"An Enigmatic Nature" and other stories by Anton Chekhov

(actualisé le ) by Anton Chekhov

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. An Enigmatic Nature (1883) A very pretty young lady in a first-class railway car is baring her soul to a budding author who is all too anxious to proffer his psychological expertise on problems of the heart, but the explanation by the lovely lady of her current romantic drama puts a real damper on his effusions. (830 words)

2. Fat and Thin (1883) Two former classmates and close friends, one now very plump and the other distinctly thin, meet up at a railway station years afterwards. Although the ambience is joyful at the start of the encounter, the tone and the language suddenly change when the thin one realises that his former companion has advanced much more rapidly in the official hierarchy than he has. (800 words)

3. Malingerers (1885) The homeopath Marfa Petrovna has been busy receiving her many clients all day when a neighbouring landowner comes into her office and falls down on his knees with compliments about the miraculous effects her homeopathic treatments have had on his rheumatism. But all is not as clear as it might seem. (1,450 words)

4. Overdoing It (1885) A land surveyor arrives at a post-station at the end of the day and hires a peasant to drive him to the area that he had been commissioned to survey. Night rapidly befalls the travellers and as the surveyor becomes conscious of their isolation and exposure to attack, he explains to the driver how heavily armed he is, but that was definitely the wrong approach as he learns to his dismay. (1,750 words)

5. The Privy Councillor (1886) The narrator recounts the visit of his uncle, a prestigious senior civil servant, and how the effort of treating him like visiting royalty wore his mother down so much that she ended up by paying him to spend his vacation abroad. (7,100 words)

6. The Orator (1886) The collegiate assessor Kirill Babilonov, was being buried, and one of his colleagues goes off to get Grigory Petrovitch, a celebrated local orator, to deliver the funeral oration for the deceased. Which he does most impressively, except that he thought the deceased was another of Gregory’s colleagues, also an assessor. (1,250 words)

7. A Work of Art (1886) Sasha Smirnov arrives at his doctor’s with a present in lieu of payment, an antique bronze of two naked young women. The gift is not at all to the doctor’s taste, so he gives it to a bachelor friend, but the young man finds it too risqué and gives it in a comedian, who finds it an embarrassment to his many lady visitors, so he gives it in turn and the cycle continues. (1,550 words)

8. Darkness (1887) A young peasant stops a doctor in a provincial town to beg him to let his brother, a convict who had been brought to his hospital for treatment, be released so that he can work the family forge and feed his mother and family who are all starving for want of resources. The doctor dismisses him and the peasant desperately pursues his aim of getting the convict released. (1,600 words)

9. Polinka (1887) Polinka is shopping in an elegant drapery establishment where Nikolay takes her order, and the two converse in low terms, one reproaching the other for no longer coming to see her, the other explaining that there is no point since the she goes out regularly on walks with a student who he is convinced has only one thing in mind for her and that is not marriage – a perfect dialogue of the deaf. (1,750 words)

10. A Defenceless Creature (1887) A lady the bank manager Kistunov to ask for reimbursement of a sum that had been unduly taken from the pay of her husband, and Kistunov explains to her that her husband was employed by the army and that this is a bank. But the lady persists, and finally Kistunov asks each of his staff in turn to deal with her. But to no avail, so K. finds a solution to her problem, to everyone’s satisfaction but his own. (1,850 words)

11. The Lottery Ticket (1887) Ivan Dmitritch sits down to read the evening paper and notices right away that the winning lottery number starts with the same four digits as his own ticket. He and his wife try to imagine what they could possibly do with the prize money, but then Ivan realises that the ticket’s in his wife’s name, and feelings rapidly deteriorate. (1,850 words)

12. Too Early! (1887) Slyunka and Ryabov passionately plead with the inn-keeper Semyon to let them have the gun that Slyunka had pawned there so that they could go out to shoot snipe, but to no avail. The two sportsmen go out anyway to watch the rooks and the cranes flying overhead, hoping to see the long-awaited snipe come back too. (2,050 words)

13. Happiness (1887) Two shepherds exchange thoughtsin the middle of the night with an overseer who has stopped nearby. The talk is centred on evil spirits and the treasures that they are all convinced lie hidden below the many ancient burial mounds scattered about the steppe and about how evil spirits prevent men from uncovering those treasure. (3,900 words)

14. In the Coach-House (1887) The boy Alyosha is playing cards with his grandfather and other members of the household, all of whom comment on the day’s big event, a suicide. A story is told of how a young nobleman who had shot himself howled constantly in his grave after his mother had bribed the authorities to let him be buried there, and that night Alyosha slept very badly. (2,250 words)

15. The Head Gardener’s Story (1894) A Swedish gardener recounts a fable from his home country about how the murder of a particularly noble and beloved doctor was so incomprehensible to the citizens of the town that the magistrate decided to let the proven killer go free as a gesture of his faith in humanity. (1,900 words)


e-books with these stories can be downloaded below.



1. AN ENIGMATIC NATURE

ON the red velvet seat of a first-class railway carriage a pretty lady sits half reclining. An expensive fluffy fan trembles in her tightly closed fingers, a pince-nez keeps dropping off her pretty little nose, the brooch heaves and falls on her bosom, like a boat on the ocean. She is greatly agitated.

On the seat opposite sits the Provincial Secretary of Special Commissions, a budding young author, who from time to time publishes long stories of high life, or "Novelli" as he calls them, in the leading paper of the province. He is gazing into her face, gazing intently, with the eyes of a connoisseur. He is watching, studying, catching every shade of this exceptional, enigmatic nature. He understands it, he fathoms it. Her soul, her whole psychology lies open before him.

"Oh, I understand, I understand you to your inmost depths!" says the Secretary of Special Commissions, kissing her hand near the bracelet. "Your sensitive, responsive soul is seeking to escape from the maze of — Yes, the struggle is terrific, titanic. But do not lose heart, you will be triumphant! Yes!"

"Write about me, Voldemar!" says the pretty lady, with a mournful smile. "My life has been so full, so varied, so chequered. Above all, I am unhappy. I am a suffering soul in some page of Dostoevsky. Reveal my soul to the world, Voldemar. Reveal that hapless soul. You are a psychologist. We have not been in the train an hour together, and you have already fathomed my heart."

"Tell me! I beseech you, tell me!"

"Listen. My father was a poor clerk in the Service. He had a good heart and was not without intelligence; but the spirit of the age — of his environment — vous comprenez? — I do not blame my poor father. He drank, gambled, took bribes. My mother — but why say more? Poverty, the struggle for daily bread, the consciousness of insignificance — ah, do not force me to recall it! I had to make my own way. You know the monstrous education at a boarding-school, foolish novel-reading, the errors of early youth, the first timid flutter of love. It was awful! The vacillation! And the agonies of losing faith in life, in oneself! Ah, you are an author. You know us women. You will understand. Unhappily I have an intense nature. I looked for happiness — and what happiness! I longed to set my soul free. Yes. In that I saw my happiness!"

"Exquisite creature!" murmured the author, kissing her hand close to the bracelet. "It’s not you I am kissing, but the suffering of humanity. Do you remember Raskolnikov and his kiss?"

"Oh, Voldemar, I longed for glory, renown, success, like every — why affect modesty? — every nature above the commonplace. I yearned for something extraordinary, above the common lot of woman! And then — and then — there crossed my path — an old general — very well off. Understand me, Voldemar! It was self-sacrifice, renunciation! You must see that! I could do nothing else. I restored the family fortunes, was able to travel, to do good. Yet how I suffered, how revolting, how loathsome to me were his embraces — though I will be fair to him — he had fought nobly in his day. There were moments — terrible moments — but I was kept up by the thought that from day to day the old man might die, that then I would begin to live as I liked, to give myself to the man I adore — be happy. There is such a man, Voldemar, indeed there is!"

The pretty lady flutters her fan more violently. Her face takes a lachrymose expression. She goes on:

"But at last the old man died. He left me something. I was free as a bird of the air. Now is the moment for me to be happy, isn’t it, Voldemar? Happiness comes tapping at my window, I had only to let it in — but — Voldemar, listen, I implore you! Now is the time for me to give myself to the man I love, to become the partner of his life, to help, to uphold his ideals, to be happy — to find rest — but — how ignoble, repulsive, and senseless all our life is! How mean it all is, Voldemar. I am wretched, wretched, wretched! Again there is an obstacle in my path! Again I feel that my happiness is far, far away! Ah, what anguish! — if only you knew what anguish!"

"But what — what stands in your way? I implore you tell me! What is it?"

"Another old general, very well off—"

The broken fan conceals the pretty little face. The author props on his fist his thought — heavy brow and ponders with the air of a master in psychology. The engine is whistling and hissing while the window curtains flush red with the glow of the setting sun.


2. FAT AND THIN

Two friends—one a fat man and the other a thin man—met at the Nikolaevsky station. The fat man had just dined in the station and his greasy lips shone like ripe cherries. He smelt of sherry and fleur d’orange. The thin man had just slipped out of the train and was laden with portmanteaus, bundles, and bandboxes. He smelt of ham and coffee grounds. A thin woman with a long chin, his wife, and a tall schoolboy with one eye screwed up came into view behind his back.
“Porfiry,” cried the fat man on seeing the thin man. “Is it you? My dear fellow! How many summers, how many winters!”
“Holy saints!” cried the thin man in amazement. “Misha! The friend of my childhood! Where have you dropped from?”
The friends kissed each other three times, and gazed at each other with eyes full of tears. Both were agreeably astounded.
“My dear boy!” began the thin man after the kissing. “This is unexpected! This is a surprise! Come have a good look at me! Just as handsome as I used to be! Just as great a darling and a dandy! Good gracious me! Well, and how are you? Made your fortune? Married? I am married as you see. . . . This is my wife Luise, her maiden name was Vantsenbach . . . of the Lutheran persuasion. . . . And this is my son Nafanail, a schoolboy in the third class. This is the friend of my childhood, Nafanya. We were boys at school together!”
Nafanail thought a little and took off his cap.
“We were boys at school together,” the thin man went on. “Do you remember how they used to tease you? You were nicknamed Herostratus because you burned a hole in a schoolbook with a cigarette, and I was nicknamed Ephialtes because I was fond of telling tales. Ho—ho! . . . we were children! . . . Don’t be shy, Nafanya. Go nearer to him. And this is my wife, her maiden name was Vantsenbach, of the Lutheran persuasion. . . .”
Nafanail thought a little and took refuge behind his father’s back.
“Well, how are you doing my friend?” the fat man asked, looking enthusiastically at his friend. “Are you in the service? What grade have you reached?”
“I am, dear boy! I have been a collegiate assessor for the last two years and I have the Stanislav. The salary is poor, but that’s no great matter! The wife gives music lessons, and I go in for carving wooden cigarette cases in a private way. Capital cigarette cases! I sell them for a rouble each. If any one takes ten or more I make a reduction of course. We get along somehow. I served as a clerk, you know, and now I have been transferred here as a head clerk in the same department. I am going to serve here. And what about you? I bet you are a civil councillor by now? Eh?”
“No dear boy, go higher than that,” said the fat man. “I have risen to privy councillor already . . . I have two stars.”
The thin man turned pale and rigid all at once, but soon his face twisted in all directions in the broadest smile; it seemed as though sparks were flashing from his face and eyes. He squirmed, he doubled together, crumpled up. . . . His portmanteaus, bundles and cardboard boxes seemed to shrink and crumple up too. . . . His wife’s long chin grew longer still; Nafanail drew himself up to attention and fastened all the buttons of his uniform.
“Your Excellency, I . . . delighted! The friend, one may say, of childhood and to have turned into such a great man! He—he!”
“Come, come!” the fat man frowned. “What’s this tone for? You and I were friends as boys, and there is no need of this official obsequiousness!”
“Merciful heavens, your Excellency! What are you saying. . . ?” sniggered the thin man, wriggling more than ever. “Your Excellency’s gracious attention is like refreshing manna. . . . This, your Excellency, is my son Nafanail, . . . my wife Luise, a Lutheran in a certain sense.”
The fat man was about to make some protest, but the face of the thin man wore an expression of such reverence, sugariness, and mawkish respectfulness that the privy councillor was sickened. He turned away from the thin man, giving him his hand at parting.
The thin man pressed three fingers, bowed his whole body and sniggered like a Chinaman: “He—he—he!” His wife smiled. Nafanail scraped with his foot and dropped his cap. All three were agreeably overwhelmed.


3. MALINGERERS

MARFA PETROVNA PETCHONKIN, the General’s widow, who has been practising for ten years as a homeopathic doctor, is seeing patients in her study on one of the Tuesdays in May. On the table before her lie a chest of homeopathic drugs, a book on homeopathy, and bills from a homeopathic chemist. On the wall the letters from some Petersburg homeopath, in Marfa Petrovna’s opinion a very celebrated and great man, hang under glass in a gilt frame, and there also is a portrait of Father Aristark, to whom the lady owes her salvation — that is, the renunciation of pernicious allopathy and the knowledge of the truth. In the vestibule patients are sitting waiting, for the most part peasants. All but two or three of them are barefoot, as the lady has given orders that their ill-smelling boots are to be left in the yard.

Marfa Petrovna has already seen ten patients when she calls the eleventh: "Gavrila Gruzd!"

The door opens and instead of Gavrila Gruzd, Zamuhrishen, a neighbouring landowner who has sunk into poverty, a little old man with sour eyes, and with a gentleman’s cap under his arm, walks into the room. He puts down his stick in the corner, goes up to the lady, and without a word drops on one knee before her.

"What are you about, Kuzma Kuzmitch?" cries the lady in horror, flushing crimson. "For goodness sake!"

"While I live I will not rise," says Zamuhrishen, bending over her hand. "Let all the world see my homage on my knees, our guardian angel, benefactress of the human race! Let them! Before the good fairy who has given me life, guided me into the path of truth, and enlightened my scepticism I am ready not merely to kneel but to pass through fire, our miraculous healer, mother of the orphan and the widowed! I have recovered. I am a new man, enchantress!"

"I . . . I am very glad . . ." mutters the lady, flushing with pleasure. "It’s so pleasant to hear that. . . Sit down please! Why, you were so seriously ill that Tuesday."

"Yes indeed, how ill I was! It’s awful to recall it," says Zamuhrishen, taking a seat." I had rheumatism in every part and every organ. I have been in misery for eight years, I’ve had no rest from it . . . by day or by night, my benefactress. I have consulted doctors, and I went to professors at Kazan; I have tried all sorts of mud-baths, and drunk waters, and goodness knows what I haven’t tried! I have wasted all my substance on doctors, my beautiful lady. The doctors did me nothing but harm. They drove the disease inwards. Drive in, that they did, but to drive out was beyond their science. All they care about is their fees, the brigands; but as for the benefit of humanity — for that they don’t care a straw. They prescribe some quackery, and you have to drink it. Assassins, that’s the only word for them. If it hadn’t been for you, our angel, I should have been in the grave by now! I went home from you that Tuesday, looked at the pilules that you gave me then, and wondered what good there could be in them. Was it possible that those little grains, scarcely visible, could cure my immense, long-standing disease? That’s what I thought — unbeliever that I was! — and I smiled; but when I took the pilule — it was instantaneous! It was as though I had not been ill, or as though it had been lifted off me. My wife looked at me with her eyes starting out of her head and couldn’t believe it. ’Why, is it you, Kolya?’ ’Yes, it is I,’ I said. And we knelt down together before the ikon, and fell to praying for our angel: ’Send her, O Lord, all that we are feeling!’ "

Zamuhrishen wipes his eyes with his sleeve gets up from his chair, and shows a disposition to drop on one knee again; but the lady checks him and makes him sit down.

"It’s not me you must thank," she says, blushing with excitement and looking enthusiastically at the portrait of Father Aristark. "It’s not my doing. . . . I am only the obedient instrument . . It’s really a miracle. Rheumatism of eight years’ standing by one pilule of scrofuloso!"

"Excuse me, you were so kind as to give me three pilules. One I took at dinner and the effect was instantaneous! Another in the evening, and the third next day; and since then not a touch! Not a twinge anywhere! And you know I thought I was dying, I had written to Moscow for my son to come! The Lord has given you wisdom, our lady of healing! Now I am walking, and feel as though I were in Paradise. The Tuesday I came to you I was hobbling, and now I am ready to run after a hare. . . . I could live for a hundred years. There’s only one trouble, our lack of means. I’m well now, but what’s the use of health if there’s nothing to live on? Poverty weighs on me worse than illness. . . . For example, take this . . . It’s the time to sow oats, and how is one to sow it if one has no seed? I ought to buy it, but the money . . . everyone knows how we are off for money. . . ."

"I will give you oats, Kuzma Kuzmitch. . . . Sit down, sit down. You have so delighted me, you have given me so much pleasure that it’s not you but I that should say thank you!"

"You are our joy! That the Lord should create such goodness! Rejoice, Madam, looking at your good deeds! . . . While we sinners have no cause for rejoicing in ourselves. . . . We are paltry, poor-spirited, useless people . . . a mean lot. . . . We are only gentry in name, but in a material sense we are the same as peasants, only worse. . . . We live in stone houses, but it’s a mere make-believe . . . for the roof leaks. And there is no money to buy wood to mend it with."

"I’ll give you the wood, Kuzma Kuzmitch."

Zamuhrishen asks for and gets a cow too, a letter of recommendation for his daughter whom he wants to send to a boarding school, and . . . touched by the lady’s liberality he whimpers with excess of feeling, twists his mouth, and feels in his pocket for his handkerchief. . . .

Marfa Petrovna sees a red paper slip out of his pocket with his handkerchief and fall noiselessly to the floor.

"I shall never forget it to all eternity . . ." he mutters, "and I shall make my children and my grandchildren remember it . . . from generation to generation. ’See, children,’ I shall say, ’who has saved me from the grave, who . . .’ "

When she has seen her patient out, the lady looks for a minute at Father Aristark with eyes full of tears, then turns her caressing, reverent gaze on the drug chest, the books, the bills, the armchair in which the man she had saved from death has just been sitting, and her eyes fall on the paper just dropped by her patient. She picks up the paper, unfolds it, and sees in it three pilules — the very pilules she had given Zamuhrishen the previous Tuesday.

"They are the very ones," she thinks puzzled. ". . . The paper is the same. . . . He hasn’t even unwrapped them! What has he taken then? Strange. . . . Surely he wouldn’t try to deceive me!"

And for the first time in her ten years of practice a doubt creeps into Marfa Petrovna’s mind. . . . She summons the other patients, and while talking to them of their complaints notices what has hitherto slipped by her ears unnoticed. The patients, every one of them as though they were in a conspiracy, first belaud her for their miraculous cure, go into raptures over her medical skill, and abuse allopath doctors, then when she is flushed with excitement, begin holding forth on their needs. One asks for a bit of land to plough, another for wood, a third for permission to shoot in her forests, and so on. She looks at the broad, benevolent countenance of Father Aristark who has revealed the truth to her, and a new truth begins gnawing at her heart. An evil oppressive truth. . . .

The deceitfulness of man!


4. OVERDOING IT

GLYEB GAVRILOVITCH SMIRNOV, a land surveyor, arrived at the station of Gnilushki. He had another twenty or thirty miles to drive before he would reach the estate which he had been summoned to survey. (If the driver were not drunk and the horses were not bad, it would hardly be twenty miles, but if the driver had had a drop and his steeds were worn out it would mount up to a good forty.)

"Tell me, please, where can I get post-horses here?" the surveyor asked of the station gendarme.

"What? Post-horses? There’s no finding a decent dog for seventy miles round, let alone post-horses. . . . But where do you want to go?"

"To Dyevkino, General Hohotov’s estate."

"Well," yawned the gendarme, "go outside the station, there are sometimes peasants in the yard there, they will take passengers."

The surveyor heaved a sigh and made his way out of the station.

There, after prolonged enquiries, conversations, and hesitations, he found a very sturdy, sullen-looking pock-marked peasant, wearing a tattered grey smock and bark-shoes.

"You have got a queer sort of cart!" said the surveyor, frowning as he clambered into the cart. "There is no making out which is the back and which is the front."

"What is there to make out? Where the horse’s tail is, there’s the front, and where your honour’s sitting, there’s the back."

The little mare was young, but thin, with legs planted wide apart and frayed ears. When the driver stood up and lashed her with a whip made of cord, she merely shook her head; when he swore at her and lashed her once more, the cart squeaked and shivered as though in a fever. After the third lash the cart gave a lurch, after the fourth, it moved forward.

"Are we going to drive like this all the way?" asked the surveyor, violently jolted and marvelling at the capacity of Russian drivers for combining a slow tortoise-like pace with a jolting that turns the soul inside out.

"We shall ge-et there!" the peasant reassured him. "The mare is young and frisky. . . . Only let her get running and then there is no stopping her. . . . No-ow, cur-sed brute!"

It was dusk by the time the cart drove out of the station. On the surveyor’s right hand stretched a dark frozen plain, endless and boundless. If you drove over it you would certainly get to the other side of beyond. On the horizon, where it vanished and melted into the sky, there was the languid glow of a cold autumn sunset. . . . On the left of the road, mounds of some sort, that might be last year’s stacks or might be a village, rose up in the gathering darkness. The surveyor could not see what was in front as his whole field of vision on that side was covered by the broad clumsy back of the driver. The air was still, but it was cold and frosty.

"What a wilderness it is here," thought the surveyor, trying to cover his ears with the collar of his overcoat. "Neither post nor paddock. If, by ill-luck, one were attacked and robbed no one would hear you, whatever uproar you made. . . . And the driver is not one you could depend on. . . . Ugh, what a huge back! A child of nature like that has only to move a finger and it would be all up with one! And his ugly face is suspicious and brutal-looking."

"Hey, my good man!" said the surveyor, "What is your name?"

"Mine? Klim."

"Well, Klim, what is it like in your parts here? Not dangerous? Any robbers on the road?"

"It is all right, the Lord has spared us. . . . Who should go robbing on the road?"

"It’s a good thing there are no robbers. But to be ready for anything I have got three revolvers with me," said the surveyor untruthfully. "And it doesn’t do to trifle with a revolver, you know. One can manage a dozen robbers. . . ."

It had become quite dark. The cart suddenly began creaking, squeaking, shaking, and, as though unwillingly, turned sharply to the left.

"Where is he taking me to?" the surveyor wondered. "He has been driving straight and now all at once to the left. I shouldn’t wonder if he’ll take me, the rascal, to some den of thieves . . . and. . . . Things like that do happen."

"I say," he said, addressing the driver, "so you tell me it’s not dangerous here? That’s a pity. . . I like a fight with robbers. . . . I am thin and sickly-looking, but I have the strength of a bull. . . . Once three robbers attacked me and what do you think? I gave one such a dressing that. . . that he gave up his soul to God, you understand, and the other two were sent to penal servitude in Siberia. And where I got the strength I can’t say. . . . One grips a strapping fellow of your sort with one hand and . . . wipes him out."

Klim looked round at the surveyor, wrinkled up his whole face, and lashed his horse.

"Yes . . ." the surveyor went on. "God forbid anyone should tackle me. The robber would have his bones broken, and, what’s more, he would have to answer for it in the police court too. . . . I know all the judges and the police captains, I am a man in the Government, a man of importance. Here I am travelling and the authorities know . . . they keep a regular watch over me to see no one does me a mischief. There are policemen and village constables stuck behind bushes all along the road. . . . Sto . . . sto . . . . stop!" the surveyor bawled suddenly. "Where have you got to? Where are you taking me to?"

"Why, don’t you see? It’s a forest!"

"It certainly is a forest," thought the surveyor. "I was frightened! But it won’t do to betray my feelings. . . . He has noticed already that I am in a funk. Why is it he has taken to looking round at me so often? He is plotting something for certain. . . . At first he drove like a snail and now how he is dashing along!"

"I say, Klim, why are you making the horse go like that?"

"I am not making her go. She is racing along of herself. . . . Once she gets into a run there is no means of stopping her. It’s no pleasure to her that her legs are like that."

"You are lying, my man, I see that you are lying. Only I advise you not to drive so fast. Hold your horse in a bit. . . . Do you hear? Hold her in!"

"What for?"

"Why . . . why, because four comrades were to drive after me from the station. We must let them catch us up. . . . They promised to overtake us in this forest. It will be more cheerful in their company. . . . They are a strong, sturdy set of fellows. . . . And each of them has got a pistol. Why do you keep looking round and fidgeting as though you were sitting on thorns? eh? I, my good fellow, er . . . my good fellow . . . there is no need to look around at me . . . there is nothing interesting about me. . . . Except perhaps the revolvers. Well, if you like I will take them out and show you. . . ."

The surveyor made a pretence of feeling in his pockets and at that moment something happened which he could not have expected with all his cowardice. Klim suddenly rolled off the cart and ran as fast as he could go into the forest.

"Help!" he roared. "Help! Take the horse and the cart, you devil, only don’t take my life. Help!"

There was the sound of footsteps hurriedly retreating, of twigs snapping — and all was still. . . . The surveyor had not expected such a dénouement. He first stopped the horse and then settled himself more comfortably in the cart and fell to thinking.

"He has run off . . . he was scared, the fool. Well, what’s to be done now? I can’t go on alone because I don’t know the way; besides they may think I have stolen his horse. . . . What’s to be done?"

"Klim! Klim," he cried.

"Klim," answered the echo.

At the thought that he would have to sit through the whole night in the cold and dark forest and hear nothing but the wolves, the echo, and the snorting of the scraggy mare, the surveyor began to have twinges down his spine as though it were being rasped with a cold file.

"Klimushka," he shouted. "Dear fellow! Where are you, Klimushka?"

For two hours the surveyor shouted, and it was only after he was quite husky and had resigned himself to spending the night in the forest that a faint breeze wafted the sound of a moan to him.

"Klim, is it you, dear fellow? Let us go on."

"You’ll mu-ur-der me!"

"But I was joking, my dear man! I swear to God I was joking! As though I had revolvers! I told a lie because I was frightened. For goodness sake let us go on, I am freezing!"

Klim, probably reflecting that a real robber would have vanished long ago with the horse and cart, came out of the forest and went hesitatingly up to his passenger.

"Well, what were you frightened of, stupid? I . . . I was joking and you were frightened. Get in!"

"God be with you, sir," Klim muttered as he clambered into the cart, "if I had known I wouldn’t have taken you for a hundred roubles. I almost died of fright. . . ."

Klim lashed at the little mare. The cart swayed. Klim lashed once more and the cart gave a lurch. After the fourth stroke of the whip when the cart moved forward, the surveyor hid his ears in his collar and sank into thought.

The road and Klim no longer seemed dangerous to him.


5. THE PRIVY COUNCILLOR

AT the beginning of April in 1870 my mother, Klavdia Arhipovna, the widow of a lieutenant, received from her brother Ivan, a privy councillor in Petersburg, a letter in which, among other things, this passage occurred: "My liver trouble forces me to spend every summer abroad, and as I have not at the moment the money in hand for a trip to Marienbad, it is very possible, dear sister, that I may spend this summer with you at Kotchuevko. . . ."

On reading the letter my mother turned pale and began trembling all over; then an expression of mingled tears and laughter came into her face. She began crying and laughing. This conflict of tears and laughter always reminds me of the flickering and spluttering of a brightly burning candle when one sprinkles it with water. Reading the letter once more, mother called together all the household, and in a voice broken with emotion began explaining to us that there had been four Gundasov brothers: one Gundasov had died as a baby; another had gone to the war, and he, too, was dead; the third, without offence to him be it said, was an actor; the fourth . . .

"The fourth has risen far above us," my mother brought out tearfully. "My own brother, we grew up together; and I am all of a tremble, all of a tremble! . . . A privy councillor with the rank of a general! How shall I meet him, my angel brother? What can I, a foolish, uneducated woman, talk to him about? It’s fifteen years since I’ve seen him! Andryushenka," my mother turned to me, "you must rejoice, little stupid! It’s a piece of luck for you that God is sending him to us!"

After we had heard a detailed history of the Gundasovs, there followed a fuss and bustle in the place such as I had been accustomed to see only before Christmas and Easter. The sky above and the water in the river were all that escaped; everything else was subjected to a merciless cleansing, scrubbing, painting. If the sky had been lower and smaller and the river had not flowed so swiftly, they would have scoured them, too, with bath-brick and rubbed them, too, with tow. Our walls were as white as snow, but they were whitewashed; the floors were bright and shining, but they were washed every day. The cat Bobtail (as a small child I had cut off a good quarter of his tail with the knife used for chopping the sugar, and that was why he was called Bobtail) was carried off to the kitchen and put in charge of Anisya; Fedka was told that if any of the dogs came near the front-door "God would punish him." But no one was so badly treated as the poor sofas, easy-chairs, and rugs! They had never, before been so violently beaten as on this occasion in preparation for our visitor. My pigeons took fright at the loud thud of the sticks, and were continually flying up into the sky.

The tailor Spiridon, the only tailor in the whole district who ventured to make for the gentry, came over from Novostroevka. He was a hard-working capable man who did not drink and was not without a certain fancy and feeling for form, but yet he was an atrocious tailor. His work was ruined by hesitation. . . . The idea that his cut was not fashionable enough made him alter everything half a dozen times, walk all the way to the town simply to study the dandies, and in the end dress us in suits that even a caricaturist would have called outré and grotesque. We cut a dash in impossibly narrow trousers and in such short jackets that we always felt quite abashed in the presence of young ladies.

This Spiridon spent a long time taking my measure. He measured me all over lengthways and crossways, as though he meant to put hoops round me like a barrel; then he spent a long time noting down my measurements with a thick pencil on a bit of paper, and ticked off all the measurements with triangular signs. When he had finished with me he set to work on my tutor, Yegor Alexyevitch Pobyedimsky. My beloved tutor was then at the stage when young men watch the growth of their moustache and are critical of their clothes, and so you can imagine the devout awe with which Spiridon approached him. Yegor Alexyevitch had to throw back his head, to straddle his legs like an inverted V, first lift up his arms, then let them fall. Spiridon measured him several times, walking round him during the process like a love-sick pigeon round its mate, going down on one knee, bending double. . . . My mother, weary, exhausted by her exertions and heated by ironing, watched these lengthy proceedings, and said:

"Mind now, Spiridon, you will have to answer for it to God if you spoil the cloth! And it will be the worse for you if you don’t make them fit!"

Mother’s words threw Spiridon first into a fever, then into a perspiration, for he was convinced that he would not make them fit. He received one rouble twenty kopecks for making my suit, and for Pobyedimsky’s two roubles, but we provided the cloth, the lining, and the buttons. The price cannot be considered excessive, as Novostroevka was about seven miles from us, and the tailor came to fit us four times. When he came to try the things on and we squeezed ourselves into the tight trousers and jackets adorned with basting threads, mother always frowned contemptuously and expressed her surprise:

"Goodness knows what the fashions are coming to nowadays! I am positively ashamed to look at them. If brother were not used to Petersburg I would not get you fashionable clothes!"

Spiridon, relieved that the blame was thrown on the fashion and not on him, shrugged his shoulders and sighed, as though to say:

"There’s no help for it; it’s the spirit of the age!"

The excitement with which we awaited the arrival of our guest can only be compared with the strained suspense with which spiritualists wait from minute to minute the appearance of a ghost. Mother went about with a sick headache, and was continually melting into tears. I lost my appetite, slept badly, and did not learn my lessons. Even in my dreams I was haunted by an impatient longing to see a general — that is, a man with epaulettes and an embroidered collar sticking up to his ears, and with a naked sword in his hands, exactly like the one who hung over the sofa in the drawing-room and glared with terrible black eyes at everybody who dared to look at him. Pobyedimsky was the only one who felt himself in his element. He was neither terrified nor delighted, and merely from time to time, when he heard the history of the Gundasov family, said:

"Yes, it will be pleasant to have some one fresh to talk to."

My tutor was looked upon among us as an exceptional nature. He was a young man of twenty, with a pimply face, shaggy locks, a low forehead, and an unusually long nose. His nose was so big that when he wanted to look close at anything he had to put his head on one side like a bird. To our thinking, there was not a man in the province cleverer, more cultivated, or more stylish. He had left the high-school in the class next to the top, and had then entered a veterinary college, from which he was expelled before the end of the first half-year. The reason of his expulsion he carefully concealed, which enabled any one who wished to do so to look upon my instructor as an injured and to some extent a mysterious person. He spoke little, and only of intellectual subjects; he ate meat during the fasts, and looked with contempt and condescension on the life going on around him, which did not prevent him, however, from taking presents, such as suits of clothes, from my mother, and drawing funny faces with red teeth on my kites. Mother disliked him for his "pride," but stood in awe of his cleverness.

Our visitor did not keep us long waiting. At the beginning of May two wagon-loads of big boxes arrived from the station. These boxes looked so majestic that the drivers instinctively took off their hats as they lifted them down.

"There must be uniforms and gunpowder in those boxes," I thought.

Why "gunpowder"? Probably the conception of a general was closely connected in my mind with cannons and gunpowder.

When I woke up on the morning of the tenth of May, nurse told me in a whisper that "my uncle had come." I dressed rapidly, and, washing after a fashion, flew out of my bedroom without saying my prayers. In the vestibule I came upon a tall, solid gentleman with fashionable whiskers and a foppish-looking overcoat. Half dead with devout awe, I went up to him and, remembering the ceremonial mother had impressed upon me, I scraped my foot before him, made a very low bow, and craned forward to kiss his hand; but the gentleman did not allow me to kiss his hand: he informed me that he was not my uncle, but my uncle’s footman, Pyotr. The appearance of this Pyotr, far better dressed than Pobyedimsky or me, excited in me the utmost astonishment, which, to tell the truth, has lasted to this day. Can such dignified, respectable people with stern and intellectual faces really be footmen? And what for?

Pyotr told me that my uncle was in the garden with my mother. I rushed into the garden.

Nature, knowing nothing of the history of the Gundasov family and the rank of my uncle, felt far more at ease and unconstrained than I. There was a clamour going on in the garden such as one only bears at fairs. Masses of starlings flitting through the air and hopping about the walks were noisily chattering as they hunted for cockchafers. There were swarms of sparrows in the lilac-bushes, which threw their tender, fragrant blossoms straight in one’s face. Wherever one turned, from every direction came the note of the golden oriole and the shrill cry of the hoopoe and the red-legged falcon. At any other time I should have begun chasing dragon-flies or throwing stones at a crow which was sitting on a low mound under an aspen-tree, with his blunt beak turned away; but at that moment I was in no mood for mischief. My heart was throbbing, and I felt a cold sinking at my stomach; I was preparing myself to confront a gentleman with epaulettes, with a naked sword, and with terrible eyes!

But imagine my disappointment! A dapper little foppish gentleman in white silk trousers, with a white cap on his head, was walking beside my mother in the garden. With his hands behind him and his head thrown back, every now and then running on ahead of mother, he looked quite young. There was so much life and movement in his whole figure that I could only detect the treachery of age when I came close up behind and saw beneath his cap a fringe of close-cropped silver hair. Instead of the staid dignity and stolidity of a general, I saw an almost schoolboyish nimbleness; instead of a collar sticking up to his ears, an ordinary light blue necktie. Mother and my uncle were walking in the avenue talking together. I went softly up to them from behind, and waited for one of them to look round.

"What a delightful place you have here, Klavdia!" said my uncle. "How charming and lovely it is! Had I known before that you had such a charming place, nothing would have induced me to go abroad all these years."

My uncle stooped down rapidly and sniffed at a tulip. Everything he saw moved him to rapture and excitement, as though he had never been in a garden on a sunny day before. The queer man moved about as though he were on springs, and chattered incessantly, without allowing mother to utter a single word. All of a sudden Pobyedimsky came into sight from behind an elder-tree at the turn of the avenue. His appearance was so unexpected that my uncle positively started and stepped back a pace. On this occasion my tutor was attired in his best Inverness cape with sleeves, in which, especially back-view, he looked remarkably like a windmill. He had a solemn and majestic air. Pressing his hat to his bosom in Spanish style, he took a step towards my uncle and made a bow such as a marquis makes in a melodrama, bending forward, a little to one side.

"I have the honour to present myself to your high excellency," he said aloud: "the teacher and instructor of your nephew, formerly a pupil of the veterinary institute, and a nobleman by birth, Pobyedimsky!"

This politeness on the part of my tutor pleased my mother very much. She gave a smile, and waited in thrilled suspense to hear what clever thing he would say next; but my tutor, expecting his dignified address to be answered with equal dignity — that is, that my uncle would say "H’m!" like a general and hold out two fingers — was greatly confused and abashed when the latter laughed genially and shook hands with him. He muttered something incoherent, cleared his throat, and walked away.

"Come! isn’t that charming?" laughed my uncle. "Just look! he has made his little flourish and thinks he’s a very clever fellow! I do like that — upon my soul I do! What youthful aplomb, what life in that foolish flourish! And what boy is this?" he asked, suddenly turning and looking at me.

"That is my Andryushenka," my mother introduced me, flushing crimson. "My consolation. . ."

I made a scrape with my foot on the sand and dropped a low bow.

"A fine fellow . . . a fine fellow . . ." muttered my uncle, taking his hand from my lips and stroking me on the head. "So your name is Andrusha? Yes, yes. . . . H’m! . . . upon my soul! . . . Do you learn lessons?"

My mother, exaggerating and embellishing as all mothers do, began to describe my achievements in the sciences and the excellence of my behaviour, and I walked round my uncle and, following the ceremonial laid down for me, I continued making low bows. Then my mother began throwing out hints that with my remarkable abilities it would not be amiss for me to get a government nomination to the cadet school; but at the point when I was to have burst into tears and begged for my uncle’s protection, my uncle suddenly stopped and flung up his hands in amazement.

"My goo-oodness! What’s that?" he asked.

Tatyana Ivanovna, the wife of our bailiff, Fyodor Petrovna, was coming towards us. She was carrying a starched white petticoat and a long ironing-board. As she passed us she looked shyly at the visitor through her eyelashes and flushed crimson.

"Wonders will never cease . . ." my uncle filtered through his teeth, looking after her with friendly interest. "You have a fresh surprise at every step, sister . . . upon my soul!"

"She’s a beauty . . ." said mother. "They chose her as a bride for Fyodor, though she lived over seventy miles from here. . . ."

Not every one would have called Tatyana a beauty. She was a plump little woman of twenty, with black eyebrows and a graceful figure, always rosy and attractive-looking, but in her face and in her whole person there was not one striking feature, not one bold line to catch the eye, as though nature had lacked inspiration and confidence when creating her. Tatyana Ivanovna was shy, bashful, and modest in her behaviour; she moved softly and smoothly, said little, seldom laughed, and her whole life was as regular as her face and as flat as her smooth, tidy hair. My uncle screwed up his eyes looking after her, and smiled. Mother looked intently at his smiling face and grew serious.

"And so, brother, you’ve never married!" she sighed.

"No; I’ve not married."

"Why not?" asked mother softly.

"How can I tell you? It has happened so. In my youth I was too hard at work, I had no time to live, and when I longed to live — I looked round — and there I had fifty years on my back already. I was too late! However, talking about it . . . is depressing."

My mother and my uncle both sighed at once and walked on, and I left them and flew off to find my tutor, that I might share my impressions with him. Pobyedimsky was standing in the middle of the yard, looking majestically at the heavens.

"One can see he is a man of culture!" he said, twisting his head round. "I hope we shall get on together."

An hour later mother came to us.

"I am in trouble, my dears!" she began, sighing. "You see brother has brought a valet with him, and the valet, God bless him, is not one you can put in the kitchen or in the hall; we must give him a room apart. I can’t think what I am to do! I tell you what, children, couldn’t you move out somewhere — to Fyodor’s lodge, for instance — and give your room to the valet? What do you say?"

We gave our ready consent, for living in the lodge was a great deal more free than in the house, under mother’s eye.

"It’s a nuisance, and that’s a fact!" said mother. "Brother says he won’t have dinner in the middle of the day, but between six and seven, as they do in Petersburg. I am simply distracted with worry! By seven o’clock the dinner will be done to rags in the oven. Really, men don’t understand anything about housekeeping, though they have so much intellect. Oh, dear! we shall have to cook two dinners every day! You will have dinner at midday as before, children, while your poor old mother has to wait till seven, for the sake of her brother."

Then my mother heaved a deep sigh, bade me try and please my uncle, whose coming was a piece of luck for me for which we must thank God, and hurried off to the kitchen. Pobyedimsky and I moved into the lodge the same day. We were installed in a room which formed the passage from the entry to the bailiff’s bedroom.

Contrary to my expectations, life went on just as before, drearily and monotonously, in spite of my uncle’s arrival and our move into new quarters. We were excused lessons "on account of the visitor. "Pobyedimsky, who never read anything or occupied himself in any way, spent most of his time sitting on his bed, with his long nose thrust into the air, thinking. Sometimes he would get up, try on his new suit, and sit down again to relapse into contemplation and silence. Only one thing worried him, the flies, which he used mercilessly to squash between his hands. After dinner he usually "rested," and his snores were a cause of annoyance to the whole household. I ran about the garden from morning to night, or sat in the lodge sticking my kites together. For the first two or three weeks we did not see my uncle often. For days together he sat in his own room working, in spite of the flies and the heat. His extraordinary capacity for sitting as though glued to his table produced upon us the effect of an inexplicable conjuring trick. To us idlers, knowing nothing of systematic work, his industry seemed simply miraculous. Getting up at nine, he sat down to his table, and did not leave it till dinner-time; after dinner he set to work again, and went on till late at night. Whenever I peeped through the keyhole I invariably saw the same thing: my uncle sitting at the table working. The work consisted in his writing with one hand while he turned over the leaves of a book with the other, and, strange to say, he kept moving all over — swinging his leg as though it were a pendulum, whistling, and nodding his head in time. He had an extremely careless and frivolous expression all the while, as though he were not working, but playing at noughts and crosses. I always saw him wearing a smart short jacket and a jauntily tied cravat, and he always smelt, even through the keyhole, of delicate feminine perfumery. He only left his room for dinner, but he ate little.

"I can’t make brother out!" mother complained of him. "Every day we kill a turkey and pigeons on purpose for him, I make a compote with my own hands, and he eats a plateful of broth and a bit of meat the size of a finger and gets up from the table. I begin begging him to eat; he comes back and drinks a glass of milk. And what is there in that, in a glass of milk? It’s no better than washing up water! You may die of a diet like that. . . . If I try to persuade him, he laughs and makes a joke of it. . . . No; he does not care for our fare, poor dear!"

We spent the evenings far more gaily than the days. As a rule, by the time the sun was setting and long shadows were lying across the yard, we — that is, Tatyana Ivanovna, Pobyedimsky, and I — were sitting on the steps of the lodge. We did not talk till it grew quite dusk. And, indeed, what is one to talk of when every subject has been talked over already? There was only one thing new, my uncle’s arrival, and even that subject was soon exhausted. My tutor never took his eyes off Tatyana Ivanovna ’s face, and frequently heaved deep sighs. . . . At the time I did not understand those sighs, and did not try to fathom their significance; now they explain a great deal to me.

When the shadows merged into one thick mass of shade, the bailiff Fyodor would come in from shooting or from the field. This Fyodor gave me the impression of being a fierce and even a terrible man. The son of a Russianized gipsy from Izyumskoe, swarthy-faced and curly-headed, with big black eyes and a matted beard, he was never called among our Kotchuevko peasants by any name but "The Devil." And, indeed, there was a great deal of the gipsy about him apart from his appearance. He could not, for instance, stay at home, and went off for days together into the country or into the woods to shoot. He was gloomy, ill-humoured, taciturn, was afraid of nobody, and refused to recognize any authority. He was rude to mother, addressed me familiarly, and was contemptuous of Pobyedimsky’s learning. All this we forgave him, looking upon him as a hot-tempered and nervous man; mother liked him because, in spite of his gipsy nature, he was ideally honest and industrious. He loved his Tatyana Ivanovna passionately, like a gipsy, but this love took in him a gloomy form, as though it cost him suffering. He was never affectionate to his wife in our presence, but simply rolled his eyes angrily at her and twisted his mouth.

When he came in from the fields he would noisily and angrily put down his gun, would come out to us on the steps, and sit down beside his wife. After resting a little, he would ask his wife a few questions about household matters, and then sink into silence.

"Let us sing," I would suggest.

My tutor would tune his guitar, and in a deep deacon’s bass strike up "In the midst of the valley." We would begin singing. My tutor took the bass, Fyodor sang in a hardly audible tenor, while I sang soprano in unison with Tatyana Ivanovna.

When the whole sky was covered with stars and the frogs had left off croaking, they would bring in our supper from the kitchen. We went into the lodge and sat down to the meal. My tutor and the gipsy ate greedily, with such a sound that it was hard to tell whether it was the bones crunching or their jaws, and Tatyana Ivanovna and I scarcely succeeded in getting our share. After supper the lodge was plunged in deep sleep.

One evening, it was at the end of May, we were sitting on the steps, waiting for supper. A shadow suddenly fell across us, and Gundasov stood before us as though he had sprung out of the earth. He looked at us for a long time, then clasped his hands and laughed gaily.

"An idyll!" he said. "They sing and dream in the moonlight! It’s charming, upon my soul! May I sit down and dream with you?"

We looked at one another and said nothing. My uncle sat down on the bottom step, yawned, and looked at the sky. A silence followed. Pobyedimsky, who had for a long time been wanting to talk to somebody fresh, was delighted at the opportunity, and was the first to break the silence. He had only one subject for intellectual conversation, the epizootic diseases. It sometimes happens that after one has been in an immense crowd, only some one countenance of the thousands remains long imprinted on the memory; in the same way, of all that Pobyedimsky had heard, during his six months at the veterinary institute, he remembered only one passage:

"The epizootics do immense damage to the stock of the country. It is the duty of society to work hand in hand with the government in waging war upon them."

Before saying this to Gundasov, my tutor cleared his throat three times, and several times, in his excitement, wrapped himself up in his Inverness. On hearing about the epizootics, my uncle looked intently at my tutor and made a sound between a snort and a laugh.

"Upon my soul, that’s charming!" he said, scrutinizing us as though we were mannequins. "This is actually life. . . . This is really what reality is bound to be. Why are you silent, Pelagea Ivanovna?" he said, addressing Tatyana Ivanovna.

She coughed, overcome with confusion.

"Talk, my friends, sing . . . play! . . . Don’t lose time. You know, time, the rascal, runs away and waits for no man! Upon my soul, before you have time to look round, old age is upon you. . . . Then it is too late to live! That’s how it is, Pelagea Ivanovna. . . . We mustn’t sit still and be silent. . . ."

At that point supper was brought out from the kitchen. Uncle went into the lodge with us, and to keep us company ate five curd fritters and the wing of a duck. He ate and looked at us. He was touched and delighted by us all. Whatever silly nonsense my precious tutor talked, and whatever Tatyana Ivanovna did, he thought charming and delightful. When after supper Tatyana Ivanovna sat quietly down and took up her knitting, he kept his eyes fixed on her fingers and chatted away without ceasing.

"Make all the haste you can to live, my friends. . ." he said. "God forbid you should sacrifice the present for the future! There is youth, health, fire in the present; the future is smoke and deception! As soon as you are twenty begin to live."

Tatyana Ivanovna dropped a knitting-needle. My uncle jumped up, picked up the needle, and handed it to Tatyana Ivanovna with a bow, and for the first time in my life I learnt that there were people in the world more refined than Pobyedimsky.

"Yes . . ." my uncle went on, "love, marry, do silly things. Foolishness is a great deal more living and healthy than our straining and striving after rational life."

My uncle talked a great deal, so much that he bored us; I sat on a box listening to him and dropping to sleep. It distressed me that he did not once all the evening pay attention to me. He left the lodge at two o’clock, when, overcome with drowsiness, I was sound asleep.

From that time forth my uncle took to coming to the lodge every evening. He sang with us, had supper with us, and always stayed on till two o’clock in the morning, chatting incessantly, always about the same subject. His evening and night work was given up, and by the end of June, when the privy councillor had learned to eat mother’s turkey and compote, his work by day was abandoned too. My uncle tore himself away from his table and plunged into "life." In the daytime he walked up and down the garden, he whistled to the workmen and hindered them from working, making them tell him their various histories. When his eye fell on Tatyana Ivanovna he ran up to her, and, if she were carrying anything, offered his assistance, which embarrassed her dreadfully.

As the summer advanced my uncle grew more and more frivolous, volatile, and careless. Pobyedimsky was completely disillusioned in regard to him.

"He is too one-sided," he said. "There is nothing to show that he is in the very foremost ranks of the service. And he doesn’t even know how to talk. At every word it’s ’upon my soul.’ No, I don’t like him!"

From the time that my uncle began visiting the lodge there was a noticeable change both in Fyodor and my tutor. Fyodor gave up going out shooting, came home early, sat more taciturn than ever, and stared with particular ill-humour at his wife. In my uncle’s presence my tutor gave up talking about epizootics, frowned, and even laughed sarcastically.

"Here comes our little bantam cock!" he growled on one occasion when my uncle was coming into the lodge.

I put down this change in them both to their being offended with my uncle. My absent-minded uncle mixed up their names, and to the very day of his departure failed to distinguish which was my tutor and which was Tatyana Ivanovna’s husband. Tatyana Ivanovna herself he sometimes called Nastasya, sometimes Pelagea, and sometimes Yevdokia. Touched and delighted by us, he laughed and behaved exactly as though in the company of small children. . . . All this, of course, might well offend young men. It was not a case of offended pride, however, but, as I realize now, subtler feelings.

I remember one evening I was sitting on the box struggling with sleep. My eyelids felt glued together and my body, tired out by running about all day, drooped sideways. But I struggled against sleep and tried to look on. It was about midnight. Tatyana Ivanovna, rosy and unassuming as always, was sitting at a little table sewing at her husband’s shirt. Fyodor, sullen and gloomy, was staring at her from one corner, and in the other sat Pobyedimsky, snorting angrily and retreating into the high collar of his shirt. My uncle was walking up and down the room thinking. Silence reigned; nothing was to be heard but the rustling of the linen in Tatyana Ivanovna’s hands. Suddenly my uncle stood still before Tatyana Ivanovna, and said:

"You are all so young, so fresh, so nice, you live so peacefully in this quiet place, that I envy you. I have become attached to your way of life here; my heart aches when I remember I have to go away. . . . You may believe in my sincerity!"

Sleep closed my eyes and I lost myself. When some sound waked me, my uncle was standing before Tatyana Ivanovna, looking at her with a softened expression. His cheeks were flushed.

"My life has been wasted," he said. "I have not lived! Your young face makes me think of my own lost youth, and I should be ready to sit here watching you to the day of my death. It would be a pleasure to me to take you with me to Petersburg."

"What for?" Fyodor asked in a husky voice.

"I should put her under a glass case on my work-table. I should admire her and show her to other people. You know, Pelagea Ivanovna, we have no women like you there. Among us there is wealth, distinction, sometimes beauty, but we have not this true sort of life, this healthy serenity. . . ."

My uncle sat down facing Tatyana Ivanovna and took her by the hand.

"So you won’t come with me to Petersburg?" he laughed. "In that case give me your little hand. . . . A charming little hand! . . . You won’t give it? Come, you miser! let me kiss it, anyway. . . ."

At that moment there was the scrape of a chair. Fyodor jumped up, and with heavy, measured steps went up to his wife. His face was pale, grey, and quivering. He brought his fist down on the table with a bang, and said in a hollow voice:

"I won’t allow it!

At the same moment Pobyedimsky jumped up from his chair. He, too, pale and angry, went up to Tatyana Ivanovna, and he, too, struck the table with his fist.

"I . . . I won’t allow it!" he said.

"What, what’s the matter?" asked my uncle in surprise.

"I won’t allow it!" repeated Fyodor, banging on the table.

My uncle jumped up and blinked nervously. He tried to speak, but in his amazement and alarm could not utter a word; with an embarrassed smile, he shuffled out of the lodge with the hurried step of an old man, leaving his hat behind. When, a little later, my mother ran into the lodge, Fyodor and Pobyedimsky were still hammering on the table like blacksmiths and repeating, "I won’t allow it!"

"What has happened here?" asked mother. "Why has my brother been taken ill? What’s the matter?"

Looking at Tatyana’s pale, frightened face and at her infuriated husband, mother probably guessed what was the matter. She sighed and shook her head.

"Come! give over banging on the table!" she said. "Leave off, Fyodor! And why are you thumping, Yegor Alexyevitch? What have you got to do with it?"

Pobyedimsky was startled and confused. Fyodor looked intently at him, then at his wife, and began walking about the room. When mother had gone out of the lodge, I saw what for long afterwards I looked upon as a dream. I saw Fyodor seize my tutor, lift him up in the air, and thrust him out of the door.

When I woke up in the morning my tutor’s bed was empty. To my question where he was nurse told me in a whisper that he had been taken off early in the morning to the hospital, as his arm was broken. Distressed at this intelligence and remembering the scene of the previous evening, I went out of doors. It was a grey day. The sky was covered with storm-clouds and there was a wind blowing dust, bits of paper, and feathers along the ground. . . . It felt as though rain were coming. There was a look of boredom in the servants and in the animals. When I went into the house I was told not to make such a noise with my feet, as mother was ill and in bed with a migraine. What was I to do? I went outside the gate, sat down on the little bench there, and fell to trying to discover the meaning of what I had seen and heard the day before. From our gate there was a road which, passing the forge and the pool which never dried up, ran into the main road. I looked at the telegraph-posts, about which clouds of dust were whirling, and at the sleepy birds sitting on the wires, and I suddenly felt so dreary that I began to cry.

A dusty wagonette crammed full of townspeople, probably going to visit the shrine, drove by along the main road. The wagonette was hardly out of sight when a light chaise with a pair of horses came into view. In it was Akim Nikititch, the police inspector, standing up and holding on to the coachman’s belt. To my great surprise, the chaise turned into our road and flew by me in at the gate. While I was puzzling why the police inspector had come to see us, I heard a noise, and a carriage with three horses came into sight on the road. In the carriage stood the police captain, directing his coachman towards our gate.

"And why is he coming?" I thought, looking at the dusty police captain. "Most probably Pobyedimsky has complained of Fyodor to him, and they have come to take him to prison."

But the mystery was not so easily solved. The police inspector and the police captain were only the first instalment, for five minutes had scarcely passed when a coach drove in at our gate. It dashed by me so swiftly that I could only get a glimpse of a red beard.

Lost in conjecture and full of misgivings, I ran to the house. In the passage first of all I saw mother; she was pale and looking with horror towards the door, from which came the sounds of men’s voices. The visitors had taken her by surprise in the very throes of migraine.

"Who has come, mother?" I asked.

"Sister," I heard my uncle’s voice, "will you send in something to eat for the governor and me?"

"It is easy to say ’something to eat,’ " whispered my mother, numb with horror. "What have I time to get ready now? I am put to shame in my old age!"

Mother clutched at her head and ran into the kitchen. The governor’s sudden visit stirred and overwhelmed the whole household. A ferocious slaughter followed. A dozen fowls, five turkeys, eight ducks, were killed, and in the fluster the old gander, the progenitor of our whole flock of geese and a great favourite of mother’s, was beheaded. The coachmen and the cook seemed frenzied, and slaughtered birds at random, without distinction of age or breed. For the sake of some wretched sauce a pair of valuable pigeons, as dear to me as the gander was to mother, were sacrificed. It was a long while before I could forgive the governor their death.

In the evening, when the governor and his suite, after a sumptuous dinner, had got into their carriages and driven away, I went into the house to look at the remains of the feast. Glancing into the drawing-room from the passage, I saw my uncle and my mother. My uncle, with his hands behind his back, was walking nervously up and down close to the wall, shrugging his shoulders. Mother, exhausted and looking much thinner, was sitting on the sofa and watching his movements with heavy eyes.

"Excuse me, sister, but this won’t do at all," my uncle grumbled, wrinkling up his face. "I introduced the governor to you, and you didn’t offer to shake hands. You covered him with confusion, poor fellow! No, that won’t do. . . . Simplicity is a very good thing, but there must be limits to it. . . . Upon my soul! And then that dinner! How can one give people such things? What was that mess, for instance, that they served for the fourth course?"

"That was duck with sweet sauce . . ." mother answered softly.

"Duck! Forgive me, sister, but . . . but here I’ve got heartburn! I am ill!"

My uncle made a sour, tearful face, and went on:

"It was the devil sent that governor! As though I wanted his visit! Pff! . . . heartburn! I can’t work or sleep . . . I am completely out of sorts. . . . And I can’t understand how you can live here without anything to do . . . in this boredom! Here I’ve got a pain coming under my shoulder-blade! . . ."

My uncle frowned, and walked about more rapidly than ever.

"Brother," my mother inquired softly, "what would it cost to go abroad?"

"At least three thousand . . ." my uncle answered in a tearful voice. "I would go, but where am I to get it? I haven’t a farthing. Pff! . . . heartburn!"

My uncle stopped to look dejectedly at the grey, overcast prospect from the window, and began pacing to and fro again.

A silence followed. . . . Mother looked a long while at the ikon, pondering something, then she began crying, and said:

"I’ll give you the three thousand, brother. . . ."

Three days later the majestic boxes went off to the station, and the privy councillor drove off after them. As he said good-bye to mother he shed tears, and it was a long time before he took his lips from her hands, but when he got into his carriage his face beamed with childlike pleasure. . . . Radiant and happy, he settled himself comfortably, kissed his hand to my mother, who was crying, and all at once his eye was caught by me. A look of the utmost astonishment came into his face.

"What boy is this?" he asked.

My mother, who had declared my uncle’s coming was a piece of luck for which I must thank God, was bitterly mortified at this question. I was in no mood for questions. I looked at my uncle’s happy face, and for some reason I felt fearfully sorry for him. I could not resist jumping up to the carriage and hugging that frivolous man, weak as all men are. Looking into his face and wanting to say something pleasant, I asked:

"Uncle, have you ever been in a battle?"

"Ah, the dear boy . . ." laughed my uncle, kissing me. "A charming boy, upon my soul! How natural, how living it all is, upon my soul! . . ."

The carriage set off. . . . I looked after him, and long afterwards that farewell "upon my soul" was ringing in my ears.


6. THE ORATOR

ONE fine morning the collegiate assessor, Kirill Ivanovitch Babilonov, who had died of the two afflictions so widely spread in our country, a bad wife and alcoholism, was being buried. As the funeral procession set off from the church to the cemetery, one of the deceased’s colleagues, called Poplavsky, got into a cab and galloped off to find a friend, one Grigory Petrovitch Zapoikin, a man who though still young had acquired considerable popularity. Zapoikin, as many of my readers are aware, possesses a rare talent for impromptu speechifying at weddings, jubilees, and funerals. He can speak whenever he likes: in his sleep, on an empty stomach, dead drunk or in a high fever. His words flow smoothly and evenly, like water out of a pipe, and in abundance; there are far more moving words in his oratorical dictionary than there are beetles in any restaurant. He always speaks eloquently and at great length, so much so that on some occasions, particularly at merchants’ weddings, they have to resort to assistance from the police to stop him.
"I have come for you, old man!" began Poplavsky, finding him at home. "Put on your hat and coat this minute and come along. One of our fellows is dead, we are just sending him off to the other world, so you must do a bit of palavering by way of farewell to him. . . . You are our only hope. If it had been one of the smaller fry it would not have been worth troubling you, but you see it’s the secretary . . . a pillar of the office, in a sense. It’s awkward for such a whopper to be buried without a speech."
"Oh, the secretary!" yawned Zapoikin. "You mean the drunken one?"
"Yes. There will be pancakes, a lunch . . . you’ll get your cab-fare. Come along, dear chap. You spout out some rigmarole like a regular Cicero at the grave and what gratitude you will earn!"
Zapoikin readily agreed. He ruffled up his hair, cast a shade of melancholy over his face, and went out into the street with Poplavsky.
"I know your secretary," he said, as he got into the cab. "A cunning rogue and a beast — the kingdom of heaven be his — such as you don’t often come across."
"Come, Grisha, it is not the thing to abuse the dead."
"Of course not, aut mortuis nihil bene, but still he was a rascal."
The friends overtook the funeral procession and joined it. The coffin was borne along slowly so that before they reached the cemetery they were able three times to drop into a tavern and imbibe a little to the health of the departed.
In the cemetery came the service by the graveside. The mother-in-law, the wife, and the sister-in-law in obedience to custom shed many tears. When the coffin was being lowered into the grave the wife even shrieked "Let me go with him!" but did not follow her husband into the grave probably recollecting her pension. Waiting till everything was quiet again Zapoikin stepped forward, turned his eyes on all present, and began:
"Can I believe my eyes and ears? Is it not a terrible dream this grave, these tear-stained faces, these moans and lamentations? Alas, it is not a dream and our eyes do not deceive us! He whom we have only so lately seen, so full of courage, so youthfully fresh and pure, who so lately before our eyes like an unwearying bee bore his honey to the common hive of the welfare of the state, he who . . . he is turned now to dust, to inanimate mirage. Inexorable death has laid his bony hand upon him at the time when, in spite of his bowed age, he was still full of the bloom of strength and radiant hopes. An irremediable loss! Who will fill his place for us? Good government servants we have many, but Prokofy Osipitch was unique. To the depths of his soul he was devoted to his honest duty; he did not spare his strength but worked late at night, and was disinterested, impervious to bribes. . . . How he despised those who to the detriment of the public interest sought to corrupt him, who by the seductive goods of this life strove to draw him to betray his duty! Yes, before our eyes Prokofy Osipitch would divide his small salary between his poorer colleagues, and you have just heard yourselves the lamentations of the widows and orphans who lived upon his alms. Devoted to good works and his official duty, he gave up the joys of this life and even renounced the happiness of domestic existence; as you are aware, to the end of his days he was a bachelor. And who will replace him as a comrade? I can see now the kindly, shaven face turned to us with a gentle smile, I can hear now his soft friendly voice. Peace to thine ashes, Prokofy Osipitch! Rest, honest, noble toiler!"
Zapoikin continued while his listeners began whispering together. His speech pleased everyone and drew some tears, but a good many things in it seemed strange. In the first place they could not make out why the orator called the deceased Prokofy Osipitch when his name was Kirill Ivanovitch. In the second, everyone knew that the deceased had spent his whole life quarreling with his lawful wife, and so consequently could not be called a bachelor; in the third, he had a thick red beard and had never been known to shave, and so no one could understand why the orator spoke of his shaven face. The listeners were perplexed; they glanced at each other and shrugged their shoulders.
"Prokofy Osipitch," continued the orator, looking with an air of inspiration into the grave, "your face was plain, even hideous, you were morose and austere, but we all know that under that outer husk there beat an honest, friendly heart!
Soon the listeners began to observe something strange in the orator himself. He gazed at one point, shifted about uneasily and began to shrug his shoulders too. All at once he ceased speaking, and gaping with astonishment, turned to Poplavsky.
"I say! he’s alive," he said, staring with horror.
"Who’s alive?"
"Why, Prokofy Osipitch, there he stands, by that tombstone!"
"He never died! It’s Kirill Ivanovitch who’s dead."
"But you told me yourself your secretary was dead."
"Kirill Ivanovitch was our secretary. You’ve muddled it, you queer fish. Prokofy Osipitch was our secretary before, that’s true, but two years ago he was transferred to the second division as head clerk."
"How the devil is one to tell?"
"Why are you stopping? Go on, it’s awkward."
Zapoikin turned to the grave, and with the same eloquence continued his interrupted speech. Prokofy Osipitch, an old clerk with a clean-shaven face, was in fact standing by a tombstone. He looked at the orator and frowned angrily.
"Well, you have put your foot into it, haven’t you!" laughed his fellow-clerks as they returned from the funeral with Zapoikin. "Burying a man alive!"
"It’s unpleasant, young man," grumbled Prokofy Osipitch. "Your speech may be all right for a dead man, but in reference to a living one it is nothing but sarcasm! Upon my soul what have you been saying? Disinterested, incorruptible, won’t take bribes! Such things can only be said of the living in sarcasm. And no one asked you, sir, to expatiate on my face. Plain, hideous, so be it, but why exhibit my countenance in that public way! It’s insulting."


7. A WORK OF ART

SASHA SMIRNOV, the only son of his mother, holding under his arm, something wrapped up in No. 223 of the Financial News, assumed a sentimental expression, and went into Dr. Koshelkov’s consulting-room.
"Ah, dear lad!" was how the doctor greeted him. "Well! how are we feeling? What good news have you for me?"
Sasha blinked, laid his hand on his heart and said in an agitated voice: "Mamma sends her greetings to you, Ivan Nikolaevitch, and told me to thank you. . . . I am the only son of my mother and you have saved my life . . . you have brought me through a dangerous illness and . . . we do not know how to thank you."
"Nonsense, lad!" said the doctor, highly delighted. "I only did what anyone else would have done in my place."
"I am the only son of my mother . . . we are poor people and cannot of course repay you, and we are quite ashamed, doctor, although, however, mamma and I . . . the only son of my mother, earnestly beg you to accept in token of our gratitude . . . this object, which . . . An object of great value, an antique bronze. . . . A rare work of art."
"You shouldn’t!" said the doctor, frowning. "What’s this for!"
"No, please do not refuse," Sasha went on muttering as he unpacked the parcel. "You will wound mamma and me by refusing. . . . It’s a fine thing . . . an antique bronze. . . . It was left us by my deceased father and we have kept it as a precious souvenir. My father used to buy antique bronzes and sell them to connoisseurs . . . Mamma and I keep on the business now."
Sasha undid the object and put it solemnly on the table. It was a not very tall candelabra of old bronze and artistic workmanship. It consisted of a group: on the pedestal stood two female figures in the costume of Eve and in attitudes for the description of which I have neither the courage nor the fitting temperament. The figures were smiling coquettishly and altogether looked as though, had it not been for the necessity of supporting the candlestick, they would have skipped off the pedestal and have indulged in an orgy such as is improper for the reader even to imagine.
Looking at the present, the doctor slowly scratched behind his ear, cleared his throat and blew his nose irresolutely.
"Yes, it certainly is a fine thing," he muttered, "but . . . how shall I express it? . . . it’s . . . h’m . . . it’s not quite for family reading. It’s not simply décolleté but beyond anything, dash it all. . . ."
"How do you mean?"
"The serpent-tempter himself could not have invented anything worse. . . . Why, to put such a phantasmagoria on the table would be defiling the whole flat."
"What a strange way of looking at art, doctor!" said Sasha, offended. "Why, it is an artistic thing, look at it! There is so much beauty and elegance that it fills one’s soul with a feeling of reverence and brings a lump into one’s throat! When one sees anything so beautiful one forgets everything earthly. . . . Only look, how much movement, what an atmosphere, what expression!"
"I understand all that very well, my dear boy," the doctor interposed, "but you know I am a family man, my children run in here, ladies come in."
"Of course if you look at it from the point of view of the crowd," said Sasha, "then this exquisitely artistic work may appear in a certain light. . . . But, doctor, rise superior to the crowd, especially as you will wound mamma and me by refusing it. I am the only son of my mother, you have saved my life. . . . We are giving you the thing most precious to us and . . . and I only regret that I have not the pair to present to you. . . ."
"Thank you, my dear fellow, I am very grateful . . . Give my respects to your mother but really consider, my children run in here, ladies come. . . . However, let it remain! I see there’s no arguing with you."
"And there is nothing to argue about," said Sasha, relieved. "Put the candlestick here, by this vase. What a pity we have not the pair to it! It is a pity! Well, good-bye, doctor."
After Sasha’s departure the doctor looked for a long time at the candelabra, scratched behind his ear and meditated.
"It’s a superb thing, there’s no denying it," he thought, "and it would be a pity to throw it away. . . . But it’s impossible for me to keep it. . . . H’m! . . . Here’s a problem! To whom can I make a present of it, or to what charity can I give it?"
After long meditation he thought of his good friend, the lawyer Uhov, to whom he was indebted for the management of legal business.
"Excellent," the doctor decided, "it would be awkward for him as a friend to take money from me, and it will be very suitable for me to present him with this. I will take him the devilish thing! Luckily he is a bachelor and easy-going."
Without further procrastination the doctor put on his hat and coat, took the candelabra and went off to Uhov’s.
"How are you, friend!" he said, finding the lawyer at home. "I’ve come to see you . . . to thank you for your efforts. . . . You won’t take money so you must at least accept this thing here. . . . See, my dear fellow. . . . The thing is magnificent!"
On seeing the bronze the lawyer was moved to indescribable delight.
"What a specimen!" he chuckled. "Ah, deuce take it, to think of them imagining such a thing, the devils! Exquisite! Ravishing! Where did you get hold of such a delightful thing?"
After pouring out his ecstasies the lawyer looked timidly towards the door and said: "Only you must carry off your present, my boy. . . . I can’t take it. . . ."
"Why?" cried the doctor, disconcerted.
"Why . . . because my mother is here at times, my clients . . . besides I should be ashamed for my servants to see it."
"Nonsense! Nonsense! Don’t you dare to refuse!" said the doctor, gesticulating. "It’s piggish of you! It’s a work of art! . . . What movement. . . what expression! I won’t even talk of it! You will offend me!"
"If one could plaster it over or stick on fig-leaves . . . "
But the doctor gesticulated more violently than before, and dashing out of the flat went home, glad that he had succeeded in getting the present off his hands.
When he had gone away the lawyer examined the candelabra, fingered it all over, and then, like the doctor, racked his brains over the question what to do with the present.
"It’s a fine thing," he mused, "and it would be a pity to throw it away and improper to keep it. The very best thing would be to make a present of it to someone. . . . I know what! I’ll take it this evening to Shashkin, the comedian. The rascal is fond of such things, and by the way it is his benefit tonight."
No sooner said than done. In the evening the candelabra, carefully wrapped up, was duly carried to Shashkin’s. The whole evening the comic actor’s dressing-room was besieged by men coming to admire the present; the dressing-room was filled with the hum of enthusiasm and laughter like the neighing of horses. If one of the actresses approached the door and asked: "May I come in?" the comedian’s husky voice was heard at once: "No, no, my dear, I am not dressed!"
After the performance the comedian shrugged his shoulders, flung up his hands and said: "Well what am I to do with the horrid thing? Why, I live in a private flat! Actresses come and see me! It’s not a photograph that you can put in a drawer!"
"You had better sell it, sir," the hairdresser who was disrobing the actor advised him. "There’s an old woman living about here who buys antique bronzes. Go and enquire for Madame Smirnov . . . everyone knows her."
The actor followed his advice. . . . Two days later the doctor was sitting in his consulting-room, and with his finger to his brow was meditating on the acids of the bile. All at once the door opened and Sasha Smirnov flew into the room. He was smiling, beaming, and his whole figure was radiant with happiness. In his hands he held something wrapped up in newspaper.
"Doctor!" he began breathlessly, "imagine my delight! Happily for you we have succeeded in picking up the pair to your candelabra! Mamma is so happy. . . . I am the only son of my mother, you saved my life. . . ."
And Sasha, all of a tremor with gratitude, set the candelabra before the doctor. The doctor opened his mouth, tried to say something, but said nothing: he could not speak.


8. DARKNESS

A YOUNG peasant, with white eyebrows and eyelashes and broad cheekbones, in a torn sheepskin and big black felt overboots, waited till the Zemstvo doctor had finished seeing his patients and came out to go home from the hospital; then he went up to him, diffidently.
“Please, your honour,” he said.
“What do you want?”
The young man passed the palm of his hand up and over his nose, looked at the sky, and then answered:
“Please, your honour. . . . You’ve got my brother Vaska the blacksmith from Varvarino in the convict ward here, your honour. . . .”
“Yes, what then?”
“I am Vaska’s brother, you see. . . . Father has the two of us: him, Vaska, and me, Kirila; besides us there are three sisters, and Vaska’s a married man with a little one. . . . There are a lot of us and no one to work. . . . In the smithy it’s nearly two years now since the forge has been heated. I am at the cotton factory, I can’t do smith’s work, and how can father work? Let alone work, he can’t eat properly, he can’t lift the spoon to his mouth.”
“What do you want from me?”
“Be merciful! Let Vaska go!”
The doctor looked wonderingly at Kirila, and without saying a word walked on. The young peasant ran on in front and flung himself in a heap at his feet.
“Doctor, kind gentleman!” he besought him, blinking and again passing his open hand over his nose. “Show heavenly mercy; let Vaska go home! We shall remember you in our prayers for ever! Your honour, let him go! They are all starving! Mother’s wailing day in, day out, Vaska’s wife’s wailing . . . it’s worse than death! I don’t care to look upon the light of day. Be merciful; let him go, kind gentleman!”
“Are you stupid or out of your senses?” asked the doctor angrily. “How can I let him go? Why, he is a convict.”
Kirila began crying. “Let him go!”
“Tfoo, queer fellow! What right have I? Am I a gaoler or what? They brought him to the hospital for me to treat him, but I have as much right to let him out as I have to put you in prison, silly fellow!”
“But they have shut him up for nothing! He was in prison a year before the trial, and now there is no saying what he is there for. It would have been a different thing if he had murdered someone, let us say, or stolen horses; but as it is, what is it all about?”
“Very likely, but how do I come in?”
“They shut a man up and they don’t know themselves what for. He was drunk, your honour, did not know what he was doing, and even hit father on the ear and scratched his own cheek on a branch, and two of our fellows—they wanted some Turkish tobacco, you see-began telling him to go with them and break into the Armenian’s shop at night for tobacco. Being drunk, he obeyed them, the fool. They broke the lock, you know, got in, and did no end of mischief; they turned everything upside down, broke the windows, and scattered the flour about. They were drunk, that is all one can say! Well, the constable turned up . . . and with one thing and another they took them off to the magistrate. They have been a whole year in prison, and a week ago, on the Wednesday, they were all three tried in the town. A soldier stood behind them with a gun . . . people were sworn in. Vaska was less to blame than any, but the gentry decided that he was the ringleader. The other two lads were sent to prison, but Vaska to a convict battalion for three years. And what for? One should judge like a Christian!”
“I have nothing to do with it, I tell you again. Go to the authorities.”
“I have been already! I’ve been to the court; I have tried to send in a petition—they wouldn’t take a petition; I have been to the police captain, and I have been to the examining magistrate, and everyone says, ‘It is not my business!’ Whose business is it, then? But there is no one above you here in the hospital; you do what you like, your honour.”
“You simpleton,” sighed the doctor, “once the jury have found him guilty, not the governor, not even the minister, could do anything, let alone the police captain. It’s no good your trying to do anything!”
“And who judged him, then?”
“The gentlemen of the jury. . . .”
“They weren’t gentlemen, they were our peasants! Andrey Guryev was one; Aloshka Huk was one.”
“Well, I am cold talking to you. . . .”
The doctor waved his hand and walked quickly to his own door. Kirila was on the point of following him, but, seeing the door slam, he stopped.
For ten minutes he stood motionless in the middle of the hospital yard, and without putting on his cap stared at the doctor’s house, then he heaved a deep sigh, slowly scratched himself, and walked towards the gate.
“To whom am I to go?” he muttered as he came out on to the road. “One says it is not his business, another says it is not his business. Whose business is it, then? No, till you grease their hands you will get nothing out of them. The doctor says that, but he keeps looking all the while at my fist to see whether I am going to give him a blue note. Well, brother, I’ll go, if it has to be to the governor.”
Shifting from one foot to the other and continually looking round him in an objectless way, he trudged lazily along the road and was apparently wondering where to go. . . . It was not cold and the snow faintly crunched under his feet. Not more than half a mile in front of him the wretched little district town in which his brother had just been tried lay outstretched on the hill. On the right was the dark prison with its red roof and sentry-boxes at the corners; on the left was the big town copse, now covered with hoar-frost. It was still; only an old man, wearing a woman’s short jacket and a huge cap, was walking ahead, coughing and shouting to a cow which he was driving to the town.
“Good-day, grandfather,” said Kirila, overtaking him.
“Good-day. . . .”
“Are you driving it to the market?”
“No,” the old man answered lazily.
“Are you a townsman?”
They got into conversation; Kirila told him what he had come to the hospital for, and what he had been talking about to the doctor.
“The doctor does not know anything about such matters, that is a sure thing,” the old man said to him as they were both entering the town; “though he is a gentleman, he is only taught to cure by every means, but to give you real advice, or, let us say, write out a petition for you—that he cannot do. There are special authorities to do that. You have been to the justice of the peace and to the police captain—they are no good for your business either.”
“Where am I to go?”
“The permanent member of the rural board is the chief person for peasants’ affairs. Go to him, Mr. Sineokov.”
“The one who is at Zolotovo?”
“Why, yes, at Zolotovo. He is your chief man. If it is anything that has to do with you peasants even the police captain has no authority against him.”
“It’s a long way to go, old man. . . . I dare say it’s twelve miles and may be more.”
“One who needs something will go seventy.”
“That is so. . . . Should I send in a petition to him, or what?”
“You will find out there. If you should have a petition the clerk will write you one quick enough. The permanent member has a clerk.”
After parting from the old man Kirila stood still in the middle of the square, thought a little, and walked back out of the town. He made up his mind to go to Zolotovo.
Five days later, as the doctor was on his way home after seeing his patients, he caught sight of Kirila again in his yard. This time the young peasant was not alone, but with a gaunt, very pale old man who nodded his head without ceasing, like a pendulum, and mumbled with his lips.
“Your honour, I have come again to ask your gracious mercy,” began Kirila. “Here I have come with my father. Be merciful, let Vaska go! The permanent member would not talk to me. He said: ‘Go away!’”
“Your honour,” the old man hissed in his throat, raising his twitching eyebrows, “be merciful! We are poor people, we cannot repay your honour, but if you graciously please, Kiryushka or Vaska can repay you in work. Let them work.”
“We will pay with work,” said Kirila, and he raised his hand above his head as though he would take an oath. “Let him go! They are starving, they are crying day and night, your honour!”
The young peasant bent a rapid glance on his father, pulled him by the sleeve, and both of them, as at the word of command, fell at the doctor’s feet. The latter waved his hand in despair, and, without looking round, walked quickly in at his door.


9. POLINKA

IT is one o’clock in the afternoon. Shopping is at its height at the "Nouveautés de Paris," a drapery establishment in one of the Arcades. There is a monotonous hum of shopmen’s voices, the hum one hears at school when the teacher sets the boys to learn something by heart. This regular sound is not interrupted by the laughter of lady customers nor the slam of the glass door, nor the scurrying of the boys.
Polinka, a thin fair little person whose mother is the head of a dressmaking establishment, is standing in the middle of the shop looking about for some one. A dark-browed boy runs up to her and asks, looking at her very gravely:
"What is your pleasure, madam?"
"Nikolay Timofeitch always takes my order," answers Polinka.
Nikolay Timofeitch, a graceful dark young man, fashionably dressed, with frizzled hair and a big pin in his cravat, has already cleared a place on the counter and is craning forward, looking at Polinka with a smile.
"Morning, Pelagea Sergeevna!" he cries in a pleasant, hearty baritone voice. "What can I do for you?"
"Good-morning!" says Polinka, going up to him. "You see, I’m back again. . . . Show me some gimp, please."
"Gimp—for what purpose?"
"For a bodice trimming—to trim a whole dress, in fact."
"Certainly."
Nickolay Timofeitch lays several kinds of gimp before Polinka; she looks at the trimmings languidly and begins bargaining over them.
"Oh, come, a rouble’s not dear," says the shopman persuasively, with a condescending smile. "It’s a French trimming, pure silk. . . . We have a commoner sort, if you like, heavier. That’s forty-five kopecks a yard; of course, it’s nothing like the same quality."
"I want a bead corselet, too, with gimp buttons," says Polinka, bending over the gimp and sighing for some reason. "And have you any bead motifs to match?"
"Yes."
Polinka bends still lower over the counter and asks softly:
"And why did you leave us so early on Thursday, Nikolay Timofeitch?"
"Hm! It’s queer you noticed it," says the shopman, with a smirk. "You were so taken up with that fine student that . . . it’s queer you noticed it!"
Polinka flushes crimson and remains mute. With a nervous quiver in his fingers the shopman closes the boxes, and for no sort of object piles them one on the top of another. A moment of silence follows.
"I want some bead lace, too," says Polinka, lifting her eyes guiltily to the shopman.
"What sort? Black or coloured? Bead lace on tulle is the most fashionable trimming."
"And how much is it?"
"The black’s from eighty kopecks and the coloured from two and a half roubles. I shall never come and see you again," Nikolay Timofeitch adds in an undertone.
"Why?"
"Why? It’s very simple. You must understand that yourself. Why should I distress myself? It’s a queer business! Do you suppose it’s a pleasure to me to see that student carrying on with you? I see it all and I understand. Ever since autumn he’s been hanging about you and you go for a walk with him almost every day; and when he is with you, you gaze at him as though he were an angel. You are in love with him; there’s no one to beat him in your eyes. Well, all right, then, it’s no good talking."
Polinka remains dumb and moves her finger on the counter in embarrassment.
"I see it all," the shopman goes on. "What inducement have I to come and see you? I’ve got some pride. It’s not every one likes to play gooseberry. What was it you asked for?"
"Mamma told me to get a lot of things, but I’ve forgotten. I want some feather trimming too."
"What kind would you like?"
"The best, something fashionable."
"The most fashionable now are real bird feathers. If you want the most fashionable colour, it’s heliotrope or —kanak—that is, claret with a yellow shade in it. We have an immense choice. And what all this affair is going to lead to, I really don’t understand. Here you are in love, and how is it to end?"
Patches of red come into Nikolay Timofeitch’s face round his eyes. He crushes the soft feather trimming in his hand and goes on muttering:
"Do you imagine he’ll marry you—is that it? You’d better drop any such fancies. Students are forbidden to marry. And do you suppose he comes to see you with honourable intentions? A likely idea! Why, these fine students don’t look on us as human beings . . . they only go to see shopkeepers and dressmakers to laugh at their ignorance and to drink. They’re ashamed to drink at home and in good houses, but with simple uneducated people like us they don’t care what any one thinks; they’d be ready to stand on their heads. Yes! Well, which feather trimming will you take? And if he hangs about and carries on with you, we know what he is after. . . . When he’s a doctor or a lawyer he’ll remember you: ’Ah,’ he’ll say, ’I used to have a pretty fair little thing! I wonder where she is now?’ Even now I bet you he boasts among his friends that he’s got his eye on a little dressmaker."
Polinka sits down and gazes pensively at the pile of white boxes.
"No, I won’t take the feather trimming," she sighs. "Mamma had better choose it for herself; I may get the wrong one. I want six yards of fringe for an overcoat, at forty kopecks the yard. For the same coat I want cocoa-nut buttons, perforated, so they can be sown on firmly. . . ."
Nikolay Timofeitch wraps up the fringe and the buttons. She looks at him guiltily and evidently expects him to go on talking, but he remains sullenly silent while he tidies up the feather trimming.
"I mustn’t forget some buttons for a dressing-gown . . ." she says after an interval of silence, wiping her pale lips with a handkerchief.
"What kind?"
"It’s for a shopkeeper’s wife, so give me something rather striking."
"Yes, if it’s for a shopkeeper’s wife, you’d better have something bright. Here are some buttons. A combination of colours—red, blue, and the fashionable gold shade. Very glaring. The more refined prefer dull black with a bright border. But I don’t understand. Can’t you see for yourself? What can these . . . walks lead to?"
"I don’t know," whispers Polinka, and she bends over the buttons; "I don’t know myself what’s come to me, Nikolay Timofeitch."
A solid shopman with whiskers forces his way behind Nikolay Timofeitch’s back, squeezing him to the counter, and beaming with the choicest gallantry, shouts:
"Be so kind, madam, as to step into this department. We have three kinds of jerseys: plain, braided, and trimmed with beads! Which may I have the pleasure of showing you?"
At the same time a stout lady passes by Polinka, pronouncing in a rich, deep voice, almost a bass:
"They must be seamless, with the trade mark stamped in them, please."
"Pretend to be looking at the things," Nikolay Timofeitch whispers, bending down to Polinka with a forced smile. "Dear me, you do look pale and ill; you are quite changed. He’ll throw you over, Pelagea Sergeevna! Or if he does marry you, it won’t be for love but from hunger; he’ll be tempted by your money. He’ll furnish himself a nice home with your dowry, and then be ashamed of you. He’ll keep you out of sight of his friends and visitors, because you’re uneducated. He’ll call you ’my dummy of a wife.’ You wouldn’t know how to behave in a doctor’s or lawyer’s circle. To them you’re a dressmaker, an ignorant creature."
"Nikolay Timofeitch!" somebody shouts from the other end of the shop. "The young lady here wants three yards of ribbon with a metal stripe. Have we any?"
Nikolay Timofeitch turns in that direction, smirks and shouts:
"Yes, we have! Ribbon with a metal stripe, ottoman with a satin stripe, and satin with a moiré stripe!"
"Oh, by the way, I mustn’t forget, Olga asked me to get her a pair of stays!" says Polinka.
"There are tears in your eyes," says Nikolay Timofeitch in dismay. "What’s that for? Come to the corset department, I’ll screen you —it looks awkward."
With a forced smile and exaggeratedly free and easy manner, the shopman rapidly conducts Polinka to the corset department and conceals her from the public eye behind a high pyramid of boxes.
"What sort of corset may I show you?" he asks aloud, whispering immediately: "Wipe your eyes!"
"I want . . . I want . . . size forty-eight centimetres. Only she wanted one, lined . . . with real whalebone . . . I must talk to you, Nikolay Timofeitch. Come to-day!"
"Talk? What about? There’s nothing to talk about."
"You are the only person who . . . cares about me, and I’ve no one to talk to but you."
"These are not reed or steel, but real whalebone. . . . What is there for us to talk about? It’s no use talking. . . . You are going for a walk with him to-day, I suppose?"
"Yes; I . . . I am."
"Then what’s the use of talking? Talk won’t help. . . . You are in love, aren’t you?"
"Yes . . ." Polinka whispers hesitatingly, and big tears gush from her eyes.
"What is there to say?" mutters Nikolay Timofeitch, shrugging his shoulders nervously and turning pale. "There’s no need of talk. . . . Wipe your eyes, that’s all. I . . . I ask for nothing."
At that moment a tall, lanky shopman comes up to the pyramid of boxes, and says to his customer:
"Let me show you some good elastic garters that do not impede the circulation, certified by medical authority . . ."
Nikolay Timofeitch screens Polinka, and, trying to conceal her emotion and his own, wrinkles his face into a smile and says aloud:
"There are two kinds of lace, madam: cotton and silk! Oriental, English, Valenciennes, crochet, torchon, are cotton. And rococo, soutache, Cambray, are silk. . . . For God’s sake, wipe your eyes! They’re coming this way!"
And seeing that her tears are still gushing he goes on louder than ever:
"Spanish, Rococo, soutache, Cambray . . . stockings, thread, cotton, silk . . ."


10. A DEFENCELESS CREATURE

IN spite of a violent attack of gout in the night and the nervous exhaustion left by it, Kistunov went in the morning to his office and began punctually seeing the clients of the bank and persons who had come with petitions. He looked languid and exhausted, and spoke in a faint voice hardly above a whisper, as though he were dying.
"What can I do for you?" he asked a lady in an antediluvian mantle, whose back view was extremely suggestive of a huge dung-beetle.
"You see, your Excellency," the petitioner in question began, speaking rapidly, "my husband Shtchukin, a collegiate assessor, was ill for five months, and while he, if you will excuse my saying so, was laid up at home, he was for no sort of reason dismissed, your Excellency; and when I went for his salary they deducted, if you please, your Excellency, twenty-four roubles thirty-six kopecks from his salary. ’What for?’ I asked. ’He borrowed from the club fund,’ they told me, ’and the other clerks had stood security for him.’ How was that? How could he have borrowed it without my consent? It’s impossible, your Excellency. What’s the reason of it? I am a poor woman, I earn my bread by taking in lodgers. I am a weak, defenceless woman . . . I have to put up with ill-usage from everyone and never hear a kind word. . ."
The petitioner was blinking, and dived into her mantle for her handkerchief. Kistunov took her petition from her and began reading it.
"Excuse me, what’s this?" he asked, shrugging his shoulders. "I can make nothing of it. Evidently you have come to the wrong place, madam. Your petition has nothing to do with us at all. You will have to apply to the department in which your husband was employed."
"Why, my dear sir, I have been to five places already, and they would not even take the petition anywhere," said Madame Shtchukin. "I’d quite lost my head, but, thank goodness — God bless him for it — my son-in-law, Boris Matveyitch, advised me to come to you. ’You go to Mr. Kistunov, mamma: he is an influential man, he can do anything for you. . . .’ Help me, your Excellency!"
"We can do nothing for you, Madame Shtchukin. You must understand: your husband served in the Army Medical Department, and our establishment is a purely private commercial undertaking, a bank. Surely you must understand that!"
Kistunov shrugged his shoulders again and turned to a gentleman in a military uniform, with a swollen face.
"Your Excellency," piped Madame Shtchukin in a pitiful voice, " I have the doctor’s certificate that my husband was ill! Here it is, if you will kindly look at it."
"Very good, I believe you," Kistunov said irritably, "but I repeat it has nothing to do with us. It’s queer and positively absurd! Surely your husband must know where you are to apply?"
"He knows nothing, your Excellency. He keeps on: ’It’s not your business! Get away!’ — that’s all I can get out of him. . . . Whose business is it, then? It’s I have to keep them all!"
Kistunov again turned to Madame Shtchukin and began explaining to her the difference between the Army Medical Department and a private bank. She listened attentively, nodded in token of assent, and said:
"Yes . . . yes . . . yes . . . I understand, sir. In that case, your Excellency, tell them to pay me fifteen roubles at least! I agree to take part on account!
"Ugh!" sighed Kistunov, letting his head drop back. "There’s no making you see reason. Do understand that to apply to us with such a petition is as strange as to send in a petition concerning divorce, for instance, to a chemist’s or to the Assaying Board. You have not been paid your due, but what have we to do with it?"
"Your Excellency, make me remember you in my prayers for the rest of my days, have pity on a lone, lorn woman," wailed Madame Shtchukin; "I am a weak, defenceless woman. . . . I am worried to death, I’ve to settle with the lodgers and see to my husband’s affairs and fly round looking after the house, and I am going to church every day this week, and my son-in-law is out of a job. . . . I might as well not eat or drink. . . . I can scarcely keep on my feet. . . . I haven’t slept all night. . . ."
Kistunov was conscious of the palpitation of his heart. With a face of anguish, pressing his hand on his heart, he began explaining to Madame Shtchukin again, but his voice failed him.
"No, excuse me, I cannot talk to you," he said with a wave of his hand. "My head’s going round. You are hindering us and wasting your time. Ugh! Alexey Nikolaitch," he said, addressing one of his clerks, "please will you explain to Madame Shtchukin?"
Kistunov, passing by all the petitioners, went to his private room and signed about a dozen papers while Alexey Nikolaitch was still engaged with Madame Shtchukin. As he sat in his room Kistunov heard two voices: the monotonous, restrained bass of Alexey Nikolaitch and the shrill, wailing voice of Madame Shtchukin.
"I am a weak, defenceless woman, I am a woman in delicate health," said Madame Shtchukin. "I look strong, but if you were to overhaul me there is not one healthy fibre in me. I can scarcely keep on my feet, and my appetite is gone. . . . I drank my cup of coffee this morning without the slightest relish. . . ."
Alexey Nikolaitch explained to her the difference between the departments and the complicated system of sending in papers. He was soon exhausted, and his place was taken by the accountant.
"A wonderfully disagreeable woman!" said Kistunov, revolted, nervously cracking his fingers and continually going to the decanter of water. "She’s a perfect idiot! She’s worn me out and she’ll exhaust them, the nasty creature! Ugh! . . . my heart is throbbing."
Half an hour later he rang his bell. Alexey Nikolaitch made his appearance.
"How are things going?" Kistunov asked languidly.
"We can’t make her see anything, Pyotr Alexandritch! We are simply done. We talk of one thing and she talks of something else."
"I . . . I can’t stand the sound of her voice. . . . I am ill. . . . I can’t bear it."
"Send for the porter, Pyotr Alexandritch, let him put her out."
"No, no," cried Kistunov in alarm. "She will set up a squeal, and there are lots of flats in this building, and goodness knows what they would think of us. . . . Do try and explain to her, my dear fellow. . . ."
A minute later the deep drone of Alexey Nikolaitch’s voice was audible again. A quarter of an hour passed, and instead of his bass there was the murmur of the accountant’s powerful tenor."
"Re-mark-ably nasty woman," Kistunov thought indignantly, nervously shrugging his shoulders. "No more brains than a sheep. I believe that’s a twinge of the gout again. . . . My migraine is coming back. . . ."
In the next room Alexey Nikolaitch, at the end of his resources, at last tapped his finger on the table and then on his own forehead.
"The fact of the matter is you haven’t a head on your shoulders," he said, "but this."
"Come, come," said the old lady, offended. "Talk to your own wife like that. . . . You screw! . . . Don’t be too free with your hands."
And looking at her with fury, with exasperation, as though he would devour her, Alexey Nikolaitch said in a quiet, stifled voice:
"Clear out."
"Wha-at?" squealed Madame Shtchukin. "How dare you? I am a weak, defenceless woman; I won’t endure it. My husband is a collegiate assessor. You screw! . . . I will go to Dmitri Karlitch, the lawyer, and there will be nothing left of you! I’ve had the law of three lodgers, and I will make you flop down at my feet for your saucy words! I’ll go to your general. Your Excellency, your Excellency!"
"Be off, you pest," hissed Alexey Nikolaitch.
Kistunov opened his door and looked into the office.
"What is it?" he asked in a tearful voice.
Madame Shtchukin, as red as a crab, was standing in the middle of the room, rolling her eyes and prodding the air with her fingers. The bank clerks were standing round red in the face too, and, evidently harassed, were looking at each other distractedly.
"Your Excellency," cried Madame Shtchukin, pouncing upon Kistunov. "Here, this man, he here . . . this man . . ." (she pointed to Alexey Nikolaitch) "tapped himself on the forehead and then tapped the table. . . . You told him to go into my case, and he’s jeering at me! I am a weak, defenceless woman. . . . My husband is a collegiate assessor, and I am a major’s daughter myself! "
"Very good, madam," moaned Kistunov. "I will go into it . . . I will take steps. . . . Go away . . . later!"
"And when shall I get the money, your Excellency? I need it to-day!"
Kistunov passed his trembling hand over his forehead, heaved a sigh, and began explaining again.
"Madam, I have told you already this is a bank, a private commercial establishment . . . . What do you want of us? And do understand that you are hindering us."
Madame Shtchukin listened to him and sighed.
"To be sure, to be sure," she assented. "Only, your Excellency, do me the kindness, make me pray for you for the rest of my life, be a father, protect me! If a medical certificate is not enough I can produce an affidavit from the police. . . . Tell them to give me the money."
Everything began swimming before Kistunov’s eyes. He breathed out all the air in his lungs in a prolonged sigh and sank helpless on a chair.
"How much do you want?" he asked in a weak voice.
"Twenty-four roubles and thirty-six kopecks."
Kistunov took his pocket-book out of his pocket, extracted a twenty-five rouble note and gave it to Madame Shtchukin.
"Take it and . . . and go away!"
Madame Shtchukin wrapped the money up in her handkerchief, put it away, and pursing up her face into a sweet, mincing, even coquettish smile, asked:
"Your Excellency, and would it be possible for my husband to get a post again?"
"I am going . . . I am ill . . ." said Kistunov in a weary voice. "I have dreadful palpitations."
When he had driven home Alexey Nikolaitch sent Nikita for some laurel drops, and, after taking twenty drops each, all the clerks set to work, while Madame Shtchukin stayed another two hours in the vestibule, talking to the porter and waiting for Kistunov to return. . . .
She came again next day.


11. THE LOTTERY TICKET

IVAN DMITRITCH, a middle-class man who lived with his family on an income of twelve hundred a year and was very well satisfied with his lot, sat down on the sofa after supper and began reading the newspaper.
“I forgot to look at the newspaper today,” his wife said to him as she cleared the table. “Look and see whether the list of drawings is there.”
“Yes, it is,” said Ivan Dmitritch; “but hasn’t your ticket lapsed?”
“No; I took the interest on Tuesday.”
“What is the number?”
“Series 9,499, number 26.”
“All right... we will look... 9,499 and 26.”
Ivan Dmitritch had no faith in lottery luck, and would not, as a rule, have consented to look at the lists of winning numbers, but now, as he had nothing else to do and as the newspaper was before his eyes, he passed his finger downwards along the column of numbers. And immediately, as though in mockery of his scepticism, no further than the second line from the top, his eye was caught by the figure 9,499! Unable to believe his eyes, he hurriedly dropped the paper on his knees without looking to see the number of the ticket, and, just as though some one had given him a douche of cold water, he felt an agreeable chill in the pit of the stomach; tingling and terrible and sweet!
“Masha, 9,499 is there!” he said in a hollow voice.
His wife looked at his astonished and panic-stricken face, and realized that he was not joking.
“9,499?” she asked, turning pale and dropping the folded tablecloth on the table.
“Yes, yes... it really is there!”
“And the number of the ticket?”
“Oh, yes! There’s the number of the ticket too. But stay... wait! No, I say! Anyway, the number of our series is there! Anyway, you understand....”
Looking at his wife, Ivan Dmitritch gave a broad, senseless smile, like a baby when a bright object is shown it. His wife smiled too; it was as pleasant to her as to him that he only mentioned the series, and did not try to find out the number of the winning ticket. To torment and tantalize oneself with hopes of possible fortune is so sweet, so thrilling!
“It is our series,” said Ivan Dmitritch, after a long silence. “So there is a probability that we have won. It’s only a probability, but there it is!”
“Well, now look!”
“Wait a little. We have plenty of time to be disappointed. It’s on the second line from the top, so the prize is seventy-five thousand. That’s not money, but power, capital! And in a minute I shall look at the list, and there—26! Eh? I say, what if we really have won?”
The husband and wife began laughing and staring at one another in silence. The possibility of winning bewildered them; they could not have said, could not have dreamed, what they both needed that seventy-five thousand for, what they would buy, where they would go. They thought only of the figures 9,499 and 75,000 and pictured them in their imagination, while somehow they could not think of the happiness itself which was so possible.
Ivan Dmitritch, holding the paper in his hand, walked several times from corner to corner, and only when he had recovered from the first impression began dreaming a little.
“And if we have won,” he said—“why, it will be a new life, it will be a transformation! The ticket is yours, but if it were mine I should, first of all, of course, spend twenty-five thousand on real property in the shape of an estate; ten thousand on immediate expenses, new furnishing... travelling... paying debts, and so on.... The other forty thousand I would put in the bank and get interest on it.”
“Yes, an estate, that would be nice,” said his wife, sitting down and dropping her hands in her lap.
“Somewhere in the Tula or Oryol provinces.... In the first place we shouldn’t need a summer villa, and besides, it would always bring in an income.”
And pictures came crowding on his imagination, each more gracious and poetical than the last. And in all these pictures he saw himself well-fed, serene, healthy, felt warm, even hot! Here, after eating a summer soup, cold as ice, he lay on his back on the burning sand close to a stream or in the garden under a lime-tree.... It is hot.... His little boy and girl are crawling about near him, digging in the sand or catching ladybirds in the grass. He dozes sweetly, thinking of nothing, and feeling all over that he need not go to the office today, tomorrow, or the day after. Or, tired of lying still, he goes to the hayfield, or to the forest for mushrooms, or watches the peasants catching fish with a net. When the sun sets he takes a towel and soap and saunters to the bathing-shed, where he undresses at his leisure, slowly rubs his bare chest with his hands, and goes into the water. And in the water, near the opaque soapy circles, little fish flit to and fro and green water-weeds nod their heads. After bathing there is tea with cream and milk rolls.... In the evening a walk or vint with the neighbours.
“Yes, it would be nice to buy an estate,” said his wife, also dreaming, and from her face it was evident that she was enchanted by her thoughts.
Ivan Dmitritch pictured to himself autumn with its rains, its cold evenings, and its St. Martin’s summer. At that season he would have to take longer walks about the garden and beside the river, so as to get thoroughly chilled, and then drink a big glass of vodka and eat a salted mushroom or a soused cucumber, and then—drink another.... The children would come running from the kitchen-garden, bringing a carrot and a radish smelling of fresh earth.... And then, he would lie stretched full length on the sofa, and in leisurely fashion turn over the pages of some illustrated magazine, or, covering his face with it and unbuttoning his waistcoat, give himself up to slumber.
The St. Martin’s summer is followed by cloudy, gloomy weather. It rains day and night, the bare trees weep, the wind is damp and cold. The dogs, the horses, the fowls—all are wet, depressed, downcast. There is nowhere to walk; one can’t go out for days together; one has to pace up and down the room, looking despondently at the grey window. It is dreary!
Ivan Dmitritch stopped and looked at his wife.
“I should go abroad, you know, Masha,” he said.
And he began thinking how nice it would be in late autumn to go abroad somewhere to the South of France... to Italy.... to India!
“I should certainly go abroad too,” his wife said. “But look at the number of the ticket!”
“Wait, wait!...”
He walked about the room and went on thinking. It occurred to him: what if his wife really did go abroad? It is pleasant to travel alone, or in the society of light, careless women who live in the present, and not such as think and talk all the journey about nothing but their children, sigh, and tremble with dismay over every farthing. Ivan Dmitritch imagined his wife in the train with a multitude of parcels, baskets, and bags; she would be sighing over something, complaining that the train made her head ache, that she had spent so much money.... At the stations he would continually be having to run for boiling water, bread and butter.... She wouldn’t have dinner because of its being too dear....
“She would begrudge me every farthing,” he thought, with a glance at his wife. “The lottery ticket is hers, not mine! Besides, what is the use of her going abroad? What does she want there? She would shut herself up in the hotel, and not let me out of her sight.... I know!”
And for the first time in his life his mind dwelt on the fact that his wife had grown elderly and plain, and that she was saturated through and through with the smell of cooking, while he was still young, fresh, and healthy, and might well have got married again.
“Of course, all that is silly nonsense,” he thought; “but... why should she go abroad? What would she make of it? And yet she would go, of course.... I can fancy... In reality it is all one to her, whether it is Naples or Klin. She would only be in my way. I should be dependent upon her. I can fancy how, like a regular woman, she will lock the money up as soon as she gets it.... She will hide it from me.... She will look after her relations and grudge me every farthing.”
Ivan Dmitritch thought of her relations. All those wretched brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles would come crawling about as soon as they heard of the winning ticket, would begin whining like beggars, and fawning upon them with oily, hypocritical smiles. Wretched, detestable people! If they were given anything, they would ask for more; while if they were refused, they would swear at them, slander them, and wish them every kind of misfortune.
Ivan Dmitritch remembered his own relations, and their faces, at which he had looked impartially in the past, struck him now as repulsive and hateful.
“They are such reptiles!” he thought.
And his wife’s face, too, struck him as repulsive and hateful. Anger surged up in his heart against her, and he thought malignantly:
“She knows nothing about money, and so she is stingy. If she won it she would give me a hundred roubles, and put the rest away under lock and key.”
And he looked at his wife, not with a smile now, but with hatred. She glanced at him too, and also with hatred and anger. She had her own daydreams, her own plans, her own reflections; she understood perfectly well what her husband’s dreams were. She knew who would be the first to try and grab her winnings.
“It’s very nice making daydreams at other people’s expense!” is what her eyes expressed. “No, don’t you dare!”
Her husband understood her look; hatred began stirring again in his breast, and in order to annoy his wife he glanced quickly, to spite her at the fourth page on the newspaper and read out triumphantly:
“Series 9,499, number 46! Not 26!”
Hatred and hope both disappeared at once, and it began immediately to seem to Ivan Dmitritch and his wife that their rooms were dark and small and low-pitched, that the supper they had been eating was not doing them good, but lying heavy on their stomachs, that the evenings were long and wearisome....
“What the devil’s the meaning of it?” said Ivan Dmitritch, beginning to be ill-humoured. “Wherever one steps there are bits of paper under one’s feet, crumbs, husks. The rooms are never swept! One is simply forced to go out. Damnation take my soul entirely! I shall go and hang myself on the first aspen-tree!”


12. TOO EARLY!

THE bells are ringing for service in the village of Shalmovo. The sun is already kissing the earth on the horizon; it has turned crimson and will soon disappear. In Semyon’s pothouse, which has lately changed its name and become a restaurant — a title quite out of keeping with the wretched little hut with its thatch torn off its roof, and its couple of dingy windows — two peasant sportsmen are sitting. One of them is called Filimon Slyunka; he is an old man of sixty, formerly a house-serf, belonging to the Counts Zavalin, by trade a carpenter. He has at one time been employed in a nail factory, has been turned off for drunkenness and idleness, and now lives upon his old wife, who begs for alms. He is thin and weak, with a mangy-looking little beard, speaks with a hissing sound, and after every word twitches the right side of his face and jerkily shrugs his right shoulder. The other, Ignat Ryabov, a sturdy, broad-shouldered peasant who never does anything and is everlastingly silent, is sitting in the corner under a big string of bread rings. The door, opening inwards, throws a thick shadow upon him, so that Slyunka and Semyon the publican can see nothing but his patched knees, his long fleshy nose, and a big tuft of hair which has escaped from the thick uncombed tangle covering his head. Semyon, a sickly little man, with a pale face and a long sinewy neck, stands behind his counter, looks mournfully at the string of bread rings, and coughs meekly.
"You think it over now, if you have any sense," Slyunka says to him, twitching his cheek. "You have the thing lying by unused and get no sort of benefit from it. While we need it. A sportsman without a gun is like a sacristan without a voice. You ought to understand that, but I see you don’t understand it, so you can have no real sense. . . . Hand it over!"
"You left the gun in pledge, you know!" says Semyon in a thin womanish little voice, sighing deeply, and not taking his eyes off the string of bread rings. "Hand over the rouble you borrowed, and then take your gun."
"I haven’t got a rouble. I swear to you, Semyon Mitritch, as God sees me: you give me the gun and I will go to-day with Ignashka and bring it you back again. I’ll bring it back, strike me dead. May I have happiness neither in this world nor the next, if I don’t."
"Semyon Mitritch, do give it," Ignat Ryabov says in his bass, and his voice betrays a passionate desire to get what he asks for.
"But what do you want the gun for?" sighs Semyon, sadly shaking his head. "What sort of shooting is there now? It’s still winter outside, and no game at all but crows and jackdaws."
"Winter, indeed," says Slyunka, hooing the ash out of his pipe with his finger, "it is early yet of course, but you never can tell with the snipe. The snipe’s a bird that wants watching. If you are unlucky, you may sit waiting at home, and miss his flying over, and then you must wait till autumn. . . . It is a business! The snipe is not a rook. . . . Last year he was flying the week before Easter, while the year before we had to wait till the week after Easter! Come, do us a favour, Semyon Mitritch, give us the gun. Make us pray for you for ever. As ill-luck would have it, Ignashka has pledged his gun for drink too. Ah, when you drink you feel nothing, but now . . . ah, I wish I had never looked at it, the cursed vodka! Truly it is the blood of Satan! Give it us, Semyon Mitritch!"
"I won’t give it you," says Semyon, clasping his yellow hands on his breast as though he were going to pray. "You must act fairly, Filimonushka. . . . A thing is not taken out of pawn just anyhow; you must pay the money. . . . Besides, what do you want to kill birds for? What’s the use? It’s Lent now — you are not going to eat them."
Slyunka exchanges glances with Ryabov in embarrassment, sighs, and says: "We would only go stand-shooting."
"And what for? It’s all foolishness. You are not the sort of man to spend your time in foolishness. . . . Ignashka, to be sure, is a man of no understanding, God has afflicted him, but you, thank the Lord, are an old man. It’s time to prepare for your end. Here, you ought to go to the midnight service."
The allusion to his age visibly stings Slyunka. He clears his throat, wrinkles up his forehead, and remains silent for a full minute.
"I say, Semyon Mitritch," he says hotly, getting up and twitching not only in his right cheek but all over his face. "It’s God’s truth. . . . May the Almighty strike me dead, after Easter I shall get something from Stepan Kuzmitch for an axle, and I will pay you not one rouble but two! May the Lord chastise me! Before the holy image, I tell you, only give me the gun!"
"Gi-ive it," Ryabov says in his growling bass; they can hear him breathing hard, and it seems that he would like to say a great deal, but cannot find the words. "Gi-ive it."
"No, brothers, and don’t ask," sighs Semyon, shaking his head mournfully. "Don’t lead me into sin. I won’t give you the gun. It’s not the fashion for a thing to be taken out of pawn and no money paid. Besides — why this indulgence? Go your way and God bless you!"
Slyunka rubs his perspiring face with his sleeve and begins hotly swearing and entreating. He crosses himself, holds out his hands to the ikon, calls his deceased father and mother to bear witness, but Semyon sighs and meekly looks as before at the string of bread rings. In the end Ignashka Ryabov, hitherto motionless, gets up impulsively and bows down to the ground before the innkeeper, but even that has no effect on him.
"May you choke with my gun, you devil," says Slyunka, with his face twitching, and his shoulders, shrugging. "May you choke, you plague, you scoundrelly soul."
Swearing and shaking his fists, he goes out of the tavern with Ryabov and stands still in the middle of the road.
"He won’t give it, the damned brute," he says, in a weeping voice, looking into Ryabov’s face with an injured air.
"He won’t give it," booms Ryabov.
The windows of the furthest huts, the starling cote on the tavern, the tops of the poplars, and the cross on the church are all gleaming with a bright golden flame. Now they can see only half of the sun, which, as it goes to its night’s rest, is winking, shedding a crimson light, and seems laughing gleefully. Slyunka and Ryabov can see the forest lying, a dark blur, to the right of the sun, a mile and a half from the village, and tiny clouds flitting over the clear sky, and they feel that the evening will be fine and still.
"Now is just the time," says Slyunka, with his face twitching. "It would be nice to stand for an hour or two. He won’t give it us, the damned brute. May he. . . "
"For stand-shooting, now is the very time . . ." Ryabov articulated, as though with an effort, stammering.
After standing still for a little they walk out of the village, without saying a word to each other, and look towards the dark streak of the forest. The whole sky above the forest is studded with moving black spots, the rooks flying home to roost. The snow, lying white here and there on the dark brown plough-land, is lightly flecked with gold by the sun.
"This time last year I went stand-shooting in Zhivki," says Slyunka, after a long silence. "I brought back three snipe."
Again there follows a silence. Both stand a long time and look towards the forest, and then lazily move and walk along the muddy road from the village.
"It’s most likely the snipe haven’t come yet," says Slyunka, "but may be they are here."
"Kostka says they are not here yet."
"Maybe they are not, who can tell; one year is not like another. But what mud!"
"But we ought to stand."
"To be sure we ought — why not?"
"We can stand and watch; it wouldn’t be amiss to go to the forest and have a look. If they are there we will tell Kostka, or maybe get a gun ourselves and come to-morrow. What a misfortune, God forgive me. It was the devil put it in my mind to take my gun to the pothouse! I am more sorry than I can tell you, Ignashka."
Conversing thus, the sportsmen approach the forest. The sun has set and left behind it a red streak like the glow of a fire, scattered here and there with clouds; there is no catching the colours of those clouds: their edges are red, but they themselves are one minute grey, at the next lilac, at the next ashen.
In the forest, among the thick branches of fir-trees and under the birch bushes, it is dark, and only the outermost twigs on the side of the sun, with their fat buds and shining bark, stand out clearly in the air. There is a smell of thawing snow and rotting leaves. It is still; nothing stirs. From the distance comes the subsiding caw of the rooks.
"We ought to be standing in Zhivki now," whispers Slyunka, looking with awe at Ryabov; "there’s good stand-shooting there."
Ryabov too looks with awe at Slyunka, with unblinking eyes and open mouth.
"A lovely time," Slyunka says in a trembling whisper. "The Lord is sending a fine spring . . . and I should think the snipe are here by now. . . . Why not? The days are warm now. . . . The cranes were flying in the morning, lots and lots of them."
Slyunka and Ryabov, splashing cautiously through the melting snow and sticking in the mud, walk two hundred paces along the edge of the forest and there halt. Their faces wear a look of alarm and expectation of something terrible and extraordinary. They stand like posts, do not speak nor stir, and their hands gradually fall into an attitude as though they were holding a gun at the cock. . . .
A big shadow creeps from the left and envelops the earth. The dusk of evening comes on. If one looks to the right, through the bushes and tree trunks, there can be seen crimson patches of the after-glow. It is still and damp. . . .
"There’s no sound of them," whispers Slyunka, shrugging with the cold and sniffing with his chilly nose.
But frightened by his own whisper, he holds his finger up at some one, opens his eyes wide, and purses up his lips. There is a sound of a light snapping. The sportsmen look at each other significantly, and tell each other with their eyes that it is nothing. It is the snapping of a dry twig or a bit of bark. The shadows of evening keep growing and growing, the patches of crimson gradually grow dim, and the dampness becomes unpleasant.
The sportsmen remain standing a long time, but they see and hear nothing. Every instant they expect to see a delicate leaf float through the air, to hear a hurried call like the husky cough of a child, and the flutter of wings.
"No, not a sound," Slyunka says aloud, dropping his hands and beginning to blink. "So they have not come yet."
"It’s early!"
"You are right there."
The sportsmen cannot see each other’s faces, it is getting rapidly dark.
"We must wait another five days," says Slyunka, as he comes out from behind a bush with Ryabov. "It’s too early!"
They go homewards, and are silent all the way.


13. HAPPINESS

A FLOCK of sheep was spending the night on the broad steppe road that is called the great highway. Two shepherds were guarding it. One, a toothless old man of eighty, with a tremulous face, was lying on his stomach at the very edge of the road, leaning his elbows on the dusty leaves of a plantain; the other, a young fellow with thick black eyebrows and no moustache, dressed in the coarse canvas of which cheap sacks are made, was lying on his back, with his arms under his head, looking upwards at the sky, where the stars were slumbering and the Milky Way lay stretched exactly above his face.
The shepherds were not alone. A couple of yards from them in the dusk that shrouded the road a horse made a patch of darkness, and, beside it, leaning against the saddle, stood a man in high boots and a short full-skirted jacket who looked like an overseer on some big estate. Judging from his upright and motionless figure, from his manners, and his behaviour to the shepherds and to his horse, he was a serious, reasonable man who knew his own value; even in the darkness signs could be detected in him of military carriage and of the majestically condescending expression gained by frequent intercourse with the gentry and their stewards.
The sheep were asleep. Against the grey background of the dawn, already beginning to cover the eastern part of the sky, the silhouettes of sheep that were not asleep could be seen here and there; they stood with drooping heads, thinking. Their thoughts, tedious and oppressive, called forth by images of nothing but the broad steppe and the sky, the days and the nights, probably weighed upon them themselves, crushing them into apathy; and, standing there as though rooted to the earth, they noticed neither the presence of a stranger nor the uneasiness of the dogs.
The drowsy, stagnant air was full of the monotonous noise inseparable from a summer night on the steppes; the grasshoppers chirruped incessantly; the quails called, and the young nightingales trilled languidly half a mile away in a ravine where a stream flowed and willows grew.
The overseer had halted to ask the shepherds for a light for his pipe. He lighted it in silence and smoked the whole pipe; then, still without uttering a word, stood with his elbow on the saddle, plunged in thought. The young shepherd took no notice of him, he still lay gazing at the sky while the old man slowly looked the overseer up and down and then asked:
“Why, aren’t you Panteley from Makarov’s estate?”
“That’s myself,” answered the overseer.
“To be sure, I see it is. I didn’t know you—that is a sign you will be rich. Where has God brought you from?”
“From the Kovylyevsky fields.”
“That’s a good way. Are you letting the land on the part-crop system?”
“Part of it. Some like that, and some we are letting on lease, and some for raising melons and cucumbers. I have just come from the mill.”
A big shaggy old sheep-dog of a dirty white colour with woolly tufts about its nose and eyes walked three times quietly round the horse, trying to seem unconcerned in the presence of strangers, then all at once dashed suddenly from behind at the overseer with an angry aged growl; the other dogs could not refrain from leaping up too.
“Lie down, you damned brute,” cried the old man, raising himself on his elbow; “blast you, you devil’s creature.”
When the dogs were quiet again, the old man resumed his former attitude and said quietly:
“It was at Kovyli on Ascension Day that Yefim Zhmenya died. Don’t speak of it in the dark, it is a sin to mention such people. He was a wicked old man. I dare say you have heard.”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Yefim Zhmenya, the uncle of Styopka, the blacksmith. The whole district round knew him. Aye, he was a cursed old man, he was! I knew him for sixty years, ever since Tsar Alexander who beat the French was brought from Taganrog to Moscow. We went together to meet the dead Tsar, and in those days the great highway did not run to Bahmut, but from Esaulovka to Gorodishtche, and where Kovyli is now, there were bustards’ nests—there was a bustard’s nest at every step. Even then I had noticed that Yefim had given his soul to damnation, and that the Evil One was in him. I have observed that if any man of the peasant class is apt to be silent, takes up with old women’s jobs, and tries to live in solitude, there is no good in it, and Yefim from his youth up was always one to hold his tongue and look at you sideways, he always seemed to be sulky and bristling like a cock before a hen. To go to church or to the tavern or to lark in the street with the lads was not his fashion, he would rather sit alone or be whispering with old women. When he was still young he took jobs to look after the bees and the market gardens. Good folks would come to his market garden sometimes and his melons were whistling. One day he caught a pike, when folks were looking on, and it laughed aloud, ‘Ho-ho-ho-ho!’”
“It does happen,” said Panteley.
The young shepherd turned on his side and, lifting his black eyebrows, stared intently at the old man.
“Did you hear the melons whistling?” he asked.
“Hear them I didn’t, the Lord spared me,” sighed the old man, “but folks told me so. It is no great wonder... the Evil One will begin whistling in a stone if he wants to. Before the Day of Freedom a rock was humming for three days and three nights in our parts. I heard it myself. The pike laughed because Yefim caught a devil instead of a pike.”
The old man remembered something. He got up quickly on to his knees and, shrinking as though from the cold, nervously thrusting his hands into his sleeves, he muttered in a rapid womanish gabble:
“Lord save us and have mercy upon us! I was walking along the river bank one day to Novopavlovka. A storm was gathering, such a tempest it was, preserve us Holy Mother, Queen of Heaven.... I was hurrying on as best I could, I looked, and beside the path between the thorn bushes—the thorn was in flower at the time—there was a white bullock coming along. I wondered whose bullock it was, and what the devil had sent it there for. It was coming along and swinging its tail and moo-oo-oo! but would you believe it, friends, I overtake it, I come up close—and it’s not a bullock, but Yefim—holy, holy, holy! I make the sign of the cross while he stares at me and mutters, showing the whites of his eyes; wasn’t I frightened! We came alongside, I was afraid to say a word to him—the thunder was crashing, the sky was streaked with lightning, the willows were bent right down to the water—all at once, my friends, God strike me dead that I die impenitent, a hare ran across the path... it ran and stopped, and said like a man: ‘Good-evening, peasants.’ Lie down, you brute!” the old man cried to the shaggy dog, who was moving round the horse again. “Plague take you!”
“It does happen,” said the overseer, still leaning on the saddle and not stirring; he said this in the hollow, toneless voice in which men speak when they are plunged in thought.
“It does happen,” he repeated, in a tone of profundity and conviction.
“Ugh, he was a nasty old fellow,” the old shepherd went on with somewhat less fervour. “Five years after the Freedom he was flogged by the commune at the office, so to show his spite he took and sent the throat illness upon all Kovyli. Folks died out of number, lots and lots of them, just as in cholera....”
“How did he send the illness?” asked the young shepherd after a brief silence.
“We all know how, there is no great cleverness needed where there is a will to it. Yefim murdered people with viper’s fat. That is such a poison that folks will die from the mere smell of it, let alone the fat.”
“That’s true,” Panteley agreed.
“The lads wanted to kill him at the time, but the old people would not let them. It would never have done to kill him; he knew the place where the treasure is hidden, and not another soul did know. The treasures about here are charmed so that you may find them and not see them, but he did see them. At times he would walk along the river bank or in the forest, and under the bushes and under the rocks there would be little flames, little flames... little flames as though from brimstone. I have seen them myself. Everyone expected that Yefim would show people the places or dig the treasure up himself, but he—as the saying is, like a dog in the manger—so he died without digging it up himself or showing other people.”
The overseer lit a pipe, and for an instant lighted up his big moustaches and his sharp, stern-looking, and dignified nose. Little circles of light danced from his hands to his cap, raced over the saddle along the horse’s back, and vanished in its mane near its ears.
“There are lots of hidden treasures in these parts,” he said.
And slowly stretching, he looked round him, resting his eyes on the whitening east and added:
“There must be treasures.”
“To be sure,” sighed the old man, “one can see from every sign there are treasures, only there is no one to dig them, brother. No one knows the real places; besides, nowadays, you must remember, all the treasures are under a charm. To find them and see them you must have a talisman, and without a talisman you can do nothing, lad. Yefim had talismans, but there was no getting anything out of him, the bald devil. He kept them, so that no one could get them.”
The young shepherd crept two paces nearer to the old man and, propping his head on his fists, fastened his fixed stare upon him. A childish expression of terror and curiosity gleamed in his dark eyes, and seemed in the twilight to stretch and flatten out the large features of his coarse young face. He was listening intently.
“It is even written in the Scriptures that there are lots of treasures hidden here,” the old man went on; “it is so for sure... and no mistake about it. An old soldier of Novopavlovka was shown at Ivanovna a writing, and in this writing it was printed about the place of the treasure and even how many pounds of gold was in it and the sort of vessel it was in; they would have found the treasures long ago by that writing, only the treasure is under a spell, you can’t get at it.”
“Why can’t you get at it, grandfather?” asked the young man.
“I suppose there is some reason, the soldier didn’t say. It is under a spell... you need a talisman.”
The old man spoke with warmth, as though he were pouring out his soul before the overseer. He talked through his nose and, being unaccustomed to talk much and rapidly, stuttered; and, conscious of his defects, he tried to adorn his speech with gesticulations of the hands and head and thin shoulders, and at every movement his hempen shirt crumpled into folds, slipped upwards and displayed his back, black with age and sunburn. He kept pulling it down, but it slipped up again at once. At last, as though driven out of all patience by the rebellious shirt, the old man leaped up and said bitterly:
“There is fortune, but what is the good of it if it is buried in the earth? It is just riches wasted with no profit to anyone, like chaff or sheep’s dung, and yet there are riches there, lad, fortune enough for all the country round, but not a soul sees it! It will come to this, that the gentry will dig it up or the government will take it away. The gentry have begun digging the barrows.... They scented something! They are envious of the peasants’ luck! The government, too, is looking after itself. It is written in the law that if any peasant finds the treasure he is to take it to the authorities! I dare say, wait till you get it! There is a brew but not for you!”
The old man laughed contemptuously and sat down on the ground. The overseer listened with attention and agreed, but from his silence and the expression of his figure it was evident that what the old man told him was not new to him, that he had thought it all over long ago, and knew much more than was known to the old shepherd.
“In my day, I must own, I did seek for fortune a dozen times,” said the old man, scratching himself nervously. “I looked in the right places, but I must have come on treasures under a charm. My father looked for it, too, and my brother, too—but not a thing did they find, so they died without luck. A monk revealed to my brother Ilya—the Kingdom of Heaven be his—that in one place in the fortress of Taganrog there was a treasure under three stones, and that that treasure was under a charm, and in those days—it was, I remember, in the year ‘38—an Armenian used to live at Matvyeev Barrow who sold talismans. Ilya bought a talisman, took two other fellows with him, and went to Taganrog. Only when he got to the place in the fortress, brother, there was a soldier with a gun, standing at the very spot....”
A sound suddenly broke on the still air, and floated in all directions over the steppe. Something in the distance gave a menacing bang, crashed against stone, and raced over the steppe, uttering, “Tah! tah! tah! tah!” When the sound had died away the old man looked inquiringly at Panteley, who stood motionless and unconcerned.
“It’s a bucket broken away at the pits,” said the young shepherd after a moment’s thought.
It was by now getting light. The Milky Way had turned pale and gradually melted like snow, losing its outlines; the sky was becoming dull and dingy so that you could not make out whether it was clear or covered thickly with clouds, and only from the bright leaden streak in the east and from the stars that lingered here and there could one tell what was coming.
The first noiseless breeze of morning, cautiously stirring the spurges and the brown stalks of last year’s grass, fluttered along the road.
The overseer roused himself from his thoughts and tossed his head. With both hands he shook the saddle, touched the girth and, as though he could not make up his mind to mount the horse, stood still again, hesitating.
“Yes,” he said, “your elbow is near, but you can’t bite it. There is fortune, but there is not the wit to find it.”
And he turned facing the shepherds. His stern face looked sad and mocking, as though he were a disappointed man.
“Yes, so one dies without knowing what happiness is like...” he said emphatically, lifting his left leg into the stirrup. “A younger man may live to see it, but it is time for us to lay aside all thought of it.”
Stroking his long moustaches covered with dew, he seated himself heavily on the horse and screwed up his eyes, looking into the distance, as though he had forgotten something or left something unsaid. In the bluish distance where the furthest visible hillock melted into the mist nothing was stirring; the ancient barrows, once watch-mounds and tombs, which rose here and there above the horizon and the boundless steppe had a sullen and death-like look; there was a feeling of endless time and utter indifference to man in their immobility and silence; another thousand years would pass, myriads of men would die, while they would still stand as they had stood, with no regret for the dead nor interest in the living, and no soul would ever know why they stood there, and what secret of the steppes was hidden under them.
The rooks awakening, flew one after another in silence over the earth. No meaning was to be seen in the languid flight of those long-lived birds, nor in the morning which is repeated punctually every twenty-four hours, nor in the boundless expanse of the steppe.
The overseer smiled and said:
“What space, Lord have mercy upon us! You would have a hunt to find treasure in it! Here,” he went on, dropping his voice and making a serious face, “here there are two treasures buried for a certainty. The gentry don’t know of them, but the old peasants, particularly the soldiers, know all about them. Here, somewhere on that ridge [the overseer pointed with his whip] robbers one time attacked a caravan of gold; the gold was being taken from Petersburg to the Emperor Peter who was building a fleet at the time at Voronezh. The robbers killed the men with the caravan and buried the gold, but did not find it again afterwards. Another treasure was buried by our Cossacks of the Don. In the year ‘12 they carried off lots of plunder of all sorts from the French, goods and gold and silver. When they were going homewards they heard on the way that the government wanted to take away all the gold and silver from them. Rather than give up their plunder like that to the government for nothing, the brave fellows took and buried it, so that their children, anyway, might get it; but where they buried it no one knows.”
“I have heard of those treasures,” the old man muttered grimly.
“Yes...” Panteley pondered again. “So it is....”
A silence followed. The overseer looked dreamily into the distance, gave a laugh and pulled the rein, still with the same expression as though he had forgotten something or left something unsaid. The horse reluctantly started at a walking pace. After riding a hundred paces Panteley shook his head resolutely, roused himself from his thoughts and, lashing his horse, set off at a trot.
The shepherds were left alone.
“That was Panteley from Makarov’s estate,” said the old man. “He gets a hundred and fifty a year and provisions found, too. He is a man of education....”
The sheep, waking up—there were about three thousand of them—began without zest to while away the time, nipping at the low, half-trampled grass. The sun had not yet risen, but by now all the barrows could be seen and, like a cloud in the distance, Saur’s Grave with its peaked top. If one clambered up on that tomb one could see the plain from it, level and boundless as the sky, one could see villages, manor-houses, the settlements of the Germans and of the Molokani, and a long-sighted Kalmuck could even see the town and the railway-station. Only from there could one see that there was something else in the world besides the silent steppe and the ancient barrows, that there was another life that had nothing to do with buried treasure and the thoughts of sheep.
The old man felt beside him for his crook—a long stick with a hook at the upper end—and got up. He was silent and thoughtful. The young shepherd’s face had not lost the look of childish terror and curiosity. He was still under the influence of what he had heard in the night, and impatiently awaiting fresh stories.
“Grandfather,” he asked, getting up and taking his crook, “what did your brother Ilya do with the soldier?”
The old man did not hear the question. He looked absent-mindedly at the young man, and answered, mumbling with his lips:
“I keep thinking, Sanka, about that writing that was shown to that soldier at Ivanovka. I didn’t tell Panteley—God be with him—but you know in that writing the place was marked out so that even a woman could find it. Do you know where it is? At Bogata Bylotchka at the spot, you know, where the ravine parts like a goose’s foot into three little ravines; it is the middle one.”
“Well, will you dig?”
“I will try my luck...”
“And, grandfather, what will you do with the treasure when you find it?”
“Do with it?” laughed the old man. “H’m!... If only I could find it then.... I would show them all.... H’m!... I should know what to do....”
And the old man could not answer what he would do with the treasure if he found it. That question had presented itself to him that morning probably for the first time in his life, and judging from the expression of his face, indifferent and uncritical, it did not seem to him important and deserving of consideration. In Sanka’s brain another puzzled question was stirring: why was it only old men searched for hidden treasure, and what was the use of earthly happiness to people who might die any day of old age? But Sanka could not put this perplexity into words, and the old man could scarcely have found an answer to it.
An immense crimson sun came into view surrounded by a faint haze. Broad streaks of light, still cold, bathing in the dewy grass, lengthening out with a joyous air as though to prove they were not weary of their task, began spreading over the earth. The silvery wormwood, the blue flowers of the pig’s onion, the yellow mustard, the corn-flowers—all burst into gay colours, taking the sunlight for their own smile.
The old shepherd and Sanka parted and stood at the further sides of the flock. Both stood like posts, without moving, staring at the ground and thinking. The former was haunted by thoughts of fortune, the latter was pondering on what had been said in the night; what interested him was not the fortune itself, which he did not want and could not imagine, but the fantastic, fairy-tale character of human happiness.
A hundred sheep started and, in some inexplicable panic as at a signal, dashed away from the flock; and as though the thoughts of the sheep—tedious and oppressive—had for a moment infected Sanka also, he, too, dashed aside in the same inexplicable animal panic, but at once he recovered himself and shouted:
“You crazy creatures! You’ve gone mad, plague take you!”
When the sun, promising long hours of overwhelming heat, began to bake the earth, all living things that in the night had moved and uttered sounds were sunk in drowsiness. The old shepherd and Sanka stood with their crooks on opposite sides of the flock, stood without stirring, like fakirs at their prayers, absorbed in thought. They did not heed each other; each of them was living in his own life. The sheep were pondering, too.


14. IN THE COACH-HOUSE

IT was between nine and ten o’clock in the evening. Stepan the coachman, Mihailo the house-porter, Alyoshka the coachman’s grandson, who had come up from the village to stay with his grandfather, and Nikandr, an old man of seventy, who used to come into the yard every evening to sell salt herrings, were sitting round a lantern in the big coach-house, playing “kings.” Through the wide-open door could be seen the whole yard, the big house, where the master’s family lived, the gates, the cellars, and the porter’s lodge. It was all shrouded in the darkness of night, and only the four windows of one of the lodges which was let were brightly lit up. The shadows of the coaches and sledges with their shafts tipped upwards stretched from the walls to the doors, quivering and cutting across the shadows cast by the lantern and the players.... On the other side of the thin partition that divided the coach-house from the stable were the horses. There was a scent of hay, and a disagreeable smell of salt herrings coming from old Nikandr.
The porter won and was king; he assumed an attitude such as was in his opinion befitting a king, and blew his nose loudly on a red-checked handkerchief.
“Now if I like I can chop off anybody’s head,” he said. Alyoshka, a boy of eight with a head of flaxen hair, left long uncut, who had only missed being king by two tricks, looked angrily and with envy at the porter. He pouted and frowned.
“I shall give you the trick, grandfather,” he said, pondering over his cards; “I know you have got the queen of diamonds.”
“Well, well, little silly, you have thought enough!”
Alyoshka timidly played the knave of diamonds. At that moment a ring was heard from the yard.
“Oh, hang you!” muttered the porter, getting up. “Go and open the gate, O king!”
When he came back a little later, Alyoshka was already a prince, the fish-hawker a soldier, and the coachman a peasant.
“It’s a nasty business,” said the porter, sitting down to the cards again. “I have just let the doctors out. They have not extracted it.”
“How could they? Just think, they would have to pick open the brains. If there is a bullet in the head, of what use are doctors?”
“He is lying unconscious,” the porter went on. “He is bound to die. Alyoshka, don’t look at the cards, you little puppy, or I will pull your ears! Yes, I let the doctors out, and the father and mother in... They have only just arrived. Such crying and wailing, Lord preserve us! They say he is the only son.... It’s a grief!”
All except Alyoshka, who was absorbed in the game, looked round at the brightly lighted windows of the lodge.
“I have orders to go to the police station tomorrow,” said the porter. “There will be an inquiry... But what do I know about it? I saw nothing of it. He called me this morning, gave me a letter, and said: ‘Put it in the letter-box for me.’ And his eyes were red with crying. His wife and children were not at home. They had gone out for a walk. So when I had gone with the letter, he put a bullet into his forehead from a revolver. When I came back his cook was wailing for the whole yard to hear.”
“It’s a great sin,” said the fish-hawker in a husky voice, and he shook his head, “a great sin!”
“From too much learning,” said the porter, taking a trick; “his wits outstripped his wisdom. Sometimes he would sit writing papers all night.... Play, peasant!... But he was a nice gentleman. And so white skinned, black-haired and tall!... He was a good lodger.”
“It seems the fair sex is at the bottom of it,” said the coachman, slapping the nine of trumps on the king of diamonds. “It seems he was fond of another man’s wife and disliked his own; it does happen.”
“The king rebels,” said the porter.
At that moment there was again a ring from the yard. The rebellious king spat with vexation and went out. Shadows like dancing couples flitted across the windows of the lodge. There was the sound of voices and hurried footsteps in the yard.
“I suppose the doctors have come again,” said the coachman. “Our Mihailo is run off his legs....”
A strange wailing voice rang out for a moment in the air. Alyoshka looked in alarm at his grandfather, the coachman; then at the windows, and said:
“He stroked me on the head at the gate yesterday, and said, ‘What district do you come from, boy?’ Grandfather, who was that howled just now?”
His grandfather trimmed the light in the lantern and made no answer.
“The man is lost,” he said a little later, with a yawn. “He is lost, and his children are ruined, too. It’s a disgrace for his children for the rest of their lives now.”
The porter came back and sat down by the lantern.
“He is dead,” he said. “They have sent to the almshouse for the old women to lay him out.”
“The kingdom of heaven and eternal peace to him!” whispered the coachman, and he crossed himself.
Looking at him, Alyoshka crossed himself too.
“You can’t pray for such as him,” said the fish-hawker.
“Why not?”
“It’s a sin.”
“That’s true,” the porter assented. “Now his soul has gone straight to hell, to the devil....”
“It’s a sin,” repeated the fish-hawker; “such as he have no funeral, no requiem, but are buried like carrion with no respect.”
The old man put on his cap and got up.
“It was the same thing at our lady’s,” he said, pulling his cap on further. “We were serfs in those days; the younger son of our mistress, the General’s lady, shot himself through the mouth with a pistol, from too much learning, too. It seems that by law such have to be buried outside the cemetery, without priests, without a requiem service; but to save disgrace our lady, you know, bribed the police and the doctors, and they gave her a paper to say her son had done it when delirious, not knowing what he was doing. You can do anything with money. So he had a funeral with priests and every honor, the music played, and he was buried in the church; for the deceased General had built that church with his own money, and all his family were buried there. Only this is what happened, friends. One month passed, and then another, and it was all right. In the third month they informed the General’s lady that the watchmen had come from that same church. What did they want? They were brought to her, they fell at her feet. ‘We can’t go on serving, your excellency,’ they said. ‘Look out for other watchmen and graciously dismiss us.’ ‘What for?’ ‘No,’ they said, ‘we can’t possibly; your son howls under the church all night.’”
Alyoshka shuddered, and pressed his face to the coachman’s back so as not to see the windows.
“At first the General’s lady would not listen,” continued the old man. “‘All this is your fancy, you simple folk have such notions,’ she said. ‘A dead man cannot howl.’ Some time afterwards the watchmen came to her again, and with them the sacristan. So the sacristan, too, had heard him howling. The General’s lady saw that it was a bad job; she locked herself in her bedroom with the watchmen. ‘Here, my friends, here are twenty-five roubles for you, and for that go by night in secret, so that no one should hear or see you, dig up my unhappy son, and bury him,’ she said, ‘outside the cemetery.’ And I suppose she stood them a glass... And the watchmen did so. The stone with the inscription on it is there to this day, but he himself, the General’s son, is outside the cemetery.... O Lord, forgive us our transgressions!” sighed the fish-hawker. “There is only one day in the year when one may pray for such people: the Saturday before Trinity.... You mustn’t give alms to beggars for their sake, it is a sin, but you may feed the birds for the rest of their souls. The General’s lady used to go out to the crossroads every three days to feed the birds. Once at the cross-roads a black dog suddenly appeared; it ran up to the bread, and was such a... we all know what that dog was. The General’s lady was like a half-crazy creature for five days afterwards, she neither ate nor drank.... All at once she fell on her knees in the garden, and prayed and prayed.... Well, good-by, friends, the blessing of God and the Heavenly Mother be with you. Let us go, Mihailo, you’ll open the gate for me.”
The fish-hawker and the porter went out. The coachman and Alyoshka went out too, so as not to be left in the coach-house.
“The man was living and is dead!” said the coachman, looking towards the windows where shadows were still flitting to and fro. “Only this morning he was walking about the yard, and now he is lying dead.”
“The time will come and we shall die too,” said the porter, walking away with the fish-hawker, and at once they both vanished from sight in the darkness.
The coachman, and Alyoshka after him, somewhat timidly went up to the lighted windows. A very pale lady with large tear stained eyes, and a fine-looking gray headed man were moving two card-tables into the middle of the room, probably with the intention of laying the dead man upon them, and on the green cloth of the table numbers could still be seen written in chalk. The cook who had run about the yard wailing in the morning was now standing on a chair, stretching up to try and cover the looking glass with a towel.
“Grandfather what are they doing?” asked Alyoshka in a whisper.
“They are just going to lay him on the tables,” answered his grandfather. “Let us go, child, it is bedtime.”
The coachman and Alyoshka went back to the coach-house. They said their prayers, and took off their boots. Stepan lay down in a corner on the floor, Alyoshka in a sledge. The doors of the coach house were shut, there was a horrible stench from the extinguished lantern. A little later Alyoshka sat up and looked about him; through the crack of the door he could still see a light from those lighted windows.
“Grandfather, I am frightened!” he said.
“Come, go to sleep, go to sleep!...”
“I tell you I am frightened!”
“What are you frightened of? What a baby!”
They were silent.
Alyoshka suddenly jumped out of the sledge and, loudly weeping, ran to his grandfather.
“What is it? What’s the matter?” cried the coachman in a fright, getting up also.
“He’s howling!”
“Who is howling?”
“I am frightened, grandfather, do you hear?”
The coachman listened.
“It’s their crying,” he said. “Come! there, little silly! They are sad, so they are crying.”
“I want to go home,...” his grandson went on sobbing and trembling all over. “Grandfather, let us go back to the village, to mammy; come, grandfather dear, God will give you the heavenly kingdom for it....”
“What a silly, ah! Come, be quiet, be quiet! Be quiet, I will light the lantern,... silly!”
The coachman fumbled for the matches and lighted the lantern. But the light did not comfort Alyoshka.
“Grandfather Stepan, let’s go to the village!” he besought him, weeping. “I am frightened here; oh, oh, how frightened I am! And why did you bring me from the village, accursed man?”
“Who’s an accursed man? You mustn’t use such disrespectful words to your lawful grandfather. I shall whip you.”
“Do whip me, grandfather, do; beat me like Sidor’s goat, but only take me to mammy, for God’s mercy!...”
“Come, come, grandson, come!” the coachman said kindly. “It’s all right, don’t be frightened....I am frightened myself.... Say your prayers!”
The door creaked and the porter’s head appeared. “Aren’t you asleep, Stepan?” he asked. “I shan’t get any sleep all night,” he said, coming in. “I shall be opening and shutting the gates all night.... What are you crying for, Alyoshka?”
“He is frightened,” the coachman answered for his grandson.
Again there was the sound of a wailing voice in the air. The porter said:
“They are crying. The mother can’t believe her eyes.... It’s dreadful how upset she is.”
“And is the father there?”
“Yes.... The father is all right. He sits in the corner and says nothing. They have taken the children to relations.... Well, Stepan, shall we have a game of trumps?”
“Yes,” the coachman agreed, scratching himself, “and you, Alyoshka, go to sleep. Almost big enough to be married, and blubbering, you rascal. Come, go along, grandson, go along....”
The presence of the porter reassured Alyoshka. He went, not very resolutely, towards the sledge and lay down. And while he was falling asleep he heard a half-whisper.
“I beat and cover,” said his grandfather.
“I beat and cover,” repeated the porter.
The bell rang in the yard, the door creaked and seemed also saying: “I beat and cover.” When Alyoshka dreamed of the gentleman and, frightened by his eyes, jumped up and burst out crying, it was morning, his grandfather was snoring, and the coach-house no longer seemed terrible.


15. THE HEAD GARDENER’S STORY

A SALE of flowers was taking place in Count N.’s greenhouses. The purchasers were few in number — a landowner who was a neighbor of mine, a young timber-merchant, and myself. While the workmen were carrying out our magnificent purchases and packing them into the carts, we sat at the entry of the greenhouse and chatted about one thing and another. It is extremely pleasant to sit in a garden on a still April morning, listening to the birds, and watching the flowers brought out into the open air and basking in the sunshine.
The head-gardener, Mihail Karlovitch, a venerable old man with a full shaven face, wearing a fur waistcoat and no coat, superintended the packing of the plants himself, but at the same time he listened to our conversation in the hope of hearing something new. He was an intelligent, very good-hearted man, respected by everyone. He was for some reason looked upon by everyone as a German, though he was in reality on his father’s side Swedish, on his mother’s side Russian, and attended the Orthodox church. He knew Russian, Swedish, and German. He had read a good deal in those languages, and nothing one could do gave him greater pleasure than lending him some new book or talking to him, for instance, about Ibsen.
He had his weaknesses, but they were innocent ones: he called himself the head gardener, though there were no under-gardeners; the expression of his face was unusually dignified and haughty; he could not endure to be contradicted, and liked to be listened to with respect and attention.
"That young fellow there I can recommend to you as an awful rascal," said my neighbor, pointing to a laborer with a swarthy, gipsy face, who drove by with the water-barrel. "Last week he was tried in the town for burglary and was acquitted; they pronounced him mentally deranged, and yet look at him, he is the picture of health. Scoundrels are very often acquitted nowadays in Russia on grounds of abnormality and aberration, yet these acquittals, these unmistakable proofs of an indulgent attitude to crime, lead to no good. They demoralize the masses, the sense of justice is blunted in all as they become accustomed to seeing vice unpunished, and you know in our age one may boldly say in the words of Shakespeare that in our evil and corrupt age virtue must ask forgiveness of vice."
"That’s very true," the merchant assented. "Owing to these frequent acquittals, murder and arson have become much more common. Ask the peasants."
Mihail Karlovitch turned towards us and said:
"As far as I am concerned, gentlemen, I am always delighted to meet with these verdicts of not guilty. I am not afraid for morality and justice when they say ’Not guilty,’ but on the contrary I feel pleased. Even when my conscience tells me the jury have made a mistake in acquitting the criminal, even then I am triumphant. Judge for yourselves, gentlemen; if the judges and the jury have more faith in man than in evidence, material proofs, and speeches for the prosecution, is not that faith in man in itself higher than any ordinary considerations? Such faith is only attainable by those few who understand and feel Christ."
"A fine thought," I said.
"But it’s not a new one. I remember a very long time ago I heard a legend on that subject. A very charming legend," said the gardener, and he smiled. "I was told it by my grandmother, my father’s mother, an excellent old lady. She told me it in Swedish, and it does not sound so fine, so classical, in Russian."
But we begged him to tell it and not to be put off by the coarseness of the Russian language. Much gratified, he deliberately lighted his pipe, looked angrily at the laborers, and began:
"There settled in a certain little town a solitary, plain, elderly gentleman called Thomson or Wilson — but that does not matter; the surname is not the point. He followed an honorable profession: he was a doctor. He was always morose and unsociable, and only spoke when required by his profession. He never visited anyone, never extended his acquaintance beyond a silent bow, and lived as humbly as a hermit. The fact was, he was a learned man, and in those days learned men were not like other people. They spent their days and nights in contemplation, in reading and in healing disease, looked upon everything else as trivial, and had no time to waste a word. The inhabitants of the town understood this, and tried not to worry him with their visits and empty chatter. They were very glad that God had sent them at last a man who could heal diseases, and were proud that such a remarkable man was living in their town. ’He knows everything,’ they said about him.
"But that was not enough. They ought to have also said, ’He loves everyone.’ In the breast of that learned man there beat a wonderful angelic heart. Though the people of that town were strangers and not his own people, yet he loved them like children, and did not spare himself for them. He was himself ill with consumption, he had a cough, but when he was summoned to the sick he forgot his own illness he did not spare himself and, gasping for breath, climbed up the hills however high they might be. He disregarded the sultry heat and the cold, despised thirst and hunger. He would accept no money and strange to say, when one of his patients died, he would follow the coffin with the relations, weeping.
"And soon he became so necessary to the town that the inhabitants wondered how they could have got on before without the man. Their gratitude knew no bounds. Grown-up people and children, good and bad alike, honest men and cheats — all in fact, respected him and knew his value. In the little town and all the surrounding neighborhood there was no man who would allow himself to do anything disagreeable to him; indeed, they would never have dreamed of it. When he came out of his lodging, he never fastened the doors or windows, in complete confidence that there was no thief who could bring himself to do him wrong. He often had in the course of his medical duties to walk along the highroads, through the forests and mountains haunted by numbers of hungry vagrants; but he felt that he was in perfect security.
"One night he was returning from a patient when robbers fell upon him in the forest, but when they recognized him, they took off their hats respectfully and offered him something to eat. When he answered that he was not hungry, they gave him a warm wrap and accompanied him as far as the town, happy that fate had given them the chance in some small way to show their gratitude to the benevolent man. Well, to be sure, my grandmother told me that even the horses and the cows and the dogs knew him and expressed their joy when they met him.
"And this man who seemed by his sanctity to have guarded himself from every evil, to whom even brigands and frenzied men wished nothing but good, was one fine morning found murdered. Covered with blood, with his skull broken, he was lying in a ravine, and his pale face wore an expression of amazement. Yes, not horror but amazement was the emotion that had been fixed upon his face when he saw the murderer before him. You can imagine the grief that overwhelmed the inhabitants of the town and the surrounding districts. All were in despair, unable to believe their eyes, wondering who could have killed the man. The judges who conducted the inquiry and examined the doctor’s body said: ’Here we have all the signs of a murder, but as there is not a man in the world capable of murdering our doctor, obviously it was not a case of murder, and the combination of evidence is due to simple chance. We must suppose that in the darkness he fell into the ravine of himself and was mortally injured.’
"The whole town agreed with this opinion. The doctor was buried, and nothing more was said about a violent death. The existence of a man who could have the baseness and wickedness to kill the doctor seemed incredible. There is a limit even to wickedness, isn’t there?
"All at once, would you believe it, chance led them to discovering the murderer. A vagrant who had been many times convicted, notorious for his vicious life, was seen selling for drink a snuff-box and watch that had belonged to the doctor. When he was questioned he was confused, and answered with an obvious lie. A search was made, and in his bed was found a shirt with stains of blood on the sleeves, and a doctor’s lancet set in gold. What more evidence was wanted? They put the criminal in prison. The inhabitants were indignant, and at the same time said:
" ’It’s incredible! It can’t be so! Take care that a mistake is not made; it does happen, you know, that evidence tells a false tale.’
"At his trial the murderer obstinately denied his guilt. Everything was against him, and to be convinced of his guilt was as easy as to believe that this earth is black; but the judges seem to have gone mad: they weighed every proof ten times, looked distrustfully at the witnesses, flushed crimson and sipped water. . . . The trial began early in the morning and was only finished in the evening.
"’Accused!’ the chief judge said, addressing the murderer, ’the court has found you guilty of murdering Dr. So-and-so, and has sentenced you to. . . .’
"The chief judge meant to say ’to the death penalty,’ but he dropped from his hands the paper on which the sentence was written, wiped the cold sweat from his face, and cried out:
" ’No! May God punish me if I judge wrongly, but I swear he is not guilty. I cannot admit the thought that there exists a man who would dare to murder our friend the doctor! A man could not sink so low!’
" ’There cannot be such a man!’ the other judges assented.
" ’No,’ the crowd cried. ’Let him go!’
"The murderer was set free to go where he chose, and not one soul blamed the court for an unjust verdict. And my grandmother used to say that for such faith in humanity God forgave the sins of all the inhabitants of that town. He rejoices when people believe that man is His image and semblance, and grieves if, forgetful of human dignity, they judge worse of men than of dogs. The sentence of acquittal may bring harm to the inhabitants of the town, but on the other hand, think of the beneficial influence upon them of that faith in man — a faith which does not remain dead, you know; it raises up generous feelings in us, and always impels us to love and respect every man. Every man! And that is important."
Mihail Karlovitch had finished. My neighbor would have urged some objection, but the head-gardener made a gesture that signified that he did not like objections; then he walked away to the carts, and, with an expression of dignity, went on looking after the packing.


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