Two equipages are again brought to the porch of the Petrovskoe house; one is a coach, in which sit Mimi, Katenka, Liubotchka, and the maid, with the steward Yakoff on the box; the other is a britchka, in which ride Volodya and I, and the footman Vasily, who had recently been taken from obrok. [Footnote: A sum paid to the proprietor by a serf in lieu of personal service. Many serfs of both sexes exercised various trades in the cities, and their obrok often yielded their masters quite a sum. --Tr.]
Papa, who was to follow us to Moscow in a few days, stands on the porch without his hat, and makes the sign of the cross upon the window of the coach and britchka.
"Well, Christ be with you! Drive on!" Yakoff and the coachman (we are traveling in our own carriage) take off their hats, and cross themselves. "Get up! Get up! In God's name!"
The bodies of the carriage and britchka begin to jolt over the uneven road, and the birches along the great avenue fly past us one by one. I am not at all sad; my mental gaze is fixed, not upon what I am leaving, but upon what awaits me. In proportion as the objects connected with the painful memories which have filled my mind until this moment retreat into the distance, these memories lose their force, and are speedily replaced by a consoling sense of acquaintanceship with life, which is full of force, freshness, and hope.
Rarely have I spent days so - I will not say merrily, for I was still rather conscience-stricken at the idea of yielding to merriment - but so agreeably, so pleasantly, as the four during which our journey lasted.
I had no longer before my eyes the closed door of mamma's room, which I could not pass without a shudder; nor the closed piano, which no one approached, but which every one regarded with a sort of fear; nor the mourning garments (we all had on simple traveling suits), nor any of those things which, by recalling to me vividly my irrevocable loss, made me avoid every appearance of life, from the fear of offending *her* memory in some way. Here, on the other hand, new and picturesque spots and objects arrest and divert my attention, and nature in its spring garb fixes firmly in my mind the cheering sense of satisfaction in the present, and bright hopes for the future.
Early, very early in the morning, pitiless Vasily, who is overzealous, as people always are in new situations, pulls off the coverlet, and announces that it is time to set out, and that everything is ready. Snuggle and rage and contrive as you will to prolong even for another quarter of an hour the sweet morning slumber, you see by Vasily's determined face that he is inexorable, and prepared to drag off the coverlet twenty times; so you jump up, and run out into the yard to wash yourself.
The samovar is already boiling in the anteroom, and Mitka, the outrider, is blowing it until he is as red as a crab. It is damp and dark out of doors, as though the steam were rising from an odoriferous dung-heap; the sun illuminates with a bright, cheerful light the eastern sky and the straw roofs of the ample sheds surrounding the courtyard, which are sparkling with dew. Beneath them our horses are visible, hitched about the fodder, and the peaceful sound of their mastication is audible.
A shaggy black dog, who has lain down upon a dry heap of manure before dawn, stretches lazily, and betakes himself to the other side of the yard at a gentle trot, wagging his tail the while. The busy housewife opens the creaking gates, drives the meditative cows into the street, where the tramp, lowing, and bleating of herds is already audible, and exchanges a word with her sleepy neighbor. Philip, with the sleeves of his shirt stripped up, draws the bucket from the deep well, all dripping with clear water, by means of the wheel, and empties it into an oaken trough, about which wide-awake ducks are already splashing in the pool; and I gaze with pleasure upon Philip's handsome face with its great beard, and at the thick sinews and muscles which are sharply defined upon his bare, hairy arms when he makes any exertion.
Behind the screen where Mimi slept with the girls, and over which we had conversed in the evening, a movement is audible. Mascha runs past us repeatedly with various objects which she endeavors to conceal from our curiosity with her dress; and finally she opens the door, and calls us to drink our tea.
Vasily, in a fit of superfluous zeal, runs into the room incessantly, carries out first one thing, then another, winks at us, and in every way exhorts Marya Ivanovna to set out as speedily as possible. The horses are harnessed, and express their impatience by jingling their bells every now and then; the trunks, chests, caskets, dressing-cases, are again packed away, and we take our seats. But each time we find a mountain inside the britchka instead of a seat, so that it is impossible to understand how all this had been arranged the day before, and how we are going to sit now. One walnut-wood tea-caddy with a triangular cover, in particular, which is entrusted to us in the britchka, is placed under me, and enrages me extremely. But Vasily says that will settle down, and I am forced to believe him.
The sun has but just risen above the dense white clouds which veil the east, and all the country round about is illuminated with a quietly cheerful light. All is so very beautiful about me, and I am so tranquil and light of heart. The road winds away in front like a wide, unconfined ribbon, amid fields of dry stubble, and herbage sparkling with dew. Here and there by the roadside, we come upon a gloomy willow, or a young birch with small, sticky leaves, casting a long, motionless shadow upon the dry clayey ruts and the short green grass of the highway. The monotonous song of the wheels and bells does not drown the sound of the larks, who circle close to the very road. The smell of moth-eaten cloth, of dust, and a certain sourness, which characterizes our britchka, is overpowered by the perfume of the morning; and I feel a joyous uneasiness in my soul, a desire to do something, which is a sign of true enjoyment.
I had not managed to say my prayers at the post-house; but as I have more than once observed that some misfortune happens to me on the day when, from any circumstance, I forget to fulfil this ceremony, I make an effort to repair my mistake. I take off my cap, turn to the corner of the britchka, recite some prayers, and cross myself under my jacket so that no one may see it. But a thousand different objects distract my attention; and I repeat the same words of the prayer several times over, in my absence of mind.
Yonder on the foot-path which winds beside the road, some slowly moving figures are visible; they are pilgrims. Their heads are enveloped in dirty cloths; sacks of birch-bark are bound upon their backs; their feet are wrapped in dirty, tattered foot-bands, and shod in heavy bast shoes. Swaying their staves in unison, and hardly glancing at us, they move on with a heavy, deliberate tread, one after the other; and questions take possession of my mind, - whither are they going, and why? Will their journey last long? And will the long shadows which they cast upon the road soon unite with the shadow of the willow which they must pass? Here a calash with four post-horses comes rapidly to meet us. Two seconds more, and the faces which looked at us with polite curiosity at a distance of two arshins [Footnote: An arshin is twenty- eight inches.] have already flashed past; and it seems strange that these faces have nothing in common with me, and that, in all probability, I shall never behold them again.
Here come two shaggy, perspiring horses, galloping along the side of the road in their halters, with the traces knotted up to the breech- strap; and behind, with his long legs and huge shoes dangling on each side of a horse, over whose withers hangs the *dug* [Footnote: Arch over the middle horse of a troika, or three horses harnessed abreast. Pronounced *doog*. --Tr.], and who jingles his little bells almost inaudibly now and then, rides a young lad of a postilion, with his felt cap cocked over one ear, drawling a long-drawn-out song. His face and attitude are expressive of so much lazy, careless content, that it seems to me it would be the height of bliss to be a post-boy, to ride the horses home, and sing melancholy songs. Yonder, far beyond the ravine, a village church with its green roof is visible against the bright blue sky; yonder is a hamlet, the red roof of a gentleman's house, and a green garden. Who lives in this house? Are there children in it, father, mother, tutor? Why should we not go to this house, and make the acquaintance of the owner? Here is a long train of huge wagons harnessed to troikas of well-fed, thick-legged horses, which are obliged to turn out to pass. "What are you carrying?" inquires Vasily of the first carter, who, with his big feet hanging from the board which forms his seat, and flourishing his whip, regards us for a long time with an intent mindless gaze, and only makes some sort of reply when it is impossible for him not to hear. "With what wares do you travel?" Vasily asks, turning to another team, upon whose railed-in front lies another carter beneath a new rug. A blond head, accompanied by a red face and a reddish beard, is thrust out from beneath the rug for a moment; it casts a glance of indifferent scorn upon us, and disappears again; and the thought occurs to me that these carters surely cannot know who we are and whither we are going.
Absorbed in varied meditations, for an hour and a half I pay no heed to the crooked numbers inscribed upon the verst-stones. But now the sun begins to warm my head and back with more fervor, the road grows more dusty, the triangular cover of the tea-caddy begins to discommode me greatly, and I change my position several times. I am becoming hot and uncomfortable and bored. My whole attention is directed to the verst- stones, and the figures upon them. I make various mathematical calculations as to the time it will take us to reach the station.
"Twelve versts make one-third of thirty-six, and it is forty-one to Lipetz; consequently we have traveled only one-third and how much?" and so forth.
"Vasily," I say, when I observe that he is beginning to nod upon the box, "let me come on the box, that's a dear." Vasily consents: we change places; he immediately begins to snore and roll about so that there is no room left for any one in the britchka; and before me, from the height which I occupy, the most delightful picture presents itself, - our four horses, Nerutchinskaya [Footnote: The off horse.], the chanter, Lyevaya, the pole-horse, and Apothecary, all of whom I know by heart in the most minute details and shades of each quality.
"Why is the Chanter on the right side today instead of the left, Philip?" I inquire with diffidence.
"And Nerutchinskaya is not drawing at all," I say.
"It is impossible to harness the Chanter on the left," says Philip, paying no attention to my last remark. "He is not the kid of horse which can be harnessed on the left; on the left a horse is needed which is a horse, in one word, and he's not such a horse as that."
And with these words, Philip bends over to the right and, pulling on the reins with all his might, he begins to whip poor Chanter on the tail and legs in a peculiar manner from below; and in spite of the fact that Chanter tries with all his might, and drags the whole britchka along, Philip ceases this maneuver only when he finds it necessary to take a rest and tip his hat over on one side, for some unknown reason, although it was sitting very properly and firmly on his head already. I take advantage of this favorable opportunity, and beg Philip to let me drive. At first Philip gives me one rein, then another; and finally all six reins and the whip are transferred to my hands, and I am perfectly happy. I endeavor in every way to imitate Philip; I ask him whether *that* is right; but it generally ends in his being dissatisfied with me; he says that one horse is pulling a great deal and that another is not pulling at all, thrusts his elbow out in front of my breast, and takes the reins away from me. The heat increases continually. The little white clouds, which we call sheep, begin to puff up higher and higher, like soap-bubbles, then unite and take on a dark gray tint. A hand, holding a bottle and a little package, emerges from the coach window. Vasily leaps from the box with wonderful agility, while we are in motion, and brings us little cheesecakes and kvas.
We all alight from the carriages at a sharp descent, and sometimes have a race to the bridge, while Vasily and Yakoff put on the brakes, and support the coach on both sides with their hands as though they were able to restrain it if it fell. Then, with Mimi's permission, either I or Volodya seat ourselves in the coach, and Liubotchka or Katenka takes the place in the britchka. These changes afford the girls great pleasure, because, as they justly decide, it is jollier in the britchka. Sometimes, when it is hot, and we are passing through the woods, we linger behind the coach, tear off green boughs, and build an arbor in the britchka. This moving arbor overtakes the coach, and Liubotchka pipes up in the most piercing of voices, which she never forgets to do on any occasion which affords her pleasure.
But here is the village where we are to dine and rest. We have already smelled the village, the smoke, tar, lamb-skins. We have heard the sound of conversation, steps, and wheels; the bells already sound differently from what they did in the open fields; and cottages appear on either side with their thatched roofs, carved wooden porches, and little windows with red and green shutters, between which the face of a curious woman peeps out. Here are the little peasant boys and girls, clad only in thin little smocks, who open their eyes wide, and throw out their hands and stand motionless on one spot, or run Swiftly with their little bare feet through the dust, after the carriages, and try to climb upon the trunks, in spite of Philip's menacing gestures. The blond inhabitants hasten up to the carriages from every direction, and endeavor, with alluring words and gestures, to entice the travelers from each other. Tpru! The gate creaks, the traces catch on the gate- posts, and we enter the courtyard. Four hours of rest and freedom!
The sun declined toward the west, and burned my neck and cheeks intolerably with its hot, slanting rays. It was impossible to touch the scorching sides of the britchka. The dust rose thickly in the road, and filled the air. There was not the slightest breeze to carry it away. In front of us, and always at the same distance, rolled the tall, dusty body of the coach with the boot, from behind which, now and then, the knout was visible as the coachman flourished it, as well as his hat and Yakoff's cap. I did not know what to do with myself; neither Volodya's face, which was black with dust, as he dozed beside me, nor the movements of Philip's back, nor the long shadow of our britchka, which followed us beneath the oblique rays of the sun, afforded me any diversion. My entire attention was directed to the verst-stones, which I perceived in the distance, and to the clouds, which had before been scattered over the sky, and assuming threatening, black hues, had now collected into one big, dark mass. From time to time, the thunder rumbled afar. This last circumstance, more than all the rest, increased my impatience to reach the post-house as speedily as possible. A thunder-storm occasioned me an indescribably oppressive sensation of sadness and terror.
It is still ten versts to the nearest village; but the great, dark, purple cloud which has collected, God knows whence, without the smallest breeze, is moving swiftly upon us. The sun, which is not yet hidden by the clouds, brightly illumines its dark form and the gray streaks which extend from it to the very horizon. From time to time, the lightning flashes in the distance; and a faint, dull roar is audible, which gradually increases in volume, approaches, and changes into broken peals which embrace the whole heavens. Vasily rises from the box, and raises the cover of the britchka. The coachmen put on their long coats, and, at every clap of thunder, remove their caps and cross themselves. The horses prick up their ears, puff out their nostrils as if smelling the fresh air which is wafted from the approaching thunder-cloud, and the britchka rolls faster along the dusty road. I feel oppressed, and am conscious that the blood courses more rapidly through my veins. But the advance-guard of clouds already begins to conceal the sun; now it has peeped forth for the last time, has illumined the terribly dark portion of the horizon, and vanished. The entire landscape suddenly undergoes a change, and assumes a gloomy character. The ash woods quiver; the leaves take on a kind of dull whitish hue, and stand out against the purple background of cloud, and rustle and flutter; the crowns of the great birches begin to rock, and tufts of dry grass fly across the road. The water and white-breasted swallows circle about the britchka, and fly beneath the horses, as though with the intention of stopping us; daws with ruffled wings fly sideways to the wind; the edges of the leather apron, which we have buttoned up, begin to rise, and admit bursts of moist wind, and flap and beat against the body of the carriage. The lightning seems to flash in the britchka itself, dazzles the vision, and for a moment lights up the gray cloth, the border gimp, and Volodya's figure cowering in a corner. At the same moment, directly above our heads, a majestic roar resounds, which seems to rise ever higher and higher, and to spread ever wider and wider, in a vast spiral, gradually gaining force, until it passes into a deafening crash, which causes one involuntarily to tremble and hold one's breath. The wrath of God! How much poetry there is in this conception of the common people!
The wheels whirl faster and faster. From the backs of Vasily, and of Philip, who is flourishing his reins, I perceive that they are afraid. The britchka rolls swiftly down the hill, and thunders over the bridge of planks. I am afraid to move, and momentarily await our universal destruction.
Tpru! The trace is broken, and, in spite of the unceasing, deafening claps of thunder, we are forced to halt upon the bridge.
I lean my head against the side of the britchka, and, catching my breath with a sinking of the heart, I listen despairingly to the movements of Philip's fat black fingers, as he slowly ties a knot, and straightens out the traces and strikes the side horse with palm and whip-handle.
The uneasy feelings of sadness and terror increased within me with the force of the storm; but when the grand moment of silence arrived, which generally precedes the thunder-clap, these feelings had reached such a point that, if this state of things had lasted a quarter of an hour longer, I am convinced that I should have died of excitement. At the same moment, there appears from beneath the bridge a human form, clothed only in a dirty, ragged shirt, with a bloated, senseless face, a shaven, wagging, totally uncovered head, crooked, nerveless legs, and a shining red stump in place of a hand, which he thrusts out directly at the britchka.
"Ba-a-shka! [Footnote: Imperfect pronunciation of *batiushka*, little father.] Help-a-cripple for-Christ's-sake!" says the beggar, beginning to repeat his petition by rote, in a weak voice, as he crosses himself at every word, and bows to his very belt.
I cannot describe the feeling of chill terror which took possession of my soul at that moment. A shudder ran through my hair, and my eyes were riveted on the beggar, in a stupor of fright.
Vasily, who bestows the alms on the journey, is giving Philip directions how to strengthen the trace; and it is only when all is ready, and Philip, gathering up the reins, climbs upon the box, that he begins to draw something from his side pocket. But we have no sooner started than a dazzling flash of lightning, which fills the whole ravine for a moment with its fiery glare, brings the horses to a stand, and is accompanied, without the slightest interval, by such a deafening clap of thunder that it seems as though the whole vault of heaven were falling in ruins upon us. The wind increases; the manes and tails of the horses, Vasily's cloak, and the edges of the apron, take one direction, and flutter wildly in the bursts of the raging gale. A great drop of rain falls heavily upon the leather hood of the britchka, then a second, a third, a fourth; and all at once it beats upon us like a drum, and the whole landscape resounds with the regular murmur of falling rain. I perceive, from the movement of Vasily's elbow, that he is untying his purse; the beggar, still crossing himself and bowing, runs close to the wheel, so that it seems as if he would be crushed. "Give-for-Christ's-sake!" At last a copper groschen flies past us, and the wretched creature halts with surprise in the middle of the road; his smock, wet through and through, and clinging to his lean limbs, flutters in the gale, and he disappears from our sight.
The slanting rain, driven before a strong wind, poured down as from a bucket; streams trickled from Vasily's frieze back into the puddle of dirty water which had collected on the apron. The dust, which at first had been beaten into pellets, was converted into liquid mud, which the wheels kneaded; the jolts became fewer, and turbid brooks flowed in the clayey ruts. The lightning flashes grew broader and paler; the thunder-claps were no longer so startling after the uniform sound of the rain.
Now the rain grows less violent; the thunder-cloud begins to disperse into undulating cloudlets; light appears in the place where the sun should be, and a scrap of clear azure is almost visible through the grayish white edges of the thunder-cloud. A moment more, and a timid ray of sunlight gleams in the pools along the road, upon the sheets of fine, perpendicular rain which fall as if through a sieve, and upon the shining, newly washed verdure of the wayside grass.
The black thunder-cloud overspreads the opposite portion of the sky in equally threatening fashion, but I no longer fear it. I experience an expressibly joyous feeling of hope in life, which has quickly taken the place of my oppressive sensation of fear. My soul smiles, like nature, refreshed and enlivened.
Vasily turns down his coat-collar, takes off his cap, and shakes it; Volodya throws back the apron; I lean out of the britchka, and eagerly drink in the fresh, perfumed air. The shining, well-washed body of the coach, with its boot and trunks, rolls along in front of us; the backs of the horses, the breeching and reins, the tires of the wheels, all are wet, and glitter in the sun as though covered with lacquer. On one side of the road a limitless field of winter wheat, intersected here and there by shallow channels, gleams with damp earth and verdure, and spreads, in a carpet of varying tints, to the very horizon; on the other side an ash grove, with an undergrowth of nut-bushes and wild cherry, stands as in an overflow of bliss, quite motionless, and slowly sheds the bright raindrops from its well-washed branches upon last year's dry leaves. Crested larks flutter about on all sides with joyous song and fall; in the wet bushes the uneasy movements of little birds are audible, and the note of the cuckoo is wafted distinctly from the heart of the wood. The marvelous perfume of the forest is so enchanting after this spring thunder-storm, the scent of the birches, the violets, the dead leaves, the mushrooms, the wild cherry trees, that I cannot sit still in the britchka, bur jump from the step, run to the bushes, and in spite of the shower of raindrops I tear off wet branches of the fluttering cherry trees, switch my face with them, and drink in their wondrous perfume.
Without heeding the fact that great clods of mud adhere to my boots, and that my stockings are wet through long ago, I splash through the mud, as a run, to the window of the coach.
"Liubotchka! Katenka!" I cry, handing in several branches of cherry, "see how beautiful!"
The girls squeal, and cry "Ah!" Mimi screams that I am to go away, or I shall infallibly be crushed.
"See how sweet it is!" I shout.
Katenka was sitting beside me in the britchka, and, with her pretty head bent, was thoughtfully watching the dusty road as it flew past beneath the wheels. I gazed at her in silence, and wondered at the sad, unchildish expression which I encountered for the first time on her rosy little face.
"We shall soon be in Moscow now," said I. "What do you think it is like?"
"I do not know," she answered unwillingly.
"But what do you think? Is it bigger that Serpukhoff, or not?"
But through that instinct by means of which one person divines the thoughts of another, and which serves as a guiding thread in conversation, Katenka understood that her indifference pained me; she raised her head, and turned toward me.
"Your papa has told you that we are to live with grandmamma?"
"Yes, grandmamma insists on our living with her."
"And we are all to live there?"
"Of course; we shall live upstairs in one half of the house; you will live in the other half, and papa will live in the wing; but we shall all dine together downstairs with grandmamma."
"Mamma says that your grandmother is so majestic - and cross."
"No-o! She only seems so at first. She is majestic, but not at all cross; on the contrary, she is very kind and cheerful. If you had only seen what a ball we had on her name-day!"
"Nevertheless, I am afraid of her; and besides, God knows if we shall ...."
Katenka stopped suddenly, and again fell into thought.
"What is it?" I asked uneasily.
"Yes, but you said, 'God knows....'"
"And you said, 'What a ball we had at grandmamma's.'"
"Yes, it's a pity that you were not there; there were ever so many guests, - forty people, music, generals, and I danced. Katenka!" I said all at once, pausing in the middle of my description, "you are not listening."
"Yes, I am; you said that you danced."
"Why are you so sad?"
"One can't be gay all the time."
"No; you have changed greatly since we returned from Moscow. Tell me truly," I added, with a look of determination, as I turned toward her, "why have you grown so strange?"
"Am I strange?" replied Katenka, with an animation which showed that my remark interested her. "I am not at all strange."
"You are not as you were formerly," I went on. "It used to be evident that we were one in everything, that you regarded us as relatives, and loved us, just as we did you; and now you have become so serious, you keep apart from us...."
"Not at all!"
"No, let me finish," I interrupted, already beginning to be conscious of a slight tickling in my nose, which preceded the tears that were always rising to my eyes, when I gave utterance to a long-repressed, tender thought. "You withdraw from us; you talk only with Mimi, as if you did not want to have anything to do with us."
"Well, it's impossible to remain the same always; one must change sometime," replied Katenka, who had a habit of explaining everything by a kind of fatalistic necessity, when she did not know what to say.
I remember that once, after quarreling with Liubotchka, who had called her a *stupid little girl*, she answered, "Everybody cannot be wise; some people must be stupid." But this reply, that a change was necessary sometime, did not satisfy me, and I pursued my inquires: --
"Why is it necessary?"
"Why, we can't live together always," answered Katenka, reddening slightly, and staring steadily at Philip's back. "My mamma could live with your dead mamma, because she was her friend; but God knows whether she will get along with the countess, who is said to be so cross. Besides, we must part some day, in any case. You are rich, you have Petrovskoe; but we are poor, my mamma has nothing.
You are rich; we are poor! These words, and the ideas connected with them, seemed very strange to me. According to my notions at that period, only beggars and peasants could be poor, and this idea of poverty I could never reconcile in my imagination with pretty, graceful Katenka. It seemed to me that, since Mimi and Katenka had once lived with us, they would always do so, and share everything equally. It could not be otherwise. But now a thousand new, undefined thoughts, touching their equality of position, dawned on my brain; and I was so ashamed that we were rich, that I blushed, and positively could not look Katenka in the face.
"What does it mean?" I thought, "that we are rich and they are poor? And how does that entail the necessity of a separation? Why cannot we share what we have equally?" But I understood that it was not fitting that I should speak to Katenka about this; and some practical instinct, which ran contrary to these logical deductions, already told me that she was right, and that it would be out of place to explain this idea to her.
"Are you actually going to leave us?" I said. "How shall we live apart?"
"What is to be done? It pains me too; but if this takes place, I know what I shall do."
"You will become an actress! What nonsense!" I broke in, knowing that ithad always been one of her cherished dreams to be an actress.
"No; I said that when I was very small."
"What will you do, then?"
"I will go into a convent, and live there, and go about in a black gown and a velvet hood."
Katenka began to cry.
Has it ever happened to you, reader, to perceive all at once, at a certain period of your life, that your view of things has entirely changed, as though all the objects which you had seen hitherto had suddenly turned another, unknown side to you? This species of moral change took place in me for the first time during our journey, from which epoch I date the beginning of my boyhood.
For the first time a distinct idea entered my head that not we, that is to say, our family, alone inhabited this world; that all interests did not revolve about us; and that there exists another life of people who have nothing in common with us, who care nothing for us, who have no idea of our existence even. No doubt, I had known all this before; but I had not known it as I knew it now. I did not acknowledge it or feel it.
A thought often passes into conviction by one familiar path, which is often entirely unexpected and apart from the paths which other souls traverse to arrive at the same conclusion. The conversation with Katenka, which affected me powerfully, and caused me to reflect upon her future position, constituted that path for me. When I looked at the villages and towns which we traversed, in every house of which lived at least one such family as ours; at the women and children who gazed after our carriages with momentary curiosity, and vanished forever from sight; at the shopkeepers and the peasants, who not only did not salute us as I was accustomed to see them do in Petrovskoe, but did not deign so much as a glance, - the question entered my mind for the first time: What could occupy them if they cared nothing for us? And from this question, others arose: How and by what means do they live? How do they bring up their children? Do the instruct them, or let them play? How do they punish them? And do forth.
On our arrival in Moscow, the change in my views of things, people, and my own relations to them became still more sensible. When, at my first meeting with grandmamma, I saw her thin, wrinkled face and dim eyes, the feeling of servile reverence and terror which I had entertained for her changed to one of pity; and when she bowed her face upon Liubotchka's head, and burst out sobbing, as though the corpse of her beloved daughter were before her eyes, even the feeling of pity in my heart was changed into love. It made me uncomfortable to see her sorrow at meeting us. I recognized the fact that we, of ourselves, were nothing in her eyes; that we were dear to her only as reminders. I felt that this thought was expressed in every one of the kisses with which she covered my cheeks: "She is dead; she is gone; I shall never see her more."
Papa, who had next to nothing to do with us in Moscow, and, with ever anxious face, came to us only at dinner-time, in a black coat or dress- suit, lost a great deal in my eyes, along with his big flaring collars, his dressing-gown, his stewards, his clerks, and his expeditions of the threshing-floor and hunting. Karl Ivanitch, whom grandmamma called *dyadka* [Footnote: Child's valet], and who had suddenly taken it into his head, God knows why, to exchange his respectable and familiar baldness for a red wig with a thread parting almost in the middle of his head, seemed to me so strange and ridiculous, that I wondered how I could have failed to remark it before.
Some invisible barrier also made its appearance between the girls and us. Both they and we had our own secrets. They seemed to take on airs before us over their petticoats, which grew longer, and we were proud of our trousers with straps. And Mimi appeared at the first Sunday dinner in such an elegant gown, and with such ribbons on her head, that it was at once apparent that we were not in the country, and that everything was to be different now.
I was only a year and some months younger than Volodya; we had grown up, studied, and played together always. The distinction of elder and younger had not been made between us. But just about the time of which I am speaking I began to comprehend that Volodya was not my comrade in years, inclinations, and qualities. It even seemed to em that Volodya recognized his superiority, and was proud of it. This conviction, possibly a false one, inspired me with self-love, which suffered at every encounter with him. He stood higher than I in everything, in amusements, in studies, in quarrels, in the knowledge of how to conduct himself; and all this removed me to a distance from him, and caused me to experience moral torments which were incomprehensible to me. If, on the first occasion when Volodya put on cambric shirts with plaits, I had said plainly that I was vexed at not having the same, I am sure that I should have been more comfortable, and it would not have seemed, every time that he adjusted his collar, that it was done solely in order to hurt my feelings.
What tormented me most of all was that Volodya understood me, as it seemed to me at times, but tried to hide it.
Who has not remarked those secret, wordless relations which are shown in an imperceptible smile, a motion, or a glance, between people who live together constantly, brothers, friends, husband and wife, master and servant, and particularly when these people are not in every respect frank with each other! How many unuttered desires, thoughts, and fears - of being understood - are expressed in one casual glance when our eyes meet timidly and irresolutely!
But possibly I was deceived on this point by my excessive sensibility, and tendency to analysis; perhaps Volodya did not feel at all as I did. He was impetuous, frank, and inconstant in his impulses. He was carried away by the most diverse objects, and he entered into them with his whole soul.
At one time a passion for pictures took possession of him; he took to drawing himself, spent all his money on it, begged of his drawing- master, of papa, and of grandmamma; then it was a passion for articles with which he decorated his table, and he collected them from all parts of the house; then a passion for romances, which he procured on the sly, and read all day and all night. I was involuntarily carried away by his hobbies; but I was too proud to follow in his footsteps, and too young and too little self-dependent to select a new path. But there was nothing which I envied so much as Volodya's happy, frank, and noble character, which was displayed with special clearness in the quarrels which took place between us. I felt that he behaved well, but could not imitate him.
Once, during the greatest fervor of his passion for ornamental articles, I went up to his table, and unintentionally broke and empty variegated little smelling-bottle.
"Who asked you to touch my things?" said Volodya, as he entered the room and perceived the havoc which I had wrought in the symmetry of the varied ornaments of his table; "and where's that little smelling- bottle? You must have ...."
"I dropped it unintentionally; it broke. Where's the harm?"
"Please never to *dare* to touch my things," he said, putting the bits of the broken bottle together, and regarding them sorrowfully.
"Please *don't give any orders*," I retorted. "I broke it, that's the end of it: what's the use of talking about it?"
And I smiled, although I had not the least desire to smile.
"Yes, it's nothing to you, but it's *something* to me," went on Volodya, making that motion of shrugging his shoulders which he had inherited from papa; "he has broken it, and yet he laughs, this intolerable *little boy!*"
"I am a little boy, but you are big and stupid."
"I don't mean to quarrel with you," said volodya, giving me a light push; "go away."
"Don't you push me!"
"Take yourself off!"
"I tell you, don't you push me!"
Volodya took me by the hand, and tried to drag me away from the table; but I was irritated to the highest degree. I seized the table by the leg, and tipped it over. "Take that!" and all the ornaments of porcelain and glass were shivered in pieces on the floor.
"You disgusting little boy!" shrieked Volodya, attempting to uphold the falling ornaments.
"Well, everything is at an end between us now!" I thought, as I quitted the room; "we have quarreled forever."
We did not speak to each other until evening; I felt myself in the wrong, was afraid to look at him, and could not occupy myself with anything all day long. Volodya, on the contrary, studied well, and chatted and laughed with the girls after dinner, as usual.
As soon as our teacher had finished his lessons, I left the room. I was too afraid, awkward, and conscience-stricken to remain alone with my brother. After the evening lesson in history, I took my note-book, and started toward the door. As I passed Volodya, in spite of the fact that I wanted to go up to him and make peace, I pouted, and tried to put on an angry face. Volodya raised his head just at that moment, and, with a barely perceptible, good-naturedly derisive smile, looked boldly at me. Our eyes met, and I knew that he understood me, and also that I understood that he understood me; but an insuperable feeling made me turn away.
"Nikolenka!" he said, in his usual simple and not at all pathetic voice, "you've been angry long enough. Forgive me if I insulted you."
And he gave me his hand.
All at once, something rose higher and higher in my breast, and began to oppress me, and stop my breath; tears came to my eyes, and I felt better.
"For-give me, Vol-dya!" I said, squeezing his hand.
But Volodya looked at me as though he could not at all comprehend why there were tears in my eyes.
But not one of the changes which took place in my view of things was so surprising to me myself, as that in consequence of which I ceased to regard one of our maids as a servant of the female sex, and began to regard her as a *woman*, on whom my peace and happiness might, in some degree, depend.
From the time when I can remember anything, I recall Mascha in our house; and never, until the occasion which altered my view of her completely, and which I will relate presently, did I pay the slightest attention to her. Mascha was twenty-five when I was fourteen; she was very pretty. But I am afraid to describe her. I fear lest my fancy should again present to me the enchanting and deceitful picture which existed in it during the period of my passion for her. In order to make no mistake, I will merely say that she was remarkably white, luxuriantly developed, and was a woman; and I was fourteen years old.
At one of those moments when, lesson in hand, you busy yourself with a promenade up and down the room, endeavoring to step only on one crack in the floor, or with the singing of some incoherent air, or the smearing of the edge of the table with ink, or the repetition, without the application of any thought, of some phrase, - in a word, at one of those moments when the mind refuses to act, and the imagination, assuming the upper hand, seeks an impression, - I stepped out of the school-room, and went down to the landing, without any object whatever.
Some one in slippers was ascending the next turn of the stairs. Of course I wanted to know who it was; but the sound of the footsteps suddenly ceased, and I heard Mascha's voice: -
"Now, what are you playing pranks for? Will it be well when Marya Ivanovna comes?"
"She won't come," said Volodya's voice in a whisper, and then there was some movement, as if Volodya had attempted to detain her.
"Now what are you doing with your hands? You shameless fellow!" and Mascha ran past me with her neckerchief pushed to one side, so that her plump white neck was visible beneath it.
I cannot express the degree of amazement which this discovery caused me; but the feeling of amazement soon gave way to sympathy with Volodya's caper. What surprised me was not his behavior, but how he had got at the idea that it was pleasant to behave so. And involuntarily I began to want to imitate him.
I sometimes spent whole hours on that landing, without a single thought, listening with strained attention to the slightest movement which proceeded from above; but I never could force myself to imitate Volodya, in spite of the fact that I wanted to do it more than anything else in the world. Sometimes, having concealed myself behind a door, I listened with envy and jealousy to the commotion which arose in the maids' room, and the thought occurred to me, What would be my position if I were to go upstairs, and, like Volodya, try to kiss Mascha? What should I, with my broad nose and flaunting tuft of hair, say when she asked me what I wanted? Sometimes I heard Mascha say to Volodya, "Take that to punish you! Why do you cling to me? Go away, you scamp! Why doesn't Nikolai Petrovitch ever come here and make a fool of himself?" She did not know that Nikolai Petrovitch was at that moment sitting under the stairs, and would have given everything in the world to be in the place of the scamp Volodya.
I was modest by nature, but my modesty was further increased by the conviction of my own ugliness. And I am sure that nothing has such a decisive influence upon a man's course as his personal appearance, and not so much his appearance as his belief in its attractiveness or unattractiveness.
I was too egotistical to become accustomed to my position, and consoled myself, like the fox, by assuring myself that the grapes were still green; that is to say, I endeavored to despise all the pleasures derived from the pleasing exterior which Volodya enjoyed in my eyes, and which I envied with all my soul, and I strained every nerve of my mind and imagination to find solace in proud solitude.
"My God, powder!" screamed Mimi, panting with emotion. "What are you doing? Do you want to burn the house down, and ruin us all?"
And, with an indescribable expression of firmness, Mimi commanded all to retire, walked up to the scattered shot with long and determined strides, and despising the danger which might result from a premature explosion, she began to stamp it out with her feet. When, in her opinion, the danger was averted, she called Mikhei, and ordered him to fling all that *powder* as far away as possible, or, what was better still, into the water; and, proudly smoothing her cap, she betook herself to the drawing-room. "They are well looked after, there's no denying that," she grumbled.
When papa came from the wing, and we accompanied him to grandmamma, Mimi was already seated near the window in her room, gazing threateningly at the door with a certain mysteriously official expression. She held something enveloped in several papers in her hand. I guessed that it was the shot, and that grandmamma already knew everything.
In grandmamma's room there were, besides Mimi, Gascha the maid, who, as was evident from her red and angry face, was very much put out; and Dr. Blumenthal, a small, pock-marked man, who was vainly endeavoring to calm Gascha by making mysterious and pacifying signs to her with his eyes and head.
Grandmamma, herself was sitting rather sideways, and laying out her "patience," the *Traveler*, which always indicated an extremely unpropitious frame of mind.
"How do you feel today, mamma? Have you slept well?" said papa, as he respectfully kissed her hand.
"Very well, my dear; I believe you know that I am always well," replied grandmamma, in a tone which seemed to indicate that papa's question was as misplaced and insulting as it could be. "Well, are you going to give me a clean handkerchief?" she continued, turning to Gascha.
"I have given it to you," replied Gascha, pointing to a cambric handkerchief, as white as snow, which lay on the arm of the chair.
"Take away that dirty thing, and give me a clean one, my dear."
Gascha went to the chiffonnier, pulled out a drawer, and slammed it in again with such force that all the glass in the room rattled. Grandmamma glanced round with a threatening look at all of us, and continued to watch the maid's movements attentively. When the latter gave her what appeared to me to be the same handkerchief, grandmamma said: --
"When will you grind my snuff, my dear?"
"When there's time, I'll do it."
"What did you say?"
"I'll do it today."
"If you don't wish to serve me, my dear, you might have said so; I would have discharged you long ago."
"If you discharge me, I shan't cry," muttered the maid, in a low tone.
At that moment the doctor tried to wink at her; but she looked at him with so much anger and decision that he immediately dropped his eyes, and busied himself with his watch-key.
"You see, my dear," said grandmamma, turning to papa, when Gascha, still muttering, had left the room, "how people speak to me in my own house."
"If you will permit me, mamma, I will grind your snuff," said papa, who was evidently very much embarrassed by this unexpected behavior.
"No, I thank you; she is impudent because she knows that no one but herself understands how to grind snuff as I like it. You know, my dear," went on grandmamma, after a momentary pause, "that your children came near setting the house on fire today?"
Papa gazed at grandmamma with respectful curiosity.
"This is what they play with. - Show him," she said, turning to Mimi.
Papa took the shot in his hand, and could not forbear a smile.
"Why, this is shot, mamma," said he; "it's not at all dangerous."
"I am very much obliged to you, my dear, for teaching me, only I'm too old."
"Nerves! Nerves!" whispered the doctor.
And papa immediately turned to us.
"Where did you get that? And how dare you play pranks with such things?"
"Don't ask them anything; you must ask their *dyadka*," [Footnote: Child's valet.] said grandmamma, pronouncing the word *dyadka* with particular contempt, "what he is looking after."
"Waldemar said that Karl Ivanitch himself gave him this *powder*," put in Mimi.
"Now you see what he is good for," continued grandmamma. "And where is he, that *dyadka*, what's his name? Send him here."
"I gave him leave to go out and make a visit," said papa.
"There's no sense in that; he ought to be here all the time. The children are not mine, but yours, and I have no right to advise you, because you are wiser than I," pursued grandmamma; "but it does seem as though it were time to engage a tutor for them, and not a valet, a German peasant, - yes, a stupid peasant, who can teach them nothing except bad manners and Tyrolese songs. Is it extremely necessary, now, I ask you, that children should know how to sing Tyrolese songs? However, nobody thinks of this *now*, and you can do as you please."
The word "now" meant that they had no mother, and called up sad memories in grandmamma's heart. She dropped her eyes on her snuff-box, with its portrait, and became thoughtful.
"I have long been meditating that," papa hastened to say, "and I wanted to consult with you, mamma. Shall we not invite St. Jerome, who is now giving them lessons by the day?"
"You will be doing extremely well, my friend," said grandmamma, and no longer in the dissatisfied tone in which she had spoken before. "St. Jerome is at least a tutor who knows how children of good family should be trained, and not a paltry valet, who is good for nothing but to take them to walk."
"I will speak to him tomorrow," said papa.
And, in fact, two days after this conversation, Karl Ivanitch yielded his place to the young French dandy.
Late in the evening that preceded the day on which Karl Ivanitch was to leave us forever, he stood beside the bed in his wadded gown and red cap, bending over his trunk, and carefully packing his effects.
Karl Ivanitch's intercourse with us had been peculiarly dry of late. He seemed to avoid all connection with us; so when I now entered the room he glanced askance at me, and went on with his work. I lay down on my bed, but Karl Ivanitch, who had in former times strictly prohibited this, said nothing to me; and the thought that he would never more scold us or stop us, that he had no concern with us now, reminded me vividly of the approaching separation. I was sorry that he had ceased to love us, and wanted to express this feeling to him.
"Let me help you, Karl Ivanitch," I said, going up to him.
Karl Ivanitch glanced at me, and again turned aside; but in the fleeting look which he cast at me I read, not the indifference with which I had explained his coldness, but genuine, concentrated grief.
"God sees all, and knows all; and may His holy will be done in all things!" he said, drawing himeslf up to his full hieght, and sighing heavily. "Yes, Nikolenka," he went on, perceiving the expression of unfeigned sympathy with which I regarded him, "it is my fate to be unhappy from my very infancy to my coffin. I have always been repaid with evil for the good which I have done to people; and my reward is not here, but yonder," he said, pointing toward heaven. "If you only knew my history, and all that I have undergone in this life! I have been a shoemaker, I have been a soldier, I have been a *deserter*, I have been a manufacturer, I have been a teacher, and now I am nothing; and, like the Son of God, I have nowhere to lay my head," he concluded, and, closing his eyes, he fell into a chair.
Perceiving that Karl Ivanitch was in that sensitive state of mind in which he uttered his inmost thoughts for his own satisfaction, without heeding the hearer, I seated myself on the bed in silence, and without removing my eyes from his kind face.
"You are not a child, you can understand. I will tell you my story, and all that I have endured in this life. Some day you will recall the old friend, who loved you very much children."
Karl Ivanitch leaned his elbow on the table which stood beside him, took a pinch of snuff, and, rolling his eyes heavenward, began his tale in that peculiar, measured, throat voice, in which he usually dictated to us.
"*I was unhappy even before I was born,*" [Footnote: "*Das ungluck verfolgte mich schon im Schosse meiner Mutter*." The Russian also in incorrect. -Tr.] he said with great feeling.
As Karl Ivanitch related his history to me more than once afterward, in exactly the same terms, and always with the same identical intonations, I hope to be able to reproduce it almost word for word, the faults of language, of course, excepted, of which the reader can form his own judgment from the first sentence. Whether it really was his history, or a production of the imagination, which had had its birth during his lonely life in our house, which he had begun to believe in himself by dint of frequent repetition, or whether he only colored the real events of his life with fantastic facts, I have not been able to decide to this day. On the one hand, he related his story with too much of that lively feeling and methodical sequence which constitute the chief proofs of veracity, to permit one to doubt it; on the other hand, there was too much poetic beauty about his history, so that this very beauty evoked doubts.
"In my veins flows the noble blood of the counts of Sommerblatt. I was born six weeks after marriage. My mother's husband (I called him papa) was a farmer under Count Sommerblatt. He could never forget my mother's shame, and did not love me. I had a little brother Johann and two sisters; but I was a stranger in the midst of my own family. When Johann committee any follies, papa used to say, 'I never have a moment's peace with that child Karl!' and then I was scolded and punished. When my sisters got angry with each other, papa said, 'Karl will never be an obedient boy!' and I was scolded and punished.
"My good mamma alone loved me and petted me. She often said to me, 'Karl, come here, to my room,' and then she kissed me on the sly. 'Poor, poor Karl!' she said, 'no one loves you, but I would not change you for any one. One thing your mamma begs of you,' she said to: 'study well, and always be an honorable man, and God will not desert you.' And I tried. When I was fourteen, and could go to communion, mamma said to papa, 'Karl is a big boy now, Gustav: what shall we do with him?' And papa said, 'I don't know.' Then mamma said, 'Let us send him to Herr Schultz in the town, and let him be a shoemaker.' And papa said, 'Very good.' Six years and seven months I lived in the town, with the master shoemaker, and the master loved me. He said, 'Karl is a good workman, and he shall soon be my partner.' But man proposes, and God disposes. In 1796 a conscription was appointed, and all who could serve, from eighteen to twenty-one years of age, must assemble in the town.
"Papa and brother Johann came to town, and we went together to draw lots to see who should be and who should not be a soldier. Johann drew a bad number; he must become a soldier. I drew a good number; I was not obliged to become a soldier. And papa said, 'I had one son, and I must part with him.'
"I took his hand, and said, 'Why did you say that, papa? Come with me, I will tell you something.' And papa went. Papa went, and we seated ourselves at a little table. 'Give us a couple of jugs of beer,' I said, and they were brought. We drank them glass for glass, and brother Johann drank also.
"'Papa,' I said, 'do not say that you had one son, and you must part with him. My heart wants to *leap out* when I hear *that*. Brother Johann shall not serve; I will be a soldier. No one needs Karl here, and Karl will be a soldier.'
"'You are an honest man, Karl Ivanitch,' said papa to me, and he kissed me.
"And I became a soldier."
"That was a terrible time, Nikolenka," continued Karl Ivanitch. "Napoleon was alive then. He wanted to conquer Germany, and we defended our fatherland to the last drop of blood!
"I was at Ulm, I was at Austerlitz, I was at Wagram."
"Did you fight too?" I asked, gazing at him in amazement. "Did you also kill people?"
Karl Ivanitch immediately relieved my mind on that score.
"Once a French grenadier lingered behind his comrades, and fell by the way. I ran up with my gun, and was about to transfix him; but the Frenchman threw away his weapons, and begged for mercy, and I let him go.
"At Wagram, Napoleon chased us to the islands, and surrounded us so that there was no safety anywhere. For three days we had no provisions, and we stood in the water up to our knees.
"The miscreant Napoleon would neither take us nor leave us.
"On the fourth day, thank God, we were taken prisoners, and led off to the fortress. I had on blue trousers, a uniform of good cloth, fifteen thalers in money, and a silver watch, the gift of my papa. A French soldier took all from me. Fortunately I had three ducats left, which mamma had sewed into my doublet. Nobody found them.
"I did not wish to remain long in the fortress, and decided to run away. Once on a great festival day, I told the sergeant who looked after us, 'Herr sergeant, this is a solemn festival, and I want to observe it. Please fetch two bottles of Madeira, and we will drink them together.' And the sergeant said, 'Very good.' When the sergeant brought the Medeira, and we had drunk it in a wine-glass, turn and turn about, I took him by the hand, and said, 'Herr sergeant, do you happen to have a father and mother?' He said, 'Yes, Her Mauer.' -- 'My father and mother,' said I, 'have not seen me for eight years, and do know whether I am alive or whether my bones are lying in the damp earth. O Herr sergeant! I have two ducats, which were in my doublet; take them, and let me go. Be my benefactor, and my mamma will pray to Almighty God for you all her life.'
"The sergeant drank a glass of Madeira, and said, 'Herr Mauer, I love and pity you extremely; but you are a prisoner, and I am a soldier.' I pressed his hand, and said, 'Herr sergeant!'
"And the sergeant said, 'You are a poor man, and I will not take your money; but I will help you. When I go to bed, buy a bucket of brandy for the soldiers, and they will sleep. I will not watch you.'
"He was a good man. I bought the bucket of brandy; and when the soldiers were drunk, I put on my boots and my old cloak, and went out of the door. I went to the wall, with the intention of jumping over; but there was water there, and I would not spoil my last remaining clothes. I went to the gate.
"The sentry was marching up and down with his gun [Footnote: Karl Ivanitch's language is an extraordinary mixture of bad Russian and German, which it is impossible to reproduce without much tiresome repetition. -Tr.], and he looked at me. '*Qui vive?'* he said for the first time, and I made no answer. '*Qui vive?'* he said for the third time, *and I ran away. I sprang into the water, climbed out on the other side, and took to my heels.
"All night I ran along the road; but when it began to dawn, I was afraid that they would recognize me and I hid in the tall rye. Then I knelt, folded my hands and thanked our heavenly Father for saving me, and fell asleep with a tranquil mind.
"I woke in the evening, and proceeded farther. All at once, a great German wagon with two black horses overtook me. In the wagon sat a handsomely dressed man, who was smoking a pipe, and looking at me. I walked slowly, in order that the wagon might pass me; but when I went slowly, the wagon went more slowly still, and the man stared at me. I walked faster and the wagon went faster, and the man stared at me. I sat down by the roadside; the man stopped his horses, and looked at me. 'Young man,' said he, 'whither are you going so late?' I said, 'I am going to Frankfort.' -- 'Get into my wagon; there's room, and I will take you there. Why have you nothing with you? Why is your beard unshaved? And why are your clothes muddy?' he said to me, when I had seated myself by him. 'I am a poor man,' I said. 'I want to hire out somewhere as a workman; and my clothes are muddy because I fell down in the road.' -- 'You are telling an untruth, young man,' said he: 'the road is dry now.'
"And I remained silent.
"'Tell me the whole truth,' said the good man to me. 'Who are you, and whence come you? Your face pleases me, and if you are an honest man I will help you.'
"And I told him all. He said, 'Very good, young man. Come to my rope- factory. I will give you work, clothes, and money, and you shall live with me.'
"And I said, 'Very well.'
"We went to the rope-factory, and the good man said to his wife, 'Here is a young man who has fought for his country, and escaped from captivity; he has neither home, clothes, nor bread. He will live with me. Give him some clean linen, and feed him.'
"I lived at the rope-factory for a year and a half, and my master became so fond of me that he would not let me go. I was a handsome man then; I was young, tall, with blue eyes, and a Roman nose; and Madame L. (I cannot tell her name), the wife of my master, was a young and pretty woman, and she fell in love with me.
"When she saw me, she said, 'Herr Mauer, what does your mamma call you?' I said, 'Karlchen.'
"And she said, 'Karlchen, sit here beside me.'
"I seated myself beside her, and she said, 'Karlchen, kiss me!'
"I kissed her, and she said, 'Karlchen, I love you so, that I cannot endure it any longer,' and she trembled all over."
Here Karl Ivanitch made a prolonged pause; and, rolling up his kind blue eyes, he rocked his head, and began to smile, as people do when under the influence of pleasant recollections.
"Yes," he began again, settling himself in his armchair, and folding his dressing-gown about him, "I have been through a great deal, both of good and bad, in my life; but He is my witness," he said, pointing to a figure of the Saviour, worked on canvas, which hung over his bed, "nobody can say that karl Ivanitch has been a dishonorable man! I would not repay the kindness which Herr L. had shown me, by black ingratitude; and I resolved to run away from him. In the evening, when all had gone to bed, I wrote a letter to my master, laid it on the table in my room, took my clothes and three thalers in money, and stepped quietly out into the street. No one saw me, and I walked along the road."
"I had not seen my mamma for nine years; and I did not know whether she was alive, or whether her bones were already lying in the damp earth. I returned to my fatherland. When I reached the town, I inquired where Gustav Mauer lived, who had been farmer to Count Sommerblatt; and they told me, 'Count Sommerblatt is dead; and Gustav Mauer lives in the high street, and keeps a liquor-shop.' I put on my new vest, a handsome coat (a gift of the manufacturer), brushed my hair well, and went to my papa's liquor-shop. My sister Mariechen was sitting in the shop, and inquired what I wanted. I said, "may I drink a glass of liquor?' and she said, "Father, a young man is asking for a glass of liquor.' And papa said, 'Give the young man a glass of liquor.' I sat down at the table, drank my glass of liquor, smoked my pipe, and looked at papa, Mariechen, and Johann, who had also entered the shop. During the conversation, papa said to me, 'You probably know, young man, where our army stands now?' I said, 'I have come from the army myself, and it is near Vienna.' -- 'Our son,' said papa, 'was a soldier, and it is nine years since he has written to us, and we do not know whether he is alive or dead. My wife is always weeping for him.' I smoked away at my pipe, and said, 'What was your son's name, and where did he serve? Perhaps I know him.' -- 'He was called Karl Mauer, and he served in the Austrian Jagers,' said papa. 'He was a tall handsome man, like you,' said sister Mariechen.
"'I know your Karl,' said I. 'Amalia!' cried my father suddenly, 'come here! Here is a young man who knows our Karl.' *And my dear mamma comes through the rear door. I immediately recognize her. 'You know our Karl?' she said, looked at me, turned very pale, and began to tremble!* 'Yes, I have seen him,' said I, and did not dare to lift my eyes to her; my heart wanted to *leap*. 'My Karl is alive!' said mamma, 'thank God! Where is he, my dear Karl? I should die in peace if I could see him once more, my beloved son; but it is not God's will,' and she began to cry. *I could not bear it.* 'Mamma,' said, 'I am your Karl,' *and she fell into my arms.*
Karl Ivanitch closed his eyes, and his lips trembled.
"'Mother,' said I, 'I am your son, I am your Karl,' and she fell into my arms," he repeated, becoming some what calmer, as he wiped away the big tears which trickled down his cheeks.
"But it was not God's pleasure that I should end my days in my own country. I was destined to ill luck. Misfortune followed me everywhere. I lived in my native land only three months. One Sunday I was in a coffee-house buying a jug of beer, smoking my pipe, and talking politics with my acquaintances, and about the Emperor Franz, about napoleon and the war, and each one was expressing his opinion. Near us sat a strange gentleman, in a gray overcoat, who drank his coffee, smoked his pipe, and said nothing to us. When the night watchman cried ten o'clock, I took my hat, paid my reckoning, and went home. About midnight some one knocked at the door. I woke up and said, 'Who's there?' -- 'Open!' -- I said, 'Tell me who you are, and I will open.' -- 'Open in the name of the law!' came the answer from outside the door, and I opened. Two soldiers with guns stood at the door; and the strange man in the gray overcoat, who had been sitting near us in the coffee-house, entered the room. He was a spy. 'Come with me,' said the spy. 'Very good,' said I. I put on my boots and trousers, buckled my suspenders, and walked about the room. I was raging at heart. I said, 'He is a villain.' When I reached the wall where my sword hung, I suddenly seized it, and said, *'You are a spy: defend yourself!'* I gave him a cut on the right, a cut on the left, *and one on the head. The spy fell!* I seized my portmanteau and my money, and leaped out of the window. I got to Ems; there I made the acquaintance of General Sazin. He took a fancy to me, got a passport from the ambassador, and took me to Russia with him to teach his children. When General Sazin died, your mamma called me to her. 'Karl Ivanitch,' she said, 'I give my children into your charge; love them, and I will never abandon you; I will make your old age comfortable.' Now she is dead, and all is forgotten. After twenty years of service I must now go out into the street, in my old age, to seek a crust of dry bread. *God sees it and knows it, and His holy will be done; only I am sorry for you, children!'*", said Karl Ivanitch in conclusion, drawing me to him by the hand, and kissing me on the head.
By the conclusion of the year of mourning, grandmamma had somewhat recovered from the grief which had prostrated her, and began to receive guests now and then, especially children, boys and girls of our own age.
On Liubotchka's birthday, the thirteenth of December, Princess Kornakoff and her daughters, Madame Valakhin and Sonitchka, Ilinka Grap, and the two younger Ivin brothers arrived before dinner.
The sounds of conversation, laughter, and running about ascended to us from below, where all this company was assembled; but we could not join them until our morning lessons were finished. On the calendar which was suspended in the school-room was inscribed in French: "Monday, from 2 to 3, teacher of history and geography;" and it was that master of history whom we were obliged to wait for, listen to, and get rid of, before we should be free. It was twenty minutes past two, but nothing had yet been heard of the teacher of history; he was not even to be seen in the street which he must traverse, and which I was inspecting with a strong desire of never beholding him.
"Lebedeff does not appear to be coming today," said Volodya, tearing himself for a moment from Smaragdoff's book, from which he was preparing his lesson.
"God grant it, God grant it! For I know nothing at all. But he seems to be coming yonder," I added, in a sorrowful voice.
Volodya rose, and came to the window.
"No, that is not he; it is some *gentleman*," said he. "Let's wait until half-past two," he added, stretching himself and scratching his head, as he was in the habit of doing in moments of respite from work; "if he has not come by half-past two, then we can tell St. Jerome to take away the note-books."
"I don't see what he wants to co-o-o-me for," I said, stretching also, and shaking Kaidanoff's book, which I held in both hands, above my head.
For lack of something to do, I opened the book a t the place where our lesson was appointed, and began to read. The lesson was long and difficult. I knew nothing about it, and I perceived that I should not succeed in remembering anything about it, the more so as I was in that state of nervous excitement in which one's thoughts refuse to concentrate themselves on any subject whatever.
After the last history lesson, which always seemed to me the very stupidest, on the most wearisome of all subjects, Lebedeff had complained to St. Jerome about me; and two marks were placed against me in the books, which was considered very bad. St. Jerome told me then that, if I got less than three at the next lesson, I should be severely punished. Now this next lesson was imminent, and I confess that I felt very much of a coward.
I was so carried away with the perusal of the lesson which I did not know, that the sound of galoshes being removed in the anteroom startled me all at once. I had hardly had time to cast a glance in that direction, when the pock-marked face which was so antipathetic to me, and the awkward, fall too well-known figure of the teacher, in its blue coat closely fastened with learned buttons, made their appearance in the doorway.
The teacher slowly deposited his hat on the window-sill, his note-books on the table, pulled aside the tails of his swallow-tailed coat (as though it were very important), and seated himself, panting, in his place.
"Now, gentlemen," said he, rubbing one perspiring hand over the other, "let us first review what was said at the last lesson, and then I will endeavor to acquaint you with succeeding events of the Middle Ages."
That meant: Say your lesson.
At the moment when Volodya was answering him with the freedom and confidence peculiar to a person who is thoroughly acquainted with his subject, I went out on the stairs, without any object whatever; and, since it was impossible for me to go down, it was very natural that I should find myself, quite unexpectedly to myself, on the landing. But just as I was about to install myself in my customary post of observation, behind a door, Mimi, who had always been the cause of my misfortunes, suddenly ran against me. "You here?" said she, looking threateningly at me, then at the door of the maids' room, and then at me again.
I felt thoroughly guilty, both because I was not in the school-room, and because I was in a place where I had no business to be. So I held my tongue, and, hanging my head, exhibited in my person the most touching expression of penitence. "Well, who ever saw the like!" said Mimi. "What have you been doing here?" I remained silent. "No, things shall not be left in this state," she repeated, rapping her knuckles against the stair-railings; "I shall tell the countess all about it."
It was already five minutes to three when I returned to the school- room. The teacher was explaining the following lesson to Volodya, as though he had remarked neither my absence nor my presence. When he had finished his exposition, he began to put his note-books together, and Volodya went into the other room to fetch the lesson-ticket; and the cheering thought occurred to me that all was over, and that I had been forgotten.
But all at once the teacher turned to me with a malicious half-smile.
"I hope you have learned your lesson, sir," he said, rubbing his hands.
"I have learned it, sir," I answered.
"Be so good as to tell me something about St. Louis's crusade," said he, shifting about in his chair, and gazing thoughtfully at his feet. "You may tell me first the causes which induced the French king to take the cross," said he, raising his brows, and pointing his finger at the ink-bottle. "Then you may explain to me the general and characteristic traits of that expedition," he added, making a movement with his wrist, as though endeavoring to catch something. "And, finally, the influence of this crusade upon European sovereignties in general," said he, striking the left side of the table with his note-books. "And upon the French monarchy in particular," he concluded, striking the right side of the table, and inclining his head to the right.
I gulped down my spittle a few times, coughed, bent my head on one side, and remained silent. Then, seizing a pen, which lay upon the table, I began to pluck it to pieces, still maintaining my silence.
"Permit me to take that pen," said the teacher, extending his hand; "it is good for something. Now, sir!"
"Lou . . . King . . . St. Louis . . . was . . . was . . . was . . . a good and wise emperor."
"An emperor. He conceived the idea of going to Jerusalem, and *transferred the reins of government* to his mother."
"What was her name?"
"B . . . B . . . lanka."
"What, sir? Bulanka?" [Footnote: Name for a cream-colored horse. - Tr.]
I laughed rather awkwardly, and with constraint.
"Well, sir, do you know anything else?" he said sarcastically.
There was nothing for me to lose, so I coughed, and began to utter whatever nonsense came into my head. The teacher, who sat silently flicking the dust from the table, with the quill pen which he had taken away from me, gazed straight past my ear, and repeated, "Good, very good, sir." I was conscious that I knew nothing, that I was not expressing myself at all as I should; and it pained me frightfully to see that the teacher did not stop me, or correct me.
"Why did he conceive the idea of going to Jerusalem?" said he, repeating my words.
"Because....for the reason....for the purpose, because...." I stopped short, utter not another word, and felt that if that villanious teacher were to hold his tongue for a whole year, and gaze inquiringly at me, I should not be in a condition to emit another sound. The teacher stared at me for three minutes; then an expression of deep sorrow appeared on his face, and he said to Volodya, who had just entered the room, in a feeling tone: --
"Please hand me the record-book."
Volodya gave him the book, and carefully laid the ticket beside it.
The teacher opened the book, and, cautiously dipping his pen, he put down five, in his beautiful hand, for Volodya, under the head of recitations and behavior. Then he stopped his pen over the column in which my delinquencies were inscribed, looked at me, flirted off the ink, and pondered.
All at once his hand made an almost imperceptible movement, and there appeared a handsomely shaped one and a period; another movement, and in the conduct column stood another one and a dot.
Carefully closing the record-book, the teacher rose and went to the door, as though he did not perceive my glance, in which despair, entreaty, and reproach were expressed.
"Mikhail Ilarionovitch," said I.
"No," said he, understanding at once what I wanted to say to him; "it's impossible to teach in that way. I won't receive money for nothing."
The teacher put on his galoshes and his camelot cloak, and knotted his scarf with great care. As if any one could care for anything after what had happened to me! A movement of the pen for him, but the greatest misfortune for me.
"Is the lesson ended?" inquired St. Jerome, entering the room.
"Was your teacher satisfied with you?"
"Yes," said Volodya.
"How many did you get?"
I said nothing.
"Four, apparently," said Volodya.
He knew that it was necessary to save me, if only for that day. If I were to be punished, let it not be today, when there were guests in the house.
"Let us see, gentlemen," -- St. Jerome had a way of saying "let us see" (*voyons*) at every other word, -- "make your toilets, and we will go downstairs."
We had hardly got downstairs and exchanged salutations with all the guests, when we were summoned to the table. Papa was very gay (he was winning money just then), presented Liubotchka with a handsome silver service, and, after dinner, remembered that he had also a bonbon box in his wing for the birthday girl.
"There's no use in sending a man; better go yourself, Koko," he said to me. "The keys are lying on the large table, in the shell, you know. Take them and with the very largest key open the second drawer on the right. There you will find the box and some bonbons in a paper; and you are to bring them all here."
"And shall I bring you some cigars?" I asked, knowing that he always sent for them after dinner.
"Bring them, but see that you don't touch anything in my rooms," he called after me.
I found the keys in the place designated, and was about to open the drawer, when I was stopped by a desire to know what a very small key, which hung on the same bunch, opened.
On the table, amid a thousand varied objects, and near the railing, lay an embroidered portfolio, with a padlock; and I took a fancy to try whether the little key would fit it. My experiment was crowned with complete success; the portfolio opened, and in it I found a whole heap of papers. A feeling of curiosity counseled me with such conviction to find out what those papers were, that I did not succeed in hearkening to the voice of conscience, and set to work to examine what was in the portfolio.
* * * * * * *
The childish sentiment of unquestioning respect toward all my elders, and especially toward papa, was so strong within me, that my mind involuntarily refused to draw any conclusions whatever from what I saw. I felt that papa must live in a totally different sphere, which was very beautiful, unattainable, and incomprehensible to me, and that to attempt to penetrate the secrets of his life would be something in the nature of sacrilege on my part.
Therefore the discovery which I had almost unconsciously made in papa's portfolio left me in no clear conception, except a dim knowledge that I had behaved badly. I was ashamed and uncomfortable.
Under the influence of this feeling, I desired to close the portfolio as speedily as possible, but I was evidently fated to endure every possible kind of misfortune upon that memorable day. Placing the key in the keyhole of the padlock, I turned it the other way; supposing that the lock was closed, I pulled out the key, and -- oh, horror! The head of the key only remained in my hand. In vain did I endeavor to unite it with the other half in the lock, and release it by means of some magic. I was forced at length to accustom myself to the frightful thought that I had committed a fresh crime, which must be discovered this very day, when papa returned to his study.
Mimi's complaint, the one mark, and that little key! Nothing worse could have happened. Grandmamma on account of Mimi's complaint, St. Jerome about the one mark, papa about that key: and all these would overwhelm me, and not later than that very evening.
"What will become of me? Oh, what have I done?" I said aloud, as I paced the soft carpet of the study. "Eh," I said to myself, as I got the bonbons and cigars, "*what will be, will be,*" and I ran into the house.
The fatalistic adage, which I had heard from Nikolai in my childhood, produced a beneficial and temporarily soothing effect upon me at all difficult crises in my life. When I entered the hall, I was in a somewhat excited and unnatural but extremely merry mood.
After dinner, games began, and I took the most lively interest in them. While playing at *cat and mouse* I awkwardly ran against the Kornakoff's *governess*, who was playing with us, stepped on her dress unintentionally, and tore it. Perceiving that it afforded all the girls, and Sonitchka in particular, great satisfaction to see the governess retire with a perturbed countenance to the maids' room, to mend her dress, I resolved to procure them that pleasure once more. In consequence of this amiable intention, the governess had no sooner returned to the room, than I began to gallop round her, and I kept up this evolution until I found a favorable opportunity to catch my heel once more in her skirt, and tear it. Sonitchka and the princesses could hardly restrain their laughter, which flattered my vanity very agreeably; but St. Jerome, who must have been observing my pranks, came up to me and said with a frown (which I could not endure) that I evidently was not merry in a good way, and that if I were not more discreet he would make me repent of it, even though it was a festive day.
But I was in the state of excitement of a man who has gambled away more than he has in his pocket, and who fears to reckon up his accounts, and continues to bet on desperate cards without any hope of redeeming himself, and only for the purpose of not giving himself time to think. I smiled impudently, and walked away from him.
After the game of "cat and mouse," some one started a game which we called *long nose*. The play consisted in placing two rows of chairs opposite each other; then the ladies and gentlemen divided into two parties, each choosing another in turn.
The youngest princess chose the smallest Ivin every time; Katenka chose either Volodya or Ilinka; Sonitchka took Serozha every time, and was not at all abashed, to my extreme amazement, when Serozha went and seated himself directly opposite her. She laughed with her pretty, ringing laugh, and made him a sign with her head, to show that he had guessed aright. I comprehended, to the great injury of my vanity, that I was superfluous, *left out*; that they must say of me every time, *"Who remains yet? Why, Nikolenka; well, then, do you take him."*
When, therefore, it came my turn to step forward, I went boldly up either to my sister or to one of the ugly princesses, and, unfortunately, never made a mistake. And Sonitchka seemed so absorbed in Serozha Ivin, that I did not exist for her. I do not know on what grounds I mentally called her a *traitress*, since she had never given me a promise to choose me and not Serozha; but I was firmly convinced that she had behaved to me in the most revolting manner.
After the game I noticed that the *traitress*, whom I despised, but from whom, nevertheless, I could not take my eyes, had retired into a corner with Serozha and Katenka, where they were discussing something in a mysterious manner. Creeping up behind the piano, in order to discover their secret, I saw this: Katenka was holding a cambric handkerchief by two of its corners, thus forming a screen between Sonitchka's head and Serozha's. "No, you have lost; now you shall pay!" said Serozha. Sonitchka stood before him, with her arms hanging beside her, as if guilty, and said, blushing, "No, I have not lost; have I, Mlle. Catherine?" -- "I love the truth," replied katenka; "you have lost your bet, my dear."
Katenka had hardly uttered these words, when Serozha bent over, and kissed Sonitchka. He kissed her full upon her rosy lips. And Sonitchka laughed, as though that were nothing, as though it were very amusing. *Horrible!!* Oh, the *sly traitress!*
I suddenly felt a contempt for the entire female sex in general, and for Sonitchka in particular; I began to assure myself that there was nothing jolly about these games, that they were only fit for *little girls*; and I felt very much inclined to create an uproar, to do some manly deed, which would astonish them all. An occasion was not long in presenting itself.
St. Jerome, after talking of something with Mimi, left the room; at first, his footsteps were audible on the stairs, and then above us, in the direction of the schoolroom. The thought occurred to me that Mimi had told him where she had seen me during lesson hours, and that he had gone to inspect the journal. At that time, I did not attribute to St. Jerome any other object in life than a desire to punish me. I have read somewhere that children from twelve to fourteen years of age, that is to say, those who are in the transition stage of boyhood, are particularly inclined to arson and even to murder. In recalling my boyhood, and especially the frame of mind in which I was on that unlucky day, I very clearly appreciate the importance of the most frightful crime, committed without object or intent to injure, but from curiosity, to meet an unconscious need for activity. There are moments when the future presents itself to a man in such somber colors, that he dreads to fix his mental gaze upon it, entirely represses the action of his mind, and endeavors to convince himself that the future will not be, and that the past has not been. At such moments, when thought does not sit in judgment before every decision of the will, and the fleshly instincts remain the sole springs of life, I can understand how a child is especially inclined, by reason of his inexperience, to set and light a fire under the very house in which his brothers, his father, and his mother, whom he tenderly loves, are sleeping, without the slightest hesitation or fear, and with a smile of curiosity. Under the influence of this temporary absence of reflection, approaching aberration of mind, a peasant lad of seventeen, contemplating the freshly sharpened edge of an ax, beside the bench on which sleeps his aged father, face downward, suddenly flourishes the ax, and gazes with stupid curiosity at the blood, as it drips from the severed neck on the bench. Under the influence of the same absence of reflection, and instinctive curiosity, a man experiences a certain enjoyment in pausing upon the brink of a precipice, and thinking, "What if I should throw myself down there?" Or, placing a loaded pistol to his forehead, he thinks, "What if I pull the trigger?" Or, he gazes upon some person for whom society universally cherishes a peculiar respect, and thinks, "What if I were to go up to him, take him by the nose, and say, 'Come, my dear fellow, shall we go?'"
Under the influence of this internal excitement, and absence of reflection, when St. Jerome came downstairs and told me that I had no right to be there that evening, because I had behaved badly and studied badly, and that I was to go upstairs at once, I stuck out my tongue at him, and said that I would not leave that spot.
For a moment, St. Jerome could not utter a word for surprise and anger.
"Very well," he said, following me; "several times already, I have promised to punish you and your grandmamma has wanted to beg you off; but now I see that nothing but the rod will make you mind, and you have full deserved it today."
He said this so loudly that every one heard his words. The blood retreated to my heart with unusual force. I felt that it was beating violently, that the color fled from my face, and that my lips trembled quite involuntarily. I must have looked terrible at that moment, for St. Jerome, avoiding my glance, walked quickly up to me and seized me by the hand; but I no sooner felt the touch of his hand, than I became giddy, and, beside myself with rage, I tore my hand away, and struck him with all my childish strength.
"What is the matter with you?" said Volodya, who had seen my act with horror and amazement, as he approached me.
"Let me alone!" I shrieked at him through my tears; "not one of you loves me, nor understands how unhappy I am. You are all hateful, disgusting," I added, turning to the whole company in a sort of fury.
But this time St. Jerome came up to me with a pale, determined face, and before I had time to prepare for defense, he grasped both my hands as in a vise, with a powerful movement, and dragged me away. My head was whirling with excitement. I only remember that I fought desperately with head and knees as long as I had any strength left. I remember that my nose came in contact several times with some one's hips, and that some one's coat fell into my mouth, that I was conscious of the presence of some one's feet all around me, and of the smell of dust, and of the violet with which St. Jerome perfumed himself.
Five minutes later, the garret door closed behind me.
"Basil!" said *he*, in a revolting, triumphant voice, "bring the rods."
* * * * * * *
Could I at that time suppose that I should remain alive after all the misfortunes which came upon me, and that the day would come when I should recall them with composure?
When I remembered what I had done, I could not imagine what would become of me, but I dimly comprehended that I was irretrievably ruined.
At first, absolute silence reigned below and around me, or so it seemed to me at least, because of my excessively powerful inward agitation; but gradually I began to distinguish the different sounds. Vasily came downstairs, and, flinging something which resembled a broom on the window-ledge, lay down on the chest with a yawn. Below, August Antonitch's huge voice was audible (he must have been speaking of me), then childish voices, then laughter and running; and then a few minutes later everything in the house had again relapsed into its former movement, as though no one knew or thought of me sitting in the dark garret.
I did not cry, but something as heavy as a stone lay upon my heart. Thoughts and visions passed with redoubled swiftness before my disturbed imagination; but the memory of the misfortune which had overtaken me incessantly broke their wondrous chain, and I again traversed an endless labyrinth of uncertainty as to the fate which awaited me, of terror and despair.
Then it occurs to me that there must exist some cause for the general dislike and even hatred of me. (At that time I was firmly convinced that everybody, beginning with grandmamma and down to Philip the coachman, hated me, and found pleasure in my sufferings.)
"It must be that I am not the son of my father and mother, not Volodya's brother, but an unhappy orphan, a foundling, adopted out of charity," I say to myself; and this absurd idea not only affords me a certain melancholy comfort, but even appears extremely probable. It pleases me to think that I am unhappy not because I am myself to blame, but because such as been my fate since my very birth, and that my lot is similar to that of the unfortunate Karl Ivanitch.
"But why conceal this secret any longer, when I have myself succeeded in penetrating it?" I say to myself. "Tomorrow I will go to papa, and say to him, 'Papa, in vain do you conceal from me the secret of my birth; I know it.' He will say, 'What is to be done, my friend? Sooner or later you would have learned it. You are not my son; but I have adopted you, and if you will prove worthy of my love, I will never desert you.' And I shall say to him, 'Papa, although I have no right to call you by that name, I now utter it for the last time. I have always loved you, and I shall always love you, and I shall never forget that you are my benefactor; but I can no longer remain in your house. No one here loves me, and St. Jerome has sworn my ruin. Either he or I must leave your house, because I cannot answer for myself. I hate that man to such a degree that I am prepared for anything. I would kill him as readily as I say: Papa, I will kill him.' Papa will begin to beseech me; but I shall wave my hand, and say, 'No, my friend, my benefactor, we cannot live together; but release me.' And then I will embrace him, and say in French, for some reason or other, 'O my father! O my benefactor! give me thy blessing for the last time, and may God's will be done.'" And as I sit on the chest in the dark store-room, I weep and cry at the thought. But all at once I remember the shameful punishment which is awaiting me; reality presents itself to me in its true light, and my fancies momentarily take flight.
Then I fancy myself already at liberty, outside our house. I enter the hussars, and go to the war. Enemies bear down upon me from all sides; I wave my sword, and kill one; a second wave, I slay another, and a third. Finally, exhausted by wounds and fatigue, I fall to the earth, and shout, "Victory!" The general approaches, and asks, "Where is he, our savior?" They point me out to him; he flings himself on my neck, and shouts, with tears of joy, "Victory!" I recover, and with an arm bandaged in a black handkerchief I promenade the Tverskoy boulevard. I am a general! But lo, the *Emperor* meets me, and inquires, "Who is this wounded young man?" He is told that it is the renowned hero Nikolai. The Emperor comes up to me and says, "I thank you. I will do anything you ask of me." I salute respectfully, and leaning on my sword I say, "I am happy, great Emperor, to have been able to shed my blood for my fatherland, and I wish to die for it; but if you will be so gracious, then permit me to beg one thing of you, - permit me to annihilate my enemy, the foreigner, St. Jerome. I want to annihilate my enemy, St. Jerome." I halt threateningly before St. Jerome, and say to him, "You have caused my misfortune. On your knees!" But suddenly the thought occurs to me that the real St. Jerome may enter at any moment with the rods; and again I see myself, not a general serving his country, but a very pitiful, weeping creature.
The thought of God comes to me, and I ask Him impudently why He is punishing me. "I have not forgotten my prayers morning and evening, it strikes me; then why do I suffer?" I can assert conclusively that the first step toward the religious doubts which troubled me during my boyhood was taken then, not because unhappiness excited my murmuring and unbelief, but because the thought of the injustice of Providence, which entered my mind in that time of spiritual disorder and solitude of twenty-four hours' duration, began speedily to grow and to send forth roots, like a pernicious seed which has fallen upon the soft earth after a rain. Then I imagined that I should certainly die, and represented vividly to myself St. Jerome's amazement when he should find a lifeless body in the garret, instead of me. Recalling Natalya Savischna's tales of how the soul of a dead person does not quit the house for forty days, penetrate, in thought, unseen, all the rooms of grandmamma's house, and listen to Liubotchka's sincere tears, to grandmamma's grief, and papa's conversation with August Antonitch. "He was a fine boy," says papa with tears in his eyes. "Yes," says St. Jerome, "but a great scamp." - "You should respect the dead," says papa. "You were the cause of his death; you frightened him; he could not endure the humiliation which you were preparing for him. Away from here, you villain!"
And St. Jerome falls on his knees, and weeps, and sues for pardon. At the end of the forty days, my soul flies to heaven; there I behold something wonderfully beautiful, white, transparent, and long, and I feel that it is my mother. This white something surrounds me, caresses me; but I feel an uneasiness, as though I did not know her. "If it really is you," I say, "then show yourself to me more distinctly, that I may embrace you." And her voice answers me, "We are all so, here. I cannot embrace you any better. Do you not think it well thus?" - "Yes, I think it is very well; but you cannot tickle me, and I cannot kiss your hands." - "That is not necessary; it is so very beautiful here," she says, and I feel that it really is very beautiful, and we soar away together, higher and ever higher. Then I suddenly seem to wake, and find myself again on the chest in the dark garret, my cheeks wet with tears, without a single thought, repeating the words, "*And we soar higher and ever higher.*" For a long time, I exert all my power to explain my situation; but only one fearfully gloomy, impenetrable perspective offers itself to my mental gaze at the present moment. I endeavor to return once more to those cheering, blissful dreams, which destroyed consciousness of reality; but to my amazement, no sooner do I enter upon the traces of my former reveries, than I see that a prolongation of them is impossible, and, what is still more surprising, that it no longer affords me any pleasure.
I spent the night in the garret, and no one came near me; it was only on the following day, that is to say, on Sunday, that I was taken to a little room adjoining the school-room, and again locked up. I began to hope that my punishment would be confined to imprisonment; and my thoughts, under the influence of sweet, refreshing slumber, of the bright sunlight playing upon the frost patterns on the windows, and the customary noises of the day in the streets, began to grow composed. Nevertheless, my solitude was very oppressive; I wanted to move about, to tell somebody all that was seething in my soul, and there was not a living being near me. This position of affairs was all the more disagreeable, because, however repulsive it was to me, I could not avoid hearing St. Jerome whistling various gay airs with perfect tranquillity, as he walked about his room. I was fully persuaded that he did not want to whistle at all, but that he did it solely for the sake of tormenting me.
At two o'clock, St. Jerome and Volodya went downstairs; but Nikolai brought my dinner, and when I spoke to him about what I had done, and what awaited me, he said: -
"Eh, sir! Don't grieve; grind long enough, and the meal will come." [Footnote: Equivalent to various English proverbs which inculcate patience. -Tr.]
This adage, which, later on, more than once sustained my firmness of spirit, comforted me somewhat; but the very fact that they had not sent me bread and water alone, but a complete dinner, including rose cakes, caused me to meditate profoundly. If they had not sent me the rose cakes, then it would have signified that I was to be punished by imprisonment; but now it turned out that I had not been punished yet, that I was only isolated from others as a pernicious person, and that chastisement was still before me. While I was busy with the solution of this question, the key turned in the lock of my prison, and St. Jerome entered the room, with a stern, official countenance.
"Come to your grandmother," he said, without looking at me.
I wanted to clean the cuffs of my jacket, which were smeared with chalk, before leaving the room; but St. Jerome told me that this was quite unnecessary, as though I was already in such a pitiful moral condition that it was not worth while to trouble myself about my external appearance.
Katenka, Liubotchka, and Volodya stared at me, as St. Jerome led me through the hall by the hand, with exactly the same expression with which we generally gaze upon the prisoners who are led past our windows every week. But when I approached grandmamma's chair with the intention of kissing her hand, she turned away from me, and hid her hand beneath her mantilla.
"Well, my dear," she said, after a tolerably long silence, during which she surveyed me from head to foot with such a look that I did not know what to do with my eyes and hands, "I must say that you prize my love, and afford me true pleasure. M. St. Jerome, who at my request," she added, pausing on each work, "undertook your education, does not wish now to remain in my house any longer. Why? Because of you, my dear. I did hope that you would be grateful," she continued, after a short silence, and in a tone which showed that he speech had been prepared beforehand, "for his care and labor, that you would understand how to value his services; but you, a beardless youngster, a bad little boy, have brought yourself to raise your hand against him. Very good! Extremely fine! I, also, begin to think that you are incapable of appreciating gentle treatment, that other and more degraded means are required for you. Ask his pardon this instant," she added, in a tone of stern command, pointing to St. Jerome; "do you hear?"
I glanced in the direction indicated by grandmamma's hand, and, catching sight of St. Jerome's coat, turned away, and did not stir from the spot; and again I began to feel that sinking at my heart.
"What? Don't you hear what I say to you?"
I trembled all over, but did not move.
"Koko!" said grandmamma, who must have perceived the inward agony which I was suffering. "Koko!" she said in a tender, rather than a commanding, voice, "is this you?"
"Grandmamma, I will not beg his pardon, because ...." said I, pausing suddenly, for I felt that I should not be able to restrain the tears which were suffocating me if I uttered a single word more.
"I command you, I beseech you. What is the matter with you?"
"I...I...won't, I...can't," I said; and the stifled sobs which had collected in my breast suddenly cast down the barriers which restrained them, and dissolved in a flood of despair.
"Is this the way you obey your second mother? Is this the way you repay her kindness?" said St. Jerome, in a tragic voice. "On your knees!"
"My God, if she could have seen this!" said grandmamma, turning away from me, and wiping her tears, which began to make their appearance. "If she could have seen.... All is for the best. Yes, she could not have borne this sorrow, she could not have borne it."
And grandmamma wept more and more violently. I wept also, but I never thought of begging pardon.
"Calm yourself, in the name of heaven, Madame la Comtesse," said St. Jerome.
But grandmamma no longer heard him; she covered her face with her hands, and her sobs speedily turned into hiccoughs and hysterics. Mimi and Gascha rushed into the room with frightened faces, and made her smell of some spirits, and a running and whispering speedily arose all over the room.
"Admire your work," said St. Jerome, leading me upstairs.
"My God, what have I done? What a frightful criminal I am!"
As soon as St. Jerome had gone downstairs again, after ordering me to go to my room, I ran to the great staircase leading to the street, without giving myself any reason for what I was about.
I do not remember whether I meant to run away, or to drown myself; I only know that, covering my face with my hands, in order that I might not see any one, I ran farther and farther down those stairs.
"Where are you going?" a familiar voice inquired all at once. "I want you too, my dear."
I tried to run past; but papa caught me by the hand and said sternly: -
"Come with me, my good fellow! How dared you touch the portfolio in my study?" said he, leading me after him into the little boudoir. "Eh! Why are you silent? Hey?" he added, taking me by the ear.
"Forgive me," I said; "I don't know what possessed me.
"Ah, you don't know what possessed you! You don't know! You don't know! You don't know! You don't know!" he repeated, and gave my ear a tweak at each word. "Will you poke your nose where you have no business in future? Will you? Will you?"
Although my ear pained me very much, I did not cry; but I experienced a pleasant moral feeling. No sooner had papa released my ear, than I seized his hand, and began to cover it with tears and kisses.
"Whip me," said I, through my tears. "Whip me hard, painfully; I am good for nothing; I am a wretch; I am a miserable being."
"What's the matter with you?" he said, slightly repulsing me.
"No, I won't go away on any account," I said, clinging to his coat. "Everybody hates me, I know that; but, for God's sake, listen to me, protect me, or turn me out of the house. I cannot live with him; *he* tries in every way to humiliate me. He makes me go on my knees before him. He wants to thrash me. I won't have it; I am not a little boy. I can't endure it; I shall die; I will kill myself. *He* told grandmamma that I was a good-for-nothing, and now she is ill, and she will die because of me. I....for God's sake flog me! Why....torture ....me....for....it?"
Tears suffocated me. I seated myself on the divan, utterly powerless to say more, and dropped my head on his knees, sobbing so that it seemed to me that I should die that very minute.
"What are you crying about, baby?" said papa, sympathetically, as he bent over me.
"*He* is my tyrant....tormentor. ....I shall die....nobody loves.... me!" I could hardly speak, and I began to fall into convulsions.
Papa took me in his arms, and carried me into the bedroom. I fell asleep. When I awoke, it was very late. A single candle was burning near my bed, and our family doctor, Mimi, and Liubotchka were sitting in the room. It was evident from their faces that they feared for my health; but I felt so well and light after my twelve hours' sleep, that I could have leaped from the bed, had it not been disagreeable for me to disturb their belief in my severe illness.
Yes, it was a genuine feeling of hatred. Not that hatred which is only depicted in romances, and in which I do not believe, - hatred which finds delight in doing evil to mankind, - but that hatred which inspires you with an unconquerable aversion to a person who, nevertheless, deserves your respect; which makes his hair, his neck, his walk, the sound of his voice, his every limb, his every motion, repulsive to you, and at the same time attracts you to him by some incomprehensible power, and forces you to watch his slightest acts. This feeling I experienced toward St. Jerome.
St. Jerome had lived with us for a year and a half. Judging the man now, in cold blood, I find that he was a fine Frenchman, but a Frenchman in the most thorough sense. He was not stupid; he was tolerably well educated, and he conscientiously fulfilled his duties toward us; but he possessed the distinctive traits which are peculiar to all his countrymen, and which are so repugnant to the Russian character, - frivolous egotism, vanity, impudence, and unmannerly self- confidence. All this displeased me greatly.
Of course grandmamma explained to him her views on corporal punishment, and he did not dare to whip us; but, in spite of this, he often threatened us, especially me, with the rod, and pronounced the word *fouetter* (as if it were *fouatter*) in a very repulsive manner, and with an intonation which seemed to indicate that it would afford him the greatest satisfaction to flog me.
I did not fear the pain of punishment at all, never having experienced it; but the mere thought that St. Jerome might strike me put me into a state of suppressed rage and despair.
It had happened that Karl Ivanitch, in a moment of vexation, had reduced us to order with the ruler or his suspenders, but I recall this without the slightest anger. Even at the time of which I speak (when I was fourteen), if Karl Ivanitch had chanced to flog me, I should have borne his chastisement with perfect composure. I loved Karl Ivanitch. I remembered him from the time when I remembered myself, and was accustomed to him as a member of my family; but St. Jerome was a haughty, self-conceited man, for whom I felt no sentiment but that involuntary respect with which all *grown-up* people inspired me. Karl Ivanitch was a ridiculous old man, a kind of man-servant whom I heartily loved, but placed beneath myself in my childish comprehension of social classes.
St. Jerome, on the contrary, was a handsome, cultivated young dandy, who tried to stand on an equality with every one.
Karl Ivanitch always scolded and punished us coolly. It was evident that he regarded it as a necessary but disagreeable duty. St. Jerome, on the other hand, liked to *pose* in the *role* of an instructor. It was plain, when he punished us, that he did so more for his own satisfaction than for our good. He was carried away by his own greatness. His elegant French phrases, which he uttered with strong emphasis on the last syllable, with circumflex accents, were inexpressibly repugnant to me. When Karl Ivanitch got angry, he said, "Puppets' comedy, scamp, little boy, champagne fly!" St. Jerome called us, "Worthless fellow, vile scapegrace," and so forth, names which wounded my self-love.
Karl Ivanitch put us on our knees, with our faces in a corner; and the punishment consisted of the physical pain incident to such an attitude. St. Jerome threw out his chest, and shouted, with a majestic wave of the hand, and with a tragic voice, "On your knees!" made us kneel with our faces toward him, and beg his pardon. The punishment consisted in humiliation.
I was not punished, and no one so much as mentioned to me what had happened; but I could not forget all that I had experienced - despair, shame, terror, and hate - in those two days. In spite of the fact that St. Jerome, from that time forth, seemed to give up all hopes of me, and hardly concerned himself with me at all, I could not accustom myself to look upon him with indifference. Every time that our eyes met by accident, it seemed to me that enmity was far too plainly expressed in my glance, and I hastened to assume an expression of indifference; but then it seemed to me that he understood my hypocrisy, and I blushed and turned quite away.
In a word, it was inexpressibly disagreeable to me to have any relations whatever with him.
I felt more and more lonely, and solitary meditation and observation formed my principal delights. The subject of my meditations I will treat of in a succeeding chapter; but the chief theater of my observations was the maids' room, in which a very absorbing and touching romance, for me, took place. The heroine of this romance was Mascha, of course. She was in love with Vasily, who had known her when she lived out of service, and had promised to marry her at that time. Fate, which had parted them five years before, had again brought them together in grandmamma's house, but had placed a barrier in the way of their mutual love in the person of Nikolai (Mascha's uncle), who would not hear to his niece's marriage with Vasily, whom he called an *absurd and dissipated man.*
The effect of this obstacle was to cause the hitherto rather cold- blooded and negligent Vasily suddenly to fall in love with Mascha; and he loved her in a way of which only a house-serf from the tailor's corps, with a pink shirt and pomaded hair, is cable.
In spite of the fact that the exhibitions of his love were exceedingly strange and incongruous (for instance, when he met Mascha, he always tried to cause her pain, and either pinched her, or slapped her, or hugged her with such force that she could hardly draw her breath), his affection was genuine, which was proved by the circumstance that from the day when Nikolai finally refused him his niece's hand, Vasily took to drinking from grief, and began to loiter about the drinking-houses, create disturbances, and, in a word, to conduct himself so badly, that more than once he subjected himself to scandalous correction by the police. But this behavior and its results appeared to constitute a merit in Mascha's eyes, and increased her love for him. When Vasily was *in retirement at the police-station* Mascha wept for days together without drying her eyes, and complained of her bitter fate to Gascha (who took a lively interest in the affairs of the unhappy lovers); and, scorning the scoldings and beatings of her uncle, she stole away to the police-station on the sly to visit and comfort her friend.
Do not disdain, reader, the society to which I am introducing you. If the chords of love and sympathy have not grown weak within your soul, sounds to which they will respond will be found in the maids' room. Whether it please you or not to follow me, I shall betake myself to the landing on the staircase, from which I could see all that went on in the maids' room. There is the stove-bench on which I stand; a flat- iron, a pasteboard doll with a broken nose, a little wash-tub, and a hand-basin; there is the window-sill upon which are heaped in confusion a bit of black wax, a skein of silk, a green cucumber which has been bitten, and a bonbon box; there, also, is the large red table, upon which, upon a bit of sewing which is begun, lies a brick wrapped in calico, and behind which *she* sits, in my favorite pink linen dress and blue kerchief, which particularly attract my attention. She sews, pausing now and then in order to scratch her head with her needle, or adjust a candle; and I gaze and think, Why was she not born a lady, with those bright blue eyes, that huge golden braid of hair, and plump bosom? How it would have become her to sit in the drawing-room, in a cap with pink ribbons, and a deep red gown, not such as Mimi has, but like the one I saw on the Tverskoy boulevard! She would have embroidered at her frame, and I might have done everything she wanted, whatever it might have been; I would have handed her her mantle and her food myself.
And what a drunken face and disgusting figure that Vasily is in his tight coat, worn above that dirty pink shirt, with the tails hanging out! At every movement of his body, at every bend of his spine, I seem to perceive the indisputable signs of the revolting punishment which had overtaken him.
"What, Vasya! Again?" said Mascha, sticking her needle into the cushion, but not raising her head to greet Vasily as he entered.
"And what of it? Will any good come of *him*? retorted Vasily. "If I had only decided on something alone! But now I shall be ruined all for nothing, and all through *him*."
"Will you have some tea?" said Nadyozha, another maid.
"I thank you humbly. And why does that thief, your uncle, hate me? Why? Because I have good clothes of my own, because of my pride, because of my walk. Enough. There you have it!" concluded Vasily, with a wave of his hand.
"One must be obedient," said Mascha, biting off her thread, "and you are so...."
"I can bear it no longer, that I can't!"
At that moment the sound of a closing door resounded from grandmamma's room, and Gascha's grumbling voice approaching the stair case.
"Go try to please her, when she doesn't know herself what she wants. Accursed life! May the Lord forgive my sins, if for that alone," she muttered, flourishing her arms.
"My respects, Agafya Mikhailovna," said Vasily, rising to greet her.
"Well, so you are there! I don't want your respects," she replied grimly, staring at him. "And why do you come here? Is the maids' room a place for men to come?"
"I wanted to inquire after your health," said Vasily, timidly.
"I shall soon expire, that's the state of my health," screamed Agafya Mikhailovna, still more angrily, and at the top of her voice.
"There's nothing to laugh at, and if I say that you are to take yourself off, then march! See, that heathen wants to marry, the low fellow! Now march, be off!"
And Agafya went stamping to her room, and slammed the door so violently that the glass n the windows rattled.
She could be heard for a long time behind the partition, scolding at everything and everybody, cursing her existence, hurling her effects about, and pulling the ears of her beloved cat; finally the door opened a crack, and the cat flew out, swung by her tail, and mewing piteously.
"Evidently I had better come another time to drink tea," said Vasily, in a whisper; "farewell until a pleasanter meeting."
"Never mind," said Nadyozha, with a wink, "I will go and see to the samovar."
"Yes, and I'll make an end of it once for all," continued Vasily, seating himself close to Mascha, as soon as Nadyozha had left the room.
"I'll either go straight to the countess, and say, 'Thus and so is the state of things,' or else.... I'll give up everything, and run away to the ends of the earth, by God!"
"And how can I remain?"
"I am only sorry for you, and you should have been free, my little dove, lo-o-ng ago, so surely as God lives."
"Why don't you bring me your shirts to wash, Vasya?" said Mascha, after a momentary silence; "see how black this one is," she added, taking hold of the shirt-collar.
At that moment grandmamma's little bell was heard from below, and Gascha emerged from her chamber.
"What are you getting from her now, you vile man?" she said, pushing Vasily toward the door, as he rose hastily at the sight of her; "you have brought the girl to this state, and still you cling to her, you bare-backed wretch; evidently, it's merry for you to gaze upon her tears. Go away. Take yourself off. -- What good did you ever find in him?" she went on, turning to Mascha. "Didn't your uncle beat you enough today on his account? But no, you will have your own way: 'I won't marry anybody but Vasily Gruskoff.' The fool!"
"I won't marry anybody, I don't love anybody, if I'm beaten to death for his sake," cried Mascha, bursting suddenly into tears.
I gazed long at Mascha, who, reclining upon a chest, wiped away her tears with her kerchief; and I made every effort to alter my opinion of Vasily, and endeavored to find the point of view from which he could appear so attractive to her. But in spite of my sincere sympathy with her grief, I could not possibly comprehend how such a bewitching being as Mascha appeared in my eyes could love Vasily.
"When I am grown up," I reasoned with myself, as I went upstairs to my own quarters, "Petrovskoe will be mine, and Mascha and Vasily will be my serfs. I shall be sitting in the study, smoking my pipe, and Mascha will be going to the kitchen with her flat-iron. I shall say, 'Call Mascha to me.' She will come, and there will be on one in the room. -- All at once, Vasily will enter, and when he sees Mascha he will say, 'My dear little dove is ruined!' And Mascha will cry; and I shall say, 'Vasily, I know that you love her, and she loves you: here are a thousand rubles for you; marry her; and may God grant you happiness.' And then I shall go into the boudoir." Among the innumerable thoughts and fancies which pass through the mind and imagination, leaving no trace, there are some which leave a deep, sensitive furrow, so that, without recalling the thought itself, one remembers that there was something pleasant in one's mind, and one feels the trace of the thought, and tries to reproduce it once again. Such a deep trace did the thought of sacrificing my own feeling, for the sake of such happiness as Mascha could find only in a marriage with Vasily, leave in my soul.
I can scarcely believe what were the favorite and most constant subjects of my meditations during my boyhood - they were so incompatible with my age and position. But, in my opinion, incompatibility between a man's position and his moral activity is the truest proof of sincerity.
During the course of the year, when I led an isolated moral life, concentrated within myself, all the abstract questions concerning the destination of man, the future life, the immortality of the soul, already presented themselves to me; and, with all the fervor of inexperience, my weak childish mind endeavored to solve these questions, the presentation of which represents the highest stage to which the mind of man can attain, but the solution of which is not granted to him.
It seems to me that the human mind, in every separate individual, traverses the same path during development by which it is developed in whole races; that the thoughts which serve as a foundation for the various philosophical theories form the inalienable attributes of the mind; but that every man has recognized them, with more or less clearness, even before he has known of the philosophical theories.
These thoughts presented themselves to my mind with such clearness, and in such a striking light, that I even tried to apply them to life, fancying that I was the *first* to discover such great and useful truths.
Once the thought occurred to me that happiness does not depend upon external conditions, but on our relations to them; that man, after he is accustomed to endure suffering, cannot be unhappy; and, in order to accustom myself to pain, I held Tatischeff's lexicon for five minutes in my outstretched hands, in spite of dreadful pain, or I went into the garret and castigated myself on the bare back with a rope so severely that tears sprang involuntarily to my eyes.
On another occasion, remembering, all of a sudden, that death awaited me at any hour, at any moment, I made up my mind, not understanding how people had hitherto failed to understand it, that man can be happy only by making use of the present, and not thinking of the future; and for three days, under the influence of this thought, I neglected my lessons, and did nothing but lie on the bed, and enjoy myself by reading a romance and eating gingerbread with Kronoff mead, for which I spent the last money I had.
On another occasion, while standing before the blackboard engaged in drawing various figures upon it with chalk, I was suddenly struck by the thought: Why is symmetry pleasing to the eye? What is symmetry?
It is an inborn feeling, I answered myself. But on what is it founded? Is there symmetry in everything in life? On the contrary here is life - and I drew an oval figure on one side of the blackboard. After life the soul passes into eternity; here is eternity - and from one side of the oval I drew a line which extended to the very edge of the board. Why not another similar line from the other side? Yes, and, as a matter of fact, what kind of eternity is that which is on one side only? For we certainly have existed before this life, although we have lost the memory of it.
This reasoning, which appeared to me extremely novel and lucid, and whose thread I can now only catch with difficulty, pleased me excessively, and I took a sheet of paper with the idea of setting it forth in writing; but, in the process, such a mass of thoughts suddenly entered my mind, that I was obliged to rise and walk about the room. When I approached the window, my attention turned on the water-carrier horse which the coachman was harnessing at the moment; and all my thoughts were concentrated upon the solution of the question, Into what animal or man will the soul of that horse migrate, when it is set free? At that moment, Volodya was passing through the room, and smiled, perceiving that I was meditating something; and that smile was sufficient to make me comprehend that all I had been thinking about was the most frightful nonsense.
I have related this, to me, memorable occasion, merely for the purpose of giving the reader to understand the nature of my reflections.
But in none of all the philosophical directions was I drawn so far as by skepticism, which at one time brought me into a state bordering on madness. I fancied that, besides myself, nothing and nobody existed in the whole world; that objects were not objects, but images which only appeared when I directed my attention to them; and that, as soon as I ceased to think of them, the objects disappeared.
In a word, I agreed with Schelling in the conviction that objects do not exist, but only my relation to them exists. There were moments when, under the influence of this *fixed idea*, I reached such a stage of derangement that I sometimes glanced quickly in the opposite direction, hoping suddenly to find nothingness (*n?nt*) where I was not.
A pitiful, worthless spring of moral action is the mind of man!
My weak mind could not penetrate the impenetrable; but in this labor, which was beyond its strength, I lost, one after the other, the convictions which, for the happiness of my own life, I never should have dared to touch upon.
From all this heavy moral toil I brought away nothing except a shiftiness of mind which weakened the force of my will, and a habit of constant moral analysis which destroyed freshness of feeling and clearness of judgment.
Abstract thoughts take shape, in consequence of man's capacity to seize with his perceptions the state of his soul at any given moment, and transfer it to his memory. My tendency to abstract meditation developed the perceptive faculties in me to such an unnatural degree that frequently, when I began to think of the simplest sort of thing, I fell into an inextricable circle of analysis of my thoughts, and no longer considered the question which had occupied me, but thought of what I was thinking about. And now what am I thinking of? I think that I am thinking of what I am thinking, and so on. Intellect gave way before ratiocination.
Nevertheless, the philosophical discoveries which I made were extremely flattering to my self-conceit. I often fancied myself a great man, who was discovering new truths for the benefit of mankind, and I gazed upon other mortals with a proud consciousness of my worth; but, strange to say, when I came in contact with these mortals, I was shy in the presence of every one of them, and the higher I rated myself in my own opinion, the less capable I was of displaying my consciousness of my own merit to others, and I could not even accustom myself not to feel ashamed of my every word and movement, however simple.
Yes, the farther I proceed in the description of this period of my life, the more painful and difficult does it become for me. Rarely, rarely amid the memories of this time, do I find moments of the genuine warmth of feeling which so brilliantly and constantly illumined the beginning of my life. I feel an involuntary desire to pass as quickly as possible over the desert of boyhood and attain that happy epoch when a truly tender, noble sentiment of friendship lighted up the conclusion of this period of growth, and laid the foundation for a new epoch, full of charm and poetry, - the epoch of adolescence.
I shall not trace my recollections hour by hour; but I will cast a quick glance at the principal ones, from that time to which I have brought down my narrative until my connection with a remarkable man, who exercised a decided and beneficial influence upon my character and course.
Volodya will enter the university in a few days. Separate masters come for him; and I listen with envy and involuntary respect as he taps the blackboard boldly with the chalk, and talks of functions, and sinuses, and coordinates, and so on, which seem to me the expression of unattainable wisdom. But one Sunday, after dinner, all the teachers and two professors assemble in grandmamma's room; and in the presence of papa and several guests they rehearse the university examination, in the course of which Volodya, to grandmamma's great joy, exhibits remarkable learning. Questions on various subjects are also put to me; but I make a very poor show, and the professors evidently endeavor to conceal my ignorance before grandmamma, which confuses me still more. However, very little attention is paid to me; I am only fifteen, consequently there is still a year to my examination. Volodya only comes down stairs at dinner-time, but spends the whole day and even the evenings upstairs in his occupations, not of necessity, but at his own desire. He is extremely vain, and does not want to pass merely a mediocre examination, but a distinguished one.
But now the day of the first examination has arrived. Volodya puts on his blue coat with brass buttons, his gold watch, and lacquered boots; papa's phaeton is brought up to the door. Nikolai throws aside the apron, and Volodya and St. Jerome drive off to the university. The girls, especially Katenka, look out of the window at Volodya's fine figure as he seats himself in the carriage, with joyous and rapturous faces; and papa says, "God grant it! God grant it!" and grandmamma, who has also dragged herself to the window, makes the sign of the cross over Volodya, with tears in her eyes, until the phaeton disappears round the corner of the land, and says something in a whisper.
Volodya returns. All inquire impatiently, "Well, was it good? How much?" But it is already evident from his beaming face that it is good. Volodya has received five. On the following day he is accompanied by the same anxiety and wishes for his success, and received with the same impatience and joy. Thus nine days pass. On the tenth day, the last and most difficult examination of all awaits him - the Law of God [Footnote: The official title of religious instruction. -Tr.]; and all of us stand at the window and wait for him with the greatest impatience. Two hours have already elapsed, and still Volodya has not returned.
"Heavens! My dears!! Here they are!!! Here they are!!!!" screams Liubotchka, with her face glued to the pane.
And, in fact, Volodya is sitting beside St. Jerome in the phaeton, but dressed no longer in his blue coat and gray cap, but in student uniform, with blue embroidered collar, three-cornered hat, and a gilt sword by his side.
"Oh, if *you* were only alive!" shrieks grandmamma, when she beholds Volodya in his uniform, and falls into a swoon.
Volodya runs into the vestibule with a beaming face, kisses me, Liubotchka, Mimi, and Katenka, who blushes to her very ears. Volodya is beside himself with joy. And how handsome he is in his uniform! How becoming his blue collar is to his black whiskers, which are just sprouting! What a long, slender waist he has, and what a fine gait! On that memorable day, all dine in grandmamma's room. Joy beams from every countenance; and after dinner, at dessert, the butler, with politely majestic but merry countenance, brings in a bottle of champagne, enveloped in a napkin. Grandmamma drinks champagne for the first time since mamma's death; she drinks a whole glass, as she congratulates Volodya, and she weeps again with joy as she looks at him. Volodya drives out of the courtyard in his own equipage now, receives *his acquaintances in his own apartments*, smokes tobacco, goes to balls; and I even saw him and his companions, on one occasion, drink up two bottles of champagne in his room, and at every glass propose the healths of some mysterious personages, and dispute as to which one the bottom of the bottle belonged to. But he dines regularly at home, and sits in the boudoir after dinner, as before, and is forever engaged in some mysterious discussion with Katenka; but so far as I can hear - for I do not take part in their conversation - they are merely talking of the heroes and heroines of the novels which they have read, of love and jealousy; and I cannot at all understand what interest they can find in such discussions, and why they smile so artfully and dispute so warmly.
I observe in general that some strange relations exist between Katenka and Volodya, besides the readily intelligible friendship between companions of childhood, which set them apart from us and unite them to each other in a mysterious way.
Katenka is sixteen, she is grown up; the angularity of form, the timidity and awkwardness of movement, peculiar to girls in the age of transition, have made way for the harmonious freshness and grace of a newly blown flower. But she has not changed; the same bright blue eyes and smiling glance, the same little straight nose which forms almost one line with the grow, with its strong nostrils, and the tiny mouth with its brilliant smile, the same tiny dimples on the rosy, transparent cheeks, the same little white hands; and for some reason, as heretofore, the expression, a *pure girl*, fits her peculiarly well. The only new thing about her is her heavy blond hair, which she wears in the fashion of grown-up people; and her young bosom, whose advent plainly delights yet shames her.
Although Liubotchka has grown up and always studied with her, she is quite a different girl in every respect.
Liubotchka is small of stature, and in consequence of the rickets her legs are still crooked, and her figure is very ugly. The only pretty thing about her face is her eyes, and they are really very beautiful, - large and black, and with such an indefinably attractive expression of dignity and simplicity that it is impossible not to remark them. Liubotchka is natural and simple in everything. Katenka does not wish to be like any one else in any respect. Liubotchka's gaze is always straight forward; and sometimes she fixes her great black eyes on a person, and keeps them there so long that she is reproved and told that it is not polite.
Katenka, on the other hand, drops her eyelashes, draws her lids together, and declares that she is shortsighted, though I know very well that her sight is perfectly good. Liubotchka does not like to attitudinize before strangers; and when any of the guests begin to kiss her, she pouts, and says that she cannot endure *sentiment*. Katenka, on the contrary, becomes particularly affectionate with Mimi in the presence of guests, and loves to promenade in the hall, in the embrace of some girl. Liubotchka is a terrible laugher; and sometimes, in outbursts of merriment, she flourishes her hands and runs about the room. Katenka, on the contrary, covers her mouth with her hands or her handkerchief when she begins to laugh. Liubotchka always sits and walks upright, with her arms dangling; Katenka holds her head a little on one side, and walks with her hands clasped together. Liubotchka is always dreadfully glad when she succeeds in talking with a grown-up man, and declares that she will certainly marry a hussar; but Katenka says that all men are hateful to her, that she will never marry, and becomes quite a different girl when a man speaks to her, just as though she were afraid of something. Liubotchka is forever offended with Mimi because they lace her up so tight in corsets that she "can't breathe", and she id fond of eating; but Katenka, on the other hand, often thrusts her finger under the point of her bodice, and shows us how loose it is for her, and she eats very little. Liubotchka loves to draw heads, but Katenka draws only flowers and butterflies. Liubotchka plays Field's concertos perfectly, and some of Beethoven's sonatas. Katenka plays variations and waltzes, retards the time, pounds, uses the pedal incessantly; and before she begins to play anything she strikes three arpeggio chords.
But Katenka, according to my opinion then, was much more like an adult, and therefore she pleased me far more.
Papa has been particularly gay since Volodya's entrance to the university, and comes to dine with grandmamma much oftener than usual. Moreover, the cause of his cheerfulness, as I have learned from Nikolai, consists in the fact that he has won a remarkably large amount of money of late. It even happens that he sometimes comes to us in the evening before going to his club, sits down at the piano, gathers us all about him, and sings gipsy songs, accompanying them by stamping his feet in their soft boots (he cannot bear heels, and never wears them). And then the rapture of his favorite Liubotchka, on her side, who adores him, is worth seeing. Sometimes he comes to the school-room, and listens with a stern countenance while I recite my lessons; but I perceive, from the occasional words with which he endeavors to set me right, that he is but badly acquainted with what I am learning. Sometimes he gives us a sly wink, and makes signs to us, when grandmamma begins to grumble and get into a rage with everybody without cause. "Now it's *our* turn to catch it, children," he says afterwards. On the whole, he has descended somewhat in my eyes from the unapproachable height upon which my childish imagination placed him. I kiss his large white hand, with the same feeling of genuine love and respect; but I already permit myself to think of him, to pass judgment on his acts, and thoughts occur to me in regard to him which frighten me. Never shall I forget one circumstance which inspired many such thoughts in me, and caused me much moral suffering.
Once, late in the evening, he entered the drawing room, in his black dress-coat and white waistcoat, in order to carry off Volodya with him to a ball. The latter was dressing in his own room at the time. Grandmother was waiting in her bedroom for Volodya to come and show himself to her (she had a habit of summoning him to her presence before every ball, to inspect him, and to bestow upon him her blessing and instructions). In the hall, which was lighted by one candle only, Mimi and Katenka were pacing to and fro; but Liubotchka was seated at the piano, engaged in memorizing Field's Second Concerto, which was one of mamma's favorite pieces.
Never, in any one whatever, have I met such an intimate likeness as existed between my sister and my mother. This likeness consisted not in face, nor form, but in some intangible quality, - in her hands, in her manner of walking, in peculiarities of voice, and in certain expressions. When Liubotchka got angry, and said, "It won't be allowed for a whole age," she pronounced the words, *a whole age*, which mamma was accustomed to use, so that it seemed as if one heard them lengthened, who-o-le a-ge. But the likeness was still more remarkable in her playing on the piano, and in all her ways connected with this. She adjusted her dress in exactly the way, and turned her pages from above with her left hand, and pounded the keys with her fist from vexation when she was long in conquering a difficult passage, and said, "Ah, heavens!" and she had that same indescribable tenderness and accuracy of execution, that beautiful execution like Field, which is so well called *jeu perl?, and whose charm all the hocus-pocus of new pianists cannot make one forget.
Papa entered the room with swift, short steps, and went up to Liubotchka, who stopped playing when she saw him.
"No, go on playing, Liuba, go on," said he, putting her back in her seat; "you know how I love to hear you."
Liubotchka continued her playing, and papa sat opposite her for a long time, supporting his head on his hand; then he gave his shoulders a sudden twist, rose, and began to pace the room. Every time that he approached the piano, he paused, and looked intently at Liubotchka. I perceived, from his movements and his manner of walking, that he was excited. After traversing the hall several times, he paused behind Liubotchka's seat, kissed her black hair, and then, turning away, he pursued his walk. When Liubotchka had finished her piece, and went up to him with the question, "Is it pretty?" he took her head silently in his hands, and began to kiss her brow and eyes with such tenderness as I has never seen him display.
"Ah, heavens! You are weeping!" said Liubotchka, all at once dropping the chain of his watch, and fixing her great, surprised eyes on his face. "Forgive me, dear papa; I had quite forgotten that that was *mamma's piece*."
"No, my dear, play it as often as possible," he said in a voice which quivered with emotion; "if you only knew how good it is for me to weep with you...."
He kissed her once more, and, endeavoring to overcome his emotion, he twitched his shoulders, and went out of the door which led to the corridor and Volodya's room.
"Waldemar! Will you be ready soon?" he cried, halting midway in the corridor. At that moment, Mascha the maid passed him, and, seeing the master, she dropped her eyes, and tried to avoid him. He stopped her. "You grow prettier and prettier," he said, bending over her.
Mascha blushed, and drooped her head still lower. "Permit me," she whispered.
"Waldemar, are you nearly ready?" repeated papa, twitching himself and coughing, when Mascha passed, and he caught sight of me.
I love my father; but the mind of man exists independently of the heart, and often mixes within itself thoughts which are insulting to him, with feelings both incomprehensible and stern concerning him. And such thoughts come to me, although I strive to drive them away.
Grandmamma grows weaker from day to day; her bell, Gascha's grumbling voice, and the slamming of doors are heard more frequently in her room, and she no longer receives us in the study in her long sofa-chair, but in her bedroom in her high bed with its lace-trimmed pillows. I perceive, on saluting her, that there is a pale, yellowish, shining swelling on her hand and that oppressive odor in the chamber which I had observed five years before in mamma's room. The doctor comes to the house three times a day, and several consultations have been held. But her character, her haughty and ceremonious intercourse with all members of the household, particularly with papa, is not altered in the least; she enunciates her words, elevates her brows, and says, "my dear," [Footnote: *Moi miliuii*, equivalent to *mon cher*, and not always a term of endearment. -Tr.], in exactly the same manner as usual.
But, for several days now, we have not been admitted to her; and once in the morning St. Jerome proposes to me that I shall go to ride with Liubotchka and Katenka during lesson hours. Although I notice, as I take my seat in the sleigh, that the street in front of grandmamma's windows is strewn with straw, and that several people in blue overcoats are standing about our gate, I cannot in the least understand why I have been sent to ride at this unusual hour. During our entire ride on that day, Liubotchka and I are, for some reason, in that particularly cheerful frame of mind when every occurrence, every word, every motion, excites one's laughter.
A peddler crosses the road at a trot, holding on to his tray, and we laugh. A ragged Vanka [Footnote: Cabman.] overtakes out sleigh at a gallop, flourishing the ends of his reins, and we shout with laughter. Philip's knout has caught in the runners of the sleigh; he turns around, and says, "Alas!" and we die with laughter. Mimi remarks, with a face of displeasure, that only *stupid people* laugh without cause; and Liubotchka, all rosy with the strain of repressed laughter, casts a sidelong glance at me. Our eyes meet, and we break out into such Homeric laughter, that the tears come to our eyes, and we are unable to suppress the bursts of merriment which are suffocating us. We have no sooner quieted down to some extent, than I glance at Liubotchka, and utter a private little word which has been in fashion for some time among us, and which always calls forth a laugh; and again we break out.
On our return home, I have but just opened my mouth in order to make a very fine grimace at Liubotchka, when my eyes are startled by the black cover of a coffin leaning against one half of our entrance door, and my mouth retains its distorted shape.
"Your grandmother is dead," says St. Jerome, coming to meet us with a pale face.
During the whole time that grandmamma's body remains in the house, I experience an oppressive feeling, a fear of death, as if the dead body were alive, and unpleasantly reminding me that I must die sometime, - a feeling which it is usual, for some reason, to confound with grief. I do not mourn for grandmamma, and, in fact, there can hardly be any one who sincerely mourns her. Although the house is full of mourning visitors, no one sorrows for her death, except one individual, whose wild grief impresses me in an indescribably manner. And this person is Gascha, the maid. She goes off to the garret, locks herself up there, weeps incessantly, curses herself, tears her hair, will not listen to any advice, and declares that death is the only consolation left for her after the death of her beloved mistress.
I repeat once more that inconsistency in matters of feeling is the most trustworthy sign of genuineness.
Grandmother is no more, but memories and various rumors about her still live in her house. These rumors refer especially to the will which she made before her end, and the contents of which no one knows, with the exception of her executor, Prince Ivan Ivanitch. I observe some excitement among grandmamma's people, and I frequently overhear remarks as to who will become whose property; and I must confess that I think, with involuntary joy, of the fact that we shall receive a legacy.
At the end of six weeks, Nikolai, who is the daily newspaper of our establishment, informs me that grandmamma has left all her property to Liubotchka, intrusting the guardianship until her marriage, not to papa, but to Prince Ivan Ivanitch.
Only a few months remain before my entrance to the university. I am studying well. I not only await my teachers without terror, but even feel a certain pleasure in my lessons.
I am glad that I can recite the lesson I have learned clearly and accurately. I am preparing for the mathematical department; and this choice, to tell the truth, has been made by me simply because the words "sinuses," "tangents," "differentials," "integrals," and so forth, please me extremely.
I am much shorter of stature than Volodya, broad-shouldered and fleshy, homely as ever, and worried about it as usual. I try to appear original. One thing consoles me; that is, that papa once said of me that I had a *sensible phiz*, and I am fully convinced of it.
St. Jerome is satisfied with me; and I not only do not hate him, but, when he occasionally remarks that *with my gifts* and *my mind* it is a shame that I do not do thus and so, it even seems to me that I love him.
My observations on the maids' room ceased long ago; I am ashamed to hide myself behind a door, and, moreover, my conviction that Mascha loves Vasily has cooled me somewhat, I must confess. Vasily's marriage, the permission for which, at his request, I obtain from papa, effects a final cure of this unhappy passion in me.
When the *young pair* come, with bonbons on a tray, to thank papa, and Mascha in a blue-ribboned cap, kissing each of us on the shoulder, also returns thanks to all of us for something or other, I am conscious only of the rose pomade on her hair, but not of the least emotion.
On the whole, I am beginning gradually to recover from my boyhood follies; with the exception, however, of the chief one, which is still fated to cause me much injury in life, - my tendency to metaphysics.
Although the company of Volodya's acquaintances I played a *r?e* which wounded my self-love, I liked to sit in his room when he had visitors, and silently observe all that took place there.
The most frequent of all Volodya's guests were Adjutant Dubkoff, and a student, Prince Nekhliudoff. Dubkoff was a small, muscular, dark- complexioned man, no longer in his first youth, and rather short- legged, but not bad-looking, and always gay. He was one of those narrow-minded persons to whom their own narrow-mindedness is particularly agreeable, who are not capable of viewing subjects from different sides, and who are continually allowing themselves to be carried away with something. The judgment of such people is one-sided and erroneous, but always open-hearted and captivating. Even their narrow egotism seems pardonable and attractive, for some reason. Besides this, Dubkoff possessed a double charm for Volodya and me, - a military exterior, and, most of all, the age, with which young people have a habit of confounding their ideas of what is *comme il faut*, which is very highly prized during these years. Moreover, Dubkoff really was what is called a man *comme il faut*. One thing displeased me, and that was that Volodya seemed at times to be ashamed, in his presence, of my most innocent acts, and, most of all, my youth.
Nekhliudoff was not handsome; little gray eyes, a low, rough forehead, disproportionately long arms and legs, could not be called beautiful features. The only handsome thing about him was his unusually lofty stature, the delicate coloring of his face, and his very fine teeth. But his countenance acquired such a character of originality and energy from his narrow, brilliant eyes, and the expression of his smile which changed from sternness to childish indefiniteness, that it was impossible not to take note of him.
He was, it appeared, excessively modest, for every trifle made him flush up to his very ears; but his shyness did not resemble mine. The more he reddened, the more determination did his face express. He seemed angry with himself for his weakness. Although he seemed very friendly with Dubkoff and Volodya, it was worthy of note that chance alone had connected him with them. Their views were entirely different. Volodya and Dubkoff seemed afraid of everything which even resembled serious discussion and feeling; Nekhliudoff, on the contrary, was an enthusiast in the highest degree, and often entered into discussion of philosophical questions and of feelings, in spite of ridicule. Volodya and Dubkoff were fond of talking about the objects of their love and they fell in love all of a sudden, with several, and both with the same persons); Nekhliudoff, on the contrary, always became seriously angry when they hinted at his love for a *little red-haired girl*.
Volodya and Dubkoff often permitted themselves to make amiable sport of their relatives; Nekhliudoff, on the contrary, could be driven quite beside himself by uncomplimentary allusions to his aunt, for whom he cherished a sort of rapturous reverence. Volodya and Dubkoff used to go off somewhere after supper without Nekhliudoff, and they called him a *pretty little girl.*
Prince Nekhliudoff impressed me from the first by his conversation as well as by his appearance. But although I found much in his tastes that was common to mine, - or perhaps just for that reason, - the feeling with which he inspired me when I saw him for the first time was extremely hostile.
I was displeased by his quick glance, his firm voice, his haughty look, but most of all by the utter indifference toward me which he exhibited. Often, during a conversation, I had a terrible desire to contradict him; I wanted to quarrel with him, to punish him for his pride, to show him that I was sensible, although he would not pay the slightest attention to me. Diffidence restrained me.
Volodya was lying with his feet on the divan, and leaning on his elbow; he was engaged in reading a French romance, when I went to his room after my evening lessons according to custom. He raised his head for a second to glance at me, and again turned to his reading; the most simple and natural movement possible, but it made me blush. It seemed to me that his glance expressed the question why I had come there; and his hasty bend of the head, a desire to conceal from me the meaning of the glance. This tendency to attribute significance to the simplest movement constituted one of my characteristic traits at that age. I walked up to the table, and took a book; but before I began to read it, it occurred to me how ridiculous it was not to say anything to each other, when we had not seen each other all day.
"Shall you be at home this evening?"
"I don't know. Why?"
"Because," said I, perceiving I could not start a conversation. I took my book, and began to read.
It was strange that Volodya and I should pass whole hours in silence, face to face, but that it required only the presence of a third person, even if taciturn, to start the most interesting and varied discussions. We felt that we knew each other too well; and too intimate or too slight knowledge of each other prevents approach.
"Is Volodya at home?" said Dubkoff's voice in the vestibule.
"Yes," said Volodya, lowering his feet, and laying his book on the table.
Dubkoff and Nekhliudoff entered the room in their coats and hats.
"What do you say, Volodya? Shall we go to the theater?"
"No, I'm busy," replied Volodya, turning red.
"Well, what an idea! Pray let us go."
"I haven't any ticket."
"You can get as many tickets as you want at the entrance."
"Wait, I'll come directly," said Volodya, yielding, and he left the room with a twitch of his shoulders.
I knew that Volodya wanted very much to go to the theater, whither Dubkoff invited him; and that he had gone to borrow five rubles of the butler until his next installment of allowance became due.
"How are you, *Diplomat*?" said Dubkoff, giving me his hand.
Volodya's friends called me the diplomat, because once, after a dinner with my grandmother, in speaking of our future, she had said, in their presence, that Volodya was to be a soldier, and that she hoped to see me a diplomat, in a black dress-coat, and with my hair dressed *?la coq*, which, according to her views, constituted an indispensable part of the diplomatic profession.
"Where has Volodya gone?" Nekhliudoff asked.
"I don't know," I replied, reddening at the thought that they probably guessed why Volodya had quitted the room.
"He can't have any money! Is that so? Oh, *Diplomat*!" he added with conviction, displaying his smile, "I haven't any money either; have you Dubkoff?"
"We shall see," said Dubkoff, pulling out his purse, and very carefully feeling a few bits of small change with his short fingers. "Here's a five-kopek bit, and here's a twenty-kopek piece, and f-f-f-f-u!" said he, making a comical gesture with his hand.
At that moment Volodya entered the room.
"Well, shall we go?"
"How ridiculous you are!" said Nekhliudoff. "Why don't you say that you haven't any money? Take my ticket, if you like."
"But what will you do?"
"He will go to his cousin's box," said Dubkoff.
"No, I will not go at all."
"Because, as you know, I don't like to sit in a box."
"I don't like it; it makes me feel awkward."
"The same old thing again! I don't understand how you can feel awkward where every one is glad to have you. It's absurd, *my dear fellow.*" [Footnote: In French, in the original. -Tr.]
"What am I to do, *if I am timid*? [Footnote: In French, in the original. -Tr.] I am convinced that you have never blushed in your life, but I do it every moment for the veriest trifles," turning crimson as he spoke.
"*Do you know the cause of your timidity?* [Footnote: In French, in the original. -Tr.] An excess of self-love, my dear fellow," said Dubkoff, in a patronizing tone.
"*An excess of self-love,* [Footnote: In French, in the original. - Tr.]indeed!" said Nekhliudoff, touched to the quick. "On the contrary, it is because I have too little *self-love* [Footnote: In French, in the original. -Tr.]; it seems to me that things displease and bore me ... because ... "
"Dress yourself, Volodya," said Dubkoff, seizing him by the shoulders, and pulling off his coat. "Ignat, dress your master!"
"Because, it often happens to me ... " went on Nekhliudoff.
But Dubkoff was no longer listening to him. "Tra-la-ta-ra-ra-la-la," and he hummed an air.
"You have not escaped," said Nekhliudoff; "and I will prove to you that shyness does not proceed from self-love at all."
"You will prove it if you come with us."
"I have said that I would not go."
"Well, stay, then, and prove it to the *diplomat*; and he shall tell us when we come back."
"I will prove it," retorted Nekhliudoff, with childish obstinacy; "but come back as soon as you can."
"What do you think? Am I vain?" he said, seating himself beside me.
Although I had formed an opinion on that point, I was so intimidated by this unexpected appeal, that I could not answer him very promptly.
"Yes, I think so," I said, feeling that my voice trembled and the color covered my face at the thought that the time had come to show him that *I was intelligent* - "I think that every man is vain, and that everything a man does is done from vanity."
"What is vanity, in your opinion?" said Nekhliudoff, smiling somewhat disdainfully, as it struck me.
"Vanity ... self-love," said I, "is the conviction that I am better and wiser than anybody else."
"But how can everybody entertain that conviction?"
"I do not know whether I am correct or not, but no one except myself confesses to it; I am persuaded that I am wiser than any one in the world, and I am persuaded that you are convinced of the same thing."
"No, I am the first to say of myself that I have met people whom I have acknowledged to be wiser than myself," said Nekhliudoff.
"Impossible," I answered, with conviction.
"Do you really think so?" said Nekhliudoff, looking intently at me.
And then an idea occurred to me, to which I immediately gave utterance.
"I will prove it to you. Why do we love ourselves more than others? Because we consider ourselves better than others, more worthy of love. If we considered others better than ourselves, then we should love them more than ourselves, and that never happens. Even if it does happen, I am right all the same," I added, with an involuntary smile of vanity.
Nekhliudoff remained silent for a moment.
"I never thought that you were so clever!" he said with such a sweet, good-natured smile, that it seemed to me all at once that I was perfectly happy.
Praise acts so powerfully, not only on the feelings, but on the mind of man, that under its pleasant influence it seemed to me that I became much more clever, and ideas occurred to me one after the other with unusual swiftness. From vanity we passed, without noticing it, to love; and discussion on this theme seemed inexhaustible. Although our judgments might seem utter nonsense to an uninterested listener, - so unintelligible and one-sided were they, - they possessed a lofty significance for us. Our souls were so agreeably attuned in harmony, that the slightest touch upon any chord in one found an echo in the other. We took pleasure in this mutual echoing of the divers chords which we touched in our discussion. It seemed to us that time and words were lacking to express to each other the thoughts which sought utterance.
From that time, rat6her strange but very agreeable relations existed between me and Dmitry Nekhliudoff. In the presence of strangers, he paid hardly any attention to me; but as soon as we chanced to be alone, we seated ourselves in some quiet nook, and began to discuss, forgetful of everything, and perceiving not how the time fles.
We talked of the future life, and of the arts, and of the government service, and marriage, and bringing up children; and it never entered our heads that all we said was the most frightful nonsense. It never occurred to us, because the nonsense we talked was wise and nice nonsense; and in youth one still prizes wisdom, and believes in it. In youth, all the powers of the soul are directed toward the future; and that future assumes such varied, vivid, and enchanting forms under the influence of hope, founded, not upon experience of the past, but upon the fancied possibilities of happiness, that the mere conceptions and dreams of future bliss, when shared, form a genuine happiness at that age. In the metaphysical discussions which formed one of the chief subjects of our conversation, I loved the moment when thoughts succeed each other more and more swiftly, and, growing ever more abstract, finally attain such a degree of mistiness that one sees no possibility of expressing them, and, supposing that one is saying what he thins, he says something entirely different. I loved the moment when, soaring higher and higher into the realms of thought, one suddenly comprehends all its infiniteness, and confesses the impossibility of proceeding farther.
Once, during the Carnival, Nekhliudoff was so absorbed in various pleasures, that, although he came to the house several times a day, he never once spoke to me; and this so offended me, that he again seemed to me a haughty and disagreeable man. I only waited for an opportunity to show him that I did not value his society in the least, and entertained no special affection for him.
On the first occasion after the Carnival that he wanted to talk to me, I said that I was obliged to prepare my lessons, and went upstairs; but a quarter of an hour later, some one opened the school-room door, and Nekhliudoff entered.
"Do I disturb you?" said he.
"No," I replied, although I wanted to say that I really was busy.
"Then why did you leave Volodya's room? We haven't had a talk for a long while. And I have become so used to it, that it seems as if something were missing."
My vexation vanished in a moment, and Dmitry again appeared the same kind and charming man as before in my eyes.
"You probably know why I went away," said I.
"Perhaps," he replied, seating himself beside me. "But if I guess it, I cannot say why, but you can," said he.
"I will say it; I went away because I was angry with you - not angry, but vexed. To speak plainly, I am always afraid that you will despise me because I am still so very young."
"Do you know why I have become so intimate with you?" he said, replying to my confession with a good-humored and sensible smile, - "why I love you more than people with whom I am better acquainted, and with whom I have more in common? I settled it at once. You have a wonderfully rare quality, - frankness."
"Yes, I always say just the very things that I am ashamed to acknowledge," I said, confirming him, "but only to those people whom I can trust."
"Yes; but in order to trust a person, one must be entirely friendly with him, and we are not friends yet, Nikolas. You remember that we discussed friendship; in order to be true friends, it is necessary to trust one another."
"To trust that what I tell you, you will not repeat to any one," said I. "But the most important, the most interesting thoughts, are just those which we would not tell each other for anything!"
"And what loathsome thoughts! Such thoughts that, if we knew that we should be forced to acknowledge them, we should never have dared to think them."
"Do you know what ideas has come to me, Nikolas?" he added, rising from his chair, and rubbing his hands with a smile. "*Do it*, and you will see how beneficial it will be for both of us. Let us give our word to confess everything to each other; we shall know each other, and we shall not be ashamed; but, in order that we may not fear strangers, let us take a vow *never* to say *anything* to *anybody* about each other. Let us do this."
"All right," said I.
And we actually *did it*. What came of it, I shall relate hereafter.
Karr has said that in every attachment, there are two sides: one loves, while the other permits himself to be loved; one kisses, the other offers the cheek. This is perfectly correct; and in our friendship I kissed, but Dmitry offered his cheek; but he was also ready to kiss me. We loved equally, because we knew and valued each other; but this did not prevent his exercising an influence over me, and my submitting to him.
Of course, under the influence of Nekhliudoff, I unconsciously adopted his view, the gist of which consisted in an enthusiastic adoration of the ideal of virtue, and in a belief that man is intended constantly to perfect himself. Then the reformation of all mankind, the annihilation of all popular vices and miseries, appeared a practicable thing. It seemed very simple and easy to reform one's self, to acquire all virtues, and be happy.
But God only knows whether these lofty aspirations of youth were ridiculous, and who was to blame that they were not fulfilled.