Part 4 out of 7
and in this unexpected "THOU" addressed to a man whom he knew to
be a successful rival, whom he had only just cruelly insulted,
wished to kill, to tear to pieces, in this familiar word "thou"
there was a ring of irrevocable renunciation, sad, humble
supplication, and a kind of claim . . .) Nejdanov recognised this
claim and responded to it by addressing him in the same way.
"Listen! I've only just told you that I've refused the happiness
of love, renounced everything to serve my convictions. .
It wasn't true, I was only bragging! Love has never been offered
to me, I've had nothing to renounce! I was born unlucky and will
continue so for the rest of my days . . . and perhaps it's for
the best. Since I can't get that, I must turn my attention to
something else! If you can combine the one with the other . . .
love and be loved . . . and serve the cause at the same time,
you're lucky! I envy you . . . but as for myself . . . I can't.
You happy man! You happy man! I can't."
Markelov said all this softly, sitting on a low stool, his head
bent and arms hanging loose at his sides. Nejdanov stood before
him lost in a sort of dreamy attentiveness, and though Markelov
had called him a happy man, he neither looked happy nor did he
feel himself to be so.
"I was deceived in my youth," Markelov went on; "she was a
remarkable girl, but she threw me over . . . and for whom? For a
German! for an adjutant! And Mariana--"
He stopped. It was the first time he had pronounced her name and
it seemed to burn his lips.
"Mariana did not deceive me. She told me plainly that she did not
care for me. . . There is nothing in me she could care for, so
she gave herself to you. Of course, she was quite free to do so."
"Stop a minute!" Nejdanov exclaimed. "What are you saying? What
do you imply by the words 'gave herself'? I don't know what your
sister told you, but I assure you--"
"I didn't mean physically, but morally, that is, with the heart
and soul," Markelov interrupted him. He was obviously displeased
with Nejdanov's exclamation. "She couldn't have done better. As
for my sister, she didn't, of course, wish to hurt me. It can
make no difference to her, but she no doubt hates you and Mariana
too. She did not tell me anything untrue . . . but enough of
"Yes," Nejdanov thought to himself, "she does hate us." It's all
for the best," Markelov continued, still sitting in the same
position. "The last fetters have been broken; there is nothing to
hinder me now! It doesn't matter that Golushkin is an ass, and as
for Kisliakov's letters, they may perhaps be absurd, but we must
consider the most important thing. Kisliakov says that everything
is ready. Perhaps you don't believe that too."
Nejdanov did not reply.
"You may be right, but if we've to wait until everything,
absolutely everything, is ready, we shall never make a beginning.
If we weigh all the consequences beforehand we're sure to find
some bad ones among them. For instance, when our forefathers
emancipated the serfs, do you think they could foresee that a
whole class of money-lending landlords would spring up as a
result of the emancipation? Landlords who sell a peasant eight
bushels of rotten rye for six roubles and in return for it get
labour for the whole six roubles, then the same quantity of good
sound rye and interest on top of that! Which means that they
drain the peasants to the last drop of blood! You'll agree that
our emancipators could hardly have foreseen that. Even if they
had foreseen it, they would still have been quite right in
freeing the serfs without weighing all the consequences
beforehand! That is why I have decided!"
Nejdanov looked at Markelov with amazement, but the latter turned
to one side and directed his gaze into a corner of the room. He
sat with his eyes closed, biting his lips and chewing his
"Yes, I've decided!" he repeated, striking his knee with his
brown hairy hand. "I'm very obstinate. . . It's not for nothing
that I'm half a Little Russian."
He got up, dragged himself into his bedroom, and came back with a
small portrait of Mariana in a glazed frame.
"Take this," he said in a sad, though steady voice. "I drew it
some time ago. I don't draw well, but I think it's like her." (It
was a pencil sketch in profile and was certainly like Mariana.)
"Take it, Alexai; it is my bequest, and with this portrait I give
you all my rights. . . . I know I never had any . . . but you
know what I mean! I give you up everything, and her. . . . She is
very good, Alexai--"
Markelov ceased; his chest heaved visibly.
"Take it. You are not angry with me, are you? Well, take it then.
It's no use to me . . . now.
Nejdanov took the portrait, but a strange sensation oppressed his
heart. It seemed to him that he had no right to take this gift;
that if Markelov knew what was in his, Nejdanov's, heart, he
would not have given it him. He stood holding the round piece of
cardboard, carefully set in a black frame with a mount of gold
paper, not knowing what to do with it. "Why, this is a man's
whole life I'm holding in my hand," he thought. He fully realised
the sacrifice Markelov was making, but why, why especially to
him? Should he give back the portrait? No! that would be the
grossest insult. And after all, was not the face dear to him? Did
he not love her?
Nejdanov turned his gaze on Markelov not without some inward
misgiving. "Was he not looking at him, trying to guess his
thoughts?" But Markelov was standing in a corner biting his
The old servant came into the room carrying a candle. Markelov
"It's time we were in bed, Alexai," he said. "Morning is wiser
than evening. You shall have the horses tomorrow. Goodbye."
"And goodbye to you too, old fellow," he added turning to the
servant and slapping him on the shoulder. "Don't be angry with
The old man was so astonished that he nearly dropped the candle,
and as he fixed his eyes on his master there was an expression in
them of something other, something more, than his habitual
Nejdanov retired to his room. He was feeling wretched. His head
was aching from the wine he had drunk, there were ringing noises
in his ears, and stars jumping about in front of his eyes, even
though he shut them. Golushkin, Vasia the clerk, Fomishka and
Fimishka, were dancing about before him, with Mariana's form in
the distance, as if distrustful and afraid to come near.
Everything that he had said or done during the day now seemed to
him so utterly false, such useless nonsense, and the thing that
ought to be done, ought to be striven for, was nowhere to be
found; unattainable, under lock and key, in the depths of a
He was filled with a desire to go to Markelov and say to him,
"Here, take back your gift, take it back!"
"Ugh! What a miserable thing life is!" he exclaimed.
He departed early on the following morning. Markelov was already
standing at the door surrounded by peasants, but whether he had
asked them to come, or they had come of their own accord,
Nejdanov did not know.. Markelov said very little and parted with
him coldly, but it seemed to Nejdanov that he had something of
importance to communicate to him.
The old servant made his appearance with his usual melancholy
The carriage soon left the town behind it, and coming out into
the open country began flying at a furious rate. The horses were
the same, but the driver counted on a good tip, as Nejdanov lived
in a rich house. And as is usually the case, when the driver has
either had a drink, or expects to get one, the horses go at a
It was an ordinary June day, though the air was rather keen. A
steady, high wind was blowing, but raising no dust in the road,
owing to last night's rain. The laburnums glistened, rustling to
and fro in the breeze; a ripple ran over everything. From afar
the cry of the quail was carried over the hills, over the grassy
ravines, as if the very cry was possessed of wings; the rooks
were bathing in the sunshine; along the straight, bare line of
the horizon little specks no bigger than flies could be
distinguished moving about. These were some peasants re-ploughing
a fallow field.
Nejdanov was so lost in thought that he did not see all this. He
went on and on and did not even notice when they drove through
He trembled suddenly as he caught sight of the house, the first
story and Mariana's window. "Yes," he said to himself, a warm
glow entering his heart, "Markelov was right. She is a good girl
and I love her."
NEJDANOV changed his clothes hurriedly and went in to give Kolia
his lesson. On the way he ran across Sipiagin in the dining-room.
He bowed to him with chilling politeness, muttered through his
teeth, "Got back all right?" and went into his study. The great
statesman had already decided in his ministerial mind that as
soon as the vacation came to an end he would lose no time in
packing off to St. Petersburg "this extremely revolutionary young
tutor," but meanwhile would keep an eye on him. "Je n'ai pas eu la
main heureuse cette fois-ci", he thought to himself, still
"j'aurais pu tomber pire". Valentina Mihailovna's sentiments
towards Nejdanov however, were not quite so negative; she simply
could not endure the idea that he, "a mere boy," had slighted
her! Mariana had not been mistaken, Valentina Mihailovna had
listened at the door in the corridor; the illustrious lady was
not above such proceedings. Although she had said nothing to her
"flighty" niece during Nejdanov's absence, still she had let her
plainly understand that everything was known to her, and that if
she had not been so painfully sorry for her, and did not despise
her from the bottom of her heart, she would have been most
frightfully angry at the whole thing.
An expression of restrained inward contempt played over her face.
She raised her eyebrows in scorn and pity when she looked at or
spoke to Mariana, and she would fix her wonderful eyes, full of
tender remonstrance and painful disgust, on the willful girl, who,
after all her "fancies and eccentricities," had ended by kissing
an insignificant undergraduate . . . in a dark room!
Poor Mariana! Her severe, proud lips had never tasted any man's
Valentina Mihailovna had not told her husband of the discovery
she had made. She merely contented herself by addressing a few
words to Mariana in his presence, accompanied by a significant
smile, quite irrelevant to the occasion. She regretted having
written to her brother, but was, on the whole, more pleased that
the thing was done than be spared the regret and the letter not
Nejdanov got a glimpse of Mariana at lunch in the dining-room. It
seemed to him that she had grown thinner and paler. She was not
looking her best on that day, but the penetrating glance she
turned on him directly he entered the room went straight to his
heart. Valentina Mihailovna looked at him constantly, as though
she were inwardly congratulating him. "Splendid! Very smart!" he
read on her face, while she was studying his to find out if
Markelov had shown him the letter. She decided in the end that he
On hearing that Nejdanov had been to the factory of which Solomin
was the manager, Sipiagin began asking him various questions
about it, but was soon convinced from the young man's replies
that he had seen nothing there and dropped into a majestic
silence, as if reproaching himself for having expected any
practical knowledge from such an inexperienced individual! On
going out of the room Mariana managed to whisper to Nejdanov:
"Wait for me in the birch grove at the end of the garden. I'll be
there as soon as possible."
"She is just as familiar with me as Markelov was," he thought to
himself, and a strange, pleasant sensation came over him. How
strange it would have seemed to him if she had suddenly become
distant and formal again, if she had turned away from him. He
felt that such a thing would have made him utterly wretched, but
was not sure in his own mind whether he loved her or not. She was
dear to him and he felt the need of her above everything--this he
acknowledged from the bottom of his heart.
The grove Mariana mentioned consisted of some hundreds of big old
weeping-birches. The wind had not fallen and the long tangled
branches were tossing hither and thither like loosened tresses.
The clouds, still high, flew quickly over the sky, every now and
again obscuring the sun and making everything of an even hue.
Suddenly it would make its appearance again and brilliant patches
of light would flash out once more through the branches, crossing
and recrossing, a tangled pattern of light and shade. The roar of
the trees seemed to be filled with a kind of festive joy, like to
the violent joy with which passion breaks into a sad, troubled
heart. It was just such a heart that Nejdanov carried in his
bosom. He leaned against the trunk of a tree and waited. He did
not really know what he was feeling and had no desire to know,
but it seemed to him more awful, and at the same time easier,
than at Markelov's. Above everything he wanted to see her, to
speak to her. The knot that suddenly binds two separate
existences already had him in its grasp. Nejdanov thought of the
rope that is flung to the quay to make fast a ship. Now it is
twisted about the post and the ship stops . . . Safe in port!
He trembled suddenly. A woman's dress could be seen in the
distance coming along the path. It was Mariana. But whether she
was coming towards him or going away from him he could not tell
until he noticed that the patches of light and shade glided over
her figure from below upwards. So she was coming towards him;
they would have glided from above downwards had she been going
away from him. A few moments longer and she was standing before
him with her bright face full of welcome and a caressing light in
her eyes. A glad smile played about her lips. He seized the hand
she held out to him, but could not say a single word; she also
was silent. She had walked very quickly and was somewhat out of
breath, but seemed glad that he was pleased to see her. She was
the first to speak.
"Well," she began, "tell me quickly what you've decided."
Nejdanov was surprised.
"Decided? Why, was it necessary to decide anything just now?"
"Oh, you know what I mean. Tell me what you talked about, whom
you've seen--if you've met Solomin. Tell me everything,
everything. But wait a moment; let us go on a little further. I
know a spot not quite so conspicuous as this."
She made him come with her. He followed her obediently over the
tall thin grass.
She led him to the place she mentioned, and they sat down on the
trunk of a birch that had been blown down in a storm.
"Now begin!" she said, and added directly afterwards, "I am so
glad to see you again! I thought these two days would never come
to an end! Do you know, I'm convinced that Valentina Mihailovna
listened to us."
"She wrote to Markelov about it," Nejdanov remarked.
Mariana was silent for a while. She blushed all over, not from
shame, but from another, deeper feeling.
"She is a wicked, spiteful woman!" she said slowly and quietly.
"She had no right to do such a thing! But it doesn't matter. Now
tell me your news."
Nejdanov began talking and Mariana listened to him with a sort of
stony attention, only stopping him when she thought he was
hurrying over things, not giving her sufficient details. However,
not all the details of his visit were of equal interest to her;
she laughed over Fomishka and Fimishka, but they did not interest
her. Their life was too remote from hers.
"It's just like hearing about Nebuchadnezzar," she remarked.
But she was very keen to know what Markelov had said, what
Golushkin had thought (though she soon realised what sort of a
bird he was), and above all wanted to know Solomin's opinion and
what sort of a man he was. These were the things that interested
her. "But when? when?" was a question constantly in her mind and
on her lips the whole time Nejdanov was talking, while he, on the
other hand, seemed to try and avoid everything that might give a
definite answer to that question. He began to notice himself that
he laid special stress on those details that were of least
interest to Mariana. He pulled himself up, but returned to them
again involuntarily. Humorous descriptions made her impatient, a
sceptic or dejected tone hurt her. It was necessary to keep
strictly to everything concerning the "cause," and however much
he said on the subject did not seem to weary her. It brought back
to Nejdanov's mind how once, before he had entered the
university, when he was staying with some friends of his in the
country one summer, he had undertaken to tell the children some
stories; they had also paid no attention to descriptions,
personal expressions, personal sensations, they had also demanded
nothing but facts and figures. Mariana was not a child, but she
was like a child in the directness and simplicity of her
Nejdanov was sincerely enthusiastic in his praise of Markelov, and
expressed himself with particular warmth about Solomin. While
uttering the most enthusiastic expressions about him, he kept
asking himself continually why he had such a high opinion of this
man. He had not said anything very brilliant and, in fact, some
of his words were in direct opposition to his (Nejdanov's) own
convictions. "His head is screwed on the right way," he thought.
"A cool, steady man, as Fimishka said; a powerful man, of calm,
firm strength. He knows what he wants, has confidence in himself,
and arouses confidence in others. He has no anxieties and is
well-balanced! That is the main thing; he has balance, just what
is lacking in me!" Nejdanov ceased speaking and became lost in
meditation. Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Alexai! What is the matter with you?" Mariana asked.
He took her tiny, strong hand from his shoulder and kissed it for
the first time. Mariana laughed softly, surprised that such a
thing should have occurred to him. She in her turn became
"Did Markelov show you Valentina Mihailovna's letter?" she asked
"Yes, he did."
"Well, and how is he?"
"Markelov? He is the most honourable, most unselfish man in
Nejdanov wanted to tell Mariana about the portrait, but pulled
himself up and added, "He is the soul of honour!"
"Oh yes, I know."
Mariana became pensive again. She suddenly turned to Nejdanov on
the trunk they were both sitting on and asked quickly:
"Well? What have you decided on?"
Nejdanov shrugged his shoulders.
"I've already told you, dear, that we've decided nothing as yet;
we must wait a little longer."
"Those were our last instructions." ("I'm lying," Nejdanov
thought to himself.)
"Why, you know . . . from Vassily Nikolaevitch. And then we must
wait until Ostrodumov comes back."
Mariana looked questioningly at Nejdanov. "But tell me, have you
ever seen this Vassily Nikolaevitch?
"Yes. I've seen him twice . . . for a minute or two.''
"What is he like? Is he an extraordinary man?"
"I don't quite know how to tell you. He is our leader now and
directs everything. We couldn't get on without discipline in our
movement; we must obey someone." ("What nonsense I'm talking!"
"What is he like to look at?
"Oh, he's short, thick-set, dark, with high cheek-bones like a
Kalmick . . . a rather coarse face, only he has very bright,
"And what does he talk like?"
"He does not talk, he commands."
"Why did they make him leader?"
"He is a man of strong character. Won't give in to anyone. Would
sooner kill if necessary. People are afraid of him."
"And what is Solomin like?" Mariana asked after a pause.
"Solomin is also not good-looking, but has a nice, simple, honest
face. Such faces are to be found among schoolboys of the right
Nejdanov had described Solomin accurately.
Mariana gazed at him for a long, long time, then said, as if to
"You have also a nice face. I think it would be easy to get on
Nejdanov was touched; he took her hand again and raised it to his
"No more gallantries!" she said laughing. Mariana always laughed
when her hand was kissed. "I've done something very naughty and
must ask you to forgive me."
"What have you done?"
"Well, when you were away, I went into your room and saw a copy-
book of verses lying on your table" (Nejdanov shuddered; he
remembered having left it there), "and I must confess to you that
I couldn't overcome my curiosity and read the contents. Are they
"Yes, they are. And do you know, Mariana, that one of the
strongest proofs that I care for you and have the fullest
confidence in you is that I am hardly angry at what you have
"Hardly! Then you are just a tiny bit. I'm so glad you call me
Mariana. I can't call you Nejdanov, so I shall call you Alexai.
There is a poem which begins, 'When I die, dear friend,
remember,' is that also yours?"
"Yes. Only please don't talk about this any more. . .Don't
Mariana shook her head.
"It's a very sad poem. . . I hope you wrote it before we became
intimate. The verses are good though . . . as far as I can judge.
I think you have the making of a literary man in you, but you
have chosen a better and higher calling than literature. It was
good to do that kind of work when it was impossible to do
Nejdanov looked at her quickly.
"Do you think so? I agree with you. Better ruin there, than
Mariana stood up with difficulty.
"Yes, my dear, you are right!" she exclaimed, her whole face
beaming with triumph and emotion, "you are right! But perhaps it
may not mean ruin for us yet. We shall succeed, you will see;
we'll be useful, our life won't be wasted. We'll go among the
people . . . Do you know any sort of handicraft? No? Never mind,
we'll work just the same. We'll bring them, our brothers,
everything that we know. . .If necessary, I can cook, wash, sew ...
You'll see, you'll see. . . . And there won't be any kind
of merit in it, only happiness, happiness--"
Mariana ceased and fixed her eyes eagerly in the distance, not
that which lay before her, but another distance as yet unknown to
her, which she seemed to see. . . . She was all aglow.
Nejdanov bent down to her waist.
"Oh, Mariana!" he whispered. "I am not worthy of you!"
She trembled all over.
"It's time to go home!" she exclaimed, "or Valentina Mihailovna
will be looking for us again. However, I think she's given me up
as a bad job. I'm quite a black sheep in her eyes."
Mariana pronounced the last words with such a bright joyful
expression that Nejdanov could not help laughing as he looked at
her and repeating, "black sheep!"
"She is awfully hurt," Mariana went on, "that you are not at her
feet. But that is nothing. The most important thing is that I
can't stay here any longer. I must run away."
"Run away? " Nejdanov asked.
"Yes. . . . You are not going to stay here, are you? We'll go
away together. . . . We must work together. . .You'll come with
me, won't you?"
"To the ends of the earth!" Nejdanov exclaimed, his voice ringing
with sudden emotion in a transport of gratitude. "To the ends of
the earth!" At that moment he would have gone with her wherever
she wanted, without so much as looking back.
Mariana understood him and gave a gentle, blissful sigh.
"Then take my hand, dearest--only don't kiss it--press it firmly,
like a comrade, like a friend--like this!"
They walked home together, pensive, happy. The young grass
caressed their feet, the young leaves rustled about them, patches
of light and shade played over their garments--and they both
smiled at the wild play of the light, at the merry gusts of wind,
at the fresh, sparkling leaves, at their own youth, and at one
THE dawn was already approaching on the night after Golushkin's
dinner when Solomin, after a brisk walk of about five miles,
knocked at the gate in the high wall surrounding the factory. The
watchman let him in at once and, followed by three house-dogs
wagging their tails with great delight, accompanied him
respectfully to his own dwelling. He seemed to be very pleased
that the chief had got back safely.
"How did you manage to get here at night, Vassily Fedotitch? We
didn't expect you until tomorrow."
"Oh, that's all right, Gavrilla. It's much nicer walking at
The most unusually friendly relations existed between Solomin and
his workpeople. They respected him as a superior, treated him as
one of themselves, and considered him to be very learned.
"Whatever Vassily Fedotitch says," they declared, "is sacred!
Because he has learned everything there is to be learned, and there
isn't an Englishman who can get around him!" And in fact, a certain
well-known English manufacturer had once visited the factory, but
whether it was that Solomin could speak to him in his own tongue
or that he was really impressed by his knowledge is uncertain; he
had laughed, slapped him on the shoulder, and invited him to come
to Liverpool with him, saying to the workmen, in his broken
Russian, "Oh, he's all right, your man here!" At which the men
laughed a great deal, not without a touch of pride. "So that's
what he is! Our man!"
And he really was theirs and one of them. Early the next morning
his favourite Pavel woke him, prepared his things for washing,
told him various news, and asked him various questions. They
partook of some tea together hastily, after which Solomin put on
his grey, greasy working-jacket and set out for the factory; and
his life began to go round again like some huge flywheel.
But the thread had to be broken again. Five days after Solomin's
return home there drove into the courtyard a smart little
phaeton, harnessed to four splendid horses and a footman in pale
green livery, whom Pavel conducted to the little wing, where he
solemnly handed Solomin a letter sealed with an armorial crest,
from "His Excellency Boris Andraevitch Sipiagin." In this letter,
which exhaled an odour, not of perfume, but of some
extraordinarily respectable English smell and was written in the
third person, not by a secretary, but by the gentleman himself,
the cultured owner of the village Arjanov, he begged to be
excused for addressing himself to a man with whom he had not the
honour of being personally acquainted, but of whom he, Sipiagin,
had heard so many flattering accounts, and ventured to invite Mr.
Solomin to come and see him at his house, as he very much wanted
to ask his valuable advice about a manufacturing enterprise of
some importance he had embarked upon. In the hope that Mr.
Solomin would be kind enough to come, he, Sipiagin, had sent him
his carriage, but in the event of his being unable to do so on
that day, would he be kind enough to choose any other day that
might be convenient for him and the same carriage would be gladly
put at his disposal. Then followed the usual polite signature and
a postscript written in the first person:
"I hope that you will not refuse to take dinner with us quite
simply. No dress clothes." (The words "quite simply" were
underlined.) Together with this letter the footman (not without a
certain amount of embarrassment) gave Solomin another letter from
Nejdanov. It was just a simple note, not sealed with wax but
merely stuck down, containing the following lines: "Do please
come. You're wanted badly and may be extremely useful. I need
hardly say not to Mr. Sipiagin."
On finishing Sipiagin's letter Solomin thought, "How else can I
go if not simply? I haven't any dress clothes at the factory...
And what the devil should I drag myself over there for? It's just
a waste of time!" But after reading Nejdanov's note, he scratched
the back of his neck and walked over to the window, irresolute.
"What answer am I to take back, sir?" the footman in green livery
Solomin stood for some seconds longer at the window.
"I am coming with you," he announced, shaking back his hair and
passing his hand over his forehead-- "just let me get dressed."
The footman left the room respectfully and Solomin sent for
Pavel, had a talk with him, ran across to the factory once more,
then putting on a black coat with a very long waist, which had
been made by a provincial tailor, and a shabby top-hat which
instantly gave his face a wooden expression, took his seat in the
phaeton. He suddenly remembered that he had forgotten his gloves,
and called out to the "never-failing" Pavel, who brought him a
pair of newly-washed white kid ones, the fingers of which were so
stretched at the tips that they looked like long biscuits.
Solomin thrust the gloves into his pocket and gave the order to
start. Then the footman jumped onto the box with an unnecessary
amount of alacrity, the well-bred coachman sang out in a
falsetto voice, and the horses started off at a gallop.
While the horses were bearing Solomin along to Sipiagin's, that
gentleman was sitting in his drawing-room with a halfcut
political pamphlet on his knee, discussing him with his wife. He
confided to her that he had written to him with the express
purpose of trying to get him away from the merchant's factory to
his own, which was in a very bad way and needed reorganising.
Sipiagin would not for a moment entertain the idea that Solomin
would refuse to come, or even so much as appoint another day,
though he had himself suggested it.
"But ours is a paper-mill, not a spinning-mill," Valentina
"It's all the same, my dear, machines are used in both, and he's
"But supposing he turns out to be a specialist!"
"My dear! In the first place there are no such things as
specialists in Russia; in the second, I've told you that he's a
Valentina Mihailovna smiled.
"Do be careful, my dear. You've been unfortunate once already
with young men; mind you don't make a second mistake."
"Are you referring to Nejdanov? I don't think I've been
altogether mistaken with regard to him. He has been a good tutor
to Kolia. And then you know "non bis in idem"! Excuse my being
pedantic. . . . It means, things don't repeat themselves!
"Don't you think so? Well, I think that everything in the world
repeats itself . . . especially what's in the nature of things...
and particularly among young people."
"Que voulez-vous dire?" asked Sipiagin, flinging the pamphlet on
the table with a graceful gesture of the hand.
"Ouvrez les yeux, et vous verrez!" Madame Sipiagina replied. They
always spoke to one another in French.
"H'm!" Sipiagin grunted. "Are you referring to that student?"
"Yes, I'm referring to him."
"H'm! Has he got anything on here, eh?" (He passed his hand over
"Open your eyes!"
"Is it Mariana, eh?" (The second" eh" was pronounced more through
the nose than the first one.)
"Open your eyes, I tell you!"
"We must talk about this later on. I should just like to say now
that this Solomin may feel rather uncomfortable. . . You see, he
is not used to society. We must be nice to him so as to make him
feel at his ease. Of course, I don't mean this for you, you're
such a dear, that I think you could fascinate anyone if you
chose. J'en sais quelque chose, madame! I mean this for the
others, if only for--"
He pointed to a fashionable grey hat lying on a shelf. It
belonged to Mr. Kollomietzev, who had been in Arjanov since the
"Il est tres cassant you know. He has far too great a contempt
for the people for my liking. And he has been so frightfully
quarrelsome and irritable of late. Is his little affair there not
getting on well?"
Sipiagin nodded his head in some indefinite direction, but his
wife understood him.
"Open your eyes, I tell you again!"
Sipiagin stood up.
"Eh?" (This "eh" was pronounced in a quite different tone, much
lower.) "Is that how the land lies? They had better take care I
don't open them too wide!"
"That is your own affair, my dear. But as for that new young man
of yours, you may be quite easy about him. I will see that
everything is all right. Every precaution will be taken."
It turned out that no precautions were necessary, however.
Solomin was not in the least alarmed or embarrassed.
As soon as he was announced Sipiagin jumped up, exclaiming in a
voice loud enough to be heard in the hall, "Show him in, of
course show him in!" He then went up to the drawing-room door and
stood waiting. No sooner had Solomin crossed the threshold,
almost knocking against Sipiagin, when the latter extended both
his hands, saying with an amiable smile and a friendly shake of
the head, "How very nice of you to come... . I can hardly thank
you enough." Then he led him up to Valentina Mihailovna.
"Allow me to introduce you to my wife," he said, gently pressing
his hand against Solomin's back, pushing him towards her as it
were. "My dear, here is our best local engineer and manufacturer,
Vassily. . . Fedosaitch Solomin."
Madame Sipiagina stood up, raised her wonderful eyelashes, smiled
sweetly as to an acquaintance, extended her hand with the palm
upwards, her elbow pressed against her waist, her head bent a
little to the right, in the attitude of a suppliant. Solomin let
the husband and wife go through their little comedy, shook hands
with them both, and sat down at the first invitation to do so.
Sipiagin began to fuss about him, asking if he would like
anything, but Solomin assured him that he wanted nothing and was
not in the least bit tired from the journey.
"Then may we go to the factory?" Sipiagin asked, a little shame-
faced, not daring to believe in so much condescension on the part
of his guest.
"As soon as you like, I'm quite ready," Solomin replied. "How
awfully good of you! Shall we drive or would you like to walk?"
"Is it a long way?"
"About half a mile."
"It's hardly worthwhile bringing out the carriage."
"Very well. Ivan! my hat and stick! Make haste! And you'll see
about some dinner, little one, won't you? My hat, quick!"
Sipiagin was far more excited than his visitor, and calling out
once more, " Why don't they give me my hat," he, the stately
dignitary, rushed out like a frolicsome schoolboy. While her
husband was talking to Solomin, Valentina Mihailovna looked at
him stealthily, trying to make out this new "young man." He was
sitting in an armchair, quite at his ease, his bare hands laid
on his knee (he had not put on the gloves after all), calmly,
although not without a certain amount of curiosity, looking around
at the furniture and pictures. "I don't understand," she thought,
"he's a plebeian--quite a plebeian--and yet behaves so
naturally!" Solomin did indeed carry himself naturally, not with
any view to effect, as much as to say "Look what a splendid
fellow I am!" but as a man whose thoughts and feelings are
simple, direct, and strong at the same time. Madame Sipiagina
wanted to say something to him, but was surprised to find that
she did not quite know how to begin.
"Heavens!" she thought. "This mechanic is making me quite
"My husband must be very grateful to you," she remarked at last.
"It was so good of you to sacrifice a few hours of your valuable
"My time is not so very valuable, madame," he observed. "Besides,
I've not come here for long."
"Voila ou l'ours a montre sa patte," she thought in French, but
at this moment her husband appeared in the doorway, his hat on
his head and a walking stick in his hand.
"Are you ready, Vassily Fedosaitch?" he asked in a free and easy
tone, half turned towards him.
Solomin rose, bowed to Valentina Mihailovna, and walked out
"This way, this way, Vassily Fedosaitch!" Sipiagin called out,
just as if they were groping their way through a tangled forest
and Solomin needed a guide. "This way! Do be careful, there are
some steps here, Vassily Fedosaitch!"
"If you want to call me by my father's Christian name," Solomin
said slowly, "then it isn't Fedosaitch, but Fedotitch."
Sipiagin was taken aback and looked at him over his shoulder.
"I'm so sorry, Vassily Fedotitch."
"Please don't mention it."
As soon as they got outside they ran against Kollomietzev.
"Where are you off to?" the latter asked, looking askance at
Solomin. "Are you going to the factory? C'est la l'individu en
Sipiagin opened his eyes wide and shook his head slightly by way
"Yes, we're going to the factory. I want to show all my sins and
transgressions to this gentleman, who is an engineer. Allow me to
introduce you. Mr. Kollomietzev, a neighbouring landowner, Mr.
Kollomietzev nodded his head twice in an off-hand manner without
looking at Solomin, but the latter looked at him and there was a
sinister gleam in his half-closed eyes.
"May I come with you?" Kollomietzev asked. "You know I'm always
ready to learn."
"Certainly, if you like."
They went out of the courtyard into the road and had scarcely
taken twenty steps when they ran across a priest in a woven
cassock, who was wending his way homeward. Kollomietzev left his
two companions and, going up to him with long, firm strides,
asked for his blessing and gave him a sounding smack on his
moist, red hand, much to the discomfiture of the priest, who did
not in the least expect this sort of outburst. He then turned to
Solomin and gave him a defiant look. He had evidently heard
something about him and wanted to show off and get some fun out
of this learned scoundrel.
"C'est une manifestation, mon cher?" Sipiagin muttered through
"Oui, mon cher, une manifestation necessaire par temps qui
They got to the factory and were met by a Little Russian with an
enormous beard and false teeth, who had taken the place of the
former manager, a German, whom Sipiagin had dismissed. This man
was there in a temporary capacity and understood absolutely
nothing; he merely kept on saying "Just so.. . yes. . . that's
it," and sighing all the time. They began inspecting the place.
Several of the workmen knew Solomin by sight and bowed to him. He
even called out to one of them, "Hallo, Gregory! You here?"
Solomin was soon convinced that the place was going badly. Money
was simply thrown away for no reason whatever. The machines
turned out to be of a very poor kind; many of them were quite
superfluous and a great many necessary ones were lacking.
Sipiagin kept looking into Solomin's face, trying to guess his
opinion, asked a few timid questions, wanted to know if he was at
any rate satisfied with the order of the place.
"Oh, the order is all right," Solomin replied, "but I doubt if
you can get anything out of it."
Not only Sipiagin, but even Kollomietzev felt, that in the
factory Solomin was quite at home, was familiar with every little
detail, was master there in fact. He laid his hand on a machine
as a rider on his horse's neck; he poked a wheel with his finger
and it either stood still or began whirling round; he took some
paper pulp out of a vat and it instantly revealed all its
Solomin said very little, took no notice of the Little Russian at
all, and went out without saying anything. Sipiagin and
Kollomietzev followed him.
Sipiagin was so upset that he did not let any one accompany him.
He stamped and ground his teeth with rage.
"I can see by your face," he said turning to Solomin, "that you
are not pleased with the place. Of course, I know that it's not
in a very excellent condition and doesn't pay as yet. But please
. . . give me your candid opinion as to what you consider to be
the principal failings and as to what one could do to improve
"Paper-manufacturing is not in my line," Solomin began, "but I
can tell you one thing. I doubt if the aristocracy is cut out for
"Do you consider it degrading for the aristocracy?" Kollomietzev
Solomin smiled his habitual broad smile.
"Oh dear no! What is there degrading about it? And even if there
were, I don't think the aristocracy would be overly particular."
"What do you mean?"
"I only meant," Solomin continued, calmly, "that the gentry are
not used to that kind of business. A knowledge of commerce is
needed for that; everything has to be put on a different footing,
you want technical training for it. The gentry don't understand
this. We see them starting woollen, cotton, and other factories
all over the place, but they nearly always fall into the hands of
the merchants in the end. It's a pity, because the merchants are
even worse sweaters. But it can't be helped, I suppose."
"To listen to you one would think that all questions of finance
were above our nobility!" Kollomietzev exclaimed.
"Oh no! On the other hand the nobility are masters at it. For
getting concessions for railways, founding banks, exempting
themselves from some tax, or anything like that, there is no one
to beat them! They make huge fortunes. I hinted at that just now,
but it seemed to offend you. I had regular industrial enterprises
in my mind when I spoke; I say regular, because founding private
public houses, petty little grocers' shops, or lending the
peasants corn or money at a hundred or a hundred and fifty percent,
as many of our landed gentry are now doing, I cannot consider as genuine financial enterprises."
Kollomietzev did not say anything. He belonged to that new
species of money-lending landlord whom Markelov had mentioned in
his last talk with Nejdanov, and was the more inhuman in his
demands that he had no personal dealings with the peasants
themselves. He never allowed them into his perfumed European
study, and conducted all his business with them through his
manager. He was boiling with rage while listening to Solomin's
slow, impartial speech, but he held his peace; only the working
of the muscles of his face betrayed what was passing within him.
"But allow me, Vassily Fedotitch," Sipiagin began; "what you have
just said may have been quite true in former days, when the
nobility had quite different privileges and were altogether in a
different position; but now, after all the beneficial reforms in
our present industrial age, why should not the nobility turn
their attention and bring their abilities into enterprises of
this nature? Why shouldn't they be able to understand what is
understood by a simple illiterate merchant? They are not
suffering from lack of education and one might even claim,
without any exaggeration, that they are, in a certain sense, the
representatives of enlightenment and progress."
Boris Andraevitch spoke very well; his eloquence would have made
a great stir in St. Petersburg, in his department, or maybe in
higher quarters, but it produced no effect whatever on Solomin.
"The nobility cannot manage these things," Solomin repeated.
"But why, I should like to know? Why?" Kollomietzev almost
"Because there is too much of the bureaucrat about them."
"Bureaucrat?" Kollomietzev laughed maliciously. "I don't think
you quite realise what you're saying, Mr. Solomin."
Solomin continued smiling.
"What makes you think so, Mr. Kolomentzev?" (Kollomietzev
shuddered at hearing his name thus mutilated.) "I assure you that
I always realise what I am saying."
"Then please explain what you meant just now!"
"With pleasure. I think that every bureaucrat is an outsider and
was always such. The nobility have now become 'outsiders.'"
Kollomietzev laughed louder than ever.
"But, my dear sir, I really don't understand what you mean!"
"So much the worse for you. Perhaps you will if you try hard
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," Sipiagin interposed hastily, trying to
catch someone's eye, "please, please . . . Kallomeitzeff, je
vous prie de vous calmer. I suppose dinner will soon be ready.
Come along, gentlemen!"
"Valentina Mihailovna!" Kollomietzev cried out five minutes
later, rushing into her boudoir. "I really don't know what your
husband is doing! He has brought us one nihilist and now he's
bringing us another! Only this one is much worse!"
"He is advocating the most awful things, and what do you think?
He has been talking to your husband for a whole hour, and not
once, not once, did he address him as Your Excellency! Le
JUST before dinner Sipiagin called his wife into the library. He
wanted to have a talk with her alone. He seemed worried. He told
her that the factory was really in a bad way, that Solomin struck
him as a capable man, although a little stiff, and thought it was
necessary to continue being aux petits soins with him.
"How I should like to get hold of him!" he repeated once or
twice. Sipiagin was very much annoyed at Kollomietzev's being
there. "Devil take the man! He sees nihilists everywhere and is
always wanting to suppress them! Let him do it at his own house I
He simply can't hold his tongue!"
Valentina Mihailovna said that she would be delighted to be aux
petits soins with the new visitor, but it seemed to her that he
had no need of these petits soins and took no notice of them; not
rudely in any way, but he was quite indifferent; very remarkable
in a man du commun.
"Never mind. . . . Be nice to him just the same!" Sipiagin begged
Valentina Mihailovna promised to do what he wanted and fulfilled
her promise conscientiously. She began by having a tete-a-tete
with Kollomietzev. What she said to him remains a secret, but he
came to the table with the air of a man who had made up his mind
to be discreet and submissive at all costs. This "resignation"
gave his whole bearing a slight touch of melancholy; and what
dignity ... oh, what dignity there was in every one of his
movements! Valentina Mihailovna introduced Solomin to everybody
(he looked more attentively at Mariana than at any of the
others), and made him sit beside her on her right at table.
Kollomietzev sat on her left, and as he unfolded his serviette
screwed up his face and smiled, as much as to say, "Well, now let
us begin our little comedy!" Sipiagin sat on the opposite side
and watched him with some anxiety. By a new arrangement of Madame
Sipiagina, Nejdanov was not put next to Mariana as usual, but
between Anna Zaharovna and Sipiagin. Mariana found her card (as
the dinner was a stately one) on her serviette between
Kollomietzev and Kolia. The dinner was excellently served; there
was even a "menu"--a painted card lay before each person.
Directly soup was finished, Sipiagin again brought the
conversation round to his factory, and from there went on to
Russian manufacture in general. Solomin, as usual, replied very
briefly. As soon as he began speaking, Mariana fixed her eyes upon
him. Kollomietzev, who was sitting beside her, turned to her with
various compliments (he had been asked not to start a dispute),
but she did not listen to him; and indeed he pronounced all his
pleasantries in a half-hearted manner, merely to satisfy his own
conscience. He realised that there was something between himself
and this young girl that could not be crossed.
As for Nejdanov, something even worse had come to pass between
him and the master of the house. For Sipiagin, Nejdanov had
become simply a piece of furniture, or an empty space that he
quite ignored. These new relations had taken place so quickly and
unmistakably that when Nejdanov pronounced a few words in answer
to a remark of Anna Zaharovna's, Sipiagin looked round in
amazement, as if wondering where the sound came from.
Sipiagin evidently possessed some of the characteristics for
which certain of the great Russian bureaucrats are celebrated
After the fish, Valentina Mihailovna, who had been lavishing all
her charms on Solomin, said to her husband in English that she
noticed their visitor did not drink wine and might perhaps like
some beer. Sipiagin called aloud for ale, while Solomin calmly
turned towards Valentina Mihailovna, saying, "You may not be
aware, madame, that I spent over two years in England and can
understand and speak English. I only mentioned it in case you
should wish to say anything private before me." Valentina
Mihailovna laughed and assured him that this precaution was
altogether unnecessary, since he would hear nothing but good of
himself; inwardly she thought Solomin's action rather strange,
but delicate in its own way.
At this point Kollomietzev could no longer contain himself. "And
so you've been in England," he began, "and no doubt studied the
manners and customs there. Do you think them worth imitating?"
"Some yes, others no."
"Brief but not clear," Kollomietzev remarked, trying not to
notice the signs Sipiagin was making to him. "You were speaking
of the nobility this morning. . . No doubt you've had the
opportunity of studying the English landed gentry, as they call
"No, I had no such opportunity. I moved in quite a different
sphere. But I formed my own ideas about these gentlemen."
"Well, do you think that such a landed gentry is impossible among
us? Or that we ought not to want it in any case?"
"In the first place, I certainly do think it impossible, and in
the second, it's hardly worthwhile wanting such a thing."
"But why, my dear sir? " Kollomietzev asked; the polite tone was
intended to soothe Sipiagin, who sat very uneasily on his chair.
"Because in twenty or thirty years your landed gentry won't be
here in any case."
"What makes you think so?"
"Because by that time the land will fall into the hands of people
in no way distinguished by their origin."
"Do you mean the merchants?"
"For the most part probably the merchants."
"But how will it happen?"
"They'll buy it, of course."
"From the gentry? "
"Yes; from the gentry."
Kollomietzev smiled condescendingly. "If you recollect you said
the very same thing about factories that you're now saying about
"And it's quite true."
"You will no doubt be very pleased about it!"
"Not at all. I've already told you that the people won't be any
the better off for the change."
Kollomietzev raised his hand slightly. "What solicitude on the
part of the people, imagine!"
"Vassily Fedotitch!" Sipiagin called out as loudly as he could,
"they have brought you some beer! Voyons, simeon!" he added in an
But Kollomietzev would not be suppressed.
"I see you haven't a very high opinion of the merchant class," he
began again, turning to Solomin, "but they've sprung from the
"So they have."
"I thought that you considered everything about the people, or
relating to the people, as above criticism!"
"Not at all! You are quite mistaken. The masses can be condemned
for a great many things, though they are not always to blame. Our
merchant is an exploiter and uses his capital for that purpose.
He thinks that people are always trying to get the better of him,
so he tries to get the better of them. But the people--"
"Well, what about the people?" Kollomietzev asked in falsetto.
"The people are asleep."
"And would you like to wake them?"
"That would not be a bad thing to do."
"Aha! aha! So that's what--"
"Gentlemen, gentlemen!" Sipiagin exclaimed imperatively. He felt
that the moment had come to put an end to the discussion, and he
did put an end to it. With a slight gesture of his right hand,
while the elbow remained propped on the table, he delivered a
long and detailed speech. He praised the conservatives on the one
hand and approved of the liberals on the other, giving the
preference to the latter as he counted himself of their numbers.
He spoke highly of the people, but drew attention to some of
their weaknesses; expressed his full confidence in the
government, but asked himself whether all its officials were
faithfully fulfilling its benevolent designs. He acknowledged the
importance of literature, but declared that without the utmost
caution it was dangerous. He turned to the West with hope, then
became doubtful; he turned to the East, first sighed, then became
enthusiastic. Finally he proposed a toast in honour of the
trinity: Religion, Agriculture, and Industry!
"Under the wing of authority!" Kollomietzev added sternly.
"Under the wing of wise and benevolent authority," Sipiagin
The toast was drunk in silence. The empty space on Sipiagin's
left, in the form of Nejdanov, did certainly make several sounds
of disapproval; but arousing not the least attention became quiet
again, and the dinner, without any further controversy, reached a
Valentina Mihailovna, with a most charming smile, handed Solomin
a cup of coffee; he drank it and was already looking round for
his hat when Sipiagin took him gently by the arm and led him into
his study. There he first gave him an excellent cigar and then
made him a proposal to enter his factory on the most advantageous
terms. "You will be absolute master there, Vassily Fedotitch, I
assure you!" Solomin accepted the cigar and declined the offer
about the factory. He stuck to his refusal, however much Sipiagin
"Please don't say 'no' at once, my dear Vassily Fedotitch! Say,
at least, that you'll think it over until tomorrow!"
"It would make no difference. I wouldn't accept your proposal."
"Do think it over till tomorrow, Vassily Fedotitch! It won't
cost you anything."
Solomin agreed, came out of the study, and began looking for his
hat again. But Nejdanov, who until that moment had had no
opportunity of exchanging a word with him, came up to him and
"For heaven's sake don't go yet, or else we won't be able to have
Solomin left his hat alone, the more readily as Sipiagin, who had
observed his irresoluteness, exclaimed:
"Won't you stay the night with us?"
"As you wish."
The grateful glance Mariana fixed on him as she stood at the
drawing-room window set him thinking.
UNTIL his visit Mariana had pictured Solomin to herself as quite
different. At first sight he had struck her as undefined,
characterless. She had seen many such fair, lean, sinewy men in
her day, but the more she watched him, the longer she listened to
him, the stronger grew her feeling of confidence in him--for it
was confidence he inspired her with. This calm, not exactly
clumsy, but heavy man, was not only incapable of lying or
bragging, but one could rely on him as on a stone wall. He would
not betray one; more than that, he would understand and help one.
It seemed to Mariana that he aroused such a feeling, not only in
herself alone, but in everyone present. The things he spoke
about had no particular interest for her. She attached very
little significance to all this talk about factories and
merchants, but the way in which he spoke, the manner in which he
looked round and smiled, pleased her immensely.
A straightforward man . . . at any rate! this was what appealed
to her. It is a well-known fact, though not very easy to
understand, that Russians are the greatest liars on the face of
the earth, yet there is nothing they respect more than truth,
nothing they sympathise with more. And then Solomin, in Mariana's
eyes, was surrounded by a particular halo, as a man who had been
recommended by Vassily Nikolaevitch himself. During dinner she
had exchanged glances with Nejdanov several times on his account,
and in the end found herself involuntarily comparing the two, not
to Nejdanov's advantage. Nejdanov's face was, it is true,
handsomer and pleasanter to look at than Solomin's, but the very
face expressed a medley of troubled sensations: embarrassment,
annoyance, impatience, and even dejection.
He seemed to be sitting on hot coals; tried to speak, but did
not, and laughed nervously. Solomin, on the other hand, seemed a
little bored, but looked quite at home and utterly independent of
what was going on around him. "We must certainly ask advice of
this man," Mariana thought, "he is sure to tell us something
useful." It was she who had sent Nejdanov to him after dinner.
The evening went very slowly; fortunately dinner was not over
until late and not very long remained before bedtime.
Kollomietzev was sulky and said nothing.
"What is the matter with you? " Madame Sipiagina asked half-
jestingly. "Have you lost anything?"
"Yes, I have," Kollomietzev replied. "There is a story about a
certain officer in the lifeguards who was very much grieved that
his soldiers had lost a sock of his. 'Find me my sock!' he would
say to them, and I say, find me the word 'sir!' The word ' sir'
is lost, and with it every sense of respect towards rank!"
Madame Sipiagina informed Kollomietzev that she would not help
him in the search.
Emboldened by the success of his speech at dinner, Sipiagin
delivered two others, in which he let fly various statesmanlike
reflections about indispensable measures and various words--des
mots--not so much witty as weighty, which he had especially
prepared for St. Petersburg. He even repeated one of these words,
saying beforehand, "If you will allow the expression." Above all,
he declared that a certain minister had an "idle, unconcentrated
mind," and was given "to dreaming." And not forgetting that one
of his listener's was a man of the people, he lost no opportunity
in trying to show that he too was a Russian through and through,
and steeped in the very root of the national life! For instance,
to Kollomietzev's remark that the rain might interfere with the
haymaking, he replied, "If the hay is black, then the buckwheat
will be white;" then he made use of various proverbs like: "A
store without a master is an orphan," "Look before you leap,"
"When there's bread then there's economy," " If the birch leaves
are as big as farthings by St. Yegor's day, the dough can be put
into tubs by the feast of Our Lady of Kazan." He sometimes went
wrong, however, and would get his proverbs very much mixed; but
the society in which these little slips occurred did not even
suspect that notre bon Russe had made a mistake, and, thanks to
Prince Kovrishkin, it had got used to such little blunders.
Sipiagin pronounced all these proverbs in a peculiarly powerful,
gruff voice--d'une voix rustique. Similar sayings let loose at
the proper time and place in St. Petersburg would cause
influential high-society ladies to exclaim, "Comme il connait
bien les moeurs de notre people!" and great statesmen would add,
"Les moeurs et les besoins!"
Valentina Mihailovna fussed about Solomin as much as she could,
but her failure to arouse him disheartened her. On passing
Kollomietzev she said involuntarily, in an undertone: "Mon Dieu,
que je me sens fatiguee!" to which he replied with an ironical
bow: "Tu l'as voulu, George Daudin!"
At last, after the usual outburst of politeness and amiability,
which appears on the faces of a bored assembly on the point of
breaking up, after sudden handshakings and friendly smiles, the
weary guests and weary hosts separated.
Solomin, who had been given almost the best bedroom on the second
floor, with English toilette accessories and a bathroom attached,
went in to Nejdanov.
The latter began by thanking him heartily for having agreed to
"I know it's a sacrifice on your part--"
"Not at all," Solomin said hastily. "There was no sort of
sacrifice required. Besides I couldn't refuse you."
"Because I've taken a great liking to you."
Nejdanov was surprised and glad at the same time, while Solomin
pressed his hand. Then he seated himself astride on a chair,
lighted a cigar, and leaning both his elbows against the back,
"Now tell me what's the matter."
Nejdanov also seated himself astride on a chair in front of
Solomin, but did not light a cigar.
"So you want to know what's the matter. . . The fact is, I want
to run away from here."
"Am I to understand that you want to leave this house? As far as
I can see there is nothing to prevent you.
"Not leave it, but run away from it."
"Why? Do they want to detain you? Perhaps you've taken some money
in advance . . . If so, you've only to say the word and I should
"I'm afraid you don't understand me, my dear Solomin. "I said run
away and not leave, because I'm not going away alone."
Solomin raised his head.
"With whom then?"
"With the girl you've seen here today."
"With her! She has a very nice face. Are you in love with one
another? Or have you simply decided to go away together because
you don't like being here?"
"We love each other."
Ah!" Solomin was silent for a while. "Is she related to the
"Yes. But she fully shares our convictions and is prepared for
"And you, Nejdanov, are you prepared?"
Nejdanov frowned slightly.
"Why ask? You will see when the time comes."
"I do not doubt you, Nejdanov. I only asked because it seemed to
me that besides yourself nobody else was prepared."
"Why, of course, Markelov! But then, he was born prepared."
At this moment someone knocked at the door gently, but hastily,
and opened it without waiting for an answer. It was Mariana. She
immediately came up to Solomin.
"I feel sure," she began, "that you are not surprised at seeing
me here at this time of night. He" (Mariana pointed to Nejdanov)
"has no doubt told you everything. Give me your hand, please, and
believe me an honest girl is standing before you."
"I am convinced of that," Solomin said seriously.
He had risen from his chair as soon as Mariana had appeared. "I
had already noticed you at table and was struck by the frank
expression of your eyes. Nejdanov told me about your intentions.
But may I ask why you want to run away."
"What a question! The cause with which I am fully in sympathy ...
don't be surprised. Nejdanov has kept nothing from me. . .
The great work is about to begin ... and am I to remain in this
house, where everything is deceit and falsehood? People I love
will be exposed to danger, and I--"
Solomin stopped her by a wave of the hand.
"Calm yourself. Sit down, please, and you sit down too, Nejdanov.
Let us all sit down. Listen to me! If you have no other reason
than the one you have mentioned, then there's no need for you to
run away as yet. The work will not begin so soon as you seem to
anticipate. A little more prudent consideration is needed in this
matter. It's no good plunging in too soon, believe me."
Mariana sat down and wrapped herself up in a large plaid, which
she had thrown over her shoulders.
"But I can't stay here any longer! I am being insulted by
everybody. Only today that idiot Anna Zaharovna said before
Kolia, alluding to my father, that a bad tree does not bring
forth good fruit! Kolia was even surprised, and asked what it
meant. Not to speak of Valentina Mihailovna!"
Solomin stopped her again, this time with a smile.
Mariana felt that he was laughing at her a little, but this smile
could not have offended any one.
"But, my dear lady, I don't know who Anna Zaharovna is, nor what
tree you are talking about. A foolish woman says some foolish
things to you and you can't endure it! How will you live in that
case? The whole world is composed of fools. Your reason is not
good enough. Have you any other?"
"I am convinced," Nejdanov interposed in a hollow voice, "that
Mr. Sipiagin will turn me out of the house tomorrow of his own
accord. Someone must have told him. He treats me . . . in the
most contemptuous manner."
Solomin turned to Nejdanov.
"If that's the case, then why run away?"
Nejdanov did not know what to say.
"But I've already told you--," he began.
"He said that," Mariana put in, "because I am going with him."
Solomin looked at her and shook his head good-naturedly.
"In that case, my dear lady, I say again, that if you want to
leave here because you think the revolution is about to break
"That was precisely why we asked you to come," Mariana
interrupted him; "we wanted to find out exactly how matters
"If that's your reason for going," Solomin continued, "I repeat
once more, you can stay at home for some time to come yet, but if
you want to run away because you love each other and can't be
united otherwise, then--"
"Well? What then?"
"Then I must first congratulate you and, if need be, give you all
the help in my power. I may say, my dear lady, that I took a
liking to you both at first sight and love you as brother and
Mariana and Nejdanov both went up to him on the right and left
and each clasped a hand.
"Only tell us what to do," Mariana implored. "Supposing the
revolution is still far off, there must be preparatory work to be
done, a thing impossible in this house, in the midst of these
surroundings. We should so gladly go together. . . Show us what
we can do; tell us where to go. . . Send us anywhere you like!
You will send us, won't you?"
"To the people. . . . Where can one go if not among the people?"
"Into the forest," Nejdanov thought, calling to mind Paklin's
Solomin looked intently at Mariana.
"Do you want to know the people?"
"Yes; that is, we not only want to get to know them, but we want
to work . . . to toil for them."
"Very well. I promise you that you shall get to know them. I will
give you the opportunity of doing as you wish. And you, Nejdanov,
are you ready to go for her . . . and for them?"
"Of course I am," he said hastily. "Juggernaut," another word of
Paklin's, flashed across his mind. "Here it comes thundering
along, the huge chariot . . . I can hear the crash and rumble of
"Very well," Solomin repeated pensively. "But when do you want to
"Tomorrow, if possible," Mariana observed.
"Very good. But where?"
"Sh, sh--" Nejdanov whispered. "Someone is walking along the
They were all silent for a time.
"But where do you want to go to? " Solomin asked again, lowering
"We don't know," Mariana replied.
Solomin glanced at Nejdanov, but the latter merely shook his
Solomin stretched out his hand and carefully snuffed the candle.
"I tell you what, my children," he said at last, "come to me at
the factory. It's not beautiful there, but safe, at any rate. I
will hide you. I have a little spare room there. Nobody will find
you. If only you get there, we won't give you up. You might think
that there are far too many people about, but that's one of its
good points. Where there is a crowd it's easy to hide. Will you
come? Will you?"
"How can we thank you enough!" Nejdanov exclaimed, whilst
Mariana, who was at first a little taken aback by the idea of the
factory, added quickly:
"Of course, of course! How good of you! But you won't leave us
there long, will you? You will send us on, won't you?"
"That will depend entirely on yourselves. . . If you should
want to get married that could also be arranged at the factory. I
have a neighbour there close by--a cousin of mine, a priest, and
very friendly. He would marry you with the greatest of pleasure."
Mariana smiled to herself, while Nejdanov again pressed
"But I say, won't your employer, the owner of the factory, be
annoyed about it. Won't he make it unpleasant for you?" he asked
after a pause.
Solomin looked askance at Nejdanov.
"Oh, don't bother about me! It's quite unnecessary. So long as
things at the factory go on all right it's all the same to my
employer. You need neither of you fear the least unpleasantness.
And you need not be afraid of the workpeople either. Only let me
know what time to expect you."
Nejdanov and Mariana exchanged glances.
"The day after tomorrow, early in the morning, or the day after
that. We can't wait any longer. As likely as not they'll tell me
to go tomorrow."
"Well then," Solomin said, rising from his chair. "I'll wait for
you every morning. I won't leave the place for the rest of the
week. Every precaution will be taken."
Mariana drew near to him (she was on her way to the door). "Goodbye,
my dear kind Vassily Fedotitch ... that is your name, isn't
"Goodbye till we meet again. And thank you so much!"
"Goodbye, good night!"
"Goodbye, Nejdanov; till tomorrow," she added, and went out
The young men remained for some time motionless, and both were
"Nejdanov . . ." Solomin began at last, and stopped. "Nejdanov..."
he began a second time, "tell me about this girl . . . tell
me everything you can. What has her life been until now? Who is
she? Why is she here?"
Nejdanov told Solomin briefly what he knew about her. "Nejdanov,"
he said at last, "you must take great care of her, because . . .
if . . . anything . . . were to happen, you would be very much to
He went out, while Nejdanov stood still for a time in the middle
of the room, and muttering, "Oh dear! It's better not to think!"
threw himself face downwards on the bed.
When Mariana returned to her room she found a note on the table
containing the following:
"I am sorry for you. You are ruining yourself. Think what you are
doing. Into what abysses are you throwing yourself with your eyes
shut. For whom and for what?--V."
There was a peculiarly fine fresh scent in the room; evidently
Valentina Mihailovna had only just left it. Mariana took a pen
and wrote underneath: "You need not be sorry for me. God knows
which of us two is more in need of pity. I only know that I
wouldn't like to be in your place for worlds.--M." She put the
note on the table, not doubting that it would fall into Valentina
On the following morning, Solomin, after seeing Nejdanov and
definitely declining to undertake the management of Sipiagin's
factory, set out for home. He mused all the way home, a thing
that rarely occurred with him; the motion of the carriage usually
had a drowsy effect on him. He thought of Mariana and of
Nejdanov; it seemed to him that if he had been in love--he,
Solomin--he would have had quite a different air, would have
looked and spoken differently. "But," he thought, "such a thing
has never happened to me, so I can't tell what sort of an air I
would have." He recalled an Irish girl whom he had once seen in a
shop behind a counter; recalled her wonderful black hair, blue
eyes, and thick lashes, and how she had looked at him with a sad,
wistful expression, and how he had paced up and down the street
before her window for a long time, how excited he had been, and
had kept asking himself if he should try and get to know her. He
was in London at the time, where he had been sent by his employer
with a sum of money to make various purchases. He very nearly
decided to remain in London and send back the money, so strong
was the impression produced on him by the beautiful Polly. (He
had got to know her name, one of the other girls had called her
by it.) He had mastered himself, however, and went back to his
employer. Polly was more beautiful than Mariana, but Mariana had
the same sad, wistful expression in her eyes . . . and Mariana
was a Russian.
"But what am I doing? " Solomin exclaimed in an undertone,
"bothering about other men's brides!" and he shook back the
collar of his coat, as if he wanted to shake off all superfluous
thoughts. Just then he drove up to the factory and caught sight
of the faithful Pavel in the doorway of his little dwelling.
SOLOMIN'S refusal greatly offended Sipiagin; so much so, that he
suddenly found that this home-bred Stevenson was not such a
wonderful engineer after all, and that though he was not perhaps
a complete poser, yet gave himself airs like the plebeian he was.
"All these Russians when they imagine they know a thing become
insufferable! Au fond Kollomietzev was right!" Under the
influence of such hostile and irritable sensations, the
statesman--en herbe--was even more unsympathetic and distant in
his intercourse with Nejdanov. He told Kolia that he need not
take lessons that day and that he must try to be more independent
in future. He did not, however, dismiss the tutor himself as the
latter had expected, but continued to ignore him. But Valentina
Mihailovna did not ignore Mariana. A dreadful scene took place
About two hours before dinner they suddenly found themselves
alone in the drawing-room. They both felt that the inevitable
moment for the battle had arrived and, after a moment's
hesitation, instinctively drew near to one another. Valentina
Mihailovna was slightly smiling, Mariana pressed her lips firmly
together; both were pale. When walking across the room, Valentina
Mihailovna looked uneasily to the right and left and tore off a
geranium leaf. Mariana's eyes were fixed straight on the smiling
face coming towards her. Madame Sipiagina was the first to stop,
and drumming her finger-tips on the back of a chair began in a
free and easy tone:
"Mariana Vikentievna, it seems that we have entered upon a
correspondence with one another . . . Living under the same roof
as we do it strikes me as being rather strange. And you know I am
not very fond of strange things."
"I did not begin the correspondence, Valentina Mihailovna."
"That is true. As it happens, I am to blame in that. Only I could
not think of any other means of arousing in you a feeling . . .
how shall I say? A feeling--"
"You can speak quite plainly, Valentina Mihailovna. You need not
be afraid of offending me."
"A feeling . . . of propriety."
Valentina Mihailovna ceased; nothing but the drumming of her
fingers could be heard in the room.
"In what way do you think I have failed to observe the rules of
propriety?" Mariana asked.
Valentina Mihailovna shrugged her shoulders.
"Ma chere, vous n'etes plus un enfant--I think you know what I
mean. Do you suppose that your behaviour could have remained a
secret to me, to Anna Zaharovna, to the whole household in fact?
However, I must say you are not over-particular about secrecy.
You simply acted in bravado. Only Boris Andraevitch does not know
what you have done . . . But he is occupied with far more
serious and important matters. Apart from him, everybody else
Mariana's pallor increased.
"I must ask you to express yourself more clearly, Valentina
Mihailovna. What is it you are displeased about?"
"L'insolente!" Madame Sipiagina thought, but contained herself.
"Do you want to know why I am displeased with you, Mariana? Then
I must tell you that I disapprove of your prolonged interviews
with a young man who is very much beneath you in birth, breeding,
and social position. I am displeased . . . no! this word is far
too mild--I am shocked at your late . . . your night visits to
this young man! And where does it happen? Under my own roof!
Perhaps you see nothing wrong in it and think that it has nothing
to do with me, that I should be silent and thereby screen your
disgraceful conduct. As an honourable woman. . . oui,
mademoiselle, je l'ai ete, je le suis, et je le serai tu'jours! I
can't help being horrified at such proceedings!"
Valentina Mihailovna threw herself into an armchair as if
overcome by her indignation. Mariana smiled for the first time.
"I do not doubt your honour-- past, present, and to come," she
began; "and I mean this quite sincerely. Your indignation is
needless. I have brought no shame on your house. The young man
whom you alluded to . . . yes, I have certainly . . . fallen in
love with him."
"You love Mr. Nejdanov?"
"Yes, I love him."
Valentina Mihailovna sat up straight in her chair.
"But, Mariana! he's only a student, of no birth, no family, and
he is younger than you are!" (These words were pronounced not
without a certain spiteful pleasure.) "What earthly good can come
of it? What do you see in him? He is only an empty-headed boy."
"That was not always your opinion of him, Valentina Mihailovna."
"For heaven's sake leave me out of the question, my dear! . . .
Pas tant d'esprit que ca, je vous prie. The thing concerns you
and your future. Just consider for a moment. What sort of a match
is this for you?"
"I must confess, Valentina Mihailovna, that I did not look at it
in that light."
"What? What did you say? What am I to think? Let us assume that
you followed the dictates of your heart, but then it must end in
marriage sometime or other."
"I don't know . . . I had not thought of that."
"You had not thought of that? You must be mad!"
Mariana turned away.
"Let us make an end of this conversation, Valentina Mihailovna.
It won't lead to anything. In any case we won't understand each
Valentina Mihailovna started up.
"I can't, I won't put an end to this conversation! It's far too
serious . . . I am responsible for you before . . ."
Valentina Mihailovna was going to say God, but hesitated and
added, "before the whole world! I can't be silent when I hear
such utter madness! And why can't I understand you, pray? What
insufferable pride these young people have nowadays! On the
contrary, I understand you only too well . . . I can see that you
are infected with these new ideas, which will only be your ruin.
It will be too late to turn back then."
"Maybe; but believe me, even if we perish, we will not so much
as stretch out a finger that you might save us!"
"Pride again! This awful pride! But listen, Mariana, listen to
me," she added, suddenly changing her tone. She wanted to draw
Mariana nearer to herself, but the latter stepped back a pace.
"Ecoutez-moi, je vous en conjure! After all, I am not so old nor
so stupid that it should be impossible for us to understand each
other! Je ne suis pas une encroutee. I was even considered a
republican as a girl . . no less than you. Listen, I won't
pretend that I ever had any motherly feeling towards you . . .
and it is not in your nature to complain of that . . . But I
always felt, and feel now, that I owed certain duties towards
you, and I have always endeavoured to fulfil them. Perhaps the
match I had in my mind for you, for which both Boris Andraevitch
and I would have been ready to make any sacrifice . . . may not
have been fully in accordance with your ideas . . . but in the
bottom of my heart--"
Mariana looked at Valentina Mihailovna, at her wonderful eyes,
her slightly painted lips, at her white hands, the parted fingers
adorned with rings, which the elegant lady so energetically
pressed against the bodice of her silk dress.
Suddenly she interrupted her.
"Did you say a match, Valentina Mihailovna? Do you call that
heartless, vulgar friend of yours, Mr. Kollomietzev, 'a match?'"
Valentina Mihailovna took her fingers from her bodice. "Yes,
Mariana Vikentievna! I am speaking of that cultured, excellent
young man, Mr. Kollomietzev, who would make a wife happy and whom
only a mad-woman could refuse! Yes, only a mad-woman!"
"What can I do, ma tante? It seems that I am mad!"
"Have you anything serious against him?"
"Nothing whatever. I simply despise him." Valentina Mihailovna
shook her head impatiently and dropped into her chair again.
"Let us leave him. Retournons a nos moutons. And so you love Mr.
"And do you intend to continue your interviews with him?"
"But supposing I forbid it?"
"I won't listen to you."
Valentina Mihailovna sprang up from her chair. "What! You won't
listen to me! I see . . . And that is said to me by a girl who
has known nothing but kindness from me, whom I have brought up in
my own house, that is said to me . . . said to me--"
"By the daughter of a disgraced father," Mariana put in, sternly.
"Go on, don't be on ceremonies!"
"Ce n'est pas moi qui vous le fait dire, mademoiselle! In any
case, that is nothing to be proud of! A girl who lives at my
"Don't throw that in my face, Valentina Mihailovna! It would cost
you more to keep a French governess for Kolia . . . It is I who
give him French lessons!"
Valentina Mihailovna raised a hand holding a scented cambric
pocket-handkerchief with a large white monogram embroidered in
one corner and tried to say something, but Mariana continued
"You would have been right, a thousand times right, if, instead
of counting up all your petty benefits and sacrifices, you could
have been in a position to say 'the girl I loved' . . . but you
are too honest to lie about that!" Mariana trembled feverishly.
"You have always hated me. And even now you are glad in the
bottom of your heart--that same heart you have just mentioned--
glad that I am justifying your constant predictions, covering
myself with shame and scandal--you are only annoyed because part
of this shame is bound to fall on your virtuous, aristocratic
"You are insulting me," Valentina Mihailovna whispered. "Be kind
enough to leave the room!"
But Mariana could no longer contain herself. "Your household, you
said, all your household, Anna Zaharovna and everybody knows of
my behaviour! And every one is horrified and indignant . . . But
am I asking anything of you, of all these people? Do you think I
care for their good opinion? Do you think that eating your bread
has been sweet? I would prefer the greatest poverty to this
luxury. There is a gulf between me and your house, an
interminable gulf that cannot be crossed. You are an intelligent
woman, don't you feel it too? And if you hate me, what do you
think I feel towards you? We won't go into unnecessary details,
it's too obvious."
"Sortez, sortez, vous dis-je . . ." Valentina Mihailovna
repeated, stamping her pretty little foot.
Mariana took a few steps towards the door.
"I will rid you of my presence directly, only do you know what,
Valentina Mihailovna? They say that in Racine's "Bajazet" even
Rachel's sortez! was not effective, and you don't come anywhere
near her! Then, what was it you said . . . Je suis une honnete
femme, je l'ai et le serai toujours? But I am convinced that I am
far more honest than you are! Goodbye!"
Mariana went out quickly and Valentina Mihailovna sprang up from
her chair. She wanted to scream, to cry, but did not know what to
scream about, and the tears would not come at her bidding.
So she fanned herself with her pocket-handkerchief, but the
strong scent of it affected her nerves still more. She felt
miserable, insulted . . . She was conscious of a certain amount
of truth in what she had just heard, but how could anyone be so
unjust to her? "Am I really so bad?" she thought, and looked at
herself in a mirror hanging opposite between two windows. The
looking-glass reflected a charming face, somewhat excited, the
colour coming and going, but still a fascinating face, with
wonderful soft, velvety eyes. . .
"I? I am bad?" she thought again. . . . With such eyes?"
But at this moment her husband entered the room and she again
covered her face with her pocket-handkerchief.
"What is the matter with you?" he asked anxiously. "What is the
matter, Valia?" (He had invented this pet name, but only allowed
himself to use it when they were quite alone, particularly in the
At first she declared that there was nothing the matter, but
ended by turning around in her chair in a very charming and
touching manner and, flinging her arms round his shoulders (he
stood bending over her) and hiding her face in the slit of his
waistcoat, told him everything. Without any hypocrisy or any
interested motive on her part, she tried to excuse Mariana as
much as she could, putting all the blame on her extreme youth,
her passionate temperament, and the defects of her early
education. In the same way she also, without any hidden motive,
blamed herself a great deal, saying, "With a daughter of mine
this would never have happened! I would have looked after her
quite differently!" Sipiagin listened to her indulgently,
sympathetically, but with a severe expression on his face. He
continued standing in a stooping position without moving his head
so long as she held her arms round his shoulders; he called her
an angel, kissed her on the forehead, declared that he now knew
what course he must pursue as head of the house, and went out,
carrying himself like an energetic humane man, who was conscious
of having to perform an unpleasant but necessary duty.
At eight o'clock, after dinner, Nejdanov was sitting in his room
writing to his friend Silin.
"MY DEAR VLADIMIR,--I write to you at a critical moment of my
life. I have been dismissed from this house, I am going away from
here. That in itself would be nothing--I am not going alone. The
girl I wrote to you about is coming with me. We are drawn
together by the similarity of our fate in life, by our
loneliness, convictions, aspirations, and, above all, by our
mutual love. Yes, we love each other. I am convinced that I could
not experience the passion of love in any other form than that
which presents itself to me now. But I should not be speaking the