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The Precipice by Ivan Goncharov

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Ulinka. Come, Boris, now we can talk." Then as an idea struck him, he
added, "What shall you have to say to me about the library?"

"About what library? You wrote to me about it, but I did not understand
what you were talking about. I think you said some person called Mark,
had been tearing the books."

"You cannot imagine, Boris, how vexed I was about it," he said as he
took down some books with torn backs from the shelves.

Raisky pushed the books away. "What does it matter to me?" he said. "You
are like my grandmother; she bothers me about accounts, you about

"But Boris, I don't know what accounts she bothered you about, but these
books are your most precious possession. Look!" he said, pointing with
pride to the rows of books which filled the study to the ceiling.

"Only on this shelf nearly everything is ruined by that accursed Mark!
The other books are all right. See, I drew up a catalogue, which took
a whole year to do," and he pointed self-consciously to a thick bound
volume of manuscript. "I wrote it all with my own hand," he continued.
"Sit down, Boris, and read out the names. I will get on the ladder, and
show you the books; they are arranged according to their numbers."

"What an idea!"

"Or better wait till after dinner; we shall not be able to finish

"Listen, should you like to have a library like that?" asked Raisky.

"I!--a library like that?"

Sunshine blazed from Leonti's eyes, he smiled so broadly that even the
hair on his brow stirred with the dislocation caused. "A library like
that?" He shook his head. "You must be mad."

"Tell me, do you love me as you used to do?"

"Why do you ask? Of course."

"Then the books shall be yours for good and all, under one condition."

"I--take these books!"

Leonti looked now at the books, now at Raisky, then made a gesture of
refusal, and sighed.

"Do not laugh at me, Boris! Don't tempt me."

"I am not joking."

Here Juliana Andreevna, who had heard the last words, chimed in with,
"Take what is given you."

"She is always like that," sighed Leonti. "On feast days the tradesmen
come with presents, and on the eve of the examinations the parents. I
send them away, but my wife receives them at the side door. She looks
like Lucretia, but she has a sweet tooth, a dainty one."

Raisky laughed, but Juliana Andreevna was annoyed.

"Go to your Lucretia," she said indifferently. "He compares me with
everybody. One day I am Cleopatra, then Lavinia, then Cornelia. Better
take the books when they are offered you. Boris Pavlovich will give them
to me."

"Don't take it on yourself to ask him for gifts," commanded Leonti. "And
what can we give him? Shall I hand you over to him, for instance?" he
added as he embraced her.

"Splendid! Take me, Boris Pavlovich," she cried, throwing a sparkling
glance at him.

"If you don't take the books, Leonti," said Raisky, "I will make them
over to the Gymnasium. Give me the catalogue, and I'll send it to the
Director to-morrow."

He put his hand out for the catalogue, of which Leonti kept a tight hold.

"The Gymnasium shall never get one of them," he cried. "You don't know
the Director, who cares for books just about as much as I do for perfume
and pomade. They will be destroyed, torn, and worse handled than by

"Then take them."

"To give away such treasures all in a minute. It would be comprehensible
if you were selling them to responsible hands. I have never wanted so
much to be rich. I would give five thousand. I cannot accept, I cannot.
You are a spendthrift, or rather a blind, ignorant child--"

"Many thanks."

"I didn't mean that," cried Leonti in confusion. "You are an artist; you
need pictures, statues, music; and books are nothing to you. Besides,
you don't know what treasures you possess; after dinner I will show

"Well, in the afternoon, instead of drinking coffee, you will go over
with the books to the Gymnasium for me."

"Wait, Boris, what was the condition on which you would give me the
books. Will you take instalments from my salary for them? I would sell
all I have, pledge myself and my wife."

"No, thank you," broke in Juliana Andreevna, "I can pledge or sell
myself if I want to."

Leonti and Raisky looked at one another.

"She does not think before she speaks," said Leonti. "But tell me what
the condition is."

"That you never mention these books to me again, even if Mark tears them
to pieces."

"Do you mean I am not to let him have access to them?"

"He is not likely to ask you," put in Juliana Andreevna. "As if that
monster cared for what you may say."

"How Ulinka loves me," said Leonti to Raisky. "Would that every woman
loved her husband like that."

He embraced her. She dropped her eyes, and the smile died from her face.

"But for her you would not see a single button on my clothes," continued
Leonti. "I eat and sleep comfortably, and our household goes on evenly
and placidly. However small my means are she knows how to make them
provide for everything." She raised her eyes, and looked at them, for
the last statement was true. "It's a pity," continued Leonti, "that she
does not care about books. She can chatter French fast enough, but if
you give her a book, she does not understand half of it. She still
writes Russian incorrectly. If she sees Greek characters, she says they
would make a good pattern for cotton printing, and sets the book upside
down. And she cannot even read a Latin title."

"That will do. Not another word about the books. Only on that condition,
I don't send them to the Gymnasium. Now let us sit down to table, or I
shall go to my Grandmother's, for I am famished."

"Do you intend to spend your whole life like this?" asked Raisky as he
was sitting after dinner alone with Leonti in the study.

"Yes, what more do I need?"

"Have you no desires, does nothing call you away from this place, have
you no longings for freedom and space, and don't you feel cramped in
this narrow frame of hedge, church spire and house, under your very

"Have I so little to look at under my nose?" asked Leonti, pointing to
the books. "I have books, pupils, and in addition a wife and peace of
heart, isn't that enough?"

"Are books life? This old trash has a great deal to answer for. Men
strive forwards, seek to improve themselves, to cleanse their
conceptions, to drive away the mist, to meet the problems of society by
justice, civilisation, orderly administration, while you instead of
looking at life, study books."

"What is not to be found in books is not to be found in life either, or
if there is anything it is of no importance," said Leonti firmly. "The
whole programme of public and private life lies behind us; we can find
an example for everything."

"You are still the same old student, Leonti, always worrying about what
has been experienced in the past, and never thinking of what you
yourself are."

"What I am! I am a teacher of the classics. I am as deeply concerned
with the life of the past, as you with ideals and figures. You are an
artist. Why should you wonder that certain figures are dear to me? Since
when have artists ceased to draw water from the wells of the ancients?"

"Yes, an artist," said Raisky, with a sigh. He pointed to his head and
breast. "Here are figures, notes, forms, enthusiasm, the creative
passion, and as yet I have done almost nothing."

"What restrains you? You are now painting, you wrote me, a great picture,
which you mean to exhibit."

"The devil take the great pictures. I shall hardly be able to devote my
whole energy to painting now. One must put one's whole being into a
great picture, and then to give effect to one hundredth part of what one
has put in a representation of a fleeting, irrecoverable impression.
Sometimes I paint portraits...."

"What art are you following now?"

"There is but one Art that can satisfy the artist of to-day, the art of
words, of poetry, which is limitless in its possibilities."

"You write verses then?"

"Verses are children's food. In verse you celebrate a love affair, a
festival, flowers, a nightingale."

"And satire. Remember the use made of it by the Romans."

With these words he would have gone to the bookshelf, but Raisky held
him back. "You may," he said, "be able now and then to hit a diseased
spot with satire. Satire is a rod, whose stroke stings but has no
further consequences; but she does not show you figures brimming with
life, she does not reveal the depths of life with its secret mainsprings
of action, she holds no mirror before your eyes. It is only the novel
that comprehends and mirrors the life of man."

"So you are writing a novel? On what subject?"

"I have not yet quite decided."

"Don't at all events describe this pettifogging, miserable existence
which stares us in the face without the medium of art. Our contemporary
literature squeezes every worm, every peasant-girl, and I don't know
what else, into the novel. Choose a historical subject, worthy of your
vivacious imagination and your clean-cut style. Do you remember how you
used to write of old Russia? Now it is the fashion to choose material
from the ant-heap, the talking shop of everyday life. This is to be the
stuff of which literature is made. Bah! it is the merest journalism."

"There we are again on the old controversy. If you once mount that horse,
there will be no calling you back. Let us leave this question for the
moment, and go back to my question. Are you satisfied to spend your life
here, as you are now doing, with no desires for anything further?"

Leonti looked at him in astonishment, with wide opened eyes.

"You do nothing for your generation," Raisky went on, "but creep
backwards like a crab. Why are you for ever talking of the Greeks and
Romans? Their work is done, and ours is to bring life into these
cemeteries, to shake the slumbering ghosts out of their twilight

"And how is the task to be begun?"

"I mean to draw a picture of this existence, to reflect it as in a
mirror. And you...."

"I too accomplish something. I have prepared several boys for the
University," remarked Leonti with hesitation, for he was not sure
whether this was meritorious or not. "You imagine that I go into my
class, then home, and forget about everything. That is not the case.
Young people gather round me, attach themselves to me, and I show them
drawings of old buildings, utensils, make sketches and give explanations,
as I once did for you. What I know myself I communicate to others,
explain the ancient ideals of virtue, expound classical life, just as
our own classics are explained. Is that no longer essential?"

"Certainly it has its advantage. But it has nothing to do with real life.
One cannot live like that to-day. So much has disappeared, so many
things have arisen that the Greeks and Romans never knew. But we need
models from contemporary life, we must educate ourselves and others to
be men. That is our task."

"No, I do not take that upon my shoulders; it is sufficient for one to
take the models of ancient virtue from books. I myself live for and
through myself. You see I live quietly and modestly, eat my vermicelli

"Life for and through yourself is not life at all, it is a passive
condition, and man is a fighting animal."

"I have already told you that I do my duty and do not interfere in
anybody else's business; and no one interferes with mine."

"Life's arm is long, and will not spare even you. And how will you meet
her blows--unprepared."

"What has Life to do with a humble man like me? I shall pass unnoticed.
I have books, although they are not mine," he said glancing hesitatingly
at Raisky, "but you give me free use of them. My needs are small, I feel
no boredom. I have a wife who loves me...."

Raisky looked away.

"And," he added in a whisper, "I love her."

It was plain that as his mind nourished itself on the books, so his
heart had found a warm refuge; he himself did not even know what bound
him to life and books, and did not guess that he might keep his books
and lose his life, and that his life would be maimed if his "Roman head"
was stolen from him.

Happy child, thought Raisky. In his learned sleep he does not notice the
darkness that is hidden in that dear Roman head, nor how empty the
woman's heart is. He is helpless as far as she is concerned, and will
never convince her of the virtues of the ancient ideals.


The sun was setting when Raisky returned home, and was received at the
door by Marfinka.

"Where did you get lost, Cousin?" she asked him. "Grandmother is very
angry, and is grumbling...."

"I was with Leonti," returned Raisky indifferently.

"I thought so, and told Grandmother so, but she won't listen and will
hardly speak even to Tiet Nikonich. He is with her now and Paulina
Karpovna too. Go to Grandmother, and it will be all right. Are you
afraid. Does your heart beat fast?"

Raisky had to laugh.

"She is very angry. We had prepared so many dishes."

"We will eat them up for supper."

"Will you? Grandmother, Grandmother," she cried happily, "Cousin has
come and wants his supper."

His aunt sat severely there, and did not look up when Raisky entered.
Tiet Nikonich embraced him. He received an elegant bow from Paulina
Karpovna, an elaborately got-up person of forty-five in a low cut muslin
gown, with a fine lace handkerchief and a fan, which she kept constantly
in motion although there was no heat.

"What a man you have grown! I should hardly have known you," said Tiet
Nikonich, beaming with kindness and pleasure.

"He has grown very, very handsome," said Paulina Karpovna Kritzki.

"You have not altered, Tiet Nikonich," remarked Raisky. "You have hardly
aged at all, and are as gay, as fresh, as kind and amiable...."

"Thank God! there is nothing worse than rheumatism the matter with me,
and my digestion is no longer quite as good as it was. That is age, age.
But how glad I am that you, our guest, have arrived in such good spirits.
Tatiana Markovna was anxious about you. You will be staying here for
some time?"

"Of course you will spend the summer with us," said Paulina Karpovna.
"Here is nature, and fine air, and so many people are interested in

He looked at her askance, and said nothing.

"Do you remember me?" she asked. Boris's aunt noticed with displeasure
that Paulina Karpovna was ogling her nephew.

"No, I must confess I forgot."

"Yes, impressions are quickly forgotten in the capital," she said in
a languishing tone. She looked him up and down and then added, "What an
admirable travelling suit."

"That reminds me I am still in my travelling clothes. Egor must be sent
for and must take my clothes and linen out of the trunk. For you, Granny,
and for you, my dear sisters, I have brought some small things for

Marfinka grew crimson with pleasure.

"Granny, where are you going to put me up?"

"The house belongs to you. Where you will," she returned coldly.

"Don't be angry, Granny," he laughed. "It won't happen twice."

"You may laugh, you may laugh, Boris Pavlovich. Here, in the presence of
our guests, I tell you you have behaved badly. You have hardly put your
nose inside the house, and straightway vanish. That is an insult to your

"Surely, Granny, we shall be together every day. I have been visiting an
old friend, and we forgot ourselves in talking."

"Cousin Boris did not do it on purpose, Granny," said Marfinka. "Leonti
Ivanovich is so good."

"Please be silent when you are not addressed. You are too young to
contradict your Grandmother, who knows what she is saying."

Smilingly Marfinka drew back into her corner.

"No doubt Juliana Andreevna was able to entertain you better, and knows
better than I how to entertain a Petersburger. What friccassee did she
give you?" asked his aunt, not without a little real curiosity.

"Vermicelli soup, pastry with cabbage, then beef and potatoes."

Tatiana Markovna laughed ironically, "Vermicelli soup and beef!"

"And groats in the pan...."

"It's a long time since you tasted such delicacies."

"Excellent dishes," said Tiet Nikonich kindly, "but heavy for the

"To-morrow, Marfinka," said the old lady, "we will entertain our guest
with a gosling, pickled pork, carrots, and perhaps with a goose."

"A goose, stuffed with groats, would be acceptable," put in Raisky.

"Indigestible!" protested Tiet Nikonich. "The best is a light soup, with
pearl barley, a cutlet, pastries and jelly; that is the proper midday

"But I should like groats."

"Do you like mushrooms too, Cousin?" asked Marfinka. "Because we have so

"Rather! Can't we have them for supper tonight?"

In spite of Tiet Nikonich's caution against this heavy food, Tatiana
Markovna sent Marfinka to Peter and to the cook to order mushrooms for

"If there is any champagne in the cellar, Granny, let us have a bottle
up. Tiet Nikonich and I would like to drink your health. Isn't that so,
Tiet Nikonich?"

"Yes, to celebrate your arrival, though mushrooms and champagne are

"Tell the cook to bring champagne on ice, Marfinka," said the old lady.

_"Ce que femme veut,"_ said Tiet Nikonich amiably, with a slight

"Supper is a special occasion, but one ought to dine at home too. You
have vexed your Grandmother by going out on the very day of your

"Ah, Tatiana Markovna," sighed Paulina Karpovna, "our ways here are so
bourgeois, but in the capital...."

The old lady's eyes blazed, as she pointed to the wall where hung the
portraits of Raisky's and the young girls' parents, and exclaimed:
"There was nothing bourgeois about those, Paulina Karpovna."

"Granny," said Raisky, "let us allow one another absolute freedom. I am
now making up for my absence at midday, and shall be here all night. But
I can't tell where I shall dine to-morrow, or where I shall sleep."

Paulina Karpovna could not refrain from applauding, but his aunt looked
at him with amazement, and inquired if he were really a gipsy.

"Monsieur Raisky is a poet, and poets are as free as air," remarked
Paulina Karpovna. Again she made play with her eyes, shifted the pointed
toes of her shoes in an effort to arouse Raisky's attention. The more
she twisted and turned, the more icy was his indifference, for her
presence made an uncomfortable impression on him. Marfinka observed the
by-play and smiled to herself.

"You have two houses, land, peasants, silver and glass, and talk of
wandering about from one shelter to another like a beggar, like
Markushka, the vagrant."

"Markushka again! I must certainly make his acquaintance."

"No, don't do that and add to your Grandmother's anxieties. If you see
him, make your escape."

"But why?"

"He will lead you astray."

"That's of no consequence, Grandmother. It looks as if he were an
interesting individual, doesn't it, Tiet Nikonich?"

"He is a riddle to everybody," Tiet Nikonich answered with a smile. "He
must have gone astray very early in life, but he has apparently good
brains and considerable knowledge, and might have been a useful member
of society."

Paulina Karpovna turned her head away, and dismissed Mark with the
criticism, "No manners."

"Brains! You bought his brains for three hundred roubles. Has he repaid
them?" asked Tatiana Markovna.

"I did not remind him of his debt. But to me he is, for the matter of
that, almost polite."

"That is to say he does not strike you, or shoot in your direction. Just
imagine, Boris, that he nearly shot Niel Andreevich."

"His dogs tore my train," complained Paulina Karpovna.

"Did he never visit you unceremoniously at dinner again?" Tatiana
Markovna asked Tiet Nikonich.

"No, you don't like me to receive him, so I refuse him admission. He
once came to me at night," he went on, addressing Raisky. "He had been
out hunting, and had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours. I gave him
food, and we passed the time very pleasantly."

"Pleasantly!" exclaimed Tatiana Markovna. "How can you say such things?
If he came to me at that hour, I would settle him. No, Boris Pavlovich,
live like other decent people. Stay with us, have dinner with us, go out
with us, keep suspicious people at a distance, see how I administer your
estate, and find fault if I do anything wrong."

"That is so monotonous, Grandmother. Let us rather live each one after
his own ideas and inclinations."

"You are an exception," sighed his aunt.

"No, Grandmother, it is you who are an exceptional woman. Why should we
bother about one another."

"To please your Grandmother."

"Why don't you want to please your Grandson? You are a despot,

"A despot! Boris Pavlovich, I have waited anxiously for you, I have
hardly slept, have tried to have everything as you liked it."

"But you did all that because activity is a pleasure to you. All this
care and trouble is a pleasant stimulant, keeps you busy. If Markushka
came to you, you would receive him in the same fashion."

"You are right, Cousin," broke in Marfinka. "Grandmother is kindness
itself, but she tries to disguise it."

"Don't give your opinion when it is not asked. She contradicts her
Grandmother only when you are here, Boris Pavlovich; at other times she
is modest enough. And now the ideas she suddenly takes into her head. I?
entertain Markushka!"

"You did as you pleased," continued Raisky. "And then when it entered my
head too to do as I pleased, I disturbed your arrangements and made a
breach in your despotism. Isn't that so, Granny? And now kiss me, and we
will give one another full liberty."

"What a strange boy? Do you hear, Tiet Nikonich, what nonsense he

On that evening Tatiana Markovna and Raisky concluded, if not peace, at
least a truce. She was assured that Boris loved and esteemed her; she
was, in truth, easily convinced. After supper Raisky unpacked his trunk,
and brought down his gifts; for his aunt, a few pounds of excellent tea,
of which she was a connoisseur, a coffee machine of a new kind, with a
coffee-pot, and a dark brown silk dress; bracelets with monograms for
his cousins; and for Tiet Nikonich vest and hose of Samian leather, as
his aunt had desired.

Tatiana Markovna, with tears in her eyes, sat down beside him, and
putting her hand on his shoulder said, "And you remembered me?"

"Whom else should I remember? You are my nearest and dearest,

When Tiet Nikonich and Paulina Karpovna took leave, the lady said that
she had left orders with no one to fetch her, and that she hoped someone
would accompany her, looking towards Raisky as she spoke. Tiet Nikonich
expressed himself ready to see her home.

"Egorka could have taken her," whispered Tatiana Markovna. "Why didn't
she stay at home; she was not invited."

"Thank you, thank you," said Paulina Karpovna to Raisky as she passed

"What for?" asked Raisky in amazement.

"For the pleasant, witty conversation, although it was not directed to
me. What pleasure it gave me!"

"A practical conversation about groats, a goose, and a quarrel with

"Ah, I understand," she continued, "but I caught two glances, which were
intended for me, confess they were. I am filled with hope and

As she went out Raisky asked Marfinka what she was talking about.

"She's always like that," laughed Marfinka.

Tatiana Markovna followed Raisky to his room, smoothed the sheets of his
bed once more, drew the curtains so that the sun should not awaken him
in the morning, felt the feather bed to test its softness, and had a jug
of water placed on the table beside him. She came back three times to
see if he were asleep or wanted anything. Touched by so much kindly
thought he recognised that his grandmother's activity was not only
exerted to gratify herself.


The days passed quietly by. Every morning the sun climbed up through the
blue air, and lighted up the Volga and its banks. At midday the snowy
clouds crept up, often piled one on another until the blue sky was
hidden, and the cooling rain fell on woods and fields; then once more
the clouds stole away before the approach of the warm, pleasant evening.

Life at Malinovka passed just as peacefully. The naivete of the
surroundings had not yet lost its charm for Raisky. The sunshine
insinuating itself everywhere, his aunt's kind face, Marfinka's
friendliness, and the willing attention of the servants made up a
pleasant, friendly environment. He even felt pleasure in the watchful
guardianship that his aunt exercised over him; he smiled when she
preached order to him, warned him of crime and temptation, reproached
him for his gipsy tendencies and tried to lead him to a definite plan of

He liked Tiet Nikonich, and saw in his courtesy and his extreme good
manners, his care for his health, and the universal esteem and affection
in which he was held, a survival from the last century. When he felt
very good tempered he found even Paulina Karpovna's eccentricities
amusing. She had induced him to lunch with her one day, when she assured
him that she was not indifferent to him, and that he himself was on the
eve of returning her sentiments!

The even, monotonous life lulled him like a cradle song. He wrote idly
at his novel, strengthened a situation here, grouped a scene there, or
accentuated a character. He watched his aunt, Leonti and his wife, and
Marfinka, or looked at the villages and fields lying in an enchanted
sleep along the banks of the Volga. In this ocean of silence he caught
notes which he could interpret in terms of music, and determined, in his
abundant leisure, to pursue the subject.

One day, after a lonely walk along the shore, he climbed the cliff, and
passed Koslov's house. Seeing that the windows were lighted, he was
going up to the door, when suddenly he heard someone climb over the
fence and jump down into the garden. Standing in the shadow of the fence,
Raisky hesitated. He was afraid to sound the alarm until he knew whether
it was a thief or an admirer of Juliana Andreevna's, some Monsieur
Charles or other. However, he decided to pursue the intruder, and
promptly climbed the fence and followed him. The man stopped before a
window and hammered on the pane.

"That is no thief, possibly Mark," thought Raisky. He was right.

"Philosopher, open! Quick!" cried the intruder.

"Go round to the entrance," said Leonti's voice dully through the glass.

"To the entrance, to wake the dog! Open!"

"Wait!" said Leonti, and as he opened the window Mark swung himself into
the room.

"Who is that behind you. Whom have you brought with you?" asked Leonti
in terror.

"No one. Do you imagine there's a ghost. Ah! there is someone scrambling

"Boris, you? How did you happen to arrive together," he exclaimed as
Raisky sprang into the room.

Mark cast a hasty glance on Boris and turned to Leonti. "Give me another
pair of trousers. Have you any wine in the house?

"What's the matter, and where have you been?" asked Leonti suddenly, who
had just noticed that Mark was covered up to the waist with wet and

"Give me another pair of trousers quick," said Mark impatiently. "What
is the good of chattering?"

"I have no wine, because we drank it all at dinner, when Monsieur
Charles was our guest."

"Where do you keep your clothes?"

"My wife is asleep and I don't know; you must ask Avdotya."

"Fool! I will find them myself!"

He took a light, and went into the next room.

"You see what he is like," sighed Leonti, addressing Raisky.

After about ten minutes, Mark returned with the trousers and Leonti
questioned him as to how he had got wet through.

"I was crossing the Volga in a fishing-boat. The ass of a fisherman fell
asleep, and brought us right up into the reeds by the island, and we had
to get out among the reeds to extricate the boat."

Without taking any heed of Raisky, he changed his trousers and sat down
with his feet drawn up under him in the great armchair, so that his
knees were on a level with his face, and he supported his bearded chin
upon them.

Raisky observed him silently. Mark was twenty-seven, built as if his
muscles were iron, and well proportioned; a thick mane of light brown
hair framed his pale face with its high arched forehead, and fell in
long locks on his neck. The full beard was paler in colour. His open,
bold, irregular, rather thin face was illuminated every now and then by
a smile--of which it was hard to read the meaning; one could not tell
whether it spelt vexation, mockery or pleasure. His grey eyes could be
bold and commanding, but for the most part wore a cold expression of
contempt. Tied up in a knot as he was, he now sat motionless with
staring eyes, stirring neither hand nor foot.

There was something restless and watchful in the motionless attitude, as
in that of a dog apparently at rest, but ready to spring.

Suddenly his eyes gleamed, and he turned to Raisky. "You will have
brought some good cigars from St. Petersburg," he began without ceremony.
"Give me one."

Raisky offered his cigar case, and reminded Leonti that he had not
introduced them.

"What need is there of introduction! You came in by the same way, and
both know who the other is."

"Words of wisdom from the scholar!" ejaculated Mark.

"That same Mark of whom I wrote to you, don't you remember!" said Leonti.

"Wait, I will introduce myself," cried Mark, springing from the easy
chair. He posed ceremoniously, and bowed.

"I have the honour to present myself, Mark Volokov, under police
surveillance, involuntary citizen of this town."

He puffed away at his cigar, and again rolled himself up in a ball.

"What do you do with yourself here?" asked Raisky.

"I think, as you do."

"You love art, are perhaps an artist?"

"And are you an artist?"

"Painter and musician," broke in Leonti, "and now he is writing a novel.
Take care, brother, he may put you in too."

Raisky signed to him to be silent.

"Yes, I am an artist," Mark went on, "but of a different kind. Your Aunt
will have acquainted you with my works."

"She won't hear your name mentioned."

"There you have it. But it was only a matter of a hundred apples or so
that I plucked from over the fence."

"The apples are mine; you may take as many as you like."

"Many thanks. But why should I need your permission? I am accustomed to
do everything in this life without permission. Therefore I will take the
apples without your permission, they taste better."

"I was curious to make your acquaintance. I hear so many tales about

"What do they say?"

"Little that is good."

"Probably they tell you I am a thief, a monster, the terror of the

"That's about it."

"But if this reputation precedes me, why should you seek my acquaintance.
I have torn your books, as no doubt our friend there has informed you."

"There he is to the point," cried Leonti. "I am glad he began the
subject himself. He is a good sort at the bottom. If one is ill, he
waits on one like a nurse, runs to the chemist, and takes any amount of
trouble. But the rascal wanders round and gives no one any peace."

"Don't chatter so," interrupted Mark.

"For that matter," said Raisky, "everybody does not abuse you. Tiet
Nikonich Vatutin, for instance, goes out of his way to speak well of

"Is it possible! The sugar marquis! I left him some souvenirs of my
presence. More than once I have waked him in the night by opening his
bedroom window. He is always fussing about his health, but in all the
forty years since he came here no one remembers him to have been ill. I
shall never return the money he lent me. What more provocation would he
have? And yet he praises me."

"So that is your department of art," said Raisky gaily.

"What kind of an artist are you? It is your turn to tell me."

"I love and adore beauty. I love art, draw, and make music, and just now
I am trying to write a great work, a novel."

"Yes, yes, I see. You are an artist of the kind we all are."


"With us Russians everybody is an artist. They use the chisel, paint,
strum, write poetry, as you and your like do. Others drive in the
mornings to the courts or the government offices, others sit before
their stalls playing draughts, and still others stick on their
estates--Art is everywhere."

"Do you feel no desire to enter any of these categories."

"I have tried, but don't know how to. What brought you here?"

"I don't know myself. It is all the same to me where I go. I had a
letter summoning me here from my Aunt, and I came."

Mark busied himself in his thoughts, and took no further interest in
Raisky. Raisky on the other hand examined the extraordinary person
before him attentively, studied the expression of his face, followed his
movements, and tried to grasp the outline of a strong character. "Thank
God," he said to himself, "that I am not the only idle, aimless person
here. In this man there is something similar; he wanders about,
reconciles himself to his fate, and does nothing. I at least draw and
try to write my novel, while he does nothing. Is he the victim of secret
discord like myself? Is he always struggling between two fires?
Imagination striving upward to the ideal lures him on on the one
hand--man, nature and life in all its manifestations; on the other he is
attracted by a cold, destructive analysis which allows nothing to live,
and will forget nothing, an analysis that leads to eternal discontent
and blighting cold. Is that his secret?" He glanced at Mark, who was
already drowsing.

"Good-bye, Leonti," he said, "it's time I was going home."

"What am I to do with him?"

"He can stay here all right."

"Think of the books. It's leaving the goat loose in the vegetable

"I might wheel him in the armchair into that dark little room,
and lock him in," thought Leonti, "but if he woke, he might pull the
roof down."

Mark helped him out of his dilemma by jumping to his feet.

"I am going with you," he said to Raisky. "It is time for you to go to
bed, philosopher," he said to Leonti. "Don't sit up at nights. You have
already got a yellow patch in your face, and your eyes are hollow."

He put out the light, stuffed on his cap, and leapt out of the window.
Raisky followed his example, and they went down the garden once more,
climbed the fence, and came out in the street.

"Listen," said Mark. "I am hungry, and Leonti has nothing to give me.
Can you help me to storm an inn?"

"As far as I am concerned. But the thing can be managed without the
application of force."

"It is late, and the inns are shut. No one will open willingly,
especially when it is known that I am in the case; consequently we must
enter by storm. We will call 'Fire!' and then they will open at once,
and we can get in."

"And be hurled out into the street again."

"There you are wrong. It is possible that I might be refused entrance,
but once in, I remain."

"A siege, a row at night...."

"Ah, you are afraid of the police," laughed Mark. "You are thinking of
what the Governor would decide on in such a serious case, what Niel
Andreevich would say, how the company would take it. Now good-bye, I
will go and storm my entrance alone."

"Wait, I have another, more delightful plan," said Raisky. "My Aunt
cannot, you say, bear to hear your name; only the other day she declared
she would in no circumstances give you hospitality."

"Well, what then?"

"Come home with me to supper, and stay the night with me."

"That's not a bad plan. Let us go."

They walked in silence, almost feeling their way through the darkness.
When they came to the fence of the Malinovka estate, which bounded the
vegetable garden, Raisky proposed to climb it.

"It would be better," said Mark, "to go by way of the orchard or from
the precipice. Here we shall wake the house and must make a circuit in
addition. I always go the other way."

"You--come--here--into the garden? What to do?"

"To get apples."

"You have my permission, so long as Tatiana Markovna does not catch

"I shan't be caught so easily. Look, someone has just leaped over the
fence, like us. Hi! Stop! Don't try to hide. Who's there? Halt! Raisky,
come and help me!"

He ran forward a few paces, and seized someone.

Raisky hurried to the point from which voices were audible, remarking,
"What cat's eyes you have!" The man who was held fast by Mark's strong
arms twisted round to free himself, and in the end fell to the ground
and made for the fence.

"Catch him, hold fast! There is another sneaking round in the vegetable
garden," cried Raisky.

Raisky saw dimly a figure about to spring down from the fence, and
demanded who it was.

"Sir, let me go, do not ruin me!" whispered a woman's voice.

"Is it you, Marina, what are you doing here?

"Gently, Sir. Don't call me by name. Savili will hear, and will beat

"Off with you! No, stop. I have found you at the right moment. Can you
bring some supper to my room?"

"Anything, Sir. Only, for God's sake, don't betray me."

"I won't betray you. Tell me what there is in the kitchen."

"The whole supper is there. As you did not come, no one ate anything.
There is sturgeon in jelly, turkey, all on ice."

"Bring it, and what about wine?"

"There is a bottle in the sideboard, and the fruit liqueurs are in Marfa
Vassilievna's room."

"Be careful not to wake her."

"She sleeps soundly. Let me go now, Sir, for my husband may hear us."

"Run, but take care you don't run into him."

"He dare not do anything if he does meet me now. I shall tell him that
you have given me orders...."

Meanwhile, Mark had dragged his man from hiding. "Savili Ilivich," the
unknown murmured, "don't strike me."

"I ought to know the voice," said Raisky.

"Ah! You are not Savili Ilivich, thank God. I Sir, I am the gardener
from over there."

"What are you doing here?"

"I came on a real errand, Sir. Our clock has stopped, and I came here to
wait for the church-clock to strike."

"Devil take you," cried Mark, and gave the man a push that sent him

The man sprang over the ditch, and vanished in the darkness.

Raisky, meantime, returned to the main entrance. He tried to open the
door, not wishing to knock for fear of awaking his aunt. "Marina," he
called in a low voice, "Marina, open!"

The bolt was pushed back. Raisky pushed open the door with his foot.
Before him stood--he recognised the voice--Savili, who flung himself
upon him and held him.

"Wait, my little dove, I will make my reckoning with you, not with

"Take your hands off, Savili, it is I."

"Who, not the Master?" exclaimed Savili, loosening his prisoner. "You
were so good as to call Marina? But," after a pause, "have you not seen

"I had already asked her to leave some supper for me and to open the
door," he said untruthfully, by way of protecting the unfaithful wife.
"She had already heard that I am here. Now let my guest pass, shut the
door, and go to bed."

"Yes, Sir," said Savili, and went slowly to his quarters, meeting Marina
on the way.

"Why aren't you in bed, you demon?" she cried, dashing past him. "You
sneak around at night, you might be twisting the manes of the horses
like a goblin, and put me to shame before the gentry."

Marina sped past light-footed as a sylph, skilfully balancing dishes and
plates in her hands, and vanished into the dark night. Savili's answer
was a threatening gesture with his whip.

Mark was indeed hungry, and as Raisky showed no hesitation either, the
sturgeon soon disappeared, and when Marina came to clear away there was
not much to take.

"Now we should like something sweet," suggested Raisky.

"No sweets are left," Marina assured them, "but I could get some
preserves, of which Vassilissa has the keys."

"Better still punch," said Mark. "Have you any rum?"

"Probably," she said, in answer to an inquiring glance from Raisky. "The
cook was given a bottle this morning for a pudding. I will see."

Marina returned with a bottle of rum, a lemon and sugar, and then left
the room. The bowl was soon in flames, which lighted up the darkened
room with their pale blue light. Mark stirred it with the spoon, while
the sugar held between two spoons dripped slowly into the bowl. From
time to time he tasted it.

"How long have you been in our town?" asked Raisky after a short silence.

"About two years."

"You must assuredly be bored?"

"I try to amuse myself," he said, pouring out a glass for himself and
emptying it. "Drink," he said, pushing a glass towards Raisky.

Raisky drank slowly, not from inclination, but out of politeness to his
guest. "It must be essential for you to do something, and yet you appear
to do nothing?"

"And what do you do?"

"I told you I am an artist."

"Show me proof of your art."

"At the moment I have nothing except a trifling thing, and even that is
not complete."

He rose from the divan and uncovered Marfinka's portrait.

"H'm, it's like her, and good," declared Mark. He told himself that
Raisky had talent. "And it would be excellent, but the head is too large
in proportion and the shoulders a trifle broad."

"He has a straight eye," thought Raisky.

"I like best the lightly-observed background and accessories, from which
the figure detaches itself light, gay, and transparent. You have found
the secret of Marfinka's figure. The tone suits her hair and her

Raisky recognised that he had taste and comprehension, and wondered if
he were really an artist in a disguise.

"Do you know Marfinka?" he asked.


"And Vera?"

"Vera too."

"Where have you met my cousins? You do not come to the house."

"At church."

"At church? But they say you never look inside a church."

"I don't exactly remember where I have seen them, in the village, in the

Raisky concluded his guest was a drunkard, as he drunk down glass after
glass of punch. Mark guessed his thoughts.

"You think it extraordinary that I should drink. I do it out of sheer
boredom, because I am idle and have no occupation. But don't be afraid
that I shall set the house on fire or murder anybody. To-day I am
drinking more than usual because I am tired and cold. But I am not a

"It depends on ourselves whether we are idle or not."

"When you climbed over Leonti's fence, I thought you were a sensible
individual, but now I see that you belong to the same kind of preaching
person as Niel Andreevich...."

"Is it true that you fired on him?" asked Raisky curiously.

"What nonsense! I fired a shot among the pigeons to empty the barrel of
my gun, as I was returning from hunting. He came up and shouted that I
should stop, because it was sinful. If he had been content with
protesting I should merely have called him a fool, and there it would
have ended. But he began to stamp and to threaten, 'I will have you put
in prison, you ruffian, and will have you locked up where not even the
raven will bring you a bone.' I allowed him to run through the whole
gamut of polite remarks, and listened calmly--and then I 'took aim at

"And he?"

"Ducked, lost his stick and goloshes, finally squatted on the ground and
whimpered for forgiveness. I shot into the air. That's all."

"A pretty distraction," commented Raisky ironically.

"No distraction," said Mark seriously. "There was more in it, a
badly-needed lesson for the old boy."

"And then what?"

"Nothing. He lied to the Governor, saying that I had aimed at him, but
missed. If I had been a peaceful citizen of the town I should have been
thrust into gaol without delay; but as I am an outlaw, the Governor
inquired into the matter and advised Niel Andreevich to say nothing. So
that no enquiry should be instituted from St. Petersburg; they fear that
like fire."

"When I spoke of idleness," said Raisky, "I did not mean to read a moral.
Yet when I see what your mind, your abilities and your education

"What have you seen? That I can climb a hedge, shoot at a fool, eat and
drink heavily?" he asked as he drained his glass.

Raisky watched him, and wondered uneasily how it would all end.

"We were speaking of the art you love so much," said Mark.

"I have been snatched from Art as if from my mother's breast," sighed
Raisky, "but I shall return and shall reach my goal."

"No, you will not," laughed Mark.

"Why not, don't you believe in firm intentions?"

"How should I do otherwise, since they say the way to Hell is paved with
them. No, you will do little more than you have accomplished
already--that is very little. We, and many like us, simply rot and die.
The only wonder is that you don't drink. That is how our artists,
half men, usually end their careers."

Smiling he thrust a glass towards his host, but emptied it himself.
Raisky concluded that he was cold, malicious and heartless. But the last
remark had disturbed him. Was he really only half a man? Had he not a
firm determination to reach the goal he had set before himself? He was
only making fun of him.

"You see that I don't drink away my talents," he remarked.

"Yes, that is an improvement, a step forward. You haven't succumbed to
society, to perfumes, gloves and dancing. Drinking is a different thing.
It goes to one man's head, another is susceptible to passion. Tell me,
do you easily take fire? Ah! I have touched the spot," he went on as
Raisky coloured. "That belongs to the artistic temperament, to which
nothing is foreign--_Nihil humanum_, etc. One loves wine, another
women, a third cards. The artists have usurped all these things for
themselves. Now kindly explain what I am."

"What you are. Why, an artist, without doubt, who on a first
acquaintance will drink, storm public houses, shoot, borrow money--"

"And not repay it. Bravo! an admirable description. To justify your last
remark and prove its truth beyond doubt, lend me a hundred roubles. I
will never pay them back unless you and I should have exchanged our
respective situations in life."

"You say that in jest?"

"Not at all. The market gardener, with whom I live, feeds me. He has no
money, nor have I."

Raisky shrugged his shoulders, felt in his pockets, produced his pocket
book and laid some notes on the table.

"You have counted wrong," said Mark. "There are only eighty here."

"I have no more money on me. My aunt keeps my money, and I will send you
the balance to-morrow."

"Don't forget. This is enough for the moment and now I want to sleep."

"My bed is at your disposal, and I will sleep on the divan. You are my

"I should be worse than a Tatar if I did that," murmured Mark, already
half asleep. "Lie down on your bed. Anything will do for me."

In a few minutes he was sleeping the sleep of a tired, satisfied and
drunken man worn out with cold and weariness. Raisky went to the window,
raised the curtain, and looked out into the dark, starlit night. Now and
then a flame hovered over the unemptied bowl, flared up and lighted up
the room for a moment. There was a gentle tap on the door.

"Who is there?" he asked.

"I, Borushka. Open quickly. What are you doing there," said the anxious
voice of Tatiana Markovna.

Raisky opened the door, and saw his aunt before him, like a white-clad

"What is going on here. I saw a light through the window, and thought
you were asleep. What is burning in the bowl."


"Do you drink punch at night?" she whispered, looking first at him, then
at the bowl in amazement.

"I am a sinner, Grandmother. Sometimes I drink."

"And who is lying there asleep?" she asked in new terror as she gazed on
the sleeping Mark.

"Gently, Grandmother, don't wake him. It is Mark."

"Mark! Shall I send for the police! What have you to do with him? You
have been drinking punch at night with Mark? What has come over you,
Boris Pavlovich?"

"I found him at Leonti's, we were both hungry. So I brought him here and
we had supper."

"Why didn't you call me. Who served you, and what did they bring you?"

"Marina did everything."

"A cold meal. Ah, Borushka, you shame me."

"We had plenty to eat."

"Plenty, without a single hot dish, without dessert. I will send up some

"No, no ... if you want anything, I can wake Mark and ask him."

"Good heavens! I am in my night-jacket," she whispered, and drew back to
the door. "How he sleeps, all rolled up like a little dog. I am ashamed,
Boris Pavlovich, as if we had no beds in the house. But put out the
flames. No dessert!"

Raisky extinguished the blue flame and embraced the old lady. She made
the sign of the Cross over him, looked round the room once more, and
went out on tiptoe. Just as he was going to lie down again there was
another tap on the door, he opened it immediately.

Marina entered, bearing a jar of preserves; then she brought a bed and
two pillows. "The mistress sent them," she said.

Raisky laughed heartily, and was almost moved to tears.


Early in the morning a slight noise wakened Raisky, and he sat up to see
Mark disappear through the window. He does not like the straight way, he
thought, and stepped to the window. Mark was going through the park, and
vanished under the thick trees on the top of the precipice. As he had no
inclination to go to bed again, he put on a light overcoat and went down
into the park too, thinking to bring Mark back, but he was already far
below on the bank of the Volga. Raisky remained standing at the top of
the precipice. The sun had not yet risen, but his rays were already
gilding the hill tops, the dew covered fields were glistening in the
distance, and the cool morning wind breathed freshness. The air grew
rapidly warmer, giving promise of a hot day. Raisky walked on in the
park, and the rain began to fall. The birds sang, as they darted in all
directions seeking their morning meal, and the bees and the humble-bees
hummed over the flowers. A feeling of discomfort came over Raisky. He
had a long day before him, with the impressions of yesterday and the day
before still strong upon him. He looked down on the unchanging prospect
of smiling nature, the woods and the melancholy Volga, and felt the
caress of the same cooling breeze. He went forward over the courtyard,
taking no notice of the greetings of the servants or the friendly
advances of the dogs.

He intended to go back to his room to turn the tenseness of his mood to
account as an artistic motive in his novel; but as he hurried past the
old house, he noticed that the door was half open, and went in. Since
his arrival he had only been here for a moment with Marfinka, and had
glanced into Vera's room. Now it occurred to him to make a closer
inspection. Passing through his old bedroom and two or three other rooms,
he came into the corner room, then with an expression of extreme
astonishment in his face he stood still.

Leaning on the window-sill, so that her profile was turned towards him,
stood a girl of two or three and twenty, looking with strained curiosity,
as if she were following some one with her eyes, down to the bank of the
Volga. He was startled by the white, almost pallid face under the dark
hair, the velvet-black eyes with their long lashes. Her face, still
looking anxiously into the distance, gradually assumed an indifferent
expression. The girl glanced hastily over park and courtyard, then as
she turned and caught sight of him, shrank back.

"Sister Vera!" he cried.

Her face cleared, and her eyes remained fixed on him with an expression
of modest curiosity, as he approached to kiss her.

She drew back almost imperceptibly, turning her head a little so that
his lips touched her cheek, not her mouth, and they sat down opposite
the window.

Impatient to hear her voice he began: "How eagerly I have expected you,
and you have stayed away so long."

"Marina told me yesterday that you were here."

Her voice, though not so clear as Marfinka's, was still fresh and

"Grandmother wanted to send you word of my arrival, but I begged her not
to tell you. When did you return? No one told me you were here."

"Yesterday, after supper. Grandmother and my sister don't know I am here
yet. No one saw me but Marina."

She threw some white garments that lay beside her into the next room,
pushed aside a bundle and brought a table to the window. Then she sat
down again, with a manner quite unconstrained, as if she were alone.

"I have prepared coffee," she said. "Will you drink it with me. It will
be a long time before it is ready at the other house. Marfinka gets up

"I should like it very much," he replied, following her with his eyes.
Like a true artist he abandoned himself to the new and unexpected

"You must have forgotten me, Vera," he remarked after a pause, with an
affectionate note in his voice.

"No," she said, as he poured out the coffee, "I remember everything. How
was it possible to forget you when Grandmother was for ever talking
about you?"

He would have liked to ask her question after question, but they crowded
into his brain in so disconnected a fashion that he did not know where
to begin.

"I have already been in your room. Forgive the intrusion," he said.

"There is nothing remarkable here," she said hastily, looking around as
if something not intended for strange eyes might be lying about.

"Nothing remarkable, quite right. What book is that?"

He put out his hand for the book under her hand; she rapidly drew it
away and put it behind her on the shelf.

"You hide it as you used to hide the currants in your mouth. But show it

"Do you read books that may not be seen?" he said, laughingly as she
shook her head.

"Heavens! how lovely she is!" he thought. And he wondered how such
beauty could have lost its way in such an outlandish place. He wanted to
touch some answering chord in her heart, wanted her to reveal something
of her feelings, but his efforts only produced a greater coldness.

"My library was in your hands?"

"Yes, but later Leonid Ivanovich took it over, and I was glad to be
relieved of the charge."

"But he must have left you a few books?"

"Oh no! I read what I liked, and then surrendered the books."

"What did you like?"

She looked out of the window as she answered: "A great many. I have
really forgotten."

"Do you care for music?"

She looked at him inquiringly before she said, "Does that mean that I
play myself, or like to hear music?"


"I don't play, but I like to hear music, but what music is there here?"

"But what are your particular tastes?" Again she looked at him
inquiringly. "Do you like housekeeping, or needlework. Do you do

"No, Marfinka likes and understands all those things."

"But what do you like? A book only occupies you for a short time. You
say that you don't do any needlework, but you must like something,
flowers perhaps."

"Flowers, yes, in the garden, but not in the house where they have to be
tended. I love this corner of God's earth, the Volga, the precipice, the
forest and the garden--these are the things I love," she said, looking
contentedly at the prospect from the window.

"What ties bind you to this little place?"

She gave no answer, but her eyes wandered lovingly over the trees and
the rising ground, and finally rested on the dazzling mirror of water.

"It is a beautiful place," admitted Raisky, "but the view, the river
bank, the hills, the forest--all these things would became tedious if
they were not inhabited by living creatures which share our feelings and
exchange ideas with us."

She was silent.

"Vera!" said Raisky after a pause.

"Ah!" she said, as if she had only just heard his remarks, "I don't live
alone; Grandmother, Marfinka...."

"As if you shared your sympathies and thoughts with them. But perhaps
you have a congenial spirit here?"

Vera nodded her head.

"Who is that happy individual?" he stammered, urged on by envy, terror
and jealousy.

"The pope's wife with whom I have been stopping," said Vera as she rose
and shook the crumbs from her apron. "You must have heard of her."

"The pope's wife!" he repeated.

"When she is here with me we both admire the Volga, we are never tired
of talking about it. Will you have some more coffee? May I have it
cleared away?"

"The pope's wife," he repeated thoughtfully, without hearing her
question, and the smile on her lips passed unobserved.

"Will you have some more coffee?"

"No. Do you care for Grandmother and Marfinka?"

"Whom else should I hold dear?"

"Well--me," he retorted, jesting.

"You too," she said, looking gaily at him, "if you deserve it."

"How does one earn this good fortune?" he asked ironically.

"Love, they say, is blind, gives herself without any merit, is indeed
blind," she rejoined.

"Yet sometimes love comes consciously, by way of confidence, esteem and
friendship. I should like to begin with the last, and end with the first.
So what must one do, dear sister, to attract your attention."

"Not to make such round eyes as you are doing now for instance, not to
go into my room--without me, not to try to find out what my likes and
dislikes are...."

"What pride! Tell me, Sister, forgive my bluntness: Do you pride
yourself on this? I ask because Grandmother told me you were proud."

"Grandmother must have her finger in everything. I am not proud. In what
connection did she say I was?"

"Because I have made a gift of these houses and gardens to you and
Marfinka. She said that you would not accept the gift. Is that true?
Marfinka has accepted on the condition that you do not refuse.
Grandmother hesitated, and has not come to a final decision, but waits,
it seems, to see what you will say. And how shall you decide. Will a
sister take a gift from a brother?"

"Yes, I accept ... but no, I can buy the estate. Sell it to me.... I
have money, and will pay you 50,000 roubles for it."

"I will not do it that way."

She looked thoughtfully out on the Volga, the precipice, and the park.

"Very well. I agree to anything you please, so long as we remain here."

"I will have the deed drawn up."

"Yes, thank you!" she said, stretching out both hands to him.

He pressed her hands, and kissed Vera on the cheek. She returned the
pressure of his hands and kissed the air.

"You seem really to love the place and this old house."

"And you, do you mean to stay here long?"

"I don't know. It depends on circumstances--on you."

"On me?"

"Come over to the other house."

"I will follow you. I must first put things straight here. I have not
yet unpacked."

The less Raisky appeared to notice Vera, the more friendly Vera was to
him, although, in spite of her aunt's wishes she neither kissed him nor
addressed him as "thou." But as soon as he looked at her overmuch or
seemed to hang on her words, she became suspicious, careful and reserved.
Her coming made a change in the quiet circle, putting everything in a
different light. It might happen that she said nothing, and was hardly
seen for a couple of days, yet Raisky was conscious every moment of her
whereabouts and her doings. It was as if her voice penetrated to him
through any wall, and as if her doings were reflected in any place where
he was. In a few days he knew her habits, her tastes, her likings, all
that love on her outer life. But the indwelling spirit, Vera herself,
remained concealed in the shadows. In her conversation she betrayed no
sign of her active imagination and she answered a jest with a gay smile,
but Raisky rarely made her laugh outright. If he did her laughter broke
off abruptly to give place to an indifferent silence. She had no regular
employment. She read, but was never heard to speak of what she read; she
did not play the piano, though she sometimes struck discords and
listened to their effects.

Raisky noticed that their aunt was liberal with observation and warnings
for Marfinka; but she said nothing to Vera, no doubt in the hope that
the good seed sown would bear fruit.

Vera had moments when she was seized with a feverish desire for activity;
and then she would help in the house, and in the most varying tasks with
surprising skill. This thirst for occupation came on her especially when
she read reproach in her aunt's eyes. If she complained that her guests
were too much for her, Vera would not bring herself to assist
immediately, but presently she would appear in the company with a bright
face, her eyes gleaming with gaiety, and astonished her aunt by the
grace and wit with which she entertained the visitors. This mood would
last a whole evening, sometimes a whole day, before she again relapsed
into shyness and reserve, so that no one could read her mind and heart.

That was all that Raisky could observe for the time, and it was all the
others saw either. The less ground he had to go on however, the more
active his imagination was in seeking to divine her secret.

She came over every day for a short time, exchanged greetings with her
aunt and her sister, and returned to the other house, and no one knew
how she passed her time there. Tatiana Markovna grumbled a little to
herself, complained that her niece was moody, and shy, but did not

For Raisky the whole place, the park, the estate with the two houses,
the huts, the peasants, the whole life of the place had lost its gay
colours. But for Vera he would long since have left it. It was in this
melancholy mood that he lay smoking a cigar on the sofa in Tatiana
Markovna's room. His aunt who was never happy unless she was doing
something, was looking through some accounts brought her by Savili;
before her lay on pieces of paper samples of hay and rye. Marfinka was
working at a piece of lace. Vera, as usual, was not there.

Vassilissa announced visitors; the young master; from Kolchino.

"Nikolai Andreevich Vikentev, please enter."

Marfinka coloured, smoothed her hair, gave a tug to her fichu, and cast
a glance in the mirror. Raisky shook his finger at her, making her
colour more deeply.

"The person who stayed one night here," said Vassilissa to Raisky, "is
also asking for you."

"Markushka?" asked Tatiana Markovna in a horrified tone.

"Yes," said Vassilissa.

Raisky hurried out.

"How glad he is, how he rushes to meet him. Don't forget to ask him for
the money. Is he hungry? I will send food directly," cried his aunt
after him.

There stepped, or rather sprang into the room a fresh-looking,
well-built young man of middle height of about twenty-three years of age.
He had chestnut hair, a rosy face, grey-blue keen eyes, and a smile which
displayed a row of strong teeth. He laid on a chair with his hat a bunch
of cornflowers and a packet carefully done up in a handkerchief.

"Good-day, Tatiana Markovna; Good-day, Marfa Vassilievna," he cried. He
kissed the old lady's hand, and would have raised Marfinka's to his lips,
but she pulled it away, though he found time to snatch a hasty kiss from

"You haven't been to see us for three weeks," said Tatiana Markovna,

"I could not come. The Governor would not let me off. Orders were given
to settle up all the business in the office," said Vikentev, so
hurriedly that he nearly swallowed some of the words.

"That is absurd; don't listen to him, Granny," interrupted Marfinka. "He
hasn't any business, as he himself said."

"I swear I am up to my neck in work. We are now expecting a new chief
clerk, and I swear by God we have to sit up into the night."

"It is not the custom to appeal to God over such trifles. It is a sin,"
said Tatiana Markovna severely.

"What do you mean? Is it a trifle when Marfa Vassilievna will not
believe me, and I, by God--"


"Is it true, Tatiana Markovna, that you have a visitor? Has Boris
Pavlovich arrived? Was it he I met in the corridor? I have come on

"You see, Granny, he has come to see my cousin. Otherwise he would have
stayed away longer, wouldn't he?"

"As soon as I could tear myself away, I came here. Yesterday I was at
Kolchino for a minute, with Mama--"

"Is she well?"

"Thanks for the kind thought. She sends her kind regards and begs you
not to forget her nameday."

"Many thanks. I only don't know whether I can come myself. I am old, and
fear the crossing of the Volga."

"Without you, Granny, Vera and I will not go. We, too, are afraid of
crossing the Volga."

"Be ashamed of yourself, Marfa Vassilievna. What are you afraid of? I
will fetch you myself with our boat. Our rowers are singers."

"Under no circumstances will I cross with you. You never sit quiet in
the boat for a minute. What have you got alive in that handkerchief? See,
Granny, I am sure it's a snake."

"I have brought you a carp, Tatiana Markovna, which I have caught myself.
And these are for you, Marfa Vassilievna. I picked the cornflowers here
in the rye."

"You promised not to pick any without me. Now you have not put in an
appearance for more than two weeks. The cornflowers are all withered,
and what can I do with them?"

"Come with me, and we'll pick some fresh ones."

"Wait," called Tatiana Markovna. "You can never sit quiet, you have
hardly had time to show your nose, the perspiration still stands on your
forehead, and you are aching to be off. First you must have breakfast.
And you, Marfinka, find out if that person, Markushka, will have
anything. But don't go yourself, send Egorka."

Marfinka seized the carp's head with two fingers, but when he began to
wave his tail hither and thither, she uttered a loud cry, hastily
dropped him on the floor, and fled down the corridor.

Vikentev hurried after, and a few moments later Tatiana Markovna heard a
gay waltz in progress and a vigorous stampede, as if someone were
rolling down the steps. Soon the two of them tore across the courtyard
to the garden, Marfinka leading, and from the garden came the sound of
chattering, singing and laughter. Tatiana Markovna shook her head as she
looked through the window. Cocks, hens and ducks fled in panic, the dogs
dashed barking at Marfinka's heels, the servants put their heads out of
the windows of their quarters, in the garden the tall plants swayed
hither and hither, the flower beds were broken by the print of flying
feet, two or three vases were overturned, and every bird sought refuge
in the depths of the trees.

A quarter of an hour later, the two culprits sat with Tatiana Markovna
as politely as if nothing had happened. They looked gaily about the room
and at one another, as Vikentev wiped the perspiration from his face and
Marfinka fanned her burning face with her handkerchief.

"You are a nice pair," remarked Tatiana Markovna.

"He is always like that," complained Marfinka, "he chased me. Tell him
to sit quiet."

"It wasn't my fault, Tatiana Markovna. Marfa Vassilievna told me to go
into the garden, and she herself ran on in front."

"He is a man. But it does not become you, who are a girl, to do these

"You see what I have to endure through you," said Marfinka.

"Never mind, Marfa Vassilievna. Granny is only scolding a little, as she
is privileged to do."

"What do you say, Sir?" said Tatiana Markovna, catching his words. "Come
here, and since your Mama is not here, I will box your ears for you."

"But, Tatiana Markovna, you threaten these things and never do them," he
said, springing up to the old lady and bowing his head submissively.

"Do box his ears well, Granny, so that his ears will be red for a

"How did you come to be made of quicksilver?" said Tatiana Markovna,
affectionately. "Your late father was serious, never talked at random,
and even disaccustomed your mother from laughter!"

"Ah, Marfa Vassilievna," broke in Vikentev. "I have brought you some
music and a new novel."

"Where are they?"

"I left them in the boat. That's the fault of the carp. I will go and
fetch them now."

In a moment he was out of the door, and Marfinka would have followed if
her aunt had not detained her.

"What I wanted to say to you is----" she began.

She hesitated a little, as if she could not make up her mind to speak.
Marfinka came up to her, and the old lady smoothed her disordered hair.

"What then, Granny?"

"You are a good child, and obey every word of your grandmother's. You
are not like Veroshka...."

"Don't find fault with Veroshka, Granny!"

"No, you always defend her. She does indeed respect me, but she retains
her own opinion and does not believe me. Her view is that I am old,
while you two girls are young, know everything, and read everything. If
only she were right. But everything is not written in books," she added
with a sigh.

"What do you want to say to me?" asked Marfinka curiously.

"That a grown girl must be a little more cautious. You are so wild, and
run about like a child."

"I am not always running about. I work, sew embroider, pour out tea,
attend to the household. Why do you scold me, Grandmother," she asked
with tears in her eyes. "If you tell me I must not sing, I won't do it."

"God grant that you may always be as happy as a bird. Sing, play----"

"Then, why scold me?"

"I don't scold you; I only ask you to keep within bounds. You used to
run about with Nikolai Andreevich--"

Marfinka reddened and retired to her corner.

"That is no harm," continued Tatiana Markovna. "There is nothing against
Nikolai Andreevich, but he is just as wild as you are. You are my
dearest child, and you will remember what is due to your dignity."

Marfinka blushed crimson.

"Don't blush, darling. I know that you will do nothing wrong, but for
other people's sake you must be careful. Why do you look so angry. Come
and let me kiss you."

"Nikolai Andreevich will be here in a moment, and I don't know how to
face him."

Before Tatiana Markovna could answer Vikentev burst in, covered with
dust and perspiration, carrying music and a book which he laid on the
table by Marfinka.

"Give me your hand, Marfa Vassilievna," he cried, wiping his forehead.
"How I did run, with the dogs after me!"

Marfinka hid her hand, bowed, and returned with dignity:

_"Je vous remercie, monsieur Vikentev, vous etes bien amiable."_

He stared first at Marfinka, then at her aunt, and asked whether she
would try over a song with him.

"I will try it by myself, or in company with Grandmother."

"Let us go into the park, and I will read you the new novel," he then
said, picking up the book.

"How could I do such a thing?" asked Marfinka, looking demurely at her
aunt. "Do you think I am a child?"

"What is the meaning of this, Tatiana Markovna," stammered Vikentev in
amazement. "Marfa Vassilievna is unendurable." He looked at both of them,
walked into the middle of the room, assumed a sugary smile, bowed
slightly, put his hat under his arm, and struggling in vain to drag his
gloves on his moist hands began: "_Mille pardons, mademoiselle, de
vous avoir derangee. Sacrebleu, ca n'entre pas. Oh mille pardons,

"Do stop, you foolish boy!"

Marfinka bit her lips, but could not help laughing.

"Just look at him, Granny! How can anybody keep serious when he mimics
Monsieur Charles so nicely?"

"Stop, children," cried Tatiana Markovna, her frown relaxing into smiles.
"Go, and God be with you. Do whatever you like."


Raisky's patience had to suffer a hard trial in Vera's indifference. His
courage failed him, and he fell into a dull, fruitless boredom. In this
idle mood he drew village scenes in his sketch album--he had already
sketched nearly every aspect of the Volga to be seen from the house or
the cliff--and he made notes in his note books. He hoped by these
occupations to free himself from his obsessing thoughts of Vera. He knew
he would do better to begin a big piece of work, instead of these
trifles. But he told himself that Russians did not understand hard work,
or that real work demanded rude strength, the use of the hands, the
shoulders and the back. He thought that in work of this kind a man lost
consciousness of his humanity, and experienced no pleasures in his
exertions; he shouldered his burden like a horse that seeks to ward off
the whip with his tail. Rough manual labour left no place for boredom.
Yet no one seeks distractions in work, but in pleasure. Work, not
appearances, he repeated, oppressed by the overpowering dulness which
drove him nearly mad, and created a frame of mind quite contrary to his
gentle temperament. I have no work, I cannot create as do artists who
are absorbed in their work, and are ready to die for it.

He took his cap and strolled into the outlying parts of the town, then
into the town, where he observed every passer-by, stared into the houses,
down the streets, and at last found himself standing before the Koslov's
house. Being told that Koslov was at the school, he inquired for Juliana
Andreevna. The woman who had opened the door to him, looked at him
askance, blew her nose with her apron, wiped it with her finger, and
vanished into the house for good. He knocked again, the dogs barked, and
then appeared a little girl, holding her finger to her mouth, who stared
at him and departed. He was about to knock again, but, instead, turned
to go. As he passed through the little garden he heard voices, Parisian
French, and a woman's voice; he heard laughter and even a kiss.

"Poor Leonti!" he whispered. "Or rather, blind Leonti!"

He stood uncertain whether to go or stay, then hastened his steps, and
determined to have speech with Mark. He sought distraction of some kind
to rid himself of his mood of depression, and to drive away the
insistent thoughts of Vera. Passing the warped houses, he left the town
and passed between two thick hedges beyond which stretched on both sides
vegetable gardens.

"Where does the market gardener, Ephraim, live?" he asked, addressing a
woman over the hedge who was working in the beds.

Silently, without pausing in her work, she motioned with her elbow to a
hut standing isolated in the field. As he climbed over the fence, two
dogs barked furiously at him. From the door of the hut came a healthy
young woman with sunburnt face and bare arms, holding a baby.

She called off the dogs with curses, and asked Raisky whom he wished to
see. He was looking curiously round, since he did not understand how
anyone except the peasant and his wife could be living there. The hut,
against which were propped spades, rakes and other tools, planks and
pails, had neither yard nor fence; two windows looked out on the
vegetable garden, two others on the field. In the shed were two horses,
here was a pig surrounded by a litter of young, and a hen wandered
around with her chickens. A little further off stood some cars and a big

"Does Mark Volokov live here?" asked Raisky.

The woman pointed to the telega in silence.

"That's his room," she said, pointing to one of the windows. "He sleeps
in the telega."

"At this time of day?"

"He only came home this morning, probably rather drunk."

Raisky approached the telega.

"What do you want of him?" asked the woman.

"To visit him."

"Let him sleep."


"I am frightened here alone with him, and my husband won't be here yet.
I hope he'll sleep."

"Does he insult you?"

"No, it would be wicked to say such a thing. But he is so restless and
peculiar that I am afraid of him."

She rocked the child in her arms, and Raisky looked curiously under the
straw covering. Suddenly Mark's tangled hair and beard emerged and the
woman vanished into the hut as he cried, "Fool, you don't know how to
receive visitors."

"Good-day! What has brought you here?" cried Mark as he crawled out of
the telega and stretched himself. "A visit, perhaps."

"I was taking a walk out of sheer boredom."

"Bored! with two beautiful girls at home. You, an artist, and you are
taking a walk out of sheer boredom. Don't your affections prosper?" he
winked. "They are lovely children, especially Vera?"

"How do you know my cousins, and in what way do they concern you?" asked
Raisky drily.

"Don't be vexed. Come into my drawing-room."

"Tell me rather why you sleep in the telega. Are you playing at

"Yes, because I must."

They entered the hut and went into a boarded compartment, where stood
Mark's bed with a thin old mattress, a thin wadded bed-cover and a tiny
pillow. Scattered on a shelf on the wall, and on the table lay books,
two guns hung on the wall, linen and clothes were tumbled untidily on
the only chair.

"This is my salon, sit down on the bed, and I will sit on the chair. Let
us take off our coats, for it is infernally hot. No ceremony, as there
are no ladies. That's right. Do you want anything? There is nothing but
milk and eggs. If you don't want any, give me a cigar."

"Many thanks. I have already breakfasted, and it will presently be
dinner time."

"Yes! You live with your Aunt. Weren't you expelled after having
harboured me in the night?"

"On the contrary, she reproached me with having allowed you to go to bed
without any dessert, and for not having demanded pillows."

"And didn't she rail against me?"

"As usual, but...."

"I know it is habit and does not come from her heart. She has the best
heart one can wish for, better than any here. She is bold, full of
character, and with a solid understanding; now indeed her brain is

"That is your opinion? You have found someone for whom you have

"Yes, especially in one respect. She cannot endure the Governor any more
than I can. I don't know what her reasons are; his position is enough
for me. We neither of us like the police; we are oppressed by them. The
old lady is compelled by them to carry out all sorts of repairs; to me
they pay far too much attention, find out where I live, whether I go far
from the town, and whom I visit."

Both fell silent.

"Now we have nothing more to talk about. Why did you come here?" asked

"Because I was bored."

"Fall in love."

Raisky was silent.

"With Vera," continued Mark. "Splendid girl, and she is related to you.
It must be easy for you to begin a romance with her."

Raisky made an angry gesture, to which Mark replied by a burst of

"Call the ancient wisdom to your help," he said. "Show outward coldness
when you are inwardly consumed, indifference of manner, pride,
contempt--every little helps. Parade yourself before her as suits
your calling."

"My calling?"

"Isn't it your calling to be eccentric?"

"Perhaps," remarked Raisky indifferently.

"I, for instance," said Mark, "should make direct for my goal, and
should be sure of victory. You may do the same, but you would do so
penetrated by the conviction that you stood on the heights and had drawn
her up to you, you idealist. Show that you understand your calling, and
you may succeed. It's no use to wear yourself out with sighs, to be
sleepless, to watch for the raising of the lilac curtain by a white hand,
to wait a week for a kindly glance."

Raisky rose, furious.

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