Boyhood by Leo Tolstoy

E-Text prepared by Martin Adamson BOYHOOD By LEO TOLSTOY Translated by CJ HOGARTH I A SLOW JOURNEY Again two carriages stood at the front door of the house at Petrovskoe. In one of them sat Mimi, the two girls, and their maid, with the bailiff, Jakoff, on the box, while in the other–a britchka–sat
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  • 1854
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E-Text prepared by Martin Adamson



Translated by CJ HOGARTH



Again two carriages stood at the front door of the house at Petrovskoe. In one of them sat Mimi, the two girls, and their maid, with the bailiff, Jakoff, on the box, while in the other–a britchka–sat Woloda, myself, and our servant Vassili. Papa, who was to follow us to Moscow in a few days, was standing bareheaded on the entrance-steps. He made the sign of the cross at the windows of the carriages, and said:

“Christ go with you! Good-bye.”

Jakoff and our coachman (for we had our own horses) lifted their caps in answer, and also made the sign of the cross.

“Amen. God go with us!”

The carriages began to roll away, and the birch-trees of the great avenue filed out of sight.

I was not in the least depressed on this occasion, for my mind was not so much turned upon what I had left as upon what was awaiting me. In proportion as the various objects connected with the sad recollections which had recently filled my imagination receded behind me, those recollections lost their power, and gave place to a consolatory feeling of life, youthful vigour, freshness, and hope.

Seldom have I spent four days more–well, I will not say gaily, since I should still have shrunk from appearing gay–but more agreeably and pleasantly than those occupied by our journey.

No longer were my eyes confronted with the closed door of Mamma’s room (which I had never been able to pass without a pang), nor with the covered piano (which nobody opened now, and at which I could never look without trembling), nor with mourning dresses (we had each of us on our ordinary travelling clothes), nor with all those other objects which recalled to me so vividly our irreparable loss, and forced me to abstain from any manifestation of merriment lest I should unwittingly offend against HER memory.

On the contrary, a continual succession of new and exciting objects and places now caught and held my attention, and the charms of spring awakened in my soul a soothing sense of satisfaction with the present and of blissful hope for the future.

Very early next morning the merciless Vassili (who had only just entered our service, and was therefore, like most people in such a position, zealous to a fault) came and stripped off my counterpane, affirming that it was time for me to get up, since everything was in readiness for us to continue our journey. Though I felt inclined to stretch myself and rebel–though I would
gladly have spent another quarter of an hour in sweet enjoyment of my morning slumber–Vassili’s inexorable face showed that he would grant me no respite, but that he was ready to tear away the counterpane twenty times more if necessary. Accordingly I submitted myself to the inevitable and ran down into the courtyard to wash myself at the fountain.

In the coffee-room, a tea-kettle was already surmounting the fire which Milka the ostler, as red in the face as a crab, was blowing with a pair of bellows. All was grey and misty in the courtyard, like steam from a smoking dunghill, but in the eastern sky the sun was diffusing a clear, cheerful radiance, and making the straw roofs of the sheds around the courtyard sparkle with the night dew. Beneath them stood our horses, tied to mangers, and I could hear the ceaseless sound of their chewing. A curly-haired dog which had been spending the night on a dry dunghill now rose in lazy fashion and, wagging its tail, walked slowly across the courtyard.

The bustling landlady opened the creaking gates, turned her meditative cows into the street (whence came the lowing and bellowing of other cattle), and exchanged a word or two with a sleepy neighbour. Philip, with his shirt-sleeves rolled up, was working the windlass of a draw-well, and sending sparkling fresh water coursing into an oaken trough, while in the pool beneath it some early-rising ducks were taking a bath. It gave me pleasure to watch his strongly-marked, bearded face, and the veins and muscles as they stood out upon his great powerful hands whenever he made an extra effort. In the room behind the partition-wall where Mimi and the girls had slept (yet so near to ourselves that we had exchanged confidences overnight) movements now became audible, their maid kept passing in and out with clothes, and, at last the door opened and we were summoned to breakfast. Woloda, however, remained in a state of bustle throughout as he ran to fetch first one article and then another and urged the maid to hasten her preparations.

The horses were put to, and showed their impatience by tinkling their bells. Parcels, trunks, dressing-cases, and boxes were replaced, and we set about taking our seats. Yet, every time that we got in, the mountain of luggage in the britchka seemed to have grown larger than before, and we had much ado to understand how things had been arranged yesterday, and how we should sit now. A tea-chest, in particular, greatly inconvenienced me, but Vassili declared that “things will soon right themselves,” and I had no choice but to believe him.

The sun was just rising, covered with dense white clouds, and every object around us was standing out in a cheerful, calm sort of radiance. The whole was beautiful to look at, and I felt comfortable and light of heart.

Before us the road ran like a broad, sinuous ribbon through cornfields glittering with dew. Here and there a dark bush or young birch-tree cast a long shadow over the ruts and scattered grass-tufts of the track. Yet even the monotonous din of our carriage-wheels and collar-bells could not drown the joyous song of soaring larks, nor the combined odour of moth-eaten cloth, dust, and sourness peculiar to our britchka overpower the fresh scents of the morning. I felt in my heart that delightful impulse to be up and doing which is a sign of sincere enjoyment.

As I had not been able to say my prayers in the courtyard of the inn, but had nevertheless been assured once that on the very first day when I omitted to perform that ceremony some misfortune would overtake me, I now hastened to rectify the omission. Taking off my cap, and stooping down in a corner of the britchka, I duly recited my orisons, and unobtrusively signed the sign of the cross beneath my coat. Yet all the while a thousand different objects were distracting my attention, and more than once I inadvertently repeated a prayer twice over.

Soon on the little footpath beside the road became visible some slowly moving figures. They were pilgrims. On their heads they had dirty handkerchiefs, on their backs wallets of birch-bark, and on their feet bundles of soiled rags and heavy bast shoes. Moving their staffs in regular rhythm, and scarcely throwing us a glance, they pressed onwards with heavy tread and in single file.

“Where have they come from?” I wondered to myself, “and whither are they bound? Is it a long pilgrimage they are making?” But soon the shadows they cast on the road became indistinguishable from the shadows of the bushes which they passed.

Next a carriage-and-four could be seen approaching us. In two seconds the faces which looked out at us from it with smiling curiosity had vanished. How strange it seemed that those faces should have nothing in common with me, and that in all probability they would never meet my eyes again!

Next came a pair of post-horses, with the traces looped up to their collars. On one of them a young postillion-his lamb’s wool cap cocked to one side-was negligently kicking his booted legs against the flanks of his steed as he sang a melancholy ditty. Yet his face and attitude seemed to me to express such perfect carelessness and indolent ease that I imagined it to be the height of happiness to be a postillion and to sing melancholy songs.

Far off, through a cutting in the road, there soon stood out against the light-blue sky, the green roof of a village church. Presently the village itself became visible, together with the roof of the manor-house and the garden attached to it. Who lived in that house? Children, parents, teachers? Why should we not call there and make the acquaintance of its inmates?

Next we overtook a file of loaded waggons–a procession to which our vehicles had to yield the road.

“What have you got in there?” asked Vassili of one waggoner who was dangling his legs lazily over the splashboard of his conveyance and flicking his whip about as he gazed at us with a stolid, vacant look; but he only made answer when we were too far off to catch what he said.

“And what have YOU got?” asked Vassili of a second waggoner who was lying at full length under a new rug on the driving-seat of his vehicle. The red poll and red face beneath it lifted themselves up for a second from the folds of the rug, measured our britchka with a cold, contemptuous look, and lay down again; whereupon I concluded that the driver was wondering to himself who we were, whence we had come, and whither we were going.

These various objects of interest had absorbed so much of my time that, as yet, I had paid no attention to the crooked figures on the verst posts as we passed them in rapid succession; but in time the sun began to burn my head and back, the road to become increasingly dusty, the impedimenta in the carriage to grow more and more uncomfortable, and myself to feel more and more cramped. Consequently, I relapsed into devoting my whole faculties to the distance-posts and their numerals, and to solving difficult mathematical problems for reckoning the time when we should arrive at the next posting-house.

“Twelve versts are a third of thirty-six, and in all there are forty-one to Lipetz. We have done a third and how much, then?”, and so forth, and so forth.

“Vassili,” was my next remark, on observing that he was beginning to nod on the box-seat, “suppose we change seats? Will you?” Vassili agreed, and had no sooner stretched himself out in the body of the vehicle than he began to snore. To me on my new perch, however, a most interesting spectacle now became visible– namely, our horses, all of which were familiar to me down to the smallest detail.

“Why is Diashak on the right today, Philip, not on the left?” I asked knowingly. “And Nerusinka is not doing her proper share of the pulling.”

“One could not put Diashak on the left,” replied Philip, altogether ignoring my last remark. “He is not the kind of horse to put there at all. A horse like the one on the left now is the right kind of one for the job.”

After this fragment of eloquence, Philip turned towards Diashak and began to do his best to worry the poor animal by jogging at the reins, in spite of the fact that Diashak was doing well and dragging the vehicle almost unaided. This Philip continued to do until he found it convenient to breathe and rest himself awhile and to settle his cap askew, though it had looked well enough before.

I profited by the opportunity to ask him to let me have the reins to hold, until, the whole six in my hand, as well as the whip, I had attained complete happiness. Several times I asked whether I was doing things right, but, as usual, Philip was never satisfied, and soon destroyed my felicity.

The heat increased until a hand showed itself at the carriage window, and waved a bottle and a parcel of eatables; whereupon Vassili leapt briskly from the britchka, and ran forward to get us something to eat and drink.

When we arrived at a steep descent, we all got out and ran down it to a little bridge, while Vassili and Jakoff followed, supporting the carriage on either side, as though to hold it up in the event of its threatening to upset.

After that, Mimi gave permission for a change of seats, and sometimes Woloda or myself would ride in the carriage, and Lubotshka or Katenka in the britchka. This arrangement greatly pleased the girls, since much more fun went on in the britchka. Just when the day was at its hottest, we got out at a wood, and, breaking off a quantity of branches, transformed our vehicle into a bower. This travelling arbour then bustled on to catch the carriage up, and had the effect of exciting Lubotshka to one of those piercing shrieks of delight which she was in the habit of occasionally emitting.

At last we drew near the village where we were to halt and dine. Already we could perceive the smell of the place–the smell of smoke and tar and sheep-and distinguish the sound of voices, footsteps, and carts. The bells on our horses began to ring less clearly than they had done in the open country, and on both sides the road became lined with huts–dwellings with straw roofs, carved porches, and small red or green painted shutters to the windows, through which, here and there, was a woman’s face looking inquisitively out. Peasant children clad in smocks only stood staring open-eyed or, stretching out their arms to us, ran barefooted through the dust to climb on to the luggage behind, despite Philip’s menacing gestures. Likewise, red-haired waiters came darting around the carriages to invite us, with words and signs, to select their several hostelries as our halting-place.

Presently a gate creaked, and we entered a courtyard. Four hours of rest and liberty now awaited us.


The sun was sinking towards the west, and his long, hot rays were burning my neck and cheeks beyond endurance, while thick clouds of dust were rising from the road and filling the whole air. Not the slightest wind was there to carry it away. I could not think what to do. Neither the dust-blackened face of Woloda dozing in a corner, nor the motion of Philip’s back, nor the long shadow of our britchka as it came bowling along behind us brought me any relief. I concentrated my whole attention upon the distance- posts ahead and the clouds which, hitherto dispersed over the sky, were now assuming a menacing blackness, and beginning to form themselves into a single solid mass.

From time to time distant thunder could be heard–a circumstance which greatly increased my impatience to arrive at the inn where we were to spend the night. A thunderstorm always communicated to me an inexpressibly oppressive feeling of fear and gloom.

Yet we were still ten versts from the next village, and in the meanwhile the large purple cloudbank–arisen from no one knows where–was advancing steadily towards us. The sun, not yet obscured, was picking out its fuscous shape with dazzling light, and marking its front with grey stripes running right down to the horizon. At intervals, vivid lightning could be seen in the distance, followed by low rumbles which increased steadily in volume until they merged into a prolonged roll which seemed to embrace the entire heavens. At length, Vassili got up and covered over the britchka, the coachman wrapped himself up in his cloak and lifted his cap to make the sign of the cross at each successive thunderclap, and the horses pricked up their ears and snorted as though to drink in the fresh air which the flying clouds were outdistancing. The britchka began to roll more swiftly along the dusty road, and I felt uneasy, and as though the blood were coursing more quickly through my veins. Soon the clouds had veiled the face of the sun, and though he threw a last gleam of light to the dark and terrifying horizon, he had no choice but to disappear behind them.

Suddenly everything around us seemed changed, and assumed a gloomy aspect. A wood of aspen trees which we were passing seemed to be all in a tremble, with its leaves showing white against the dark lilac background of the clouds, murmuring together in an agitated manner. The tops of the larger trees began to bend to and fro, and dried leaves and grass to whirl about in eddies over the road. Swallows and white-breasted swifts came darting around the britchka and even passing in front of the forelegs of the horses. While rooks, despite their outstretched wings, were laid, as it were, on their keels by the wind. Finally, the leather apron which covered us began to flutter about and to beat against the sides of the conveyance.

The lightning flashed right into the britchka as, cleaving the obscurity for a second, it lit up the grey cloth and silk galloon of the lining and Woloda’s figure pressed back into a corner.

Next came a terrible sound which, rising higher and higher, and spreading further and further, increased until it reached its climax in a deafening thunderclap which made us tremble and hold our breaths. “The wrath of God”–what poetry there is in that simple popular conception!

The pace of the vehicle was continually increasing, and from Philip’s and Vassili’s backs (the former was tugging furiously at the reins) I could see that they too were alarmed.

Bowling rapidly down an incline, the britchka cannoned violently against a wooden bridge at the bottom. I dared not stir and expected destruction every moment.

Crack! A trace had given way, and, in spite of the ceaseless, deafening thunderclaps, we had to pull up on the bridge.

Leaning my head despairingly against the side of the britchka, I followed with a beating heart the movements of Philip’s great black fingers as he tied up the broken trace and, with hands and the butt-end of the whip, pushed the harness vigorously back into its place.

My sense of terror was increasing with the violence of the thunder. Indeed, at the moment of supreme silence which generally precedes the greatest intensity of a storm, it mounted to such a height that I felt as though another quarter of an hour of this emotion would kill me.

Just then there appeared from beneath the bridge a human being who, clad in a torn, filthy smock, and supported on a pair of thin shanks bare of muscles, thrust an idiotic face, a tremulous, bare, shaven head, and a pair of red, shining stumps in place of hands into the britchka.

“M-my lord! A copeck for–for God’s sake!” groaned a feeble voice as at each word the wretched being made the sign of the cross and bowed himself to the ground.

I cannot describe the chill feeling of horror which penetrated my heart at that moment. A shudder crept through all my hair, and my eyes stared in vacant terror at the outcast.

Vassili, who was charged with the apportioning of alms during the journey, was busy helping Philip, and only when everything had been put straight and Philip had resumed the reins again had he time to look for his purse. Hardly had the britchka begun to move when a blinding flash filled the welkin with a blaze of light which brought the horses to their haunches. Then, the flash was followed by such an ear-splitting roar that the very vault of heaven seemed to be descending upon our heads. The wind blew harder than ever, and Vassili’s cloak, the manes and tails of the horses, and the carriage-apron were all slanted in one direction as they waved furiously in the violent blast.

Presently, upon the britchka’s top there fell some large drops of rain–“one, two, three:” then suddenly, and as though a roll of drums were being beaten over our heads, the whole countryside resounded with the clatter of the deluge.

From Vassili’s movements, I could see that he had now got his purse open, and that the poor outcast was still bowing and making the sign of the cross as he ran beside the wheels of the vehicle, at the imminent risk of being run over, and reiterated from time to time his plea, “For-for God’s sake!” At last a copeck rolled upon the ground, and the miserable creature–his mutilated arms, with their sleeves wet through and through, held out before him– stopped perplexed in the roadway and vanished from my sight.

The heavy rain, driven before the tempestuous wind, poured down in pailfuls and, dripping from Vassili’s thick cloak, formed a series of pools on the apron. The dust became changed to a paste which clung to the wheels, and the ruts became transformed into muddy rivulets.

At last, however, the lightning grew paler and more diffuse, and the thunderclaps lost some of their terror amid the monotonous rattling of the downpour. Then the rain also abated, and the clouds began to disperse. In the region of the sun, a lightness appeared, and between the white-grey clouds could be caught glimpses of an azure sky.

Finally, a dazzling ray shot across the pools on the road, shot through the threads of rain–now falling thin and straight, as from a sieve–, and fell upon the fresh leaves and blades of grass. The great cloud was still louring black and threatening on the far horizon, but I no longer felt afraid of it–I felt only an inexpressibly pleasant hopefulness in proportion, as trust in life replaced the late burden of fear. Indeed, my heart was smiling like that of refreshed, revivified Nature herself.

Vassili took off his cloak and wrung the water from it. Woloda flung back the apron, and I stood up in the britchka to drink in the new, fresh, balm-laden air. In front of us was the carriage, rolling along and looking as wet and resplendent in the sunlight as though it had just been polished. On one side of the road boundless oatfields, intersected in places by small ravines which now showed bright with their moist earth and greenery, stretched to the far horizon like a checkered carpet, while on the other side of us an aspen wood, intermingled with hazel bushes, and parquetted with wild thyme in joyous profusion, no longer rustled and trembled, but slowly dropped rich, sparkling diamonds from its newly-bathed branches on to the withered leaves of last year.

From above us, from every side, came the happy songs of little birds calling to one another among the dripping brushwood, while clear from the inmost depths of the wood sounded the voice of the cuckoo. So delicious was the wondrous scent of the wood, the scent
which follows a thunderstorm in spring, the scent of birch-trees, violets, mushrooms, and thyme, that I could no longer remain in the britchka. Jumping out, I ran to some bushes, and, regardless of the showers of drops discharged upon me, tore off a few sprigs of thyme, and buried my face in them to smell their glorious scent.

Then, despite the mud which had got into my boots, as also the fact that my stockings were soaked, I went skipping through the puddles to the window of the carriage.

“Lubotshka! Katenka!” I shouted as I handed them some of the thyme, “Just look how delicious this is!”

The girls smelt it and cried, “A-ah!” but Mimi shrieked to me to go away, for fear I should be run over by the wheels.

“Oh, but smell how delicious it is!” I persisted.


Katenka was with me in the britchka; her lovely head inclined as she gazed pensively at the roadway. I looked at her in silence and wondered what had brought the unchildlike expression of sadness to her face which I now observed for the first time there.

“We shall soon be in Moscow,” I said at last. “How large do you suppose it is?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“Well, but how large do you IMAGINE? As large as Serpukhov?”

“What do you say?”


Yet the instinctive feeling which enables one person to guess the thoughts of another and serves as a guiding thread in conversation soon made Katenka feel that her indifference was disagreeable to me; wherefore she raised her head presently, and, turning round, said:

“Did your Papa tell you that we girls too were going to live at your Grandmamma’s?”

“Yes, he said that we should ALL live there,”

“ALL live there?”

“Yes, of course. We shall have one half of the upper floor, and you the other half, and Papa the wing; but we shall all of us dine together with Grandmamma downstairs.”

“But Mamma says that your Grandmamma is so very grave and so easily made angry?”

“No, she only SEEMS like that at first. She is grave, but not bad-tempered. On the contrary, she is both kind and cheerful. If you could only have seen the ball at her house!”

“All the same, I am afraid of her. Besides, who knows whether we–“

Katenka stopped short, and once again became thoughtful.

“What?” I asked with some anxiety.

“Nothing, I only said that–“

“No. You said, ‘Who knows whether we–‘”

“And YOU said, didn’t you, that once there was ever such a ball at Grandmamma’s?”

“Yes. It is a pity you were not there. There were heaps of guests–about a thousand people, and all of them princes or generals, and there was music, and I danced– But, Katenka” I broke off, “you are not listening to me?”

“Oh yes, I am listening. You said that you danced–?”

“Why are you so serious?”

“Well, one cannot ALWAYS be gay.”

“But you have changed tremendously since Woloda and I first went to Moscow. Tell me the truth, now: why are you so odd?” My tone was resolute.

“AM I so odd?” said Katenka with an animation which showed me that my question had interested her. “I don’t see that I am so at all.”

“Well, you are not the same as you were before,” I continued. “Once upon a time any one could see that you were our equal in everything, and that you loved us like relations, just as we did you; but now you are always serious, and keep yourself apart from us.”

“Oh, not at all.”

“But let me finish, please,” I interrupted, already conscious of a slight tickling in my nose–the precursor of the tears which usually came to my eyes whenever I had to vent any long pent-up feeling. “You avoid us, and talk to no one but Mimi, as though you had no wish for our further acquaintance.”

“But one cannot always remain the same–one must change a little sometimes,” replied Katenka, who had an inveterate habit of pleading some such fatalistic necessity whenever she did not know what else to say.

I recollect that once, when having a quarrel with Lubotshka, who had called her “a stupid girl,” she (Katenka) retorted that EVERYBODY could not be wise, seeing that a certain number of stupid people was a necessity in the world. However, on the present occasion, I was not satisfied that any such inevitable necessity for “changing sometimes” existed, and asked further:

“WHY is it necessary?”

“Well, you see, we MAY not always go on living together as we are doing now,” said Katenka, colouring slightly, and regarding Philip’s back with a grave expression on her face. “My Mamma was able to live with your mother because she was her friend; but will a similar arrangement always suit the Countess, who, they say, is so easily offended? Besides, in any case, we shall have to separate SOME day. You are rich–you have Petrovskoe, while we are poor–Mamma has nothing.”

“You are rich,” “we are poor”–both the words and the ideas which they connoted seemed to me extremely strange. Hitherto, I had conceived that only beggars and peasants were poor and could not reconcile in my mind the idea of poverty and the graceful, charming Katenka. I felt that Mimi and her daughter ought to live with us ALWAYS and to share everything that we possessed. Things ought never to be otherwise. Yet, at this moment, a thousand new thoughts with regard to their lonely position came crowding into my head, and I felt so remorseful at the notion that we were rich and they poor, that I coloured up and could not look Katenka in the face.

“Yet what does it matter,” I thought, “that we are well off and they are not? Why should that necessitate a separation? Why should we not share in common what we possess?” Yet, I had a feeling that I could not talk to Katenka on the subject, since a certain practical instinct, opposed to all logical reasoning, warned me that, right though she possibly was, I should do wrong to tell her so.

“It is impossible that you should leave us. How could we ever live apart?”

“Yet what else is there to be done? Certainly I do not WANT to do it; yet, if it HAS to be done, I know what my plan in life will be.”

“Yes, to become an actress! How absurd!” I exclaimed (for I knew that to enter that profession had always been her favourite dream).

“Oh no. I only used to say that when I was a little girl.”

“Well, then? What?”

“To go into a convent and live there. Then I could walk out in a black dress and velvet cap!” cried Katenka.

Has it ever befallen you, my readers, to become suddenly aware that your conception of things has altered–as though every object in life had unexpectedly turned a side towards you of which you had hitherto remained unaware? Such a species of moral change occurred, as regards myself, during this journey, and therefore from it I date the beginning of my boyhood. For the first time in my life, I then envisaged the idea that we–i.e. our family–were not the only persons in the world; that not every conceivable interest was centred in ourselves; and that there existed numbers of people who had nothing in common with us, cared nothing for us, and even knew nothing of our existence. No doubt I had known all this before–only I had not known it then as I knew it now; I had never properly felt or understood it.

Thought merges into conviction through paths of its own, as well as, sometimes, with great suddenness and by methods wholly different from those which have brought other intellects to the same conclusion. For me the conversation with Katenka–striking deeply as it did, and forcing me to reflect on her future position–constituted such a path. As I gazed at the towns and villages through which we passed, and in each house of which lived at least one family like our own, as well as at the women and children who stared with curiosity at our carriages and then became lost to sight for ever, and the peasants and workmen who did not even look at us, much less make us any obeisance, the question arose for the first time in my thoughts, “Whom else do they care for if not for us?” And this question was followed by others, such as, “To what end do they live?” “How do they educate their children?” “Do they teach their children and let them play? What are their names?” and so forth.


From the time of our arrival in Moscow, the change in my conception of objects, of persons, and of my connection with them became increasingly perceptible. When at my first meeting with Grandmamma, I saw her thin, wrinkled face and faded eyes, the mingled respect and fear with which she had hitherto inspired me gave place to compassion, and when, laying her cheek against Lubotshka’s head, she sobbed as though she saw before her the corpse of her beloved daughter, my compassion grew to love.

I felt deeply sorry to see her grief at our meeting, even though I knew that in ourselves we represented nothing in her eyes, but were dear to her only as reminders of our mother–that every kiss which she imprinted upon my cheeks expressed the one thought, “She is no more–she is dead, and I shall never see her again.”

Papa, who took little notice of us here in Moscow, and whose face was perpetually preoccupied on the rare occasions when he came in his black dress-coat to take formal dinner with us, lost much in my eyes at this period, in spite of his turned-up ruffles, robes de chambre, overseers, bailiffs, expeditions to the estate, and hunting exploits.

Karl Ivanitch–whom Grandmamma always called “Uncle,” and who (Heaven knows why!) had taken it into his head to adorn the bald pate of my childhood’s days with a red wig parted in the middle– now looked to me so strange and ridiculous that I wondered how I could ever have failed to observe the fact before. Even between the girls and ourselves there seemed to have sprung up an invisible barrier. They, too, began to have secrets among themselves, as well as to evince a desire to show off their ever- lengthening skirts even as we boys did our trousers and ankle- straps. As for Mimi, she appeared at luncheon, the first Sunday, in such a gorgeous dress and with so many ribbons in her cap that it was clear that we were no longer en campagne, and that everything was now going to be different.


I was only a year and some odd months younger than Woloda, and from the first we had grown up and studied and played together. Hitherto, the difference between elder and younger brother had never been felt between us, but at the period of which I am speaking, I began to have a notion that I was not Woloda’s equal either in years, in tastes, or in capabilities. I even began to fancy that Woloda himself was aware of his superiority and that he was proud of it, and, though, perhaps, I was wrong, the idea wounded my conceit–already suffering from frequent comparison with him. He was my superior in everything–in games, in studies, in quarrels, and in deportment. All this brought about an estrangement between us and occasioned me moral sufferings which I had never hitherto experienced.

When for the first time Woloda wore Dutch pleated shirts, I at once said that I was greatly put out at not being given similar ones, and each time that he arranged his collar, I felt that he was doing so on purpose to offend me. But, what tormented me most of all was the idea that Woloda could see through me, yet did not choose to show it.

Who has not known those secret, wordless communications which spring from some barely perceptible smile or movement–from a casual glance between two persons who live as constantly together as do brothers, friends, man and wife, or master and servant– particularly if those two persons do not in all things cultivate mutual frankness? How many half-expressed wishes, thoughts, and meanings which one shrinks from revealing are made plain by a single accidental glance which timidly and irresolutely meets the eye!

However, in my own case I may have been deceived by my excessive capacity for, and love of, analysis. Possibly Woloda did not feel at all as I did. Passionate and frank, but unstable in his likings, he was attracted by the most diverse things, and always surrendered himself wholly to such attraction. For instance, he suddenly conceived a passion for pictures, spent all his money on their purchase, begged Papa, Grandmamma, and his drawing master to add to their number, and applied himself with enthusiasm to art. Next came a sudden rage for curios, with which he covered his table, and for which he ransacked the whole house. Following upon that, he took to violent novel-reading–procuring such works by stealth, and devouring them day and night. Involuntarily I was influenced by his whims, for, though too proud to imitate him, I was also too young and too lacking in independence to choose my own way. Above all, I envied Woloda his happy, nobly frank character, which showed itself most strikingly when we quarrelled. I always felt that he was in the right, yet could not imitate him. For instance, on one occasion when his passion for curios was at its height, I went to his table and accidentally broke an empty many-coloured smelling-bottle.

“Who gave you leave to touch my things?” asked Woloda, chancing to enter the room at that moment and at once perceiving the disorder which I had occasioned in the orderly arrangement of the treasures on his table. “And where is that smelling bottle? Perhaps you–?”

“I let it fall, and it smashed to pieces; but what does that matter?”

“Well, please do me the favour never to DARE to touch my things again,” he said as he gathered up the broken fragments and looked at them vexedly.

“And will YOU please do me the favour never to ORDER me to do anything whatever,” I retorted. “When a thing’s broken, it’s broken, and there is no more to be said.” Then I smiled, though I hardly felt like smiling.

“Oh, it may mean nothing to you, but to me it means a good deal,” said Woloda, shrugging his shoulders (a habit he had caught from Papa). “First of all you go and break my things, and then you laugh. What a nuisance a little boy can be!”

“LITTLE boy, indeed? Then YOU, I suppose, are a man, and ever so wise?”

“I do not intend to quarrel with you,” said Woloda, giving me a slight push. “Go away.”

“Don’t you push me!”

“Go away.”

“I say again–don’t you push me!”

Woloda took me by the hand and tried to drag me away from the table, but I was excited to the last degree, and gave the table such a push with my foot that I upset the whole concern, and brought china and crystal ornaments and everything else with a crash to the floor.

“You disgusting little brute!” exclaimed Woloda, trying to save some of his falling treasures.

“At last all is over between us,” I thought to myself as I strode from the room. “We are separated now for ever.”

It was not until evening that we again exchanged a word. Yet I felt guilty, and was afraid to look at him, and remained at a loose end all day.

Woloda, on the contrary, did his lessons as diligently as ever, and passed the time after luncheon in talking and laughing with the girls. As soon, again, as afternoon lessons were over I left the room, for it would have been terribly embarrassing for me to be alone with my brother. When, too, the evening class in history was ended I took my notebook and moved towards the door. Just as I passed Woloda, I pouted and pulled an angry face, though in reality I should have liked to have made my peace with him. At the same moment he lifted his head, and with a barely perceptible and good-humouredly satirical smile looked me full in the face. Our eyes met, and I saw that he understood me, while he, for his part, saw that I knew that he understood me; yet a feeling stronger than myself obliged me to turn away from him.

“Nicolinka,” he said in a perfectly simple and anything but mock- pathetic way, “you have been angry with me long enough. I am sorry if I offended you,” and he tendered me his hand.

It was as though something welled up from my heart and nearly choked me. Presently it passed away, the tears rushed to my eyes, and I felt immensely relieved.

“I too am so-rry, Wo-lo-da,” I said, taking his hand. Yet he only looked at me with an expression as though he could not understand why there should be tears in my eyes.


None of the changes produced in my conception of things were so striking as the one which led me to cease to see in one of our chambermaids a mere servant of the female sex, but, on the contrary, a WOMAN upon whom depended, to a certain extent, my peace of mind and happiness. From the time of my earliest recollection I can remember Masha an inmate of our house, yet never until the occurrence of which I am going to speak–an occurrence which entirely altered my impression of her–had I bestowed the smallest attention upon her. She was twenty-five years old, while I was but fourteen. Also, she was very beautiful. But I hesitate to give a further description of her lest my imagination should once more picture the bewitching, though deceptive, conception of her which filled my mind during the period of my passion. To be frank, I will only say that she was extraordinarily handsome, magnificently developed, and a woman–as also that I was but fourteen.

At one of those moments when, lesson-book in hand, I would pace the room, and try to keep strictly to one particular crack in the floor as I hummed a fragment of some tune or repeated some vague formula–in short, at one of those moments when the mind leaves off thinking and the imagination gains the upper hand and yearns for new impressions–I left the schoolroom, and turned, with no definite purpose in view, towards the head of the staircase.

Somebody in slippers was ascending the second flight of stairs. Of course I felt curious to see who it was, but the footsteps ceased abruptly, and then I heard Masha’s voice say:

“Go away! What nonsense! What would Maria Ivanovna think if she were to come now?”

“Oh, but she will not come,” answered Woloda’s voice in a whisper.

“Well, go away, you silly boy,” and Masha came running up, and fled past me.

I cannot describe the way in which this discovery confounded me. Nevertheless the feeling of amazement soon gave place to a kind of sympathy with Woloda’s conduct. I found myself wondering less at the conduct itself than at his ability to behave so agreeably. Also, I found myself involuntarily desiring to imitate him.

Sometimes I would pace the landing for an hour at a time, with no other thought in my head than to watch for movements from above. Yet, although I longed beyond all things to do as Woloda had done, I could not bring myself to the point. At other times, filled with a sense of envious jealousy, I would conceal myself behind a door and listen to the sounds which came from the maidservants’ room, until the thought would occur to my mind, “How if I were to go in now and, like Woloda, kiss Masha? What should I say when she asked me–ME with the huge nose and the tuft on the top of my head–what I wanted?” Sometimes, too, I could hear her saying to Woloda,

“That serves you right! Go away! Nicolas Petrovitch never comes in here with such nonsense.” Alas! she did not know that Nicolas Petrovitch was sitting on the staircase just below and feeling that he would give all he possessed to be in “that bold fellow Woloda’s” place! I was shy by nature, and rendered worse in that respect by a consciousness of my own ugliness. I am certain that nothing so much influences the development of a man as his exterior–though the exterior itself less than his belief in its plainness or beauty.

Yet I was too conceited altogether to resign myself to my fate. I tried to comfort myself much as the fox did when he declared that the grapes were sour. That is to say, I tried to make light of the satisfaction to be gained from making such use of a pleasing exterior as I believed Woloda to employ (satisfaction which I nevertheless envied him from my heart), and endeavoured with every faculty of my intellect and imagination to console myself with a pride in my isolation.


“Good gracious! Powder!” exclaimed Mimi in a voice trembling with alarm. “Whatever are you doing? You will set the house on fire in a moment, and be the death of us all!” Upon that, with an indescribable expression of firmness, Mimi ordered every one to stand aside, and, regardless of all possible danger from a premature explosion, strode with long and resolute steps to where some small shot was scattered about the floor, and began to trample upon it.

When, in her opinion, the peril was at least lessened, she called for Michael and commanded him to throw the “powder” away into some remote spot, or, better still, to immerse it in water; after which she adjusted her cap and returned proudly to the drawing- room, murmuring as she went, “At least I can say that they are well looked after.”

When Papa issued from his room and took us to see Grandmamma we found Mimi sitting by the window and glancing with a grave, mysterious, official expression towards the door. In her hand she was holding something carefully wrapped in paper. I guessed that that something was the small shot, and that Grandmamma had been informed of the occurrence. In the room also were the maidservant Gasha (who, to judge by her angry flushed face, was in a state of great irritation) and Doctor Blumenthal–the latter a little man pitted with smallpox, who was endeavouring by tacit, pacificatory signs with his head and eyes to reassure the perturbed Gasha. Grandmamma was sitting a little askew and playing that variety of “patience” which is called “The Traveller”–two unmistakable signs of her displeasure.

“How are you to-day, Mamma?” said Papa as he kissed her hand respectfully. “Have you had a good night?”

“Yes, very good, my dear; you KNOW that I always enjoy sound health,” replied Grandmamma in a tone implying that Papa’s inquiries were out of place and highly offensive. “Please give me a clean pocket-handkerchief,” she added to Gasha.

“I HAVE given you one, madam,” answered Gasha, pointing to the snow-white cambric handkerchief which she had just laid on the arm of Grandmamma’s chair.

“No, no; it’s a nasty, dirty thing. Take it away and bring me a CLEAN one, my dear.”

Gasha went to a cupboard and slammed the door of it back so violently that every window rattled. Grandmamma glared angrily at each of us, and then turned her attention to following the movements of the servant. After the latter had presented her with what I suspected to be the same handkerchief as before, Grandmamma continued:

“And when do you mean to cut me some snuff, my dear?”

“When I have time.”

“What do you say?”


“If you don’t want to continue in my service you had better say so at once. I would have sent you away long ago had I known that you wished it.”

“It wouldn’t have broken my heart if you had!” muttered the woman in an undertone.

Here the doctor winked at her again, but she returned his gaze so firmly and wrathfully that he soon lowered it and went on playing with his watch-key.

“You see, my dear, how people speak to me in my own house!” said Grandmamma to Papa when Gasha had left the room grumbling.

“Well, Mamma, I will cut you some snuff myself,” replied Papa, though evidently at a loss how to proceed now that he had made this rash promise.

“No, no, I thank you. Probably she is cross because she knows that no one except herself can cut the snuff just as I like it. Do you know, my dear,” she went on after a pause, “that your children very nearly set the house on fire this morning?”

Papa gazed at Grandmamma with respectful astonishment.

“Yes, they were playing with something or another. Tell him the story,” she added to Mimi.

Papa could not help smiling as he took the shot in his hand.

“This is only small shot, Mamma,” he remarked, “and could never be dangerous.”

“I thank you, my dear, for your instruction, but I am rather too old for that sort of thing.”

“Nerves, nerves!” whispered the doctor.

Papa turned to us and asked us where we had got the stuff, and how we could dare to play with it.

“Don’t ask THEM, ask that useless ‘Uncle,’ rather,” put in Grandmamma, laying a peculiar stress upon the word “UNCLE.” “What else is he for?”

“Woloda says that Karl Ivanitch gave him the powder himself,” declared Mimi.

“Then you can see for yourself what use he is,” continued Grandmamma. ” And where IS he–this precious ‘Uncle’? How is one to get hold of him? Send him here.”

“He has gone an errand for me,” said Papa.

“That is not at all right,” rejoined Grandmamma. “He ought ALWAYS to be here. True, the children are yours, not mine, and I have nothing to do with them, seeing that you are so much cleverer than I am; yet all the same I think it is time we had a regular tutor for them, and not this ‘Uncle’ of a German–a stupid fellow who knows only how to teach them rude manners and Tyrolean songs! Is it necessary, I ask you, that they should learn Tyrolean songs? However, there is no one for me to consult about it, and you must do just as you like.”

The word “NOW” meant “NOW THAT THEY HAVE NO MOTHER,” and suddenly awakened sad recollections in Grandmamma’s heart. She threw a glance at the snuff-box bearing Mamma’s portrait and sighed.

“I thought of all this long ago,” said Papa eagerly, “as well as taking your advice on the subject. How would you like St. Jerome to superintend their lessons?”

“Oh, I think he would do excellently, my friend,” said Grandmamma in a mollified tone, “He is at least a tutor comme il faut, and knows how to instruct des enfants de bonne maison. He is not a mere ‘Uncle’ who is good only for taking them out walking.”

“Very well; I will talk to him to-morrow,” said Papa. And, sure enough, two days later saw Karl Ivanitch forced to retire in favour of the young Frenchman referred to.


THE evening before the day when Karl was to leave us for ever, he was standing (clad, as usual, in his wadded dressing-gown and red cap) near the bed in his room, and bending down over a trunk as he carefully packed his belongings.

His behaviour towards us had been very cool of late, and he had seemed to shrink from all contact with us. Consequently, when I entered his room on the present occasion, he only glanced at me for a second and then went on with his occupation. Even though I proceeded to jump on to his bed (a thing hitherto always forbidden me to do), he said not a word; and the idea that he would soon be scolding or forgiving us no longer–no longer having anything to do with us–reminded me vividly of the impending separation. I felt grieved to think that he had ceased to love us and wanted to show him my grief.

“Will you let me help you?” I said, approaching him.

He looked at me for a moment and turned away again. Yet the expression of pain in his eyes showed that his coldness was not the result of indifference, but rather of sincere and concentrated sorrow.

“God sees and knows everything,” he said at length, raising himself to his full height and drawing a deep sigh. “Yes, Nicolinka,” he went on, observing, the expression of sincere pity on my face, ” my fate has been an unhappy one from the cradle, and will continue so to the grave. The good that I have done to people has always been repaid with evil; yet, though I shall receive no reward here, I shall find one THERE” (he pointed upwards). “Ah, if only you knew my whole story, and all that I have endured in this life!–I who have been a bootmaker, a soldier, a deserter, a factory hand, and a teacher! Yet now–now I am nothing, and, like the Son of Man, have nowhere to lay my head.” Sitting down upon a chair, he covered his eyes with his hand.

Seeing that he was in the introspective mood in which a man pays no attention to his listener as he cons over his secret thoughts, I remained silent, and, seating myself upon the bed, continued to watch his kind face.

“You are no longer a child. You can understand things now, and I will tell you my whole story and all that I have undergone. Some day, my children, you may remember the old friend who loved you so much–“

He leant his elbow upon the table by his side, took a pinch of snuff, and, in the peculiarly measured, guttural tone in which he used to dictate us our lessons, began the story of his career.

Since he many times in later years repeated the whole to me again–always in the same order, and with the same expressions and the same unvarying intonation–I will try to render it literally, and without omitting the innumerable grammatical errors into which he always strayed when speaking in Russian. Whether it was really the history of his life, or whether it was the mere product of his imagination–that is to say, some narrative which he had conceived during his lonely residence in our house, and had at last, from endless repetition, come to believe in himself–or whether he was adorning with imaginary facts the true record of his career, I have never quite been able to make out. On the one hand, there was too much depth of feeling and practical consistency in its recital for it to be wholly incredible, while, on the other hand, the abundance of poetical beauty which it contained tended to raise doubts in the mind of the listener.

“Me vere very unhappy from ze time of my birth,” he began with a profound sigh. “Ze noble blot of ze Countess of Zomerblat flows in my veins. Me vere born six veek after ze vetting. Ze man of my Mutter (I called him ‘Papa’) vere farmer to ze Count von Zomerblat. He coult not forget my Mutter’s shame, ant loaft me not. I had a youngster broser Johann ant two sister, pot me vere strange petween my own family. Ven Johann mate several silly trick Papa sayt, ‘Wit sis chilt Karl I am never to have one moment tranquil!’ and zen he scoltet and ponishet me. Ven ze sister quarrellet among zemselves Papa sayt, ‘Karl vill never be one opedient poy,’ ant still scoltet ant ponishet me. My goot Mamma alone loaft ant tenteret me. Often she sayt to me, ‘Karl, come in my room,’ ant zere she kisset me secretly. ‘Poorly, poorly Karl!’ she sayt. ‘Nopoty loaf you, pot I will not exchange you for somepoty in ze worlt, One zing your Mutter pegs you, to rememper,’ sayt she to me, ‘learn vell, ant be efer one honest man; zen Got will not forsake you.’ Ant I triet so to become. Ven my fourteen year hat expiret, ant me coult partake of ze Holy Sopper, my Mutter sayt to my Vater, ‘Karl is one pig poy now, Kustaf. Vat shall we do wis him?’ Ant Papa sayt, ‘Me ton’t know.’ Zen Mamma sayt, ‘Let us give him to town at Mister Schultzen’s, and he may pea Schumacher,’ ant my Vater sayt, ‘Goot !’ Six year ant seven mons livet I in town wis ze Mister Shoemaker, ant he loaft me. He sayt, ‘Karl are one goot vorkman, ant shall soon become my Geselle.’ Pot-man makes ze proposition, ant Got ze deposition. In ze year 1796 one conscription took place, ant each which vas serviceable, from ze eighteens to ze twenty-first year, hat to go to town.

“My Fater and my broser Johann come to town, ant ve go togezer to throw ze lot for which shoult pe Soldat. Johann drew ze fatal nomper, and me vas not necessary to pe Soldat. Ant Papa sayt, ‘I have only vun son, ant wis him I must now separate!’

“Den I take his hant, ant says, ‘Why say you so, Papa? Come wis me, ant I will say you somesing.’ Ant Papa come, ant we seat togezer at ze publics-house, ant me sayt, ‘Vaiter, give us one Bierkrug,’ ant he gives us one. We trink altogezer, and broser Johann also trink. ‘Papa,’ sayt me, ‘ton’t say zat you have only one son, ant wis it you must separate, My heart was breaking ven you say sis. Broser Johann must not serve; ME shall pe Soldat. Karl is for nopoty necessary, and Karl shall pe Soldat.’

“‘You is one honest man, Karl,’ sayt Papa, ant kiss me. Ant me was Soldat.”


“Zat was a terrible time, Nicolinka,” continued Karl Ivanitch, “ze time of Napoleon. He vanted to conquer Germany, ant we protected our Vaterland to ze last trop of plot. Me vere at Ulm, me vere at Austerlitz, me vere at Wagram.”

“Did you really fight?” I asked with a gaze of astonishment “Did you really kill anybody?”

Karl instantly reassured me on this point,

“Vonce one French grenadier was left behint, ant fell to ze grount. I
sprang forvarts wis my gon, ant vere about to kill him, aber der Franzose warf sein Gewehr hin und rief, ‘Pardon’–ant I let him loose.

“At Wagram, Napoleon cut us open, ant surrountet us in such a way as zere vas no helping. Sree days hat we no provisions, ant stoot in ze vater op to ze knees. Ze evil Napoleon neiser let us go loose nor catchet us.

“On ze fours day zey took us prisoners–zank Got! ant sent us to one fortress. Upon me vas one blue trousers, uniforms of very goot clos, fifteen of Thalers, ant one silver clock which my Vater hat given me, Ze Frans Soldaten took from me everysing. For my happiness zere vas sree tucats on me which my Mamma hat sewn in my shirt of flannel. Nopoty fount zem.

“I liket not long to stay in ze fortresses, ant resoluted to ron away. Von day, von pig holitay, says I to the sergeant which hat to look after us, ‘Mister Sergeant, to-day is a pig holitay, ant me vants to celeprate it. Pring here, if you please, two pottle Mateira, ant we shall trink zem wis each oser.’ Ant ze sergeant says, ‘Goot!’ Ven ze sergeant pring ze Mateira ant we trink it out to ze last trop, I taket his hant ant says, ‘Mister Sergeant, perhaps you have still one Vater and one Mutter?’ He says, ‘So I have, Mister Mayer.’ ‘My Vater ant Mutter not seen me eight year,’ I goes on to him, ‘ant zey know not if I am yet alive or if my bones be reposing in ze grave. Oh, Mister Sergeant, I have two tucats which is in my shirt of flannel. Take zem, ant let me loose! You will pe my penefactor, ant my Mutter will be praying for you all her life to ze Almighty Got!’

“Ze sergeant emptiet his glass of Mateira, ant says, ‘Mister Mayer, I loaf and pity you very much, pot you is one prisoner, ant I one soldat.’ So I take his hant ant says, ‘Mister Sergeant!’

“Ant ze sergeant says, ‘You is one poor man, ant I will not take your money, pot I will help you. Ven I go to sleep, puy one pail of pranty for ze Soldaten, ant zey will sleep. Me will not look after you.’ Sis was one goot man. I puyet ze pail of pranty, ant ven ze Soldaten was trunken me tresset in one olt coat, ant gang in silence out of ze doon.

“I go to ze wall, ant will leap down, pot zere is vater pelow, ant I will not spoil my last tressing, so I go to ze gate.

“Ze sentry go up and town wis one gon, ant look at me. ‘Who goes zere? ‘ ant I was silent. ‘Who goes zere ze second time?’ ant I was silent. ‘ Who goes zere ze third time? ‘ ant I ron away, I sprang in ze vater, climp op to ze oser site, ant walk on.

“Ze entire night I ron on ze vay, pot ven taylight came I was afrait zat zey woult catch me, ant I hit myself in ze high corn. Zere I kneelet town, zanket ze Vater in Heaven for my safety, ant fall asleep wis a tranquil feeling.

“I wakenet op in ze evening, ant gang furser. At once one large German carriage, wis two raven-black horse, came alongside me. In ze carriage sit one well-tresset man, smoking pipe, ant look at me. I go slowly, so zat ze carriage shall have time to pass me, pot I go slowly, ant ze carriage go slowly, ant ze man look at me. I go quick, ant ze carriage go quick, ant ze man stop its two horses, ant look at me. ‘Young man,’ says he, ‘where go you so late?’ I says, ‘I go to Frankfort.’ ‘Sit in ze carriage–zere is room enough, ant I will trag you,’ he says. ‘Bot why have you nosing about you? Your boots is dirty, ant your beart not shaven.’ I seated wis him, ant says, ‘lch bin one poor man, ant I would like to pusy myself wis somesing in a manufactory. My tressing is dirty because I fell in ze mud on ze roat.’

“‘You tell me ontruse, young man,’ says he. ‘Ze roat is kvite dry now.’ I was silent. ‘Tell me ze whole truse,’ goes on ze goot man–‘who you are, ant vere you go to? I like your face, ant ven you is one honest man, so I will help you.’ Ant I tell all.

“‘Goot, young man!’ he says. ‘Come to my manufactory of rope, ant I will give you work ant tress ant money, ant you can live wis os.’ I says, ‘Goot!’

“I go to ze manufactory of rope, ant ze goot man says to his voman, ‘Here is one yong man who defented his Vaterland, ant ron away from prisons. He has not house nor tresses nor preat. He will live wis os. Give him clean linen, ant norish him.’

“I livet one ant a half year in ze manufactory of rope, ant my lantlort loaft me so much zat he would not let me loose. Ant I felt very goot.

“I were zen handsome man–yong, of pig stature, with blue eyes and romische nose–ant Missis L– (I like not to say her name– she was ze voman of my lantlort) was yong ant handsome laty. Ant she fell in loaf wis me.”

Here Karl Ivanitch made a long pause, lowered his kindly blue eyes, shook his head quietly, and smiled as people always do under the influence of a pleasing recollection.

“Yes,” he resumed as he leant back in his arm-chair and adjusted his dressing-gown, “I have experiencet many sings in my life, pot zere is my witness,”–here he pointed to an image of the Saviour, embroidered on wool, which was hanging over his bed–“zat nopoty in ze worlt can say zat Karl Ivanitch has been one dishonest man, I would not repay black ingratitude for ze goot which Mister L– dit me, ant I resoluted to ron away. So in ze evening, ven all were asleep, I writet one letter to my lantlort, ant laid it on ze table in his room. Zen I taket my tresses, tree Thaler of money, ant go mysteriously into ze street. Nopoty have seen me, ant I go on ze roat.”


“I had not seen my Mamma for nine year, ant I know not whether she lived or whether her bones had long since lain in ze dark grave. Ven I come to my own country and go to ze town I ask, ‘Where live Kustaf Mayer who was farmer to ze Count von Zomerblat? ‘ ant zey answer me, ‘Graf Zomerblat is deat, ant Kustaf Mayer live now in ze pig street, ant keep a public-house.’ So I tress in my new waistcoat and one noble coat which ze manufacturist presented me, arranged my hairs nice, ant go to ze public-house of my Papa. Sister Mariechen vas sitting on a pench, and she ask me what I want. I says, ‘Might I trink one glass of pranty?’ ant she says, ‘Vater, here is a yong man who wish to trink one glass of pranty.’ Ant Papa says, ‘Give him ze glass.’ I set to ze table, trink my glass of pranty, smoke my pipe, ant look at Papa, Mariechen, ant Johann (who also come into ze shop). In ze conversation Papa says, ‘You know, perhaps, yong man, where stants our army?’ and I say, ‘I myself am come from ze army, ant it stants now at Wien.’ ‘Our son,’ says Papa, ‘is a Soldat, ant now is it nine years since he wrote never one wort, and we know not whether he is alive or dead. My voman cry continually for him.’ I still fumigate the pipe, ant say, ‘What was your son’s name, and where servet he? Perhaps I may know him.’ ‘His name was Karl Mayer, ant he servet in ze Austrian Jagers.’ ‘He were of pig stature, ant a handsome man like yourself,’ puts in Mariechen. I say, ‘I know your Karl.’ ‘Amalia,’ exclaimet my Vater. ‘Come here! Here is yong man which knows our Karl!’–ant my dear Mutter comes out from a back door. I knew her directly. ‘You know our Karl?’ says she, ant looks at me, ant, white all over, trembles. ‘Yes, I haf seen him,’ I says, without ze corage to look at her, for my heart did almost burst. ‘My Karl is alive?’ she cry. ‘Zen tank Got! Vere is he, my Karl? I woult die in peace if I coult see him once more–my darling son! Bot Got will not haf it so.’ Then she cried, and I coult no longer stant it. ‘Darling Mamma!’ I say, ‘I am your son, I am your Karl!’–and she fell into my arms.

Karl Ivanitch covered his eyes, and his lips were quivering.

“‘Mutter,’ sagte ich, ‘ich bin ihr Sohn, ich bin ihr Karl!’–und sie sturtzte mir in die Arme!'” he repeated, recovering a little and wiping the tears from his eyes.

“Bot Got did not wish me to finish my tays in my own town. I were pursuet by fate. I livet in my own town only sree mons. One Suntay I sit in a coffee-house, ant trinket one pint of Pier, ant fumigated my pipe, ant speaket wis some frients of Politik, of ze Emperor Franz, of Napoleon, of ze war–ant anypoty might say his opinion. But next to us sits a strange chentleman in a grey Uberrock, who trink coffee, fumigate the pipe, ant says nosing. Ven the night watchman shoutet ten o’clock I taket my hat, paid ze money, and go home. At ze middle of ze night some one knock at ze door. I rise ant says, ‘Who is zere?’ ‘Open!’ says someone. I shout again, ‘First say who is zere, ant I will open.’ ‘Open in the name of the law!’ say the someone behint the door. I now do so. Two Soldaten wis gons stant at ze door, ant into ze room steps ze man in ze grey Uberrock, who had sat with us in ze coffeehouse. He were Spion! ‘Come wis me,’ says ze Spion, ‘Very goot!’ say I. I dresset myself in boots, trousers, ant coat, ant go srough ze room. Ven I come to ze wall where my gon hangs I take it, ant says, ‘You are a Spion, so defent you!’ I give one stroke left, one right, ant one on ze head. Ze Spion lay precipitated on ze floor! Zen I taket my cloak-bag ant money, ant jompet out of ze vintow. I vent to Ems, where I was acquainted wis one General Sasin, who loaft me, givet me a passport from ze Embassy, ant taket me to Russland to learn his chiltren. Ven General Sasin tiet, your Mamma callet for me, ant says, ‘Karl Ivanitch, I gif you my children. Loaf them, ant I will never leave you, ant will take care for your olt age.’ Now is she teat, ant all is forgotten! For my twenty year full of service I most now go into ze street ant seek for a try crust of preat for my olt age! Got sees all sis, ant knows all sis. His holy will be done! Only-only, I yearn for you, my children!”–and Karl drew me to him, and kissed me on the forehead.


The year of mourning over, Grandmamma recovered a little from her grief, and once more took to receiving occasional guests, especially children of the same age as ourselves.

On the 13th of December–Lubotshka’s birthday–the Princess Kornakoff and her daughters, with Madame Valakhin, Sonetchka, Ilinka Grap, and the two younger Iwins, arrived at our house before luncheon.

Though we could hear the sounds of talking, laughter, and movements going on in the drawing-room, we could not join the party until our morning lessons were finished. The table of studies in the schoolroom said, ” Lundi, de 2 a 3, maitre d’Histoire et de Geographie,” and this infernal maitre d’Histoire we must await, listen to, and see the back of before we could gain our liberty. Already it was twenty minutes past two, and nothing was to be heard of the tutor, nor yet anything to be seen of him in the street, although I kept looking up and down it with the greatest impatience and with an emphatic longing never to see the maitre again.

“I believe he is not coming to-day,” said Woloda, looking up for a moment from his lesson-book.

“I hope he is not, please the Lord!” I answered, but in a despondent tone. “Yet there he DOES come, I believe, all the same!”

“Not he! Why, that is a GENTLEMAN,” said Woloda, likewise looking out of the window, “Let us wait till half-past two, and then ask St. Jerome if we may put away our books.”

“Yes, and wish them au revoir,” I added, stretching my arms, with the book clasped in my hands, over my head. Having hitherto idled away my time, I now opened the book at the place where the lesson was to begin, and started to learn it. It was long and difficult, and, moreover, I was in the mood when one’s thoughts refuse to be arrested by anything at all. Consequently I made no progress. After our last lesson in history (which always seemed to me a peculiarly arduous and wearisome subject) the history master had complained to St. Jerome of me because only two good marks stood to my credit in the register –a very small total. St. Jerome had then told me that if I failed to gain less than THREE marks at the next lesson I should be severely punished. The next lesson was now imminent, and I confess that I felt a little nervous.

So absorbed, however, did I become in my reading that the sound of goloshes being taken off in the ante-room came upon me almost as a shock. I had just time to look up when there appeared in the doorway the servile and (to me) very disgusting face and form of the master, clad in a blue frockcoat with brass buttons.

Slowly he set down his hat and books and adjusted the folds of his coat (as though such a thing were necessary!), and seated himself in his place.

“Well, gentlemen,” he said, rubbing his hands, “let us first of all repeat the general contents of the last lesson: after which I will proceed to narrate the succeeding events of the middle ages.”

This meant “Say over the last lesson.” While Woloda was answering the master with the entire ease and confidence which come of knowing a subject well, I went aimlessly out on to the landing, and, since I was not allowed to go downstairs, what more natural than that I should involuntarily turn towards the alcove on the landing? Yet before I had time to establish myself in my usual coign of vantage behind the door I found myself pounced upon by Mimi–always the cause of my misfortunes!

“YOU here?” she said, looking severely, first at myself, and then at the maidservants’ door, and then at myself again.

I felt thoroughly guilty, firstly, because I was not in the schoolroom, and secondly, because I was in a forbidden place. So I remained silent, and, dropping my head, assumed a touching expression of contrition.

“Indeed, this is TOO bad!” Mimi went on, “What are you doing here?

Still I said nothing.

“Well, it shall not rest where it is,” she added, tapping the banister with her yellow fingers. “I shall inform the Countess.”

It was five minutes to three when I re-entered the schoolroom. The master, as though oblivious of my presence or absence, was explaining the new lesson to Woloda. When he had finished doing this, and had put his books together (while Woloda went into the other room to fetch his ticket), the comforting idea occurred to me that perhaps the whole thing was over now, and that the master had forgotten me.

But suddenly he turned in my direction with a malicious smile, and said as he rubbed his hands anew, “I hope you have learnt your lesson?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Would you be so kind, then, as to tell me something about St. Louis’ Crusade?” he went on, balancing himself on his chair and looking gravely at his feet. “Firstly, tell me something about the reasons which induced the French king to assume the cross (here he raised his eyebrows and pointed to the inkstand); then explain to me the general characteristics of the Crusade (here he made a sweeping gesture with his hand, as though to seize hold of something with it); “and lastly, expound to me the influence of this Crusade upon the European states in general” (drawing the copy books to the left side of the table) “and upon the French state in particular” (drawing one of them to the right, and inclining his head in the same direction).

I swallowed a few times, coughed, bent forward, and was silent. Then, taking a pen from the table, I began to pick it to pieces, yet still said nothing.

“Allow me the pen–I shall want it,” said the master. “Well?”

“Louis the-er-Saint was-was-a very good and wise king.”


“King, He took it into his head to go to Jerusalem, and handed over the reins of government to his mother,”

“What was her name?


“What? Belanka?”

I laughed in a rather forced manner.

“Well, is that all you know?” he asked again, smiling.

I had nothing to lose now, so I began chattering the first thing that came into my head. The master remained silent as he gathered together the remains of the pen which I had left strewn about the table, looked gravely past my ear at the wall, and repeated from time to time, “Very well, very well.” Though I was conscious that I knew nothing whatever and was expressing myself all wrong, I felt much hurt at the fact that he never either corrected or interrupted me.

“What made him think of going to Jerusalem?” he asked at last, repeating some words of my own.

“Because–because–that is to say–“

My confusion was complete, and I relapsed into silence, I felt that, even if this disgusting history master were to go on putting questions to me, and gazing inquiringly into my face, for a year, I should never be able to enunciate another syllable. After staring at me for some three minutes, he suddenly assumed a mournful cast of countenance, and said in an agitated voice to Woloda (who was just re-entering the room):

“Allow me the register. I will write my remarks.”

He opened the book thoughtfully, and in his fine caligraphy marked FIVE for Woloda for diligence, and the same for good behaviour. Then, resting his pen on the line where my report was to go, he looked at me and reflected. Suddenly his hand made a decisive movement and, behold, against my name stood a clearly- marked ONE, with a full stop after it! Another movement and in the behaviour column there stood another one and another full stop! Quietly closing the book, the master then rose, and moved towards the door as though unconscious of my look of entreaty, despair, and reproach.

“Michael Lavionitch!” I said.

“No!” he replied, as though knowing beforehand what I was about to say. “It is impossible for you to learn in that way. I am not going to earn my money for nothing.”

He put on his goloshes and cloak, and then slowly tied a scarf about his neck. To think that he could care about such trifles after what had just happened to me! To him it was all a mere stroke of the pen, but to me it meant the direst misfortune.

“Is the lesson over?” asked St. Jerome, entering.


“And was the master pleased with you?”


“How many marks did he give you?”


“And to Nicholas?”

I was silent.

“I think four,” said Woloda. His idea was to save me for at least today. If punishment there must be, it need not be awarded while we had guests.

“Voyons, Messieurs!” (St. Jerome was forever saying “Voyons!”) “Faites votre toilette, et descendons.”


We had hardly descended and greeted our guests when luncheon was announced. Papa was in the highest of spirits since for some time past he had been winning. He had presented Lubotshka with a silver tea service, and suddenly remembered, after luncheon, that he had forgotten a box of bonbons which she was to have too.

“Why send a servant for it? YOU had better go, Koko,” he said to me jestingly. “The keys are in the tray on the table, you know. Take them, and with the largest one open the second drawer on the right. There you will find the box of bonbons. Bring it here.”

“Shall I get you some cigars as well?” said I, knowing that he always smoked after luncheon.

“Yes, do; but don’t touch anything else.”

I found the keys, and was about to carry out my orders, when I was seized with a desire to know what the smallest of the keys on the bunch belonged to.

On the table I saw, among many other things, a padlocked portfolio, and at once felt curious to see if that was what the key fitted. My experiment was crowned with success. The portfolio opened and disclosed a number of papers. Curiosity so strongly urged me also to ascertain what those papers contained that the voice of conscience was stilled, and I began to read their contents. . . .

My childish feeling of unlimited respect for my elders, especially for Papa, was so strong within me that my intellect involuntarily refused to draw any conclusions from what I had seen. I felt that Papa was living in a sphere completely apart from, incomprehensible by, and unattainable for, me, as well as one that was in every way excellent, and that any attempt on my part to criticise the secrets of his life would constitute something like sacrilege.

For this reason, the discovery which I made from Papa’s portfolio left no clear impression upon my mind, but only a dim consciousness that I had done wrong. I felt ashamed and confused.

The feeling made me eager to shut the portfolio again as quickly as possible, but it seemed as though on this unlucky day I was destined to experience every possible kind of adversity. I put the key back into the padlock and turned it round, but not in the right direction. Thinking that the portfolio was now locked, I pulled at the key and, oh horror! found my hand come away with only the top half of the key in it! In vain did I try to put the two halves together, and to extract the portion that was sticking in the padlock. At last I had to resign myself to the dreadful thought that I had committed a new crime –one which would be discovered to-day as soon as ever Papa returned to his study! First of all, Mimi’s accusation on the staircase, and then that one mark, and then this key! Nothing worse could happen now. This very evening I should be assailed successively by Grandmamma (because of Mimi’s denunciation), by St. Jerome (because of the solitary mark), and by Papa (because of the matter of this key)– yes, all in one evening!

“What on earth is to become of me? What have I done?” I exclaimed as I paced the soft carpet. “Well,” I went on with sudden determination, “what MUST come, MUST–that’s all;” and, taking up the bonbons and the cigars, I ran back to the other part of the house.

The fatalistic formula with which I had concluded (and which was one that I often heard Nicola utter during my childhood) always produced in me, at the more difficult crises of my life, a momentarily soothing, beneficial effect. Consequently, when I re- entered the drawing-room, I was in a rather excited, unnatural mood, yet one that was perfectly cheerful.


After luncheon we began to play at round games, in which I took a lively part. While indulging in “cat and mouse”, I happened to cannon rather awkwardly against the Kornakoffs’ governess, who was playing with us, and, stepping on her dress, tore a large hole in it. Seeing that the girls–particularly Sonetchka–were anything but displeased at the spectacle of the governess angrily departing to the maidservants’ room to have her dress mended, I resolved to procure them the satisfaction a second time. Accordingly, in pursuance of this amiable resolution, I waited until my victim returned, and then began to gallop madly round her, until a favourable moment occurred for once more planting my heel upon her dress and reopening the rent. Sonetchka and the young princesses had much ado to restrain their laughter, which excited my conceit the more, but St. Jerome, who had probably divined my tricks, came up to me with the frown which I could never abide in him, and said that, since I seemed disposed to mischief, he would have to send me away if I did not moderate my behaviour.

However, I was in the desperate position of a person who, having staked more than he has in his pocket, and feeling that he can never make up his account, continues to plunge on unlucky cards– not because he hopes to regain his losses, but because it will not do for him to stop and consider. So, I merely laughed in an impudent fashion and flung away from my monitor.

After “cat and mouse”, another game followed in which the gentlemen sit on one row of chairs and the ladies on another, and choose each other for partners. The youngest princess always chose the younger Iwin, Katenka either Woloda or Ilinka, and Sonetchka Seriosha –nor, to my extreme astonishment, did Sonetchka seem at all embarrassed when her cavalier went and sat down beside her. On the contrary, she only laughed her sweet, musical laugh, and made a sign with her head that he had chosen right. Since nobody chose me, I always had the mortification of finding myself left over, and of hearing them say, “Who has been left out? Oh, Nicolinka. Well, DO take him, somebody.” Consequently, whenever it came to my turn to guess who had chosen me, I had to go either to my sister or to one of the ugly elder princesses. Sonetchka seemed so absorbed in Seriosha that in her eyes I clearly existed no longer. I do not quite know why I called her “the traitress” in my thoughts, since she had never promised to choose me instead of Seriosha, but, for all that, I felt convinced that she was treating me in a very abominable fashion. After the game was finished, I actually saw “the traitress” (from whom I nevertheless could not withdraw my eyes) go with Seriosha and Katenka into a corner, and engage in secret confabulation. Stealing softly round the piano which masked the conclave, I beheld the following:

Katenka was holding up a pocket-handkerchief by two of its corners, so as to form a screen for the heads of her two companions. “No, you have lost! You must pay the forfeit!” cried Seriosha at that moment, and Sonetchka, who was standing in front of him, blushed like a criminal as she replied, “No, I have NOT lost! HAVE I, Mademoiselle Katherine?” “Well, I must speak the truth,” answered Katenka, “and say that you HAVE lost, my dear.” Scarcely had she spoken the words when Seriosha embraced Sonetchka, and kissed her right on her rosy lips! And Sonetchka smiled as though it were nothing, but merely something very pleasant!

Horrors! The artful “traitress!”


Instantly, I began to feel a strong contempt for the female sex in general and Sonetchka in particular. I began to think that there was nothing at all amusing in these games–that they were only fit for girls, and felt as though I should like to make a great noise, or to do something of such extraordinary boldness that every one would be forced to admire it. The opportunity soon arrived. St. Jerome said something to Mimi, and then left the room, I could hear his footsteps ascending the staircase, and then passing across the schoolroom, and the idea occurred to me that Mimi must have told him her story about my being found on the landing, and thereupon he had gone to look at the register. (In those days, it must be remembered, I believed that St. Jerome’s whole aim in life was to annoy me.) Some where I have read that, not infrequently, children of from twelve to fourteen years of age–that is to say, children just passing from childhood to adolescence–are addicted to incendiarism, or even to murder. As I look back upon my childhood, and particularly upon the mood in which I was on that (for myself) most unlucky day, I can quite understand the possibility of such terrible crimes being committed by children without any real aim in view– without any real wish to do wrong, but merely out of curiosity or under the influence of an unconscious necessity for action. There are moments when the human being sees the future in such lurid colours that he shrinks from fixing his mental eye upon it, puts a check upon all his intellectual activity, and tries to feel convinced that the future will never be, and that the past has never been. At such moments–moments when thought does not shrink from manifestations of will, and the carnal instincts alone constitute the springs of life–I can understand that want of experience (which is a particularly predisposing factor in this connection) might very possibly lead a child, aye, without fear or hesitation, but rather with a smile of curiosity on its face, to set fire to the house in which its parents and brothers and sisters (beings whom it tenderly loves) are lying asleep. It would be under the same influence of momentary absence of thought–almost absence of mind–that a peasant boy of seventeen might catch sight of the edge of a newly-sharpened axe reposing near the bench on which his aged father was lying asleep, face downwards, and suddenly raise the implement in order to observe with unconscious curiosity how the blood would come spurting out upon the floor if he made a wound in the sleeper’s neck. It is under the same influence–the same absence of thought, the same instinctive curiosity–that a man finds delight in standing on the brink of an abyss and thinking to himself, “How if I were to throw myself down?” or in holding to his brow a loaded pistol and wondering, “What if I were to pull the trigger?” or in feeling, when he catches sight of some universally respected personage, that he would like to go up to him, pull his nose hard, and say, “How do you do, old boy?”

Under the spell, then, of this instinctive agitation and lack of reflection I was moved to put out my tongue, and to say that I would not move, when St. Jerome came down and told me that I had behaved so badly that day, as well as done my lessons so ill, that I had no right to be where I was, and must go upstairs directly.

At first, from astonishment and anger, he could not utter a word.

“C’est bien!” he exclaimed eventually as he darted towards me. “Several times have I promised to punish you, and you have been saved from it by your Grandmamma, but now I see that nothing but the cane will teach you obedience, and you shall therefore taste it.”

This was said loud enough for every one to hear. The blood rushed to my heart with such vehemence that I could feel that organ beating violently–could feel the colour rising to my cheeks and my lips trembling. Probably I looked horrible at that moment, for, avoiding my eye, St. Jerome stepped forward and caught me by the hand. Hardly feeling his touch, I pulled away my hand in blind fury, and with all my childish might struck him.

“What are you doing?” said Woloda, who had seen my behaviour, and now approached me in alarm and astonishment.

“Let me alone!” I exclaimed, the tears flowing fast. “Not a single one of you loves me or understands how miserable I am! You are all of you odious and disgusting!” I added bluntly, turning to the company at large.

At this moment St. Jerome–his face pale, but determined– approached me again, and, with a movement too quick to admit of any defence, seized my hands as with a pair of tongs, and dragged me away. My head swam with excitement, and I can only remember that, so long as I had strength to do it, I fought with head and legs; that my nose several times collided with a pair of knees; that my teeth tore some one’s coat; that all around me I could hear the shuffling of feet; and that I could smell dust and the scent of violets with which St. Jerome used to perfume himself.

Five minutes later the door of the store-room closed behind me.

“Basil,” said a triumphant but detestable voice, “bring me the cane.”


Could I at that moment have supposed that I should ever live to survive the misfortunes of that day, or that there would ever come a time when I should be able to look back upon those misfortunes composedly?

As I sat there thinking over what I had done, I could not imagine what the matter had been with me. I only felt with despair that I was for ever lost.

At first the most profound stillness reigned around me–at least, so it appeared to me as compared with the violent internal emotion which I had been experiencing; but by and by I began to distinguish various sounds. Basil brought something downstairs which he laid upon a chest outside. It sounded like a broom- stick. Below me I could hear St. Jerome’s grumbling voice (probably he was speaking of me), and then children’s voices and laughter and footsteps; until in a few moments everything seemed to have regained its normal course in the house, as though nobody knew or cared to know that here was I sitting alone in the dark store-room!

I did not cry, but something lay heavy, like a stone, upon my heart. Ideas and pictures passed with extraordinary rapidity before my troubled imagination, yet through their fantastic sequence broke continually the remembrance of the misfortune which had befallen me as I once again plunged into an interminable labyrinth of conjectures as to the punishment, the fate, and the despair that were awaiting me. The thought occurred to me that there must be some reason for the general dislike–even contempt–which I fancied to be felt for me by others. I was firmly convinced that every one, from Grandmamma down to the coachman Philip, despised me, and found pleasure in my sufferings. Next an idea struck me that perhaps I was not the son of my father and mother at all, nor Woloda’s brother, but only some unfortunate orphan who had been adopted by them out of compassion, and this absurd notion not only afforded me a certain melancholy consolation, but seemed to me quite probable. I found it comforting to think that I was unhappy, not through my own fault, but because I was fated to be so from my birth, and conceived that my destiny was very much like poor Karl Ivanitch’s.

“Why conceal the secret any longer, now that I have discovered it?” I reflected. “To-morrow I will go to Papa and say to him, ‘It is in vain for you to try and conceal from me the mystery of my birth. I know it already.’ And he will answer me, ‘What else could I do, my good fellow? Sooner or later you would have had to know that you are not my son, but were adopted as such. Nevertheless, so long as you remain worthy of my love, I will never cast you out.’ Then I shall say, ‘Papa, though I have no right to call you by that name, and am now doing so for the last time, I have always loved you, and shall always retain that love. At the same time, while I can never forget that you have been my benefactor, I cannot remain longer in your house. Nobody here loves me, and St. Jerome has wrought my ruin. Either he or I must go forth, since I cannot answer for myself. I hate the man so that I could do anything–I could even kill him.’ Papa will begin to entreat me, but I shall make a gesture, and say, ‘No, no, my friend and benefactor! We cannot live together. Let me go’–and for the last time I shall embrace him, and say in French, ‘O mon pere, O mon bienfaiteur, donne moi, pour la derniere fois, ta benediction, et que la volonte de Dieu soit faite!'”

I sobbed bitterly at these thoughts as I sat on a trunk in that dark storeroom. Then, suddenly recollecting the shameful punishment which was awaiting me, I would find myself back again in actuality, and the dreams had fled. Soon, again, I began to fancy myself far away from the house and alone in the world. I enter a hussar regiment and go to war. Surrounded by the foe on every side, I wave my sword, and kill one of them and wound another–then a third,–then a fourth. At last, exhausted with loss of blood and fatigue, I fall to the ground and cry, “Victory!” The general comes to look for me, asking, “Where is our saviour?” whereupon I am pointed out to him. He embraces me, and, in his turn, exclaims with tears of joy, “Victory!” I recover and, with my arm in a black sling, go to walk on the boulevards. I am a general now. I meet the Emperor, who asks, “Who is this young man who has been wounded?” He is told that it is the famous hero Nicolas; whereupon he approaches me and says, “My thanks to you! Whatsoever you may ask for, I will grant it.” To this I bow respectfully, and, leaning on my sword, reply, “I am happy, most august Emperor, that I have been able to shed my blood for my country. I would gladly have died for it. Yet, since you are so generous as to grant any wish of mine, I venture to ask of you permission to annihilate my enemy, the foreigner St. Jerome” And then I step fiercely before St. Jerome and say, “YOU were the cause of all my fortunes! Down now on your knees!”

Unfortunately this recalled to my mind the fact that at any moment the REAL St. Jerome might be entering with the cane; so that once more I saw myself, not a general and the saviour of my country, but an unhappy, pitiful creature.

Then the idea of God occurred to me, and I asked Him boldly why He had punished me thus, seeing that I had never forgotten to say my prayers, either morning or evening. Indeed, I can positively declare that it was during that hour in the store-room that I took the first step towards the religious doubt which afterwards assailed me during my youth (not that mere misfortune could arouse me to infidelity and murmuring, but that, at moments of utter contrition and solitude, the idea of the injustice of Providence took root in me as readily as bad seed takes root in land well soaked with rain). Also, I imagined that I was going to die there and then, and drew vivid pictures of St. Jerome’s astonishment when he entered the store-room and found a corpse there instead of myself! Likewise, recollecting what Natalia Savishna had told me of the forty days during which the souls of the departed must hover around their earthly home, I imagined myself flying through the rooms of Grandmamma’s house, and seeing Lubotshka’s bitter tears, and hearing Grandmamma’s lamentations, and listening to Papa and St. Jerome talking together. “He was a fine boy,” Papa would say with tears in his eyes. “Yes,” St. Jerome would reply, “but a sad scapegrace and good-for-nothing.” “But you should respect the dead,” would expostulate Papa. “YOU were the cause of his death; YOU frightened him until he could no longer bear the thought of the humiliation which you were about to inflict upon him. Away from me, criminal!” Upon that St. Jerome would fall upon his knees and implore forgiveness, and when the forty days were ended my soul would fly to Heaven, and see there something wonderfully beautiful, white, and transparent, and know that it was Mamma.

And that something would embrace and caress me. Yet, all at once, I should feel troubled, and not know her. “If it be you,” I should say to her, “show yourself more distinctly, so that I may embrace you in return.” And her voice would answer me, “Do you not feel happy thus?” and I should reply, “Yes, I do, but you cannot REALLY caress me, and I cannot REALLY kiss your hand like this.” “But it is not necessary,” she would say. “There can be happiness here without that,”–and I should feel that it was so, and we should ascend together, ever higher and higher, until–

Suddenly I feel as though I am being thrown down again, and find myself sitting on the trunk in the dark store-room (my cheeks wet with tears and my thoughts in a mist), yet still repeating the words, “Let us ascend together, higher and higher.” Indeed, it was a long, long while before I could remember where I was, for at that moment my mind’s eye saw only a dark, dreadful, illimitable void. I tried to renew the happy, consoling dream which had been thus interrupted by the return to reality, but, to my surprise, I found that, as soon as ever I attempted to re-enter former dreams, their continuation became impossible, while–which astonished me even more–they no longer gave me pleasure.


I PASSED the night in the store-room, and nothing further happened, except that on the following morning–a Sunday–I was removed to a small chamber adjoining the schoolroom, and once more shut up. I began to hope that my punishment was going to be limited to confinement, and found my thoughts growing calmer under the influence of a sound, soft sleep, the clear sunlight playing upon the frost crystals of the windowpanes, and the familiar noises in the street.

Nevertheless, solitude gradually became intolerable. I wanted to move about, and to communicate to some one all that was lying upon my heart, but not a living creature was near me. The position was the more unpleasant because, willy-nilly, I could hear St. Jerome walking about in his room, and softly whistling some hackneyed tune. Somehow, I felt convinced that he was whistling not because he wanted to, but because he knew it annoyed me.

At two o’clock, he and Woloda departed downstairs, and Nicola brought me up some luncheon. When I told him what I had done and