue the same cause together with him--
this wonderful girl-- Mariana-- became for Nejdanov at this moment
the incarnation of all earthly truth and goodness-- the
incarnation of the love of mother, sister, wife, all the things
he had never known; the incarnation of his country, happiness,
He raised his head and encountered her eyes fixed on him again.
Oh, how this sweet, bright glance penetrated to his very soul!
"And so," he began in an unsteady voice, "I am going away tomorrow. . .
And when I come back, I will tell. . .you-- " (he suddenly felt it
awkward to address Mariana as "you") "tell you everything that is
decided upon. From now on everything that I do and think, everything,
I will tell thee first."
"Oh, my dear!" Mariana exclaimed, seizing his hand again. "I
promise thee the same!"
The word "thee" escaped her lips just as simply and easily as if
they had been old comrades.
"Have you got the letter?"
"Here it is."
Mariana scanned the letter and looked up at him almost
"Do they entrust you with such important commissions?" He smiled
in reply and put the letter back in his pocket. "How curious," he
said, "we have come to know of our love, we love one another-- and
yet we have not said a single word about it."
"There is no need," Mariana whispered, and suddenly threw her
arms around his neck and pressed her head closely against his
breast. They did not kiss-- it would have seemed to them too
commonplace and rather terrible-- but instantly took leave of one
another, tightly clasping each other's hands.
Mariana returned for the candle which she had left on the window-
sill of the empty room. Only then a sort of bewilderment came
over her; she extinguished the candle and, gliding quickly along
the dark corridor, entered her own room, undressed and went to
bed in the soothing darkness.
ON awakening the following morning, Nejdanov did not feel the
slightest embarrassment at what had taken place the previous
night, but was, on the contrary, filled with a sort of quiet joy,
as if he had fulfilled something which ought to have been done
long ago. Asking for two days' leave from Sipiagin, who consented
readily, though with a certain amount of severity, Nejdanov set
out for Markelov's. Before his departure he managed to see
Mariana. She was also not in the least abashed, looked at him
calmly and resolutely, and called him "dear" quite naturally. She
was very much concerned about what he might hear at Markelov's,
and begged him to tell her everything.
"Of course!" he replied. "After all," he thought, "why should we
be disturbed? In our friendship personal feeling played only ...
a secondary part, and we are united forever. In the name of the
cause? Yes, in the name of the cause!"
Thus Nejdanov thought, and he did not himself suspect how much
truth and how much falsehood there lay in his reflections.
He found Markelov in the same weary, sullen frame of mind. After
a very impromptu dinner they set out in the well-known carriage
to the merchant Falyeva's cotton factory where Solomin lived.
(The second side horse harnessed to the carriage was a young colt
that had never been in harness before. Markelov's own horse was
still a little lame.)
Nejdanov's curiosity had been aroused. He very much wanted to
become closer acquainted with a man about whom he had heard so
much of late. Solomin had been informed of their coming, so that
as soon as the two travellers stopped at the gates of the factory
and announced who they were, they were immediately conducted into
the hideous little wing occupied by the "engineering manager." He
was at that time in the main body of the building, and while
one of the workmen ran to fetch him, Nejdanov and Markelov
managed to go up to the window and look around. The factory was
apparently in a very flourishing condition and over-loaded with
work. From every corner came the quick buzzing sound of unceasing
activity; the puffing and rattling of machines, the creaking of
looms, the humming of wheels, the whirling of straps, while
trolleys, barrels, and loaded carts were rolling in and out.
Orders were shouted out at the top of the voice amidst the sound
of bells and whistles; workmen in blouses with girdles round
their waists, their hair fastened with straps, work girls in
print dresses, hurried quickly to and fro, harnessed horses were
It represented the hum of a thousand human beings working with
all their might. Everything went at full speed in fairly regular
order, but not only was there an absence of smartness and
neatness, but there was not the smallest trace or cleanliness to
be seen anywhere. On the contrary, in every corner one was struck
by neglect, dirt, grime; here a pane of glass was broken, there
the plaster was coming off; in another place the boards were
loose; in a third, a door gaped wide open. A large filthy puddle
covered with a coating of rainbow-coloured slime stood in the
middle of the main yard; farther on lay a heap of discarded
bricks; scraps of mats and matting, boxes, and pieces of rope lay
scattered here and there; shaggy, hungry-looking dogs wandered to
and fro, too listless to bark; in a corner, under the fence, sat
a grimy little boy of about four, with an enormous belly and
dishevelled head, crying hopelessly, as if he had been forsaken
by the whole world; close by a sow likewise besmeared in soot and
surrounded by a medley of little suckling-pigs was devouring some
cabbage stalks; some ragged clothes were stretched on a line-- and
such stuffiness and stench! In a word, just like a Russian
factory-- not like a French or a German one.
Nejdanov looked at Markelov.
"I have heard so much about Solomin's superior capabilities," he
began, "that I confess all this disorder surprises me. I did not
"This is not disorder, but the usual Russian slovenliness,"
Markelov replied gloomily. "But all the same, they are turning
over millions. Solomin has to adjust himself to the old ways, to
practical things, and to the owner himself. Have you any idea
what Falyeva is like?"
"Not in the least."
"He is the biggest skinflint in Moscow. A regular bourgeois."
At this moment Solomin entered the room. Nejdanov was just as
disillusioned about him as he had been about the factory. At the
first glance he gave one the impression of being a Finn or a
Swede. He was tall, lean, broad-shouldered, with colourless
eyebrows and eyelashes; had a long sallow face, a short, rather
broad nose, small greenish eyes, a placid expression, coarse
thick lips, large teeth, and a divided chin covered with a
suggestion of down. He was dressed like a mechanic or a stoker in
an old pea-jacket with baggy pockets, with an oil-skin cap on his
head, a woollen scarf round his neck, and tarred boots on his
feet. He was accompanied by a man of about forty in a peasant
coat, who had an extraordinarily lively gipsy-like face, coal-
black piercing eyes, with which he scanned Nejdanov as soon as he
entered the room. Markelov was already known to him. This was
Pavel, Solomin's factotum.
Solomin approached the two visitors slowly and without a word,
pressed the hand of each in turn in his own hard bony one. He
opened a drawer, pulled out a sealed letter, which he handed to
Pavel, also without a word, and the latter immediately left the
room. Then he stretched himself, threw away his cap with one wave
of the hand, sat down on a painted wooden stool and, pointing to
a couch, begged Nejdanov and Markelov to be seated.
Markelov first introduced Nejdanov, whom Solomin again shook by
the hand, then he went on to "business," mentioning Vassily
Nikolaevitch's letter, which Nejdanov handed to Solomin. And
while the latter was reading it carefully, his eyes moving from
line to line, Nejdanov sat watching him. Solomin was near the
window and the sun, already low in the horizon, was shining full
on his tanned face covered with perspiration, on his fair hair
covered with dust, making it sparkle like a mass of gold. His
nostrils quivered and distended as he read, and his lips moved as
though he were forming every word. He held the letter raised
tightly in both hands, and when he had finished returned it to
Nejdanov and began listening to Markelov again. The latter talked
until he had exhausted himself.
"I am afraid," Solomin began (his hoarse voice, full of youth and
strength, was pleasing to Nejdanov's ear), "it will be rather
inconvenient to talk here. Why not go to your place? It is only a
question of seven miles. You came in your carriage, did you not?"
"Well, I suppose you can make room for me. I shall have finished
my work in about an hour, and will be quite free. We can talk
things over thoroughly. You are also free, are you not?" he
asked, turning to Nejdanov.
"Until the day after tomorrow."
"That's all right. We can stay the night at your place, Sergai
Mihailovitch, I suppose?
"Of course you may!"
"Good. I shall be ready in a minute. I'll just make myself a
little more presentable."
"And how are things at your factory?" Nejdanov asked
Solomin looked away.
"We can talk things over thoroughly," he remarked a second time.
" Please excuse me a moment. . . I'll be back directly. . . .
I've forgotten something."
He went out. Had he not already produced a good impression on
Nejdanov, the latter would have thought that he was backing out,
but such an idea did not occur to him.
An hour later, when from every story, every staircase and door of
the enormous building, a noisy crowd of workpeople came streaming
out, the carriage containing Markelov, Nejdanov, and Solomin
drove out of the gates on to the road.
"Vassily Fedotitch! Is it to be done?" Pavel shouted after
Solomin, whom he had accompanied to the gate.
"No, not now," Solomin replied. "He wanted to know about some
night work," he explained, turning to his companions.
When they reached Borsionkov they had some supper, merely for the
sake of politeness, and afterwards lighted cigars and began a
discussion, one of those interminable, midnight Russian
discussions which in degree and length are only peculiar to
Russians and unequalled by people of any other nationality.
During the discussion, too, Solomin did not come up to Nejdanov's
expectation. He spoke little--so little that one might almost
have said that he was quite silent. But he listened attentively,
and whenever he made any remark or gave an opinion, did so
briefly, seriously, showing a considerable amount of common-
sense. Solomin did not believe that the Russian revolution was so
near at hand, but not wishing to act as a wet blanket on others,
he did not intrude his opinions or hinder others from making
attempts. He looked on from a distance as it were, but was still
a comrade by their side. He knew the St. Petersburg
revolutionists and agreed with their ideas up to a certain point.
He himself belonged to the people, and fully realised that the
great bulk of them, without whom one can do nothing, were still
quite indifferent, that they must first be prepared, by quite
different means and for entirely different ends than the upper
classes. So he held aloof, not from a sense of superiority, but
as an ordinary man with a few independent ideas, who did not wish
to ruin himself or others in vain. But as for listening, there
was no harm in that.
Solomin was the only son of a deacon and had five sisters, who
were all married to priests or deacons. He was also destined for
the church, but with his father's consent threw it up and began
to study mathematics, as he had taken a special liking to
mechanics. He entered a factory of which the owner was an
Englishman, who got to love him like his own son. This man
supplied him with the means of going to Manchester, where he
stayed for two years, acquiring an excellent knowledge of the
English language. With the Moscow merchant he had fallen in but a
short time ago. He was exacting with his subordinates, a manner
he had acquired in England, but they liked him nevertheless, and
treated him as one of themselves. His father was very proud of
him, and used to speak of him as a steady sort of man, but was
very grieved that he did not marry and settle down.
During the discussion, as we have already said, Solomin sat
silent the whole time; but when Markelov began enlarging upon the
hopes they put on the factory workers, Solomin remarked, in his
usual laconic way, that they must not depend too much on them, as
factory workers in Russia were not what they were abroad. "They
are an extremely mild set of people here."
"And what about the peasants?"
"The peasants? There are a good many sweaters and money-lenders
among them now, and there are likely to be more in time. This
kind only look to their own interests, and as for the others,
they are as ignorant as sheep."
"Then where are we to turn to?" Solomin smiled.
"Seek and ye shall find."
There was a constant smile on his lips, but the smile was as full
of meaning as the man himself. With Nejdanov he behaved in a very
peculiar manner. He was attracted to the young student and felt
an almost tender sympathy for him. At one part of the discussion,
where Nejdanov broke out into a perfect torrent of words, Solomin
got up quietly, moved across the room with long strides, and shut
a window that was standing open just above Nejdanov's head.
"You might catch cold," he observed, in answer to the orator's
look of amazement.
Nejdanov began to question him about his factory, asking if any
cooperative experiments had been made, if anything had been done
so that the workers might come in for a share of the profits.
"My dear fellow!" Solomin exclaimed, "I instituted a school and a
tiny hospital, and even then the owner struggled like a bear!"
Solomin lost his temper once in real earnest on hearing of some
legal injustice about the suppression of a workman's association.
He banged his powerful fist on the table so that everything on it
trembled, including a forty-pound weight, which happened to be
lying near the ink pot.
When Markelov and Nejdanov began discussing ways and means of
executing their plans, Solomin listened with respectful
curiosity, but did not pronounce a single word. Their talk lasted
until four o'clock in the morning, when they had touched upon
almost everything under the sun. Markelov again spoke
mysteriously of Kisliakov's untiring journeys and his letters,
which were becoming more interesting than ever. He promised to
show them to Nejdanov, saying that he would probably have to take
them away with him, as they were rather lengthy and written in an
illegible handwriting. He assured him that there was a great deal
of learning in them and even poetry, not of the frivolous kind,
but poetry with a socialistic tendency!
From Kisliakov, Markelov went on to the military, to adjutants,
Germans, even got so far as his articles on the shortcomings of
the artillery, whilst Nejdanov spoke about the antagonism between
Heine and Borne, Proudhon, and realism in art. Solomin alone sat
listening and reflecting, the smile never leaving his lips.
Without having uttered a single word, he seemed to understand
better than the others where the essential difficulty lay.
The hour struck four. Nejdanov and Markelov could scarcely stand
on their legs from exhaustion, while Solomin was as fresh as
could be. They parted for the night, having agreed to go to town
the next day to see the merchant Golushkin, an Old Believer, who
was said to be very zealous and promised proselytes.
Solomin doubted whether it was worth while going, but agreed to
go in the end.
MARKELOV'S guests were still asleep when a messenger with a
letter came to him from his sister, Madame Sipiagina. In this
letter Valentina Mihailovna spoke about various little domestic
details, asked him to return a book he had borrowed, and added,
by the way, in a postscript, the very "amusing" piece of news
that his old flame Mariana was in love with the tutor Nejdanov
and he with her. This was not merely gossip, but she, Valentina
Mihailovna, had seen with her own eyes and heard with her own
ears. Markelov's face grew blacker than night, but he did not
utter a word. He ordered the book to be returned, and when he
caught sight of Nejdanov coming downstairs, greeted him just as
usual and did not even forget to give him the promised packet of
Kisliakov's letters. He did not stay with him however, but went
out to see to the farm.
Nejdanov returned to his own room and glanced through the
letters. The young propagandist spoke mostly about himself, about
his unsparing activity. According to him, during the last month,
he had been in no less than eleven provinces, nine towns, twenty-
nine villages, fifty-three hamlets,one farmhouse, and seven
factories. Sixteen nights he had slept in hay-lofts, one in a
stable, another even in a cow-shed (here he wrote, in
parenthesis, that fleas did not worry him); he had wheedled
himself into mud-huts, workmen's barracks, had preached, taught,
distributed pamphlets, and collected information; some things he
had made a note of on the spot; others he carried in his memory
by the very latest method of mnemonics. He had written fourteen
long letters, twenty-eight shorter ones, and eighteen notes, four
of which were written in pencil, one in blood, and another in
soot and water. All this he had managed to do because he had
learned how to divide his time systematically, according to the
examples set by men such as Quintin Johnson, Karrelius,
Sverlitskov, and other writers and statisticians. Then he went on
to talk of himself again, of his guiding star, saying how he had
supplemented Fourier's passions by being the first to discover
the "fundaments, the root principle," and how he would not go out
of this world without leaving some trace behind him; how he was
filled with wonder that he, a youth of twenty-four, should have
solved all the problems of life and science; that he would turn
the whole of Russia up-side-down, that he would "shake her up!"
"Dixi!!" he added at the end of the paragraph. This word "Dixi"
appeared very frequently in Kisliakov's letters, and always with
a double exclamation mark. In one of the letters there were some
verses with a socialist tendency, written to a certain young
lady, beginning with the words-- "Love not me, but the idea!"
Nejdanov marvelled inwardly, not so much at Kisliakov's conceit,
as at Markelov's honest simplicity. "Bother aestheticism! Mr.
Kisliakov may be even useful," he thought to himself instantly.
The three friends gathered together for tea in the dining-room,
but last night's conversation was not renewed between them. Not
one of them wished to talk, but Solomin was the only one who sat
silent peacefully. Both Nejdanov and Markelov seemed inwardly
agitated. After tea they set out for the town. Markelov's old
servant, who was sitting on the doorstep, accompanied his former
master with his habitual dejected glance.
The merchant Golushkin, with whom it was necessary to acquaint
Nejdanov, was the son of a wealthy merchant in drugs, an Old
Believer, of the Thedosian sect. He had not increased the fortune
left to him by his father, being, as the saying goes, a joneur,
an Epicurean in the Russian fashion, with absolutely no business
abilities. He was a man of forty, rather stout and ugly, pock-
marked, with small eyes like a pig's. He spoke hurriedly,
swallowing his words as it were, gesticulated with his hands,
threw his legs about and went into roars of laughter at
everything. On the whole, he gave one the impression of being a
stupid, spoiled, conceited bounder. He considered himself a man
of culture because he dressed in the German fashion, kept an open
house (though it was not overly clean), frequented the theatre,
and had many protegees among variety actresses, with whom he
conversed in some extraordinary jargon meant to be French. His
principal passion was a thirst for popularity. "Let the name of
Golushkin thunder through the world! As once Suvorov or
Potyomkin, then why not now Kapiton Golushkin?" It was this very
passion, conquering even his innate meanness, which had thrown
him, as he himself expressed it not without a touch of pride,
"into the arms of the opposition" (formerly he used to say
"position," but had learned better since then) and brought him in
contact with the nihilists. He gave expression to the most
extreme views, scoffed at his own Old Believer's faith, ate meat
in Lent, played cards, and drank champagne like water. He never
got into difficulties, because he said, "Wherever necessary, I
have bribed the authorities. All holes are stitched up, all
mouths are closed, all ears are stopped."
He was a widower without children. His sister's sons fawned
around him continuously, but he called them a lot of ignorant
louts, barbarians, and would hardly look at them. He lived in a
large, stone house, kept in rather a slovenly manner. Some of the
rooms were furnished with foreign furniture, others contained
nothing but a few painted wooden chairs and a couch covered with
American cloth. There were pictures everywhere of an indifferent
variety. Fiery landscapes, purple seascapes, fat naked women with
pink-coloured knees and elbows, and "The Kiss" by Moller. In
spite of the fact that Golushkin had no family, there were a
great many menials and hangers-on collected under his roof. He
did not receive them from any feeling of generosity, but simply
from a desire to be popular and to have someone at his beck and
call. "My clients," he used to say when he wished to throw dust
in one's eyes. He read very little, but had an excellent memory
for learned expressions.
The young people found Golushkin in his study, where he was
sitting comfortably wrapped up in a long dressing-gown, with a
cigar between his lips, pretending to be reading a newspaper. On
their entrance he jumped up, rushed up to them, went red in the
face, shouted for some refreshments to be brought quickly, asked
them some questions, laughed for no reason in particular, and all
this in one breath. He knew Markelov and Solomin, but had not yet
met Nejdanov. On hearing that the latter was a student, he broke
into another laugh, pressed his hand a second time, exclaiming:
"Splendid! Splendid! We are gathering forces! Learning is light,
ignorance is darkness--I had a wretched education myself, but I
understand things; that's how I've got on!"
It seemed to Nejdanov that Golushkin was shy and embarrassed--and
indeed it really was so. "Take care, brother Kapiton! Mind what
you are about!" was his first thought on meeting a new person. He
soon recovered himself however, and began in the same hurried,
lisping, confused tone of voice, talking about Vassily
Nikolaevitch, about his temperament, about the necessity of pro-
pa-ganda (he knew this word quite well, but articulated it
slowly), saying that he, Golushkin, had discovered a certain
promising young chap, that the time had now come, that the time
was now ripe for . . . for the lancet (at this word he glanced at
Markelov, but the latter did not stir). He then turned to
Nejdanov and began speaking of himself in no less glowing terms
than the distinguished correspondent Kisliakov, saying that he
had long ago ceased being a fool, that he fully recognised the
rights of the proletariat (he remembered this word splendidly),
that although he had actually given up commerce and taken to
banking instead with a view to increasing his capital, yet only
so that this same capital could at any given moment be called
upon for the use ... for the use of the cause, that is to say,
for the use of the people, and that he, Golushkin, in reality,
despised wealth! At this point a servant entered with some
refreshment; Golushkin cleared his throat significantly, asked if
they would not partake of something, and was the first to gulp
down a glass of strong pepper-brandy. The guests partook of
refreshments. Golushkin thrust huge pieces of caviar into his
mouth and drank incessantly, saying every now and again:
"Come, gentlemen, come, some splendid Macon, please!" Turning to
Nejdanov, he began asking him where he had come from, where he
was staying and for how long, and on hearing that he was staying
at Sipiagin's, exclaimed: "I know this gentleman! Nothing in him
whatever!" and instantly began abusing all the landowners in the
province because, he said, not only were they void of public
spirit, but they did not even understand their own interests.
But, strange to say, in spite of his being so abusive, his eyes
wandered about uneasily. Nejdanov could not make him out at all,
and wondered what possible use he could be to them. Solomin was
silent as usual and Markelov wore such a gloomy expression that
Nejdanov could not help asking what was the matter with him.
Markelov declared that it was nothing in a tone in which people
commonly let you understand that there is something wrong, but
that it does not concern you. Golushkin again started abusing
someone or other and then went on to praise the new generation.
"Such clever chaps they are nowadays! Clever chaps!" Solomin
interrupted him by asking about the hopeful young man whom he had
mentioned and where be had discovered him. Golushkin laughed,
repeating once or twice, " Just wait, you will see! You will
see!" and began questioning him about his factory and its "rogue"
of an owner, to which Solomin replied in monosyllables. Then
Golushkin poured them all champagne, and bending over to
Nejdanov, whispered in his ear, "To the republic!" and drank off
his glass at a gulp. Nejdanov merely put his lips to the glass;
Solomin said that he did not take wine in the morning; and
Markelov angrily and resolutely drank his glass to the last drop.
He was torn by impatience. "Here we are coolly wasting our time
and not tackling the real matter in hand." He struck a blow on
the table, exclaiming severely, "Gentlemen!" and began to speak.
But at this moment there entered a sleek, consumptive-looking man
with a long neck, in a merchant's coat of nankeen, and arms
outstretched like a bird. He bowed to the whole company and,
approaching Golushkin, communicated something to him in a
"In a minute! In a minute!" the latter exclaimed, hurriedly.
"Gentlemen," he added, "I must ask you to excuse me. Vasia, my
clerk, has just told me of such a little piece of news "
(Golushkin expressed himself thus purposely by way of a joke)
"which absolutely necessitates my leaving you for awhile. But I
hope, gentlemen, that you will come and have dinner with me at
three o'clock. Then we shall be more free!"
Neither Solomin nor Nejdanov knew what to say, but Markelov
replied instantly, with that same severity in his face and voice:
"Of course we will come."
"Thanks very much," Golushkin said hastily, and bending down to
Markelov, added, "I will give a thousand roubles for the cause in
any case. . . . Don't be afraid of that!"
And so saying, he waved his right hand three times, with the
thumb and little finger sticking out. "You may rely on me!" he
He accompanied his guests to the door, shouting, "I shall expect
you at three!"
"Very well," Markelov was the only one to reply.
"Gentlemen!" Solomin exclaimed as soon as they found themselves
in the street, "I am going to take a cab and go straight back to
the factory. What can we do here until dinnertime? A sheer waste
of time, kicking our heels about, and I am afraid our worthy
merchant is like the well-known goat, neither good for milk nor
"The wool is there right enough," Markelov observed gloomily. "He
promised to give us some money. Don't you like him?
Unfortunately, we can't pick and choose. People do not run after
"I am not fastidious," Solomin said calmly. "I merely thought
that my presence would not do much good. However," he added,
glancing at Nejdanov with a smile, "I will stay if you like. Even
death is bearable in good company."
Markelov raised his head.
"Supposing we go into the public garden. The weather is lovely.
We can sit and look at the people."
They moved on; Markelov and Solomin in front, Nejdanov in the
STRANGE was the state of Nejdanov's soul. In the last two days so
many new sensations, new faces. . . . For the first time in his
life he had come in close contact with a girl whom in all
probability he loved. He was present at the beginning of the
movement for which in all probability he was to devote his whole
life.... Well? Was he glad? No.... Was he wavering? Was he
afraid? Confused? Oh, certainly not! Did he at any rate feel that
straining of the whole being, that longing to be among the first
ranks, which is always inspired by the first approach of the
battle? Again, No. Did he really believe in this cause? Did he
believe in his love? "Oh, cursed aesthetic! Sceptic!" his lips
murmured inaudibly. Why this weariness, this disinclination to
speak, unless it be shouting or raving? What is this inner voice
that he wishes to drown by his shrieking? But Mariana, this
delightful, faithful comrade, this pure, passionate soul, this
wonderful girl, does she not love him indeed? And these two
beings in front of him, this Markelov and Solomin, whom he as yet
knew but little, but to whom he was attracted so much, were they
not excellent types of the Russian people--of Russian life--and
was it not a happiness in itself to be closely connected with
them? Then why this vague, uneasy, gnawing sensation? Why this
sadness? If you're such a melancholy dreamer, his lips murmured
again, what sort of a revolutionist will you make? You ought to
write verses, languish, nurse your own insignificant thoughts and
sensations, amuse yourself with psychological fancies and
subtleties of all sorts, but don't at any rate mistake your
sickly, nervous irritability and caprices for the manly wrath,
the honest anger, of a man of convictions! 0h Hamlet! Hamlet!
Thou Prince of Denmark! How escape from the shadow of thy spirit?
How cease to imitate thee in everything, even to revelling
shamelessly in one's own self-depreciation? Just then, as the
echo of his own thoughts, he heard a familiar squeaky voice
exclaim, "Alexai! Alexai! Hamlet of Russia! Is it you I behold?"
and raising his eyes, to his great astonishment, saw Paklin
standing before him! Paklin, in Arcadian attire, consisting of a
summer suit of flesh-colour, without a tie, a large straw hat,
trimmed with pale blue ribbon, pushed to the back of his head,
and patent shoes!
He limped up to Nejdanov quickly and seized his hand.
"In the first place," he began, "although we are in the public
garden, we must for the sake of old times embrace and kiss.. .
One! two! three! Secondly, I must tell you, that had I not run
across you to-day you would most certainly have seen me tomorrow.
I know where you live and have come to this town expressly to see
you ... how and why I will tell you later. Thirdly, introduce me
to your friends. Tell me briefly who they are, and tell them who
I am, and then let us proceed to enjoy ourselves!
Nejdanov responded to his friend's request, introduced them to
each other, explaining who each was, where he lived, his
profession, and so on.
"Splendid!" Paklin exclaimed. "And now let me lead you all far
from the crowd, though there is not much of it here, certainly,
to a secluded seat, where I sit in hours of contemplation
enjoying nature. We will get a magnificent view of the governor's
house, two striped sentry boxes, three gendarmes, and not a
single dog! Don't be too much surprised at the volubility of my
remarks with which I am trying so hard to amuse you. According to
my friends, I am the representative of Russian wit . . . probably
that is why I am lame."
Paklin conducted the friends to the "secluded seat" and made them
sit down, after having first got rid of two beggar women
installed on it. Then the young people proceeded to "exchange
ideas," a rather dull occupation mostly, particularly at the
beginning, and a fruitless one generally.
"Stop a moment!" Paklin exclaimed, turning to Nejdanov, "I must
first tell you why I've come here. You know that I usually take
my sister away somewhere every summer, and when I heard that you
were coming to this neighbourhood I remembered there were two
wonderful creatures living in this very town, husband and wife,
distant relations of ours . . . on our mother's side. My father
came from the lower middle class and my mother was of noble
blood." (Nejdanov knew this, but Paklin mentioned the fact for
the benefit of the others.) "These people have for a long time
been asking us to come and see them. Why not? I thought. It's
just what I want. They're the kindest creatures and it will do my
sister no end of good. What could be better? And so here we are.
And really I can't tell you how jolly it is for us here! They're
such dears! Such original types! You must certainly get to know
them! What are you doing here? Where are you going to dine? And
why did you come here of all places?"
"We are going to dine with a certain Golushkin--a merchant here,"
"At what time? "
"At three o'clock."
"Are you going to see him on account. . . on account--"
Paklin looked at Solomin who was smiling and at Markelov who sat
enveloped in his gloom.
"Come, Aliosha, tell them--make some sort of Masonic sign . .
tell them not to be on ceremony with me . . . I am one of you--of
"Golushkin is also one of us," Nejdanov observed.
"Why, that's splendid! It is still a long way off from three
o'clock. Suppose we go and see my relatives!"
What an idea! How can...
"Don't be alarmed, I take all the responsibility upon myself.
Imagine, it's an oasis! Neither politics, literature, nor
anything modern ever penetrates there. The little house is such a
squat one, such as one rarely sees nowadays; the very smell in it
is antique; the people antique, the air antique. . .whatever you
touch is antique, Catherine II. powder, crinolines, eighteenth
century! And the host and hostess ... imagine a husband and wife
both very old, of the same age, without a wrinkle, chubby, round,
neat little people, just like two poll-parrots; and kind to
stupidity, to saintliness, there is no end to their kindness! I
am told that excessive kindness is often a sign of moral
weakness. . . . I cannot enter into these subtleties, but I know
that my dear old people are goodness itself. They never had any
children, the blessed ones! That is what they call them here in
the town; blessed ones! They both dress alike, in a sort of loose
striped gown, of such good material, also a rarity, not to be
found nowadays. They are exactly like one another, except that
one wears a mob-cap, the other a skull-cap, which is trimmed with
the same kind of frill, only without ribbons. If it were not for
these ribbons, you would not know one from the other, as the
husband is clean-shaven. One is called Fomishka, the other
Fimishka. I tell you one ought to pay to go and look at them!
They love one another in the most impossible way; and if you ever
go to see them, they welcome you with open arms. And so gracious;
they will show off all their little parlour tricks to amuse you.
But there is only one thing they can't stand, and that is
smoking, not because they are nonconformists, but because it
doesn't agree with them.... Of course, nobody smoked in their
time. However, to make up for that, they don't keep canaries--
this bird was also very little known in their day. I'm sure
you'll agree that that's a comfort at any rate! Well? Will you
"I really don't know," Nejdanov began.
"Wait a moment! I forgot to tell you; their voices, too, are
exactly alike; close your eyes and you can hardly tell which is
speaking. Fomishka, perhaps, speaks just a little more
expressively. You are about to enter on a great undertaking, my
dear friends; may be on a terrible conflict. . . Why not, before
plunging into the stormy deep, take a dip in to--"
"Stagnant water," Markelov put in.
"Stagnant if you like, but not putrid. There are ponds in the
steppes which never get putrid, although there is no stream
flowing through them, because they have springs at the bottom. My
old people have their springs flowing in the depths of their
hearts, as pure and as fresh as can be. The question is this: do
you want to see how people lived a hundred or a hundred and fifty
years ago? If so, then make haste and follow me. Or soon the day,
the hour will come--it's bound to be the same hour for them both-
-when my little parrots will be thrown off their little perches--
and everything antique will end with them. The squat little house
will tumble down and the place where it stood will be overgrown
with that which, according to my grandmother, always grows over
the spot where man's handiwork has been--that is, nettles,
burdock, thistles, wormwood, and dock leaves. The very street
will cease to be--other people will come and never will they see
anything like it again, never, through all the long ages!"
"Well," Nejdanov exclaimed, "let us go at once!"
"With the greatest of pleasure," Solomin added. "That sort of
thing is not in my line, still it will be interesting, and if Mr.
Paklin really thinks that we shall not be putting anyone out by
our visit . . . then . . . why not--"
"You may be at ease on that score!" Paklin exclaimed in his turn.
"They will be delighted to see you--and nothing more. You need
not be on ceremony. I told you--they were blessed ones. We will
get them to sing to us! Will you come too, Mr. Markelov?"
Markelov shrugged his shoulders impatiently.
"You can hardly leave me here alone! We may as well go, I
suppose." The young people rose from the seat.
"What a forbidding individual that is you have with you," Paklin
whispered to Nejdanov, indicating Markelov. "The very image of
John the Baptist eating locusts ... only locusts, without the
honey! But the other is splendid!" he added, with a nod of the
head in Solomin's direction. "What a delightful smile he has!
I've noticed that people smile like that only when they are far
above others, but without knowing it themselves."
"Are there really such people? " Nejdanov asked.
"They are scarce, but there are," Paklin replied.
FOMISHKA and Fimishka, otherwise Foma Lavrentievitch and Efimia
Pavlovna Subotchev, belonged to one of the oldest and purest
branches of the Russian nobility, and were considered to be the
oldest inhabitants in the town of S. They married when very young
and settled, a long time ago, in the little wooden ancestral
house at the very end of the town. Time seemed to have stood
still for them, and nothing "modern" ever crossed the boundaries
of their "oasis." Their means were not great, but their peasants
supplied them several times a year with all the live stock and
provisions they needed, just as in the days of serfdom, and their
bailiff appeared once a year with the rents and a couple of
woodcocks, supposed to have been shot in the master's forests, of
which, in reality, not a trace remained. They regaled him with
tea at the drawing-room door, made him a present of a sheep-skin
cap, a pair of green leather mittens, and sent him away with a
The Subotchevs' house was filled with domestics and menials just
as in days gone by. The old man-servant Kalliopitch, clad in a
jacket of extraordinarily stout cloth with a stand-up collar and
small steel buttons, announced, in a sing-song voice, "Dinner is
on the table," and stood dozing behind his mistress's chair as in
days of old. The sideboard was under his charge, and so were all
the groceries and pickles. To the question, had he not heard of
the emancipation, he invariably replied: "How can one take notice
of every idle piece of gossip? To be sure the Turks were
emancipated, but such a dreadful thing had not happened to him,
thank the Lord!" A girl, Pufka, was kept in the house for
entertainment, and the old nurse Vassilievna used to come in
during dinner with a dark kerchief on her head, and would relate
all the news in her deep voice--about Napoleon, about the war of
1812, about Antichrist and white niggers--or else, her chin
propped on her hand, with a most woeful expression on her face,
she would tell of a dream she had had, explaining what it meant,
or perhaps how she had last read her fortune at cards. The
Subotchevs' house was different from all other houses in the
town. It was built entirely of oak, with perfectly square
windows, the double casements for winter use were never removed
all the year round. It contained numerous little ante-rooms,
garrets, closets, and box-rooms, little landings with
balustrades, little statues on carved wooden pillars, and all
kinds of back passages and sculleries. There was a hedge right in
front and a garden at the back, in which there was a perfect nest
of out-buildings: store rooms and cold-store rooms, barns,
cellars and ice-cellars; not that there were many goods stored in
them--some of them, in fact, were in an extremely delapidated
condition--but they had been there in olden days and were
consequently allowed to remain.
The Subotchevs had only two ancient shaggy saddle horses, one of
which, called the Immovable, had turned grey from old age. They
were harnessed several times a month to an extraordinary
carriage, known to the whole town, which bore a faint resemblance
to a terrestrial globe with a quarter of it cut away in front,
and was upholstered inside with some foreign, yellowish stuff,
covered with a pattern of huge dots, looking for all the world
like warts. The last yard of this stuff must have been woven in
Utrecht or Lyons in the time of the Empress Elisabeth! The
Subotchev's coachman, too, was old--an ancient, ancient old man
with a constant smell of tar and cart-oil about him. His beard
began just below the eyes, while the eyebrows fell in little
cascades to meet it. He was called Perfishka, and was extremely
slow in his movements. It took him at least five minutes to take
a pinch of snuff, two minutes to fasten the whip in his girdle,
and two whole hours to harness the Immovable alone. If when out
driving in their carriage the Subotchevs were ever compelled to
go the least bit up or down hill, they would become quite
terrified, would cling to the straps, and both cry aloud, "Oh
Lord.. . give .. the horses . . . the horses . . . the strength
of Samson . . . and make us . . . as light as a feather!"
The Subotchevs were regarded by everyone in the town as very
eccentric, almost mad, and indeed they too felt that they were
not in keeping with modern times. This, however, did not grieve
them very much, and they quietly continued to follow the manner
of life in which they had been born and bred and married. One
custom of that time, however, did not cling to them; from their
earliest childhood they had never punished any of their servants.
If one of them turned out to be a thief or a drunkard, then they
bore with him for a long time, as one bears with bad weather, and
when their patience was quite exhausted they would get rid of him
by passing him on to someone else. "Let others bear with him a
little," they would say. But any such misfortune rarely happened
to them, so rarely that it became an epoch in their lives. They
would say, for instance, "Oh, it was long ago; it happened when
we had that impudent Aldoshka with us," or "When grandfather's
fur cap with the fox's tail was stolen!" Such caps were still to
be found at the Subotchevs'. Another distinguishing
characteristic of the old world was missing in them; neither
Fomishka nor Fimishka were very religious. Fomishka was even a
follower of Voltaire, while Fimishka had a mortal dread of the
clergy and believed them to be possessed of the evil eye. "As
soon as a priest comes into my house the cream turns sour!" she
used to say. They rarely went to church and fasted in the
Catholic fashion, that is, ate eggs, butter, and milk. This was
known in the town and did not, of course, add to their
reputation. But their kindness conquered everybody; and although
the Subotchevs were laughed at and called cranks and blessed
ones, still they were respected by everyone. No one cared to
visit them, however, but they were little concerned about this,
too. They were never dull when in each other's company, were
never apart, and never desired any other society.
Neither Fomishka nor Fimishka had ever been ill, and if one or
the other ever felt the slightest indisposition they would both
drink some concoction made of lime-flower, rub warm oil on their
stomachs, or drop hot candle grease on the soles of their feet
and the little ailment would soon pass over. They spent their
days exactly alike. They got up late, drank chocolate in tiny
cups shaped like small mortars (tea, they declared, came into
fashion after their time), and sat opposite one another chatting
(they were never at a loss for a subject of conversation!), or
read out of "Pleasant Recreations", "The World's Mirror", or
"Amides", or turned over the leaves of an old album, bound in red
morocco, with gilt edges. This album had once belonged, as the
inscription showed, to a certain Madame Barbe de Kabyline. How
and why it had come into their possession they did not know. It
contained several French and a great many Russian poems and prose
extracts, of which the following reflections on Cicero form a
fair example--"The disposition in which Cicero undertook the
office of quaestor may be gathered from the following: Calling
upon the gods to testify to the purity of his sentiments in every
rank with which he had hitherto been honoured, he considered
himself bound by the most sacred bonds to the fulfilment of this
one, and denied himself the indulgence, not only of such
pleasures as are forbidden by law, but refrained even from such
light amusements which are considered indispensable by all."
Below was written, "Composed in Siberia in hunger and cold." An
equally good specimen was a poem entitled" Tirsis," which ran
The universe is steeped in calm,
The delightful sparkling dew
Soothing nature like a balm
Gives to her, her life anew.
Tersis alone with aching heart,
Is torn by sadness and dismay,
When dear Aneta doth depart
What is there to make him gay?
And the impromptu composition of a certain captain who had
visited the place in the year 1790, dated May 6th--
N'er shall I forget thee,
Village that to love I've grown,
But I ever shall regret thee
And the hours so quickly flown,
Hours which I was honoured in
Spending with your owner's kin,
The five dearest days of my life will hold
Passed amongst most worthy people,
Merry ladies, young and old,
And other interesting people.
On the last page of the album, instead of verses, there were
various recipes for remedies against stomach troubles, spasms,
and worms. The Subotchevs dined exactly at twelve o'clock and
only ate old-fashioned dishes: curd fritters, pickled cabbage,
soups, fruit jellies, minced chicken with saffron, stews,
custards, and honey. They took an after-dinner nap for an hour,
not longer, and on waking up would sit opposite one another
again, drinking bilberry wine or an effervescent drink called
"forty-minds," which nearly always squirted out of the bottle,
affording them great amusement, much to the disgust of
Kalliopitch, who had to wipe up the mess afterwards. He grumbled
at the cook and housekeeper as if they had invented this dreadful
drink on purpose. "What pleasure does it give one?" he asked; "it
only spoils the furniture." Then the old people again read
something, or got the dwarf Pufka to entertain them, or sang old-
fashioned duets. Their voices were exactly alike, rather high-
pitched, not very strong or steady, and somewhat husky,
especially after their nap, but not without a certain amount of
charm. Or, if need be, they played at cards, always the same old
games-- cribbage, ecarte, or double-dummy whist. Then the samovar
made its appearance. The only concession they made to the spirit
of the age was to drink tea in the evening, though they always
considered it an indulgence, and were convinced that the nation
was deteriorating, owing to the use of this "Chinese herb." On
the whole, they refrained from criticising modern times or from
exulting their own. They had lived like this all their lives, but
that others might live in a different and even better way they
were quite willing to admit, so long as they were not compelled
to conform to it. At seven o'clock Kalliopitch produced the
inevitable supper of cold hash, and at nine the high striped
feather-bed received their rotund little bodies in its soft
embrace, and a calm, untroubled sleep soon descended upon their
eyelids. Everything in the little house became hushed; the little
lamp before the icon glowed and glimmered, the funny innocent
little pair slept the sound sleep of the just, amidst the
fragrant scent of musk and the chirping of the cricket.
To these two odd little people, or poll-parrots as Paklin called
them, who were taking care of his sister, he now conducted his
Paklin's sister was a clever girl with a fairly attractive face.
She had wonderfully beautiful eyes, but her unfortunate deformity
had completely broken her spirit, deprived her of self-
confidence, joyousness, made her mistrustful and even spiteful.
She had been given the unfortunate name of Snandulia, and to
Paklin's request that she should be re-christened Sophia, she
replied that it was just as it should be; a hunchback ought to be
called Snandulia; so she stuck to her strange name. She was an
excellent musician and played the piano very well. "Thanks to my
long fingers," she would say, not without a touch of bitterness.
"Hunchbacks always have fingers like that."
The visitors came upon Fomishka and Fimishka at the very minute
when they had awakened from their afternoon nap and were drinking
"We are going into the eighteenth century!" Paklin exclaimed as
they crossed the threshold of the Subotchevs' house.
And really they were confronted by the eighteenth century in the
very hall, with its low bluish screens, ornamented with black
silhouettes cut out of paper, of powdered ladies and gentlemen.
Silhouettes, first introduced by Lavater, were much in vogue in
the eighties of last century.
The sudden appearance of such a large number of guests--four all
at once--produced quite a sensation in the usually quiet house. A
hurried sound of feet, both shod and unshod, was heard, several
women thrust their heads through the door and instantly drew them
back again, someone was pushed, another groaned, a third giggled,
someone whispered excitedly, "Be quiet, do!"
At last Kalliopitch made his appearance in his old coat, and
opening the drawing-room door announced in a loud voice:
"Sila Samsonitch with some other gentlemen, sir!"
The Subotchevs were less disturbed than their servants, although
the eruption of four full-sized men into their drawing-room,
spacious though it was, did in fact surprise them somewhat. But
Paklin soon reassured them, introducing Nejdanov, Solomin, and
Markelov in turn, as good quiet people, not "governmental."
Fomishka and Fimishka had a horror of governmental, that is to
say, official people.
Snandulia, who appeared at her brother's request, was far more
disturbed and agitated than the old couple.
They asked, both together and in exactly the same words, if their
guests would be pleased to partake of some tea, chocolate, or an
effervescent drink with jam, but learning that they did not
require anything, having just lunched with the merchant Golushkin
and that they were returning there to dinner, they ceased
pressing them, and, folding their arms in exactly the same manner
across their stomachs, they entered into conversation. It was a
little slow at first, but soon grew livelier.
Paklin amused them very much by relating the well known Gogol
anecdote about a superintendent of police, who managed to push
his way into a church already so packed with people that a pin
could scarcely drop, and about a pie which turned out to be no
other than this same superintendent himself. The old people
laughed till the tears rolled down their cheeks. They had exactly
the same shrill laugh and both went red in the face from the
effort. Paklin noticed that people of the Subotchev type usually
went into fits of laughter over quotations from Gogol, but as his
object at the present moment was not so much in amusing them as
in showing them off to his friends, he changed his tactics and
soon managed to put them in an excellent humour.
Fomishka produced a very ancient carved wooden snuff-box and
showed it to the visitors with great pride. At one time one could
have discerned about thirty-six little human figures in various
attitudes carved on its lid, but they were so erased as to be
scarcely visible now. Fomishka, however, still saw them and could
even count them. He would point to one and say, " Just look! this
one is staring out of the window.. . . He has thrust his head
out!" but the place indicated by his fat little finger with the
nail raised was just as smooth as the rest of the box. He then
turned their attention to an oil painting hanging on the wall
just above his head. It represented a hunter in profile,
galloping at full speed on a bay horse, also in profile, over a
snow plain. The hunter was clad in a tall white sheepskin hat
with a pale blue point, a tunic of camel's hair edged with
velvet, and a girdle wrought in gold. A glove embroidered in silk
was gracefully tucked into the girdle, and a dagger chased in
black and silver hung at the side. In one hand the plump,
youthful hunter carried an enormous horn, ornamented with red
tassels, and the reins and whip in the other. The horse's four
legs were all suspended in the air, and on every one of them the
artist had carefully painted a horseshoe and even indicated the
nails. "Look," Fomishka observed, pointing with the same fat
little finger to four semi-circular spots on the white ground,
close to the horse's legs, "he has even put the snow prints in!"
Why there were only four of these prints and not any to be seen
further back, on this point Fomishka was silent.
"This was I!" he added after a pause, with a modest smile.
"Really! " Nejdanov exclaimed, "were you ever a hunting man?"
"Yes. I was for a time. Once the horse threw me at full gallop
and I injured my kurpey. Fimishka got frightened and forbade me;
so I have given it up since then."
"What did you injure?" Nejdanov asked.
"My kurpey," Fomishka repeated, lowering his voice.
The visitors looked at one another. No one knew what kurpey
meant; at least, Markelov knew that the tassel on a Cossack or
Circassian cap was called a kurpey, but then how could Fomishka
have injured that? But no one dared to question him further.
"Well, now that you have shown off," Fimishka remarked suddenly,
"I will show off too." And going up to a small bonheur du jour,
as they used to call an old-fashioned bureau, on tiny, crooked
legs, with a round lid which fitted into the back of it somewhere
when opened, she took out a miniature in water colour, in an oval
bronze frame, of a perfectly naked little child of four years old
with a quiver over her shoulders fastened across the chest with
pale blue ribbons, trying the points of the arrows with the tip
of her little finger. The child was all smiles and curls and had
a slight squint.
"And that was I," she said.
"Yes, as a child. When my father was alive a Frenchman used to
come and see him, such a nice Frenchman too! He painted that for
my father's birthday. Such a nice man! He used to come and see us
often. He would come in, make such a pretty courtesy and kiss
your hand, and when going away would kiss the tips of his own
fingers so prettily, and bow to the right, to the left, backwards
and forwards! He was such a nice Frenchman!"
The guests praised his work; Paklin even declared that he saw a
Here Fomishka began to express his views on the modern French,
saying that they had become very wicked nowadays!
"What makes you think so, Foma Lavrentievitch?"
"Look at the awful names they give themselves nowadays!"
"What, for instance?"
"Nogent Saint Lorraine, for instance! A regular brigand's name!"
Fomishka asked incidentally who reigned in Paris now, and when
told that it was Napoleon, was surprised and pained at the
"How? . . . Such an old man--" he began and stopped, looking
round in confusion.
Fomishka had but a poor knowledge of French, and read Voltaire in
translation; he always kept a translated manuscript of "Candide"
in the bible box at the head of his bed. He used to come out with
expressions like: "This, my dear, is Jausse parquet," meaning
suspicious, untrue. He was very much laughed at for this, until a
certain learned Frenchman told him that it was an old
parliamentary expression employed in his country until the year
As the conversation turned upon France and the French, Fimishka
resolved to ask something that had been very much on her mind.
She first thought of addressing herself to Markelov, but he
looked too forbidding, so she turned to Solomin, but no! He
seemed to her such a plain sort of person, not likely to know
French at all, so she turned to Nejdanov.
"I should like to ask you something, if I may," she began;
"excuse me, my kinsman Sila Samsonitch makes fun of me and my
What is it? "
"Supposing one wants to ask in French, 'What is it?' must one say
"And can one also say 'Kese-kese-la?'
"And simply 'Kese-la?'"
"Yes, that's right."
"And does it mean the same thing?"
"Yes, it does."
Fimishka thought awhile, then threw up her arms.
"Well, Silushka," she exclaimed; "I am wrong and you are right.
But these Frenchmen . . . How smart they are!"
Paklin began begging the old people to sing them some ballad.
They were both surprised and amused at the idea, but consented
readily on condition that Snandulia accompanied them on the
harpsichord. In a corner of the room there stood a little spinet,
which not one of them had noticed before. Snandulia sat down to
it and struck several chords. Nejdanov had never heard such sour,
toneless, tingling, jangling notes, but the old people promptly
struck up the ballad, "Was it to Mourn."
"In love God gave a heart
Of burning passion to inspire
That loving heart with warm desire."
"But there is agony in bliss"
Fimishka chimed in.
"And passion free from pain there is,
Ah! where, where? tell me, tell me this,"
"Ah! where, where? Tell me, tell me this,"
Fomisha put in.
"Ah! where, where? tell me, tell me this,"
"Nowhere in all the world, nowhere,
Love bringeth grief and black despair,"
they sang together,
"And that, love's gift is everywhere,"
Fomisha sang out alone.
"Bravo!" Paklin exclaimed. "We have had the first verse, now
please sing us the second."
"With the greatest of pleasure," Fomishka said, "but what about
the trill, Snandulia Samsonovna? After my verse there must be a
"Very well, I will play your trill," Snandulia replied. Fomishka
"Has ever lover loved true
And kept his heart from grief and rue?
He loveth but to weep anew"
and then Fimishka-
"Yea--hearts that love at last are riven
As ships that hopelessly have striven
For life. To what end were they given?"
"To what end were they given?"
Fomishka warbled out and waited for Snandulia to play the trill.
"To what end were they given?"
he repeated, and then they struck up together-
"Then take, 0h God, the heart away,
Away, away, take hearts away,
Away, away, away today."
"Bravo! Bravo!" the company exclaimed, all with exception of
"I wonder they don't feel like clowns?" Nejdanov thought.
"Perhaps they do, who knows? They no doubt think there is no harm
in it and may be even amusing to some people. If one looks at it
in that light, they are quite right! A thousand times right!"
Under the influence of these reflections he began paying
compliments to the host and hostess, which they acknowledged with
a courtesy, performed while sitting in their chairs. At this
moment Pufka the dwarf and Nurse Vassilievna made their
appearance from the adjoining room (a bedroom or perhaps the
maids' room) from whence a great bustle and whispering had been
going on for some time. Pufka began squealing and making hideous
grimaces, while the nurse first quietened her, then egged her on.
Solomin's habitual smile became even broader, while Markelov, who
had been for some time showing signs of impatience, suddenly
turned to Fomishka:
"I did not expect that you," he began in his severe manner, "with
your enlightened mind--I've heard that you are a follower of
Voltaire--could be amused with what ought to be an object for
compassion--with deformity!" Here he remembered Paklin's sister
and could have bitten his tongue off.
Fomishka went red in the face and muttered: "You see it is not my
fault . . . she herself--"
Pufka simply flew at Markelov.
"How dare you insult our masters?" she screamed out in her
lisping voice. "What is it to you that they took me in, brought
me up, and gave me meat and drink? Can't you bear to see
another's good fortune, eh? Who asked you to come here? You
fusty, musty, black-faced villain with a moustache like a
beetle's!" Here Pufka indicated with her thick short fingers what
his moustache was like; while Nurse Vassilievna's toothless mouth
was convulsed with laughter, re-echoed in the adjoining room.
"I am not in a position to judge you," Markelov went on. "To
protect the homeless and deformed is a very praiseworthy work,
but I must say that to live in ease and luxury, even though
without injury to others, not lifting a finger to help a fellow-
creature, does not require a great deal of goodness. I, for one,
do not attach much importance to that sort of virtue!"
Here Pufka gave forth a deafening howl. She did not understand a
word of what Markelov had said, but she felt that the "black one"
was scolding, and how dared he! Vassilievna also muttered
something, while Fomishka folded his hands across his breast and
turned to his wife. "Fimishka, my darling," he began, almost in
tears; "do you hear what the gentleman is saying? We are both
wicked sinners, Pharisees. . . . We are living on the fat of the
land, oh! oh! oh! We ought to be turned out into the street . . .
with a broom in our hands to work for our living! Oh! oh!"
At these mournful words Pufka howled louder than ever, while
Fimishka screwed up her eyes, opened her lips, drew in a deep
breath, ready to retaliate, to speak.
God knows how it would have ended had not Paklin intervened.
"What is the matter?" he began, gesticulating with his hands and
laughing loudly. "I wonder you are not ashamed of yourselves! Mr.
Markelov only meant it as a joke. He has such a solemn face that
it sounded a little severe and you took him seriously! Calm
yourself! Efimia Pavlovna, darling, we are just going, won't you
tell us our fortunes at cards? You are such a good hand at it.
Snandulia, do get the cards, please!
Fimishka glanced at her husband, who seemed completely reassured,
so she too quieted down.
"I have quite forgotten how to tell fortunes, my dear. It is such
a long time since I held the cards in my hand."
But quite of her own accord she took an extraordinary, ancient
pack of cards out of Snandalia's hand.
"Whose fortune shall I tell? "
"Why everybody's, of course!" Paklin exclaimed. "What a dear old
thing ......... You can do what you like with her," he thought.
"Tell us all our fortunes, granny dear," he said aloud. "Tell us
our fates, our characters, our futures, everything!"
She began shuffling the cards, but threw them down suddenly.
"I don't need cards!" she exclaimed. "I know all your characters
without that, and as the character, so is the fate. This one,"
she said, pointing to Solomin, "is a cool, steady sort of man.
That one," she said, pointing threateningly at Markelov, "is a
fiery, disastrous man." (Pufka put her tongue out at him.) "And
as for you," she looked at Paklin, "there is no need to tell you-
-you know quite well that you're nothing but a giddy goose! And
She pointed to Nejdanov, but hesitated.
"Well?" he asked; "do please tell me what sort of a man I am."
"What sort of a man are you," Fimishka repeated slowly. You are
pitiable--that is all!"
"Pitiable! But why?
"Just so. I pity you--that is all I can say."
"But why do you pity me?"
"Because my eyes tell me so. Do you think I am a fool? I am
cleverer than you, in spite of your red hair. I pity you--that is
There was a brief silence--they all looked at one another, but
did not utter a word.
"Well, goodbye, dear friends," Paklin exclaimed. "We must have
bored you to death with our long visit. It is time for these
gentlemen to be going, and I am going with them. Goodbye, thanks
for your kindness."
"Goodbye, goodbye, come again. Don't be on ceremony," Fomishka
and Fimishka exclaimed together. Then Fomishka suddenly drawled
"Many, many, many years of life. Many--"
"Many, many," Kalliopitch chimed in quite unexpectedly, when
opening the door for the young men to pass out.
The whole four suddenly found themselves in the street before the
squat little house, while Pufka's voice was heard from within:
"You fools!" she cried. "You fools!"
Paklin laughed aloud, but no one responded. Markelov looked at
each in turn, as though he expected to hear some expression of
indignation. Solomin alone smiled his habitual smile.
"WELL," Paklin was the first to begin, "we have been to the
eighteenth century, now let us fly to the twentieth! Golushkin is
such a go-ahead man that one can hardly count him as belonging to
"Why, do you know him?"
"What a question! Did you know my poll-parrots?"
"No, but you introduced us."
"Well, then, introduce me. I don't suppose you have any secrets
to talk over, and Golushkin is a hospitable man. You will see; he
will be delighted to see a new face. We are not very formal here
"Yes," Markelov muttered, "I have certainly noticed an absence of
formality about the people here."
Paklin shook his head.
"I suppose that was a hit for me. . . I can't help it. I deserve
it, no doubt. But may I suggest, my new friend, that you throw
off those sad, oppressive thoughts, no doubt due to your bilious
temperament . . . and chiefly--"
"And you sir, my new friend," Markelov interrupted him angrily,
"allow me to tell you, by way of a warning, that I have never in
my life been given to joking, least of all today! And what do you
know about my temperament, I should like to know? It strikes me
that it is not so very long since we first set eyes on one
"There, there, don't get angry and don't swear. I believe you
without that," Paklin exclaimed. "0h you," he said, turning to
Solomin, "you, whom the wise Fimishka called a cool sort of man,
and there certainly is something restful about you--do you think
I had the slightest intention of saying anything unpleasant to
anyone or of joking out of place? I only suggested going with you
to Golushkin's. Besides, I'm such a harmless person; it's not my
fault that Mr. Markelov has a bilious complexion."
Solomin first shrugged one shoulder, then the other. It was a
habit of his when he did not quite know what to say.
"I don't think," he said at last, "that you could offend anyone,
Mr. Paklin, or that you wished to--and why should you not come
with us to Mr. Golushkin? We shall, no doubt, spend our time
there just as pleasantly as we did at your kinsman's--and just as
profitably most likely."
Paklin threatened him with his finger.
"Oh! I see, you can be wicked too if you like! However, you are
also coming to Golushkin's, are you not?"
"Of course I am. I have wasted the day as it is."
"Well then, en avant, marchons! To the twentieth century! To the
twentieth century! Nejdanov, you are an advanced man, lead the
"Very well, come along; only don't keep on repeating the same
jokes lest we should think you are running short."
"I have still enough left for you, my dear friends," Paklin said
gaily and went on ahead, not by leaping, but by limping, as he
"What an amusing man!" Solomin remarked as he was walking along
arm-in-arm with Nejdanov; "if we should ever be sent to Siberia,
which Heaven forbid, there will be someone to entertain us at any
Markelov walked in silence behind the others.
Meanwhile great preparations were going on at Golushkin's to
produce a "chic" dinner. (Golushkin, as a man of the highest
European culture, kept a French cook, who had formerly been
dismissed from a club for dirtiness.) A nasty, greasy fish soup
was prepared, various pates chauds and fricasses and, most
important of all, several bottles of champagne had been procured
and put into ice.
The host met the young people with his characteristic
awkwardness, bustle, and much giggling. He was delighted to see
Paklin as the latter had predicted and asked of him--
"Is he one of us? Of course he is! I need not have asked," he
said, without waiting for a reply. He began telling them how he
had just come from that "old fogey" the governor, and how the
latter worried him to death about some sort of charity
institution. It was difficult to say what satisfied Golushkin
most, the fact that he was received at the governor's, or that he
was able to abuse that worth before these advanced, young men.
Then he introduced them to the promised proselyte, who turned out
to be no other than the sleek consumptive individual with the
long neck whom they had seen in the morning, Vasia, Golushkin's
clerk. "He hasn't much to say," Golushkin declared, "but is
devoted heart and soul to our cause." To this Vasia bowed,
blushed, blinked his eyes, and grinned in such a manner that it
was impossible to say whether he was merely a vulgar fool or an
out-and-out knave and blackguard.
"Well, gentlemen, let us go to dinner," Golushkin exclaimed.
They partook of various kinds of salt fish to give them an
appetite and sat down to the table. Directly after the soup,
Golushkin ordered the champagne to be brought up, which came out
in frozen little lumps as he poured it into the glasses. "For our
. . . our enterprise!" Golushkin exclaimed, winking at the
servant, as much as to say, "One must be careful in the presence
of strangers." The proselyte Vasia continued silent, and though
he sat on the very edge of his chair and conducted himself
generally with a servility quite out of keeping with the
convictions to which, according to his master, he was devoted
body and soul, yet gulped down the wine with an amazing
greediness. The others made up for his silence, however, that is,
Golushkin and Paklin, especially Paklin. Nejdanov was inwardly
annoyed, Markelov angry and indignant, just as indignant, though
in a different way, as he had been at the Subotchevs'; Solomin
Paklin was in high spirits and delighted Golushkin with his
sharp, ready wit. The latter had not the slightest suspicion that
the "little cripple" every now and again whispered to Nejdanov,
who happened to be sitting beside him, the most unflattering
remarks at his, Golushkin's, expense. He thought him "a simple
sort of fellow" who might be patronised; that was probably why he
liked him. Had Paklin been sitting next him he would no doubt
have poked him in the ribs or slapped him on the shoulder, but as
it was, he merely contented himself by nodding and winking in his
direction. Between him and Nejdanov sat Markelov, like a dark
cloud, and then Solomin. Golushkin went into convulsions at every
word Paklin said, laughed on trust in advance, holding his sides
and showing his bluish gums. Paklin soon saw what was expected of
him and began abusing everything (it being an easy thing for
him), everything and everybody; conservatives, liberals,
officials, lawyers, administrators, landlords, county councils
and district councils, Moscow and St. Petersburg. "Yes, yes,
yes," Golushkin put in, "that's just how it is! For instance, our
mayor here is a perfect ass! A hopeless blockhead! I tell him one
thing after another, but he doesn't understand a single word;
just like our governor!"
"Is your governor a fool then?" Paklin asked.
"I told you he was an ass!"
"By the way, does he speak in a hoarse voice or through his
"What do you mean?" Golushkin asked somewhat bewildered.
"Why, don't you know? In Russia all our important civilians speak
in a hoarse voice and our great army men speak through the nose.
Only our very highest dignitaries do both at the same time."
Golushkin roared with laughter till the tears rolled down his
"Yes, yes," he spluttered, "if he talks through his nose. . then
he's an army man!"
"You idiot!" Paklin thought to himself.
"Everything is rotten in this country, wherever you may turn!" he
bawled out after a pause. "Everything is rotten, everything!
"My dear Kapiton Andraitch," Paklin began suggestively (he had
just asked Nejdanov in an undertone, "Why does he throw his arms
about as if his coat were too tight for him?"), "my dear Kapiton
Andraitch, believe me, half measures are of no use!"
"Who talks of half measures!" Golushkin shouted furiously (he had
suddenly ceased laughing), "there's only one thing to be done; it
must all be pulled up by the roots: Vasia, drink!"
"I am drinking, Kapiton Andraitch," the clerk observed, emptying
a glass down his throat.
Golushkin followed his suit.
"I wonder he doesn't burst!" Paklin whispered to Nejdanov.
"He's used to it!" the latter replied.
But the clerk was not the only one who drank. Little by little
the wine affected them all. Nejdanov, Markelov, and even Solomin
began taking part in the conversation.
At first disdainfully, as if annoyed with himself for doing so,
for not keeping up his character, Nejdanov began to hold forth.
He maintained that the time had now come to leave off playing
with words; that the time had con e for "action," that they were
now on sure ground! And then, quite unconscious of the fact that
he was contradicting himself, he began to demand of them to show
him what real existing elements they had to rely on, saying that
as far as he could see society was utterly unsympathetic towards
them, and the people were as ignorant as could be. Nobody made
any objection to what he said, not because there was nothing to
object to, but because everyone was talking on his own account.
Markelov hammered out obstinately in his hoarse, angry,
monotonous voice ("just as if he were chopping cabbage," Paklin
remarked). Precisely what he was talking about no one could make
out, but the word "artillery" could be heard in a momentary hush.
He was no doubt referring to the defects he had discovered in its
organisation. Germans and adjutants were also brought in. Solomin
remarked that there were two ways of waiting, waiting and doing
nothing and waiting while pushing things ahead at the same time.
"We don't want moderates," Markelov said angrily.
"The moderates have so far been working among the upper classes,"
Solomin remarked, "and we must go for the lower."
"We don't want it! damnation! We don't want it!" Golushkin bawled
out furiously. "We must do everything with one blow! With one
blow, I say!"
"What is the use of extreme measures? It's like jumping out of
"And I'll jump too, if necessary!" Golushkin shouted. "I'll jump!
and so will Vasia! I've only to tell him and he'll jump! eh,
Vasia? You'll jump, eh?"
The clerk finished his glass of champagne.
"Where you go, Kapiton Andraitch, there I follow. I shouldn't
dare do otherwise."
"You had better not, or I'll make mincemeat of you!"
Soon a perfect babel followed.
Like the first flakes of snow whirling round and round in the
mild autumn air, so words began flying in all directions in
Golushkin's hot, stuffy dining-room; all kinds of words, rolling
and tumbling over one another: progress, government, literature,
the taxation question, the church question, the woman question;
the law-court question, realism, nihilism, communism,
international, clerical, liberal, capital, administration,
organisation, association, and even crystallisation! It was just
what Golushkin wanted; this uproar seemed to him the real thing.
He was triumphant. "Look at us! out of the way or I'll knock you
on the head! Kapiton Golushkin is coming!" At last the clerk
Vasia became so tipsy that he began to giggle and talk to his
plate. All at once he jumped up shouting wildly, "What sort of
devil is this PROgymnasium?"
Golushkin sprang up too, and throwing back his hot, flushed face,
on which an expression of vulgar self-satisfaction was curiously
mingled with a feeling of terror, a secret misgiving, he bawled
out, "I'll sacrifice another thousand! Get it for me, Vasia!" To
which Vasia replied, "All right!"
Just then Paklin, pale and perspiring (he had been drinking no
less than the clerk during the last quarter of an hour), jumped
up from his seat and, waving both his arms above his head,
shouted brokenly, "Sacrifice! Sacrifice! What pollution of such a
holy word! Sacrifice! No one dares live up to thee, no one can
fulfill thy commands, certainly not one of us here--and this
fool, this miserable money-bag opens its belly, lets forth a few
of its miserable roubles, and shouts 'Sacrifice!' And wants to be
thanked, expects a wreath of laurels, the mean scoundrel!
Golushkin either did not hear or did not understand what Paklin
was saying, or perhaps took it only as a joke, because he shouted
again, "Yes, a thousand roubles! Kapiton Golushkin keeps his
word!" And so saying he thrust his hand into a side pocket. "Here
is the money, take it! Tear it to pieces! Remember Kapiton!" When
under excitement Golushkin invariably talked of himself in the
third person, as children often do. Nejdanov picked up the notes
which Golushkin had flung on the table covered with wine stains.
Since there was nothing more to wait for, and the hour was
getting late, they rose, took their hats, and departed.
They all felt giddy as soon as they got out into the fresh air,
"Well, where are we going to now?" he asked with an effort.
"I don't know were you are going, but I'm going home," Solomin
"Back to the factory? " Yes."
"Now, at night, and on foot?"
"Why not? I don't think there are any wolves or robbers here--
and my legs are quite strong enough to carry me. It's cooler
walking at night."
"But hang it all, it's four miles!
"I wouldn't mind if it were more. Good-bye, gentlemen." Solomin
buttoned his coat, pulled his cap over his forehead, lighted a
cigar, and walked down the street with long strides.
"And where are you going to?" Paklin asked, turning to Nejdanov.
"I'm going home with him." He pointed to Markelov, who was
standing motionless, his hands crossed on his breast. "We have
horses and a conveyance."
"Very well. . . . And I'm going to Fomishka's and Fimishka's
oasis. And do you know what I should like to say? There's twaddle
here and twaddle there, only that twaddle, the twaddle of the
eighteenth century, is nearer to the Russian character than the
twaddle of the twentieth century. Goodbye, gentlemen. I'm drunk,
so don't be offended at what I say, only a better woman than my
sister Snandulia ... is not to be found on God's earth, although
she is a hunchback and called Snandulia. That's how things are
arranged in this world! She ought to have such a name. Do you
know who Saint Snandulia was? She was a virtuous woman who used
to visit prisons and heal the wounds of the sick. But . . .
goodbye! goodbye, Nejdanov, thou man to be pitied! And you,
officer... ugh! misanthrope! goodbye!" He dragged himself away,
limping and swaying from side to side, towards the oasis, while
Markelov and Nejdanov sought out the posting inn where they had
left their conveyance, ordered the horses to be harnessed, and
half an hour later were driving along the high road.
THE sky was overcast with low-hanging clouds, and though it was
light enough to see the cart-ruts winding along the road, still
to the right and left no separate object could be distinguished,
everything blending together into dark, heavy masses. It was a
dim, unsettled kind of night; the wind blew in terrific gusts,
bringing with it the scent of rain and wheat, which covered the
broad fields. When they passed the oak which served as a signpost
and turned down a by-road, driving became more difficult, the
narrow track being quite lost at times. The coach moved along at
a slower pace.
"I hope we're not going to lose our way!" Nejdanov remarked; he
had been quite silent until then.
"I don't think so," Markelov responded. "Two misfortunes never
happen in one day."
"But what was the first misfortune?"
"A day wasted for nothing. Is that of no importance?"
"Yes . . . certainly . . . and then this Golushkin! We shouldn't
have drank so much wine. My head is simply splitting."
"I wasn't thinking of Golushkin. We got some money from him at
any rate, so our visit wasn't altogether wasted."
"But surely you're not really sorry that Paklin took us to his .
. . what did he call them . . . poll-parrots?
"As for that, there's nothing to be either sorry or glad about.
I'm not interested in such people. That wasn't the misfortune I
was referring to."
"What was it then?"
Markelov made no reply, but withdrew himself a little further
into his corner, as if he were muffling himself up. Nejdanov
could not see his face very clearly, only his moustache stood out
in a straight black line, but he had felt ever since the morning
that there was something in Markelov that was best left alone,
some mysteriously unknown worry.
"I say, Sergai Mihailovitch," Nejdanov began, "do you really
attach any importance to Mr. Kisliakov's letters that you gave me
today? They are utter nonsense, if you'll excuse my saying so."
Markelov drew himself up.
"In the first place," he began angrily, "I don't agree with you
about these letters--I find them extremely interesting . . . and
conscientious! In the second place, Kisliakov works very hard
and, what is more, he is in earnest; he BELIEVES in our cause,
believes in the revolution! And I must say that you, Alexai
Dmitritch, are very luke-warm--YOU don't believe in our cause!"
"What makes you think so? " Nejdanov asked slowly.
"It is easy to see from your very words, from your whole
behaviour. Today, for instance, at Golushkin's, who said that he
failed to see any elements that we could rely on? You! Who
demanded to have them pointed out to him? You again! And when
that friend of yours, that grinning buffoon, Mr. Paklin, stood up
and declared with his eyes raised to heaven that not one of us
was capable of self-sacrifice, who approved of it and nodded to
him encouragingly? Wasn't it you? Say what you like of yourself .
. .think what you like of yourself, you know best . . . that is
your affair, but I know people who could give up everything that
is beautiful in life--even love itself--to serve their
convictions, to be true to them! Well, YOU . . . couldn't have
done that, today at any rate!"
"Today? Why not today in particular?"
"Oh, don't pretend, for heaven's sake, you happy Don Juan, you
myrtle-crowned lover!" Markelov shouted, quite forgetting the
coachman, who, though he did not turn round on the box, must have
heard every word. It is true the coachman was at that moment more
occupied with the road than with what the gentlemen were saying
behind him. He loosened the shaft-horse carefully, though
somewhat nervously, she shook her head, backed a little, and went
down a slope which had no business there at all.
"I'm afraid I don't quite understand you," Nejdanov observed.
Markelov gave a forced, malicious laugh.
"So you don't understand me! ha, ha, ha! I know everything, my
dear sir! I know whom you made love to yesterday, whom you've
completely conquered with your good looks and honeyed words! I
know who lets you into her room . . . after ten o'clock at
"Sir!" the coachman exclaimed suddenly, turning to Markelov,
"hold the reins, please. I'll get down and have a look. I think
we've gone off the track. There seems a sort of ravine here."
The carriage was, in fact, standing almost on one side. Markelov
seized the reins which the coachman handed to him and continued
just as loudly:
"I don't blame you in the least, Alexai Dmitritch! You took
advantage of. . . . You were quite right. No wonder that you're
not so keen about our cause now . . . as I said before, you have
something else on your mind. And, really, who can tell beforehand
what will please a girl's heart or what man can achieve what she
"I understand now," Nejdanov began; "I understand your vexation
and can guess . . . who spied on us and lost no time in letting
you know--"It does not seem to depend on merit," Markelov
continued, pretending not to have heard Nejdanov, and purposely
drawling out each word in a sing-song voice, "no extraordinary
spiritual or physical attractions. . . . Oh no! It's only the
damned luck of all . . . bastards!"
The last sentence Markelov pronounced abruptly and hurriedly, but
suddenly stopped as if turned to stone.
Nejdanov felt himself grow pale in the darkness and tingled all
over. He could scarcely restrain himself from flying at Markelov
and seizing him by the throat. "Only blood will wipe out this
insult," he thought.
"I've found the road!" the coachman cried, making his appearance
at the right front wheel, " I turned to the left by mistake--but
it doesn't matter, we'll soon be home. It's not much farther. Sit
He got onto the box, took the reins from Markelov, pulled the
shaft-horse a little to one side, and the carriage, after one or
two jerks, rolled along more smoothly and evenly. The darkness
seemed to part and lift itself, a cloud of smoke could be seen
curling out of a chimney, ahead some sort of hillock, a light
twinkled, vanished, then another. . . . A dog barked.
"That's our place," the coachman observed. "Gee up, my pretties!"
The lights became more and more numerous as they drove on.
"After the way in which you insulted me," Nejdanov said at last,
"you will quite understand that I couldn't spend the night under
your roof, and I must ask you, however unpleasant it may be for
me to do so, to be kind enough to lend me your carriage as soon
as we get to your house to take me back to the town. Tomorrow I
shall find some means of getting home, and will then communicate
with you in a way which you doubtless expect.
Markelov did not reply at once.
"Nejdanov," he exclaimed suddenly, in a soft, despairing tone of
voice, "Nejdanov! For Heaven's sake come into the house if only
to let me beg for your forgiveness on my knees! Nejdanov! forget
. . . forget my senseless words! Oh, if some one only knew how
wretched I feel!" Markelov struck himself on the breast with his
fist, a groan seemed to come from him. "Nejdanov. Be generous. .
. . Give me your hand. . . . Say that you forgive me!"
Nejdanov held out his hand irresolutely--Markelov squeezed it so
hard that he could almost have cried out.
The carriage stopped at the door of the house.
"Listen to me, Nejdanov," Markelov said to him a quarter of an
hour later in his study, "listen." (He addressed him as "thou,"